Part of what I’ve always loved about the Wu and Ghostface especially…the fact that they can make just about any track sound so cinematic, like you could just reach out and touch the words that he’s saying. Been missing from Hip Hop for a long time. Glad he’s got a new album coming real soon!
Awwwww buddy! Yellow Man is definitely gonna piss some people off with this on, no doubt. But he does have a point in terms of who’s “HOT” right now. After all, the list is “The Hottest MCs”, not necessarily “The BEST MCs”. Take a peek and judge for yourself.
I cannot BELIEVE that I’ve only come across this web series/podcast/music review show in the past few months. I should have been up on this years ago! And I’m the only one to blame. But anyway, an artist that I’ve been getting into as of late recently posted a video from the Internet’s busiest music nerd, Anthony Fantano. Oh, and can I just say that I love The Needle Drop? Like, seriously?? But anyway, Fantano makes an interesting point about just how over (or under) rated originality in music may be. Check out the video below and decide for yourself.
Hip Hop is an art form that has to grow, evolve and change over time. Which is an ironic concept, since lots of times; Hip Hop and its artists haven’t always been so willing to change musically and sonically. But one group throughout Hip Hop’s history that has been the complete opposite of that sentiment is undoubtedly Outkast.
The shift in musical styles between their 1994 debut Southernplayalisticcadillacmuzik and what many consider their last proper release with Speakerboxxx/The Love Below is more of a quantum leap. And in recent years, as Andre 3000 has withdrawn a bit from the public eye and the music industry, Antwan “Big Boi” Patton has had to shoulder the creative and sonic burden, but has done so willingly, releasing the critically acclaimed Sir Lucious Left Foot…The Son of Chico Dusty in 2010. And now Daddy Fatt Saxx follows his solo debut up with a sonically sophisticated, color-splashed mural for the ears with Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors.
Once again, listeners will be able to tell that Big Boi feels it his responsibility to take up the mantle and continue Outkast’s legacy of music experimentation and genre manipulation. On Vicious Lies… there definitely exist the standard, southern-styled ATL anthems, like the triumphant “The Thickets” with a resurgent Sleepy Brown, the booming, wall-rattling, chest-thumping bass and stomp of “In The A” with T.I. and Ludacris, and the syrupy-sweet bass and Red Light District feel of the panty-dropper “She Said OK” featuring Theophilus London.
But the real story of Mr. Patton’s sophomore solo offering is the sharp and stark musical U-Turn that it takes, with the majority of the project featuring notable and quality contributions from collaborators Little Dragon and Phantogram. Big Boi seems to take a calculated risk by incorporating elements of new millennium indie rock and 80’s-inspired electro-pop. Most notable are the songs “Objectum Sexuality” and “Shoes for Running”, where he and fellow ATL rapper B.o.B. trade verses over the state of society while Phantogram happily sings a dire and alarmingly bleak chorus. “Higher Res” is also a curious but intriguing contribution featuring Jai Paul and Little Dragon, very much in the vein of an early Prince record with it’s staccato-styled timing and off-beat/on-beat 808 drum pattern.
But Big Boi makes sure not to stray too far by incorporating a slew of winning emcee guest spots, like he and Killer Mike’s cutting lyricism and paired with Little Dragon lead singer Yukimi Nagano’s light, airy and aching vocals on “Thom Pettie” and, U.G.K and Big K.R.I.T. on “Gossip” and A$AP Rocky on “Lines”, one of the albums’ most outstanding tracks.
The biggest misstep here is probably Big trying to step in the booth and vocalize, which makes “Raspberries” a chore to listen to. He definitely wants to stick to emceeing in that regard. But overall, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors is an album that falls in the same ballsy, adventurous and daring musical category of past Hip Hop albums like the aforementioned Speakerboxxx, Common’s Electric Circus, and even Aquemini by blatantly challenging listeners to open their minds, and will introduce new ones to both the Outkast catalog. It won’t connect with everyone, Big Boi successfully and skillfully takes a ton of musical risks, which fewer and fewer mainstream emcees seem to be willing to do these days.
Music is in a perilously peculiar place these days. Artists, be they indie or major, continue to wade their way through a new music economy that forces them to create mish mashed collages of projects that don’t allow them to stick to merely one genre. But this also creates tons of opportunities to collaborate, falter, fail and start all over again in the name of creativity.
Maryland MC, songwriter and recording artist Ebonee Said is no stranger to this form of experimentation. And with her latest project, the recently released Rebirth of Queen, she stretches the boundaries of what Hip Hop music can be considered, while remaining steeped deeply in some of the genres’ most vital elements: intensely focused lyricism, fresh collaborations and experimental, inventive sampling.
Reminiscent of and harking back to the glory days in the early and mid-nineties of the Native Tongues and The Fugees, Ebonee along with a few of her comrades from music collective The Clergy creates a body of work that is equal parts spoken word, neo-soul, call-and response R&B, East Coast Hip Hop and World Music/African-inspired rhythms.
“Intellect Only Part 3” is a Fela Kuti-sampled tour-de-force where Ebonee trades lyrical head jabs with track producer Oobergeek, while “Figures”, a shorter than expected track laced with stanzas of “Get Up Stand Up” –ish anger and thoughtful political commentary, is still and inspired piece of work. The power of the opening drums paired with Ebonee’s melodic exercises on “Medicine Man” reveals a song that’s pretty cutting edge, and is one of the most experimentally successful on the entire album. And “Flip The Third”, where Ebonee rides the organically sampled the live drums with strong, thought-provoking wordplay, is a strong contender for the albums best track.
Rebirth of Queen is an album that finds its greatest success by riding a steady wave of stripped-down, bare bones yet avant-garde sampling, constant collaboration and just taking chances. And at the center of it all, Ebonee uses herself as her own muse, relying on her talent in several different areas, not just as an emcee. It’s a relevant indie release that’s worth a long, hard listen, and it proves that Ebonee is an artist that’s more than capable of creating material that can withstand the current environment of genre-bending and continually blurring musical lines.
In anticipation of his upcoming Barmageddon album, Cali underground vet recently released The Barmageddon Mixtape, in association with DJ Booth and Bare Arms Clothing. Ras Kass has been spitting some of the hardest body-blow lyrics for years now, and is counted among one of the greatest lyricists of his generation. The Barmageddon Mixtape solidifies him as that and displays a lyrical beast at his best on track after track.
Clearly disappointed with the direction Hip Hop has taken in the past few years from an artists’ perspective, it’s evident that Ras is taking much of the garbage music personally and considers it his duty to remind Hip Hop fans of the basics: bars, lyricism, wordplay, heavy-hitting beats and dusty soul sample-based production. This is clearest on a track like “Holes in the Ozone” where Ras uses the hook to take shots at radio-friendly Hip Pop, and even Hova and ‘Ye with the line “I wear my own crown, I ain’t watchin’ no throne…”
But Ras is also famous for getting politically and socially aware, and does so sincerely on “The Great Recession” and “Payback”, where he convincingly and angrily hits on everything from Occupy Wall Street to the current Obama Administration Drone controversy to the World Bank, the war in Afghanistan and Bill O’Reilly.
Some of the best moments on Barmageddon that aren’t geared towards the political or the lyrical (at least not entirely) are “Manna” with J Natural and “Focus” featuring Kendrick Lamar. Both display fast-paced wordplay by Ras and his guests, while the beats lean towards classically funky, laid-back, smoked out Cali production that might put more than a few of his fans in the mood to roll one.
Ras Kass doesn’t deviate to far from his proverbial script. With a mixture of an all-star cast of guest appearances from Cali’s and Hip Hop’s finest (The Game, E-40, Kendrick Lamar, Raekwon), uncompromising battle-tested bars, a few politically savvy tracks and engaging production, he’s created a solid mixtape that can hopefully build strong anticipation for his upcoming Barmageddon LP.
It’s kinda hard to believe that Barbadian songstress and pop princess Rihanna is seven albums into her career as a recording artist. Since 2005, she’s grown from just another bubble gum singer having a style laced with Island flavor to an international pop music icon, tabloid/TMZ favorite, unrivaled fashionista and all-around party girl. With the release of her latest album, Unapologetic, Rih Rih does her best to silence critics from all corners.
Rihanna’s strength has never really been with her voice, but her success has come in the last few years from having songwriters and producers around her that know how produce hits, and crafting music that’s radio friendly, memorably hooky, sexually suggestive and reflective of the fast lane pop star lifestyle myth all at the same time. Think in the vein of “Rude Boy” and “S&M”. The formula has worked like gangbusters for her since A Good Girl Gone Bad, and it continues here. With “Jump”, she give her own dirty-pop update of Ginuwine’s “Pony”, while “Right Now” continues the trend of fast-paced, EDM-inspired major label pop R&B helmed by David Guetta; it’s sure to get night clubs from the Jersey Shore to Ibiza pumping all night long.
Surprisingly, Rihanna also shoots for success in the area of the big Rock/Pop/R&B/Contempo ballad “What Now”, but misses the mark slightly in the area of real, raw emotion. Another track that Unapologetic could have done without are “Numb” featuring a disinterested Eminem that sounds like he may have done the record as a favor. And “Loveeeee Song” with Future lays it on very thick, with the rapper singing disingenuous, auto-tuned coos to Rih Rih that seem to fall on deaf ears.
But there’s much more good than bad on the singers seventh album, with piano-driven “Stay” featuring Mikky Ekko giving off an almost operatic duet vibe, party pop winners like “Power It Up” and “Fresh Off The Runway”, and the song that everyone has been waiting a few years to hear, “Nobody’s Business” with former lover Chris Brown, which pays successfully trendy homage to Michael Jackson, an artist that has obviously influenced both Rihanna and Breezy.
Rih Rih remains successful by not only continuing to make chart-topping pop hits, but also by taking chances. True, she’s been criticized for being more style than substance, more fluff than talent. But there’s no denying that Ms. Rihanna is now a wily music veteran that knows how to make a danceable and relevant pop record. Unapologetic is just that.
So, at this point in his career, it still seems like a pretty bold move for Atlanta’s B.o.B to name a mixtape Fuck Em We Ball, considering that he became such a mainstream music darling so quickly just a few short years ago with the The Adventures of Bobby Ray and last years Strange Clouds. But it also goes a long way to proving B.o.B.’s versatility: being able to go from spitting authentic ATL slang over bass heavy beats to singing harmonies and strumming guitars is no easy feat, even in today’s world of blurred and nearly non-existent lines between genres in pop music.
Fuck Em We Ball is a mixtape full of gems showing Bobby Ray at his diverse best, from the braggadocios machismo of “Champaign” to the delicate guitar licks and harmonized chorus of “Be There”. True, B.o.B. isn’t the most lyrically in depth emcee, but that doesn’t quite matter on tracks like “Fuck Em We Ball”, as B.o.B. rides the staccato filled beat to a tee, effortlessly weaving his way through the sped-up constant changes that the track presents.
Though Drake is seemingly lauded and criticized for being the pinnacle of the 21st century singer slash rapper, B.o.B. stakes his claim to the title throughout Fuck Em We Ball. Especially on the Snoop Dogg-assisted “So Blowed” Bobby shows off his signature chops by refraining from the rhymes for a moment and getting his R&B on. And joints like the aforementioned “Be There” and “Roll One Up” give B.o.B the space to do much of the same in the way of crooning.
Overall, is Fuck Em We Ball groundbreaking or mind blowing? Not by a long shot. It’s just a fun romp by a successful emcee bridging the gap between his recent pop music, VH1 Top 20 countdown accomplishments and his next full-length project. But judging from the diverse collage of good music found on this joint, fans can wait confidently for the next B.o.B. album while enjoying some of his best, most unconstrained work in a while.
I’m feeling like this joint is more a Weeknd featuring Wiz Khalifa type of song. One thing is for sure: Wiz has definitely carved out the “decadent Hip Hop star lifestyle” lane for himself like no one else these days, second only to probably Rozay and the MMG crew. Plus, it does have me wondering what “O.N.I.F.C.” will sound like and if he’ll fall victim to the dreaded sophomore jinx. After all, it does seem like he’s starting to talk about the same things over and over in his songs. But hell, you be the judge: