29 December 2013

2013 BITM Wrap Up: This Just In!

      Run The Jewels, my pick for the Best Collab Of 2013, just fired off some new hotness aptly titled Pew Pew Pew. Follow the jump here to listen to the track and cop the free download. This track is further proof these two are a match made in B-boy heaven. Shout out to Audiomack for the download.

28 December 2013


   Honestly, 2013 was a pretty decent year where hip hop is concerned. There were hits and misses, like every year, but this year has definitely had some incredible highs. The BITM crew you know and love has decided to go beyond the typical Top Ten Of The Year lists to hit you with something special. Each of us has been dropping our own takes on the the year end lists to give you the Best In The Mix in different areas. My gift to you is the Best Collaborations in 2013.

       Now, when I say collaborations (collabs for the rest of the post, I'm not going to be typing that long name every time) I mean more than the typical producer and emcee getting together for one or two tracks on an album. For me, a bona fide collab is when 2 or more well established in their own careers decide to unite and create something as one force. There were quite a few crazy drops this year, but the stand outs are definitely worth the mention. Before I get to my Best Collab of 2013, here are some honorable mentions:


 Czarface (7L & Esoteric and Inspectah Deck): Indie mainstays 7L & Esoteric found a partner in crhyme in Wu-Tang's one and only Inspectah Deck and became the supergroup Czarface. Both Deck and Eso have very unique sounds and with 7L at the production helm, this album could have easily passed off as a Wu-Tang spin off. While some of songs seem to drag, when these dudes were on it, it more than made up for the misses.

Notable Tracks:
Air 'em Out
Poisonous Thoughts

Durag Dynasty (Planet Asia, Killa Ben & TriState) - 360 Waves  (Produced by Alchemist): Real talk, the only emcee I really recognize is Planet Asia, but the fact that Alchemist was handling all the production meant these two would be working together was enough for me to cop the entire album. Now, Alchemist did his thing this year, handling production for both Prodigy and Action Bronson, but this Durag album was the best collab he did this year from what I heard. West Coast was definitely in the building with this one.                                                             

Notable Tracks:
Luxury Whip
Tender Greens

Ugly Heroes (Verbal Kent, Red Pill, Apollo Brown): Since dropping his first release on the Mello Music Group's roster back in 2010, this Detroit native has worked with a slew of artists. 2013 saw his 2nd outing in another full fledged group alongside emcees Verbal Kent and Red Pill. In a time where a lot of hip hop focuses on decadence and over-indulgence, these three came together and became the poster children for blue collar rap; proving not all your rap has to be wrapped in chinchilla and bathed in diamonds to be beautiful.

Notable Tracks:
Take It or Leave It
Hero's Theme

Demigodz - Killmatic: The roster of emcees that came together to form this supergroup reads like a checklist of emcees you'd be wise to keep out of your rhymes. Apathy Motive, Esoteric, Blacastan, Ryu, and Celph Titled came together like Voltron and dropped a sophomore album over a decade in the making. Although not all the members of this Demigodz crew are original members, the heat this crew brought was nothing short of bar setting. All of you you hip hop heads in love with the 90's era of rap have no excuse for not having this one.

Notable Tracks:
Demigodz Is Back
Dead In The Middle

MED, Blu, & Madlib - The Burgundy EP: This joint right here did in 4 songs what most cats try to do over entire albums. The chemistry between these three is almost magical. The flows were effortless, the production Madlib laid out was smooth and undoubtedly West Coast, and this release saw no need for fillers. They dropped 4 tracks, some instrumentals and acapellas, and that was it. If you didn't cruise somewhere this summer with Burgundy Whip playing in the ride then you definitely missed out.

Notable Tracks:
Burgundy Whip
Belly Full


       Those collabs were definitely fire, but they weren't the best. For reason or another they just didn't capture my ear quite like my pick for Best Collab for 2013.  Without further delay, my pick for the Best Collaboration of 2013 goes to:

Killer Mike and El-P as Run The Jewels


     This album right here? Fire, period. Killer Mike and El-P proved that there first outing was no fluke. Although the two had worked together previously on Killer Mike's critically acclaimed R.A.P. Music, 2013 marked their first outing as a full fledged duo. I don't know if anyone could have predicted that this is what the combination of the Dirty South and Indie East Coast would have sounded like. There is something about El-P's futuristic boom bap production and the way Killer Mike and El-P trade rhymes that makes their chemistry unstoppable. These two have once again created a release that a lot of camps have put in their respective top releases of 2013. When I say camps, I'm talking about: Pitchfork, NPR, Okayplayer, and Stereogum for starters. I'm sure there's more, but we aren't here to talk about them. For the record while there are countless outlets naming these guys as one of the best in 2013, we here at Best In The Mix told you back in September that come this time there would be a lot of praise for this one. We wouldn't steer you

Notable Tracks:
Banana Clipper
Sea Legs

        And there you have it. Maybe you caught all these, maybe you didn't, maybe you totally disagree with this list. Either way, hit us up and let us know. See you on the other side.



Big K.R.I.T. - K.R.I.T. (King Remembered In Time)

He let everyone know of his royalty in 2013 with his highly anticipated mixtape and shows all over the country, Big K.R.I.T. put on yet again for the south showing that they are not just "bamas," as J. Cole put into perspective of some people's views in other regions of the country. K.R.I.T. however does not abhor his country side he absorbs the criticism and negative comments and converts them into the lyrics that makes the same critics eat their words. A very nice project from the Underground King.

Casey Veggies - Life Changes

In it's own category Life Changes is feel good music. This is definitely a tape that you can just vibe to and enjoy the beats and dope rhymes. This is nothing but West coast music. Casey Veggies has received praises and respected as a up and coming rapper from numerous veterans in the game most notably being Mr. Shawn Carter. Casey Veggies does not disappoint with his latest. 

Curren$y - New Jet City

The success of this mixtape should speak for itself. New Jet City did so well that Curren$y is preparing to re-release it for retail in stores. This audio dope, as he so frequently refers to his music as, had very well put together tracks and features. Never has he been disinclined from consistently putting out music, the New Orleans native meet quantity with quality. Fans from all over loved this piece from Spitta and praised him for what should have been an album but gave away for free. 

Dizzy Wright - The Golden Age

To sum this mixtape up in three words, an overlooked message. Dizzy Wright has gained a lot of support since his emergence a couple of years ago. As a freshmen of this year's XXL Freshmen class, Dizzy dropped his long awaited mixtape The Golden Age. Laced with messages to the young people of this generation of encouragement to do better for themselves and not care about what the social norms are, TGA conveyed these scripts with nothing but style. If the younger generation not only listened to this mixtape but actually thought about and adhered to some of what Diz was saying, this mixtape could do a great deal for the culture. 

Joey Bada$$ - Summer Knights

The 18 year-old phenom dropped another first-class piece of work this year off of his continuing success with Pro Era's Peep the aPROcalypse. With the huge success of the Dj Premier produced track "Unorthodox," it's no wonder this tape helped soar to one of the most talked about projects of the year. Other tracks like "95 Til Infinity" and "Alowha" assisted as singles to keep Summer Knights in circulation.

Nipsey Hussle - Crenshaw

History was made and a Forbes record was set for "Quality Street Music," as Dj Drama continuously states in all of his Gangsta Grillz volumes. Nipsey Hussle not only made a $100,000+ off of a mixtape he showed artists that they don't need the record companies to make it on the big stage. I was more than pleased with my purchased copy of Crenshaw. This might as well had been an album. Before I ever listened to Nip, I thought he was just another "Money, bitches, and hoes" type rapper. That is not the case with the West Side native. Whether you purchase it or download it, you are bound to enjoy this mixtape. 

Flatbush Zombies - BetterOffDEAD

A heavily slept on mixtape. A lot of people do not know about Flatbush Zombies. I admit I just stumbled upon them this year when A$AP mentioned them in an interview. Flatbush Zombies are apart of the Beast Coast movement with Pro Era and A$AP Mob. These three young MC's have my respect solely off of this mixtape. They spit hard and don't hold back. Their unorthodox flows captivate listeners as they effortlessly ride the tracks with relentless bars.


RAPSODY - She Got Game

2013's winner. A ball playing femme fatale MC stamped her name in the game with this Gangsta Grillz mixtape. Rapsody graced us with the true meaning of hip-hop with some super-powered features from Raekwon, Nipsey Hussle, Jay Electronica, Ab-Soul, and others in her 16 track masterpiece. But do not get it twisted, the features did not make the mixtape. As 9th Wonder's protegé expect nothing but superior lyrics and flows. Today in hip-hop there is an even more scarce amount of female MC's/rappers that actually have skill, so with a mixtape of this caliber is pretty much unheard of. Rapsody is no doubt the top female in the game and I don't see her getting knocked off by anyone, not even an army of barbie's and harrejutah's.

Salute to all the artists that dropped dope mix tapes this year!

27 December 2013


If you think about it, every year we get 1000s of audio releases. Be it a proper studio albums, mixtapes (official and homemade) or EPs. That being said, there is no way on earth that our 5 man crew could comb through this gargantuan list, let alone yours truly. With that being said, I will try. For your viewing pleasure (and criticism), the Most Slept On album/mixtape of 2013. [Most reviews have album streams updated if you click on links below]


Marco Polo - PA2: The Director's Cut

I am not going to say much about Marco Polo's PA2: The Director's Cut since I reviewed it recently. What I will say is do your homework. As mentioned in the review, I was not too familiar with the Toronto producer, even though I was familiar with some of his work. And as part of my hip hop New Year's resolution I will cop Port Authority and make sure that I keep my ear to the streets to make sure I stay up to date with upcoming MP productions. I suggest you do the same.

Skyzoo & Antman Wonder - An Ode to Reasonable Doubt

Another recently reviewed gem is Skyzoo and Antman Wonder's An Ode to Reasonable Doubt. Skyzoo has been a lyrical monster for most of the 00s. But with little commercial success, I feel 2014 will be his year. With a smooth flow and cadence, Skyzoo is able flip his style at the drop of a dime. The lyrical skill it takes to pull off a project like this is enough to garner respect alone. But to Barry Bonds it out the park is nothing less than amazing. After Elzhi did his thing on Elmatic, the hip hop community wondered if he (or if anyone else for that matter ) should take on another classic. I wanted to believe that Elmatic was a stars aligning event and wouldn't happened until my grandkids have grandkids. I was happy to be surprised by Skyzoo and his reimagining of Reasonable Doubt.

Joey Bada$$ - Summer Knights

One of the great things about being part of BITM family is the diversity in the hip hop that we listen to. It was here that I was introduced to the Pro Era crew and the incredibly young for his skill level lyricist, Joey Bada$$. The Pro Era movement is all about the golden era essence. Even though most where born in the 90s, the collective has a style that is reminiscent of the decade that solidified the hip hop culture as a permanent influence in the states and eventually the globe. Even though I feel 1999 was his best tape so far, Summer Knights is still a great listen. Joey has mastered the layed back flow, but is also able to pour deep emotions in his intricate rhyme patterns. Joey Bada$$ is not for hip hop beginners, you need to do your hip hop history homework to fully appreciate this dude.

Action Bronson - Saaab Stories

Speaking of dudes who take you back to pager and Starter pullover era, Action Bronson blessed us with his debut EP Saaab Stories, entirely produced by Harry Fraud. Action has been dropping mixtapes heavy for only a couple of years. But his buzz picked up after his 2012 mixtapes, Blue Chips and the Alchemist assisted Rare Chandeliers. Action Bronson went with quality over quantity on this one, only giving us a 7 track studio album. But I ain't mad at him. As mentioned in my review, many 90s emcees dropped albums that were more or less EPs. Even though there were those LPs that hit the upper teens digits. I recently upgraded Mr.Bronson to Four and Half Tape status after giving it a few more spins. Peep Saaab Stories, and you will know why. 

Statik Selektah - Extended Play

Another Four and Half Tape worthy review was Statik Selektah's Extended Play. Statik has had a busy 2013, working with every emcee under the sun. But he took some time to craft his fifth studio album. His lineup alone is enough to peek any hip hop fans interest. But the intrigue is justified once you play the first track. Not only that, but the way he chose to group emcees together on each track is insane. Since his 1982 days, I have been hooked on Statik productions. And even though it has been a few years since we've had a "Statik album", this dude has been making sure we don't forget his name or his sound. If you a fan of album quality production and mixtape raw style flows, definitely throw this one on.


Rapsody - She Got Game

We at BITM have had many milestones since the collective came together like Voltron  over a year ago. But when it comes to hip hop sites and magazines, the eternal question is: What is the criterion for a perfect rating for an album/mixtape? And with 2013 in the rear view, we can say as a group that we have answered that question. Our resident young gun Ra'Z Al Ghoul stamped our first 5 Tape album/mixtape, She Got Game. It is no secret that I am a huge Rapsody fan, and if we had our rating system last year I would have given her studio debut album The Idea of Beautiful a 4.5 or 5 Tape review. DJ Drama's Gangsta Grillz mixtape series have featured a plethora of emcees, mostly commercial rappers, but a few true lyricists as well. Rapsody adds to that lyricist emcee list with the latest installment. With a wide range of producers, Rapsody is able to weave her impeccable flow to fit any style. Her poetic mastery and lyrical strength are in full effect from the first track all the way to the end. Her previous mixtapes have always been of album caliber (Thank H.E.R. Now would have DEFINITELY copped a 5 Tape review from me) and you can see the growth in her subject matter and as well as lyrics in general. Of course if you haven't peeped anything on the list, do so immediately. But if you just have one choice, hands down, take She Got Game for a spin.

26 December 2013


It pretty much goes without saying that TOP DAWG ENT ran 2013. What makes this fact even more impressive is that not one member of this mighty roster released a proper album the entire year. But when you look at singles, hype, praise, collabs, and overall impact, these artists delivered. So while there were a few contenders, choosing the hottest verse of 2013 really was no challenge. Let's begin with the competition:


* Ab-Soul - The End is Near: "Ain't Never Running From Nothin, I'm Fit To Tread Mills / Name Another Movement Making Time Stand Still." Last spring Soulo blessed fans who were eagerly awaiting his next project with this track to hold them over with the assist from Mac Miller. This verse is Ab's strongest of 2013 but was possibly overshadowed by Kendrick's dominance the entire year.

* Hopsin - Hop is Back: I have to be honest, I almost completely ignored the entire 2012 XXL Freshman Class. Hopsin was just another one of those rappers who graced the cover that I overlooked as just another random young cat who probably wasn't all that nice. Man was I wrong. Hop's near-perfect bar for bar delivery and flow over anything is the one thing that true fans of the genre have been dying to see return on a larger scale.

* Jay Rock - U.O.E.N.O. Remix: It's a shame that many people sleep on this version. The one with Ross and Future doesn't even exist to me and it's sad how they don't do this beat any justice. Black Hippy getting on the remix was absolutely necessary, and great for exposure. EVeryone did their thing on this track, but Jay Rock killed it. Every now and then Jay Rock reminds us why he used to be the Top Dawg in the crew.

* Kendrick Lamar - Control: the verse that tucked the sensitive rappers back in their pajama clothes. The verse that made nearly every rapper in the game re-evaluate everything about their own careers. People pretty much forgot that it was a Big Sean record due to the massacre that occurred about halfway through Kendrick's verse.

* Eminem - Rap God: A good portion of the BITM staff have a love/hate relationship with Eminem's music (with the exception of The Niftian, who would probably clean that mans house top to bottom with a toothbrush for free just to be in his presence). He is undoubtedly one of the best lyricists of any generation, but accents, unrelatable gimmicky concepts to maintain appeal, and a slew of disappointing-to-average projects often get in the way of giving this man his just due. But shame on anyone who slept on the onslaught that is "Rap God." For the first time in awhile, Eminem managed to couple bar-raising lyricism with subject matter that actually made sense, especially the lines referring to how he has managed to achieve and maintain a level of success that is unmatched, while still being a beast on the mic.

I feel like all of these verses stood out in their own way, and many would crown the Rap God or Control verse as the hottest, but there was one more in 2013 that set itself apart from the rest...


* Kendrick Lamar - BDKMV Remix: Verse 3 in particular. Jay-Z showed his respect for the youngin by surprising him with his own verse, which caused K.Dot to rewrite two more, the 2nd of which not only slaughtered Jigga's contribution, but all verses in 2013. What made this song so special was the symbolism portrayed in the single's cover art; listening to each artist one-up each other after every verse was like watching Kobe and Jordan ballin on the court together in the mid-late 90s. It will be interesting to see where K.Dot's skills rank amongst the greats 15+ years from now.

Let us know what you think @BestInTheMix @TwonJonson

25 December 2013

The Tape Deck: Run D.M.C. - Christmas in Hollis

         Is there really any other Christmas song you expected from friendly neighborhood BITM squad? This one right here needs no introduction. So, with no further delay, Happy Holidays to you and yours. Now turn it up!

24 December 2013

In Case You Missed It: Capital STEEZ - AmeriKKKan Korruption Reloaded

Exactly a year ago a legend-to-be died (self inflicted), and he went by the name of Capital STEEZ. Capital STEEZ belonged to the Pro Era crew that is headed by Joey Bada$$. He coexisted with Joey as the heads of the group during their recent rise to power as a lyrical assassins. In my personal opinion, STEEZ was better than Joey but not by much. Capital STEEZ released his AmerriKKKan Korruption mixtape in October of 2012, which was heavily slept on until his death. The Pro Era camp re-launched this mixtape titling it AmeriKKKan Korruption Reloaded, with the only difference being two tracks.I think with the one year anniversary of his death is time that he is further recognized and praised as the great MC he was becoming. 

AmeriKKKan Korruption Reloaded is definitely one for the books. Capital STEEZ stamped his name in the game with incessant effortless flows, witty punch lines, and enchanting lyrics. At the end of track one on the reloaded version, Steez states that he simply just wants to rap, nothing else. STEEZ uses the Pro Era theme with the "Golden Era" sound and succeeds as he attempts to resurrect actual lyrics and eliminate the subpar Lil B struggle bars that he has consistently taken shots at. 

"Doggybag" is a track that I recommend as a first listen to everyone who has not heard this mixtape. It is a 2:23 track with a simple beat with nothing but potent punch lines that is guaranteed to make the listener "feel some type of way" when listening to it. Another track by the name of "47 Elements," captured me with the use of a few bars and a reference to the periodic table of elements: "Said, let me introduce you to the elements Aye, you (Au)/ I heard you shining, but I got that gold membership/ I rose from the bush like Valentine's petals/ From an unstable family of alkali metals…" If you don't know, Au is the abbreviation for gold on the periodic table of elements in which the intelligent STEEZ apathetically schools anyone who isn't aware of this as he states in his following bar. 

AmeriKKKan Korruption/ AmeriKKKan Korruption Reloaded unfortunately is the only solo project we were graced with from Capital STEEZ but it definitely will be remembered from those of us who listened to him. With production hailing from Pro Era artists like Chuck Strangers, Kirk Knight and none other than the Bada$$ this mixtape hits home. Others overseeing production were seasoned veterans like MF DOOM, DJ Premier, Free The Robots and others it's hard to be disappointed if you are a fan of underground hip-hop. This is my ode to the MC who left before his time was up, Rest In Peace Capital STEEZ…

Twitter: @_KJTheGreat
E-mail: Kjohnsonk14@gmail.com

20 December 2013

VIDEO: Kendrick Lamar - Sing About Me (Part 1)

Kendrick Lamar, also known as the recently proclaimed King of New York finally dropped another visual from his album good kid, m.A.A.d city. While we have not received a lot of visuals from the "new" artist it still isn't too late, especially when it is coming from one of the more profound and penetrating tracks on the album. This video isn't very cryptic just enjoyable with some dope graffiti from Eddie Peak.

Twitter: @_KJTheGreat
E-mail: Kjohnsonk14@gmail.com

VIDEO: Rapsody - Dark Knights

One of the game's best, if not the best Female emcee, Rapsody, drops her video for "Dark Knights." The song which was on Rapsody's mixtape She Got Game featured Wale, but I'm sure the MMG rapper was more than likely booked to try and make the video. Regardless the lethal MC gives us some dope visuals as she focuses on a Batman theme from the recent installments of the Dark Knight trilogy. Check it out!

Twitter: @_KJTheGreat
E-mail: Kjohnsonk14@gmail.com

REVIEW: Marco Polo - PA 2: The Director's Cut

Last month Toronto underground producer Marco Polo dropped the follow up to his 2007 debut studio album Port Authority, with PA 2: The Director's Cut. I will keep it real with uall, while I've been familiar with some of his songs throughout the years, I never knew who dude was. I heard him on my way to work a little bit ago on the Rap Is Outta Control show. They played cuts of his new album, needless to say, I copped that joint as soon as I got home later that day. Marc Polo has been grinding since the early 00's and is heavily influenced by the great producers of the 90's (naming DJ Premier as his biggest influence). And this come across in his music. His versatility to sample and cut his own breaks is a nod to the golden era of hip hop, Marco Polo is a true student and ambassador of hip hop. His 19 track album is a perfect soundtrack to his persona, a true underground producer keeping it real for his loyal fan base. But his genuine nature and amazing skill have allowed him to gather an eclectic collective of emcees: from Tragedy Khadafi and Kardinal Offishall to Styles P and Pharoahe Monch. I won't go into my normal break down of songs per usual. I'll just say this, if you a true hip hop head that appreciates the old school and the (good) new school, then give this record a spin.

Peep video for 3-0-Clock and album stream below.

19 December 2013

The Tape Deck: Queen Latifah - Just Another Day

Let's hit the rewind button and school some young heads real quick. Before Queen Latifah was an actress, makeup model and talk show host, she was holding it down for all the ladies in the late 80s and 90s. If you're 20, you were born when Ms.Dana dropped her third LP, Black Reign. U.N.I.T.Y. was her biggest single (even winning the Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance), but for me Just Another Day deserves the same respect and accolades. The simple black and white video is perfect for the track, just a feel good kicking it in the hood music video.

17 December 2013

New Music: Richie Cunning - Salute

     If you have ever seen the movie Juice then you need to stop what you are doing right now and check out the latest track from the beast known as Richie Cunning. In an homage to the god MC Rakim, Richie goes raw on the Know The Ledge beat and takes no prisoners. In a message from Richie he talks about taking on a classic:
     "Stepping to a classic is not a task that any emcee should take lightly. For just that reason it isn't something that I have done very many times in my career. About a month ago, I was shooting pool in my neighborhood dive and Juice (Know The Ledge) came on the jukebox. I hadn't heard it in a while, and the fact that it was sandwiched into a playlist of current popular rap songs made it hit me like a suckerpunch to the gut. Rakim's flow is simply undeniable. The chops, the swing, the delivery, the tone... emcees don't (or can't) rhyme like that anymore. I took a shot at it. Check it out. I hope you enjoy my salute to the God, Rakim Allah."

Hit play and judge for yourself. Shout out to the Rec League crew. Salute the gods.

VIDEO: Eminem - The Monster ft Rihana

When it comes to music videos, Eminem is consistently able to provide complimentary visual representations to his complex lyrics. Thematically Em has said that he sees videos for most of the tracks he creates. And this clearly apparent for the Rihana assisted track, The Monster. While the song has a bit more of a hip-pop radio friendly sound to it, Marshall still delivers deep lyrics depicting the many monsters in his life.

The video starts off in a shrinks office where Em is being treated by Dr.Rihana. She puts him a hypnotic state and Eminem drifts into an inception type experience. Em enters an elevator that descends into his subconscious and he is able to see himself throughout his career. His first stop is the My Name Is video where he is still trapped in a straight jacket. The next stop puts Mr.Mathers is face to face with himself in the Lose Yourself video. He also sees bits of himself falling in The Way I Am video. His next stop takes Eminem to the 2006 Grammys and his iconic live performance of Stan with Sir Elton John. His final stop is the last level where he is able to exit the elevator. Em walks up to a metal box prison surrounded by armed guards. He gets close enough to see that he is actually in the box. The imprisoned Eminem throws torn pieces of paper at the real Slim Shady who picks them up, and walks away.

Looking at this video like an inception story, we can break down each level until we get to the deepest parts of Marshall's mind. His first stop takes us to his intro track to his Aftermath debut that launched his superstar career. He was dealing with the duality of his fame. He wanted this for himself, but now he just wants to be left alone and be able to go out without being bothered. The next level takes us to his acting debut. 8 Mile was a huge success, both as a movie and soundtrack. This took Em to yet another level and fame. He also decides to give a nod to his track The Way I Am off of The Marshall Mathers LP. That song was a very emotional and raw track that was a result of his frustration with his fame that seemed to be headline and gossip material. His final level reminds me of Inception when Ellen Page snuck down to Leonardo DiCaprio's subconscious dream and it was revealed that Leo was trying to keep his darkest experiences locked up. When Eminem walks out of the elevator he literally sees himself locked up. The locked up Em is very angry and animated and clearly wants to escape. Eminem has said throughout his career that he has multiple personas. Marshall the person/father, Eminem the emcee and Slim Shady the monster. When he is accused of being homophobic or misogynistic he blames his alter ego. And now it seems that he is trying to trap that persona. Overall this is another strong music video that in my opinion makes the song that much better. We can't always fully see Em's artistic vision, but when he takes our hand and shows us the way the outcome is always better than not.

16 December 2013

The Tape Deck: Original Flavor - Can I Get Open

    When the term "90's Rap" gets thrown out there, the first thing you will most likely hear from hip hop heads are the names 2Pac, Biggie, and Nas. No intentional disrespect, but come on y'all. The 90's are what made me love rap. So when the idea was thrown around BITM for The Tape Deck series, I started running through all my personal classics.
     Original Flavor dropped their debut album Beyond Flavor back in 1993. The whole album was pretty hot and it definitely has that 90's sound so many like to reminisce on. The lead single, Can I Get Open, is also the first time I ever heard Jay-Z rhyme, ever. Someone out there might have an earlier verse from him and I invite you to to hit us up and let us know what it is. But for now, hit play and enjoy what is possibly the world's introduction to Mr. Carter.

12 December 2013

In Case You Missed It: Clear Soul Forces - Gold PP7's

It's them boys from the 313! Making their way back again on BITM is the underground rap Super group, Clear Soul Forces. Ilajide, E-Fav, Noveliss and L.A.Z. have released their second LP Gold PP7's. The Detroit rap group has accumulated a large amount of success in the hip-hop world as "Detroit's best kept secret," well they are making it hard to stay hidden with their recent release. With their first album Detroit Revolution(s) being deemed as a Classic in the Hip-Hop world they had their name cut out for them for their sophomore release. Though this is their sophomore release, they consider themselves beyond any XXL Top 10 freshmen list to gain listeners/fans. They believe their music will reach people without the common conception of "selling out."

If you have ever listened to CSF you would know or at least recall that they favor comic books and video games (hence the title, which derives from 007's Goldeneye for Nintendo 64). This album is laced with references from Marvel, Capcom, Final Fantasy, Kill Bill and a slue of other super hero/anime/Kung-fu titles. This is basically nerd rap. A few hip-hop listeners won't get the comical innuendo's that these MC's frequently slide in. As for production, Ilajide does roughly 80% of all the tracks as you can tell with his 90's infused jazzy touch to CSF's tracks.

CSF is comfortable with who they are as artists. They don't step out of who they are (so far) and they just rap. Each of them individually has a skill that has been honed in on, but together (as suggested by fellow Detroit rapper Royce Da 5'9) they form Hip-Hop's Voltron. While forming the super robot these video game playing, rapping, heroes are taking shots at commercial rap and the social norms like "turning up" and "popping molly."

Clear Soul Forces are not the ones for many features, given that they focus on getting themselves to rap on the track first, but do have a couple cameos on this LP. Fellow rap group, Kooley High, makes an appearance on a track called "Freq Freq," which is actually one of the best tracks on album. The other feature comes from Idris Elba. Yes, that Idris Elba. When the track was first released, no one knew what to expect from the British Actor on a track with a rap group of this caliber but he actually held his own and is a very solid track. 

This is a great second album coming from the Motor City rap group. Personally, I like Gold PP7's more than Detroit Revolution(s). I don't know if it is because I can appreciate the superhero/anime/Kung-fu lines more than the average person as it brings me to younger memories that allows me to relate more, or if this is naturally the better project. Regardless, this is a definite cop.

Op Ed: I Heart Mashups

     Seriously, I do. Whoever decided to take two or more really good songs and smoosh them together (yep, that's what I said.......smoosh) to create something new is a genius, period.

      Now, the term "mash up" may be a relatively new one, but mash ups have been around for quite some time now. Mash ups have gone from the simple blending of two tracks to putting verses from several songs over a reworked beat, a combination of beats or an instrumental. The art of the mash up has matured past the realm of hip hop and has embraced genres from country to rock, even from classical to the many forms of electronic music, to create a new experience. It can easily be argued that in blending so much together to create these songs, mash ups could be considered their own legitimate genre.

     Now, when it comes to what songs get thrown together, it's all about the imagination of whoever is putting it together(I don't know what to call them. Mashers? Mashupeteers? We'll go with Mashers until some cooler than me makes up a word). If the Masher can get the timing to match then the sky is the limit; it doesn't matter what genre the lyrics or music come from. Matter of fact, the more off the wall the pairing is, the better it tends to be. One of my favorites right now is a mash up of Knuck If You Buck by Crime Mob and Hey Jude by The Beatles. They don't even sound like they'd go together, right? But that track is the truth. We'll come back to that later.

     There are a slew of mashers, and if you haven't really tried looking for mash ups until now then it can be overwhelming. A lot of these guys are putting out some good work, some not so much. A lot of what you may like depends on what you like to listen to or how much music you recognize. I decided to highlight a few that I have been following for a while now and have been putting out some pretty dope work. And before you start in with how your bank account is set up, most of the music these guys put out is free:

DJ Earworm - This guy's work is what got me into mash ups religiously. Since 2007 he has released an end of the year mash up of all the pop hits for that year. On top of creating what is becoming a mash up standard, United State of Pop, DJ Earworm has also made a number of mash ups using samples from artists such as: Common, Nelly Furtado, The Police, Madonna, 2Pac, The Fray and many others. Another cool feather for this guy's cap is the fact that he pretty much created the soundtrack for the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London. So yeah, you can say things are pretty serious. He has a collection of free and for purchase downloads that can be can be found on his website. I would definitely suggest checking out his original United State Of Pop,the Nelly Furtado mash up Free At Night, and for the brave listeners check out Over The Confluence of Giants. You can find all of his mash ups and other goodies on his website by following the jump here.

Girl Talk - Crazy name, dope DJ. This Philly representative will use upwards of 300 different samples and loops to create his mash up albums. His most recent release, All Day, has samples from the likes of: Ludacris, Eve, DMX, Belinda Carlisle, Simon & Garfunkel, Radiohead, Fat Joe, Eightball & MJG, Iggy Pop Outkast, Beyonce, M.O.P., Nirvana, Daft Punk, Drake, Genesis, and this is only a small list. This dude is definitely serious with his.
      Girl Talk has been getting parties started with his brand of mash ups going on over 10 years now. His brand of music and production has not gone unnoticed; in addition to nods from music culture magazines such as: Spin, Rolling Stone, and Pitchfork, Girl Talk is currently working with Freeway on a collaboration album tentatively titled Broken Ankles. The potential is there for these two to be as highly regarded as as hip hop's latest odd couple, Run The Jewels, but only time will tell. In the meantime hop on over to Girl Talk's page and give him a listen. If you don't check all of his work, at least peep the albums: All Day, Feed The Animals, and Night Ripper. It's definitely worth your time. Jump to his page here.

 Isosine - In mash ups earlier days, a lot of the focus was on hyping a club up to critical mass on the dance floor. DJs would take two or more club bangers and create a a mash guaranteed to fill the floor to critical mass. Isosine, as well as the other DJs that rep GLDN Collective, do the damn thing when it comes to when it comes to mashing club monsters. A lot of their club music is EDM or has an EDM beat to it (EDM = Electronic Dance Music) so if that's not your thing, be warned or be brave, your choice. What sets Isosine and his companions apart is their ability take the idea of the mash up out of the club and further explore the idea that mash up can be just as cool to experience without the black light and liquor. Isosine has created quite a few mash ups that are dope enough to sit back and listen to. An example is his joint Poeticwhich mashes together Anna Kendrick's Cups,Kendrick Lamar's Poetic Justice, and Florence + The Machine's Never Let Me Go. Isosine also juxtaposes songs from genres that may have not had anything to do with each other, like Korn and Taylor Swift. Just let that sink in for a minute. For more of his music, follow the jump here for his SoundCloud page or check his Facebook page here

The Melker Project - Scott Melker, aka The Melker Project, is currently my top choice when it comes to mash ups. Melker has made a name by creating monster singles such as Anything Could Happen vs. Twerk, a mash up of Ellie Goulding and Juicy J, as well as Skyfall vs. Neva Eva which mashes Adele and Trillville. Recently, Mr. Melker has made some sonic waves by releasing EPs that mashes recent hits with iconic music groups like The Beatles and Fleetwood Mac. His most recent EP, Ballin' Oates, which pairs reworked Hall & Oates tracks with the likes of T.I., Rich Boy, and Wu Tang, has garnered attention from several mainstream social commentaries, including MSNBC and Billboard. Now before you dismiss this cat as someone you wouldn't listen to, follow this jump here to his SoundCloud page and just check out some of his work. I can almost guarantee you find at least one track that you will rock to for a few days. That Beatles/Crime Mob mash I was talking about in the beginning of the post? Yeah, this guy did it. Matter of fact, click right here and check it out right now while you read the rest of this.That joint is serious. To fully experience The Melker Project, follow the jump here to peep his website and see just how deep the rabbit hole goes.

     Once again, a lot of this stuff is free of charge or open to donations to support the artist. While I'm sure the fact that so much of it is at no cost has something to do with copyrighted material, artist ownership and all other types of fancy legal phrases, at the end of the day there is a lot of good stuff out there that right in a lot of people's spending range.....free. I said it before and I'll throw it out there one more time; there is a lot out there to sift through and quite a bit is garbage, just like in any genre of music. But I think if you use the featured artists as a starting point and go exploring from there you should be in good shape. Happy hunting.  

10 December 2013

REVIEW: Childish Gambino - Because the Internet

Music these days is fleeting. Artists pour months into a project only for it to be picked apart by people like us who may not have spent enough time with the album, so this review is coming from someone who has only been spinning Childish Gambino's sophomore effort "Because the Internet" for a little over a week. The premise is that the internet is everything these days, which is true. But giving that name to this album might be Mr. Glover's undoing.

His ability as a lyricist was never in doubt, but Childish Gambino's music consistently suffers from the fact that he truly has not found himself yet as an artist. Being able to rap is one thing, but developing your own unique sound as you grow is something every rapper must find in order to get the respect you seek. "Because the Internet" is ambitious, but it has no clear direction. The majority of the tracks are attempts to come up with a sound that's all his own, but far too often does he end up sounding like his inspirations. "The Party" draws parallels to a sound that Andre 3000 popularized, while "No Exit" and "3005" have moments that are nearly mimicking Kendrick Lamar.

His insecurities are evident across every project he has ever released. On "Camp," Gambino speaks on the issues he had growing up and being called gay, or the fact he was never black enough, so on "Royalty" he went ALL black and catered strictly to the crowd that bashed him. After that mixtape, naysayers said he had too many features and that it didn't sound original, so he tried to experiment more with this latest project.  The result is not a terrible album, but it is very, very forgettable. Die-hards won't be swayed, but this project is not winning him any new fans.

...Because the internet, no one will be listening to this album in 2014.
Hit us up @BestInTheMix @TwonJonson and let us know what you think!

05 December 2013

REVIEW: Skyzoo & Antman Wonder - An Ode To Reasonable Doubt

Yesterday was Mr.Carter's 44th bday (December 4th). So how do you gift the man that literally has everything? How about an homage to his classic debut Reasonable Doubt. Philly composer Antman Wonder recreated nine classic tracks and Skyzoo (with a few features) blessed the mic to hop in the Delorean to transport us back to '96. So was the Jamla emcee able to shoulder the Brooklyn mantel with An Ode To Reasonable Doubt? Lets find out.

As mentioned above, Skyzoo did not give us the full 16 tracks (including bonuses here) from the original album. Instead he chose nine tracks that I assume he feels were the cream of the crop. Everyone remembers how great Can't Knock the Hustle set the tone for rest of Reasonable Doubt. Skyzoo correctly begins his EP with The Hustle Never Sleeps. While Mela Machinko has a great soulful voice, there really is no comparison to Mary J Blige on the hook. What Skyzoo did with the track (and the entire album in my opinion) that is genius is not to try to recreate Hova's lyrics, but rather reimagine each song. Sky gives us hints of Jay Z's lyrics here and there, but he stays true to his cadence and flow: "my motto, stack rocks like Colorado/ the stress turned us into Hennessy aficionados/ and it's a damn shame what you not, who/ slick like [a gato], Skyzoo/ my pops knew just what he did on the slide through/ talking like the greatest and that's just what he created".

All the instrumentals have more of an philharmonic quality to them. Which is a great way to preserve the vibe and emotion that was created 17 years ago. Skyzoo ends his album the same way Jay ended Reasonable Doubt (excluding bonus tracks), with The Truth About Regrets. Again Sky does not force the song but rather lets the song grow organically: "I'm from where they throw it all, from crack to opium/ in the third person, so if you trying to see them/ then it's a call, I'll make a call before you meet them/ and even that's asking a lot without a lead in."

I am not going to review more songs because if you are reading this blog you should know what Reasonable Doubt sounds like (if not..do that..now). And if you are not a Skyzoo fan, there isn't much that a review will do, you need to hear it. GO COP THE ALBUM. Trust, it does not disappoint. Elzhi successfully accomplish the feat of "remaking" a classic with Elmatic. Both chose to go with a more live band/orchestral sound for the instrumental foundation, and both are lyrically gifted to pull of the emcee duties. The fact that Skyzoo was able to take an iconic album and still have it be a "Skyzoo" album is amazing. But Skyzoo does have that laid back Brooklyn flow so it shouldn't be that much of a shock. This album feels like a Reasonable Doubt 2. Especially the way Sky took samples of Jay Z's lyrics and modernized them: "I want money like Cosby, who wouldn't/ or at least Raven-Symoné , the way Raven-Symoné was cooking". He made sure to thoughtfully treat each track with the respect it deserves. So with Rapsody taking our first 5 Mic review, it is safe to say that the Jamla camp wrapping up '13 strong.