22 March 2017

TAPE DECK: Noreaga - Banned from T.V. (featuring Nature, Cam'ron, Styles P, Jadakiss & Big Pun)

To the surprise of no one, I've been on a 90's Hip Hop kick the last couple of months. Ran through catalogs of some early Jay, some pre "Get Out" Kanye, some Slum Village, some Pete Rock and some C-N-N (among others). While on the C-N-N route, I took a quick turn to relisten (that's a word right?) to Noreaga's debut LP, N.O.R.E. The '98 album showcases the Queen's emcee adding to the tail end of the Golden Era. One aspect of that decade's legacy can be enjoyed simply by peeping the MONSTER posse cuts found throughout the 90's.

And if you are making a list of the greatest posse cuts of the Golden Era, you GOTTA have "Banned from T.V.". Listen, you might not have Nore on you greatest lyricist lists, but the dude spit some of the hottest street bars of the decade. You could hear the hunger in his verses throughout his solo debut, and "Banned from T.V." is no different. But when he tapped (used two "p's" because it's past tense) some of the greatest NY emcees for his posse cut, Nore had to come correct if he wanted to anchor the track. Nore rounded the track with fellow Queens emcee Nature, Harlem's own Cam'ron, two thirds of the Yonkers group with Jadakiss and Styles P, and the Bronx legend Big Pun (my personal top 5 dead or alive right there). The Swizz Beatz instrumental is easily recognized as soon as the horns drop. And the dark (so dark) and grimey video is a perfect match for the beat and lyrics.

So take a trip down memory lane (damn near 20 years ago..why are we so old) and peep the video for "Banner from T.V.". ANNNNNNNNNNND I also found a behind the scenes clip for the video. So peep that too.

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07 March 2017

VIDEO: Joey Bada$$ - Land of the Free

The BITM crew posted the single, "Land of the Free", from Joey Bada$$ when it dropped over a month ago. We are now a month away from the Pro Era capo's second LP, All-Amerikkkan Bada$$. The Brooklyn emcee is at the forefront of the latest evolution of the conscious emcee. Joey has said that this album is "like hella vegetables". But he is aware that the current Hip Hop market demands "candy". This sentiment is one that is echoed by many Hip Hop heads, even by your friendly neighborhood BITM collective (through our postings and podcasts). 

Normally after my informational intro paragraph, I get into a few descriptions of the single/video/album. But I feel this video will have the strongest impact if you go into it with minimal spoilers. If you peeped our single post, you know the lyrics are poignant and jarring. I will say that Joey DID NOT HOLD BACK when it comes to the visuals for "Land of the Free". It is clear that he had a vision and message that he wanted to get across, and boy did he. 

Peep video below, and a Genius interview where he breaks down the lyrics to "Land of the Free".

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28 February 2017

REVIEW: Smoke DZA & Pete Rock - Don't Smoke Rock

2016 saw peaks and valleys for hip hop. A few peaks for Golden Era fans came in the form of new albums from De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. Albums that were nostalgic and at the same time relevant. Do you need to be from the Era to create such projects? No. Could you be a student of that Era and create a comparable masterpiece? Yes (see Kendrick and Cole..also KRIT, Logic, Rapsody).

Take Smoke DZA, the 33 year old Harlem emcee was not necessarily "in the game" during the '90s, but he was an avid fan/student thanks to his father. DZA grew up idolizing Jay Z and Biggie Smalls, but you can definitely hear influences from Dipset and Big L in his bars. As a young emcee, DZA began ghostwriting for hip hop artists in the early oughts. He finally put a solo project in books in '09 with his Substance Abuse mixtape.

Enter Pete Rock, the Bronx producer STRAIGHT from the Golden Era. The living legend's professional career started with a few Heavy D production credits in '89 (as well as Groove B Chill, Brand Nubian, Kid 'n Play, and Main Source in the following years), but most know Pete Rock as one half of Pete Rock & CL Smooth. Their '91 EP All Souled Out introduced the world to one of the greatest emcee/DJ duos in hip hop history. Pete Rock is credited as being one of the earliest producers that infused jazz into the hip hop sound.

So when I heard that one of my top 10 producers was doing a full length collab (been waiting about 6 years for that news), you know ya boy had to review it. Don't Smoke Rock is the first tag team LP from Pete Rock and Smoke DZA. And the outcome is no surprise, this album is FUEGO (sorry, not very suspenseful). But if you read the mini bios above, and you assume they stayed true to the artists that they are, then it really shouldn't shock you. Pete Rock provides his perfected jazz/soul hip hop instrumentals, along with a few grimey NY beats. Either way, if you head ain't bobbing throughout, your neck might be broken. Smoke DZA approaches each track with the attention to detail that you get from a true student of the game. Like people who have stepped on the moon, getting a Pete Rock full length collab puts you in a rarefied air. DZA's bars show that the emcee took this opportunity seriously. And the features, all DEM features. You got: Dave East, Rick Ross (meh), Royce da 5'9, Cam'ron, BJ the Chicago Kid, Jadakiss, Styles P, Wale, Big K.R.I.T., Dom Kennedy and Mac Miller (plus two other emcees I've never heard of: NYMLo and theMIND). When it comes to the sound of the album, as mentioned above, you get that classic NY sound from an artist who has honed his craft for almost thirty years. Now let's run through a few tracks.

The track "Limitless" serves as the real intro to the album and group. There is an "Intro" track, but that's just DZA setting up the album through a monologue. My only complaint with "Limitless" is that I feel they squandered the Dave East feature, allowing him to just contribute the hook. But I can look past this because DZA goes HARD. His bravado and braggadocio bars reintroduce him to whole new demographic of people who peeped this project on the strength of Pete Rock's name. DZA made sure his skill and confidence are front and center, and that he justifies the Pete Rock cosign. But the first track I heard from this project, the one that had my ears up like a jack rabbit, was "Milestones". THIS TRACK, features BJ the Chicago Kid on the hook, and two thirds of the almighty LOX on the verses. Now I'm not gonna say something blasphemous like DZA's bars are better than Jadakiss' or Style P's joints, but man, the kid came to play. DZA starts off the track with his throwback flow and street metaphors that prove he can get on a track with the best of them. And yes, when it comes to a street track, the LOX are the best of them. This track, this one I could have on repeat for days.

On many tracks (with or without features) DZA approaches the Pete Rock instrumentals from a meticulous standpoint. What I mean is that DZA keeps it simple, in the best way possible. While his metaphors are complex, he doesn't overwhelm the tracks with flashy flows and lyrics. His cadence is crisp and his lyrics stay sharp. The whole point of joining forces with a legendary producer is to create a perfect pairing. The DJ is the most important person in hip hop. They hold all the keys, and they push the culture to the masses. If you give a chef a perfect steak, they won't drench it in sauce or go crazy with the sides. You let each component breath and shine. Pete Rock gave DZA the perfect steak. And DZA showed composure and constraint (and care) with his product. This is what a well oiled machine looks/sounds like. When you create a project with thoughtful lyrics and excellent production, you get a timeless work of art. If you're a fan of the Golden Era sound, BARS, or just timeless production, do yourself a favor and add Don't Smock Rock to your playlist.

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25 February 2017


I mean GOD DAMN, Rem, way to light the internet on fire!

I'm sittin in the Nissan dealership around 1:00pm this afternoon when a link wit a pic of a dead Barbie doll pops up on my phone.  First instinct was like "Aw shit, here we go."  Ain't have no popcorn so I grabbed another vanilla latte to sip on instead, while I enjoyed nearly 7 minutes of SCATHING BARS dropped by none other than Remy Ma dismantling Nicki Minaj's entire career.  The imagery in the cover art is apropos, because whether or not you think Rem came correct, Nicki is VISIBLY threatened by her existence.  Remy Ma is like the last boss in a videogame and Nick can't figure out how the fuck to beat her.  I've never seen Nicki spend so much time scrambling to prove her status by highlighting accolades and posting audio of Beyonce cosigns like that somehow validates her bars compared to Remy Ma.  It's actually shocking to witness how Nicki Minaj appears to be completely thrown off her game now that she is finally faced with real competition for the first time in her career.

The thing is, "shETHER" comes off the heels of a Fisher Price feature from Nicki off a Jason Derulo song that was released a day ago called "Swalla" where Onika claims "I gave these bitches 2 years now they time's up.  Bless her heart, she throwin shots but every line sucks..."



Well...how bout y'all be the judge...

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30 January 2017

SINGLE: RDGLDGRN - Opera (feat. Method Man)

It's been building up for a couple years, but we are now in the thick of it.  We are entering a new era of powerful hip hop the likes of which haven't been seen since the early '90s.  In 2015, K. Dot gave us a masterpiece in light of the well-documented acts of police brutality, and in the years since then we've seen a complete resurgence of intelligent music with legends like A Tribe Called Quest and T.I. providing us with comfort food to help cope with these trying times.  Now in the current political climate we're facing, the flood gates are wide open in 2017.  Our last post showed Joey Bada$$ penning his take on things to help kick the year off, and now we have D.C.'s own RDGLDGRN tooled up and ready for war with their single "Opera" off their forthcoming crowd-funded album.

On the surface, this track is an ode to 'illegal aliens,' as depicted by Green throughout most of the video.  As you dig deeper though, you see that the song tackles the rampant injustices against the marginalized as a whole.  Green spazzes on the first verse with bars like "Since the government seems to mark us, I try to stay hidden in a green apartment"  which addresses the fear instilled in the Black community that doesn't even feel safe setting foot outside.  "Fact is that I won't be voting til the poverty gap has slim proportions / foolish just like the notion of marching for peace when they making corpses" is a line that takes a shot at the flawed election process in this country as well as the protests that follow it, highlighting just how divided we are as a people.

The co-sign from Method Man is a huge grab for the band as well, as the feature will surely give RDGLDGRN a much-needed boost beyond their core fanbase.  Be sure to support these brothers on their Pledge Music page, where you can find merch as well as vinyl copies of the upcoming album.

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24 January 2017

SINGLE: Joey Bada$$ - Land of the Free

It's been awhile since we've heard from the Pro Era front-runner, but after 2015's stellar B4.DA.$$ (which BITM awarded 5 tapes), Joey Bada$$ deserved to fall back and let that album marinate a bit.  We are now on the heels of his sophomore effort, simply titled A.A.B.A., which has suffered a couple of delays but is set to be released sometime in 2017.   The internet has been abuzz lately as to the meaning for the acronym A.A.B.A., and if this single is any indication, it could stand for 'Anti-American Bad Ass.'  One day before the inauguration of Trump, Joey gives us his most politically charged song to date in "Land of the Free," which is most likely a glimpse into the over-arching theme of the upcoming album. 

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05 January 2017

REVIEW: Rapsody - Crown

"Man..yall stay on Rapsody's [figurative] balls..bet she gonna get another 5 Tape rating."

First off, fall back playa. If you claim to be a hip hop head and can't appreciate what the young emcee is doing, then this is where you can get off (get off like from an elevator or car..not get off like..never mind). Since her feature in Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly, Rap's stock has been exponentially rising. But the NC native has been laying bars "professionally" since about '08, dropping her first solo mixtape Return of the B-Girl in '10 (under 9th Wonder's Jamla Records). This summer, during the 2016 Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival, Rap made the statement that will change her life forever: "I'm Jamla/Roc Nation". This joint venture will expose Rapsody to whole new demographic of listeners. And I'm sure that there are those haters who think she "sold out" and that her lyrics will suffer because she'll have to dumb them down to appeal to mainstream/radio markets. But the hip hop Tina Turner breaks out the gates under the Roc Nation umbrella with the Crown EP (some sites call it a mixtape, but Ima go by what her website calls it and by the track "Mad" that states: I call my EP Crown) for all the skeptics. 

The intro/titular track, "Crown", starts off with Rap delivering bars spoken word-style over a simple piano instrumental provided by Eric G. At the 1:20 mark the beat does a 180 into a 9th Wonder boom bap beat. Rap picks up her flow and provides the energy needed to compliment the switch up. The intro sets up the 2016 "Keep Ya Head Up" type theme found throughout the whole album, focusing on positive messages: pride, self worth, love, empowerment, and never settling for what other people say is your limit. 

I was racking my brain to come up with one or two more tracks that I wanted to highlight, but the truth is that would be a disservice to Rapsody and to you. Once again, Rap has crafted another statement record. Those that thought Rapsody's Roc Nation merger would water down her content will be pleased with EVERY track (if you've been a Rapsody fan that is). She still takes on her particular subject matter found throughout her catalog, but updates her metaphors to make each track relevant. And once again we have to acknowledge the mastermind 9th Wonder and his Soul Council for yet another flawless beat selection. 

It's crazy to think that I reviewed Rapsody's first LP, The Idea of Beautiful 5 years ago (I pre-ordered the album and even got it signed..priceless) . We didn't even have our tape rating system in place yet. But best believe, the only thing missing from my review would be the perfect 5 Tape rating. With her Crown EP, we are witnessing a star about to take the game over. Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole are the two emcees that are constantly referenced when taking about the new wave emcees who are socially conscience and repping hip hop the right way (with commercial success). But for the last 7 years (crazy to say that out loud) I've put Rapsody in the short elite list. So do yourself a favor and peep the powerful Crown, and you'll come to the same conclusion. Culture over everything. Oh, and yeah, Rapsody gets ANOTHER 5 Tape review. 

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01 January 2017

REVIEW: J. Cole - 4 Your Eyez Only

It's been a long time coming (the album, not just this review), but Hollywood Cole has done it again. Except, this time, he's focused less on the Hollywood and more on the introspective aspects of what makes Cole...well, Cole. Jermaine takes a step back from the lyrical onslaught that is today's hip-hop arena and slows things down a bit so that you can truly digest his words and their meaning. That isn't to say that J. Cole dumbs things down because that will never happen, but there isn't as much stereotypical hip-hop instrumentation as there is attention paid to the message that he delivers in this album, which is a concept album of sorts.

The album is average in length, timing in at 44 minutes, but there is a lot of power in that three quarters of an hour. That power comes directly from his heart, and his recent stances on the racial inequalities in America are very present throughout the album. It's amazing to see J. articulate his feelings on issues that range from the birth of a daughter (his home boy's, who was shot down before her birth) on "She's Mine, Pt. 2" to police profiling and racial inequalities on "Change."

Personally, my favorite track is "Neighbors," which highlights the strange looks he's received from his new nearby residents (y'know, since he moved into 2014 Forest Hills Dr to get away from the spotlight and to gain privacy). It's a look into how judgmental society is. The hook is "I guess the neighbors think I'm sellin' dope...well mothafucka, I am." Of course, the "dope" in question isn't crack cocaine, but his music, which is dope...addictive...fire...catchy...selling. In addition to sounding like a Big K.R.I.T. track, the song draws light to the uneven sights placed on Black America, where we can't even buy a nice house in the 'burbs without drawing ire, because we're expected to be less: rappers, athletes, etc.

Much of the album hooks you like a dope fiend, drawing you in with deep and soulful instrumentation and making you come back for more with his thought provoking lyrics. This isn't Sideline Story or Born Sinner Cole, but the young man continues to cement his role among the Leaders of the New School with his dexterity and prowess. He takes the simplest ideals and makes them into invigorating stories with appropriately matched beats, making it easier and easier to follow along and enjoy the ride.

The ride sometimes slows down to uncomfortable levels, though, making it hard to stay focused or to remember that this is a rap album. Actually, when I first heard the album the opening track "For Whom The Bell Tolls" turned me off before I could get into it. The next two tracks got me ramped up and then we slowed down again on "Ville Mentality," so I needed a few good dozen spins before I could truly appreciate the work of art in its entirety. Granted, this is a solid effort, but only true J. Cole fans can appreciate this, which I think was Jermaine's goal, but that will ultimately hurt his future endeavors to gain fans, I believe.

There are no club bangers, which isn't surprising, but there aren't any standout tracks to bump in your ride, either (I use the term "standout" loosely, because this is a great album to play all the way through while taking a long ride down the highway). If you're looking for a smooth rap album with introspective lyrics that speak to the urban youth, then this is for you. If you're looking for former chart toppers and heavy hitters like "G.O.M.D., Crooked Smile," or "Niggaz Know," you won't find them here. The effort is repeat worthy, but only if you're either already a J. Cole fan or if you're a hip-hop head. If you're a tourist, you'll be bored right out of the gate.

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31 December 2016

REVIEW: Childish Gambino - Awaken, My Love!

Despite 2016 being such a depressing year with all of the losses we have suffered as a culture, it's great to see artists step up in an attempt to fill the void left by their predecessors.  The era of true soul-shaking funk music pioneered by bands such as Parliament is one that is revisited by very few artists these days, as the generation gap becomes increasingly more difficult to bridge.  Also, the days of true musicianship within urban culture is hanging by a thread that continues to thin.  Out of all the artists who could have released music that pays homage to this era, I'll admit that I never would have suspected Childish Gambino to be one of them.  This has truly been the year of Donald Glover coming into his own and establishing himself as a force within urban culture; first by turning typical Black television programming upside-down with his hit show Atlanta on FX this past fall, and now with his Funkadelic-infused third studio album Awaken, My Love!.

Not only has he captured a sound birthed by the likes of George Clinton and Bootsy Collins, Gambino has managed to compile together a project that literally sounds like it belongs in the Parliament discography.  This major identity crisis may be a turn-off for some who adore the great years of early funk music, but the reason why it works is simple - the music is absolutely incredible.  Expecting another Camp or Because The Internet-type affair, I was taken aback by the album's lead single "Me And Your Mama."  It starts off like a lullaby for the first couple of minutes, and then takes off into a full-fledged funk anthem with Childish Gambino channeling all of the aforementioned artists above, while adding his own flavor into the mix.  It seems as if this was done intentionally to shock the listener into adjusting their ear, as this is NOT a Rap album in any way shape or form.  This trend continues into the album's next song, "Have Some Love," which opens with chants that sound like they were ripped straight from a '70s Blaxsploitation flick.  Gambino's staccato verses fall right on beat with the high hats throughout the song and make it somewhat difficult to make out his words, but this song is more about establishing the vibe of the ride he plans to take the listener on.  This is probably a crazy comparison, but the chorus line on "Have Some Love" is reminiscent of the Fat Albert theme song with a slower tempo, LOL.

The first true highlight comes four tracks in with "Zombies," which is an eerie, yet soulful romp that gives you a glimpse into the leeches that 'Bino has been associated with throughout the course of his journey as an artist.  Anyone who understands the decisions Donald Glover continues to make with every aspect of his career knows that he is completely against working for someone, and refuses to allow the industry to take advantage of his talent.  He cleverly juxtaposes zombies eating people with the industry feeding off talent for profit, and how the artist tends to lose their soul in the process.  The song ends with a vamp of Gambino asking 'Do you feel alive?'  This line is powerful because it poses this question to the listener; are you doing what you truly love, and have you been able to maintain your soul in the process?  People often spend their entire lives slaving over jobs they could care less about and making someone else rich in the process, instead of taking control of their situation by becoming their own boss.

The production on Awaken, My Love! is nothing short of stellar.  I've always respected Childish Gambino's talent as an artist, but when listening to this album it often became difficult to accept that this was really his project.  That is no disrespect to the brother, it's just that Awaken, My Love! is such a drastic departure not only from the style of music he usually creates, but from the quality as well.  The album's second single "Redbone" sounds like it was ripped directly from one of Prince's earliest albums.  Bino's voice reaches a register that sounds so next-level it's hard to believe that he uses no pitch correction.

If you count all of the lesser-known mixtapes, Childish Gambino has been releasing projects for nearly a decade now.  And while each mixtape and album has had its share of notable tracks, 'Bino had yet to release a complete album that I would ever highly recommend to someone who was interested in getting into his music.  I was always a big fan, but every album has had missteps that kept it from reaching the heights of which his talent demands.  Awaken, My Love! has completely shattered this notion, as this is by far Gambino's most complete project to date, and one of the best albums of 2016.


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22 December 2016

TAPE DECK: Mos Def, DMX, John Forte, Mic Geronimo, Big Pun, Canibus cypher

I've been seeing this video resurface lately on the web. So in the spirit of the holidays, I felt it right to honor the sacred tradition of regifting and pass it on to yall. The video takes place in a restaurant and features Mos Def, DMX, John Forte, Mic Geronimo, Big Pun, and Canibus in an epic late '90s cypher. On the web it says that this took place in '97 or '98, which sounds about right since most use lyrics from their respective '98 albums.

(The artist formerly know as) Mos Def starts off the cypher with bars from "RE: DEFinition". This track came from Black Star's classic duo debut (comprised of Mos Def and Talib Kweli) in September of '98. Canibus was up next, but audaciously asked to be skipped so he could anchor the cypher. DMX follows up with lyrics from "Ain't No Way", from his sophomore LP Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, which dropped on December of '98. John Forte and Mic Geronimo continue the cypher, with the latter appearing to spit a true "freestyle". But I can't really say since I am not that well versed in either ones career. Big Pun spits fire from "The Dream Shatterer", off of his classic debut Capital Punishment, which dropped on April '98. This should have been the true cypher anchor, and I think all emcees present would agree (especially since Pun's bars drew the most reactions). But Canibus has to wrap up this legendary cypher since he decided to get brolic earlier. While def not on par with the late great Pun, Canibus delivers his hardest bars from "Second Round K.O.", his LL Cool J diss from his September '98 debut, Can-I-Bus

Peep classic cypher below.

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