Beats, Rhymes, Life

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1. Freestyles are for mic holders. Rap songs are for just about anybody with a friend who can bear recording them. Mistah F.A.B. has impressed Bay Area hip hop heads for years with his ability to spit relevant rhymes straight off the dome top. Here he is at a recent sneaker head event in the Bay. Fancy word play with a plethora of sneaker references, yes please.

2. The darker the berry….So Kendrick Lamar specifically requested for Brittany Sky to star in his recent music video, Poetic Justice. As Kendrick put it recently, “We had another girl for the lead but I had an idea where I just wanted a little bit of a darker tone [girl] in the video, It’s almost like a color blind industry where there’s only one type of appeal to the camera,” he said. Yeah, and that’s one Eurocentric type, lighter is clearly better in the eyes of countless rappers and their production squads. It’s very apparent her skin wasn’t the only aesthetic feature that got her the gig, it’s not like Kendrick went out on a limb here! And is it just me, or is this a pretty loose definition of a “dark skinned girl”?

britsky3. Fountain of youth. DJ Premier is the rap game’s equivalent of Michael Jordan. By that I mean, regardless of how much time passes, new generations of artists are aware and are very much in awe of the accomplishments of Premo. And just like new ballers still want to rock some fresh new Jordan’s, young cats in the know are looking to work with Premier. Here’s ZIF fave Joey Bada$$ being introduced to the producer extraordinaire, aptly showing the appropriate humility.

4. Ballers want to be rappers. Here’s the most recent example of sport imitating rap, this one brought to you by Kentucky basketball’s most alliterative player, Nerlens Noel. The star freshman who suffered a devastating injury that has sidelined him for the latter part of their season seemingly had some free time and released a song called “Number 9″ with a local rapper and Kentucky fan named Wes Grams. It’s as terrible as Kentucky’s chances at reaching the tourney this year.

5. Finally, it dropped. The album I’ve been hyping not so subtly for months from The Doppelgangaz was released two days ago. First listen impressions are usually the ones that count, and mine was pure enjoyment. This is rap music I’m going to proudly share with all of my non-rap listening friends, not that they’ll listen to it, said rap music is for hip hop fans, this album won’t turn you onto the genre. But if you’re yearning for more than what your favorite major is telling you that you like, start with HARK.

Freddie From Gary Talking About Mike From Gary

Freddie Gibbs is from Gary, Indiana, so was the Jackson Family. When I first heard Gibbs, he was in the business of constantly referring to his Gary roots despite his displacement to the City of Angels. I wondered if he was in a perpetual state of internal strife, battling the unrealistic bar that had been set by the Jackson clan decades ago. I pictured him bumping  MJ in his ipod holding a sign saying “Hollywood or Bust” at the local Greyhound station in Gary. Then of course I got swept away by his music, for the record, I deem him to be the most underrated rapper (currently unsigned) with major label appeal out there. His smooth voice is paralleled by his effortless flow pattern which is laced with precision lyrical content. I’ve said this before, but Freddie Gibbs is the quintessential “your rapper’s favorite rapper”, he’s so on point, you’ll forget that he came from a small town in the Midwest famous for birthing Michael Jackson….until now…

Dark Time Sunshine Simplify Video Making

Because when the music speaks for itself, you don’t need more than a couch to make a music video. Dark Time Sunshine has been blipping our radar for the past year or so, Aesop for the past 15. But it’s Swamburger who’s got my favorite verse on this one, got that Mystikal spitfire flow that just demands an energetic reaction.

Good music right here.

Overall Grade: B+

Poetic Justice

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I don’t know what’s more disturbing, the fact that Drake was tagged to feature on this track, or the fact that fans think he “saved” this song (see comments on YouTube). The difference between these two artists is epitomized by the visuals they were associated with in this video. Drake, in a hotel room with a big booty call on the bed, Kendrick Lamar, appearing as a shot up corpse laying on top of his dead girlfriend. Skirt steak and filet mignon.

Overall Grade: B-

Ain’t Nobody Trying To Kill Your Vibe (Sheesh)

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I know very little about British outfit, The Confect. Their social media presence seems to want to keep it that way, mysterious stuff. However, I know that their name is short for ‘confectionery’ which means candy shop in British (eat your heart out Fitty). Fittingly they have sweet taste (zing) as epitomized by some of their remix choices, including this King Kendrick banger. British acts with some eclectic flair and an appreciation of American pop tend to do well (see The XX, Jai Paul, Ellie Goulding, Kano), look out for future work hitting your Spotify lists soon.

This That Shit That Freed The Slaves

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Alright, first some disclaimers. I’m not a 2 Chainz guy, I rock zero jewelry and I wouldn’t change my rap moniker if my life depended on it (I went by Drake circa 1997). Secondly, before you lambaste me with racial stuff, the title of this post was outright plucked from a commentor on this track’s Soundcloud page. Having said that, this is that shit that freed the slaves man! I guess I can’t keep saying I hate mashups and continue to propagate it all over ZIF. But Scott Melker, founder of The Melker Project  has been pushing the right fusion formula. First ingredient, an eclectic as possible combination of artists. “Skeetwood Mac” is the first in a series of EPs being released by The Melker Project, each showcasing different classic artists. As the name implies, this EP is comprised of five Fleetwood Mac songs, each mashed up with Hip Hop and R&B standards. The project is available for your downloading pleasure starting 2/4.

Exploding Octupus [Video]

ILL BILL, if you know him, you know him well. Necro’s brother and longtime spitter aficionado ILL BILL has been pushing his version of Brooklyn hip hop for going on two decades. In recent years I’ve found his videos to be a little too linear to truly appreciate, though his rhymes have always been performed with a weighted breath that truly rivals some of hip hop’s most respected emcees. This video is by no means a stereotypical one,ILL BILL plays the Ted Kaczynski (Unabomber) card and gives pause to the notion that technology and its proliferation is all good. Nothing is all good, and you get the sense that Ill Bill is not a huge Instagram guy. Video spoke to me in a big way, looking forward to the album.

 ILL BILL’s latest solo LP, “THE GRIMY AWARDS” CD/DVD, hits stores in February.

StraightFace, Curvy Music

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The beauty of working an ‘underground’ blog is that you get the standard credentials that allow you to interact with successful mainstream artists AND you get a plethora of submitted work from that next generation of replacements, i.e. the underground itself. Recently I came across some music from a rapper out of Athens, GA called StraightFace.  I don’t know much about this cat (his website won’t help you), so I’ll stick to the music here. As this single (below) demonstrates, this artist does not make your father’s sort of hip hop. This isn’t boom bap, backpack, hyphy, trap rap or any other ‘genre’ you have come to identify as hip hop. This music falls outside of the placid margins dictated by industry elites, as indicated by the Tame Impala beat, who’s a self-proclaimed maker of psychedelic hypno-groove melodic rock music. Amidst the instrumental debauchery StraightFace is able to lay down some well placed lyrics with depth; a little God speak, a little ‘I still think about that girl’ talk, and plenty of questioning of purpose. I know this sounds crazy town, but trust me, take the path that is off beaten, mix it with a little of your unique creative interpretation of things and you’ll end up with product worth slanging. StraightFace forever? We’ll see, good start though.

S/O to the man himself, he seems to be doing his own PR, which would explain his persistence on Twitter. Keep your eyes peeled for his forthcoming, debut LP entitled Forever, later this year.

Sabbaticals and such

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So I was granted a two week leave off the plantation, and ZIF suffered the consequences. Between the Newtown shooting and the general malaise that tends to define my holiday experiences  I admit, opining about music, culture and life itself has not been a priority. Having said that, we at ZIF are busy behind the scenes working on some projects I’m eager to share with you, mums for now though.

Now, onto this REKS track. I was put onto REKS by the big homie Singapore Kane, and I can say, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Nobody out there is currently working as hard as this cat right here. He must live in the studio because it’s non-stop releases when he’s not on tour. This track is off the forthcoming “Revolution Cocktail” mixtape which will be released on iTunes on 1/22/13 (mixtape releases on iTunes trip me out). Singapore has also been in the studio with REKS recently, look out for that banger of a collabo on his upcoming work, Waves N Shades, no doubt Beantown’s finest right there.

Hit the jump to peep some footage of REKS I took a few years ago when he was around my way.

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When All I Want Is Noise

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I don’t know if it’s just me, but after the Newtown tragedy on Friday, I’ve had a difficult time listening to everyone’s thoughts, lyrics, and opinions. Save the noise, drown yourself in music, that was my motto this weekend. I turned to one of ZIF’s all time favorite soundsmiths, Providence based, Falside. The New England connection was a coincidence  but this track (dropped yesterday) helped me forget a little , free and idyllic, classic Falside.

Peep our interview with Falside, back when he was a younger buck.

The Afrikan Space Man

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Ras G is the #1 ranked astronaut in the Afrikan Space Program. For those of you who can’t peep your favorite cosmonaut at Low End Theory on the regular, it is a must to check in with this new and free EP, download it in it’s entirety here. Also, we are lining up some time with Open Mike Eagle to discuss his movements, including his recent trip with Ras G to Uganda, sounds ridiculously intriguing.

Legends Redux

The-Glitch-Mob1Regardless of your musical preferences, if you were an early 80’s baby, you got your shimmy on to a few Prodigy tracks, and most likely “Breathe” was your favorite. A few years back I went to a Prodigy show, Glitch Mob opened up and set the table well. I was supposed to interview these guys, but yes, there was a glitch (in that post I called it the best show of my life, I retract that statement vehemently, though it was solid). This remix of a massive Prodigy tune does exactly what fans would want, maintains the integrity of the track while simultaneously polishing it into a contemporary sound. No defects here.

Sniper Queen

Videographer Julio Secchin gets uber creative with this new Leo Justi music video, big time. Think Batman meets City of God. Here’s what the director had to say about it:

“Sniper Queen is one of the most iconic characters to emerge from this year’s Brazilian music-video production. Like Leo Justi’s music, he blends the harsh ghetto lifestyle with sophisticated and complex elements. Patrolling through the rooftops of Rio de Janeiro, he wears his unmistakable fur coat with shinny wrestling tights, portraying himself as a super-hero figure with a sniper rifle.

As a former elite-squad officer, Sniper Queen acts as a vigilante throughout the city, watching over people in distress. He also does a little bit of target-practice in between his heroic adventures.

Rio de Janeiro isn’t the usual background for this kind of character, specially in this case. This is a strong black man dressed in a queer-heroic fashion with no apparent match for his power around. Even though it sounds like a black exploitation kind of music-video, it isn’t. As weird as it sounds, this can be the only kind of super-hero that actually fits Rio de Janeiro.

Like Favela Funk music, it comes from the ghetto but gets mainstream. Most people like it, but don’t express it publicly.

He takes matters into his own hands, but dances along his quest for justice. He’s an outcast doing the job no one else would do. But he has fun doing it.”

Like much of the music coming out of Rio, this track slashes through typical genre placements and compels us to find new ways of describing it altogether, in the case of Justi’s music he has labeled it as “Heavy Baile”. From what I can piece together it basically means ghetto meets heavy meets rock. Yeah, I know, awesome sauce.

Bada$$ Emcee, Bad Crowd

Joey Bada$$ performed his flagship track “Hardknock” at  Pitchfork’s 2012 Unofficial CMJ Party. For an unofficial party it appeared to be well attended, unfortunately predominately by “people formerly known as hipsters”. You’ve more than likely seen lifeless crowds like this, it somewhat comes with the territory of hip hop shows for the past decade. For the record, I was thoroughly impressed by the performance, here’s the music video for the track itself, one of my favorites of 2012.

Diplo Got Stoned, End Result, Superb Mix

The title pretty much sums it up, apparently he got stoned and went on one of those creative episodes reserved for geniuses. Everything from Jimi to Black Sheep on this. Great way to start your morning, confirmed that myself on my commute today. If it becomes available for download, I’ll upload that link here, for now, get stoned and stream away.