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Friday, March 29, 2013

Hip-hop We Have a problem...

So I do my daily log onto World Star and I see Ricky Ross 'clearing up' some lyrics on some song with Rocko. Now, I refuse to listen to anything by Rocko so I never heard the song nor lyrics in question. So I listened for the 'explanation' then I listened to the song itself. Rozay is wrong and once again crossed the line. In the song he raps:

“Put molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it/ I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it.”

He then turns around and says that it is misinterpreted some kind of way and that women are the queens. These same women he calls bitch on record. The same women he uses interchangeably in song and the only way he shows appreciation for is based upon the dollar amount he 'spends' in boutiques. Then he says hip-hop doesn't support that, yet he found it cool enough to rap such scandalous bars in the first place, listen to the song multiple times and then give his blessing to be played as a single.

But you know what, this is just part of a wider issue within rap music right now. The mysoginy is at an all time high as well as the disrespect for females and society in general. Disrespect has gotten to the point where it is almost encouraged to an extent. How many rappers routinely refer to women as bitches with no second thought and turn around, who are the biggest supporters of these artists, women.

I don't hear music coming from these guys talking about women in a non-sexually explicit manner and giving them positive reinforcement.I don't hear anything respectful of women except in a song about their mother taking care and raising them, though they tend to have endured hellish and unhealthy conditions because of it. The dichotomy man I tell you. We can have praise for women who lived their younger lives just like the women we disrespect on record and don't see the connection.

But let's stop for a second because I had to when looking at this topic and seeing the varied reactions on social media. For one, I don't think Rick Ross is running around dropping Mollys in drinks and raping chicks. I think he thought it sounded slick and I do have a problem with that because there is a problem we have where we quantify everything. "Oh this doesn't matter it's just rap". If thats how you feel then why feel the need to even make a statement or get involved in the debate about content. Yes, "There are bigger issues in the world I Know" - to quote Jay-z but it's the underlying issue that popular artists get passes when they step over a line because we like them and don't want to protect them. Make them responsible.

In talking about this on Twitter, I had to confront the reality that worse things have been said, Eminem killed his daughter's mother on wax several times and Tyler the Creator and Hopsin are know for their outlandish attempts to get attention by saying the most outrageous things, but no one takes those two seriously. The Eminem situation is the closest because he is a popular artist but he also faced intense criticism over his lyrics, and why, because people related to him and he was seen as being able to influence the popular culture at the time. Same thing with Rick Ross, he is one of the leaders of the culture right now, like it or not and a lot of older people who have children now listening to hip-hop are and have a right to start being just as concerned as those white parents were in 1999 when Eminem dropped.

The talk about weed is one thing, a lot of people know it and understand it. Alcohol has a place in American culture overall so pop all the bottle you want. We rationalize away the violence as a product of the environment. But we start to raise our eyes with Mollys because it's the first thing in this generation of hip-hop we don't get or understand. This is what has us looking at the news at stories about it confused and when our kids are rapping about popping them and sweating and you hear this dude using it as a date rape drug if only on record, we're going to start getting upset. When your kids or nephews or nieces are walking around quoting these lines and laughing, you have to be concerned and need to ahve the conversation to make sure they can tell the difference between 'fantasy' ,'art', and 'reality' and these rappers do not help by creating fictional situations and then emphasizing their authenticity. At some point these things have to either cancel each other out or you have to pick a side to be on. You cannot keep telling me you're real then say every controversial lyric is just fiction. It doesn't work like that.

As listeners we have to both strive to be consistent yet understand that these words have value and meaning. This is both literal, these are rappers who get paid for what they say, and beyond as they represent values that either reinforce what your kids already believe, or teach them new ones. It's not just for parents, the guy next to you at the mall, a random person at a club or party all could and will be affected by this. It could be as much as them being the one to set you up, or as simple as ignoring something someone else is doing because it fits in culturally. We all have a responsibility within urban music and hip-hop to shape it as we think it should be and there is some point where someone feels a line has been crossed and should speak on it. Rap cannot be a place where everything is accepted as mainstream because it 'isnt important' because before you blink, that issue becomes the one at the forefront and we could have done something about it.

Monday, March 25, 2013

TI and Weezy Can Tip save him?

Now after going through all of the hoopla surrounding Lil Wayne's seizures and subsequent hospital stay, T.I. took the time to not only chastise TMZ for what he considered to be irresponsible coverage of the issues he was going through, but to also announce that the two would be going on tour this summer. It's all good for most aspects of that I guess, i mean these are the two leading icons of the southern rap movement today who both have a certain amount of respect and or following. However, both are pretty much seen in different lights.

T.I. is a respected elder statesman who has done time multiple times, been in the game a while and is known for being a good role model even though he has had his own personal issues. Wayne is seen as a talented lyricist who is the leader of a lost generation who pretty much only promotes negativity such as drug use, unnecessary violence, and objectifying women. Yeah pretty much all rappers, but unlike most, Wayne seems to lack the redeeming qualities most artists attempt to portray at least on occasion. He is unapologetic in what he represents and while that can be commended the fact is, what he represents isn't something I can get behind or encourage.

This leads me back to Mr. Harris, who is an example of how to balance both worlds. He can still do a song like "Addresses" and still come across as a good father and husband. This leads to a guy who has damn near killed himself twice so far due to drug and alcohol abuse and the hope that TI can be a positive influence to bring out more of these qualities in Wayne. I'm not going to act like I know how Waynes acts around his children, but we know is he has several, about three of which are under the age of three and with his travel schedule time around them has to be minimal. Then there is the fact that the majority of the time he is seen, he is carrying a cup or high. Then there is the constant promotion of drug usage and his over sexualized lyrics. Hell, we have seen him with his daughter onstage while he performs "Lollipop".

I understand most people who are Wayne fans will say 'He shouldn't be a role model, a child's parents should be'. They are right but unfortunately it doesn't work that way. Popular culture has an enormous impact on the lives of the youth and Wayne is one of the current leaders of that. From his tattoos to his piercings and style of dress, more people copy and follow him, subconsciously or not and so what he says and does has a large effect. There are few people who have the cachet to speak to him frankly and suggest changes in behavior, T.I. is one of those people.

T.I. has been able to transform himself from  just another felon who happens to be an entertainment to someone who is able to be shown as a pillar of rehabilitation and the only positive person on the vh1 lineup. He has several artists under him enjoying success in different areas of the musical spectrum like B.O.B. and Iggy Azalea. He is known for having responsible reactions to situations and not flying off the handle.

This isn't just about the detriment to the urban society at large though, it's also about Wayne and his own life. Wayne is on the path to serious destruction. The drug use has gone overboard and at times it seems as if the only thing dude has left to due is to die young so he can be considered a legend like River Phoenix or someone. There is more to life than sex, drugs, and alcohol and hopefully at some point Wayne can realize that and not destroy himself or anyone else's life in the process.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Album Review- Lil Wayne - I Am Not a Human Being II

So as Wayne is or isn't in an ICU in California recovering from seizures that may or may not be a part of his continued drug use, his album is scheduled for release. I wasn't even aware that it was coming out this soon but here it is and it's maybe because I don't listen to urban radio I missed out on the single. No matter because Lil Wayne is back with his new album release I am Not a Human Being 2 . I'm not sure what the title is supposed to mean because he looks more mortal than ever right now.

The album starts with a simplistic beat that doesn't live up to its idea, as the track on "IANAHB" builds, the keyboard never really evolves and feels flat. On this you are going to get the idea of what the entire album is about, as he talks his braggadocio thug rap but his favorite subject, the female anatomy and what he can do to it. It comes back up on "Curtains" which also features an artist named Boo and has Wayne back on the auto tune wagon a la Future.

Gudda Gudda gets a chance to spit next to Weezy on "Gunwalk" where Wayne threatens to use the heat on anyone who talks greasy and makes a threat. Gudda doesn't do bad on here considering what it is. One of the singles is "No worries" with Detail which is pretty much just like "Bitches Love Me" which is the bigger single and features Future and Drake. I would say he was scared to let Drake shine on the song but he probably wrote wayne's verses anyway. "Back To You" is another one of Wayne's awful rock/rap hybrid attempts as eh talks to a lady about getting back with him and it might make some top 40 play just because.

I can't help but like "Beat The Shit" but that's probably cause I deal with Gunplay as limited as he is lyrically. The weak pre-chorus that Wayne sings doesn't help at all though. However, the beat is set up decent. On "Rich as Fuck" 2 Chainz handles the hook as Wayne talks about why the women choose him over anyone else. on "Wowzers" Soulja Boy absolutely murders the production but Wayne drops a bunch of wack bars about his sexual prowess. He totally wasted the track and it will be a million freestyles over this track as soon as it leaks. Soulja gets some vocal action on "Trigger Finger" and his bars aren't the only ones of struggle as Wayne is lackluster on this joint as well. Juicy J does the beat on "Trippy" where Wayne manages to focus on a subject for once which is getting high.

"Hello" is a rock song about what else, sex as is "Romance" which is just a list of things Wayne did in the bedroom, or maybe outside of the bedroom. "God Bless Amerika" had potential to be a statement song but it isn't about anything at all though the chorus and beat might suggest otherwise.

Look I haven't liked Wayne since the first Carter dropped and he has been on a steady descent in my mind ever since then.Wayne has never been particularly focused as a rapper on creating actual songs and this album is more of that. While a lot of people rave about his punchlines they never have any real relation to anything else going on before or after. Its a bunch of randomness put together and his reliance on talking about sex and his 'prowess' is at the point of ridiculousness. I mean I should be able to listen to half a verse without hearing about what your dick or tongue does. The beats are predictable and even when they are above average, Wayne's laissez-faire approach ruins their potential. It's unfortunate because he is indeed talented, but he has been surpassed by proteges Drake and Ncki Minaj by a fairly large margin.

Rating: 2/5

Monday, March 11, 2013

Rap Radio and growing up

So I have just been put on with the Combat Jack show and initially it was due to an interview with the program director of Ny's Hot 97 Ebro Darden ad he went and addressed some of the issues regarding urban radio, song selection, and playlists. I definitely want to get into plenty of the things he brough up and I will try to get up the links to the interviews but you might as well go to the Combat Jack site and check out the entire archives because they have me inspired about a lot right now.

One issue I want to talk about is why people seemed to be concerned about the radio and what gets played on it. Why is it even a big issue for us right now where we question the content. Point blank, hip-hop is growing up and we don't know how to handle it. We are having adjustment issues. Look Jay-z is in his forties and is still considered in his prime, he is "Young Hova". Rick Ross is in his late 30's, Kanye, Wayne may seem young but he is in his early 30's as well. The founders of the genre are solidly in their 50's and approaching 60, meanwhile other genres like rock and Country have gone through these changes already. What changes? the changes that money brings.

You see it took until the late 90's for hip-hop to become accepted and monetized properly, so the next decade, that of the early 2000's saw an explosion in the popularity and truly saw the labels and corporations get involved with the direction of the music. This was also when technology exploded with Napster and file sharing leading to itunes. The technology was also in radio where instead of the old Nielsen recording books, digital means of measuring listeners came into account and that along with the consolidation of media companies due to relaxed rules and oversight by the FCC led to a shrinking of available air time. With fewer companies controlling more market share they have to maximize profits and found new metrics and means to do so.

If you have time to take a chance and listen to what Ebro is talking about he breaks down how songs are selected and the decisions on what is heard and how many times, and it is all based on numbers. It's no feeling and these companies overall are in it to make money and don't care to aid the community as an overall aspect of their business (which is why I am especially apalled at Radio One Markets they should care about their people). With that said, the radio is aimed at a young audience and leisure listeners so at the end of the day you know what you're going to get. They aren't going to shoe horn Dead Prez into a block because they might just lose listeners and you might not come back for a while. So while 1/3rd of the audience might gain something, the numbers point to keeping them at bay and avoiding anything that might turn off listeners.

With that said, overall, rap and hip-hop are healthier than ever, the issue is knowing where to find it. You see today's artists have moved online to get their breaks. Twitter, facebook, and youtube are the new MTV and Radio Stations as well as street teams. and are the mom and pop shops where you find new music, the issue is, it's overwhelming. It's hard to discern through all of the noise, just which artists have the potential and sound you are looking for and it can be frustrating. Clue tapes used to be the barometer, now, mix tapes are anything that isn't always in best Buy yet sometimes make it into stores like amazon and Itunes. So for the older generation who is used to finding their music tradtionally, they are lost in a sense, hell I'm starting to have trouble keeping up on social networks so i know it can be daunting.

To find music now you have to rely on friends, and friends of friends. Suggestions on your Pandora account or through the Genius on itunes and you're going to have to take a risk at the outset. You're not going to know everything or a person's history and it is very risk and reward based now. If you're my age and you like more content, you're going to have to actually take the time and do it now. There is no longer a singular authority. In a way it can be more fun because when you find a Don Trip, Big Krit, Childish Gambino, Joey Badass, or a B.O.B., and you are the first of your circle it feels good to introduce everyone to something new and great. That feeling of hearing that new record at night can now be had at 7 am before you finish fixing up your morning coffee. Here is to good music hunting and let me know if you find anything worth hearing.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

MTV's Top Ten Hottest 2013

 So of course the always controversial MTV's top ten hottest emcees of 2013 has come out and generated plenty of controversy as is the goal. It's a discussion point, and as that' I'm fine though maybe I should expand my circle cause everyone always says they don't pay attention to these certain people who make it. For a recap just check the image to the left.

At first I was totally against the bulk of the list but after settling down and thinking I have to remember that "hottest" is a very subjective term. For instance Nas should be on the list because people in my age range were looking for something like "Life is Good" from him. it was such a solid album that Nas doesn't have to do all of the features the others do in order to be impactful and in fact he sold much more than some of today's popular artists proving that he still has staying power. But that leads to another question, does a solid album that was the talk for a month mean more than someone like Future or Big Sean who didn't sell squat from their disappointing solo efforts but who were on several top singles during the year? Once again, hot is a subjective term. For me that means a lot because even the people who claim to like Sean don't support him on his own, only in doses with others.

Now I still think that Ross and Drake should be numbers one and two and I am not a fan of either artist, however, they both had a tremendous impact and are artists you have to check for even if you don't like them. Drake in particular was on songs from everyone except for Nas pretty much and had the term #YOLO getting on my nerves. I have no problem with 2Chainz making the list though his album sucked even more than was expected he still had smash singles.

After that I would have had Meek Mill because up until "Dreams and Nightmares" actually came out he was the most talked about artist without an actual debut album. He had singles galore and even shut down his features on Wale and the Self Made compilation. The actual album had some decent songs but isn't in heavy rotation beyond a few tracks. So he and Asap Rocky would fill out the top half for me cause though I don't get Asap myself apparently people like him. Then I would bring in Kendrick Lamarr whom I do like as an artist but I don't really see him as an artist who you wait for a killer verse on a remix or most tracks and thats because of his style.

Nas would drop in at 7 which is good enough for me. I would then put the auto tune mess that is Future at number 8 and add French Montana into this list. While French hasn't dropped an album yet, he had "Pop That" as a single, came out with "Ocho Cinco" and had enough features to keep his name in the streets while looking like he was half assing his career. How Knaye made this list I don't know cause he hasn't done anything this year worth being on it. Cruel Summer was a flop, he didn't do an album and only a handful of weak features. Big Sean is one of the worst rappers I have every heard so I will never put him on a list for a positive reason so I would end my top ten with Nicki Minaj because she is always popping at this point. She can literally fart on a track and be in the top ten. Honorable mention to Wayne and Pusha T for their contributions which I think were more than Kanye who went on a rant trying to disrespect Sway for only being at number 7. I don't want to glorify his bitch ass ness any more so we will leave it at that.

1. Rick Ross
2. Drake
3. 2 Chainz
4. Meek Mill
5. A$ap Rocky
6. Kendrick Lamarr
7. Nas
8. Future
9. French Montana
10. Nicki Minaj

At the end of the day, this list has to be more fun to talk about because it means nothing overall. The idea of hotness is weird because being forced onto features like Ace Hood was two years ago doesn't mean you're hot. I skip Big Sean's verse on Clique every single time so his presence doesn't do anything. Future couldn't move his album but on features with hooks he helps to make the song for some so is he really hot overall? I would say that takes away from it.

While it is refreshing to see a Kendrick Lamarr atop a list like this for what old school skills he brings to the game, I just don't see where he had the overall impact to change the game as much as this kind of list would suggest. Maybe next year there might be a move in the tone of the game but until then I think it's an over estimation of what Kendrick has done thus far, but good luck in the future young man. How do you feel about the official list or my own?


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