Fight for The Future of Lil Uzi Vert

Fight for The Future of Lil Uzi Vert

by Dan-O

We complain a lot. All of us do. In Hip Hop, we get mad at youngsters for not doing what the older generations would do. Real rap problems exist: loss of interesting word usage, too much of a focus on ad-libs, drug addiction creating a generation of junked up kids with no goals. Take a moment and acknowledge that Lil Uzi Vert is a strong component in resolving some of these.

At first, Uzi was discounted simply because of the Lil. The Bad and Boujee feature was blistering but Uzi’s audience is his own and real. He has their attention and uses it. XO Tour Lif3 by September 2017 had 1.3 BILLION listens counting all streaming platforms (Wiki info). That song is about suicide mental breakdowns and heartbreak. He helps a suffering generation express acknowledge and process feeling like crap. In and of itself, that is important.

You might have heard he announced his retirement, announced he had label issues. We can’t let any of this happen. We can’t let labels hinder him. We can’t let him fall into whatever took Mac Miller away. I am not just saying this because he means a lot to his generation. I am saying this because I love this genre.

When he dropped the loosey Free Uzi as a youtube video (not on streaming services) it racked up 9.6 Million views but, more importantly, it’s an incredible song. Free Uzi is the Philly phenom exploding with bars, stringing any word he wants easily onto one of raps best flows. The propulsive beat allows him to easily surf while maintaining perfect breathe control. He’s not a mumble rapper, you can hear him saying things like “I remember when them N_’s all laughed at me,” as he dances in a convenience store with his friends. It’s just him having fun and stretching out his legs while breathing fire. It seems like the giant response to Free Uzi pressured his label into letting some more of his music loose.

Conversely, Sanguine Paradise (the first single they let out whatever prison they keep his music in) is a fully fleshed out single ready for the pop charts. The beat is beautiful (very pretty piano that does not slow down the speed of the song) unlike the speedbag flow of Free Uzi, Sanguine Paradise is a more melodic. Every line feels like a chorus.

This dude can dig into mental health, relationships, or just brag on a level where he becomes James Spader from Pretty In Pink, and SPIT. Find 1017 vs. The World mixtape and listen to him trade with a sober Gucci and stand tall. Not anyone can do that. I genuinely think this dude is the light of a new generation and if you don’t understand “the kids” you should listen to him. He’s the best chance you have.

f0f51d76-27cd-4c07-9a5c-a3276c844723

Advertisements

Five Song Tribute to The Legacy of Nipsey Hussle

Five Song Tribute to The Legacy of Nipsey Hussle

by Dan-O

The night before Nipsey Hussle was killed I was up later than my family bouncing from Youtube video to Youtube video looking for the right end point to justify going to sleep. The one that sealed the evening was a ten question relationship quiz with Nipsey and Lauren London. I’ve had love for LL ever since the movie ATL and honestly didn’t know they were an item (I really don’t check personal life of famous people stuff one way or another). Throughout the video Nipsey is plugged in and genuinely excited to get these questions right. He got eight out of ten right and the only two he missed were purposely phrased oddly to reference some inside couples jokes, Nip was too focused on finding an answer to follow the thread. I smiled all the way to bed because he was so proud to have done well and I immediately thought this connected to the core of who he is. Nipsey Hussle was 100% in everything he did so if someone tells you he loved Lauren London with the intensity of the sun you have to say, “Of course.” Nipsey doesn’t half way do anything. Beyond the genuine chemistry and mutual admiration between them, on a deeper level, Nipsey Hussle wanted to wreck that quiz because if Nipsey Hussle authored the quiz it needed to achieve excellence.  His will wouldn’t tolerate any less. He would marshal all his focus to be the best partner for her the same way he was the best rapper he could be. I was so happy they had each other.

Then the next day happened.

All I can do is give you five songs that show you the size of his willpower, the immensity of his heart and the force he could exert on a sonic landscape.

U See Us from Crenshaw

This might be the quintessential Nipsey song. It’s a stampede of speaker shattering bass and a grandiose hook that pulls you into the purpose of Hussle. No one wanted him to succeed. He didn’t break on a label, when he first dropped I thought he was a basic Gangsta rapper. By the time Crenshaw dropped he was making giant sized workout rap with energy heart and personality. Look at his car, look at his girl, look at his success and see it. See in that success how artificial the ceilings on life’s potential accomplishments really are.

FDT by YG featuring Nipsey Hussle from YG’s album Still Brazy

People who played it cute on Trump are regretting it now. SNL booked him as a host and has been trying to make up for it ever since. Too late. Lots of rappers had made the mistake of using Trump as their symbol of wealth and when he became an Info Wars cult member they didn’t know how to react so they didn’t. They just kept their head down and made music. YG and Nipsey Hussle had the stones to explain the whole situation and declare themselves. YG warns Donald will be a terrible president if elected and Nipsey says he thought Trump for president was a joke and says if we let him win we probably gonna feel broke. Real spit.*

Last Time That I Checc’d featuring YG from Victory Lap

Any song YG did with Nip is solid gold. Those guys are charged up all the time and ready to send shockwaves through tracks. Last Time That I Checc’d is stupid relistenable. This makes it harder because his last album, Victory Lap, was his very best. He mastered his mission statement became a king beat picker with a fantastic ear and sent his hooks into your mind to repeat until everyone’s lips mouthed along. Every time he says he did it all without a co-sign and that he’s self-made know, that information is more reliable than scientific studies of the moon. This dude pulled himself from mixtape dude to best  album of the year list with features from Puff Daddy, Ceelo Green, Kendrick, The Dream and we all got robbed of what he would have built on top of that success.

50 Niggaz from Mailbox Money

Nipsey had a special delivery. He could shout the N word in a way that made it devastating but this song is what I loved most about his pen game. As a writer, he always showed supernatural empathy. The repeated refrain of “Would you just accept that we murdered your children? Could you just accept that we murdered your children?” asks the same white male who is angry about rioting or angry that the victims father had the nerve to say something that might stoke resentment further… to flip perspectives. What would your process be like if you were on the other side? Once he has you there we can talk Zimmerman, Ali, rappers getting unfairly targeted and a picture comes together. This is such a great political song because it’s conversational and unpretentious. Nipsey is not trying to prove to you how smart he is. He’s beseeching you to utilize your emotional intelligence for someone other than yourself and people who look like you.  If he had lived we would have seen a lot more music like this as he elevated in leading by example.

I Don’t Stress from Slauson Boy 2

Nipsey was just a different dude. This whole song his voice is strained, pained and emotional but his lyrics are methodical. He starts the song hurt that his mother is stressing but quickly snaps into his mode. To put it bluntly “I never fold under mental pressure, I get better.” His determination was colder than most in that it was completely unwavering, no matter what the circumstances were. It was hotter in the sense that the fire he had just never burned low. The most Nipsey Hussle lyric of all time might be in this song when he says “Plenty of times I felt like this the end now N_.  But I catch my second wind around the tenth round, N_.” The scariest fighters in boxing history were the ones who could save their real power for the tenth round when the other guy was breathing heavy through his mouth. Those fighters were fueled by something really scary, the type of determination you can see in Bernard Hopkins fights. That’s what Nipsey had on every song.

Every song from now on won’t have that.

*a little P.S. on the FDT write up, if you somehow read my site and love Trump and are offended I have no choice but to stand as tall as Nipsey and YG did, hold your gaze, and say FUCK Donald Trump. Let you feel any way you want about it.

 

 

#Bandcampgold-Hiding Places by Billy Woods x Kenny Segal

#Bandcampgold-Hiding Places by Billy Woods x Kenny Segal

by Dan-O

Biographers live in the world of their subject for years. Can you imagine? In depth talks with family, old letters, review of their work, nailing down different periods of life and what they meant. The subject has to be important enough to fuel the biographer. If that spark flames out it’s a world of bad for everyone. I could be the biographer for Billy Woods & Kenny Segal’s new album Hiding Places. Over the past week I’ve been deep in lyric reading and song re-listens pulling at different sections of what it all means. I could do two years research on the end of A Day In A Week In A Year when Woods says:

“I read the play, hatchet job, but you work with what you got/  Life is just two quarters in the machine

But, either you got it or don’t that’s the thing
I was still hittin’ the buttons, “Game Over” on the screen
Dollar movie theater, dingy foyer, little kid, not a penny to my name
Fuckin’ with the joystick, pretendin’ I was really playin’
Pretendin’ I was really playin’
Pretendin’ I was really playin’ “

Pretending to play when you don’t have the money is a central memory for kids of a certain generation. Being able to go full thrust with your imagination and the screen regardless of what was working against you forms the basis of an artist’s mind.  The joy of playing v. the ability to get in the game this is why it connects back to the hack play, dedicating yourself to your art when your art sucks is still pretending to play.

And that is just one fragment of one song. All the songs are built from these incredible impactful fragments that come together to form a singular emotional realization part poetic beauty part violence drizzled in lots of frustration. My favorite song is a minute and twenty eight seconds long. It is called Steak Knives and it is not simply about how horrifying a life of crime is but about how painfully destructive living in poverty can be without the endless fight for money we hear rappers talk about. As Woods says in the song “it’s sick but banalities might as well be death threats/Let it sit/ there’s the threat of sepsis” He opens the song by a roaring fire about to make love to a woman who specifies she does not want a relationship and ends it flippantly acknowledging ,in a passive aggressive way, that he doesn’t have the breathing room to help those not as driven. Second place is steak knives.

All the songs are lyrically rich threatening and evocative. I need to spend some time complimenting Kenny Segal who walked a tight line. Producing for a dense lyricist is a heck of a trap: keep it simple and your doing what most producers could do and it sounds boring, make it weird you might throw the MC off their flow. Songs like Houthi are masterfully open; ready for a lyricist to shine BUT it shifts drops out cuts in and alternates in a hypnotic way that keeps it from being stale. Production is consistent but fragmented. When you think you know a song it undulates in a different direction. Listen to all the subtle changes going on in Spider Hole before the guitar slams in at two minutes and twenty one seconds. Menacing does this sound design disservice. It’s not just menacing its thick and deceptively expansive. Central sounds build neighborhoods to live in.

I was looking for the one line Billy Woods said that scorched my heart and left my eyes Simpson size. These bars define the entire Billy Woods experience and I’ve had them bouncing around my head since the first listen. That moment happens in the first verse of Speak Gently “I’m a bad penny/I’m the feelin’ after you killed ’em and seen the safe empty.” That image is something no MC has ever left for me. Standing in front of a body, mind racing, only to look up at an empty safe all of it for nothing…left with the shame of my actions and the taste of monetary failure. Sick with everything wrong about this world at once. That’s Billy Woods superpower. He’s in total control of that feeling. No hero stuff he’s the viciousness of reality cutting through all the layers of defense you keep in front of it. Every verse makes your eye water like Listerine just before you spit.

Stream or purchase Hiding Places below:

https://billywoods.bandcamp.com/album/hiding-places

Song of The Year-Boys Will Be Boys by Stella Donnelly

Song of The Year-Boys Will Be Boys by Stella Donnelly

by Dan-O

The debut album by tiny lady Stella Donnelly from Perth Australia has dominated my listening for the last week plus. Album cover is definitely off putting and the subject matter is so tense in its exploration of patriarchal savagery (in both personal and political spheres) I feel her eyes as I listen. What I didn’t expect was the emotional durability and craft in the album.

Beware Of The Dogs could easily have been a precious thoughtful album with high review scores but too tough to listen to, instead, it mood matches marvelously. It jokes and laughs at the problems it presents grooving while taking them to task. The melodies are composed to be sweet and soft as your heart gets broken. Her voice is really special and has layers to it that she uses extraordinarily well for someone on their debut album.

Can I tell you what I love the most about Stella? The writing is the toughest most spellbinding in the world to me. In this song she sings in heartbroken tones “Your father told you you were innocent. Told you women rape themselves.” You cannot misunderstand her songs. Her lyrics are dedicated to clarity while remaining deeply important and thoughtful.

Boys Will Be Boys is a vital spotlight change in the consensual sex conversation. The spotlight always seems to be on the poor young man whose life and reputation are in jeopardy because he was accused of rape and this song helps push our vision to the women who were betrayed and dismissed. None of this album is preachy, none of it sits from a comfortable place expounding upon the right ways to live.

Beware Of The Dogs is dedicated to the real damage patriarchy causes. The damage we always seem to ignore. It is my favorite album of this year because the narrator walked me through it all with kindness and humor while NEVER pulling punches. Stella believed in my ears enough to give me the truth as brutal and complicated as it is. So few have the temerity.

Please check out all the songs available to listen to on bandcamp:

https://stelladonnelly.bandcamp.com/album/beware-of-the-dogs

 

Song Of The Year-Young and Invincible by Zacari featuring Lil Yachty

Song Of The Year-Young and Invincible by Zacari featuring Lil Yachty

by Dan-O

If you are old like I am (old enough to call Mark Wahlberg Marky Mark) and you dislike/can’t figure out new school rap and its value I can help. This song can help. If Young and Invincible was a rap song from the 1990’s it would be a Lost Boyz song dripping with bravado and name brand name checks. Importantly, it would be shouted at us by Freaky Tah and the gang.

Zacari got together with Lil Yachty to create an anthem in the spirit of this generation. It’s cool and convincingly effortless with an big juicy  out-sized stretched autotune hook. Teddy Walton gives the entire Run Wild Run Free EP its sound, its vastness but on this song he is aided by Gubeatz & IAMNOBODI. The tempo is a strange combination of anthemic and bass driven booty music.

Lil Yachty comes through with a fabulous floating guest verse. Yachty is so much better on guest verses (my theory: Yachty reads all the garbage written about him and tries to make albums that “prove critics wrong” which is a bad way of doing things. When he is guesting he creates with no pressure. When he created his Lil Boat mixtape it was pressure free which is why it is still his best project. STAY CENTERED YACHTY!)

Zacari really does represent what I like about this generation of music. He’s weird, emotional, and his lyrics pay off because he connects to what he’s talking about. On top of that he’s an expert vibe creator with beautiful hooks. It’s different but when you clear your expectations and kick back it is really quite dope.

#Bandcampgold-Cover Art by Anderson Paak

#Bandcampgold-Cover Art by Anderson Paak

by Dan-O

If you didn’t know who Anderson Paak was after summer 2015 I don’t think you’re a hip hop head. When Dr. Dre came out of his cave August 7th 2015 to release Compton everyone in hip hop noted it. Thumbing through the sixteen tracks listed Paak was on six of them. I know that I let out an audible “Who the F#$% is Anderson Paak?!” That is when I found his bandcamp. Once I heard Venice I knew to pay attention to Malibu.

Now he is climbing to the top of the world. He was on Saturday Night Live playing his own drums, he was on Marc Maron talking about this covers album from 2013. I remembered having dug into that project post-Compton and threw it back into the mix. If you haven’t heard his explanation on Maron: Cover Art aims to reverse the polarity of musical manipulation. While historically black artists like Jackie Wilson get their music made into Elvis hits he wanted to take very white very good music and put the funk back in.

His cover of Seven Nation Army sold my wife on the project. The original reclaimed a good deal of swagger that post-Radiohead rock had lost and Paak by keeping the guitar parts splashy and the vocals as smooth as Brenton Wood singing Oogum Boogum (if you don’t know this song you need to) it actually raises the overall stakes on how pimpish this song is. The other high point is his cover of my favorite Beatles song (Blackbird). While Paak can get super funky and joyously silly he knows a precious moment and how to care for it. Blackbird finds the groove with fingersnaps and he gives it his absolute most concentrated effort vocally.

We love that Paak is talented can play instruments sing and rap but its way more fun that he is nuts on top of that. This dude took Neil Young’s Heart of Gold and threw rap verses on his cover of it (Nocando, himself & milo). The final product is mad weird but valuable and interesting. Cover Art is a short form introduction to the capabilities of Paak with nasty bass lines (MAPS!) and signature flair ever-present even while doing other people’s music; people who couldn’t be more different from what Paak’s music turned into. If you listen to the Maron WTF interview that’s his real secret, he’s so nuts he can sit across from an old crunchy dude like Maron and talk classic guitar rock until he’s comfortable. Year before that he was on Snoops podcast passing a blunt comparing the discographies of overlooked soul legends. If you like music Paak will get you somehow. He’s everywhere.

Stream or download Cover Art below:

https://hellfyreclub.bandcamp.com/album/cover-art

 

Song of The Year-Threat 2 Society by 2 Chainz produced by 9th Wonder

Song of The Year-Threat 2 Society by 2 Chainz produced by 9th Wonder

by Dan-O

Shout out to 9th Wonder who knows the transcendent power of the right sample. Go ahead and find The Truthettes- So Good To Be Alive and bask in how pimpish that gospel song already is. Pumping it up, speeding it up and passing it to 2 Chainz was a brilliant idea.

R.I.P. to all the 2012 white people ironically bumping 2 Chainz on some Trinidad James ish. That is all dead. 2 Chainz has legitimately put his energy determination and creativity into carrying the torch Weezy lit. Pretty Girls Love Trap Music was one of my favorite projects and to follow it with an album as great as Rap or Go To The League is fantastic. You probably heard about this album because it is executive produced by Lebron James and it does talk basketball but that’s just the beginning. This is a very personal album where he talks dead friend’s tax rates dope boy past framed next to sunny futures.

As to-the-bones groovy as this beat is nothing beats the moment when 2 Chainz vengefully spits “I’m so famous can’t even COUGH in peace.” He pulls in lessons from his coaches on jump shots and so much more. With fatherly pride he muses on the possibilities of having another child. While discussing the fact that he doesn’t get the credit he deserves he is absolutely right. The weird thing, I think only three people do. The spotlight has a terrible attention span so if you’re not Drake Kendrick or Cardi you are probably under appreciated. It might take another five or ten years for people to really start thinking about the legacy 2 Chainz has left on the game.  Not just being different but being relentless. It’s that kind of willpower that pays dividends in the form of top notch music like Threat 2 Society.

So you don’t have to look it up here is The Truthettes