ZIF Flick: Machine – Wow (I Can’t Believe…Demons)

When I was first approached by Machine to check out his new album Selfish Bastard, I balked at the depression rap. For christ sakes, I’ve had a plethora of dark patches, who wants to listen to music inspired by such disenchantment? Unless of course having an honest conversation about emotional distress could be an artistic journey worthy of merit. This is what I found to be true when it comes to Selfish Bastard, an album that encapsulates a moment in time for a man, a very raw picture of an artist. His unique flows and keen ear for beats (check that Denmark Vessey heat L.A.P.T.) make his album more than listenable, frankly if you’re on a treadmill you’ll forget he’s spewing about breakups and jumping off bridges (he doesn’t actually do that). That being said, when I shot the music video I found it eerily simple to jump into that “mode”, the dark cave. The video is a playful interpretation of what it truly means to conceptualize not only the overarching desire to commit the act but the actual logistics as well. There is a comedic element I was hoping to convey, death can be funny, tragically we all know this. As always, we’re queuing up goodness, artists looking for video production hit us up here.

Follow the cerebral vagrancy of Machine @TheMachineRaps

Read an unbiased review of Selfish Bastard over at Mishka & a somewhat biased one at Vice.

Big Beast of a Video [Killer Mike, T.I. and Bun B]

It’s 9 minutes of pure NSFW fun. The new Killer Mike album R.A.P Music is produced by El-P, a fact I think most people were simply not excited about enough. Hopefully this video starts garnering the attention this project is clearly deserved. Opening scene reminds me of Point Break, #ReaganMasks

Los Rakas Live at UCLA, like now

So I leave the office for a quick walk around campus, and what do I stumble upon? A promotional concert by Bay Area duo Los Rakas. Surely here to promote their upcoming performance at UCLA Jazz Reggae Festival, it made for quite the lunch break. It does not get liver than this, they are literally still out in Bruin Plaza doing their thing. See you late gates at JRF this weekend.

Getting Through to Busy Signal (Interview)

ZIF Interview (Busy Signal)

On this fine Chewsday, Busy Signal drops his new album Reggae Music Again in stores across the US via VP Records. I chopped it up with Busy this past week, give the interview a listen and see what the Dancehall kingpin has been up to on this “reggae only” album. Highlights include: his live performances, recording in Tuff Gong studios, future business and even a culinary suggestion or two.

All reggae and Busy Signal fans can cop the new album here.

Favorite track off the album.

Modern Day Slavery

Happy 4:20, meet Singapore Kane under the bridge, chief’n

Nobody smokes like I smoke. You can ask Nate Dogg’s hologram about that. Which is why I’m proud to present the exclusive Singapore Kane drop on 4:20, find a bridge, smoke some trees, listen to this anthem and enjoy yourself, it’s Christmas.

Singapore Kane – Under The Bridge (Happy 4:20)

Not All Rappers From Pittsburgh Are Created Equal: Beedie (Exclusive ZIF Interview)

I admire our ability to filter exceptional content for my readers, in essence, that’s why blogs have made it through the trend-heavy rise and fall of internet phenomenons. Nowhere is that more satisfying than sharing great music from an artist on the come-up. That brings me to this interview with Pittsburgh rapper, Beedie. There’s no doubt that Pittsburgh is finally on the rap map after the meteoric rise of Wiz Khalifa and the subsequent success of fellow Rostrum Records artist Mac Miller. When I was introduced to Beedie’s music I had no idea on where he came from, it didn’t matter. His sound can best be described as a contemporary take on Boom Bap combined with the steady swagged out flow you would expect from a young wordsmith intent on making power moves. He’s a throwback rapper in many ways and yet I thank the rap gods that guys like this still spit. As 1/2 of the rap duo Varsity Squad and formerly 1/2 of Ill Spoken along with Mac Miller, there’s little denying, Beedie stands out. When artists I respect have something to say, it’s always an honor to chop it up with them. Be sure to check out the interview with him in it’s entirety or broken down into three parts after the jump.

Beedie Interview (Whole)

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Singapore Kane – Wrath of Kane [Album Download]

All too often rap monikers seem entirely arbitrary to the actual content of the music that follows. Ruthlessly bucking this trend of empty promises is Singapore Kane, whose aggressively crisp delivery swats the versatile array of beats featured on his fifth solo project, Wrath of Kane.

A veteran of the Boston rap scene, Singapore Kane’s latest effort hears him coupling his bent for street-centric battle raps with socially conscious, yet realistic, commentary. On tracks like “Ill Bomb” and “Dividends”, Kane nods at his boom-bap roots with unrelenting lyrical vigor. Meanwhile Kane’s flow is able to melodically slow it down for brutally vivid reflections on tracks like “Outside the Margins” and “Mad at Me”—perhaps Kane’s personal version of couples therapy. Meanwhile, Kane’s heartfelt “MLK Tribute”, which Kane recorded after a sudden jolt of inspiration, caught ears and hearts across the rap world on Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday.

While the Wrath of Kane mixtape showcases the Boston MC’s proficiency at conquering industry beats, Kane also stays true to his Beantown roots, employing original bangers from Bostonian producers like Purpose, Allegory and Alexander the Great, all of whom lay down gully East Coast fire. Meanwhile, Kane’s gritty narratives collide with original Cali-tinged soul from West Coast producers like TKSTR (“Outside the Margins”) and Lee Bannon (“Dividends”). And, as Singapore Kane readies his next project (an EP of entirely original production), living-legendary producer DJ Premiere blesses the remix to “Play It”, where Singapore Kane’s prowess shines alongside other lyrical heavyweights Royce Da’ 5’9 and fellow Boston MCs, Big Shug and Termanology.

Across the board, whether he’s musing on the ups-and-downs of relationships and life or reveling in the ascension out of poverty, Wrath of Kane is the latest offering of explicitly real hip-hop from one of Boston’s illest and most promising wordsmiths.

Download the album.

ZIF Video’s Of The Week: 1982 Release Party

Though we were busier than bees during Singapore Kane’s stay in L.A., we did sneak in some time at the 1982 release party, which featured some dope performances by Boston stalwarts Reks and Termanology. Enjoy.

Dirty Hank Needed A Doctor [EP Review]

My favorite rapper in Providence, Rhode Island is a dirty spitter. You may not recognize his face, but you can smell his stench from a New England city block away. That’s what happens when you spit truthful bars hiding behind a lot of nothing. And that’s what you get when you listen to an emcee out of Providence by the name of Dirty Hank.

He’s got a line on Vitamin Vodka about sounding like a dude spitting out of Shutter Island, fucking nails that analogy, the emcee persona that is Dirty Hank belongs in a hybrid state of bedlam and nonsensical swag. This short EP continues the trend that he invested via Dirty Hank’s Guide To Giving Up; virtual storytelling of Hank’s daily whereabouts, only through some diligent listening do you truly understand that he’s speaking about his active cranium more so than what’s literally around him. He’s a pensive man, and for a writer slash rapper, that my friend is excellent stuff.

I was chopping it up with Hank on Facebook chat (insert lame diss here) and found that we share a lot of shit, literally, we both have struggled with anxiety lately, and its been a righteous pile of dung. The man literally has been excused from work on account of his “condition”, the stuff that crazy men are made of.

I don’t know, maybe it’s the crazy I like, both in the man and in the emcee, if that’s crazy, I hate sane rappers. One thing is for sure, Hank’s sound isn’t destined for a Rihanna feature anytime soon, but I have a good feeling about this kids future, call it crazy. Hank comes out on top, it’s one of those Providence/Hollywood endings.

Peep Holes

Vitamin Vodka

Burning In Water ft. Storm Davis

Download the four track EP here. Shout out to the man himself on the early drop.

ZIF Exclusive Interview: Gappy Ranks

I was granted an opportunity to speak with up and coming British reggae sensation Gappy Ranks today, talk about an enjoyable lunch conversation. VP Records conferenced the call via England, and thank god for Verizon, because the clarity of the connection paved way for Gappy to bless us with some important messages about his music and reggae in our world. Enjoy the audio, too clear not too post!

Gappy Ranks Interview w/ Zebra Is Food*

* transcribed version will be posted soon. check back in the future for update.

Also check out one of his biggest tunes, Stinkin Rich,  tearing up airwaves from across the Atlantic down to the Caribbean Sea.

THE Junior Kelly Interview

I praise Jah everyday for reggae music. Everyday. I like many aspects of reggae music, but Lovers Rock has a special place in my soft spot I care not to mention as my heart. To me, Junior Kelly is Lovers Rock, he’s love in general, and a lot of it. He is also a well spoken man with a lot to say and it was a damn pleasure to conduct this interview, a personal #1 in my soft spot.

ZIF: Thank you for giving me your time right now. I know you’re in Germany on tour, couldn’t be a busier time to do interviews.

JK: Oh you’re welcome.
ZIF: So can you tell me a little bit about what you’re doing in Germany right now? Are you doing a European tour, promoting the album?
JK: I’m doing a European promotional tour right now for the new album Red Pond. You know we’ve been to Amsterdam, it’s only the first week. Now I’m in Germany, been on the road for a week and half, promoting the album extensively. We’re going to the Eastern Bloc, Prague, ya know, Czech, ya know, Czech Republic.
ZIF: Yeah, I noticed you were going to be in Paris doing a show with Warrior King, middle of the month? Can you tell me a little something about how you liking working with artists when there is that age gap there. Is that something you look forward to? Something you have to cater to?
JK: (laughs) age gap. I love how u said that. age gap. No, shouldn’t be a problem, never a problem. Gap. See it’s music, music has no “age”. And so forth, it’s no problem, but I’m going to be the first to work with him,understand, I give myself more hard time than I would give everybody else. I am my worse critic, I am very critical of myself. You know, I’m one to work and Warrior King is a big tune, so you it’s no ego there, we just work together for the greater good of the music.
ZIF: Definitely. You’re in Europe now, you’re touring. Obviously there is a fundamental difference when performing in Jamaica and the Islands and everywhere else globally. Do you have a favorite region to perform in, and if so what are some observations you can make about the reggae community in Europe versus the reggae community in North America?
JK: Good question. You see it’s like a fingerprint, it’s different. Each one is like a signature, it’s different. I think, no, I have enough evidence so I can say: I know that European audiences are more attentive, they have a longer attention span. And when you’re in a country, a continent, Europe in this case, where it’s diverse, many languages, they are Caucasians, but different culture, almost. And to have these individuals singing your songs, and they don’t really speak English, it’s not their first language.
ZIF: Yeah man, it’s crazy.
JK: It’s wonderful. It’s amazing, it’s almost unbelievable, you know what I mean. It’s like America was colonized by the British, so they speak English, and yet it amazes me that the attention span is little bit less, and there’s an approach to different crowds and different audiences, places in the world. Like Japan, they have more attention span also. And I don’t know if it’s the music I do and I the places that I go like Japan, and Europe and Africa where they’ve been ravaged by so many wars and so many famines and so many hardships. Americans only read about those stuff, not talking about two individuals down south still using out houses without running water, I know that you have pained individuals, that’s where they are stuck in a time warp, and that’s America. But on a grand scale in places like Europe, Japan, Africa been through so much wars, they’re feeding off these lyrics and the content off individuals like myself. The music, it means so much more to them.

I have my audience in America, because I did a survey and surprisingly I have 5% more fans in America than Europe. Can you imagine that? Yes, lots in the Midwest, the west coast, and so forth, lots of east coast places too. I’m trying to dissect why the attention span here is different.Every crowd is different so when I go to a certain place, I strategically tweak my service to accommodate, every artist should.that place.

ZIF: Ok, going off that a little bit, when you do cater, or accommodate or make the adjustments for a specific culture or audience. There is also the dichotomy between an audience and the media. So do those two entities matter to you? Do audience and media matter as far as feedback for your music? Does one matter more, or both?
JK: Good question. I think each aspect you mentioned is an intricate part of the whole chain. Each one of them, each entity, whether it’s the audience, fans or the media. Each plays a critical role, the media influences the decision making process of individuals who cling to the media for advice and direction. That is why we have an obligation to say and do the right thing. You understand, both the artist and the media. Both play a pivotal part in my development. I am a person that thinks outside the box, i listen to my audience, I read my e-mails, and I know where I’m at. when you’re creating, I don’t create with media in my mind, and/or audience, it’s what I’m FEELING, it’s what’s coming from me at that particular moment in time. And hopefully you know the media loves it and the audience love it. And what I do to treat that now, is from the influx of emails, and I know that yeah, I’m on the right track. but that’s on the back-end, but i don’t make my media or audience influence the front end. Because the creative process like that, you don’t want to pigeon hole yourself, or short in a particular direction. Especially for a person or artist with a creative mind. But the two play a pivotal part.
ZIF: Ok, I’m going to go back a little bit, rewind to the origins of Junior Kelly. I know that growing up, I wonder what really drew you to being a DJ? I know your brother DJ Jim Kelly was doing very well before his life was taken. Was that an inspiration for you to take the torch and continue the music in the family?Or do you think this was this bound to happen anyway?
JK: I never choose music, music choose me. You know, I always said from Jump street as a child, that you must have lawyers, doctors, entertainers, preachers. You know, your family must be rounded individuals, not only to be coached in a direction. I never want to do what any of my brothers are doing, because….it can’t happen that way you know. But I was trying to look in different directions, trying to find my calling so to speak.. So after he died in ’83, I was always doing compositions at school and bla bla bla, so it was easy for me to create after that, it wasn’t immediate after. And after I was creating, during, but just for fun. Because like I said, I never wanted to do what any of my brothers are doing. Because I appreciate what they’re doing and I respect that and sometimes you have to be sensitive to your siblings and their needs too. And coming into the business that they’re doing, it’s not like daddy owns the store and everyone must come and be in the store, you know, find your own calling. So I say and I always knew this to be a fact that music choose me, I never choose music. And I started creating creating and start and actually performing within the community by myself. And then people started to acknowledge and started turning heads in the community and saying “listen, listen, this thing is serious you know, you have a sound and I think it’s wonderful, I think you should, continue.” And I still laugh at them, even now when I look back. It’s not like I’m taking this lightly and not what God has blessed me with, of course not, it’s besides the point, it’s amazing where I was and where I’m at now. That whole process is like “woah”, it really worked. Because, not without lightly, because my brother was doing it you know, and then I realize that ‘woah’, I have a journey and my brother got cut off early, and never got to see that I feed off the fruit of his labor. And here I am now living longer than he did, he died at 23, very very very very young, they took my brother from me. And, I regret it to this day, and I’m still mourning, and nobody can stop me from and nobody can advise me to stop. It’s like in a sense God, said, you have to finish your brothers job, and also this is your legacy now.
ZIF: Great. Let’s roll with that for a second. Let’s talk about how Rastafariansim, specifically the mansion of Bobo Shanti. Obviously it’s a massive part of your life and your music, do you specifically consider your music a platform for preaching the Bobo Shanti ways?
JK: Good question. No, no. My beliefs sometimes trickle into my music, I try and keep it to a minimum. I don’t think I should, you know, it’s my private life, although it’s hard for me to separate my private life from my public life. Because as an artist doing music, people gravitate to your music and your words and believe in you. And for you to be contrary living your private life a certain way and not in line or conjunction with your music and the things you say it’s kind of misleading, you know? So I don’t preach Rastafarian way of life or belief in my music as much because the music should have that appeal to everybody. You know, and I don’t think it should be offensive, I think it should be uplifting, I think it should be a symbol for people everywhere. We have poor people in every different race, too much poor people in every different race. I think songs that soothe the souls and put smiles on people’s faces, and sometimes when your pushing a particular thing, sometimes it can be deemed offensive. So i have to…it’s a tight rope balancing act. Every artist have to decide for themselves what they are saying and what they are doing. Because one of the worst things is to preach a particular thing, having people believing in you and what you’re saying, you convince them and then your life is nothing close to what your singing and saying, it’s shameful. So I prefer and I’m practicing just doing WONDERFUL music that everybody can relate to.

Apollo Brown: Detroit Beat Slayer

Apollo Brown – Real Detroit featuring The Left and Marv Won [ buy it here]

Having just recently released his debut album, The Reset, on Mello Music Group,Apollo Brown delivers the new single, “Real Detroit” featuring The Left and Marv Won. The Left, which is Apollo’s own hip-hop collective is composed of himself and fellow Detroit hometown emcee Journalist 103. With plans to release their own album,Gas Mask, later on this year, the duo set out with the purpose of creating a handful of songs dedicated to and inspired by their hometown. “When we were making the Gas Mask album, we wanted to have a couple songs just for Detroit and about Detroit,” says Apollo. With that premise, “Real Detroit” speaks on the city as a hardened place to grow up, but also being a breeding ground responsible for producing some of the finest hip-hop around. From its violence-laden streets to the hustlers that run and rule those streets, Journalist 103 and Marv Won carry the listener from the safety of their home to the dangerous streets of Detroit. Accompanied with a haunting melody, it stays true that talent does spring from Detroit as Apollo Brown’s beats completes the picture of “Real Detroit”.

Apollo Brown is nice yo. The homie Takstar and myself were checking out his Skilled Trade beat tape from 2007 this weekend, ish is straight fiyah. Something big is going on in the D right now, between Crown Nation, Danny Brown, and Apollo Brown, look out, but that city is on a comeback trail, sans Dilla. Thankfully a bunch of their outstanding artists are marketed through an agency I deal with, so I got the hook up on that Detroit shit, the “real” Detroit at that.

Go ahead and cop the new Apollo Brown album, The Reset, coppable right here. As if you needed more of a reason, here’s one more track to wet that appetite. [below]

Apollo Brown – Hungry featuring Big Pooh and Black Milk