Monday, April 21, 2014

Radical Revisions & Adaptions

In today's music industry, it's not uncommon for various artists to release multiple versions or remixes of their songs. After a song's original release, many hip-hop artists will go back into the recording studio with the intent of completely adapting their original song into something totally different. Often times, the remix will feature new artists that weren’t present in the original. This can give the new song a drastically different sound and feel, while still building off of the success of the original track. Sometimes these new artists will be from completely different genres, and the remix will end up sounding nothing like the original. These remixes can introduce different genres to different audiences, and potentially bring in more money for the artist. By reaching out to different audiences, the artist may be able gain more mainstream popularity in today’s competitive market.

Jay-Z - "Encore"

Jay-Z & Linkin Park - "Numb/Encore"

Jay-Z's "Encore" was popular among the hip-hop crowd when it was first released in 2003 on The Black Album. Later in 2004, Jay-Z and Linkin Park teamed up to release a collaboration album called Collision Course. The hit single off the album combined lyrics from Linkin Park's "Numb" and "Encore" by Jay-Z. The song became very popular and ended up reaching number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100. This is a great example of a hip-hop artist remixing a previously popular song with an artist of a different genre, in order to reach a completely new audience and obtain commercial success. Rock fans were introduced to hip-hop, and vice-versa.

Kid Cudi - "Day 'N' Nite"

Kid Cudi vs. Crookers - "Day 'N' Nite"

"Day 'N' Nite" was originally released by Kid Cudi on his 2008 mixtape A Kid Named Cudi. Later on in 2009, a remix was released with the Crookers that added a very heavy dance influence to Cudi's original track. The remix became very popular among both hip-hop and electronic music fans. "Day 'N' Nite" was Cudi's first hit song, and the remix only enhanced his mainstream popularity.

Florida Georgia Line - "Cruise"

Florida Georgia Line - "Cruise (Remix) ft. Nelly"

Rappers aren't the only ones who feature artists from different genres in their remixes. Sometimes rappers themselves may be featured on remixes that allow the original artist to reach an entire new audience. Florida Georgia Line's "Cruise" became a huge hit among country music fans in 2012. Later on, they released a remix with Nelly that received radio play on pop stations throughout the country. This collaboration introduced mainstream audiences to Florida Georgia Line.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - The VS. EP & The VS. Redux 

Some hip-hop artists will create an entire album that consists of remixes of their previous songs. In 2009, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis released The VS. EP, and a year later, they released The VS. Redux which consisted of the same songs, just remixed. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Female Rappers Going Extinct?

    When I asked my roommate to name me five rap artist, she replied with the following: "Kanye West, Lil' Wayne, Drake, Jay-Z, aaaaaaannnnndddd T.I.!" It took her a little time to think of the last one, but then again she isn't the biggest hip-hop fan. The point of the question was to see whether or not one female name would be brought up in the mix; and as thought, it wasn't. This comes as no surprise to me due to the fact I had asked several other people before her that same question, getting varied answers of coarse, yet still being a list of only male rap artists. This then bring up the question, "are female rappers an extinct species?"
      Luckily for the young girls and women who take a liking to this male dominated genre, the answer is no. In 2010, Nicki Minaj broke an eight year dry spell for solo female MCs with album Pink Friday, which ended up going platinum. The album displayed her talent to play with words, and use metaphors and similes that blew your mind, putting her on the same competing field as many male rappers today. The fact that Nicki Minaj has collaborated with artist like Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Ludacris, and Drake, exemplifies that even the men in the game take a liking to her style. 
Her verse on Ludacris's "My Chick Bad," is one of my favorite of hers:

    And Nicki Minaj isn't the only female MC making a name for herself in this "man's world." Artist such as Iggy Azalea, Australian born rapper, was the first female ever to make the cover of XXL magazine's annual "Top 10 Freshman" cover issue, where they announce the lookout of upcoming artists. Her style is not as animated as Minaj, but her talent and sound may be as good. With her debut album The New Classic, Nicki Minaj may just have the type of competition that is needed to open the door for other female rappers. 


   The great thing about female rappers like the ones mentioned above is the "bad bitch" mentality they serve in hip-hop music. Redefining terms that at one point have subjugated women in this industry and owning their sexuality through their clothing choice and dance moves, help bring alive the post-feminist movement in the hip-hop culture. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Nasir bin Ola Dara Jones (Nas) grew up in public housing in Queens, New York. His Father was a jazz and blues musician and his Mother was a postal service worker. Nas dropped out of school in 8th grade and soon began pursuing a career in rap. In the early 1990's, he began to gain attention in New York, and in 1992 he was signed by Columbia records.

            Nas' debut album, Illmatic, was released in april, 1994, when he was just 20 years old. This album is considered to be one of the greatest, and most influential hip hop albums of all time despite the fact that it is only ten songs and 40 minutes long. Still today, many people would argue that Illmatic is the best album of the genre.

            Illmatic greatly influenced hip hop and more specifically, east coast rap. With the release of the album, Nas set a new bar for lyricism and production. Nas' lyricism is one of the  main reasons this album is so highly regarded. His lyrics had many poetic elements that were not typically found in hip hop. Nas experimented with different rhyme schemes and inspired many other rappers of  the time to do the same. The clear, precise execution of his rhymes, is another trait that gained Nas attention at this time. This album also revolutionized the production of hip hop. Nas used several producers on this album, something else that was not common in the early 90's. Before this, most artists would just use one producer an album, but after Illmatic, more artists used multiple producers. His beats have a blues/jazz influence, which can be heard in songs like "Life's a b*tch," "The World Is Yours," and "One Love."

            Most other artists have been greatly influenced by Illmatic. Even Jay-Z and Biggie Smalls used some of Nas' techniques. Shortly after the release of Illmatic, Jay-Z released Reasonable Doubt, which was clearly influenced by Nas. Jay-Z even used some of the same producers on his album and wanted Nas on one of his tracks. Many other artists have indirectly been influenced by Illmatic, due to its influence on the entire genre.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Violence & Values

Hip-hop will never stay the same; it always has and always will change over time. In past years the main focus of hip-hop was status: how much money you had, what kind of cars you drove, or how much jewelry you had. Hip-hop hasn’t exactly departed from the talk of these subjects but the definition of status has changed. Rappers now talk about how many guns they have, drugs they’ve sold, and people they’ve killed.
Violence in hip-hop isn’t something new to genre. Groups like N.W.A. exemplified what life was like in Compton to the casual hip-hop listener. The depictions they gave in their songs were very straightforward and included scenes of violence. When artists like N.W.A. came onto the scene rapping about violence it was brand new and different; they were being genuine with their audience.
The same appeal is seen with hip-hop today. Artists are rapping violently and are being prided on their realness. For example, the song “Russian Roulette” by Fat Trel & Chief Keef is about how both they and their squads are respected in Chicago and D.C. This was an early song from Chief Keef that helped make him very popular. “I got money, I got power, got respect with this tech. My niggas out here wildin’ playin’ Russian roulette…Russian roulette, with niggas’ heads.” With lyrics like these it’s almost baffling as to how lyrics like this can make an artist popular.

This violent music for one reason or another has become the face of hip-hop for many, but this type of music does not define the genre. Although it seems as though there is an overwhelming amount of rappers rapping violently there still are rappers out there who rap about different material. Rappers like Asher Roth have always had a positive message, like in his song “Pearly Gates,” [1] “Kids eat your vegetables, stretch, wear your SPF. Give 110%, work until there’s nothing left.” Asher Roth hasn’t necessarily had radio success but he’s a well-respected and well-liked rapper in the rap community.
It seems as though violent rappers’ excuse for their subject matter is that they rap about what they see, and what’s in their lives. In my opinion it is excusable to write songs about violence if that is a major component of your life, but there are rappers who go through the same adversity but rap with a less negative message. Chance the Rapper is a good example of this. In his song “Paranoia” off his latest mixtape Acid Rap he illustrates the ghettos of Chicago. He details the violence in the city without him getting violent himself.

These rappers who rap violently definitely do not give off a positive message of give hip-hop a good image, but that doesn’t mean all of these rappers do not have values. Rapper Chief Keef has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons of late; Keef may be one of the most violent rappers out now. He also is a scapegoat for a lot of violence, especially in Chicago. He’s been to jail, he’s been involved in shootings, but it’s unfair to blame him for a whole generation of violence. A few days ago, a 2 year-old was beaten to death, in Chicago, by her own father. Chief Keef has since released a statement saying that he would pay for her funeral.

Rap overall has increased in violent content but who knows where it’ll go from here. Values seem to have taken a backseat to shock value. While the more violent rappers seem to be getting more media attention, there are rappers out there who are striving to improve the image of the hip-hop industry.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

MC Stylists: Finding Yo' Groove

ENC1145, we live in an era where it can take someone .5 seconds  to snap an Instagram selfie, tweet their favorite Kid Cudi lyrics, post a new personal groove to Soundcloud, or update their relationship status on Facebook. Everyone can be a photographer with a smart phone. Everyone can be a professional chef with a Cooking app. Everyone can be instantly intellectualized on anatomy, astronomy, and anthropology with Google at their fingertips. With the advancements in technology, it has become easy to increase your knowledge in any given hobby or activity...and increasingly more difficult to put yourself out into the art community as an original artist. In a world where turntables and orchestral sound effects can all be downloaded via laptop, how is an aspiring hip-hop artist to create their name?

The central focus of this blog post will be on an incredible example of a blooming hip-hop MC (and my personal favorite rapper) Donald Glover, more commonly known by his stage name Childish Gambino. He actually came into the industry as a writer, scribbling scripts for the NBC series 30 Rock. And like another critically acclaimed actor-gone-rapper, Drake, he eventually moved in front of the camera to grab nationwide attention, unveiling his acting talent on his sketch comedy Youtube channel, then moving onto bigger lights such as The Muppets, Community, and The To Do List. In 2008, Gambino released his first independent album, Sick Boi. 2011 brought along his debut studio album, Camp, which received a controversial amount of praise and disgust. Because the Internet, released in December of last year, is what really has really defined the voice of this MC.

Donald Glover is a mere genius in the production of the 57 minute long masterpiece. It isn’t just the mastermind lyrics that draws in and relates to a large audience on the subject of growing up. It was also released with a 75-page screenplay ( and short film excerpts to bounce off of the music. The songs are labeled with roman numerals, a beautifully chaotic collision of the tracks, a perfect balance of rap and voice, and another additional commonality his music shares with Drake. Childish explains the album in an interview with MTV:
"Because the internet I'm here, because of the internet we're all here. It's the language of earth. Everyone keeps saying by this or that year, Mandarin or Spanish will be the most dominant language, but the internet is already a language we are all connected to; even my dad can understand the meme format. But the thing is, there are no rules, which is also the awesome thing." 
The general voice of the album is about how we have all this technological chaos at our hands’ grasp, and the cost of how it has shaped our generation, politics, culture, and more-so, Glover. It really taps into his subconsciousness, especially his song “Life: The Biggest Troll”.

I mean where's the line between Donnie G and Gambino?”

I believe this lyric from “Life: The Biggest Troll” is what really sums up the whole album. Childish Gambino was simply a name he snatched from a Wu-Tang Gang Name Generator he found floating on the internet years ago. Childish is what has made him famous via the internet, while Donald Glover is him as a person. Where does he draw the line? Do his two different personalities he has created drawn the lines themselves? Is there even a line at all? Now ask yourself the same question, about the voice you have created over the internet, and the voice you actually are.

Glover approached the industry from all angles, in all forms of art. He is an artist who has been using all the same tools we have; the only difference is the voice he’s putting into it. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Lyrically, You Can't See Me: Analyzing What We Say & Why We Say It

     Some argue that lyrics are the most important aspect of a song.  Others might say the chorus, the beat, the introduction, etc.  Lyrically a song can be so-so.  It all depends on how those lyrics are being stated.

     True hip-hop artists will keep their fans on their feet.  No one wants to dance and rap along to lyrics that are typical.  When artists such as The Notorious B.I.G. hit the scene, hip-hop fans had never witnessed with their own two ears, or even their eyes, what was taking place.  It was a whole new form of hip-hop.

     It is more like poetry.  Wordplay gives the lyrics color and emotional value.  It crosses the barriers and has no limits. The explicit lyrics are something to definitely catch a listener's attention.  However, instead of questioning these lyrics in a negative way, why don't we look further into them.  William Jelani Cobb phrases hip-hop as an art formed from the "shunned expressions of disposable people."  While analyzing lyrics, it is seen that hip-hop was created to relate to one another.  It came together to speak to a new generation by re-creating its original language.  Much emotion, thought and time is put into these lyrics.

     Lil Wayne is a rap genius from New Orleans, LA.  Aside from the awesome beats and introductions he uses, his music truly comes alive.  It is brought out through the lyrics he is professing.  His use of metaphors, similes and puns throughout his songs reshapes our imagination.

"Mind so sharp, I fuck around and cut my head off"   -6 Foot 7 Foot, Lil Wayne

"Man I got summer hatin' on me cause I'm hotter than the sun
Got spring hatin' on me cause I ain't never sprung
Winter hatin' on me cause I'm colder than y'all
And I would never, I would never, I would never fall
I'm bein' hated by the seasons
So fuck you, hatin' for no reason!"   -Mr. Carter, Lil Wayne (feat. Jay-Z)

     Wordplay is an extremely important part of hip-hop, and other genres of music, because it makes the familiar unfamiliar.  It brings our souls and minds to a new level.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Backpack Rap: Writing for the Subculture

                  According to Urban Dictionary, a backpack rapper is, "a person who raps about real life shit that matters and has experienced, rarely about pimping hoes/having millions/selling immense amounts of drugs/murdering random people for no apparent reason or motive”. Many rappers like to rap a lot of talk. Always saying how they're selling so much drugs and murdering people when in reality they might have went to college and had straight A's all in school. Backpack rappers only talk about what's really going on and what's really happening in their life at that point in time.

            In this blog I’d like to focus primarily on one backpack rapper that went by the name Lil Snupe. He’s from Jonesboro, Louisiana which isn’t the safest place by far. He grew up in the struggle and you can hear that in his songs. Snupe was 16 when he dropped his first tape 16 and Runnin and immediately anyone that listened could hear Snupe’s talent flowing through the speakers.

            This is the first song on the mixtape and its apparent what kind of person he is with the first line in the song, “I grew up without a father, barely had a mother, no brothers it’s just me tryna make it out the struggle, my mind gone knowin my daddy live in a prison, but I gotta learn from his mistakes so I don’t end up in that position”. The song takes kids into the life of Snupe showing the distrust he has in the gang system and how a lot of his so called friends might actually be trying to end his life.

            He was able to get signed to Meek Mill’s label Dreamchasers by running down Meek’s tour bus. Once he had his attention, he grabbed his mixtape out of his backpack and gave it to him. After fifteen minutes of listening to it Meek called Snupe back and said to come to philly to record some songs. Just like that Snupe was on and signed with Meek Mill. When he finally arrived in Philly he blew Meek's mind by showing his true skill. Yeah, he was a backpack rapper and only rapped that real shit and all, but what truly made him a special rapper is that it was all freestyles. Just like Biggie, Snupe freestyles all of his songs. When Meek discovered his raw talent he put him on the spot and that night he was placed in a freestyle battle. Here's one of five rounds that Snupe had against another up and coming rapper. Before this clip Meek (Who is seen standing next to Snupe) told him "Rap about that real shit. You don't got no Bentleys. I'm the one with every car! You don't got no cars rap about what you got!" Snupe accepted the challenge and this is his response:

           Lil Snupe ended up winning the rap battle in the video above and won $10,000 which was the wager of the battle. He won all five rounds and instantly became viral. His Boosie sound and hard lyrics leaked through the streets and everyone was hearing about Lil Snupe. Under Meek's guidance and label, Snupe was able to release another mixtape, Real N*gga In Charge, which featured Meek Mill and was sponsored by Dj Khaled and Rick Ross. Unfortunately, unlike many rappers who falsely rapped about murder and violence, Snupe's lyrics were bone-chillingly true. He was always afraid of his surroundings. He felt like everyone he once knew was out to get him. On June 6, 2013 at only eighteen years old, his lyrics became a truly terrible reality and Lil Snupe was murdered in the early morning outside of his hometown Jonesboro. It's a shame for the rap community to have lost yet another great star so young.

*I didn't want to post the full 30 minutes of the rap battle but I encourage everyone to go online and watch it because Lil Snupe actually destroys his opponent and a lot of famous people were in attendance to watch it including DeSean Jackson, Michael Vick, T.I. and Meek Mill.