Who’s Hot in Hip-Hop? Where’s Real Hip-Hop At? Questions those seeking always hear and will pose from time to time. It’s ALIVE and doing just fine. While there’s only some that appeals to me, ALL of it never did. There’s “rappers” out there that want to dis MCs for combining singing with rap, when rap is what R&B is today. I enjoy both, those that give it to me straight and those that flow with a melody.
Among my current favorites are Kendrick Lemar, J. Cole, Lupe Fiasco, and B.o.B. Although Lupe felt his last release “Lasers” was compromised because of record label bureaucracy, I still liked it and look forward to his next release. B.o.B’s last album “Strange Clouds” got limited shine, but there’s still 3 tracks from it in my i-pod. Kendrick is a well needed “breath of fresh air” for Hip-Hop. Enjoyed by women and men, his music is like an old dusty record with grooves you hadn’t explored. The dynamic duo of Jay-Z and Kanye West are the two at the helm right now, while others like Rick Ross and the newly formed Cash Money Millionaires ala Young Money — Lil’ Wayne, Drake and Nikki Minaj keep the masses engaged with spectacular lifestyle dynamics and questionable practices. A HUGE Shout-Out to The Roots crew!!! There are others… Future, Meek Mills, Fabolous, Saigon… I actually want to check out Saigon’s latest at some point, but the initial excitement I got from his mixtapes has subsided to where I’m not “gung-ho” about investing the time or money, and nobody’s raving about it, so… Waka Flocka Flame, Wale and Wiz Kalifa’s names all initially made me say “What”? Waka Flocka made an impression on me during a recent interview I just “happened to catch” on BET with Bow Wow!?, the new host?!? He’s always had a personality and his delving into to acting has enabled him to enhance his skills of interaction — he did a good job. As for Waka Flocka and Wiz, they both have a following, I’m just not among them — but they’re making it happen — whatever works; I kinda like Wale. I love seeing young men get money – Do You! There’s more no doubt, but I want to keep this kinda concise.
Kanye is an incredible producer and has always made songs that I like, but I wouldn’t consider myself a “Yeezy” fan. Critics are trying to shoot him down for his new CD “Yeezus.” It’s at the point in his career where all “they” want to do is shoot him down. Look, I’m not defending him, I’ve cursed him on more than one occasion for dumb sh*t he’s said or foolish choices he’s made, but his artistry is unquestionable. Despite unprecedented displays of ignorance, Kanye is an artist, and by no means stupid. There’s at least three tracks on “Yeezus” that I like. For the past 30 years now, three cuts on an album has been enough for it to be “successful” even-though a true music lover wants “Good Music” from beginning to end. I’m looking forward to hearing Jay’s album when it drops next month, can’t say I’m crazy about the title “Magna Carta Holy Grail,” but that so doesn’t matter — it’s about the science (Michael Hastings/ Jay & Rick add a bonus track) he’s droppin’ and the music at the end of the day. Gathering from recent on-air and Internet clips, J-Z’s next release will include tracks from Timbaland, Swizz Beats, Pharell and Rick Rubin. UPDATE 07/01/13: JAY-Z CHANGES THE GAME… from http://hiphopwired.com: “In light of Samsung purchasing one million copies of Jay-Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail album before its release, the RIAA has decided to update how it certifies the sales of digital albums. The announcement was made in a post on the RIAA’s website. Initially, SoundScan, which monitors album sales, contended that Hova would be unable to claim Samsung’s purchases as instant platinum status because it didn’t count bulk sales. However, the RIAA, whose Gold & Platinum (G&P) Program awards gold and platinum certifications, sighted a minimum of 30 days of availability before an album could be considered for a gold or platinum plaque. But, they admit that rule has became antiquated because when an album is sold digitally, very rarely is it actually returned.”
J. COLE’S “BORN SINNER” VS. KANYE WEST’S “YEEZUS”
My favorite tracks on Cole’s “Born Sinner” include the “Mo’ Money” Interlude, which is the highlight of the CD for me; “Rich N****z”, “Chaining Day”, and “Crooked Smile” featuring TLC ala “Chilli” and T-Boz. The most poignant line on the record is “Don’t take these chains from me cause I love this slavery,” from “Chaining Day.” Gimmies on the project are the tracks “Power Trip” w/ Miguel and “She Knows” w/ Amber Coffman, that are already getting love on the radio. J. steps out-of-the-box on his production on the tracks “Trouble” and the title track “Born Sinner” featuring @Fantleroy. I appreciated his approach, him challenging the boundaries of his artistry in efforts to embrace and infuse other elements of music in Hip-Hop. Both J. Cole and Kanye West made valiant decisions regarding the production of their new releases.
I’m also feeling “Miss America” and “New York Times” featuring 50 Cent & Bas from the bonus disc from J.’s CD. “Miss America” is a political offering that features the sample of JFK saying: “Ask not what your country can do for you…” The song “Sparks Will Fly” w/ Jhene Aiko is a nice tribute song to his significant or just females in general, considering the several “bitch” and “ho” references, granted they may all be applicable to the “bitch” or “ho” in question. There’s something about the “Bonus” CD that’s kinda whack for the kid that had to save up to buy a new album though to me — why not just give it all to the fan on one CD? The standard version also features the song “Forbidden Fruit” w/ Kendrick Lamar.
To Compare The Two SIDE-BY-SIDE: J. Cole’s CD is one that’s saying he’s glad he finally made it, while Kanye West’s album reeks with the spoils of war. Cole is happy to be alive and singing about making money despite his sins, while West is screaming about the pitfalls of money behind his sins. You can play J. Cole’s record at the Barbecue in the park this summer, you can only play Kanye’s music at home after dark, cause for most of the general public it’s a stunner. While neither album is a masterpiece, I like aspects of both.
Kanye West’s “Black Skinhead” and “Blood on the Leaves” are my favorites on his new opus. These two tracks actually speak to me and make the album. The latter features a sample from Nina Simone’s version of “Strange Fruit.” “I Am A God” and “Hold My Liquor” epitomize why he’s the Ni**er we love to hate, yet the latter track speaks aspects of truth in “Yeezy” fashion. Justin Vernon’s featured performance is the best part of the track “I’m In It,” making it kinda cool. The CD also includes the single “New Slaves,” the buzz track — it only speaks to people in his own circle and the delusional, not responsible adults. Additional tracks include “Guilt Trip”, the trifling “Send It Up” and “Bound 2,” which features a sample from The Ponderosa Twins’ song “Bound.” A group that was around in the 70s, the sample makes it tolerable for me. Great production on the album overall, the stuff he spews is just continuous WTF?!?! West worked with Daft Punk on the project, then Rick Rubin for finishing touches. Love ’em or not, both CDs ARE Hip-Hop — but I can care less about the comments of guilty success that either these two render, liken to the same sentiment from Drake, who epitomizes that absurd emotion — that ain’t Hip-Hop.
“Black Skinhead” is the musical backdrop for the trailer of Martin Scorsese’s new film “The Wolf of Wall Street,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
UPDATE 07/03/13: “Yeezus” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200; In its second week in stores, sales for West’s “Yeezus” reportedly dropped 80 percent, knocking the album out of its chart-topping spot. According to Billboard, “Yeezus” sold 65,000 copies in its second week, down from 327,000 copies in the first week. West’s mediocre second-week sales bring his sixth solo studio album to the No. 3 spot on the Billboard 200. “Yeezus” comes in third to Wale’s “The Gifted,” which topped the chart this week, and J. Cole’s “Born Sinner,” which maintained its No. 2 spot. “Born Sinner” also had a drop in sales this week, selling 84,000 against its debut week sales of 297,000.
Despite my discernment when it comes to an artistic presentation and having the basic skill set of knowing when and what words not to use, the millions of youngsters that buy records don’t always have this in common. Having said that, the “N” word is ever prevalent in Hip-Hop. I just think it’s tired, but more than that record labels want our children to keep using the “N” word so they look ignorant and continue to be counted out. On a positive note, some ol’ skool cats got together… yes, “ol’ skool cats”, and created the website http://multihop.tv. Multi-Hop is dedicated to preserving and promoting all things positive in Hip-Hop. The INTERNATIONAL Landscape of Hip-Hop is a whole ‘nother blog. Bamboo pictured above is from Kenya and only raps in Swahili, but he’s based here in the U.S. That essentially puts TODAY in Hip-Hop, in a nutshell for me — as for YESTERDAY, my back in the day precedes “Jigga”. Props to his “Unreasonable Doubt”, but by the time that dropped, pioneers had already done it to where rap was mainstream. Run DMC had already “crossed over,” so “rap” was a household word in the suburbs, as well as the hood. Middle America had begun to embrace the genre, that many in the same communities, had once shunned.
While I worked at MTV, I submitted my list of “Top-10” All Time Favorite Hip-Hop Albums. In lieu of the fact that everyone picked Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic”, I was asked to choose an alternate, so the overall list from every contributor wouldn’t feature that CD. So I chose a second Public Enemy album that I stand by. That list was generated in 2001, since then there’s been a few more that I’ve come to consider the dopest albums in rap, here’s my Top-20 (ish) — in no particular order.
The MTV List make up the first ten as rendered about 10 years ago:
20. Tupac Shakur aka 2Pac has dropped several gems, but there’s not one album front to back I can say is a favorite. “All Eyez On Me” would probably be the closest if I HAD to pick ONE, but I’d be leaving out songs like “I Get Around” & “Keep Ya Head Up”, “Dear Mama”, “Brenda’s Got a Baby”, “So Many Tears”, “Until The End of Time” … Tupac was so significant to the genre of Hip-Hop, as his presence altered people’s overall perception of it. I have Pac at #20, because while there’s no one CD of his I chose, there’s no way I could not have him on this list.
The list of those instrumental in Hip-Hop is a long one — Lil’ John, DMX, Cypress Hill, the Sugar Hill Gang, Nelly, Salt -N- Pepa, Xzibit, Dead Prez, LL Cool J, N*E*R*D, Afrika Bambaattaa, Busta Rhymes, Rah Digga, Three-Six Mafia, Wyclef, Eve (who’s scheduled to drop a new CD this year), Pete Rock, G-Unit… Ed OG & Da Bulldogs, Camp Lo, 7669 — Far too many for me to mention them all here, as I have to curb myself from making blogs TOO long. Queen Latifah and Will Smith are two entertainers to really take Hip-Hop and run with it – have to acknowledge that. MC Lyte is to be the Executive Producer for a new “Reality Series.” Titled “Hip-Hop Sisters,” it’s set to air on BET. The show will feature Monie Love, Lil Mama, Yo Yo, MC Smooth, Lady of Rage and MC Lyte attempting to resurrect their successful careers. No word yet on when it actually hits the tube.
This piece is all about the music and MCs, but LET IT BE STATED, that I fully acknowledge THE DJ — Shout Outs to Kid Capri, D-Nice, Kool DJ Red Alert and Chuck Chillout; Icons Cool Herc and Russell Simmons; BREAK DANCING and GRAFFITI ART as significant elements of Hip-Hop. Quincy Jones once said “Hip-Hop is the new Bee-Bop man”… An old Doo-Wop group had a song that went “Rock and Roll is here to stay, it will never die”… Gene Simmons of KISS stated “Hip-Hop is the new Rock-n-Roll, all the stuff the rappers are doing, we were doing years ago” – not verbatim, but basically. Apart from that, see my recent “Open Letter” to Dr. Dre… http://museumofuncutfunk.com/2013/06/16/what-da-funk-dre-wheres-the-album-at/
for the LOVE of HIP-HOP