Author Archive

Lupe Fiasco Now Selling Verses For $500

He's back at it...

He’s back at it…

Ok, since we did a think piece in my last post, this time out, we’re going to go light (relatively). After being called “arrogant” by battle rapper Dizaster, thus continuing their long-standing “feud,” news came that Lupe was going to venture into the world of Fiverr-like gigs. Unfortunately, if you’re looking for an actual feature, that’ll run you a smooth $50,000 (which isn’t all that much, considering it is Lupe, but still). Nope, these $500 a pop verses are personalized one-verse-songs for people willing to part with Benjamin and his four other brothers. Think those Valentine’s Day bears with the recordable message feature, but with Lupe’s face plastered on the front.

Or something like that…

We all know some random rapper’s still going to try to make it a “featured” song, though (contract be damned). So, this is going to be fun to see play out. Now, I’ve had my issues with Lupe (still think he’s dope lyrically, but not always on-point in other ways), but this is actually pretty inventive. I personally wouldn’t drop $500 on a personalized verse, only because there are more important things to do with that money. Plus, I could use that to help someone else out who hasn’t already made it. I’m just saying. I support my favorite artists, but there’s a limit, you know?

On Sagas in Hip-Hop

On Sunday, I brought the musical saga I started a couple of years ago with #OneYearLater to a close with the release of Death of the King. While that album is epicness (what, you expected me to say it sucks?), it got me thinking about other sagas presented in hip-hop. Here are a few of my favorite “sagas,” to lighten the mood.

Lil’ Wayne’s Carter series (2004-201x)

Kendrick Lamar’s story (O.D., Section.80, and GKMC)

Jay-Z’s Blueprint series (2001-2009, thus far)

Big K.R.I.T.’s story (from K.R.I.T. wuz Here to King Remembered in Time)

Lupe Fiasco’s “Michael Young History” story (explained in-depth by the good folks at The LUPEND Blog)

If you haven’t had a chance to check these sagas out, please do so. They act as time capsules into these artists’ lives and the lives of those around them during the time of each album’s release. It’s fun to revisit, and also imperative to ensure that we learn from the mistakes and transgressions each artist has spoken on, so we can ensure a brighter future. As always, this is just my opinion.

@SpeedontheBeat

Before we begin, check out Lauryn Hill’s “Black Rage.” 

I love hip-hop. It’s an amazing art form, and it’s so diverse. In light of some of the recent happenings in the world (the situation in Ferguson, MO, the Ezell Ford shooting in LA, the incident in Ohio, the Tulsa police shooting, Robin Williams’ suicide, etc), some have brought up the question of “what can hip-hop do to educate people or cause change?” In the 1980s and 1990s, artists jumped to the mic in droves to speak on messed-up situations with the government and the police (not really mental illness, though; that’s another monster entirely which I spoke on on Boi-1da.net). These days, however, it seems that artists won’t speak on an issue unless there’s something to gain from it (publicity, saving face, etc). Is that indicative of artists being “owned” by their labels, therefore hindering them from speaking on issues?* Or is it just that today’s generation of artists aren’t educated on how messed up these issues are?

I think it’s unfair to say that every artist doesn’t give a you-know-what, regardless of their subject matter. I actually got into a bit of a “Twitter argument” with Lecrae over his semi-condemning of “violent” mainstream hip-hop, due to the idea that even if some music is violent in nature, it doesn’t exactly mean that all hip-hop that isn’t love, peace, and harmony is counterproductive. However, there is a tinge of apathy from the world as a whole–since some tend to devote focus to hot button issues, then move onto the next quicker than you can say “keyboard revolutionary.” Of course, human rights are something that need/deserve to be spoken on at all times. Thankfully, the message is getting across that people can’t just #TweetJustice and expect something to change overnight.

But, you combine this “where’s the next cause?” mentality with a generation that is more likely to turn Trayvon Martin into a meme, you’re asking for idiocy from the masses. Rappers aren’t excused from this. But, as “leaders” of black culture, hip-hop artists have to aid those whom they claim to represent–which is why I always applaud artists who give to charities, or do nonprofit work (or speak on these “real-life issues”). I’m also applauding the artists who have used their voices to speak on and/or out about these tragedies. As always, though, these are just my opinions on the matter. Feel free to tweet me on the matter.

*I will not go into how major label artists aren’t “allowed” to speak out (that’s another post entirely). I just wish that everyone could…put their money where their mouth is (plug, but not a shameless one).

@SpeedontheBeat

::cues up Kanye’s “FEELS GOOD TO BE HOME!” outro from “Touch the Sky”::

Greetings, all. Did you miss us?

Earlier this week, I came across Bauce Sauce’s “0 to 100” freestyle, the aptly titled “0 to 140.” If you’re not familiar with Bauce Sauce, he’s a writer who’s made some pretty big waves these past couple of years. Using his irreverent humor and his website, Mostly Junk Food, Mr. Sauce has worked his way to a pretty sweet gig at Complex. So, what better way to announce to the rest of the world that you’re here than to let them hear you spit hot fire…or something. While Sauce has been rapping for a while, apparently, this track is what’s got him dealing with the masses en masse.

BAUCE

The song “0 to 140,” sarcastically, was called the hip-hop killer, possibly because Bauce Sauce is a kind of nerdy-looking white guy going ham over a Drake song about how his blogging contemporaries just can’t see him. Kind of like John Cena, but replace wigga-like mannerisms and a can-conquer-anything attitude with self-depreciating humor. And that’s all it took for some of the hip-hop world to turn on this guy quicker than, well, the WWE “Universe” has turned on John Cena (unless, of course, you “get” it–but even still). Which brings me to my point: in hip-hop, sarcasm and parody tend to not translate that well.

Weird Al got into a long-standing beef with Coolio over the “Amish Paradise” song. Heck, I have been in some weird confrontations because what I said went over people’s heads. Is it because hip-hop, even with its long list of metaphors, is an art form where people still take things at relative face value? Perhaps, considering there are individuals who believe Rick Ross actually has a billion dollars. It’s also potentially that, and I really hate playing the “race card”, because Bauce is a nerdy white dude, some purists unfairly attack this (somewhat out-there) comment of “I [messed] around and ruined hip-hop.” Is it out of line? Kind of, considering that hip-hop, to some, is considered sacred (in other words, no one can make fun of it, unless you’ve been accepted in the culture. And even then, it’s still looked at sideways). But, did it warrant the guy getting threatened to be robbed for being a clown?

In the immortal words of Keith Cozart, nah. Plus, it gives me a reason to post this gif:

Until next time, guys and girls.

****

(Shameless Plug Alert)

For those who forgot, I do actually dabble in this rappin’ thang myself (woot, woot). With that said, be sure to check out Death of The King when it drops Sunday, August 17th over at SpeedontheBeat.Bandcamp.com and on iTunes and all that fun stuff.

A week or so ago, I decided to, for the first time in forever (no Frozen), check out HipHopDX to see what they had to offer. While perusing through the troll comments, I saw Fat Trel had released a couple new freestyles. I listened, and they had some quotables–most of which unfit for the site (if you want to hear it, click here. Be forewarned that it is NSFW). But what really shocked me was a comment on the song. Some dude made it about appearance rather than verses, saying that because “[Trel] look like a monster” (sic), he couldn’t rock with him. This, of course, brings me to this week’s TWIHH discussion.

When did it become about looks versus artistry? Is this a modern social construct based on the (oft-quoted, but often-misappropriated) “feminization of the black man” theory. Or has appearance been just as much a part of hip-hop culture as the graffiti, turntables, and bars?

As far as I can remember, artists have attempted to distance themselves from the pack. Often, that’d involve some sort of image, some sort of look. Some artists reflected what they felt was gangster culture while others reflected afro-centricity. Artists such as LL Cool J made a career out of showing how much more attractive they were to people when compared to, say, an ODB. Heck, LL made a career out of showing his chest to his audience and he is still one of the most-respected artists (even though he’s had his miscues).

So, for someone to say “oh, hip-hop’s gone soft; it’s homoerotic now because dudes are commenting on how a guy looks” is flat-out silly. I’ll agree that the focus on looks has become more intense over the years, with commentators teetering between critique and general creepiness and artists wearing skirts as fashion (a la Young Thug). But, at the core, hip-hop has always been about looks (and marketability). Perhaps now, since we’ve been brainwashed (somewhat) by reality television, social media, et cetera, an artist’s appearance is becoming more prominent in regards to how they’ll be perceived. But again, it’s always been about a look. If you look different, people will want to know more about you (even if it’s in a “WTH are you doing this” sort of way). But inversely, an artist must still look a part.

Artists are, typically, groomed (either by their surroundings or by their team) to look a certain way to fulfill a role. In the case of a Fat Trel, you wouldn’t expect him to appear in a video in skater shoes, clean-shaven, with a big cheesy smile. That’s not the image he represents, nor would it be a believable image. And then listeners would call him fake. This brings me to another point.

Hip-Hop is, in some ways, a stereotypical art form. I’m strictly talking appearance here.

As an artist, I’ve spoken on this once before, as I’ve been stereotyped as being a “college rapper” a la Asher Roth because of my demeanor and dress. It’s one of the reasons why I tend to stay out of the “spotlight,” per se. I’d rather let the music speak for me and then have people see me and say “whoa, that Speed guy looks like that but he speaks on real issues. Kudos.” If I went about it inversely, I’ve been told that I probably wouldn’t be heard, because I’m a shorter guy with a mental illness (shameless plug) who prefers bars to clubs and a Corona to Patron. And that’s even before people got through the “no-fi” approach.

So what can we, as artists and listeners, bloggers and critics, do?

Open our minds, plain and simple.

Warning: Both video clips use excessive language in the lyrics. NSFW!!

(Contains NSFW lyrics)

Long ago, when rappers didn’t rock with each other (keeping it PG-14 here), and it hit a fever pitch, they ended up on a Beef DVD and engaged in RAP BEEF (Hence the obviously NSFW Boondocks clip). The series, for those that don’t remember, spoke on some of the biggest beefs in hip-hop–and some not so much. Beef III, per Wikipedia, was released in 2005, followed by a short-lived BET series, then left in the early-to-mid-2000s like snap music.

(But, even snap music had beefs. Contains NSFW lyrics)

These days, when rappers don’t rock with each other, instead of dropping diss tracks and/or appearing on camera slugging it out, they’ll usually hop on Twitter and spew their disdain, then drop the bars. Part of me is like “cool. If it keeps dudes from killing each other over stupid ish, let the boys cook on Twitter, drop some IG bars, and keep it at that.” But, I’ll be honest. I miss those old days when rappers would actually go at each other on tracks if there was animosity. Heck, I even miss the days when artists would knuckle up, beat their differences out of each other, then get back to their business(es). Now, I’m not condoning violence in music. Nor am I saying that artists should beat the crap out of one another every time they’ve got a problem. There’s enough black-on-black violence in the world. But artists should–oh, I don’t know–hash out their differences artistically!

Twitter Novels and “artsy” selfies (ugh) be damned, we know that Twitter isn’t (that) artistic, y’all.

Perhaps the root of this “Twitter Beef” rap era still falls upon the deaths of so many hip-hop artists because of overblown beefs, rivalries, set trippin’, etc. Artists, as angry as they are at each other, they don’t want to live and die for their music. That’s commendable, as it’s often not that deep of an issue to kill over someone going at you on a track or whatever. But, at the same time, wasting energy to tweet “oh I don’t eff with Rapper B” when they could’ve used that time to make music or what-have-you? It comes off as sneaky and disingenuous, kind of like a troll in a message board who types racist ideologies just to get a rise from people.

I’m the type of artist that’d rather use whatever fuel you give me to go harder on a track, so I just don’t understand tweeting about not rocking with someone. Can someone out there explain it to me?

…”or nah?”

Until next time.

Speed on the Beat

Greetings all,

As promised, I’m dropping my review for the Fly Rebel Society’s newest collection reFRSH (finally). For those who are unfamiliar with the collective, check out some of my previous coverage of them.

 

The first track, “reCAP,” serves as an introduction and, well, a recap of who they are (Lega-c, Ryda Black, Cooley, TeeJay, and godlymC), what they bring to the game (five distinct, but well-meshed sounds) and why listeners should pay attention to them. The next two tracks from the collection, “Wake Up” and “Introverts Theme Song” feature some sick jazz-rap production. Perfect for that smoking session (that I don’t necessarily promote, but if that’s you, do you), both tracks still drop some gems of knowledge and overall dopeness. One sampling of lines that stands out to me goes as follows:

Need more ‘Good Times’ ‘fore I’m cancelled/
Need to clear my head like a sample/
Dismantle each beat, I’ve got problems I can’t handle
[Shoot], with the Scandals, I don’t watch TV unless I’m on it…

That group of lines in some ways summarizes the album as a whole: fun rap, emotional rap, and retrospective rap all in an hour-plus collection.

From the jazzy Tribe-like flows, listeners are blown away by bass and bravado-heavy tracks such as “Grind,” jazz-meets-heavy-rap tracks such as “She Hearts Raps,” and tracks that fans of artists like J. Cole will rock with such as “Rearview.” This project has a song for every type of listener. Also, with FRS, listeners are given a cohesive group that shines individually and collectively. reFRSH is no different from this formula, considering there are “solo” tracks and posse cuts, and both shine just as bright as the previous track. Overall, the collection has something for everyone, and is a great early summer release. The only grievance I can think of is that the constant switch between styles may take some listeners by surprise. But, at least it’ll keep listeners on their toes.

#SkiesAintSafe.

K. Michelle vs. Perez Hilton and Iggy Azalea (Or Something Like That)

iggy-azalea-billboard.com

Now, I usually try to stay away from gossip and the like. But, since it does deal with some things I feel are big issues in music, I’ll speak on it.

For those who missed it, K. Michelle got a bit heated about Iggy’s southern rap flow (and subsequent Australian accent). Perez came to Iggy’s defense, which sparked a war of words, including some not-safe-for-work terms and suggestions. Now, I’m not a big fan of Iggy Azalea. Big KRIT warned us about impostors jacking Southern ways and appropriating them for their own use. Secondly, Iggy’s got some moments, but it’s nothing I haven’t heard before from a slew of other artists. But, she’s a character, exaggerated for “Joe Listener” to both identify with and laugh at/with. With that said, I’ve got to ask a few questions:

  • Should we be mad at Iggy for adopting a Southern persona?
  • Should we be mad at executives who feel that parading a woman from Mullumbimby playing the role of Southern pop-rap-meets-gangsta-rap princess as “authentic” is the right thing to do?
  • Or…should we shut up and enjoy her brand of pop-rap–or turn it off if we don’t rock with it?

Honestly, I’m a bit “ugh” or what-have-you over her appropriating what she views as southern culture. But, by the same token, she’s not representative of Southern culture as a whole (just one eschewed subset of it). And, if listening to Iggy Azalea can introduce a legion of teenyboppers to “real” Southern artists and “real” rap, I’m cautiously, for it. Notice, however, that I removed race from the equation. Yes, part of Iggy’s appeal is that she is a blond white Australian woman who raps like Diamond from Crime Mob. But, these days, I’d like to have a conversation about a black person and a white person without their race being the reason why I’m discussing them.

Maya Angelou Passes at 86

maya-angelou

I know, I should have saved this for another post, but I’d rather not overwhelm people with Speed musings. Dr. Angelou’s impact on myself and artists worldwide can never be measured. I could take up pages upon pages upon pages gushing over Dr. Angelou’s amazing gift(s). However, I’d like to talk a bit about her late 1950’s album Miss Calypso (which, unfortunately, you can’t find using typical means and either have to buy from third-parties or stream from YouTube). Considering a lot, it’s a pretty unique find. It’s both haunting and just “cool” to hear/see a different side of such an esteemed person. Haunting because her poetic voice shines through and makes even a “simple” calypso song resonate and “cool” because it’s Maya Angelou singing.

Chuck Brown lovers have to appreciate her cover of the song Chuck covered himself, “Run Joe.” While I prefer Chuck’s cover, it’s amazing to hear Dr. Angelou’s voice do this song justice.

 

Until next time guys.

Ok, I know, I know–why is a twenty-five-year-old man so concerned with College Park?

No, it’s not to scope out under-21’s and talk to them. I have OKCupid for that. Nor is it to speak on social media and, in turn, create memes out of my fellow Terps. They do that on their own. Since I live a literal hop, skip, and a jump away from UMD, I find myself in the area more often than I like to admit than not. I also still conduct a teeny bit of business in the area, therefore I’m invested in places where I can (cheaply) talk turkey. So, when I heard that a Denny’s was opening in the area, I was both cautious and enthusiastic. Growing up in Baltimore, the only Denny’s within a twelve-mile radius was this run-down spot near North Point Road that’s now a Sudsville laundromat near an almost deserted K-Mart.

This area looks almost nothing like it did when I was younger...but almost exactly the same. Think about it.

This area looks almost nothing like it did when I was younger…but almost exactly the same. Think about it. About five minutes from here resides the Gentleman’s Gold Club. It’s exactly what you think it is.

Suffice to say, I’d heard of it, knew what it was, but I’d never had it. But, I always wanted it. Like some slightly below average Holy Grail, I searched high and low for a Denny’s. Whenever I found one, there was always something a bit…better to do/eat. But, recently, I couldn’t avoid my cautious enthusiasm about the place any longer. So, after a long day at work, the family and I drove down Route One, past the Enclave, past the Taco Bell, to a little slice of Americana: the Denny’s of Greater College Park. While I didn’t expect five-star dining, what I got exceeded my lowest expectations in terms of “SMH.”

When we walked in, we were three of (including the staff) maybe twenty people in the restaurant. I chalked it up to finals, but it stuck out in my mind; the place just opened not too long ago. Ke$ha and Bruno Mars played from the sound system, so the idea of this being a slice of modern Americana was kept intact, albeit a bit glittered and puffed up. Our waiter, a young woman in her twenties, was pleasant but forgot the bare necessities (making sure your tables are properly equipped with silverware, keeping your menus accessible, keeping your order pad on your person, checking back on your customers, making sure your customers aren’t ready to torch the place because the service they’ve gotten has been below sub-par, etc). When we finally did get her to stop and get everything in order, she was quite apologetic for everything (that’s a plus to alleviate my negativity) and took our orders. I had the “Red White and Blue” French Toast. The family had kid-sized spaghetti and the Cheesesteak Omelet, respectively.

About forty minutes later (after a slew of “mishaps”), our food arrived. My “red white and blue” was replaced by butter pecan and cinnamon. My eggs were cold and my sausages were more mushy than my cats food. The omelet lacked, well, most of what it was supposed to have (you know, peppers, onions, taste–that sort of thing). And our beverages were…unique. We got flavored lemonades. The “mango lemonade” was some Minute Made that was (supposedly) squeezed fresh with a giant glob of mango syrup at the bottom. I stirred and I stirred, but they just don’t make water wet enough to dissolve the “mango” into the drink in any way. I’d understand if it’s puree; puree isn’t supposed to flat-out dissolve into things. But, it was literally half-a-cup full of syrup.

The only thing that came out remotely like expected was my kid’s spaghetti.

Upon paying my check, the cashier asked me how everything was.

“Uh, it was…cool…kind of different,” I hesitantly said, biting my tongue.

“Well, it wasn’t no Ruth’s Chris, was it,” the cashier cheekily asked me, sensing my disdain.

And in the back of my mind (and the front of it), I answered honestly.

“No. No, it wasn’t,” I retorted as I walked out, head-shaking family in tow.

Did I expect Ruth’s Chris? Heck no. But, I at least expected something better than what I got. Maybe it’s some post-open jitters that they’re still trying to work out. That’s entirely possible, just like Terrapin Turf before it (expect a part three of that series at some point, probably in the fall of ’14 with my old a**). Personally, I probably wouldn’t go back for a while, but if you’re in the mood to wait around and possibly get the wrong food, check it out.

At least the pancake puppies were divine. Even though by the time they brought us syrup, the puppies had gotten a bit cold.

Until next time, this is your (admittedly cynical) critic Speed on the Beat, the one who endures awkwardness and clusters so you don’t have to, signing off.

As it nears that time of the year when sundresses and bikinis run wild in my immediate line of sight, I’ve begun thinking of some of the best and worst songs to vibe to during these late-spring/early-summer months. But, then I remembered something. “Best Of” lists are as boring as watching a two-hour long adult film  never all that fun. So, pardon the cliche, but let’s go through the best of the worst. As always, this is just my opinion. I can be wrong…but I’m pretty sure I’m not on most of these.

Sisqo – “Thong Song” (not to be confused with this “Thong Song”)

(I’m sure you may’ve tried to block the video out of your memories, but it’s somewhat NSFW. I mean, it’s a video and song about thongs…)

It’s ok, guys. I’ve sung along to this song and thanked it in middle school for creating awkward “freak dancing” moments being a song people wanted to dance to. But, let’s face it. It sucked. The beat, an interpolation of Wes Montgomery’s jazz cover of “Eleanor Rigby,” a Beatles song, was overly dramatic (but introduced me to the sampled track, below, some years later).

Plus, it gives me a reason to post a YouTube link to this slightly absurd Beatles cartoon.

Now, back to Sisqo. The lyrics were simplistic, even by today’s standards of catchiness (“Dumps like a truck, truck, truck…baby move ya butt, butt, butt” isn’t exactly avante-garde lyricism). And the premise of the song and video make it seem like Sisqo’s some sort of omnipotent, platinum-haired pervert. Granted, the video also showcased Sisqo crowd-surfing /walking on people all Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon style, which was a thing for Sisqo. But overall? This song deserves to be locked away in a room and never let out. NEVER unleash the dragon again, Sisqo. Even though this song was (technically) released Y2K Eve (December 31, 1999), it managed to linger for about two years-plus after that. Now, it pained me to list a Sisqo song because Dru Hill. But, yeah…no.

LFO – “Summer Girls”

Now, first and foremost, let me pay my respects to the lead singer of this group, Rich Cronin, who passed in 2010 from leukemia-related complications. But, this song did one of these two things. Either it:

1) made it possible for hipsters and suburban America to accept Lil’ Wayne’s stream-of-consciousness lyricism when it was at its lowest point(s) or…
2) It was a free-form homage to a romance that was catchy as all hell but still neglected to make much sense. “Chinese Food makes me sick” had absolutely nothing to do with anything with this song. At all. Ever. But, for whatever reason, this non-sequitur filled-song became one of the biggest summer songs in 1999. It even got a few spins on 92Q Jams in Baltimore–and not even as a joke. Eminem, as he tends to do, lampooned this song in a couplet from “Marshall Mathers.”

Chingy – “Right Thurr”

Practically for the same reasons as Sisqo’s “Thong Song,” even if Chingy actually put more thought into the lyrics. Maybe. “Gimme what you got fo’ a pork chop” raises a few eyebrows, along with “she should pose for Sports Illustrated,” considering women of Chingy’s description tend to be ignored by mainstream media and chastised. But, maybe that’s just my biased male gaze talking. Anyhow, the track also gets points off for having a chick orgasmicly moan during the chorus. It adds nothing except some uncomfortable vibes when listening to this track.

Trina – “Look Back At Me” and Khia – “My Neck, My Back”

Speaking about uncomfortable vibes, how either of these tracks got radio play is beyond me. Now, I’m all for empowered women, sexuality, and all that fun stuff. But, the lyrics to both these tracks make me giggle and shake my head more than they make me want to engage in not-safe-for-work activities. Also, goofy, demented voices telling me to do not-safe-for-work things isn’t a turn-on. And, no…I won’t post the videos here. You want to hear the songs, you seek them out. Just make sure your headphones are in–or you’re in a very liberal place in terms of gratuitous sexual content, like a strip club or the comfort of your own home. Or, you know, not at all. Ever.

Trey Songz – “Dive In” “2 Reasons”

Plus, this cover screams "alcoholic."

Plus, this cover screams “alcoholic.”

You’ll notice I chin-checked “Dive In” out of this spot because it wasn’t that bad. And the way it led into (now, my least-favorite Trigga song) “Panty Wetter” was pretty cool. “2 Reasons” gets the spot because it was completely unneeded. In 2012, every rapper, singer, producer, baby mama and so on had a “let’s get messed up and get into some stuff” track.This track replayed “Say Ah” and “Bottoms Up” with a bit more bluntness. Plus, the album version of the track, for (I guess) “maturity’s” sake, replaced “ladies and the drinks” with “the female dog word.” I’m not chastising him for his kind of off-color choice of words, but more so that, like the song itself, it wasn’t needed. Chapter V, however, was a decent album.

Mariah Carey – “We Belong Together”

Now this one, it’s more of a personal choice (my sixteen-year-old self says “Hi Treeka”) it isn’t a bad song by any means. In fact, it’s possibly one of my favorite Mariah Carey songs. However, a breakup/pining-for-your-ex/the-person-you-can’t-have song plopped right down during the onset of spring isn’t the best song to play at a barbecue in August. But it was–and immediately sucked the life out of everyone. It’s the equivalent of playing “Man in the Mirror” at a bar/club after last call. Anyone who’s ever been to R.J. Bentley’s in College Park during the years 2006 through 2012, you know what I’m talking about.

Mariah Carey – “Thirsty (feat. Rich Homie Quan and solo version)”

meandmariah

You’ll notice that, as with the “Dive In”/”2 Reasons” situation, Mariah’s newest song usurped another track. I’m going to be as nice as possible. Mariah Carey is awesome. Rich Homie Quan is cool. Hit-Boy makes epic beats (“Backseat Freestyle” was one of my favorite GKMC tracks). But, for whatever reason, putting them all on one track came up way short. The song is literally “N****s in Paris” rehashed for Mariah to trot out one of the most overused slang-originated terms this side of “thot.”

It seems that everyone’s learned the error of their ways, as the RHQ version has been all but replaced with Mariah making it all her own. Neither version does it for me, though. It comes off as almost parodic the way Mariah’s talking about some guy who’s thirsty (Mariah either has stalkers out the wazoo, or she’s one of the most conceited artists alive. This is a woman who’s had a song called “Obsessed,” which was basically “Thirsty” sans possibly lifted chorus and with Eminem sneak disses). But no doubt about it, this song will be trotted out (see what I’m doing here? No? Ah well…) as the “curve” anthem of Summer 2014. And I, for one, will be turning the channel/station/downing several shots at the club/bar when this song comes on.

At least her track with Wale is cool.

Live from Bethesda, Maryland. It’s This Week in Hip-Hop, hosted by The No-Fi King K.I.N.G., Speed on the Beat!!!

 

Ok, so let’s get this show on the road. I can’t believe that I missed this one, but 2 Chainz dropped a new album/mixtape (the words are so interchangeable these days, so shrug it), Freebase, recently. The above track, “Trap Back,” shows what you can expect from this collection. Unfortunately for my working people, I couldn’t embed the MTV edit of the track. So bask in its uncut glory–with headphones on, of course. Chainz dropping bars over somewhat oddity-laced beats in a way that some consider more “experimental” than before. “Trap Back” also showcases a more lax 2 Chainz than what we’ve seen in recent times. The bite’s still there, but the bark’s subdued and lends itself to more of a “let’s go get messed up and do dumb things” type of vibe. In other words, the track and most of the tape is what we’ve considered “Happy Ignorance.” While the rest of the tape is more “typical” Chainz, it’s not a bad thing.

Rick Gonzalez-Between The Stars-hnhh

In other news, rapper-turned-actor-turned-rapper Rick Gonzalez dropped a new collection (note: In lieu of the words “mixtape” and “album,” I’m going to start referring to them as “collections”) Between the Stars. It’s like a combination of Blu and J. Cole with some grimy beats. He’s got some dope bars and an ear for beats, but his flow is stilted at times. That’s a problem that I’ll always have with a lot of these non-“mainstream” rappers. They’ve got it all down pat, but the flows can be cures for insomnia. But, I mean, not everyone has to be 2 Chainz. Check it out at the link below.

Rick Gonzalez – Between The Stars

Hip-Hop Fail(s) of the Week (So Far)

In light of “that video,” I’ve decided to bring back my TWIHH Fail of the Week award. We’ve got a few to pass out this week. First, in case you haven’t heard, will.i.am got kicked out of first class on a United Airlines flight (kinda) and then ended up having a pilot request a selfie. For that, I’ve got to give a joint FotW to will.i.am and United. Why? Well, United attempted to brush the whole thing under the rug with a press release, referring to will.i.am as just “the customer.”

Our second FotW goes to Jim Jones and his “2 On” remix. Now, I rock with Jim Jones at times, but he’s showing much rust in his once-impregnable armor. I’ma let you finish, Jim, but OB OBrien and Drake have the best “2 On” remix of (possibly) all-time (at the moment). Mercifully, Jim’s remix clocks in at just under a minute.

Until next time, guys. Stay tuned for my “Worst Summer Songs” list coming soon.

I’m going a different route this week. My normal “TWIHH” will return next week.

Let it be known, first and foremost, that I love lyrical music. I love being able to think on a bar or a verse and come up with several annotations on it. I enjoy learning something with the lyrics I hear. And, obviously, I love to impart wisdom through my own bars. It’s partly why I love sites like RapGenius. But, A few years ago, Waka Flocka (Flame)–now of Love and Hip-Hop Atlanta (see, it’s still kind of related to current events)–said that “nobody wanna hear that damn dictionary rap.” This interview may be a bit NSFW, so viewer discretion is advised.

 

But is he right? Do we, as artists and fans, want to hear more simplistic lyrics or something that sounds like it’s taken from a graduate school-level philosophy textbook? Do we want “smart rap” or “dumb rap?”

It’s a question I’ve thought of a lot as an artist. Let’s dissect a bit. Some of these so-called “dictionary rappers” will spit bars that are mechanically impressive, but stunted. Why? They get so wrapped up in proving their knowledge, they start to lose the audience (“intellectual” or otherwise). I’ll probably get a lot of flack for this, but a prime example of this is Canibus. While he pulls references to Greek mythology, space-time, and so on out of thin air, he doesn’t really say or do much with it outside of a simple simile–or rattle off alliterative lyrics for the sheer fact that he can. Case in point: his 2010 track “Pine Cone Poem” from C of Tranquility.

 

All in all, the song refers to an elevated state of mind, but that sometimes gets lost in his tangents. This sort of “anti-‘mainstream'” lyricism has created some great lyricists. ‘Bus, even with his flaws, is head and shoulders above some of his contemporaries. When he’s making sense with his lyrics, of course. Inversely, because so many so-called “underground” artists are quick to embrace “anti-mainstream” philosophies and approaches, we get a bunch of artists that feel that this sort of thing will get them noticed.

They’ll rattle off alliterative, multi-syllabic lyrics such as this (and these are real bars I’ve heard):

“My animalistic atrocities, rock these ‘metamorphosized’ philosophies/
Like the eye of Horus, explore this, man-made camaraderie.”

Again, it’s a nice couplet, in terms of thinking outside the box. It’s dope in regards to the wordplay and the twisting of words. But, intellectually, it doesn’t make much sense. It’s fundamentally flawed.

The Eye of Horus is representative of the “third eye,” if you believe that sort of thing. If you’re elevated mentally, you’ll not have animalistic tendencies, much less commit animalistic atrocities. Also, the belief of the Eye of Horus being representative of the “third eye” is, in itself, a man-made philosophy. It’s derived from “metamorphosized” thoughts, new age wisdom and healing, and anti-“Illuminati”/pro-awakened mind teachings and thought processes (also presented in the above Canibus song). Hell, try spitting that in a verse. You’ll possibly outrap the beat and sound incompetent. You’ll force it out and it’ll sound unnatural, flow-wise.

In other words, if you really think about some of these dictionary bars, they’re worse than a rapper that spits “ignorance.” Even if it’s not elevated or “smart”, something like: “I rock the boat…Aaliyah/Mess with me, I got the Eagle on ‘heat seaker'”still makes sense on a fundamental level.

So is “dictionary rap” or “super smart rap” bad?

Simply put, no. It’s fun and impressive to think of new, outside-the-box ways to speak your thoughts. But, too much of a good thing is a bad thing. If you sacrifice common sense for squeezing a million tangent-worthy microthoughts into a verse, you’re performing a disservice to hip-hop. If you’re focusing more on your rhyme schemes than what you want to say, you’re performing a disservice to hip-hop. If you’re an artist and you want to get on/get noticed, be sure you know the basics before you start rattling off so-called “smart rap.” If you don’t, you’ll look dumb.

As artists, we always want to make ourselves better than the people out there. But, if you lose focus of the fundamentals, you’re screwed and destined to be clowned for it. Don’t dumb down, but don’t try to be overly smart and just sound like a jacka** when it’s all said and done. It’s all about balance, people. You can be “smart” and not alienate, just like a person could spit “dumb” rap and have it so lyrically impressive.

Not too many artists have this, though. But, as always, that’s just my opinion.