28 July 2016

REVIEW: ScHoolboy Q - Blank Face LP

It's no secret that 2016 has been another down year for hip-hop.  We are sitting uncomfortably within a completely new era of music led by a younger generation of uninspired trash.  The essence of true creativity is on life support and there is no need to continue to duck and dodge this fact.  Anyone looking for confirmation need look no further than the 2016 XXL Freshman list chock full of hot bumsauce.  We can waste time pointing fingers at who is responsible for the two-syllable-flow era we live in, but it really doesn't matter because there's a good possibility that it's here to stay for awhile.  Even street-centric artists have been shoved into a corner, with no one to blame but themselves for their overall lack of introspection and style.  So ScHoolboy Q's ascent to becoming one of this era's illest rappers in spite of his contemporaries should come as no surprise.  With his fourth studio album Blank Face LP, Q has effortlessly solidified his position within the culture by doing nothing more than remaining consistent.

You'll quickly notice improvement in ScHoolboy Q's flow and ability to tell a story on "Lord Have Mercy," where he takes you on a brief journey comparing the typical pitfalls of running the streets to how his life and relationships have been affected by fame over the years.  He speaks on how he chooses to meet his demons with a blank face to show that he is unphased by anyone from his hood that tries to tear down his success.  On the surface, this may seem like an excessively used topic in rap, but Q's clever ability to paint a vivid picture within such a brief window (1:44 to be exact) is nothing short of amazing.

"Shakin these broken hands and, meet em wit Blank Faces / Snake eyes keepin my back achin / Dirty habits of rappin and being savage / Still hangin wit niggaz that can't do nothin but cause damage / Guess I'm being a real nigga like I'm 'posed to be / but being real never once bought the groceries / and, Top told me Keep rappin, you'll make it hopefully." 

Gangsta Rap may sound like a played-out label these days, but Blank Face LP is a vessel of preservation for that long-lost art of storytelling due to the majority of Q's work paying homage to the big homies he grew up on.  "Groovy Tony / Eddie Kane" features an assist from Jadakiss whom Q juxtaposed his own career with in a recent interview stating that much like Kiss, he felt like an underdog despite still having a healthy catalog of great music.  "Dope Dealer" finds ScHoolboy Q aligning himself with E-40 who has been an ambassador for collaborating with artists from this  generation for several years.  Naturally, the groovy side of Q makes a few appearances as well throughout Blank Face LP on "WHateva U Want," and "Overtime," which may be the only two songs on the album that even come close to sounding like radio material.  Luckily, no compromises for the sake of appeal were made on any of these funk-infused tracks.  "Big Body" is the perfect blend of old and new LA flavor, with Tyler the Creator crafting a beat that recaptures that early 90s west coast bounce, and Kurupt and Daz Dillinger from Tha Dogg Pound absolutely slaying their verses.

While every song resonated with me in some way, I found myself revisiting three tracks in particular most often. "JoHn Muir," "Neva CHange," and "Black THougHts" provide a certain level of ingenuity and sensibility that shakes the soul in a way that I haven't felt in years.  Top Dawg label mate SZA's soothing contribution to "Neva CHange" was definitely a welcome change of pace.

It's really tough to find any weak spots on this album.  There's a good chance that every track will eventually take root and begin to resonate with you at some point.  It may be safe to say that Blank Face LP is at least Q's most cohesive project to date, but on the flip-side it still lacks that thunder found on most of his previous albums.  Luckily the omission of the typical radio-worthy banger doesn't detract from the overall body of work.  Blank Face LP is the type of album that long-term careers are built upon.  To quote local artist JDVBBS "In a time where artists are constantly throwing curve balls in hip-hop, Q pitches this shit straight down the middle and nails it."  While a cyclone of rap debris continues to revolve around them, TDE is like the eye of the shitstorm, managing to remain cool calm and collected while continuing to crank out nothing but impressive albums.

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26 July 2016

SINGLE: ScHoolboy Q - THat Part - Black Hippy remix

Ain't much to say here folks. If you ain't even hear about this track yet, your welcome. If you've heard off the track, but ain't peep it yet, your welcome. If you already peeped it, peep it again. And for those of you who need more background, here you go.

Black Hippy is the hip hop super group comprised of Kendrick Lamer, ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul and Jay Rock. Under the Top Dawg Entertainment label, these young emcees are taking over the game. Of course Kendrick has the most name recognition in mainstream circles, but the other spitters have earned their individual followings as well. ScHoolboy Q dropped his second LP under Interscope's umbrella (he has four total studio albums), Blank Face LP, earlier this month. The second single, "THat Part", featured Kanye West and gained popularity on mainstream airwaves. This single was remixed to include the other three fourths of Black Hippy. While it is a rare scene to see the whole collective on a track, you definitely know that they will take advantage of the situation.

Without further ado, the Black Hippy remix to "THat Part".

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On July 5th, Big K.R.I.T. dropped his 13th mixtape, XII/XII (12 For 12). But if you follow him on social media (I can only speak to Instagram, but I'd assume his other media outlets did the same) or follow hip hop news sites, you would have noticed/learned that KRIT was releasing his music a bit differently. Starting at noon on the 5th, KRIT was releasing a single an hour until midnight. Each single art featured a classic style sports trading card with superstars from the NBA, NFL, MBL and NASCAR. At midnight you were able to download the full 12 track freestyle mixtape.

I feel one of KRIT's greatest strengths as an artist is his legitimate dual threat skills as an emcee and producer. When he is able to take the reigns on a project as both, we get a cohesive piece of art. The care and thought he puts into his music is evident, from the intro to the last track. That being said, it is great to see KRIT have fun and show his amazing lyrical versatility by tacking some of the most popular instrumental in the game today (and some older hits). KRIT flexes his pen game by spitting over: ScHoolboy Q's "THat Part", Pusha T and Jay Z's "Drug Dealers Anonymous", Drake's "Hype" and "4PM in Calabasas", French Montana's "Lock Jaw", Bryson Tiller's "Rambo", Kanye West's "Real Friends", and Erykah Badu's "Other Side Of The Game" (as well as a few others). Overall, this is what you would want from a freestyle mixtape. Fuego bars on fuego instrumentals. While most of the singles come from more mainstream artists, KRIT is able to flip his cadence and rhyming pattern to match (and sometimes even better than the originals) each track. So take this tape for a summer drive in your whip and enjoy Krizzle's take on the current sound of hip hop.

The Mississippi emcee posted one more message after his XII/XII mixtape release, stating that he would be leaving Def Jam. Multi til the sun die.

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19 July 2016

VIDEO: Rhythm Roulette (Mass Appeal) - Statik Selektah

As promised, I've been combing through Mass Appeal's Rhythm Roulette series to select the best ones to share with uall (of course that's "the best" in my opinion, but if you're reading this I shouldn't need to tell you that). I went digging back almost 3 years to the day (this episode dropped July 24th, 2013) to dust off the Statik Selektah joint. Let's get into a quick bio.

The Boston native has been contributing to the culture for quite a while, going all the way back to the mid '90s. But his debut album, Spell My Name Right in '07, cemented his place in hip hop history. The record is filled with an overwhelming lyrical roster that would rival any compilation album, with the likes of: Termanology, Styles P, Q-Tip, Talib Kweli, Joell Ortiz, Kool G Rap, Sheek Louch, Freeway, Cassidy, Jadakiss, Royce da 5'9", Cormega, AZ, Slum Village, KRS-ONE and Skyzoo (there are more, amazingly, but you get the idea). In '10 Statik linked up with fellow Bostonian Termanology to form the emcee/producer duo 1982 (the year they were born). Statik also has the ShowOff record label, marketing company and radio show (on Eminem's Shade45) under his belt.

Statik is known for (but def not limited to) a soulful/'90s hybrid sound that mixes classic era drums, smooth samples and vocal cuts. For his Rhythm Roulette episode, Statik hit up Academy Records Annex in Brooklyn, New York to select his three records. The three records he picked were: The Times - Diggin' Their Roots, The Sylvers - Something Special, and The Mystic Moods Orchestra - Emotions. Statik ended up making one beat using all three records. It is amazing to me to watch the sampling process from pros in the game. To get a glimpse into how to go about building a brand new sound from multiple sources is art. Statik even shares that he searches for rap lyrics that match the scratch of the song he is sampling. In this case, That's '"What Love Is Made Of" from The Sylvers' record provided the scratch for the lyrics "[Patience, understanding,] loyalty". He then cut a Jay Z verse from "Justify My Thug" from the The Black Album, "Honesty, loyalty, [friends and then wealth]". He says the scratch says "honesty, loyalty", but I do not hear the honesty part (in The Sylvers song). Nor did I find "honesty" in the lyrics when I looked that up. Doesn't really matter though, the song is still fuego. So if you want to peak into the sampling process from one of the best, check this one out and keep coming back for more episodes.

Peep the episode below. Also throwing up The Sylvers' joint Statik samples.

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18 July 2016

SINGLE: Skyzoo - Friend Or Foe Pt. 3

Last month many websites and social media outlets were celebrating the 20th anniversary of Jay Z's debut LP, Reasonable Doubt. While many consider this his magnum opus, it was not an initial commercial success, although it did eventually reach platinum status in '02 (currently at 1.5 mill+). Again, we at BITM care very little (if at all) about record sales, but I bring it up because Jay Z is viewed as a commercially successful emcee. And of course this is all relative, because his "worst" album sales come from his last release, Magna Carta Holy Grail (currently at 1.1 mill+). But before his megastar celebrity status, and before all the records broken and awards received, he was just an emcee slinging his tapes out of his trunk in Marcy. Reasonable Doubt is my favorite Hov LP. Well, on most days, I could make that claim for the likes of Vol. 2, The Blueprint and The Black Album as well. But I digress.

The DJ Premier produced track "Friend or Foe" might not have the same name recognition as a "Can't Knock the Hustle" or "Feelin'" It, but it packs the same complex and layered bars found throughout Reasonable Doubt. "Friend or Foe[?]" is a question Jay Z asks people who are not crew. The track continues with Jay explaining to an out of town dude that he ain't to be crossed. Not only is Jay gonna take his work, but if he ever shows his face, Jay will be less than merciful.

Mr. Carter followed up the single with "Friend or Foe '98" on his second LP, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1. The out of town dude did not head Jay's warning. After taking out a few of the dude's crew, Jay stands face to face with the dude (with a Jamaican accent) before he shoots him in the abdomen. This track ends Jay's two part saga.

Enter Skyzoo. 20 years after "Friend or Foe", Skyzoo drops another ode to Reasonable Doubt. Using the original Preem instrumental, Skyzoo gives us a very different point of view. Sky takes the track as autobiographical. In Sky's track, "Friend or Foe" is a real account of a real Jay Z, killing a real rival. The last out of town dude (with the Jamaican accent) that Jay shoots in the stomach is Skyzoo's father. Two decades later, the fatherless son grew up and has been plotting his revenge. Sky's metaphors run through Jay's entire catalog in a masterful tribute. The 20 year old Sky robs Jay, but before he does, he let's Jay who he is.

Peep videos for "Friend or Foe" and "Friend or Foe '98", and the track for Skyzoo's "Friend Or Foe Pt. 3".

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15 July 2016

SINGLE: Ty Dolla $ign ft. Big TC - No Justice

In light of the heart-wrenching and infuriating events involving the executions of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, we have witnessed a wave of artists and celebrities using their platforms to speak out against these injustices.  Alicia Keys and the "We Are Here" movement teamed up with several high profile celebrities to create the viral video "23 Ways You Could Be Killed If You Are Black In America" which compiles a list of every major police brutality within the past couple of years with the intent of helping everyone understand just how serious this has become.  More importantly, the movement exists to manifest a world community built on true equality, and to put an end to the injustice of poverty, oppression, and hopelessness.

Ty Dolla $ign and his brother Big TC, who is currently serving a life sentence for a crime he did not commit, have collaborated once again on "No Justice," which is essentially the entire "We Are Here" movement put to song.  We last heard Big TC singing alongside his brother on the heartfelt duo "Miracle" off Ty Dolla $ign's debut album Free TC, and he brings that same righteous flavor to "No Justice" as well.  It's a shame this brother is having to keep his immense talent locked away within those prison walls, because the game needs more of this right now.  Thanks to modern technology, we are able to get a taste of what he is about.  Big TC represents the half of Ty Dolla $ign that most people who aren't familiar with Ty's music don't see in the forefront as Ty is often mistaken as just another turn-up type artist.  Deep down though, Ty Dolla $ign is about something much deeper than his name and singles represent.  I have included both "No Justice" and "Miracle" below, and I guarantee you that any opinion you may have had of Ty as an artist will change after hearing these songs.

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