Posts Tagged ‘Fat Trel’

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.

Greetings and salutations everyone. For this edition of “#TWIHH,” I decided to switch things up.

As I perused through my email recently, I noticed I’d received a notice about a new Master P song. My first instinct was to laugh maniacally at the thought “hmm, I really wonder why Master P continues to put out music years after his popularity fell to the wayside?” I mean, it’s not like he’s flat broke completely hurting for the money (legal troubles aside). Ultimately, I put my thoughts aside and began to listen to the track, “We Poppin’,” which featured Eastwood (formerly of Black Wall Street Records) and everyone’s favorite Auto-Tuning rap-sanga not named Teddy Pinnedher***down (that’s still a nickname I shake my head over), Future.

To be honest, I found myself bobbing along with it with the screwface a couple times. As you’ve probably seen, it takes a lot for me to be like, “Yoooo! This ish cray.” on the first listen. For it to come from a Master P song made me curious about what he’s been doing since Romeo left USC and started appearing in ICDC College commercials his last full-on mainstream release (aside from the following video).

While the original Ice Cream Man hasn’t been as workaholic musically as he was, he’s actually put out some decent stuff over the past couple years. Sure, some of his verses are on some “so bad, it’s good” stuff (like “Brick to A Million,” featuring Fat Trel and Alley Boy). But, when he gets on a roll, he still puts out halfway listenable music. This is more than I can say about some of our…younger artists. Now, I’m not saying he’s putting out classics. But, his reemergence still begs the question: Is age really nothing but a number in hip-hop these days?

If it is, throwing down, in the musical sense, really may be nothing but a thang (RIP Aaliyah). If we look at some of the biggest acts recently, a lot of them are elder statesmen. MCHGYeezus, and other albums by some of these elders haven’t really been the greatest collections, but they’ve still been able to drum up numbers and fans. Some of this is based off the familiarity factor alone. If we have an option between Artist A (who’s dropped three CDs) and Artist B (a newcomer with a few mixtapes to his name), we often go with Artist A. But, familiarity alone can’t keep an artist relevant. It can sure as hell help, but familiarity alone isn’t enough.

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The second part of the puzzle is the (idea of the) element of surprise. Part of the fun of a new CD from a vet is wondering what will be pulled out of the proverbial (and cliched) hat next. Will they retread bygone eras and familiar topics for a new generation (Master P, Jay Z, Lil Wayne, Ludacris, etc.)? Will they recreate themselves as a party rapper who finds himself featured on songs with Bieber (Juicy J, 2 Chainz) or a Mafioso-like BAWSE (Rick Ross)? Will they come out of jail overly hungry, but still deliver a song that’s not exactly the greatest work they’ve done (Lauryn Hill, DMX, Mystikal)? Will they make complete fools of themselves in trying to connect with the younger generation (Will Smith with “Switch,” LL Cool J with “Baby”)? Will they put over a new(er) talent (Jay Z in his “Mr. Carter” and “Light Up” verses–even though he kind of buried both Wayne and Drake on their own song)?

The possibilities, even the sucky ones, are almost endless. And that’s what makes seeing a Master P return to music interesting (even if he never really left). It’s also what makes hip-hop interesting, for as many times as people say it’s a young man’s game, the veterans still make noise.

Hear ye, hear ye!

The No-Fi King has an announcement for all to take into consideration. As this is potentially the last post of the year from me (Christmas is next week and the week after that is New Year’s Day), I’d like to first give a huge e-high five to Arteest for allowing me the chance to write on this blog–and reminding me that I can voice witty opinions without four-letter words. My mom can now read some of my thoughts…if she, you know, understood “that damn interwebnets” and/or had a computer.

She was born pre-Korean War.

Anywho, as promised, here are the winners and losers of 2013 (in hip-hop). Some of these choices will be controversial, some will probably get me death stares and/or threats when I walk in the street. But, let me remind you that if I’m thinking it, there are probably many others who are thinking the same doggone thing. Losers and winners are not exactly based off of lyrical content or anything–more so who’s had the worst year (or who had a great 2013, but will probably fail because of their 2013, if that makes sense). Also, my apologies for the male artist-skewed list.

Losers:

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2 Chainz: Say you’re a thirty-something rapper who’s had many setbacks but finally get on to a degree. You achieve success, fame, recognition–even have white people know who you are. And then, you go from being the guy who had a Comeback Season more fawned over than Blake Griffin’s, to a failed comeback by doing the following:
1) Being arrested in Maryland for drugs
2) Being arrested (again) for weed and promethazine
3) Being robbed near a “marijuana dispensary” in San Fran at gunpoint and becoming a laughingstock (note: being robbed itself is not funny, nor is violence. However, the video of this incident is just…sad)
4) Being pulled over for a traffic light–and then being cited for drugs and guns and…
5) Having an album drop and then having said album drop from peoples’ conscious almost a week after its release.
Now, Mr. T*** Two Necklace is still, obviously, doing his thing. But, these actions have most certainly placed him in the loser category.

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J. Cole: Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Cole went gold! How did he have a bad year?” Well, let’s see. His “response” to “The Almighty ‘Control’ Verse” was brushed off as being “in-character,” “Let Nas Down” was potentially one of the most pandering songs in the history of modern hip-hop–even though it does touch on absent father syndrome. On top of that, Cole’s album was forgotten about in a similar fashion as Chainz’s. Sure, he outsold Yeezus, for a bit. But, aside from “Crooked Smile,” most people probably couldn’t name a song off of Born Sinner unless they listened to the whole thing and/or were fans of Cole. I enjoyed the album, but I’m just stating facts. Plus, he seems to look like he’s about to break down and cry 9.68 times out of ten. But, I mean, he’s potentially getting married to his college sweetheart. For that, I’d typically move him to the winners’ section. But, overall, he’s taken quite a few L’s this year.

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Wale: Mr. Folarin, I want to say this in advance. I don’t think you are a bad person. I actually enjoy a lot of your music. Hell, “Dig Dug” was the first song I heard when I stepped on UMD’s campus, so your music was always a part of my young adulthood…and stuff. I do think, however, that you’ve allowed your ego to surpass your talent. It happens. Kanye is an example of this (we’ll get to him later). But, at least with Kanye, he’s got clout to back up his behaviors. You, at this point, don’t exactly have that same cushion to fall back on. That’s not me being a bitter indie artist or an overly-critical music blogger. Based on your catalog, mixtapes included, you have less room to go all “Phuket, Thailand” every time someone says something that upsets you.

With that said, where do we begin regarding your fails this year? Your hissy fit (and eventual self-depreciation) over the Complex article list where Juicy J’s album was declared better than yours? You (apparently) deactivating your Twitter after Sace f/k/a Southeast Slim got at you on “Forever Hitter Quitter?” The Gifted being, aside from 2-3 songs, inferior compared to Ambition? It seems this year, aside from bringing Fat Trel to MMG, Wale’s wins were supplemented by losses. And, honestly, it’s damn sad–not even because he’s a local dude (who maybe allowed part of his hometown story to be fabricated a bit), though. It’s because he doesn’t seem made for fame, but he still seemingly feels like he’s got an obligation to put out stuff. So, until he leaves the drug of success alone, we’ll have to deal with his antics just like our next loser–unless he grows a thicker skin. It’s imperative, Wale, for you to grow a thicker skin before this game eats you alive. But, before we get to the next on our list, I’ve got to give a giant F*** You to Complex for taking this whole thing and turning it into a “look at this ni black rapper guy, he’s making us scared so we’re going to belittle him even more than we already have” freak-show.

At least when I did it above, I still have hope that Wale could grow as a human (more on that later).

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Kanye West: Enough said. Save me the psychobabble, and the “he’s circumventing black thought through embracing white people” crap. The guy lost this year. Yeezus sucked. Nothing he did was profound. Get over it.

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The Return of the Hii-Fivver

People Who Thought Kendrick/Drake Would Grow Into A Large Beef: It’s almost 2014, people. Large-scale beefs don’t happen anymore. If they do, they’ll pretty much be limited to Twitter beef and a couple of “it could be a diss if you think about it hard enough” shots.

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Gucci Mane: Umm…yeah. Gucci, I’m not a fan of yours, but I hope you’ve gotten your [stuff] together.

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Lorde: Now, this is probably going to turn some heads. First of all, I’m listing Lorde because whatever she does after this first album, it’ll forever be compared to the first time we were introduced to her (for most, this was “Royals”). It’s a similar situation with Lady Gaga. Critics (and some fans), however, always seem to go back to The Fame when looking at, for instance, Artpop. Granted, Artpop wasn’t epic, but it wasn’t Born this Way. Lorde will probably suffer from this more because, at seventeen, she was able to talk on some things (most) adult acts shy from–which brings me to my second point.

Secondly, Lorde’s made my list of losers of 2013 because when you really look at her work, it’s not all that profound or deep. It’s simple stuff that doesn’t address a problem, but glosses over it, opting more for catchiness and self-degradation. Let’s focus on the (now-overplayed) “Royals.” It comments on consumerism, the divide of New Zealand’s classes, and so on. But, what some may miss in Lorde is just as much a part of the problem that she’s speaking on as anything. To simply put it, she can sing, but the lyrical “depth” isn’t worth anything. My almost three-year-old was able to, in preschool-speak, decipher the meaning behind it. Put away the pitchforks, people. I’m just stating my opinion on her.

Honorable Mentions: Miley Cyrus (too easy) and R. Kelly (Seriously, Kellz. No one wants to hear you singing about how much you want to marry the…yeah…).

And now, for some winners:

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Beyoncé: She’s not exactly hip-hop, but she put out an album that’s–at the time I’m writing this–gold with no promotion, no buzz, and no sort of conventional use of her resources. She went all DIY indie rap artist (DOUBLE shameless plug) and dropped it randomly and told people to go get it. And, well, they did. Now, whether or not you think it’s really the “puppet masters” buying copies or not, the album did numbers that no album has on iTunes. That’s saying something about your win percentage right off the bat.

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Wale: How does Wale, a guy who I kind of ripped into earlier get a winner’s sticker as well? Well, rest assured, I wasn’t coerced into it (although I am, however, still waiting on my signed copy of Ambition) or anything crazy like that. He’s starting to, even with his “Wale Moments,” show (tiny increments of) growth, as mentioned above. The “I Got My Tool” Instagram showcases a lot more of the Wale that he doesn’t exactly show in his music. Perhaps if he did allow himself to have more fun musically, he’d be able to get more recognition/media attention. That’s not to say, “Hey Wale, make an album about selling coke and such,” but more a “hey Wale, everything doesn’t need to be so thought-provokingly serious all the time.” I mean, he’s still highly “sensitive,” but there seems to be hope. Plus, Wale has aided a couple DMV cats to gaining more mainstream recognition. Whether or not he could/should do more is another argument entirely, but more people know about, say, Fat Trel than they did last year.

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About ten years ago, this delusion would’ve been truth for most underground rappers. For some…it still is. We see you, but we will not say anything.

Indie rap: Call it the Macklemore Effect (ugh…and I say “ugh” because a few years ago, it would’ve been called the “Tech N9ne Effect,” but now “everyone” is heralding Macklemore as their unthreatening rap savior), but more people are starting to look outside the radio for good music. Not all indie rap is good, but at least with a variety, people can choose what works for them. Artists from Tech N9ne to yours truly have dropped projects this year and again, while the quality may sometimes lack the “big dog” feel, the heart’s still there. Gone are the days of the pasty nerdcore rapper and the wannabe thug on dial-up posting songs on Soundclick. Heck, gone are the days where people used Soundclick as their go-to for underground rap, but that’s neither here nor there really. Now? Indie rap is being taken quite seriously. You have indie artists appearing on “Top Ten” lists that aren’t just online.

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Big K.R.I.T: Sticking with the indie rap idea, KRIT’s King Remembered in Time album/mixtape was better than a lot of peoples’ albums. I consider it indie because, even though K.R.I.T has a deal with Def Jam and such, he put this one out on his own a la 2010’s K.R.I.T wuz Here and all but delivered a bona-fide sequel to that classic. Plus, K.R.I.T’s been getting around these days, with collaborations, touring with Talib Kweli and Macklemore, and just a slew of other stuff. I’d like to say that the sky’s the limit for Mr. Live from the Underground. If he continues, K.R.I.T could take over that Southern Wise Man spot left open by the departure of Pimp C and the reduced workload of Big Boi and Andre 3000. Either that or he’ll continue to just make good-a** music. Either way, we all win, and that’s what’s important.

[Safe for Work GIF Not Applicable, apparently]

Danny Brown: I’m not a huge fan of the guy, and I’m not really a fan of “let’s do drugs and do crazy [stuff] rap,” but Danny Brown deserves a win based off the fact that this guy’s been through hell (some of which, he admits, he caused himself).

Honorable Mentions: The Weeknd and the DMV music scene

And that, my friends, is how you do an end-of-year list. You take some good, some bad, some meh, and you actually think about what made each thing the way it is/was. Hopefully, I haven’t bored/offended any of you in the past few months I’ve been working with Arteest and the blog. If anything, I hope you’ve learned something, you’ve been entertained, and you’re able to grow from my mistakes, miscues, and thoughts. If I’ve bored or offended you, feel free to contact me on Twitter to rant and rave about it. Barring anything amazing happening, I’ll see you guys on New Year’s Day with my list of Hip-Hop Hopes For 2014. Same #TWIHH time (2PM EST), same #TWIHH station.

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Random sidebar: my mom worked at the Baltimore School of the Arts while Pac attended. She, apparently, thought he was headed for great danger if he didn’t change his ways.

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For those who missed one of the most eclectic concerts of the year, here’s a quick rundown of my top nine most memorable experiences of this year’s Trillectro Music Festival:

1. Herbal Essences – No. I am not referencing that shampoo that had the risqué commercials back in the 90’s. While in the crowd observing performances  throughout the day I was hit with numerous waves of what Snoop Dogg terms the “sticky icky icky“. Oh don’t worry, I didn’t catch any contact. One thing I will say is that I definitely think that green magical plant is what helped keep people in positive moods for the duration of the festival.

2. Food Trucks – The food at the fairgrounds was provided by a multitude of food trucks. The most noticeable trucks were the grilled cheese truck, the cookie truck and the cheese steak truck. I ate my first cheese steak filled with cheese whiz at Trillectro and I must say the whiz makes all the difference. They filled that bread with savory steak, cheese whiz, chopped onions and topped it with ketchup and I was feeling like I was in sandwich heaven. Downside: The nine dollar price tag, the fact it didn’t come with fries or chips, and the fact they only accepted cash. But hey, when you’re hungry and at a festival you expect things to cost more and you should know to always bring cash.

3. Two Stages – Stage One: The Karmaloop stage sporting the Karmaloop logo was where most, if not all, of the EDM Dj’s ran their sets. Jumping  from those speakers were straight “wub wub!”, “boom! boom! boom!”, and a multitude of crowd snatching, endorphin surging tunes that kept the festival dwellers moving for hours. The second stage was the main stage. It was set up for the music performers. I arrived at the festival just in time to catch the last thirty or so minutes of EDM sets and then I stood in the crowd to watch Casey Veggies, Travis Scott, King Chip, Asap Ferg and Asap Rocky tear down DC like no other. Sidenote: Travis Scott is the most hype performer I have ever seen. His stage presence is not just strangely captivating, but even a little ominous. That could possibly be attributed to his hype and yet sometimes grim beats. But, there was no doubt about it. In the conversation of who reigned supreme at Trillectro, hands down it was Asap Ferg with the rest of the Asap mob. Those guys took over the stage and had the entire Trillectro festival jumping.

4. Drinks – Those who know me know that I love beer. So I was more than happy when I discovered tall boy (16 ounces) Redd’s Apple Ale was available at the festival. I think I drank three or four of them. They also had tall boy’s of Sam Adams Summer Shandy, Bud Light and a few other beers that I seldom drink. Margaritas and strawberry lemonade were also in their non-beer drink selection and when I tell you those margaritas were good too, I mean it. They were delicious! Downside: Sixteen ounce beers were priced as high as seven dollars. So make sure that if you go to the festival next year you have plenty of money on you.

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5. DMV Music Artists – As a frequent planner of hiphop showcases in the DC metro area, a radio show host and executive producer I have developed a relationship with many local music artists. Trillectro was definitely not low on local talent on and off the stage. While walking around the fairgrounds I bumped into local artists Lyriciss, ill Stafa, Seph Ade, Nike Nando, Paperboy Prince of the Suburbs, Brain Rapp, Ike Da Kid, Kaye Trill, Stef, and many more. With all of the local artists so easily accessible, Trillectro almost felt more like the DMV’s (DC, MD, and VA) own smaller version of SXSW (South by Southwest). And let’s not forget those DMV artists who actually performed like New Retro, Phil Ade, Fat Trel, Shy Glizzy, RDGLDGRN and Wale!

6. Beautiful Women – Although there were many women who looked like they’d attended one too many ragers or just didn’t know what was appropriate for their body size. There were enough beautiful women to balance out the overall aesthetic of the festival. Needless to say, I definitely saw some head turners. But, it wasn’t just their faces that made them beautiful. So many women were dressed down and just ready to have a good time. It was moreso their pure style and what some may refer to as “swag” that drew me and many other guys eyes into their directions. It was not unusual to see natural hair, locs, tattoos, headbands, hand-made bracelets and chains, and completely couture outfits. Many women were on their hippy status and that made the vibe so much more enjoyable.

7. Eccentric People – The eccentricity didn’t end with the female festival attendees. Many of their male counterparts were adorned in hand-crafted wooden necklaces, tie dye shirts, and other throwback and vintage style getups. It was quite common to see a guy sporting camo shorts, a tye die tee, a bucket hat with marijuana leaves imprinted on it, slip-on flops, a drink in one hand and a doobie in the other. There were women wearing bra’s like they were bikini tops, kids sporting blonde locs, and black and white peace socks that revealed the plant just above their Jordans.  I revelled in the environment. I loved the fact that no two people looked alike. Everyone had their own style. The festival of individualism was a great escape from the Monday to Friday, nine-to-five khaki pants and blue shirt wearing clone doldrums that many DC dwellers undergo.

8. “Turn Up!” – The phrase of the day was definitely “Turn Up!” (to become energetic, highly enthused or overly excited) And man did we turn up once the ASAP Mob hit the stage. ASAP Ferg’s “Work” and “Shabba” got the entire crowd off their feet. At that point anyone at the festival who hadn’t relaxed and let loose, did. For ASAP Ferg’s entire set everyone in the festival turned up and went wild for the night. Of course ASAP Rocky’s surprise guest appearance during Ferg’s set was definitely a bonus that took the level of excitement to higher heights. With the alcohol flowing, the green leaves lit, and the music pumping everyone was forced to Turn Up!

9. Comradery – Myth: When large crowds of black people develop, a fight generally ensues. Fact: During the four and a half hours I attended the Trillectro festival I did not experience one fight. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying there weren’t any. I am simply saying that I didn’t hear of any or see any while I was there. I feel like the type of people who attend an event like Trillectro aren’t there to cause problems. It felt like we were all there to have fun and relax from the everyday stresses of life. Within those fairground walls, the outside world no longer existed. We became immersed in the moments. Of course within the crowd shoes were stepped on, people regularly brushed against you or shoved a little to dash for a closer view of the performances. But, it was as if there was an unspoken agreement between all the attendees there that these actions were not out of disrespect. They were simply a result of heightened energy within the fairground walls and spatial laws that meant there was no way to avoid it. But, most people were smart to avoid wearing really nice shoes. And those who weren’t, either stayed out of the large crowd or were so turned up they didn’t care.

Overall, I had a great Trillectro experience. Although the four hours I spent there seemed to fly by and I spent more money than I may have planned, my greatest memories are the expressions on everyone’s faces, the people I encountered and the overall positive vibe. Everyone seemed to be having a great time. We were all happy. And that’s what festivals are all about. Right?