Issue Three // May // Free Download http://www.myspace.com/thefindmagazine
CONTENTS Interviews + Speech + Kero One: Early Believers + DJ Sabzi: Scholarly Pursuits
9 14 28
Reviews + The 10 Important Albums + Spotlight Review: Early Believers + The Eternal Top 10
Articles + + + + + + + + +
We all Love Donuts The Roots Enigma Battle Of The Beats All Eyes on Him Mainstream;a rapperâ€™s main dream? The Word from the Motherland Still Digging in the Crates Hip Hop & Materialism Timeslip: 20 years of...
6 16 18
4 12 17 21 22 24 26 32 34
EDITORIAL Editorial + Danny V. + Jordan Hung + Westgoogle
Writers + + + + + + + + + + +
Andrew Lonczak Danny V. Debo7 Endalllk007 Jordan Hung Nofrillz Optimus Prime Shankar Logarajah Soc4l Steven Logas Westgoogle
Art & Design Mark Makers Studio
+ + + + + +
Dustin d’Arnault Eric Bonhomme Francis Vallejo Oliver Dominguez Orlando Sanchez Tyler Shatz
Featured Artists + + + + + +
JDilla The Roots Tu Pac Sabzi Blu Speech
Three is a Magic Number “That’s the biggest advantage of a magazine; it’s timeless.” While the rest of the class was yawning and being tired of a busy day, I was paying attention to what the teacher had to say. He talked about magazines, the future of the paper medium and the content of them. When I returned home, put on some jazzy music and lay down on the couch to take a quick ‘powernap’, I started to think about The Find and reflected everything I heard on college. Timeless. A word that kept spinning in my head. Why are we, and many other music-magazines, publishing time-based reviews and content that almost no-one wants to read a few months after the release? Time to make a difference. This is our fourth release, and we decided to make a conceptual issue instead of the ‘regular’ collection of reviews, interviews and articles like we did for our previous issues. A magazine should be timeless, so that’s what we’ve tried to do. No time-based reviews, but only some of “timeless” albums. No articles that’ll be boring to read after a month; only about subjects that’ll survive the test of time. Interviews? Of course, but mainly about things that are interesting to read – also in the (near) future. If we succeeded with this concept? You can answer that question yourself after reading this issue. All I want to say, is that I am extremely proud of the result. Thanks to everyone who participated on this issue, welcome to the new writers and a special thanks goes out to Dustin and his team for doing an excellent job on the design! I cannot describe with words how grateful I am for everyone’s effort. And also thanks to you, the reader. Stay thirsty, Danny Chief editor www.myspace.com/thefindmagazine
We all Love Donuts
WE ALL LOVE
We’ve all heard the throbbing drum patterns, the galactic chords, and of course, the exotically chopped vocal samples; but J Dilla’s overwhelming impact on hip-hop music is not only based on the groundbreaking material he left behind. It’s knowing that he could have done so much more if he was just given the chance to live another day. Three years after the producer’s untimely death due to complications from lupus, his legacy is still evident in all aspects of the hip-hop community, big and small. Artists continue to yearn for his unused beats, fans show their support through tribute tees, and classic records such as The Pharcyde’s “Drop” and Common’s “The Light” are treasured by many. In fact, J Dilla’s younger brother, Illa J, a recording artist himself, released his debut album last year titled Yancey Boys, entirely produced by his older brother. Despite J Dilla’s recognition as one of the greatest hip-hop producers of all-time, his mother, Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey, has been struggling to make sense of the dilemmas involving her son’s complicated estate. Ma Dukes has never received any proceeds from J Dilla’s assets and there is still growing controversy regarding the use of her son’s beats today. The many memorial events held in J Dilla’s name also didn’t help her family’s difficult financial situation, including two young granddaughters left behind to support for. J Dilla was first diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease, and TTP, a rare blood disorder which causes blood clots to form in small vessels throughout the body, in January 2002. For over three and a half years, the Detroit-native battled his troubling health issues and continued to craft and perform beautiful music for the millions who listened. It wasn’t until the end of the summer in 2005 when J Dilla’s health quickly deteriorated and he was forced to be hospitalized in Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Slowly but surly, J Dilla was dying. It was here where the influential producer fought the odds and worked tirelessly to complete his first instrumental albu m, Donuts, despite loosing his ability to walk and nearly llustration by: Francis Vallejo
being unable to talk. Ma Dukes refused to leave to her son’s side and as a result, she and her husband lost their home after failing to fly back to Detroit in time to file for bankruptcy. Donuts was released on J Dilla’s 32nd birthday, February 6, 2006, on Stones Throw Records to universal acclaim, a presumed classic. The excitement was short-lived, however, as J Dilla died just three days later. J Dilla’s will called for his estate to be distributed among his mother, two daughters, and brother, but the estate’s executor, Arty Erk, claims that payments weren’t made immediately because of Dilla’s heavy six-figure tax debt. Erk is also facing the problem of rappers who are continually using J Dilla’s unreleased beats without legal permission. Erk and Micheline Levine, J Dilla’s attorney, are trying to settle business negotiations with these artists so Dilla’s estate receives the proper payments it deserves. This predicament is exemplified in rapper Termanology’s recent mixtape, called If Heaven was a Mile Away, which is fully composed of already existing J Dilla beats. Furthermore, a group of entertainers and individuals were notified about their restriction from using J Dilla’s name or likeness for commercial purposes, including Ma Dukes. Ma Dukes, who is now suffering from lupus herself, had hopes of starting a foundation in J Dilla’s name but now plans using her own. She has stopped communicating with Erk and has since hired an attorney. J Dilla’s youngest daughter, Ja’Mya, 7, has recently been receiving payments from her father’s estate after a petition was filed by her mother, Joyleete Hunter. Monica Whitlow, the mother of Dilla’s oldster daughter, Paige, 9, is being represented by Ma Duke’s attorney. Erk hopes that Paige should be receiving payments by the beginning of 2009. While the problems surrounding J Dilla’s estate linger on, the man’s enchanting music becomes more significant as time takes its course. J Dilla was undoubtedly ahead of his time and although his name was relatively unknown to casual hip-hop listeners, his music definitely didn’t go unnoticed. Words By: Jordan Hung Inspired By Kelley Louise Carter, VIBE Magazine
These are ten albums that mean Hip Hop to me. I have consciously omitted unanimous classics such as Illmatic, Ready To Die, Doggystyle, and Paid In Full due to the fact that you don’t want to read the same reviews of the same albums. Also, a list like this would be impossible to agree on, maybe impossible to get one other person to agree with my list, but just keep an open mind and definitely check these albums if you never have.
Ras Kass- Soul On Ice Although his career has been disrupted with label politics and problems with the law, Ras Kass dropped one of the best rap albums ever with Soul On Ice. I, personally, love this album; the vibe, the sound, the lyrics all are what hip hop is about to me. Ras Kass uses his album to drop his thoughts on various topics, such as his view of history on “Nature Of The Threat.” Some songs, such as “Miami Life” and “If Then”, showcase Ras Kass unleashing on point lyricism with a very kick back feeling. Social commentary, one of the original aspects of hip hop from Public Enemy on, is his specialty, although his views are sometimes distorted from reality. Brutal lyricism with a point is the best way to describe this classic.
Big L- Lifestylez Ov Da Poor And Dangerous Not for the easily offended, Big L epitomized lyricism with scathing words over bare-essential beats. Big L perfectly represents the grimy New York sound of the mid 90’s that is, for the most part, missing today. Big L’s rhymes are mostly about his life and experiences growing up in the ghetto. He also presents a song to the youth about avoiding his lifestyle choices on “Street Struck.” Big L was one of the greatest at rhyming words together and created this classic. Unfortunately his life was cut short as he was murdered in New York. This album, to me, is just a perfect representation of hip hop’s “Golden Age.”
Blu & Exile- Below The Heavens To me, this is what hip hop is all about. An MC and a DJ. Exile’s beats perfectly complement Blu’s introspective, brutally honest and humble lyrics to create a bonafied hip hop classic. Exile’s soulful production creates a beautiful “soundscape” for Blu to smoothly lay out his message. Blu’s raw emotion comes through on this album, and he makes it seem very personal. On “The World Is Yours”, Blu explores spirituality in a very humble and honest way. Since it came out, this album gets consistent play from me and is the best album of the 2000’s in my opinion.
Dela- Changes Of Atmosphere Although a recent album, Dela represents my current tastes in “alternative” hip hop with his jazzy productions. Not only does this album have superb beats by the French producer Dela, it contains verses from many great MC’s, including Talib Kweli, Surreal, and the aforementioned Blu. This is the style of hip hop that, to me, is dominating the underground scene at the moment, jazz based hip hop.
ATCQ-Midnight Marauders The pioneers of the “jazzy” hip hop genre, Quest’s third classic album best epitomizes their sound and contains classic track after classic track. When I hear the world classic, this is one of the first albums that come into my mind and it paved the way for albums like Dela’s. Q-Tip is one of the best MC’s ever and his smooth lyrics help make this one of the best albums ever, period..
Twinz - Conversation Growing up in California, I was surrounded by west coast rap and the smooth hood tales of the Twinz always held a special spot in my musical musings. Does it have the same lyrical depth of some of the New York classics? No. But listening to this album puts the listener in a California state of mind, which is where my heart lies. “Round and Round” is just a feel good jam, one of many contained on this album. This represents the fun, party side of hip hop in my opinion. The g-funk beats are smooth and sound good out of any system, which is why this is my album that represents the fun, “good times” side of our hip hop genre.
People Under The Stairs- The Next Step Another west coast album, People Under The Stairs is the most slept on group in LA. They are beat making masters, as evidenced on “San Francisco Knights” and “Mid- City Fiesta.” Although neither Thes One or Double K are the greatest MC’s, they are much more than adequate and do their beats justice. Simply put, this is an album that you will want to listen to again and again. Ahh the addictiveness of good hip hop.
Outkast-Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik There is no denying that the South is a major force in hip hop. Although the South is currently on top of the mainstream, most hip hop heads would say it is with mediocre music. But this is not to say the South doesn’t know how to make good hip hop! From Goodie Mob to Little Brother to Cunninlynguists, the South definitely has it’s fair share of great hip hop, but arguably none better than Outkast. Although their style changes from album to album and they keep the music fresh, this is my personal favorite of theirs. The lyrical prowess of Andre 3000 and Big Boi is still evident, but the beats and content of this album are more “gangsta” than their coming efforts. In my opinion, I don’t care what kind of hip hop you do, as long as you do it well, and Outkast definitely does that on this album, giving the listener a feel of the Dirty South.
Panacea- The Scenic Route Panacea is another example of the current “alternative” hip hop. This album contains beautiful beats that may not have the traditional hip hop sound, but are great none the less. This Washington D.C. duo avoids the normal take on hip hop and creates one of the best albums in recent memory and represents the slightly “different” hip hop to me.
The Pharcyde- Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde This album showcases the fun, care-free style of “classic” hip hop. From songs like “Ya Mama” to “Otha Fish” the Pharcyde accurately capture the fun-loving side of our youth musically. Although they do this, they do not ignore songs with a message. “Passing Me By” is one of the best hip hop songs ever, and tells stories of the various things that have passed them by. These charismatic MC’s give the listener a fun, and bizarre ride to “The Pharcyde”.
These albums define the hip hop genre to me; these albums are what music is all about. From raw lyricism to jazzy beats, hip hop has a broad array of sounds that combine to make this my favorite musical genre. No disrespect to the Midwest, the region no doubt has plenty of classics, they just evaded my mind at the time of me writing this. Words by: Robert Genta
Honorable mention of albums that mean hip hop to me are: Kenn Starr- Starr Status, Black Moon- Enta Da Stage, Murs- Murray’s Revenge , Kam- Neva Again, Little Brother- The Minstrel Show, Incise- Nobody’s Story, Organized Konfusion- Organized Konfusion, Both Pete Rock & CL Smooth albums and anything by 2Pac (while he was alive).
Interview About: Speech We all know Speech as the front man of Arrested Development. But who is Speech? Who’s the person behind the artist? I’m mainly a regular kind of guy that happens to be famous. I really enjoy music, of course, but I also feel a big need to be balanced with more than just music; such as family, spirit, friends, being at home and doing house and yard work, etc It’s no secret that religion is very important to you. But can you tell me something about the way your parents raised you? Did you grow up in a religious family? My parents raised me to be honest, respectful and hard working… especially the hard working part. My mom was more religious than my dad, and my grandmother insisted on me going to the Baptist church in her small town of Ripley, Tennessee. So I was raised within a church environment. How important is religion/spirituality for your music? It has become more and more important as I’ve realized that I can’t honestly separate the two any longer. I used to be against doing “spiritual music” but I believe we are in the last days, and I have a new conviction that people should speak what they believe – especially if it’s about Jesus – so that their beliefs will have an influence on the way popular culture turns and sways. You seem like a very conscious person (for example because of several blogs on your site and bulletins on Myspace). Can you name a subject or several subjects you are really conscious/concerned about nowadays?
Mostly awareness and being in the moment. I learn about various causes that are affecting people NOW. Those issues I tend to become a vocal publicist for. Knowing that everything we do makes a difference, whether seemingly big or small; and whether seemingly right or wrong. We are the change we want to see! You are pretty active when it comes to solo-releases. What’s the biggest difference between making music on your own and making music together with the rest of Arrested Development? To me not too much, it’s just another vehicle to express myself. I figure that I’m only here for about eighty years, I want to share with people my life, in the hopes that something I’ve done will have an affect on others, I’ve seen that become a reality, numerous times now. Whether solo or Arrested Development, for me, it’s all just a vehicle to speak! Do you feel like you have more freedom when you work solo? Sure. There is not as much of an expectation, and history to my solo work. You’re a lot on the road (touring etc.). Is it hard to be constantly travelling and not being home all the time? My life works in modes. I have tour mode, home mode, church mode etc... I co-lead a ministry here in Atlanta called the Greater Atlanta church of Christ. I basically have to “switch channels” depending on what the need is. Fans of Speech will understand this question: If life is a river, which one is you? I’m in a canoe riding the waves. I’m usually in the midst of the battle of life; I’m not too much of a sideline person.
Your site says The Grown Folks Table is ‘primarily your version of hip hop’. Can you describe ‘your version’ of Hip Hop?
About: Arrested Development How was it to be in a group that makes, let’s call it ‘positive hip hop’, in an era of gangsta-rap? We still are to this day! It’s my calling, I believe. My parents raised me in an activist home. I heard and saw the issues that affect blacks in a real way, so it was natural to me to speak out for change and awareness. Even Wikipedia calls Arrested Development ‘an alternative to gangsta-rap’, but how do you personally think about gangsta-rap and artists related to the genre? We really never liked that comparison. We are another perspective of hip hop and black life. I understand the need for free speech in music. And I only get concerned when the balance is lost and people are only fed songs about strip clubs, drug dealing and guns, which is mostly the case NOW in mainstream hip hop, It’s been 12 years between Zingalamaduni and Since The Last Time. LL Cool J would say ‘don’t call it a comeback’, but still people, mainly in the US, think Since The Last Time is a reunion of Arrested Development. Truth is that you came back before to record albums as Heroes of the Harvest and Among the Trees. But why did you guys decide to wait a few more years to globally release an album? Honestly, we had no choice. I would like to say that we waited, but the labels in the U.S. have been resistant to Arrested Development for over 13 years. We had to release this record [Since The Last Time] on my own boutique label…Vagabond. What about the future of Arrested Development? Any plans for new music? Yes, we are sorta working on a new album now. I say sorta because, I am messing with some concepts and the group has yet to hear a lot of them. Yet, the whole group wrote about seven songs just recently in the studio, which of course will also be on any new release we do.
About: The Grown Folks Table What can we expect of your new album? This is my ode to hip hop and lyricism. And what about the title? Do you feel ‘grown up’ in this stage of your life or something? I am grown! And it’s about speaking honestly as a hip hop lover growing up!
I love the days of hip hop when people had something to say, because they knew this music is powerful and effective in changing the world! That’s the school that I’m from. I can’t act like I don’t know my music will reach those in Africa, or Europe, Asia etc. I know I have an influence! What will I do with it? That’s how I approach my music. Compared to your other releases, there are a lot of guests on The Grown Folks Table. Why’s that? I rarely have had the inclination to have a bunch of guest, so this was my ode to that concept of recording. I loved the outcome of it as well. It brought many various influences to my vision!
About: Music Very cliché, but I still wanna hear it from you: how do you think of the state hip hop’s in nowadays? I think it’s horrible! It’s the biggest the genre has ever been as far as popularity and financial potential, And yet hip hops direction and goal is lost to corporations and the corporate mindset. When ever rappers mention Clive Davis, Tommy Motolla, and Jimmy Iovine in their raps, you know we are in a corporate era of this underground “from the streets” music! The whole term “Sstreet” has transformed into a corporate caricature of so – called “urban culture”. And now youth are simply playing or acting a part or role, that they believe they are supposed to play in order to be “cool”. Can you name some artists and/or albums that you dig a lot lately? M.I.A., K’naan, Buck 65, Filastine, K-os, Plan B… to name a few. And how do you think about the effect of Internet and downloading on music? It’s good and bad. Music is cheapened now, it’s a weak time for music. So people basically want it all for free. It lacks value today. No art work, no excitement of going in to a record store and smelling the vinyl, staring at the artwork for hours as you listened. Etc. The experience is cheapened. Do you think Obama, as ‘the first black president’, influences hip hop? YES, Obama has influenced the world to have hope again!
The Roots Enigma
Enigma How can a group heralded so great by so many still have such a dismal record for units sold? How can the group that backed Jay-Z so superbly for his much-celebrated Unplugged session still be operating this far below the radar? How can a group that contains the undoubted musical genius of Ahmir “?uestlove” Thomson and the lyrical swordsmanship of Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, still not be garnering the recognition they deserve? Some say that it’s the fans fault. They say that our vision is too blinkered, that there aren’t enough of us that can really see what they are about, that we spend way too much time worrying about who 50 is gonna diss next. Some say that it’s the labels fault. That time after time, wherever they have landed (Geffen, MCA, Def Jam) they have never had the push to take them into the upper echelons of the hip-hop stratosphere. That being your favourite MC’s favourite group doesn’t count for anything in today’s fickle market. Some say that it’s there own fault, that they are a troublesome bunch of individuals who don’t have much regard for the power brokers of any of the major labels, and that when they do meet, too much tension is brought to the table. Some say that their best chance of the commercial greatness to match the critical acclamation has passed them by. That the changing face of top tier hip-hop means that the music they provide will never be able to live where the Lil Wayne’s, The Games, Jay-Z’s and Kanyes currently reside. They say that even some of the lower leagues and divisions of success may well be beyond them. The body of work issued to date would suggest that all of these obstacles, in theory, should already have been overcome. From the rough diamond genius of Organix and Do You Want More?!!!??!, through the all round greatness of Illadelph Halflife and Things
Fall Apart, to the brooding wizardry of Rising Down, all bases as they say, should have been loaded. Even the supposed weaker releases, never derided, never frowned upon, never shunned in any way, and suffering from what I call, The Quest Effect, were well above the standards of today’s top commercial exponents of the music. The collectives 2 biggest exports, the aforementioned, ?uestlove and Black Thought, are always one of the most sought after in their craft. The notion that Black Thought as long been hailed as one of the best to ever pick up a microphone without ever releasing a solo album, is a feat all by itself. But then you look at ?uestlove’s production credits, that are so long, so numerous, and so well regarded. It makes you wonder why he hasn’t completely broken out on his own a long time ago. But that last statement could hold the key as to why, currently, they are where they are. These guys simply don’t hold mainstream success in as high regard as the music they make. They are obviously a close knit group and both Thought and ?uestlove could have moved on a long time ago for both status and financial reasons. They chose not to is tantamount to the relationships they have as individuals and with the group as a whole. Good, bad or indifferent, you can hear the session type vibe that reeks from every nook & cranny of every release. That is not measured and you cannot manufacture that. It is second nature for these guys to second-guess each other’s next vocal or aural move. Even some of the best known groups of any genre (U2, Coldplay, etc.) have o utside help to fine tune their sound. Not so with the Grand Neguz. That tight knittedness, that unflinching collective approach to do what they believe in, that assurance they obviously have in each others role in the group is probably why they will never get full blown commercial acceptance. But it is precisely why they will be welcomed into hip-hop’s hall of fame as one of the torchbearers of modern music. Words by: Nofrillz
Illustration by: Orlando Sanchez
â€˜I am an early believer.â€™
“There is so much cynicism and pessimism in life, that it’s easy to shoot yourself in the foot before you can start walking. For me, I want to make songs that will inspire myself and other people at the same time,” says Kero One. With his jazzy music he definitely brings positivism and mellowness to the listener. Even on a cold, lonely winter evening you can’t stress out when you hear tracks such as When The Sunshine Comes and Keep Pushin. Although Kero’s well known for his jazz-influenced music, he goes on another route for a handful of songs on Early Believers: “For Keep Pushin, I tried to produce a beat that went into a 125 bpm tempo - and I even rhymed on that track!” For those who are familiar with music production; 125 beats per minute is generally standard for genres like house and electro, not hip-hop. Suddenly, the title of one of his mixtapes, Uptempo’s How We Keep It, made sense: “I just went with the flow and created the album in the moment. However, I did try to take it into a more uptempo direction versus my first album where it was strictly mellow. Since I am influenced by more than just Hip Hop, such as House, Electronic, Bossa and Soul, naturally I wanted
to use these influences on my new album.”
Uptempo, sounds like a risky decision, because lots of people are digging the mellow vibe from his previous album. Kero isn’t worried about that: “I don’t really mind too much about if other people accept my music: I just try to make music that I really enjoy and love to listen to over and over again. The way I usually test my music is by listening to it on my iPod 1,000’s of times and make sure I don’t get sick of it. If I do, then I won’t use it. The results for Early Believers? It is my best work yet! I am really happy with how the album turned out musically, sonically and lyrically.” ‘Musically’ is a term only a few rappers are allowed to use these days, if we have to believe all those “Hiphop is dead”-related statements. But what does Kero One think of this controversial statement? “I was once told by an old soul, that Hip Hop is like every genre
“I just went with the flow and created the album in the moment”
of music; it comes and goes in waves. There’s a high point, then a low point and it repeats. Hip Hop had quite a low point in the late 90’s as some would agree, but I think we are on the way up now. Even for the Bay Area where I’m from, with this whole Hyphy-movement. There´s so much talent in the Bay for Hip Hop and The Tones is a prime example. I think I’m happy with the different Hip Hop coming out of the Bay right now. There is quite a bit of diversity in the sounds and if it all sounded the same it would be boring.”
Next to his musical career, Kero One is also responsible for Plug Label; his independently-owned record label. “The hardest part is competing with major labels who have the huge budget and connections. However, this part has gotten a bit easier for independents as technology and the Internet change [in addition to] the music industry.” As a result of having his own label behind him, Kero One still handles promotion, marketing, finances and other business totally on his own. Is he someone who’d rather not want to lay down precious work in someone else’s hands? “Partly, yes. I’ve always been the type to think that I can handle it myself. For my debut it’s mostly because I had no other choice. For Early Believers I handled most of the work again, but this time received help from others as well, such as publicists and the employees here at our label.” Kero One literally put his soul into his music, with a lot of effort on his own. Maybe that’s the reason his music reaches people from Japan to Korea and from Europe to the US. Still, the fan base is mainly based in Europe and Asia. “I believe most fans are based in Europe and Asia, because people’s lifestyles are different in those parts of the world. Also, some people that don’t necessarily understand all the lyrics can enjoy strong melodies and rhythms. In Japan for example, there quite a few people that embrace jazzy hiphop for those exact reasons. For them it’s very nice to hear – especially after a hard day working.” Words by: Danny & Jordan
“I want to make songs that inspire myself and other people at the same time”
Most lovers of jazzy Hip Hop will know Kero One (rapper/producer/dj/label owner) for his critically acclaimed debut Windmills Of My Soul. It’s been three years since that release, and now he’s back in full effect! You can find his sophomore album Early Believers on the shelves of your local record store or online music retailers. Next to that Kero is also embarking on a worldwide tour. Reasons enough to hook up with him and talk about the windmills of his soul.
Kero One: Early Believers Plug Label - 2009
Hailed for his inventive and original style which combines the likes of jazz and hip-hop into the perfect melodic marriage, MC, DJ, producer, and record label exec Kero One expanded his musical influences to unexpected heights for his long-awaited sophomore album Early Believers. Revamped to include upbeat and lively overtones, the primary essence of soul is still prevalent in Kero’s musical compositions which continue to go beyond hip-hop’s structured boundaries. Common topics regarding relationships and daily struggles are scattered throughout the album as Kero expresses his insightful wisdom through personal experiences and thought. The overall premise of Early Believers is best exemplified in “Love and Happiness,” an uplifting and honest depiction of how Kero strives to live his own life hate-free and encouraging you to do the same. The album’s first single and lead track, “Welcome to the Bay,” is one of its most memorable songs as Kero admiringly reflects on the area where he was born and raised over a synth-heavy, break beat rhythm. Kero is far from the best lyricist you’re going to hear. His wordplay hardly goes below the surface and his flow lacks a distinctive creative edge, but these
technical aspects of MCing virtually go unnoticed due to his clear, genuine, and sincere lyrics that speak directly to his audience. Being a great MC isn’t solely about putting words together that rhyme, a large part of it has to do with connecting to your listeners, and that’s what Kero One does best. Kero’s storytelling and vocal ability shines the brightest on his songs addressing the highs and lows of being in a relationship with a significant other. Tracks like “Let’s Just Be Friends” and “Goodbye Forever” are brought to life with the help from their catchy, soulful hooks credited to Finland’s Tuomo and the U.K.’s Ben Westbeech, respectively. With every Kero One project, you can almost always expect to hear the most refreshing, beautifully composed production work and Early Believers is no exception. The optimistic, energetic mood is steady throughout as the album reinvents itself one track at a time. Kero One is a unique independent hip-hop act who is continuing to pave his own lane while evolving as an artist at the same time. Early Believers smoothly combines the old and the new for one of the best of ’09 thus far.
Words by: Shankar
When I get tired of constantly listening to Kid Cudi’s new track or watching Wale’s new music video, I turn to my old school collection. In this collection I can dive into an oasis of sound that had the passionate voice of the 90’s wrapped inside innovative beats that were the first of their kind. It still amazes me at how innovate Hip Hop was back in the days before all the technology we have today had been incorporated into beat producing. Two of the biggest names producing Hip Hop’s golden age were DJ Premier and Pete Rock. We all remember DJ Premier for his classic duo with Guru in the group called Gangstarr and his wide array of productions on many artists’ records. And we all remember Pete Rock from his timeless collaboration with C.L. Smooth, his solo albums, and his various productions for the likes of Talib Kweli and Raekwon. Which producer is regarded as the better of the two? I am going to try to find that answer today by comparing the creativity of both these legends on their best albums. Let’s start with Pete Rock. Considered one of the founders of jazz rap, Pete Rock came out in the 1990’s as one of the heavy hitters in the game with his unique collaboration with C.L. Smooth. Their best record was arguably Mecca and The Soul Brother. C.L. Smooth’s flow is definitely an earmark on this album, but what brings out his natural flow is Pete Rock’s perfect beat combination. If you listen closely, you’ll notice that Smooth’s voice never really changes as he raps, but his flow seems to fit every song. The answer to this question is the perfect beat. Pete rock is both able to construct a beat to set the mood of the song while setting up a steady support for Smooth’s flow. A perfect example of this is the unforgettable track, “T.R.O.Y. ( They Reminisce Over You). Pete Rock changes the tempo and variation of the beat while incorporating jazz influenced instruments such as the saxophone. This song clearly exemplifies Pete Rock’s mastery of the instrumental. If you closely listen to the album, you will notice that Pete Rock’s beats are much more drum- based to set the rhythm for C.L. Smooth’s flow. Pete rock’s beats are ornamented with instruments from time to time throughout the song and the hook usually consists of an instrument based melody. I do not deny that Pete Rock’s beats are locked into this drum based style. A perfect example of this is the song “The PJ’s” where he created an almost completely instrument based track with a bass accompanying a light snare tune. The majority of his beats though, are predominately drum based.
Next let’s look at DJ Premier’s work when he produced the other half of Gang Starr, has more rhythm in his flow making it compliment a beat. The songs on the album are therefore very instrument based and carry much more melody. The title song, “Moment of Truth”, is entirely directed by melody in the background. This differing style of beats leaves DJ Premier with many more options in terms of beats than Pete Rock. “Above the Clouds” featuring Inspectah Deck is another prime example of this. The instrumental is dominated by the strings instead of the drums which serve as sprinkles on the song. These options also allow DJ Premier to experiment with many styles of beats throughout the album. No beat sounds remotely similar to another. On Mecca and the Soul Brother, every beat sounds related through the heavy drums that dominate the beat. DJ Premier flexes his freedom and beautifully decorates the album with various beats that are better at fitting the mood of a given song. For example, the song “Royalty” utilizes a blend of strings to capture an older sounding beat that is brought to life by the single notes of a piano. The beat doesn’t conform to expectations and sound flamboyant. Instead it is very relaxing and subtle and lets Guru do the explaining which in itself is a feat since it is so easy for a beat to define a song instead of the lyricist. DJ Premier truly makes humble beats because while it sets the mood it also provides Guru the perfect stage to spit at the same time. Many songs nowadays are defined by their beats instead of their flow and the importance of lyrics is deteriorating in modern Hip Hop. Premier hasn’t forgotten the importance of the story and creates the most conducive environment for Guru to do so. I wish I was older when Hip Hop was in its prime in the 1990’s because then I could witness the growth and development of these amazing producers. Pete Rock and DJ Premier definitely set a precedent that is very hard to achieve in the realm of producing. And although both are extremely talented, I would have to say DJ Premier has the edge over Pete Rock. He gains this edge with the utilization of more melody based beats which allow him to experiment with many different styles. Although drums are a core instrument in any song, it is hard to sound different on every track with a drum based beat. Premier has also perfected the humble beat which allows Guru to amaze us with his lyrics. I am not in any way saying Pete Rock doesn’t do this, I am simply saying Premier does it better for the simple reason that melodies can sound more subtle than drums which are very hard to ignore when they are the focus of the instrumental.
Battle of the Beats
Battle of the Beats: Battle Of The Beats: Pete Rock vs. DJ Premier
The Eternal Top 10 Well, well, well, look who’s back at it again. Yes sirs and madams it’s the one and only Optimus Prime at your service once again. This time I’ll be reviewing the top ten timeless tracks of all time, according to my taste and opinion of course, many of which you will hopefully agree with.
The K.G.B. – Binary Star Binary Star has proven to be one of the most influential duos in the world of the underground Hip Hop scene. This track is the extension of just that. K.G.B. brought together several different artists with different styles and flows on one murderous beat. It still surprises me how they don’t get more credit than they already receive. Thank god for Binary Star.
Kick Push – Lupe Fiasco For those of you that know me, you know that Lupe is, hands down, my favorite artist. Lupe Fiasco definitely took story telling to a different level with this one, way past Slick Rick if you ask me. Telling a story of a young kid and his love for skating, Lupe took the art of story telling and added his own chi-town twist to it.
Can’t Knock the Hustle – Jay-Z Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt, his debut album, featured one of the most revered Hip Hop tracks of all time: Cant Knock the Hustle. Jay’s pimp, nonchalant, “I’m a badass,” flow and tone on the track give it a chill, and laid back feel. Jay’s complex flow changed the game forever. Not to mention Mary J. Blige on the chorus. A nice addition to a timeless collection.
N.Y. State of Mind – Nas It’s only natural that this track should be on the list. With Nas being one of the most influential and consistent artists in the game for over 14 years, N.Y. State of Mind turned Hip-Hoppers out to the nitty-gritty of the Hip Hop culture. Who knew this kid from Queens Bridge, New York would be one of the most revered figures in Hip Hop today.
L.A. Song – People Under The Stairs Honestly, out of their hundreds of tracks, this is my favorite from PUTS. Timeless in a word. Remarkable in another. It’s basically a tribute to their home town, and everything they love about it. You can always rely on PUTS to come with the chillest, laid-back, beats and carefree lyrics. Point blank, this is an amazing track.
Super Fly – Giant Panda This track right here were one of the reasons why I’m so involved with Hip Hop today. Super Fly was cooked up by 3 innovative east coast Hip-Hoppers known as Giant Panda. This black, white, and Japanese trio sure knows how to get a club jumping with their electric, old school Hip-Hop style. They’re extremely contagious. Check ‘em out if you already haven’t!
The Shining – Canto I This duo from Vegas are fairly new to the hip hop scene, but I’m sure you’ll be hearing of them soon. The Shining in my opinion is one of their best tracks, good enough to be second on my top 25 most played list with 238 plays on my iTunes (only topped by Kick Push of course, with 380 plays). In my opinion Canto I is the rebirth of Hip-Hop, or rather what hip hop should be. Regardless don’t underestimate ‘em.
I Used To Love H.E.R. – Common The ultimate tribute to Hip-Hop music. Revered by all of Hip Hop as one of the greatest Hip Hop songs ever made; this track brings you through the various stages of Hip Hop, and its influences. Common makes it clear at the end of the song that the woman he has fallen for is Hip Hop. Pretty ingenious if you ask me.
B-Boy – Crown City Rockers Rather than being the ultimate tribute to Hip Hop music, this track is homage to all things that are Hip-Hop; rap, graffiti, breaking, etc. So I think it’s safe to say that this is the ultimate homage to the Hip-Hop culture itself. Crown City Rockers come with their usual jazzy sound, but still keep it Hip Hop. Just the way I like it.
Section – The Roots Apart from being one of the most influential Hip-Hop groups in the history of Hip-Hop, The Roots have come up with several hits over their award winning music spree. This track is without a doubt my favorite out of the hundreds of chart toppers they’ve created. Black Thought spits some crazy word play over this contagious beat. Thank you Roots Crew, thank you for making great music.
Hopefully these ten tracks will remain in the hearts of Hip-Hoppers for ages to come. And with that last inspirational word, I’m out, until next time guys. Keep rockin fresh. Words by: Optimus Prime
Also be sure to look out for: I Gave You Power - Nas, Reality Check - Binary Star, Simply Amazing- Blu & Exlie, Joe Metro - Blue Scholars, Hurt Me Soul - Lupe Fiasco, Represent - Nas, Diggin In The Tapes- Giant Panda, Without Love - Crown City Rockers, Sidewalk Cypher - Canto I, Acid Raindrops - People Under The Stairs, Hard Knock Life - Jay-Z, Exhibit A (Transformations) - Jay Electronica
Before you start with “Y ou’re just a hater!” let me say that I have nothing against Tupac. In fact, I really enjoy a lot of his work, but I just know that he shouldn’t be within breathing room of the greatest of all time (G.O.A.T.) list. If an MC was only graded on his impact, then our list of legends would look something like this: Rakim, LL Cool, Nelly, Tupac, Chuck D., Cam’Ron, Nas, Scarface, E-40, Bone Thugs, Jermaine Dupri, Puff Daddy, etc. Everyone I just named has had their own unique impact on the game. However, I doubt most astute hip-hop fans would even consider that everyone on that list an all-time great. Impact is a large part of an MC’s legacy but it is not the ruling factor of worth. When some people list Tupac as their favorite rapper, I can’t help to ask why. Their response is usually “because he’s Pac.” That is not a valid reason, but Tupac has been skating by this for almost a decade now. There are hardly any rap categories where Tupac would place in the top-20. Take conscious rap for example. Any progress he made down this road should instantly be disregard the moment his thug life movement is taken into consideration. Though it is often said that people misunderstood what Tupac meant when he brainwashed the moniker “thug,” he still had plenty of time to while alive and subsequently left a mess in our communities when he died with his music. So with said *slow clap for the thug movement* we are still feeling the repercussions after nearly 15 years. So what other categories did Tupac attempt to shine in? Gangsta rap. Ignoring the fact that it was a complete contradiction to the other half of his music, he wasn’t even good at it. Especially when compared to the other west coasters of the period, many of which he ran with such as Snoop. He became a gangsta when he became a rapper, so he initially wasn’t even writing about the lifestyle he was living (Ice Cube style). Instead, Tupac was simultaneously perpetrating a way of life that he acknowledged was not good for the community. In every other category that carries weight in hiphop, I can name at least five people better off the top of my head (take my word for it). Storytelling: Will Smith, Scarface, Slick Rick, Nas, Big L, Ghostface
Consciousness: Common, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Phonte, KRS-One Ganster Rap: Ice Cube (NWA work mostly), Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Reakwon, Prodigy Fun Music: People Under the Stairs, Jurassic 5, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Run-DMC, Sean Price The last category is the one you guys knew was comig - lyricism. I will not name five MC’s who are better lyricist than Tupac, because there are more emcees that rank above Tupac in this category. Before you run to lyric sites to try to post his best work, Tupac is not nearly even on the radar in this category. Understand that his best metaphor is outshined in most Dr. Sues books, and his best analogy wouldn’t garner an “A” in most tenth grade English classes. His work is passionate and it’s carried by swagger, not lyricism. I wrote this not in the effort so that you would stop liking Tupac, but more so that you would appreciate him for what he really is and was. It was not Tupac the MC that captivated you, it was Tupac the comeup story which ultimately grabbed your attention and wouldn’t let go. Words by: Debo7
All Eyes on Him
All Eyes on Him
Rappers Gone Wrong
Mainstream; A Rapper’s Main Dream? Words by: Kendall Morgan
“Before you wish that your favorite artists get famous, stop and think. Are they capable of maintaining their skill level as well as appealing to the average listener?”
Illustration by: Oliver Dominguez
Why is it that after artist get commercial success they begin to put out bad albums? It seems that when rappers get that mainstream recognition their skill level begins to decrease. Not to say they are bad artist but it is undoubtedly noticeable that after they achieved fame their albums get worse. I have a theory as to why this happens, allow me to elaborate on this for you all. Lets take Nas and Jay-Z as my first example, their first albums are classics, but it seems as their albums progressed the don’t live up to the classic status of their first effort. What happens is on most artist’s debut albums it is material that they have been working on since they were first introduced into rapping, a lot of these efforts have been in the making way before they even had a deal so in turn their debut has actually been a work in progress for 5 or more years. In turn subsequent albums aren’t on the same level as their first because they were not technically in production as long even if it was to come out 2 years later. Now lets look into another aspect of why this happens, rap ceases to be a hobby and becomes a job. Artist start to rely on music to pay bills and they aren’t just doing it for the love of the art anymore. When artist start off its basically something they are passionate about, they do it simply because they like doing it. When it becomes a profession they have to change what they do so they can adapt to a wider audience because now it is necessary that they sell in order to survive. What happens is they have to market themselves in a different way so they can appeal to the average listener and as a result negatively affects the level of music that is put out. I believe Jay-Z said it best, “I Dumb down my lyrics just to double my dollars, They criticize me for it yet the all yell holla. if skill sold, truth be told, I’d probably be lyrically Talib Kweli.” Some examples of this include Blu, MURS, and Kanye West. Blu falls suspect to my first point, his debut, Below The Heavens, is a debatable classic. It indeed is a work of art, yet his following projects seem to be lacking. With all the time and effort that went into his first album made it the piece of work that it is. His releases that followed are good but no where on the level that his first on because the time frame that was allotted was nowhere near what his first was, compare 22 years to the one year he had between finishing Below the Heavens to completing Powders and Oils. MURS is undoubtedly a great artist, up until his last album he never had a song I disliked. With MURS for President he falls victim to trying to obtain mainstream success, he was heavily promoted on MTV for the release of this album. It seems as though the album he had to reiterate that his music isn’t gangster rap and he does it for the “hipsters” etc. In his previous this isn’t the theme of any song, it seems that all he is doing is trying to justify why he hasn’t had mainstream success to the average listener and trying to make his music accepted with the people who are just following the “hipster” trend. Kanye is an example of both. He first began to rap because he
had a passion for music and loved the art of rap, yet no one wanted to hear his music because he excelled at production and that’s all they wanted to know him for. SO during this time he refined his style, lyrics, and drew from these experiences which eventually resulted in The College Dropout. One of the best songs on that album, Through the Wire, was written after a car crash he was involved in around 2002, the album was released in 2004 so that’s already 2 years for one song. His following release suffered from not having that same time to develop and while a good album was not as great as his first. His following releases suffer from him getting mainstream success and him no making music from the heart anymore but rather to appeal to his fans to maintain his financial situation, he begins to look at it as a job not a hobby anymore.
Before you wish that your favorite artists get famous stop and think, are they capable of maintaining their skill level as well as appealing to the average listener. Or before you criticize a mainstream artist for their dumbed down lyrics realize that this is their job and it is proven that during this time in music to people who are buying albums are either dedicated fans, females or younger hip-pop listeners. Analyze what is really going on with them, you have a choice to separate yourself from the mainstream listener and hopefully if the demographic of real hip-hop fans support artist things will change. Its not that good music isn’t being made anymore its just that good music is harder to find because it isn’t being marketed, there is and abundance of it out there you just have to know where to find it.
The Word from The Mother land
Why have hip-hop artists been so resistant in getting in touch with their roots? It seems absurd. Throughout history, its own people as well as a multitude of foreigners have plundered African. Its kingdoms were ransacked and people enslaved. Everyone stripped it of everything and the only innocents seem to be hip-hop artists. Western music as a whole has arrogated a vast number of elements from Africa, but it seems as though hip-hop has sidestepped it completely. Hip-hop artists should explore the music of the continent from which it came from and implement it in the music they make today. The nature of African music, no matter where it comes from, is prone to be highly emotional. Whether it’s ebullient or forlorn, the music tends to resonate deeply with the listener. The voices are resilient and powerful; highly texturized with a cross-section of moving dynamics. The music deals primarily with the soul, and it is through this that it touches on a variety of themes -- the struggle of urbanization, the angst of rural life, the difficulties of coping with war, the beauty of day to day life and the jubilance of dancing amongst a wide variety of other things -- there’s something in it for everyone. It’s almost insulting to the incredible range and variety of music to condense all the music from Africa under one term. Hip-hop as a whole hasn’t seemed to embrace the music of its roots; which is disappointing to see all things considered. Rap music has been welcomed globally, particularly in Africa -- from Algeria to South Africa, Guinea to Tanzania -- each nation seems to have its own flourishing hip-hop scene. Hip-hop was introduced to Africa in the mid-80’s and has had a prominent presence in its culture ever since. Through the fusion of American styles and maintenance of traditional sensibilities artists tend to develop a product that is by all accounts hip-hop but at the same time sonically African.
Western hip-hop has fully latched on to other genres; jazz, R&B and rock amongst a wide variety of others; African music as a whole has proven to be elusive. If the African sounds could be distilled by hip-hop artists and integrated into the music they make, the product would be both exciting and crisp. Through harnessing it artists could develop a feel that is naturalistic, and maybe eventually it could become a permanent fixture of hip-hop. Hip-hop traveled to the Dark Continent, and it’s about time that the cross pollination fully occurred. Take a look at K’Naan, this Somalian immigrant is one of the first in North America to truly incorporate African music with his debut album, The Dusty Foot Philosopher. By sampling the sounds of his homeland, he created an album that was fresh and varied with an underpinning tone that was earthy and blissful. At the same time he showed what could be done with the music of his cultural roots. He proved that it’s not only possible to fully appropriate African music into hip-hop, but that it can be done effectively as well. It’s about time that hip-hop artists explored the music of Africa, there is a wealth of it; for too long has the genre been disconnected from its true origins. By channeling the sounds of Africa hip-hop could produce something that strikes at the soul more than it ever has. Through the invocation of the richness of the African music hip-hop can push itself to new heights, especially if the artists also adopt the African sensibility of maximizing everything to its fullest potential. Things need to be kept moving, hip-hop risks becoming stagnant if it continues to resist the land where life started. Words by: WestGoogle
Illustration by: Orlando Sanchez
It is no doubt that the digital music revolution has redefined the way we listen to and purchase new music. With the game-changing emergence of blogs and social networking sites such as MySpace at the forefront of music distribution, everybody in the industry is adjusting their ways to fully take advantage of the power of the Internet.
Illustration by: Eric Bonhomme
Article features quotes by Black Milk, AmpLive (Zion I), Jake One, Headnodic (Crown City Rockers) & more.
Rappers are effortlessly recording mixtape after mixtape while “one freestyle a week” promotional stunts have proved to receive considerable hype for a handful of upcoming artists. Instead of driving to their local record stores for the latest releases, consumers are now eagerly sitting behind their computers, impatiently waiting for an artist’s worst nightmare – the leak. Despite the Internet’s groundbreaking effect on the music industry, one aspect has only changed for the better – the growing impact of vinyl records. In a generation dominated by the consumption of iPods and other portable media players, vinyl records have unquestionably stood the test of time and continue to serve as a widely popular way to listen to music today. “My vinyl has always sat in my room with me,” said Crown City Rockers member Headnodic. “With vinyl, you can’t say ‘I’ll just keep track two, five, and eight’ like you can with MP3s. Vinyl’s permanent.” Vinyl records, sound recordings made from a circular disc with a continuous spiral groove, are still mass-produced by record labels for their most up-to-date releases, where as vinyl’s predecessors, such as eight-tracks and cassette tapes, have been long discontinued. Many collectors direct vinyl’s long-lasting appeal to its exceptional sound quality, which is unparallel compared to CDs and digital files. This is due to the fact that vinyl’s analog recordings are literally engraved into the source, allowing no sound to be lost, while digital recordings are compressed and condensed at various levels. “You can’t get the same kind of warmth and quality with CDs that you would with vinyl”, observes Detroit-based producer Black Milk. “It is just a different type of feeling. I’m personally happy that people are still buying vinyl. I’m going to continue to buy vinyl until the day I die.” Although the prices of newly sealed vinyl records tend to range from $20-$30 U.S. dollars, there is still something more to a vinyl’s purchase that can never be bought with a standard $9.99 album on iTunes. The large, blown-up covers that accompany the black discs are a favoring addition among crate diggers who are endlessly looking for something to catch their eye. Sometimes vinyl records are even framed as prized works of art. Producer Jake One: “There’s something special about having vinyl. The artwork is much bigger and it feels more of like a collectible. I’ve always been into collecting LP’s more so
-lectible. I’ve always been into collecting LP’s more so than (7-inch records) because of an album’s artwork more than anything.” The timeless relationship between vinyl and hip-hop culture dates back to rap’s earliest beginnings in the 1970s when local DJs spun funky break beats for block party goers across the Bronx. In retrospect, the DJ single-handily shaped and molded the blueprint for a genre of music that eventually evolved into an international billion dollar business, where the phrase “two turntables and a mic” lives on as hip-hop’s truest depiction. Last year, a total of 1.88 million vinyl albums were sold in the U.S. alone, accounting for a record-breaking 89 percent increase in sales compared to 2007, according to Nielsen SoundScan. In addition, more than two out of three vinyl albums were purchased at an independent record store. These statistics don’t include the purchase of 12-inch singles or discounted previously owned vinyl records, which both play major roles in a crate digger’s quest for the perfect beat. Vinyl records are considered ideal for sampling because of their organic sound quality and distinctive depth. Additionally, a lot of out-of-print, classic recordings can only be found in record shops that sell used, second-hand records. Headnodic: “I am a crate digger. I do it because I need breaks, grooves, and sounds to make beats. I get a rush from searching for fresh material. It’s so much more fun knowing that you are the only one in the world who has found this loop and no one has used it yet.” Vinyl’s authentic characteristics also make it a staple among the DJ community, where the label “true DJ” is often credited to those who are devoted to the use of vinyl records. From mobile and club DJs to turntablists and amateur bedroom DJs, vinyl still remains a weapon-of-choice for rocking any type of crowd. “Using vinyl is so much more hands-on,” said Jonathan Lewis, a mobile DJ from Wales, United Kingdom. “By messing about and touching the vinyl, you almost feel like you are being a part of the music.” Lewis is better known as DJ Tutor under the username “ellaskins” on the popular video-sharing website YouTube.com. From the comfort of his own home, Lewis started uploading informative, step-by-step tutorials on the art form of DJ’ing in October 2006 for upcoming disc jockeys seeking for advice. Since then, Lewis’ audience has rapidly grown to include DJ’s from all levels, totaling over 27,000 subscribers with 2,000-plus uploaded videos and counting. DJ’s who solely use vinyl records for their craft are becoming more of an increasing minority due to the invention of digital mixing software such as Serato Scratch Live, which allow DJs to play their entire music collection stored on their computers via turntables. This is looked at as the perfect solution for vinyl junkies who want to move into the digital world without leaving the feel of vinyl behind. “I don’t have a problem with technology, I have a problem
with the laziness in the people who use it,” criticizes Serato-user AmpLive, one half of the acclaimed MCproducer duo Zion I. “A tight DJ has a good selection of songs, knows how to rock a party, and knows how to mix and blend. Nowadays, you can bring an iPod to a club (and it’ll be acceptable). It sucks!” Programs like Serato eliminate the hassle of having to transport a limited number of records from venue to venue. However, besides the lost of vinyl’s incomparable sound quality, digital mixing is also more prone to the technical errors of computers, which can crash or freeze. Lewis: “If you purchase a download and use it from your hard drive, your hard drive can stop working and you are left with nothing. At least with vinyl, you are able to record a song onto your computer and even burn it to a CD while still having the original piece of music.” Some say digital mixing takes away the intimacy of crate digging, where diggers can sometimes spend up to hours searching for a particular record and then are forced to keep it in flawless condition. Many DJs who resort to Serato can simply obtain virtually any song they wish in a matter of minutes with just a click of a mouse. Jake One: “Serato is great for traveling more than anything, and it’s nice not to have to burn out your records. But it takes the importance away from the guys who actually collect records. Serato DJs get to skip all the hard work it takes to crate dig.” The future of vinyl records looks as bright as ever before as the younger generation of music enthusiasts continue to be intrigued by history’s pre-iPod era. In today’s state of the music industry where CD sales are plummeting at alarming rates and record labels are going down under, vinyl seems to be the only characteristic of the past that is left to counter the Internet’s innovative takeover. “I think people will be collecting classic records forever,” maintains Headnodic. “CD-stores will be a thing of the past, but book and vinyl stores will partner up with other antiques vendors and people will continue to collect. And the masses will continue to wonder what those funny little black discs are.” Words by: Jordan Hung
of Blue Scholars/ Common Market
Have you ever thought about creating an instrumental album under your own name? I have absolutely thought about doing a solo record, or at least simply putting out more instrumentals that people can just bump in the ride. I might just start making them available for download and not even limit them to only being on a record. Will MassLine stay indie, or are you looking to move major? Massline is a brand more than anything else. It’s an identity that serves as a base for a handful of records, as well as events and community efforts. As each of us develop as individual artists, we may find that we might want to do more in addition to all things “massline” related. If that means being on a major, starting another label, giving up music and making movies instead… whatever, then so be it. This question is really cliched, and I’m sorry but how do you feel about downloading music? I think it’s great. The more the music gets out there, the better. At this point it’s really up to the listener if they want to pay for music or not. Either way, as long as the music is out there, bootlegged or bought, I’m for it.
irst of all, thanks for taking the time to do this. It’s really appreciated! So, let’s pretend I had no idea who you were. Introduce yourself, if you don’t mind. My name is Saba. People also know me as Sabzi. DJ/Producer; one half of Blue Scholars, and one half of Common Market.
The Sylvers song used for “Loyalty” was also used in Foreign Exchange’s “All That You Are” a couple years prior. I love when people flip the same sample, others hate it - but did you know that the sample had been used, or did you only find out afterwards? Good question! I had that Foreign Exchange album when it came out and best believe I bumped it hard. As for loyalty, honestly I don’t think I was conscious of it at the time I made the beat like “Oh this is the sylvers joint that FE used. Cool, I’m gonna do it to.” It was more like “Hey, that’s an ill sample, sounds familiar”, and then later on I hear the FE joint again and I’m like “Oh duh, that’s where it was from”. I think Nicolay’s version is dope, definitely chopped it up more. It’s cool when two beatmakers flip the same sample but usually only when one does it different than how it was done before. If somebody uses the same sample the same way in which it was used before, then that’s more on the lame side. How long does it take you to craft a beat? 1 to 6 hours I guess, depending on what’s going into it. One hour for a beat, six for a real “song.” And then of course there’s minor tweaking and stuff that happens later after further listening. The piano solo at the end of “Tobacco Road” really ties everything on the great album together. Will you be doing things like that more often? Absoluuuuutely!
Outside of Blue Scholars / Common Market, who would you most like to craft a beat for? Anybody who makes really good music. Do you see yourself eventually working with other people, apart from Geologic and RA Scion? Of course. I already have some projects in the works. How do you go about finding and utilizing samples? That’s like asking a skateboarder how they skate. I don’t know... I just do it? Haha. I take whatever sounds dope and try to make a song out of it. Really simple.
“I have absolutely thought about doing a solo record.”
I’ve noticed your brother Zia does plenty of video work with you guys. Is your whole family as creative as you two? I don’t know. Time will tell. I’m real hyped to see what kind of projects Zia finishes this year. He’s got a few big things in the works… way bigger than Blue Scholars videos haha!
“I’m really enjoying this music/entrepreneur lifestyle.”
What’s your favorite song? Of all time or that we’ve made? I can’t really answer the “of all time” angle; too many songs to list. As for what I’ve had the opportunity to work on, I think Loyalty, Bayani, Tobacco Road, and a couple other joints usually are battling for the number 1-spot. Will you be doing more impromptu songs similar to “Coffee and Snow” and RA’s sequel? That seemed like a lot of fun, and I know I enjoyed it. 100 percent: absolutely yes! This is the future of music. In music, what is your ultimate goal? For you personally, what would you have to accomplish for you to sit back and say “This is the pinnacle.”? Honestly man, I feel like I’ve learned that if I try to decide what the pinnacle of success is for me now, then I’ll only be limiting myself to just that. Regardless of your career, who you are or what you do, you never know what life has in store for you. It might be something far greater than the best thing you could have imagined for yourself. I love music and I’m really enjoying this music/entrepreneur lifestyle. My plan is to just enjoy it more every day. All I can tell you is that the pinnacle has yet to be reached.
If someone picks up an album that you were involved with in some way (production, etc), what would you say to make sure they bought it? Ha, I don’t know. How about “I like it, maybe you will too.” Do you think you have musical limits? Sure I do. I just try not to think about those, haha! Do you want to be a musical legend? Lol. John Legend is a musical Legend. Thanks for stopping by! We really appreciates your time! Best of luck to you and your team, any last words? Maybe any future projects you’d like to announce? Just stay posted to bluescholars.com and you’ll hear about anything interesting we got goin’ on! Thank you for the interview. Words by: Andrew Lonczak
“This is the future of music.”
Hip Hop C-Walk Media www.cwalkmedia.com Flawless Hustle www.flawlesshustle.com East Of L.A. www.eastofla.com Jamkai www.jamkai.net Hip Hop Head www.hhhead.com
Ali Baba Abnormal www.myspace.com/aliabnormal
Jazz Hop www.last.fm/group/Jazz+Hop
O Tunel Magazine www.myspace.com/otunel
Stencil Revolution www.stencilrevolution.com
Raw Rap www.rawrap.net
Can’t Stop Fanatics www.cantstopfanatics.blogspot.com
Magazyn Hip Hop www.myspace.com/magazynhiphop
The Trolley Stop www.thetrolleystop.blogspot.com
Hip Hop In Je Smoel www.hiphopinjesmoel.com
The Urban Block www.theurbanblock.com Webqualité www.webqualite.net
Chewing Pine http://www.chewingpine.com/
The Find Magazine www.myspace.com/thefindmagazine
We Yo!wzers www.weyowzers.com
The Find Online www.issuu.com/the_find_magazine
Royal Flush www.royalflush.com
Hip Hop Leeft www.hiphopleeft.nl
Vitamine E Radio www.myspace.com/vitamineradio
Weather Underground SF www.myspace.com/weatherundergroundSF
Musical Essence www.musicalessence.wordpress.com Acapella Archives www.acapellarchives.blogspot.com
Art Dustin d’Arnault www.dustindarnault.com
Geary Day www.gearyday.blogspot.com
Kyler Dannels http://www.kylerdannels.com
Eric Bonhomme www.liquidstone.blogspot.com
Jihad Laham www.jihadlahham.com
Jared Moraitis http://www.pop-monkey.blogspot.com
Francis Vallejo www.francisvallejo.com
Denis Brown www.bagger43.com
Limbert Fabian http://limbertfabian.com
Oliver Dominguez www.oliverdominguez.com
Jared Fiorino www.jaredfiorino.blogspot.com
Danny Delpurgatorio http://delpurgatorio.com
Orlando Sanchez www.sanchezart.blogspot.com
Olumuyiwa Ajagbe www.art-oja.blogspot.com
Justin Harder http://juiceharder.com
Tyler Shatz www.tylerschatz.blogspot.com
Celeste Argueta www.celesteargueta.com
Sarah Caterisano http://cateris.blogspot.com
Doodles & Shit www.doodlefukshit.blogspot.com
Adam Volker www.adamvolker.com
Sarah Watts http://wattsalot.com
Some more art sites...
Ashley Buerkett www.ashleybuerkett.com
Nader Hussani http://hellonader.blogspot.com
Erin Mcguire http://emcguire.net
Yashar Kassi http://yksketch.blogspot.com
Andrew Wright www.andrewrwright.com Robyn Hyzy www.robynhyzy.com
Niki Lopez http://niklopez.blogspot.com
Want to be in this list in our next issue? Did we forget you? Want to collaborate? Contact us! firstname.lastname@example.org
Hip Hop & Materialism
Hip Hop & Materialism Classics & The Problem with Modern Hip Hop The Chronic, Illmatic, Paid In Full, In God We Trust, Straight Outta Compton, The Low End Theory, Aquemini/ATLiens, BE, Me Against The World, Amerikkkas Most Wanted, Ready To Die... I could probably fill half of this page with albums that we, the hip hop community consider to be of an everlasting nature. But what constitutes classic status? After all if you’re going to give an album such an accolade you’re then going to have to put it up against all other genres. The quality of albums such as Marvin’s What’s Going On, Bob Marley’s Exodus or The Beatle’s Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band cannot be put into words. Can any of our classics really hold their own against such titles or have we been seeing things through rose tinted glasses. Such a question was inadvertently ‘answered’ on UK television by Channel 4. They screened a top 100 albums list and De La Soul, Public Enemy, Eminem (The Marshall Mathers LP) and Outkast all made the cut. However all were in the lower 50, Outkast got in with Speakerboxxx/ The Love Below and the most glaring classics never got a look in (see start of write up). It is said that hip hop is a movement, therefore any album that makes the list has to help to take the movement in a new direction. The latter two on that list –as good as they are- did not come anywhere close to doing that. But for the success of Stan (and rightly so) i’m not sure that Em would have made it and as good as Speaker/Love is, we all know Outkast has pushed better product. Blips such as these only serve to highlight the need to have hip hop represented by those who count its long-term interests at heart. The problem now is that such blips are commonplace. Too many cooks adding too may ingredients and spoiling the broth. Too many disillusioned youngsters chasing that 6 (or even 7) figure advance, little realising that it’s a loan that they are fully expected to repay. I should not be going to my nearest CD exchange shop/store and be seeing repeat copies of the albums listed above, on the shelf, while a single copy of some of Hip Hops more recent –and not so deserving- alumni’s is nowhere to be found. I should not have a new, top of the range sound system that has an unused tuner because radio stations that used to be my favourites now play the same 20–30 songs in varying order. If you were to use today’s current mish mash of various radio and download charts as a guide, is the throwaway culture we are now surrounded by the
various radio and download charts as a guide, is the throwaway culture we are now surrounded by the future of Hip Hop? Are we to deduce that the age of the classic is dead? According to Nas it is, but his wasn’t a blanket statement. He still listens to music, but the Hip Hop he always thought would be at the forefront of the culture is now lagging behind. The ‘culture’ as a mainstream draw no longer exists and the kind of money that’s involved with a hit record means that it is never likely to return. Radio execs/DJ’s that used to play what was good and thus made stars of those that deserved it, are now so indebted to payola for their current lifestyle that giving any amount of that up is tantamount to madness. MC’s that used to push the envelope, both visually and conceptually, are now content with pulling cheap stunts to keep themselves basking in the spotlight and banking in their wallet. MC’s that used to portray themselves as the OG from the street, are now redefining themselves as the king of the clubs. MC’s that used to scare their rivals with their lyrical combinations, are now happy to regurgitate one inane hook after another and call it a 16 bar verse. MC’s that should be carrying the torch for us are not able to get a look in because they don’t fit the corporate image of what is needed in their latest protégé/puppet to bankroll the mansions and ski trips. But still, commercially hip hop, has never been in a stronger position. With more and more artists utilizing the digital revolution, the spin offs available are almost endless. Ringtones, digital extras, advertising, merchandising possibilities are at an all time high. But all these new avenues are opening at our expense. ‘Hip Hop’ is slowly being replaced by ‘Rap’ and what took it to the forefront in the first place is being forgotten. Remembering where they came from and staying humble is all well and good. But unless they carry that feeling through to the culture as a whole, what good is it for the future the main provider of their wealth. So taking all these elements onto consideration, how likely are we to see a classic album that is also making major moves on radio and in the charts? That depends on us. I just scared that there aren’t enough of US left to make a difference. Time will tell. Words by: Nofrillz Illustration by: Oliver Dominguez
TIME SLIP 20 years of body rocking, head nodding & jazz loving
I’d like to take you two decades back in time, to the year 1989. The year Hip Hop took its first steps towards the Golden Era. This is Hip Hop from 1989-2009 according to The Find. From classics to slept-on albums and from recommendations to revolutionary releases.
1989: Paul’s Boutique ’89 is the year of the most genuis work of MCA, Mike D and King Adrock; better known as the Beastie Boys. Lots of people in my environment name Licensed to Ill, Hello Nasty and Ill Communication if we talk about the NYC Crew. But let’s not forget Paul’s Boutique; in my opinion the best album of the legendary crew. Oh, and De La’s 3 Feet High and Rising needs a honourable mention.
1991: Breakin’ Atoms with the Low End Theory The year of Breakin’ Atoms and The Low End Theory. I think I don’t have to tell you who made the albums. Yes, indeed, Main Source and A Tribe Called Quest. Two classic albums that I , after 18 years, still bump a lot.
1993: Jazz (They’ve got) Thanks Guru! That’s all I have to say. I don’t know where we, as Jazz Hop-fans, would be without his Jazzmatazz. In my opinion, Jazz and Hip Hop is the best musical combination ever, so I don’t have to explain why Guru’s Jazzmatazz is a classic concept.
1990: ‘My life got flipped-turned upside down’ We just have to mention the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Maybe not important for Hip Hop in general, but it is instant classic. If you never saw this show (doesn’t matter how old you are), then you really need to get educated. Props to Shad for his video of ‘The Old Prince Still Lives At Home’; please search it on youtube and you’ll understand why I mention it.
1992: Brand New & Heavy 17 years after date I am still waiting on a second volume. But we still have to do it with Volume 1 of Heavy Rhyme Experience by the Brand New Heavies. A beautiful crossover between Funk and Hip Hop. The Brand New Heavies hooked up with artists like Kool G Rap, Masta Ace, The Pharcyde, Main Source and Gangstarr, which results in another classic album.
1994: The roof is on fire Way to obvious to name Illmatic. Yeah, it’s a classic, but I don’t have to tell you that. So let’s talk about a lesser known album; Rooftop Soundcheck by Justice System. Justice System is a live-band with two MC’s that makes Funk/Jazz-orientated music. Rooftop Soundcheck is the first album ever that only has live music and live instruments; no loops, no samples, no drum machines; just music. I agree with Prince Ali.. I miss 1994..
1995: The center of attention Another great album, but still kind of slept on at the same time. I.N.I. is a group consisting of Grap Luva (Pete Rock’s little brother), Rob-O and producer Marco Polo. Pete Rock was also involved in this project, as the producer for this album. Personally I slept on this album, but after a lot of recommendations I decided to check it out and I don’t regret! Their album Center Of Attention is the most bootlegged album ever and it’s never released officially. Maybe that’s the reason why lots of people look over it.
1997: Oversaw overcast Ant and Slug. A duo now better known as Atmosphere. They brought us the top 10-album When Life Gives You Lemons, Paint That Shit Gold, but way back Atmosphere was a group consisting of three members: Slug, Spawn and Ant. Back then it was darker with less lyrics about girls and love. ‘Raw’ can be used to describe their album Overcast. Definitely a recommendation – an album a lot of people forget about if they talk about Atmosphere.
1999: Poets Lounge And now I want to talk about an amazing album that not a lot of people know about. The album I own is Jazz Poets Society – Poets Lounge: The Show. It’s a recording of a live-show of them, which is great. I mean, won’t get any better than a Jazz-meets-Hip Hop live-show performed by a few MC’s and a live-band. You might know their single Aboriginals, but I doubt the fact that many readers will know this album – or this group. Check it out, it’s definitely worth it. Similiar to Arrested Development, Othello & The Hipknotics, Ill Again and Jazz Liberatorz.
2001: Typical cats I’d like to recommend you an album: The self-titled release of Typical Cats. It’s not a classic or something, but definitely an album you have to hear. When I heard the track Thin Red Line, I immediately searched for the album and found this 2001-release. Unfortunately the album isn’t thát jazzy overall, but I like. The crew from Chicago brings you honest hip hop with dope rhymes and solid productions with Qwel as captain on the ship. For the gamers among us: you might know their song Any Day from the soundtrack of Tony Hawk’s Project 8.
1996: Blah, Blah, Blah… I discussed it with someone; slept on or not? I don’t know, but it’s pretty great! Old school Hip Hop to nod your head to. Personally, I prefer jazzy and laidback stuff, but once in a while I can’t get enough of bangers like this. With highlights as Danger (part 1 ánd part 2, but I prefer part 2), Good Cop Bad Cop and, Pain I feel and Don’t Let This Rap Shit Fool You make this a very solid album. Too bad they only released one album; a new 2009 album would definitely enlight the scene when it comes to ‘hard hip hop’. 1998: Skilled in the field Another revolution for the Jazz-Hip Hop crossover. The Sound Providers are producers J. Skills, Soulo and lyricist Profile (who left the group before they got signed). You might know Profile of a project called The Upstarts, who released the album The Know How in 2007. Back to the subject; the SP never released a lot of albums, but all their material is timeless and classic in my eyes. The Field, Dope Transmission, Yes Y’all, Who Am I? and Autumn Breeze all belong to the collection of their best tracks.
2000: Back to the future The new millenium was the perfect time for Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, Dan The Automator and Kid Koala to release an album of the project Deltron 3030. A futuristic album that is way ahead of its time, no doubt about that. It also fits the theme of this magazine perfectly – timeless. Now we have to wait for Deltron’s Event II, which is announced to drop somewhere in the near future.
2002: Beat Camp Tactics We talked a lot about the fusion of Hip Hop and Jazz, but let’s not forget the stunning combination of Funk and Hip Hop. MacGregor released their album Beat Camp Tactics in 2002, which is the perfect combination of Funk and Hip Hop to me. Wax on the mic, with a 5-headed band behind him. With groups as The Roots and Brand New Heavies on top if it comes to live-played Hip Hop, MacGregor still succeeded in creating a solid album. Who think Hip Hop is strictly MC’ing armed with a turntable is wrong; you can’t hate on the combination of a band and a MC. MacGregor proves that.
2003: Cradle 2 Cradle This is the year the French Turntablism-team started their Award Tour. They won the DMC World Team Championship and secured the title the three years right after that. Pfel, Atom, Greem and 20syl (last two are also known as members of Hocus Pocus) introduced them to the world and they’re moving uphill since then. They haven’t released an official album, but according to their Myspace it will drop in 2010. Until that time you can enjoy their infamous video’s on Youtube, their side-projects Drum Brothers, Beat Torrent and Hocus Pocus or keep your eyes open for some bootlegs that are flying around on the internet.
2005: The Find 2005 is the year of Ohmega Watts’ solo-effort The Find. The album of Ohmega Watts (member of Lightheaded) defines what Hip Hop should be in our eyes. Cuts and breaks, samples, funkjazz- and soul-orientated, a positive vibe, honest lyrics and overall amazing productions. Classic? Maybe a little bit extreme to put it in the same spot as other classics from the Golden Era, but I dare to say that it’s a classic to me. I love these post-2000 albums that bring you back to the Nineties. And yes, this album was a source of inspiration for the title of our magazine.
2007 & 2008: Japan The land of the rising sun definitely rose to the top if it comes to Jazzy Hip Hop. It’s ridiculous how much great releases dropped those two years; From jazz-orientated Hip Hop to jazzy instrumentals à la ‘Godfather Nujabes’. Don’t believe me? Write this list down on a piece of paper and go to your local recordstore: Shin-Ski, DJ Fuyima, Uyama Hiroto, Shingo Suzuki, Tha Connection, Michita, DJ Igacorosas, Kenmochi Hidefumi, Volta Masters and the list goes on and on. Incredible, that’s all I have to say.
2004: Connected Connected proves the fact that you don’t need studio-time together to create a solid album. Rapper Phonte (Little Brother) and Dutch producer Nicolay hooked up on the net to make an album together – without even meeting eachother! Critics were very positive about this project and so are the fans: you never hear a lot of negative responds towards this album. Definitely a great collaboration that’s worth a mention in 20 years of Hip Hop according to The Find – especially because we’re talking about timeless music. You can read a review of their sophomore album Leave It All Behind in Issue Two of our magazine.
2006: Common Market For those of us who couldn’t wait for the new Blue Scholars album, it was a big surprise to see a new project of producer Sabzi. Common Market is him on the productions and RA Scion on vocals. RA Scion was a newcomer for me, but definitely a talented MC. It’s almost impossible to like Blue Scholars and to dislike Common Market, because both ‘groups’ share the same vibe. The self-titled album is great; from the opening Re-Fresh, to Connect For, Every Last One and G’Dang Diggy; the album counts way more bangers than mediocre tracks. Lots of fans discuss about who’s better – Geologic or RA Scion. I’m not gonna answer that questions, because it’s simpy to hard to pick one of them. Read the interview with producer Sabzi in this issue for more information!
2009: Coming up… No doubt that 2009 will shine. Kyteman, the new Kero One, new Lightheaded, Pax & Pry, maybe even The Pharcyde reunion-album and of course the new Brother Ali. And that’s just a very small selection of what 2009 has to offer. The Find Magazine will keep you posted about the best releases, most genuis artists and music you should check out, even if it’s unknown to the big audience. Words by: Danny V.
Illustration by: Tyler Shatz
Interviews: Kero one: 'I am an early believer', Speech (Arrested Development): 'We are the change we want to see', Sabzi (Blue Scholars/Comm...