Tuesday, May 26, 2015

In Honor Of Travis Ishikawa

Travis Ishikawa was designated for assignment by the San Francisco Giants the other day meaning the Giants have no need for him at the moment. It's a semi-watershed moment for fans because Ishikawa did give the franchise and the fanbase one of its greatest moments EVER. This team has been around since the 1800s and Travis Ishikawa of all people graced us with one of the greatest baseball moments of all time. If Buster Posey did it, it would be up there in terms of moments for sure. It would have been even less of a surprise if Bumgarner hit that home run. However, it would not come within the same stratosphere in terms of shock value compared to Travis Ishikawa hitting the home run. It was so shocking because it was Travis Ishikawa. Such a random player to deliver us such joy. It got me thinking as to what are some other great moments came from seemingly random Giants players over the years. My memory is terrible so my favorite moments have come in recent years.

1. Travis Ishikawa

Might as well finish the Travis Ishikawa story. I remember texting my friend once Ishikawa started to get starts in Left Field that it would be some crazy shit to envision "World Champion starting left fielder...Travis Ishikawa." I mean, come on. The Giants were fighting for the final playoff spot and their best option to start meaningful games in the last week of the season that carried playoff implications was a 31 year old first baseman whose career had peaked as a backup at the position. Bruce Bochy decided putting this guy in the outfield for a team that relied heavily on its defense to win games gave them the best shot at winning the World Series. And then they wonder why they get underestimated. This is why Ishikawa hitting a walk off home run to win the pennant for a team that could not buy a home run until that night off of a pitcher who was the defending NLCS MVP and is a strong Cy Young candidate this year is such a shocking moment. I mean Ishikawa was released earlier in the year by the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Giants made him go to the minor leagues before bringing him up. How is a movie not being written about this right now?

2. Cody Ross 2010 Postseason

His October made him a legend in the city of San Francisco forever. And they got him for nothing. The Marlins released him. How many General Manager ever had this thought cross their mind..."If we get Cody Ross, we're winning the World Series." I think my guess might be a little high but I'm going to say zero. But seriously, the Giants don't win the 2010 World Series without Cody Ross.

3. Guillermo Quiroz Walk Off Run

The fact that this was the second consecutive walk off home run because Buster Posey hit one the night before was the cherry on top. I never heard of Guillermo Quiroz until the Giants shocked the baseball world by keeping THREE catchers on the team. Okay, it wasn't that shocking but one of the catchers was the aforementioned reigning MVP, Buster Posey. Well Quiroz earned that third catcher spot and delivered when his name was called against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Everything about that sequence was beautiful. The swing, the flip, the fist pump around the bases, the fat man run, the smile, the embraces by teammates who knew that was his one shining moment, everything was perfect for Quiroz in that moment.

Monday, May 25, 2015

What Happened To...XV

Check the first two in the series of What Happened To...Asher Roth/Nipsey Hussle 

I think this is a fair enough question. XV is a rapper from Wichita, Kansas who seemed primed to breakout every year. XV first emerged with his mixtape 40 Days/40 Nights where he released one song in the morning and evening for 40 days straight. Then he got some more attention with 2009's Everybody's Nobody. That is when it seemed XV was primed to become the next underground superhero. He was working with Just Blaze and signed a deal with Warner Bros. Every year, the comment section on blogs across the internet always mentioned how XV got snubbed from being an XXL freshmen. He didn't let that stop him. In 2011 he released Zero Heroes, a mixtape featuring the likes of Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and Pusha T so it's not like he was working with strictly the underground of the underground. He was working with established guys and dudes who were set to blow up next. Still, no album though. Then the next year he dropped another mixtape, Popular Culture to some more rave reviews. However, still no album and then it felt like only the hardcore fans were the ones still following him. The push for him to get on the XXL cover diminished over the next few years. He temporarily slid out of irrelevancy last spring with his March Madness series but that was short lived. With this post, I'm going to try and see why and how XV seemingly fell off and how he can come back.

I have literally no idea what XV has been up to or where he is even chilling at. He's been MIA. It's kind of startling to be honest. He was supposed to be the next underground emcee to break on through to the mainstream but that was almost three years ago. I can't even find an interview written or on youtube since 2012. In an age where someone's every move, even if you are a minor celebrity, is recorded somehow there is an argument to be that the fact XV has been able to pull a Houdini is more impressive than him actually releasing an album. The only news we've gotten from him are promises that the album is coming and his March Madness series from a year ago. His twitter doesn't reveal anything. I haven't been able to find anything about his whereabouts on any message boards. All speculation and whatnot. So to answer the main topic of the article...My hands are up in the air about what happened to XV. He might be dead for all I know.

Say XV released his album back in late 2012 or 2013 like when it was supposed to be, allow me to offer my best oracle impression. I believe XV would have been a hit. He had catchy tracks, got co-signs from notable artists like Kendrick Lamar, J Cole, Talib Kweli, and Pusha T amongst others. Like I said earlier, Just Blaze was and for all I know is still set to executive produce the album. Just Blaze knows a little something about churning out hits. If you don't know who Just Blaze is, then wikipedia him. If you never heard of XV's music, picture a nerdy cross between J Cole and Lupe Fiasco. Late 2000's rap saw the genre move away from the gangsta rapper and ushered in acts like Kid Cudi, Drake, and the aforementioned Cole and Lupe. XV took the go against the grain approach and took it even further. He would spit about Wichita (his hometown), comic books, sample Smashing Pumpkins, and just do things out of the ordinary even for "conscious" rappers. The only question I would have for XV as a commercial artist is what kind of hits he would bring. He showed with Awesome that he can make a positive radio hit that could be played on commercials and self-esteem promos until the end of time but the question is whether or not he could make money. AKA make that club banger. That gets the radio spins which equals to getting the paper. XV seems like a grounded enough dude to at least try and stick to his guns and make an XV album versus making a Warner Bros album. Maybe that is what the delay has been about. Maybe XV isn't willing to compromise and that is why the album still has not come out. Who knows? But if he is really bashing heads with label execs they would have dropped him a long time ago. Labels don't put up with that. They know there are numerous rappers eager to jump at the chance to make a radio hit if that means becoming a company yes man.

Another theory I heard was that XV just hasn't been the same without longtime producer Seven. They had a falling out or something because they don't work together anymore which is kind of significant because part of the reason of how XV blew up was because of the music that he had conjured up with Seven. That's like running for President and then you and your running have beef over something and now you need a new running mate. There are obviously other candidates to replace your running mate and they might even be more talented but the replacement can't come in and replicate the same chemistry you had with the original one. It's that unspoken bond two people have that allows them to create something beautiful they can't necessarily match when working with someone else. Who knows. Maybe Seven felt some type of way about XV working with bigger names and felt he was getting left in the dust after all the work he had put in. Maybe XV was getting an ego and since he was on the move constantly, couldn't respond to Seven in timely manners. Who knows? I'm just throwing rumors out there which I am sure XV and Seven can appreciate. Oh well, free country. Maybe them seeing this will get them back into the lab together. You both aren't doing anything anyways. Might as well give it another shot. I don't even want any compensation for being the mediator. Just give the people what they want.

I really hope this helped slide XV back into your relevancy. I know I had zero thoughts about him until I came across one of his tracks while the iTunes was on shuffle. I'm pulling for him. Although absolutely every molecule of his momentum has evaporated, it would be a nice comeback story for XV to get some shine. Hell if he can crank out some hits, I think he'll actually do better than if he came out when he was supposed to because he would have more of an underdog story which we all know the media will eat up. The question then will be (other than if he ever breaks out) will be if it will be some 15 minutes of fame type stuff or was XV fooling us all and is a secret rap/mogul genius hiding out in farm country (or whatever Kansas is known for, other then perennial underachieving basketball teams).

Blu- The Only One

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Slim's Top 10 Hip-Hop Albums of All The Times

I know...I know. To all of my 8 loyal followers, I apologize. It's been a while. You know how it is, people just get caught up in stuff and that is what happened here. I've started and scrapped so many posts that if I were to die, there'd be a Tupac like level of demo-posts that other people are going to have to finish based on what they thought I would have said...kind of like all those posthumous Tupac tracks. Well I figured I kind of ease into this next entry with an oldie but a goodie. My top 10 hip-hop albums. My oh my what a difference a couple of years make. One of my first posts was a favorite albums list but that encompassed all genres and was kind of thrown together in a few hours. This list was narrowed to 10 so I can speak a little more about each project in depth and try to do some politicking on behalf of some of my favorites. Without further ado, my top 10 hip-hop albums of all time. Don't hold me to it though. This list is bound to look very different in a year. 

10. Europass by Elzhi

Here is the random album barely anyone has heard from an artist few can recognize each list has. Elzhi, for those that don't know, is a rapper from Detroit, Michigan. He is bar-for-bar one of the best rappers I have ever heard in my life. He is your favorite rapper's favorite rapper. Sean Price said he was afraid of getting on a track with Royce Da 5'9 and Elzhi for fear of his career ending. That is the kind of rapper Elzhi is. Europass is actually a mixtape/demo that was recorded while Elzhi was touring and almost all of it ended up becoming the album, The Preface. I just prefer the rawer sound that Europass possessed. I can't say much for Elzhi. He is an artist whose work you just have to experience for yourself to appreciate his craft. Having someone else tell you about how good he is doesn't do Elzhi's work justice. I'm just going to list my favorite lines off Europass.

"what i put down in the sound coil is crown royale, it's like i dug in the ground soil and found oil."
"you haters deprived of knowing i'm the greatest alive."

"i took away with your breath and ran, and still left with a grand like theft auto"
"to my step-dad here's 100 thou i owe, because my real dad never got to see his child grow."
"it helps to release the pain i've endured 'cause when i'm spilling the illings from my brain, then i'm cured"
"keep the flow top-secret, 'cause guys they might spy"
"and i came a long way from being in the gutter stealin', now i'm dope as the shit that your blunt concealin'"

9. Rap Music by Killer Mike

I am so happy right now for Killer Mike. He has been going on CNN, Bill Maher, been to the WHITE HOUSE while acting as the de-facto voice of hip-hop when it comes to political and social issues. I'm happy because I am a fan of Killer Mike. I'm not going to sit here and say I am a day one fan and know every verse he ever spit or some shit like that but I am a big fan of Killer Mike. I remember first hearing them on that OutKast track (which is the most underrated track in their discography) and then forgetting about him. The next time I heard of him was when Rap Music started appearing up everywhere because it was such a great album. I remembered Killer Mike and thought "everyone is talking about the album and I really liked that Killer Mike verse on The Whole World...I'm going to check it out." Thank God that I did. Not a single skippable track on this masterpiece. The run from Don't Die through the end of the album was probably the greatest 6 track run/run to close out an album I have ever heard in my life. The last half of Rap Music took the album to another level. It went from being a very good album to a great great album. The production was immaculate. Not even going to lie. This album introduced me to El-P. This one album spawned two of my favorite figures in hip-hop. That is why I am happy to see Killer Mike get his shine on major news networks. That is why I am happy to see El-P and Killer Mike put on the craziest shows touring as Run The Jewels.

8. The Score by The Fugees

The Score was actually the second album that the Fugees dropped. The first, Blunted On Reality, is nowhere near the sophomore release in terms of anything. I still refuse to believe they were made by the same people. My theory is the first album was probably created by Pras but Wyclef and Lauryn finally wised up and didn't let Pras touch anything the second time around. Shout out to the Nappy Heads remix though. That is how great The Score was/is. Every person gives that first album a pass. If you hold Blunted On Reality against the Fugees, someone needs to revoke your citizenship and deport you to Kazakhstan. That is how great The Score was/is. Let's be honest with this though, Lauryn Hill owned this. It was her single, Killin Me Softly, that propelled the album to its commercial success and a grammy win. They had the charts on lock. Then when listening to the rest of the album, it was Lauryn's amazing presence as an MC that took this album into anothther stratosphere. With all due respect to Wyclef (who might have had the best second banana run on an album ever), The Score is as legendary as it is because of the words that fell out of the mouth of Ms. Lauryn Hill. In addition to her solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, these two make up that legendary mystique that hangs over the head of Lauryn. She killed every track she on. Seriously, I ranked every track. Every track went Lauryn with the best verse, Wyclef with the second best, and Pras somewhere after number 2. Too many quotables, too many slick one liners, too many stories, packed into one verse per song. If Biggie can be considered an all time great after 2 albums, why can't Lauryn? Can we at least have a conversation about it. Obviously Lauryn Hill is a different type of animal than Nicki Minaj or Iggy or even Rapsody but seriously...has any female emcee in recent memory put up a verse that can even compare to Lauryn's on Zealots, or Ready or Not, or The Mask, or Family Business, or Manifest. I just gave you six verses on one album that is better than anything another female rapper has put out since The Score dropped. Please let me know of a better verse. And don't even say Nicki's verse on Monster. Just no. No. No. No. That's a conversation for another time though.

7. Below the Heavens by Blu

Everytime I listen this poetry, it gets moved up my favorite albums list. Each time I listen to this album, I have a new favorite song. Right now it happens to be Cold Hearted. Ask me in two weeks, it might be Simply Amazin. I mean, just yesterday my favorite track was Blu Colla Workers. It's impossible to get tired of this album because I find something new to love about it everytime it gets put on. Blu & Exile have spoiled me with their masterpiece. The only bad thing about this Michaelangelo type of art is that everything Blu puts out now and will always be compared to his debut album and two things work against Blu in that regard. The first is that Below the Heavens is such a Madison Bumgarner in the postseason work of art that of course it will be hard to top by subsequent releases. The dude hit a perfect 10 in his debut. The second is that Blu is the kind of artist to experiment with new sounds. Every project is different from the last and the next. Below the Heavens boxed us in as to the type of sound we wanted to hear from Blu. It didn't box Blu in however because he wants to record and release whatever he feels like doing. How can you not appreciate an artist who takes the risk of actually challenging himself instead of sticking to a comfortable and successful "style." Even if I don't like several of his stuff, I can respect Blu because he has also made a lot of stuff I can really dig. I don't know what he will release next but I know I'm going to listen to it because it could be the next project I love.

6. Midnight Marauders by A Tribe Called Quest 

"Honey let me tell you 'bout my only vice, it has to do with lots of lovin' and it aint nothin' nice."

To me that represents the third album that the amazing/great/phenomenal A Tribe Called Quest brought into this world. They're getting "edgier" to fit in with the hardcore shift happening in hip-hop while not losing the essence of their sound whatsoever. Midnight Marauders is still such a fun album to listen to. I don't think it sounds dated at all. A timeless sound is one of the qualifications for a classic album. Even the lyrics stand the test of time. "Kick a slow dance like my brother R. Kelly....I'm Jordan with the mic, wanna gamble." You could still use those two references today and it won't be out of place. Possible chance it just worked out that way and is a coincidence. I'm 90% sure though that Phife planned it that way.

This was the toughest choice for me. Should I pick The Low End Theory or Midnight Marauders? Despite me liking every single track on The Low End Theory, I have to choose the latter because I just enjoy it more. I would really only skip Keep It Rollin' anyways. It was Tip doing his usual thing and Phife Dawg at the top of his game. Phife really seemed to tighten his rhymes down. No fluffer, just straight to the point and the bars came out concise. "I like 'em brown, yellow, white, puerto rican, and haitian...my name is Phife Dawg from the zulu nation." That right there tells you a lot of what you need to know about Phifer.

A Tribe Called Quest is an important group for me because these are the guys that opened the floodgates for me to find the rest of the golden era/"underground" hip-hop. From ATCQ, I went on to listen to Pharcyde, Illmatic, Jurassic 5, Little Brother, Slum Village, and countless others. Ths is a debt I will always owe A Tribe Called Quest. Salute.

5. Kismet by Mr Muthafuckin eXquire

Mr. Muthafuckin Exquire. I don't know where his hood ass was found but thank god he was. Such a versatile MC in terms of subject matter and even sound. Ex has said in interviews that every project is different from the previous. I've mentioned this before but I'll say it again. I'm never going to hate on an artist for experimenting and trying new things rather than boxing themselves in and sticking to what is comfortable. How can there be any progression if no one is trying anything new? That being said, if Ex releases a follow up to Kismet, there will be no complaints from me if it sounds anything like the original. This "mixtape" is everything I love about Ex as a rapper. A little backstory first though. I put mixtape in parenthesis because Kismet was actually supposed to be his debut album for Universal. The label didn't think it was good enough to be sold in stores or played on the radio. Exquire didn't care. Ex made his album and not the label's album. After some back and forth, Exquire said "fuck it" and released it for free. Makes sense, seeing as the project never would have went to retail. I think it's safe to assume that Exquire put much time and effort into it and at the end of the day he is an artist and an artist's ultimate goal is to release their work, especially one that is amazing.
Anyways, back to what made Kismet amazing. Even though Mr Muthafuckin Exquire still doesn't have the type of notoriety he deserves, you can still listen to the project and realize this is something unique to Ex. He isn't jocking anyone's sound and is completely original. Honestly, there isn't another rapper who raps that can combine all of the topics that Ex spits about and make it sound coherent. There is a lot of black empowerment, distrust of the government, outspokenness against traditional systems, etc. At the same time he will spit some of the most ignorant lyrics ever. "Revolutionary thoughts, Fred Hampton speeches in my ipod...conflicted as Flavor Flav...nine chains on my neck, you can weigh my pain." That is off of Noble Drew Ali. "Money doesn't change you are, only amplifies the shit." Same track. Ex is that dude who has so much knowledge about a variety of topics that he can speak to anyone about anything. He seems like someone who has the gift of gab. He's dropping all these crazy references to Noble Drew Ali or he'll call out fellow Muslims for being fake then he'll drop a track called I was Drunk When I Wrote This or Illest Niggaz Breathin and be on the most ignorant shit imaginable. INB by the way has a Lord of the Rings sample in it. One main reason why I really appreciate Ex's music is because of the point of view he raps from. On Kismet, he is merely rapping from his own perspective. We are listening to Mr. Muthafuckin Exquire. Not a person speaking on behalf of a group of people. That makes everything more personable, making it more relatable. This actually could be a problem as to why Ex hasn't really gotten more fans. He isn't going to try and make music in a why that everyone can enjoy. He will continue to write from his own thoughts and if people get it they get it and if not, then oh well. I really could go on but you gotta listen to it for yourself. If you never heard of eXquire, it might be a tough first listen, but if you could get past that, you won't be disappointed.

4. Illmatic by Nas

Along with Steph Curry hitting threes, listening to Illmatic is one of the rare wonders in the world where words truly do not it justice. Just listen.

3. Krit Wuz Here by Big Krit

It should come as no surprise that a Big Krit album (album quality even though it was labelled a mixtape) appears on the list. I've spoken about him ad nauseum on here. The only question was which one would it be. For me, the first Krit project I heard is the best. I could throw it on today and find tracks still relevant to me today. Even though it was not Krit's first project, it was the one that put him on the map nationally. As the story goes, it was actually going to be his last try at music.
If it wasn't successful, Krit would have went a different route for his career. You hear the hunger in the music. You hear the desperation in his voice that he knows it was his last shot. Safe to say that Krit made his best music with his back up against the wall. He has shown over the years to be able to rise to the occasion. When his studio debut, Live From The Underground, "flopped," Krit released King Rememberded In Time to quiet the naysayers. When it came time to release his sophmore studio album, Cadillactica, he shut some more critics up. Anyways I digress. Back to Krit Wuz Here. The first track with Big Sant, Return of 4Eva, still is in the rotation heavy. "Young K-R-I-T, macking hoes like n****s with perms and gold teeth." That was the first line I ever heard from him and I was hooked. It was the perfect conconction of ignorance, cool, slick rhyming, and imagery all packed into one line. That combination is what I love about the album and Krit as an artist as a whole. He is so versatile that I put him on to many of my friends because there's guaranteed to be something there for everyone. In addition to Krit's rhyming, the beats on the album were fire. Not only that, but he produced the whole thing himself. I don't think any other rapper could have possibly rhymed over the beats the same way that Krit did. The music was such a perfect marriage between rhymes and beats. The samples were perfect, the editing, the mastering, the sequencing, etc. You name it, Krit was on point with it. I'm not one of those people who are like "you don't like this then I question your intellect blah blah blah," but exceptions have to be made. If you don't like Krit Wuz Here (you don't have to like Krit as an artist or think that KWH was his best project) then you need to re-evaluate your life choices. Especially after knowing the backstory and what that project meant to his career, to me that just makes listening to it that much more enjoyable. I mean, who else can sample Adele and make it sound that good. If you say Childish Gambino, take a lap. Check it out if you haven't, you'll thank me.

2. ATLiens by OutKast

Remember how I said picking Midnight Marauders over The Low End Theory was my toughest choice. I lied. Picking between ATLiens and Aquemini was the toughest choice. Outkast is my favorte thing in hip-hop that involves more than one person. So I'm picking between two of my favorite's babies. You know how hard that is? I could have easliy thrown both of them on here and said fuck it but that's not how we roll over here. We get the small bucks over here to make these grand decisions that could possibly throw off the space-time continuum. We don't run from that challenge over here. We embrace it. I think I made the right choice too because everything in the world is still functioning how it is supposed to. The weather out here is still bi-polar, Dwight Howard is still a mental midget, and the Duggar family is still somehow relevant in 2015.

Unique. I have yet to hear anything that sounds like Outkast's second album. There are multiple reasons for that and one of them is that it is such a distinct sound that if anyone else were to try and duplicate the sound, it would be such a clear case of biting that it wouldn't even be worth it to go through with it. Another reason is that Big Boi and Andre 3K challenge themselves to experiment and expand their sound with every subsequent release so that no project sounds like anything they have done before. When you create such a unique sound so-much-so that there is nothing that sounds like it, it almost forces that project to become timeless. Timeless=classic.

Whenever someone says Andre is light years ahead of Big Boy as a rapper, I just throw this cd on. Outkast is a duo. For a duo to be great, they have to complement each other. That is what Big Boi and 3K do to each other. They are two great MC's who see each other as a way to make themselves better individually and consequently make the group better because of the internal competition. People are still looking for an Andre 3K album nowadays but what the people really want is another OutKast album.

1. Enter the 36 Chambers by Wu Tang Clan

If you have heard this album before then nothing really needs to be said about it. I know I'm not the only person who has this listed as their favorite album of all time. Words still won't do it justice but I'll try and give it a shot. Why not. Since I was still running around in diapers when this album was released by the Wu Tang Clan back in 93, i can't speak to the total impact it had in regards to hip-hop at the time but from what i hear...the group of 9 MC's from Staten Island changed the game. Dr Dre and the west coast were dominating rap at the time towards the end of a second "golden age" for the genre. The Wu Tang Clan completely shifted the focus back to the east coast and the aesthetics went back to gritty rhymes instead of the sunshine and party lifestyle raps that g-funk and co were pumping out of the left coast. Hip-hop had never seen anything before like the Wu Tang Clan and quite frankly have never seen anything since (don't even compare Odd Future to them if you were thinking of doing so). These were 9 legitimate MC's (yes even U-God and Masta Killa had their moments) who came together to produce, in my opinion, the greatest record in the history of hip-hop. That is not an easy thing to do. The egos eventually drove the group apart but we witnessed what the 9 were capable of when all are on the same page. 7 of the 9 MC's went on to release amazing solo albums after 36 Chambers. That is the kind of squad that made this album. It's like those old Boston Celtic teams from the 60's where it seemed every single player on the squad was a hall of famer. Boston had Bill Russell leading the way and the Wu Tang Clan had the RZA holding it down, being the glue guy for the Clan. Much credit should go to the Zig Zag Allah for quarterbacking 36 Chambers to great success. He handled all the production and everything was perfect. The edits on each track fit right in with the kung-fu theme throughout the album, the skits, the beats, the transitions...everything fit like a Greg Maddux front door two-seamer on a left handed hitter. Not a single skippable track on here which is the most basic/best compliment you can give an album. I know I gave RZA a lot of the credit and deservedly so, but shout out once again to the GZA, Raekwon, Method Man, Ghostface Killah. Masta Killa, Inspectah Deck, U-God, and the late great Ol' Dirty Bastard for making the most enjoyable piece of art that fit into a 58 minute 23 second span of time to ever hit my ears.