Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Year that was in Hip Hop 2009

The picture above sums up 2009 about as well as an 1000 words I could come up with. For me, I will remember this as the year of Drake...where he went from an aspiring actor to a can't miss Hip Hop rookie. While it's still waaay too early to call him one of the best (seeing as he hasn't even released a full studio album yet), his So Far Gone Mixtape will go down as one of the most memorable Hip Hop compilations that weren't initially meant to be sold.

As far as Cudi, he produced a similarly inspired album with Man on the Moon: The End of Day, which in my eyes was the best studio album of the year. His out-there style and the way he went about creating the album was such a breath of fresh air that he deserves his share of dabs & lbs from the Hip Hop community in my eyes.

Other notable observations from 2009:

  • When its all said and done, Timbaland may end up having the most successful album with the goldmine of singles on Shock Value 2 he still has yet to release.
  • You could argue Pitbull had so many club tracks with a long shelf life that he's become the most well-known and radio-friendly artist in Hip Hop. Flo-Rida fans would argue against that and probably have a valid point...either way South Florida is officially the home of club friendly pop rap.
  • 50 cent, although now much more relevant in film and other media like video games, did an adequate job with his Before I Self Destruct album. He still will never be able get back to the level of Get Rick or Die Tryin' without the Dr. Dre crutch though.
  • It was a sad year with one of the most respected and my personal favorite rap groups, UGK releasing their last true studio album (since Pimp C passed away in early December 2007).
  • Fabolous came back strong with Loso's Way, again reminding me he's probably still in the top 5 in Hip Hop (with Juelz, Drake, Lil Wayne and Crooked I) with producing catchy, creative one-liners.
  • A new super-group in Slaughterhouse was formed, bringing together four of the most underrated talents in Hip Hop. I still maintain their role in Hip Hop is and will always be underrated.
  • Jay-Z dropped another classic, platinum album...ho hum.
  • Eminem attempted what's amounted to an unsuccessful comeback thus far to rap with Relapse and Relapse Refill . While I say unsuccessful that's completely objective because both albums still sold and are selling pretty well despite even Em admitting to the albums being tainted because he was still working the drugs out of his system and going through withdraw. Em I see your recent work with Weezy on Drop the World and Forever...those were glimpses of you in your prime...keep going toward the light man.
  • Wale burst onto the scene with an innovative sound on his album Attention Deficit, as well as Asher Roth with Asleep in the Bread Aisle. Both albums were one of the better released this year and show why this 2009 Hip Hop Freshman class may someday go down as one of the more stacked groups of young artists to make it.
  • Bobby Ray, you survived on strong Mixtapes, looking forward to the upcoming album in April.
  • Clipse will ALWAYS be the most undersold Hip Hop tandem in the game...their new album Til the Casket Drops is really worth a listen...QUIT SLEEPING ON THEM EVERYONE!!!
  • We hoped, like every year for Dr. Dre's Detox, but again...didn't get it. Rumor is it'll be out in 2010...wait...haven't we been saying that since 2004?
  • Most notable (in my world at least), we saw a cream of the crop of producers assert themselves as the best this year. R&B producer of the year, hands down, Darkchild with Polow Da Don and JR Rotem right there. Hip Hop was dominated by Jim Jonsin this year, but DJ Khalil emerged as my favorite new producer to join the likes of The Runners, Danjahandz and Timbaland.

If 2010 is any near as exciting music wise as 2009, it's gonna be a good year.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

"I Looked an Angel in the Eye and Since Then I've...Been Paralyzed..."

I've been sitting on this one for while, but it's grown on me so much that I feel inclined to share. Automatically when I saw B.O.B. aka Bobby Ray on the remix, I made an effort to give it a couple listens. There was just something about it that stood out as noteworthy and initially I couldn't quite put my finger on it. It has a very simple, Moby sounding, rolling, non-R&B percussion going on which didn't really sound all that appealing at first.

But after actually listening to the lyrics a bit, I found a lot I could relate with. I'm a big non-verbal guy, I learn more about people through observing than talking when face to face. I don't know if I truly believe in the whole love at first sight type of eye contact, but when at a bar there's definitely a yes/no switch that is tied into making eye contact. All you reckless eyeballers know what I'm talkin' about...eye contact is about confidence, confidence is sexy, sexiness is determined more by how you act than how you dress. Yea, I meant it, but don't get it too twisted, it's about 60% the way you carry yourself and 40% about how well you initially convince everyone on first impression that you look good.

I digress...the real reason why I've ended up liking this track is because of B.O.B.'s well crafted cameo verse:

Well, I used to be mellow,
Until our eyes both connected like a metro,
How you, how you ain't think you special?
C'mon girl you had me a hello
And so we started to kick it like a pedal
And in love we started to fall bellow
I mean below
And as the story goes
I started doin' shows
Eventually I landed on the west coast
So I went with the flow
And then i called your phone
And so we ended up runnin' around town like Goldie
Hynotizin' cinnamin eyes I'm frozen
Back and forth we would go yo-yo'in
And I'm hopin
That you would see how I was feelin' wide open
And I'm not, I'm not feelin' imposin'
But if it's you with me then baby I'm rollin' yea!

Maybe it's because it resonates with me personally, but there's something about the potential for the inexplicable rush that first impressions bring that hits home. The way B.O.B. turns words into an experience makes it that much more relatable with the ad-libs and interesting rhyme combination. Below doesn't rhyme with mellow, but he makes it work and its not even noticeable, it just blends in because he makes it fit. Another reason I'm a big fan and anxiously awaiting his aforementioned upcoming album.

Give it a listen:

Mario feat B.O.B. - Before She Said Hi (remix) Hot Guest Spot!!!

As a Bonus, check out B.O.B.'s new single Nothin on You and heads up on Bruno Mars, he has some serious R&B potential:

B.O.B. feat Bruno Mars - Nothing on You Hot New Single!!!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Jason Derulo - Sky's the Limit (prod by JR Rotem)

Looks like J Derulo is about to be three singles deep with his album still two months away from being released (Feb 2010). For this one, he stays true to his feel good, mid-tempo and upbeat style. If I were to compare it to a song, I would compare it to Chris Brown's Forever with it's methodical, back and forth, dance floor friendly beat and uplifting lyrics. Don't get it twisted, Forever > Sky's the Limit by far, but there are lots of similarities with the two talented artists with great voices combining with a great producer (Polow da Don & JR Rotem) to create a radio friendly pop anthem. Imagine that, a song trying to uplift it's listeners the same way the girl he talks about in the song does to him.

In my opinion Whatcha Say > Fairytale > In My Head > Sky's the Limit...(Fairytale has not been confirmed as a track that has made the official track list) just sayin'...can anyone say multi-platinum debut?

My guess is JD is trying to release his music as quickly as possible now that he has taken a lead-opening role in Lady Gaga's Monster Ball tour. It would probably be in his best interests for fans to know a couple more songs than Whatcha Say when they go to see him, so go ahead and give his 3rd single Sky's the Limit a listen:

Jason Derulo - Sky's the Limit (prod by JR Rotem) new single!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Who Rocked it Better?..."Baby You're All That I Want, When You're Lying Here in My Arms..." new Pitbull - Pearly Gates

Bryan Adams
Pitbull vs DJ Sammy

Interesting comparison of songs here, all having the same sample, but from three different genres (contemporary rock, techno, hip hop), all made at least 7 years apart (1984, 2002, 2009). Over the years the "Baby you're all that I want, when you're lying here in my arms..." has become a timeless lyrical sample garnering instant pop culture recognition mostly because the original track done by Bryan Adams was such a pop/rock success.

I think I gained more of an appreciation for the original track when I first heard DJ Sammy and Yanou's techno version. Personally I would put it in the top 10 contemporary techno songs of all time and adamantly believe they did the original Bryan Adams sample justice, taking it to another level popularity wise by expanding the likability to another demographic (trance/house/techno).

Fast forward to the present, where the unstoppably dynamic duo of Jim Jonsin (producer) and Pitbull (artist) are now trying to migrate the sample to Hip Hop. The version I'm posting seems like an unfinished version and it remains to be seen whether Pitbull will be able to get the sample cleared, but nonetheless, it's a solid effort and is destined for radio/club success if he decides to make it a single.

Listen and decide for yourself:

Bryan Adams - Heaven Classic from 1984!!

DJ Sammy & Yanou - Heaven Classic Techno!!

Pitbull - Pearly Gates (prod by Jim Jonsin) new Hip Hop!!!

GWDJ Verdict: If I were forced to pick a favorite, I would go with DJ Sammy's version with Bryan Adams's original,classic version as my second choice. Ranking Pitbull's version 3rd shouldn't at all discount how great of a track it is, I think his version is also extremely club friendly and just as addictive as the previous two versions. I had to give the nod to DJ Sammy because of how iconic his version turned out.

Here's your chance to vote, Who Do You Think Rocked it Better?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

"Through the Shake of an Earthquake I Will Never Fall...That's How Strong My Love is..."

While taking my first lap around Alicia's new project, The Element of Freedom, I couldn't seem to get past track 6. No matter what I did, the previous track button ended up being pressed after the song ended...weird how sometimes that happens?

You might ask why...well...the main reason centers around the fact that she has an angel's voice...add to that a little piano with a dose of strings in the background and it's over. Her music is powerful...I don't know how I could better describe it, she exudes such a soothing harmony with her voice, but always manages kick up the intensity a few notches toward the end in a soulful way unmatched by any R&B artist.

This song is perfect for the holiday season where everyone is eager to show just how strong their love is and you reading this should be no exception. Especially this time of year, don't be afraid to show or tell someone that through the deepest waters you wouldn't ever let them drown.

After finishing a mile around her new album this song is still my favorite and I encourage you to give it a listen because it just might put a smile on your face similar to the one I'm currently wearing with it playing in the background...

Alicia Keys - That's How Strong My Love Is Best Song Off New Album!!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Concert Review: Lady Gaga & Kid Cudi

Soon after Man on the Moon: The End of Day dropped, I made it a top priority to go and see what this Scotty Mescudi guy was all about. I'll admit, after seeing the video of him performing Cudi Zone on the BET Rising Icons show, I bought hard into his stock. Truth be told the album is still growing on me and after seeing his new video for Pursuit of Happiness (produced by Josh Hartnett) I've gained an even bigger appreciation for his ability to put out material (songs, albums, performances) that sticks to you and finds a way to become memorable because of how unafraid he is to tell us his story in his own unique, sometimes trippy, depressing, but vulnerable way. The video takes us to a bottle popping, lush party atmosphere that serves as the backdrop for the internal emotional struggle centered concept of the song...exhibiting a fun, dreamy, slow motion beginning that ultimately ends in a very palpable, high-coming-down sort of emotional crash that the song warns will happen if you continue the jaded path of believing everything that shines will turn to gold...check out the video:

Nice to see the Drake cameo in there too, further entwining two of the most promising, up and coming leaders of Hip Hop.

Anyways, the first I was more confused and apathetic to the fact that Cudi would be opening for Gaga. Confused because Gaga is more pop vs Cudi's Hip Hop sound and apathetic because as much as I felt a little misplaced attending a Lady Gaga concert, I still consider myself a casual fan of some of her work (mostly with Akon and the under appreciated production of RedOne on her first album). As much of a stretch as seeing her in concert first seemed for me personally, Enya could have been the main act and I still would have went to see Cudi perform. It did help though, that prior to the concert I legitimately started becoming more of a fan of her work after giving her latest bonus disk release Fame Monster a full listen.

So I'm now headed to the concert, making it around Philly and into Jersey no problem with very limited traffic, a true blessing for those who have made that trek. With me, I brought a true hardcore Lady Gaga fan who I knew would dumb out every bit as much for her as I planned on doing for Cudder. We get parked, speed walk past a few local Camden dealers and pushers (not kidding I was offerred Crack is Crack Beer by the way?) and get in maybe 15 mins before Cudi starts his set.

Those 15 minutes, I vaulted up at least ten spots in the people watcher of the year rankings, trying to predict and and gauge just how this concert was going to turn on based on the type of audience, setting, energy, seating etc. (if you've read previous concert reviews you know the criteria that I judge concerts by).

I'll say this, if you've ever seen how Lady Gaga dresses (here, here, oh can't forget these) or went anywhere on Halloween this year, you come to her show fully aware of the potential for I'll call it "boundless fashion individuality". Actually being at the concert was not a let down when it came to gaudy displays of attention grabbing outfits. I'll be the first one to admit, I'd rather be looking at something different than something ordinary. To me it's human nature to be visually entertained by things like over-the-top fashion.

Now I'm sure there were also a good deal of just Hip Hop fans that were mortified and saw it more as a freak show...I say to each their own and didn't look down or judge the fact that the audience was a predominantly homosexual crowd mixed with a large contingency of teen girls who idolize Lady Gaga. Despite not fitting into either of those demographics by any stretch of the imagination, I have been to a gay bar or two before and managed to have a good time with straight friends who were just as open minded and secure in their sexuality as me...lesbihonest, even though in-your-face flamboyance can be a little unnerving at times to non-homosexuals like myself, everyone is just trying to be themselves and have a good time. You can draw your own conclusions from this statement, but generally speaking, I think the crowd was one of the more energetic, fun crowds I had been to at a concert.

As the show starts, Cudi picks an interesting track to come out to, spittin' the chorus off his new guest spot from Jay-Z's Blueprint 3 album titled Already Home. I think so far that's the only track that hasn't been made a single off Blueprint 3...check it out:

Honestly, it was a decent entrance, one that I definitely didn't see coming, but he reeled me back in with one of my favorites Soundtrack to My Life. Despite sounding a little rushed live, I marked it off my mental list of tracks I went to the concert to see.

Followed was another out of left field offering with one of his older tracks Embrace the Martian. I was left feeling like I had completely slept on that track, digging the uptempo vibe and outer space lyrics that he's become known for. My favorite part of his set came next when he blacked out the stage and became a rigid automaton, performing a characteristically dark rendition of one of his more unique offerings Mr. Solo Dolo. Check it:

That's some straight up Trent Reznor style loner music and I dig the hell out of it. But he quickly snapped us out of that spell with his surprisingly uptempo Crookers remix of Day n Nite, which I thoroughly appreciated for it's change of pace and was deadly when followed by his quick crowd energy boost Memories interlude (off David Guetta's album). That definitely got the crowd movin' and showed a little bit of crowd recognition by Cudi, which he deserves some dap for.

As Memories faded off, his set was clearly coming to an end and again he took us back down a few notches performing the cerebral, introspectively raw and emotional new single Pursuit of Happiness. Again, A+ for the dark, but dream-like lighting with the blue spotlight outlining Cudi, allowing him to barely stand out visually, while maintaining the focus on the lullabye-esque piano and assailable lyrics. A masterpiece of emotional angst, where happiness can be more of a mental perception than actual reality...and Cudi put it on display in a very simple, but appropriate way on stage.

Overall I'd give Cudi a B for performance and A- for choice of tracks/set list, averaging out to a B+ in my book. Most fans in attendance clearly weren't there to see him perform and a more intimate, smaller venue would only serve to enhance the likability and appreciation of his live act.

Between sets I'm pretty sure I heard every single Michael Jackson hit imaginable and it couldn't have been more crowd appropriate. Let's just say lots of dancing, mostly men, and there was of course choreography too. But finally, over an hour later I got to experience an unforgettably hype moment as Lady Gaga's set began. If you are going to a future concert please don't press play below because I don't want to ruin the genuine excitement I felt when I saw it in person. Otherwise, check it out:

Honestly, the only thing I can compare it to is that feeling I get of unbridled excitement when you witness a sports team win a championship...where you literally find yourself in perceptual overload, slightly jumping, geeking out, damn near giggling like a little girl because your body doesn't know how to handle the excitement. The intro, with the extremely well blended techno version of Finally It's Happened to Me while the clock counted down to her coming on stage was absolutely ON POINT! It definitely had me going back to her Fame Monster album post concert to listen to Dance in the Dark more than a couple times. It's definitely fast paced euro-pop, but the chorus is infectious and fits really well with her "be yourself no matter what anyone tells you" attitude she exudes. It was at this moment that I started to get the inclination that Lady Gaga is slowly becoming the 21st century version of Madonna. The way she performs, the provocative dress, unapologetic demeanor, sassy and at times explicit tongue...the whole package is eerily similar, the only real difference is that the current generation of fans she is endeared to are that much more hell bent on being unique and have the in your face audacity to act and dress however they want.

As the concert went on, I felt more and more like I was at a play rather than a concert. Between every 3-4 songs there was a costume change as an strange succession of disturbing images flashed across the stage, with rave-like techno music to keep the crowd energy up. The different outfits definitely didn't sell her reputation short, they were just as off the wall unique as the above examples of her individuality show. To me it was mind boggling how much set preparation and planning needed to be done for a performance like the one I was watching. From the ever changing, at times elaborate set, to the choreography, to the props, it was all a huge show. My favorite part of her set was when she showed me some genuine talent and performance creativity with her soulful rendition of Poker Face, giving me a feeling like I was experiencing a side of her that a studio recording couldn't show.

Even more, after the acapella, I bet you can't guess who made his way onto stage...none other than Scotty who helped her do a concert-style mash up of his Make Her Say (which samples Poker Face.

Pretty cool to see it all come together, where pop can mesh with new school Hip Hop, ignoring all perceived musical differences and boundaries to put on an entertaining, fun duet.

As the concert continued, I realized just how much of her music I hadn't really given a listen to yet. Much of it wasn't really up my alley, but I continued to have a good time and be pretty well entertained by all of the visually elements. It definitely turned into one of the longest concerts I had been to and again, kudos to Gaga, anyone who takes the time to put on a set that is over 2 hours long must really enjoy performing and feel like she owes the audience for coming out to see her. From Alejandro, to Just Dance, to Paparazzi, to Teeth, to Fashion, a really really crunk version of Love Game, to Monster (by the way be ready to be referred to as little monsters when you attend her concert) to a memorable and emotional candlelight version of Speechless which left me...well...speechless...Gaga did a great job that night.

It was exhausting standing for that long and having so much happen in front of me...but it was also a great experience that I was glad I got to be a part of. Of course, she left us with her current hit, Bad Romance, which was a culmination of all of her visual elements, sort of like when everyone comes on stage at the end of a play and every possible prop is was like that except everyone was singing along with her this time. I only got to hear the first half of the song cause I wasn't about to be stuck in Jersey traffic til 1 am when I had to be at work the next day.

Overall, I had a really good time at the concert and would fully endorse attending as long as you were not an impressionable young girl. Both acts were visually pleasing in their own right and did a great job in putting on a never-ending 3 hour plus party that constantly encouraged the crowd to do, act and most importantly dress however they want. I'll always be a big fan of artists that preach independence and are advocates for social acceptance. I now have a new found respect for Lady Gaga and her visually extravagant, sometimes alarmingly different show she puts on as she fully embraces being seen as a world-wide pop icon. I hope her music keeps evolving the way it did from her first album The Fame to her bonus disk The Fame Monster.

Cudi I look forward to hopefully seeing you in a slightly smaller venue and am very very wary that you will not be able to top the first album you put it because in my eyes it is and will continue to be seen as a classic effort. I am a huge fan of your depressingly candid music and I hope as your career continues to take off you keep doing your own Solo Dolo music wise. And next time just give the wallet to a security guy dude!

***UPDATE***: Now as of yesterday, Kid Cudi has left the Monster Ball tour "in order to balance his schedule surrounding the recording of his next album and acting commitments"...all commitments that weren't an issue a week ago...before he supposedly took a swing at an audience member at his last concert in Vancouver...see video below at 1:28.

Honestly I'd be pretty pissed too if some random fan threw their wallet at me on stage, then I was nice enough to try and return the wallet to him in the crowd, when another fan who intercepted the wallet return exchange throws it back in my face. Who throws their wallet in the first place though? Seriously? Oh well, clearly its turning into a mini-Ron Artest moment with him now leaving the tour. Don't fret though, Jason Derulo is coming to save the day as he had already committed to tour dates in Janurary on the same Monster Ball tour opening up for Cudi and Gaga. Now he will be bumped up to main supporter. Source: [The Rap Up]

Monday, December 14, 2009

Anticipation studio...there really isn't much more exciting than that...for me at least.

Thank Me Later...coming in March...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Jason Derulo - Test Drive (prod by JR Rotem)

J Derulo slows it up a bit on this one, adding soulful vocals over one of JR Rotem's whiny synth beats we've become accustomed to hearing Sean Kingston sing over. Seems like anything JD puts out these days is catching fire, especially with the ladies. I think all he needed was a little super producer help with a few radio friendly beats and samples to become a household name.

This is no different, he gets after the high notes and falsetto on this track...give it a listen...

Jason Derulo - Test Drive (prod by JR Rotem) Hooottt!!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

What's Not Human and Always Tells the Truth?

"Women Lie, Men Lie, Numbers Don't Lie"

First a little background, Jay-Z recently dropped this album titled Blueprint 3. On the album, he had a song, Reminder, where just after the two minute mark, when talking about all of the years his album went platinum, he proclaimed:

"96, 97, 98, 99, 2000, 2001 and beyond,
02, 03, 04, 05, 06 and 7, 08, 09
back to back double plat, I did what you want,
men lie, women lie, numbers don’t,
ain’t nothing changed for me except the year it is,
I think have to send you a reminder, here it is"
- Jay-Z - Reminder

Just in case you missed it here's the clip:
Jay-Z - Reminder (clip) "Men Lie, Women Lie, Numbers Don't"

Fast forward now to November 22nd, where Jay-Z is nominated for Top Rap/ Hip Hop Male at the American Music Awards. Seems whomever voted for that award thought he deserved the award more than Eminem and T.I. Now if you've seen any interviews with Jigga, he comes off as relatively soft spoken, but clearly walks with a quiet confidence that he knows he's the best. Rarely do we ever get a public moment like the following where he takes a shot at all the haters at the end of his acceptance speech, leaving us with his now famous tag line "Men Lie, Women Lie, Numbers Don't." Evidently 50 Cent took this as a direct diss at his album and has more or less declared war on Sean Carter. For all of you that missed the acceptance speech, check it out here and feel free to fast forward to the 2 minute mark where he makes the comment.

Some think it was out of character, that it was a subliminal shot at Fiddy...but maybe 11 number one albums gives you the ability to put every rapper alive their place too? I mean it only took Blueprint 3 5 weeks to go platinum! What's that cliche ain't trickin' if you really got it? But wait it's not really trickin' in the first place if you really got it, right??...haha...anyways I digress, my opinion on the matter is that 50 needs to stop reading into things and making something out of nothing. "Males shouldn't be jealous that's a female trait, what you mad because you push dimes and he sell weight?" Come on Where's the Love? (see song at 2:38).

Here's why 50 should tone down the 2007 Jay-Z made the same statement at the end of accepting an award, waaay before Reminder and waaay before 50 cent was releasing an album that was supposed to compete with Blueprint 3. See Here.

So what does this all mean? Well, Yo Gotti is now the one cashing in at just the right moment by taking that now pop culture phrase that Jigga coined and turning it into a hot single. Talk about perfect timing, maybe there was some collusion in all of this and Weezy put a bug in Jay's ear, hoping he'd cause a stir just in time for this new single he's on to drop. It's got that loud, high pitched repetition mixed with deep bass that make it perfect for the radio and club. Seems to me this is a perfect mixture for a #1 single, especially when you throw Lil Wayne on the track. You be the judge, but do yourself a favor and hurry because this song is about to be battered and abused by radio and clubs until the sample is embedded in everyone's brains...

Yo Gotti feat Lil Wayne - Men Lie, Women Lie New Hip Hop Anthem!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

New Jason Derulo - Fairytale

He keeps 'em coming, this one being more of a mid tempo ballad that focuses on his vocals instead of one of those attention grabbing beats he's become known for...

Not my favorite track of his, but lyrically very well done from the start:

Get a load of this,
She said I turned to a prince off of just one kiss,
Is this a joke I missed?,
While she was with somebody else this was all a trick,
Grew up and realized,
That happiness is a lie,
Just with that I could run and face reality,
Once upon a time I had a reason,
To wake up every day continue breathin',
Til she threw our love away,
Cause I discovered one enchanted evening,
That sleeping beauty all alone was cheating,
That's when I knew that love was fake

Give it a listen:

Jason Derulo - Fairytales New!!!

As a bonus, here's his new uptempo, radio friendly, potentially single worthy track Key To My Heart...

Give it a listen:

Jason Derulo - Key To My Heart prod by JR Rotem (shout) Hooott!!!

Monday, December 07, 2009

New R&B Anthem & Top R&B Song of November...Bei Meajor - Drunk In The Club (prod by Jim Jonsin)

I'm just as guilty as anyone for sleepin' on this up and coming R&B star, Bei Maejor. Sure I've seen his name being featured here and there the past couple months on R&B and Hip Hop tracks, but it was until August where I heard his song Powerless and made a mental note to find some more music from him.

Then over Thanksgiving I came across his new track called Drunk In The Club and it was over with. It has that addictive, feel good party track feeling to it, from the slow and steady Jim Jonsin beat to the chorus that erupts with energy, to Bei's absolutely on point vocals. It's not very hard to see why other very well known artists (Ne-Yo, T-Pain, Mary J Blige, Flo-Rida, Ghostface Killah, Chingy, Ginuwine, Trey Songz, Letoya Luckett, Bun-B and Plies) have come to this 23 year old from of all places, Detroit, Michigan, for production assistance.

Here's a good interview from NODFACTOR.COM , where Bei describes his production as...

"Kids playing on drums and synthesizers in a South American Rainforest"

Can't say I've ever heard someone describe their work as that, but hey gotta give some dap for bein' unique. For good reason, he's being called Ne-Yo's protege, which are some huge footsteps to follow. Here's an interview by Boss Lady down in Ne-Yo's Compound Studios where he comes off as extremely soft spoken and grateful to be in the position of being able to work with Ne-Yo for over 7 months and talk about how did he most of his writing in his dorm room for big name artists:

In the interview he discusses how most of his writing and production wasn't meant for his own personal solo career, but clearly he's throwin' us for a loop with that statement. Needless to say, if this doesn't do some serious damage on the radio, the gap between good music and what is on the radio will have widened by another football field. Anyways, enough rhetoric, here's his new debut single Drunk In The Club, produced by the man himself, Mr. Debut Single himself, Jim Jonsin...who is physically and audibly incapable of producing anything less than hits...Check it out....

Bei Meajor - Drunk In The Club (prod by Jim Jonson) Hooooooottttttt!!!

As a bonus, I had this track ranked pretty high on my August Song List I sent out...give it a listen, it's produced by one of the best, JR Rotem.

Bei Maejor - Powerless (prod by JR Rotem)
Great Ballad!!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

New R&B...K Drew - Back 2 Life

***Update: I posted this as a track initially for Drew Ryan Scott of Varsity Fanclub, which was wrong. The artist is actually K Drew, an up and coming R&B artist our of NYC. Good lookin' out on the correction Jennifer...

You can throw this into the Where the Hell did this song come from? category? Is it me or does he have a little bit of that raspy Michael Jackson style in his voice? I know that's a lofty comparison, but the way he gets after it vocally on this track is worthy of some praise. The emotion in this track is intense and if you can lyrically relate to it in any way, you'll feel it. Check it out and visit his myspace and check him out on Twitter:

K Drew - Back 2 Life Underrated R&B!!!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Not Too Many Can Do It Better Than Timbaland...

There are times I hear a song and no matter what I'm doing or where I'm at, I have to share it with someone. I had that feeling multiple times tonight when I took my first lap around Timbaland's new album Shock Value 2.

The first of these can't stop listening to tracks was Timbo's collaboration with one of my few pop infatuations, JoJo. I'm not above admitting that her High Road album was one of my favorites for months on end and so what if she was 16 years old when she released it. For those of you still lookin' down, she'll be 19 years old in a couple weeks and she's get her teenage footprints allllll over the best track on Timbo's new album. The track is titled Lose Control and it's hotter than the middle of a bonfire in the summertime. Do yourself a favor and give yourself a listen cause I was very skeptical that he could top Morning After Dark, but he more than did...

Timbaland feat JoJo - Lose Control Hottest Song Off Shock Value 2!!!

The second diamond in the rough is the collabo with Daughtry. The song starts off with a mid-tempo percussion laden Hip Hop beat, but quickly takes a turn for contemporary rock when the guitar riff and Daughtry come in. What hooked me was the raw energy of the chorus, how it turns into a head nodding guitar riff that Daughtry shines all over, making it seem stupid if Timbo were to even consider any other artist for this track. Great great song all together, fully displaying how refined Timbaland can sound regardless of genre.

Timbaland feat Daughtry - Long Way Down
Hooott Track!!!

The third and final hidden gem on the album is the last song, Symphony. Let's just say the beat is disgusting, aka what we've come to expect from one of the most consistent producers in the history of music. I dare someone to argue a counterpoint to that statement. This one sounds like one of his old school Timbaland and Magoo beats...just a great instrumental to go bar after bar...and while I've always been a big fan of D.O.E./Attitude and sung their praises as being underrated Timbaland proteges, this beat could make Diddy sound like a Hall of Fame rapper...just sayin. Check it out...

Timbaland feat D.O.E. Attitude Brand Nu - Symphony
Hoooottt Beat!!!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Album Review: Wale - Attention Deficit

When it came to upcoming albums from the freshman Hip Hop class of 2009, there wasn't an album I was more excited to hear than Wale's. The uncompromisingly independent way he goes about doing his own thing in Hip Hop is admirable. He knows that his back is up against the wall when it comes to putting Washington, D.C. on the map since he doesn't have the ability to ride the coat-tails of other local Hip Hop pioneers...he is the pioneer...and he is well aware of that. Chris Richards of the Washington Post wrote a good article titled Wale Is Poised to Put D.C.'s Rap Scene in the Spotlight, summarizing the burden and torch that Wale is carrying in repping DC to the fullest, in hopes of opening doors for other local artists. In the article Wale quoted saying:

"I think every man has his own path," Wale says by phone (from his tour bus as he zig-zags the country opening for Jay-Z). "But if D.C. comes out and supports the album heavy, I think that within 365 days at least two [local] rappers will get a major deal."

That's a good amount of pressure he's putting on himself by making that statement. I've got a lot of respect for that too, especially because he's done it his own way without a lot of support from not only the Hip Hop history of his city, but also an industry heavyweight. For example, you see B.O.B. having worked with and been signed by T.I., Drake is signed and works closely with Lil Wayne, Kid Cudi has the Kanye influence and connection on his side...Wale though? Maybe producer Mark Ronson? As good of a producer Mark has been and continues to be (think Amy Winehouse - Rehab), he still doesn't have that same name recognition and clout that Wale could springboard off of.

Some will argue that now that Wale has opened up for Jay-Z on his recent Blueprint 3 tour dates (Source: Ace Showbiz), name recognition is coming. Still the diversity of collaborations on his album show that there are no boundaries in sight for Wale and he's taking the D.C. Go-Go style rapping to another level in an effort to create his own sound and platform for Hip Hop within the D.C. area.

As far as Attention Deficit is concerned, I've come to appreciate the diversity of sound Wale brought to the table. I'll admit at first, it was hard for me to find the "diamond in the rough" tracks on this album as I continued to keep it in iPod circulation, but a few separated themselves from the pack.

From the beginning, Wale starts off with Triumph, an upbeat, trumpet laden beat that creates a high energy backdrop for listeners to be able to get a feel for his lyrical style. The first track does a decent job at getting the listeners attention, only to hit the brakes on the next track where he slows it down with a live band feel on Mama Told Me . The song serves as an attention to Hip Hop that he has arrived and he's bringing something new for a "stagnant" Rap game. Pretty vanilla track in my opinion, but most likely one of the more "necessary" tracks lyrically for Wale to get off his chest.

The third track, Mirrors, is definitely one of my favorites, 1. Because Bun-B has always been one of my favorite artists and he killed it, but also 2. because it fits Wale's style so well. You can tell that he and Mark Ronson have a lot of chemistry working together and I was a little disappointed to see that he and Wale only worked together on two tracks for this album. The upbeat, rolling guitar-synth combo mixed with the occasional trumpet compliment the above average verses on the track, which as I said before is one of the hidden gems.

The fourth track was one of my favorite tracks on the album, mostly because of the chorus by Weensey of Backyard Band and the fact that Gucci Mane was NOT originally featured on the track. I won't give you the long winded version of my dislike for Gucci Mane, but I really don't get why he's blowin' up right now. I know he's put out a crazy amount of mixtapes and been featured almost as much as Weezy, but where's the quality in the quantity? Believe me, I myself love me some Southern Trap Rap (always been a big Youngbloodz fan), but Gucci really doesn't impress me much, I just don't get it. And yea I'll admit I do like his new track, Spotlight , but it's because of Polow Da Don's production and Usher's catchy hook. Anyways, that's neither here nor there, Wale shines, but the shine needs some Armor All after Gucci gets on it.

Movin' on to another really catchy, upbeat track that Wale sounds at home on with World Tour. Great choice for a single since it is so high energy and engaging, while still showcasing his ability to match the tempo with his verses, hitting the mark, bar after bar. Jazmine definitely doesn't hurt, gooooodness she's got that raspy soul that we haven't gotten a taste of since Mary J back in the day. Not the best track on the album, but probably his best performance and most likable song to the masses.

Yea there's absolutely no doubt that Let it Loose with Pharrell is hands down the best track on the album. The way Wale weaves through the bouncy Neptunes beat with his multi-syllabic, equally bouncy lyrical attack shows experience and talent beyond his years. Oh any by the way Pharrell, that bridge on the track is a GOOD LOOK! Definitely my favorite part of the album when he takes the song to baller status by sayin:

Now tell em,
It’s in the house, so throw your money in the air and stand in the couch
Laugh at the money that’s stuck in the chandelier
Tell them girls right there that the man right here!

Dipped in swag, amen P, between this and So Ambitious with Jay-Z, you are on a roll, back to being relevant and continuing to be known as one of the best at producing catchy party tracks.

Movin' with 90210, where Mark Ronson blesses us with a Nintendo sounding beat turned lullaby. The chemistry continues between Wale/Ronson and I'm not really sure where this track came from lyrically, but who knows maybe Wale has been spurned by the model types before, so he had to put them on blast a bit. Not one of my favorite tracks lyrically, but I'm not about to look down on him for venting about whatever caused him to pen the track...the storytelling angle was well done.

Shades is more of a laid-back smooth ride out track, showing a different side of Wale. A side that also works for Wale because just as he can pull off the fast paced verses, he can also sound very at home on a stop and go, bouncy mid tempo track where it can be more difficult to mesh the lines with the beat. Impressive delivery on this track, especially for a first album.

Personally, I like World Tour a little more than the next song Chillin' as a single choice, but I can see why including Lady GaGa on the chorus would only help the public appeal on the track. Definitely not scared to diversify the collabos, which is how it should be. The lack of allegiances is one of Wale's assets when it comes to him sounding unique and different. This is more on the pop side of the fence, but let's be honest you have to have a couple of these on an album to get it to sell copies these days. Decent track and much better than the next track Radio, which is about as much of a filler track as you can get. Sounds like a few of the earlier songs on the album with the trumpets (don't overdue it Wale, it's a good, unique sound, but too much can be bad).

The next two tracks Contemplate and Diary are the two biggest hidden gems on the album. Contemplate is a deep, thought provoking, lyrically analytical track that explores all the inner thoughts and insecurities of Wale. The Rihanna chorus is so simple it fits like a glove with the subject matter. Very well executed, not overdone and the end result is easy to appreciate as a result. Diary on the other hand is my second favorite track on the album. An ode to black women and the challenges and insecurities that men who try and date them have to face. The last Def Poetry Jam style verse that Wale drops is some classic shit:

See all I ever want to do is be relevant,
Just tell me that I ever meant,
Anything or that you could ever see me and you in another light,
But it's like the dark winter-endures the darkest nights,
By the wrong men,
Mostly all of them,
Have made you somewhat incapable,
Of a first impression,
What I do is channel my aggression,
With no cable,
Or antenna just intentions
To impress you,
If capable,
Hoping that the material possessions can materialize a better you,
Cars-nothing I drive
Can drive better this frame of mind
With such an ugly picture in the end,
Money-Nothing I buy
Can buy me more time
For your ears to say to your heart to listen
Diamonds-A girls best friend,
Is what they say,
But believe me with the right allegiance shorty you gonna shine anyways,
And every day that goes by is a couple more lines in her diary,
The day before is better than the present,
So anyone presented in her presence,
Endures these life...sentences,
No key for release,
No reason to be around,
Her mind's in the clouds,
She writes it all down,
In her diary... Diary - Wale

Big fan of the depth of lyrics and play on words while doing so...ain't nothin' more impressive these days that creative insight through poetry and Wale took us to the deep end with Diary. To sum up the song, c'mon ladies, just cause your man did this and that in your past relationship doesn't mean you have the right to assume I would do the same thing or make me feel bad for what he did to you in the past. Sometimes you have to forget to move on and find happiness because no man should have to pay for sins that your past man committed.

The last two tracks Beautiful Bliss and Prescription are two relatively bland tracks, but I will give a shout out to J Cole who killed his verse on Beautiful Bliss. The album definitely ends on a mellow tip, which I don't have a huge problem with due to the abundance of high energy tracks sprinkled throughout.

Music and album aside, Wale is doin' more work marketing than a lotta artists. For example, check the crispy 59 50 fitted he created:

GWDJ Verdict: Overall a very impressive debut album for Wale. I would have given it 4.5 headphones out of 5 on the rating had Bittersweet Life feat Colin Munroe and Letter feat John Mayer been included on the album instead of being throw in Bonus tracks. Nonetheless, Wale's album gave a shot of life to Hip Hop, going with a more contemporary, live band style of Hip Hop, which is becoming more common these days as some of the better up and coming rappers are stepping their game up both production wise and lyrically. I actually think when it comes to delivery, Wale has a step up on Kid Cudi and B.O.B.

As an aside, I'll comment that when you put it all together I still felt like Cudi's album > Wale's album because the amount of emotion Cudi poured into that creation was amazing and will continue to be amazing as I still have yet to take it out of my car cd player or iPod. Bobby Ray, you're up next and the bar has been set extremely high, so don't get Paul Pierce'd like Chris Bosh when he didn't come correct.

Oh and for the record Drake > Kid Cudi > Wale > B.O.B. currently for the viewers at home...Bobby Ray has the most potential to move up with a strong debut album due out in April and Drake...well...he may just end the discussion for best artists out of 2009 with his upcoming Thank Me Later project due out Valentines Day.

Here are a few of my favorite cuts from Wale's album too:

Wale feat Pharrell - Let it Loose

Wale feat Rihanna - Contemplate

Wale feat Marsha Ambrosius - Diary (Acoustic Version)

Wale feat Colin Monroe - Bittersweet Life

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Throwback Classic: Ghostface Killah feat Mary J Blige - All That I Got is You

This week I've had a lot of time to get away from the day to day grind of work life and visit home, which I rarely get to do since I live about 700 miles away from home. Now having run into and caught up with so many people this week that I hadn't seen in a while, I feel like I've gained some perspective...perspective that only a few slightly awkward, but ultimately beneficial conversations can give. Yea I know everyone dreads the awkward fake conversations with people they either didn't like or barely associated with from back home, but when you rarely go back home, you don't mind it as much.

All the reminiscing and catching up with long lost friends reminded me of one my my favorite "Hip Hop Ballads" of all time. Off Ghostface Killah's first studio album released back in 1996 titled Ironman, the track All That I Got is You has always stuck with me through the years. While I personally can't relate to the struggle Ghostface endured in the Staten Island, NY projects, I do remember vividly the first time I saw the video for this song. It has a really sentimental, nostalgic vibe to it, from the high pitched violin backdrop to the mellow complimentary piano to Mary J's soulful verse...I can't think of many other Old School Hip Hop songs that come off as this genuinely heartfelt (Dear Mama - 2pac and I Ain't Mad at Ya - 2pac are two others that come to mind).

What really stuck with me in this song was the monologue at the end of the song by Papa Wu. The deeply philosophical advice he preaches isn't delivered in a very coherent way, but that's why it stands out. Listening to someone you wouldn't expect say something deep that makes you think about what to value in life can be unexpectedly inspiring. Think about that...and take Papa Wu's advice because you're never gonna get to where you're goin' if you forget where you came from.

Poppa Wu's Monologue at the end of All That I Got is You:

You see the universe, which consists of the sun moon and stars
And them planets, that exist in my space
Like man woman and child
You understand?
We got to keep it real, and what reality and reality will keep it real with us
I remember them good ol days
Because see, that's the child I was
What made me the man I am today
See cause if you forget where you come from, heheh
You're never gonna make it where you're goin, aheh
Because you lost the reality of yourself
So take one stroll through your mind
And see what you will find
And you'll see a whole universe all over again
and again and again and again and again


Ghostface Killah feat Mary J Blige - All That I Got is You Classic!!!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

New Snoop Dogg - I Wanna Rock

First of all Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, hopefully if you're reading this it's amongst family loungin' around spending some QT with the people most important to you.

Here's a bangin' new track off Snoop's upcoming album, Malice in Wonderland. Not gonna lie haven't heard something like this from Snoop in while. It has that West Coast, heavy, C-walk to this sort of vibe to it, but it's different enough that I think Snoop deserves credit for something that sounds relatively new and unique.

Not many people realize that this will be his 10th studio album, mostly because after the first few classics he dropped (Doggystyle, Tha Doggfather), he's had some forgettable releases, mostly through No Limit records. Hopefully this track serves as evidence that his new album will revive that once innovative West Coast vibe he originally pioneered. Give it a listen:

Snoop Dogg - I Wanna Rock (prod by Scoop Deville) Hott!!!

As a bonus here's the remix feat Busta can't really go wrong when two of the industries most tenured rappers collaborate...

Snoop Dogg feat Busta Rhymes - I Wanna Rock (remix) Solid Remix!

As a second bonus, check out the video for I Wanna Rock...not everyday you see a bunch of Hip Hop dancing and choreography in Snoop video...pretty cool though...

Monday, November 23, 2009

New Jason Derulo - In My Head (prod by JR Rotem)

Consider J Derulo now 3 for 3 when it comes to potential singles off his first album. Sure everyone knows about Whatcha Say, but people are going to start hearing his second single She Flys Me Away and this new one titled In My Head.

Personally I'd pick this track over She Flys Me Away, just because of how well Jackie Boys demo'd it with Queen of Hearts, which was > Jason's version.

In My Head is a little more energetic, uptempo...definitely a more pop sounding track, very radio friendly. The guitar riff in the beat and well executed chorus are other attributes that set it apart. Further proof that an artist with immense talent combining with an industry giant production wise (JR Rotem) usually means a soon to be platinum album.

Also, if you're curious why you're hearing that ominous Beluga Heights at the end of Jason's songs, that's because it's JR's new record label. Led by Sean Kingston and now Jason Derulo, he's starting to accumulate a stable of solid young artists. Jason's self titled out is out this Spring, til then check out his new track...

Jason Derulo - In My Head (prod by JR Rotem) Hot!!!

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