Category: hip-hop

New Audio: Acclaimed Emcee Koncept Releases a Reflective Banger

Born Keith Michael Whitehead, Koncept is an acclaimed Queens-born emcee, who has led a remarkable life: while working at Fat Beats Records, he co-founded The Brown Bag AllStars with co-founders Soul Khan, Cold Codeine, J57 and The Audible Doctor in 2007. The collective have some rather humble origins — initially, Koncept, Soul Khan and Cold Codeine were writing verses and freestyling over beats made by J57 and The Audible Doctor at Jesse Shatkin’s studio. The collective’s 2009 debut mixtape The Brown Tape was released through Coalmine Records while the members of the act were working at Fat Beats — and they followed that up with an attention-grabbing appearance at that year’s Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival. 

Building on a growing profile, the members of The Brown Bag All Stars released two EPs in 2010 — The Traveller and The Down Under Remixes. Adding to a busy year, Koncept released his debut EP Playing Life. 2011 saw the release of the first of their annual end-of-year A Year In Review compilations and Brown Bag Season Vol. 1, which featured guest spots from DJ Brace and Marco Polo. While the collective was beginning to receive a larger profile, Koncept’s 2012 full-length debut Awaken, which featured guest appearances from Soul Khan, JOVM mainstay Homeboy Sandman, Royce da 5’9″ and Sene with production from J57 and Marco Polo established the Queens-born emcee as a solo artist in his own right; in fact, as a result of the attention from his debut, Koncept received an endorsement by Red Bull that financed his 2015 critically acclaimed J57-produced The Fuel EP. After the release of The Fuel, Koncept went to Seoul, South Korea for a two-week tour sponsored by Miller Genuine Draft and Jameson — and those performances developing into more shows and bookings, and eventually a partnership with Sony Music Asia, who released his sophomore effort 14 Hours Ahead, an effort that thematically centered around envisioning your future and dreams, growing and believing in yourself every step of the way, and manifesting them into reality. So far, adding to a growing profile, the Queens-born emcee has also collaborated with the likes of Rick Ross, Travis Scott, Ty Dolla $ign, Macklemore, Wiz Khalifa, The Roots, Joey Bada$$, Green Day, A$AP Mob, Ghostface Killah and Joell Ortiz. 

Koncept’s third full-length album is slated for release next summer but in the meantime, he has released a one-off single, the Ray Hill-produced “Countdown.” Centered around an eerie production consisting of chiming synths and stuttering and boom bap beats, the track finds the Queens-born emcee, effortlessly changing his flow and cadences multiple times throughout while employing some mischievous wordplay and rhyme schemes; but the song finds him being both reflective and introspective, and while recalling many of his missteps and those who counted him out, he expresses a desire to keep moving forward towards the bigger and better things he’s just beginning to see right now. The song serves as a reminder that achieving your dreams requires you to sacrifice, bust your ass and believe in yourself even when things aren’t going as well as you’d hoped. And perhaps more important, there’s no such thing as overnight success. 


New Video: Shawn Johnson’s Trippy Animated Visuals for Czarface’s and Ghostface’s Latest Single

Last year, I wrote quite a bit about Czarface, a collaborative project featuring renowned, underground hip-hop duo 7L & Esoteric and the Wu-Tang Clan‘s Inspectah Deck. The act derives its name from a character they created that’s patterned after comic book super villains and aspects of each of the individual members of the project. Now, as you may recall, the act can trace its origins to when the trio toured together, which led to a handful of singles — including “Speaking Real Words” off 7L & Esoteric’s 2001 album, The Soul Purpose and “12th Chamber” off their 2010 album 1212, and a number of other singles. Since the act formed back in 2013, they’ve released four critically applauded albums: their 2013 self-titled debut, 2015’s Every Hero Needs a Villain, 2016’s A Fistful of Peril and their collaboration with MF Doom, Czarface Meets Metalface, which was released last year.

Interestingly, the acclaimed trio follow their critically applauded and highly-anticipated collaboration with MF Doom by teaming up with another legendary and beloved emcee, Ghostface Killah, a.k.a. Iron Man, a.k.a. Tony Starks on Czarface Meets Ghostface, which is slated for release later this week. “Iron Claw,” the album’s first single was a perfect taste of what hip hop heads should expect from the album — four of the world’s dopest emcees trading swaggering bars about running crime syndicates, taking over the world, being the dopest around and more over a thumping and downright menacing production featuring enormous, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, chopped up vocal samples and arpeggiated synths.  The album’s second and latest single “Mongolian Beef” features each emcee making an insane array of pop cultural references with some of the most inventive word play and rhyme schemes I’ve heard in some time — and each emcee trades their dense bars over a wobbling yet cinematic production consisting of a thumping and stuttering beats, chopped up vocal samples, buzzing organs, a sinuous and funky bass line. It’s a track that manages to be trippy and yet full of the street shit that I love so much — and much like Strong Arm Steady’s “Premium,” the track finds the collaborative unit pushing their talents, skills and overall sound in a wild, new direction. 

Directed by Shawn A. Johnson, the recently released, collage-based animated video fittingly draws from comic books, anime and Japanimation and is as much of a trip as the song it accompanies. 

Several years in the making, the highly-anticipated and long-awaited collaborative album from the late and beloved Brooklyn-based emcee Sean Price and acclaimed Philadelphia-based producer Small Professor86 Witness is slated for a February 8, 2019 release through Coalmine Records and Duck Down Records. The album’s latest single “John Gotti” is centered by a moody and noir-ish  RZA-like production featuring tweeter and woofer rocking boom bap beats, twinkling and arpeggiated keys that’s roomy enough for an All-Star squad of ringers that includes AG Da Coroner, JOVM mainstay Guilty Simpson and Your Old Droog and Sean Price to spit rhymes full of wildly inventive wordplay, complex rhyme schemes, amazing pop cultural references that include 80s movies, old-school cartoons, childhood games — and murderous intent. Simply put — this is some pure street shit without silly shtick or gimmicks.


New Video: Acclaimed British Producer Swindle Teams Up with Kojey Radical on a Genre-Defying Take on Grime

Swindle is an acclaimed London-born and based-producer, who can trace the origins of his own musical career to when he built his first studio in his bedroom when he was 14. Excluded from school for having “way too much energy,” his blues guitarist father guided and mentored him by teaching him guitar. His father’s record collection, comprised of soul, funk, and jazz was vital inspiration for his full-length album Love Live The Jazz, which was released on Mala’s Deep Medi Musik back in 2013. His follow up, 2015’s Peace, Love & Music was written and recorded in studio sessions across the world and with an explosive live show, further cemented his growing reputation for being a singular artist, with a unique scope and ambition.

Since the release of his sophomore effort, Swindle has done production work for a number of artists including Kojey Radical, Joel Culpepper, D Double E, Mahalia, and others.  And interestingly enough, his soon-to-be released third album No More Normal, the acclaimed British producer and guitarist working with an All-Star cast of some of the UK’s best emcees including the aforementioned Kojey Radical and D Double E, along with Ghetts and P Money; vocalists including Etta Bond, Eva Lazarus, Daley and Kiko Bun; and musicians including Yussef Dayes, Nubya Garcia and Riot Jazz in a wildly genre-defying fashion that draws from grime, dubstep, jazz, P-funk and others — sometimes incorporating all of that into one song. “No More Normal is the idea of us doing our thing, our way, with no rules or limitations,” Swindle explains in press notes. “It is jazz influenced as much as it is grime influenced. It’s London influenced as much as it is LA influenced. I can work with D Double E and Nubya Garcia, these records are my imagination brought to life in musical form.” 

“Coming Home,” which features Kojey Radical is a perfect example of the British producer’s challenging yet paradoxically accessible approach as its centered around a production featuring shuffling beats, a regal and old-timey jazz horn arrangement, blasts of bluesy guitar and wobbling bass synth to create a sound that’s mischievously anachronistic, self-assured and unlike anything you’ll hear on mainstream hip-hop radio. Kojey Radical contributes some incredible and profound verses about gaining a new wisdom and perspective that puts you a world apart from your old friends and your old neighborhood –and that it’s necessary and should be celebrated. But it’s also a celebration of achieving hard-fought, hard-dreamt dreams against some incredible odds — and with a helluva lot of naysayers. 

Directed by Olivia Rose, the recently released video seems to have been shot in a series of extended long takes. And while gorgeously shot and symbolic, the portrayal of black men within the video reveals both our beauty and complexity, showing us to be kings and poets, as well as entertainers. 


Last year, I wrote quite a bit about the Massachusetts-based hip-hop duo DJ Manipulator and Louie Gonz — and as you may recall, the duo has frequently collaborated with each other throughout the years; however, 2014’s Private Stock was the duo’s first as a cohesive unit. Their 2017 sophomore effort The Loops was released as a bold reintroduction to the act, whose sound draws from golden era hip-hop — with sincerity and soulfulness.

Earlier this year, DJ Manipulator released The Synth Tape, an album that featured tweeter and woofer rocking instrumentals and beats, including “ARP,” a track centered around a minimalist production featuring shimmering and fluttering synths, thumping beats. Now, you might remember that DJ Manipulator, Louie Gonz and Los Angeles-based emcee Blu teamed up on the soulful and gritty street banger “This Sound” off Louie Gonz’s and Manipulator’s sophomore effort — and “ARP Revisited,” a reworking of the original track on The Synth Tape finds the trio teaming up again to similar, attention-grabbing effect. In fact, the track finds Blu and Louie Gonz effortlessly trading gritty, street shit verses and bars over a murky and menacing production featuring brief flashes of sunny synths.