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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).

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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.

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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.

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Side-Bar: Harlem sticks together.

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The New, New York ’15 (Part 1): Brooklyn-Queens-Expressway: Manolo Rose

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Name: Manolo Rose

Stomping Grounds: Far Rockaway, Queens/ Marcy (Brooklyn)

Breakout year: 2015

Still, in 2015, there is confusion regarding what exactly “New York hip hop” actually is. Most have pigeon-holed the sub-genre into boom-bap, or anyone who raps like Nas or someone from Wu-Tang. My sentiment to those who assume such, is the same as it was last year, everything evolves and there are still dope artists coming from our city that sound nothing like what we’ve heard before. Such is the case with Bed-Stuy-Far Rock fusion of Manolo Rose.

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Manolo Rose is in the vein of New York artists like Onyx, Busta Rhymes & DMX. He’s not going to blow you away lyrically, but he uses his energy as his trademark. He has a knack for making memorable hooks, which is noted on his own songs as well as his often show-snatching appearances on other people’s records. The backdrop which perfectly compliments his riot-inducing vocals is usually supplied by Fame-school Slim, one half of the Fame School, an up-and-coming architect on the boards.  When Manolo came with his break-out single “Run Ricky Run” it was the most unorthodox, unconventional banger I’ve heard since Black Rob’s “Whoa”. The beat didn’t actually drop until well into the song and it was confusing DJs all throughout the Tri-state, who were trying to figure out how to work the record in the club. The concept was derived from classic Hood flicks like John Singleton’s “Boyz n tha Hood”, “Menace To Society”. “Juice” and “Harlem Knights”. He cleverly used the movies to define life lessons such as “keeping the grass cut so you can see the snakes come” and to “Never let a nigga get away with nothing”. My mind had trouble adapting to the song at first, but I felt it, and I knew it was something ground-breaking.

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With such an impact on a breakout single, it’s tough to say if we’ll ever see an artist again in the era of the one-hit-wonders, but he’s followed up strong. With records like “Fuck 12“, “Gun-Fu” and “Super-Flexin“, he continues to perpetuate the lane that he’s carving out for himself, the anthemic-through-the-roof energy New York city hip hop. He’s building both his brand and his buzz on songs with Harlem’s own Vado, Rowdy Rebel (Of GS9), Rico Love, and of course, the controversial collaboration on Troy Ave’s “All about the money”.

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As many have heard, the Troy Ave single was originally Manolo Rose’s “Dope man“, neither artist denies that fact. The concept, the hook and the production is all the same as the original, just with appearances from Troy Ave and BSB’s Young Lito. Though the transfer of the record was a bit jux-like, Manolo Rose kept it business and used it as an opportunity to market himself on a more established artist’s platform, even appearing in the video. He has since denounced any beef between him and Troy ave, charging it to the game, and enjoying the perks that came with the success of the record.

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Manolo Rose has grown out of the shadow of his mega-record “Run Ricky Run” and the controversy with Troy Ave, the Edgemere Projects native is also gaining notoriety outside of the hometown. He’s dropping his “Concrete Rose” EP today (June 2nd), set to have features from Vado, Chinx (Riot in Peace !), Dave East, and Cali’s own, Problem. He’s one of the artists that is both creative and daring enough to follow the beat of his own drum, without biting off of the biggest artists of the day or trying to sound like any of the City’s forefathers. It’s artists like Manolo Rose who push both the city and the culture forward, blurring the regional lines that dictate what a city should sound like. He’s just out here making music anyone, anywhere could wild-out too.

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Side-Bar: I gotta make it out to one of his shows on this “Concrete Rose” tour, anyone whose seen him perform his shit says he makes the records really come to life…

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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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Harlem On The Rise: Smoke DZA: “Dream.Zone.Achieve” album review

Artist: Smoke DZA (A.K.A. The Kush Gawd, Mr. Rugby Thompson)

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(The cover is an ode to a scene in the movie “Belly”, where the camera catches Nas at this angle, underneath that same picture)

Project: “Dream.Zone.Achieve”

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The Star: “Ghost of Dipset” (Feat. Cam’Ron)

P Feels: 7 out of 10

The Gage: 1-3/10= Don’t bother listening

4-6/10= You won’t remember this album after a year

7-9/10= Solid

10/10= Modern era classic

9 mixtapes and 2 studio-albums later, A Beautiful April Fools Day in New York, marks the release of Harlem Repper Smoke DZA’s new album “Dream.Zone.Achieve”, split into three “acts”.  The first act (first 7 tracks), is labeled “Dream”,  which is supposed to detail the formation and thought process going into your aspirations. The second act (tracks 8-14) is labeled “Zone”, which is the second stage for the dreamer which is putting those driving thoughts into motion, the dreamer waking up and starting to hustle in an upward direction. The final act, obviously titled “Achieve”, is self explanatory, it’s the fruits of your labor, the result of the work you put it in. The highs of the project go higher, than the lows go low. Mr. Rugby Thompson is able to give already established fans what they want and expect out of him, whether it be Exclusive-Rugby talk or that potent smoke, while also showing his growth and evolution from the album’s predecessors.The gap that separates his previous efforts from this album, is the depth and ability to speak personally, which was only shown in flashes previously. On tracks like number 19, the V-Don produced, “Puzzle of life“, in which he speaks on personal matter such as his deteriorating relationship with his baby mother in the pursuit of success, as well as how his well-documented-weed habit started, and being good  to bad people. The track really serves as testament to all types of trial and tribulation on his journey to get here.

Extensive mind-fuckery/

my conscience like, ‘how long you wanna be number 3?/

Chanel like ‘how long ima be number 2?’/

put music over your family and you gon’ lose us too” (1st verse “Puzzle Of Life”)

Then theres tracks like the Kobe-assisted “I Don’t Know“, in which he speaks more on external conflicts bred by his environment. Here, the Harlem representative speaks on his fast life ventures and the doubts he had to overcome, that were prominent in the surroundings he grew up in. These tracks really showcase the most autobiographic part of his artist that we’ve gotten to date, and though shedding light into the mind and person that is Smoke DZA wasn’t uncommon of him previously, this is really putting the high beams on his personal life, unlike ever before.

Dreams of gettin’ out this motherfucka’ breathin’/

Gotta thank the Lord that I got a voice/

Biggest fear is being 40 on the corner/

stuck in this motherfucka’ without a choice” (1st verse “I Don’t Know“)

Another highlight of the album was his “City Of Dreams” single, the drum driven, new era boom bap record which sounds so 5 borough-ish, with the rugby rocker politicking and criticizing the game for what it’s become. Peep that video too, if you wanna do a little Harlem sight-seeing. The stand out track, however, is the soulful sounds of the King Thelonious produced “Ghost of Dipset“. The track flips Benny Johnson’s “Please Come Back”, and uses the vocal sample in the vein of Kanye or Jus Blaze, reminiscent of the sound The Diplomats brought to the forefront in their glory days (you could almost hear Juelz Ad-libbing over the chorus). And of course, If you’re going to do a song of this nature, as an ode or tribute to Dipset, you have to get the head-hancho Killa Cam to talk a little bit of his shit on it. The Harlem legend blessed us with a some words of sophisticated-ignorance, showing Harlem love and letting us take a little trip in time travel for 4 minutes and some change. For a kid who was in High School in the era when Cam and them took storm, this was exciting and the track thoroughly does the movement’s legacy justice. Dza brought another legend in for the outro, which is produced by Soul brotha #1 one, Pete Rock (If you can’t appreciate that, you need to do the knowledge). This exit door of the album, titled “Achieve“, gave me chills to listen to, because it reminded me of Fat Joe’sDedication” track, second to last off his slept on “Jealous One’s envy” album. Joe shouted out all of the dudes holding it down for us at the time in 1995, which reminded me of the Unity New York once had. “Achieve” serves the same purpose, as The Kush Gawd really shines a light on all the talent we’re producing right now, biggin’ up all the guys in the city doing it, which hopefully propels this New, New York movement forward. Riiiiiigggghhhhttttt *DZA voice*.

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Now I have to get my critic on, and be the bearer of the not so glorious side of the album, just to keep it authentic. While there is no specific track you could really point at, and say “Oh wow, this is weak”, one of the low points of the album is the struggle with cohesiveness and direction. May it be the content, or the production, the album seems like it was put together more like a mixtape because of the disorganization. At times the production is gritty, boom bap, golden era reminiscent, while other times it’s more melodic and smooth. You may also get a taste of the hi-hat heavy, slower bpm, subtle southern influence sound that DZA was no stranger to on his mixtapes and previous joints. While you could say I’m splitting hairs, and diversity is key (which is true), there is no connecting thread or consistent pattern, the sound goes back and forth the whole album, such as it does with the content. You get the gist of the story he’s trying to tell, but it’s scrambled. However, the overly-diverse content, might be due to a bigger issue that the project is 21 tracks long, which leads to my final negative critique. I think the album could’ve been narrowed down, if DZA had been more selective with his vision of what he wanted us to get from the album. He didn’t exactly have to use the “Illmatic” or “Yeezus” formula, but with 21-tracks, it’s easy to get distracted, and for the album to seem a little drawn out, especially in today’s internet driven music game, where new music literally drops every 15 minutes.

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Overall, “Dream.Zone.Achieve” is a dope piece of work. Though Smoke is a little J-Reid (“In Too Deep” reference) with the aim of the album, a little all over the place, he does show the evolution in his artist. He keeps his Marijuana-cult following satisfied with his fair share of flight talk, but he doesn’t over-do it to the point where you feel as if you’re listening to a “Weed” rapper’s album. On another note, this album furthers the claim that he is to Rugby Ralph Lauren talk, as Pusha T is to dope game talk, they just keep re-inventing and coming up with refreshing ways to flash the same thing. Some may call it repetitive, while others would consider flipping one thing constantly in new, entertaining ways, as a complimentary signature to the artists style and creative genius. If he still makes it sound dope, who fuckin’ cares. Smoke DZA is a lifestyle rapper, he doesn’t fabricate much, he just documents the everyday life of a fly guy from Uptown (The other side of Manhattan), and this project captures that. This album channels Sean, the person, in Dza’s style, which is an interesting element that I hope we see more of. Other than that, He’s mega-generous with the features, aside from Cam, he collaborates on tracks with Joey Bada$$, Ab-Soul, Curren$y, and BJ The Chicago Kid, just to name a few. “Dream.Zone.Achieve” is definitely a step in the right direction for this “New, New York” movement, and a push for a new era in our city’s already decorated hip hop history…

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SideBar: Why is that Flatbush Zombies’ assisted “Bamma Weed”, NOT on the album? that shit is playalistic smooth…

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A Proposition & A Prayer from a Knick fan.

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The New York Knicks have seen some dark times, but this season is certainly making it’s case for that top spot. Aside from being nearly 20 games under .500 (21-40), and how they look on the court (27th in the NBA for defense, J.R. Smith going trigger happy, practicing his freedom of shot, and Bargnani absolutely failing to dunk against the sixers), they are having off the court problems as well. As of recently, Amare Stoudemire and J.R. Smith have traded shots back and forth, in front of the media. Anyone who knows sports and the history, you know the end is near when your own players start showing internal conflict, externally. J.R. Smith, questioned the heart of his team, which he had reason to do, and Stoudemire responded in an interview saying “You have to look yourself in the mirror before you make statements”, which he also had reason to do. This subtle war of words exposes a way bigger picture than intended. Just the same way as when you look at the Knicks playing and it looks like 5 guys playing for 5 different teams, against one whole team. The chemistry is just not there, in any walk of life for the Knicks players. But why?, on paper, the Knicks have a playoff worthy squad, but they can’t seem to get it together. It doesn’t help when your starting point guard, Ray Felton (Get it together fam), is pulling guns out on females, either. To add insult to injury, on March 19th Knicks fans are planning a protest in front of the Garden in opposition to Owner James Dolan, who has been fucking the Knicks up for years. It’s about time. But when the fan’s start opposing their own team, you know it’s just an ugly time for a franchise, a time that will be locked away in history if we could ever escape it. The Knicks may not have the worst record, but they’re still the most embarrassing team in the NBA, for their on-court play and off the court conduct. So the question is, where do we go from here? How does this franchise get on its feet again?

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In recent years, Knicks ownership has bought or traded for big players, rather than actually putting together a team. They don’t build around anyone. The Knicks franchise hasn’t had someone that they really built their team around since the days of Patrick Ewing. As good of players as they’ve had since then, they really never attempted to make a team out of them. They need to focus on one player and build a team with people who compliment their star, so there is chemistry and a more established leader. Carmelo Anthony is the closest thing to a leader, but he’s in charge of a monster that is bigger than him at this point (too many chiefs, not enough indians). Melo wants to stay in New York, but he wants to win a championship, and more importantly he deserves it. Carmelo Anthony is the man to build the team around, but he’s likely to explore free agency after this season, so the Knicks ownership has their work cut out for them. Melo, like most star players, likes to experience their period of free agency, because who doesn’t like to get their ass kissed and ball’s licked at the same time by nearly every organization who has the necessity and cap space for them?. The Knicks need to make a promising case for Anthony, with evidence that things will look up. A lot of it, will have to require patience from Anthony until the summer of 2015, when the team can really start shedding some dead weight. The Knicks will have some money to flex this offseason, in which they should use to start their rebuilding process. This process begins with looking to max out on a deal for Melo, and to look at not only star players, but players who would fit in a team around Melo. In all great teams, there were the sidekicks, the two players that served as the Batman and Robin role. Worthy and Magic, Pippen and Jordan, Stockton and Malone, Kobe and Shaq, you get the point. These guys set the tone and attitude, while the rest of the team knew their role and were humble enough to accept who the captains were. An essential part of the revival is trying to find a team desperate enough to trade for J.R. Smith, whose the obvious favorite to get shipped next day air out of town. Hardaway Jr. can easily take Smith’s place for way less of a cost and headache. That’s the most you can do until next year, in which they’ll be able to free up a lot of space. But as of the immediate future that’s all the Knicks can do. Us Knick fans pray, that Melo just has the patience and sees what we see, if he works through one more season with us. By next summer, the Knicks can let go of Felton, Shumpert, Prigioni and the overall free agency pool blossoms. There’s an all-star cast of free agents next July, with everyone from Kevin Love to Roy Hibbert. But one player that stands out, to fit the New York Knick puzzle, would be Rajon Rondo. If the Knicks could sign a play maker at point, such as Rondo, it would be a huge gain and something a Knicks team hasn’t had in some time. With Melo being a monster scorer and Rondo being one of the best at setting up, making things happen, they could work. The next piece would be establishing depth on the bench and some type of presence in the paint. Luckily, this day in age, the big man’s role has slightly diminished and there has been a changing of the guards (pardon the play on words) to a more fast paced game, so the Knicks could get by with a slightly above average center. I mean, just look at Chris Bosh. He’s the “big man” on the dynasty of this era in basketball, you think he would’ve lasted in the era of Hakeem Alajuwon and Shaq in their prime?. The game has changed.

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This scenario presented, is of course assuming that Melo can see the vision through, and that Rondo is even considering coming to New York, and That the Ownership of the Knicks smartens up enough to build around a player again. But this is James Dolan and the same office that opted to get Bargnani, instead of Marcus Aldrige. The same office that pushed some of the greatest coaches in Knicks history out, so I’m not counting on their alarm clock to go off. As much as I’d love to see Melo stay in New York, from the standpoint of a Knick fan, I also believe a player of his stature would short himself not going somewhere that presents a real possibility of a championship. Nobody deserves to be a Dominique Wilkins. A player who was great, but played on a team that was so lackluster it overshadowed their talent. Melo isn’t getting any younger, primes don’t last that long and he has to eat while the food is still hot, I can’t blame the man if he takes his talents elsewhere. As Knick fans, some of us are idealist, hopeless romantics, while other’s have developed into pessimists as a product of years of disappointment. I’m trying to represent the middle man, the realist, the guy who accepts the reality at it’s worst, but prays for the best.

knicks-fans-next-year(We’re still waiting on that “Next Year”)

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Get Over It: The New, New York City (Part 3): Harlem World

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Name: Bodega Bamz

Stomping Grounds: 119th, Spanish Harlem

Breakout Year: 2013

Standout Project: “Strictly 4 My Papiz” (2013)

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“Brown water, my tan juice

100 keep that loose on deck
Chain so heavy might lose my neck
Lose my life never lose respect
I stamp down this papi talk
I run the town your papis walk
No cosign (nigga fuck that shit)
She tryna chill? Nigga fuck that bitch” – (Bodega Bamz- “Thrilla”)

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Coming up in New York, you become very familiar with local bodegas. A bodega is like a hood supermarket with all the essentials you could ever need, cooked food, to dish detergent, to toliet paper, and everything in between. Well, what a Bodega presents to the New York City residents, is what Bodega Bamz feels he brings to his listeners. Bamz has flow, bars and bounce (pause), in his music. He’s a complete artist, giving a listener everything you need, hence “Bodega”. Bamz, is an acronym for “By any means”, in the tradition of Malcolm X. The Spanish Harlem rep take’s pride in his Puerto Rican/Dominican culture and showcases that, sampling a lot of old salsa, some Celia Cruz (Azucar!), and you might even hear some Congo drums in there. His biggest song to date, “Don Fransico”, is titled after the host of Sabado Gigante. If you have any ounce of spanish in you, you know that show, and you know Don Fransico is an OG, whose been putting work in for decades.

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Along with the Latino-infused sampling, a lot of Bodega’s music also has that new-age Harlem World sound, the Clams-Casino esque production, Houston influenced with a New York edginess (similar to the ASAP Mob). But you may also hear Bamz on a signature New York sounding record, with the piano rift and the traditional drum pattern (“Last Of The Po’Ricans”). As for Bodega Bamz as a writer/rapper, he’s also versatile. Coming from a heavily christian upbringing, he incorporates God and religion in his music a lot, not in a gospel way, in an apologetic “Sorry God, I had to do this” way. He may dabble in his trial and trib on the street and his family. He shows more of his autobiographic side on tracks like “At Close Range”, and “Last of the Po’Ricans”. He often reflects on a lot of his emotional strain, from a drug dealing past coming up on the East Side of Harlem, all the way to his Uncle dying from aids in jail because of his heroin addiction. Aside from that, by default, being from Harlem, you have to talk that fly shit. You hear him referencing his hood, a couple name brands, his chains, his Spanish women and his “Tan Boys” movement, which started with him, his brother Ohla, and some of his people he grew up with. The movement is not to establish Hispanic-Supremacy, but rather to represent Spanish people and get us back in the proper place in the world of Hip Hop (R.I.P Pun). He’s also good for those pre-game, work-out, hype anthems (i.e. “Thrilla” w/ Flatbush Zombies & “Navy”). He may not be the most lyrical, but he gets his point across.

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One thing to also really respect about Bodega Bamz, he represents the underdog. He’s been through a lot to get here. From his uphill battle, trying to gain respect of his craft through battling his piers, to being kicked out of his father’s crib and having his in-house studio thrown in the street by his pops, living in his brother Ohla’s car, to being blamed for his Grandmother’s stroke after moving the in-house studio to her house, he’s on his way. And he’s as dedicated to this New, New York movement as anyone. He’s a frequent collaborator with the ASAP Mob, fellow Harlem repper Smoke DZA, and even makes inter-borough connections with Troy Ave (Brooklyn), Flatbush Zombies (Brooklyn), and Chinx Drugz (Queens). He preaches unity among the other up & comers from the city, and recognizes that our unnecessary levels of competitiveness might have been what dethroned us the first time.

SideBar: In a desperate attempt at gaining attention to his rapping abilities, Bodega used verses from Big’s “Life After Death” and Eminem’s “Slim Shady LP”, to battle other people from his neck of the woods. Though he never got caught for jacking, he was told the shit was trash, unbeknownst to the dickheads, it was Eminem and Biggie’s material.

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Honorable Mention (From Harlem): Smoke DZA

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