26 April 2017

REVIEW: Talib Kweli and Styles P - The Seven

Seasoned vets Talib Kweli and Styles P set to bring us the perfect conscience/street blend with their The Seven EP. Most Hip Hop heads probably had the "wait, when did these two get together to make an album!?" reaction. Really, you would have only known about this collab if you keep up on Hip Hop news like that, or if you follow the emcees on social media. But there is really one reason why most people ain't even know about this project. And that was the release date, April 14th, 2017. Or how it is known now, the day Kendrick Lamar broke the internet (again). I wouldn't expect these two emcees to flinch and switch up their release date to avoid coming out with DAMN., but damn. No one knew Kendrick would drop another classic level project, but most expected it. But as they say, steel sharpens steel. And Talib and Styles are cut from that cloth that welcomes competition. With a 7 track EP, The Seven (ha, I see what they did there), one expects a cohesive project with no throw away songs. So let's see if these emcees came correct.

The track "Nine Point Five" is produced by Marco Polo and sets the stage for lyrical assists from the rest to the LOX clique and Talib Kweli's emcee, Niko Is, on the hook. Had to Google him, dude is an emcee from Brasil. Aight then. Talib and Styles get the lion's share in terms of verse length (which makes sense, it is their EP), but Jada and Sheek round out the track with top notch bars. The street knowledge track touches on many social subjects but still remains a hard track. After all, the "9.5" is a reference to the Richter Scale (and the largest earthquake every registered was a..say it together..9.5).

But the track that got the most repeats from me was "Let It Burn". I'm sure the beat had a lot to do with that, it did come from 9th Wonder protege Khrysis. And keeping it in the 9th family, we also get LOCO bars from Jamla's first lady Rapsody. My ONLY complaint is that Chris Rivers is relegated to hook duty. This young emcee is a MONSTER, and I feel his feature is squandered by not letting him lay down a verse. That being said, his hook is of course great. I was gonna say, "Talib and Ghost KILL the track, but my favorite verse came from Rap". Then I would have copy and pasted the bars. Talib and Ghost DO kill this joint, but all three emcee's come SO CORRECT that I can't single out a bar or two to highlight. This track is an embarrassment of lyrical riches. I'll just leave it at that.

2017 is giving us an unprecedented mix of quality projects from old and new school lyricists. So it makes sense that these Hip Hop teachers ain't trying to get shown up by the students. The Seven is Talib and Ghost's answer to the majority of Hip Hop that is concerned with commercial success without honoring the culture. Talib Kweli says, "As hip-hop grows to the point where many rappers have become caricatures of themselves, myself and Styles P remain a part of a group of MCs that still consider the culture in every decision we make. [We are] the last ones left." Talib Kweli and Styles P might not have known that this year (so far) would produce a slew of "new school" emcees flooding the streets with quality projects. But they definitely knew the expectations from Hip Hop heads, once they heard these two vets were linking up. But it is really THEIR expectations that drove this project. They don't just want to make a "hot" track, or a hit radio single (this EP is definitely devoid of ANY radio single). The torch that they continue to hold is meant to shine a light on the Hip Hop that has fallen to the wayside. Whether it's a "conscience" or "street" track, these teachers know it's all about knowledge. And the wisdom that these lyrical goliaths drop with this gem is invaluable today. So for those enjoying the lyrical resurgence this year, definitely add The Seven to your rotation.

And peep the ENTIRE EP below!

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25 April 2017

AUDIO: Big Boi feat. Killer Mike and Jeezy - Kill Jill

       What's good people? I haven't been through here for a minute............I got nothing for that. What I do have, however, is this new Big Boi track I came across a few days ago that is getting heavy rotation.  Kill Jill showcases Big Boi and Killer Mike, two of ATL's finest, while Jeezy handles the hook. The production on this is some fire. (Real talk - I need to know who did that beat, because that shit knocks) This is the second release off Big Boi's upcoming Boomiverse album. If this track is any indication about how good the album will be, then I'm about that life. Check it out below.

~Irish Ninja

19 April 2017

REVIEW: Don Q - Corner Stories

Hip-Hop is a culture that reaches out and affects people from different cities, states, countries, races as well as ages. No matter how it may affect an individual, if you’re a fan you know where the Mecca of hip-hop is, New York City. As the alpha and originators, New York hip-hop has always been held to a higher standard in the culture in every category except dancing tracks, maybe. Being almost synonymous with the “boom-bap” connotation, the Big Apple’s legends and fans have a arrogance about them that is well deserved. Most of the absolute best MC’s/emcee’s/rapper’s hail from somewhere within city (as well as Yonkers). The same cliché debate of younger artists not making hip-hop the way it was in the “Golden Era” is still alive and prevalent especially among the city. Over recent years we have seen a select few rise from the ashes and deliver bars as if they were direct descendants of the greats on Mt. Rap Rushmore. Artists like Joey Bada$$, and Mack Wilds have been heralded in New York; but what about the grimy sound we know & love? Most recently, that has been spear-headed by Nas’ handpicked artist, Dave East. 

Now Dave has to make room for another equally talented street rapper that goes by the name of Don Q. Representing the infamous Bronx, Don Q definitely brings aggression and flow with his bars. Recently releasing his mixtape “Corner Stories,” Don is looking to make an impact while he’s on his rise in the game. With an immediate and genuine connection to the streets, Don taps into vintage New York imagery of the gritty concrete jungle. Coming from the projects, he makes it clear that his daughter is his motivation to grind and that he can’t go back to the hood. The mixtape has small interludes themed around Don being interviewed. His interviewer hints at writing with intent and purpose attempting to set Don’s subject matter aside from normal rappers. This is the first Don project I’ve ever listened to and he seems focused on being remembered for his legacy in the game and he acknowledges that he can not be just another rapper that won’t be respected through time.

The into to “Corner Stories” is simply beautiful. Don Q came forth with an aggressive flow laced with coke stories and coming through the block in a drop-top blue benz. Even only equating up to just past one minute and some change of actually rapping, this track contains some of my favorite bars on the tape. With that being said, there is a track that has even better bars and gems laced within the lyrics which is probably already a fan-favorite. “Take Me Alive” featuring Styles P and Jadakiss is absolutely the best track on the tape but unfortunately it takes away from Don’s presence on the song. Regardless, like any other LOX track their are so many quotable s that hip-hop fans just won’t stop grinning. Also with this track being produced by Scott Storch, one could understand why it meshes so well.

As one of his major releases since acquiring so much attention, I think Corner Stories is a solid project for Don Q. I believe Don’s beat selection could’ve been more vast and creative. Outside of the Jadakiss and Styles P feature, the instrumentals sound too similar as opposed to having real distinguishing factors among them. Aside from that I believe Don Q is one of the front runners of brining that genuine New York sound back to the game. In a time where hip-hop has diversified itself throughout time and the evolution of the culture it’s fitting to have an MC show knowledge and connection to the roots/earlier lineage. If you are in the mood to hear some of the hip-hop offspring of the Lox, Don Q is a good place to start.

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16 April 2017

REVIEW: Joey Bada$$ - All AmeriKKKan Bada$$

First off goddammit, welcome to Christmas in April for Hip hop heads.  Thanks to my guy stayfly's diligence, I'm sure everyone who follows BITM (or any urban music outlet for that matter) is aware of how good 2017 has been to us.  After hearing about so many upcoming projects in the months leading up to now, the anticipation was so strong it had become palpable.  No disrespect to Big Sean, Drake, and Rick Ross, who have all seen success with new releases of their own in recent months, but the true fight for album of the year begins with Joey Bada$$' sophomore effot All AmeriKKKan Bada$$.

Two years ago BITM awarded Joey's debut album B4.DA.$$ our highest praise as it was the first album to receive the elusive 5 tapes rating, so naturally Badmon had his work cut out for him to impress us even further this go 'round.  One huge concern I had going in was the direction Joey would take, as he has kinda been lumped into the ever-shrinking pile of boom-bap rappers trying to rekindle that 90s New York flavor.  His first mixtape 1999 was pure in that regard, and stellar in its own right.  B4.DA.$$ remained in a similar lane for the most part, but he dipped his toe in uncharted waters on a few tracks with "Escape 120" and "Teach Me."  These risks proved that Joey had the ability to branch out of his comfort zone and break up the monotony of an album sounding like a 1999 retread.  It also opened the door for him to take his next album in any direction he saw fit without fear of rejection from his hardcore fanbase.

Much like Kendrick's To Pimp a Butterfly, and Tribe's We got it from Here...Thank You for your service, Joey's All AmeriKKKan Bada$$ is therapy for the urban community that's still looking for answers.  Badmon might be a couple years late to the party, but the wounds are far from healed.  "What's freedom to you?  Think about it, take a minute, think it through."  This line kicks the album off as a direct shot at how society continues to enslave us through fear and oppression.  The track sets the tone for the entire album, and Joey holds no punches pouring his heart out for his people on the aptly named "For My People," as well on "Temptation," which includes a heart-wrenching snippet from Zianna Oliphant, a girl from Charlotte, North Carolina who was brave enough to give an emotional plea against police brutality to the Charlotte City Council back in September.

The lead single "Devastated," which dropped way back in May 2016 (why, Joey, why?) was a more of an intrapersonal journey with Joey wondering why he hadn't fully blown up yet despite all the hard work he had put into all of his music up to that point.  The irony with this is, the accessible trap vibes on this track had all the makings of a radio smash and would have easily helped skyrocket All AmeriKKKan Bada$$ to new heights had there not been such an enormous gap between them.  The other two singles "Land of the Free" and "Rockabye Baby" aren't nearly as digestible for the uninitiated, but serve as the songs that define the tale of two halves on this album.  The first 6 songs are like the calm before the storm for the culture, with the stellar "Y U Don't Love Me? (Miss AmeriKKKa)" serving as an amalgamation of all the questions plaguing our community.

"Tell me why you don't love me?  Why you always misjudge me?  Why you always put so many things above me?  Why you lead me to believe that I'm ugly, why you never trust me?  Why you treat me like I don't matter?  Why you always kickin my ladder?  Why you never hearing my side to the story?  Never look me in my eyes to say sorry."

The second half of the album is the rebellion.  All of Joey's pent-up aggression comes pouring out in a fit of calculated rage across the next 4 songs.  From "Rockabye Baby" with an impressive feature from ScHoolboy Q, to the super charged "Ring The Alarm" and "Babylon," there are no shortages of hay makers from Joey Bada$$ as he attempts to offer solutions to the issues mentioned throughout the earlier parts of the album.  The sound fittingly returns to more familiar territory for Badmon on these songs as he spits over amazingly produced boom-bap-inspired beats from his in-house team at ProEra who provide the most notable contributions.  Statik Selektah even lends an assist on "Super Predator" ft. Styles P, which, similar to Joey's earlier work, sounds like it was ripped directly from 1995.  Statik's production on "Legendary" ft. J. Cole cools things off a bit and offers the simple message of "Legends they never die, them niggaz only multiply," saying that no matter how hard you beat us down, you'll never take our creativity from us.  The only problem with this song is Cole's verse, as it clearly sounds "bought."  Other than that, this track lives up to its name.  It also helps ease the listener into the album's final track "AmeriKKKan Idol" where Joey basically claims he needs to continue to be the voice for his people moving forward as we navigate our way through this divided minefield we call America.

Purists who only crave that boom-bap will take umbridge with most of this album as it may come across as too melodic, preachy, and political for those too shallow to absorb the message.  Despite this, one thing I praise Joey for more than anything is the fact the music itself is still amazing despite its subject matter.  His choice for production across the board is simply fantastic.  The smooth vibe heard throughout the album makes it so that All AmeriKKKan Bada$$ can be enjoyed as both a casual record to ride out to in the whip, as well as an enlightening and empowering experience if you choose to delve deeper into the bars.  Joey Bada$$ has truly taken that next evolutionary step in his career and it's great to see that not only has he broken free from his own musical confines, he's officially proven he can produce a different sound across the majority of an album without sacrificing his integrity as an artist.

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14 April 2017

VIDEO: Logic - Black SpiderMan

Hip Hop heads worldwide are enjoying this Good Friday with Kendrick Lamar's latest LP, DAMN. (EL CAPO got that review on deck!). But today we are also exactly three weeks away from Logic's third studio album, Everybody. At the end of last month we posted his first single, "Everybody". And last night Logic took to Instagram (and I'm sure other social media outlets as well) to promote the music video to his second single, "Black SpiderMan". This is Logic's first video in over two years, so fans of the Maryland emcee can thank the Hip Hop gods for this one.

The track "Black SpiderMan" continues the biracial journey that Logic set out to share with this album. And while the titular single "Everybody" focuses on Logic's point of view of being mixed race in a racial world, "Black SpiderMan" sees the young emcee jump into many more perspectives. He takes his story of being an outcast in both black and white circles, and connects them to gay kids who are not supported by their parents or single black mothers looking for love. The theme of race flows throughout the track, and there are many very strong lyrics. But one that stood out to me (especially after I heard him break it down) was, "Not a slave to the stereotype/ All alone in my room in the middle of the night/ I don’t have the words but my stereo might." Logic said that J Cole is one of his favorite emcees. Logic felt a connection because J Cole is also biracial and he felt Cole had a similar upbringing. At the time Logic did not have a voice in the game and feels since now he does, he could use his words to affect other kids who go through similar struggles. He can reach them through the stereos.

Peep the fun video (make sure to watch all the way to the end) to "Black SpiderMan" below. And I am also throwing up his interview with Genius again. I am loving that fact that Logic is breaking down all of Everybody's singles so far.

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13 April 2017

REVIEW: Raekwon - The Wild

Since the end of the Golden Era, most Wu-Tang fans needed to look no further than Raekwon for their steady Shaolin fix (I would also throw Method Man and Ghostface Killah in that mix too). The Staten Island emcee is creeping up on 50, but the living legend is still able to put together a project that should be required listening for all these up and coming rappers in the game. The Chef's seventh solo LP, The Wild, is another notch of excellence in a discography that spans 22 years. I'm only going by solo albums, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... came out in '95 (we all know 36 Chambers came out in '93..sit back down). His previous LP, 2015's Fly International Luxurious Art, was Rae's attempt at a commercially successful album. The album wasn't as great as it could have been. It was good to see the Chef try a new lane, but it felt disjointed and sub par for an emcee of Raekwon's caliber. The Wild is a much more cohesive project and is a decisive step back to form for the Wu general.

According to Rae, the album's first single "This Is What It Comes Too" serves as a "taste" of what the Chef had cooking in the lab. The energetic boom bap track is a callback to The Purple Tape days. Rae goes HARD with braggadocio bars that remind listeners that his pen game is just as strong as his street affiliations. The track "Purple Brick Road" provides a more melodic and "newer" school sound for Raekwon. The title is a play off of the "yellow brick road" from The Wizard of OZ (put probably from The Wiz). The "purple" comes from the aforementioned LP, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... (also known as The Purple Tape) and "bricks" reference measurements of drugs (normally cocaine). So the title could mean Reakwon's life journey that started in the streets, but now finds him on a more successful road. Raekwon has made it, and with the spoils of victory come new adversities. On top of that, Raekwon litters his verses with internal rhymes that remind me of another legend, Rakim. And honestly, I think I've heard of G-Eazy, but I can't say I've heard dude spit. At first I thought it was Dave East (which would have been a better feature in my opinion). But the Oakland emcee DEF did himself a huge favor by jumping on the track with the legend. His flow is tight and compliments the track well. I will absolutely be checking tracks when I see his name now. His tribute single, "Marvin", pays homage to the late great Marvin Gaye. With CeeLo Green on the hook, we get a soulful track that Rae uses to tell a beautiful story of another legend. I even like the collab with Lil' Wayne on "My Corner". Crazy, I know. But I've always felt Wayne is talented enough. He's just dumbed himself down for so long (he is def a mumble rap godfather), that it is now his norm to sound like he freaky Fridayed with a teenager going through puberty, drugged up on ALL THE LEAN he could get his hands on. But when he chills out, dude is nice. 

The Wild is Raekwon's attempt to diversify his brand. He wants his "fans to see another side of a champion" and that his "triumphs remain inimitable when making music for yesterday and today’s culture." The album cover depicts Rae standing over a post apocalyptic landscape. Where speaker/buildings are overgrown with trees and vines (I Am Legend style) and the animals are anthropomorphized rocking fly gear and bumping to a boombox. The streets are commonly referred to as the "concrete jungle". The cover and album title both reinforce the theme that Raekwon has masterfully painted. At the top of the food chain, Raekwon is at home in any jungle. The Wild is another top shelf album to add to an already surprising 2017 roster. With all these young spitters dropping gems, it is good to see an old head put his thing down and show them legends don't die. 

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11 April 2017

BREAKING NEWS: Kendrick Lamar Releases Album Title

 It's been an interesting few weeks for fans with Kendrick pretty much enslaving the entire Hip Hop community in anticipation​ for his fourth studio album.  Couple weeks ago we got a teaser track continuing his always impressive "The Heart" series with part IV in which he left fans feeling trolled by mentioning April 7th, a day in which fans assumed they would receive the surprise album.  Turns out that day only ended up being the day he decided to reveal its official release date, which until today lacked both a title and cover.

About an hour ago all of that was resolved with the cover, title, and track list all being revealed.  With the only two features being Rihanna and U2, it is possible that this could be Kendrick's first sonically commercial album.  Maybe he wants to show cats like Drake and Medium Sean that he can rock in their lane as well?  What are your thoughts?

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05 April 2017

VIDEO: Dave East - The Real Is Back (featuring Beanie Sigel)

Dave East dropped Kairi Chanel at the end of September in 2016. The reviews for the Harlem emcee's tenth mixtape were stellar, including one from our own Ra'z Al Ghoul. And one of the HARDEST tracks came from the single "The Real Is Back" (which says a lot because the who project is full of that raw Hip Hop). But when you team up with the Broad Street Bully, you shouldn't expect anything less than a classic street anthem. The grimey instrumental sets the stage for the two emcees to drop lyrical gems. East and Beans start off with their own verses to tear the track up, but then both tag team the final verse in a way that would make Jadakiss and Styles P proud.

The video has a low budget (in a good way) handheld, low resolution, feel to it. With both emcees in the hood surrounded by their compatriots. Besides the stereotypical "rapping into camera" production of the video, we get a few really cool moments when you see Beanie Sigel schooling a youngster.

Peep video for "The Real Is Back" below. And check back soon as we get set to review a slew of (hopefully) great albums.

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03 April 2017

VIDEO: A Tribe Called Quest - Dis Generation (featuring Busta Rhymes)

If you can't tell, the BITM family is enjoying a 2017 that so far feels like it might break the current cycle of Hip Hop. What do you mean stayfly? First, please save questions until the end of the article, but since you asked. There are many reasons why I love the Golden Era, and many of those reasons have to do with feelings/emotions. But in the current state of Hip Hop, all everybody seems to talk about are numbers (Nicki is the best female rapper because she sells blah blah blah, she just beat so and so's record), so I will go the numbers route. Kinda. I feel that the 90's (you can also add the 80s and early oughts to this) cranked out less whack tracks and produced less whack rappers than, lets say from '07 until now. This is my opinion, but one that I am sure I can back up with data if I chose to go into the numbers. But I digress. What was I talking about? Oh, yeah.

So this year might give us more "mainstream" lyrical records than the current mumble rap hitting the airways the last decade or so. But as exciting as 2017 has been so far, it is always good to take a look back. Way back. All the way back to 2016, back to almost five months ago. Last year A Tribe Called Quest were the authors of one of the best and worst moments in Hip Hop history. The year started off with the untimely passing of Phife Dawg on March 22nd. THAT ONE, that one right there HURT. I think I took that day off, or next day off, for an unrelated reason. But later in the week people at worked asked me if I took off for Phife's passing because they know how passionate I am about my Hip Hop. And it seemed that right after that, we got word of a new ATCQ album dropping later that year. So November 11th gave us We got it from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service, the sixth and final Tribe album.

The second single, "Dis Generation", features long time Tribe affiliate Busta Rhymes. The track is a perfect blend of each emcee passing of the baton like they running the Olympic 4 × 400 metres relay. The song gives praise to a few new school artists, namely: Joey Bada$$, Earl Sweatshirt, Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole. They feel these young emcees will carry the torch for the more lyrically inclined writers of Tribes's and Busta's era. The black and white video reminded me of the video for "Electric Relaxation" (another black and white video). At least that's the one that came to mind. I don't recall if there was another ATCQ video that was all black and white. So maybe they wanted a call back to Midnight Marauders. Either way, it did for me.

So peep video for "Dis Generation" below. And since I had "Electric Relaxation" on the brain, peep that video below too.

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