Sunday, May 22, 2011

20 Facts, Beliefs, and Random Thoughts (May 21, 2011)

1.)    So, my good people, the Rapture did not happen. No, we are not dead. No, the Earth is not destroyed. No, God has not come back for his people. Plus, the way some of us act on a daily basis, I don’t think very many are going back. And yes, that includes luminaries like Kirk Franklin and Bishop Eddie Long.

2.)    Sir Michael Rocks has one of the most underrated mixtapes out there on the world wide web. He truly demonstrated his ability to rhyme over beats that aren’t made by Chuck Inglish. The other underrated mixtape? Pac Div’s Mania. I don’t care how many downloads they have. People aren’t talking about them enough.

3.)    Killer Mike (or Mike Bigga) has to be one of the most underrated artists in hip hop. His fan base is strong and his musical message is even stronger. People need to start recognizing that this man is going nowhere…as long as he doesn’t think about retiring. Meanwhile, buy Pl3dge.

4.)    If the Heat do make it to the Finals AND win the championship, it will be the first time a team would have one the NBA Finals without a worthwhile bench. I’m sorry people, but their bench production is unsavory. Check the history. All NBA championship teams had a formidable bench. Especially the Detroit Pistons of 1989 and 1990.

5.)    Arnold Swartzenegger, or whatever his last name is, had an affair with the hired help. Even produced a preteen child out of it all. Oh, and it’s a woman of color too. Hey, as they always say: once you go black, you never go back.

6.)    Speaking of being black, Satochi Kanazawa stirred up a lot of mess from his blog posted on CNN. It noted that “Black women are less physically attractive than other women”. This helps me realize one thing: if it sounds retarded, there is a chance that it is. And the people that were upset by it: what’s the purpose? People will be people, and people are generally stupid.

7.)    Elzhi released Elmatic. I thank God every day that Nas released Illmatic. Why? Well, for one it is the seminal piece of hip hop for NY from the 90’s. Another thing is that if there was no Illmatic, there would be no Elmatic. Plus, if Elzhi released Elmatic with no reference or inspiration, he would be declared hip hop royalty right now.

8.)    I’m not sure I like magazine reviews right now. Killer Mike’s Pl3dge got a three mics from the Source. Elzhi only got an XL from XXL magazine. Some of these reviews tend to low ball the artistic movement and compositions at times. This is part of the reason why I do music reviews to this day.

9.)    Macho Man Randy Savage died recently. People need to honor the legend that he was. Whether it was the wrestling, the voice, the charisma, or the Slim Jim commercials, people need to recognize his significance to sports and popular culture. Salute!

10.) I purchased a copy of Maybach Music’s Self Made Volume One. I have to admit two things about it: a.) The album is pretty damn banging. b.) Rick Ross has some of the most hilarious choruses out in hip hop. I see why people like him. His choruses are slick talk drenched in tomfoolery.

11.) Thinking about hip hop music, I am still trying to find out what happened to Scaramanga Shallah/Sir Menelik and Godfather Don. I swear to you, their days with Kool Keith/Rawkus/Hiphop underground will be some memorable stuff.

12.) The dopest R&B males out there right now: Frank Ocean’s Nostalgia Ultra and The Weeknd’s House of Balloons. No, it isn’t your common R&B music, either. Its real music. Irregular, profane, and always sexy for the ladies. Even when the chicks don’t get it, they love it.

13.) Curren$y is flooding the internets with music nowadays. With Covert Coup out already, Weekend @ Bernie’s coming and multitudes of over projects on the way, is there going to be anyone out there more prolific than Spitta this year?

14.) Felonious Munk is the future. If not, then at least he’s relevant and got something to say right now. You people need to listen to him.

15.) Bad Meets Evil is coming soon. That is, an ep with Eminem and Royce Da 5’9. Since it is an ep with those two rhyming, it is safe to say that they will be crucified if it is anything short of high quality music with no filler material. Their reputation precedes them. Anything short of “a great album” may be considered a flop.

16.) Nas is recording a new album. It has been hinted that he will be influenced by artists such as Odd Future, Lil Wayne, Drake and Frank Ocean as influences. Wait, I’m confused. Isn’t Nas a veteran in the game? You don’t need influences. You need to sit with one producer and bang out some heat. Find Premier, please.

17.) No Strings Attached is a hilarious movie. GREAT SCOTT!

18.) Cassidy needs to stop violating probation. While he is at it, can he come with some digestible and tangible music at the moment? Come on, Barry Reese!

19.) I wonder if Nelly is going to return to his hit making ways or will he become a ringtone artist. Then again, I’m not really sure I care since he is still a millionaire and I am not.

20.) Consequence is not with GOOD Music anymore. I am beginning to wonder whether or not his career will ever exceed the premise of “that cool dude that rhymes”. His situations have always become shaky after a while. Is it the company that he keeps or is it his overall aura hindering him?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Reign of Independence Pt. 2: Mixtape Madness

Waka Flocka Flame was making some sense when people lambasted him a year or so ago.
Some may remember the comments. Others may have forgotten faster than Usain Bolt’s metabolism. Waka made a note of “lyrical rappers not making money” and “he didn’t care about putting an album out”. While there are plenty of examples of lyrical rappers being well off, he did make a point with having an album. “Oh, Let’s Do It” was a radio/club hit at the time. Plus, he was generating plenty of show revenue. Therfore, there was no real need for him to have an album.

Why? Well, Waka Flocka was pretty much a mixtape artist.
Oddly enough, mixtapes did not start off this way. Mixtapes were always a mixture of songs from different artists, hence the mix in mixtape. Also, they were perfect mediums to promote a DJs mixing and blending skills. If you weren’t a DJ, then a “pause mixtape” was made. Luminaries such as Kid Capri, Red Alert, Doo Wop, Tony Touch, DJ Spinbad, and DJ Screw were considered formidable in their own craft of blends, mixes, and flipping freestyles over instrumentals. Therefore, the mixtape was a promotional tool for both the DJ and any artists blessed to be included.
Oh, did I mention that mixtapes were sold for profit? Nowadays, that is a rarity (more on that later).
The mixtape medium has been very beneficial for artists and DJs alike. DJs are tastemakers in hip hop. So, people tend to gravitate to their artistic cosigns. Artists, however, benefit from the push and promotion of their music. It gives them an outlet to test their music amongst the masses. Thus, the mixtape is the beneficial factor of DJs and artists career wise.
Yet, mixtapes usually consisted of a mixture of artists. Still, two different factions helped propel the artist based mixtape: Dipset and 50 Cent (G-Unit).

Dipset, the Harlem crew led by Cam’Ron, hit the hip hop scene hard with their Diplomats Vol. 1 mixtape series in 2001. With seminal hits such as “Oh Boy”, “Ambitionz of a Killa” featuring Daz, and countless freestyles, Dipset celebrated plenty. They celebrated Cam’Ron’s revitalized career. Also, there was the Dipset signing to Roca Fella Records. This eventually led to much hulabaloo in hip hop (fashion trends, executive positions, off shoot crews, unnecessary beefs, etc.). In the end, the Dipset reign all started from a mixtape.

Meanwhile, 50 Cent took the mixtape world by storm. Starting off with the DJ Whoo Kid assisted 50 Cent is the Future, the ironically entitled mixtape blazed unseen trails for him and G-Unit. 50 Cent went from blackballed undesirable with bullet wounds to commandeering hip hop manipulator. After that, it was all uphill. Subsequently, he signed to Shady/Aftermath, destroys Ja Rule’s career, sells insane amounts of Get Rich and Die Trying, runs G-Unit Records, starts a clothing line, gets his own Reebok gym shoe, invests in Vitamin Water, buys Mike Tyson’s mansion, and does other business related things.
Plus, he was involved with Vivica Fox, the cougar supreme.
Many other artists followed suit with their own mixtape madness. The caustic thing about this change in music is that a number of the more successful artists come from the south with an association to DJ Drama.

T.I., right after his fruitless stint with La Face Records, restarted his career with In Da Streets series with his crew (P$C). DJ Drama eventually became a signee to T.I.’s Grand Hustle label. Young Jeezy, fresh off his underground album Come Shop With Me, stepped up to the plate. He hit a homerun with the release of the DJ Drama assisted Trap or Die, bringing in rave reviews and hood love. Lil Wayne, working hard to progress from his “wobbly, wobbly” days, released his Dedication series with DJ Drama. With a combination of street sense, focus, and crafty lyrics, these emcees pushed the mixtape game towards a new plateau.
That new plateau is something that was not expected: the free mixtape used to rival the bar coded album.
Once again, DJ Drama is partially responsible for the free mixtape movement. In 2007, in a brash attempt to cut down on piracy, the FBI cracked down on the mixtape trade. DJ Drama was considered a main culprit. He got arrested on charges of a felony violation of the Georgia RICO laws [1]. It put him in a peculiar situation. Yet, he still recovered with his same drive and sensibilities.
With all pun intended, he even put out a song called “Feds Taking Pictures”.  
This new mixtape format has only helped the artist. If an artist REALLY wants to test the market, they can release a mixtape. Sometimes, they are pushed by a DJ. Other times, they are not. Regardless, an artist can easily make a living through shows and merchandising off of a free composition of music.
Many may not like the route that mixtapes are going. However, artists and fans alike have to recognize the significance of this musical movement. Drake and Wiz Khalifa serve as perfect examples of the proliferation of artistic power through mixtapes.

Drake’s rise was meteoric in measure to other artists. The Canadian DeGrassi alum flexed both rhyming muscle and singing/song writing ability on So Far Gone. It had him flipping between hood observer, to pop artist, to even late night crooner to loose and drunken strippers. From that point, he had a smash single “Best I Ever Had”, more songs, more mixtapes, shows, features, and a seminal platinum album Thank Me Later.
By the way, So Far Gone was slimmed down and re-released as an EP. It went gold, selling in excess of 500,000 or more copies. If that isn’t the proof of artistic power, I don’t know what is.

Wiz Khalifa’s story has a different approach. Signed to Warner, he only released “Say Yeah”. It was a more pop friendly single. Working his way out of the deal, he went dolo with his Rostrum team. After releasing Deal or No Deal, he pressed hard to create a buzz for Kush & OJ. A creative juxtaposition of cannabis flavored rhymes over imaginatively sampled production, Kush & OJ propelled Wiz to the stratosphere. From there, his rep only grew into a successful Waken Baken Tour, a new Atlantic contract, a multiplatinum single “Black and Yellow”, a million and two cosigns, and the release of Rolling Papers.
R&B artists are recognizing the mixtape movement and following suit. Trey Songz has released numerous mixtapes to promote his brand of R&B. He has even used the moniker of “Prince of Virginia”. Raheem DeVaughn has also hit the mixtape scene with furor. He has released many mixtapes, such as Heemy Taught Me, Jackin’ For Beats, and Mr. February a.k.a. March Madness. Chris Brown’s present album Fame would not be where it is if it wasn’t for the hits “No Bullsh*t” and “Deuces”, which came from his In My Zone mixtape. Influentially, even R&B artists are using the mixtape to give their careers a boost.
The mixtape game is here to stay. Whether it remains to be a free piece of music or a composition readily built for monetary consumption. However, hip hop uses the mixtape format far too much to promote artists to generate a buzz and appease the fans. There may be some naysayers to the fact that artists put out free music. Yet, the artists are consistently reaping the benefits. Also, the fans aren’t complaining. It looks to me that the mixtape game is a win/win for all involved.
‘Nuff said and ‘Nuff respect!


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Reign of Independence Pt. 2: My Low Budget Album is Better Than Your Big Budget Album

The year 2011 is starting off strong with its quality of hip hop albums. Saigon finally releases his Just Blaze produced, multi-year old album The Greatest Story Never Told. Raekwon unleashed Shaolin vs. WuTang, a long player that harkens on the sound of the Rza circa 1993. Pharaohe Monch gets the assist from Duck Down on W.A.R. (We Are Renegades). In addition, Cunnilynguists released Oneriology to the adoration of their worldwide fan base. It is only April. Yet, there are at least four albums demanding respect and critical acclaim.
The ironic thing is this: they are all independent albums.

Saigons’s album was released on Suburban Noize, known for its “greener artists”. Raekwon, with EMI distribution, was released on his own ICEH2O label. As mentioned before, Dru Ha and Buckshot put out W.A.R. Oneriology was released through QN5. Four great albums released to rave reviews under minimal budgets.
So, one may wonder about the major releases that has been anticipated this year. Well, we can look at two of those albums right now: Lupe Fiasco’s Lasers and Wiz Khalifa’s Rolling Papers.
Lupe Fiasco’s Lasers has been talked about enough by me. No more words need to be given for my dislike of it. Rolling Papers, however, is a different story. Wiz’s lyrics remain intact and the album is good. Yet, there are still some glaring differences between this album and his highly heralded Kush & OJ. The production on Rolling Papers is more “industry friendly” and less organic/experimental. Some of the songs are especially made for mainstream appeal. In the end, it can be said that some of the major label albums sound really “commercialized”.
Honestly, any hip hop listener shouldn’t be surprised by what they have witnessed.
Independent albums have the benefit of allowing artists to do what they do best: be them. In many cases, independents want to capitalize on the artist. They want the artist to make their music the way they make it. Independent sign artists to be themselves, not a concoction of a musician predisposed for super download sales and background IKEA soundtracks. In reality, it makes more sense to expand on what exists and not change the musician or the music.
The habit of independents making excellent music is nothing new. In the south, Rap A Lot was a long standing representation of great music. 2 Live Crew was independent also. Even in the west coast, many artists (Too Short, E-40, Mac Dre, the vast majority of the Bay Area, etc.) came up independently. Respectively, the independent route was the way non-New Yorkers made a living and succeeded.
Yet, just because New York and LA has major label offices does not mean that they never fostered their own independent movements.
The most notable independent movement for non-commercialized hip hop music showed up  full force during the late 90’s. Three labels come to mind: Rawkus, Fondle ‘Em, and Stonesthrow.

Rawkus was the most visible and successful commercially. Fondle ‘Em served as a boutique label for Bobbito Garcia. He liked certain unsigned artists and released their music. The same can be said for
Peanut Butter Wolf’s Stonesthrow. Although not a boutique label, Stonesthrow was a full independent force. The label would release seminal music from old funk artists, forgotten about songs, crate dug treasures, and hip hop artists that made music that they liked. With fervent focus, the late 90’s built a movement of music based on making music without caring what people thought.
The only label that tried to be commercial was Rawkus, which brought about its eventual demise. Then again, I knew things were going downhill when EL-P preferred sleeping sodomy to working with the label again.
So, why is being independent so much of a choice for today’s artists?
For one, it tends to not be a choice at all. In today’s musical climate, A&R (artist and repertoire) work is limited. As well, most labels sign artists that create their own buzz and music movements. Many major labels, due to decreases in profits, do not give the same advance money they gave in the past. Thus, artists today have to work for themselves or build teams around them. This tends to force artists to be more knowledgeable of the footwork needed for their own careers. In turn, present label practices make artists fend for their own success.
The second reason is the need for some experienced artists to thrive. There are musicians that are seasoned vets in need of career sustenance. They may have fallen out of favor with labels. However, they still have fans and still demand tour money. So, they can either let their careers die or keep working. Like any enterprising person, they choose to keep working.   
A third reason depends upon the dwindling sales of artists. Albums are not selling CD’s like they used to. Having an album that very few people may even buy is not cost effective on a major label. Independent situations usually bring better per unit money for artists. With that said, why go to a major label when your chances recouping your money are getting slimmer?
The last reason deals with technological advances of the medium. Technology has been the gift and curse of the industry. It has given fans faster/easier access to music. Yet, it is a significant part of the reason that sales are dwindling. File sharing allows fans to get music at the ease of a stroke across the keyboard. What many artists have done is kept releasing free music and mixtapes to gear them for an impending album release or just to build a following for successful touring and merchandise sales. Also, many artists don’t need major channels to get their music on internet sales sites. An artist can as easily contact I-Tunes or have a CD Baby account and be on all the respected digital download sites. In the end, technology has opened artists to the opportunity of truly controlling their sales careers.
If this has been a lot for you to read, consider this equation:
Past independent examples + need to survive + technological advances= more independent functioning.
Major money and major music are not synonymous anymore. Artists are finding themselves creating music with half the monetary hassle. They can also make their kind of music and master their own fates. The state of the music industry has only made independence more feasible. Thus, it remains to be seen how major labels will function in the future, if they exist as they once have.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Weeknd....High For Becky Vision.

The Weeknd's mixtape, House of Balloons, is a nice synthesized adventure into avante guard R&B.

As usual, he keeps it atypical with the visuals for this song......

Because I can't load the video on my blog.....

Smoke here!

And that is all I have to say for this banger. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Saturday, April 9, 2011