With 2017 coming to a much needed close, we have another dope single from The Ghost Of Len Bias EP entitled "Tom Sheppard". If you are a nostalgic cat that fiends for 90's Hip Hop culture, you will get the reference as the basketball character (portrayed by Leon) searching for his identity in the hood classic Above The Rim. UllNevaNo channels that characterization in this video (directed by another dope artist/producer Logic Marselis). Enjoy the Golden Era vibes (courtesy of producer Jumbled) and don't forget to support one of the best indie releases I've heard in this otherwise depressing year (full of political strife). I'll save the soap-box rantings for another post.
I'm definitely a huge fan of the podcast Heat Rocks with Oliver Wang and Morgan Rhodes. Both hosts are dynamic in their individuality and perspectives on music. Of course Episode 6 strikes a chord because it speaks on one of my personal favorites, Like Water For Chocolate (2000). Common put himself fully on the Hip Hop map with this Soulquarians gem. If you're not familiar with The Soulquarians collective, it was comprised of Questlove, James Poyser, D'Angelo, Q-Tip, Erykah Badu, Bilal, Common, Mos Def (now known as Yasiin Bey), Talib Kweli, Roy Hargrove, Pino Palladino and the incomparable J Dilla (Rest In Beats). I gravitated towards that sound and sonic artistry because it came from a place I could fully identify with when it came to Neo-Soul and Progressive Hip Hop. Years later I'm still immersed in that movement, even as others have moved on to the trappings of Trap/EDM/Mumble Rap or any other categorization I may not be a part of at this point in life. Without expounding too much on my own fascination with Common and his music, I will allow Ill Camille, another dynamic emcee to break down the seminal project. Ill Camille is an LA artist that is part of a very progressive movement on the Left Coast (somewhat similar in nature to what we heard from the Soulquarians camp in the late 90's-early 2000's). Her most recent project entitled Heirloom garnered praise and attention as a stylized piece of Hip Hop artistry. Make certain to check out Heirloom and her discography via her website: http://www.illcamille.com/. Enjoy the podcast and tune in to other Heat Rocks episodes to get some very insightful conversations.
Congratulations for NC lyricist Rapsody (one of my favorite artists in any genre) on her Grammy nominations for Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song. Laila's Wisdom is a gem, replete with top-notch lyricism and laser-sharp production. "Power" (featuring Kendrick Lamar and Lance Skiiiwalker) is a riveting video that shows the gradual growth and determination of Rapsody. She is one of the few artists that I can genuinely say has paid her dues, and those dues are paying grand dividends. After peeping the powerful visuals for "Power" (pun intended), support and cop this extremely dope project.
Strong Island trio De La Soul once again are showing and proving that there is no expiration date on dope Hip Hop. Dave, Maseo and Posdnous dropped the Grammy-nominated gem and the Anonymous Nobody August 2016, and more than a year later we are still reveling in the extended shelf life of that Kickstarter-funded project. The newest video is for "Royalty Capes" (featuring Gina Loring) and it starts off with an honest and surreal look into the medical condition that Dave is dealing with on the daily (congestive heart failure). With the passing of his Native Tongues brethren Phife, it brings into full focus that Golden Era emcees are facing their own existence and mortality as they embrace middle age. I'm definitely a part of that reality, and it is refreshing that De La STILL is a beacon of light in Hip Hop. Continue supporting the culture and cop and the Anonymous Nobody.
Twitter: @WeAreDeLaSoul @DeLaSoulsDugout @PlugWonDeLaSoul
Skarr-Akbar has been a staple in the Baltimore Hip Hop scene for more than a decade, along the way becoming one of the most respected lyricist in Harm City. Peep his deep mixtape and album discography if you need a reminder of his potency. The B-more rhymer just dropped a dope video for the sonic gem "Florida Evans", which is another feather in his cap (undoubtedly an Orioles fitted). Make sure to support the artist and view his various social media offerings (listed below).
Ullnevano (@Ullnevano) is a very dope individual indeed. Not only does he hold true to the true tenets of Hip Hop, but he is a very down to earth and knowledgeable subject. I've had the pleasure of knowing the brother for a few years now, first meeting him at the famed Reflection Eternal Barbershop co-owned by my Berea brethren Andwele (another individual deserving of a WISDOM SEEKER interview in the near future). Even though I'm no longer physically in B-more, I still keep in contact with my Hip Hop family, and I consider Ullnevano as an integral part of that extension.
I had the honor of interviewing Ullnevano for the highly anticipated project The Ghost Of Len Bias, a collaborative effort with Harm City producer/beatsmith Jumbled (@NapalmDef). We had an in-depth convo revolving around Len Bias, continued violence in Baltimore, the state of Hip Hop and the anticipation behind the labor of love that is The Ghost Of Len Bias. Our 30-minute phone conversation was definitely eventful and fruitful, but I apologize in advance for the audio quality not being up to par. I did not want to delay this interview any longer than I've already done, so please enjoy and listen (to the best of your ability). Support Ullnevano, Jumbled and TGOLB project when it is released.
9th Wonder has carved out a dope niche in the pantheon of Hip Hop lore because of his every-evolving and influential nature. Be it top-notch production, Hip Hop education, shining light on the vast NC talent pool, 9th has been a beacon as well as influence in my life. This PBS-based video gives another glimpse into the incredible life of 9th Wonder.
Baltimore has been a virtual warzone for many years, so it comes as no surprise that the citizens of this great city are tired of the violence that has permeated its 92 square miles. A 72-hour ceasefire by activists was devised to not only put a pause on gunplay in the city, but to also bring attention to the various factors that have multiplied to put B-more in this precarious position. I'm so glad that the B-more Hip Hop community stood in unison to bring something positive to the table with this multifaceted collaboration aptly titled "Baltimore Cease Fire". A who's who of lyricists and artists participated in this dope venture: Von Vargas, Greenspan, Femi The Drifish, Josh Lay, Smallz, TT The Artist, Blaqstarr, Ill Conscious, Preme, Martina Lynch, The Boy Blesst. Take a listen at this joint effort and continue to support Baltimore Cease Fire as a real movement, not just a weekend adventure.
I've been looking forward to the official video for "Chill N Smoke" ever since DUB (my son and a dope emcee) told me about this joint with fellow rhyme spitter DREWSKII DOE. I try to stay impartial on matters of familial creativity (I shy away from nepotism and allow each individual the opportunity to shine on their own merits). Looks like that premise is out the window for this video and song. Even though I am a purist at heart with Hip Hop, I have been humming the chorus and refrain constantly since seeing a draft of "Chill N Smoke". Not quite trap and off the peripheral of boom bam, this song is more a vibe and anthem than anything else. I pride myself on the lyrical side of the artform, and there are gems sprinkled throughout this summer cruiser. This song is more than a banal ode to puffin' trees but a depiction of a young Black male living day to day in Harm City. Listen closely and you can decipher deeper meaning behind the coded language. False relationships built on dividends, survival on the gritty streets, easing continual pain via medicinal means and ultimate triumph. The title says "Chill N Smoke", yet you will soon find that there is much more depth and purpose with these two artists bubblin' on the B-more Hip Hop scene. With dope visuals provided by EBAN Films (Dir | @StevenQSpeilberg) you have the makings of a song poised to make noise everywhere.
T.I., for all the seemingly negative press he has been receiving because of his marital issues being played out for the world to see via VH-1 and social media, is surely making his presence felt on the socio-political tip (no pun intended). His Grand Hustle release of the full-length Us or Else: Letter To The System on December 16, 2016 (as a follow-up to the EP similarly named Us or Else) signaled a slight departure from the ATL veteran. He has always sprinkled nuggets for consumers to grasp lyrically, but his most recent work is showing great depth and maturity for the highly-regarded emcee. If you haven't seen the short film Us or Else, then you NEED to see where T.I. is taking the listener and viewer. It is not just a trip through the sometimes rough streets of Atlanta, but a trek throughout our concrete jungles, suburbia and Middle America. Mere words on WISDOM SEEKER will not do justice to this dope piece of art, but hopefully REAL justice will be served when it comes to the perpetuated persecution, prosecution and execution of people of color across this vast land. Salute to T.I. for taking a stand with his art, for this is going to open the doors for others to do the same and make a real difference.
The Triangle's very own SkyBlew has teamed up with SublimeCloud for a follow-up project to Destined: The Rebirth! entitled Destined: The [R]Evolution. This release is a prelude to the exciting news for SkyBlew to work with anime giant Funimation. The twelve song release is a musical journey, with a layered sound, produced by SublimeCloud, catered perfectly for the mellifluous voice of SB. Lyrically, you get a feel that is years beyond the two-plus decades of existence for SkyBlew. He definitely has a soul that is one part 90's emcee and one part bohemian jazz musician. Combine those dope traits with his love for anime and you have a multitalented as well as multicultural individual. Make sure to support this dope project. And as always, remember to "paint the sky, blew"!
Don P. Bandana P. Prodigy. Albert Johnson. For the better part of two-plus decades he, along with partner in rhyme Havoc, brought us some of the most visceral, dark and reality-laden music the genre of Hip Hop has ever witnessed. They started their careers as Poetical Prophets (go back to The Source Unsigned Hype, July 1991 issue), but the reinvention as Mobb Deep forever forged their place in the pantheon of our culture. In retrospect, The Infamous was the template for many a hip hop release for years to come. In 2012 Wes Jackson (@westothejack), a Hip Hop historian and curator for The Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival, conducted a series of interviews with Prodigy and Havoc, centered around the seminal classic The Infamous. Produced by Red Bull Media House and Rooster Films, this documentary gives a more candid glimpse into what prompted the two powerhouse artists in Mobb Deep to delve into the darkness that is Hip Hop culture. What we get is a snapshot, an artistic slice that can never be replicated again with the passing of Prodigy. Rest in power dunn. Forever will we in the Hip Hop community be hooked on Mobb phonics.
Back in my production and beatmaking bag for 2017. "Soundwaves" is a newer concoction that I designed with my son and budding MC (Dub) in mind. Hoping to hear this on an upcoming EP or mixtape later this summer. Check this and my other aural elixirs to cure your sonic ailments via Soundcloud (link below).
L.A. based emcee F.Y.I. recently released ameriBLACKKK, a creative venture that allows the artist to vent and venture into conscious and woke territory. "These The Times (Don't Judge)" is a dope piece of artistry built upon a Bob James sample (for the crate-digging contingent). It's a positive slice for Black Americana, so to speak, and is an uplifting sonic treat (produced by Sir John Lee and featuring vocalist Kaye Fox as well as horn player Ryck Jane). Once you listen to this song, check out the entire ameriBLACKKK release to get a feel for F.Y.I. and what he is bringing to the table. The Left Coast is definitely at the forefront of bringing dope emcees and Hip Hop to the masses. F.Y.I. is someone to pay attention to for '17 and beyond.
Blastmaster is back with arguably his best release sonically in a good while. Lyrically KRS-ONE has NEVER been at a loss for words or flow; however, his beat selections have been less than stellar, akin to Nas. Definitely no shots thrown at either elite lyricist. It appears that KRS has found his footing this album from a musical standpoint. This album bangs from beginning to end, and I am definitely recommending this as one of the best releases for 2017. Fifteen tracks at 43:38 should keep the attention of our ADHD culture. Hit the Bandcamp and/or website to listen, download and support.
For those that have never experienced a Boiler Room set with world-wide acclaimed spinners from various genres, it is an absolute treat. With the dj front and center the listening audience is bombarded with hours of music spanning different avenues. Of course the best to showcase a Boiler Room set would have to be my personal favorite behind the wheels of steel (or Serato), DJ Jazzy Jeff. Adding more panache to the golden moment in January 2017 is DJ Jazzy Jeff transferring that energy to a Philly crowd. What we have hear is close to two hours of non-stop music that only Jazzy Jeff could bring to life on an intimate yet vibrant scale in his hometown. With his resident sidekick and artist Dayne Jordan accompanying him as official hype man, DJ Jazzy Jeff puts on a performance for the ages. Please don't hesitate to play this during some downtime, at work, or whenever you get the opportunity. You will surely be satisfied yet yearning for more. Make certain you also check out the very dope Vinyl Destination series, where you get a peek into the touring lifestyle that Jeff and company endures for the culture.
Ill Camille has been making a very huge impact on the SoCal/City Of Angels Hip Hop scene for a hot minute. The Pre Write was her debut joint, released October 18, 2011, and it paved the way for Ill Camille to get acclaim from other LA-based artists such as Kendrick Lamar (who utilized her vocals for his extremely dope reflective piece "Sing About Me/Dying Of Thirst"), Terrace Martin, Ty Dolla $ign, DJ Battlecat and others. Illustrated, her second official release offered to the masses December 18, 2012, gave more of a glimpse into the mind and soul of the Cali spitter. We've waited patiently for the newest release, entitled Heirloom, to bless our ears, and it doesn't disappoint in the least bit. Guest appearances from luminaries such as Camp Lo, SiR, Iman Omari, Georgia Anne Muldrow and Punch add an eclectic flavor to a dope project. Heirloom is already an early fav for one of the best releases in 2017. From the sounds of it, it will still be considered for that acclaim December 31, 2017. Peep the sixteen song release and support an artist whose time is now!
Produced by K-R.O.K, this MURS banger from the upcoming Captain California is both a cautionary tale and ode to the trials and tribulations of Kanye. What we have here is a captivating visual that fits the theme of the song and brings the struggles of a young Black male in America in crystal-clear view. "Everyday he puts his backpack on, his headphones on and he plays that song" is a caption that many of my peers can relate to, living in the hood, suburbia, or any area for that matter in today's time. Time and time again MURS is able to capture the mindset of whoever he is portraying lyrically, allowing the listener a visceral experience. He is definitely one of the most slept-on lyricists in Hip Hop, dating back to his days as a part of the Cali-based Living Legends. Captain California is slated for release March 10, 2017 on the Strange Music imprint, and I'm certain this will be another feather in the cap for MURS. In the meantime enjoy this new video, and of course support dope music!
The PLAYlist is a listener's dream. This collective of well-respected Hip-Hop and Soul/R&B artists have banded together to create arguably the best project of this "Orange Julius era" (I won't mention 45 by name). DJ Jazzy Jeff gathered a dope assortment of artists, ranging from names such as Glenn Lewis, Dayne Jordan, Muhsinah, Maimouna Youssef, SiR, Eric Roberson, James Poyser (and many others) to deliver a high quality piece of artistry. If you are a fan of the musical stylings of The Foreign Exchange (Phonte, Nicolay and crew), this project is right up your alley. I've known about Jazzy Jeff and The PLAYlist for a hot minute, and hearing this project come to fruition is a blessing indeed. Please take a listen and enjoy the music that will kiss your ears and bring happiness to your heart!
Masta Ace has been blazing trails for Hip Hop since his artistic debut on the classic "The Symphony" back in '88 (when high tops ruled). The BK representative has carved out a dope niche as a no-frills lyricist, a wordsmith of the highest caliber that has remained sharped for almost 30 years (and counting). The discography for the Golden Era emcee is impressive, with Disposable Arts leading the way for its conceptual content, lyricism, and solid gold boom-bap production throughout. The 2001 release was met with critical acclaim, and it still has an impact to this day. Please take the time to not only view this dope documentary, but visit (or revisit) this classic Masta Ace joint.
Inspired by the now infamous Sean Spicer/Kellyanne Conway "alternative facts" debacle, this is a new aural creation depicting this newest "faux-reality show" episode. With sampled vocal snippets ranging from Aaliyah, Big Daddy Kane and "The Wire", you have something that will entice the ears and open the senses. Produced by yours truly, I hope you enjoy the creativity and thought process associated with making this gem. Trust when I say my beatmaking approach is more cerebral than most. Visit my Soundcloud page for more boom-bap creations.