While I've been spending the past few weeks researching bitcoin exchange rates as part of my exit plan from the rat race, failing to convince the Facebook police that I haven't been catfishing the real Doug E. Fresh, and generally neglecting this website, several of the usual suspects have been putting the final touches on some very big projects.
Perhaps most significantly is the newly-engaged Zilla Rocca's Neo Noir mixtape. I've been sitting on an advance copy of this one for over a month now, and over that time I've had the chance to digest what Zilla has called his "most joyful project." It certainly is, to my ears, the most lyrically mature of his projects. As an emcee Zilla's gone through quite an evolution since I first met him almost seven years ago (damn!); the years have seen him move on from my favorite rap duo since Nice N' Smooth to a solo artist to a member of the vaunted Wrecking Crew, and it's no surprise that his musical output has grown and evolved each step of the way.
Neo Noir is at its best when the material reflects on Zilla's career up to this point and what he's gone through to get here. As an emcee that came of age during the boom and bust era of Myspace Rappers - where every kid with a mic and a bootleg copy of fruityloops had aspirations of developing a "brand" and getting rich off of cd-r mixtapes - survived it and now finds himself on the other side of thirty in a new era where even the mythical major label record deal is no longer a guarantee of income or popularity, the artist formerly known as The Rap Jack Bauer seems to have reached a point where he can define his own success as an artist without using download counts or blog references as goalposts. Expressed in a different tone it might come off as the lamentings of a defeated man, but on songs like "Success is Failure" Zilla sounds more like a man who's discovered how to hold onto his sanity while surviving in the music industry:
Perhaps my favorite track on Neo Noir is 2 Dollar Lunches featuring fellow Wrecking Crew member Has-Lo. The song, filled with musings from the two emcees that should sound familiar to anyone who's ever drudged through a 9-to-5 for more years than expected in order to fund the pursuit of their true passion, could serve as an anthem for all independent artists:
For reasons unclear, Paul Scheer has been filming reenactments of various episodes of the Arsenio Hall Show for the past year or so, a fact I became aware of while reading Arsenio's recent Ask Me Anything segment on Reddit. What makes these skits work so well is the fact that they are not parodies, per se, but actually use the original quotes (and mannerisms) from the original clips. Above is perhaps the highlight of the series, with Jordan Peele reenacting Tupac's 1993 appearance to promote his role in Poetic Justice. Peele didn't get the outfit quite right, but his impression - which might best be described as Ja Rule channeling 2Pac - cracked me up.
And below is the original Arsenio clip. Worth watching all the way through, but if nothing else stick around for the part where Pac claims that Janet Jackson required him to get an AIDS test prior to their kissing scene in Poetic Justice because "she caught a cold from Q-Tip when they kissed."
Finally, to tie this whole Tupac/Reddit AMA thing together, here's a quote from Big Boi's AMA on Reddit today in response to a request for a "funny anecdote involving a celebrity":
"The first time I met Tupac, we were opening for him in Ohio and he was pulling up to the hotel in a limousine, and he jumped through the partition of his limo and threw the car in park because the driver wouldn't stop because he wanted to holler at me and Dre. He almost tore up the transmission in the limo. Real life."
It's been a few months since I last posted anything from my fellow BC alum Chachi, but in the intervening months he's become something of an international star. He's come into his own as a fixture in the Cape Verdean music scene, having flown over to the African island nation a couple of times this summer to perform at various concerts. The above photo should give you some sense of the crowds that he's been performing in front of, not too bad for a kid that began his music career in a dorm room with a 10 dollar mic and a pair of Gemini turntables.
Chachi just released his latest cd, Cape Verdean In America (named after one of his very first singles), a mix of hip hop, Portuguese, and African music. He calls the blend of styles "Catchupa Music" (Catchupa being a Cape Verdean stew of hominy, beans and fish). As with everything he's released up to this point it's well worth a look, so please take some time out to pick up a copy over at cdbaby.
Here's my favorite track off of Cape Verdean in America, featuring a sample from Grave Evora's Sabim:
Continuing his progession as an artist and rounding out his portfolio, My Man Shafe recently hooked up with MDot Cinema to film his first official video for the He's Hers produced track That's My Man. Shot near his homebase in South Philly, the video features cameos from various neighborhood residents lip synching the song's main sample of Raekwon's Spot Rusherz and some rare footage of My Man Shafe's legendary jump shot. Singer Khrista Bella, who Shafe will be working with on an upcoming project called Strawberries & Soul, also appears throughout.
When I asked Shafe to sum up the video in his own words, he said, "I love working out, playing ball, and making music and I think that comes thru in the video." The video's dope, so go watch it, hit replay on it a few times, and then head on over to My Man Shafe's soundcloud page and get a free copy of the mp3!
And in case you missed it, this isn't the first time Shafe hooked up with He's Hers for a track. They initially met each other at Has-Lo's show for Fat Beats a couple of years ago, and then last year they put out the funk track Won't Get Me. Check it out:
As Kanyeezus has shown us, it's not always necessary to get a huge CGI budget and a storyboard that requires footnotes to understand all of the references in order to film a good hip hop video. Sometimes it's best to just keep things simple, grab a few girls and some drinks, head to the club and start filming. If your song is actually good - and as with everything else off of Mally's album The Last Great..., Bounce is quite good - the video doesn't need to distract from it anyway. But if you want to throw in some footage of a couple of good looking women making out, hey, I'm not one to complain!
Shafe was so well received his first time appearing at Dobbs that he's been invited back to do it again. You can catch him at the Legendary Dobbs on July 21st. And keep an eye out for his upcoming video, which will be posted as soon I get my hands on it!
Late last year I stumbled across a video from a 13 year old kid out of Brooklyn with a flow that was far more developed than most emcees twice his age. Despite the fact that he was born well after the so-called golden era of hip hop had passed, both his delivery and general appearance took as many cues from the early 90's as they did from the current era, an unexpected amalgam of Big Daddy Kane and Odd Future. Since then,as I discovered from a quick youtube search, Ceddy Jay has continued to hone his skills on the mic, dropping a couple of videos and releasing a handful of new songs.
The above video is
something Ceddy Jay did for Funk Volume's Don't Funk Up Our Beats contest. He didn't win, but his entry in the contest was far better than the majority of the other contestants'. Here's one other song that he recently did alongside Afro Samurai aka Random Black Kid:
Stop me if you've heard this one before, but it's been a long time, I shouldn't have left you... A recent change in jobs required me to fly out to Detroit for a few weeks (and they weren't lying, it really is cold in the D; while the city isn't as dead as the national media likes to portray it, the city is in about as bad shape as Detropia made it out to be) without access to my laptop and no way to keep my computer 'putin', bloggity bloggin'. The trip gave me a chance to see the birthplace of Motown, but the area surrounding 8 Mile was considered by locals to be so dangerous that I could never convince a cabbie to take me out there, even in the middle of the day, so my mission to see the birthplace of B.Rabbit went unfulfilled. Nevertheless, I managed to take a few good photos while I was out there, so I'll take this opportunity to plug my instagram page: go check it out!
Now to get back on track, I've got some new stuff from one of my favorite emcees out right now, My Man Shafe. For true hip hop heads, there's so much to like about what this kid is doing right now. He performs live just about every chance he gets, he's backed by a tremendous band, has a flow like no other rapper out right now, makes use of some great funk samples, and kills every guest appearance he makes. Shafe's been hard at work on some new material, and the first taste of it is a freestyle he put together over a Roc Marciano beat:
But wait, there's more! Shafe also recently hooked up with his band to perform at a b-boy showcase and passed along some of the video footage from the event. He ran through a couple of his previous joints that you should know by now, like the now-classic I'm Cookin', as well as some new material. The highlight comes around the 3:00 mark of the video, when Shafe goes in over a live breakbeat:
In order to cleanse my mind of all of the violent, disturbing footage I've exposed myself to this week through firsthand youtube accounts of the incidents in Boston and Waco, I spent a little time this morning rummaging through the (relatively) innocent world of turntable videos. The payoff for my efforts was the discovery of the above clip from New Zealand dj Alphabethead, who goes to work on the Average White Band's Cut The Cake. Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be hiding down in my bunker until the rest of this week is over.
Another week, another major single from Zilla Rocca premiered by a Big Name Magazine! Following up last month's drop of the Roc Marciano-assisted Youngblood, Zilla's latest single Stormy Monday debuted on XXL Magazine last night. Featuring guest appearances by Has-Lo and The Kid Daytona, Zilla has dedicated the song to, "dark wood paneled speakeasy's and sultry women who are good till the last drop." As with Youngblood, I had a hand in the release of this song so rather than attempt to write something objective about it I'll just direct you right on to the audio: