Revisiting Clipse’s Debut Album ‘Lord Willin’ (Editorial + Track By Track Review)

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The early 2000’s were full of excellent hip hop albums. At the start of the 21st century we were blessed with the Marshall Mathers LP, which became the fastest selling studio album by a solo artist in American music history. 2000 also saw Supreme Clientele (Ghostface Killah) Stankonia (Outkast) Train Of Thought (Talib Kweli + Hi Tek) and underground cult classics such as Deltron 3030 and The Unseen (Quasimoto).

The Blueprint hit stores in 2001, along with Miss E…So Addictive (Missy Elliot) In Search Of… (N.E.RD.) Disposable Arts (Masta Ace…a HIGHLY underrated release) and The Cold Vein (Cannibal Ox.)

 

In 2002 I was just 11 years old. I had no connection to music besides the pop radio hits of the time. Little did I know it was one of the greatest time for hip hop since the 90’s. There was no shortage of music to listen to. When I decided to dedicate my life to the genre, I researched the classics. 2002 had The Eminem Show, The Lost Tapes (Nas) Blazing Arrow (Blackalicious) Quality (Talib Kweli) Phrenology (The Roots) and many more. While I enjoyed every one, it was Clipse’s 2002 debut Lord Willin’ that changed my life.

A little background on the group: Brothers Pusha T + Malice joined up in 1992, initially calling themselves Jarvis. They had moved to Virginia Beach from The Bronx, and soon met Pharrell Williams. He took them under his wing, and helped them secure a deal with Elektra Records in 1996. They recorded their debut album (Exclusive Audio Footage) with Pharrell as executive producer, and dropped their first single The Funeral, but it did small numbers. As such, the album was shelved and Clipse was released from Elektra.

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Malice, Pusha T + Pharrell

Pharrell knew how talented the brothers were and signed them to his Star Trak Entertainment imprint in early 2001. Under his guidance and the overarching label Artista Records, they released two successful singles, When The Last Time, and Grindin’. Their debut Lord Willin’ was released shortly after, receiving rave reviews, and hitting #1 on the hip hop charts.

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The production duo The Neptunes (Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo)

5 years later, after a suggestion from a friend, I downloaded the LP on iTunes. Initially, I didn’t understand it. What the hell was I hearing? The production from The Neptunes gave me goosebumps, and the rapper’s chemistry was unlike anything I’d ever heard. I played Lord Willin’ every single day for almost a month. I couldn’t get enough.

I revisited it just last week, and it gave me the exact same feeling; as if I was listening to it for the first time. If you haven’t heard it, I’m hoping this review will inspire you to give it a listen and be a helpful guide to each track. If you’ve already been exposed to its genius, I hope it will give you a reason to press play again.

Intro

Arguably my favorite track on the album. Pusha T gives you no breathing room, starting his verse under a second in. Braggadocios lyrics accompanied by a blunt delivery introduces this unique emcee. Malice hits the second verse, speaking on his desire to leave the streets behind and find his life’s purpose. He tells us no rapper can top his rhyming abilities which you just might agree with at the end. The Neptune’s jump right in with them, combining bouncing drums with an abstract baseline.

Young Boy

When those horns hit my adrenaline picked up and chills ran throughout my body. I felt it even more when Pharrell began to us his high pitched voice as an instrument. Who knew a somber history of childhood could sound so upbeat?

Virginia

Arguably one of the best hometown anthems in the history of hip hop. It’s not a complete celebration as Pusha and Malice shed light on the drug culture and their history with dealing. Police brutality is touched upon with anger, but they see no change in sight. Although they aren’t too fond of their situation, they are full of pride.

Grindin’

And then we come to the best song of 2002. The Neptunes blow all other producers out of the water, utilizing minimal hand claps and the loudest drums I’ve ever heard. While this is Clipse’s most commercial song, (as it was a very successful single) they stay true to their bread and butter with drug references, boasting, and some sentimentality towards the end.

Cot Damn (featuring Ab Liva + Rosco P Coldchain)

Pharrell comes in with the simple but effective chorus, and Pusha and Malice give their best performance yet with crazy metaphors, wordplay, and unique cadence. Although the subject matter stays the same, they keep it fresh and never stale. We’ve also got some features on here from Ab-Liva and Roscoe P Coldchain. It’s over 5 minutes, and while the contributors add some flavor The Neptunes and the brothers continue to be the stars of the show.

Ma, I Don’t Love Her (featuring Faith Evans)

The Neptunes prove their versatility once again with this track. There are elements of funk, groove, and 70’s r&b. The duo trade bars to defend their player ways with help from Faith Evans. It’s a nice switch up, and the most relatable song so far.

FamLay Freestyle

This was a bold move. There are no verses from Pusha + the brothers; only a “freestyle” from a rapper named FamLay. If this truly is a freestyle, it’s impressive. If not, it’s an average record at best. Allowing another artist to have an entire song to himself was admirable, and although it’s my least favorite on the project, it was a humble move.

When The Last Time

Another mind blowing moment. Every element of this song is incredible. The Neptunes were able to incorporate jazz and melody into the most club worthy song of the album. I replayed this a few times before moving onto to the next.

Ego

Besides the FamLay freestyle, this was my least favorite cut. It’s still a nice offering, but sounded a bit uninspired and a little cheesy.

Comedy Central (featuring Fabolous)

Another song chock full of mind bending word play. By this point in the album listeners are most likely convinced the rapper’s drug dealing past is very real. If there’s any doubt, Comedy Central will give you all of the reassurance you’ll need. These guys can’t make this up as they describe in detail the transactions and benefits of the operation. It’s another highlight for The Neptunes, with a clear incorporation of guitars and prog rock. Fabolous gives a standout verse as well.

Let’s Talk About It (featuring Jermaine Dupri)

This is the most ignorant track on the album and the most fun. Adding a carefree song into the mix was the break we all needed.

Gangsta Lean

This is a summer anthem. You can almost see the clear blue water, beaming sun, and girls clad in tiny bikinis. It’s full of sex, getting high, sweet sipping, and even romance.

I’m Not You (featuring Jadakiss, Styles P, Roscoe P Colchain)

It starts with a statement from Pusha T: “I told you, I live this shit.” He’s not trying to prove it, but warn against it. Clipse have perhaps unknowingly given us the most anti-drug album in hip hop history. There are huge downsides to being drug lords summed up in the closing track. Getting hit with ten rounds, getting robbed, and facing death isn’t fun. Jadakiss, Styles P, and Coldchain second the motion.

No Malice concludes Lord Willin’ with perhaps the most important line of the debut: Yes it pains me to see them need this/All of them lost souls and I’m their Jesus.

Two more albums would follow, but Lord Willin’ is the group’s finest work. In February 2013 Pusha T announced the title of the group’s fourth studio album would be As God As My Witness, but at 2014’s SXSW performance Malice announced the break up of the group. While Pusha continues to put out music under GOOD Music, Malice is now No Malice, and is a devoted Christian.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Artist’s Can Now Promo Their Merch Through Us! Click For Details!

If you’d like to skip the editorial and go straight to the announcement, scroll down until you see a horizontal line. The pertinent info will be below. 

I have been an obsessive music collector for as long as I can remember. One of the first editorials on flowsfordays described my introduction to hip hop music. In summary, my brother introduced me to LimeWire, downloading Get Rich Or Die Tryin,’ countless Lil’ Wayne mixtapes, and even r&b tracks from the likes of Tyrese, Ginuwine, and R. Kelly.

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Before my formal education, I gravitated towards alternative + indie rock. Every Sunday my mom would drive me to Borders, where I’d immediately headed to the CD section. In the early 2000’s CD’s generated over 13 billions dollars a year, so the racks were numerous, and always completely full. I was not familiar with these albums, and surprisingly it made me feel safe. There was a sense of unlimited discovery.

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Hours were spent going through the racks, starting with A, and then going to Z. At the time Borders had stations where you could scan the barcode of an album and listen to it in full. I pushed myself to only listen to track 1, (unless it was an intro) and if it appealed to me, I would buy it. Other factors did come into play when deciding, such as cover art and the year of the release. I would often start with the artist or band’s debut to get a formal introduction to their music.

My mom and dad supported my interest in music from the start. They saw how much happier I was when I listened to music. I had just been diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety, and it gave us all a sigh of relief.

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Every week my collection grew, and and the stacks became piled. I popped each album into my CD player as soon as I got home, getting lost in the music. I received my first iPod around 2005, and found a new thrill in burning the albums to iTunes, and then adding them to the device.

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My obsession only grew. I transferred to Columbia College of Chicago in 2011, and immediately discovered Reckless Records. I went there almost every week, and only bought CD’s. After a year I took an interest in the vinyl section of the store. That very day I decided to purchase a record although I had no turntable.

4f7ce21b73bf7.jpgMy first purchase was Sleigh Bell’s debut album Treats, which I still own to this day. It has become one of my favorite LP’s of all time, and just for good measure, I bought another copy this year.

Soon afterwards I bought a record player. Unfortunately it was a Crosley, one of the worst turntables you can buy. I quickly upgraded, and even got bass heavy speakers to connect to the player.

Some facts about vinyl:

In 2017 vinyl sales hit a 25 year high.

According to The Vinyl Factory

For the week of Record Store Day (ending April 27), album sales in independent music shops increased by 197% compared to the week previous. For vinyl specifically, the increase (from 2016) is a whopping 484% which equates to 409,000 albums on vinyl sold. Cassettes have made a comeback as well, with a 74% increase in sales in 2016.

The best platform for independent artist’s, without question, is bandcamp.com Anyone can sign up and easily sell their albums. They also have the ability to sell physical copies, whether it be CD’s, records, cassettes, and even apparel.

According to the Bandcamp blog:

Every aspect of Bandcamp’s business was up in 2016. Digital album sales grew 20%, tracks 23%, and merch 34%. Growth in physical sales was led by vinyl, which was up 48%, and further boosted by CDs (up 14%) and cassettes (up 58%). Every single one of these numbers represents an acceleration over last year’s growth. Hundreds of thousands of artists joined Bandcamp in 2016, more than 2,000 independent labels came on board (like Dischord, Merge, and Dualtone), and the rate of fan signups tripled. Fans have now paid artists nearly $200 million using Bandcamp, and they buy a record every three seconds, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

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THE ANNOUNCEMENT

If you’ve read this far, I thank you, and I know it will be worth your time. We are announcing the start of a new series (title TBA.)

Artist’s will now be able to promote their merch through us. You will get a lengthy post, including HD photos of the packaging, a review of the album and links to purchase and support your music. The only requirement is for the actual merch to be sent to us through the mail. Once we receive it, the post will be up within the next 3 days. 

Although vinyl and cassette sales have rapidly increased, not everyone is aware of the medium or that artist’s are working hard to put it all together. With over 2.8K Twitter followers, we have a wide reach, and will be tweeting these posts as soon as they are published. 

If you’d like to participate in this series or learn more, please email me at juliestevens@flowsfordays.com. Make sure to put “physical merch” in the subject line. I will get back to everyone within the day, and we can talk about the next steps.

Please spread the word, and if you know someone who might be interested, tell them to tweet me at @flowsfordays_

Thank you for all of the support…we only wish to give it back.

10 Billboard Chart Toppers I Disliked in 2017 (So Far) (Editorial)

Hip hop has had a strong start in 2017. With an album from Migos, back to back Future LP’s, an upcoming Drake playlist, and much more, we’ve been spoiled in just 3 months. Collectively, music fans usually use the aux chord to listen to music, and radio has become a dying industry.

Most of us aren’t paying attention to the Billboard Top 100. We are too focused on numbers from YouTube and SoundCloud, and retweets from Twitter. But Billboard has continued to document the list in every genre. Unfortunately, they still combine r&b and hip hop into one list (and hip hop songs tend to take over.)

I occasionally check the site, as I’m a blogger and like to stay in the know. This year especially, I have been amazed at how many bad songs have charted. While many are being deservingly recognized, there are some that just baffle me.

I wanted to share my thoughts on this, by listing 10 songs that have hit the top 10 Hip Hop/R&B charts that I really don’t like. They are listed in order of dislike, with #1 being my least favorite. While a few may shock you – I have given some detailed explanation so you can hear me out.

Before we get into the list, brief yourself on how The Billboard Top 10 works with a quote from the official Billboard website:

This week’s most popular R&B/hip-hop songs are ranked by radio airplay audience impressions as measured by Nielsen Music.

1. Bad Things – Machine Gun Kelly + Camila Cabello

I’ve never been a big fan of Machine Gun Kelly, so maybe adding Bad Things to the list is biased. In retrospect, if ANY rapper made a song like this, I would hate it just the same (besides maybe Drake – no shame.) This is an obvious attempt at making a song for the radio, and Machine Gun Kelly accomplished just that. The single has gone Platinum in less than a year, and peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100.

I will admit – Kelly has been dabbling in pop/rap for some time now (see A Little More with Victoria Monet) and most of these songs are very personal to him and his struggles. But damn man, get back to your mixtape roots! When he dedicates himself to actually rhyming, he is a force to be reckoned with. His intensity is unmatched, especially in his live shows.

So – I literally groan out loud when a song like Bad Things is brought to my attention. Kelly actually tries to sing on this – with horrific results. It is the complete opposite of songs like Wild Boy, and a generic disappointment. I know he can do so much better, and he actually did with his second LP General Admission. But, this chart topper is 10 steps in the wrong direction.

* The chorus sung by Kelly is the chorus of a nostalgic Fastball song. Sadly, their song is 10x better.

2. Rolex – Ayo + Teo

Ayo + Teo went viral with Rolex and their #rolexchallenge (that I still don’t understand the significance ofFirst off – who the fuck are these guys? They sound like a cheap version of Lil Uzi, and any SoundCloud rapper using this increasingly popular flow.

They don’t make good music, case in point with their previous release In Reverse, and follow up to Rolex, Lit Right Now. Rolex is ingenue, and hardly something worth even playing once.

3. Selfish – PNB Rock

Selfish has been widely successful. Dropping as a single in mid June, it was well received on a host of blogs including The Fader, Complex, and Hotnewhiphop. In just over 2 months, the official music video has been viewed over 8.5 Million times, and at the time of this post, it has made the Billboard top 10 (for Rap) for 13 weeks collectively.

Many hip hop fans believe Selfish is PNB at his best; and stands as their personal favorite. I’m a fan of PNB’s music; his ability to out-rap the most mainstream artists, and his unique approach to melody. His beat selection is uncanny, and he definitely delivered on GTTM. I play it often – (especially the banger that is Range Rover.)

The selling point for critics and fans alike is the “catchiness” of the record…but I don’t hear it in the slightest. It’s a structural mess, with PNB awkwardly trying to match the rhythm of the Needlz and Donut produced beat. His vocal performance is one of his worst, as he attempts to stay on pitch, crooning with a barely audible flow. While the subject matter is genuine, (peep his interview with Fader) his expression of these feelings are mediocre at best.

4. iSpy – KYLE + Lil Yachty

iSpy isn’t on this list because I hate Lil Yachty. I don’t. I actually like a lot of his music (especially Mixtape and his recent feature on Taylor Bennet’s new album.) Most of my distain comes from KYLE. I’ll be honest – I hadn’t heard of him until this song, and he gave a pretty awful first impression. He is a direct clone of Yachty on this record. Upon further research – I found out he started as SuperDuperKyle and/or K.i.D. and dropped an LP in 2015.

The LP, Smyle, contained much better music. While iSpy definitely seemed like an organic collaboration, it’s ultimately tasteless. It caters to the mindless 12-16 year olds that don’t even like hip hop, and just want a catchy hook and a simple beat.

5. Congratulations – Post Malone + Quavo

Critics REALLY ragged on Stoney. I enjoyed a lot of the songs, but at 18 tracks deep (with the deluxe edition) it was a tiresome listen. While Money Made Me Do It stands as my 2nd favorite record of Post Malone’s, (#1 going to Tear$) the other single, Congratulations, wasn’t even in my top 10 in his collective discography. Why? While Malone contributed some great verses (mostly towards the beginning), the song really went down hill when he attempted to harmonize.

I stand by my belief that Post does best over slow rolling beats, as evident in Broken Whiskey Glass and Patient. But Congratulations barely moves, making the 3 and a half minute song feel like 6. The saving grace is Quavo. He outperforms Post vocally and rhythmically.

6. Do You Mind – DJ Khaled, Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown, August Alsina, Jeremih, Future, Rick Ross

I need Khaled to stop making music. Like now. There are literally SIX artists on this record, as an attempt for click bait. Khaled has been doing this from the start of his career, and whenever I see the featured list go past 3 I know it’ll be a bust (with the exception being I’m On One.)

Do You Mind is another one of those songs. One thought that always crosses my mind is how can a single with so many great artists produce something so excruciatingly bad? Khaled is the master at bringing these results.

I really don’t have much more of an explanation to why I dislike Do You Mind so much. I’m guessing most of my readers will agree with me. His album, Major Key, did well, but to be honest I couldn’t get past track #2  because I had just about enough of Khaled’s annoying ad-libs. I wish I could have  – because I hear a lot of the songs are pretty good. (I will admit I gave Nas Album Done a thorough listen, because, come on.) If someone could send me Major Key cutting out Khaled entirely, I will be forever grateful.

7. Black Beatles – Rae Sremmurd feat. Gucci Mane

Black Beatles is by far Swae Lee + Slim Jxmmi’s most successful song. The single has been purchased over 1.2 millions times, the official music video has over 400 Million views, it sparked the viral Mannequin Challenge, and Rolling Stone + Pitchfork dubbed it one of the best songs of 2016.

While all of this is true – I can’t stand this song. The chorus isn’t the problem; it’s the surrounding verses that turned me off. They are off pitch and lack even more substance that a typical Rae Sremmurd track. Fans of the song (which have proven to numerous) love the Mike Will Made It beat, but I found it to be one of his weaker instrumentals. It made no lasting impact upon repeated listens, and I’m actually a huge fan of Mike’s work.

More than that – many of Gucci’s bars are weak, especially in the beginning of his verse. I will admit things start to pick up steam, but it’s definitely not his best performance. I truly believe I could have loved BB if the aforementioned elements were tweaked. This guy got it right.

In case you were wondering – I agree SremmLife 2 was a solid project. But, the best songs on the LP are Real Chill (with Kodak Black) + closer Just Like Us. If you want my in depth thoughts, peep my collaborative review with Color + Rhyme. 

8. Juju On That Beat – Zay Hilfigerrr + Zayion McCall

Yes, I realize the impact Juju has had on popular culture. It became a viral meme towards the end of last year, earning hella money. According to Zay Hilfigerrr and Zayion McCall, the song was made in about 5 minutes. To summarize the history of the hit record (according to Sterogum):

Hilfigerrr came up with the song, initially calling it “TZ Anthem” and getting it out into the world by starting a #TZAnthemChallenge hashtag. Pretty soon, kids were filming their own versions and posting them. For some reason, it became a thing with white girls, and then it became another thing for people on Twitter to argue about whether the white girls in the videos had made fools of themselves or not. (You will find so much of this if you do even the tiniest bit of Googling.) Two guys dressed as clowns, apparently part of a dance crew called @FreshTheClowns, went viral doing the dance a couple of months ago, and someone at Atlantic had the bright idea to sign Hilfigerrr and McCall, and to get the song out into the world in a form that people could buy. All this happened in a few months.

There is no shade thrown to Zay  + Zayion on the success of Juju, but singling out the actual audio, it’s pretty rough. Yes, I realize it was made to get people to dance, but I’m a little tired of seeing songs climb up the charts based off popularity (see #2.) It is a step backwards in the hip hop culture, and should not have been put into the “rap” charts. There is nothing “hip hop” about this.

9. Now Or Later – Sage the Gemini

Sage the Gemini hit my radar in 2013 with his hit song Gas Pedal (featuring Iamsu!.) It was a hyphy classic, certified at 2x Platinum. The duo even performed it on the Late Night Show With David Letterman, just a week after it’s official release. While the Salva remix impressed me more, I thought it was a nice offering from the Cali rapper.

My experience with Gas Pedal made Now Or Later even more of a let down. The instrumental (which was so popular it sparked a Snapchat filter ) was flawless, and snippets of Sage’s flow were as smooth as butter. But the chorus killed me. If he combined his catchy verses into a chorus, Now Or Later wouldn’t be on this list. Hopefully his second studio album, Bachelor Party, won’t have more of these.

 10. Too Much Sauce DJ Esco featuring Future + Lil Uzi

This will be another controversial listing, but hear me out. Getting Esco, Future and Lil Uzi on a song is my personal wet dream. I love all of these guys – and have been following their musical endeavors for quiet some time. So – when I heard about the collaboration, I couldn’t wait to give it a proper listen.

While this barely made the list, I’m still underwhelmed by Too Much Sauce. Uzi is the main feature, and while I am a huge fan of his music, his contribution was a complete snooze. I do think the structure of the song was creative, with a brief chorus from the recognizable voice that is Future. But it was repeated ad nauseam, and by the time it was over I knew I would never play it again.

*Last thought: My favorite chart topper from 2017 is I’m Better by Missy Elliot. If you haven’t already, do yourself a huge favor and check out the jaw dropping music video.

Late Night SoundCloud Finds Of February 21st

Daniel Cruz – overthecounter 

I heard this song at 1am, and as soon as the bass hit I grabbed my good speakers and went crazy. I put overthecounter on repeat for a good hour, turning up in my bedroom, trying to find a reason to turn it off.

Nevada isn’t know for their hip hop, but Daniel Cruz doesn’t seem to give a fuck. The song is produced by P. Maison, and with Daniel’s unbroken flow and brash lyrics, overthecounter became my nighttime banger.

In Daniel’s SoundCloud profile he says don’t @ me, but I hope he’s ok with me giving him praise for this record.

E.R.T. x Zip Dot – REFUGEES

E.R.T. and Zip Dot have been tearing up the Chicago hip hop scene for quiet some time. Seeing their collaboration was a nice surprise on my SoundCloud feed. They didn’t disappoint with their equally impressive rapid flows.

I’d also like to note the song was made possible by 3 influential media outlets: The Insider’s Experience, Mindset Music + Illanoize (who premiered the track.)

Rich Espy (feat. Byou) – Get Too Geeked 

Although Get Too Geeked was released over a month ago, I needed to include it on this list as I did hear it last night. Artists Rich Espy + Byou linked and went HAM over the By Law produced beat. The chorus is an outright anthem, that is as equally catchy and it is creative.

Naiym The Wizard (featuring K$UBI KAYY) – Santero 

Naiym The Wizard is a double threat. He raps and produces masterfully as apparent on Santero. He gets his Kanye on with the sampled and stuttering beat. My attention was grabbed further, as he displayed his unique flow and braggadocios bars. Featured artist K$UBI KAYY gives even more depth to the catchy, yet conscious track.

*Santero is off his upcoming EP Godz Forgive & I Do Too.

Instrumentals:

Dutchman – vague w/ longlost

⚡👻⚡ – VPXLLX

At midnight I found two stunning instrumentals back to back . I’ll let them speak for themselves.

Notable Music Videos Of February (So Far)

Zheep – Like Glue (Erykah Badu) + It’s Whateva

Zheep has become one of my favorite artists out of Baltimore. I keep up with his Instagram Story Feed regularly (he recently posted some un-released material that sounds fire.) He hasn’t put out a bad music video yet, evident by his over 1K subscribers on YouTube. In just 3 days he’s released 2 VERY different visuals. First up is Like Glue (Erykah Badu) directed by Marleux Desire. The single is dope, (and my favorite song from him) but the visual is even more grandiose. Marleux and Zheep keep an almost pitch black theme with deep blue colors. You can definitely see Zheep rapping, but the editing compliments the dark production by Raf Comp. Zheep’s performance is full of confidence and execution.

It’s Whateva was released in conjunction with Like Glue, which was genius. With LG the viewer can see Zheep performing in full effect, while IW shows his experimentation. Director GhotDrank did an amazing job combing visual effects, drawings, and abstract lighting.

Lonny X – Drama

Before Lonny dropped his impressive EP Money Year: Very Bad Influence (Volume 1), he released a trap flavored single called Drama. I streamed it on SoundCloud just a few hours after its drop, and it definitely impressed. I was happy to see the official music video drop just a few days ago. Director  utilized sunlight, and square shots to perfection. I enjoyed Raheem’s choice of focus, most notably the eerie birds. 

Malcolm Anthony – MONEY AINT A THANG FREESTYLE 

We recently posted this lighthearted video from Malcolm Anthony. We noted that it was shot in sunny California, with Malcolm obviously enjoying himself. It was directed by Rari Visuals who made every color in the visual pop

Mir Fontane – Down By The River

One of the standout cuts from Mir’s excellent mixtape Who’s Watching The Kids was Down By The River. Mir speaks on his experience with violence in his hometown of New Jersey. Director 519 Media gives life to the narrative, combining reenactments and shots of Mir rapping with intensity.

 

More Notable Valentine’s Day Releases – 2017

Ok – we lied. We have one last V-day post for today. This Tuesday has been a whirlwind of incredible love themed releases. It’s honestly hard to keep up. Through friend’s suggestions, my own SoundCloud feed, and my email submissions, it feels like I’ve been listening to music all day.

We have less than 3 hours less (Chicago time) until this eventful day is behind us, but I wanted to give a last hurrah. While I can’t include all the tracks I enjoyed today, I am at least shedding some light on some of my favorites. I urge you to go to your SoundCloud feed tonight to check out the enormous output.

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Pictured above: daveology.

daveology. – Consistent

Our previous post on Chris Cassius’ newest drop included Baltimore crooner daveology. The duo have proven their collaborative skills…but don’t forget dave can stand on his own. Just listen to his newest song Consistent. There are some obvious r&b influences here, but dave keeps it unique.  This is off his upcoming project

Chris Swaggin – Forgot Who I Was

Chris Swaggin, a soulful dude out of Chicago, just dropped his newest tape Anti Valentine. The obvious standout is Forgot Who I Was. He is at his best here vocally, sharing memories of romantic endeavors.

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Pictured Above: Don Neil

Don Neil – Find Your Love

In November Don Neil’s song I’m Weak, made our Better Half Playlist. We were impressed by his unique production choice and jazzy vocals. Today, he’s come out with another great record with a surprising, but dope beat. Nonetheless it is an essential in your V-Day playlist.

Savier – Fool For You

(Featured Picture)

Way back in my Columbia College/Discovergoodmusic blog days Savier and I met up to do a podcast interview. It was great meeting him – and we connected right away. We’ve both grown so much since 2012. Savier is making his best music yet, including this angst filled song Fool For You. He’s never been afraid to go outside of the box and approach hip hop differently with amazing results.

 

flowsfordays.com Is Back + I Have My Supporters To Thank

I’m back at it. The support in my brief absence blew me away and made me feel extremely lucky to have the supporters that I do. I appreciate everyone’s well wishes and comments. I got emails, direct messages, tweets and texts in large numbers.

Well, I’m back. The posts may be a little less (for now) but I love supporting artists and my passion is hip hop. There is so much to love about the genre, and I quiet honestly couldn’t stay away. Friends were constantly sending me music and I listened to everything. The time away helped me gather my thoughts and understand my priorities. While I struggle with mental illness (which I wrote about before) I realized that this blog is a huge part of my therapy. I forgot that. I thought I needed alone time to understand myself, but the Twitter, blog, and hip hop community is really all I need.

I can’t promise you I’ll be posting every day or even every week. I’ll do my best to stick with this, but depression is a beast and something I’ve struggled with since age 10.

I want to once again thank the artists and the promoters that have continued to send me music and have also understood the situation I am in. Please send submissions, comments, or whatever you’d like to juliestevens@flowsfordays.com. You guys keep me sane, happy, and fulfilled.

Love always –

Julie

 

 

XV Was Up Next…Let’s Revisit His Early Mixtape Run

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As I wrote about in my first editorial on this site, Lil Wayne was my introduction to the hip hop mixtape world. One of the first tapes I ever downloaded was The Dedication 2, and boy was it a banger. It still stands as my top 10 free releases of all time, and most would agree it’s one of his strongest pieces of work

After downloading it on Datpiff, I begun to notice a host of other projects covering the site. How Fly by Wiz Khalifa + Curren$y was an early favorite, but in 2009 I saw Everybody’s Nobody from a guy named XV. The quality of the cover wasn’t great, but it was doing numbers. I believe I had seen it on DJ Booth as well I decided to give it a try.

After hearing the second track Awesome, I knew this guy was unique. He had a backpacker mentality, (the cover is a guy with a bag over his head literally wearing a green backpack) wasn’t afraid to speak on what might not seem “cool” and could craft album worthy songs. He also had some big name features from the likes of Wiz Khalifa, Colin Munroe, Ne-Yo, Freddie Gibbs and Big Sean. Those were the it guys in that time.

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After that tape I jumped on every new release and spent weeks replaying it. He seemed to be the next major act to burst into the limelight. He even signed to Warner Bro’s Records after Everybody’s Nobody and promised us his debut album was coming in the first quarter of 2013. It never did.

In 2010 a great site on Tumblr emerged simply titled: Vizzy Zone. It was dedicated to all things XV. I was interested to see if he had any previous work. Thankfully the site put up a full discography with download links dating back to his first tape The Definition (Vol. 1, 2, 3 + 4 came later.) Vol. 1 + 2 came out in 2006 followed by The Complex Experiment Vol. 1. In 2007 alone XV gave us 4 new tapes to digest.

While the projects were promising, they were far from polished…especially the mixing. No shade is thrown as he was an up and comer, wanting to show off his wordplay and build some buzz without a desire to make it sound even. (He did release an independent album in 2006 titled Complex that wasn’t much stronger than his earlier mixtapes, but was an upgrade in the mixing department.) There was some serious growth with every tape, but it wasn’t until 2008’s Recycle Bin that his craftsmanship started to come together.

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I would like to note that in 2008 XV started his 40 Days + 40 Nights series in which he released a song every day and night for 40 days (pretty straightforward.) There were A LOT of gems on there and I admire the fact that none of the 80 songs were bad by any means. While most contained already made beats, there were 15 original cuts that were very strong. He had a crazy array of features including Mickey Factz, Tyga, Skyzoo, Curren$y, Theophilus London, and many more.  Quiet honestly, I recommend downloading the tapes and playing them all the way through.

There is a lot to love about XV (who got his name because he started his musical career at age 15) so we’ve decided to revisit his most critical mixtapes. While he’s put out over 20 since 2006, 5 remain to be his best pieces of work. We’ll be giving you the essential tracks to revisit and more about the project. His last project was Vol. 4 of his March Madness Series which came out in 2014, and fans are understandably a bit worried. He has been featured on a few oddball tracks such as Here We Go (with SakuKill) and 100 Percent (with Lucid) among a few others.

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He just recently got back on Twitter and has been promising for quiet some time that his website will be available soon. I’m not sure if he’ll be able to pull off another run, but only time will tell. For now get lost in some of the best mixtapes to come out of those formidable years.

Unfortunately there have been some issues with embedding recently so I’ve provided full streams of the tapes in the form of YouTube, Spotify + BandCamp. BUT, right underneath is a clearly marked download link that will take you right to a page so you can download the project for free. Apologies on that. 

Recycle Bin (released in 2008)

DOWNLOAD HERE

Here’s what I know about Recycle Bin. 1) It came out in 2008. 2) Recycle Bin refers to the place you throw away items on your PC. 3) There are computer clicks before every track which gets extremely annoying, although I do admire X’s perseverance. 4) Up until then it was his strongest project to date. Although almost all of the cuts use somewhat popular instrumentals, XV was able to make it all his own. He was beginning to learn how to craft an engaging piece of work with a stronger voice, showing more personality and wit.

Get Grown + Bonus Track (flip of Everyone Nose from N.E.R.D.) was a preview of the party songs X could potentially make, while Punk has him at his most vulnerable. La, La, La stands up to the Lil Wayne cut of the same name, and while The One (flip of Int’l Players Anthem ( I Choose You) from UGK) starts off slow, once the beat drops X delivers arguably his best flow and bars off of the entire tape.

Essential Tracks: The Return (feat. Bling) Get Grown, Punk, La La La, The One, Bonus Track

Side Note: The Square In the Circle tape came next in that same year. While the production (thanks to Summers) was pretty intergalactic with samples from notable electronic and rock bands, it rarely worked. I respected the experimentation and the direction, but it just didn’t hold up. From what I’ve read, his fans mostly ate it up.

Everybody’s Nobody – (Released in 2009)

DOWNLOAD REMASTERED VERSION HERE 

This was the tape that got XV’s name out of his home state of Kansas. Everybody’s Nobody was his fullest project yet with mostly original tracks. Many deem it a classic and his best project to date. He took a giant leap forward in finding his most effective sound. He even got Wiz Khalifa, Ne-Yo, Big Sean and Freddie Gibbs on it, which was huge as they were some of the most successful mixtape rappers at that time. Ne-Yo of course was at his prime in 2009.

X also got his first big premiere when DJ Enuff of New York City‘s radio station Hot 97 (WQHT) premiered one of the best tracks on the tape, Mirrors Edge, a month before it was released. Awesome was his first big hit, and for good reason. It was a classic feel good track more rooted in pop than hip hop. This would be a running theme throughout the project. Where Square In The Circle used too many abrasive and heavy electro beats, E.N. thrived off it’s perfect combination of pop, hip hop, and dubstep/electronic instrumentals. In general the production was cinematic thanks to frequent collaborative producer Seven.

Essential Tracks: Awesome, Vizzy Vizzy Vizzy, Gobstopper (feat. Wiz Khalifa) Used To (feat. Ne-Yo) Fall Out The Sky + Undeniable.

Vizzy Zone (released in 2010)

DOWNLOAD HERE

Vizzy Zone was out of this world. I soaked in E.N., but once I heard those violin strings on The Flying V I knew this was going to be something special. At that time hip hop fans all over Twitter and influential blogs around the web called it one of the best mixtapes of the year. Just peep the features: Talib Kweli, Chiddy Bang, Mike Posner, Kid Cudi, Killer Mike, Mac Miller, Bun B, GLC and Colin Munroe. (We do have to remember that he had signed to Warner Bro’s Records the year before, so that may have had something to do with the high profile artists involved.)

One thing out of the gate: this was (almost) all original production. The subject matter was more intelligent and refined and thankfully the mixing was 10x better than his previous tapes. Let’s also note that his usual artwork did a 360 as the cover was a graphic wonderland.

There were some problems though. 20 tracks was too long. A good amount of the songs seemed to be filler. The artists featured (including now side kick producer Seven) out shined XV. (The exceptions are listed below as the essential tracks.) Also, many believed it wasn’t a proper follow up to Everybody’s Nobody as the quality had diminished.

Yet Vizzy Zone was critical to XV’s music career as he gained a great amount of new fans and proved that with the right backing he could make a mark in hip hop. Also, Nevermind was a bonified hit.

Essential Tracks: Getting Bizzy, Reset Button (feat. Talib Kweli) Nevermind, May The Force Be With You (feat. Killer Mike + Mac Miller) + Squares.

Thanks For the Donuts (released in 2011)

DOWNLOAD HERE 

Not only is Thanks For The Donuts a very overlooked XV project, it’s also criminally underrated as a free release. I don’t know a lot about the backstory of the project, except that quiet obviously the tape is an ode to legendary producer J Dilla, and his instrumentals are dispersed throughout. Also, randomly, the song What’s Eating Gilbert Grape contained a sample from the Cure. Sadly, not much has been written about the tape as I’d love to learn more about how this all came together.

The direction XV went in on every song was insane, along with his effortless flow. His raps are tighter and he sounds more confident. When I heard TFTD I couldn’t believe the difference a year could make. There are no essential tracks on this as it’s not supposed to be picked apart. It’s under 15 minutes and is meant to be played all the way through. I stand by my strong belief that Dilla’s beats bring out the best in whoever is rhyming over them.

Essential Tracks: PLAY ALL THE WAY THROUGH

Zero Heroes (released in 2011)

DOWNLOAD REMASTERED VERSION HERE 

This was the full length I was waiting for from XV. Zero Heroes was the closest we had ever gotten to a cohesive project in narrative and theme. Punchlines were abundant and the features were even better. My favorite X tracks of all time are placed on this tape. Throughout the project X sounds like he’s having more fun. Just reading the producers involved gives me chills: J. Cole, Just Blaze, Omen, The Awesome Sound, Swiff D, The Lieutenant, and of course right hand man Seven. His playful nature was what made this tape one of my greatest memories of 2011. ZH is easily album quality which makes it even more of a bummer that his debut never saw the light of day.

Another fun surprise that came a day after the release was a bonus song titled Famous with contributions from Jazmine Sullivan and SeZ Batters, which is just as good as it sounds.

Essential Tracks: Awesome (feat. Pusha T) Textbook Stuff (feat. Kendrick Lamar), Foreign Exchange Student, All For Me (Feat. CyHi Da Prynce, Vado + Erin Christine) and Swervin.

While plenty of mixtapes followed Zero Heroes, it was these 5 that were the highlight of XV’s buzz. In September of this year XV alluded to new content coming soon, but as of now nothing has impacted.

https://twitter.com/XtotheV/status/781903743084224512

Is this the end of X’s music career? I truly hope not. He has the creativity, energy and drive to start anew. Let’s hope 2017 is his comeback year.

BONUS: In 2012 XV spoke with Hardknock TV…one of my favorite interviews he’s ever done. See above.

Martin $ky – His Year In Review (New LP + What’s Next (Editorial)

Martin $ky has switched things up quiet a bit this year…even more so in the last few months. He made a purely instrumental account (first called $omebody, now MARTIN $KY².) The tracks were put up, and pretty quickly taken down. We posted most of them (it’s hard to keep up), which you can check out here. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to listen to all of them. Maybe the writing will help paint a picture of what was once some of the best instrumentals I’ve heard all year. You can check out his SoundCloud now as he’s switched some of the album artwork and put a dope ass black and white portrait with purple syrup (I assume) dripping down his face.

He’s been a bit more clear in the last month or so, officially announcing his upcoming album titled IF ANYBODY EVER TOLD YOU THAT THEY KNOW ME, THEY LIED. (Pre-order was available a few days ago.) He even had a listening party yesterday at iconic streetwear store Jugrnaut. Tons of fans came out and it was a crazy event.

After all this back and forth, I am happy to say the new LP has dropped. And it is amazing. For those that don’t follow Martin on Twitter (get on that here) he’s stated that he’s decided to focus solely on production next year:

https://twitter.com/martinxsky/status/801880783036280832

https://twitter.com/martinxsky/status/801888777652305920

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I’m proud of the decision he has made as staying true to what makes you happy and what you feel is the next step in your growth is critical. It won’t always make fans and other people happy, but it’s a livelihood…something you’ll have to wake up to every day.

With that being said, IF ANYBODY EVER TOLD YOU THAT THEY KNOW ME, THEY LIED is an artistic growth from his previous albums. It is less “traditionally lyrical hip hop” and more melodic, with a more accessible flow. Denser beats, and a better ability to de-construct what Martin is speaking on. It’s a new direction for him-and it makes sense the next step would be to stick to instrumentals.

The project is also available on Apple Music which you can check out here. I’ve connected to Martin’s music for awhile now, and I can relate to where he’s going next.

Philly’s Asaad Doesn’t Stop Working (3 Favorite Songs In Last Week)

Let me get this off my chest. Right now, Philly’s Asaad is the hardest working emcee in rap. Prove me wrong. He has dropped a new song EVERY SINGLE DAY for months now. There are definite highlights, but the time and effort has been put into every cut. (Also check out the artwork!)

A bunch of the tracks have production from Knxwledge. That’s right…Yes Lawds! Knxwledge. DP Beats is another frequent collaborator. That doesn’t take away from great instrumentals from Faded Kye, Plu2o Nash, and Plustfx (among others.)

I have decided to post my 3 favorite songs from the last week, but there is so much more to explore. Hit his SoundCloud page for more. He also dropped his EP Sabbath Trap just a few months ago (below.)

I don’t know how he can outdo himself at this point, but I’ll continue to keep watch.

flowsfordays Presents: Highest Basement Collective

In the last few years there has been a surge of popularity in hip hop collectives. It’s well deserved and great to see. There are blurred lines (The Social Experiment) and more concrete examples (Pro Era, A$AP Mob.) Throughout my blogging career I’ve noticed many “underground” collectives not getting the spotlight they deserve. Some are coming out of the woodwork; but more attention is needed.

Here is the backstory on this piece:

Through my own research I discovered artist named Moses Mosima. He came to my attention when he dropped his Babies EP. It was featured on some of my favorite hip hop sites such as The SourceHip Hop DX and MTV UK. I was so interested in the EP that we hosted an exclusive interview with him. I learned he was a part of a Philly group called Highest Basement Collective. I reached out to their manager, Riley, and we continued to stay in contact (he’s an awesome guy by the way.) He told me how deep the collective was; sent me links, and I was amazed at each member’s talent.

I wanted to learn more about each member’s role, story, and humble beginnings so I decided to ask them some questions. As you’ll see below, these guys are a family. They are loyal to one another and are each other’s biggest critics AND supporters. I’m so excited to share their story with you. Links to their music and pictures are directly above the artist’s answer in the interview.

Can you introduce yourself? What’s your name, how old are you, and where are you from?

IHATEYOUSHEED: My name is IHATEYOUSHEED, I’m 21 years old and I’m from Philly.

B. Clarke: I’m Brandon Clarke, you can call me B. I just turned 23 this past summer, I was born in Maryland and raised in Philadelphia.

Lord Trippy: I go by Lord Trippy, Quise Trill, Ratchet Ass Quise etc. I’m 21 and I’m from Philly.

Moses: I’m Moses Mosima; I’m 21 and from Philadelphia.

Tawobi: I’m Tawobi I’m 21 and I’m from Mt.Airy which is like uptown North West Philly I was born around DC, I got family there but I’ve stayed in Philly my whole life, thats home. 

Riley: I’m Riley, 21, and I’m from PA right outside of Philadelphia.

Jeff: Jeff, 22, from Flourtown, PA.

Ray: I’m Ray, I’m 20, and i’m from Newark, New Jersey.

G: Im Anthony Gomez, but everyone just calls me G or Glomez.

What’s your role in the Highest Basement Collective?

IHATEYOUSHEED: I’m an artist and producer for HBC.  

B. Clarke: My current role in the collective is mainly production, but hopefully that’ll expand soon.

Lord Trippy:  Artist/ Visionary.  

Moses: I’m a solo artist as well as a collaborator. A producer or songwriter other times. I wear a few different hats.

Tawobi: I’m the fuckin’ weirdo, the writer (thats what I do the most) and one of the founders of the group.

Riley: Jack of all trades haha. Manager, booking agent, videographer, graphic design, photographer, and attempting to be a publicist.

Jeff: I like to do a little of everything, but I play guitar.

Ray: I take pictures, talk shit, and DJ on occasion.

G: Currently i am trying to finish some merch that i have in the works, clothes are my thing, but i try to bring energy to the team as well. We all do.

What are your humble beginnings with the group? How did you initially link up with them?

IHATEYOUSHEED:  We started the group back when me Riley Moses and Tawobi all thought of it in high school. We all just linked up around our Sophomore year and just started making music I know Moses and Taylor wanted to start a collective and so did me Riley so fate just had it we all came together and made this HBC shit. 

B. ClarkeSo, I was basically on my own, learning production and defining a sound up until about a year or so ago when I bumped into Riley around our neighborhood. If I can remember correctly, he had just gotten back from Cali and invited me to the studio the collective had setup downtown. That was the first time I met Tawobi. Riley, Sheed, and I also went to the same high school, so, with them it was more so about catching up. Before that there was one instance where Sheed reached out about an instrumental I posted on SoundCloud but otherwise, I was dropped into the mix roughly two summers ago.

Lord Trippy: When I came into HBC they were already on an upswing of momentum and I just added another sound to that movement and with that I also help in the finesses we make as a collective and as artists.

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Moses: We all linked in high school and discovered something bigger than us worth pursuing. I met everyone else through Tawobi and we all just tapped into some great energy creating together.

Tawobi: I met Moses Mosima back in Jr. high and we worked on music and recorded together. We were always trying to form a collective but whenever we did find possible members they would flake out. That was until I changed schools durring my junior year of high school and met Riley Sheed and Gomez at Springfield Township High. Riley and Sheed were trying to set up a studio and collective when I arrived at the school and things kind of fell into place. I remember the 2nd time I ever met Sheed, we shared a math class and on the first day I walk in and bull looks at me and just says off rip “yo you rap? You look like you rap” the rest is history. 

Riley: It was the summer going into 11th grade, 2011, and Watch the Throne had just come out. Sheed and myself were inspired to try and make something incredible for our future. We set out to set up a home recording studio and I would make beats and he would rap. I was terrible and didn’t enjoy production so I took on the behind the scenes work. And right as we began the process Tawobi transferred from another school to ours and he instantly became a part of the group. He brought Moses and over the years the rest of them members jumped on board.

Jeff: I met them in middle school and high-school.

Ray: Quise is the one who brought me in, we were cool in high school and once i graduated and started getting into photography we just started linking up for shoots more and more and eventually all the other guys got jealous of how good i was making him look and they cornered me and begged me to join. it was pretty desperate to be honest.

G: We met through friends, Riley is my best friend, and he introduced me to Taylor, then i met mo, and so on. The majority of us all went to the same high school, and just clicked, The kind of people you meet and feel like you have always known them. And we really did start out in a basement.

What do you think is unique about your collective? Why do you think people should take notice or continue to support the movement?

IHATEYOUSHEED: We’re just bringing a fresh sound and a fresh energy to music. Everybody that sees us perform or hear us perform have said they never heard or experienced something like it and we take that to heart and really appreciate that. We enjoy being original.

B. Clarke: I think the most unique thing about the collective at the moment is how many places we can appeal to audiences musically. I still play Moses’ EP ‘Babies’ and I heard it almost a year before it was released; Tawobi’s sound is unlike anything I’ve ever heard and every time I put a beat on his flow comes automatically and it’s hypnotic; Sheed can switch it up from a song like GWDY to a hard hitting trap song and he’s constantly developing what he can bring to the table; Quise is brand new to the collective but he’s got an immense amount of energy, so the moment I play him some of my catalogue or I’m working on something new, he’s instantly ready to record, so I like having that around. All of the artists can thrive individually and together we just make each other better. 

Lord Trippy: We aren’t just a rap group, we are musicians, photographers, producers, engineers, DJs, management. We are an actual collective of art and talent. #HBC

Moses: We’re presenting quality music with an unmatched aesthetic to match. 

Tawobi: I think everybody has a unique and diverse point of view which always makes the music original. No one is here to sound like anybody else we’re all figuring out how to completely put ourselves on record as individuals. That individuality and personal story that everybody puts out there can connect to somebody, maybe because we talk about things they’ve been through as well, maybe they’re from the same place, they live a similar lifestyle or maybe they don’t in which case we provide a window into our personal lives, our psyche and into this part of the world, one they’ve never experienced. 

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Riley: I think it is unique that even though we are a “group” everybody functions as an individual. We are probably the most critical people you could ever meet and over analyze everything to ensure perfection. We all play off of each other to help push each other and the overall brand. Everybody keeps each other in line, if somebody even tweets something unprofessional you’re going to get calls from everybody. I think people should take notice because we really do care about the craft. We take months/years to craft material before we let it out into the world. At the end of the day we are all fans of music and as fans want to present the best way to experience our music possible. We really do care.

Jeff: Our collective makes everything from rock music to r&b. I feel like there is a lot about us that people can relate to.

Ray: these are some of the most talented kids i’ve ever worked with, everyone’s different, and no one sounds like anything i’ve ever heard before and it’s great. we’re all in love with our craft and we all gonna make it so you might as well jump on the wave before it takes off.

G: the sounds coming from us is not your “typical” Philly sound. Don’t get me started on these guys work ethics,  its work work work with them. No days off.

What drew you to the collective? Why do you continue to ride for them?

IHATEYOUSHEED: These are my brothers, we make each other better, and we just all want the same goal. I don’t know where I’d be without them. 

B. Clarke: I think what initially drew me to the collective was not having any artists to work with and a bunch of beats that I wasn’t going to write to. There was also this instrumental Moses put on SoundCloud one summer that I listened to literally everyday and I wanted to work with him and Sheed to see where it could go. I continue to ride for them because I believe in what we can accomplish when we’re all focused, and we can still have fun. 

Lord Trippy: Sheed is my mans like my right hand and I would chill with him and the crew and we just grew tight. Once I joined up it was like we was all family. We create this art together but more than that we all helping each other get further in the journey. 

Moses: Fate drew me to the collective. Love keeps me here.

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Tawobi: They’re all honest, talented and outsiders. Really they’re my best friends. They’re some of the only people in my life not related to me by blood that have stuck with me this far and vice versa. I’ve lost a good amount of friends but this is family.

Riley: These are my brothers. I helped create HBC and I will be on board until it totally dissipates. This is all I/we have. This is my family.

Jeff: These dudes have been around for my high moments and my low moments. Everyone shares a similar passion for the arts.

Ray: again, everyone here is original. everyone is their own person. and everyone is as dedicated to the crew as they are to their individual craft. It’s inspiring to be around. This is a family and if/when it comes to it I’m riding for each and every one of them.

What’s coming up with you specifically with the group?

G: It’s hard to find genuine people who want to not only succeed but have their friends succeed with them. They would ride for me, so I would ride for them.

What’s coming up with you specifically with the group?

IHATEYOUSHEED: Me myself I got an album I’m trying to get finished and out. And then get cracking on the second one just to keep the music flowing and coming steadily.

B. Clarke: I just produced a track for Quise that has a lot of energy to it and in addition to all the beats I cooked over the past year, I’m writing ideas for film and looking to get into film scoring. An album might come out next year, we’ll see. 

Lord Trippy: I have a single dropping soon called FnF produced by Bclarke and it’s going to really show my sound and what type of crowd I’m going to be bringing. B has some amazing sounds in the production and Jeff engineered a lot of it and heaven in stereo mastered the record so a lot of work goes into all our record as you can see. 

Moses: I have a song called Dark Shades that just dropped and a few more surprises to come soon.

Tawobi:  I’ve been writing, producing and recording an album over the past year and some change as well as a solid amount of loosies along with some features here and there. I’ve been pretty quite if not silent sense April so I’m excited for people to hear this new material, its not like any of the shit I got out right now.

Riley: A lot of behind the scenes work and marketing.

Jeff: I’m dropping a couple metal songs soon as well as some production for our artists.

Ray: I just dropped my first mix ‘metro boomin mix’ on SoundCloud and my next mix ‘cxffing szn’ will be available soon. as far as photography i’m always working and always looking for new people and brands to collab with.

G: right now things are in the works for me, but within the next month or so I should have merch and a look book coming soon. I feel as though timing is everything.

If you could describe Highest Basement in one sentence, what would it be?

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IHATEYOUSHEED: I don’t know about a sentence but… A word I would use… Is legendary.

B. Clarke: You can sleep on us if you want but soon we’ll flip your head upside down. 

Lord Trippy: The niggas who knew they were gonna make it. 

Moses: One word? Legendary.

Tawobi: High, I’m boutta spark a backwood right now.

Riley: A dysfunctional family.

Jeff: We were a bunch of kids that didn’t know our place, we found solace in art.

Ray: Young legends.

G: WE ARE A FAMILY.

Any last thoughts? 

IHATEYOUSHEED: Go listen to Babies by Moses Mosima, be on the look out for Tawobi’s Album, BClarke’s album, Jefe’s album and Trippy Szn by Lord Trippy. 

Lord Trippy.JPG

Lord Trippy: Go get babies on Apple Music and SoundCloud right now check out #HBCSUMMER on YouTube and peep highestbasement.com Thanks.

Tawobi: Peace and love from you’re Friendly Neighborhood Struggle Rapper, I appreciate you.

Riley: Than you for having us.

Ray: Stay tuned and pay very close attention. whether you’ve been riding with me or my team for a year or a day i appreciate you beyond belief.

G: I just wanna say that you to everyone who has supported, it means the work.. your gunna see our names. 

Check out the collectives summer recap below:

Follow each member on Twitter (in order of answers in interview):

@IHATEYOUSHEED

@bclarkehbc

@lxrdtrippy

@moses_i_suppose

@Tawobi

@rileyofhbc

@ayjefeholmes

@drxgzilla

@truhblesome

flowsfordays Presents: Our 10 Favorite Instrumental Albums of 2016

As each year goes by I see more and more music blogs overlooking hip hop instrumental albums. It’s disappointing to see as many of them are just as intricate and conceptual as albums with lyrics.

We’ll always have Donuts, Endtroducing…, and Petestrumentals, but producers around the world are serving up platters of straight up instrumental caviar across the web… yet they are largely unnoticed. (To begin your journey start with Bandcamp.com.)

The year is almost over and while bloggers tend to wait till the last minute to deliver their “year end lists” I’ve taken the liberty of giving you my top 10 instrumental albums of 2016 a month early. Being lost in a sea of debate, criticism, and a lot of hate is not something I want to be a part of. Music is subjective. Let me repeat: MUSIC IS SUBJECTIVE. There is no “album of the year,” as we all have different criteria for what makes an album great. Even music critics aren’t the end all be all (no matter what they say.)

So, to wrap things up…these are MY favorite instrumental albums of the year (in no particular order besides the first.) All of these projects have been listened to way more than a handful of times in order to give my best recommendations. I have spent a good long time on this so you can get a backstory on the artist/album, my personal experience with finding it/listening to it, and hyperlinks to do your own exploring. All of this is for the love of music. And, quiet honestly, it was a hell of a lot of fun.

NxWorries – Yes Lawd!

You saw this coming. Nxworries, the duo that is artist Anderson .Paak + producer Knxwledge dropped a damn near classic album this year in Yes Lawd!

Anderson .Paak blossomed in 2015, and has completely taken over 2016 with his album of the year nods with sophomore offering Malibu, a passionate performance at the Grammy’s and the January announcement of his signing with Dr. Dre’s Aftermath label. He’s played sold out shows, was on the cover of XXL as a 2016 freshman and was even did a short documentary with Noisey.

While Anderson has had more of a publicized success story, Knxwledge has gained credibility in the underground circuit releasing an unheard of amount of instrumental projects in the last 6 years alone. He finally got his big break producing Momma off Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly.

These guys have a lot to offer the music world seperately, but when they come together for an album you know they will deliver. We got a taste of it in last years Link Up & Suede EP, but when news broke of their full length, social media went bezerk.

Yes Lawd! is my absolute favorite instrumental inspired album of the year. Knwledge is at his best because he has found a sound that works impeccably with Anderson and sticks to it. We could label YS as “church music” or “music for the soul” and I don’t doubt it is both of those things. But more than that, it is a modern take on the classic one producer one artist album.

The album is littered with instrumental gems that are best appreciated with multiple listens. Although .Paak is all over the album, credit must be given to Knwledge who, on Yes Lawd! has shone brighter than the this year’s most popular artist success story.

3 Essential tracks: Livvn, What More Can I Say + Suede 

Thelonious Martin – Late Night Programming

They call him King Thelonious in the Chi, and for good reason. He graduated with a music business degree from my alma matter Columbia College in 2015, has worked with established artists like Vic Mensa and the SaveMoney crew, and has done high profile work with huge (yet indie) hip hop label Closed Sessions.

For quiet some time now Thelonious has grabbed the attention of rappers, producers, and other music industry professionals by collaborating with a slew of artists throughout the country. Included (but not limited to) are Action Bronson, Curren$y, Mac Miller and Ab-Soul.

Every interview with this guy details how much he has studied the art of sampling, his idolized producers and other genres of music. He released his 2014 debut album, Wünderkid which proved to be a huge moment in his career. He more than delivered, but there were features on most of the album not completely making it his own.

The most pivotal moment of his music career has been the release of his sophomore LP, Late Night Programming. Yoh, from DJBooth, made an excellent point in his recent write up of the album. He writes:

his 2014 Wunderkid debut album featured heavy hitters like Mac Miller, Curren$y, Smoke DZA, and Ab-Soul. The album was successful, a strong combination of soulful instrumentals and stellar rap verses, but it was missing something, it was missing Thelonious’ presence

Late Night Programming is 1000% Thelonious. When I heard Afternoon Swim for the first time I knew Martin had grown exponentially as a beatsmith. It’s a 2 minute and 30 second song but its split up into pieces that somehow sound cohesive. As you can read in Yoh’s piece, Late Night Programming is an ode to Adult Swim, which has continued to heavily influence his music. Little pieces of the show are dispersed amongst tracks, keeping the theme upfront. LNP flows extremely well. It’s an easy bumper front to back and is a contender for my favorite album of the year.

3 Essential tracks: Afternoon Swim, Late Night Financial + Up Too Late

Nate Charity – Colors

I can’t stress this enough: This is a criminally underrated album. I’ve never heard something like this coming out of Texas. Nate Charity is a duo consisting of Nate Coop and Charity Evaughn who linked up at a Space City Beat Battle. A bit about the event via The Houston Press:

Four times a year, not counting the annual championship, 16 music producers whom you very likely do not know show up at a venue. They get paired up against each other, play a snippet of their music for one minute, then listen as a more successful producer whom you also very likely do not know tells them what was good and what could’ve been done better. That better-known producer then decides which contestant gets to try his beat against someone else.

Their claim to fame is the beat they produced for Designer, Lil Dicky + Anderson .Paak’s XXL Freshman Cypher. The instrumental was only a portion of what they were capable of, and they proved that with Colors. The opening track, Black Magic, is a fitting title as Nate + Charity somehow put tiny strings of sounds into one complete track. Just like Thelonious, Nate Charity uses this strategy throughout the EP to incredible effects.

The next track, Crimson, starts with a warpy backdrop and then the drums hit. A high pitched chorus follows and then we get another loop. It’s equal parts angelic, dynamic, and powerful. Indigo has a jazzier sound with small elements of rock and electronica. Emerald Island is glittering, (no pun intended) ambient, and all encompassing. I listened so intently for the full 15 minutes that is Colors, that I had a bit of an out of body experience sitting in front of my computer at Starbucks. Nothing could deter me from finishing the EP. Whenever I need some time to contemplate, reason, or make an important decision, I know Colors will be there to stimulate my mind.

3 Essential tracks: Black Magic, Indigo, and Purple High

Zen Zan – Island Life

Lets take it back. 2015. Every hip hop fan out of Chicago was rooting for music group Hurt Everybody. The trio was made up of Supa Bwe, Carl (now Qari) and Mulatto Beats.) They played countless shows all across the city. Nothing could stop them. Then suddenly, in the beginning of the year, the group disbanded and everyone was pretty bummed. The disappointing news hasn’t stopped me from playing their music (especially 2K47) or checking out their solo endeavors.

Why do I bring this up? My introduction to these guys was their song In Seoul off their 2014 debut full length project Hurt Everybody EP. I wasn’t accustomed to the instrumental I was hearing. I was captivated by its sound. Somehow I found out it was co-produced by Zen Zan (along with Supa). I immediately memorized the name.

I checked Hurt Everybody’s social media accounts very often in that time and I kept seeing his name on some of my favorite loosies from the group. There was Thot Goddess, Stay Awake and Majin Quwop. I finally looked him up on SoundCloud and came across a handful of his tapes. All of them were played through on the spot.

You have to act quick on his projects as he has since deleted all except Island Life, which happens to be a contender for instrumental project of the year. Zen dubs it “electronic” (at least on SoundCloud) but the moment you pay opening track Aloha, Honolulu you will hear uptempo jazz, horns, and hip hop drum kits. Zen was smart to name the EP Island Life as it could easily be the soundtrack to a vacation in Hawaii. It plays like a steady stream, one song moving on to the other seamlessly, yet the songs aren’t repetitive or boring. You’ll hear something different with each cut.

There are laid back funk grooves in Tequila Sunrise, full brass band backings in Far Out O’ahu and bass that will knock the coffee right out of your hands. It’s somber, chill, and inviting.

3 Essential tracks: Aloha, Honolulu Far Out O’ahu + Pineapple Express

Air Tech Sani – Exotica

I’m a big fan of bass bumping, earth shattering, hard knocking beats. I flock to them. Not every song with this type of production will sound good, but I do admit I give high energy tracks more leeway. I preface with this because one of the best instrumental projects of the year is a soothing ambient LP titled Exotica. Shocking to say the least. I was introduced to Sani 2 years ago when he dropped his (very) full length album, Genesis. It was 21 tracks of “whats going to happen next.”

Genesis was lively and enjoyable, so when Exotica came up on my TL I automatically hit play. As soon as I did I entered a dream like state that was hard to come out of. Indigo was an automatic favorites as it reminded me of a lullaby…almost out of a Disney movie. Not cheesy in any way; but more magical, creative and dreamy.

Castor was a bit more uptempo and contained a mix of instruments that I never thought would work together. Trust me: they do. It’s short, but a sure highlight. Ice Blue gives off a boom bap style with some cooing vocals that are probably sampled pieces. Bonus track Canna brought the entire project together. If an instrumental could be catchy, Canna would be it. Slap a talented vocalist on there and you’ve got gold.

There is one song on his SoundCloud page called Anytime which is a collaborate piece between himself and an artist named Via Rose. It’s actually very nice; I hope Sani reaches out to more people if he cares to.

3 Essential tracks: Tea Tree, Ice Blue and Canna

Jaro – La Rouge

Earlier I spoke on the talented trio that was Hurt Everybody. My intro on producer Jaro will start in a similar vein. I discovered my absolute favorite Chicago group, Beach Jesus, back in 2015. Lets just say my mind was frickin’ blown when I heard Snake Ladies. My brain almost erupted when I heard it live at Portage Theater and I am horrified that the footage I captured has since been lost.

Beach Jesus is made up of vocalists Chandler London (who now goes by Chandy) and Jessiath along with multi faceted producer Jaro. Jaro has had his hands in all of Beach Jesus’ projects including my top 10 album of 2015, Two Weeks Vacation. This was Beach Jesus’ first full length project which came out sounding wonderful.

This year Jaro has given us two solo EP’s titled La Rouge and La Bleue. La Rouge stands to be my favorite of the two. It is a full sounding project although it’s only 5 tracks deep. Jaro challenged himself on La Rouge as it sounds more cinematic than his previous work. This can be heard especially on opening track Moonlight. Featured artist Sean Deaux provides soothing vocals, but it is Jaro’s powerful and rising keys that sent chills down my spine.

He goes into a melodic pop number in Medusa enlisting Aura and Cae Jones for help. I especially enjoyed purely instrumental cuts Be My Love and Unlike You. Unlike You uses Ciara and Bow Wow’s early 2000’s hit “Like You” as the central piece. Just let that sink in.

Jaro has continuously provided epic beats for Chandy, Jessiath and a growing number of other artists, but La Rogue proves he can make one of the best instrumental projects of the year all on his own.

2 Essential Tracks: Moonlight and Unlike You

Odd Couple – Liberation

Liberation just dropped, (3 days ago at the time of this publication) but I’ve listed to it front to back 4 or 5 times since. The album has continued to play in the background every time I write.

I didn’t know if I was going to include Liberation in this list as almost every song has at least one feature. After listening 2 times through it was easy to see that Odd Couple’s skillful beats are what carries the LP through. Had this been a compilation piece with various producers dispersed throughout, the album wouldn’t have impacted me as much.

Liberation has gotten placement on Pigeons and Planes, Spin, The Fader and even a review on Pitchfork (with a rating of 7.2 which is impressive for the publication’s almost impossible standards.)

Yes, the verses and vocals are very impressive, (especially Qari and Kweku Collins on Palms) but it is Odd Couple’s ability to bring all these artists together that has given the project critical acclaim.

Liberation’s greatest asset is Odd Couple’s insane ability to find pockets for artists to enter into. The second song, Palms, showcases this best. Songs like Visions and Hereditary knock the most. It makes sense as Joey Purp, Kipp Stone and GLC have a great track record with that type of production. Songs with Jamila Woods, Webster X and Rich Jones are softer and a bit hazy, yet everything is placed properly. This has been the best year Chicago has ever seen for hip hop music and Odd Couple has continued the quality output.

3 Essential Tracks: Palms, Visions, and Blinded

Oddisee – The Odd Tape

If you are a fan of hip hop, I’m sure you’ve at least heard of multi talented artist and producer Oddisee. His discography is crazy, but his first (arguably) big look was his mixtape Traveling Man which was released on Mello Music Group. It dropped in 2010 and by the end of the year made best album lists across the web.

Since then he has dropped 5 studio albums, 5 mixtapes, 2 EPs, and has produced for the likes of Joey Bad$$, Homeboy Sandman, Has-Lo and many more. 2016 has been a great year for Oddisee as EP Alwasta was polished and one of his best projects to date. His biggest accomplishment this year has undoubtably been the release of his instrumental project The Odd Tape.

The Odd Tape sounds perfect. Literally perfect. Every drum kicks at the right time, cymbals and guitar licks step in when needed and the sequencing on the LP is impeccable. It almost takes on an obsessive quality as Oddisee definitely spent long nights perfecting each song.

Tracks 1-5 play as a jam session…spontaneous and carefree. Then On The Table hits and we are suddenly in a convertible driving through the city on a warm summers night. An oddball is thrown in with Out At Night, which happens to be one of my favorite tracks on the album. The closing three are the highlight of The Odd Tape and have been replayed quiet a bit on my end.

3 Essential Tracks: Out At Night, Long Way Home + Still Sleeping

Mounika. – Seagulls EP

Seagulls came out two weeks into the new year but has created a huge stir in the BandCamp world. Hundreds of people have paid for the newest EP from the French producer. She got her start in 2013 by putting out The Wake Up EP which has some nice boom bap and electronic infused tracks. When I first heard it I mentally gave it a thumbs up and moved on, not sure if she could deliver a stand out piece. All this being said, Mounika works her ass off. Her compilations are filled to the brim, often spanning 20 tracks or more.

Things picked up with Basket Sound (2014) Born To Be Beats (2015) and part 2 and 3 of the  Basket Sound Series but nothing has come close to the absolute masterpiece that is Seagulls. She’s been using samples throughout her projects, but Seagulls is the peak. I honestly don’t know all of what she chops up…it would take a good while to figure it out without directly asking her.

Be prepared for some down tempo grooves. Some tracks are super slowed down, others are more impactful. I’m not going to say much more about this as I think it is best described by actually listening to it in it’s entirety.

3 Essential Tracks: Other Woman, All I Want Is You, In The Rain (Outro)

DJ Shadow – The Mountain Will Fall

The GOAT DJ Shadow dropped an album this year…did you really think I wasn’t going to include it? I think we can all agree nothing will ever top Endtroducing… but The Mountain Will Fall is a fine offering. Sonically there is way more diversity, from the dark and muddy song Suicide Pact to country guitar licking Nobody Speak (with Run The Jewels) to experimental Depth Charge. I appreciated the album more so because DJ Shadow was adventurous and didn’t give us exactly what we all wanted to hear (Entroducing… Part 2.)

3 Essential Tracks: Nobody Speak, Bergschrund, and Mambo

Top 5 ‘Underground’ Hip Hop Projects of The Week

This week was rich with releases. Tons of great music videos and tracks were put out into the public via SoundCloud, YouTube and the like. I for one noticed that tons of great, full, projects came out in the past 7 days. While some were HUGE releases, there were some that were less highlighted. The ones below I listened to, loved, and believe were the cream of the crop. Discover some albums you may have skimmed by or plain didn’t know about.

1. Malcolm London – OPIA

Let me preface this by saying we posted this recently, but it deserved another write up and just had to be included. I know OPIA has been featured in every publication from The Fader to Pitchfork, but I know there has to be someone who hasn’t caught it.

From the opening track, New Day, where Malcom lightly sings “birds are chirpin,” we enter a new realm. OPIA is a flawless project; there is nothing out of place or isn’t sonically appealing. Malcom puts his absolute all into this. He can rap with raw emotion that sounds commanding (Get It Right) and then switch to a disco wonderland fitting right into the beat (House Party.) Let’s stick to House Party for a minute. He intelligently enlists help from How To Dress Well and the “you can’t stop him” emcee femdot. HTDW adds lush electronic vocals while femdot contributes the grit that is needed.

Like we wrote on our initial post, every artist featured on OPIA adds so much. All play their roles and they play them well. The album is sonically out of this world. You’ll get lost in Malcom’s spoken poetry that is influenced on every track. This is the project of the week.

Favorite Cuts: New Day, Get It Right and House Party

2. Dylan Cohl – Cowboy Jones 1.5 : Days In the East

I became hip to Dylan Cohl after he dropped impressive single Bigger Than Me. Not only was he sound vocally, he came correct with the self production. It was sample heavy and something I was really into. Then my friends over at Artistic Manifesto premiered the EP and the rest was history. I listened to it front to back yesterday, and I knew it would end up on this list.

The project is a very strong representation of what Dylan has, and will continue to offer to the genre of hip hop. He is a Texas native and strays far away from the state’s usual sound. The production has so much sonically; heavily influenced by Dylan Cohl himself, as he produced 5 tracks on the album. Sometimes he sounds heartbroken, other times he sounds angry. His ability to let out his emotions all over the EP shows he’s not afraid to be honest. And it sounds really fuckin’ good.

Favorite Cuts: The Feels, 300 and IGYB

3. Thelonious Martin – Late Night Programming (Instrumental EP)

2 months after wunderkid Thelonious Martin hit us with Static, and after just recently dropping his collaborative EP with K.eYE.D, Thelonious dropped ANOTHER instrumental haven in Late Night Programming. Everyone one of these reeks with goodness. Late Night Programming explores more genres, but in true Martin fashion it is rich with sample flips. It’s hard to compare his instrumental albums as they all sound completely different from the former. Of course there are similar themes, but he always goes outside the box. There is no doubt that this is one of the strongest releases of the week.

Favorite Cuts: Reign Man, Afternoon Swim (those samples though) and Memorex Memories

4. Oya Noire – Dangerous. 

“This is expression of me being a bad bitch.” This is the one line description Oya Noire has given us in her newest EP Dangerous. I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. Yes, she sounds like a nostalgic r&b/soul singer, but she knows what the fuck she wants. Just take a listen to cut Dangerous. “I’m so good at being bad” she croons. The track is full of her bad bitch sentiments and is a highlight. On her collaboration with JIMI, Exhausted With Your Love, she is done with the man in question. “even when I don’t want to be, I’m exhausted with your love”  Dangerous is full of naughtiness, but also of self expression at its finest.

Favorite Cuts: Exhausted With Your Love, Baby and Dangerous

5. Jay Prince – Smile Good 

Gotta show London some love. Jay Prince’s newest EP Smile Good made me do just that. You’ll learn a lot about him on this one. There are multiple genres influences across the board. Father Father has a glorious choir backdrop reminiscent of popular song Amen with Meek Mill + Drake. The collaborate track with Danny Seth and Michael Christmas is another highlight. This one is on the list because of its funkiness and its ability to go above and beyond what a typical London rapper leans on instrumentally. Jay knew the right production to get on and who to call on to make this project strong.

Favorite Cuts: Father, Father, Squad and Smile Good

Stream Of Consciousness – Track by Track 1st Listen to D.R.A.M.’s New Album

 

D.R.A.M. just dropped an album. It has an odd cover. Ok, glad we got that out of the way. I’ve heard all the singles and I’ve enjoyed them all. I’ll be honest, I had no idea a full length was in the works. I don’t follow him on any social media platform; thank god for Apple Music. *Apple Music doesn’t have a sharing button, at least one I can figure out, so all I could provide was a Spotify player.

In 2014 he released Cha Cha which didn’t draw much attention until 2015. It was, arguably, the biggest SoundCloud viral hit of 2015. It went 2x Platinum just based off sharing platforms. It was also featured on his indie album #1EPIC EP, which also did very well. About 7 months later he dropped his mixtape Gahdamn via Atlantic records. I didn’t get a chance to listen to it, but I know it also drew some buzz.

After doing some research I found out that DRAM announced his debut album titled Big Baby DRAM in early October. He shared the cover and it wasn’t received very well (how could it.)

I’ve never done a initial thought album review. I’ve read DJ BOOTH’s religiously (shout out to Yoh) and decided to try my hand at it. I wrote these words while I listened to them for the first time. I played it all the way through and wrote it as a stream of consciousness (hence the titled of this post.)

Enjoy.

1. Get It Myself

Finally an intro I can relate to. There hasn’t been many of these in the newer hip hop releases. Not sure who the producer is on this one, (only did a Wiki check…call me lazy) but it is a perfect meld of all the genres DRAM has continued to prove he can just beast on. There’s a bit of a gospel sound on here. I love the message; it’s a great way to start an album.

I had to tell myself I had to go get it myself

In DRAM’s career he has had to “go get it himself,” as he has constantly worked to get his name out there. After Cha Cha he pushed an impressive hit with Lil Yachty, but most of his popular singles were just him on the mic.

2. Misunderstood (feat. Young Thug)

Piano keys. Lots of them. Sounds like the beginning of something beautiful. DRAM comes in and it sounds epic. Just saw Young Thug is featured on this. Holy shit. Now some guitars are coming in, some actual live bass. This is more rock than hip hop. So many elements production wise. DRAM continues to distort his voice. Thug comes in and matches DRAM. I’ve never heard Thug on some heavy rock shit, but it sounds amazing. Of course he is speaking on girls calling him. No way is he picking up, as usual. These two are the best at using their voice as instruments. It’s a bit of a stream of conscious track, a little weird. The beat sometimes overpowers their vocals, but it sounds good. As for the lyrical content; it’s pretty good. It tells the story of DRAM and the beginnings of his career and the fact that people have “misunderstood” him.

3. In a Minute/In House

PART ONE:

In a Minute

we aint x and o in a minute. you said you are celibate.

First 15 seconds and I am amazed. No one is saying shit like this. Its creative…and all he is speaking on is having intense sex with a girl. It’s a little vulgar, I’ll have to admit. Once again DRAM uses his vocals to his advantage. I’m starting to hear how similar he sounds to Young Thug on these tracks, but he isn’t biting. The first part “In a Minute” is almost over and “In House” is coming up next. I wonder what direction it’ll go in.

PART TWO:

In House

Damn this sounds like some Drizzy Take Care shit. Of course Drake can’t hit the high notes like that. In House is more of a slow jam; something you can actually have sex to unlike In a Minute. Much less vulgar, more into the emotional side of why he wants to be with this girl. It sounds like he actually cares about her, which is very different from the first part of the song. A lot of two part songs bore me, but this one is different. Although In House is a little repetitive, I enjoyed how he has showed a different side of himself.

4. Monticello Ave.

DRAM is straight up rapping on this. Damn, he can do it all. He has a problem with too many girls trying to get with him at shows. What a travesty. It does show his softer side; the problems he has in this relationship where they are definitely “more than friends.” I definitely understand how tempting it would be to cheat if you and your girl at home aren’t doing well. The middle gets a little boring; that high note has nothing on In a Minute. The chorus is delicious though, very soothing and serene.

5. Wifi (feat. Erykah Badu)

Damn he got Erykah on the album. I’m writing this as Monticello is ending and I’m tempted to skip just to hear how this sounds. 30 seconds left…yeah I’m gonna skip. I would like to note, on Apple Music, this is the only track that is labeled as R&B/Soul. I hate to label this song as a “slow jam” like In House. It sounds more heavenly. The fact that he can talk about wifi and make it sound good is amazing. Oh shit Erykah…holy fuck. Not only does she sound miles above any vocalist currently making tracks, the lyrics are so beautiful. It’s a bit of a duet between DRAM and Badu. It’s kinda haunting. They do extremely well together. “No strings attached, still connected” is poetic, definitely the best line of the track.

6. Cash Machine

I heard Cash Machine when it was released as a single and I fell in love with it right away. This was added to all of my favorite playlists. I liked this one more than Broccoli if you can believe it. WAAAY more than Cute. Yes, its 100% about being rich and bashing women who don’t have money, but come on. Listen. Tell me you aren’t hooked. The producer, Ricky Reed, killed it. He knows how to craft a hit.

7. Broccoli (feat. Lil Yachty)

The famous hit with Lil Yachty. This shit blew up in the summer. When the video was released it blew up even more. This is Yachty at his best. Combine that with the simple whistle and piano riff beat and you’ve got a hit. Oh and DRAM’s chorus does no harm. The song structure was brilliant. A Yachty verse, the two part chorus, then DRAM’s rapping/singing. The lyrics are silly. But these two are exactly that, so it works well.

8. Cute

This was my least favorite single. Let me be clear: this is still a dope track. I just realized I loved all the promo tracks put out before the album. How was I not hype for this album? It slipped by me I guess. Cute is sung in a different pitch than we are used to with DRAM. It reminds me of early 2000’s r&b, specifically Omarion + Marques Houston (which, in my opinion, were the golden years of the genre.)

9. Outta Sight/Dark Lavender

Another double song. I don’t know if I like this. Two of them in one album? It’s a little much. As I mentioned before, sometimes evne one of these is too much. I’m not feeling this one. The beat is pretty disco like which I enjoy, but DRAM sounds uninspired and pretty emotionless. This shit is almost 6 minutes. The drop is pretty nice at around the 1:20 mark, but it’s still a bit lifeless. I don’t see how this is an interlude when its the longest track on the album. The phone call with whomever that girl is is a bit pointless.

10. Change My #

Ok, so I’n realizing most of these songs have depth except the singles. That’s probably not on purpose, huh? This song doesn’t do anything for me. He’s basically just singing about nothing. Nothing sounds important. It doesn’t add much to the story. Changing your number because a girl is bothering you, or for whatever reason is pretty intense. But he doesn’t sound sincere, at least in my opinion. It’s another slow tempo r&b track. A lot of songs on the album sound like this.

11. Password

Hmm…I wonder what this one will be about. I think I have an idea. The “cell phone suspicion” lyric just came in. Yup, I was right. If you listen to BBD in order and in full there’s no way you won’t know what will be about. Most people in relationships can relate to this, but damn this is boring. Do we really need a whole song on this? I guess he’s speaking on trust, but this is not the way to do it. Good thing it’s short. He does say “It ain’t worth it if I got you” which adds some depth. The beat hits hard at the end, which I appreciate.

12. 100%

“I think I might get dirt on my jeans for you” Hmm…I like this. Reminds me of the line in In a Minute “we aint x and o in a minute. you said you are celibate.” This sounds great. He’s reassuring his girl that no one will touch his love for her. This seems to be a bit of a story. He’s finally realizing how much his girl holds him down. I loved the background vocals. It’s a bit of a vibrating track, but there is tons of hard hitting elements.

13. Sweet VA Breeze

Another gospel intro. These are usually great. Some jazz elements. Another different sounding DRAM. This reminds me of a jazz vocalist from the 40’s. Like I said earlier, he can do it all. Damn, he’s going to have a lasting career. Breeziy is a perfect way to describe this. We get a sample vocal here. I’m going to die if it’s actually a jazz vocalist from the 40’s. DRAM sounds effortless. Definitely a nice one.

14. Workaholic (Bonus Track)

I love how I can completely relate to the first and last track. Holy shit this beat. No producer listed on Wiki. This knocks so hard. DRAM has never sounded more confident. If you are feeling burnt out from working non-stop listen to this. I know I’ll do the same. THIS is the one to listen to on your car speakers. Or if you have over ear heavy bass Sony headphones (which is what I’m using to listen to this album). I wish this was longer.

After my first listen to Big Baby D.R.A.M I have come to the conclusion that DRAM can definitely make a great, full album. You can tell he worked hard on this. The 3 features were exactly the right amount. The over saturation of features in any hip hop album usually backfire. Not only that, they aren’t necessarily and/or they don’t add anything to the album. On DRAM’s official debut he got Young Thug , Lil Yachty and Erykah Badu. This is incredible. DRAM has a new fan.

My favorite tracks are: Get It Myself, Misunderstood, WiFI, Cash Machine, Broccoli and Workaholic. Those are the cuts you should definitely check out.

Jon Waltz, my introduction to his music + Riot (New Track)

My introduction To Jon Waltz dates back to 3 years ago when I heard Bang for the first time. I believe it was on Pigeons & Planes where they were showcasing up and coming artists they believed would make it big (I forget the exact article name.)

It was a rough sketch, not mixed or mastered. But the soul was there. The chorus was catchy and delicious.

Left my home with a dream and a cigarette

My girlfriend say a n***a’s dead

Heard that pistol pop-pop, bang-bang

Head leaking on the high rocks, bang-bang

Said I’m leaving

Then he gave it the official studio treatment and dropped it as a track on EP Alyss 

We only got a few singles after the EP which were great in their own right. You could hear him step everything up as each song was released. Now, Jon has released Riot and it is the peak of his musical content. The instrumental is full and he sounds so powerful and commanding. It is epic. Compare it to even the mastered version of Bang and it may sound like completely different artists.

I’ll always love the rough cut of Bang because I have memories tied to it and I played it almost every day for half a year. But I’m not opposed to his new stuff at all.

Below you will find some of the aforementioned content.

 

What Inspired Me To Start flowsfordays.com (Personal Editorial)

flowsfordays was started for a reason. I had been running a blog on Tumblr called Discover Good Music for a few years while I was at Columbia College in Chicago. For those that aren’t familiar, it’s an arts school downtown. I transferred to the college in the fall of 2012 after trying social work at Northeastern.

Being at Columbia was an amazing experience. I made so many connections and took such interesting classes. Before I got there I decided I wanted to get a degree in music business (which I did at the end of 2014.) Right after I applied I started DGM; first as a way to meet new artists on Twitter, (as I was addicted to the site) and then as a way to help spread their music that I felt deserved much more recognition.

Hip hop was my forte; I had been listening to it for quiet a long time. I read about it, listened to tons of albums, and dedicated myself to find my niche. At first I tried producing (it was an absolute disaster) and then I realized I wanted to help promote the culture and its underground movement.

The blog started small (I think I had 100 followers after the site was up for 3 months) so I was often discouraged. Most of the artists I featured were extremely appreciative of the supportive I was giving them. I made friends, learned about the blogging industry, and bettered my writing. I did it for the love of hip hop and the love of discovering new music.

When I entered Columbia the blog started growing. I kept reaching out to artists, especially in the city, and even did some podcast interviews (that have since been taken down.) I loved the rush of posting, and seeing the hunger of artistic individuals like myself. It was such a fun experience. I did it for free, and did it with tons of homework and responsibilities.

After a few years I took a break from the blog (for personal reasons that I’ll probably post about later.) Then I took another break, for the same reason. I wasn’t as interested anymore. I was hardly on Twitter. I even switched to a personal account.

The site became stale to me. I knew I needed a second wind. I knew a big part of the lack of interest was the way the site looked and the lack of features. I decided to give it one more shot; so I made a WordPress account and started flowsfordays. I promised myself I would give this one my all and stay consistent (I took a short break in September for reasons, once again, I’ll write about later.)

That was about 2 months ago. Now, I love the outline of the blog. I finally got a logo. I acquired a lot more support and followers. I’m writing actual editorials which I never thought I could do before. My writing got better. I reached out to do collaborate pieces with blogs, learned from constructive criticism and pushed to find more story ideas. I’ve even guest written on a few sites (this will continue.) Not only has my passion for music changed for the better, my outlook on life has too.

It’s cliche, but hard work will get you places that you need to go in order to make it, whether they are positive or negative. I share this story in the hopes that newer artists that don’t feel like they are properly recognized for their music continue to work and believe in themselves. It took awhile, but I finally have, and it’s given me so much success and joy.

flowsfordays will only grow as a blog and a brand. Here’s a toast to what exciting opportunities lay ahead. I know I’ll keep working…every day.

Most Played Chicago + Baltimore Songs (TheDemoTape + flowsfordays Collab)

Justice, the co-creator of influential blog The Demo Tape, hit me up a few days ago wanting to exchange some of our favorite music from our hometowns. He’s from Baltimore and I’m from Chicago. We decided to write a collaborative article on the songs we are bumping from artists out of our cities.

For me at least, these songs aren’t extremely recent releases but have been heavily played on my front for the last month or so. (I’d like to also add that SoundCloud is down, at least for me, so I couldn’t post the tracks underneath. I did provide links to the albums/mixtapes they are off of along with a YouTube link below the song, except for femdot’s onourown which I couldn’t find.)

Check out our favorites below:

Julie: (owner and operator of flowsfordays)

Rocket ManLeather Corduroys (off album Season)

As I’m sure most of my Chicago peers know, the group Leather Corduroys is made up of artists Kami De Chukwu + Joey Purp from the SAVEMONEY crew. Unfortunately they have only released one album and one EP, but both were high up on my list of favorite projects in 2014 (Porno Music Volume II) and 2015 (Season). I played the shit out of them when they came out in those respective years, but dipped out a bit this year. I’ve recently come back to Rocket Man, my favorite track on Season. It is a rendition of, you guessed it, Elton’s John’s extremely popular hit from the early 70’s. This is just a perfect track. The instrumental flip (provided by Dimeji Faluyi) is hip hop at it’s finest. The best part is the chorus, a soft yet direct switch up from Elton’s version.

Bitch I am the rocket man

Probably blasting off again

I hope that they remember him

I know they gonna miss me man

AmyTree (off album Sunday School)

I didn’t catch Sunday School until 2013 (sad face) but when I did I dropped my jaw when I heard Amy. Yet another sample/flip from a popular song that bangs like no other. I’m almost positive Tree produced this as it was also featured on his instrumental album which is just excellent.

Amy is upbeat, bouncy, and totally dope. Tone Skeeta is an excellent feature. I dove more into his music after I heard this and was very happy with what I heard. The rest of SS is great; the sequel is even better.

Smoke Break Chance The Rapper feat. Future (off album Coloring Book)

I’ve been playing this track for so long it’s become engraved in my brain. I’m so familiar with it not only can I rap along to every verse. Future is one of my favorite artists right now, and this was a pretty big departure from his most recent project E.T. I never expected Future and Chance to collaborate on a song, at least not in the near future, so this was the most welcoming surprise of 2016. Both Chance and him play off each other well in their softer more melodic voices. The instrumental by Garren brings everything together.

Mucho Gusto King Louie (off mixtape Play Dat Again)

Listen to 10 seconds of this song and you will be drawn right in, trust me. At the 1 minute mark the bass gets so heavy that when I use my cheap headphones to listen to it, it almost breaks them or blows out my ears. You’ll recognize that there is a Caribbean/Spanish type sound to it making it the most unique track on the tape. Louie’s flow is just amazing, but that’s not much of a surprise. I just wish it was longer.

onourown. – Femdot (off of album thr(we)

What a god damn intro! I’m not sure what that sample is in the beginning, but it is definitely some type of music from the 80’s. There are so many “oh shit” bars on this one, but I’ll just highlight a few.

Look, she go down like a southern American

From Georgia, speaking of dome

Just got a Caesar cut speaking of Rome and they

Killing niggas like they Coliseum

Speaking of home

I’ve been following Femdot for awhile now and I stand by my belief that he is one of the most underrated lyricists in the game. In my humble opinion it is the best cut off of thr(we) and maybe of his career.

Justice (co-founder of The Demo Tape):

The music scene in Baltimore right now is at the highest peak I’ve ever experienced it at. With such a variety of artists bringing their own unique sounds, it’s become almost an everyday occurrence for me to find sounds from my hometown that I’ve come to enjoy.

Whole Lotta Money – YBS Skola

It would only be right to start this list off with arguably the hit of the year out of the city. From his No Pen, No Paper project released earlier this year, YBS Skola’s Whole Lotta Money can be heard throughout the city at any club, party, gathering, etc. and it’s not hard to see why. It’s extremely catchy and will probably be one a lot of year-end lists throughout the DMV.

Mr. Clean – Zheep

With one of my favorite songs of the summer, Zheep had a phenomenal third quarter of the year and will hopefully cap it off with one of my most anticipated projects out of Baltimore this year, 20/20,”set to release soon.

BBB (feat. Blue Benjamin Sleepy) – Bandhunta Izzy

Bandhunta Izzy and Blue Benjamin Sleepy had two of the best rookie campaigns in the city this year and they recently teamed up for BBB”(Blue Benjamin Bandhuntas.) The two trade verses for three minutes in what’s quickly become a daily play for me.

TRAP$AVAGE – TRAPJXHN & MikeyTha$avage

This is one of my favorite projects out of Baltimore this year and it starts with the intro. With some great production throughout, the tandem of TRAPJXHN and MikeyTha$avage had hits for the whole summer and beyond on this one.

Poppin – Tate Kobang

Tate Kobang blew after his single Bank Rolls, but it might not even be one of my favorite five songs in his catalog. His Since We’re Here project released earlier this year really impressed me and it started with this intro right here.

Still Crushin – daveolgy.

It’s not all hip hop though in Baltimore. I’m not even a huge R&B fan, but daveology. almost forces you to become a fan. This single off his NIGHTS project is only a small sample into what he’s capable of.

King Me – Lor Scoota

Gone, but surely never forgotten. Baltimore lost a legend in Lor Scoota this year the hands of violence as he was leaving a charity basketball game promoting peace in his hometown. However, before his untimely death, he left Baltimore with a gift in Still In The Trenches 3 in this is definitely one of my favorites

You can follow Justice, The Demo Tape, and flowsfordays on Twitter.

Also be sure to visit thedemotape.com.

Revisiting A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie’s ‘Artist: The Mixtape’ (Top 5 Tracks To Check Out)

To say A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie’s debut mixtape Artist (free download here) was a commercial success would be an understatement. Tons of articles have been written about the brilliance of the tape, his “modernization of New York Hip Hop”, sudden buzz, his music that blurs the line between trap & r&b and much much more. In June and July it seemed like every influential music blog was covering him, all adding insight into the soon to be superstar.

Not only have industry professionals and journalists sung his praise, but he’s added a few notches on his belt in the last few months. He rose to the top of the Pandora Trendsetter’s Chart (ranking up and coming artists with the highest number of stations), opened up for Drake, sold out countless shows, and signed to Atlantic Records.

If you haven’t heard the tape, I urge you to do so. Much like when I heard Young Thug for the first time, I knew he would become the next industry darling because of how different he sounded. His voice is calming, lyrics simple but effective, and story inspiring.

The project dropped in February of this year, so many of you have probably digested it. But, if you are on the fence about it, haven’t listened, or want to know the best tracks to check out, read on. It’s time to list the top 5 tracks of the tape (in order).

1. My Shit

Even if you haven’t heard Artist I’m almost certain you’ve heard My Shit. It’s everywhere, on iTunes curated playlists, radio, and bumping out of cars (even throughout Chicago.) Apparently the song was made in 30 minutes which just blows my mind. It has all of the elements of a hit song. A bouncy summertime beat from D Stacks, an addictive hook, and fun lyrics on women and their love for the song. It’s easy to say this is the best song on the tape just based off of popularity, but is also just really really good.

2. DTB (Interlude)

DTB is the best interlude I’ve ever heard, hands down. I’m not sure why Boogie called it an interlude as it is the longest song on the project, but it certainly doesn’t matter. It is rare to find a rap song about relationship issues that are this catchy. Throughout Artist Boogie has a pretty up-beat tone to his voice even when speaking on hardships, but DTB has him sounding the most hurt. The song is essentially about a woman that Boogie regrets having been in a relationship with, and his anger that she’s gotten with another guy. This experience has lead him to not trust women (hence the titled of the song which stands for “don’t trust bitches.”

It is a sad conclusion to make, although I am at a point in my life where I don’t either (kidding, but serious.) Boogie gets a little vindictive towards the new man around the 1 minute mark saying:

That other nigga gon’ fuck up running his mouth, bitch

How I fuck him up and drown him in a fountain

Leave that lil nigga somewhere in the mountains

But now I’m like “What the fuck, nigga”

DTB is relatable, dark, and sounds really fucking good.

3. Trap House 

Artist has a few songs sprinkled in that don’t touch upon relationships, but Trap House is the best one. The chorus is repeated an incredible 5 times in this just over 3 minute track which is a huge part of why I love it so much. Boogie also spits some straight up bars on this one.

When you step into my bando, you gonna have to light a candle

Window open for the damn smoke

Nigga listen to the damn flow

I don’t think they understand tho, they want me dead but I can’t go

That was all they ever planned for, Louie V with a Kenzo

If you come to my trap house talking crazy I’ma back out

Nike gloves with a mask out, I couldn’t wait to try this Mac out

I’ma be up in this trap house, till’ I count up then I pass out

I don’t know what’s in my stash now, check me out I’m in my bag now

This is some of the best wordplay on the album and will hopefully be continued, perfected, or expanded upon in upcoming songs/projects.

4. Always On Time (Bonus Track)

Ja Rule and Ashanti have always made magic. Their run in the early 2000’s was so great to see and hear. They haven’t made a bad track together and I truly hope they collaborate again. To hear the instrumental flip on the closing track of the tape was a welcoming shock. I wasn’t surprised to hear Boogie make it work. He switches from rapping about his ride or die woman (“we ride together, we ride together, be honest”) to a short history of his childhood (“I grew up bumpin’ Cassidy and Beanie Siegel”) and observations of his environment (“watching crack heads squeeze up on that needle”) There’s a lot to love about this one.

5. Friend Zone

Friend Zone is the perfect anthem for any individual that’s been curved by a woman (it happens often, just check out your Twitter feed.) Not only does this woman want to just be friends with Boogie, she continues to have sex with him and call him. It is interesting to hear a male rapper feel a little upset about this situation, but this is what makes Boogie so appealing. Honesty, and no fucks given if he sounds weak.

The light and airy beat by D Stacks (who complements Boogie extremely well throughout the tape) is reminiscent of My Shit and is almost just as catchy. Just an all around stellar track.

Exploring The History of Unique Voices In Hip Hop (Editorial)

Since the birth of hip hop in the late 70’s there have been a slew of artists with strong personalities. Taking it back to the mid/late 80’s we can look at Flavor Flav. Public Enemy was a revolutionary group for the genre of hip hop and music in general, but Flavor gave the group, well, flavor.

I was listening to Ty Dolla $ign on the way to Chicago today. 911 by Rich The Kid featuring Ty was on repeat until I switched to Horses in Stable, and then the entire half of Free TC. After that I got into Campaign, his newest release. I couldn’t stop listening. After Horses In the Stable I planned on giving Blu & Fa†e’s newest EP a second listen; but I stopped. As I stated in my last editorial I’ve become a huge fan of Blu, so it wasn’t like listening to Open Your Optics to Optimism was a chore. But, Ty’s voice was calling me. It was so unique.

After going through his two official albums I got to thinking about hip hop and r&b artists who have voices that you can recognize instantly. There have been tons of successful ones. I decided to explore these artists and give you a break down of them. I’d like to add I will not be covering all of the significant artists, as this would turn into a book. I’m also not covering Flavor Flav and Ty as I touched upon him in the beginning of this article.

Q-Tip

In 1990 we were commercially introduced to A Tribe Called Quest via their first studio album People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. While Phife Dawg was featured on a few tracks it was Q that stole the show. From the moment Push It Along came on (the first track off the album) and Q rapped

Q-Tip is my title, I don’t think it’s vital

For me to be your idol, but dig this recital

hip hop heads around the world heard a smooth, calm, and melodic voice (although his first verses on wax was his features with the Jungle Brothers.) Q exemplified jazzy rap, but used his vocals as the main instrument. My first introduction to the group, as I’m sure many who were born past the age of their run in the early 90’s, was Bonita Applebum. It was the most tranquil track I had ever heard and I had Q to thank. Q-Tip and Tribe continued to make chart topping and classic albums. If Q wasn’t a part of Tribe, would they have been as successful? Of course Phife had great bars and Ali was a legendary producer, but Q sounded so unique.

Lauryn Hill

Before the praise of Drake as a singer and a rapper we had Lauryn Hill. She doesn’t get the recognition she deserves in that realm, but I digress. Her voice is instantly recognizable, especially on tracks Ready Or Not and Killing Me Softly. The Fugees blew up after their second album The Score dropped and peaked at number one on the U.S. Billboard charts for over half a year. It also sold six million copies and won a Grammy for the best rap album. But The Score had nothing on The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill which was released to the public in 1997. It famously dealt with the breakdown of her relationship with Wyclef Jean. The two albums did so well because Lauryn was center stage. She had a powerful and particular voice that just begged to be heard.

DMX

Earl Simmons’ debut major label single wasn’t called Get at Me Dog on accident. He barks, growls, and sounds menacing throughout his extremely successful 3 albums in the late 90’s. When I first heard the album It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot it felt like D was right next to me spitting into my ear. It was so intimidating but I loved it. Out of the two aforementioned artists, DMX’s sound is the most distinctive.

Lil Wayne

Although Wayne’s popularity has declined and his songs have gotten…well…bad, most of us will always remember him for his run from 2000 to 2008. Bling Bling, Go DJ, his feature on Destiny Child’s track Soldier, Fireman and tons of mixtape cuts drew out his silly yet gruff voice. His popularity continued to rise with each tape all leading up to the main course, Tha Carter III. His flow and bars were different, but I can’t help but think if his voice was less unique, would he find as much fame?

Chance The Rapper

A ton of my friends hated Chance on his first mixtape 10Day. They, along with many others I’ve spoken to and read about, enjoyed the direction and lyrics, but his nasally voice totally put them off. I didn’t understand the annoyance with the way he sounded, but as time went on I started to hear how different his music was at that time. There is no doubt Chance is a one of a kind artist, especially after releasing Coloring Book, but he stood out initially (whether good or bad) because of his odd sounding voice. Of course he had the bars, personality, and song structure to match, but I don’t think hip hop fans would have continued on with whatever song they first heard from Chance without that voice.

Young Thug

Thugger is the GOAT of all GOAT’s in this category. He sounds crazy in every way on whatever track he’s on. His peculiar voice is a huge component to his success. This has been even more exemplified on the recent Jeffery. He arguably uses his vocals as more of an instrument than Q-Tip.

As I mentioned before, this is by no means a complete list. Perhaps I’ll continue on with this as time goes on and I get a good response from it. I have no doubt in my mind we will continue to be exposed to artists like these in the coming months and years. Keep your eye out.

Confessions: My New Found Love for Indie Hip Hop

I’ve been slacking. These are my confessions

I recently wrote an article for Speedonthebeat.com giving my thoughts on the sub genre of “underground hip hop” and what I’ve been listening to recently. The album I focused on was Apollo Brown & Skyzoo’s collaborative album, ‘The Easy Truth.’ It is a dope piece of work; something I needed to hear in the midst of popular releases that I am guilty of continually listening to. Jeffery was amazing; probably my second favorite Thugger project ever. It’s interesting, it’s different, and the artistry is incredible. Lots has been written about the album and I’m sure most of us are aware of the Best New Album rating it got on Pitchfork.

In the Speed On The Beat article I went into my new found love of these indie releases. I hate putting labels on music, especially hip hop, but I’m not sure what else to call it. I’ve been exploring so much. The internet has helped immensely, as well as record stores around Chicago. I’ve scoured the net, typing in ‘best indie hip hop albums of all time” in Google Search and striking gold. The first one that came up was Below The Heavens by Blu and after listening to it 5 or 6 times I can now put it in my top 5 favorite albums EVER.

While investigating I noticed how my ears started to appreciate different elements of the music and pick up different sounds. I haven’t listened to production with INTENSE samples in a long time. Of course Illmatic and a ton of 90’s albums were full of them, but nothing current. The last few years have been full of Drake, Kanye West (who does sample, but in a different way), Young Thug, Ty Dolla Sign, Chance The Rapper, Vic Mensa, Vince Staples, Kevin Gates, and Future to name a few. I would like to note that I listen to much more music, but these are the most “mainstream” and popular. Most of the production on these tracks and albums are full of 808’s, heavy bass, and come from Metro Boomin (just kidding). For the record I love these beats, I flock to them. I have Sony Extra Bass headphones because I’m that serious about my bass. I play everything extremely loud and enjoy every second of it.

Then, a few weeks ago everything changed. I watched a documentary on Stone’s Throw (which is EXCELLENT and is probably my favorite music documentary of all time). There was so much good information, so much I didn’t know. I appreciated the roots of the label (started by Chris Manak aka DJ Peanut Butter Wolf) and the chances he took on some unique artists. The one I heard over and over again was Madlib. I am not new to this legendary producer. I know the huge mark he has left and continues to leave on the hip hop world, especially in the underground and even more so in production. I’ve heard his classic works such as Madvilliany and his collaboration album with Freddie Gibbs. But, I didn’t know the rest.

I got Apple Music about 4 months ago and it is the best thing in the world, especially for exploring. Once I learned about the artists on Stone’s Throw I dove right into the application and added albums like crazy. They have a section of similar artists, or albums you might like, and lets just say I spent the next two weeks listening to 5 or 6 albums a day and researching writing on these albums. It was a religious experience; it grounded me, enlightened me, and gave new adoration for my favorite genre ever, hip hop.

I didn’t stop, and still haven’t. I’ve found myself not going out on the weekends just so I can listen to new stuff. I bought one of the best portable speakers money can buy just to get the best audio experience from this new music. I’ve begun to think about vinyl and exclusive merchandise again. I’ve started to believe and want to support these artists more than any loved artist before. Guys like Blu, Fashawn, Homeboy Sandman, Madlib, Knxweldge, Apollo Brown, Aesop Rock, L’Orange, Mr. Lif, Med, Quasimoto, Nottz, Exile, Elzhi. They all speak to me in a new way. They focus on lyricism, pushing limits and boundaries, and the producer AND artist creating chemistry together. I couldn’t believe how many artists have solo producers on their albums. It makes for better work.

Last note: Blu is now my new favorite artist. I don’t think he will ever drop out of my top 5 emcees of post 2000. His ability to create TOTALLY different albums sonically and content wise is just astounding. He shifts and molds with every new producer he works with. These are organic relationships and it makes for some incredible albums. His features aren’t random. He is in it to create music, not for the money or the fame. He is incredibly devoted fans that buy his vinyl and merchandise religiously and go to every one of his concerts. It is amazing to see.

I cannot wait to embark on this new journey into this sub genre of hip hop. I know it will take a lifetime to explore everything. I am so ready.

Article by flowsfordays owner and operator Julie S. You can follow her Twitter here.