Tag Archives: TDE

Peeling The Layers of Damn

Peeling The Layers of Damn

by Dan-O

The rewarding part of Kendrick Lamar’s album Damn is how many layers it has while not demanding anything of you. If you just want to enjoy it you can do that. I got together with my cohort Lewis Richards and we analyzed the religious themes present in the album. They are not overwhelming but each window in gives you a view of something really different. It was a lot of fun digging into it.

Stream or download the podcast below:



Kendrick to Ice Cube: Damn is the Death Certificate of his catalog

Kendrick to Ice Cube: Damn is the Death Certificate of his catalog

by Dan-O

It is very well established that To Pimp A Butterfly has a direct connection to Tupac’s Me Against The World.  If you don’t believe it go to https://freemusicempire.com/2016/06/09/nihilism-in-rap-music-2pac-shakur-me-against-the-world/ and do the full podcast run. I think Kendrick has a different base point this time that accomplishes a very different thing.

Before Death Certificate Ice Cube was definitely respected, his first solo album Amerikkka’s Most Wanted is one of the best rap albums ever released with wonderful production from the bomb squad but his follow up is more in every way. In 1991 we didn’t have a real understanding of the concept album in hip hop. Death Certificate gives a template that you can still follow.

First step: Start with scorched earth

Both Damn and Death Certificate start with a brief intro into a scorched earth don’t F_ with me song.  The scorched earth first song gives the emcee absolute command and leaves the audience wide eyed and patiently awaiting more. Some of the old classical composers used to write massive swells into their symphony’s to wake up anyone in the audience sleeping. This method is very similar. Cube starts by yelling “GOD DAMN! It’s a brand new payback!” He shouts half of the first verse to make sure you are dialed in.

Mike Will Made It laces a world rattling bassline and Kendrick is off to the races daring us to catch up. With a minute and seven seconds left in DNA we hear Geraldo spewing his evil nonsense and then Kendrick is back spitting in response while the sample scratches. This switch is to let you know that while Kendrick lives in a very confusing world where he is used as a political football, etc he will never be drowned out by it. Same reason Ice Cube called his first song The Wrong Nigga to Fuck Wit.

Ice Cube-Wrong Nigga To Fuck Wit

Kendrick Lamar-DNA

Second Step: Takedown

Ice Cube tried to be nice on Amerikkka’s Most Wanted.  He didn’t spend a second on N.W.A.  After Niggaz4Life (where N.W.A. feverishly threw shots left, right and center) Cube had no choice and took command of the music industry for the next five years with the most unforgiving diss premise of all time. On No Vaseline he is saying you are being raped without lubricant and I am not.

If Kendrick had a No Vaseline moment it was probably that Control verse. He did bring that back in the lead up to this album, The Heart Part 4 with the second verse “My fans can’t wait for me to son ya punk ass and crush ya whole lil shit. I’ll Big Pun ya punk-ass, you scared lil’ bitch. Tiptoein’ around my name, nigga, you lame and when I get at you, homie. Don’t you just tell me you was just playin'” Kendrick doesn’t think of the rap world as full of people individually important enough to diss. He has his reasons.

Ice Cube-No Vaseline

Kendrick Lamar-The Heart Part 4

Kendrick Lamar-Control

Third Step: Vision

Ice Cube was consumed with correcting the perception of blackness. His second verse on True To The Game is absolutely the father of a lot of discussion on DAMN.

“When you first start rhyming It started off slow and then you start climbing But it wasn’t fast enough I guess So you gave your other style a test You was hardcore hip-hop Now look at yourself, boy you done flip-flopped Giving our music away to the mainstream Don’t you know they ain’t down with the team They just sent they boss over Put a bug in your ear and now you crossed over On MTV but they don’t care They’ll have a new nigga next year You out in the cold No more white fans and no more soul And you might have a heart attack When you find out the black folks don’t want you back And you know what’s worse? You was just like the nigga in the first verse Stop selling out your race And wipe that stupid-ass smile off your face Niggas always gotta show they teeth Now I’m a be brief Be true to the game”

1991 Ice Cube wanted to be in control of every aspect of his presentation and was very frustrated by people who just didn’t have the determination to shoulder that responsibility. Kendrick talks about this on verse 2 of Feel “I feel like debating on who the greatest can stop it. I am legend, I feel like all of y’all is peasants. I feel like all of y’all is desperate.” The lesson to learn from DAMN is the one rap learned from Cube in 1991. The best rapper is not that because of pure mic skill. The best rapper in the world has command and vision. The best rapper gives you vulnerable personal experiences like Cube on Doing Dumb Shit and Kendrick on Duckworth.  Political messages might be overt or laced inside the songs but the total concept and vision will be challenging even if it offends you sometimes. The best rapper brings his own sound to the table (Sir Jinx for Cube, Sounwave for Kendrick).

Ice Cube-True To The Game

Kendrick Lamar-Feel

Purchasable Mixtape review-Thirst 48 p. 2 by Boogie

Purchasable Mixtape review-Thirst 48 p. 2 by Boogie

by Dan-O

In a Billboard interview about his new project Boogie was asked,

Q:Is “Two Days” about her, too?

A: Yeah, definitely. Every relationship song on that ‘tape is about her.

By her, he means Jamesha a very specific person he has an on and off relationship with and Thirst 48 p.2 is a vividly unique journey because it covers that turmoil in depth with blame distributed much more equitably than we are used to rappers giving us.

I’m not sure if anyone else does this but whenever I hear a rapper proclaim that they never have sex with a woman more than once I suck my teeth. C’mon. Not only is that a farce and we all know you have feelings and need relationships like we all do…it’s a boring story to tell. I would much rather feel for characters that make rational decisions. Never having any relationship of any depth is not a rational decision.

Thirst 48 P.2 is about Jamesha and while it gives you the frustration of dealing with one another in the immaculately constructed Two Days and the stewing paranoia of Real One he goes just as hard on Prideful and the closer Best Friend (Jamesha pt.2) to illustrate how grateful he is for her. Boogie takes his time painting parts of the picture on each song.

The cool thing about it is Thirst 48 P.2 is not an overly intense listening experience. It is very fun hearing Mozzy and Dj Quik just blow on Fuck ‘Em All or rocking out with the ice-in-my-veins playa anthem Just Might. Whenever the day is sunnier or brighter than anticipated you can put on Sunroof and listen to Dana Williams weave her voice into Boogie’s on the projects best hook (TQ would approve).  Amongst all this Boogie raps his @$$ off! On Sunroof for example “I got your intention now it’s my intention to take all that tension and sh_t not to mention…” it feeds right into the hook. While making sure his hooks and melodies are on point he never fails to craft his verses in challenging ways with real content.

The cool thing about it is Thirst 48 P.2 is not an overly intense listening experience. It is very fun hearing Mozzy and Dj Quik just blow on Fuck ‘Em All or rocking out with the ice-in-my-veins playa anthem Just Might. Whenever the day is sunnier or brighter than people anticipated you can put on Sunroof and listen to Dana Williams weave her voice into Boogie’s on the projects best hook (TQ would applaud).  Amongst all this Boogie raps his @$$ off! On Sunroof for example “I got your intention now it’s my intention to take all that tension and sh_t not to mention…” it feeds right into the hook. While making sure his hooks and melodies are on point he never fails to craft his verses in challenging ways with real content.

Thirst 48 P.2 is much closer to how a real relationship feels than most albums that have attempted this (I love Twenty88 so I’m not talking about that) because it travels in all the places a relationship takes you. On Just Might or Slide on You he gets scummy, on Two Days he laments erased comments, unfollowing on social media, and text lag time in a way we all understand. The outwardly appreciative songs don’t do a better job of showing how much he cares about Jamesha than the angry ones. No one gets this out of sorts about someone unless they mean a lot. It’s all connected and the production from Swiff D, C. Ballin and Keyel keeps the project totally entrenched in post-TDE West Coast sonics where each note strikes and holds for a second before leaving, while Boogie keeps things loose smart and heartfelt. Listen to Thirst 48 pt. 2.

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How audiomack links taught me to relax and embrace Dom Kennedy p.3

The Yellow Album

by Dan-O

For proof positive that you are listening to an artist with the potential for pop rap stardom not just hip hop notoriety press play; The Yellow Album sounds like a platinum seller that should be in every Target you step in. An easy to way to judge this is to listen closely at the two highest profile guests: Kendrick Lamar on We Ball and Rick Ross on Gold Alpinas. We Ball is produced by the marvelous Chase N Cashe and sounds exactly like the kind of minimalist piano driven banger TDE generates (this makes sense because a lot of the TDE production team crosses over with Dom’s). Kendrick calmly leads us into his bubbling flow and sizzling bravado. Ross sounds so giddy to be a part of the DrewByrd produced Gold Alpinas that you can almost hear him debating if he’s going to put the song on his next album. The Aaliyah sample leads the song but the drums destroy it.

The Yellow Album would sound great if no one spoke a word on it. DJ Dahi and THC from the TDE camp do a lot of great work crafting beats that grow from a central element feeling instantly resonant. The masterstroke of production is resisting the bad instinct to either overstuff the beat or starve it. It takes a sharp musical mind to know when something is done. Just listen to the swirling hypnotism of 50 Conversations. Put that on and drive somewhere; see if the universe doesn’t fold into itself for six minutes or so.

Lyrically Dom has his chest out more than ever. This is a natural part of dropping successful project after successful project while others flounder. That being said he’s still a goof who says things like “Play this while you sleep so you never have to sleep alone (50 Conversations).” When I say goofy I mean that in a positive way, he always seems earnest especially on lines like “If you happy being you I F$%& with you on the strength (1 25).” He doesn’t have tough songs for the male fans and candles in the moonlight songs for the ladies; it’s all a jumble of what’s in his mind. Even as he raps alongside the Darth Vader of modern gangsta rap , Freddie Gibbs, his thoughts are scattered: from tracing his hip hop lineage from Melle Mel to modern day, to women on cocaine, and people in jail. Gibbs comes on the track like a shark with a laser attached; focused and mean. All the greatest lyricists rap alongside Dom cause 1. he isn’t afraid to talk about something straight up true but often unmentioned or goofy 2. he will never play the trying to kill you on the song game where he adds supplemental verses to dwarf yours. This is a dude who ends his biggest most pop friendly album with a track called P H (meaning peace and happiness) where he chuckles while saying “I be counting all this cash I get….shout out to my baby mama…cause she be paying half the rent!”

None of the old laws of hip hop seem to apply to Dom Kennedy. The thing I like is that he’s always smart enough to obey the old ones that make sense for him.

I can’t find the flippin’ audiomack link I found before so BOOM!
stream or download The Yellow Album via DJ BOOTH

Song of the year-Hell Of A Night by Schoolboy Q produced by DJ Dahi

Song of the year-Hell Of A Night by Schoolboy Q produced by DJ Dahi

by Dan-O

Every important boxer, important enough to have every other boxer wanting to fight them, had someone they just flat out didn’t want to fight. Sugar Ray Robinson ended his career with one hundred and seventy three wins but he did NOT want to fight Tony Zale. Sugar Ray Leonard captivated an entire generation and tricked Marvin Hagler out of his greatest moment BUT he didn’t want any part of Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor. Pryor walked around shouting with an entourage shouting hype, looking so powerfully confidently high off of cocaine that he would destroy anyone. The light welterweight from Cincinnati was a hurricane of hard punches from unseen angles and no matter how many times he shouted for Sugar Ray (usually in a post fight victory interview) Leonard wanted nothing to do with him. While The Hawk will never be remembered by the kind of accolades that Sugar Ray II will be remembered with, he’s one of those haunting figures. If you’ve seen him fight you’ll never forget it. Schoolboy Q is much more The Hawk than Old Dirty Bastard.

Hell Of A Night comes off Schoolboy’s sophomore album Oxymoron (since he doesn’t consider 2011’s Setbacks official). It builds on the power of Habits & Contradictions with disgusting imagery, violent gang stories, drug addled depression and bangers growled from the diaphragm (sometimes all happening at the same time). Q has voice alteration capability that I can only manage to compare to Aaron Pryor who left legendary opponents wondering where his punches were coming from. Q seems to have a thousand varations of his hoarse interjection flow that can make the saddest story of violence or child neglect as exciting as the most provocative brag. On a superb album this is the song I always click on first. Part of the credit is due to DJ Dahi for producing a beat epic enough to be the theme song for March Madness or the NBA Playoffs but the other half goes to a lyricist who I sometimes refer too as Wario. Meaning that if you consider Kendrick Lamar the Mario of the TDE crew than Schoolboy Q is his Wario, seemingly cackling his way through the life of a super-villain on every song.Schoolboy may never be THE guy in rap; next to people like Ye, Jay, and Ross(or even Kendrick) but at the very least he’ll be like The Hawk and I’ll always remember him yelling YAK! YAK! the way I remember Pryor pointing his lead glove at his opponent before the match and holding it until the bell rung.

Song of the year-Book of Soul by Ab-Soul

Song of the year-Book of Soul by Ab-Soul

by Dan-O

When I was deployed to assist an infantry training unit in the early 2000’s the Nas v. Jay debate was at its literal height. Stillmatic had just dropped and Blueprint had already changed the way beats were made. The entire platoon broke in half and made different cases. The moment that stands out was one kid, passionate as he could be, in his brown undershirt saying “Look man Nas is just better…” he put up a single finger and silenced the debate following it with “Listen to this.” He played track six on Stillmatic, it’s called Rewind. The song is a Boyz in Da Hood style gun down retaliation tale but spat backwards. That kid let the song make the case that Nas has a non-linear artistic mind that will always go places Jay’s won’t. No one on the other side had a way to respond when the song was over. I’m not saying the debate was over, I hope it never is. 

I like the idea that a single song is powerful enough to make an artists case or stamp his legacy. If I put my finger up in the air and hit play on a song to make the case that Ab-Soul is a top 5 mc, it would be the song Book of Soul off this years fantastically complete album Control System. Produced by Tommy Black, sonically it falls neatly into the TDE soundverse: Heavy chords, ambiance and background oooing. The lyrics are downright staggering going from the literal scars of skin disfigurement to the loss of a lover and friend that leaves him unable to read her obituary. So many quotables in this song and a great moment where he admits he’s not going to stage a cry for this song (even though he’s earned one). That’s not what Ab-Soul is about, this song while heartfelt just represents a dimension; he is rebellious and political, and gross. He seems to binge and purge concepts and phrases all the while growing stronger by the bar. I’ve gone on too long, just play the song…you’ll hear what I’m talking about.