Thursday, June 27, 2013

Hip Hop Summer Reading

Now if you're anything like me, Summer Reading was the biggest bitch in school. I'm all for relaxing with a book in the summer, but A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is not what I wanna be reading at the beach.

Over the years, I've read (and reread) quite a few hip-hop books. Here's a breakdown of my favorites.

4. Decoded- Jay Z: Obviously Decoded had to be on the list. Hov dissects many of his greatest tracks, verse by verse, and explains every word in each bar. Hearing the back stories of your favorite songs makes them even more enjoyable to listen to. I can't see how you could read this memoir and have anything but the deepest respect for Hova.
3. The Rose that Grew From Concrete- Tupac Amaru Shakur: If you need a little break from prose, be sure to check out Pac's poetry book. I usually just flip through it every now and then. Reading it reiterates the fact that rap is just poetry with beats. Like Pac's songs, the meaning of these poems don't always jump out at you, but are worth taking the time to figure out. 
2. Hip-Hop Wars- Tricia Rose: Written by a Brown University professor, this novel explains how it is not rap, but  mainstream rap that gives the genre a negative image. She talks about how the lack of commercial exposure to rappers like Talib Kweli and Questlove have crippled the ability of the public to see rap as anything other than what she calls "gangsta-pimp-ho trinity". She argues that rap is the primary expression of many of the sociological issues in our society.
1.  The Tao of Wu- RZA: I'm on my third time reading this book, and I feel like I have gotten something new out of it each time. The book outlines the triumphs and mistakes of RZA's life, stylized as his Seven Pillars of Wisdom. While learning about the grassroots of the Wu Tang Clan, you're also enlightened by some Wu Wisdom.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Record Sales Recap

Sooo, I think we were all a little pumped to see the results of last week's record sales. Although Mac Miller came out with an album, It was all about seeing how Born Sinner would do against Yeezus.

Incase you haven't seen the numbers, Yeezus sold 328,800 records, while J. Cole's sophomore album sold 297,922. So yeah, technically Ye "won". But this has been Kanye's worst first week album sales by far.  The record sales for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy were almost 500k, and Graduation wasn't far from one million.  Born Sinner sold about 80k more albums than Cole World.

I don't think there was any doubt that Ye was going to sell more records than Cole. Although it wouldn't have hurt, Kanye didn't even need a single to beat him. Being a mainstream celebrity is going to sell you more albums regardless of the quality of your music. And there's no better way to keep yourself in the press than having the child of arguably one of the most gossiped about women in history.

All in all, I would say it was a good week for hip-hop. Both rappers put out exceptional albums. My hat goes off to Cole for seizing the opportunity to compete again one of his idols. His numbers are only going to rise through the years.

Definitely give Born Sinner a listen if you haven't yet.

J. Cole- Trouble

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Album Review: Yeezus

I've been hearing alot of negative feedback on Yeezus, and I definitely understand why. Kanye West is a waaay different rapper- and man- than he was when he dropped College Dropout, Late Registration and Graduation. To us long-term Kanye fans, the fact that this style is never coming back is heartbreaking.  But he has evolved from it as an artist. Since 808s & Heatbreaks, all of Ye's albums have had their own distinct styles. 808s is nothing like Dark Fantasy which is so different from WTT, etc.

After listening through Yeezus once, I thought it sucked.  What the hell are some of these hooks? Some of these beats sound like they're leftover from 808s. Even the album art sucks.

But you can't just listen to a Ye album once. So I played it through a few more times, and I have definitely grown to appreciate Yeezus. Do I think it is a perfect album? Absolutely not. There are parts of it that I cannot stand, like the Charlie Wilson bridge in Bound 2. It doesn't even sound like it belongs in the song. I still do think that many of the songs are very 808 & Heartbreaks (Guilt Trip, some parts of Blood on the Leaves etc), although I think he cuts them better with impressive bridges and samples.

Favorites: Blood on the Leaves, New Slaves and I'm in It
Kanye West- I'm In It 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Birthday in Heaven Tupac Shakur

Today marks the 42nd birthday of rap legend Tupac Shakur, one of the most enlightening men to grace this world. Tupac used rap as a vehicle to communicate his views on society. He opened the eyes of many to the social injustices that are present in this country. Though he left us too soon, his records keep him alive.

Tupac Shakur- Against all Odds

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

8 Songs to Keep You Grindin

I have finally returned from a really long drought. To my defense, its been a pretty rough semester. My classes and internship took up most of my time, but summertime gives me the opportunity to get back on my game. Anddd June is shaping up to be a great month, given the albums that have dropped (leaked) and are about to drop. I also gotta do my biannual Tupac commemoration post on his birthday June 16th. Also, Dollar and a Dream tour hits Philly on June 21st. It is a crime if you miss J. Cole and he's playing in your city... tickets are one dollar.

I'm gunna leave you with a few songs to get you through those rough days. Like I said, it was a tough semester. I felt like I was workin 24/7. I'm very thankful for hip-hop for gettin me through my worst days. Anyone who says rap is meaningless is ignorant. These songs are modern day motivational speeches if you ask me.

8. Rise Above- J. Cole 
7. Faith- Kendrick Lamar
6. Last Call- Kanye 
5. Tomorrow- Big Sean
4. Tick Tock- Pusha T & Raekwon 
3. History- Jay-Z
2. Two Words- Kanye
1. Premeditated Murder- J. Cole 
    "Keep grindin boy your life could change in one year and even when it's dark out the sun is shinin