Friday, April 29, 2011

A Grab Bag of New Blue Scholars' Hits

If I could be friends with any artist/MC in the entire rap game, it would easily be Geo (once known as Geologic) of the Blue Scholars. While I've posted about the Seattle-based duo in the past (DJ Sabzi rounds produces beats for Geo to rhyme across), I've never really delved into how much they mean to me as a group.

I feel they're not this intimidating in person.

After listening to them for fewer than five minutes, it's blatantly apparent to anyone with a sense of musically skill that these cats are wired to make truly fantastic, esthetically wondrous and downright filthy good music. Whenever I throw on Blue Scholars, I'm instantly in a better mood.

Blue Scholars catch musical fire
Perhaps what impresses me most about the Blue Scholars is that they manage to stay humble and true to their roots despite they've made it big (or at least have a very faithful following) in the music industry. I also love that Geo raps about things that are real --work, wages, family, friends, love and heartbreak-- and relegates the average rap topics like hos, rims and drugs to the curb.

I hope you get caught up in the Blue Scholars are too!

"Big Bang Hank"

"50 Thousand Deep"


"New People [Remix]"

(A remix of an song by Empire of the Sun)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Artist Profile: OnCue

OnCue is exactly the type of artist I love to write about and, even better still, listen to. Not only is it apparent that his lyrics come straight from his heart, and he bares his soul for all to see, but listen to five bars of his flow and it's blatantly obvious that he loves what he does.

OnCue, who hails originally from Hartford, Conn., and currently resides in Brooklyn, NY., is quite an enigma. After some skimming some interviews and articles about the rising star, the only glimpse of a name I've found was that some people call him Geoffrey. But, lucky for us, "Geoffrey" from Brooklyn know how to make some great music. Whether he's sampling Dave Matthew's "Crash Into Me," or producing his own beats, he's a raw talent.

Here are some of the best songs of his I've discovered thus far. (Also, you can download his mixtape, "Cuey Sings the Blues", here.) Listen away!

"Crashing Down" (Download included in the description)

"Your Own Supply"

I love the scene with the photographer.

"Friends" (Download included in the description)

"Eat Your Words"

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Asher Roth: More than a "One-Hit" Wonder

In the spring of 2008, everyone and their mother heard about how much Asher Roth loves college. When his single "I Love College" came out, however, no one had ever heard of the Pennsylvania native before; he was even confused with Eminem in both looks and flow. Yet, believe it or not, Asher has been busy while the world was focused elsewhere.

The most famous ginger rapper...ever
Not only has Asher been signed to a label, put out several mixtapes, toured with Kid Cudi, Blink-182 and B.o.B., and been promoting his upcoming album that will be released in 2011, but he's also been putting in time in the studio.

XXL cover with Wale, B.o.B. and Charles Hamilton (from L to R)
Thus, it's only fair for me to share some of his tracks that haven't made it to the radio waves. I truly feel like Roth is an above average rapper who has yet to fully hit his stride. I guess only time will tell! Nonetheless, peep these tracks and tell me what you think. How high is the ceiling for Roth? He's certainly more talented than most of the rappers who top the charts today. But I digress...

"G.R.I.N.D. (Get Ready It's A New Day)"

"Sour Patch Kids"

"(Stop) Waiting On The World To Change"

Monday, April 18, 2011

Blue Scholars and The XX: Two Genres, Two Great Songs, One Hook

While I spend a lot of my time and energy hunting down new hip-hop and rap artists, I also am a huge fan of indie rock. So, upon hearing the Blue Scholars' "Lumiere," I immediately recognized that song as a remix of a British indie rock group The XX's  song "Intro." It's from the group's album "xx," which came out in 2009; perhaps the most well-known song on the album is "Crystalised."

The XX are ironically hipster. Or maybe they aren't...

But, let's not get off track. This is a blog about hip-hop, and perhaps even indie rap, but it shouldn't dwell on other musical genres. It's simply nice to appreciate that there are fantastically talented artists in every genre and when they coordinate they efforts, the product is often incredible. "Lumiere" is a track that resonates with me on a deep, personal level and it's clear that Geo and Sabzi put a lot of time and effort into doing The XX's work justice.

Blue Scholars are Seattle's rap pride
Also, make sure you check out this other blog about the same two tracks. It includes a free download. Please enjoy!

"Lumiere" by Blue Scholars

"Intro" by The XX

Nas: The Forgotten Hip-hop MC of the '90s?

While Nas (born Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones) first came onto the hip-hop scene in 1989, and quickly embedded himself as one of the most talented MCs of the 90s and the early 00s, I frankly feel he often gets left out of the conversation of "greatest rapper ever." Instead, names like Jay-Z, Eminem, Rakim, Tupac and Biggie crop up. Nas is frequently swept under the hip-hop immortality rug.

Why is this? Clearly there's no simple explanation. But, if you consider the aforementioned MCs on a case-by-case basis, there are reasons why each of them has been deemed a top MC while Nas is undeservedly relegated to the relatively-forgotten lower rungs of the rap ladder with artists like Common and Mos Def.
Let's look at Jay-Z. He, along with Eminem, are the most flashy on the list.

Nas teamed up in 2010 to create "Distant Relatives" with Damian Marley

Jay-Z arguably compromised his musical and lyrical talents by selling out to a pop music vibe instead of remaining true to his roots. Now, for Biggie and Tupac, the their popularity is obviously explained. Biggie was killed and Tupac seemingly vanished into thin air. As sad as it is, the media and the critics will always smile upon death tragedy. And, perhaps most clearly, Eminem has benefitted from the notoriety he got from "8 Mile" and from the detailed publication of the hardships that he hard to overcome while growing up in blue-collar Detroit; Jay-Z also benefitted from this pseudo "rags-to-riches" phenomenon.

Nas and Jay-Z feuded throughout the 90s

Nas' lyricism, beats and production are equally, if not more impressive, than each of these MCs. Granted,  there are certainly various aspects of his artistry which is less-developed than these other top MCs. Yet, why isn't Nas a "Top-5" MC? You've probably heard much of his work. So, instead below I provided some tracks that most people don't know or, at the very least, should get re-accustomed to. You be the judge.

"One Mic"

"Surviving the Times"

"Made You Look"

"Hip-hop is Dead"

Thursday, April 14, 2011

J. Cole: Jay-Z's Heir Apparent?

While he might be the first artist ever signed to Jay-Z's  Roc Nation label, Jermaine Lamarr Cole (aka J. Cole) was inspired by artists like Tupac, Nas and Eminem while growing up in North Caroline. For college he attended St. John's University in New York City in hopes of gaining notoriety in the rap/hip-hop world. At only 26, J. Cole has already blown up big time.

Yet, mention the his name to the average music listener and they'll shoot a blank face back at you. He reminds me of artists like B.o.B., Wale, Jay Electronica and Jay-Z. While his flow and lyricism aren't world-class, he's certainly a top notch artist nonetheless. And, being under arguably one of the top five MCs of all time, the future couldn't be brighter for Cole.

So, without further ado, I present some of J. Cole's best tracks to date. This is without a doubt one of the artists you'll want to keep an ear out for within the next 10 years!

"In the Morning" feat. Drake

"Losing My Balance"

"Blow Up"

"Who Dat"

"Lights Please"

Monday, April 11, 2011

Atmosphere's "The Family Sign": Dialogue from Storify

Tinkering around with a very cool program called storify lead me to recently compose a brief post specifically about @atmosphere's upcoming album "The Family Sign." Since the record drops tomorrow, the 12th of April, I felt it was only appropriate that I reach out through multimedia to capture exactly what is happening around the album and what sort of attention the work is receiving.

While this post is a little different than usual, it's still rather informative and contains useful links. I hope you enjoy!

Atmosphere's "The Family Sign": Dialogue from Storify

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Chiddy Bang: An Young Hip-Hop duo on the rise

While I've written about Chiddy Bang in the past, I've never talked much about their rise to popularity or how they got there. The two members, Chidera "Chiddy" Anamege and Noah "Xaphoon Jones" Beresin, started working together in 2008 as freshmen at Drexel University when they were introduced by a mutual friend.

The darlings of Philly hip-hop
The duo first blew up (with some help by indie music website PMA blog to boost their notoriety) in February of 2009 when they showcased their talents with "Opposite of Adults." In it, Xaphoon samples MGMT while Chiddy flows mercilessly. Yet, once people begin listening to more of their stuff (I would certainly count myself in with this bunch), they're often hooked for life. Now, I've downloaded Xaphoon's two mixtapes (which I will post about later), their singles and another mixtape they did called "Air Swell." P.S. Xaphoon does a lot of work on his own which is very impressive too.

Anyway, below is a nice smattering of some of their hits, both popular hits and relatively-unheard of tracks. As per usual, enjoy!

"Opposite of Adults"

"Dream Chasing"


"Sooner or Later"

"All Things Go"

Friday, April 8, 2011

Artist Profile: "Fortune Family"

Thanks to a close friend of mine, I recently came across a pretty talented, up-and-coming rap group from just outside Philadelphia -"Fortune Family." Unfortunately I don't know a lot about the group. However, I can tell you that three guys --Hobson, Reefer and Kane-- started the group fairly recently and their work really speaks for itself. They remind me of Chiddy Bang, and Xaphoon's undeniably catchy samples; in fact, a large portion of their songs employ samples to pack their melodic punch. 

Fortune Family calls Philly home...just like Chiddy Bang
Any one with a bit of sense can tell these guys might just be the next big thing. So, if I were you, I'd keep an eye out for "Fortune Family" in the future.

Here are some of their mixtapes:

"Take Me Away"

"Let It Go"

"I Love High School"

"My Energy"

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Atmosphere's second single released from "The Family Sign" PLUS lesser-known classics

When people ask me what type of music I listen to, I have a nearly impossible time categorizing my musical taste. I especially have this issue when it comes to my hip-hop preferences. I have my days when I can' get enough of newer groups (such as Chiddy Bang, J. Cole, Fortune Family and even Jay Electronica). But at other times, I comfortably resort back to classic hip-hop icons like Talib Kweli, Gangstarr, A Tribe Called Quest and Jurassic 5. Yet, no matter what mood I'm in, I always enjoy listening to Atmosphere.

The fiercest rap duo today; MC Sean "Slug" Daley on the right
So, in celebration of their forthcoming album, which will be released on April 12th, I've posted the second single of the album, "The Family Sign." Below are also a nice smattering of classic hits of theirs which I couldn't live without. Hopefully, even the biggest Atmosphere experts haven't heard these tracks!

"She's Enough" -2nd single from their next album

"Lyndale Avenue User's Manual"

"66th Street"

"Wild Wild Horses"

"Keys to life Vs. 15 Minutes of Fame"

Saturday, April 2, 2011

MURS: One Badass Emcee

MURS, originally born as Nick Carter in Los Angeles, CA, is one of my favorite rappers in all of the underground hip-hop game. While his beats and hooks aren't as impressive as other producers' (such as DJ Sabzi, DJ Premiere or Jake One), Carter does such a fantastic job of blending simplistic, blue-collar rhymes with witty phrases and real-life rap ballads. His stage name, an acronym, either stands for "Making the Universe Recognize and Submit or  "Making Underground Raw Shit."Also, his hair is the most impressive thing I've seen in years. It simply defies gravity.

What is going on on top of his cranium? 
What's even better is that you can tell he writes from personal experience, from his heart. On the mic, MURS reminds me of Atmosphere's "Slug," Brother Ali, the Living Legends, Zion 1,  or even Jurassic 5.

As per usual, here are some of my favorite songs from one of my favorite solo artists. Enjoy!

"The Break Up Song"


"Barbershop" feat. Rapper Big Pooh

"Silly Girl"

Friday, April 1, 2011

Thinking Man's Podcast: Hip-hop, rap and everything in between

Today, I decided to change the format of my standard blog posts a bit. Instead of doing a standard write-up of an artist whose work I've come to respect, or maybe a brief description of my favorite hot, new group, I chose to sit down and have a conversation with a good friend of mine (John Formica) in hopes of getting his take on where hip-hop and rap have come from and where they're going as well. John always analyzes music on a deeper level than the average consumer and I highly respect his music. Whenever I'm in need of some new tracks, I always go to him first. I hope you enjoy!