Archive for May 24, 2011

Industry Tips & Advice: How to Create a Music Image That Sells

Creating an image is the most important tool for a recording artist today! This shows you how to develop one that sells.

Industry Tips & Advice: Re-Thinking Your Image: Creating a Signature Style by John Battaglia

Many talented emerging artists are confused by the issue of an image and don’t have a sense of their own style. So, they either copy things from other people, or are just bland. Few artists actually have a true, distinct style. In today’s entertainment environment, the first impression is as important as ever. However, style is only one aspect of an artist’s first impression. Working with artists such as Usher, Beyonce, and Jessica Simpson has taught me that there are many things related to the way an artist comes across to others.

My theory for building a compelling rockstar image is that you have to look within, harness what really makes you great, and then express that to the fullest. A style or look is just another form of self-expression, similar to the way you express yourself on stage or in the studio. It’s capturing that same energy, and applying it to the rest of your life, including your look.

Everything you do can be viewed as a form of self-expression – from knowing yourself so deeply that your expression comes from an authentic place, to your live performance, to how you walk into a room, conduct yourself in meetings and interviews, and to how passionately you live your daily life. These things shape the way that you are perceived. And of course, style and a look play an important role too.

Entertainment is a business of first impressions. People make a decision of
what they think about you in the first few seconds of seeing you. But here’s the key – People don’t get an impression from you; they get an impression from the image you project. That’s why talent is not enough to make it in this business. Many musicians have talent. But if they’re not doing all they can with it – if they’re not packaged in a way that it truly connects to others – it won’t work. They won’t attract the industry attention they deserve.

It’s important that you define your look, just as you have defined your sound. This creation of a signature style involves the following 3-step process:

Educate yourself so that you can dictate your own style: Start to notice what you’re drawn to and what you like. Notice what styles work on certain people and what doesn’t. Pay attention to advertisements on TV and billboards. Notice movie posters. Flip through magazines. I’m not an
advocate of following every trend, but if you don’t know what the trends are, how can you decide to take part of them or not?

Create a point of view and direction by uncovering your imaging themes: Think about your favorite rockstars. Notice their defining characteristics and traits. Then get clear on your own gifts and quirks. Rockstars accentuate their strengths. How can you? A combination of your favorite rockstar’s traits, along with your own defined uniqueness will form a Point of View and Direction. An image is formed when you consistently put forth a clear direction.

For example, if your favorite rockstars are Kid Rock, The Police, Sheryl Crow, Joannie Mitchell, Ani Difranco, and Bono, the traits you most admire in them are their rebellious nature, sunny personalities, and home-made qualities. Your own strengths and quirks include your sensual nature, love of wild animals, and heritage. It’s then about taking pieces of all of these themes and putting them together to form “your own” rockstar image.

Illustrate your themes and direction in the way you dress, accessorize, and act: Once you have a clearly defined direction for your image, the next step is to portray that in every part of your look and in everything that you do. For instance, what’s the belt buckle, hair style, or color combination that clearly represents the new image that you want to project? Your photographs, website, and other presentation materials should all reflect your new image too. Then decide how you can express your new direction in your live performance, studio sessions, and daily life. Live your artistry in all that you do. So now that you have your own style, it’s time to go shopping. Happy hunting.



Industry Tips & Advice: Top 10 Music PR tips for Today’s Unsigned Artist

an unsigned artist, publicity is a huge driving force when you’re looking at success in the music industry. Although it’s definitely beneficial to retain a publicist once you have your music career in gear, you can still manage to create a little buzz on your own in the meantime. Below are the top ten tips for generating your own publicity as a music artist. 1. Make sure you have a press kit that includes a well-written bio, an 8X10 photo, CD and contact info.
2. Go local. Local press is by far the easiest press to get. Let them know your story and send in a CD. Shoot for the music editor or columnist and if they don’t have one assigned specifically, contact the entertainment editor.
3. Social networking sites are all about music these days. For example, Myspace’s reach is incredible for gaining new fans. Where else can you find people to listen to your music in the convenience of their own home? Make sure you are updating your music, adding friends, keeping them all posted, and updating the tour dates. There are magazines on Myspace looking for music to feature all the time.
4. Radio is a great way to share your music with the masses. You don’t have to approach the big ones—you can see success with air play on smaller stations as well. Send in your CD to local DJs and look up college radio shows nationally and see if they’ll spin your music. Online radio is picking up these days too… USA4Real.com is a great option… it doesn’t cost much and it gets your music heard.
5. Music licensing is a great way to make money and get publicity. Try contacting some music supervisors on TV shows for a start. Send them an inquiry with your information and a link to your music. If you get placed, you can use it for press—and it becomes a story!
6. Music websites and e-zines are always looking for music to review. Look up their websites and send emails to their editors. Tell them why you’re a fit for their magazine and ask if you can send in a CD. Again, try to make contact first… sending in a random package may be useless.
7. Youtube.com and Stickam.com are wonderful outlets to share your music. You can even upload your music videos and video tips for other artists now at Getsigned.com. Just Upload your videos HERE and they’ll be on the site in a couple of weeks when the new site re-launches! When done right, you can really start gaining a fan base. Try to do something charismatic and original. Reaching out to people online can do wonders. Create a music video, a video blog, sing an acoustic set, take a stab at some comedy– anything… Just remember, first impressions are everything.
8. Be philanthropic. Charity does wonders for publicity outreach. Find something you believe in and offer to play at their event or donate proceeds to their cause. Not only does it get you out there and give you a story angle… but it feels good to help out.
9. Send your CDs to appropriate magazines for your music’s genre. Make sure you call ahead and find out the right contact, unsolicited packages get lost in the shuffle. A good rule of thumb is to look up specific writers you feel would enjoy your music and find out how to reach them.
10. Try to book shows in different towns, that way you can easily label the cluster of shows as a tour and contact local newspapers and radio stations and offer them merch in exchange for promotions/articles.

Note that PR is about being smart and creative. It’s about finding a reason for people to care about you and your music. Sure, great music and a good look are helpful, but you also need to reach out to the public and come up with stories. Think outside of the box and you’ll really benefit from the results in no time. Good luck!

Article: The 500 Greatest Hip Hop albums plus the other ones that are honorable mention.

2/28/11 Yes I know this list is predictable that it precicely the point of it. This is a general consensus view as of December 2004. This list also needs to be severely updated.

22 thousand views I need to add some more. the never ending saga continues. best of luck on your hip hop ventures may you all dig in the crates may god continue to bless you. 12/7/08 the anny of pearl harbor know your history.

Goddamn I hope I get this done soon It has been 3 years. There maybe some bumps and a lot of add on’s. Right now I have putting most of my eggs in the singles basket.

Not all reviews are positive I have some classic albums that were panned as failures when they were first released althought my Illmatic bias will always be there. I will forever keep that one quote because that is the most glowing quote of hip hop ever. Comments
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[ 1 - 100 ] 101 – 200 201 – 300 301 – 388 >>
Illmatic (1994)

The best ever. Not really anything else is as good. The Beats and the Rhymes were very innovative. The Beats by DJ Premier, Large Proffesor, Pete Rock and others has that old school vibe and lets Nas tear it up on the Mic. This is also a emcee in top form of where they need to be as he displays a perfect style-Flow and social conscience as it blends from song to song. The flow of the album is redicules and the only ones at it’s level are A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. The First song is one blessed by Premier “NY State of Mind” and this is where he put down of Hip Hops finest lines.The Next song is Lifes a Bitch” where AZ makes a famous guest apperaence.
Even thought every track is perfect the best one I believe is “It Ait hard to tell”. Nas perfectly blended his increddible lyrics with atmospheric production and increddible vibes.Top 5 all time in all 3 categories. Other Nas albums expecially Lost Tapes or great to.

5 Mics – Classic – …I must maintain that this is one of the best hip-hop albums I have ever heard…No cliched metaphors, no gimmicks…Never too abstract, never superficial. Even the skit-intros are meaningful…
The Source (04/01/1994
Straight Outta Compton (1988)

Not only is this LP Gangsta it is also very Funky album to. From beginning to end you will feel Compton like a drive by. From the parties and the chilling out to the Ruthless violence this CD will make you feel like you are from the C.P.T. from songs like “Strait out of Compton” and “Gangsta Gangsta” that represent the hood to the song that was a protest “F**K the Police” to just songs about hanging out “Parental Discretion iz Advised” “If it aint Ruff”. To the songs that are about a subject “Dopeman” and a “B***H iz a B***H”
this album is great from beginning to end. Also of Note is Express Yourself. Make sure to buy this album. It is the second best

5 stars out of 5 – …Their landmark blend of pop, rage and skilful self-marketing conitnues to reverberate….
Uncut (11/01/2002)

5 stars out of 5 – …One of hip-hop’s crucial albums…
Rolling Stone (10/01/2002)
Public Enemy
It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988)

5 Stars – Indispensable – …the greatest rap album of all time, a landmark and classic….
Q (09/01/1995)

10 (out of 10) – …the greatest hip-hop album ever….this wasn’t merely a sonic triumph. This was also where Chuck wrote a fistful of lyrics that promoted him to the position of foremost commentator/documentor of life in the underbelly of the USA….
NME (07/15/1995)
Dr. Dre
The Chronic (1992)

This album is one of the First soundtracks of hip hop original material ever. The album plays like any artists greatest Hits album and has everything you can ever want in a hop album from tight lyrics by Dr.Dre are by the guest stars of Kurupt-Snoop-Daz-Rage. All rappers show up correct and times are even world class like on
“Stranded on Deathrow” and goes into some of the best beats ever on record like the song “B***** Aint S***”.Then you go into the pattoned G-Funk music of the single “Let me Ride”.Then there is the funny and another sex ode of there manliness on “Deeez Nuuuts” and finally goes to the parties that are at happening in South Central
“Nothing but a G’Thang”. 7 years later Dre released a classic follow up but hopefully his much anticipated “Detox” will be released soon.

4.5 Stars – Excellent Plus – …Following the hype behind one of his hardest tracks ever, `Deep Cover,’ Dre has unloaded all over this album with the same furified intensity….An innovative and progressive hip-hop package that must not be missed…
The Source (02/01/1993)

4 Stars – Excellent – …A hip-hop masterwork full of big beats and little surprises….THE CHRONIC drops raw realism and pays tribute to hip-hop virtuosity…
Rolling Stone (03/18/1993)

…No one in the pop universe makes more visceral–or more visual–music than he does….THE CHRONIC storms with rage, strolls with confidence, and reverberates with a social realism that’s often ugly and horrifying… – Rating: A+
Entertainment Weekly (01/08/1993)
Wu-Tang Clan
Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)

One of the most original hip hop albums of all time. Started the love with Underground. The 9 rappers have been heroes since this albums release. From the grimey horrorcore beats by the RZArector to the weird rhymes of Meth and ODB to the wordplay and mad skills of The Genius-The Rebel INS and Ghost to the Mafia/Scarface at heart Raekwon to the other rappers Masta Killa and U-God to the off shoots. This album has funny kung fu type fighting and plays like a Kung Fu movie.There were a mix of rap styles and a lot of raw game.
Key Tracks to check for in any order. The 5 ones you need to know
Bring the Ruckus-Clan in Da Front-Mystery of Chessboxin
C.R.E.A.M.-Protect ya Kneck. If you want to here some weird funky beats and ODB mixed with the raps of Raekwon or Rebel INS start here.
All Eyez on Me (1996)

The Finnest double disk in Hip Hop history expecially side 1.The Raps are all over the place he goes from sexcapades like on “How do you want it” to being just a flat gangsta “2 of Amerikaz most wanted” with Snoop Dogg and other tracks like “Tradin Wall Stories”
and then he goes in to being into his inside feelings “Heartz of Men”
and “Only god can jude me” and then goes on a car ride in Cali with his boy Dre on the remix of “California Love”. Like on most double CD’s the second CD can get long winded but is still pretty good songs like “Shorty wanna be a thug” to “Whunda why they call you B****” to a thrilling posse cut “Aint Hard to find”. There are many classics and the shortcommings are easily triumphed by the better tracks. There are to many classics to listen to. It may not be as good as his album Me Against the World but it is easier to listen to.

3 Stars (out of 5) – …Even as garden-variety thug, 2Pac shows more skill than most. He deserves to have all eyes–and ears–on him.
Rolling Stone Magazine (04/04/1996)

9 (out of 10) – …ALL EYEZ is his angry, end-of-tether, couldn’t-give-a-s*** meditation….an immense spewing of indignation and provocation, set to a brilliantly varied range of G-funk grooves….Tupac blasts out his non-PC opinions…with a competition-eliminating relentlessness…
NME (03/02/1996)
A Tribe Called Quest
The Low End Theory (1991)

To call this album original would be a under statement. This album is extremely fun plus every song is perfect and they blend in all really well. From song to song you get top quality hip hop that is both great and Fresh. From the Beautiful “Excursions” to the Phife blessed “Buggin out” to the great “chech the Rhime” then the best produced song “We got the Jazz” and finally the all time posse anthem “Senario”. This was extremally great produced album and had effortless rhymes by Q-Tip and Phife Dawg. This maybe the second best album ever behind Illmatic for best all around rap CD.
The Notorious B.I.G.
Ready to Die (1994)

4.5 Mics – Slammin’ – …READY TO DIE, the debut from Brooklyn’s own Biggie Smalls (a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G.), echoes the attitude in full Ghettovision color, showing us that the true `American way’ is to hustle for yours…
The Source (10/01/1994)

4 Stars – Excellent – …With his prodigious, often booming voice overwhelming the track, he sweeps his verbal camera high and low, painting a sonic picture so vibrant that you’re transported right to the scene…
Rolling Stone Magazine (11/03/1994)
Snoop Dogg
Doggystyle (1993)

Even thought every one says how Gangsta this is that is not what the album is best remembered for. Sure it can get hardcore but this album is more concern with smoking weed then smoking blunts.This was one of the most hyped albums in hip hop history and went to #1 and he was the first artist to have there debut album debut at the top spot. Snoop remembers to have a lot of parties and Funky good times with songs like “Gin and Juice” “Ladi Dodi” and “Whats my name” songs that are for the “Gz and the Hustla’s” and “Murder was the Case” to other posse cuts featuring Dre on the boards and Kurupt, The Lady of Rage, RBX and Nate Dogg on the album.It is not as good as the Chronic but is still probally the 4th best West Coast album

4 Stars – Excellent – …DOGGYSTYLE is filled with verbal and vocal feats that meet its three-mile-high expectations….DOGGYSTYLE speeds through 55 minutes of constant talk as if on a suicide hot line….
Rolling Stone (01/27/1994)

…[Snoop] emerges as an MC who lives up to all of his advance hype….
The Source (02/01/1994)

…[DOGGYSTYLE] is the most limber, low-rider gangsta album to date…it’s easy to be impressed one moment and appalled the next… – Rating: B-
Entertainment Weekly (12/10/1993)

…Snoop is good, no doubt about it. His cool, lazy drawl is unique, evocative, rhythmically complex–the perfect foil for Dre’s thick, tense beats…The big story on THE CHRONIC was Snoop stealing Dre’s thunder; on DOGGYSTYLE, Dre snatches it back….
Vibe (02/01/1994)
De La Soul
3 Feet High and Rising (1989)

5 stars out of 5 – …The expansive confidence of youth’s first flush flows through its grooves…
Uncut (06/01/2003)

…Fine and innovative….An antidote to all the guns and macho bluster, it was supposed to herald a new touchy-feely age for hip hop…
Q (08/01/1999)

-Where the hell is the 5 Mic rating dont give it to Lil Kim this it.
Boogie Down Productions
Criminal Minded (1987)
Mobb Deep
The Infamous (1995)

4.5 Mics – Superior – …By favoring straightforward, near spoken-word deliveries over stylish vocal gymnastics, Mobb Deep earn credibility, winning the crucial battle between style and substance….reminiscent of a young Erick and Parrish…
The Source (06/01/1995)

9 – Near Perfect – …state-of-the-art East Coast reportage: drug-selling, police-fleeing, and homie-dying vignettes, all told with vivid detail and a deadpan thousand-yard flow….If only to clock a stunning panoply of mike skills, THE INFAMOUS is indispensible…
Spin (08/01/1995)

…Over mostly self-produced, bare-bones beats, the pair’s hard-edged rhymes paint a chilling picture of life on their mean streets….Underground rap-heads–and those who can break away from Jeep beats–will rejoice… – Rating: B+
Entertainment Weekly (05/05/1995
Raising Hell (1986)

5 stars out of 5 – …the apex of pre-Public Enemy, beatbox-based hip hop, a monument of massive, crisp beats plus the genre-bending ‘Walk This Way’…
Vibe (12/01/1999)

5 stars out of 5 – …This kicks butt…
Rolling Stone (09/05/2002)
Reasonable Doubt (1996)

4 Mics – Slammin’ – …[Jay-Z] moves from hip-hop sidekick to Mafia-style front man, blowing up the spot with vivid tales about the economic reality fueling what’s left of contemporary ghetto politics….His lyrics create cuttingly clever rhymes that ride bomb tracks…
The Source (08/01/1996)
-Later changed to 5 Mics
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… (1995)

4.5 Mics – Superior – …Raekwon…sprays out lyrics like gunfire….On CUBAN LINX, a barrage of sound effects, screams, samples and dialogue conjure up images of a gangsta movie….another success for Shaolin’s finest…
The Source (09/01/1995

…rapper Raekwon at his lightning-quickest and producer RZA at his razor sharpest….Underneath the meaty rhymes are RZA’s spooky, discordant keyboards and wailing female vocal samples… – Rating: A-
Entertainment Weekly (08/18/1995)

…Raekwon rips through rhymes like no other lyricist exists–he looks at every other MC like dinner. Not quite a solo debut, Rae puts his man Ghost…down on practically every cut….since practically every MC who knows…something was itching to get…on this album, those who made the cut…are cream…
Vibe (09/01/1995)
Eric B. & Rakim
Paid In Full (1987)

4 stars out of 5 – Sixteen years down the line, the bold minimalism of Eric B’s work and Rakim’s mic control seem little less than biblical.
Uncut (02/01/2004)

Producer-Rakim what is it that Eric B actually do to get top billing he did not produce are rap on this album
Ice Cube
AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted (1990)

5 stars out of 5 – …Beautiful anarchy, a mercilessly funky record…
Rolling Stone (03/20/2003)

Ranked #2 in Vibe’s Top 10 rap albums – …A visceral classic…
Vibe (06/01/2002)
Me Against the World (1995)

To me this is definantly Tupacs finest work. It is still my Favorite album because of the emotional depths he travels to. This is not his top album but it is definantly his finest. Each and every track is great and tells a great story.”If I die tonight” and “Death Around the Corner” or about Death.”Me Against the world” is literally that.
On “Old School” and “Outlaw” he talks about being a little brat and “Dear Mama” is dedicated to his mama.It’s sad this album does not get the respect in the Gangster circles as it does else where.

4 Stars – Slammin’ – …ME AGAINST THE WORLD follows suit as [Tupac] releases his best work by far….a manisfestation of Tupac’s talents becoming completely whole as they are mixed with the tracks that may, for a change, overshadow him…
The Source (04/01/1995)
-Changed to 5 Mics
ATLiens (1996)

4 Mics – Slammin’ – …OutKast and their producers Organized Noize understand that without growth, audiences do mature beyond the artists….Big Boi and Dre have gone out of this world into a new dimension of sight, sound and mind…
The Source (10/01/1996)
Slick Rick
The Great Adventures of Slick Rick (1988)

Producers include: Ricky Walters, Jason Mizell, Hank Shocklee, Eric Sadler. The Last 2 are in the Bomb Squad

4 stars out of 5 – …Articulate, street-smart cartoons…[drawn] in technicolor lunacy…
Q (09/01/2000)
Beastie Boys
Licensed to Ill (1986)

Bloody Essential – …There’s lots of self-reverential bragging, more tenuous rhymes than are usually permitted by law and, most importantly of all, an unshakably glorious celebration of being alive….A surprisingly enduring classic.
Melody Maker (07/22/1995)

4 Stars – …LICENSE TO ILL remains the world’s only punk rock rap album, arguably superior to NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS…knowing that apathy and slovenliness were just around the corner…
Q (09/01/1994)
Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth
Mecca and the Soul Brother (1992)

…laid-back beats and meandering jazz samples surround Smooth’s vocals, which are cool, textured and direct…
Option (11/01/1992)
A Tribe Called Quest
Midnight Marauders (1993)

4 Stars – Excellent – …With their third album, MIDNIGHT MARAUDERS, Quest do what they’ve always done – ignore all of the current trends in hip-hop and deliver a solid collectable…
The Source (12/01/1993)

I am not sure but I believe there producers the Unmah were Seff Anslem-Yauncey “Jaydee” Douglass-Ali Shaheed Muhammed and Q-Tip

…[A Tribe Called Quest's MIDNIGHT MARAUDER] sounds as fresh as their first…rappers Phife and Q-Tip manage to hold attention without resorting to gun references or expletives… – Rating: A
Entertainment Weekly (11/12/1993)
Run-D.M.C. (1984)
Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (1994)

..If there is such a thing as southern hip-hop…you’ll get closer with Outkast’s lazy, sprawling grooves, its casual funk…and it’s about time that someone told today’s weed-obsessed youth to get up, get out and get something/Don’t spend all your time trying to get high…. – Rating: A
Entertainment Weekly (05/27/1994)
The D.O.C.
No One Can Do It Better (1989)

3 Stars – Good Q magazine
Main Source
Breaking Atoms (1991)

-5 Mics from the Source
Aquemini (1998)

5 Mics (out of 5) – …Aquemini is a brilliant record….Throughout the record Dre and Big Boi showcase their verbal trademark–cool, staccato flows steeped in the everyday slanguage of the Deep South…
The Source (11/01/1998)

Spotlighting equally the talents of Dre and Big Boi may be the key to their artistic transcendence. They also rip the rap envelope by trading samples for distinctive instruments like Kalimba and harmonica (a la Earth, Wind & Fire and Curtis Mayfield).. – Rating: A
Entertainment Weekly (11/06/1998)
De La Soul
De La Soul Is Dead (1991)

4 Stars – Excellent – …No hip-hop album since perhaps L.L. Cool J’s Mama Said Knock You Out or De La Soul’s first outing has arrived so sonically crafted by personality and musicianship as De la Soul Is Dead…`De La Soul Is Dead’ confirms first that `3 Feet High and Rising’ was no fluke and second that these guys are true hip-hop scholars…Spin (1991
-Source 5 Mics
Black Star
Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star (1998)

The Source (11/98, p.198) – 3.5 Mics (out of 5) – “…With a delicate balance of Black Nationalism, well-chosen interludes and lyrics to go, high-pitched metaphor specialist Kweli and straight-up showman Mos prove that they’re more than just ‘lyrically handsome’…”

Entertainment Weekly (10/23/98, p.80) – “…Mixing rugged street beats and rhymes brainy enough for boho B-boys (they cite literary references and quote Nina Simone) makes this Black Star shine bright.” – Rating: A-
Big Daddy Kane
Long Live the Kane (1988)
Boogie Down Productions
By All Means Necessary (1988)
Strictly Business (1988)
LL Cool J
Radio (1985)
Reflection Eternal
Train of Thought (2000)

This is my Favorite album of the 2000′s.
Producers: Hi Tek, Talib Kweli, Weldon Irvine.
Dr. Dre
2001 (1999)

-5 Mics from the Source
Producer-Dr.Dre & Mel Man
The Score (1996)

9 (out of 10) – …[A] sense of organic interaction is the hallmark of this album….the album’s most important factor…is its beats–chest-shaking, obscure-texture-having, freestyle-friendly beats…
Spin (03/01/1996)
Jeru the Damaja
The Sun Rises in the East (1994)

4 Stars – Slammin’ – …the music both contrasts and compliments his disjointed flow and deep poetical lyricism…
The Source (08/01/1994)
Producer-DJ Premier
Liquid Swords (1995)

…an intriguing paradox of wordplay and profanity, juvenilia and wisdom. – Rating: B+
Entertainment Weekly (12/22/1995)
Resurrection (1994)

3.5 Stars – Dope – …Common Sense’s no-b******* brand of hip-hop may not deliver the superficial thrills others have to offer, but there is no denying the intelligence and heart that guides it. This is one MC who lives up to his name…
The Source (10/01/1994)

4 Stars – Excellent – …Common Sense has succeeded in creating that rare thing: a solid hardcore hip-hop album. Hardcore not for the verbal body count but for the confluence of phat beats, smooth flows and dope rhymes…
Rolling Stone (02/09/1995)
Brand Nubian
One for All (1990)

…A peculiar merger of sexual boasting, self-promotion and occasional political perspective. The lyrics carom around easygoing pop-jazz riffs…
New York Times (12/16/1990)
-5 Mics from the Source
Producers: Brand Nubian, Grand Puba Maxwell, Dante Ross, Skeff Anselm, J. Gamble, G. Dajani, D. Hall.
The Blueprint (2001)

5 discs out of 5 – …Like a bookend [to his forst album 1996's REASONABLE DOUBT], or the second key on a double-bolt lock. Only better…he is our cleanest poet, rethinking space…
Vibe (11/01/2001)

5 stars out of 5 – …The sonics here are relentlessly ear-catching. Almost every tune sounds like a hit…
Uncut (12/01/2001)
-Producers include: Kayne West, Just Blaze, Trackmaster, Timbaland, Bink.
A Tribe Called Quest
People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm (1990)
Dead Serious (1992)

Highly Recommended – ..hard lyrics that simultaneously perplex, captivate, annoy, and amuse…DAS’s mission–to put the fun and Brooklyn back into hip hop–has been accomplished..
Spin (06/01/1992)

Producers: Chris Charity, Derek Lynch, A. Weston, W. Hines.
Public Enemy
Fear of a Black Planet (1990)

4 Stars – Excellent – …Public Enemy has never aimed for anything less than a comprehensive view of contemporary black America…FEAR OF A BLACK PLANET complements this ambition with stunning maturity and sophistication…
Rolling Stone (05/17/1990)
Stillmatic (2001)

3.5 out of 5 – …Poignant vignettes attest to Nas’ still superb descriptive ability….at his best, Nas is still one of the finest…
Vibe (02/01/2002)
-The Source gave it 5 Mics
The Pharcyde
Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde (1992)

3.5 Stars – Very Good – …The Pharcyde combine the sing-songy vocal tones of those down-to-earthlings who reminisced about Tennessee with an intense enthusiasm and energy akin to the Leaders Of The New School….packed with soulful pianos and organs….enjoy the bizarre ride…
The Source (02/01/1993)
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony
E. 1999 Eternal (1995)

3.5 Mics (out of 5) – …Bone offer so much complexity and cleverness that you rarely catch…due to the flow and style…along with Prince (circa 1979) type melody…is just a sample of what to check for…
The Source (09/01/1995)
Ultramagnetic MC’s
Critical Beatdown (1988)

9 (out of 10) – Kool Keith is the Prodigy’s favourite rapper, and this relic of his time in the Ultramagnetic MC’s…is why….they knew what they were doing, and everyone’s been playing catch-up since. A bona fide classic.
NME (10/04/1997)
-A Source 5 Mic Classic
Gang Starr
Daily Operation (1992)

3.5 Stars – Very Good – …hypnotic and pensive–throbbing in a spare, intimate way….a remarkably good sequel [to 1990's STEP IN THE ARENA]….rises above most of the assembly-line, new-school hip-hop being churned out by most artists and labels…
Spin (07/01/1992)
Big L
Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous (1995)

4 Stars – Slammin’ – …he comes with ill animated lyrics, combined with metaphors that stun; a combo sure to have suckas on the run…
The Source (03/01/1995)
Goodie Mob
Soul Food (1995)

9 (out of 10) – …The insight and methods these four employ sets them apart from the rest of the flock. Their ability to look beyond the quick cash, murder-murder-murder-kill-kill-kill scheme of things is a bonus…
Rap Pages (12/01/1995)
Souls of Mischief
93 ‘Til Infinity (1993)
Gang Starr
Moment of Truth (1998)

4.5 Mics (out of 5) – This is the record that hip-hop purists who have long been tired of the artform’s commercial tendencies and lack of creativity have been savoring for….MOMENT OF TRUTH delivered the antidote to hip-hop afflictions…
The Source (05/01/1998)
Black Moon
Enta da Stage (1993)

Editorial reviews
4 Stars – Slammin’ – …Black Moon’s ENTA DA STAGE is a welcome return to the days when rap consistently reflected true musical and lyrical integrity….Make this jammie a priority…
The Source (11/01/1993)
The Diary (1994)

4 Stars – Slammin’ – …Scarface is business as usual lyrically…this Geto boy has tapped into something new and has laid the foundation for an even brighter future…
The Source (01/01/1995)
-Later Given the 5 Mic rating
Kanye West
The College Dropout (2004)

3.5 stars out of 5 – West has something to prove on DROPOUT….His ace in the hole is his cozy sound – dusty soul samples, gospel hymns, drums that pop as if hit for the very first time.Rolling Stone (p.153)
Beastie Boys
Paul’s Boutique (1989)

5 stars out of 5 – …A celebration of American junk culture that is still blowing minds today – even fourteen years of obsessive listening can’t exhaust all the musical and lyrical jokes crammed into PAUL’S BOUTIQUE…
Rolling Stone (02/06/2003)
Gang Starr
Step in the Arena (1991) [Single]

busts rhythms that boast without resorting to misogyny and profanity. And their lazy backbeats and playful brass flourishes serve as a backdrop not only for humour..but even wisdom. – Rating: B
Entertainment Weekly (01/25/1991)
Showbiz & A.G.
Runaway Slave (1992)

In terms of the musical content this CD is Top 20
Key Tracks-Still Diggin, Fat Pockets, Silence of the Lambs, Soul Clap and Represent
4 Stars – Excellent – ..this Bronx duo skillfully distill[s] the essence of the asphalt into gargantuan polyrhythms and freestyle lyrics straight from the old-school outdoor jams…an album of nuance with many layers of words and sounds that will age like fine wine..
The Source (11/01/1992)
Eric B. & Rakim
Follow the Leader (1988)

A Source 5 Mic album I believe if not it was by All Music Guide
Mos Def
Black on Both Sides (1999)
Ol’ Dirty Bastard
Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version (1995)

4 Stars – Slammin’ – …The third shot fired in the Wu-Tang revolution spotlights the crazy drunken flow of the Ol’ Dirty Bastard….a must-have for every real hardcore head….hardcore lyrics kicked live over a non-stop assault of that addictive Shao-lin funk…
The Source (05/01/1995)
The Slim Shady LP (1999)

This CD is quite different from the other two Eminem albums
Key Tracks-My Name is, Guilty Concience, Brain Damage,Role Model,
Bad meets Evil, and I dont give a Fuck

8 (out of 10) – …Eminem [aka Marshall Mathers] is humorous enough to be an honorary Beastie goy, and his scenarios are so far-fetched the songs almost never sound as ugly as they actually are. Mathers’s hard-knock raps translate hip-hop for folks with Wu-Tang decoder rings, articulating suburban anger and violent apathy through the lens of white kids’ experience…
Spin (05/01/1999)
Like Water for Chocolate (2000)

Key Tracks-Time Travlin, Cold Blooded, The Light, Funky For you, The 6th Since
4 mics out of 5 – …Reflects a more worldly Common….creating full-fledged jazz, funk and soul songs….this LP unfolds in 2 acts. Act I stretching the boundaries of traditional hip-hop….Act II finds [him] on an emotional roller coaster…
The Source (05/01/2000)
Method Man
Tical (1994)

4 Mics – Slammin’ – …His hoarse voice and sense of what’s metaphorically fly have seen him take over as hip-hop’s urban paramilitary….He shows a fragmented hip-hop nation what this music is really about…
The Source (01/01/1995)
Dead Prez
Lets Get Free (2000)

7 out of 10 – …an unfashionably political album that screams for change and a return to Afro-centric values in rap….a refreshing change to the current glut of buddy-boy, backslapping rap records. ‘Vive la revolution’ – fight the power.
NME (03/04/2000)
Lucy Ford: The Atmosphere EP’s (2001) [Compilation]
Puff Daddy & the Family
No Way Out (1997)

…with his new, imperious NO WAY OUT, Puffy places himself at the center of the pop universe….Ain’t nothin’ held him down yet….Say what you like, these tracks are soulful and charming…
Vibe (10/01/1997)
400 Degreez (1998)

4 Mics (out of 5) – …400 DEGREEZ offers a big ol’ steaming pot of musical gumbo filled with influences from dancehall, second-line brass jazz, Southern R&B, and old school hip-hop seasoned with plenty of bouncy beats…
The Source (12/01/1998)
Digable Planets
Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space) (1993)

3.5 Stars – Very Good – …a loving blend of jazz, old school hip-hop, Five Percent perspectives and off-center beatnik rhymes…the cool cat sound of jazz-hop is very much alive…12 tracks of pure peace vibes…both substantive and relaxing…
The Source (03/01/1993)
-Apparently there was not a thing called Mics back in 1993
Ice Cube
Death Certificate (1991)

…20 tracks of the most visceral music ever allowed in public… – Rating: A-
Entertainment Weekly (11/15/1991)
The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory (1996)

…The tracks are fat with funky menace (the upfront bass in `Life of an Outlaw’ smells of Bootsy Collins-meets-Robbie Shakespeare), and the choral-vocal effect in many of the raps has a street-corner, pass-the-bottle charge…
Rolling Stone (12/26/1996)
The Roots
Illadelph Halflife (1996)

4.5 Mics (out of 5) – …an emotional and spiritually-fulfilling aural experience….the Roots blend vibes with a cornucopia of rappers, vocalists and artists…
The Source (10/01/1996)
Whut? Thee Album (1992)

4.5 Stars – Excellent Plus – ..an LP to mush all competition dead in the grill…Redman lives up to all expectations…Make way for the new funk material..
The Source (11/01/1992)
Boogie Down Productions
Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip Hop (1989)
Big Pun
Capital Punishment (1998)

4 Mics (out of 5) – …He’ll rhyme every possible word in a line because he wants to be twice as nice….CAPITAL PUNISHMENT’s all about execution…
The Source (06/01/1998)
The Lost Tapes (2002)

Key Tracks-My Way-U Gotta Love it-Nothing last Forever-No Idea’s Original-Purple-Poppa was a Player-Fetus

4 stars–…Tightly stitched narrative and stunningly precise detail…easily among Nas’ best work.
Rolling Stone (10/01/2002)

9/10 Masterpiece. These were throwaways. Were these not good enough for what. When they saw the light of day they were far better then the alrighty great albums they were on.
Freestyle Fellowship
Innercity Griots (1993)

…Here’s some L.A. rap that doesn’t reek of post-riot jargon or empty gangsta threats. These four L.A. bohos use fluid rhymes and funky jazz jams to create some of the best hip-hop vibes since Boogie Down Productions’ `Criminal Minded’… – Rating: A-
Entertainment Weekly (07/23/1993)

3.5 Stars – Very Good – …an innovative step in the `next’ direction…The best thing about this group is that they dare to be different. They provide rap with a new perspective…
The Source (03/01/1993)
Digable Planets
Blowout Comb (1994)

…the overall tone is so laid-back you might nod out to the ambient-jazz grooves and stoned-soul stylings… – Rating: B+
Entertainment Weekly (10/21/1994)
The Marshall Mathers LP (2000)

Key Tracks-Stan-Who I am-The Real Slim Shady-Kim-Criminal

4 mics out of 5 – …You wanna peep [this LP], if not for the intense lyrics and witty punch lines, at least for the chance of witnessing one of the craziest MCs grow up right before ya ears.

…Should forever erase the notion that [he] is the Elvis Presley of hardcore hip hop. If anything, he’s rap’s Eric Clapton: a white boy who can hang with the best black talent based on sheer skill – enhancing the art form instead of stealing from it.

…Even more abrasive and offensive….proving again that his imagery and storytelling abilities stand tall over most other rappers
-That has to be by the Eminem haters the Source
It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot (1998)

Well this is a really good CD in terms of just pure raw lyrical ability.DMX never gets like this anymore.The beats are kind of bad but the lyrics and some of the guest can get quite pleasing.There are a number of good cuts on here like “Get at me dog” and a ode to the wrongs of the devil “Damien” to boastings of “Ruff Ryders Anthem” there are many other great songs to.

4 Mics (out of 5) – …DMX raps as if he’s about to explode….IT’S DARK AND HELL IS HOT is a mind-gripping opus that fully encompasses the appeal of one of rap’s newest sensations…
The Source (07/01/1998)

7/10 Great. The lyrics are grimey on here and the beats are hardcore this is some anthemic mix of hood boy and mainstream
The Roots
Do You Want More?!!!??! (1995)

4 Mics – Slammin’ – …they create a mod funk energy that many artists approach but, until now, have yet to master. The Roots come through with some raw, even progressive material without forsaking hip-hop tradition…
The Source (11/01/1994

7/10 There is no problem in calling this one great. You get live type beats with freestyled rhymes that deliver far more then they miss and the result is a flesh feel for hip hop even circa 94.
Group Home
Livin’ Proof (1995)

Some of the best beats ever on wax layed down by Premier
Key Tracks-Livin Proof-Suspended in Time-4 My sins-Supa Star

…a crew aided throughout their debut by the great DJ Premier….two distinct voices that mesh together to do work. And while their packaging is no-frills, the substance is there…
Vibe (02/01/1996)

8/10 Classic. The average lyrics cant fuck with the brilliance of the beats. These beats by DJ Premier are some of the grimiest and awesome beats ever laced. This is an experience beatwise
2Pacalypse Now (1991)

Key Tracks-Young Black Male-Trapped-I Dont give A Fuck-Violent-
Brenda’s Got a Baby-Part Time Mother

6/10 Recommended. In 1991 Tupac was already at the top of his game even before just the cops were paying attention.
It Was Written (1996)

Key Tracks-The Message-I gave you Power-Affirmative Action-Mobb Deep Joint-If I ruled the world-Silent Murder(IF it is on the album)

4 Mics (out of 5) – …Nas reveals himself not only as a rhymer, but also as a thinker….[He] explores the realm of ideas through stories, using example as a device to show rather than tell….IT WAS WRITTEN is an audio anthology of ghetto stories told by one of hip-hop’s most prolific writers. If ever there was a straight up genius in hip-hop…
The Source (08/01/1996)

6/10 Recommended. This only follows in the footsteps of the best rap album of hip hop history. Will make many fans dissapointed because of it but why this has Affirmative Action and I gave you power on it and those two songs make any rap album noteworthy
Harlem World (1997)

…rap’s newest bad boy more than holds his own on his solo debut. Reviews-Like Puff Daddy, he laces hardcore raps with pop hooks and drops Big Willie boasts….his distinctive marble-mouthed drawl, however, creates a regular-guy persona all too rare in hip-hop. – Rating: B+
Entertainment Weekly (11/21/1997)

6/10 Recommended. If you consider this his album it is good if you consider it a guest opus it is classic. I will say that it is just very good and has some dope grooves and beats.
Unfinished Business (1989)

7/10 Erick and Parrish should have made dollars with this great follow up to there classic debut.
50 Cent
Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (2003)

Suberban Gangsta Rap at it’s Finnest for Target fans only he he he…
Key Track-What up Gangsta-Many Men-In da Club-Back Down-P.I.M.P.

…50 Cent may end up the Goliath he wants to be… – Rating: B
Entertainment Weekly (02/21/2003)

6/10 Recommended. If only his lyrics matched the quality of the productions and songs he would be one of the most respected
Talib Kweli
Quality (2002)

Key Tracks-Rush-Get By-Waitin for the DJ-Where do we go
4.5 discs out of 5 – …QUALITY’s rugged beats are more incensed than incense burning. Kweli’s flow is …potent, all winking wordplay, compelling imagery, limber cadences, and passion…
Vibe (12/01/2002)

7/10 This has his best song on it. It also has some great lyrics from one of the most concious emcees in the history of the game. This made his hop legacy of the new school cats
Aesop Rock
Labor Days (2001)

Another world class Lyricist who gets not much love the key tracks
Daylight-No Regrets-Labor Days-Coma-9 to 5ers Anthem
…[The] ambient grooves make the Wu-Tang Clan seem tired, while the hyper-enunciated rhymes make KRS ONE sound like a stutterer… – Rating: A
Entertainment Weekly (09/28/2001)
-He is no KRS-One but yeah he is a hell of a lyricist

7/10 The best lyricist that know one has ever heard of. Even if you have he would be on your list of greatest ever.
The Fix (2002)

Key Tracks-In Between us-In cold Blood-Guess who’s Back-On My Block
4 stars out of 5 – …A poignant, personal work, performed with clarity and conviction and imbued with the muscular spirituality that marks all of Face’s music. The result is outlaw truth well told and the best that hip-hop has offered up this year.
Rolling Stone (09/19/2002)

Included in Rolling Stone’s 50 Best Albums of 2002
Rolling Stone (12/26/2002)
The Source also gave this album 5 Mics

7/10 Is one of those albums where he lets the others take over but unlike many albums like that he remains the star of the show and he delivers some beautiful lyrics over heartfelt beats.
Geto Boys
We Can’t Be Stopped (1991)
DJ Quik
Quik Is the Name (1991)

Key Tracks-Sweet Black Pussy-Tonite-Born and Raised in Compton-Quik is the name-8 Ball

7/10 Quik always brought that Gangsta rap on a very high level. He remains one of the best producers of the west and he raps at a pretty high level to boot. Great stuff pop it now.
Warren G
Regulate… G Funk Era (1994)

Key Tracks-Regulate-Do you See-This DJ

Best news review-
Highly Recommended – …Truth be told, Warren G. wasn’t cut out to be a hardass. He’s a romantic, in love with soft sound…
Spin (09/01/1994)

8/10 Classic in the minds of those G-Funk afficianodo’s. This one has 3 pinnacle classics of the genre and the beats are slamming and the feel is magical.
Mobb Deep
Hell on Earth (1996)

Another LP I really must buy at the store. The Key Tracks apperantly are Animal Instinct-Drop a Gem on them-Exstortion-Man Down-Self Title

4.5 Mics (out of 5) – …Mobb Deep are probably the most intense, most authentic, most powerful practitioners of a specifically Eastern hardcore feel to touch the mic this decade…
The Source (12/01/1996)

7/10 This has some deep productions that show that the duo keeps it grimey as Havoc brings that grimey shit and Prodigy kicks some dope lyrics. There are no concerns here just great stuff.
The Notorious B.I.G.
Life After Death (1997)

I have not yet to here much of this album but the Tracks everyone talks about are Hyptonize-Kick in the door-Mo Money Mo Problems-Ten Crack Commandments-Sky’s the Limit

…LIFE AFTER DEATH truly rises, though, when Biggie is full control; he tells tales like a true alum of those hard-to-creep Brooklyn streets….LIFE AFTER DEATH is an olive branch to his divided kingdom….Long live the king!
Vibe (05/01/1997)

5 Mics (out of 5) – …Big documented the illmatic mean streets of his Bedford Stuyvesant stomping grounds….LIFE AFTER DEATH’s finest moments are the instantly catchy, future-radio-favorites….Big’s potent verses of violent death became a self-prophecy indeed.
The Source (05/01/1997)

7/10 There are many moments of brilliance but his debut was a classic and this is not quite to the Biggie pinnacle of his debut
De La Soul
Buhloone Mind State (1993)

Key Tracks-Eye Patch-Ego Trippin Pt II-I am I be-Breakadawn

Editorial reviews
…BUHLOONE MINDSTATE signals [De La Soul's] maturation as hip hop artists minus the pop hype and hysteria surrounding [3 FEET HIGH AND RISING]…a rap classic…
Vibe (11/01/1993)

7/10 Close to Classic. This is some superior knowledge hip hop and a return to there lighthearted selfs.
Kool G Rap & DJ Polo
Road to the Riches (1989)

Key Tracks-Road to the Riches-It’s A Demo-Men at Work-Poison

7/10 In my view this is there 3rd best album this has some of his best moments but the beats and menaceness are not what they were in his later works. Lyrics are on point always. This is definantly one of the years best
Big Daddy Kane
It’s a Big Daddy Thing (1989)

Key Tracks Self Titled-Young Gifted and Black-Smooth Operator-Warm it up Kane-I get the Job done. This album is pretty good he does a brilliant job with his lyrics and the beats were pretty good for late 80′s Hip Hop.

The Washington Post

November 17, 1989, Friday Geoffrey Himes
Big Daddy Kane

“It’s a Big Daddy Thing” (Cold Chillin’/ Reprise). On his second album, Brooklyn’s Kane, the former DJ for Roxanne Shante, calls on guest production jobs by his original mentor Marley Marl, Riley and Prince Paul (De La Soul). These producers make Kane’s supple stream of syllables more musical than before, but they can’t do much with a voice that is thin and unforceful. Nor can they compensate for his unapologetic defense of pimps, sexism, conspicuous consumption and Louis Farrakhan.

7/10 This is way above average hip hop. I have heard better from him but in general this has some brilliant moments.



Article: Hip-hop not the quality music it once was by James Calhoun

Music’s funky roots, real meaning, now take backseat to shallow lyrics, computer-made beats

I was cruising around the county a couple days ago and couldn’t believe what was on the radio. You see, normally people take that statement as a sign that somebody is getting too old and can’t roll with the times. The problem is, I am 18 and even I can understand why older generations say today’s music sucks.

Hip-hop is what dominates today’s airwaves, and many people say that it was derived from the heart of Motown music. This is a style of soul music that was very popular in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Hip-hop also grabbed some of its early funk-influenced beats from the musical genius of James Brown, the godfather of soul. Today’s hip-hop and rap music lack exactly what they were built upon, which is funk and soul.

Modern hip-hop is a combination of a few genres of music that I’m sure the artists themselves are completely unaware. Hip-hop of the modern age is a little bit of rhythm and blues, a little bit of rap and a little bit of pop. People seem to be eating up this new and awful sound that is broadcasting day and night. I can assure you that in 20 years when all of us look back at our college days and play some Lil’ Wayne, many will be clueless as to why they ever listened to such trash.

Take the music of Easy-E as an example of how the music of yesterday had soul. Even though Easy-E is vulgar and crude, even for my liking, he still had a powerful message about life on the streets. Today’s rappers cruise down the freeway of life on a road that he helped pave and hardly anybody talks about living life on the streets. Back in the day, musicians like Easy-E had to rely on pure lyric writing and beat mixing rather than a computer generating their sound for them. Auto-tuning a voice is a crime against music.

Rap music of yesteryear also had musicians with a positive message to combat their more violent and aggressive genre companions. These artists, such as Young MC and Dana Dane, used their amazing lyrical arsenal to hit rhyme after rhyme while funky bass lines ripped the beat. Some of the notes they hit coupled with assonance and lyrical genius are truly astounding. Hip-hop of today has no elements that original hip-hop possessed, and it seems to be the same old rehashed garbage on each record.

Nearly all new rap artists use womanizing, bar-hopping, drunk and drug-related themes. Rappers of the late ’80s and early ’90s wrote about life in the ghetto and life on the streets. Perhaps the oddest part of the new hip-hop phenomena is how every artist sounds remarkably similar. Every washed-up rapper will agree that the music industry for hip-hoppers today is centered on the same style of beats and lyrics.

Former hip-hop star Young MC probably sums it up best when he says “The game I helped create is now a game I can’t stand and don’t want to be a part of. Hip-hop music today is garbage.”




Article: Why Do People Download Music Illegally?

Why Do People Download Music Illegally?

I do a lot of things with my computers, but I’ve never really been into the whole digital music scene. Maybe that’s because I have a very good traditional sound system, so when I want to listen to music, I usually just play a CD through that. Maybe it’s because I just don’t listen to music that much at this point in my life; there was a time when I did, and I have a rather extensive collection of old black vinyl to prove it, but these days I prefer to listen to talk shows or even better, I’ve developed a great appreciation for blessed silence.

When I do listen to (or play) music, it’s almost always classical or instrumental jazz, rather than “popular” tunes. Once in a great while, though, I do get into a nostalgic mood and want to hear some of that old classic rock that’s on one of those 33 RPM albums in the closet. Many of them I also have on CD, but not nearly all.

One day last week, I got a hankering for a song on Led Zeppelin’s fourth album (“Rock and Roll”). Actually, the reason I wanted it was to use as a custom ring tone to assign to one of my contacts on my Windows Mobile phone. That was one of the CDs that had been lost in our move a few years ago, but heck, it was a very popular tune so I should be able to easily buy it for a buck or so from one of the many legal music download sites, right?

I guess I’d forgotten the first rule of Life in the Twenty-first Century: “nothing is ever easy – especially those things that should be.” First I discovered that in order to buy music from most of the sites, you have to download and install their software. Why? I don’t have to do that to download a computer program that I buy online. Why do I have to download and install software just to buy one song? Why can’t I just enter my credit card info, click and pay?

Well, it seems there are a few places where you can, such as Amazon. Excellent, I thought. I already have an account with Amazon and I trust them, so I’ll buy it there. I go to their music downloads page and search for the song and get 21 hits. None of them are by Led Zeppelin; they’re all covers by other groups or tribute bands.

Okay, then I’ll bite the bullet and try one of the big music sites, Zune or iTunes. But I had no luck there, either. I do a web search then on “Led Zeppelin license music” and discover that, up until November 15th of this year, they hadn’t licensed their catalog to anyone. Now, however, the songs are available through iTunes and through Verizon Wireless, as ringtones. Well, hey, it appeared that I was in luck. I wanted the song for a ringtone anyway, and I use Verizon and have an account there.

So I scooted over to the Verizon Wireless site and entered my search parameters. There were six pages of Zeppelin songs and there on the second page was the one I wanted. I was in business – I thought. But oops, there at the bottom of the page was the kicker: “compatible phone required.” In the drop down “Select your phone” list, my Samsung i760 was nowhere to be found.

When I clicked the “Phone not listed?” link, it just took me to a page urging me to upgrade my phone! I just bought this phone, which is one of the most expensive and sophisticated Verizon offers. I can use any old MP3 as a ringtone. All I need is to find this darned MP3. I decided to try buying it anyway, since it’s only a dollar or so. I pick a different Samsung phone. Of course, it doesn’t work. It’s in some format that my phone doesn’t understand.

So my only recourse, if I wanted to buy the song, was to download iTunes. It shouldn’t be that way. I’m beginning to understand why people share music illegally – it’s not necessarily because it’s cheaper; it’s because it’s so much easier. I don’t want to be forced to install Apple’s software on my computer just to buy a single song. If Zep had licensed its music to Amazon, they would have made a sale the other day. As it was, I decided to use a different, more easily attainable song for my ringtone. The dollar or two that I didn’t pay meant less than nothing to the band or their music company, but how many others aren’t buying because of the unnecessary hassle involved? Those dollars add up.

It’s not that there’s anything difficult about buying from iTunes. But that software caused numerous problems before when I installed it on my Windows system, and I don’t feel like risking it again just for one song. And given Apple’s DRM, I’m not even sure that I would be able to play the song on my phone if I did buy it from them. You can authorize five computers to play the iTunes content you purchase, but does that include Windows Mobile devices? Why waste my time and money on yet another attempt that might not even work?

The copyright holders, of course, have the right to do what they want with their intellectual property. I’m glad that Led Zeppelin has finally made their music available online in some capacity. But licensing it only to iTunes seems to me as silly as an author or book publisher specifying that its books can only be sold by Barnes and Noble and not any other bookstore. You lose a lot of sales that way. And in the case of music, I think you make it more likely that people will steal your music instead of jumping through all the hoops required to buy it.

Tell us what you think. Do artists, music companies and online music sellers make it more difficult than it ought to be to buy songs online? Is that one of the reasons so many people download illegally instead? When I already paid for the vinyl and CD versions of the album, should I have to pay again to get it in digital format? Let us know your opinions



Article: Has Hip-Hop Lost Its Political Edge? by Charing Ball

Over the weekend, I was watching the film “Letters To the President,” a documentary that showcases the hip-hop music community’s close-knit ties to the social and political policies of the last 30 years.

Back in the day, hip-hop reveled in revolutionary lyrics and imagery. Every rapper, regardless of their style, managed to incorporate a political message into their songs. Groups like Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five delivered the Message and White Lines in between party joints like Scorpio and Freedom. Even the hardest “gangsta” rappers of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, such as Ice-T, Too Short and NWA used their platform to narrate stories about police brutality, the L.A. riots and other issues plaguing ghetto life.

But those days are gone and no longer do we have artists like Public Enemy telling us that we “Can’t Truss It” or Boogie Down Productions reminding us to watch out for the “Black Cop.” Instead, hip hop has traded in picket signs for Aston Martins, Rolexes, Christian Louboutins, and a bunch of other products that most of us can’t pronounce, let alone afford.

With the fragile housing market, a slow to recover economy, two—no, wait three—wars, rising gas and food prices, police brutality, and so forth, it’s not like there isn’t plenty of material for rappers to work with. So why hasn’t Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Lil Wayne, Waka Flocka, Nicki Minaj, or any other mainstream artist, been willing to use their music to discuss more than just what they got and what you ain’t got?

I thought long and hard about this topic, which has spurred dozens of conversations with fellow hip-hop heads that also feel slighted by the direction of the genre. As pointed out by Sean “Diddy” Combs: “people have figured out the formula when they make records for radio, and DJs ain’t DJs no more. DJs don’t break records no more. DJs don’t play album cuts. DJs play what is going to move the crowd. DJs, they don’t expose you to the newness.”

Although some might rightfully argue that Diddy himself has contributed to the downfall of the genre, he does makes a great point. Over the years, radio stations, which are now part of corporations, stopped being about balance and more about force feeding listeners a continual loop of the same six songs. Case in point: probably one of the dopest political theme songs to come out in the last few months was Pharoahe Monch’s “Clap,” which took aim at all of the questionable police raids and shootings that have been making headlines around the country. Around the same time, Travis Porter’s ”Make it Rain,” a trap-rap booty bouncer about paying woman to take off their clothes, among other things, was released. Guess which of the two received regular radio play and which was banished to YouTube?

But of course, radio stations should not feel that they have to shoulder the blame all on their own because the music industry itself is just as culpable. In their haste to “get money,” the corporate side of the art form has made it difficult – if not impossible – for positive and/or political hip hop music to reach the masses.

With rap music sales dropping by 44 percent since 2000, record company A&R executives are going to appeal to what they feel will guarantee a hit. Unfortunately, a hit that will sell means drugs, violence, misogyny, materialism and the ill informed.

Which brings me to my final point: the fans. Yeah, you guys who will rush to support empty lyrics and content just because it has a good beat. Like the A&R executives, radio stations and rappers, we, the fans, started watching the Billboard charts and basing a rapper’s worth on how much money they generated, how many women they had in their videos, and how many albums they sold as opposed to what they were actually saying in their music.

Hip-hop used to be that mirror that was held up to the rest of world exposing conditions of what it was like to be poor and black in America. But today, that image is a little fuzzy and distorted. I’m not saying it’s all hip-hop’s fault, since it appears that we’re all guilty of being less politically active and concerned as a community like we were nearly two to three decades ago. However, I worry for the younger generation who will never get a chance to experience the art of hip-hop the way people of my generation did.



Article: Eight Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Aloe Blacc by Reyan Ali

We’ve made no bones about our affection for Aloe Blacc in the past. There are several intriguing subjects to cover when it comes to the Laguna Hills-bred troubadour born Egbert Nathaniel Dawkins III: his days in indie hip-hop outfit Emanon; his transition from MC into a traditional soul vocalist; his upbringing by Panamanian parents; how “I Need a Dollar,” his signature track off 2010′s Good Things, is the theme music to HBO’s How to Make It in America. But in the interest of getting some fresh material from the guy (and previewing his date at the Detroit Bar this Saturday, May 21), we asked him a few off-the-wall questions and dug deeper into some of his comments from past interviews. Here’s the sum of our efforts broken down into eight digestible points.

1. Although the man’s known for his distinctively retro-fied wardrobe, his fashion sense hits a dead end when it comes to wristbands, watches and necklaces. “I’m more into the jackets, trousers, shoes and hats,” he says. His clothing pointedly ties into his music, and said wardrobe was aided by a stylist from an L.A. company called Via Davia Vintage. “Since the music on Good Things is very much classic soul–late ’60s, early ’70s–I wanted to present myself onstage in a way that matched the music to build a presence, to build an event,” he adds. “The things that I liked the best was stuff that reminded me of stuff my dad used to wear when I was a kid: leather beatle boots, leather jackets, butterfly collar shirts, polyester shirts–those kinds of things.” He also has a small collection of scarfs from Japan, Mexico and Russia, but he doesn’t wear them onstage often anymore.

2. He despises the sound of Auto-Tune but might be willing to give other voice synthesizers a shot. “[In the] context of Zapp & Roger-style music with the vocoder, I think that’s cool, but not so much Auto-Tune. I can see places for voices and vocals being manipulated. One particular example of a song that I think is tremendously great would be Imogen Heap’s ‘Hide and Seek.’ I’m not sure if she used Auto-Tune, but I know she used technology to affect her voice. There are some really good practical uses for it, but not when it’s used to hide the fact that someone can’t sing.” The only way he’d ever, ever give Auto-Tune a shot if it was for “an artistic purpose and completely obvious and blatant.”

3. After tinkering with a handful of genres–”[f]rom Latin stuff to acoustic guitar stuff to up-tempo dance to down-tempo R&B to some emo-techno-whatever and children’s music” –he’d next like to take a stab at “psychedelic soul.” Elaborates Blacc: “I’d like to do something that is a bit more edgy soul music and mixing in some concepts I’ve heard from artists like Eugene McDaniels and Sly Stone, even Jimi Hendrix or Santana, just [to] try to push the envelope with soul music.”

4. Dude’s a Ben Gibbard fan. “I wouldn’t expect people to really think that I was into something like Death Cab for Cutie or Postal Service. I don’t even know the name of the genre, really,” he singer says, before deciding that “indie pop” and “digi-pop” could serve as possible answers. “There’s some good things coming out of a lot of different genres. A lot of times, people don’t get the recognition ’cause there’s so much other crap clogging up the system.”

5. One of Blacc’s first memories involving music is catching the premiere of “Thriller” on MTV. “That was a pretty significant memory because, of course, I was terrified, but I was excited to watch this music video as well.” Although he’s covered “Billie Jean” before, he doesn’t know if he’d dare to take on this other MJ song. “‘Thriller’ might be too much of a challenge. ‘Billie Jean’ was just right because it felt like it was a better way to communicate that song.”

6. “I Need a Dollar” was heavily inspired by Blacc’s listening to field recordings of men in a chain gang singing about their problems. A friend gave him these recordings, which rely heavily on call-and- response choruses and an uncomplicated folky feel. “I don’t remember any of the songs specifically,” he says. “It was more, for me, the general feeling that I absorbed and the style.”

7. Aloe Blacc chose his name for smoothness’ sake: the first name references the plant associated with lotion and he exchanged the K in “Black” for another C because he considers K a harsher consonant. When he was still deliberating a moniker, other names included Aeolus (which resembles Aloe) and Sirocco, two words for specific types of wind.

8. His grandest career ambitions don’t involve a specific musical project but rather using his work for more practical results. “The biggest thing I want to do is feed people. I’m actually able to do that now that I’m touring,” says Blacc, referencing his ability to pay his party of 12 that now tours with him. Otherwise, he’d like to be able to donate considerable sums to charities and use his prominence as a musician to affect how money-movers allot funds. “I’d like to create an idea in corporate America and in politics that there should be a more equitable distribution of wealth. It doesn’t necessarily need to be an even playing field where everybody makes the same amount of money. Rich people can be as rich as they want. I just want for folks that are struggling to have the bare necessities, and I think that’s easy given the amount of resources there are around the world to properly house and feed and offer health care and education,” he says. “With just those bare necessities so everybody has a fair chance in life, I think I’d be happy.”



Article: How Fox News Uses “Big, Scary Hip-Hop” to Race-Bait Its Viewers by Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

Last week, Fox News’ Sean Hannity tried to create a controversy over the rapper Common’s invitation to a White House poetry event. Citing a lyric in which Common criticized President Bush for lying to the American people and leading the nation into an unjust war, Hannity tried to paint the rapper as dangerous and “controversial”, the kind of person the Secret Service needed to vet. The lyric in question: “Burn a Bush ’cause for peace he no push no button/ Killing over oil and grease/no weapons of destruction.”

Drawing upon the concepts of metaphor and allusion many of us learned in seventh-grade English class, we can surmise that Common did not literally mean to “burn” Bush, and that he was making a reference to the biblical concept of the burning bush. In hip-hop, as in literature, this is called wordplay. And clearly the more important point of the refrain is “no weapons of destruction,” referring to the lie that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD.

But Hannity, being the Fox News ratings-whore that he is, accused Common of being a violent rapper. He also accused him of being pro-”cop-killer,” selectively citing lyrics from Common’s song with Cee-Lo, “A Song for Assata,” an ode to Assata Shakur, the COINTELPRO-targeted Black Panther who was accused (many believefalsely) of shooting a state trooper in 1973. Karl Rove called Common a “thug” before using the opportunity to call Obama a flip-flopper. Sarah Palin, for her part, furthered her strange, vicious attacks on Michelle Obama, saying, “the judgment is just so lacking of class and decency and all that’s good about America with an invite like this.”

Before Jon Stewart sat down to debate the notoriously anti-hip-hop Bill O’Reilly this week (more on that later), he cited the hypocrisy of the Fox Pundits – George W. Bush honored the notoriously violent lyric’d Johnny Cash, and Sarah Palin is a fan of gun-toting racist Ted Nugent. Then Stewart poked fun at Fox, ultimately closing his hilarious monologue with the salvo, “Honestly, I just feel sorry for you guys now.”

Well, I don’t. It certainly may seem like the Fox News talking heads are ignorant, or inflammatory, or desperate for news. But it’s clear to me that these guys know exactly what they’re doing: trying to re-ignite the racist hip-hop culture wars of the ’90s to enrage and engage their largely white, super-conservative base — a base that, judging from the Tea Party, is terrifiedthat the days of white reignmight be numbered.

But it’s even more complicated than that. Common, for one, is about the least controversial rapper the First Lady could have invited to the White House. He’s considered one of hip-hop’s penultimate positive rappers. As I notedhere, he is seen within hip-hop as a largely gentle, even hippie rapper, promoting peace and self-love as much as he expresses anger with the system. You could name hundreds of more offensive people in rap and any genre of music. (For the sake of not further exposing Sean Hannity to pop culture, I shall refrain, although he should definitely take a look at this Billboard article titled “Common’s Least Controversial Lyrics.”)

But this is not about Common, per se. This is about Fox News preying on conservative white fears of the scary black thug trope, trying to paint anyone and everyone of color as racist against whites. Because ultimately, many ultra-conservative white people simply don’t like the fact that we have a black president. By attempting to associate the Obamas with people they deem “contrary to American values,” they can reaffirm their own prejudices and take comfort in their own false narratives of white victimization. And by using hip-hop as a scapegoat––a genre that, 40 years after its invention, most people in the media still don’t seem to understand–-they’re trying to paint Obama with the same racist ideas that have plagued hip-hop for years: that it is “ghetto,” “unseemly,” “thugged out,” what have you. Fox (and Karl Rove, in particular) is very savvy about this. That’s why, practically seconds after Common’s “controversial” lyrics came out, Hannity and Rove were making note of the fact that he attended Reverend Wright’s church.

An even starker example of this is the Right’s targeting of soul singer Jill Scott, who’s even less controversial than Common. (Conservative pundits must have given themselves carpal tunnel Googling the White House Poetry Event guest list.) Shortly after Fox’s rap freakout,Mediaite reportedthat Drudge had found a column Scott wrote for “Essence” in 2010. In it, she wrote, “When my friend told me his wife was indeed Caucasian, I felt my spirit…wince,” which Drudge then Tweeted.

This quote was supposed to be an example of Scott’s racism toward whites, but even out of context, you could guess what she meant––the saddening idea that a black man might buyinto an historically ingrained racist perception in America that white women are more attractive and more desirable than black women. And, reading the article in context, that isprecisely what she meant:

We reflect on this awful past and recall that if a black man even looked at a white woman, he would have been lynched, beaten, jailed or shot to death. In the midst of this, black women and black men struggled together, mourned together, starved together, braved the hoses and vicious police dogs and died untimely deaths on southern back roads together. These harsh truths lead to what we really feel when we see a seemingly together brother with a Caucasian woman and their children. That feeling is betrayed. While we exert efforts to raise our sons and daughters to appreciate themselves and respect others, most of us end up doing this important work alone, with no fathers or like representatives, limited financial support (often court-enforced) and, on top of everything else, an empty bed. It’s frustrating and it hurts!

Our minds do understand that people of all races find genuine love in many places. We dig that the world is full of amazing options. But underneath, there is a bite, no matter the ointment, that has yet to stop burning. Some may find these thoughts to be hurtful. That is not my intent. I’m just sayin’.

Again, this is not about Jill Scott – it’s about Fox trying to scare its audience into believing that President Obama is racist against whites. But just to clear her name: Jill Scott is one of the most respected and talented R&B artists working right now. She writes songs about self-esteem and love and empowering yourself, and she’s never once exploited her sexuality for gain.

But Fox and the Right want to create a false Sister Souljah moment. Let me refresh your memory: in 1992, Sistah Souljah, a rapper and activist, was interviewed for the Washington Post about the Los Angeles riots after the Rodney King verdict. She was quoted as saying, “If black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?” President Clinton criticized her for what sounded like, yes, an outrageous comment. But her point was not that people should kill white people, but that poor black people living in impoverished, gang-riddled areas of Los Angeles who were used to killing other black people wouldn’t think twice about sparing anyone’s life.The full contextx:

“I mean, if black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people? You understand what I’m saying? In other words, white people, this government and that mayor were well aware of the fact that black people were dying every day in Los Angeles under gang violence. So if you’re a gang member and you would normally be killing somebody, why not kill a white person? Do you think that somebody thinks that white people are better, or above dying, when they would kill their own kind?”

Hannity and Rove and Palin and Drudge were tearing a script from that playbook, sticking it to Common and Scott, and hoping it would rub off on Obama, even though all of their assertions about the White House poetry invitees were mostly fantasy.

Which brings us to Monday night, when Jon Stewart debated Bill O’Reilly on theO’Reilly Factorabout the topic. While Stewart tried to speak reasonably about the context of each of the accusations against Common, O’Reilly talked over him (as is his way), though Stewart got in a few shots. (“Guess who wrote a song about Leonard Peltier? Bono. Guess where he was? The White House. BOO-YAH.”) But his most important comment:

There is a selective outrage machine here at Fox… This guy is in the crosshairs in a way that he shouldn’t be, whether you agree with him or not. You may think he’s ignorant in believing that Assata Shakur is innocent. You may think he’s ignorant in believing that Mumia is. But then guess what. Bono can’t go to the White House, Springsteen can’t go to the White House, Bob Dylan can’t go to the White House. You’ve got a lot of people who can’t sit in the White House because they’ve written songs about people convicted of murder.

Aaaand… hip-hop gets scapegoated again.

As for the actual White House poetry event last week, it went off without a hitch. Jill Scott read a poem about high rates of HIV.Common rappedand referenced Martin Luther King Jr No one was harmed.



Article: Attacks against rapper are smoke screen for larger issues by Halifu Osumare

It’s hard to believe, but one of the latest White House crises is the accusation from conservatives of an inappropriate choice for a poetry reading. The recent Republican diatribe against President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama stems from the invitation to the Chicago rapper Common to appear at the White House’s “Evening of Poetry” on May 11.

On Fox News, Sarah Palin lambasted “the White House’s judgment on inviting someone who would glorify cop killing during Police Memorial Week, of all times,” and continued by calling the choice of Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr., known as Common, “so lacking of class and decency.” Karl Rove, Sean Hannity and the Jersey State Police joined Palin, portraying the “conscious rapper” as “a ghetto radical,” “a thug” and “dangerous.”

We’re not talking about T.I., Lil Wayne or even Jay-Z; we’re talking about the Oprah Winfrey-sanctioned emcee, Common, who appeared on her April 2007 town hall on the effects of hip-hop culture after the Don Imus debacle. The point is that Common is a conscious rapper with a conscience, who is the poster child for hip-hop as a credible, and often responsible, art form. If he’s the right wing’s example of a dangerous ghetto radical, then the anti-Obama ultra-conservatives are solidifying their separation from a significant section of the American public who have some common sense (no pun intended) and can see through these trivial issues that divert attention from our serious domestic and international problems.

Once the anti-Obama accusations are hurled, the scenario is that all the usual suspects have to weigh in on either side: truth, justice and the American way, or the deconstruction of the smoke screen. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney’s rejoinder was that President Obama does not support controversial lyrics spoken by the rapper Common that have come under criticism from conservatives. However, he added that the entirety of Common’s work is laudable, and that “you can oppose some of what he’s done, while still appreciating his brand of conscious rap.”

Even Common himself had to make a fair-minded “clean-cut” statement regarding the controversy and his motivations: “Politics is politics and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I respect that. The one thing that shouldn’t be questioned is my support for the police officers and troops that protect us every day. Peace y’all!”

With the United States fighting two wars and with soldiers dying every day, Common’s inclusion of the armed forces, along with urban cops, was politically strategic.

The conservative black linguistics professor John McWhorter surprisingly offered important analysis about the centrality of rap as this era’s poetry for millions of young people: “The only question would be why the Obamas, as today’s Kennedys, would not include a rapper on their list.” As Obama’s 2008 presidential victory greatly depended upon the youth vote, he is in fact only supporting his constituency, albeit a tad different from Sarah Palin’s or Karl Rove’s.

Popular conservative Democratic blogger Gray Ghost asked: “After Barry finally released his full birth certificate for the world to see and the dumb Birther nonsense died down, why would conservatives want to go anywhere near race?” The continual bombardment of contrived trivial controversies against Obama by Republican conservatives only fuels the conspiracy theories among black people, further dividing the nation when, according to the naive among us, we were supposedly on a course of becoming a “post-racial society” by electing the first African American president.

The two raps that are in question are Common’s “A Letter to the Law” (2007), and “A Song for Assata” (2008), the latter about the convicted Black Panther political exile in Cuba. A line in “Letter” states, “tell the law, my Uzi weighs a ton,” and later he makes a reference to then-President George W. Bush with, “Burn a Bush cos’ for peace he no push no button.”

These lines are being interpreted as a cop killing threat and suggested harm to the president of the United States. But aren’t metaphor and symbolism engaged in service to one’s political worldview used on the right as well? Did not Palin come under fire by using her popular phrase, “Don’t retreat, reload,” at a time when the Tucson, Ariz., shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords had people again talking about gun control? Yet Palin does not allow the same aesthetic license when assessing an artist whose field is known for hyperbolic imagery to make a point.

Scholars have long analyzed these overreactions to rap music as failings to extend the same critique to the society as a whole. Cultural critic Tim Wise noted on CNN that America has a “racial disparity in how we view music,” calling our attention to how we do not hold country musicians, such as the late Johnny Cash, who had many lyrics about killing and use of guns, to the same standard. Instead, Cash was given a Kennedy Center Honor for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts.

Indeed, hip-hop scholar Tricia Rose discusses the “creative disregard” of black music that has “suffered from profound levels of underappreciation by various public writers and institutions, especially during the early years of these forms.” I would add that this disregard and unfair singling out of rap today follows the historic accusations against blues, early jazz and R&B. But even more so for today’s rap are the accusations that it causes violence. Rose says that “the criticism that hip-hop advocates and thus causes violence relies on the unsubstantiated but widely held belief that listening to violent stories or consuming violent images fiercely encourages violent behavior.”

Indeed, we are saturated with high levels of violence on our nightly television shows, summer blockbuster Hollywood movies, video games and real wars. Do they make us violent? Rappers such as 50 Cent and Young Jeezy, who continue the gangsta rap model established in the late ’80s and early ’90s by NWA with “Straight Outta Compton,” and Ice-T’s non-rap “Cop Killer” really create what historian Robin D.G. Kelley calls “revenge fantasies” in the studio-gangsta Terminator vein. Ice Cube and Ice-T are now established actors in Hollywood, and their early rap “revenge fantasies” helped them establish their celebrity, which they have successfully parlayed into playing cops on TV and in the movies. So much for the influence of violent rap songs that lead one to become supposedly anti-police.

The racial dimension of conservatives’ selective indecency accusations against certain pop culture genres and artists is indicative of our divided society, and black artists have continually received their share of unfair judgments. Today, the presidency, under Barack Obama, falls within these shortsighted historic racialized judgments. Common, a Grammy Award-winning artist, is a particularly gifted wordsmith who often makes poignant statements about politics, the music itself and the personal existential in one deft line. Conservatives should be celebrating President Obama and Michelle Obama’s choice of Common, along with the other poets Rita Dove, Elizabeth Alexander, Billy Collins and Jill Scott. In so doing, they position the best of rap as an important literary form of our time that is engaging a multitude of youths in the esoteric form we call poetry, as one of the major “power moves” of the 21st century.



Article: Get to Know U.K. Hip-Hop by Jonny Ainsworth

If you ask the average American to describe British culture in a few words, you’d probably get something like this: bad teeth, tea, cricket, crumpets, rain, and the Royal family. The last thing on a lot of people’s minds is a flourishing hip-hop scene. Admittedly, you only have to listen to English soccer star John Barnes’ rap from England’s 1990 World Cup song to get a feel of how little rhythm the entire country seemed to possess at the time. You’d cringe so hard that even a heavy dose of Botox won’t get rid of the creases. But of course, this is all in the past.

In the last ten years, the United Kingdom has been quietly cultivating its own hip-hop scene. Recently, it has exploded into the mainstream, with six number one singles (on the U.K. singles chart) for a combined ten weeks in the last year. Some music has made its way over to the United States, such as Taio Cruz’s hit “Break Your Heart” that rocketed straight from fifty-third to first on the Billboard 100 in just one week in March of last year.
South London-based Tinie Tempah has also found recent success in the U.S., playing at Coachella and is currently placed at number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 with his single “Written in the Stars.”

Tinie Tempah is only one (and relatively new) of the U.K.’s hip-hop artists. Artists such as Dizzee Rascal, Kano, Lethal Bizzle and Wiley have been making music for years.

More often than not, you will hear the word “Grime” when referring to the U.K.’s hip-hop industry. Grime is characterized by choppy beats and a minimalist approach. The timing is often awkward, making it hard to dance to. The vocals are usually delivered in a very abrupt, almost staccato style and use a very different vernacular from their U.S. counterparts.

“I’m into more alternative hip-hop, but I’ve never heard any U.K. stuff” said second-year Environmental Science major Jeff Svoboda.
Then, Jeff and I listened to a selection of artists to get a feel for the music.
“I like it; it’s totally different, [and] pretty high energy. I had a hard time telling what he was saying though; their voices all seem a lot higher and sharper than U.S. rappers,” he said afterwards.

Of course, the accent is another major difference, and one which may take a bit of getting used to.

“The beats themselves are all a lot more electronic; it’s a lot less laid back than what I’m used to,” continued Svoboda. “It would make quite good party music.”

Grime really came to the public’s attention in the U.K. when Dizzee Rascal was awarded the 2003 Mercury Prize (the most coveted award in U.K. music) for his album Boy In Da Corner. He was the first rapper to ever win the award. Boy In Da Corner told the story of growing up in one of East London’s most notorious areas and dealt with issues such as violence, teenage pregnancy, love and paranoia.

In recent releases, as Dizzee Rascal’s popularity has increased, his lyrics and style have changed. His latest album Tongue ‘N Cheek took a conscious departure from his Grime roots, favoring a pop sound and a lyrical content that focused more on the women and wealth being a successful artist brings.

But it’s not just Dizzee Rascal who has seen his style change to cater to a more mainstream audience. You only need to look for “Lord of the Mic” on YouTube to see Grime acts like Wiley, Kano and Lethal Bizzle rap battling each other in the early 2000’s in some of London’s most notorious areas. They have come from the underground and emerged as legitimate musical forces in the U.K. But there are those who stick to the Grime stereotype such as Tempa T, Skepta and Ghetts. Some would argue that this apparent commercialization of the genre has all but taken the artistic credit away from U.K. hip-hop; some see it as a genre maturing with age and success.

But not all U.K. hip-hop stems from Grime; Dan Le Sac vs. Scrubious Pip’s album Angles has songs that are so cleverly crafted it will leave your brain numb, whereas Plan B’s album The Defamation of Strickland Banks (which is actually more of a soul record) was one of the most forward-thinking albums of last year.

Parallels can certainly be drawn between the evolution of Grime and that of hip-hop stateside. When a genre of music suddenly becomes popular, the chances are that it is becoming more commercial (many would argue the other way around). This has been seen in the U.S. with artists like Nas (Hip Hop is Dead) and Jay-Z (D.O.A. [Death of Autotune]) publicly denouncing the trend of commercial, radio-friendly hip-hop.

So if you’re looking for something a little different to listen to this summer, why not give U.K. hip-hop a try? At first it may seem too harsh and fast to be enjoyed, but give it a chance and you can easily find yourself hooked on the distinct sound that comes from both the vocals and the beats which make it so unique. You may also want to keep urbandictionary.com close at hand to help translate all the slang (i.e. rudeboy, blud, wasteman… This is not an exhaustive list—listen to P- Money’s “Slang Like Dis” for a quick overview). Check out the playlist below to find where to start.



Article: Dr. Dre’s ‘G Thang’ Named Top Song of the ’90s By XXL Mag by Rob Markman

Many hip-hop enthusiasts consider the 1990s the genre’s best decade. With the music in full maturation, hip-hop expanded outside of New York, blew up in the west, and introduced us to new stars, styles and sounds. To celebrate the ’90s, on May 24 XXL Magazine will release a special one-off issue that ranks the Top 250 Greatest hip-hop songs from “Rap’s Best Decade Ever!”

At the top of the heap is Dr. Dre’s 1992 classic with Snoop Dogg, “Nothin’ But a ‘G’ Thang.” The Chronic lead single, sparked the West Coast’s ’90’s reign and helped mold Dre and Snoop into worldwide superstars.

The artist formerly known as Puff Daddy comes close, but doesn’t get the cigar at the number two spot with his 1997 posse cut all “It’s All About the Benjamins (Remix).”2Pac’s “California Love” (No.7) and Pete Rock and CL Smooth’s “They Reminisce Over You” (No.10) get ranked pretty high, while fan favorites like Ice Cube’s “No Vaseline” (No.58), The Lox’s “Money, Power & Respect” (No.117) and Luke’s “I Wanna Rock” (No.141) get props as well.

East Coast pioneers like Public Enemy, KRS-One, Run-DMC and Eric B. & Rakim are all present. West Coast luminaries like E-40, Too $hort and Ice-T get nods too. Crossover pop hits like MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This” (No.115) get ranked right alongside hardcore rap classics like Scarface’s “I Never Seen a Man Die” (No.99).

In the end, the list is sure to be celebrated as well as debated.

What do you think is the greatest hip-hop song of the 1990’s? Let us know in the comments.

Article: A Guide to Hip-Hop Genres and Styles by Henry Adaso

Learn about different forms of hip-hop and their key artists

Hip-hop music is a celebration of diversity. If you find that no two MCs sound alike, it’s because their musical styling are products of different environments and attitudes. Here’s a brief rundown of hip-hop genres and the key artists within each genre.

Alternative Hip-Hop
The alternative hip-hop movement encompasses MCs who constantly color outside the lines. These artists are less concerned with pop hooks and dance moves. Their main objective is to push the envelope and explore unique concepts.

Key Artists: The Roots, Lupe Fiasco, Del the Funkee Homosapien

Battle Rap
Battle rap is a style of hip-hop music that blends braggadocio with the quest for lyrical superiority. Seasoned battle rappers focus on boastful lines and self-glorifying rhymes about one’s proficiency or level of success, accompanied by verbal insults hurled at the other party directly or subliminally.

Key Artists: Kool Moe Dee, Jay-Z, Canibus, LL Cool J
Related Article – 10 Greatest Hip-Hop Battles

Conscious Rap
Conscious rap is propelled by the idea that radical social change comes through knowledge of self and personal discovery. So-called conscious rappers devote much of their rhymes decrying societal ailments and promoting positive ideas. Conscious rap is a contentious category, and not all rappers like to be classified as such.

Key Artists: Talib Kweli, Common, Mos Def

Crunk originated in the 1990s as a sub-genre of southern rap. Producer Lil Jon is usually credited with spearheading the hip-hop form. True to its name, crunk utilizes a chaotic interpolation of club-oriented beats and a high-energy chorus.

Key Artists Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz, Lil Scrappy, Trillville

East Coast Hip-Hop
East coast hip-hop originated in the streets of New York. The umbrella of this particular sub-genre covers a wide range of rap styles, from the street hop that gave yield to AZ and Nas, to the conscious approach popularized by Public Enemy and Black Star.

Key Artists: Run-D.M.C., Ghostface Killah, Nas

Gangsta Rap
Gangsta rap revolves around aggressive lyrics and trunk-heavy beats. Despite its huge acceptance in the early 90s, gangsta rap has been condemned for its violent themes.

Key Artists: Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube

Hyphy, a relatively new musical import from the west coast, incorporates an uptempo high energy hip-hop style. Hyphy is characterized by witty lyrics and rugged production. Critics were quick to dismiss hyphy as a fad, mainly because it’s an offshoot of crunk. Regardless, the Bay Area has enjoyed a measurable amount of success with their brainchild.

Key Artists Keak da Sneak, E-40, Mistah F.A.B.

The slick polyrhythms of snap music is typically accompanied by finger snaps (hence the name) and occasional whistling to create a distinct melody. This style of hip-hop originated from Atlanta, but has made its way across different cities in the United States.

Key Artists Dem Franchise Boyz, Yin Yang Twins, D4L

Southern Rap
Stylistically, southern rap relies on exuberant production and straightforward lyrics. With a few exceptions, southern hip-hop is more distinct for its sound and slang than for lyrical content. In an attempt to capture their stylish lifestyles on wax, some southern MCs consciously incorporate car culture, fashion trends, nightlife, and unique lingo in their songs.

Key Artists DJ Screw, T.I., Lil Wayne

West Coast Hip-Hop
There’s a generational misconception in hip-hop that lyricism can only be found in the East Coast. The west coast is home of gangsta rap, but it’s also the home to g-funk, lowrider music, freestyles, and yes, lyrical hip-hop. The Left Coast emcees have made significant contributions in their own right.

Key Artists: N.W.A., Too $hort, Ras Kass, The Game, Freestyle Fellowship



Industry Tips & Advice: Foreign Sub-Publishing Income by By Kevin Zimmerman

Whether your song is clicking in Caracas or soaring in Singapore, you’ll want to make sure someone is collecting your share for you in the international marketplace.

In addition to the secondary income streams from sales of sheet music and synchronization explained elsewhere, there are also monies to be earned internationally, should your song cross over beyond U.S. borders.

While the major multi-national publishers (EMI, Warner-Chappell, Universal, BMG, etc.) maintain offices in most of the leading territories, most independent publishers do not. As a result, these publishers sign agreements with local publishers in each territory to collect on their behalf. In these cases, the local publisher becomes known as a sub-publisher.

Regardless of what kind of publishing company is representing you, you should keep in mind that most countries have a mechanical rights collection society that licenses all musical compositions used by all record companies in that country. These mechanical societies are oftentimes government-owned and operated. Each local publisher files a claim with the mechanicals society explaining what percentage of a particular song it represents, and the collected monies are allocated accordingly.

In addition, sub-publishers collect the publisher’s share of performance monies from the country’s performing rights society, while the performing rights society pays the writer’s share to the U.S. performing rights society that you have affiliated with as a songwriter.

A sub-publisher can charge between 10% and 50% of the monies earned for its services, though typically the amount runs in the 15% to 25% range. The sub-publisher usually gets an increased percentage for covers of your song (a recording by a local artist in that territory of your song). This increased percentage usually tops out at 50 percent.

In regards to printed music, if the sub-publisher is responsible for manufacturing and selling the sheet music, it usually pays the U.S. publisher about 15% of the retail selling-price. If the sub-publisher has licensed the print music, it typically retains between 15% and 25% of the licensing income.

As is the case with your U.S. publishing agreement, an advance from the sub-publisher may be involved. For new songwriters with no proven track record, there may be no advance, with the sub-publisher content to merely collect on behalf of the U.S. publisher (this arrangement is usually referred to as a “collection deal”). In the absence of an advance, the sub-publisher will usually keep a lower percentage. Sizes of the local market and of the catalog also affect the advance amount. Advances can also be greatly affected by the currency exchange rates: if the U.S. dollar is strong, lower U.S. dollar advances are the norm.

In addition, sometimes when an American song becomes an international hit, various territories will seek the release of a version with lyrics in the language of their country. The local lyricist (or translator) will then receive a share of the royalties on that version, paid by the local societies. Sometimes the American songwriter and publisher are responsible for this percentage, while other times the sub-publisher pays for it.

At any rate, the translated version should be registered separately with the society, which usually ensures that the translator does not get paid on the English language version.

Be sure to receive a copy of the new lyrics translated into English by a reliable third-party source for your approval. This will prevent a new version of your song going out with lyrics that you – or someone else – may otherwise find confusing or even offensive.

Sub-publishing deals are established to run for a specific duration (usually at least three years).



Industry Tips & Advice: Foreign and Sub-publishing Agreements by Jeffrey and Todd Brabec

The agreement in which a writer, writer/performer, or U.S. music publisher grants the right to represent musical compositions in countries outside the United States is known as a “sub-publishing agreement”.

The agreement in which a writer, writer/performer, or grants the right to represent musical compositions in countries outside the United States is known as a “sub-publishing agreement”.

Because of the ever-increasing importance of foreign countries to the earning power of U.S.-originated compositions and the many positive and negative consequences that can occur owing to how one deals with the relationship created by this type of contract, it is a document that should not be taken lightly. With this in mind, the most important provisions of foreign sub-publishing agreements are reviewed here.


Decades ago, it was not uncommon to commit an entire catalog to a foreign representative for the life of copyright of each composition controlled by the sub-publishing agreement. Thus many standards are still currently controlled overseas by companies for the full term of copyright protection through agreements that were signed 60 or 70 years ago.

The standard duration of sub-publishing agreements in today’s market, however, is normally from 3 to 5 years, with 3 years being the minimum accepted by many foreign royalty collection societies.

The term of an agreement is one of the many negotiable items contained in any sub-publishing agreement; variations of the term are based on the amount of advances given, retention rights for local cover recordings, the right to collect “pipeline” royalties (monies earned prior to the expiration of the term of the sub-publishing agreement but not yet paid by the music user until after the end of the term), released-album guarantees, extensions if advances have not been recouped, rules of local performing rights societies, suspensions due to breaches, and extensions based on the non achievement of guaranteed earnings plateaus.

Royalty Percentages

The compensation received by the foreign representative is based on a percentage of the monies generated by the songs controlled by the agreement. For example, if a U.S. publisher enters into a sub-publishing agreement with a foreign publisher for the territory of Germany, the German sub-publisher would receive a percentage of the royalties earned by the compositions from CD and tape sales, television and radio broadcasts, advertising commercials, motion picture uses, and other exploitation that actually occurs in Germany.

If a certain catalog is successful enough to generate uses and income by its very nature, the fees chargeable by sub-publishers may be in the 10% to 15% range, since these catalogs virtually guarantee substantial television, theatrical, and soundtrack album income. If a catalog does not have such guaranteed income-producing music, however, the fees charged by a local sub-publisher will usually be in the 15% to 25% range.

Local Cover Recordings

If promotion of the U.S. catalog is one of the reasons for selecting a certain sub-publisher, most agreements will provide that the sub-publisher may retain a larger percentage of the income that is generated from a local recording or other use secured in the particular foreign country (a “cover record”).

For example, if the fee on a CD that originated in the United States is 20%, that fee may be raised to between 30% and 40% for a single or album recorded and released by a foreign recording artist.

Some agreements provide that if a local recording is secured, the sub-publisher’s percentage on all versions of the song contained on that cover record will be increased. Since this type of provision can be somewhat unfair if the original U.S. version is a major hit, this is something that one must guard against; unless, the local version becomes a major hit in a foreign territory where the U.S. version is not generating substantial income already.

If one signs with a worldwide company, it is often specified that if there are to be increased percentages for local cover records, such increases shall only apply to the territory in which the cover record is released (or becomes a hit, if applicable) and not to all countries controlled by the agreement.



Industry Tips & Advice: How to Create a Successful Band: Management Tips

Demos can include original songs, cover songs and jams. Learn how to record a demo with your band in this free DIY music management video from a band manager expert.

Expert: Kiely Griffin
Bio: Kiely Griffin has been playing the flute for ten years. She has participated in many district, state, regional and national ensembles including the National Wind Ensemble at Carnegie Hall.
Filmmaker: Christian Munoz-Donoso

Industry Tips & Advice: How to Send a Demo to a Record Label

Many demos from aspiring musicians are sent daily to major record labels. Know how to increase the chances of your demo getting noticed.

Industry Tips & Advice: Music Law – What are Common Types of Music Publishing Contracts? by Ruben Salazar, Esq

The seven (7) basic music publishing contracts are:

(1) Single Song Agreement: This type of music publishing contract is an agreement between the writer and the music publisher in which the writer grants certain rights to a publisher for one or more songs. In single song publishing contracts, the writer is paid a one-time recoupable advance.

(2) Exclusive Songwriter Agreement (“ESWA”): Under the ESWA or “staff writer” contract, the song writer generally grants all of the publisher’s share of the income to the music publisher. The writer’s services are exclusive to the music publishers for a specified period of time. Thus, any compositions written within that period belong to the music publisher. These publishing contracts are usually offered to writers with some degree of success.

With this type of music publishing contract, because writer has a track record of writing hits, the publisher feels confident that it will recoup its investment. In return for signing away exclusive rights to some or all the writer’s songs, the writer gets paid by the publisher a negotiated advance against future royalties. The advance amount naturally depends on the writer’s bargaining power and on the competition in marketplace, if any. Under a staff writer deal, the writer is paid on a weekly or quarterly basis. An ESWA can be either tied to a record contract or independent of a record contract.

(3) Co-publishing Agreement (“Co-pub”): The co-publishing (“co-pub”) deal is perhaps the most common publishing contract. Under this deal, the songwriter and the music publisher are “co-owners” of the copyrights in the musical compositions. The writer becomes the “co-publisher” (i.e. co-owner) with the music publisher based on an agreed split of the royalties.

The songwriter assigns an agreed percentage to the publisher, usually (but not always), a 50/50 split. Thus, the writer conveys ½ of the publisher’s share to the publisher, but retains all of writer’s share. In a typical “75/25 co-pub deal,” the writer gets 100% of the song writer’s share, and 50% of the publisher’s share, or 75% of the entire copyrights, with the remaining 25% going to the publisher. Thus, when royalties are due and payable, the writer/co-publisher will receive 75% of the income, while the publisher will retain 25%.

(4) Administration Agreement (“Admin”): An administrative agreement takes place between a songwriter/publisher and an independent administrator, or between a writer/publisher and another music publisher. In an “admin deal,” the songwriter self-publishes and merely licenses songs to the music publisher for a term of years and for an agreed royalty split.

Under this music publishing contract, the music publisher simply administers and exploits the copyrights for another publisher/copyright owner. Only the most popular song writers can even consider asking for an admin deal. Under this coveted arrangement, ownership of the copyright is usually not transferred to the administrator. Instead, the music publisher gets 10-20% of the gross royalties received from administering and exploiting the songs for a certain period of time and for a certain territory.

(5) Collection Agreement: A collection publishing agreement is like an administrative publishing contract where the writer retains the copyrights, except that the publisher does not perform exploitation functions; like an accountant or business manager, it merely collects and disburses available royalty income.

(6) Sub-publishing Agreement: These are basically music publishing contracts in foreign territories between a U.S. publisher and a publisher in a foreign territory. They are like admin or collection deals (with no ownership of the copyrights being transferred to the sub-publisher), but limited to one or more countries outside the U.S.

Under this music publishing contract, the publisher allows the sub-publisher to act on its behalf in certain foreign territories. Often, they are limited to a group of countries, such as European Union (EU), GAS (Germany, Austria, Switzerland), Latin America, etc.

(7) Purchase Agreement: Under this publishing contract one music publisher acquires in whole or in part the catalogue of another music publisher, sort of like a merger of companies. With this type of music publishing contract, a “due diligence” investigation is done to determine the value of the catalogue.



Industry Tips & Advice: Barry Menes On How Do Publishing Deals Work?

Entertainment lawyer Barry Menes talks about various publishing deals and how money is made distributed from such arrangements. He also discusses how publishers use their catalogs to generate revenue, and what a good publisher ought to be doing to generate money for their client off their catalog.