Friday, January 29, 2010

Joe Budden's Downfall

Honestly, when he's at his best with this deep, honest, personal music, I don't know that there is anyone better than Joe Budden. Not just because he's such a talented MC, but because so many MCs refuse to delve so deeply into their most private thoughts, experiences, and feelings. Obviously, he should look at himself too to see what he did wrong in a situation, but it's always interesting to see a person's honesty expressed in a song. Apparently, this isn't going to be available on The Great Escape, so make sure you pick it up online right now.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Waiting On 2010

The new year is off to a somewhat slow start as far as hip hop goes. Though somehow I still have a pretty full folder of music to listen to. Most of it is made up of unknowns taking advantage of the quiet month where they can be heard, and mixtapes and collections of previously released music pout together by a DJ.

While I am waiting for 2010 to really get under way with releases from artists I already care about, I'm doing a few things to pass the time. First, I'm taking the opportunity to catch up on some music from '09 I didn't get a chance to give a full listen. Next, I am pulling out some of my old favorites, and albums from the last few years that I haven't listened to as much as I wanted to. There are only so many hours in a day, and unfortunately I have other things to do.

After seeing a list of the top 10 albums of the last decade (all genres) and finding Stankonia on the list I decided to pull that one back out and give it a couple of listens. Not that I really respect this particular list at all, but Outkast has long been one of my favorite groups for a lot of reasons, and it was cool to listen to this album again - it's probably been five years. Now, I'm going to go back through their whole collection. That should keep me busy for a few days, and will maybe get me to start anticipating Big Boi's supposed solo release this year. Next up - the Tribe.

Monday, January 25, 2010

One Time At Bandcamp...

Hey everyone. Below is a piece I wrote for a marketing blog discussing musicians as direct marketers. I decided to reprint it here because it has hip hop relevance. I became aware of the Bandcamp service because a few artists I like (or wanted to hear) have used it to host their music. Specifically Elzhi, Duck Down Records, Oddisee, and Blueprint have used it, and they are the very artists I had in mind when discussing how artists are taking control of their careers in new ways. Read the post below and let me know any thoughts you have.

Being a big music fan, I spend a lot of time on different websites and blogs that discuss music and post new songs by artists that I like (or that I've never heard of - a lot of times this is how I, and others, get turned on to new music). These are not sites that pirate music and offer for free what artists hope that you, as fans, will pay for.

In fact, these websites tend to function more as a "street team" for promotion, only for the Internet. They get the word out on new artists, post links to new songs that were sent to them by the artists themselves, and allow people to discuss what they've heard in the comment sections. Many sites even have a link next to the free download for a song that allows a viewer to buy the song or album on iTunes or Amazon. As many of you are aware, having this convenient link right there for the reader makes it much more likely that they will choose to support the music by purchasing it.

Lately, I've noticed that more and more artists are taking this promotional concept a step further for themselves and becoming smarter at marketing their own product. These entrepreneur-minded musicians are using a free offering as a means to gather email lists of those interested in their music and market to them directly in the future. They are identifying their target market that will help them drive sales of their songs and concert tickets with very little expenditure.

Let me explain what I mean with an example. Instead of just posting a song or two here and there on their website and on the music sites I mentioned above, a few artists I like are now offering what have been dubbed 'FreEps' - or, a free EP, a shorter collection of songs usually meant to drum up interest for the forthcoming full-length album, or LP. They send this link out to music websites in their genre to post for their readers. Only instead of being taken to a random third party file-sharing site to get the file without giving any information, the fan is taken to a website set up by the artist, such as Bandcamp, when they click on the download link.

Once on the site, a pop-up appears asking the visitor to enter their email address and zip code. The link to the music is then emailed to the visitor. And, just like that the music fan gets some free music, and the musician has an email address (and region via zip code) which they can message with any updates they have to give or offers to make in the future. Now how easy and beneficial is that?

If a person ends up not liking the music they heard, it is very easy to unsubscribe from the mailing list. After all, why would the artist want to keep someone on their list who doesn't like the product anyway? But, those that do like it are now in place to receive offers which they may not have received otherwise, and be more inclined to engage with the artist in the future. For example, in addition to more free downloads, I have received invitations to album release parties and concerts through email. Because I offered up my zip code as well, I can be notified if there is an event in my area - direct marketing without the expense of advertisements or snail mail.

These are classic marketing concepts updated for an Internet age. This example of how an artist may use Bandcamp is just what was apparent to me after a few brief experiences. The site actually offers a lot more than what I wrote about here. Much of it works like a stat counter for a blog, so artists can keep better track of their audience. But, the site also allows an artist to charge for some songs and not others, give away a lower-quality version of a song while charging for the higher-quality, allow the fan to specify what they would like to pay, post lyrics and cover art, and much more.

If you are interested, you can visit their site at the link below and watch their video.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Survival Kit

I've been busy with real life shit lately, so not a lot of time to post new stuff. But, this came to me by email today, so I figured I'd post up the link real quick. Some of you may have heard about this project being in the works. It's a mixtape put together by Mick Boogie (& NVME) through Duck Down Records with a bunch of artists paying tribute to the two MCs who came together in '09 to release a joint project called Survival Skills - KRS-One & Buckshot.

Below is a link to the Duck Down webpage where you can d/l for free after entering your email address. The tracklist also appears on the page. Enjoy!

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Making Of The Ecstatic

Here is some footage I just watched of the mighty Mos Def creating his album The Ecstatic (one of my top releases of 2009). I like seeing all this behind the scenes stuff for the making of albums. For years I wished that I could see video of some of my favorite artists in the studio creating their album. In the last few years, with the Internet as an easily accessible forum for this content, a lot more of these are popping up. Some are better than others with the footage collected. This one isn't the best I've seen, but it's definitely worth watching.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Joell Ortiz & Cory Gunz In The Studio

If you haven't heard what Joell Ortiz has been putting out this year, you need to wake the fuck up immediately and do some internet searching. Cory Gunz seems to bring his A game when he's collaborating with someone, and this time is no different. Here are the two of them in the studio recording "Line 'Em Up", one of my favorite tracks of the year - supposedly from Ortiz's Free Agent album coming in March.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

25 Of The Best Hip Hop Albums of 2009

First, let me start by saying that 2009 was an incredibly good year for hip hop music. Of course, there is always going to be bullshit out there. But, in my opinion (and especially with the way I actually look for dope music) the good far outweighed the bad, and I was able to ignore the bad pretty successfully.

Last year I abandoned the top 25 and just listed a bunch of my favorite albums. But, this year was even better than '08, so the list would be ridiculously long. So, I brought back the top 25 and did my best to narrow it down. This is in no way an exhaustive list. I tried my best to pick my very favorite albums, but that means I had to leave out some other really great ones as well.

Feel free to comment and let me know what you agree/disagree with, and what you think I overlooked. Most likely I heard it (and maybe agree with you about the quality), but just couldn't fit it on the list. But, if not, I always want to be turned on to good music. So, let me know about it!

1. Tanya Morgan - Brooklynati
2. Fashawn - Boy Meets World
3. Kam Moye (AKA Supastition) - Splitting Image
4. Mos Def - The Ecstatic
5. Brother Ali - Us
6. Diamond District - In The Ruff
7. Jay-Z - The Blueprint 3
8. Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt. 2
9. Skyzoo - The Salvation
10. BK One - Radio Do Canibal
11. K'naan - Troubadour
12. Dynas - The Apartment
13. Eminem - Relapse
14. Slaughterhouse - Slaughterhouse
15. Marco Polo & Torae - Double Barrel
16. Kid Cudi - Man on the Moon: The End of Day
17. DJ Spinna - Sonic Smash
18. Classified - Self Explanatory
19. MC Esoteric - Saving Seamus Ryan
20. Rapper Big Pooh - Delightful Bars
21. U-N-I - A Love Supreme
22. Finale - A Pipe Dream and a Promise
23. Zion I - The Takeover
24. Cormega - Born & Raised
25. Toki Wright - A Different Mirror

UPDATE: Mixtapes, EPs, and Disappointments

Some of my favorite mixtapes of 2009 (in no order):
Joell Ortiz Covers the Classics
TiRon - Ketchup
Sean P - Kimbo Price
J. Cole - The Warm Up
Drake - So Far Gone
Nero - Alive & Vibrant / Relive the Moment
Skyzoo - The Power of Words
De La Soul - Are You In?

Some of my favorite EPs of 2009 (in no order):
Lupe Fiasco - Enemy of the State
Greenhouse (Blueprint & Illogic) - Electric Purgatory Pt. One
Crooked I - Mr. Pigface Weapon Waist
Atmosphere - Leak at Will
Brother Ali - The Truth is Here
Rob Viktum feat. Donwill - Aight, New Drink
Slum Village - Villa Manifesto
Joe Budden - Escape Route

Top 5 Biggest Disappointments:
1. BlackRoc - The making of video blogs were good, but the final product was really weak.
2. Rakim: The 7th Seal - For a decade in the making, we should have gotten a lot more out of the R. And, what was with all of the R&B hooks?
3. Clipse: Til The Casket Drops - The album is put together well, but the Clipse will never live up to their potential, I guess. This album shows no growth, and is thus, pretty boring.
4. Sha Stimuli: My Soul to Keep - After so many unbelievable mixtapes, this was a kind of underwhelming debut. The content was there, but the production was subdued and almost empty on pretty much every song, and Sha never switched up his flow at all. That made the album boring.
5. Felt 3: A Tribute to Rosie Perez - I love Murs & Slug, and appreciate the new approach to the Felt series that Aesop brought, but this one just didn't do it for me.

Albums from veterans you should have heard in 2009:
KRS-One & Buckshot - Survival Skills
Masta Ace & Ed O.G. - Arts & Entertainment
Souls of Mischief - Montezuma's Revenge
OC & AG - Oasis