More Videos: New Blood!! – Cesar Luciano’s “Ready To Go” & 360 Won’t “Let Up”!

As this is slowly but surely becoming an unsigned artist music video depot since I stopped actively blogging, I add to the video library by posting the latest from my bro Cesar Luciano. The 4th visual from his Catch Me If You Can album is one of my favorite tracks off of the project and captures that real life, at-wit’s-end feel courtesy of @NameisE who is quickly becoming a vanguard director. You’ll see why as these months unfold…

For now enjoy this cinematic moment in music. 

The second clip is something  new that I wanted to share. Queens is a boro that I’m very fond of and was at the forefront of Hip-hop as it rose to be a dominant musical force. Lately it’s been a sleeping giant, with the nearest talent coming from G-Unit and my boy Pinks, but I’m always rooting for them. So my homegirl Kiki dropped this off to me this afternoon and told me to check it out. I decided to share. Over a classic by one of the main rappers responsible for that rise that Queens contributed to, rapper 360 reinvents LL Cool J’s “Comeback” for his personal mantra.

Enjoy kiddies…

16 Reasons Why I’m The Greatest Rapper You Never Heard! Or 16 Reasons Why I’m Better Than The Last 3 Freshman Classes!!

16. I’m relatively handsome

We can all attest that looks don’t matter half as much as the industry would have you believe. IF they matter at all. The success of some of the biggest rappers in the last 2 decades has hinged more on their personas and characters than their sex appeal. Rappers tend to find their niche and make you like the story that they create with their image. Being a physical specimen to be gawked at only works if you’re aiming to pigeonhole yourself and attract a limited demographic. But it never hurts to be a bit easy on the eyes. If you can spit, and attract the opposite sex to the point where you can be taken seriously when you make records about relations, it always increases how far you can reach. And as subjective as this matter may be, it’s not up for debate that I’m unattractive or have any weird or distracting features. At most, I look like a regular ol’ nigga. At Best, I’m a fly dude.

15. I’m From A Cool Place

Harlem is an ambiguous territory to hail from. It’s famous, legendary and an epicenter of trends. Yet and still, it’s produced a very short list of successful rappers. It’s a 2 way street for a rapper hailing from this hometown. I won’t necessarily be putting it on the map, but with a huge gap left between Doug E. Fresh‘s era and  Mase and Diddy’s run, to the space left since Dipset held the crown, there’s room for someone to return it to glory and take it further than it’s ever been.

14. I Can Freestyle

Tho it may not hold much weight anymore, Ask anyone about how they’ve come to know me, and they’ll mention this quality. Not mixtape freestyling. No, I mean off the top of the head, stream of consciousness. It makes for good in person spontaneous entertainment and display of ability. It also shows dexterity and demonstrates quick wit and ability to think sharp. One of my most famous YouTube videos is one where I’m freestyling over Lil Wayne‘s “Prom Queen” instrumental. It’s what got me last contract.

13. I’m Self-Sufficient

I have many affiliations, yet when you see me on stage, it’s just me. No hypeman. I may invite a bunch of my musician friends each time (as pointed out by my homegirl TDJ), but it’s still a one man operation. Since 2006 I’ve been the motor behind every aspect of my career from the sequencing of my projects, to the design of my sites. I haven’t had the luxury of having some immaculate team of pros executing my ideas for me, so I hire professional individuals to get the jobs done that I can’t and I always have a collaborative hand in the planning and final product. All this means is that I don’t wait on anyone, make excuses for myself or lean on anything. Everything you see is a reflection of my creativity. Now this may be a headache for some A&R somewhere who’s still working off of the idea that artists need to be handheld and told what to do every step of the way, but for a company looking to have less overhead and expedite their profit by banking on an all-encompassing artist…There you have it…

12. I’ve Grinded

Piggy-backing off of that last point, I’ve been pursuing this long enough to know what works and what doesn’t. Both for me as a rapper and for other artists. I’ve studied this game. I’ve been a songwriter and sat in the offices with some of the heads behind some of the biggest projects. Falling and failing have given me the advantage of seeing where my appeal and approach can be strengthened, so there’s less weak spots now. I’ve hit the angles, put in the elbow grease and leg work, so I have a story to tell. It may be one of trial and error, but It’s a story nonetheless. This is no dollar and a dream.

11. I’m A Student Of The Game

I didn’t just pick up a pen and decide that I wanted to rap because it was cool to do it. I started out as a child, formed a little rap group around the time of the ABC and Kriss Kross boom and made up 10 bar raps in my head all the time. In high school, I listened to underground radio strictly for years. In college, I loved the club stuff. I’ve read the books, been a fan, been a schemer, been desperate, been jaded. But I still love the music at the end of the day. I change with the times, while staying close to the roots that got me involved and interested. All this has brought me to sense of well roundedness where I don’t lean too far to any side because I understand why each one exists and I see room for the middle. These are the elements that I’m among and which have influenced me.

10. I Have A Story

Tho it can’t be summed up in a one nuclear sentence by me. Maybe a publicist can do that. It’s undeniably there. Being from a place like Harlem and being raised in the 1980’s should already color the landscape for any listener wondering how I became the product that I am. I almost defy every stereotype there is about what is equated with my region. College educated, no drugs or alcohol, no criminal record, no fashion trends. But balance that with being a dropout, with drug dealing and using parents and a street-based belief in self preservation…Not to mention a long rap history of winning awards, honors and being the first unsigned rapper to grace the legendary booth on BET‘s RapCity. There’s plenty of story there…Just put it together.

9. I’m Not Region Specific

Some say you should have your city on your back first, but there’s millions of rappers who go elsewhere and blow before they really make it national. Again, this is another old industry standard which has been shattered. I always believe that a person should rep their area and never forget where they came from, but the point of being an artist is to reach as many people as possible. Too many rappers, and especially New York rappers, have a tendency to rap in ways that only could be relatable to people in their locality.  Because I’ve lived in Georgia and D.C. and Iam indeed a student of the game, I’ve been exposed to all kinds of sounds and patterns of speech. Most importantly, I’ve gotten to experience why certain things resonate with certain people in certain places, and what things are generally universal across the board. Without sounding contrived, this has soaked into my sound. I’m not your typical New York rapper, rapping about New York shit or using flows only New Yorkers would appreciate.

8. I’m Not Stuck In An Era, Movement or Niche Market

Yeah. I’m not trying to bring the golden era back, neither in rap nor fashion. I’d rather sound like the sum of my influences that have given birth to something new than sound like one big homage to them. I don’t want to bring back the spirit of any particular rapper and I certainly wouldn’t limit myself to having a gimmick or angle that would pigeonhole me like the whole horror-core meets hipster schtick, or the stupid weed-rap clicks, not even emo-rap. I can’t be associated with a wave. I’m not for the moment. I have no limits and no bounds. The old industry standard says that you MUST pick a route. I say that wall was broken a long time ago and that myth debunked with artists like Kanye who prove that there are rappers who can be real rappers but not be defined by one kind of subject matter or one kind of beat or guest appearance. As long as you don’t spread yourself too thin and look out of your box trying to do a little of everything like Wyclef, you can be an expansive M.C. that can’t be defined in one category. Not even Jay can be considered one kind of rap at this point.

7.  I Got a Good Voice

GURU said it in ’94. “It’s mostly the voice”. Mine sits somewhere in the best place possible. Flexible and not too light, not too deep. Once again, in the middle. Some gravelly voiced rappers sound made for hardcore anthems, but out of place on smoother records. Some whispery or buttery rappers couldn’t pull of attempts over harder beats. I don’t have either. Just a nice New York tone with southern twangs that pop up here and there. I emphasize words and here and there, and color my speech. So it’s never that flat, lifeless thing that Diddy does. But I’m also not yelling like Meek Mill or Papoose. There’s a natural melodiousness and sometimes it comes out in my cadence. As noted on my second mixtape, I’m not a singer…But I can hold a note…

6. I Actually Talk About Something

Picture that. For all of these neo movements, nobody’s really talking about anything directly. The rise of emo rap has given birth to a bunch of rappers who have no qualms about whining about themselves and their fame. The stresses of these mostly suburban cats is so immense that they have to smoke weed everyday and build superficial relationships with women. Cry me a river. On the other side of that coin, you got a bunch of other heads that think they’re talking about something because they sprinkle in some words like “Free” and “fuck the government”. I’m willing to make that the WHOLE song. AND make it just as catchy as the most ignorant song out. Remember when Dead Prez came out with “It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop”, or “Jesus Walks” by Kanye?? Those songs were getting played at parties and clubs and no one stopped the record and said, ‘hey! you can’t play that cause it’s conscious’. Without coming off as a conscious rapper or beating listeners over the head with preachy content, I dare to be the guy who has as many songs about real life as I have about fly life. In my time I’ve rapped about everything from the color Black to the month of October to teenage pregnancy to suicide to over-drinking, to street life to comparing life to one big party. And I don’t mean making mention of it, no I mean whole songs dedicated to each topic. And I stay on topic. With swag!

5. I Got Flows

So many people still don’t quite understand this concept. Alot of this has to do with the fact that there are interchangeable words that get tossed around. This is also known as pattern or delivery.  The tricky thing is that delivery also has to do with vocal inflection. Luda‘s flows are only as good as the animation in his voice when he lands on certain words. But most importantly, these things are so important because you only notice them when a rapper gets stuck in a flow. Detractors of 2Pac’s number 1 critique of him is that he raps the same way and uses the same pattern on every song. Is that true? No. But he’s done it enough throughout his career that it can be a valid point. he’s known by it. Being known by a particular flow can make a name for a rapper, but it can also be their undoing. It can limit their appeal and make them the subject of easy ridicule. It’s been noted that Jadakiss‘ refusal to evolve his flow has stunted his own mass appeal. He always raps the same. Fab was in danger of this before he stepped it up years ago. Most New York and southern rappers have trouble with this after amassing enough regional fame. There’s a comfort level there. I don’t have a definite pattern. And while no one has really truly invented a new flow probably since the days of Bone, what we all are now are products of the greatest flows ever! If we haven’t absorbed those and implemented them into our repertoire in ways that sound refreshing, then what’s the point?? I rap slow, I rap fast. I use compounds, I use sing-song cadences. I rhymes lines inside of lines. I take big pauses sometimes. Timing is the crucial element to using flows. I never want anyone to listen to more than 3 tracks of mine and say I rap the same way for a whole project.  I don’t even keep one pattern all the way thru one song. And I don’t want to make slight changes where it’s not noticeable, nor do I want to make dramatic changes where it sounds like I’m doing too much and going out of my range. You may not realize it til after you think about it, but you appreciate that fact about me. I made a whole track about using other people’s flows. Just to show that I understand why It’s important. It’s  over 7 minutes long, and the only reason why people listen until the end, is because the switch in flows keeps their attention.

4. I Know How To Make Songs

Which brings me to this point. What good is being the nicest rapper with all these wordy and ridiculous bars if you can’t condense them into a song format that  makes people want to listen?!  Any true fan of yours is going to try to vouch for you. But not enough people will reinforce that sentiment if you just don’t have the knack or make the music to show and prove. I use Saigon as an example of this once again. People love him. But not enough. Just Blaze is considered one of the best producers ever. You have him at your disposal and STILL couldn’t deliver songs that stuck with anyone. Song construction is the biggest test that I throw at any rapper. What good are all of your mixtape freestyles or viral cyphers if you sound wack in 16 bar format? The even bigger challenge is making a song with mass appeal. Do you know what kind of beats get reactions from people? What instruments go well together and what sounds cheesy? Do you pay attention to PEOPLE enough to know what THEY like as opposed to giving them what you THINK they’ll like?? Or having your head so far up your ass that you think they’re just going to gravitate to you with your self-indulgent abstract shit?? There’s a crowd for everything. And anyone can get a group of followers and supporters who like them even to tolerate that. Even Charles Hamilton has devoted stans. But does that translate to sold out shows or longevity? probably not. I guess the question becomes, how far do you want to go in rap?? See, someone like me cares about what girls like as much as I care about what the niggas on my corner like, and any corner in the world at that, as much as I care about what my family can respond to. So I make my music with that in mind, following music theory methods which have been tried and true. Taking cues from successful songs in rap’s history. Taking cues from artists who got respect for killing mixtapes and battles as well as radio. I tell stories that are linear, I make memorable hooks, I don’t use abstract shit that can isolate a whole cluster of people.

3. I know The Difference Between Punchlines With Similes And Metaphors And Other Rhetorical Devices…And I Use Them!

I’m a product of lots of special english courses. I know what hyperbole and alliteration are. I make good use of such things and place them where they need to go. I use metaphors as metaphors. Sometimes my whole song is a metaphor. I know similies and I make sure they’re not lazy ones (i.e. “rush like Limbaugh” – wack!). Ever since I learned the importance of using punchlines as a teenager after getting demolished in a battle, I’ve built up my strength with them. A rap song doesn’t really feel good without these clever things. Wit is respected by every rap crowd, in every locale. I use it all the time. I put punchlines in my deeper songs, I put them in my songs about girls, and I kill them in my braggadocious rhymes! I use every instrument of wordplay in the arsenal. My favorite is the double entendre. The phonetic homophone-based ones can be tricky, but again, timing makes everything right. Now put that together with the fact that I use different flows and make catchy songs. It’s not an easy feat.

2. I’m Charismatic And Compelling

None of the above things that I mentioned are worth a damn if this isn’t in place. Perhaps this arises from coming from a cool place, having a story and being  student of the game, but I have character. Not a character. But character. And it comes out in my songs. Without this, my club songs would not come off as believable. My stories wouldn’t grip anyone and make them want to listen to the end to hear the climax. My boasts would seem empty. You wouldn’t take my girl songs seriously if you think I don’t get girls. Some of this is very subjective, but for the most part, My voice is not full of pain like some rappers, but there’s a charm and sincerity that comes with how I say things. I’m also honest to a fault. I don’t make any reservations about sharing my highs and lows, lamenting on my mistakes and failures, or poking fun at my shortcomings. I don’t rap about anything that someone can comeback to me and say I haven’t or wouldn’t do. Sure, there’s plenty of exaggeration in Hip-Hop, but I don’t go overboard or glorify, or lie. I’m me all day in my recordings. I can sleep comfortably knowing I gave the world my truth. The way my projects are sequenced and all of the means I’ve executed to get my point across should have you feeling like I’m a pretty cool and interesting dude afterwards. Basically, listening to my rap should make you at least somewhat intrigued to meet me in person. If you don’t care about a rapper as you listen, then they haven’t made you care from their music. Anybody can rap, it’s the soul and the passion of the person rapping that make you want to go back again and again to hear what they have to say.

1. I’m A Dope Performer

Last and certainly not least, since we’re talking about wanting to see an artist in person, A performance is one of the greatest ways to do so. it’s the final frontier for anyone who wants to do this for real. A true performer gives you a great look at their personality during a performance. You hear them talk, see their facial expressions. See their crew and supporters and how much they rely on them. As someone who’s so used to doing most things alone, and being involved in every aspect, you can be sure that I polly with the people behind the music at a show and get my arrangements right. I don’t mob the stage with my crew, I don’t stand in one place, I also don’t say corny things like “Make noise”. Yet what I do is take into account what kinds of crowds I’m performing for, I survey them, get a feel, and always try to get them involved. I make small talk with them, I joke, I get them interacting in my call and response hooks in ways that may relate to them. I walk off stage with the mic. I act out my words. I wear eye-catching stuff based on the song I’m performing. I freestyle. I ‘ve performed with bands and with djs. I’m comfortable with both. I have breath control and you can hear every word I say, even when I rap fast. And most importantly, I know how to hold the fuckin mic properly!

Hot 16…Or More…”BEYOND THE SKY”

‘Yo, you’re a deep guy’ Are the words that my homie Sol-Leks told me after hearing the first incarnation of this song in his fabled Wet Paint studios. I heard this beat that he made from a sample of Sam Cooke‘s A Change Gon’ Come” a year before and pretty much ignored it until it stayed in my head after hearing it a bunch of other times visiting the lab. It eventually ended up on my computer and I decided to record something over it. I started to play with the words in the sample about elevation and what’s beyond our human visibility. Then I wanted to get metaphysical. The verses were broken down from pondering on space missions and what we really know about what astronauts actually do, to observations on what people do for religion while searching for God and what they believe to be a heaven above the clouds, and finallY, to ghosts based on two recent deaths of one of Sol-Lek’s boys and my homie J.D.‘s boy who lost his daughter.

I put that version on Myspace in 2007 and wasn’t pleased with it. My voice wasn’t right and the verses were wordy and made the heavy subject matter sound even more off-putting by sounding more complex and nerdy than it needed to be. I left it alone until I was about to put out the deluxe version of my Crazy 8’s mixtape. I realized that I didn’t have any guest features and wondered if I wanted to make that a conscious choice in the spirit of the first 8. But I knew I couldn’t attack this song without throwing my boy Moser on it. Mos is a really deep dude and all of our conversations around that time were about seeking truth and conspiracy theories. Since I had upgraded my approach to the song now, I was headed in a more succinct direction and I knew he’d hit a point that I wouldn’t. Plus, with Sol-Leks on the beat and me and Mos on the verses, it was a certified representation of my crew, The Balance – so their presence could be felt on the project.

Mos came up with 2 verses and wound up recording both, but I kept this one because I split my long verse into 2. It was one of my earliest recordings with my GemStars family. He chose to discuss the threat of an impending bill that would allow government intrusion upon what they deem as ‘homegrown terrorism and violent radicalization’ and question the mysticism of the alien/God idea and the Mayan’s predictions of the world’s end. I took this opportunity to question the roots of American racism, the transatlantic slave trade and it’s feasibility and the faulty cause that’s attributed to the AIDS epidemic. In the second verse I go deeper about my wariness over religion, the environment and ancient history. Deep shit. People love it. Even better when I perform it and start off with the actual Sam Cooke song.

Now for the breakdown…

Beyond The Sky

“Still, get on that other shit,

cause they love it when I spit that government,

– I heard the Ku Klux was just set up to keep us fucking with each other over race!

So that sheet over the face…

Ain’t the ONLY cover-up,

it gets,

deeper than a mutha – and can anyone show me a picture of a slaveship??!

Even the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria get depicted in paintings!

While all we ever see is that same shit,

look like a diorama – tied up hands and feet – I wonder how I they lived,

on that transatlantic – hundreds of days spent,

how many slaves DIED up on the way compared to how many made it??!

And nowadays they give us this AIDS bit,

claiming African plainsmen fucking chimps and eating baboon brains man…

I’m all for evolution,

but how we went from being apes, to human beings

-wait!

Who eating apes??!  It’s confusing.

While we feuding over the word nigga – please!!

All the major cities finna drift to sea,

God if you listening…

Intervene…

(‘beyond the sky’)

I mean, lift us please…

(‘beyond the sky’)

Or at least…Send a beam”

(‘beyond the sky’)

 

VERSE 3

 

“It’s safe to say I’m a sinner,

cause your favorite religions,

got too much pagan shit in them,

for me to stay and it’s twisted…

Man made up them sentences

And ain’t it ridiculous homie?

When astrology’s the only thing making sense and it’s all based on the stars….

Exactly what I want to be,

but just the thing that scares me the most when the sky is sitting in front of me!

And since the gold is no longer backing the money – think the Federal Reserve got nerve,

look at your currency (word!)

Word to Number 5,

they just changed the number 5 on the fuckin’ $5 for like the hundredth time

-what’s the signs?!

When they start advertising shit on the moon?

And “going green” is now the cool thing to do…

After all the cancerous plastics and aerosols,

nuclear Arab wars,

smaller countries packing – we attack them,

what we asking for?

I don’t like those hieroglyphics,

undecided if I’m thinking ancient Egyptians was paying alien visits

-Since it’s the writing on the wall,

I been wrong before,

but I’m sure if I even believe in dinosaurs!

Sure it’s a great science of modern lies,

Greek shit on them dollar signs,

on my R. Kelly – I’m really believing I can fly…”

 

Hope you learned something…

 

To hear or download this song, click on the pic of the cover below

(18) Classic Sounds…

Like…

My big sister Veen‘s greatest contribution to my life besides my nephews is the enhancement of my music knowledge. She is single-handedly responsible for me knowing artists, songs and albums by name, as well as learning what a single is, who belonged to what click back in the early 90’s and how to learn song lyrics by not just hearing the radio, but listening to it.

As she got older, she branched out and started her family and the music notes and convo scaled down considerably, but what did happen as an effect of her dating the man who became the father of my 2 nephews and who I just dedicated an R.I.P. post to 2 months ago, was a music matrimony. Her love of R&B and Hip-Hop paired with his being in the business meant a whole compact disc library for young adolescent me to get lost in. Especially in the era of Columbia House CD ordering catalogues and the like. I learned about Prince from them, as well as a slew of all the contemporary urban music. If I’m not mistaken, this is where I first listened to Reasonable Doubt, reading the liner notes of every disc they had. I used to absolutely love going to their place! Not only because it had the most homely and lush decorative touches that I had seen in a small apartment (suede orange walls and deluxe carpeting throughout with a huge tv – before flatscreens took over), but mostly because of the snacks and entertainment. I fashioned my idea of adult apartment living to be like that.

My sister would throw on the cd’s from the Playstation or the Dreamcast (throwback right?) and let the default screen make spacey images on the tv while she cleaned up. One of these cd’s was the debut album of one of the most distinctive female rappers in history and one of the most unique rappers period. I remembered her ironically from watching videos with Veen a year and a half before and seeing her appear on a cut called “Da Ladies In The House” with a then burgeoning Lauryn Hill. Safe to say, I was intrigued.

After being in the habit of reading the liner notes and seeing that her album shared production credits from all the producers I loved and respected at the time from all the albums that I loved and respected, I was more than intrigued. Kollage is an honest attempt at just that; it’s more of a very concise effort to balance out 3 recurring elements than a collage of eclectic sounds, influences or moods. As a listener, you’ll see the pattern easily if you pay attention. The 3 modes are those provided by the 3 main revolving producers here (4 if you separate Gangstarr into the separate production entities of GURU and Premier), and they fluctuate from light and atmospheric experimental sounds to jazzy, funk guitar-laden grooves and the era-appropriate 90’s east coast hardcore sound. Although this is highly due to the chosen production styles of the men behind the boards, this is also a compliment to Bahamadia’s two different tones.

Assuming you know your contemporary Philly music history, then you know about the scene that spawned the famous Black Lily gatherings, shepherded by The Roots and giving rise to spoken word artists and neo-soul trailblazers in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. It would be safe to assume that this has been an aspect of Philly’s music scene for a long time now. It would also be safe to assume that like half of all female rappers, Bahamadia probably started as a poet. This is usually easy to infer from her spoken word cadence that vacillates from stacatto to continuous and overlapping. Something that matches up perfectly with her voice which carries a moistness and quiet matter-of-factness to it. Yet she sounds right at home on the harder tracks and picks up the energy and force to attack the tracks and owns them. It’s on the brightest moments on the album where she finds the happy medium between the super laid-back and the energetic.

Those moments are those like on the intro “Wordplay” and the album’s main singles like “Uknowhowwedu” &  “3 The Hardway”  On the former, Bahamadia makes her intro and thesis statement by giving a synopsis of what to expect from her debut over a minimalist GURU beat that bounces on stuttering drums, and is buffered by horns and dominated by a funky bassline. Like his other contribution to the album, the harder edged “Total Wreck”, it’s clear that GURU was still very much in the vibe of his second Jazzmatazz installment. “Total Wreck” is another stripped down beat – probably the most purely boom-bap on the album, so naturally it sees Bahamadia on her more boisterous kick. In my opinion, neither of these songs are special, but they’re also not wack and don’t serve as agents of interruption to the flow of the LP.

She hits the mark and evokes more response on the other hardcore outing, the Dj Premier produced “Rugged Ruff”. On a signature Premo 90’s beat that sounds like it should have been on one of Gangstarr’s classic albums, Bahamadia makes you wonder why she didn’t just let Premo produce 90% of the album. As a matter of fact, he’s the soundsmith behind all of the best songs on the LP. She enters  like a God-send, taking those who have been listening thus far for a loop by raping Kool G Rap‘s rapid fire non-pause flow with super vocab and lines like “Scriptures glitters like diamonds or sparkle like magnesium/Premium equates the medium which blows me up like helium…pumped up more jams than technotronic/Find it more toxic than hydrocarbon…” 

The Poet-influenced mode is more dominant on this album however, providing all of the sleepy moments on the album when coupled with lackluster production. The experimental and spacey but dark “Innovation” produced by the Beatminerz seems to be the weaker of the twins from the two beats that they provide. Bahamadia sounds like spoken word legend Jessica Care-Moore or like Lauryn Hill after hiatus as she basically talks(not raps) off beat in a choppy style. It’s on the 2 efforts by N.O. Joe however, where the album has it’s saccharin heights. It gets downright cheesy on the requisite album love song “I Confess”. It sounds like something from a smooth jazz radio station with it’s horrible interpolation of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” and doesn’t sound quite sexy coming from Bahamadia, although I do remember hearing it get a good amount of play on Philly radio. The other sapfest is on the album’s closing track “Biggest Part Of Me”, with yet another singing chorus which seems to be what everyone believed was necessary for a smooth or heartfelt song back then. Although the overall feel is corny, this is a great moment in Hip-Hop where you get the rare perspective of parenthood, especially from a mother’s angle. And what Bahamadia says in this song is actually really dope. It’s her testament to her children that’s forever cemented in audio history. It’s these 2 tracks produced by N.O. Joe that sound like they could have worked so much better if they were produced by The Roots because they incorporate similar elements in instrumentation. Ironically, it’s on the only song that features The Roots and is produced by them that her poet style doesn’t seem so snoozy.  On “Da Jawn” (which is Philly slang for everything practically – like “Joint” in New York slang) Black Thought and Malik B.‘s flows bolster the otherwise weak Roots offering and make Bahamadia’s mellow delivery seem right in pocket. The track where she shines the most in her poet syle tho, is the other Beatminerz contribution “Spontaneity”. Using the same sample they used for Heltah Skeltah‘s “Lefluar Leflah Eshkoshka”, the production duo strike gold this time around with the hypnotic and chimey track that allows Bahamadia to capitalize on her quiet storm by explaining her quirky style and whispering the hook. 

As a member of the Gangstarr foundation, Bahamadia had one of the most important co-signs of the 90’s. The extended embrace from The Roots added to that and made her one of the most significant female entrances into the game ever. More significantly, years later, she is the only major female rapper (sorry, QueenPen doesn’t count – even tho she has bigger hits), let alone rapper in general, who I have heard blatantly admit to bisexuality in song. It was on a mixtape by Outcasted female spitters Lady Luck, Babs and the Lady of Rage that featured Bahamadia on a track rhyming “last decade had a harem of dime women friends/bi on the sly/done a guy every now and then”. That’s balls. And maybe she’s at that point in her life where she no longer cares what people think. Maybe that’s also why this has been her only real full length album and has been followed by a few sporadic EP’s and side projects. Her signature beehive afro helped that heavily backed introduction with a style that was as unique as her rap presence, and tho she’s switched it up over the years and become rather obscure, her mark was definitely made. Call her sleepy if you want. But don’t sleep.

With that, I’m sure it’s become quite obvious after reading this review that my favorite tracks on this album are “Rugged Ruff”, “Spontaneity” and the singles “3 The Hardway”, and the super Dope ode to Philly hip-hop “Uknowhowwedu” . But the crown jewel of this whole album is “True Honey Buns”, a tale where she cleverly and slickly describes how going out with a friend who becomes loose in the midst of male attention speaks volumes to the challenges facing the female agenda collectively. Complex simplicity. You almost feel like you’re out at the club with them. 

And with that, this album gets 12 Candles out of a possible

4812 or 16.

4(Classic Just because where it stands in Hip-Hop, whether it be the time of it’s release, it’s influence, or the popularity of it’s singles overall)

8(Classic because it was solid for it’s time, but may be a little dated or less than amazing by today’s standards)

12(Classic as a complete release and probably celebrated widely on the surface, but possibly lacking one key element – be it one song that doesn’t fit, a wack guest appearance, lyrics, lack of depth or beats)

16(Classic all around)

(It’s more like a 10)

New music videos by Sol-Leks & J.Craft

Summer’s in the air. And it’s a great time for some good ol’ NYC rap.

This time I’m bringing you some visuals from 2 of Manhattan’s Uptown elite. The first being a rarity from the leader of my Balance crew, and one of my favorite rappers that I know (if not my favorite) – Sol-Leks. The kid has been on a wild hungry streak, doing back to back shows and throwing this video together in the span of 2 days. I’ll admit, I wasn’t a fan of this song until seeing the video. I get his vision now. It feels like a movement. He sampled it from a track on Kanye’s last album and chose it to be the lead of for what I hope means the arrival of Sol-Leks album. That would be something. For now, enjoy. And shout out to fellow Balance Crew member, 16’s Candles contributor and all around visionary, Who Is Number 5? for the camera work and editing. Nice assist by Rayniel as well. 

Speaking of Rayniel, who you may have seen me mention on this blog a couple times, the second video is by his team, the FM crew featuring the homie J. Craft on a solo mission. (Don’t it feel so 90’s? Peep the laid back flow and the brown bag on the car hood posturing) Rayniel also handled a majority of the filming and editing on this one. This is Inwood/Wash Heights Hip-Hop in it’s purest form. Manhattan keeps on making it! 

Wait, so now COMMON is a cop-killer & a “Gangsta Rapper”??!

Fuckin insanity! As a redirect for their inherent racist processing, the conservatives have struck again, this time pulling out psuedo-ethical bazookas on the most non-aggressive, veggie-eating M.C. to ever become a household name. Clearly the name Common is not common at all in the cornfed households of Tea Party America.

The former Crocheted-pants wearer became the target of political crossfire when an invite was extended to him by First Lady Michelle Obama to join for an evening of Poetry at the White House. This was immediately met with opposition from republican pundits and contributing bloggers on newsfeeds.

The total removal from the rest of the metropolitan and pop-culture aware world is evident from jump as made painfully obvious from titles of articles addressing Common as a “gangsta rapper”. http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/8043601/first_lady_michelle_obama_invites_common.html?cat=9 Not only was it clear that these folks were not privy to the fact that Common is damn near the poster child for socially conscious rap, but it also seems that they have been living under a rock to not recognize him as a familiar face on the big screen in several Blockbuster films. It was a total isolation from anything relatively urban.

The way the writers have manipulated the angles to present their view is ugly. It’s also scary when you think of the reality that this is really all it takes to incite other like-minded folk who are not in the know and haven’t the slightest idea who this rap artist is and can be swayed to categorize him as a threat. It’s easy to stir up shit amongst the uninformed whose minds are already halfway made-up.

The main argument stemming from the opposing factions centers around an excerpt from Common’s appearance on the early 2000’s original HBO program Def Poetry Jam. In the vivid spoken word piece about police brutality and institutional racial profiling, Common recites poetic language that is retaliatory in nature, but alludes to striking back at the president and crooked cops with equal violent measures. His words were extracted and highlighted in a literal context to illustrate the writer’s sensationalized claims that Common is an advocate of cop-killing and presidential assassination. They go as far as to delve into how the president can lose backing from police forces due to this appearance. Read a full example of this argument here http://dailycaller.com/2011/05/10/liberals-support-conservatives-attack-rappers-white-house-invite/

Of course to us who have grown up in these melting pots under the wave of Hip-Hop influence and witnessed the maturation of the artist formerly known as Common Sense from animated B-Boy backpacker to sensitive Pro-Black voice for struggle and universal peace, this is ass backwards on all accounts. But you can see how, as one who has never heard of him, receiving this description of him as a first impression and reading the transcription of these lyrics (especially when misled to believe these are lyrics from his songs as a rapper instead of from a poetry piece intended to be incendiary and representative of a frustrated and oppressed group), how this can be severely alarming and damaging.

The White House defended their invite, citing that Common’s greater efforts have trumped any of his more questionable ones (Which was made clear that the President doesn’t condone). Yet from the comments on those articles that have slandered the rapper – who still showed up and thanked the First couple for backing their decision, it is easy to see how effective the word choice of the conservative writers was. It’s this mob mentality that gives people like Bill O’ Reilly movement and helps lump rappers all into one monolith that would see Will.I.Am in the same box as a 50 Cent. It’s all just nigger music to them and it has no business in the influential realms outside of niggerdom. Even tho it has proven to be the most influential force of unison in the freeworld today.

The day that Common is threat to society and national security, then the world truly is going to end on May 21st

Hot 16…Or More…”BE RIGHT”

The homie Khadj told me yesterday that my rapping lacks aggression and that I sound too relaxed on the mic. Almost to a point where the listener may not care enough about what they’re hearing to delve any deeper into my material or personality. Well it’s obvious that he hasn’t seen the video for “Be Right”. 

At first, I was moved to write him off and tell him that he’s making loose judgements off of a loose listen to my first mixtape, The Crazy 8’s – which is full of rhymes that I put together in 2003. That’s an 8 year old gauge. But then I remembered that The Crazy 8’s has always been the tape that I tell people to refer to first in order to get an idea of the kind of artist that I am. And then I remembered that the song “Be Right” was one the only one that I wrote in 2005/2006, and that the accompanying video was my very first ever. Khadj had remarked that after seeing my Appearance on BET‘s Rap City, he gathered that I’m a good performer who can probably convey that rawness and expressiveness better on that plane than on track. He commented how a video would also capture that. So as I had prepared this month’s Hot 16…Or More…entry at the end of January, I considered talking about the whole experience of my first video being a milestone moment for me. How It rode the wave of successful timing and momentum that I had gathered ever since that fateful airing on Rap City. How I linked up with 2 creative and hungry young videographers from my city who offered to usher me into the world of music video for free, before it even became the norm for unsigned rappers to make their own, starting both of our grinds. Now his comments have just prompted me to present this song and video as a study in delivery and performance.

As the only song on The Crazy 8’s with original production (albeit sampled), there’s a real organic quality to it. The thing that I’ve always said about me as a rapper, is that as a listener, you either like my voice, or you hate it. I’m not going to yell on track, or do that stupid snarly thing that Kanye does. There’s something not-so-smooth about my tone. It’s not velvety. It’s also not the most commanding. What I do instead, is command the words. I give them life. Never too wordy, never too empty. There’s a slickness and a youthful nuance present in how I bend certain words and emphasize, and of course, you can pick up traces of my sarcasm and wit from these things. Especially in how I set up my punchlines…Lots of movie and pop-culture references. But also, lots of allusions to historic people and events, old parables and idioms, random knowledge that only someone who deals with vocabulary regularly finds themselves doing. Basically, you can tell I was the Black kid paying attention in all those extra English classes back in school.

This kind of approach would lead some to call me “lyrical” for lack of a better word. People are quick to assign that label to anyone who has a penchant for using a lot of syllables. But as a rapper, you can say a whole lot of nothing with a lot of words. Talib Kweli can exemplify that on his less conscious songs. You don’t hear anyone but other rappers praising Scarface for being lyrical. It’s not the first word that comes to mind when people consider his slow flow and poetic prose. At the same time, no one ever calls Bone Thugs N Harmony and Busta Rhymes lyrical – and they used more syllables than most. That all stems from the fact that they are hard to decipher. Yet, if you strike that balance between being multi-syllabistic and understandable, then you’re automatically thrown in lyrical water…strapped in with peers such as Pharaohe, Black Thought, Canibus, Lupe and whoever else was a backpacker’s wet dream on the cusp of the 90’s and the new millenium.

When I was deciding how I wanted to do this song, I knew I wanted to come off as one of those lyrical dudes, but with a jabbing element to it. My brand of lyrical is rarely from an angle where I want to boggle minds. I just want to come off as hungry, and taunting with an I’m-better-than-you smirk that’s apparent between the lines. I knew this had to be and feel dynamic. I heard the beat when I used to visit J.Libre‘s crib, the producer of it, and founder of my crew – The Balance. I was visiting his recording setup there weekly, and this beat spoke to me. It’s a sample from Isaac Hayes‘ rendition of  “If Loving You Is Wrong…” I was recording what I thought was going to be my version of Jay-Z‘s …Volume 1 at the time, so I just put that beat aside for future reference. When that idea began dwindling however, I re-listened to this beat again and felt inspired to murder it. I was still unheard of. My Rap City appearance had not aired yet and I needed a credo. I also why I wanted at least 1 original song.

The beat is so triumphant sounding. The statement was waiting to be made. The words in the sample are clear; “I don’t wanna be right”.  Even my talking at the beginning and end was meaningful. As the young new guy trying to make a name for himself and coming on the scene with his brand of lyrical and cocky, I felt that was perfect! If I didn’t fit in with what was going on at the time, or if I couldn’t be categorized or if I was making tracks that went longer than the 1 minute, 16-bar format, then I didn’t want to be right. The soulfulness of it stands out from the other tracks on the mixtape, but the pace of it falls right in with them. Where “My, Name’s Malik; I’mma Blow!!!” was my introductory declaration, This track is my mission statement. The video only adds to the overall intent and feeling of it, by playing up the training/boxing visual to make it Rocky-like. Now tell me I’m too relaxed now…

 

“Be Right”

 

“I’mma keep this short man,

cause you don’t John or Lee Malvo to show you what an M-16 do from Long range.

I write just like a sniper – take your pen off the page,

ricochet off your face,

make it spin off your braids.

Until there’s really shells at the end of your cornrows…

Lookin’ like Da Brat

rhhhaacttt!!

Now look at that!

Better yet;

Bow Wow and Omarion,

No I’m not Omarion,

but you can get ‘Touched’, like the body on

a model off the show UnCut,

-but that was only for mature audiences,

so that’s Take 1 – cut!!

Now tell your bodyguard keep his gun tucked,

before I have to put ’em in the air – just to show the boy what’s UP!

Don’t speak – Shut Up!

Ask you how’s the weather’s up there

Uh-Unh! – that was a test, you just flunked!

Don’t make me have to dearly depart you…

Leave you broke-up…

Oschino and Emilio Sparks you…

You wanna play Casino – this is really the part where you – Blow up;

the bomb is in the seat of your car duke.

And yes he’s, like Pesci cause I’ll kill you with a pen,

in a bar!

Especially if you’re stealing from my friend

-ain’t no borrowing

That’s called ‘biting’…

Your arms too short to box – forget it!

-I see why you biting.

You must’ve took your cues from Tyson,

but don’t mess with Liky iight!

You’ll get a leaky eye.

I’ll have one eye closed, til you can’t use both, at the same time;

Your new name is ‘Winky’…right?!

I done floored ’em with a hit, like,

Winky Wright,

and got a $40 dollar tip, off,

Winky Wright.

Cause unlike all these other kids – I admit I got a day job…

Hardest man working in business…steady gettin’.

I’m steady pimpin’…

While ya’ll are steady bending over,

cause ya’ll Undercover Brothers – I don’t mean no Eddie Griffin.

‘Sha-boing-boing!’

While ya’ll are boy-toys,

this boy toys around town in something foreign – steady whippin’!

I pop throttles,

and if it’s NOT foreign, then I’m like Tyra;

I’m pickin’ America’s Top Model!

Or somethin’ from that GM series…

Cause once they hear Malik spittin’, then they’re like ‘Gee, M’s serious!’

Chics need a good man,

then I G ’em serious,

like ‘look ma – I’m straight from that GM series’!

And then they wanna know who my wife is,

I tell them that I’m married to life,

cause we all know what life is

And now I see they’re embarrassed…

Since I’m married to Life,

and I’m their father – guess they’re meeting the parents!

But once they meet me – it’s apparent…

That they all HotShots!

No way that they can take on my spot!

So who’s first on the bus?

Cause I teach these kids grammar like Hammer – yeah I stay on “Proper”!

But they ain’t in my circle of trust

You wanna know why?

Cause they all, some Gaylord Fockers!!

-And it’s…

No sick days off pa,

cause I’m so Ill;

everyday’s a sick day – now call doctors!

And tell ’em Lik writes, what’s prescribed,

as bringin’ pain like Meth,

I’m “movin’ on your left!’

-Why??

Cause I don’t wanna Be Right….”

 

Hope you learned something…

Click the image of the Cover to the mixtape below to download and hear this song.

*New MALIK-16 mixtape!!* – Refinedhype.com x 16’s Candles Present – SHIT YOU DIDN’T THINK WAS DOPE TO RAP OVER UNTIL I DID IT!

Just Like I told you,

Today is THEE DAY.

It all started as a dare.

The good folks at Refinedhype.com and DjBooth.net were posting up a song by Eminem and Lil Wayne entitled “No Love” which borrows from the classic 90’s dance hit by Haddaway. They were sharing their views all day on whether or not this sampling of an otherwise infamously corny song actually made their song itself corny by default. They asked their readers for their thoughts, and being that we all follow each other on the great Twitter landscape, this soon turned into a short debate between myself and the 2 editors of each site. The whole thing ended with me declaring to make a really ill track over something randomly cheesy from the 90’s that could rival that of the Haddaway song, and them having to post it on their respective sites if I killed it.  I wound up throwing out the song “She Drives Me Crazy” by The 1-Hit-Wonder group Fine Young Cannibals, and they accepted. I returned 3 weeks later with not only a Punchline riddled verse over a loop of said song, which I called “F.Y.C.” but as an added bonus, I brought in my boy Bobby from our group, The Have-Knotz, to make a hip-hop rendition of Semi-Sonic‘s 1 hit, “Closing Time”. For some reason, DJBooth, which was the most vocal about the challenge, hesitated, and Refinedhype went full speed ahead, even suggesting that we keep it going. I brought up the idea of making it into a whole series and then we decided on turning it into a mixtape at the end of the series. It’s been 8 weeks, delivering different tracks on Refinedhype.com each week, usually as the songs were just recorded, and that’s brought us here. For all you who haven’t been following, this is catch up time. You get the pleasure of hearing this as a whole project…An homage to the 90’s…The result of a couple mad scientists experimenting and just playing around turned into something blog-worthy. In other words, me and Refinedhype are smarter than the average rapper/hip-hop site team-up. Get familiar!

You should know that the concept for this project was borrowed from the other member of our Have-Knotz group, Komp’L. He and I discussed a mixtape he was planning consisting of nothing but rhymes over 90’s 1-Hit-Wonder songs. When the challenge came up, I thought it’d be the perfect oppurtunity to put that concept to good use. With his permission, I ran with it, but he’s all over the tape, as well as Bobby. So consider this the introduction to us in preparation for our debut project coming this Fall. Don’t say you weren’t told!

CLICK ON THE PIC above or below to go to Refinedhype.com and download the mixtape today!

Bobby challenges Esso to rap faster!

By now, you should know of my GemStars fam and my Group, The Have-Knotz. If not, you will after the summer. Well, the trio consists of me, and my boys Bobby and Komp’L, 2 young Spitters reppin’ Uptown making their own way.

So Last night, we’re doing some of the last bit of writing for our debut project and Esso slides thru to lay a couple of Verses. Now, I’ve known E for a minute but there’s shit I haven’t heard him do yet musically. So as the night winds down and we’re talking industry shit and rap blah blah blah, I ask him if he’s ever rhymed faster than his normal pace in what the people call “Double-time” style. He says yes, but then Bobby swats that down with a disbelieving “I can’t see it“. To this, Esso responds almost immediately as if slapped across the face with a glove and challenged to a duel. He asks my boy Marv xx to throw on the Gucci Mane “Lemonade” instrumental and then stands up to set the record straight. I couldn’t miss this moment, so I break out the iPod and start filming. Then Komp’L steps up and digs through some of his rhymes to end the whole experience with a flurry of bars.

It’s moments like this, when I appreciate being around rappers. otherwise…

New Komp’L “Ransom” Freestyle Video

My Homey Komp’L just dropped his first video today in preparation for a mixtape by him and the other third of our Have-Knots trio, titled Channel Surfing.

The mixtape is due out this April, and this is just something to get you ready for what the boys have to offer.

Spring is in the air. Listen to the lines people!!

Shout out to Edel on the camera work and edit. This is the start of something…