Category: hip-hop

Throwback: Mos Def “Umi Says”/Black Lives Matter

With yet another senseless, televised police murder of a black person, I’ve felt angry and exhausted, demoralized and depressed. When will this nightmare end of unnecessary death end? When will we be free of this? 

It just felt necessary to post one of my favorite Mos Def songs, off an album I turn to whenever racism and injustice seems to hurt me to my very core — “Umi Says,” off Black on Both Sides. 

Simply put, I want all my black people to be free. Black lives matter. All the time. Every single day. 

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New Video: Norwegian JOVM Mainstay Ivan Ave Returns with a Dreamy Visual for Contemplative “Hope/Nope”

Over the past few months, I’ve spilled a quite a bit of virtual ink writing about this site’s latest mainstay, Eivind Øygarden, an acclaimed Telemark, Norway-born, Oslo-Norway-based emcee, best known as Ivan Ave. The acclaimed, Norwegian emcee’s third album Double Goodbyes was released earlier this year through Playground Music/Mutual Intentions. 

Deriving its title from a Seinfeld references, Double Goodbyes finds the acclaimed emcee leaving the sample-heavy behind sound of his previously released work and moving towards a broader — and at times more soul influenced — sonic palette. The album also marks the first time that Øygarden took up production duties, producing the majority of the album’s material himself.

Recorded last year in Los Angeles and Oslo, and featuring guest spots from Sasac, Bryon The Aquarius, Joyce Wrice, and others, the album was recorded during a period of personal struggle for the JOVM mainstay, where the work became both the focus and the therapy. “I needed to start from scratch in my life and rebuild it step by step, the music was part of the healing process.” Interestingly, some of the aesthetics of the Home Shopping Network and late ’80s and early ’90s new age influence some of the album’s material. ‘“It’s easy to mock, due to some of its pompous cheesiness,” Ivan Ave says in press notes. “But as I’m getting older, experiencing life’s ups and downs, the essence of it feels genuine.” (It shouldn’t be surprising that A Tribe Called Quest’s and The Midnight Hour’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad once described the acclaimed Norwegian emcee’s work as “deeply therapeutic” on his podcast.)

“Double Goodbyes is a product of just making music that moved me, in a phase of my life where I was building from scratch emotionally,” the acclaimed Norwegian emcee explains in press notes. “I found healing in producing and singing these songs, without necessarily putting my usual rappety-rap hat on. But as the album title suggests, a lot of times we find ourselves bumping into the exact things, people and habits that we thought we had left behind. So my hip-hop roots shine through once again, in this weird blend of RnB, AOR and synth sounds. Sasac was my main co-creator on the record, along with some dope music friends such as Kiefer, Mndsgn, Byron The Aquarius, Devin Morrison and more.”

I’ve written about a handful of the album’s singles, including “Triple Double Love,” “Phone Won’t Charge” and “Guest List Etiquette.” And while sonically, the material is a silky smooth and slick synthesis of 80s and 90s synth-led R&B J. Dilla-era hip-hop, the songs themselves reveal a wizened self-awareness that comes from hard-fought personal experience, through narrators, who have come to recognize that they’ve been unintentionally and unwittingly repeating patterns that have made them miserable — and/or unfulfilled. But it ain’t all serious. There’s a playful self-deprecating humor throughout, especially on “Guest List Etiquette.” a track that focuses on a common dilemma for artists across the globe: everyone hitting them up to get on the guest list for their show.

The album’s fourth and latest single the Thundercat-like “Hope/Nope” is a dreamy song centered around a sinuous bass line, shimmering guitars and atmospheric synths and an infectious hook. But unlike the album’s previously released material, the song finds its narrator vacillating between hope and despair. Can one hold onto hope when things seem so bleak, uncertain and dystopian? Shit, sometimes it’s just so fucking hard to be human. 

“This is the daydreamer’s anthem on the record, part escapism, part war cry. The rap verse came out sweet but dystopian,” Ivan Ave explains in press notes. “Sasac saves the day on the last verse, with a medieval guitar solo that makes me hopeful again. Hope seems to be the most important overarching theme of the album when I listen back to it. I’ve learned to respect cognitive dissonance as a weapon, a survival instinct maybe, in Darwinian terms. Double edged sword though.”

Directed by Mats Christian Rude Halvorsen, the recently released video for “Hope/Nope” is a contemplative and eerie fever dream — centered around a dream-like logic while evoking the eerie sensation of someone, who’s been in isolation for some extended period of time, walking out into the world. “The video for Hope/Nope came about right after the initial phase of self isolation here in Oslo,” Øygarden explains in press notes. “Mats, Thomas and I really wanted to get out of the house and create something, but we of course had to wait until restrictions were softened up enough. I think we brought that energy into the execution of Mats’ ideas. I think the song is a good fit with that energy. That restlessness combined with a dreamy slumber.”

Tennin · The What – The Notorious B.IG, Method Man [Tennin Remix]

With the release of a handful of singles that received attention from InRocksLab, Radio Nova, Earmilk and Afropunk, the rising Paris-based alternative pop artist Tennin quickly exploded into the international pop scene in 2015. The Paris-based artist ended a momentum building year by performing at La Cigale, as part of a showcase featuring rising female Parisian artists.

The following year, Tennin built upon her growing profile through tours across France, Germany and the UK. Adding to a relatively young career of big career highlights, the French pop artist’s single “Heal You,” catches the attention of acclaimed, trip hop pioneer Tricky, who signed her to !K7 Records. She then contributes a track to the Test of Time compilation, which featured tracks from Saul Williams, IDLES and others.

Additionally, last year saw her becoming a finalist of the Afropunk springboard but she also opened for the likes of Dope Saint Jude and Muthoni Drummer Queen at Les Cuizines — and she played the final show at Les Etoiles. She ended the year with a live interview and session for Radio Campus Brussels.

Earlier this year, the rising French pop artist signed to renowned Parisian electronic label Kitsune Music, who released her first single of this year “Guys in Tears.” Interestingly, Tennin posted a cover/remix of The Notorious B.I.G.‘s “The What,” feat. Method Man on Instagram that received such positive reactions that she decided to record and release a full-version. While retaining the original’s memorable beat, the addition of Tennin’s vocals adds sultry, Aaliyah-like air to the proceedings. Naturally, while being a shoutout to Golden Era, East Coast hip-hop, the song is also a vital reminder that hip-hop is the lingua franca of kids across the globe.

 

New Video: Rising Côte d’Ivoire-born Swiss-based Emcee KT Gorique Releases a Self-Assured New Single

KT Gorique is an emerging Côte d’Ivoire-born, Swiss-based rapper. When Gorique turned 11, her family emigrated to Switzerland — and over the next 16 years, she was separated from a large part of her family and from her roots. As a third culture child, the emerging rapper had a difficult time understanding who she was and where she came from but music was where she found comfort and where she could best express herself. 

WIth the release of 2018’s EP Kunta Kita, the emerging Côte d’Ivoire-born, Swiss-based emcee quickly established a unique take on contemporary hip-hop, one that drew from and meshed elements of reggae and African music. With Kunta Kita EP, Gorique believed that she was on the right track but ultimately felt as though something was missing; that she hadn’t quite fully realized her sound or her musical voice. 

In June 2018, Gorique traveled to Abidjan and the trip was a transformative experience: the Côte d’Ivoire-born, Swiss artist reconnected with her roots, and during the trip, she realized her voice and sound, discovering that her work lacked balance — the balance between everything that made her what she was, without excluding anything. The end result of what she has dubbed “Future Roots,” a mix of her oldest loves and her vision for her future.  

Released earlier this year, KT Gorique’s latest effort AWKWABA derives its name from the Baoulé word for “welcome.” The album’s material is meant to be an invitation to the listener to enter and discover a new world — but also to inspire a change for the better, towards a better version of ourselves and our world. Sonically, the album’s material is centered around unique arrangements that includes guitar, kalimba, balafon and other traditional African instruments. Thematically, the album finds the Ivorian-born, Swiss-based emcee covering subjects she hadn’t previously written about — money and faith, in particular, while offering motivating and inspiring messages. 

“Kendrick,” AWKWABA’s latest single is a perfect example of the rising emcee’s sound and approach: Gorique’s delivers her rhymes French with a determined and defiant self-assuredness of a woman, who has found her voice and purpose over a forceful yet defiant production, centered around tweeter and woofer rocking trap beats, twinkling keys and an enormous hook. It’s a party anthem but with a brash and positive, “you-go-girl spirit.” Set in a seemingly dystopian future, the recently released video for “Kendrick” features Gorique and a crew of dancers, dancing on what appears to be smoldering rubble. 

New Video: CHAII Returns with a Visual Meditation on Childhood

Earlier this year, I wrote about the rising Persian-born, New Zealand-based emcee and producer, CHAII. When she turned eight, her family migrated to New Zealand — and as it turns out, her first introduction to hip-hop was through Eminem, who at the time had just released The Marshall Mathers LP. Fueled by a growing interest in his music, the rising Persian-Kiwi emcee was rhyming along to his work before she really learned how to speak English. “Mr. Eminem was my English teacher,” CHAII recalls in press notes.

When she was 11, she stated to write her own rhymes to express everything she was feeling at the time — from being a confused third culture kid to her troubles adapting to a new way of life. As a high schooler, the rising Persian-born, Kiwi-based emcee started to make beats to accompany her rhymes. At that point, she realized a deep love for all aspects of creating and writing music from writing, producing, recording and mixing. After several years of experimenting the Persian-Kiwi artist began developing her own unique sound, which features elements of traditional Persian music, experimental pop and hip-hop. The material she began releasing  is “the closest music to me and who I am,” she says. 

As an adult, she developed an interest in film, and that has created a synergistic approach to her creative efforts, centered around a decidedly DIY ethos. With the release of her debut single “South,” earlier this year, off her forthcoming debut effort Safar (Journey) the Persian-born, Kiwi-based emcee exploded into the international scene with the track being featured by FENDI. She quickly followed that up with her second single, the urgent and defiant club banger “Digebasse.” Featuring lyrics in English and her native Farsi and a guest spot from Australian emcee B Wise, the track is fiery commentary on millennial social pressures that urges the listener to “say ‘enough’ and stand up for your rights.”  

Building upon the growing buzz surrounding her, CHAII’s third and latest single “Trouble” further cements her unique sound and approach: wobbling, tweeter and woofer rocking low end and percussive Southern Iranian drum patterns and the Persian-Kiwi’s commanding and self-assured delivery. And much like its predecessors, the new single continues the rising artist’s commentary on social pressures on millennials — particularly on women — paired with dance floor friendly production. 

Directed by the rising artist, the recently released and cinematically shot video follows a collection of children — both boys and girls — doing what kids everywhere do, and should be doing: playing soccer in the streets, riding bikes, hanging out and roughhousing, listening to music and daydreaming.  Interestingly, in the world of the video, the kids are of an age where they’re aware of the fact that they’re different genders — it’s obvious as day, after all — but i doesn’t seem to matter a whole lot. In their world, what seems to matter to them are things that are much more essential and meaningful: “Are you cool?” “Can you ball? You live nearby Can we get along?” 

The video’s protagonist, a young girl dressed in yellow is a symbolic doppelgänger of the artist as a child , that also captures what life as a child in her native Iran is generally like. “I wanted to capture my life as a kid, who grew up in Iran,” CHAII says in press notes. “She does all the awesome activities I did as a kid in Iran: playing soccer in the streets, listening to music on my cassette player, climbing trees, swimming in the river . . . Filming it was very surreal, like going back in a time capsule and resisting my childhood. I wanted to simply show a glimpse of my childhood, who I was and who I grew to be. You just never know where you’ll end up in the world and what you’d be doing.” 

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Atmosphere Returns with a Symbolic and Timely Visual for “Whenever”

Throughout the course of this site’s 10 year history, I’ve managed to spill quite a bit of virtual ink covering the Minneapolis, MN-based hip-hop act and JOVM mainstays Atmosphere. Now, as you may recall, the duo closed out last year with the surprise release of their seventh and latest album Whenever. 

Thematically, Whenever’s material finds the duo continuing to struggle with their frailties and with mortality, while attempting to figure out what it means to grow up and grow older gracefully — both in life and within hip-hop. But along with that, the album’s material touches upon the need to balance protecting your energy, soul and heart without falling into glowering and bitter cynicism. 

Whenever’s latest single, album title track “Whenever” find the JOVM mainstays collaborating with an All-Star cast of talent including veteran, Los Angeles-based emcee Murs, Sacramento-based emcee Gifted Gab and Minneapolis-based newcomer Haphduzn. Centered around an eerily atmospheric production featuring shimmering synths, reverb-drenched guitar and tweeter and woofer rocking beats, the track features the collaborators matching wildly different  and self-assured styles and flows to an overall “blessed to be alive and see another day” tone of Slug’s opening verse. Considering the uncertainty of our existence — financially and physically — all we have to hold our hats to is the fact that we’re alive and healthy for yet another day. Nothing else is certain; nothing else is guaranteed. 

Directed by frequently visual collaborator Tomas Aksamit, the recently released video for “Whenever” continues a run of cinematically shot and highly symbolic visuals:. Opening with Atmosphere’s Ant entering an empty movie theater, the song’s emcees become the cast in an apocalyptic movie: We see Slug in an all-too-timely hazmat suit with respirator in an abandoned Midwestern industrial area/farm, planting some seeds — perhaps in some poisoned soil; we see Gifted Gab emerge from a painting and escapes into the fields; Murs, rides around in a convertible Cadillac, re-living and re-writing parts of history, while a homeless Haphduzn warms himself on the flames of world burning around him. The video is unsettling because it accurately captures what feels like the end of everything as we know it.

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Ivan Ave Releases a Public Access TV Inspired Visual for “On The Very Low”

Over the past couple of months, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink writing about this site’s latest mainstay, Eivind Øygarden, an acclaimed Telemark, Norway-born, Oslo-Norway-based emcee, best known as Ivan Ave. Now, as you may recall, the acclaimed Norwegian emcee’s third album Double Goodbyes is slated for a Friday release throught Playground Music/Mutual Intentions. 

Deriving its title from a Seinfeld reference, the album finds the acclaimed emcee leaving the sample-heavy sound of his previously released work behind and moving towards a broader — and at times more soul influenced — sonic palette. Unlike his previously released work, the album marks the first time that Øygarden took up production duties, producing the majority of the album’s material himself.

Recorded last year in Los Angeles and Oslo, and featuring guest spots from Sasac, Bryon The Aquarius, Joyce Wrice, and a list of others, the album was recorded during a period of personal struggle, where the work became both the focus and the therapy. “I needed to start from scratch in my life and rebuild it step by step, the music was part of the healing process,” the Telemark-born, Oslo-based emcee says in press notes. The aesthetics of the Home Shopping Network and late ’80s and early ’90s new age wound up influencing aspects of the album’s material. “It’s easy to mock, due to some of its pompous cheesiness,” Ivan Ave says in press notes. “But as I’m getting older, experiencing life’s ups and downs, the essence of it feels genuine.” (In some way, it shouldn’t be surprising that Ali Shaheed Muhammad once described the acclaimed Norwegian emcee’s work as “deeply therapeutic” on his podcast.)

“Double Goodbyes is a product of just making music that moved me, in a phase of my life where I was building from scratch emotionally,” Øygarden says in in press notes. “I found healing in producing and singing these songs, without necessarily putting my usual rappety-rap hat on. But as the album title suggests, a lot of times we find ourselves bumping into the exact things, people and habits that we thought we had left behind. So my hip-hop roots shine through once again, in this weird blend of RnB, AOR and synth sounds. Sasac was my main co-creator on the record, along with some dope music friends such as Kiefer, Mndsgn, Byron The Aquarius, Devin Morrison and more.”

I’ve managed to write about the album’s first four singles “Triple Double Love,” “Phone Won’t Charge,” “Guest List Etiquette” and “Hope Nope.” And while sonically, the material has been a silky smooth and slick synthesis of 80s and 90s synth-led R&B and  J. Dilla-era hip-hop, the songs are centered around a wizened self-awareness that comes from hard-fought personal experience: The songs features narrators, who have recognized that they’ve been unintentionally and unwittingly repeating patterns that have made them miserable and unfulfilled. But it ain’t all serious. There’s a self-deprecating and winking sense of humor throughout. 

“On The Very Low,” Double Goodbye’s fifth and latest single is a one of the more R&B leaning tracks on the album. Featuring shimmering blasts of guitar, a sinuous Thundercat-like bass line, stuttering hi-hat and four-on-the-four, the track finds Ivan Ave crooning lyrics centered around a simple and earnest hope that while things may be difficult in the near future, that the difficulties will pass — and that better days lay ahead. And while things may seem bleak and uncertain in the near future, we should all keep the hope that this will soon pass. It may take time but we shall get through this. 

Employing a Public Access video-like aesthetic, the recently released video for “On The Very Low” features Ivan Ave, programming his sampler and singing the song with a bassist friend in someone’s room. Off to the right is a romantic couple, who are just chilling. But behind them weird imagery is projected. It’s charmingly lo-fi and brings back found memories of watching video shows on Public Access in the 80s. 

“The video for ‘On The Very Low’ is a Public Service Announcement from myself and Mutual Intentions to all our people around the world,” Ivan Ave says of the recently released video. ” We miss you and look forward to dancing with you again soon. It was shot at Oslovelo, one of our favourite spots to listen to music, and edited by Mats Christian Rude Halvorsen. Stay safe and enjoy!”