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Stress Boogie-Outerspace (Remastered)…The Review

     Where were you in 2010?, What were you listening to? What were some of your specific interests 10 years ago? Were you earth based? Did you manage to keep everything within our atmosphere or Did you find joy in letting your mind wander to far off places like say the outer realms of space? If you can safely answer any  of the aforementioned questions then you can safely board the rocket that is primed and ready to blast off courtesy of Stress Boogie and his Epic release…Outerspace.

“Outerspace Intro” opens the album with an awe-inspiring sample that would make Ray Bradbury jealous, Barry White narrates out pending journey much like the Opening crawl of a Star Wars film. After that Stress enters the rocket and proceeds to lay out what our journey will be about based on the intro alone, we’re in for a wondrous ride.

“Move” sets things in motion with a crunchy guitar riffed instrumental that grabs you from the opening chords and holds you captive until you’re in orbit safely. Stress doesn’t let the track breathe with his lyrical assault. It feels as if every bar is a declarative statement, braggadocio at its finest, superb follow-up track.

“Sugar”  has us floating through space as we listen to Boogie, Dox, and Roman Caldwell wax poetic on the sweet saccharin that is otherwise known as Black women. Every superlative is at play here when describing why black women are so dope. Normally I’m not a fan of “songs for the ladies” but here it works, maybe I’m maturing.

“Fly Interlude”  continues our trek into space, it’s a quick jaunt into the unknown as Stress gives  us humorous Superman anecdotes before we pick up speed a bit and head right into “Fly”. It’s such a dope instrumental that you forget it’s a double entendre. The song makes you feel fly, and you’re actually flying through space, trust me on this.

“Driving By Myself” is definitive rider music. The stuttering Hi-Hats has me zoning like I breezed past a star at its most serene. Stress’ hook abilities are understated but they are on full display here. This track coupled with “Fly” and “Sugar” makes a seriously funky tandem and adds to the no-skip factor of the record so far. Daria Jones slinks her way through the tracks and just brings it’s all together.

“Devotion” sounds more like a Confessional to me. Here Stress peels back a few layers and lets us in on how he fell in love with Hip-Hop and exactly what it took to get here. Wayne Steakhouse, and Nye Taylor come through with their talents. The Spoken word and Sung word are a most welcome addition and take the track to another level. I know this was a Coffee Cave collaboration, somebody prove me wrong.

“Memories” continues our slow traverse through the galaxy. Earth is getting smaller by the light year but the track is so hypnotic and captivating that you may miss the fact that it is a two verse story. The first verse is about growing up with the have and have nots, trials and tribulations, but triumphing over all. I’m sure all of us can think back to the times when we grew up and ended up going separate ways because life. The second verse is a memory about an old crush that ended up becoming a fling after graduation. A true coming of age tale. Awesome track.

“Station Break” sends things into warp speed as Stress takes time on our trip to shout out our hometown and the folks that help made the album up to this point possible…Hard instrumental and I don’t care that I have a thing for guitar riff loops, next to pianos, it makes every song better. “Get Mad” is truly an interlude/skit  so I won’t spend too much time on it, but I will say that the words here are timely, when you hear them, you’ll understand.

“Spell My Name” marks the return of the Braggadocio raps. Declaring himself “The Ben Grimm” of Hip-Hop” made me smile because at this same point in time my moniker was “Hank McCoy”….if you know…you know.

“So Long” keeps  much of the same energy of the former albeit with a much more “spacey” beat. At this point of our trek, Stress informs us that we’re passing Saturn, I thank him for that because I almost forgot we were supposed to be counting the planets, I was too busy listening to the space age grooves.

“Time of Your Life” almost caused me to not finish the album honestly. I say that because I got stuck listening to every facet of the track. The soulful Greg Perry sample flip had me gone by the first chord. Let’s call it what it is, Stress Boogie is a Master, equally as impressive on the mic as well  as behind the pads. Synergy.

“On My Way” is a soul stirring effort and is part inspirational, part motivational. The flow is crispy as he catches every pocket. The lushness of the track as a while is something that tells me that Stress was on a mission with every track. Mission accomplished.

The album closes out with “Boogie’s Lament” and “Turn the Beat Up” respectively. Both tracks are equally captivating while being sonically diverse. With Lament, the track literally cries and coos, truly becoming a timeless record. “Turn The Beat Up”  has us reaching our destination with self assured lyrics and a sense of completion. I’m ready to meet whatever life form that is on whatever planet we landed on.

     Saying that his album “Outerspace” is nothing less than a journey through the traverses of his mind is an understatement. Let me be clear, the album IS a journey to the outermost…HIS outermost….His thoughts, loves, and passions. A clear and concise effort that showcases a true tour de force for an artist..no a creative at the height of his powers. If you want to hear vintage, authentic Hip-Hop at its purest, Look no further than Outerspace…it’s definitely worth the trip.

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Those Flippin’ Samples

     Sampling is the life blood of Hip-Hop music in its entirety. It is very literally the foundation of the art form as a whole. An art form based on deconstructing conventional music making methods. Since its inception in the early 70’s, The “break beats” from popular funk and soul records of the day, provided the soundbed for what we know as “Rap” music. What once began as simple loops for the MC’s to rock a party, it quickly gave way to more advanced techniques as time and skills of the MC’s and DJ’s/Producers progressed.

     As defined by various sources, “Sampling” In music, sampling is the reuse of a portion (or sample) of a sound recording in another recording. Samples may comprise elements such as rhythm, melody, speech, sounds, or entire bars of music, and may be layered, equalized, sped up or slowed down, repitched, looped, or otherwise manipulated. They are usually integrated using hardware (samplers) or software such as digital audio workstations. Many if not all producers in Hip-Hop use the technique as a form of self expression, oftentimes speaking through the music itself based on the part(s) that are used.

     Hip-Hop titans such as J Dilla, Alchemist, Stress, Heatmakerz, Just Blaze and Madlib have all become legends by continuously finding new and innovative ways to sample music. I often took much joy in trying to figure out just what was on their mind when creating. I’ve spent countless hours looking up the original compositions that inspired them. It became a game to me and it would often leave me astonished when I discovered the sample. Most times it would take me listening to a song at random and immediately recognizing who interpolated it. It’s truly an exhilarating experience.

     As we all continue to venture on into the future, I anxiously await new rap projects to sink my teeth into and absorb. I’m listening to see where many of the modern day Miles Davis and John Coltranes of Hip-Hop are going to take the artform. A lot of the younger producers have begun to sample tracks from the 90s and early 2000s and that makes me even more happy because that lets me know that sampling will never die. The possibilities are truly endless.

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For The Funk Of It….

     

As a kid growing up in the 1990s, My mother made it her personal mission to expose me to different soundscapes. Many of my earliest memories were ones of me and her jamming and dancing to Parliament Funkadelic and a host of other Funk/Soul acts from the 70s. You couldn’t tell me I wasn’t a 5 year old robot when “Flashlight” or “Bop Gun” came on. Even though I was supposed to be sweeping or vacuuming, once the music began to echo throughout the house, it was over. For every rap song I heard during that time, My mother made sure I knew the original composition that it came from, which allowed me to have a greater appreciation for every genre I was exposed to.

     Once my mother saw that I was taking a real liking to the music, she soon began to explain the meaning behind many of the album covers that piqued my interest. Imagine seeing a man hanging out of a flying saucer (Mothership Connection) or being mesmerized by a Black Man who was later explained to me as Atlas holding up the globe (Slave). Being a visual learner, seeing and absorbing the cover art was equally important as the music itself. Earth, Wind, and Fire, Slave, and Parliament/Funkadelic each captured my imagination early on with their coded messaging in the music.

     All throughout the music of the aforementioned acts, laid certain ideals and perspectives  that allowed me to grow into a sense of consciousness that I’m sure I was far too young to understand at that time. I feel as if my mother knew that once I got older, I would return to each of these albums with more knowledge that I gained throughout my experience of just being a black boy living. As a kid, hearing “Get Up for the Down Stroke” sounds like it’s just a heavy bassline and fun grooves, until you turn 18 and register to vote and it hits you. Seeing pyramids and glyphs mixed with space technology( EWF’s Raise!) introduced me to the early concepts of Afro-Futurism that is just now becoming mainstream.

     Funk music on the surface seemed like fun music with infectious grooves, and kinetic energy pulsating  throughout it all, but that was indeed the candy. The ideals of being self-conscious, socially aware, fearless and uncompromising were and still are the medicine. Much of today’s music cannot be fully appreciated until you take that trip to the past and discover what the artists of today and yesterday are really trying to impart to us. Everything that you’ve learned about music as a tool is true. What you do with that information will make you a better artist/creative in the long run…If you so choose.

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Cookiee Kawaii….Is a Vibe

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     As the pandemic surges on throughout the country and the world for that matter, music has truly become the soundtrack to all of our lives. For better or for worse, the tunes of 2020 are shaping our loves, politics, ethics, and sheepishly…our morals. With Social Media at its peak, music has never been more accessible…more consumed…more appreciated. Entire sub-genres are gaining much deserved traction whereas ten years ago, they would have been seen as niche. “Jersey Club” is one such genre that has seen a surge in popularity over the past five years and with this bubbling smash “Vibe” from Cookiee Kawaii, things seem to be heading toward fever pitch territory.

     The “back it up” refrain that is heard throughout the entire song is already infectious enough to the point that it’s an instant earworm. But it’s the Frank and Ivanna Borin visual that tie it all together. With an elfin runtime of about 90 seconds, the sonic and colorful burst that is reminiscent of early Busta Rhymes and Missy Elliot videos pushes the nostalgia into high gear. Before you know it, you end up bringing back the video numerous times before you can say that you’re even tired of it. Both track and visual do A LOT of damage in a short period of time.

     Jersey Club is officially having a moment right now. A well deserved, long fought moment, as stated earlier, within the past five years, the sound has reached new ears and new heights. Alongside Cookiee there are peers that are also breaking new ground with the music and it is only a matter of time before everyone that’s putting in the work gets their time to shine. “Vibe” is more than just a viral sensation, it is the beginning of a sonic shift musically. The stars are aligning and the momentum is growing by day. Shouts to Cookiee Kawaii and to all of the Jersey Club Pioneers past and present, your time is now.

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J. Cole…Tone Police

   j-cole-retiring-e1569539965950        I wanted to write about J. Cole. I wanted to get on my pedestal and scream from the highest mountain top that he was right. I wanted to hold NoName to the fire for trying to weaponize her ideals against someone who has been seemingly doing the work. When Mike Brown was murdered in Ferguson, Missouri, J.Cole was visible, he was present, he donated time, sweat equity, his voice, and his platform to a cause that is STILL happening to this day. Hell he even made a song dedicated to the crime and captured the angst of the voiceless.

     I wanted to write a diatribe about men and women that used their social media platforms to criticize instead of having an actual discourse that would further understanding. I was livid, I couldn’t understand why people would want to hold “celebrities” to an unreal standard of morality and righteousness. I wanted to know what was the fascination with letting others speak for us, were we not capable?, did we not understand nuance and context? What was I missing?

     Then I decided to educate myself and research the definition of “Tone Policing” and what it meant to literally and figuratively silence or hush a black woman. Tone Policing is generally defined as an ad-hominem(personal attack or slight) based solely on criticizing a person for expressing emotion. Armed with this new found information I quickly went back to J. Cole ‘s song “Snow in the Bluff” which in itself is a response to the criticisms placed upon him and his peers. As I listened repeatedly, I tried to hear the point, the gotcha moment in which he deliberately told a black woman to watch her tone when speaking. Did that moment ever come?

      At this point I’m more confused than ever, I kept thinking to myself, what am I missing?, i’m normally very adept at picking these things apart and taking men to task for committing such acts. Did I miss the nuance? Do I not understand context? Was J.Cole that much of a wordsmith that even I couldn’t catch what he was really trying to do? I truly don’t have a cogent enough argument to speak against him or for him at this point.

     As I kept reading, I learned that people who accuse others of tone policing are in fact tone policing themselves. At what point can we have a healthy discourse? When can we listen to one another without listening to rebuttal but to actually gain a true understanding of what Black Women truly go through. I truly wanted to write about J.Cole, I wanted to say he was right and people just don’t understand him, I wanted to dismiss NoName wholeheartedly but I can’t in good conscience. I can truly say that with this situation, I don’t know how to feel, I don’t know the world in its entirety, I’ve done my best to be as informed as possible but this situation has me baffled to the point of questioning my own sensibilities. However I do know this much, NoName wasn’t wrong but neither was J.Cole.

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Billionaire Burke- Clear The Air (Album Review)

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     In these times of civil and global unrest, music, now more than ever, is playing a vital role in what has become our “ new normal”. In the past three months, the live experience has all but become an antiquated practice as millions of avid music listeners were quarantined in their homes. Many artists managed to navigate through these unparalleled times by heading to their places of solace…the studio. New York’s own Billionaire Burke is one such artist. He decided to channel that energy and head back into the studio to create a soundscape, a soundtrack that would set the tone for the coming months as cities and towns across the country begin to open.

       A little under a year has passed since Burke blessed us with his “Rise To Greatness”, so i’ll be the first to admit that his new project “Clear The Air” caught me by surprise. In these times however, visibility has become increasingly important so it was also a delight to see that there was new music from Burke to digest. The opening track “Dead Game” immediately sets the tone with its sparse instrumental and an airy but menacing vocal performance. The ad libs echo in and out after each bar and it becomes apparent that Billionaire was to truly clear the air and put the world on notice…We remember his name.

     The next two tracks “Whg5pty” and “Belly (Boom)” flow together so seamlessly that I didn’t realize I had n’t gotten past track three for about 30 minutes. Track 2 is that kind of song that will elicit a definite call and response if it is ever performed in a live setting. The grime-influenced beat will also be a sure fire winner as this song gains more traction in and around the city. Track is just flat out fun to me. Being socially distant will be hard when this comes on trust me on that.

     “Drill Sh*t” switches the tempo slightly as it sounds like Mid-00s East coast rap. I can appreciate the juxtaposition between current slang with the sound from a different time, upon first listen you wouldn’t think it would work but it does. “In My Bag” returns to the sound from the first three tracks and it’s a welcome sound and it allows the listener to understand why “Drill Sh*t” is in the middle of the project. To an average listener it may not mean much but to me and people like me, that attention to detail is greatly appreciated.

     The project closes out with “Broke Nightmares” and “Donkey Kong” respectively. Both songs offer a glimpse into Burke’s true motivations and his steadfast refusal to fail. The energy of the project is evident throughout its entirety and can be viewed as a supplementary addition to “Rise To Greatness” or as a standalone project that can easily hold its own weight. Billionaire Burke has delivered a quality project that has tons of replay value. Even with its 20 minute runtime, “Clear The Air” still feels complete. I’m normally a stickler for project length but if there is one thing that this pandemic has taught me, is that sometimes, less is more.

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AllstarrDaGreat’s “Randy Foye”

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     With the novel coronavirus “Covid-19” leaving sports nation and worldwide in shambles for the past three months, it comes as no surprise that many sports fans have found alternative methods to past the time. Some have turned to gaming online, others competitive bingo, while others like Newark, New Jersey’s own AllstarDaGreat (ADG for short) turned that competitive fervor into song form with “Randy Foye”, An ode to the retired NBA star who is also a Newark native. At first listen you may think that the song only pays him name a drop or that the hook would be a repetitive slosh of cliche metaphors, But as you delve deeper into the track you’ll see that is much more that ADG has in store for your ears.

     Randy Foye was born on September 24, 1983 and attended East Side High School. It was here where he would be selected as New Jersey Player of the Year and subsequently recruited by Villanova. While there he would go on to have an extremely productive collegiate career.

Upon entering the NBA in 2006 Foye would be selected seventh overall by the Boston Celtics before landing finally with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Foye would finish his career with the Brooklyn Nets in the 2016-2017 season.

     As one of the standout tracks from ADG’s phenomenal album “Godspeed”, it was made clear from the opening that the in-game audio of a game in which Randy Foye was the focal point of an offense that ultimately resulted in a game winning shot, displayed parallels between art and life.During the track he weaves in and out of the beat with metaphors that drew a parallel between his and Randy’s life artistically. Hailing from the same area, it’s hard not to see the similarities between both ADG and Randy so it feels like the perfect tandem of art imitating life and vice versa. And in true point guard fashion, ADG dishes the rock to Benny the Butcher for sweet assist that ends the track off powerfully.

     Overall AllstarDaGreat’s has a penchant for great storytelling, internal rhymes schemes, and wordplay that is deceptively great. I caught myself rewinding certain lines to make sure I heard them correctly and to make sure I caught the double entendre. As a tribute, I can’t think of a better track that encapsulates the gritty realism that is Newark, New Jersey and all of the artists and athletes that call the city home. As an actual song, it’s truly one of the better ones that has been released in 2020. And since we still have a few more days if not weeks of Covid-19 quarantine left, it wouldn’t hurt to give “Godspeed” the album a spin, you’ll be pleased with the outcome I can assure you.

 

 

 

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Drake’s Demos

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May 1st at 12:00am Eastern Time,Drake and his team over at OVO  came through with a 14 track “project” known as  “Dark Lane Demo Tapes”.  At first glance some may be led to believe to that this more of  we got on “More Life” but instead its feels more like an enhanced  version of  “Care Package” Not to say that these are entirely bad songs, in fact much of it is unreleased or “leaked” tracks and a “few new vibes” as he tells it. Essentially these are tracks would otherwise be seen as B-sides.  A primer to set us up for whats to come in the coming months as we head toward the half way point of  2020.  I think we can safely call Dark Lane a mixtape without people screaming at us. But as Drake once said, “Dropped the mixtape, the sh*t sounded like an album.

This wasn’t the only piece of content that Drake and co. laid on us today. Along with this project, He made an announcement that an album is very much in the works and should be out this summer. Considering that it’ll be a full 2 years since 2018’s “Scorpion”, it seems as if Drake may be turning his October Gang membership in lieu of summer time dominance. I’m sure the coming weeks will bring us much more information in terms of track listings and an album title.  I am definitely looking forward to a official release from OVO’s head honcho because this appetizer didn’t do much in terms of whetting my palette. Here’s hoping the “new ting” is something innovative and not more of the same old Drake being on cruise control.

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Ja v. 50…The Best Battle Yet?

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In one the strangest turn of events, it appears that Ja Rule wants to get in on all of the “VERZUZ” battles. Sunday while on a Instagram live chat with Fat Joe,  Mr. Atkins all but confirmed that he is willing to go “Hit for Hit” against the once equally dominant 50 Cent. I’m quite sure that this is a play to garner much needed attention for Ja’s charity work which while commendable, makes you wonder what his true intentions are. He even went as far to insist that he would “behave” and that his love for the culture of Hip-Hop would ensure that this would indeed be a friendly competition. Swizz Beatz has every right to be leary given 50 and Ja’s storied past which easily surpassed 20 years at this point.

The tale of the tape does not favor either of them at the moment as both had an equal stronghold on the game albeit at separate times in their careers. Some may even go as far to say that 50 actually ended Ja Rule career and spent the early part of his career ensuring that would be the case. At one point both artists were Hip-Hop titans in their own right with their own respective crews. As a fan of Hip-Hop it always bothered me that the two could never truly mend their differences and create music together. Here’s hoping that 50 accepts the challenge and that this could truly be the beginning of a reconciliation for the two icons of rap. The culture would be much better for it.

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The New Tory?

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Tory Lanez is a now a free man! With the release of his latest project, “The New Toronto 3” Tory has now fulfilled all contractual obligations to Interscope Records. It seems that “5” was the magic number in this sense, meaning that was the number of albums or projects that was needed to be released  from his deal. What normally takes artists of his caliber damn near their entire career, literally took Tory four short years to complete. In that time span he managed to build his already burgeoning following organically which resulted in a steady and sustainable fan base that will serve will well with future releases.

The question remains however, what will Tory do with this new lease on musical output? In recent months past, he became increasing vocal about label issues and not having full control over his concepts which stifled his creativity. His loudest declaration came just four months ago with the release of “Chixtape 5”. With that drop he stated that “this was the closest he’s been able to give”. Meaning that from the inception to release, he felt he was able to keep a modicum of creative control and felt at peace with the project somewhat.  Now that Tory is a free agent with complete and total creative control of his music from this point on, I wonder what he has in store for his fans and critics alike. Enjoy The New Toronto 3!

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The Purple Tape

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 Now I know what some of you are thinking…”The Purple Tape” is only Built for Cuban Links.  Those three words are reserved for Raekwon The Chef, Ghostface Killah and any other Wu affiliates that may have been features on his classic debut album. However, if you’re a music nerd like myself and are reading this, then I would hope that you understand that there is another connotation that is associated with the color purple. The moment you press play it will become abundantly clear that The Purple Tape is an ode to the “Chopped and Screwed” subculture of Hip-Hop.

     Since the early 1990’s Robert Earl Davis Jr. best known as “DJ Screw” pioneered the technique of slowing down the tempo of popular hip-hop songs of the time. He achieved this sound by slowing tracks to 60 and 70 quarter note beats per minute. Once the optimal tempo was reached, he would then begin to apply record scratching, and stop-time effects. This would become known nationally as “Chopping” or “Screwed Up Music”. DJ Screw single-handedly created a genre and a legacy that lives on till this day.

     After his initial creation, other DJ’s in the Houston area would soon adopt the style and created their own chopped versions of songs throughout the region.  DJ Michael “5000” Watts emerged with his Swishahouse team along with OG Ron C with The Chopstars. Together Michael Watts and Ron C would form Swishahouse records and launch the careers of artists like Chamillionaire, Mike Jones, Paul Wall, Slim Thug. Still on the Southside of Houston, DJ Screw had “The Screwed Up Click”, a collective which included the likes of Lil Keke, Trae Tha Truth, Z-Ro, Big Moe, Fat Pat, Big Pokey, Big Hawk, Big Mello and a few others.

     The three DJ’s would continue to cultivate the sound until DJ Screw’s untimely death in November 16th, 2000. Since then, the sound created by Screw has managed to reach national appeal while still maintaining its sub genre classification. Unfortunately the dark side of the music is the forefront of the drug epidemic that is currently plaguing the country. The abuse has reached critical mass in the past 5 years with the death of other Hip-Hop artists, Most notably Pimp C, Big Moe and Fredo Santana. Admittedly these deaths were not entirely related to the drug but its use did contribute. Another notable artist Lil Wayne who openly discussed the drug in his music was reportedly hospitalized for seizures after repeated Drank abuse.

      Ironically DJ Screw himself denounced the use of Drank as it was not the ingredient that helped him to create the sound. It was merely a recreational vice that grew in popularity at the same time as the music. In ending, the legacy that DJ Screw left continues to be upheld by the aforementioned Chop DJ’s and a host of others throughout the country. November 16th will mark the 20th anniversary of DJ Screw’s death and I have no doubts that there will be a major celebration in Houston, Texas and throughout the world. Long Live DJ Screw, Long Live Chopped and Screwed Music…NahImsayin?!

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The Three 6 Effect

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     The influence of Three 6 Mafia is at an all time high in terms of cultural relevance. From visual aesthetics to sonic reinterpretations of their music, The Mafia has managed to be “The Most Known Unknowns” for virtually 30 years. It’s a rather surreal and sobering moment for many of the 30 somethings out there that grew up on The Hypnotized Minds. The Tear the Club Thugs pioneered a style and sound that managed to permeate popular culture all while staying true to their underground roots while simultaneously achieving critical acclaim. 

     My earliest recollection of “The Backyard Posse” had to be around 1997 when they attempted “World Domination”. I was sitting at home being a kid, watching “The Box”  when the channel did their periodical most requested videos of the week. It was at that point when I was exposed to “Tear da Club Up 97”. The red tint and fish eyed lens video did enough to captivate me and my friends as we immediately called each other on the phone and ask feverishly if we all saw the same thing at the same time. The legend of the song only grew larger to me once I found out that the song was banned from being played at clubs in the south due to actual destruction of said clubs. To the parents of that generation it was a disgrace, but to the 11 and 12 year olds like us, it was a badge of honor….it was Hip-Hop.

     As The Mafia Six entered the new millennium, they not only upped the ante with their music, but continued to introduce me to other legends like Project Pat, La Chat, Lil Wyte and Frayser Boy. There was absolutely no escaping the sound that DJ Paul and Juicy J created in the early 90’s and the success of the aforementioned acts was proof of that. Project Pat alone had at least back two back Hip-Hop Classics with “Ghetty Green” and “Mista Don’t Play: Everythang’s Workin”. Both of those albums spawned regional and subsequently national notoriety. I truly believe that both of his albums helped plant the seeds of modern day trap music.

     Currently, female rappers owe a great deal of gratitude to Gangsta Boo and La Chat respectively. Rappers like, Meg The Stallion, The City Girls, and Cardi B have been directly influenced by their unabashed lyricism. What was seen as a novelty then, is all the rage now. Although some would even argue that it wasn’t a novelty as many of the male rappers hold Gangsta Boo in high regard to this day. I for one refuse to tell the Three 6 Mafia story without Gangsta Boo and La Chat, it’s virtually impossible.

     2020 looks like it will be the year in which the entire Killa Clan will get their flowers. There are a string of songs that have dropped within the past year that borrow heavily from the entire collective. Acts like A$AP Mob and Raider Kllan who have been 3 6 stalwarts since their inception have been largely responsible for the present day resurgence of appreciation that we are all currently experiencing. It’s a wonderful time to see them get their just due and an even better time to share this with new ears for years to come. ONE TIME FOR THE MAFIA!!

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The Death of Celebrity

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Tuesday night,  D’Anthony Carlos best known as Goldlink took to his Instagram account to post an otherwise highly confusing passage about his “late friend” Mac Miller. Within the caption, Goldlink goes on to to wax poetic about the times in which “they weren’t on the best of terms” and that how much if not all of his 2015 project “And After That, We Didn’t Talk” directly influenced Mac Miller’s 2016’s project “The Divine Feminine”. Many people did not take too kindly to his seemingly innocuous post about Mac Miller because many saw it as disrespect, namely Anderson .Paak.

The question begs though, why are people up in arms about the words of a man who seems to have a gripe with a now deceased artist? Fans and friends alike of the late rapper are raking Goldlink over the coals for his “tactless” and jealously laced mini rant about a man who he appeared to love. What is the hidden rule of thumb that prohibits any one from speaking ill of the dead publicly? For all we know, Goldlink could of very well had a real grievance with Mac Miller and truly did not see anything wrong with what he posted because to him, it was mainly a post that was used for his own therapy.

Admittedly I am not the biggest fan of Mac Miller or his music (save for a few loose songs here and there) but I can definitely understand where his fans are coming from in terms of defending something or someone that is close to one’s heart.  I am not ignorant to the fact that had it been someone I did care about, my sensitivity to the subject would also spike in interest. I feel like the point of contention for me is the “WHY?” Why did Goldlink do what he did? Sure there is a bit of context that can be gleaned from his post, but what is equally head scratching to me and people like me is what is the point of it all.

To be clear however, I do feel what Goldlink did was indeed done in poor taste and I agree with the notion that he could have easily discussed said grievances with Mac Miller while he was still alive. The fact remains though, he decided against that and here we are at this present day and time pondering his true motives.  It is also not lost upon me that Goldlink himself has been accused of “being inspired” by and helping himself to other creative’s artistic output. This added wrinkle to the overall expanding narrative creates even more of an question mark as to why he even bothered to say anything in the first place.

The lingering question which is at the forefront of all this hubbub is…What is the time limit in which a person famous or not can speak on the dead without fear of backlash. At what point can anyone say anything that could actually be the truth albeit unpopular without being “cancelled” or largely ignored. The precedent that I’ve seen be set over the past 48 hours is dangerous to me. Has the world become so censored and politically correct to the point where we ALL have to go along just to get along? How will this affect the future of freedom of speech and artistic merit. I fear this is the beginning of the end. The Death of Celebrity.

 

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The Hottest in Charge 19: A Letter From Rap Nerd Leeb.

 

 

  When Blades and Bars was created, the initial mission statement was to give a platform to artists from New Jersey and the surrounding areas. Never in our wildest dreams did we believe that the outcome would be a platform that is rapidly growing into something that is going to take the world by storm. From one meeting in a small lounge, founding members AJ and Rap Nerd Leeb devised a plan that would take months to come into fruition. However once the third and final member Fonz joined the crew, the vision became solidified and we were all off to the races.

     Numerous recordings and on the spot interviews we conducted with various artists,athletes, and overall movers and shakers helped to prepare and mold us. These interactions would eventually evolve into our first annual “Hottest In Charge” photoshoot and subsequent cover with a few of the artists that we worked with to this point. In what felt like a seamless experience, every artist was very giving of their time to help bring our vision to life. Without them, our vision would have been nothing more than a notion or an unattainable dream.

 

     Each artist chosen for the cover was born from actual relationships that were fostered between the platform and all that was involved. They ALL brought something different to the table and the energy that was present created something that was uniquely dynamic. As stated earlier, the main purpose was to showcase the different sounds of New Jersey and the surrounding areas. It is truly a melting pot of styles and aesthetics that could only have been made possible with the confidence, understanding, and most importantly faith in the bigger picture.

     On behalf of the Blades and Bars crew, we would like to personally thank the following:

 

Felix Natal Jr.

Meghan Gochin

Dre Skuffs

Cony

J Whoody

J.Liu

J1DA

Laady J

Unicorn 151

Daidough

Apollo Rai

Dyce Payso

Gucci Boy Barz

 

     Without any of you, We would not be possible. The rising tide raises ALL ships. Thank You.

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For Ermias Joseph Asghedom…And Me

nipsey hero

 

  Ermias Joseph Asghedom (August 15, 1985 – March 31, 2019), known professionally as Nipsey Hussle (often stylized as Nipsey Hu$$le), was an American rapper, entrepreneur, and community activist. These are the first words you see when you type in his name on Wikipedia, or a google search with Wikipedia being the first link you see most times. No matter how many times I’ve read those first words, I’m still not fully comfortable with seeing his date of passing. Of course in this life, death is the only real constant that we have, but it doesn’t make it any easier to cope with.

      As a rapper, Nipsey made music that was most times inspirational to me and had been for quite some time. My earliest memory of that inspiration came at a random moment in 2013 on the “Crenshaw” mixtape. It was towards the end of the track “Face the World” when he said:

 

“Regardless what you into,

Regardless what you been through,

I feel like I got to tell you, you got something to contribute.”

 

As the song faded out, the words “something to contribute” purposefully echoed in the distance as the instrumental played on to completion. It was in that instance that I realized that even though I had been listening to him for a while at that point, That was the first time I actually HEARD him. It was a liberating experience.

     I’ve always had this way about myself in which I was drawn to MC’s that were either my age directly or in my immediate age range. It just something about being born between the years of 83 to 87 that spoke to a collective experience that many born outside of that range simply wouldn’t understand fully. We are the generation that is arguably the first “Hip-Hop” Generation and it shows in every facet of the genre. There  was a special kinship that artist and fan had developed which made Nipsey’s music powerful and relatable.

     As an entrepreneur, Nipsey Hussle was leading by example in that regard. His early “All Money In, No Money Out” initiative etched out a blueprint that spoke to ownership of one’s own work and how ownership could lead to overall financial empowerment. It also spoke to keeping the dollar in our communities by way of reinvesting. When an idea makes sense and there is actual movement behind it, it won’t be long before other investors recognize the good and want to become a part of the solution. This entrepreneurial spirit would then lead Nipsey to other and in some eyes more radical endeavors.

     Those endeavors would speak to the remainder of Nipsey’s life as an activist. Buying the property on which The Marathon Store stood, it showed the people of the community of Creshshaw that it was indeed possible to come from an area that was seen as downtrodden and rise from those circumstances to create and be more. Realizing that his community was also an under served area for education and resources,a communal work space known as Vector 90 was born. The intent of Vector 90 was to introduce children and young creatives to S.T.E.M. programs which would further empower and strengthen all who was involved. 

     Lastly, Nipsey Hussle was going to be involved in talks with the LAPD and local gangs to find a solution to and ultimately quell racial tensions and gang violence. This meeting would have been monumental if it came to fruition because in my eyes it would have brought him full circle in his quest to make real change in the community that he grew up in and was very much still a part of.

     August 15th would have been Nipsey Hussle’s 34th birthday and to say all that he accomplished in that period of time is nothing short of remarkable is a severe understatement. The fact that these ideas were mere notions 10 years ago proved more than inspirational for someone like me. To be able to chronicle his rise and relate it to my own life is something that I for one will hold on to for years to come. Following the words and messages that he left behind, it’s clear to me now more than ever that nothing is impossible or out of reach. All we have to do is to pace ourselves. Happy Birthday Nipsey, The Marathon Continues….

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The Blacker the Milk

       Curtis Eugene Cross best known as “Black Milk” is arguably one of the best and most prolific Producers/Rappers in the game today. You would be hard pressed to find another artist of his caliber with the same amount of output and if you can, it’s a very short list. With a career spanning roughly 15 years at this point, listening to his sound progress over that time has been nothing short of remarkable. From his early days of sampling and looping soul breaks, Black has seemingly reinvented himself sound wise and I’m sure personally every year he’s been active in Hip-Hop.

     Admittedly, I was a bit late to the party because I didn’t know who he was until about 2007 when he released his 2nd full length LP “Popular Demand”. That year was particularly difficult for me because I had just purchased my first iPod and was in the middle of transitioning from physical media to MP3s. To be frank, I was a mess. I was literally adding tons of songs to my iTunes Library on a Home PC while still reading liner notes from the new CD’s that I was still purchasing.

    The CD in question that I was listening to was “Detroit Deli” by Slum Village. While painstakingly waiting for all those songs to Upload to my library in bulk, I found myself reading the liner notes of the album and began to think to myself, Who in the world is BR Gunna?! I had to restart my PC because it was 6 or 7 years old at the time so the minute I opened up a new window it would freeze. At any rate once it reloaded, I did a Google search on who he was, foolishly assuming that it was one person. Much to my surprise it was a Duo consisting of Young RJ and Black Milk. Further research from that point led me to Popular Demand and two of his earlier works “Broken Wax” and “Sound of the City Vol. 1”

     His sound immediately cut through as I was entrenched in the dirty drum patterns and perfectly imperfect soul sample chops on all three of those projects. It was in these moments that I became a fan of Black Milk. In the subsequent years, he would go on to be even more prolific by dropping four straight sonic masterpieces. On top of the solo efforts, he sprinkled in side projects that were equally great sonically and lyrically. His prodigious output during the time frame of 2008 through 2014 only solidified my fandom.

     It was in those years including 2008 where he would go on to release the following:

Tronic-2008

Caltroit (with Bishop Lamont)-2008

The Set Up (with Fat Ray)-2008

The Preface (with Elzhi)-2008

Album of the Year-2010

Random Axe(with Sean Price and Guilty Simpson)-2011

Black and Brown (with Danny Brown)-2011

No Poison, No Paradise-2013

Burning Stones (with Mel)-2013

If There’s a Hell Below-2014

Glitches in the Break-2014

    In the present day I still run and tell anyone who will listen to me that Black is the truth at producing AND rhyming. I knew back in 2007 that he would be lauded in the future because there would be thousands of people just like me that would soon discover his music for themselves and undoubtedly share the same feeling I felt way back when. In recent history Black Milk has gone on to release four more projects since 2016 with 2019’s “DiVe EP” being his most recent solo effort. In ending, I believe it’s safe to say that Curtis Eugene Cross will continue on his path of reinventing his sound while simultaneously staying true to his core. Black Milk is an unstoppable force AND an immovable object.

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J1da-Tc5:Free from the Past(Album Review)

Image result for J.1.Da Tc5: Free from the Past

     The past few days have really gave new meaning to the term “Dog Days of Summer”. With temperatures reaching triple digits in some areas, the clear objective was to stay hydrated as much as possible. I know you’re probably asking me “Leeb, what does the weather have to do with J1da’s latest project Tc5: Free From the past?” I admit I am a way better journalist than meteorologist but trust me it makes sense in my mind. Follow me for a bit.

     The projects opens with the poignant “Love From my Brother” intro. I don’t have to do much in the way of explaining the intro because these are words from the man himself. It is a message of brotherly love and light and is a welcome departure from normal music driven introductions. It feels as if he is pulling back the veil and letting us into his world.

     The album’s official opener is the piano laden thumper “You Decide”. J1da wasted no time taking rappers to task on how he feels about them. It’s normal braggadocio rap but with his vocal tone and his lyrical assuredness, it comes across as a cool confidence and you better believe he will not be shaken.

     “Free” offers much of the same in terms of confidence but don’t mistake that for “swag rapping”. Once you bust down the lines, he along with Solis drop gem after gem about mental health and the stressors of living in this world. Sinai Rose adds sweet song vocals to the song which rounds out the track nicely.

     “Tonite” is the third straight thumper and pairs J1da with the vicious Laady J. Both prove that they are lyrically sharp and will be a hard out for any poor souls that dare to try and out rap them. Their respective tones complement each other superbly and this song in particular offers much replay value. I found myself running this back a few times.

     “Eye X3” is ridiculous!  The sense of urgency on the initial verse is palpable as the beat rises like a roller coaster and as soon as it creeps to the top, the beat switches and J goes off on a tear. His voice cuts through the low growl of the 808s as he gives us an unrelenting  performance…AND THENNNN! The beat switches again to a much more jubilant melody. J is still menacing on the track though and it proves for a very enjoyable listen. Much props to the producer, the third beat is a sample I recognized from Talib Kweli’s “Everything Man” off his Eardrum LP. Dope.

     “Upside Man (Interlude)” is where J takes his gloves off and proclaims his dominance over the rap game. I for one am here for it because Rap by and large is competitive. So if you’re rapping and you don’t feel like you’re the best at any given moment, there is absolutely no reason to rap, ever. My only gripe is the length of the song. I admit that I’m greedy but I wanted two more verses to add to the fire that he was already spewing.

     “Like That” is a tonal switch which is at the halfway point of the project. Normally I skip the obligatory “girl track” but there is something about this one that is different. The beat is supremely infectious and J1da wastes no time professing his love for the lady in life. This song feels like a calm summer night with a perfect temperature and equally perfect breeze, just perfect.

     “Keys from Samad” is another audio Skit, with Samad Savage. It’s a minute worth of jewels that I won’t tell you how to interpret as it is pretty straight forward with the message that he is conveying. You just have to listen for yourself and take the gems that resonate with you.

     “Self Therapy” carries the same energy as the previous skit but adds more flare to it with brassy horns and and crispy drums. I am trying to refrain from spewing nothing but superlatives but listen, this track is fire and I know that I am not doing it justice by saying that. Another short track grates my nerves a bit but I have to understand that sometimes brevity is best.

     “Prove It” is for all intents and purposes the sequel to the “Like That”, I say sequel because it offers the flip side to an otherwise blossoming situation. It has J stepping out of his comfort zone flow wise here but it works. The urgency in his voice this time speaks to the potential loss of said love interest. Blaze the Rebel comes through with the assist on the track and offers his perspective. Songs like this always work best when both artists are on the same wavelength artistically. The cohesion is on full display here.

     “Just Right”- Is the polar opposite of the previous track. It’s not jarring to my ears because I am a fan of contrast but I can see how it be off putting to some listeners. It’s a good song but its doesn’t necessarily fit the tone of this project as a whole. 

     “Sober”-  Brings the familiar feel of the project back. J and Brickside Leem trade rapid fire flows and an awesome hook about the ills of living in an environment that is less than favorable  and how some people will self medicate to numb the pain. Great song.

     “Great” closes the album out with, J1da actualizing his true potential on the mic. Declaring that he knows that he’s great means more to who he is as a man than an MC. You can see it from both angles depending on your perspective and overall mood in that moment. Awesome closer.

     In ending, “Tc5:Free from the Past”  is a refreshing listen. There wasn’t a bar wasted on any song, and you will leave this project with a sense of clarity. Reviewing the album was very much akin to being in triple digit degree weather for the majority of your day and returning home to the tallest glass of water, iced tea or lemonade. This album is every bit of the thirst quencher that I’m saying it is. Don’t believe me, go ahead and press play then get back to me, I’ll be here, I promise.