Friday, August 28, 2009

Concerts: September 2009

For all my New York hip hop fans, FIVE local concert updates...

1) Awesome lineup here: Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Method Man, Beanie Sigel, Talib Kweli, Slick Rick, Busta Rhymes, Lyfe Jennings and DJ Kid Capri (hosted by Diddy and Peter Rosenberg) on Tuesday, Sep 8 @ 9:00 PM at Santos Party House in NYC (21+: Tickets:). This just seems like a miniature version of Rock The Bells with general admission at $30. One word: Amazing.

2) Jay-Z will be putting on a benefit concert at Madison Square Garden on Friday, Sep 11 @ 8:00 PM and will air live on Fuse TV(Tickets go on presale Mon, 08/31/09 10:30 AM). Jay is also promoting the release of his new album The Blueprint 3 on the same day (expect the album review and download soon!!). All proceeds will go to the New York Police and Fire Widows' and Children's Benefit Fund (expected almost 1 million dollars). Thanks HOVA, very smart. More info at http://www.answerthecall.org

3) If you can't afford Madison Square Garden, or Jay-Z sold it out (for the 8th time), Naughty by Nature will be playing their hits and some songs off their upcoming album at Le Poisson Rouge on Friday, Sep 11 @ 11:00 PM. This joint is usually a weekly dance party called The Freedom Party (21+: Tickets $10).

4) Wanna see a bunch of crazy white rappers blaze the mic? Jedi Mind Tricks and R.A. the Rugged Man are coming to the Highline Ballroom on Sunday, Sep 13 @ 9:00 PM for the Hell Awaits Tour (Tickets $19 day of show). Show also featuring Reef the Lost Cauze (not white / less crazy) who is simply amazing live. Expect a bangin' show.

5) Common will be a featured artist at Madison Square Garden in NYC on Monday, Sep 28 @ 7:30 PM for Maxwell's BLACKsummers'night Tour also featuring Chrisette Michele. With Com, you can always expect him to do a mix of his new and older stuff.

Check out some old school Common with his alternate version of Resurrection below. Gotta love the handshakes in the video.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Throwback Series #2: Outkast - ATLiens (1996)


It is not very often that a rapper or group releases three consecutive classic albums, yet Outkast (Big Boi & Andre 3000) did just that starting with their first album Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik in 1994 and following shortly after with both ATLiens in 1996 and Aquemini in 1998.

For this Throwback Series post it was hard to choose which album to review because all three of these albums are so downright amazing that I could talk about all of them for days. However, I chose ATLiens because, to me, it feels the most timeless. The album is definitely more refined in its production quality and rhymes than Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, but not over-refined or progressive like that of Aquemini. This combination makes ATLiens stylistically feel the most raw, yet at the same time quite polished. I will post all three albums for download so you can see what I mean.

ATLiens Tracklist
01.    You May Die (Intro)
02.    Two Dope Boyz (In A Cadillac)
03.    Atliens
04.    Wheelz Of Steel
05.    Jazzy Belle
06.    Elevators (Me & You)
07.    Ova Da Wudz
08.    Babylon
09.    Wailin'
10.    Mainstream
11.    Decatur Psalm
12.    Millennium
13.    E.T. (Extraterrestrial)
14.    13th Floor/Growing Old
15.    Elevators (Onp 86 Mix)

The album starts off with one of Outkast's best and most memorable intros, You May Die flowing right into one of the most epic beat drops imaginable with the start of the second track Two Dope Boys (In A Cadillac). Next comes the title track, ATLiens [Video] with a bumping beat and chorus that'll rock your head like a metronome once you stop focusing on Andre 3000's verse so intensely. Then the album changes its feel a bit, slowing down the beat for Andre and Big Boi to drop knowledge about unscrupulous women on Jazzy Belle [Video and song remix] and then spit the real about their past and present on the track Elevators [Get it...they are moving up in the world]. On Babylon, their social commentary about drugs, sex, and guns is their unique way of presenting the environment they've been raised in. Then the hypnotic beat of Mainstream is a calm point before Decatur Psalm, which combines a dark beat perfectly with a gospel inspired chorus. On Millennium, Andre shines light on the track with his superb visual rhymes. The next song E.T. (Extraterrestrial) has no drums, but gives the listener the chance to really listen to the slang and unique flows of both men. Finally, the album ends with 13th Floor (Growing Old), which is a soft piano-infused beat that hits an emotional soft spot. The rhymes on the whole album are "Out of this woooooorld". Are you Alien?

Make sure this album stays on your disc platter, because it really never loses its flavor.

Peep the old school Outkast Video below...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Producer: Sabzi (of Blue Scholars, Common Market)

Art Credit: Record done by Beth Heinzen

Today I would like to talk to you about a man named Sabzi. This man is one of the many people that don’t get talked about enough in hip hop, the PRODUCER (one of my newest favorites). This man is a beast on the beats. He is sick, nasty, filthy, and any other similar adjectives you can think up. I actually put him in the top category of innovative producers with the likes of Premier, Pete Rock, 9th Wonder etc.

Currently, Sabzi is the second member in two different rap groups; Blue Scholars and Common Market. Both groups are based out of Seattle and have one MC in each, Geologic in the former, RA Scion in the latter. Although the two MC’s are very different in their lyrical styles, both group’s stand out from the rest because of their major common bond, Sabzi’s sheer talent for making great sounding music. Trained as a jazz-pianist, Sabzi has an ear for what sounds good and uses a great diversity of sounds in his work, painting a track like an artist with perfectly layered brush strokes of his choice of piano, synthesized organs, horns, chimes, vocal samples, and anything else he gets his hands on. All this on top of masterful heavy-set basslines behind steady drum beats. In 2007, Sabzi overwhelmingly killed the competition in the Red Bull Big Tune national championship, which is a beat battling competition between the best hip hop producers in North America. However, he was disqualified from the grand prize after winning the final (not well publicized) for not signing some legal shit beforehand. Watch the video below to see what I mean by killed the competition! Try and guess which guy is Sabzi?



I am posting 3 albums for download to familiarize you with his outstanding work… your iPod will never feel the same again.

Common Market – Common Market (2005)
Blue Scholars – Bayani (2007)
Common Market – Tobacco Road (2008)

Tracks to Preview:

Blue Scholars - Joe Metro Video (2007)
*Note: Amazing Video/Song*

Common Market - Connect For (2005)

Download Here

Common Market - Winter Takes All (2008)

Download Here

And to get a feel for what Sabzi is like, watch the below video in which Saba shows you HOW he made the beat to my favorite Common Market song Connect For (he runs a very "amateur operation"). Well worth ten minutes of your time for his keyboard solo at the end!



Advice from Sabzi to other producers: “Stop thinking that you're dope. You're not tight, not yet, I don't even think I'm tight yet”

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Throwback Series #1: Common - Resurrection (1994)


Holla holla bread. I’m instituting the Throwback of the Week starting… now! And why not hit you with one of my all-time favorite albums, one I can listen to indefinitely and still be impressed with, Common’s Resurrection.

Released in 1994 (the same year as Nas’s Illmatic), this is Common’s second album (no one would call their first album Resurrection obviously). After a relatively weak showing on his first album Can I Borrow A Dollar? in 1992, Common Sense expanded on his lyrical style to what would eventually become what is now his unique and timeless signature. Resurrection, as an album, has lyrics, oh sweet sweet lyrics, containing astounding word play, deep metaphors, and insightful stories that are self-reflective and border on parables. AND THE KICKER, all the production is done by No I.D., the man who schooled Kanye West in beat making during his early years in rap music on the south side of Chicago.

The album also has arguably MY favorite song ever and probably one of the top 10 best rap songs of all time, I Used To Love H.E.R.

If you haven’t heard it, DON’T READ any further and LISTEN to it! OVER and OVER AGAIN. The video is posted below. Throughout the 3 verses of the song, Common takes the listener on a timeline of the evolution and transitions that a girl, the love of his life, has undergone throughout the years and eventually expounds on why he no longer loves her anymore. All this to find out in the last line of the song that the woman he is describing is a metaphor for hip hop music. Can you believe this guy? Ha, I can. Common uses the whole song to explain that hip hop started out so pure yet now he detests the current state of the music which is dominated by materialism, thug/drug culture, and “un-committed” rappers that sell out for money and fame. The amazing/sad thing about this song is that it is even more relevant today than it was in 1994. With all the c(rap) that pervades the radio these days, it feels like Common could have conceivably written this song a week ago.

This album definitely goes on my list of the 10 albums I would bring if I were stuck on a desert island for the rest of my life…in fact, I might welcome it if I had a boombox and endless batteries to go with it.



Extra Credit: The Roots song Act Too (The Love of My Life) featuring Common is Com's pseudo follow-up on I Used To Love H.E.R. Listen carefully!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Update: Downloads Downloads

So how cool is this... Every album that I review will be available for free download on my Apple iDisk public drive (click this blog post's title or the link in the top right corner of my blog's main page). Then, open up one of the album folders and click the down arrow next to the song title and your selected song will start downloading instantly. Now you will have no excuse not to come back!! Also, another just added feature is the RSS link (the orange radio like symbol at the top right of the blog) which will give you live updates of my posts in your RSS reader (ex. Google Reader) whenever there is a new one (which means more new music for download). Spread the word y'all.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Album: Hilltop Hoods - The Hard Road (2006)



Continuing with the international theme, I'm bringing you a taste of Australian hip hop for your now refined hip hop palette. The Hilltop Hoods, representing Adelaide (Southern Australia), follow the classic Run DMC model of two MC's (Suffa & Pressure) and one DJ (DJ Debris). These dudes are definitely my favorite international rap group. What I love about them is that their style always stays true to the roots of hip hop, meaning that their formula for making music is good lyrics, slamming beats, and dope cuts.

The Hoods have been putting out amazing music ever since their first album A Matter of Time dropped in 1999, but they're sound has since become much more refined and musically appealing. Their 2006 album The Hard Road is a prime example of this with nearly every beat being a banger and the lyrics are infused with seriousness and at the same time their unique touch of punning humor. Many songs such as Recapturing the Vibe, The Hard Road, City of Light, Circuit Breaker, & The Captured Vibe get me hyped with their well-crafted uptempo beats that seem to have a perfectly balanced blend of samples and scratching thrown in. Honestly, what more can you ask for? Maybe a follow-up remix album with added symphonic accompaniment by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. Check. The Hard Road Restrung is a one-of-a-kind remix album...honestly how often does a collabo like this go down? The song in the above video Roll On Up is offered exclusively on the Restrung album. However, I recommend listening to the original before the Restrung album to get your first taste of dope songs with Australian accents.

Note: This blog entry's title is a link to a video of the first single off the Hilltop Hoods new 2009 album State of the Art

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