Monday, July 29, 2013

Boston Rapper Avenue; Keeping that Real Talk Rap Alive

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Boston rapper, Avenue, where he shared the struggles of growing up in the inner city, the transformation of his own rap style, and his thoughts on the current rap game. Already one of the most recognized rappers in Boston and on the roster to tour alongside Kid Daytona and Phil Ade, there is certainly no question that Avenue is one to watch. 

Check out the exclusive interview below:

Where are you from?

I’m from Boston, South & lower part of Roxbury to be specific. I pretty much lived there my whole life. I grew up there, seen a lot of crazy things. Mainly the things you always see growing up in an inner city community.  With me rapping I feel like I gotta welcome those people that are so close minded to the environment in which we grew up in Boston. I feel like that’s my responsibility. I’m definitely influenced by drug dealing, murders, single parent homes. I feel like ultimately my goal is to open people’s minds up to things that go on in these inner city areas.

When did you start rapping?

I been rapping for years playing around. I thought I was taking it serious for about two years, but I’d say for about a year I’ve been taking it real serious to the point where I’m like okay I can really finally do something and turn it into something.

Who inspired you to start?

I was at Merrimack College and I removed myself. Prior to that I was putting out videos and stuff like that which was getting a lot of hits on YouTube and people were talking about it. And that was just me playing around. I finally stepped back and sat down with a local producer, Scotty. I sat down with him for a few months and remapped my whole insight on music. He had me watching movies, reading books, listening to older hip hop artists that I’ve always heard growing up but I wasn’t able to always dissect their stuff and able to relate to it at the time.

Who’s influencing your style now?

Definitely Nas, It Was Written is my favorite album. I can listen to it and feel like I’m from Queensbridge, like his description, his ability to tell stories, and his lyrical abilities can’t be matched by anybody. Because he really placed you there and you really felt like you were him when you listened to his music.

What are your thoughts on the current state of the game?

With all the different genres in hip hop right now there’s a good blend. You got the artists who do the turn up and then you got the artists who do more real talk, then you have the spoken word artists and the R&B/rapping artists. I feel like right now is the most unified era of Hip Hop. There’s not too much rap beef going on, not a lot of diss records flying out, everybody’s staying in their lane, getting their money and supporting each other.

What’s your story? What are you trying to say?

Right now, I’m more so doing the story-telling thing. I’m mixing up stories, not making up, but mixing up.

What separates you from other artists in the industry?

That’s a tough one, but I would say me telling real life stories. It’s being done, but it’s oversaturated to the point where its not actually 100 percent real. I start “the Interlude” off by saying (Words Speak Life EP) “How am I suppose to stay focused when my mother’s still on section 8?” and that’s just real talk, that’s just real life situations that I’m still going through while I’m trying to get on.

What’s been the highlight of your career thus far?

I would say the Boston Cypher in 2010 (which appeared on WorldStar Hip Hop). That was people’s first glimpse of me taking music serious. But I would definitely say the release of my tape [Words Speak Life]. The amount of people that fuck with the tape was crazy. I was shocked and surprised at the support level and the amount of love I got for the joints that were really about me.

What are you working on now? & what’s up next for you?

Right now I’m working on my Chandelier View Tape. The concept behind the tape is crazy. As a kid people always ask you what do you wanna be when you grow up,  and you have this plan and as you get older you realize things start to change. I’m pretty much walking people through my life from the age of two to being twenty-two and the situations I go through: losing friends, relationships, idolizing people that I want to become or idolizing people that I’ve surpassed. There’s no official release date for it yet, but we’re looking at either August or September.

Who do you want to work with in the future?

This R&B artist signed to OVO, Party Next Door. I’m a huge Pusha T fan, I’m a huge Kendrick fan, so definitely them. And one of my favorite artists of all time, people always laugh, but Young Chris from the Young Guns, that’s my dawg, I like his flow. Ill mind, Pharrell definitely, Sixth Sense, Just Blaze, cuz Blaze is ill and I love 40.

Give a shoutout:

Shoutout to my management team, my man Rasheen Walker and Brenden Boyd. Society Original products team, and Shoutout to Tim Larew who’s been helping me behind the scenes.

Hailing from the Boston streets myself, this interview meant a lot to me. There haven’t been many rappers to emerge from the Bean, but with Ave’s story-telling flow and raw spirit, I know it’s only a matter of time before he makes it big. Stay on the lookout for his upcoming EP The Chandlier View, which will be dropping soon. In the meantime, Avenue released today a mini mixtape titled Summer of '91 which features six dope tracks.

Also check out his YouTube channel: Avenuegf & his latest video "I Love My" below.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Under the Influence Tour

Tuesday, July 23rd, the Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre hosted the “Under The Influence Tour” featuring headliners A$AP Rocky and Wiz Khalifa as well as Joey Bada$$, Trinidad James and B.o.B. The lines were jam packed at every entrance hours after the concert started and even outside the venue, the smell of weed was potent as ever. I caught the end of B.o.B’s set where he performed his radio hits such as "Nothin’ On You,” “Airplanes” and “Magic” before leaping off the stage and finishing his performance in the lawn seats at the top of the theatre.  

A$AP followed his performance and although I have attended several of Rocky’s shows, his growth as a performer and artist was truly evident. He was accompanied by a live band who executed his sick beats perfectly. A$AP started off with “1 Train” and it was great to see him and Joey perform the cypher-like song together. His album titled track “Long Live A$AP” was next and the dope visuals were projected as part of the performance. “Wild for the Night” brought the entire crowd of children, middle-aged adults and everyone in between on their feet and the energy continued to grow as A$AP Ferg and Trinidad James came out for the epic “Work Remix.” Continuing with his features with Ferg, the two performed their newest single “Shabba Ranks.” Brilliantly, A$AP serenaded the crowd with his hypnotizing voice on “Purple Kisses” only to finish off strong with the song of the year “Fuckin’ Problems.” I was able to see A$AP early on in his career, prior to his debut album, so it was great to see a new level of performance from him while maintaining a mix of LiveLoveA$AP gems as well as his newer album hits.

Wiz finished off the show and the buzz backstage was that this was his greatest performance of the tour thus far. His set began advertising his line of Converse sneakers while describing his rise to fame and individuality as an artist. He opened with “Bout Me” and performed hits such as “Work Hard,” “Up,” “Taylor Gang” and of course “Black and Yellow.” Wiz shouted out his wife Amber Rose who surprised me with her kindness and humility as well as bringing out Taylor Gang members Chevy Woods and Ty Dolla $ign. The show finished off by bringing all the artists from the evening on stage solidifying the incredible lineup of the tour.

“Under the Influence Tour” is definitely not a show you want to miss. Check out some of the live footage from the tour below.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Magna Carta... Holy Grail: The New Era of Hip Hop

When Jay Z's Samsung commercial first aired, it announced the release of his newest album and 12th solo album, Magna Carta... Holy Grail, available for Galaxy owners exclusively on July 4th and then for the general public on July 8th. It took me some time to listen to this album and not judge it too prematurely, but I've finally come to a consensus. This album has an all star production team with Pharrell, Hit-Boy, Swiss Beats, Timbaland, The-Dream and No ID just to name a few. With that kind of team behind you, it is no surprise that the production is absolutely incredible and also the highlight of the album. Jay does have flow and certain tracks do bump, but lyrically it is nowhere near the caliber I expect from him.

"Somewhereinamerica" is my favorite track and his bars are lethal. 
Might crash ya Internet
And I ain't even into that
When I was talking Instagram
Last thing you wanted was your picture snapped
Feds still lurking
They see I'm still putting work in
Cause somewhere in America
Miley Cyrus is still twerkin'

Other highlights of the album are "Tom Ford." The beat is sick and it's definitely a song to rock to, but it doesn't even sound like he's trying. A few years ago Jay would of demolished a beat like this. Frank Ocean kills the vocals on "Oceans" and Hov has a great line on the track: "On the holiday, playing 'Strange Fruit'/ If I'm-a make it to a billi, I can't take the same route." The rest of his verses are so mediocre. Whether it's bragging about famous artwork in his crib or the stress of the paparazzi, there isn't much that hasn't already been said. It could be lack of inspiration or simply the fact that he has been putting music out since 1996, but either way this album lacks his normal creativity.

I listened to his classic albums (Reasonable Doubt, Blueprint 1, The Black Album & American Gangster) in preparation for Magna Carta to drop and more than this just being a sub par album, it is the marking of a new era in Hip Hop. During Reasonable Doubt and Ill-matic days MCs bodied tracks with minimal features and fairly simple production. Nowadays albums are filled with features, solo tracks are rare and the beats are superior. Although I am loving the mastery of production, I'm missing the revolutionary verses. Jay Z has already established himself as a legend in the game and an incredibly successful business man, but this album feels more like a gimmick and a power trip than Jay actually wanting to put out real art. I love and respect Jay Z, but I'm not giving him a pass just because he's Jay Z. He made unbelievable music, but it's just not real anymore.

The absence of Kanye on Magna Carta as well as the absence of Jay on Yeezus had some people asking questions. Perhaps Watch The Throne 2 is the near future...