Mumford & Sons – “Lover Of The Light”
It’s hard to tell exactly what Idris Elba is thinking in this video, but it sure is nice to look at. The clip shows a blind man (Elba) who is seemingly thrilled by the sunrise, talking to himself at breakfast, and almost running to his death off the cliffs of Wales. Elba co-directed the intimate video, and does a great job telling a somber story backed by an uplifting song.
Kid Cudi – “Just What I Am” (feat. King Chip)
Don’t be fooled by the frame: This video isn’t quite fine art. Cudi claims “all my videos will be in a baroque frame. I create art, so it will be presented as such. ART IN MOTION.” Um, okay. Unfortunately for Cudi, the visual companion to “Just What I Am” is nothing we haven’t seen a million times before – red solo cups, crowded party, toasting to the good life. Oh well, the song’s not bad.
Swizz Beatz – “Everyday Birthday” (feat. Chris Brown & Ludacris)
Chris Brown wakes up in bed with a “crazy” girl, Luda wakes up in a shower, Swizz is chillin’ on a yacht in Cannes. So begins “Everyday Birthday,” a whirlwind visual feast of bottles poppin’, club hoppin’, and some very evil French girls.
More like this:
The first thing you have to know about TAMPPA is that he loves his hood. Born and raised in Brooklyn, the rapper considers the borough his muse. On Brownsville Grind, a nod to one of Brooklyn’s public housing projects, TAMPPA paints a picture of his hustle. The track is a soulful, brassy, hip-hop hot cooker with an intro by none other than Ludacris. TAMPPA’s got connections”his cousin is Anthony Cruz, a.k.a. the rapper and frequent Nas collaborator, AZ. As you can hear, talent runs in the family. TAMPPA’s tracks are filled with lyrical smart bombs. On Gotta Be More he talks about rising above his situation and chasing the dream, rapping, Like the late, great Michael, I gotta go thrill ˜em. By Fix Your Face he’s arrived. Over rattling textures and a fat bass line he proclaims, We are kings, and ghetto legends. All hail the next great MC of Kings County.
Bonus update. Tamppa has a personal message about his latest collaboration:
Everyone wants to be a star. Especially rappers. While many brag about their ability to court members of the opposite sex, the wide breadth of their earthly possessions, their height of their stacks, and most importantly, swag, it all really boils down to status. Which, in turn, is attention. The higher one’s prestige, the greater their worth and the more eyeballs and ears they will attract.
Fortunately in hip-hop there is also a deep tradition of collaboration. Posse cuts are always dope. And a rapper without their beatmaker would just be a solo street accapellist. Spitting bars out in public, especially with a hardened affect while talking about violence and an ostentatious lifestyle, would not be a good look on anybody. Except maybe on this guy.
And you’re not him.
Which brings us to the topic of today’s piece, the feature rapper. When would the motivation to stand out ever be stronger then on someone else’s track? A game changing guest verse (or a couple hundred of them, in some rapper’s cases) has been enough in the past to launch careers much in the way a Top 40 charting single would. So here are some of our picks for the best feature rappers in the game right now. Please note that this list is objectively correct; we came to these rappers after a series of rigorous tests that followed the scientific method. Lab coats were worn while this list was put together.
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.
“I get high with a little help from my friends,” Ringo Starr sang on the Beatles‘ 1967 classic. These days, so do many of music’s top stars. Two’s company, and so is three and sometimes four. The more the merrier, the higher and higher they get.
On the charts, that is.
In the Top 40 of Billboard’s Hot 100 for the week ending December 10, seventeen songs were collaborations between separate recording entities. Four of them featured Drake, and three apiece featured Rihanna and Nicki Minaj, who both appeared on tracks with Drake and with each other. But will.i.am featuring Jennifer Lopez and Mick Jagger”and debuting at No. 36 with “T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever),” which the threesome performed on the November 20 American Music Awards”was probably the one that nobody saw coming.
Old-school Rolling Stones fans must be cringing at the idea of Jagger going anywhere near Lopez and will.i.am so soon after Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera went to No. 1 by invoking his hallowed name on “Moves Like Jagger.” But for a sixty-something legend like him, hit records”even if in name only, a la Duck Sauce‘s GRAMMY-nominated “Barbra Streisand”are a near-impossible dream unless they’re in tandem with other, often younger, stars.
With performances from Will.i.am, Jennifer Lopez, Chris Brown, Pitbull and Drake among others, the 2011 American Music Awards provided an eclectic mix of music this year.Andthanks to thenineteen performances sprinkled throughout the show, fans were able to see some of musics brightest stars shine on the big stage.
Nicki Minaj was on top of the world last night after nabbing two of the biggest hip hop honors of the night. She scored Favorite Artist and Favorite Album for Pink Friday, beating out Jay-Z and Kanye Wests Watch The Throne and mentor Lil Waynes The Carter IV. She also delivered a killer show-opening performance of Superbass and Turn Me On alongside David Guetta, and some serious wardrobe that included speakers in her backside. In her acceptance speeches, a truly touched Minaj thanked her Young Money crew, Weezy, and Taylor Swift and wore an unusually classy, green gown, proving this girl really does clean up nice.
50 Cent was on deck to introduce Chris Brown, who he called the main event, noting youve never really seen this performer unless youve seen him live, before Brown and his bleached-blonde hair hit the stage for dance-heavy renditions of All Back and Say It With Me. Although Brown was nominated for two awards, he wasnt a winner, getting beat out by ex, Rihanna for Favorite Album and Usher for Favorite Male Artist.
Another big winner for the night was Jennifer Lopez. Aside from two show-stopping performances (one with Pittbul and a Fiat, and one with Will.i.am), she also nabbed Favorite Latin Artist, breaking a five-year winning streak for Enrique Iglesias. When she first hit the stage in a jeweled, skin-colored bodysuit (Britney, anyone?) and danced in, around, and through, her perfectly placed Fiat, she proved to the world that shes still got the moves of a fly girl. Later, she gave an amped-up performance alongside Will.i.am, performing his new single, T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever) which also features rock icon, Mick Jagger.
Enrique Iglesias hit the stage later to perform his hit, I Like How It Feels backed by the Crenshaw High School choir, and was later joined by Ludacris, who spit his verse on Tonight (Im Loving You) in a preppy sweater look. British import Adele, racked up three awards including Favorite Artist, Favorite Album, and Favorite Female Artist for her groundbreaking project, 21.
Mary J. Blige hit the stage in an all-white suit to perform Mr. Wrong without Drake, who later took the stage to give his own performance of Headlines in front of a live band. After her performance, MJB gave a heartfelt tribute to fallen friend, Heavy D.
Missing from the audience this year were Jay-Z, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross and a handful of other hip hop heavyweights. In their defense, with only two real hip hop categories, the AMAs are not a major destination for these guys, unless they have an album to promote.
On November 9, Nashville celebrated itself (again!) with the Country Music Association (CMA) Awards. For the fourth consecutive year, the event was hosted by Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley, but the masters of ceremonies weren’t the only thing that gave me that old deja vu feeling. Hadn’t these accolades already been handed out just a few months ago?
Wait, those were the Country Music Television (CMT) Music Awards in June. And before that, there were the Academy of Country Music Awards. And, just in case that’s not enough Music City honors for you, there are the 2nd annual American Country Awards coming up on December 5.
Pop and R&B are just as self-congratulatory, offering the MTV Video Music Awards, the MTV Europe Music Awards, the Billboard Awards, the American Music Awards, the Teen Choice Awards, the BET Awards, the BET Hip Hop Awards, the NAACP Image Awards and the Soul Train Music Awards.
Then, of course, there are the GRAMMYs, which following so many other back-slapping fests, have been losing their lustre for years now”though that’s hardly the only reason. Winning one used to be the musical equivalent of snagging an Oscar, but now its just more clutter for the awards shelf.
In a few weeks (November 30, to be exact), the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences will announce the nominees for the 2012 GRAMMY Awards (to be held on February 12). Doesn’t it already feel like we’ve been there and done that over and over and over already this year? Am I the only one who doesn’t doubt that we’re in for another repeat of The Adele Show, with a very special appearance by Lady Gaga. Good as it is, like Christmas, I only need to sit through it once a year.
No matter what the media say”and for more than a year now, they’ve been declaring Justin Bieber as big as, if not bigger than, the Beatles”Bieber Fever is no match for Beatlemania. Even if Bieber’s new holiday album, Under the Mistletoe, which was released November 1, ends up being the biggest one ever (the first single, “Mistletoe,” just debuted on Billboard’s Hot 100 at No. 11, immediately making it the seventeen-year-old’s biggest solo hit yet), remember this: The Beatles never released a Christmas album. (Thank God!)
Obviously, Bieber Fever does have one thing in common with Beatlemania, a movement launched by The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 that continued long after the Beatles broke up in 1970: girls, girls, girls (all screaming at the top of their lungs). They are the cornerstone of Bieber’s success, but Beatlemania involved so much more than overzealous female fans caught up in the rapture of hot musical act.
Thanks to his largely underage female following, Bieber does reasonably well commercially, though he lacks the opening-week clout of Lady Gaga, Lil Wayne or even Coldplay (to name the artists behind the Top 3 debuts of 2011). In the US, he’s sold some 5 million copies of one full-length studio album, three compilations and one EP. That may barely be on par with the sales standards set by pop’s top divas, but it would put him in the running for modern pop’s most commercially viable male star.
Still, Bieber is no chart phenomenon. For all of the hysteria he spawned in his first two and a half years in circulation, he only hit the Top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100 twice in his first eight tries. The highest-peaking of those was “Baby” (No. 5 in 2010), and both were collaborations with rappers (Ludacris on “Baby,” Jaden Smith on “Never Say Never”), which means Bieber has yet to score a massive hit based on his star power alone.
So sang then-ex-Eagle Don Henley in 1985. Ironically, “All She Wants to Do Is Dance,” Henley’s third great solo Top 10 hit, was neither particularly danceable nor was it actually about about a woman who lived to shake her groove thing underneath the strobelight (no matter what the video says). The careless, carefree dancing queen was a metaphor for a United States that was more concerned with buying thrills than curing societal and political ills.
More than twenty-five years later, in the world of pop music, it’s all about movement”and not as an ambitious political metaphor. With the possible exception of Bruno Mars (who’s really going to have to toughen up and speed up the tempo if he’s ever going to get my love), all everyone”male and female, from Lady Gaga to Rihanna to Foster the People”wants to do is dance (and make romance). Red Hot Chili Peppers even closes its latest album, I’m With You, with a song titled, fittingly, “Dance Dance Dance.”
When Henley offered his biting political commentary with a beat, “disco” was still a dirty word. That’s probably why he was able to use it as a stand in for hedonism and get away with it. The truth, though, is that disco never really left the building: In the ’80s, a number of artists”from Michael Jackson to Madonna to Prince to Janet Jackson”were incorporating it into their pop.
Mash-ups are a mainstay on the hip hop scene with rappers constantly collaborating to deliver fresh material. Even the most vicious emcee paired up with the current R&B diva has a natural charm, and we’ve come to expect Rihanna, Beyoncé or Kelly Rowland backing up big verses from big rappers. Now, it seems that hip hop has crossed over into the pop star realm, blurring the lines between the sugary sweet stylings of pop icons like Britney, Katy and Bieber with the hard-hitting sound of the streets.
We got our biggest dose of the crossover craze when Nicki Minaj announced she would join Britney Spears on her Femme Fatale Tour this year. In a groundbreaking move, fans of pop music’s reigning queen would be shoulder to shoulder with fans of the hottest thing to hit hip hop in years. What resulted was one hell of a party!
Now, other singers are following suit, and pairing up with some unlikely collaborators. Justin Bieber will throw a little hip hop into the holidays when he releases Under The Mistletoe, on November 1. The fifteen-track holiday album features a version of The Little Drummer Boy with none other than Busta Rhymes. We can’t imagine Rhymes’ grimy, gruff voice singing about the birth of Christ, but we’re all ears. Other guests on the album will include Usher, Boyz II Men and Mariah Carey.