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|Sun, April 03, 2005 at 11:54 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
Do or Die continue their journey into Hip-Hop pimpin' and gangsta music with their latest release "D.O.D." Featuring production from the likes of Kanye West, R.Kelly, DJ Quik and NO ID, the album is an ode to their Chicago Hip-Hop roots and they do their best to represent their city to the fullest.
The album is a mix of ups and downs, hardcore and laid-back and good music and disappointments. Some of its greatest struggles are on the tracks featuring well-known music figures (i.e. - "Church" featuring DJ Quik and "Higher" featuring Kanye West, which was the album's first radio and video release). Exceptions are made as in the R.Kelly produced and featured "Magic Chick" which SHOULD'VE been the first release (note: definite club-banger) as well as "U Already Know" featuring Remy Ma, 1st Lady of Terror Squad.
If nothing else, Do or Die made sure they didn't disappoint the gangstas. For the prison yard playas, there's "Chain of Command" which explains protocol in the hood. Then there's "Wa Da Da Dang" which is not only for the prison yard but also might bring a tear to the eye of lifers.
Having been gone for awhile, Do or Die makes a valiant effort to inject themselves back into the game. However, a lack of radio-friendly tracks as well as club-bangers and too many average tracks leaves this release short of the numbers they're expecting.
BV Rating: 3 out of 5 BVs
Do Or Die - D.O.D. EPK
|Wed, March 30, 2005 at 11:59 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
With a last name like Hathaway one would expect nothing less then great musical ability. A more mature Lalah has completed her second opus that took more then ten years to complete the project. Lalah Hathaway has a full mournful sound unique to her. With a two-decade long career, her latest album, Outrun The Sky might be her best effort to date. Her ability to woo listeners into submission remains unquestioned. Yet there is something new on this album, more of a concern with good music and staying clear of titles. On a day the singer had a few minutes to catch her breath with such a hectic schedule I was able to catch up with the soulful diva by phone to talk about a long awaited album that may land her credit well deserved.
BV: It has been a long time since your debut album and it seems to have been a number of peeks and valleys in your career?
Lalah: I was working the whole time. It did not seem like it was ten years, but it was. I had a hard time trying to find someone to pay to get the album done and to get it done right. I was working the entire time that I was trying to find the right person with the right deal to produce the album.
BV: You have been called an R&B artist and a Jazz artist, do you think you have found your niche?
Lalah:I stay clear of titles so the listener and fan can call it what they need to call it. I want a person to call my music what or how it makes them feel. If it makes them feel like jazz then it is jazz, if it makes them feel R&B
then it is R&B. I call it good music and try to stay clear of labels and getting boxed in.
BV: Often I have heard you compared to Nancy Wilson, How does that make you feel being compared to the jazz legend.
Lalah:I think Nancy Wilson is a wonderful person. People come up with titles and comparisons that make them feel comfortable and it is OK.
BV: The song "Admit It" refers to the silly things men do, what have been some of the silly thing that you have experienced and are you in a successful relationship now?
Lalah:I actually did not write that particular song. I would not share the personal things that would occur in a relationship in that manner, in a song nor would I tell something like that in a interview. I think it is far too personal. Presently, I am not in a relationship.
BV: In Luther Vandross' video "Dance With My Father," you and Nona Gaye held photos of your fathers, while other famous singers danced with their fathers, How did you feel being apart of that project?
Lalah: I was happy to be involved in that project and the video. I was very pleased to be in it with my sister Nona. We both had fathers that were known and still known for their musical contributions. Both of our fathers are deceased and could not be with us in the video. I was honored to
have been included in the project. It is a great song and I was among some great people in that song and video.
BV: Your look has changed, very sexy to your dreads what personal things have occurred on the inside that have manifested in the transformation of your outer appearance?
Lalah: The hair was something that I wanted to do a very long time ago and the record company said it was not a good idea 15 or 16 years ago. I did not go through any transformation at all other then I wanted to change my look. I have always loved dreads and wanted them, but my record company did not think it was something that was a good idea.
When I had an opportunity and was no longer constrained by the opinion of others and changed r
|Tue, March 29, 2005 at 11:59 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
So I know I've probably already garnered quite a reputation with you all for gettin' my hate on with this column. Nevertheless, I'm one to keep things consistent, so it must continue: I was laughing my entire high yellow behind off when I heard the news of Lil' Kim getting convicted of perjury a couple weeks ago. Absolutely hilarious. Think about it; this is the "Queen B%@#"... The chick with far more flash than cash to back her excess up. The chick who had a "The Fabulous Life of Lil' Kim" program on VH1 in 2004 after not having a noteworthy single in years. The chick with gratuitous television sets in the back headrests of her vehicle. Can the walking manifestation of couture culture bone up and make it on just three hots and a cot?!? I'm tuning in like the O.J. trial to find out!
But no seriously...Lil' Kim may be the first high-profile female rapper to do a real bid, but she is far, far from the only rapper with a rap sheet. Literally every single time I crack open a Vibe or Source magazine, I read about some multi-million dollar earning artist being brought up on charges. And I'm not talking about marijuana possession (hell, that's everyone). Now, yours truly never claimed to be rocking a halo over his dome piece, but, given that my working-class a*s trudges out of the sack five mornings a week to put in work for a living, a huge influx of fame and riches would make me less inclined to behave in a fashion that could take it all away in a fell swoop.
Take P. Diddy, for example. Despite a fledgling record label and ever-increasing MTV "coonery," the man has been worth at least a couple hundred million for some years now. He's a college-educated dude with a business savvy that has allowed him to amass nothing short of an empire. So why in 1999 - not too far from his prime - did he risk throwing it all to Hades by attacking Steve Stoute? WHY did he get tied up in that whole mess with the guns and the club and Shyne (who I really do believe took a rap for him)? In the same year, Jay-Z, who sold a metric ass-ton of his Volume 2: Hard Knock Life album just the year prior, broke out a knife and sliced producer Lance "Un" Rivera in a nightclub. Why?!?!? What substantial reason could he possibly have had for risking everything that was coming to him? Had he gotten anything near the max sentence for that move, he'd still be in prison, missing out on the goo-gobs of money he's making now while allowing himself to be a prime example of what that kid in "A Bronx Tale" was talking about "wasted talent."
A more socially pertinent issue is that all these locked up rappers give salt to the controversial "you can take the man out the hood, but you can't take the hood out the man" adage. You got Beanie Sigel, one of the streetwise rappers that Jay-Z "saved" by way of record contract, sitting in a cage right now, having been charged with attempted murder. You got Young Buck getting pinched for allegedly stabbing someone at the Source Awards show. You got The Game, selling a decent buttload for a debut artist, yet still gangbanging with his boys for all to read in Vibe Magazine. I could keep going, but you get the idea...
I think it's insulting and entirely defeatist to presume that a man who grew up in the thug life can't turn things around with money and a bit of fame. If that's true, the concept of rehabilitation is donkey sh*t, and you may as well leave all these young black men to rot in jail forever. I mean, if you had more loot than you knew what to do with, wouldn't you make an EXTRA effort to stay outa trouble? The "hood mentality" applied to many of these rappers when they were in places of despair with nothing to lose; therefore, shouldn't the ability to raise up out of the hood and start over so gra
|Tue, March 22, 2005 at 11:59 PM|
Seems like the conscious lot of us hip-hop fans are always discussing what should be considered "real" hip-hop, as opposed to rap, pop, commercialized trash, etc. Depending on whom you talk to or what message board you browse, you will get differing opinions on the topic (some consider Busta Rhymes and Jadakiss "real;" others wont go within 10 feet within their albums). There exists no constant in quality, but more often than not, those of us with ears rooted in the New York City sound are most likely to dismiss music from artists with stage names containing "pimp," "pusha," "`Lil," "dollas," "tricky," "trick nasty" or whatever the hell.
Sure, I've always been an Outkast fan. I dig Goodie Mob, I appreciate Ludacris and you could've even caught me bumpin' an Eightball track back in the day. But on most accounts, my ears cringe when Dirty South rap is being played. When the music drops, it's always the same ridiculous chanting hook; the same formulaic verb-adjective-noun time and again: "F*ck that bitch! Suck that d*ck! Slang dem thangs!" A 7-year-old with enough exposure Chris Rock stand-ups could piece this interchangeable sh*t together.
"All my n*ggas in the back! All my b*tches in the front! Do *veerrrrrrrbbbb* and get low!" Unless I'm in the club shaking my a*s or in a strip bar watching a female shake her a*s (among other body parts), I can only listen to this for, oh, about three seconds before I wanna either hang myself or change the station. Clearly I always opt for the latter.
Despite my personal feelings about the music, I was forced a few years ago to recognize that southern rap is indeed a sub-genre...so distinct in its intentions that it truly does serve some purpose outside of that of what we call real hip-hop. Just like there are numerous variations of country and rock music, the same can be said for rap. I never thought the above words would flow from my fingers five years ago, but maturity and a closer analysis of the art opened my eyes.
And admittedly, I also had a hand from Lil' Jon in this.
Under normal circumstances, his apathetic, incoherent rhyme style would have caused me to dismiss him altogether. But it all started with his first big single, "Bia Bia" with Ludacris: In the summer of 2001, I was working a tiring construction labor job and I needed the levity that the song's ridiculous bass line provided.
The following years would see his uniqueness appease the masses (with a little help from a Dave Chappelle skit) and send him to the top of the charts. But here's the thing: Lil' Jon is not about to tell you he's hip-hop's all-time king; the man knows his place in the game, and he doesn't have a problem with that (so long as that cheddar is flowing lovely). But some of these cookie cutter rappers have illusions of grandeur, and therein lies the problem. When I read a 50 Cent interview talking about him challenging Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
|Mon, March 14, 2005 at 11:59 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
The equivalent of the fat chick in the club surrounded by her many fine friends, many of hip-hop's crews, clicks, and even duos have simply unnecessary crew members that either provide nothing to the success of the group, or actually do something to bring it down. In many cases, it's an issue of the person who blows first bringing his less-talented boys along for the ride. Truth is, we've spent time and money through the years basically waiting for these bozos to finish their verses so we can move on with the rest of a hot song. In the rap world, there are many. Here's my top 10:
10. Sonsee (Onyx) - Seems like you couldn't watch any movie or television show in the 1990's involving street life in New York City without seeing Fredro Starr or Sticky Fingaz make a cameo appearance (the latter as the typecast bad dude). Of course, they both made an indelible imprint in the hip-hop as members of the hardcore group Onyx. Save the group's first album, Onyx has always been a trio. But Sonsee has managed to remain so low-key for years that even all that shouting on wax hasn't done much for him. It's not to say that he is way less talented than the other two, but two bits to a bottle of piss says he's still chillin' in the hood somewhere, trying to milk every bit of revenue from Bacdafucup he possibly can.
9. Freekey Zeekey (The Diplomats) - So to be the useless cat in a whole crew of useless rappers has to be some kind of achievement. Listening to Cam'ron and his posse is the guiltiest pleasure this side of "Desperate Housewives", but I oftentimes find myself mesmerized by the straight fire Heatmakerz beats while completely drowning out the lyrics. And as much as I detest Juelz Santana and ignore Jim Jones, I know even less about this dude. He could walk in my apartment and start rapping to me right now and I wouldn't be the wiser.
8. Murphy Lee - When I worked for the newspaper in Cincinnati, I was supposed to interview this cat for a concert appearance. Aside from being completely unprofessional yutzes, his "public relations" (and I use that term loosely) people did not behave in a manner that was indicative of the fact that their guy is damn near a total nobody, who wouldn't have made it as far as he did had Nelly not carried his sorry, dreaded along for his ride to the top of pop music charts. I never did interview him, and I just recently deleted his ridiculous voice mail (froassm a too-late return call) from my cell phone. Murph Lee had one, semi-hit single from an album, Murphy's Law, that maybe four people paid money for. This man will never achieve greatness.
7. and 6. - Pretty Lou and Spigg Nice (Lost Boyz) - I mean, what did these cats EVER do? Honestly?!?!?
5. U-God (Wu-Tang) - Now virtually the entire clan had some strength or personality trait that allowed them to stand out from the others. More importantly, each one had at least a decent solo album to their credit. Not this guy. Golden Armz is probably remembered most fondly by die-hard Wu fans, and by everyone else as that light-skinned dude who's most memorable quote was "She ain't got no panties on, son!" from when he was in Japan filming the documentary The Show. And let's be real...only a handful of us can run to our CD towers and pull out his lackluster solo effort, Golden Armz Redemption. Redemption? Not quite.
4. Pras (The Fugees) - In all fairness, Prakazrel is one of the more talented people on this list, but that isn't saying a whole hell of a lot. And when you are flanked by two people that ooze enough raw talent to make one of the only full hip-hop LP's worth the Grammys it earned, chances are you are gonna catch hell for not being stellar in your own right. While I liked Wyclef's The Carnival and everyone liked Lauryn'
|Mon, March 07, 2005 at 11:59 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
'Tis an exciting time for hip-hop right now, what with all the beefs cooking in the air; expect a lot to happen in the coming months. Truth is, the first quarter of every year is historically weak as far as quality music is concerned, and this one is no exception. It kinda makes me wonder if the inevitable battles on the horizon are designed to offset the boredom of the final winter months. Hmmm...
Being the helpful columnist that I am, here's my breakdown of some of the latest noteworthy music:
The Game's The Documentary is actually one of the more listenable albums right now; the caveat being there's very little as far as full-length LP's that anyone cares about right now. Now, Game is pretty sparse on the microphone, and he acts like more of a fan on his album than an emcee. N*gga thinks he's a member of N.W.A., but no one is really moved by his clichéd crippin' hood tales. Dre took care of you and brought you to Interscope. Super. Don't fill an album full of tracks talking about...just...that. Thing is, the man DOES have a good ear for beats. Just Blaze and Kanye came correct, along with Havoc, who dropped the best beat I've head from him in years. Even after that though, this album is strictly download fodder.
Beanie Sigel's The B. Coming advance leaked, and there's really no telling how close it is to the retail. The advance plays out like pretty much his previous two albums: two or three decent cuts and a whole buncha filler tracks. "Feel It In The Air" is the hottest, but it quickly gets tepid after that. Beans, being the complete a*srag that most rappers making tons of money are, got into some serious legal trouble, so this may be it from him for a while. From the sounds of things, doesn't look like he'll be terribly missed...
Cormega's The Testament dropped and no one cared. Honestly, he never functioned that well as a solo emcee and he suffers from the watered down new-school Queensbridge sound. He'll never be Nas. He'll never be AZ. He needs to find a new profession.
Porn star Heather Hunter has a new single out! Heather Hunter?? Name recognition, coupled with production credit by DJ Premier, caused me to give the joint a listen. But let's be frank: male friends can't take an emcee seriously if they've been strictly beating meat to her for a decade. And though I had a small, optimistic glimmer of hope that maybe a female rapper could transcend the usual slew of `b*tch and ho,' I'm-gonna-take-your-man-and-please-him-right lyrics, she disappoints. Never mind the fact that Primo must've been asleep when he made that dime-store beat. Stupid me for thinking the star of "Screw The Right Thing" could come correct on the mic.
One.Be.Lo's record S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M. is most definitely worth checking out. Apparently the former One Man Army had to change his name Common-style for legal reasons, but with his low-brow underground status, many heads didn't really know of him before now. He dropped the hidden gem Masters of the Universe as one half of Binary Star a few years back, but it got most of its attention by cats in his home state of Michigan. This new joint isn't a true gem, but your wallet won't miss the money for his CD.
Speaking of Michigan cats, I can't WAIT for Elzhi to drop his record! The Growth Mixtape was the biggest c*cktease of 2004, with it's damn snippets just priming a brotha for what's to come! My anticipation radar is on Common/Kanye/Elzhi for 2005. "Love It Here" is one of the leaked full-length joints. Find it. Now!
And unsurprisingly, 50 Cent's The Massacre sucks. It sucks BAD. It transcends all levels of sh*ttiness previously achieved by him before. I didn't get into Get Rich Or Die Tryin
|Sun, February 27, 2005 at 11:58 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
Hidden Gem of the Week - "Enecs Eht No Kcab" by One.Be.Lo.
"CLUE! CLUE! CLUE! NEW SH*T! NEW SH*T!"
So when did mixtapes, an important yet unappreciated altering staple of the hip-hop genre, turn into compilation albums? I'm not entirely sure, but if I had to point a finger, it'd be at the mofo responsible for the above quote. We all remember back in the late 1990's when DJ Clue dropped the hot mixtapes, polluting them by yelling his damn name on every damn track.
Seems Clue passed that obnoxious trend right along. J. Love, Dame Dash; you name a mixtape host or DJ puttin' out tapes and chances are they got some sh*t to say right as the beat drops. It really serves no real purpose but to remind the listener that it's an "exclusive" (read: about two nanoseconds from spreading all over the Internet). Anything to get your name out there, I suppose. I guess I can forgive the madness, though; `cause those DJ's are putting out joints essential in keeping on top of the latest sounds; in many cases, they contain singles that you can hear uncensored before they even hit the radio. So for that I'll deal with the occasional holler.
But see, what Clue pioneered shouldn't really be called a mixtape unless you adopt a very liberal usage of the term. The word "mixtape" denotes a set of songs that blend into each other using scratches. So-called mixtapes are often commercialized items straight from the major labels, failing to do justice to the essence of the real mixtapes. In sum, if a song ends, and you can hit the track skip button and be onto an entirely different, independent song, you aren't listening to a genuine mixtape.
So most mixTAPES aren't actually TAPES anymore. So what?!? The industry got with the times and switched over to the clearer, crisper medium of compact discs, which is damned fine as far as I'm concerned, but there many purists (read: backpacking punks refusing to get with the times) out there that stay loyal to the cassette tape format.
A trend I `m seeing more and more of these days are the influx of remix albums. Go to sandboxautomatic.com and you can cop mixes of just about every artist you love. Peep Nas's Carry the Cross by DJ Lights Out as a quality example. And, of course, you have your mixtapes put out by the artist rhyming over existing beats, which can be amazingly effective if done properly; Talib Kweli managed to make solid product (better than his studio album) doing that in 2004.
I don't have the equipment or skills to make a quality mix CD, but if I could, here's a few I would jam onto an 80-minute CD-R...
-Wu-Tang and affiliate finest cuts
-Nas finest cuts
-DJ Premier "best of" mix
-Pete Rock too, for that matter
-A mix of the best songs from 1995 and 1996
-Ras Kass rhyming over instrumentals that don't suck
-Diggin' In The Crates mix
|Tue, February 22, 2005 at 11:59 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
Hidden Gem of the Week: Evaridae - O.C. feat Pharoahe Monch
As you could probably imagine, I never expect a whole hell of a lot from the Grammy awards show. The show seldom hits the jackpot as far as giving necessary props to quality hip-hop...though I admit even I would've had a hell of a time picking Best Rap Album in 1996, and I'm not mad at the committee's choice: Fugees' The Score.
Sure they hit it eeeeevery now and again. Kanye West, hands down, deserved the best album Grammy for The College Dropout. It was 2004's finest album; even more impressive considering the fact that it dropped in February. But I keep in the back of my mind the fact that, in true bullsh*t Grammy splendor, the main reason for the win was none other than "Jesus Walks". Truth is, that song is actually among the albums weakest; not to say that it's bad, but I was listening to it some 32,443,204 years before the album came out, and I never cared for it. But though I usually make it a point to speak out against the evils of Christianity whenever I get a chance, I respect the otherwise positive message of the song, and I'm glad a hip-hop joint with a respectable topic could garner a Grammy.
But if you took a close look at `Ye as he accepted that award last Sunday, you may have noticed an excessive amount of cranial inflation...dude's head is so big he can fit Star Jones in that bad boy (well...almost). It was no more so evidenced than when he b*tched and moaned at the AMA awards because he lost the Best New Artist award over country singer Gretchen Wilson. And he KEPT complaining about it even AFTER his Grammy wins! Come on, Kanye...stop embarrassing your momma and have some humility, for f*ck's sake!
But my elation at seeing this artist with substantial talent get mainstream due is overshadowed by a lingering concern: I'm afraid Kanye is steering toward a trend where his production will oversaturate the radio waves and suffer from rapidly diminishing quality. Peep his production credits, and you'll see he's worked with just about everyone under the sun in the course of about a year. Unfortunately, I can't say the boy has been consistent. His work has ranged from the sonic stars (Alicia's "You Don't Know My Name"; Twista's "Overnight Celebrity") to the depths of rushed-beat hell (Brandy's "Talk About Our Love").
To make matters worse, he keeps feeling himself to vomit-inducing lengths in interviews, screaming about how so damn good he is and how many records he's gonna sell the next time around. Granted, I can't wait for Late Registration but I think he's feelin' the fame, the props and the dough a tad too tough. A buddy once shared advice about our field of journalism: "If you start to think you're the sh*t too much, you're done." I imagine the same rings true for the music industry. I'm not too concerned about sales for his next album, but since pop music, and pop music sales, revolve around that next hot single, Kanye better produce another public-grabbing "Jesus Walks" -caliber piece or else he'll be chewing his words through that wired jaw of his