Audio Push's Hot 97 Freestyle Got Me Like :O

"Throw on the beats that the young kids are scared to rap on."

These young rappers didn’t want beats from DJ Premier. These young rappers wanted to be rockstars. I’m not a hater, let the kids live. Those who are too concerned with trying to get these kids to be something other than themselves are stuck in the past and will fade away. That said… this is hip hop, and you better damn believe that you better be coming with that A-Grade competition, snatching necklaces and running jewels when spitting these bars. Audio Push came out of the Inland Empire with guns blazing… like, sawed off shotguns , I think I saw one of them using Lil Uzi Vert as an actual Uzi, and eating Lil Yachty’s Hair like a bag of flaming hot cheetos. Make a billion “Broccoli’s” with D.R.A.M. but you better be making it the best damn sing-song tune about vegetables you can possibly make, because these kids are coming for your neck. You can be the sound of the day, or the sound of a generation… time will tell. 

Like I said, I’m not hating. This freestyle just got the fire burning in my chest. Let these kids make whatever kinda music they want, but I will be supporting anyone going hard any day too. If they wanna shake the game up, rip tendons with their syllables, splatter brains with their delivery, let it happen man. This is the Wild Wild West… anyone can become yesterday’s news. Who knows… Audio Push might be yesterday’s news waiting to happen, but they sound like they’re fighting with all their might to be tomorrow’s future. That’s all that matters. Jut go for broke. 

*Steps off soapbox*

Nx Worries New Single "Lyk Dis" Is Soulful Eroticism At It's Finest

Sidechain whipping around the speakers, leaving gashes the size of Slick Rick’s pendants in our eardrum canals… Knxwledge goes in with his production on Lyk Dis with Anderson .Paak soothing us with his soul cries. From old to new, .Paak always shines at marrying old soul with modern RnB styles. At 1m 30s his melody is clearly 90s inspired as well as the refrain “Everything you do, oh when you do it.” 

The warbly sample, cliche’d as all hell, beckoning a sexual groove is hypnotic enough to demand respect, it simply works. The kick drum clips most notably on it’s second hit of every beat, but with Knxwledge, such over the top compression is always welcome. With no deviation from the main loop, aside for a measure where it lets the string sample sing a little longer, it’s clear that Anderson is becoming a master of melody as he clearly carries the beat along with him and not the other way around. 

Lyk Dis is a soulful song of eroticism that is sure to ease an evening commute and set the tone for a special evening with that special someone.

Chance Played Out A Lot of Rapper's Fantasies on Ellen

 

Pillaging a record label has to be the pipe dream of a rolodex full of artists. Running up to reception, sounding like designer, “Git Git Git! Brrrrrraaap!” Telling everyone to pay up, even though none of those assistants have anything to do with you not getting paid… hell, if you’re playing this fantasy in your mind, you probably haven’t been paid in a while and you just need lunch money at this point. 

But Chance is over here, happy as all hell though... no mean mugging, no pistol whipping. This is just raucous joy. Freedom is in his hands and “this is his part… nobody else speak.” To be honest I didn’t think we’d get an independent artist this side of Macklemore to do as well as Chance has. The precedent that this has set is and will be considered historic. Currently, labels are already trying to figure out what the hell to do with kids like Chance. If Chance The Rapper doesn’t want what “Generic Records” has to offer, then Generic Records now has to figure out what in the hell Chance wants. And it’s that kind of power that artists haven’t had before.

There is already a clear generational gap between the artists who had to make radio friendly pop hits at the demand of their label and the artists who do as they please. And the crazy part is, the gap isn’t that wide. New trails are being blazed and everyone who has been playing it the old way is trying to put up their best poker face and pretend that this isn’t scaring the ever-living shit out of them. 

But there have been casualties along the way. The sobering bit about this performance is the fact that we have to deal with two roads here… the first is Chano’s road of independence. Here he’s kicked ass, given Satan a swirly, is still not selling his mixtape no matter how much they sound like albums, and has Apple paying him god knows how much. For all we know, he’s probably been asked to sell his soul a billion times, but the kid just won’t budge. He’s got his heart boxed up and shut tighter than Pandora’s… on the other end, we have Weezy. No shade to throw at the man, he’s a legend, no taking that away from him... but damn, if he ain’t being treated like a chump. No artist of his stature should have to deal with the shady business dealings that he has, and yet here we are, it’s like we’re watching a free man perform next to his brother in shackles.

But we still get some optimism for Wayne as he says that he’s gonna let the labels rob him like Ryan Lochte… which means he won’t in case you’ve been living under a rock this summer. But, in the words of DJ Khaled… I don’t think THEY wanted you to see this performance. Chance even says that he was turned down multiple times for this specific performance until Ellen finally said yes. I don’t think THEY wanted you to see Chance and Wayne up on the same stage together, seeing where two extremes can take you. You can be a caged songbird or you can be a free agent… it was clear, right there on that stage. The crazy thing is, not everyone is gonna know where they fall. Everyone wants to have the power of a free agent, be able to have everyone trying to accommodate your demands and seduce you with fame and riches… but too many people have chains and cages waiting. Choose wisely. 

 

Free Weezy tho. 

"Cudi and Kanye Is For The Children"

I wasn’t going to write about this. Was thinking to myself, “don’t do it man, you already write about Kanye too much on your blog, stop stanning and write something else.” For those who think I write too much about Kanye 1. Not Sorry 2. I’ve got one more major piece about him coming up in my video essay series and you can stop whining because I will write about other things too. But I’ve got to get this off my chest. I don’t want to live in a world where Kanye and Kid Cudi have beef. It isn’t fun to watch, and there is zero entertainment factor. I don’t wanna hear Ye diss tracks, I don’t want to hear Cudi diss tracks. I highly doubt that either of them would do that, but at the same time if you would’ve asked me about the other things that I would highly doubt happening, this beef would’ve been one of them. 

And for what? Hey, maybe Kanye is in the wrong here, maybe he did hurt little brother Cudi’s feelings. But c’mon, can’t we keep this out of the public eye? Not one of us fans has a single stake in the matter except for the fact that we might not be getting more music from these two any time soon, and if that happens… well that’s a damn shame, because every kid right now in hip hop needs to thank Cudi and Kanye, for damn near everything. Anybody with their wack “tiny tim” singing held up by the crutches of autotune, thank Kanye and Cudi. They’’re the only reason you’re not getting laughed off stage. Anybody who thinks they were the first people to make it cool and mainstream to be sad in hip hop and sing melodies that sound like you’re perpetually crying, nah fam… you thank Cudi and Ye for that.

Man I remember what it was like, when I first listened to Pursuit of Happiness, I was a depressed-ass little kid with a bunch of insecurities. When I say I had a bunch of them… bruh, my insecurities had insecurities, I had anxieties trying to size themselves up to my other fears like “yo, why am I not worth being worried about?! Be sad lil homie! Yeah, go kick rocks if you ain’t gonna recognize where your insomnia comes from, thaaaat’s right, Inferiority Complex right here! Reppin’ Freud all day!”  

So while I had anxiety disorders fighting a turf war in my head, selling bad thoughts on the corner like crack, all I had was that music. Man that was my medicine, no lie. Anyone who knows me in real life knows that this music has probably saved my life. 2Pac would roll down the street and do a drive-by on my demons for me. Slim Shady would bust out that chainsaw and and hand me a hatchet and we’d go monster hunting… But the thing was… I never felt as strong as these guys… When the music stopped, I just didn’t feel at home in my own skin. No one killed my demons. No one gentrified the ghetto of my mind. The gutters still had piss flowing down them. I just hated where I was in life, I didn’t like being scared, I didn’t like being sad. I felt weak… I just wanted to be happy. What was a kid to do?

I don’t know how I found it, but it was like finding the holy grail… like the actual holy grail… from “Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade.” Remember at the end of the movie when there were all those crazy, gaudy cups and only one of them was the Holy Grail? And there’s that one dude who drank from the glittering chalice of gold and jewels but then he drank it and turned into a craisin? Then Harrison Ford stepped over that corpse and was like, “Bruh… Jesus didn’t have gold to make cups… homie was a carpenter!” So he found that dusty clay cup and drank the holy water.

There were two songs that really helped get me  through my over-inflated self doubts and fears… Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness” and Kanye’s “Welcome To Heartbreak” These two songs were the first songs on a mainstream level at the time that were really speaking to how I felt without posturing. It was okay to feel sad sometimes, no need to run away from it. I think I spent most of my childhood trying to run from fears only to look over my shoulder and see they were bigger and badder than ever. I also learned that you could listen to “sad” music that didn’t necessarily feel sad. There was a joy and wonder to the production of those two songs,  and Cudi’s vocals on each of the hooks sounded so damn soothing. It was like honey tea on a sore throat. My fav music was hip hop, I knew I could’ve gotten this sentimental content in other genres, but I loved hip hop too much to spend too much time elsewhere. Kanye and Cudi were filling emotional voids with their music. 

“I’m on the pursuit of Happiness and I know, 

everything that glitters ain’t always gonna be gold,

I’ll be fine, once I get it… I’ll be good.” 

Like I said… Medicine. You know you heard that melody when reading those lyrics. 

“My friend showed me pictures of his kids/And all i could show him was pictures of my cribs.”

 

I related to Ye and Cudi. I related to being surrounded by every reason to be happy and still feeling hollow inside. I was like the Tin Man, just knocking on my chest hearing echoes. Somewhere along the way I found my heart, and I think the music helped in paving the yellow brick road that took me there.

There’s kids out there, kids that need the music. So seeing this back and forth doesn’t make me pick a side, it doesn’t make me want to see someone win… we all lose. I’m not gonna promote a black man tearing another black man down, so I have no opinion on who should do what other then I hope they reconcile. I hope we have more “Beautiful mornings” to hear and more music for these kids to hum along to when they feel alone. To Cudi and Kanye, Listen to the kids bro!

Kanye's Greek Tragedy

I’ve been doing a lot of research into Kanye’s live shows recently (new video essay on the way soon) and I realized that Kanye never did a tour for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy… That’s actually kind of crazy when you think about it. The best that we got from him was that Coachella performance. I remember where I was, in college watching it when I should’ve been studying. The thing I remembered the most about it was the giant background that stood behind him. A giant relief sculpture that was a replica of A small part of the east frieze of the Pergamon Altar. The real Pergamon Altar was built during the reign of Freek King Emends II in the 2nd century BC. It’s located in the acropolis of the ancient Greek City of Pergamon in Asia Minor… Yes, I just wikipedia’d it’s location, but in case you wanna go globe trotting for it, thank me later. 

The interesting aspect of the sculpture is the narrative. According to Max Kunze “Der Pergamonaltar. Seine Geschichte Entdeckung und Reconstruction:”  Athena, the city goddess of Pergamon, breaks the Giant Alkyoneus’ contact to the earth, from which the mother of the Giants, Gaia, emerges. According to legend, Alkyoneus was immortal only as long as he touched the ground, where the power of his mother could flow through him. The eastern frieze concludes with Ares, the god of war, who goes into battle with a chariot and pair of horses. His horses rear up in front of a winged Giant.

The parallel here to Kanye’s life is most interesting is the fact that in the story Alkyoneus was only immortal as long as he touched the ground, because it was from the ground where the power of his mother could flow within him. Complex stated it was likely Kanye honoring his mother Donda. What makes this so great to me though is that all of this went without explanation from the man himself. If nobody watching the show knew anything about Ancient Greek art, people would probably assume that the man was just trying to be artistic for its own sake.

The album was about magnitude and ego, and here was an art piece that definitely projected that feeling, but with a much more tender subtext. Here was a man who saw himself as a god amongst men but still receiving his strength from his mother’s love. In the mythology Gaia is the very personification of the earth and the mother of all life and the who also gave birth to the Titans who themselves were the parents of many Olympian gods. It’s touching to see an artist still speak to the goodness of his mother in such subtle, yet fascinating ways.

The Greatest Verse 2Pac Ever Wrote

Well this is pretty damn eerie. I knew I was gonna write about Tupac today. I was listening to Me Against The World this morning… I log in to my computer and I see that today is the 20th anniversary of his death. Talk about Divine Inspiration.

Tupac is in my top 5 dead or alive, easily. Pac’s influence is unparalleled in hip hop, and I don’t care if you can’t recite more than 5 songs from him, he was great, you should listen to his albums. I think there was a period were it became cliche to be a fan of Tupac, sort of the way that junior high kids thought they were experts of rock music because their older brother introduced them to Stairway To Heaven. In some ways that cliche still lives on, but now enough time has passed that you can meet a kid who’s never listened to a single one of his albums. 

The funny thing about Pac though, is that he’s not necessarily known as being one of the best lyricists ever. I mean you’ve got Nas, Biggie, Jay, Em, 3 Stacks, they’re all better lyricists than 2Pac. When I see lyricist, I’m talking about a wordsmith, one who prides himself in the nuances and technicalities of lyric writing. But Pac has his moments. His finest moment, in my opinion is his song “If I Die 2Night”

It’s a hell of an intro to his album “Me Against The World.” In the song, Pac spits the best verse of his entire career. Period. It encapsulates everything about him while showing a dexterity in his lyricism that should shut up anyone who claims he wasn’t a great writer. 

"They say p*ssy and paper is poetry power and pistols

Plottin on murderin motherf****s 'fore they get you

Picturin pitiful punk niggaz coppin pleas

Puffin weed as I position myself to clock G's

My enemies scatter in suicidal situations

Never to witness the wicked shit that they was facin

Pockets is packed with presidents, pursue your riches

Evadin the playa hatin tricks, while hittin switches

Bi***s is bad-mouth, cause brawlin motherf***ers is bold

But y'all some hoes, the game should be sewed

I'm sick of psychotic society somebody save me

Addicted to drama so even mama couldn't raise me

Even the preacher and all my teachers couldn't reach me

I run in the streets and puffin weed wit my peeps

I'm duckin the cop, I hit the weed as I'm clutchin my glock

Niggaz is hot when I hit the block, what if I die tonight?"

2Pac would be right at home in today’s landscape of music. His style of rapping was more musical than most at the time of his reign, and there were many times in which you could tell he was more concerned with executing a better melodic structure than a technical syllabic rhyming structure. For example, Biggie had an impeccable flow with internal rhyme but without much melody, The delivery was more staccato and on the beat with heavy punch on the end of lines

 

From “Juicy” (caps to signal syllable emphasis)

Super Nintendo, Sega GeneSIS!

When I was dead broke man I couldn’t picture THIS!”

 

Compared to Pac (extra letters to match flow style) 

From “So Many Tears” 

"Back in elementary, I thrived on misery

Left me alone I grew up amongst a dyin breed

Inside my mind couldn't find a place to rest

until I got that Thuuug Life tatted on my chest

Tell me can you feeel me? I'm not livin in the past, you wanna laaast

Be tha first to blaast, remember Kato"

A lot of times Pac would stretch the middle of lines almost like he was lightly pushing on a vocal whammy bar. The change in pitch would exclusively be used for emphasis on words to drive the point home and bring deeper emotion to the song.

But his verse on If I Die 2Nite marries his technicality and emotional navigation of his lyrics the best. The most impressive part about it is how long he sustains consistent alliteration throughout the verse. All of the lines easily roll off the tongue this way and make the very harsh subject matter of the words sound even more rhythmic and easier to stomach. 

My favorite line “I’m sick of psychotic society, somebody save me,” embodies the song for me. The entire thesis of the song can be found in the line. We witness the paranoia beginning to build as it became a constant theme of his music. It also sheds light on the cynicism he directs towards the world at large, while still trying to enlighten the listener to accept that there is something wrong with society. He calls for someone to save him, acknowledging that the injustices of the world are drowning him and no matter what his image may say about him, he is not above succumbing to it. It was only the first of many songs foretelling his imminent death, but none of the others strive to dazzle you as much as this one. This is acrobatics on a tight rope without a net, as he beckons us to nod our head and smile at his skill, while calling us to empathize with his fears. 

R.I.P. Always

How He Makes The Beat Pump - Knxwledge's Sidechain Heavy

I’ve been listening to a lot of beats lately. Just beats, no rhyming. Sometimes you just don’t wanna deal with lyrics. I also think J Dilla is a god and prefer to listen only to his instrumentals. “The Shining” is a great album, but I know I’m not in the minority in wanting to just listen to his beats. 

I’ve been exploring and trying to listen to more producers who may not be getting any notable love. I plan on sharing my findings here, but today I want to talk about a specific preference that was guiding one of my listening sessions.

I was listening to a producer who I will not name, because I do think he is talented and don’t think my criticism comes from anything other than a temporary personal preference. As I was playing his beats which relied much more on melody and instrumentation, I noticed that the beats were a bit airy to me. It had a sort of otherworldly, ethereal feeling at times, so much so that I felt a sonic void. My ears didn’t feel like they were eating anything more than some light pita bread. But I wanted that steak man. Wasn’t trying to diet. Not today. 

I’ve known about “Knxwledge” for a while now. He’s a producer and one half of “Nx Worries” a duo including Anderson .Paak and himself. He’s on Stones Throw records. He was also featured on Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp A Butterfly,” producing the song “Momma”

"Momma" has a very distinct sloppy sound to it. It rattles with metallic cowbell like production and a heavy baseline with punchy kicks that feel like they are punching through ballistic gel. 

The jazz samples also jingle on down very nicely, precipitating through the harsher elements like a drainpipe.

But anyways, I wasn’t listening to Momma… I mean I am now that I’m writing about it. But I went over to Apple Music and just searched “Knxwledge” And immediately started playing The first track off of his “Buttrskotch” project. I was instantly in the zone (If that sounded like an ad, it wasn’t.)  It’s like that feeling you get when you’re eating mom’s home cooking, and she makes that pasta that you haven’t had in a while, but when you bite into it, you’re like “Holy sh*t! I forgot how good that was!” If you can’t relate, then I’m sorry that your mother is a horrible cook and you couldn’t use your imagination. 

But the pumping kick and bass really coursed through and into my ears like a heartbeat, and I’m not trying to be lyrical when I write that as much as a heartbeat is the closest thing I can compare it too. A lot of his beats have this “pulse” to it that really drives it. I knew it had something to do with the way it was mixed but I didn’t know there was a name for it. It’s called “Sidechain Compression.”

Basically, in a very rudimentary explanation, what Knxwledge does is allow the output of a track determine the variable action of a compressor on a completely different track. To break it down even further… Let’s say you were mixing a vocal track, but you wanted the voice track to not feel overwhelmed by the music, with sidechaining you would have a compressor react to the audio waveform of the vocal track, so when the voice gets louder the compression is more pronounced, basically allowing the voice to sort of “push around” the sound that’s around it. 

I will link to a couple videos below that explain it with much more expertise than I could.

But basically this compression is what gives Knowledge’s beats his “pulsing” and “pumping” feel. Now mind you, beat makers have been doing this forever and Knxwledge has not created nor innovated this technique. Basically what beat makers like him do is apply the sidechain effect to the kick drum and it perforates through the music around it affected by the compressor. For me, it’s an incredibly satisfying sound and really makes everything sound more full. This is all preference for me, but it’s a nice little trick that makes the music almost feel more tangible. The pulse of the beat with this effect now demands my attention and I am listening. 

 

Check out these links videos for more info on sidechain compression.

Fresh Beats - "Penthouse" By Wun Two

I've been vibing to the lush beats of Wun Two lately to calm my nerves. Check out his 2014 album "Penthouse" at the link below. It's just some simple soothing boom bap to listen to while sipping on some coffee or driving home at night. The way he flips samples 

Link to full length album on iTunes: https://itun.es/us/UOsG4

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/5MWhs2N3eO78ppIYmRUzmH

Marvel's Luke Cage And Why We Need A Hip Hop Hercules

Netflix will soon premiere it’s new series, Luke Cage. To say I’m excited is an understatement. I think that comic books are the hip hop of literature.

Alright… calm down now, how the hell do you make that comparison?

It always seemed to be a medium in favor of the common man. In the words of Ol’ Dirty Bastard, it’s “for the children.” It can be great at airing out tensions against injustice, which seems like a no brainer since you can probably rattle off hundreds of superheroes whose main focus is to restore justice in the world. 

 

 Black Panther kicking the Klan's ass.

Black Panther kicking the Klan's ass.

I mean the main focus of the police is supposed to be to restore justice, but there ain’t nothing hip hop about that institution.

But there’s a rebelliousness in the way comics are made, and how they have succeeded even though they have long been considered “low” culture or just kid's stuff. And now here we are and it’s a multi-billion dollar industry, primarily due to Marvel movies and merchandise. Much like the ascent of hip hop. 

Okay, it still feels like you’re reaching.

Aside from the philosophical reaches though, the crossover has always been there. Marvel Comics still remains king mostly due to their marketability and their ability to keep churning out decent to great films. But I think there’s more to it than that… they really seem to have their finger on the pulse of the culture pretty well. Last year we saw a constant string of comic book covers inspired by famous hip hop albums. The crossovers were often clever and some were down right masterpieces artistically. But the crossover capabilities have always been there. 

 

 

Of course we all know about Ghostface Killah’s alter Ego “Tony Starks” named after… yeah do I really need to explain the namesake? 

 

Okay okay, go on.

Then you have MF Doom, named after one of the most formidable villains in Marvel’s history (yet we can’t seem to get a good movie version of him anytme soon.)

 

So why is this all so important to you? I can make analogies between art forms all day long.

See but the thing is... It all goes back to Greek myths. We as people act like we’ve progressed in so many ways, but to be honest, there’s so many things we cling to like a little kid clutching his first Hershey’s bar. We need heroes in our lives, and we find them anywhere we can. We listen to Jay Z talk about going from coke to a mic and that uplifts people who have never seen a single kilo of cocaine in their whole lives. It’s the myth that makes the man in hip hop. He says it himself “All the hustler’s, they love it just to see one of us make it.”

 

So you’re saying that we all just wanna live through somebody.

Yeah! Somebody bigger than us. 2Pac is practically superman for the culture. Go anywhere in the world and you can find that man’s face plastered on some God-forsaken decrepit building like he’s the symbol of coming redemption, but in all actuality, he was just a mortal man gunned down like a dog on the Las Vegas Strip. But nah, we never focus on that... why would we? It’s about believing that anything can be overcome even if the whole world is telling us that it can’t. 

On the flip side, we feel pain when we see the opposite. When we hear that Afrika Baambataa most likely molested kids, it hurts our hearts to see that the one we thought was the hero all along, was really the villain.

Word. 

Kanye screams out “Yeezy Yeezy Yeezy just jumped over jump man” and every fan screams that along like they partnered with Adidas too. There’s catharsis in living vicariously. We want to believe in another’s strength so that we may have some too.

Luke Cage came out of the blaxploitation era, his first appearance being in “Luke Cage, Hero For Hire #1”

And wasn’t he just relegated to that time period?

Yeah, pretty much and he most likely would’ve stayed there if it wasn’t for the resurgence of the Marvel Universe in film and TV. To be fair he was nothing more than a C-list character for most of his existence. But the over saturation of the market when it comes to superhero territory has worked in his favor.

 

 

Because we don’t see any black people being super?

Yes and no. You gotta remember that we’ve had Black Panther for a while. 

Stan Lee just re-appropriating the black man’s real life struggles.. smh.

No no! Funny enough, the character was created just months before the real Black Panther party was formed.

That’s damn near prophetic…

Like I’ve been saying, they’ve had their pulse on the culture for a minute. After a while you just get tired of the same old yarns of superhero origin stories… Parents got shot in front of you? That sucks. Came from an alien planet… can’t relate. 

Why you gotta do Batman/Superman like that?

Oh, you got bit by a radioactive sider? That’s cute… The stories are fine and forced and ridiculous, just the way we love them, but the media has done a good job of just forcing them down our throats like a mama bird to her young. 

I just gagged.

But the thing is, Luke Cage’s origin story isn’t quite so spectacular. It’s actually strangely grounded. He's imprisoned for possession of heroin that was planted on his person, all because the homie who did it thought Luke Cage stole his chick.

Bruh…

In prison, he’s full of rage, and is brutally beaten by a sadistic guard. Along the way a scientist recruits him to experiment on him and turn him into some sort of Captain America type dude. But of course, our baton happy guard doesn’t think Black Lives Matter and messes with the experiment hoping to kill Luke.

Of course…

Dude is zapped to hell and instead becomes basically a black superman, but his clothes are fresher and he can’t fly. 

Yo, better to be fresh than fly.

Very funny… But the most interesting part comes afterwards, when he decides to use his powers for profit, turning his life completely around in his favor. You gotta hand it to the guy, he’s got the hustle and you can’t knock it. If that ain’t the most hip hop comic book story this side of an Ed Piskor book, then I don’t know what is. 

They got the homie playing the system and winning… I like that.

 

Whether intentional or not, Luke Cage is the comic embodiment of the broken down black man refusing to take one more blow, one more hit and in the midst of suffering, becoming indestructible. 

Bruh, don’t you think that’s just a bit much? Luke Cage ain’t saving no kids in Chicago... or sending dirty cops to prison. Not in real life. 

I know I know… I would never claim something so disrespectful. But culture is important, and stories help to reinforce culture. The pride and self esteem of people groups are reinforced by economics, community, tradition and myth. 

I guess when you put it that way…

So to hear the fact that every episode of this series is going to be named after a Gang Starr song and feature a hip hop laden soundtrack and be full of black characters isn’t just about fitting some type of diversity quota. This is about presenting a surviving culture as a courageous one, one that fights back in the midst of oppression and persecution. Both a villainous oppression and a systemic one.

 

Which kind of goes back to my Hercules example. Black people in America often feel like life has been this one big test. And it’s true, we haven’t had it easy, with every mountain conquered there seems to be a higher one to climb. In the mythology of Hercules, there are 12 labors that he had to endure under the service of King Eurystheus. 

King Who?

Just go along with it. The story goes that some wicked Queen made Hercules go mad and kills his wife and kid

Damn…

Yeah I know, it’s heavy… sorry to ruin your day. And in order to atone for this, he sought an Oracle and was given 10 labors to perform (slaying a Lion, slaying a Hydra and many more.) Once he did these things, he would be granted immortality…

 Hercules vs the Hydra. Basically an ancient comic when you really think about it. 

Hercules vs the Hydra. Basically an ancient comic when you really think about it. 

Bro, black and brown people ain’t been having it hard because we killed our woman and our kids. What’s your point?

I agree, I’m not making the connection to the fictitious crime. Systematically, black people haven’t done anything to deserve the labors that they must go through in order to achieve freedom and equal opportunity, but the labors are and have been real. From just trying to drink at the right fountain back in the 60s, to trying to simply not get killed by the police today, there are still many labors to fight. But the interesting thing about Hercules, is we don’t really remember him for winning these labors and achieving immortality… Can you name for me all of the labors he fought and won?

Nah, I didn’t show up to those lectures, I just had my roommate sign me in to my ancient Greek history class.

Exactly… We don’t remember Hercules for the obstacles he overcame.. We simply remember him for being strong. And sometimes, in these days, that’s all we can ask of ourselves. Is to be strong. And sometimes all we need is to hear a song, or read a book that tells a story of strength. It doesn’t matter that Luke Cage wins, in so much that it matters that he’s strong and refuses to back down. We're seeing our kids get gunned down by cops... Seeing our fantasy hero get lit up by bullets and not shed one drop of blood... I'm sorry it means something to us, because we wish that was us. We wish that was possible... but it's not... it's all just a fantasy.

 "You might hate my hoodie, but you can't bring me down. You keep shooting but I stand my ground."

"You might hate my hoodie, but you can't bring me down. You keep shooting but I stand my ground."

When the real world won't grant us real justice, we entertain fantasies of immortality. But in fictional symbolism, we can find ideals to strive for. Maybe our kids will never be bulletproof, but we can fight for a bulletproof community. And it matters to the culture to see strength in all colors, classes and forms. Strength is contagious in numbers and is grown when tested, so long live the myths, long live the culture, and make sure you watch this thing on Netflix once it comes out! 

Rant over

Kanye's Pablo Tour A Populist Performance Art Piece

There’s something so dope about the way Kanye has set up the staging of his latest tour. Last time he went on tour he postured like a god on a high mountain. At the ground level, fans clamored around the stage as Kanye seemed to position himself above them as someone authoritative, like a god. 

This time around, he’s straight up floating over their heads on a suspended stage. The approach this time seems less about posturing though, and more about facilitating a greater experience for the audience unlike it ever has been before. By elevating himself out of the crowds reach, Kanye makes room for them in a space that he would usually occupy, they have become a part of the show just as much as he has. The spectators have become participants in this show instead of bystanders. 

But at the same time, there is room for those who don’t wish to be in the midst of the mania, as some sit idly off to the side or up in the nosebleeds just taking it all in, no one has a bad seat at this show, shifting the paradigm for what it means to go to a major artists concert. Instead of mere posturing for applause, the concert has become one great party of elation and hype. I don’t think the connotation is intentional but in a nation right now where the political landscape really seems to be about those in power trying to cause us to believe that the populous is in it’s best interest… Kanye’s approach is refreshing. He’s still technically unreachable, but there is a sort of populist aesthetic to the show. The crowd feels valued, a part of something bigger; not simply dismissed as step stones. Granted, the movement only lasts for two hours, but for some it can mean the world. I can’t wait to be a part of it when he comes to LA. 

Sidenote: Kanye says that Ridley Scott was an inspiration for the tour visuals, and I knew I thought I was getting major blade runner vibes for a reason. It’s almost like we’re getting an industrial/minimalist version of Ye’s “Glow In The Dark” Tour.

My Opinion On Not Having An Opinion about Frank Ocean

“I don’t want to give no opinions.” That’s at least what I thought when I started this endeavor. And for the most part I still hold to that. These video essays you’re seeing from me, that’s the side of me that really really cares. This blog might be something else. It might be me just ranting and trying to figure out how all of this noise works. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve kinda been obsessed with a little bit of everything. Right now it’s music. I have a deep fascination with Kanye’s whole thing he’s had going on for the past twelve years. It’s a big reason why I started making these video essays. It just felt unhealthy to obsess about how much I liked something without making something constructive and educational out of it. There was something he said way back when he released The Life Of Pablo at Madison Square Garden that got me thinking…

Remember when he showed that trailer for that “video game” he made? About his mom? I thought it was fresh, others just kinda went “meh.” Kanye was having none of that. “Y’all act like this shit is regular!” He said. 

Part of me is like, “yo, chill Kanye, they ain’t gotta like the game. The other part of me is like… damn. It’s true. We walk around like everything is regular, got iPhones with Pokemon in our hands 100x more powerful than the desktop computers we had 20 years ago, and we still complaining when our Uber doesn’t show up on time. Something odd about that to me. It’s like we’re just eating and eating and eating, and we don’t even know if the food tastes good or anything anymore. New album drops, *gulp* done, what else you got? Next album, *gulp* done, what else you got?

That’s why I’m kind of glad that Frank Ocean made us all suffer and wait for this album to come out. And then when we all thought music was going to finally drop he just showed us a live streaming video of him cutting wood. Then the “album” dropped, or was it really the album? And then “Nikes” Dropped and then we heard that hypnotic beat while the homie was going “I got twooo versions” in the music video. Then we get “Blond” and “Boys Don’t Cry” and the internet at this point probably looks like a wasteland of dead horses while bloggers and twitter users beat them into the slushy, blood filled, crimson ground at this point.

What does “Blond” really say about Identity? I don’t really know yet. I might make an essay about that, really delve into what Frank is talking about. But right now, I don’t really feel like analyzing it. Something about the music is just telling me to wait. Or maybe that’s just me feeling way to full of this flash in the pan internet culture this week. 

“I will say though, I think “Nights” is the best track on here.” The way it builds, the melody just keeps building and evolving like a staircase up to this climax that doesn’t really explode but once you’re about 3 minutes in, it’s just pure emotion up there. Is this album overhyped? Hell yes it is. Are we thinking too deep about it? Probably. But we’re thinking, we’re at least acting like we care about it, at least for this week. So I gotta respect the homie Frank... he got kids to be patient for a year and some change. 

 

M.I.A. premieres New Song "Go Off" featuring Skrillex & Blaqstarr

M.I.A. shuns her namesake and comes back out from obscurity with a strong track featuring Skrillex & Blaqstarr. It was tough to tell when we were going to hear new music especially after perceived label struggles and M.I.A. threatening to leak the album out of frustration. The newest single for her new record "AIM" might be the beginning of the end for the English artist. She says it is likely to be her final album, as well as her "cleanest."

The bouncy and resonant production gives a great atmosphere and M.I.A.'s playfully intense attitude is always a welcome sound. 

"AIM" is due to release on September 9th. 

[Video] Chance the Rapper brings down the house with tribute to Muhammad Ali

"When I get out of boxing, I want to do all I can to help people. What's the best thing I'm gonna do? Get ready to meet God." - Muhammad Ali

I can't really say what I was expecting from Chance's performance last night at the ESPY's, but for some reason I wasn't anticipating an original song, or for it to be only sung. It opens almost like an old broadway musical number. The build into the chorus is surprising as Chance uses Ali's famous boasts and taunts often used to build himself up pre-fight. He takes the famous verbal jabs and re-contextualizes them to speak highly of God and heaven. 

The snippets of Ali being interviewed are equally moving.

"God is watching me." Said the champion. "God don't praise me because I beat Joe Frazier, God don't give nothing about Joe Frazier, God don't care nothing about England or America as far as wealth. It's all his. He wants to know how do we treat each other. How do we help each other."

As Chance since the chorus, the lines really put life in perspective... "I was a rock, I was a rock and roller, back in my day, but now I'm just a rock." 

To frame Ali's death as a moment of the champion reaching perfection and true solace after a lifetime dedicated to fighting brawny opponents, racism, injustice and ultimately a debilitating disease, is nothing short of a reverential tribute fitting for a real life hero.

Desiigner's Newest Song "Timmy Turner" Is Coming Soon

When the XXL Freshman 2016 list came out and announced Desiigner on the roster, there wasn't much surprise. The energetic and hypnotic mumblings of "Panda" had taken the country by storm. This 18 year old is definitely directly influenced by Future and his sound almost sounds like a carbon copy. Except when this "freestyle" surfaced a couple of weeks ago. It seemed that Desiigner had much more up his sleeve than dabbing and animal references.

 

This is the hook for an upcoming song titled "Timmy Turner," and the melody is beyond infectious. The cartoon network reference is a bit disarming as it illustrates the main character of "The Fairly Oddparents" cartoon wishing for a "burner." The idea of Timmy Turner brandishing a pistol is both hilarious and somewhat depressing given the melodic tone of the song. Fans have been chomping at the bit for anything more from the "Panda" artist. Just a little while ago, Desiigner tweeted that the song was about to drop. We will wait and see.

 

 

BANKS Provokes Us With A Very Disturbing Music Video (NSFW)

After being m.i.a. for a while, BANKS is back with a very NSFW video (Nudity is not graphic, but lyrics and content are racy enough to not warrant watching this in the office) entitled "F*** With Myself."

The interesting aspect of the video is the obvious provocation in which Banks flips the use of the F word three times. The entire song is seemingly a triple entendre. One could interpret the first context of the use of the word to connotate BANKS being satisfied with her own personal sexuality outside of another partner. However, that seems to on the nose even though she most likely knows that will be on the listener's mind. 

The second connotation of the word would be in the new context. To "F*** with" as in to "Get along" with. She is letting us know that has reached a point in her life where she gets along fine without anyone else. This is the most clear message of the song, but there is a third meaning that seems to sneak in. 

The third context of "F*** with" would be to "aggravate" or "provoke." In the end, she sets fire to this prosthetic bust that seems to be somewhat modeled after her own likeness while she sings "So I F*** with myself more than anybody else." Is she tormenting herself. Does she drive herself crazy with her antics? The meaning of a work of art can often be in the eye of the beholder and it doesn't seem too far off to assume that maybe three interpretations might make for good company when watching this video.