Saturday, June 29, 2013

Big K.R.I.T. and Action Bronson headline at the Middle East

Thursday evening in Boston, people wrapped around the Mass Ave block waiting to see Queens rapper Action Bronson and the king remembered in time Big K.R.I.T. The show sold out days before the actual concert and the place was packed with hip hop heads rocking to Biggie, Wu-Tang and Hov. Action Bronson took the stage first and had the Middle East basement jumping performing hit after hit from his Blue Chips mixtape as well as his verse on "1 Train". AB dapped up the crowd and moved around the venue. His performance was live and he really pumped up the crowd for KRIT.

Bronson left the crowd on a high and Big KRIT elevated that energy to a totally different level. Magically, KRIT was able to perform some of his more upbeat hits such as "Sookie Now" off of Return of 4eva and "What You Mean" off of his debut album Live From the Underground. He turned the crowd all the way up but then was able to dive even deeper in his set by performing some of his reflective tracks. "REM," "Money on the Floor, "Only One" and "Multi Til the Sun Die" are so honest and relatable that the crowd just went crazy. One of the reasons I love KRIT so much is that he speaks truth. His songs connect to real life, real problems, real thoughts and in such a genuine way it feels like he understands my struggle.

I was so glad to have been able to express to KRIT how much his songs mean to me. And just as genuine as his performance was, he was just as humble in person. A true King, I'm hoping with this next album he'll get the respect and recognition he deserves. If you haven't already, purchase his album Live from the Underground and download his latest EP K.R.I.T. (King Remembered in Time.)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

June 18th: Cole Vs. Kanye

Today was a big day in the hip hop world. Two of the leadings MC's in the game right now dropped albums: Born Sinner and Yeezus. Due to the leaks of both albums I was able to take the time to really listen to each one. I had my doubts about both artists. I loved Cole in his Friday Night Lights glory and I highly anticipated his debut album Cole World- The Sideline Story. I was left very disappointed and since then I have never been able to rock with him the same. With Kanye, I was able to hear the first four songs on Yeezus at the Governor's Ball. Hearing him do some of his early tracks and his new songs in the same performance, his sound is incredibly different now, and at first I rejected his new direction. However, after really listening, and all hip hop lovers know real hip hop is so complex that it requires multiple listening sessions and time to devour the rhymes and flow, I came to some conclusions.

Born Sinner is a solid body of work. Highlights of the album are the Biggie sample in his intro track "Villuminati," "Rich Ni**az," and his popular single "Power Trip." What impressed me the most was "Forbidden Fruit" which featured Kendrick on the chorus. Kendrick has an incredibly entrancing tone that partners the song perfectly. Cole's flow is cold on this track and offers his same lyrical superiority without having the pensive tone he utilizes frequently. Towards the end of the album is  "Crooked Smile" which features the remaining TLC. The song is uplifting and discusses first his image and then women and the pressures and insecurities we face based on image. This song always makes me smile when I hear it, perhaps in a crooked smile sort of way :). Rumors of a track titled "Let Nas Down" turned out to be true. Cole is so honest on this track where he talks about how much he idolized Nas and meeting him was a dream come true. After the release of his single "Work Out," apparently Nas hated the track and that killed Cole inside. With each listen I enjoy Born Sinner more and more as hip hop should be, however, it is not an album I would play start to finish. I'll never understand how such a talented lyricist with the backing of the legendary Jay Z can not seem to produce a killer album. Friday Night Lights blew me away and I have yet to have the same reaction with J. Cole since.

As for Yeezus, Kanye completely stepped out of the box that hip hop created for him. A perfect follow up to MBDTF, Yeezus production is spectacular and provides a sound that is brand new. With only ten tracks, that's all you need. The album is shocking at first listen but the fourth and fifth listen are pure genius. The industrial sound that accompanies "Black Skinhead" and "New Slaves" is magic on good quality systems. The album only gets better in the second half, "Hold my Liquor" is dark and fascinating. "I'm In It" incorporates reggae vocals that are thrilling. "Blood on the Leaves" is by far the most powerful track featuring Nina Simone covering Billie Holiday's famous "Strange Fruit" which was originally a poem exposing the lynching of blacks in this country. "Bound 2" lyrically is the best track on the album and gives a glimpse of the "old Kanye" we like to refer to so much. Not quite fitting the overall sound of the rest of the album, nonetheless it concludes it and sounds so good.

Born Sinner is definitely worth copping and I am eager to hear your opinions. And if you haven't already heard Yeezus, get on it! With these two great albums already out and Pusha T, Rick Ross, Fabolous, Jay Z and so many more dropping albums this summer, it seems real hip hop is on the rise and I can't wait.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Governor's Ball 2013

This past weekend was the annual Governor's Ball at Randall's Island in NYC. Usually a popular rock festival, this year the lineup had some of the hottest MCs and legends in the game. Erykah Badu graced the Sky Vodka stage first and despite the hurricane warnings and swimming pools of mud that surrounded the stage, she was just as beautiful as I imagined her to be. Performing "Window Seat" and many other R&B classics, it made the almost impossible trip worth it.

Saturday had much better weather, although the dirt park was still incredibly muddy and almost unbearable to move in. Azealia Banks was the first Hip Hop artist to take the stage and she gave a feisty performance that was upbeat and flashy. She addressed the controversy of her making a remix to "Harlem Shake" claiming her Harlem upbringing made it appropriate. With lots of lights and energetic dance routines, the crowd was raging even as early as 6PM.

Kendrick Lamar followed Banks' set at the Honda stage and the combination of his chill demeanor and low acoustics made his performance sub par. The crowd was packed and eager for Kendrick's set, but even close to the stage, his sound was way too low. Most of his songs are not hype anyways and experiencing Kendrick at other locations, he clearly feeds off the crowd's energy. The NYC crowd knew most of his radio records, but were unfamiliar with a lot of the Section.80 tracks he performed. Kendrick was not able to turn up without the crowd's participation and I, along with other K.Dot fans were left disappointed. Still an amazing artist, his performance was unmemorable, especially compared to the stellar acts of the weekend.

Hip Hop fans were brought back to life with Nas' performance, which closed the festival on Saturday evening. He is one of the most charming performers I have ever seen, transitioning seamlessly between classic Nas tracks as well as interspersing hits from Life is Good. The fans were able to sing along to some of his greatest hits such as "One Mic," "If I Ruled the World," "Life's a Bitch," "Represent," "It Ain't Hard To Tell," "NY State of Mind," "The World is Yours," and "Hate Me Now." The crowd went crazy as did he thirty second excerpts from what he called "here's another classic." Nas stole the show Saturday and had one of the top performances of the festival.

Freddie "Gangsta" Gibbs, Gary Clark Jr. and Grizzly Bear all performed Sunday, the final day of the festival. All three performances brought completely different energies and yet all were equally amazing. Gibbs brought gangsta rap to the island, Gary Clark Jr. showcased his unbelievable guitar skills and Grizzly Bear serenaded the crowd with their beautiful vocals and experimental sound. However, there was only one performance that moved tens of thousands of people raising their hands to the sky in a cult-like trance. Mr. West was in the building and his set was the greatest musical moment of my life.

Of course gracing the main stage twenty minutes late, he began with unreleased tracks from his upcoming album Yeezus. With startling visuals of Kanye accompanied by two other black men in traditional looking KKK hoods that were instead black, he entranced the crowd from the beginning. He literally parted the red sea of people and walked to an elevated staircase in the middle of the park where he performed classic after classic. The entire crowd shouted the words to "Power," "Theraflu," "Don't Like," "Jesus Walks," "Stronger," "Wait till I get my Money Right," "Say You Will," "Heartbreak," "Flashing Lights," "All Falls Down," and "All of the Lights." And before performing "Clique," he discussed his upcoming album and new mentality in the music game. "You know with this album, we ain't drop no single for radio...but honestly at this point when I listen to radio, that ain't where I wanna be no more. Honestly at this point, I could give a fuck about selling a million records as long as I can put out an album for the summer that y'all can rock to all motherfucking summer." His powerful words moved the crowd from dead silence hanging onto his every word to uncontrollable applause. Kanye has been seen as completely off the wall in the media lately, with his relationship, screaming at concerts, and his incomparable cockiness. But it was this moment, where the thousands of Kanye fans were restored. At the end of the day, it's all about the music and that's all we can ask for.