Saturday, October 31, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
That piano, New York, the aerial shots, Hype Williams, shutting down Times Square, Alicia Keys... oh, Alicia Keys. She's so beautiful. Her new album The Element of Freedom drops December 15th, the same week as Mary J. Blige's Stronger.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
The God MC.
I am fortunate enough to have a job that provides me many musical opportunities. None has or probably will ever come as close as my brief meeting with Rakim. He came through Minneapolis on his way to the west coast to tour and promote his upcoming album, The 7th Seal due out November 17th.
He came through and played some new tracks and gave some background on each record and the holistic vision of the album. Afterwards he had some time for questions from the small group and then went through the routine of signing and taking pictures with some of my fellow co-workers.
When asked what emcees he believes are currently carrying the torch of conscious and positive rap he only named two: Lupe Fiasco (named first) and Nas (though he was quick to point out that while Nas isn't always the most positive, in most of his records there's an underlying drive for good).
I asked what it's like when new emcees meet him, a legend and source of inspiration for many, for the first time. In particular, I asked how it went when Brother Ali met him and rocked a show at First Ave with Ali. I know that Ali is a huge fan and shares the same Muslim faith. Rakim said that having emcees display their appreciation and love for his work face-to-face is the greatest compliment - even more so in hip-hop since the root of all of the elements, especially rap, is braggadocio and being better than the next person. He called Brother Ali a "throwback" and appreciates his music and approach to it. Rakim never travels or performs with artists that don't share his same values. He said that it wasn't a difficult decision to work with Ali.
The last group question asked was if there was one moment in his career that stood out or he couldn't believe happened. He talks of a day at home with his kids running around the house and getting a call from his manager. His manager always gassed him up, so he was preparing for some more hot air. The manager said, "Have you seen the new issue of The Source? They ranked the top emcees of all time. Guess where you ranked?" Rakim figuring that his manager had an inflated view of his artist guessed: "I dunno. 13? 10? Haha, 8?" "You were ranked number one!" Tears welled up in his eyes in disbelief and joy. His kids instantly recognized that something was wrong. They stopped what they were doing perplexed at their fathers' tears having never seen him cry. "Dad, are you crying?" Rakim says that at that moment all of his years staying true to himself and not going after the money by putting out "gangster" albums were realized. What's more, the hip-hop community respected that and recognized it formally. He was never recognized through album sales, but amongst the hip-hop community he will always be known as the greatest. And Rakim wouldn't ask for anything more.
The highlight of it all, though, was getting my own little moment with Rakim Allah. A few months ago at a record show I came across a Ruth Brown record and picked it up on the recommendation of the vendor. I instantly fell in love with this phenomenal blues and R&B singer. The morning that I was to meet Rakim I did a quick internet search to see if there was anything that I didn't already know about him. It turns out that Rakim is the late Ruth Brown's nephew. I thought my Ruth Brown LP would be a good, albeit small, token of my appreciation for Rakim's visit and body of work. As my turn with Rakim one-on-one came, I handed him the record. I asked if he already had the album and he said that he didn't. As he inspected it I tried to assure him that though the sleeve wasn't in mint condition, the vinyl was. He was quick to deny my comment about the 1972 sleeve's condition. "Nah, I know what records go through and this is in GREAT shape." After turning the LP over a few times he slowly set it down and withdrew into thought for a second. He went into a little story about his aunt.
"I remember her babysitting us many nights. We were a bunch of rugrats causing trouble. She was always so calm. She would often sit in the kitchen and sew some ruffles and glitter on her dress and shoes. It wasn't until I was older that I fully appreciated what was going on. Here she was sprucing up an old dress and shoes and babysitting hours before she went out to perform at The Cotton Club! That humbleness and refusal to change her style greatly influenced my approach to music and the industry."
It was an honor to share in Rakim's reflection on his aunt who he obviously loved and who was a major influence on him. It was also very special to see how much he appreciated my gift. I later heard from his manager that he told him he was genuinely "touched."
After getting a promo 12" of "It's Been A Long Time" signed, a few pics taken, a handshake and an urging to "not let vinyl die" I spent the rest of the day on a natural high unlike any.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Just after I published my previous post about the come-up of West Coast hip-hop I came across this joint by Sha Stimuli featuring Freeway and produced by Just Blaze... YIKES! With a lineup like that, you can't mess with the East!
I'm an East Coast/NYC hip-hop fan for life. I never got into the West Coast gangsta-rap scene or any of the superstar Cali emcees. It seems like each coast has had their time and things have been going in cycles. Well, it looks like it's the West Coast's time right now. Not only do they have a bunch of mad-talented young emcees, but they've converted me to their ways: sunshine, barbecues and parties. Those aren't the only subjects of course, but if I'm going to over generalize, there you go.
Fashawn "Sunny CA"
VIMBY | MySpace Video
People Under The Stairs are vets in West Coast scene and represent their city and lifestyle to the fullest. You can't listen to any of their tracks without seeing palm trees and sunrises over the ocean.
Evidence has been tearing it up lately with a masterful solo album, The Weatherman LP, and an EP so good it could stand up as a full album instead of just a teaser to his sophomore effort on Rhymesayers.
Of course there's Dre who's been through all of the West Coast movements and stood the test of time without changing the roots of his style. And when that album f-i-n-a-l-l-y drops it'll be a problem to the rest of the hip-hop game.
There's many other West Coast staples who are responsible for bringing the warmer coasts' sound and style back to the forefront of hip-hop. But the one that I've been sleeping on as of late is Fashawn. Let this video/track be a case in point and go cop the album Boy Meets World, out today.
Fashawn "Sunny CA"
The entire album is produced by production beast, Exile.VIMBY - Teaser: Exile
VIMBY | MySpace Video
Saturday, October 17, 2009
My buddy shot me this music video and I instantly became a fan and absolutely addicted to this song! According to my iTunes I've played it more than a dozen times in the last week. The kicker is that you can download a quality EP from his website.
Eric Inkala has been a staple of the Minneapolis art community for a minute. He has a very distinct style. He incorporates bright colors, graffiti imagery, and lines that flow effortlessly into and out of each other. First Amendment art gallery held a goodbye show for him a month ago as he is moving onto bigger things out in NYC. It's bittersweet because Mpls lost another great artist to NYC, but it's always good to see a homegrown artist progress and represent Mpls to the fullest out of state. I went to said show with the intention of finally purchasing a piece of Inkala's art. Of course my favorite piece was already taken by the time I got to the show.
Inspired by the show and disappointed that I didn't have an Inkala piece for one of my drab walls, I decided to create my own Inkala-inspired piece with some twists that are part of my style. You could call this lil piece 'biting' but I prefer to call it an homage to Inkala. I think it's fair especially since I make a blatant call-out in the bottom right of the piece ("Ink").
Inkala definitely left his mark on me as well as the city. Some of his pieces can be found on the sides of buildings and parking ramps. In Uptown, you can check out his work on the side of the Caribou on Lake Street across from Bryant Lake Bowl.
My boy DJ Twellis and myself will be spinning Funk & Breaks from 7:30 - 10 as a warmup for the official afterparty across the street at O'Gara's. Come through Phenom and check out the fresh threads and get into O'Gara's for free. Holler!
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
If you live in St. Paul, next Friday is your lucky day because we're bringing the party to you. No need to travel across the river to get your dance on. And if you live in Minneapolis, you finally have an excuse to visit your beautiful capital.
DJ Trey and I will be throwing down 80's jams and the choicest hip-hop bangers all night at Shamrocks on October 23rd. Come on down and bring all of your friends and friends' friends. If we pack them in on the 23rd, we could make this a monthly occurrence. So help a brother out and get your grown-ass dance on next Friday!
995 West 7th Street, St. Paul
Saturday, October 10, 2009
I don't have a TV for many reasons, but one of the reasons is there aren't any shows of substance or that are doing a service for the viewer. I will be going to a friend's house to watch this series, however. I can't think of a more important show right now.
RIP DJ AM.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Friday, October 2, 2009
It's no secret that I have a huge crush on Maggie Morrison. In all honesty, I'd probably post a video of her even if the music was terrible and the video was shoddy. This video, though, is simply amazing. One of the best music videos I've seen all year. It ranks up there with Jay-Z's east-coast Mad Max blockbuster, "We Run This." Plus, I'd rather stare at Maggie than Rihanna any day.