Late last year Big Sean’s leaked song Control caused a myriad of controversy amongst hip-hop heads due to Kendrick Lamar’s fire-breathing verse. It wasn’t just his ferociousness on the mic but his namedropping of his fellow rappers was what caught the ear of everyone listening. J. Cole is following the trend of namedropping and people are losing their sh*t.
With the video of Drake airballing being shopped around everywhere like the name of it was Superhead, people are wondering if this means his credibility has diminished. Has it? I wouldn’t go that far to say that he lost his street cred but it did hurt a little bit.
Music producer, sought-after DJ, indie Hip Hop label head…there are a few things that North Carolina’s 9th Wonder is known for these days. But more and more people are beginning to know his by the titles of academic and scholar with the recent release of the trailer for the 9th Wonder documentary “The Hip Hop Fellow”. The Hip Hop documentary will apparently focus on 9th Wonder’s time at Harvard University as he leads discussion and teaches classes on Hip Hop music, culture and history. It got us to thinking here at SoSoActive: what are some of the greatest recent examples of the convergence of Hip Hop and higher learning? Here are five that might surprise you:
JAY Z COURSE AT GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY
Professor Michael Eric Dyson taught a course on the sociological and cultural impact of Jay Z’s music in 2012 at Georgetown University, and has also written books about the music of Nas and 2Pac.
QUESTLOVE’S CLASSIC ALBUMS COURSE AT NYU
Among his vast array of jobs (producer/DJ/Drummer/Curator/Music Supervisor), Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson also gained the title of professor by teaching a class called “Topics in Recorded Music: Classic Albums” at New York University in 2013.
J. COLE LECTURES AT HARVARD
Last year, Harvard’s Hip Hop Archive presented a town hall styled conversation with Roc Nation artist J. Cole.
WU TANG’S GZA AND COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY TEACH SCIENCE TO HIGH SCHOOLERS
Part of a program in New York called Science Genius, The GZA worked with Columbia University professor Christopher Emdin to teach science to high school kids through writing Hip Hop lyrics.
THE NAS HARVARD FELLOWSHIP
In October of last year, Harvard University and Queensbridge legend Nas announced the details of the Nasir Jones Hip hop Fellowship, a program that will fund visiting scholars who engage in Hip Hop-related research and academics.
In this weeks’ installment of our VEVO mini reviews, we take a closer look at the videos for a North Carolina emcee with one of the standout Hip Hop albums of 2013, an NYC mix tape hero on the verge of a mainstream breakthrough and a veteran diva looking to get her throne back in the R&B world.
J. COLE – SHE KNOWS
Cole’s string of dramatic, gut-wrenching everyday struggle story videos continues on the third single from Born Sinner. In a similar vein to “Power Trip” and “Crooked Smile”, Jermaine continues to develop his visual storytelling capabilities as a young man discovers his mothers’ infidelity. It’s nothing new or groundbreaking for J. Cole’s reputation but makes for an engaging mini-soap opera.
TROY AVE FEATURING PUSHA T – EVERYTHING
In 2014 Troy Ave is looking to get in the Dope Boy Hip Hop spot amongst the likes of Rick Ross, French Montana and Pusha T. While the latter guest stars on this joint, it’s pretty much a standard cocaine Hip Hop video with lots of flesh and bragging, similar to his “New York City” song/video featuring Raekwon: dope lyrics and lots of flash and flare, but that’s about it.
MARIAH CAREY – YOU’RE MINE (ETERNAL)
Mimi makes her way back to the charts with this pleasant ballad of loving and longing, featuring Trey Songz as the object of her desire. Nowhere near a departure from previous Mariah videos, “You’re Mine” is filled with enough waterfalls and glitter to make you think you’re in Never Never Land. Ms. Carey plays it pretty safe in her comeback video for 2014.
This was a big week for music. The week started off with The Grammys, which usually means a lack of music releases from the mainstream artists. This week was no exception. Record labels expect to sale a boatload of Grammy nominated albums and songs. All of the stores push all the Grammy mentioned albums to the front with a sales mark down and extra bonus songs.
We ended the week with a terrible football game that was supposed to be called the Super Bowl, but someone forgot to tell the Broncos to show up. The highlight was a great halftime show. The Red Hot Chili Peppers made a brief appearance and Bruno Mars gave an energetic performance that hopefully was viewed by the entire R&B/Soul/urban pop community. Good pop singers and R&B records have been scarce lately. I am hoping for a few classic albums this year.
Most of the releases this week were either independent or direct releases from artists for free download. With that said it was not a bad week. Here is the music I have to report that was released between the dates of January 25th -31st.
J.Cole & Dreamville – Revenge of The Dreamers
It’s about that time in J.Cole’s career where he has had enough success to go back to the hood and get all his homeboys. So like every rapper does at some point, J.Cole is co-signing on a crew of rappers that share similar styles. I found myself waiting for J.Coles verses and wishing he was the only on the project. The J. Cole tracks sounded like B-sides that didn’t make the album and I’m almost certain they were. The mixtape is mellow and has its positive moments but it’s not at all memorable. Next week I will have forgotten it ever came out.
Score – 5 of 10
J. Holliday – Guilty Conscience
I would like to give a round of applause to J. Holliday. It’s a good, solid and flawless effort that features soulful R&B songs with good lyrical content. I say good lyrics but really he spent the album staying true to the title. He tells stories of cheating on his girl, his girl cheating on him and fantasizing about cheating. Sounds like he had some infidelity issues he needed to get off his chest. Either way J. Holliday is a strong singing talent, with solid production and I strongly suggest this album.
Score – 8 of 10
Don Trip – Randy Savage
Don Trip made a lot of noise last year both as a solo artist and with his group Step Brother with another rapper making noise in the underground Starlito. He’s a unique rapper but not too far left to throw off the average hip-hop listener. Don Trip should be making the south proud with his efforts and I recommend this mixtape to all hip-hop fans. It’s a free download so you have nothing to lose.
Score – 8 of 10
Pastor Troy – Crown Royal 4
The Pastor is back to reclaim his spot in the pool pit. The forth installment of Crown Royal is long and almost feels like a double disk. The first half is Pastor Troy boasting about his accomplishments and OG status. He turns up and gives us dated crunk music literally. He actually even brings us features from The Eastside Boys, Ying Yang Twins and La Chant if that doesn’t explain my case. On the second half he tones down the production and begins to preach positive messages to the youth and conscious street stories. He even dedicates a letter in song form to the family of Trayvon Martin over his classic Visa Versa instrumental. To be honest, as a whole it’s not a bad mixtape.
Score – 6.5 of 10
Murs – Shut Your Trap (EP)
Murs was very quiet last year. I’m used to hearing several releases from him and his collaboration each year. Well glad to see he’s coming back for more this year. This EP is a classic Murs over production that’s more mainstream then we’re used to from him. He takes us on a ride in his Toyota Prius and also takes responsibility for Justin Beiber’s action claiming to be the voice in his head. Like I said classic Murs.
Score – 5 of 10
Algebra Blessett – Recovery
A very soulful release with well-rounded production. The Atlanta native has spent most of her career touring and singing background vocals for artist like Monica, Bilal and India Arie. With her sophomore solo release she proves she is deserving of the spotlight but still has a long way to go reach the exposure to impact the music industry in the way she deserves to be heard.
Score – 7 of 10
Dum Dum Girls – Too True
My outside pick comes from this alternative female band that has been constantly releasing good music since 2009. The latest is their traditional alternative go-go sound. It’s not hip-hop or R&B by far so if you take heave to my thoughts week by week know that I love all music and appreciate all art as a communication device for different regions and lifestyles to cross paths.
Score – 7 of 10
Chief Keef – Chiraq
If you’re a fan of Keef you know what your in for. He features appearances by Gucci Mane, Wiz Khalifa, Waka Flocka, Kanye West, Pusher T, Big Sean, B.O.B., Wale, Yo Gottii and Jada Kiss. In other words the industry rappers are showing up to show their support for the young Chi-town rapper. My honest opinion is I’m not sure what everybody sees in him, but his style is somewhat unique.
Score – 6 of 10
Papoose – Hoodie Season 2
The legendary New York battle MC is still at it. He represents his home and does his best to defend it along with the roots of hip-hop. Bar for bar he is still an elite wordsmith. Clever rhymes and witty punch lines is his forte and takes you back to a time when rappers all had to have skill to grip a mic. However I wonder how relevant he really is. He wastes a whole song to diss Trinidad James and it makes me question why. Not like Trinidad is the kind of rapper to make this an interesting competition. I would be interested to know If Trinidad cares and if he plans to respond. It’s a lose lose situation.
Score – 6 of 10
Spade-O – Unchained Hosted by DJ Drama
So who is Spade – O you may ask? And my answer would be you wouldn’t be missing anything if you never knew. There was a time when DJ Drama’s co-sign meant something. These days I think if you cut Drama a check it’s a done deal. The production is legit and Spade-O can ride a beat. His delivery is decent but his overall skill and word play is so average. He’s so average that it’s hard to listen to in its entirety. This is made apparent on the third track which features Maybach Music’s Meek Mills. Meek Mills kills the track. He opens it up and guts it. Tough act to follow, this just makes Spade-O sound like a charity case. Word to the wise: if you can’t at least spar with another artist don’t reach out for a feature. It just makes you look bad.
Score – 4 of 10
9th wonder presents Jamla is the squad
9th wonder stays busy producing and collaborating with artists from all walks of life in the underground. Parts of me wish he never left his group Little Brother. He has given us plenty of good music over the years, collaborating with everyone from Murs to David Banner to Jay-Z. On this one he receives features from Masta Killa, Talib Kweli and Terrace Martin just name a few. The point of this project is to promote his label Jamla, so expect to hear a lot of new talents over his classic sample heavy laid back sound.
Score – 7 of 10
Keep in mind I know I missed some new releases from week to week, but I’m only one man. I do my best to listen to as many new and notable releases each week. These were my thoughts on the past week. I hope it helps you find new music for your play list and keeps you current.
I look forward to next week as a lot of highly anticipated albums are on the way in February including School Boy Q and a duet album from Babyface and Toni Braxton.
This week we review the latest videos from a TDE mainstay, a Latin music megastar and a bluesy country rock collective.
SCHOOLBOY Q – MAN OF THE YEAR
With a release date for his next album Oxymoron set for next month, Schoolboy dropped this video on VEVO last week, garnering over 700,000 views on YouTube so far. How’s that for anticipation? Filled with sun and sea, sensual skin and what’s probably a whole lot of the stickiest of the icky, “Man Of The Year” is reminiscent of Mobb Deep’s 1999 video “It’s Mine” and J. Cole’s “Can’t Get Enough” from 2011. The song itself is trapped out and head noddinly catchy to go along with the luxurious, “Fantasy Island”, mannish atmosphere. Nothing groundbreaking, just a fun romp in the sand to get Schoolboy’s main demographic and the mainstream music press more amped for February 25.
ENRIQUE IGLESIAS featuring MARCO ANTONIO SOLIS – EL PERDEDOR
The latest video from one of Latin music’s favorite sons is all kinds of elegant: a painfully attractive couple walking into a formal ball, a statuesque woman in a form fitting red dress, dancers adding to the mood of longing and regret: “El Perdedor” is a true visual treat, even if it is somewhat plastic and predictable. Adding to the intrigue is a sense of drama as Iglesias and Solis sing longingly to the main female protagonist. A video that oozes sensuality and passion from every inch of its being.
BLACKBERRY SMOKE – SHAKIN HANDS WITH THE HOLY GHOST
Just a bit of new age southern blues-rock from this Atlanta, GA-based band of rebels. Going totally against the grain of what much of today’s popular music is all about, Blackberry Smoke comes with a video that’s non-conceptual, uncomplicated and good-natured. Very simplistic and subtle, “Shakin’ Hands With The Holy Ghost” truly let’s the roaring, ripping guitars do most of the talking. Besides, longhaired men with electric guitars makes for a great combination most of the time anyway.
In a year jam-packed with noteworthy album releases from some of the leading names from Hip Hops new school of stars, Tyler the Creator, Wale, J. Cole and Drake among them, Detroit’s Big Sean now comes up from the dugout and steps up to the plate hoping to knock one out of the park with his next effort, Hall of Fame.
On the heels of the commercial success of 2011’s Finally Famous and the G.O.O.D. Music compilation Cruel Summer from 2012, as well as his critically acclaimed Detroit mix tape from last year and the most talked about Hip Hop song of 2013 with “Control”, Sean seeks to solidify his spot amongst the next crop of heavy hitters in the game.
At times criticized for lacking and lagging in skill, wordplay and, more harshly, personality, Big Sean has been more reliant on his rags-to-riches storied meeting with Kanye West in Detroit and hungrily rhyming on the spot for his future label boss and his charisma to push him to the top of the charts, as well as a steady stream of respected mix tapes when his album was originally shelved. And though Finally Famous was one of the most sought after rap music debuts, Hall of Fame gives Sean the chance to truly make known who and what he is as an artist.
Unfortunately, Sean doesn’t seem to take full advantage of that chance. There are definitely the stand out tracks, like “First Chain” featuring Nas and Kid Cudi, where Sean uses witty repartee to chronicle his rise from Motown to where he stands currently as one of Hip Hop’s most sought after figures over a jazzy, piano tickled, soulful, emotional and slice of production. More towards the beginning of Hall of Fame, “Nothing Stopping You” and “Fire” rev the beginning of the album into overdrive with gospel-influenced singing on the latter and a voice distorted chorus on the former. And “World Ablaze” is an affecting and heartwarming yet somber and dark track where Sean manages to tell us about his life story again, but does it convincingly and intimately to the point where you feel emotion seething from his voice.
But even with all of that, the subject matter seems to stay in the same lane as Finally Famous, with the materialistic groupie love (“Sierra Leone Greedy Ho’s”), the relationship ups and downs (“Ashley”, “Beware”) and reminiscing about and putting Detroit on (“It’s Time”). Although “Sierra Leone Greedy Ho’s” does contain a comical cautionary skit at the end where he’s taken for his wares and “It’s Time” with Young Jeezy is a certified banger for the end of the summer, it still feels as if Sean is holding a lot back from the masses about what he can truly do on the mic.
The star-studded guest spots (Young Jeezy, Lil Wayne, Nas, Kid Cudi, Meek Mill Miguel) as well as lots of the production on Hall of Fame from No I.D. and others walking a fine line between above average and pretty good, make for an album that flirts with being top-10 worthy for 2013. But it doesn’t quite get there. Big Sean has shown a good amount of growth and expansion of his music and his brand, but ultimately, Hall of Fame still leaves a lot to be desired.
Since anointing himself the “King of New York” and the “King of the West Coast” on Big Sean’s “Control” the hip hop world has been in a frenzy.
I have a found text messages that were sent to Kendrick from his friendly rivals.
J. Cole recently made the news when one of his fans threatened to shoot his sister if the artist didn’t retweet him. J. Cole obliged the man and his twitter has since been deleted, but in the music industry, things like this aren’t uncommon. Famous musicians tend to bring out the worst, and craziest, in our fellow humans. Here are some of the strangest things fans have done to get their idol’s attention.
The Beatles probably take the cake for having the most devoted and downright terrifying fans. They even inspired their own phrase “Beatlemania”. One of the craziest fan encounters inspired Paul McCartney to write a song about it. “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” is about a group of fans that one day climbed in through McCartney’s window and began rifling through his drawers.
While The Beatles’ fans are climbing through windows, Beliebers come close to declaring states of emergency. When Bieber was slated to perform in Oslo, Norway, the waiting crowd became so unruly that Norwegian police threatened to issue a state of emergency. Bieber himself was forced to reach out through twitter to encourage his adoring mob to obey the local authorities.
But the Beliebers don’t stop at full-blown states of emergency, they also participate in sending out death threats. Apart from frequent death messages sent to the star’s former girlfriend, Selena Gomez, Kim Kardashian received threats after being seen in photos with him in 2010.
KPop star, Taecyeon’s, fans are relatively calm. Except for one dedicated fan sent the star a fan letter. While fan letters aren’t uncommon, this particular one was written with the girl’s menstrual blood to prove her dedication.
Twitter can be a terrifying place for artists. Whether you’re being told to retweet a person or someone will be shot or people are just constantly tweeting at you, there’s really nowhere to escape. Former Disney star, Ashley Tisdale, reportedly received 18,000 tweets from one man who later showed up at her house.
In comparison to Beliebers and all the other fans of teen pop stars, One Directioners are relatively calm. Sure they squeal a lot, crowd public spaces, and wait for days to meet the boy band, but for the most part they are harmless. But even they aren’t immune from issuing death threats. When Zayn Malik asked a receptionist at an Australian radio station out on a date, fans bombarded the lovely woman with threats and hate mail. Some even went so far as to show up to her place of work.
Photo Credit: Thi Chien
J. Cole may be the smartest rapper in the game right now; I mean literally. He’s a communications major and has two studio albums under his belt (you can read the review for Born Sinner here) with countless mixtapes. He’s signed to Jay-Z’s record label and admires 2Pac and Nas as his idols but here are ten facts you may not have known about J. Cole.