As the end of the year creeps closer, we here at Bonus Cut are thankful for 2013 and the opportunities it has granted us. In March we officially launched, and since then we have learned, shared, experienced, taught and have hopefully made some sort of impression on you. From everyone here that’s part of the Bonus Cut collective, we would like to thank you for reading, following and giving us this opportunity. We would also like to thank you for opening our own eyes and helping us progress as something worthwhile.
Since we’re taking a two-week break after this issue, co-creator and editor-in-chief Daniel Hodgman and contributing writer Uba Anyadiegwu would like to personally share their 2013 reflections.
There’s so much to a year, and yet when it comes down to it, a year passes by in a flash, a mere whisper in a lengthy conversation. As we get older, each year inevitably cruises faster, as if with each notch on your age the universe determines that time must move faster, quicker and accelerate with more vigor. How can we as human beings process this continuity? How can we alter the hourglass so we can take in everything without feeling so rushed and tuckered out?
I guess that leads me to the first thing I’ve truly learned this year: you have to live your life and limit the negative outside forces. What I’m getting at is that all around you are negative and downright hateful orbs. Whether they’re online comments, words from someone trying to bring you down or even something negative from your family members, the most important thing you can do is block this out and live out what you have planned for yourself. If you do this, combined with a healthy lifestyle and a realistic outlook on life and the human mind, time will ease its pace and run parallel to your life goals and plans. It’s weird, but it seems negativity alters time, and consequently a lot of dreams and ideas are lost in the process. Remember folks: those that try to bring you down are already below you. Don’t submit to hate and negativity. Look at things in perspective. Spread understanding and love. And remember that everyone you know and meet has a story that’s just as important to them as your story is to you.
The second thing I’ve learned this year? Well, it’s this: you have to be true to yourself. If you have ideas, transform those into goals, and then mold those to fulfill your dreams. Your dreams don’t just appear, they have to formulate through a process. Take something and run with it, and if that’s not feasible for you, then alter it and do it again. With this, you must always stay positive; don’t bring yourself down. If you’re downplaying your achievements or downright bringing yourself down, then how do you expect your peers to respect you as a person? Never give up that drive, because if you do, you will soon fade as an irrational and irrelevant blip in the abyss of life.
The third lesson I’ve learned is hip-hop related and is aimed at those who don’t understand hip-hop and choose to vocally represent their views. First, to anyone who says “hip-hop” is dead, even those hip-hop heads with vast collections of classics, you couldn’t be more wrong. If hip-hop is dead to you, then you clearly need to educate yourself-open a book, attend shows, engage yourself. Just because certain hip-hop fads or phases have changed doesn’t mean hip-hop culture has fallen as well. Secondly, for anyone who doesn’t understand hip-hop culture, you need to realize that hip-hop is a language, and like any other language, if you don’t know it, you won’t understand it. The magic of language is that it challenges us to continually educate ourselves, and that’s exactly what hip-hop does. Just because you don’t know what a “break” is or what “graf artists” do doesn’t mean you can’t learn. So before you dismiss hip-hop as this singular strike against your own agenda, take some time, take a breath, read and reflect on what hip-hop means to millions around the world.
Just this year we’ve had hundreds of hip-hop projects worth noting, and if I could write out an entire thesis I would, but since this is merely a reflection, I’ll choose to share some of my personal favorites:
1. Big shout-out to The Detroit Urban Arts Academy, Minneapolis’ Beats and Rhymes Center, Sam Seidel and every other hip-hop youth educational program
What ultimately drove me to use and pursue hip-hop as a form of educating and teaching our youth are programs such as these. I was blessed to personally visit Detroit’s Urban Arts Academy, and by combining multi-media learning, hip-hop education, violence and disease prevention and youth tutoring, these programs shine a realistic light on what’s important for this country’s future.
2. To David Kirkland, Red Pill, Immortal Technique, Dylan Miner, Lex Zavala, Gianni Carazo, Freddie Burse, Row Mendez, Sacramento Knoxx, Antonio Cosme, Dessa, Journalist 103, DJ Soko and Hir-O, I say thank you.
You were all the artists and educators we here at Bonus Cut had the opportunity to interview, and with every interview I personally learned more about hip-hop, life and myself. I can’t thank you enough.
3. My favorite hip-hop albums/mixtapes of 2013:
For me, my favorite hip-hop records of the year are works that not only satisfy the musical aspect of a great record, but also fill in the space as far as notable content, replay value, educational drive and precision. The following are my favorite hip-hop records of the year in no particular order:
Run the Jewels by Killer Mike & El-P
Event II by Deltron 3030
Tangible Dream by Oddisee
Ugly Heroes by Ugly Heroes (Apollo Brown, Red Pill, Verbal Kent)
Czarface by Inspectah Deck and 7L & Esoteric
The City Under The City by L’Orange & Stik Figa
Rap Album One by Johnwayne
She Got Game by Rapsody
Kool Herc Fertile Crescent by Homeboy Sandman
Twelve Reasons to Die: The Brown Tape by Apollo Brown and Ghostface Killah
No Poison No Paradise by Black Milk
Summer Knights by Joey Bada$$
The Kick by Hir-O and Red Pill
BetterOffDEAD by Flatbush Zombies
Binary Star EP by Binary Star
Parts of Speech by Dessa
Old by Danny Brown
The Ghetto Is Tryna Kill Me by The White Mandingos
Legends Never Die by R.A. the Rugged Man
Albert Einstein by Alchemist & Prodigy
Doris by Earl Sweatshirt
4. My final shout-out is the most important to me, and it goes to those I’ve surrounded myself with regarding Bonus Cut. To Gus Navarro, Justin Cook, Phillip McGuigan, Harry Jadun, Uba Anyadiegwu, Abby Conklin, Adam Jadun, Joe Tyler, Julian Stall, Ian Siporin, Sam Majeske and Victor Anderson: thank you for everything. If I went on thanking you for everything you all have done, this already lengthy write-up would be impossible to read. My deepest thanks. One love.
Top Five Projects of 2013
5. She Got Game by Rapsody
Rapsody has always impressed me with her smooth production and cleaver wordplay. I almost included her album The Idea of Beautiful on my 2012 list but it just missed the mark. She Got Game was a slight upgrade. With great features from the likes of Chance the Rapper, Problem, Raekwon, Wale and many more, this tape does not disappoint. Rapsody does not upset when it comes to rapping. Lyrically, she is one of the best rappers out right now and this project is a great example why. With ingenious lines like “Call me young Achilles cuz I snap on these like Kobe,” this project is definitely a must-listen.
Stand out tracks: “A Song About Nothing,” “Lonely Thoughts,” “Dark Knights,” “Complacent”
4. My Name is My Name by Pusha T
It took Pusha T a couple of years to FINALLY put out his first solo studio album, and it was worth the wait. Pusha T delivers with easily one of the best projects of the year. The production is great and Pusha T’s aggressive delivery and tongue twisting wordplay is something not to overlook with tough lines like: “Gem Star razor and a dinner plate/ Arm and hammer and a mason jar, that’s my dinner date/ Then crack the window in the kitchen, let it ventilate/ Cause I let it sizzle on the stove like a minute steak.” The cocaine-filled wordsmith doesn’t miss a beat on this album, with every track having its own story, which allows us to understand where the man really comes from. Pusha T might not do cocaine anymore, but he sure does spazz on these tracks like he still is. YEUCKK!
Stand out tracks: “King Push,” “Hold On,” “Nostalgia,” “Pain”
3. Wolf by Tyler, the Creator
Has Tyler finished the trilogy of his epic story or will this story continue? Only time can tell but Wolf is his best effort yet. The album is a prelude to his past two projects Goblin and Bastard and is a bit different from both. Tyler has matured as an artist and a person and you can tell from listening to Wolf. Lyrically, he has strayed away from his “rape rap” or “horror culture” material and has gotten a lot more serious. You spot Tyler talking a lot more about his non-relationship with his father and his annoyance with some fans. Musically, Wolf is also different from his past projects. In some of the songs, Tyler has stepped back from rapping and has tried to allow his production and some guest appearance from Pharrell and Erykah Badu to steal the show. Overall, Wolf is a great project that shows the growth of Tyler, the Creator. He has improved as a lyricist and as a producer and I am excited for where his story goes next.
Stand out tracks: “Cowboy,” “48,” “Colossus,” “Rusty,” “Lone”
2. Because the Internet by Childish Gambino
Gambino seemed to have disappeared over the past year, from social media to music material. With only one or two music features over the year, no one really knew where Gambino went. In a generation where an artist must constantly be connecting with their fans-if by giving them music or interacting with them via social media websites, Gambino was nowhere to be found, and his fans were getting impatient. Over this past year, Gambino was being very mysterious and confusing. He deleted all of his Instagram pictures and most of his tweets on twitter. And then, during the summer of 2013, Gambino started to speak. First, he gave his fans a short film titled Clapping for the Wrong Reasons. At its first watch, the film was confusing and left many questions, yet it was still entertaining. The film ended up being a prelude to his newly released album titled Because the Internet. The album comes with a 76 page screenplay, written by Gambino, which also follows the album storyline. At the end, the whole experience that Gambino displayed is mind blowing. His ability to combine his music, with a film and a screenplay is breathtaking; a truly great concept album. All the pieces sync so well together and everything makes sense when watched and read chronologically. This album shines with its production. This is Gambino’s best produced project to date. Every instrumental sounds fabulous and Gambino delivers with his great lyricism and his much improved singing voice. Overall, sonically, this album is very ambitious. Because the Internet sounds like a more thought-out Yeezus meets Channel Orange meets the great mind of Donald Glover, or Childish Gambino. He truly is a mastermind.
Stand out tracks: “The Worst Guys,” “Telegraph Ave,” “Sweatpants,” “The Party,” “Zealots of Stockolm (Free Information),” “Urn”
1. Acid Rap by Chance the Rapper
And my favorite project of 2013, by a landslide, would have to be Acid Rap. Chance the Rapper was able to improve from his first mixtape #10day and create a project that sonically set the hip-hop world on fire. Chance’s unorthodox flow and wacky delivery is something that sets him apart from the rest of the pack. Chance not only makes great sounding music, but also he can be conscious at times. On “Paranoia” Chance raps about the struggle and danger of living in Chicago and how even though everyone knows about it, no one does anything to help the city. Chance’s adlibs are also another attribute that is unique about his style. His popular “igh” is a sound that he does in almost every song and over time, it will stick in your head like a thumbnail. Acid Rap from front to back is a fantastic project that truly catapulted Chances career forward and made him a force to be reckoned with. The pressure is on for Chance; his next project will either make him or break him. Only time will tell for the man’s success. In the meantime, I’ll be bumpin’ “Juice” and scream “Igh” until someone hits me.
Stand out tracks: “Pusha Man,” “Cocoa Butter Kisses,” “Juice,” “Lost,” “Chain Smoker”
Creating this list was probably one of the harder things I have had to do this year. With so many great projects that came out, narrowing down the list to five was very difficult. Wolf at number three was the most stable album, as in, I didn’t change that album position. I knew I wanted that project to be third. However, other problems occurred with this list that were very time consuming. First, I could not decide between what the fourth and fifth best albums were. It was either between She Got Game, My Name is My Name or Innanetape. At first I had She Got Game at fourth and Innanetape at fifth, but after listening to each project again, I placed MNIMN at fourth, She Got Game at fifth, and Innanetape at sixth. The next hard decision I had was deciding what the album of the year was: Because the Internet or Acid Rap? At first, I was set on Because the Internet. The whole experience that Childish Gambino delivered was brilliant and so unique. A screenplay with an album is revolutionary and I believe it will be a feature that will be copied in the near-future. Right before I made this last decision, I promised myself I would give Acid Rap one more listen through, and did this listen really change my mind. The main reason why I put Acid Rap as the project of the year is because of the longevity appeal that it has. Acid Rap came out during late April, and after playing it last week, it still sounded brand new. I listened to the album without skipping a track and everything still sounded rich and refreshing. Because the Internet just came out early December, and as of now, it still sounds pleasing and sonically ambitious. However, will I feel the same way about the album five months from now? Honestly, I do believe I will still enjoy the project when the time comes, but the time hasn’t come yet. A perfect example for this would be Yeezus. When it first came out, it was amazing. So different, so unique, I couldn’t even wrap my head around it. But as time passed, the album did as well. The songs started to lose their “wow” factor and the content just wasn’t there. So at the end of the day, because Acid Rap was able to keep my full attention for the past eight months now, it wouldn’t have been fair if I gave the project of the year to a different artist. Chance really out-did himself on this one. Congrats TWIN!
EXTRA EXTRA: For those who are interested, below are my 15 favorite albums of 2013. These are just some projects that I believe deserve some kind of recognition.
- Acid Rap – Chance the Rapper
- Because the Internet – Childish Gambino
- Wolf – Tyler, the Creator
- My Name is My Name – Pusha T
- She Got Game – Rapsody
- Innanetape – Vic Mensa
- Doris – Earl Sweatshirt
- Old – Danny Brown
- Yeezus – Kanye West
- Born Sinner – J. Cole
- BetterOffDead – Flatbush Zombies
- Legends Never Die – R.A. The Rugged Man
- Thee Way Eye See It – Cj Fly
- Blue Chips 2 – Action Brosnon
- Unconscious State – Jon Connor
What were your top five albums for 2013? Let us know below in the comment section!