11 August 2017

REVIEW: JAY-Z - 4:44

Let's be honest, Jay has had a rough go at it since he "came back wearing the 4-5."  He hasn't really struggled with hit singles or album sales, but he has most certainly had difficulty creating a cohesive project that could be compared to his most legendary work.  The problem is, as die-hard fans of pre-retirement HOV, we long for a project that will make us feel that same sense of excitement we felt when The Dynasty was released in 2000.  On a similar note, we continue to hope that JAY-Z will bless us with another The Blueprint, The Black Album, or Reasonable Doubt again at some point because we spent so many years in the 90s and early 2000s being blessed (spoiled) with quality projects annually.  As a result, the sheer desire for great music from HOV since he came out of retirement in 2006 has certainly clouded our vision.  We tend to tolerate mediocrity due mostly in part to the anticipation factor we had become accustomed to a decade prior.

Enter 2017.  We start hearing rumblings from multiple outlets that Jay is back in the lab cooking up another project.  Those same levels of hope reach fever pitch all over again the same way they did with Magna Carta Holy Grail, Watch the Throne, The Blueprint 3, American Gangster, and Kingdom Come (all of which were let-downs in some way).  To add fuel to the hype train, it was also revealed that the legendary No I.D. would be handling production on the entire album.  It's at this point that my ears perk up.  I think back to all of the classic Common projects No I.D. has contributed to and how dope it would be if we finally got an album in that same vein from HOV.  For the most part, it's safe to say that JAY-Z has delivered on his thirteenth studio album 4:44.

"Truthfully I wanna rhyme like Common Sense (but I did five mil)  I ain't been rhymin like Common since."

Judging from this line on "Moment of Clarity" off The Black Album, it's clear that HOV wished he were able to create conscious music throughout his career, but the sheer strength of his hustler spirit and propensity to make all the money in the world simply hasn't allowed him to go that route until now.  One thing that is immediately evident when listening to 4:44 is that the basic skeletal beats are almost jarring on the first listen.  If you made the mistake like I did of thinking this album would somehow be on the level of No I.D.'s most iconic work, you might be a bit disappointed early on.  It took me awhile to adjust my ear to exactly the type of music I was listening to.  This isn't a casual album to cruise around to in the whip, nor does it have anything truly worthy of being played in any club.  It is so far from your typical JAY-Z fare that people expecting at least a few radio bangers are going to be sorely disappointed, as the only track that even comes close is "Bam" featuring Damian Marley.  4:44 is more of a teaching piece, and deserves your undivided attention, as HOV is constantly dropping gems verse after verse.

Going into the album we have "Kill Jay-Z," a powerful re-introduction to HOV where he goes into destroy-and-rebuild mode in order to re-focus on what's really important in life; family.  He offers a mild apology to his wife, while possibly cementing the rift between he and his protege Kanye West. He also reflects on the possibility of what could have happened to his life and his family had he continued down this "IDGAF cuz I'm HOV" route:

"Nigga never go Eric Benet.  I don't even know what you would have done, in the Future other niggaz playin football with your son."

This song is important because while fans have been exposed to several aspects of HOV's professional side, we've never been given a window into the life and times of Shawn Carter on an intimate and introspective level.  From there we have "The Story of O.J." which basically sheds light on prominent black celebrities who have essentially denied their blackness at the height of their success, but try to come crawling back to the culture after they've faced a certain level of adversity.  Another topic this song addresses is how to acquire generational wealth, but also serves as a warning to remember where you came from no matter how much you achieve.  These first two tracks almost tie into one another because essentially it shows a forward-thinking HOV analyzing the direction his own life would have gone and everything he would have lost had he continued down this path of feeling entitled to what ever he wants due to his accomplishments.

I could go on and break things down track by track, but honestly, albums like these don't even deserve to be scrutinized in the same way as other artists.  Listen, whether or not a person thinks the album is good doesn't even really matter.  The amount of game he's blessing the listener with outweighs any sort of review.  4:44 is so much more than just an album, and that is why if HOV were to completely bow out of the game, it would mark the perfect end to his storied career.  This is an album for the ambitious marginalized youth out there seeking to find ways to help uplift themselves, their families, and their culture.  At the same time, it's an album for the old head who may have lost his way due to ego or pride, and is seeking guidance on how to reclaim what's most important in life.  4:44 is in a league of its own, and is chock full of so many timeless jewels, it's hard to see this one aging as fast as his albums of the past ten years.  In this era of "wokeness" we currently live in, HOV couldn't have picked a more opportune time to give fans his most conscious project to date.

Even seventeen years after his prime, the motto "I Will Not Lose" continues to ring true.



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28 July 2017

VIDEO: Kendrick Lamar ft. Rihanna - LOYALTY.


Despite the fact The Niftian awarded DAMN. with our highest praise of 5 Tapes, I personally am not the biggest proponent for Kung Fu Kenny's latest project (stay tuned for the BITM Podcast Ep. 4 for more on that).  Nonetheless, the videos Kendrick Lamar continues to crank out are some of the most creative visuals of his career.

Again, K. DOT links up with Dave Meyers, one of the most prolific music video directors in history, to bring us the video for "LOYALTY." ft. Rihanna.  For the uninitiated, Dave Meyers is responsible for such classic videos as Missy Elliott's "Work It," and "Get Ur Freak On," Outkast's "B.O.B.," and "So Fresh So Clean,"  Jay-Z's "I Just Wanna Love U," and even Kendrick Lamar's own "HUMBLE." video from earlier this year.  Kenny has been enjoying an enormous amount of success as of late as his album DAMN. was just awarded with a double platinum plaque, and it's a safe bet that the amazing visuals from "LOYALTY." will help further those numbers.  Peep the video below and stay tuned to BITM for all things Hip hop.


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19 July 2017

VIDEO: Vic Mensa - Rage


Chi Town emcee Vic Mensa is getting set to drop his first LP, The Autobiography, on July 28th. Since his solo mixtape in 2013, Innanetape, Vic has been on a meteoric rise. That same year he joined Cole and Wale on the What Dreams May Come Tour. The next year he made the XXL Freshman Class. Meh, but an accomplishment nonetheless. After a few Kanye collabs, he signed to Roc Nation in 2015. A couple of EPs later, he is now set to make his Roc Nation studio album debut.

Last month Vic dropped the 4 track EP, The Manuscript. It was meant to serve as an appetizer to The Autobiography. The first EP track, "Rage", will also appear on his LP as a bonus track. "Rage" is a beautifully polished track with great harmony and a strong message. Vic says that "'Rage' is an epic about my life and my perspectives on my position in the world. And overcoming gravity. Just fighting against gravity and trying to continuously rise upward. And it’s a message I want to give to people because kids commit suicide because they get torn down by the things that seem impossible to overcome, and I’ve felt like that a million times. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve felt like ending it all. But ‘Rage’ is that light through the darkness." The track (especially the chorus) borrows themes from Dylan Thomas' poem, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night. Both poets analyze death and pain, but both works also champion fighting against the hardships of life.

The video shows literal manifestations of this theme. Vic is flying in a private jet that is crashing into the ocean. The strongest visuals come as Vic raps in the plane that is tearing apart around him and as he plunges into the ocean. The song is also littered with strong metaphors and poignant visuals. But Vic does a great job with the video and keeps it focused on one a strong theme.

And some bonus knowledge for yall. The Autobiography release date of July 28th is also the same date as Peru's independence day. I'm sure yall already knew that. So, enjoy the day with Mensa and big ol plate of lomo saltado and a cold Cusqueña.

Peep the cinematic video below.





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06 July 2017

SINGLES: Joey Bada$$ - 500 Benz, Too Lit, and Love Is Only A Feeling

Happy Independence Day from the BITM family. Hope yall had a fun and safe holiday. But if you just stayed home and passed out as the fireworks started going off (like me), then we got some left over pyrotechnics for you that dropped yesterday, July 5th.

Joey Bada$$ is still riding high off of his critically acclaimed studio album All-Amerikkkan Bada$$. Not only did we give the album an amazing review, but the Badmon made it into another podcast discussion. And yesterday, out of nowhere, the Pro Era capo posted on social media that he was dropping 3 tracks. All three tracks are produced by Statik Selektah. That combo alone should make you run down the tracks below. If not, do it anyways. The pairing of Statik and Joey is easily becoming one of my new favorite emcee/producer duos.

Peep all three singles below.










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28 June 2017

VIDEO: Kendrick Lamar - ELEMENT.


Two days after winning BET's Best Male Hip-Hop Artist award, Kung Fu Kenny dropped another video to accompany his last LP, DAMN. Early this month I saw articles about Kendrick and Rihanna on the set for the single, "LOYALTY." When I saw the alerts that Kendrick dropped a new video, I thought it was for said single. Instead we get visuals for the track "ELEMENT."

The song itself is a braggadocio track that depicts Kendrick's pre-fame life and warns the rest that he is willing to do whatever it takes to keep his current lifestyle. His struggles and hard work made him the man he is today, one that has a seat with the upper echelon emcees in the game. There are probably a million things that you could dissect in this music video, and I'm sure something new will stand out with every watch. There are very few frames with Kenny rapping, instead we get very strong and poignant visuals of aggressive and beautiful imagery juxtaposed with one another.

King Kendrick keeps dropping gems on em. Yes, that was a Mobb Deep reference. And bringing it all back together, Kendrick thanked Prodigy in his acceptance speech. 




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REVIEW: Big Boi - Boomiverse

With Prodigy's recent untimely passing, it got me thinking about other Hip Hop duos that have had success with their group and solo projects. Outkast has to be up there. And I know technically Andre 3000 hasn't dropped a legit solo album, but I'm counting The Love Below. Plus, Stacks has a PLETHORA of features that could make an LP to rival any emcee. I could speak on the greatness of Stacks for days (he did come out on top of BITM's emcee bracket), but I digress. This article will focus on the other half of the ATLien duo, Big Boi. And specifically his third solo LP, Booomiverse (Big Grams was an EP, and really a collab). But since his solo debut in 2010 with Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, Big Boi hasn't been able to put together a complete offering that lives up to his potential. The 12 track Boomiverse is Big Boi's attempt to prove he can reach the heights of his Outkast days.

Big Boi ends the intro track, "Da Next Day", pulling on your nostalgic strings with the spoken words of Big Rube. Most Kast fans know him as the intro and interlude voice that appears across Outkast albums (along with other Dungeon Family projects). The soulful track "Liberation" from Aquemini contains Rube's best bar (in my opinion), "you got more juice than Zeus". Overall the track is strong start for Daddy Fat Sax. BUT THEN, then we get the HARDEST track on the album. We've posted the single and video for "Kill Jill". So all I'll say is this, if you haven't peeped the track yet. Stop reading this article, go hear/view it ASAP, and come on back. The track "In The South" sounds like it was plucked straight from a Big KRIT joint (which is a good thing). This one features Gucci Mane and Pimp C., and you get exactly what you expect, a straight south lean track (not in a bad mumble way). Of course Big Boi dominates lyrically and elevates the track all around. My second favorite track (or first depending when you ask me) is "Order of Operation". Big Boi drops lyrical and literal gems throughout the track (this might be the strongest lyrical track on the whole album). Don't know who Eric Bellinger is, but he lends his skills on the hook. Tracks like "Made Man" and "Follow Deez" provide gritty beats for Big Boi to drop hard bars with assists from Renegade El Rey, Kurupt, Killer Mike and Curren$y.

Then there is the 80's funky/synthy track "Mic Jack", which is a bit out of place but not necessarily a bad track. Radio friendly tracks like "All Night" and "Overthunk" seem more contemporary. But seem out of place, especially when you only have 12 tracks to play with. And the Snoop feature on "Get Wit It" has strong West Coast influenced instrumental, but doesn't hit as hard as it should. Especially when bringing these lyrical titans together (for the first(?) time). The overly techno infused "Chocolate" might become a club favorite, but isn't one that I'll go back to that many times. At least not sober. And "Freakonomics" feels like a Ludacris track from his Blueberry Yum Yum days. Again, a bit out of place.

With a dozen tracks, Boomiverse falls a bit short in terms of cohesiveness. And I don't want to the tell a legend "to stay in his lane", because that's not the case at all. I do think Stacks has mastered the ability to jump on ANY track and be more lyrically..malleable (let's go with that). But Big Boi was always able to "keep up" with the more eccentric Outkast member. And you can see the paragraph of "pros" is much larger than the "cons" one. When the album hits, it HITS. But here are a few meh tracks, and a couple of tracks that shouldn't have made it to the final product. Big Boi delivers range throughout the project and his lyrical prowess is front and center. But the tracks with other lyrical emcees and subjectively better instrumentals shine brighter. His potential as an emcee is what makes his true fans judge him harsher (that's a word right?) than others. Big Boi notches another solo project that comes close to reaching that bar, but leaves fans wondering what a record that reaches that bar might sound like. 




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23 June 2017

BITM Podcast Ep. 3 - The Industry Vs. Lil Boat


It's been a long time coming, but we are back at it again with another episode of the BITM Podcast.  This time we dive into what motivates an artist to make music, by way of a heated exchange between Joe Budden and Lil Yachty on Complex's morning show "Everyday Struggle." We also touch on a couple of notable albums of last year, with the intention of leading into projects from 2017 before descending into a nonsensical drunken stupor and completely losing focus yet again LOL, smh...

¯\_(ツ)_/¯



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20 June 2017

NEWS: RIP Prodigy

This is crazy. Still don't believe it. The 42 year old Queens emcee just passed away today, June 20th, 2017. The legend had a career that spanned almost a quarter century. But most know Prodigy as one half of Mobb Deep. Nothing much we know now. We know Prodigy has battled sickle cell anemia most of his life. And that he was on the Vegas stop of the Art of Rap tour with other Hip Hop legends.

All we have now is his catalog with HITS like: "Quiet Storm", "Shook Ones", "H.N.I.C", "Win or Lose", "Drop A Gem On 'Em", "Hell on Earth", "Get Away", "There That Go", "Hold You Down", "Mac 10 Handle", "Blood Money", "The Illest", "Extortion", "Back At You", "It's Mine", "Trife Life", "Bang On Em", "Survival Of The Fittest", "The Learning", "Eye For An Eye", "Thug Music", "Temperature's Rising", "The Realest", "Peer Pressure", and of course "Keep It Thoro" (and WHOLE RACK of other songs I'm probably missing). Rest in peace dun.




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15 June 2017

VIDEO: Mac Lethal - 27 Styles of Rapping


So I stumbled across this video today. No idea who Mac Lethal is. No idea he's a rapper. No idea he's a YouTube star(?). But like most things I post, I like to provide some background/history. So here we go. Mac Lethal is a 35 year old independent artist, radio and television host, and author from Kansas City. This dude has an EXTENSIVE catalog that consists of four LPs, seven EPs, and twelve mixtapes that span about 16 years. His YouTube page has well over half a million subscribers and the video below garnered over one million views in less than a week. If yall want more info, Google him or peep his YouTube page. You will definitely be entertained.

Now on to the video. This dude shows AMAZING control of cadence, flow, word play and accents (ha, except for the UK accent). The video isn't really "27 styles" of rapping since he goes into specific artists. Artists are not styles. I guess you can make an argument for that. But you can definitely look past that to get the "Old Kanye" vs "New Kanye" style. On the surface this video is meant to be entertaining and funny, but you get some Hip Hop history in a format that is mainstream friendly. This dude has a lot of talent to pull this off, so take a second and make your day better with this joint.

Peep video below.




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09 June 2017

VIDEO: Apollo Brown & Skyzoo - On the Stretch & Bob Show

At the end of last year, Skyzoo dropped The Easy Truth. The album features Apollo Brown on the beats with Sky taking on the emcee duties. We've mentioned that Skyzoo has two projects planned to drop this year. This has your boy HYPE. But while we wait for new singles to drop (soon hopefully), we got some visuals for a single from Sky's last joint. The track "On the Stretch & Bob Show" is an homage to The Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show. If you know nothing about that, peep the documentary Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives. But if you can't get a hold of that, this is the basic rundown. Robert “Bobbito” Garcia and Adrian “Stretch Armstrong” Bartos hosted a radio show (The Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show) on WKCR-FM, from Columbia University in New York. The show ran from 1990-1998 and featured freestyles, demos and interviews from Hip Hip legends during their unknown/unsigned periods. If yall want a post that goes into the history of that show, hit us up in the message boards and we can make that happen. 

The single "On the Stretch & Bob Show" reenacts what an episode would have been like if Skyzoo went on The Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show. It starts with samples of Stretch and Bobbito from previous shows and edits them in a way that sounds like Skyzoo went on the radio show and dropped a freestyle. For the video, Skyzoo gets help from five kids who act out the scene the song creates. Not only do we get a kid Skyzoo and Apollo Brown, we get mini Stretch and Bob, and a little girl who is recording the session on a VHS camcorder. So we get a your normal high definition clips cut in between grainy and choppy clips from the camcorder. The overall feel is authentic and definitely pulls at those nostalgic strings. It makes me want to watch the Stretch and Bobbito documentary again AND run through Sky's catalog on a road trip. Track is dope. Lyrics are dope. Video is dope. 

Peep the video below. 




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