It’s been about a year and a half since we heard new music from Jae Apollo, but he’s finally back with a new single. It’s a tour-de-force, eight and a half minute track called “Last Run,” and the Brooklyn rapper is calling it his most personal work to date, helping to explain his recent absence from the scene. There’s a lot to unpack here, but it sounds like some different matters all caught up with him at once, and a bit of pain held him back for a while. The loss of a friend, of a relationship, the struggles of an artist, and clearly conflicting emotions about it are opened up here. The run is the metaphor, and having been dragged down, he’s giving it everything for what feels like it could be a last chance to break free: “I’ll run until my last breath or feel my ankles breaking…somehow I just won’t quit, I been through too much shit.” Follow @JaeApollo on Twitter.
Check out the new single and video from Georga MC Se’von. It’s got an ornate, piano-pounding beat, creating a lush soundscape for Se’von’s thoughtful lyric. Enhanced by a beautifully shot video, “Can’t Live My Life” is a momentous piece of work by an artist reaching his full potential. Keep up with him on Twitter @.
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No Pain, No Fame
We last heard music from Joel. (aka MaG) on his 2013 release (via RCRDLBL) Freedom, a soulful slice of American hip-hop. He didn’t go silent between then and now – those who follow him on Twitter know that Joel is a poet and a non-stop thinker, with an eye toward social progress and absolutely no patience for bullshit.
It’s no surprise to find that same spirit in the music he’s been working on. songs for charles is an independent release dropped just last month, and it kicks off with a short audio clip from Jay Z in the studio, taken from the film Fade To Black. This track, titled “what Hov said…(intro),” captures Jay discussing young rappers coming up; artists who believe they have to write about things they don’t feel and don’t know. He tells the cameraman to put the lens on him before saying, “See what y’all did to rappers? They scared to be theyself.”
Being true to himself, then, serves as Joel.’s mission here. “I can’t speak for no one else / but I’m gonna keep on being myself,” goes one of the refrains on the first song, “creston and 188th.” What follows is a personal catharsis. The next eight songs are all at least rooted in the past, even while facing the present. He looks back on his upbringing, his family, lessons learned and carried forward. “We was young / we was reckless,” he says, in the frank and unsentimental “hash browns.” The chilled out, hypnotic loop of the song keeps the mood static and, as much as the lyric, creates a vivid atmosphere, if not an especially warm one. It actually feels like a carefully constructed sound collage, pieced together from ‘70s-‘80s AM radio dials, video games, cassettes rewinding…the sounds of a childhood, running in the background.
“new, new york” brings us into the present, or at least the very recent past. But each track here, just like real life, builds on what came before. That’s why, even though this is an eight-song collection (nine tracks), I take songs for charles as a real album. It’s not a mixtape, nor a collection of singles. It’s a thematic, narrative flow. And, like a lot of Joel.’s work, it’s densely filled with imagery and wordplay, and almost has the feel of a stage play. With only a few listens so far, I have not absorbed every nuance, but I look forward to trying.
“better late than never (intermission)” is a dreamy flight, with a backing that sounds like recent Radiohead; droning chords bracing syncopated, jazz drums. The lyric is equal parts past, present, and future, and how they are helplessly intertwined, with a hook that declares, “I’d rather die than let go of one of my dreams / one foot forward, all I gotta do is proceed…It’s never too late to dream.” Hope continues to be a central theme here – aspirations for a better life, one that’s more fulfilling, one that is free from the troubled past, and one where glory is attained on no one else’s terms but your own.
Certainly Joel. knows there’s no complete escape from what came before. But songs for charles is at least an attempt at exorcism. Facing pain in stark terms, he describes a present in which personal reconciliation is already under way, and this music – in all its expressive, subtle complexity – is the conduit.
Texas hip-hop foursome The Niceguys will return to the stage at this year’s SXSW in Austin, Texas, and you won’t want to miss their set. The performance will place at Red 7 on March 15, at 10:45pm, and given their veteran status, we can’t help but think that these guys know how to put on a show. You can get more information on their Facebook, and if you’re still on the fence, check out their track “Things Ain’t The Same” below. (more…)
For years now, Freeway Rick Ross, the real life drug dealer upon whom rapper Rick Ross bases his stage persona and kingpin image, has been trying to nail Ross (the latter) for making millions by selling his music under an appropriated drug lord persona. Last week, a California judge dismissed Freeway Rick’s most recent appeal, citing the rapper’s creation of original works that only used the name as a jumping-off point. Freeway Rick was not amused.
In a statement issued following the judge’s rejection of his appeal, the real Freeway Rick Ross remarked: “There is a teachable moment about the state of our community when a man who has a respectable job as a correctional officer, has to recreate himself in my former image as a large-scale kingpin to gain what he feels is social acceptance as a successful man.” Though Freeway Rick’s indignation does have a point here, he misunderstands Ross’ motivations. Ross was never thinking about perceived social acceptance as a successful man. He was thinking about actual success. And he actually achieved it by making insane amounts of money because he understands the fan inclination to want to believe that artists’ music reflects a truthful depiction of their lives.
Hip-hop culture has always been based on the appropriation and re-interpretation of communal objects from the past. It’s called sampling. And hip-hop artists have been doing it in with their stage personas forever, pretending to be harder and more dangerous than they actually are. So when Ross took on the symbolic identity of a historical drug dealer, he was doing just that: “sampling” someone else’s life and then turning it into something new. And that is exactly why Rick Ross’ recent lawsuit against LMFAO for interpolating the lyric “Every day I’m hustlin” from his 2006 song “Hustlin” is so ironic, because when LMFAO jokingly altered that line, they were doing the exact same thing. Though Ross’ lawsuit states that LMFAO’s similar lyric is “an obvious attempt to capitalize on the fame and success of “Hustlin,” the reality of the situation is a bit more nuanced.
Kanye West has found himself tangled in a lawsuit for sampling a vocal track of soul singer Ricky Spicer (The Ponderosa Twins Plus One) in his track, “Bound 2.” Spicer filed a lawsuit against West this past Monday, along with Roc-a Fella Records, Universal Music Group, and Island Def Jam Music Group, with Spicer seeking “an injunction and damages for alleged violations of New York civil right of publicity law (section 51), unjust enrichment and common law copyright infringement.”
The lawsuit states that after recording “Bound” with The Ponderosa Twins at age 12, Spicer went on to perform with acts such as James Brown and Gladys Knight. “For all his accomplishments,” the court papers state, “Mr. Spicer was not fairly compensated.” Check out the two tracks below and let us know what you think. (more…)