On the day after the release of Eminem’s sixth album Relapse, I can’t help but feel like I’ve been cheated. When Mr. Mathers first entered mainstream consciousness with The Slim Shady LP, he was on some next level shit. Using people from his personal life as point persons for lyrical fodder and creating horrifying fictitious scenarios involving them (“’97 Bonnie & Clyde” still gives me the heebs), Em took rap to its darkest corners, making his offensive tales lighter by comically framing them. And that’s exactly what America came to love about him: his ability to shape deeply disturbing songs out of not-so-disturbing material, all while joking about it as if it were the national behavioral standard. But on Relapse, which sees Em at a point in his life following the death of his best friend and overcoming an addiction to painkillers, Em turns his back on reality and foolishly assumes the role of a character (stupid voice included).

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Joining the ranks of A-Trak, LCD Soundsystem and Aesop Rock to create Nike-commissioned running mixes, De La Soul has just unleashed their 45-minute epic “Are You In?” to iTunes this past week. Being that I’m a runner who’s about to start training for his second marathon (goodbye again, social life), I figured it was only right that I purchase (italicized for a reason) the MP3 and give it a spin during a 6 miler yesterday. So for all you critics and writers out there that are too damn lazy to step away from your computer and listen to a mix intended for play during exercise, here’s a runner’s take on how the mix really fares on a legitimate workout.

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When Kelis first linked up with Nas five years back, I was confused. Here were two artists on completely different planes: Kelis hadn’t yet traded in her frizzy clump of hair for a flat-ironed coif and ironic gold fronts, while Nas was just reclaiming a spot in the top 5 D.O.A. after holding his own in one of hip-hop’s greatest battles. So with the recent announcement that Ms. Kelis Rogers has filed from divorce from Mr. Nasir Jones, can I just say that I saw this one coming?

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Only Female in My Crew

April 28, 2009

Sunday’s Nicki Minaj post had me thinking about the career trajectories of femcees. How exactly do these bad girls get put on? What distinguishes someone like a Jean Grae from a Lil’ Kim, and why does one invariably find success over the other? As you would have it, the majority of hip-hop’s most successful female emcees have all followed the same career path, whether it be mere coincidence or standard industry procedure, climbing the ranks and falling into obscurity on nearly the same exactly time line. Coincidence? Methinks not.

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Nicki Minaj à Quoi?

April 26, 2009

To be honest, I like Nicki Minaj. The whole image she’s had up until now has been a jigsaw assembly of all the right femcee cliches: Remy Ma’s thuggish unfuckwitable persona, Foxy Brown’s lyrical punctuality, Trina’s sex appeal (circa Da Baddest Bitch) – she’s got bits and pieces of every other female emcee bundled together to hold her own in the lineage of strong ladies that came before her. But with her latest DJ Holiday & Trap-A-Holics-endorsed mixtape Beam Me Up Scotty, something is a little off with the latest step forward in her burgeoning career.

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LL Cool Drake

April 23, 2009

Young Drizzy came to face unfounded popularity with the release of his breakout mixtape So Far Gone, a collection of gushy love jams appropriately released less than 24 hours before Valentine’s Day. The faux album earned him fangirls and stan boys alike, yet he’s remained on the hush hush ever since, only popping up to perform on Weezy’s I Am Music Tour and, most recently, a few of his own solo shows. But how did Drake get to the point where he’s currently at? And who exactly are all of these people buying into the Drake phenomenon? Was this a genius move, or has he lost the momentum? Let’s examine a bit further.

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No one can argue with the fact that Charles Hamilton is the most hardworking emcee/producer in contemporary hip-hop. This man has cranked out mixtape after mixtape at breakneck speed, over-saturating blogs with a mile-long string of consistent full-length releases. He must spend every waking moment in the confines of his studio (by the time I finish this post, he’ll probably have wrapped up and released another batch of C. Hamilton joints for the masses), his work ethic enough to scare off any newcomer that thinks one mixtape is more than enough to create a buzz. But just yesterday, Charles leaked “Barbara Walters,” the first official single off his forthcoming Interscope debut This Perfect Life. And its response? Nothing but a bunch of e-shrugs.

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