Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Lupe Fiasco - The Cool

Disclaimer: I’m going to attempt a rational and unbiased review of this album regardless of the artist’s continual blatant disregard for my all-time favorite musical piece of work. I have a preconceived notion of what to expect from the songs I’ve heard and my knowledge of his thematic ethos, but I’ll throw all of that out of the window and listen with an open mind. Here goes nothing.
To become a successful mainstream Hip-Hop artist while simultaneously going against the grain is a daunting task analogous to swimming upstream. Your label wants you to mimic whatever the present radio climate dictates, most of which has become catchy ignorance. Lupe Fiasco continues to throw all caution to the wind and march to the beat of his own drum, as he is determined to reach minds through carrying the flag for Kris Parker’s concept of edutainment. The Cool is Lupe’s sophomore effort following last year’s critically lauded albeit commercially disdained Food & Liquor.

The Cool serves the dual purpose of weaving a gang of random songs around the story of the character from his debut album’s song bearing the same name of this project. "The Coolest" could be interpreted as displaying what one of today’s “coolest” rappers would sound like spitting bars full of substance, as Lupe employs a flow and cadence that is eerily similar to that of Lil Wayne. Everything about the song rings dramatic from the piano and background vocals to the first person tale of Michael Young History. The heavy mood is tempered by "Paris, Tokyo" which is (what a song from A Tribe Called Quest might sound like in today’s day and age) about performing and traveling the world. "Hi-Definition" is the closest the album comes to a club banger or radio smash, but much like Food & Liquor’s “I Gotcha” the verses are too complicated for mass consumption. Lupe may wind up sneaking his figurative medicine into the applesauce with "Gold Watch", as the soulful guitar is destined to capture ears while he name drops a gang of materialism and nerd culture, leaving the audience wondering if the song is self-satirical or if he’s serious. "Hip Hop Saved My Life" is also easily digestible as he uses a seamless flow to tell the story of an aspiring MC from Houston. Welcome changes from his generally somber state come in "Go Baby Go", a fun N.E.R.D takeoff of sorts and "Fighters", the album’s emotional centerpiece where Lu presents himself to the audience as a vulnerable human being discussing his place in Hip-Hop and eulogizing family members.

For all of his efforts to bring us into understanding his world, the second half of The Cool still manages to alienate with topic matter more suited for arthouse cinema than a Hip-Hop release on a major label. "Streets On Fire" tells the tale of HIV’s impact on our community, and while "Gotta Eat" is lyrically brilliant Lupe comes off as trying too hard as he personifies fast food and details its effects on man. "Dumb It Down" is the account of his struggle to maintain strong lyrical content and reach people, but ironically it will likely succeed in polarizing the average listener. It is equally odd how he expects to achieve mass acceptance with "Go Go Gadget Flow" and "The Die", as he only serves to do the Midwest proud rapping in the same vein of Chicago veterans Do or Die and Twista. Lupe has trouble drawing the line between creativity and a bad idea as "Hello/Goodbye" is a rock number that will be received with open arms by the MTV2 audience and likely shunned by people drawn to the rest of the album.

Lupe Fiasco is to be commended for attempting to bring an alternative view to today’s mainstream, as The Cool finds him dropping many moments of genius over a wide range of hitting production. The downside is that his music runs the perpetual risk of preaching to the choir, as the means by which he delivers his message may go over the heads of those who need it most.

Rating: @@@@ 1/4

Afterthought: The album is far from the conceptual piece that the press release promised. My one listen heard only two songs telling the story of Michael Young History, and one of a character The Game.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Mini-Reviews Part 1

As we approach the end of the year too much music is coming out (or leaking, if you will). In my quest to stay on top of whatever I'd consider fresh, here is brief rundown of what I've bumped recently.

Saigon : The Moral of The Story - This is the mixtape that's dropped before his long awaited debut The Greatest Story Never Told which is still without a set release date from Atlantic. Sai is the next coming of what Pac's conscious thug character represented, but he actually puts thought into his bars and he has a great ear for beats. - @@@@ 1/4
South, The West, The East Coast
Saigon Meets Just Blaze

Busta Rhymes & Mick Boogie : Dillagence - It's Busta doing what he does, if you don't care for him then you probably won't dig the rapping on this mixtape. The added thrill is it's in tribute to Jay Dee, using a lot of beats that you've probably never heard before. It fell short of the @@@@ 1/2 mark because Busta chose some beats to rock over that were a bit too left field, and I wasn't feeling guests like Rah Digga (she's fallen far from her Dirty Harriet days) and Cassidy. Get the whole thing here. - @@@@ 1/4

Kidz In The Hall & Mick Boogie : Detention - If you don't know by now you should, producer Double O and rapper Naledge have gone from Rawkus to Duck Down and are about to put out their sophomore release The In Crowd this March. Hush is the kind of music I need right now, grown man material over beats that are killing. A track from this mixtape has earned its way onto my Best of 2007 mix dropping later on this month. Not to mention the cover is incredible. Get the whole thing here. - @@@@ 1/2

6th Sense & Mick Boogie : Go For It - Dude asked me to check his material and I'm not mad. He has beats (He did "Think About It" off of Snoop's Blue Carpet Treatment), and he can rap too but I'm not crazy about his voice. His crew also leaves a little to be desired, but overall this is a highly ambitious project. Get the whole thing here. - @@@@

Bishop Lamont & Black Milk : Caltroit - I'm sorry, I'm a Black milk supporter but this was too n*gg*rish for me to sit through. Possibly I'm biased against the West Coast and whatever movement they're attempting to rebuild but I didn't get through more than 6 songs on this mixtape.

I'll be back with a part 2 to this later on in the week, because there's plenty new stuff I haven't checked for yet. I'll also attempt full write ups of some other new albums that are floating around.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

King E : J-Live/Roy Ayers "The Hear After" remix project

Still one of the best wordsmiths in the game today, J-Live seems to have hit a stumbling block when it comes to his ear for beats. He was once making music that was light years ahead of his peers with production from DJ Premier, DJ Spinna, Pete Rock, and 88 Keys amongst other greats and devout subscribers are dying for him to make a return to his classic days of old.

Many believe the junior full-length effort The Hear After was when J-Live started to slip. To the rescue came King E out of Springdale, Pennsylvania with a project that takes this album's acapellas over samples from Roy Ayers.

If you aren't familiar with Roy Ayers, your musical palate is pretty much malnutritioned. He's a master on the vibraphone and a genius producer/arranger/conductor in his own right as his music has always been chock full of soul, harmony, rhythm and all around goodness. If you're worth your weight in classic Hip-Hop knowledge, E Rule's "Listen Up" was a loop of Roy Ayers' hugest hit sped up. Ed O.G. and The Bulldogs' "Be A Father To Your Child"? Roy Ayers.

This project was a treat for me, as I knew most of the songs that were sampled. But even if you're unfamiliar you should wind up enjoying this as the blending of vocals and beats sound great.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Kamal The Abstract - Blue Girl

Hard to believe this song is 5 years old, it's still light years ahead of most "progressive" music that has come out since.


(Stay tuned, I should be actually writing about music again soon)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Why Joe Budden is my favorite rapper at the moment

He is to the Hip-Hop generation's struggle what Donny Hathaway must have been for our people three decades ago. This is the first half of the Soul of a Fighter compilation that's made its rounds on the internet(the second half was Joe on the battle rap tip). If you're going through anything like I've been, you'll feel the pain in most of these songs. Joe Budden is to be commended for rapping about real emotions and situations that people go through, compared to most rappers who only give us flossing, violence, drugs and "I'm a better MC than you".


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Jay Electronica - My World (Nas Salute)

Jay Electronica is the future, point blank.
If you dont trust my ear by now, maybe you'll trust that of Just Blaze.
Erykah Badu cosigns him as well.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Divine Mind - Good To Know

A gem that 99% of the world missed from the Shaman Works Family Files Vol. 1. I couldnt find a picture of the artists.


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Just how bad are the new Ja Rule & Jeru The Damaja albums?

Let’s face it, while I was never crazy about Ja, and Jeru’s first two albums were stellar (for this we can thank a man who bears the same moniker as the lead singer of Coldplay and the darker half of Kid n Play) but I think we can all agree that they’re past their respective primes in 2007.

I champion the underdogs, so I’d really like to see both of them drop solid releases. Ja has to prove 50 didn’t completely knock the wind from his sails, and Jeru is fighting to show the underground he deserves recognition more than a decade after “Come Clean” and “Ya Playin’ Yaself”.

Let’s go to the tape, if we will

Ja Rule : Love Is Pain – Oh wow if someone from Bone Thugs didn’t ghostwrite “Free” then this is a major bite, there are even parts that take the melody from “The Crossroads”. Curtis is sitting back having a good laugh right about now. Maybe if I was 18 some of this would sound good (“The Countdown” is alright but I’m grown). I wanted him to come with it, he didn’t even pick terribly interesting beats. I couldn’t sit through most of the songs completely, he’s still the gravelly voiced thug baller and that personality wore thin a long time ago. “All I Need” manages to jack the concept of 2Pac’s “Me & My Girlfriend” and it re-hashes the Method Man/Mary J. Blige hook. “New York Is Back” features Jadakiss and Fat Joe, but it sounds like a Southern track. He didn’t even attempt an honest track about coming back to the game after being counted out. There are a few club bangers on here though. On the scale of trash-mediocre-good-great-classic this registers between trash and mediocre

Jeru The Damaja : Still Rising – “Oh shit, it’s not even wack” © Dame Dash on Kanye’s “Last Call”. Dude can still rhyme, he was given a decent selection of beats. It’s not classic material, but it’s solid for a Jeru release in 2007. This song “Juss Buggin” has him rhyming like he’s on helium, who cares what he’s saying the beat is CRAZY. There are a lot of good song concepts from introspection to righteousness and history. This will be a sleeper for the year. I'm glad to see he isnt washed up and is still sharp.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Tragedy Khadafi - True Confessions

This is an oldie but goodie, from the days when hard New York music could be heard on the airwaves. The Luther Vandross enthusiast in me was crazy about the "Never Too Much" interpolation. If memory serves me right, this won 5 nights on Angie Martinez's Battle of The Beats (he even predicted it would happen on the song). This was a time when "my net worth is 4 mil" was considered a boast. Look for this blog to have a review of this documentary of Trag's life at some point in the near future.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Weezy Jefferson is on *Everything*

I dont know who's responsible for this, but I dare you to keep a straight face. If you listen close you'll hear that these are actual freestyles, making it look like everyone's (least) favorite oversaturated rapper might not be as great as he claims. Dwayne Carter isnt really this simple with his, but he isnt much more complex either.

(For the record I'm a fan when he spits without the extra theatrics of different languages, voices and thoughtless punchlines. Given his recent track record, I can stomach him about 40-50% of the time nowadays.)

Enjoy - Drought 4: I Am On Everything

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Top Shelf - 8/8/88

This is a concept album of sorts, the backstory is these are lost songs from 1988 recording sessions done at a studio called Top Shelf. The project features tracks from legends such as MC Lyte, Grand Puba, Chubb Rock, Biz Markie, Dres from Black Sheep, Big Daddy Kane, Special Ed, Doug E. Fresh, Masta Ace, and Craig G amongst others.

However, if you remember what these people sounded like in that era you'll quickly realize that this was recorded recently and just made to sound old school.

It's an interesting concept and a little uncomfortable at points because we're faced with the fact that some of these people are still rhyming way past their prime. The Smooth B song is downright unbearable, and Nice and Smooth was one of my favorite groups as a kid. The Craig G song struck me as the most impressive, it sounded like he really wrote it two decades ago.

In any case, here's a download.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Support young folks making good Hip-Hop (Part 4)

Artist: Skyzoo

Age: 24 or 25

Sounds like: A Reasonable Doubt era Jay-Z if he hung in front of Fat Beats all day.

Recent Project: Corner Store Classic (mixtape)

Background Information: Skyzoo is a wonder to behold in today’s era of New York street Hip-Hop. He’s braggadocious and he talks tough, but he’s quite lyrical to boot with a mean flow and topic material spanning from the inner conflicts of a drug dealer (“Stop Fooling Yourself”) to the state of our country (“America The Beautiful”). More impressively Skyzoo sets himself apart from his competition by not sounding like a carbon copy of anyone who’s already respected for their craft. Casual listeners would be quick to place him in the “heard it all before” box (as I did when I first heard him on Little Brother’s Separate But Equal mixtape), but his beat selection says his heart is true to the culture. He’s bridged the streets and the underground, spitting fresh gutter talk over production by the likes of 9th Wonder, Nicolay, Khrysis, M-Phazes, Jay Dee, Black Milk and Hi-Tek amongst others. His work ethic in the booth is impeccable and it’s begun to pay off with plenty of industry accolades, let’s hope Skyzoo plays a role in restoring New York’s place at the helm of cultural recognition.

Download your Skyzoo starter kit.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Big Brother is watching

The story broke yesterday, Hovie's home.

The first song should be dropping today.

Personally, I think Def Jam is brilliantly figuring out how to sell albums in this turbulent climate, between the 50/Kanye competition and putting out a new Jay-Z album in conjunction with a big movie.

American Gangster, see yall in November.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Live from the Young H Palace - HBO PPV presents: Curtis vs. Graduation

*The horns of the HBO theme song begin playing*

Jim Lampley: Live from the exotic suite & resort known as Young H’s bedroom, Curtis vs. Graduation. These are huge releases for Kanye West and 50 Cent, surely two of the most popular rappers on the planet. 50 is looking for his third consecutive platinum shipping release, while Kanye is looking to establish a spot in cultural supremacy, one that’s been a long fought battle.

Let’s go to The Tale of The Tape

Artist: Kanye West
Album: Graduation
Label: Rocafella
Release #: 3

Artist: 50 Cent
Album: Curtis
Label: Shady/Aftermath
Release #: 3

Now for the fighter introductions:

(“I Get Money” comes blasting through the speakers and 50 comes to the ring intensely focused on everything in front of him, not looking into the camera. He’s accompanied by ever-faithful sidekick Tony Yayo and Young Buck who’s ice grilling the cameras, threatening to inflict harm on anyone who acts up)

Jim Lampley: The title of 50’s latest album was borne out of Camron’s attempt at taunting him by using his government name, as if that was supposed to make him feel bad. Since 50’s release of the scathing “Funeral Music” earlier this year, Cam has pretty much been an afterthought much like Ja Rule after Get Rich or Die Trying. 50 has promised he would retire from making albums if Kanye’s first week numbers were greater than his.

(“Can't Tell Me Nothing” begins to play with the crowd chanting “Wait til I get my money right!”. Kanye confidently strolls down the aisle, seemingly unaffected by the pandemonium around him. By his side is Fonzworth Bentley reciting Kanye’s lyrics with a swagger that suggests maybe we should question his sexual orientation.)

Jim Lampley: It’s been an eventful two years for Kanye West since Late Registration dropped. He’s been quite a busy man: tempering his newfound success by throwing tantrums at award shows, and working with Common again on Finding Forever. Kanye’s singles from Graduation, "Can't Tell Me Nothing" and "Stronger" have shown an improvement in his rap game. Oddly enough, as much as he’s accused of being self-centered, West has made note that his favorite song of the moment is 50's “I Get Money”.

Let’s go to Michael Buffer at the ring for the introductions
Ladies and gentleman: Live from Young H Palace, the world awaits and this is the moment the world has been waiting on...


Fighting out of the blue corner wearing a G-Unit bulletproof tanktop repping Southside Jamaica Queens, Interscope’s undisputed sales champion with a professional record of 2-0, Curtiiiiis “50 Cent” Jacksoooooon.

*light boo from the crowd, Tony Yayo stands up going wild in the front row with a 40 in his hand*

And in the red corner wearing something Beanie Sigel wouldn’t approve of repping Chicago, former Rocafella in house producer and 2 time champion of inspiration The Louis Vuitton Don, Kanyeeeee Weeeeeeeeest

Referee Mills Lane (who has come out of retirement and hosting daytime court shows for this momentous occasion) “Alright, I wanna see a clean fight, no hitting below the belt or doing anything you talk about on these rap records. You’re to obey my every command, let’s get it on!”

*50 and Kanye touch gloves*

Larry Merchant: Kanye West is very sure of himself, but sometimes you have to wonder if this self-confidence is really just disguising an inferiority complex, as he’s been an underdog his whole career.

*Round 1 Bell Rings*

Jim Lampley: 50 Cent has said people love Kanye because he’s an alternative to the villain, which sort of discounts the fact that Kanye makes good music. With every release, Curtis makes a habit of attacking anyone on his radar who could be considered competition.

Kanye comes out early with “Good Morning”, a continuation of his running analogy where phases of his career are like being in school. 50 effectively opens with “My Gun Go Off” in his typical fashion, singing about violence on the hook.

*Round 3 Bell Rings*

Jim Lampley: It’s still early in the bout but it seems 50 Cent wont be deviating from his bread and butter script, while we’ve heard him employ the concepts of “Man Down” and “I’ll Still Kill” time and time again somehow he manages to still sound fresh. However, judges may not look too kindly upon Akon’s appearance on the latter, as the Senegalese crooner can grate on one’s ears if he’s overused on a Hip-Hop track. Meanwhile Mr. West is showing he’s hell bent on celebrating his success and responding to critics with moving records like “Champion”, “I Wonder”, and “Stronger”.

Larry Merchant: 50 doesn’t seem to have much of a game plan, he’s just been kind of drifting through his career and coasting off of the success of Get Rich or Die Trying. You’ve gotta ask yourself, does he still care about making groundbreaking music at this point?

*Round 5 Bell Rings*

Jim Lampley: As the fight continues Curtis certainly hasn’t forgotten he has a large female audience that needs catering to. “Come & Go” finds him breaking down the art of a jumpoff over shrill strings, “Ayo Technology” is a continuation of Timbaland’s newfound techno phase that’s sure to be a hit in white strip clubs and “Follow My Lead” leans more towards the sentimental side.

Larry Merchant: *exasperated sigh* Killing, drugs and women. Come on 50, are you gonna show us anything else?

Jim Lampley: Kanye on the other hand has shown he’s a lyrical force to be reckoned with, spitting with fury on “Barry Bonds”. Overall he’s shown a good form with a high level of confidence exuded; if he can continue that he’s gonna cause problems for 50 Cent. However, he should be careful not to get too full of himself as the crowd is confused by “Drunk and Hot Girls”.

*Going into the 7th Round*

Jim Lampley: Harold, how do you score the bout after 6?

Harold Lederman: Well Jim, 40 – 36. Kanye West is ahead four rounds to two but it could go either way at this point. It might be a fight to the finish!

*Round 8 Bell Rings*

Jim Lampley: It’ll be a real test for 50 to see if he can maintain his face and stamina in the face of Kanye’s stunning swagger.

Larry Merchant: I think at this point all of those people counting on 50 Cent to win are a little bit nervous.

Jim Lampley: 50 Cent has been quoted recently as saying he thought Kanye West was a good producer and he left it at that, suggesting he didn’t consider Kanye a good rapper. Sage observers say he’s whistling in the dark, and that West’s skills have vastly improved over time.

Between sticking to his sing-song formula (“Amusement Park”) and “Dr. Dre” songs that sound like we’ve already heard them (“Straight To The Bank”) 50 runs the risk of falling behind on points. To his credit, few people thought that this fight could go to a decision in the wake of Kanye’s return but Curtis has held his own for the most part.

*Midway through Round 9*

Jim Lampley: 50 Cent has entertained the crowd with “Fully Loaded Clip” which juxtaposes Hip-Hop celebrities in love and his gun-toting, drug dealing grind…AND THE CROWD EXPLODES AT THE SYNTHESIZED SYMPHONICS OF “FLASHING LIGHTS”, KANYE WEST HAS COME OUT OF THE GATE FIRING SHOTS, 50 IS STUMBLING TRYING TO STAY ON HIS FEET.

Okay, Kanye has slowed down to a steady pace with the introspective “Everything I Am” and he’s gliding towards the finish line with “The Glory”. 50 is fighting back with the club banger “Fire”; “Peep Show” would have hit equally hard without the cheesy guest appearance from Eminem.

*Round 12 bell rings and the crowd explodes as 50 and Kanye come from their corners and touch gloves*

Jim Lampley: It’s been an exciting night of Hip-Hop, Jimmy Iovine and Jay-Z have to be pleased with their fighter’s performances tonight. The question remains: CAN KANYE SOLIDIFY HIS PLACE AT THE SEAT OF HIP-HOP’S THRONE?

50 opts to close out the fight taking it back to the streets sounding hungry like he did before he had a deal with “Curtis 187”, then he takes it back to the club with “Touch The Sky” (ironically the title of a hit single from his opponent’s critically acclaimed Late Registration.) Kanye delivers the heartfelt “Homecoming”, a tribute to his native land of Chicago and “Big Brother” paying homage to none other than the Big Homie Hovito himself

*Closing bell rings and the crowd stands cheering uproariously*

Larry Merchant: I’ve gotta say I expected better from 50 Cent, his performance tonight isn’t reflective of how one should defend their spot at the top.

Jim Lampley: Let’s go to Michael Buffer with the decision.

Michael Buffer: Ladies and gentlemen, here at the Young H Palace we go to the scorecards.

Young H out of Philly by way of New York scores the bout 116-112…


*The camera pans to Tony Yayo with a dejected look on his face*

Jim Lampley: Let’s go to Larry Merchant with 50 Cent.

Larry Merchant: 50, what went wrong? You came out here with a totally different intention from what wound up happening…

50 Cent: What do you mean? I gave it my best, he gave it his best. It wasn’t like he knocked me out, it was a good night for Hip-Hop.

Larry Merchant: The people seem to have spoken, and they prefer Kanye West. But Kanye himself has said you’re one of his favorite artists and he doesn’t want you to retire. Are you really quitting the game at this point?

50 Cent: I’m like this Larry, if the public demands another 50 Cent album they will get one. We’ll see, it’s too soon to say what the future holds.

Larry Merchant: Thank you 50, good luck. Jim, you’re with Kanye

Jim Lampley: Congratulations Kanye, it would seem you’ve made it at last. How does it feel?


Jim Lampley: So what are you gonna do now?

Kanye: I’M GOING TO DISNEYWORLD! Nah I’m just playin, I always wanted to get on TV and say that though. Common just had a # 1 album, and as you can see I’m doing pretty well. We gon’ keep tryna bring yall G.O.O.D Music from now to infinity.

Jim Lampley: Thanks a lot, Congratulations again.

Folks, it’s been a star studded evening and a victory for Hip-Hop altogether. This is Jim Lampley signing off from the Young H Palace saying good night and thanks for watching.

(I rate Graduation @@@@ ½ and Curtis @@@@ ¼)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Support young folks making good Hip-Hop (Part 3)

Artist : Emoni Fela

Age: 16

Sounds Like : The future

Recent Project: Still Waitin' For The Bus

Background Information: I don’t know much besides the fact that she’s repping DC and advanced way beyond her years (as she puts it “i'm not ahead of my time.. you're just far behind on yours”), more cultured than people my age and can spit really well. I’m led to believe two of her biggest influences are Fela Kuti and Sista Souljah from what I gleaned on her page. The material I’ve heard deals with being a teenager, familial introspection, concerns of advancing Hip-Hop and the like.

I saw her perform a year ago at this event called "Can A Sista Rock The Mic?" and her sound has since advanced to be a little more experimental fusing a little bit of rock with her rhymes. Emoni was supposed to rock at the Red and Black bar in her hometown this past weekend but that whole evening went awry.

If you’re in DC you should already be up on game by now, as you can regularly check for her ripping stages in our nation’s capital, not to mention she’s traveled worldwide doing her thing. At this rate, Emoni Fela is destined to be one of a few restoring respect for female MCs, as the culture has largely become accustomed to viewing them as sexualized commodities.

A few songs I jacked from myspace.
(I hope no one gets upset, but I enjoy sharing MP3s with people and I wasn’t able to find anything at my usual online haunts.)

Monday, September 03, 2007

Support young folks making good Hip-Hop (Part 2)

Artist: Danny!

Age: 24

Sounds Like: 1/3 Kanye West before he became famous (I know he hates that comparison but it’s true), 1/3 Lupe Fiasco if he didn’t take himself so serious and 1/3 nothing you’ve ever heard before

Recent Project: Danny is Dead EP – by far one of the freshest and most ambitious projects of the year.

Background Information: Danny Swain is a South Carolinian kicked out of college a few years back as the result of a grade changing scandal (this is addressed on “Clap Back”), he’s had a long running beef with some cat named Charlemagne, and has emerged from a battle with alcoholism to become a leader of today’s school. His introductions to the world were The College Kicked Out and F.O.O.D and while you were at home watching the 2007 Grammys, Danny was there (look between Justin Timberlake and the woman) because his album Charm was nominated for the Short List.

Danny is proof positive of the line that a true fan of all types of Hip-Hop walks. He’ll be putting out a project through Def Jux (as the winner of the label's MTVu affiliated Best Music on Campus contest) but he pays respect to his commercial peers shouting out Young Jeezy, Jay-Z, The Clipse and Papoose in his music, while never being anyone other than who he is. Once you listen past his soft spoken voice he’s very slick with a killer flow.

Further impressive is how Danny does everything on his own; aside from MCing he produces all of his own music, records, mixes, masters, clears samples, secures distribution, does all of his own promotions and so on.

A staggering amount of introspection coupled with battle rapping and a creative talent that’s constantly improving makes Danny one to watch out for.

Here's a collection of my favorite songs from Danny's discography.

Revisting The Massacre in preparation for Curtis

I had only played this album once when it came out. The anticipation at the time was too high, it had to be as good as Get Rich or Die Trying or I wasn’t trying to hear it. I spun it once then miscounted it as trash, but in retrospect it’s an extremely solid release. I’ll go as far as to say no songs are weak, it’s a 50 Cent/Aftermath album to the core (Dr. Dre sounding tracks/violence/party records/girl records etc.) In effect this will make me a lot more lenient when listening to the album that’s about to hit stores. The man has two undeniably good albums to his name and it isn’t fair to hold him to the standard of a debut borne from hunger and having a lot to prove. Ridiculous album cover aside, I give this album a @@@@ 1/2. I enjoyed it that much this time around.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Support young folks making good Hip-Hop (Part 1)

As a famous drug addict once sang, "I believe the children are the future". Considering the aural equivalent of pork rinds and pig's feet that the present climate of radio feeds our youth, it's a wonder to find anyone under 25 influenced to make music that I'd find impressive. This mini-series is dedicated to shining a spotlight on youngins who I hope to see make a big difference in the scene.

Artist: Blu (pictured above him is his producer Exile)

Age: 24

Sounds Like: Nasty Nas pumped up after watching Rocky movies and listening to A Tribe Called Quest

Recent Project: Below The Heavens (what some are calling album of the year)

Background Information: Blu is a high school dropout on a divine mission to save souls and continue the legacy of dope music, while carrying Southern California on his back. He’s way ahead of his time, having created this album two to three years ago that’s leaving everyone in disbelief. What’s more astonishing is he just started listening to Hip-Hop and writing not long ago, and he already has skill that could land him a spot amongst the all-time greats. It seems to have been fate that he dropped an album like this for people like me who needed something to keep pushing them in the right direction. When the homie Donwill is excited at the prospect of working with you, you’re doing everything right.

Here is a collection of assorted songs featuring Blu that didn’t make his album.

(Yeah I've already talked about him twice in this blog, he's that serious.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Consequence - Uncle Rahiem (Video)

from the highly slept on Don't Quit Your Day Job

Friday, August 24, 2007

KRS One vs. Adisa Banjoko, Stanford University 2006

Last year a gang of esteemed artists, journalists, tastemakers and icons converged for The Artist is the Theorist: I Am Hip-Hop panel discussion on our culture. Plenty of knowledge was dropped from Dead Prez’s Stic Man, Ladybug Mecca of Digable Planets fame, Boots Riley from The Coup and historian Davey D (If you happen to read this, we sat down and spoke at a Starbucks in Harlem a few years back thanks to Dove) amongst others.

The new class spoke with understanding and wisdom, while old schoolers Busy Bee and the Blastmaster KRS One really sounded lost and out of place within the context of today’s scene.
Busy Bee on the difference between rap and Hip-Hop: We have a lot of good rappers out there. Young Jeezy , even Jay-Z (is not a Hip-Hopper) is a good rapper. (Busy must not have caught the “Can I Kick It” reference on "22 Twos", “I’m overcharging niggas for what they did to the Cold Crush” from “Izzo” or the line “Me myself and I on some Trugoy shit” from The Black Album’s My 1st Song)

To that I say: Hip-Hop is a noun, Rap is a noun and a verb. You get in the booth and rap, you’re a “rapper” plain and simple. You don’t Hip-Hop in the booth, you can live by your standards & ethics of what (real) Hip-Hop is, but at the end of the day you’re a rapper/MC (I guess I can agree with the idea that “MCs” care more about their craft than “rappers”) You’ve got it twisted if you don’t think Jay-Z is a MC just because he was about his business. His hustler facet accompanied by his slick way with words made him one of the best to ever do this.
As much as I respect Kris Parker’s status as a legend, he speaks “dumb shit” pretty fluent and it seems as if he’s fallen into the trap of believing his own hype as the clip at the end of this entry displays.

Quotables and related facts include:
“To be honest with you, fuck America… (it’s) not about asking the white man for nothing” (Show me the last time KRS-One wasn’t signed to a label owned by a white person)

Kris tried to go to visual arts school to learn graffiti and got mad because they didn’t teach it. That’s not “Hip-Hop”, you don’t go to school to hone a creative genius like breaking, writing rhymes, DJing etc. You get out there, apply yourself and make it happen.

Then came an inexplicable meltdown where he attacked cultural critic Adisa Banjoko, whom Kris felt personally slighted him by challenging his views in the press. KRS labels the man a FBI agent and enemy to the culture, physically threatens him and shortly thereafter follows that up with “I don’t deal with that, I have a declaration of peace”. Attempts at rationality were met with “Go talk with black folks somewhere else, this is Hip-Hop” as he was blinded by a self-realized delusion that he’s the representation of our culture.
Busy Bee’s cosign of The Blastmaster’s lunacy shows just how far off base he’s become, as they suggest that to hold any relevance you had to have been there from jump.

“This discussion is about me…nobody in here is from the Bronx except KRS-One.”

Then he went so far as to nearly dis Busta Rhymes who started in the early ‘90s and has made a heavier impact artistically than he ever will.

KRS’ further ramblings
“If 50 Cent & G-Unit were here they’d put a gun to your backs.”

“Yall are having a conversation, this is our life. We live this, we don’t talk about it” – A panel should always respect its elders on deck, but you’re there to talk.

“You were not there when it started, I was” followed by “I’m not trying to separate myself” a few statements later.

“I came to the panel in the spirit of unity, I came to discuss Hip-Hop” followed shortly therafter by “I got the FBI behind me, I got the CIA calling me…I don’t have time to discuss this shit!”

“You can’t go to college then say you’re Hip-Hop, that don’t fly here.” – I mean…wow

“I’m not an artist…I’m an intellectual. I’ve written books…I’m a scientist, this is from empirical data that I’m giving you.”

Again, I respect KRS’ catalogue and hard work towards pushing people in the right direction, but this was a highly bizarre moment in time.

Related Links:
What I presume set KRS One off

KRS’ original response in writing

The clip from the panel

The Resolution

Finally, for the sake of comedy:

Busy Bee - “Suicide” – Big up Phonte for putting me onto this years back.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Elucid - Smash n Grab (mixtape)

If you're still sleep, Elucid is a beast who's down with the Loosie Music crew. Gravelly voice, abstract lyrics, hard spitting, he's one to look out for.

Smash and Grab (mixtape)

Monday, August 13, 2007


Originally titled The Root Of All Evil, I made this for anyone out there on the paper chase. As fate would have it, I was perusing the beatmaker’s myspace page one day and The Lessondary came through in the clutch once again with the song that changed the name of the project (Track 2).


I do this for yall, all comments are welcomed and appreciated.

Please stay tuned, by the end of the year I hope to put out:

I Could Still Get A B*tch Number (the sequel)
I Got A Story To Tell
Snap Music
Thank You Prince Paul (maybe, not quite sure on this one yet)

The Return of Shortie No Mas

Sunday August 12th she came up to this radio show that I co-co host.

What I learned:

Plug One is to blame for her never releasing an album (I knew that
already though)

She hated "In The Woods" from Buhloone Mindstate, to the point of
crying after recording it.

Her forthcoming project features production from J-Zone, 9th Wonder, Jazzy Jeff and Da Beatminerz.

She still has it, download this podcast and hear a dope interview along with a few new songs and a mean live verse.

Be on the lookout

Shortie No Mas on Myspace.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Andre Benjamin is for the children of the world

This fell way below the radar. The Class Of 3000 original soundtrack is to kids what The Love Below was to adults who’ve been through the wringer with relationships. Adults will marvel at Dre3000’s master musicianship as he fuses jazz, classical, Hip-Hop, blues, funk etc. into songs that kids can jam to. Young folks won’t pick up on the subversive messages that slip through the cracks (i.e. racial tolerance on “The Crayon Song” and selling out on “We Want Your Soul”) which makes for a kids album that spans the generational divide. Dre even manages to keep it relevant to Atlanta’s culture, with the characters exercising the city’s slang, phrases and accents. This is edutainment in its purest form.


Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Roots - Instrumentals

A collection of delicacies from the mind of one Ahmir K. Thompson and the Grand Negaz. If you listen close, you’ll get the full range of intricate sounds attempted with each nook and cranny minus a emcee over these beats.

M-Phazes Is The Future

He's a producer out of Australia of all places. I've heard the name here and there, but this one song has made me a believer. One of the best songs I've heard all year from Median's very dope new Relief In The Making mixtape which you should have already downloaded at

Kenn Starr featuring Median and M-Phazes - Back At It Again for more

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Tearing down the myth that “Return Of The Mac” is a good album.

On the music discussion message board of my choice there lies this notion that Prodigy just put out a worthwhile solo disc. The same Prodigy we loved on The Infamous, Hell On Earth, Murda Muzik*, HNIC, Free Agents**, Amerikaz Nightmare***; just because Mobb Deep dropped a stinker with the G-Unit affiliated Blood Money and he’s back spitting hard over Alchemist beats folks have deluded themselves into believing he’s still the one. I have a close listening, discerning ear and I don’t easily buy into dreams. Much like the way I want Nas to put out completely solid albums in this day and age and I’ve accepted the fact that he’s lost the ability, Bandana P barely cares about this rap thing anymore. I have a set formula for what makes a good song: good beat + standard verse + decent hook = good song. You take Nore and your expectations for him, if the beat and hook are cool then he made a good song. By this line of reasoning Prodigy hasn’t been living up to the bar that he previously set for himself, and that’s when you should hang it up as a MC.

Perhaps P has never recovered from a depression brought on by the SummerJam screen, maybe his well documented physical ailments have debilitated him from really focusing or he could just be going through the motions of trying to maintain street respect knowing at the end of the day he answers to Curtis. In any case, I’ve played this album he put out on “The Graveyard” twice or thrice and while I tried to convince myself it was hitting the first time, it became more underwhelming with subsequent listens. I’m giving it one more spin just to be sure it isn’t me who’s tripping.

The Rundown:

Return Of The Mac – He’s spitting very hard, but saying absolutely nothing. It seems like he put no thought into the verses, just running with Busta’s “New York Shit” rhyme scheme and talking tough. I can say why people would be so enraptured in the beat that they’d consider this a great song.

Stuck On You – The beat/sample is killer, 8 years ago P would have done damage to this. He was actually spitting on the second verse, although he could have done better than “I got big jumpoffs that fit down my pants leg”

Mac 10 Handle – Again it’s very hard, but very empty of substance or originality. Not to mention how much this sample has been used.

The Rotten Apple – Boring from the beat to the verses

Take It To The Top – The beat makes the song, the hook is pretty strong. But he isn’t saying much

7th Heaven – He started off the first 4 lines rhyming I’m feelin’ good with I’m feelin’ good. Uninteresting overall

Bang On Em – Good beat, the verses didn’t hold my attention

Nickel And A Nail – Okay he was spitting here, no complaints.

Legends – He killed it here too.

Stop Fronting – The hook is classic cocky Prodigy, but the verses were kinda blah.

In sum I likely wont be revisiting this album again. Alchemist came through for the most part, but my ears say Prodigy mailed his performance in.

* - I don’t have a substantive verdict on this album, I played it like twice. But everyone loves it.

** - Criminally underrated

*** - The last time they really put their heart into it as a group.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Camp Lo is officially my favorite group of all time (3 new songs)

ATCQ will always hold the throne as my personal greatest rap group of all time (maybe I’ll do an entry on it soon), but Sonny Cheeba and Geechi Suede are my favorites. The first time I saw the video for “Cooley High” my mind was blown and when “Luchini” came out I knew I was buying Uptown Saturday Night the day it dropped. Cheeba has the voice, Suede has the lyrics and they always combine forces for abstract pieces of soulful wonderment.

If you missed their solid sophomore effort Let’s Do It Again, stop sleeping and go hunt it down. Last year they put out the Fort Apache mixtape (on ITunes I believe) and have recently dropped Black Hollywood. This winter they will be releasing a whole new album Another Heist under Ski Beatz’ company Redefinition Records and if you’ve heard the stellar “Trip For Two” you know it’s going to be crazy.

The 3 songs I’ve put up:
Soul Fever has that John Travolta Saturday Night Fever pointer finger in the air flavor, like Q-Tip said “the beat feels like a never ender”(off of Black Hollywood)

Sweet Claudine is a tale about a black girl lost, listen to the strings. It’s nothing short of beautiful (off of Black Hollywood)

I Couldn’t Care Less could be a club banger, about lost love (off of Fort Apache)

Black Hollywood is available now on Traffic Entertainment/Good Hands Records

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Ski Beatz - Beatz, Rhymes and Samples

If you dont know the name Ski Beatz by now, you've been living in a cave the past decade. He's responsible for classic work by the likes of Jay-Z, Camp Lo, Sporty Theivz, and Pacewon's "I Declare War" amongst other bangers. This is a compilation of his career's highlights and samples he used done by JNOTA and DJ Raize, two good dudes I came up through some bulls**t with. Ski still has it nowadays, proven by this heart breaking Jean Grae joint on here.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Xzibit - 40 Dayz & 40 Nightz

I discovered this album in late 1998 by browsing the legendary Davey D's forums. It was all everybody was talking about, so I went out and copped it. There are a few cheesy joints but plenty of heat ("Chamber Music", "What U See Is What U Get", "Handle Your Business", "Focus", "Deeper", "Los Angeles Times"), and "Shroomz" was where I discovered the infamous "Funky Worm" sample. Lyrically Xzibit was focused and killing it, before he got the wack car detailing show on MTV.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Knock (Unofficial Mix)

No concept that took much thought here, the essence of a hip-hop "banger" is the drums for me. This is just a collection of tunes and instrumentals I dig primarily from the mid-late '90s era, if you scrunch up your face or risk neck injury then my job is done. This is a mini Dilla tribute of sorts but there is heat from plenty of other sound providers.

Enjoy and leave comments.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Skyzoo, Torae and DJ Premier need to form a group together

These two songs display incredible chemistry on the part of all three.
Skyzoo is a great street rapper with a dash of intelligence, I'm late on the bandwagon but he's been grinding it out for a few years now and will be dropping a new mixtape Corner Store Classic in the coming days. Torae shows great promise as well and I look forward to discovering more of his work.

"Get It Done" and "Click"

Skyzoo's myspace page:
Torae's myspace page:

Count Bass D – Dwight Spitz

Repping Nashville, TN Count Bass D is quite possibly my favorite slept on artist in the game. For over a decade now he’s held his own behind the boards (producing with machines and playing instruments) and on the mic. Anyone worth their weight in underground Hip-Hop is already aware as he carries family ties with the honorable MF Doom, J Rawls and other underground acts. This album features guest appearances by Doom, Edan, J Rawls, Rayna Shine (she’s ill, trust me) and Dionne Farris amongst others. Count’s rapping is a bit of an acquired taste to be deciphered but he kills it. His beats? Forget about it, next level. My boy Squeeg put me on to this when it came out (in 2002 I believe) and I’ve been a diehard fan ever since.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Cru - Da Dirty 30

One of Def Jam's last "Hip-Hop" albums before they started chasing trends and/or letting Jiggaman and DMX carry them on their shoulders. "Pronto", "Just Another Case" and "Bubblin'" had New York radio on fire in the summer of 1997. Yogi, Chadio and The Mighty Ha brought it hard (no one else would dare sample Sade on a song about their "everlovin' bitch"), kept it true to the city's heart (we haven't heard Antoinette since) and just delivered a comedic smorgasbord full of bangers. It's a shame they never came back out, last i heard Yogi was down with Diddy's Hitmen team of producers.

An Open Letter To Talib Kweli

As a diehard fan you’ve thrown me for a loop for what has been nearly the past decade. I wont pretend to know every word of “The Manifesto” but when Black Star jumped off I was all the way on board. Everyone preferred Black Dante, but aside from his show stealing thunder on “Thieves In The Night” I always felt you held your own, even preferring you as my favorite half of the duo. Reflection Eternal? Forget about it, Train of Thought was pretty much heat all the way through. People claimed you were too commercial with “Waitin For The DJ” but it was a soulful club banger and I loved Quality ("Wont You Stay" is my second favorite Hip-Hop love song of all time) “Get By” is recognized as a universally certified classic at this point (the remix with Busta and Jay-Z did wonders) and your appearance on College Dropout’s “Get Em High” introduced you to an audience who was still sleeping and only knew you as “the nigga who did Get By”.

You were on the cover of XXL with Dave Chappelle, and Jigga’s infamous co-sign on “Moment Of Clarity” made the world stand on its ear. You were next in line to break through to the mainstream, already receiving the respect of heads in the know and working with commercial acts that were renowned for their artistry. What happened? I know of the well publicized Geffen debacle, but there’s no defending some songs on The Beautiful Struggle, that was your Nastradamus. For ’05-’06 you fell out of my good graces, releasing forgettable mixtapes and collaborating with “hard” rappers in hopes of expanding your audience. Although I’ve never been too tough on Strong Arm Steady, the Jean Grae & MF Doom affiliations have been a great look. Nonetheless I had written you off as a dude who had lost his hunger and traded integrity for a piece of shine (see: Fat Joe, Jadakiss, Fabolous, Nas on “You Owe Me”). Liberation dropped and I was intrigued enough to listen, happy that one half of Black Star still cared enough to attempt making a difference in music. You regained some of the lost love here, as this was a pretty thorough release.

Which brings me to the point of writing this: Your legion of fans are awaiting the forthcoming Eardrum and early hype from the press says you’re back stronger than ever. Can the once mighty champion of “real” Hip-Hop return to his roots, moving people to the light now that he’s nearly a household name? The answer is a resounding yes as you’ve come into your own with your most focused and complete effort in years. The soul is back in your music, no longer are you trying to make songs that can spin alongside G-Unit (“Back Up Offa Me”) or leaving your lane hopping in the Delorean to the future (“We Got The Beat”). Your craft has gone to levels previously unseen, managing a UGK collab that doesn’t sound like a New Yorker pandering to the South’s present reign on “Country Cousins” and "Soon The New Day", a tale of pulling women featuring Norah Jones sensually killing it over a Madlib beat. This is masterful achievement of things that just shouldnt go together on paper.

The album is a return to your roots without sounding like you’re stuck in the ‘90s as “Hostile Gospel” is one of the best songs in your catalogue to date, with Just Blaze incorporating classical music and the black church into his standard knock and you coming back for the people who need your message most. Then you even proceed to take it a level deeper and criticize religion from a worldview on “Hell”, this is topic material extending past the outer reaches of “I’m real Hip-Hop to the core.” However, avid supporters of that facet will be more than pleased as “Say Something” is lyrical murder with Jean Grae, Pete Rock produces “Electrify” (reminiscent of the late great Dilla’s classic soul phase) and KRS-One appears on “The Perfect Beat”. Never one to exclude the ladies, “In The Mood” finds Kanye meshing Roy Ayers with the subterranean, while Will I Am takes it to the clubs (all the while not sounding fluffy) on “Hot Thing”.

I’m glad to see you’re operating on all cylinders and having fun doing you once again rather than trying to fit a label-driven mold. Eardrum has heat for the streets, as well as Hip-Hop purists and anyone in between. Man, woman and child alike seeking to zone out, nod their heads, think and elevate will assuredly be moved by this work of art.

Young H

P.S. – That “I don’t make music for my fans” rigmarole you said on The Roots website a few years back was cockamamie jive talk. On behalf of your sometimes fickle fan base, I thank you for this album. Now, stop toying with our emotions and stay at it like this. Blacksmith, keep it rocking.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Struggle & Swagger

Backstory: Maybe a year or so back, our fearless hero (always in search of creative inspiration) said to himself “I’m going through some things, let me put together some music for when I’m stressed out.” His problems weren’t that immense and his self-confidence always helped him pull through, thus Struggle & Swagger. It was just a working title that was scrapped, but then 2007 started kicking his ass in ways unimaginable.

What happens when:
- Your funds are low, you can barely pay your bills and there’s nothing in the fridge you really wanna eat.

- You’ve been waiting 2-3 weeks for this job to call you back with a start date, doubting if you’ve actually even been hired.

- It’s summer, you’re in a hot apartment with no AC and a fan would be a luxury.

- Your ex (who used to be one of your best friends) is coming at you with that “C. Grizz 9 to 5” fuck you attitude, because you’re not busting your ass to make her happy POST BREAKUP.

amongst other setbacks and disappointments you’ve experienced this year?

You go back to the drawing board

Typically I feel anything over 16 songs borders on overkill, so the original plan was to do 8 songs encompassing struggle and the other half swagger. But then all of that above and then some happened, so it’s 75% struggle and 25% swagger these days.

This is for anyone out there presently going through trying times. Let go of fear and keep pushing, we’re gonna make it.