Know me, and easily you should know that one of my favorite hip-hop artists is Cali’s own, Blu. I’m fairly positive that I own everything Blu has dropped, from he and producer Exile’s classic rookie studio release, Below The Heavens, to his more recent work with MED on The Burgundy EP and Nottz on Gods In The Spirit. The “Herfavorite guy” (shoutout to Marty) has been active over the last several months, and just recently, he and LA producer Knxwledge teamed up to gift our ears with “Draginbreff.” This single is part of the larger Classic Drug References Volume One compilation album, which you can buy here. Supposedly, this is an older Blu verse, but I don’t really care…because it’s a Blu verse. Besides the smooth flow, the trumpets on this track basically make it what it is, which is dope as all hell. Check the fly shit below:
It’s been a while, hasn’t it? A hiatus of a bit over two months was more than long enough, and for whatever reason, I’m ready to get back to occasionally blogging on this page. Yeah. That.
If you’re familiar with Chicago MC Vic Spencer, you were probably hipped to his Red Button Series, which debuted in September. Spencer dropped a new track on each Monday and the first was “The Newport 500,” produced by Marc Moulin and The Jet Age of Tomorrow, featuring Monster Mike on the bars. Aggressively attacking each line, Spencer wanted to keep his fans amped for his November release, The Rapping Bastard, by giving their ears something to consume in the time being. With dope bars, insane production and “Vic Spencer-like” cover art, RBS was not something entirely new, as it has been done before, but admittedly, I don’t think I’ve ever come across an artist who so often put out B-side tracks that could have easily been on his album.
“Run Roughshod” serves as the finale for RBS, and it’s a fitting one. The Barry White loop is dope (guess what song it’s from and win a buffalo nickel!) and Spencer lets it be known to anyone within earshot that he’s done the music thing before, is doing it now, and will continue to do it in the future. Is his tone harsh? Yes, as always, but very few artists can spit with that demeanor and be taken seriously. Spencer is one of them, as I can personally attest that his persona is nowhere near contrived. RBS may be over, but it delivered a few gems, my personal favorite being the Word Mann-featured “Foes.” I know “V-i” has some more dope up his sleeve, and will deliver it when the time is right. Check out his SoundCloud page for the rest of the tunage. For now, Red Button Series, out.
North Carolina hip-hop artist Phonte and Dutch producer Nicolay are The Foreign Exchange, an electronica/hip-hop/R&B/dopeness duo. Their debut album, Connected, was released in 2004 to critical acclaim and the pair have been killing it ever since. They released 3 studio albums afterwards, including a live studio version. Their latest album, Life In Flying Colors, will be gifted to us September 24 of this year, and “Come Home” is their first single. “Pity” is the B-side track, and it easily could have and should have made the album. Alas, I will more than happily “settle” for only “Come Home” of the two making the final cut. On “Come Home,” Phonte croons in his own way about home, who it can be with and where it can be located. The song is beautifully composed and Phonte seems to have found his medium as an R&B crooner/hip-hop spitter. I don’t want to wait until 9/24, but “Come Home” will certainly hold me over until then.
I reviewed Chicago rapper D2G’s July 9th: A Cancer Story not long ago and am happy to share with you the first set of visuals from the album. “I.R.A.N.” got the treatment, with some directorial help from Trice Aaron. D2G is one of the hardest-working artists around, so don’t be surprised to see more from him on this page in the near future. Check the fly shit:
Last night was pretty monumental for the state of hip-hop, depending on who you ask. Rapper Big Sean took to his Twitter account to release “Control,” a track featuring Californian Kendrick Lamar and NOLA’s own, Jay Electronica. The song didn’t make the final cut of his upcoming album, Hall of Fame, apparently because of sample clearance issues. Big Sean is not exactly the most admired rap artist in the industry, so when I read a few tweets about the song, I didn’t pay it much mind. Shortly after, however, people got wind of, and then heard Kendrick Lamar’s verse. And all hell broke loose, digitally speaking.
Declaring, “I’m Makaveli’s offspring, I’m the king of New York” was what got more than a few in a tizzy. To follow that up, Lamar later spit, “I’m usually homeboys with the same niggas I’m rhymin’ wit’/But this is hip hop and them niggas should know what time it is/And that goes for Jermaine Cole, Big KRIT, Wale/Pusha T, Meek Mill, A$AP Rocky, Drake/Big Sean, Jay electron’, Tyler, Mac Miller/I got love for you all but I’m tryna murder you niggas/Tryna make sure your core fans never heard of you niggas/They don’t wanna hear not one more noun or verb from you niggas…”
Well. Alright. Some have opined that Lamar was out of line to proclaim himself the king of New York, considering he’s from Compton, and from what he told a concert crowd that I was a part of, his roots go as far east of Cali as Chicago. Others have chimed in that all Lamar did was give rap and hip-hop artists in New York motivation to step their game up. I’m somewhat in between. I didn’t necessarily get the purpose of boasting that he’s the king of New York, unless he wanted to ruffle feathers. Considering that the artists he appeared on the track with don’t have any ties to New York (Big Sean is from Cali/Detroit, and Jay from New Orleans, now in London), either, it seems to me like he went out of his way to take shots at the current state of the genre in New York State.
The bigger debate is over whether or not Kendrick was dissing the artists he named. (He previously mentioned Jay-Z, Nas, Eminem and Andre 3000 as the best MCs out right now, along with himself. I won’t even get into the absurdity of mentioning Andre 3K on that short list.) I feel he did, to an extent. Possibly, it could be considered healthy competition; what rap and hip-hop actually started as. Supposedly, you could argue that he was somewhat paying homage to the artists he named. If that’s the case, that’s an underwhelming cast of characters. Regardless of whether you believe he was insulting those artists or not, one thing should be sure…
Kendrick, your verse was pretty good. However, you called out a bunch of “meh” ass rappers and got lionized for it. You had folks on Twitter considering you some sort of all-time great in hip-hop. Somehow, these same folks all developed a severe case of amnesia, because they continued to insinuate that what you did has basically never been done before, or that it’s been so long, people have forgotten. No, it’s not your fault; their reaction. You are culpable for something, though.
If you consider yourself the Alabama of rap, you don’t call out Mississippi State or Vanderbilt football. You don’t declare yourself a Kennedy- or Obama-style politician and then clamor for Dubya to come correct. You’re apparently the king; the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. Don’t call out the 95-96 Blazers, who were barely above .500 that season. I appreciate the old-school approach, I really do. But outside of Jay Electronica, you’re easily more talented than the others mentioned. In fact, I would agree that you are indeed one of the best MCs out at the moment. Who gives a shit about NY artists and their egos, to be honest. I couldn’t care less to address their taking offense. But… Mac Miller?! Tyler, The Creator?! MEEK FUCKING MILL?!?!?! Sir, sir…
No path to any throne goes through mere peons.
From a 10-day suspension to ‘Acid Rap.’
I first heard Chicago hip-hop artist Chance The Rapper on Vic Spencer’s “National Geographical” single in 2011. If you’re familiar with Spencer, you know his flow can vary, but is mostly grungy. Having never heard Chance rap before, I was taken aback by his cadence, lyrical content, and just overall dopeness of his verse. Throw in that at times he sounded sing-songy on his part, and while he didn’t exactly fit the “norm,” I was intrigued, nonetheless.
Hoping Chance’s dopeness was more trend than blip, he gifted us with 10 Day, his debut mixtape. ”Windows,” “U Got Me Fucked Up,” and “Family” immediately got heavy play and are still in rotation to this day. 10 Day, a debut effort essentially centered around an act of misbehavior, struck me as immature, initially. But then I realized that Chance was doing nothing more than telling a story. His story. And he did it in incredible, and quite unique fashion.
While I was certainly pleased with 10 Day, I admit that I didn’t have high hopes for his follow-up project, Acid Rap. I just simply felt that what he created on 10 Day, he wouldn’t be able to recreate on Acid Rap. I was incredibly glad to be proven wrong, as Acid Rap was not only seen as great by my somewhat high standards, but by many blogs, websites, journalists, and most importantly, rap and hip-hop fans. Where 10 Day seemingly fell short, Acid Rap compensated for it, and then some.
I’m sure Chance’s style irks some. His high-pitched voice can be a bit shrill at times, and sometimes it seems as if he doesn’t know what direction he wants to go in on a song. But it’s that organized chaos that is so alluring. The adlibs are dope. His features are even better. He tackles topics that a good number of artists his age would rather not be in the vicinity of, lyrically and artistically speaking. In an era in which so many hip-hop fans can’t discern who’s who, it is very easy to distinguish Chance The Rapper from the rest of the crowd. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I have a certain bias for his music because we are both native GoILLians, but if you were to remove that tidbit, the kid just puts out dope ass fucking music. Stay starving, Chano.
Stay sober, Ms. Ingram.
I was browsing different music websites online several days ago, when I came across an album cover that immediately caught my attention. After I finally stopped drooling over the cake in the artwork, I decided to find out a little more about the artist. British electronic production duo Chase & Status founded the independent record label, More Than Alot Records (MTA Records) in 2009 and 19 year-old British singer-songwriter was signed in 2013. At the age of 18, she covered Kendrick Lamar’s “Poetic Justice.” This, alone, is what turned me into an Elli Ingram fan. It didn’t take long after that for me to find her website and immediately download her first project, the 6-track EP, Sober.
The entire project was produced by Felix Joseph and Rudi Redz, who were also behind her cover of “Poetic Justice.” I instantly fell in love with the title track, 3 minutes and 31 seconds of greatness, glossing over, ironically, how she is not in a sober state. “Mad Love” is remarkable, and Ingram delectably croons to the object of her desires on “Elliot.” The mood becomes much sexier on “High Love,” as Elli sings, “Hit me with another taste/We can go to outer space/Lay me down and rest on Mars/Together we can watch the stars”. The production on this track is strong, but it doesn’t overshadow Ingram’s singing ability. She perfectly dictates the flow of a song that I feel a number of other songstresses would have struggled on. Over the piano-backed “Fun,” Elli showcases her emotional vulnerability, and honestly, this is about as close as she gets to sounding like Adele. Yet, listeners should be able to easily tell that she is her own artist.
It’s entirely possible that Ingram created this entire EP while under the influence. It would certainly make sense. For someone who is all of 19 years of age, Ingram sings with a maturity not found in many artists twice her age. Yet, Ingram doesn’t appear to be tired, or worn down. She is seemingly in control even when it appears that she may have completely lost it. It’s refreshing to hear someone who is genuinely sensitive, and not just trying to appeal to a certain contingent. She ended Sober with her cover of “Poetic Justice,” just to let you know that, even though this was your introduction to her musical stylings, she ain’t your average rookie.
Stay sober, Ms. Ingram.
, It’s been a while since I’ve written a review, much less one for the work of Chicago hip-hop artist D2G. Not only do I enjoy the work that he releases, he seems to possess a certain work ethic that isn’t a part of the repertoire of many other artists, from my observations. Obviously, I await the release of music albums of all genres, all year. D2G’s July 9th: A Cancer Story was no different.
I hate pointless intros. I hate them with a fiery passion. I’m not sure who told music artists–especially rappers–that intros are necessary, but if that person exists, they misled them. Most times, it’s audio snippets or some crazed man screaming obscenities or the artist telling you how big of a chip is on their shoulder. Luckily, D2G’s “A Cancer Intro” gets right into the album, with him laying out what is part-mission statement/part-state of the rap union address. The reggae-tinged “I.R.A.N.” was produced by DC, and I’ve been playing it since I posted it on this page several weeks ago. “I Am Him” continues the swift pace, as D2G exclaims that he is “the shit.” Kudos to RelElite for the production.
Credit Doc Da Mindbenda with the production assist on “Drive Down The LS,” featuring Chicago vocalist Ben Official. This isn’t the typical D2G track, but I think the collab and sound worked very well. Continuing on with somewhat of an appeal to the ladies is “Agreement.” Finy the Genius provides vocal support and Maserati Myers’ production combines some elements of both modern and 90′s R&B. To validate my theory that when rap and hip-hop artist lean towards women at a certain point on an album or mixtape, they do it in threes, we get “The Search.” I actually really liked DC’s production on this track, but felt that a female voice was needed. Perhaps a female singer who also described her search as well would’ve complemented D2G’s tales a bit better.
Vic Spencer and Brian Fresco join the fray on “Not Sober,” and once again, DC is on production duty. Clearly, the subject matter of a song with this title will almost always be fairly light, but I still enjoyed the debauchery-filled lyrics of this one. Fresco’s verse got nastier as it went along, which is sometimes what happens when you’re last to bat.
“YNS” sounded a little too much like “The Search,” in terms of its overall tone, except the latter was smoother. If I read these lyrics before hearing the song, I would have expected something a bit grungier. Fortunately, D2g raps along with a beat better than most, so even on tracks that don’t seem to fit his style, he can “save” them by being fairly technically sound. One of my favorite performances on J9:ACS was by Chicago rapper Angel Davenport…and she didn’t even rap. However, her singing on the hook of “Hangover Syndrome” was extremely rhythmic along with B4 La$ers’ production, even though she has a somewhat unconventional sound. The emotional appeal on “If U Hear Me” is very strong, which is exactly what I expect from an artist of D2G’s caliber.
Producer R.A.D. and D2G rebound from “YNS” with the beautiful-sounding “Come On.” Chicago rapper Abstrak Mind contributes a very good verse, as he and D2G convey thoughts of how difficult it can be to just to make it to the finish line. “;” is officially my shit, and I think Vic Spencer should offer his services on hooks, if he can duplicate his effort from the track. O’Bonjour produced “;” and admittedly, the beat grew on me. “Hood Tales” were just that, but in typical D2G fashion, he took it a step further. With all due respect to the other vocalists on J9:ACS, they simply couldn’t match Alex Brittany on “Reoccurring Nightmares.” It’s her voice that I hoped to hear with each passing second, even though D2G’s lyrical effort was one of his best on the album. I’d argue that this was the best collaboration on the entire project.
J9:ACS ends with “A Cancer Outro,” and it’s appropriate that one of the first words D2G utters is “reflect,” since that is what he seems to do often, and very well. Every once in a while, I believe people should take self-inventory and reflect on things in the past that have contributed to their present and possibly, their future. Unfortunately, I’m unsure of the female vocalist in the background.
Knowing what went into this project is what makes it even better, in my opinion. To hear that an artist has been working on an album for nearly a decade is remarkable, and warrants much praise. Who knows if D2G is gaining traction in the Chicago hip-hop landscape. I, personally, don’t care. Politics dictate the flow of music. I think all any of us should hope for is that D2G continues to churn out good, meaningful music.
First, I’d like to begin this post by pointing out that, once again, this is a late entry. Sue me.
If you’ve been bored and happened across my page any time during the last several months, you’ve noticed Chicago rap artist D2G on here a few times. Whether appearing on M.K.L.H. as a feature on a song, releasing one of his own, or ethering ears with one of his freestyles, the outspoken rapper has been slowly progressing towards what culminated on Tuesday, July 9th: July 9th: A Cancer Story. The long-awaited album was released on D2G’s birthday (happy belated, broski), actually, which is a treat in itself. Features on this project range from Vic Spencer to The Boy Illinois, and the production, from dope folks like DC and O’Bonjour, is definitely more than solid. I had the opportunity to get D2G’s take on a few things below:
Nigel Watson: When did you get the idea for this album? How?
D2G: I’ve had the idea for the album since about 7th grade when I seriously started rapping.It’s been an idea for me just as a means to explain who I am.
NW: How long did it take to finish the album?
D2G: When I tell you this project is a lifetime in the making, it’s exactly that. This project was supposed to come out about a good 13 July 9th’s ago. [LOL]
NW: Favorite track, production-wise?
D2G: Production wise…it’s gonna be cliche…but I can’t call it.
NW: Favorite track, feature-wise?
D2G: Feature wise…I can’t say. They ALL are some dopeness. They all give me that good feeling.
NW: If I were forced to compare you to a rap artist, it would be Havoc. I’ve always considered him a silent assassin. Would you agree?
D2G: Let me be the first to tell you, I’ve NEVER gotten that comparison before. [LMAO] And it’s only because that’s the most original comparison I’ve heard. I can actually agree in terms of the silent assassin part. I feel as though this project has just somewhat established my identity. Whereas before, you’ve heard my voice countless times, but you couldn’t quite pinpoint who I was. Unless you’re familiar with cats like Vic Spencer, JDP, Pavy, C.RICH, A.M. , Duke, Jon Content, Sulaiman and countless others….I’m not the first you’ll pick out of the crowd. I mean, you can hear me and say I’m dope, but it’s usually me not even appearing as though I CAN rap. You know what I mean?
NW: What’s it like working with people who support you and your craft?
D2G: It’s the best feeling in the world. I’ve been blessed with everybody around me that I work with to be all dope as hell. And to top it all off, I don’t just work with random strangers that just think I’m dope. I work with people I consider my family. Like, this is really a family affair; this music thing. So everything has the right vibe because it’s my “peoples” I’m creating with.
NW: I rock with starving artists. Just how hungry are you?
D2G: Brother man, brother man. To describe my hunger, you’d have to travel with me inside the belly of the beast. I reside there. I AM the hunger that resides in the beast’s belly.
NW: What’s next?
D2G: The only thing next for me is more work. I’m gonna try to push ‘J9ACS’ to the people as hard as I possibly can, while building a bigger catalog and more cameos for myself. By the time this year is out, you will know D2G.
NW: Who is D2G?
D2G: D2G is Anthony Ingram, Jr., understood better with rhythm. He is everything I can’t say when I try to speak. Most importantly, he is the underdog that lives in everyone. He just happens to be from the Southeast side of Chicago, Illinois.
NW: Describe this album in one word.
Well… There you have it.
If you’re like me, you anticipated the release of Kanye West’s latest album, Yeezus. If you’re like me, you couldn’t stand it from a lyrical standpoint, simple as that. However, I have not been shy that while Kanye’s lyrics on Yeezus are weaker, simpler and more unnecessarily vulgar and offensive than usual, the production is pretty damn great. Whether you want to call this album rap, hip-hop, pop, techno, electronica, IDM, EDM, rock, grunge or some brand new genre, it certainly has a unique sound, even for an artist like Ye. Luckily, the insanely dope duo of Gianni Lee and Mike Blud decided to gift us with a mixtape full of the songs that Ye sampled on Yeezus. These songs show that while Kanye may have phoned it in when in the booth, his ear for music is surreal.
Download: Yeezus Samples (Gianni Lee x Mike Blud)
A friend of mine, who is nearly as big of a Joy Divison fan as I am, told me that someone would be doing some funky thing to the artwork of Joy Divison’s debut album’s cover. I paid it no mind, but after a quick visit to one of my favorite sites last week, I was absolutely astonished at what I found. Funky waveforms on the original were freaked by Michael Zollner, and the finished product was the picture above. Insane, no? Check it, check it out…
I once won tickets to see Chicago rap artist Hologram Kizzie (or Psalm One at that time) and others perform at The Hideout, and the night culminated with me getting a sweaty hug from Psalm One herself. ‘Twas glorious, I tell you. Be jealous.
Besides all of that, Madame Kizzie released Free Hugs on May 28. This 7-track EP was produced entirely by Compound 7, a duo comprised of A Plus and Aagee. You had better believe that Kizzie leaves everything on the floor on Hugs, and how effing dope/clever is that artwork?! Head to her site, throw down some scratch for Free Hugs, and then give it a listen. Oh. You’re welcome.
Download: Free Hugs, Hologram Kizzie (Psalm One)