Friday, November 22, 2013

What's happened to the rest of Jamla?

Is it just me or has 9th Wonder been pushing his fem-cee Rapsody just a little too hard on the listening masses? Could it be true that sometimes — or at least in this case, for sure — less can indeed be more?

This is something that's been lingering on my list of Hiphop pet peeves for quite a while now, and this week's release of the much anticipated collaboration between new Jamla recording artist add-2 and Khrysis, the leader of the 9th's hefty stable of producers and beat makers, finally pushed that pet peeve right on up to the top of the totem pole of things in rap on my nerves right now.

Oh yeah, Jamla is 9th Wonder's label...

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Ma$e can't stop, won't stop providing inspiration for rappers

As much flak as Ma$e took after he dropped the "Murda" moniker from his name in favor of appealing to a broader audience (emphasis on broad), he is seemingly unintentionally redeeming himself with the resurrection of his lyrics circa 1997-1999 that are routinely being regurgitated by rappers du jour.

Kanye has already gone on the record as saying that Ma$e is his favorite rapper, and that was evident on College Dropout, where Kanye copied everything from Mr. Betha's adlibs to his lyrics verbatim.

Kanye continued that trend on later albums, as well, in somewhat of a tribute to style-blazing rapper who never got enough credit for his originality and creativity in the rap game.

Since we all know biting hasn't been a Hiphop sin since the mid-90s, no one thought anything of it.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Skyzoo Needs Just One Line to Put 'Picasso Baby' in Perspective

Joining the growing chorus of MCHG naysayers is Skyzoo, the rapper who openly admits that a chance meeting with Jay Z (sans hyphen) some years ago didn’t end with him being signed to the Roc.

No, this song, called "All Black Walls," isn’t a diss record, as anybody familiar with Sky’s track record knows that isn’t his style.

Hell, Sky just put out Floor Seats With Young, a veritable ode to Jay’s global success that all began just blocks from where a young Skyzoo grew up in Bed Stuy.

However, some could call this a so-called subliminal diss record, since there are no names used.

But the proverbial writing is on the wall with this one, folks, starting with the choice of beats to rock over for the first track of what is shaping up to be the latest installment of Sky’s Penny Freestyle Series.

The beat in question is none other than Picasso Baby from Jay’s 12th studio album as a soloist, which, in Jay’s incarnation features a bunch of prattle about Mr. Carter’s aspirations of expanding his already monstrous empire by bolstering his enviable art collection (which he loves to remind listeners showcases a Basquiat) to include a piece from the famed Spanish artist.

In the song, Jay goes on to wax [un]poetic about the art world he so-blatantly covets by dropping names such as Warhol and da Vinci and referencing the Louvre and the Mona Lisa before implying in the third verse that his own art is — or at least will be one day — as valuable as the aforementioned artists and their artwork.

Rewind back to Skyzoo, who offers his own interpretation of Jay’s song by starting off by simply rapping: “I just wanted an Ernie Barnes.”

Honestly, with just those six words about the black American artist responsible for the painting (at left) seen and popularized on the 70s sit-com Good Times, Sky could have ended the song right there.

Jay only wants a Picasso because of how treasured and valuable the Spaniard’s artwork has become, whereas Sky, with a nod to his most recent mixtape that conceptually juxtaposed JJ Evans and Theo Huxtable, prefers to place a higher value on artwork that features images that look like himself.

The line begs the questions: "Hey, Jay, why don't you big-up any black artists other than the trendy Basquiat? Where the love for Ernie Barnes, John Biggers, Romare Bearden, etc.?" Hence, the freestyle's title (which could also be construed as a play on "All black everything," a phrase popularized by Jay in 2009's chart-topper, but also one that he himself apparently doesn't completely adhere to.

With that one line, Sky lets the listener know that he’s not with all that Picasso shit because even if that were attainable to to him — asit is to Jay — he’s saying he’s not interested in owning something that a culture other than his own has declared to be valuable.

Instead, Sky has simpler but still high-end art ambitions — only it’s of the black artist variety, not European. Annd, probably more importantly, he would rather determine the value of artwork on his own and not have someone else tell him what is valuable.

There's nothing wrong with European artists, but why isn't Jay celebrating his own? Can you imagine what a Jay Z co-sign would do to the value of [insert black artist's name here]'s collection? 

In that one line, Sky pledges allegiance to his African-American heritage while dismissing many of Jay’s declared favorite artists, which, in effect, dismisses that elitist viewpoint that the Jiggaman has been pushing on his listeners for the past few years.

And keeping in line with the trend of hot rhymes making a lackluster beat shine, Sky’s vocals instantly boost the mediocre Timbaland track to noteworthy status after Jay’s rhymes from the album’s single failed to impress.

Sky may not have all the money in the world, but he has been making moves quietly for a few years now and has shown vast improvement with each project he subsequently puts out, so my guess is this latest Penny Freestyle Series will continue that upward trend.

Sky's humility would never allow him to agree with what’s been written here, but the proof is in his own words. Listen to the song below and judge for yourself.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Why wasn't Hiphop included in the Boston Strong concert?

Edo.G's newest album, released in February
This is probably a bit of a rhetorical question, considering Boston all but ignores its urban, but why were there no Hiphop acts involved with the city's concert to raise funds for and benefit Boston Marathon bombing victims and their families?

The "Boston Strong" concert -- named for the spontaneous but clearly popular [and borderline oxymoronic] motto attached to the Marathon tragedy that exposed Beantown as being vulnerable to terrorism -- was never billed as a show featuring a certain genre of music.

Rather, the show featured everything from folk to rock to country to R&B.

But for some reason, no rap.

I can admit that Boston does not have the richest legacy in Hiphop. But isn't that besides the point?

The city has at least one full-fledged Hiphop pioneer in Edo. G, who recently dropped his 11th solo album and has collaborated with some of the biggest names in rap during his more than two decades as a successful solo rapper.

There are other act on the Boston rap scene that would be worthy of inclusion, but if we're talking about both a national and local appeal, Edo clearly should have been invited. Hell, his Twitter handle says it all.

If the show is all about raising money for the Marathon bombing victims and their families, why not include as many acts as possible that appeal to as many different musical tastes as possible?

The concert's stage showcased poets, comedians, and even athletes to go along with the musical acts -- but no rap, a style of music that is a mainstay at the top of national and international music charts, underscoring its universal appeal to people from all walks of life.

But in Boston they chose to ignore that fact and instead excluded members of its music community who dedicate a considerable bulk of their lyrics to shouting out their hometown.

The move is a slap in the face to Boston's Hiphop community as much as it is to the bombing victims and their families, who the show was supposed to benefit.

But from the outside looking in -- which is apparently the only thing Boston's Hiphop community can do -- it would appear the show's organizers had their own best musical interests at heart instead of considering what concertgoers might appreciate.

Finally, I will just let the music speak for itself through Edo.'s words:

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Inspectah Deck is 2-for-2 on Premier beats

With all these random Wu-Tang Clan-affiliated mixtapes and albums coming out nonstop, it's hard to ignore their stunning decline as a collective, as well as most members' individual skills and overall appeal to the core fans who once propelled them to hip-hop glory.

Aside from the obvious, glowing talents of Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, and sometimes the RZA, the rest of the Clan is regrettably easily forgettable.

It seemed the same would be true for the once-formidable Inspectah Deck, who spit arguably the greatest 16 of all time.

A year after that masterpiece was released, Deck made what I thought was a surprising appearance on Gang Starr's slept-on Moment of Truth opus, and proceeded to drop another timeless lyrical gem on a classic DJ Premier banger that is widely hailed as that album's best verse, upstaging GURU on his own album.

15 years later, after experiencing some ups-and-downs as a rap soloist apart from the Clan, the Rebel INS has rebounded from his prior two albums (which lacked any real musical direction or sonic cohesion) by collaborating with rap veterans 7L & Esoteric for the CZARFACE album, which I was pleased to see features a Work of Mart, reuniting Deck with Premo for some more magic.

Not only does Premier come with it (as usual), but Deck and his album-mated step up to the plate to create another classic Premier joint.

But it's the beat that really makes the song, as is the case for most Premier tracks. It's dripping with all the hallmarks of classic 90's Premier, complete with strings, horns, bells, crisp cuts and scratched, and simple, yet effective drums. And, of course, the hook is cut up with precise samples scratched to perfection.

Add that to a very young- and hungry-sounding Deck, who, with this album, has reestablished himself as a force to reckoned with in rap's current landscape, and it's almost like it's 1995 aall over again. Almost...

Cop the album!