Tag: hip hop

New Audio: Rising Production Duo Blue Lab Beats Teams Up with Kofi Stone and Tiana Major9 on a Soulful Meditation on Love

Rising, London-based Jazztronica production duo Blue Lab Beats — producer NK-OK and multi-instrumentalist Mr, DM — had rather humble origins, as bedroom producers, who remixed tracks by the likes of Dua Lipa, Rag ‘N’ Bone Man and others. The duo’s sound quickly morphed to incorporate jazz, soul and hip-hop influences while staying true to their British/London roots. Although they’ve started with very humble origins, the British production duo have also quickly exploded into the national and international scenes: they’ve played Glastonbury — and they’ve opened for the likes of the legendary Roy Ayers and Thundercat. They’ve also contributed a remake of Bobby Henderson‘s Blue Note Records‘ classic “Montara,” which appeared on last year’s Blue Note Re: imagined compilation. And adding to a growing profile, the duo’s work has amassed over 25 million streams to date.

2021 has been a busy year for the rising British production duo: They’ve released a handful of critically applauded singles including “Dat It,” “Blow You Away (Delilah)” and “Sensual Loving,” which have seem them collaborating with the like of Stones Throw Records affiliate Kiefer and Afrobeats star Ghetto Boy. Those three singles will appear on the duo’s forthcoming album, currently slated for an early 2022 release.

But in the meantime, the duo’s latest single “Labels” is centered around a The Midnight Hour meets J. Dilla-like production featuring soaring strings, boom bap beats and a sinuous bass line. The production serves as a lush and mesmerizing bed for thoughtful and lovelorn verses from London-based emcee Kofi Stone that find him questioning the need for labels to define what his romantic relationship is to others. Sometimes, love is just that that — and that’s all it has to be. The song also features a soulful hook by London-based vocalist Tiana Major9.

“Originally ‘Labels’ started out with my chord progression that I was sitting on for about 6 months and then I gave the rough idea to Mr DM for him to have input on.” Blue Lab Beats’ NK-OK explains. “We then built the track from there. Before getting the vocalists we wanted on this song we got Stephen Hussey to arrange the strings and record the string section and when we heard it back it honestly was so crazy to have live strings on our music. For the vocalist we wanted UK talent on this and so we automatically hit up one of our favourites Tiana Major9. We worked with Tiana in her early recording days so we know how amazingly talented she is. Then it was down to Kofi Stone to deliver the Rap and once again when working with him we all thought ‘this guy is incredible!’”

“A lot of the time we over complicate things. Especially at the early stages of a relationship. You don’t always have to rush for a label cus you think that’s the right thing to do,” Tiana Major9 says of her guest spot. “Learn, love then decide.”

“I was going through what I spoke about on the record so it was good to get off my chest,” Kofi Stone adds. “Working with Blue Lab Beats was a great experience. They are two incredibly talented gentlemen. I just love the musicality they bring and I felt right at home in the studio with the guys.”

There are few artists I’ve written about as much as the ridiculously prolific, New York-based producer, DJ, remixer and longtime JOVM mainstay Rhythm Scholar. During this site’s 11+ year history, Rhythm Scholar has firmly cemented a reputation for crafting slickly produced, crowd-pleasing mashups and remixes of classic soul, funk, hip-hop, New Wave and others.

Rhythm Scholar’s remix sees him tackling Slick Rick‘s beloved 80s classic “Children’s Story.” The remix pairs Slick Rick’s cautionary tale of a young boy, who gets seduced into the street life and its inevitable and tragic ending with seemingly Issac Hayes-inspired production featuring twinkling Rhodes, dramatic strings, a psychedelic guitar solo and playful nods at Rob Base and DJ Easy Rock’s “It Takes Two,” LL Cool J and several others. The end result is a gritty, 70s true crime story air — as though Slick Rick had spent his time watching The French Connection, Serpico and others.

Turkish production duo Artz & Bugy are chief architects of their homeland’s burgeoning hip-hop scene, having built the template for Turkey’s biggest rapper Ezhel on his full-length debut, 2017’s Müptezhel. Since Müptezhel‘s release, have further established an eclectic sound and style, which reveals their ability to infuse rap production with elements of trap, reggaeton and Afrobeat.

The duo are superstars in their native Turkey. And for the duo, two important question was left hanging over their heads: “What’s left? What’s next?” Well for the Turkish production duo, it turns out that — well, a lot is left and a lot is next. “There have been a few producers handling popular albums in the Turkish rap scene, and I made one of them. It was very successful from my point of view,” explains Artz. “That success afforded us so much power, plus the capacity and the potential to dream up ideas we couldn’t even think of before. Now, we ask ourselves, ‘Why not? Why limit ourselves to home?”

With their recently released debut EP We Survive, Artz & Bugy have set out to make a global effort that illustrates and celebrates their Turkish roots while adapting their styles to create familiar ecosystems for the artists they recruited and worked with. The EP features guest spots from Jamaican dancehall artist BEAM (FKA Tyshane), Detroit‘s finest Royce da 5’9.” Ezhel, and Grammy-nominated emcee Freddie Gibbs, which should prove that the duo can craft beats for a diverse and eclectic array of artists and styles. For the duo, the EP is an introduction to the larger world and a love letter to the hip-hop they grew up idolizing — and are now shaping in their own image.

EP single “War Zone” sees the rising, Turkish production duo teaming up with the aforementioned Freddie Gibbs. Gangsta Gibbs’ self-assured, dense and intricate bars full of braggadocio and street shit is paired with a menacing and uneasy production centered around twinkling and arpeggiated key, skittering trap beats and tweeter and woofer rocking low end. Simply put, this track is fucking flames. So, when will the trio collaborate on an album or something, huh?

Working with an American superstar like Freddie Gibbs wasn’t lost on the duo. While such a momentous get was something that they were one day picturing accomplishing, it’s surreal for them to hear one of the dopest emcees in the world spitting bars over their beats. “A couple years ago we were imagining what sort of beat we would be making for Freddie Gibbs,” Bugy explains. “When we got the chance, we just jumped on it, and he killed his part too.”

27 year-old, Loreauville, LA-born, Austin, TX-based songwriter, keyboardist and producer JaRon Marshall may be best known for being a member of the acclaimed, JOVM mainstay act Black Pumas. As member of Black Pumas, Marshall has received songwriting and performance credits on their Album of the Year Grammy-nominated Black Pumas (Deluxe) while playing in front of count less thousands at venues, clubs and festivals across the globe.

Interestingly enough, Marshall can trace the origins of his music career to when he started playing piano at 11. Understandably, growing up in a small town, the Loreauville-born, Austin-based songwriter, keyboardist and producer couldn’t wait to get out and broaden his horizons.

As a musician and producer, Marshall describes his music as “the marriage between funk, jazz, R&B, neo-soul and hip-hop.” Along with his work with Black Pumas, he has worked with Jay Wile, Nané and Black Pumas’ Adrian Quesada.

Last year, Marshall released his first two efforts as a solo artist and producer — The Gold Tapes Vol. 1-3 and The Black Power Tape EP, which received rapturous praise from Okayplayer, who wrote that Marshall “was exploring the myriad of emotions that come with being Black in America, all against a backdrop of soothing, soulful music.”

Last week, the Loreauville-born, Austin-based songwriter, keyboardist and producer released The Prequel EP, his first experimental EP, which showcases his versatility as a beatmaker and producer with the material sonically touching upon jazz, hip-hop and soul. The EP’s material also features with Austin-based emcee Mike Melinoe, Brian Donohoe, who has worked with Snarky Puppy and Okkervil River, and Justking Jones, who has toured with Yasiin Bey (f.k.a. Mos Def), Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Talib Kweli and Theo Croker.

The EP’s latest single “Yesterday” is centered around a warm and soulful, Black on Two Sides era Mos Def production of tweeter and woofer rattling boom bap, twinkling and arpeggiated Rhodes. Austin-based emcee Mike Melinoe contributes a swaggering Nas-like flow full of dexterous inner and outer rhyme schemes to the mix, adding to the Golden era/backpack era vibes.


New Video: Redman Contributes to Posthumously Released Third Version of Phife Dawg’s and Illa J’s Loving Ode to Montreal

Born Malik Izaak Taylor, the legendary and beloved Phife Dawg was a co-founder of the multi-Grammy Award nominated, multi-platinum selling, equally legendary and beloved hip-hop act A Tribe Called Quest. Along with his work with Tribe, Phife Dawg was a solo artist, who collaborated with lengthy lists of acts and artists including Fu-Schnickens, Diamond D, Chi-Ali, Black Sheep‘s Dres, De La Soul‘s Trugoy and countless others, eventually releasing his solo debut album, 2000’s Ventilation: Da LP.

If you’re a hip-hop head, you’d remember that the members of A Tribe Called Quest — Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Jarobi White and Ali Shaheed Muhammad — reunited in 2006 to help Phife Dawg with mounting medical expenses as a result of complications with diabetes. They co-headlined that year’s Bumbershoot Festival and played a handful of sold-out across across the States, Canada and Japan, including making appearances at the 2K Sports Bounce Tour. According to Phife Dawg, the members of the beloved hip-hop had planned to release an album to finish-off their six-album contract with Jive Records.

008, A Tribe Called Quest was the headlining act for that year’s Rock the Bells tour. Taylor, who had been dealing with complications from diabetes over the past decade, wound up receiving a kidney translate from his wife. At the end of the that year, Q-Tip released his long-awaited sophomore album The Renaissance, which he followed with the release of 2009’s Kamaal The Abstract, which had been shelved for over seven years.

Tribe co-headlined 2010’s Rock the Bells and that year, Taylor had planned to release his highly-anticipated sophomore album Songs in the Key of Phife: Volume 1 (Cheryl’s Big Son); however, continued health issues delayed the release of the album. In 2013, it was reported that Phife had went back to work on his sophomore album, which was re-titled MUTTYmorPHosis. During that same period, the tense relationship between the act’s co-founder was famously documented in Michael Rapaport’s 2011 documentary Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest.

rs of A Tribe Called Quest reunited to perform on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the release of the act’s debut album People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. In what would be the last few months of his life, Taylor had been incredibly busy: he had finished his long-anticipated sophomore album, now titled Forever, collaborating with a collection of trusted, All-Star producers and artists. Additionally, Tribe had secretly gone into the studio to work on what would be their sixth and final album We Got It From Here . . . Thank You 4 Your Service. Tragically, Taylor died as the entire group were finishing the album; the remaining members finished the album and posthumously released the album, as a tribute to their co-founder.

ily and estate will be finally releasing Phife Dawg’s long-awaited sophomore album Forever later this year. “He worked really hard to complete his album before he transitioned, and he was ready to share an album that was near and dear to his heart with his fans,” Taylor’s family says of the album. “His fans meant the world to him.” So far, one single has been released from the album, “Nutshell, Part 2,” featuring Busta Rhymes and Redman — and as a taste of the album, it’s a classic New York hip-hop banger, in which three legendary emcees spit bars and trade zingers over a subtle DJ Rasta Root reworking of a J. Dilla production.

Earlier this year, I wrote about “French Kiss Deux,” which found the beloved and legendary “Five Foot Assassin” teamed up with Vancouver-based production duo Potatohead People and J. Dilla’s younger brother Illa J on a tribute to one of my favorite cities, Montreal that featured the two emcees trading verses admiring the city’s beautiful women and scenery over a subtle Potatohead People remix of the original. The end result is a vibey J. Dilla-like Golden Era hip-hop production centered around shimmering Rhodes, reverb drenched horns and twitter and woofer rocking beats. It’s an infectious, feel good banger — that for me brings back some fond memories of the Quebecois city.

Phife’s estate released a new version of French Kiss, “French Kiss Trois,” which features a new guest verse with the legendary Redman, who helps to build upon a loving ode to Montreal. The third installment came to life when Redman heard “Deux” back in May and fell so deeply in love with the song that he desperately wanted to become a part of a new version of the song.

Redman’s guest verse sees the legendary emcee alternating between hilariously crude while joking about finding a girl that would be comfortable enough to fart in the tub near you, and ask if she wants to watch wrestling or boxing. But simultaneously, Red manages to paint a loving picture of a strong, confident, down to earth woman — the sort of woman that straight men would consider themselves profoundly lucky to find. Maybe that woman can be found in lovely Montreal, right?

“It’s dope to see the evolution of this song, from the first version on my album Illa J to Phife’s version, to 6 years later Potatohead people doing a sick remix of the track, and now Redman adding a verse to it, with Ali Shaheed on the mix,” Illa J says in press notes. “It’s an honor having a track with 2 hip-hop legends on it, this one will always be a special joint for me.”

“When Red called my phone and told me that he had ‘French Kiss Deux’ on repeat, I knew what was coming next,” Dion “Roots” Liverpool adds. “Hedidn’t even have to ask me and I was excited. Once he sent me a video of his computer and pressed play, I remembered yelling really loud!!”

day Dion called and said that Redman had French Kiss on repeat and immediately wrote a verse, I was excited. Phife would be going crazy with Red being on this song,.”Phife’s wife Deisha Taylor shares. “Anytime you hear Redman on any track you know it will be dope. The atmosphere and energy shifts when he is on any song or walks in the building.”

“As soon as I heard the song, I played it back-to-back 100 + times. I had to hit Potatohead People and Dion to tell them I was writing a verse,” Redman says. “Being in the music video was amazing, and I know I’m doing it for Phife. I don’t think he gets enough credit, so God made this my mission to help best way I can.”

Executive produced by Phife Dawg’s longtime friend and collaborator, Dion “Roots” Liverpool and co-directed by Redman, Tony Reames and Konee Rock, the recently released video for “French Kiss Trois” follows Redman and Ill J in Montreal, admiring and hanging out with the city’s beautiful women — at beautiful locations. The video, features some gorgeous animation of Phife and a special guest appearance from Phife’s widow Deisha Taylor, lovingly reminiscing over photos of her husband. The video ends with the group coming together to celebrate and honor Phife’s life and work.

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Evidence Releases a Haunting Visual for Brooding “Taylor Made Suit”

Los Angeles-based emcee, producer and JOVM mainstay Evidence — born Micheal Taylor Perretta — has established himself as one of hip-hop’s most accomplished emcees and producers: as a solo artist and as a producer, Perretta has worked with Beastie Boys, Linkin Park, Defari, Planet Asia, DJ Premier, WestsideGunn, Prodigy, Rapsody, Aloe Blacc, Action Bronson, Atmosphere’s Slug, Cypress Hill and a lengthy list of others. He won a Grammy for his co-production on Kanye West’s critically applauded, breakthrough debut album The College Dropout. He also has won two Juno Awards for his production work for Canadian hip-hop act Swollen Members. But he’s arguably best known for being a member of beloved hip-hop act Dilated Peoples with Rakaa Iriscience and DJ Babu. 

Evidence has recorded and released five albums with his Dilated Peoples bandmates. And as a solo artist, the Los Angeles-based emcee and producer has released three full-length albums, including 2018’s critically and commercially successful effort Weather Or Not and an EP. He has also released an album with The Alchemist as Step Brothers. Managing to remain extraordinarily busy, Evidence released this fourth solo album Unlearning Vol. 1 the other day through his longtime label home Rhymesayers Entertainment. 

The 14 track album pairs Evidence’s own production work with the likes of The Alchemist, Nottz, Sebb Bash, Animoss, Mr. Green, V Don, Daringer, Khrysis, and QThree [EARDRUM] showcasing the Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstay’s ability to collaborate with a wide and eclectic array of producers while still crafting a cohesive album. Additionally, the album features a small cast of guests that includes Boldy James, Conway The Machine, Fly Anakin, Navy Blue, and Murkage Dave. Recently Evidence offered insight into the transition from Weather Or Not into the writing and recording of the material that would become Unlearning Vol 1: “I don’t feel like I’m Evidence, the character. I feel like I’m me,” he told DJ Booth, adding “I don’t mind evolving publicly.” 

During the build up to the album’s release, I wrote about three of the album’s single: 

“Pardon Me” an example of grown shit hip-hop, centered around a soulful Pete Rock-like production that serves as a warm and comfortable bed for Perretta’s contemplative verses reflecting on mortality, hard-won lessons, adulthood and being a parent and artist — and how those particular roles can be contradictory and difficult to manage. 
“All Of That Said” found Evidence collaborating with Boldy James. Prominently featuring a soulful and cinematic sample featuring soaring strings, buzzing guitars and chopped up vocals, the song sees the JOVM mainstay and Boldy James reminiscing on the long and hard journey to achieve what they’ve achieved both personally and professionally. And while seemingly a bit world-weary, there’s a profound wisdom within both emcees bars — the wisdom that comes from struggle, setbacks and victories small and large. Like I said before, this is adult shit coming from adult places. 
“Where We Going From Here,” which was centered around a dusty and woozy production featuring boom-bap beats and lurching synths. Over that uneasy production, the Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstay effortlessly rhymes about where he’s been while wondering what exactly is next for him.

Unlearning Vol. 1’s latest single “Taylor Made Suit” is a brooding song centered around a sparse and haunting production featuring a repeated guitar figure, skittering beats and reverb-drenched vocal samples throughout. Over that spectral production Evidence spits rhymes with an unusually deep emotional heft, with a verse directly addressing the death of his son’s mother, detailing two painful scenes — that his wedding suit was the same suit that he wore to his son’s mother’s funeral and later, a scene in which he has to hold back tears before telling his boy with somewhat false assurance “Your momma is in heaven.” There’s heartbreak, despair and love and devotion in very adult, and very real terms.

Continuing an ongoing collaboration with director and photographer Stephen Vanasco, we see the Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstay in a suit and trench coat arriving at a bungalow — as though coming from something. He rhymes to his own reflection in the window, as though gearing himself up to tell someone something hurtful yet important. We also follow him through the desert and under palm trees. The video ends with a devastating close up that focuses on Evidence wearing the titular suit.

maticulous is a Pittsburgh-born, Brooklyn-based producers ho can trace the origins of his own music journey and career to being an on-air DJ at Indiana University of Pennsylvania‘s WIUP‘s The Underground while in college. Soon after relocating to Brooklyn in 2004, maticulous landed an internship at beloved, New York-based underground hip hop record store Fat Beats. The Pittsburgh-born, Brooklyn-based producer quickly moved his way up the ranks, first as a buyer managed by DJ Eclipse and then later as an A&R/sales rep for Fat Beats Records/Distribution.

Being fully immersed in hip-hop wound up cementing the Pittsburgh-born, Brooklyn-based artist’s true passion and desire — to create and release his own music. maticulous’ debut effort, 2011’s The maticulous ep featured the critically applauded “Body The Beat,” a collaboration featuring Ruste Juxx, R.A. The Rugged Man and Heltah Skeltah‘s Rock. The accompanying video eventually amassed over 130,000 YouTube views.

Between 2011-2014 maticulous was extremely busy: The Pittsburgh-born, Brooklyn-based producer released a handful of instrumental/beat efforts — and he produced material for MF DOOM, J-Zone, Shabaam Sadeeq, and yU.

maticulous’ full-length debut, 2015’s The maticulous LP saw him collaborating with Masta Ace, M.O.P.’s LIl Fame, Rah Digga, Guilty Simpson, Blu, and Your Old Droog while highlighting his versatility as a producer. In 2017, a chance meeting with Justo The MC at SiriusXM led to a series of collaborations that began with 2019’s Mind of a Man, an album that was named one of Bandcamp‘s Top Albums in the month of its release — January 2019. The album also landed on a number of year-end lists. The pair then collaborated on the Bonus Room EP, which was released that summer. And they continued their collaboration with 2020’s County of Kings.

Continuing to cement a reputation for being wildly prolific, maticulous’ forthcoming album no caps is slated for an October 1, 2021 release. The album features guest sports from Homeboy Sandman, Skyzoo, Breeze Brewin, Uptown XO, yU and others. The album’s first single “Home Goin'” is a gritty head banger, centered around tweeter and woofer rattling beats, glistening and choppy synth arpeggios serving as a menacing and uneasy backdrop for Guilty Simpson telling the tale of attending the funeral of a local pimp/player. Throughout the song, vividly Simpson describes a cast of characters and their thoughts of the deceased OG, revealing a snake pit of deceit, greed, hypocrisy and violence.