Jackin Jill


I shall not front. This post is inspired by the fact that it’s International Woman’s Day. Fittingly, this track from Mello Music Group emcee Substantial is a part of a dedication album to the illustrious Jill Scott, a woman worthy of recognition on all 365 days frankly. The tribute project is called “Jackin’ Jill“, very witty title indeed. If this track is a good indicator of how the rest of the project is composed, it’s safe to say Mello Music found themselves a goodie with this MC. Substantial has a hell of a back story, one that is punctuated with his battle with cancer, I included that verbiage after the jump, inspiration all around on this joint.

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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…

ZIF Video Of The Week: Quelle Chris – Rat Shit


Detroit bred, now Cali bound rapper Quelle Chris left some of us puzzled when he signed his deal with Mello Music Group. I can say that I was curious whether they would be able surround Quelle with the right mixture of quality and youthful exuberance. Needless to say that Quelle seems to be enjoying himself. Not sure where this track ends up or if it’s just a random release, however, I’m pleased that somebody went in on the concept of ratchet (nice word play Quelle), that word is getting utterly abused out there.

Kings of NY?


So as many of you know, we at ZIF do a lot more than post a random piece of work once in a while. As a full service artist development agency, we are constantly looking for ways we can integrate ourselves into up and coming artists and make an impact on their career trajectory. That being said, we’ve been busy this week satiating clients. Okay, caveat installed.

But not so busy that I can’t take a brief moment to highlight this single off the new The Doppelgangaz album, Hark. As I’ve mentioned before, [bold statement alert] they are my favorite rap act out of NYC. For the record, they’re big overseas. It’s a good litmus test actually, anytime a rap act is big in Europe but relatively unknown Stateside you can bet they are spitting some truth. For those that remember what rap looked like in that town before A$AP, this is your ticket. The new album drops March 15th, if this single is an indication of quality on the rest of the project, I have a feeling their presence won’t be so damn Eurocentric.

Oldie But Goodie


I always feel so left out when Throwback Thursday’s roll around. Don’t get it twisted I appreciate paying homage to the past, frankly, that’s where all the damn gold is. I just always end up having a mental breakdown when I try and pick just one track to showcase, when there’s a plethora of choice, I usually stumble. So, thank you OME, for making this easy. Dope track, dope remix. I’ve said this time and time again, this guy doesn’t make enough music to supply the demand.

StraightFace, Curvy Music


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


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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Spit on this video, Alexander

I hate to pigeon hole and overly simplify, but here’s another prime example of a Bay Area lyricist redefining the role of ‘conscious rap’ in Century two-one. (Yes, I’m looking at you Rey Resurreccion.) From what I can recall, Alexander Spit has been doing his thing for a minute, I’m talking Myspace era stuff. His on the verge status has been quietly picking up steam in ’12, his addition to the Decon Records outfit certainly helped. This video is DIY gold, and is off his upcoming Full length LP – A Breathtaking Trip to That Otherside, due for release 1/29/13. Just another reason I hope the Mayans were wrong.

Cool Kids: Still Cool?


I attended an URB Magazine listening party for the Cool Kids back in ’08 I believe, back when URB actually had an office, and a publication for that matter. I recall the overwhelming response the crowd had when “Black Mags” was performed live by the young duo. I thought to myself, “this is great, but do these guys have staying power?” Well, they went on to forge one of the more meteoric rises in recent hip hop memory. The kids were quickly dripping in major tour money and thrust into the MTVU harbor as a flagship group. But much like Outkast, solo projects often reveal areas of concern previously overshadowed by the necessary concessions made during the creative process as a group. Let me first say, that Chuck Inglish is clearly a wunderkind when it comes to production, his list of clients has reached astronomically respectable proportions. However, Mikey Rocks, now Sir Michael Rocks, has left with me some pangs when presented with his new solo material. First of all, I’m not a Mac Miller fan, and Mikey’s decision to open up for him on his tour along with the recent joint they dropped is just bad looks all around. Secondly, I feel like Sir Mike is sounding more and more like a fusion of just too many artists out there. Think Curren$y meets Casey Veggies meets Wiz. There was a time when I could tell you exactly what Mikey Rocks sounded like and what made him unique, of course he was embedded within a duo at that time and I was reading a magazine that doesn’t exist anymore. Judge this track as you will, it’s the first leak from “Lap Of Lux 1.5, which will be available via Datpiff.com on Thursday, December 6th, here

I actually don’t hate this track, I do however believe it stands out not. I think that the production on this EP is strong, Harry Fraud and Chuck should carry this into a successful drop. I just hope Mikey has something to say about it as well.

Potassium D Anyone?

Ah, good old TopBananas, you’ve always made timely insertions into my playlist. Put simply, L.A./SoCal emcee TopBananas passes the eyeball test. He produces his own music, his tracks regardless of what randomness he’s throwing in there are always listenable, and frankly he screams nice guy. Not to mention he once mentioned our blog in one of his videos (rappers note: this buys you absurd shelf life on The Serengeti). Seriously though, this new track off his upcoming mixtape “Fire Sale” truly caught my attention, doesn’t dude sound like radio material (in a marketable kind of way, not mainstream shit kind of way)? He’s always had a great ear for what’s hot on the proverbial street, if he’s been packed away in his lab somewhere cooking, I guarantee you this mixtape is going to be fire.

The Opposite of a Duran Duran Song

There isn’t a rapper over 35 that still brings me joy and relevant music the way P does. (2 Chainz fans, STFU). That being said, this animated equivalent of his album cover (Mic Tyson) is yet another ingenious way to repackage the Duck Down legend.

The album  is out October 30th on Duck Down Music.
Fans can pre-order the Deluxe-Edition Album at iTunes today: http://bit.ly/mictyson

Munch on Monch’s Bullet [Review]

Speaking like a President from the bullets point of view, Pharoahe Monch lays down this beautifully produced and perfectly political banger. In the midst of feigned excitement over 2 party politics, this first single can give hip hop fans confidence about the platform of the Pharoahe’s anticipated album PTSD.

For Pharoahe Monch fans, the single ends the story of this personified bullet  begun with the tracks Stray Bullet and When the Gun Draws (video below).
During a time when I can’t seem to get the voices of presidential hopefuls out of my head due to millions of dollars in campaigns and constant news coverage, it is nice to be able to play tracks like these loud and hope the beats get stuck to drown out the propaganda. Been a fan of Mr. Monch and his anti-establishment stylings since the days of Soundbombing & will be happy to check the full album when it drops. Until then, show your support by purchasing the single on iTunes.

Follow the man on Twitter @pharoahemonche

Kisses & Bullets – Lady T

The Rap Game Dregs One

I worked Bruin Bash last night and watched thousands of pimply faced consumption machines aka freshman effectively gloss over the headliners, Los Rakas and Chiddy Bang. Both of those groups kick serious butt and are very much ZIF approved. So it made me think about how even hybrid commercial acts like Chiddy Bang hit rough patches when it comes to satiating younger audiences. Makes you wonder, who in their right mind is out there pushing music if they know it won’t be commercially successful? Well, ask Dregs One, the Bay Area emcee has been pushing his music with a non-commercial message for half a decade. My guess is that the answer involves having a full time job and something about love for the “game”. Either way, I’m glad I live in a world that isn’t pre-programmed to suit the needs of young people with abounding funds and zero gustation , oh wait…

This new single “Easy Rider” is off his EP, Mood Swings, produced by BIG Shawn of the underground group Bored Stiff. It’s a song about coping with the stress that life and society throws at us. Apparently the EP drops “soon”, nice.

Bishop Over MadLib

Bishop Lamont – Lunch Time (Prod by Madlib) 2012

Bishop Lamont finally makes an appearance on ZIF , this is over “Lunch Time” produced by Madlib.  The track is off Bishop’s upcoming mixtape joint The Layover on Diocese Records. Personally, the last time I heard about Bishop in the studio, it was when everyone thought Detox was on the cusp of being released (one of many times) and he leaked a few Dre produced tracks. Considering Detox is dead in the water, it’s good to see Bishop moving on to more work. Apparently this Madlib beat is recycled, a bigger fan could tell you from what. If you know, post a comment, educate us.