Monthly Archives: July 2013

A Bonus Cut Feature: An Interview With Immortal Technique

Immortal Technique is a figure in hip-hop that needs no introduction. As a forceful character in hip-hop activism, Tech is one of the rare few that unveils the realities of our world first-hand. His cutting delivery and intelligence on government, poverty, religion and institutional racism has not only opened our eyes to real-world problems, but it has furthered our grasp on actually understanding how to deal with them.

In a recent interview with Bonus Cut, Tech talks about media bias, terrorism, institutions around the world and the hip-hop human condition.

Bonus Cut (BC): In your song the “4th Branch” from Revolutionary Vol. 2 you touch on a lot of important issues regarding the corruption and double standards that exist within the political sphere of the United States. This song was written in the middle of George Bush’s presidency. Ten years later, where does our government stand on these issues and have we made any significant progress?

Immortal Technique (IT): In terms of corruption? I don’t think that even requires my insight or political acumen to see that. It’s just gotten worse and people have been conditioned to receive it without shock or action. Now it’s a complacency that perhaps was not there in the beginning. I think that people are becoming more self aware here, however I don’t know that the way the government is structured now will make it any easier for them to change things.

BC: In light of recent events it seems as if there is a divide between what is considered an act of terrorism, and what is not. Why were the events in Boston immediately labeled as an act of terrorism when the shootings in Newtown, Aurora and Columbine were not? Furthermore, in your opinion, what constitutes an act of terrorism when the United States has been responsible for countless atrocities to push it’s own interests around the world?

IT: Terrorism is not just committed by individuals, loners and such. People need to understand that a state, its counterparts and such, are capable and are actually probably more likely to commit acts of terrorism on each other. The manner in which it’s interpreted in the U.S. though will have obvious bias for a reason that I think we’re all familiar with here. We have been engaged in constant wars since the birth of the Republic; in all truth we have only had 20 some odd years of peace. Presently we are at war in the Middle East, before we were restructuring Central America, crushing the remainder of Europe’s old regimes or encroaching our influence in Southeast Asia. The average American was once trained to see the German people, the Japanese people, the Vietnamese as their enemies. If someone went on TV ranting about those 3 people now we’d have them committed to an insane asylum. However, if they do a lecture series about the evil of Islam, the evil of Arab culture, they find themselves being economically breastfed by a bevy of right wing groups and are invited to speak on college campuses. People find this logical in this day and age, whereas in the future it will be a joke. But it won’t be funny.

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Immortal Technique on stage via http://tristanstefanedouard.com.au

BC: Going off of that, how have your travels to the Middle East and Latin America shaped your views on American foreign policy and its relationship with other nations?

IT: I think I feel a lot more grateful for what I have now. I tell people, if you don’t like the Justice system in America, you’re really not gonna like it in China. If you dislike the bureaucracy here, then you’ll hate it in South America. Dislike Corruption here? You’ll despise it in Russia. Don’t like American prison? Spend a day in jail in the Middle East and you’ll cry for home. I get first hand accounts of these things from the people, I am shown around wherever I go and I explore on my own. I have the ability to see things with my own eyes. I experienced some of these things as a child returning to the so-called “3rd World”.

BC: How does hip-hop fit into this equation?  How can hip-hop be used to process the pain that people experience everyday at home and abroad?

IT: Hip-hop is about the human condition; it’s about people’s lives. It started out speaking on what it was like growing up in a slum in the Bronx, the trials and tribulations of living in Harlem, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island. Then it spread to the West Coast, to the South. Now it is a global phenomenon. Why shouldn’t a child reading this looking over Mogadishu, Tirana, Lagos, or Aleppo tell the world of his struggle and his pain? We had drug dealers, war torn streets and poverty that the other side of the country almost seemed oblivious to, ironically since the majority of all hip-hop sales. No matter the artist or the region come from middle class European America. So why shouldn’t the rest of the world be just as interested as they were in how people live? In the end it is entertainment, let’s not embarrass ourselves by not admitting that, but entertainment can be used to educate, to ennoble, or to distract and mislead. This form of entertainment has the ability to reach far beyond the Bronx. And whether we’re willing to admit it or not, it connects people from across the word. In the end a human being just needs one thing to start the process of healing. To have their pain acknowledged.

BC: Considering all of this, does hip-hop always have to be political?

IT: It doesn’t have to. But it always is.

Immortal Technique’s Revolutionary Vol. 2 was the Bonus Cut Album of the Week on May 22nd.

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A Devine Messenger of the HeartCloud: The Night of Kitty

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By: Victor Anderson

On Wednesday, I lived to see my second encounter with Kitty (Pryde). The first time was May 3 when she opened for Danny Brown in Greensboro and my only real contact was handing her a mystery flavored Airhead. This time it was different; I had a VIP meet-and-greet pass.

Wednesday, the 24th, was an overall spectacular and magical day. My friend, Tyree, ended up getting a very Based tattoo and I got to kick it with my friend, Trish. I planned on going to the show with those idiots but when we got to the door we found out that the show was apparently sold out. I did a little detective work and by the luck of the draw, my two buddies ended up on the guest list. As they left to go withdraw cash from an ATM, I tried not to psyche myself out because I knew that I was meeting Kitty soon. Five other meet-n-greeters showed up and we were escorted into the venue during Anamanaguchi’s sound check. We followed an important looking man while maintaining a single file line to a bench behind the bar. We were seated and told to wait for Kitty which made me feel like I was in elementary school again.

I sat next to a dame who held a bland, slim box and I asked her what she had brought for Kitty. Her present contained some DVDs showcasing the film festival she worked for. Meanwhile, my only present was a pocket full of ring pops as I was trying to maintain the tradition of candy giving.

So, we sat and waited as overbearing tunes blared from the stage, breaking our silence and to our surprise, Kitty emerged from nowhere to join us.

“Do you guys wanna go somewhere more quiet?” She asked even though I could barely hear her. We nodded and followed her toward solitude.

She was the head of the line and I was directly behind her (that’s just how it played out). We trailed down a stairwell (the venue was above a restaurant) and I decided then was the right time for my gift, so I handed it over. She thanked me and we continued to walk down the steps to exit the venue to grace the sidewalks of downtown Raleigh. Kids stood around, waiting in line behind the imaginary force field that is the velvet rope and peered in assumed jealousy as Kitty and us waltzed down to the outdoor seating of a nearby restaurant.

We sat and introduced ourselves and I geeked out internally as she recognized me from the internet. She indulged us in conversation as we did her, while she and I puffed on our smokes. I had a little bit of liquid courage in me and all my nerves must have been washed down with my Olde English because I was chatting it up with Kitty like she was anybody else. We all got our turn to ask her whatever we wanted but I felt as if I was one of the main spokespeople of the group. I mean, I’ve been fanning over her for the past year, so I had a bit to talk about in concerns of what she’s been doing since her mall job at Claire’s.

Mid-convo, she suddenly freed her hair from a ponytail and allowed her flawless red locks to flow like the river of blood from The Shining, and I swear I almost lost it. I could have sworn that it happened in slow motion.

Eventually, the hostess from the restaurant asked us to leave and we migrated to the stairwell of the venue for more hangout time. We asked her about all kinds of shit, like her memoirs involving the behind the scenes of rap life, to cats, to Yeezus trolling, to Das Racist, to Big Baby Gandhi, to Lakutis’ mother popping hella champagne, to her current thoughts on her life as a rapper. And for future reference, never wear a fedora if you’re trying to get on her good side. Trust me.

According to twitter (or was it tumblr) Kitty claims to not detect awkwardness when talking to people and that was very evident, but there was nothing to be awkward about. She really knew how to keep a conversation going and boy was she genuinely nice; not to mention how stunningly beautiful she was in person. Anyways, during the entire duration of the meet-n-greet I remained calm on the outside but was uber jittery with joy and excitement within (I think I played it off well).

Unfortunately, great things in life have to come to an end due to soundchecks and that’s what happened. But not before we all got our own personal selfie with Kitty and according to her policy, she must take the photo herself (it didn’t hit me until later that she actually held my cellphone, which was crazy in itself to me). She went on to sign whatever we gave her to sign.

Only a few grains of sand were left in the hourglass and I couldn’t stop thinking of how surreal the past hour had been. My heart was uncontrollably but steadily beating and I realized that this is what being in the heartcloud must feel like. I ended up getting a farewell high-five from Kitty after she signed my little black rhyme book. I glanced down to read what she wrote. She left me with a stunned and goofy smile on my face as she spoke to whoever was around who was not me.

This was the 10th day or so that Kitty was on tour with Anamanaguchi, the 8bit wonderland band who literally sent a pizza pie to space. The attendees stood around waiting for Kitty to appear on stage and soon enough she did. All the Kittyteers crowded the front of the stage on the brink of fainting from being within arm’s length of the princess of Bubble Rap (as I like call it). She commanded the stage like a goddess, leaving boys (including myself) in awe as she performed bass heavy R&B covers of her songs and treating us to exclusive listening’s to new tracks. Whether she was bouncing around to hype shit or serenading us with her love songs, she innocently demanded the attention of the audience and I could tell that she was having a good time. This was not the shy and embarrassed Kitty from a year ago. She was more comfortable and well-adjusted to her job as performer and she did it well.

She ended her set with “Orion’s Belt” featuring Riff Raff (a song my tan friend, Tyree was waiting for all night) and the kids who really fucked with it went wild (again, myself included). Tyree slapped people in the face with his dreads as he got buck for the song; belting the lyrics right back at Kitty. We all rapped it together and it was a very posivibe fueled moment if you ask me. She even handed the mic to us during Riff Raff’s verse, which was an honor (even though I flubbed up on the lyrics).

We cheered and we clapped and Kitty cleared the stage for Anamanaguchi but she didn’t disappear to the green room or her van, she stuck around for the rest of the night and kicked it at the venue. You could find her conversing with fans, taking pictures, wildin’ out to Anamanaguchi’s set or chilling by the merch table. I found it quite strange how I gradually became comfortable with her presence in such a short amount of time. It was like, “yep, there’s Kitty.”

She ended up passing me one final time but I was too busy to notice because I was pan handling a drunkard for a dollar so that my friend could buy another sticker that he ruined during the performance of Anamanaguchi.

Fuck.

All I hope for now is that we’ll be able to get pizza one day.

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The Mixes: The Dreamin’ in Color Mixtape

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By: Daniel Hodgman

The Mixes is a Bonus Cut series that focuses on themed mixtapes. The purpose of this series is to share music in hip-hop, but also to share the ability to express feelings through mixtapes. The premise takes after Rob Sheffield’s book Love is a Mix Tape, but unlike his book, these mixes will vary in theme. Although I will have notes explaining why I included each song, the overall interpretation of the songs and the mixtape as a whole is on you. Music is fickle because it triggers different emotions, and one of the greatest feelings is determining your thoughts for specific music on your own. Although Bonus Cut provides The Starting Five, a weekly list of songs the creators are currently digging, The Mixes is an individual entity because of its focus on certain themes.

Past mixtapes: The “Keeping a Current With What’s Current” Mixtape

The “Dreamin’ in Color” Mixtape

The theme behind this mixtape is that of fulfillment. It’s an ode to the songs that make you breathe and take everything in; it’s an ode to certain tracks that captivate the liveliness of space and illusion; and it’s an ode to those who create masterpieces that impose multiple branches on the tree of a certain song. The “Dreamin’ in Color” mixtape has a lot of themes and variety, but all of the songs are centered on a single track of greatness. Enjoy.

“Down for the Underground” -Lord Finesse

“The same guy gotta maintain my remain fly / That’s here to be, produced and arranged by / Buckwild, Lord Finesse the double-header out to flip cheddar / Stars on the rise like Chris Webber”

Depending on how you listen to the production, Buckwild either reminds you of starry skies or dreams full of Cheshire Cats and the Ace of Hearts. Or, it could remind you of something completely different. “Down for the Underground” is a testament to Buckwild’s skill behind the beats, and to this day he is still underrated. Lord Finesse supplies the track with hard-headed and precise flow, and overall, “Down for the Underground” is that perfect blend of herbs and spices.

“Bluebird” -One Self

“Drinking wine reminds me of what honest is / Making me wonder where the hell the logic is”

As if this track glides on an ice field of groovy bass stabs and twangy guitar riffs, “Bluebird” gives you the feeling of doing anything.

“Gold Soul Theory” -The Underachievers

“Freeze, repeat, rewind, back to the time I was blind / Never, I always incline the Third Eye”

Maybe it’s because this track is soaked with MJ, but “Gold Soul Theory” flies higher than a lot of other new age hip-hop tunes.

“Changes” -Tupac

“Learn to see me as a brother instead of two distant strangers”

If there’s one thing you should know about Tupac, it’s that despite his changing styles throughout his career, he was always able to succeed as a poet. It wasn’t just his lyricism or his cadence that grabbed the attention of millions, but it was the way he presented himself on each and every track. His attitude is something often overlooked by critics, but in reality this is why he stood out. “Changes” may be one of those tracks you’ve heard too many times, but it perfectly exemplifies Tupac’s grit.

“Yoke the Joker” -Naughty by Nature

“I can snap, rap, pack, click-clack, patter-pat-pat / Take that ass to the point you have to ask for your ass back”

After hearing Treach’s opening verse, this song fully takes you.

“Orbit Brazil” -Flying Lotus

“Orbit Brazil” is Flying Lotus doing what he does best. His composition of blips and beeps mixed with experimental percussion and non-regular patterns is odd but fulfilling. The main synth breakdown is purely a takeoff into the outer reaches of space, and while orbiting over Brazil I’d love to blast this.

“Daddy Fat Sax” -Big Boi

“My daddy told me it was mine for the taking”

The pulsing introduction, Big Boi’s presence, the shrieking background synths, the joy. This song gives you the confidence to do anything. Walk into work or class with this blasting and the results will come.

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Album of the Week: “Things Fall Apart” by The Roots

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By: Gus Navarro

Ever since the Roots Crew became the house band for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon in 2007, they have been everywhere. Since 2007 they have released four studio albums: How I Got Over, Wake Up! (With John Legend), Betty Wright: The Movie (With Betty Wright) and Undun. Furthermore, Questlove gigs as a DJ every chance he gets, writes biographies and made Twitter cool. Black Thought backs up hip-hop royalty on Fallon, slays bars on tracks such as “Bird’s Eye View” and is very involved with his community Foundation called GrassROOTS.

On top of all of this, the Legendary Roots Crew has seen their annual two-day festival called “The Roots Picnic” grow, have given back to the Philadelphia community and hosted huge, nationally televised Fourth of July jam concerts. They are everywhere, splitting time between NYC, Philly, going on tour and putting out amazing music. In fact, this fall they are set to release another collaborative effort, this time with Elvis Costello, and have another full length album on the way.

This past April, their album Things Fall Apart officially reached platinum status. Released in 1999, Things Fall Apart is at times raw, yet polished. Considering how the Root’s career has changed over time, their classic record still has much to offer and sheds a great deal of light on how the group has managed to keep their creative integrity.

Recorded at the height of the Soulquarians era and featuring a slew of artists, Things Fall Apart has so much to offer by way of lyricism and musicality. There are tracks such as “You Got Me” with Erykah Badu and Eve that beautifully describe the love and the trust needed for a functional relationship. On “Step Into The Realm,” “Adrenaline” and “and “Without A Doubt” Malik B., Dice Raw and Black Thought drop unforgettable lines. Meanwhile, Common and Yasiin Bey (f.k.a. Mos Def) drop by to contribute two of the more memorable tracks, “Act Too…Love Of My Life” and “Double Trouble.” There is even space made for Ursula Rucker to read her hauntingly picturesque poetry on “The Return To Innocence Lost”, describing abuse and grief in the way only poetry can.

From a production standpoint Questlove’s drums are on point, always providing the perfect balance of kick and snare. The keyboards and guitar sounds are blended perfectly with the heavy hip-hop boom bap with help from James Poyser and D’angelo. There is assistance from the likes of Scott Storch and J Dilla on the production side. However, let’s not forget that we are talking about the Roots and live instrumentation was used.

In the end, Things Fall Apart is considered a hip-hop classic and arguably the best album by the Legendary Roots Crew. In my opinion, this is absolutely true but there is more to this record. Things Fall Apart serves as an example of the commitment to quality ingrained within the Roots psyche. They may be moving at a thousand miles an hour but they are still willing to take the time to ensure that what is associated with the Roots is worth a listen, watch or read. Things Fall Apart is a testament to this mind-set.

Must-Listens

“Double Trouble”

“You Got Me”

“Without a Doubt”

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Hip-Hop and the Happenings in Brasil

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By: Gus Navarro

Two weeks ago, Daniel Pellegrine, a 20-year-old funk singer known as MC Daleste, was shot in the stomach in front of more than 4,000 fans while performing at a free concert in Campinas, São Paulo. In a YouTube video that has gone viral, he is seen performing a song entitled “Apologia,” that contains a particularly violent tirade about killing police when suddenly two shots ring out. Almost immediately, his lifeless body crashes to the stage. The camera quickly loses focus as the person filming flees the scene.

As I watched the video, I expected a burst of gunshots to ring out following the first two. However, there is nothing. It is extremely likely that a hired gunman connected to the police carried out this execution (there is much money to be made as an ex-cop in the “private security” business). It is possible that this was gang-related although Daleste’s father has been cited as saying that Daleste wasn’t involved with gangs. Adding to this, Daily Mail reported that, “Police have since retrieved the first bullet from the scene of Daleste’s murder. It allegedly matches the .40mm ammunition issued by the military police.” MC Daleste is not the first artist to be gunned down at a concert in Brasil; there have been six other rappers gunned down since 2010, including MC Primo and MC Duda Marapé.

In June, Brasil hosted the Confederations Cup (a soccer tournament viewed as the dress rehearsal for the 2014 World Cup). When the Confederations Cup began, mass protests broke out all over the country. The initial unrest began in São Paulo as a response to an increase in the bus fare across the city. However, the protests quickly became a nationwide movement denouncing a range of problems such as government corruption, poor education and health care. Trade unions were also active, demanding a 40-hour work week and better benefits. Over the years, the people of Brasil have suffered due to a lack of infrastructure and corrupt politicians that abuse their positions of power to no end. There are numerous accounts of generously paid legislators who have been charged — and sometimes even convicted — of crimes like money laundering, bribery, drug trafficking, kidnapping and murder.

While a few of these politicians have been convicted, a majority of these crimes go unpunished while there are people in Brasil struggling to provide for their families, obtain an equitable education and receive proper medical treatment. The Confederations Cup presented the ideal opportunity for Brasilians to make their voices heard as the world turned its attention to this South American country. Day and night there were people demonstrating all over in cities such as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Thousands demonstrated in front of the National Congress in Brasília. There were protests in Recife, Fortaleza and Maceió in the northeast of Brazil, Belém in the Amazon and Florianópolis in the south. The majority of the protests were peaceful.

Brasilians have a legitimate beef with their government that through a corrupt system has denied them the resources needed to live with dignity. Given the nature of these demonstrations it is critical that we examine the social, economic and political context within Brasil that has led to an overwhelming amount of political corruption and social injustice. If this were not a serious issue, the people would not be driven to the streets during a soccer tournament, the country’s passion. With that in mind, we must also take a close look at what has happened to the artists—and in this case hip-hop artists—that have attempted to address some of these problems through their music.

In the case of hip-hop, there are MCs in Brasil that use their music as a way to speak on the corruption they grew up with and see around them. The music of hip-hop, something that began as an outlet for the young people of New York City to take ownership and resist racist policies, has become an international phenomenon. This is because there are communities all over the world facing hardships that are engaged in the struggle for humanity. This is no different in Brasil where there have been multiple MCs slain for the political implication within their music that are a part of the Sao Paulo-centered “Ostentatious Funk” scene, a bling-obsessed and violent brand of rap over looped beats. Also called Sao Paulo funk, the club genre is an offshoot of Rio’s Funk Carioca, rooted in that city’s impoverished favelas and known for its empowering conscious messages and sexy groove.

Music and art are inherently political and will always be a medium with which to defy the repressive forces in societies all over the world. For example, protest songs brought people together and served as a rallying cry for those engaged in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. With the current situation in Brasil, this is no different. MCs in the Funk scene have used their music to get the word out about sub-par living conditions and corruption that is occurring across the country. The terrifying thing is that right now, the situation is so testy that if you step out of line and criticize authority, it is possible that you will be killed for doing so. Is it even possible to imagine going to your favorite artist’s concert only to have them gunned down in front of you and thousands of other fans? In Brasil this has been happening since at least 2010.

It is beyond time that the international hip-hop community comes together around this issue. Activist MC’s such as Dead Prez, Immortal Technique, Blitz the Ambassador, Talib Kweli, Pierce Freelon, Invincible, Yasiin Bey and hip-hop heads from around the world are needed to use their influence to spread awareness about these executions. It is imperative that musicians in the spotlight are willing to use their sound as a way of challenging the status quo and creating consciousness. It has been done in any successful social movement because when it happens it gives the people a catalyst with which to oppose the varying forms of political corruption and domination. Given the circumstances, hip-hop music can be that rallying cry. The government of Brasil is facing a serious problem that is more important than international notoriety that must be addressed immediately. The international hip-hop community has to get the word out and come together in opposition of these senseless deaths.

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Simply The Greatest: Daniel’s Take on J Dilla

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By: Daniel Hodgman

“If you were to secretly ask the most praised hip-hop producers, if given a top three, who they fear the most, Dilla’s name would chart on everyone’s list, hands down.”Questlove

There are very few certainties in hip-hop. For instance, you can be engrossed in a discussion and say “you don’t like Nas” because of his back catalog and it’ll be fine; you can claim Life After Death is overrated because of its length and it’ll be fine; and you can say New York City is a hype machine simply because of its name (I’m looking at you Saigon) and it’ll be fine. However, one certainty in hip-hop that will always stand is that of J Dilla, and if you enter a discussion and bring any negativity regarding the name, you better be prepared to defend yourself.

James Dewitt Yancey (aka J Dilla, Jay Dee) was an inventive hip-hop producer from Detroit, Michigan. He was a visionary in every sense of the word, subtly creating mass works of music that imposed so many different angles and features it was impossible to replicate his work. As both a producer and MC, he remains as one of the, if not most, influential figures in hip-hop. On top of this, he has touched the realms of other genres, and has been cited as one of the biggest influences in contemporary jazz. Dilla didn’t find much mainstream success during his lifetime, but since his death he has represented this special aura, a spot reserved for only a select few.

To me, J Dilla has always shined as a legendary entity. When he died in 2006 of Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, I was still young, so it didn’t hit me like it would today. However, I still knew his name and I still knew of him. Local hip-hop acts in Lansing, Michigan would always throw around “Jay Dee” or “J Dilla” or “Donuts” and I would get it. And that’s one reason why Dilla’s legacy alone is special. Comparatively speaking, it’s like the same effect The Velvet Underground’s legacy would have on a kid in 1975, or how seeing The Vines before 2002 was something special. Comparisons however, don’t do J Dilla any justice.

Jay Dee stood out from everyone else because of how he composed himself both as a human being and musician. Those who knew him say that he was a talent, but more importantly a well-rounded and caring guy. Moreover, lots of cats claimed that he was the ultimate encyclopedia because of how he arranged his record collection. All of his records were cast into alphabetical order, and this essentially made it easy for him to dig up a sound if an idea sparked in his head.

The end result of this can be heard all over Dilla’s cuts. Every sample is a precise and significant component of the track, no matter what sound it is; every percussion backbeat has a different texture; the live instrumentals Dilla incorporates range from guitar to keyboards to body percussion; and all of Dilla’s creations consist of hundreds of single notes and blips from hours of sampling and research. Not only was Dilla a mastermind, but he was also a perfectionist with intricate workings that were placed for a specific reason. He was as prolific to hip-hop as Mozart was to the Classical Era.

The following J Dilla cuts are some of my personal favorites. They range from tracks produced for MF DOOM and The Visionaries to instrumental pieces he compiled on compilation records. Jay Dee’s discography is vast, and these are just a few of his gems.

The Visionaries –“All Right”

The real catch for me is the percussion bells in the background. To me they provide a perfect example of Dilla’s attention to detail; nothing was good enough for him until every sound in his mind was incorporated. A masterpiece.

MF DOOM -“Gazzillion Ear”

Although DOOM throws down crazy bars commenting on the likes of figures like T.S. Eliot, it’s the beat that entices the ears. The first minute or so features a plodding bassline, well-placed scratches, haunting organ sounds that creep vicariously and very distant percussion echoes. By the 1:20 mark the beat completely changes and transitions into unraveling production that mimics the movements of a cobra. This section is the same beat that Jay Electronica uses for “Dimethyltryptamine.”

J Dilla –“Shouts”

Released on Ruff Draft, “Shouts” is a spacey tribute to all of the artists Dilla knew and respected. It may seem minimalistic at first, but “Shouts” pulses at every angle.

Proof –“Life”

“Life” is a work of emotion, and behind the moving piano chords is a percussion beat that bounces from one end of the headphones to the other.

Jaylib –“Raw Shit (feat. Talib Kweli)”

“Raw Shit” is Dilla throwing together synth organs with a throbbing synth bass backdrop to create an undisputed party banger.

J Dilla –“Last Donut of the Night”

It’s amazing how an instrumental can send chills up your spine. “Last Donut of the Night” is one of the best examples of this, and Donuts is an album chocked full of these.

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Album of the Week: “Champion Sound” by Jaylib

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Jaylib
Champion Sound
Stones Throw, 2003

Daniel’s Thought

Champion Sound was originally just a simple idea tossed around between J Dilla and Peanut Butter Wolf (Stones Throw founder). In actuality, it’s surprising that the project ever got off the ground at all. As it turns out, the project eventually evolved into Wolf connecting Dilla and Madlib, and in the months to follow the two artists sent each other beats to rap over (“L.A. To Detroit”).

As one might expect, Champion Sound celebrates these two renowned producers by omitting a rich and seductive record that is as lush as it is green. Furthermore, it’s solid from start to finish, hardly losing momentum, and presents a drooling doozy of sample-heavy beats and cuts. The rapping plays second fiddle to the production, but at this point that’s the whole point of this record. What should be celebrated is the variance and differences between these two legends, as they trade punches behind the production and provide a funny commentary on each others’ tracks.

Gus’ Thought

One of the best parts about the music of hip-hop is its potential for collaboration. If you break it down, hip-hop is collaboration in the sense that both an MC and producer are needed to write, record and perform a track. The other elements such as break dancing and graffiti can also be used to encourage people to work together, for a common goal, to produce art, a dance or song. There is nothing like a posse cut with a couple of your favorite MCs, each slaying the track in his/her particular style on the same song. On this type of posse cut or in a rap group, each artist is pushed to be the best they can be, utilizing all their talents for the collective. This always takes the music, art or dance to a new level.

One of the best examples of this from the early 2000s is the collaboration between producing giants J Dilla and Madlib. In 2003, under the moniker Jaylib, they released Champion Sound. This is one of those records where the beats are so incredibly on point that rapping over them seems secondary. These tracks are more than an instrumental for an MC; each track is a testament to the brilliance of J Dilla, Madilb and the art of hip-hop production. Half of the tracks feature Madlib beats with Dilla lyrics and vice versa, each complimenting the other with their unique approach to rapping and of course, beat making.

When listening to the record, the core of hip-hop production begins to take shape. The samples make use of several types of music, giving each track a distinct vibe. There are times when songs such as “McNasty Filth,” The Red,” “Heavy,” “Strapped,” and “The Official” have a weighty resonance using pounding bass, crackly snares and heavily strummed notes. At these times it feels that your head will never stop bouncing and your body won’t ever cease rocking. However, at other times there are tracks such as “Strip Club,” “Starz,” “The Mission,” “React” and “No Games” that groove hard, creating a loose, seductive ambiance. It should also be mentioned that Champion Sound is home to the best moment of any Talib Kweli show. On “Raw Shit” we hear Kweli reciting his famous call and response, “I love (I love) / That raw shit (that raw shit) / I like it (I like it) / I loves it (I loves it)” If you’ve ever seen Kweli live, it’s just too hype.

Within all of this, Dilla and Madlib draw from all sorts of songs past and present to create these various sounds. There is a Bavarian sounding jam from the 70’s by Paul Mauriat called “Melancholy Man,” a banger known as “Stomped and Wasted” from trumpet legend Dizzy Gillespie and a creepy, funk infused number from Throbbing Gristle known as “Persuasion.” The production side of hip-hop is so interesting because of what parts of a song each producer decides to sample and use. With that, hip-hop has been able to give new life to groups long past their prime and give listeners the chance to take part in research while expanding their musical vocabulary. This is the beauty of using samples as a means to making hip-hop music. Jaylib’s Champion Sound is an example of how it can and should be done. I like it, I love it.

Must-Listens

“The Heist”

“The Mission”

“The Red”

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BLAT! PACK, Common Ground Music Festival (Put Yr Revolvers Up)

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Jahshua Smith via http://www.blatpack.com

By: Justin Cook

This past weekend, I attended the Common Ground Music Festival in the heart of Lansing, Michigan. I have attended my fair share of music festivals, but never one within city limits—this definitely gives it a slightly different atmosphere. I entered the festival grounds with a typical half-assed search, walked across a bridge decked out in glow sticks and found myself in the middle of the madness. I had about an hour before BLAT! Pack performed so I decided to roam around.

I walked along the Grand River, past craft booths, food stands and a few little games for the kids—it sure did feel like a festival, though extremely small. I stretched out on the riverfront for a bit and soaked in those loving Sunday vibes. After thoroughly Zen, I made my way to the main stage to catch a little bit of Jon Connor, a Flint-based MC. I had never heard anything by him before, but I was pleasantly surprised; he had energy, presence, and great band backing him. He spoke of unity, the great state of Michigan, the healing powers of hip-hop and of course, peace and love. Near the end of the show, his sister joined him on stage, and it started to feel like one big happy festie family—everyone was laughing, dancing and putting their drinks in the air for what was bound to be a great night. Content with the performance, I headed back downriver to see BLAT! Pack.

I arrived with fifteen minutes to spare, laid out in the grass, and watched as people slowly started to gather in front of the stage—a few folks sported BLAT! Pack and James Gardin shirts. Before I knew it, people were flooding in from left and right eagerly awaiting the show. The atmosphere around was all love, hugs and a sense of anticipation, which unleashed as BLAT! Pack took the stage; and once they took the stage, they didn’t miss a single beat.

It was the first time they had ever performed as BLAT! Pack, and shit, they had better do it more often. It wasn’t just Jahshua Smith, it wasn’t just James Gardin, or Red Pill, or Yellowkake, it was the complete BLAT! Experience—the horns, the rhythm section, and every MC took this show beyond sun, moon and stars, hurling us audience members into the next dimension. It was a funky, fun-loving show that radiated with pure artistic bliss. I don’t know who had more fun, the audience or BLAT! Pack. As I was lost in that backbeat, the MC’s were running around on stage, laughing, goofing around—organically going from mock backup dancer to main performer. The music was clean, the vocals were crisp and you could feel the heart and soul radiating through sound waves.

Underneath the music, the love and laughter, was something that resonated with the human spirit: accepting change and revolution. Throughout the concert, brief words of wisdom were spit between songs: they talked about letting go of your past, your anger, your frustrations and just letting it float away in the wind; they stated our need for revolution, not only at a societal level, but a revolution within ourselves; Jahshua Smith mentioned Trayvon Martin, but instead of being on a soapbox, he let the verdict speak for itself, and told us all to raise our fists, together. And everyone in the audience, from different lifestyles and cultures, raised their fists into the sky; I turned around to face the whole crowd and noticed sunlight pouring into the pavilion, across all our faces, across all our fists. Then, the beat dropped, and hands went wild.

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James Gardin via http://www.blatpack.com

After the show I was elated, and laid back in the grass, soaking up the light of the people. Moments like these are what the world needs—bringing the festival vibes to a city, speakers blasting onto the streets. You know, you read the “news” and hear about all the horrible things in the world, about how our world is falling apart, but then you go out into the world, and are greeted with nothing but love. I find when I actually leave my computer screen, unplug and live my life, the world is more vast and beautiful than ever before. THIS IS THE REVOLUTION: get up, get out, and do something! I love that local groups such as BLAT! Pack exist to expand the consciousness of man from the bottom up; we need to support more grassroots movements and recreate local culture. I believe, if we focus in on here and now, we will uncover all our souls’ desires. We just got to get up, get out, and do something.

 Now spread the gospel!

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