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.