NOTEWORTHY CLASSIC……….V12 Black Star @MosDefOfficial @TalibKweli and #hiphop #soul #TBT

blackstar-club-nokia1 Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star, Black Star  1998

I've never seen a duo of mc's that compared to Black Star since they dropped this underground culture bomb.  It's a no-brainer to me, but after hearing kids going to Coachella in LA were like, "who is Outkast?", I figure I shouldn't assume everyone knows about this album.  Black Star is by far one of the best hip hop albums I've ever heard.  It's an album for people that want to think about the world around them because it's based on real life in the streets of NYC, but not through the lens of a drug dealer or gang banger.

Dropping in 1998, Black Star offered raw intelligent lyrics, dope production and soulful representations of what hip hop can aspire to through storytelling from these two late golden era lyricists.  Mos Def's style/humor and Talib Kweli's sharp/smart, tongue-twisting delivery made them a grounded team going against the grain of the glamorous, money flaunting rap in the mainstream.  Years later, when I was in college for architecture, I was still listening to Black Star.  Respiration was a standout track to me where they make the lyrical Avengers of hip hop when they teamed up with Common.  If you don't have it....get it and study it!!!

The production credits are something special too.  Hi-Tek, J. Period, Da Beatminerz, J. Rawls, Ge-ology, Pete Rock and 88 Keys all produce tracks on the album and Talib Kweli co-produced a few tracks as well.  The sounds are representative of Brooklyn with Caribbean influences as well as straight NYC boom-bap beats.  There are unique samples from BDP, Slick Rick and Style Wars (graffiti movie) and the samples used pay respect to the culture instead of abusing technology and the original work by adding to it and making it into something special and new.

Hip Hop soul from 1998 to 2014

It's crazy how much the music industry has changed in the past 15 years.  It makes me sound old, but as I grew up with hip hop and watched it explore it's limits based on the world of vinyl, it's amazing and somewhat disappointing to see that the pendulum hasn't swung back  from the money-centric, testosterone filled misogynistic garbage on the radio/tv.  (Black Star talks about on Children's Story.)  I don't think linking misogyny to mainstream rap is controversial because misogyny is NOT representative of hip hop at large.  It IS definitely representative of the rap that makes it on the tv and radio though.

1995 thru 1998 was an important time because it was the beginning of when underground artists lost their opportunity to get their unique style out on a new platforms like BET, MTV, etc.  Yo! MTV Raps and The Bassment (1989-2005) on BET were the only legitimate places where you could go and hear discover raw artists.  That was a shift from the early 90's because before these hip hop specific shows existed, you would see these raw videos mixed in with all of the more "popular" videos.  Also, they weren't originally segregated by genre which made the statement that it all was music.  In 1998, to catch wind of those new ground breaking artists, you had to dig just like a producer digs through vinyl crates for those "gems".  You had to dig because these hip hop tv shows became platforms for the more popular artists exclusively, which was based on record sales.

In the late 90's, the backpack vibe was in tune with the listeners because at the time, hip hop heads looking for something unique/different had to really search for that important CD that could define a year or more of your life.  Backpackers were associated with freestyle cyphers, parks, skateboarding, dj-ing and graffiti.  The most dominant and influential musical genre of the past  40 years (hip hop) had been pushed back underground and only the acts that followed the prescription defined by the marketing teams, record labels and self imposing rules for success took over.  This is pre-internet hip hop and it's not a surprise that it ends up being the same now that the internet has made it's impact on music in general and we can all look back.

When you contrast Black Star to that "acceptable" mainstream model of 2014 or 1998, you can see why hip hop has made such a large impression on  my life.  First of all, it connected me to larger issues within the African American community.  Far before I ever knew about the 5 Percent Nation, I related to some of the more spiritual ideas with the lyrics from artists like Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Wu-Tang, Nas and a long list of other NYC artists.  Speaking about knowledge of self, seeing the god within you and the emphasis on pride and education made a big impact on me and put me in touch with my own views on religion during the time.  The 5 Percent Nation was apparently built on the parts of the Nation of Islam as taught in Harlem, and Malcolm X.  Not all of these artists went as far as the Nation of Islam and early Malcolm X with their outright racism.  To me, racism is racism and it takes the responsibility of each individual to change the world instead of blaming history to reinforce their sense of feeling like a victim.  Being a victim means that you will never overcome those issues, and I've never been one to let things get in my way, including myself.  All you have to do is look back to Malcolm X to see that even he saw through the racism within the Nation of Islam and became more of a humanist and a true revolutionary as a result.  There was a variety of perspectives from these NYC hip hop artists/lyricists as well.  Based on lyrics, some simply objected more to the institutional reality of racism and the use of the economy as a weapon against the poor.  Identifying amoral, illegal and unjust practices in our country is really based in a history of activism and not extremism.  Guilty by association means that these concepts often get confused with extremism within the African American culture.  Regardless, I removed the negative messages from the inherent good and I was left with a meaningful relationship to music based on history, education, pride, soul and creativity.  Black Star is representative of this time for me and it reflects the potential of music to teach history, serve as a means of expression and show it's ability to connect to something beyond oneself.

 

Ronin

Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors @bigboi

Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, Big Boi 2012

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The influence of electronic music on hip hop is overlooked for whatever reason.  The combination of funk, electronica and soul in Big Boi's latest album, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors is a great combination of the many different faces Big Boi, the Outkast co-star.  He mixes in crunk/southern hip hop with the classic lyricism known from Outkast with the electro funk that tends to prevent albums like this from blowing up.  A quick side note......Chris Carmouche is all over the credits and I'll definitely be familiarizing myself with his music.

Of course when a veteran like Big Boi puts together a project, you can expect some featured big names.  Sleepy Brown, Phantogram, T.I., Ludacris, Kid Cudi, Little Dragon, Killer Mike, Kelly Rowland, A$AP Rocky, B.o.B among others all make appearances.  There are a lot of different styles that all fit within the overall sound of the album.  There's something for everyone.....

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Ronin

Noteworthy Classic……..v5 Soul Food

Soul Food, Goodie Mob, 1995

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2011 was looking to end with a series of disasters for me personally.  I was determined to make the year end on a positive note and the success of The Product video really was the catalyst for the beginning of a new and better year.  New Years Eve was spent drawing and willing a better year from the second the ball dropped, but the soundtrack for that night was Soul Food by Goodie Mob.  If you haven't heard this album, you've been missing out, but I have your back!

Soul Food was really the second album that introduced to the sounds coming out of the South.  The first was obviously Outkast's Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik.  I think if you look at where Southern hip hop started and where southern hip hop is today, it's a sad story.  But, I think it's a matter of how it's represented in popular media more than anything else.  The same goes for hip hop in general for 2011.  There are still intelligent and creative southern lyricists that don't get the airplay that many other rappers do.  Soul Food is where the term "dirty south" originated, which makes  it a trendsetter.  Lyrically, artists like Killer Mike, T.I., Currensy and Jay Electronica carry the torch today, but Goodie Mob and Outkast really set the stage back in '93-'94.

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For everyone going back to the 90's hip hop scene for inspiration, there was a lot more than Biggie and 2Pac.  I think its important for everyone that wasn't really up on the hip hop scene in the 90's to be aware of all the amazing music from that time.  There were inspiring new artists from all over the country and Goodie Mob helped establish hip hop in Atlanta.  If you've never heard the album and you're looking for some dope hip hop, go pick up Soul Food; you won't be disappointed.

 

Ronin

Pl3dge, Killer Mike, 2011

Pl3dge, Killer Mike, 2011

You know you've found a good album when you start writing about it before you finish listening to it completely.  If you don't know who Killer Mike is, he's a mc from Atlanta, GA.  I first heard of him on a collaboration/featured song with Outkast called The Whole World.  It's a circus themed anthem that everyone will remember from 2002.  The track was from Big Boi and Dre Present......Oukast.  Another noteworthy track Killer Mike was on was Flip Flop Rock on Big Boi's half of Speakerboxx/The Love Below.  The song features Killer Mike and Jay Z and it is a past example that shows how much talent the artist has.  Killer Mike released two previous albums of his I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind (1 and 2) series.  Pl3dge is his latest installment.

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It just so happened that I checked hiphopdx.com's release dates page and saw that Killer Mike released his new project. A couple hours later, I saw Killer Mike post something about his album (on Twitter) and the universe made it clear that I'm supposed to get Pl3dge.  So, I'm passing it on.

Pl3dge stays true to the ATL sound that has become so popular, but unlike the mainstream club anthems from ATL, Killer Mike holds it down with his lyrics over the trunk rattling beats (as you would expect from a Dungeon Family Member). The content of his lyrics range from women, ignorance, staying true to himself as an artist, intelligence, God, health are, politics and the list goes on.  His versatility shows maturity and intelligence and those traits unfortunately don't always lead to commercial success.  But, it's Killer Mike's time because he has flown under the radar for too long.  At the same time, he is known across the country for his lyrical skill, funny punch lines and creative perspective. He's collaborated with a long list of hip hop pros that exhibit the respect he gets within the music industry that include Cunninlynguists, Bun B, Big Boi/Outkast, Bubba Sparxxx, M.O.P., Youngbloodz, Talib Kweli, 8 Ball and MJG,  Jay-Z, Kool G Rap and DJ Clue (amongst others).  Most people like T.I. and he's featured on his brethren's album twice (remixed). I'm not going to lie about being a fan of Gucci Mane, but a lot of people like him. So, whether you do or don't like Gucci Mane, it shouldn't sway you away from picking up Pl3dge.  Killer Mike is the headliner and he doesn't disappoint.  Killer Mike reminds me of Atlanta's version of  Phat Kat (Detroit).  They're both talented, full of potential, are under appreciated and are both big guys.

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In all honesty, the majority of my music isn't from the south, but I recommend the Pl3dge to anyone likes hip hop.  Killer Mike kills it again and he brought my attention back to Atlanta with an intelligent, well produced, raw album that validates him as an mc.  So go pick up or download your copy today.

VIDEO

LINKS

Killer Mike on Facebook

Killer Mike (Mike Bigga) on Twitter

 

Ronin