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.