It’s quite simple: it is when an artist, usually someone with commercial success, gives a different artist, usually someone with lower success, a shout-out by acknowledging that they like his/her music. Co-signs can also be when those successful artists allow up-and-coming artists to be featured on their songs. Co-signs truly fuel why every artist is commercially popular today. Every hip-hop artist at one point in their career was given a co-sign; and because of that co-sign, this was the main reason why they were able to achieve mainstream success. Every artist dreams to receive some kind of co-sign from another artist. Without co-signs, artist diversity in hip-hop would be very shallow. Artists such as Kanye West, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Macklemore and Chance the Rapper all received co-signs. So, who co-signed them?
Our friend Ella Campbell over at Back Beat Magazine recently took a trip to the Palace in Auburn Hills, Michigan to experience greatness: a Jay-Z show. Talking about the thrill of the show, analyzing the philosophy of hip-hop shows in general and sharing the concert’s highlights, Ella takes us on a first-hand experience of a Jay-Z concert.
On Tuesday, September 10th, it was announced that Jay Electronica’s much-anticipated debut record, Act II: Patents Of Nobility, was “pretty much done.” Just Blaze, the producer behind the record, went on to say that “the situation is Jay moves at his own pace…He always moved at his own pace.”
Ah yes, that explains us waiting nearly six years for even a sniff of a record.
And yet, none of this comes as a surprise. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s a known fact that Jay Electronica works at his own pace in a unique “do-it-yourself” approach. By providing his own artwork and releasing his own music in weird clumps, Jay has not only claimed the title of hip-hop’s recluse, he’s also secured himself as one of hip-hop’s truly unique characters of all time.
“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$AP mixtape. Going from nothing to something from a matter of months (and receiving a multi-million dollar record deal) would seem to pose problems for most, but A$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.
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!
Pro Era’s “Like Water” and their Dedication to Capital STEEZ
Over a solemn Statik Selektah produced track that features ringing piano swells, New York hip-hop group Pro Era drops the video to “Like Water,” a moving ode to their fallen member Capital STEEZ and the everyday oppression that hides behind life’s never-ending facade. The first verse is actually Capital STEEZ himself and as his verse runs over the somber sounds of a bereaved cut, the video transitions between stunning shots of Brooklyn under the spell of kerosene contained sprawl. The third verse comes from CJ Fly and at this point the video focuses on a touching mural of STEEZ on a Brooklyn building wall. Between STEEZ and Fly’s verse, Joey Bada$$ delivers the usual–a commanding cadence mixed with intricate wordplay and detail.
“Like Water” is refreshing and heartfelt, and the video not only stands behind these feelings, it fully embraces them. You can check out the video below.
Geno Smith Signs With Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports
A couple of months ago, Bonus Cut co-creator Gus Navarro wrote a piece on Jay-Z and his impact on the community. In it Gus mentioned Jay-Z’s new Roc Nation Sports management agency, a sub-let from the entertainment company Roc Nation. This past week it’s been reported that football quarterback Geno Smith, recent West Virginia standout turned New York Jet, has signed with Roc Nation Sports, joining the likes of New York Yankee Robinson Canoe, New York Giant Victor Cruz and WNBA star Skylar Diggins.
Now of course this wouldn’t be worthy news if there wasn’t some controversy tied into it, and that’s exactly the baggage that comes with this small story.
According to NFLPA, it seems as if Jay-Z and his staff illegally recruited Smith and broke the “runner rule,” which states that only registered agents within the confines of the NFLPA can recruit players. Smith on the other hand says that Jay-Z didn’t recruit him and that he chose the agency for himself after deliberation with his family and friends.
No matter what way this seemingly unimportant story goes, this event does bring into question that of Jay-Z’s influence. Has it come to the point where he feels he can break small yet unequivocal rules and get away with it? Are these rules that he might have broken too hollow? Does anyone even care about the New York Jets anymore?
Onto the Next Step: Mid-Michigan Hip-Hop’s The Specktators and Their Last Show in the Mitten
On June 1st at the Loft in Lansing, The Specktators threw a goodbye party. Along with hip-hop electronic duo Green Skeem, The Specktators celebrated with fans, friends and family as they hosted their last show in Michigan before moving out to California to further pursue their career in hip-hop.
Although Bonus Cut wasn’t able to attend the show due to prior events, we feel it’s our duty to honor local hip-hop and hip-hop that we grew up with. (Daniel: “I remember getting a Specktators mixtape from my friend in high school and was astonished that this was happening 5 miles down the road. They’ll always be one of those hip-hop names I’ll stand by.”)
The Specktators are made up of Moe-T and Packi and hail from Lansing, Michigan. Check out “REFS” below.
The first song on Jay-Z’s 1996 debut album Reasonable Doubt is called “Can’t Knock the Hustle.” If you look at the rapper’s career, it is hard to do so. Born in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn in 1969, Jay-Z comes from humble beginnings and attended the same high school as Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes. He first got involved in hip-hop by appearing with Big Daddy Kane at concerts in a “hype-man” role. He also appeared on multiple posse cuts with New York rappers, most notably with Big L in the song, “Da Graveyard.” Fast forward twenty years and Jay-Z is winning Grammy’s, getting himself involved with the “NBA 2K” video game franchise, is the co-creator of Rocawear and the face of the Brooklyn Nets, is married to Beyonce and is a father. This past week, Jay-Z started his own sports agency called “Roc Nation Sports,” an extension of his entertainment company, “Roc Nation.” Yankee second basemen Robinson Cano, it was reported, has left his current agent Scott Boras, and has signed with Roc Nation Sports. This is a huge development for Jay-Z, Robinson Cano and the city of New York. In a certain sense, Jay-Z has probably secured Robinson Cano a spot on the Yankees for the rest of his career. This is ultimately a good thing for the Yankee franchise as far as having a face for the club after current greats Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter retire. Nevertheless, how much of an impact will this have on the people of New York?
Sports franchises, not just the Yankees, are important for a city. They generate revenue, create jobs and are instrumental in developing a city’s identity. But is Jay-Z really giving back to the city of New York? I mean, is he really investing in the community and figuring out their needs through dialogue and collaboration with community members? Is he helping to fund creative outlets for students such as after-school programs and writing centers? Or what about opening grocery stores, with fresh fruits and vegetables? It seems that Jay-Z is more concentrated on making his money and doing his thing, and this situation is a classic example of American capitalism. This is not a crime; it’s a “free” country and Jay-Z is totally allowed to do so. But while he does this, people in his community struggle to make ends meet, are marginalized and are involved with drugs and gangs.
It should be noted that Jay-Z has given large amounts of money to various charities throughout the years. For example, similar to many other celebrities he pledged one million dollars to help New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. After the 2005 storm, the city was in need of funds to assist in the rebuilding process. Hopefully, the money was put to good use, but New Orleans is just starting to make a comeback, eight years later. Ultimately, one million dollars is pocket change for Jay-Z. Cities such as New Orleans and New York need more than donations and volunteers. Instead, what is needed across the country is engagement and willingness to problem solve as a community. Fortunately, there are celebrities that practice this form of engagement.
Wendell Pierce–the New Orleans actor from David Simon’s The Wire and Treme–and a group of investors recently started and opened a grocery store franchise in New Orleans. The franchises, called “Sterling Farms,” services areas that desperately need fruits, vegetables and affordable alternatives to fast food. When there is a community without a food source, it is called a food desert. Food deserts are a serious issue and exist in Detroit, Chicago, Boston, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Atlanta (to name a few). These grocery stores are something that the community of New Orleans needed. Wendell Pierce has been there to fill the gap and provide a needed improvement to the community.
It’s not that anyone needs “help,” or charity. Instead, we need influential figures to invest in community. There is a lot of history and evidence that tell us corporations are not going to do so. This is where we have to come together with influential community members such as MC’s, artists, actors and educators to find a way to actually improve our communities. Wendell Pierce is doing this, and is attempting to provide a solution to a particular problem. I do not mean to suggest that Jay-Z or any other celebrity is responsible for single-handedly solving the world’s problems. However, considering the net-worth of the famous, it is not unreasonable to ask more of the entertainers, athletes and actors that we hold in such high regard. There are countless social, economic and political disparities that exist in our communities despite the social advances we’ve made in the past 40 years. There are, in spite of this, answers to community problems. There has to be dialogue and a willingness to solve these issues collectively. One person with money, power and privilege won’t be able to accomplish the social change we seek. There will however, be progress, by blending community, celebrity influence and collective action. As Jay-Z continues to profit from his involvement with sports franchises, video games and fashion it is imperative to ask, how will this ultimately impact the place he calls home?