Monthly Archives: June 2013

A Bonus Cut Feature: An Interview With Detroit Rapper Red Pill (Part One)


Chris Orrick (aka Red Pill) of BLAT! Pack is a rapper from Detroit, Michigan who is emerging as a positive voice in hip-hop. Pill’s delivery is both sophisticated and to-the-point as it treads on parallels to the likes of Blu and Atmosphere. Red Pill’s releases Please Tip Your Driver and The Kick (with Hir-O) helped formulate a monstrous repertoire, and his recent project with Apollo Brown and Verbal Kent called Ugly Heroes has further backed his immaculate career in hip-hop. In a day and age where people are still struggling to find consistent artists in an ever-expanding culture, Red Pill brings content that hip-hop truly needs.

Red Pill recently sat down with Bonus Cut to discuss issues within hip-hop, the art of writing, his influences, South by Southwest (SXSW), the status of hip-hop today and his Ugly Heroes project.

(Excerpts taken from an interview with Chris Orrick on June 3rd, 2013…)

Bonus Cut (BC): Do you have an agent?

Red Pill (RP): I have a couple guys that work as my management. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Will Ketchum? He went to (Michigan) State too for music journalism. He’s interviewed tons and tons of people in hip-hop. We all work with BLAT! Pack and Will is the manager of p.h.i.l.t.h.y. (AKA James Gardin), Jahshua, Jasmine, myself and Hir-O. The reason that I was interested in doing that was because of all his connections. Through journalism, he’s made all sorts of connections through the blogs and all that stuff. Anything that I’ve been able to do before Ugly Heroes—getting on websites and stuff—has all been based on connections that Will had and just pushing us to these people that he knew, which has been awesome. That’s part of why I’ve been able to generate a little buzz and get my name out there. That’s that “who you know kind of thing.” That’s really what it all amounts to in a lot of cases. You have to have talent to back it up but it’s really about who you know. So, I do have him (Will) and he works for me, does some stuff for me. But I’m trying to figure out what to even do. I need booking, that’s my biggest concern; how to get on the road, how to get on tour. I was actually just talking to Open Mic Eagle that I opened for last night. I was just talking to him about how he got started because that’s my big thing, you gotta get on the road and he’s just grinding it out. I know they didn’t make much money last night, it was a decent show but there wasn’t a whole bunch of people there. They probably got a hundred to a hundred-fifty bucks and they just gotta keep going. He said he started by asking touring rappers if he could do their merch and follow them to shows and if they had 15 minutes, let him get on stage. And I was just like, “that’s crazy.” It’s cool and its something I never thought of, and something I might have to do.

BC: Do you know how long he was doing that for?

RP: I think it was a little over a year or so that he was doing that, and then finally was offered to actually be an opening act. But at the same time he was still required to get himself to every show. He was not getting paid but he was following these guys around. He did a tour from L.A. to Chicago in his own car, his own gas money just trying to sell merch at shows. I think that’s like a “rights of passage” kind of thing with touring and to really understand it you have to do that, cause this Ugly Heroes shit put me on tour in Europe, which is awesome, but it’s not going to be the same because Apollo Brown has just got such a good following out there. I mean, he can make good money touring out there so it’s just set up, its there. You know, it’s like being a fucking rock star out there. He goes to St. Petersburg, Russia and sells out a 2,000 capacity venue. Which is crazy and that’s amazing if we get to do that in the fall, which it looks like we’re probably going to, but I want to be able to tour the U.S. Apollo Brown, his fan base is so international, he has a lot of fans here in the States, but a lot of it is international. I want to be able to make sure that with me that I can sell out a show in Detroit that I can sell out a show in Chicago. Even just the small clubs and venues, doing that and going on a tour here is really important.

BC: Is that because you’re from here?

RP: Yeah, I think at least being able to sell out in Detroit, Lansing, Grand Rapids or wherever in this area is important to me because the home crowd is supporting you. To me that’s important. I want that. It’s amazing to be able to go over to Europe or wherever and tour and do that, but I want it here. I want to be someone that’s important in the scene here, someone that can affect change in the scene here and really be someone that is really a known figure. I’m not mad or bitter at them, but a lot of my predecessors in this scene—you don’t see a lot of them out at shows, you don’t normally see them. You know, they help certain people here and there and that’s fine. But I don’t think you’re going to go to a show right now and see Danny Brown or Black Milk pop up randomly on some supporting local talent. It depends, maybe I’m wrong, but I’ve never been to a show where I’ve seen that.

BC: Does Apollo Brown?

RP: You know, I’ve seen him at some stuff. I’ve seen him, but it all depends. Really, the only place I’ve seen him is in Grand Rapids because that’s where he’s originally from. I saw him at a show; I’ve seen him at a couple of the shows I’ve been to.

BC: Going on tour in Europe would be sweet, but it makes sense wanting to be here. It’s the home team kind of thing, this is where you’re from, this is what your music is about and this is what you rap about. Ugly Heroes is about here, about home. It’s interesting and cool to have Europeans that dig the music. There’s obviously some relationship with the music and they understand oppression and shit like that. But they’re not from here.

RP: Yeah like I said, I talk to friends that say the European tour will be amazing. I tell them that I won’t be content unless I can tour the U.S. and do well out here too. They look at me like I’m crazy or like I’m whining or something. It’s not that I’m bitching; it’s an incredible opportunity and if it happens it will be insane. But for my own value and for what I want to do with my music, I’m not going to be happy unless I tour the U.S. and especially Michigan.

BC: That’s a lot of what hip-hop is about. It’s about home and identity.

RP: Right, and that’s huge. Like you said, hip-hop and identity is one of the fundamental parts. I think that applies to everybody though. You are defined in a lot of cases by where you’re from and that definitely shines through in my music I think.

BC: How would you say that you first really got into hip-hop and music in general?

RP: As a kid, I remember always being drawn to music. It was something that I always really enjoyed. I wasn’t huge into sports or really anything else. It wasn’t like at seven or eight I was thinking in terms of I want to be a rapper. But I loved music and I wanted to be involved with music. I think when I was in second or third grade I played saxophone in band. I was in choir in elementary school and then money, my family money, kind of limited that. I used to live right across the street from my elementary school in Redford, but they moved our practices over to the high school and I couldn’t get there in the morning so I had to stop doing it. I do remember as a young kid just really being drawn to music of any kind. At that point, it didn’t matter. We’re young enough where I don’t remember this specific moment where I was like, “Oh, I’ve just now been introduced to hip-hop.” It just was. It was on the radio; it was just what people listened to. It already controlled the mainstream by the mid 90’s. I don’t recall being like, “Oh, I love hip-hop now.” But, I do think that it really strongly took over my taste at a young age. I liked everything and I still like everything. But with hip-hop, something about it was speaking to me more than other things and I don’t know if it was growing up without a lot of money. It’s not like I could put on Get Rich or Die Tryin and relate with what 50 Cent was saying but there were bits and pieces where you could kinda bridge those gaps. The rags to riches story or something where you don’t have much and you don’t like that about your life and you see this guy—just to keep running with that example—where he rose out of that and was able to do something positive with his life and make a lot of money off of it. That’s what I related to most about anything like that. That was early, listening to like just pop radio. You know, pop hip-hop. Early on, I was probably listening to Ja-Rule, Ludacris and just shit that was on the radio. Dr. Dre, when The Chronic: 2001 came out, like that stuff. Whatever was on the radio. It was the shit that me and my friends were listening to and we would talk about it. I remember going to school and watching MTV before school and talking about it right when we got into school. In elementary school, we would talk about what video just came out. Eminem was a huge influence on me, for a number of reasons. I related to him when he came out. He was from Detroit and whether I admitted it or not, the white thing, he looked like me so it was easier to relate. When I really got into writing though, I was like twelve or thirteen. I can’t remember exactly but I moved form Redford to Howell with my family. My grandfather owned the house that we lived in and my dad couldn’t pay. He was having trouble with money, he had lost his job and was trying to start his own cell phone business and that was really bad. Money was just terrible and so my grandfather evicted us. He gave us a time frame; he had to get his money and shit or whatever. I haven’t seen him since then. We ended up moving to Howell in this apartment and I just felt—I didn’t like it—I didn’t like Howell at all. It didn’t feel the same to me; I grew up in Redford. It’s not like it was a bad neighborhood or anything but it felt like the city to me, I could ride my bike to Seven-Eleven. All my friends lived within a certain couple of blocks of me and shit. In Howell, everything was spread out and it wasn’t diverse. I’m sure you know a little about Howell’s history where there’s old KKK shit out there. It’s a different world and I was very opposed to it and felt like I didn’t belong there. I ended up meeting a lot of good people, my girlfriend now, but at the time I was young and I guess the move impacted me enough that I was like, “I don’t care, I’m not going to school, fuck it, I’m not doing any of this shit. I’m just going to write and just be rapper.” And I didn’t tell anyone about it, like no one, I wasn’t embarrassed but it was something I did personally and come up with this idea in my mind to do this. I just started writing, like all the time. That was probably the most I’ve ever written, ever. I don’t write nearly as much as I did when I was thirteen, fourteen.


BC: When you’re talking about writing, what is the process? Are you literally talking about writing rhymes as your fourteen or you talking about writing stories? What is writing to you, what does that mean?

RP: It’s everything. For the most part now I’ve really just gotten to writing raps. I write very small amounts of poetry, I don’t share that. It’s in my notebooks, its there. For me, it was writing raps for the most part. It was stuff like that or ideas or writing about how I felt. That was the biggest thing for me. I was able to use writing, as cliché as it is, for therapy or whatever. That’s what I was doing. I didn’t have people to talk to; I didn’t have any friends in Howell. I was too young to drive, so I couldn’t go visit my friends all the time. I was just alone. I didn’t want to make friends first of all, even if people tried I was like, “I don’t like these kids, they’re not my friends. I have friends.” So, I would sit in my room and listen to beats. I think for most people you start out emulating. Whether it was trying to write like Xzibit or whoever else. It was all about writing songs.

BC: How were your first raps?

RP: I’ve looked back on some of the stuff and I can see where I started to understand how to actually write a rap song. It would just be like free-flow. It made no sense, it was just writing, it would rhyme in weird spots and it made no sense at all. Eventually, I started figuring it out. I don’t know how it happened but somehow I taught myself that this free-flow of nonsense wasn’t actually a song.

BC: Do you go back sometimes and use ideas that you might’ve had back when you were fourteen to influence you?

RP: Not recently. I used to a lot more. It’ll be like a period of time where it’ll be like four or five months that I might go back and revisit lines. If I had an idea for a song, I’ll write it down. I guess in a sense I still have ideas for songs that I had from back when I was fifteen that I just haven’t done yet. I still want to do them but I don’t know if I’m good enough yet or would even approach it. I pick from other things. At work now, at the plant, we have these sheets that we’re supposed to be filling out and doing inspections on. I have stacks of these papers that are just folded up and greasy, just covered in dirt and shit that just have raps on them. It’s actually terrifying to think about because I know there’s a lot of good shit in there but a lot of my writing’s actually happening now at the plant. I don’t know why, I think it’s like the repetitiveness and the horrible boringness of standing at these machines all day that’s generating what I’m thinking about or getting me creative. There are just stacks of that shit and I gotta go through those and figure out what’s good and make sense of what’s in there. We’re supposed to just be working so I’m like scribbling these as fast as I can and shoving it back in my pocket. Notebooks, for a while I was in between like five or six notebooks. In general I’m scatter-brained and not organized. It sucks; it’s fucked me up in school. So with my writing I’m trying to fix that. I stick to one notebook now, but now have these stacks of greasy plant pages that are just piling up now and I don’t know what to do with them.

BC: How do you deal with writer’s block?

RP: I just don’t anymore. I don’t try to fight it if it’s not happening. I constantly feel lazy, which is weird. I don’t know, my girlfriend tells me I work too hard and so maybe it’s like a complex of this constant feeling that I’m not working hard enough. I don’t know if it’s a good or a bad thing, but it makes me feel like shit everyday. Then I think, I had The Kick come out and then Ugly Heroes. I have another project I’m about to record next week and I’m still working on new shit with Hir-O again. So in reality I look at what I’m doing and I can see it, but it still doesn’t feel like I’m doing enough. It never feels like I’m doing enough. I get out of work and I never feel comfortable just sitting, even if I’m just not doing anything. I’m always trying to be productive, at least attempting or giving myself the illusion that I’m being productive, even if I’m not. That’s something that I realized recently. So the writer’s block for me—writing just comes and goes for me. I’m not the guy that’s on a writing regimen; I think there are writers that will go and force themselves everyday to do this and try to do it everyday. Sometimes it works for me but for the most part I’ve stopped trying to fight and if its not happening, it’s not happening. I’m not being productive by writing shit that isn’t good. If it’s not good, it’s not good. I’m not going to use it anyways. I’ve gone through bouts of like nine months where I don’t write, that hasn’t happened in a long time, it’s usually about a couple weeks. I’ll go a couple weeks where I don’t do anything and then all of a sudden I’ll write three songs in two days. It makes up for it. It’s a when it rains it pours kind of thing.

BC: So you have your raps that are words on a page. What is like when you try to transition those words into having the beats and production in the studio? Are you hearing a beat in your head when you write? How does it all come together?

RP: For the most part I write to a beat. I don’t do a lot of the whole free verse. Sometimes I do, and sometimes it works out really well but for the most part I’m writing to a beat. I need the music, the actual music itself, to inspire what I want to write about.

BC: So will Apollo Brown, for example, give you a beat and then you write your lyrics?

RP: Yeah, that’s exactly how that works. With the Apollo Brown project, Ugly Heroes, he’d send me and Verbal Kent four to six beats in batches and we’d just get to work on them. He just sent them to us, put them in a drop box for us, and we just went with it. So we’d get the beats and probably a couple hours later we’d have a conversation about the beats that we liked. There would be times where both of us would really like a beat and we’d go with it. It’s the same thing with Hir-O. I wait on him to send me a beat and then I work with it. The inspiration that I get from the sound is how I work best. I can write stuff, and I do write stuff all the time, but my writing is so dependent on the actual flow and rhythm of the beat. The patterns that I come up with are based on what’s happening with the beat and I’m trying to find my space within that. Even as far as tone and if there’s any type of melody to what I’m saying is all because of the beat. I need that to tell me how to write.

BC: When you’re working on a project, do you spend a lot of time in the studio?

RP: Apollo Brown has this formula and it works which is a huge reason why I think he’s there. It’s a very rigid formula so I didn’t spend a lot of time with he and Verbal Kent. I had never met Verbal Kent before this project; I had only heard his name like one time. I had never heard his music, nothing. But, we ended up connecting and becoming really good friends throughout the course of the project; he’s a really cool guy. We probably met like twice before we actually got in the studio and we didn’t really work on any writing together. We did a little bit, but it was just rapping verses to each other and trying to figure out choruses for songs. With Apollo Brown and his music, I really think he believes in simplicity and the good that can come out of it and I really like that about what he does. Now, Hir-O is the opposite and I see both sides and I like both. I think we did three recording sessions in Royal Oak, Verbal Kent came up from Chicago, and we spent fourteen or fifteen hours total in the studio and we just knocked it out. With Apollo’s music I wasn’t trying to be flashy. The music was there, the sound was there and the style called for just rapping. I didn’t need to get crazy or try anything weird. For me, I felt like we’re here to tell a story over these beats, I’m not going to get flashy. I think the last track, “Push,” is where if I was doing any sort of different patterns and shit, that was probably the only time I really did anything like that on the whole album. It’s simple, it’s Apollo’s formula and it’s what sounds good. It’s what his fans like because to me hip-hop is it’s own thing. There’s rock, there’s punk-rock, country and all these things fall into one category. For me, hip-hop does the same thing now. You don’t have all these names. Sometimes you do. You have “Swag Rap” or “Gangsta Rap” so they have different names for it but for what Apollo is doing it’s a classic sound. So for me it’s like Jack White saying he’s going to write a Country album or something. He’s going to go do it and he’s going to do it in the style that would be expected of that genre. You’re going to know it’s Jack White and it’s going to sound like him. It’s the same with me, you know it’s my music and it’s something I’m doing but it’s for that sound, it’s for that crowd. I try to cater to that with my writing and make sure I like what I was doing with that writing.

BC: So how did the concept of Ugly Heroes come to be?

RP: Ugly Heroes was all Apollo Brown’s idea. He approached me about it. He had the concept; he knew he wanted to do a group album with two MCs and a producer in the vain of Little Brother with 9th Wonder, Phonte and Big Pooh. He approached me with the idea and I liked it. It’s supposed to represent the everyday person. It was the same thing with Verbal Kent. We got approached by him [Apollo Brown] and got brought into his idea and what he was doing. So it already made sense to me, it was already something that I could easily speak about. That’s my life. I come from the working class like most of us so I didn’t have to change who I was or anything. Stylistically, it’s what I was doing, just straightforward hip-hop. That was the purpose of this album. Just simple, clean raps, easy hooks and that’s it. I didn’t have to think too hard about it, which is good. I could just write.

Stay tuned next week for part two of this interview!

For more on Red Pill:

Red Pill’s Blat! PACK page
Red Pill on Twitter (@redpillrap)
Red Pill on Facebook

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The American C.R.E.A.M. Series (Part Four)

on the road

Periodically, Bonus Cut writer Victor Anderson will be sharing his American C.R.E.A.M. Series, a story where hip-hop is just the tip of the iceberg.

…continued from part three. Click here for part two. Click here for part one.

By: Victor Anderson    

My last day at The Bloch started off fairly normal. My coffee was spiked with rum and I studied a Jean-Luc Godard film. A Francois Truffaut flick soon followed and as you could tell I had a thing for French films in the morning. Once I finally ventured out of my motel room, the blinding sunbeams forced me to rush back inside for some protective wear. I made my way down the steps to visit the new tenant of Room 7; we chain smoked spliffs near The Bloch Pool the night before. He let me in and I received flashbacks from the night I had with Drew, the Floridian botanist. I wondered if her operation up north was going as planned. Anyway, Jeffery Eaton was now occupying the room. He was in his mid-thirties; he had a motorcycle and a lisp. Jeff was in town visiting his sister and her family but she didn’t trust him sleeping around his niece’s because he was a registered sex offender. But he wasn’t a child molester; he just had a small bladder and decided to piss on the wrong elementary school some years ago.

So, I tag along to run errands with him because I had never ridden on a motorcycle before. I ride bitch on his chopper and we head to his old friend’s apartment. I wait outside and take a few swigs from my flask. For the next two hours this became routine because Jeff hadn’t been back home in some years. I never saw these friends of his because I always got stuck outside and I was very disappointed when I felt the last drop of rum hit my tongue. I almost forgot that the contents of my flask actually had side effects until the buzz hit me. I was rather content from then on. Jeff always emerged from the house buckling his belt while perspiring profusely. I was jealous that he didn’t invite me in to meet these ladies, but whatever. We left behind a cloud of smoke at each place and roared down the road towards who-knows-where.

We decided to stop and get some grub. I needed it the most because my drunk was getting out of hand. I scarfed down the cheesiest burger and the saltiest fries and loved it. Next was a visit to his sister, Yelly. After riding all the way through town we arrived at her small suburban house. She and her husband came out to greet us with their two toddler daughters standing next to them as if they were straight out of a Hallmark commercial. Jeff hopped off of his bike to run and grab his nieces and they had no idea who he was. I was introduced as a friend and we went inside for lemonade. They had a rather typical home and we made ourselves comfortable in the living room. The kids were in the backyard playing as we, the adults, indulged in forgettable conversation. Jeff caught up with his sister as her husband, Lee, asked me about school. I told him that I went to school to become a professional student, but I flunked out. I think he got the joke, but he soon got up to go somewhere else in the house. Without me even noticing, Jeff had disappeared too and I was stuck with his sister. We sat in silence until the stalest of small talk occurred. I excused myself to find the restroom and she followed to provide directions.

For nearly a minute I experienced the feeling of pure ecstasy until I was suddenly interrupted. I jolted and almost covered their toilet seat in urine when I heard the ugliest scream I had ever heard. It now made sense why they called her Yelly. She was shouting and cursing at both Jeff and Lee after she caught them in the kid’s bedroom. Jeff came bolting down the steps wiping his mouth and Lee tumbled down the steps because his pants were at his ankles. I went into their pantry closet and stuffed my pockets with a bunch of cookies and followed Jeff out of the house. Yelly stood on her front porch yelling about how she never wanted to see Jeff again and to never come back into her life. I was reluctant to ride bitch on his bike after knowing his sexual orientation, but I had no choice. We got the fuck out of there and headed back to The Bloch.

After parking his baby, Jeff explained that Yelly stole Lee from him and his only reason for visiting was to get even and to let her know that she encroached on his territory. What a fucked up individual, this guy and I wanted nothing to do with him. It was mainly the shit-eating grin he wore that truly disgusted me. He asked if I wanted to smoke a spliff as I walked away but I flicked him off and called him a selfish, vindictive, evil bastard. He didn’t seem to care as he shrugged and went back into his room.

I was walking up the steps back to my room when I saw Talia’s car pull into the parking lot. She emerged in her typical attire as a man exited his parked car at the same time. He wore a trench coat, shades and had a boring haircut. If the movies taught me anything, this guy was either a government agent or a streaker. She didn’t notice him following her but I watched from the balcony. She was approached at the bottom of the stairs; he asked her name. She gave him a fake name but he was not fooled. He went on to reveal a bunch of information about her. She asked who he was and he asked her to come with him. She refused and demanded that he tell her what this was about.

“Do you know a Mr. Douglass Dupree?”

She shakes her head.

“Welp, he knows you and claims that you, Talia Leslie, seduced him and stole his wallet, which contained a hefty amount of cash and credit cards. He hired me to investigate and find you. All he wants is what you stole from him.”

She denied the allegations.

“Are you saying that these statements aren’t true, Ms. Leslie?”

“Fuck you and Douglass Dupree. Do you know how much his salary is a year? These wealthy bankers wipe their asses with hundred dollar bills.”

“It’s a matter of principle, Ms. Leslie. It wasn’t yours to take and I don’t think that Mr. Dupree enjoyed the little ruse that you pulled on him. Now, enough with this dialogue, you’ve been caught red handed and you must cooperate or else you will be forced to–.”

“Shut up! You have no proof of anything.”

“Oh, don’t I? Well, what about Mr. Charles Reeves, from last night? What about Mr. Earnest Walker from the night before? Oh, I can’t forget about Ms. Wanda Isley from the night before that! Do you still think that I have no proof, Ms. Leslie?”

She stands still with a frustrated look on her face and looked down to notice that her boot was untied. She looked at the investigator and he nodded to allow her to tie her boot. She bent down and quickly pulled a snub nose revolver from her boot and aimed it at him. She demanded he not move and he obliged, calmly standing still. He handed over his gun after she told him to; she tossed it. She was so fierce. He did the same with his cellphone. With the gun still aimed at him, she smashed the phone with her boot. Next was his wallet but this time when he handed it to her, he knocked the gun out of her hand and gut checked her. She gasped for air and he casually strolled toward his tossed piece. He slowly bent down to pick up his weapon. He then inspected it for scratches and brushed it off. He stood back up and faced Talia but to his surprise, I was standing there with her revolver aimed at his head.

“Drop it, buster.”

He did.

“Now, slowly take out your handcuffs and cuff your wrist.”

He did as I said.

“Now, slowly walk over to the stairwell railing and cuff yourself to it.”

He continued to cooperate.

Then Talia walked up to him and knuckle punched him in the face as hard as she could.

“Now, give the keys to the cuffs to Talia. Oh, and give her your car keys while you’re at it.”

He was reluctant until I repeated myself with authority.

I ask Talia for his wallet and I read his name.

“Alright, Mr. Nicholas Mingus, you stay put and don’t you or Douglass Dupree dare come near Talia again. If you do, some bad things are gonna happen to you. Are we clear?”

He nods. Talia gets in his face and stares him dead in his eye. She pats him down for spare weapons and he was clean. She goes on a tangent about how the rich are greedy and how society bent her over and fucked her in the ass with student loans, unaffordable health care and a decrease in job opportunities.

“Douglass Dupree won’t miss the few thousand that I stole from him and he will never understand the constant struggle that the average American will have to withstand because he is a privileged asshole and always has been and always will be. He hired a private investigator for shits and giggles while people are out here starving, dying, living off of food stamps, and surviving from paycheck to paycheck.” She spits at his feet. “Now, if you value the life of your family, this incident stays between us and Mr. Dupree. You got that, Mingus?”

He nodded with a blank expression and sank to the ground while still clinging to the stairwell railing. Curly came outside to see what was going on and I looked back to see him and gave him a nod; he knew it was farewell. I was now involved in whatever it was Talia was mixed up with. She thanked me for saving her and claimed that she had to flee and head west. I wanted nothing more than to go to Hollywood, so I asked if I could tag along. I told her that I had money and she didn’t give it a second thought. We piled into her navy blue Camry and hit the road. I haven’t been back to The Bloch Motel since that day.

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An Ode to the Music Video (Part One)


By: Daniel Hodgman

It’s easy to get caught in the music of an artist and let the overwhelming qualities engulf your soul. For the most part, the appeal comes from the music. But what about the music video? Isn’t a music video just as intriguing as the single itself? Not only are you getting the song, but you’re getting a blend of visuals that move hand-in-hand with the tunes. This is an ode to the music video, an overlooked piece in any musical genre.

Here is the first installment of hip-hop videos that transcend the norm:

Camp Lo- “Luchini” 

An ode to the movie Dead Presidents? THANK YOU.

Ice Cube- “It Was a Good Day” 

Ice Cube perfectly portrayed a “good day” lyrically that many thought the music video wouldn’t hold up to the song, but in typical Cube fashion disappointment was nowhere to be seen. The impressive feature about this video is that it quite literally goes hand-in-hand with everything Cube raps about. In fact, the song and video are so detailed that this dude pin-pointed the exact date Ice Cube is talking about. January 20, 1992 is officially National Good Day Day.

Kanye West- “Flashing Lights (feat. Dwele)

The video for “Flashing Lights” plays out like an O. Henry story; it’s a short, it’s sweet and there’s a bit of a twist at the end. By the 1:45 mark you start to realize everything, but it isn’t until the 2:10 mark when you fully see where things are headed. This is the best kind of simplicity.

Madvillain- “All Caps” 

I love comics and hip-hop and there’s no way I wasn’t including this.

Rahzel- “All I Know” 

Sometimes some good digital editing, hilarity and gross cut-scenes make a great music video. Also: shout out to anyone who played NBA Live 2000 (go Timmy D).

The Roots- “The Next Movement”

The song’s flow is like water and the video is gritty and architectural. As The Roots go through various positions and set-ups, they don’t seem to even notice it. One of the more innovative music videos in all of hip-hop.

Tyler, The Creator- “Yonkers” 

I’m pretty sure the first time you all watched this video you thought it was genius, because it is. For a group of teenagers (at the time), this video features first-class editing and cinematography from a music video standpoint. There’s a reason why this is just under 60 million views on Youtube…

Wu-Tang Clan- “Triumph” 

No explanation needed.

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Album of the Week: “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” by Lauryn Hill


Lauryn Hill
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
Columbia, 1998

Daniel’s Thought

Though Lauryn Hill was the catalyst that drove the Fugees commercial and critical success, no one was ready for her debut solo LP, a stunning record clouded in hip-hop neo-soul that is encased in a sheath of love, religion and turmoil. Beyond the gilded trim of the album itself, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill finds the MC fighting off two reeling relationships (that of the Fugees and Wyclef Jean), and because of this the album itself shows its audience the inner-reflection of a woman swirling in emotion. From “Ex-Factor” to “Everything is Everything,” The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill stands as an album that tracks pure sentiment sprawling from the ideals of motherhood, relationships, remembrance, heartbreak and God.

The idea of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill being lauded a classic could stem from how brilliantly and personally the lyrics mix with the luscious melodies; it could stem from the fact that the album itself is a genre-bender, a piece that infuses hip-hop, soul, R&B and reggae into a variable drum of mind-transforming tunes; or it could stem from the record’s background, and how Hill turned to God and motherhood as a means of transforming a dark period into a worthwhile one. However, the main mechanism behind the album’s success is simply its emotion.

The album’s second single “Ex-Factor” is a touching song that willingly tugs at Hill’s emotions and pours her insecurities into an open bowl for listeners to dissect. “To Zion” is a Carlos Santana-backed track dedicated to Hill’s son that slithers from the tip of her tongue to the headphones of the listener. “Doo Wop (That Thing)” is a lifting piece built on horns and a quick-tapping piano pointing out the differences between men and women. And “Lost Ones” is the first proper track of the album that sets the medium for the rest of the record. “Never underestimate those who you scar, because karma comes back at you hard.

Delving into The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is as simplistic as the emotion pouring from the album itself because it’s a modern classic that comes with straightforward authority. The majority of the record paints a vivid picture of vital emotions and feelings. Add that to Lauryn Hill’s vocal strength and production and you have an album comparable to Aretha Franklin’s Lady Soul or Stevie Wonder’s I Was Made to Love Her. At the base of this record however stands an original piece of work that was fueled by reckless emotion and faith, something that is rarely seen anymore.

Gus’ Thought

Lauryn Hill’s solo debut from 1998, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, was released to immense critical acclaim. Topping the billboards charts and winning Grammy awards including Album of the Year, Ms. Hill’s Miseducation stands as a decisive hip-hop/soul record with it’s original sound. The impact of this masterpiece cannot be understated; without this album, hip-hop and neo-soul would sound completely different. With classics such as “Everything Is Everything,” “Doo-Wop (That Thing), “Ex-Factor,” “Every Ghetto, Every City,” “Final Hour” and “Forgive Them Father,” Ms. Hill discusses the ups and downs of love, success and The Fugees, all the while demonstrating her talents as a songwriter, MC and singer. Produced almost exclusively by Lauryn herself, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill stands the test of time and continues to inspire artists of all genres.

The album begins with the familiar sounds and commotion of a classroom. In this moment, attendance is being taken and as the teacher calls for Lauryn: there is no response. As the record progresses the listener is repeatedly taken back to this classroom and the teacher is heard engaging the students in discussion. At the end of “Lost Ones” the class is heard spelling out the word “love”. From there, the teacher asks if the students know any songs or movies about love. In this outro/skit the students react as most grade-schoolers would and don’t take the question very seriously, as they laugh, joke and throw out examples such as The Titanic. Instead of resorting to some sort of disciplinary measure, the teacher continues to inquire about love. Later, after the jams “Ex-Factor” and “To Zion” the teacher asks the students, “How many of y’all have ever been in love” and adds jokingly, “I know none of the guys have ever been in love, we don’t get in love right?” This time the students respond with more focused answers that move the discussion forward. Again we are left with a cliffhanger as the teacher clearly knows he can get deeper answers from the students. However, “Doo Wop (That Thing)” begins and the discussion is forgotten as Ms. Hill takes you away with her musical brilliance.

After “Doo Wop (That Thing)” the listener is taken back into the classroom. This time the teacher addresses the young women, “Hey, we got some very intelligent women in here, man. Do you think you’re too young to really love somebody?” The teacher is met with emphatic rejection of this question and from this inquiry the dialogue is able to begin. One of the students describes being in love; “There’s a difference between loving somebody and being in love. You can love anybody but when you’re in love with somebody you’re looking at it like this: You’re taking that person for what he or she is no matter what he or she look like or no matter what he or she do.” Yes, the music on this record was revolutionary and changed hip-hop and neo-soul forever. Nevertheless, this moment and the other instances in the classroom are as important.

These flashes in the classroom are as significant as the music because they demonstrate how a classroom can be set up to encourage dialogue. In these short sketches the teacher acts as a facilitator, creating the safe environment needed for students to share their experiences. What emerges are students that are wise beyond their years and feel comfortable sharing their story. Beyond that they are able to connect their learning within the classroom to the knowledge they have gained outside of it. When this happens, teachers and students are able to learn from each other and think critically about subjects such as math, science, English and social studies. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill reached critical acclaim because of its innovative approach to hip-hop and neo soul. That being said, it should also be praised for its glimpses into a classroom where an environment of empowerment is created, critical education is embraced and learning is able to occur.


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Casting Call: Bonus Cut Goes Game of Thrones


By: Harry Jadun


“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”

Like the rest of the world, Bonus Cut has caught Game of Thrones (which I will affectionately refer to as GoT from here on out) fever. We can’t get enough of it, and not only because it’s an awesome show, but because it reminds us of the hip-hop scene in which artists battle to sit atop hip-hop’s subjective, imaginary “Iron Throne”. Instead of using catapults and swords however, artists use lyrical jabs, metaphors and wordplay in order to kill the opposition.

So here at Bonus Cut, we decided to play make-believe for a little bit (bear with us here): In our imaginary world where one doesn’t have to wait seven days in between each GoT episode, every actor who plays a character in GoT became deathly ill and couldn’t finish filming the series. Naturally, HBO hired Bonus Cut to recast the show with one condition: each character must be a rapper. So we did our job, and it turned out beautifully.

Sidenote: I would like to personally apologize beforehand for not casting anyone as Tyrion Lannister, I just don’t think anyone’s that perfect. Sorry

Lil Wayne as Aerys II Targaryen (The Mad King)

Like Aerys II Targaryen, Lil Wayne sat on the throne. After Tha Carter II up until Tha Carter III, Weezy spewed out mixtape after mixtape of pure brilliance. His spot atop the throne was damn near undisputed and the hype around the release of The Carter III was unprecedented, and it lived up to the hype. Afterwards, however, nothing was the same. Even though his albums have sold, he has never gotten back to the pre-Carter III level. Also, instead of mumbling about burning people, Wayne can’t get off the topic of eating pussy. There are many theories as to what happened (I would suggest reading Amos Barshad’s article), but one thing is for sure: Lil Wayne is not the same rapper he once was. He hasn’t quite died off yet, as there were glimpses of hope on I Am Not a Human Being II, but hip-hop’s Mad King is not in good shape.

Kanye West as King Joffrey Baratheon

Abrasive, narcissistic, arrogant. All three of these words can describe King Joffrey. All three of these words can describe Kanye West. Kanye, like Joffrey, finds a way to piss everyone (and I mean everyone) off at one point or another. From “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people” to “Yo, Taylor I’m really happy for you. I’m gonna let you finish, but…” Kanye has never been afraid to let people know what’s on his mind. He even dissed his mentor and tutor, Jay-Z, recently at a concert for going on tour with Justin Timberlake. However, each and every one of his albums has been an instant classic, and everything he does, from Kim to his clothing, impacts the rap game in one way or another. So no matter how much you hate him, he’s still the king. The same goes for King Joffrey, who has been loathed since episode two when he gets Sansa’s direwolf executed. He personally gives me the urge to throw my remote at the TV whenever he appears, but he’s still the king.

50 Cent as Ned Stark

Ned Stark is one of the more respectable characters in GoT. He is a good father who is also a role model for his kids. 50 Cent is respected in the same way, a hip-hop artist and business man who started from nothing and rose to the top of the rap game in the early 2000’s. Like Ned Stark, whose presence still lingers in GoT, many of today’s hip-hop artists try to imitate Fitty’s mixture of gangster rap and club bangers to achieve success. Also, when Ned Stark stood up to King Joffrey, his head got chopped off. When 50 Cent stood up to Kanye his music career’s metaphorical head got chopped off. Wait, I casted King Joffrey as Kanye West? Wow, I see what I did there…

A$AP Rocky as Robb Stark

Both of these characters are young, handsome and fashionable upstarts from the North looking to take the Throne by any means necessary. Robb Stark had to find his own way, learning to be a leader on the job without his father’s guidance. A$AP Rocky took a similar path, as he took the world by storm with his unique, geography-blurring voice on his successful Live. Love. A$AP mixtapeGoing from nothing to something from a matter of months (and receiving a multi-million dollar record deal) would seem to pose problems for most, but A$AP and the rest of his crew have played their cards right so far, not unlike Robb Stark up until last episode. Here’s to hoping they don’t suffer the same fate, as A$AP seems like he has a lot more left in the tank. *Muffled cries from the realization that Robb will never behead Joffrey and take the throne with Talisa at his side*

Jay Z as Tywin Lannister

Tywin might not be the official King of the realm, but his influence and wealth forces everyone to respect him as such. Every move that he makes is a power move, from the strategic positioning of his troops to the puzzle-piece marriages of his sons and daughters. He instills fear into those around him because of what he might do if they start actin’ up. From head to toe, Tywin is a straight boss. The same can be said about Jay-Z, who has parlayed his success as a rapper into becoming something more: an icon. From meetings with the president to trying his hand as a sports agent, Jay-Z is never satisfied and always looking for ways to expand his empire and increase his stranglehold atop the game.

Kendrick Lamar as Daenerys Targaryen

Readers, I hope you can get over the fact that Kendrick’s a male and Daenerys is a female. Daenerys is one of the most lovable and powerful characters on the show. Kendrick Lamar is one of the most lovable and powerful hip-hop artists on the planet right now. What’s not to love about a throwback artist who tells it like it is? Truthfully, Kendrick is the last of a dying breed. His ability to spit fire is remarkably similar to Daenerys’ dragons, and his last two releases, Section.80 and Good Kid, M.A.A.D City were timeless classics. We’re waiting for Daenerys’ dragons to grow, and we’re waiting for Kendrick’s next album (which will surely be another classic). For both, it only seems like a matter of time before they’re both sitting on their Iron Throne.

Dr. Dre as Jorah Mormont

It’s been a while since Dr. Dre released any music. However, he’s still omnipresent in hip-hop culture today. Whether it be his Beats, which are commonplace in the wardrobes of athletes and hip-hop artists, or his Aftermath records, which has signed many great artists, Dre finds a way to impact the game without a significant release in the last decade. His role within hip-hop culture is similar to that of Jorah Mormont’s in GoT. Jorah has been there and done that. A knight and former advisor to Robert Baratheon, Jorah (Dre) uses his wisdom and experience in order to help Daenerys (Kendrick) in her quest to bring the Targaryen house back into power. Wait… that worked out perfectly!

Chief Keef as Hodor

Honestly, Hodor should be insulted I’m stooping him to Chief Keef’s level. However, Chief Keef’s inability to come up with anything remotely close to an intelligent thought at any point in his life is comparable to Hodor. Here’s how I (and you should) feel after listening to his music:

He constantly brags about gang violence. He laughed when his rival Lil Jojo was murdered in a gang affiliated shooting. He was arrested for shooting at a cop. He posted a picture of himself getting a blowjob on Instagram. Sosa makes stupid mistake after stupid mistake. Hopefully he turns out like Gucci Mane, who overstayed his 15 minutes of fame (we were laughing at you Gucci, not with you) and eventually faded away due to his constant run-ins with the law. Or maybe we can find a warg that gets into his mind and puts him to sleep. Sosa, just shut your mouth and say “Hodor”. The world will be a better place.

Drake as Jamie Lannister

The pretty boys of their respective realms, both of these guys are the targets of macho men. What else would expect when you’re suave, handsome and “25 sittin’ on 25 mill?” Jamie Lannister gets yelled at Brienne of Tarth for crying when his arm gets cut off, Aubrey gets flack because he doesn’t fit the mold of your typical “gangster rapper”. Jamie’s known as the Kingslayer, Drake has overshadowed his fellow labelmate and the Mad King of the hip-hop realm for the past couple years. Both guys come from privelage. You get the point.

Rick Ross as Robert Baratheon

Honestly, these two just look the same. Both are big and fat and have beards, but other than that they have nothing in common. The only thing Officer Ricky has been a king of is your local shopping mall’s food court. Moving on…

Lil B Fans as the Unsullied

Have you read the YouTube comments for Lil B’s videos? He has a cult following that is unmatched in today’s hip-hop world. Sure, Unsullied didn’t flinch when Kraznys cut off his nipple, but there’s no doubt in my mind that some Lil B fans would do the same (or worse) for the Based God. Seriously.

The Houses

House Targaryen—80’s and 90’s Rappers

Throughout GoT, we hear stories of the Targaryens, who ruled the realm long ago and kept powerful dragons as pets. Throughout my generation’s lifetime, we have heard stories of powerful rappers of the 80’s and 90’s that could spit fire themselves. Both of these groups were extremely powerful and influential, and as time goes on their legend only grows larger and larger. Both of these are a endangered species, as more and more Gucci Manes and Waka Flockas pop up daily while Kendrick Lamar’s and ScHoolboy Q’s are few and far between.

Local, Independent and Underground Hip Hop artists as the Brotherhood without Banners

The Brotherhood without Banners mission is to protect the innocent and vulnerable from being victimized by the major houses. For all the glitz and glammer that the Lannister’s possess, there is ten times as much poverty and hunger in the streets. Underground hip-hop artists serve a similar purpose within the culture: when mainstream artists are too much to handle, they give hip-hop heads legitimate, quality music to listen to. For every ignorant Chief Keef or 2 Chainz song on the radio, there is an equal and opposite Immortal Technique or Joey Bada$$ joint. Both are the unsung heroes of their respective worlds, giving us reprieve from the powers that be.

House Lannister—G.O.O.D. Music

The undisputed kings of the rap game right now, even with the recent departure of Kid Cudi. Kanye West leads this all-star cast that is deep with notable names, such as Big Sean, Common, Pusha T and Q-Tip. Cruel Summer was one of the most hyped releases of last summer, and Yeezus is going be that big, if not bigger this summer. Many have challenged GOOD, but they weren’t good enough. The Lannisters can relate, as time after time they deny lower houses who try to take their title as the top house in the Realm. Nobody’s messin with either of these cliques.

Young Money as the House Reyne

Remember when Margaery tried to butter up Cersei and Cersei bitched her out?

That house she threatened to turn the Tyrells into was the House Reyne. They tried steppin’ to the Lannisters and got massacred. The same happened to Young Money when they went toe to toe with G.O.O.D. Music. At first it seemed like a competition, but then Wayne fell off and they started getting desperate. Things are not looking good for Young Money, who are pretty much left with: Drake (very respectable artist, arguably one of the top), a Lil Wayne that is a shell of his former self and Nicki Minaj. Nope, that’s not enough to take down G.O.O.D.

House Tyrell—Maybach Music Group

Both the Tyrell’s and Maybach Music Group are carefully crafting their way to the top of their respective games. The Tyrells did so by playing their cards right through marriage. Maybach Music Group has used key signings (such as Wale, Meek Mill and French Montana) while simultaneously releasing very successful mixtapes/albums (Ambition, Dreams and Nightmares and Teflon Don to name a few) to elevate their status. Soon they might have enough to challenge G.O.O.D. Music, but it will probably take a couple more quality artists and releases before it’s possible. Maybe they need to get an awesome mother figure like Olenna Tyrell. She’s the perfect grandmother.

And that concludes the Bonus Cut Game of Thrones casting call. Do you agree with this? Disagree? Comments? Questions? Concerns? Let us know below! 

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A Letter to the Chicago Maroon: Your Embarrassingly Frightening Twisted Take on Hip-Hop


The following is a written rebuttal to an article The Chicago Maroon published regarding hip-hop and rap. You can read the article here or down below.

By: Daniel Hodgman

Dear Author of THIS Article,

First I want to say, and this is important, that I am in no way bashing your opinion. Furthermore, I’m not bashing your writing, because if there’s one thing that’s evident when reading this (besides the many fallacies against hip-hop), it’s that you’re a confident and well-rounded writer. The imagery and detail contained within the confines of this piece run rampant and if I wasn’t such a concerned fan of hip-hop, I would think this article is perfect. Hell, this might be one incredible joke from the mind of a schemester with ambitions to write for The Onion and if it is the joke is on me. But it’s not, and that’s what I’m trying to get to.

I think as a writer and critic it’s also important for me to say that my aim with this letter isn’t to bash something I simply disagree with. If that were the case, I’d be writing letters like this nonstop to the many atrocious articles I read everyday. Furthermore, you must realize that this right here is all in the art of hip-hop; you had some things to say, and now I have something to say in return.

All that aside, this is why I feel the need to formulate a rebuttal.

Throughout this article you stake claims about these five artists and how their transformative minds and music have helped/been helped by the ever-changing flow of hip-hop as we know it today. For example, you state: rap artist “Future is a creature of modern rap” and that he “is a connective tissue”; Drake is “less interested in rap as a culture”; and something about Pusha-T and “collaborative arts that define modern hip-hop.” In these statements, along with many more spewed across this piece, I can’t help but notice how (to be completely honest) ignorant you are to what hip-hop and rap really is.

Let’s tackle the three statements I listed above just so you know what I’m talking about.

Regarding the rapper Future and your write-up on his upcoming Future Hendrix album you go off saying:

“Future is a creature of modern rap, a direct descendant of the genre’s new electronic bias. His latest single, “Karate Chop,” is a kind of sonic-melding blur of synths, bass thumps, and vocal jabs—a voice manipulation experiment. Future’s music can come off as almost comical, a prank on the lyric and rhythmic ambition of a previous rap generation that refuses to see a rapper for anything other than what he or she really is.”

The first thing I want to ask you is “what is modern rap?” Is modern rap defined by the overcrowding of familiar bass drops? Is modern rap where beats simply mirror each other with Fruity Loop-like cheesy synths that sound intricate to the dumb-downed listener? Is modern rap to you what mainstream rap is to people like me? It must be. See, the reason why I’m calling you out on this is that modern rap is such a broad term, it’s a crime to limit it to mainstream rap like you do here. If modern rap were limited to the mainstream radio waves like you say, we’d have no Prodigy, Action Bronson, Flatbush Zombies, Angel Haze, Big K.R.I.T., MC Invincible, Binary Star, Blat! PACK, Danny Brown, Dice Raw, well, you get my point. See, when you say “modern rap” and then simply talk about mainstream artists, it not only makes you look bad, but it makes everyone else involved in hip-hop look bad as well.

Also, you talk about Future’s “Karate Chop,” the same “Karate Chop” that features Lil Wayne saying, “beat that pussy like Emmett Till.” Is that modern hip-hop?

Moving on, you have the nerve to put this down:

“Future’s music can come off as almost comical, a prank on the lyric and rhythmic ambition of a previous rap generation that refuses to see a rapper for anything other than what he or she really is.”

What’s ironic about this statement is that you talk about Future’s music coming off as comical when really this sentence as a whole is comedic in its own right. When you talk about Future’s music as “a prank on the lyric and rhythmic ambition of a previous rap generation that refuses to see a rapper for anything other than what he or she really is,” you point out that the past generations of hip-hop only saw MCs for what they were with the messages they shared and nothing more. Engraining this into the mind of your readers as if this is fact, you have totally missed the point and come off as someone trying to know what he’s talking about when really you don’t know anything about the subject matter whatsoever. When you think of names like Slim Shady, Nasty Nas and Dr. Octagon what do you think of? Those my friend, are alter egos in hip-hop, or in broader terms, characters made up by MCs to portray a different type of message; a message that not only is the complete opposite of what “he or she really is” but a message to distort an image and/or completely profile a new one. Furthermore, these are alter egos that all originated in what you call “the previous rap generation.”

To make your argument even more invalid, what about all of the MCs of this “previous rap generation” who claim to be “making devils cower to the Caucus Mountains?” Do you really think U-God made the devil cower? If anything, the analogies, metaphors, similes and philosophies of rappers in ALL generations are taken from what they REALLY AREN’T. U-God can’t make devils cower, Das EFX didn’t catch a Snuffleupagus and Tupac never personally “talked” to Lady Liberty. So I must ask, what do you really mean when you say “refuses to see a rapper for anything other than what he or she really is?”

The next statement I chose to feature is this:

“Drake is less interested in rap as a culture.”

How can you even bring this into this discussion? Have you talked to Drake personally about his ambitions in the scene? How is his shadowy minimalistic (which I dig) Take Care not a direct child of culture? Why do you make such a statement and not back it up with fact? Give me more dude, give me more.

Also, rap isn’t a culture. Rap is spoken word or chanted rhyme, but it is not a culture, hip-hop is. I wouldn’t grill you on this so much, but for someone who puts so many claims into this article I feel like I should mention it. To quote the legend KRS-One: “hip-hop is something you live, rap is something you do.”

The third statement from your article I chose to personally portray is this:

“My Name is My Name will present the new, fully formed Push, the one who plays sidekick to Kanye on the G.O.O.D. Music label while dabbling in the collaborative arts that define modern hip-hop.”

And how exactly does “dabbling in the collaborative arts” define modern hip-hop? Are you trying to say that modern hip-hop is defined by artists working together? Are you claiming that more artists work together now than in the past? Again, what’s modern hip-hop?

I ask this because here’s the God honest truth: hip-hop has ALWAYS been collaborative. The very roots of hip-hop are made through collaboration. From the beginnings in New York City in the 70s, people and groups came together in, ahem, collaboration to share their common resistance against violence, poverty and the oppression thrown at their culture from outside forces. In fact, the tiers of hip-hop (rap, breaking, graffiti and turntablism) are all rooted together in collaboration to form the culture itself.

To further back this is the fact that rap from the very get go is collaborative. The MCs work with a producer or producers. The producers work with executive producers and mixers. Groups like Gang Starr and the Geto Boys are collaborative in their own right with multiple MCs and producers. Current groups like The Underachievers, Pro Era and Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Music label are no more collaborative than past artists. So what are you really trying to say with this statement?

I could go on and provide more examples about the ignorance of this article, like your taxing write-up on Drake and how 90s purists find it hard to “ admit how important versatility and emotional complexity are now” (News flash: versatility and emotional complexity have always been present in hip-hop. If you weren’t versatile you weren’t successful, and if you didn’t have emotional complexity you didn’t have a voice.), but I think I’ve stretched this letter pretty far.

Remember, the point of this letter isn’t to bash your opinion on the artists you chose. I could give a shit about what you like or don’t like. However, when you mold your written word with statements that are completely wrong, and even more so dense and shallow about hip-hop as a whole, I have to say something. Not only do you stake opinions as fact, you make bold claims about rap and hip-hop that aren’t even true. So I ask you this: next time you’re working on a piece on hip-hop and the artists that you love, are you going to throw in random thought from your head and present it as fact? Or will you do some research on something you clearly should know more about and get the facts straight? For the benefit of those reading your article—because brain washing is a terrible thing in its own right—I hope you choose to pick your words more carefully next time.

Also remember, what I’m doing is all in the art of hip-hop, and I don’t care how you react to this, or if you even see this, but I do hope that you understand WHY I did this. Feel free to write back to Bonus Cut with a rebuttal. We love rebuttals.

Your friends,

Bonus Cut

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The American C.R.E.A.M. Series (Part Three)


Periodically, Bonus Cut writer Victor Anderson will be sharing his American C.R.E.A.M. Series, a story where hip-hop is just the tip of the iceberg.

…continued from part two. Click here for part one

By: Victor Anderson

I met Keith Shaw by the extremely shitty and hardly occupied pool—one of The Bloch’s least popular coming attractions. It was fenced in near the back corner of the parking lot, away from the road as if The Bloch was ashamed of it. Horrid trees and evil prickly bushes accommodated for the exterior space surrounding the fence while bumble bees, gnats and wasps hung out. The pool really was the ultimate hemorrhoid of eye soars. Just like most Caucasians, aging wasn’t too kind to The Bloch Pool but I knew there was a day when that place was brand spanking new and was the home to some ill pool parties; too bad I arrived nearly 50 years too late. Despite my bashing, I didn’t mind sitting by the water, especially on a clear day to read a book or chew my fingernails but I wouldn’t dare take a dip in that swamp. The water was murky; there were countless leaves floating on the surface; I’m sure it was the grave for deceased insects; and I think I saw an iguana emerge from it once. It’s a salt-water pool and the only reason anybody knows that is because of the rusty sign that was rooted in ground on the edge of the watering hole. I swear, I had been at that motel for nearly a month and this Keith Shaw guy was the only one I had ever seen who was brave enough to swim in that collection of liquid.

We were about the same age but he was in his third year of marriage with a broad he had started going steady with while
he was in the 11th grade. I couldn’t and wouldn’t dare imagine being in his shoes; the thought of marriage at my age, let alone celebrating my third anniversary at my age frightened me. But poor Keith was right in the middle of a rough patch in his civil union. He and his wife, Britannia, had been separated for a few months, forcing Keith Shaw to move back in with his dad. He needed to get away from his house so he finally decided to emerge from his old bedroom and head up to The Bloch for the weekend. Meanwhile, Britannia’s mom and dad are putting her up in an upscale apartment downtown until the couple’s dispute is over. The way Keith Shaw tells it, there isn’t too much to their dispute. She always accused him of adultery and claimed to have a creative but paranoid imagination. Keith Shaw would never ever act unfaithfully towards his wife but deep down he wasn’t sure if the feeling was mutual. So now, they’re on a break and she suggested that they try and see other people to test their actual bond for one another. It sounded like bullshit to me but poor damn Keith Shaw kept his fingers crossed and patiently waited for his wife to come to her senses.

So, me and this guy Keith Shaw are at this chic cabaret restaurant in the city, eating roast beef sandwiches, drinking tea and enjoying the live entertainment. On the small performance stage stood a young woman with hair that flowed like a red carpet towards the very same shoulders that supported the straps of her simple white city dress. This goddess was effortlessly strumming out rock and roll tunes that reminded me of Chuck Berry but it was like she had tapped into some kind of Betty Davis reservoir, vocally. She vibe-d with this funky bassist and I couldn’t help but nod along and groove to it.

Somehow, our conversation took a sharp left turn towards the topic of beef jerky and I couldn’t help but become distracted by the bottom of the server whom strutted past our table.

After looking around and observing the diners, I got a sense that someone was watching me and I instinctively direct my vision over my shoulder to meet the eyes that were burning the holes in my cranium and Talia’s darted away. She pretended to act like she had been watching the band, but I knew. I tuned back in to see what Keith Shaw had to say and we had moved on from beef jerky to deer jerky. Apparently, it was the only other jerky that he had ever tried and then he gagged at the thought of shrimp jerky.

“’Scuse me.”

I thought it was the waitress but I was mistaken and I’m sure you can guess who it was.

“Oh, hey there,” blurted Keith Shaw.

Not only was I surprised that she approached my table but I was utterly surprised when she chose to talk to Keith Shaw instead of me—-what’s up with that? Eventually, I found out that they met at The Bloch; they parked next to each other and she helped carry his weekend luggage.

“You gotta smoke?” She tenderly asked Keith Shaw but unfortunately for her, he didn’t smoke—-or did he?

He shook his head and she looked at me through those thick rimmed glasses that she wore and asked me the same question she asked Keith Shaw. Four out of five times my answer would have been the opposite of Keith Shaw’s but I said:

“No, I’m sorry. I mean, I only have a couple left, ya know?”

“Well, why won’t you let me have one?”

“Because I want to keep them?”

She calmly said, “Okay. Bye–” and walked away and Keith didn’t seem to mind the abrupt departure at all. To let her know that I was only joking, I faced her table and waited for her to notice me. Alone, she sat down at her small wooden table for two and I eventually caught her eye; she had a subtle smile but her eyes were nothing but devious. She fixed her hair behind her left ear and removed a cigarette. That square soon became dangled from her parted lip; she struck a match against the matchbox and proceeded to light her stoogie—-all within my line of vision. When she slowly began to pay attention to the live entertainment, I knew that she had given up on our staring contest, but I couldn’t blame her.

That was a few days ago and I hadn’t seen her again until today. Now I’m behind the wheel of her navy blue 1988 Camry as she lies unconscious in the passenger seat.

To be continued… 

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Album of the Week: Ugly Heroes Self-Titled Debut


Ugly Heroes
Ugly Heroes
Mellow Music Group

Daniel’s Thought

One of the gripping realities about life is that it’s cruel and unfair no matter what kind of character life’s thundering blow is hammering on. For the blue-collar everyday man living paycheck to paycheck and facing the constant realities of life, Ugly Heroes deserve to be the representatives. On their debut self-titled album, Red Pill and Verbal Kent waste no time laying down a verbal guide to life’s cyclical nature through their eyes, while Apollo Brown provides luminous beats forged from masterful sampling and bombarding percussion tones. The real catch of Ugly Heroes is the cohesion that Brown provides to Red and Verbal’s bars, and as their inflexible lines of life hit, Brown’s vivid craft supplements this perfectly to create an album that is both enduring and influential.

Red Pill and Verbal Kent are straightforward from the very opening cut to the fading outro of “Push,” and by putting everything on the table they’ve provided a contextual album that neither feels like a gimmick or glossy with tricky wordplay. The plodding rhythm of “Long Drive Home” discusses insecurities, anxiety and overall stress while “Desperate” features the two MCs detailing the harsh realities of their hometowns and compounding circumstance (“Shattering that tax bracket you sick of us” / “Bills piling up so I don’t see you smiling much”). Elsewhere, Ugly Heroes track the idea of people living paycheck to paycheck until the end of their days (“Graves”), the importance of holding onto relationships and friendships in dwindling conditions (“Hold On”) and the notion that if you don’t live in the present and appreciate some of the smaller things then everything will burden you (“Just Relax”).

From an outsider’s standpoint, Ugly Heroes is a concept album that covers everything from class structure to human emotion, but once you delve into the record it becomes apparent that it’s an anthem for hip-hop as a whole. Though most of the record is negative and downtrodden in content, songs like “Just Relax” and “Push” gives Ugly Heroes a light of confidence that only strengthens it as a whole. Red Pill and Verbal Kent are sincere and bold throughout, and Apollo Brown’s lush sample-heavy production provides the two MCs a beat to march to. Even with all of the hype surrounding this project, Ugly Heroes exceeded expectations in almost every category.

Gus’ Thought 

After listening to Ugly Heroes (via Mello Music Group), it is clear that this album could not have been released at a better time. With production from Apollo Brown and profound rhymes from Red Pill and Verbal Kent, the three of these underrated hip-hop artists use the art as a means of storytelling and addressing the real plight of the everyman and the blue collar worker; the ugly hero. This is the person who lives paycheck to paycheck, trying to make ends meet; this is the person whose social class renders them a victim of the “War on Drugs,” the prison-industrial complex, low-income jobs and gentrification.

This is why Ugly Heroes is such an insightful album. Red Pill and Verbal Kent are using their lyrics to speak on their everyday experiences. For example, both MCs touch on substance abuse, poverty and class struggle. This is especially clear in songs such as “Desperate,” “Graves,” “God’s Day Off” and “Hero’s Theme.” In “Desperate,” Apollo Brown utilizes forebodingly soulful samples as Red Pill posits, “While these motherfuckers pop bottles / I’m takin pop bottles back into the store so I can get some Top Ramen / What the fuck they know about that rock bottom.” And in “Graves” Red Pill raps about working a low paying job, “Between the hard drinking / And the smoking, start thinking/ ‘Bout the folks who gotta do this to they graves / You can’t afford to walk up off the job / Cause you gotta get your money and your money is your god.”  With songs such as these, they articulate the lives of people that are swept under the rug.

While Red Pill and Verbal Kent are from Detroit and Chicago respectively, their words reach to people beyond these two cities. With their words, Kent and Pill are able to take the audience to an extremely reflective place. Their words however, would have less significance without the brilliance of Apollo Brown. Originally from Grand Rapids, Apollo Brown is able to push the listener into a thoughtful disposition before the words even begin. Using numerous horn, piano and R&B samples he is able to create an atmosphere of contemplation with his slow and deliberate beats that always hit hard and perfectly accompany the MC(s) he is working alongside.

With hard-hitting, honest lyricism and purposeful beat-making, Ugly Heroes takes us to a place far beyond the intense, sensational news found on T.V., the Internet and social media. Instead, they take us to the street corners, parking lots and homes where good people wake up everyday trying to survive and stay above water. On Ugly Heroes, Apollo Brown, Red Pill and Verbal Kent create a tone of reflection that allows us to question popular culture, consider our values and think about what a Hero even is.

Stay tuned next week for a Bonus Cut exclusive interview with Red Pill! 


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