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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Hip Hop Habit: Yes Lord

Hip Hop Habit LogoAs a man with familial connections to Northern Philadelphia, I’ll be the first to tell you the day-to-day existence there is less than rosy. Needless to say, growing up in that environment is tough, but surviving it with the goal of becoming rap’s next superstar? That’s downright ambitious. Luckily for Yes Lord (born Jamal Tillery), ambition is innate.  Although Tillery bounced in and out of trouble as a teen and had difficulty staying in the same school for an extended period of time, he found his drive after attending college. Since then, he has churned that motivation into 1 BA , 2 MBAs and even runs his own businesses. The music? Well you could say that’s pretty ambitious too.

As is often the case with singles these days, the song Yes Lord’s received the most recognition for here on OurStage is not his strongest. Winning first prize in last November’s Converse Get Out of the Garage Urban Competition, the tongue and cheek Hold Me Down blithely describes the emcee’s adoration for the lady in his life over a moderate beat that leaves listeners asking for more. What’s important to note about this piece is that it carries a trait resoundingly present in much of Tillery’s content: desire. As noted above, Yes Lord has proven himself to be a very motivated person, and once he wraps his mind around what he wants, there’s no stopping him. Such is audible in Hold Me Down, where it’s heard through the satisfaction of successfully pursuing the woman he loves. However, his dream chasing really gets inspiring is in ghetto-documenting Life in the City

Yes LordThis track follows the one time delinquent down both the rabbit hole of drug addiction and the rare yet resilient comeback. Opening with promising vocals from featured singer Jeremie Morris over an ironically calming beat, the slow tempo automatically places Yes Lord’s tone into a category of resolve; he’s not happy with the present but he’s confident in what the future can hold. But, if there’s any truth to Slug’s (of Atmosphere) line Junkies won’t bounce ˜till they hit the ground then Tillery provides the supporting evidence. Referring to himself as a coke sniffer, chain smoker, perk popper, and weed mover, it’s safe to say he was going nowhere fast: Graduation nah I was agitated/ and fascinated with dice as they scratched the pavement passing payments/ cash that was actually tainted/ crack acquainted/ marijuana sacks is flaming. After a bust introduces him to rock bottom, Tillery uses a new year as fuel to power his goals of replenishing cash flow and doubling up on real estate.  His story is truly moving.

With enough earned business know-how to run his career independently, it’s pretty safe to say that Yes Lord controls his own destiny. He’s won various awards and performed at multiple hip hop events, but time will show these things were just steps along the way to the big time. Check his tracks out in the player below, and let us know if he enthuses you in the comments!

Nicki Minaj: We Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet

It’s hard to believe the “Queen of Mixtapes” turned Queen of Features can’t perceive her own buzz. If you’re tuned in to a hip hop station, chances are good that you’ll hear Nicki Minaj on at least three songs in a row. She’s currently featured on ten songs in heavy rotation, including “My Chick Bad” with Ludacris, “Bottoms Up” with Trey Songz, and “Get It All” with Sean Garrett.

Featured on over thirty tracks this year with artists ranging from Gucci Mane to Christina Aguilera, Minaj has demonstrated remarkable versatility without ever releasing an album. Her own single, “Your Love” soared to #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #7 on the Hot R&B/ Hip Hop chart after the previously discarded track was leaked in June.

Credit: Howard Huang (Courtesy of Universal Motown)

What’s the appeal? Her dynamic deliveries, quirky characters, and cartoon-like voices lend a theatrical element to her rhymes that haven’t been seen from a female emcee. She’s unapologetic about her sexuality, confident in her abilities, and unyielding in her quest for super-stardom. It also doesn’t hurt that she’s down with the reigning cool kids of hip hop, signing with Lil Wayne’s, Young Money imprint in 2009. Her verse on Young Money’s hugely successful single, “Bedrock” puts her at the center of the crew’s triumphant takeover as she held her own alongside hip hop’s current golden child, Drake. She nabbed two BET Awards this year including “Best New Artist”, and is nominated for an MTV VMA for her Hype Williams-directed video, “Massive Attack.” Still, the self-proclaimed “Barbie doll” says fans haven’t even tasted what she plans to serve up on her first, full-length album, Pink Friday, due out November 23.

According to Nicki, and her alter egos, she hasn’t even scratched the surface of her success.

-Cortney Wills

Cortney Wills is a music and pop culture writer.

TRUTH SERUM

melo

The art of rap is a lot like the science of perfume. There’s the top note an initial punch to your senses that gives you your first impression. Then there’s the base note the depth of character that is perceived after the top note fades away. If your base note isn’t quality, then whatever you’re laying on top is pointless.

Melo Tha Truth has mixed up a winning concoction for hip-hop fans. He uses the usual top notes to grab your attention name-checking his clothes, his sexual prowess and his lyrical swerve. But underneath all that swagger you get real chops. Akademiks, a shout-out to Melo’s favorite clothing line, is a stripped-back track built on the rapper’s dexterous flow over a looping Middle Eastern line. I’m That Shit gets more aggressive, showcasing an epic beat that would do Kanye and Jay-Z proud. Melo’s hunger to make it past hip-hop’s velvet ropes is acute. I’m ahead of my time like daylight savings / I belong in the sky, I’m a star in the making.

Let’s hope the industry picks up on his scent.

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