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 via Bandcamp 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, who think 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 an “album.” It’s not a mixtape, it’s not 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 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.
On Bandcamp now —> songs for charles by Joel.
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…)
The delightful Pop Chart Lab has released a new addition to their line of hip-hop charts, this one titled The Massive Map of Hip-Hop Monikers. It breaks down and categorizes names of known hip-hop artists, organizing them by common attributes like rhymes, misspellings, stars, and numbers. It is huge, incorporating more than 1,000 names.
Check it out:
It’s been a good summer for G-Eazy. In addition to touring alongside Lil Wayne, the Must Be Nice rapper has been putting the final touches on his long-awaited debut album. “Been On” is likely not an album cut, as it was released with zero warning as a free download, but it does showcase an evolution in Eazy’s sound. The ’50s-inspired pop themes that helped him rise to prominence have been replaced by a more modern hip-hop influence, and that is certainly not a bad thing. You can hear the track and view the official video at the end of this post.
Directed by Bobby Bruderle, the video for Been On features G-Eazy in a classic pose while lighting a blunt in super slow motion. Inspired by still photography, the video attempts to create a series of fluid images that also function as still photos.
G-Eazy has not revealed his album plans at this time, but we’ve heard that will be changing soon. Stay tuned for updates. (more…)
OS Member Fat Trel has released a full download of his brand new mixtape, SDMG.
The results of months of hard work, SDMG arrived online late last night. The title sands for Sex, Drugs, Money, & Guns, which fits pretty well with the recurring themes found in the music. The project features 20 new tracks, with additional contributions from Wale, Smoke DZA, Danny Brown, Trouble, Black Cobain, YG, Red Cafe, Young Chop, Cardo, DJ Mustard, Harry Fraud, and more. You can stream and download the release on LiveMixtapes.
Fat Trel has been teasing tour dates across his social networks since June. Nothing concrete has been announced at this point, but rest assured we will update you as soon as more information becomes available.
The first of two mixtapes promised by Keef in 2013, Bang Pt 2 arrives roughly six months after we first expected it to debut. In the time Keef kept fans waiting, he made sure to release a steady stream of singles and, surprisingly, only a few made the cut for this release. Of the 16 tracks included, only four have surfaced before now, and only one features any guest appearances. Click here to download the album.
Chief Keef has been spotted playing one-off gigs around the country, but no concrete evidence has surfaced to suggest a new tour or album will surface anytime soon. We’ll keep our eyes peeled and update you as soon as that changes. Comment below and let us know your thoughts on Bang Pt 2.
Making good on promises he made at the beginning of the month, Atlanta native Trinidad James has released his highly-anticipated 10 Pc Mild mixtape. The album, which is the first to surface from James in 2013, is the second release ever for the buzzworthy rapper. His debut boasted the singles “All Gold Everything” and “Female$ Wanted,” which helped catapult him to the national stage, but for this release James has kept every song under wraps until today. His hope is that fans will experience all ten tracks in sequential order, and having heard the record ourselves we can understand why. James has delivered a cohesive, wild listening experience that works best when played from beginning to end. Head over to LiveMixtapes to stream and download 10 Pc Mild.
Trinidad James wrapped up a nationwide summer tour last night in Ohio. He has yet to reveal fall touring plans, but we’re heard rumors that he’ll be joining a star-studded lineup for a string of shows in the months ahead. Stay tuned for updates.
From the minds of So So Def’s FreeAgentz, “Is It Chu” features frenetic production, hard-hitting bass, and is a clear reminder why Da Brat once dominated hip-hop. Her quick-tongued take on everything from pop culture to the lame ways people try to break into rap recalls a classic era in the genre, and hearing it presented with a fresh approach to song structure makes her talent feel vital once again. You can view the video for “Is It Chu” at the end of this post.
While it’s nice to know Da Brat is back, we still do not know when we can expect a proper release to come our way. Stay tuned. (more…)