Nas — Illmatic 20 years later

Editorial, Music, Review

Standing in front of the same man who proclaimed that “Hip Hop is dead” in 2006, last night the James Cabaret in Wellington, New Zealand was taken back to 1994 — a time when it was very much alive and still growing into the revolutionary genre and street news broadcaster it serves as today. Some people say that it was Illmatic that sparked such a development for the hip hop culture because it changed the way rap music was made at the time; it is recognized as the first album to feature more than one producer on it and valued as “the album that ushered in the era of superproducers”. As Busta Rhymes said in the 2014, Tribeca Film documentary, Time Is Illmatic: “What he was able to do lyrically, completely shift the climate of how the emcee was supposed to rhyme.”

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@nasnyc In Wellington 🙌🙌

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Nas told the sold out venue, “I was writing, thinking what I was going to say to you before I came”, what he did say stuck with me:

“It’s up to the hip hop generation.” He said reflecting on the diversity of the people in the room and the reach his beloved genre and culture had extended to after going for 40 years strong. “I don’t know what they’re doing in politics, don’t know what the Police are doing in America..It’s up to us,” he shared.

Top 14 of 2014 According to Aleyna Martinez

Editorial, Music, Review

1. J Cole — Forest Hills Drive

Okay a lot of things happened this year in the realm of rap and hip hop music. For one, America are facing race riots, in 2014. The entire world watched this year as the [white] man took their culture back to the days of slavery and reminded EVERYONE their leash still has a tension on it. The way in which this album dropped, at the time that it did meant that it’ s simply number one on my list. Check out No Role Modelz and G.O.M.D.

2. Ludacris — Burning Bridges EP

Ludacris is on my list of top five rappers of all time (don’t ask me where, but he’s there). The appreciation is based on his dexterity alone. So yeah, he is older now, and I saw one internet troll comment ‘rich people problems’ underneath Burning Bridges on YouTube, but even so, Ludacris maintains the gift of eloquence in his verses.

3. SZA — Z

SZA is such a gentle, yet beautifully-bold first lady for Top Dawg Entertainment. Her music is honest, rare, spiritual. She’s a real lady that has managed to turn the bars she raps on into a canvas, when she records her music, her words become paint, and the palette is simply spectacular.

4. Isaiah Rashad—Cilvia Demo

I’d been anticipating this album for a bit, so when it dropped, it took a minute to warm up to it. But after I got a sense of who Isaiah Rashad is, as a human (I’d say WAVY), tracks like Banana, Cilvia Demo actually the whole album from start to end sucked me in and was on repeat for weeks; it was the anthem to my summer.

5. August Alsina —Testify

Testify carried over some favourites from Downtown: Life Under The Gun but featured If I Don’t Make It Home Tonight with Young Jeezy, as well as Grind & Pray/Get Your Money feat Fabolous. So it had the spirit of Downtown, which to me is definitely in the spirit of music and hip hop and just good soul in general. The sound on Testify was unfortunately bigger, and more mainstream with feature artists including Rick Ross. Still, the magic that is August featured on all my playlists this year.

6. Ab Soul—These Days

It was expected that 2014 would be TDE’s year, and that’s pretty much what happened for them; competing in an era of rap and hip hop where the internet is the kingdom to rule, TDE’s flag flew as high as Jay Z and Beyonce’s in 2014.

7. Rich Homie Quann —  I Promise I Will Never Stop Goin In

Datpiff had this in November 2013. But it’s recorded in iTunes for March 2014, so, yeah I’m counting it. I was listening to this mixtape while beginning my new job in March. ‘Walk Thru’ was mean to discover while walking through the James Cook Hotel lobby for the first time, every working day at 6pm, whether it’s summer or winter, an old man plays a piano for everyone walking through the lobby, it’s lovely. Put that experience to the verses of I Promise I will Never Stop Going In and I am in a southern music lull, conducted by DJ Drama. From start to finish, the mixtape is a fine example of a new generation that raps “with melody and heart, like singers on the verge of a breakdown”, wrote the  New York Times.

8. Fabolous—The Young OG Project

Fabulous is the man. That’s all there is to say. Like he said on Young OG II feat Abir Haronni: “Broke n****s talking, cause there’s free wi-fi”.

9. Schoolboy Q — Oxymoron

I saw these guys live in June. Isaiah Rashad opened and to be honest after hearing Shot You Down on Soundcloud, I was at the Schoolboy concert to see Isaiah Rashad, who played heaps of Cilvia Demo. I fell in love with Schoolboy Q in Perth, driving around my friend’s Great Wall ute with the windows down and the stereo high, Hands On The Wheel became a sweet backing track whilst I discovered Perth city, which was beautiful really. So Oxymoron for me was an automatic love. Man Of The Year? He definitely was to me for the months after I saw his show in Wellington in 2014. I’ll never forget the way he thanked New Zealand for showing him love, and ultimately helping him pay for and raise his daughter, he said he was grateful for that. It was the realest I’d seen a rapper get with his audience. I felt like Schoolboy was good in the realms of straight music at that point, not just rap. ‘Shout outs to the two black guys in this room,’ I cracked up when he said that at his show, ‘maybe three if there are any up in the balcony’.

10. ATL — TI, Rich Homie Quan, Young Jeezy

What can I say? At 28 I am still not ready to let go of turn up, yolo, cbf on the weekend; I’m about to drop to ratchet states of existence and my neighbors are going to hate it. So who better to ride that wave out with than TI? Azealia Banks told Hot 97 he was a coon, and backed it up with a deep reason, she even cried during a conversation where they were discussing Iggy Azalea. It’s kinda ironic, right? Nevertheless, I have a new found respect for Azealia Banks.. But still enjoy TI.

11. PARTYNEXTDOOR — PARTYNEXTDOOR

See above.

NB: Replace TI with PARTYNEXTDOOR.

12. Team Dynamite — Shepherd’s Delight

I’ve been a fan of these guys since they released the Demo Tape. Steadily — but surely, in 2014, after releasing Shepherd’s Delight, they’ve achieved levels of success we were expecting them to reach in 2010.  This year, they opened for Ladi6 on their NZ tour; subsequently more people came to appreciate their type of New Zealand hip hop — which strikes the perfect balance of feel good beats and good/real shit to say in-verses.

13. Dej Loaf — Sell Sole

Dej Loaf showed up on my newsfeed one day. I didn’t know about her before I heard the Just Do It mixtape, which was released in 2012. After that,  this softly spoken, tiny but fiery on-bars lady from Detroit started showing up more and more in my newsfeeds. What’s fresh about her is her attitude. She’s real and so chill in her lyrics that it makes you feel chill when you listen to it. Even when she’s talking about heavier subjects, she keeps your attention throughout her bars.

14. Wiz Khalifa — Blacc Hollywood

The marketing to this album itself had me interested to listen. He tells DJDUBLTV in the UK:  “Jimmi’s the man, I work with him all the time though”. What I liked about Blacc Hollywood is it’s Wiz being Wiz, a man who once spent $10,000 a month on weed now has his own strand called Khalifa Kush; he’s also sponsored  by The Cookie Factory, so he no longer pays for his own weed. Although he’s never had a job, he’s every hustlers hero.

 

Top 14 of 2014 According to Hariata Sanders

Editorial, Feature, Music

14: Azealia Banks – Broke With Expensive Taste

I’ll admit, I had been anticipating this album since the drop of track ‘212’ (over a year ago). I remember when I first heard it, my boyfriend at the time was showing me her video clip saying she reminded him of me. I was flattered but also confused as to what. Obviously we don’t share similar physical features, but following that track the attention that followed her deteriorated from her music to her “outspoken-ness”. Throwing shade left, right, front and centre via all media outlets, I realised the comparison. She’s a little abrupt, but in a funny way. And even though she’s been projected by the media as an aggressive young African American female (as to defer anyone taking her words seriously), others who identify with her, know better. This album has some fun party tracks (following in 212’s footsteps), my personal favourite being ‘Soda’. But the album also shows her obvious musical skill with tracks like Wallace where she overlays her own harmonic vocals. Her tight flow is highlighted in ‘Heavy Metal and Reflective’ and that is all I have to say about that.

13: Raekwon – We Wanna Thank You.

This album was built up using classic samples that all the greats have used. Ranging from The Isley Brothers – ‘Footsteps in the dark’ (which is infamously recognised as the beat to Ice Cubes ‘Today was a Good Day’), to Teena Marie’s ‘Ooh La La La’ (Which the Fugee’s reworked). He commemorates the unity of r’n’b, soul and hip-hop in this album, and I appreciate him all over again for it.

12: Pharaohe Monch – PTSD

I spent my 22nd birthday at his show last year (2013) in Wellington. After the show he shared his favourite American candies (peanut butter m&m’s), and I shared my thoughts on hip hop in 2013. Ridiculous questions I asked throughout the night include (but are not limited to): his star sign, what his thoughts were on Kanye West, and could I one day be apart of illuminati. Alongside them i also asked how far away his next works were. Despite the amount of liquor in my system, I distinctly remember him saying that when it was ready, we would all know about it. 3 years following his last album ‘W.A.R’ the wait was over, and I was so pleasantly surprised. He continues the story he started, exposing more of the world through his eyes. A real hip-hop hero.

11: Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Piñata

I was instantly fascinated with the prospect of Freddie Gibbs and Madlib collaberating. Freddie Gibbs provides a somewhat raw and ‘real’ rap style. He never sounds apologetic or questionable with what he says but has a prominent, matter-of-fact tone. Madlib’s soothing beats seem almost contradictory to Gibbs. But this ying and yang duo possess a mutual harmony that makes the harsh thug-life seem brutally beautiful.

10: Little Simz – AGE 101: DROP 3|000

Released so late in the year (12 days ago via SoundCloud), it excited me as much to make my list. One of my favourite artists right now (Tiffany Gouché) reposted a song of hers and upon playing it, I knew immediately I was a fan. Check it out for yourself if you don’t believe me, (which I hope you don’t) so you too can enjoy her prowess as a female rapper in 2014.

#Ferguson

Editorial, Feature, News

When an entire state’s minority have to deal with a Police state so bad an innocent boy is shot while his arms are in the air, riots should be expected.

Photo Credit: Whitney Curtis for the New York Times

Photo Credit: Whitney Curtis for the New York Times.

Tracy Chapman sung about the little girl that caused a fuss and Tupac warned everyone that for people without much hope left, it’s the last resort.

Malcolm X stood for it. The Panthers used it to make a difference. It’s called Protest. Making a noise. Challenging authorities who clearly function under a corrupt law is the only way some regions get change.

It takes one soul, brave enough to drive their stake in and go, “NO! I won’t live for this”.

That’s what’s happening in St Louis, Missouri; which has a Police state so bad – black council men are being arrested for “not listening”.

God only knows what’s happening to those less educated and less fortunate in times of such unrest.

All the way in Wellington, New Zealand one can only observe by following social media and news stories. Although I’m also numbed by proximity and lack of understanding, or relation to the situation, it still poses the question:

How are Americans still going through this?

Still. When their President is paid a $400,000 base salary (plus $150,000 for expenses) and their celebrities are paid a lot more for “art” — how are there such minimal resources available, that they’re still fighting for basic civil rights.

It’s the example of why New Zealand should halt all privatisation endeavours for the country.

An area like Ferguson is 67 per cent African American according to the 2010 census — even more frightening are new reports emerging that the KKK are soliciting funds for the police officer who shot Michael Brown (while his hands were raised).

Last year “Racial profiling statistics in Ferguson show” of 5,384 stops made by Police in 2013, 686 of them were white and 4,632 were black. Of 611 searches, 47 were white and 562 black. Of 521 arrests, 36 were white and 483 were black.

Jeezy

Is it Nelly’s job to put St Louis on his back? Or Jeezy’s? I don’t know. Maybe the St Lunatics know? For WDYFILWHH, which focusses on entertainment and hip hop, old and new; it must be stressed that social and political consciousness can’t be forgotten in the music. Ferguson is one of a million reasons why.

But entertainment has to have a line drawn somewhere. If we were less obsessed with it then maybe some healing and growing for everyone’s social consciousness could do some necessary saving…

…That is a saving of face —  arresting Alderman (council workers) for making a stand is kind of embarrassing right? Saving of money — how much extra resource was put into sending police from surrounding states to St Louis. ..

But let’s not forget the main saving — the saving of grace — cause no matter who you are, where you come from or what your neighbour did to you; young coloured men are not animals to be shot at.

**  This article was written with help from HellV from Harlem, New York.

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