Lots of rappers spit about the spoils of their stardom”Bentleys, diamonds, Louis Vuitton luggage. Not many, and maybe none, have taken all that money they’ve made through record sales and donated it to charity. Except, that is, New York rapper and activist Awkword. His album, World View, featured contributions from artists in 20 countries and benefited Guns 4 Cameras, a nonprofit dedicated to ending street violence. And though his mission is serious, Awkword’s got a quicksilver wit that permeates most of his tracks. On the buoyant, reggae-influenced Stay Spittin’, Stay Flowin’ he takes listeners through the chambers of the heart, from the vena cava to the aorta. Then, on Colors, he turns his attention to the color wheel, rapping My blood is red, but I stay blue like Barack over a Motown loop. Only on Requiem do you get a sense of Awkword’s intensity. I’m here to lift you up / I can also take you down. Stay on his good side; it’s a pretty inspiring place to be.
Sometimes, your average, run-of-the-mill hip-hop just won’t cut it. You need some beats and rhymes that are a little…different. This week, OurStage’s own technical liaison Jordan has put together a playlist for all those alternative hip-hop fans out there. Here’s a mix of rappers who are all thinking outside the box, creating odd combinations of sounds and lyrics to form a synthesis of head-bobbing tunes. These unusual rap songs from artists like Outkast, Philadelphia Slick, Gorillaz, and many more are sure to give you a whole new way to look at rap music. Post up, and contemplate the unique stylings of alternative hip-hop.
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Like Lupe Fiasco, Billa Camp hails from Chi-Town, loves skateboard culture and is an exemplar of alternative hip hop. And here’s another similarity”both appeared in the video for Fiasco’s song Kick, Push.” Still, Camp’s got his own thing going on, like an encyclopedic knowledge of rock, for starters. On Grateful Dread, the rapper name checks dozens of artists, starting with Sublime, Radiohead and Nirvana before moving onto Talking Heads, MC5 and Flaming Lips. Even Phish gets a shout-out on the hypnotic track, which combines lashes of cymbals and droning textures that sound like a deviant version of Aphex Twin’s Windowlicker. Stylistically, Camp’s music runs the gamut”from surf guitars on California to a crackling samples of the 1950s hit Why Don’t You Believe Me on Show Time to the banging Beat Street with its hefty dose of Planet Rock by Afrika Bambaataa. You don’t know where you’re going when you put on a Billa Camp track, but you can be sure you’re gonna have a good time.
A life as an investment banker has its perks, like big paychecks and bigger bonuses. But sometimes a man just wants a mic, a stage and the roar of the crowd. Hip hop artist Kenton Dunson traded his career in finance to take a chance on music, and so far his gamble has paid off. Beautiful Fight takes a pitch-shifted vocal stutter, loops it with piano, guitar and beaten percussion for a killer hook, and then adds a story about redemption. I never was dirt poor / But I came a long way from the church chorus to the workhorse, Dunson spits. Dude is dope. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been burned. On Firestarter, he confesses I never should have messed with a devil in a dress, as swaths of digital textures and piano provide the beat. Maybe he’s been unlucky in love, maybe he’s not making a Wall Street salary, but Dunson’s decision to get into music looks like it could pay off in dividends.
Hey guys! In this new, weekly feature on OurStage we’ll be shining a spotlight on one of our own OurStage artists and comparing them to a nationally recognized artist that you might be more familiar with. Each week, we’ll select an artist based on musical characteristics similar to a well known mainstream artist. While highlighting the similarities between said artists, we will also show you what makes each OurStage artist unique and not simply a rip-off of the artist they are being compared to. Our goal with this column is to help you guys find great new music that you might not have heard of or found on the site yet.
For our inaugural post let’s look at North Carolina-based alternative hip hop group BPL, and compare them to the hip hop group The Roots. BPL’s most obvious similarity to The Roots is that they are a “hip hop band”. The band packs a punch with seven members, including two saxophone players and a trumpet player . Much like The Roots, BPL mixes influence from soul, funk and jazz, and meshes that all together with a 90s hip hop flavor. Performing using all live instruments, their sound is much more organic and natural sounding than most synth driven hip hop you will hear on the radio today”you won’t find any Autotune on these tracks. And like The Roots, these guys are talented instrumentalists. It’s one thing to sound good in the studio, but BPL brings it live with the energy and tightness of any of the best touring acts today. Check out their live video for “The Answer” below.
Now, you’re probably thinking, “Well, what makes BPL different from a group like The Roots.” BPL sets themselves apart from the pack with their lyrics and arrangements. While The Roots’ lyrics typically deal with socially conscious and political themes, BPL’s lyrical themes are far more varied. This is clearly evidenced on their track “Do You Remember?”, a song about a night of partying and trying to remember what happened the day after. While this sounds somewhat juvenile at first, BPL’s fantastic MCs have the ability to tell a detailed story with their lyrics that keeps you enthralled. MCs Peter Schaffer and Michael Martin have the ability to paint a picture with their words much like rappers Eminem or Nas do; their use of specific details and clearly enunciated rhymes make it very easy to mentally visualize the story they are telling in their lyrics.
BPL continues to defy mainstream conventions with their lengthy and complex arrangements, clearly demonstrated on their epic, eight and half minute track “Winter”. This is a track that is as much of a jazz tune as it is a hip hop song. The track begins with a slow and somber piano melody, and with an opening line like “I feel like Coltrane in a land of Kenny G’s,” you can tell these guys know their jazz. About halfway through the song, the rapping stops and the song breaks down into almost a free form jazz jam with the instrumentalists improvising, until ultimately building up to the most energetic verse of the song, where Peter Schaffer raps in double time. It is a truly striking song and unlike anything you’ll hear on the average hip-hop radio station.
BPL’s debut album Higher is out now on NuSouth Entertainment
Recently, MTV launched NextMovie.com”a movie site for the next generation featuring celebrity interviews, movie news and video reviews from rappers and rockers. And naturally, since we have no shortage of talented rhymesayers or rock-and-rollers on OurStage, we got in on the action with the NextMovie Review Competition to offer one lucky rap, hip hop or rock artist a chance to have their own video review posted on the NextMovie site!
Well, a winner has been chosen: Nikki Lynette‘s fierce track Love U Crazy, earned her the prize. This Chi-town native is no stranger to success on OurStage. In fact, Nikki regularly kicks ass and takes names in the urban charts. Love U Crazy is a genre-bending hip-shaker that combines equal parts rock and rap in one tasty alternative hip hop package guaranteed to get you on your feet. If you’re ready to jam out to spiky guitars and sultry vocals check out Love U Crazy below, and keep an eye out for Nikki’s NextMovie review when it airs on OurStage! You can also head on over to nextmovie.com to see Lego versions of summer blockbusters and hear what MC Hammer thought about Thor.