Friday, May 20, 2011

Racks on Racks: The Guilty Pleasure Edition

My latest musical obsession ironically makes me cower in shame while at the same time uncontrollably and violently bopping my head with that stupid, wide-eyed, grinning visage favored by many of those down south, trill, trapping rappers.

YC (an abbreviation for the name Yung Chris, which is, coincidentally, the same name as another, more talented rapper...) is a baby-faced rapper from Atlanta with a serious summer anthem on his hands, gaining more and more momentum as the warmer months draw closer.

And like every effective rap anthem, Racks conveniently comes complete with its own dance.

The song reminds me of my guilty pleasure from a couple of summers back, so it's no doubt Racks and YC will be a one-hit wonder. Regardless, I'm enjoying this while I can. I suggest you do the same.

And true to the nature of hit rap songs, Racks is starting to see its fair share of other rappers recording their own verses for the track for unofficial remixes. The first that I heard was from Memphis Bleek, but the latest is from Wiz Khalifa, who sounds surprisingly improved in terms of his [traditionally simplistic] style of rhyming:

G.O.O.D. Music up-and-comers Big Sean and CyHi The Prince are supposed to be releasing their "remix" of Racks in the near future, but I wonder if anybody can truly take over the song and make it theirs much like what Lil' Wayne did with Swag Surfin from his popular No Ceilings mixtape.

My guess is there will be at least ten more of these remixes before the summer ends, so check back for the post on who's Racks "remix" reigns supreme.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

South Bronx Street to Be Named for Big Pun?

Last month fans, friends and family of Big Pun gathered in the South Bronx to bring attention to their efforts to have a neighborhood street renamed in honor of the late great rapper.

If approved by the city, 163rd Street and Rogers Place would consequently become Big Pun Place, territory that is already marked with a giant mural of Pun.

Now, while I can admit that Big Pun is probably one of the single most talented lyricists and rappers that Hiphop has ever come across, I can also admit that I don't think that's a good enough reason to have a street named after him.

This goes beyond the allegations that Pun was a wife beater; allegations levied and later backed up by his widow, Liza Rios, who has shared video footage and other proof of Pun's violence against her.

There are literally tons of Bronx Hiphoppers -- including plenty of pioneers -- who have actually done plenty of good for their communities over the past two decades.

Aside from penning and spitting lyrics in the most complex of rhyme schemes, Pun's next best attributes were all scourges of minority communities worldwide: obesity, misogyny, gun violence, materialism, and [over]use of the "N word," which is doubly offensive considering Pun is not African-American.**

Why not name a street after KRS-One, who continues to exude positivity since his debut in 1986?

What about Kool Herc? After all, he is the DJ largely credited with creating Hiphop, and the building in which he is said to have created Hiphop has been turned into a national landmark. So why not name a street in Soundview after him?

Afrika Bambaataa's 1982 single Planet Rock is still a great musical influence for many Hiphop producers, and he is the founding father of the Universal Zulu Nation, a group that took neighborhood gang members and channeled their negative energy to use it for positive means in the community. This group, through one common cause -- Hiphop -- is thriving and continues to unite DJs, rappers, dancers and artists around the world.

The list of other viable candidates to have Bronx streets named for them is a lengthy one; one that down the road might very well include Big Pun. But right now there are others more deserving of consideration before Pun, and that's no knock on him at all. If we're going to honor Pun, we have to honor everything about him, not just his rhyming abilities.

However, if you disagree, you can sign the petition HERE for the street to be renamed.

** This is not to excuse black rappers using the N word to no end. With that said, in my opinion there is only one ethnic group deserving of using this word, and that is the group of folks who it was originally aimed at. It makes no sense for other ethnic groups to fling this word around casually when the history of that word is not their own. More on this later.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

With elmatic, eLZhi [Re]creates a Classic

eLZhi is back with the highly anticipated elmatic, his ode to rapper NaS’s flawless 18-year old debut album.

Producer Will Sessions flips every beat from the classic Illmatic, and each new version is carries with it a distinctly different feel from the original, thanks in part to eLZhi's ridiculous rhyming ability.

And after announcing that he was “doing this without a record deal,” eLZhi gets right down to business on his version of Genesis, easily kicking lyrics over and over that just ooze with clever wordplay:

As far as spittin bars I'm on the level with the stars,
Devil tried to tempt me with the bezel and the cars
But I’m too swift with the true gift,
I knew if I put a line down you’d sniff.

Rightfully so, eLZhi’s verses are very much NaS-esque, down to the voice, flow and style of rhymes. But then again I suppose that’s the point of the project in the first place.

The only other rapper to join him on elmatic is fellow Detroiter Royce Da 5’9, who plays AZ to eLZhi’s NaS on his interpretation of Life’s a Bitch.

And in case some of you forgot the particulars surrounding eLZhi’s controversial ouster from Slum Village – the group that he was recruited to join after his mentor J Dilla quit – El takes some time out to address that situation on an unofficial bonus track called Verbal Intercourse 2, a nod to the official first installment of the song on the “purple tape” that featured NaS.

9th Wonder affiliate and noteworthy producer in his own right KHRYSIS!!! also [unofficially] remixes eLZhi’s Detroit State of Mind, featuring another 9th disciple, Sean Boog of The Away Team.

Both tracks are dope, but both were not released with the mixtape. So check them out below.

And check out the mixtape, available for free digitally.


DETROIT STATE OF MIND PT. II (Feat. Sean Boog & DJ Flash)

KRS-One: Fresh for 2011, You Suckazzz!

It’s been close to 20 years in the making but last week it was announced that KRS-One has teamed up with Bumpy Knuckles (p/k/a Freddie Foxxx) for Royalty Check, a collaborative album scheduled to be released at the end of this month.

True fans of both artists know that this reunion has been about 20 years in the making since Boogie Down Production’s seminal Sex and Violence album, which featured verses from then-Freddie Foxxx on two of its outstanding tracks. Here’s one of them:

I’ve already discussed at length what a great idea I think it is for so-called old school rappers to pool their talents and resources and go half on an album. KRS must agree with me considering that, if you count this upcoming project, over the past two years he will have dropped five full LPs and one EP created in the same vein:

Not included on that list is KRS's solo EP named Back to the L.A.B. (Lyrical Ass Beating), a brief but noteworthy selection of boom bap beats and rhymes released last summer.

However, among the aforementioned six albums is this month’s Godsville, for which KRS teamed with legendary Bronx beatsmith Showbiz (one half of the classic 90s due Showbiz & A.G.) to create 13 stellar tracks of traditional Hiphop music featuring a rejuvenated-sounding KRS, who reminds listeners that Showbiz is the man responsible for producing his 90s cautionary anthem, Sound of Da Police.

Much like I expect from Royalty Check, Godsville is rife with references to rappers who are watering down real Hiphop music because, as KRS puts it on the song Show Power, “some new jack pushing a new track, I mean his crew’s wack – screw that!”

And, as usual, radio DJs are also in KRS’s crosshairs, reminding them on the same song that “when you was hired you vowed to take the DJ art much higher” but “then you go hired and everything switched/ now the sales department is programming your mix/ they don’t wanna scratch no more, just mix/ they don’t want you to play the raw no more, just mix/ but this can be fixed/ you can grow some balls and tell the PD to his face ‘I quit!’”

Despite the repetition of these lyrical themes from project-to-project, this is what his core fans want to hear from him; it’s also what many non-fans get tired of hearing from him regardless of the accuracy in his message.

Other top songs from Godsville include This Flow, Legendary, Hear Me More, and Another Day (Park Jam Mix), a bonus track that is actually a remix of a song with the same name featured earlier on the album.

Not able to suppress his true battle rapper DNA, in one instance KRS employs what I call the “word association” style of rap in a threatening dig at new, young rappers who are all swag and no substance: “Y’all little rhymes is geegle, 'cause one blast will leave y’all freckle-faced – measles.”

What we love about KRS is that the huge chip on his shoulder that is clearly still growing, keeping KRS just as intolerant of wack MCs and DJs in 2011 as he was in 1986. It is this same consistency in an era of consistently bad Hiphop music that keeps KRS in the conversation of all-time best rappers; it is also this same consistency that has fans more than ready to hear the new album with Bumpy Knuckle.