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.

Drake’s Demos

Drake-album-768x432

 

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?

ja-rule-50-cent-beef

 

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

Image result for purple cassette tape

 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 Death of Celebrity

Image result for goldlink

 

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

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….

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.