hustle on your grind
hustle on your move
PUSHA T MY NAME IS MY NAME OUT NOW
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10 Underachieving Rappers An Era Ends On Social Media Young MCs That Will Outrhyme Your Favorite Old Rappers Can Mixtapes Help The SA Music Industry? The First 24 Hours of Responses to Kendrick Lamar’s “Control” Verse Do We Really Have Classic Albums? GQ Names The Worst Rappers Of All Time
8 The Yeezy Interview 9 Paying Homage To X 10 Kendrick Lamar Bodies Rappers 11 Rappers Murdered On Their Own Tracks 12 Signs That Your Favorite Rapper Is Falling Off 13 Jay-Z, Samsung, and the Branding of Music- Is Selling Out Still the Same Old Selling Out? 14 4 Career Tips From Billionaires Who Never Graduated 15 One Hit Wonders
SMS “6A” - TO +2783 1421 00415
Like when one is still in primary school and gets straight A’s then goes to high school and fails to live up to the hype. The folks over at Complex compiled a list of the top 10 underachieving rappers.
Despite what many may believe, rapping isn’t an easy profession and great talents have been sidelined by all
sorts of personal issues, legal entanglements, and industry bullshit. Some MCs, however, seem to be their own worst enemies; just when they’ve got the world’s ear or seem to be on the precipice of something big, they either switch styles, sell out, or simply make albums that fall short of their potential. Here are 10 Underachieving Rappers that let a moment pass them by without making the most of it.
Asher Roth Age: 27 Albums: Asleep in the Bread Aisle (2009) When Asher Roth debuted in 2008 with the DJ Dramabacked The Greenhouse Effect Vol. 1 mixtape, he was pegged by many as the next white rap phenomenon, and the Top 40 success of the single “I Love College” had visions of Slim Shady dancing in label executives’ heads. But the album Asleep In The Bread Aisle flopped, while other white rappers like Mac Miller and Macklemore soon swooped in to do the kind of numbers people had expected Asher to do. Now, Asher Roth is pretty much back at the spot he was at five years ago, releasing The Greenhouse Effect Vol. 2 with DJ Drama and trying in vain to get that buzz started all over again.
Charles Hamilton Age: 25 Albums: N/A However you may have felt about him during his divisive and arguably unlikely tenure as a mainstream contender, Charles Hamilton at least seemed like the kind of prolific controversy magnet that stays on the radar for years and years. But while Lil B, another rapper who proudly wears pink and drops mixtapes like it’s a bodily function, has kept people talking, there’s been pretty much silence around Charles Hamilton since 2009’s firestorm of bad publicity that included a shelved Interscope debut that would’ve listed the late J Dilla as executive producer. Since reemerging from a stint in rehab, however, Hamilton has remained as busy as ever, releasing dozens of mixtapes with titles like Catholic Illuminati: Papal Infallibility on the Internet, but it seems like nobody has even paid attention enough to keep the backlash going.
Peedi Crakk Age: 35 Solo albums: N/A In State Property, a crew that was long on street cred but short on mass appeal, Peedi Crakk seemed to hold a lot of potential as a breakout star, with standout performances on club bangers like “One For Peedi” and Freeway’s “Flipside.” Great guest verses for The Roots afforded him respect as a lyricist and an offer to join the legendary Philly band. He even got close enough to becoming a priority at Def Jam that they briefly made him go as ‘Peedi Peedi’ and featured him on Ne-Yo’s debut single, “Stay.” But when his album remained in label limbo, Peedi staged a Roc-A-Fella revolt, releasing a barrage of diss tracks at JayZ. He came for the throne, he missed, and nobody ever took him seriously again.
Nipsey Hussle Age: 27 Albums: N/A For every Game or Kendrick Lamar, there have been a dozen young rappers from L.A. trying to put the West Coast back on the map and become the city’s next legend that haven’t come close. Nipsey Hussle got closer than most, though; from XXL Freshman status to a Snoop co-sign, he wound up on the Haiti benefit remake of “We Are The World,” and was even referenced on Saturday Night Live. But all that exposure never quite translated to any kind of real popularity, much less a hit single or a major label release date. He’s still kicking around, but already seems like a relic of a bygone era in light of L.A.’s latest uprising of grassroots success stories.
Cassidy Age: 31 Albums: Split Personality (2004), I’m a Hustla (2005), B.A.R.S.The Barry Adrian Reese Story (2007), C.A.S.H (2010). However you may have felt about him during his divisive and arguably unlikely tenure as a mainstream contender, Charles Hamilton at least seemed like the kind of prolific controversy magnet that stays on the radar for years and years. But while Lil B, another rapper who proudly wears pink and drops mixtapes like it’s a bodily function, has kept people talking, there’s been pretty much silence around Charles Hamilton since 2009’s firestorm of bad publicity that included a shelved Interscope debut that would’ve listed the late J Dilla as executive producer. Since reemerging from a stint in rehab, however, Hamilton has remained as busy as ever, releasing dozens of mixtapes with titles like Catholic Illuminati: Papal Infallibility on the Internet, but it seems like nobody has even paid attention enough to keep the backlash going.
Slim Thug Age: 32 Albums: Already Platinum (2005), Boss of All Bosses (2009), Tha Thug Show (2010) In State Property, a crew that was long on street cred but short on mass appeal, Peedi Crakk seemed to hold a lot of potential as a breakout star, with standout performances on club bangers like “One For Peedi” and Freeway’s “Flipside.” Great guest verses for The Roots afforded him respect as a lyricist and an offer to join the legendary Philly band. He even got close enough to becoming a priority at Def Jam that they briefly made him go as ‘Peedi Peedi’ and featured him on Ne-Yo’s debut single, “Stay.” But when his album remained in label limbo, Peedi staged a Roc-A-Fella revolt, releasing a barrage of diss tracks at JayZ. He came for the throne, he missed, and nobody ever took him seriously again.
Juelz Santana Age: 31 Solo albums: From Me to U (2003), What The Game’s Been Missing (2005) It’s a little hard to believe now that when Lil Wayne and Juelz Santana first announced their ill-fated collaborative project, I Can’t Feel My Face, in 2006, it wasn’t a considered an incredibly lopsided duo. Sure, Wayne was still ascending to his Carter III superstardom, but Juelz was having a damn good run. He was featured on mentor Cam’ron’s two biggest hits while still a teenager, played a big part in Dipset’s rapidly rising movement, and saw his career grow steadily between his first two albums. And then, things just seemed to stall out, with some alleging that a sizzurp addiction had slowed down his progress. In 2011, he made headlines by hooking back up with Weezy to make another go at making I Can’t Feel My Face, but even that comeback seems to have gone up in smoke since then.
Saigon Age: 36 Albums: The Greatest Story Never Told (2011), The Greatest Story Never Told Chapter 2: Bread and Circuses (2012). Saigon’s all too aptly titled album The Greatest Story Never Told has a place in the hip-hop pantheon not as the classic it was anticipated as for years, but as an emblem of everything wrong with the fearbased mentality of the release date-shuffling major label industry. While the hotly tipped New York rapper had the world waiting on his Just Blazehelmed debut, Atlantic Records kept him on the shelf year after year, as he lobbed out increasingly desperate singles into an uncaring radio marketplace, from 2006’s Trey Songz-featuring “Pain In My Life” to 2009’s auto-tuned “Gotta Believe It,” which ironically was accompanied by foolhardy claims to “single-handedly reinvent hip-hop.” Needless to say, when the album finally dropped on an independent label in 2007, no such thing happened.
Canibus Age: 38 Albums: Can-I-Bus (1998), 2000 B.C. (Before Can-I-Bus) (2000), C True Hollywood Stories (2001), Mic Club: The Curriculum (2002), Rip the Jacker (2003), Mind Control (2005), Hip-Hop for Sale (2007), For Whom The Beat Tolls (2007), Melatonin Magik (2010), C of Tranquility (2010), Lyrical Law (2011).
The 15 years that Canibus has spent as a punchline and cautionary tale by now far outlast the year or two that he was tipped as hip-hop’s next great lyricist. Still, that brief period happened to take place in 1997 and 1998, when being the new feared MC in New York was everything, and the void left by Biggie and 2Pac was wide open for new legends. In the end, it was not whether Canibus won the LL Cool J beef that mattered, but whether he could appeal to the masses that didn’t know or care about that. Wyclef’s production on Can-I-Bus was supposed to take care of that, but instead the album was hookless and monotonous. And instead of correcting that on the follow-up, Canibus just disappeared further up his own ass with internal rhymes and conspiracy theories.
Jay Electronica Age: 36 Albums: N/A For his whole career, Jay Electronica has traded heavily on not treating his music like a career, and allowing mystique and scarcity—and of course his unique talent—to keep him afloat. But as we approach four years since one of the most lyrical songs ever, “Exhibit C,” without much to show for it besides a stray track here and a Mac Miller collab there. You have to wonder whether we’ll ever get an album, much less whether it’d be worth the wait. Andre 3000 can drop sporadic bombs on the rap world and spend years teasing the possibility of an album, but his legend is already assured with a thick back catalog. By comparison, Jay Electronica’s greatness is more like a rumor. Last month, in the thick of a summer full of big releases by his Roc Nation labelmates, Jay tweeted “it’s my turn.” But he also tweeted 16 months earlier that the album was done. Meanwhile, guys like Kendrick and J. Cole are out there enjoying the kind of careers that many fans envisioned for Jay Electronica, whose superiority to those and other artists remains largely theoretical and untested.
CRENSHAW ALBUM / MIXTAPE OUT NOW
JAY-Z MAGNA CARTA... HOLY GRAIL OUT NOW
ENDS ON SOCIAL MEDIA
“Richard Pryor go and burn up, and Ike and Tina Turner break up/Then I wake up to more bullshit,” rapped Jigga - and he went on to ask “Niggas, where’s the love?” If the world was to enter into some kind of apocalyptic mode -everything washed away with just a few survivors left. When rebuilding Earth the next generations stumble upon some hip-hop archives, they found find the mid 90s until the early 2000s - hip-hop groups flourished.
Just to name drop a few... groups like NWA, Three 6 Mafia, Salt-N-Pepa, Ruff Ryders, Onyx, Naughty by Nature, Mobb Deep, The Lost Boyz, G-Unit, Gang Starr, Geto Boys, EPMD. These groups and many other, helped pave the way and inspired many artists today, Naughty by Nature was the first hip-hop act to win a Grammy and weren’t even allowed to collect it on the stage and not to mention the legacy of Wu, NWA or Mobb Deep, OutKast. “It’s funny how money change a situation/Miscommunication leads to complication/My emancipation don’t fit your equation,” Lauryn Hill Lost Ones. The surviving humans would smile going through the remains of the post apocalyptic hip-hop archives, but then something would wipe the smiles away. They would wonder, why… why was a legacy tarnished like that? In-group fighting, egos, money and lies pissed on legacies. We wake up to news of so-n-so group fighting. Lies of twitter accounts being hacked, going on radios dissing their partners, dropping diss track to their mans, people they rode with possible grew up with. What the fuck is wrong with these old folks? They need to sit down and stop acting like some spoil rich white girl seeking attention. Let us enjoy the moment the legacy without these grown ass folks taking shots at each other. “They got so much to say, but I’m just laughin at cha/You
niggaz just don’t know, but I ain’t mad at cha,” 2Pac I ain’t, mad at cha. What happened to working things out in a civil manner without airing the dirty laundry on social media? Havoc went at Prodigy via twitter and claimed his account got hacked then later manned up and admitted it. Before that Noreaga went on a radio station and vowed never to work with Capone again. Then Treach goes on a rant and disses Vinny. What about André 3000’s stunt of issuing a statement after the remix of Frank Ocean’s Pink Matter? Big Boi features on the track, Dre quickly issued out a statement saying “It’s important for me to be clear about the origins of my contributions to Pink Matter, I was approached as a solo artist. I never want to mislead our audience - I’m worried that some would think these were Outkast collaborations.” LOL sit your Hollywood Ass down Dre, we don’t wanna hear that. a few mankind survivors. Rebuilding and visit our past they would find a wealth of information of our culture hip-hop. They would find from the 90s to the early 2000s - hip-hop was at its peak, rap groups flourished and built a legacy for years to come. Groups like Wu Tang Clan, Dogg Pound, NWA, EPMD, Naughty by Nature, CaponeN-Noreaga, Mobb Deep… the list is endless.
That Will Outrhyme Your Favorite Old Rappers
We at hustle would like to take this moment to thank the folks that brought us television, radio and the internet - without those three mediums, we would have never heard of an Ice Cube or Zubz The Last Letter. In your mind you are probably going...”huh”. The Point is growing up depending in which era, we were all glued to some favourite medium - we knew the time when our favourite show would air and we made sure to never miss it. Just a chance to catch a glimpse of our idols and rap along to their songs, walk on the street feeling like that song was talking to you. To some MCs, they even took the game further and entered the arena of rapping, threw their names in the hat and forced the masses to take notice. We count down some youngings that would bury the the old rappers. To borrow Cole’s words in an order that suits us - “Long live the idols, may they never be your rivals - now what you’re ‘bout to hear’s a tale of glory and sin.
KHULI CHANA It took a while for the Maftown’s second favourite son (Mybad Channa HHP is the first.) to set the scene on fire but when he did - he left the fans with Mo’ Hunger.
AKA It took a minute for the Cape Town born MC to blow, but no doubt his hands are up for the victory lap – lyrically the 25 year old holds his own and could even bury a few old rappers *meant veterans MCs*.
The soft spoken Odd Future rhymer came back from a hiatus overseas with a fresh perspective on life. This translated into his rapping ability, which was already pretty scary.
He spits in vernac but who said only English spitters breath fire through their words? Lets just say the Umthatha born can spit son.
It’s hard to properly categorize Quincy as one kind of artist. He has a clear appeal to Mary Jane connoisseurs, but he can also make single worthy tracks and rap his ass off. This versatility and a street edge give him the leg up on a list of rappers, old and young.
One thing has remained consistent through the MMG rapper’s transformation from underdog to Grammy nominated MC. He has bars. And yes, he can outrhyme a bevy of his noteworthy OGs.
The Queens local has clear influences from MCs like Kool G Rap, and we’d like to think that he represents where NYC Hip-Hop is going. Also, his Rare Chandeliers track “Eggs On The Third Floor” is trifling good.
Early comparisons to two man groups like Outkast and UGK should have let you know the company the Mississippi native would be in. Consider him to be the shiny, new version of many of his southern predecessors.
K1’s (Katlehong) very own spits clever words that had his songs being banged in clubs across the country. As for him outshining your favourite old MCs...Well from his clever word play, dude can hold his own.
Self-reflective rhymes and awe-inspiring flows are the Roc Nation rapper’s bread and butter. They’re also the reason he’s better than a lot of your favorite MCs at the tender age of 28.
Say what you will about the YMCMB artist’s affinity for crooning, many of you’re favorite artists don’t want any problems with rapping Aubrey. Also, a certain quote comes to mind: “I know of all the things that I hear they be poking fun at/ Never the flow though, they know I run that.” Coincidence? We think not.
The good kid from the m.A.A.d city has proved his worth as a formidable lyricist time and time again. Just ask King Hov.
drake nothing was the same
ALBUM OUT NOW
CAN MIXTAPES HELP THE SA MUSIC INDUSTRY? “They’re where an artist works out who they want to be, before they commit to an album,” breakout emcee Angel Haze tells NME. “Mixtapes are the difference between an artist working out who want to be and who they are.” The 20-year-old should know – her free-to-download 2012 tape ‘Reservation’ turned her from a New York unknown into one of hip-hop’s fastest rising stars, with her debut album due later this year expected to be one of the biggest selling of 2013.
Haze follows in the path of fellow mixtape-to-mainstream successes Lil Wayne, Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean, A$AP Rocky and The Weeknd. Before the world knew of these great artists - they set alight their buzz on social media with mixtapes then mainstream follows. Well, you might argue that Weezy didn’t start with mixtapes, but when his light was fading, he turned to mixtapes to remind people of his talent. But could mixtapes also be the difference between sink and swim for a struggling music industry? The Weeknd’s debut trilogy of albums had been available on his website for more than a year before being packaged together for a physical release by major label Island. That didn’t stop more than 100,000 copies being snapped up in its first two months of release in the US alone. Sony, meanwhile, are already seeing a return on their reported $3m investment in Brooklyn fashionista A$AP Rocky, whose woozy brand of slow, sinister hip-hop went platinum recently with single ‘Fuckin’ Problem’. Haze isn’t surprised. “Of course those guys are doing well. Releasing a tape is a chance for people to check out your music, understand what you’re about, then when you have a real album ready to go, you have a fan base there ready who are proud to have been there from the beginning with you. It’s not enough these days to have a shitty 30-second clip on your Myspace page, a two minute video on YouTube. People are much more likely to give you a chance when you have something substantial out there for them to check out for free,” A$AP Rocky. But mixtapes are about more than revenue streams. Because they’re released for free, there are looser laws on sampling that allow for greater creative freedom and more exciting crossovers. Case in point? Try Haze’s own ‘Classick’ tape, which sees her borrow beats from Eminem and Lauryn Hill. “That tape was a blast. So often artists want to use a beat out of respect and homage but get caught up in red tape, you know? You can be so much more creative and flexible with it. I love those songs, and wouldn’t have been able to put my own twist on them without some suits knocking down my door or some shit if I’d released it in stores or whatever.” Haze adds: “They’re also good in that you get a lot more experimental. A mixtape doesn’t have to be coherent like an album. It’s liberating.” Listen to Frank Ocean and Kendrick Lamar’s recent debut albums-proper and hear a little of how that fractured, experimental spirit has lingered – tracks stop, start and diverge again on thrilling tangents. They might be a relatively new answer to the music industry’s problems, but mixtapes are in fact pretty much as old as rap music itself. With the emergence of the cassette format came tapes of Grandmaster Flash, Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa and other hip-hop pioneers’ party mixes, traded in the streets and on West Coast corners. From here, the format became a rite of passage for any rapper towards broader success, with everyone from Snoop Dogg to Sean ‘Puff Daddy’ Combs circulating tapes. By the time 50 Cent hit number one with his debut album Get Rich Or Die Tryin’,’ to this day the fourth best-selling hip-hop album of all time, he had released over 20 tapes. “I saturated the street market ‘cos mixtapes are the entry level of hip-hop,” he explained to MTV in 2003. Established artists like Kanye West, Rick Ross and Drake continue to put out occasional tapes because according to Fiddy, “They’re the way of proving your credibility, proving you’re still real, to the people on the street.” You might wonder why any mentions of South African artists aren’t - well mention ten that build their fan base with free music? That’s right you will probably end on three or maybe to push it, count five. Others might argue that why give away something you have worked so hard for? Well, the African industry is a whole different ball game altogether - 9ja artists are making a killing compared to many other countries. What are they doing right that others are doing wrong? That’s a whole new topic by itself, but Ice Prince blew up with Oleku way before he had an album. The single was up on sites to download he toured with just a few tracks under his belt. Mixtapes may have evolved in the digital age, now no longer distributed on the street but on hosting sites. Bilal gave away a mixture on Facebook - all one needed to do was like his page and BANG!! download link.
Hours of Responses to Kendrick Lamar’s “Control” Verse
Kendrick, Kendrick, you done did boy, has the rap game shaking like a leaf in the wind. When someone attacks your city - the best way is to fight back and these MCs below did just that but not all attacks are great attacks but hey what the hell.
JOELL ORTIZ “OUTTA CONTROL” MOOD: EXCITED.
Better Than Kendrick: Nah. RATING: .038 OUT OF 108 MICS.
He just threatens Kendrick metaphorically, and mentions that Kendrick said he was honored to meet him once. All his punches are pulled when he asks Dr. Dre for a job midway through, though.
LUPE FIASCO “SLR 2” MOOD: PERPETUALLY AGGRIEVED
Best Shots At Kendrick: “Little homie you ain’t the king of New York You the next thing on my fork. The messenger with all them rings on that horse Carrying king’s heads ‘til I kick you in the chest and you cough And fall into a bottomless pit Homie, you know how many bodies that fit? When we met you said, ‘It’s an honor man, the Yaowa can spit.’” Better Than Kendrick: Nah. RATING: 46 OUT OF 108 MICS.
B.O.B. “HOW 2 RAP” MOOD: DEFENSIVE He seems more interested in cataloging the common criticisms lobbed at his career than scoring any points against anyone specific. Then he decides he finds rap “boring” (!?) and plays guitar for the rest of the track. Best Shots at Kendrick “Consider this tax for the swag that my city has given you niggas” is the closest to a real shot, if you think maybe he’s sending shots at Kendrick for largely ignoring Atlanta’s contributions when Kendrick listed his primary competition. Although Andre was mentioned, so this is kind of a reach.
He sorta tries to get under Kendrick’s skin by saying he raps like Wayne. Not sure why that’s a diss, since it’s not like Kendrick sounds that much like Wayne. Not sure there are any real lyrical body blows here. Best Shots: “He’s so crazy, look at the little baby Nigga you ain’t Nas, nigga you ain’t Jay-Z You will respect me, you will reject me But I’ve done so much, no matter how far you go, you will reflect me.” Better Than Kendrick: Nah. Rating: Not sure this can be properly rated, as we haven’t been to Harvard and don’t speak German, so translating from Lupe to English would take too long. There are probably ‘levels’ to this we don’t get, although the tiresome meta explanations (“That was Adolf, reacting to my new shit”) don’t really make such an exercise seem fruitful. The parts where he explicitly jabs at Kendrick sound insecure about his own place in hip-hop and don’t ring particularly true. RATING:WE’RE GOING TO SLAP 54 OUT OF 108 MICS ON THIS, MOSTLY IN DEFERENCE TO THE FIRST “SLR.”
MICKEY FACTZ “SOUTH PARK” MOOD: JUST HAPPY TO BE HERE He makes a sly Lady Gaga reference but it doesn’t really land like a body blow. Sometimes being too clever makes it feel like a pulled punch. Best Shots: Comparing him to Omar Epps in Juice is kind of funny.
Better Than Kendrick: Nah. Rating: One, this guy doesn’t have much traction right now as is, so it’s hard to see him on Kendrick’s level. Two, it’s hard to open your verse with “Where I’ve been at, what I’m up to/Nobody cares,” and still expect your rhymes to land with any authority. RATING:24 OUT OF 108 MICS.
ASTRO “KONY” MOOD: LIKE HE’S READING A TELEPROMPTER “You better chill with that Napoleon syndrome.” Ha! Kendrick is kinda short! Best Shots: See: Low Blows. His other disses are solely focused on not disrespecting legends while admitting that “ain’t nobody repping [NYC] right, they scared, all talk.” Hard to argue that he shouldn’t claim king when no one else can. Better Than Kendrick: C’mon. Rating: 36 out of 108 Mics.
KING LOS “CONTROL (REMIX)” MOOD: INSPIRED None. In fact, he ends the verse praising every rapper mentioned in the original control. (“This nigga Drake nice on the mic and act/So many hits he fucked around and brought lightskin back.”) Best Shots: The entire song is no shots unless the line about Pusha T “pushing so long that he defines being a hustler” is a secret diss about his being old. Better Than Kendrick: Nah, but probably the best/most entertaining effort, from a technical standpoint, on the entire list. Rating: Los is probably the most underrated rapper on here, but this isn’t really an answer record so much as an excuse for Los to show off that he has bars in a traditional sense.
So, if you love hearing lines like “They gon have to have me shackled and tackled at tabernacles/While havin’ my adams apple detached in a baptist chapel”—and who doesn’t?!—then you should check this song out. Rating: Not a diss song, but a solid 70 out of 108 Mics.
CASSIDY “CONTROL FREESTYLE” MOOD: SOMEONE WHO’S HAD A LOT ON HIS MIND (THIS SONG IS NEARLY SIX MINUTES LONG.) None directed at Lamar, who, he says, got him hype. At a rhetorical target, who is apparently a homosexual dickhead pussy hermaphrodite rookie, though, there are many low blows. Best Shots: There’re no real shots here, although at the end he claims that Kendrick wouldn’t be able to shine on him on a song. My favorite line, though, is “I’m not in the best shape like I would like to be/But I exercise every time I lift my pipe to pee.” Better Than Kendrick: Nah. Rating: Cassidy has always been a pretty strong punchline rapper and it’s nice to see him get some clever work in. That said, this is six minutes straight #bars, which is a pretty epic undertaking to listen to when you’ve already heard this beat as many times as I have now. Rating:65 out of 108 Mics.
DO WE REALLY HAVE CLASSIC ALBUMS? Shady once said that The Source was like the Bible of rap music and getting 5 mics was like getting to heaven or close to it. It determined if people were going to buy your album or not. Then the whole beef between The Source owners Benzino – info leaked that some of those 5 mics weren’t given on merit alone. So the question is – what makes an album a classic? Do we support the OG and give them respect because they have been around for donkey years or do they really have classic albums? Which South African rap star has a classic album? Lots of questions with no answers – hold up… before you go running and say the rap game in SA is still fresh. Check your facts and you will see that it’s been kicking for a minute now.
Before their hiatus - Skwatta Kamp is four albums deep and only two stands out - Khut En Joyn and Mkhukhu Funkshen. And between the two if I had to crown one a classic album...I’d say Khut En joyn. Mkhukhu Funkshen was a commercial success no doubt but comparing it to Khut En joyn would be like saying Kingdom Come is better than Reasonable Doubt or that Nastradamus is better than Illmatic. But this still doesn’t answer the question, what defies a classic album? Some albums as we got to learn from the Benzino era that some album ratings’ are based on who those writers are cool with. Also it falls down to who you like and whether or not you are feeling their album or not.
ALBUM OUT NOW
THE WORST RAPPERS OF ALL TIME
Put a few people in a room and they will sure argue about what they think is the best - it’s rare that folks agree on anything. The dudes at GQ took a break from looking at those gorgeous female models and decided to voice out who they think are the worst rappers of all time. Yeah folks, you would ask, what does a magazine that promotes the good life has to do with music...well, read for yourself.
After Nelly brought St. Louis lingo to the masses, Chingy appeared in 2003 with a debut that made his STL roots obvious: “He’s Herre,” “Right Thurr,” and “Wurrs My Cash.” His commercial pizazz faded as his good-time topics (sex, money, having sex with girls who like his money) stayed the same and he titled his fourth album Hate It or Love It, which turned out to be an easy choice. On the other hand, if you get a good laugh out of “That’s me, Ching-a-ling, equipped with much ding-a-ling,” you might object to his inclusion here.
Not even Too $hort will be surprised to see Too $hort’s name on this list. “Serious hip-hop fans, they’ll boldly say, ‘Too $hort ain’t the best, Too $hort ain’t got the best lyrics,’” he admits. This pioneer of Bay Area hip-hop has had an unusually long career—even he’s lost track of how many records he’s done—most of it pedestrian. He has no interest in being “a rapper who rapped in metaphors, and said slick s***,” he declares, which is kind of like a NASCAR driver saying he doesn’t want to drive fast.
At this point, he’d duet with Frank the Pug if he thought it would sell a few extra movie tickets.
10.Soulja Boy In “Pretty Boy Swag,” Soulja Boy repeats the song title, with the same dead inflection, thirty-six times. By reducing hip-hop to chants, ringtone beats, and vapid boasting, he has inspired a notable generation gap: everyone over 25 seems to hate him, from LeBron James to Ice-T, who accused him of “single-handedly killing hip-hop.” Because ganging up on somebody is always wrong, and because we’re equally capable of killing hip-hop, we’ve written about half of a song for Soulja Boy: “Man I look pretty / Your mama’s a** is s***** / Gonna buy a big watch and wear it ‘round the city.” The more times you say it, the better it sounds!
9.Master P When people praise Master P, it’s usually for his bootstrap entrepreneurship: he rose from one of New Orleans’ most despairing housing projects into a self-described “ghetto Bill Gates,” though unlike the man born Percy Miller, Gates never branched into sports management, films, clothes, or phone sex. Master P was notorious for ostentation, including 22-caratgold panels on his bedroom ceiling. (His net worth was once estimated at $361 million; four years later, he filed for bankruptcy.). But songs are virtually interchangeable, he’s often accused of j****** ideas from other rappers, his lyrical signature is a constipated grunt (Uhhhhhh!), and in a Fortune magazine profile, a competing rap executive described P’s record label as the “McDonald’s of hip-hop,” though to be fair, he appeared to mean it as a compliment.
7.Two guys in Black Eyed Peas
He had some malevolently funny lines (I’m Eazy E, and I got b****** galore / You might have a lot of b******, but I got much more), but they were usually written by Ice Cube, who said it took “days” for Eazy to clumsily record his snaps. (“I can’t do this s***,” Eazy complained when asked to rhyme.) A small man—Cube called him a half-pint b****, and Snoop referred to him as Tattoo—with a voice pitched midway between Geddy Lee and Fran Drescher, he was a one-dimensional gasbag with the rhythmic grace of a dot-matrix printer.
Will produces the songs. Fergie sings the hooks. You do... what exactly
A Cuban-American Vanilla Ice who flacks for Dr Pepper and Bud Light—try mixing those two for a fun speedball!— Pitbull specializes in mind-numbing Eurodisco about hot girls and nightlife, with witless, winking reminders of his heritage: My tongue is bilingual, ready to play with that spot where you tingle.
When people remember you more for your pants than your lyrics, it’s a bad sign.
He’s hit a trifecta: mocked on The Daily Show, on South Park, and in The Onion. Daddy/Diddy has a terrific ear for shameless hooks, and he knows the hustle, which is why he has money hangin’ out the a***, to quote his most memorable lyric. But as a mumbly, indistinct rapper, he wouldn’t be signed to any label he didn’t own.
An ex–backup dancer for Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake, Federline made the usual boasts about his tax bracket and expensive cars—but his ex-wife, Britney Spears, actually owned everything except the goatee. Real gangstas don’t get $20,000 a month in child support.
1.Insane Clown Posse
History’s first truly awful rapper—like Richard Nixon, he sullied an entire occupation with unprecedented terribleness. Unlike Nixon, he won’t go away: He made a metal album, went on reality shows, and re-recorded “Ice Ice Baby” along with nine other “hip-hop classics.” You should hear what he does to Public Enemy.
The KISS-style makeup these two self-anointed “wicked clowns” wear is a tip-off—they live to sell peripheral products, from DVDs to comic books to PPV wrestling cameos, to the tune of millions of dollars annually. Like most d-bags, they’re predictable: Ample use of the words f***, psycho, and f*** attracts a devoted fan-clan, and their annual festival has also included, yep, Vanilla Ice.
ONDERS Have you ever had something so good that you want it again and again, but you canâ€™t? Like the expression chasing the dragon - one hit wonders come into our lives and pull a Houdini just when we started liking their material. For some that break through was pure lucky, a lucky song pick accompanied by a dope beat, whilst some itâ€™s their talent that made us take notice and made us like them. Just like the mist â€“ they just disappeared into thin air.
Skee-Lo I Wish
Vanilla Ice Ice Ice Baby
Skee-Lo’s only hit is something of an underdog anthem. It’s for everyone who wished they could be a little bit better at something. Who can’t identify with that? Oddly enough, it rose up the charts and earned Skee-Lo a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Solo Performance in 1996 (he lost out to Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise). But months after the song was released, Skee-Lo essentially retired from rap due to legal disputes with his label, Sunshine Records, over who wrote and produced the song.
This 1990 song may have become a punch line of sorts, but it was the first hip hop song to top the Billboard charts, changing the game in terms of what the genre could and couldn’t do commercially. Aight, stop/ Collaborate and listen, the iconic opening lines to Ice Ice Baby, a song so great that it destroyed Robbie Van Winkle AKA Vanilla Ice’s career.
All The Coca Cola Pop Stars 101, Adilah And Ghetto Lingo
I remember many ladies hated DI’s verse – DI was the female member of the group or was she – hell no one ones and cares. She rapped about how her body would selfdestruct, how she got wetter than a tap, more like Lil’ Kim’s SA very own. (For all youngings - YouTube them.) Deipkloof natives blew up with Utlwa, but we couldn’t hear any more hit from them. They are still around, still chasing that mainstream hit.
101 was the first group put together Idols style and they went on to release two or one tracks that grabbed people’s attention and it was downhill. Then came in Adilah, four pretty faces and a dude, they gave us sesfikile and dropped off the radar. Lastly came, Ghetto Lingo – honestly when I heard their first single – I went straight to the graveyard to grieve their careers. Like a sneeze – they were all gone.
Cali Swag District Teach Me How to Dougie
Mims This Is Why I’m Hot
A lot of rap songs in the past few years are accompanied by a signature dance move, but none reached the heights of this 2010 hit, immortalized when First Lady Michelle Obama busted it out with Dr. Oz at a Washington D.C. elementary school. Cali Swag District’s follow-up efforts were derailed later the following year, when group dancer MBone was shot and killed. Cali Swag District’s song went viral and wound up amassing over 30 million plays on YouTube. It also sold over 2 million copies. And oh yeah, it certainly didn’t hurt, but CSD suffered a setback when MBone, the group’s dancer, was shot and killed. They have yet to recapture the same level of success.
Mims had been grinding it out as a serious underground rapper, when-perhaps frustrated with the way things were going-he decided to make something with a tad more commercial appeal. The irony of it all was that he admitted right on the song that it was all kind of some elaborate joke. “I can sell a mill sayin’ nothing on the track,” he spit. And then he did! Joke’s on you, buddy.
Wikid Anger Management
Nonchalant 5 O’clock In The Morning
Wikid was or is still is a dope MC wherever he is but he couldn’t maintain longevity for whatever reason. He blew up rolling with Amu and Mr Selwyn and dropped Anger Management and that was it. Wikid dawg, what happened?
Released in 1996, “5 O’Clock” was a story about hustling, told from a women’s perspective. At the time, that was a point of view on the subject that hadn’t been tackled and the beautifully gloomy tune shot up the charts and became a #1 rap single. Unfortunately, Nonchalant’s follow-up efforts weren’t received as well.
Zulu Mobb Comfort Me
“Jesus relieve my stress,” rapped a group known as Zulu Masters Of Black Bravery AKA Zulu Mobb consisting of Inshala and Dez. When you set the bar high, a lot will be expected from you and nothing less. The guys never lived up to the hype proving the saying don’t believe the hype
Missouri rapper J-Kwon will forever be remembered for this contribution to hip-hop. “Tipsy” went to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. With its “We Will Rock You” drums and catchy hook, “Tipsy” seemingly came out of nowhere. Then Kwon disappeared just as quickly, which in hindsight, most rap fans are probably OK with.
GP gangster Brand New Day
Rich Boy Throw Some Ds
Hailing from Zola - Bafana, Nkosana and Tumza, made their names through writing for others and someone might have influenced them to drop an album. So they did and broke through with Brand New Day, but failed to live up to it.
When rap fans were hungry for a new song about protruding car rims - this also coincided with rap’s obsession with the ‘dirty south’ and was the perfect time for a fresh-faced fella by the name of Rich Boy. Straight out of Alabama, a state more associated with Nascar than rap music, he hit like a juggernaut wearing a Jesus piece with the instant classic Throw Some D’s. Sadly for Rich though the track was a hit based on the addictive beat rather than his closeto-incomprehensible molasses thick voice. Producer Polow Da Don has become hit-maker for the stars while Rich Boy remains in rap purgatory, plotting his mainstream comeback.
My Man Ft Lebo Mathosa Siyavuma
Honourable Mention Pitch Black Afro
If memory proves me right, My Man was the first none Skwatta member on Buttabing Entertainment and dude resembled US rapper Game. The track blazed through the airwaves and was certified a hit and went on to drop an album called, Imenemene. That was the last we heard from him and word has it that he stepped on some Ventilation(Slikour) toes and learned the hard way.
Now Afro wasn’t a one hit wonder per say - his first album Styling Gel had a few hits – he’s more like a one hit album dude. Yeah we will call him that, produced by the legendary DJ Cleo, the album hard hits like Pitch Black Afro, Matofotofo and Pidipidi just name a few. Clubbers danced to his songs, cars blazed them and then something happened between him and Cleo - dude fell off and his career was never the same.
GIC MIXTAPE OUT NOW
INTERVIEW Mr West rarely does any media interviews but he sat down with the NY Times â€“ here is what they discussed.
When your debut album, “The College Dropout” came out, the thing that people began to associate with you besides music was: Here’s someone who’s going to argue for his place in history; like, “Why am I not getting five stars?” I think you got to make your case. Seventh grade, I wanted to be on the basketball team. I didn’t get on the team, so that summer I practiced. I was on the summer league. My team won the championship; I was the point guard. And then when I went for eighth grade, I practiced and I hit every free throw, every layup, and the next day I looked on this chart, and my name wasn’t on it. I asked the coach what’s up, and they were like, “You’re just not on it.” I was like, “But I hit every shot.” The next year — I was on the junior team when I was a freshman, that’s how good I was. But I wasn’t on my eighth-grade team, because some coach — some Grammy, some reviewer, some fashion person, some blah blah blah — they’re all the same as that coach. Where I didn’t feel that I had a position in eighth grade to scream and say, “Because I hit every one of my shots, I deserve to be on this team!” I’m letting it out on everybody who doesn’t want to give me my credit.
And you know you hit your shots? Yeah — you put me on the team. So I’m going to use my platform to tell people that they’re not being fair. Anytime I’ve had a big thing that’s ever pierced and cut across the Internet, it was a fight for justice. Justice. And when you say justice, it doesn’t have to be war. Justice could just be clearing a path for people to dream properly. It could be clearing a path to make it fair within the arena that I play. You know, if Michael Jordan can scream at the refs, me as Kanye West, as the Michael Jordan of music, can go and say, “This is wrong.”
You’ve won a lot of Grammys? “[My Beautiful] Dark [Twisted] Fantasy” and “Watch the Throne”: neither was nominated for Album of the Year, and I made both of those in one year. I don’t know if this is statistically right, but I’m assuming I have the most Grammys of anyone my age, but I haven’t won one against a white person. But the thing is, I don’t care about the Grammys; I just would like for the statistics to be more accurate.
You want the historical record to be right? Yeah, I don’t want them to rewrite history right in front of us. At least, not on my clock. I really appreciate the moments that I was able to win rap album of the year or whatever. But after a while, it’s like: “Wait a second; this isn’t fair. This is a setup.” I remember when both Gnarls Barkley and Justin [Timberlake] lost for Album of the Year, and I looked at Justin, and I was like: “Do you want me to go onstage for you? You know, do you want me to fight”
For you? For what’s right. I am so credible and so influential and so relevant that I will change things. So when the next little girl that wants to be, you know, a musician and give up her anonymity and her voice to express her talent and bring something special to the world, and it’s time for us to roll out and say, “Did this person have the biggest thing of the year?” — that thing is more fair because I was there.
But has that instinct led you astray? Like the Taylor Swift interruption at the MTV Video Music Awards, things like that? It’s only led me to complete awesomeness at all times. It’s only led me to awesome truth and awesomeness. Beauty, truth, awesomeness. That’s all it is.
So no regrets? I don’t have one regret.
Do you believe in the concept of regret? If anyone’s reading this waiting for some type of full-on, flat apology for anything, they should just stop reading right now.
But that is something that you apologized for? Yeah, I think that I have like, faltered, you know, as a human. My message isn’t perfectly defined. I have, as a human being, fallen to peer pressure. So that was a situation in which you gave in to peer pressure to apologize? Yeah.
So if you had a choice between taking back the original action or taking back the apology, you’d take back the apology? You know what? I can answer that, but I’m — I’m just — not afraid, but I know that would be such a distraction. It’s such a strong thing, and people have such a strong feeling about it. “Dark Fantasy” was my long, backhanded apology. You know how people give a backhanded compliment? It was a backhanded apology. It was like, all these raps, all these sonic acrobatics. I was like: “Let me show you guys what I can do, and please accept me back. You want to have me on your shelves.”
That’s fascinating, to look at that record through that lens? I don’t have some type of romantic relationship with the public. I’m like, the anti-celebrity, and my music comes from a place of being anti. That was the album where I gave people what they wanted. I don’t think that at that point, with my relationship with the public and with skeptical buyers, that I could’ve done “Black Skinhead” [from “Yeezus
Does that make “Dark Fantasy” a dishonest album in some way? It’s always going to be 80 percent, at least, what I want to give, and 20 percent fulfilling a perception. If you walk into an old man’s house, they’re not giving nothing. They’re at 100 percent exactly what they want to do. I would hear stories about Steve Jobs and feel like he was at 100 percent exactly what he wanted to do, but I’m sure even a Steve Jobs has compromised. Even a Rick Owens has compromised. You know, even a Kanye West has compromised. Sometimes you don’t even know when you’re being compromised till after the fact, and that’s what you regret. I don’t want to come off dissing “Dark Fantasy.” It’s me never being satisfied and then me coming and admitting and saying the truth. As much as I can air things out for other people, to air things out for myself, to say, “I feel like this could’ve been stronger.”
It’s interesting to think of that album as compromise, when it follows “808s & Heartbreak,” which seemed very clearly to be the moment where you’re like, “O.K., forget everything that’s been expected of me.”? Yeah, people asked me to change my name for that album.
Like, label people? Yeah, different people. They said, “Do it under a different name.” And when it came out, people used to be like, “Man, I wish it had more rapping on it.” But I think the fact that I can’t sing that well is what makes “808s” so special.
A fully trained professional singer couldn’t have done that record. It just wouldn’t have ever come out that way? Yeah. I love the fact that I’m bad at [things], you know what I’m saying? I’m forever the 35-year-old 5-year-old. I’m forever the 5-year-old of something.
A lot happened between “Graduation” and “808s,” obviously: a lot of struggle, a lot of tough things for you. [Mr. West’s mother died in 2007.]? Creative output, you know, is just pain. I’m going to be cliché for a minute and say that great art comes from pain. But also I’d say a bigger statement than that is: Great art comes from great artists. There’s a bunch of people that are hurt that still couldn’t have made the album that was super-polarizing and redefined the sound of radio.
Do you feel like “808s” is the album of yours that has had the most impact? There are people who have figured out the exact, you know, Kanye West formula, the mix between “Graduation” and “808s,” and were able to become more successful at it. “Stronger” was the first, like, dance-rap song that resonated to that level, and then “808s” was the first album of that kind, you know? It was the first, like, black new wave album. I didn’t realize I was new wave until this project. Thus my connection with [the graphic designer] Peter Saville, with Raf Simons, with high-end fashion, with minor chords. I hadn’t heard new wave! But I am a black new wave artist.
Was singing always something you wanted to do? I just dove more into rapping because I had a lot that I wanted to express, and I wasn’t a really, really good singer.
Even though you had always wanted to be out in front, was there ever a point where you valued your anonymity? Yeah, I held on to the last moments of it. I knew when I wrote the line “lightskinned friend look like Michael Jackson” [from the song “Slow Jamz”] I was going to be a big star. At the time, they used to have the Virgin music [stores], and I would go there and just go up the escalator and say to myself, “I’m soaking in these last moments of anonymity.” I knew I was going to make it this far; I knew that this was going to happen. But producting happened for you first, especially after Jay-Z used you so heavily on “The Blueprint.” I used to have tracks that sounded like Timbaland; I had tracks that sounded like [DJ Premier]. But Jay-Z was an amazing communicator that made the soul sound extremely popular. And because I could make the soul sound in my sleep, it finally gave me a platform to put the message that my parents put inside of me and that Dead Prez helped to get out of me and Mos Def and [Talib] Kweli, they helped to get out of me: I was able to put it, sloppily rap it, on top of the platform that Jay-Z had created for me. Before, when I wanted to rap, my raps sounded like a bit like Cam’ron; they sounded a bit like Mase; they sounded a bit like Jay-Z or whoever. And it wasn’t until I hung out with Dead Prez and understood how to make, you know, raps with a message sound cool that I was able to just write “All Falls Down” in 15 minutes.
Is that true? Yeah, that’s how I discovered my style. I was just hanging out with them all the time in New York. I would produce for them. You know, I was able to slip past everything with a pink polo, but I am Dead Prez. And now, because I was able to slip past, I have a responsibility at all times.
What were the things that you were trying to do on “Late Registration” that you either did not or could not yet do on “Dropout”? I was trying to do different things with orchestras. It was just a vibe that I was trying to get at, a sound I was trying to mix with hip-hop to try to see how far I could expand it. I guess that was a Chicago thing, like Quincy Jones.
But you came here, you worked with Jon Brion [the Fiona Apple producer].? I really liked the sound of some projects that Jon Brion had worked on. I was always considered this crazy hothead kid, but I would always just go and just really break bread with someone who I respected. I will completely bow to anybody I respect.
That era also includes what I find probably the most moving thing that you’ve ever done, which is calling out President Bush at the Hurricane Katrina telethon. To me, that moment is actually the peak of putting a message in a pop format, even though it’s not a song.? Yeah. I guess it’s a very pop moment of a lifetime or generation. I mean, my dad’s generation is a generation of messaging, you know? But that’s just a piece of me being the opinionated individual that I am.
Were you conscious that that’s what you were doing, or was it totally just instinct? Yeah, it was pretty bugged out. When you think about it, I was wearing like, a Juicy Couture men’s polo shirt. We weren’t there, like, ready for war.
I wonder if you see things in a more race-aware way now, later in your career, than you did then. The intensity of the feelings on “Watch the Throne” is much sharper? No, it’s just being able to articulate yourself better. “All Falls Down” is the same [stuff]. I mean, I am my father’s son. I’m my mother’s child. That’s how I was raised. I am in the lineage of Gil Scott-Heron, great activist-type artists. But I’m also in the lineage of a Miles Davis — you know, that liked nice things also.
On “Throne,” who’s in a darker mood on that record, you or Jay-Z? I’m always the one that’s in a darker mood. And then also there was still a thing where I didn’t feel comfortable, you know, going out on tour, the this, the that — all that by myself, yet. Like, I needed
A buffer, kind of? I needed to connect with Jay.
One of the things I thought when I heard the new record was, “This is the anti-’College Dropout.’ ” It feels like you’re shedding skin. Back then, you were like: “I want more sounds. I want more complicated raps. I want all the things.” At what point did that change? Architecture — you know, this one Corbusier lamp was like, my greatest inspiration. I lived in Paris in this loft space and recorded in my living room, and it just had the worst acoustics possible, but also the songs had to be super simple, because if you turned up some complicated sound and a track with too much bass, it’s not going to work in that space. This is earlier this year. I would go to museums and just like, the Louvre would have a furniture exhibit, and I visited it like, five times, even privately. And I would go see actual Corbusier homes in real life and just talk about, you know, why did they design it? They did like, the biggest glass panes that had ever been done. Like I say, I’m a minimalist in a rapper’s body. It’s cool to bring all those vibes and then eventually come back to Rick [Rubin], because I would always think about Def Jam.
His records did used to say “reduced by Rick Rubin.”? For him, it’s really just inside of him. I’m still just a kid learning about minimalism, and he’s a master of it. It’s just really such a blessing, to be able to work with him. I want to say that after working with Rick, it humbled me to realize why I hadn’t — even though I produced “Watch the Throne”; even though I produced “Dark Fantasy” — why I hadn’t won Album of the Year yet. This album is moments that I haven’t done before, like just my voice and drums. What people call a rant — but put it next to just a drumbeat, and it cuts to the level of, like, Run-D.M.C. or KRS-One. The last record I can remember — and I’m going to name records that you’ll think are cheesy — but like, J-Kwon, “Tipsy.” People would think that’s like a lower-quality, less intellectual form of hip-hop, but that’s always my No. 1. There’s no opera sounds on this new album, you know what I mean? It’s just like, super low-bit. I’m still, like, slightly a snob, but I completely removed my snob heaven songs; I just removed them altogether.
On this album, the way that it emphasizes bass and texture, you’re privileging the body, and that’s not snobby? Yeah, it’s like trap and drill and house. I knew that I wanted to have a deep Chicago influence on this album, and I would listen to like, old Chicago house. I think that even “Black Skinhead” could border on house, “On Sight” sounds like acid house, and then “I Am a God” obviously sounds, like, super house.
Visceral? Yeah, visceral, tribal. I’m just trying to cut away all the — you know, it’s even like what we talk about with clothing and fashion, that sometimes all that gets in the way. You even see the way I dress now is so super straight.
Does it take you less time to get dressed now than it did five years ago? Hell, yeah.
You look at your outfits from five or seven years ago, and it’s like? Yeah, kill self. That’s all I have to say. Kill self. One of the things that you’ve thrived on over the years is sort of a self-conception as an outsider, that you’re fighting your way in. Do you still, in this moment, feel like that? No, I don’t think I feel like that anymore. I feel like I don’t want to be inside anymore. Like, I uninvited myself.
What changed? I think just more actual self-realization and self-belief. The longer your ‘gevity is, the more confidence you build. The idea of Kanye and vanity are like, synonymous. But I’ve put myself in a lot of places where a vain person wouldn’t put themselves in. Like what’s vanity about wearing a kilt?
But there’s vanity in fashion. You make clothes, but some people think it’s a vanity project, that you don’t take it seriously? But the passion is for humanity. The passion is for people. The passion is for the 18-year-old version of myself. The passion is for the kids at my shows. I need to do more. I need to be able to give people more of what they want that currently is behind a glass. I don’t believe that it’s luxury to go into a store and not be able to afford something. I believe luxury is to be able to go into a store and be able to afford something. I sat down with a clothing guy that I won’t mention, but hopefully if he reads this article, he knows it’s him and knows that out of respect, I didn’t mention his name: this guy, he questioned me before I left his office:, “If you’ve done this, this, and this, why haven’t you gone further in fashion?” And I say, “I’m learning.” But ultimately, this guy that was talking to me doesn’t make Christmas presents, meaning that nobody was asking for his [stuff] as a Christmas present. If you don’t make Christmas presents, meaning making something that’s so emotionally connected to people, don’t talk to me. Mr. West at his Spring/Summer 2012 ready-to-wear collection show in Paris in October 2011.
But at the same time, this feels like the Grammy conversation, because what I keep thinking is: the people whose hands you’re trying to shake, they may control certain corridors of power, but those aren’t even the relevant corridors of power anymore? I’m a professional musician because I have the structure of Universal Records. I’m a professional creative. Since I did the Louis Vuitton sneaker, I’ve never been allowed to be in a continually creative structured place that makes product. I’ve had meetings where a guy actually told me, “What we’re trying to figure out is how we can control you.” In the meeting, to me! Why do you want to control me? Like, I want the world to be better! All I want is positive! All I want is dopeness!
Why would you want to control that? That’s why I said “I throw these Maybach keys” [in the new song “New Slaves”]. I would rather sit in a factory than sit in a Maybach. I want to tell people, “I can create more for this world, and I’ve hit the glass ceiling.” If I don’t scream, if I don’t say something, then no one’s going to say anything, you know? So I come to them and say, “Dude, talk to me! Respect me!”
Respect my trendsetting? Yeah, respect my trendsetting abilities. Once that happens, everyone wins. The world wins; fresh kids win; creatives win; the company wins. I think what Kanye West is going to mean is something similar to what Steve Jobs means. I am undoubtedly, you know, Steve of Internet, downtown, fashion, culture. Period. By a long jump. I honestly feel that because Steve has passed, you know, it’s like when Biggie passed and Jay-Z was allowed to become Jay-Z. I’ve been connected to the most culturally important albums of the past four years, the most influential artists of the past ten years. You have like, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, Nicolas Ghesquière, Anna Wintour, David Stern. I think that’s a responsibility that I have, to push possibilities, to show people: “This is the level that things could be at.” So when you get something that has the name Kanye West on it, it’s supposed to be pushing the furthest possibilities. I will be the leader of a company that ends up being worth billions of dollars, because I got the answers. I understand culture. I am the nucleus.
P AY I N G H O M A G E T O
Fifteen years ago this month, DMX changed the face of hip-hop with the release of his debut album. MTV banned his videos, the record sold over a quarter of a million in its first week (eventually going quadruple platinum) and he brought back a sense of aggression and street rebellion to rap, during the height of its jiggy and flashy outfits years. TSS had to herald #DMXWeek, and pull his copy of It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot out of the closet and try to determine what exactly it was that made its release such a watershed moment in rap history. DMX has a knack for extraordinarily cold-blooded lines and natural dialogue, the latter evidenced by the many tracks he employs it on. Other than that though, Dark Man X is not a particularly striking lyricist. Hit em with the ox to the grill / Eh, ah, kill nigga kill’, is not Pulitzer material, but then again, X isn’t writing a book and in the form of a rap his grunts, growls and sometimes relatively simple lyrics, are highly effective throughout. The crux is in his delivery and vocal inflections. Wether he’s begging for forgiveness or bludgeoning a foe, DMX sounds like a storm of emotions bursting through a cracked surface, and you believe every word he says. Besides violence and robbery, the other recurring theme in It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot is religion. Christianity, to be specific, and both Hell and Heaven are very real concepts to him. DMX is obviously a proponent of east coast gangster rap, but unlike most of his peers, he doesn’t paint himself as a Stringer Bell-type character, calmly in control and building his empire with a firm understanding of what drives capitalism in its darkest corners. He seems (though less calculated) more akin to Omar(those that are lost - check The Wire), a lone gunman and urban legend feared through-
out the hood, for whom reputation is everything, revenge trumps business sense and violence is inescapable. He robs, steals and kills, because it is the only way he knows to survive (Somewhat ironically, the visceral excitement of this kind of street drama also resonated greatly with suburban white kids, giving them music to rebel against the status quo with). His lifestyle presses heavily on his conscious, and simultaneously excuses him of changing his ways, as he is convinced that he’s already destined to hell. The only way he sees out for himself is rap, but in Damien even that is tainted by a deal with the devil, turning his way out back towards his former self. I can see, ain’t nothing but trouble ahead he somberly concludes, residing in his fate. Damien is a great example of DMX’s ability to suit his many vocal inflections to the song at hand. Putting on different voices for the titular character, he embodies both sides of the dialogue, like he does similarly on The Convo, the song’s mirror-image containing a conversation with God. DMX paints himself as a monster, a full-blooded ghetto horror story (“1, 2, X is coming for you children eerily sing on ‘X-Is Coming), but he knows he can and should be something else. The Jekyll and Hyde-like struggle within him is literalised on ‘Stop Being Greedy, the greatest song on the album and perhaps his entire discography. Both sides of DMX trade bars throughout the song, his voice an aggressive bark for one (I’m broke so I’ma bashed his head wideopen / Begging me to stop but at least he died hopin’) and passionate resilience for the other (But I don’t like drama so I stay to myself / Keep focus with this rap shit and pray for the wealth). The chorus is doubled and DMX spits it in both voices, giving the same lines entirely different connotations just by how he expertly shifts his delivery.
DMX knows the edge. He was teetering from it for almost the entire album. It’s when he sidesteps the internal conflict that makes him such an unpredictable and magnetic presence, that the album falls flat. Like in the (at the time practically requisite on a major label rap album) R&B-ified loverman song How’s It Goin’ Down’ or the overly saccharine schmaltsing of the Phil Collins sampling ‘I Can Feel It’ (You know the one, about that guy who could’ve saved that other guy from drowning, but didn’t, and Phil saw it all, then at a a show he found him). Even including those unflatteringly aged warts though, it’s not hard to see why It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot made such an impact. When rap was at its most anaemic, DMX reinvigorated it with a dose of venom. In another time and place, he might’ve been a great blues singer, struggling with darkness, doubt, self-loathing and faith. But he was born in Yonkers during the latter part of the 20th century. That means all that frustration and raging emotion was poured into his rapping. Rap, especially from the New York area, was mostly concerned with lyricism. Wit, punchlines, storytelling, the technicalities of an impressive flow and while all that is far from unimportant, DMX brought the raw, gritty, unrelenting and sometimes uncontrollable emotion into it that was missing in 1998. You can hear the echo of his bark in Schoolboy his vocal inflections and ad-libs. You can hear it in Kendrick Lamar’s balancing of religion and street tales. You can hear it in every rapper that went from a shiny suit back to a wife-beater. It sometimes seems as if DMX was always headed for destruction, and knew it too. But reporting live from the edge, he first pulled rap back to its initial place there, blood still dripping from his canines.
RAPP South African rappers take a leaf out of Kendrick Lamarâ€™s branch. Unless you have just woken up from a deep coma, freed from jail or just landed from outer space then you know what the buzz is about. Rap was too nice; too I donâ€™t wanna step on toes until Big Sean called up K-Dot to feature on Control.
The Cali native took the track to the cleaners, no one even cares that Jay Electron is also on that track or it’s a Big Sean track (really, he’s on that joint), oh my oh my THAT’S WHAT HIPHOP IS ALL ABOUT!!!! It’s like rap was down and Kendrick came with a defibrillator and shouted clear and all of a sudden there’s life. Don’t take Hustle’s word for it, check out what he says.
BORN SINNER ALBUM OUT NOW
RAP MUR PERS D ON ERED T H OW EIR TRA N CKS It a simple unwritten rule - you can’t have a man come into your house and just do as they please. Same thing with tracks, if you had to feature anyone, why let them murder you on your own shit? Whenever one rapper reaches out to ask another to guest on their song, there’s usually genuine respect unless the feature was mandated by the label. But either way, you don’t want your guest turning in a lackluster performance since that wackness reflects badly on you. Then again, you
don’t want anybody jacking your spotlight either. Ever since Nas hurled those immortal words “Eminem murdered you on your own shit,” we’ve been thinking about all the songs where rappers stepped in and straight bodied their hosts. That’s why we’re taking a trip to the land of damaged egos and career-making cameos with songs where rappers got murdered on their own shit.
Da L.E.S f/Bongani Fassie and Maggz â€œon fireâ€? Album: Fresh to Def Muderer: Maggz Maggz used to roll with Pro once upon a time and he is or was lyrically a man bold enough to step up to Pro and could have won. We have heard stories of his mic aggression and he shows it on this joint, he bodies L.E.S
Jay-Z f/ UGK Big Pimpin’ Murderer: Pimp C Album: Vol. 3: The Life & Times of S. Carter “In the South, I’m regarded as the guy who, quote unquote, out-rapped Jay-Z,” Bun B once boasted about this song. “Not saying that I’m a better rapper than Jay-Z, but I was able to out-rap Jay-Z on a track.” Bun might have a point there, but as dope as his verse is, he’s still playing second fiddle to the late great Pimp C, who made this Timbo
track his bitch, added it to the stable, and put it on the stroll. Drunk people in clubs nationwide rejoice at being able to sing along to his slow, trill delivery. The legacy of this verse lives on - it was even quoted at length this year on Kendrick Lamar’s “Blow My High (Members Only)”. Maybe that’s why the video version magically boasts an extra Hov verse at the end.
The Fugees f/ Pace Won, Young Zee, Rah Digga & John Forte “Cowboys” Murderer: John Forte Album: The Score The year 1996 belonged to the Fugees. The Score was flying off the shelves thanks to “Ready Or Not” and “Killing Me Softly.” Unfortunately, those radio-friendly singles overshadowed the lyrical frenzy of “Cowboys,” featuring three members of the legendary Jersey crew The Outsidaz. But it was an unknown MC by the name of John Forte who came out of nowhere at the end tore the entire song out of the frame.
Wale f/ J. Cole & Melanie Fiona “Beautiful Bliss” Murderer: J. Cole Album: Attention Deficit In 2009, Wale dropped his debut album and tried his damnest to prove he was going to be the next big thing. Unfortunately for him, his debut album was basically a complete disaster. To make matters worse, he invited J. Cole to rhyme alongside him on “Beautiful Bliss.” Cole ended up outshining Wale so bad it left us thinking we jumped the gun with Wale and should have been more concerned with Cole’s debut.
B.o.B’s “Gladiators,” Murderer: J. Cole Cole is a murderer, he should be doing lyrical time in some jail or something, the man is on a mission to murder all those who feature him. I can’t remember what B.o.B is saying in the joint that’s cause Cole just owned the song. He says it best, “You’ll see we not the same/I got a shit list with lots of names/And plus hit list with of rappers I’ma cock and aim”
EPMD f/ LL Cool J “Rampage” Murderer: LL Cool J Album: Business As Usual Yeah Mr Todd Smith seems soft but he is not one to be messed with and a couple of MCs might testify to that. Long before Hollywood, Ladies Love Cool James was a beast on the mic and at a time when Def Jam was heaven to a swam of Mcs - LL held his own on the EPMD track.
Nas f/ Ludacris & Jadakiss “Made You Look (Remix)” Murderer: Ludacris Album: God’s Son Oh, you thought Luda was only comfortable on bouncy Southern-tinged beats? Think again. While Nas and Jada might have treated this as just another 16 to add to their illustrious portfolios, Luda came back for the first time with a vengeance. It felt like Cris was out to prove that he could hold his own alongside two of NYC’s most prolific spitters. And that he did. If you don’t believe us, watch the crowd reaction at the 1:20 mark here.
EPMD f/ LL Cool J “Rampage” Murderer: LL Cool J Album: Business As Usual Yeah Mr Todd Smith seems soft but he is not one to be messed with and a couple of MCs might testify to that. Long before Hollywood, Ladies Love Cool James was a beast on the mic and at a time when Def Jam was heaven to a swam of Mcs - LL held his own on the EPMD track.
Lil Wayne f/ Fabolous & Juelz Santana “Nothing On Me” Murderer: Fabolous Album: Tha Carter III From the hypnotic 808s of “A Milli” to smooth cuts like “Ms. Officer” and the jazzy touch of “Dr. Carter,” the beats on Lil’ Wanye’s Carter III were eccentric as Weezy himself. That might explain why this beat, provided by The Alchemist, had a distinctively East Coast feel. But Tunechi may have made a mistake by giving Funeral Fab home-court advan-
tage. Bear witness to Fab putting on a punchline clinic as he spits an extended metaphor about the Wayans brothers before weaving into a long riff on Italian food. Juelz holds his own, but by the time Wayne shows up, it’s just too late. He’s got nothing on Fab this time around.
Ma$e f/ DMX, Black Rob & The LOX “24 Hours To Live” Murderer: DMX Album: Harlem World A textbook definition of finishing up strong: There was no way DMX wasn’t going to rip this rugged and raw beat to shreds like a pitbull with an old tire. While all of the other MCs on the track seemed to be at peace with their impending lyrical demise, Earl was stuck in straight-up maniac mode. A year later, DMX’s career would finally take off as he became the hottest rap in the game. And yeah, we remembered his name.
Kanye West f/ Nicki Minaj, Jay-Z, Rick Ross, & Bon Iver “Monster” Murderer: Nicki Minaj Album: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy Nicki has had a ton of great guest verses, but this one was the meanest yet. Going toe-to-toe with some of the best in the game, she turned heads swiftly after unleashing this ferocious split-personality flow. No pretty Barbie smile or Taylor Swift co-signs required on this one.
UGK f/ Outkast “International Players Anthem” Murderer: Andre 3000 Album: Underground Kings Before the song goes into super crunk mode, “International Players Anthem” is set off by one of the best lyricists to ever rise from the Dirty Dirty not to mention hip-hop, period. Andre weaves a clever story detailing the complexity of the opposite sex over some horns and a church choir. It’s a perfect set-up right before the bass drops in, Pimp C sets off his
verse, and the song blasts that church into rubble. The only bad news is that this song started 3 Stacks’ habit of focusing on crazy guest verses. Years later, there’s still no solo album in sight. Guess we’re going to have to keep bumping The Love Below a little longer.
Game f/ 50 Cent “Hate It Or Love It” (2005) Murderer: 50 Cent Album: The Documentary With their beef at least 50 can say I murdered Game on his track. When they were still in one camp, Fif’ jumped on the track with Game and the result never favored the Compton born.
Jay-Z f/ Kanye West & Rihanna Run This Town Murderer: Kanye West Album: The Blueprint 3 If there’s any misconception about how superb Kanye’s verse is on “Run This Town,” just check the video. You can see Jay-Z mouthing the lyrics right along with ‘Ye, almost as if he wished the awesome 32-bar verse was his. Yeezy didn’t just rattle off one of the best raps of his career, he also defeated his teacher. When XXL asked Jay-Z about
being out rapped by ‘Ye he conceded the point: “As long as I’ve been in the game, that’s going to happen, once or twice or even three times.” In other words, “Yeah Ye got me, but I’ve won so many times who’s counting?”
Raekwon f/ Nas & Ghostface Killah Verbal Intercourse Murderer: Nas Album: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Being the first ever non-Wu member ever featured on a Wu track, on arguably the strongest debut solo effort from a WuTang member is a pretty dubious honor. And Nas exploited that to the fullest. RZA’s mellifluous track compliments Nas’ flow like a pinky ring to a silk shirt. And they had the nerve to let him go first?
LL Cool J f/ Canibus, Method Man, Redman, & DMX “4, 3, 2, 1 (Original)” (1997) Murderer: Canibus Album: Phenomenon Ah for all those that are new to rap music or were in a comma - this here is the track that distorted Canadian rapper Canibus’ career. Bus murdered LL and his career went just went downhill. Even LL testified how he set him up with Wyclef and spent his whole album budget.
Nicki Minaj f2 Chainz “Beez In The Trap” Murderer: 2 Chainz Album: Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded Chainz officially made the jump to mega-stardom right around the time he was featured on the hottest single off NIcki’s sophomore album. It’s the first time we’ve ever heard the word “Doohickey” in a rap verse before and probably also the first time anybody ever told NIcki he would put it in her kidney.
Amu - Attention ft. Mr Sewyn & Pro-Verb Murderer: Mr Sewyn Album: he Life, Rap and Drama Mr Verb played it safe like avoiding stepping on toes, easily forgetting his verse, but as the track was headed to a yawn state - Mr Sewyn stepped up and cleaned the floor with Amu and Verb’s verses. Translating what he says on the track, “My blood is filled with hate/wasting my strength on hiphop/to be in this state/maybe the mistake is I wasn’t inspired.”
Future f/Diddy “Same Damn Time (Remix)” Murderer: Diddy Album: Pluto A few years back, when everyone thought Diddy’s rapping career was down for the count, he hopped on Waka Flocka Flame’s “O Let’s Do It (Remix)” and totally spit one of the best verses of that year. Puff picks up where he left off on the “Same Damn Time (Remix),” spitting obnoxious and outlandish rhymes that he owns because, well, he’s Diddy and he can do whatever the fuck he wants.
Kendrick Lamar f/Gunplay “Cartoons and Cereal” Murderer: Gunplay
Every year rap goes through a transition and if Gunplay could have come out ten years ago, um maybe his songs where going to be thrown in the trash as just that… trash. But now the Miami native and Rozah’s sidekick is trying to step away from the shadows of the beard one. Kendrick has massive talent, but on Cartoons and Cereal, it’s Gun that wanted it the most.
Young Nations f/Pro Syeke Ngendaba Murderer: Pro Album: Nations Uprising Pro formally known as ProKid, made his name sending MCs to their career graves. Who can ever forget the battles of Gandhi Square? Young Nations fresh from the US, jumped into the studio and reached out to Pro. Maybe Pro thought, hey man let me show this SA Yankee how we do it over here and the result - I’m not even sure if Young ever realized and album after this.
Scarface f/2Pac “Smile” Murderer: 2Pac Album: The Untouchable Pac was a great motivator on tracks, spoke of the struggles of black people and yes he had tracks about bitches but what Pac wasn’t was a super lyricist. Two poets joining forces on a track that asks you to smile even through hardship. Pac was built for these sort of tracks, it’s like calling Michael Jackson to come babysit your kid (God rest his soul). Pac
gives us a wakeup call on the state of the hood. “No fairy tales for this young black male/Some see me stranded in this land of hell, jail, and crack sales/Hustlin’ and heart be a nigga culture.
Game f/Kendrick Lamar “The City” Murderer: Kendrick Lamar Album: The R.E.D. Album Being the first ever non-Wu member ever featured on a Wu track, on arguably the strongest debut solo effort from a WuTang member is a pretty dubious honor. And Nas exploited that to the fullest. RZA’s mellifluous track compliments Nas’ flow like a pinky ring to a silk shirt. And they had the nerve to let him go first?
ALBUM OUT NOW
SIGNS THAT YOUR FAVORITE RAPPER IS FALLING OFF What goes up, comes down. Thanks to the folks over at Complex for bringing this to our attention. Nothing lasts forever. Especially when it comes to rap. The newer the art form, the faster it changes, the shorter its practicioners’ time at the top. No one can escape the gravitational pull of the fall-off. (Unless, to be morbid, and honest, early death preserves a star in his or her prime.) Talent wases and wanes. Even the greatest of the greats will eventually slip. It’s hard to know when it’s coming. But there can be clues, often more obvious in retrospect—telltale signs that a rapper’s relevance might be drawing to a close. In the interest of facing reality, here are some indications that your favorite rapper is no longer at the top of his game. When it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee, when you should know the end is nigh: Signs That Your Favorite Rapper Is Falling Off.
THEY’RE DOING A SEQUEL TO A CLASSIC
Catching a charismatic pair of rappers at both of their commercial and creative primes, Redman & Method Man’s 1999 Blackout! was a great, spontaneous-feeling record. It sounded like they went into a vocal booth with a sack of weed and knocked out 19 songs in a single session. Ten years later, when they announced they were doing a sequel, we were more excited, in hindsight, than we should have been. It’s not easy to recreate a moment from the past. Technically speaking, there was nothing missing from Red and Meth’s rhyme books, and the beats on Blackout 2! were largely on point, but the album just... sagged. Sure, there are examples of rappers successfully pulling off a part 2— Raekwon’s Only Built for Cuban Linx 2 comes to mind. But as surprisingly strong as that record is, it can’t hold a patch
to its namesake. Sometimes it’s better to leave the past in the past.
THEY’RE LATCHING ONTO FADS
What was the first thought you had when you found out Fat Joe wanted to “Instagram That Hoe”? No doubt you thought he was primed for a comeback, right? OK, maybe not. Whenever a rapper starts making hooks or song titles out of the latest subject trending on Twitter, it’s a bad sign. Rappers should be setting trends, not hopping on them. Vital artists don’t need juice by association. Not to mention the danger of dating oneself-Twenty years from now, “Instagram That Hoe” is liable to sound like “Pac-man Fever.”
THEY’RE TRYING A NEW STYLE (AND IT’S NOT WORKING)
The rap is audience is surprisingly conservative, and historically unkind to rappers who too dramatically change styles. When rap fans complain about rappers who aren’t “real,” they’re not looking for authenticity as much as they are consistency. We know that much of art is artifice (especially now, in the era of Rick Ross). We don’t necessarily mind. But once a character has been established, he or she can’t just slip into a new persona like a change of clothes. The examples are glaring: MC Hammer’s “gangster” album, Vanilla Ice transforming into the long lost member of Cypress Hill. In a less extreme example, Ludacris’ shift to suit-and-tie rap might have won him a Grammy award, but it presaged his fall from relevance.
THEY LOST A MAJOR BATTLE
Nothing can push a rapper out of the public eye faster than another rapper. Kool Moe Dee ended Busy Bee. LL, Kool Moe Dee and KRS-One MC Shan. For every instance where beef spurred the rappers to do better (Nas and Jay being the classic example) there are plenty of instances that ended less happily for one of the combatants. (Think Tip and Flip.)
When 50 went up against Ja Rule, Ja was one of the hiphop’s biggest stars. But 50’s disses weren’t generic; they honed in on what other people were already whispering, articulating the market’s reservations. Ja was relying heavily on cheesy rap ballads for his success, blatantly emulating Tupac, and, yes, sounded like the Cookie Monster. These ideas, while hard to deny, hadn’t hurt Ja up to that point. But once 50 said them out loud, in public, they stuck. When Ja tried to punch back with Blood in My Eye, an album almost entirely devoted to anti-50 battle rap, he’d already lost. Ja was out of his element, going away from his strengths. The album flopped. Ja’s career has never been the same.
THEY’RE GETTING MURDERED ON THEIR OWN SHIT
These days, when each posse cut (excuse me-all-star remix of emailed verses) consists of the same six or seven artists in different configurations, it can be easy to tell who’s on the rise and who’s on the way out. If a rapper gets on a track with the biggest names in the game, and his verse is the one no one remembers... that rapper might be falling off. Once rappers reach a certain level of fame, they get grandfathered into a multitude of remixes until their buzz wears off completely. So don’t fool yourself into thinking that just because your favorite artist is rapping alongside 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar, he rightfully belongs there. He still has to shine.
THEY HAVE STARTED BITING THEIR OWN LINES
There’s nothing wrong with going back to the well and offering variations on a theme. Hip-hop is a referential medium, and plenty of artists have built sustained, flourishing careers on the basis of a few ideas flipped in new ways. (EPMD’s business-mindedness comes to mind.) But at a certain point, you gotta let it go. To choose a particularly stark example: LL Cool J turning, “They call me Jaws, my hat is like a shark’s fin” from the classic “I’m Bad” into the hook for “Deepest Bluest (Shark’s Fin),” one of the deeper valleys in LL’s sine-wave career.
You made it a hot line, then you made it a wack song.
THEY’VE BECOME A PARODY OF THEMSELVES
What makes a great rapper great is often a combination of the intentional and the unintentional. When an artist is clicking, there’s an essence to their output that is greater than the sum of its parts—overarching inspiration that goes beyond any definable skillset and can’t be forced or constructed. Think about conversation with a highly self-conscious person: crippling, cringe-worthy. Once rappers become too aware of how they’re audience perceives them—what they think people like about them—they often start to write themselves into corners. What had been a fully-fleshed-out persona becomes caricature, and loses all the subconscious ripples and tics that makes art so compelling.
YOU START TO NOTICE THE EFFORT
Rappers do some very difficult, intricate, and artful things, but when they’re at their best, it all seems effortless. Rap isn’t just a technical performance, it is also theater, a place where the artist’s character is inseparable from his style, his technique, his appearance, and his art. We see these as all of-a-piece, one and the same. Ludacris isn’t Christopher Bridges, Ludacris is a package, from punchlines to persona to the blunt under his hat by his left ear in the “Welcome to Atlanta” video. When rappers fall off, though, the seams start to show. If the persona starts to feel forced, like the rapper is trying to fulfill the audience’s past idea of what made them great. Sometimes, they’ll fixate on certain points of their persona, missing out that there was a full package that made them great in the first place. The more they try to embody this idea they have of what they are, the more obvious it is that they really are trying. Great rap makes the difficult look easy, weak rap is when the difficult seems difficult.
JAY-Z Samsung, and the Branding of Music: Is Selling Out Still the Same Old Selling Out?
WE CAME ACROSS THIS ARTICLE FROM PIGEONSANDPLANES AND THOUGHT WHAT A GOOD READ
Jay-Z’s latest album Magna Carta Holy Grail was just announced on Sunday night and comes out in a little less than a month, on July 4, but it’s already sold a million copies. Samsung has long been partnering with high-profile musicians to help push their brand, specifically, their phones, which have been struggling to battle Apple and Blackberry in popularity and public perception. They got the elusive Prince to play a sold-out, highly branded showcase at SXSW, and now they’ve added Jay-Z to their roster. While his wife Beyoncé has been rolling out her new album in a similarly corporate-oriented fashion, the lengthy video that Jay dropped during Game 5 of the NBA finals is far more commercial than album teaser. The experiences it conveys are polished and suggestive, with tablets inserted into the recording process as convenient tools that are helping Jay-Z push himself to make the best music possible. There’s even a scene where the guys blow their speakers, skillfully implying the evolving and sometimes rocky relationship between hip-hop and technology. In this case, the relationship is more than just a part of the creative process. The Wall Street Journal reports that Samsung has already purchased a million copies of Hov’s album—for around $5 a piece—which amounts to a large chunk of cash that goes into his pocket regardless of any other aspects of the deal. The million copies of the record will be distributed to Samsung’s users via a special application for their phone, which, as Business Week points out, effectively establishes Samsung as a gatekeeper of the
record. Whereas many artists are opting to stream their albums early for all to hear, Jay is making money and moving units by allowing a brand to dictate that their customers hear it first. carterererer 300x124 Jay Z, Samsung, and the Branding of Music: Is Selling Out Still the Same Old Selling Out?Especially in the rap world, where album leaks are practically industry standard, a move like this one puts Jay ahead of most of his slightly younger peers when it comes to subverting the old, now seemingly-failed album sales model. But it raises some important issues, one being: will these sales count toward his RIAA status on the album? As per Jay’s tweet, Billboard may not be counting these million copies as part of their album charts. It brings to mind the stunt that Amazon and Lady Gaga pulled back in 2011 to sell Born This Way for ninety-nine cents a copy in order to boost first-week numbers. Then there’s the time Taylor Swift offered copies of Red as an add-on to Papa John customers ordering pizzas—the album wasn’t free but it was available for an extra $13, hand-delivered with any pizza purchase. Billboard didn’t revise their numbers with the previous two examples, but MTV reports that they won’t be counting any of the Samsung sales toward their reports—something that Hov’s tweet above predicted, indicating he may have known this was the case before it was officially reported. Interestingly enough, it turns out that music isn’t the only industry that has been dabbling in corporate buy-outs and brand partnerships to boost the slagging consumer mar-
ket. The book publishing industry has experienced a similar dwindle in advances, contracts, and overall sales. The corporate sponsorship route started to enter the picture back in 2011 when publishing experts started actively encouraging new and old authors to adopt this model. Not only that, but now authors can hire marketing firms to buy their books in initial large chunks, catapulting them to the best-seller list, an important seal of approval and alterer of public perception. The market is trending more toward consumers getting their music, news, and literature for free, and the ways that both publishing and music are morphing in response to this is fascinating and a little confusing to watch. Lines feel a bit blurred, sometimes even crossed, when brands are bolstering budgets—but then again, how different is their control and influence from what the publishing houses and record labels previously held? Which leads to the relentless question: is selling out still the same old selling out? Selling out used to irk fans because it meant the quality of art they loved had been sacrificed and infiltrated with corporate and mainstream conceptions— watered down for the sake of the money. The idea that a great artist would surrender any amount of creative control simply to get paid has long been regarded as shameful, not just by society and fans, but by other artists. In Jay-Z’s case, the most obvious juxtaposition we can hold up is Kanye’s blatant defiance to even release a single in support of Yeezus. His rant at Governors Ball laid out his mission statement pretty clearly, and it definitely didn’t involve any corporate
branding. While Jay was in some boardroom shaking hands and drafting contracts with lawyers and executives, Kanye was probably in the studio writing the lyrics, “Fuck you and your corporation, you n****s can’t control me.” But it seems unlikely that Samsung would have much control over the content or character of music that Jay-Z will release on his twelfth studio album—so why does it still rub us the wrong way? Aligning artistic endeavors with a brand seems to be the new industry standard for commercial success. Look at Red Bull’s Music Academy, a traveling event that has fostered inventive artistic experiences that had been neglected because of lack of commercial viability. If a brand like Red Bull is opening up the space for marginal art to be expressed, should we still be wary? Or should we embrace the benevolence of big money? Is there reason to be concerned, or is it like Jay says in the video, “We don’t have any rules, everyone’s trying to figure it out. That’s why the internet is like the Wild West, the Wild Wild West—we need to write the new rules.” What’s most concerning is to consider who is writing the rules—is it Jay-Z or is it Samsung? Is it the artists and the fans or the corporations?
tips from billionaires WHO NEVER GRADUATED
A college diploma is not a prerequisite for obtaining an absurd amount of wealth. Out of the 400 richest people in the U.S., 63 entrepreneurs don’t have one–more than 15% of the list. With total U.S. With no cash for college and unemployment pushing hard budding entrepreneur might be tempted to skip university and instead enroll in the school of hard knocks.
Author Michael Ellsberg spent two years interviewing business titans who did just that for his book The Education of Millionaires. Here are a few lessons gleaned from four billionaires who learned from life experience, not lecture halls. Inspired? Great. If not, you can always plop down six figures and head to campus.
SKIP COLLEGE; GOOGLE YOUR EDUCATION
YOU CAN ALWAYS GO BACK
When these incredible tools of knowledge and learning are available to the whole world, formal education becomes less and less important. We should expect to see the emergence of a new kind of entrepreneur who has acquired most of their knowledge through self-exploration.
Take Facebook for example billionaire Dustin Moskovitz left college to join Mark Zuckerberg, he said, “I could have gone back to Harvard anytime. My friends might not be there anymore. I might have to start over socially. That was a risk. But it was a pretty small risk compared to the opportunity at the time.”
LOOK OUT FOR NO. 1
Billionaire Phillip Ruffin’s last duty as someone else’s employee was to repossess a monkey. He quit and founded a chain of stores, and later, hotels and casinos. “The advice I would give to young people? Quit your job. Don’t work for anybody. You really can’t make any money working for someone else.”
The Navy vet slept in an ancient Rolls- Royce on Sunset Strip as he slung shampoo door-to-door before making it big with Paul Mitchell. “I learned sales and marketing from knocking on a hundred doors a day. You quickly discover that you’ll get 99 slammed in your face before you make a sale.”
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