Newest joint off the fly high specialists upcoming release, Covert Coup. The entire album is produced by The Alchemist, and drops on 4/20, duh. I was concerned when Spitta signed with Warner Bros (they dropped the Wiz Khalifa ball), but working with Alan on this project expels all my angst. There will be no looking past this project to Pilot Talk III for me.
Peep artwork and tracklist after the jump.
For some inexplicable reason, most battle rappers have little to no career on wax.It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, because by being a successful battler you have proven that you have lyricism, hunger, creativity, wit, and the ability to move a crowd. Allof which are extremely important to having a fruitful long-term career. Yet guys like NoCanDo, Murda Mook, and Okwerdz (who’s styles are all completely different) only have small cult followings at best. Personally I haven’t spent that much time following the battle rap circuit (although I did go to the Redbull Freestyle Battle in SF which was dope), but Locksmith has always been a battle rapper that I’ve wanted to see succeed.
It started as a teen when I watched him on some MTV battle competition, repping the Bay ridiculously hard. He get robbed by some garbage ass rapper named Reign Man, but despite the undeserved L, I was immediately a fan. There’s no way you can tell me that he lost with lines like “What I’m spitting is raw/you probably the only person togo to a sperm bank with a straw” and “step up and get smacked down/ I’ll treat you like the asian dude from The Neptunes and make you play the background”. Anyways, he then teamed up with fellow Richmond native, Left, and formed The Frontline. Backed by production from E-A-Ski, who at times was considered the Dr. Dre of The Bay, the duo dropped two dope albums and owned local radio, back when the stations actually attempted to dedicate time to local music, with regional hits like “What Is It” and “BangIt”.
After that, it seems like in a blink of an eye Locksmith, Frontline, and E-A-Ski fell off the face of the map. I had a homey who said he saw Left a few years ago on Telegraph all hipstered out with a mohawk and skinny jeans, but I could never imagine Lock going down that road. He seemed too angry, too prideful, and too raw to follow some lame ass trend.
Luckily 2009 saw Locksmith and E-A-Ski reemerge. While the quantity of music was limited, the quality should have more than satisfied fans. E-A-Ski has said he took a hiatus from releasing music to redevelop his sound, and while recently his audio has been sounding crisp, and less oriented to the club, it’s really Locksmith who has been coming off as a reborn artist. His focus must be ridiculous. Cuz on tracks like “RareForm”, he seemed to be rhyming every syllable. Yet the battle rapper in him made sure that at the end of the day, each line made perfect sense.
For producers that are unafraid to sample, they take a lot of pride in sample selection. Not only does flipping a sample show the producer’s proficiency in the art of beat making, but it also gives insight into their personal taste of music outside of hip-hop. Having the uncanny ability to dig into rare music and find gems that have been lost to the world is in itself enough to propel beat smiths into the stuff of legends. Additionally using a sample that has been unused says a lot about the producer’s knowledge and awareness of other hip-hop around him. So as a listener, when I hear the same sample used in different songs, it either says to me that the two producers are completely unaware of each other’s music, or that one truly loved the original track so much that they wanted to make a beat out of it no matter who else had already done it. It’s also a legit way to compare producers. Just like having Nas and Jay-Z on the same track will always spark the conversation of who’s better, knowing that both Pete Rock and DJ Premier sampled Ahmad Jamal’s “I Love Music” will start a similar debate. While comparing beats from different periods in time is a little unfair due to progress in technology, the conversation gets really interesting when the same sample is used by two different producers in the same year. Last month we discussed this phenomenon when Big K.R.I.T. utilized the same samples as tracks from the Bay Area’s Moe Green and Davinci. I really appreciated the conversation that that piece started so we’re back at it again, with some of the usual suspects.
Before we get into it, let me say one time, this conversation will be infinitely better with your input, so get at us and leave a comment. That goes to the other writers at ZIF as well!
Round 1: Big K.R.I.T. vs. Black Spade
In this case, Mississippi’s Big K.R.I.T. is back again, with another song off his monstrous K.R.I.T. Wuz Here project which is still available for free download here, and has recently been chopped and screwed by legendary Swisha House DJ Michael “5000” Watts here. Last month he went up against Moe Green and Davinci, but this time with the assistance of Curren$y and Smoke DZA, he’s looking at St. Louis’s Black Spade, who recently released his own free project Build and Destroy, which can be found here .
Sample: The sample comes from legendary Jazz drummer Billy Cobham’s 1974 album Crosswinds. So take some time to vibe out to “Heather” first, and then see what the producers have chosen to do with it.
Lyrics: This is the only track today that features a singer, so Black Spade definitely deserves credit for including Coultrain in the mix. His sound fits the mood of the beat well. In terms of Spade’s bars, I like the content a lot. It’s personal, thoughtful, questioning, observant, and nostalgic. We need more content like this, and the fact that he chose to do it all in one verse allows him to touch on so much. Unfortunately his technical ability as an MC isn’t on top display. His delivery and rhyme patterns are nothing beyond straight forward.
Beat: After a little research I found out that Stoneyrock is another name Black Spade uses when he produces. In any case, this probably isn’t the best example of his production abilities. The sample selection is obviously ill and fits the mood of the track perfectly, but he doesn’t do much beyond reorganize the sample. There aren’t really drums or any other added elements.
Lyrics: First of all, when you have a line up like this, you know it’s going to be hard to top. These are three MC’s that have been grinding ridiculously hard over the past year or two to great acclaim, and although they have started to gain recognition, they are all early enough in their careers to have that hunger that hip-hop fans crave to hear translated into music. In this case they go in about their all star MC abilities using football imagery throughout. It sounds kind of typical and unoriginal, but for some reason when mixed with the melancholiness of the beat it doesn’t come off as arrogant and played out. Instead it gives the sense that they are aware of their talents and kind of worried that they will never reach the success that they deserve. WINNER
Beat: K.R.I.T. is an incredibly diverse producer. While at times his music exudes pride in his southern routes, on other tracks like “No Wheaties” he’s able to provide listeners with a soundscape that is devoid of regional associations. In this case, everything is done simply: the sample is allowed to play rather than getting really chopped up and the drums don’t change much or overpower the music. Yet the end result sounds cohesive and tasteful. The organization of the sample is great as well. The sax fits perfectly for the chorus is reminiscent of Pete Rock. I also am really feeling the way the drums start in the very beginning of the track. Overall, this has a lot of replay value. WINNER
Tomorrow I am venturing into the debauchery-fueled jungles known as Bachelor Party. It’s roughly three hours from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe and therefore, I have ample time to bump some of the new music I’ve been digging. Here’s a little sample of what I’ve been effing with lately:
Big Boi-”Shine Blockaz”(Remix feat Bun B., Gucci Mane and Project Pat)
Curren$y-”The Day”(feat.Mos Def and Jay Electronica)
Cut Copy-”Where I’m Going”
Marina and the Diamonds-”Oh No!”
Brand new day, brand new music. Only on ZIF.
I have to admit, I was later than most to get into Curren$y. Being affiliated with No Limit and/or Young Money probably disinterests me more than it excites me, so I never really felt an urgency to hear what he had to offer. Jordan, my homie from the ‘Sco, vouched for him a lot though, so I decided to give him a serious listen a few months ago. On the first spin I thought he was mumbling for an entire song so I turned it off. The second time I gave him a chance, I began to follow what he said and I was light weight feeling it. By third listen his talent really broke through to me and I found myself immediately copping The Smokee Robinson mixtape with Don Cannon, and the How Fly tape with Wiz Khalifa (another MC I took an ambien nap on). I have now come around and strongly believe that Spitta deserves the name, no question. Still one thing that he and Khalifa do endlessly on just about every track is shout out their crews, FS Jets and Taylor Gang respectively, without really featuring them or letting the listeners know who they are. Although the majority of the members of both crews probably lack most of the talent that their front runners were blessed with, like every other rap crew in existence (Flipmode anybody?), after hearing FS Jets shouted out so many times I wanted to know who was actually in it!
Two days ago, I was pleased to have The Smoking Section answer a small portion of that question for me. Trademark Da Sky Diver is a member of FS Jets, and he just released a free mixtape entitled Super Villain (get it here). Now I literally know nothing about Trademark beyond his affiliation, but after listening to this project, he’s all right with me. The way he delivers his syllables is very similar to Curren$y, as is his subject matter, but his voice has a much smoother quality to it. He chose a bunch of laid back instrumentals that fit his love of the good herb, and also give his project a very cohesive feel. Although for better or worse, I must say that despite the title of the album and the cover artwork, there is nothing really villainous or comic book esque about the project. Still if you are a fan of Curren$y (if you’re not give him another chance, I’m still glad I did), I can’t imagine you disliking this in any way. He’s not as distinctive or creative as the captain of The Jets, and I can’t imagine him becoming a star, but if you’re looking for some cool, easy to listen to hip-hop, that won’t make your brain or your ears hurt, but still isn’t absurdly stupid, this is a good choice.
As always, if you want to hear a lil something before you decide whether or not to dive into downloading the tape, check out the video for “Oxygen”
Admittedly, I go through stages in regards to who my “favorite rapper” is at any given moment. Perhaps they are linked to my life mood. For a while it was Wiz Khalifa, alas, that was years ago, though I still have a personal attachment to that cat. After that I went through a Curren$y era and now it’s Pill. He’s like T.I., 11 years ago!
Watch out for next month, I plan on making Danny Brown my favorite rapper. #fairweatherfan
I’ve been playing Pac Div’s Don’t Mention It (do yourself a favor and download it now at: http://itspacdiv.com/) pretty consistently since it was released for free download in April. It slaps from beginning to end, while managing to hit a variety of subject matter and moods. It most definitely deserves your listen, and probably a full review from us. And while it’s a little too late for a review, it’s never too late to give something a listen. And if one – two months is too old for you, you probably have a very serious downloading problem, and aren’t giving very much of anything a full listen. I know I’ve been that way on a few too many occasions.
Anyways, while pretty much the entire album is impressive, I have been finding my self listening to one song more than the others. “Don’t Forget The Swishers” is a song I think most hip-hop fans can relate to. The lyrics are funny but honest and while the topic is pretty much getting fucked up and hitting on chicks, it’s done in an down to earth and relatable way, rather than saying that every night they put on their $500,000 necklace, roll up to the club on four quarters, buy out the bar, and then run trains on supermodels in the handicapped bathroom stall. In addition, while hip-hop choruses more often than not fail to please me, Pac DIv always seems to do a solid job with theirs. I find this hook enjoyable as hell, and catchier than the clap. I think we’ve all gave the same message or felt the same way as the chorus at at least one point in our lives, but hopefully, much more than that.
Shamefully this weeks pick for ZIF video of the week came down to this video and the Teairra Mari rendition of “Over”. The reasoning or merit behind these videos couldn’t be more polar, frankly, these videos are proverbial opposites. The work that Creative Control is doing with Curren$y and his video promotion has been simple, clean, humble, but most importantly, on point. They use crisp Canon camera’s, and keep everything looking gully while white collar friendly. Dame Dash knows the deal, obviously, the man wipes his ass with money he generates, out of his ass.
But check that Teairra Mari joint, it’s 2:41 seconds, just enough time for, you know…
Last night the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl for the first time ever, bringing a little hope and glory to a city in dire need of positive attention. New Orleans native Curren$y also scored a meaningful touchdown with the city this weekend, dropping the Smokee Robinson Mixtape. Curren$y is my favorite rapper to count on in a jiffy. For example, say you’re running out of the house and are in desperate need of a banging mixtape for the whip, Curren$y is your man. Scope a few of the tracks and click the album cover to download the fine product. Go Saints.
Leave it to the grassroots fans San Francisco to attract two of the backpack world’s finest for a charity night in support of Haiti. Jay Electronica is absolutely blistering the game right now, and Mos Def has been focused on a lot of production lately, making his existence all the more meaningful. Together they will put down a set for Haiti @ The Independent, 628 Divisadero, San Francisco, CA.
Sure it’s still early on in the nascent year, and yeah, another “spitter” could potentially arise and earn the lime light, but I really hope this pans out to be Curren$y’s 3-6-5. His nasally delivery and witty punchlines are some of the illest floating around the blogosphere lately, especially since he and Jay Electronica have become besties. And, I think I’m rooting for the guy because he’s been pinballed around so many labels. He also comes off as a dork in interviews, yet still viciously shreds the beats–and I dig the lion-in-sheepskin dynamic . Here’s his latest “Smash On O’Leary.”
Curren$y-Smash On O’Leary