(O)verly (D)edicated To Screw [Album Review]

I’ve always been a fan of chopped and screwed music. Although since I’m not from Texas, I have met practically no one else in existence that shares my liking of slowed down hip-hop. I think this could largely be due to the fact that although the music is a Southern phenomenon, a lot of Southern hip-hop is probably not best suited for the slowed down treatment. For one, the biggest draw to Southern rap is that most of the beats make you want to knock someone the fuck out. If they slow them down to the pace of a tortoise, all that aggression is lost. Then add to the fact that a lot of MC’s who get their music chopped and screwed unfortunately have simple ass rhymes, and slowing those down adds even more attention to the fact that practically no time or effort was put into writing the lyrics. With that in mind, I have been arguing for a while that chopped and screwed needs to spread it reaches further within hip-hop for it’s full potential to be explored. While a lot of club bangers shouldn’t be slowed down, it could have an interesting effect on more laid back instrumentals, a lá Dr. Dre’s “Exxplosive”. Similarly, while there is no need to over emphasize the lyrics of Young Joc, what about slowing down the bars of some truly complex MC’s? What would it sound like to hear Bone Thugs, Tech N9ne, early Outkast,  and even a Percee P or Jurassic 5, at a rate in which the average ear can fully recognize and appreciate the words being spat? My guess is that a lot more hip-hop fans would be converted to the chopped and screwed trend.

Well, finally we have a way to judge my hypothesis. This weekend, OG Ron C and DJ Candlestick, some of the originators of Texas’ Swisha House label, released a free chopped and screwed version of Kendrick Lamar’s most recent tape, (O)verly (D)edicated . This came totally out of left field for me. For one Kendrick isn’t a Southern MC, so you don’t expect Southern DJ’s to choose his project out of the immensity of quality music that has been released recently. Also, his style is so different, and more straight ahead hip-hop than most artists who get screwed. Yet on the other hand, after the release of OD, and the news that Kendrick is the new lyrical apprentice of Dr. Dre, it seems the whole country is starting to recognize how much of an incredible talent he really is.

Opposites Attract (Tomorrow W/O Her)

With that in mind, I think this project has mixed results. I don’t  want to get into a full on review of the merits of each song, because you can get that from my write up of the original OD, that I did when the project first came out. Instead, just looking at the effect of being chopped and screwed there are some ups and downs. At it’s best, hearing some of Kendrick’s most complex rhymes slowed down a few bpm’s allows you as a listener to fully catch and comprehend the meaning of his words. On songs like “Ignorance Is Bliss”, his flow is so crazy that I would get sucked into focusing on the cadence, but wouldn’t fully appreciate the meaning of the words being rapped. Yet when it’s decelerated, the average listener is able to absorb and appreciate that the message is incredible as well. Additionally, on tracks that have a more subdued mood like “Opposites Attract (Tomorrow W/O Her)” and “Cut You Off (To Get Closer)”, the decrease in tempo seems to enhance the reclusive and contemplative ambience that the music exudes. The first time I listened to this tape I was driving in the rain, and the slowed down version of these tracks seemed to match the aura of a cold and lethargic rainy afternoon in the city perfectly.

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2011 XXL Freshman 10 Prediction

Last week, I gave my predications for this year’s Bay Area Freshman 10. This week, we move up to my predictions on the national scene. As with last week, these are definitely not my 10 favorite up and coming rappers, but they are who I think best fit the criteria to make the XXL cover. Also, the videos included at the end are my guess at their most popular/well known tracks, not necessarily their most impressive, representative, or my personal favorites. As always, I strongly urge you the reader to prove me wrong, and let me know who you’re predictions are in the C section.

Kendrick Lamar: As my writing over the past year has shown, without question Kendrick Lamar is my favorite artist out of my predictions. Kendrick’s ability to constantly switch up his flow, and have some the best cadences in hip-hop, matched with his dedication and prowess in delivering meaningful and relatable lyrics, puts him in an elite category. While many thought (O)verly (D)edicated was one of the best projects released all year (it even got chopped and screwed by the Swisha House guys) probably the biggest acknowledgment of his talents came from Dr. Dre. Without any reaching out from Kendrick’s camp, The Good Dr. on his own found The Good Kid from Compton, and has invited him to be a part of the fabled Detox. Who knows if the Aftermath connection will actually lead to something, because they’ve been known to let everyone from legends to immensely talented up and comers wait in vain,  but it’s one of many signs that there is practically no denying the quality of music made by Kendrick.

Most Known Song: Ignorance Is Bliss produced by Willie B

Big K.R.I.T.: If there was an underground project that got more praise in 2010 than Kendrick’s release, it has to be Big K.R.I.T.’s K.R.I.T. Wuz Here. Coming out of nowhere, both figuratively and literally, this Mississippi native not only lyrically found the perfect mix of the pimped out braggadocios southern style with searing insight about the downfall of the African American communities in the U.S.’s lower region, but he did an incredible job self producing the entire album as well. So much so that his ability to flip samples gave 9th Wonder the chills.The successes of K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, got K.R.I.T. immediately signed to Def Jam and becoming a major part of Curren$y’s Smokers Club national tour. Not to mention a chopped and screwed version of the album by DJ Michael “5000” Watts,  a spot hosting Johnny Shipes‘ Good Talk Volume 9. mixtape, and  videos on MTV jams as well. With all that in mind, and a new and powerful movement towards supporting human music, it’s hard to imagine anything but success for K.R.I.T.

Most Known Song: Children Of The World produced by Big K.R.I.T.

Yelawolf: If anyone on this list is pretty much guaranteed wide spread success, it has to be Yelawolf. The cynics will say it’s because he’s white, but real listeners will know it’s because he’s lyrically crazy. His flow is out of this world, and his ability to balance harrowing descriptions of rural lives of poverty, with club bangers is practically unmatched. The fan support and critical acclaim of his free mixtape Trunk Muzik, gave birth to one of the best 2010’s for any rapper established or not. He got signed to Interscope early in the year, and they revamped Trunk Muzik , added some new songs to it, and released Trunk Muzik 0-60 in stores nationwide. He was a part of 3 videos on youtube that all hit over a million views: one for Trunk Muzik’s lead single “Pop The Trunk”, one for his collaboration with Gucci Mane on the lead single to Trunk Muzik 0-60 I Just Want To Party” , and one for “You Ain’t No DJ”, which was his guest feature on Big Boi’s solo debut. Then add a spot on 2010’s Rock The Bells Tour, a freestyle spot on the BET Awards,  and the coup de grace of signing to Eminem and Shady Records, and it’s clear Yelawolf is going is going to be a huge factor in the years to come.

Most Known Song: Pop The Trunk produced by Will Power

Danny Brown: Detroit is so ridiculously deep in talent, yet beyond Eminem there hasn’t really been anyone able to maintain and sustain a commercially relevant career. Last year XXL put their money on Big Sean as someone who could do damage.This year I think Danny Brown should be that guy. In 2010, for free, he dropped The Hybrid which got ridiculous critical acclaim, the instrumentals to The Hybrid, the leftover tracks from The HybridDetroit State of Mind 4, and on Itunes he released a collaboration album with Tony Yayo entitled Hawaiian Snow. That Yayo album also allowed Brown the opportunity to soak up game from 50 Cent, and rumors have flown around that he is considering signing to be a part of G-Unit. This may come as a surprise to a lot of people, because his music seems to be far from commercially acceptable. Yet at the same time, I haven’t heard a rapper that could make me laugh like Brown since discovering Ghostface’s solo albums, Devin, Mac Dre, or even a young Em. That ability to put smiles on people’s faces goes a long way, and if he can continue to stay witty, regardless of whether he signs a major deal or not, he’s poised to build himself a serious cult following.

Most Known Song: “Greatest Rapper Ever” produced by Quelle

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Netta Brielle – “Screamin’”

Roughly a month after releasing her first mixtape, Love, Pain & Music, which we reviewed last month (and if you’ve been sleeping, you can download it here), Netta B has dropped her first new video from the project for “Screamin’” (“Pushing Away”, “Tonite”, and “Inseparable” all had videos before the tape came out).

“Screamin’” was an immediate stand out on the tape due to the combination of Netta letting loose and really showing her vocal capabilities and the banger provided by Traxamillion. It’s not the first Bay Area track to flip Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “My Posse’s On Broadway”, E-40 and Ant Banks did it back in 1999 with “Big Ballin’ With My Homies” off 40 Water’s Charlie Hustle – Blueprint of a Self-Made Millionaire, but as Netta herself says about her version “the slap on it is ridiculous”. I agree. The visuals are provided by Terrance Banks and they’re dedicated to Netta’s younger sister, Kikhiesha Brooks, who was tragically killed on a North Oakland street corner back in 2007.

Personally, I’m feeling the dance routine towards the end. It seems like every time there’s dancing in a Bay Area video, it’s turfing, so I’m glad to see some straight ahead hip-hop dance. Bringing in the kids at the end was a nice touch as well. It’s moments like those, combined with the overall vibe and message of her music, that you get the feeling that she’s just a good person to be around.

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How “Hungry” is Droop E?

I don’t know too much about the rest of the country/world, but I do know that living in California means dealing with homelessness on a daily basis. As a result it’s an issue that has come up in my writing a couple of times. Off top, I can think of me referring to it when I was reviewing Obie Trice and Moss’s album Special Reserve, and in the video of Yelawolf coming back to People’s Park in Berkeley years after having spent time being homeless in that exact location. Well,here comes another one.

Droop-E, the son of E-40, just released his newest video with TJ of 1st Place(used to be Stressmatic of The Federation) and Work Dirty of The DB’z for his song “Hungry”, off of his free, BLVCK Diamond Life album, which is entirely self-produced and features a different Sade sample on each track. Sampling is a new look for Droop, who first gained notoriety for making “Hyphy” beats like Mistah F.A.B.’s firsthit single, “Super Sik Wid It”. To peep his progression over time, and the way he would approach using samples was more than enough reason for me to check out the album. Overall it’s a smooth release, and is well worth your download. So cop it at: http://droop-e.com/

It just so happens that “Hungry” is one of my favorite tracks on the project. The beat samples Sade’s “When Am I Going To Make A Living”, and it’s overall tone matches the uplifting nature of the lyrics perfectly. Droop-E’s verse is pretty dope, and focuses on the fact that there’s no need to hate on others, because regardless of race,we’re all struggling to put some food on the table. TJ’s verse was surprising because his delivery is so ridiculously different from during his days of being in The Federation. I literally had no idea that he used to be Stressmatic until I saw the video. I like some of the personal touches he threw in there, but winning a Grammy? He’s got a long road to travel. Finally, although I have never been that into The DB’z, I really liked Work Dirty’sverse. He doesn’t really exaggerate or talk about a future that most likely won’t happen,but instead focuses on the fact that he is living a life that he genuinely enjoys, when all the odds were stacked against him, and no one thought he had the ability to succeed.

With all of the above in mind, and knowing that, Aris Jerome, the Bay Area music video guru who really had the best 2010 out of anyone in the local music scene, was handling the visuals, I was excited to see the final product. Yet unfortunately, the video is where I start to have a problem. On the one hand I respect Droop-E for bringing attention to the homeless problem in our nation. He didn’t have to go out of his way to attach such a serious issue to his music, but he did. Yet at the same time, the juxtaposition of the three rappers’ desire to succeed in the music industry, to homeless people in the Bay Area’s desire to literally have something, just about anything, to eat,seemed a little inappropriate to me. I mean Droop-E is the son of an internationally recognized hip-hop pioneer, who sold enough records, and made enough money, to create and run a successful record label, as well as establish other businesses. His pops bought him a studio at a young age, and had Rick Rock and Bosko teach him how to make beats. I don’t personally know his living situation, but it seems like if it all goes bad, he’s got at least a couple of things to fall back on, as opposed to the current homeless who are in their situation because they didn’t have a support system/safety net. The video goes back and forth between absolutely down and out homeless people in Berkeley on Telegraph (the same street Yelawolf called home for a year) and San Francisco at Civic Center Plaza, to Droop-E and co in designer clothing and expensive chains, eating what looks to be a pretty pricey meal. I could just be a bitter critic, but tome something seems off about that. No hate towards Droop-E, I’ve been a fan of his music since I first heard it in high school, but I think this video was a miss step.

“You Have No Idea” How Dope Locksmith Is

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.

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Bay Area Freshmen 10 2011 Predictions

I’ve said it a few times, you can look at the idea of having a Bay Area Freshman 10 in one of two ways: some might feel like it’s directly taking from XXL’s format and therefore is pretty lame and shouldn’t exist, and others will just be happy that there is a platform to give recognition and exposure to local artists that truly deserve it. The inaugural Freshman 10 all had legitimate talent, and also witnessed their exposure significantly increase after being put on the list. Hopefully like the XXL list, being added to the Bay Area Freshman 10 will continue to have a larger impact each year it exists.

So with that in mind, and the fact that we have all just entered 2011, I wanted to make some predictions about who will make the list this year. As a little precursor, this isn’t a list of my 10 favorite upcoming Bay Area acts, but instead it’s a list of the 10 I think have been getting a lot of love recently, and have the ability to shake things up in 2011. Also, the videos I have included may not be the most impressive tracks that each artist has, but they are the songs that to my knowledge have received the most positive feedback from fans, which ultimately is what creates an artist’s identity. Finally, despite a lot of exciting artists coming from Sacramento, I have left them off the list. Just like San Diego isn’t a part of L.A., Sac is it’s own entity, and isn’t exactly a part of The Bay.  Even despite the similarities. So if you’re interested in the dope new MC’s from Sac check out: Chuuwee (who’s project with Sacramento producer Lee Bannon we reviewed), Bueno and C Plus.

So with all of that out of the way, let’s get it started. Also, let me know who you agree or disagree with, and who I should have included in the comments section.

Young Gully: Little needs to be said about Gully, his music has absolutely no problem speaking for itself, and there is no question that he deserves to be on the list. We’ve written about him a bunch of times, whether it be in regards to his Definition Of Gas (https://zebraisfood.wordpress.com/2010/06/23/spewing-gas-like-the-deepwater-horizon-well/) or Grant Station (https://zebraisfood.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/young-gully-the-grant-station-project-review/) free mixtapes (http://younggullyyh.bandcamp.com/), and I have yet to be even somewhat disappointed in anything he’s dropped thus far. While every new Bay rapper claims to be “gassing”, Gully is one of the few MC’s that can actually follow through with the statement. His lyricism, flow, and subject matter out shines practically all of his Bay Area peers.

Most known song: Definition Of Gas (Produced by DJ Fresh)

GQ: How does an up and coming MC from Oakland get the attention of 9th Wonder? Well attending UNC, winning a national championship with their basketball team, and spitting flames all help. So much so that GQ is an official signee to 9th’s JAMLA record label. While that, and his song placement on NBA2K10 as result of the signing, alone should be enough to place him on this year’s freshmen list, GQ has moved back to The Town and continued to build a name for himself in his home stomping grounds. 2010 saw him tear down two solo mixtapes in Blended (http://limelinx.com/files/cb14129c929a9672597d4420dfb90145) and Blended 2 (http://www.sendspace.com/file/a7l5e5), as well as churn out a collaborative effort with fellow Oakland rapper, ST Spittin, in Double Jepordy (http://www.limelinx.com/files/d954a38103985261bdb636b895a957aa). All three of which were offered for free. Needless to say, it will be exciting to hear him move up to a regular diet of 9th’s instrumentals.

Most Known Song: S.P.I.T. ft. David Banner (Produced by 9th Wonder)

Erk Tha Jerk: As any hip-hop fan from The Bay knows, at times it seems impossible for local artists to receive legit national attention. While no one new from The Bay has really broken into the national TV or National Radio audiences, Erk is one of the few new Bay Area MC’s to get internet love from all over the country. Additionally, although it was more auto tune crooning than straight ahead hip-hop, “Right Here” was one of the biggest and most recognizable hits The Bay has seen in a while. 2010 also saw Erk drop Right Here Tha EP, The Prelude Mixtape for free (http://media.audibletreats.com/Erk_Tha_Jerk-The_Prelude.zip), and his debut album Nerd’s Eye View.  Combine that with the fact that he’s an in demand producer, and a member of the closest thing the Bay has to a supergroup, in The FNM, with 2010 Freshman Nio Tha Gift, Willie Joe (who I also think will be in this year’s Freshman class), and Traxamillion, and that THEY released a mixtape as well (http://www.datpiff.com/DJ_Ambidekstres_The_Fly_Nigga_Movement_Traxamilli.m97272.html?),  it’s pretty clear that he deserves to be considered one of The Bay’s hardest working artists out.

Most Known Song: Right Here (Produced by Erk Tha Jerk)

Willie Joe: The other member of The FNM that will most likely be a part of the list, spent the early part of his career in Atlanta building his skills and media presence, as well as collaborating with the likes of B.O.B. Now he’s back in his native Bay Area, and working hard at being one of it’s biggest names. 2010 saw him drop his debut street album, Focus, which had features from B.O.B. and Playboy Tre among the usual Bay Area suspects of Mistah F.A.B., Jay Stalin, and Big Rich. If the recent history of Bay Area hip-hop applies to his case, his local and southern connections will put Willie in a perfect place for success.

Most Known Song: Its Ova (Produced by Traxamillion)

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Evidence Don’t Need No Love [Album Review]

 

Note: I meant to post this review a while back, but got caught up with the holidays. So while it may be a little dated, the project is dope enough that it more than deserves a post from me and a listen from you.

Despite a huge push from the media, I’m not excited about the Beatles’ move to Itunes in the least bit. For one, I hate buying music off of Itunes. Besides the fact that it takes all the fun out of digging, what happens if my computer/hard drive get’s stollen or destroyed? From personal experience, it’s much worse than getting a couple CD’s stolen or scratched. Secondly, I already own most of the Beatles catalog, and if you call yourself a fan of music, and you don’t have a ton of The Beatles, well that’s just embarrassing. They’re only the most culturally important musical group of all time. Without having to list all of the accomplishments that they had, and the insanity they caused while together as a band, take a moment to realize it’s been 40 years since they broke up, and they’re still all over T.V., the radio, getting written up in practically every major publication (whether dedicated to music or not), they have their own god damn video game, and the list goes on. Ridiculous.

Yet, there’s also a part of me that feels like I should look on the bright side about this. In a time when popular music seems severely lacking in creativity, it’s good to be reminded that there is still a fan base that genuinely appreciates innovative and quality musicianship, to the extent that they’re willing to actually pay money for it. Additionally, our recent, extremely toned down version of Beatles mania has already inspired other musicians in a tangible manner.

This month, Evidence of Dilated Peoples, and Twiz The Beat Pro, released a free, Beatles inspired project, entitled I Don’t Need Love. Much like the famed Gray Album mash up, I Don’t Need Love features a pairing of one MC and one sample based producer, utilizing strictly Beatles samples. Yet while the Gray Album was essentially a remix project from Danger Mouse, this album is an actual collaboration between Evidence and Twiz. Additionally, while Danger Mouse limited himself to just The Beatles’ White Album, Twiz took advantage of the entire Beatles catalog. The result of which turns out to be one hell of a release.

The thing that impressed me the most about this project was the production by Twiz The Beat Pro. Since Evidence himself is an ill and seasoned producer, he has a great ear for beats, and all of his albums have dope production whether it’s provided by himself or his homies. Yet at the same time, one would guess that if he was going to do a one MC, one producer project, it would most likely be with one of his high profile friends like The Alchemist, DJ Babu, or Sid Roams. Yet instead, Ev took a chance on a relatively new guy, and it paid off. I was first introduced to Twiz’s music just a few weeks ago when I was reviewing Copywrite’s The Life and Times of Peter Nelson. In that review I wrote that I was surprised by Twiz’s ability to stand out amongst veteran beatsmiths  like RJD2, Khyrsis, and !llmind. After this project I would say his ability to provide top of the line production has been proven once again.

Because (Produced by Twiz The Beat Pro)

From start to finish, Twiz provides Evidence with straight ahead bangers. On tracks like “Because” and “Think’n Bout Thinking” ft. Fashawn, he’s able to combine Paul, John, and George’s ethereal vocal harmonies with heavy drums and thick bass lines to create genuine head nodders. Then when it comes to dealing with The Beatles classics, he’s able to let his creativity loose, and turn those tracks into something completely different and brand new. On “Let The Beat Flip”, if I didn’t have the background knowledge that every track would sample The Beatles, I most likely would not have been able to recognize the usage of elements from “Eleanor Rigby” (obviously that’s not considering the introduction). On the flips side, his transformation of “Come Together” into “Frame Of Mind” doesn’t attempt to hide the sample, yet still creates a song that stands on it’s own and sounds novel. This is a case in which knowing where the sample comes from enhances your opinion of the beat. While I see the stagnancy of the “Lines Of Cocaine” instrumental as Twiz’s one misstep, it is more than compensated for when Twiz is able to consistently provide hard hitting tracks like “If They Only Knew”. His work on this project, combined with what he did for Copywrite’s album, is enough to make me look forward to purchasing Twiz The Beat Pro’s collaboration album with MF Grimm, as well as to actively keep my eye out for future music involving his production.

If They Only Knew (Produced by Twiz The Beat Pro)

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DJ Amen and Thizzler On The Roof Present The Bay Area Freshmen ’10 Music Meeting

On ZIF we have written about members of the inaugural Bay Area Freshman 10 on a few different occasions, with some extra attention given to the likes of Moe Green and Davinci. Yet, I don’t think we have ever mentioned or written about all 10 artists on the list. So if you’ve been wondering who else is on there, and what their music sounds like, thanks to DJ Amen and Thizzler On The Roof, there is now a simple way to find out.

The Bay Are Freshman ’10 Music Meeting is a 10 track, free tape featuring one song from each artist, which includes: Roach Gigz, Nio Tha Gift, Cousin Fik, Davinci, Jay Ant, TRUTHLiVE, iamSu!, DB Tha General, P Child, and Moe Green. Download it here.

While I can’t honestly say that I am a big fan of everybody on this list, most of the artists are surprisingly really dope, and this tape, as well as a look into their respective solo projects, has done a great job to prove that The Bay is finally cultivating some serious talent. MC’s who legitimately have the real possibility of being more than just local cult icons. Rappers who’s fan base could very well spread across the nation.

Don’t believe me? Check out this video from Nio Tha Gift. He’s the one artist on the list who deserves a ton of attention, and for some reason up until today I slipped and never wrote about. In addition to the ’10 Music Meeting, “Grateful” can also be found on Nio’s debut album H.I.P.H.O.P. (Here I Present a Hero Of Poverty) and his free mixtape Hero, both of which can be copped at his website, www.niothagift.com. The track is universal, and in my opinion undeniable, and the video has some real production value to it as well.

Expect big things from these rappers in the future, and check back to ZIF for my predictions of the 10 MC’s who will make next year’s Bay Area Freshman 10 list.

Download Link & Track List

1. DJ Amen & Thizzler.com – This…is the Bay Area Freshmen ’10 Music Meeting

2. The Dopest 2 – Roach Gigz

3. Nobody Gas – DB Tha General

4. Kaboom (How The Beat Go) – Cousin Fik (Produced by Pablo S)

5. F.I.S. – Jay Ant (Produced by Jay Ant)

6. I Know What To Do With It – iamSu! (Produced by iamSu!)

7. Long Time – P Child

8. Grateful – Nio Tha Gift (Produced by Jay Ell)

9. Ready, Set, Go – TRUTHLiVE ft. Moe Green (Produced by Jake One)

10. Ben – Davinci (Produced by Big D)

11. Iced Out Life Style – Moe Green (Produced by Indecent The Slapmaster)

Dregs One – The Wake Up Report Volume 1: Gentrification

Not all rappers are meant to be community activists, or to open the populations’ eyes about important issues. Nobody wants to hear Snoop or Gucci Mane pretend like they know how to improve the public school systems. That is just not part of the identity that they have created for themselves. Yet when an MC does makes the conscious effort to educate and promote progressive thought in their listeners, I got to give credit where credit is due. They may not get as many fans as someone who raps about the clubs and the corners, but it’s a great usage of their opportunity to reach the people.

Therefore I got to give serious props to San Francisco’s Dregs One, of the Gas Mask Colony, for the fact that he is using his status as a rapper to get a worthwhile message out to his audience. Yet the interesting thing about it is that he’s doing it without rapping. Starting this December, he is creating a monthly video series called The Wake Up Report, in which he discusses important and relevant issues that pertain to our communities.

In episode one, Dregs discusses Gentrification. While for the most part it only focuses on San Francisco, anyone who has ever lived in a metropolitan area recognizes that every major city is experiencing gentrification to some degree. San Francisco is just a city where the problem stands out more than others, because due to it’s small size (it’s only 46 square miles, compared to Los Angeles: 469, Chicago: 234, and New York: 469) there are literally less and less places for people with low incomes to go.

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The Jacka & Lee Majors ft. Paul Wall – Patty Cake

If you caught our interview with The Jacka from earlier this year, then you know that he and Lee Majors recently released an 80’s themed album called The Gobots 2: D-Boy Era. In the interview he also talked about having a collaboration album with Paul Wall in the works. Well “Patty Cake” ft. Paul Wall, the 2nd and most recent video off The Gobots 2, is probably a good example of what you can expect from both.

If you missed the first video from The Gobots 2, “Female Funk” ft. Shad Gee and Young Loxx,  peep it after the jump. I actually prefer it to Patty Cake. Dope bass line, 80’s gear, and break dancers. Legit.

Kendrick Lamar – Look Out For Detox

I’m not sure what this has to do with Detox at all, except for Schoolboy Q’s shout out at the end, but I do know that this Kendrick Lamar verse is probably better than what anyone will spit on Dre’s album. That’s even if the rumors are true, and Kendrick supplies a little bit of ghostwriting, or in perfect world, actually gets to touch the mic. Only thing he needs to work on is finishing strong. I’m not into how this and both part 1 and part 2 of “The Heart” just end so abruptly.

Netta Brielle – Love, Pain, & Music [Review]

Although Hip-Hop and R&B have an inseparable connection to each other, it’s interesting to note the differences in how acts from each genre are talked about, presented, and judged. One of the biggest distinctions that I’ve noticed over the past few years is that in Hip-Hop, for better or worse, MC’s and producers can never escape from having a public identity that is attached to the region from which they came from. Despite doing music for Nas, Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Eminem, Young Buck, Scarface, Big Pun, Busta Rhymes, Raekwon, Devin The Dude and tons of other people from all over the country, Dr. Dre will always be considered a West Coast producer with a West Coast sound. It doesn’t matter what he does musically anymore, that’s just how he will forever be perceived. The same can be said for the above MC’s: despite working with producers and rappers from every coast, everything Jay-Z does is New York from top to bottom. It’ll never change, that’s just part of his identity. Yet that is not the case for R&B singers. Nobody has ever accused Beyoncé or Usher of having a Texas sound to their music. Personally, I think that a lot of this is due to the fact that rappers endlessly talk about where they’re from in their music, but unless your Alicia Keys singing a hook on a Jay-Z track, singers don’t really sing specifically about their home towns. In my opinion, this gives them a more universal appeal that has allowed artists like Mary J Blige to blow up across the world (she doesn’t have a single album or song title that mentions New York).

Not surprisingly this same phenomenon exists in The Bay. While our rap is so oriented specifically to where we’re from, and often times people in Northern California are fans of mediocre MC’s solely due to the fact that they rep the Bay hell of hard, there doesn’t seem to be any regional pride attached to our singers. As a result often times it is completely over looked that the Bay Area has had and continues to have a thriving R&B scene that has garnered millions of fans world wide. Most people (some even in The Bay Area) have no idea that En Vogue, Tony! Toni! Toné! (and thus Raphael Saadiq), or more recently Keyshia Cole and Goapele, are all from Oakland. This is largely because for the most part they don’t mention where they are from in their music, which has kept them from being put in that “Bay Area” box.

I’m not 100% sure how I feel about this issue. On the one hand I take genuine pride in where I’m from, and I love to see talented people do the same, but on the other I think undying loyalty to our region is pretty uninteresting and not relatable to the rest of the country/world, and therefore is a large reason why truly talented rappers never make it out of the Bay. I guess for me, if you’re from the same general vicinity as I am, and you are genuinely talented, I’m going to rep you whether you rep our home or not.

That ridiculously wordy introduction is relevant, because today I’m writing about Netta Brielle’s newest mixtape Love, Pain, & Music, which she is giving away for free at her bandcamp page: www.nettabrielle.bandcamp.com. For those not in the know, Netta is a bay area R&B singer that balances her universal appeal and the influence of where she’s from better than most. While you won’t hear her belting out odes to her home town of Berkeley, she does utilize the talents of many of the best local producers The Bay has to offer including: Traxamillion, Bedrock, and Money Alwayz, and you will find her doing remixes to local favorites like The Jacka’s Traxamillion produced hit “Glamorous Lifestyle”, singing hooks for local MC’s like Oakland’s Fly Street Gang, playing the lead role in Erk Tha Jerk’s video for “The Perfect Mistake” , and doing a grip of shows at local venues like The New Parish. That balance, matched with her exceptional voice, if combined with a drive to get her music heard throughout the country, could make her one of the only bay area R&B singers to break into the mainstream yet still be repped to the fullest at home.

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Yelawolf In Berkeley [HD]

Berkeley has been a place I have frequented regularly since being a young child. If for no other reason I always find myself returning because Amoeba and Rasputin are arguably the two best music stores one could ask for. While the People’s Republic of Berkeley is normally a pretty safe place, outsiders are often shocked by, and locals get tired and frustrated with the homeless people that seem to be everywhere. While I miss the Jokemon and wonder what happened to him, there was a lot of scary people just yelling at nothing and throwing rocks at trees, pregnant women asking for money for food only to use it on drugs, people that will follow you for blocks trying to sell you the most recent edition of Street Spirit, young teens and people in their early twenties who just seem to be lost and looking for a path in life, and practically every other stereotype there is for homeless people and panhandlers.

The reason why I mention this is because Alabama born Yelawolf, the rapid fire MC that has recently signed with Interscope and thus has ridiculous buzz going for him right now, released a video with the film production group Yours Tru.ly in which he travels around Berkeley and talks about his experiences being a regular hanging out at People’s Park. I haven’t really got up on his hype yet (I’m actually copping Trunk Muzik while I’m typing this), and therefore I had absolutely no idea that he spent some time living in The Bay. Yet even though I know little about him other than the internet has his back real heavy (as does Shaq, Big Boi, Travis Barker and I’m sure tons of others), it makes me feel really good that one of those street kids, that are perpetually written off as fuck up stoners who think they’re too good for society, is making it on the big scale. It gives me hope for the tons of homeless people I see on a daily basis as a Bay Area resident, and it makes me feel proud that somewhere so close to my heart could once again have such a tremendous impact (for good or bad reasons) on someone who apparently has vast talent and a bright future.

Copywrite: The Life and Times of Peter Nelson [Review]

My initial exposure to Copywrite was not a good one. The first bars I ever heard him spit were two diss tracks towards Asher Roth. While those songs showed that he has a dexterity for rhyming, I just couldn’t hop on board with someone who instigates a beef for the sole reason that they are both white, and one has more shine than the other (deservedly or not). To me, there are so many talented rappers out there that there is no reason to spend time listening to someone who’s personality you aren’t feeling. Despite the fact that I am not an Asher Roth fan in the least bit, the bitterness and jealousy exhibited in those two youtube tracks allowed me to easily erase Copywrite completely from my radar for around two years. Yet over the past month or so, I started seeing his name pop up again, and instead of in reference to some lame ass beef, it was to promote an album that featured some of my favorite MC’s and Producers. The Life and Times of Peter Nelson features Sean Price, Crooked I, Planet Asia, Dilated Peoples, and MF Grimm among others, and is produced by the likes of RJD2, !llmind, Kyhrysis, and DJ Rhettmatic. With a line up like that standing beside an MC, it’s hard not to be interested. Additionally having so many respected artists work with him made me think that my limited exposure to Copywrite didn’t do justice to what he has to offer. There had to be something they saw/heard in him that I didn’t, and after listening to the new album, the appeal now makes a lot more sense.

As the title suggests, The Life and Times of Peter Nelson, is an extremely personal record that pairs top notch lyricism with deep introspection about life, friends, families, relationships, substance abuse, and a slew of other topics. It seems like in approaching this album Copywrite knew that he had a reputation for being an asshole, and he was going to use this opportunity to explain to his audience the shit that he’s been through that has made him that way. He’s not apologetic, but tracks like “Forever and a Day” ft. Middle Distance Runner and produced by RJD2, “Three Story Building” ft. Dilated Peoples and MF Grimm and produced by Twiz The Beat Pro, and “Mother May I” produced by !llmind paint a vivid picture of the difficult and struggle filled upbringing of a white, lower-middle class child, raised by a single mother. Yet the best insight on what makes Copywrite the man he is today has to be “Confessional”, produced by Rob Stern, which also happens to be my favorite track on the album. The melancholy horns and flute in the instrumental set the perfect tone for Copy’s subject matter, in which he addresses the recent death of both parents, the illness of his grandparents, his own struggles with drug and alcohol abuse, and the fact that his personality has lead him into countless confrontations, many of which being physical. It’s one of the most unabashed and open verbal performances I’ve heard this year, matched with the perfect balance of lyricism that stays away from being cryptic so that the stories and points can be heard and understood in their entirety. Yet it must be said that while I enjoyed the candidness of much of Copywrite’s subject matter, there is a ton of the self loathing on this album that has almost become stereotypical of white rappers. The nonstop talk of suicide and wishing he was dead gets redundant. If that’s how he really feels, obviously I fully support him rapping about it rather than actually killing himself, but as a listener the statements about wanting to die get boring and lose their gravity after having to hear about it again and again for nearly an hour and a half.

Confessional (Produced by Rob Stern)

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Young Gully – The Grant Station Project [Review]

Before I get into the review, I want to say that although I am far from a fan of the 5-0, there are times when I do feel sympathy for them. They are hated by practically everyone until the moment that they are needed, and that sucks. By no means would Iwant to live a life like that. I also believe that just like any profession, there are good police officers and there are bad ones. There are good and bad doctors, lawyers,accountants, CEO’s etc… So why wouldn’t that apply to cops? Still with that being said,the police in the Bay Area (and Oakland specifically) have a long history of brutality and excessive force, corruption, and general illegal action. That doesn’t mean that I condone and am in favor of someone like Lovelle Mixon, who killed three Oakland cops and injured two others in 2009. Yet at the same time, I do get outraged when I hear about incidents like that which happened to Oscar Grant. And I strongly believe the policeofficer responsible deserves the strictest punishment.

For those of you unaware of what happened to Oscar Grant, let me give you a quick recap: On New Years Eve, leading into 2009, BART Police (the police department responsible for the local Bay Area train system) responded to reports of a fight on a train returning from San Francisco. At the Fruitvale stop in Oakland, a group of police officers detained Oscar Grant (it is still unclear if he was actually part of the fight) and a few other suspects. Long story short, during the detaining, while two police officers were holding Grant face down on the ground, which included a knee on the back of his neck,despite the fact that Grant showed very little, if any sign of resistance, Officer Johannes Mehserle pulled out his gun and shot Grant in the back once. Grant died soon after. In the modern era it is no surprise that this, and another officer punching and kneeing Grant in the face while calling him a “Bitch Ass Nigger” was entirely caught on cellphone cameras. Mehserle claims he was reaching for his taser, and in the confusion ofthe event, accidentally drew his gun. Which has always led me to the question, even if this was true (which I don’t believe), what was the purpose of the taser? You had two police officers in the process of cuffing a man laying on his stomach. In my mind, that is far from indicating any need for a taser. To conclude this horribly sad tale, Officer Mehserle was only convicted of involuntary manslaughter, which pretty much means the court took it as an accident. At minimum Mehserle could be sentenced to 2 years (which means with good behavior he could get out in less time than Plaxico Burress got for shooting himself in the leg), but at maximum, due to the fact that a gun was involved inthe murder, he could receive 14 years. Needless to say this entire incident has been devastating, destructive, and divisive for the local Bay Area community.

I recounted this horrible event because it is necessary background to appreciate the newest release from Young Gully, one of, if not my current favorite Bay Area MC. As the title and cover suggests, The Grant Station Project, is an album dedicated to Oscar Grant. The music struggles with the events that took place that night, and the overall feelings it brought out about the endless war that goes on across the nation between the police departments and residents of low income communities. It is available at whateverprice you wish on Gully’s Bandcamp page (http://younggullyyh.bandcamp.com/album/the-grant-station-project), and all proceeds go to the family of Oscar Grant, so I strongly urge you to go and cop it. Musically it’s dope and really powerful, and financially, the money (which can be as little as $1) goes to a legitimate cause.

Throughout Young Gully’s recent career, he has continuously shown that lyrically and content wise, he is more than just the average street rapper. Additionally, while he has shown an ability to address serious issues in a thoughtful manner such as on tracks like “The End” with Chris Tha 5th off of his Tonite Show with DJ Fresh, and “I Love Where I’m From”

off the first of his Hustla Movement mixtapes,nothing in Gully’s catalogue has matched the music on The Grant Station Project interms of social commentary and inquisitive thought. People often talk about the social power that music has, but it seems like over the past 10 years, that power has rarely been used for anything other than influencing consumerism. The Grant Station Project is one of the few musical explorations that focuses on an issue that affects the masses world wide (police brutality by no means is limited to the U.S.) and begins a debate. From start to finish every song is packed with observations, emotional reactions and questions, all having to do with Police relations. Gully verbally paints the picture of the interaction between the police and his community, and then asks the listener how this could not be considered a serious problem that not only needs to be recognized, but addressed with intentions of genuine improvement as well.

Here I Am

After those words, I’m sure a lot of you may be imagining a Dead Prez or Immortal Technique esque album, and luckily for many, and unfortunately for many others, this is not the case. The Grant Station Project, isn’t really radical, revolutionary,or filed with conspiracy theories. I believe the success of the album largely lies in the lack of these characteristics, which to many are very alienating. For example, “Here I Am” is a track full of observations about the realities of the way people in Oakland, but really globally, are treated by the police force, in addition to the thoughts and mentalities that a lifetime full of these observations creates. There’s no talk about the illuminati, or white people trying to get rich off the poor, or burning down the white house; just the observation that Cops are shooting and harassing everybody, whether innocent  or guilty, with impunity, and for those not wearing a badge, the result of that is distrust at best, and utter and complete hatred at worst. “Black Killa” continues the above sentiments, but in a more inquisitive tone. Over a really dope and soulful organ heavy sample, rather than direct his questions at the listener, Gully speaks directly to the police. It’s his way of demanding an explanation from the boys in blue for the fucked up ways that they treat people. “What If” features Frisco’s Roach Gigz (one of the Bay Area Freshman 10), and continues the line of questioning, this time asking the police to consider being in their victim’s shoes.

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