Saturday, October 31, 2009

Exile and DJ Day Perform A Routine With "Thriller"

Happy Halloween everyone.

In the spirit of things (kind of) here is a video of Exile and DJ Day playing around with Michael Jackson's "Thriller" for an audience. I saw it yesterday and thought it was pretty dope, so check it out and tell me what you think.

Also, if you haven't heard Exile's work on Fashawn's debut Boy Meets World (he produces the whole album), it is a MUST LISTEN...seriously.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Black Thought And Mos Def Rhyming '75 Bars'

"You in a battle tellin' me you not ready like you figured I'ma bear witcha" - Black Thought

Apparently this went down before or after the taping of the BET cypher they did (see it here if you haven't already It's cool to see a great MC openly praising another great MC's work like this here. Word for word though?? Damn.

My top ten list is pretty damn cluttered, but Black Thought belongs on there. Tell me that after seeing this shit, you don't want to immediately pull out your "Rising Down" CD and give this joint it's 200th + listen. No need to get up. The video link is posted below.

Cormega And AZ Perform Affirmative Action

Nice to see this. I wouldn't mind getting an album with these two together. What do you think?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

T La Rock On Def Jam

I found this to be an interesting clip, so I thought I'd share it. I don't make a point to watch VH1's Hip Hop Honors, so I didn't realize that T La Rock wasn't there for the Def Jam tribute. Actually, I don't think I knew that there was a Def Jam tribute. I remember seeing an episode where they gave Russell Simmons an award. Was that the one? Anyway, this clip has me interested in the expanded version with his whole story. I'll be keeping an eye out for it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Plea To All MCs Releasing An Album In The Future

This problem first become noticeable to me in the late 90's with releases from Big Pun and Puff Daddy. I couldn't understand it then, and I still don't today. I let it go, but it appears to be happening more and more recently and I've had enough. Let me give a few examples of recent offending songs just off the top of my head:

Royce Da 5'9" Feat. Phonte - "Something 2 Ride 2"
Saigon Feat. Grand Puba - "Who Can Get Busy"
Slaughterhouse Feat. Pharoahe Monch - "Salute"
KRS-One & Buckshot Feat. Pharoahe Monch - "One Shot"
Krs-One & Buckshot Feat. Talib Kweli - "Oh Really"

Now, what is it that all of these songs have in common? Anyone? Give up?

They are all "featuring" some of hip hop's best MCs, yet each one of them stop short of having an actual verse delivered by the guest. What the fuck is going on?!?!?! Why have these artists on an album in the first place if it's just to record a hook? Do these names read like a list of background singers to you? Me either. Me either. And, I'm tired of getting excited about a new track just to be disappointed when the end comes without a verse from someone of, say Pharoahe fucking Monch's caliber. I thought one was bad. But, two features like this from him with no verse in a year's time. Are you fucking kidding me?! There's no reason for this. It makes me want to return the CD on principal alone. It's fucking false advertising is what it is. We the fans have been cheated.

So, to all MCs that I have respect for that are planning on releasing an album in the near future - please, please, please - respect your fans, and respect the artists that you work with for your album - ask them to bless you with a verse. This isn't Nate Dogg you asked to record with you afterall. It's Grand Puba. Act like you fucking know.

Thank you.

OJ Da Juiceman Gets Booed

Ok, this is funny. And appreciated. It really brings a smile to my face when I see hip hop fans stand up against the bullshit when it has the nerve to show up on a stage. I only wish KRS was there to throw this fool off of it. Enjoy!! (I know you will).

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Joe Budden On Jay-Z and "Pump It Up"

In this clip, Joe Budden explains the story behind him getting this beat from Just Blaze, the "Pump It Up Remix" that never was, Jay-Z's beat jack, and him feeling he had to take it back. This is very interesting (and not the first time I've heard about Jay being a dick to other MCs; i.e. his now-artist Jadakiss). I've never heard any kind of story behind this before now. I just remember when Jay dismantled the beat for the S. Carter collection mixtape (one of my favorite Jigga verses ever) and then Joey taking it back and bodying it again a short time later - and using NBA references the way Jay did too at one point. Shit was nuts!!! I thought it was all in fun. I guess, not really. So, check out this explanation by Budden, and see below that for the original "Pump It Up" song, and the two subsequent verses from Jay and Joey.

"Pump It Up" original video. Sorry, embedding was disabled on this one, so here's the link.

Eminem Talking DJ Hero

Here's a clip of Eminem talking about the experience of playing the DJ Hero game (whose soundtrack consists of Eminem and Jay-Z songs). I don't play video games much anymore, but I'm kinda interested in giving this a shot.

MC Esoteric - Saving Seamus Ryan

I'm digging the concept of this album. It works throughout, and the vocal samples that were used as characters in the story were clever; Guru, random Harrison Ford lines, and a track delivering the main character rejection after rejection from hip hop's best.

In a year without a concept/story album release by Masta Ace (though I haven't heard the A&E collaboration with Ed O.G. yet to know the form that that album takes) it's nice to have something like this from another MC.

And Esoteric does a great job putting it all together as Seamus plans a proposal, is robbed, and goes on a mission to get revenge while simultaneously trying to make a living off of his music. A lot of creativity here - not the least of which is the exploration of the joy experienced with man's best friend on the story's anchors.

On a side note, speaking of Masta Ace, he fittingly makes a real appearance on Saving Seamus Ryan.

Definitely give this one a listen if you like albums with a plot to them. It's one of my favorites this year.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Gift Of Gab x Del x Brother Ali

If you are a fan of Gift of Gab like I am, then you've probably heard that he has a new album dropping soon entitled Escape 2 Mars (cover pictured above) - let's hope for a new Blackalicious record soon as well. Here goes a new track off the album featuring the likes of two other favorite MCs of mine (and hopefully of most) Del Tha Funkee Homosapien and Brother Ali (both of whom have new material out this year as well). The song's called "Dreamin'". Each MC takes his own approach to the concept, which is fresh. And, the song is great all around. I'm still trying to grasp everything Gab has to say though. I got lost in his flow a few times. The link's below. Comment on it if you listen.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What I've Been Listening To This Week (And Last)

Just like the title says, these are some of the albums I've had a chance to listen to lately. I included, not a review, but a brief description of each.

Sage Francis - Sick Of Wasting... - Sage is a really talented, but underrated lyricist ranging from the political to introspective to ridiculous - but, all delivered with lyrical depth. Honestly, I don't really listen to him that much either. He's the kind of MC you really have to be in the mood for. Good stuff here though.

Fashawn - Boy Meets World - This album is a must listen. Newcomer Fashawn (you may have come across some mixtapes) offers a really solid debut full of well thought out material and real life experiences - not some made up alter-ego shit. Listening to this will leave you amazed that he's only 20 years old. It's a really personal album. Produced in it's entirety by Exile (that's enough reason to listen right there) this is quickly becoming one of my favorite albums of the year.

Royce Da 5'9" - Street Hop - My expectations were extremely high for this one from Royce, but I'm a little let down. It wasn't the undeniable classic I was hoping for. Not to say that Royce didn't deliver at all. He's definitely one of the best MCs out today and proves it on here, but after a couple of weak songs, and several good ones that I've heard already (don't release a four-song EP if you're just gonna slap those on the album - we'll wait), Street Hop left me wanting more - and not in a good way.

Cormega - Born & Raised - If you like Mega, you'll like this. This is a great album full of what you'd expect from him. Production by everyone you could want. Preemo, Pete Rock, Large Pro, Khrysis, Havoc, Nottz, and more. Songs that are raw and hardcore, but full of substance at the same time. Plus a final track featuring a handful of legends. Don't sleep on this one.

Tab-One - The Tabloids - Member of NC's Kooley High, this album is definitely worth checking out.

Amen - Queens Boulevard - As some of you can tell from the title this is Entourage-related. I believe this is the second of a three part series. I have the first, but I can't remember what it's called right now. Anyway, Amen can rhyme, and this album has some quality material. A producer going by the name of Johnny Drama is a bit much, but whatever. The music's good.

Download The Right Thing - This is a nice collection of what Duck Down Records has been up to recently. Listen to this with tracks from most of the BCC, Marco Polo & Torae, Kidz In The Hall, Skyzoo, Blue Scholars, and more and see why the label's resurgance has been a blessing to hip hop. P!

Diamond District - The Diamond Exchange Mixtape - The LP will drop soon, but this is a pre-album mixtape. I don't remember hearing anything about this group effort before I came across this collection, but the group consists of Oddisee, XO, and YU.

Camp Lo - Another Heist - While they'll probably never create something of the same caliber as Uptown Saturday Night, this is a welcome change from their last couple of releases (that mixtape included). I'm liking this one a lot.

Krayzie Bone Presents: The Bum Keef G - It's nice to hear the Bone members once in a while, and 4 of 5 are featured prominently on this album (Flesh=Yes; Bizzy=No). Aside from that, the album was mehh.

People Under The Stairs - Carried Away - Some new music from one of the funnest groups in hip hop. Not much to say specifically after 1.5 listens, but it makes me think that I should probably be listening to these guys more often. "Trippin' At The Disco" is on repeat in my ipod...And the video is classic. I'll post it later if I remember. If not, just YouTube it.

Ares - A Red Eye Smokin' - Detroit continues offering up good hip hop with this album from MCs Slautah and Alius Pnukkl.

Mr. J. Medeiros - Friends Enemies Apples Apples - From the seemingly most productive member of The Procussions, this is another album of great songs by Mr. J. If you're not familar with him, you'll be glad you gave him a chance.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tanya Morgan Vids

Since I'm a big fan of Tanya Morgan - not just due to hometown pride, but because they make great hip hop - I figured I'd share some material I came across. The first clip is of MCs Donwill and Von Pea rapping at CDR over the "Purple" instrumental. The second is footage of the group at Fat Beats performing "So Damn Down". And, if you haven't heard Brooklynati yet, I just feel sorry for you at this point. It is seriously one of the best (and maybe THE best) albums I've heard all year. And, I listen to a lot of music over the course of a year. Pick it up.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Travis Barker Playing Drums Along With Slaughterhouse's 'The One'

I'd check out the video below if I were you.

Also, if you haven't heard Barker's collab mixtapes with DJ AM, Fix Your Face Vol. 1 & 2, I recommend them too.

Mos Burger

I'm loving this Current TV special right here. The series is called Embedded. I believe it just started this month, but if you go to you could probably find future episodes as they become available. I was put on to this from a few other sites though - I hadn't heard of Current TV or the Embedded series before now.

This particular episode follows Mos Def on tour in Japan performing songs from The Ecstatic as well as some joints from past albums. The special includes much more than footage from the various concerts and preparation for the performances. In fact, the majority of the special really centers around Japanese culture and the way they incorporate western influences into their society and own proud traditions. The appreciation by the Japanese youth of hip hop culture specifically is woven into all aspects of the documentary making for a really interesting look at just how far this Bronx-born art form has reached.

This look into Japan and hip hop is fascinating as it all comes through the eye of Mos Def and with the backdrop of his incredible music. It's good to get a person's take on it from the standpoint of an MC and just as a travelin' man (pardon the pun)in general, experiencing the world.

I do feel that some of his views relating to Japan vs. The USA were clearly absent of some important facts that would do well to quell his arguments, especially in the first half of the video. So, I have to address them here. Appreciating Japan doesn't mean you have to basically call America inferior (not that America is without its problems). He talked about the fashion in Japan being superior to what's found in America, and marvelled at some of the clothing he found in a certain store. He talked down about American fashion, seemingly right after the store owner was interviewed specifically stating that the style comes from older American fashion that was tweaked in order to make it new and exciting again. He said that Japan's culture was way up here (holding his hand up) and they were looking down on America like "how are you down there with your Big Macs?" Meanwhile, if he would go outside and look to either side on the block he was standing on, I bet he'd see the golden arches somewhere in the distance (or closer). Or, ask the Japanese what they think of Disney cartoons, or Tokyo Disney, the Disney Land-modeled theme-park in their country. Answer: By and large, they fucking love it.

Mos went to a baseball game there and said that the Japanese love baseball more than we do (kind of implying, imo, that there is something wrong here since America invented the game)- judging by the crowd, and unified noise. Maybe true. But, on the other hand, if you go back to his earlier statement that Japan is about as large as California, the claim may start to unravel itself a little bit. A small country with a very homogeneous group of people, versus a very large country that is largely heterogeneous in many different ways. The homogeneity of Japan may also lend itself to what appeared to me to be his feelings of a drop in racism while in Japan. Yet, further research will reveal some questions about this. White (or, rather light) is still seen as right over there too, sadly. A trip to the cosmetic aisle of a store in Asia with all kinds of products to lighten skin and appear as fair as possible can attest to this.

I'm not saying that Mos Def is completely wrong or that I'm completely right (let it be known that I have no counter argument of our lack of high-speed bullet trains in this country), just that his comments were limited to the limited information he had on the subject - his own direct experiences and how he perceived them at the time. I want anyone that came across this special through me to see the arguments from other angles too, or I wouldn't feel good about posting it. But, I digress. It's his TV special and he can say what he wants.

While I disagree with his perspective on some things, I can still respect his viewpoint, and can definitely appreciate some of the other great things that this special has to offer. Mos' feelings on hip hop, moving forward artistically, and his overall philosophy on life among other things are interesting to hear out of his own mouth. You'll have to watch to understand the title of this post, I guess. It's nearly an hour long, so make sure you have the time - it's definitely worth it though. Oh, and be sure to check out The Ecstatic (if you haven't already - or, again if you have), easily one of the best hip hop albums of the year and another gem in Mos Def's hip hop career.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Who's Excited??

There are very few albums that I actually look forward to before they drop. But, I am highly anticpating this new Felt album. November 17th is the day. Murs+Slug+Aesop Rock. This time it's A Tribute To Rosie Perez.

Here's a teaser:

And, the first single:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Warning Shots 2

When Saigon first started to make some noise in hip hop, I was definitely feeling his music right away. His philosophy went something like this from my perspective - he's been there and done that as far as the streets, crime, violence, and prison go, he's grown up now and wants to do something with hip hop to better his community instead of bringing it further down like he's sees so many others do. Grown up hip hop for all ages.

Having that as your goal, plus being affiliated with one of the most well-known producers of the last few years, AND possessing the mic skills to make people pay attention made me think that Saigon was sure to see some kind of success. Unfortunately, things didn't happen that way. His major label album produced by Just Blaze has seen countless release dates come and go over many years, he himself left the music biz (or claimed to) and came back, he got murdered on wax by Joe Budden in a beef that he started alone, and the list could probably go on. But, everything else aside, most of the music he did release was full of gems (with both good lyrics and a positive spin), and forced people to at least stay somewhat interested in his career if, and when it ever got started.

However, on his new 'street album' Warning Shots 2, Saigon seems all too eager to take part in the massive hypocrisy that makes up a pretty fair portion of hip hop music. And, he's willing to do it with an album full of, well, filler material. The misdirection and all out hypocrisy I'm talking about comes from Saigon's confused mind offering hope to the youth in one song, and then basically telling them he was just kidding in the next.

The release begins with three decent tracks that, while coming off kinda corny at times with the light and poppy sound of the beats, R&B vocals, and sometimes sappy lyrics are at least purposeful. He shows women respect, encouraging them to do something better with themselves than stripping at a club, and pleads with men to stop treating women like whores - "We're making it rain on our little sisters, on our nieces, on our babies ya'll. Let's get it together." He then goes into a song called "Fatherhood (Rayne Dior)" dedicated to his daughter and being a good father, protecting his little girl from the evils in the world.

I thought this was preparing the listener for the overall direction of the album, but no. After three positive, if not self-serving, pat-myself-on-the-back songs (see the outro to "That's Not What's Up" to see what I mean), Saigon delves into the exact frame of mind that he was just chastising a second ago and keeps it up for pretty much the length of the album. After getting the positivity and intelligence out of the way in the beginning, he proceeds to degrade women through numerous 'bitch, hoe, slut, suck my dick' type of lyrics (even talking about pissing on them at one point) on shitty songs and brag about how hard he is on others. Hearing all of this material in direct contradiction to what he claimed (or at least, used to claim) was his main purpose in hip hop makes me wonder, "how grown up is this guy, really?" Because to me, on this album, he just sounds like another dumb, immature kid trying to prove himself to the guys by showing off his ignorance. AND, most of the songs are weak lyrically.

"Rusty Gunz" produced by the always reliable Oddisee is definitely a solid record -if you are okay with the term "Featuring Lil' Fame" meaning a few words on a hook that could've just as easily been an M.O.P sample. 13 songs in, Just Blaze finally comes in with a track for his artist, "Who Can Get Busy" which is decent (1 of only 2 that Blaze produces), but nothing spectacular. Plus, you'd have to be okay with "Featuring Grand Puba" meaning contributing nothing but a weak reggae-influenced hook and some pointless blather at the end. Not to worry though; there are several guest verses on Warning Shots 2 if that's what you're looking for. They are from much less talented people, but hey, who needs a living legend to spit a verse when you have OJ Da Juiceman holding down a song about pussy with you?

At this point, I think it's safe to say that I think of The Greatest Story Never Told in the same way I think about Detox - I don't really care if it ever comes out or not. Saigon has gone from a capable and promising lyricist to a blatant hypocrite with only sporadic flashes of the talent he once demonstrated in his bars. Actually, it's not just hypocrisy. It's not just inconsistency. It's stupid. Saigon comes off sounding stupid on most of this album. Stupid and directionless. And, that's not gonna cut it for an MC that claims top 5 (yeah, you read that right), and thinks he can change hip hop for the better. It's not nearly enough. Don't get me wrong. I'm not writing him off completely based off of this one album (and a few past tracks), but Warning Shots 2 is a disappointment in so many ways that it has me questioning whether he has the ability to release a quality, official/studio/whatever album that is at all focused.

Bottom line, I don't know what the hell Saigon was thinking on this album, but I really hope he steps it up in every way for whatever he drops next.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

...Recommends Urban Legend Mixtape

These past few weeks I've stayed busy listening to a bunch of new stuff. BK-One (posted below), Royce's Street Hop (not very impressed after first listen - aside from the songs I already heard a while back and a track called "Murder" which is killer (Ha!)), Saigon's Warning Shots 2 (even less impressed - what happened to him?) plus a few more. I also found time for a few Roc Raida tributes, most notably DJ Premier's - which you can d/l for free on his website.

I did come across a nice collection of Cormega memorables too, which I was happy to find. He's been one of my favorite MCs for a long time (The True Meaning is one of my favorite hip hop albums). I have all the tracks already, but it's always good to have someone put them together for you. A lot of these tracks are his collaborations with other MCs, so it's not just like a 'Best Of' or anything. Anyway, a link is below. His new album Born & Raised should be out in the next couple of weeks, so I'm sure a review will be coming for that soon on here. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Brazil Nuts!!

Below is a clip of Brother Ali's DJ, BK-One, quickly explaining how he got to where he is presently, then delving into the thought process behind his debut album with producer Benzilla, Radio do Canibal, and how the concept became the album. After checking out the clip, and viewing the guest list at the end, I'd think it would be impossible to sleep on this album. So, I'm not even gonna try to convince you. This is a dope debut though. A very well inspired album with a fresh musical sound for hip hop and some of today's greatest MCs. I can't wait to see him in Columbus, OH this November with Ali, Toki Wright, and Evidence for the FRESH AIR TOUR. With BK handling all four sets plus his own, it should be something to see.

Oh, and here's an extra preview:

Masters Of The Uni-Verses

Here's a nice little video of a track off of Del Tha Funkee Homosapian and Tame One's collab album entitled Parallel Uni-Verses. I'm feeling the title a lot, by the way. Anyway, the track is called "Flashback". Definitely more about the topic than the flow on this one, but I like it. Can't wait to hear this album. It's the funk!!Enjoy.

Friday, October 2, 2009

"Every Saturday - 'Rap Attack' Mr. Magic, Marley Marl"

In terms of deaths, this has been a crazy year to say the least. While Biggie let his tape rock 'til his tape popped, no doubt most from my generation know DJ Mr. Magic from the "Juicy" reference alone (and maybe from Nas' mention on "Halftime"). Myself included for the most part, actually. Me being a very young hip hop head in the 80's and early 90's and not living in NYC, I wasn't given the opportunity to know his contributions first-hand. I obviously heard this line over and over though, and only later learned of the connection between Mr. Magic and Marley Marl and the Juice Crew through hip hop books and documentaries mostly. I think if I looked through some shoeboxes of tapes (which I may end up doing later today) I may find some compilation that he put together in the mid-90's. We'll see.

Sadly though, hip hop has been struck with another blow, very soon after the news of DJ Grandmaster Roc Raida's death, as DJ Magic Mike (John Rivas) has died from a heart attack, apparently this morning. Check out the link below for more specific info and some words from DJ Premier.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Smif-N-Wessun + Pete Rock

While some make the argument that hip hop is dead just by looking at what is being offered to the mainstream audience under the umbrella of hip hop, any look deeper easily reveals the opposite. The past few years (this year included) have seen a large amount of quality hip hop being released, some of which I have listed or written a little more extensively about on this blog. The fact is there is too much good music to even keep up with these days - and I try hard.

One of aspects of hip hop in these last few years that I have appreciated most is the collaborations taking place between credible hip hop artists. And it's not just a one song happening. These guys are putting together full albums of material and really experimenting with each other's skills. Some notable pair-ups off the top of my head are Buckshot & 9th Wonder, Buckshot & KRS-One, KRS-One & Marley Marl, eMC (Masta Ace, Strickland, Punchline, & Wordsworth), Felt (Murs & Slug + 1 Producer) - the third installment coming later this year I think, Random Axe (upcoming project with Black Milk, Guilty Simpson, and Sean Price - Black Milk has a couple of other collab albums in the works too) and, of course, Slaughterhouse.

This latest project to get excited about is a pairing of Tek & Steele, known together as Smif-N-Wessun (and briefly as The Cocoa Brovaz) from the larger NY collective BCC (Boot Camp Clik) with one of my top 3 all-time producers, Pete Rock. My favorites of these collaborative albums I'm mentioning are those that use one single producer to focus the sound and direction of the album. 9th Wonder did it on The Chemistry with Buckshot, Black Milk is doing it with Random Axe, a different producer is chosen for each Felt album. Smif-N-Wessun have a similar idea here with Pete Rock, and I'm counting on it being a success. Although, honestly while I've always dug Smif-N-Wessun's music a lot, if I were asked to pair Pete Rock with someone other than CL Smooth for a whole album I don't think they would be among my top choices. That being said, they got together with him, and I am patiently waiting to see what they can cook up. Below is a clip of Tek discussing the project among other things.