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B.o.B ft Andre 3000, Play The Guitar

B.o.B sent shockwaves through 2011 with both his tracks “Airplanes” and “Nothin’ On You”, and it looks like he may be closing out the year with another chart topper–“Play The Guitar” featuring Andre 3000.

The track itself incorporates a very catchy guitar riff, scratch beat and steady drum track. Upon listening, it seems as if a hook is missing and instead the “hook” is a loop of B.o.B saying, “play the guitar”.

It works, but it seems a bit lacking–especially when B.o.B usually has supplied very “hook-centric” tracks in the past.

The instrumental though is right on–it’s part funk, rock and reggae, and the aforementioned “play the guitar” hook really does vibe well with the overall composition of the track.

B.o.B opens up the song with a pretty strong verse but Andre 3000 certainly steals the show with his elaborate verses and unique rhyming style.

Nonetheless the track will serve as a great tune to hear on the radio on your morning commute–or even a track to plug in while you’re going for a nice jog

However, if anything, this song just makes me anticipate an Outkast reunion because Andre 3000 delivers his section with grace and over all perfection.

Give it a spin and tell us whatcha think!

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Album Review/Stream: The Weeknd, Echoes of Silence

 

R&B artist The Weeknd has created quite the buzz in 2011 for his unique sound, digital based releases and mainstream endorsements from the likes of Drake and Lady Gaga.

Throughout the year he has released a “trilogy” of mixtapes with the (massively popular) House of Balloons dropping in March, Thursday dropping in August and now Echoes of Silence hitting the interweb in late December. With over 50,000 downloads on the first day of the release, Echoes of Silence is proving to be another strong testament of Weeknds great talent and innovative nature.

One admirable aspect of Weekends music is his knack and ability to set a “mood”. In the past few decades we have seen artists rely heavily on the “single” as a way to push their work. With this trend catching on, few musicians have treated albums as a piece of art–a lot of albums have started to lack continuity. Fortunately, The Weeknd brings back album continuity and crafts tracks that feed off of one another, ultimately telling a story and setting a captivating ambiance from start to finish.

For instance, House of Balloons told the story of a drug fueled youth making harsh decisions but yet, it’s all they know. He told this story through not only lyrical content, but my production effects and crafty composition.

This is certainly no different for his newest release, Echoes of Silence which has that same “story telling”, ambient feel and beautiful production.

Production wise, the piece is what we would expect from the Canadian singer. The way the tracks are pieced together feature the vocals fading in and out over ambient effects and white noise. Although something like this could easily become a novelty, the effects are delivered masterfully and compliment the vocals in each and every track.

When discussing sound/genre on Echoes of Silence, we are actually treated to something a bit new.

The Weeknd has been praised for his unique sound as he combines R&B, hip-hop and bits of ambient rock. In Echoes of Silence, we start to see Weeknds vocals shine a bit more than usual and we really get a glimpse of his impressive vocal prowess.

Another noticeable feature on the album is that his tracks are a bit more “rock-centric” than usual. Weeknd carefully uses rock based fills to effortlessly carry the songs from one track to the next. This smooth build can be seen in the transition between Initiation and Same Old Song, which uses a bass line and subtle snare beat to switch tracks without killing the flow.

The tracks themselves are some of the best we have seen from The Weeknd!

The album starts off with D.D which is a remake of the Michael Jackson classic, Dirty Diana. Not only are the vocals spot on, but the way the track was produced is simply flawless. Remixes and remakes are terribly intricate and tricky to perfect. You really have to bring something new to the table to pull it off–and The Weekdn definitely gives Dirty Diana a new twist and flavor.

The song incorporates a haunting ambient background and a very passionate singing style–which is in contrast from the passive style we have heard from him in the past. He truly hones in on Jackson and the remake serves as a beautiful rendition and a fitting tribute. The song starts off with very light vocals and quickly builds into clamoring drums, belting vocals and a building bass groove. The production and composition are astounding with great build ups and break downs. If were to only choose one song to listen to this album–it’d be this one! Its some of the best we’ve heard out of all three of his albums.

From D.D the album transitions smoothly into Montreal which is a bit more vocal and story based than D.D. In Montreal, we hear the story of heart break and strange love, which are two common themes found in all of The Weeknds work. The instrumentation is rather simple–a few steady snare beats, a piano and vocals–but the over all outcome is hauntingly beautiful.

Although D.D and Montreal are two of my favorite tracks, every track is crafted perfectly. Although the album was intended to be heard to from start to finish–each track can certainly be enjoyed on its own. This in itself speaks volumes for The Weeknds talent. The “stories” that he is known for are also there as he delivers a drama full of heart ache, frustration and betrayl.

This is definitely a great piece to close up 2011.

Stream the album above or  download the track from his website here.

Enjoy.

Common, The Dreamer, The Believer

 

Hip Hop has qualities that are intrinsically based upon social and political revolution. Hip Hop began as a purely underground phenomena with its roots dating back to 1960 spoken word Jazz poetry–a form of poetry that often touched upon social injustice and contemporary issues of society.

In the coming decades, another revolution would soon occur. This revolution came in the form of DJ culture, which would soon lay the framework for modern day sampling and digital art. DJs began playing records simultaneously, mixing and mashing different instrumental tracks for their wildly popular block parties.

As DJing and Jazz poetry joined forces, we were met with poets using their passion driven rhymes over the funk/disco inspired beats of the DJs. Poets would often use this musical medium to touch upon the civil rights and race issues that were prevalent in 1960-70’s America.

This underground movement grew up and graduated to become modern day Hip Hop music.

So as Hip Hop evolved numerous artists clung to their social injustice roots, commonly writing rhymes that touched on intricate social matters. This evolution occurred in numerous facets–and even today when “pop” driven rap fills the airwaves, there are still a few artists who incorporate that twinge of spoken word poetry and civil movement into their music.

One master of this “poetic” “roots” based Hip Hop is Chicago native, Common. Common commercially busted on the underground scene in 1994 during the hey day of Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur. Despite the popularity of “gangster rap”, Common combined street smarts and a “story-like” flow that would later inspire other Chicago artists such as Lupe Fiasco, Twista, and even Kanye West who was a young protege of Common and his crew.

Even though 1994 was his first commercial release, he still remained fairly underground until a year later when he found himself in an infamous hip-hop feud.

In 1995 Common released the track I used to love H.E.R, in which he described how mainstream hip-hop has degraded women and in turn has created detrimental effects on black culture. Commons bars in the track ignited a feud with NWA rapper, Ice Cube. Cube took some of his bars as a subliminal diss towards West Coast Hip Hop. This feud led to numerous diss tracks being sent back and forth, ultimately ending with Commons track “The Bitch In You” which combined intellectually driven bars with fiery passion and production.

This feud helped to put Common on the map, and his feud with a more mainstream rapper opened up an entirely new fan base for Common. Fans, critics and former Common-bashers garnered a whole new respect for Common and showed the world that his talent was both raw as well as intellectual.

Ever since the 1990’s feud, Common has been know for his street smarts, wisdom and sharp tongue. Common has been notorious in hip hop, slam poetry circuits, production circles and even acting.

For me, I became a fan of Common a bit late in the game. His 2005 release “Be” was everything I wanted in a hip-hop album. Catchy hooks, thought provoking rhymes and excellent production quality. This was also a collaborative effort with his former protege and his good friend, Kanye West.

Earlier this year, after a discussion of our favorite “high school jams” my girlfriend brought up Commons 2005 effort and it soon became the soundtrack to our Spring semester. That spring I also found out that Common was in the studio, working on his new album The Dreamer, The Believer.

So after much anticipation, I finally have sat down with the album and have given it a thorough listen.

The album is a 12 track piece featuring appearences from Maya Angelou, his father Lonnie Lynn, Nas, and John Legend. The album was also produced by his long time collaborator and friend, NO I.D.

The album starts off strong and passionate with the title track, The Dreamer, which features laid back vocals a smooth instrumental and an outro conducting by the great Maya Angelou. The Dreamer greatly personifies the style and genre that Common has masterfully crafted.

Another key track is Sweet which appears to be a diss track and is in the same style of “The Bitch in You”. The title itself is an allusion to rappers that rap and sing about love while using poor metaphors and sugary meaningless lyrics. In a recent interview Common admitted that the track was directed towards Drake and to “anyone else who wishes to take it“.

Raw (How You Like It) changes the feel of the album to more upbeat and passionate. The lyrical based sample meshes perfectly with Commons style and gives off an easy but powerful vibe. The hook is also catchy and the “la la la la la” will keep playing in your head long after your listen is over.

Celebrate is also another track to take note of. If you enjoyed Common’s Be, and the track Love Is then you will enjoy this track, too. Celebrate incorporates a very similar rhyme scheme and structure. But don’t get me wrong, it’s not a remake by any means. The track still has that Common edge that he is known for.

On the track The Believer, Common teams with John Legend that greatly brings the entire album to a prose filled enigmatic breakdown.

The piece is certainly one to check out and is a great album that will have people talking for months to come. Check it out!

 

Favorite Tracks: Raw, Celebrate and The Believer.

Martians vs. Goblins, Game ft. Tyler, The Creator and Lil Wayne

 

This week has been a rather prosperous one for music. On the heels of releases from Asher Roth and Common we also have a video release from the other side of the spectrum. Just last night The Game featuring Tyler, the Creator and Lil Wayne released the video for Martians vs. Goblins.

The track has been out for a minute now and is off Games Red Album.

Although the video was just released and I got to admit, I’m kind of digging it.

Now, I am not really a fan of “shock rap” and I have had mixed feelings about both Tyler and Wayne for quite some time, but when seeing this video you can’t help but better grasp the psyche of these three artists.

The video features Game and Tyler battling it out in a haunted asylum, while Weezy remains absent. The videography is rather impressive and also refreshing since the music video has certainly become a lost art.

Also, be sure to take note how well Game and Tyler flow together. Both artists incorporate that slow laid back style that still delivers hard punches.

Keepin’ this one short and sweet. Check out the video!

 

Black Star, You Already Knew

 

Black Star is being extremely generous this Thanksgiving weekend as they released two tracks in a 24 hour period. Just yesterday I wrote of their new track “Fix Up” which is set to be released off their 2012 reunion album.

Well a few hours later the duo released “You Already Knew” which is to be released on an Aretha Franklin inspired tribute album–and it’s just as soulful as you would imagine.

The track incorporates Black Star’s unique rapping style with a slowed Aretha Franklin sample–it’s slow, smooth and showcases both the legendary swagger of Aretha, Mos Def and Talib Kweli.

The sample actually mirrors some of the other sampling styles made famous by other Chicago based rappers such as Kanye West, who found fame in using old soul samples sped up and pitched. Granted, Black Star came before Kanye, it’s certainly refreshing to see a slow paced soulful sample to bump to.

Since I recently posted about the duo just a day ago–I’ll cut to the chase!
Check the track out above, and keep your ears open for the new Aretha inspired album which is in the works as we speak.

 

Black Star, Fix Up

 

 

Hip-hop was as a revolution.

The full-force genre originally had humble beginnings as it was born the love child of Jazz poetry and 1970’s underground DJ culture. Rapping was an art form–a catalyst for young minds to project art in their own personal fashion. There was no need for sonnets or fancy prose as the “stanzas” of the streets came in the form of free-style, and just like an improvisational solo–rap was off the cuff and from the soul.

However as time progressed, so did raps lyrical content. We saw rhymes written about societal acceptance fade into raps written about material possessions. Granted, there is nothing wrong with this–one could argue that this just shows how culture has shifted in the three decades that rap has been around.

Though, I’d like to point out some of the revolutionaries who were pivotal in raps evolution. I’d like to discuss two artists that brought back that poetic flair to their music–Mos Def and Talib Kweli, better known as Black Star.

Mos Def, now known as Yasiin Bey and Talib Kweli arrived on the scene in 1997–on the heels of the deaths of both Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls. Their claim to fame was their call to end violence in hip-hop.

I said one, two, three. It’s kinda dangerous to be an M.C. They shot Tupac and Biggie. Too much violence in hip-hop.

Though, they weren’t calling for peace in the hippie flower child kind of way–they were making a statement through their work.

You see, these two gentlemen truly personified original roots hip-hop.

Their work has always had a flair of poetic nature–it’s safe to say that Black Star brought back into popularity poetic based rap where the lyrical content was deep, edgy and thought provoking. Largely due to Mos Def (Yasiin Bey), slam poetry also made a revival around this time period, and many artists reconnected with their poetic roots and brought it back to their work. Mos Def would later go on to host Def Jam Poetry on HBO for a number of years. Black Star put out some amazing stuff throughout the 90’s and the early 00’s that is considered classic today–they genuinely are the cream of the crop in terms of underground roots based hip-hop.

Around the late 90’s the duo started putting out solo material more than group material and each had huge success on their own through film, tv as well as music. It’s safe to say that both Mos Def and Kweli are widely respected in the hip-hop community.

All of this being said, I am really excited for their new album to drop in 2012! The duo appeared on the Colbert Report in October to play their new track, “Fix Up”. It serves more as an introduction than your average “banger” that you’d hear, however the song serves as a great appetizer to their 2012 reunion album.

Check it out and keep your ears open for their new releases.

 

Black Star “Fix Up”

 

Childish Gambino, The Resurgence of The Triple Threat.

Back in the good ole’ days (I speak as if I was alive then) we saw artists who were referred to as a “triple threat”, singer, dancer and actor. When contemplating this title one may conjure up thoughts of Ole’ Blue Eyes Frank Sinatra, Dancing Legend Fred Astaire, The Candy Man Sammy Davis Jr. and plenty more.

As culture has evolved, there seems to be barriers between the three. The norm now seems to be if you’re an actor–stick to acting, and if you’re a singer–stick to singing.

This could very well be due to the attempts of the triple threat gone wrong.

A short list:

Steven Seagal plays the blues.

Mariah Carey trying to act.

Bruce Willis trying to sing.

Eddie Murphy singin’ with MJ.

 

It’s a bit disheartening that these folks kinda screwed it up for the rest of ’em. Now when an actor puts out an album it’s usually dismissed fairly quickly, or when a singer puts out a movie–people can’t wait to bash it. This common mindset generally means that when a great actor is also a great musician–people are a bit hesitant about it.

Though, if they’re good enough, that hesitation will surely take a backseat, and it instantly does with Donald Glover’s musical project Childish Gambino.

I’ve written about Childish Gambino before and praised his recent EP. Not only is he rather hilarious, his hip-hop albums are definetly a testament to his multi-talented stature. Glover brings the passionate story telling flavor that’s often missed with the over produced and under written rap we hear on the radio today.

Glovers new track Bonfire, off his soon to be released album, Camp, gives us a small glimpse of whats to come.

The sample alone is terribly catchy. It combines sirens, a vocal chorus and an electric guitar that gives the track a sense of urgency. This urgency is only amplified with Glovers unique and rhythmic rapping style. His voice itself is a mix of singing/rapping/singing. His delivery seems flawless and is delivered smooth.

The song itself, Bonfire, speaks of burning up the competition, however, the song also speaks of the fire that’s burning inside of Glover.

Glover generally uses a theme of overcoming in his music as well as destroying barriers. This song is no different as Glover raps about breaking down barriers of black and white music, and being respected for his rapping skills despite being a well known actor, too. Though this theme is important to him, I can see this become an over used topic. For instance, the only time I hear anyone hating on him for being a rapper/actor is when he raps about it. Hopefully he starts to weed this topic out.

However, everything from the mixing to the tempo on this track is dead on. Bonfire gives his fans a taste of whats to come as we wait for the November 15th drop date.

Donald Glover AKA Childish Gambino is our generations take on the infamous triple threat. Comedian, Actor, Rapper.