24 November 2011

Throwback Review: Will Smith, "Big Willie Style"

This is the first official Throwback review (I unofficially did one for The Blueprint a few weeks ago) on BITM.com. The following article was written by a close homey of mine, who goes by the name of Loko. He's a young local VA rapper with a desire to place his mark on the industry and the genre of hip-hop. He just recently popped the top on his own blog and I'll be providing that link once he gets it stabilized. Until then, read his Throwback Review on an album that you may not place in your top ten, but you know you rocked to back in the day. Hell, I did...

How many of ya'll remember "Big Willie Style", Will Smiths first solo album, dropping back in 97'? Personally I was nine and still falling in love with hip hop. Mom dukes was definitely not cool with the raw sounds that pumped out the speakers on Biggie Smalls "Life After Death" or Capone-N-Noreagas "War Report." She thought Missy Elliots "Supa Dupa Fly" was a little vulgar and Busta Rhymes "When Disaster Strikes" was way too much for her. So at the time Will Smith was positive, clean, influential and had some bangers already nodding heads on the radio. Now if you want to talk street and say "Oh, he aint hip hop, thats pop music," you can do so. You wanna go into "Oh, he's an actor. He dont know the real." You can do that as well. But if you're here to talk hip hop, if you're here to talk good music with lyrics that speak truth and hold value...now we in discussion. Not every man from the hood sold dope. Not every man from the hood went to jail. Nor do we all have tattoos, been shot, been pimps or didn't finish school. That doesn't take away from the truth of the matter that you know where you came from no matter where you go. This album must be reviewed with all these aspects in mind. Plus the fact that he is from West Philly isnt somethin you can just look past. 
Now, lets talk numbers. First of all, Will Smith received two Grammy's from the same category for tracks on the topic album! He is the only artist in HISTORY to do so. That fact alone stands as a landslide victory to some great artist. The album as a whole was certified 9X (thats nine times!) platinum by RIAA or Recording Industry Association of America. I mean really...9X!? I personally dont know or follow too many of the platinum ratings. But honestly, I've never heard 9. Heard double and triple, but hell, what is the term for 9 anyway? *LOL* Individual songs from this album broke records and went far beyond what many can't even stand up to. The single "Men In Black," though not released as a single in the U.S., stayed at number one in the U.K. for a month. That made it the 6th biggest single in 1997.
You know what, I can shower yall with facts all day about the man. The Grammys and awards, the charts and the movies but at the end of the day, this album is a true classic. Not enough attention in my eyes. The radio hits were glorified and played world wide. But listening to the album again for the first time since like 01' there are too many tracks that those who never heard it would never even know about. Half of what they listen to is thrown out the window and doesn't compare next to said tracks. If we are talking creativity, go to track four, "Candy". Bein real and telling people how it is, track seven "Dont Say Nothing." He has something for the ladies besides "Miami" and thats gotta be track five, "Chasing Forever." Theres plenty more to compare and argue points with but you'll only know if you check it out. I'll leave that up to ya'll.
Let's all welcome my man Loko into the BITM.com family, joining the likes of Just Mic and Twon Johnson! Remember, http://www.bestinthemix.com/ is your new source for hip-hop editorial pieces and bomb ass, true to life album and mixtape reviews! Next up, a review for Yelawolf's Shady Records debut, "Radioactive."

17 November 2011

Review: Ludacris, "1.21 Gigawatts: Back To The First Time" (mixtape)

"Ludacris sucks now."

Someone told me this a few months ago. Unfortunately, I had to co-sign on the sentiment. Well, I wouldn't say that I thought he "sucked," per se, but I was disappointed with a lot of the work that I'd been seeing from him in the past few years. Sure, his classics stood out and could still go toe to toe with a lot of newer cats, but he wasn't continuing to bring fire like he used to. Most recently, Ludacris popped off with a handful of hot tracks on each album, but his focus didn't bring us consecutively amazing full length albums. I think someone told Luda the same thing, because he's revamped his efforts at the mic and has blessed us with the fiery mixtape, appropriately co-titled "Back To The First Time."

Hardcore fans of the Mouf of da South know of his work leading back to "Back For The First Time," his triple platinum release from 2000 that blessed us with Ho, Southern Hospitality and the banger What's Your Fantasy. He became known for his punch and duck flows, hitting you with humor and nifty metaphors before ducking off, leaving you with the sweet taste of an emcee (*pause*) that was ready to take over the game in style. His next few albums gave us more of the same, but something eventually changed. Some argue that he succumbed to the pressures of wanting to become Hollywood. Some people stated that Ludacris was drowning in a sea of weak emcees and a weaker industry. Some said that he was just plain ol' losing his touch.

I refused to believe any of those and was pleasantly surprised when I copped this mixtape. His flows return to their rapid fire state, his lyrics began packing the punch that I initially knew him for, and Luda reclaims his place as one of this generations best. With production by M16, Drumma Boy and Juicy J, Ludacris runs the gambit of subjects, ranging from golddigging women to the "pause: stop" flow that's invaded the verses of many younger artists like Drake and Nicki Minaj.

In fact, Luda makes it a special point to speak on the "pause: stop" flow on the "History Lesson" interlude and how it's been around a LOT longer than many think, going so far as to sample clips of Method Man and Biggie using the formula. The My Chick Bad rapper is determined to make sure that the world doesn't forget him, and does a hell of a job ensuring that his name and status isn't forgotten.

Coincidentally, Ludacris is gearing up for a 2012 release of his next studio album, Ludaversal, and with releases like this, will be primed to take over the number one spot if he keeps dishing out mixtapes and verses such as featured here.

The bottom line is that Luda is back like he never left and deserves to have you cop this mixtape. Sure, some of the beats are recycled from other artists or albums, but so? He puts his unique spin on it and gives you a ludicrous mixtape for free. This mixtape? Nifty approved...

Stay tuned for our review of Mac Miller's "Blue Slide Park" and Drake's "Take Care," both coming soon!

Want to SEE the niftiness that is Best In The Mix? Mosey on over to www.YouTube.com/BestInTheMix and check us out and don't forget to leave comments both here and there!

16 November 2011

Review: Drake, "Take Care"

Call him soft. Call him "emo." Call him anything that you want, but one thing that you can NOT call Drake is unsuccessful. The man has talent. He came into the game amidst a flurry of attention and, despite the public relations hiccups (being allegedly "dissed" by Rhianna and busting his leg, for starters), Drake has managed to stay relevant...hugely relevant this entire time.

People don't often speak on "Best I Ever Had" anymore, and with good reason. Drake has been on more mixtapes, songs and other rapper's albums than you can shake Nicki Minaj's ass at...and that's saying something. Drake has proven time and time again in the short while that he's been on the scene that he has a good thing going, and it shows in this latest offering, his sophomore album "Take Care.

It is neither a surprise nor a shock to anyone when Drake comes out the gate and he's singing/harmonizing/humming/whatever he does, because that's what he is known for. Although I don't consider him a rapper in the traditional sense of the word, I do consider him a somewhat well rounded artist. So, when he tricks off the first track with a soft melodic sample, I'm not surprised. That's his formula, and it works. The rapping comes down a minute in and the first thing Drake reminds you of is his level of success. The braggadocio is prevalent throughout the album, sometimes being laid on a little thick, but it's clear to see that Aubrey Graham is battling with both success and the demons that come with it.

The only problem that I really have with the Drake of this year is the hardcore image that he seems so pressed to have. There are constant mentions of getting thugs to "catch a body" in return for payment, as mentioned in the bridge on "Headlines" and affirming his masculinity. I'm not confused as to who Drake is, but it's almost as if the constant jokes about him being soft and emo are getting to him.

Self esteem issues aside, Drake did a wonderful job with getting other artists to contribute bomb ass features or verses. My favorite is the Kendrick Lamar hosted "Buried Alive Interlude" which gives the Cali emcee a chance to highlight his versatility and prowess. I also dig the track "Crew Love," featuring the increasingly popular co-Canadien singer The Weeknd. Some associates of mine hate that the instrumental jumps often, but that's my favorite part, aside from The Weeknd's vocals.

Although emo and Canadien, Drake makes another effort to showcase his popularity and his street appeal on the tracks "Under Ground Kings" and "Practice," the latter sampling "Back That Azz Up," the highly popular club thumper by Juvenile, who co-signed off on both the sample and the overall sound of the song. Drake actually does his thing with these two songs (half of "Practice" being sampled lyrics, however) and I can accept this a lot more than I can accept Drake threatening someone on wax for calling him a pussy. Leave the streets to the streets, Drake.

Thankfully, Drake doesn't seem too hell bent on proving his urban prowess. When he mentions it, he shoves it down your throat (*pause*), but when he's on another topic, he stays there. He's consistent, for the most part, and it is refreshing.

There are a lot of features on the album, way more than I care for, but they're there and none of them are surprising. In addition to the acts mentioned earlier, there's Rhianna, labelmate Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, and his boss' boss: Birdman. The 5 Star Stunna really was a waste of time and recording, though. He doesn't rap, he just talks and tries to lend credence to Drake's urban appeal...and fails.

All in all, the album is a wonderful effort of the path and perils of success, the effect it has on a person and that person's loves and what choices may come up. I rock the hell out of the singles like Marvin's Room and Headlines, but my favorite tracks are the ones where Drake appears to be most real to himself, tracks such as "Cameras" and "The Real Her," which has a class act verse by Andre 3000, god emcee. As a matter of fact, Drake should spend more time about 3Stacks to understand what it takes and what it means to accept yourself and to be comfortable in being yourself.

This album is #NiftyApproved, but will get more respect when he cuts down on the features and increases his self worth.

Stay tuned for "Blue Slide Park" by Mac Miller, a Billboard number one album with NO guest features...

Two New Reviews Coming!

I didn't want y'all to think I'd abandoned you. I haven't. I recently bought two new albums, Mac Miller's "Blue Slide Park" and Drake's "Take Care" jawn. I'm still giving Blue Slide Park a few extra listens to make sure I can give it an honest review and then Drake's synopsis is coming soon after that one.

I know many of you copped "Take Care" last week when it leaked. I didn't. I would say it's because of my integrity, but it isn't. It's because the internet where I currently am sucks horribly, and a lot of sites are blocked. Hell, I had to write the admins just to get THIS site unblocked. Geez...see what I'm dealing with here? Also, as a result, I haven't been able to record any new videos for the YouTube site. Speaking of which, have you been there yet? www.YouTube.com/BestInTheMix Do yourselves a favor and check it out. I know for a FACT that you'll like it. Music and humor...what could be better? If you've peeped the new Drake jawn, drop us a line at TheNiftian@gmail.com and tell us your honest thoughts. I've heard good and bad thus far, but you know we'll give it to you raw!

Anyhoo, check back soon as I'll have the Mac Miller review up and Drake's jawn up a few days after that. And if anyone asks you where you're getting the most real, most honest, most sincere news on your favorite artists, tell them you keep up with the Best In The Mix!

09 November 2011

Pioneer Series: Heavy D

Back during the summer months, I decided to branch out and take Best In The Mix to YouTube, an experiment that turned out to be wildly successful. In addition to op/ed pieces, I did my very first video Pioneer Series, and I did it on Heavy D, so you can imagine how the news of his loss is affecting us at BITM right now. I need to edit the ending to reflect his passing, but here's the original vid for y'all...

R.I.P. to the Overweight Lover

07 November 2011

White Around The Corner (Attack of the White Rapper), pt 1

Person A: "White people should not rap. Rap is from the streets, rap is about the struggle to survive."

Person B: "So...white people don't struggle?"

A: "Naw, man! White people have everything given to them!"

B: "I think Eminem would disagree..."

A: "Oh, he doesn't count! *That* white boy can spit!"

Person C: "Do you even hear yourself?! You're saying Eminem is the ONLY eligible white rapper?"

A: "No, I'm saying he's the only one that's allowed to be accepted. He's kind of like white trash, so he's cool."

B: "So, in order to be accepted by mainstream rap audiences, one must be considered 'trash?'"

A: "Yea! We want to hear about shit that we can relate to! Like I said, the struggle."

C: "Stuff you can relate to, huh? So...you can relate to dealing drugs, riding on 26 inch rims and buying out the mall?"

B: "You better say no! You work at McDonald's!"

A: "No, I can't relate to that..."

C: "But that's all that *your* favorite rappers talk about."

B: "Eminem doesn't. The Beastie Boys don't. Asher Roth doesn't. Neither does Mac Miller, Aesop Rock or Joe Scudda, all respected emcees in the game, and all white."

A: "Ok, ok! Ease up...damn...hadn't thought of that. I like most of those cats, too. Who the hell is Joe Scudda?"

This wasn't an actual conversation, necessarily, but it *is* one that I've had many times over the past few years with people. For some reason, up until lately, there has been a lot of animosity aimed at non black rappers. I guess we can blame Vanilla Ice for that, he of the fake background, stolen beats and corny moves.

Who *should* we blame, if anyone? Why is it so difficult to break into any particular genre just because of your ethnicity? Black country singers get ridiculed, black rockers get the side-eye, and white rappers get laughed at. Where's the degree of openness? Does it even exist?

In this new series, White Around The Corner, we will be discussing the history of caucasians in hip-hop, from 3rd Bass to Lil Wyte to Bubba Sparxxx to Brother Ali to Machine Gun Kelly. Feel free to chime in on this and let us know your thoughts...we'll be "white" back.

04 November 2011

New Section?

So, I've been thinking: how about a section devoted to old(er) albums?

I recently (re)purchased The Blueprint, Jay-Z's classic album released on Sept 11, 2001 and fell in love with it all over again, and not just because of gems like Renegade, Song Cry and Takeover, but because of the overall value of the album and the ferocity and concentration that Jigga brought to the mic.

This album launched Jay-Z to a whole new scope of listeners, both as newbie fans of hip-hop, but also as interested parties in the whole Nas/Jay-Z beef. Hell, for the Nas beef alone, this album stands as a classic.


Sorry, I didn't mean to get into an impromptu album review, but when the muse strikes, right? So, what do you guys think about that? We have the album reviews for current records and mixtapes, the Pioneer Series about the originators of our genre and then maybe a new section about throwback albums.

Thoughts? Yay, nay? GIMME SOME COMMENTS, dammit!