Sunday, November 17, 2013

NBA/Rapper Comparison: Underground Edition

Basketball season is upon us already and since i don't want to do a team by team breakdown because i do not care how teams like the Milwaukee Bucks will do this year especially since they let the second best shooting guard, Monta Ellis, go. He said that with a straight face and that is why i love monta ellis. So my preview isn't going to look at the best players at every position like i did with baseball or with football because honestly for basketball it goes Lebron, Durant, Kobe when healthy, and everyone else. So i'm going to be boring and do yet another installment of my athlete-rapper comparison series. I did one for baseball and one for basketball previously and if you will be so kind and help me get some extra page views, don't hesitate to check them out. I can't believe there is still all these rappers and athletes who have yet to be mentioned yet in the series. Next year i'm probably going to end up being down to U-God and Marcus Camby. This time i'm adding a little twist to it. I'm going with an underground edition so you''re going to see people listed that you may not know if you're a casual fan of either hip-hop or the NBA. The point is not for me to be snobby and trying to show off any special knowledge because i don't have any but it is more of a way to get you guys to check out either the music of the artists or start following the players because i like all these guys i'm about to list with the exception of a small number. By the way, i know the season already started but if you want a team by team preview, go watch Bill and Jalen's NBA preview. Highly informative and equally entertaining. GIVE THE PEEEEEOOOOOOPPPPPPLLLLEEEEEEEE WHAT THEY WANT.

I thought Fat Trel had been signed to MMG for a while now but i guess it was just made official on November 6th. Anyways if you never heard Fat Trel, you most likely have heard of Chief Keef. If you have never heard of Chief Keef you don't listen to rap at all but that's cool because i don't discriminate. Fat Trel is like a good version of Chief Keef to put it simply.  Fat Trel glorifies violence. When people talk about what is wrong with hip hop, they will point to someone like Fat Trel. If Fat Trel had more notoriety, which he definitely will now that he is signed to MMG, then he would be up there with Chief Keef as the poster boys for what is wrong with rap nowadays. He talks his shit but he is good at it. Is there a large guy in the NBA who loves talking shit, is constantly chastised as the poster child for what's wrong with today's young players, but at the same time is damn good at what he does? Yup, and that man is Boogie don't call him demarcus Cousins. Like Fat Trel striking gold by signing to MMG, Boogie got himself a nice 4 year $62 million deal to stay in Sacramento. His game is very nice for a young player but he still does stupid young player mistakes like take his 7 foot 270 pound body away from the basket and shoot jumpers. He has a good post game, idk why the coaches don't just plant him there and let Boogie go to work. Then again that was last year, and seeing as i haven't watched a Kings game yet, i'm going to assume Mark Malone
utilizes Boogie's talents better than his other coaches have. Shout out to these guys too for having great names. Fat is a nice alternative to all the Lils and Youngs. And Boogie is right up there with Boobie in terms of fool proof nicknames.

I know it seems weird to put up Kevin Love and his floor general Ricky Rubio on this list because they're not necessarily thought of as underrated per say but i rarely ever hear them in the conversation when it comes to top duos in the NBA. They have yet to play one full year together so we don not know yet what they can unleash onto other teams. Ricky's lockout shortened 2011 season was cut short by an ACL tear and Kevin Love was plagued by injuries all of 2012. They better get something going in the right direction too because Love has stated that he is getting frustrated with all the losing and would want to leave Minnesota if the team does not progress into the right direction soon. He would look good in a Warriors uniform, just saying. With Rubio's passing ability they already are one of the more lethal pick and roll duos in the league and if Rubio can improve his scoring ability that would make the duo even more lethal because they can do the reverse pick and roll with Love handling the ball. With all the potential these two have, i guess you can say they have Underachieved. With that terrible segue, let's talk about the duo from Flatbush who seemingly exploded out of nowhere within the past year. The Underachievers (consisting of Issa and AK) signed with Flying Lotus' label Brainfeeder so hopefully they can collab with Azizi Gibson. At the beginning of this year they dropped a very good mixtape in my opinion with Indigoism and started this Beast Coast Movement with Pro Era and Flatbush Zombies. The Underachievers and Flatbush especially are pushing psychedelic rap and have injected life into a stagnate rap scene in 2013. It's an unconventional style kind of like how the Timberwolves went unconventional with the all white starting 5 but that didn't end up too well for them. My concern with UA is that because of their seemingly narrow range of subject matter is that it may get old and obsolete within a few years, maybe even less. I'm rooting for them though. Case in point, their second tape, The Lords Of Flatbush, did not do it for me. With Lex Luger on the beats, the tape was full of bangers but it didn't have the same effect for me as Indigoism did. In their defense i believe the two said they were trying to just make a tape full of bangers which is cool but we need that Indigo shit back. I'm hoping the Underachievers don't underachieve in the future and keep making them hits. Although i can see them breaking off and doing their own thing a la Kevin Love leaving Minnesota.

Now we're getting to a couple of vets who aren't quite yet OG's in the game but have been on their grind for a while. Yung Nipsino has been on his music grind since the mid 2000s and gained recent notoriety for his proud to pay campaign where he charged fan $100 for a mixtape full of throwaways. Again i don't understand who would buy it but he apparently sold all the copies so props to Nipsey and his fans. He's a smart individual and won't take any deals if it's going to cut him short. Staying independent is the reason Nipsey has flown under the radar for mainstream fans but anyone who listens to hip hop beyond the radio has at least heard his name. With his gangbangin past he is also someone you wouldn't want to get into a confrontation with. Speaking of people you don't want to get into a physical confrontation with, David West sits near the top of that list. Obviously he is a huge dude but he makes other NBA players look small. His muscles have muscles. David West too, like Nipsey Hussle has been underrated for far too long but if you watch basketball, you know David West would be a welcome addition to any team. I had no idea he actually won AP Player of the year for college basketball back in 2003, but i digress. He was stuck in irrelevancy with New Orleans where he was a on a couple of good teams but was always
overshadowed by Chris Paul which is understandable. He then moved on to the Indiana Pacers where he has taken a backseat to Paul George and Roy Hibbert but nonetheless is going to have to show up big for the Pacers to reach their goal of winning it all this year. So let's give Nipsey some love buy supporting his movement and show West love by voting him to the all star game, even if he isn't at that level this year but the all star game is a joke anyways.

SWAGGY P!!! One of my favorite players simply for the fact that Nick Young is exactly the kind of player that i would want to be if i still played ball. Essentially he is a poor man's JR Smith which is actually pretty sad when you think about it. But who cares, all he does is jack up jumpers, he is a black hole on offense, and we are all better people for witnessing the greatness that is Swaggy P. He even got a date with Iggy Azalea. Other than his on the court talents, he is on here because he has a distinct southern Cali look. He wears hideous shirts, has terrible haircuts, has irrational
confidence all in the name of swag. I realized during the writing of this comparison that it was kind of a reach but i'm comparing Nick Young to Dom Kennedy. If Nick Young personifies Southern Cali as a basketball player then DK personifies the region as a rapper. He has a laid back style, good beats to ride to, and always is fashion conscious but not in a weird ASAP Rocky kind of way. Dom just seems like a cool ass dude in the same way Swaggy P seems like someone you would want to chill with. 

100s brought pimp rap back with his 2012 mixtape/album Ice Cold Perm, which you can either buy or get fo da free by following the link on his bandcamp page. I swear it was like Too $hort had a son and 100s is what came out. The Berkeley native signed to Fools Gold in the summer so that goes to show the people over there see something in the young kid and don't see him as just a sideshow which is what i feel a lot of people see him as. 100s has this pimp persona that he played to perfection on the aforementioned Ice Cold Perm Tape but has stated in interviews that it is indeed a character he plays. The problem is that he could have won an oscar for that performance it was so good and even had a song on GTA V called Life Of A Mack. 100s mentioned he wants to do an r&b album for his next project in the mold of something like Prince but we will have to wait and see if he can pull it off. That one dimentionality is the same problem Deandre Jordan faces as the center of the LA Clippers. He is an athlete. Jordan was blessed with genetics because without it, he would not be in the NBA. If he was 6'6 i feel like he would still be in the NBA, that is how good of an athlete he is. The only thing he does well is a product of how high he can jump. Like 100s, he is a part of a loaded team and has a
distinct role within the confines of the squad. Until he can develop some versatility, jordan is going to be known for one crowning achievement throughout his whole career. I just want to say thank god the Clippers matched the Warriors offer when Golden State tried signing him a couple years ago.

You guys should know by now i think Big Krit is without a doubt one of the best out right now. He is my favorite artist and i've been supporting the dude since he dropped Return of 4eva. Krit has an all around game, if you will. He makes his own beats, and does it well. He isn't some dude who just started messing around with beats but he has a distinct sound, works samples in very well, and conveys a message without having to say anything. When he does say something, Krit has the lyrics that makes him relatable to many listeners but isn't going to wow you with some crazy new flow or switch flows up mid verse and spazz out. He will give you images, clever wordplay, and get his point across. Critics say he sounds too southern on the mic but to me that just adds to his style. He is a jack of all trades who still hasn't broken out but don't get it twisted. Just because he hasn't received more mainstream recognition does not mean he isn't dropping quality projects. Everything he drops is quality so support the man. Speaking of someone needing to breakout we zero in on Philadelphia's new alpha dog for the time being, Evan Turner. Turner was selected number 2 overall back in 2010 and with that draft position came the high expectations. The funny thing is that high expectations were bestowed upon him yet if i remember correctly his projection as an NBA player was a jack of all trades, but master of none kind of guy. With Jrue Holliday gone, Turner this season is having his best year in the pros and flashing that do everything potential promise he showed at Ohio State. He can handle the ball, dish it out, get to the basket, and i don't know how he is as a shooter but if he has stroke, then that gives him more weapons to play with. Both Turner and Krit have the ability to become difference makers, it is now just a matter of getting the right opportunity and capitalizing on it.

Mr Muthafuckin eXquire/Joakim Noah
This may seem kind of weird seeing that Joakim Noah isn't exactly an underground basketball player but i still don't think he gets the credit he deserves as a basketball player. I may be wrong but it's just my perspective on it. I feel like fans just see him as a hustle player which is true but there's much more to him game than diving for loose balls and getting easy buckets. He is a smart defender who plays his position as well as anyone in the league despite not being the prototypical big man like a Roy Hibbert. As a Center, he is very well at guarding smaller guys on switches and obviously can hold his own against the Dwight Howards of the league as well. He'll get in your face, bother you all night, and straight up just not give a fuck if he pisses you off. He comes from royalty, sort of, with his father winning one of the Tennis Grand Slams (i forgot which one) and his mom being a Miss Some European country so he grew up not needing basketball as a way out but he loves the game so much he put forth his all his efforts to it. Which brings me to Mr Muthafuckin eXquire who apparently only goes by eXquire now but you gotta say the whole thing like A Tribe Called Quest or A Pimp Named Slickback. I don't actually mind the name change because i assume that means he is going for radio play in an effort to get more exposure. Like Noah, Mr MFN eXquire has an underground style that isn't too sexy to the masses but students of the game have no reason to doubt the man as a threat. He doesn't exactly come from rap royalty or from a wealthy family but he comes from Flatbush, Brooklyn which has always been ripe with rap talent. So he pretty could soak in the art of rapping through osmosis. Mr MFN eXuire doesn't back down from anyone on a track as evidenced by this and that, plus he has multiple flows he can kill a track with. He can spit just to show off bars, he can tell stories, and he is a very smart dude. The intelligent hoodlum is a something i have heard to describe Mr Muthafuckin eXquire. If you're not careful you might actually learn something by listening to his music. If you didn't see how these two are similar, it's cool, i just wanted to give them a shout out and tried my best tying them together.

We got The Professor in the house and no i'm not talking about this guy. Although shout out to him because he made the after school AND 1 tour very fun to watch. The Professor i'm talking about is Andre Miller of the Denver Nuggets. The definition of a veteran/player-coach/future head coach, etc. I was not a believer in OG Miller's ability as a difference maker until the playoffs last year when he single-handedly beat the Warriors in Game 1. Anyways I've always been aware of Miller from his time with the Cavs back in the day but he had never been the GUY on a team. The latter part of his career has revolved around him being that player-coach on the floor who is there to make sure the team does not fall apart when the starters need a break. Every good team needs to have a player like Miller who is able to fill a multitude of intangible roles which is why he is still playing at a serviceable level. When he retires it won't be headline news on ESPN and we won't be carving out a Hall Of Fame bust for him but he is the kind of guy that makes the game of basketball special. You obviously need talent and athletic ability to play in the league but when Father Time catches up to you, players like Miller show you can still be effective by playing to your strengths and playing fundamentally sound while keeping your body in as good as shape as you possibly can. It seems like flying under the radar and staying true to himself was perfectly fine with Miller and the same can be said for Starlito out of Nashville. Lito is a rapper formerly known as All Star Cash Prince who was signed to Cash Money, but that time has passed and he is now on that independent grind. He flies under the radar because he isn't a guy who going to look for the banging beats or kill you with exotic wordplay but he is very straightforward yet poetic with his rhymes. He been on that grind for some time and seems to always be releasing critically acclaimed material. He just released Step Brothers 2 with Don Trip which i still need to cop. Although Lito has said he still has dreams of making it big, he is cool with making money on tours and making music for his fanbase. He knows who he is as a man and an artist and won't be doing anything out of character because he knows what got him to
success. Lito and Miller are just two vets in the game who not only know what the game is about but know how to play the game as a means to carve out a niche for themselves. I think once they hang it up, they still will be underrated in retrospect but people will look and be like "damn they really were slept on."

Gangsta Gibbs and Paul George have been putting Indiana on the map in recent years with their quality work. Both have gone from relative unknowns to figures oozing with potential to guys who are right at the cusp and maybe need another season and album to solidify their seat at the table. Paul George was not heavily recruited out of high school which is why he ended up at Fresno State. He developed into a late bloomer however and ended up as a lottery pick with the Pacers back in 2010. George's first couple of years saw the potential start to flash but was still seen as an athlete and not yet a basketball player. Then his play last year took a significant leap with him adding a 3 pointer to his game. This combined with superior athleticism and tenacious defense made him budding superstar. In the playoffs, George took his game to another level and matched Lebron shot for shot in their seven game series which secured a max contract for himself. He wasn't content with where he was at and worked on his dribbling during the offseason to the point where he has become a true all around threat. There is nothing he can't do on the basketball court and he does everything exceptionally well. George even isn't afraid to take shot at the Chicago Bulls like when he said Chi-town's time at the top of the division is over. Speaking of the Chicago Bulls and taking shots we have the Bulls number 1 rap fan in Freddie Gibbs who had no problem verbalizing his distaste for Young Jeezy after his split from CTE. He wasn't exactly sending shots over to Jeezy but more so just telling the truth (from his perspective). Anyways before the CTE split and starting of his own label, ESGN, Freddie Gibbs was an unknown at Interscope who never saw the light of day while at the label. So they split up and Gibbs got on his independent grind and released some good projects, The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs and Midwestgangbangcaddilactrunkmusik, to acclaim while still flying under the radar.
However, those projects were enough to land him on the XXL Freshmen cover in 2010 and the magazine proclaimed him the savior of gangsta rap. And because true gangsta rap, aka not Rick Ross rap, is pretty much dead on the radio the tales of Freddie Soprano has been banished to the underground. That doesn't mater though because he is still dropping quality projects and i have said this before in that i have yet to hear a subpar Freddie Gibbs verse. The reason for this is because he has many different styles and flows that he can tackle. He can tell you stories, hit a double time flow like few others can, or just rap to show of his bars. It all is delivered with the almost perfect voice right now in the game for rapping. He has it all in my opinion and is the best gangsta rapper out right now. George and Gibbs seem to just be getting better and should be household names by now (although George is getting there) but because of where they are, playing for the Pacers and being an independent rapper respectively, they aren't getting the proper notoriety they deserve.

There you have it...the underground edition of the Rapper/NBA comparison. Let me know if you agree with it, disagree with it, who would have been better comparisons, who should have been compared, etc, etc. Just some quick thoughts on the NBA season is that the Golden State Warriors are for real but let's just hope they don't run into the Grizzlies in the playoffs. The Spurs are still going to do their thing as well as the Heat. Once Derrick Rose shakes off the rust, the Bulls have a legit threat to make it all the way. The Thunder are dangerous with Westbrook coming back but they don't have the same fear factor they flashed from a couple years ago. The Rockets are going to live and die by the three since Dwight Howard has no idea what a post move is apparently and is going to be a reincarnation of the Orlando Magic teams Dwight forced his way out of. This season is going to be unpredictable and makes for one of the better ones in a while. Also, Johnny Hedricks was robbed last night against GSP. If you are unconvinced because GSP landed more punches or whatever just look at the interviews after the fight. GSP looked like he got jumped in a dark alley, couldn't speak, and admitted he couldn't remember much of the fight. Johnny Hendricks spoke like a functioning member of society and did not have a scratch on him. If you were to look at that image, 100 people out of 100 would say that Hendricks won the fight. But that's just life when you have judges scoring a fight. Also shout out to Big Boy...Happy Birthday and can't wait until you come through.

Cam'ron- Girls

Action Bronson- Pepe Lopez

Ab Soul- Drift Away

Saturday, October 26, 2013

What Happened to...Nipsey Hussle

What's up everybody, i'm back with the long overdue chapter 2 of the "What Happened To..." series. If you haven't checked out the first one featuring Asher Roth, make sure you peep that. For the past couple of weeks i've been looking at Nipsey Hussle because he is exactly the kind of person who is perfect for this series. He was a part of, in my opinion, the best XXL Freshmen class back in 2010. Just look at some of the names on that list. Wiz Khalifa, Big Sean, J Cole, Freddie Gibbs, Jay Rock. That's a stacked lists even though they put OJ Da Juiceman on there who had the sorriest i don't even know what you call it in the history of humanity opening their mouth. After everyone got sick of Game, we all wanted to find the next flag bearer for LA and the Westcoast as a whole. This is pretty amazing actually considering there was this void of legit LA rappers just 5 years ago and look at what we have now. TDE, Casey Veggies, Dom Kennedy, and even Odd Future are all doing their thing in putting the spotlight back on Hollywood. Well Nipsey was the first of these rappers that was destined to bring LA rap back from the ashes. He had both a throwback look and throwback style in terms of subject matter. He spoke about the real shit in his life, which was gangbangin. Nipsey was very lazily compared to Snoop Dogg because they look alike, have the same hair, and were both crips. So what went wrong for Mr. Hussle? He had the buzz in the streets, the street cred, and the rhymes to back it up in an area that was starved for a new rap star. He even had a deal with Epic Records and a single aimed for the radio. So with everything seemingly in his favor, what in the world happened to Yung Nipsino?

I'm cheating right here because i'm going to start with the Nipsey Hussle projects that actually got him the buzz even though i didn't peep them. In the span of one year from 2008-2009, Nipsey released his mixtape trilogy, Bullets Ain't Got No Names. His biggest hit from that trilogy was no doubt the certified banger Hussle In The House. I'm basing his BAGNN series off of this song and i could see why he got the buzz that he got. He was talking about the girls, guns, drugs, gangbangin but he had a mic presence and a charisma that set him apart from his peers. He was also able to sprinkle some introspection in there to let listeners know he wasn't just some ignorant ass Crip. He even stated in interviews that he took and passed college courses with good grades so he wanted to show that a dude can be about that life and at the same time possess book smarts.

Off the success of his BAGNN trilogy, yung Nipsino was able to score a record deal with Epic Records and the anticipation for his proper debut studio album, which would be titled South Central State of Mind, started. In the summer of 2010 he released a single for his debut with Lloyd called Feelin Myself. I was actually very surprised to not hear more of this song on the radio. The hook with Lloyd was very catchy and fit in well with the swag movement that was taking place during the time. It had that crossover sound but Nipsey didn't turn into some softee on his verses. He kept saying what he had always been saying but in a PG-13 version which is what you need to do if you're a street rapper trying to make it on the radio. According to wikipedia, the highest position that the song reached was #93 on the Billboard Hot 100 Hip-Hop/r&b songs. I don't know what happened when looking back on the song because that was as radio as you can get with Nipsey and like i said earlier, i thought it did a great job of blending his street appeal and his crossover potential. Mind you this is all after Nipsey landed on the XXL Freshmen cover that spring so his buzz was at an all time high. Maybe there were some politics involved or maybe Epic didn't feel like there was another single on the album or whatever but after that song was released, the company kept delaying the album. And Nipsey being the G that he is was not going to wait for something to happen so him and Epic split up and Nipsey started his own label, All Money In.

So after leaving Epic, Nipsey Hussle released The Marathon in December 2010. This was actually the first time I listened to Nipsey and to say i was impressed was an understatement. It immediately became my favorite project and Love shot to the top of my Top 25 Most Played in itunes. On the project, he seemed to be less aggressive in his delivery from Hussle In the House and Feelin Myself yet he kept the same hunger. It actually seemed like he was more hungry just because he wanted to show all the record labels that he could in fact make it independently and on his own terms. Nipsey had a vision for how his career was going to go and compromising with a label would only get in the way of that vision. The Marathon felt like Nipsey was telling us his dream one track at a time. He was on his grind 25/8 because he knows he has to work that much harder without the support of a major label. The project was perfect timing because he was just on the XXL cover 8 months earlier getting declared an up and comer and he was just released from his contract at Epic so this was his platform to say through his music that 1) the hype was justified and 2) he can do this music thing on his own. I don't feel that Nipsey so much has any hard feeling towards Epic or any record company for that matter but he more so wanted to do things his way. What The Marathon did was prove that Nipsey can indeed make great music and keep it authentic. You knew he was still a street dude but tracks like Keys To The City showed he had the potential to make it on the radio and become LA's next big star. Mind you this is all happening right when Kendrick, TDE, and all there LA cats were starting to get more buzz but the crown for LA was still there for the taking. It looked like he was on verge of something big.

It did not go as planned. The reception to The Marathon sadly was not as widely received as he hoped or fans hoped. Don't get it twisted though, Nipsey was still making money because his fans are devoted and buy his merchandise which helps when you're an artist and are only putting out free material. You gotta make your money somehow. It seemed like his fans that went most crazy were overseas so Nipsey was doing what all independent rappers are doing nowadays which is touring and selling merch. His next release, i felt, would set the bar for the rest of Nipsey's career. Is he going to be just some underground dude that is raw yet his fan base will only consist of those devoted or is he going to make it big by doing his own thing and setting up a new formula for success? But before i talk about his next project, he released a track with YG and Tyga...Bitches Ain't Shit, remaking the Dre and Snoop classic from back in the day. Even though Nipsey had just released The Marathon a few months earlier, this track refreshed everyone's memory about who Nipsey was. He was becoming a well rounded artist but Nip was also let us know he could get mad ignorant on a track and that is why the streets loved him. He was bangin in the streets like so many of the youth but he saw an outlet through music and decided to go for it. At the same time he never forgot his roots.

Nipsey came back in the fall of 2011 to release the follow up to The Marathon called The Marathon Continues. I don't know if he had announced it but this Marathon theme was obviously becoming a series and i was assuming he was going to make it into a trilogy since that is what he did with BAGNN and plus that seems like the thing to do in rap. With it being the second part of the series, the project is about Yung Nipsino enjoying some of the spoils of his success. He hasn't quite made it yet but he was way ahead of where he was when he released The Marathon and light years ahead of where he was with the BAGNN trilogy. Judging by how TMC went, i'm sure that means the third installment of the trilogy will be a look back on everything and be his "finally made it album" but we'll just have to wait and see. TMC had some good tracks but i still definitely preferred The Marathon a lot more than this one. The sequel is almost never as good as the original in most cases and in my opinion this is what happened here.

Nipsey's next release would be 2012's TMC: The X-Tra Laps but that was just some throwaway tracks that couldn't make an alright mixtape so i wasn't going to bother checking them out. He still had some buzz and the fact that he was still independent meant he was still a free agent. No matter how independent an artist is, if the money and the situation are right, they would jump at the chance to sign with a major. This almost happened after there were reports of Nipsey signing to Rick Ross's MMG label. I actually think that out of all the labels, MMG would have been the best fit for him, even moreso than his hometown's TDE. But the deal feel through, although there were no hard feeling on either side, after Nipsey and the parent company, Atlantic, couldn't come to an agreement. I think it was something over Nipsey not having the control he wanted over his material and since Atlantic is a major label, they would never let anything like artist creative control happen. So Nipsey said thanks but no thanks to Officer Ricky and went back on his grind.

His next project was supposed to be TM3: Victory Lap making it the third project in the trilogy and making my prediction of it being his "finally made it album" look like it was coming to fruition. But he decided that he was going to make it his debut studio album which i wasn't mad about at all. I guess you could compare it to Big Sean's Finally Famous series being that Finally Famous was his mixtape series coming up and then he named his debut Finally Famous after putting work in to become famous (he put in work whether or not you like his music). So what Nipsey is trying to say is that his Victory Lap of making it in the music business will be when he finally can release his studio album. But he had not released any new material for almost two years and Nipsey had stated in interviews that his fans were hungry for new stuff so he would give a "preview" of Victory Lap with the release of Crenshaw. You know, the mixtape of tracks that weren't good enough to make it on his official album that he was selling for $100. I still can't believe how he sold all the $100 physical copies and made $100,000. Another thing i can't believe is how in the world did Nipsey release a 2 disc Greatest Hits album but i digress. Jay-z gets a huge assist since he bought 100 of them but Nipey still made $90,000 from all non Jay-Z purchases. This might be a template for other artists to make more money. Don't you think Lil Wayne or Drake could do this as well now and we know how devoted their fans are. Nipsey selling and being successful at selling his stuff for $100 showed not only how devoted his fans are to his music but the connection he has with them so for that he must be applauded.

I'll be honest when an artist puts throwaway tracks on a mixtape for us to listen to, i tend to give it a throwaway listen just because i'm a hater like that. But i took Crenshaw with a different approach because it was a preview of his debut album. Plus it was the first new material he released in two years so i was interested to see where he had gone since TMC. Nipsey had said that when he selected these tracks for the tape it sounded very much like the vibe one would get when cruising down Crenshaw which is why he gave it that title. As a kid from San Francisco i can say that i have never been cruising down Crenshaw but from the mixtape i can picture it being a slow paced relaxed vibe. The image i get is people driving with the tops down and the trunk rattling, likely with a cigarillo in hand. The two tracks i feel exemplify the tape the best are Summertime In That Cutlass and Face The World, the latter of which was produced by 9th Wonder. Real recognize real. Speaking of 9th and Nipsey collaborating, is it just me or do they need to do more shit together. That sounded tight. I don't know if that is great chemistry between the two or if Nipsey really sounds that good on those soulful beats or if 9th just has those kinds of bars on the boards but the bottom line is they need to feed us more material. I will buy that in a second. I kind of hated on Crenshaw the first time i heard it but the more i listened to it, it grew on me. Very impressive for a throwaway collection and it has me anticipating that Victory Lap album. He has no label to delay him so hopefully he gets that out by the end of the year or sometime in January. Come on Nip, we been waiting on that album.

So there you have it. If you've been wondering what Nipsey has been up to these last several years i hope this helped. His career has been delayed by labels not allowing him to achieve the vision Nipsey saw for himself. So he took it upon himself to put his vision out there independently. No one can tell an artist how their work should be. Nipsey knows it best what he wants from his music career and the white guys at Epic and Atlantic who run the label have no idea what Nipsey wants to do. They expect all artists and ESPECIALLY rap artists to just fall in line and when Nipsey didn't do so, they kept delaying his album until his buzz disappeared. We all want to see Neighborhood Nip win so if Victory Lap is worth the money go cop it (unless it's $100 then he could go fuck himself). Keep doing your thing Nip and release that fire. Peace.

p.s i finally updated the Weekly Page so check out what i've been listening to this past week.

50 Cent- If I Can't

DMX- What's My Name

Sunday, October 20, 2013


Checking Illroots like i normally do every couple of days i kept seeing a little ad on the side for this dude's mixtape. The artist was Vic Mensa and the mixtape was called Innanetape. I didn't think much of it but Illroots kept hyping him up on their page which somewhat means something to me. The artists that illroots push are either hit or miss. They push people like King Chip (formerly Chip tha Ripper) and Chiddy Bang. So when it comes to Vic Mensa i thought to myself i'm going to check it out and i'm probably going to like it for a week but that's it. The artists that Illroots pushes tend to be flashes in the pans for me so i was expecting to listen to this dude's tape, like it for a week, then delete it from from itunes, and listen to it again maybe a year from now. But the name Vic Mensa sounded familiar to me and i was not tripping. He was the rapper aka token black guy lead man in the PG version of The Legendary Roots Crew meets Kids Bop band called Kids These Days. I was not a fan of the band mainly because it just wasn't my cup of tea. And i hated it when Vic rapped over live instrumentation because it didn't mesh well at all. However, you could see the potential that the kid had when he did spit. Then i remembered i saw Vic's name on the tracklist for Chance The Rapper's debut mixtape 10 Day and i was like "holy shit" because he spit on one of my favorite tracks off of that project. I'll be honest. Without that feature on Chancellor's tape I probably would not have given the guy's tape a peep even though it had the Illroots cosign so i contradicted myself there a little but whatever. After that long introduction i had no idea what to expect because the only thing i heard previously of his was his Kids In The Hall Stuff which i hated and his feature with Chance which i loved so who knows how this one would turn out.

My first impressions after listening to the project one time through was that it was alright. I thought it was cool for what it was but i was also expecting it to not make the next round of cuts when it comes time to delete music from my computer. The reasons i thought it was just average and nothing special was because he didn't really capture my attention. Yeah he could rap his ass off and Tweakin for sure is my shit but it didn't feel like he did too much to stand out. First off, you could tell he has spent a lot of time with Chance the Rapper because Vic was using the same flow that Chance was using on Acid Rap. Maybe Chance got the flow from Vic (probably not) but who knows. Secondly, i might just be being a hater here but it bothers me to no end when i feel like someone sounds like someone else in terms of subject matter but i can't seem to pinpoint exactly who. Don't ask me why but it does. I couldn't point a finger as to who Vic sounds like but eventually i came to the conclusion that he was a combination of a poor man's Lupe Fiasco mixed with  J Cole. I say Lupe because Vic seems to be really aware not only of his environment but of himself at such a young age. Maybe it has something to do with living in Chicago because all Chicago rappers for the most part have a grasp on that kind of stuff. Chief Keef missed that day of school. I say J Cole (and i guess you could throw Kid Cudi in there) is because of his hook style. I was thinking through several of his songs that some of the tracks sound radio friendly. I don't know if that was the intention but Vic had some very catchy generic hooks like J Cole but was simple like a Cudi hook. Example of this are on Lovely Day, Magic (whose hook was so damn corny), and Time Is Money. So after the first listen, i wasn't really thinking much of it but i knew i would give it another chance.

All I can say is that i am glad i gave it another chance and am glad that i actually paid attention the more times i listened to it. Everything after Tweakin was an introspective track to some degree. The reason i wasn't feeling it the first time was because i heard Magic and that was some of the corniest rap i heard all year and i was my own buzzkill with regards to the rest of the project. All the other tracks i just listened for the stupid lines and was like "yup this dude is super soft." The whole time i was ignoring some of the stuff that he was sprinkling in the meantime. Once i heard Holy Holy with Ab Soul on there, i was like this dude means business. Schoolboy Q said in an interview that every great project has a track that gets you emotional and this is the one. I'm not going to go in depth with why this was the track, you just gotta listen to it for yourself or take my word for it.

After that track i was noticing a pattern with the track listing. The first four tracks were, i don't want to say unserious tracks but they were more happy go lucky tracks just to get the vibe going. Then he hit the skit which summed up the project as a whole and the message Vic was trying to get out. Vic was saying that he makes music in order to have fun. That's the number 1 priority. That is some of the most generic hippy shit you could possibly say because of course people who make music do it to have fun so he isn't really dropping any newfound wisdom there but i'm not hating. He's still young. Then the middle of the album up until Holy Holy seemed like it was geared for a radio sound. I don't know if that was what he was going for with the production and the catchy hooks but it was almost like a test to see how receptive those songs would be. YUNG NET SAVE PESO. Then i really like how he finished up the project. That's where he was really getting his introspective on with the aforementioned Holy Holy and i really liked RUN! with Thundercat. That track is so different from the rest of the project that i feel it could be a breakout song. He has a number of those tracks on here that could propel him onto the radio but RUN! was definitely the one most unlike the others. Then i really liked his outro song. It was honestly one of the better outro tracks i have heard in a while. It was a real quick summary of how things have changed for Vic since he started to receive some shine and then at the end he was shouting out all those people who have been supporting him but he wasn't doing it in an annoying way.

If you allow me to i will quickly summarize the project into three parts: First third was cool, highlight was Tweakin featuring Chance. The second-third was my least favorite but alright with Time Is Money being the highlight. Shout out to Rockie Fresh. I had previously written him off but i might have to check him out again. Then the last third of the project was definitely my favorite. I liked each of those tracks and it was getting better as the project came to a close. The rack i really could have done without was Yap Yap. How many times are we going to have to hear the same song. It was essentially No Worries part 3. Part 2 was ain worry bou none, ain worry bou none. So i'm knocking Vic off a little for that bullshit but other other than that it was a very solid project. I'll give it a B but it's the kind of B that you feel good about. I don't really know where Vic goes from here though. He has radio potential but by hanging with Chance The Rapper plus emerging as an artist in the internet generation i feel like VIc just as easily might stick to the underground. If he does make the radio, he will get backlash from the "purists" but i don't know if i could hate in him because to me he won't really have to change his style up too much.

In short, this project is not for everyone. If you like Chance the Rapper's style you'll like Vic Mensa. If not then you probably won't like it. If you like coming of age movies you'll like this mixtape. But this isn't some must listen to tape. It didn't change my life or anything. If you don't listen to it you're not really missing out on anything. I liked this project, but Vic didn't jump into my top 5 for current favorite rappers or anything. Let me put it this way, i'm going to follow him and definitely listen to his next project. At the same time, any new releases he has or any features he jumps on isn't going to be a stop everything i'm doing and listen to it. That is going to depend more on who else shows up on the track. Hope that helped for a Vic Mensa introduction. Peace

Binary Star

Rick James

The Cool Kids feat Ghostface Killah

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Is Jadeveon Clowney Worth The #1 Pick?

Although Johnny Manziel is still number 1 in college sports in terms of making headlines on and off the field i never would have thought someone could actually challenge him and take some of the spotlight off of him. Think about it. Other than Johnny flashing money at Rice Owl defenders, Johnny Football has been on the straight and narrow ever since the season started. Sure he had the "confrontation" with coach Kevin Sumlin but that seemed to me like it was blown out of proportion. Coach Sumlin does not seem like someone you want to back talk to no matter if you are the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. The man who has challenged Johnny Football in the college football headlines this year has been the University of South Carolina's stud defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. It's ironic that he forced himself into this conversation of most talked about college player because of his play on the field and nowadays it seems like people only talk about the kid for his perceived lack of play on the field. For someone who is talked about a whole lot he must have some type of ability that draws people in to want to watch his every move. But is he worth all the hype? Not only is he worth all the hype currently but is he worth all the hype as an NFL prospect. That is what i will attempt to answer as you guys read this. Is he for real or is he a fabrication of this one play?

Before this one play, Jadeveon Clowney was already someone that opposing college coaches feared. They knew the physical talent that Clowney had and were forced to gameplan accordingly. There was a reason that he was the Number 1 prospect coming out of high school. He stands 6'6 and weighs 274 pounds of muscle. If you were creating a defensive end on Madden, this is the type of player that would come out. That year, Clowney had set the school record for sacks in a single season as a sophmore so he was already on his way to becoming a star but that hit on January 1, 2013 made Mr. Clowney a superstar. After that highlight was shown approximately 4 billion times on ESPN Clowneymania was in full effect. Stories came about his early life came about, interviews were to be conducted, he got to walk the red carpet at the ESPY's and won the award for best play later that night. Think about that, how many times does a college defensive end get to walk the red carpet at the ESPY's (not saying it's prestigious or anything but you get the point). He was second in popularity in all of college sports behind reigning Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel. And he was probably the most liked college athlete because he didn't do any of the antics Manziel did off the field. Once again, how often is a defensive end in the argument for most popular college athlete? Trey Burke won player of the year in basketball and wasn't as talked about as Clowney. Other than Manziel, the only other college athlete to get as much pub as Clowney was Kevin Ware of Louisville and that is because he had the most gruesome injury possibly ever seen on TV (God bless his soul btw, great testament to the kid's character that he is going to play again). I keep bringing up the point of how rare it is for someone like Clowney to be receiving all the pub because it shows just how special the kid not only is but has the chance to be and people like ESPN were capitalizing on it. ESPN has the features on him, they write articles on him, and seemingly talk about him at least once a week on First Take. But is he worth all the hype? If we just look at the statistics from this year then no he is not. But that is being super lazy and ignorant so let's not do that.

So here are some basic stats. After six games the South Carolina Gamecocks stand at 5-1. Jadeveon has played in only 5 of the games this year sitting one out with a ribs injury which i am sure Steve Spurrier would be all too thrilled in telling you about if you asked him. Clowney himself has 14 total tackles on the year, 9 of them of the solo variety. He has 3 tackles for a loss (meaning he tackled the ball carrier before they reached the line of scrimmage), and has 2 sacks. Not exactly once in a generation talent type numbers. But like i said, looking at those stats is lazy and ignorant. What you have to do is look at the film. Now i'm not going to sit here and pretend like i've been watching their games all year because in reality i have only seen the opener against North Carolina. In that game, my eyes were solely focused on number 7 the whole game. He did not come out of the game with any flashy stats but that was not his fault. The North Carolina gameplan was all about either running to the opposite side of Clowney or throwing the ball before Clowney could even get any momentum towards the QB. There is no way a pass rusher can have an impact on the game when the opposition's entire offensive gameplan was made to neutralize any effect they could possibly have on the game. Even when North Carolina tried those quick passes Clowney still got several pressures on the quarterback forcing errant throws. But for some reason, after the game he was subject the criticism and analysts were talking about how he is a facade and this and that. The biggest knock they had on him was conditioning. That's how you know none of those analysts played sports because they would have known that you are not in your best shape in the 1ST GAME OF THE SEASON. Not only was it the 1ST GAME OF THE SEASON but the humidity was off the charts because it was still a summer night in South Carolina. I have never been to South Carolina in the summer or the South in general but typing the words "summer night in South Carolina" made me sweat. So now Clowney's talent was not the topic of discussion, it was his desire.

That whole desire topic is a lot more concerning than talent could be. You could have all the talent in the world but if you lack desire than it is useless  *cough Jamarcus Russell cough.* And it can easily work the other way around. There is no way that Wes Welker should have 800 receptions but he does. Personally i think the lack of desire talk is a load of bs. First of all, we don't know what is going on in Clowney's head so it's wrong for us to tell everyone in the world what he is thinking when no one talks to him other than those close to him. You could say you can read his body language out there on the field but i don't think it is a lack of desire. I think it is more frustration than anything. For a player who is athletically superior to anyone he lines up across and has proven to be able to do anything he wants, he hasn't been able to do anything this season through no fault of his own. That can get frustrating when you are touted as the next big thing in a sport but are rendered helpless because opposing teams are scared of you. That actually should make the Clowney narrative grow stronger rather than ripping the kid.

However, the one thing that i did not like about Clowney this year was him sitting out the Kentucky game with a rib injury. I understand if your ribs are hurt it's hard to breathe. Playing in a football game no doubt makes it worse. On the otherside, i would have to believe there were players both on South Carolina and Kentucky playing in that same game with far worse boo boos than young Jadeveon. That was strictly a business move which he has the right to make. Coming in to the year he was the projected #1 overall pick in next year's draft and when you are projected to go that high your stock can only go down which we were all witnessing happen to him. He did not want his stock to drop any further with a sub par game against against Kentucky, which if you don't know is labeled as a basketball school for a reason. Although i guess i am contradicting myself because i am not in Clowney's head i am calling it how i see it. Just like how i said his "lack of desire" is actually frustration building up. I don't know if that is true, that is just my opinion based on what i see. This rib injury incident is concerning for teams looking to draft him because they do not know if he is going to pull the same stuff at the next level. Is he going to put his status over the good of the team. It sounds like a douchebag thing to say that i'm criticizing him for wanting to make sure he is 100% healed before coming back to play but it's not a torn ACL he was dealing with, shout out to Philip Rivers. It's not a concussion. It's not a broken face, shout out to Anquan Boldin. His ribs were hurt. I would gladly take a Clowney with hurt ribs playing versus whoever his backup is, no disrespect. When you are portrayed as a Hercules with an Adonis body, it doesn't look good to sit out a conference game against Kentucky with some hurt ribs. But again, in my opinion he was protecting his investment of himself. A business decision.

frequent Clowney comparison

With all that being said do I think he is still the best player in the upcoming draft? Of course. I truly believe Jadeveon Clowney is a once in a generation talent. Keeping in mind that he is playing against college players, it is still remarkable how he can truly dominate at times. He throws 300 pound offensive linemen to the side like a bully. He wants his lunch and he isn't going to stand in line for it. They compare him most to Mario Williams and Julius Peppers because of the kind of athlete he is and we know how good they are. The thing i want to know is can Clowney continue to develop the fundamentals to reach his athletic potential. He is about to go to the NFL where even Julius Peppers and Mario Williams can't dominate every game. His athleticism is going to deteriorate at one point or another so can he be a force in the run game? Can he stop the zone blocking schemes? Can he keep his discipline on the read option? Can he work around NFL double teams and people like Frank Gore looking to blow him up in the backfield because he won't be forced to beat the chip block of a 5'10, 190 pound 3 star recruit out of Whosville, Mississippi. I believe he will because every athlete has the need to prove the naysayers wrong and with the help of NFL coaching, Jadeveon Clowney can turn any perceived question marks into strengths just like that. I said Clowney is the best player in the draft but does that necessarily make him the #1 overall pick.

I'm going to take a look at the Number 1 overall picks taken since the year 2001 and they go as follows:

another Clowney comparison
2001: Michael Vick, QB Atlanta
2002: David Carr, QB Houston
2003: Carson Palmer, QB Cincinnati
2004: Eli Manning, QB New York Giants
2005: Alex Smith, QB San Francisco
2006: Mario Williams, DE Houston
2007: Jamarcus LOL Russell, QB Oakland
2008: Jake Long, OL Miami
2009: Matt Stafford, QB Detroit
2010: Sam Bradford, QB St. Louis
2011: Cam Newton, QB Carolina
2012: Andrew Luck, QB Indianapolis
2013: Eric Fisher, OL Kansas City

There is a pattern going on here and that pattern has to do with the position of Quarterback. Every single number 1 pick since 2001 was selected either to quarterback the team to the Super Bowl, protect the quarterback, or sack the quarterback. That shows how much value is placed at the quarterback position. Mario Williams was the only defensive player selected number one in that time span and he did not help Houston make any noise in the playoffs. They made it there one year out of the six he was there and they were bounced in the first round. Looking at that list actually is pretty sad because the only team to actually get Super Bowl victories with their number 1 pick is the New York Giants, and they acquired him in a draft day trade with San Diego. The only teams that I would say are currently happy with the selections that they made are the Giants, Carolina, and Indianapolis. Every other team sort of whiffed. But that goes to show not only how much of a gamble that the Draft is every year but how important scouting is. The best player taken in the 2011 draft was selected at #11 and that is JJ Watt. Although the 2011 draft is turning out to be one of the most successful in history, I have a hard time believing JJ Watt would not be a top 3 pick if it was re done. Just because Jadeveon Clowney is a freaky, once in a generation type talent does not mean he should be the first overall pick. Look at how the New York Giants won their two super bowls. Obviously Eli Manning had A LOT to do with it but the constant pressure they were able to force on Tom Brady by using just their front four was something every team dreams of. Correct me if I am wrong, but on those two championship winning teams, I believe the only first round D-linemen were Michael Strahan and Jason Pierre-Paul. And both if you were wondering, neither was selected first overall in their draft class.

After establishing the whiffs known as the number 1 draft picks let's take a look at recent Super Bowl Winners:

2013: Baltimore Ravens, Joe Flacco MVP
2012: New York Giants, Eli Manning MVP
2011: Green Bay Packers, Aaron Rodgers MVP
2010: New Orleans Saints, Drew Brees MVP
2009: Pittsburgh Steelers, Santonio Holmes MVP

I just took a smaller sample size over the last five years but I think you get the point. The last five Super Bowl MVP's have been offensive players and four out of the five have been quarterbacks. We hear all the time from analysts that this is a quarterback driven league and it has never been more true. To win the Super Bowl, you need to have elite play from the quarterback position. That doesn't mean they need to be elite, see Joe Flacco, but they need to be playing at an elite level. The last team to win the Super Bowl without elite play from the quarterback position was the 05-06 Steelers when they had second year Ben Roethlisberger leading them over the Seattle Seahawks. When you look at Pittsburgh's opponent you can see why they did not need Big Ben to be elite. My point is that the quarterback position is far more valuable to winning a championship than a game changing defensive end. A defensive end can be a part of a strong defensive effort but they won't be the sole reason a team wins a Super Bowl. The only time i have ever seen a defensive linemen take over a game with a championship at stake was when Nick Fairley was toying with the Oregon offensive line while at Auburn during the 2011 Natty. And he was a defensive tackle and not a pass rusher. Like I said before, an elite pass rusher can be completely neutralized but a quarterback is touching the ball on every play.

no one knows if the Raiders see Pryor as the future

Let's look right now at the teams in running for the top pick of next year's draft. First we have the sorry sight that is the Jacksonville Jaguars. Chad Henne and Blaine Gabbert are not anyone's answer at Quarterback. I feel like they take a QB with the top pick because they desperately need one. Your more likely to find an elite pass rusher later in the draft than you would a QB. Tampa Bay could end up with that pick too. I'm assuming Greg Schiano is going to be fired because he shouldn't be an NFL coach and that means a new regime would be coming in. That new regime probably is not high on Mike Glennon because no one is high on Mike Glennon other than Greg Schiano. I predict they would take a QB over Clowney. If the New York Giants somehow end up with the top pick the only reason they don't take Clowney is because their offensive line is that bad. Eli Manning is not going anywhere and the franchise has shown a knack for reloading that d-line. There is potential there for them to take Clowney though because i feel like his talent trumps that of any of the offensive lineman that will be available. The Raiders are in a tough place. Terrelle Pryor is for sure showing progress as a Quarterback but no one really knows what his ceiling is. We all can see the potential but no one knows if he will ever reach it. So if they end up with the top pick, the question will be whether or not they believe in Pryor as the QB of the future. If they believe in him they take Clowney. If they don't believe in Pryor then they take a QB. Or maybe since it is a deep QB class, they take Clowney first overall, hope that Pryor continues to develop, and take a QB in the later rounds but that is very risky too. That's why i'm not paid to make these decisions. It will be interesting to see next April (or did they move the draft to May already) how much value teams see in Jadeveon Clowney.

So in conclusion, although i do believe Jadeveon Clowney to be not only the best player in the upcoming draft but a once in a generation type talent, i do not believe he should be the first overall selection in the upcoming draft. It depends though on which team is drafting first overall however like i said before. If a team truly believes Clowney will help their team get a championship more so than Terry Bridgewater, Marcus Mariota (assuming the two come out early), Jake Matthews, or Taylor Lewan than yes whoever is picking first should take him. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But this is a quarterback driven league and if you don't take a QB first in next years potentially loaded quarterback classes you better either have a QB established on your team, are highly confident you can find a QB in later rounds, really like Clowney that much, or really don't like any of the QB's that much. And if anyone was wondering, which i am sure you're not, I would right now take Marcus Mariota number 1 overall.

Mariota from Oregon

Starlito and Don Trip

Run The Jewels

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Foreign Exchange- Love In Flying Colors

If you haven't heard of The Foreign Exchange, don't trip. I only heard about them a while back so it's not like i've been a fan for years considering their first album dropped in 2004. I have made a mention of them in the blog before as a dynamic MC-Producer combination but they are not a hip hop tandem, but rather an r&b pairing. The duo consists of Phonte and Nicolay. Nicolay hails from Europe and is the producer who i have no idea about his other work. The first and only time i heard Nicolay's work is from The Foreign Exchange catalog. Phonte on the other hand is definitely more well known in the states than his partner but still is not too popular. He got his beginnings as part of the North Carolina trio called Little Brother with Big Pooh also rapping and 9th Wonder handling the boards. The group made great underground music and have arguable classics in their first two albums, The Listening and The Minstrel Show. They broke up eventually due to creative differences of course and decided to do their own things. 9th if you haven't heard has gone on to become one of the best hip hop producers of the last decade while Big Pooh and Phonte are always applauded for their work but have not received the type of recognition that 9th has. The first two Little Brother albums saw Phonte not only show off his skills as a damn good MC but he showed that he has bars as a singer too. And not the sounds good on a hook or with autotune kind of singing but he can sing his ass off. Peep this and ask yourself how many rappers can hit those notes. Not to sound like i'm jocking him but idk of many rappers who can sing and rap as well as Phonte. Lauryn Hill hasn't dropped anything in forever but she may be recording new music out of prison. Hate Nicki Minaj all you want but we all know she can rap and sing well. She just has yet put together something good. Your Love i guess was the closest thing to it but that sucked. If you try and convince me Future can sing well i'm going to punch you in the face. After that digression i'm going to get into the 4th album from The Foreign Exchange. The only expectation that i have for this is that it's going to be good so the bar is set high on my expectation meter. Let's get into it.

The Foreign Exchange's sound to me has always been classic r&b with underground hip hop influences. You're not going to hear anyone call them this new age r&b and lump them together with Frank Ocean, The Weeknd, and Miguel. Phonte isn't going to tell you stories about how drugs has permanently damaged his love life as a teenager or whatever it is that the Weeknd talks about. This album, if you couldn't tell by the title and by their previous projects, is about love. Finding love, falling in love, maintaining love, etc. It's weird how one subject could be so repetitive yet we always want to hear more love songs. I mean shit, everyone is tired of gangsta rap but Taylor Swift can keep singing about her exes all she wants, i don't get it. Well this is how this album goes. Every single track has something about love but i'm not mad because 1) it is what i was expecting. 2) it is an r&b album. 3) it's Phonte writing the songs. And 4) being mad about this album being all about love is like saying McDonalds gave you too many fries. It's what they do.

That being said the production by Nicolay was damn good. Some of the best production work track to track over the course of a whole album that i have heard all year. I mean there have been other projects where there has been great production on all tracks, but Nicolay's work on here all flowed together and never seemed out of place with the exception of Listen To The Rain which i thought was just too damn sad. But then again that was the 5fth track in a 10 track album so i'm assuming they inserted that one there just to break it up. All the beats added to the overall message of the album which i took as finding the love of your life is more than likely right in front of your face and to not let go of that love so easily. And normally i am not a fan of the "euro pop" sounds which Nicolay featured on every track. I don't even know if it is called euro pop but every track i was expecting to hear this. But i did like how he incorporated that euro sound with a little of what i think was live instrumentation and maybe some mpc work. Anyways props to Nicolay for holding his end of the deal.

Now on to Phonte. Saying the album is about love and all thought is true but also is the generic cop out answer. Or maybe that is what Phonte is trying to get at. That love isn't all that hard and we just make it that much harder on ourselves who knows *kanye shrug.* I like the second track, Right After Midnight, because Tigallo is speaking for all males. is okay for the woman to make the first move every once in a while. I know "tradition" has it that guys make the first move and go to the ladies but shit you can't cherry pick on what things you want to stay traditional and what you want to modernize. Shout out to Bill Burr. That one was my favorite track off the album if anyone is interested. That's saying something too because 9 out of the 10 songs i really do like and have it on repeat. He touches on a lot of subjects with regards to relationships over the course of the album. The main thing i got from it was that once we find the person that we love, we need to cherish that person because no one is going to have the perfect relationship. The best we can do is try our best. It sounds simple and a lot of people have made songs regarding this but it's weird that Phonte does it as well as anyone. I know Drake touches on these types of subjects (and if you didn't know Phonte is Drake's favorite rapper) but Phonte just has this certain something that makes him more enjoyable to me. I can't put my finger on it. Maybe it has to do when does r&b he sticks to r&b and when he does rap he sticks to rap. Maybe he showed his skills as an MC with his Little Brother projects. Maybe he just does his music without caring what people on the internet have to say. I don't know but i digress. The only one that i didn't like was the 5th track, Listen To The Rain. It just seemed sad to me especially when compared to the rest of the album. The other nine tracks seemed to be full of optimism and this one just brought my spirits down and Nicolay's production definitely conveyed that. Maybe they were trying to say in the course of a happy and successful relationship there are going to be bumps in the road but there is always a brighter side when coming out of it. But that is just one half ass critique of a damn near flawless album. And that critique is on some personal hating so it's not even a legit one.

In conclusion, if this is your first introduction to The Foreign Exchange i hope you are pleased with the album and that it will encourage you to check out their other stuff. Their second album, Leave It All Behind is still my favorite but i also have listened to that waaaaay more than i have this one. But LIFC right now is my second favorite release of the duo. If you want to hear Phonte actually spitting over Nicolay beats then check out their first album, Connected. That one is definitely has the heaviest hip hop influence in their discography. And the r&b tracks on that album have a poor man's D'Angelo feel to them if you want a lazy comparison. So check it out, if you like it buy it and be sure to tell your friends about it. If you just listen to hip hop then mix it up with The Foreign Exchange. If your boyfriend or girlfriend doesn't like hip hop meet them in the middle with this. Peace and let me know if there is anything you want me to review/speak on.

The album gets an A- btw

FYI, great month for new music. Deltron 3030 just released their second highly anticipated album. I haven't listened to it yet but i've heard it's great. Black Milk just released his album today i believe so check that out. Nipsey Hussle's Crenshaw dropped last week. The one he was selling for $100 whch i still don't believe he actually sold all 1000 copies. Although shout out to Jay-Z for copping 100 of them. Plenty of good music out there. You just gotta keep your ears and eyes open.

Random Axe (Black Milk, Guilty Simpson, Sean P)


Azizi Gibson

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Danny Brown- Old

I'll be honest, i never got into Danny Brown's music because his voice was too much for me to take. However, i did like the stuff of his that i did check out like Grown Up and his feature on Terrorist Threats. Those two tracks were really the only Danny ones that i ever listened to and that was it. It seemed i liked him more for his interviews than his music because he seemed like a funny ass dude who was genuine in everything he said no matter how outrageous it was. For real though, if you need a laugh just go watch a Danny Brown interview on youtube. Then i heard him on E-40's All My Niggas track and i had to do sort of a re-evaluation on his music because his verse was that sick. I didn't get crazy with it but i did check out Blunt After Blunt (directed by ASAP Rocky). I was like cool, let me check out his mixtape XXX. I knew that was considered one of the best mixtapes of 2011 and i always meaned to get around to it but just never did. SO i finally checked it out and my assumptions about Danny were completely wrong. He wasn't just some party rap dude (although i should have picked that up from listening to Grown Up and Terrorist Threats) but he was a man with a story to tell and he told it the way he wanted to. I always got respect for people who not only do things their way but are successful at it too. If you haven't checked out XXX, check that out. Well listening to that got me anticipating his album, Old, which is what i will be reviewing if you haven't figured that out. I went in with some expectations so let's see if they were met.

You'll notice as you listen to the album and look at the tracklisting that it is split into two parts: Side A and Side B. The first half is Danny rapping more over traditional hip hop Detroit style beats. This is reminiscent of XXX because he is telling stories here. Danny is letting us into his mind and his life. If this is your first listen of Danny, it most likely is a shock to the system especially if all you know about him is the stories you hear about him or the interviews you watch or read about him. We here a theme beginning in the first track of the album that obviously has been bugging Danny ever since he blew up after XXX. He is pretty much venting that too many people want the "old Danny Brown" back meaning they want the underground rapper who spits lyric after lyric, bar after bar. They want him to be a "traditional" hip hop artist rather than the weird nasally high pitched Danny Brown we receive today. He addresses in the hook that he's moved from that. Not that he can't rap like that because he does go back to rapping "traditionally" for the first half of the album but the reason he rapped that way was because of how his life was. He was selling drugs, serving a stint in prison, unafraid to let it fly on anyone who stepped on his turf. That was the old Danny Brown and he is saying that he has no reason to be rapping like that anymore since he is in a different place now. But it's funny that Danny is saying he is going to do what he wants yet he won't hesitate to give the fans what they want. He is rapping like the old Danny Brown through the first half of Old but he isn't talking about the same stuff. Which transitions beautifully into the next track, Return featuring Freddie Gibbs. If you didn't catch it, it is a sequel of sorts to the Outkast track, Return of the G off the classic album Aquemini. People want the old Danny Brown back because they feel like he turned into this weird drugged out hippy that got out of Detroit and lost touch with the hood. If you thought that way about him, Danny is quick to remind he won't hesitate to take the gun out and shoot you. He has stated in many interviews that people get him wrong all the time and forget that he was a drug dealer in Detroit and that kind of personality doesn't just leave a person because they make some more money. Of course Freddie Gibbs comes in with yet another cold verse. I've said this before but i'll say it again...i have never heard a bad Freddie Gibbs verse. He does what he does and does it well.

that old danny brown

After looking back i'm realizing i'm just recapping the album song by song and i don't want to do that and i'm sure you guys want to read about it so i'm just going to give my thoughts on the first half of the album as a whole. In short, I liked everything about it. If he had just done the first 9 or 10 songs as an album, obviously it would be too short but it was so good that i would have nothing bad to say about it. It was as flawless as it could be. Honestly, if Side A was its own album it would be in my top 2 albums projects that were released in 2013. I can't say anything bad about it and i'm not even jocking Danny Brown. It wasn't groundbreaking but he did everything so well. he got his point across that the old Danny Brown isn't coming back because he has grown as an artist and is going to keep doing him since that is what got him to the next level. Look at what he says on Red 2 Go which is the last track of Side A and the transition between Side A and Side B, "Did it my way, i ain't nobody's hoe, bout to pimp the rap game." He is reiterating again he is going to do it his way because that is what got him to where he is at today.

Speaking of what got Danny Brown to where he is today, that is what the second half of the album, Side B is. It is Danny rapping over EDM beats or dubstep beats, i don't know what you're supposed to call them. I normally don't never listen to these kinds of beats but i actually like what Danny did. He did party rap over party beats. If you didn't follow the path he took over the course of the album, Danny Brown did "hip-hop" for Side A, and Side B was the experimental hip-hop. I definitely like the first half more but i wasn't hating on the second half. My favorite tracks on Side B were Smokin and Drinkin and Dip. Honestly there's no need to go in depth on these tracks other than he subtly shouts out A Tribe Called Quest on Smokin and Drinkin. I was surprised to hear the Ab Soul feature on Way Up Here because i have never heard him over these beats and i wasn't feeling it too much. It's not like it was bad but i definitely prefer him on those TDE beats. Side B wasn't my favorite but i still fuck with it nonetheless. The only thing i'm scared of is now there is going to be a bunch of trash rappers going over edm beats so that is going to suck.

I'm going out on a limb here and am going to say this album is a game changer. I don't think there has been a rapper who has the love from so many different types of people and has dabbled in the types of sound that Danny Brown has before. It took me a while to get used to Side B because that is not the type of music i ever listen to but i finally got the bigger picture. Danny Brown has spoken before about progressing hip hop and he is right. With so many people clamoring for the "old danny brown," they want him rapping over 90's type Detroit beats and there is nothing wrong with that. But the problem is that if Danny Brown sticks to that and doesn't attempt to go for something new then who knows how long it would take for someone else to rap over these edm beats. Even if this project fails at least rappers would now know not to rap over these types of beats. Danny Brown is looking at hip-hop not only as music but he is looking at the culture as a whole. If all rappers stick to the same script there is no way for hip-hop to progress. Nothing against Joey Badass because i think he is a very talented individual but he isn't doing anything special by doing his whole 90's revival thing. All he is doing is going backwards and by doing so he can't go forward. With his ever growing fanbase digging what he does, they too would clamor for that 90's revival stuff meaning there would be less of a demand for progression. Although i haven't listened to Yeezus, from what i hear it is even more experimental than Side B of Old. Even if it sucks it at least pushes the boundaries and takes hip hop into new directions. So if we don't give Danny Brown a listen because of the beats he raps over like i used to, then hip-hop won't be able to progress as a genre of music or as a culture. Peace

Just found this interview/article where Danny Brown talks about his goal to progress rap. I can't believe i actually understood the album like that and was right for once.

Gang Starr

Nas and Damien Marley