Thursday, January 31, 2008
Talib Kweli - Momma Can You Hear Me prod. Kanye West
Jay-Z - Ain't I prod. Timbaland
Re-Up Gang - 20k Brothers on the Corner
Gnarls Barkley - Run
[momma, your son don't go down without a fight]
Monday, January 28, 2008
Kay & Nicolay courtesy of Nicolay Music Group
As the world goes global in the 21st century, gifted musician and producer Nicolay overlooks cultural borders and pushes sonic boundaries with his astute blend of live instrumentation and soul-hop drum patterns. Hailing from the Netherlands, this Dutch wunderkind is one half of the critically-acclaimed group Foreign Exchange with Phonte of Little Brother and his self-produced debut Here. [dom corleone] kicked it recently with Nicolay to discuss the overseas hip-hop environment, his upcoming work, his newly-founded record label and his diverse wish list for future collaborations.
[dom corleone]: What was it like growing up in the Netherlands?
Nicolay: Well I come from a real loving household and I think as far as growing up in the Netherlands, I feel like I have always been very international. I definitely have a European perspective of things when it comes to political things but, in the Netherlands, people look to the U.S. when it comes to most movies and music.
dc: And how did you originally get into hip-hop?
N: It was a series of events, kind of. It was either the first Beastie Boys record or the first De La [Soul]. And after that, I started watching Yo! MTV Raps pretty much everyday in the early nineties. It must have been ’92, I started getting into it at the most perfect moment.
dc: Got to love the mid-90s hip-hop scene. Since you live in the States now, can you compare the hip-hop scene in Europe to that of America?
N: They are totally different yet somehow still the same. For instance, on a major level you’ll pretty much find the same artists in Europe outside of the European big sellers. A lot of Kanye, a lot of 50 Cent; Even a little bit of [Lil’] Wayne here and there. But there’s a thriving underground scene too, where there’s a love for the art form. So a lot of American artists in the so-called “underground” have a reasonable amount of success in Europe.
dc: Unlike a lot of hip-hop producers, you come from a musical background and can play multiple instruments. How has this helped your beats?
N: I think it mainly helps my beats to not be just beats. For me starting out, hip-hop was just the perfect platform because I could do what I wanted to do without being in the concept of a group or having to share decisions. So, hip-hop was a natural outlet for me to created tracks that are a complete musical story even without the lyrics. I have always used instruments to be able to take the track somewhere else rather than be defined and limited by the sample.
dc: Well when you do let an MC get on a song, I notice you have a special talent for choosing original, fresh lyricists like Phonte, Black Spade, and Wiz Khalifa. Who else do you want to work with?
N: I have a wish list that’s very eclectic. It ranges from people like Imogen Heap to someone like Common, or Daft Punk to Zero 7. It almost varies daily.
dc: Now, there are rumors floating around about a Foreign Exchange reunion album with Phonte of Little Brother for next year, is that true?
N: Yes, we are hoping to release the second [Foreign Exchange] album by the spring. It’s called Leaving It All Behind and really, it’s really different from what’s out there including Connected. We felt like it didn’t make sense to try and repeat Connected so we really set to branch out.
dc: So tell me a little about the new album with Texas rapper Kay of the Federation. How did you meet him and what is the disc’s sound?
N: I met him on the Okayplayer online message boards way back in the same circle with Phonte and the first thing we did together was a track called “My Story” which came out on HERE. For the bonus disc for the Japanese market, I reached out to Kay to see about recording some extra tracks. We recorded two and kept it going, we started thinking about a concept. The concept of “time” is something that has always fascinated him as well as me. All the tracks deal with a specific timeframe or phase in someone’s life.
dc: That’s a pretty deep concept, I’m looking forward to hearing the finished product. How do you balance your artistic interests with your responsibility to run a profitable business in your new venture Nicolay Music Group?
N: I switch between the two without effort. Working in the music industry really is a learning curve and you learn along the way. Really, the reality is that your innocence and naivete get taken from you fast and you learn by toughening up.
dc: What else do fans get to expect from the new label and yourself in 2008?
N: I plan to release a lot of great projects and music that gives people more bang for their buck than the shit they’re hearing on the radio, music with a lot of dedication and attention to the craft.
Kidz in the Hall - Drivin' Down The Block (Low End Theory)
Jay Electronica - Extra Extra produced by Madlib
Termanology ft. Royce Da 5'9, Crooked I, Consequence & Akrobatik - The Music Industry Remix
Wale - Flashing Lights Freestyle
Pete Rock ft. Redman - Best Believe (Snippet)
Torae ft. Chaundon, Skyzoo & Kil Ripkin - Fantaztik 4 (Clean)
Gotta get to Dunkin Donuts then my Journalism in American Film class, I have some original writing I'm posting later so stay tuned!
[drivin' down the block]
Friday, January 18, 2008
Hard-Hitters of '08 (In order of expected release dates, sort of):
Katt Williams' rap debut
The pint-size pimp of the comedy world is branching out to rap with his debut album It's Pimpin' Pimpin', set for a January 28 release on Diplomat Records. What Money Mike lacks in lyrical complexity he makes up for with consistent humor and well-chosen collaborations (minus Da Brat, please stay in the 90's). Pimpin' ain't easy, but it sure is funny for Katt.
One of the most overlooked MCs of our time, Nas' right-hand man AZ will put out his 7th solo album in the first quarter entitled Undeniable. Expect the Brooklyn native's sure-fire delivery and illustrious verses to flow heavily on the East Coast.
The legendary producer that helped define the Big Apple's sound during the 90s will drop NY's Finest next month on Nature Sounds, and the expectations are huge. Known for his excellent selection for guests over his soul-laced sampling not to mention his own microphone mathematics, Pete enlisted the help of Styles P, Ghostface, Redman, Slum Village, and Phonte among others for what should be a bona fide treat.
Nicolay & Kay
Straight out the Netherlands and now reppin' NC, Nicolay began as an eclectic producer and now runs his own record label. For his next effort, Nic teamed up with Texas rapper Kay in an intriguing intersection of hip-hop flavors. The LP, Time:Line, will drop next month and I'm expecting live instrumentation and neck-snapping drum sequencing from Holland's top-notch hip-hop export.
This one is an obvious pick. When Queensbridge vet Nas stirred up controversy by naming his newest solo LP Nigger, I deduced that this album will either prove he is a brilliant contemporary mind or bite him right in the ass for thinking the masses could possibly embrace the idea behind the title. Either way, all eyes will be on him in February.
Has anyone else noticed the self-proclaimed "best rapper alive" hasn't released an actual CD since '05? Wayne's overexposure in the media, mix-tape circuit and gossip circles is borderline sickening to the point where he should be dubbed the "guest rapper alive" instead. But, between all the nonsense, the boy from 'Nawlins does put out enough quality product to keep real heads interested. Tha Carter III is the most severly hyped disc next to Detox but the difference is that Dre's won't see the light of day this year (we'll get to that later).
If there existed an award for best timing for implementation of the Vocoder voice, the Doggfather would take the cake; plus, Snoop is so damn likable and downright entertaining that only he could pull off a video like "Sexual Eruption." The Long Beach, Cali superstar has been honing his skills behind the production boards for his 9th LP Ego Trippin', which is slated for a March release and rumored to feature collabs with Madonna and the Rolling Stones' lead-man Mick Jagger. Please Mr. Broadus, show these young'ns how it's done!
It was J Dilla's wish to put fellow Motor City brethren Guilty Simpson on the map. Though he can't be here to witness it, Dilla would be proud that March 2008 marks his homeboy's first LP Ode to the Ghetto on underground imprint Stones Throw Records. Boasting a solid production line-up of Madlib, Black Milk, Mr. Porter, DJ Babu and Dilla himself, expect raw content and boom-bap ballistics on Guilty's debut.
Kidz in the Hall
Naledge and Double-O met at UPenn, graduated, and now have full-time jobs. Though it's not your traditional 9-5, the rappers known as Kidz in the Hall work just as hard as any cubicle clone. 2006's School Was My Hustle gained recognition as critics compared their style to MCs in the conscious rap circle. Their sound has changed slightly since then, adapting to commercial interests but clinging to the lyrical intelligence and golden era appreciation that separates the Kidz in the Hall from the boys on the block. The duo's new disc, The In Crowd, will drop in April. Here's one more reason to stay in school, junior.
The group that originated the hip-hop organic jazz band sound should release their 10th studio album Rising Down sometime this year, most likely in the first half. Drummer ?uestlove is pumped, telling AllHipHop.com, "I’m amped that not many groups get ten opportunities to make a statement. Not even Hip-Hop, just period. You can’t even count ten records from the same group, that much, maybe on a few fingers. We’re very fortunate, and happy, and we are definitely pushing our envelope again.” Expect more synth and keyboard experimentation but I predict the foundation of ?uest's drums, Black Thought's vocal onslaught, Kamal's ivory tickling and Hub's bass grooves to drive this one.
Sneak Peak (from Superbad's soundtrack since no tracks have leaked yet):
After witnessing Matisyahu's live show, I gained a newfound respect for his music and message. The Deadhead-turned-Chassidic Jew reggae star combines spiritual concepts with island-type riddims and enthralling guitar riffs for a unique fusion of reggae, rock and hip-hop influences. Not much is known about his 3rd disc, except that it is untitled and should come out this year on JDub/Or Music/ Epic. The sneak peak here is a 2006 Swisha House remix to Matis' hit "Jerusalem," a personal favorite of mine.
2007 brought an end to the label troubles plaguing brothers Gene "Malice" Thornton and Terrence "Pusha T" Thornton, collectively called the Clipse, as the dynamic duo landed a deal with Columbia last October. Since then, the complex coke-rap connoisseurs have been promoting their upcoming mixtape with partners-in-rhyme Ab-Liva and Sandman, altogether known as the Re-Up Gang, called We Got It 4 Cheap Vol. 3 The Spirit of Competition (We Just Think We're Better). After that, the Thornton Bros are set to drop their Columbia debut later in the year sans the assistance of long-time collaborators The Neptunes - it will be interesting, indeed.
ATLiens Big Boi and Andre 3000 have been grinding heavily since the mid-90s, experimenting with untraditional topics and branching out for crossover appeal, but 2008 could be their busiest year to date. Big Boi confirmed in December his intent to put out his first truly solo disc (Speakerboxxx & Love Below were released together, technically) tentatively titled Sir Luscious Left Foot and wanted to release his first single on News Year's Eve but as far as I know that didn't happen. Still, Big Boi claims that the album is almost completed so fans will most likely have a taste quite soon. As far as Andre, he too expressed intentions to drop a solo album this year but has yet to reveal any details. As a grand finale, the two want to make an Outkast LP before the year is up. Personally, I doubt that all three projects will come to fruition but if there's any two dudes in the industry that could pull it off, it'd be these two. Still, I wouldn't bet your hard-earned paper on it.
Al Green & ?uestlove
Two great modern music minds in soul legend Al Green and Roots rhythm man ?uestlove have been in the studio for about 2 years working on an upcoming album on Blue Note Records. ?uestlove is the primary producer, hoping to give Green the sonic counterpart to break the mold of "adult contemporary" old-and-young collaboration albums and make soulful crooning and old school R&B relevant for today's youth that might not have heard of Al Green.
Child Rebel Soldier (Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, & Lupe Fiasco)
Though collectively they've only released one song, Child Rebel Soldier (CRS) has great potential if the three parties can find the time to record an album. Kanye, Pharrell & Lupe compliment each other well but this project is up in the air to say the least.
Talk about unsigned hype. Cosigned by super-producer Mark Ronson, the D.C.-bred Wale (pronounced Wah-lay for the lames out there) is a brand new look for a supposedly dead genre. Picture a dude harder than Lupe or Common, clever like Lil' Wayne or Cam'ron, and conscious like Kweli or Kanye and you have the game's freshest face that effectively combines hip-hop with the Capital City's go-go energy. Now all he needs is a record contract, then it's off to the races.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Anyways, coming soon is the Hard-Hitters of '08 awards - where [dom corleone] gives his take on who and what in hip-hop will make headlines this year. Stay tuned!
p.s. got that new Katt Williams album, hilariously ridiculous
[it's pimpin' pimpin']
Friday, January 11, 2008
Real Heads Recognize:
9th Wonder ft. Little Brother - No Time To Chill
Guilty Pleasures of '07:
Now that's what I'm talking about, a serious list for serious listeners.. Enjoy.
[i won't stop rockin 'till i retire]
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Thumbs Up - Best Mixtapes:
DJ Mathematics presents – Return of the Wu-Tang
Wu-Tang's behind-the-scenes producer/DJ extraordinaire released this tape as a prelude to 8 Diagrams. Featuring album tracks, remixes and unreleased jams, Allah Mathematics' compilation held heads over until the official LP.
The "W" Remix (Unreleased)
State of Grace (Raekwon Exclusive)
DJ Skee & Jay-Z – American Godfather
American Godfather stands out from the hundreds of American Gangster remixes not just because of the concept but also its delivery. The Left Coast's DJ Skee gathered a group of producers to reinterpret The Godfather's score, effectively remixing AG for a truly gangster sound.
American Dreamin' produced by THX
No Hook produced by Rome
Ignorant Shit produced by Ervin "EP" Pope & THX
Guilty Simpson – Stray Bullets Mixed by DJ Rhettmatic
Indie imprint Stones Throw Records' hardest MC Guilty Simpson built up massive hype for his debut with this mixtape. Teaming up with DJ Rhettmatic, the Detroit-raised Simpson shows off a raw flow and in-your-face lyrics on Stray Bullets.Essential Listening:
For The D produced by Eric Lau
Sound The Alarm Remix ft. Black Milk & Royce Da 5'9
Man's World produced by J Dilla
Joe Budden & DJ On Point – Mood Muzik 3 (For Better Or For Worse)
The much-anticipated MM3 from Jersey City's Joe Budden almost lived up to the hype, which is a feat in itself. Budden's heartfelt content shines throughout, especially on inspirational songs like "Thou Shalt Not Fall" and "5th Gear," but his meandering 30-plus bar verses might cause unfamiliar listeners to skip tracks quickly and the production is so-so. All in all, Jumpoff Joey's passionate and uplifting intent is reason enough to check out MM3.
Long Way To Go ft. Mr. Probz produced by SoulSearchin'
5th Gear produced by WMS Sultan
Thou Shalt Not Fall produced by The Klasix
Lil’ Wayne – Da Drought 3Yup, here it is - the tape everyone was talking about and some critics even labeled as the best "album" of the year. My opinion is that the critics are only part right. While Da Drought 3 is undoubtedly Wayne's best mixtape of last year, the beats are not originals and the songs need to be tightened up a bit to warrant the number one spot. Still, the verses on "Seat Down Low" and "We Takin' Over (Remix)" are examples of why Wayne seems justified claiming the "best alive." Major props for addressing the haters and admitting he puckered up with his Daddy, now who's game to place a bet that Carter 3 will drop this year?
Seat Down Low
Black Republicans ft. Juelz Santana
We Takin' Over Remix
Mick Boogie & Little Brother - …And Justus For All
Rapper Big Pooh and Phonte, the duo known as Little Brother, put it down for underground collective Justus League on this early '07 tape with Mick Boogie. This disc's intelligent rhymes, humorous wit and industry commentary make it enjoyable from play to stop.Essential Listening:
Can't Stop Us ft. Chaundon
A Word From Our Sponsors ft. Von Pea
Let It Go ft. Mos Def & Talib Kweli
Mick Boogie & Busta Rhymes – DillagenceBoogie and Busta gave fans a treat last year, as this tape contains unreleased beats from the late great J Dilla that Busta had stored away for the perfect opportunity - and the time is now. Props to both for this collection with guest appearances from Talib Kweli, Raekwon, and Q-Tip among others.
Psycho ft. Cassidy & Papoose
Lightworks ft. Q-Tip & Talib Kweli
Nicky Catchdubs & Wale – 100 Miles and RunningWashington D.C. newcomer Wale showcased his lyrical dexterity and clever wordplay on this tape mixed by Nicky Catchdubs. Whether he's paying respect to hip-hop's forefathers or spittin' lines about fresh gear, Wale proves he's on a serious mission here.
Daytona Squared produced by Judah
Tapemasters Inc. Presents Kanye West & Andre 3000 – You’re All WelcomeThe good people over at Tapemasters Inc. released this prior to Graduation and after Idlewild so a lot of tracks overlap, meaning the real treats here are the blends and unreleased tracks. It also brings to light an idea that would make for a very interesting collaboration LP.
You're All Welcome
Skew It On The Bar-B 2007 produced by DJ Mills & Hasan Insane
Kanye West ft. John Mayer - Bittersweet
Andre 3000 ft. Lloyd - You Remix
Just Blaze's Brooklyn protege MC Saigon continues his push to hype his debut LP Greatest Story Never Told with this tape and an appearance on the next season of Entourage. Here, Saigiddy keeps it gritty kickin' street knowledge, gets insightful on real-life 'hood tales, and even stands toe-to-toe with Jay-Z on their collab (gasp!).
Essential Listening:Come On Baby (Remix) ft. Jay-Z & Swizz Beatz
South, The West, The East Coast
Other Notable Mixtapes:
Big Mike & The Empire ft. Lil’ Wayne & Jadakiss – The Drought is Over Pt. 3 (Who Is The Predator)
DJ Green Lantern – Sirius Invasion
DJ Premier – Outside Lookin’ In
DJ Trigga – Fantastic Four ft. Fabolous, Cassidy, Lil’ Wayne & Juelz Santana
DJ Whiteowl - The Come Up Lil’
Mick Boogie presents - Jay-Z & Marvin Gaye Produced by Shuko & The Gunna
Sean Price – Master P
Thumbs Done - Most Disappointing Mixtapes:
DJ Clue – The Storm Ultimatum
Cam’ron – Public Enemy #1
DJ Enyce And Dipset - Byrds Of A Feather 2007
DJ White Owl – Can’t Knock The Hustle Vol. 5
Whew, now that's why I call a blog post. Now that I've recapped last year's albums and mixtapes, I'll move on to the individual songs that everyone should have on their playlists for '07... Until then, peace!
[paid in full]
Monday, January 7, 2008
Media coverage of Winehouse's out-of-studio antics overshadowed the reality in '07 - the girl can sing her damn heart out. The British 20-something's soul-jazz voice on Back To Black resembles that of Ella Fitzgerald. Winehouse's sophomore effort has a nostalgic sound paying homage to the 50's and 60's jazz scene blended with modern-day subject matter for a revitalizing fresh feeling.Essential Listening:
Montreal-based indie collective Arcade Fire delivered their most commercially successful album to date last year, Neon Bible. The group experimented with many instruments beyond the typical rock guitars and drums for an orchestral sound perfect for its subtle social commentary and personal revelations. Neon Bible debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 behind only Notorious B.I.G.'s greatest hits CD - these Canadians ain't too shabby, aye.
Bob Marley & The Wailers – Exodus [30th Anniversary Edition]
A reissue of Bob Marley's timeless Exodus 30 years after the original release featuring classic songs like "Exodus," "Jamming," "Three Little Birds" and "One Love/ People Get Ready" and lesser-known but equally inspirational tracks such as "Waiting In Vain" and "Natural Mystic." Tuff Gong's quintessential album is as good as new - 'nuff said.
Bruce Springsteen – Magic
Asbury Park, New Jersey's famous rockers Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band return with Magic, a collection of upbeat rock anthems and familiar down-to-earth content. Lead single "Radio Nowhere" questions "Is there anybody alive out there?" - the answer here is an enthusiastic "Yes!"
Terry's Song (Hidden Track) (an emotional tribute to Bruce's late assistant and long-time friend Terry Magovern)
Pressure Busspipe – Love and Affection
Hailing from the U.S. Virgin Islands, Pressure's voice is smooth and well-pronounced on his sophomore album Love and Affection. From the uplifting "Be Free" and "Touch The Sky" to the agony of "Ghetto Life" and "Why," the disc is a genuine, purifying experience.
Touch The Sky
Radiohead – In Rainbows
These Brit alternative art-rock heroes made history by releasing In Rainbows exclusively online and allowing fans to choose the album's price themselves, later distributing a physical deluxe box set with a second disc and vinyl copies of each. The album is artsy and intriguing, blending Thom Yorke's poetry with lush, climactic instrumentals for a colorful musical concoction.
Slightly Stoopid – Chronchitis
Above The Clouds
Chris Brown - Exclusive
Eagles – Long Road out of
From Dubplate to Download: The Best of Greensleeves Records
Miles Davis – The Complete on the Corner Sessions
Ne-Yo – Because Of You
Ras Shiloh – Only King Selassie
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - Raising Sand
Sigur Ros – Hvarf-Heim
Stephen Marley – Mind Control
Smashing Pumpkins – Zeitgeist
This January is the last relaxing month for me since I'll be graduating in May, so I'll use it for a couple more '07 lists.. stay up!
[babylon is falling]
Thursday, January 3, 2008
Hit List Part II - Most Disappointing Albums:
1. 50 Cent – Curtis
The industry's biggest pimp's last quality album was Get Rich or Die Tryin', but he could care less after this year's $100 million Vitamin Water payout. Curtis is on the wrong side of the industry divide between generic and innovative; "I Get Money" and "Straight To The Bank" quickly became the most played of the many mindless songs about green paper and "Amusement Park" is laughably simple. Timbaland and Justin Timberlake saved "Ayo Technology" from flopping and 50 just doesn't have the hunger that made GRODT a corner classic. No wonder Fitty got embarrassed by Kanye West's sales numbers in their September SoundScan scuffle - now where's that retirement he promised?
Everyone Point and Laugh Award:
Thank You Mr. Mosley and Mr. Timberlake Award:Ayo Technology ft. Timbaland & Justin Timberlake prod. Timbaland
2. Hi-Tek – Hi-Teknology 3
This one just saddened my hip-hop soul. Hi-Tek, one of the game's most underrated producers, has been on his beat grind since the Reflection Eternal days but struggles to put together a cohesive album on his own two. The production is good but not his best by any means - the urgent strings of "Handling My Bizness" and intense guitar riffs on "My Piano" are great but the LP suffers from too much pillow-soft, sleepy R&B loops. Although appearances from Talib Kweli, Ghostface, Raekwon, and Little Brother help make certain songs on Hi-Teknology 3 somewhat tolerable, it is plagued by no-name, C-list rappers (Chip the Rippa, anyone?). I'd rather have an LP of instrumentals, por favor.
Wish I Never Heard It Award:
3. T.I. – T.I. vs T.I.P.
This album was sorry - T.I.'s half-assed attempt at a conceptual album pitting one personality against another (gasp! how creative). "Big Shit Poppin'" and "You Know What It Is" are catchy enough to bump occasionally but don't push the envelope of Southern rap like "Live In The Sky" or tear the club up as much as "Bring 'Em Out." The skits are horrendous and it takes a verse from Jay-Z to keep listeners' attention. Did we really need to hear from Nelly again? Next.Would Not Subject My Worst Enemy to the Torture of this Track Award:
Show It To Me ft. Nelly
Let it Rock:
Watch What You Say To Me ft. Jay-Z
4. 9th Wonder – Dream Merchant Vol. 2
Worst Drug-Related Reference Ever Award:
Baking Soda ft. Big Treal
Always Grindin' Award:No Time To Chill ft. Little Brother
5. Drama – Gangsta Grillz The Album
When Outkast & Marsha Ambrosious dropped their track off Drama's debut CD, I got excited for this one. Little did I know, that's where the creativity stopped. Gangsta Grillz is as prepackaged, commercial, and generic as can be - you know your album is in trouble when the Katt Williams interlude outshines the majority of songs.
Ignorance At Its Worst Award:
Great Song, Not So Great Album Award:
Rounding Out the Top 10:
6. Young Buck – Buck The World
9. DJ Khaled – We The Best
10. Caltroit - Black Milk presents Caltroit
Other Notably Agonizing Albums:
Acelayone – Lightning Strikes
Chamillionaire – Ultimate Victory
Consequence – Don’t Quit Your Day Job
Cormega – Who Am I?
Median – Median’s Relief
Percee P – Perserverence
Paul Wall – Get Money, Stay True
RJD2 – The Third Hand
Twista – Adrenaline Rush 2007