28 February 2015

REVIEW: Big Sean - Dark Sky Paradise

I'll preface this review by saying that before I heard this album, I felt like Big Sean represented everything I loathed about the current state of Hip-hop, from cadences and flows to overall subject matter. I simply could not understand how legends like Pharrell and Kanye West were hyping this man up during his Finally Famous mixtape days. To me, the talent simply was not there. Sure he has managed to drop chart topping singles and has been a part of several noteworthy collaborations, but I could never co-sign his full projects. To put it bluntly, his shit just put me to sleep, and I was convinced that throughout his entire career he would never drop an album that I would care about. All of those doubts, for the most part, are laid to rest with the release of his third studio album Dark Sky Paradise.

In September we were blessed with the DJ Mustard-produced anthem that very well has the ability to become a timeless staple for the Detroit artist in "I Don't Fuck With You." Club bangers like this are nothing new to Sean, but there was something about this song that caught my attention and made me think Big Sean might be on the verge of a breakthrough. Unfortunately, the singles that followed in "Paradise" and "Blessings" reminded me of why I can't stand this dude. On these songs he reverts back to the turn-up / trap cadences that still continue to flood the airwaves, so I assumed the rest of the album would be more of the same.

It wasn't until a friend of mine, who's overall opinion of Big Sean mirrors my own, convinced me to give Dark Sky Paradise a shot. I trusted his taste in music, plus I have been waiting for Sean to live up to the expectations set by his mentors. Ability wise, Sean hasn't taken any major leaps, but the quality of the music on this album shows that he has been putting in serious work. Sometimes it's about more than just lyricism, and production, or whether a song will live in the club for six months. For me, listenability plays a major role in how I feel about an album. He just has a really good collection of songs here, from "All Your Fault ft. Kanye West," to "Play No Games ft. Chris Brown & Ty Dolla $." Jhene Aiko also pops up on two songs which do nothing but help strengthen Dark Sky Paradise to the point where I have no problem putting this album on repeat.

Overall I will say that Big Sean is still not fucking with other juggernauts from the D, but for naysayers who feel like he isn't even worthy of being a rapper should give Dark Sky Paradise a listen. He's still not one of my favorite artists, but I can respectfully say that now he has my attention. Much like Wale's "The Gifted," the work Sean has put into this album is evident, and it's clear he is ready to take that next step musically. I'm just glad to see that, in a game that is currently being led by far superior emcee's, Big Sean is stepping up. Maybe that "Control" verse sparked something in him? Either way, I'm impressed with his growth.

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SINGLE: Logic ft. Big K.R.I.T. - Top Ten

Two artists who helped save 2014 from being a complete snoozefest, Logic and Big K.R.I.T. have released the 6ix-produced smooth banger "Top Ten." It appears Logic is blessing his fans with this track to celebrate recently reaching 400k followers on his twitter account. The track fits everything we've come to love from these artists, and would have sat well on either Logic's Under Pressure or K.R.I.T.'s Cadillactica. Listen below and let us know what you think.

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24 February 2015

RANT: Hip-Hop Has Done More Damage To Black And Brown People Than Racism In The Last 10 Years

I had a plan. I wanted to post a TAPEDECK throwback video since I've been slacking with the posts this year. But as I was surfing the net (do the kids still say that?), I kept seeing Geraldo Rivera's name pop up on multiple hip hop sites. Rivera has been on TV since the 70s, but most know him currently as a Fox News personality (and if you follow the TMZ side of entertainment, you remember him from his Mr. Burns towel selfie). Rivera had an interview with Huff Post Live host Josh Zepps last week. He talked about his time on Celebrity Apprentice, Bill Cosby, his entire bio (he needed the host to know how awesome he is, because Zepps just asked him about the Geraldo talk show), Fox News, Brian Williams, The Daily Show, MSNBC, Stephen Colbert and GOP candidates. And somehow when asked about his political affiliation, Mr. Rivera went all David Blaine and magically inserted hip hop into the conversation. I wanted to transcribe the beginning of the hip hop section of interview to show how Rivera made a super smooth transition to hip hop when asked about this placement in the political spectrum.

Zepps: You talk about liberals and conservatives as if they were sort of equally, ideologically, in self-contained camps. Do you fit into either one of those? 

Rivera: No. I'm a militant moderate. I borrow from both. For instance, I am, as I mentioned, immigration reform, gay marriage and abortion are all things, that that's why I voted for Barack Obama three times. On the other hand, I hate that Benghazi has become pornographic. I think the way they flogged the Benghazi non-scandal I think is very unfortunate on the right side. But I think that, for instance, hip hop (SMOOTH TRANSITION). Hip hop has done more damage to black and brown people than racism in the last 10 years. 

From here on Rivera says that youngsters like Puerto Ricans from South Bronx or black kids from Harlem ruin their lives because only 1/10th of 1/10th of 1 percent make it in the music business. The rest are left with pants around their asses and visible tattoos. And that even though he loves his friend Russell Simmons ("I have a black friend, see?"), people like Simmons need to take responsibility for encouraging a culture that is removed from the mainstream. The only way these "youngsters" can participate in the mainstream society is by working "racks in garment centers" and other entry level jobs. Before we get into the hip hop part, I wanted to quickly address River's obsession with "urban" fashion. See back in 2012, in the middle of the Trayvon Martin case, Geraldo went on Fox and Friends and said, "I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was." And, "But I am urging the parents of black and Latino youngsters particularly to not let their children go out wearing hoodies."

So my turn. First I need to say that pulling the "I'm one of you so I can say whatever the hell I want" card is getting old. In the 2012 interview Geraldo also says that he yells at his "dark skinned" son when he goes out of the house in a hoodie or baggy pants. Listen, I had the same issues with my father. But he never made the insane leap to "if you wear a hoodie (or baggy pants), you can get shot." Geraldo's blanket statement is myopic and dangerous. If you want to be ignorant and administer your crazy ideology under your roof, go right ahead (sorry Geraldo's dark skin son). But if you have a platform (even if it's pseudo news at Fox) that reaches so many, the onus falls on you to be a bit more responsible. To single out hip hop culture as the catalyst for all of minorities woes is ignorant.

We could talk about the unequal education system afforded to minorities. Cities with high percentages of minorities have public school systems that are failing these youngsters. Almost half of the black and Latino students drop out, while only a quarter of whites students do. Areas with larger minority populations see this percentage increase well over 50% percent. Compared to other nations we are at best in the middle when it comes to math, science and reading (that's right..reading). If we only take the scores from black and Latino students we are closer the tail end of the spectrum. Our abysmal public education system adds to the classroom-to-prison problem. Oh yeah, and prison. The mass incarcerations for non-violent offensives is staggering. I will focus on just drug-related offenses or else this will turn into a dissertation (and if you have a violent offense, your ass needs to be locked up). More than half of the prison population is black or Latino. They are more likely to go to prison (and go to prison longer) than their white counterparts for the same offense. The war on drugs provided private prisons with a so many prisoners that they could almost pick and choose which ones they wanted. And younger minorities are much cheaper to maintain. In NY blacks and Latinos made up 80% of police stops. 85% from that group were frisked. How many white people were pulled over? 8%. This actually addresses the problem with law enforcement in general. The problem with these murders are not the victims, it is the officers who take the law into their own hands. 

Black kids/men are killed 4.5 times more than anyone else. But since Mr. Rivera is a respected "journalist", author and reporter, we must treat his comment as an educated statement. So, hoodies equals minority youngsters getting killed by police. Over the last decade there has been almost 100 men, women and children killed by police, but I'll just focus on the teenagerish ages (because the whole list is disheartening and depressing): Tamir Rice age 12, Michael Brown age 18, Andy Lopez age 13, Deion Fludd age 17, Kimani Gray age 16, Reynaldo Cuevas age 20, Ervin Jefferson age 18, Kendrec McDade age 19, Wendell Allen age 20 (this dude was shirtless), Ramarley Graham age 18, Kenneth Harding age 19, Raheim Brown age 20, Danroy Henry age 20, Kiwane Carrington age 15, Victor Steen age 17, Oscar Grant age 22, DeAunta Terrel Farrow age 12, Timothy Stansbury age 19, Timothy Thomas age 19. There are so many more unarmed people who lost their lives, and if you want the whole list go to Unarmed People of Color Killed by Police. I didn't see mentions of these kids wearing hoodies. What I did notice is that the kids were unarmed and the police were never charged for the murders. So I will add hip hop to the list of things I don't want to hear come out of Geraldo's mouth. You are not an ambassador to the culture or minorities in general. Just because you listen to the radio and watch some BET award show doesn't make you a subject expert. Hip hop is not the corporations that push the product, it is the voice of the people and the message of an underprivileged segment of the population that wants the same opportunities as the rest. Just because you are Hispanic doesn't mean you can talk about struggles that you haven't experienced. I'm not saying it is your fault that you didn't come up in the struggle or the culture, what I'm saying is don't make comments about an entire segment of the population without doing some more research. Stay in your lane, hip hop does not need you. Oh, and I didn't address the part that racism does less damage than hip hop because that made my head hurt. Thanks Geraldo.

Peep part of interview below. If you want the entire interview, visit www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/17/geraldo-rivera-hip-hop-racism_n_6701628.html. 

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22 February 2015

UNVERIFIED: JDVBBS x Aye Yo Smiley x Brain Rapp

JDVBBS (pronounced Jay Dubbs), featured in an interview last year, recently released a track with DMV's (D.C., Maryland, and Virginia) own Aye Yo Smiley and Brain Rapp. The three verse song, recorded over Shady Record's "Detroit vs Everybody," is appropriately titled "DMV vs Everybody."

The song was released to promote an upcoming show on March 14th at Jammin Java. The link to the show can be found here. The Soundcloud link is below. Let us know your thoughts, and if you're on the East Coast and happen to attend the show, let us know how it goes...you may even see a BITM member!

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16 February 2015


We here at BITM take pride in knowing hip hop, both past and present. That being said, there are always new artists, DJs, and producers out there who are trying to break into the game and prove themselves. And honestly, we can’t always keep up. The UNVERIFIED section is our way of providing a stage for these artists to plead their case at your feet. When we post a song here or on our Facebook page we need you to tell us what you think. Constructive criticism is CRUCIAL to an artist’s growth. We know some of you will be painfully blunt and some of you may not say one damn thing nice, but oh, well…it’s a risky business, is it not?

These artists won’t get tape ratings like the mainstream album reviews. It just wouldn’t be fair to some of these cats. You may see some major label names attached to these songs or videos, but to be considered for the UNVERIFIED pages, they must be an independent (minor indie labels) or unsigned act.

If you'd like to see your work potentially showcased here, e-mail submissions to BestInTheMix@gmail.com. It may make it through the press, and it may not. Just keep trying. Make sure to include information about the artist and the track or video.

10 February 2015

TRAILER: Straight Outta Compton

Mark your calendars for August 14th. The long awaited NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton drops at the end of summer. It will be directed by F. Gary Gray. At one point John Singleton was on the short list of directors for this flick, and was even considered the front runner. But I am actually cool with Gray taking the helm of this movie. The man has an impressive resume with both classic music videos (It Was a Good Day, Natural Born Killaz, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, Keep Their Heads Ringin, Waterfalls, Ms. Jackson) and has also had success with the movie game (Friday, Set It Off, The Negotiator, The Italian Job, Be Cool, Law Abiding Citizen). Casting seemed to be an issue because most assumed the sons of the NWA members would play their fathers respective parts. But in the end only Ice Cube's sons. O’Shea Jackson Jr., would play Cube's character. Including O'Shea Jr., most of the cast are relative new comers or unknowns: Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E, Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre, O'Shea Jackson Jr. as Ice Cube, Aldis Hodge as MC Ren (apparently he plays a character on TNT's Leverage, so..unknown), Neil Brown Jr. as DJ Yella (this dude actually has been in a few flicks, but most would remember him as the Vatos leader, Guillermo, from The Walking Dead) and Paul Giamatti as Jerry Heller (probably the most known/accomplished actor in the film). 

From the 70s to the 80s hip hop saw a shift from party tracks like Rapper's Delight to introspective storytelling found in The Message. East Coast hip hop started producing emcees like Rakim, KRS ONE, Slick Rick, Big Daddy Kane, Public Enemy, Kool G Rap, RUN D.M.C., and Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five. But the voice of hip hop was still primarily in the "hood". But the 80s to the 90s gave hip hop a boost to amplify this voice to the rest of America and the world. NWA is an important cog in this phase of hip hop. Before smart phones and the globalization of the news, you had to make a serious effort to find out what was going in the rest of the world, let alone another coast. NWA was a window into a period of American history that is sometimes swept under the rug. Before the trailer starts, Cube and Dre say that now is the time to release this movie because today people are still dealing with the same issues from the 80s. It looks like an interesting movie about not just hip hop history, but American history. Just hope the acting/writing is strong enough the depict NWA's story. 

Peep trailer below, yall looking forward to the flick?

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05 February 2015

VIDEO: Chris Rivers and Bodega Bamz - LAX to JFK Cypher

Teambackpack.net has a cypher series titled LAX to JFK. It basically pairs emcees from both coasts (and everywhere in between) and has them drop bars on a single beat. I assume they are original beats. And since they are "cyphers", I also assume they are not recycled lyrics. But yall can do the detective work on that. I stumbled across the eighth episode (nine total) of the series because it featured Chris Rivers. For those of you new to hip hop, Chris Rivers is the son of the late great great great Big Pun. Pun's government name is Christopher Rios and like most Hispanic households, he named his only son after himself. Chris Rivers went by Baby Pun for a brief moment but didn't want the weight (no pun intended) of his father's shadow to pigeon hold him as "Pun's son". Instead he created a new moniker by translating his last name. "Rios" in Spanish means "rivers", so we get Chris Rios Rivers (get it?). 

So without further ado, here is Baby Pun and Bogeda Bamz (I know this post is one sided but I don't really have much knowledge of mister Bamz) spitting hot fire over Portland producers Stewart Villain's instrumental. Ok, one more thing. Question for the Big Pun fans: can you hear how Rivers takes the same loud breathes in between lyrics like his father? Pun did it because he was, big. Do you think his son picked it up through nature, or nurture?

Debate! Peep video below.

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SINGLE: Action Bronson - Big League Chew (prod. Alchemist)

On Bronson's most recent installment of the webseries "Fuck, That's Delicious," he previews a stone cold banger that he whipped up with none other than Alchemist on production. Unfortunately, as great as the song is, it will not be featured on Action Bronson's forthcoming album "Mr. Wonderful" in March. But at the same time it shows that at any given moment Bronson can crank out hits with ease, as the preview within the episode of "Fuck, That's Delicious" shows Bronson and Alchemist managing to finish the song within the time it took to bake a dish. It's a shame the track won't make the cut, but if it's that easy for these two to create this kind of magic, the album might still be littered with songs like this.

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