Archived entries for Hiphop

Nothing sticks to Rick Ross

Somehow, Rick Ross has established himself as one of the most bankable rap stars around. His fourth album Teflon Don is one of the most highly anticipated albums of the summer. How did that happen? He is neither a lyrical genius nor a pretty pop star, he has no credentials as a live performer whatsoever and he was facing some serious credibility issues just a few years ago. I guess the answer lies in the memorable lines that Ricky Rozay knows how to string together, the amount of personality wrapped up in his vocal performance, and, it has to, that incredible beard of his.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qs56MhfDhjc

“Free Mason” (featuring Jay-Z and John Legend) and “Maybach Music III” (featuring T.I., Jadakiss and Erykah Badu) are both #nowplaying on 22tracks’ hiphop playlist. The Teflon Don album comes out next week and promises to also showcase Cee-Lo Green, Kanye West, Gucci Mane and Raphael Saadiq (amongst others). That’s a lot of starpower right there and in his five-year career, the Miami rapper has not had much trouble pulling in the big names. Jay-Z signed him to Def Jam in 2006, when Ross (real name: William Roberts) was already thirty years old. “Hustlin’” was one of the anthems of the year:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JU9TouRnO84

I expected, surely, Ross’ career to be over after The Smoking Gun revealed the gangsta rapper’s secret past as a correctional officer. Remember: this is a guy who named himself after the notorious drug trafficker “Freeway” Ricky Ross. Photographed while wearing a prison warden’s uniform. Beefing with 50 Cent hasn’t appeared to have harmed Rick Ross in anyway, either.

Nothing sticks to teflon, remember? Rick Ross is stronger than ever. His beard is looking phenomenal, he jetskis around the harbour and releases low-budget videos of himself driving around Miami after dark nonstop. I bet he’s doing just fine.

Diplomats under construction

Hiphop fans all over have, for two weeks now, been celebrating the reunion of the Diplomats AKA Dipset. Comprised of (from left to right) rappers Freekey Zekey, Cam’ron, Jim Jones and Juelz Santana, Dipset ran New York rap in the early ’00s, the age of Dirty South domination. Although individual Big Apple hiphop artists like Jay-Z have (continued to) enjoy huge succes during the decade, no other crew embodied the extravagant lifestyle on a streetlevel like Dipset set did. Needless to say, none have replaced it since Cam’ron and Jim Jones’ fallout, around 2007.

Although Freekey Zekey seems to give himself a shoutout on the intro, he doesn’t get a verse on “Salute”, #nowplaying on 22track’s hiphop playlist. It’s possible that he gets in some ad-libs further down, who knows, such is the brawly mayhem of Abe “Araabmuzik” Orellana’s production. Lyrically, Jones, Cam and Santana concern themselves with such Diplomats mainstays as guns, cars, bitches and money—and that’s just the first three lines.

Update: Araab is sampling a Dutch gabber track here! Compare the intro to “Salute” with “The Desolate One” (2001) by DJ Nosferatu.

Serving as the group’s unofficial PR, news of the Diplomats’ signing of the peace treaty was broken last spring by New York radio personality Miss Info. “The way I handled our business issues was with emotion, and it got totally fucked up,” Jones explained. “That’s what selfishness does.”

For now, there is only “Salute”, with a video on the way. Dipset is working on another Harlem renaissance. To tide you over, here’s an anthem from 2003.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsoIFkjsLvg

All that you want, and more

It’s busy season for people recording cover versions, and those keeping track of them. It’s a much maligned artform, the cover, and indeed, more often than not it pales in comparison to the original version. This does not need to be. Some of my favourite all-time pop classics are covers: Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” was originally recorded by Gladys Knight & The Pips, and Otis Redding’s “Respect” arguably found its defining (female) form in Aretha Franklin’s recording. This blogpost highlights two striking cover versions #nowplaying on 22tracks: “Dear God 2.0″ by The Roots featuring Jim James (on the hiphop playlist) and “All That She Wants” by Chuck Norris (disco).

Dear God 2.0” is an unusual record for several reasons. First, the original came out only a few months ago. To many people, it’s not all that familiar. Second, it’s in an entirely different genre (folk-pop) than The Roots’ style. Third, the original singer, Monsters Of Folk‘s Jim James, is making a star-reappearance. This may look like a strange way of working, but to the Roots crew it’s not. They did almost the exact same thing seven years ago with Cody ChesnuTT’s “The Seed”, turning it into their biggest hit, “The Seed 2.0“.

Anyway, here is the (beautiful) video for Monsters Of Folk’s “Dear God”:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzLJd-4ZpZ0

Chuck Norris is an alias for Norwegian disco god Todd “Terje” Olsen. His take on “All That She Wants” is of the kind where people cover totally uncool hits from the past. Except this cover is not a joke, or possibly even ironic. Zoning in on Ace Of Base‘s Scandinavian reggae touch, Olsen has produced a dubby, instrumental disco version of a bona fide ’90s classic that only needs to hint at the original version to put a huge smile on your face. If you need to have your memory refreshed, here’s Ace Of Base in 1993:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjJwqDa1QVI

Covers have become a marketing tool as well, peeking your interest with both novelty and the familiar. Two brands are currently distributing free cover MP3s. Dr. Martens has the likes of Dam-Funk and Buraka Som Sistema playing The Human League and Neneh Cherry. Levi’s had the same idea, and has hired (amongst others) Nas and Dirty Projectors to shine their light on Slick Rick and Bob Dylan, respectively.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjqscEsNpvA

Wiley and Hud Mo report to the dancefloor

One of the weirdest records around right now is “Electric Boogaloo (Hudson Mohawke Remix)” by UK rap supremo Wiley, #nowplaying on 22tracks’ electro playlist. I haven’t heard the original version yet (it’s not out until June 28), but I have a feeling that Hudson Mohawke has stretched it quite a bit. The Scottish producer has been associated with both dubstep (thanks to his Tweet refix, “Ooops!“) and, infamously, the grandiosely named aquacrunk scene. Last year’s wonderful Butter album established Hud Mo as one of Europe’s most adventurous producers—whatever you want to label his sound.

Wiley has found himself in a similar conundrum, about six years ago. “Wot Do U Call it?” was his hilarious response to the confusion surrounding his style of post-garage music. Eventually we settled on grime. And now all the grime stars are making electro-pop. Hudson Mohawke is looking ahead, starting off his Wiley remix vibin’ on an r&b groove that sounds like it’s about to launch into some Omni Trio style jungle, insteading opting for funky Carribean drums, moving back to the smooth r&b with Wiley rapping over a bunch of clapping 808s, before chipmunking him up to infinity.

Now, let’s practice our electric boogaloos!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFIrhf8HLWw

Chopping it up in L’Abattoir

L’Abattoir. A place to chop it up, mix blood, put the knife in any preconceptions you might have. It’s six musicians from the Netherlands, representing five very established and disparate bands (and one upcoming young solo artist) coming together for a few weeks in a Casablanca slaughterhouse to write and record an album. 22tracks is featuring two different songs from the L’Abattoir record, both shining a spotlight on Junte Uiterwijk AKA Sticks of Fakkelbrigade (and Opgezwolle before it), one of the most revered MC’s from the past ten years in this country.

“Stralen”, #nowplaying on the HiphopNL playlist, has him rapping in his native tongue. So far, no big surprise to his many fans. Except there’s an all-star band backing him, providing fraternal whoa-ohs along the way. Joppe Molenaar (Voicst) and Maurits Westerik (Gem) are the drum and bass backbone, and Daan Schinkel’s (zZz) organ leads the way in establishing a soulful groove.

Following “Stralen” on L’Abattoir is “Full Throttle”, which sees Sticks crooning like a particularly destitute Josh Homme, #nowplaying on the rock playlist. It’s a side of him that I’ve ever heard before, and hopefully not for the last time either. Sticks shares the mic with Thomas Azier, a young Dutch singer/songwriter and keyboard player based in Berlin Molenaar. “Full Throttle” also showcases the the talents of Nobody Beats The Drum knob twiddler Sjam Sjamsoedin.

The L’Abattoir album is part of the ongoing In A Cabin With recording project, that “invites various musicians for unique recording sessions anywhere in the world”. Learn more about it on its website.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdK8mQmyhvM

Apparently, the best thing to do: Dion47

Dutch DJ Gomes is launching his new label Oi Recordings this week with a free giveaway on his dubstep playlist. “Greedy”, by fellow Dutchmen Dion47, is not only #nowplaying, but also #nowdownloadingforfree. How greedy is that? Not very. It’s a menacing track alright, despite its playful bounce. Blame it on the gnarly bassline, and an infamous piece of movie monologue. Yes, that is cockney gangsta Brick Top explaining how to best get rid of human bodies in Guy Ritchie’s Snatch (2000).

“Then I hear the best thing to do, is feed them to pigs.” If you look at actor Alan Ford’s IMDB page, you’ll see it mentions as trivia that the Londoner has been a “vegetarian for 25 years”. Funny, that.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HAQ3pNHwj4

Dion47 AKA Dion is best know in Holland for his hip-hop productions on excellent albums by rapper Jawat! and Rotterdam group Duvelduvel, of which he was a also member for some time (around the time of their Puur Kultuur album, 2006-7). He’s certainly not the only hip-hopper from the Netherlands that has been showing a growing interest in dubstep. It will be interesting to see what the local sound will develop into.

OIRECS001 comes out next week exclusively through Beatport. On it, “Greedy” gets co-billing along with Gomes’ own “Terrah”, which is accompanied by a remix by Amsterdam producer, and fellow 22tracks DJ, FS Green.

It could be Game, or…

It’s 2010 and, frankly, I wasn’t expecting all that much anymore from either The Game or Pharrell. Both seemed to have peaked in the mid-’00s, with the latter (as one half of The Neptunes) peaking quite a bit longer and higher than the Cali rapper. Nevertheless, their time seemed to have passed. I’m not claiming that their new collabo “It Must Be Me” scales the same heights as, say, “Dreams” or “Grindin’”, but it is a very fine single indeed, and it is #nowplaying on 22tracks’ hiphop playlist.

I think this is the first time Game and Pharrell have worked together, but it’s hard to keep track in the very feature friendly field of hip-hop. The West coaster and the East coaster seem to have hit it off, as the next single from Game’s forthcoming R.E.D. Album (due half June) is another Neptunes production. “Ain’t No Doubt About it” will also be enhanced by a Justin Timberlake chorus.

That’s a lot of big names already, but they’re by no means all. Oh no. Game, known for making references to tons of fellow artists in his rhymes, apparently has Dr. Dre, Timbaland, The RZA, Kanye West and DJ Premier all making appearances on his next record. Those are just about the most influential American hip-hop producers of the last fifteen years, The Neptunes included. If there’s something hot about The R.E.D. Album, it could be any of them.

Watch Game and his “best hip-hop friend” in the studio:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gP9QiBitqWQ

Back to back with DJ hero DNA

I engaged in a curious back-to-back DJ session the other day. There was no one dancing, and I didn’t even see fact-to-face with my tag partner. Me and DNA were e-mailing each other MP3 files to compile a special playlist that is up now (temporarily!) on 22tracks to promote the DJ op de Dom event next month in the Dutch city of Utrecht. We’re both judging its DJ and VJ contest.

Utrechter Arjen de Vreede AKA DNA is nothing less than a legend in Dutch music. As a DJ in the 1980s, he pioneered first hip-hop and then house music in seminal Dutch clubs like the Vrije Vloer (Utrecht) and Roxy (Amsterdam). As a member and co-producer of the band Urban Dance Squad, he injected the wild possibilities of sampling and scratching into a couple of genuinely groundbreaking albums, scoring a Billboard Top Ten hit along the way with “A Deeper Shade of Soul” in 1990. These days, DNA plays in the wonderful Stuurbaard Bakkebaard, and teaches music production and sound design at the Arts, Media and Technology department of the Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qw5Gl28Xe5o

I visited DNA AKA Donotask at his home/studio in an abandoned school a few years ago, to interview him for my book on the early days of house music in Holland. Huge racks of vinyl! But apparently the man’s mp3 collection runs deep as well. He started the our 22tracks session off with a delightful Seventies funk 45 by Surinam band Happy Boys, who shoutout their hometown of Paramaribo in “Kronto”. After this, I just had to play Dutch MC U-Niq, who namechecks the “Surinam paradise” of his ancestors in the self-explanatory anthem “Rotterdam”. I’m not sure how this song led DNA to follow up with Charles Mingus, but this is how we went back and forth until I could wrap things up with Al Kent‘s disco jam “Come Back Home”. Enjoy!

Part 1 of a 1992 documentary about the UDS (in Dutch) by VPRO’s Bram van Splunteren:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1VaY1IkXYI

Fast forward, if you have to, to 5:49 to see DNA.

All ears for Orelha Negra

The Pop World Cup is curently in full swing and I’ve been placed in charge of Portugal. I’m currently struggling to get through the group phase, playing against Brazil, Ivory Coast and a surprisingly tough North-Korean side, hoping to make it to the knockout stages. The Pop World Cup is basically the same as the FIFA World Cup only without the football. Countries are doing battle one song at a time, with the public casting their vote on which is the best. As Portugal’s manager (a job assigned to me by the luck of the draw) I’ve had to do a little digging in Portugal’s recent music output.

Which is how I happened upon Lisbon fivepiece Orelha Negra (“black ear”), who released their untitled debut album just a couple of weeks ago. In the end I found their instrumental chill-out hip-hop little too laidback to create a lot of danger in the box (and securing a win with dubstep duo Octa Push proved I was right). It was still a nice record, though, one that might find favour with some of my 22tracks collegues. So I send them a copy and what do you know: Orelha Negra’s “Tanto Tempo” is #nowplaying on the beats playlist, “Barrio Blue” is on the funk/jazz playlist and “M.I.R.I.A.M.” is on the relax playlist!

The above picture finds members Cruz (turntables), Ferrano (drums), Gomes Prodigy (keyboard), Mira Profissional (MPC, keyboard) and Rebelo Jazz Bass (erm, bass) cleverly hiding behind LP sleeves. It’s a neat trick that has a whole website devoted to it. Orelha Negra repeat it on their MySpace page. Which trainspotter can correctly identify all the records?

Here’s the band’s new video:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8id5ZuolFE

Diplo up in Snoop Dogg’s musical family tree

DJ/producer Diplo fires up “That Tree”, and despite the title and even though it’s a Snoop Dogg record featuring self-styled stoner Kid Cudi it’s not about about marijuana! Not necessarily anyway, as you’ll hear Cudi shouting out his fam (i.e. family tree) on the chorus. The single is #nowplaying on 22tracks’ hiphop playlist, and is taken from Snoop’s forthcoming More Malice CD and DVD combo (March 22).

You bought Malice n Wonderland, Snoop Dogg’s really not that bad last album that came out only three months ago? That’s just too bad. More Malice contains all of that (I liked “I Wanna Rock” best) and twelve new tracks, including remixes featuring Jay-Z and Bun B, and a “mini-movie” starring Snoop himself with a cameo appearance from Jamie Foxx.

For Diplo, who has worked with M.I.A and Santigold and put out his Major Lazer album last year, a Snoop Dogg production is a very high profile gig. On “That Tree” he craftily finds a middle ground between Snoop’s West Coast comfort zone, modern pop R&B and the sharp edges usually associated with his ruff sound. With a hint of a dubstep bassline, the Doggfather continues mining a sound that previously served him on 2009′s one-off “Snoop Dogg Millionaire” and “That’s That Homie” on Malice – more or less.

Download the single (including instrumental and acapella versons!) for free from Mad Decent.



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