Author Archive

Kanye West – Bound 2

September 29th, 2013
Comments Off

With its looping female vocals and smooth soul samples, ‘Bound 2’ stands out from the stripped down, angular tracks that make up the bulk of ‘Yeezus’. But if the song isn’t quite as confrontational as some of its album compatriots, at least Kanye can still be relied on to keep things crazy.

Witness this nugget from his recent interview with Radio 1’s Zane Lowe: “I’ve reached a point in my life where my Truman Show boat has hit the painting,” he told the overly enthusiastic DJ. “And I’ve got to a point that Michael Jackson did not break down. I have reached the glass ceiling. As a creative person, as a celebrity. When I say that, it means, I want to do product, I am a product person. Not just clothing, but water bottle design, architecture, everything, you know, that you could think about. And I’ve been at it for 10 years, and I look around, and I say, wait a second, there’s no one in this space that looks like me, and if they are, they’re quiet as fuck. So that means, wait a second, now we’re seriously, like, in a civil rights movement.”

As usual for Kanye, it’s a basically reasonable point – that the higher echelons of society are still overwhelmingly white – dressed up in a glittering garb of overweening ego and misplaced self-confidence. Why shouldn’t he be an architect? We imagine the many people who have spent their lives learning how to design buildings that don’t fall down when someone slams a door too hard might have a few ideas. (Side note – a TV programme that featured Kanye being parachuted into different jobs for which he is wholly unqualified – NASA engineer, heart surgeon, monumental mason – would surely be a massive hit.)

But that’s Kanye. He’s already told us that he’s both God and the Black Jesus. We should just accept his omnicompetence and bow down to our new water bottle-designing rap overlord.

New Music

Drake Feat. Jay-Z – Pound Cake

September 29th, 2013
Comments Off

The former kid from Degrassi High has just dropped his anticipated new album ‘Nothing Was The Same’, to largely positive reviews. One thing that has raised eyebrows a little is the record’s embrace of a more r’n’b sound, with Drake even having a crack at singing on a few tracks. How this goes down with the hardcore hip-hop heads remains to be seen, but it looks like it’s something we’re going to have to get used to.

“I’ll be honest, there’s times I feel like I like r’n'b music better than I like rap music,” he told CRWN. “It’s just sometimes I like listening to it whether it be classic, whether it be new. When I find myself having free time, I like melody. And it’s so funny that people scrutinize me so much for melody, because then another rapper will go and drop their single and the whole single is melody-driven and that’s okay ’cause he’s allowed to do that and I’m not allowed to do that, it’s just like this crazy double standard that people have for me. I wanna blur lines, and I want to blend it, because, like I said, I embrace it at this point,” Drake said of combining r’n'b elements with hip-hop. “If you think I sing too much now, just wait ’til I’m 33 and I do this straight.”

For now at least, Drake hasn’t abandoned MCing to become a crooner. ‘Pound Cake’ sees him teaming up with friend and frequent collaborator Jay-Z to deliver a thorough account of their many successes in the rap game. While the Benz-inflected subject matter isn’t anything you haven’t heard before, it’s delivered over some pleasingly smoky beats which should make listeners hope that Drake doesn’t walk away from hip-hop just yet.

New Music

Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz – Déjà Vu (Uptown Baby)

September 22nd, 2013
Comments Off

The Steely Dan-sampling Déjà Vu (Uptown Baby) is in immediately recognisable song for anybody with even a passing interest in hip-hop. Even if you aren’t familiar with the track, you’ll probably recognise the horn intro from its use on Shakira’s ‘Hips Don’t Lie’ (though it actually originates from ‘Amores Como el Nuestro’ by Jerry Rivera, fact fans).

With all that in mind, it’s surprising that ‘Déjà Vu’ was Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz’ only real hit. The Bronx duo hit the charts with it way back in 1997, going on to release their only album ‘Make it Reign’ before quietly disbanding.

Built around that irrepressibly funky snatch of Steely Dan’s ‘Black Cow’, the track is a celebration of their home’s contribution to the hip-hop game. They give shout outs to New York’s other four boroughs before stating: ‘But if it wasn’t for the Bronx/This rap shit probably never would be going on/So tell me where you from? Uptown, baby, uptown, baby’.

Fair enough. Plenty of places lay claim to the creation of hip-hop, but The Bronx’s boast is stronger than most. Listening to ‘Déjà Vu’ now, with its easy flow and unforced street level perspectives, it’s a shame Gunz and Tariq never achieved more lasting success. Luck of the draw, we suppose. In any case, one big hit is a lot more than many get. Let’s hope the royalties are still rolling in.

Shazam In The Vaults

Mike Will Made It feat. Miley Cyrus, Wiz Khalifa & Juicy J – 23

September 21st, 2013
Comments Off

We all remember where we were when it happened. Sunday 9 August 2013. A day that will live in infamy. The day when the artist formerly known as Hannah Montana twerked her way into the history books, forever casting off her Disney princess image by ferociously grinding on Robin Thicke at the MTV VMA Awards. There are some things you just can’t unsee.

In all honesty, the progression from beaming Mousketeer to freaked-out sex beast is one that shouldn’t really surprise anyone at this point (hi Britney, Justin and Christina!). But the collective meltdown that met Miley’s performance was akin to that time America accidentally saw a bit of Janet Jackson’s boob at the Super Bowl, an event that irrevocably warped the minds of delicate children who had only tuned in to watch steroid-enhanced men in tight trouser jump on each other for a few hours.

Anyway, if you were shocked and dismayed by Ms Cyrus’ VMA performance, you better strap yourself in and prepare for another bombshell. In her appearance on Mike Will Made It’s ‘23’, not only is she hanging around with weed-loving hip-hop star Wiz Khalifa, she even has a crack at some rapping herself. Sorry haterz, while Miley’s flow is unlikely to worry Kendrick Lamar too much, she’s certainly no worse than many of the artists who rap for a living.

You may as well get used to the new, urban Miley Cyrus. Mike Will Made It produces eight tracks on her forthcoming album ‘Bangerz’ and he seems confident that she’s got the skills to pay the bills. “With rapping, that’s just another form of expressing your music,” he told Hot New Hip Hop. “Whether you’re going to rap, you’re going to sing, it’s whatever you want. She still sings on that song, so it’s just another way to express it. It’s just a good song. As long as it’s good, nothing matters. She does her thing. As far as rapping goes, as long as you are telling the truth and you have a good flow, then you win.”

New Music

Outkast – Rosa Parks

September 8th, 2013
Comments Off

Following the news that a new Outkast album might be ‘brewing’, it’s a good time to remind ourselves just what we’ve been missing in the seven or so years since Big Boi and Andre 3000 last got together.

‘Rosa Parks’ came out way back in 1999, a lifetime in hip hop terms, but it still sounds incredibly fresh today. It hasn’t got quite the all-conquering weirdness that would come to characterise Outkast circa ‘Stankonia’ and ‘Speakerboxxx/The Love Below’, but it’s still far from being conventional. It goes to show that the band had a knack for combining party friendly sounds with a twist of the leftfield even in the early days of their career.

Named after the civil rights protester who famously refused to move to the back of the bus, ‘Rosa Parks’ also has the singular distinction of kicking off a lengthy legal battle. Following the track’s release, Parks herself – or lawyers in search of a quick buck – sued Outkast for the unlawful use of her name. The quick buck thing didn’t work out. The case dragged on for six years and Parks representatives never saw a penny.

Hip hop in 2013 could certainly use Outkast. ‘Rosa Parks’ sounds infinitely fresher and more inventive than 95 percent of what’s currently out there. Maybe it would force some of the lazier artists currently occupying the mainstream to up their game a bit? Fingers crossed.

New Music

L7Z – Give Out The Love

September 8th, 2013
Comments Off

It can be easy to feel cynical when a band bust out a charity single. It’s far too easy to see it as just another careerist move, a bit of commercial altruism designed to boost profile as much as help the needy.

It’s harder to hold on to these curmudgeonly instincts when dealing with a band like L7Z. The multi-national rap/dance group sprung out of the Christian music scene and have been active campaigners from day one, so the announcement that their latest single ‘Give Out The Love’ would seek to improve the lives of needy children has to be taken at face value.

Proceeds from sales of the single will go to Compassion, a charity that works to help the world’s poorest children by providing education, food, clean water, sunscreen and hygiene products. The band even flew out to Haiti to see some of the charity’s work first hand, and took the time out to film the track’s video while they were there

The new track is the latest move in a multi-year project for the band, which has seen them steadily building their following. “LZ7 started real underground about six years ago when we were working with high schools and young offender institutes inspiring young people to use music, emceeing, DJ-ing and production as an outlet of creativity,” the band told Verge “We found the more we toured high schools the more popular our music got, to the point in 2010 when we independently released our first single which reached no. 26 in the Official UK chart – this was the launch pad for us. We then went on to release another single in 2012 which reached no. 12 and more recently ‘AFTERSHOW’, released this month, which shot to no. 5 on the UK Dance Chart as well as charted no. 3 in Holland and no. 7 in the Swiss/German Official charts (we have been doing a lot of work in Europe).”

New Music

Wretch 32 Feat. Jacob Banks – Doing OK

August 25th, 2013
Comments Off

The latest track from his forthcoming, as-yet-untitled third album sees Wretch 32 moving ever further from the grime scene that birthed him. ‘Doing OK’ ticks along over a shuffling drum pattern and pleasingly simple, single finger piano motif. Throw in the gently soulful choruses of guest Jacob Banks and summery, Caribbean-influenced massed backing vocals and you’ve got Wretch’s lightest song yet.

That’s not a criticism. Wretch 32 has always shown a willingness to stretch the boundaries of his genre and wear his heart on his sleeve, so this feels very much like a natural progression. In any case, shaking off some of the more parochial and UK-centric elements of his music may well stand him in good stead as he undertakes his next challenge: breaking America.

“Different things are going to work for different people,” he told Chordblossom. “But one thing I want to do is that I want to break in America in the same way which I broke here, which was really organic. I broke being known for putting out good CD’s, so I wouldn’t want to go over there as a fresh person with just a single. I would like to have a back catalogue and for them to understand I’m not just somebody that comes up with one record like a one hit wonder. So we’re still finding the right strategy to go out there and attack it because obviously it’s a massive place so it’s like ‘where the hell do you start?’. It’s definitely on my mind.”

New Music

Katy Perry – Roar

August 25th, 2013
Comments Off

Even though you’d be forgiven for thinking Katy Perry was designed in a lab to be the perfect pop star, she has an endearingly weird edge that marks her out form her more stage-managed peers. Surely everyone knew that a hasty marriage to quasi-Dickensian, sex-addicted comedy pipe cleaner Russell Brand was a bad idea. Never mind, she did it anyway. For 14 magical months at least. Witness also her on air grilling of Australian opposition leader Tony Abbott over his stance on gay marriage (he’s against it). Not many teen-focused pop stars would veer from the script in such a way.

It also helps that she has a knack for huge laser-guided anthems that cannily walk the line between heartbreak and empowerment. Like ‘Firework’ before it, ‘Roar’ is a tale of the downtrodden finally standing up and making themselves heard. It’s not hard to see why her message resonates so successfully with her fanbase.

‘Roar’ is the first single from forthcoming album ‘Prism’, a title obviously inspired by the NSA’s recently revealed online surveillance programme. After a difficult few years, it’s clear Perry is glad to be back making music.

“When I am in between records, sometimes I doubt myself,” she told Vogue. “I’ll be like: Did I just get lucky, or did I mass-manipulate the world into thinking that seven songs were worth a number-one position? And then I go back into the studio and I start writing, and the true essential oil of who I am comes bubbling back up and reminds me that it’s always been inside of me, that nobody can take this away no matter what comment anyone makes. It’s going to be there because it’s what I was born with and it’s what I’ve worked on my whole life.”

New Music

Big Sean Feat. Kendrick Lamar & Jay Electronica – Control

August 18th, 2013
Comments Off

As regular readers (hi Mum!) will know, your reviewer hasn’t always been the biggest fan of the modern hip-hop scene. There are only so many tracks about flash cars, expensive drinks and big booty hos you can hear before you start to get a bit of gangsta fatigue.

Maybe that’s why Kendrick Lamar has been such a breath of fresh air. Though he shuns the over-earnest ‘conscious rapper’ label, there is little doubt he’s trying to push things forward. He’s undoubtedly one of the best lyricists and MCs currently in the game, while his tracks generally boil down to a little more than the cash-fuelled wang–measuring contests so beloved of his peers.

He even manages to outshine the competition when he turns up as a guest. Witness the collective internet meltdown that met his contribution to Big Sean’s ‘Control’. The verse in question starts off unremarkably, but about halfway through, Kendrick drops the bomb on just about everyone in the rap game, calling them out for their laziness and challenging them to try harder. It’s a pretty ballsy move, particularly as he includes his current collaborators Big Sean and Jay Electronica in his tirade, along with Jermaine Cole, Big KRIT, Wale
Pusha T, Meek Millz, A$AP Rocky, Drake, Tyler and Mac Miller. Say what you like about Kendrick Lamar, but the dude certainly has the courage of his convictions.

You have to wonder how Big Sean feels about all of this. Not only did Kendrick turn up to his party and take a massive whiz in the punchbowl, but he somehow managed to improve the flavour. ‘Control’ has properly blown up, but nobody’s talking about Sean’s verses. Maybe that just proves Kendrick’s point.

New Music

DJ Khaled feat. Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross & Future – I Wanna Be With You

August 11th, 2013
Comments Off

DJ Khaled may be a rapper who doesn’t rap and a DJ who doesn’t produce his own records, but he certainly knows how to play the fame game.

A few weeks back, the internet went into near meltdown after Khaled released a YouTube video where he heart-warmingly proposed to regular collaborator Nicki Minaj. He even apparently dropped half a million dollars on a preposterous engagement ring, the old romantic.

Was it for real? What would she say? Seriously, he proposed over the internet? These were just a few of the questions occupying the easily excitable minds of our gossip press. It was a pretty good example of just about everything wrong with celebrity culture (seriously, take a minute to watch this video from Hollywood Life and tell me you don’t feel a little sadder about humanity in general).

Throughout it all, Khaled and Nicki kept the story alive. First they insisted that it was for real before going on to fuel speculation that first Nicki had said yes and then that she had taken out a restraining order for some reason. Ah, the course of love never runs smooth.

Naturally, it turns out that the whole thing was a large and regrettable misunderstanding. Khaled had merely read out some lyrics from forthcoming single ‘I Wanna Be With You’, which happens to feature one Ms Minaj, and everyone had got the wrong end of the stick.

“I was just having fun with it and just show love,” he told Hollywood Life, who have really been all over this story. “Bring some excitement for my fans and connect with the record. I just wanted to tap into the emotion of the record and really spread a message. I was joking with it and having fun. We be so busy making these big hits and I wanted to come with a dope plan to present the next smash single besides just giving it out.”

That is why Khaled is the big name he undoubtedly is. Not only can he engineer a massively elaborate publicity stunt to plug his new track, he’ll tell you what he did without a trace of embarrassment. That, my friends, is a major player.

At this stage, it doesn’t matter what ‘I Wanna Be With You’ sounds like. It could be a six-minute loop of someone dropping a large bunch of keys into a bag of flour and it would still be a hit. Thankfully, Khaled fans won’t be disappointed as it delivers all the vocodered goodness we’ve come to expect.

Delivering a rap that once again reminds us there’s a pretty good MC lurking behind that cartoonish exterior, Minaj is the best thing about the track. And that’s the reason Khaled publicly proposed to her rather than Rick Ross.

New Music