Tag Archives: rap

Album of the Week: “Food & Liquor” by Lupe Fiasco

foodandliquor

Daniel’s Thought

If you can compare an artist’s debut album with any other debut album out there, Lupe Fiasco would be somewhere near what Phonte, Big Pooh and 9th Wonder did as Little Brother with Listening, or what El-P did with Fantastic Damage. These records weren’t necessarily five-mic classics, but they were a nice change from the ordinary, further pushing the hip-hop sphere of sound. With Food & Liquor, Lupe comes from Chicago’s west side to throw a variety of songs that tackle serious topics hidden underneath slippery wordplay.

The title of Lupe’s debut is a definitive way to look at life’s constant battles, with good (food) always battling evil (liquor). On “American Terrorist,” he discusses America’s history of terrorist activity (“Don’t give the black man food/ Give red man liquor“), while “Hurt Me Soul” tackles Lupe’s own struggle with hip-hop and its patriarchal stronghold. With these strong themes and topics, Lupe makes it a mission to articulate them through his own artistic vision, relaying a tangling maze of rhythm, rhymes and a clear cadence. “Kick, Push” rocks the stereo with quick-cutting rhymes about growing up, and “Sunshine” chronicles a first date under a sheath of extended metaphors and interchanging rhyming bars (“Never met her before/ But I think I like her like a metaphor/ It’s hard to get”).

Creativity dominates Food & Liquor, but there’s also a clear and straightforward message of positivity here, and with what seems to be of little effort, Lupe Fiasco delivers on his debut.

Gus’ Thought

Most people first encountered Lupe Fiasco’s high-pitched flow when he declared, “guess who’s on third?/ Lupe steal like Lupin the third” on Kanye West’s classic “Touch The Sky.” A year later, the Chicago MC would drop his debut record, Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor, and take the hip-hop world by storm. Food & Liquor is the perfect blend of personal reflection and larger social commentary, that reveals another side to hip-hop in Chicago that can be compared to the legends such as Common or Kanye in a new-age type of way.

Right from the get-go, Ayesha Jaco recites a poem layered with the sound of cars zooming by and the endless banter of men and women. It feels as though you are standing on a Chicago corner, taking in every detail. This is because Jaco illustrates the history, way of life and energy of the city corner, while also setting us up for the main idea behind much of the record. The final lines of the poem are:

“The days of Malcolm and Martin have ended/ Our hope has descended and off to the side/ Waiting for the re-installment of the revolution/ Because we are dying at the cost of our own pollution/ But God has another solution, that has evolved from the hood/ I present one who turns, the FIASCO to good.”

From there Lupe recites the opening lines to the Qu’ran and begins to tell his story in album form.

Many things make Food & Liquor a worthwhile album. For me, there are two specific aspects that make it great. First, the illustrative wordplay is engaging and makes you hang onto every syllable for fear of missing something. On the fifth track “I Gotcha,” Lupe spits:

My perfume pursued them everywhere that they went/ You don’t want a loan leave my cologne alone/ It’s a little too strong for you to be putting on/ Trust me I say this justly/ I went from musty to musky and y’all can’t mush me/ I warn y’all cornballs I Hush Puppies.”

I’m obviously not going to sit here and claim that these are the most socially “conscious” bars of all time. However, in this case, that’s not the point. Lupe demonstrates how words can be used to creatively diss people without even reverting to easy-to-use cuss words. This is just one example and there are many more throughout on tracks such as “Sunshine,” “He Say She Say” and “The Cool.”

The second aspect to this album that is great goes with the first. Through his lyrics, Lupe presents himself as a multifaceted MC that can speak to many different, and equally important topics. His Muslim faith is a huge part of his identity and you hear that. “Kick, Push,” is a commentary on boyhood, individuality, skate culture and love. “American Terrorist” problematizes the history of imperialism in the United States. On the ninth track, “Daydreamin,’” Lupe satirizes gangsta-rap culture while also shining a light on conditions in the hood. If you watch or read interviews by Lupe Fiasco, he is someone that has much to say and is known to be outspoken on a lot of different issues. As his debut album, Food & Liquor serves as an introduction into some of these thoughts and opinions as he seamlessly transitions over the course of sixteen tracks.

As an MC, Lupe reminds us of the power of words. Featured guests such as Jay-Z, Jill Scott, Gemini and Matthew Santos drop in, adding lyrical and vocal accents to the already intact work. With production from Kanye West, Prolyfic, Soundtrakk and The Neptunes, the beats add the final layer to all that has been said, sung and recited. Lupe Fiasco is referred to as an influential figure in hip-hop because of what he has done and continues to do within the culture. He has a way of mixing satire and criticism that is hard to come by. On his debut album, Lupe Fiasco’s The Food & Liquor, you can hear where some of that comes from.

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Mark Your Calendars: The Elks Lodge Summit!

Elks Lodge Photo

By: Gus Navarro

A few months back, Back Beat Magazine co-founder, Ella Campbell, organized an open jam session for instrumentalists, vocalists and MCs to play music together in a night of improvisation. Lucky for us, it’s going down all over again at the Elks Pratt Lodge in Ann Arbor, Michigan this Friday, September 19th. Featuring a quintet made up of Judson Branam IV (drums), Ella (saxophone and EWI), Olin Clark (guitar), Nathan Flanders (keys) and Endea Owens (bass), the “Elks Lodge Summit” is guaranteed to be a night of good times, jazz, hip-hop, dancing and creativity.

The night will consist of the house band getting a feel for each other as they play various jazz tunes from some of the sax greats such as John Coltrane and Joe Henderson. From there, they will transition into the portion of the night where MCs and vocalists will be invited to take part in the music making process while the band covers artists like OutKast, Slum Village, John Legend and J*Davey. One of the coolest things about this event is how jazz and hip-hop will be seamlessly mixed and mashed, creating something special.

In anticipation of this second event, we had a chance to speak with Ella about some of the details. First we asked what her thoughts were regarding the purpose of the Summit:

“Some jazz musicians love performing with emcees, and some emcees love performing with live musicians. Bringing the two groups together and creating a nurturing atmosphere for both is one of the goals. I also want to bridge the musical language and genre induced barrier between hip-hop artists and live musicians, just like they’re doing at Revive Music now and how The Roots have been since their beginning. I think that jumping right in and creating the music together is an exciting way to do that.”

Hip-hop and jazz have been connected from the first cyphers and block parties in New York City and this continues to be the case. The best thing about this event is that you will actually get a chance to hear that connection being made.

Check out the quintet covering OutKast’s “So Fresh, So Clean” as Rafael De La Ghetto and Blas FaMe trade verses.

When asked about what she is looking forward to most, Ella responded, “Elks is a place that many musicians feel comfortable testing out new material, and the audience is always receptive to whatever we throw at them. I can’t wait to see what experiments brew up this time around.”

Friday night is sure to feature a slew of killin’ tunes and a collaborative atmosphere that will be inspirational and fun to be a part of. If you’re near Ann Arbor area on Friday and are looking for a good time, come out to the Elks Pratt Lodge. It’s going down and you won’t want to miss this.

On this recording you can hear the band laying down Big Boi’s “Shutterbug” with Rafael De La Ghetto tearing it up on the mic once again.

Event Info:

Elks Pratt Lodge
220 Sunset Rd
Ann Arbor, MI 48103

Venue is cash only.
Food and drinks available.
No hats once you get inside.

To listen to more recordings from the first night, check out Ella’s Soundcloud page.

RSVP on the Facebook Event page, here. 

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Pushing Tracks: “Paradise (prod. God Level Music)” by Cam Minor

When you listen to Cam Minor, you can’t help but appreciate how stoic he is behind the mic. This isn’t to say that he’s not commanding, but that lush and laid back delivery is such a huge staple it literally defines him as the MC he is. Of course, this is a good thing. In fact, it’s why his music is so appealing. As outsiders, Cam’s songs look effortless, and with his smooth and clear flow he can sling multiple deliveries in one fell swoop.

“Paradise,” like many of the ganj-soaked hip-hop cuts before it, slowly engulfs you with an inviting tone, and the catchy production by God Level Music helps clear the song’s path to distinction. With Cam’s delivery and the rattle-ping beat, “Paradise” is all good feels and worthy of a listen.

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Pushing the Tracks: “Beefed Out” by Sacramento Knoxx

BEEFED OUT

If you follow this publication at all, you’re more than likely familiar with the work of producer/MC Sacramento Knoxx. Born and raised in Detroit, Knoxx incorporates hip-hop into his work as a community organizer and activist. For the last three months Knoxx spent time in Oakland and San Francisco, California as an artist in residence at the School of Unity and Liberation and the Arab Organizing & Resource Center.  As violence between Israel and Palestine intensified this summer, Knoxx’s work to address anti-arab racism, speaking out about the injustices of the Israeli Apartheid and teaching youth from a social justice lens became even more crucial .

Today we feature “Beefed Out,” from the recently released The Trees Will Grow Again, the culmination of Knoxx’s summer in California. As he explains:

“Beefed Out” speaks to the increased militarization of U.S. police in our communities. We call on our communities to continue fighting back and resisting state violence and repression. Understanding prisons, borders, surveillance and policing as tools of global repression is critical to building and maintaining powerful movements for liberation.”

Behind the heavy and frantic war drums of DeathStar Kic’s Dustin Haffner, Knoxx successfully sums up the plight of the hood at home and abroad. He does this with lines such as, “Feeling like I’m facing King Koopa/ They quick to shoot ya/ That violence, repression, that new old message” and “De-fund activities with the police/ War on terror, war on drugs, border security/ R U phvckin kiddin me?/ This is the land of the free.”

The entire The Trees Will Grow Again project is another reminder of how hip-hop can be to unite people and raise consciousness when used to speak on the social, political and economic platform. As events continue to unfold in the United States, the Middle East and around the globe, our hearts and minds are with those continuing to do battle against oppression.

More information, the link to the song and instrumentals, are here: http://sknoxx.bandcamp.com/track/beefed-out

This was produced along side fellow DeathStar Klic producer, Dustin Haffner. www.soundcloud.com/dhaffner

 

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Return of the G’s: Why Everyone Should See OutKast Before It’s Too Late

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Photo credit: diffuser.fm

By: Daniel Hodgman

Writer’s note: I would not have been able to experience this performance and reflect on it without the generosity and overall goodness of my close friend Marites. For that, I dedicate this piece to her.

“Some say we’re pro-black, but we professional. We missed a lot of church, so the music is our confessional” -Big Boi on “Aquemini”

In January, when 2014 was still a youngling, Andre 3000 and Big Boi came out of the woodwork, settled whatever differences they had and declared to the world that OutKast was back. When it was announced, it felt like a belated holiday present, kind of like that late gift your Uncle Stu sends in mid-January. The difference is that this announcement was better than any gift card you could have wrestled out of your mailbox. From the very get-go, this tour was meticulously plotted out (OutKast would settle on 40 festivals and events for the year) and triumphantly shared among critics and peers alike. More importantly however is that along with other anniversaries in hip-hop—among them, Nas’ Illmatic and De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising—the return of OutKast reinforced the stern fact that although hip-hop has changed and continues to change, the golden era legends never go away and are surely never forgotten.

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Album of the Week: “THE PUZZLE episode one THE BIG GAME” by Lewis Parker

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Lewis Parker
THE PUZZLE episode one THE BIG GAME
The Word Of Dusty Vinyl, 2009

Gus’ Thought

Talking specifically about hip-hop culture, the United States is a special place because it originated here. As we know, hip-hop spread all over the country, each region incorporating its own particular flavor and style to the mix. At this point hip-hop is a phenomenon that has taken the world by storm. Being in the United States, we get to enjoy all the artists (good and bad) that come from the birthplace of the culture. This means it can be difficult to branch out and hear sounds that come from different places. If you are in search of some hip-hop from outside the United States, check out British producer/MC Lewis Parker.

From 2011, Parker’s The Puzzle (Episode One): The Big Game is brimming with British bravado. From a production standpoint, Parker’s work here feels complete. Nothing was left out and it captures his style, just how he intended. From song to song, the music swells with horns blowing full out, guitars strumming on the low end, energetic drum loops and woodwinds that are perfectly layered on top. Tracks such as “Man Up,” “Dirty Money” and “The Big Gamble” all incorporate these elements, giving the album a feeling of retro, cinematic grittiness that would be in line with your favorite 007 film starring Sean Connery. This secret agent aura is only reinforced with the lyricism of each track. As Parker spits on “Say It’s Just A Game,” “Ain’t nothin’ changin’ with that/ Countin’ the cash stack, having a flashback/ Thinkin,’ ‘Damn, wish she had my back’/ Up in the club/ Cool cat, tilted hat.”

In the end, Parker’s smooth sound permeates throughout the entire record. It’s sleek, sophisticated and most importantly; suave. However, the thing I love about The Puzzle (Episode One): The Big Game is that it sounds different than most of what you’ll hear coming across the hip-hop airwaves in the United States. It’s always good to try new things and in this case, the music of Lewis Parker is a very good thing indeed.

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Experiments in Hip-Hop Part One

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By: Justin Cook

The aesthetic of hip-hop is ever-changing—it in and of itself is a global experiment, living and breathing through a million MC’s. That’s what made this a difficult article to write. Originally, I set out to track the history and evolution of “experimental” hip-hop music. I soon found almost all artists worth fucking with challenge the industry in their own way, and it’s difficult to define what exactly “experimental” hip-hop is. Artists have experimented lyrically and sonically with hip-hop since its inception on the streets of New York. Some do this through live instrumentation, psychedelic/electronic beats or tempo changes. Others do it through interludes, elaborate transitions or by simply being a member of the LGBTQ community. In this day and age if you’re not a Top 40 rapper, you will probably be labeled as “experimental” or “alternative.” So I came up with a compromise. I’m going to highlight some of my favorite scientists of sound, who continually push hip-hop music into the outer dimensions, and break down what makes them so incredible.

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Bonus Cut Presents: An Interview With Lansing Hip-Hop Artist and Educator Ess Be

EssBe pic 3

By: Gus Navarro

The first time I met Ess Be, I thought he was a rapper. This was at the ULITT Conference at Michigan State University back in March and he was participating in a cypher workshop led by the incomparable Toni Blackman. His rhymes were on point and to be quite honest, I didn’t know any better. As it turns out, he is in fact a producer and member of the Lansing-based hip-hop collective, All Of The Above (AOTA), and a recent signee to illect Recordings. Although he has been making beats for over ten years, you probably haven’t heard of Ess Be unless you’re aware of what’s going down hip-hop wise in the Lansing area. This is because he just recently released Bag Fries, his first official instrumental project. Spanning only seven tracks, Bag Fries is a project that demonstrates his varying production styles and abilities.

Not only is Ess Be a good producer, he is a great person that is passionate about music and developing his craft. In this interview he speaks about playing pots and pans as a young one and the moment when he first picked up a pair of drumsticks. From there we learn about the beginnings of his hip-hop production, something that he would come to work on obsessively, locked away in his room for hours on end. Bag Fries is the result of the work he’s put in over time and is something that he can bring back to the students he teaches at AOTA. It was a pleasure to sit down and talk about Bag Fries, hip-hop culture and Fruity Loops. With more music on the way in 2015, stay tuned to what Ess Be has in coming down the pipeline.

Podcast

Listen to Bag Fries here

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