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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Momma's boys - protecting your mother at all costs

This topic came to me because of the recent arrest of Dallas Cowboy's wide receiver Dez Bryant's arrest for domestic violence against his mother. In a random play list the song "Still Got Love For You" by Beanie Sigel with a feature from Jay-z came on and I had to listen to these guys pretty much tell their absentee fathers to suck it up if they were salty over a previous song where they talked about not having them in their lives. All I could do was think about the differing ways these guys treat their two parents. Going back to Dez Bryant who has a long history and a messed up story about his life growing up, I have to wonder if maybe she hadn't been asking for this for a while.

Let me explain, I'm not saying that Dez should just beat on his mother or any other woman but what if she was putting him and his career in a compromising situation? Could you understand it? Any other person in the world who does such would be a license to put a foot in their ass, yet their is still a stigma attached to maybe pointing out the flaws of the female parent which led to the struggles so many urban athletes, artists, and celebrities can claim as their back stories. Go listen to "All I Got is You", by Ghostface. He raps about living with a bunch of people in an apartment and having to use food stamps, newspaper for toilet paper, and borrow food from neighbors. Now I'm not saying it's all his mother's fault, but she has to be culpable in some manner for the situation.

Remember the reaction to Eminem going in on his mother? The black community all were talking about how 'we just don't do that' to our mothers. How about maybe thats what we need to do if they put our backs against the wall. (let me state this when I say our I mean in general, not myself specifically because I was never in that kind of position so please if you feel otherwise leave a comment explaining that below) But the idea of unconditional love and not letting people know their role in why something is screwed up and/or unhealthy is an issue. This is part of the reason the cycle has continued for so long because when it comes time to confront everyone with this, it becomes selective, with the women getting a pass the majority of the time.

Let's stop and talk about the relationship between most rappers and their fathers. For the most part, it is fractured and often non-existent. For that reason, women are left as the sole providers and care givers. It is admirable and noble in most senses. For not being around, the male parents are often called out, and  treated as less than men for ducking out. There are plenty of examples one of the better of which is "Where have you been" featuring Beanie Sigel and Jay-z from the dynasty album as well as "Still Got Love for you" from the following Beanie Sigel album. At any point, fathers are called out for their lack of involvement. Hell, Nas can even admit his own faults as a parent on "Daughters" yet it is still a taboo subject for black men to tell the truth about their mothers.

To sum this up, I'm not knocking someone because they had to struggle and try to take care of their family, however if someone is repeatedly making the mistakes to put themselves and their family at risk, it needs to be said. This isn't to try and cover up the past but in hip-hop the idea is to express and talk to one another in order to make changes. People need to know it's alright to recognize that negativity and that those feelings exist so they can work towards correcting them. It's also important for other mothers who may not be the best to possibly look at themselves and understand they are going to be held responsible for their actions at some point in the future.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Hood brings Lupe to tears

So hopefully a lot of you have seen this video already about Lupe on MTV, I'm sure plenty of websites have copied and pasted this, but how many have actually used this as a tool for a real discussion? I am. First off let me say I'm not a big fan of Lupe. I think he is a bit too arrogant and convoluted for his own good most of the time. His last album didn't reflect what I think would best show who he really is, which is something like this. I think he has had great potential and being signed to Atlantic was the worst thing ever for him musically. But what he says in this almost 10 minute clip is too real.

It's crazy for him to look back and see the same problems still in the old neighborhood so many years ago, after he has done so much personally and been so many places. It is daunting for a regular person who has gotten a job and a new house and moved to a better neighborhood with different recreation so I know for an artist it is a lot different. However, let's contrast that with Rick Ross who's new album is coming out.

For whatever reason, BET has decided that this particular video is going to be banned but I don't get it. This is pretty benign considering what it could be. However, when you look at this Rozay seems to be in some of the worst PJ's of Miami with some of the same type of guys Lupe was crying about. He doesn't seem to be too upset about it cause they are living the life he is rapping about.

It is personally a bit crazy that I see these images and then the next video I will see will have Ross telling me about his latest Maybach, Bugatti, and Guiseppe clad video model. Why aren't we doing videos of him closing deals on this dilapidated property and renovating the neighborhood and giving opportunities to the people so they don't have to take that route? To be fair, I have seen him do more than most other artists when he went back to his old high school and gave away ipads and some reeboks.

It was a good deed but I did think he tried to downplay the aspect of the kids doing something positive just slightly, I must give him credit for doing something. He could easily do more. Here is my rationalization, when you want to tell people they can live out their dreams and you are living in luxury and taking their money to glorify only one aspect of a life they could be living, you need to do something else to give back. Too many of our kids are thinking they should be trying to make it in the rap game because 'its what they want to do'. For people like Ross, and Puffy, and Jay-z, they have the access to the great think tanks and minds that can create some innovative programs for our youth. Specialized schools, rehabbing the area properties for local businesses and people who offer something different than the normal chicken spots and liquor stores. But it seems as though they don't want to step out and do something really outside of the box because it takes time away from their stunting efforts.

Back to Lupe, for an artist like him, there is intense pressure to do numbers and to compromise his integrity in order to gain fans. You see when he does songs with 2 Chainz and other artists who are on the opposite spectrum in order to gain respect and not seem like a hater, he waters down what he stands for. Dead Prez is one of my favorite groups because they just do the songs with artists who have the same mentality as them so it is always consistent. What else needs to happen is we who have the power to question these artists need to go beyond trying to be friends and do more to get involved with widespread movements to help in out neighborhoods.

When Sway has 2Chainz on in the morning, he needs to be asking him when he is going to come to a neighborhood with him and donate some money, or buy some computers, or put money into a VC fund for urban entrepreneurs. These are the things our biggest artists (and athletes) need to be doing because they are the ones who are visible and who have the funds and influence to get things done. We shouldn't see Lupe crying in two or three years from now because his neighborhood still hasn't gotten better. if we can get thousands of our people to show up in Miami for Zo weekend, or to run through the Tru Religion store, we should be able to get them to get together somewhat to better our own communities and brands.

Friday, July 27, 2012

This what happen to rappers when they get old?

So a few months back there was a flap about Mobb Deep and Havoc tweeting about Prodigy, his partner in crime for well over a decade. There were questions about the man's sexuality and afterward Havoc claimed that someone had stolen his phone and they weren't his tweets. Now just today, I see this on World Star...

So first of all you went on twitter and tried to air your boy out, lied about it, now you're trying to tell everyone not to air their grievances on twitter. Way to be a street dude and a role model for masculinity Havoc.

Here is a link to the actual tweets courtesy of

This is another example of keeping it real going beyond wrong and it's a shame to see these dudes go out like this.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Album Review- Rick Ross -God Forgives I Don't

So Rick Ross aka Ricky Rozay has probably surpassed Lil' Wayne as the hottest artist in the rap game. He has consistently put out albums and mix tapes over the past four years to build up a following and secure his position in today's rap hierarchy. Following up on his second group album, Self Made Vol. 2 and heading into an august that will see the release of protege Meek Mill's debut, Ross offers up his latest LP of material, "God Forgives I Don't"

The first song on the album is "Pirates" which showcases Ricks prowess with his flow and the way he can be descriptive at times. Within the bars he references the idea he is the new reincarnation of Biggie, the new big king of the rap game. On "Ashamed" Ross alludes to the idea that while he often talks about the luxuries and life he has acquired due to the dope game, he is still ashamed to brag about it. But he isn't ashamed of what he did to survive per se, it's more of a shame of that being the position he was put in.  "Amsterdam" is the last song on the more 'laid-back' portion of the album but there isn't much to this song but the average Ross verses.

The early features in the album include Ne-Yo on "Maybach Music IV" which is sort of a cliched song at this point. This one doesn't have any real unique aspect like the last few have. Ross of course has a great flow and the general Ross is the bawse of the luxury lifestyle is on display on this song. Leaked earlier this week, "3 Kings" features Dr. Dre and Jay-z alongside Rozay and as usual when on a track with other artists, Jay goes in pretty much using the artists own style. Dre could have been left off of the track totally to tell the truth because there is nothing he can add unless it's a release date for Detox. "Sixteen" had a lot of potential as Ross enlists Andre 3000 on a song where they 'violate the rules' by spitting more than 16 bars to be able to express themselves. Andre's verse can be slightly convoluted at times but he does seem to have more of a singular idea behind his verse.

Now starting at this half of the album, a couple of songs change up the feel and tempo. "Hold Me Back" has Ross with a French Montana type hook where he starts each verse with a justification of the hustle then he moves into the progression from that to being successful in the game. "911" is general Ross rap, and could have benefitted from maybe an appearance from Gunplay. "So Sophisticated" is uninspired and even Meek Mill doesn't get as amped as usual. More of the same until it moves into the portion of the album directed at the female fans with "Presidential" which features a singer by the name of Elijah Dukes.  Omarion goes ahead and blesses the album with his strained vocals on "Ice Cold". while Usher returns the feature favor on "Touching You" which is set up and mixed so that the vulgarities can be removed easily for the radio. I mean all the required Ross isms are here, he talks about smoking and drops a bunch of designer names within his verse. Wale starts off "Diced Pineapples" with a poem that shows he is still the wordsmith of MMG and he also gets a verse while Drake croons on the hook.

Stalley gets his appearance in on "Ten Jesus Pieces" which has a great backdrop and could have really been a great song but both artists disappoint on this one, Stalley because his verse was way too short and Ross could have done something different but its the same format as every other song. For the best example of this, listen to "Triple Beam Dreams" (what a unique song title) with Nas as he Esco spits about his own off and on pursuits as a d-boy as he covers rationalizing drug sales and his lack of success as being a part time salesman. Then listen to Rozay as he drops the same verse as he has on every other song. The final track is "Rich Forever" with John Legend and I swear has been on every single Ross album.

I understand Rick Ross is all about the flash and luxury but there are times when he can step out of this carefully contructed image to give some depth and he fails to do so. He has a great vocabulary and flow but at times I feel that he does like AZ and uses certain words more for the way they feel in the verse and then doesn't follow them up to lend each verse the appropriate weight. Even when things start out good they manage to top off. I don't see any reason why he can't be as nice as Nas but his verses always ring empty and hollow and more about the look instead of the content of what they actually could mean. When I listen to Ross I want to like him, his flow and charisma are there, but when you listen to an old Biggie album you get a sense of depth that Ross has been unable to duplicate no matter how many times he calls himself Big's reincarnate. If you like Ross, you'll like this album but I still think it might fall short of some fans expectattions. If he ever takes more than ten minutes to write a verse Ross could really be a great rapper, as it is he settles for being popular now and eschewing the chance to be mentioned with the greats. It's his choice but one that wouldn't necessarily reduce his income now if he put forth the extra effort.

Rating 3.5/5

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Stereotypes are Awesome - the weak meme

So I've been seeing this dumb ass picture for a while now but it seems to have picked up steam again for some reason. This is one of those things a lot of black people are trying to put out there when talking about judging people or looking at someone to see what kind of person they are before you know them. Now I'm not trying to say that Snoop is the worst person in the world but this doesn't really speak to the truth either.

You see, just because you are a felon, doesn't mean you are a completely bad person, nor does the fact you  may not have any felonies mean that you are a bad person per se. It could mean that you just haven't been caught. Or it could mean that any crime you may have been convicted of was plead down, or not considered a felony, but in the end there are things that are 'worse' than others. We would probably all agree that Martha Stewart being convicted of insider trading, especially in her case, isn't as bad at least on our level as someone convicted of misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance.

This also does not address the impact of their careers and what they go out and present to the public and those who consume their goods/services. Martha Stewart bakes cookies and designs home furnishings and gives you party ideas. Snoop talks about being a gang member, selling dope, pimping women, and plenty of sexual endeavors. Which thing do you think is more detrimental to society as a whole? Just the ideas that are presented are so vastly different and guess what, they fit just what you would expect. Snoop just got arrested, albeit briefly, for having weed. Doesn't he look like he does drugs? Yep.

So Snoop is a rapper I get that and most rappers generally talk mostly about negative things and the less socially acceptable ways of making it but that does not excuse the detriment to society that said lyrics can cause. The stereotypes I get about Snoop still exist and it while I would be wrong in a snap assumption that an older white woman like Martha Stewart doesn't have a record, it doesn't take away or remove any of the things I would think about The Doggfather that would end up being true.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Royalty, Dream Chasers and mix tapes

So I'm not into giving total album break downs to mix tapes but I have to figure out some way to incorporate them because they are so important in hip-hop these days. Pretty much everyone is putting out music every six months at this point. While there are inherent problems with that, this isn't about that aspect of it, this is about the music. So let's start with the artist who has impressed me the most this year, Childish Gambino and his Royalty mix tape.

The mix tape has a lot of notable features such as Nipsey Hussle, Bun B, Ghostface and Danny Brown. The song with Nipsey seemed slightly underwhelming but probably because they are two of my favorite artists I had high expectations. "We Ain't Them" has more of what i expect from Gambino and the odd "Toxic" which features Danny Brown and uses a sample from the Britney Spears song of the same name is oddly good. However, there are some odd combinations and people who feature who pretty much suck in my opinion. Gonage who leads of "Arrangement" is just awful and makes the song almost unlistenable. Kilo Kish on "Make it Go Right" made me scratch my head. Of these weird features, the best is from Atlanta rapper Alley Boy on "eal Estate" which preceds a funny Tina Fey outro.

I am a fan of what Childish, aka Donald Glover can do but I don't expect him to be a superstar. He is doing the best by getting what he can out of his momentum but it feels like he is forcing the more hood features on this collection of songs. He also simplified his subject matter to simple having money and balling which everyone else already does. The uniqueness he possesses is lacking for me on this one though he can still rap pretty good.

Rating: 3/5

Meek Mill is getting ready for his album "Dreams and Nightmares" by dropping Dreamchasers 2 and it isn't as good as the first one which had some solid songs. Some of this has to be attributed to the fact there is an album coming out soon and it had better be better than his mix tapes. One of the lead songs is "Amen" with Drake and Jeremih which is an average song but definately fits right into the popular format of the moment. Other features include Kendrick Lamar on "A1", Rick Ross, French Montana, Bg Sean, Wale, Fabolous, Mac Miller, 2 Chainz, and Trey Songz. Other than "Amen", there isn't that big hit to follow up ands most of the songs are the same thing over and over. "Ready or Not" is at the beginning and more in depth although DJ Drama talks too much over it. The "Outro" is more than just rapping over a fading track, it actually is one of the better shows of talent by Meek, he leaves the generic stuff on the 'songs' on the tape for what it's worth.

If you don't care about content and you're just looking for individual songs that might have a hot beat or some dope lines you'll probably bump this heavily but too much of the content is the same regurgitated drivel about banging someones girl and tossing money like crazy. Of course that's whats popular but it gets old after a while.

Rating: 2.5/5

Finally, Driicky Graham, the guy behind "Snapbacks and Tattoos" attempts to build upon his buzz with his tape, "Ya Gotta Start Somewhere". There aren't name features on this but he does have others trying to make it like Moninayo and Harvey J. Moninayp and Driicky remake Crush on you with "Suckerproof" and while the lyrics aren't always the best, he isn't any worse than Lil Cease, though lines like "I make you shit like sippin prune juice" can be laughable. The beats are pretty solid but all are aimed at attempting to get singles and itunes type downloads when you listen. It's not really cohesive as a project but it doesn't mean Driicky won't blow up though I do worry he could end up being like a Chingy Lite where he gets a couple of songs that pop but overall he doesn't have the staying power. He tries to incorporate a story into "Pay Up" but it doesn't work well. I would say this, if you liked the single, which I didn't think was bad, you will probably find something else you like on here but it's hard for new artists to get put into rotation with another song because people don't like to give those kind of chances.

Rating: 2.5/5

Friday, July 13, 2012

Album Review - Nas - Life is Good

One of the most anticipated albums of 2012 is without a doubt the return of Nasty Nas. For whatever reason, there is more want for this album than a long time for Nas. Maybe it's my generation holding on and hoping one of our legends can drop a classic that will 'save hip hop'. Maybe it was the return of good Nas on the street singles "Nasty" and "The Don" which whet our appetites for one of the biggest artists of the late 90's to return to form. The official date is July 17th but right now is my album review of Nas - Life is Good.

The album starts off with "No Introduction" which takes us back to Nas' early days and growing up in the hood before talking about and describing where he is today. The tone of the track and Nas' vivid descriptions and flow fit perfectly and harken back to his heyday and equal a great start. "Loco-Motive" is a throwback for his 'niggas stuck in the 90's" as Nas says. The song which features Large Professor speaking between verses as Nas takes us straight into the heart of the East Coast circa 1998. The piano riff in the song is sick. Another song with a break beat and older-school feel is "A Queen's Tale" where Nas gives a song to the old dudes from around the way but the song really gets going at the end when the beat switches up.

Mary J. Blige handles the hook and bridge on throwback cook-out style track on "Reach Out" and Nas still manages to show you can impart some decent bars into a song you can two-step to. "Accident Murderers" featuring Rick Ross is a jab at all of those guys bent on a vendetta who kill the wrong people or someone by accident and then pretend as if it was there intention from the start. Ross has a mean flow on the track but he doesn't talk about fake killers, his verse is about sticking up dope dealers but it isn't bad. "The black Bond" is some general Nas rapping about nothing but being ill with his descriptions.

By now everyone should know I think "Daughters" is the most important and smartest hip-hop track, especially by a mainstream artist, of the year, though it won't get nearly enough burn on the radio. "The Don" dropped a few months back and was Nas at his best talking about how he is the 'godfather' pretty much. "Nasty" also is still on the album though it is plenty old. "World's an Addiction" features Anthony Hamilton's vocals and Nas rapping about different ways people need to escape and get through their daily grind. Victoria Monet sings the hook on "You Wouldn't Understand" which is a message to those aren't from the hood and can't get with how a guy like Nas might act the way he does.

"Back When" is another track with Nas reminiscing about life back in the day. "Summer on Smash" is the single attempt for the current generation and it features Miguel and unfortunately too much of Swizz Beatz. t's like half hook compared to everything else. "Stay" is about conflicted feelings in a relationship. The long awaited "Cherry Wine" which features Amy Winehouse vocals for the chorus is alright as Nas talks about meeting the right woman- ironic right. "Rose" is another nice song that is fairly descriptive but doesn't have the biggest spark behind it. "Where's the Love" features an artist named Cocaine 80's and ends out the deluxe edition (lets be honest who isn't going to buy the one with four more songs on it?). The last songf on the non deluxe version is "Bye Baby" which is about his relationship with former wife Kelis and a shot at those who think he was a fool to get married to start with.

Life is Good is a good album, but not a great one. It's not a classic but the flaws that are evident are pretty much there in every Nas album. While he tries to juxtapose his past with his current life on most of the tracks, the beginning of several get redundant and "Back in the Day" wasn't even needed. The expecatation i had was going to be more evolving hip hop like "Daughters" and I was slightly let down, though "Accidental Murderers" and "Bye Baby" come close to living up to the maturity shown on "Daughters". With that said Nas still shows the youngsters how to actually rap and get deeper than basic description as he goes to lengths to give the physical description and lead some into the more mental aspects of his subject matter by the end of the songs like the final verse on "A Queen's Story".

Rating: 4/5

Monday, July 9, 2012

Can todays artists cross over into other endeavors?

A lot of people sleep on Will Smith's rap skills but no one can doubt that he has transformed himself into one of the top actors in Hollywood. In fact it was more than common in the late 90's to see your favorite rappers turn up acting in television or film. LL Cool J and Queen Latifah, both icons who went and held down their own prime time series for several years. Both have made a strong impact in film as well and LL is back to the small screen with NCIS Los Angelos where he is just extending his career and influence well beyond that 17 year old kid from queens who wore track suits.

Today's artists don't seem to have that type of future in mind. It has become a prerequisite that you have your body completely covered in tattoos to be in the game which is a severe impediment to acting where you have to take on different characters and everyone doesn't have the budget nor experts required to cover you up. They also don't have the time, especially when it comes to someone they're taking a risk on from the jump. I especially feel like this take on body art negatively affected the career of Shad "Bow Wow" Moss who could have made the transition several years ago had he dedicated himself to that pursuit.

As it stands now, only Nicki Minaj and Drake, who both are characters in the newest Ice Age film have the appeal and physical cleanliness to pursue careers even further. When i say cleanliness, i don't mean they're dirty, I just mean they haven't covered themselves ridiculously by the age of 26 to the point where they can no longer wear normal shirts. Look at Chris Brown whom could have gone to acting as a respite for his domestic abuse woes. Instead all you see now is his myriad of tats, and he is lucky because he has enough of a fan base that he could make the make up worthwhile. What about poor lil Tyga? Or Wiz Khalifa, neither of which seem like they will be hip-hop mainstays. How will they extend their fifteen minutes if all of their on screen appearances are as either a) rapper, b.)artist, or c.) random street tough/gang member .

Now this isn't to say that acting is the end of the line for an artist but it is one of the easiest forums to transition to for musicians and it banks on your fan base already in large part. What about the endorsement side of things? Lil Wayne had a gatorade commercial, about 3 years ago before he went to jail and since then isn't really visible to the bulk of corporate america because the image he presents isn't worth the hassle from their base customer. Remember when both Common and LL Cool J did commercials for the gap? Even Jadakiss was able to get in with Reebok because just looking at him you don't feel threatened or see him as some weirdo. You don't see Travis Barker on American Airlines commercials do you?  Especially for an african american when you already seem to be more dangerous than you truly are. It's actually shocking that Cee-lo was able to get a 7up commercial but thats more due to the success of the Voice than his actual musical career. He is in America's homes every week and looks more like a Genie than a threat.

This isn't hating because you can be an individual however, you should always take into account 5 and 10 years from now and not just whats going to happen in the next 5 to 10 minutes. What artists do you think can make the transition from rap music to other avenues?


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