Tag Archives: hip hop

Confession of a Nas fan: “Ether” vs “Takeover”

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Off rip, I need to  offer a disclaimer: in my debatable opinion, Nas is the G.O.A.T, almost divine from my point of view. His sophmore album, “It Was Written” may be my favorite album of all time. His second effort was laced with cuts like “Take it in blood”, “Shootouts” and “The Message”, which showed an elevation in his artistry in comparison to his immortal debut “Illmatic”. From Nas’ fashion sense, to his writing ability, all the way down to his mystique when dealing with some of the baddest women on the planet, the “only one Sade dated” has been an inspirtation to me in more ways than one. However, my admiration for Nas and opinion on the Jay/Nas feud creates quite the juxtaposition. With that said, I digress…

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In the darker years of Nas legendary career, circa 1998 to 2000, Jay-Z’s career really started to take off after going platinum 5 times over with his “Hard Knock Life” album. Up to this point, Nas was undoubtedly the  city’s golden pen, but the ink was running dry for Esco and the support seemed to shift in the direction of Hov. There was silent tension since the inception of Jay’s career, and escalated after the departure of B.I.G because it gave way to the King-Of-New-York conversation. Some will say Nas threw the first dart all the way back in 1996 on “The Message” when he said “Lex with tv sets the minimum”, after Jay was seen driving a lex, with tv sets, in a few of his early videos. That’s neither here, nor there. Some will also say it all started because of a proceeding subliminal exchange between Nas and Jay’s shooter, Memphis bleek, in 1999. 

“Ima ball til I fall what you think of that?”-Memphis Bleek (“What you think of that?”)

Re: “you wanna ball til you fall? I could help you with that”- Nas (“Nastradamus”)

Re: “ya lifestyle written, who you tryna be? Play your position” – Memphis Bleek (“Mind Right”)

Once again, that’s neither here, nor there. All the subs, resentments and tension would have it’s cover blown with one subtle line on that Hot 97 Summer Jam stage, in 2001. Hov used the platform to debut, what was really a Mobb Deep diss: “Takeover”. However, what caught the ears of the city wasn’t his jabs about Prodigy’s credibility or height, it was the line that ended the song: “Y’all niggas don’t want it with Hov, ask Nas, he don’t want it with Hov”. It is said that Nas was reluctant to respond because, despite Jay’s success, he didn’t believe the Brooklynite was on his level. Thankfully, Nas had some honest people around him, who put him on game and said in so many words “regardless what you believe, this is the dude right now, if you don’t respond, it’s over”.

jay bleek

Nas initial response was “H to the omo” or the “stillmatic freestyle”. This was a flex in lyrical superiority over the break-beat from Dennis Edward’s “Don’t look any further”, popularized in the hip hop world by Eric B & Rakim’s “Paid in full” . Nas threw more than a few not-so-subliminal lines towards Hov, even calling him the rapper version of Sisqo, which un-intentionally made the Dru-hill singer the standard for soft in the rap world. The response was enough to make Hov go back to the lab to add an additional verse to “Takeover” solely aimed for Nas dome piece like Jerome’s niece coming from Jones Beach.

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The additional verse was all types of disrespectful and attacked Nas from every angle. Jay picked at his artistic and street credibility, and ended the verse by subliminally referencing that he fucked Nas baby mother, Carmen Bryan, who later used it to her advantage and made a tell-all book about it. It seemed quiet for Nas after that. Lo and behold, 6 months later, Nas drops “Ether” which is almost seen as the awakening of the beast, the resurrection and a far cry from records like “You owe me”. Nas also took it to record levels of disrespect and mockery, referencing him swagger-jacking Biggies style, his Hawaiian sophie days and made room to call him a “tae-bo hoe”.

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With everyone waiting for a response from Jay, he dropped a sub-par diss track “Super ugly” which just seemed like he was trying to be more disrespectful than creative. Nas’ biggest advantage, at this point, was representing the underdog . The game almost-unanimously labeled Nas the victor in this match of the titans. But here’s where the confession comes in, even as a Nas stan, I feel Jay won.

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There are a number of reasons why a lot of people feel that Jay lost. One, they didn’t expect anything from Nas at that point in his career, but he came out like a bear from hibernation. Two, Jay responded with  “super-ugly”, which gave room for general perception to compare a weaker response to “Ether”, rather than pinning it against “Takeover”. Three, “Ether” became a verb for shitting on people after Nas dropped it. However, outside of the moment and in retrospect, Jay came with more fact and “Ether” seemed more like a game of dozens.  Nas clowned Jay, attacking his physical misfortune, homosexual references, unrealistic threats. Nas also criticized him for taking from Big, which could also be considered Jay paying homage to a fallen friend. What could be the most potent and transcending critique in “Ether” was about Eminem “murdering” Hov on “Renegade”, which gave birth to barbershop analysts everywhere debating verses on any track which featured two or more prominent spitters. In contrast: Jay, being sharp in the art of war, played on the collective’s opinion of Nas at the time. Though a Nas fan such as myself doesn’t agree that he never lived up to the potential of “Illmatic”, there is a large amount of hip hop fans who feel that way. Jay also pointed out instances like the questionable “Karl Kani” ads and “oochie wally” appearances. Hov shot at Nas with facts, for the most part he avoided joking and bullshit threats. Here are some of the jabs Hov dropped that Nas should’ve addressed:

  1. He attacked “oochie wally”: Another questionable move on Nas behalf and is almost cringe worthy to listen to Nas stretch for fame in that fashion until this day.
  2. “I showed you your first tec, on tour with Large Professor, then I heard your album about the tec on the dresser”: this line would just be another aimless jab of credibility from Jay, but Large Professor spoke on this as well.
  3. “So yeah I sampled your voice…you ain’t get a coin, nigga, you was gettin fucked then/ I know who I paid, God- Serchlite publishing”: attacking Nas on a business-level and him getting duked out of money by bad contractual terms. Serch did say that there was some fact to this on “The Champs” podcast, though that wasn’t the name of his publishing company at the time.
  4. “You’ve been in this 10, I been in it 5- smarten up, Nas”: From a level of progression, Nas was not where he was supposed to be with the sub-par “Nastradamus” and the good (but not IWW/Illmatic level) “I AM”, he wasn’t where most would’ve thought judging from how the queensbridge emcee shot out the gate. In the meantime, Jay was going no-where but up.
  5. “Because you know who-did you know what-with you know who”: Jay referencing the more-than-alleged sexual encounter with the mother of Nas first born. Super disrespectful and confirmed.

So yeah, as a fan of fact-based personal attack, I feel Jay took this battle. Regardless of what your opinion is, we can all agree: this is one of the best back-and-forths hip hop as ever seen. The kings clashed and kept it on wax. They provided pure entertainment and classic material, that we still talk about nearly 15 years later.

As I stated in my disclaimer, Nas is still my favorite emcee of all time. He was 2 top 5 albums for me (IWW & Illmatic), while Jay only has one (Reasonable Doubt). As he stated on “Ether” he did influence a whole generation of rappers and reigned as the cream of the crop, in an era of hip hop when your pen had to be sharp to survive. Though Nas has had his inconsistencies, he’s always managed to bounce back and he proved that with his 2012 album “Life Is Good”, the moet-drinking-marajuana-smoking- street dweller can still do it, regardless of where he’s at in life.

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Sidebar: The beat to “Ether” was awful.

Sidebar II: If you say Jay won, on the basis of Nas signing to Def Jam, you’re a corn.

 

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Under-appreciated Greatness Vol. II: Yeah, Joe Budden is a legend.

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While some of you are ready to lose your mind, peep…

Budden came up in the last era of hip hop when bars were a necessity in route to respect. Joey stepped on the scene circa 2001-2002, the beginning of what is commonly  referred to as the “mixtape” or “punchline” era along side the likes of 50 cent, Lloyd Banks, Young BuckCassidyFabolous, the Dipset movement, to name a few. Seasoned players like Beanie Sigel, Cam’RonJadakiss, and Styles P, who were in the game for a little while, were beginning to flourish as well. This was a point in time when hip hop was changing, dudes were at eachother’s neck, turning interviews at radio stations to battlegrounds. The game was left to the wolves, whether it was Desert Storm (DJ Clue, Joe, Fab, etc), D-Block, State Property, G-Unit or The Diplomats, everyone had a team of lethal pens. Joey not only survived the times, but established himself as one of the more prominent spitters of the early to mid 2000s (hence why he’s still here almost 15 years later). He had one of the biggest hits of 2003, with “Pump it up”, which could have been a gift and curse, but that’s neither here nor there. The success he achieved in the mixtape circuit is what ultimately has defined his legacy. His “Mood Muzik” tapes, were a 4 part series that felt like it was being recorded from a psychiatrist’s couch more than a booth. The tapes were not only critically accalimed in the underground market, it also helped establish a “Joe Budden” brand, carving out his own lane of heavy-hearted and honest hip hop that you’d be hard pressed to find in any of his predecessors.

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To some of you, who didn’t really expereince the early 2000s and may only be conscious of  Drake-era hip hop (2009-current), being an emotional rapper may not seem to be anything special to you because you see it everywhere. Hip hop was once a genre based on the alpha-male and self-boasting bravado, where any type of vulnerability or fear was blood in the water to the sharks, and it could be the end of the road for a rapper. Regardless of the fact, Joe fearlessly turned inside-out, letting you into his personal space and speaking on everything from his relationship with a distant son, hatred for his baby mother, and detailed accounts of his trial and error with women, friends and family. He went into the depth of his personal demons and the likes of depression, drug addiction and suicidal thoughts more vividly than the game has ever seen. Joe Budden made it okay to be human in hip hop. Whether it was done purposely or not, this type of content helped him relate on an elevated level with listeners and gained him his cult-following.

joe early

Building even more of a personal relationship with his following, Joe was one of the first people who noticed how important the internet and “visual” accesibility was, via vlogs and youtube. Now-a-days, its a regular marketing practice. Every artist  seems to have a vlog now, because they become more “human” and tangible when fans can see their favorite artist’s activities. In the years proceeding JoeBuddentv, an artist would never let their following look in that close, in fear that it would compromise their still-on-the-corner / superthug image that they were upholding. JoeBuddenTV documented any and everything from his relationship with Tahiry (and arguments), issues with fellow Jersey-native Ransom, one of the first interviews with Drake, or just a game of monoply.

joe budden relationship

Of course that level of openness wasn’t only in regards to his own depth and personal life, he was never shy about his opinions on others. Joe Budden’s name is synonymous with rap beef, which is something that may have overshadowed his true talent. He has battled with Sean Price live on Hot 97 (& lost miserably, Rest In Peace SeanP!) and subliminally but not-so-subliminally battled Jay-Z on record after Hov tried juxing Joe for the Just Blaze produced “Pump it up” track (it became the “Pump it up” remix). Aside from that, he’s beefed with damn near everyone you can think of, from the likes of Saigon to the legendary tier of the Wu-Tang clan. Oh yeah, and Def Jam as a whole got it too (The Growth album?). Though a lot of these situations made for some classic records, they’ve also left a bad taste in the mouths of hip hop listeners and his piers alike.

joe beef 2(Copyright: Complex)

The reason why it may be tough to recognize how important Joe Budden is to hip hop, is because of unnecessary and immature antics that may have come from an honest place, but developed into a stigma on the Joe Budden brand. His unapologetic frankness, which is admirable to some (me), may have also stopped potential-fans at the door before even giving him a chance. Instances like calling out Method Man in an unnecessary fashion (also documented on JoeBuddenTv) made him seem disrespectful and wreckless. Of course, him popping up on Ustream with an icebag over his eye after  Raekwon’s people reacted, didn’t help much, either. It’s these “when-keeping-it-real-goes-wrong” impulses that have grown legs of their own and make some room to slight the Jersey emcee, regardless of his catalog and ability to push a pen.

joe budden beef

On a more personal level, his romantic-endeavors with well-sculpted Latinas were always on display for the court of public opinion. Though he’s given celebrity and careers to a lot of his ex-partners, the element of publicity in a personal relationship can turn on you, especially when there’s an ugly demise involved. There’s a trail of women, longer than any public assitance line, ready to drag Joe Budden’s name through the mud with accusations of domestic abuse, which is tough on public relations. Throw that in the pot with his denim vest collection on VH1’s “Love & Hip Hop” and the marriage prosposal gone wrong that made him the butt of memes all throughout IG, and you have a lot of distraction surrounding his actual wins.

marriage

The open book that us Budden fans love him to be, has also made him a target and has given plenty of excuses to not recognize his caliber of artistry. All the controversy in the world, from verbal intercourse with the competition to his personal pitfalls, as well as the cliche “one hit wonder” claims, and Mr. Jumpoff Joe Budden has survived it all and remains a lot more relevant than most of his classmates (except Fab), 12 years later. The branch of emotion-driven hip-hop that he’s opened has had a major influence, whether directly or indirectly. The influence resonates with some of the biggest stars of today (He had Drake on JoeBuddetv in ’09). When the controversy quiets and all the claims against him become warn out, all you’ll have is his body of work. Remember, you can’t trust anything without a darkside…

joe

SideBar: All Love Lost 10/16 

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The Dame Dash Enlightenment

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“I’m the bad guy to the bad guys”

Dame Dash is defined differently depending on your age group and era. You may know him for playing his pivatol role in Roc-A-Fella records side-by-side with Hov, you may know him for verbally assaulting business executives, or you may be unfamiliar all together due to his nearly-decade-long absence from the spotlight. In recent times, Dame Dash has been reborn again, he’s become the symbol for modern-day independence, a business man with his mind on just that, his own business (Fuck being a chatty-patty).

dame 3

Dame’s recent campaign started in 2013. The first chapter of his resurgence was based in calling out people, who he labeled to be “culture vultures”. This term was directed at those, who he felt had no genuine interest in the culture, except for the dollar, who were pimping young artists with aspirations of being in hip hop. He accused people such as Lyor Cohen (Of Def Jam), Joie Manda (Of Interscope), among other higher ups in the music industry, of being white collar crooks. He accused Cohen of inventing the infamous 360 deal, which is the closest the music business can come to slavery. For those who may be unfamiliar with what a 360 deal actually is, it’s the music label offering finances for touring, marketing and promotion (etc.), in exchange for ownership of pretty much every aspect of an artist’s income (might even tell them how to dress and talk. no bullshit). Dame’s side of the story holds weight, due to the fact that he’s seen it from the inside and he’s personally witnessed the sheisty methods of the music industry and it’s most powerful pawns. He used his history and experience in the game, to fuel his jewel-filled rant. His argument made even more sense in the age of the internet. Considering the fact that the internet offers a straight to consumer business model, which essentially cuts out the middle-man. Point being, there is no reason to pay, in the way artist’s have been paying, for major label services. The major labels are slowly becoming a dinosaur, as Dame said, the executives will tell you differently but it’s only because that’s their means of survival. The anti-major label route is becoming more popular in this era, as you see many artists who flourished courtesy of an independent grind (I.e. Asap Rocky, Troy Ave). People like The Lox, 50 cent and Prodigy (of mobb deep), who’ve all been a part of major labels, have opted to go independent.This segwayed perfectly into his next chapter, which is what I call the “Be your own boss” segment.

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Since his exposure of “Culture vultures”, Dash has not at all been shy about publically denouncing dirty business people’s tactics on platforms like Sway in the morning, and YouTube channels belonging to the well-educated, Dr. Boyce Watkins, as well as the “Hip Hop motivation” channel. But the most loved, hated, impactful and controversial appearance was that on New York radio-station Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club. The Harlem native spoke candidly about the beauty of independence, building your own brand and putting your own money in the street. He attacked those willing to settle for anything less than ownership and working for yourself, even making examples out of those in the room such as the legendary DJ Envy. A key point in Dame’s perspective was “Hustle for your last name, not your first”, which can be interpreted as taking financial risks and stepping out of the comfort of a 9-to-5, so you have an opportunity to indulge in generational prosperity. His criticism’s towards the every day working man or woman, was that they were selfish for not taking these chances and not thinking enough about the future of their children. He also accused the average employee of being too comfortable in the security of a “job” & too submissive to another individual, claiming that calling someone else your “boss”, is like calling them your “daddy”. He sprinkled metaphors from his drug dealing days in comparison to the “legitimate” work world, to put things in perspective for those who may live like he did in his past. Of course, none of his argument has any substance, unless it is backed with evidence. Dame decorated the interview with boastful claims of his own endeavors, beyond music, into the world of movie production, fashion, art and even oil, demanding he be called a “Tycoon” and not a mogul.  The delivery of the argument may have seemed harsh and even offensive due to him poking fun at working people, such as most of us, but it’s a reality check.

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If anyone knows their history, Dame Dash’s approach was similar to that of Karl Marx. Marx is a well-renowned socialist, among many other accolades. Throughout the mid-to-late 1800s, Karl Marx bashed the system of capitalism and the idea of working for someone else. Marx stated that working in a pyramid stucture under a “boss” alienates you from yourself and molds you into someone who is working towards another person’s dream instead of your own. Marx stated that the workers will stay workers and the bosses will stay bosses, because they are both necessary in the economic system. Furthermore, Marx claimed that managers and bosses will sell you a dream of mobility, to keep you content with being a worker, but made it clear that you’re never really moving up in the world unless you gain ownership. This is Dame’s point, exactly.

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Like most awakenings in our history, his sentiments were polarizing. Some saw the message underneath Dame’s rough-around-the-edges persona. Opposition saw it as insulting and ignorant, saying “there’s nothing wrong with working for a boss and a normal job”, which is a subjective argument and really based on personality. Instagram lit up with snarky memes exaggerating Dash’s “self-reliant” point of view, some of which, were hysterical too. The point of this piece isn’t to bash critics of Dame Dash’s perspective, but more so to say, that Dame Dash wasn’t wrong either. He has accolades and business ventures to prove his point. The only gap in between the every-day working person (such as myself) and ownership is often a lack of belief in their own ability, or fear. The fear of taking the risks necessary and the haunting doubt that’s telling us: “what if you take these risks, and it still doesn’t work?”, this is a defining question and the answer varies, depending on the individual. If you love your job and your boss, more power to you, I respect it. At the same time, if you have aspirations to be your own boss, there is opportunity out here and likeminded people (such as myself) who you should surround yourself with.

dame cam

Dame’s argument may have been fueled by criticisms of others but the foundation was empowerment of the individual. The man wasn’t saying you “can’t” become your own boss, but enticingly saying that you “won’t” because you’re afraid too. He used the critiques and jagged-edged jokes as a vehicle of tough love to wake us up as a people. In my humble opinion, I don’t believe he was talking to everyone, he’s probably intelligent enough to know his message won’t resonate with an older generation whose long been settled into their job. I believe he was talking to the individuals with time on their side, who, in their heart want to work off their own interest,on their own schedule and are only opposed by self-doubt. Dame is pushing for a different model of business for the future and if you can’t see the diamond in the rough, that’s on you fam.

dame final

Side-Bar: Harlem sticks together.

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Uptown Baby: Bodega Bamz X The Martinez Bros “Sunday Service” EP review

Bodega Bamz and the Martinez Brothers Sunday Service

Artist: Bodega Bamz X The Martinez Bros

Project: “Sunday Service”

Stand-out tracks: “Going to DR”, “Fuck Dat Shit” & “Bam Bam”

P’s feel: 7/10

The EP starts off with a sample of 1970’s “The Cross and the Switchblade”, where the narrator states ” If the story you are about to see were a product of a writers imagination, you might label it unbelievable, but these events actually took place on the streets and alleys and the tenements where we filmed them“. This introduction was strategically placed as a segway for Bodega Bamz to detail some more of his own personal experiences and East Harlem tales. This project speaks to the elevation in Bodega Bamz artistry and shows him flexing more creative muscle in comparison to it’s predecessor, 2013’s “Strictly 4 My P.A.P.I.Z“. This couldn’t be possbile without the cinematic and sample heavy production of The Martinez Bros. From the 70’s movie samples on the interludes which were carefully positioned to thread the needle and keep the concept going, to the sampling of classics for the Spanish Harlem emcee to rhyme over. There’s a great deal of artistic chemistry between the production duo and Bamz, as the Martinez Bros work as architects to build a backdrop which also serves as an ode to everything that inspired and sparked a creative fuse for the Domo-Rican spitter. For instance, the slightly more raw sampling of Sylvia Striplin’s “You can’t turn me away” on track number 6 “Fire“, which was also Junior Mafia’s “Get money” sample. To do the track justice, Bamz channels his Biggie-reminiscent flow and even throws the previously unheard-of-artist Bonnie B on the song, who serves as the Lil’ Kim and female adversary. On the high power “93 Acura Legend”, you can feel an adrenaline rush as it opens up with the same trumpet glissando (or whistle-like sound), from Public Enemy’s classic “Rebel without a pause”. In the spirit of Chuck D & Flavor Flav, Bamz attacks the track agressively sending shots to anyone and everyone that believed he would never resurface after his last mixtape effort. On track 8, “12 Am in the stu“, The Martinez Bros flip Incredible Bongo Band’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”, which is the same sample used on Nas’ “Thiefs Theme” and “Hip Hop Is Dead”. The TanBoyz captain opens the track up appropriately stating:

“This that, ghost of Biggie Smalls, ghost of Terror Squad,

Ghost of Wu-Tang, can’t forget the Double ‘R’,

Ghost of Big L, Ghost of Rakim,

Ghost of New York, We the newest ones in charge”

In contrast to the classic hip hop records that were flipped, on “Bam Bam” the Martinez Bros and Bodega Bamz also boldly took on Sister Nancy’s song of the same name, which is one of the bookmarks in Reggae’s legend and can be heard at damn near any Jamaican club or West Indian festival to this day. If you’re from any of the 5 Boroughs or even Long Island, you know that Reggae has almost the same impact on our city as hip hop does, so it would be wrong if the EP was paying tribute to all the sounds of the city and not include at least one dancehall or Reggae classic. Another noteworthy instance of Bamz representing what he came from, was on the stand-out track “Going To DR”, in which he cleverly merges the Busta Rhyme’s “Put ya hands” flow, with seemingly Q-Tip-influenced verses over the drum-knocking production. To add to the retro-feel of the project, Raekwon appears  steals the spotlight on the riot-inducing “Fuck Dat Shit”, with a vintage verse.“Whats good? We swallow these niggas, lobby killers posin’ in stingray air forces, bombs that body niggas, Rae states over the electrifying-boom-bap-reminiscent track. Not to mention Lex Diamonds does some of his classic shit talking, reminiscent of his features on The Cocoa Brovas “Black trump”, Pun’s “Firewater” and Mobb Deeps “Eye for an Eye”. As far as legends and inspirational hip hop artist go, there is not many with the longevity and stripes of The Chef. Another undercurrent of this project, aside from paying homage, is the Uptown representative’s transitional phase from an up & coming artist to a young star in the game. Though he does not have the starpower of his ASAP Mob counterparts (yet), he’s also not the same artist notoriety-wise that he was when he dropped “Strictly 4 My P.A.P.I.Z”. That’s why this EP has such a contrast, a nostalgic but progessive feel. This is the revelation, the realization of his own potential for Bodega Bamz. It’s a man whose in a state of reflection and perseverance, almost at a disbelief of what he’s achieved thus far because of the struggle he’s come from. On several tracks he speaks about this new-found fame, but “Going To DR”, he speaks about it most potently:

“Sleepin’ with dirty pistols, my life’s still the same,

maybe I’m scared, maybe I’m lovin’ all the fame,

mentally stable but everyday I’m getting crazy,

tell these bitches I love ’em, even promise them my baby,

guess what I’m saying I got a curse and a gift,

the gift is to give back, the curse is getting rich”

Even on the horn-heavy, slow-tempo “A Night In Rao’s”, he gives off the elegant-mobster side of his artist, speaking on the high-end diet of shrimp linguine and lobster. Even when Bamz is getting a little bougie on us, he still throws in a dose of where he came from:

“I’m where they call me by my christian name,

‘How the family doin’?, How you feel about your fame?’

meng, if I wanted a cheap convo,

I order take-out, chicekn lomein”

This is the growth of Mr. Bodega Bamz, and off the strength of his passion alone, there’s more heights to be reached for the halfDominican-half Boricua artist.

“Sunday Service” is a good look and a glimmer of hope for the sound of the New, New York era. The Martinez Bros and Bodega Bamz managed to produce something that articulates their inspiration aritistically, slightly nostalgic, but is still a fresh-new wave. The project doesn’t seem like a dated piece of work, it’s not the cliche “Lets bring real hip hop back” sound, despite the samples they used. This 3 man team showed their creative evolution making a completely cohesive project detailing the intersection between looking back and moving forward. In comparison to “Strictly 4 my P.A.P.I.Z”, the two projects are nothing alike. On his debut, Bamz sound was more new-age, ASAP Harlem sounding with the 808’s, subtle-Houston influence with a New York edge. On this project, the feel is more soulful and it carries the same vibe that the 70’s flicks captured on the interludes. The only similarity between the two projects, is that it represents the underdog story, just at different stages. If we were to compare it to another classic underdog story such as “Scarface“, Bamz first effort would represent Tony Montana as the dishwasher, still trying to figure out how he was going to make it in America, just as the East Harlem rapper was trying to find his place in the game on his 2013 release.  “Sunday Service“, would be the next step up, this is when Tony first meets with Frank Lopez and they begin to talk about bigger money,when Tony begins to realize the spoils of the lifestyle. It’s not quite the pinnacle but its not the gutter either, this is Bamz and The Martinez Brothers finding their lane. This time around is different, Bodega Bamz gives a better narrative on this project and it’s more intricate content-wise. I hope to see more collaborative efforts between the Martinez Bros and The Spanish Harlem rep, so they can continue to brand their sound.

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Get Over It: The New, New York (Part 4): The Boogie Down

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Name: Fred The Godson

Stomping Grounds: The South Bronx

Breakout Year: 2011

Standout Project: “City Of God” (2011)

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I know the fans listen
From the hood to Hollywood; it’s a transition
Face under my hood, just like a transmission
Grams to ambition; I recall re’n-up and a gram missin’
Mom Christian; father was a black spade
Uncle funeral parlor cause of a black gauge
I rap, I’m paid, and they well jealous
They almost got me, I shot three, Dale Ellis” (“Throwdown” W/ Styles P & Trae Tha Truth)

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From the land of Big Pun, hails a relatively known but unknown gem spitter, Fred The Godson (Frederico!). To be honest, after co-signs and features courtesy of everyone from Raekwon to Puff Daddy (didn’t he just change his name back?), and a Gangsta Grillz, DJ Drama hosted mixtape, I’m not quite sure why this kid from the Bronx still hasn’t gotten his just-due. If you’ve yet to delve into the man’s catalog, you might want to keep a finger as close as possible to rewind, and have something that helps slow everything down for you, whether it be a blunt, a Xanax or that purple shit with the jolly ranchers at the bottom. Fred’s style is defined by his ambiguous metaphors, double (maybe triple, maybe quadruple) entendres and one-of-one wordplay, but he’s not the punchline rapper per se (though he could do that too). His metaphors are on top of metaphors, more reminiscent of Jay in his prime with the layered, almost scientifically nit together lyrics that are not nearly as mundane, typical or easy to unravel as the average “Like” or “as” simile punchline flow. Put it this way, the man basically speaks in codes, out of a 16 bar verse, you may catch 4-8 bars on the first listen (maybe 2, depending on how aged of a hip hop listener you are). A project from the X representative is sure to have plenty of those pause-to-think-then-“Ohh shit!” moments, that make you feel like you’ve accomplished something in life for even understanding the lyric. Fred The God is aware of his wit, and understands that not everyone will be able to keep up, so he’ll even get generous and spell it out at times, for example:

“Switch flows, I went over your head
I was told that it was over for Fred
Like Peyton; now they pay ’em side-by-side, collateral
Get it? When you’re side-by-side you could lateral” – (“FatBoy Fresh Intro”) (2014)

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Though his wittiness and deep metaphors are what he’s mainly known for, it’s not his only avenue. Fred is also good for those bangers. those speaker rattling drums and baseline that could knock the kit off a cheap Honda, underneath some next sounding synthesizer (Check “Headbanger” w/ Vado or “Quarter Past 3” for a couple pieces of evidence). Aside from that, Frederico also has the ability to articulate personal life and get in-tune on some soulful ish. If that feel-it-in-the-gut (pause) real shit, is your style, you might want to check Fred’s “Contraband” (2013) tape, which was mainly handled by the legendary Heatmakerz behind the boards. “Contraband” is the project that establishes Fred as not only a rapper with bars, or the ability to dress the street life up in slick metaphors, but also as an artist with a deeper level of substance and content. Most rapper’s who channel a more emotional side for records, will sacrifice their lyrical ability to get a feeling across, while Fred finds a balance even at his most soulful.

This old head was just stopping by
Said I made a difference, I never knew I ever stopped to try
He referred to the years that he watched me cry
Now my watch just make him wanna watch and cry
This is real shit it’s for my man
His little sister got killed shit, shit we had to deal with
So fuck these labels, and fuck who I gotta deal with
Just let these rappers know I’m a problem they gotta deal with” (“Alpha“)(2013)

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To better understand Fred The Godson, he dishes out “Sessions” on YouTube, in which he spits certain verses acapella, in hopes that it will be easier to grasp for even the most average of listener, class in session. When he’s not doing that, he’s destroying-and-rebuilding someone else’s shit, almost as a marketing scheme for himself. Whether it be something of Drake’s (“Draft Day“), or Jay’s (“Picasso Baby“), any trending-but-dope piece of production can get it. Gordo (another one of his AKA’s) has mainstream appeal, but may just be a little too clever for his own good. Listeners these days are used to being spoon fed and when someone is too hard to understand, they just give up and listen to someone like Trinidad James (No disrespect), Dr.Seuss simple on a club shaking beat. That’s why you really have to respect someone like Jay-Z, whose mastered the art of complex simplicity, hiding the real meaning of a metaphor under a strategically pieced together, more simplistic bar. That’s how you appeal to the average listener, and the avid hip hop fan all at the same damn time, and Fred is smart enough to find his place in that lane. All I’m saying is if you have appreciation for the craft, give the BX native a listen…

Sidebar: Fred The Godson, once just went by the name “Fred”, untill his doctor, who didn’t believe he could successfully put on a show with severe asthma and kidney issues, went to see him and realized he could perform flawlessly regardless. She told him that he’s like the son of God up there, hence “the Godson”, cool story bro.

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                                                                                         Honorable mention from the X: The Kid Daytona

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Mainstream Vs. Underground: Mobility being a crime in hip hop.

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In a 7 minute long freestyle aside Big L, Jay-Z once rapped “I’ll raise hell, ’til its heaven”. Which is essentially what he did, coming from Marcy housing projects and moving his way up to having a partnership with Barneys among other business endeavors and plenty of platinum plaques. Jay-Z’s reign is unlike any we’ve seen in hip hop, still being just as relevant as he was when his break through “In My Lifetime Vol. II: Hard Knock Life” album came out in 1998. You would think that this is what all people who come from a background like Jay would aspire to do, however he comes under heavy heat for his success. Jay is labeled as “watered down”, a “sell out”, accused of compromising artistic value for finance. Of course, there are people who praise Jay-Z for what he has made of himself, but a lot of people from neighborhoods just like the one in which he came from, and people who were riding with Jay through his early work just look at him as an uncle Tom. Is it just a manifestation of jealousy and the crabs in the barrel mentality? or is there solid reason for this claim?, it’s a matter of opinion really. Some people may love Jay’s last effort with his Magna Carta album this past summer, while most fans of Reasonable Doubt Jay-Z can’t stand to listen to it. Though I’ve used Jay-Z as the example, he’s not the only one, this has been a trend in hip hop for as long as its been around. The mentality of attaching negativity to “going mainstream” may just be a reflection of the general attitude towards success in these neighborhoods where so many of these rappers come from. People like MC Hammer and Vanilla ice were the sacrificial lambs of hip hop, because though they were never accepted as real artists in thorough hip hop circles, they were the friendly guys who mainstream America could accept a little more, thus expanding hip hop. It opened hip hop to markets, that an N.W.A or a Public Enemy would never get in, just off the basis of fear of outside communities. Hammer and Vanilla Ice were completely cut off from the hip hop community, wrote off as pop trash (cue “pop goes da weasel”). Both selling millions on top of millions of records and bringing hip hop into houses it never was before, a more broad commercial success, but most hip hop fans laugh at them and make the two emcees as standards for being corny, ignoring the fact that they did make a contribution to hip hop. Not all rappers had to take the route of holding their sentiment to sell more records. Those who successfully managed to get across the views of the ‘hood and gain fame were viewed as superheroes, but their success came with a cost and possibly threatened the expansion of the art because of it’s negative and threatening stigma.

MC Hammer ... taking on You Tube

The way a lot of us hip hop fans see it, the way you’re supposed to gain more broad exposure is by kicking the door down, not with knocking politely hoping to being let in. N.W.A, is a prime example, coming out and gaining national exposure with songs like “straight outta Compton” and “Fuck Da Police”, songs that reflected the hostility and anger that lived where they came from, every rebel identified with it, even from suburban communities. Though the rebellious spirit in early hip hop was met with a lot of resistance, as they say “no press is bad press”. Hip hop was gaining national attention because of their take-no-shit, sick-and-tired, alpha male & misogynistic themes. Some would argue, though this negativity brought hip hop to an international level, it was also overshadowing the actual art of the music and hurting it’s chances of being sold in certain locations and being seen as a risk for people who were interested in investing. Record labels began taking heed to the fact that hip hop acts being so loud about the message may hurt the companies money,  and started to reflect that on to their artists. Despite the corporations efforts there were still labels like Cold Chillin’ Records (Kool G Rap), Loud Records (Wu Tang, Mobb deep, Big Pun etc), & Rawkus (Black Star), which generated what is considered to be “Real Hip Hop”. However, signing a deal with a label that may offer more broad and commercial appeal such as Columbia or Bad Boy, was viewed as something that could put even the most revered rapper’s career in jeopardy, reputation wise. Though it’s not even a stain the rapper’s legacy at this point, at the point in which Nas decided to strive for a little more commercial success, he was attacked for it. The “second coming of Rakim’s” first album, “Illmatic” was naturally accepted as a thoroughbred, hip hop by definition, classic. It was the second time around that was met with negative criticism. Nas’ second album “It Was Written”, took a little more time to really be appreciated. The QB spitter’s sophomore effort was a clear showcase of Nas’ elevation, as a story teller, a writer and as an overall artist. Nas had some of his grittiest tracks such as “Live Nigga Rap”, “I gave you power” & “Shootouts” on that album. But it was because The Trackmasters had a heavy hand in producing the album, and there was a lot less production from Dream Team of producers assembled on his first effort. There were more broadly appealing songs with R&B hooks such as “If I Ruled The World” and “Black girl lost”, that the “Golden Child” of hip hop was criticized for selling out because of. People grew such an attachment to Nas off illmatic, because of his promise and reflection of the projects, that they took it personal when Nas had a mainstream hit. The Trackmasters talents were often overlooked because of their mainstream success with Mary J. Blige, Soul For Real and Faith Evans, and the fact that they often flipped more hardcore tracks with a melodic, sample heavy remix. But Tone and Poke also had a history of production credits for Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap, among other well respected emcees, before they worked with Nas. But critics so conveniently ignored that part of the story. To people like me, “It was written” was a perfect album. There is something to be said about an artist who can have street, boom bap hip hop shit and blend it effortlessly with something more appealing to the masses. There was nothing gimmicky, even regarding the controversial single “If I Ruled the world”. It was Nas being Nas the visionary, with Lauryn Hill on the hook, whats more hip hop than that?. It was the fact that Nas wasn’t exactly waving the underground hero flag, and because his popularity grew, instead of Illmatic fans being happy for him and giving the album a fair listen, they criticized him. But for fun, let’s say Nas stays the exact artist he was on “Illmatic”, chances are he wouldn’t have made it to where he is now. Nas is now branching out to deals with Hennessy and others, representing hip hop at Harvard. His ability to make these moves come off the strength of what he has done as an artist, he probably wouldn’t be able to do all he has done if he didn’t evolve from Illmatic.

it was

I will admit, a lot of artists will sacrifice some of their music for more mainstream success and it shows. Artist’s who blatantly make songs that don’t sound natural, deserve to be criticized. Much respect to Jay-Z but when he came with “In my lifetime vol. 1”, which is an extremely underrated album, there was a blatant attempt to attract that Bad Boy audience. Jay was rocking a shiny green suit in his “Sunshine” video alongside Foxy Brown, and the song itself didn’t sound organic at all. Luckily Jay found his groove and exploded with Vol. II and did it smooth, he made his lifestyle appealing to all listeners. He brought in guys like Swizz beats, Timbaland (who didn’t produce much hip hop to that point), and even Premier to make a complete album that could rock an M.O.P crowd or a Drake crowd. But that’s the point, if someone’s putting together quality music that just happens to appeal to the masses, they shouldn’t be knocked just off the attention they’re getting for it. Now-a-days, we have someone like a Kendrick Lamar, who is the medium, the balance between super stardom and “backpack” hip hop (I hate saying “real” hip hop). His first album “Good Kid, Maad City”, was a critically acclaimed piece of work from both the guys in the barbershop and Rolling Stone magazine. He doesn’t seem to be doing anything to compromise his art, he made his personal story appealing enough to earn a platinum plaque and arguably the hottest right now. He just has the gift from God, of being able to be himself & be widely accepted at the same time. It will be interesting to see how Kendrick Lamar develops. People are already starting with the “he’s feeling himself too much”, due in large part to his game changing verse on Big Sean’s “Control”.  In some cases, there really are rappers who lost fans on the basis of their success, with no correlation to the quality of music. Certain types of people take pride in being “exclusive” as if they’re the only person to know about an artist. So when the artists starts gaining popularity, the loan fan loses his “one-up” on everyone else, ultimately making them be less of a fan. Ridiculous, but very real.  But for us more progressive hip hop fans who appreciate the Golden era hip hop, and find the good and artistic value in Today’s hip hop, we’re in good shape. A true artist can make the underground appealing to the masses, and mainstream appeal to the underground by doing it their own way. Very few are capable of it, but the gifted artists who do, are often assumed to be watered down and only given a biased ear. Not all underground hip hop is good, and not all mainstream hip hop is wack.  Open minds, people.

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