02 December 2016

VIDEO: J. Cole - Eyez

2016 has been a year of peaks and valleys. And even though it feels that 2016 will end on an uncertain note (ringing in an even more uncertain next 4 years), here comes J. Cole to the rescue. OUT OF NOWHERE, yesterday saw the addition of an iTunes pre-order option for Cole's fourth studio album, "4 Your Eyez Only". The album will drop a week from today (December 9th), and will also mark the 2 year anniversary of his last sneaky ninja album release, "2014 Forest Hills Drive". That album also went sans radio single and marketing. Will "4 Your Eyez Only" share other parallels with his last LP, like going double platinum? Only time will tell. 

And if the deafening buzz around his next album (again) wasn't enough, Cole dropped a documentary entitled "Eyez" today. It provides a candid peak behind the process of creating the album. You see behind the scenes of the production process and even watch a few bars being layed down. And if that wasn't enough, we also get to music videos for the singles Everybody Dies and False Prophets. Cole is on another echelon with a select few of "new school" emcees. His growth as an artist is well documented and you can't help but root for the kid. 

Peep documentary below, and try to keep your excitement in check for the next 7 days. 7 days, til we get that soul satisfying hip hop. 

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13 November 2016

REVIEW: De La Soul and the Anonymous Nobody

The common assumption is that Rap is simply a young man's game.  You probably aren't gonna see a rapper in their late 40s grace the Billboard Top 10 these days, unless it's Jay-Z on a track with one of these youngins.  You also most likely will never see teenagers listening to rappers that are probably much older than their parents.  Unlike other genres, our culture tends to lose respect for artists beyond their prime that attempt to set foot back into an arena that has long since moved on from their era.  Part of this is due to the simple fact that Hip-hop is still relatively young compared to genres like Rock.  So it's always a gamble for groups like De La Soul to release new music in 2016 and still expect to make an impact.

Their stamp on the game was made in the late 80s and early 90s.  Not only has Hip-hop evolved immensely since then, but each member is also a different person from who they were nearly 30 years ago.  This isn't discounting their other seven albums in that time span, but De La Soul's very identity was shaped with their debut album, 3 Feet High and Rising, which was released in 1989.  On that same point, it cannot be ignored that Hip-hop artists and fans are getting older as well.  So how does De La Soul's 9th album, And the Anonymous Nobody, fit into this era we live in today where so many different tastes have to be catered to?

"Royalty Capes" kicks things off and is probably the album's most braggadocios track, re-introducing you to the caliber of artists you're listening to in an almost satirical fashion.  While there are other songs on here where they poke fun at their age, this one in particular does not shy away from the group completely owning their legendary status.  Afterward, we move on to the album's first banger in "Pain" featuring Snoop Dogg, whose contribution fits right in with the funk-infused production.  Speaking of which, this album has a couple of oddball features that somehow never feel out of place.  Usher's vocals on the hook of the heartfelt "Greyhounds" makes it another standout.  2 Chainz gives his two cents on "Whoodeeni" and thankfully doesn't embarrass himself in the process.  Despite the fact that the members of De La Soul are fossils in Rap years, nearly every choice they made on this album, from production to features, just flat-out works.

'Your music means everything to you.  Are you concerned about the status of your playlist and precious collection?  We feel you, and we're here to help.  Have no fear, De La Soul is Here / We offer you peace of mind, knowing your investment in our music lasts a lifetime.'

A skit toward the end of this album, probably more fit as an intro, sums up exactly what And the Anonymous Nobody is about. The overall concept is clever, in that De La Soul assumes a role of anonymity as an entity simply known as Nobody.  This shows they could care less about trying to prove that they 'still got it.'  Their mission is clear, and that's to provide the listener with timeless and comprehensive substance.  No gimmicks and no dumbing-down for wider appeal.

The confidence in their music is evident from start to finish, but this album is not without a few missteps.  Even with their claims of providing us with substance, And the Anonymous Nobody is disjointed as fuck.  There is an apparent lack of cohesion that highlights the fact that a lot of the album is a collection of jam sessions in recent years.  Judging from how it starts, I imagine "Lord Intended" is one from that stash of sessions.  It's more of a Rock anthem that's probably three minutes longer than it should be, clocking in at 7:16.  It also features a ridiculously long guitar solo and vocals from Justin Hawkins that should have just been cut entirely.  The other song that feels out of place on And the Anonymous Nobody is "Drawn," featuring Little Dragon.  It's like five and half minutes of some Swedish chick singing over this Chinese New Year ringtone of a beat, and it just doesn't fit anything on the album at all.  You aren't even reminded that you're listening to a De La Soul track until close to five minutes in, and by then most will have skipped the damn song!  Luckily these issues do not weigh down an otherwise excellent album that infuses both golden era and modern day vibes into a package that anyone can appreciate.

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19 October 2016

VIDEO: D.I.T.C. - Rock Shyt

Here go one for uall early 90s hip hop heads. I was introduced to the Diggin' In The Crates crew through Big L. The Harlem emcee was ahead of his time and would have played an immeasurable role in the current hip hop landscape. The D.I.T.C. collective of producers and emcees came together in 1990 with members: Big L, Lord Finesse, Diamond D, O.C., Fat Joe, Buckwild, Showbiz and A.G.

With ups and downs over the past 16 years, the remaining members (Big L was killed in a drive by shooting in '99) will finally come together to release the album Sessions later this month. The single "Rock Shyt" features Fat Joe, Lord Finesse and Diamond D. The guitar and drum heavy sample calls back to the grimy New York block parties where emcees would master the crowds. With braggadocio bars and metaphors, the trio of spitters bless the track and make you yearn for that golden era rap.

Peep the video for "Rock Shyt" below, and keep an eye out for Sessions dropping October 28th.

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14 October 2016

REVIEW: Dave East - Kairi Chanel

The Mecca of Hip-Hop has always and will probably forever be New York City. In recent years, a lot of New York natives as well as fans, A & R’s, and even other artists have fluently expressed their disdain for the city’s culture and musical sound. Most would say that New York has no sound or that there isn’t an artist that captivates and embodies what NY hip-hop is; whether it be that gully and grimy LOX vibe or story telling abilities like Nas & Raekwon. With what has been dubbed as “mumble-rap,” catching onto many artists of the younger generation in all regions of the culture, many fans in NY aren’t pleased with the trend. Through what seems to be a small pandemic in the culture, there is a light. One true MC is being called “New York’s savior” and he goes by the name of Dave East. Hailing out of Harlem, Dave East was a part of this year’s XXL Freshmen class and voted #1 of the bunch and not without reason; East isn’t anywhere near the mumble rappers he’s of a completely different caliber.

From garnering the attention of Nas and being signed to his label MASS APPEAL, to a deal with Def Jam, Dave East’s respect has been growing with each passing verse he spits. Since attracting so much acknowledgment, it’s only right that we are given a current body of work to delve into as a follow up to the hype and recent success, right? As fans we received not only that but a gem in this newer era of rap. Naming his newest mixtape after his newborn daughter, Kairi Chanel, Dave East pulls no punches with the quality in his track selection. From start to finish this tape is nothing but raw, genuine lyrics. His lyrical ability as well as his demeanor is why he has been heralded and welcomed into the game by accomplished vets like Styles P, Jadakiss, Cam’ron and more.

“The only rookie getting respect from the veterans” lives up to the statement with tracks like, “The Real Is Back” featuring the Broad Street Bully himself, Beanie Sigel. While damn near every track is complete flame emojis, this one will definitely be one of the fan favorites. “The Real Is Back” is four minutes of these two MC’s bridging the gap between generations and absolutely destroying the track. As the track develops, fans can hear the influence of older generations of rap and why Dave East has received the accolades he has. This track is also special because this is probably one of the best verses to date from Beans since coming home from prison and recovering from his gunshot wounds.

My personal favorite off of this mixtape would definitely belong to “Don’t Shoot.” “Don’t Shoot” is what we as Black Americans have been dealing with in regards to our violent and fatal history with police across the nation. The song starts off from a ten-year-old Dave’s point of view as he describes his brief first encounters with the police; one of which he was accused of looking like a suspect from a robbery. With no chorus or hooks, the song naturally shows its progression through the maturity of East’s voice. In what would be considered the second verse of the track in a teenage voice, Dave is in high school and has hopes of making the varsity Basketball team. While growing into his own individual, Dave becomes colder and more exposed to life as a lot of his friends were sent to group homes with more being interrogated & harassed by law enforcement. Time has come for him to enter college and he has scholarship offers to hoop, but not without getting pulled over by two police for DWB (Driving While Black) after graduation. While stopped, East attempts to show the officers his diploma but to no avail causing his hate for the police to build. As the story continues Dave continues his life story of going to college, getting expelled, selling drugs, spending time in jail, career success all the way up to the birth of his daughter Kairi Chanel. After the birth of Dave’s daughter, he is stopped by an officer yet again with a final conversation that ends with Dave East begging the officer (with his hands up) not to shoot for the sake of his newborn, but does anyway. Seems all too familiar doesn’t it? I feel this is the most pivotal song on the album because it directly correlates and reflects what has been going on in countless communities for years.  

For this to be a mixtape it sounds a hell of a lot like an album. Songs like “Keisha” will make you think you are listening to Biggie’s, “I got a Story to tell” except over a Wu-tang style produced beat. Other tracks like “Type of Time” produced by Cardo, showcases more of Dave East’s raw ability to flow over a track. I don’t know if this just my biased opinion but there’s not one track that can be considered a miss. Solely focusing on rapping in his own lane and not trying to imitate what is popular or make music that will just get radio play, the Harlem bred MC shows he is not only comfortable within his own shoes but knows not too many rappers can fuck with him, and I agree.

When it comes down to it, Kairi Chanel is a body of work that hip-hop fans will love. This mixtape channels and resonates with a variety of different New York hip-hop greats from all five boroughs, which is why I believe this project has had such great reception. Peaking at No.3 on Billboard’s top Hip-hop/ R&B albums, only behind the sisters Solange and Beyonce, Dave East can celebrate the success he has achieved thus far. With his debut album on the way with the executive producer being Nas himself, I can only imagine what is in store for fans. Please do yourself a favor and go cop this.

Dave East - Type of Time

Dave East - Keisha 

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07 October 2016

VIDEO: 2016 BET Awards Cypher

It's crazy to think that a whole year has come and gone since the last BET Awards. And yet again, I did not have it on my radar. That is until the flood of cyphers hit the net like clockwork after the show. I normally just view the ones I assume I'll like, but this year I decided to watch all 8 (including the Lil Wayne vs Chocolate Droppa, aka Kevin Hart, battle). And to switch the format a bit, I will give specific reviews for my top 3 cypher that I choose to share, because some were...damn (stank face).

3: Oswin Benjamin, Locksmith And Dead Prez
This is my first time hearing about or hearing Oswin Benjamin, but this cat is def a Dead Prez disciple. His verse is filled with social and political commentaries. I've heard of Locksmith, but haven't peeped any of his work yet. The Cali emcee spits with an evolved spoken word flow as he continues the theme of social commentary. And of course Stic and M-1 round up the politically charged set with their brand of intellectual wordsmithing (is that a word?). Overall it was great to see these emcees use such a public event to speak on something more substantive than whips, jewels and chicks.

2: Millyz, Jaz the Rapper, Your Old Droog, John John Da Don And Chris Rivers
I have no shame in saying that I KNOW NOTHING JOHN SNOW when it came to about 3/5 of the cats in this cypher. Honestly this group only caught my eye off of the strength of Your Old Droog and Chris Rivers. But I was extremely surprised with the whole collective. Millyz starts the cypher off with some clever wordplay but takes a drastic turn and dedicates the rest of his verse to police brutality and racial tensions. Jaz follows up with a solid flow, and probably my favorite verse from the female rappers. Droog jumps in the cypher with his cool laid back cadence juxtaposed with tough metaphors and Brooklyn flow. John John Da Don takes the baton and holds him own while being put between the two strongest lyricists in the cypher. And as you know, you end the cypher with your strongest emcee. Chris Rivers proves just that as this young emcee takes over the track and flips his flow so many times it'll make your head spin.

1: Peedi Crack, Neef Buck, Omillio Sparks and Freeway (and.....)
Man, I've been a fan of Peedi since the the early oughts. The Puerto Rican spitter stood out in the State Property click (besides Freeway of course) since his breakout track "One for Peedi Crakk". Neef and Sparks follow up with cyphers that compliment each other perfectly. You can tell this whole collective has been around each other for years. The cyphers play off of each like an actual single. Freeway was the first artist Beanie Sigel brought with him to Roc-A-Fella. Appearing on Jay Z's "1-800-Hustler" (off of The Dynasty: Roc La Familia), Freeway became the second in command in Beans' State Property family. So it makes sense that Freeway would end this State Property cypher. Now damn near 40, the Philly emcee hits you with a less aggressive cadence but proves that with age comes wisdom. And this is what we call making a smooth transition. The BET cyphers are known for having that "oh snap" moment. This year there were a few, but my favorite was seeing none other than State Property's capo, Beanie Sigel, casually stroll into the cypher after Freeway. Beans dropped so much knowledge and wisdom (callback to said smooth transition) that he took ALL these young social media rappers to school. Beans sprayed a buck shot towards all these dress wearing, skinny jean sagging, hair coloring, Instagram gangster rappers. Two years ago Beanie Sigel was the unintentional victim of a drive by shooting. During the complicated surgery to save his life, Beans lost a lung. All that background is to help you understand how the Broad Street Bully ended the cypher with the HARDEST bars of the night: "Its the realest, the bully, here I come/ The cypher I just murdered them with one lung".

I'd also recommend peeping the set with Dave East because the kid went HARD. But he was surrounded by a bunch of simple bars..so..yeah. East should have def been the last to spit. Especially over Young M.A., but I did see an article title saying she was mad because her set was cut (don't know if that woulda helped). There was also a real cool Bell Biv DeVoe reunion with Michael Bivins and Ronnie DeVoe jumping on the mic. But again, other two youngins in that cypher were sub par. And the cypher with Consequence and Jidenna was also dope. Unfortunately the other rappers where spitting to some kind of tempo, just not to the beat they were given. But Jidenna may surprise those who just know him as the "Classic Man". But if you've seen him on Luke Cage or peeped his other work, you know this is a multi-talented dude.

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04 October 2016

SINGLE: Eze Jackson - Un-Apologetically Black

One of my Maryland boys has been mentioning Eze Jackson to me for quite some time now. But like the BITM crew talked about in our podcasts, there is just SO much music being cranked out there now that I haven't had time to peep dude yet. But when said boy mentioned his new single was called Un-Apologetically Black, I knew I had to make some time to give it a spin.

The current state of social unrest in our nation requires people with influence to voice their concerns and champion change. Of course this should be spearheaded by our government, but we know how that plays out. While it is not in an entertainers job description to speak on such matters (it is not something we are used to, at least not since the Civil Rights era), we have seen a handful of public figures talk and walk for their beliefs. Athletes like Kaepernick or musicians like Common or T.I. have used their platforms to bring this social injustice to the forefront. Kaepernick's now famous kneel has sparked conversations and birthed a slew of public protests from other NFL players. Common and T.I. have taken to the booth to use their gift to speak on the subject of police accountability in regards to the rampant killings of unarmed men of color.

Baltimore native Ezekiel Jackson provides another point of view of this terrifying new reality. Now in his mid 30s, this indie emcee is well aware of who he is in the rap arena. Eze is a new breed of the socially conscience emcee, and he uses his intellect to address the ever changing social landscape. Un-Apologetically Black is a complex song that takes on the complex issues facing our country today. In two verses Eze touches on: guns, Donald Trump, voters, false minority stereotypes, civil rights, Malcolm X, jazz, slavery, soul food, our embarrassingly sub par public schools system, Tupac, self hate, skin bleaching, privilege, police brutality, Fox News, street violence and single parent homes (and I'm sure a few other themes I might have missed). While that might seem like a lot to tackle in a single track, it is actually a perfect microcosm to the current issue. There is no simple solution. Police brutality has been around longer than the invention of the camera phone. Distrust and fear of law enforcement is not new to people of color. Stop and frisk was not invented by Giuliani. Racist people were around before social media. Even if every cop that killed an unarmed person faced some sort of consequence, we still would not solve the root of the problem. Like Eze raps, it starts with kids going to schools with no heat and old books, it continues with the constant barrage of fear mongering and false stereotypes promoted by "news" stations, and of course culminates with who we choose as our government leaders.

Eze Jackson would be disingenuous if he would finish the track with a solution. There are singular steps that should be taken, yes. Like, if possible, police should stop shooting to kill when faced with an unarmed person. Instead Eze takes the approach of a good teacher, providing all the information and letting the students come the conclusion on there own. Of course Eze has his perspective, but it comes from a genuine place. If people didn't know about Baltimore before the 2015 riots, they know now. Like most low income and predominantly black/Hispanic neighborhoods, many areas in Maryland have a strained police-citizen relationship. Eze can speak on this from his perspective. And it is his perspective that has the most power. Many people that "don't get it" need to hear as many perspectives as they can. If after that they still want to hold up an All Lives Matter sign, then there is nothing else you can do.

Peep the deep track Un-Apologetically Black below.

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24 September 2016

SINGLE: Common ft. Stevie Wonder - Black America Again

It's getting to the point where it feels like the same ole song and dance.  Cops pull a trigger and kill another nigger, WHITE America continues to turn a blind eye to the injustices against us.  They would much rather bash Colin Kaepernick for protesting, without understanding that these killings are THE EXACT reason he refuses to stand.  It's not rocket science, we are being executed and absolutely nothing is being done about it.

But that's all a part of the master plan, right?  Numb society to these injustices and the genocide continues completely unchecked.  Luckily, we continue to have strong black people with status continuing to step up to raise awareness, in an attempt to translate this very simple issue to the tone-def masses.  Regardless of how much they continue to tear us down, powerful music is the ONE thing they will never be able to take from us.  Hopefully, these continued efforts will eventually begin to permeate the mass conscious.

To help promote Common's upcoming album Black America Again, Stevie Wonder joins Common on the powerful track "Black America Again," which is coupled with a video similar to Ty Dolla $ign's "No Justice," and Scarface's "Mental Exorcism" from last year.  The song and accompanying video are yet another disturbing, yet necessary display of the pain our community continues to endure after each life is snatched away from us. 

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21 September 2016

SINGLE: Game - Pest Control

One of the many great things about writing for BITM, is that we don't have to report on all the hip hop TMZ news out there. We didn't have to flood our posts with other site's obligatory Drake/Meek "beef". What we do do (ha..), is comb through all that noise out there, and use our forum to highlight topics that interest us. So this morning I came across this Game track. I have vague recollections of reading article titles mentioning Game going at Meek (as well as seeing "this is what you look like when Game disses you out of nowhere" memes). I have no idea why Game decided to jump in the anticlimactic Drake/Meek drama, nor did I have enough interest in looking it up to add to this post. My assumption was that since Game is dropping his 8th LP, 1992, in October, he wanted some extra pub for that. But after peeping that track, I have come to two conclusions. 1: Game decided to remind the world what a diss track sounds like, and that he can craft diss track like the best of them (remember the Game/50 beef? when emcees actually make diss tracks? good times.). This track went WAY harder then I expected it to. 2: For whatever reason, Game REALLY dislikes Meek. This was not a "I need a promo diss" track, this had references on top of references. There was def research done by Game on this one. Oh, and on top of all that, I caught a couple jabs to Beanie Sigel, Sean Kingston and Omelly(?). All I care about from that list is Beans. If you talking about emcees who can swing in a rap beef, the Broad Street Bully is DEF on that list. For months and months I've had to listen to people tell me, "man, Drake is dropping HARD diss tracks". And for months and months I've been wishing for a real rap beef. Are my wishes finally gonna come through? Because a Game/Beanie back and forth sounds good to me. And to clarify, I just want rap beef that stays on wax. Neither I nor BITM promote actual violence.

Peep Game's "Pest Control" below. What uall think? Are uall hoping for Beans to reply ASAP?

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06 September 2016

VIDEO: Rhythm Roulette (Mass Appeal) - Big K.R.I.T.

Here we go with another Rhythm Roulette episode from Mass Appeal's video series that spotlights the art of sampling. This time the series focuses on Big KRIT. BITM regulars know we champion this young spitter, but there are a few out there that might not know this emcee is also a bona fide producer. If you follow KRIT or Mass Appeal on social media, you would have seen both promote this episode that come out in March of this year.

Big KRIT is a Meridian, Mississippi native that has been in the hip hop game since the mid oughts. Since then the emcee/producer has been dropping classic records on a regular basis. His accolades are just as high whether you are talking about his lyrical ability or his skills on the boards. Even though KRIT hasn't reached the commercial success of a T.I. or Ludacris (or all the southern rapper clones out now), he is still viewed as an heir apparent to the southern throne. The King Remembered In Time has amassed a loyal underground following with numbers that only continue to grow across the globe.

While KRIT is a "southern" artist, he is not confined to a specific flow, cadence or subject matter (unlike said rapper clones). His beats also range from the smooth and soulful to bust your eardrums in the club type tracks. KRIT hits up Sweet Melissa Records shop in the ATL to pick his three records to sample. At the studio he shows what the records were: Linda Clifford - I'm Yours, Seatrain - Seatrain and Culture Club - Waking Up with the House on Fire. Young Krizzle builds his soulful melody using the samples and adding his own drums and tempo to the track. With a few chopped and screwed vocal manipulations, KRIT finalizes his beat. But here is where the two headed dragon that is Big KRIT takes the series to another level. As mentioned at the top of the post, most know the Mississippi artist as the monster emcee he is. So it is only natural that KRIT spits on his newly minted instrumental. I think the episode with Large Professor has one of Pro's boys spit on the track. But I think KRIT is correct when he proclaims he is the first to make a beat (in the series) and spit over it. So, fans of KRIT, the Rhythm Roulette series, or just GOOD HIP HOP, peep the video below.

Peep the single "Sticks & Stones" first, then the Rhythm Roulette episode to see the process of sampling in all its glory.

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01 September 2016

BITM Podcast Ep. 2 - New Era of Hip-hop

Over the summer, the BITM squad discussed the Troy Ave shooting, and whether or not glorifying street culture detracts from the appeal of an artist in today's music. We also chopped up the 2016 XXL Freshmen Class, effectively acknowledging that we are in a completely new era of hip-hop. And finally, we discuss how the evolution of the music medium has affected our consumption of music.

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