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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The New Tory?

The New Tory

 

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!