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.

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.

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.

 

 

 

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.

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.