Friday, December 27, 2013

Regional Hip Hop Is On Its Way Out


Rap reflected its location in the 90s and early 2000s. The sound of New York had a distinct style as did the South and the West Coast. New York had the boom bap beat and the grimy yet lyrical wordplay, where the South made trap and crunk music popular with the 808s and party content, and Cali flourished with Gangsta Rap and its laid back, melodic flow.  Even outside of the three major Mecca’s of hip hop, smaller locations sprouted such as Detroit and Houston representing a different but defined sound that was confined to the area. Hip hop was nowhere near predictable, but chances are you could identify a rapper’s origins by his flow, content and beat selection.

Nowadays, when emcees are just a soundcloud away and producers can tweet any artist their beat, the regional lines in hip hop are getting very blurry. A$AP Rocky was found at first innovative for his clearly Houston influenced sound and flow and then somewhat scrutinized for being a New York native and not representing any of the characteristics of NY hip hop. Big K.R.I.T. stands as one of the most lyrical rappers in the game and despite hailing from Mississippi, his music is deep and thoughtful, completely opposite from the typical crunk music that the south became famous for. Detroit, known for its aggressive and even filthy sound, G.O.O.D. Music’s Big Sean has been the front runner from the city for some time now while making music that is playful and catchy. And there's Freddie Gibbs, one of the most respected gangsta rappers out right now with roots in Gary, Indianna.


Although some artists are insistent on bringing back the sounds of the city, as A$AP Nast most recently showcased with his single “Trillmatic” featuring Method Man, the regional distinctions in hip hop are on their way out. There are no characteristics of New York sound right now and the same goes for the other regions as well. Producers are sending their beats all over the country and artists are having the freedom to not only be inspired by hip hop everywhere but it has expanded the rap genre immensely. More sub-genres are being created which is much more defined by lyrical content and flow than location. Some of the most popular turn up rappers (which is similar to crunk music) are from NY, real talk and the gangsta rap genres also include artists from all over and in 2013 there has been a huge rise in emcees crossing into other genres completely.

The boom bap style of production will always be iconic as will the rise of gansta rap and trap music, yet as hip hop is continuing to evolve, it’s exciting to see artists break out of the boxes that confined their sound to their location. I’m glad that artistry and inspiration is being prioritized. There has been a lot of backlash surrounding the New York hip hop scene this year and it’s important to welcome new styles and sounds as the music continues to grow. Although I love a good retro flow, allow artists to be who they are, which is not necessarily defined by where they come from.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Unreleased Material From Chance The Rapper

Chicago native, Chance The Rapper, has owned 2013 with his critically acclaimed mixtape Acid Rap, following with The Social Experiment Tour, which sold out in almost every city and then on to collaborate with pop sensation Justin Beiber on the hit record “Confident.” 10 Day, Chance’s first official mixtape, served as the introduction to this young emcee and Acid Rap solidified his place as an artist to be reckoned with.

On December 10, two unreleased mixtapes from Chance’s early music days surfaced via Facebook: Good Enough and Back To School Pack. The mixtapes were collaborations with his friend and music partner Justin (J-emcee) who formed the duo Instrumentality in high school. Although the original dates of these tapes are unknown, the material is somewhere between 3-5 years old as Datpiff first discovered.

It is absolutely remarkable listening to these two projects and hearing the already developed sound that we all thought was established with Acid Rap. The first track on Good Enough, which is also the title track, begins with the profound question: Who do you call when your dreams don’t call back? Chance then tells the story of his first interaction with the music industry and submitting music to Roc-A-Fella producer J Brown. Chance was told he wasn’t “good enough.” He then follows with the triumphant response, “we revolt against that thought, this is the product of a revolution.” The song picks up and becomes inspirational for everybody with a dream and who were ever told they weren’t good enough. Chance urges everybody that “you aren’t just good enough, you are simply amazing.”

The following track, Chance spits over the Coldplay “In My Place” sample and explains who he is as an artist: “I swear I’m Hercules, mixed with a little Freddie Mercury, mixed with Kanye and a little MJ.” He goes on to explain that he is exactly who he’s always been, which apparently was an incredibly talented musician who pushed boundaries in hip hop from the beginning.

The next track, “Something Bout Us,” offers something totally different sonically as Chance raps about being intrigued by a woman despite poor timing. This track, easy to digest and bump, further proves how remarkably diverse Chance is musically. Other standouts of the tape are Chance’s rendition of “Hometown (Cali)” featuring the sample originally made popular by Adele on her debut album and “NvrSayNvr” which explains the darkness and depth of the project and provides some insight on his journey in finding himself as an innovative artist in the industry.

Back To School Pack is not as strong as Good Enough, but with only five songs, it’s still a great body of work and definitely worth listening to. Stepping away from the introverted music that appeared on Good Enough, Chance dives into progressive rap and provides an incredibly conscious track with “Dear Chicago Summer.” He spits, “maybe I need a geography class or something, but when did Chicago become a part of East Compton and when did the Windy City become we’ll blow you all away? And when did throwing hands become the hoish move to play?” Chance expresses his frustration with the growing violence in his hometown, but in a calm manner spitting facts that are daunting and provocative.

Both of these unreleased mixtapes are gems and offer a bit of history of who Chance The Rapper was prior to 10 Day and Acid Rap. At only twenty years old, Chance stands as one of the top emcees in the game and these tapes make it clear that he has been developing his artistry for years now. Incorporating melodic rhymes, singing choruses, and innovative sound, these elements that were made popular on Acid Rap were always part of his repertoire. We sometimes forget that musicians have a whole come up catalog that is often overlooked by the breakout mixtape or single that changed their status in the industry. I’m glad we were able to receive this old material and get a glimpse of early Chance days, which only makes me excited for what’s to come from this talented emcee. With Good Enough and Back To School Pack being basically forgotten and Acid Rap being the debut, I can’t even imagine what innovative and creative music Chance The Rapper has in store for 2014.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Who Are The Conscious Rappers of 2013?

I came across this fascinating video by Killer Mike, that eloquently described the concept of Reaganomics and the effect the era had on the black community. Using cartoon visuals and actual Reagan footage, it simplifies this piece of history in ways that I've never seen before. It's completely accessible and easy to grasp while being portrayed in an artistic and revolutionary way. I was exposed to this video last night and it got me thinking. Hip hop's pioneers and early emcees were certainly some of the most political artists to date, with groups like Public Enemy and Dead Prez bringing light to revolutionary concepts. And rappers like KRS-One, Mos Def and Talib Kweli all took stands in their music reacting to the systemic racism infused in every institution of this country.

There was a time when hip hop and politics went hand and hand. Rappers spoke knowledge and articulated problems in the streets giving plight to issues in black communities that the media either completely ignored or countered on a regular basis. Nowadays you've got to have a magnifying glass when examining the lyrics of emcees in hopes that a double entendre is slipped in that actually stands up for the people. So I got to thinking, who are the conscious rappers right now?

The first that comes to mind is the Peruvian born American rapper, Immortal Technique, who's lyrics never stray from controversial issues in global politics. His lyrics serve as his commentary on war, institutional racism, classism, poverty, government, sexism, and religion. Immortal Technique utilizes his music as a platform of social activism. Although he's clearly brilliant, his music is purely factual, leaving very little room for art and flow.

El-P, inspired by techniques Public Enemy coined, he also went on to collaborate with Killer Mike and provide conscious, profound hip hop that was aggressive and complicated.

Brother Ali is not new to the game, but recently he's become radical with his music. One of his most popular songs, "Uncle Sam Goddamn," introduces the track with powerful words "welcome to the United States, land of the thief, home of the slave, Grand Imperial guard where the dollar is sacred and proud."

Common is an interesting cat. When he's not in Gap commercials or corny movies, his music is political, most notably on his album Be with tracks like "Testify" and "Real People." He spits, "I wonder is the spirits of Bob Marley and Haile Selassie, Watch me as the cops be tryna and pop and lock me."

Nas has made provocative music since his debut and his most recent album, Life Is Good, includes his usual balance of lyrical superiority and political story-telling, particularly on "Accident Murders." Although with tracks in his discography like "N.Y. State of Mind," "If I Ruled The World," "I Can," "Black Republican" and "Revolutionary Warfare," Nas is without a doubt one of the leading and consistently conscious rappers in hip hop.

Lupe Fiasco has been extremely vocal both in and outside of his music on his political philosophies. Perhaps it all began when he first remixed Kanye West's "Diamonds in Sierra Leone" into his track "Conflict Diamonds" which highlighted the atrocities of the diamond business.

When Kanye West first emerged as a solo artist, his debut album, The College Dropout, hosted the hip hop classic "All Falls Down," which discusses the materialism of the american culture and how the government uses that concept to control and continue to keep people of color down. Kanye has ventured into other topics throughout his career until recently. Yeezus restored some of his conscious ideals but he portrayed them in a much more radical way. "New Slaves" returns to the concept Ye explores in "All Falls Down" but in an angrier and evolved stance nine years later. In a few tracks later, Kanye samples Nina Simone's "Blood On The Leaves," which is the famous poem turned song, originally by Billie Holiday, revealing the truth about lynchings in the South. Throughout the album, he is constantly incorporating political lines, most brilliantly with his term "Chi-raq," which expresses the unbelievable mass murders plaguing the black community in Chicago, comparable to the genocide in Iraq.

When Freddie Gibbs first broke into the scene, he was reminiscent of 2Pac, born and raised in one of the toughest neighborhoods in America and utilizing his music to express his anger with the government and this country. Representing "the low class" as he articulates on "Serve or Get Served," Gibbs made revolutionary music and today, he continues to comment and take stands on issues of racism in this country.

J. Cole explores consciousness on the surface with tracks like "Truly Yours" and "Crooked Smile." But recently, he's taken more a of political stance with his music videos. The "Crooked Smile" video depicts the story of 7 year old Aiyanna Stanley-Jones who was killed back in 2010 during a police raid in her home.

Jay Z has dabbled into social commentary briefly in the past year, dealing with his own aggravation with the government during his trip to Cuba. "Open Letter" was his response record and later that year he dropped "Somewhere In America" on Magna Carta...Holy Grail and it offered a more revolutionary Hov than we've ever experienced.

Ab-Soul, one of the most prolific emcees of T.D.E., released Control System, and his sophomore album featured "Terrorist Threats" with the hook "Wish I could see out of Selassie' eye, maybe my sovereignty would still be mine, if all the gangs in the world unified, we'd stand a chance against the military tonight."

Dizzy Wright blazed the 2013 XXL's Freshmen Class due to the people's choice vote. Although he's still pretty underground, this 22 year old spits political truth. "That's why I'm in my Trayvon hoodie with a smile, And I'm here to let the world know...Ayo fuck the media they twisting turning the truth."

When reflecting on conscious rap, we most often allude to older emcees as hip hop decades ago was much more concentrated with political philosophies and provided the platform for artists to speak out against racism, poverty and other social issues that were plaguing the black communities in this country. As I examine more contemporary music, there are some artists who are releasing tracks that are inspired by their political beliefs, but it is nowhere comparable to the groups and emcees who prided their artistic identity on battling the racist institutions that were founded on and maintain in keeping black people down.

Have we really made that much progress? Or has hip hop become more of an every man for themselves complex due to the fact that monetary success is achievable? Despite the ideal that current white politicians like to assert, that we live in an era of "colorblindness," we all know that is utterly untrue. And we still need artists to use their voice for social change and to combat the media and government through art. Hip hop was founded as the voice of the people, expressing the daily struggles of African Americans and other minorities. As fans we need to welcome and celebrate the brave artists who put their mainstream careers on the line to express anger and political issues that wouldn't see public light otherwise. We salute you.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Robert Glasper Experiment Presents Black Radio 2


During a time when positive, soulful music was lacking, Robert Glasper released Black Radio 2, the second installment to the Black Radio series, which collaborated with an all-star cast of some of the greatest rappers and R&B singers to grace the mic. The follow up rounded up an equal amount of talent featuring Jill Scott, Common, Anthony Hamilton, Norah Jones, Bilal, Snoop Dogg, Faith Evans, Brandy, Lupe Fiasco and Macy Gray.

The album begins with perhaps the most beautiful mic check I’ve ever heard, similarly to the original Black Radio. Fusing “Baby Tonight” with introducing the beautiful vocals of the artists on the album, the first track is a prologue of what’s to come. 

Robert Glasper Experiment, as he calls the collaboration, brilliantly blends Jazz, Hip Hop, R&B, and soul genres into one innovative project including a wide range of content, most articulately on “I Stand Alone” with his take on the lack of originality in music right now:

The irresistible appeal of black individuality…. Where has all of that gone? The very people who blazed our path to self expression, and pioneered a resolutely distinct and individual voice, have too often succumb to mind numbing saneness and been seduced to simply repeating what we hear, what somebody else said or thought and not digging deep to learn what we think or what we feel or what we believe. Now it is true that the genius of African culture is surely its repetition. But the key to such repetition is that new elements were added each go round, every round goes higher and higher. Something fresh popped off the page or jumped from a rhythm that had been recycled through the imagination of a writer or musician. Each new installation bore the imprint of our unquenchable thirst to say something of our own, in our own way, in our voice as best we could. The trends of the times be damned. Thank God we’ve still got musicians and thinkers whose obsession with excellence and whose hunger for greatness remind us that we should all be unsatisfied with mimicking the popular rather than mining the fertile veins of creativity that God placed deep inside each of us.

Many of the artists who collaborated on the original Black Radio returned for part 2 and are clearly taking an active stance in producing music that is thoughtful and imaginative, filling the void that Glasper asserts is missing in the industry.  There is nothing mimicked on this album, each track is unique and tells a different story of love, God, and loneliness.

“Yet To Find” features the incredible vocals of Anthony Hamilton and explores a past relationship and the frustrations of having love inside of you but yet to find the right person to give it to. Norah Jones appears on “Let It Ride” and with a sultry sound, she expresses the risk of deep, consuming love. Malcolm Jamal Warner speaks to the youth in the uplifting “Jesus Children.” Luke James sings the chorus on “Persevere” while Snoop Dogg and Lupe Fiasco spit verses on the idea of determination and that despite the hardships of the world you’ve got to push through.

Black Radio 2 is the perfect follow up to complete an exceptional body of work. Jazz production, outstanding vocals, meaningful rap and relatable content set this project far apart from other albums and explore a blended genre that has the potential to speak to multiple generations and backgrounds. Jazz meets hip hop on Robert Glasper’s Experiment and its creation is music that fills the soul in every way.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Magna Carta World Tour


The Pepsi Center in Denver, CO hosted the Magna Carta World Tour Monday night and Jay Z brought out the most diverse audience I’ve ever seen. Families, couples, and groups of friends filled up 18,000 seats eager to witness a legend in what may be his last major world tour. Reasonable Doubt blasted prior to the start of the concert and even with the lights on people were energized with excitement.

9pm struck and the entire venue went black as Hov bursted out to “U Don’t Know” off his double platinum album The Blueprint. For about forty-five minutes, Jay went through hit after hit showcasing material throughout his entire career while also highlighting his new singles from Magna Carta…Holy Grail. Encouraging the audience to sing along to “Holy Grail,” “On To The Next One,” “Crown,” “FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt,” “99 Problems” and his verse on “Pound Cake,” he killed each track and his energy was incredible.
                                       
video

There was a moment when the screens that had been projecting Hov went black and a spotlight dimly lit him as he shouted out his day one fans and said, “how many people in here got that Reasonable Doubt album? This one’s for you…” Jay then dove into “Dead Presidents II” and it was one of the greatest musical moments of my life. For those who have loved Jay Z, Reasonable Doubt is such an iconic body of work and I never imagined I would be able to experience that live. Not only was the performance of that song moving, but it solidified his greatness in 1996 and today, with the fact that the material is still relevant 17 years later.

Jay Z exited the stage leaving the legendary Timbaland a.k.a. Timbo The King to hype up the crowd with his most popular and hottest beats of his career. Paying homage to Aaliyah, Justin Timberlake, Missy Elliot and Drake, Timbaland also shared some of his new material from his upcoming album titled Textbook Timbo.

video

Hov emerged back on stage performing my favorite track from his new album “Somewhere in America.” His unbelievable discography of hits continued as he transitioned into “Big Pimpin’,” “Ni**as in Paris,” “Jigga Who Jigga What,” and his verse from “Clique.” During his performance of “Dirt Off My Shoulders,” Jay gave an inspirational and heartfelt speech urging us that we all are geniuses and we all can achieve success in whatever we dream of. His single with Rihanna “Run This Town” appeared to close the concert.

Even after an hour and a half set, people refused to leave and began chanting “HOV!” in hopes of bringing Jay back out for one last song. After a solid ten minutes of waiting, he blazed the stage one more time with none other than “Encore.” Following with “Izzo” and “Hard Knock Life,” Jay then requested the lights be turned on as he acknowledged standouts from the audience. Showing love to fans who knew all the words, beautiful women, and the crafty audience member’s with signs, he also invited a boy with a Reasonable Doubt tee to come on stage and shake his hand. He shined the spotlight on a man who had hilarious dance moves and very sweetly brought all the attention to a woman who had Jay Z’s face tatted on her arm. She shed a tear as he thanked her for her dedication. It was such a humble moment as he stood in front of tens of thousands of people as one of the most successful rappers to date and genuinely thanked every member of the audience for their support and constant inspiration, which allows him to continue to create music and share his art with the world.

video


Jay Z ended with “Forever Young” and after almost three hours of performing, there was not a soul in the Pepsi Center who left feeling unsatisfied. Hov put on one hell of show and I am so honored to finally experience his brilliance live. As today is Dec. 4, I want to wish a huge birthday shoutout to this legend and his decades of commitment to hip hop.



Sunday, December 1, 2013

Action Bronson Runs New York

New York has been the Mecca of hip hop since its foundation, producing some of the most iconic rappers to date. Kool G Rap, Run-D.M.C., The Notorious B.I.G., Nas, Jay Z, Dipset, all New York natives and all held the crown at one point in time. Well, New York has a new king and his name is Action Bronson.

Making his debut in 2011 and dropping his widely acclaimed mixtape Blue Chips with Party Supplies’ in 2012, the underground hip hop scene embraced this Queens bred emcee with open arms. Despite the lack of features on Blue Chips, his cultured lyricism and incomparable flow earned him the respect from fellow rappers in the industry and Bronson went on to be featured on Chance the Rapper, A$AP Rocky’s, Mac Miller’s and Smoke DZA’s projects.

My first glimpse of Action Bronson was in 2012 when he shut down the Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg and I still remember him being larger than life, literally and figuratively, jumping into the audience, dapping up his fans, playing an entire bowling game while simultaneously never missing a rhyme. From the beginning, Bronson represented the people. I became addicted to his authenticity, and seeing him on two other tours, I began to fully realize his greatness. Rap started as the soundtrack of the streets and Action Bronson exudes that true essence of hip hop.

Atlantic Records and Vice Records snatched him up and although he has yet to release a studio album, he has released a major label EP with Harry Fraud called Saab Stories. November 1, Bronson dropped Blue Chips 2, the second installment to the Blue Chips series. Party Supplies’ humor is a perfect mix with Bronson’s already comical flow and the tape features the voice recording from Allen Iverson’s epic “Practice Rant,” as well as samples from “Tequila” by The Champs and Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me A Reason To Be here” solidifying its spot as one of the greatest projects of 2013. Straight spitting, lengthy verses and lot’s of solo tracks, Blue Chips 2 incorporates the perfect balance of old school technique with contemporary content and flow.

Aside from producing high quality material for two years now, he has pretty much been on tour non-stop. Accompanied by A$AP Ferg, Mayhem Lauren, Joey Bada$$, Big K.R.I.T., Trash Talk and Danny Brown, his live performances are outstanding. Action Bronson brings his undeniable New York flavor wherever he goes and shuts down each venue he steps foot in.

Recently, there has been much dismay over a supposed decline in New York hip hop. With rappers either being more influential in fashion or simply relying on dope producers to keep them relevant, the throne in NY has been wide open and Action Bronson swooped in for the crown. Demanding respect and standing as one of the most lyrical rappers in the game right now, Bronson is undoubtedly here to stay. Looking like the body guard, influenced in flow by Ghostface Killah, spitting content representing both his Queens roots, Albanian heritage and of course love for food, Bronson is killing every track he touches and holding New York hip hop on his shoulders. So next time someone says NY hip hop is dead, point them in the direction of Action Bronson, cuz he runs that shit.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

A History Of Rappers Who Experiment With Singing

Drake, imma let you finish, but Lauryn Hill had one of the greatest singing and rapping careers of all time…           

We often associate Drake with pioneering the blend of singing and rapping in records, but in fact, emcees have been sharing their vocals for decades. There is a whole history of rappers experimenting with singing, setting the foundation for the rise in R&B fused hip hop songs that have become so popular. Without these rappers paving the way, there would be no 808s and Heartbreaks nor Drake’s sound that has opened up questions about masculinity in hip hop.

Bone Thugs-n-Harmony owned the 90’s and made an entire career based on the blend of rapping and singing, especially on their second album E. 1999 Eternal with the #1 single “Tha Crossroads.”

In 1997, The Notorious B.I.G. released his second studio album Life After Death, which featured the entire singing record “Playa Hater.”

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill in 1998 pushed the boundaries of what an emcee was capable of with her soulful lyricism and beautiful vocals on “Ex-Factor,” “I Used To Love Him,” and “Everything Is Everything."

Also in 1998, Black Star, the hip hop duo released their one joint album Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star featuring the vocals of Mos Def on “Definition.”

Outkast can be given credit for pioneering the Southern hip hop sound which included their fusion of rapping, poetry and soul records. Particularly Andre 3000 utilized singing on his joint solo project The Love Below. But long before then, the duo were testing the rapping culture with singing tracks such as “Rosa Parks” and “Ms. Jackson.”

Ja Rule was certainly one of the original artists who identified as a rapper and singer providing hit singles from 1999-2004.  Collaborating with R&B singers on many of his popular records, Ja sang with them on “Between Me And You,” “Put It On Me,” “Always On Time” and the remix to Jennifer Lopez’s “I’m Real.”

Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez was the emcee of the female pop group TLC and their sound crossed multiple genres including R&B and Hip Hop.

Along with groundbreaking music videos, Missy Elliot is also known for records that incorporate hip hop, pop and R&B sounds. She used her voice as a diverse instrument particularly on “Hot Boyz” and “One Minute Man.”

Pharrell has never been confined by labels and that includes his career as rapper/singer. His debut album In My Mind featured his beautiful vocals, unique lyricism and brilliant production.

50 Cent experimented with singing on many of his hooks, most famously on “Just A Little Bit” and “Many Men” on his debut album Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ in 2005.

Although Lil Wayne’s singing ability is questionable, he has nonetheless ventured into singing on records. Some of his most successful use of vocals were his singles “Pussy Money Weed,” “Single,” and “How To Love.”

Kid Cudi mentored by Kanye West, helped Ye with 808s & Heartbreaks which opened up a whole new genre of hip hop. The auto-tuned singing is the same technique Drake utilizes on the majority of his records and allowed for vulnerability in hip hop. Cudi then went on to drop his debut album Man On The Moon, which fused singing and rapping in similar ways. His entire career has been based on this fusion and Kid Cudi sings on every album and almost every song he puts out.

All these artists opened up a sub-genre that Drake has popularized with his second and third album Take Care and Nothing Was The Same. It is important to recognize that Drake was in no way the first to blend the two genres and it is important to pay homage to these rappers who dove into singing and simultaneously challenged the norms of hip hop. Today Drake continues to push that boundary showcasing his vocals, but also expressing sensitivity, loneliness, and susceptibility, which were topics that were taboo in hip hop.  The only reason Drizzy has been able to be received in the hip hop world is because these artists set the foundation. Now it’s Drake’s turn to see how far he can take it, striving for more blend, and shedding a different and more realistic light on masculinity in hip hop.

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Day In The Life Of YG


YG is without a doubt one of the hardest working rappers in the game right now. Featured on XXL's Freshmen list in 2011, he is now signed to Def Jam Recordings, just released one of the hottest records of the year and is getting ready to drop his debut album My Krazy Life.

Immediately after landing in Denver, YG and his team stopped by Family Affair, a well-known street wear/lifestyle shop for a meet and greet with his fans. The emcee took pictures and signed autographs for any and everyone while simultaneously looking for an outfit for his concert later that evening. After copping some fly gear, it was already getting late and YG had to quickly check into his hotel before his sold out concert at Cassleman's Bar & Venue.

At the concert venue in prep for his show, ciroc was his drink of choice that night and after a few drinks and a private ritual moment to himself, the crowd was chanting his name, packed to the brim and eager for his set. YG commanded the stage throughout his performance, showcasing hit after hit from his discography. "Bitches Ain't Shit" and "My Ni**a" were the crowd's favorites and the men rocked with every word as the women in the crowd were all struck by lust reaching and screaming for YG in hopes of being noticed.

After the concert I had the pleasure of asking YG a few questions about the upcoming album and I've got the video below as well as footage from the concert.

video





Although the highlight of the evening was after the interview, being in the mix of an epic cypher between YG, his DJ and his hype man Slim. All three were spitting fire and had such personality with their flow. BET definitely needs to get hip for the next Hip Hop Awards because this cypher was brilliant.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Renaissance Evening featuring Nas, The Reminders & Justin Bua

I witnessed hip hop greatness last night. The Shredded Beats event was originally planned to bring Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) to Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom, but with a last minute cancellation, none other than the Don was immediately set to replace him. Both making and representing history as this hip hop legend was gracing the stage but also performing in an intimate venue, which is unheard of for Nas these days.

The entire evening celebrated the arts with the incredible Justin Bua live painting based on inspiration from the many stellar acts of the evening. Besides Nas, The Reminders gave an outstanding performance. For those who aren't familiar with this rapping married couple, they spread love, family, and friendship through their hip hop music. Aja Black raps and sings while her husband Big Samir spits in both English and French incorporating his Belgium roots. Aja had an unbelievable stage presence and performed hype dance moves while never missing a beat in her flow. Big Samir, slightly in the background, supported his wife every step of the way. Their music was positive and authentic and they were the perfect openers for the man who is the true essence of hip hop.

Nas took the stage just before 1am and I teared up immediately. Standing five feet away from me, rapping the very lines that made me first fall in love with hip hop, I could barely keep my composure. He started off with the many classic songs from his debut Illmatic. Beginning first with "N.Y. State of Mind" then into "Represent Represent," "Life's A Bitch" and my personal favorite "The World is Yours." Standing at forty years old, the fact that his records that he made at sixteen are still relevant only solidifies that he is the greatest there is. Nas spit knowledge between each track, explaining his gratitude for still being able to to perform and make quality music. Nas came up when the game was untouchable, but because of death, lack of inspiration or simply falling off, he is one of the only emcees still standing, still untouchable.

His set, filled with classics from every album he ever put out, showcased his true versatility as a lyricist and arguably raps greatest poet. The crowd was inspired and passionate about hip hop, holding up books of rhymes, old Nas cassette tapes and of course belting out every word to every song. The concert was surreal and even though this was my fourth time seeing Nasty Nas live, being so close, feeling his every word was an experience that can't be matched.

There are some artists you can see over and over again and experience something new every time. Their music is timeless. Nas holds that crown, back then and still today.

video

Thursday, November 14, 2013

DMV Rapper Tim Moorehead Takes LA By Storm

In the DMV, Tim Moorehead is a household name, whether you’ve heard music from his many successful mixtapes or witnessed his live performances at George Mason University and most recently the iconic Yardfest during Howard University’s homecoming weekend. His next stop is LA, to conquer the rap game and I had the pleasure of sitting down with this talented emcee to discuss his unique approach to the hip hop genre.

Thanks for sitting down with Come Home With Me; Music First

I’m a fan, I read all the posts.

You’re making this move to Cali so things are getting serious. It must have been hard to prioritize going to school full time & propelling your rap career. I know I struggle with that too. People are always making assumptions about what should be most important, when in reality rapping is just as if not more productive than school work. At what moment did rapping change from being a hobby to being a career path?

When I released my second mixtape Winner’s Break in March 2012. It was seven months after releasing my first mixtape Everybody Has a Mixtape.

That’s a quick turnaround

Yeah I know, I write everyday. But right then and there I said ‘I’m gonna start taking this seriously as a career and I’m gonna be successful.’

You don't cuss, you're very religious. Do you feel like you have to compromise your values to be heard in the rap game or rather get radio play?

I don’t think you have to. You gotta think about it, America isn’t a Christian nation, but they are still fascinated by the idea of Christianity. You know it’s one nation under God. And that’s dealing with Hollywood and the images they portray, you still have to put your hand on the bible in court, so America is definitely very fascinated with religion. You don’t have to compromise your values, because even if you’re trying to spread a message, they are going to relate to it somehow because everyone has come in contact with a religious image or concept, its just the nation we live in.

You're attempting to conquer the game in an unconventional way. Tell us about your dreams?

Well actually I wanna do as well as I can in rap, you know I wanna take it to the top.  I don’t wanna just limit myself to rap, because I’m an individual who can be influential outside of music. I have a college degree.

Congrats on that, that’s recent right?

Right. That was in Government and International Politics. I love to speak publicly, whether it’s to people I don’t know or in a group setting. I think those are skills that not a lot of people have. So I just wanna use my skills to help influence the world and there’s so many ways you can do that, whether it’s through public speaking or rap or through any other form of the arts.

So it seems like you have a lot to say, what is your overall message?

I’m imperfect, but God is perfect and that’s how I find clarity in life, that’s how I find vision. If I’m blind, he’s my vision. This goes for everyone in the world, if you feel like you’re blind or you feel like you’re crippled, there’s another way you can walk or there’s another way you can see. You have to focus on what’s intangible. Developing fruits of the spirit like peace, love, kindness, patience, because this is what ultimately will fight all the evils of the world.

I watched the video of you spitting to Jay Electronica & even though you can't hear exactly what you're saying, it's so clear how much he's feeling your words. Tell us about that experience, a cosign from Jay Elec is very rare.

Shoutout to Jay Elec, shoutout to rocnation. Jay Electronica is one of my favorite rappers and the fact that the media can’t even get a hold of him because he’s off in Nepal, he’s in India, he’s in Oaxaca.

And we all still waiting on the music.

Exactly, he recorded his album in South Africa. He’s already a difficult individual to get in contact with. So to not only get in contact with him at Made in America, but also having the audacity to spit to him.

What did you spit to him?

I wrote this back in ’09, when I heard “Exhibit A” by Jay Electronica. I wrote my own verse to “Exhibit A” and I spit that verse to him. In “Exhibit A,” Jay Elec’s opening line was an ode to “Dead Presidents” by Jay Z, so my opening line was an ode to “Exhibit A.” Because of that, I later spit that verse in my performances to Dead Presidents.

Wow, coming full circle.

Exactly and that’s how I open my shows up. I won a lot of competitions like that. I know he knew where I spit rhymes like him, with the influence. He starts off “I spit that Wonderama ish(shit), me and my conglomerates shall remain anonymous, caught up in the finest ish(shit), get that type of media coverage Obama get.” So I start off “I spit that light of prominence, like a panorama it’s painting the same picture conveying the lord’s dominance.” Because that’s true to me, but it’s the same rhyme scheme, same rhyme pattern. Its just showing him, this is a different individual that you’re dealing with.

 So Jay Electronica is clearly a major influence, who else has influenced either your style or your love for hip hop growing up?

As far as style influence, Jay Electronica and Nas are my biggest influences. Typically when I go on more southern sounding tracks, Andre 3000 is my biggest influence. Andre 3000 and Lil Wayne are my biggest influences from the South. I’m also really influenced by Lauryn Hill’s style, I think she’s a crazy lyricist. I always pay homage to the greats.

You recently performed at Howard’s Homecoming which is huge. Congrats on that again, how did you get selected for that?

You have to apply when you’re not getting booked. They said they were choosing twelve acts and I sent a couple songs from my most recent mixtape with original production, which is Oktoberfest and that came out in October 2012 and you can get that on datpiff. That’s my last original piece. I sent six songs from that and they hit me back like a month later and they said ‘out of over 100s and 100s of applications, you were one of the twelve selected to perform at Howard’s Homecoming and open for the bigger acts.’ It was great

But your successes haven't been limited to the DMV area, you've won rap competitions in both coasts?
What have you been working on & what's up next for you?

I won one in New York and two in LA.

Wow, so you have three under your belt. What are those like?

You have 15-20 different acts, a combination of groups and solo acts. They perform in front of a label’s A&R. He decides who the winner is. In NY it was Def Jam, LA for the first time it was Def Jam and then Warner Bros for the second time. You have ten minutes to do your thing, whatever you wanna do whether its freestyling or going acapella. Then they have a final round for the finalist selected. They’ll select maybe ten out of that twenty. Every one I’ve been in, I was the winner.

That’s incredible. You must have gotten a lot of buzz from that, from major labels. I’m sure a lot of people were in the audience. But you’re making this journey to LA to propel this rap career. What are your thoughts on the current state of the game that you’re getting ready to enter?

I just feel like the game is wide open. Drake said ‘I just feel like the throne is for the taking.’ It’s like that. I know that there’s nobody in my lane, nobody. I have to keep on grinding, keep on making music, making my message known to every possible person I can. Because this positivity is needed. You have people who are kinda positive, but then wack talent wise, you have people who are talented but then not positive. Both of these have a negative in it.

You’re all positive, bringing a new light to hip hop.

I’m a rapper’s rapper. I’m growing with my music. I’m trying to make songs that are great musically and not just great in hip hop.

Who are you listening to right now?

I listen to myself a lot to critique my sound and just grow so every project is gonna be better and better. Other than that, I really like Pusha T’s album. Just how he’s still going with this cocaine metaphor is just crazy. People don’t even realize that, that cocaine he’s using in a lot of his tracks is that double edged sword. If you’re talking about drug dealing, drug dealing can get you money but it can also get you jail time. I feel like I can relate to Pusha T a lot in that way because I talk about sin in my tracks. Sin is gonna get you that instant satisfaction that your flesh desires, but you wake up the next day and you still feel empty. That’s why there’s gotta be a pursuit for more than simply what your flesh desires, its gotta be a pursuit for what we need.

You’re bringing that depth that hip hop is missing.

That’s all I’m trying to do. I wanna make something worthwhile. Our genre shouldn’t be the only genre out there that doesn’t have something to say. I listen to Fleetwood Mac, Bon Jovi, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, even these country singers got something to say. But why is hip hop the only one that you can’t play at the white house?

But I think a lot of that has to do with the racist society that we live in & hip hop is judged much more harshly than any other genre and criticized for not being conscious when there’s plenty of other genres and artists who no cares to be conscious. Hip hop is so broad and there are so many different lanes, but we are missing a conscious rapper right now.

The thing is they’re out there, but nobody pays attention to them.

Yeah mainstream wise, commercial wise. For sure they’re out there, but artists are always gonna be out there that are not known. Who do you want to work with in the future?

Just in hip hop? Because I’m a music head. I love Mad Lib to Heat Makers to No ID to Mike Will Made It. A lot of people get it twisted, he probably has seven songs on the top ten in radio play right now, but that does not change the fact that’s he cold. It’s a lot of producers from the past I wanna work with, Pete Rock, Q Tip. People now like Pharrell and Timbaland, because I know for sure they’re searching for someone who is not only dope, but for someone who’s gonna change people’s lives in a positive way. Because that’s the only way your music is gonna stick throughout time.

Let’s hope they’re listening to this interview then. Word up, any emcees?

Whoever wants to holla at me, holla at me. I like whoever’s dope. As long as I feel like your authentic even if your reality is in a different code than mine is. I’m that much of an artist that I’m gonna get on a track with you just so we can give the listeners a dichotomy. I’m from nobody’s hood, so me getting on a track with a hood rapper is genius. We’re showing two different sides of the railroad tracks. But showing in the end that we meet eye to eye in the grand scheme of things.

I’m picturing it now, you and Chief Keef might be brilliant.

Yo Chief Keef holla at me.

What have you been working on & what's up next for you?

I’m working on a new project, which will be coming out next year. I try to get into the studio as much as I can and just make more quality music whether it’s down to the engineering or different rhyme schemes used.

Always progressing. Give a shoutout

Shoutout to my family, my friends. Ultimately shoutout to my God, that’s who I live my life for. Shoutout to everybody who’s supporting me. Shoutout to Khaos Entertainmet, shoutout to my manager William Alonzo. Shoutout to George Mason, PG County, the whole DC area. Shoutout to the whole world. I don’t want anybody to be left out.

Your musics for everybody.

Also shoutout to “Come Home With Me”!

This is right before you’re about to blow up. Keep making music that matters because you’re gonna be heard.


Look out for Tim Moorehead (@callmetrademark) and check out his dope music https://soundcloud.com/tim-moorehead and Youtube page http://www.youtube.com/user/trademarkmc

Also big ups to all the young aspiring artists trying to make a difference in hip hop. You are appreciated...

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Rise of Mixtape Culture vs. The Debut Album

The debut album is the most honest and raw body of work an artist releases. There are no expectations of their sound, but rather it’s our first glimpse of who this artist is, well rather was. A generation of hip hop ago, first albums were where artists shined, Jay Z with Reasonable Doubt, Nas with Illmatic, Lupe Fiasco with Food & Liquor. However, datpiff wasn’t around when these emcees were first releasing material and mixtape culture has drastically shifted our first encounter with new artists. Rappers release mixtape upon mixtape that by the time their first album drops, we already have a preconceived notion of what it should sound like and at what caliber the album will rank. It is almost impossible to hear debut albums with a fresh ear these days when we are constantly comparing them to the artist’s mixtape material.

Although I love the dedication to dropping new quality music for the free, there has to be a difference in caliber between a mixtape and an album. Too often these debut albums are falling short especially after releasing classic mixtapes. Live.Love.A$AP was Rocky to the core, it depicted his New York roots while incorporating his unique Houston inspired sound. People were excited about A$AP and eager for his debut album. But with Long.Live.A$AP, he had to bring something NEW, he could no longer be the truest form of himself as an artist. Instead he tried to be larger than life, expressing his unbelievably quick rise to fame. But the raw Harlem cat who we all could relate to began to slip out of our grasps and into commercialism.

J. Cole is another example. Did Born Sinner live up to the artistry of Friday Night Lights? There are some artists who are able to deliver quality mixtapes and still drop an amazing album, Kendrick Lamar and Ab-Soul succeeded. But a debut album separates the legends from the rest. There was no question after Ready to Die dropped, that Big was going to be a lasting presence in the game. Too often these days, artists are not living up to the buzz they created surrounding their mixtapes. Big K.R.I.T. said “I treat my mixtapes like albums,” which is noble, but at the end of the day the albums have to be superior. Especially when quality mixtapes are just a free download away, no one is going to be inspired to purchase a mediocre debut album.


I fear for new artists who have yet to release debuts. Will Chance the Rapper be able to live up to the critical acclaim of Acid Rap? I hope so, but our view of new artists and debut albums are so tainted now. During a time when the sky is the limit and creatively there are no boundaries, artists are already forced to create a different sound then what should have been their debut and as hip hop fans, we aren’t receiving the same quality of debut albums.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Smoker's Club Tour 2013: Joey Bada$$, Pro Era, Ab-Soul, The Underachievers & more

I'm sure Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom is still picking up roaches from last night's events. Coloradans take pride in their weed and when the major smokers of the hip hop industry came to town, pot heads united, bringing their lungs and ears for the 2013 lineup of Smoker's Club Tour. I attended the tour back in 2010 and at first I was slightly disappointed that there weren't more major artists on the roster, but the acts were stellar and it was truly a night to remember.

I walked in as Chevy Woods was finishing his set and the crowd was loving his Taylor Gang hits. However, the unsung heroes of the evening were The Underachievers. Performing material from Indigoism as well as their newest mixtape Lords of Flatbush, they possessed such a genuine stage presence and really appealed to the audience by taking song requests and performing what they wanted to hear. Issa Gold was so authentic with his interactions with the crowd and introductions to their songs that it felt like we were all homies in on a listening session. Both rappers were super personable and their performance was one of the highlights of the evening.

Surprisingly, headliner Ab-Soul came out next instead of closing the show. Soulo's performance was simple and effective, a true artist and free of all the gimmicks, he gave an incredible set showcasing his superior lyrical ability and just dope music. His aura and energy was raw and evoked brilliance. I've loved both Longterm Mentality and Control System and he performed tracks from both projects. Closing his set with "Illuminate" featuring his Black Hippy label mate Kendrick Lamar, the long haired, sun glass wearing emcee was outstanding.

Pro Era's Kwon ran onstage and got the crowd hype for the hip hop collective's leading emcee, Joey Bada$$. Still incredibly young and raw and in prep for his studio album debut, Joey was enlightening. The energy he drew from the crowd was unmatched that evening. Kirk Knight, CJ Fly, A La $ole, Dessy Hinds and a few other members joined Joey and even performed some of their new material from upcoming solo projects. Seeing the greatness of Joey live and his ability to command an audience that large was remarkable and made me reflect on youth in hip hop. To this day, Jay Z and Nas' debut albums are my favorites of their discography. There is something so fresh and honest about a young rappers debut and Joey at only eighteen is certainly on the path to a long and successful career with Pro Era no error!

I had the pleasure of meeting the artists after the show and it was interesting to see the maturity of Ab-Soul versus the genuine preservation of childhood with Pro Era. Despite fame and a constant touring schedule, these teenagers are still kids and that innocence was refreshing.

video

video


Monday, October 21, 2013

Legends of Hip Hop: Pharcyde & KRS One

Saturday night, Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom was overflowing with hip hop heads, of all ages and ethnicities eager to witness one of hip hop's legends and pioneers KRS One as well as some of the OG members of Pharcyde. Mr. Vegas also performed in the connecting venue transforming Denver into little Jamaica. Luckily the lineup was so superb because the opening acts were abysmal. People were walking out left and right as this perpetrating white dude desperately tried to keep the crowd engaged. By 1130PM I was ready to leave altogether but the evening turned around once the clock striked 12.

Pharcyde took the stage first and provided an incredible performance of some of their major hits "Passin' Me By," "Runnin'" and "Drop." Their performance was live filled with real and coordinated dance moves, genuine interactions with the crowd and a beautiful sense of humbleness and grace. Kid Cudi recently addressed his disappointment with rap performances these days after the cancellation of Rock The Bells. He exclaimed that RTB fell off because "hip hop shows aren't exciting...people wanna smile and dance." Witnessing Pharcyde's dynamic and upbeat performance, all I could do was smile and enjoy myself. Pharcyde also had a segment where they played hip hop records that inspired them and the crowd went crazy rocking to "O.P.P." and "Award Tour" celebrating hip hop while also bigging up KRS One and their beloved producer J Dilla.

Mr. Vegas came on in the next room and it was a sight to see. Women were whining all over the dance floor and men were busting out their best moves. Complete with a bruk it down competition, some Kartel, Bob Marley and Mr. Vegas' classics, the performance was truly a Jamaican party set in Denver. I had never experienced that kind of international energy in Colorado until Mr. Vegas blazed the stage the way he did and it was intoxicating.

Finally by 130AM, KRS One made his appearance and it was well worth the wait. Freestyling, old school flow, and hip hop classics, it felt like the 80s and we were all in the Boogie Down Bronx in on a cypher. It was magical. Also KRS One's Jamaican roots being a major influence on his sound seamlessly tied together Mr. Vegas' dancehall performance as well as Pharcyde's classic hip hop celebration. He was the bridge of both worlds. "Sound of Da Police" was the highlight of his set as literally the entire audience joined in screaming the sirens while KRS commanded attention.

The evening, although with an incredibly late start, was enlightening. Hip hop has changed so much since its debut and a lot of people are praising Kendrick for his recent raw and uncensored verses and cyphers where he calls out his fellow rappers and disses other ones, but that's not what real hip hop is about. Its honoring the genre, celebrating each other and elevating the art. And Pharcyde and KRS One demonstrated that beautifully. Artists are too cocky and self-proclaimed to ever play music other than their own in their set, but it was truly humbling to see the generosity of each of the acts. I am all for shaking up the industry, but Cudi was right, rappers don't perform like they use to. The artists left everything on that stage and I left feeling no longer tired, but full of inspiration and joy for the genre that I am so in love with.


video