Tag Archives: Hip-Hop

Review: Kendrick Lamar’s “good kid, m.A.A.d. city”

I’m really into rap right now, probably a little too much. After last month’s A$AP Rocky concert, I can’t stop listening. It got to the point that my friends had to sit me down and remind me there is more music to be heard than solely Danny Brown. I realized I had to broaden my pallet; there is such a thing as overplaying an artist. But while staying within the confines of my beloved rap genre, I began to expand, listening to various other artists. In my expansion, I began listening to Kendrick Lamar. As his 2010 album, Section 80, was critically acclaimed, immense hype surrounded his latest release, good kid, m.A.A.d. city. I had to give it a listen. And though I can’t call it groundbreaking, “good kid, m.A.A.d. city” is nonetheless a great album.

Kendrick Lamar – Swimming Pools (Drank)

Although I don’t agree that “good kid, m.A.A.d. city” is the instant classic it has been deemed by various music publications, it still is ultimately a success. The production is varied, encompassing pseudo- electronica and hard guttural beats, with Lamar effectively
navigating his way lyrically through each song. The lyrical content on the album is varied, and while contained mostly in today’s usual rap themes of women, money, poverty, there is creativity in all he says. The sole problem I have with “good Kid, m.A.A.d. city” is that it forces the listener to ask, is Kendrick Lamar really that good or is hip-hop today just that bad? Rappers are often given too much credit; if an artist manages to say something mildly creative or original they are excessively praised. Kendrick Lamar embodies this to an extent. Although in “good kid, m.A.A.d. city,” Kendrick is able to avoid the Lil Wayne pitfall of rhyming “hoes” with “hoes”, overall he struggles to say something new. His lyrics are indeed good, but occasionally formulaic: while Kendrick strives for so-called “intellectual hip-hop,” lines like “I pray my dick get big as the Eiffel tower/so I can f*ck the world for 72 hours” don’t help his cause.

With my “Lil Wayne is killing hip-hop” rant aside, I need to emphasize that, while I don’t view “good kid, m.A.A.d. city” as wildly original, it still is to me the best rap album of the year.
I have no clue what that says about the hip-hop genre as a whole, but regardless, “good kid, m.A.A.d. city” is definitely worth a listen.

-Robert Cornell

PROFILE: HOMEBOY SANDMAN

Homeboy Sandman is a rapper from New York City who is signed to the holy grail of all hip hop labels– Stones Throw, home to Madlib, Dilla, Doom, and a veritable treasure chest of other hip hop luminaries. Sandman’s latest release, First of a Living Breed, is his most refined release to date, and should hopefully give this earnest hip hop revivalist the recognition he deserves.

The keyword with Homeboy Sandman, and what sets him apart from other rappers, is grassroots. Through interviews, live shows, and ciphers, he has displayed an earnestness and clarity of purpose that is a breath of fresh air in a hip hop culture where the hype outweighs the substance a million to one. This grassroots ethic is embodied in his latest video, where Homeboy Sandman walks down a New York City Street in a single take, getting dap from fans and admirers, throwing down in an impromptu cipher, and signing records– all while rapping the lyrics to his ode to things staying the same. “People ask me if my life changed. Here’s what I might say: Not really.” These days, hip hop is high on excess, escapism and fantasy. Homebody Sandman brings it back to the source, by rapping straight from the heart about his experiences with a distinct lack of excess and frills. This music isn’t underground or mainstream– it’s just hip hop, plain and simple. This, for me, is what makes Homeboy Sandman an important hip hop artist.

Not Really – Homeboy Sandman

Here’s an excerpt from an article Homeboy Sandman wrote for Huffington Post:

“I’ve had the honor of becoming friends with Crazy Legs of Rocksteady Crew, the legendary breakdancing crew that was featured so prominently in early hip hop movies like Style Wars and Wild Style. A conversation that I had with him about hip hop’s birth (which he was there for in person in the 70s in the South Bronx) helped me formulate my theory about why hip hop has become the most popular musical genre among youth in the entire world, to where Rio de Janiero is denser with graffiti than Queens, and kids in the Czech Republic wear baseball caps and call each other n******. It’s because somehow all those broke South Bronx kids captured the essence of cool. The spirit of it. Couldn’t be cool because of money, everyone was broke. Couldn’t be cool because of where you lived, everyone was in the slums. Couldn’t feel good about yourself because of your school because schools were a nightmare, or even because of your family as families in the South Bronx in the 1970 were plagued with every societal ill that society has to offer. But if you were an athlete, you could be a bboy. If you had some charisma, you could be an emcee. If you were artistic, you could be a graffiti writer. This was the inception of hip hop. Being cool without anything. Without being any certain type of person. Being cool only because of your talent.”

Danny Brown: Toothless Rapper Extraordinaire

I went to Cleveland for the second time, Friday. There was rap and more rap and more rap at the House of Blues. It was a new experience; I had never been to a rap show before. But I really like Danny Brown. A$AP Rocky, with Schoolboy Q, headlined the show, which was fine, excitable even, but Danny Brown was my motivation. He opened, went on at 8:00 and was backstage with a 40 before 9:00. The set was short, but Danny Brown played what you needed to hear, maybe not as his fan, but as someone who wanted good music.

Danny Brown is unique to his genre of music; he once claimed 50 Cent refused to sign him to G-Unit Records because he wears skinny jeans. I believe him. He doesn’t look like a rapper, but he is, no question about it. Every song he performed at the House of Blues exuded arrogance, every line ego, and everyone loved it. Although the crowd was initially sparse, Danny filled the void with energy, playing favorites such as “Monopoly” and “I Will” as the crowd grew and closed in around him. When the audience was ready, Danny finished with “Blunt After Blunt.” Everyone knew it would be his closer, but yet it was still unexpected. He snarled and wailed his way through the song, pausing only to allow the crowd the option to fill the chorus. We did; everyone screamed until they couldn’t, gathering air while he rapped another verse, waiting to unleash another Blunt After Blunt.

As Danny Brown finished, and as Schoolboy Q began to set up, there was a short intermission, with the majority of the crowd filed outside for a quick cigarette. Although everyone eagerly awaited the show’s continuation, Danny Brown’s performance had clearly captivated the audience. You could feel it. I met this guy from Florida who articulated it best, claiming “I came for A$AP. I didn’t know who Danny Brown was, but, yo, that motherfucker was sick.” And as people smoked cigarettes, Danny Brown really was the only thing worth talking about.

Review: Wiki 1993 – Wikispeaks


The kids name is Wiki and he’s real young, you wouldn’t know that from his flow though. Its obvious that Wiki idolizes the 90’s, his rhymes and beats invoke the rawness embodied by everybody’s favorite “Old New York.” Wikispeaks is the standout track from Wiki’s EP 1993, which was released in October,  just got the visual treatment and you should check it out here. If you dig the vibes cop his full EP for free off his bandcamp.

-Cole Evelev

New Music: Ramallah Underground

Ramallah Underground

Ramallah Underground reside in their namesake, a city north of Jerusalem in the West Bank, melting styles into effortless, jazzy hip-hop that, more often that not, takes the form of brooding sample-based instrumentals. A music collective, they materialized sometime in the mid-‘oughts, and have been producing a dexterous slew of genre-balking stand-alone tracks out of Palestine ever since. A far cry from the Beastie Boy-esque politi-rap born proudly from more visible Arab hip-hop groups–like Israeli-Arab supergroup DAM–the music of Ramallah’s most inscrutably prolific (and generally mysterious) trip-hop-blending M.C.-aggregate is elusive and smooth, one moment a relaxing foray into stuttery laid-back ambience, the next a tense and immediate outbreak of muffled sonic irruption. The elegantly rendered, and yet barely-restrained, musical pathos of many of their tracks echoes the turmoil felt by a vocally-castrated generation of youths. They, by their own account, hope to create a brand of musical camaraderie that can appeal to and possibly speak for many of the concerns of modern Arabs and Palestinians.

Check out their website, myspace, facebook.

Ramallah Underground – Aswatt il Zaman

-Cole Evelev