Been a minute, but I’m back. Just wanted to give some shine to an artist that really needs to deserve more shine at the moment: Tarica June. She’s been making music for a minute now, but this cover of Jay Z and Rick Ross’s “FWMYKIGI” is, for lack of a better term, SICK! Tarica goes harder than, dare I say, both Jay and Rozay in her rendition of the song. Not only that, but she’s actually saying something in her bars, which come extremely hot and heavy! I can’t really do justice to the the lyricism, you just gotta listen for yourself. Peep.
The song sampled on the 1996 Jay-Z track “Ain’t No N*gga” that helped to begin propelling Hova’s mainstream Hip Hop career. It’s a big time mixture of a few different elements, from down home dirty, fat bottom funk combined with a little bit of sheen and glitter from the disco scene. The horns definitely help to make this song a rousing dance floor worthy number, and you can just imagine crowds of people shaking, wiggling and gyrating to the hard groove of the bass line, the flute and the continuous horn loop. Also sampled on EPMD’s “It’s My Thing” back in 1988.
It’s a hard question to ask in terms of what to expect from Magna Carta Holy Grail. The one thing that actually seems to be the same is that Hov is making a big time event out of the album, as many of his joints in the past have been. But if we ask the question of whether it NEEDS to be a classic and nothing more will do…well then, what’s a classic in this day and age, since the term is thrown around so loosely? We know that we’re not going to hear the same Jay that we have in the past, so is this the album that finally reveals him as needing to merely be an ambassador of Hip Hop and hang up the mic, or will he blow the young guns out of the water? Will he be back at his most lyrical, or will he instead rely more on the creativity and experimentation of the music that he rhymes over, similar to what Kanye did with Yeezus? Will we get another Kingdom Come, or will it be a case of Jay getting back to his lyrical roots like he did on American Gangster? Will we respect and cherish it like it we have with past Jay-Z albums or will it lose some of it’s steam because it’s being offered exclusively as a Samsung app, at least at the beginning? Tons and tons of questions, no easy answers. As usual.
Most people in my generation of music heads know this 1976 song as the one that was sampled by Kanye West on the song “Lucifer” by Jay-Z from The Black Album (2004). But the original is from a singer that had created quite a career for himself in Reggae: Max Romeo. One of the things that I love most about this composition is that it’s so deeply rooted in the Biblical and the spiritual. That’s the same thing that I love about many roots reggae artists, songs and albums. If you listed to the music of Bob Marley and the Wailers, Peter Tosh, Burning Spear, Dennis Brown, Lucky Dube and so many others you’re bound to come across songs that have at least an indirect foundation in Christianity, mainly because Rastafari, the belief system that many roots reggae artists follow, is steeped in and an extension of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. “I Chase The Devil” is no exception, as Romeo tells the story of the subject fighting against the powers of the underworld, and takes much of his material directly from Bible verses. Special note: the song was also sampled by Azealia Banks on her mixtape song “Out of Space”, which she reinterpreted from the group The Prodigy’s song of the same title from 1992.
One of the things that is most interesting to me about the final song from 2011′s Watch The Throne album is the note that it leaves the album on. One would think that an ideal ending to arguably the best, most talked about and yet most polarizing Hip Hop album of that year, with it’s grandiose tales of the luxurious life being experienced by Hip Hop 1 percenters Jay-Z and Kanye West, would end on a more triumphant note, or at least with the Frank Ocean-featured “Made In America”, just to wrap things up in a nice little package for the listener. But instead, Jay and ‘Ye take a left turn and leave us with a tale steeped in ego, betrayal, hurt feelings, lost innocence and lost brotherhood experienced in an industry where all of the former is unfortunately the norm. “Why I Love You” comes at the end of an album filled with constant arrogant rapper braggadocio, a level that no one besides Jay and Kanye have experienced, but also having poignant moments of father-to-son advice (“New Day”) the questioning of organized religion (“No Church In The Wild”) and the curious combination of the celebratory and the somber (“Murder to Excellence”). But “Why I Love You” stands on it’s own, filled with enough intrigue and dramatic flair to be a scene in a Godfather movie. The Throne clearly wanted to go for the avant-garde throughout the album, but with a sample from “I Love You So” by French house/synth pop duo Cassius, “Why I Love You” delves slightly into Euro dubstep to give the track a more atmospheric and emotional feel. This is a song that sounds as if it could be featured in Hollywood motion picture trailer. Personally, I believe that the song could have been used as background music for the dissolution in the relationship between Stringer Bell and Avon Barksdale at the end of Season 3 on The Wire. A powerful statement from one of the best from 2011.
Thought it only right to give some love to one of the architects of one of the biggest and most polarizing bands of the 1960s: Keyboardist Ray Manzarek, who passed away this week at the age of 74. As one of the founding members of The Doors, Manzarek helped to being their brand of outlaw rock music to the masses with his distinctive keyboard and piano playing skills, complimenting Jim Morrison’s strange yet intoxicating lyrics perfectly. And one of the ways I was truly introduced to Manzarek and The Doors was of course through Jay-Z and the way he and Kanye sampled “Five To One” on “The Takeover”, one of Hip Hop’s greatest diss records. Here’s the original track and the sampled piece, as well. Thank you so much, Ray Manzarek.
It’s that time once again…time for the Forbes magazine annual list of the 20 richest emcees/artists in the Hip Hop game. Topping the list this year is Dr. Dre with his staggeringly profitable venture with Jimmy Iovine, Beats by Dre, which have become a premiere status symbol for Hip Hop heads. celebrities, DJs and trend followers every where. Hisham Dahud, a Senior Analyst for Hypebot.com, recently completed a story on the Forbes list. Notable names include Dr. Dre at #1 with over $100 million in before-tax earnings. Diddy, Jay-Z, Kanye West and Lil Wayne round out the top 5 with $45 million, $38 million, $35 million and $27 million dollars earned respectively. Even Wale was named a “Cash Prince”, having raked in $5 million from concert tickets and album sales. And because of it, Forbes recently interviewed Wale:
Other emcees that made the list include Drake, Nicki Minaj, Birdman, Ludacris, Pitbull, Rick Ross, Young Jeezy, Mac Miller and Tech N9ne. This year’s top 20 list brought in a combined $415 million dollars in , which came in no small part from outside music ventures, personal branding and product endorsements. Read the Hisham Dahud’s bull story here.
To say at this point that Hip Hop has grown to be the most influential genre of music that we’ve ever seen, well…I don’t wanna oversell it, but it probably still would be a gross understatement. The fact is, in many different areas of life, Hip Hop has done what so many other forms of music just can’t do. It has marketed and sold products to the public, it has gathered people to the polls and had a hand in the outcome of political elections, it’s created tons of jobs for truckloads of people, and to some degree, has also infiltrated American pop culture without having to compromise all of itself.
To say that Jay-Z has become one of the most powerful figures in the mainstream music business, well…again, I don’t wanna oversell it, but that doesn’t quite do Hova justice. In all of his dealings in the past five years, Jay-Z has morphed into the pinnacle and the bar at which any aspiring music entrepreneur of any genre now compares themselves to. His music can more than likely be found in the iPod of President Barack Obama and in millions of others around the world alongside country, electronic dance music, folk indie rock and a whole lot more. And beyond music, Jay has proven himself to be one of the most savvy businessmen and branders in the world. To put it plainly, Jay Hova plays many roles and wears many hats, and does it successfully.
So it’s no surprise that Jay-Z would be the figure that would use Hip Hop to bring a festival like this past weekend’s “Made In America” Festival in Philadelphia to the forefront. Arguably, no other figure in Hip Hop has used the genre to greater effect than Jay, effectively and efficiently pushing the culture, the brand and the ideal of Hip Hop into spaces that were once thought ridiculous for it to go: from music publications like SPIN and Rolling Stone, to the corporate office of some of the biggest companies on the Fortune 500 list, to the cover of Forbes Magazine with Warren Buffet. And “Made In America” was a referendum on that idea. Because it can be considered more than just a music festival, but a testament to how powerful and influential Hip Hop and some of it’s biggest stars have become to all of music.
With a line-up that included Jay himself, Pearl Jam, Maybach Music Group, Run DMC, Santigold, Odd Future, Jill Scott, Rita Ora, The Hives, D’Angelo, Janelle Monae, a special appearance by G.O.O.D. Music and tons more diverse sets of music, “Made In America” was a true coming together of genres, fans, followers and artists. But beyond that, the festival showed that Hip Hop’s reach has extended in many different directions. When was the last time an artist of Jay-Z’s caliber would even think to try organizing something on the scale of a major music festival? True…we can also say that there have been very few Hip Hop artists of Jay-Z’s caliber throughout its history, and that we know Jay didn’t just do this out of the kindness of his heart (some kind of profit had to have been made by the man, or else, he probably wouldn’t have done it at all.)
Still, to this writer at least, Hip Hop was able to make somewhat of a statement of influence this past weekend. A statement of all-inclusiveness, togetherness, community and solidarity with all kinds of different music from many walks of life. After all, that’s where Hip Hop was at birth: a mash-up and mix-up of music from all walks of life, be it Punk Rock, Salsa, African drums, Funk, Doo Wop and Jazz, Hip Hop took from elements from all of these forms of music and created something new. And maybe that’s what Jay, at least on the surface, was trying to do with “Made In America” this past Labor Day weekend. Maybe that’s what he as an artist, as a businessman and an entrepreneur, actually wants for Hip Hop: to be that global musical force that can have a symbiotic and long-lasting relationship with the world around it.
In any event, “Made In America” seems like it was a resounding success. And all in all, that’s thanks to the power that Hip Hop continues to exert, in more positive ways than one.