The Hunt For Black ROCKTober

  In the late 40’s and early 50’s, A new genre of music was being formed. The days of Jazz and Doo-Wop began to grow shorter as architects such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Fats Domino, Lloyd Price, Big Joe Turner, Louis Jordan, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley began to fuse powerhouse gospel vocals and equally heavy instrumentation. It was this fusion that formed the genre that would become known as “Rock and Roll”.

Mainly seen as another offshoot of “black music”, it went largely unnoticed by the mainstream media of the time. All of this began to change when a prominent DJ  named Alan Freed began to play those records on his radio show and subsequently coining the term “Rock and Roll” which was actually a slang term for sexual relations. Rock as a genre was in full swing by the time artists like Elvis Presley became “influenced” by and began recording his own versions of Black rock songs like, “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” by Lloyd Price and “Hound Dog” by Big Mama Thorton.

By 1955, Rock music was a legitimate force in pop culture as it was the leading sound of choice by teenagers across America. The number one record in the country at the time was “Tweedle Dee” by Laverne Baker with Ray Charles and Bo Diddley coming in at numbers 3 and 6 respectively. Elvis, The “King of Rock” was number 10. To his credit, he never explicitly stated that he invented the genre but was influenced by the originators, as evidenced by his numerous covers.

     Once Rolling Stone Magazine came to prominence in the mid 60’s, they took it upon themselves to rewrite history and began to whitewash the entire genre. Much of the publication’s early rise  was due to the visual component. Purposely placing White Rock artists on the cover and throughout the magazine sowed the seeds that would further push Rock’s rightful creators to the back while their white counterparts received the lion’s share of the credit. As recently as 2004, Rolling Stone, in conjunction with Miller Beer came under heavy scrutiny for a promotion that commemorated the 50th anniversary of Rock and Roll. The promotion included 8 “Icons” of Rock without a single mention of the Black Originators.

     In my hunt for a “Black Rocktober” I decided to curate a list of the modern day rock scene. Although long gone are the days of mainstream Rock dominance, the face of the genre is still seen as white. Every song featured on this list are from bands that are predominantly black, or have black lead singers that are male or female. I was deliberate in my approach as I wanted to encompass the different subgenres that are now considered Rock. My message is also deliberate….Rock and Roll is Still Black Music and this playlist is the aural testament of that fact……..Rock On.           

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.

 

 

 

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!

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?!

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!!

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.

 

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.

For Ermias Joseph Asghedom…And Me

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  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….