Hip Hop Music Reviews – The Source http://thesource.com Sat, 24 Feb 2018 20:23:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.3 On The Rise: Jonny Vulgar Newest EP Titled “Vulgar Season Vol. 1” http://thesource.com/2017/02/20/on-the-rise-jonny-vulgar-newest-ep-titled-vulgar-season-vol-1/ Mon, 20 Feb 2017 17:14:21 +0000 http://thesource.com/?p=388635 Jonny Vulgar is an emerging artist from Long Island, who originally gained attention as 1/2 of the rap group BFAM ( Brotha From Another Motha). Now pushing his solo career, he’s focused putting L.I back on the map and carrying on the tradition of great Puerto Rican rappers. With versatile flows/styles Vulgar delivers the brutal […]

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Jonny Vulgar is an emerging artist from Long Island, who originally gained attention as 1/2 of the rap group BFAM ( Brotha From Another Motha).

Now pushing his solo career, he’s focused putting L.I back on the map and carrying on the tradition of great Puerto Rican rappers. With versatile flows/styles Vulgar delivers the brutal truth with clever wordplay, covers topics from street life to politics.

Check out his latest project on soundcloud

 

 

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Dave East’s ‘Kairi Chanel’ Depicts Various Inspirational Factors and Hard work http://thesource.com/2016/10/10/dave-easts-kairi-chanel-depicts-various-inspirational-factors-and-hard-work/ Mon, 10 Oct 2016 05:08:13 +0000 http://thesource.com/?p=376995 Harlem is the territory of Dave East — enduring struggle and pinpointing inspiration/motivation, all at once. “Only motivation I ever needed was section 8,” East rapped on Nipsey Hussle’s “Clarity.” Applying his words as a paintbrush and the studio utilized as his canvas, East’s success thrives off of real life and vivid memory. From Change of Plans to his […]

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Harlem is the territory of Dave East — enduring struggle and pinpointing inspiration/motivation, all at once. “Only motivation I ever needed was section 8,” East rapped on Nipsey Hussle’sClarity.” Applying his words as a paintbrush and the studio utilized as his canvas, East’s success thrives off of real life and vivid memory. From Change of Plans to his recent body of work Kairi Chanel, it’s been a steady climb of unforced movement. Manager Wayno and East’s tactics haven’t been used with force; if the situation isn’t right, patience becomes key. There’s a nostalgic feeling within this latest release – that many “hip-hop heads” wanted badly — specifically from a New York artist. Although it’s not his debut album, a lot of inaugural listeners tuned in for this project.

In March of this year, East and long-time girlfriend welcomed their daughter Kairi Chanel, into the world. Kairi became the inspiration behind the title of the project. East told Billboard, “I feel it’s my best work to date. I named it after my daughter, because she’s the greatest and most defining moment of my life.” He continued on with, “everything I’ve done up until now has led me to her, so I translated that into music.”

Dave East's 'Kairi Chanel' Depicts Various Inspirational Factors and Hard work

Life most certainly isn’t the same for the Def Jam-signee. What was once rain-filled days, has turned into sunshine. We’re passed the hype of the Nas cosign. We know East can spit, and we’re just interested about what his next line will be in a song — circling into his next move. Although Nas isn’t featured on the album, the intro track “It Was Written” was inspiration enough for East. His favorite album from Nas is “It Was Written,” writing his destiny that’s inherited from what he’s seen and learned. “Everybody keep telling me make a club record/ ‘you ain’t trapping no more, stop making drug records’/ you got a daughter bout to come, stop making thug records.” It’s the opening lines that was used during his XXL Freshman freestyle. From spending majority of his time working on his jump shot, to working on his next hook, East didn’t always see the path of music coming; basketball was his way out. After a six-month stint in jail, East returned to make music and let the hoop dreams go. “It took a lot to get this Rollie,” East began on the track “It Was Written.” Most certainly it did take a lot for him to get to this point.

On the album, we’re offered a little bit of everything.  East is able to have a certain raw attitude to his sound, yet keep it modern for more listeners to be lured to.  On “Type of Time” produced by Cardo, East displays this to the upmost of his ability. Utilizing a flow that has become revived, he shows no issue with mixing in truth with a likable cadence.

East demands attention and his tone is something you Can’t Ignore; no ignoring the hunger in his voice on the 2 Chainz-assisted track. Chainz asked East to “send him something he can really rap on, leading to the strong verses the two artist delivered – from Harlem to Atlanta. “Again” provides a similar attention-grabbing system, located from East’s beast-like delivery. But let’s keep in mind; East’s primary objective is now to get this sound out beyond Harlem, Ravenswood housing, and New York in general.

Focused in on getting his sound heard more, East inked a deal with Def Jam. “It’s at a time now where I really need a machine,” East told The Breakfast Club. “I’m not gonna say need, but it really helps what I’m trying to do, especially being from New York and not trying to stay in New York. As I told ya’ll before, I’m not trying to be underground or classified as a certain type of dude.” Some who listened to East’s music prior to signing the deal, say he has changed and they liked his music before. East responded saying “N***as Sign A New Deal And N***as Couldn’t Wait To Say “I Liked His Mixtapes And Music Before The Deal” Fucc Outta Here Ain’t S**t Changed!!!” Barely arguable, East does just that, maintaining the essence and roots that got him to this point, but taking it a step further with lyrics and production.

The first single released from the album was “Keisha,” the tell-all story of a Jamaica, Queens-native who ended up sleeping with East, before robbing him of jewelry, money, and even his phone. Story-driven to the max, East remains so clean and evocative with his lyrics – you feel like you’re in his shoes and you escape yourself for a little over four minutes. The track draws comparisons to Mobb Deep, Mos Def, and at times Lloyd Banks – if we’re speaking on narration.

Just when you thought the story-telling tracks couldn’t get any better, East delivers “Don’t Shoot.” We’re damn-near in crisis-type times in America, and artists are sharing their thoughts through different avenues. On “Don’t Shoot,” East takes us through the mind of a young boy in the neighborhood to a grown man who still faces obstacles with the law. Capturing the emotions numerous African-Americans deal with, he cleverly auto-tunes his voice for the adolescent portion of the song. Without a beat, this song will still hold weight and the message is timeless. 

Ain’t no more weed in the car sir, the blunt gone
I got my hands ups, officer what’s the problem?
Please don’t shoot me sir, I just had a daughter
Look here go a *gun shots sound off*

Collaboration wise, East connected with Fabolous, Beanie Sigel, The Game, 2 Chainz, Sevyn Streeter, and Jazzy Amra, and Harlem native Cam’ron. Production is grabbed from various producers, including Buda & Grandz, Triple A, Cardo, Mr. AuthenticPhonix Beats, Cashflo, JermMoney Montage, and Rich Icy. East captures the essence of New York, while creating his own essence of New York.

If older rappers and Hip-Hop heads wanted to voice their opinion on new rappers not embracing the culture properly – as it once was before, now is not the time. East embodies himself a true modern day emcee. This a project you can’t ignore.

I talked my way right up out the projects n***a
Put your mind to it, anything is possible haha

 

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Curren$y headlines benefit concert for Louisiana flood victims http://thesource.com/2016/08/25/curreny-headlines-benefit-concert-for-louisiana-flood-victims/ Fri, 26 Aug 2016 03:37:47 +0000 http://thesource.com/?p=373696 By now, if you live in, or have been to New Orleans, and haven’t attended a Larry Morrow event, you’re slacking. Ask DJ Envy and Angela Ye, or Fabolous, maybe Drake or Diddy, all people who have gotten the Larry Morrow nightlife experience. This latest event was something a little different. It was one of those, “It […]

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By now, if you live in, or have been to New Orleans, and haven’t attended a Larry Morrow event, you’re slacking. Ask DJ Envy and Angela Ye, or Fabolous, maybe Drake or Diddy, all people who have gotten the Larry Morrow nightlife experience. This latest event was something a little different. It was one of those, “It really feels good to be here” events. Flood The Love, a benefit concert for Louisiana’s flood victims had a big turnout. Cool kids, hipsters, creatives, other musicians, even a few local politicians, plus so many more made it feel like we were in a who’s who of New Orleans family reunion.

Who is Larry Morrow?

After interviewing him backstage at Flood the Love, aggressive, business minded, focused, relevant are just a few words used to describe Morrow. From growing up, looking up to Diddy, to throwing a party with him during Essence Festival weekend, this describes how Morrow most accurately views his career.

“An eye opening experience for me was when I was 20 years old, and King Los had just signed to Bad Boy, and he asked me to fly out to LA for a private party at Diddy’s house,” Morrow said. “I was having dinner with my sister and mom at the time, but I quickly picked up and hopped on a flight. Growing up I always looked at Diddy’s moves, and to be at his crib, feeling like I was overlooking the entire world, was truly eye opening.”

That wasn’t the only gem Morrow dropped during our conversation.

Who is Larry as a business man?

“I went from gambling my money at the casino, to working with the casino to make money,” he said.

From talking to him, it’s clear to see that he’s gotten everything out of the mud.

Morrow also hinted at a book he’s working on. He didn’t offer up a title, or too many details, but he say it was a self help book, and he gave us one major highlight from it.

“One of my biggest tips in business is to be a man of your word,” he explained. “It’s something I’ve always practiced, and it’s help me create, and sustain relationships with a lot of people in the industry.”

Flood The Love is a New Orleans family reunion

When Spitta headlines a show in New Orleans, expect any and everyone to pull up. Of course, the hipsters are going to be out in droves, but really expect to see everyone. Spitta ran thru a quick set so that he could swiftly transition over to Jet Lounge, an event that he hosts every Wednesday night at the House of Blues. Everyone was tuned in once Spitta hit the stage, whether white, black, politician, smoker, everyone wanted to hear what New Orleans’ most loyal mainstreamer had to say.

Curren$y opened the show by addressing a young man in the crowd who was yelling out song requests. He said, “You trying to request a song right now? This ain’t about us right now. This is about the 225 (Baton Rouge).” Spitta was joking, of course, but he did take every opportunity he could to remind everyone why we were there. Besides that, he put on an amazing show as usual. Hit after hit, the crowd knew every word, and I’m sure his energy attracted some new people to Jet Lounge. Morrow spoke with me about how he views Curren$y and talked about how he has the highest respect for him because of his solid connection to the city. Doing an event like Flood The Love on such short notice was really a blessing and the city surely appreciated it.

Opening up the show was Daniel Heartless, who has been like New Orleans’ golden child for a minute now. But now, with nods from K Camp, Keenan Lewis, and Juvenile, Heartless is taking everything to the next level. Rocking the show with Heartless Gang in the building, Heartless put on a show despite the fluctuating crowd during the time of his performance. This is an art within itself, and a challenge of staying focused on the task at hand. Mission accomplished.

Next up was Kourtney Heart. She dazzled, of course. She was able to bring the majority of the crowd’s attention directly to her, and once she had it, she blew the roof off of the place. With her combination of high energy dance records, and thought provoking love songs, Kourtney Heart captivated the audience, and left a lasting impression. She was perfect for a benefit concert, and 100 percent delivered.

Ambre’ Perkins is a superstar. Running with Kehlani, and Tsunami for sometime now, Perkins hasn’t allowed that to box her in. She’s carved a lane of her own, stuck to her guns with her own sound, and has put out two amazing projects, Wanderlust and 2090’s. Last night, she went completely Perkins up there. Finishing off the show with a beautifully painful song dedicated to the flood victims that left her with a rousing round of applause from the audience.

We were able to sit down with Perkins to talk about a few things, and she gave us the story on how she met Kehlani, saying, “That’s like big sis, I made a song about her once on SoundCloud and after putting it out, I was checking the SoundCloud and saw that she was the first person to listen to it. Not too long after, she hit me like I’m really feeling this. I later found out she was going on tour with G Eazy, and I told her I would come. From there, we built our relationship, which is now a sisterhood. She gives me advice, we look out for each other, you know, like real sisters”

Last but not least, PJ Morton brought the house down with his high energy. Performing his hit song, “New Orleans Girl,” Morton really had the crowd engaged and upbeat. The sound that he delivered on stage was a breath of fresh air and something the game desperately needs. It won’t be long before the entire world hears what he possesses, and he’s going to be on a level I don’t even know if he ever even imagined.

Let’s continue to help the victims of the flood in Louisiana. And if you’re from New Orleans, and you’re reading this, let’s remember we were here before, and our neighbors helped us. 

 

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Review: ScHoolBoy Q Makes A Strong Bid for “Album of The Year” With ‘Blank Face LP’ http://thesource.com/2016/07/11/review-schoolboy-q-makes-a-strong-bid-for-album-of-the-year-with-blank-face-lp/ Mon, 11 Jul 2016 19:50:07 +0000 http://thesource.com/?p=363178 In a year in which we’ve seen both formidable and lackluster bodies of work from both veterans and neophytes alike, ScHoolboy Q stakes a viable claim for album of the year with his sophomore major label release, Blank Face LP. Coming off his highly-praised major label debut, 2014’s Oxymoron, the masses have been anticipating ScHoolBoy Q’s next up-at-bat. Blank Face LP finds him […]

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In a year in which we’ve seen both formidable and lackluster bodies of work from both veterans and neophytes alike, ScHoolboy Q stakes a viable claim for album of the year with his sophomore major label release, Blank Face LP.

Coming off his highly-praised major label debut, 2014’s Oxymoron, the masses have been anticipating ScHoolBoy Q’s next up-at-bat. Blank Face LP finds him at his most skeptical and introspective, and while that’s not out of the ordinary for the 29-year-old Compton native, he delves deeper than we’ve seen previously with this new project.

The 17-track opus opens with “TorcH”—a five minute, 35 second track—which cracks open the window of nostalgia through which the LP takes place, while setting its dark, foreboding tone with help from multi-faceted Hip Hop/R&B crooner, Anderson .Paak. The intro is followed up by “Lord Have Mercy” featuring Swizz Beatz, a shorter, interlude-like track, that is a good breather following the five minute opening, which then leads into the album’s well-received two singles “THat Part” and “Groovy Tony/ Eddie Kane”. This speaks to Q’s skillful album sequencing and pacing, which has been a cut-above-average since his first album Setbacks, back in 2011, and has only seen refinement over his past five years of activity.

That’s the thing about Q, self-awareness is the fulcrum of his content and his career. He knows what he gets right and what he gets wrong, and at every outing instead of fleeing from the things he got “wrong,” he instead perfects them. Take for instance, “Big Body,” a track assisted by Tha Dogg Pound and produced by Tyler The Creator, serves as a more uptempo and fun track compared to the rest of the album. “Big Body” is a seamless, enjoyable gear-switch, whereas, on the Setbacks track “Rolling Stone,” one of the first entries by Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock and Q as Black Hippy, went a similar route but to more of a detriment to the overall sound of the album, which was largely disjointed, albeit enjoyable. With each project Q improves at curating the sonic textures of his album and Blank Face LP is a testament to that.

While the “gangster rap” genre—which he falls in by default—has had an identifiable sound in years past, Q experiments with the musical landscape of his projects, without it ever coming off as a reach. “Kno Ya Wrong,” for example, a two-part track featuring what was accurately described by Genius as Q’s “rendition of a bluesy/ODB-esque freeform flow,” is one of the more experimental tracks on the album. “Overtime” which features libidinous crooning by Miguel and Justine Skye comes toward the end, lulling listeners into the songs outro. “Groovy Tony/Eddie Kane,” an extension of Q’s first single for album, adds a gravelly Jadakiss verse to the mix, over brooding base-heavy production before switching to the song’s percussion-driven, eclectic second half. ScHoolBoy Q is one of few rappers whose projects can see these three different textures co-exist, without losing its cohesion.

BFLP boasts a weighty slew of features such as Kanye West on the album’s second single “THat Part,”  as well as T.D.E.’s newest signee Lance Skiiwalker. Additional features include Long Beach stalwart Vince Staples, T.D.E. songstress SZA, E-40Miguel, Justine Skye, and Candice Pillay. Newcomers Traffic and TF also appear on the album’s outro “Tookie Knows II” as well as star in the album’s accompanying short film series.

The absence of fellow Black Hippy members is glaring, although Kendrick does have background vocals on “By Any Means,” “Black THougHts” and “Overtime.” It’s worth noting, however, that they do appear together on a one-off remix of “THat Part” that, while not on the album, dropped on the same day.

In a recent interview with Real 92.3 he explains why we rarely hear Black Hippy as a collective in recent years. “We don’t like rapping with each other no mo’ like that,” he explained. “Like that’s pretty old now for us.” He went on to reveal that the “THat Part” remix was the manifestation of lobbying by T.D.E.’s commander in chief, Top Dawg. 

Blank Face portrays not only the ills of life growing up in the gang-infested streets of Compton, but Q’s many personal missteps as well. His narrative is received as less of a glorification of gang banging and criminal activity, but more of an attempt to edify his listeners. On “Black THougHts” Q spits:

Ain’t nothin’ changed but the change
Let’s put our brains away from gangs
Crips and Bloods the old and new slaves

Sh*t we even changed our names

On “John Muir,” Q puts the listener into the shoes of his younger self, presenting an unvarnished reality of his formative years, and the pragmatic choices he made. He raps, “I was thirteen with my mothaf*ckin’ heat, y’all./N*gga caught cases tryna take your f*ckin’ screen off.” Though his delivery at times can come off boastful, in reality it’s more like Q giving his younger self a smack to the back of the head. “Str8 Ballin” furthers the narrative depicting when Q finally progressed from the impetuous South Central lifestyle and finally took his life by the reigns:

Hiding from the reaper tryna’ dodge the cage
This sh*t I’ve done to rhyme on this stage
I went from king of the the corner
To breaking down weed on my diploma
Straight ballin’ like a b*tch

Blank Face LP expounds on everything enjoyable about Oxymoron, and tweaks the faults of that album making for the best body work we’ve seen from ScHoolBoy Q yet. The personal nature of the album creates a bond between the listener and Q, which is a rarity in an age where polished “rap persona” archetypes are ever-present. Blank Face LP will be adored by avid ScHoolBoy Q fans, and will also be exactly what those waiting for him to prove himself have been waiting for.

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Review: Snow Tha Product Ventures Into New Lanes With Latest EP http://thesource.com/2016/06/17/review-snow-tha-product-ventures-into-new-lanes-with-latest-ep/ Fri, 17 Jun 2016 18:55:57 +0000 http://thesource.com/?p=357631 Snow Tha Product has electrified her devoted fan base for the last few years. Rocking packed out venues, appearing on sizzling ciphers and killing collabs, Snow is ready for her next step in the game. Atlantic Records has just released her latest EP, Half Way There Part 1. The project reaches outside of the sound […]

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Snow Tha Product has electrified her devoted fan base for the last few years. Rocking packed out venues, appearing on sizzling ciphers and killing collabs, Snow is ready for her next step in the game.

Atlantic Records has just released her latest EP, Half Way There Part 1. The project reaches outside of the sound of Snow’s niche demographic, bringing out new qualities in the rapper that leave an anticipation for what’s to come next. While it’s only six tracks and two interludes, the project is surprisingly balanced. The artist keeps her fiery essence throughout, killing syllabic rhyme patterns while experimenting with new styles of music.

Songs like the intro, “No Cut” and “Get Down” offer long time fans the feisty Latina Snow has come to be known as. But songs like her latest single “Nights” explore a more refined Top 40 sound. Sung entirely in Spanish, “Nuestra Cancion” has the most crossover appeal of any song on the project. The reggaeton flavored song has a dancehall type energy, with driving percussion speed that should deliver well to the dance floors of the Latin music world.

Much like her shows and many of her songs, she finishes the project strong with the song “Not Tonight.” A club banger, with a crazy electronic lead, the song shows Snow can also have appeal in the EDM and Trap scenes.

Overall the project highlights the many different styles of Snow’s abilities on bigger records. Snow give the audience a peek at her mass appeal by stepping out of her comfort zone and proving she has more than just hard, fast rhyme styles.

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Are These Australia’s Top 5 Hip Hop Releases From 2015? http://thesource.com/2016/06/08/are-these-australias-top-5-hip-hop-releases-from-2015/ Wed, 08 Jun 2016 17:53:16 +0000 http://thesource.com/?p=354937 Last year was a big year for Hip Hop in Australia with a stack of quality releases. Here’s a quick Top 5 list from 2015 to familiarize yourself with rap’s leading names down under. Golden Era Records Mixtape 2015 Featuring all artists on Australia’s biggest Hip Hop label (A. B. Original, Adfu, Briggs, Hilltop Hoods, […]

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Last year was a big year for Hip Hop in Australia with a stack of quality releases. Here’s a quick Top 5 list from 2015 to familiarize yourself with rap’s leading names down under.

Golden Era Records Mixtape 2015

Featuring all artists on Australia’s biggest Hip Hop label (A. B. Original, Adfu, Briggs, Hilltop Hoods, K21, The Funkoars, Vents), the Golden Era Records Mixtape 2015 is the fifth installment in this yearly mixtape series from Golden Era Records since 2011. A full roster plus more including Jayteehazard of Elefant Traks and Maundz, the release is a great taste of Hip Hop from Australia. The mixtape shows the diverse sides contained within the Golden Era Records camp and the yearly cypher is now a staple in the Hip Hop calendar in Australia.

Hau – The No End Theory LP

Marking Hau’s long awaited return to releasing music after his most recent album The ‘Umu with his group Koolism, The No End Theory does not disappoint. With guests appearances from Oddisee, NZ super producer and DJ P-Money and Che Fu among others, the release is excellent from front to back and a very worthwhile addition to the legacy of Hau, placing him front and center in the history books of Hip Hop in Australia.

Kings Konekted – Corrupted Citizens LP

Kings Konekted’s long awaited debut album on Unkut Recordings not only lived up to expectations but preceded them. With features from Australian legends including Trem One, DJ 2Buck and Prowla among others, this is Kings Konekted’s most polished release to date and raises the bar for rap albums in Australia. Intricate wordplay, complex rhyme patterns and a perfectly created soundtrack to the raps gives Corrupted Citizens high playback value.

Mantra – Scenefour EP

Short in nature but high in quality sums up Mantra’s Scenefour EP. Designed to keep fans in the loop before his new album drops, Scenefour features the banging single “Nowhere To Go” featuring E-Swift and J-Ro of Tha Alkaholiks. The b-side “Rapper’s Duality” is also a favourite and sets the stage well for the upcoming album.

Maundz – Nobody’s Business LP

Following the success of his previous release Zero, Melbourne emcee Maundz is back once again with his highly anticipated and well-received LP on Crate Cartel / Golden Era Records. Maundz goes from strength to strength with each release and looks set to break into the upper echelons of Hip Hop in Australia, steadily gaining news fans through his furious lyrical style. An excellent release from Maundz and big things to come.

Honourable Mention

1200 Techniques ft. Ghostface Killah ‘Flow is Trouble’ 7-inch

Following up 1200 Techniques’ long awaited return with The Time Has Come EP earlier in 2015, they released the stand alone 7-inch featuring Ghostface Killah of the Wu-Tang Clan. The track is a signature DJ Peril classic funk with a booming sound and Nfa and Ghostface combine like a seasoned duo. The b-side remix is arguably as good as the original and definitely a polished product not to be slept on.

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How The Phrase #FreeGucci Became Much More Than A Hashtag http://thesource.com/2016/05/31/how-the-phrase-freegucci-became-much-more-than-a-hashtag/ Tue, 31 May 2016 17:48:08 +0000 http://thesource.com/?p=353336 The internet lit up late last week with a flurry of hashtags that have echoed persistently for years. Two simple words strung adjacent — #FreeGucci — created a unified call for one of Hip Hop’s most enigmatic and influential figures to find his way out of prison and back into the adoring grasp of his […]

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The internet lit up late last week with a flurry of hashtags that have echoed persistently for years. Two simple words strung adjacent — #FreeGucci — created a unified call for one of Hip Hop’s most enigmatic and influential figures to find his way out of prison and back into the adoring grasp of his fans.

For the perpetually prolific “Guwop,” legally known as Radric Davis, trouble with the law was not an entirely new issue, but 2013 escalated quickly with an inundation of parole violations, assault charges and eventually, two counts of firearm possession, ultimately resulting in a guilty plea. The plea, while carrying mandatory jail time, helped to offset the Federal Court’s potential charge, with what could have been a maximum sentence of 20 years.

Gucci’s criminal record can actually be traced back to as early as 2001, which made it all that much more cathartic when last week he was released several months early from an initial September release date after a motion to expedite his sentence was approved.

It’s important to remember not all those sentenced to a stint behind bars see their way to an abbreviated sentence in any respect. Just see the recent conviction of a member of Bobby Shmurda’s GS9 crew for an example of a 98 year-plus sentence; essentially a life sentence delivered under a different moniker. For Guwop, his firearm possession charges catalyzed a prison sentence of only a few years, but for the rap community at large, the void was evident and could only be filled by frequenting an onslaught of mixtapes while reciting the practically religious call of “It’s Gucci!” out of sheer respect. Of course, the #FreeGucci slogan also helped us through some pretty tough times.

Gucci Tats

Then, on May 26, the Hip Hop community rejoiced when the Atlanta rapper was suddenly released from prison. We could all breathe a sigh of collective relief, knowing that Gucci was finally free. But perhaps the most amazing part of the saga is that despite substantial prison time, Gucci Mane was able to muster an incredibly expansive catalog even from behind bars.

As comprehensively detailed by Pigeons & Planes, Gucci managed to curate an ongoing stream of proper mixtape and album releases during his prison stay by developing an ongoing dialogue with his engineer and trusted confidant Sean Paine. Together, they communicated as frequently as possible to ensure that the legacy didn’t lose any momentum. And if anything, they coaxed both the myth and the music to grow even further. They went from daily phone calls, to weekly calls and finally correspondence online via “Corrlinks,” a communication network designed to help incarcerated individuals connect with their families and loved ones, in order to curate and schedule the continual release of new music. This communication proved key to keeping the #FreeGuci ethos not just alive, but thriving during the intensive prison bid.

free gucci mane

Gucci was able to release King Gucci, alongside a comprehensive multi-part project: Breakfast, LunchDinner, and Dessert, and Trap House 5, as well as a dizzying cascade of additional releases, cementing his image as a relentlessly prolific artist that couldn’t be stopped even from the oppressive confines of his prison cell. Even a glimpse at Gucci’s comprehensive discography as published from prison is a bit puzzling, as it displays a man that’s ultimately published more music from behind prison bars than most artists manage to output under creatively-conducive circumstances.

Smoken Gucci Mane

Again, Gucci’s intimate working relationship with Sean Paine is what truly allowed for this level of fortitude and working perseverance to continue in any capacity. When interviewed in 2015, Paine went on to detail how they were able to facilitate their releases:

“I talk to Gucci every day, all the time. We communicate via email. At first, he could call me. So I would be playing the songs for him. He’d call me, and I’d be wired to my hard drive at my house, and I’d play his songs for him. And he’d be like, “Yeah pick that one. Keep going, keep going.” He’ll pick what he wants for his CDs. And then he got to the point where he couldn’t call no more. So he just kinda trusted me to do it.”

And while plenty of music critics might actually admonish this type of release style (we’re talking about a catalog that might make Lil B look timid about music releases) this approach proved to be an incredibly adept strategy for staying relevant even while out of sight. Sure, there were tiny missteps along the way. Many of the released songs don’t hold much pop appeal, and yes, Gucci did wind up making an actual LinkedIn account to vicariously network within the film industry, but who’s to say that Gucci’s not a 21st Century trailblazer, blurring the lines between the physical and digital realms with an almost ingenious effectiveness? And true to form, Gucci is already back at it, having just released the Mike Will Made It produced “First Day Out Tha Feds,” since being released. The song has now accrued over two million streams online.

While a vast majority of the songs released while Gucci was incarcerated seemed to have been backlogged and re-released from the dusty inner-workings of old hard drives, the fact that listeners continued to receive new content over the course of a significant incarceration speaks to the intensively resilient dedication of both Gucci and Sean Paine. Of course, none of it would be possible without a diehard listenership that remained loyal no matter what. Which is made all that much easier now that the “Free Gucci” slogan can finally be read in reverse: Gucci’s Free.

Original Illustration by oli Hb

Visuals by Richie Williamson

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The Game Releases “Mama” In Memory Of Afeni Shakur http://thesource.com/2016/05/05/the-game-releases-mama-in-memory-of-afeni-shakur/ Thu, 05 May 2016 14:01:30 +0000 http://thesource.com/?p=348536 Compton rapper The Game has released a new song titled “Mama” featuring vocalist Sonyae Elise in memory of Afeni Shakur and as a shout out to his own mother, just in time for Mother’s Day. With the unexpected passing of Tupac Shakur‘s mother Afeni earlier this week, it was only right for The Game to […]

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Compton rapper The Game has released a new song titled “Mama” featuring vocalist Sonyae Elise in memory of Afeni Shakur and as a shout out to his own mother, just in time for Mother’s Day.

With the unexpected passing of Tupac Shakur‘s mother Afeni earlier this week, it was only right for The Game to drop a song in remembrance of the two. Tupac is a heavy influence on The Game and the L.A music scene period.

The Game did a great job of serenading his mother and all mothers around the world. Take a listen below.

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Event Recap: Pharoahe Monch Gets Live With PitchBlak Brass Band http://thesource.com/2016/02/05/event-recap-pharoahe-monch-gets-live-with-pitchblak-brass-band/ Fri, 05 Feb 2016 15:42:19 +0000 http://thesource.com/?p=325964 While many rap shows notoriously never start on time, last night’s concert [Thursday, February 4] at Kaufman Music Centers’s Merkin Concert Hall wasn’t your average Hip Hop experience. Promptly at 7:30pm, members of the 17-piece PitchBlak brass band took to the stage for a special performance with Pharoahe Monch as the evening’s ecstatic bandleader. In […]

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While many rap shows notoriously never start on time, last night’s concert [Thursday, February 4] at Kaufman Music Centers’s Merkin Concert Hall wasn’t your average Hip Hop experience.

Promptly at 7:30pm, members of the 17-piece PitchBlak brass band took to the stage for a special performance with Pharoahe Monch as the evening’s ecstatic bandleader.

In conjunction with the Ecstatic Music Festival, the performance was a collaboration between the two acts, featuring original lyrics from Monch’s fourth studio album, PTSD, set to arrangements crafted by several members of the brass band.

From strings to brass to vocals, all ingredients were present to make an eclectic, spectacular rendition of  Monch’s music, and as master of ceremonies for the night, Monch’s performance was captivating and very heartfelt. All 18 people on stage gave one thousand percent for the event, making for an enjoyable night showcasing extremely high musicianship from talented performers doubling as fans of quality Hip Hop looking to have a great time.

“I had always been looking to do something like this,” Monch said in the Guardian during an interview prior to the event.  “But for this project especially … I always wanted a more dramatic situation, live – and also to add some actors onstage, which I’ll be trying to do here, as well. The guy who is in charge [of the Ecstatic Music Festival] just presented to me how different the setting is – and the venue – from what’s normal with Hip Hop. So I was like: cool.”

The performance of the album as backed by the brass band was simply epic, being broken up into two parts with an intermission, which Monch said was more for him than anyone else joking that he sweats a lot. The sound was incredible and hearing songs such as “D.R.E.A.M.,” “Still Standing,” “Losing My Mind,” “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” and Monch’s smash single from his debut back in 1999, “Simon Says,” had the audience standing up from their cushioned theatre seats clapping and dancing along.

The PitchBlak brass band incorporates tubas, trombones, saxophones and other instruments traditionally not seen in Hip Hop in the spirit of The Roots and other reputed live acts, and often collaborate with a variety of emcees to recreate hip-hop albums in a unique, energetic way that offers a new, creative dimension to the live show. Absolutely incredible.

Image via Instagram courtesy PitchBlak brass band

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[Recap] G-Eazy And A$AP Ferg Rock A Sold-Out Crowd In New York City http://thesource.com/2016/01/26/recap-g-eazy-and-aap-ferg-rock-a-sold-out-crowd-in-new-york-city/ Tue, 26 Jan 2016 21:42:19 +0000 http://thesource.com/?p=322991 A month into an extensive tour run, G-Eazy and A$AP Ferg are collectively experiencing what every artist dreams of: selling out a New York City venue. Except, much like G-Eazy humbly recalled on stage last night [Monday, January 25], this is a little bit different than selling out the downstairs of Webster Hall. While G-Eazy […]

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A month into an extensive tour run, G-Eazy and A$AP Ferg are collectively experiencing what every artist dreams of: selling out a New York City venue. Except, much like G-Eazy humbly recalled on stage last night [Monday, January 25], this is a little bit different than selling out the downstairs of Webster Hall.

While G-Eazy expressed gratitude for that career milestone he hit a couple years ago, being so happy to be able to tell his friends and family back home in California he sold out a show in New York, he took a minute to exclaim the magnitude of emotion he was feeling that this is Terminal 5, and how a performance originally slated for one night grew into three.

G-Eazy recruited A$AP Ferg, Marc E. Bassy and Nef the Pharaoh to join his headlining tour celebrating the release of his album, When It’s Dark Out, which dropped on December 4, 2015 and debuted at number one on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop chart. 2016 will have G-Eazy seeing a lot of the road, with a two-month-long U.S. run, followed by dates in Australia and Europe into the summer.

Just a week after previously gracing the stage for Yams Day, a tribute for A$AP Yams, who tragically lost his life a year prior to the date on January 18, 2015, Ferg was back on Terminal 5’s stage again with Yams in spirit. Yams kept a watchful eye on the performance, as visuals were projected on a giant screen behind Ferg, as Yams recorded voice blared over sound system, introducing Ferg’s track, “Let It Go.”

From the jump, Ferg had command of the audience, saying, “Can we turn this sh*t all the way up to 1000?” as he rapped joints off his debut album, 2013’s Trap Lord and from A$AP Mob’s catalog.

In addition to crowd favorite party anthems, such as “F*ck Yo B*tch”, “Shabba,” and “F*ck Out My Face,”  Ferg switched things up a bit throughout his set, bringing out his protégé Marty Baller to perform their track, “Big Timers,” and Ferg collaborator Crystal Caines also blessing the mic with some fierce bars.

Ferg took a minute to dedicate his track “Tatted Angel,” saying, “This one’s for a real one. This is some real sh*t I wrote,” putting the spotlight back on Yams and calling for fans to put their lights or their cell phones in the air. The track is foreshadowing to a more personal side of Ferg, which fans will see a lot more of in his sophomore album, Always Strive and Prosper, with an official release date yet to be announced.

Ferg also performed his new single with Future, “New Level,” keeping the energy high, as he rocked the stage in a long black leather coat shouting out his family in the building and closing his set with the sign off, “Love, Peace and A$AP.”

In between performances, a stage crew broke down the giant screen backdrop and built a theatrical set for G-Eazy, which featured storefronts from a gritty, downtown city scene, and a character playing homeless resting on a graffiti-covered park bench before G-Eazy came out. The backdrop was well-produced, fitting the hip, rock-n-roll vibe G-Eazy goes for, with flashing signs reading “Girls, Girls, Girls,” “The Saint,” and “Motel.”

Performing songs off of his sophomore album, When It’s Dark Out, it was clear the audience was here for—and turning up for—G-Eazy. While Sunday night’s show saw Joey Bada$$ as a special guest, G-Eazy leveled up for night two’s run, bringing out the legendary DMX halfway through his set. As fans flipped out to the surprise guest, this was a moment in Hip Hop solidifying G-Eazy’s career in rap, as DMX gave the ultimate praise saying, “This is that underground sh*t! I see you out here doing your sh*t!” Following a brief-but-epic rendition of the classic “Ruff Ryders Anthem,” G-Eazy hyped up the audience trying to get him to do one more with DMX declining, saying, “Do your motherf***ing thing, tho!”

While one could assume the night was over when DMX left the stage, G-Eazy took another 45 minutes or so to go through his catalog, shouting out his day one fans and reflecting on his experience earlier in the night filming for an appearance on Jimmy Fallon.

“Can I take a picture to remember this night forever?” G-Eazy asked a sea of 3,000 people. “Remind me how lit tonight was a hundred years from now.”

This one was one for the memory books for G-Eazy and fans alike, with G-Eazy today posting it was hands down the best night of his life. Not too shabby for a Monday night, New York City.

Image courtesy The Bnjmns

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Album Review: Chris Brown’s ‘Royalty’ Is A Parallel to Life http://thesource.com/2015/12/18/album-review-chris-browns-royalty-is-a-parallel-to-life/ Fri, 18 Dec 2015 22:00:46 +0000 http://thesource.com/?p=311866 Chris Brown’s highly anticipated album Royalty is clearly a parallel to his life thus far. Released today [December 18] Royalty showcases Brown’s transformation from bad boy to a man who embraces his flaws and makes clear his desires. With lyrics ranging from overtly sexual to intimately heartfelt, Chris is very transparent in his feelings about […]

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Chris Brown’s highly anticipated album Royalty is clearly a parallel to his life thus far.

Released today [December 18] Royalty showcases Brown’s transformation from bad boy to a man who embraces his flaws and makes clear his desires.

With lyrics ranging from overtly sexual to intimately heartfelt, Chris is very transparent in his feelings about his encounters with love both fleeting and heartbreaking. “KAE” seems to be a very obvious reflection of his tumultuous relationship with Karrueche Tran, with him expressing both sadness and anger over the state of their relationship. “Blow in the Wind” highlights his shift in focus from love and relationships to work, deciding to be nonchalant when it comes to women and haters.

As always, Chris makes sure to pay homage to the R&B greats that inspired him throughout his career. Especially with the sexually explicit ballad “Who’s Gonna (Nobody)”, a reference and play on Keith Sweat’s classic “Nobody.” Another track, “Picture Me Rollin’”, is a clear nod to 2Pac’s record of the same name, offering the classic West Coast sound ‘Pac was known for.

Other tracks such as “Back to Sleep,” “Make Love,” and “Liquor” reiterate Chris’ sexual hunger, highlighting his strong vocals and range that goes the distance.

Musically, the album embodies EDM, trap soul, pop, 90s bass and classic R&B. These are all genres from which we’ve heard Chris style his music after before, but you can tell with this record his production team was intent in creating music that not only would be accepted commercially, but drove the emotion of the album forward. “Anyway,” “Proof,” and “Fine By Me” are reminiscent sounds we’ve heard from Chris before (think “Forever,” “New Flame,” “Yeah X 3”).

With the album titled Royalty after his daughter (who up until a few months old was a secret) not much of it is dedicated to talking about that experience aside from highlight track “Little More (Royalty).” The music video he released for the track today may be all we need—and all we’re going to get on the personal matter.

Royalty is sure to be a hit with Team Breezy. Chris continues to reign as a maker of music that challenges musical convention and speaks his personal truth.

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The Doppelgangaz Continue “Beats For Brothels” Series With Third Edition http://thesource.com/2015/12/18/the-doppelgangaz-continue-beats-for-brothels-series-with-third-edition/ Fri, 18 Dec 2015 20:45:05 +0000 http://thesource.com/?p=311534 The Doppelgangaz take a couple things in life very seriously, namely in this instance: beats and brothels. In an instrumental series the duo credits to inspiration from visiting brothels around the world, Beats For Brothels Vol. 3 helps level up The ‘Gangaz growing catalog of independent Hip Hop releases. BFBV3 was produced in-house by The Doppelgangaz, the partnership of Matter […]

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The Doppelgangaz take a couple things in life very seriously, namely in this instance: beats and brothels. In an instrumental series the duo credits to inspiration from visiting brothels around the world, Beats For Brothels Vol. 3 helps level up The ‘Gangaz growing catalog of independent Hip Hop releases.

BFBV3 was produced in-house by The Doppelgangaz, the partnership of Matter ov Fact and EP, and features guest production on two tracks, out of the LP’s twelve, from Thonio. Taking control of their own creative direction has been a focal point, crucial to the world The Doppelgangaz have worked to create, from donning black cloaks during performances to shooting music videos in industrial wastelands to handling their own production and song-writing, their music matches their seemingly mysterious lifestyles with charm.

For the third installment of their series, BFBV3 is the most forward-thinking of the series, breaking away from strictly being an instrumental release. Gritty is the first word that comes to mind when describing their sound on this project, but their music isn’t isolating. Their dark and cryptic nature is intriguing and their uniqueness is captured wonderfully in this release.

The series champions a make-something-from-nothing vibe; the kind that amps you up and inspires you to do your own thing, and change the path you’re on to wander into the unknown. If you need that extra push a special kind of soundtrack can provide to do something different, The ‘Gangaz have you covered.

BFBV3 is available today [December 18] via iTunes.

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Recap: Mac Miller Returns To New York For High Energy Performance http://thesource.com/2015/12/17/recap-mac-miller-returns-to-new-york-for-high-energy-performance/ Thu, 17 Dec 2015 18:30:35 +0000 http://thesource.com/?p=311220 Ten minutes before Mac Miller was due on stage last night [Wednesday, December 17] at Terminal 5, cheers of “We want Mac” from the sold-out crowd echoed throughout the building’s multiple balconies and jam-packed showroom. For a rainy Wednesday night, New York City was awake and hungry. The warning signs at the ticketing booth alerting […]

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Ten minutes before Mac Miller was due on stage last night [Wednesday, December 17] at Terminal 5, cheers of “We want Mac” from the sold-out crowd echoed throughout the building’s multiple balconies and jam-packed showroom. For a rainy Wednesday night, New York City was awake and hungry.

The warning signs at the ticketing booth alerting those in attendance that “strobe lights will be used during the performance” weren’t misguiding, as Mac appeared on stage in a fury of flashing, blinding light. The stage set-up was simple, with two pyramids that each had Mac’s face from his GO:OD AM album cover and a slew of LED’s, with DJ Clockwork’s turntable set-up sandwiched in between, with flashing letters “GO:OD AM,” written in the digital clock promptly displayed.

Donning a Mighty Ducks jersey, Mac set the tone for the night diving right into “Loud” off of 2011’s Blue Slide Park. Introducing himself to the audience, alongside setting the intention of the night, his words were simple: “I’m here to rap.”

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“I have two single ass rules to my shows,” Mac told the audience. “If at any point in the night I say, ‘One band,’ you say ‘one sound.’ If at any point in the night I say, ‘I changed,’ you say ‘a lot.’ That’s it. It’s going to be a good f*cking night.” He went on to thank everyone that blessed the stage before him—Cousin Stizz, The Come Up Boys, Michael Christmas and EarthGang—who all helped set the energy high for a crowd with tunnel vision on seeing Mac perform.

The ‘I changed, a lot’ element to Mac as a performer truly says it all. The 23-year-old rapper was often deemed ‘frat house rap’ in the beginning of his career, but with his GO:OD AM debut on Warner Music (released September 18 this year), Mac has shown growth as an artist tremendously—most notably talking about sobering up changing his perspective on life and approach to music. With personal lyrics such as, “Ain’t saying that I’m sober, I’m just in a better place,” the performer keeps it real and has attracted new listeners by doing so, with the help of being signed to a major not hurting either.

The bittersweet component to last night’s performance was that at times, the thunderous bass or Mac’s new hypeman, InnerViewQ, drowned out Mac’s voice. The a capella moments where Mac was alone in the spotlight were some of the more favorable ones, with his voice booming and commanding the attention of the crowd. A common theme throughout the night was the audience filling in vocally, universally singing along with excitement as the DJ cut the music out.

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The energy Mac has as a performer is incredible, especially considering last night was one of the last stops on his 55-show tour run promoting his latest album. For just over an hour, Mac went hard and made it seem easy, performing a generous chunk off of GO:OD AM, including “Doors,” “100 Grandkids,” “ROS,” “Weekend,” “Clubhouse” and “Break The Law,” as well as dedicating a track from earlier in his career, “Nikes On My Feet,” to his “day one’s.” Performance wise, Mac is a beast, taking a mere 10-second break to ask for another Jameson and giving the audience song after song, without skipping a beat or tripping over a single word.

Mac also had to take a moment to remind the crowd, “I will not be voting for Donald Trump this year,” just a day after going in on Twitter, causing a viral reaction to his comments regarding the scary possibility Trump could be president. Mac also brought up his 2011 song named after Trump, saying next time he’s naming a song after his DJ, hoping Clockwork will run for president as a result.

Just while things were relatively normal for a Mac Miller show, with nothing crazy or out of the norm save for a fog machine gun, Mac concluded his set like a rap veteran, thanking the crowd and running off stage. Moments later, Miller reappeared for a highly-demanded encore, but this time with special guest Ja Rule. Ja played his timeless classic “Living It Up” much to the delight of fans, with Mac reading the audience’s minds saying, “If you had told 15-year-old me, that this was going to happen, I would have sh*t my pants.”

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All photos by Fabian Pacheco

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Review: Mean Joe Scheme Makes Strong Debut With “You Gotta Watch” LP http://thesource.com/2015/12/17/review-mean-joe-scheme-makes-strong-debut-with-you-gotta-watch-lp/ Thu, 17 Dec 2015 17:55:36 +0000 http://thesource.com/?p=311015 Opening up with a quick sound bite of “ready when you are” is testament New York City-based rapper, Mean Joe Scheme, has been waiting to share his talents for years, much like a boxer waiting for his first round in the corner of the ring. Slightly sweating, feet shuffling and replacing any subtle nervousness with […]

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Opening up with a quick sound bite of “ready when you are” is testament New York City-based rapper, Mean Joe Scheme, has been waiting to share his talents for years, much like a boxer waiting for his first round in the corner of the ring.

Slightly sweating, feet shuffling and replacing any subtle nervousness with outward confidence: that’s Mean Joe Scheme. With the release of his debut You Gotta Watch, he’s introducing and proving himself at the same time to the world of underground, independent Hip Hop.

With ferocious production, the greater part by Optiks, the beats match Mean Joe’s vocal approach; on some tracks one can almost visualize him spitting into the mic with passion and conviction. The album has a life or death feel to it and there’s a lot on the line from Mean Joe’s perspective.

Lyrically, Mean Joe is as fierce as his name suggests. He has a gritty snarl to his rapping, but with pleasant surprises of sensitivity and motivational moments throughout the 12-track LP. The variety in each track showcases his varied taste in music while also rounding out his sound with thematic, jazzy elements sprinkled throughout. The album achieves success in its creativity and ambition, especially for Mean Joe’s first official time up at bat.

Much like the theme of the title “You Gotta Watch,” a name Mean Joe credits to a mantra bestowed upon him by his father, the album features production and guest vocals from a tribe that, like Scheme, have been refining their craft for years and are grinding to give people a reason to keep “watch.” His hometeam is a powerful group of like-minded musicians, and their music reflects their strength in building each other up. With production credits going to Optiks, J57, Mean Joe himself, Noam The Drummer, Brett Cimbalik, and IMAKEMADBEATS, and guest features from Mike Two, Noah Dreiblatt, Rob Murat, Jemyle Jones, Koncept and the PitchBlak Brass Band, the album covers a lot of ground, with each track offering a different dynamism, helping to refine Mean Joe’s sound and show that there’s a multifaceted artistry behind his bars. Simply put, Mean Joe Scheme is as nice as he is mean.

Stand out tracks include “G-Dep,” “Champagne,” “It Was Written,”5120,” “Everybody/Nobody” and “Realize.” It’s interesting how he decided to wrap up the album with the title track, “You Gotta Watch,” which features whispery storytelling-style lyrics over a downtempo beat, acting as an outro to an impressive curation of heavy-hitting tracks.

As the first official release from Brown Bag AllStar’s J57 new label, Five Seven Music, “You Gotta Watch” sets the precedence for being the first of many consistently heartfelt recordings.

Album artwork by Lou Pimental.

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Chris Brown Lights Up Chicago On ‘Royalty’ Mini Tour Kickoff http://thesource.com/2015/12/14/chris-brown-lights-up-chicago-on-royalty-mini-tour-kickoff/ Mon, 14 Dec 2015 22:01:35 +0000 http://thesource.com/?p=310245 Performing the first of three concerts in his surprise Royalty mini-tour, Chris Brown was received as royalty—no pun intended—last night (Sunday, December 13) in Chicago. Breezing through the Windy City, Brown serenaded concert goers with intimacy and his showmanship in tact. “We want Chris! We want Chris!” demanded the audience of shrieking fans, mostly females […]

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Performing the first of three concerts in his surprise Royalty mini-tour, Chris Brown was received as royalty—no pun intended—last night (Sunday, December 13) in Chicago. Breezing through the Windy City, Brown serenaded concert goers with intimacy and his showmanship in tact.

“We want Chris! We want Chris!” demanded the audience of shrieking fans, mostly females ranging from their late teens to 20s. Die hard fans stood salivating the arrival of the superstar as they were SnapChatting and Instagramming the evening away. Michael Jackson hits kept the concert goers company as bright red lights drowned the stage, warming it in anticipation for the Virginia native’s entrance.

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Unseasonably warm temperatures and scattered showers didn’t stop Breezy fans from flooding the Aragon Ballroom, the vintage standing room only venue, which once held secret tunnels leading to the basement for crime boss Al Capone (according to legend). Although one hour late, there was no love lost from #TeamBreezy.

The 53 minute-long set was a non-stop party; an electric mix of uptempo hip-pop hits to snippets of his hit-making hooks and features, like DJ Khaled‘s “How Many Times” to triple X-rated bedroom tracks where he had his way with fans like putty as a master seducer. From “2012” to the wildly sexy track “Wet The Bed,” Brown teased fans with welcomed peeks at his tattooed pecks, flirting with on-lookers with pelvic thrusts as the women fell victim to his alluring charm.

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Despite an impressive live band on deck, Chris’s vocals weren’t the star of the night, as the Grammy Award winner relied heavily on vocal tracks. His choreography, along with four B-boys who mocked his every move, stole the show. With a mind seemingly of its own, Brown’s fluid body movements and choreography carried the set with force. Gyrating, nay-naying and swaying from one side to the next, the “Liquor” singer, with the occasional jump into the pit as fans feined for a touch, effortlessly entertained.

Previewing tracks off his seventh studio album Royalty, due in stores December 18, such as “Fine by Me,” “Zero,” and “Sex You Back to Sleep,” Brown kept the audience captivated. Much like a roller coaster ride, viewers were catapulted on a musical joy ride through his arsenal of hits, sans seat belt. From the sugary-sweet “Yo (Excuse me Miss)” (2005) when we were first introduced to the squeaky-clean, charming, dimpled teenager, to the lustful “Take You Down” (2007) and other panty droppers where only a microphone stand and a swarm of red-hot lights accompanied him, all eyes was on Brown.

Juxtaposing new and old, the transition from boy to man was even more evident as Brown juggled ballads to dance-pop tracks, from raw and ruthless to seductively gentle. Sending women in a frenzy, who literally fought over his army-fatigue designed T-shirt and white cap after launching them into a sea of gawking fans, Brown solidified his reputation as an adored dance machine.

San Francisco, you got next.

Photo credit: Daniel Boczarski

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Event Review: Jeremih SOB’s Show http://thesource.com/2015/12/09/event-review-jeremih-sobs-show/ Wed, 09 Dec 2015 23:17:36 +0000 http://thesource.com/?p=309155 Jeremih was in hot demand this weekend in the Tri-State area. After performing at the Hot for The Holidays concert at the Prudential Center on Saturday night, he serenaded fans at the world famous SOB’s; where legends are made in NYC. Fans crowded the front of the SOB’s stage to get a glimpse of the […]

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Jeremih was in hot demand this weekend in the Tri-State area. After performing at the Hot for The Holidays concert at the Prudential Center on Saturday night, he serenaded fans at the world famous SOB’s; where legends are made in NYC.

Fans crowded the front of the SOB’s stage to get a glimpse of the artist as he performed songs off his highly anticipated, recently released project, Late Nights: The Album. He surprised the crowd with special guest 50 Cent. The two performed their 2010 hit track, “Down on Me”.

Despite the setbacks, Jeremih’s album is just what fans were expecting and more. With hit tracks “Planez” ft. J. Cole and “Don’t Tell ‘Em” ft. YG, this album is sure to be one of Jeremih’s best yet.

-Natalee J. Langley

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Event Review: Busta Rhymes And Friends Make History In New Jersey http://thesource.com/2015/12/07/event-review-busta-rhymes-and-friends-make-history-in-new-jersey/ Mon, 07 Dec 2015 19:51:35 +0000 http://thesource.com/?p=308098 After a twenty-plus year tenure in Hip-Hop, not many artists have the individual star power as well as strong relationships, countless hits and more to put on a celebrity-studded show like Busta Rhymes. “The Dragon” along with his Conglomerate crew and an endless list of power players took over Newark’s Prudential Center, selling out its […]

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After a twenty-plus year tenure in Hip-Hop, not many artists have the individual star power as well as strong relationships, countless hits and more to put on a celebrity-studded show like Busta Rhymes.

“The Dragon” along with his Conglomerate crew and an endless list of power players took over Newark’s Prudential Center, selling out its 18,000 capacity. Buss-A-Bus made sure the Tri-State Area rounded out the year with a live show that most in attendance rated better than event sponsor Hot 97’s annual Summer Jam.

As people were still rushing in the doors, DJ Funkmaster Flex opened up the show with a fiery set preparing for Busta’s arrival. In his regular yet always regal form, Buss emerged from behind the stage with a theatrical replica of the Coming To America wedding, complete with the outfits, dancers and “Put Your Hands (Where My Eyes Can See)” theme music. He immediately warmed up the crowd with a few remixes, bringing out M.O.P. to the “Ante Up” remix and his long-time Brooklyn hypeman Spliff Star, along with reggae sensation Sean Paul for his “Make It Clap” remix. A medley of Busta’s close friends then touched the stage, including Junior Reid (“One Blood”), The Flip Squad, Capone N Noreaga, French Montana and Mariah Carey. At this point of the show, the momentum was just beginning to build.

OT Genasis, the breakout star from Busta’s Conglomerate Records label, came out to perform his debut smash “Coco,” followed up by the Wu Tang Clan‘s Method Man and Raekwon, who pulled out “C.R.E.A.M.” for their fans. Meth brought out his atomic twin from Newark, Redman, and the dynamic duo definitely put on, performing a host of their hits together. Redman broke off into his single “Tonight’s The Night” and by the time Meth reached his premier track “Method Man,” the house was lit. If it could get anymore crazy, Mary J. Blige came out with Meth to rock their Grammy-winning smash “All I Need.” Mary then went into one of the hits from her My Life album, “I Can Love You,” bringing her partner in crime Lil Kim out for her flaming sixteen on that classic.

Once the pandemonium settled, the man of the hour felt it necessary to make an announcement best suitable for the moment. “This is a proud moment for me! I’m happy, ni*ga!” Busta screamed happily to the crowd. “All of these rappers running around here like they’re mad at the f*cking world, but I’m happy right now!”

After Busta took a ‘hood consensus of who was in the building, Naughty By Nature popped in to rep for their hometown with “Uptown Anthem” and “Hip Hop Hooray,” followed up by Paterson’s own Fetty Wap who took control of the crowd seated in a throne. At this point, it was becoming more of a case of who wasn’t there. Rick Ross hit the stage to rep MMG with “I’m A Boss,” followed Lil’ Wayne who rocked with Buss until Diddy hit the stage and tore the house down. A surprise appearance by Busta’s long-time cohorts A Tribe Called Quest closed the show on an absolute high, unapologetic about classic New York Hip-Hop and unapologetic about the 90s era they helped build.

The most important aspect of the night is that it ended in peace without one single incident, something some might have found highly unexpected in the crime-ridden city of Newark. The show, dubbed “Hot 4 The Holidays,” is a very welcome addition to Hip-Hop’s already busy calendar of events.

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Duck Down Music Celebrates 20 Years of Independence http://thesource.com/2015/12/04/duck-down-music-celebrates-20-years-of-independence/ Fri, 04 Dec 2015 22:53:38 +0000 http://thesource.com/?p=307723 “There’s a lot of 40-year-olds in the building tonight!” hosts Peter Rosenberg and Cipha Sounds teased into the mic, as the audience at B.B. King’s Blues Club erupted into laughter. They weren’t necessarily wrong either, as the crowd gathered last night [December 3] were there to honor and celebrate 20 years of rocking with Duck […]

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“There’s a lot of 40-year-olds in the building tonight!” hosts Peter Rosenberg and Cipha Sounds teased into the mic, as the audience at B.B. King’s Blues Club erupted into laughter.

They weren’t necessarily wrong either, as the crowd gathered last night [December 3] were there to honor and celebrate 20 years of rocking with Duck Down Music, rap’s undisputed number one indie label.

Having Rosenberg and Ciph (host of the long-running, acclaimed Juan Epstein podcast) narrate the occasion was as fitting as it was hosting the event at B.B. King’s. The venue holds the precarious balance of being able to accommodate a large crowd without losing the quality of intimacy, perfect for Duck Down’s vibe, with performances from Boot Camp Clik and more, as well as the night doubling as a special live edition of Juan Ep.

With a couch, desk and turntable set-up occupying the stage—sandwiched in between two huge projectors showcasing music videos from Duck Down’s impressive catalog over the years—this event wasn’t your average rap show. Fittingly, contrast to the norm for Hip-Hop events never running on time, Duck Down had a packed house at 9pm for this tremendous celebration.

“Y’all feeling distinguished ’n sh*t, sitting down at your tables,” Rosenberg and Ciph joked, “with your ladies, and your drinks by candlelight.”

Label co-founder DrewDru Ha” Friedman was the first to bless the mic and kick off the evening, diving right into the history of Duck Down.

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“These were people that were putting other artists on,” Dru Ha said, reflecting on labels such as Bad Boy, No Limit and Loud Records, and what they were doing during the era of the beginning of the Duck Down legacy. “These labels were developing artists and we kind of looked at it like the same way, and said, you know what if we develop something, we can control it. And we can make it our own movement and that’s what we did.”

With Black Moon taking to the stage first, performing classics such as “Buck ‘Em Down,” and “How Many MCs,” the crowd started to loosen up and as the evening went on, it began to feel more and more like the Hip-Hop family affair the Duck Down label is renowned for cultivating.

“If it wasn’t for Hank Shocklee, we wouldn’t be up on this stage,” Buckshot reflected after performing. “One day, we got the opportunity to shop our demo to Shocklee, so we hurried up over to MCA and we went to give him our demo, and he was like, ‘I can’t check your demo right now. I can’t listen to it, but come back later and I’ll check it out.’ On our way out, there was a door open, so I walked inside the room and I sat down. I said, ‘Hey, how you doin’, I’m here for the job.’ And she looked at me like, ‘what are you talking about?’ She goes, ‘We’re not hiring. Do you mean the internship.’ So I was like, ‘yeah, yeah!’ She goes, ‘Our internships are only on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s, are you available Thursday?’ I walked out of there like ‘Oh my God, did that just happen?!’ So Hank Shocklee let me intern for him for about a year and after that we started putting our stuff out.’”

The rest of the evening followed the same formula, with Q&A’s following each performance from the Duck Down roster, in-depth interviews covering the history of the label and sharing the good times. Dru Ha shared about teaching Buckshot how to drive in exchange for being taught how to “rap better” (the label founder’s original interest) and payed homage and tribute to the late, great Sean Price.

Tried and true throughout the years, Duck Down is a collective where “The next group is just as good as the last group,” and with that introduction from Ciph and Rosenberg, Smif-N-Wessun were up to bat next.

Smif-N-Wessun absolutely had the best time commanding the mics, performing tracks like “I Love You” and “Let’s Get It On.” Following their performance, they joined in on the nostalgia kick, getting called out for leaving out key details of a story, with Tek and Steele defending themselves saying, “Rappers are good writers, not the best storytellers!”

The pair reflected on how they chose their name, and how they wanted to come up with someone that when you saw one member, you instantly thought of the next, and landed on Smif-N-Wessun to describe them both. The conversation then took a silly turn when Rosenberg and Tek shared an hilarious and semi-hostile moment backstage, where Rosenberg complimented Tek’s sweater. Tek’s response? “A grown man don’t tell another grown man he likes his sweater with the shoulder patches! Sh*t’s not hard!”

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The stories told throughout the night were as charming and fun as the performers themselves. It’s clear with Duck Down it’s a family effort, and one built on bond and not talent at the forefront.

“When I first started out, I didn’t picture a 20-year plan. I didn’t even have a five-year plan!” Dru Ha said, getting back into the history of the record label. “Right now, we’re celebrating Duck Down 20, but we went back really 22-23 years with Black Moon and Smif-N-Wessun. That was just Duck Down management. The Fab 5 on this stage, minus Sean P, rest in peace, forever Fab 5, that was the first Duck Down Enterprises groups that we put out.”

“Right off the bat we definitely understood what Sean Price brought to the table,” Dru Ha continued. “Internally, we had no doubteach one of these MC’s had their own set of skills and we appreciated and respected all of them. But we had no doubts about Sean Price.”

The celebration of Duck Down’s 20th would not have been complete with shining a light on the career accomplishments and sharing stories of Sean Price, who tragically passed this August. With P! shirts scattered throughout the audience, and some in attendance putting their lighters in the air, the love for Sean Price was heavily felt throughout the building. The Duck Down camp also shared an emotional compilation video and highlight reel, capturing a small part of Price’s legacy and essence, soundtracked to his track “Mess U Made.”

“What you see is what you get,” Sean P said, in the footage. “I’m a rapper to everybody else, but in here, I’m a dad. I’m a father. A husband. I leave that rap shit outside!”

Bernadette Price held it down for the P family, thanking everyone for their support and love in recent months and shared about how they met in Brownsville, back at age 13.

When Rosenberg asked Bernadette if she was always aware of the impact Sean would have, she responded, “Yes, I always aware. He was aware too. He knew what it was.”

“Sean was bigger than anybody would believe,” Bernadette continued. “Now that he’s gone, everyone is starting to figure it out. He been nice. He ain’t just get nice when he passed away. He said, ‘when I’m gone everybody gonna love me. He wanted to do so much music.” He wanted to make sure he had a legacy like Tupac. He made that quota. He sees, he’s looking down, he’s great. He did music to please the people. He did it for the love, he didn’t do it for the money. He got more music coming soon and I hope y’all gonna buy it!” Bernadette said, with a proud smile on her face.

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The tribute continued with Illa Ghee and Your Old Droog rocking the mic next, with Droog saying, “Sean P used to call me classic, man. He really showed love. They say never meet your idols but if you meet Sean P, you won’t be disappointed.” The pair performed Sean Price’s “Bar-Barian” both with passion and with everyone in the crowd rapping along.

As the tribute went on, the special guests continued pouring in, with performances and appearances by Rock of Heltah Skeletah, Pharoahe Monch, 9th Wonder, Skyzoo, Torae, Marco Polo, Ruste Juxx, Chelsea Reject, Raz Fresco, and last but not least, a special blessing to the stage of epic proportions, KRS-One and DJ Kool Herc.

With everyone piled on stage, the amount of talent in the room was overwhelming to digest, but that’s Hip-Hop—the Duck Down way. Spotting several 20th anniversary posters (designed by Tanboys) being carefully carried home on the N-Train as I made my way home to end the night, the words “Real Hip-Hop” and whatever they may mean couldn’t leave my mind. As Rosenberg and Ciph said, Duck Down has been the pinnacle of real Hip-Hop since its inception and during the 20 year celebration, that was felt universally.

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Review: “Diamond Mind” EP By Pearl Gates http://thesource.com/2015/11/27/review-diamond-mind-ep-by-pearl-gates/ Fri, 27 Nov 2015 22:42:33 +0000 http://thesource.com/?p=306347 With Diamond Mind, the ambitious debut EP of newcomer Pearl Gates, the rapper succeeds in introducing his well-rounded nature as a taste-making musician. He also surrounds himself with the best company, including guest appearances from acts like Masta Ace, Wordsworth and Khrysis of Justus League (9th Wonder). Hailing from Washington Heights, Gates released his first mixtape A Star In […]

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With Diamond Mind, the ambitious debut EP of newcomer Pearl Gates, the rapper succeeds in introducing his well-rounded nature as a taste-making musician. He also surrounds himself with the best company, including guest appearances from acts like Masta Ace, Wordsworth and Khrysis of Justus League (9th Wonder).

Hailing from Washington Heights, Gates released his first mixtape A Star In A Broken Sky in 2014, representing hard for New York City and for underground Hip-Hop heroes alike. Shortly following the release, Gates appeared alongside eMC (Masta Ace, Wordsworth and Stricklin) on “Fly Thoughts,” the first single from their album The Tonight Show.

With a balance of forward-thinking experimentation and vocally and gritty boom bap production, the 8-track EP is a strong showcase of variety. Diamond Mind has a “came from nothing” vibe, with Gates sharing his perspectives in an honest way. He’s genuinely invested in his craft and this charm helps capture independent Hip-Hop’s most favorable qualities in one release.

Lyrically, Gates is a wise writer, with smart storytelling and subtle philosophies from his direct experiences etched into each track. His laid back demeanor isn’t one to be interpreted as lazy or passive; as an MC, he tells it like it is, with a confident lean in his posture and a watchful eye on his future. Focusing on the power of thought, Pearl Gates expresses his frustration with economic and contemporary hardships, as well as detailing the ways in which he feels like both an outsider and a leader.

With a careful selection of beats that best display the artist’s lyrical talent, the EP features production from Khrysis of Justus League, Kic Beats, iRobot Scott (for Matrax Productions), Sirplus, Jay Notez and M. Stacks. Featured artists include Masta Ace, Wordsworth, Boldy James and Stricklin. Given the large amount of features, Gates’s role isn’t overshadowed but strengthened.

Diamond Mind is a well-executed first project from a promising artist. Standout tracks include the title track, “Diamond Mind,” “The Ritual” featuring Masta Ace, “Countdown” and “Winning (Whip It).”

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Review: Koncept and J57 Release “The Fuel EP” http://thesource.com/2015/11/20/artists-to-watch-koncept-and-j57-release-the-fuel-ep/ Fri, 20 Nov 2015 20:43:43 +0000 http://thesource.com/?p=305053 Much like all great timeless pieces of art, The Fuel EP has been a lesson in trusting the process for MC/producer duo Koncept and J57. Recorded over a year ago at Red Bull Studios in LA, The Fuel EP is the precursor to the New York-based group’s debut LP, Flight, currently slated to drop in […]

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Much like all great timeless pieces of art, The Fuel EP has been a lesson in trusting the process for MC/producer duo Koncept and J57.

Recorded over a year ago at Red Bull Studios in LA, The Fuel EP is the precursor to the New York-based group’s debut LP, Flight, currently slated to drop in 2016. All too often, musicians are faced with industry pressure to release their new music as soon as it’s mastered, as opposed to releasing it when it makes sense for the artist and audiences alike. This is part of why it’s been so refreshing to watch Koncept and J57 build their fanbase organically, as well as take control of their own creative direction by releasing their music on their own terms under Kon57.

The Fuel EP is an underground soundtrack for warriors. Koncept’s perseverance shines through strong in his vocal delivery, with a storytelling element that appeals to both diehard fans of independent Hip-Hop and new listeners. J57’s top notch big stadium production and Koncept’s deeply personal lyrics makes The Fuel feel-good music for the people who always root for the underdog. 

The 8-track EP is made up of carefully constructed music that doesn’t lose its sincerity or rawness along the way. Each track is as dynamic as its creators, and features guests such as the 12-year-old talent Nevaeh, Akie Bermiss, Hollis and Dice Raw, to name a few.

From being immersed in Hip-Hop as individuals to joining forces by way of working at the staple-but-now-defunct record store Fat Beats, to creating records as part of Brown Bag All Stars and working with countless collaborators over the years, the duo’s collective resumes run as deep as their passion does for making heartfelt music.

As an introduction to their ambitious and prolific sound, Koncept and J57 set their own bar exceptionally high with The Fuel EP. Check out the stream below and via iTunes.

Album art by Chris B. Murray. 

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