Monday, May 31, 2010

The Cool Kids - Freak City/Fishing Lessons/Flying Kites From New Mixtape Tacklebox

Anybody else feel really fortunate given all the high caliber music that has dropped this week? I swear I've got like 20 posts to catch up on with stuff that needs to be heard, but has taken a back seat to some of my favorite artists all leaking stuff this week. Between T.I. and Kanye's new singles, to all the Drake music that has surfaced this's to a point of being overwhelming when you factor in a Cool Kids mixtape on top of all that.

The new singles came out of the blue, but luckily Chuck Inglish gave everyone at least a couple days heads up on their mixtape dropping on Memorial Day when he said...
That tweet was three days after their first announcement of the Tacklebox Mixtape on the 24th, so I've had about a week to anticipate.

Fast forward to yesterday, when it was announced the other half of TCK Mikey Rocks, that one track was going to be leaked before the whole mixtape dropped at 8 pm tonight on
Shortly after I watched the video below of them raving about the new track Freak City, I went ahead and gave it a listen.

The Cool Kids Talk 'Tacklebox' from

Like most of their stuff it sounds so completely simple and different, but fresh. Long story short, I turned the bass up a bit on the computer sub, which temporarily annoyed my roomate (my bad Mike! I had to, the bass compelled me) and was an immediate fan of the classic 808 bass that bled from the speakers. If you want a comparison (to be fair there really are none that do justice), I've point to Outkast who are the only group I could ever imagine creating something this deeply moving (no pun intended). Add in the CB radio mics (think Firm's Phone Tap) and you've got something creative sounding that shits all over the Indie Hip Hop label they've been given. If they are Indie, then to me Indie now means Awesome to me and I'll now substitute the word Indie for any and all that could be described as badass.

Like anything else Hip Hop, as the night went on two more leaks sprung on illroots from the Mixtape. I didn't immediately like Flying Kites or Fishing Lessons, but they're just as heavy as promised and will probably grow on me in the next week. Love the line by Sir Michael of the Rocks on Flying Kites with..
"Kitchen time for you Chef-Boy-R-Dipshits, we cookin' up a whoopin', better mind your biscuits, business, man I handle mine in an instant"
To me their style is second to none and throwback as hell, which for this basshead is the bee's knees. Do yourself a favor and don't even play these on your iPod, lord knows the Hip Hop EQ setting and those lil' earbuds you're rockin' will do OJ Simpson justice to the cavacade of bass splattered all over these subterranean 808 symphonies of bass. Treat it like a multiple choice test, you who is reading this is assumed to be somewhat educated or else you wouldn't be able to understand most of the shit I say, or care. Here are your choices:
A) Choice 1
B) Choice 2
C) Choice 3
D) Choice 2 then 3 then 1 (which is what I'm doing)
E) #dontevenbothertrebleismyfriendturnthebassdownithurtsmyears

You've been warned...tune into some of the highest quality Hip Hop I post on this blog below...

The Cool Kids - Freak City | download

The Cool Kids - Fishing Lessons |Download

The Cool Kids - Flying Kites | Download

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Drake Performs Live in Cleveland with Lebron James

Could this be one of the last memories Cleveland has of LeGone James? If it is, they should still consider themselves lucky for what he's done for the city because as Jay-Z eloquently put it, "And the question is, Is to have had and lost, Better than not having at all?"

My favorite part of the video (hands down) is his one of a kind, always well delivered pre-conceived freestyles at the 2:40 mark. Lyrics below.
"23 with a money tree,
growin' more like I just planted 100 seeds,
it's ironic cause my mother was a florist,
that's how she met my my pops and now my garden is enormous,
it's happening Penny Lane, just like you said,
I avoided the coke game and went with Sprite instead,
that's word to the millions they puttin' up,
I'm tryin' to do better than good enough"
Fast forward about 5 mins in the video to see where Bron Bron jumps on stage and helps Drizzy with some backgrounds as his hypeman. Pretty funny when Drizzy pulls a full on seduction of a lady onstage at the 6 min mark and ends up busting out laughing because he's doin' it right in front of Lebron. That would be hard for anyone to try and be serious seducing a lady in front of one of their friends, regardless of if that was The King.

Countdown to Thank Me Later...16 days.
Countdown to his next concert in my geographical vicinity...17 days

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Kanye West feat Dwele - Power

First single off Kanye's upcoming album Good Ass Job, due out sometime in July. The sing-along track furthers the "Kanye" sound of grandeur with rolling 808 bass blending with the high intensity chants and rock sample.

The song samples King Crimson's 21st Century Schizoid Man, ever so subtly borrowing it for a background cameo. While the sound of the track achieves a positive vibe, the lyrics are angry on an edgy confrontational tip. He says on the first verse:
"I guess every superhero need his theme music
No one man should have all that power
The clock’s tickin’, I just count the hours
Stop trippin’, I’m trippin’ off the power"
As if to say nobody deserves the power of being important, it's more of a jab at pop culture, while showing the inner fight he's having with his own ego that is very well fed as if to say his "power" makes him immune to being mocked. He goes on further taking a non-so-subtle jab at Twilight star Taylor Lautner who outed him on SNL over the whole Taylor Swift VMA outburst. 'Ye goes on to say...
"F-ck SNL and the whole cast
Tell ‘em Yeezy said they can kiss my whole ass
More specifically, they can kiss my asshole"
Strong words, but clearly he isn't a fan of people being critical of him and passing judgment. It creates an interesting predicament when you think you can do and say whatever you want then are sensitive when people criticize you. Makes sense that he is such a great artist though because you have to think you're the best to be the best...which is why I'm excited for his new album. Hopefully it has the same fire that he brings to this track...even though I'm still warming up to it a bit...

Give it a listen...

Kanye West feat Dwele - Power | Download

Friday, May 28, 2010

Drake feat Jay-Z - Light Up

While we're on the topic this week of dream collabos, might as well throw in everyone's current love/hate topic Drake mixed with the legendary Hov. This is the track many people (me included) circled when the Thank Me Later tracklist was released. It's every bit as dumbed down beat-wise as something you'd hear at church on Sunday plus a drum loop, which for any other song would seem too simple. When you're talking about an artist whom T.I. is predicting 500k+ sales first week and a Hip Hop legend getting together to on a track, simple is what works because the beat is should be an auxiliary element of a track of this magnitude.

Off top Drake begins his story of what he's going through (plus a little Hov product placement)...
I've been up for 4 days
Getting money both ways
Dirty and clean, I could use a glass of cold spades
Rolexes, chauffeurs, and low fades
I keep thinking how young can you die from old age
Funny how a transformation from seemingly unnoticed actor to Hip Hop superstar all in one year can coax thoughts of aging beyond his personal conception of time. Might as well use the experience you've gained through your one year transformation from obscurity as a potential lesson for those who may find themselves on the same journey in the future. Seem that what he's goin' for with lines like...
Don’t get impatient when it takes to long
And drink it all even when it taste too strong yeah
I get her feeling live even if it kills me
Promise to always give you me, the real me
It's easy to promise the world to fans when you're just taking that first shot of success. I'm apprehensive that these exhausting experiences Drake is sharing with the world throughout his first album may be a harbinger of tumultuous years to come. Man, is it hard to think for a second that someone this hungry for success and full of so much talent could stumble along the way...but like with all emotional beings, it's a burden, having to deal with the tribulations of being a superstar and still finding a way to be normal. It's clear that Drake values normalcy, which is why I believe in his ability to manage success while relentlessly continuing his desire to share music with us...his fans...because he refuses to forget what it was like before he earned that top shelf, bottle of success.

And what better way than to voice the perils of success on track than with a seasoned vet like Jay-Z, whom Drake admittedly admires and looks up much so that he admittedly penned on Fear that he would cry when Hov dies. While Jigga's verse is less introspective and more of the norm for what you'd expect from him (Ace of Spades shout out, G-450 name drop, Godfather reference, he does subtly give the aspiring Drake some advice mid-way through saying...
Drake, heres how they gon come at you
With silly rap feuds trying to distract you
In disguise in the form of a favor
The Barzini meeting, watch for the traitors
Uhh, and ive seen it all done it all
Time and again, Drake has risen above the haters, recently explaining on his 9 AM in Dallas fresstyle "without a response from me you really fail to exist", demeaning those who seek to see him fail by pointing out there existence is meaningless without his presence. I hope he continues to rise about the Rap beef bullshit because as much good will he has generated from the heavyweights of Hip Hop (T.I., Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, Kanye), he's always gonna have someone aiming for him as he gets more and more successful. I think that because he is such a thought provoking artist lyrically, he'll always find a way to outwit and stay a step it helps he's always got the R&B card in his back pocket.

Regardless of what eventually becomes of Drake, I'm quite content in living in the moment and being able to appreciate this track for what it's worth...which is quite a bit. I don't feel like I've fully gotten this track yet, but I know after a few more listens I'll understand it more fully, as well as it's place on his new album. Will it be the marquee track on Thank Me Later or just a great collaboration that people will end up liking because based on reputation? Remains to be seen, but for the time being...let this one illuminate the darkness that surrounds whatever doubt you have for his upcoming album....
Let’s celebrate with a toast
And get lost in tonight
And make it all light up
Drake feat Jay-Z - Light Up (Final) | Download

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Throwback Thurs: B.O.B. - Don't Break My Heart

Yet another Bobby Ray sample of a timeless track, this time going back a little over a year to February 2009 where he sampled the The Foundations - Build Me Up Buttercup song from 1968. Again, waaaay before anyone knew his name a year ago, this made it onto February 2009 Song List as the 8th best song of the month. For all of you too lazy to click through, this was my rationale about a year ago for liking the song:
b.o.b-dont_break_my_heart…absolutely can’t help liking this track…and tempting it is to look down on him for approaching such an old classic song, no old song is untouchable anymore   ….does a very good job of capturing the energy of the old song and translating it to modern hip hop culture…really like the ebb and flow of the verses to the in your face chorus that will have everyone singing…gives instant credibility when people are singing your songs without knowing who you are….can’t hate on B.O.B….he, Asher, Cudi, james Fauntleroy and Charles Hamilton are the starting 5 on my All-Rookie team…better snatch up their rookie cards before your friends start telling you how cool this new guy named (fill in all rookie player) is
Didn't quite miss on that prediction of Asher, Cudi and B.O.B. making it to the mainstream, but the extremely talented producer/writer/demo singer James Fauntleroy still has yet to make it big and it remains to be seen if Sonic will finally reach the masses with his debut effort. Sidebar: Wasn't a huge fan initially of his new single Gauchos featuring the production of can't miss producer Jim Jonsin. I will concede the beat goes hard and is slightly catchy, but it has yet to grow on me so far. Apprehensive because I wanted a little more out of his collabo with Jim behind the boards, but I'm still in awe of his Choices (A Song for Alex) track that he deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Anyways, back to the throwback Thurs track where B.O.B. damn near bites off more than he can chew, but managed to successfully sample the original without completely bastardizing it. He's got the sing-songy tone and casual/fun vibe to pull off a sample like this, which is why I'm semi-endorsing it as a successful. You be the judge though, did he do The Foundation's original sample justice?

B.O.B. - Don't Break My Heart

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Summer Anthem: T.I. feat Keri Hilson - Got Your Back (prod by DJ Toomp)

This my friends is what you could call an MVP collab...a heavyweight duo...a untouchable me...a match made in heaven. Always been heavily in Miss Keri baby's corner, hyping her up so much that I wouldn't feel uncomfortable calling her the best R&B has to offer right now. Add to that a hungry T.I. fresh out of jail and wanting to prove once again he is the King of the South on his new album King Uncaged.

Sidebar: How about that upcoming collaboration with Lady GaGa on the album? My guess is RedOne is going to pick a top shelf beat and it's going to be an epic track.
Fact: When you've been to jail you can make radio friendly songs that will appeal to the masses because jail = lifelong street cred card...#my2cents

As far as this track is concerned, think the laid back and slightly bubble-gummy sound of Whatever You Like, except a little more harmony on the hook with Keri and with more bounce thanks to that signature back and forth drum kick brought to you by the always on point DJ Toomp. After a couple listens it's evident this is more or less a tribute to Tiny and all the other ladies holdin' it down for their man while they're locked up. In all sincerity, I wouldn't wish that situation on any woman or couple and while many may say "T.I. has gone pop" after examining the heartfelt lyrics, I salute him for takin' time to create a genuine track shouting out women who are the spitting image of loyalty. T.I. said it best:
"This is for the women who man caught a sentence
who gon be there for a minute, but they didn’t keep their distance
they stayed home waiting on the phone
and on visit day show up looking good, smelling better, playing kissy face
just wanna let you know we appreciate
everything you do for us on a day to day
and I know we don’t show you all the time but we lucky that you ours
no bouquet of flowers could ever show how much we know we need you"
This track is a testament to how much T.I.'s trap musick 9 years ago on I'm Serious has matured and developed into an artist that has the ability to keep it real, while still being able to pull off a track from the heart, awarding what he most values in the world...loyalty. I love the fact that it's almost been a decade and he and Toomp can still come together to produce their "brand" of music that has done nothing but grown in popularity over the past decade.

Hop on this one quick folks, radio is gonna treat this like a gobstopper, keeping it in your mouth and never letting the taste leave until King Uncaged is well beyond platinum. Send this one out to someone who has been down since day one and who you'll known would answer your call any time of day regardless of circumstance...

"I Got I Got I Got I Got Your Back!"

T.I. feat Keri Hilson - Got Your Back (prod by DJ Toomp) | Download

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Electro-Funk Ninjas: Ratatat

Felt like I needed to get off the Drake tracks for at least a few days and throw a curveball your direction with a little bit of off the wall funk. Before you pass too much judgment for this being a far cry from Hip Hop, their is only a small degree of separation between the electro/funk/synth rhythms that the duo in question, Ratatat, is responsible for. Let's take a trip down memory lane for a minute, to when I was non-stop gushing about this new artist named Kid Cudi who was bringing a more than diverse flavor of Hip Hop that had not been heard before. Much of that was due to the New York duo consisting of guitarist Mike Stroud and bass/synth/producer E*Vax or Evan Mast.

The duo was responsible for producing two of my favorite tracks off Man on the Moon: The End of Day, Pursuit of Happiness and Alive (Nightmare). The use of uncharacteristically melancholy, trippy synthesizers over the loud clap of these two beats is epic. The beats on these two tracks matched Cudi's loner, psychedelic, vulnerable mood throughout the album and became two of the biggest reasons I will always regard Cudi's fist album as classic.

Producer guest spots aside, they released an album titled LP3 that gained lots of underground critical acclaim for being "highly danceable elctronica". After giving the album a listen, I agree with that statement and further than notion by blessing them with my closest comparison being to Daft Punk and Nine Inch Nails. Even Daft is a little more techno and less electro than Ratatat, but the electro feel is very Trent Reznor of NIN...I know, a lofty, but well deserved comparison IMO.

Which brings us to their new album titled LP4 that is supposed to drop in about a week and a half on June 8th. Feel free to stream the whole album here thanks to our friends over at NPR. As far as what tracks I like so far, hands down my favorite is Bare Feast, which is more of an marriage made in heaven between celtic and electronic music. For someone who has some Irish heritage in them, this is without a doubt worthy of praise as something that sounds completely different than any type of music you've ever heard.

Give it a listen...
Ratatat - Bare Feast (link taken down at request of XL Recordings). If you would like to preview this song and all of the other songs on their upcoming release, please go to NPR, which has the files available to stream.

Another track off LP4, Drugs is exactly what you'd envision when you think of drugs. Crazy, tripped out in your face synthesizers that take you on an intense high pitched journey. The pace is fast, it's upbeat and I can count at least 10 different beat elements throughout the track. Intensity pervades, craziness ensues, and you find yourself dancing...that's Drugs in a nutshell....

Ratatat - Drugs (link removed)...Preview track at NPR

For all the people out there expecting lyrics, sorry, today I let you down...but you gotta admit the style Ratatat brings is alarmingly fresh...c'mon admit it...

Monday, May 24, 2010

Drake feat Lil Wayne - Miss Me (prod by Boi-1da)

I've been waiting patiently for the Dirty/CDQ/NO DJ version of this and now that it finally dropped, it's been worth every bit of the wait. Add in an on point verse from Mr. Carter and add in about a minute cool down where it takes shape into more of a "Mastered" track that "fits" into place on an album and you find yourself reclaiming whatever exciting may have been least the casual Drake fans who appreciate him more for his Hip Hop and close proximity to Lil Wayne.

What's even more intriguing about Drake's style is his signature production by Boi-1da. Needless to say there's good reason why 1da is getting opportunity after opportunity to make his name household. When I think about it, a lot of truly great artists have never been a product of their production, it's been more the other way around. Boi-1da is making a name of producing for Drake, sort of like DJ Toomp got his due when T.I. came up .

My guess is most people will latch on to the abundance of one liners like:
"I will have a model wife your b-tch is as hot as ice, every time you see me I look like I hit the lotto twice"

"Drake just stand for D.o R.ight A.nd K.ill E.verything"

"I love myself because I swear that life is just not as fun"

"no I’m not that thuggish not that ruggish but I do pack Bone"

"I’m sticking to the script like lint on denim"
Still has a long way to go in my mind toward living up to the hype, but I've already tempered my expectations...not because I don't think Thank Me Later will live up to the hype, but because on first listen it I predict everyone will hate on it and bash it as a fall through. After reading Drake's interview in the latest XXL issue I understand more where he's coming from and empathize for his privileged, yet slightly inauspicious position that immediate fame has put him in. This quote sums it all up:
"I'm one of the biggest rappers in the world, but this is my first album, and I haven't proven myself yet,
so on what mind level do me and the listener meet?"
That quote right there brought my unrealistic expectations of his upcoming album spiraling back down to earth after gaining a more palpable understanding for the amount of pressure he's under. It's kind of nuts how so many of his tracks on this album has noteworthy stories like when Drake hand wrote a letter to Beyonce asking for her permission to use the Kanye written Fireworks on his debut album or even past his new album where he confirmed that he's already recorded a track with Eminem and Dr. Dre. So many rumors, stories, myths, it June 15th yet?

Drake feat Lil Wayne - Miss Me (prod by Boi-1da) CDQ Dirty

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Drake feat Jhene Aiko - July (prod by Bei Maejor)

Gotta love the 17 year old High School photos. Below is the full 8+ min segment of MTV's When I Was 17 featuring Drake Aubrey Graham...

Interesting to see how far he's come from relative obscurity, then to acting, to completely blowing up the Hip Hop scene. While it's easy to understand why true Hip Hop fans are getting mad at him of late because "he's singing too much", they clearly pressed the next button on So Far Gone if that's the case.

Being hyped to a point of ridiculousness has its pitfalls as it comes with unrealistic hopes and expectations that are an absolute bitch. Seems like everyone believes Thank Me Later is going to be "perfect" like his last mixtape and all the songs are going to be exactly what they were hoping for. Me, I have just as high of expectations, but I feel like at least he at least has a chance to live up to my expectations because I like both his R&B tracks and his Hip Hop tracks. When he combines both seamlessly, it's hard to argue that he's not as his best.

The track below will not be on Thank Me Later, but it is a nice ballad featuring Jhene Aiko and production by one of my favorite new and unheralded producers/artists Bei Maejor. Two great verses from Drake map out the ups and downs of a potential love in the making. With the first verse opening..
uhh, this verse starts as my snipers hit their marks
and ya guards fall down from a rifle to the heart

like clap clap, let em fall slow
I know you had you fears you can let them all go
and most women are motivated so I act accordingly
but this is so refreshing that it means a little more to me
dedicating time when I really can’t afford to be
I provide protection if you open up the door for me
Between the lullaby sounding piano vibe to Jhene's vocals on the hook, it's got the makings of a well put together track. Ends up being a pretty sad track with all the talk of rain in July, which isn't supposed to happen...just like summer love isn't supposed to end I'd imagine. Eloquence is the word used to describe the end of Drake's second verse...
I was planning on being something worth mentioning
energy invested in someone I saw potential in
who killed Chivalry they need to get their sentencing
meanwhile we argue and I can’t get a sentence in

and just as I predicted here we go again
they always say the hottest love has the coldest end
Most Drake fans will hate, but I say thumbs up because I can appreciate other tracks like this he's done like A Night Off and especially Sooner Than Later.

Keep an open mind and give it a listen if you're in the mood for some well sad and well written R&B...
Drake feat Jhene -July (prod by Bei Maejor)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Drake Thank Me Later Tracklist

Track Listing:
1. Fireworks (Feat. Alicia Keys) (Produced by Noah "40? Shebib)
2. Karaoke (Produced by Francis & The Lights)
3. The Resistance (Produced by Noah "40" Shebib)
4. Over (Produced by Boi-1da)
5. Show Me A Good Time (Produced by Kanye West)
6. Up All Night (Feat. Nicki Minaj) (Produced by Boi-1da)
7. Fancy (Feat. TI and Swizz Beatz) (Produced by Swizz Beatz)
8. Shut It Down (Feat. The Dream) (Produced by Noah "40" Shebib and Omen)
9. Unforgettable (Feat. Young Jeezy) (Produced by Noah "40" Shebib and Boi-1da)
10. Light Up (Feat. Jay-Z) (Produced by Noah "40" Shebib and Tone Mason)
11. Miss Me (Feat. Lil Wayne) (Produced by Boi-1da and Noah "40" Shebib)
12. Cece's Interlude (Produced by Noah "40" Shebib)
13. Find Your Love (Produced by Kanye West)
14. Thank Me Now (Produced by Timbaland) (All Things Fresh)

Who all is excited??? Oh and for all the haters that have been quick to switch teams and jump on that bandwagon of hate because they aren't gettin' down with his first too singles off Thank Me Later, Drake took a few minutes to give you a taste of rap on his new 9 AM in Dallas "freestyle".This is what came to mind after listening to the track below.

P.S. Suck it haters,


Aubrey Drake Graham

Drake-9am-In-Dallas-Freestyle (prod by Boi-1da)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Throwback Thurs: B.O.B. - Use Your Love (prod by Jim Jonsin)

This track surfaced in 2007 and was slept on like a coma. Back in '07 nobody had even heard the names Jim Jonsin or B.O.B., but looking back now...they've turned into a pretty solid duo.

This is more of a rough sample of The Outfield's original track Your Love than a re-make, so don't get too excited. Sort of a different side of Bobby Ray on this track, fully playing the player card all over this one, going against all that falling in love talk he did on The Adventures of Bobby Ray. He doesn't stray much from his style of sing-songy hooks and quick, jumpy storytelling verses like the start of the first verse below...
"My girl was on vacation,
so I been microwavin',
so I went out late chasin',
I met a girl mixed with Asian,
I ain't wanna sound impatient,
so I told her it's late,
forget a date,
and B.O.B. wanna lay it,
and that's the truth just face it"
Truth be told this could have become a solid single and been released had they ever put time in to finish this rough draft and clear the sample. But we all know how tough it is to clear samples these days and I think between JR Rotem and Jim Jonsin we may run out of oldies to sample by 2012.

B.O.B. is becoming widely recognized but folks in demographics these days, which is why he's still sitting got the #1 Rap album out and #12 on the top 200. The contemporaries love him on the radio with Nothin' on You and Airplanes, while the real fans are still loving tracks like Satellite and Don't Let Me Fall. My guess is he had a lot to do with what made the final cut, but serious serious credit needs to be given to whomever made the final decisions on what tracks to out on the final release. Now that I think about it, I can count about 3 or 4 tracks that were awesome that didn't make the album, so they did a good job.

Take it back to '07 on this one...back when B.O.B. was just another aspiring young rapper making mixtapes...

B.O.B. - Use Your Love (prod by Jim Jonsin)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

New Artist Spotlight: Donnis

Very quietly Donnis is doing his part to steal that lead spot from J Cole in this year's running for Freshman of the Year in Hip Hop. Having signed with Atlantic Records, his major label debut is nearing with his Fashionably Late EP coming out simultanously with his Fashionably Late Mixtape dropping on June 22nd.

Why do I speak so highly of Donnis you may be wondering? For one he's got that ATL drawl that fits in well with his storytelling ways and creative ad libs. He mixes an unflappable swagger with a touch of harmony on hooks that take the edge of his energetic flow and in your face lyrics. To this date the track that best exemplifies his style and potential is his new single Gone. He recently shot a video for the track where he shows off his playboy lifestyle in the club, as well as his affinity for rocking hats all sorts of different ways...

Quoteables from the track:
In the middle of the club blowin indo
rolling up a swishers sweet, as fat as Mr Winslow
cause right now only family matters
I came to shout at haters dreams kill they self esteem
don't try to make up now my ni**a this ain't maybelline
My momma asked me is the bragging really necessary
I say no but this sh*t is gonna make me legendary
and I apologize for cussing, but when it come to rap I don't apologize for nothing

Give it a listen...
Donnis - Gone - Produced By Needlz

I really did shortchange that track when I found it last August and completely slept on it for a solid 9 months. What I didn't sleep on was the first track that put his name firmly on my radar titled Over Do It. It's hard not to be somewhat awe inspired of the raw energy he bring to this track. He brings that "take no prisoners" style in his self righteous rhymes, proving that if you want to eventually live it, you have to talk like you're the best. All the greatest do it and have done it from the start of their careers (Jay-Z, T.I., Lil Wayne, Drake etc)
They don't wanna give it to me,
Ok fine I take it,
My momma told me that this life is only what you make it,
So I don't wanna blow no mo
I'ma over blow it
Do the type of shit that get her front row at the Oprah show

The passion is palpable, he's got that gangster edge to his rhymes that blends witty, intelligent, coherent rhymes, which set him apart from the average southern rapper who lacks in lyrical content. Verses and well done, change of pace hooks aside, his draw is the delivery, which is best exhibited on Over Do It.

Donnis - Over Do It
The above tracks qualify as more "street singles" due to the somewhat abrasive, non-contemporary lyrics, which aren't as radio friendly. Enter his new song Tonight, which takes the same energy he brings to all his tracks, but channels it in a more contemporary direction. When I say that I mean he's not n-wording every bar, opting instead to go for more of a "Tonight we're gonna shut the city down" party vibe that fits well with the braggadocios swag.
This is the year that I've been waitin' on,
knew that it was comin'
been readin' my own palm
Now call me Dionnie Warwick,
readin' my own fortune
I'm bout to go corporate"

Look for this track to be his landing point in the pop culture eye as more and more people become familiar and recognize his growing talent and undeniable vigor. Check it...

Donnis - Tonight (Radio Rip)

Gonna be a fun summer sitting back and watching Cole and Donnis compete the way Drake and Cudi did last year for Freshman of the Year. Cole may have more raw talent and conventional ability as a lyricist, but whatever Donnis lacks in traditional measures he more than makes up with energy and swag. Tight race so far, we'll see who continues to get their name and tracks out there this summer....

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Duet of the Year? Ester Dean feat Chris Brown - Love Suicide (Prod. By Stargate)

This one has an eerily similar sound to his duet with Jordin Sparks on No Air, which was without question one of the top 3 duets in 2009. Exit Jordin, enter Ester Dean, aka a serious candidate for this year's version of Keri Hilson R&B breakout artist of the year. She's managing to get her hands on a lot of quality material lately, not just as an artist, but also as a producer. Me, I took a liking last month to her guest spot on Chris Brown's Big Things below..

Both Ester and CB's vocals mingle well on this track, with Ester doing her part on the verses before Chris comes in on the hook. Neither artist over-match each other tone wise, which is crucial in concocting an on point power ballad like the one at hand. A wise man once said that falling in love is the slowest and most inhumane way to commit suicide...and Ester seconds that notion, likening the act of breaking someone's heart seem in this instance like a deliberate act of murder against another person's emotion. High stakes analogies, great complimentary vocals and plenty of emotion = the ingredients for a successful ballad.

I'm not tryin' to gas you up by saying this will be regarded as one of the best ballads when it's all said in With Chris Brown easing his way back into everyone's good graces (despite a recent blip recently where his lyrical subject matter drifted blatantly moving on from Rihanna), tracks like this will hopefully lead to him rounding back into form after an underwhelming effort with Graffiti. As usual, behind the scenes credit to the Norwegian Production duo Stargate, who continue to write and produce their way into more and more quality Pop/R&B tracks.

Proof is in the pudding and this one is gonna gain some traction on the yourself a favor and put it on repeat for a bit...

Ester Dean Ft. Chris Brown - Love Suicide (Prod. By Stargate)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Slow Jam of the Month: Usher - Stranger (prod by Dumma Boy)

Having had this track for a good three days now and taking it on more than a few laps around the iPod, I've learned to accept it as one of my personal anthems (lyrically). As someone who covets and values an independent woman, I've run into my fair share of treacherous roadblocks along that independent woman path. Call it a double edged sword or wanting your cake and eating it to, nowadays they become a Great White Buffalo more often than a significant other.

Of course I can't explain the predicament as well as Mr Raymond as he paints the picture of a stubborn guy who refuses to give up his personal search for the Holy Grail...the woman he's got his eye on who is Damaged like Danity Kane from a past relationship, making it an uphill battle when it comes to earning trust. Usher puts it best when he says:
Yeah you're independent as hell and
Doin' it by yourself
But what you gon’ do when the night time get cold (when they get cold)
You told me (I know you told me)
You’d rather be lonely (lonely)
You don’t even know me
I ain’t moving out the way from nothin',
I'm stubborn,
Cause you said you'd never give away your heart again
Well I'll be knockin' til you let me in...
Therein lies the uphill battle, trying to convince an already independent woman to trust again after being hurt by one of your kind, with the endgame implying she's willing to confide in you, which goes against the very essence of what makes her self-reliant. Mind boggling when you over-analyze the shit out of it listen to the lyircs, but truth be told, patience is a necessity when attempting to get past the daunting obstacles en route to gaining the highly sought after, rarely given trust that a wounded self sustaining female possesses...patience, luck and a whole lotta faith. "Don't you wish there was a button we could reset and make it eeeeeaaaassayy"...if only life were that eeeeaaaasay.

The crux of why I love music, if you listen to enough of it you'll find some artist or songwriter that can personally relate...making you feel like you're not the only one who has gone down a one way road with no end in sight...with the end result making it easier to sort through the most unpredictable element of life, human emotion. A+ to Usher on the ballad, haven't heard one from him like this since Moving Mountains. Also, shouts out to Drumma Boy who is a great producer and more well known for tracks like Money To Blow by Birdman, Lil Wayne and Drake, as well as Ten Toes Down by Ball & G.

Check it out....
Usher-Stranger (Produced By Drumma Boy)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Update on XXL's Freshman of 2010

When the April issue of XXL with the top 10 in 2010's Freshman Hip Hop class hit the shelves on March 16, there was a reason why I didn't create a post for it. For one, I wasn't nearly familiar enough about most of the artists to be able to pass judgment, make any predictions or even say who were my favorites. Another reason was, none of them had released enough noteworthy tracks (compared to last year when Asher Roth, B.O.B., Wale and Cudi, who were all somewhat well known before they graced the cover for XXL's 2009 edition).

Fast forward about two months and that has all changed as I've grown a much deeper appreciation for a few of the artists and can give more of an opinion. Before you read what I think, you have you watch a quick video where each of the artists perform a 1 min clip of their most well known tracks at a XXL promo concert...check it:

After watching that video, I went back to check and see if I had grabbed a few of the tracks that were performed and I found a few of them in the library, but had neglected to give them more than one listen. Weird how watching one performance of a song can take a track from "completely passed over" to "my new favorite track". Here's where I think they're at right now:
1. J Cole - Definitely my favorite of the group and the one who seems to have the most "backing" from other "veteran" artists like Jay-Z. For example, who else on this list got to drop a verse on Blueprint 3? Yep, that's what I though...but that verse and respect from the "elders" isn't why I think he's the best. The proof is in the pudding as I dissected a few of his most recent leaks on my New Artist Spotlight, with Who Dat and Grown Simba being the two best reasons why I think he's at the top of this class.
2. Donnis - Hailing from the ATL, he has recently risen to the top of this list with his upcoming single Tonight. That new single came after two of my favorite tracks in the past year with Gone and Over Do It. Donnis hasn't had the quantity of tracks you'd look for, but I'm eagerly anticipating his Fashionably Late mixtape due out sometime this summer. Make sure and check out his performance of Gone in the video above...I literally watched him performed that, then went and found the track, which I had put on my August song list and then re-ranked it in the top 5 of the April song list I just sent out.
3. Wiz Khalifa - About a month ago if you would have asked me who my favorite was out of this group it would have been Pittsburgh native Wiz. Feels like way over a year ago when he came on the scene with his Say Yeah track, sampling Alice Deejay's Better Off Alone. Not many people recognize he has already dropped two albums, with his most recent being Deal or No Deal, which reached #1 on iTunes for a hot minute. Real big fan of the first single off that album titled This Plane. Look out for that second single Red Carpet (Like a Movie) produced by none other than Ryan Tedder.
4. Big Sean - Coming out of the mean streets of Detroit, it seems Sean  has become good friends with Mr West. Oh yea, he also toured and became friends with Drizzy along the way and recently did a track with him titled Made It. I like his new track Bullshittin' more than the Drake collab's the limit with his talent and the group of friends he hangs around with.
5. Nipsey Hustle - This was actually the only pic I could find on the 'Net where Nipsey isn't throwin' up a set reppin' the 6 0 crips. Guess the gang life is still alive and well in South Central LA. Yet again, I gained a frame of reference with Nipsey on a track that he and Drake did titled Killer, where he absolutely stole the show from Drake. Most recently he caught my eye with this Run This Town (freestyle)...he's got that West Coast, Snoop Dogg diction that is every bit OG as his lyrics are thought provoking and creative.
6. Jay Rock - Another West Coast native, Jay Rock hailing from Watts, CA is starting to make some waves outside of the left coast. Truth be told, its a complete toss up between he and Nipsey for that #5 spot, but in my opinion they're both bringing some vitality back to West Coast rap that has been taking a nap for a number of years now. Favorite track from him is his new one Know Who to Trust, that epitomizes the classic West Coast sound with the haunting organ and strings (sounds slightly Dr Dre-esque). He's probably most well known for his collabo with Lil Wayne titled All My Life. His harsh, raspy dialect takes a little getting used to, but I wouldn't consider myself a huge Gangsta Rap fan, which is why I'm still warming up to him.
7. Freddie Gibbs - Freddie probably grew up in the harshest of living conditions, calling Gary, Indiana home for most of his upbringing. Recently being ranked in the Top 5 most Un-Safe cities, Gary isn't what you'd call a vacation spot. Right now I feel like I'm shortchanging him the most out of all 10 artists because many people believe he sounds like a young Tupac, showing he clearly has a lot of talent. As evident, witness his newest track The Ghetto. In my opinion, he brings a true Hip Hop sound that you'd liken to any NYC artist, very East Coast in delivery. My guess is he'll end up being in the top 5 out of this list before long after his new mixtape Str8 Killa No Filla and album The Devil's Palace (which is going to be produced by the legendary Alchemist).
8. Pill - Out of this list, you won't find a more unapologetically in your face artist like Pill. He also calls the ATL home and it isn't hard to tell with that Southern drawl of his. Interesting combination of wit and vulgarity, especially on his freestyle over Usher's Lil Freak. That track had me laughin' at some of the one liners like "And I only go Ham I go AbraHAM Lincoln" and "everybody done had her like corn in can". He's most well known for his booty shakin' Trap Goin' Ham song, where it's really convenient to compare him to a young ATL trapstar, T.I. It remains to be seen if he can evolve the way Clifford did, but getting on this list is a good start.
9. OJ Da Juiceman - Lord knows you've already heard the well-know "Eh Eh Ok" in the background of damn near every song Mr Vitamin C has been a part of (look at that damn orange chain above...smh). Judging by the copious amounts of gaudy jewelry and being a protege of Gucci Mane, you probably already guessed what I think about OJ. I still have mad love for that Supaman High track he did with R Kelly though, that beat goes HAARRDD and was a pleasant surprise. Still not exactly my bag of doritos if ya know what I'm sayin....
10. Fashawn - Really the only reason he's 10 is the lack of familiar material I've heard from Fashawn, who reps Grizzly City, CA (aka Fresno). Here's the best example I could find of his talent as a artist on his track F.A.S.H.A.W.N. Clearly he has a lot of respect for Hip Hop having paid tribute to Nas's Illmatic and he similarly takes pride in being a lyricist rubbing shoulders with Talib Kweli on Life's a Bitch. Definitely an artist that deserves daps & lbs for keeping it real and not needing the commercial success to validate his talent personally. He's already years ahead of Pill and OJ now that I've given a more thorough listen...keep that in mind cause this cat is talented.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Stat Quo & Eminem - Classic Shit (prod by Dr. Dre)

This is more of an unreleased track than a new collabo and it's clearly coming out at an opportune time for both artists who are releasing albums in the next month. Statlanta and Eminem's Recovery are both supposed to drop on June 22nd. "Hey let's leak that track we did 5 years ago with Dre to get some momentum for our albums?" is probably the reason behind this and you can tell it's a little dated because Em is still talking about Jadakiss and Fat Joe doing a track together.

History aside, the good doctor did his part in providing a solid beat and while I wouldn't categorize it as anywhere near his best, it's still refreshing to hear a beat from him now and again. The monotonous clap and head nod inducing marching tempo of the beat make the track sound like something Eminem would produce. Has the feel of an unfinished track since it ends abruptly and doesn't really have a hook. Take it for more of a freestyle throw together by a couple of the industry's most revered and don't discount Stat's ability to fit in quite well with the heavyweights he collaborated with on this track....give it a listen...

Eminem Feat. Stat Quo - The Ruler's Back (Classic Shit)

Friday, May 14, 2010

"They Say God is a DJ"

Y'all remember Lumidee Cedeno? You know the one who had everyone dancin' with that reggaeton infused clap beat on Never Leave Me?

I'll be the first to admit it had me sayin UH OH!! more than a couple Fab's verse on the remix hit the spot. You may also remember last year her upbeat track with Tony Sunshine, She's Like the Wind.

Regardless if you remember her or not, she's bounced back from the drug trafficking rumors she was hit with in '05 when she tried to smuggle a milly of frozen blow unsuccessfully. Now she's trying to carve a brand new niche for herself on more of a dance/techno R&B style with a couple new tracks that have surfaced. Considering how much David Guetta and Crookers I post on this site, this should come as no surprise that I would enjoy that combo. I've alluded to how strongly I favor techno/trance/dance being mixed into Hip Hip and R&B and this should serve as another reason why that's the case.

When I first heard her new single Insomnia, my first thought was I have definitely heard that techno sample before, but what is that song called? At first I thought it was very Brooklyn Bounce - Get Ready to Bounce sounding, but then I scoured my collection of Techno and found another song called Insomnia by Faithless. Yep, that was it and Lumidee's version is more or less a cover of that track with a little R&B sprinkled in. Listen to the original below:

I was tempted to flip this one into a Sample Justice piece, but figured not enough people would be familiar with the original sample, so it wouldn't be as cool of a comparison. Regardless, give Lumidee's version a listen and do yourself a favor by skipping the first 45 sec of the song to where it gets into the techno. Only thing that makes this almost as cool as the original is the chopped up dance beat after the synthesizer sample...check it...

Lumidee - Insomnia

As a bonus here's an "original" song by Lumidee which also has a Dance vibe to it, but is an interesting mix of Hip Hop, R&B and Euro techno...
Lumidee - Alors On Dance

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