Posts Tagged: Rap

"Illmatic" At 20, Nas At 40

The problem for living legends is that they have to live with their legends. This is especially so when their legend was a product of their youth and its mindset, which they outgrow, becoming legendary, but which you still see in them, knowing their legend much more than you know them. Imagine Achilles enfeebled. Imagine his pain and confusion if, having grown out of his strength, he looked still like a breaker of men.

Like this is Nas, who became famous with his second album, in 1996, but who made his name with his first album, "Illmatic," twenty years ago, and likes to rap about how he still [...]


Four Great North Carolina Musical Artists

Far from the big labels and high-priced venues of New York and L.A., bands and solo artists are forming their own business and audience opportunities. It's not really unlike the old days—but now you don't need the critical mass of an Athens or a Seattle scene. In addition to club shows and local tours, there's a chance to grow up or even break out on the Internet. Here's a guide to four strong and hungry acts working and playing in North Carolina.


"Swing the gas mask like an elephant trunk/then dunk/ the whole beat/ in a O-Z /of somethin’ skunk/Then I said what's up/They say my ish was [...]


Gunplay, "Bible On The Dash"

Once when I was driving on Route 80 in Pennsylvania, I passed a car being driven by a man holding a book open between his two hands on the steering wheel. It was a thick book, like a big novel, and he was reading it while driving 65 miles per hour on the highway. This seemed like one of the more dangerous things I had ever seen. So I hope Gunplay doesn't try to, like, look up any particular passages of scripture while he's rolling. But this is a great song.


Tyler, The Creator, "IFHY" Featuring Pharell/"Jamba" Featuring Hodgy Beats

The new album from Odd Future rapper/producer Tyler, the Creator comes out tomorrow. It is acclaimed! The video for the first single is super creepy and great—with a nice little nod to Saturday Night Live's old Mr. Bill skits. I hate that comma in Tyler's name.


N.O.R.E. and Large Professor, "Build Pyramids"

Good ol' N.O.R.E. is very happy to be rhyming over a beat made by the revered Main Source producer Large Professor. "You're a genius," he says to his fellow Queens rap vet. "And with them grays in your beard, you look even more like a genius!" This song sounds like it was recorded twenty years ago. But in a nice way.


Big K.R.I.T., "R.E.M."

Best R.E.M. rap since K.R.S. got served by MC Stipe? Best song of any kind about R.E.M. since Pavement named my kid?


B. Martin, "The SUNY Anthem"

"SUNY paid him $3,000 to 'partially supplement the artist’s production costs for the music video.' The 'SUNY Anthem' will be incorporated into broader marketing and outreach efforts, Doyle said.The video carries the official SUNY logo and Martin says to look for him on a SUNY tour. According to his website, some of his other ballads include 'Drippin’ Wet' and 'Shake it from Behind.'” —Thanks a lot, Drake. This is your fault, you know. [Related.]


The Missing Episode of VH1’s "Tanning Of America": Ladies Make Noise!

All my women in the house love hip hop, and yet it does often seem that hip hop has trouble loving them back. Gangsta rap and corner boy narratives aside, even the most thoughtful, most nakedly vulnerable emcees will identify a woman—if not all women, in general—as the vessel of their frustrations and fatalism. Kanye West will punctuate his "black excellence" thesis and anti-capitalist invective with poignant misogyny. In 2014, Yeezus is state-of-the-art.

But enough about the boys.

Watching VH1's four-part Tanning of America documentary—a broadcast reconfiguration of rap executive Steve Stoute's book of the same name, published in 2011—you'd never guess that women listen to [...]


Busta Rhymes Is 40

Trevor Tahiem "Busta Rhymes" Smith, Jr. occupies a singular place in hip-hop history. He is a super-good rapper, blessed with a flow as quick and nimble and flexible as any we've ever heard. He's never put together truly great songs, though, or albums you want to listen to all the way through. He's perhaps most famous for his guest appearances on other peoples' songs—beginning with his jaw-dropping verse on A Tribe Called Quest's "Scenario" in 1991, he earned a reputation as the genre's greatest scene stealer. (Andre 3000 has since stolen that crown.) What Busta is, though, I think, is hip-hop's greatest video artist. He is the [...]


Kendrick Lamar, "B*tch Don't Kill My Vibe"; Rahsaan Roland Kirk, "I Say A Little Prayer"

There's been plenty written about how great Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar's album, good kid, m.A.A.d. city is. So much that I'm left with feeling like I have little of value to add to any conversation about it. But the video for "Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe," came out today and it inspired in me a thought(!) First of all, it's really good. Watch it. Secondly, jumping back and forth in tone as it does, it makes a nice point about how complex everything is—death, religion, fashion, mourning, partying, solitude, unity, nature, all this stuff. All sorts of paradox. Which starts to come as close to truth, I think, [...]


The White Mandingos, "The Ghetto Is Tryna Kill Me"

When Awl pal Sacha Jenkins was a teenager growing up in Queens, he was into graffiti and rap music and, more than anything perhaps, the Washington D.C. hardcore legends The Bad Brains. In the early '90s, with help from his friends Elliott Wilson and the artist and graffiti documentarian Henry Chalfant, Sacha started a music magazine called ego trip. Then he wrote for a bunch of other magazines, one of which gave him an assignment of interviewing Bad Brains bassist Darryl Jennifer. The interview didn't go so well. They didn't get along. "He was kind of a meanie," Sacha says. But through subsequent interaction they became [...]


Yelawolf's New Look: Leon Redbone

The cover to Alabama rapper Yelawolf's new mixtape exemplifies two schools of artwork that we've investigated here at The Awl. 1) The prominent-sunglasses album cover and 2) Rappers with American flags. But, oddly, the above image is reminiscent of nothing so much as traditionalist troubadour Leon Redbone.


Joey Bada$$, "Unorthodox"

Directed by Coodie and Chike, the new video for the collaborative effort from upstart Brooklyn rapper Joey Bada$$ and '90s rap legend DJ Premier is like a hip-hop version of Richard Linklater's Waking Life. It's fun to watch! But if young Joey really wants to consider himself unorthodox, he might want to reconsider those dollar signs in his name. At this point, a regular old "s" is more iconoclastic.


Tim Dog, 1967 – 2013

"In 1991, great rappers were a dime a dozen, good ones weren’t good enough to compete, and sucky ones made hits. But what about rappers who weren’t skilled, but immensely entertaining? Twenty years later, 'personality rap' pays the bills and that term usually applies to the majority of likable rappers that can’t really rap worth a shit (insert just about any current acclaimed rapper here). Tim Dog got points for being both bold and the poster child for Mayor David Dinkins-era NYC – an NYC overrun with robberies, racially-charged fights, and hair-trigger violence – but most people back then said the same thing with regard to his skill level: [...]


Even White People Can't Destroy Hip Hop

"There’s a recent strain of rap music that has the purists up in arms just as much, if not more, than Macklemore does. Influenced by experimentalists like Kanye West and Lil Wayne and Gucci Mane, a new wave of artists from Chicago and Atlanta have been pushing rap into aesthetic spaces it has never been before. Often using Autotune to warp their voices in ways traditional rappers never could, they bleed one word into the next, blurring the line between rapping and singing. Folks like Future, Chief Keef, Z Money, Rich Homie Quan, Young Thug—these guys puts far more focus on melodic vocal delivery, and far less on word-by-word lyricism, [...]


Supposedly Dead Rapper Accused Of Being Not Dead

"A recent news story claims that Tim Dog 'may be up to his biggest scam yet'—faking his own death. WREG in Memphis interviewed Esther Pilgrim, one of the women featured in this Dateline story back in June of last year, who had been one of many victims reportedly swindled out of money by the rapper, and she alleges that a death certificate for Timothy Blair (the Dog’s government name) has not been found by a private investigator she hired. The news station also did some diggin’ and supposedly didn’t come up with anything either. And here’s the kicker: their P.I. did, however, locate an Atlanta address 'active' since last [...]


Doom, "Ballskin" Live In London

Opening up for a Ghostface Killah concert last week in London, mysterious underground rap legend Doom found himself short of breath because those pasty Knifecrimers were "breathing up all the oxygen." He still did a great version of 2009's "Ballskin," though. And, as our friends at ego trip point out, the audience reaction shots in the video are really funny.


Meek Mill And Rick Ross, "Believe It"

This song is great in the way that many of Maybach Music Group songs are great, which is to say: a behemoth beat made of 808 bass, piano and church bells, Rick Ross's baritone sounding good while saying nothing interesting, and Meek Mill's higher register sounding urgent and ever better while saying sharp, slick, clever rhymes. When Ross says that he has "that Justin Bieber," I'm pretty sure he means that he is selling cocaine. (Cocaine being white like Justin Bieber.) But it's fun to think of other stuff he might be talking about. A funny haircut? Perfect teeth? Or maybe Justin Bieber himself, bound and gagged in the [...]


Earl Sweatshirt And Tyler The Creator, "Whoa"

In one part of rap right now, lots of rappers are publicly expressing their disappointment about MTV's recently issued top ten "Hottest MCs" list, which is specifically designed, each and every year, to make rappers publicly express their disappointment. So, in the manufactured-content and conversation-fodder department, job well done, I guess. In a different part of rap, one that has more to do with things that I think should matter to people, Odd Future's prodigal son Earl Sweatshirt continues to make the argument that he is about as skillful a lyricist as exists in the world right now. With an elevated visual sense, too. That shot [...]


DJ Paul, "In My Zone"

Well, this is very disturbing. In an apparent effort to challenge his old Three 6 Mafia partner Juicy J for the title of hip-hop's "No. 1 get-high rapper," the self-proclaimed "King of Memphis" DJ Paul does so many drugs in his new video that he has a heart attack and dies. (Kids don't follow!) Calling oneself the "King of Memphis" is pretty cool, though, in that it places DJ Paul in the line of Old Kingdom Egyptian pharaohs like Menes and Djoser, under the protection of the god of carpentry and metalworking, Ptah, or "Lord of Truth."