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Hip Hop and sensationalism are no longer distant cousins. They’re basically siblings in the new millennium. To be totally honest, interest in the genre has been waning more than ever in recent years. So what’s the best way to try breathing some new life into a form of music that’s losing steam? Simple. Attach more dramatic intrigue to it. The evidence can be found throughout the way the music media covers, portrays and perceives Hip Hop, from the most gossip-laden Hip Hop music blog, website or tabloid to the ratchetness found in Hip Hop reality TV, the greatest example being Love & Hip Hop.
But this isn’t to say that artists and the art form don’t shoulder some of the blame, the latest example coming from SXSW this past week when Odd Future front man and emcee Tyler The Creator was accused of inciting a “riot” at his performance only 24 hours after a fatal accident outside of another of his performances at the annual Austin, TX music festival. Now…do the two events honestly have anything to do with one another? Nope. Was the first incident a tragedy and should we lift the families of the people that lost their lives as they go through what might be an extremely traumatic time? Absolutely. But have both parties, in this case Tyler and the music and news media covering him and his performances, have to take some of the blame on this one.
On one hand, beyond what we’ve been told by news outlets, Hip Hop and otherwise, we can’t fully surmise what happened with the auto accident outside of Tyler’s concert on Thursday, March 14. And Tyler had little to no knowledge of or control over what was happening in that instance. Therefore, connecting the two events in news reports can be seen as a bit irresponsible. The truth is, we know why it was done. It’s a matter of the news media business model. Whatever is going to get the most views and garner the most traffic is what will get written about, posted and shared. And many of us in this business know that very well. But it’s still an unfortunate that, in this instance, two events that were both unsavory and unfortunate, yet still had little to nothing to do with one another, got connected for the purposes of reporting a news story.
But on the other hand, can we really say that Tyler helped his cause at all by his actions on the video released by TMZ showing him inciting fans to push their way into a venue past security? Not in the least. Many of us know Tyler The Creator to be a willing participant ruckus and a sensationalist in just about everything he does, seeking continuously to go against the grain. But did he potentially take things a little too far this time? Yup. Never do we as music fans and workers want to see anyone hurt, injured or even have the potential for it. And when it does happen, it’s a drag to report and talk about it. Hell, I have a niece back in my hometown of Detroit that actually called me the day of the incident to see if I was ok because she thought I was back down at SXSW since I went last year.
Overall, both Tyler The Creator and the news media have to be held accountable, the first for potentially endangering the lives of festival goers, and the second for trying to use two unrelated incidents for the purposes of gaining traffic. And though we probably can’t expect that either actually WILL be held accountable, at least we can try to take a lesson from both incidents and try to do better in the future. As a music journalist that loves what I do, my only hope is that both of them, and all of us involved in this thing called the music business, actually WILL take the time to try doing better.
Now that we are entering 2014, it’s time to take a look back at 2013. After a very disappointing 2012 in Hip-Hop , 2013 was a good comeback year. At least for Hip-Hop, but for rock and R&B it was another story. R&B was few and far in-between and the labels did their best job at staying away from pushing the albums that were released, with the exception of Beyoncé’s album. It seems that R&B is dying a slow death, but I’m in hopes someone like Miguel or Frank Ocean comes along in 2014 and changes the culture.
As for hip-hop, it seems we are in a transition period and I will have to admit that I like the direction we’re headed. Here is a list of 25 albums that stood out to me this year creatively and otherwise.
25. Big Sean – Hall Of Fame
Can’t put my finger on the pulse or figure out why, but he deserves a spot on this list. A good sophomore attempt from the G.O.O.D. Music artist.
24. Juicy J – Stay Trippy
I was worried about this one, but when it was all said and done this 3 Six Mafia founder did alright with his first solo attempt.
23. Talib Kweli – Prisoners of Conscious and Gravitas
Two albums from Talib this year and both were stellar. I’m still debating if he should have been higher on my list.
22. Wale – The Gifted
Honestly, I wanted this album to be better than it was. With that said Wale stayed true to himself and stayed away from playing copycat. A good album overall.
21. Ghostface Killah – 12 Reasons To Die
With help from Adrian Younge, Ghostface takes his story telling rhymes to another level.
20. Killer Mike and El-P – Run The Jules
I would much rather hear Killer Mike all by his lonesome, but the album was still worth a spot on the list.
19. Brotha Lynch Hung – Mannibalector
In what’s supposed to be his last album but I truly doubt the rumors, Lynch murders and kills everything in sight both lyrically and literally. Nowhere near as bold and shocking as Dinner and a Movie, but good stuff.
18. Tyler, The Creator – Wolf
It speaks for itself. Tyler the Creator just continues to do what he always does. Rep the Wolf Gang, shock and live up to the Odd Future name.
17. Prodigy and Alchemist – Albert Einstein
Back again and better than ever. It was like reliving Prodigy’s old solo album H.N.I.C which was released 14 years ago.
16. Asap Rocky – Long Live Asap
I admit, I found myself nodding my head. I wouldn’t call his album a classic but as far as albums go Asap Mob made quite the impression in 2013.
15. J. Cole – Born Sinner
Not the most creative release, but for his sophomore album he didn’t disappoint. The album was well-rounded and made a statement that he is here to stay or at least for the moment.
14. Chance The Rapper – Acid Rap
Chance gave us reason to forward him into 2014. This was a breath of fresh air for hip-hop.
13. Kanye West – Yeezus
As far as creativity goes Kanye gets an A+ like always. Yeezus was one the best-selling album of 2013, so you can’t argue with that but the album is a tough listen at first glance. You have to spend time on it to grow on you because of how different it is, but hey it’s always tough for the trend setters.
12. Mac Miller – Watching Movies With Sound Off
I must admit I was never a fan of Mac Miller, but I have to remind myself that he was just a kid. Now at 20 years old, he’s growing and maturing. This is probably his most personal album and in my opinion his best release to date. A great year it was for him. He also released a live album and made the Forbes Cash Kings top 20.
11. Goodie Mob – Age Against the Machine
After Cee lo Green’s successful solo career, he returns to his roots and get the band back together. It’s like they never missed a beat. It was refreshing to hear that old Dungeon family sound revived.
10. Action Bronson – Blue Chips 2 and Saaab Stories
Not one but two great mixtapes from the underground MC. He lit 2013 up with his classic gritty East coast style.
9. Drake – Nothing Was The Same
Drake is a statue in this game right now, and honestly I think the album is highly regarding in most part because of the hype around it. Don’t get me wrong it’s a good album, but a part of me wants to say he can do better.
8. Danny Brown – OLD
Hailing from Detroit, Michigan Danny Brown gives us an original style and unique way to tell trap stories. His concept album was a few standout songs away from genius. He gave us an old school cassette tape sound, and tells a story that really makes you feel his personal struggles and mind set in the hustle. Can’t wait to see what he gives us next.
7. Earl Sweatshirt – Doris
The Wolf Gang is still making noise and Earl may be the best lyrically out of the gang. He displays lyrical skill and proves he is a MC worth respecting while still finding the balance of staying true to Odd future values and underground sound.
6. Big Krit – King Remembered in Time
One of his better releases, Krit grows a little bit and no matter what he does he still manages to keep it south.
5. Eminem – Marshall Mathers LP 2
Eminem has been looking for his old self and trying to get back into shape for his last few attempts in my opinion. On this album he brings back a lot of the values that his fans fell in love with. His word play and rhyme scheme may be the best it’s ever been.
4. M.I.A. – Matangi
She would like us to classify her music as hip-hop so I’ll do just that. It took a long time for her to actually release it but she came through in the end.
3. Tech N9ne – Something Else
Just when I was beginning to think that Tech was tiring out and his better days were behind him, he puts out an exceptional album blending rock with hip-hop seamlessly and showing the world that he has more MC skills than most. It’s been a while since Tech has delivered this well. He also released a Metal EP last year, that I’m hoping was a preview of things to come.
2. Pusha T – My Name Is My Name
Pusha T had an exceptional release in 2013 ,and it may have been his project to date. Critics all over the web and in every hip-hop publication praised it. If you missed it well, there were no D-boy albums that compared.
1. Childish Gambino – Because The Internet
I’m a sucker for a good concept album and this was a masterpiece. Donald gave us a piece of his soul and I believe he did what Drake has been attempting to do minus the radio singles. This was my favorite album of the year.
These were the hip-hop albums that stood out to me in 2013. I’m sure I missed one or two. I’ll let you fill in the blanks and round out the top 30. I’m looking forward to the year ahead 2014 should be a very promising year.
Branding, marketing and identifying a target audience, are terms that every business in every industry uses. The music industry is no exception. The problem is a Kevin Costner film quote that stuck in everyone’s head – “If you build it they will come.” This is really bad advice. Inspiring musicians and artists are wasting their time complaining about the artists that are on the radio or the artists that are successful in the business.
How many times have you heard a local rapper or band say that they make better music than the successful artist in the business? How did so and so make it and their music is trash? My favorite local rapper quote is “When they hear this song we’re going to blow up!” The biggest misconception among aspiring artists is if I make this really good product (music) I’ll get in the door. This is so wrong. I will make a statement so listen up. People don’t buy into products. They buy into brands and movements. Just because you make really good music does not mean you have what it takes to be successful. Before you second-guess me, just hear me out.
Like I said before there is no difference between the music industry and any other industry. Record labels spend more money on market research, promotion, image and branding then they do on the actual product. Think of your self as a consumer. 90 percent of consumers do not buy products, they buy brands. When you go to the store to purchase your toothpaste, you do not buy the best toothpaste. I bet you have no idea what toothpaste is the best fit for your teeth. I bet you’re not experimenting or looking for the best either. You’re set in your ways so you pick up a tube of Crest or Colgate. You just bought into a brand. Crest is a trusted brand. Is it the best toothpaste for your teeth? Can you answer that question and believe it 100%. I sincerely doubt it.
Odd Future is a brand with a movement. They have identified with a target audience that has bought into their brand. That audience will buy any product that Odd Future is selling, because once again they have bought in to the brand or movement. The same goes for Strange Music, ICP, Snoop Dogg, Rick Ross, Atmosphere and the list goes on. They have a look, an appearance, a logo, a style, a sound and a movement that address a specific group of people. You name a successful artist or group and I’ll show you a strong team with an effective business strategy. This brings me to my next point, identifying a target market.
When I ask rappers who they are or who they are marketing to, they have no clear answer. This is why you can’t have success. It’s not because of the lack of talent or the music you make. What you are supposed to do in business is find a need in the community and address that need. Never fall into the gap of thinking that you make music for everyone. That is impossible. Even if it was possible, you don’t have the money, time or the resources to achieve that. Think of Gatorade. Gatorade is a sports drink, but you don’t have to be an athlete to enjoy a Gatorade. I’m drinking a Gatorade right now, but does Gatorade care about me? No they don’t. Have you ever seen a Gatorade commercial in an office setting? Have you ever seen a rapper or a super model promoting Gatorade? No you haven’t. What you have seen is Gatorade on the sideline of every sporting event. You don’t even know if Gatorade is in that paper cup that the quarterback is drinking from. It could be good old fashion H2O. It doesn’t matter, because now every soccer mom and high school athlete in America is packing a bottle of Gatorade.
What does this all mean to you? Think about any successful artist and ask the questions who are they? What do they stand for? How does their image complement their movement? Who do they identify with? If you want to be successful, you have to become a brand or a movement. Once you know who you are and what you stand for, you should be able to describe it in less than two sentences. You should also be able to show it without explaining it through your logos, image and appearance.
The next step is to identify your target audience. Who are you marketing to? Do not say anyone who will listen. This means you have no market and no strategy. You have to be able to research your market and design a game plan to attack that specific group of people. Study your target market. Where do they hang out? What do they spend their money on? What attracts their attention? Every single detail about them from how they dress to what they believe in. Successful companies spend a lot of money and time on market research projects alone.
Once you have identified the need, address the need. You should be able to offer me something I can only get from you. This is how you start a movement. Now the only thing you need is a team. By team I don’t mean a bunch of yes men or a bunch of musicians all in it for their own gain. I mean a team of people all pulling their own weight as part of an effective business plan.
I understand that an artist only wants to focus on the art. This is where their passion lies. This is why you started making music in the first place. I understand this more than you will ever know. This is why you surround your self with people who are not just artists but share you’re passion. People who can focus on building and growing your brand while you create the product. You have to think outside of the box when attempting to get your music out there. If you can’t understand business, you can’t make noise with your music. Unless you’re doing music for fun or for the love of the art and you don’t want a buzz, you must remember music is a business.
There’s little doubt that the social media generation of emcees is now beginning to come into their own. And being part of the most prominent collective to rise out of this new genesis of artists, Earl Sweatshirt was bound to have hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of eyes and ears transfixed squarely at attention on his music. While Doris, Sweatshirt’s new album, is a culmination of mounds of mainstream music attention and fascination, both good and bad, given to him over the last 3-plus years, it’s also a gritty and biting yet strong beginning to the career of a young artist that might already be on the edge.
The prevailing sound and auditory theme of Doris is clunky and disjointed, gloomy and mournful, subconsciously hostile, lackadaisical and dismissive of whatever the listeners’ attitude and preconceptions could possibly be. Sweatshirt, much like the rest of Odd Future, takes a punk rock approach to his music and lyrics: many of the songs are short, sparse, fall somewhere in between abstract and dismissively vulgar, and sometimes hard to grasp. But the music as a whole is drenched in a D.I.Y. aesthetic that the collective has grown famous for. Many times without clear direction or concept, but thick with personality a certain aloof swagger. It’s part of the appeal that Sweatshirt has worked hard to introduce and maintain as his mantra. Beginning with “Pre”, Earl Sweatshirt does is best impression of Chief Keef with a stuttering, elementary flow… if Chief Keef were more lyrical and coherent.
Following in the footsteps of GOLFWANG leader Tyler, The Creator earlier this year on his album Wolf, Earl manages to get more personal and introspective, even if still somewhat guarded, on the tracks “Burgundy” and “Chum”. While guest feature Vince Stephens chides him at the beginning of “Burgundy” for being overly emotional, Sweatshirt proceeds to revel and wallow in his youthful angst: “Grandma’s passin’/But I’m too busy trying to get this f*ckin’ album crackin…” It’s a prime example of how at times on Doris he swings back and forth between guilt-ridden disinterest and wearing a bleeding heart on his sleeve. Where as with “Chum”, he delves into his more lyrical Hip Hop wordsmith side while harping on losing his father and being an outcast. Again, it lends to an appealing air of mysteriousness and jaded paranoia at letting the wrong people into his emotional closet.
Earl purposely makes himself out to be an angsty, tortured young artistic soul that still just wants to be left alone. After all, that’s what got him on the map with his previous self-released, self-distributed albums and mix tapes. Spots where this works the best are with Sweatshirt’s Odd Future affiliate Tyler, The Creator on “Sasquatch” and “Whoa”, where Earl and Tyler as a pair on a few of the songs are reminiscent of a younger, bleaker, more punch-drunk version Method Man and Redman. But though most of the time Doris makes that ideal true to form, it’s also an aspect that drags the music down and can grow laborious to listen to.
Which isn’t to say that there are actual bad songs on Doris, because there really aren’t. Sweatshirt actually has created some of the darkest, yet most interesting and engaging material that any Odd Future member has made since they first came to the limelight. “Centurion” is probably the bleakest, most descriptive and vivid song on the entire album. Sweatshirt’s lyrics are sharp, slicing, concise and raspy set against voice distortions and a musical backdrop that’s horrific and sinisterly irresistible.
And “Molasses” featuring RZA, one of the best Hip Hop songs of the year, gives Earl the chance to share the spotlight with one of Odd Futures most obvious and heaviest musical influences, sounding eerily similar to RZA at one point but still being his own man lyrically.
But after slightly over 40 minutes, Doris actually weighs on the listener and doesn’t let up. One interesting thing that happened upon the release of this album was a tweet that Sweatshirt sent out, telling followers in effect that if they felt positively about another hotly anticipated and polarizing 2013 Hip Hop album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, that they should un follow him.
Doris is almost the complete antithesis of Magna Carta: where Hov is an established and comfortable artist/ambassador of Hip Hop culture running with the high society, One-Percenter high art crowd, Earl is an apprehensive, darkly sarcastic young wall flower still struggling to find himself as an artist in an industry that has placed a mountainous burden on both he and his crew. And where Magna Carta celebrates the high life, glorifies fatherhood and loftily questions religion, Doris seeks to stay lurking creepily through the shadows and barely gives a shit about every day life, almost to the point where you want to tell Earl Sweatshirt to lighten the f*ck up.
In the end, Doris is a good listen, but a little too grim and desolate for an artist that’s still finding his footing and hasn’t yet entered his twenties. Here’s hoping that Earl Sweatshirt can eventually follow the lead of Tyler and Wolf on his next album and find some growth and balance.
Not many people know the real facts about who Tyler Gregory Okonma is, but damn near everyone knows who Tyler, The Creator is. From his crazy lyrics, crazier videos, and his TV Show Loiter Squad he’s definitely made a name for himself over the past few years. You’ll have to keep in mind that Tyler really doesn’t enjoy interviews, so while you “think” most of the true facts about Tyler the Creator have already been revealed – you just never know when OFWGFTA is involved….
1. As mentioned Tyler, The Creator is actually Tyler Okonma. He was born in 1991 to a Nigerian father while his mother is of African-American and white Canadian descent.
2. When Tyler was 7 years old he still had big dreams of fame as he would take create his own cover art for his own imaginary albums. He even went as far as to create tracklists with song times before he could even create music!
3. Tyler was in a gifted program in school, and he also attended a whopping 12 different schools in 12 years of school which is really insane when you think about it.
4. Tyler has always been the creative type. At age 13 he won the Middle School Talent show at Dana Middle in Hawthorne, California.He also taught himself to play Piano at the age of 14.
5. Tyler is known for not pulling any punches and has “dissed” quite a few artists in several different tracks. What you might not know is that his “Hate Rhymes” are usually about artists he actually likes
6. Some sources have reported that Tyler is Straight Edge, meaning he doesn’t drink, smoke, or do drugs. Tyler has admitted (we think) to doing a bit of the old cocainia’ but only in small amounts as he already knows he’s going to be a coke head. His words… not ours lol.
7. Tyler is actually asthmatic and has severe asthma problem. He routinely takes hits from his Asthma inhaler onstage during shows.
8. Tyler has actually been arrested, but it wasn’t for maiming anyone or verbal assault. He got popped in 2011 during a show at the Roxy and was charged with “suspicion of vandalism” for allegedly destroying sound equipment. He was subsequently released on $20,000 bail.
9. According to his twitter he is highly allergic to dogs, but would never rape or kill a cat because he loves them. If you watch Odd Future you’ve also noticed a big cat theme going on, so it’s pretty safe to say the man digs cats.
10. Tyler has been put through the wringer about his use of the word “faggot” in his lyrics and on Twitter. Tyler isn’t homophobic and has plenty of gay fans who don’t find the word offensive in the least. He’s also been slammed for his graphics depictions against women, and used the word “Bitch” around 60 times on Goblin. Needless to say Tyler doesn’t hate Women either contrary to what Canadian Pop Duo Tegan and Sara think. Tyler had a nice response to them as well, and if you want to find out what it was just click here lol…
Odd Future resident crooner, Frank Ocean, has been making a lot of headlines lately – with his debut release “Orange Channel” and his oppenness about his personal life.
Many people have called Frank Ocean a breath of fresh air to the music industry, and some are even looking for the New Orleans native to be the savior of the R & B genre. I wanted to share with you a few interesting facts about Frank Ocean that I think we all should know.
1. Frank Ocean was featured on two songs From Jay-Z and Kanye West’s multi-platinum album ‘Watch the Throne.’ (Made in America and No Church in the Wild)
2. Born Christopher Breaux, Frank Ocean was born in Long Beach, CA but grew up in New Orleans, LA.
3. Frank moved to Los Angeles, CA in 2005 after the city of New Orleans was ravished by Hurricane Katrina.
4. In November of 2011, Frank Ocean was named as GQ Magazine’s Rookie of The Year.
5. Frank Ocean stated that the one non-musical thing that he learned from Kanye West is you should always choose your sneakers wisely.
6. Frank lists his personal hobbies as Kung Fu and Tai Chi.
7. Frank stated his Channel Orange album was a reminder for people to get their Vitamin C and supplements.
8. Frank’s debut album Channel Orange sold 130,000 in it’s first week debuting at #2 on the Billboard Charts.
9. Franks relationship with music producer Tricky Stewart led to his recording deal with Def Jam Records.
10. Since coming out on his Tumblr blog, Frank has been supported by the likes of Russell Simmons, Beyonce and 50 Cent.
Tyler the Creator the leader of the Cali based hip-hop collective Odd Future was recently arrested during a show at the famed Roxy Theater in West Hollywood. The rapper is one of the most entertaining personalities that the music industry in a while. For more info follow him @fuc*tyler. And yes, the *=k.