EMINEM

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6min1991

SO I got hold of this album around the same time I got Kev Brown’s latest project. Both albums are by dope producers who are unforgiving in the dismantling of samples.

But what stood out to me when I began bumping Apollo Brown and Joell Ortiz’s Mona Lisa, is that these producers need to chill behind the mic and hand the scrumptious beats to dope rappers.

I couldn’t even get through Kev Brown’s project, it was dope but too long and listening to him rap makes me cringe. Apollo and Joell coming together is perfect as the black and white on a chess piece. It works.

Cocaine Fingertips epitomises the duo’s chemistry. Not once did I get a sense that Apollo compromised himself for Joell, nor vice versa. But like a perfect relationship, the two brought the best out of each other.

Joell is a fine storyteller I first came across a couple of years ago through Eminem’s passion project, Slaughterhouse-one of the dopest rapping cliques the game has ever witnessed. That he could stand out, standing next to Cooked-I, Joe Budden and Royce da 5’9” says a lot about Joell as an emcee.

I’ve listened to his work and till this day Free Agent remains my personal favourite in his discography, but Mona Lisa sits right next to it.

What makes Joell more pleasurable to listen to on this album, is that he’s on beats you wouldn’t often have him spit on. They are heartfelt thanks to Apollo’s penchant of cutting old school soulful joints. These are the sort of beats usually reserved for kats who would sign for Mellow Music Group- dope kats, but a bit too lethargic and quite frankly, too mellow. Joell rips these babies apart, bar after bar.

Joell does get on his mellow shit though on Come Back Home, being introspective about his career and life -admitting that he’ll never pop in the game like mainstream rappers do. The beat that reminded me of Apollo’s 11th Hour and Know the Time (both from his Clouds project). Despite being all smooth in narrating his story, there’s a part in the second verse of the track where the lion that is Joell cannot be tamed. Saying;

I keep it pushin’, beat cookin’
Rep Brooklyn, give whooping’s,
Through the pen like it’s summertime in the bookings

Kats from Brooklyn rep their hood, with every opportunity they’re presented with and Joell takes you through Brooklyn projects and the goings on there in My Block. WIth so much pride. It’s a Hip Hop head’s joint, with a number of rhyme schemes he has on display.

Add ’em a lil’ water, that Eve, I hit the block
Long as I got that ‘cain, I’m able to flip the rock,
I swear to God, I finger-fuck this fortyorty,
like we in a orgy, and have these bullets shakin’ up
whoever comin’ for me, sexy thot talk from a G that pulls strings

Petty as Timberlan’d Up with Royce is, it’s a funny ass dope joint of grown men going hard on new age rappers. It would’ve been doper though, had the two went back and forth together in the last verse.

If you’re into dope raps on rich beats, then Mona Lisa is for you. It might be a bore to one who isn’t into real raps, but wants hooks and catchy beats. Joell has nice quotable punchlines, which helps make his music stick.

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9min1981

Every living human being has a soul. In each of us, there’s a something viewed as immortal and defining of our character and who we are. Now what I’m curious about, is whether we as society still think white people do not have soul?

All my life, I’ve observed the rhetoric that white people are lacking when it comes to soul. In the arts and even in sport. I grew up understanding that a white soccer player could not have the same rhythm and be pleasing to watch on the field as Doctor Khumalo or Steve Lekoelea. Yes, they played the beautiful game with more than just there’s limbs but also with soul.

The idea of black people being the gatekeepers of soulfulness stems from the 1950s in the US. Because of artists such Aretha Franklin, who recently demised, James Brown and Sam Cook whose music was highly emotive and equally spiritual. Soulful artists have the conviction of Gospel and the suave and agony of Rhythm and Blues. Most of their voices were moulded at a church somewhere. Incorporated with soul-food, you get a vivid idea that soul and black culture go hand-in-hand. Abo darkie are the archetypal of soul. But in the last few years we’ve seen a growing number Caucasians who have soul.

Tom Misch, JFK, Jamie Isaac, Mac Miller and Jordan Rakei- who will be performing at this year’s DSTV Delicious Festival- are talented artists changing the status quo. J.Cole touched on this in his track Fire Squad.

History repeats itself and thats just how it goes

Same way that these rappers always bite each others flows

Same thing that my nigga Elvis did with Rock n Roll

Justin Timberlake, Eminem, and then Macklemore

While silly niggas argue over who gone snatch the crown

Look around my nigga white people have snatched the sound

This year I’ll prolly go to the awards dappered down

Watch Iggy win a Grammy as I try to crack a smile

I’m just playin’, but all good jokes contain true shit

These are heavy lyrics by Cole which were misunderstood by the public when the song came out. But it leads one to the question, are white people truly snatching black culture? I believe as black people we don’t mind, when other races immerse themselves in our various and interesting cultures-we’re too sharing to be that petty.

What irks us most, is someone who does not give credit to those who created the culture which they love because it has given them so much. Black people want and need to be acknowledged for the great that they are.

It’s no secret that Elvis Presley was the counterfeit King of Rock ’n’ Roll while the original King was Chuck Berry and that Eminem is a great rapper but his whiteness has been a huge contributor to his success.  It’s no problem when someone of Em’s stature gets love and recognition, but it was disappointing when someone who makes gibberish as Macklemore won a Hip Hop Grammy award instead of Kendrick Lamar.

But it was inevitable that things would be like this, since the world is getting smaller and is free of segregation, apartheid and other wack laws which made it difficult for people all over the world to exchange cultures. Should we as black people take offense that other races immerse themselves in black culture? Not at all, we should take pride in it. A case in point is South African music legend Johnny Clegg who made great Mbaqanga music, but could never be compared to one of the gods of the genre Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens. The latter were a collective of a black king and queens who made music for everyone but never, not for one second, lost touch with their blackness. They owned it…and were still cool with Mr Clegg enjoying some of it too.

The likes of RJ Benjamin and Kid Fonque are known for their inclination to music with soul, which people of their own race don’t often appreciate as darkies do.  RJ Benjamin has proved time and time again with his albums, production and the people he’s worked with that he’s a soulful kat whose name you wouldn’t find on a line-up, next to Kurt Darren and Steve Hofmeyr. While Kid Fonque’s show alone, on 5FM would sit well on afropolitan radio station Kaya FM because it’s not limited to the generic electro sound that’s synonymous with white fellas and girls. But his House music is soul satisfying, not just focused on burning my calories on the dance floor.

I know black people who’ll say white people can have all the soul they want, including our dance moves, if they give us all their wealth.  Fortunately things aren’t that simple. We cannot and should not sell ourselves, instead we should own our culture, share it with the rest of the world whilst finding ways to preserve it so that it doesn’t get gentrified and become something we can barely recognise.

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7min2930

In the sixth episode of the second season of Atlanta, Darius drives out of town to a mansion owned by the peculiar and wealthy Teddy Perkins, to pick up a piano he found on the internet.

Before getting into the reason for his visit, Darius and Perkins have a brief chat about music. “Rap…I found it never quite grew out of its adolescence,” says Perkins. He goes on to say that rap is insufficient as an art form, to which Darius subtly disagrees. This brief conversation came to mind as I listened to the Nasir album by Nas.

The times we’re living in, allow us to witness the first batch of active, middle aged emcees that aren’t just putting music out, but also competing on the charts with the younger emcees. The likes of Common, Jay- Z, KRS-ONE, Eminem and others are prime examples; thus indicating Hip Hop’s growth as an art form. But the downside of these grown men being behind the mic, is that as fans we inevitably compare them to their younger selves. It’s an unfair comparison I admit, but what can I say, fans are fans and they are the life blood of the art form.

…I didn’t like Bonjour but after a few more listens the joint grew on me like pubic hair…

I’m an avid consumer of this Hip Hop thing and I was disappointed with the 44 year-old Nas’s execution on Nasir. Mind you, I wasn’t comparing him to that 20 year-old from Queens that released Illmatic in 1994. That would certainly be unfair because that album is one of the greatest bodies of work of all time. This project doesn’t even compare to his last one, Life is Good.

I liked the idea of this album; how he talked about his Pan-Africanness, Police violence on black people in the US and on his personal life. But I don’t think he came proper with his flow and bars. Nas could’ve done more.

Not For Radio I didn’t enjoy because of the dragged-out flow which sounded like a poem on a good beat. At times, he was off beat which made me cringe. Certainly not a good way to open the album.

On Cops, he sounded like the Nas we’ve grown to like post- Illmatic. He doesn’t necessarily kill the beat with the raps, but the weight of the truth in the song holds the joint. While Kanye spat what could be his finest verse in a long while.

Throughout the album, Ye’s beats are something to marvel at- much like the other albums he’s produced that have come out in the past four weeks. After this offering though, my conclusion is that Mr West should release a beat tape, just for control as they say.

At first, I didn’t like Bonjour but after a few more listens the joint grew on me like pubic hair.  In the song Nas is flexing about the good life he’s blessed with, travelling to beautiful parts all over the world, yet dropping knowledge on how to spend money and creating a better future for your offspring.

Everything is also a beautiful song, but Kanye’s presence could have you thinking it’s a Ye joint featuring Nas. Adam and Eve isn’t my favourite, but he came correct and was on par with the beat. The album gets better with each song. It’s just unfortunate that it is only seven tracks, which demands more of an artist because you can’t come out not half-stepping in any of the songs, as oppose to a 13 track album which gives one more time and room to build momentum and play around some ideas. Nas grew more palatable as the album went. Simple Things is a good joint that’s far from being simplistic.

The album’s replay value is unsatisfactory, one is left to nit-pick and wanting more. But this isn’t the worst Nas project, but it’s far from Nas’ best.


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