30 January 2017

SINGLE: RDGLDGRN - Opera (feat. Method Man)

It's been building up for a couple years, but we are now in the thick of it.  We are entering a new era of powerful hip hop the likes of which haven't been seen since the early '90s.  In 2015, K. Dot gave us a masterpiece in light of the well-documented acts of police brutality, and in the years since then we've seen a complete resurgence of intelligent music with legends like A Tribe Called Quest and T.I. providing us with comfort food to help cope with these trying times.  Now in the current political climate we're facing, the flood gates are wide open in 2017.  Our last post showed Joey Bada$$ penning his take on things to help kick the year off, and now we have D.C.'s own RDGLDGRN tooled up and ready for war with their single "Opera" off their forthcoming crowd-funded album.

On the surface, this track is an ode to 'illegal aliens,' as depicted by Green throughout most of the video.  As you dig deeper though, you see that the song tackles the rampant injustices against the marginalized as a whole.  Green spazzes on the first verse with bars like "Since the government seems to mark us, I try to stay hidden in a green apartment"  which addresses the fear instilled in the Black community that doesn't even feel safe setting foot outside.  "Fact is that I won't be voting til the poverty gap has slim proportions / foolish just like the notion of marching for peace when they making corpses" is a line that takes a shot at the flawed election process in this country as well as the protests that follow it, highlighting just how divided we are as a people.

The co-sign from Method Man is a huge grab for the band as well, as the feature will surely give RDGLDGRN a much-needed boost beyond their core fanbase.  Be sure to support these brothers on their Pledge Music page, where you can find merch as well as vinyl copies of the upcoming album.

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24 January 2017

SINGLE: Joey Bada$$ - Land of the Free

It's been awhile since we've heard from the Pro Era front-runner, but after 2015's stellar B4.DA.$$ (which BITM awarded 5 tapes), Joey Bada$$ deserved to fall back and let that album marinate a bit.  We are now on the heels of his sophomore effort, simply titled A.A.B.A., which has suffered a couple of delays but is set to be released sometime in 2017.   The internet has been abuzz lately as to the meaning for the acronym A.A.B.A., and if this single is any indication, it could stand for 'Anti-American Bad Ass.'  One day before the inauguration of Trump, Joey gives us his most politically charged song to date in "Land of the Free," which is most likely a glimpse into the over-arching theme of the upcoming album. 

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05 January 2017

REVIEW: Rapsody - Crown

"Man..yall stay on Rapsody's [figurative] balls..bet she gonna get another 5 Tape rating."

First off, fall back playa. If you claim to be a hip hop head and can't appreciate what the young emcee is doing, then this is where you can get off (get off like from an elevator or car..not get off like..never mind). Since her feature in Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly, Rap's stock has been exponentially rising. But the NC native has been laying bars "professionally" since about '08, dropping her first solo mixtape Return of the B-Girl in '10 (under 9th Wonder's Jamla Records). This summer, during the 2016 Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival, Rap made the statement that will change her life forever: "I'm Jamla/Roc Nation". This joint venture will expose Rapsody to whole new demographic of listeners. And I'm sure that there are those haters who think she "sold out" and that her lyrics will suffer because she'll have to dumb them down to appeal to mainstream/radio markets. But the hip hop Tina Turner breaks out the gates under the Roc Nation umbrella with the Crown EP (some sites call it a mixtape, but Ima go by what her website calls it and by the track "Mad" that states: I call my EP Crown) for all the skeptics. 

The intro/titular track, "Crown", starts off with Rap delivering bars spoken word-style over a simple piano instrumental provided by Eric G. At the 1:20 mark the beat does a 180 into a 9th Wonder boom bap beat. Rap picks up her flow and provides the energy needed to compliment the switch up. The intro sets up the 2016 "Keep Ya Head Up" type theme found throughout the whole album, focusing on positive messages: pride, self worth, love, empowerment, and never settling for what other people say is your limit. 

I was racking my brain to come up with one or two more tracks that I wanted to highlight, but the truth is that would be a disservice to Rapsody and to you. Once again, Rap has crafted another statement record. Those that thought Rapsody's Roc Nation merger would water down her content will be pleased with EVERY track (if you've been a Rapsody fan that is). She still takes on her particular subject matter found throughout her catalog, but updates her metaphors to make each track relevant. And once again we have to acknowledge the mastermind 9th Wonder and his Soul Council for yet another flawless beat selection. 

It's crazy to think that I reviewed Rapsody's first LP, The Idea of Beautiful 5 years ago (I pre-ordered the album and even got it signed..priceless) . We didn't even have our tape rating system in place yet. But best believe, the only thing missing from my review would be the perfect 5 Tape rating. With her Crown EP, we are witnessing a star about to take the game over. Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole are the two emcees that are constantly referenced when taking about the new wave emcees who are socially conscience and repping hip hop the right way (with commercial success). But for the last 7 years (crazy to say that out loud) I've put Rapsody in the short elite list. So do yourself a favor and peep the powerful Crown, and you'll come to the same conclusion. Culture over everything. Oh, and yeah, Rapsody gets ANOTHER 5 Tape review. 

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01 January 2017

REVIEW: J. Cole - 4 Your Eyez Only

It's been a long time coming (the album, not just this review), but Hollywood Cole has done it again. Except, this time, he's focused less on the Hollywood and more on the introspective aspects of what makes Cole...well, Cole. Jermaine takes a step back from the lyrical onslaught that is today's hip-hop arena and slows things down a bit so that you can truly digest his words and their meaning. That isn't to say that J. Cole dumbs things down because that will never happen, but there isn't as much stereotypical hip-hop instrumentation as there is attention paid to the message that he delivers in this album, which is a concept album of sorts.

The album is average in length, timing in at 44 minutes, but there is a lot of power in that three quarters of an hour. That power comes directly from his heart, and his recent stances on the racial inequalities in America are very present throughout the album. It's amazing to see J. articulate his feelings on issues that range from the birth of a daughter (his home boy's, who was shot down before her birth) on "She's Mine, Pt. 2" to police profiling and racial inequalities on "Change."

Personally, my favorite track is "Neighbors," which highlights the strange looks he's received from his new nearby residents (y'know, since he moved into 2014 Forest Hills Dr to get away from the spotlight and to gain privacy). It's a look into how judgmental society is. The hook is "I guess the neighbors think I'm sellin' dope...well mothafucka, I am." Of course, the "dope" in question isn't crack cocaine, but his music, which is dope...addictive...fire...catchy...selling. In addition to sounding like a Big K.R.I.T. track, the song draws light to the uneven sights placed on Black America, where we can't even buy a nice house in the 'burbs without drawing ire, because we're expected to be less: rappers, athletes, etc.

Much of the album hooks you like a dope fiend, drawing you in with deep and soulful instrumentation and making you come back for more with his thought provoking lyrics. This isn't Sideline Story or Born Sinner Cole, but the young man continues to cement his role among the Leaders of the New School with his dexterity and prowess. He takes the simplest ideals and makes them into invigorating stories with appropriately matched beats, making it easier and easier to follow along and enjoy the ride.

The ride sometimes slows down to uncomfortable levels, though, making it hard to stay focused or to remember that this is a rap album. Actually, when I first heard the album the opening track "For Whom The Bell Tolls" turned me off before I could get into it. The next two tracks got me ramped up and then we slowed down again on "Ville Mentality," so I needed a few good dozen spins before I could truly appreciate the work of art in its entirety. Granted, this is a solid effort, but only true J. Cole fans can appreciate this, which I think was Jermaine's goal, but that will ultimately hurt his future endeavors to gain fans, I believe.

There are no club bangers, which isn't surprising, but there aren't any standout tracks to bump in your ride, either (I use the term "standout" loosely, because this is a great album to play all the way through while taking a long ride down the highway). If you're looking for a smooth rap album with introspective lyrics that speak to the urban youth, then this is for you. If you're looking for former chart toppers and heavy hitters like "G.O.M.D., Crooked Smile," or "Niggaz Know," you won't find them here. The effort is repeat worthy, but only if you're either already a J. Cole fan or if you're a hip-hop head. If you're a tourist, you'll be bored right out of the gate.

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