January 9, 2010
THIS WEEK IN HIP HOP
Wow. It seems like yesterday the world was freaking out about Y2K, and now in the blink of an eye, it’s 2010. The past decade treated me well, and I hope it did the same for everyone reading this, but frankly, it was not too good for the majority of the world’s inhabitants. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that in the next 10 años we make major improvements in the ways in which we treat each other. Anyways, that’s enough of me being thoughtful and preachy, let’s talk about music.
Quan, our other This Week In Hip Hop man, in his unpredictable top 10 list of albums in 2009 requested that I critique his selections, and provide my own. Although I felt that there were some questionable picks to say the least (Juicy J in the top 5?!?), I think his article did a great job of letting the world know that hip-hop as a genre is tremendously diverse, as is the taste of its followers. There is absolutely nothing wrong or contradictory about a die hard Wu-Tang fan enjoying Gucci and Wayne. Hip-Hop is not dead; in fact I think it’s the genre of music most oversaturated with legitimate talent. That’s why I couldn’t bring myself to make my own list of favorite albums from 2009. While I must admit that I did hear a lot of new music last year, I still don’t feel like I even scratched the surface of the quality content that was released. I unfortunately didn’t listen to the new Souls of Mischief, Zion I, Tanya Morgan, The Clipse, UGK, De La Soul, Slum Village, etc… so without experiencing those projects, I don’t feel like I can do justice to critiquing an entire year’s worth of albums. Sorry Quan.
On the other hand, I know that there is a lot of music that I am looking forward to in 2010, so without further ado, I want to let y’all know what I will be keeping my eyes and ears open for this year.
Black Milk, Sean Price and Guilty Simpson | Random Axe
You may already know that I am thoroughly impressed with the quality of music that Duck Down Records is putting out, and from the slew of projects they have slated for 2010, Random Axe is the one that I’m the most excited about. When I first heard that Black Milk, Sean Price and Guilty Simpson were collaborating, it seemed to good to be true, but after they leaked “Monster Babies,” it was official. This group is for real. Unfortunately, Black Milk’s hard drive crashed, and with it all of Sean P’s recorded verses were lost. To make matters worse, Kimbo Price only writes his verses on his cell phone, and he purchased a new one, so the written words were gone too. So it wasn’t released in ’09 like it was supposed to be. Instead, Duck Down is hoping to make Random Axe available to the masses in the first quarter of 2010. As long as Sean kept his morale high through the hardships and made sure to persevere, this album could be one we remember in 2020.
More on Albums To Look Forward To In 2010
December 12, 2009
THIS WEEK IN HIP HOP
For those of you on top of your hip-hop, you may want to hate on the fact that I’m writing about the debut album from Fresno CA rapper, Fashawn, well over a month since it was released by One Records. But I have to admit, I listened to Boy Meets World for the first time this week, and ever since, it’s pretty much been all I can think about. So I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather write about, either.
I’d read Fashawn’s name in a few blog headlines but didn’t really think anything of it. There are so many different rappers that the various websites are trying to push heavy, from Curren$y to Wiz Khalifa, that it’s impossible to follow them all, and more often than not they’re disappointing. Then this past Monday, I was on YouTube while at work, listening to some tracks off of Blu and Exile’s classic album Below The Heavens, and I noticed that in the comments section someone mentioned that Exile produced Boy Meets World, too. I’m a big fan of Exile, especially after Below The Heavens, which easily makes my top albums of the decade, so for that reason alone I decided that I had to give Fashawn another shot. Let’s just say that I couldn’t be happier that I did.
The thing that most stands out about Fashawn is the amount of self reflection and critical thought that he includes in his music. At times it almost seems impossible that a 20-year-old experiencing the world beyond his hometown for the first time could be so insightful. Yet at the same time, he infuses his lyrics with massive amounts of street knowledge and California pride, that, when combined with his straight-up famished-sounding delivery, prevents his music from getting becoming inaccessible, holier-than-thou backpack rap. Exile on the other hand is a sample based producer who digs deep into old jazzy records and creates beautiful and relaxing beats that make you want to lay in bed and contemplate life.
More on Fashawn | Boy Meets World
December 3, 2009
Crime | San Francisco’s Still Doomed
I’ve come to think of Crime as such classic punk that I forget many people may not know about them…but you should! Crime was a brutal punk band from San Francisco that wore cop outfits and recorded quick abrasive songs like “Piss On Your Dog,” and “I Stupid Anyway.” Johnny Strike, Frankie Fix and the gang released their first single, “Hot Wire My Heart” in 1976, (yes, the one Sonic Youth covered) but never received the same level of attention as their New York contemporaries. Their surface level crudeness was paired with funny lyrics and a discordant take on R&B grease that made so much ’70s punk so satisfying, and it feels more dangerous than, say, The Ramones. If you ever thought the West Coast was too soft, maybe you should check out this footage from Crime’s show at San Quentin Maximum Security Prison. (For video go to “Piss On Your Dog.)
by Erin Sheehy
Toumani Diabate | Kaira
At a jazz concert I once heard someone play the kora, a 21 string Malian harp, and I was so moved by the incredible tone coming from it’s strings, that immediately upon returning home I researched the instrument. That research encouraged me to buy Toumani Diabate’s album, Kaira, the first ever solo recording of the kora. Toumani comes from a lineage of kora playing griots that dates back 71 generations, and while his music may sound traditional, he has cited rock icons like Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin as major influences. This makes complete sense, because the improvisation displayed on this disc is absolutely incredible. Kaira is hands down the most soothing and beautiful album I own. Watch this video for more on Toumani and the kora.
by Matt Moretti
More on Hidden Gems
November 14, 2009
Since Veteran’s Day was last Wednesday, I thought that it would be a good time to give a little history lesson on Canibus, the only rapper I know to have served in the United States Armed Forces. In the ’90s, Canibus was the most anticipated rapper in the game. With his diverse vocabulary, and his gravely and aggressive tone, Canibus absolutely murdered every song he was featured on. One of my personal favorites was his verse on The Firm’s “Desperados”. Despite solid efforts from AZ and Nature, when Can rapped first, it really didn’t matter who came next. (Although, one can only wonder what it would have sounded like if Nas sacked up and rhymed on this track, rather than choosing it to be one of the only songs on the entire album on which he wouldn’t rap. But that was what Canibus did. He put fear into other incredible MCs. Look at this classic cypher with the once-in-a-lifetime lineup of Mos Def, DMX, Big Pun, John Forte, and Mic Geronimo. Rather than go second, which is where he sat in the cypher, Canibus proclaims that he deserves the right to anchor, and no one disagrees. On the one hand, this is testament to his talent. On the other, it is exactly this greater-than-thou mentality that led to the downfall of his career.
More on Canibus: Not Just a Rap Veteran
October 31, 2009
THIS WEEK IN HIP HOP
Despite what many people think, hip-hop has as many sub-genres as rock or jazz. On top of the geographical distinctions that are found in rap from the West Coast, East Coast, South, Midwest, and internationally, there is also Gangsta Rap, Backpack rap, Popular Rap, True School Rap, Hardcore Rap, and the topic of today’s conversation, Horrorcore Rap.
At one time this genre was limited to fringe groups who had very little respect from the rest of the Hip-Hop world, such as The Insane Clown Posse and Twiztid. Yet, in recent years Tech N9ne has risen through hip-hop’s ranks to be one of today’s most successful independent rap artist. Like many of the world’s best musicians, his music refuses to be classified in just one genre. He has a better flow than practically any esoteric backpack rapper to have lived, has recorded songs with the top names in Gangsta Rap such as 2pac, Scarface, Ice Cube, E-40, and his own Strange Music Crew consisting of Big Scoob, Kutt Calhoun, Skatterman & Snug Brim, and Krizz Kaliko. Yet at the same time he has strong roots in Horrorcore. For example, he used to perform shows while wearing a priest’s outfit, with spiked bright red hair and a white cross painted on his forehead. Combine this with songs such as “Trapped in a Psycho’s Body,” “Tormented,” “Real Killer,” and albums called Anghellic, Misery Loves Kompany, and Killer, and it is clear that he is one of the few people who does not have to do anything out of the ordinary to scare the status quo on Halloween.
More on Halloween + Quality Rap = Tech N9ne
October 17, 2009
THIS WEEK IN HIP HOP
On Tuesday, VH1 aired the 6th installment of their annual Hip-Hop Honors awards ceremony. While in previous years the show has followed a format similar to a Hall of Fame induction ceremony, this year’s program was dedicated solely to celebrating the 25th anniversary of the most important Hip-Hop record label of all time: Def Jam. One would hope that all music fans know at least a little about Def Jam, but even if you have been trapped under a sunken ship for the past 25 years, and think you’ve never heard of the label, I guarantee that your ears have frequently come in contact with Def Jam’s music. Def Jam has been home to Hip-Hop’s most elite artists since day one. Their untouchable roster has included: The Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, EPMD, Jay-Z, Nas, The Roots, Scarface, Ludacris, Method Man, Redman, Ghostface Killah, and DMX among hordes of other influential and extremely talented musicians. These artists combined with the visionary genius of Russell Simmons, Rick Rubin, and Lyor Cohen literally changed music forever.
VH1 deserves a ton of credit for putting on this event. For a TV station that built itself upon safe music for the middle-aged, and then developed into a reality TV powerhouse, when it comes to shining light on what Hip-Hop is all about, they surprisingly drop a steaming shit all over BET and MTV. Let’s try to forget about the White Rapper Show and focus on the fact that they have not only included hip-hop artists in Behind The Music and Storytellers since the hit series’ inceptions, but additionally, have consistently used Hip-Hop Honors as a great way to expose younger generations to the great rap artists of the past. We should all be thankful that at least one station has done the wonderful deed of dedicating a miniscule 5% of their programming to quality Hip-Hop.
More on VH1 Honors Def Jam’s 25th Anniversary
October 3, 2009
THIS WEEK IN HIP HOP
All week MTV has slowly been releasing their list of 2009’s top 10 “Hottest MC’s In The Game.” The first question that comes to my mind is: “How well can an organization dedicated to the advancement of pop music and trends rank hip-hop artists?” In the world of MTV, popularity comes first, and if an artist has a popular song, who gives a fuck if he/she is a talented MC?
Another questionable aspect of this list is that it’s only the beginning of October. Last time I checked there are three more months left until 2010! Lebron wasn’t crowned MVP with twenty games left, so why decide on the most important MC’s now?
In all honesty the list isn’t horrible, but it isn’t definitive either. For example, including Raekwon is a great move by MTV. The Chef doesn’t have a hit video or single, but he got the internet buzzing like a teenager after 40 oz of Mickey’s [Editor’s Note: Think Ballantine’s for all you East Coasters], got live audiences across the country banging their heads and throwing up W’s, and has succeeded in releasing one of the most anticipated hip-hop albums in the past five to ten years. On the other hand, to include artists like Drake, who spend more time singing than rapping, is shameful in my opinion. Yeah, hooks and singing are essential to hip-hop’s success, but you would have never heard someone argue that Nate Dogg was one of the best MC’s in the game during his heyday.
With all this in mind I thought that it would only be appropriate to give my own, very opinionated top 10. After reading it, drop a comment and let us know who made your list:
1. Jay-Z: Regardless of how you feel about The Blueprint 3, it’s undeniable that Jay-Z has had the most impressive year in hip-hop. The album became Jay’s eleventh #1 record, the third hip-hop album this year to surpass one million sales, and has sat atop the charts since it was released three weeks ago. The singles have been incredibly popular as well, with “Run This Town” spending the eight weeks since it’s release in the top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100, and receiving around 15 million views on YouTube between its various video incarnations. “Death of Autotune” clocked 6 million YouTube views itself, and single-handedly murdered, or at least crippled, one of hip-hop’s most vomit-inducing trends. His benefit concert also sold out Madison Square Garden in less than 15 minutes. Top it off with a 20-minute interview with the queen of hip-hop hate on Oprah and a big article in her magazine, and there really isn’t much else you could ask of Not-So-Young Hov.
2. Eminem: At the beginning of 2009, Aftermath Records announced their plan for regaining control of the music industry by releasing a string of albums from Eminem (The Relapse), 50 Cent (Before I Self Destruct), and Dr. Dre (the fabled Detox). After taking a five-year hiatus since his last solo disc, Encore, Eminem was the only artist out of the trio to actually get his album to the people. On The Relapse, Eminem got Dr. Dre back behind the boards and the mic, but more importantly proved he is as creative, angry, and culturally relevant as ever. The album spent two weeks at the number one spot of the Billboard 200, eight weeks within the top 10, and became the second hip-hop album this year to sell over one million copies. His YouTube popularity has been off the charts as well, with 31 million combined views for “We Made You,” 17 million views for “Beautiful,” and 13 Million views for “Crack A Bottle.” Yet the man is not done with the last single digit year in the millennium: he has announced that he will be releasing The Relapse 2 before the end of ’09.
3. Slaughterhouse: When Royce Da 5’9, Crooked I, Joell Ortiz, and Joe Budden announced that they would be forming a supergroup, hip-hop fans didn’t know how to react. There are always rumors of some incredible collaboration that never actually takes place, but if these guys actually could make it happen, the world better take notice! Then the tracks started leaking, and out of pure excitement, hip-hop heads started to leak in their pants. Audiences began to declare that this was the most talented group in rap. Although the sales for their self-titled debut album were underwhelming, the disc itself was inarguably one of the year’s best. They then walked out of the studio, and tore down The Paid Dues Festival and the Rock The Bells Tour alongside the biggest names in rap today. While each of the four artists have been expected to be the next big solo act for years, Slaughterhouse flipped the script, and brought the group mentality back into hip-hop.
September 19, 2009
THIS WEEK IN HIP HOP
This week, while millions of music lovers were scratching their heads wondering how they hadn’t realized earlier that Kanye West – the self-proclaimed voice of the modern generation – really is a complete douche, two of hip-hop’s earliest verbal icons paired up and released a battle-cry for the preservation of the values they helped to establish within their art form. KRS One and Buckshot’s new album, Survival Skills, is not the type of record that receives awards from MTV. There is no particular song for the club, there’s minimal talk of money, ho’s, and shiny chains, and neither MC boasts about being the thug or player of the century. Yet this won’t surprise or disappoint fans of the men behind Boogie Down Productions, the Stop The Violence Movement, Black Moon, and The Boot Camp Click. Buck and KRS “The Teacher” provide their audience with a lot of the same lyrical deftness and personal perspective that has allowed both men to survive in the harsh world of music for the past 20 years. While their lyrics might lack some of the tenacity that each artist built their reputation on, the two rappers prove that maturation in hip-hop does not have to mean simplification. With heavy bass-laden musical backdrops provided by some of today’s most sought-after producers – including 9th Wonder, Havoc of Mobb Deep, Nottz, Black Milk, Khrysis, and Ill Mind – the two vets manage to sound fresh in the new era. In a recent YouTube video, Big Boi of Outkast describes the effort as “one of the purest forms of hip-hop,” Raekwon of the Wu Tang Clan calls it “a legendary clash,” and up-and-coming sensation K’Naan says it is “really what should be on the radio.”
More on Duck Down Records Show the World Their Survival Skills