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.

Jay-Z's "Friend Or Foe" Official Music Video by jay-zfanclub

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15 July 2016

SINGLE: Ty Dolla $ign ft. Big TC - No Justice

In light of the heart-wrenching and infuriating events involving the executions of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, we have witnessed a wave of artists and celebrities using their platforms to speak out against these injustices.  Alicia Keys and the "We Are Here" movement teamed up with several high profile celebrities to create the viral video "23 Ways You Could Be Killed If You Are Black In America" which compiles a list of every major police brutality within the past couple of years with the intent of helping everyone understand just how serious this has become.  More importantly, the movement exists to manifest a world community built on true equality, and to put an end to the injustice of poverty, oppression, and hopelessness.

Ty Dolla $ign and his brother Big TC, who is currently serving a life sentence for a crime he did not commit, have collaborated once again on "No Justice," which is essentially the entire "We Are Here" movement put to song.  We last heard Big TC singing alongside his brother on the heartfelt duo "Miracle" off Ty Dolla $ign's debut album Free TC, and he brings that same righteous flavor to "No Justice" as well.  It's a shame this brother is having to keep his immense talent locked away within those prison walls, because the game needs more of this right now.  Thanks to modern technology, we are able to get a taste of what he is about.  Big TC represents the half of Ty Dolla $ign that most people who aren't familiar with Ty's music don't see in the forefront as Ty is often mistaken as just another turn-up type artist.  Deep down though, Ty Dolla $ign is about something much deeper than his name and singles represent.  I have included both "No Justice" and "Miracle" below, and I guarantee you that any opinion you may have had of Ty as an artist will change after hearing these songs.

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30 June 2016

AUDIO: Joe Budden - "Making A Murderer" (Part 1)

Whether you knew as a hip-hop fan or not, there has been a strict tension in the air between Drake and Joe Budden. Joe Budden gave a very critical review on Drake's newest album "Views." Budden advocates that he is actually in fact an avid Drake listener and fan but stated that the album sounded "Un-infuckingspired." Drake then previewed a track with French Montana that had lyrics that seemed like they were aimed at Joe Budden, which he himself with the influence from individuals on twitter believed as well. Which leads us to the diss track that he dropped today. "Making A Murderer" is not to be taken lightly. This will not be the same one-sided battle we saw a year ago when Drake and Meek Mill squared off against one another. A member of Slaughterhouse is not to be played with and he lets us know coming out of the gate. Who do you think will win if Drake bites the bait?

27 June 2016

VIDEO: Beyoncé - Freedom ft Kendrick Lamar (2016 BET Awards)

My normal routine for any award show hosted by BET (or MTV..or..anyone) is this: step one - forget when show airs, and step 2 - the day after click through highlights that grab my attention (once they flood the internet). The BET Hip Hop Awards cyphers have made it into this schedule. But the BET Awards haven't had a signature segment that has warranted my interest. The hosts (mostly comedians) have done aight, they've had funny monologues and sometimes have taken the time to address social issues. But for the most part, these shows are watered down and don't really promote what I would consider 'real hip hop.' It is a mainstream award that couldn't be any more cookie cutter. And I could pout and cry about how the category for "Best Male Hip-Hop Artist" is atrocious if it contains Fetty Wap and Future, but I won't (even though I kinda just did). Instead, I will share the first image/link that caught my attention.

Even though Beyoncé's Lemonade has made the headlines for airing out her grievances with husband Jay Z, she also has socially conscious tracks sprinkled throughout her 6th solo LP. One of my favorites (even though I haven't heard the whole album) is "Freedom." The feature from Kendrick Lamar of course peaked my interest, since I knew that Bey wouldn't waste the collab with the lyrical emcee. Pairing these two juggernauts creates an expectation from a large demographic. Mrs. Carter's affect on pop culture (and even beyond that) is undeniable, and Kendrick has solidified the type of influential artist he wants to be. The single does not disappoint, and the live performance adds another level to the track. Both are known for putting on unforgettable live performances, and both artists gave the best performance of the night (while I haven't seen any other performance, I still stand behind that statement). So take a minute, and peep the video below.

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23 June 2016

REVIEW: Domo Genesis - Genesis

Regardless of what you may think about the Odd Future collective, it's evident that the group is bursting at the seams with raw talent.  Most of these cats have been honing their craft while waiting patiently in the wings for their time to shine.  From Casey Veggies and Frank Ocean, to Earl Sweatshirt and the soulful R&B band The Internet, Odd Future has birthed some of this era's brightest stars.  Unfortunately, the antics of front-man Tyler the Creator paint their image in such an awkward light that it often taints the credibility of anyone associated with the group.  But make no mistake about it, Domo Genesis is one cat off this label that should absolutely be taken seriously. He has been sharpening his blades since his 2010 mixtape Rolling Papers, and has been dropping subsequent mixtape releases and collaborations nearly every year since.  On March 24th, 2016, Domo hit us with his inspired solo debut studio album Genesis.

This man is the perfect example of an artist who climbed the ranks properly, and didn't waste time flooding the market with trendy radio singles in an attempt to stay afloat.  Instead, Domo has been establishing a fan base his own way, while infusing the sounds of his idols into his music.  He stated that he is influenced by Nas, Mobb Deep, MF Doom, and even Wiz Khalifa, all of which are evident on the LP.  Genesis jumps right out the gate with its soulful groove on "One Below," which is also one of its standout tracks.  It begins with a somewhat drawn-out redundant tribute narrated by his mother, whose contribution may have been more appropriate on an intro-lude.  Even so, it's nothing but feel-good vibes once the song hits its stride.  There's a point toward the end where the beat reaches its climax, then smoothly transitions into the next track "Wanderer."  It's one of those true 'head-nod-shit-that-make-you-break-yo-neck' type moments that I found myself rewinding to often.  It's also a testament to the amount of work that was put into this project, both lyrically and from a production standpoint.  It shows that Genesis is no lazy effort, and the quality heard on these two songs are maintained throughout the majority of the 12-track album.

If there are any major missteps on Genesis, it's the tracks that are reminiscent of that dark weirdo Tyler shit that I can't stand.  "Questions" isn't a terrible song lyrically, but the production just makes my fucking skin crawl.  The other throwaway track is the heavily featured "Go (Gas)."  The song features Wiz Khalifa, Juicy J, and Tyler the Creator himself.  So naturally, the song sounds like it was ripped straight off one of Tyler's early albums.  Shit is wack as fuck.  It's almost as if Domo felt the need to include an obligatory OFWGKTA type track just to rep the squad.  I just personally don't agree with the decision.  It's unnecessary, and more than anything, these songs interrupt the flow of an otherwise fantastic album.

Luckily these minor speed bumps don't ruin the listenability of Genesis as a whole.  Things immediately pick back up with the final six tracks, which display the same creativety found on the first half of the album. "Coming Back" ft. Mac Miller, his lead single "Dapper" ft. Anderson.Paak, and "Brotha" are all bangers.  Even songs like "All Night" which teeter on the edge of cookie-cut at times, still rock due to how he takes the eerily simplistic beat and destroys it.  There were several times throughout Genesis where I sat back and thought to myself, "Why am I JUST now hearing about this cat?"

Domo Genesis is fairly gifted with his flow and delivery, which is a breath of fresh air amidst his contemporaries.  Even though this is technically his first legit album, this man is no rookie to the game.  He has an understanding of what great music should sound like without resorting to any established comfort zone, and I believe that type of approach is what the game needs moving forward.  Genesis is an excellent example of how to remain creative in a landscape where it may not be as cool to do so anymore, while at the same time producing a body of work that has the potential to be timeless.

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16 June 2016

TRAILER: "All Eyez On Me" Biopic

With the overwhelming success of the "Straight Outta Compton" biopic, fans as well as entertainers both in and outside of the culture wanted to see more of music and hip-hop history on the big Hollywood screen. With unity and so much speculation an even bigger push was made for a Tupac biopic since we already received one for Biggie (Notorious) and of course N.W.A. Through effort, we have arrived in June of 2016 with a full trailer! The trailer looks absolutely amazing so without further a do here it goes!
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14 June 2016

SINGLE: Logic - Flexicution

After a couple of months of teasing the hip hop nation with snippets for the single, Flexicution, we finally get the full track from the MD emcee. With a hard beat from producer 6ix and vocals from his wife Jess Andrea, Logic hits us with braggadocio bars and an aggressive flow. Logic bodies the beat, and flips his flows like a veteran. I can't find an album or mixtape that Flexicution is promoting, so I assume it's to get people hype for The Endless Summer Tour (June 28 - August 5). Or it could just be to kick the summer right off.

Either way, peep Logic's new single below, and the exclusive video where Logic drops snippet on his tour bus.

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VIDEO: Masta Ace - Young Black Intelligent (Y.B.I.)

Back in May Masta Ace dropped his 5th LP, The Falling Season. And yesterday we finally got some visuals to go with his second single, Young Black Intelligent. Conceptually the album is a narration told through the point of view of a teenage Ace, while at Sheepshead Bay High School in Brooklyn.

The video follows two friends living in the hood. They try to stay out of trouble, but they are surrounded by people who do not. One of the friends keeps his nose in the books and in sports. And of course, trying to talk to girls. While on the way to school, he is jacked for his headphones. Days pass and the other friend decides to pack a gun into his backpack. He confronts the guys whole took his friends headphones. But before he could pull the gun out, his friend stops him. This story could have gone in a very different direction. Ace says stories like this happen regularly around his block. In one second, one decision could affect the rest of your life. During this time period, while Ace went to school and later college, many of his friends ended up in jail. Many of whom are just getting out now. Chuck D caps off the track with some strong words to the youth. Overall, a strong visual to go with a strong track. We salute you Masta Ace.

Peep video below.

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13 June 2016

REVIEW: Chance the Rapper - Coloring Book

Chance the Rapper is an interesting artist to me. He has tracks like Sunday Candy, Acid Rain and Angels (the last of which is found on this mixtape) that I feel should put him near that Kendrick/Cole tier (not THAT near, but definitely closer than a..let's say Fetty Wap). These tracks showcase his phenomenal range as a hip hop artist. Lyrically clever, and melodically graceful, Chance is able to experiment with a vast array of sounds, even though his hip hip career is only about 3 years old (his debut mixtape 10 Day dropped in 2012). But he also suffers (well, my definition of suffer as it pertains to hip hop artists) from feeling the need to mimic the popular sound of today's hip hop. So his tracks with Lil Wayne, Future, Young Thug or Future (or even Kanye) all have he same sound and cadence. A high pitched, auto tuned, strained vocal cord sounding, intangible mess. But I will say that while I can't tolerate 5 seconds of that sound from other rappers, Chance can actually hold a melody so it isn't quite as bad. So how did the 23 year old Chi town emcee do on his third mixtape?

First off, the Coloring Book mixtape can easily be mistaken for an LP. The production is top notch, most of which is shouldered by The Social Experiment, a group of musicians that include: a trumpet player, producers, a composer, a drummer and a rapper (Chance). The foundation of their sound is a neo-soulful, jazz infused, eclectic mix that could trace its roots back to ATCQ. But there are a few tracks that sonically reach another level as they take strong influences from the gospel genre. Religious themes are found throughout Coloring Book, but How Great is by far the most reflective. Chance states that this is his favorite track off of the mixtape (mine too), because of its strong connection to his grandmother. How Great was recorded a few weeks after his grandmother's passing. His cousin Nicole sang How Great Is Our God (by Chris Tomlin) at the service and Chance was understandably moved. Chance invited his cousin to sing on the track, which made it even more personal. But if that wasn't enough, Chance was able to get an elusive feature from Jay Electronica. The Muslim emcee is able to perfectly complement Chance with the overall Christian theme of the track. Songs like this, and Blessings show a maturity in how Chance is able to tackle subject matter that is incredibly complex and sometimes polarizing.

But this is also why young Chancelor is so intriguing to me. He is so gifted lyrically that when you add his musical aesthetic, there is something very special there. Since Chance's style is so malleable, he sometimes picks up the flow and cadence of those he raps with. So a song like Mixtape, featuring Young Thug and Lil Yachty (who the hell is this!?), plays a color by number type track from beginning to end. Each rapper sonically impersonates the other, and all sound like they can't hold a melody and have lost there voice the night before. But as I mentioned above, since Chance can actually hold a note without auto tune, he is the most tolerable. And here is the crux of my feelings about him. If you ask me, "do you like Chance?" I say, "Yes?" Because I feel he has the potential to move up the emcee pyramid. He doesn't need to dumb his lyrics/flow down to placate the prevalent generic hip pop (not a typo) sound. The Coloring Book has tracks that hit strong PEAKS musically, but it also has "meh" songs that are mediocre for his talent. And I am not just hating on party songs. Tracks like All We Got, All Night and Finish Line Down are more light hearted songs that are a great listen. And even after saying all that, I feel great about Chance's future. Yes, this mixtape had peaks and valleys for me, but he will find a balance as he grows into the emcee he is meant to be. Overall, if you're a Chance fan, you'll like this latest mixtape. And the same would go for those who want something new, Chance's hip hop spectrum is as vast as they come. I look forward to see what the young Chi town emcee has planned for this next project.

Peep video for Angels below. Also, fun fact, all of Chance's mixtapes (this is his third) are painted by a Chicago artist. The Coloring Book's cover was painted from a picture of Chance holding his newborn daughter.

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