25 August 2015

VIDEO: Sheek Louch - Got Damn (Freestyle)

Sheek keeps flooding the streets with freestyles to promote his upcoming LP, Silverback Gorilla 2, dropping next month. Sheek Louch gives us his classic street bars on top of the The Neptunes produced track Cot Damn. The track is off of the Clipse's (two up, two down) debut studio album Lord Willin'. Of course Sheek picked one of the hardest beats on the album to bless us with a few more raw lyrics. His freestyle videos have been low budget so far, and Got Damn follows the same formula. Just that throwback vibe with Sheek and his boys in the streets and in stairways. This ones for the hip hop heads that keep one foot in the streets at all times.

Peep video below.

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15 August 2015

REVIEW: Compton: A Soundtrack by Dr. Dre

Dr. Dre's influence on the entire landscape of Hip-hop is well documented and undeniable. When you also consider the sheer amount of legendary artists he has either worked with, or helped cultivate, it makes you wonder what the game would truly be like if it weren't for Andre Young. So with the release of the biopic Straight Outta Compton looming, it had me wondering how amazing it would be if Dre took this opportunity to bless us with something resembling the fabled Detox album that has been 16 years in the making. Even though he announced that the album was no longer Detox by name, it has been known that something epic was still brewing. Two weeks before Straight Outta Compton hit theaters, Dre dropped a bombshell on us in the form of Compton: A Soundtrack, announcing that it was finished and would release within a week. Billed as his grand finale, we have finally been blessed with the realization of the album we thought would never come.

And what an inspired finale it is. Compton is a culmination of everything that has defined west coast Hip-hop since its inception, while touching on modern day issues plagueing the urban community without it coming across as a lecture. Starting off with an epically-produced intro, backed by a news broadcast giving you a synopsis of the circumstances surrounding Compton, Dre spends no time transitioning right into the braggadocious "Talk About It" along with Justus and Carolina newcomer King Mez. Since this is a Dre album in a completely different era of Hip-hop, it's no surprise this track contains a hint of that trap bounce appealing to the younger generation, but luckily it's short-lived and doesn't wear out its welcome. "Genocide" brings back a bit of that west coast vibe and features one of several key features on the album from Kendrick Lamar that help solidify Compton's sound. Dr. Dre's masterful production starts shining toward the end of the song, and hits full force going into the next track. "It's All On Me" illustrates the pressures Dre has been dealing with in his position as a leader in the game, and also takes you on a brief journey back to the birth of Death Row records and the original The Chronic album. "All In A Day's Work" goes deeper into just how heavy the pressure has been on Dr. Dre to release a flawless classic after his first two albums. He understands how quick fans are to turn on you or move on to the next artist regardless of how much work you put in to a project, but he welcomes the pressure with open arms.

While these first 5 tracks re-introduce long-time fans as well as the younger generation to who Dr. Dre is, the majority of the rest of the album allows his legacy to shine. From N.W.A.'s roots, to the current king of the west coast, every artist who has ever been aligned with Dr. Dre come back together for one last ride. Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Xzibit, Eminem, The Game, and Kendrick Lamar, as well as several lesser-known new faces like King Mez help solidify the bulk of this magnum opus and also prove how important Dr. Dre's influence has been to Hip-hop over the years, exemplifying his ear for amazing talent. This fact is more than proven on one of the album's standout tracks "One Shot One Kill," a song by Aftermath's Jon Connor who's raw and gritty lyricism has been praised by the likes of Scarface, Nas and Busta Rhymes over his 10-year run in the game.

The DJ Premier-produced "Animals" is a painted picture of society's view of the Black community and how the world is programmed to believe Blacks are inherently ignorant and evil, when in reality we have been systemically programmed to kill each other. And if one of us becomes educated enough to stand up to the system, we are unjustly executed. The song speaks on how this has been going on for years, but this social media-heavy era we live in prevents these acts from being swept under the rug any longer. It's an important song that falls right in line with the majority of Kendrick's To Pimp a Butterfly, in an attempt to save the Black community...from the system, and from ourselves.

Compton is capped off with "Talking To My Diary," which shows Dr. Dre reminiscing over his entire career. It's a fitting end to his swan-song, as this album seals nearly 30 years of Hip-hop history away essentially making room for the next generation to start their own legacies. We have seen a resurgance in West Coast Hip-hop in recent years, with Kendrick Lamar being the true leader of the new school. This shift in the game has been important because I believe part of Dre's apprehension and lack of inspiration to give us a final album lies in the fact that he was not convinced the future was in good hands for a very long time. Dre's legacy was built on being inspired by his peers, and now that balance is being restored to the game, it's the perfect time for Andre Young to bow out, as this is the end of an era.
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04 August 2015

VIDEO: Kendrick Lamar - For Free? (Interlude)

To Pimp a Butterfly is a certified classic in eyes of many hip hop heads. And during a Twitter Q&A session, Kendrick Lamar himself replied that his favorite track on the album is For Free. Terrence Martin produced the jazz influenced instrumental that Kendrick attacks with spoken word. K Dot channels slam poetry techniques by chopping up his line breaks and standard rhythm constraints. If we follow the butterfly life cycle (a metaphor that flows throughout the album), the second track For Free would still present the butterfly as a caterpillar. The butterfly is still being pimped and is a product of its environment. The single track is a turning point for Kendrick. The personification of America is embodied by a female. The capitalistic nature of the woman is analogous to how America treats black men. The stereotypical achievement for a successful black man is through material wealth. Kendrick is suppose to let go of his principles and replace it with superficial possessions.

Lyrically this track could be dissected for years, but the video attempts to visualize the intricate patterns and concept. A woman (America) begins the video belittling Kendrick, telling him that she needs a baller. At one point Kendrick probably was susceptible to the demands, but now he is ready to reclaim his self-esteem. His character will not be devalued and not be conditional to the false perception of success. Throughout the song Kendrick haunts the woman as she runs around his home. Towards the end of the song Kendrick says, "Oh America, you bad [chick], I picked cotton that made you rich." This one line makes multiple complex references. In its implication to the past, we of course have the literal relationship slavery had with the wealth and prosperity of America. In a more current sense we see that there is a different America for minorities. People in power use their position to endorse and push forward a system that proportionally favors the rich. This ideology runs in tandem with rules/laws that target the poor and marginalized to keep the Americas separate. Where Alright takes a more macro viewpoint, For Free's personification of America as a single person gives us a more intimate relationship with Kendrick. The video is very weird and avant garde, but it works as a whole. His exaggerated movements and expression play well with the rhythm structure of the song. The jazz influence also allows Kendrick to be more theatrical and dramatic.

Peep video for For Free below.

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REVIEW: Joell Ortiz + !llmind - Human

This month Joell Ortiz dropped his fourth studio album, Human. And while the album was entirely produced by !llmind, it was never the intention for these two artists to link up for that purpose. In an interview, !llmind said that Joell called him one day to see what he was up to. !ll was making beats and invited Joell to hang out in the studio. That day they knocked out some tracks. This process continued for about a month and the two decided to make it a legit project. There is a connection that is tangible when a single emcee and producer work on an entire album together. The dynamic of the album changes and you hear a progression lyrically and musically. Joell starts the intro stating, "We all come from something different, me, Joe, Royce and CROOKED. I miss talking about what I come from. You know what I'm sayin'? Like I'm a quarter of the best rap group, in my opinion, ever assembled, but I'm 100% of Joell, and I wanna tell that story some more." The intro sets the stage for Joell to take us on an introspective journey laced with emotive beats from !llmind.

We know that Joell can crank out the hard hood songs like New Era, Lil' Piggies and Latinos, Pt. 2 found on the album, but the Brooklyn emcee is able to show us a more vulnerable side with a handful of other tracks as well. Who Woulda' Knew presents a Joell who is ready to settle down with a woman who wants to keep partying all day and night. His success allows him access to a life of excess and diversion that attracts certain ladies. But Joell is growing past that and wants more maturity in his relationships, "Layin' our head, I'm seein' 4 years ahead/ She seein' 4 years ago, wishin' she wasn't in this bed/ Instead, she miss the club life, the pop bub' life/ The life she used to love is [messing] up our love life/ It's tough cause I'm lookin' at her knowin' she the one like." While the song Bad Santa dives into Joell's affliction of not seeing his son as much as he would like to. His son's mother moved to Atlanta and Joell gets to see his son for Christmas, "On Christmas vacations, I would lift him up, raise him/ So high in the air, my eyes tearin', this kid is amazin'/ This year is the fourth generation PlayStation I know he's awaitin'/ It's under that tree waitin'/ It's that look on his face when he's happy that makes me proud to be daddy/ When he runs over and grabs me, filled with true joy/ In the same moment I'm bothered, I mean he knows I'm his father/ But am I just that once-a-year homie with new toys?" Joell's nomadic emcee life keeps him away from his family more than he would like, but like any job he has to keep working to take care of his financial duties. But you see Joell question if his son realizes that when his father is away, he is working to make sure he is taken care of. Which brings up the question, how do you find the balance of handling your finances and spending time with your loved ones?

Since the creation of the super group Slaughterhouse, many critics wondered how four individual emcees could come together was one cohesive unit. Another concern was what would happen to their solo careers? Joe Budden has stayed busy with his mixtape game and dropped an LP and EP since the groups debut. Crooked I (or is it KXNG CROOKED?) dropped Sex, Money and Hip-Hop last December. And Royce used the same formula as Joell and teamed up with a single producer (DJ Premier) to drop PRhyme at the end of last year as well. Joell follows the time tested foundation of letting a single producer helm the instrumental duties. From Eric B and Rakim to Talib Kweli and Hi Tek, emcees and producers have created collaborative records with great success. Joell stays strong with his word play, but uses his story telling skills to give us even more insight into the man/emcee. Of course we tend to compare this duo with other emcee/producer tandems, especially since his group mate used the same formula last year. Only time will tell, but I will say that this album is better than most of the music that has come out this year. 

Stream full album below! And peep the video to his single Latinos, Pt. 2.

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