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.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Your Keeping it Real Friends can Keep you Broke

Well not really broke because we are talking about some rather successful artists and guys who have a higher income than the average person for the most part. However, in a discussion about Puff (yes, this dude is like the bane of my existence right now) I sort of realized that those same guys you hang around to 'keep you grounded' can also "Keep you Grounded".

To explain let me first look at the hood dynamic that everyone protects those with talent when they cannot find their own personal talents. You have the football players, basketball players, rappers, potential directors, etc, whom the true thugs go and support so they don't go to waste. Of course, once they get put on they are responsible for holding down those who held them down. Sometimes, it works out, look at Jay-z and Ty-Ty. You never hear about Ty-Ty getting into beefs, or causing drama that isn't needed. (well he did allegedly mase R. Kelly lmao)



Is this what you imagined from Puffy in this century? I mean this might have made sense in 99 but at this point I expect Puff to be investing in real estate, having a distribution empire like that of Universal, the clothing line which seems to be doing well, and maybe some ownership in a sports team and some really interesting partnerships. Instead he's trying to behave like one of the newer guys in rap, like Rick Ross who doesn't know any better because he hasn't been in certain circles at this point. I would expect Puff to be a role model and guide these dudes careers to the next level. Sort of like...



Who would have thought Jay-z the rapper would turn out to be a better business role model than Puff? Ironically while writing this my random play list picked out the "Diamonds" remix where Jay says "I'm not a businessman I'm a business...maaaan, let me handle my business damn." Looking at Jay he handling this success the right way. He is constantly around people who have more money and know how than he does in his various arenas of interest.  Mikhail Prokhorov is the principal owner and Russian billionaire. Jay-z talks to people like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. Puffy talks to people like Lil Wayne and Fat Joe.

A wise man once said if you're the smartest person in your circle of friends, then you need some new ones, or something similar. The thought has its merits while hip-hop often looks at those who upgrade or move on from their neighborhood friends or those who seem to be similar and into different groups as sell-outs, it really is the path to betterment. Especially if you can get with a group of people who can teach you new things. Instead, attempting to remain the big dog in a small kennel gives a false sense of security and also a lack of growth. This is what i see when I look at Puffy, a lack of growth overall. Puff isn't the only one however.







Anyone familiar with the king of keeping it real, a one Earl Simmons aka DMX? The king of keeping it real until it went horribly wrong X can't seem to get himself right and ends up with the same cell mates because he's busy trying to keep it real instead of being smart and stepping upward. Or how about this one:





Why is Snoop still taking these pictures? And really its not just the smoking, its the constant same old gangster g-funk music with no purpose, murderous verses and lack of upward growth on the business end. Even if he wants to do the sex and drugs thing, why aren't you with the leaders in the counter culture industries? Guys who make money off of sex, the porn producers, or people in the medical marijuana field? I see you've got endorsement power, but it's one thing to be the rally monkey of a company and something different to be deciding who the rally monkey is going to be.

Look everyone isn't of the mind to become a mogul, but what' more infuriating is when guys continue to stick around with people designed to retain street credibility when the goal is to be successful and leave that life behind. I know it's difficult, but everytime someone decides they would rather be with Gunplay because he likes to wild out, instead of going to meet with a financier of the CFO of a Venture Capital firm to see how to best use their money, another nigga from the hood misses the chance to see the larger strategic goal and direction that they could be headed to. One of the biggest claims is that young men in the hood don't have role models other than drug dealers and entertainers. We need to systematically cure that by having our entertainers show the way to behave once some level of success is attained. Throwing money at every strip club on the east coast is not the way to do that.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Album Review- Pharoahe Monch- W.A.R. (We Are Renegades)

So sometimes you get an album title that you cannot help but love and have high expectations for. Sometimes however, you look at the artist and know that they cannot pull it off. Pharoahe is a bit of an enigma, I know he has the ideas to pull off an album with a good yet ambitious title, but my biggest concern is always his flow and ability to avoid the pitfalls that 'underground' artists can fall victim to, meaning going overboard on trying to force content in certain spots and not knowing how to smooth things out.


The album's intro, featuring a voice over by Idris Elba did nothing to calm my anxiety about this. The set up is so cinematic as opposed to Monch who doesn't really fit that mold. "Calculated Amalgamation" has a big budget album beat and ill cymbal and drum selection, and his oft-choppy flow (i'm trying to define how to describe it) fits perfectly within the song's composition. "Evolve" is a song about the need of today's hip-hop to grow and move beyond where it is at and how his subject matter is above the norm. This sentiment is echoed on "Let My People Go" later on in the album. This is also directed at the church folks, radio programmers, and conglomerates who are  in effect 'holding the people down'. This was also a theme on Saigon's recent album. "The Hitman" is Pharoahe letting everyone know that he is the man to make the massive change needed in the industry.


"W.A.R." features Vernon Reid and Immortal Technique as they talk about how the entire system we live in is screwed up and needs to be destroyed for movement to occur. "Clap (One Day)" features Showtyme and DJ Boogie Blind has a nice laid back beat and Pharoahe's flow is more smooth than throughout the rest of the album but not by much. Mela Machinko is featured on "Shine" with Pharoahe talking about where he is from. He shows some decent lyrics on this song but also has some odd moments that show him trying to do too much. "Haile Selassie Karate" features Mr. Porter on the hook with Pharoahe on his black power flow.



Another song with a huge track backing it is "The Grand Illusion (Circa 1973)" which chronicles more of the subterfuge carried out against the people. "Assassins" featuring Jean Grae and Royce da 5'9, is a charcter driven narrative about three individuals meant to bring truth to the masses and the finale is "Still Standing" with Jill Scott where Pharoahe talks about how he has gotten to his position against the difficulties of life. It seems out of place only because it is so personal amongst all of the political and social rhetoric that fills the rest of the album.

I have a friend who once complained about songs having too much of a social commentary from people who seem as if they are observers instead of participants and that is the biggest flaw with this album. Many of the songs end up sounding repetitive and just impersonal like Pharoahe hasn't been involved up until the end of the album. The vastness of the ideas he brings out early aren't really made specific, and to keep hearing about the huge conspiracy becomes unrelatable because of it. the fear i had about his flow and voice were never really issues but the album could have used a bigger audio difference to keep it moving.

Rating: 3/5

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Album Review- Travis Barker- Give the Drummer Some

So Travis Barker is well known as the rock and roll drummer for Blink 182 but he also has some serious love for hip-hop and ties to the community. In fact he might be the rock and roll equivalent of Bishop Magic Don Juan in some respects. Unlike Don Juan however, Barker does actually have a purpose and skills. So he is releasing a hip-hop feature laden album with a huge variety of artists, sort of like khaled but with different songs instead of just one long one.

I'm not quite sure what else Travis brings to the joints other than his drums and I would guess some A and R type skills with getting talent together to put the actual album together but it works out pretty well. The album starts with a title track featuring Rick Ross, The Game, Lil Wayne and Swizz Beats. Game's verse is average, Ross has flow andnd Wayne has the better of the three verses. "If You Want To" features Lupe Fiasco and Pharrell and is an extremely high energy track that will make it to the Rave set. "Carry it" is really a rock track that features the Rza, and Raekwon as well as Tom Morello. I'm never a fan of Rza verses so I'll take that with a grain of salt but Raekwon makes up for it.


Ludacris kills his feature on "Knockin" which also includes Snoop, E-40, and Dev on the hook. This is one song that also allows Travis to shine along with the rappers and not just feel like a gimmick. It just works really well on this song. I can't really say the same on "Jump Down" which features The Cool Kids. Although I love them and their sound, it isn't any sort of departure for them and while it's cool to hear how Travis can adapt the live drum and match the sounds with an artist's normal sound, it seems to be counterproductive. Not to say I don't like the song. "Devil's Got a Hold of Me" with Slaughterhouse has a mean drum intro from Barker and Joell's opening verse is a star, but Travis needed some type of chance to go off in the midst of the song. "Lets Go" with Twista, Lil Jon, Busta Rhymes, and Yelawolf sounds just like a natural collaboration but once again the drums are an afterthought in a sense and it's a shame because it's a good collaboration. I just wanted Travis to pull a little more out. I also can deal with "Raw Shit" which features Tech 9yne and Bun B.



"Just Chill" finds Bun B on a second track with singer Kobe and a surprising appearance from Beanie Sigel in  one of those 'introspective' tracks. the album ends with a Cypress Hill feature on "The Beat Goes On" which is alright but fans of the group won't be disappointed. "Saturday Night" featuring Transplants and Slash, yes that Slash, is also on the album but is such a 180 from the rest of the content you wonder how it fit in. Oh i know-it features Slash. Kid Cudi not surprisingly is the feature on the album's worst song, "Cool Head".

Overall this joint isn't bad at all. There are three or four songs that I have in rotation regularly but there isn't anything that is especially stellar or different that makes this a must listen to album. While I'm sure Travis handled some of the production, the fact that all of the tracks generally turn into songs that the artists featured on them would normally be on, there is no uniqueness or wow factor unless you just really want to hear actual drums on an album.

Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

B-boys

So the image that I used to have when thinking about a B-boy used to be this:




Today, so much has changed in my view of the world, that unfortunately when I hear b-boy or think the phrase, I see this instead:








Now this is because today's b-boy stands for Bitch boy in my mind. Yes, I'm calling Chris Brown, Mr. C-Breezy a big ol' bitch.

Being a bitch is an epidemic and its crazy to see a generation of young men acting like damn bitches. Maybe I need to explain what i define a bitch as. A whiny person who can't control themselves and always has an excuse for their actions instead of being responsible. At 14 one of my friends and I were catching the bus home and he asked me what my definition of a man was. I didn't know nor care about the question but he answered himself as that being 'when you become a responsible person'. At fourteen he had this thought, no stardom on the horizon or anything, not an exceptionally stable home life yet he understood that basic thing. Why can't these guys in the spotlight man up and stop whining and making excuses for themselves when they do something stupid.

It started with Kanye West, repeatedly, and now Chris, getting on the cusp of the ultimate comeback, blowing up and having a hissy fit when talking about Rihana yet again. So yes, he's tired of it, but guess what, you've been talking about it for two years why are you having a two year old's tantrum now? Because you're a bitch that's why. Unable to control yourself and your emotions you got so frustrated you decide to break shit try to fight and walk out into NY chest naked. It makes me sick to my stomach. I have a six year old and I'd put my foot in his ass for behaving this way. I know, Chris is at a point where you can't really tell him anything but someone should have broken this bitchassness out of him by now.






Is this the new gangster? I never claim to be a G nor have I ever wanted to be, but what I do know is that if you want to portray the image of a tough guy you have to at the least look the part. Walking around talking about your exclusive dunks and your lil slim ass jeans don't make you a G no matter how many tattoos you happen to have.

Point blank these tantrums have got to stop and people have got to stop accepting it and taking up for them. Then right after this incident, Chris tweets about how this would be funny if it were Charlie Sheen. Let's get this straight, you are not Charlie Sheen. He's winning and a boss, you just barely got your career back from the dead while Charlie has resuscitated his multiple times. Secondly, we weren't laughing about him threatening his wife or destroying the hotel in New York. We thought that was crazy, his interviews are freaking classic because he's so real. Bitch boys always bring someone else up when they get caught in a fuck up. It's tantamount to snitching and that's a no-no in the urban community. Then to make it even worse, he pulled it down which means he won't even stand by what he said. Lame. Be a man and stand up. What if that chair had gone out of the window and hit some lady and her child walking down the street? then he'd be looking extra stupid.

Man Up. That's going to be my new motto for the year. We have dudes who supposed to be thugs and hustlers hugging on each other with their tongues out while rocking tight clothes in the club. Dog, you supposed to be stacking paper why are you not out there grinding? Why do have one of those little piercings in your lip and a glass of Nuvo in your hand homie? Look I don't like to pigeon-hole people into stereotypes but some things just make sense. I don't want to advocate for violence or ridiculousness, but what I want the most is for men to act like men. Behaving like a four year old when you're in your 20's is not a good look. Look I'm just sick of these dudes acting out and giving men a bad name and making the younger generation think that this is acceptable.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Color Purple

Now I just reviewed Saigon's long awaited album and he has something new out that isn't on there. This joint is called The Color Purple and is an anti-gang song.



Now I love Saigon's point and message and the fact he was a street dude who sees that there is a serious lack of understanding about how people from the hood need to look at one another. However, my biggest problem is that the hook is going to lead to misunderstanding just because, as I said before, Hip-hop isn't as good with these type of messages as we should be. Hopefully the message will not be confused because of that however.

This is more refreshing than seeing someone like Wacka Flocka who is constantly repping for the gang lifestyle, then wondering why violence tends to follow him everywhere he goes.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Album Review- Saigon- The Greatest Story Never Told

So another Atlantic records artist who has been in purgatory over there for a while recently dropped an album along with Lupe. Saigon is one of the more well known underground mc's and he has been trying to get his album released for at least four years now. A former inmate, he is known as more of a conscious thug, one who can speak on it because he has been there.

The album starts with a jailhouse skit and the "The Invitation" which features some ad-libs from Fatman Scoop and Q-tip. This is a concept song where Saigon treats prison like a party and that the invitation comes in the form of selling crack. It's actually a very good idea and creative as well. "Bring Me Down" is a traditional hip-hop song about how different people are trying to bring about your downfall and the fight to keep that from happening. "Enemies" has a terrible hook, but a good message about the friends that end up ruining your life. It is followed up by "Friends" which is just a continuation of the same song but shows the artistic type of album layout and feel that Saigon brings as opposed to a lot of other 'street' rappers.



"The Greatest Story Never Told", the title track is about how current hip-hop music doesn't truly reflect the lives of those it is marketed to. This song is about changing hip-hop and its effects, a little better than the average song of this type. "Believe it" is a song that is about Saigon's own personal story and another critique of the industry.

"Clap" with Faith Evans is more social commentary as is "Preacher" which features Lee Fields and the Expressions, as Saigon talks about the corrupt church leaders in the hood. "Its Alright" with Marshia Ambrosius, is telling everyone that no matter what we have been through, things will be alright in the end. "Give It To Me" doesn't really fit in with the socially responsible message that covers most of the album, especially having Raheem Devaughn on the hook. Devin the Dude is on "What the Lovers Do" where Saigon tries to talk the panties off of his girlfriend who is saving herself. "Better Way" with Layzie Bone is another song about how Saigon found rap and used it to his advantage to get off of the streets and survive. "Our Babies" has some children talking about what they see and go through in the hood in lieu of a hook as Saigon once again talks about these rappers whom he feels are doing a disservice to the community by not talking about the negative things in the hood.


"And the Winner is" with Bun B is one song I don't care for, as Saigon tries to sum up his entire album. Don't forget the original single for this album which came out years ago, "Come on Baby" which features Swizz Beats and a rare appearance from Jay-z.


Saigon is a solid rapper, though maybe not the best lyricist, he has the ability to tell the truth, and be authentic. The problem is that at times he gets to be too preachy about other rappers and sometimes forgetting that he himself can just address the issue he feels that they are overlooking. The production from Just Blaze is mostly solid (not like the garbage he used to give Memphis Bleek) and the album never feels like it gets too monotonous, nor are there any songs that just sound totally out of place. It may be slightly dated, but the songs hold up well, with those few small issues.

Rating: 4/5

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Album Review- Lupe Fiasco- Lasers

So after what some would consider a long delay, Lupe Fiasco's Lasers has finally hit shelves and moved a huge number of units for him and Atlantic Records.This comes after a long protracted fight with the label over release dates and even his first single which used to be "Nothing On You" but ended up as the lead for B.O.B.'s debut album and is all for the better. Now I'm not a fan of Lupe, to me he blends the skill and sometimes hypocritical "we consider him smart but is he really?" characteristics of Nas, with the narcissism of a Kanye which isn't a great combination.

Listening to the album I am very confused as to why Atlantic wouldn't want to put this out unless they just got tired of dealing with the artist but even that doesn't make sense. From the opening, "Let it Go" featuring Sarah Green sounds ready for rotation at top 40 pop stations. In fact the entire album sort of feels like an extended "All Of The Lights" from Kanye's latest. This first song however is so muted and subdued that after 5 times of trying to catch the verses I had to give up. I just couldn't tune in to it. "Till I Get There" is more of a Lupe song, sounding more like the one he had about the robot. It has a simple singing chorus and a feel good vibe.



"The Show Goes on" is another one with a big feel and a cool guitar riff but the chopped up flow Lupe has to use on the track can seem annoying, but it fits right in with something out of the Black Eyed Peas catalog. This is especially evident on "Beautiful Lasers" which features MDMA and has a somber mood to it. "Coming Up" also featuring MDMA, who was heavily involved in this album, breaks up the feel sonically during the verses but the pseudo-rock-pop hook ties it in nicely with everything else. "State Run Radio" with Matt Mahaffey, had potential to deliver a big statement but falls slightly short, though it is still one of the better songs on the album.

"All Black Everything" is more of a typical Lupe song where he talks about the world being opposite and what the result would be although none of them make sense taken together. The third verse is the best one. "Never Forget You" with John Legend is also typical. "Break the Chain" is another pseudo-hip-hop song and features Eroc Turner with a Green Day or U2-esque hook. This is probably my second favorite track. "I Don't Wanna Care Right Now" also with MDMA is Lupe's official dance track and it's Like Kanye and Will.I.Am made a beat and this was it. The most out of the box song on the whole album features Trey Songz of all people. "Out of My Head" is more of a traditional r and b/ rap mash-up and thus sticks out amongst all of the pop-rock fueled tracks on the album. "Words I Never said" with Skylar Grey is also straight classic lupe and while I might not agree, I think this is one of the more natural fits on the album.


At the end of the day, this album falls perfectly into the Kanye created mold of pop-hop. Lupe forces in his political views but more often than not this album feels like someone copied the Black Eyed Peas blueprint and forgot to give a singer like fergie actual verses. It didn't feel like a Lupe album and for me, the tone was monotonous and grew annoying after a while. The constant distorted singing, big beats and simple rap styles fit Lupe but he just isn't as smooth as I would like on some songs and I kept tuning it our, like the noise of an engine going down the highway. It's a good album, but not one I'll be listening to often.

Rating: 3.5/5

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Something new...

Check my links if you haven't in a while you will find some interesting things. Just recently I added YAPPARIHIPHOP.COM a Japanese hp-hop site. It's confusing but there is English on the site so you can see what's going on internationally.


Now I have been erratic lately but I must shout out my man Japiro for making number one with his new Baltimore collaboration with Al Great, Duce Wayne, Eddie Numbers, Fuze B, Lee Scholar and Greenspan over at Allbmorehiphop.com . He sent that to me and posted it on his own blog Thepizzlereport.com (which you should have been visiting by now) last week but there has been a lot going on and my e-mails are really piling up. It's really hot because they jumped straight to the top with that one after not being listed last week and leap frogged some strong contenders from the city.


Japiro also has his latest video featured at DMVJams.com so go ahead and check out that website as well.


Now I was all looking for info about the DMV awards because I knew I was going to get to congratulate my brothers from the group Gods'illa on a win in some category when I see that the awards turned into a brawl of some sort. I know those dudes weren't the type to be involved so i feel safe in still shouting them out at the very least for their nomination. Though I never feel these type of events are including of the Baltimore area, nevertheless it's nice to see that they are attempting some type of movement but it's unfortunate that bad things happened and hopefully they can recover.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I got 99 problems...but a B ain't one....and other satire

So I've finally been persuaded to read "Decoded" the Jay-z book that came out last year. First of all let me tell you why I wasn't running to grab this, I actually listen to rap and the lyrics already so in my mind, listening to a dude explain what should be self-explanatory if you're paying attention bothers me. Secondly, I understand that everyone doesn't know that much about the culture, about the hood etc, and this book is going to be more of an explanation for them than it is for myself. From what i was told before there are things I have a problem with but there is also some inspiration for blog topics so I am thankful for that.

One of these is a topic I've hit on before that and that is the use of satire and sarcasm in hip-hop as a means of getting a point across. See there are quite a few people especially in earlier hip-hop who sort of admit to embellishing and going to the next level to make a point. N.W. A. readily comes to mind as a group who was so abrasive-on purpose- to try and expose or bring to light the life of inner city L.A. . You were supposed to fear them, then question just exactly why you had that fear.






Looking back at it, all that happened was to expose the disconnect between the streets and people in it, and the leaders and politicians of that era. While denouncing the music and the message, no one ever thought to do something to keep more people from emulating the group, and emulate they did whereas now no one knows if the art is imitating the street or if the street is imitating the art at this point. That's not to say that NWA was the real life CB4 (though there are some similarities), but their entire point was missed.

My premise, if you haven't determined it by now, is that hip-hop or rap music is not the medium for this type of communication. Hip-hop communication must be straight forward, or the masses will totally miss the entire concept. Am I saying that listeners of hip-hop are stupid? Not really, although by default, some are because stupid people are everywhere. However, they are not trained to look for it and be able to trace to true story to be told. Some don't want nor care and that too is for different reasons. Some look to these songs to legitimize their own lives and thus aren't going to look for the satire or anything that might imply what they do isn't the 'correct' way to proceed. While others, choose to treat art as if it isn't a way of communication of true societal ills and hang on to the idea that 'it's just music and it doesn't have any influence over me'.

Going back to Jay-z and the song "99 Problems", it was written to be tongue and cheek and fan the flames of those who criticized his language and treatment of women through his music. Now on the one hand it's smart, a good idea. But looking deeper, if there is a person or group of people who don't understand what your point is when you say it straightforward, then how would they be able to understand satire or sarcasm? The entire idea doesn't make sense. Even worse, this song isn't even that much of a satire, especially after reading the book and seeing how much of it is actually based upon real life events.



Much like Sacha Baron Cohen who has gotten plenty of heat from movies such as "Borat" , "Bruno", and "Ali G", people who most need to understand and discern humor or embellishment from the truth are the ones who are the least able to see it. most of the time, it is because they feel as though they were being picked on because the images remind them of themselves and it would hurt their pride to laugh at it and look inward in order to make changes. So if you already sell dope, looking at NWA or any other rapper who has this image that is so huge and preposterous that it cannot be true, you're not going to look at yourself and say maybe what I do is crazy I should change. What happens is that it becomes a validation of the way you act and further serves to promote your agenda.

Look at what has changed since the NWA era. The hood is still the hood, gangs have spread further and gotten worse, and rappers have simplified their lyrics and lost all of the social commentary while doubling up on the violent content and the expressions of love for the hustling lifestyle and its rewards without equal light shed on its negative consequences. Artists like Jeezy, Gucci, and Wacka all are in the same place as NWA in the 90's. Then artists who become successful without any connection to gang life, decide to further gain credibility to start repping for that culture although there is no reason to do so.

So to wrap things up neatly, and allow for some better comments and replies on what you guys think about this, I'll say that, in hip-hop, being straight forward and to the point is the only real way to get your point across.  While we would love to have people understand more complex concepts and difficult rhymes, the best way to make a point is to just say what you mean and not give others the opportunity to misinterpret.