Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"Peaceful" Video

This video is worth checking out. Self Scientific, Freddie Gibbs, & Krondon come together for this call-to-action for those mistreated by authority (and really all of us complacent citizens) to stand up against police brutality, but also to take control of our own actions, and our communities.

We are always in need of music like this...using Hip Hop as the powerful voice that it can be to hopefully bring about some positive change.

The video is directed by The ICU and explores the historic scene of the 1992 L.A. riot that rocked South Central and includes various footage from the incredibly unjust lynching of Oscar Grant by the Oakland BART police.

Skyzoo Interview

Nice interview here w/ Skyzoo conducted by Mr. Peter Parker covering his appreciation of his fans, and artists that are maintaining relevance/making a comeback with a younger audience that's relatively new to hip hop. Skyzoo is a great person to ask this question to because Duck Down is such a good blend of new and seasoned artists right now it's amazing. The label as a whole has made one hell of a resurgence - and they've done it with the help of several older, legendary artists instead of forgetting their roots and starting fresh. They deserve a lot of respect for that - and for the fact that the majority of the music is so damn good.

Friday, March 25, 2011

BlackBerry "Freestyles"

First, let me point out the obvious, that Tim Westwood is one goofy bastard.

This footage has gotten a lot of talk lately. First because Joell rips it, as he usually does, on Westwood's radio show. But, also because of the BlackBerry situation.

I've seen several clips of MCs "freestyling" w/ BlackBerry in hand on a radio show, though Drake is the one that got the most attention (and criticism) when he did it on this same show a while back.

I can understand the frustration from Hip Hop heads when they see this. It used to be, an MC would be on a Hip Hop radio show or, better yet, a cipher on the street corner, and would actually be rhymin' off the top of their head. It was a skill you had to develop to be considered a credible MC. If you spit a 'written', people could tell, and would rip you apart for it.

Over time it has somehow become accepted to come in the booth and spit a pre-written verse. And call it a freestyle, no less. I'm not sure why. Maybe fans want (or MCs think they want) to hear the artist at their best and most polished. Not me, I want to hear them at their rawest. I want to know - How skilled of a linguist are you? How well have you honed your craft? Can you do this shit any time? Anywhere? Can you do this in your sleep? Are you that good, that rhymes just come up and out of you like a bodily function? I want to see.

That's what used to be demanded. But, for the most part I think these MCs have become lazy rappers to an extent. And, on top of that, they've allowed a lot of wack rappers in on the game instead of squeezing them out. They've allowed them to exist for fear of being labeled a "hater".

And that's what wack rappers do. They spit something they prepared. It's all they can do. The skill isn't there to do anything else. It used to not be so obvious when they at least took the time to memorize it. No more. Now, MCs are right up in front of your face w/ their phone.

Now, I'm not saying Joell is one of these wack rappers. Quite the contrary. Ortiz is one of the dopest MCs out right now. By far. And I seek out anything he does, which is why I watched this video. I'm also not necessarily calling him lazy. It's pretty clear that he wrote the rhyme close to the time he was set to go on the show, if not that day. It was fresh. And, the way Joell releases material it's clear that he has a hell of a work ethic.

So, this was exclusive for the audience in the sense that we had never heard it before. But, it doesn't have the same exclusivity as a real freestyle; A rhyme that you couldn't hear a second time because it was made right then and there, in that moment, with that moment. And, a good portion of this verse from Joell will probably find it's way to a mixtape/album track in the near future making the radio appearance nothing remarkable at all. That's disappointing to me. We didn't hear it for the only time, just the first time.

Ultimately, it's not really that big of a deal to me if an MC throws out something on a radio show that they wrote already. It doesn't make or break them as a great MC in my mind. There's just nothing to gain as a fan by listening. It sucks that that particular skill doesn't see the light of day much anymore.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

On The Roots on Late Night

I caught an episode of Jimmy Fallon last night. Howard Stern was the guest. I don't find him (Fallon) as annoying as I once did. Maybe because he's a Hip Hop fan and had the foresight to get The Roots to be the show's band - I'm assuming it was his idea.

What's really cool to see is how The Roots band is so respected and so sought after, that most musical guests that go on the show have The Roots play the music. This isn't something you normally see from late night bands. But, everyone uses them and it makes the musical guest appearances much more interesting. For example, there is absolutely no way I would bother to watch Bell Biv Devoe perform "Poison" on the show had it not been for the fact that that drum beat was going to be played by the band. That was the performance's redeeming quality. And that Oboe? Dope.

On this recent episode, Howard Stern went over to the stage to play the one song he knows on the piano, "Louie, Louie", and Leon Russell was happy to have them back him up as well. I think they are aware of it, but in case others aren't, The Roots, and the show as a whole, are doing right by Hip Hip by bringing it to a wider audience, and showcasing their musical talent across genres. It's something to be proud of.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thoughts On Lasers

Well now this album has been getting a lot of opinions lately, hasn't it?

Ever since Lupe (one of my favorite MCs of the last few years) released a mixtape called Enemy of the State a while back where he spit over some of the most popular beats out at the time, I have been highly anticipating the release of Lasers.

Now here it is. And, I think my initial Tweet about it pretty much summed up my feelings.

Sean Juan
Any producer's wanna try their hand at remixing ...& without all the goddamn singing?

Lyrically, Lupe does pretty well. He's the kind of MC with the skill to carry an entire album without a need for features. As a listener, your ears are glued to his voice, hanging on every word. He has that kind of power with his flow, wordplay, and subject matter most of the time. Lasers has a lot of powerful content lyrically. "Words I Never Said", "State Run Radio", and "All Black Everything" are the most shining examples.

Lupe has a little bit of trouble walking the line between socially informative lyrics where he expresses his opinions on the worlds and lighter subject matter where he raps about the opposite sex. In my opinion, if the songs are done well and the tracklist is well though out, these opposites can co-exist on a single album.

But, where Lasers falls short - way short - is on the musical selections, and the singing. Oh my god, the singing. Please stop the singing. No, it's not as bad as Eminem's Recovery album. Lupe's not doing much of the singing himself. But, there is literally a sing-songy hook on EVERY track. It's disgusting. And, there is not one boom-bap or any kind of hard hitting Hip Hop track on the whole fucking album. And, sometimes the lyrics are clearly begging for it. So, in short, I don't know what the hell Lupe was thinking while creating this album.

It's up for debate. But, after listening several times, the only thing I can think of is that he wanted to make an album with a sound that would appeal to the widest audience possible while still getting his message across. Because he wanted as many people to hear his message as possible. There's nothing wrong with wanting that. Especially if you're saying something that people should hear.

Unfortunately, music rarely works that way. You're better off just doing you, and whoever catches on, catches on. Artists sometimes make the mistake of trying to tailor their album to fit an audience rather than allowing an audience to come to them. That's the difference between art and commodity though. And, I would have thought Lupe would know that. And he would have fared much better if he used beats like the ones Rick Ross uses to cover up his lack of talent then the soft, electro shit he opted for. I know very few people that would like the sound of "I Don't Wanna Care Right Now" and "Break The Chain". It's fucking horrible.

Ultimately, I think this will go down as the dud of Lupe's career - provided he wakes the fuck up and makes some better songs next time. The saddest thing is, he didn't have to do this. He actually already has a pretty wide fan base. And, I don't think any of his fans pop-oriented or not were looking for this from him. Pop fans like good Hip Hop once in a while too. I mean, a lot of them found Lupe on the first two albums, right?

Oddisee & Toine - Different Now

I'm a little behind on music stuff. Tryna get caught up.

Here's a video Oddisee sent through his newsletter. Very cool song about being grown up, and feeling and acting like it. If you're at least in your late 20's you'll probably feel this one.

If you were signed up for Oddisee's eNewsletter you'd also get a free download of an instrumental he's planning on using soon. So, there's a little incentive for ya.

Atmosphere - Just For Show

When one of my favorite MCs/groups has an album coming out that I'm really anticipating, I usually try to avoid listening to any leaked songs ahead of the release. I wanna be able to go in completely fresh and hear the whole thing for the first time. It's better that way, in my opinion. I've been weak with this new Atmosphere album though. I think I've heard three songs now. Or, maybe two if "Minnesota Nice" doesn't show up on there, which I don't think it will. It's that much more difficult when they have a video to go with the song. And this video for "Just For Show" is pretty great.

I've pre-ordered my copy of The Family Sign. Have you?

Mursworld 2011 Winter/Spring Sampler

Here is something emailed to me about a week ago. I'm just getting a chance to hear it this morning. This is a good mix of what Murs has been up to recently - bringing new fans up to speed, getting old ones anticipating some new music. Listen to the interludes for news on upcoming projects and check below for the video of "I used to Love H.E.R. (Again)" - a reinterpretation of Common's classic.

Whatuptho?! Thanks for signing up for my email list. Here is a link to some new music. Murs and DJ Foundation present the Mursworld 2011 Winter/Spring Sampler Some songs you might have heard already. And a couple of songs that you will be the very first to hear. I am currently on the Road To Paid Dues Tour. Hopefully I will be in a city near you soon check for the list of cities. And if you have been to a show make sure you check to see if any pics of you or your friends made it up on the site.

transmitting live from Syracuse NY en route to Canada
Peace and Love

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pharoahe Monch, Styles P, & Phonte - Black Hand Side

First, let me just say that having Phonte on a track with Pharoahe Monch and SP and just singing is...well, like having Pharoahe Monch featured on a Slaughterhouse track and just doing the hook. It's kinda shitty to leave fans hanging like that. You know what we want...bars.

That being said, this track is nice and I hope all of you are planning to support W.A.R. when it comes out on March 22nd.

Pharoahe Monch "Black Hand Side" feat. Styles P & Phonte' by duckdown

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Featuring Nas - Which is Better??

As Raekwon's new album Shaolin Vs. Wu-Tang is about to drop officially, I thought this was appropriate. This highly anticpated track featuring Nas of which a snippet was released a while back is available in full now. The song, called "Rich & Black" has Chef and God's Son trading bars over a track dominated by a haunting string section.

But, I knew I had heard Nas spit on that beat before. I thought back not too long ago, and remembered Sha Stimuli had a ridiculously dope track w/ Nas on his Overtime tape called "Horrorglyphics" which I played over and over. I went back and listened. Yep, same track. Also featuring Nas. And the approach was the same w/ the two MCs going back and forth.

Nas' lyrics weren't all the same, but he did use some of the same lines on each.

So here are both songs. Which one do you like better??

I heard Sha's first (and many many more times at this point), so I'm gonna go w/ Sha. Plus, his title is better. I'd have to recommend both though.