Rising Seattle-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and pop artist tiger lily met collaborator and electronic music artist and producer Fluencie when they were both high schoolers: The pair met in the hallways of Seattle’s Ingraham High School. At the time, tiger lily was fronting a grunge band while Fluencie was busking with his keyboard after school for tips.
Fast forward a few years, and the pair have managed to make major moves in their careers: Fluence has been hailed by Dance Music Northwest as “Seattle’s Next Big Thing,” while playing some of the region’s largest festivals, including Capitol Hill Block Party. Adding to a growing profile, the Seattle-based electronic music artist and producer has opened for the likes of Blackbear, Said the Sky, and Joey Bada$$. Simultaneously, tiger lily has won the attention of media outlets like Spin Magazine, IGGY Magazine, DJ Magazine and Earmilk, who described her sound as pop that
“radiates heat . . . the grainy film of memories so sweet and persistent.”
The duo’s first official collaboration together “juneau, alaska” is a slickly produced, radio friendly, Top 40-inspired confection. Starting with an acoustic pop intro featuring tiger lily’s ethereal yet sultry cooing and acoustic guitar, the song morphs into a Taylor Swift/Phoebe Ryan-like banger centered around shimmering and wobbling synth arpeggios, tweeter and woofer rocking beats and an enormous hook. But underneath the song’s crowd pleasing surface, the song is rooted in an aching nostalgia for a period of time that seemed simpler and can’t be had again. In the case of “juneau, alaska,” the song describes a longing for the narrator’s high school days — in particular, the memories of an almost beau/situationship, the records they used to love and play all the time and other small but significant moments.
The recently released video features the rising pop star in a director’s chair, being fierce while strobe lights flash and projections of Alaskan scenery show up behind her. At other points Fluence is with the rising pop star, rocking out while Pro Tricking Athlete World Champion Bailey Payne back flips and somersaults around the room.
Born Ryan Daniel Montgomery, Royce da 5’9″ is a Detroit, MI-born and-based emcee, best known for his longtime association with Eminem, with whom he’s one half of duo, Bad Meets Evil, a critically applauded solo career, primarily collaborating with Carlos “6 July” Broady and DJ Premier, as well as ghostwriting for the likes of Diddy and Dr. Dre. He’s also a member of Slaughterhouse, an All-Star hip-hop act that also features Joe Budden, Joell Ortiz and Crooked I, and one half of PRhyme with the legendary (and aforementioned) DJ Premier.
As the story goes, Royce da 5’9″ signed his first deal with Tommy Boy Records, who offered him $1 million while Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment offered him $250,000 and unlimited beats, a decision that he described as one of his biggest regrets in a 2016 Complex interview. After Tommy Boy Records closed, the Detroit-based emcee signed a deal with Columbia and Game Recordings, with whom he began recording an album then titled Rock City, a title which referred to Detroit being the former (and best known) home of Motown Records. When the album wound up being heavily bootlegged, the Detroit-based emcee left that label for Koch to re-record the album, eventually releasing it 2002 as Rock City (Version 2.0). And although the album didn’t sell well, the DJ Premier-produced single “Boom” helped Royce achieve some underground recognition and lead to the two working more closely with PRhyme.
Their 2014 debut album together featured both artists going out of their comfort zones, and expanding upon their familiar sounds; in fact, Premier enlisted the compositional skills of Adrian Younge, whose work he sampled throughout the album’s production while Royce da 5’9″ traded bars with the likes of MF Doom and Little Brother‘s Phonte on the initial release, and with The Roots‘ Black Thought, Joey Bada$$ and Logic on the deluxe edition released the following year. 2014 also saw Royce da 5’9″ team up with Eminem on the posse cut “Detroit vs. Everybody.”
Since then, the Detroit-based emcee released 2016’s solo album Layers, 2018’s Book of Ryan, which featured another ongoing collaboration with Eminem “Caterpillar,” that year’s second PRhyme album Phyme 2 and a guest spot of Eminem’s surprise release Kamikaze. 2020 continues a recent period of incredible prolificacy with the release of his eighth album, the 22 track The Allegory, which features guest spots from Westside Gunn, YBN Cordae, Benny the Butcher, and a boatload of others.
Vevo’s Ctrl series highlights the work of hard-hitting, cutting-edge artists making an impact in today’s music scene with a focus on both emerging and established artists. The artists Vevo’s Ctrl series features are artists that the video platform believes demand attention, and the series is a way of shining a deserving spotlight on those artists. Recently, Vevo’s Ctrl invited the acclaimed Detroit-based emcee to their Brooklyn studios to perform two tracks off the album — “Overcomer” and “Thou Shall.” “Thou Shall” is centered around an eerie, RZA-like production: stuttering beats, a sinuous bass line and a looping string sample and eerie atmospherics while Royce da 5’9″ of bold and swaggering pronouncement of being doper than anyone else out there, full of pop cultural references with Kid Vishis slamming the door on anyone who may challenge them. “Overcomer” is centered around a looped and seemingly ancient soul sample and thumping beats while Royce da 5’9″ rhymes about blessings, the wisdom he’s earned, sociopolitical observations and more.
The performances that Vevo’s Ctrl captured are swaggering, passionate within an intimate yet minimalist setting.
Over the past few years I’ve written quite a bit about the acclaimed, Queens-born emcee and JOVM mainstay Koncept. Born Keith Michael Whitehead, the JOVM artist has led a rather remarkable life: working at Fat Beats Records, he co-founded The Brown Bag AllStars with his coworkers Soul Khan, Cold Codeine, J57 and The Audible Doctor in 2007. 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. Whitehead’s full-length debut Awaken, which was also released that year, featured guest spots from Soul Khan, JOVM mainstay Homeboy Sandman, Royce da 5’9″ and Sene with production from J57 and Marco Polo — and the album established the Queens-born emcee as a solo artist in his own right. As a result of the attention he received from his debut, Koncept received an endorsement by Red Bull that helped 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. Those tour dates developed into more shows and bookings — and eventually a partnership with Sony Music Asia, who released his sophomore effort 14 Hours Ahead, an effort that was thematically centered around envisioning your future and dreams, growing and believing in yourself every step of the way — and then manifesting those dreams into reality. Since then, Koncept has also developed a reputation for being a go-to collaborator, who has worked with Rick Ross, Travis Scott, Ty Dolla $ign, Macklemore, Wiz Khalifa, The Roots, Joey Bada$$, Green Day, A$AP Mob, Ghostface Killah and Joell Ortiz.
Released last summer, the Queens-based latest effort Champagne Konny comes after spending two years on the road — with the bulk of it in Asia, including a sold-out tour with Scoop Deville. While on the road, the Queens-based JOVM mainstay discovered a new perceptive on his life and career, which has influenced the emcee and his work. “Watch The Sky Fall 2” is a bold remix of Awaken’s lead single “Watch The Sky Fall,” which retains Royce da 5’9″‘s guest verse while being inspired by where it all started — with a newfound zest and desire for life. Featuring a new verse from Koncept, Royce da 5’9″‘s imitable flow paired with a Wrist.the.Greatest and Keitel Jr. co-production centered around shimmering and squiggling synths and tweeter and woofer rocking boom bap beats. And while sonically bringing Too Short to mind, the song has an upbeat and almost defiantly positive message: when your life seems to be falling apart, and you’re feeling broken, scared ad as though you’re about to go down for the count, you have to hold on and try to push forward.
Filmed and edited by Juliette Carton, the recently released video for “Watch The Sky Fall 2” is a hazy yet intimate visual that quickly cuts from scenes of Koncept in what appears to be a shower and a pensive Koncept holding an umbrella in the forest — as though the umbrella would protect him from a universe in which the sky seems to be against him.
Born Chaine St. Aubin Downer Jr., the only child of a Bajan mother and a Jamaican father, the rising Brooklyn-born and based emcee CJ Fly was born and raised in Flatbush until his teens, when he moved to Bedford Stuyvesant. Although he grew up in a music loving home, as a child, the rising Brooklyn-born and-based emcee wasn’t familiar with much hip-hop, as a result of his parents mainly listening to the music of their homelands — reggae, soca and other genres and styles. But he shared their love of music and always wanted to be a musician of some sort.
As a seventh grader, Downer started writing poetry but the moment he discoveredA Tribe Called Quest changed his life — from that point on, he fell in love with hip-hop and wanted to rap. In high school, he met the founding members of the Pro Era crew and began pursuing a music career: throughout 2012 and 2013, he was featured on the many of the collective’s projects and by the end of 2013, he released his critically acclaimed debut mixtape Thee Way Eye See It. 2016 saw the release of his sophomore mixtape FLYTRAP.
Since the release of FLYTRAP, CJ Fly has been busy: he contributed prominent verses on hip-hop supergroup Beast Coast’s Escape From New York and as a result, he made his national TV debut appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon last summer. After touring as a member of Beast Coast, alongside Joey Bada$$, Flatbush Zombies, The Underachievers and various members of the Pro Era crew, he’s been gearing up to release his highly-anticipated Statik Selektah-produced full-length debut RUDEBWOY, which is slated for a March 6, 2020 release through Pro Era Records.
“Show You,” RUDEBWOY’s third and latest single is a high-energy, golden era hip-hop-like track built around driving boom-bap beats and a Roy Ayers-like sample centered around shimmering Rhodes arpeggios and a soulful horn line. Seemingly indebted to The Low End Theory-era Tribe, the song finds the rising Brooklyn-born and-based emcee spitting personal, autobiographical rhymes discussing his struggles — from poverty to bouncing between his mother’s and father’s homes and different neighborhoods, and moving towards the present day. But the song is also partly love song to his home borough, proudly shouting out the neighborhoods he lived in and loved, the parks he played in, hung out and dreamt in, where family and friends got shot and died, essentially showing listeners where it’s nice and where it ain’t.
“‘Show You’ is a high energy boom bap classic that was created to take listeners on a journey through Brooklyn from my birth to present,” CJ Fly explains in press notes. “It’s a preview into my life and almost biographical. I reel things that some of my closest friends or fans may not have even known about myself and my father.”
Directed by David Janoff, and CJ Fly the recently released video for “Show You” stars CJ Fly and his girlfriend Emilia Ortiz in a cinematically shot tour of his home borough that includes stops to see his father and his mother, the neighborhoods he lived in, hangs out in and loves. It’s a loving look at a diverse and complex borough, revealing the inherent beauty of its rough and tumble neighborhoods, as well as its more famously known neighborhoods — but it’s also an intimate look into the artist’s life.
M for Montreal (French – M pour Montreal) is an annual music festival and conference, which takes place during four days in late November. Since its founding 14 years ago, the music festival and conference has rapidly expanded to feature over 100 local and international buzzworthy and breakout bands in showcases across 15 of Montreal’s top venues.
300 music industry movers and shakers, heavyweights and tastemakers from over 20 different countries make the trek to Montreal to seek out new, emerging artists and new business opportunities Last month, I had the distinct honor and pleasure to be one of those 300 music industry movers and shakers, heavyweights and tastemakers, who made the trek to Montreal for the four-day festival. (And yes, I had some amazing poutine and a smoked meat sandwich. After all, when in Rome, right?)
Friday, November 22, 2019 marked M for Montreal’s third day and night of the festival’s four days and for me, it was the busiest and most exhausting one of my time in Montreal, as I made several stops in completely different parts of the city, including a Music PEI (Prince Edward Island)-sponsored brunch showcase early that morning, which featured three of the Eastern Canadian province’s hottest, up-and-coming artists – Vince The Messenger, Russell Louder and Dylan Menzie.
By any music festival’s third or fourth day, you’re most likely a hungover, sweaty, sleep-deprived mess with aching feet and knees and maybe even a sore back. You have business cards from people you can’t remember meeting or having a conversation with – and those people you do remember, their names and faces have blurred. And despite being overstimulated and in complete discomfort, you’d do it over and over and over again because – well, you’re having the best possible life and you might be a bit of a sadomasochist. As for me, I was a bit sleep deprived and somehow managed to enter the wrong address into Google Maps for the brunch showcase. Naturally, this resulted in somehow walking almost three blocks past the venue and missing what seemed to be at least two songs of the opener, Vince The Messenger’s set. D’oh! But I was so impressed by him that I knew I wanted to interview him as part of my festival coverage.
The up-and-coming Etobicoke, Ontario-born, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island-based emcee Vince The Messenger’s solo career started in earnest with the release of last year’s full-length debut Self Sabotage, an effort that led to the Etobicoke-born, Charlottetown-based emcee being nominated for a New Artist of the Year Award and the album receiving an Urban Recording of the Year at this year’s Music PEI Awards. After catching the 22-year old Canadian emcee’s set last month, I can see why: his work is an effortless and seamless synthesis of golden era hip-hop boom bap, introspective and thoughtful lyricism based on personal experience and feelings and slick, modern production. And it’s all done in a way that – to my ears, at least – seems perfectly suited for Hot 97 and Power 105.1.
I recently chatted with the rapidly rising Canadian artist via email about a wide range of topics including Prince Edward Island’s music scene, being an emcee and hip-hop artist on the small Eastern Canadian province, his influences, M for Montreal and more. He’ll strike you as a thoughtful and interesting young talent – and I hope that we’ll be hearing more about him in the States. Check out the interview below. And then feel free to check out some of the Canadian artist’s work, too.
William Ruben Helms: While I have a number of Canadian readers, the bulk of my readers are from the States – primarily in and around the New York Metropolitan area. As you can imagine, many of us won’t know much about Prince Edward Island, let alone Charlottetown. Can you tell us something about the province that we should know but somehow don’t know? What’s the music scene like? Is it unusual to be an emcee out there?
Vince The Messenger: PEI is a province that moves at a comfortable pace. The island thrives off of its tourist industry, with a beach in literally any direction and an abundance of east coast cuisine, the island really booms in the summer months. The music scene is small and tightknit. The music scene is home to singer/songwriters, indie rock, pop-punk, blues, classical, jazz and everything in between. Being an emcee is most definitely a little unusual out here. PEI is definitely not known for its hip-hop, but with artists like myself and others, we’re working to change that narrative.
WRH: Besides yourself, are there any other artists from your province that listeners and fans should know about outside the province?
VTM: I got into music at a relatively young age. The idea of interacting with music creatively was first introduced by my father when I was young, maybe five or so. He used to play in a few bands during his younger adulthood in Toronto, so it wasn’t uncommon for him to have instruments around the house. We’d write songs together and record them on cassette, he’d play guitar and I’d sing. This foundation of interacting with music led me to take songwriting more seriously in my later school years. By junior-high I was recording and releasing my own music and performing at all-ages events around my city. Things really didn’t pick up for me until recent years when I developed a close working relationship with my DJ and producer Niimo. From that point on I put out my first album, began playing shows and festivals frequently and have tapped into my artistry on a higher level.
WRH: There’s quite a bit of that old school boom bap in your sound and work. How much has that influenced your work? Who are your influences?
VTM: The music coming out of the boom-bap era was incredibly real and raw. Hip-hop coming out in the following eras saw more commercialization and at some fault lost some elements of what made it genuine. I’ve always reached towards the golden age due to its rich substance, that’s always something I’ve strived to provide with my own music. Hip-hop being the most popular genre today a lot of what you see on the surface is heavily commercialized and can lack substance. Luckily with streaming and the power of the internet artists with alternative approaches to hip-hop are still alive and well and are able to get their music and message out to the masses. My influences range from artists like The Fugees, A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, Das Efx, Biggie to more modern acts like Mick Jenkins, Earl Sweatshirt, Joey Badass and Kendrick Lamar.
WRH: How would you describe your work?
VTM: My work is an expressive take on my life, my experiences and my aspirations. I try to blend a sound that’s easily digestible with lyrics containing deeper meaning for those who seek it.
WRH: I managed to miss a song or two of your set during the Prince Edward Island-sponsored M for Montreal brunch showcase. I was sleep-deprived and managed to enter the wrong address for the venue and walked two and a half blocks past the place. D’oh! Thankfully, I still managed to catch most of the set. I saw a fair amount of rappers during the festival, including a late-night showcase at Le Belmont later that night. But out of the rappers I saw you were among my favorites. How did it feel to represent Charlottetown and Prince Edward Island in front of a bunch of national and internationally-based music industry types?
VTM: It felt great representing Charlottetown in front of a bunch of music industry types and delegates. It’s always been interesting representing Charlottetown as a rap artist mostly because when outsiders or even insiders for that matter think of the PEI music scene hip-hop/rap is not a genre that comes to mind. That’s slowly changing as myself and other Charlottetown artists bring more life to the genre and art style in the city. It presents a unique opportunity to showcase my music with minimal preconceptions of what rap music from my city should sound like, and when it’s received as positively as it is it feels even better.
WRH: Did you get a chance to see any music during M for Montreal? And if so, was there anyone you enjoyed?
WRH: Your solo career started last year, and you’ve been really busy. You released your solo debut Self Sabotage last year. You’ve released a handful of singles this year – and you’ve had a bunch of collaborations and guest spots. I listened to some of your work before I landed in Montreal and again for research for this interview. “Mr. Sun” and “Menace” are two of my favorite tracks of Self-Sabotage. Those songs much like the rest of your material captures your innermost thoughts, experiences, and feelings in a profoundly intimate and personal fashion – that’s somewhat uncommon with hip hop. How much of your work is influenced by your own personal experiences?
VTM: The majority of my work is influenced by my own personal experiences in some form. Whether that be a report of first-hand events or observations I make from things happening around me. A lot of what I write comes from an emotive space – I write how I feel and use these lyrics as a method of journaling.
WRH: You released “Android” a few weeks before M for Montreal. To me, it’s an interesting track because it features you rhyming over a production that’s both atmospheric and glitchy. So what’s the track about?
VTM: “Android” is a track that definitely sits differently in my discography. When Niimo sent me the beat I was skeptical about rapping on it initially just because of how different of a sound it was for me, but there was something about it that had me captured. The song doesn’t necessarily follow a strict theme from beginning to end, instead, it runs as a series of thoughts in a stream of consciousness style. What starts off as a braggadocious ballad turns into me airing out a list of concerns, but ending on the same braggadocious high note.
WRH: This isn’t really a question but that “Azucar Freestyle” you’ve got up on Spotify is fucking fire.
VTM: I appreciate that. That song came out of my fandom of Earl Sweatshirt. I recorded over the instrumental of his song “Azucar” off of Some Rap Songs and instead of putting that up on its own Niimo flipped the same sample and recreated the beat under my acapella.
VTM: Since releasing Self Sabotage I’ve been working closely with Niimo on my next album Trustfall. That’ll be out early in the new year accompanied by visuals and a series of other materials to complement it. Outside of the new music, you can expect to see me showcasing within North America and put out more and more content for my audience.
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’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.
Earlier this year, the Queens-born JOVM mainstay released a one-off Ray Hill produced single “Countdown,” which found him effortlessly changing his flow and cadences several times throughout an eerie production consisting of chiming synths and stuttering, boom bap beats. And while employing some mischievous wordplay and rhyme scenes, the song finds the emcee and his narrator being both reflective and introspective, as he recalls his missteps, those who counted him out and his desire to keep moving towards the bigger and better things he’s just beginning to see at the end of the proverbial tunnel. 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.
Slated for release later this summer, the Queens-based emcee’s forthcoming Champagne Konny comes after spending two years on the road — with the bulk of it in Asia, including a sold-out tour with Scoop Deville. And while on the road, Koncept discovered a new perspective on his life and his career, which have deeply influenced his work. Interestingly, “Watch the Sky Fall,” which featured Royce da 5’9″ was the lead single off Koncept’s debut album Awaken and it’s remix, “Watch The Sky Fall 2” is a bold remix, inspired by tapping into where it all started — but with a zest and desire for a new life; in fact, the track features a new verse from Koncept, Royce da 5’9″‘s imitable flow paired with a thumping, tweeter and woofer rocking production by Wrist.the.Greatest and Keitel, Jr. reminiscent of Too Short. Throughout, the song features a defiantly positive message: when your life seems to be falling apart, and you’re feeling broken and about to go down for the count, hold on, get up and push forward.
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.
Over the course of late 2016 through last year, I had written quite a bit about the Melbourne, Australia-based emcee REMI, and as you may recall, along with his producer, DJ and longtime collaborator, Sensible J, the duo rose to national prominence with 2014’s critically and commercially successful effort Raw X Infinity, an album that was named Triple J‘s Album of the Week and the Independent Hip Hop Album of the Year by the Australian Independent Record Association, and received international attention from OkayAfrica, JUICE, laut.de, NPR’s All Things Considered, and several others. Adding to a growing national and international profile, the Melbourne-based emcee was named “Australian Breakthrough Artist of the Year” and as a result the duo wound up touring nationally and internationally with Danny Brown, Vic Mensa, De La Soul, Joey Bada$$ and Damon Albarn.
2016 saw the release of the duo’s critically applauded full-length Divas and Demons, an album that revealed a supremely talented emcee and adept lyricist and storyteller, whose stories possessed an earnest, soul-baring honesty. Now, it’s been some time since I’ve personally written about the Melbourne-based emcee; but recently he released a collaborative EP Black Hole Sun that finds him teaming up with Hamilton, New Zealand-based Raiza Biza, Sampha the Great, Black Milk who contributes production, and Sensible J, who mixed and curated the entire affair. The EP’s latest single “Runner” is a collaboration that features the duo teaming up with fellow Melbourne-based emcee Baro — and the track find the trio rhyming over an upbeat production that’s centered around thumping, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, explosive hi-hat and a looped flute sample and an infectious hook; but unlike their previous work, the track finds the collaborators spitting fiery and incisive bars about racism, racist stereotypes and fears; deception and bullshit by teachers and political leaders, while being defiantly and boldly pro-black.
Directed by Tig Terera, the recently released video is primarily centered around the trio’s exploits breaking into a closed shopping mall and then a closed hair salon and while shot in a way that brings the trio’s friendship to light, it allows each individual artist to shine in a variety of scenes.
Comprised of Phoenix Pagliacci, Lex Leosis, Haviah Mighty and Keysha Freshh, The Sorority are a Toronto, Ontario, Canada-based hip-hop act that can trace their origins to when the quartet first collaborated together at a 2016 International Women’s Day cipher that quickly received attention from the likes of Noisey, The Fader and others. And since then, the act which features four individual artists, who contribute their own unique styles, personalities and energies have focused on empowering, entertaining and educating through the release of several singles and shows alongside The Internet, Jidenna, Miguel, Joey Bada$$ and A-Trak.
The Canadian hip-hop act’s full-length debut, the aptly titled Pledge is slated for an April 13, 2018 and the album’s first single “SRTY,” features each of the act’s four emcees rhyming about unity, body positivity, sensuality and resilience — and of course, being the baddest, best emcee on the face of the earth in a way that reminds me of the old schoolers I grew up with — in particular, MC Lyte, Queen Latifah and others, complete with a self-assured swagger; but paired with a hyper-modern, minimalist and ominous production consisting of skittering snares boom bap drums, wobbling and woozy synths; it’s a slick synthesis of the old school with the new school in a way that’s both radio friendly and unique.
Directed by Composite Films, the recently released video features the ladies of The Sorority being badass, kidnapping and fucking with four presumed fuckboys, subverting hip-hop tropes in a mischievous and very smart fashion.