Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Nothing Was The Same

Drake dropped Nothing Was The Same today and although the album is reflective of his current stature in the industry, his love life, his family, etc... he's continuing to expand hip hop on its possibilities and its boundaries. Just when the tweets were reaching an all time high of essentially comparing Drake with weakness, he drops this incredible album filled with straight up bars.

The intro track "Tuscan Leather" is one of the best intro tracks I've heard since "Too Deep for the Intro" on J. Cole's Friday Night Lights. At over six minutes long and named after Tom Ford's cologne, it expresses such a new confidence for Drake as having a real spot in the game. But it's presented in such a relatable way, that it makes you care about Drake. He does that so incredibly on this album, he presents rich rapper situations into real situations that we as an audience can understand. He expresses authentic human emotions, that us as listeners can grasp and relate to. Loneliness, insecurity, yearning for love, creativity, are things we all feel and its intriguing to realize those struggles still exist even after the fame and fortune. He has this great line on "Tuscan Leather": "on a mission trying to shift the culture" and that's exactly what's he's doing with this new album and his artistry.

The third track "Wu Tang Forever" brought in some complaint from hip hop fans, as the sound and content doesn't deliver any Wu Tang resemblance. Although the hook repeating "it's yours," is one of the Wu's classics off their Wu Tang Forever cd1. And besides the obvious connection, the sound is dope and melodic and entrancing.

"From Time" is a beautiful duet between Drake and Jhene Aiko and her vocals are breathtaking. Breaking down the nature of love as well as reminiscing about women he knew from Hooters and Macy's, it's so honest. His honesty is unparalleled in the industry right now.

"Too Much" is my favorite track and explores his troubles with his family and how his wealth has actually isolated him from his loved ones. Sampha accompanies Drake on the hook urging him not "think about it too much". "Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2" is another outstanding track set to an additional Wu sample: C.R.E.A.M., where Jay Z is featured and delivers an amazing verse. Although this is a very self-indulged and even self-obsessed album, Drake is clearly being inspired by an era in hip hop. With the Jay Z verse, Ma$e quote and multiple Wu inspirations, he is providing some real hip hop history on such a contemporary rap album.

The singles "Started From the Bottom," "All Me," and "Hold On, We're Going Home," typical to albums, are the weakest of the track list, but nonetheless, the album is superb. Most of the production is done by Noah "40" Shebib and each track unique in its sound, really plays off each other forming a true body of work. Drake certainly did his thing and if you haven't heard it yet, go out and cop this gem immediately!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

2 High 2 Die; Danny Brown & Action Bronson

The Ogden Theater hosted the 2 High 2 Die tour featuring opener Trash Talk as well as headliners Action Bronson and Danny Brown. Trash Talk is a punk rock band from Cali, which was really confusing to hear that type of sound at a hip hop concert. The lead singer jumped in the crowd and sang (although I use that word lightly) on top of banisters as well as hung from railings. Most of his performance choices seemed to be antics to get the crowd hype, because in reality, nobody knew or gave a fuck who he was.

Action's DJ came out and played a ton of techno and pop music. I swear at that moment I checked my ticket to make sure I was at the right concert. However, it was R. Kelly's "Bump N Grind" that brought out the Queens native. This was my third time seeing Bronson and I was amazed at how he surprises me and makes his performance unique every single time. He always does different material and jumps in the crowd, but his confidence and stage presence is flawless and he always puts on an amazing show. Bronson's set seemed so short and the crowd chanted for his return.

Danny Brown has one of the best DJ's in the industry right now. He knew exactly what to play to get the crowd hype and in the right mood for Danny's comic voice and outrageous lyrics. Danny Brown took a few songs to warm up, he seemed exhausted from a hectic tour schedule or perhaps smoking "blunt after blunt after blunt after blunt". He did eventually turn up and I was more intrigued than ever by his individuality and unique sound. The black Brad Pitt as Danny likes to call himself, shut the house down with his wild hair and tongue hanging from his mouth. giving us a sample of new tracks from his album Old, that has a release date for September 30.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Cud Life Tour: King Chip, Logic, Juicy J, Tyler the Creator & Kid Cudi

Monday night at Red Rocks Amphitheater was the Cud Life Tour and the lineup was insane. It was my first time at this venue and it was absolutely breathtaking. The theater is a rock structure and open air, but what was spectacular was how impeccable the sound was. King Chip opened the concert and gave a strong performance. Although, a lot of the audience members were offended by the Raider's vest he wore (Coloradans take their Broncos very seriously.)

Logic was next and what really stood out in his performance was his deep passion for hip hop. He explained that he had been rapping for nine years prior to being taken seriously in the industry. Logic was truly inspiring telling us that no dream is too big and every dream is possible. My only critique of his set was his DJ. This dude was completely over the top, shouting over his songs with his gelled hair and random throwback jersey. He didn't understand his role as a DJ and he also didn't seem authentic from a hip hop standpoint. I couldn't help cracking up at the act he was so clearly putting on.

Juicy J took the stage next and was one of the major highlights of the evening. He did 36 Mafia classics as well as his bangers off his new album Stay Trippy. A veteran in the game, Juicy J knows exactly how to put on a good show. He was engaging, he was charming, he was hype and he gave a great all around performance. Before leaving the stage, he promoted his $50,000 scholarship that he is awarding to the best twerker. Ladies, send a video to WSHH if you're interested.

Tyler the Creator took the stage with Earl Sweatshirt and Jasper Dolphin. Huge blown up letters spelled GOLF across the stage with a weird blown up face in the middle. Taco, the DJ, summoned on the Odd Future members by doing an interpretive dance before the gang jumped from behind the letters. However, Tyler was not satisfied with the crowd's reaction and therefore attempted the grand entrance again. Once on stage, I was totally blown away by Tyler's performance. He introduced himself and his friends as well as each song never assuming the crowd knew anything about his music. And after energetically jumping around the stage rapping his songs, he would dryly say afterwards "that was cool" as if he hadn't just wilded out moments earlier. He truly interacted with the crowd, calling attention to people who weren't acting crazy or weren't "nasty" as he put it. Simply, Tyler was brilliant. Not only is he challenging and even mocking the norms of hip hop, but he is validating the weirdo inside us all. He had real human reactions on stage, to his friends, his DJ, the audience, and it was refreshing.

Schoolboy Q was a no show, which was very disappointing, however, Cudi gave a lengthy performance that lasted until 1am. With a moon like structure on stage, Kid Cudi emerged right from the center of it with a space suit on doing "Unfuckwittable" from his latest album Indicud. He also performed my favorite tracks from the album "Girls" and "Brothers" as well as "Just What I Am" with King Chip. What really had the crowd going crazy was his performance of "Mr. Rager"as well as his Man on the Moon hits "Up Up & Away," "Soundtrack to my Life" and his final song "Pursuit of Happiness." I had seen Cudi live in 2010, just a year after being featured on XXL's annual Freshmen list and I couldn't even believe this was this same person. In 2010, he wore a plain orange tee and couldn't even stand up straight from all the drugs he was on. He literally transformed into a star onstage with his huge smile and hilariously good dance moves. And in my opinion, with a much more developed sound.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

An Evening of Throwbacks: Too Short, Eve, E-40, Ice Cube & Ludacris

It was an evening of throwbacks. Last night at the Fiddler's Green Amphitheater, KS 107.5 brought the All Star show featuring Too Short, Eve, E-40, Ice Cube & Ludacris. Warren G was part of the original lineup, but much to my dismay, was not in attendance. The venue was packed to the brim, with lines spanning multiple blocks at every entrance. DJ Fellie Fell got the crowd hype for the one and only Too Short. The Oakland rapper had every middle-aged women up in there twerking to "Blow the Whistle" and "What's my Favorite Word" while also performing some of his more recent material such as his verse on Wiz Khalifa's "On My Level." Too Short certainly has a purpose in hip hop, but like his music, his performance was mediocre.

Eve followed Too Short and was undoubtedly the star of the show. Not only the only female rapper on the roster, but also the only act hailing from the East, Eve murdered her set performing straight up classics. "Let Me Blow Ya Mind," "Who's That Girl," and "Satisfaction" had the crowd going bananas, rapping every word alongside Eve. Her performance was so incredible, I'm wondering if an Eve comeback is in order...

E-40 took the stage next and gave a solid performance of his decades of hits. "Tell Me When to Go," "Sprinkle Me,""My Shit Bang" were all part of his set and Too Short joined E-40 for "Rapper's Ball."

Ice Cube was as charming as ever, giving a tribute to West Coast legend Nate Dogg and performing tracks from one of my all time favorite movies: Friday.  Although, the highlight of the evening was Ice Cube crip walking across the stage! Ice Cube also schooled the crowd by talking about the the Golden Era of Hip Hop a.k.a. the 80s. He introduced his DJ who was in fact a hip hop historian and he proceeded to play 80s hip hop that was iconic in hip hop's development. It was amazing to witness the hip hop classics "Check Yo Self" and "Today was a Good Day." Cube left the stage by proclaiming that "Denver has better weed than LA" and the crowd went crazy.

Ludacris closed the show and really showcased his premiere performance skills. He was constantly playing with the crowd, encouraging competition between sections, testing the crowd's knowledge of his early records and enticing the beautiful women to come back to ATL with himself and his band. Speaking of his band, Ludacris featured a dope band who with Luda's introduction performed individual solos showing off their skills. "What's Your Fantasy," "Move (Bitch)," and "Money Maker" were true throwbacks and all part of his set and it felt so good to reminisce.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Made in America & All its Glory

I'm still recovering from the epic weekend that took place. Made in America, in only its second year in effect, was absolutely incredible this year. Created by Jay Z himself, the caliber of the artists during this two day festival was unreal. In patriotic outfits, tens of thousands of people gathered in Philly on Benjamin Franklin Parkway to witness live performances from the Underachievers, Wiz Khalifa, A$AP Rocky, all of Black Hippy, Miguel, Solange, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, 2 Chainz and of course the one and only Beyoncé Carter.

A$AP was the first hip hop performance of the festival and I doubt Jay will be asking this Pretty Mothafucka back. The crowd was so hype to see him and he strolled in twenty five minutes late and finished five minutes early. Although his performance (of barely five songs total) was impeccable and really livened the crowd, it left everyone unfulfilled. Especially considering every other performer was extremely punctual and performed full 45-90 minute sets. A$AP Nast accompanied Rocky, although we all really wanted Ferg to show up.

Emile Sandé, a British recording artist and songwriter, was one of the most charming acts of the festival. Her energy radiated through the crowd as she urged the audience to sing along with her whenever they could. Her smile was contagious and her voice was really beautiful. Following Emile was Public Enemy and days later I am still in awe of that performance. Seeing Chuck D and Flavor Flav was really life changing. Aside from being able to witness classic hip hop at its finest, Chuck D spoke on the atrocities of the Trayvon Martin Trial, he spoke on the lack of funding in the Philadelphia Public Schools and he spoke on the convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. I was blown away by their performance of greatest hits and how they effortlessly interwove their social commentary. They also donated a portion of their profits from the festival to the Philadelphia Public Schools. Much respect to Public Enemy, still fighting the power in 2013.

Directly following Public Enemy was 2 Chainz on the smaller Liberty stage. It was so hard to transition from such an authentic hip hop experience to music that is so shallow in every aspect. 2 Chainz did his thing, he performed his radio hits and some new tracks from his upcoming album. If it's possible, the new songs were even more outrageous and lyrically inferior than ever before. I was so moved by Public Enemy, I couldn't even turn up to club bangers like "Birthday Song" and "Bandz a Make her Dance," it just felt so in genuine and gimmicky.

Queen Bey closed day 1 of the festival and her performance was flawless. Performing a 90 minute set with costume changes, full dance routines, and amazing visual and light production, the crowd of men and women equally screamed and sang along to some of her most popular hits. Her dancers were incredible as was her all female band. The only disappointment of her set was her performing "Crazy in Love" solo. Jay Z had openly walked through the crowd prior to Bey's set, but despite almost everyone throwing up the Roc sign, Jay did not accompany his wife. "1+1" was just beautiful, as her pianist killed the keys. Beyoncé performed the video routines to "Run the World (Girls)" and "Single Ladies." And she closed with her heart melting ballad "Halo."

Day two started off with the Brooklyn duo: the Underachievers. Their debut mixtape, Indigoism, was not only dope, but people really started to respect the upcoming Flatbush natives. Big ups to Jay for selecting such a talented and underground group keeping the Made in America lineup extremely diverse. They performed a lot of tracks from Indigoism which is very remnant of 90s gritty rap with some 60s pshycadelic influences. The group finished off their performance with tracks from their new mixtape Lords of Flatbush. The also two humbly stayed around after their set to take pictures and greet fans.

Solange took the Liberty stage next and gave a vocally stellar performance. I'm not very familiar with her music, but I did enjoy her performance. Black Hippy blazed the main stage and Jay Rock, Ab-Soul and Schoolboy Q gave incredible and brief performances before headliner Kendrick took the stage. Jay Rock spit fire, Ab-Soul was entrancing with his sick flow, while Q brought the energy to another level with "Hands on the Wheel" and "Collard Greens." Kendrick gave a strong performance. He interacted with the crowd and had a real sense of confidence that I hadn't seen from him before. However, the live band remixed his dope hip hop beats into straight up rock production. For tracks like "Fuckin' Problem," where the beat is iconic and carries much of the song, it exposed how weak Kendrick's verse actually was. I am usually always a fan of live bands, but his band sounded nothing like his album and I couldn't enjoy his performance in full.

Miguel followed Black Hippy and gave a vocally mediocre performance. He was charming and performed his hits, but he did not sound as good live as I hoped he would. Wiz Khalifa gave a great performance and brought out his new wife Amber Rose as he paraded her around the stage and sang to her. Wiz is certainly a solid performer, but I just can't get down with his new material. Am I the only one missing Kush and OJ days?

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis drew a huge crowd around the Liberty stage. I was eager to see Macklemore live because he has been getting so much recognition lately. However, the only hip hop aspect of his performance was when he brought out Schoolboy Q. I always dig an artist who is outspoken and righteous (as Public Enemey so eloquently showcased the day before), but his performance was corny and straight up wack. I'm hoping the hype surrounding Macklemore will subside soon and we can actually give awards to real rappers.

Despite some lame acts, Made in America was breathtaking. With David Blaine performing spur of the moment magic tricks, to Jay Z casually walking through the crowds and the huge range of talented artists, the entire weekend was a hit. Each artist had their own stage time and that is usually my biggest critique of music festivals, that too many major acts conflict each other. But during Made in America there was no waiting, but there was also no competing performances. Be on the lookout for next year's lineup, because if this was only year two, I can't even imagine what's in store for next year.