A blog about hip-hop, rap music, its trends, and an overall thought about the music an culture, without indulging in gossip. A real set of opinions and discussions, not based on the popular sentiment, but examining and challenging it.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Where's Buffy?

If you follow me on twitter one of the podcasts I have been vocal about promoting and talking about is The Where's Buffy podcast. Where's Buffy is a men's lifestyle podcast that goes over Hip-Hop, some of the latest topics, sports and the like. I had the opportunity to go on with them and take part in this week's conversation. It was a cool experience. Dale and Earl, aka Fat Boy Dizz and Ill Fam 79 were prepared and ready to work as usual with strong opinions. If you haven't done it yet, go check them out at their website Wheresbuffy.com .

Too Much Material

As the music industry has changed, and distribution been totally turned over on its head, the lines have become blurred between official releases, street albums and mixtapes. Truthfully the difference doesn't matter as much as the fact that artists no longer need labels and large amounts of money to mass produce a bunch of cd's and buy marketing in the hip hop publications before you drop something. The big artists have all followed the true independents and when they decide to drop, do little more than go to twitter and instagram and announce when a project is coming out. Then it's available for download and that's not to mention the random singles that drop every day. Point blank the game is flooded.

Let's look at this past week, Fabolous and Lil Wayne both had mix tapes that they "scheduled" for Thanksgiving. So that's already two full length projects to go grab and find the time to listen to, if you want. This is also following the previous week which saw Jadakiss drop an official album, which was one week after Young Jeezy dropped. Now, in addition to the expected, Erykah Badu, who while not a rapper has a huge following within the hip-hop community dropped a mix tape as well, which while it got some publicity, could be considered upstaged by the joint Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole release on Black Friday.  hell, Trey Songz, Chris Brown and Rick Ross have all put out projects in the past four days, and they are all for free.

If you are a fan this could be the golden season or a new golden era where anything you want to hear is available to you. On the other hand, there are a lot of people who seem to feel the need to try and listen to as many of these as they can and that can turn it to be daunting because no one wants to miss anything. The other downside is nothing sticks with you, it's all in one ear and out of the other and you don't get the time to sit and live with anything beyond the first few moments when it comes out. If a project doesn't grab you immediately, then how much time will you give it and how many chances will you take to actually see if it's worth listening to if the next day someone is telling you that you have to hear the latest Yo Gotti, or Boosie, or whomever is dropping at that moment?

This is part of the reason that albums don't mean anything to people anymore and end up being so disappointing. A flood on the market which waters everything down for the most part and the few artists who do take the time to make something of an above average quality either get slurped so hard that some lose respect for them, or they get washed aside in the vast amount of superficial and easily digestible content. These are things that we will have to continue to struggle against in order to find some sense of balance. I think this is bad for the industry, lowering value both artistically and monetarily. It also makes the average fan way more critical from the jump as they rush to try and consume as much content as possible instead of consuming the best content. What do you think about the amount of music that is coming out on a regular basis?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Album Review- Jadakiss - Top 5 Dead or Alive

Jadakiss to me is a highly polarizing rapper. I cannot deny that he has some skills and there are some who would put him top 10 or even top 5. That seems to have gone to his head if you look at the title of his latest solo project. For me, Kiss isn't full or consistent enough for me to consider him to be an artist of that caliber. As a member of the Lox he has both been around for a long time and put out quality songs but there is nothing about him that makes me clamor for him to drop records. The question is can this new album change my mind?

The album starts with a quintessential NY rap sound on "First 48" where Kiss starts talking in his normal way to give love to the streets before going into a long verse that is designed to show off his skills and there are some good couplets but also some that are just filler and on a track like this with the pedigree that he has and is trying to reinforce there should have been more wordplay that's intricate. "You Don't Eat" fits in with the Jada narrative as he raps about how to survive or make it in the streets, how to get it or 'eat' as it may be. I like the production on the track. The thing is that Kiss is so monotone and face it, boring at times he makes songs like "Man in The Mirror" which has a terrible corny hook and uninspired bars like "You can do the math on that and do the science too".

Now it wouldn't be a kiss album if he didn't have a track where he goes back and forth with Styles P, which occurs on "Synergy" and it's just old. I mean the lyrics are simplified so much to make the back and forth seamless and easy to mix and the attempt to have an epic beat falls a bit flat. I do like "Ain't Nothing New" however, which features Ne-Yo and Nipsey Hussle and a track that seems to be balanced well and also reminds me of 70's black exploitation flicks with its bass line. "Kill" with Lil Wayne reminds me a little bit of the Rick Ross and Wayne song "John" and I don't like the lame hook again and Wayne is alright.

Swizz comes through on "Jason" and he tries to mix in some of the political phrases of the past year, yet talks about having a gun on him. I guess it's supposed to be a juxtaposition or something they consider artistic but it's just trying to cash in on what's going on and if Jada had said something political maybe this would have made some sense. "youthful Offenders" had potential but Kiss is extra lazy with superficial descriptions of young guys in the hood who end up in the system and doesn't get into anything deeper than that. The hook is generic Akon as well.

"You Can See" with Future, and "So High" are just filler to appeal to the southern and smoker demographics really. I didn't like "Critical" with Jeezy. It just didn't feel right to me. "Cutlass" actually works better for that required southern joint. The beat is infectious as is the hook. "Realest in the Game" with Young buck and Styles has too much going on for me. "Rain" is average and "One More Mile to Go" isn't bad.

Listening to Jadakiss is very trying for me. His voice while once  cool because it is so unique has become a bit grating because he doesn't do anything to break things up, no new flow patterns, inflections, or unique song constructions to help it out. Topically I don't expect much, and didn't get much from Jada. It is somewhat disappointing that nothing has really changed or improved in all of this time. The numerous skits on the album were annoying because they were neither funny, nor added any atmosphere and his trademark ad lib is overused ridiculously. For Kiss, to really seem to believe he is a top 5 rapper dead or alive is a sign of both is confidence, yet a large amount of hubris as well. There is no way reasonably a guy who cannot string together more than 2 quality verses on a song can be considered top 5. I know there was some buzz and a lot of hardcore hip-hop fans just love Kiss but this record won't get more than three spins max before it gets moved to the back of the bin. Give me an old Lox album over this any day.

Rating: 2/5

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Independent Wednesday - Rap 4 Breakfast

Today is just a quick stop but not my normal review because this artist is my boy from way back Japiro. It wouldn't be fair for me to go and review for those reasons because I am admittedly biased. What I will say is that other people are giving some positive reviews. If you want some hip-hop without a bunch of murder bars that is a bit more mature then this is an album you should check out and enjoy. Available for stream on Bandcamp and Spotify as well as full purchase download on the normal services Go and take a listen to Baltimore's Japiro , "Rap 4 Breakfast"

For more on Japiro, visit his website here: http://japiro.com/

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Independent Wednesday

This week the first artist is Khali Fresco.Coming from Phoenix, Arizona, he still has a west coast inspired flow but there is also some of the southern style and maybe a specific taste of the bay area in his sound. This video for "Boobie Miles" is an aggressive straight up rap to show his skills. I also checked out a video he had on worldstar called "Fresco Over Everything" and it's much of the same. While he does have a good feel for how to kind of spit, he sounds polished and ready and has some of the braggadcious rap down pat that is popular, I would need to hear something of substance and content to really give him a nod of approval. A one off song here or there, is cool but it doesn't say anything about who he is and that's what I need.

The second artist this week comes by way of Miami and I didn't hear any actual songs but he goes by the name of Bogart - classic rap name actually and he is currently working on a series of 50 freestyles in 50 days. Now most of them are pretty decent but of course the nostalgia from some of the beats helps out. I would prefer artists who aren't established don't do these series because they aren't going to make you a name unless you absolutely destroy the verses and even still it doesn't mean that you will be able to make a good or complete song. Back to Bogart he has a classic flow and sound so when he drops some other songs it will be worth a chance to take a listen and see if he can carry the skills over.

Now this week we will wrap up with one of the more unique feels I have gotten from an artist in a while with Mayde and his song "I Need More" which started off awkwardly to me but I couldn't stop listening to it. It is more positive and uplifting although the sound of it is a bit haunting. His sort of different feel has to be influenced by his background, hailing from West Africa by way of Seattle and LA you can tell he has a slightly more worldly sound. He has a free EP for download called "Magna Cum Laude" and I really have to give it a thorough listen because I think there is something cool here but I haven't had the time to go through it yet. For me this guy has the "it" factor though he might need some help to direct it and really hit his golden spot.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Album Review- Puff Daddy- MMM

So Puff aka Diddy aka Puffy aka Puff Daddy aka Sean john Combs is out with a new project and a new distribution deal. This isn't all either as this newest album, MMM for "Money Making Mitch" is a preview of sorts for the next album, which is to be called "No Way Out 2". It also has a lot of the feel of the 90's era and the Bad Boy joints that came out to get the label off of the ground.

The album starts off with a skit where Puff explains the theory behind Money Making Mitch before going into the first song which is aptly titled "Harlem" and features Gizzle. The track has a much harder edge than we have been used to Diddy using recently. However the song goes against the idea of who Puff is even though he is trying to embody this character persona. The verse at the end by Gizzle is decent though. "Help me" with Sevyn Streeter has this dark undertone but it also feature P.D. (or is it Mitch?) talking about hustling dope on the streets.

The title track features Future and King Los. I know Future is what's hot in the street, and the hook is passable but I can't get with him myself honestly. Puff has a slow and simple flow that tries to get over with his arrogance and the catchy bass line. It's obvious Future penned these bars for the CEO. The lead 'single' is "Workin" which debuted at the awards shows this past year. It features Big Sean and Travis Scott and if you weren't feeling it based off of BET, playing this in the whip or the club will make it grow on you.

"You Could Be My Lover" with Ty Dolla Sign and Gizzle is cool I guess. It's something puff been doing a while, you might mess with it and might not. "Money Ain't A Problem" with French Montana has a catchy hook, even though it uses auto tune which Frecnh doesn't really need. However, I feel like it's cheating using my nostalgia from the Lost Boyz classic Renae as it uses a sample with the bells tolling just like that song. Puff's bars aren't too abd and it's parts where you gotta get your diddy dance on but I wish King Los or someone who can spit a little bit was featured to round out the song. "Blow a Check" which also has French is pointless.

For me there are two real highlights on this that had me really feeling like the original No Way Out era. "Auction" with Lil Kim, Styles P and King Los. The beat has that Hitmen black exploitation sample feel to it. Reminds me of the mixtape posse cuts. By far my favorite song is "Everyday (Amor)" which features Jadakissm Styles P, and Pusha T and everyone gets dirty on this grimy track that was built for pure lyricists...a version of the with Ghostface or Raekwon instead of Puff would become an instant classic. It's that type of joint.

I wasn't expecting Puff to join in this calendar year's releases of above average material but here he is throwing his hat into the ring with something for the streets. But that's my problem, I don't go to Puff for the streets, at least not without one or two big joints that will cross over. On this Puff gets a bit out of his lane and talks a different kind of tough talk and I'm not sure if this is the character of Money Making Mitch or Puff. He never makes that clear enough for me to overlook and so I need to hear that epic hit that either bangs the club or radio. "Workin" is close but it doesn't scratch that itch for me. then the last four songs as well as the wiz Khalifa feature are just weak to me even while I can rock to Money ain't a problem. I've listened about 3 times and might never make it to 5 for the vast majority of this project.

Rating: 2.5/5

Monday, November 2, 2015

Stray Shots - A Take on A HipHopDx Editorial

HipHopDx.com is one of the main sites for new hip-hop music these days, and I would assume news and commentary, although I feel like commentary has become second in importance for a lot of fans of hip-hop these days, and especially to a large extent the written word. I mean there are some videos which end up getting seen, if you go to youtube, plenty of people are posting but they aren't really getting a lot of exposure. I feel like podcasts to a certain market might be doing a little better. All of my whining and editorializing about that done, let me get into the feature of this latest post. It's about 5 strange things we learned about hip-hop this year, well maybe some people learned, but it is a new column for them so it makes sense to use that term.

For me the first thing they bring up, the idea that classic albums come and go now is a serious one. Truthfully can a classic album really come and go? Isn't that one of the hallmarks of what we consider a classic? That it has longevity, staying power, and will be discussed for a long time after. The argument that there is a lot of music doesn't hold for me because you don't actually have to listen to or try to listen to everything. I think that even journalists who get paid professionally, don't have to try and hear everything and be experts, you will never come close to getting finished and thus rush through everything and never really get the full immersion. This isn't even taking into account the other obligations one may have in the media regarding tweeting, following instagram posts, and whatever actual work/life there is to do. There simply isn't enough time and it seems more important that if an album is anywhere within the realm of classic, you have to take the time with it to make sure. A lot of us are just throwing terms out there and the result is the world classic gets more devalued than the term elite when talking about nfl quarterbacks.

The second point is about memes and also ties into points 4 and 5 which are about social media and branding respectively. So to tackle this thing about memes and how suddenly they are so important to the zeitgeist of social media. This is part of the hype generation who I must admit are so clever and witty that half of the time listening to something is about trying to find out how to be the first person to come up with the perfect meme so as to spread it along the web. This leads to people thinking an album or song is great because it has one part which is memorable, for the other things associated with it. The conversation on social media has hyped and creates such monsters that they are immune to criticism and breakdown. If you happen to stick your neck out to go against the popular opinion - or have a social media circle that isn't mostly insulated with like minds, you are likely to be attacked and since so many of these networks are built for quick communication, there is little time for clarification or thoughtful discussion.

All of that leads into the discussion about "branding". This is a piece of jargon annoys me because you have a bunch of people who are over estimating the value that is attached to their name and image. When you have every artist trying to convince you that their individual brand of alcohol, or jewelry, watches, clothes, headphones has some small difference from the next guy doing the same thing is counter productive. People are so over-protective of these "brands" that they lose the ability to be realistic as people and artists. Instead they are all characters running one long commercial.

Probably the one that ended up as being poignant to me was the idea that the ends justify the means. For these rappers these days, no amount of controversy is too much as long as they stay in the public's eye and are able to monetize the notoriety in some way. We see this in so many things from the Kardashians to the career of Paris Hilton. Too many people in my opinion have decided the journey doesn't matter if you're able to get to a certain destination, but the journey indeed has a value or a price attached to it. For example Amber Rose is trying to change her image and usage for the term slut yet at the same time, her past prevents her from being taken seriously.  For an artist like Drake to be able to still have no effect from having a ghostwriter, "stealing" songs, and it still be alright because he is popular and made it. High school has blown up in essence. Point blank the fact this is now a thing leads me to believe that we need to do something to re-establish the idea of integrity.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Artists Love the Industry ...Until They Don't

So I was listening to the Sway interview and i got perturbed when DJ Khaled started complaining about magazines and hip-hop media not nominating him or he feels like, respecting what he does. This is a refrain that always happens at some point during the cycle of an illustrious career, the media, and the critics get bored or want to see you do some new tricks and his entire monologue about how award nominations are handed out doesn't make sense.

I'm going to start there. When you look at the most respected of awards in any field, they are never, ever given or dictated by the public. You know why, the public in general isn't expert enough to be able to do so. People within a given industry will know and understand to a greater extent the work ethic, the difficulties, and the final product because they live with it. This goes for contemporaries as well as the media who study and cover these things. Here is why, critics by and large love whatever form of art they are critiquing so much that they notice the minute details the average person overlooks when it comes down to it. That's why the Oscars are never given to the most successful movies in the theaters because there are things they use to draw in the public that aren't always the best techniques and are 'dumbed down' for the lack of a better term, for the mass audience.

Now, looking at someone who believes they have a long track record of success, a critic generally rewards that early on when it is new, fresh and exciting. Part of the reason that it doesn't continue is because at some point critics and audiences too start to look for something different, or even more. Denzel is one of the greatest actors ever but the point where he switched his roles up to something no one expected and yet convinced you that he had become that character was when he won an award, and why, because he proved he could move beyond a singular comfort zone into a new area. In music when a certain producer has a certain sound it becomes popular, rides a wave and then everyone gets used to that and the copycats and you can tell that they have a formula to do the same thing. At some point, that is no longer innovation and greatness, but an assembly line.

Now Khaled seemed to be upset about not being nominated for best collaboration at some point and feels like the fans would have changed this. I doubt it, but maybe it's just the arrogance that one needs in order to be successful that makes him think not, "It wasn't good enough" but instead "We don't want him to win again". At the same time, it should be a warning to switch it up. From Kanye to Taylor Swift, people who ride the wave for a while seem to feel they are entitled to that wave and not realize that like everyone before them, it is only theirs for a moment in time.