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Posts Tagged ‘Rap’

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!

Maya Angelou disappointed in Common’s lyrics on his new album.

While the whole world is buzzing over Common’s new release The Dreamer, The Believer, collaborator and poetry legend Maya Angelou isn’t too happy with the result. Angelou, who recites a poem on the track The Dreamer, wags her finger at Common and is disappointed in his word choice on the track.

She tells the NY Post:

“I had no idea that Common was using the piece we had done together on [a track] in which he also used the ‘N’ word numerous times. I’m surprised and disappointed. I don’t know why he chose to do that. I had never heard him use that [word] before. I admired him so because he wasn’t singing the line of least resistance.”

Common was quick to reply with:

“I told her what ‘The Dreamer’ was about and what I wanted to get across to people. I wanted young people to hear this and feel like they could really accomplish their dreams.”

It seems to me that Common used the term, but not in a harmful way. He intended the track to be a meaningful piece for young people, and may have tried to connect to young folks by using some of the lingo that comes with the territory.

Nonetheless, they both remain two poetic masters and both contributed to a fantastic album.

You be the judge and check out the album that dropped December 20th!

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!

 

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.

A$AP Rocky, Bass

 

I remember when I was 13 and chopped and screwed music was getting really popular. Then I heard the new ASAP Rocky track “Bass” and I was reminded why that faded out in 2002.

A$AP Rocky was born and raised in Harlem, New York and is no stranger to what he even refers to as, “the cliche’ rap lifestyle.” Rocky is well known on the underground New York rap scene and is slowly getting mainstream success. Not too long ago Rocky released “Purple Swag”, a tribute to Texas chopped and screwed legends and the subsequent youtube video reached an impressive 100k views in less than a week.

In the song Bass we hear what seems to be an angry Rocky give a peculiar cliche’ rant which further leads into a smooth rapping style that is met with a steady and rhymic drum beat.

Rocky’s impressive and laid back delivery opens the song nicely and in turn, this leads to a chopped and screwed hook. The rest of the song stays true and greatly emphasizes Rocky’s style. East Coast rap is known for its smooth delivery, raw content and melodic style–without a doubt Rocky encompasses all these traits, and even stays true to that New York zing despite the track being yet another tribute to chopped and screwed rappers. My issue has nothing to do with Rocky as an artist, just with the chopped and screwed hooks.

If we look at the history of rap, we see that it is an ever evolving force. We see trends and styles constantly coming and going–the age of the emcee, gangster rap, the rise of Chicago rap that tread on the edge of spoken word poetry, and much much more. I feel as if its only detrimental to go back in time as opposed to moving forward. In Rock’s track Bass, I find issue with the repeative use of the chopped hook, however, if one were to check out the track Grippin’ Woodgrain which uses less of a chopped hook, you can really see Rocky’s vocal prowess start to shine.

Right now hip hop is in a very interesting place. We are beginning to see many trends coming and going, and many people are making their own niche’ in the vast array of hip hop culture. OFWGKTA are becoming well known for their anti-commercial approach–even using the word “swag” in an ironic way to show the “over use” of the word. This same hate of the word swag as also been noted by A$AP Rocky on occasions. Similarly to OFWGKTA we have Kreayshawn who is also using an over the top persona (maybe?) to find her place in the rap game.

Oppositely, Rocky isn’t using chopped and screwed ironically, nor has he claimed to, he was using it as a tribute to Texas rappers. My issue with it, is that it transcends tribute and is starting to fall into the realm of gimmick. Rocky, you have tremendous talent and vocal ability. Make it your own, instead of trying to mimic the sounds of retired, and often washed up, Southern rappers.

Review: Frank Ocean, Thinking About You

Everyone is trying to stand out these days.

Every artist searches for a niche’–something that can make them stand out from the rest. Usually this isn’t a bad thing, but unfortunately artists can get so caught up in their “gimmick” that the focus takes away from their talent.

That being said, it’s very refreshing when an artists just lays down a track that eliminates the fluff–a track where they can just show off their raw skills. No need for crazy auto-tuning or a catch phrase–just performing and showing off their artistic prowess.

I think Frank Oceans new track, Thinking About You, is the perfect combination of talent and simplicity.

Ocean has been taking the industry by storm in the past year and is popping up seemingly everywhere. He has had a guest spot on the Jay-Z and Kanye collaboration, Watch The Throne, he has graced the cover of Fader magazine and will be one of the headlining acts at Voodoo Music Festival in his hometown of New Orleans, LA. His success is definitely well deserved, and his new track certainly tells us why.

In Thinking About You, Ocean is singing to a girl and asking if she thinks of him, because he has been thinking of her–for what seems like forever. Very simple story line, but the emotion held in the track is just so smooth.

The track incorporates a very spacey and mellow back beat–this space is ample room for Ocean to tell a great story about possible unrequited love, heart ache and confusion.

His beautiful falsetto echoes throughout the track “or do you not think so far ahead, because I’ve been thinking that forever” are hauntingly beautiful and really makes the track what it is–simple, raw and powerful.

I dig the track because, as stated before, the focus is on Oceans voice and the storyline. The beat combined with the lyrics create an emotion as well as a story, it’s a wonderful combination that shows off Oceans impressive vocal range. Ocean certainly knows how to use his vocals as an instrument.

This is R&B at it’s finest, but I wouldn’t even label it as R&B. The song combines dashes of soul and pieces of hip hop to just make something that’s beyond labels–just a damn good song.
Check it out!