Saturday, October 29, 2011


On November 5th, 5 Seasons will again be the venue hosting the Baltimore Crown Awards, a show designed to recognize and honor those who are members of the burgeoning hip hop/poetry/artistic scene in this region.  Since 2007, the Baltimore Crown Awards have given light to those that may be underappreciated, from the underground, considered the underdog, but that is soon to change.  This year's crop of nominees is deep, covering a wide spectrum of talents and areas.  Yours truly is nominated for the first time for Best Baltimore Blog/Website, so I am truly honored and excited by this recognition from peers and music fans alike.  Chin-Yer, a staple on the underground scene, hence the organizational moniker The Baltimore Scene, has done an excellent job of uniting various aspects of our subterranean hip hop culture, creating a family affair not seen here in Charm City before.  Just looking at the nominee listing showcases the amount of talent that this fair city of ours holds, yet doesn't quite get the just due it deserves.  The good thing about the Baltimore Crown Awards is that each individual nominated is a winner, just because of the simple fact each nomination came with an explanation for why said individual is deserving of accolades.  That notion alone should make each and every entity proud, because your/our peers took the time and effort to recognize what our underground scene is all about.  Below you will find a complete listing of each category and nominee.  You can also go to for more information about the Baltimore Crown Awards and The Baltimore Scene movement.  To each and every nominee, I salute your efforts and congratulate you on this victory, because we are all winners!


Skarr Akbar
Caddy da Don
Dirt Platoon
Billy Lyve
Mully Man


Lil Nay
Smooth Black
Tay Roc


Femi the Dri Fish
Slangston Hughes
Love The Poet
E the Poet MC
Archie the Messenger


Karron Johnson
Carmen Cameron
Mai Henderson
J S.O.U.L.
J. Pope


The Bangledesh Project
Soul Cannon
Ama Chandra
Rebel Nation
Dri Fish and The Out of Water Xperience
The Rising Sun All Stars
Black Angel Down


“Beautiful Mind”---Skarr Akbar
“Pursuit of Happiness 1&2 ”---Skarr Akbar
“Sleep When I’m Dead 2”---Billy Lyve
“Worth The Wait”---Los


Skarr Akbar
Stevie Krizz
Bmore Unique
Mike Traum
Wax Chemistry


Strictly Hip Hop 88.9
Politic with Permiss
Shockwave Magazine
Dan Da Cameraman

Bmore’s Very Own


DJ Booman
DJ 5 Star
DJ Harvey Dent
DJ Remedy
DJ Jabril
DJ Black Wizard
DJ Redz


Street Legal
Wrightway Studio
II Nice Studio


Street Scott
Kariz Marcel
Sean Toure'
Beat Ryda
Inside Men
Imahj Beats


Eyeni Photography
Clipse Photography
Lisa Stant
Fame of Street Smart Magazine
Ad Lib
Edith/Diamond Digital Photography


Keystone Productions
Mike Traum
Ernest Turner/Amplified Videos
Profitt Productions
The Grench
Supa Dave


Bridgette Johnson
Frank Lewis
Tim Blackman


Rah Staten
Tay Tay of Tayland Promotions
Billy Lyve/Wisdom Court Entertainment
Bridgette Johnson and Dreko
5 Starr Entertainment


Ull Neva No
Jay Dee


Last Born Child
Darryl McCready
Morese of Stinkiface Music
Imahj Beats
Jamma Wun


NowChild Soundstage
Baltimore Soundstage
Rams Head Live
Eden’s Lounge


The 5 Seasons
NowChild Soundstage
Baltimore Soundstage
Club Reality


The Art of Conversation
Warm Wednesdays
Organic Soul Tuesdays

Awarded to an extraordinary Hip Hop Artists who goes above and beyond to provide the scene and/or community with a service:

Ogun (Baltimore Hip Hop Council)
OOH of Brown F.I.S.H. (mentoring youth)
Billy Lyve (Wisdom Court Kids)
Skarr Akbar (holding the scene down with his artistic services)

Given to a blog writer/journalist/Poet/Author that goes beyond the call of duty and gives a special contribution to community and/or artistic scene:
Civil Jones (work with Hip Hop In Pink and media outlet
Slangston Hughes (work with youth slam/youth movement)
Olu Butterfly Woods (work with youth/Poetry for the People/Organic Soul Tuesdays )

Band/Group/Company that goes above and beyond, through their services to the community and/or contributions to the scene:

Wisdom Court (Wisdom Court Kids)
Applause for a Cause Baltimore
M.A.M. Records (Back to School Drives)

Special Appreciation:

Ahk of 88.9/Strictly Hip Hop
Permiss-being such a strong advocate fot the city
Carrie Caruso-for being a selfless adamant supporter of the scene
Chin-Yer-The Baltimore Scene/The Baltimore Crown Awards

Special Contribution Award:

Ogun-The Baltimore Hip Hop Council-
Tayland of Tay Tay Promotion –Work for the artists in the scene
Chin-Yer –The Baltimore Scene/Baltimore Crown Awards
Wisdom Court Entertainment –Wisdom Court Kids
Civil Jones-Hip Hop in Pink/DJ
Eric Stewart-(providing an outlet for Women to be honored through the Women of Power Awards)
Bridgett Johnson (supporting all the artists in the scene with updates and information)


Past Inductees-

1.Fertile Ground
3.Brown F.I.S.H.
5.Mr. Wilson (RIP)
6.Skarr Akbar
7.Lo Key
8.Sonny Brown
9.Vicious V
10.D Chase
11.Taalam Acey
12.Shaka Pitts
13.Dirt Platoon
14.K Swift (RIP)

This year additional honorees through the voting-

15. Ahk of 88.9
16. Chin-yer 

Please choose two names from this list (that came from the voting process) that you think should be added to the Baltimore Hall of Fame, along with a detailed reason why:

DJ Booman, Golden Seal, Archie the Messenger, Lil Mic, Jacki Terry, 5th L, Lamar Hill, Al Shipley, E the Poet MC, Ray Lugar, Mark Carey of Street Legal, C Love, Olu Butterfly Woods, Bishop, Tim Grins (co-founder of Element Party), P Funk, Walter M. Jones, Marc Evans, Amotion, J. S.O.U.L., Sean Toure', Shodekeh, Porkchop, Petula Caesar, Fred Locs, J5, Slangston Hughes, Che Ray, DJ Spen, Sparraw (Jamar Giddens and Andre McKnight)

Special thanks to The Baltimore Scene (@BaltimoreScene), Chin-Yer (@chinyer), and all of the personalities that contribute to this thriving underground scene that is present in Baltimore.


Here is a dope video from the new Styles P album Master Of Ceremonies, which dropped October 4th to little fanfare.  It's good to see The Lox representative back on his music grind, coming with a solid effort on Master Of Ceremonies.  "Harsh" features Busta Rhymes and Rick Ross turning in dope performances, another in a nice hip hop winning streak for both stellar artists.  Don't get me wrong, the Ghost himself does the piano-driven track justice, so overall it is a good collabo.  SUPPORT DOPE HIP HOP!


L.L. Cool J.  Kool G. Rap.  Big Daddy Kane.  Rakim.  KRS-One.  Slick Rick.  These six hip hop icons will forever be linked as some of the best to ever be a part of a musical phenomenon.  There is NO question in my mind that each of these individuals influenced an entire generation, directly or indirectly, with their style, lyricism, and flavor.  But would you consider them to be the main branches of today's hip hop tree?  I came across a dope dissertation on this very subject, courtesy of Mr. Mecca and JumpOff TV.  In this informative video, you will hear very convincing arguments for each of the subjects in question.  To be truthful, there are other names that can be dropped that are influential on today's modern emcee, such as Ice-T (arguably the godfather of so-called gangsta rap), Ice Cube, Kool Moe Dee, Chuck D, Run (and DMC for that matter) and others.  What I believe Mecca was trying to outline was that any hip hop artist/lyricist that is currently in the driver's seat in the urban vehicle can find bits and pieces of his style in the aforementioned forefathers.  Of course, tracing Jay-Z back to Big Daddy Kane and Nas back to Rakim is relatively easy.  You can hear elements of Kool G. Rap in artists such as Crooked I and Joell Ortiz.  From a storytelling standpoint, Snoop Dogg owes a great deal to a dynamic force known as Slick Rick.  The list can go on and on.  Take a peek at the video to get more insight into this notion, and afterwards spark up some conversation with friends, colleagues, fellow hip hop heads, and the like.  Hit me up on Twitter under @wisdom31 and Facebook at Wisdom1970 for further discussion on this topic, and many others.

Special thanks to Mr. Mecca, Jas Fly, Valerie Lora, Susie Juan, DJ Snips, Lowkey, and the fine folks at LRG for the sparked dialogue, courtesy of JumpOff TV. 

One Love!

Monday, October 24, 2011


Sampling is a sometimes shunned, yet very creative method, in my humble opinion, when dealing with hip hop music.  When done properly, sampling can be both a way to show respect for previous musical endeavors, and a way to reinterpret that same musical venture.  On a daily basis, I have floating in my mind a vast arsenal of dusty, forgotten gems from my childhood that need resurrection.  These joints will serve as the basis for future creations that will be constructed on my Native Instruments Maschine.  I know that it has been a good while since I've blessed my Sample Sunday faithful with consistent installments.  The intentions are there, but I've been inundated with task after task that has been preventing me from touching bases within the sampled hip hop realm.

Starting this late night edition, I was at first looking at a joint to commemorate Black Sheep and their 20th anniversary release of the sample-laden classic A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing.  That album is full of obscure samples that only the most dedicated of crate-diggers will appreciate.  However, at 2:08AM, I was led in another direction while listening to an underground favorite Organized Konfusion, a 90's crew comprised of Prince Poetry and Pharoahe Monch.  The self-titled album Organized Konfusion was an album ahead of its time from a lyrical standpoint.  The two A-list lyricists took the art of lyricism and flow to levels not seen up to that point or since, in my opinion.  If you don't know about them as a collective, or on a solo tip, please revisit this 1991 release to get a picture of what I am speaking of. 

The third cut on Organized Konfusion, "Walk Into The Sun", is an inspirational joint with a jazzy, atmospheric feel to it, driven by the collage of samples that comprise the song.  This gem, created by Organized Konfusion, shows the influence that late producer Paul C. had on this dynamic duo.  Paul C., as hip hop lore has it, was one of the first within the hip hop realm to utilize the SP1200 as his sampling device of choice.  The SP1200 gave a gritty sound because of its analog-based sampling capabilities.  I'm not sure if "Walk Into The Sun" was created by Prince Po and Monch with the SP, but you can hear the dirty, gritty nature of the sampling throughout the song in question.  To compliment the witty lyricism, different components were used to give an emotional feel to the song, only enhanced by the soulful singing. 

"Green Earrings", by the one and only Steely Dan, is a funky cut from the album The Royal Scam, released in the bicentennial year of 1976.  As a kid, music permeated my periphery in East Baltimore, and I was constantly hearing musical creations by this group that was so very original and funky, so dope and soulful.  "Green Earrings" is one of those songs that can tell a story without a single word to accompany it.  Adding the lyrical musings of Prince Poetry and Pharoahe Monch to the sonics created by Steely Dan, and you have a song that works perfectly when waking up at 7AM, ready, or not so ready, for another day of work.  Truth be told, there are other samples that are layered throughout "Walk Into The Sun", such as "Runnin'" by Earth Wind And Fire, "Walking Into Sunshine" by Central Line, and "Action" by Orange Krush.  You can clearly hear each of these elements through "Walk Into The Sun".  Study those aforementioned artists as well, if you are not up to speed on any or all of them.

Get familiar with the musical catalog of both Organized Konfusion and Steely Dan.  Their musical creations will last for eternity, and serve as a testament to experimentation and creativity that you generally don't find in today's musical offerings.  Sample Sunday serves as a reminder of the past, so we can move towards the future, all the while staying alert and aware in the present.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


In a makeshift basement set-up in Randallstown, I’m with my brethren Last Born Child, Superman, Eazzie Da Tattman, Bangla, and OOH collaborating, passing ideas back and forth, and generally building like real men should under positive conditions. It’s a brisk fall day, but the heat being generated by the energy in the underground dwelling is intense. Ideas and rhymes are being passed around as effortlessly as a peace pipe Studio time is therapy for me; it gives me a chance to release creative juices in a communal setting. After a couple of hours of this lyrical and musical bonding, a few more like-minded bodies walk through the basement door, avoiding the lowered ceiling that can wreak havoc on the unsuspecting head of anyone 6’0” and above. My man Eightsense and musical sister Anonamas, the two entities that make up the soul/hip hop outfit 8orMas, make their presence felt, exuding even more positive vibes. All in all, it is an extended family affair in this place commonly referred to by OOH as the “Fish Bowl”. Different species of aquatic creatures coexisting in a small space is an apt description, because the fluid nature of our purpose is evident in the location.

Others come through the door throughout the day and evening: Stryfe Stryker, Atlanta-based Chris, Eze from Soul Cannon, B Fly, Tiff, and Keston De Coteau, each here to lend support and vibe. Not only is the day ripe for studio time, but a video is being shot on the spot by Keystone Productions, a company conceived by Keston. Lovely indeed! This is the essence of creativity. This is the essence of dopeness. This is the essence of the hip hop aesthetic. The bling dynasty thought process is not part of the equation, only the addition of beats plus rhymes. Be it inside the lower level, or outside on the adjacent lot for the property, we are seeing firsthand the video process unfold, all the while being active participants in the process. From Bangla directing and coordinating, to Keston utilizing his videography acumen, another good creation is on the way, so stay tuned.

As daylight bleeds into night, the vibe is still energetic, with the aroma of smoky creativity permeating the atmosphere. I can go on and on about the inner workings of this day on the calendar, October 22, 2011. That chapter I will save for a later date, a later time when I again put pen to paper, or in this instance fingers to keyboard. Upon leaving this Liberty Road honeycomb hideout, it seems as if the day is just beginning. There are more hours to create, more people to reach, more ideas to express through this vehicle we are driving called hip hop. Next stop, The Castle Lounge in South Baltimore. Beats and rhymes are again on the menu, ready for consumption for a hungry crowd. Let’s just say that Last Born Child and Eazzie Da Tattman, along with myself supplying the the human vocal percussion, will feed the hungry masses in attendance. “Nas Is Like” and “It’s Yours” are playing as backdrop for a lyrical barrage by two driven emcees, one a veteran in the trenches, and another a relative newcomer who is paying dues and experiencing what the music is offering, a chance to express and paint vivid pictures. Line after line, metaphor after metaphor, syllable after syllable are being spit into microphones that at times are adequate, and at other moments are attempting to falter. Without missing a figurative beat, this collective of artists came, saw, and are conquering right in front of a crowd ranging from late teens to that Golden Era-laced 35 and older set. A melting pot to say the least is what The Castle Lounge experience is radiating. What more can I say?

Saturday night is now early Sunday morning, and we are now discussing the day’s events. In a 2001 Grand Marquis that is suited for our everyman missions, we cruise the streets for nourishment to replenish strength from the events of the long day that began fourteen hours earlier. Sitting in a 24-hour diner, topics of conversation range from the state of hip hop music, what contributions we can all make to it, and more general ideologies facing each one of us on a day to day. Be it relationship plateaus and depths, economic empowerment, the ever-changing climate politically, our three-headed conversation is leaving no stone unturned. At least for the moment, we can put everything on the proverbial table, sharing space with the food we are now eating and enjoying. Last Born Child coming with a poignant notion about where our collective love of this music can take us, or his nephew Eazzie Da Tattman, who has been patiently and attentively absorbing the fruits of knowledge for his mental consumption, or myself, the one known as Wisdom, not always living up to the name, but eventally owning it. We are in or element. The food is good, but the priceless dialogue is even better. We ingest the cuisine, but we digest the undeniable knowledge from today and tonight.

This story that you see here is in present tense because we all need to live for the moment, right now, at this precise space in time. We do not know what the future holds. We can only recollect what the past has shown each of us. That past, be it good or bad, will mold us in the proper fashion, with God’s grace and our own common sense. Stupidity can cost you, but sense if free! I am at my place of solace, in front of a 15.6” Toshiba laptop, typing away, documenting, thinking. I thank God for those put in my cipher that care and share love for music, art, and humanity. I thank each and every one that is reading this, for your support has no price tag. I am Wisdom, and I am the embodiment of this thing we call hip hop!

Photographs courtesy of Keston De Coteau with Keystone Productions and Wisdom in conjunction with Last Born Child

Saturday, October 22, 2011


     When you talk about the feel of live, vibrant hip hop, the raw, organic nature of Sonar is quite evident as soon as you walk through doors of the warehouse that houses the space.  There would be no better place in Baltimore to have underground favorites Phonte Coleman and Pat Douthit, better known to the denizens as Phonte and 9th Wonder.  The reconnection of these brethren couldn't come at a better time, when the music industry is still trying to figure out how to survive in a technology-based era and faltering economy.  These so-called hurdles haven't hindered some of the hardest-working and well-respected individuals in the hip hop, and music world, for that matter.  I have been looking forward to witnessing a true hip hop show from Phonte, 9th, Khrysis, Median, Sean Boog, HaLo (aka Mr. Ben Ready), DJ Flash, and unsung heroine Rapsody.  Each of these pieces of the proverbial hip hop puzzle forms a dynamic that you just don't find in our musical realm.
     Arriving at 407 East Saratoga Street with fellow hip hop head DJ Black Wizard around 9PM, it was a tad bit surprising that there wasn't a line wrapped around the corner for this show, especially after the rave reviews from the previous night's show at BB Kings and Sunday's fiesta in DC at the Black Cat.  Being a Tuesday evening most likely lightened the crowd that showed up, but for those in attendance, a treat was about to be serve on a turntable platter.  Seeing familiar faces throughout the venue wasn't surprising, since the Baltimore hip hop scene is a tad bit insular.  Seeing Gypsy Soul, UllNevaNo, Kelly Connelly (who would be front and center during a crucial part of the show later), and other notable personalities in the house, made for a night to be remembered.  The Away Team, comprised of "Mr. On The Board With The Heat" himself Khrysis and rhyme partner Sean Boog, were finishing their set.  Fresh off the release of the acclaimed album Scars and Stripes, they managed to keep the energized crowd entertained.  Too bad I didn't get the opportunity to see them open the show in the manner that I expected, but I'm confident by the crowd response that they did justice to the Jamla Family name.  There was no time for a breather or letdown, because it was apparent that hip hop royalty was about to make an appearance.  9th Wonder made his presence felt behind the wheels of steel, bringing a steely confidence and humble approach to the stage.  Rocking his Zulu Nation pendant courtesy of Woodville Inc., he set the stage, figuratively and otherwise, for Miss Evans, known around these parts as Rapsody (who is also going by her other nomenclature Rap Diddy).  The sea of hands in the air when these two connected on a musical vibe signaled that a show was in town.  Rapsody blessed the Sonar faithful with song after song from Return Of The B-Girl and her newest project Thank H.E.R. Now.  She showed why she is considered a rhyme phenom, commanding the stage with her demeanor and confidence. 
     There are only a select few emcees who can command the stage with sheer presence---Phonte is definitely that artist.  Once 9th threw on the "Superman Theme", you knew that a special performance was in order.  Phonte Coleman took the stage, to the delight of the crowded venue.  With hands in the air throughout Sonar, Phonte launched into "Dance In The Reign" from his acclaimed solo venture Charity Starts At Home.  Bananas!  Phonte was relentless on the mic, be it with his exceptional lyrical talents or freestyle prowess.  In all black everything, he blacked out a few times on the freestyle tip, even mentioning a few of those in attendance in the crowd (shout out to Kelly Connelly and CarolinaWare).  It was good to see the chemistry in effect with Phonte and 9th, as they played off each other with not missing a beat, literally or figuratively.  Phonte rhymed, Phonte sang, Phonte conducted the "Baltimore Mass Choir", Phonte preached to the faithful Sonar crowd in attendance.  If you know anything about this dynamic individual, charisma and wit are part of the package.  During his lengthy set, Phonte took time to discuss the VERY public airing out of dirty laundry with his Little Brother cohort, and then tossed around the pseudo-SAT word "PERPETUITY".  Of course what he was saying made perfect sense, so it was a great thing to hear that these two are able to move forward and create dope music, together or individually.
     If you thought the show was ending with prime cuts from Charity Starts At Home, you were sadly mistaken.  Phonte took the crowd down Little Brother memory lane.  Median joined Phonte on stage to hit the crowd with "Band Practice" and other Phonte/Median joints.  These two have an undeniable dynamic when rhyming together, and it was quite evident on this Tuesday evening.  Around the venue, you could see everyone looking attentively at the lesson being delivered on that stage.  I could on and on about minute details that prevailed throughout the evening, but I will keep those cherished memories for now.  What I can tell you is that one of the highlights was Phonte inviting the entire Jamla camp to share in the spotlight while 9th threw on "Lovin' It", one of my all-time favorite LB joints.  No words can describe the energy that was on that Sonar stage and in the thick crowd.  It was an awesome experience to say the least.
     Once the performance was over, you could feel nothing but love in the place.  Networking, pounds, hugs, flicks, and a general sense of success was permeating the atmosphere.  Verdict:  one of the best performances I've experienced!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


A Fashionable Emcee---An Interview With Jhene Tha Realer

In today’s hip hop climate, being a fashion plate and emcee is becoming commonplace. Having a sense of style sometimes can even overshadow the musical portion of an artist, for good or bad. Witnessing an artist such as Jhene Tha Realer balance her sense of creativity from a fashion standpoint with her lyrical sensibilities on the microphone is indeed a wonder to behold, especially considering her relative newcomer status on the Baltimore hip hop scene. I’ve been fortunate and blessed to see the genesis and maturation of hip hop in the Monumental City, so getting the opportunity to view the growth in an artist that is building a grassroots movement is a wonder to behold indeed.

Jhene Tha Realer has been on my radar for the better part of the past year, starting with my introduction to her by M.A.M. Records CEO Jay McGraw. Having a brief conversation with Jay, then exchanging a few pleasantries with this female hip hop artist, who appeared more Naomi Campbell than Lil’ Kim upon first view. Truthfully, I didn’t envision her as the prototypical female emcee, but what is a estrogen-laden artist with a penchant for spitting metaphors supposed to look like? Putting preconceived notions to the side, I was intrigued by Jhene Tha Realer as an artist. Unfortunately, playing interview phone tag and not being able to connect time after time became a running theme. From different show performances in the Mid-Atlantic area, to the ill-fated DMV Awards this past March, we have crossed paths, but never having that golden opportunity to sit down and discuss her artistry. Fortunately, a recent performance by Jhene Tha Realer at a local live hip hop showcase, The Sound Boutique, opened the proverbial door to us waxing poetic about melding the worlds of fashion and music into her creative gumbo. “It definitely has been a long time coming”, I opined to Jhene Tha Realer after her energized performance at The Sound Boutique, backed by a live hip hop band. “Yes it has”, she stated in a soft yet commanding voice, making certain that I could understand her every syllable with music and surrounding conversations attempting to overshadow our brief chatter. After a few minutes discussing her performance, we decided on setting up a phone interview a few days later, making certain that nothing would come between this opportunity. “I’m looking forward to it”, she stated, and the wheels were set in motion.

OTR: How did you first get started in hip hop?

Jhene Tha Realer: I first started at eleven, then eventually getting into ciphers and freestyles. I really broke out last year, putting out my first mixtape. I got the chance to network with a lot of different people. I’ve done a lot in the past year alone with getting myself known, performing, things like that.

OTR: Who are some of your influences?

Jhene Tha Realer: Lil’ Kim, Ja Rule, that whole Murder Inc. camp, around ’01-’02. To me, that was a good time with me absorbing the music and style.

OTR: Talk about your background, because you are not originally from this area.

Jhene Tha Realer: Right. I was born in Zambia, and I lived there ‘til I was ten. I moved with my family to the DC area. I lived in Silver Spring and that DC area, was raised there. Even though I was raised in that environment, Baltimore groomed me.

OTR: How would you describe the hip hop scene in the DC area?

Jhene Tha Realer: Hip hop is there in DC, but there are other genres like go-go music that can overshadow hip hop. Everybody raps in Baltimore though (Laughter). If you are unique and real you will stand out.

OTR: Is that where your name came from?

Jhene Tha Realer: Everybody knew me as Jhene, even back home. Family, friends, they all called me Jhene, so of course that stuck. Since I consider myself as real, it was only natural for me to attach that to my name, so you have Jhene Tha Realer. One thing I have to say is that you have to be an emcee and not be cliché.

OTR: So how did you meet M.A.M. Records CEO and artist Jay McGraw?

Jhene Tha Realer: I met Jay at this Baltimore spot called the Black Hole. This dude Cobra got me on the show bill, and Jay was there. Jay was looking for a female artist for his label. I didn’t put on the best performance at the Black Hole, but I guess he saw the potential in me. The next day I went to 5 Seasons, and I saw Jay and there were a whole bunch of n*ggas. I got the chance to meet up with him and Singleton Newman. That chance meeting opened up the door for me to become the artist you see today.

OTR: Describe your style on the microphone.

Jhene Tha Realer: Versatility. I can be street. I can be contemporary. I can have a jazzy flow. I can hop on any joint and spit. It’s as simple as that. I pride myself on the fact that I have that versatility with my music and style.

OTR: What are some other things that you are focusing on outside of music?

Jhene Tha Realer: I go to school right now at the University of Baltimore. I want to be a fashion designer. I’m trying to do design for t-shirts for M.A.M. Records right now. I did get the opportunity to volunteer for Baltimore Fashion Week; that was a cool opportunity. It wasn’t as big this year as before, but I had the chance to be in that realm of the fashion world. One thing I do want to say is that in the future I want to put money aside and start a team, an in-house engineer, get a studio and a couple of artists. I want to put all of my talents to good use.

OTR: Musically, what are you working on right now?

Jhene Tha Realer: I’m working on a mixtape called Legend’s Breed. Are you going to ask me what that means? (Laughter)

OTR: Of course I’m going to ask you the meaning behind that. This is an interesting interview to say the least. I feel like I’m being interviewed. (Laughter)

Jhene Tha Realer: It’s twelve songs on the mixtape. The meaning behind Legend’s Breed is being birthed by the legends. B.I.G., ‘Pac, Busta, those are the legends that paved the way for me being that versatile artist that I am. The mixtape is gonna have club joints, some R&B, some car joints, some slow tempo stuff. When you pick out mixtape songs you should have some variety, so that is what I’m giving to everyone. You will see the continuity in the songs for Legend’s Breed. It should be coming out in December. I’ve been recording at Street Legal Studios with artists like Lord Baltimore, Karron Johnson, Blizzard.

OTR: I know that you have an upcoming show. How did that come about?

Jhene Tha Realer: Florida (radio host for WEAA-88.9 Strictly Hip Hop Show) and Singleton (co-host for WOLB-1010 AM Politic With Permiss Show) hooked up the Caddy Da Don show at CCBC. It’s for a good cause. It is an awareness show for Pediatric Seizure Disorders, and it is an honor to be a part of this show. I’m looking forward to being on the bill with Caddy. I went to CCBC and graduated, so it is like a homecoming for me, and it is for a very good cause. I will get the chance to network with others.

OTR: What is a dream collaboration for you?

Jhene Tha Realer: Are you talking locally or nationally?

OTR: Both.

Jhene Tha Realer: One thing about Baltimore is that you can work with pretty much anyone here. You have artists like Ms. Cream, Finesse The Best, a lot of different artists here in the region. On a national level, of course Lil’ Kim I would love to work with. Someone who would be a surprise is Lola Monroe. Her whole style is dope, so I would jump at the opportunity to work with her. Drake would be cool to work with as well. Black Thought (from The Roots) would be so cool. He is very dope indeed. I love old school hip hop, like Rakim, Common, Black Thought, real emcees.

OTR: So how does it feel to rock with a live band?

Jhene Tha Realer: I prefer a live band actually because of the energy. At The Sound Boutique performance, it was hot, because I never did that before. There is nothing like live music. You can just feel it.

OTR: What do you see for 2012?

Jhene Tha Realer: Me being hotter than now. I am going to work on my international presence more, especially with me being from Zambia. Hip hop music is very popular overseas, so that is a market I want to target. I want to go back to Zambia, perform, give back to my people. I want to hit in Canada and the UK. I also want to have that presence on internet radio. Next year I am dropping my album. I am going to work with producers that are outside this area. One thing I can say is that I am very involved in my artistry. I am hands on and 100% into my craft. I enjoy networking, photo shoots, interviews, all of those aspects.

OTR: How do you perceive media coverage?

Jhene Tha Realer: Average. The media focuses on covering those in the spotlight. It’s politics, who you know. That’s why I appreciate you giving me the opportunity with this interview.

OTR: That’s why we’re On The Rise. We want to shine light on those that are not necessarily in the spotlight. We want to showcase those that are up and coming.

Jhene Tha Realer: After I drop my mixtape there will be more media coverage. I want to start a blog so I can document my musical and fashion journeys. That’s another aspect I want to get into soon.

OTR: You attended the DMV Awards in March 2011. How was that, before all the craziness happened?

Jhene Tha Realer: I was there, but I missed the drama and violence. Jay McGraw and M.A.M. Records represented of course. It was a good networking tool for the entire region, at least until things turned for the worse. One thing I can say is that we are not exposed like other artists here. We don’t push our own. When artists do get out there they don’t get support that they need. You have an artist like CJ Hilton with R&B that is starting to get noticed. We need to bond and support each other in this DMV region.

OTR: This has been a very good discussion with you. What would you like to say in closing?

Jhene Tha Realer: Follow me on Twitter at @Jhene_meThaMc. I’m very excited about what’s to come for me. I used to watch rappers on television and now I am a part of the revolution, so to speak. When I look back, I can see how my influences have molded me into the woman I am today. I want to get that exposure. Promoters don’t know you, so they don’t pay attention. I want to be able to do three or four shows a week. I’m just excited about the opportunity to be an artist. I want to spread my music and word. I want to let others know that it is cool to be different. Hip hop is a craft, and I take it very seriously. You have to have your own storyline and be unique. I’m going to keep my own style. One thing about me is that I’m fun-loving. You can let everyone out there know that I’m on Reverbnation, Youtube, Soundcloud. Just look for Jhene Tha Realer under each of those and you will find me. Right now I’m in a Journalism class at the University of Baltimore, so I’m looking to start blogging and make t-shirts for promo. It just another step in the evolution of Jhene Tha Realer!

OTR: It’s been a pleasure speaking with such a creative spirit such as yourself. This won’t be the last time!

Jhene Tha Realer: Again, thank you and On The Rise Magazine for giving me this opportunity. I appreciate the love and support!

Talking with this multifaceted young woman, artist, fashion designer, lyricist, you get the impression that there will be no limitations with her creative growth. Let’s hope that this On The Rise individual will live up to the lofty goals that she has set for herself. Truthfully, I don’t think that will even be an issue in the near and distant future, because Jhene Tha Realer is destined to live up to her name

You can visit Jhene Tha Realer at the following social media sites:

Twitter: @Jhene_meThaMc



The original interview can be found at On The Rise Magazine (

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Album Review-------Charity Starts At Home

This album is the reason why I still have a passion for hip hop, and music in general.  Before I heard the first track, before I knew any song titles from the tracklisting, I could sense in my musical soul that Phonte Coleman was going to create an unforgettable piece of art.  Is it perfect?  I have yet to hear a "perfect" album (even though Songs In The Key Of Life and Illmatic are contenders for that mythical title).  Is it flawless?  No, because in my selfish realm the one thing I wanted to hear on this album is missing.  So exactly what is Charity Starts At Home?  It is an aptly titled creation and best album of the year contender (all genres included).  So how did I come to this conclusion? 

After purchasing this gem at the vaunted Sound Garden in Fells Point a few days after the September 27th release date, I still waited a day before opening the wrapper that enveloped the black and white cover art for Charity Starts At Home.  After a brief vocal monologue to open this solo opus, the Swiff D-helmed "Dance In The Reign" starts on a very strong note, with organs seemingly announcing the arrival of Mr. Tiggalo himself.  With the angelic Sy Smith providing backing vocals, and Phonte spitting lines like "sex symbol raps you niggas is Pam Grier" and "I've taken the sour grapes of wrath and made Cheerwine", it's evident that this supreme lyricist has one of the sharpest pens in the hip hop world.  "The Good Fight", produced by the incomparable 9th Wonder, is another introspective joint in the shared discography of the North Carolina brethren.  On this joint, Phonte waxes poetic about a topic many of us can relate to on a daily basis.  Just listening to this song, which has a similar lyrical tone to "Last Day/Next Day" from And Justus For All and Getback respectively.  This is that facet of Phonte's lyricism that strikes the biggest chord with listeners, because you can envision the portrait this extremely talented brother is painting.  "Everything Is Falling Down", featuring new Foreign Exchange voice Jeanne Jolly and produced by extended Justus League and The Soul Council family member Khrysis, discusses how Phonte feels about those non-supportive cats in and out of the hip hop realm.  The Elzhi and Phonte collaboration is in full effect (nod to Mantronix) on the 9th-produced "Not Here Anymore", which samples the very familiar Rose Royce classic "Love Don't Live Here Anymore".  9th Wonder laces this joint with his signature touch of soul, allowing Phonte and Elzhi to do what they do best:  spit hard-hitting lyrics.  This is another winner on Charity Starts At Home.  Outside of Rapper Big Pooh, the emcee that has the best lyrical chemistry with Mr. New Tigallo himself is Median, who recently released The Sender on The Foreign Exchange Music imprint.  "Eternally", another Patrick Douthit production, is the type of track that allows Median and Phonte the chance to volley lyrics back and forth like seasoned tennis players on a clay court.  Changing the pacing of the album slightly is the smoothed-out selection "Sendin My Love", constructed by Stro Elliott.  Funny comedian Affion Crockett sets the stage for this joint by letting the listeners know that no matter what a man may have at home, he is still possibly on the prowl for a feminine challenge.  I will plead the fifth on that note.

The second half of Charity Starts At Home starts with "Ball And Chain", a choice cut that falls in line with Phonte's musical sensibilities from The Foreign Exchange.  Envisioning the song title gives you a glimpse into the subject matter for this song, which was produced by Swiff D.  The following selection, "To Be Yours", produced by long-time collaborators and musical brethren Zo! and Phonte, is another song that could easily sit along with other songs from Leave It All Behind or Authenticity.  Phonte is as at ease with the romantic as he is with the bombastic, and that is evident with the effortless flow from one realm to another on this album.  S1 laced Taygravy with "Gonna Be A Beautiful Night", which also features Carlitta Durand on the beautiful vocals.  Here, Mr. Coleman and Ms. Durand get the opportunity to get their Peaches & Herb on, at least for three-plus minutes.  A standout on Charity Starts At Home is the Fatin-produced "We Go Off", where Phonte trades metaphorical jabs with lyricist supreme Pharoahe Monch.  The aptly titled song allows two of my favorite emcees to lace a fierce beat constructed by The Soul Council alumni, letting those within earshot what North Carolina has cooking.  "The Life Of Kings", featuring Evidence (who also released a dope album on September 27th entitled Cats & Dogs) and new Southern hip hop sensation Big K.R.I.T. (who was slated to release his debut album on the same date of September 27th but has been pushed back), allows each of these independent artists to dialogue about their royal status in hip hop, even if it is from the indie level.  Each emcee on this final 9th Wonder track on Charity Starts At Home gets the noble opportunity to share with listeners their take on life.  If the album ended here, I would be very satisfied, but the icing on the cake is the E. Jones-produced "Who Loves You More", featuring another everyman, Eric Roberson.  This is the song that strikes the biggest chord with me, and hopefully other listeners.  "I came from the bottom where the guns got withdrawn" is that sentiment I can share with Phonte.  He has the uncanny ability to articulate what I may be feeling or thinking at any moment, and does it with the ease not seen in the vast majority of hip hop.

Again, this album is not perfect or flawless.  Maybe because I'm biased and selfish, I wanted to hear at least one song with Rapper Big Pooh, or better yet, that long-awaited Little Brother reunion that may never materialize.  I apologize for that bias and selfishness Phonte Coleman.  What I will say though is that Charity Starts At Home is befitting as an album title, because he took it upon himself to create a masterpiece, not necessarily distancing himself from the legacy of Little Brother, but adding overall to the puzzle that is not only the Justus League, Little Brother, The Foreign Exchange, but hip hop and music as a whole.  September 27, 2011 will be etched in my memory as the day that a whole state showed its pride in not only this album, but the very dope creations by J. Cole and 9th Wonder as well.  I am glad that Phonte realized that before he could help others, he had to help himself, and Charity Starts At Home is the ultimate self-help guide in hip hop.


Sunday, October 2, 2011


     Thanks to Singleton Newman, known around these parts as the Music Industry Maven, for hipping me to this event.  The Sound Boutique, held on a rainy Saturday night at Ahead Of The Game on Garrison Boulevard, was a collection of hip hop artists gathered together to provide a mature approach to Baltimore's burgeoning hip hop scene.  Hosted by WEAA-88.9 FM Strictly Hip Hop personality Florida, this showcase was another move in the direction that our blue collar city is taking to expand its musical horizons from a hip hop perspective.

     The venue was not large, but that was not a hindrance to the music that took place within the walls of Ahead Of The Game, a barbershop and sports enthusiast spot at 4603 Garrison Boulevard in West Baltimore.  The atmosphere was buzzing once I entered the venue, and M.E. was performing, hitting the crowd with a few prime joints, accompanied by a live drummer and guitarist.  I noticed quite a few heads that frequent the Baltimore hip hop scene, like the aforementioned Singleton Newman, M.A.M. Records CEO and artist Jay McGraw, WEAA personalities Drop A Jewel and Florida, Street Smart Magazine, and many others.  The vibe was positive, drinks were flowing, and the music painted a vivid picture for what was to come throughout the evening.  Even though this early fall evening brought rain, the music on display inside the spot was a ray of sunshine.  Once M.E. completed his first set for The Sound Boutique, M.A.M. Records artist Jhene Tha Realer grabbed the microphone, and commenced to hit the audience with her model looks and sharp flow.  Jhene showcased versatility throughout her set, allowing the live instrumentation to guide her performance and shape her lyricism.  The crowd was definitely in tune to the female lyricist for her 15-20 minute performance, as she hit the listeners with varied musical offerings.  I've known about Jhene Tha Realer as a relative newcomer on the Baltimore hip hop scene, but this was my first time witnessing her live performance.  She didn't disappoint.  Repping her Zambian roots, while keeping true to her Harm City music, gave Jhene Tha Realer the opportunity to display just how far-reaching this thing we call hip hop can stretch.  Couple that with the live instrumentation, and those in attendance witnessed a genre that can be deemed as limitless. 

     Strictly Hip Hop personality Florida kept the mood festive during a brief intermission from the evening's performances, allowing the live band to unveil a hip hop version of "Name That Tune".  Yours truly even had the honor of naming the second selection that the band unleashed on the crowd, "Scenario Remix", featuring A Tribe Called Quest, Leaders Of The New School, and Kid Hood (rest in peace K.H.).  Of course I had to flex my encyclopedic hip hop muscles during the evening!  The intermission also allowed for those like-minded individuals in the growing crowd to network, connect, and spread positive vibes throughout.  Next to hit the dimly lit stage area was the incomparable Comp, one of the most well-known and respected emcees in the region.  Comp brought an elevated energy to the showcase, first hitting the adult hip hop crowd in attendance with a few bars as teasers, then tearing into joints that many in the venue were already hip to.  His performance was enhanced by the spirited drummer, who provided the sonic foundation for Comp to hit ears with metaphors about the hip hop industry, the menacing streets of Bodymore Murdaland, and everyday living.  Comp's reputation as an energetic performer was earned on this Saturday evening at The Sound Boutique, as he kept the crowd in the zone throughout.  Dirt Platoon entered the side door for Ahead Of The Game, ready to hit the stage and show the anticipating crowd what a DP performance is all about.  Accompanied by Spyda on the drums, Dirt Platoon brought the showcase to a fever pitch, launching into joints from mixtape releases and their Deeper Than Dirt album that has circulated on the underground level for the past year.  These Brake Fast Records veterans commanded the stage with a bravado and confidence that only years of experience could yield.  Raf The Almighty and Snook Da Crook are brethren in the struggle, both literally and figuratively, and that connection gives them an edge not witnessed in the majority of today's music.  That was on full display at The Sound Boutique, as the 90's-influenced lyricists hit the aural senses with wordplay and storytelling skills that the hungry crowd could relate to and feel.  M.E. then graced the stage again, bringing forth his versatility by performing a spoken word piece, before ripping through his final set.  M.E. is another emcee who I've heard about, but never had the opportunity to witness from a live perspective.  He is another up and coming artist that has potential to make noise in a scene that is growing by leaps and bounds in Baltimore.  Using the live instrumentation to propel his lyricism over varied tracks by Kwame and Wu-Tang Clan, M.E. managed to bring the evening to a proper close.  It was a fitting way to conclude the performance aspect of the evening.  This didn't end the festivities however, as the majority of the crowd at Ahead Of The Game stayed to network, congratulate, and be merry with the free drinks.  I talked with Spyda, M.E., and Dirt Platoon after the successful performances for the night.  For close to 30-45 minutes after the showcase ended, I still had the opportunity to discuss the golden age of hip hop with Dirt Platoon.  We shared our common views on dope emcees such as Pharoahe Monch, Prince Po, Nas, O.C., and countless others that raised the bars by raising their bars to elevated levels.  Our discussion was the nightcap, showing that real, true hip hop is not dead, but alive and thriving, even in a blue-collar locale on the Patapsco River.

     Special thanks goes out to M.A.M. Records, Street Smart Magazine, Florida, Drop A Jewel, Singleton Newman, and the other hip hop entities that were in the house for The Sound Boutique.  This event is a must-have and must-see for the Baltimore hip hop scene, allowing promising artists the opportunity to spread their lyrical wings in a setting that is conducive for being outside the normal hip hop periphery.  To all those in attendance, thanks for the positive vibes that were shared throughout the evening.