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.

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(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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Kendrick Lamar – (O)verly (D)edicated [Album Review]

Note: This article was written a ways back, but right before I was ready to send it off I came down with some of the worst strep throat I’ve ever had. 103 degrees type shit. So anyways, to my understanding some of this, mainly in regards to the free vs. for pay version, may no longer be accurate.

When I first heard The Kendrick Lamar EP, it brought me a revival of faith in hip-hop like I had not experienced in years. His flow was so complex, and his content was so genuine, progressive, thoughtful and full of insight, that it more than satiated my intellectual desires as someone who lives music all day everyday. Yet to balance things out, Kendrick was clearly someone who was hood, and didn’t blatantly criticize the way people get it in streets. I’ve always thought that this balance was way too rare in rap. It always seems to be that an MC has to be either a super thug, the pimp of all pimps, a revolutionary, or a snobby brainiac, with little in between. Yet The Kendrick Lamar EP perfectly seemed to depict a multidimensional man, who has gone through a lot of formative life experiences. Then to think that this all came from a rapper who I had never heard mentioned once (I didn’t realize he used to be K Dot upon the first couple listens), gave me some humility and hope. I realized that no, I don not know about every dope MC in existence. And that yes, there is a new generation of MC’s who make the type of music that I want to hear rather than what suburban teenagers want to listen to. So it goes without saying that that EP quickly sent Mr. Lamar to the top of my list of artists of whom I was excited to see and hear progress.

Obviously I was thrilled to hear that he was coming out with a new project. I even went as far to buy it off of itunes, even though it was available for free download as well, and I loathe purchasing MP3’s. I appreciate Kendrick’s music enough that I really wanted to support him, and for less than I pay for lunch on some days it seemed like the right and easy thing to do. Yet before I get to mention any of the music, as a consumer and a fan I must say that I feel like Kendrick Lamar has done me wrong. When you offer a product for purchase and simultaneously for free download, if someone is going out of their way to give you their hard earned money rather than just get it for free, at the absolute very least they should receive everything given to those who chose to simply download that product. In theory, it should actually be the other way around; they should get more than those who took advantage of the free download. Yet in this case it was the exact opposite. Most importantly, the free version offers 3 songs that the for pay version does not. And on a smaller scale, the free version offers a secondary image with production credits and contact info, while the itunes version does not. This may seem minor to many, but to me this was a disgrace. It’s almost like asking people to not buy it, and laughing at them if they do. If I’m going to take the time and risk to bust out my credit card and send that information through the ultra sketchy internet to make a purchase, why should I have to do more to get all of the intended content that comes with that product? It just seems stupid and poorly handled.

Now that I’m done with that bitch session, I strongly urge you to download the project, FOR FREE, here.

The Heart Pt.2 ft Dash Snow

Overall this project is on a much more dark, depressed, and somber tip than The Kendrick Lamar EP. Yet when (O)verly (D)edicated is good, it is far and beyond what most other hip-hop artists have to offer. On the other side of the coin, when it is average, it’s  not very memorable. Lets start with the successes. Content wise, Kendrick continues to bring that balance and honesty that allows him to stand out from his peers, all the while continuing to make his flow more precise and complex. “The Heart Part 2”, which features Dash Snow and was produced by Roots (REF), is a great example of this. I’ll let the music speak for itself, but you can’t tell me that by the end of this track he didn’t just black out and fucking GO OFF on the instrumental. Str8 bodied. Same goes for “Ignorance Is Bliss”, which is produced by Willie B. The flow is impeccable and the content is exactly what Kendrick does best. He typifies how shit goes down in the hood while also explaining his personal life in contrast.

R.O.T.C {Interlude} ft Bj The Chicago Kid

Yet if I had to decide between my two favorite tracks it’s between “R.O.T.C.” ft. BJ The Kid and produced by Jairus “J-Mo” Mozee and “Cut You Off (To Grow Closer)” produced by TaeBeast. “R.O.T.C.” is one intense verse about the choices many have to make on a daily basis. Do you grind out life and do things the right and legitimate way, or do you take penitentiary chances to get some serious bread? And if you stay away from a life of crime, how do you deal with the fact that society doesn’t seem to want to reward you for making that decision? It’s some real shit delivered with unmistakable passion. While “Cut You Off (To Grow Closer)” is probably the track that deals with the most universal subject matter on the entire project. Everyone has spent time with someone that you truly care about, but always seems to be bringing you down in one way or another. It’s never easy, but sometimes you just need a break from that shit. And in this track Kendrick expresses those feelings through rhyme in a more clear, understandable and relatable manner than probably if you were to just have a conversation with somebody about it. This is the type of song that I expect that I will listen to for years and still find that it has an equal impact as when I first heard it.

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