Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Sunday, December 27, 2009
A roundup of the best tweets in and around the Hip Hop community on Christmas Day.
Uncle Murda: Shout out to everybody that's cheating for the holidays
Cory Gunz: I Think I'll Put A Piece Of Art On My Visa Card, Then Go And Beat Mischa Barton With A Cuisinart!!!!
Josh The Goon: I've switched to johnny walker black label. Classy.
Trey Songz: Merry Christmas to u and urs. Madden tournament tied at 2-2 tween me & my Lil bruh. Gon get zzzz'd up n holla at y'all later off da liquor!
G Mane: I never let my daughter believe in a satan claus
Jim Jones: Merry Christmas let's not forget this is the day Christ was born ? Anyone know wht 3 gifts the 3 kings Brung Jesus
Trae: Me and My Lil Nigga On this Christmas Shit http://twitgoo.com/ab21z
Uncle Murda: Go kill ya self if u didn't get ya kids nothing for christmas
Saturday, December 26, 2009
So the year isn't over yet because I'm bored at work. This is in a holding position on Hot 97, I predict it's on its way to ubiquitous. I'm not sure it's a good thing Red Cafe is currently New York's brightest prospect, and I'm just as indecisive concerning Fabolous' newfound regional Godfather status. The guy has a handful of mixtape verses, some Rap and Bullshit 106 & Park Jams and "Breathe" to his name and suddenly he's a "get" for your street single? That being said, I still can't help but love the borough solidarity.
Red Cafe ft. Fabolous- I'm Ill
Anyways this shit does crank. Piggy backs a few recent trends with a sample from "It takes two" rocking in the background and a lift off Jay-Z's "A Millie" freestyle. It's the work of Drake's Toronto-bred homie Boi-1-da with an assist from the Neptunes. ( Non-accredited, he blatantly jacks Busta's "What It Is Right Now" on that synth digression) I figured I'd take the opportunity to host a BedStuy face-off between the master and the pupil to try and determine whose vocals make better fodder for beats.
Papoose- I Just Want the Paper
Joe Budden- Stuntin'
Lil Kim ft. Puff Daddy- No Time
Dirty Money ft. Puff Daddy- Love Come Down
Method Man ft. Mary J. Blige- You're All I Need
T.I.- Bring Em Out (I don't understand the label logic in not allow embedding of certain videos)
Nina Sky ft. Rick Ross- Flippin Dat
Busta Rhymes ft. Spliff Star & Reek- Piano Man
DJ Screw ft. Big Moe- June 27th Freestyle
Rza ft. David Banner- Straight Up the Block
Cam'ron- S.D.E. (Samples Both)
And of course the winner is the Greatest Rapper of All-Time. This one wasn't even fair seeing as how in many ways Jay's career is a Biggie vocal snippet, but it was fun.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Rather than offering up my take on an insane, confusing year in Hip Hop that I don't think we will truly be able to put in context for about 5 years due to the wildly divergent opinions abound as to what truly mattered, I'll speak on the year in terms of the one subject I have true authority on: This blog. I did a little light posting toward the end of 2008 but in many senses this was my first year maintaining my own site. For those who read the blog, weren't aware and are mildly interested, I began my contributions to Hip Hop discussion on the internet for a now defunct webzine called Oh Word.
My vehicles of choice were long, (in the 2000 aught blog sense of the word) context obsessed researched arguments or reviews concerning mostly older albums, trying to shed some light on, pay tribute to or dismantle pieces of work that I felt had been forgotten or misunderstood. I'd typically spend up to a month working on each one. When Oh Word shut down, I decided to start this blog so I could continue to have an outlet as well as a forum for discussion and debate, which is what I truly love about the blogosphere and why I continue to write here and read elsewhere.
What I hadn't considered was how wildly the self imposed demands of regular posting would change my style. The transition from being part of a team and having a niche to being solely responsible for a site is a difficult one I've done my best with. For anyone who is contented reading other people's blogs and occasionally thinks to themselves "This shit is easy, if I cared I could set up and run the best fucking site on the internet tomorrow", you are wrong. You're an arrogant asshole and you're wrong. Balancing a full time job with putting together relevant, insightful, well thought out writing on a regular basis is really difficult. Even foraging for interesting, timely or slept on music worth a reader's time is really difficult. In the course of 2009 I feel sometimes I was able to contribute something worth my reader's time and sometimes I was not. As we come to the year's finale let's review my best and worst efforts.
You can't win if you don't play.
I find blogging to be a question of inspiration, if you look at the list of posts by month to your right you can see with me it's either been feast or famine here, passion is something I find difficult to manufacture. Take for instance an entire summer of writing I put off in the interest of drinking all night, free shows and an excessive amount of train rides to Coney Island. Massive Fail.
Less Is More.
Something I particularly have to work on tirelessly is self editing. Word count is totally irrelevant to me, but I respect that others have better things to do than slog through my digressions and tangents. This year some of my best work has been concise and specific:
Jadakiss and the ubiquity of Great Pop in New York
C-Murder and Katrina
Red Cafe's Resurgence
The Unexpected Pleasures of Plies
The Education of Juelz Santana
Raekwon Then and Now
Jim Jones and The Heat Makerz.
More Is More.
That being said, I believe that articulate long form essays have an essential place on the internet, beyond taste making it may be the internet's most important contribution to the future and history of Hip Hop discourse. I believe the truly committed, well composed arguments that bring something fresh and worthwhile to the table will be read and remembered, can play a part in the writing of our culture. I don't think I can claim to have written anything on par with that level of discourse, but here were are 2009's best efforts.
How Dead Prez Changed Protest Rap
2Pac's Greatest Album
Andre 3000: Original Beta Rapper
Jay-Z's Shallow Depth
The Triumph of Kid Cudi.
A Tribute to Project Pat.
A Profile of Talib Kweli
Keep It Fresh.
I experimented with a lot of conceptual posts and I think it's a good fit for this blog. I don't aspire to be a taste maker digging through the myriad of shit floating around the net fishing out the stuff I'm going to dedicate the year to championing, defending and apologizing for. At it's best this is fun, interesting and occasionally educational. That being said, with all experimentation there is success and failure. The good includes:
The Diss You Might've Missed Series: Snoop v Suge and Eminem v Cage.
Another Chamber: Killarmy and Wu Syndicate.
The Outkast Tale of the Tape SeriesWhen Antwan Beat Andre
And Hip Hop Tweets, which is something you can get used to around these parts. As you can see upkeeping these is a weakness I will try to remedy.
Other Highlights include some Hip-HopFilm posturing. A few good rants, two mixtapes, a concert review and some comedy. The bad include a couple of over long pieces I didn't spend enough time with, some utterly useless embedding of shit everyone already heard, and a few aborted concepts.
In doing the review for this piece I can honestly say considering the breadth of a year of work I'm proud of this site. It's not without it's weak or lazy moments, but I'm happy with a lot of the writing and I hope you are too. By the time I'm writing this post in 2010 I'll hopefully have done a better job playing to my strengths and improving on general quality of content. For everyone who has checked in this year and will be on board in the future, thanks for your support and I'll see you next year.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
A semi-regular Roundup of the best tweets in and around the Hip Hop Community
David Banner: MAN DEXTER IS THE SHIIIIIIIIIITTTTTTTTTTT I WAS WAITING UNTIL YALL SAW IT
Asher Roth: Getting my 6th vaccination for africa and reupping on measles and mumps...not a fan of needles
Trey Songz: Cop that new Robin Thicke - Sex Therapy - The Experience...Random: Does Eva Mendez have a Twitter? I'm on her ass
Lil Jon: JUS EATEN @ THE BIGGEST KFC N EUROPE NOW LAYIN MY HEAD DOWN N A 5 STAR BEST WESTERN! BELIEVE ITTTTTT!
Soulja Boy: Please send all fan art to email@example.com thanks i'm updating souljaboyfans.com now :D
Dorrough Music: I outwork niggas!! Plain and simple!!! I do what niggas don't think to do.. And I do what niggas afraid of.. Lmao 2010 was last year 4 me!!
DJ Kay Slay: Damn our culture is lost... trying 2 figure out what role did I play in the bullshit... smh
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
I wanted to simply post a link to a NY Times/Hip Hop blog smackdown posted at XXL but when I clicked over it was suspiciously absent from the site. I love the fire and insight provided by the rant, and he's absolutely right.
I get really frustrated with critics seemingly picking "their guys" and riding for them, again in my opinion, regardless of the varying quality in content. Stans, it's okay for your guy to occasionally dog a verse, in this age of over saturation, it's practically impossible not to. What's even more frustrating is how lines are drawn, dichotomies are cast. Just as clearly as one MC can do no wrong, another can't possibly do anything worthy of discussion once he/she has been summarily dismissed as "not my style". Why must we cheerlead and hate relentlessly? My favorite part of writing/discussing music is the gray, the obvious potential waiting to be met, the occasional bust, the unpredictability of how an MC will pan out. Under 2009 rules the future isn't written, it's blogged ad-nauseum and even when the sales come in, excused and apologized away so wrong never has to be conceeded.
Who would've thought Bol would write the most searing piece of criticism in a particularly chippy 2009? A reminder behind all the sarcasm and porn he's one of the smartest dudes doing this. It's not the first time an idea along these lines has been suggested but it's certainly the most salient and devastating articulation on one of the larger platforms Rap Internets has to offer. If XXL doesn't have the balls to run it I will, Bol if you're at all aware of this blog and this pisses you off request me to take it down and I'll do so immediately. And for the record, I LIKE Gucci.
Why the New York Times’ rap coverage sucks balls
from XXLmag.com - » Bol's Saturday Night Workout by Bol
If Gucci Mane’s the State vs. Radric Davis is only projected to sell 85-90k albums this week, does it really warrant a feature in the New York Times on the producers who helped craft the patented Gucci Mane sound? What’s next, a feature in the New Yorker on the grade school teachers who failed to teach Gucci Mane to read? I’m only half joking here.
It’s obvious that the white guy who wrote the story for the Times pitched it to them on the grounds that Gucci Mane would be a lot more successful than he ended up being. The State vs. Radric was supposed to be this from out of nowhere cultural phenomenon, like Tha Carter III, and the Times was positioning itself to look smart, by having the inside scoop on its creation. Instead, they just ended up making themselves look stupid, by making a prediction that failed to come to fruition.
The real story of rap music this decade is white guys aligning themselves with various trends in LCD rap, trying to predict the next big thing. It used to be the case that these trends would originate from the ghettos of the South, where people didn’t know any better. By the time you heard of some garbage like Master P or the Cash Money Millionaires, they’d already sold hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of albums to people with mouths full of gold teeth and debilitating sizzurp addictions. Whereas, LCD rap in the aughts was less of a grass roots phenomenon and more a matter of some white guy with a penchant for irony combing MySpace for the rappers with the most ridonkulous sounding names. Which they’d then pronounce the second coming. Sometimes the hipster set would announce that a type of LCD rap was the proverbial new ska, and it sorta kinda would be, like Houston rap, which really was ubiquitous for about a month in 2005, and sometimes it would completely fail, like hyphy, which was never popular at any point in time. (Note the difference.) As is the case with the Clipse, who still command magazine covers coming up on 10 years since they’ve been relevant, primarily on account of boosters in the world of hip-hop journalism, it’s obvious very few black people actually listened to a lot of that shit.
Which brings me back to Gucci Mane. Do I mean to suggest that he’s the creation of the secret message boards at Pitchfork? Honestly, I have no idea, and I could care less if he is. He was around for a good half a decade before he was the talk of the hip-hop Internets; and I’m not even aware of what his new song is called, but it can’t be any more popular than “So Icy.” So it could be a little bit of both. He might actually be somewhat popular in the parts of the country that contribute to the US having such a ridonkulous infant mortality rate, and he might also be the hipster community’s latest attempt to anoint some random, shitty southern rapper, for their own personal amusement. Things in real life are rarely as black and white as I make them seem on the Internets. At any rate, there doesn’t seem to be anything about Gucci Mane that would warrant him being discussed anywhere other than Cocaine Blunts. He’s neither particularly good nor particularly popular. (Funny how that works.)
I figured I’d go in, yesterday, when I saw that the Times was covering him as if he’d actually done something interesting. I didn’t bother reading it until just now, but it seemed obvious to me that Tha Carter III played a role in them devoting so much time and effort to Gucci Mane, and I figured that would come off as conjecture (which a lot of my stuff is anyway), until I finally did read the story, and come to find out it’s right there in the first few paragraphs.
And I quote:
"Still, in spite of these impediments, Gucci Mane, 29, has been the most prolific rapper in Atlanta over the last two years, the most hotly discussed, and also the most improved. In the last few months he’s had the swiftest ascent to hip-hop ubiquity since Lil Wayne.
He didn’t do it alone. Gucci Mane’s rise has occurred in large part thanks to a handful of producers — Zaytoven, Drumma Boy, Shawty Redd and Fatboi, most prominently — whose work over the past four years has come to exemplify the modern Atlanta sound: triumphant but moody, synth-heavy with sharp snares, all sprinkled with almost gothic overtones."
In the past few months, I really have had a breakthrough in my ability to predict a TI’s thought process. It’s only a matter of time before I really am able to save eight year-olds from freemason blood sacrifice. Then I can pitch a series about it to television, like that show Quantum Leap, but with more gratuitous nudity from the cam hoo-ers I’d cast as my love interests. It would definitely have to be on pay cable. HBO, or if it’s not good enough to be on HBO, Showtime.
Anyway, it makes you wonder if, when last week’s sales are announced tomorrow and the State vs. Radric Davis utterly fails to distinguish itself, Byron Calame or someone from the Times will call the guy who did the Gucci Mane story and be like, “I thought you said this bullshit would be notable on the basis of its popularity?” Nah, right? The thing is, it’s hard to determine the relative success or failure of an album, in an age when 50 Cent sells 160k copies of Before I Self Destruct. And that’s if you count weeks worth of digital sales, to people who aren’t as Internets savvy, and all of the copies Interscope bought and had buried in the same hole in the desert where Atari hid that ET video game. Has anyone actually seen a copy of Before I Self Destruct in the wild? The State vs. Radric Davis album only sold 70k copies less than what the new 50 Cent album sold. And it sold something like three times what that Wale album sold. However, I don’t think it’s fair to compare the sales of an according to Hoyle LCD rap album to the sales of an album by a guy who went to an all white high school (and hence knows better) and was forced to do a lot of pandering. The 90,000 copies the Gucci Mane album will probably sell is still only twice as much as what that damn Black Eyed Peas album continues to sell each week, years after it was released, and less than one-tenth what Tha Carter III, the LCD rap standard bearer, sold its first week out.
Relatively speaking, the Gucci Mane album selling 90,000 copies is hardly any different from that Felt album selling 7,000 copies, or whatever it sold. But where was the Felt feature in the New York Times? It might have even been more interesting, to the Times’ well-educated readership. The thing is, there probably isn’t anyone who gives a shit about the Felt who can get a story published in the Times. There aren’t very many people who give a shit about Felt in general. (No shots!) And I can’t imagine the people at the Times who decide what gets published and what doesn’t get published (i.e. the people charged with making sure Noam Chomsky remains obscure) know very much about rap music. They’re basically at the mercy of whoever comes striding in there with the latest selection from the Asylum Records lulz of the month club.
Monday, December 14, 2009
LL Cool J tribute posts are practically cliche at this point. Having said that, the wax junkies at T.R.O.Y. drop a post dedicated to the follow up of what for my money is the greatest Best of Compilation Rap has ever seen, (apologies to Full Clip and Greatest Misses) Uncle L's All World. All World 2 features a couple early heat rocks, a few essential retreads from the original compilation and some late utter shite. More or less an excuse to remind people how truly great L's last gasp, "Ill Bomb" was. Call me a stan but they dropped the ball leaving out a few good album cuts off Phenomenon and Mr. Smith in favor of his putrid Clear Channel geared attempts playing puppet for whichever producer's name was ringing out at the moment over their beats no one else wanted. Tonight I will fall asleep listening to Walking with a Panther.
A semi-regular Roundup of the best tweets in and around the Hip Hop Community
The Game: @MAGIC_MISSY_MOO bitch I wouldn't tap yo ass witta SHITTY yardstick !!! see I made yo MANLY FACE havin ass change that pic huh ?
Harry Allen: It's interesting watching the early *Family Guy*s and seeing how they hadn't yet found their flow yet.
Paul Wall: Thank u PATRON! I love u
Tony Touch: Anyone got the hookup on MAC computers..looking for a MACbook pro..(Prefer the older one ..all grey 15 inch)
DJ Pooh: "STOP TWANGIN" Gang Bangin on Twitter! It's worthless... Trust me
Soulja Boy: When I die they'll convert my Twitter into a Book and call it "______________"?
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Brief Hoops aside. Some day not long from now John Wall will be playing on Atlantic Avenue. Tonight he'll be on 34th, I expect a show.
Tonight's Special Travel Edition of Hip Hop Tweets follows the always entertaining Busta Rhymes on his his globe trotting tour around the World. Eat, Pray and Rap with the Leaders Of the New School front man as he goes places, touches people and learns about other cultures, and just maybe, something about himself.
# Just landed in Dubai and it's incredibly beautiful out here....Gettin' ready 2 get on another plane shortly 2 take it 2 Tanzania Africa!!!
8:13 PM Nov 20th from UberTwitter
Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
# Der Es Salaam Tanzania Africa has officially been shut down!!!!Big up 2 the whole entire East Africa...Shit was Krrrrrrrrrraaaazzzzyyyy!!!!
7:37 PM Nov 21st from UberTwitter
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
# O.k. After 22 hrs. of flying we have officially arrived in Port Elizabeth, South Africa and when I tell u this place is beautiful..Woooow!!
5:28 AM Nov 28th from UberTwitter
# This shit looks like Miami, Cali and St.Tropez mixed 2hether...Life is good and GOD IS THE GREATEST!!!Baleeeeeeee Dat!!!!
5:29 AM Nov 28th from UberTwitter
# Just know Africa is way different frm all that hungry starvin' shit they only show us on tv..This is the root of civilization..Baleeee Dat!!
6:01 AM Nov 28th from UberTwitter
# Now that we officially smashed club La Dee Das in Port Elizabeth, S.Africa now we r off 2 Uzbekistan 2 tear that down 2...Let's get it!!!
1:21 AM Nov 29th from UberTwitter
# O.K. UZBEKISTAN HAS OIFFICIALLY BEEN THE 1 OF THE MOST INCREDIBLE EXPERIENCES OF MY WHOLE CAREER!!!!THIS SHIT WAS FUCKIN' KRRAAAAAZZZZYYY!!
9:51 AM Dec 1st from UberTwitter
A Brief stop in New York to promote a new generic action flick called Breaking Point which I randomly discovered playing at Cobble Hill Cinemas, a semi-small run art house oriented theater in one of Brooklyn's most affluent white neighborhoods. A quick Google revealed it came out in theaters December 4th and the DVD release date is January 12th. I've pasted a handful of the Breaking Point related drops because the increasingly insane superlatives Busta drops in relation to this thing had me rolling around on the floor.
# New movie "The Breaking Point" in theatres Dec.4th...This Friday!!!Starring Armand Assante, Tom Berringer and myself!!!Fucking incredible!!!
11:33 PM Dec 2nd from UberTwitter
# Real talk I just wanna salute all a my twitter family on the check in 2night.I'm excited cause I just left a premier 4 my new movie 2night!!
12:16 AM Dec 3rd from UberTwitter
# The name of th movie once again is called "THE BREAKING POINT" starring Armand Assante, Tom Berringer and myself!!!!Shit is KRAZZY, TRUST!!
12:19 AM Dec 3rd from UberTwitter
# New movie "The Breaking Point" in theatres Dec.4th. This Friday!! Starring Armande Assante, Busta Rhymes & Tom Berringer...Ground breaking!
1:43 PM Dec 3rd from UberTwitter
# Once again "THE BREAKING POINT" in the theatres 2mrw Dec.4th starring Armand Assante, Busta Rhymes & Tom Berringer...Incredible body of work
2:12 AM Dec 4th from UberTwitter
Sau Paulo, Brazil
# Yeah!!!!2nd run of this World Tour begins now...Brazil here we Gooooooo!!!!!Muthafu*#in' Movie Time out this bitch!!!
6:31 PM Dec 4th from UberTwitter
# O.k. We r officially settled in on Brazilian soil.Beautiful as hell where we at.In 3 hrs we goin' sight seeing in the City of Gods! Krazy!!
7:03 AM Dec 5th from UberTwitter
# O.K. SAO PAULO, BRAZIL HAS OFFICIALLY BEEN SMASHED!!!NOW IT'S OFF 2 CHILE!!!!GLOBAL GRIND/WORLD TOUR IS ON FULL TILT!!!THANX 2 ALL THE FANS!
10:29 PM Dec 5th from UberTwitter
# When I tell u Chile was one of the livest crowds I've ever performed in front if in my life!!!!They was soooooo fuckin' Kraaaaazzzzyyyy!!!!!
11:02 PM Dec 6th from UberTwitter
# O.K. WE OFFICIALLY TOUCHED DOWN IN NIGERIA!!!!!WEST AFRICA STAND UP!!!!WE HERE AND WE ROCKIN' OUT KRAZZY WHILE WE HER!!!LET'S GOOOOO!!!
about 23 hours ago from UberTwitter
The Saga continues..................
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Thursday, December 3, 2009
This clip is exciting, reminds me why I love basketball. A Roundup of the best tweets in and around the Hip Hop community.
Pharoahe Monch: IVERSON IS GONNA SHAKE THE SHIT OUT OF SOMEBODY!
Wale: i mixed kettle one with theraflu ...dont know why...but..i did ..being sick and home alone, never know what could happen
Rza: INSPIRED: UN Sect-General Ban Ki-moon to name Stevie Wonder a UN Messenger of Peace @peace
Rapper Big Pooh- Braylon Edwards-worst hands for a reciever ever
Elliot Wilson: Seriously, these dickhead security niggas at Hammerstein. They're lucky I'm married and can't spent a night in jail. Muthafuckin fuck boys.
About 15 minutes after sending my friend So Far Gone. A name has been changed to protect the (semi) innocent.
Drakebasher77 (10:31:01 PM): now let me get somthing thats actually good
JayK4 (10:31:16 PM): I just sent you the best album that came out in 2009
JayK4 (10:31:33 PM): That shit is Ready to die for kids 21 and under right now
Drakebasher77 (10:37:50 PM): this shit is terrible
JayK4 (10:38:27 PM): Wow youre stupid, how many seconds have you had it for?
Drakebasher77 (10:38:44 PM): too many
JayK4 (10:39:02 PM): Do yourself a favor and listen front to back
Drakebasher77 (10:39:12 PM): i hate drake
Drakebasher77 (10:39:25 PM): his voice is mad annoying
JayK4 (10:40:27 PM): let the songs worm their way into your head, accept the fact that hes great at R&B and fuses it with Hip Hop (Sooner than Later)
JayK4 (10:40:37 PM): listen to his verse on unstoppable
JayK4 (10:41:50 PM): its a bad song but youll respect his spit
JayK4 (10:42:21 PM): and youll be able to appreciate he uses it when he wants to, but it's not just some pop minded pussy shit, a 2009 cluster fuck of styles and influence, yes wayne and kanye but much more, smoothly integrated
Drakebasher77 (10:42:42 PM): i mean ive heard all the ones on the radio already
Drakebasher77 (10:42:48 PM): theyre all garbage
JayK4 (10:43:11 PM): he covers a DJ Screw freestyle on November 18th
JayK4 (10:43:16 PM): and kills it
JayK4 (10:44:01 PM): The content is a lot of sad disillusioned shit, no album has gotten closer to explaining a rappers true fears, doubts, insecurities, issues with the lime light then this
JayK4 (10:45:23 PM): Its as close as youll get to understanding your favorite rapper
JayK4 (10:45:42 PM): because its something anyone whose been young rich and at the top of their game can relate to, balancing work and your personal life, how p**** can get old when you don't have to work for it. He was a child star, Middle class. This is rap in 2009, this is where were going
JayK4 (10:46:12 PM): and rather than rapping about shit that he used to do hes talking about whats happening right now, something Ive never heard a rapper do interestingly before this. It's always millionaire whining, boring label machinations and self indulgent navel gazing. He's not without urgency or hunger. This just works.
Drakebasher77 (10:46:55 PM): terrible
A few years ago I wrote about the alarmism in De La Soul’s polarizing Stakes Is High that opened with an anecdote taken from Jeff Chang’s Can’t Stop Won’t Stop. The story concerned the war fought over “The Message”, considered a dangerous and revolutionary song that challenged the then existing notion of what Hip Hop was and threatened its doom, taking the focus off the all important DJ and placing it on the rapper. I love that anecdote because it illustrates something essential about Hip Hop that’s particular to the medium: It has died more times than any other art form, extinction all but assured by its fans and practitioners. It’s angel of death has assumed many forms. Melle Mel’s lyricism, Biggie’s amorality, Jay-Z’s materialism, Puffy’s Populism, Young Jeezy’s perceived simplicity. Rap moves quickly when it changes and takes no prisoners, leaving those unwilling to follow behind with little to hold onto but the retread of a style that has become stale overnight, no longer exciting or fresh because the crowd has moved on. The biggest story of 2009 has been the emergence of a new Phantom Menace who has mastered a style percolating in and around Hip Hop for over a decade, and now threatens to devour it whole.
Despite pretty much owning Rap this year Drake is nearly non-existent in serious critical Hip Hop circles, dismissed most often as a poser for an obvious Un Hip Hop background and most devastatingly as boring. I feel differently, and to quote the former President W. Bush I'll let history be my judge. Don't be confused alleged Populist critics with their finger on the pulse, this album, a nine month old mixtape that sold 100,000 copies in 2 weeks, is what still bumps on the radio, on the train, in the headphones of kids who carry the torch long after the curmudgeonly obscurist internet critics will hang it up and call rap dead (again). This is the future, get down or lay down.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
A semi-regular Roundup of the best tweets in and around the Hip Hop Community
Questlove: 27 years ago today Michael Joeseph Jackson released the albu---scratch that---revolution known to us mere mortals as #Thriller
Jim Jones: Me n young pootie gettin his dress up splash together for his school Christmas show he sharp as kinsu blades http://twitvid.com/49D68
LL Cool J: Ryan Seacrest and Ellen K just told me there's a lot of blood, sweat, and guts between dreams and success. Very cool..
Warren G: Royce the 5'9 is the truth
Kay Slay: Now!Everyone leave tiger woods the fuk alone?men an women cheating everyday,some get killed when caught an we don't even hear about it
Monday, November 30, 2009
A Semi-Regular Roundup of the best tweets in and around the Hip Hop community
Noreaga: WELL GOOD MORNING TWIETNAM
Tony Yayo: in Germany Cologne it's goin down tonite. Eatin lunch right now starin @ the over 700 yr old church
Busta Rhymes: We officially touch down on Uzbekistan soil...ASIA we here twiggas....
Pharoahe Monch: shorty, hey whats your price? if you back it up, you can hold my ice? now lets say you owe me sumptin. ---ta-hee.
Lil Bow Wow: @souljaboytellem Yo get started on christmas song beat n hook if we gone do it we gotta do it now
Wale: its crazy how somebody would follow u 4 blocks in the rain for a picture, but wouldnt walk one to buy an album
Visiting Tribeca at night is like stumbling upon the remnants of a once great civilization. The pedestrianless blocks are laid out in an area where the grid becomes badly mangled by approaches for bridges, tunnels and the Westside Highway. The smattering of upscale bodegas and darkened lunch chains are the only dining options with the exception of a few of the bluest blood institutions inhabiting the bottom floors of hotels and large commercial skyscrapers. A casual wanderer gets the feeling that the only people living in the neighborhood stay above the twentieth floor or are sleeping in overpriced suites on business for a couple of days. It’s probably the very last place in New York you’d expect to find Hip Hop scholarships most intimate and exciting development in years, but on Hudson Street near the Holland tunnel every few months it’s where 92Y is hosting Noisemakers.
For those who aren’t aware, Noisemakers is an interview series began a few months ago by Peter Rosenberg involving casual, sit-down interviews with Hip Hop legends that have included both rappers and producers. The MC, that’s the literal master of ceremonies has become a lightning rod of sorts in New York and on the internet for good reason, there’s some things to like and a lot to scratch your head at. With a bipolar personality that bounces between an aw shucks starry eyed Stan living the dream to know-it-all record snob asshole, he can be grating, not a good look for a professional personality, but no stranger to a market that the likes of Wendy Williams and Star & Bucwild have called home. His absurd beef with Combat Jack exhibited an impulse control issue and a poor set of decision making skills. I don’t agree with his politics but what’s even more irritating is I’m familiar with them. For instance, where does Funkmaster Flex stand on Radical Islam? That being said, what he’s accomplished at Hot 97 and in New York in two and a half years has been staggering. He worked his way up from college radio to a prime spot in the DC market before the big league call up, eventually getting suspended or fired from pretty much every job he’s had.
Rosenberg was awarded a graveyard shift off the strength of a dumb youtube Rich Boy spoof and has parlayed that minuscule degree of acclaim into a prominent position as co-host of the morning show along with Cipha Sounds, who up until Rosenberg’s arrival had played second banana to Funkmaster Flex for a decade. Rosenberg is arguably Hot 97’s third most recognizable personality behind Angie Martinez and Flex at the moment. He’s a savvy self promoter who has quickly made himself a part of most of the city’s Hip Hop related conversations, hosting monthly showcases at S.O.B.’s for up and coming talent, getting MC honors at a series of A-list shows around the city, and now the engine behind his most intriguing project, Noisemakers. His hustle is phenomenal. There’s no reason any number of New York Hip Hop media figures couldn’t be doing this, but for the most part they’ve contented themselves plugging mixtapes and club appearances. Love him or hate him, until a less abrasive but equally motivated personality comes along, Peter Rosenberg has changed the game.
His Noisemakers offers an unprecedented level of access to the artist in question and I predict will prove invaluable to fleshing out the many personal and collective histories in the genre. The focus has been primarily on New York and Classic Golden era Hip Hop thus far, but as the series (hopefully) continues and expands it will tell some of Hip Hop’s great, thus untold stories and give fans the perspectives behind the music. Unfortunately Rosenberg is at the helm. His presence as moderator is nearly unbearable at times, lauding praise and lobbing what appear to be pre-rehearsed soft balls at his guests, distractingly taking the opportunity whenever possible to espouse his knowledge of the artists’ rarest 12”s, digressions intended to transparently vie for his guest’s approval and our respect.
With a love of old school and underground brought to the forefront rather than it’s typical place tucked away Sunday evenings after midnight, Rosenberg is bringing historiography and intellectualism to New York’s Hip Hop media. That’s not to say his knowledge is as deep and profound as he’d have you believe. Flex, Cipha Sounds, Clue, any individual who has spent the last 10-20 years DJing in this city, which is nearly every personality on air in New York, can quote BPMs like batting stats and recall the limited underground staples they kept in arsenal for their low profile nights spinning in Hip Hop lounges around the city, it’s merely been taken for granted. Rosenberg isn't the first to drop his Hip Hop cool and nerd out reminiscing on the first time he heard “Tried by 12”, recognizing the breadth and importance of Hip Hop’s history rather than trying to keep up with the times and be on top of only what’s happening at this moment. He follows in the footsteps of radio giants like Stretch & Bobbito, late night Rap nerds with a willingness to give shine to the little MC, but he's doing it all over Hot 97 and in the mainstream public eye. Hip Hop media institutions such as XXL have seemed willing to dumb down their coverage in the interest of ratings and sales. Hot 97, one of the only major players left in the radio game not under the Clear Channel umbrella, has taken a bold stance allowing Rosenberg to achieve this level of prominence
In short, Rosenberg could potentially represent nothing less than a highbrow vanguard being brought back to mainstream Hip Hop media. What The Source’s Mind Squad once was. It’s a shame he has to be such a dismissable gaping asshole in the process.
My favorite feature on The Sporting News' NBA blog The Baseline is a daily roundup of the days best Tweets from people involved with the Association. At its best it's hilarious, offering a window into familiar personalities through their opinions and reflections as they wade through the same mundane shit we all do. I'm going to "borrow" the concept and start a semi-regular feature here at A People's History focusing on the Hip Hop community. For our first installment here is a few highlights as Rap celebrated Thanksgiving.
DJ Clue: The Broncos are Disrespecting the Giants. Going for it on 4th and 5..with a Pass play. Wow
Birdman: SHOUTOUT TO ALL FOR THE LOVE RIGHT NOW IM OUT HERE GIVING AWAY TURKEY N MY HOOD
Alchemist: Thanxgiving would be an ideal time to commit a crime. Or at least a moving violation.
Wyclef: Happy Thanksgiving. Special thoughts to those for whom this is NOT a happy day (Native Americans).
DJ Quik: My nephew was blasting Gucci Mane in the backyard.. I was this close to punting the radio in to the next yard. lol
Monday, November 23, 2009
His soul is still dancing.
I had the good fortune to see Werner Herzog’s maniacally fun take on Abel Ferarra’s classic Bad Lieutenant the same weekend I got a long anticipated DVD in the mail. It was the hotly contested critical darling doc The Carter, following Lil Wayne in the halcyon months surrounding the release of his greatest professional achievement to date: The Carter III. I knew I was in for a unique, trippy experience from the DVD menu alone, which is a snippet of Nina Simone’s “Misunderstood”, sampled for TC3’s grand finale. It’s a screwed watermarked loop of Simone moaning “Baby, you understand me now” as a music box melody plays sadly over and over again. And you certainly will come away more intimately familiar with Weezy, though I’m unsure the result is increased understanding, or if understanding an individual as far gone as Wayne is even possible.
Forgetting the specifics for a moment, The Carter is groundbreaking for its access into the artist’s creative process. This is an area I’ve been waiting to see Hip Hop media tap for a long time and The Carter delivers on a grand scale. For me Fade To Black was a Rap Triumph of the Will, our access is hardly unfettered as co-directors Pat Paulson and Michael John Warren seemed directed to be as protective of the Shawn Carter mystique as Jay-Z himself. Perhaps it’s a feature of just how fucking insane and interesting Wayne’s process is to simply watch, but Adam Bhala Lough’s best work in this film is showing us Wayne dutifully toting around a suitcase on rollers containing his own mini studio, unpacking amps and top of the line mics in the hotel rooms he lives out of, improvising mixtape verses on the fly and punching his own edits. (His verse on a recently released collaboration with Gudda Gudda over Jeezy’s “Get ya mind right” is a borderline classic and we get to watch him work his way through his verse on “Magic” from last Winter among other verses)
Demolition Part 1 (Ft. Gudda Gudda)
The film’s focus as well as much of the surrounding controversy has been unnecessarily placed on Wayne’s excess, a fact anyone familiar with his work has long been aware of as he talks about it openly in his music. For me it was interesting to watch his day to day, a similar pattern of habitual behavior: a constant background of ESPN, a disturbing addiction to getting inked and a clear workaholic, even at the heady heights we see Wayne at, on tour and celebrating a platinum album he’s tirelessly, obsessively tinkering with what will become largely obscure mixtape verses, listening to nothing but his own shit and explaining Boy Meets Girl references for the camera crew. He's clearly an individual damaged from a traumatic home life and a non-existent childhood, pretty transparently diving into any diversion that comes his way with all his being as a means of escape.
The film’s unsung hero is Wayne’s longtime friend and associate/manager Cortez Bryant. He’s the sober steady hand trying to keep human nitro glycerin from exploding, worrying about TC3s premature leak, delivering Wayne to photo shoots and interviews, threatening random shady characters hanging around backstage at shows, unable to be around Wayne because of his concern for Wayne’s syrup addiction. It’s through him that we most feel the consequences of Wayne’s abuse, how real the concern is in his circle and how powerless anyone is to do anything about it. Wayne is a force of nature operating largely on impulse and the moment’s whim.
Me & My Drank
Wayne’s magnetic rock star charisma is apparent on stage performing his verse off Shawty Lo’s “They Know (Remix)”, “Pussy Monster” and an electric performance of “A Milli” (featuring the wildest crowd response I've ever witnessed), in interviews where he gets off on torturing reporters, a particularly great moment comes in his dismissal of a Brit quickly caught trying to intellectualize Wayne's work and place it within a tradition of New Orleans music (his interactions with the press are reminiscent of the clueless British reporters Bob Dylan gets off on fucking with throughout Don’t Look Back) not to mention the general conversation in every room we see him in. The film’s most disturbing scene is Wayne lecturing a 15 year old for still being a virgin in front of what appears to be the boy’s bemused/horrified mother, telling an anecdote of getting blown at 11 that tip toes a line between funny and scary/depressing. Heath Ledger’s Joker stories concerning the origin of his scars come to mind as Wayne at times sounds less like he’s bragging than confessing on a therapist’s couch.
The Carter ends up operating on a logic not unlike Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, as a fever dream rewarding its likable anti-hero for his sins. Wayne spends the film high and slumped, screwing off and pissing off everyone around him to seemingly no consequence, his star continues to rise and burn even brighter and we’re shotgun for the gleefully nihilistic ride. Watching Wayne before he self destructs it’s even more apparent a timeless talent has spent the last decade captivating us, making music that will be the subject of a countless number of documentaries and similar tributes to come for generations. With his prison sentence looming and his music pushed to what feels like a logical conclusion, with little place to go but down it’s possible that his prime has passed. Even if this is so Lil Wayne changed Rap for the better, taken it to playful uncharted stylistic extremes and practiced forms previously unseen that have already had a tangible effect on the current Hip Hop landscape. He gave us a taste of what the great inebriated poets of the 60s and 70s did for their art forms. A Morrison, a Reed.
Wayne has changed rap, and his Young Money label of emerging minions currently owning New York radio following in his footsteps will assuredly be pushing the ball forward long after he’s fallen back, something that at the age of 27 I can’t imagine happening anytime soon regardless of how his work will be received. The sad/fantastic truth is Wayne needs Rap as bad if not more than Rap needs him. The Carter gives us a portrait of the artist at his very best, and it’s without a doubt the best documentary about Rap music I’ve ever seen (This doesn’t count), must see shit for anyone remotely interested in popular music.
Talib Kweli Greene loved rap and he always wanted to be a rapper. In the beginning, his nom de plume was Genesis. By the age of 14 (circa 1990) he was dedicated to his craft, networking and promoting for and around the major Hip Hop clubs in New York when he wasn’t practicing his spit in Washington Square Park with a crew that included fellow Brooklynite “Black” Dante Smith, Jean Grae, Da Bush Babees and John Forte, who he would soon be rooming with around the corner at NYU. By the mid 90s Hip Hop in New York was diverse, fragmented, filled with scenes and cliques. There were the bohemian park dwellers downtown, swaggering hustlers uptown like Marcy transplant Jay-Z and a bunch of Goths who would soon be switching styles, Staten Island was its own Wuniverse and in Queens Mobb Deep would give way to hoods like Capone and Noreaga, setting the stage for anti-hero 50 Cent and his Gangster Pop Revival. Talib was an element in this swirling cauldron and very aware of his environment, the multiple voices competing for the throne in New York and the ear of the greater Hip Hop community. This was the direction he chose.
Talib is the Park Slope son of two college professors and his first name means “student” in Arabic. He bounced from Roy H. Mann, to Brooklyn Tech to a private school in Connecticut to experimental theater at Tisch, dropping out after Freshman year to pursue his passion. Things moved quickly. A bond with a beat making friend of a friend from Cincinnati bore fruit, as did a partnership with Junior High buddy Mos Def who had begun making appearances with artists the two had grown up worshipping, the aforementioned Babees and De La Soul. Their group, Blackstar, shared a spiritual lineage with Def Jux’s brand of New York indie underground, witty punchlined obsessed B-Boyism with a dash of El-P’s avant-garde inaccessibility. Their album dropped on September 28th 1998, the same day as A Tribe Called Quest’s swan song The Love Movement. The album was a mixed bag with its fair share of tinny beats and one or two half boiled back packer concepts but it displayed a vision, an alternative to what many considered a shiny suit plague. One song in particular stood out, their 55 point rookie showing that gave us a glimpse of what a Rawkus run mainstream would look like. They called it “Definition”, a vibrant homage to KRS-One blending “The P is free” with “Stop the Violence” as Talib and Mos traded rapid fire, studied Brooklyn minutiae. The song was enormous.
In a prolific flurry both artists had instant classics to their respective names by 2000 and were featured on a Soundbombing compilation that seemingly cemented a Rap dynasty in the making. Veterans like Common and The Roots appeared reinvigorated, excited about the direction Rap was taking and there were scores of young, hungry, equally idealistic troops champing to follow their lead. Blackstar championed a respect for Hip Hop history while promoting positivity, the pursuit of knowledge and cuddly Black Nationalism. It made great fodder for idealistic critics and a generation raised on P.E. and X Clan that thought it had lost its genre for good. In 2003 Mos had passed on his buzz for a punchline acting career, Talib debuted as perennially unsatisfying solo artist with Quality and 50 Cent sold 11 million albums.
One could argue that it was definition that short circuited Blackstar’s respective careers. Before they had even gotten their stylistic feet on the ground it had been annoyingly defined and categorized for them as conscious, a soundtrack for paging through Maya Angelou and grilling asparagus, music for white college students and black women. Like the intellectuals they were Mos and Talib resisted the label like the plague (a la De La). They considered it a dishonest articulation of their slant which contained multitudes. After all, they had grown up in Brooklyn too, they smoked blunts and got in fist fights. They actively campaigned against their designation, in retrospect probably a mistake for both. Because the question that remains then is what did their voices really sound like? Who were they as artists? How is this diversity conveyed through music? It was a problem Mos ran away from and Talib ran toward.
From his professional inception Kweli’s strengths as a lyricist first and a rapper second were clear. The ruminative “2000 Seasons” strikes the right note over its jazzy melancholic skeleton, a former Nkiru bookstore clerk weaving the wisdom of the ages into his conversational, slightly arrhythmic flow pledging underground fealty in a war for the soul of Rap. In many ways Kweli’s delivery suits him, it demands attention to the content and it’s his wonderful words that are his contribution to the medium. Early Talib insists that Rap can be more than fun. His analytical verses were serious and thought provoking. On “What If”, a 1998 guest appearance on an L-Fudge single he accomplishes these things without being high minded or pretentious, he owns the concept and takes his inquiry in several unexpected directions. Rather than posing a series of obvious left wing critiques Kweli asks “If you tore this wicked system down what would you build in its place?”. He’s a focused young man rapping with passion, behind a cause and a love greater than the furthering of his career. He’s not being fun but he’s having fun, not trying and it’s tangible. This is where Talib excelled on Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Blackstar and Train of Thought, diving head first into “4 Women” unconcerned with how such naked poetics and earthy Huxtablisms will be received while firing off gorgeous, fully formed insight and beautiful metaphors at will.
I haven’t heard a Kweli track since he went solo and self-admittedly more mainstream oriented, from Quality through Ear Drum that hasn’t smacked of effort. His strength as a writer has proven to be his downfall as an artist. He thinks too much, and it leads the listener to distraction. With “Brown Skin Lady” Talib was half of the greatest heartfelt Rap love song not called “Beautiful Skin” ever made, but in some ways it poisoned his future as no rapper I can think of since has made more uniformly cringe worthy songs intended for women. His Blacksmith mixtape work feels premeditated, he sounds uncomfortable and out of his element and it’s this lack of understanding his true strengths and playing to them that has sabotaged his career. Talib wants to resist his underground following, to make resonant chart toppers, rip street approved freestyles over someone else’s single of the moment, make rap and bullshit for the ladies but he simply doesn’t have the goods. Worse, he lost his identity somewhere along the way on his bid for prominence and hasn’t been able to regain form. Even on his retro grab Ear Drum it’s Kweli making a retro grab and the results are ho hum (ditto for Liberation as a ploy for some critical internet shine). Not bad just boring.
Last night I saw Talib at Brooklyn Bowl, a new ritzy upscale bowling alley/concert space in Williamsburg. It was my fifth or sixth time seeing him live. His old Washington Square running mate Jean Grae, now signed to Blacksmith was among the openers and remains one of the most endearing personalities you can see on stage at a Hip Hop show. Talib reminds me of Nas in that on stage his vibe is much changed from the person we imagine on record. Nas strides around with an emotionless “fuck you” expression draped in a Fila track suit with huge gold medallions hanging from his neck, Talib is all smiles and kinetic energy, jeans and a tight t, rocking Sam Rothstein sunglasses that don’t come off. The air was filled with shoulders rotating attached arms waving rhythmically to the beats, faithfully reciting the old favorites and not so much the new stuff. Always a good show, Talib carried the evening with his charisma. Hi Tek was on hand and according to legend a Reflection Eternal album is ready to go and there’s a Blackstar project somewhere off in the forever receding distance, one can only hope. It’d be nice to see at least one more W on Talib Kweli’s record. There are few artists that have put more time, care, thought and effort into their music and careers. A career that has been good, but not quite what we once dared to dream it could be.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
This is an exercise I began primarily for myself and it turned out well enough that I decided to share. I’ve always been interested in the seasonal quality music can assume. Is it aesthetic? Is it Rza and Da Beatminerz’s murky bass lines that evoke slush in Staten Island and Crown Heights? Is it content? Does the mere mention of hoodies and timbs pair them to a track? Or perhaps imagery, maybe your iconic black and white video featuring a bunch of dudes in parkas behind chain links fences with breath coming out in cold smoky puffs forever link your song to the months between November and February.
The defining trait I’ve settled on is the listener. I don’t pretend to have captured the essence of the season with this effort, for all I know you consider “Mighty Healthy” synonymous with hickory smoke and booty shorts at cookouts. Growing up in New York gives you a very specific definition of the season that a majority of the country may not relate to. The sun is in a perpetual state of setting, the streets are filled with people on their way to destinations, heads down and boring forward through any and all obstacles. It’s raw, freezing rain, blasts of frigid wind that cut to the bone, so cold your eyes and nose will flow and you find yourself cursing a gust of moving air. It’s sleeping in sweats, getting layered before going out, convulsing as you try to get dressed after a hot shower in the morning. Bare, skeletal trees litter blocks, corners are occupied by seemingly shallow puddles with thin frozen skins you discover too late are a foot deep and send you running indoors for a warm pair of ankle length Champion socks. It’s the conditions that give this city its stereotype for being rude and no-nonsense. But it’s not all bad.
It’s the smell of fireplaces re-kindled, bundled up kids helping bundled up old ladies carry their wire carts up and down subway stairwells, streets woven with lights, crisp astoundingly clear days, family and old friends. It’s a quiet, reflective, introspective period. We all cut down on our nights out and trade tequila for scotch.
Keep in mind I wanted to keep the tape interesting, I was wary of repetition and I didn’t just want to cut and paste Liquid Swords or 808s. I’ve looked for patterns below and I would like to think (with a few key exceptions) it’s no coincidence that nearly all the artists and producers hail from the Northeast but it could be as simple as this is the stuff I listened to on snow days hot boxing my old car or the soundtrack I’d push through snow to in my headphones on the way to school. All that being said, if the selection spurs debate, mission accomplished. Wherever you’re from I hope this compilation helps you enjoy the season as much as I do.
Download: A People's History of Hip Hop Presents: Winter Warz
1. Dead Prez- Wolves (Original Sample) Let’s Get Free (2000)
2. Wu-Tang- Bells of War Wu-Tang Forever (1997)
3. Redman- Welcome (Interlude) Muddy Waters (1996)
4. Noreaga- Body In the Trunk (Ft. Nas) N.O.R.E. (1998)
5. Young Jeezy- Hypnotize The Inspiration (2006)
6. Lost Boyz- All Right Legal Drug Money (1996)
7. Killah Priest- From Then Til Now Heavy Mental (1998)
8. Smif-N-Wessun- Wontime Dah Shinin’ (1995)
9. T.I.- I Still Luv You Trap Muzik (2003)
10. Rampage- Wild For Da Night (Ft. Busta Rhymes) Scout’s Honor……By Way of Blood (1997)
11. Jadakiss- Shootouts (Ft. Styles P) Kiss of Death (2004)
12. Non Phixion- 4 Ws This Is Not An Exercise (2000)
13. Nas- Live Nigga Rap (Ft. Mobb Deep) It Was Written (1996)
14. Onyx- Bacdafucup Bacdafucup (1993)
15. Styles P- Ghost P The Ghost In The Machine (2006)
16. Mad Skillz- All In It From Where???(1996)
17. Ghostface Killah- Mighty Healthy Supreme Clientele (2000)
18. 50 Cent- DJ Clue Freestyle Grand Theft Audio 2 (2002)
19. M.O.P.- Take A Minute St. Marxmen (2005)
20. Kanye West- Family Business (Advanced Far Superior Rough Mix) College Dropout (2004)
21. Gangstarr- Royalty Moment of Truth (1998)
22. Ol’ Dirty Bastard- Snakes Return to the 36 Chambers (1995)
23. Common- Gaining Ones Definition One Day It'll All Make Sense (1996)