Common Releases "Open Letter" Remix

Let me promise right here and now that this is the last time we feature the “Open Letter” beat unless a chart-topping artist decides to release a remix. It’s a great beat and solid idea, but that doesn’t mean we need to beat it until it has become a dead horse.

Poet-meets-lyricist Common has become the third celebrity to tackle the “Open Letter” beat Jay-Z made famous at the end of last week. Unlike Jay or Pitbull’s contributions however, Common’s addition to the track is only a single new verse. You see, his lines build off Jay-Z’s original set of verses, instead of creating a separate idea altogether. It’s not exactly the most riveting lyrical content, but it is delivered by one of the greats. You can stream Common’s contribution to “Open Letter” below. (more…)

Soundcheck: Rock The Bells Recap

Guerilla Union kicked off their 9th Annual ˜Rock The Bells’ Festival in San Bernardino, Calif.  The two-day event attracted thousands of hip-hop fans to three stages featuring an eclectic mix of headliners, up-and-comers, and old-school favorites.  The blistering heat was no match for the scorching set-list that included Kendrick Lamar, Tyga, Nas, Ice Cube, and Common among others.

Photo by: Ashton Bowles

The first day of the festival was a real scorcher, with temperatures reaching 101 degrees, leaving fans clamoring for shade between sets. Still, 2Chainz’ mid-day performance on the 36 Chambers stage was packed.  Fresh off his No. 1 album debut last week, he treated the crowd to dance lessons during his high-energy set; where he performed hits like Mercy, Beez In The Trap, and No Lie.
Yelawolf was the next emcee to grace the stage and was backed up by Psycho White collaborator, Travis Barker on the drums.  The Detroit-based rapper rocked an American flag under his hat and waved middle fingers to the crowd throughout his 30-minute set.
Tyga rocked his noticeably young crowd with a medley of radio hits; showing off his tattoo collection to throngs of screaming girls.  Across the lot, Common delivered a power-packed performance of classic hits including, I Used To Love Her, Testify, and Be.  Dressed casually in shorts and a T-shirt, his subdued set was a welcomed relief from the more eccentric offerings of the day.

Soundcheck: Grammy Rap-Up: Whitney, Nicki, and Adele

This year’s usual GRAMMY festivities were obviously overshadowed by the shocking passing of Whitney Houston. Unable to ignore the noticeably solemn sense in the room, LL Cool J opened the night with a heartfelt prayer for the fallen superstar, saying, We’ve had a death in our family.

Adele took home the first televised award of the night for Best Pop Performance for her smash hit,Someone Like You.  Later in the night, she gave a jaw-dropping performance of her hit, Rolling In The Deep just weeks after having surgery on her vocal chords.   She went on to win all six awards she was nominated for, including Album Of The Year. Other big winners were The Foo Fighters who nabbed four trophies.

Although the performances are usually the highlight of the evening, this year’s showings seemed to be miss their usual spark. Bruno Mars performed in his usual 50’s du-wop style, with a big bag of new dance moves and the same old-school costumes.  Alicia Keys and Bonnie Rait paid tribute to the legendary Etta James with a duet of her song, Sunday Kind Of Love, after also acknowledging their love of Whitney. Chris Brown graced the GRAMMY stage for the first time since the 2009 incident, after Clive’s Davis’ annual dinner, that left Rihanna bruised and bloodied.  Dressed in all white, he performed Beautiful People and showcased his signature dance skills by climbing up an elaborate stage set complete with lasers and back-flipping back-up dancers.

Rihanna performed a slowed down version of We Found Love in a sexy skin-tight outfit andbleached blonde hair and black lipstick. .  The laser-filled set featured dozens of dancers storming that stage and creating a club right inside the GRAMMYs. She quickly switched gears and joined Chris Martin for their hit, Coulda Been before Coldplay closed their set with their hit, Paradise.

In one of the night’s most touching moments, Jennifer Hudson gave a powerful tribute to her idol with a performance of Whitney Houston’s hit I Will Always Love You to a tearful crowd.  She ended by saying, Whitney, we’ll always love you.

Fergie and Marc Anthony presented and accepted the award for Best Rap Performance to Kanye West and Jay-Z for Otis.  Jay-Z and Beyoncé‘s four collective nominations weren’t enough to pull them away from baby ˜Blue’, as neither of the new parents were present.  Hova nabbed only one of his two nominations of the night and Beyoncé nabbed none.  Kanye West was also a no-show for the night, even though he finally got his GRAMMY glitz; winning four awards out of his seven nominations including Best Rap Song for All Of The Lights and Best Rap Album for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

Common and Taraji Henson saluted the late Gill Scot-Heron, calling him a great poet and saying, Thanks to him, the revolution is now being televised. They presented the award for Best R&B Album to Chris Brown for F.A.M.E., leading the ever-remorseful and famously-flustered crooner to deliver a kind of uncomfortable acceptance speech.   I don’t know what to say. I’m nervous, he admitted before quickly thanking his camp and fans and hurrying off the stage.

After spending half the night in her seat holding hands with friend, Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift performed her single, Mean with a banjo in hand and an elaborate down-home stage set.

Drake was proud to introduce his friend and label mate, Nicki Minaj, calling her one of the most intelligent, beautiful, driven women I’ve ever met in my life. He said, She went from sleeping in the bunk under mine on the tour bus, and now she’s one of the biggest stars in the world.  After kicking off her extremely theatrical performance from a set in the crowd, she segued into a pre-recorded mini-movie called The Exorcism of Roman, an elaborate introduction to her most vicious alter ego. Then, she hit the stage for a spectacle of a show that featured her stellar rhyming skills as well as her certifiable singing and over the top acting abilities. While I have a feeling her set may have gone over some fans’ heads; no one can deny the guts and the gifts she displayed on the GRAMMY stage.

New Year, New Music

A new year means new music from some of hip hop’s biggest names.  Now that 2012 is finally here, we’re seeing the first round of release dates roll out, and we’re expecting big things from some unlikely players.

Estelle: One of my favorite females in music right now is Estelle, and she’s ready to release her third studio album next month. All Of Me will drop on February 28.  With singles, Thank You and Break My Heart featuring Rick Ross already climbing up the charts, we can’t wait to hear the completed project.

Rick Ross: Ross dropped his Rich Forever mixtape last week, and so far it’s getting rave reviews.  The twenty-track mixtape is just what you’d expect from the Maybach Music chief, who enlisted help from heavyweights like Diddy, Drake and Nas on the project.  My personal fave is Mind Games featuring Kelly Rowland.

Nicki Minaj: While there’s still no release date for Nicki’s sophomore release, Birdman told media in November that he plans to release the project in the first quarter of 2012.  We’ve heard rumors of a Valentine’s Day drop, but we’ll have to wait and see.  What we do know is that the album will be highly influenced by Nicki’s hard-hitting alter ego, Roman.

Big K.R.I.T.: The Mississippi-bred rapper is ready to release his highly-anticipated mixtape, 4evaNaDay on February 20.  He’s also dropping the first single, I Got This off his upcoming Def Jam debut, Live From The Underground on February 1. In his Twitter announcement, he told fans, Its goin’ down shawty cant wait for y’all 2 hear this!

Tyga: Just last week, Young Money’s youngest troublemaker was arrested in Las Vegas.  Only time will tell if his latest project, Careless World: The Rise of the Last King will actually make its original release date.  Still, Tyga says fans can expect to see some major growth and maturity on the project, as well as an intended departure from the sound of his mixtapes.

In an interview on ThisIs50, Tyga said, It’s a theme album so it’s the first installment of the story. It’s about me becoming a king in this place called Careless World. It’s just a story from beginning to end. This album will show a lot of growth in the music and a lot of maturity. People are gonna definitely understand who I am more as an artist. Mixtapes is more like party, talkin’ shit type records that you just put together. This is my first real project that I’m putting together that has a theme.”

Common: Aside from his release of Sweet, Common has released another cutthroat track, and this time, there’s no confusing the target. In his latest drop, Common takes aim at Drake again on his remixed version of Rick Ross’ Stay Schemin’ a song that originally featured Drake and French Montana.  He released the single on MTV’s RapFix: Live, unveiling scathing lyrics like, My motto is Chicago bitch, everybody know you’re sweet, what the problem is? / Don’t play dumb, I’m the one that acknowledged this,” “The rapper of the moment, the style he don’t own it / Acting all hard when he hardly like that / You gon’ mess around and make me catch a body like that / Don’t do it, ’cause every song you make Joe is really hoe music.

Ludacris: Luda announced a May release date for his eighth studio album, Ludaversal. Just last week, the rapper-turned-actor-turned rapper said he had already collaborated with fellow Atlanta favorite, Usher on the album.  Usher is one person that I’ve already worked with, and in terms of other artists, you can say that there’s going to be a lot of surprises on here, he told Billboard. Fans can expect more production from The Neptunes and can hope for a single in March.  It’s been a minute since I’ve been away from music, and there is just so much to talk about¦ So [the album] is mostly about my personal life, my travels, my experiences, rumors, gossip”you know, everything coming together in one.

Lupe Fiasco  & Pharell Williams: According to Lupe‘s official Web site, he and Pharell are back in the studio, hard at work on a collaborative album.  On the site, he simply stated, Food and Liquor 2 coming soon.  Lupe and Pharell album coming soon.   This isn’t the first time these two have teased at a collaborative project.  I seem to remember a rumored group formation with Kanye West, Pharell and Lupe circling last year. Still, I’m holding out hope that this project will materialize.


Soundcheck: Hot New Hip-Hop

As we eagerly await the last batch of big albums to drop before year’s end, a steady stream of singles have been coming out of the woodwork.  With some unexpected mash-ups, album teasers and repeat offenders like Rick Ross, Drake, Wale and Mary J. Blige, the fall music season is heating up as temperatures cool down.  Here, a few tracks worth paying attention to.  

Common, Sweet: Fresh off his upcoming album, The Dreamer, The Believer, Common is back with a vengeance on the No. I.D. produced track. Remniscent of his early days on the mic, Common reminds fans that despite the glitz and glamor, he’s still the Chicago-bred beast who is not to be messed with. The G.O.O.D. music alum says he plans to make an appearance on the recently announced compilation album, even though the label isn’t backing his release. We had talked

Rick Ross/ Wale

about it before, but it was actually some new news to me that it was going forward. But I’m definitely looking forward to it and I obviously want to be a part of it. I’m G.O.O.D. Music family forever. Even though my album is not coming out on G.O.O.D. Music, I’m still a G.O.O.D. Music affiliate and artist. That’s my family forever.

Trey Songz ft. Fabolous, What I Be On: Trey is at it again with last week’s release of his double mixtape.  He dropped the Fab-featured single complete with a play on Drake‘s Marvin’s Room in his verse.  Was that a diss?


Soundcheck: Fall Music Preview

As the warm weather fades away and summer comes to a close, there’s still one thing to look forward to; a new season meansnew music. Now that J. Cole has dropped Cole World: The Sideline Story, and Weezy finally released The Carter IV this month as well, the bar is already set pretty high for this season’s set-lists.  Here are a few projects we can’t wait to get our hands on.

B.o.B. gave fans a taste of what’s to come last week when he released Strange Clouds, the first single off his upcoming sophomore album of the same name. While no drop date has been set, the song features Lil Wayne and a markedly more aggressive Bobby Ray.  He told HipHopDX, Hopefully fans will be able to hear the new album very soon. I’m as impatient for you to hear it as you are. It’s a more mature sound but nothing too experimental, he said. It’s a happy medium between the sound of B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray and the mixtapes, so everyone should be able to enjoy it.

Drake will release his sophomore effort, Take Care, on October 24 under Young Money Records.  Just last week, he released the cover art to the album with a note to fans:

Feels like it’s been so long. Is life moving so fast in this generation that when we desire something it begins to move in slow motion? Are we just used to getting what we want right away? Or do we require one another to feel right about all that is going on around us? Maybe our anticipation is justified by the fact that we genuinely cannot wait to share a moment again? Either way, your life and mine are scheduled to meet on October 24…I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Neither would we, Drake.  Wonder if this little note was meant to distract fans from the fact that the album was due out October 4, and has been pushed back.  Still, if his singles, Headlines and his latest, Free Spirit featuring Rick Ross are any indication of what’s to come, it’s definitely worth the wait.