31 December 2014

VIDEO: BITM 2014 Year End Wrap Up

Overall it's been a rather sub-par year for hip-hop in comparison to recent years, but it's also important to know it's around this time every decade where the game begins to shift in a completely different direction than what we knew ten years prior. It's exciting to see newer artists continue to shine, and it's upsetting to see certain veterans enter the twilight of their careers, but it's all a part of a vicious cycle within the game that helps keep the landscape open for fresh and new flavor. Here is a wrap up of the entire year in a nutshell, and make sure you check for us in 2015 as we continue to expand and grow as a brand.

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18 December 2014

REVIEW: Ghostface Killah - 36 Seasons

On the heels of Twelve Reasons to Die, Ghostface Killah's 11th solo studio album is another cinematic piece. The saga for 36 Seasons is contemporary and far less supernatural in comparison to TRtD (besides the whole super mask that keeps Tony alive after a chemical explosion, a la Marvel's Iron Man). GFK was given a script that combines the lure of the super hero Iron Man with some street elements, which is the basic equation for the persona of Ghostface the emcee. The score for the entire album is composed by the neo-soul productions of The Revelations (with 3 other co-producers on 6 tracks). The outcome is a linear narrative told through the eyes of Tony Starks, and reappearing characters Penelope/Bamboo (Tony's girl, voiced by Kandace Springs), Rog (Tony's cop friend, voiced by AZ), Bamboos new man and drug dealer (voiced by Kool G Rap) and Migs (Tony's friend, voiced by Shawn Wigs). Emcee Nems voices a member of Kool G Rap's crew. While Pharoahe Monch voices the brilliant Dr. X who operates on Tony and creates a gas mask to keep him alive even though poisonous chemicals run through his body.

The album parallels the comic that accompanies the CD booklet. I actually purchased the bundle which also includes a vinyl LP, and the comic the same size as the record. Tony Starks returns home after 9 years to find that his block is more corrupt and dangerous than ever. His first move is to see his girl Bamboo, only to learn that she has moved on and is dating a drug dealer who is responsible for the new unstable environment. Tony's childhood friend Rog, AZ, is a cop and has been looking after Bamboo while he was away. Rog tells Tony that Bamboo's new man is turning the streets into a dangerous battleground and only he can take him out. Tony agrees and kills the drug dealer along with some of his crew. But in the shootout Tony is injured from a chemical explosion. His boy Mig takes him to the mad Dr. X. The good doctor creates a gas mask that keeps his vitals level even though Tony has poison coursing through his veins. Now that Tony has taken care of the threat he heads over the find Bamboo. But Rog and other police officers pull him over and accuse him of murder and lock him up. Tony realizes Rog is corrupt and that it was all a set up. Rog was another catalyst that created the current state of the hood. Bamboo bails Tony out and begs him to leave. Tony agrees and heads to Mig's home to pick up his things. He finds Mig dead by the hands of the remaining members of the drug dealers crew. Tony goes to war to take out the rest of the crew, Rog and the rest of the corrupt cops. Tony cleans up the block and accepts Bamboo's apology and they get back together again. He is is finally at peace now that his block is clean but looks toward the rest of the city as his next mission.

Lyrically GFK is as sharp as ever. The overall concept for album is not the most original story ever told, but the medium used is what makes this project stand out. The process of taking an original script and complimenting it with lyrics and music are signs of a true poet. In the center of every consummate emcee is the soul of a narrative writer. The art of storytelling should be in ever true emcees repertoire. Each track is singular and can stand alone. But when you string them together you get a detailed sequential epic. The first track The Battlefield is an introduction to the characters of GFK, Kool G Rap and AZ. The instrumental is strong and chaotic, with drums and guitars seemingly going to battle with each other in track. While tracks like Love Don't Live Here No More are set to a more soulful (J Dilla-esque) backdrop. Overall the hip hop fan that enjoys emotive production and mature subject matter and lyrics, this is for you. There are no radio singles here, just boom bap and soulful sounds tied together with intellectual intelligent lyrics from a living legend. 

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17 December 2014

VIDEO: Kendrick Lamar on The Colbert Report

It is with a truly heavy heart that I write down that The Colbert Report will come to an end this Thursday, December 18th. The Daily Show spinoff was not expected to last almost a decade, but with a great writing staff and a bona fide star in Steven Colbert the show went on to entertain and influence the nation since it's debut in 05. Colbert will leave a legacy of multiple Peabody and Emmy awards, an amazingly awkward White House Correspondents' Dinner performance, bringing 200,000+ people to DC for the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear and raising millions for various charities. And if you are asking yourself, why so much non hip hop history? The answer is this. Stephen Colbert will go down as one of the most influential figures of the 00s. He uses his fame and persona to inform and counteract the nonsense that goes on in our country. And his last musical guest is Kendrick Lamar. Hip hop is all about (or should be about) being a voice, an intelligent voce, for segments of the population that feel they are not heard. Now more than ever we are witnessing these segments feel their cries for justice at muffled.

It speaks volumes that Colbert has chosen Kendrick to be his guest and perform on his show. And K Dot brings it with an unreleased untitled song. The social commentary found in the track is classic Kendrick. But what is new is the way he breaks down the song with different interactions with an Asian, Indian, Black and White man. All tell him what he needs to do to be successful. But K Dot chooses to enjoy his successes his own way. There have been a few reports from people who have heard Kendrick's second Aftermath/Interscope LP saying that K Dot will change the game again. He is not resting on the laurels of good kid, m.A.A.d city. And after hearing i and this untitled track, I would say that Kendrick is looking to set the bar high for 015.

Peep interview and performance below.

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REVIEW: PRhyme - PRhyme

DJ Premier & Royce Da 5'9 combine to form the duo known as PRhyme, and their eponymous debut album is a reminder that no time nor space can ever ruin the sound that is the golden era of hip-hop. All fears that Royce is trying to replace Guru can be laid to rest, as this album is its own entity. PRhyme is not the second coming of Gang Starr. Instead, it's an homage to a timeless era, while at the same time serving as a reminder to younger generations about the type of music that actually has staying power. Every track is produced by the legend, DJ Premier, with help from producer Adrian Younge, who makes his presence known with soulful samples scattered throughout the album as well. The chemistry between Primo and Royce is natural to the point where you often begin to wonder if this is truly their debut. Royce is clearly cut from the cloth of the golden era that Preem helped build, so it should come as no surprise that the entire album is near-flawless.

If the combination of Royce and Preem alone wasn't enough, the nine-track album is filled to the brim with notable features who all sound right at home over Primo's signature boom baps and voice loops. After the intro, the album kicks off with a guest appearance from Mac Miller & Ab-Soul on "Dat Sound Good." What makes this track special is just hearing how these up and coming protectors of hip-hop sound over such legendary production. Their presence is felt so strongly on this track you'd think they were artists directly from the era they're paying homage to. The amazing thing about shorter albums that take the safe route by sticking to Primo-esque production is that they are still high quality projects for the most part, albeit condense. With only nine tracks, one blemish stands out and has the potential to ruin an entire album. That's not the case with PRhyme. With the aid of masterful production, looping, and pacing from Preem, the tracks on this lp flow seemlessly into the next in a way that makes you not even care which song you're on. You know you're going to be hearing some heat no matter which track you're listening to. The album is just that good.

The only other Detroit representative that makes an appearance on PRhyme is Dwele on the hook of another bright spot on the album with "You Should Know," but it would have been nice to see some more Detroit representation on such a strong project. Even with collabs like Jay Electronica, Killer Mike, Common, and even his own crew Slaughterhouse for the finale, you still can't help but feel like this was a missed opportunity for Royce to show some love to some worthy lyricists from his home town. Elzhi and Noveliss from Clear Soul Forces seem like obvious choices that would have been comfortably in their element on this album. Just imagine Royce and Noveliss (J-Roc) trading bars over "Courtesy?" WHEW! Or an extended version of "U Looz" with Royce & Elzhi going bar for bar trying not get outshined by one another? LAWD have mercy! It's a damn shame, honestly. Or maybe not including any Detroit rappers was a calculated omission? Either way, you can't feel too cheated with masterful features from artists like Jay Electronica and Killer Mike. But there's also no harm in wanting such a quality album to be perfect either.

Like stayfly mentioned earlier, this has truly been a strong fourth quarter for hip-hop. The duo known as PRhyme has blessed us with a potential album of the year candidate. The lp is everything you would expect a collab between Royce Da 5'9 and DJ Premier to sound like, except it includes features from some of your favorite artists to ever come out of the underground. No concepts necessary. PRhyme not only serves as a milestone in the careers of both artists, it's hip-hop in its most pure form. It preserves everything that embodied the golden era, and contains all the right parts to be seen as an instant classic to most.

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10 December 2014

SINGLE: Nas - The Season (produced by J Dilla)

Even though J Dilla has been gone for almost 10 years, his influence on hip hop is still relevant. While his name isn't one that will appear in mainstream "best of producers" lists, he will always hold a spot in most hip hop heads hearts. Like most people, Nas heard many Dilla tracks but did not know much about the person. In an interview a few years ago Nas admitted that he really didn't learn about J Dilla until after his untimely passing. But he also said that he would have loved to collab on a  J Dilla track because he felt their styles would complement each other well.

What once was a dream is now a reality. Escobar's 12th solo LP will hopefully drop next year, and the single The Season has set the stage to make this one of his most anticipated albums to date. The instrumental comes from J Dilla's timeless 2006 album, Donuts. The name of the track is Gobstopper and samples Luther Ingram's To The Other Man. So from the "what if" vaults, here is one of those timeless tracks from JD and Nasty.

"The soulful sample compliments my, rhyme so well"

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05 December 2014

REVIEW: J. Cole - 2014 Forest Hills Drive

“Do you want to be happy? Do you want to be free?” Those are the first words spoken from J. Cole on his newest album 2014 Forest Hills Drive. With the state of America and the war that is being fought with the “justice system” and people of color, this album could not have dropped at a more proper time. Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis and thousands more that were unjustly killed this year and the millions more that were unjustly killed throughout time have a voice(s). One of those voices belongs to Jermaine Cole. 

J. Cole’s intro’s to all of his projects have been harmonic and has brought most listeners in with a meaningful message and the streak has not been broken. Freedom is the theme aimed toward everyone but specifically for people in lower income neighborhoods, violence, drug and gang wars (black people). The album follows up with the date of Cole’s birth “January 28th,” that brings you into a minuscule timeline of his life. This track contrasts him from everyone else (past or present) in the game that points out one simple fact, they aren’t him.

What has already become one of the most controversial tracks of 2014, “Fire Squad” has become a fan favorite from the album simply for the truthful joke that J. Cole told. 
History repeats itself and thats just how it goes/ Same way that these rappers always bite each others flows/ Same thing that my nigga Elvis did with Rock n Roll/ Justin Timberlake, Eminem, and then Macklemore/ While silly niggas argue over who gone snatch the crown/ Look around my nigga white people have snatched the sound/ This year i’ll prolly go to the awards dappered down/ Watch Iggy win a Grammy as I try to crack a smile/ I’m just playin', but all good jokes contain true shit…
I don’t believe Cole was aiming for anyone’s neck but he has a valid and sound point. All of the artists named are accredited with prestigious contributions, titles and awards that they themselves did not create, hence “White people have snatched the sound.” “Fire Squad” definitely does not disappoint.

Following up with Born Sinner’s “Runaway” is “Hello.” If you can remember, “Runaway” aired out what it is like to be a (typical) male in modern day. While wanting to love the woman you can’t live without, but still wanting to be young and free to sew your oats is the mind state that not only Cole has, but others and he perfects the words. What follows up with the wrong choices of being a Rolling Stone is “Hello.” This track cuts deep with Jermaine in the future and is reminiscing to the one he loved as he finds out that she has given birth to her second child that isn’t by him. While pondering about this woman and how he thought they would be together forever, he has to let her go. 

A timeless album is what we got with very short notice from the North Carolina bred rapper. Touching on so many issues in urban communities, J. Cole tells even more stories that anyone from these environments can relate to. This album is strictly for the people. No features, no radio tracks (in my opinion), just him. From the production to lyrics J. Cole was involved and delivered his all. A classic in my book and definitely a candidate for Album of the year, but there are others that will definitely disagree. Regardless of your position this is definitely worth the purchase.

Below is a video for J. Cole's "Intro"


…There are too many killings of black men/youth going on in the United States by those who swore an oath to serve & protect its citizens. Stand up for what’s right, these modern day lynchings have been going on across the nation and it won’t stop until we unite as a people. It’s sickening that this is happening in this day and age, J. Cole knows it and this album bears a mark that I hope will inspire. Rest In Peace Mike Brown, Jordan Davis, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and the countless others that lost their lives due to injustice.
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