JOVM’s William Ruben Helms belatedly celebrates Ad Rock’s 56th birthday.
JOVM’s William Ruben Helms celebrates Eminem’s 50th birthday.
JOVM’s William Ruben Helms pays tribute to the life and music of Coolio.
Atlas is an emerging — and fairly mysterious — emcee. Influenced by some underground hip-hop, the emerging emcee wants to be a positive yet appealing influence that helps lead the listener’s mind state of spiritual growth. His latest single “Work in progress” is centered around a soulful and vibey production featuring twinkling keys, skittering boom bap and supple bass line. And it’s roomy enough for the emerging’s artist’s self-assured and dexterous flow. Sonically, “Work in progress” harkens back to hip-hop’s golden era — but with a modern sensibility and thoughtful ness that sets him apart from a very crowded field.
JOVM’s William Ruben Helms belatedly celebrates the 53rd anniversary of the birth of Nate Dogg.
JOVM’s William Ruben Helms celebrates KRS One’s 57th birthday.
With the release of his debut EP, 2017’s Cardrive, the acclaimed and rising Ghanian-born, Canberra, Australia-based, artist Genesis Owusu — born Kofi Owusu-Anash — quickly established a reputation for being a restless, genre-blurring chameleon with an ability to conjure powerful and deeply personal storytelling.
Cardrive EP garnered an ARIA Award nomination for Best R&B/Soul Release and praise from Sir Elton John (!), NME, i-D, mixmag and others. Owusu supported the EP by opening for Dead Prez, Col3trane, Sampa The Great, Cosmo’s Midnight, Noname, Animé, Ruel and others in Australia.
Owusu-Anash’s critically applauded full-length debut Smiling With No Teeth was released last year. The album as the acclaimed Ghanian-Aussie artist explains is essentially about “performing what the world wants to see, even if you don’t have the capacity to do so honestly. Slathering honey on your demons to make them palatable to people, who only want to know if you’re okay, if the answer is yes. That’s the idea, turned into beautiful, youthful, ugly, timeless and strange music.”
Each of the album’s 15 tracks can trace their origins back to studio jam sessions with a backing band that features Kirin J. Callinan, Touch Sensitive’s Michael DiFrancesco, World Champion‘s Julian Sudek and the album’s producer Andrew Klippel.
In the lead-up to the album’s release, I wound up writing about three of Smiling With No Teeth‘s singles:
- “The Other Black Dog,” a mind-bending production that meshed alternative hip-hop, industrial clang, clatter, rattle and stomp, off-kilter stuttering beats and wobbling synth arpeggios that was roomy enough for Owusu-Anash’s breathless, rapid-fire and dense flow. Managing to balance club friendliness with sweaty, mosh pit energy, the song is a full-throttled nosedive into madness that reminds me of the drug and booze fueled chaos of ODB, and the menace of DMX.
- “Gold Chains,” a brooding yet seamless synthesis of old school soul, G Funk and Massive Attack-like trip hop centered around shimmering and atmospheric synths, stuttering boom bap beats, squiggling blasts of guitar and the rising Ghanian-born, Canberra-based artist’s Mos Def/Yasiin Bey-like delivery, alternating between spitting dense and dexterous bars and crooning with an achingly tender falsetto. “‘Gold Chains’ got me thinking about the flaws of being in a profession where, more and more, you have to be the product, rather than just the provider of the product, and public misconceptions about how luxurious that is,” Owusu-Anash explains in press notes. “Lyrically, it set the tone for the rest of the album.”
- “Same Thing,” a jolting and uneasy future funk banger centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, skittering beats, bursts of Nile Rodgers-like guitar, a propulsive bass line and infectious hook serving as a silky bed for Owusu’s alternating dexterous and densely worded bars and soulful crooning. But at its core is an unflinchingly honest — and necessary — view of mental health struggles.
Last July, the Ghanian-Aussie JOVM mainstay released the Missing Molars EP, a five-track accompaniment to his full-length debut. Recorded during the Smiling With No Teeth sessions, the Missing Molars EP material didn’t make the album — but further continue the soul-baring narrative of the album. “Missing Molars is an extension of Smiling With No Teeth,” Owusu-Anash explains. “A small collection of tracks from the SWNT sessions that take the already established world-building groundwork of the album, and expand that universe into new and unexplored places. These are all tracks that I felt were special in their own right and needed to be shared. This is music without boundaries.”
Adding to a breakthrough 2021, Owusu-Anash went on several sold-out tours, made his Stateside late night TV debut, and went on a successful run of dates across both the States and Europe. Smiling With No Teeth landed on several Best of Lists, including being named triple j’s Album of the Year. The album also earned four ARIA Awards, including Album of the Year, Hip Hop Release, Artwork and Independent Release. And the album was named triple j’s Album of the Year.
Owusu-Anash returns with the woozy and anthemic, Andrew Klippel, Dann Hume and Jono Ma-produced, “GTFO,” the first bit of new material since SWNT — and the album’s highly-anticipated follow up. Beginning with a looped warbling choir, wobbling bass serving as an ethereal and eerie bed for Owusu-Anash’s rapid fire flow, “GFTO” is built around in a alternating quiet-loud-quiet song structure that features a shout-along-worthy chorus paired with a marching beat and explosive cymbal crashes keeping time, and an analog instrumentation-driven hook. While further cementing his reputation for being an artist constantly experimenting with his sound and approach, the song finds the listener being thrown into the JOVM mainstay’s innermost thoughts and opinions with an unvarnished and unsettling honesty.
The rapidly rising Aussie JOVM mainstay has been on the road most of this year, making stops along the global festival circuit with stops at Lollapalooza and Osheaga earlier this year. Owusu-Anash recently performed at Splendour in the Grass with his full live show, which includes The Black Dog Band — Julian Sudek (drums), Touch Sensitive (bass, synth), Kirin J. Callinan (guitar), Andrew Klippel (keys) and Jonti (rhythm guitar, keys) — and The Goons, led by his frequent creative collaborator Bailey Howard. Owusu-Anash shared this incredible live footage of “GFTO” shot during his Splendour in the Grass set — with several hundred thousand folks chanting “Get the fuck out” in unison.
I’ve seen this brother live a few months ago. He’s going to be the biggest fucking thing on the planet, soon. And you can catch him when he returns back to the States to open for Khraungbin for a handful of dates and a handful of September festival appearances.
And for my Aussie friends and readers, Owusu-Anash will be opening for Tame Impala during their Australian headlining tour in October.
Travisslut is an emerging Lagos, Nigeria-born, Brooklyn-based emcee. Relocating to Brooklyn when he was 19, the Nigerian-born artist is on a quest to make spectacular and authentic rap music with thought-provoking lyrics rooted in lived-in experience and feelings paired with irresistible melodies that music lovers and hip-hop heads around the world will love.
The young, emerging emcee recently released his debut EP, the two-song Babyface. The EP’s title is derived from the fact that his friends relentlessly tease him for having a babyface-like appearance. Hey, why not take the piss out of it, right?
Babyface EP single “China” is a swaggering banger that pairs a woozy, trap meets J. Dilla-like production with the young emcee’s dexterous and densely worded lyrics. At its core, the song sees the Nigerian-born artist putting fakes and phonies in their place with a remarkable self-assuredness.
Danger Mouse (born Brian Burton) is arguably one of the most versatile and prolific artists and producers in music right now: As an artist he has been one-half of Broken Bells and Grammy Award-winning Gnarls Barkley. He has recorded collaborative albums with Yeah Yeah Yeahs‘ Karen O and the late, legendary MF DOOM. As a producer, he has worked with Adele, U2, The Black Keys, Gorillaz, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Michael Kiwanuka, Parquet Courts and a lengthy list of others.
Black Thought (born Tariq Trotter) is a co-founder and frontman of Grammy Award winning, pioneering hip-hop act The Roots. Trotter is also an accomplished solo artist who has released a critically applauded album and two EPs: 2020’s Streams of Thought Vol. 3: Cane & Able and 2018’s Streams of Thought Vol. 1 EP and Streams of Thought Vol. 2 EP, which helped further his reputation among the cognoscenti — and real hip hop heads — as one of the dopest emcees to ever spit bars. Adding to a lengthy list of accolades and accomplishments, Trotter has acted in film and theater, along with having writing and producer credits.
The acclaimed duo’s long-rumored, long-awaited and highly-anticipated joint album Cheat Codes officially dropped today through BMG. While Cheat Codes simultaneously marks Danger Mouse’s first hip-hop album since 2005’s DANGERDOOM with MF DOOM and the follow-up to Black Thoughts’ solo trilogy Streams of Thought, their collaboration can be traced back almost almost 20 years earlier: Trotter and Burton first met back in 2005. They started working on material — but time went on, life happened, other projects and obligations came up.
Following 2004’s acclaimed The Grey Album, Burton became one of the most in-demand and prolific producers of the day, helming several commercially and critically successful projects, which led to a bevy of accolades and awards. He also developed collaborations with a unique and eclectic array of artists while expanding upon and honing his own musicianship, production and writing.
During that same period of time, The Roots released a batch of critically applauded albums and became the house band for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon then The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Trotter released his aforementioned, critically applauded solo trilogy Streams of Thought. He collaborated with the likes of Eminem, John Legend, Pusha T., Griselda, and a list of others. He wrote, composed and starred in the widely-praised off-Broadway show Black No More. And adding to a lengthy list of accomplishments, he co-produced a TV series with his Roots bandmate Questlove.
Each mistakenly thought that the other had moved on and their collaboration just died, but as it turned out, neither one never stopped wanting to work together. Burton had long felt an instinctive need to return to his roots and make a timeless hip-hop album. He knew that Trotter was one of the few emcees truly capable of fulfilling that vision. Simultaneously, Trotter was seeking a space, where he could express himself musically and creatively beyond the confines and structures of his own band.
This time, Burton was a far more seasoned songwriter and producer, Trotter an even more extraordinary emcee. So, setting aside all distractions, Burton played Trotter some new music he had had. The ideas and words quickly flowed — and the experience was liberating.
Meticulously built over a period of several years, Cheat Codes finds Burton pushing widescreen, soul-infused hip-hop soundscapes to new directions paired with Trotter’s commanding presence, incisive lyricism and dexterous wordplay. Unlike the typical producer-meets-rapper/side project, Cheat Codes is an effort between two like-minded collaborators, who raise each other’s games to new heights.
So far I’ve written about three Cheat Codes singles:
“No Gold Teeth,” which featured a warm and dusty psych soul-like production that brings RZA, Pete Rock, and DJ Premier to mind, that serves as a lush bed for Black Thought’s dense, rapid fire, lyrical deluge.
“Because,” which features a slow-burning, psych soul-inspired production paired with a vocal hook by Dylan Cartlidge. While being another example of the deep and uncannily innate simpatico shared between the two acclaimed collaborators, “Because” is chock full of dope bars, impressive wordplay and mind-blowing inner and outer rhyme schemes in an easy-going yet urgent cypher between Black Thought, Joey Bada$$ and Russ, that weaves in and out of the political and the personal.
“Aquamarine,” a woozy and cinematic song featuring skittering hi-hat, thumping beats and squiggling bursts paired with a soaring hook from acclaimed British soul artist Micheal Kiwanuka. The production is a lush and roomy bed for Black Thought’s imitable, hard-hitting bars. “For ‘Aquamarine,’ when I heard the music I just had a feeling to sing about standing up for something that’s unique and following that path”, Kiwanuka says. “I don’t know why but that’s what came out. Sometimes when you’re following something that’s unique to you it’s as if ‘enemies are all around’. At times life can feel fragile like ‘everything’s burning down’. For some reason the chords and music made me feel that way.”
“Strangers,” the last single off Cheat Codes before its release, is a neck-snapping banger featuring four of the dopest emcees out there right now — Black Thought, A$AP Rocky and Run The Jewels spitting flames on a woozy and dusty production and glitchy centered around tweeter and woofer rattling beats, sampled, B-movie-like dialogue, soulful vocals.
“We were honored to get down with our elite and legendary friends Danger Mouse, Black Thought and A$AP Rocky on this banger,” Run the Jewels say in press notes.
I’ve said this before, and I’m not bullshitting here: Cheat Codes may arguably be the best hip-hop album — and possibly, the best album — of this year. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.
Continuing the duo’s ongoing visual collaboration with video production team UNCANNY, the accompanying, grainy black and white visual is a wild rollercoaster ride that sees each of the song’s four incredible emcees, Black Thought, A$AP Rocky, Killer Mike, and El-P passing the mic — or in this case their phones for them to spit fire. The video captures the song’s urgency and dusty glitchy vibe.
Founded in 1996, Mass Appeal is an entertainment company dedicated to documenting the emerging movements that influence popular ideas through the perspective of those, who shape and shift culture. Since its founding, Mass Appeal has become the self-professed elevated voice of hip hop and its ever-expanding sphere of influence.
With 2023 marking hip hop’s 50th anniversary, Mass Appeal developed #HipHop50, a massive, cross-platform initiative aimed at celebrating the momentous anniversary in the most authentic and globally impactful way possible: #HipHop50 is a multi-year celebration that includes strategic partnerships, immersive global activations and charitable elements, as well as the creation of once-in-a-lifetime moments featuring the iconic voices that have transcended culture.
Mass Appeal have teamed up with The Orchard to distribute Hip Hop 50: The Soundtrack, a collection of ten EPs of all-new, original music that will unite the industry’s most highly regarded producers and talents to look back, honor and celebrate 50 years of hip hop music and culture — all while looking forward at hip hop’s bright future. The series will feature music curated by DJ Premier, Swizz Beatz, Mustard, The Dream, Mike Will Made- It, No I.D., Hit-Boy, Take A Daytrip and Tainy. A portion of all #HipHop50 proceeds will be donated to various charitable organizations, including the Universal Hip Hop Museum, set to open its doors in 2024.
The first EP of the series, DJ Premier: Hip Hop 50: Volume 1 is a five-song EP entirely produced by the legendary DJ Premier. Featuring collaborations with Lil Wayne, Nas, Remy Ma, Rapsody, Joey Bada$$, Slick Rick, and Run The Jewels, the EP salutes and celebrates the beloved — and wildly influential — Preemo sound, while amping hip hop heads for the next releases in the series. (Personally, the Preemo and Swizz Beatz editions are right in my wheelhouse. I’m curious about the No I.D. edition, too.)
DJ Premier: Hip Hop 50: Volume 1‘s first single “Remy Rap” is a neck-snapping banger centered around a minimalist, tweeter and woofer rattling Preemo production featuring looping bursts of wobbling bass synths, skittering beats, explosive hand-claps and some good ol’ fashioned turntablism serving as a funky and sinuous bed for Remy Ma and Grammy-nominated Rapsody to trade fiery and swaggering bars and verses. While showcasing two criminally underrated — and just fucking dope — emcees, the song is a forceful reminder that hip hop wouldn’t be where it is today without the women who have cultivated, supported and performed alongside the men.
Directed by Maya Table, the accompanying video for “Remy Rap” pays homage to early 90s NYC hip hop and its related imagery: The NYC skyline, inner city building rooftops, grainy black and white footage, Kangol bucket hats, enormous hoop earrings, hockey jersys, thick Cuban link chains and DJ Premier furious scratching — and of course, two amazing emcees vibing off each other.
Fittingly, this one comes out on the 49th anniversary of DJ Kool Herc‘s legendary “Back to School Jam” at 1520 Sedgewick Avenue in the Bronx, the birthplace of hip-hop. So let’s celebrate and honor the pioneers, the dreamers, legends and icons of the music and culture that has become the lingua franca of the past three generations or so of young people. Long live hip hop, y’all! Long live the DJ! Long live the emcee! Long the live the breakers! Long live the graffiti writers!