30 August 2016

REVIEW: DJ Khaled - Major Key

Another one.


The Iyanla Vanzant of Snapchat is back with Major Key, the latest in his nearly annual offerings, but this time it's different. Sure, Lil Wayne is on the album, as is Rick Ross, Drake, and Future. That alone might be enough for you to say "meh" and to just wait for the radio singles, right? Bad idea...


In addition to mainstays, we have lyrical juggernauts in the form of Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole, Busta Rhymes and Jadakiss bowling over tracks. I'm not one to stand in line and hold up a Khaled banner, but this album is diverse, and in the best way possible. How diverse? He's got Meghan Trainor (the All About The Bass singer) on a song with Wiz Khalifa, and it's actually not bad!


I have listened to this album multiple times a day for the last few weeks for two reasons: one, to give you all a fair and informed review, but also because the jawn actually bangs. Khaled has undoubtedly produced the most impressive and complete work of his career, and it shows on the charts because this is also his most successful album to touch Billboard, peaking at number 1 in a variety of categories.


Ok, let's get to the nitty gritty and get the bad out of the way first. As mentioned earlier, there are some mainstays that Khaled probably *had* to put on or their feelings would be hurt. Tracks like "Fuck Up The Club" and "Do You Mind" are in the middle of the album and severely bring down the quality of the scene. The latter is led off by arguably one of Nicki Minaj's worst verses, and it's only barely brought above the surface by August Alsina's crooning. The former is a typical and boring offering featuring DJ Khaled's current plaything, Future, who is featured on four separate tracks, unfortunately. Stay away from those songs, and yes, that includes "I Got The Keys," which is easily one of the worst tracks on the whole thing.


On the good side, however, there are plenty of tracks that serve to drown out the nonsense that is trap-hop. The third song, "Nas Album Done," is enough to wake you up and make you think that maybe, just maybe, Khaled has found the ghost of hip-hop past and brought him into the present. The track gives us two treats, Nas all by his lonesome and murdering a beat, and sworn word by God's Son that his next album is complete and will be released soon. This one is worth repeat listens and Khaled speaks truth when he says "Classic shit, timeless...iconic" at the end of the track, because that's exactly what this is.


The next two songs continue the aural orgasm with "Holy Key" and "Jermaine's Interlude," the former featuring Big Sean, Betty Wright (powerful voice, see about her), and K. Dot. The latter is a singular offering with J. Cole, who definitely has the soul and powerful lyrics to pull it off alone. Both tracks feature the raw energy, emotion, and political drive and ambition that we have learned to love and appreciate from J. Cole and Kendrick, and Big Sean has definitely thrown his towel into the ring to show that he belongs with the New Greats.


Later on, past the Future trash, there is a song that will undoubtedly go unnoticed by everyone. "Don't Ever Play Yourself" is one that you need to look up right now. Yes, right now. Right now. I'll wait for you...ok, you back? Yes, you heard correctly: Jadakiss, Fabolous, and Busta mothafuckin' Rhymes on a track together and that beat is bananas! Actually, Fat Joe is on it too, and he's not half bad. You can't bring your 'C' game to a track with juggernauts like this on a instrumental like that.


Lastly, my guilty pleasure. I love rap songs about love. More so, I love rap songs about how rappers hate falling in love; it's like a guilty irony, as if they're trying to prove to you that they're too good for these hoes...and yet, these ladies keep winding up pregnant (*sips tea*). The #GuiltyPleasure award goes to "Pick These Hoes Apart" featuring a rapper I don't know, a rapper I don't care about, and Jeezy. The slightly melancholy backdrop and Kodak Black's intro actually did it for me, and Jeezy's hook brings it home. The ad-libs are a bit much in hindsight, but it's a catchy tune, and another anthem for the rapping misogynists.


Overall, the album is a solid effort and worthy of its commercial success. Khaled did more than drop "another one" with Major Key, he actually stepped his game up. If you haven't peeped this entire work, you're doing yourself a disservice.


Worth multiple listens: Nas Album Done, Holy Key, Work For It, Don't Ever Play Yourself


Worth skipping every time: Do You Mind, Fuck Up The Club, Ima Be Alright







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22 August 2016

SINGLE: Frank Ocean - Solo (Reprise) ft. Andre 3000

Well, really it's just Stacks by himself on this brief, yet dense, interlude.  After being completely underwhelmed while sampling Frank Ocean's new album Boys Don't Cry Blonde on iTunes last night, I came stumbled across a surprise about halfway through.  I'm glad I stuck it out because to be honest, time has only been kind to 2011's Nostalgia, Ultra, Frank's lesser known mixtape that is far superior in quality to his debut album Channel ORANGE.  After sampling half of Blonde, it was starting to just sound like the same ole same ole again.  That is, until Hip-hop's savior Andre 3000 literally came out of nowhere on "Solo (Reprise)" steamrolling the minute-long track with more quotables and stray shots than your brain may be able to process the first go-round.  The line that is most likely to strike you instantly is toward the end when Stacks appears to blast a certain Canadian,

 "After 20yrs in, I'm so naive I was under the IM- / pression that everyone wrote they own verses / it's comin back different and yeah that shit hurts me / I'm humming and whistling to those not deserving / I stumbled and lived every word was I just working way too hard?"



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14 August 2016

NEWS - West Coast Perseverance

Longevity is something that all artists strive to achieve.  In most cases, if they put in the work necessary and continue to produce quality content, chances are they will eventually reach that plateau.  Nipsey Hussle is someone I believe is finally living up to his namesake.

Nipsey’s consistency after fully dedicating himself to music has been phenomenal.  His most recent milestone of note has been releasing the “Crenshaw” mixtape for $100 and then following up with “Mailbox Money” for $1000 the following year.  Now that seems way out-of-pocket but, both projects sold out in a day!  As an independent artist, that feat is amazing.  Not only did he choose to sell these two projects for a ridiculous amount, but he also made back 100% of his album sales!  This is pretty much unprecedented in today’s world. Though there were limited copies of both albums, his fan base is strong enough for copies to sell out at these prices. 

Even though we don’t have the West Coast King’s long-awaited for album Victory Lap yet, he has been on a tear lately.  Falling in line with the theme of his brand, he has been on a 16 week marathon run dropping nothing but quality music.  Call me biased, but I believe the majority of people would agree that the tracks he's released so far are of album caliber.  The discipline that Nipsey has displayed throughout the past few months has been impressive, and will soon prove the summer is indeed his.  Beginning on April 25th of this year, the Westside Crip initiated his takeover.  This late Spring/Summer reign consists of 16 tracks and 4 music videos without including his many guest appearances on other artists tracks.

For those of our BITM readers who aren’t privy to Nip, now is a good time to get familiar.  Nipsey Hussle is a well-gifted and well-versed emcee to the core. His knowledge of the game is displayed through how he moves and the business decisions that have earned him notoriety from the Forbes List.  With lyrics like, “Nip the Crip that flipped the blueprint that Hova laid” or “I study rich niggas moves like they my homework,” it’s easy to see that he is about ownership.  Nipsey being an independent artist and having full control of his masters just adds to his repertoire of success.  A big announcement is supposed to be given to fans this Monday on the 15th of August (which is also his birthday); and more than likely the announcement of his up and coming album, Victory Lap. Be on the lookout for a review from us here at BITM!


Nipsey's 16-week Marathon Monday's release record:

1.  Nipsey Hussle - Thug Life Feat. Young Thug * Apr 25, 2016                                       
2.  Nipsey Hussle - Ocean Views * May 2, 2016
3.  Nipsey Hussle - Basic Instinct Feat. G Perico * May 9, 2016
4.  Nipsey Hussle - The Field Feat. Bino & Young Dolph * May 16, 2016
5.  Nipsey Hussle - I Do This Feat. Young Thug & Mozzy * May 23, 2016
6.  Nipsey Hussle - Status Symbol 2 Feat. Buddy * May 30, 2016
7.  Nipsey Hussle - Down As A Great Feat. Kirko Bangz * Jun 6, 2016
8.  Nipsey Hussle - Question #1 Feat. Snoop Dogg * Jun 13, 2016
9.  Nipsey Hussle - Ain't Hard Enough Feat. Mozzy * Jun 21, 2016
10. Nipsey Hussle - Full Time Feat. Mitchy Slick * Jun 27, 2016
11. Nipsey Hussle - One Hunnit * Jul 4, 2016
12. Nipsey Hussle - Picture Me Rollin Feat. OverDoz. * Jul 11, 2016
13. Nipsey Hussle - Clarity Feat. Bino Rideaux & Dave East * Jul 18, 2016
14. Nipsey Hussle - I Don't Stress * Jul 25, 2016
15. Nipsey Hussle - Shell Shocked * Aug 2, 2016
16. Nipsey Hussle - On The Floor Feat. Cuzzy Capone * Aug 8, 2016


Check Out Nipsey Hussle's "Question #1" Video feat. Snoop Dogg below as well as his "Picture Me Rollin" video.
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12 August 2016

VIDEO: Joey Bada$$ - Devastated

A few months ago Joey Bada$$ dropped the single "Devastated" to the surprise of many fans. Mainly because it's a more melodic offering than we are accustomed to getting from the Brooklyn emcee. And while Joey isn't "just" a conscience emcee, he does usually create thought provoking and introspective tracks. But with "Devastated", Joey gives us an overall concept that is far more playful then we are used to.

The video places Joey performing with his Pro Era camp in a football stadium, a small parade and on a rooftop with the crowd below him. The visuals supplement the feel of the single well and create a more cohesive track. While we at BITM champion the Kendricks and K.R.I.T.s on a regular basis, we def want to make sure you don't sleep on Joey Bada$$ and his Pro Era family. If you've been bumping this track on your summer drives, peep the equally energetic video below.




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03 August 2016

VIDEO: Mac Miller - Dang! ft Anderson .Paak

Mac Miller is currently set to drop his fourth LP, The Divine Feminine, on September 16th. His first single "Dang!" dropped a few days ago but the video made it's debut yesterday. The feel good track features the young star Anderson .Paak on the vocals. Not much is known about the other nine tracks on the album, except there will be features from Kendrick Lamar, CeeLo Green, and Robert Glasper (along with "and more"..per a Rolling Stone interview). But we can assume the rest of the album will continue with a female heavy theme.

With "Dang!", this normally conscious and introspective emcee is able to transfer those skills to profess his love to his girl. The Pittsburgh emcee also navigates the more macro theme of the universal ups and downs of relationships. Alongside .Paak, Mac Miller tries his hand at a more melodic delivery. The Canadian producer Pomo is more at home in his electronic element, but provides a groovy funkadelic instrumental for the track. Overall, you get a track with very little weak areas.

Peep the video for "Dang!" below, and keep an eye out for The Divine Feminine later next month.




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28 July 2016

REVIEW: ScHoolboy Q - Blank Face LP

It's no secret that 2016 has been another down year for hip-hop.  We are sitting uncomfortably within a completely new era of music led by a younger generation of uninspired trash.  The essence of true creativity is on life support and there is no need to continue to duck and dodge this fact.  Anyone looking for confirmation need look no further than the 2016 XXL Freshman list chock full of hot bumsauce.  We can waste time pointing fingers at who is responsible for the two-syllable-flow era we live in, but it really doesn't matter because there's a good possibility that it's here to stay for awhile.  Even street-centric artists have been shoved into a corner, with no one to blame but themselves for their overall lack of introspection and style.  So ScHoolboy Q's ascent to becoming one of this era's illest rappers in spite of his contemporaries should come as no surprise.  With his fourth studio album Blank Face LP, Q has effortlessly solidified his position within the culture by doing nothing more than remaining consistent.

You'll quickly notice improvement in ScHoolboy Q's flow and ability to tell a story on "Lord Have Mercy," where he takes you on a brief journey comparing the typical pitfalls of running the streets to how his life and relationships have been affected by fame over the years.  He speaks on how he chooses to meet his demons with a blank face to show that he is unphased by anyone from his hood that tries to tear down his success.  On the surface, this may seem like an excessively used topic in rap, but Q's clever ability to paint a vivid picture within such a brief window (1:44 to be exact) is nothing short of amazing.

"Shakin these broken hands and, meet em wit Blank Faces / Snake eyes keepin my back achin / Dirty habits of rappin and being savage / Still hangin wit niggaz that can't do nothin but cause damage / Guess I'm being a real nigga like I'm 'posed to be / but being real never once bought the groceries / and, Top told me Keep rappin, you'll make it hopefully." 

Gangsta Rap may sound like a played-out label these days, but Blank Face LP is a vessel of preservation for that long-lost art of storytelling due to the majority of Q's work paying homage to the big homies he grew up on.  "Groovy Tony / Eddie Kane" features an assist from Jadakiss whom Q juxtaposed his own career with in a recent interview stating that much like Kiss, he felt like an underdog despite still having a healthy catalog of great music.  "Dope Dealer" finds ScHoolboy Q aligning himself with E-40 who has been an ambassador for collaborating with artists from this  generation for several years.  Naturally, the groovy side of Q makes a few appearances as well throughout Blank Face LP on "WHateva U Want," and "Overtime," which may be the only two songs on the album that even come close to sounding like radio material.  Luckily, no compromises for the sake of appeal were made on any of these funk-infused tracks.  "Big Body" is the perfect blend of old and new LA flavor, with Tyler the Creator crafting a beat that recaptures that early 90s west coast bounce, and Kurupt and Daz Dillinger from Tha Dogg Pound absolutely slaying their verses.

While every song resonated with me in some way, I found myself revisiting three tracks in particular most often. "JoHn Muir," "Neva CHange," and "Black THougHts" provide a certain level of ingenuity and sensibility that shakes the soul in a way that I haven't felt in years.  Top Dawg label mate SZA's soothing contribution to "Neva CHange" was definitely a welcome change of pace.

It's really tough to find any weak spots on this album.  There's a good chance that every track will eventually take root and begin to resonate with you at some point.  It may be safe to say that Blank Face LP is at least Q's most cohesive project to date, but on the flip-side it still lacks that thunder found on most of his previous albums.  Luckily the omission of the typical radio-worthy banger doesn't detract from the overall body of work.  Blank Face LP is the type of album that long-term careers are built upon.  To quote local artist JDVBBS "In a time where artists are constantly throwing curve balls in hip-hop, Q pitches this shit straight down the middle and nails it."  While a cyclone of rap debris continues to revolve around them, TDE is like the eye of the shitstorm, managing to remain cool calm and collected while continuing to crank out nothing but impressive albums.
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26 July 2016

SINGLE: ScHoolboy Q - THat Part - Black Hippy remix

Ain't much to say here folks. If you ain't even hear about this track yet, your welcome. If you've heard off the track, but ain't peep it yet, your welcome. If you already peeped it, peep it again. And for those of you who need more background, here you go.

Black Hippy is the hip hop super group comprised of Kendrick Lamer, ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul and Jay Rock. Under the Top Dawg Entertainment label, these young emcees are taking over the game. Of course Kendrick has the most name recognition in mainstream circles, but the other spitters have earned their individual followings as well. ScHoolboy Q dropped his second LP under Interscope's umbrella (he has four total studio albums), Blank Face LP, earlier this month. The second single, "THat Part", featured Kanye West and gained popularity on mainstream airwaves. This single was remixed to include the other three fourths of Black Hippy. While it is a rare scene to see the whole collective on a track, you definitely know that they will take advantage of the situation.

Without further ado, the Black Hippy remix to "THat Part".





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REVIEW: Big K.R.I.T. - XII/XII

On July 5th, Big K.R.I.T. dropped his 13th mixtape, XII/XII (12 For 12). But if you follow him on social media (I can only speak to Instagram, but I'd assume his other media outlets did the same) or follow hip hop news sites, you would have noticed/learned that KRIT was releasing his music a bit differently. Starting at noon on the 5th, KRIT was releasing a single an hour until midnight. Each single art featured a classic style sports trading card with superstars from the NBA, NFL, MBL and NASCAR. At midnight you were able to download the full 12 track freestyle mixtape.

I feel one of KRIT's greatest strengths as an artist is his legitimate dual threat skills as an emcee and producer. When he is able to take the reigns on a project as both, we get a cohesive piece of art. The care and thought he puts into his music is evident, from the intro to the last track. That being said, it is great to see KRIT have fun and show his amazing lyrical versatility by tacking some of the most popular instrumental in the game today (and some older hits). KRIT flexes his pen game by spitting over: ScHoolboy Q's "THat Part", Pusha T and Jay Z's "Drug Dealers Anonymous", Drake's "Hype" and "4PM in Calabasas", French Montana's "Lock Jaw", Bryson Tiller's "Rambo", Kanye West's "Real Friends", and Erykah Badu's "Other Side Of The Game" (as well as a few others). Overall, this is what you would want from a freestyle mixtape. Fuego bars on fuego instrumentals. While most of the singles come from more mainstream artists, KRIT is able to flip his cadence and rhyming pattern to match (and sometimes even better than the originals) each track. So take this tape for a summer drive in your whip and enjoy Krizzle's take on the current sound of hip hop.

The Mississippi emcee posted one more message after his XII/XII mixtape release, stating that he would be leaving Def Jam. Multi til the sun die.







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19 July 2016

VIDEO: Rhythm Roulette (Mass Appeal) - Statik Selektah


As promised, I've been combing through Mass Appeal's Rhythm Roulette series to select the best ones to share with uall (of course that's "the best" in my opinion, but if you're reading this I shouldn't need to tell you that). I went digging back almost 3 years to the day (this episode dropped July 24th, 2013) to dust off the Statik Selektah joint. Let's get into a quick bio.

The Boston native has been contributing to the culture for quite a while, going all the way back to the mid '90s. But his debut album, Spell My Name Right in '07, cemented his place in hip hop history. The record is filled with an overwhelming lyrical roster that would rival any compilation album, with the likes of: Termanology, Styles P, Q-Tip, Talib Kweli, Joell Ortiz, Kool G Rap, Sheek Louch, Freeway, Cassidy, Jadakiss, Royce da 5'9", Cormega, AZ, Slum Village, KRS-ONE and Skyzoo (there are more, amazingly, but you get the idea). In '10 Statik linked up with fellow Bostonian Termanology to form the emcee/producer duo 1982 (the year they were born). Statik also has the ShowOff record label, marketing company and radio show (on Eminem's Shade45) under his belt.

Statik is known for (but def not limited to) a soulful/'90s hybrid sound that mixes classic era drums, smooth samples and vocal cuts. For his Rhythm Roulette episode, Statik hit up Academy Records Annex in Brooklyn, New York to select his three records. The three records he picked were: The Times - Diggin' Their Roots, The Sylvers - Something Special, and The Mystic Moods Orchestra - Emotions. Statik ended up making one beat using all three records. It is amazing to me to watch the sampling process from pros in the game. To get a glimpse into how to go about building a brand new sound from multiple sources is art. Statik even shares that he searches for rap lyrics that match the scratch of the song he is sampling. In this case, That's '"What Love Is Made Of" from The Sylvers' record provided the scratch for the lyrics "[Patience, understanding,] loyalty". He then cut a Jay Z verse from "Justify My Thug" from the The Black Album, "Honesty, loyalty, [friends and then wealth]". He says the scratch says "honesty, loyalty", but I do not hear the honesty part (in The Sylvers song). Nor did I find "honesty" in the lyrics when I looked that up. Doesn't really matter though, the song is still fuego. So if you want to peak into the sampling process from one of the best, check this one out and keep coming back for more episodes.

Peep the episode below. Also throwing up The Sylvers' joint Statik samples.









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18 July 2016

SINGLE: Skyzoo - Friend Or Foe Pt. 3

Last month many websites and social media outlets were celebrating the 20th anniversary of Jay Z's debut LP, Reasonable Doubt. While many consider this his magnum opus, it was not an initial commercial success, although it did eventually reach platinum status in '02 (currently at 1.5 mill+). Again, we at BITM care very little (if at all) about record sales, but I bring it up because Jay Z is viewed as a commercially successful emcee. And of course this is all relative, because his "worst" album sales come from his last release, Magna Carta Holy Grail (currently at 1.1 mill+). But before his megastar celebrity status, and before all the records broken and awards received, he was just an emcee slinging his tapes out of his trunk in Marcy. Reasonable Doubt is my favorite Hov LP. Well, on most days, I could make that claim for the likes of Vol. 2, The Blueprint and The Black Album as well. But I digress.

The DJ Premier produced track "Friend or Foe" might not have the same name recognition as a "Can't Knock the Hustle" or "Feelin'" It, but it packs the same complex and layered bars found throughout Reasonable Doubt. "Friend or Foe[?]" is a question Jay Z asks people who are not crew. The track continues with Jay explaining to an out of town dude that he ain't to be crossed. Not only is Jay gonna take his work, but if he ever shows his face, Jay will be less than merciful.

Mr. Carter followed up the single with "Friend or Foe '98" on his second LP, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1. The out of town dude did not head Jay's warning. After taking out a few of the dude's crew, Jay stands face to face with the dude (with a Jamaican accent) before he shoots him in the abdomen. This track ends Jay's two part saga.

Enter Skyzoo. 20 years after "Friend or Foe", Skyzoo drops another ode to Reasonable Doubt. Using the original Preem instrumental, Skyzoo gives us a very different point of view. Sky takes the track as autobiographical. In Sky's track, "Friend or Foe" is a real account of a real Jay Z, killing a real rival. The last out of town dude (with the Jamaican accent) that Jay shoots in the stomach is Skyzoo's father. Two decades later, the fatherless son grew up and has been plotting his revenge. Sky's metaphors run through Jay's entire catalog in a masterful tribute. The 20 year old Sky robs Jay, but before he does, he let's Jay who he is.

Peep videos for "Friend or Foe" and "Friend or Foe '98", and the track for Skyzoo's "Friend Or Foe Pt. 3".







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