100% life from concentrate
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in the past, life rewind was about recapping my favorite songs of the year. this time, i’m expanding it to a fuller blog review. more to come in the next few weeks.
in the meantime, we’ll start with my top 12 songs from twenty-twelve (not ranked) with a full playlist at the end. if some of your favorite songs aren’t on the list, let me know what i missed in the comments.
Fun. “We Are Young” f/ Janelle Monáe
first heard this on a super bowl commercial and was hooked ever since.
the cover polaroid of kendrick lamar’s good kid m.a.a.d city album dubs the cd as a film and for good reason. with storytelling, different flows, solid production, wordplay and soundplay, k-dot gives you something that you’ll wanna see as much as hear (in fact, he should flush it out into a real movie or broadway musical à la american idiot). won’t say that i’m a fan of all the “scenes” but the total package is impressive. “sing about me” is a good preview of what i’m talking about. check it out and let me know what you think.
i’ve had this j. cole song on repeat since it dropped yesterday (cool that he released it by emailing it directly to a fan). even though the rapper is pretty successful right now, he doesn’t ignore his personal flaws and those within the things that helped shape him. cole also produced the track (as he often does), making great use of cee-lo’s “fool for you”.
new video for my favorite song on life is good. nas said he found some inspiration for the album in marvin gaye’s here, my dear. marvin used that project to metaphorically and literally settle some issues with his ex-wife. nas does similar work on “bye baby” as he opens up about his marriage and divorce to the singer kelis. the song was produced by salaam remi and 40 with help from guy’s “goodbye love” (aaron hall makes a cameo in the flick).
one of the better articles that i’ve read this year was about yasiin bey (fka mos def). it showed how the rapper’s religious faith influenced not only his name change but also some of his music (read it here). you can hear the spiritual presence on this song from his mos def days, “champion requiem”:
yasiin starts the track with “Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim” (arabic for “In the name of God, most Gracious, most Compassionate”). he goes on to credit any goodness in him to “the Creator” and later says “Listen God did not make me a fearful person/The only fear I have, Is my fear to adhere his path.” the emcee could have preached these things at many houses of worship.
that said, spiritual rap is like an abandoned child. one parent (mainstream religion) shuns it for not being godly enough for holy praise, regardless of the lyrics. the other parent (mainstream hip hop) shuns it for being too godly (or corny) to entertain or make a profit. moreover, the music often just sounds bad to both. sometimes that’s the fault of the artists, but also at play is a resistance to change that closes people’s ears.
while holy hip hop might never find the acceptance it yearns for, it can still have a place in both worlds if done right. with “champion,” you see the potential on the spiritual end to deliver a message to places and minds that pastors, imams or priests might not reach (yasiin even wishes to hear his words “in the ghetto streets where y’all at…In the parties where it be so packed and the atmosphere be so black”). for the hip hop heads, it’s another opportunity to edify people using the same medium that they love.
how do you feel about spiritual hip hop? what would it have to do to be successful in both religious and hip hop settings? if you know of any good songs that might fit the bill, share in the comments.
related: a documentary that address the issue
jay-z and kanye’s watch the throne didn’t fully match the hype (in part because the hype behind it was so high), but it still had a lot of great music on it. this 10-min documentary, shot mostly in australia, gives us a peek at how the album came together. a couple of my favorite moments are kanye rapping about russell crowe in front of russell crowe and seeing hov working on the lyrics to “why i love you.” check out the video above as well as this interview with the director robert lopuski. in it, he talks about the first time he bumped into kanye (literally) and what the film-making process was like for him as both a director and a fan.
when a 16 bar verse isn’t enough to say what’s on your mind, you get an extended slick track from rozay and 3k. dre dominates the mic on this one so it might be the closest thing you’ll get to a full song from the now professional feature rapper™. ross’s new album god forgives, i don’t
do much lyrically but i pick hot beats drops on tuesday.
maybe the biggest criticism against hip hop is the mainstream disrespect of women found in some raunchy videos and misogynistic lyrics too often laced with “bitches” and “hoes.” lupe fiasco addresses the issue in his latest single “bitch bad.” the song talks about how the images shown to children by music and adults can affect boys’ perceptions of women and girls’ perceptions of themselves.
the onus on cleaning things up isn’t just on the music industry (who at times chooses to promote trashy things), but also on parents and mentors (who at times choose to consume/support trashy things). whether it’s with music or in general, it’s important that we give our youth a consistent and proper example of how to respect themselves and others.
you can check out the song lyrics below via rapgenius (click on the words for explanations from the site). also, be on the lookout for lupe’s next album, which is scheduled to drop on september 25th:
Now imagine there’s a shorty, maybe five maybe four
Ridin’ ’round with his mama listening to the radio
And a song comes on and a not far off from being born
Doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong
Now I ain’t trying to make it too complex
But let’s just say shorty has an undeveloped context
About the perception of women these days
His mama sings along and this what she says
“Niggas, I’m a bad bitch, and I’m that bitch
Something that’s far above average”
And maybe other rhyming words like cabbage and savage
And baby carriage and other things that match it
Couple of things are happenin’ here
First he’s relatin’ the word “bitch” with his mama - comma
And because she’s relatin’ to herself, his most important source of help
And mental health, he may skew respect for dishonor
Yeah, now imagine a group of little girls nine through twelve
On the internet watchin’ videos listenin’ to songs by themselves
It doesn’t really matter if they have parental clearance
They understand the internet better than their parents
Now being the internet, the content’s probably uncensored
They’re young, so they’re malleable and probably unmentored
A complicated combination, maybe with no relevance
Until that intelligence meets their favorite singer’s preference
“Bad bitches, bad bitches, bad bitches
That’s all I want and all I like in life is bad bitches, bad bitches”
Now let’s say that they less concerned with him
And more with the video girl acquiescent to his whims
Ah, the plot thickens
High heels, long hair, fat booty, slim
Reality check, I’m not trippin’
They don’t see a paid actress, just what makes a bad bitch
Disclaimer: this rhymer, Lupe, is not usin’ “bitch” as a lesson
But as a psychological weapon
To set in your mind and really mess with your conceptions
Discretions, reflections, it’s clever misdirection
Cause, while I was rappin’ they was growin’ up fast
Nobody stepped in to ever slow ‘em up, gasp
Sure enough, in this little world
The little boy meets one of those little girls
And he thinks she a bad bitch and she thinks she a bad bitch
He thinks disrespectfully, she thinks of that sexually
She got the wrong idea, he don’t wanna fuck her
He think she’s bad at bein’ a bitch, like his mother
Momma never dressed like that, come out the house hot mess like that
Ass, titties, breasts like that, all out to impress like that
Just like that, you see the fruit of the confusion
He caught in a reality, she caught in an illusion
Bad mean good to her, she really nice and smart
But bad mean bad to him, bitch don’t play your part
But bitch still bad to her if you say it the wrong way
But she think she a bitch, what a double entendre
Bitch bad, woman good, lady better
You’re misunderstood (I’m killin’ these bitches)
Bitch bad, woman good, lady better
Greatest mother hoood (I’m killin’ these bitches)
few people are more equipped to teach public speaking than rappers. whether it’s competing in a local freestyle battle, impressing a single record exec to get a deal or rocking a stage in front of thousands, true emcees are able to control their audience by knowing what to say and how to say it. such skills translate to places outside of music including boardrooms, classrooms, courthouses and churches.
in a recent nypost article, ice t and some other hip-hop pioneers use their knowledge and experience to offer some great advice for the next time that you find yourself in front of a mic. check out their tips below and also ice t’s new documentary “from nothing to something: the art of rap” which hits theaters this weekend:
1. Know your material.
Don’t flap your gums about partying with hot girls in the Hamptons if you’ve never even driven through Long Island. You can’t lie about real-life experiences, especially if you’re giving a speech. “A crowd can smell a fake from a mile away,” explains Ice T. “People relate to personal stories — it pulls them in and makes them feel special.”
2. Practice. Then, practice some more.
“Before concerts I would put on instrumental versions of songs and push the melodies to the front of my mind,” says Ice T. “Rehearsing out loud is key.”
Lord Jamar of Brand Nubian found a perfect tool for rehearsing on the B-side of Kurtis Blow’s “The Breaks.” The instrumental track, “Do It Yourself,” was a wide-open sonic canvas on which emerging emcee’s could practice wordplay, delivery and working with a deejay.
3. Know the audience.
“Identify who you’re going to be addressing and tailor your words accordingly. You can’t address the Hells Angels the same way you would fans at a Garth Brooks concert,” says Ice T, laughing. “Greet the audience. Use humor. Do whatever you can to make a connection.”
4. Know the room.
Get familiar with the acoustics, just as rappers do in the studio. “This is where mike skills come in,” Ice T. says. “A great emcee knows how to command the crowd with their voice — get them to applaud, speak, stand up and sit down on cue.”
Sadly, your speaking gig probably won’t include Cristal, weed and groupies. “Man, that’s what I need to get going,” Snoop Dogg says.
5. Be descriptive.
“When you talk, paint vivid pictures with your words,” Ice T says. “When I rhyme about the hood, I want a white kid who lives in Omaha to feel like he’s living there.”
The legendary Rakim agrees: “When Slick Rick raps about running through the park, you can actually smell the grass,” he says.
6. Be confident.
There’s a fine line between confidence and boasting — and only the best emcees can toe it. “Kanye [West] and Jay-Z are perfect examples. They know people are hanging on their words, but they never come across as arrogant,” says Ice T. “Whether you’re running a seminar or a meeting, you need to grab people’s attention by showing confidence — even if you have no idea what the hell you’re talking about. People will believe almost anything that comes out of your mouth once they detect confidence.”
7. Never apologize.
“State your opinion and roll with it no matter what,” says Ice T. “Once you win over a room, they won’t turn their back on you. Saying I’m sorry over and over again makes you look nervous and weak.”
8. Put in the hours — and learn to love them.
“You have to live in your work environment,” says veteran Nas. Adds the iconic Dr. Dre, “I’ve been in the game for 27 years and only been out of the studio two weeks — that’s how much I love my business.”
9. If two of you are presenting, pick the right partner.
“Make sure people have character, instincts and a real interest in what you’re about,” says Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest. “It’s the same when rappers choose partners to collaborate with. Big names don’t always mean it will work. The right person must have a solid grasp of who you are and your style. It’s no different in the business world.”
10. Pump up the volume.
Avoid boring people to tears during the next big boardroom meeting. “If you’re planning to discuss a hostile takeover of a company put on ‘Fight the Power’ by Public Enemy and get everyone fired up,” says Ice T. “Then, celebrate the acquisition that will make the company a lot wealthier by blasting Ice Cube’s ‘It Was a Good Day.’ ”
cocaine 80s are taking a different approach in releasing their latest ep. instead dropping the entire project like manna, they have been trickling out tracks from express_og over the last few days. you can stream what we have from the project so far below and i’ll keep adding songs as they come out (the feature pic above will be from the newest one out, in this case “motivation f/ common”).
playlist (click on pics for closer looks at the cool cover art):
previously: cocaine 80s “pursuit” ep