Apu Rambles: FreeBeat42 (Give the Producer Some)

by Apu

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I don’t know if it’s just me being an illiterate idiot or not, but I get the sense that a lot of producers don’t get the credit that they’re due. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been involved in an exchange like the following:

Person: “Yo man check [generic rapper] out, he’s awesome”
Me: “Oh cool, play something for me”
Person plays a song with a mediocre rapper over a beat hot as Satan’s STD-infected dick while taking a piss
Person: “Pretty sick, right?”
Me: “I guess. I thought the guy was pretty whatever”
Person: “Shit, really? The beat is fucking crazy!”

Wow, I should become a playwright, I obviously have a knack for dialogue… Anyways, yeah. People listen to a song and love it because of the work that the producer put in, and the rapper whose name is on the song will get all the credit for the song. This has been happening for basically the entirety of the last decade that I’ve been listening to hip hop music, and might have been happening since even before that. I wouldn’t know though. There aren’t too many people in the general public who’ll say “Wow, I gotta find out who produced this track!” This trend doesn’t apply exclusively to hip hop either, pop music fans are probably the biggest offenders. “Hip hop heads” are different, they love to know who produce tracks because they understand that the producer is an instrumental element of the music that they listen to, pun intended. However, actual “hip hop heads” make up a small percentage of music listeners, and are probably even a small percentage of people who listen to hip hop regularly.

It’s something that I think most people don’t really think about unless they themselves make music (and even then, you’ll get the divas who don’t give a shit and attribute all of their success to their “talent”, which tends to be wailing into a mic over great beats and relying on the engineer to fix the audio).

When it comes to bands, I find that people will praise the band as a unit. Listeners will talk about how ill a guitar solo or drum solo is when it comes on, so even though the lead singer will still probably get the most notoriety, the other members do get their praise at points. Re-read that sentence and ridicule me about how obvious it is that I don’t know shit about bands. When a song is produced by someone other than the artist who “makes” the song and there’s an instrumental interlude, people don’t say “oh shit, listen to what the producer just did”. And I know some people will say “well, playing an instrument isn’t the same thing as producing something with a program so it’s not like it’s as impressive as a band member getting a solo”. Sure, it’s not the same as playing an instrument. That doesn’t change the fact that producing is really hard to do if you want to make actually good, professional-sounding beats to compete with the best of them. You need to be able to come up with catchy melodies in your own head, decide on which instrument sounds will fit the melodies the best, create a drum-line, make sure to fill the beat with sounds so that it doesn’t sound empty and amateur, add more to break up hooks and verses, chop samples in clever ways so they don’t become loops of the original…and that’s just what I know about.

I’m not a producer, so there’s sure to be more that I’m not aware of.

It doesn’t help when people like Lupe Fiasco talk about how producers get paid too much. Remember when he called out “overcharging producers” on Twitter? Sure, some producers charge a lot of money, but is that really any different from a rapper charging a lot for a guest verse? A guest rapper offers what he can to the song, which is vocals, and a producer offers what he can to the song, which is a beat. A rapper who starts getting famous and raps with other higher profile rappers charges more, and a producer who works with higher profile rappers charges more. It’s the same principle. Actually, on second thought, it’s not, because you can make a good album without any guest rappers on it, but if you can’t produce, I don’t really think you can make an album worth shit without the help of producers.

Without producers, rappers would be rapping acapella, maybe with a beat made from hitting a table or something at the most, but overall it would just be mainly vocals. I imagine that would become very monotonous, and people wouldn’t bother listening. There would be a lack of variety that can only come from different beats, and there would be a huge element missing in the emotional attachment of the music to the listeners. There’s a reason why people love listening to beat tapes but nobody really gives a fuck about acapella versions of albums… Unless they want to throw the vocals onto another beat.

You know, one that a producer made.

Not to mention, there are countless rappers who have said something along the lines of “I listen to the beat and do what it tells me”. A beat sets the tone, and can elicit a reaction in an artist that helps him or her think of what to write. I don’t know. If I, as stupid as I am, can understand that, I don’t get why Lupe can’t. Maybe he was just in his one of his “I’m gonna rap the ‘Obama is the real terrorist’ line over and over for 20 minutes, the crowd will love that!” moods. All I know is that “Overcharging producers. You’re not the rappers who have rapped on your beats. #Needed2BeSaid” can easily be flipped to “Overpaid rappers. You’re not the producers who have given you the backdrop on which you write, flow, perform, and essentially use to become famous, as opposed to just talking flatly in a vague rhythm with nothing behind your voice. #Needed2BeSaid”. Wait, I think that’s over 140 characters. God damn it.

I imagine it must be frustrating to the producers a lot of the time. Obviously they’re getting paid, and they’re earning plaques and awards for their work on albums. Sure, that’s nice, but I’m sure that if somebody is actually serious about their work, they most likely want to be at least recognized for it. I’ve read some complaints about producers putting tags on their beats. I don’t get that particular complaint. I sure as shit get irritated when DJs get a bit overzealous when tagging mixtapes, but I’m personally all for producer tags. If it’s something like the ones that Bangladesh, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, or Alchemist use, then I don’t think that it should be a problem. Nothing too loud or intrusive (unless you’re Just Blaze, in which case, you fucking deserve to have a loud tag, especially because what you hear after the tag plays is going to be absolutely sick 9 times out of 10). Something that can even add to the atmosphere of the beat (see J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League’s tag on Nas’s “No Introduction”). Or even something that plays almost like a small interlude before the song even comes on, like Mr. Porter’s “You get more for your money when you fuck with Mr. Porter” thing. That sort of thing doesn’t even get in the way of the song that’s about to play, it’s just an introduction. Anything that’s put in the beginning or end of the beat. I personally think that a producer should have a tag on at least one beat that they contribute to a rapper’s album. If there are other beats by the same producer, they don’t really need a tag in my mind (but it wouldn’t hurt). At least one though, so that it’s clearly put out there for everyone to know that that producer worked on the album. Even if it’s a collaboration album between a producer and a rapper, people really are just going to pay attention to the rapper. It doesn’t matter if the name of the producer is next to the rapper’s name, because the one that they hear talking to them is the rapper. If the producer has their name verbally stated on the track, or even just some sound effect that remains consistent throughout the music you work on with various artists, people will hopefully recognize it and make the association between his beats on different albums, and could possibly even start appreciating him.

Hearing the name on the song is a lot more effective than just crediting the producer in the liner notes, especially in an age where people don’t generally buy physical copies of albums.

I don’t want to make it seem like I’m giving producers more credit than rappers for making good music. You’re never going to hear me say that. When I listen to hip hop, I generally check more for what the rapper is saying than I do the beat. I only really pay attention more to the beat when it’s something absolutely mind-blowing, or when the rapping sucks. But the producer needs to provide the canvas for the rapper to be able to write what they write. At the same time, it’s the rappers who ultimately decide what direction they want an album to go in. They add the charisma needed for people to really become invested in the music. They write and recite the words that we all react to. Being a profitable off rapping is probably more difficult to do than doing so by being a good producer basically because of how the market works; rappers are always looking for beats, but if someone hears a rapper who sounds like other people they don’t get taken as seriously as they could. Producers are given a lot more wiggle room generally as far as the sounds they can use. Nobody really gets upset at a producer for making a beat for a pop artist, but everyone gets mad at a rapper for collaborating with the same artist. Ultimately, what I’m trying to say here before going on about 7 different tangents in one paragraph is that good hip hop music is the result of both rapper and producer. They go hand in hand. If one existed without the other, hip hop wouldn’t have become what it did, and there’s nothing that anyone could say against that.

But the rapper gets his due. I think it’s about time the producer does too.

Album Review: Flatbush Zombies – 3001: A Laced Odyssey

by Dustin

3001

7/10

This review is late. So very late. It would have felt wrong to ignore this album, though, so here we go…

3001: A Laced Odyssey is the long-time-coming debut studio album from New York based hip-hop trio Flatbush Zombies. This debut would come nearly three years after releasing a couple of mixtapes which stirred up quite a bit of buzz and helped establish a loyal fan following. Somewhat spectacularly, 3001: A Laced Odyssey sold 28,000 units in its first week. This may not sound like a lot, but for a self-released independent record it is wonderful.

You may now be asking yourself, what did this album do to be able to sell so well? And the answer is, lots of things! Most importantly the Zombies as a group established their sound on this record. While their mixtapes were well received, they were fairly chaotic. 3001: A Laced Odyssey is an incredibly cohesive album on all fronts. As a group, the three rappers build off of each other in more of a team-like fashion than fans have seen before. Even the production meshes beautifully from track to track.

This new found tightness is no doubt a product of the artistic evolution Zombie Juice, Erick the Architect, and Meechy Darko.

Zombie Juice perhaps shows the most signs of growth as an artist on 3001: A Laced Odyssey of the three group mates. Juice, at times, has been the victim of critical panning for not being able to keep up with his group-members in terms of flow or vocal presence. Fortunately, he definitely seemed to work hard at correcting these errors on this album. There are still times where Juice feels slightly weak on a track next to Meech and Erick, but the difference is not as noticeable here as it was on the Flashbush Zombies’ mixtapes.

Every day, live it like it’s it for me,
Black on black in time with my roots this is my ghetto symphony,
Shout out to my fam and my homies, we making history,
Never had a degree, but the streets made me a sicker breed.
(Zombie Juice – The Odyssey)

Erick the Architect displayed progression as both a producer and vocalist on this album. His instrumental work was solid, and probably his most most important contribution to the project as a whole. The beats are smooth, rely less on sampling, and fit together very cohesively. It was clear that he had direction when constructing the atmosphere for 3001: A Laced Odyssey. His writing still may not be the best of the group, but Erick has strengthened his vocal delivery which was a pleasant surprise.

Streets full of wolves so my appetite grew
I was hungry for this rap shit way back in high school
(Erick the Architect – A Spike Lee Joint)

Meechy Darko did about what you would expect if you’ve listened to other Flatbush Zombies’ music. His verses are punchy, gritty, and sinister sounding. He did a good job at scaling back his ultra-gruff delivery when needed, as 3001: A Laced Odyssey is a smoother sounding album than previous Zombies material. He didn’t show as much improvement as Erik or Juice, but this isn’t necessarily an issue as he was the Flatbush Zombies member with the strongest vocal presence prior to this release.

My only mission is to burn in hell and not in prison,
That’s why I’m spitting shit that make Jesus question religion,
This fan told me her parents said I sound like the devil,
To me I sound like a poor black kid from the ghetto.
(Meechy Darko – The Odyssey)

3001: A Laced Odyssey is not without its flaws. For example, Meechy Darko’s attempt at shock humor felt a little forced occasionally. That’s not to say that he should have avoided it entirely as subtle horrorcore influence has always been present in Meech’s writing, but there was the odd moment where these lines felt out of place relative to the song. As mentioned earlier, Zombie Juice also came up short on a few tracks; however, none of his underwhelming moments really stood out as terrible.

The absolute worst part of the album is probably the multiple minutes of fan messages on the last song. Admittedly it was cool for the first listen, but after that it felt like a nuisance. It would have been better suited as a whole separate outro track rather than part of a song, entirely for skipping purposes.

These things considered, 3001: A Laced Odyssey is an all-around solid debut album. For new fans, it’s a focused listen that serves as a wonderful entry point into the Flatbush Zombies’ catalog. Those who have followed the group since their mixtape material might be surprised by the more relaxed sound, but that hopefully will not deter them from listening. There are most definitely still areas that the group could improve, but 3001: A Laced Odyssey has laid a sturdy groundwork for future albums.

Artist of the Month: Proof

by Apu

Proof

This April we’re fittingly making Deshaun Holton, better known as Proof, Artist of the Month. Proof is known primarily as the founder of Detroit-based rap group D-12, Eminem’s hypeman and best friend, and the man who ran the battles in the Hip Hop Shop similarly to the character of Future in 8 Mile. He was also a member of the group 5Ela and half of the duo Promatic. He was an instrumental role in establishing Detroit hip hop, being associated with acts from J. Dilla to the Fat Killahz.

He is most known for his roles in the groups that he was a part of, but his talent as a solo artist was undeniable. His first solo album, I Miss The Hip-Hop Shop, had a sound that was grittier, more soulful, and less aggressive than the D-12 material that had been made up to that point. He showed that he was capable of more than just the signature Shady style. The album still had all of the charm and wit that he and D-12 were known for, but he also showed a more reflective side that wasn’t as present on the group material, on songs like “Broken”, the Promatic cut “Nowhere Fast”, and “Love Letters”, dedicating his verses to Paul Rosenberg and Denaun Porter of D-12.

He only kept building creatively for his next album, Searching For Jerry Garcia. Proof created a sound that was only fitting for an album with that title. Songs like “Purple Gang”, “Ali” featuring the late MC Breed, “No.T. Lose” with a bluesy hook courtesy of King Gordy. “Jump Biatch” and “M.A.D.” have a quite unique sound that can only be described as psychedelic rock-rap. This album is also very dark. Much darker than anything else he had put out beforehand. “Kurt Kobain” and “Forgive Me” are the two most notable tracks off the album. They are hauntingly dark songs on which Proof uses the backdrop provided by the producers and his raspy voice to build an atmosphere of melancholy, numbness, and frustration. Much like Tupac, Proof seemed to predict his own death on this album, on more than one occasion.

Genius artists, so retarded,
Broken hearted, my soul’s like an open target,
And I’m ready to leave Earth,
You step to my death, next year on my T-shirt.
No.T. Lose

Proof was not just an ordinary rap artist. He had a vision that became clearer and clearer as he got older, fusing psychedelic rock with a soulful hip hop style reminiscent of Dilla/Slum Village as early as his first solo release, the Electric Coolaid Acid Testing EP. Even songs off D-12’s Devil’s Night like “Revelation” and “These Drugs” (from the limited edition bonus disc) sound like they have Proof’s fingerprints on them, even if they were not produced by him. Being a member of D-12 might have subjected him to the stigma of being an Eminem clone, just one of Em’s boys, but any time he did solo music he quickly broke out of that mold, using musical styles that Eminem has not attempted at length, aside from maybe “Stimulate”.

Proof was also a legendary freestyler. Eminem detailed in his autobiography how Proof once forgot a verse he was supposed to be performing on the air while he was midway through, and he pulled one out of thin air. You wouldn’t have even known if you hadn’t heard what the verse was originally going to be. Back in ’06, he was challenged to make an entire project in 24 hours. Being the quick thinker that he was, he managed to make 22 tracks in that time span, creating the Time A Tell mixtape. And if that wasn’t enough, the mixtape had a level of lyricism that an embarrassing amount of rappers can’t put on an album that takes them 3 months to make. Unfortunately, the mixtape was delayed because of his death. However, it did manage to come out 4 years later as a fantastic posthumous release.

And Proof may be heard again, if D-12 can finally actually make an album. They mentioned that they’ve messed with his vocals to see how he sounds on newer beats. Generally, posthumous material organized by other people end up being used as cash-grabs and get littered with artists who the rapper would never have rocked with (just ask Method Man about Biggie’s posthumous The Duets album). But it’s a different story when it’s the group that you started, which already has the selling point of having the biggest rapper ever as a member, just using your verses to pay homage, isn’t it?

Before I end this article, I would like to add a small personal tribute. I first started listening to Proof and D-12 in mid-2006, just a few short months after his death. The first time I heard him was on “When The Music Stops”, then on “Trapped” off Eminem Presents The Re-Up (which I later found out was just a portion of the song “Oil Can Harry”). I knew he was something special after listening to “Trapped”. Searching For Jerry Garcia is one of my absolute favorite albums. I don’t know if any other rapper has ever attempted the sound that Proof managed to create. He used to speak about being open minded because his father was a musician, and I think that helped him differentiate himself from his group and from other rappers in general.

It’s weird for me to listen to some of his music as I’ve gotten older and started to understand the gravity of what he was saying prior to his death. I can think of at least 5 different times his death was brought up before it actually happened, most notably on “40 Oz.” and in the video for “Like Toy Soldiers”. There’s a whole new level (well, not really new, since it’s been 10 years [Jesus…]) of darkness and depth to a lot of his music.

Proof is the real reason why I listen to hip hop to begin with. He’s the one who formed the group that flipped my world upside down at age 12. The group that interested me beyond all the rap that I had heard up to that point. The group that introduced me to the darker side of humor and taught me you could say whatever you wanted to. Without him, none of the music that basically raised me would have existed. Who knows what my life would be like?

Rest in peace, Big Proof.

How Hip-Hop Helped Me Deal with Mental Illness

by Dustin

Depressionarticle

I’d like to discuss something that I’ve only ever told the closest people in my life – I struggle with mental illness. I knew something was wrong since my early teens, but I didn’t admit it to myself (and seek formal diagnosis) until I was in my first year of university. After I saw my doctor, I let the stigma surrounding anxiety and depression rule my life. I felt ashamed, and I didn’t think anyone would understand what I was feeling. I held back from talking with people because I didn’t want to be judged negatively. I isolated myself out of fear that one of my friends or family members would find out that I wasn’t okay.

At one point I was sitting alone in my dorm drinking myself to sleep every day, I had stopped attending class, and my workout regime crawled from seven days a week to zero. I gained close to fifty pounds and was placed on academic probation. It felt like I had hit rock bottom, and it was incredibly scary. I was worried that I would end up doing something to hurt myself, and I couldn’t stomach the thought of putting my family through that sort of trauma.

I also knew that depression wasn’t something I could deal with alone, but I still wasn’t ready to ask for help.

It’s the stuff I find hard for discussion,
How the fuck do you explain your own self destruction and still remain trusted?
(El-P – Poisenville Kids No Wins)

In the meantime, I buried myself in music. During the twelve awake hours a day I was spending isolated in a twelve foot by twelve foot dorm room, I nearly always had my laptop playing some sort of music. The majority of the time I was just laying there listening doing nothing else, and it very much became my life.

Hip-hop in particular became home to me, and I started exploring and experimenting with new artists. I really started to get into music by El-P, Killer Mike, Open Mike Eagle, Blueprint, Shad, Eyedea, The Roots, Aesop Rock, and so many others that I won’t even attempt to list them off right now. For the most part, the music just served as a distraction that I happened to enjoy. I found everything from the production methods to writing styles interesting.

More importantly however, these artists were at times exploring dark paces they’ve been, and I felt like I could relate to the music. That’s when it really clicked. Holy shit, I’m not by myself in this. There are other people who are experiencing the exact same thing as me who probably also feel alone.

It took about a year to get to that point, but my perspective changed entirely.

Now if you never had a day a snow cone couldn’t fix,
You wouldn’t relate to the rogue vocoder blitz.
(Aesop Rock – None Shall Pass)

As crazy as it might sound, it really was a bit of an epiphany. The idea of opening up to those close to me didn’t seem quite as daunting. I told family members, I told some of my closer friends, and for the first time in a long time I was honest with myself about the severity of where I was mentally. As you’d expect, the people I opened up to had various reactions. A few withdrew themselves from me, but most were beautifully supportive and remain friends to this day.

Most importantly though, a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I started getting professional help. Not a whole lot of it, due to financial issues, but enough that things started to turn around. I started to pick up athletics again, my grades improved dramatically (though, I ended up dropping out two years later, but not for performance reasons), and I stopped drinking every day.

For lack of better phrasing, I felt like a different person.

Make you wanna sing, clap your hands to it,
Nod your head a little bit, maybe dance to it,
And reminisce about the good times you had to it,
Not sure what I’d do if I never had music.
(Blueprint – Mind, Body and Soul)

Now, I’d be fully lying to you if I said things ended completely happily. Anxiety and depression are still things that I battle with at times. Recently I hit another low. It didn’t last nearly as long, but it was a reminder that these things can linger. The difference now is that I’ve established the support network to fall back on when things get difficult, and it’s become an invaluable personal tool for keeping myself in check. I feel like I owe reaching this point to music.

So what I really want to say is, thank you to the artists who showed that personal side and vulnerability. As much as none of them will probably read this, it helped me accept things about myself that were incredibly difficult to come to terms with. I’m in a much better mental place because of it.

If you’re reading this and you think you’re dealing with something similar, remember that you’re not alone. I know that it’s really easy to slip into mental isolation, and there are still times where I have to really force myself to not purposely cut people out as well. I can’t stress enough how much simply opening up to someone supportive can help. Take advantage of whatever resources you have. It’s never easy, but I believe it’s worth the fight in the end.

Apu Rambles: I Just Sold Out

by Apu

Sellout

So I was on Twitter a little while ago, and I saw Tech N9ne tweet out one of those “instead of a picture, I’ll post a screenshot of words” Instagram posts, because I guess fuck the ability to use something like TwitLonger or something. The basic gist of the post was “The people who are upset with you changing are comfortable with remaining stagnant” which is something that Tech has been sort of saying ever since basically The Gates Mixed Plate. Ever since that album, Tech has sort of had elements to his music that, to certain fans, may seem like he’s catering to the mainstream. He gets backlash from his fans based off of the people who he chooses works with and the sound of a few of his songs. I had retweeted the message with something along the lines of “I wish more people thought this way instead of being too afraid of their idiot fans to change at all,” and earlier today I felt as though 140 characters was not enough to thoroughly explain my thoughts.

Now, make no mistake. There’s a lot of artistic decisions that Tech makes that I can’t bring myself to behind. Tech does make a lot of music that he likes to defend by saying “I’m a partying dude, so I’m gonna make party music!” The only problem is, most of this “party” music, at least the songs that came out after The Gates Mixed Plate, tends to be dry and forced. Before and on Gates, the party songs he made had a much more carefree sound to them. They were simpler and catchier. Songs like “Caribou Lou,” (obviously) “Yeah Ya Can,” and “Let Me In” had a more natural, loose feeling to them than nearly every party song since hasn’t had. “No K” is the only one I can think of that feels more like those songs. Also, “Dwamn” is quite possibly one of the worst songs I’ve ever listened to. That shit doesn’t make me want to move or party or anything. It’ll probably be what I play when I get the balls to kill myself. He seems like he’s trying way too hard to make music to party to, and honestly, I don’t know of anyone who really parties to songs like “Dwamn”. Plus, he and Travis O’Guin signed that guy who sounds like a poor man’s The Weeknd (and is a culprit of a portion of what I talked about in my last rant, You’re All Boring, Stop Putting Out Music Please. Just read that so I don’t have to go too deep into detail about why I dislike him). I like essentially all of the music I’ve heard by The Weeknd. To be fair, that adds up to about 4 or 5 songs, but still, it’s not like I’m biased against that style of music. He just can’t pull it off because he sounds like he’s Justin Timberlake on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse after inhaling helium. I’m not entirely sure if that turns women on but I’m sure that if I were to ever fuck to one of his songs I’d probably have the erectile issues of a man 30 years my senior. Or an internet porn addict, since apparently watching too much internet porn may lead to erectile dysfunction…not that I would know from firsthand experience or anything… But yeah, in recent years Tech has definitely been making decisions that are sort of questionable to me. Wow, I ended that almost like a high school paper with the concluding sentence and everything to sum up what the body paragraph was about. I should write an email to my old English teachers and tell them that they actually did teach me something and end the paragraphs in that email with concluding sentences to drive the point home.

I’m fairly certain I know what some of you may be thinking, but I’m not criticizing those songs and Diet Weeknd for being indicative of Tech N9ne selling out. My issues lie with Tech and Strange trying to almost guilt their listeners into liking them or blaming us for not being suited for the music, when I’m pretty sure I’ve made it clear that I enjoy party music and it’s just the music being bad. Tech wanting to branch out is a totally fine thing. I actually encourage that. I want to see artists be more ambitious. I want to see them succeed. Tech has been rapping for way too long to not see success, and I’m very glad it’s finally coming to him. I’m happy that he has the opportunity to work with artists who he’s always wanted to work with. That’s all great to me. In order to get to where he’s gotten and stay there, though, he’s had to make some compromises in his music. He’s made music that sounds like it was made to fit into the current landscape of mainstream hip hop. However,just because a rapper has decided to make music that sounds like they’re trying to get a bit of radio play doesn’t mean that they’ve gone soft or they’re selling out or anything. If that’s selling out, then what the fuck was Biggie doing with songs like “Hypnotize” or “Another” on his second album? He followed up a rough, rugged debut album with a double album where there was at least 3 songs on each disc that sounded like it was an attempt for radio play. And even his debut had “Big Poppa” on it!

Sidenote, “Big Poppa” has to be one of my favorite songs ever. I forget the specifics because I was anorexic at the time so there’s not much that I remember from late 2012 – mid 2013 (too much info?), but me and one of my best friends at the time had a ton of fun just randomly quoting the song at the most inappropriate times. We ruined a fair amount of actual deep discussions by doing that. Unfortunately, he found himself a girlfriend and broke off his friendships with everyone who wasn’t his girlfriend’s friend, because he’s beyond whipped to the point where he’s lost his own self and essentially become a second vessel for her incredibly controlling, spoiled, entitled, and whiny personality… and that’s not just me being jealously girlfriendless or misogynistic. I’d hang myself with a cheese wire before I let myself be that fucking pathetic. Even the girls who we hang out with feel the exact same way as I do about them. But still, we had some good times being idiots.

So yeah. Just because something is radio-oriented doesn’t make it a bad thing. What’s the point of making music if nobody is going to hear it? For the love of the music? How are you supposed to do something for the love of it if you can’t eat and support yourself so you’re in a position to afford the luxury of loving it in the first place? I swear, it’s like hip hop fans don’t take into account anything at all if their favorite rappers don’t do exactly what they want them to do. If a rapper DARES to try something new, then fuck them! The rapper’s selling out! He’s not the same! I want to hear the exact same album being made again and again because that’s the only way I know that he’s staying pure! Underground only! No pop singles, no radio play, I want to keep the music all to myself! No exposure, only sellouts get exposure! Selling out isn’t hip hop! Jesus Christ, it’s just music. Maybe it’s because there is an overabundance of bullshit and fans don’t want their favorite rappers to get involved, but honestly, it’s not like you’re going to lose your job just because a rapper you listen to made a radio single or two. Open your fucking mind up a little bit.

Now, it’s a different story when a rapper decides to just become some bubblegum act like it seemed like Ludacris was doing for a few years before he put out Ludaversal (which ended up being his best album out of the last few he had released). Don’t do what Redman did on Reggie (although I guess he had a decent excuse; he didn’t want to give Def Jam the sequel to his biggest album so he just gave them that and left the label). I’m also not saying you should compromise your actual ability on the song. But if it’s just a song or two on your album with a sound that’ll get the public at large listening it shouldn’t matter, especially if the rest of the album is nothing like the singles, but is instead some sick, raw shit. That way you can even trick listeners who think they’re going to get more of what they heard on the singles, and introduce them to some really good music that they wouldn’t have heard otherwise. And if you really put the effort into doing so, you can make a poppier single still sound really good. You can also format your album it in a way where it’ll still make sense for it to be on your album. You can have it be surrounded by songs that help the transition a bit…there’s plenty that can be done if the proper thought goes into it. Like I said before, just look at what Biggie did and you should probably be fine, since the singles on Life After Death were pretty fucking poppy compared to the rest of the album, but the album overall is still considered a classic.

And then we have these bitter old rappers talking about how much hip hop sucks nowadays. Of course, not everyone is like that; DJ Premier once said something along the lines of “I’m into boom bap. That trap shit, that’s cool, the kids can do that and I respect that, but I’m not doing that”. That’s the right way to think about it if you ask me…not that anybody did…nobody asks me anything…Anyways, the way Premier is going about it is how everyone should go about it, in my opinion. The OGs expect the newer rappers to respect their way of doing hip hop, while they bash the newer rappers’ way of doing hip hop. Why would a kid ever respect an old man ranting about why they suck? It makes absolutely no sense. It’s even worse because the OGs aren’t doing anything to help the kids. Old rappers: stop talking about what’s so wrong with kids doing hip hop these days. You’re going to do nothing except make the kids disillusioned with what you did. No kid is going to want to be like a grumpy old man. They’re going to do shit their way and put less stock into what you did because they don’t like you as people. Guys, if you’re so concerned about the state of hip hop, why don’t you take an up and coming rapper under your wing and mold them into something that could be really special? They could take the best of what’s going on now and under your tutelage they could implement some of what made old school hip hop so amazing and create a fucking classic. Case in point: Kendrick. untitled unmastered. had the whole “I mixed jazz with trap” thing going on. He blended the old and the new and made what will probably end up being the best project of 2016. Only difference is that Kendrick never really had an OG take him under his wing before he started doing the shit. But still, he’s a pretty good example of what could happen if the new and old collaborated instead of stayed at odds with each other. Come together. Push forward. Help make current mainstream rap better, cover more ground. Don’t just stay stuck on “yeah the underground is all that’s worth listening to” when a lot of underground artists (not all! Lots of rappers from the underground are fucking incredible) are just retreading the roads that you paved, staying stagnant and not innovating the way that you did.

I’ll end it on that sickeningly, disgustingly positive note, because I don’t want to ruin the moment. Bye bye!

Album Review: Open Mike Eagle & Paul White – Hella Personal Film Festival

by Dustin

HPFF

7.75/10

After kicking off the month of March by winning the incredibly prestigious Extraordinary Nobodies Artist of the Month nod, Open Mike Eagle looked to have a strong finish to the month with his brand new full length album. Having found a home for his unique brand of “art rap” on Mello Music Group, Mike set the bar high for himself with the one-two album-extended play punch of Dark Comedy and A Special Episode Of. You may be asking, “did he follow up these two projects with another exceptional album”? Well, if you had paid attention to the little score at the top you would already know that yes, yes he did.

The album is also titled Hella Personal Film Festival. So yeah, that’s a thing too.

Hella Personal Film Festival listens almost conceptually, with every track being a movie script to some aspect of Open Mike Eagle’s life. He’s always been a very relatable artist, yet this album manages to push that a little further. Though Mike keeps his absurd, witty, and sometimes sarcastic approach to analysis, it becomes obvious right from the opening track that this project will be at times more serious and introspective. There are moments on Hella Personal Film Festival that seem to put him at his most vulnerable, exposing scars and concerns to the listener.

I heard that when you in a fucked up space,
No one can hear you signal help,
I tried to set them straight,
And tell them I self medicate,
All they saw’s a glitchy video,
But then I never show my cards,
Instead I write for stealth,
Blah blah blah, I cry for help,
All this bellyaching’s just to say,
My belly’s hurting after all.
Admitting the Endorphin Addiction

At times it did feel like Mike had lost some of the vocal energy that he had in abundance on Dark Comedy, but the more somber approached fit the subject matter well. His delivery at times felt more similar to Rappers Will Die of Natural Causes than to his newer work, which was a bit surprising at first. Don’t take that to mean that he took a step backwards though, because that couldn’t be less true. Open Mike Eagle’s writing, emotional awareness, and presence on Hella Personal Film Festival has quite clearly progressed. It’s just more closely related to his older records in terms of overall sound.

The album only has two guest features, Aesop Rock and Hemlock Ernst (the rap personal of Future Islands’ Sam Herring) on “I Went Outside Today” and “Protectors of the Heat” respectively. This selective use of guests artists is fairly typical for an Open Mike Eagle album, and both managed to add something to the songs on which they were featured; however, Aesop probably had the more interesting verse of the two with his ever-so-confusing charm. Busdriver also makes a quick appearance at the end of “Dang is Invincible” where he says a grand total of nine or ten words. He’s not listed as a feature, but the voice is unmistakable.

Gotta admit it’s hard to feel good without being narcissistic,
Did the whole tour and didn’t get a parking ticket,
Looked in my heart and there wasn’t no darkness in it,
Feel awesome dude, found some wind to throw caution to!
Dang is Invincible

Production also really has to be discussed for this album as it was a collaborative effort with UK based music producer Paul White. White is perhaps most well known for his work with Danny Brown will on both XXX and Old. He has also provided production for the likes of Homeboy Sandman and Guilty Simpson. As far as the instrumentation on this album, he did a wonderful job at providing beats which compliment Open Mike Eagle’s voice. The sound is somewhat more conventional that most of Mike’s discography, but in this case that is certainly not a bad thing. There is not a single instrumental on Hella Personal Film Festival which feels out of place. They flow into each other very nicely, building a cohesive atmosphere throughout.

If you were looking for powerful booming production though, you wont find it here. It would be kind of questionable to be looking for bangers on Open Mike Eagle album in general because that’s not really his style, but hey, it was worth a mention.

Living from check to check, I keep checking,
Incoming call, directly reject it,
If you want to talk, suggest you leave message,
I check, check, check like every three seconds,
I’m recording right now and I’m checking between takes,
Every notification that my phone machine makes,
I put it down whenever, but it’s never a clean break,
I should get a heavy phone and pretend it’s a free weight.
Check to Check

Basically, if you are a fan of Open Mike Eagle’s previous work it’s not a stretch to say that you’ll enjoy what Hella Personal Film Festival has to offer. It might not be the best jumping off point for a new listener, as it is surprisingly more dense than an album like Dark Comedy (which is probably the easiest album in Mike’s discography to jump into in terms of lyrics and overall sound). If you’re looking for an record that takes multiple listens to fully digest, but still offers some comedic relief, then Hella Personal Film Festival may just fit your taste perfectly.

Just be sure to give it more than a single spin (you’ll want to anyway).

10 Questions with Detroit’s Fatt Father

by Dustin & Apu

FF

Those in tune with the underground scene in Detroit will recognize the name Fatt Father. He has worked with hip-hop artists like D12, Elzhi, Black Milk, and Sean Price (just to name a few). On top of killing features Fatt Father has carved out a fan base through his solo releases and group projects with Detroit rap quartet The Fat Killahz alongside King Gordy, Marv Won, and ShimE BangO.

We were lucky enough to land a small question and answer session with him leading up to his new album, Veterans Day. Once again, I would like to extend our thanks to Fatt Father for taking time out of his day to do this! We’re a small blog of fans, and it is definitely appreciated!

If you’ve never listened to his tunes, definitely give them a listen (and check out the interview below)!

EN: Who would you say are your biggest influences musically?

Fatt Father: Notorious BIG, Scarface, Royce da 5’9”, The Fat Killahz, and The Temptations. I listen to soooo many different artists and genres of music, my list could actually go on forever but those are a few of my favorites!

EN: I thought “They Know” was fantastic, can we expect more music like that from you and D.R.U.G.S. Beats on Veteran’s Day? How would you describe the sound of the album?

Fatt Father: It gets even BETTER! “They Know” was actually just a warm-up… It is no where near what we’re bringing on Veterans Day! D.R.U.G.S. Beats is one of the dopest producers out there and he’s “Dr. Dre Approved” [laughs], so you know that he’s a beast. The only way to describe this album is “classic”, and that’s what we we’re shooting for. Veterans Day features The Fat Killahz, Kuniva (of D12), Royce da 5’9”, Elinor Wyn, Chordz Cordero, and many more talented individuals.

EN: I know you’ve worked with a variety of different artists like Black Milk, D12, Guilty Simpson, and more, but do you have a collaboration with another rapper that stands out to you as a personal favorite?

Fatt Father: I would have to say “Grime” from my Fatherhood album because it features Guilty Simpson, Sean Price (Rest in Peace), and Roc Marciano. These are 3 emcees that I respect and look up to, so whenever I hear the song it feels like I’m the little brother that finally got the chance to hang out with my big bros and we all did our thing!

EN: Who would be your dream artist to collaborate with?

Fatt Father: Scarface! I just feel like Scarface is never afraid to put his heart on the track and I’m the exact same way so I believe that we could create some AMAZING MUSIC!

EN: Can we expect another Fat Killahz release in the future?

Fatt Father: Good question! [Laughs] I actually don’t know. It would be dope, however, everybody’s occupied with life and individual projects so if time permits, I truly believe that none of us would have a problem with making it happen, but until then we’ll just have to wait and see

EN: On the topic of the Fat Killahz, I have to ask: is King Gordy as wild in person as he comes across on record? He’s always seemed to have that rock-star attitude.

Fatt Father: He is absolutely insane but he’s my brother so I’m forced to love him! [Laughs].

EN: Are you and Marv still planning to release music as The Twin Towers? I really enjoyed that Ca’Mon song with Ro Spit when it came out.

Fatt Father: Yes we are! We just have to finish up a few more songs and hopefully it will be released after we both drop our solo projects that we’re wrapping up.

EN: On twitter and in your music you’ve always come across as an incredibly supportive parent. If you could give one piece of advice to all the dads out there, what would it be?

Fatt Father: Take advantage of EVERY moment that you get to spend with your children and NEVER take time for granted!!! I love to see my children smile, so I try to make them happy as much as I possibly can.

EN: I’m a big fan of food, so I thought we could touch on food for a second. What what the most delicious meal you’ve ever eaten?

Fatt Father: I don’t know but I can guarantee that it had bacon on it! Bacon is absolutely amazing and if it was legal to marry it, I would have no problem giving bacon my last name! [Laughs].

EN: One last question: If you had to choose, would you rather eat bacon cheeseburgers or bacon wrapped shrimp for every meal during 2016? I’m a bacon cheeseburger man, personally.

Fatt Father: I would go with the bacon cheeseburger, but I would definitely try to trade in the burger patty for more bacon! [Laughs]

EN: I’d just like to say on behalf of myself and Extraordinary Nobodies, thank you so much for your time. It’s a pleasure to be able to interview you for our site.

Fatt Father: Yo, thanks for reaching out! I appreciate all of the love and support! Check out FattWorld, Veterans Day COMING SOON!!!