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  • INNERVIEW 019: One Year Anniversary of Houston Artist OQ's Album '94

    INNERVIEW 019 was conducted by Jameka in August 2022 following the release of OQ’s recent project ‘94. The interview is truly an inner view of the artist, his creations, processes and community that helped create a soulful ode to the Northside Houston community of Acres Homes. After a year in the tuck INNERVIEW 019 has surfaced right in time for the one year anniversary of ‘94. | CROWNTHEM ENT. x SDE. I really enjoyed ‘94 and wanted to learn more about it and about your artistic process. Yeah, for sure. It definitely was a process for me, and definitely was something that I had to dig deep to correlate. I could feel that because it's a very soulful project - from every aspect, from your production to the skits that you chose, the little clips and your hooks and your verses, it's so soulful. Yeah, that's the feeling I definitely want to give. What was your process? What I was mainly trying to do was kind of really reiterate my last project, which was Do or Die. It was kind of like, I guess you can kind of say my debut album. It was my first big album, a long project that I did, and I just felt like it was a lot of dated songs that I had that were great songs, but it didn't feel new to me when I dropped it, so I kind of wanted to do something fresh. I want to do something with a storyline or more of a perspective all the way through. Each song kind of, like, takes you to a different corner of my life. And that's kind of how I tried to write the songs and produce the beats and just really paint a picture. That’s the reason I chose my album art. It was me painting a picture with my words, and you see that with the album art as well. Yeah, that's one of my favorite aspects; how it all syncs up like that. I saw the album art, I was like, okay, cool. This is some cool art, you know what I'm saying? And then you go through the song titles and you go through the different stories that you're telling in each song, and it all aligns with that album art. Like the “O-Lan O” and the “Acres Homes” and all that. It's all there. I thought that was really creative on your end. Yeah, and I'm really big on my community. I'm really big on, like I said, storytelling and where I come from, because I think your influences help you get to whatever point in life that you're trying to get. So the things that I was able to experience, good and bad, had a lot to do with my community. I try to kind of bring that side to the light. I try to bring it with me. And a lot of rappers do it. They talk about where they're from and whatever, but that's one of the biggest things I want to do with me getting bigger and getting on a bigger platform. I want to shed more light on my community because when it comes to music in Houston, it's never a big thing for the Northside of Houston to be a picture of music. Everything is more so the Southside. You see a lot of the bigger artists like Megan Thee Stallion, Travis Scott and even the Geto Boys, everybody's from the Southside. So it's never been, I guess, a national superstar from the Northside of Houston. I just kind of keep that in my mind as I continue my journey. I see where you're going with it - that's important. What was it like for you growing up in Acres Homes? It's pretty much a typical low income community/neighborhood or project, you know what I'm saying? A lot of poverty and lower class families. But from my day to day, like I said on a lot of songs, like “O-Lan O,” is kind of like a staple in my community, which is like a meat market, a grocery store, and even like a fast food spot. I also have a song called “Will-Be-Force” and that’s like a play on the street name Wilburforce, which is right across from O-Lan O. Those things remind me of what it was like growing up as a kid and my early childhood stages being with my uncle and he let us run free. We started off on one street and by the end of the night, we done hit six streets. We was just running around Acres Home and taking in the community. We would start at one of my cousin's house then we'll leave and go to another cousin's house and then we'll end up being at somebody else’s. It's really just being all over Acres Homes and being in every place we could. Because in every hood or in every city, a certain part of a neighborhood could be a clique. You have certain parts of Acres Homes where other parts of Acres Homes don't like that side. I've been in all those territories and all those places to where I'm more of a neutral person, a lot of people know me and vice versa. I still play ball with a lot of them to this day. I've never really been a gang member or anything, but it was, and is, always just the ultimate love and respect between myself and a lot of them. When you're a kid, obviously you don't really understand hood politics and all of that stuff. But as I grew older, I kind of started to understand the culture of that “clique lifestyle.” I guess you could say there's nothing about lifestyle that I was really into or was able to get drawn into. I guess you could say everything that I did, I was just around the right people at the right time. It's so easy to get influenced and do the wrong thing, I understood that we walked a very thin line and one slip left could’ve changed my life completely. But yeah, I could say really just hanging out, whether it was playing sports or being at the park with my family, that’s what influenced and guided me. I know that was a big thing in Acres Home in the 90s and I was also born in 1994, hence the project being called ‘94. So I'm just playing off of those 90s vibes at the park. Everybody, all the cousins at the park and playing chase and football, that's the vibe that the project gives me and that's how I try to kind of reiterate it without having to go back to the actual sound. But I'm giving you that feeling at the same time. How did your community receive the project? I think for my inner circle, I think it definitely was received well. A lot of people, even in my family, were astounded to hear themselves in my songs or me dropping their name in a line or something. It's almost like they're famous or something. But as far as outside of my circle, people that I wouldn't even expect to were liking it. Because my sound is so Hip Hop, I'll be honest, a lot of people in my community really wouldn’t gravitate or run to that sound. A lot of people tell me I sound like Cassidy when I rap. That's an interesting comparison. And I feel that I was in high school, even when I was freestyling on the bus on the way to the basketball games, people would say, you sound like Cassidy. And I never just really took it as a slight because I've always known Cassidy as a rapper you know what I'm saying? Real MC. Right? But it's not the sound that's popular in my city or in my community. But you have to respect what I'm saying. When I play a song for somebody like “Fire” off of my project, it's like it might not be a song that you can turn up and party to, but when you turn it on you can see that I really write, you know what I'm saying? So they can kind of tell the difference between what I'm doing and I guess what they listen to on a daily basis. But I guess that's just how it is, everybody listening to it. A lot of people always say that, like the people in your city not going to mess with your music until somebody else in another city or other places give you that stamp. But, I mean, I think it's working this way around. Like people still hit me up to this day and be like, “yeah, I checked out that one song, or I checked out the album and I liked it.” I mean, it does pretty well. It does well. But, you know it's still a sound that's unfamiliar to the people in the culture because everything that's from Houston is slowed down. That’s the popular sound down here. But of course, you have other people that listen to the trap music and the turn up and all that. And even that is something that I dabbled in, I can't lie. I have a project called 25 Summers that's more so in that area. Hip Hop is my core. That's what I want to be noticed for. And I also make beats, so whatever sound that I'm making is kind of what I'm going with at the time. It just happens to come out that way. Yeah, that was another aspect of the project that I really enjoyed - hearing the clips of different people from [I'm assuming] they're like, dear family and friends. And there was one, I think it was on, like, “Riles Corner (Interlude by Kay.)” I thought that was a really cool interlude that served as a reflection or an ode to Acres Homes, geography wise, content wise, story wise – and so for her, she's breaking down, like, how to get somewhere these directions over by and it just gave the project so much more authenticity and played into the theme even more. I'm curious - how did you gather those clips? Were they random[?], planned? Well, that’s something that I always wanted to know, and Kay is my mom and whenever you ask a question that's like back in the day or historic question she knows everything about it. I dedicated a song to her on the project too called “December 8th.” So at that time, when I actually knew I could kind of get something for ‘94, I really wanted her to kind of narrate the project without narrating the project. I started getting clips of her talking and rambling about these facts about Acres Homes. I asked her about our family and the neighborhood and that’s when she started talking about [Riles Corner], which was a corner in Acres Homes that her dad's brother, her uncle, owned. So we had a corner in Acres Homes that our family owned. It had all of the stores and she was just telling me about the history of it and I was like, man, that's amazing. I actually drive by that place often, [Riles Corner,] to go get my haircut. She was telling me about it and how it's abandoned or whatever, and I was telling her how it was a goal of mine, [that once I made it] I wanted to buy that piece of land back, start some kind of business or something along those lines. She was just giving me the inside scoop on it, and was telling me what family member was running it and who was running the shop and how it came about. It was just like a piece of my history and a piece of Acres Homes history as well, so it made sense. And then right after that, of course, you got the song “The Corner.” So I kind of try to do those things like that to kind of, like you said, give it more an authentic feel, you know what I'm saying? Taking the music in a different view. To hear you say that, I really felt like I did what I was trying to do. You know, got the job done on that. Yeah, you did an amazing job. And I like it even more [after this interview,] I know for sure I'm going to go run it back again because talking to you about it, it's lifting some layers for me to be able to see it in a different light as well. I know that you produced and wrote the whole thing. What is your process with being the producer and the writer? Do your beats come first / does your hook come first? Tell me more about that. It’s definitely an interesting process, but I kind of let it flow naturally. What I would do is I would sit down with an idea of what I'm trying to do and start there. A lot of people would say, okay, I want a song called this or that. The name of my tracks probably come after the verse is written or the hook is written. And as far as beats, it's just whatever feels right at that moment. A lot of times when I'm making beats, I never try to force it. If I like it, I would loop it up enough so I could write to it and not fully make the beat. I just make a partial version of the beat and then I'll put that beat on my phone, and as I'm going out throughout my week, like when I'm going to work, coming from work or on the weekends, wherever I'm riding to, that's when I normally finish my verses. My writing process reminds me of something I said on one of my songs. I'm running through these lines, trying to write this song. I kind of use that to get everything out. I might experience something on the drive. I might be driving through Acres Home. The process is always different for every song and that's the unique thing about it. Because listening to every song, I can think back on the process. I was at this place or I was going through this light or I stopped hard at this red light when I was writing this song. It’s very unique and it's very different. But I find that's where I get better verses and my best songs. When it comes to things like that, I can't just sit down and write a verse. It’s very rare when I do that, I have to just be stuck in that mode. But most of the time I have to take the song with me. I have to really get out. I have to ride around. I have to see things, experience things. And then that's how it all comes together. I hear the process is different for everybody. I guess it's my unique process and how I do it. Do you ever battle or have challenges with your process? You mean as far as writer's block? Yeah. Or just like, thinking or assuming that maybe it would come to you in a different way than it did? Yeah, definitely. I think “Power of Prayer” was like that. When I'm doing what I just told you, the process I have, and it’s just flowing out, it’s all good. Then sometimes I have to adjust that process. I know what I want this song to be about. I know I need to rap to this, I just have to figure out how to get it out. And sometimes when I write a verse, it's not the IT verse. Sometimes I have to be like, I'm going to record that and then I'm probably going to change it, because I need to see where to take this. Every song that I put on ‘94, I wouldn't go back and change a thing. I felt like I said everything I needed to say and didn’t waste any bars. I don't want to be like, I should have said this or that after the fact. Everything was a permanent feeling. So that's kind of how, like you said, if it's not giving me that feeling, I can’t be satisfied with that... I have to make sure that it's the right word, right flow, right cadence, right pocket, things like that. So sometimes it calls for adjustments, but like I said, it's just I might have to do one or two things differently and then I'll get the final result that I expect from myself. It's always so interesting hearing how different artists persevere and make it happen. If someone comes up to you and asks you [like they ain't heard your music before,] and they ask you, how would you describe your sound? Hip Hop. I would ask, do they like Hip Hop. There’s music connoisseurs, one of my closest friends, my business partner, Vo, and he's a music connoisseur. He probably has a sound that he keeps in his pocket permanently, but he listens to everything so I respect his opinion.. If I can make a song or project or whatever and it moves him in a certain way, then I know it's something special because he takes in music in a different way than the average person. So that’s what I would ask somebody, you know, what's the sound you prefer? You know what I'm saying? Cause I'm more of a backpack/boom bap Hip Hop type of person. Like, I listen to Young Thug and Future and other big name artists, but that's just not traditional Hip Hop in my opinion, even though it’s hard. When it comes down to the sound that I produce, that's what you're going to get. A lot of people compare me to like Kendrick Lamar or J. Cole and they call it conscious or whatever, but that's what I'm going to make the best out of. I can make a song that you’d want to hear in a club or party, hard 808s and high hats, but you're not going to get a better song than me making a song on a real Hip Hop beat. So that's just what I tried to tell myself. Like, yeah, that's the popular sound right now and everybody wants to listen to that, but you can make that song and be considered somebody riding a wave or you can do this sound that not everyone gravitates to, which also happens to be what you're great at. That's probably how I have to explain it to them. I have that unpopular Hip Hop sound right now. So, if you want something that you can, you know what I'm saying, just vibe out to, then I have songs that's more up-tempo and it's not just all in your head music. But then I also have things that you got to really listen to and it stands the test of time. Art always caught me, Lil Wayne Jay-Z, people that use a lot of metaphors in their songs and like triple or double entendres. That's something that always caught my attention, because in order to understand it, you had to really listen. That’s one of the biggest things that really got me into rapping, to being able to do that. Because my favorite subject in school was always reading and writing. So it was always something that I was able to correlate with the music I love. That kind of leads me to my next question. I love to ask - when you were creating this, what was your intake? What were you watching, reading, listening to? That's a good question. What I try to do whenever I'm in that mode of writing something, I think of a project, or rather I try to listen to my biggest influences a lot. Before I made ‘94 I listened to like 444 - for me that was the last project where Jay-Z was going through something in his relationship and being honest and vulnerable in his music. He was able to basically do what I'm trying to do; paint a picture for you and tell you what happened without telling you what happened. You have to listen to the songs. I might tell you a couple of things in this song and then go to the next song and I might say a couple of things in that song. I go back and listen to a lot of old Drake songs and how he put certain things together. J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and then really listening to my old songs. A lot of times I'll go back, listen to my old songs to see where I was at, think about how much better I've gotten and how far I've come. That kind of motivates me too. Then I'm able to use bars and different subject matters to kind of use for the newer music or the newer project because I'm able to see the difference now. As far as what I was watching, I'm not sure, but I know a lot of times, I'm watching something like a documentary. I think around that time the Kanye documentary had just came out, (he's like one of my top five producers of all time) so that might inspire me to make one or two of those types of beats. Things like that would be what triggers me to get on the computer or pick my phone up and hit my notes and try to figure something out because it'll get my juices flowing. There are little things I pick up on like that sometimes. But certain situations, other situations, it might be a feeling of complacency in my life or I’m tired of working a 9-5 grind. I might just be like, okay, when I get off work, I'm going to make a beat and I'm going to make a song and it's going to take me out of here and that might be a song that I might use. So, certain situations come from those scenarios too. Let it flow. That's a difficult thing to do for a lot of artists is to naturally let it flow. Because depending on what kind of artist you are, you very much like to control the way your stuff comes out or not, you know what I'm saying? It feels like magic. The magic of it all is really just being like water and letting everything just really, like, influence you and pull you in the way that you're supposed to go. That's what you're givin’ every time you're saying something, and it's just like it just feels so natural. Yeah, it honestly did. I try not to force anything. A lot of times, like Jugg, Nadarian, he knows it could be days I haven't talked to him, and then all of a sudden, I would just text him a song. All he'll get is a song. He'll know how I'm feeling, or he'll know what mood I'm in and a lot of times, that's just how it happens. Like, I tell them, you can be at home eating a bowl of cereal, and then I have 5 songs done out of nowhere. You just don't even know what happened. But that's just how our process has always been since we started doing this. It's just always been a burst of whatever. And my first project came like that in a day. It was 5 songs. I made 5 songs in one day. And it was just like a burst of creative juice and creative energy and that's just how I like it to happen. I don't like sitting at the computer every day searching for a radio hit. And I know it's a different lifestyle you live in once you in the lifestyle, you're pretty much living in the studio, but when you're not already there, I feel like you said the experiences and things happened to kind of ignite that fire, because other than that, you'll just be just making things that are bad. I try to, like you said, let it flow and let it come to me. In that way I can get the best out of it whenever I'm doing it. You can’t rush the process. That's what I say. You can't. You can't at all. You can't slow it down either. No, for sure. You definitely got to put in the work. I've never been the type of person to try to just work for the sake of working, you know what I'm saying. It's not in me. I'm the type of person when I know I got something in the palms of my hands, I get active. I have always been like that. So if I'm not getting that feeling and if I'm not in that mode, then I know it's not nothing. I think I've done well with my process. I was just telling myself on my way home like, man, this year has been some of the best work, I've probably rapped the best I ever have in my life. And I've been in higher places in my life, like, I've been in higher planes and modes. Sometimes I don't even know how I just rapped the way I have and I'm just taken aback by it because I don't know where it comes from. That's why I think when it happens like that, people write every day. People always say you got to write every day. But for me to make ‘94 and as good as I was rapping, I wasn't rapping every day, it wasn’t an everyday process, it just came out of me and it flowed naturally. So. that's what I mean by just let it flow. The words that come to you, the ideas that come to you, you just got to open your mind and just let it come. Yeah, I think that's a good point though, because, you know, as being a writer too. I always heard that too. You have to write every day and that shit would stress me out. I don't want to write every day. I want to write when it feels right and when I feel like I'm actually going somewhere with it. And I think that just points to what you were saying. Everybody's process is so different. Yeah, it was like that for me at first. I was stressed out and it just became a moment to me where social media wasn't helping me because I would see people on social media and they might seem further in a rap career than I am. Somebody's on, somebody's thinking like they are higher than they really are. And it became so much to me and I know I really wanted to drop a project. I really wanted to drop ‘94. I cut myself off of social media for like six months, seven months, and that's how I was able to really get majority of ‘94 done. Once I had the skeleton already built, I kind of poked my head back on social media and I was able to get a few more vibes from social media. A few of my beats came from different song ideas from social media. Some ads that came across my Instagram where I was able to find some drum loops and some samples. I'm not saying it was fully, you know what I'm saying, beneficial, but it was definitely useful as far as the writing process. I was really able to just really just hone in on my craft and really get it done. Like block it all out. Because I feel like when we are on social media, we're hearing/reading everybody's thoughts and they’re going thru out mind. And it's not even like when we're getting a lot of time to sit with our own sometimes, you know what I'm saying? Like, what is really my thought and what is really what I'm trying to say, you know? Yeah, see, that's a big one. What is really my thought? Am I writing this song or somebody else's writing it? You know what I'm saying? Yeah, I think that's cool that you were able to take that much time off - that shows a commitment to the craft. Off of ‘94, do you have any favorite songs or moments right now? I think my favorite moment or my favorite song, [and that's only because I enjoyed both processes the most] was “Left The Nest.” That beat was one of my best. I do a lot of chops and samples in my beats and you see that on display in that song. I love sampling and a lot of people may say it's cheating or it's not original, but to me if you're able to take something and scramble it and make it into something brand new, that’s original. It’s like pulling a rabbit out of a hat. It's a magic trick. You're taking something that's good and you're potentially making it great. Some of the best songs that we ever heard in life were samples. I just really enjoyed the process of making that song. Then I was able to write such a good verse. I was done with the first verse. And then the second verse came the day before I went to the studio the first time and I literally wrote it on the limb. Like I was writing it on my way to the barber shop. And then I came home. And I had an hour until I was going into the studio. So I'm just sitting in the car. My girl was calling me on the phone. I'm just sitting in the car writing the song because it was flowing like crazy at that moment. That process was pretty much the whole reason, well not the whole reason, for why I love that moment. That one scenario is basically the whole project. I think I enjoyed that process the most, and it's one of the processes that I remember the most. Like, every time I listen to that song, I remember what it took to make that song. So that song was very unique to me. I think “Fire” definitely had a similar concept to it, where I kind of wrote the song in increments. I would write, like, I probably say, 16 bars, and then I send it to Jugg and I'll be like, what do you think about this? And he's like, man, that's hard. And then I'll be like, I feel like it needs some more. Then I write a little bit more. Like, what do you think about this? That's even better. And then I keep going. That's what I remember about “Fire.” It was just kind of like a three step process where it just needed more and then I finally got to the conclusion, and it came out pretty dope. I agree that's one of my favorite ones when I first listened through that was the one that really I felt in my soul. I mean, all of them after a while, you know what I'm saying? But our first listen, “Left The Nest” - I was just like, yeah, this is the one. Yeah. And that's kind of how I wanted it to be. That and “Fire” was one of those songs where I named dropped a lot, you know. I said my mom's name, I said my aunt's name for her business and everything. When I sent that song in the family group chat, it went crazy. Everybody was like, “oh my God, you heard what you said.” When I sent it to my cousin, that's when she sent me the voice memo and was like,” oh, my God, you really go hard.” It's like, yeah, I have been for like three or four years now. You all just thought I wasn’t there yet. But people don't know ‘til they know. Right, You know what I'm saying? You don't know until you ride in the car and you got the radio on. Oh, my God, that's my cousin on the radio. I've been doing this for a while, but, I mean, it's not unique to me. It's a process that almost every rapper goes through. Your family not going to just fully believe until you're making some money from it or you're on TV. I don't hold it against them. But I still use those unique situations that I've encountered in my life, and I kind of try to highlight moments in my life, like the second verse of “Left the Nest.” That was pretty much about me and my other three cousins. That’s also why I like “Left the Nest,” too, it's so unique to me that I can remember exactly what I'm saying and how I put those words together. It's amazing to me. That's all I listen to. I only listen to my music and that’s no slight to anybody, I just know what I can do and what I’ve done. Like those songs I definitely hold dear to me and everything else. All the other songs, like you said, are really good songs. I think that was definitely just chips that were puzzle pieces that were put together to kind of make the picture of ‘94. So, yeah, I think I did pretty well with it. I think it's going to be like that music that gets better over time, so I'm excited. I'm excited for you, as well. So I just got a couple more questions for you. What is SDE? SDE stands for Still Dreamin’ Entertainment. It's something we came up with when we were in high school. It was primarily me, Jugg and Vo. It initially started out as us just having fun and making songs together, then we all got home from college, everybody came back from wherever they were, and we started to take it a little bit more seriously. Then everything started to elevate a little bit, different from what we could imagine. We haven’t gotten there yet, but we can definitely see the bigger picture more now than we did back then. We started at Nadarians, Jugg’s, house in the closet, just rapping. We were using a first responders mic, his dad used to work for the 9-1-1 call center so we had one of those headphones set up with the aux card. It was very bad quality, but it was something that was ours and that made it special and dear to us. That blossomed into what we’re doing now. How long ago was that? This was probably in 2011. We were either in the 10th or 11th grade when we actually started rapping. We were friends way before then, but we got comfortable as friends to the point where we started spending the night at each other's house and getting close with each other’s families. And that's when I started figuring out, oh, this person knows how to rap. Oh, this person is funny. We kind of started learning from each other more and then obviously I was the one that was always rapping and beating on the tables. That was kind of more so my character, what I brought to the friend group. Yeah, it came out the way it came out. That's really cool. What do you hope people get from listening to your music? I really hope that they just really understand that I can really rap. Because like I said, it's Hip Hop and when people think of Hip Hop, they think of East Coast boom bap. So, I think it's a good lane to be in, as far as my position, because nobody's really doing it here in Houston. I have a sound that derives from [that era] of Hip Hop, but I’m from the South and you can hear those influences in my music. Where I'm at when they listen to ‘94 or any of my music, I want people to understand that it's a different sound here. I'm from Houston, I say it in my music, I don't hide from it. I don't try to sound like I'm from New York. I say I'm from Houston, I'm from Acres Home, so you know where I'm at. I just want you to understand that and take the music and understand that I'm making these beats I'm rapping on it. I'm writing these songs, like 90% of the songs that you ever would hear from me, I made the beat. I have a hard time buying beats from other people because I'm like, I can make a beat that's similar or the same beat or whatever, but I have bought a few beats that I was proud to rap on. When someone listens to my song, I really want them to understand that I really can rap. So that's kind of like everything in a nutshell. I can really rap and not just know ABCDEFG, nursery rhyme rap. I really put thought into my raps, and like you said, time into constructing my projects and skits and all. I really just wanted to take it in and just live with it. That's the biggest thing. I imagine and hope that’s what people would think when given the opportunity to listen to your music. I think they will hear you. I sure hope so. But hopefully through this interview we'll get a few more ears on it, for sure. When I was writing down notes, when I was listening to the project, I didn't even put, like, rapper. You know, I can only really refer to you as an artist because you do so much of it. You're a storyteller. And I felt like the more that I listened to this project, I almost felt like I could draw a map of what you were speaking on. The music creates a map of where you're from. I just think that that's very unique in itself as well, because like you just said, there's not many people coming out of the South at large that are doing just strictly Hip Hop music [although there is a growing number,], but especially out of Houston. You're not only able to give a different sound, but also provide that production and give a different type of storyline than what we're used to, I feel like this is a very catalyzing project if and when the right ears get on it, if it's not already catalyzing for yourself. But you know what I mean? Catalyzing outside of just you. Yeah, that's my goal, too. Like you said, shed that light on it and make sure it's perceived as that, because I think it's a sound right now that's going around. - and you can see that it's not trap, but it's that middle wave of, I guess you could say hip hop or pop or whatever. But I think what I'm doing is very 90ish - like the songs that I'm making are very similar, in that sound front. But I mean, it's just how I feel. It's just, you know, like you say, it's the feeling. And that's all I want for the project, is for you to kind of, like, get a grasp of what I'm saying with all 12, 13 songs. I know I said that was my last question, but are you planning on putting out some more videos? Yeah. Right now we're in the process of doing that, which is very big for me because I think that'll be the next step of really putting the painting to the music and actually being able to see it because people can hear it if they see it a lot of times. So that's the process that we're in right now. Like I told Jugg, I really want to map it out because the videos can't just be a video of me in front of a car, it really has to capture the sound. If I'm going to do it, then I want to do it to the best of the ability of the song. I don't want to waste the opportunity. I don't want to pay no money, and I don't really get it because I critique my stuff hard, so I don't put out any visuals and it's not the visual of the song. So we're in the process of mapping some things out. I got a photo shoot, a photo spread that I want to do. It kind of brings light around the project as well. Going back to the old staples - other staples in the Acres Home community that I grew up in and kind of capturing those moments. I got a whole plan for the second half of the project that I want to do right now that's probably going to get ready to hit the social media sites in a little bit. '94 AVAILABLE ON ALL DSPs. ALL PHOTOS ON EDITORIAL [WEB / GRAPHICS] BY CORY HILL + NADARIAN. INNERVIEW, LAYOUT + DESIGN BY JAMEKA. OQ: + Still Dreamin' Ent.: + +


    CROWN VIEWS 002 is a visual playlist of 100+ music videos from Q! that were found notable or worth sharing for various reasons; illuminated a song off a project, color palette, textures, unique frames/POV, aesthetics, editing, etc. While making CROWN VIEWS 002 a few questions arose: In the social media era – 1) what is the significance of the music video? + 2) what does the future hold for the music video? When I posed/posted the latter question on CROWNTHEM’s socials a few different replies were given. Some think that it will inevitably look like tiny snippets/chops of full music videos and reaction videos to said videos. Fragmentation due to decentralization platforms for artists. Immersive videos, 3D experiences noted by a few others. Glass Protocol was mentioned. One artist in particular stated that impactful videos will take more creativity and time while also figuring out new ways to roll out the video – but, will the snippets receive more views than the actual video itself? What will make the audience follow-up on YouTube, Vimeo, etc. and watch the full video? In the social media era the music video will and is undergoing a significant transition. A lot of transformations we will be able to predict but a vast majority of the transformations that will take place for the music video will venture into the unknown of innovation and vision. Additionally, there has been chatter trivializing the impact of the video for an independent/underground artist; some say they aren't as important as they seem and that artists should spend their resources and time on other aspects of their art. On the other hand, some view music videos as an undeniable and pivotal aspect of an artists' trajectory. There is an equilibrium to be met - realize the truths on all sides - but, essentially, it all comes down to how creative, out of the box / forging of news paths an artist is, coupled with execution of those visions. To engage with the conversation noted above view here or comment below. Without further ado – The words came out differently this time. The poetic blurbs may not fully analyze the music video in a traditional sense - but, if you watch the videos you might catch the moments of intertextuality, imagination and where the words and visuals coalesce. “BIG DEBO” by Shady Blu | directed by madebyJAMES Already there - already where she placed her intention, where she puts her attention. Maybe they ain’t listen; maybe they’ll wait ‘til they see the star glisten. Burns blue, luminous hue, massive talent comin’ thru. “ALLAT” by Mark Lux | directed by Dhyaan Patel ALLAT, al-Lat, personification of the Sun out the slums. Gods, Goddesses and androgyny is worth sumn. Radiance of the L.A. gradient; creativity is Heaven Sent, Heaven’s Scent. All that. “Close” by Bocha x Corey G | directed by Zach Olson Close, close enuf. To run up - to throw the stone 'n hide the hand. To go to war or forfeit your land. Endeavors + bands. You must understand, close the door, open the window to be grand. “Free!” by Maxo | directed by Vincent Haycock Free! What does it mean to Be? Some openings close yet still need entry. Conversations of adversity with Me ‘n Me. In healing, to bring warmth and burn out disease. Creative energy flows with ease. R.I.P. Uncle Jerry. “Broken Glass” by Passport Rav | directed by Future Industry A big tooth broke all the ceilings in the room. Swinging on cut outs of creation formed w/ strings + glue. I've inherited the Spirit of Buddha - found a way to laugh as my unorthodox passport is stamped. “D.A.R.E” by ICECOLDBISHOP | directed by Erik Rojas Dare to be different + dare to have life feed into you instead of what you consume. They put it in our face, crippled to their various ways OR jump to another page - still with rage. Destruction only means the beckoning of a new age. "for your EYES” by theOGM x Elete | directed by EYEDRESS FOR - YOUR - EYES, no I’s. Time works for you when you find your pace, inside. Living by Truths ‘n crossing out lies. Hills in the hoopty, on my life. CROWN VIEWS OO2: (no particular order except the first 7.) ARTISTS FT'D: KAMEO, FUNERAL Ant Bell, Bryce Savoy, Radamiz, Yoshi Vintage, SONNY, Monday Night, 3WaySlim, Asun Eastwood, Kamaiyah, Sada Baby, Donnie Waters, Da Gilly, Apollo Brown, Aj Snow, Jansport J, P1, ALLBLACK, MeechBOLD, Trent The Hooligann, BoriRock, CRIMEAPPLE, Starz Coleman, GodBlessBeatz, Maze Overlay, SadhuGold, JNX, Shun Gawd, Alex Bond, YOH, CARRTOONS, FrankieOG, MacArthur Maze, RTC Profit, Jyou, Isai Morales, ihateyouALX, Smoke DZA, Sleepy Loco, Jonathan UniteUs, Reuben Vincent, Rapsody, Hugh Augustine, Walt Mansa, Shloob, B. Cool-Aid, Devin Morrison, Pher Turner, MoRuf, Pink Siifu, UFO Fev, Spanish Ran, Los Kemet, Times Change, Mike Shabb, Nicholas Craven, Payroll Giovanni, 2 Eleven, Problem, League, Donavan Ransom, Larry June, The Alchemist, G Perico, DJ Drama, Lord Sko, Andy Savoie, Jesse Desean, Ahmir, Malz Monday, O Dawg, Thunderous Caption, RIPXL, Bucky Malone, Innanet James, Big Jade, Che Noir, 7xvethegenius, SZN, Kash Doll, Icewear Vezzo, Swooty Mac, Devy Stonez, Freddie Gibbs, Rucci, Bankroll Got It, Deniro Farrar, Huey Briss, KeMarilyn Chanel, Archibald SLIM, Lola Brooke, Hit-Boy, Rim, FINN, Shootergang Kony, Jireh, DaBoii, C Plus, Heno, Elujay, J.Robb, Lord Apex, Slumlord Trill, Nym Lo, Statik Selektah, Curren$y, AvenueBLVD, Chase N. Cashe, Mello Buckzz, Latto, Jae Skeese, Da$H, Silky Southern, Sincere Hunte, Recognize Ali, Sibbs Roc, Will Hill, Slim Guerilla, Genshin, YeloHill, Airplane James, Young Nudy, Isaac Castor, Ricky Mapes, Jim Jones, Hitmaka, Don Quez, Rahiem Supreme, Nappy Nina, Tafia, Ferris Blusa, Jah Monte Ogbon, Young Drummer Boy, Bizarre, Charlie Smarts, DJ Ill Digitz + Toosii. WORDS / CURATION / DESIGN BY: JAMEK

  • 2nd Kings by HXNDRX

    2nd Kings is the follow-up to HXNDRX’s first release of 2022, 1st Kings. Different from the first one as there are no features and HXNDRX is going purely off his own energy and thoughts. 2nd Kings is a highly spiritual project meant to connect with the listener in intimate and vulnerable ways that aren't always present in today's artistry. This is a genuine spiritual offering from the New Orleans’ artist. There’s history, mantras, motivation and light — it’s an honest and transparent reflection of Soul, intent and the energy he’s using to make his visions and dreams tangible (while also being aware of the fact that Spiritual blessings aren’t always bestowed in physical materialism.) The project begins with, “Sovereign Business,” and the intro of the track starts with an audio clip from Al Green. The esteemed pastor and musician gives a few words about not fusing too many genres (especially if they're in opposition) at once because it may, confuse the Lord and the devil, and therefore speaking on the hypocrisy that’s often found in music. The clip highlights that an artist can be preaching about something relating to the Higher Self but in actuality living through their Lower Self. It’s a sovereign business, in the sense that it’s your business but is it a business that gets you free and allows for a sovereign lifestyle — are you really the one in control? And if not, how do you gain control of your Being? Lowkey profound way to lay out your intent as an artist before getting into your art. We been blessed another day so what you conquerin’ ? / I’m out here rockin’ that’s for real, so what you rockin’ with / I’m really stylin’ in the field / Out here movin’ spiritual and confident - I wrote this for the conquerin” 2nd Kings serves as a reminder of the expression of one’s Soul and Spiritual nature that represents light and can still grab Hip Hop / Rap by the reigns. Every word is a nutrient and every song is nourishment. There’s not any bragging or making the listener feel as though they’re less than because they don’t quite have the same life, amenities and resources as the artist they’re listening to. This is for the people, the spiritually minded and guided or those who seek to be in alignment with those frequencies and vulnerabilities. After “Conquer” the project moves into one of the first songs that received video treatment, “Forgiveness,” which is exactly what the title states. Another personal song that finds it way into the universal — he’s speaking to a past or present lover and their ups and downs, support of one another, the worth they recognize in each other and possibly how to forgive and move on or forgive and move forward together in strength and faith. The wanting to find new ground with someone that makes their way back into your life. “My Realm,” is a track where HXNDRX expresses a bit more about some situations that his energy had to repel in order to evolve spiritually. Personal accountability coupled with knowing what not to accept and work with. Some references are abstract and without context but still allows for the listener to fill in what might be referenced or the listener's own personal relation. “Let me bring you in my realm where Soul not for sale and we acknowledge what’s real. There’s an immense amount of great lyrical content, ideas and experiences that can sit with your Soul and mind from this project. 2nd Kings is essentially a guidebook or journal of how to maintain, sustain and cultivate a truly healthy life — mind, body, spirit. This is another significant project along the journey of greatness by HXNDRX. Times are changing and its imperative to really live the life you’re meant to lead. I’m only speakin’ on the business, that’s the mission / I can’t be rockin’ with no goofy, they be senseless / I rub shoulders with the Royals, they be listenin’ / tribal blood in the vein, how you miss this ? / tribal blood in the vein, we the remnant / tribal blood, I got mixed thru the mud / crossed that boat in the ocean thru the flood / doesn’t matter about blood we related just because. He then also goes into the lack of true and transparent education for the youth and communities at large. To finish the project out, “David’s Outro,” begins with the importance of allowing the testimonies of others (whether you’re involved or not — good or bad,) to be an inspiration for you to give your testimony with utmost truth and accuracy. Listen for yourself. This is neither a project to miss nor an artist to ignore. Words by Jameka Released: March 2, 2023 Region / City: New Orleans, LA

  • Malice At The Palace by Ty Farris x Machacha

    Malice At The Palace Ty Farris x Machacha ”These rappers cornballs, shame on the engineer that’s recordin’ it/ That sh*t’s trash, when you post it, I’m reporting it” - Dope Sales To Vinyl Deals Ty Farris releases his 3rd release of 2023! Part of me is like what is going on, how is this humanly possible, and the other part is welcoming the pace and quality of these drops. Malice At the Palace (completely produced by Machacha) isn't as chaotic as the real life event but it does hit as hard as Ron Artest did on that infamous night. “Flagrant Fouling” is a standout track with it’s haunting Darringer style production and gutter verses from Ty Farris and Mickey Diamond. The project also hosts DJ Grazzhoppa (Scratches), Marv Won, Guilty Simpson, Dango Forlaine, WateRR, Ty Farris makes sure he lets the homies join in on the fun, Detroit what! Favorite tracks: Flagrant Fouling, 4 Point Play, Strong Arm Aggression Words by Monk Released: March 17, 2023 Region / City: Detroit, MI

  • Bears Vs Pitbulls by Starz Coleman x Ched

    Bears Vs Pitbulls Starz Coleman x Ched “I’d rather rap or culinary baby this is what I do/ I’m dodging taxes and prison, naw I can’t live by the rules” - Sir Sarzalot Colemanson The 3rd Hip Hop's favorite music video auteur is back with another dope musical offering. He teams up with frequent collaborator Ched on Bears Vs Pitbulls and the results are as impressive as they've always been. Starz Coleman is as witty and funny as ever, while displaying the skill and dexterity of a spitter's spitter. This is mostly a solo affair until we get to the song “Paid In Full” which features Alma Ave Writtens who delivers some potent bars about wisening up and living to one’s potential. Put on your helmet get in line for this ride with one of New Jersey's finest! Favorite Tracks: Bears Vs Pitbulls, Paid In full, Himmel Musik Words by Monk Released: March 3, 2023 Region / City: Newark, NJ

  • Hot Shot: Gangsta Grillz by G Perico x DJ Drama

    Hot Shot: Gangsta Grillz G Perico x DJ Drama “The mo’ that I make, the crazier I feel/ I thank God everyday, I can believe this sh*t is real/ Gotta get a bigger bag cuz my ni**as need appeals/ I got 700k from my negotiating skills” - Everything G Perico teams up with DJ Drama for a ride through the LA streets on Hot Shot: Gangsta Grillz. Full of street action, and LA vibes, this project is a testament to G Perico's work ethic and independent spirit. I also like that the production isn't riding any waves, it's modern but it keeps the classic Cali Hip Hop elements that let you know what the coast is! G Perico rolls mostly solo on this lick but Steelz, and RJMrLA show up to lend some assistance. Everything combines to make this is one shot you don't wanna miss! Favorite Tracks: Ask G4, Action, No Do Overs Words by Monk Released: March 10, 2023 Region / City: South Central, CA

  • Noir Or Never by Che Noir x Big Ghost Ltd.

    Noir Or Never Che Noir x Big Ghost LTD. “Yeah I sip from barstools in Miami / If you ain’t felt the pain I felt it’s hard to understand me / My cuz Juwan got killed, it’s hard losing your family / I was so young I still had cartoons on my panties” - Resilient Che Noir starts Women's History Month off by making history with another flaming hot project, Noir Or Never. (Also I wanna put my vote in for album cover of the year, Noir Or Never is a top contender.) Che flows effortlessly over Big Ghost LTD soundscapes, and there's some great features with 7xvethegenius shining the brightest among the pack with her assist on "Veracruz", which happens to be my favorite! This is definitely a group project and Che Noir enlists the help of Flee Lord, D-Styles (Scratches), Planet Asia, 7xvethegenius, Skyzoo, Ransom, and 38 Spesh. It’s fun for me to see who’s collaborating with a rising artist, seeing certain names on a features list has always been an affirming stamp, Che Noir is in great company. Give Noir or Never it a listen now rather than later. Favorite Tracks: Veracruz, Quiet Moves, Sleep Paralysis Words by Monk Released: March 3, 2023 Region / City: Buffalo, NY

  • The Great Escape by Larry June x The Alchemist

    The Great Escape Larry June x The Alchemist In professional sports a player usually makes their mark in their respective league after a “breakout” game or season. In music this happens after a “breakout” project. This is a project that takes an artist from a relatively recognized performer, to a household name amongst the so called casual listener. This is exactly what Larry June teamed up the legendary Alchemist to produce. The Great Escape is just that, an escape from the underground and into underground stardom! Boasting big features from the likes of Big Sean, Action Bronson, Wiz Khalifa, Joey Bada$$, etc. Larry was able to thread the needle between having big names but still staying true to the sound that got him this far in the first place. The Alchemist laid out the perfect backdrop for Larry’s high class lifestyle lyrics that can be evidenced simply by glancing over the track listing. Titles like "Turkish Cotton," "Porsches In Spanish," "Art Talk," and "Ocean Sounds" let you know exactly what you can expect. The two artists come together so seamlessly it’s hard not to assume they’ve been working together since Larry’s start. The Great Escape is a great example of sticking to your bread and butter but finding a way to still elevate it to the next level. A wide range of feature artists are sure to get Larry heard in many unfamiliar spaces, and create an array of new fans. Next time you plan on taking a drive, grab a fresh squeezed orange juice, take the scenic route, and make your great escape with The Great Escape, NUMBERS! Words by Flynt Nixon Released: March 31, 2023 Region / City: San Francisco, CA

  • ROADMAN by Sincere Hunte

    ROADMAN Sincere Hunte Unexpected. There’s a huge number of underground and independent artists from out the South and higher concentrations as you move from state to state and city to city. From Fayetteville, NC, yet based in Nashville, TN, Sincere Hunte delivers his project, ROADMAN. The project follows the story of a young rolling stone and how he traverses love, family and life at large through forward movement. Some hooks resound like mantras. Life don’t got no brakes, we keep pushin’ / I don’t waste time, I take what they couldn’t / Pray before I sleep, we keep pushin’. There’s a grainy, basement aspect to his delivery that is represented on “EXOSHAPER” with a feature from Ronin Black where they take turns flipping words similar to a cypher. Remnants of what we used to get from Tyler, The Creator, Earl Sweatshirt back in the early/mid 2010s. A distortion in production and voice allures the listener to get a deeper glimpse. It’s not a lazy delivery but a nonchalance that comes off as a, “this is just what I do and I do it well.” It’s an interesting album that caught my attention because there are so many aspects of it that were like charting uncharted waters. It was illuminating in the sense that it goes from an underground/punk feel that meets Hip Hop in the south to moments of dance like, “CARRIED AWAY (4U).” It works well for Sincere Hunte because the various and fusion of sounds absolves any soundscape expectations. Even with “DJ GIRL” it starts off sounding like a song that is almost a modern Beach Boys track with a feature from $avy. There’s a lot sonically to keep the listener entertained and wanting to know more about the artistry and the mind that created this body of work. When more ears hear this I can’t imagine them not wanting to elevate this artist and sound further. Future is very bright for Sincere Hunte. “TIL THE END” featuring Mike Floss is another standout track - the lyrical content and pace of the production coupled with one of Nashville’s finest. A journey with flavor, fly and not too much flash. “SUN RUNNER” is a beautiful track. devin. has a great feature but it’s in the soul of the production and content of lyrics. “ANYTHING I CAN GIVE” another notable track purely off the production and the manner he raps over / with the track. There’s also a switchup mid-song that is brilliant because of the interlude before the production morphs. It works so well that you think that the song changes but it’s all the same track. Made me reminisce about the 2000s where artists would put 2 tracks as 1 song or just create a drastic change up. “I have found both freedom and safety in my madness; the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us.” - Kahlil Gibran, The Madman Sincere Hunte reads / recites at the end of “ROCHAMBEAU” Words can only convey so much. In order to get the full essence spin it a few times. True diamond in the rough. Words by Jameka Released: February 17, 2023 Region / City: Fayetteville, NC / Nashville, TN

  • Painting Houses by UFO Fev x Spanish Ran

    Painting Houses UFO Fev x Spanish Ran “New Barkleys, steppin’ over the body, as I walk out the lobby/ I had a hustle before I had me a hobby” - Dead Rappers Sell More (Big Locks) UFO Fev combines with Spanish Ran for Painting Houses to mark the start of his 2023 releases. UFO Fev continues to push through and cultivate a solid catalog. He's only looking forward while leaving banger after banger in his wake. Now is as good a time as ever to check out what he has to say. Features from Tree Mason, Ty Da Dale, DJ Ill Digits, Bloo Azul, Mad Hattan, and Al-Doe make this a house party, but you’re not gonna see John Witherspoon complaining about having to listen to “Public Enema”. Painting Houses is in the lane of what I like to call Crime Noir Hip Hop, the title is a reference to an organized crime term for killing a man and the way blood splatters walls during a shooting. Spanish Ran does a great job providing sounds for UFO Fev and company to shine a light on these dark and gritty spaces and situations. But it’s not all about the ugly side, there’s hope, resilience, and a strong message about making an effort to strive, even when facing an environment and circumstances that are working against you daily. Powerful stuff, check it out! Favorite Tracks: C’mon, Dead Rappers Sell More (Big Locks), One Luv Words by Monk Released: Feb 28, 2023 Region / City: Harlem, NY

  • A Moment's Notice by Gary Junior

    A Moment's Notice Gary Junior Since the 1980’s Vallejo, California has been home to some of the brightest stars to come out of The Bay Area rap scene. From E-40 & The Click to Mac Dre and Thizz Ent. Fast forward to 2023 and pretty much nothing’s changed, LaRussell, DaBoii, Nef The Pharaoh, etc are still spearheading the new age sound of the region. But around many bright diamonds are always the hidden gems, Gary Junior is definitely one shovel away from stardom! His latest project entitled A Moment’s Notice is a collaborative effort with producer JMO CORLEONE. Like any good collab album the two are able to hone in on Gary’s style and offer the best version of himself. His laid back easy going delivery paired with JMO’s upbeat vibey production is a match made in heaven made apparent within the first two tracks. My personal favorite song "Potential," has Gary’s distinctive flow stabbing in and out of high hats and keys guaranteed to have you involuntarily bobbing your head. The real showcase on this project is the range, to be only 7 tracks the flows and cadences show you that he is capable of creating a masterpiece no matter what canvas he’s painting on. It won’t take you more than a moment to notice that A Moment’s Notice is something special. A universal sound that kind of sounds tailored for the Taylor Gang-esque audience. Nevertheless if you’re a fan of the Wiz Khalifa’s and Curren$y’s of the world then that’s even more reason to dive into Gary Junior and JMO CORLEONE’S, A Moment’s Notice as soon as you have a spare 15 minutes and 20 seconds to do so. Words by Flynt Nixon Released: February 21, 2023 Region / City: Vallejo, CA

  • Old Tales by Last Rhetoric

    Old Tales Last Rhetoric High Energy, in both contexts is the best way I can describe Old Tales. The new album from Last Rhetoric. From lyrical delivery, to the overall messages of hope in the lessons of life across the album's 12 tracks. The standout tracks are the effortlessly metaphor-laden “Black Metal” with a hypnotic guitar riff that you just can't escape. Lines like, “Death-metal, dead singers, heart brings us, harbingers, hard nickel, dark steel, killers finger, cramp real, movie clippings, plot thickens, oatmeal…” Reign has the vocal range, vocabulary and sheer ability to rhyme that rivals some of the very best, it's only elite names that can come to mind when you can speculate on who would sound at home with him on the same track. It can be absolutely brain bending to analyze this album and realize the gritty and punctuated rhyme spitter on “Toolz” is the same distorted yet jazzy melodic voice on “Madboy” and “Timelapse”. An absolute stylistic ANARCHY on this album (the very best kind). To call it experimental doesn’t do it justice, that would imply a level of unpolished or unfinished. This is an extremely well-produced and polished album from top to bottom, a bespoke masterwork from veterans in musicianship. Old Tales is a concept album capturing the past, present and future of a journey. It is a story of multiple perspectives viewed from the highs and lows of life’s path told with a collection of traveled ideas and sounds gathered from varied upbringings serving as the backdrop. Last Rhetoric is a hip-hop music collaboration created by two multi-genre artists, David Bruce aka Armanni Reign and Nick Weiller aka Bro Safari. Armanni Reign, former battle rapper turned US Drum and Bass artist,respected EDM vocalist and festival host. Touring the planet with some of the biggest names in the culture from DJ Craze, Goldie, Andy C, DJ Snake Hip Hop, Drum and Bass, Dubstep, House and more. The production for Last Rhetoric is written and arranged by Nicholas Weiller, an artist/DJ, and lauded veteran of bass music. From the stateside pioneer-like Drum and Bass beginnings of the collective known as Evol Intent to the mash-up community’s highly-requested Ludachrist, and most recently the undeniable solo rise as Bro Safari. Words by Xlo Released: March 10, 2023 Region / City: Austin, TX

  • The Show You Can’t Tell - A\Villain

    There's something to be said about the indie spirit when someone with vision and all the skills necessary creates a project with their own hands from top to bottom. Michigan has had a lot of success as of late but it would be wrong to not also highlight the avant-garde and deep underground works being made in this renaissance of Detroit creativity. Heaven Studios/The Machine Shop extraordinaire, A\Villain dropped a tight 8-track album late 2022 with features from Alien-gang Nalij, the goat Royce 5’9, Solr and Ace Gabbana titled: The Show You Can’t Tell and it is an excellent place to start if you wanted dig deep and see what is being made outside of the Detroit sound you have likely become a accustomed to. Mr. \Villain raps, sings, and adlibs his way through subject matter from women who are bad for you, Fahrenheit 451 references, weed smoke, media lies and the pessimisms of daily life in the modern era. Not only a lyricist but a producer and engineer, A\Villain creates a unique sonic bedrock to get out all his thoughts along with some supremely talented guests. Royce does an excellent “Renegade” call back at the top of his verse on “I Tell Em,” “Since I'm in the position to talk to these chicks and they listen, I ain't got time for pimpin’ but I’ll kick it wit em a minute...” He and Nalij both flex their melodic chops on this album to great effectiveness. Nalij lets people know he still has great command over his voice as an instrument over “Garden” as he effortlessly breaks into rapping again after 8 bars of flexing his ability to glide up and down the scale in his signature raspy baritone. Solr and Ace Gabbana come with nothing but bad intentions and heat on their verses on “Kok Boru,” the sinister album closer. A minor key piano anchors the beat opposite a pulsing arp and some of the best drums on the record. The hook alone encapsulates the overall theme of the album, “Striking the match, lighting the gas, fighting my past, why did I last… I need advance, I need investors to hear me out once and then give me a chance, I need a bad, shorty with dreams and a dope energy that I really can match” We’re one of the most lonely, hardest working generations in recent history, most can relate to the need for companionship and validation by the gatekeepers that are the difference between the toils and monotony of the daily experience, and something else where one can become a step closer to master of their own fate. The braggadocious confidence you can come to expect from Detroit rap records is all but absent on this album. Like the cover art, it's bleak, tongue-in-cheek but pointed with its messages and undercurrent of pessimism. If you like rock influenced and varied, experimental production… give it a spin or 2. RELEASED: July 22, 2022 WORDS BY: Xlo

  • Money For Dummies - Smoke DZA x The Smokers Club

    "It Came From The Clouds" Harlem's current most prolific son, Smoke DZA emerges from the cloud with another solid project that closes out 2022 and sets the pace for 2023. Money For Dummies is the first music project from The Smokers Club, his newly formed record label collaboration with Johnny Shipes and Bubz. Johnny Shipes laid out the inspiration behind The Smokers Club on an Instagram post. He wrote, “Earlier this year Me, DZA & Bubz sat down & mapped out the next phases & goals of The Smokers Club. When we took a step back & looked at how we started the Club & what influenced us since the beginning, it always came back to Great Music & Smoking Great Weed." The Smokers Club Producers have laid out a stellar soundscape for Smoke DZA to apply his hazy rhyming abilities. Money For Dummies starts with "Box OTW," a cinematic instrumental, complete with soulful wailing. Smoke DZA goes in with one of the most effortless sounding flows in rap, conjuring images of underworld exploits, and cautionary advice to any would be competition. "Put a tracker on your truck, hit your teepee / really hit you where it hurt, do you greasy dog / old Giant running through the pack like Tiki / I'm just trying to stay alive like the Bee Gees y'all" A lot of rappers let the track dictate how they sound on it but DZA maintains his essence no matter the track's style or tempo. It's pretty fun to listen to, he's never hurried, never sounds robotic, and never fails at sounding as smooth as possible on any song. Smoke DZA teams up with another legend of Hip Hop haziness, Curren$y, on "Park Bench Blues." It's not the first time these two have worked together. Over a sparsely paced, melodic beat, they verbally pass the blunt back and forth. Smoke DZA lays more of his personal philosophy out. "I got a license for these dope sales, yeah, catchin' packages like Odell / yeah, you know I gotta treat my folks well / when it's all over they gon' speak of me in folk tales". I love the sound that we get on "Only Care In The World." The mellow, slow drum loop is determined to starve us with drum elements, but a blissful soul sample from The Montclairs holds it all together. Smoke DZA glides over this kind of production and does his thing. "Take it back, when the teacher told you niggas keep your eyes on your own paper / multi-millionaire I'm on pace to / being straight for the rest of my life, family no chaser / the bullshit, I'm World Peace, you got the wrong Pacer" Coming 10 tracks deep, Money For Dummies is another in a long line of solid project's from one of Harlem's finest. I have not doubt that we'll get at least 3 more projects in 2023 from the self proclaimed "studio rat." Released: December 30, 2022 Words by: Monk

  • Briefcases and Sunglasses - Leaf Erikson x The Davis Way

    Hip-hop being a multi-generational art form has inevitably reached the point where its reflected in the music, it should be no surprise that talks of fatherhood and financial literacy become more common topics in the art itself when the genre is now 50 years old. Architect Entertainment if nothing else strives for conceptual diversity and consistency, Briefcases and Sunglasses is a short and sweet 24 minute meditation on topics such as fatherhood, love, and financial literacy. The Davis Way single handedly holds down the beats as Leaf Erikson, a veteran of the Detroit underground, is joined by fellow Architect artist Crystal Rae on vocals and trades bars with KonPhlict on the standout "Business Statement," a track full of double entendres about the business world and how the rap game intersect. The production here is diverse and rich. In a world torn between progressive trap and drill on one end, with minimalist sample driven sparseness on the other; this project strikes a balance between traditional boom-bap with jazz and soul injected ("Flowers for Laura and "A Dream Unfolded") with some more experimental elements from funk on ("Murderer’s Row" and "California") to drill inspired hi-hat rolls (Self-Restraint). Leaf is sharp and focused on sharing his wisdom and opening his heart in his lyrics on this project, songs such as "Nurturing My Seed" and "California" speak to his lived experiences and what’s next for Leaf as he looks to the future. He name drops his son, young rapper D.Apollo as he muses on his own upbringing and lessons learned from his own father. Leaf sounds comfortable and conversational as he muses on moving to the west coast, the theme which wraps up this movement from the more commerce focused top of the album as it ends on a hopeful and sun soaked note, better bring your sunglasses! words by Xlo released: December 31, 2022 /

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