Tag: hip hop

Throwback: R.I.P. DMX

I was drinking coffee, chatting with mom and watching NY1 when we both heard the news of DMX’s tragic death at 50. As an artist, DMX had unparalleled success: he’s the few artists of any genre to have his first five albums debut at #1 on the Billboard 200 — and one of the few artists, who can claim two #1 albums on the Billboard charts in the same calendar year. Paraphrasing DMX, he locked down the industry on some ol’ power shit.

If you’re a hip-hop head, you know all the songs and you know about the man’s troubled backstory. My hope is that within the hip-hop community and within the Black community that we can start having serious conversations about how abuse, mental illness and addiction reverberate and impact everyone around us. If we love Earl Simmons, we need to do what we can to save the countless other Earl Simmons out there.

My heart aches for poor Earl and his family. And I also hope that we can wrap them up in the love that we have for DMX in their time of need.

In the meantime, DMX’s music has meant a lot to me — and to countless other fans. We love you Earl. And we’re going to miss you.

Live Footage: Clipping. on NPR Tiny Desk at Home SXSW

I’ve managed to spill a copious amount of virtual ink covering the acclaimed covering Los Angeles-based hip-hop trio and JOVM mainstay act Clipping. The trio — production duo Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson and frontperson Daveed Diggs — released two critically applauded albums as part of a planned diptych that found them interpreting a hip-hop splinter sect through their own singular lens — horrorcore, a purposefully absurdist and significant hip-hop sub-genre that flourished for a handful of years around the mid 1990s. The first part of the diptych, There Existed an Addiciton to Blood was partially inspired by Ganja & Hess, the 1973 vampire cult classic, regarded as one of the highlights of the Blaxploitation era — with the title derived from the film.

Of course, with horror films, sequels are pretty perfunctory and perhaps even obligatory. Last year’s Visions of Bodies Getting Burned manages to hew closely to the horror film sequel tradition with the JOVM mainstays retuning with an even higher body count, bloodier, more elaborate, gorier kills and as always, unrelenting monsters that just won’t ever stay dead. The 16 song album draws from an eclectic array of sources including Ernest Dickerson, Clive Barker and Shirley Jackson, Three 6 Mafia, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and Brotha Lynch Hung. Developing an abrasive, angular and downright messy take on horrorcore, centered around an industrial and goth-like aesthetic, the members of Clipping. lovingly twist familiar genre and sub-genre tropes to fit their politics and thematic concerns — in particular, those that fit our current moment: fear, the absurd, the uncanny, and the seemingly unending struggling for an antiracist, anti-patriarchal, anti-colonialist world.

Traditionally, NPR Music participates in SXSW — typically through curating showcases and through covering the hundreds of showcases and sets performed at the annual festival. Last year, the festival was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but this year, the festival reconvened as an online festival with pre-recorded livestreams. NPR programed a virtual stage of Tiny Desk (at home) concerts, filmed in various locations and full of surprises and Easter eggs, which were presented on the festival’s final day.

The JOVM mainstays took part, offering one of the most unique, surreal and innovative Tiny Desk (at home) sessions I’ve ever seen with the trio emphasizing both an in-your-face, close-up intimacy and tininess with the trio performing with extremely tiny instruments and microphones. And at some point, one of the members of the trio even drinks a tiny beer. Clipping.’s NPR Tiny Desk (at home) session features material from their last two albums, as well as 2016’s Wriggle EP and their debut mixtape, 2013’s midcity performed with even more menacing and uneasy productions that continue to display Diggs’ rapid-fire and clever wordplay — all while being disorienting.

New Audio: J. Period Teams Up with Dave Chappelle, Black Thought, and Tiffany Gouché on a Soulful Banger

jJ. Period is a Los Angeles-born, Brooklyn-based producer and DJ best known for working with the likes of Q-Tip, John Legend, Nas, Big Daddy Kane, Lauryn Hill, The Roots, The Isley Brothers and Mary J. Blige on official mixtapes — and for developing an “audio-biography” style that incorporates interviews with these artists into his “Best Of” complications. He has also made original productions and remixes for film trailers for American Gangster and Street Kings. In late 2008, the Los Angeles-born, Brooklyn-based producer and DJ became the first DJ/producer ever commissioned by Activision to score and producer an entire video game soundtrack for Tony Hawk’s Motion for Nintendo DS. And before I forget, he worked on The Hamilton Mixtape — while serving as Music Supervisor for the Brooklyn Nets.

The Los Angeles-born, Brooklyn-based producer and DJ’s debut album Story to Tell is a trail-blazing musical journey in three acts — with the first installment, Chapter One slated for an April 30, 2021 release through Truelements Music/RBC Records. Narrated by Dave Chappelle, Story To Tell (Chapter One) is a collaborative endeavor that blurs the lines between song and story; between hip-hop, R&B, jazz, reggae and salsa. Collaborating with an All-Star cast of Grammy-winning writers and musicians, Story To Tell reportedly will create a vibrant world of connections — between artists, songs, stories, genres, cultures and generations in the acclaimed production’s genre and convention defying style.

Story To Tell (Chapter One)’s first single “All In Your Head” plays with the classic audio storybook format with Dave Chapelle serving as a mischievous tour guide, explaining the set up to the proceedings, quickly followed by a slick yet soulful production centered around tweeter and woofer rocking boom bap beats, glitchy vocal samples and shimmering Rhodes serving as a warm bed for an inspiring manifesto to overcoming self-doubt and being fearless featuring Tiffany Gouché’s silky crooning and Black Thought spitting red hot bars. Sonically speaking, “All In Your Head” effortlessly blurs the lines between neo-soul, R&B and hip-hop in a crowd-pleasing fashion.

New Audio: St. Louis’ Concept Releases a Soulful and Conscious Plea for Empathy

Concept is a St. Louis-based singer/songwriter, emcee and lyrical storyteller, who tells stories through a hip hop and R&B — sometimes through a slick synthesis of the two. Thematically, his works focusers on pain, perseverance and pride while being based in his personal experience.

The St, Louis-based artist’s latest single “Butterflies” is centered around a warm and unfussy, neo-soul inspired production featuring twinkling Rhodes, stuttering boom-bap beats and a hook with heavily distorted vocals. Interestingly, the production is roomy enough for the emerging St. Louis-based artist to coolly unfurl his laid back and self-assured flow. Lyrically, the song finds Concept meditating on Black folks’ painful struggle for equality, our beauty, our hopes and our perseverance and pride. Much like Mos Def’s “Umi Says,” “Butterflies” manages to be soulful and empathetic reminder of our humanity and decency.

New Audio: Bay Area-based Producer Nick Andre Teams Up with Lil B, ZIon I, and Casual on a Banger

Nick Andre is a San Francisco-based producer, who co-founded Bay Area-based indie label Slept on Records with his friend Myron & E’s Eric a.k.a. E da Boss and The Pendletons as an outlet to release music they were making with friends on their own terms. The label released a series of 12″and 7″ records featuring Gift of Gab, Lyrics Born, Bicaso and others. And although all of the label’s founders went on to sign with different labels for their own original work — E signed with Stones Throw Records and Andre did a record with MUSH — they managed to continue the label’s primary mission.

Over the years, Andre has been rather busy as an in-demand producer, collaborating with the aforementioned Gift of Gab and Bicaso, Lateef the Truth Speaker, Zion I, Lil B, Casual, Hanni El Khatib, Rob Sonic, Deuce Eclipse and others — and several instrumental projects. The San Francisco-based producer and label head co-wrote the score for the feature film Chasing Valentine and he has had his music appear on the Showtime’s The CHI, Netflix’s EASY and Freeform Networks’ Grownish. Additionally, Andre has composed music for national TV ad campaigns for Reebook, Nike, Adidas, Mini Cooper, ESPN’s X Games, Levi’s, HUF x Playboy, Thrasher Magazine and DC Snowboarding.

Andre’s latest single “Life Is Awesome” sees the San Francisco-based producer collaborating with longtime collaborators and Bay Area hip-hop legends Lil B, Causal and Zion I. Centered around a warm and soulful production featuring skittering boom bap beats, looping and wobbling Rhodes that’s roomy enough for each emcee to spit swaggering and self-assured bars full of dexterous wordplay and witty punchlines. Simply put, it’s a warm reminder of straightforward hip-hop featuring dope emcees spitting bars and pushing themselves in friendly rivalry over slick yet soulful production.

“I love Casual and the squad. Thanks Nick for putting this legendary track together,” Lil B. Nick Andre says, Really happy I was able to get these three Bay Area legends all on one track. Lil B set if off by sending me a dope verse and chorus And Zion I and Casual killed it as they always do.” “In terms of Bay Area Hip Hop . . . we are spanning decades and styles by clicking up with Lil B, Casual, and Nick Andre on the beats,” Zion I adds. “You wouldn’t expect to hear Lil B on a song with me…but that’s the beauty of this song.”

Throwback: Black History Month: Wu-Tang Clan

Today is February 28, 2021. It’s the last day of February and of Black History Month. Throughout the past month, I’ve featured Black artists across a wide and eclectic array of greens and styles — with the hopes that this series will serve as a sort of primer on the Black experience and on Black music.

While we’re at it, let’s remember the following:

Black culture is American culture — and Black music is American music.
America’s greatest and beloved contributions to the world are Black music styles — the blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop.
Black art matters.
Black lives matter — all of them, all of the time.

I’ve often said that hip-hop is the lingua franca of everyone under about 55 or so. And to that end, I’d almost guarantee that everyone from New York to Beijing, from Buenos Aires to Amsterdam from Johannesburg to New Delhi knows and loves the legendary Wu-Tang Cla

Throwback: Black History Month: Queen Latifah

Today is February 28, 2021. It’s the last day of February and of Black History Month. Throughout the past month, I’ve featured Black artists across a wide and eclectic array of greens and styles — with the hopes that this series will serve as a sort of primer on the Black experience and on Black music.

While we’re at it, let’s remember the following:

Black culture is American culture — and Black music is American music.
America’s greatest and beloved contributions to the world are Black music styles — the blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop.
Black art matters.
Black lives matter — all of them, all of the time.

I have to show more love to the ladies. I immediately thought of the ridiculously talented, charismatic and beautiful Queen Latifah.

Throwback: Black History Month: KRS-One/Boogie Down Productions

Today is February 25 2021. It’s the 25th day of Black History Month. And as I’ve mentioned throughout this series, I’ve been featuring Black artists across a wide and eclectic array of genres and styles — with the hopes that it’ll be a bit of a primer on the Black experience and on Black music.

Of course, I hope that these posts will serve as a reminder of these very important facts:

Black culture is American culture — and Black music is American music.
America’s greatest and beloved contributions to the world are Black music styles — the blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop.
Black art matters.
Black lives matter — all of them, all of the time.

KRS One is one of the greatest living emcees to ever do it. And one can make a fair argument that without him, we wouldn’t have Mos Def/Yasiin Bey, Common and a lengthy list of others, who are equally dope may not be who they are right now. He also still does a great live show.

Throwback: RIP Prince Markie Dee

As a child of the 80s, I grew up listening to — and of course, admiring — the acts that helped hip-hop achieve mainstream success domestically and internationally. I was a huge Run DMC and LL Cool J fan. (Queens in the building after all, right?) Sadly though, you don’t hear a lot about The Fat Boys. But they were instrumental in hip-hop’s ascendance and global dominance: they were in the preeminent hip-hop movie of its time, Krush Groove 1987’s Crushin’ went Platinum while three others went at least Gold — and they were the first hip-hop act to actually star in their own movie, Disordelies. And they were fun. Watching the videos now, I’m reminded of a New York that I can’t get back.

I actually saw Disorderlies in the movie theater. Admittedly, it’s not a classic of cinema but I’m not sure where hip-hop would be without its release. When I heard the news that Prince Markie Dee died, it was heartbreaking. It’s a sign of aging — and of your own mortality — when your childhood favorites and heroes begin to die.

Thanks for the music Prince Markie Dee. Rest in beats.

Throwback: Happy Black History Month: Dr. Dre/Happy 56th Birthday Dr. Dre!

February 18, 2021 is the 18th day of Black History Month. The month has been rushing by — but throughout this past month, I’ve been featuring Black artists across a wide and eclectic array of genres and styes. Hopefully, this may be a bit of a primer on the Black experience and on Black music.

Of course, I hope that these posts will serve as a reminder of these very important facts:

Black culture is American culture — and Black music is American music.
America’s greatest and beloved contributions to the world are Black music styles — the blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop.
Black art matters.
Black lives matter — all of them, all of the time.

Coincidentally, today is Dr. Dre’s 56th birthday. Born Andre Young, the Compton-born Dr. Dre has been a wildly successful emcee, producer, record label executive and entrepreneur. Generations have been influenced by and loved his music as a member of NWA and as a solo artist — and he’s been instrumental in introducing the world to some of our most beloved artists, including Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar and countless others.

Happy birthday. Dr. Dre! May there be many, many more.