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  • DRILL MUSIC IN ZION by Lupe Fiasco

    A master class in “use what you have to make your own magic.” Recorded in his living room on a cheap mic over 3 days. Lupe delivers on his first LP after 2018’s Drogas Wave.10 tracks as an homage to Illmatic by Nas, complete with its own Halftime record in “KIOSK” on track 5 in the middle of the(m) all… Lu’s pen is sharp as ever, all records produced by Sountdtrakk, only credited features on the record are his sister Ayesha Jaco opening “THE LION’S DEEN” intro with her signature poetic style. As well as Lu’s SOSA guild protege Nayirah. A talented rapper in her own right who provides melodies on lead single “AUTOBOTO,” the slow, haunting “PRECIOUS THINGS,” and Alt-Rock inspired “SEATTLE.” The standout track is of course, “MS. MURAL,” a cerebral and layered concept record on the frustrations of being an artist forced to entertain a hapless patron. Beneath the surface is a very real history lesson on the means of production and subjects of artistic expression, complete with an Edgar Allen Poe-like macabre plot twist. Released: June 24th, 2022

  • The Modern Rap Collective: An Oral History

    The rap collective plays an important role in the landscape of modern underground hip-hop. With Griselda at the top; families across the nation have spawned to add fuel to the fire that the Buffalo giants ignited. In today's climate, belonging to a well-respected collective, carries weight. The identity adds legitimacy and confidence for the unfamiliar rap head. Much like the best crews in the genre's history; these collectives have sustained quality control. In the past, crews such as DITC or Cella Dwellaz have occupied a space in hip-hop closely tied to the streets. Although acts like Fat Joe or Big L received some mainstream attention at various points in their career, the brand that they stood for remained strictly underground and strictly for the heads. In much the same way, are the stories that follow. This article will highlight the stories of three important collectives in the scene. The Umbrella, Da Cloth and Brown Bag Money. Understanding these stories will provide a foundation for understanding how modern underground hip-hop operates as a whole. Although there are plenty of crews not represented in this piece, the three covered have certainly maintained prime real estate in the weekly release schedule for the past several years. Following each story, is a curated playlist which will serve as an entry point into the artists covered. A special thank you to those who agreed to be interviewed for this piece, including Pro Dillinger, Allah Preme, Substance810, Rigz, M.A.V., as well as both Daniel Son and Asun Eastwood who shared their stories last year during an interview for a separate article. The Umbrella: One of the more unique collectives in the modern era is that of The Umbrella. Appearing in circles as a masterly curated supergroup of buzzing emcees and producers; the crew's ethos and structure is not alike anything else we have in the contemporary rap space. Now consisting of ten emcees, and an onslaught of producers - The Umbrella's origins date back four years ago with online conversations between New York's Pro Dillinger and Snotty Dinero. Pro Dillinger: I didn't really have an idea that the underground was going through a resurgence in a sense. I didn't know. But I knew there was something happening there. So, I kind of just started deep diving. I was getting in - trying to find the producers - following the people that were in the comments that looked like they were doing something - following other rappers and stuff like that. And in doing my research, leading up to my first underground release - I encountered Snotty under a comment. What caught my attention initially was his name. Like 'that's a dope fucking name... like 'snotty.' It made me want to see who the fuck this dude was. Right? So, I checked his profile and saw he's a rapper. I clicked the link on his bio and that was it. I was amazed. He had just came out of jail and he released 'Columbian Snow Talk' and I was really into the project. Frequent conversations between Dillinger and Snotty quickly materialized into something greater than the sum of their parts. Out of an apparent necessity for resources, spawned the idea of a common collective. One that could lower budgets - and surround the two artists with likeminded talent - who could push - inspire - and motivate. Pro Dillinger: [Snotty and I] were going to go at it - try to find our way in the underground, just me and him. But we had no resources. We were both still getting beats from YouTube and shit like that and the few people we did know. Cause Snotty was making his own artwork, I'm buying artwork from people - and we're getting beats from other people we don't even know. One night we were having a conversation. Regular shit. Me and Snotty would call each other every night and just chop it up. Like plan and plot and shit. And one day I said to him 'Wouldn't it be dope if we didn't need to reach out to anyone? If we had all of our shit in house? and he was like 'Yeah.' And I said to him 'Like under the same umbrella.' And he was like 'Yo cuzz, that's it! The Umbrella!' In a conversation with Umbrella member Allah Preme, he noted the origins and claimed that it was the 'Gunbrella' symbol that the crew had adopted that gave The Umbrella an identity within hip-hop conversations. Allah Preme: The Umbrella is founded by Snotty and Pro Dillinger. They had created the Umbrella as a way for us to have resources. So, we would have producers under The Umbrella, graphic artists, other rappers, so that we wouldn't have to reach out for no features for nobody. We just wanted to create a network of resources that everyone could have at their disposal. That's what The Umbrella really was. It wasn't no rap group. It wasn't even a collective yet. It was just a band of dudes who came together and pooled their resources together. As time start going along - we start acquiring new members and the Gunbrella Symbol was made. And this is what changed it. Cause now this was a symbol that everyone could identify. Like 'Oh that's them dudes These guys run together!' And the people kind of made The Umbrella what it is now. We really didn't see it like this in the beginning. The people made it this. Today, The Umbrella goes strong. In 2020, Insomniac Magazine wrote that The Umbrella is the "ultimate collective of MCs, producers, and artists set to dominate the Hip Hop scene." That statement, today, holds true. With emcees Pro Dillinger, Josiah The Gift, Mickey Diamond, Snotty, Substance810, Jay Royale, Allah Preme, Big Trip, John Creasy and Mvck Nyce; the crew has established a discography totaling well over 100 releases. Each gaining traction in the underground hip-hop landscape. In May, the collective reached new heights. Despite geographic separation within their roster; the crew held their first live performance as a single identity at Chelsea Music Hall in New York City. The show, hosted by ID Rich and Shaolin Luciano was an opportunity for artists to collaborate, build rapport, and break bread. Speaking of the event, Umbrella emcee Substance810 claimed: Substance810: The comradery was off the charts. It was dope. Meeting everybody in person. It really felt natural. It's not every time that you meet people that you've never met before and it feels natural and organic from the jump. And it just felt that way from everyone - that is as far as the people I hadn't met prior. It was just a dope ass night. We had only agreed that we were going to do it like a month before the show. We put it all together and it was successful. [...] It was just a fire ass night. I know in my mind it was just the one to kick it off. We have so much more coming it's going to be crazy. Pro Dillinger: We got to meet each other. Live in the flesh. Stay at each others houses, host each other, shit like that. That was - for me - the best part - having the whole Umbrella in my driveway bro. Drinking beers, cracking jokes, smoking weed. It's like when you go to a BBQ or a family reunion and see all your cousins. Like you didn't miss anything - you didn't skip a beat. That's how I felt. It was good to just see all of the guys just kick it. And when we got to the show, it was amazing. There was a moment where I was standing there with my wife and we're just talking, socializing with people, and I look down the block towards the venue and the whole block is filled up with just people. It's just mad people catching a vibe, enjoying the vibe. I was like 'Holy shit, I can't believe we did this.' The event was live, energetic, and triumphant. Despite the show being cut short during Pro Dillinger's final set, he took it to the streets, and rocked for fans outside of the venue for an impromptu performance that Substance recalled as 'legendary'. This was hip-hop in its most raw and primal state, and the fans took notice. Pro Dillinger remembers: Pro Dillinger: I feel like that was - not only an important moment for The Umbrella, that was just an important moment in our space of artistry. I feel like that was something that needed to happen for a number of reasons. I feel like the way it came together - was so last minute - that it's amazing that we were able to produce a product of that quality in that short span of time. There was some hiccups, and there were some things that could have went a little better but at the end of the day - it was a moment. I know it definitely was a good moment for me. As even though my set got cut short, I was able to recover and capture another moment after the show. I really experienced something special with the people who came to support us. It was good for everyone involved. What's next for The Umbrella? With an ever-impressive list of releases out in 2022, the collective has been actively discussing the potential of an Umbrella crew album. Despite no release date in mind, everyone seemingly agrees; it's going to happen. Roadblocks in the way are contained only to the logistics of constructing a project with over a dozen individuals. Allah Preme: When it comes to the Umbrella collective. Me personally, I've put out two compilations; I put out one called 'Govament Cheeze,' and I put out another one called 'Stealth Assassins.' Where I kind of just put out my favourite tracks from everyone and put them on. As far as The Umbrella collective album, yes. The Umbrella collective album is going to happen. It's talked about all the time. More than people know. It's just we are trying to really establish the work that we've been doing - and establishing ourselves so that when the time does come, first and foremost everyone is ready. And it's hard. We are a big crew. It's not that no one wants to do it, the challenge is just getting this many people on the same page. Pro Dillinger: We talk about it all the time man. My biggest thing, and everyone else's biggest thing is... we don't want to rush it. We don't want to make it to the point where we're offering our supporters false hope. Like 'The Umbrella album is getting this close to getting done...blah blah blah' you know what I'm saying? Then on top of that; we don't want to record it through emails. We want to all be in the same spot recording it. It has to happen organically, or it's just not going to happen. At some point - we're going to have an Umbrella album. But we don't want to rush it. We don't want to cheat the people. We don't want to give the people just a compilation album. As we could have easily done that. We all have songs together. So, we could just take a bunch of songs that we have together and slap them together on one project and give them that, but it wouldn't be the sauce, you know what I'm saying? It would just be something to pacify. And that's not what I want to do. I don't want to pacify anybody. Fuck that. I want all my guys in a lab. We got to lock in for five to seven days. Nobody go to work. Nobody call their girl. We just gotta work. That's how I envision The Umbrella album. Nothing forced. Put a beat on. Whoever gets on this beat gets on this beat. Whoever doesn't, get on the next one. Shit like that man. No distractions, just come in here and do business. Over the years, The Umbrella has formed a singular identity in the underground. What once began as an opportunity to pool resources, has turned into one of the most respected names in the scene; commanding respect for all that carry the name. If you're new to The Umbrella, there's no bad place to start. That said, below is a playlist crafted from joints within the collective. If you care about underground rap, and find yourself unfamiliar with the brand, then listen intently. Da Cloth: A favourite among heads of the underground; Da Cloth has put their stamp on the landscape over the last handful of years. Consistently providing us with a cohesive array of mood setting albums - their quality control and production choices are something to be marveled. Consisting of emcees; M.A.V. (Maverick Montana), Rigz, Mooch, iLLanoise, Times Change, Symph and Rob Gates - Da Cloth have cemented their legacy in the scene. Unlike The Umbrella, Da Cloth's regional identity is important. Hailing from Rochester, New York, the crew has painted a portrait of the city that has defined the region's identity within the culture. The origins of Da Cloth date back to 2012. While Rigz and M.A.V. have familial ties, the two were well acquainted with the others who all occupied spaces within the local Rochester music scene. Originally consisting of M.A.V., Rigz, iLLanoise and Symph, the collective bonded over shared principles and a vision for each other's craft. M.A.V.: We started doing some music together. That was me, Rigz, Symph and iLLanoise. We started featuring each other on each other’s music and one day after some thought had been put into it, it was like 'Listen, we can really make some noise together. Like everyone's going to continue to make some noise by themselves, that's a given. For the most part, that's something we have all continued to do. But together, I feel like we can be a force to be reckoned with. And I'm not even sure who truly initiated that conversation, but I know that was the root of it. We're pretty tough individually, but together this could really turn into something. At that time there were only four of us. Rigz: The vision was always the same from my perspective. I can't really speak for everybody else but as far as my vantage point? I always seen our collective strength, but it started with our individual strength. What I see in Gates is different from what I see in MAV. What I see in Mooch is different from what I see in Times. So forth and so on. So collectively when I bring that vision together, we all are different, but we all stand for integrity. Like different things outside of the music? We felt wasn't relevant. And when it comes to the artistic side? I felt like our creativity, the way we flow, the way we approach a beat? It's just something fresh and something that isn't really out. So, my vision has always been the same with Da Cloth as far as just getting it out there to the point where it can be acknowledged, and hopefully it can influence something else to continue on and push it forward. The first addition to Da Cloth came quickly after its formation. By early 2013, Times Change had been added to the roster. As a battle emcee in the area, Times had begun a working relationship with M.A.V. after appearing on an early tape titled Angels and Demons. After impressing the rest of the crew, it became a no brainer to syndicate his talents with the group. Rigz: He was brought in, honestly off the strength of M.A.V. - M.A.V. put him on the map as far as me. I was aware of him as he was in the battle circuit, and he was cooking dudes here, but I hadn't really heard any projects from him per say. But M.A.V. had him featured on one of his tapes. I think it was called 'Angels and Demons.' The original one before he did the ones with Hobgoblin, he did one way back. But he featured him on there and I was like 'who the fuck is this?' The way he was showing up on the records was like toe to toe with us. It was a no brainer for me once he brought it to the table. Like yeah, we should fuck with him. His caliber as far as his pen game is ridiculous. And when I met him as a person we gelled. So that's how that happened. But M.A.V. was definitely the one that brought him to my attention. Everyone else in the crew already knew of him. 2014 saw two new members added to Da Cloth. This would be the last alteration of the roster, permanently solidifying the core talent of the crew. Childhood friend of Rigz; Mooch was added to the crew at this time along with Rob Gates. In Rigz' view, this made sense; as Mooch was always present in the conversation, despite not formally being inducted into the collective. Gates on the other hand - was inducted due to his skillsets as an emcee and the fact that his authenticity resembled that of the other members. Rigz: Mooch was always in but he was in off the strength of me. Because I was working with him prior to anyone else. So regardless if he was pulled in or not, he was involved as he was involved with me. So it would have been like a Method Man and Redman thing if he didn't get pulled in. Like he's always going to get standing because of me - period. But the original four was me, iLLanoise, Symph and M.A.V. Then the next was Times. Times was the fifth member. Then Mooch and Gates came in at the exact same time. But like I said, I had been working with Mooch the whole time. Rigz: When I heard Gates, I became a fan of Gates instantly. Because the authenticity on the record, his energy, then who he was... he's the epitome of a diamond in the rough. You know what I mean? He was a star as soon as I seen him. When we met, we had a lot of the same characteristics that we get from the pavement. Everything else was just solid after that. Despite much of their early catalog being unavailable online, the sonic template that the emcees adopted was very much akin to their current sound. Blessed with production from the likes of Eto, and other Rochester natives; Da Cloth's sound is distinct. Eerie and chilling hip-hop with hard drums and potent lyrics that reek of authenticity and street realism. When it comes to the space they occupy in the underground scene, Da Cloth makes some of the most cinematically grimy records out. M.A.V.: Listen, the sound that we do now, is still of the same cloth as 2011-2012. That sound has been part of the Rochester sound for lord knows how long. It's just based on the producers that we used. A lot of other artists started using those producers after hearing what we were doing with them. Those would be guys like Truth the Producer, Fifth, Eto. Eto has been making beats - and Truth and Fifth, those guys have been making beats for eons. I'm talking about early 2000s. Maybe even sooner when it comes to Eto. But even the sound that you hear Eto doing? That's been the sounds for a long time. Like before you heard Beat Butcher anywhere else, you heard him on Eto's music. That sound is like probably more Rochester than anywhere else. Rigz: [The sound] was extremely similar. It just evolved as the producers that we worked with evolved. Everything we stood for evolved. Life evolved. It just grew. But we dropped stuff from 2012-2013-2014. I think 2011 was the earliest. But none of that stuff is on the internet. We're probably going to do some re-releases next year. Just to give a history background of the stuff we did prior. But it's always been the same. Just evolved. In recent years, Da Cloth have grown to new heights; actively collaborating with some of the most sought-after artists in the scene. 2019 saw the first of the Big Ghost Ltd collaborations as Rigz and Mooch teamed up with the Japanese producer to release their album The Only Way Out which got a vinyl pressing through De Rap Winkel. In 2020, Rob Gates and M.A.V. dropped The Dark Side of Nature also entirely produced by Big Ghost. Rigz, earlier this year took a step even further with the record Gold, a record produced by the legendary Soul Assassin himself DJ Muggs. Toronto producer Futurewave, whom has worked with the likes of Rome Streetz, Boldy James and others has also laced Da Cloth with excellence, producing full length projects for both Mooch as well as Rigz respectively. These production credits have not only won over fans, but have proven to elevate Da Cloth to the pillars of culture; with many of their solo projects actively engaging the rap community upon their release. At this point, their legacy is cemented. To date; Da Cloth has released a handful of crew albums. These include their 2015 debut with the XXL inspired Salute the Few, 2017's Broad Day Kidnaps, the DJ Kay Slay hosted Fixtape in 2018, and the follow up joint Da Fixtape in 2020. In 2022, they are hard working on a new joint effort which is bound to drop by the years end. Speaking with Rigz and M.A.V., the two noted not only that the project is near completion, but hinted at a producer list chalked full of Rochester talent. Rigz: It's 98% done. It's called Cloth New York. And it'll definitely be out this year. The tape is basically us putting our flag in the dirt a little deeper. It's us representing our part of New York. It's going to be nice. It's going to be fun. I'm not going to sit here and say 'Yeah it's the best! It's all that!' I'm not here to do that. I want ya'll to hear it and give ya'll opinion. But I’m certain ya'll are gonna enjoy it. It's fun. Just a good joint. M.A.V.: The artwork is being created as you speak. That's a project that's been in the works probably immediately after the first one. Immediately after 'Da Fixtape.' It's sounding good. I actually listened to some of it a couple of weeks back. It's sounding good. We're just trying to make sure that the art work is what it needs to be. And it's definitely a scale up from what 'Da Fixtape' was. And I truly truly enjoy my contributions and hearing what some of my brothers did when it came to 'Da Fixtape.' So yeah, we got one brewing for you guys already. M.A.V.: If you pay attention to the very first 'Fixtape.' On the 'Fixtape' we kept everything predominantly Rochester. So, I know we got some heavy production from Chupra on there. I know there's some Fifth production on there. I think we actually went outside of Rochester for some production on it as well. Cause some production on it for me - listening to it - from the control room - I'm familiar with the production but I can't quite put my finger on - like who could this be? A lot of times I'm listening to that project, and when we're getting ready to go into post-production mode - I just close my eyes and listen so I don't really have any distractions. But we definitely have a heavy element of Rochester production on there. Maybe some Riley Dennis on there. There may even be some Eto on there. I'm really really not positive. Stay tuned for the upcoming joint record from Da Cloth. In the meantime, like the others on this list; take a few out of your day to bump a playlist made for those who slept on the crew. Da Cloth has become a powerhouse. They have some of the most unique voices in the underground scene and are certainly worthy of your attention. Brown Bag Money (BBM): Like Da Cloth has done for Rochester, Brown Bag Money has very much defined what Toronto hip-hop has become over the past several years. Beginning as a high school click in the early 2010s, BBM has experienced multiple iterations of its roster since the inception. However, at present, BBM contains some of Toronto's most sought after and skilled emcees and producers, including; Daniel Son, Futurewave, Asun Eastwood, Saipher Soze, Family Gang Black (formerly Black Nazi) and Snackz. In its earliest days, BBM was founded by Daniel Son and friends as a way to identify themselves as they hustled within the parameters of the city. Though Daniel Son was already involved in writing music, the crew and the name had little to no association with hip-hop music. Speaking with Daniel Son, he noted: Daniel Son: I started that shit back in the days. Me and my friends all had Blackberries. We're all doing our thing. Hustling. Getting our little money. And we would always type through BBM. I just flipped it' like Brown Bag Money. Cause that's what we were doing at the time. Hustling. So, I started that back in the days. It wasn't even some rap shit. Just me and my friends doing our little shit, getting our little money. By 2013, things had changed. Though still fronted by Daniel Son, BBM had a real solidified roster, and had already begun crafting music as a unit. In April of that year, the mixtape Grand Theft Audio 1 was released via DatPiff. Surprisingly obscured to this day, the tape was a glimpse at what BBM had to offer, and an early look at Daniel Son as an emcee. A look at the credits on DatPiff reveals a nearly completely different roster from that of what we know now, including: C Will, Skuddy Rankz, Juvey Don, IC Cash (Cory Cash), as well as the only consistent member in that of Daniel Son. Over time, the roster took on alterations. As others began to shift their priorities away from rapping, Daniel Son kept the brand and continued to add members who stylistically complimented the sounds that the emcee was already curating. Fans of Daniel Son may recognize The Rumbar. Often referenced in his lyrics, The Rumbar was a basement apartment that became the catalyst for many relationships to form in the Toronto hip-hop scene. Not only was the location a breeding ground for community bonding, but it was the spot where multiple early BBM related projects were recorded and produced. Daniel Son: So my dude Blizz. He's on a couple joints. He's on Remo [Gaggi]. He's on 'Divizion Rivals' as well. He had a spot. I rented a room there. It had all the studio equipment - cause he's a big reggae artist. He's got joints with Sizzla, a big reggae artist out of Canada. He went to Jamaica for a month, he's like 'Yo, I'm going to need you to learn all the recording equipment." I mean I've been recording my own shit for how long? Right? I just wasn't familiar with the program Logic. He's like 'I'm going to need you to learn this for when I get back so you can record me." So in that month that he was in Jamaica? We pretty much recorded 'Divizion Rivals,' we pretty much recorded that. I was just learning and working on his setup. And that shit became 'The Rumbar.' I don't know if you ever heard me mention The Rumbar in any of my tracks. But yeah, that was like the hangout spot. Finn and Blizz were friends since they were little kids. It was just a big coincidence. I moved over there, and everybody that was hanging out over there was like an older generation of people I already knew. So I was hanging around Soze, and Soze's older cousin Crisco was hanging around those guys. So, it all just came full circle. I moved in there, recorded so much music. 'Divizion Rivals.' 'Gunner's Tape.' 'Remo Gaggi.' 'Moonshine Mix 1.' 'Moonshine Mix 2.' I think 'Moonshine Mix 2' was the last project I recorded there before I moved out. But yeah, I was there for like five years just living in The Rumbar man. Crazy place. A lot of people in the basement smoking. Listening to reggae. Drinking rum. I'm trying to record, my dude Blizz is over there cutting hair. Sometimes you'd have like 20 people there waiting for haircuts and I'm in the corner recording. I have to tell people 'Yo yo my friends, please keep it down I gotta do these records and shit.' And then they'd be like 'oh I didn't even know you rapped.' So, I would play them the joints, they would fuck with them so it was cool. It was like a whole little community down there. How many times me and Finn recorded in The Rumbar till like 3-4 in the morning? Just me and Finn. Everyone else has gone to sleep. Me and Finn are just down there just recording. The fucking water heater would turn on. We'd have to wait 30 minutes for the water heater to turn off and start recording again. I knew Finn before then but that's when me and Finn really started linking, was in The Rumbar. Ironically the day that I moved in - there was a raptors game too. So, Finn was talking up to The Rumbar as I was moving in. Literally I saw him the first day I moved in there. Yeah man, history ever since. These sessions at The Rumbar were monumental in the development of the Brown Bag Money collective identity. By the time Daniel Son left the complex, a new roster was in full effect. By 2018, Futurewave had replaced Giallo Point as the go-to producer for the crew's art and had even become a legitimate part of the BBM team. Asun Eastwood, who had been steadily building a discography in the Toronto scene, also had become a full-fledged member that year. More importantly, it was Asun Eastwood who brought in the remaining members of the crew with past relationships with both Black Nazi (now Family Gang Black) as well as Snackz. In an interview with Asun Eastwood, he recalled his early connections with Daniel Son as follows: Asun Eastwood: So, when I saw Daniel Son... I ended up seeing someone with a cover that had like the CN Tower. I was like 'What? There's another Canadian?' I thought I was the only Canadian dude in this realm. So, I was like 'What the fuck? Who's this?' And Instagram and social media allows you to go and research. Easily. That's how the FBI be fucking us up anyway [laughs]. So might as well get real FBIish with this shit and see who these people are. So, I saw Daniel Son and I hit him up. 'Yo you're dope. You’re around the way and you do this?' then he told me his age. I'm like 'Yo you're real young and you're into this?' Then I started seeing that he's been on shit. Like he's been really doing this since 2012-13 something like that. And I was like 'Yo, you've really been there for this new era.' Like he had a joint on the new Eto shit and I liked Eto. Like 'this guys really in it.' So I just asked him; 'Let me get a feature!' That was the Nimbus joint. And from there, when it came out, I was like 'Yo, let me come check you.' And I had to pull up in my Jag, at that time I was pushing a Jag, and he was like 'Yo, what the fuck, who are you?' and I was like 'Who are you?' and it was just natural from that point. We started going to studios and linking up. And we're from the same spot. A lot of the energy was the same. We're degenerate. We like getting fucked up. Drinking. Talking shit. He introduced me to the Soze's. He introduced me to the Finn's. I brought Black [Nazi] and Snackz into the fold here. And other than just production - I knew some people out here. So, we're just joining up and kicking it. That turns into music, and it just became something. We started making projects. His name was buzzing after 'Remo Gaggi' with Giallo Point. That buzz, they were calling for him in the States. They were calling him in New York and New Jersey to do shows. I'm one of the guys who can travel, and he's like 'I'd love for you to come with me and get some stage time at the same time.' But it was for him. It was his show. He's buzzing. So, I'm just going for the ride but I am getting to see what this really is. Meeting Crimeapple early. Meeting Al.Divino early. Meeting Estee Nack early. We're shaking hands. Everyone. All the guys you see right there? We pretty much shook hands with all of them. Today, the members of BBM have all left their mark. Daniel Son has appeared on projects from 38 Spesh, Rome Streetz, Estee Nack, Buckwild, Al.Divino, Flee Lord, and plenty of others. Futurewave, the in-house BBM producer has produced full length joints for Rome Streetz, Mooch, Rigz, Al.Divino, Boldy James and a healthy cast of Canadian acts as well. Asun Eastwood, has material with Benny the Butcher and Conway the Machine, and Saipher Soze and Snackz are not too far behind. Though the crew has seemingly no immediate plans for a collective album, any look at the rosters discography will discover an ample amount of collaborations within the team. Interestingly, the original roster for BBM has not been forgotten. According to Daniel Son last year, a follow up to 2013's Grand Theft Audio is in the works; sporting the original cast of characters from that project. Daniel Son: But the original BBM was me, Skuddy Rankz. Cory Cash and my dude Juvey Don. And now I’m back working with those guys. We go to the studio every Friday. So, there's going to be like an original BBM member tape coming out soon. My dude Study Ranks? He's the nastiest out of everybody. Out of all the sick artists I know? This guy is the nastiest. He was always the nastiest. Since we were like 16. He's one of those dudes, just an example of cats that could be like the illest rappers but don't really rap. I have to be like 'Bro, we're going to the studio on Friday. Make sure you write something every day of the week.' and now he knows. He has the potential. There's nobody seeing him. I'm just trying to push that. Cause he deserves it. People are going to wild out once they hear that. Though the lead-up to Grand Theft Audio has yet to be released, fans ought to be excited for the prospects of the project. Brown Bag Money, today, has secured itself in the canons of Canadian hip-hop history. They have broken the mold, have become accepted by their New York peers, and have created some of the most authentic and vivid street rap to be released from the skrewface capital of the world. As with the others, I encourage a listen to the playlist below and for the hip-hop connoisseur to take the time out to familiarize yourself with the crew in question. Colombian Snow Talk by Snotty : Govament Cheeze by Allah Preme : "Stealth Assassins Compilation" by Allah Preme : Da Fixtape by Da Cloth : God's Work by iLLanoise : Angelz & Demonz by M.A.V. : The Dark Side of Nature by M.A.V. x Rob Gates : The Only Way Out by Rigz x Mooch : Gold by Rigz x DJ Muggs : Salute The Few by Da Cloth : Broad Day Kidnaps by Da Cloth : The Fixtape by Da Cloth x DJ Kay Slay : Grand Theft Audio 1 by Brown Bag Money : Divizion Rivals by Daniel Son x Saipher Soze : "Party Time" by Blizz ft. Sizzla : Moonshine Mix by Daniel Son : Nimbus by Asun Eastwood :

  • Deniro Farrar - Spook By The Door

    Deniro Farrar's latest EP, Spook By The Door takes it's namesake from the 1969 Sam Greenlee novel The Spook Who Sat By The Door. The book later became an Ivan Dixon directed film in 1973, and is highly revered as a jewel of the Blaxploitation film era. In the story, after realizing he's just a token hire, a Black CIA officer quits the agency. He then uses his training to teach Black men from the streets how to get the man off their neck, and become freedom fighters. Deniro opens Spook By The Door with a song that shares the same title as the EP. A Cenobite produced track is the back drop for Deniro's raspy voice as he tells you what he's about, and how he moves through the streets with both eyes open for these pythons(snakes.) The next track of the EP is LT produced "Mafia." It's a more mellow mood but Deniro is not letting off the gas. What stands out overall in his music is the skill at which he executes. This isn't his first project and it shows. He's an expert rapper who is adept at crafting his bars and delivering them in a way that's convincing and also keeps you on your toes as a listener. He's a strong songwriter and you'll be chanting along to these choruses before the songs are even over. Last but not least, is my favorite, the high energy and infectious "Run It Up." Shaq Gonzoe and Don Kevo share production duty on this certified banger. This is the one that's gonna get you through that last stretch on your run or make you feel like you can lift the whole gym. Deniro's razor sharp wit and delivery are on full display as he gives you the streets in a way that only someone who has lived it can. Spook By The Door is a great project, especially if it's your first time listening to music from Deniro Farrar. I wish it did have an extra song or two. Fortunately he's got a lot of material readily available for that inevitable deeper dive you'll wanna take into his catalogue. Release date: May 13, 2022


    It’s Saturday in late May, and the eve of PhoeNix’s latest, an EP titled Walkthru. In the past year, he’s released an album Redbird, as well as the second in the Crybaby Soprano series. When he picks up the call, he’s sparking a blunt, the smoke tinged pink from the lights above his head. We start by talking touring with Jack Harlow and Babyface Ray alongside Mavi, but quickly move to discussing it all: his beginnings, story, thoughts and goals. When I ask about the music that shaped him, he laughs, grumbling out, “I guess I’ve been influenced” before generously listing out tapes that he grew up on. He’s been in this game for a while, beginning in Texas as K. Mitch. He had a few small projects out under that name before adapting the moniker he’s got now. The story behind this one? “I overdosed, twice, actually died. My mama was there. Shit. And then, I felt like, oh, I need to let my old ways die. Phoenix, life and death, all embodiment. Closest thing to having a pseudonym that’s not a pseudonym.” He’s gracious, honest, and open, smiling as he reassures me not to worry; “Drugs can’t kill me, and these fuck n***** can’t either.” I believe him. He’s at The Bridge this evening, a studio in Charlotte he describes as “a creation hub that also serves as a catalyst to get paid.” It’s an easygoing, lighthearted atmosphere, and while we talk, various folks pass through the doors. This space became his second home when he linked up with his manager Cody, who runs the spot. He tells me the story of that day: “Mavi dropped me off here. I ain’t really have nowhere to rap yet, I wasn’t really rapping yet. And, we was really just kicking it, it was on Thanksgiving! And I was kinda lowkey fake sad, because n***** wasn’t out there with their families and shit. But, you know. So n***** was here. My n****, we went and got some soul food, and shit, n***** just let me rap. If not all day, close to all day. And, let that shit happen for a week, two, three, got turned into a month. And we just got so cool, and then he turned into my manager. And I can honestly say bro, it’s been the most beneficial shit in a bunch of different ways. Even outside of directly music, you know, we’re real good. I like the team I have. And it’s not a huge team! It’s really my manager Cody, my partner Jo. Shoutout Sean Stanley, who’s recently been added because when Jo’s not around, he’s like the n**** who shoot all my shit. But he stay in Atlanta, and I be out here in Charlotte. I met Sean through Cody. But that’s it, as far as intermediate team of curation of content. Outside of that, of course gang is gang. Shoutout Backkkseat, KS, etcetera. But it ain’t no million people that we got involved in this. You know, real home, ground-up foundation type shit. Really, I put a lot of that on the Bridge. Shoutout to the Bridge, man. This is a wonderful studio to be able to come to and create man. A lot of good things happened here.” A lot of good things indeed. TheBridgeCLT’s channel is home to a number of session videos from some of the brightest talents around. Among two from PhoeNix, you can see the likes of Fetty P Franklin and 10Cellphones, as well as his friends/contemporaries Mavi, Ahmir, Messiah!, Marco Plus and more. He never hesitates to shine a light or heap praises on the people around him. When I ask for recent album recommendations, he immediately names the latter four’s latest, and then mentions Smiles’ D.E.M.M.O tape a few minutes later. The Houston native has found community in Charlotte with the members of Killswitch and Backkkseat, and when it comes to his people he’s all the way serious. Today happens to be his longtime friend and cameraman Jomir’s birthday, and everyone is showing love. There’s whoops of welcome and cheer when he’s let in. Jo filmed a number of his older videos, as well the Redbird documentary, but as PhoeNix explains, he wasn’t just a videographer. “Bro, that’s my twin. Me and Jo was homeless together bro.… hell yeah. Me and Jo got evicted out of one of his spots together, we had to sleep in the car for like a month. And was just jumping from hotel to hotel. And that was like, the whole time period of making Redbird.” Redbird is the project that I fell in love with, and I expressed as much when I reached out to organize this interview. We agree it’s overlooked; he even confesses he started to doubt the quality, before we both laugh about that. It’s full of twists and turns, and serves as a great introduction to him as an artist. The Houston roots are made clear early through the chopping and vocal sludge in this collection, but there’s the breakneck euphoria and rush of songs like "Cellphones" and the heartbreak in "Fly High" that make it impossible to pin down. "Homerun" is a BeatsbySav canvas, so you know the drums are knocking. "Truestory", the intro, is devastating, and he breaks it down for me: “To this day, [Redbird] has my favourite intro. I don’t think it’s my best intro no more, because this shit, you know what I’m saying? But, it’s my favourite intro. That Truestory song is about my best friend getting killed in college. And I had came from this girl house, and pulled up on him and I seen that shit. I pulled up, and the cops had the shit taped off at my brother’s house. Just the whole situation, I remember going to therapy for like three years, and I had stopped outta nowhere, because it got to the point where they tried to force me to write a grief letter about the situation, and I couldn’t. So that was like my own form of that.” Grief might loom in the music, but it isn’t at the forefront. He’s truly versatile, able to ride a hazy blunted beat and skip right into the pocket of trap heater next. Switching cadences isn’t a problem, and free association makes way for vivid tales. "Sky" has a jaunty piano central to it that’s reminiscent of Kevin Abstact’s "Empty." His philosophy about song length and curation is fascinating, and best understood by listening to his projects. They’re short, yes, but as a whole, “very complete, in sonic and sound, and conveying the story. I feel like we’re really in and out… It’s gon’ really frustrate people, because it’s good music but it’s over really quick. And I like that. I want that kinda sensation with desire, where people are like I want more of this. And then, if people don’t feel that way, then I kinda did my job wrong. Back to the drawing board, you know.” He’s devised a formula as well: “I try to always master having a really good three track run, having a good intro, and having a good outro. And if you follow that equation, successfully do it each time, 60% of your project gonna be good every time. Because, the first impression, the last impression, and that three song run.” Even with a clear formula and a vision like his, luck never stops playing a part. Having fallen in love with the sonics, I had to ask who’d been producing these songs. He mentions himself, Wulf Morpheus, Malik Burns, Jaylace and inFull, before dropping a surprising anecdote. A YouTube producer, ProdByNev, contributed almost half of Redbird without even knowing. As he tells it, “it was this n**** on YouTube, beats I was ripping. I ain’t even remember that I was ripping them, Produced by Nev. and I used like, 4-5 of them hoes for Redbird. And so, shit, I think.. Which music video was it? I forget which one exactly, but I was running Instagram ads… So one of the people that liked it was him, he swiped up and said like “Bro, you know I produced like 4 songs on Redbird?” Like, this one, this one, this one. I was like, no way, bro send me your YouTube page, send me the beat links. Sure enough, he sent me the page and I was like “Oh shit!!!”. Even more lit. It was so cool that he was cool about it; he could’ve definitely got my project pulled down. But he was like nah, you’re fire, I like your rapping, and sent me more beats! So shoutout Produced by Nev, I really gotta love it.“ No formula is going to be able to account for all the variables. I reached out to Nev, and he told me how a copyright strike led him to finding the album: “I remember making that beat [Greyfeel] and hoping someone would do what he did on it. I loved the song, the direction and I listened to the whole project and I heard "Feel Something," which is another song I produced on Redbird. I was going through a lot at the time and beats were the last thing on my mind, but it brought me motivation again. I reached out to him in maybe mid-December of last year, and I’ve been sending new beats every month hoping something comes of it. He’s got a refreshing sound that I would love to help build and be a part of as a producer.” The urge to build is strong in his presence. On top of fostering the community around him, he preaches forever motion. He’s constantly making plays, on the move and working at his craft. In the weeks since our call and the EP releasing, he’s teased a few different songs, with new rapid-fire and staccato flows over a whole different range of beats. He’s not prominent on social media; in fact sometimes it seems like it’s ultimately a distraction to him. His Twitter disappeared early this year, and his Instagram went with it sometime this month. He doesn’t plan on stopping this pace; Walkthru is just one more step along the road. But he’s proud of this project, and it shows. After listening through the EP a few times in the week before we talk, I can’t help but be convinced of his ascent. Redbird hooked me with its honesty, and Crybaby Soprano 2 made me double down, maybe even off American Gangster alone. But Walkthru is where he steps into an entirely new level. He’s confident, composed, and in charge of the story. It’s undeniable. During our chat he makes an offhand reference to a collab project with the relentless Marco Plus, to expand upon their song Walk Hard on CS2. If all goes as planned, it could be a breakthrough. But what does that even mean, when so much is happening at once in the scene? From all the fresh collabs and posse cuts, to the classic albums dropping, we’re watching in real time as this movement expands and the collectives grow. They’re doing their thing down South, representing hard for the region. I consider myself lucky to witness. As for the rest? Fuck em. *** This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. *** Sai: Damn, you were on that tour with Babyface Ray, right? PhoeNix: Yeah!! I’m not the biggest into Jack Harlow, but I loved how he put you guys on that. P: *laughing* Ayy, look bro. Shoutout Jack Harlow bro. Jack.. Shoutout Jack Harlow bro. Okay, if he’s got your stamp of approval that’s all I need to hear. P: I’m definitely part of the Jack Harlow agenda man. He’s a really nice young man. Especially even beyond putting Mavi on tour, allowing Mavi to bring n***** like me and his friends, putting Babyface Ray and all of fuckin’ Daisy Lane on that bitch too. That’s turnt man. Shoutout Jack Harlow. I’m tryna catch them in Toronto. They’re here next week, I love Los and Nutty man. [this got cancelled, they didn’t let Face in] P: Bro! On the tour, they was actually supposed to do a Toronto date. But Babyface Ray nor Mavi could make it. So I think Toronto, for the Jack tour, was just Jack and the homies. Like, who he grew up with, honest where he’s from. They didn’t get the full Toronto crème de la crème tour experience. I gotta see Face next week then man. (nope) P: Oh yeah, facts. Fun fact: I’m opening up for him in Charlotte! That’s crazy. You’ve been holding it down in Charlotte, you and Mavi, Ahmir and them. P: Shit, trying to. I’m really not even a native from out here, I’m really really, like really really a Houston n****. Even to this day, my home is still out there. I’ve just been grateful to come out here off the strength off my partner Mavi. ‘Cause, the way me and Mavi even met is wild, bro. For the first two years we knew each other, we didn’t even rap. Like when he posted my shit, when you seen Redbird, we hadn’t even rapped together. Damn! P: Nah, for the first two years we knew each other we didn’t even rap together, it was just like oh you rap really well, and you rap really well, and I like you. And I opened up in his first show in Houston. Pandemic happened; everybody’s life went to shit for like a year and a half, two. And I remember one day, just randomly, he was calling my phone like “Mitch, how you been?”. *laughing* I was like *confused* “Mavi??”. Like, it was just so random and odd. It was in the middle of the pandemic, the last thing I expected. But shit, we just got to talking, and I flew out to Atlanta, probably three weeks after that conversation. And we ended up playing another Houston show. Because like, after a year and a half had passed, it was like shit, time to be back outside. Jack Harlow tour happened. Hop off that, come to Charlotte. Crybaby Soprano 2. Then what we’re doing now. Jeez! I love that tape. P: Man! It’s - I love it too, it’s one of my favourites. It’s just, I shouldda mixed it better. *laughing* but I like it for music’s sake. Out of all my projects.. I don’t know, I like all my projects a lot. They like kids bro. I love all my projects. I don’t even got no favourites. But I can honestly say - ever since you and me had talked that first time, through DM.. I went back, and I’ve been listening to Redbird. Because I’ve been sleep on Redbird. The fact that you even knew something… like, everybody be like nah, Redbird really the sleeper of all of them. Because of how long it is, I guess it feels more complete. It’s not like, a little in-and-out. It feels like a full on experience. So, I appreciate that. Nah, I meant it. P: And I think Redbird does a good job of showing, like, at least a sneak peak of what my range is. Oh yeah, for sure. I was going to say, you definitely rep for the South hard. I can see that Houston influence just from the chopped-n-screwed stuff on Redbird, sounds incredible. P: Born and raised, man! All I know. That’s the- man, Screwed Up tapes, Z-RO, Big Hart, Moe. Shit, even my father grew up in the scene. Slim Thug. Mike Jones, Paul, everything! All of it! It’s all I know. It’s really what I was raised on. 8Ball, MJG. Like, all that Southern soil man. I think for Crybaby Soprano 1, and Redbird, you got lil glimpses of it. You know, how I get into pockets that are kinda confusing, like “I don’t know where this n**** from.” But I think on this one, the shit that drop tonight at 12AM, it’s no debate. It’s like, “Oh, this n**** is from the South.” Southern, like, if you don’t understand what Houston or the South is, I think this do a real good job of conveying that. I love that Southern talk man. I was going to say … I wanted to ask about Southern influences, how you linked up with Mavi. But yo, it’s honestly just really nice to sit and talk to you and hear all this. P: Aw man. Well, just to give a brief bit about Southern influence. Honestly bro, I’d have to say, the biggest one out of allll of them: Wayne. Wayne. He ain’t like everybody else bro. You gotta understand, Wayne really ran a whole generation. Like, it was a point in time where Wayne would get on your song and it’s not your song no more. Bro, what Youngboy is to the kids now, Wayne was to us. I say, Wayne, 3 Stacks, and then.. Houston is so big, I can’t even name one collective, it would be so many like - I said Screwed Up Clique, then you got UGK, and you got, shit, more modern shit like Travi$, Maxo. Fun fact, in high school, when I was a freshman in high school.. nah, middle school bro, 7, 6, 8th grade, we was all listening to - transferring outta that DatPiff mixtape era, going into like, beginning Soundcloud era. Maxo Kream. He had a tape in the city call Retro Card. And he was still in high school at the time. Deep in the swamp, which is like the southwest part of Houston. And shit. I ain’t going to lie, that kinda influenced a lot of everybody’s shit. You have to hear Maxo to kinda understand the ways, but it’s definitely there. And of course Sauce Walka. Duh. *laughing* I gotta go back to that Maxo tape, thank you for putting me on, damn. P: Nah, nah, Retro Card, definitely. He did a remix, a remix to "Rigamortis" by Kendrick and that shit was so tough. Like so so tough. To hear somebody Southern, with that kinda dialect and cadences similar to mine from an area I’m from get on shit. But to me, influences, I don’t know. Specifically Houston influences. All them mixtape CDs n***** used to play, we’d get em at the barbershop, slide in my uncle truck and listen to all the time, and then blended in between that would be some Wayne. And a lot of more shit too though. A lot of more shit too. Like, Jay was played heavily throughout - Jay and Pac was probably played a lot a lot a lot. And Young Jeezy. Cause my momma favourite rapper was Tupac and Young Jeezy. She got a thing for bald n*****. Them n***** was played a lot. So that’s why I think I got.. it’s certain ways I rap that n***** kinda, it be hard to identify exactly, region-wise where I’m from. Until I let that shit out. That’s why I lean into it so much. Cause I love being such a Southern man. The South is the best place to be bro. Yeah! I know I’m from the North, but I love how hard you rep for the South. P: Aw, bro! South man, that’s where all my shit be popping. Like, we the south, and etcetera etcetera. I don’t know, it’s a large stereotype in hip hop with the whole “Southern people are dumb, or slow, or we draw our words out like this”, and it’s so.. Nah bro, we really the coolest. We set all the trends. Like, Atlanta been running the rap game for the past 10 years. Bro, everybody and their mama started saying drip, when Sauce came through on his way. So I don’t know, I don’t be understanding too much of that. N***** let A$AP Rocky make a whole project off of literally our sound. We take a lot of ownership and claim to this Southern shit, because we where this shit started. I love that, I love that. I noticed guitars play a role in your music, you might pick some beats that other folks might not. Is that a Houston, Texas thing? P: Uh, not so much. My thing about guitars really be bro, sometimes when I’m rapping, especially when I get in that singing-rapping bag, I feel like drums’ll condition me to rap a certain way, so most times if you listen to shit like “Serious”, “Speed”, where it’s bare minimum drums and just guitar and synth looped, it’s cool little sounds in the background… I get to walking in that bitch. It’s no debate. I can dribble whatever way I want to, and so it be a little more fun. That’s what that shit be about. The only shit I say bleed into my influence from the city, it’s kinda more like, if you hear on Redbird, all of the songs that are slowed, double time, chopped, and then of course it’s naturally how I talk, but that’s gonna be like, in my music regardless. I don’t ever have to make it a point to show that. I have no choice but to talk like a certain person, because that’s, shit, all the language that I have access to! *laughing* That’s where I’m from, that’s where all my friends from, where I grew up, so. I just try to, if anything, add other pieces into this. Because I feel like the main foundation, I’m already a Southern man, so what other little shit can I figure out and add on to make it different? That nobody else has done here. I’m just trying to figure it out. I feel like each project is me getting closer and closer to figuring it out. We almost at album time! It’s almost album time. So, Walkthru, is this an EP then? P: Yup. 8 songs, it’s an EP. So, after the tour, once I touched down in Charlotte and got acclimated.. I can actually trace it back to the exact day! My mans just walked in, his name’s Cody. I was out here in the studio I’m in right now. It’s called the Bridge, in Charlotte. And Mavi dropped me off here. I ain’t really have nowhere to rap yet, I wasn’t really rapping yet. And, we was really just kicking it, it was on Thanksgiving! And I was kinda lowkey fake sad, because n***** wasn’t out there with their families and shit. But, you know. So n***** was here. My n****, we went and got some soul food, and shit, n***** just let me rap. If not all day, close to all day. And, let that shit happen for a week, two, three, got turned into a month. And we just got so cool, and then he turned into my manager. And I can honestly say bro, it’s been like, the most beneficial shit in a bunch of different ways. Even outside of directly music, you know, we’re real good. I like the team I have. And it’s not a huge team! It’s really my manager Cody, my partner Jo. Shoutout Sean Stanley, who’s recently been added because when Jo’s not around, he’s like the n**** who shoot all my shit. But he stay in Atlanta, and I be out here in Charlotte. I met Sean through Cody. But that’s it, as far as intermediate team of curation of content. Outside of that, of course gang is gang. Shoutout Backkkseat, KS, etcetera. But it ain’t no million people that we got involved in this. You know, real home, ground-up foundation type shit. Really, I put a lot of that on the Bridge. Shoutout to the Bridge, man. This is a wonderful studio to be able to come to and create man. A lot of good things happened here. Yeah it looks really nice. I’ve seen a few videos of the sessions and stuff like that held there. P: Oh, you tapped in! Turn up! Nah, I had to! P: Yeah! Fetty P Franklin’s shit was here, Mav had one here, Messiah! had one, Ahmir, Marco. 10cellphones has been here if you’re hip to him. Woo! Marco Plus, that guy is nasty. P: Yeah, Marco Plus. Hard!! Oh man. Bro I’m biased, because Marco is literally one of my favourite human beings, but Marco got one of my favourite ones. That shit was tough. And because, you had to be here while bro was recording. Bro was really on walk-down type shit, because you know Marco don’t write? …No way. That’s crazy. P: Oh no. Marco don’t write. That’s what me and Marco have in common. That’s wild, I would have never guessed. Nah. P: Nah, he’s probably going to walk through this door within the next 10-15 minutes. Today Jo’s birthday, and that n**** coming out here because we about to work on this collab project. Damn bro! You’re really dropping all of this heat right now, I can’t believe you said collab project. This year is going to be crazy. P: Oh, bro, I’m trying. You gotta keep in mind, I did Redbird. And we waited liked, what, 4-5 month stretch. Crybaby Soprano 2. And then shit. Yup, you had last year in the bag. P: That’s what I’m saying. So, now I just wanna go into overdrive bro, I really need to drop mad good music though. And none of it’s forced. I promise it’s so calculated, and put together. Like, this Walkthru shit, I really really feel like people gonna love it. It’s very complete, in sonic and sound, and conveying the story. I feel like we’re really in and out. None of the songs are.. I don’t think… yeah, no songs are longer than 3 minutes, and it’s only one 3 minute song. It’s gon’ really frustrate people, because it’s good music but it’s over really quick. And I like that. I want that kinda sensation with desire, where people are like I want more of this. And then, if people don’t feel that way, then I kinda did my job wrong. Back to the drawing board, you know. But I don’t think I did my job wrong. Definitely not! That’s the thing, it’s got hella replay value, because it’s these moments of brilliance, super gorgeous production. And you have.. I meant to ask you this later, but you have great choices in production. You gotta tell me about some of the producers you work with too. P: Aw man. Well, shoutout to myself, because I produce. Shoutout to Wulf Morpheus, he’s super hard. Let me not forget nobody. Shoutout my n**** Malik [Malik Burns], he did the intro and outro on this joint. I know so many more producers… Shout Turk Money, I haven’t got no beats from him yet but he’s super fire. I also wanna shoutout inFull, dumb fire Charlotte n****. Jaylace, dumb fire.. Oh my god, I smoked too much weed, now I can’t remember everyone’s name on the spot. Mad producers, and I’m very thankful for all of them. I don’t wanna leave anybody’s name out, and exclude them. I’m thankful for everybody. It’s a lot of people, over the little span I’ve been rapping bro, in these lil nooks and crannies of the world, know about my shit and just be like “Nah, let’s work”. OH! Main one. ProdbyNev. He’s so fye. And let me tell you why he’s so fye. Because he made probably 40% of Redbird, and we don’t even know each other. I didn’t even know he did it. What? That’s insane. P: So, it was this n**** on YouTube, beats I was ripping. I ain’t even remember that I was ripping them, Produced by Nev. and I used like, 4-5 of them hoes for Redbird. And so, shit, I think.. Which music video was it? I forget which one exactly, but I was running Instagram ads. And, this n****, you know, was one of then like, 13,000 views, 1000 likes, whatever whatever whatever. So one of the people that liked it was him, he swiped up and said like “Bro, you know I produced like 4 songs on Redbird?” Like, this one this one this one. I was like, no way, bro send me your YouTube page, send me the beat links. Sure enough, he sent me the page and I was like “Oh shit!!!”. Even more lit. It was so cool that he was cool about it; he could’ve definitely got my project pulled down. But he was like nah, you’re fire, I like your rapping, and sent me more beats! So shoutout Produced by Nev, I really gotta love it. Nah, that’s a really crazy story, I gotta check him out for sure. P: Nah, he’s super hard. A lot of them beats where you be hearing, it’s just them synths and like, maybe at most a little bass in the background, no heavy drum, snare kicking on that.. That be him! And I be walking them bitches down. The outro track, Crybaby Soprano 2. That’s got a crazy beat, crazy instrumental at the end, you know what I’m talking about? P: Oh, this how you know I do too much drugs. I gotta think about what the outro track on Crybaby Soprano 2 is. Haha, it is- P: OH! Serious!! Serious! No, no no no no no no no. Bro bro bro bro bro, listen. “Serious” is literally one of my favourite song ever, like, period. You gotta understand wy it is though. It’s not even about the quality of the song. When me and this n**** Mavi was on tour bro, every, like every long stretch of drive - because we didn’t have no sprinter, we was in the Denali going state to state. So, certain shows, we’d have to perform and jump right in the truck and drive for like 2 days. So that’d be the anthem, *starts singing* “Put a big body on road,” that’s where that whole thing came from, big body whip Denali, like, facts. That’s one of my favourite songs. But, yeah, I don’t know. Don’t put this in there, but I definitely ripped the Serious beat. That’s another Youtube. I don;t even know. But shoutout to them, cause that beat OD hard. Haha shoutout to them for real. You’ve got a thing for outro tracks too, you got a good outro on this one as well. P: I try to bro! Like, that’s how you stay good on your projects. I try to always master having a really good three track run, having a good intro, and having a good outro. And if you follow that equation, successfully do it each time, 60% of your project gonna be good every time. Because, the first impression, the last impression, and that three song run. Because, if your first three songs are good, chances are, people not gonna.. Nobody wants to keep going. I’ve never heard of a project that had three bad songs first and then the last eight was good. N**** know, that is not how that works. *laughing* but, hell yeah man. I try. I’m tryna get better at it. It be a little - I be hard on myself bro. For a minute, it’s crazy, you wouldn’t believe it. I started thinking Redbird was bad. Oh man, you’re straight tripping. You gotta be kidding! P: Have you seen the Redbird documentary? ..I did not know that existed. You just blew my mind. P: Oh, bro! There’s a whole hour documentary on it. On YouTube. It shows like, the whole buildup making Redbird. Type in “PhoeNix, Redbird The Conversation”. You fully put me on, I didn’t know this existed, thank you bro! P: Oh nah, bro it’s okay. It’s really one of them gems in the cut, but the fact that you appreciate Redbird, you’ll see that and appreciate that a million times more. Jo shot that though, Jo definitely shot that one. Shoutout to Jo again, that guy is real as fuck. It’s his birthday today right? P: Bro, that’s my twin. Me and Jo was homeless together bro. No, not really my twin, but figuratively, without being born from the same mother. My twin.We was homeless together, hell yeah. Me and Jo got evicted out of one of his spots together, we had to sleep in the car for like a month. And was just jumping from hotel to hotel. And that was like, the whole time period of making Redbird. Oh wow. P: and then n***** just stumbled into some pretty good money that got consistent. And shit. I was going to say, a lot of your music, I wouldn’t say it’s driving music but you talk about cars, being on road and moving around a lot. Like, the experience. P: Nah, I do! Cause I be on road a lot. I uh, you know, I’m on the road a lot. Yeah, I hear you. I listen in the car a lot too, I feel that. P: So that’s where a lotta that comes from. Just a lot of traveling, and having to get it in anywhere, at random moments, anywhere. That’s what I feel like all of the team be good at. Bro, the Bridge, what the Bridge is, is literally like a creation hub that also serves as a catalyst to get paid. That’s it, like, for real. That’s a great name for it then. P: The Bridge? Oh yeah, facts. Shoutout to him for that. Yeah man. This is the guy man. Cody’s the man with the plan. *turns camera around* Ayy, he’s the one I emailed right? P: Yeahhh!!! He the one that told me - look, when he told me, he showed me the email, he was like bro, look at this! I was like no way. And he was like nah, I think it’s real. *laughing* I know, Canadians sound fake! P: Aw, I been a felon for the last three years. But my shit gets expunged this year. So I’m getting to touch road - I get my passport and shit, n***** definitely gotta come to Canada. I wasn’t able to come to the Canada show when they was about to go. That had me sad. So when it got canceled, I wasn’t happy, but I was like yeah, I ain’t gotta miss Canada. I was feeling super OD depressed when everybody was about to go to Canada and I wasn’t. *laughing* Nah, you gotta come here. I’ll catch you. P: Oh yeah, I gotta pop out. I heard you guys got the real island tings!! Pretty pretty island tings. *laughing* You aren’t lying. There’s a big West Indian and Caribbean diaspora here, pretty dope culturally. P: I’m fucking with Canada already. But nah bro, this shit super fire. Like, the fact that you knew about Redbird.. I couldn’t even wrap my mind around it. Because the time period it took to go through making that bro, it was a really really, like, murky part of life. And I like that project a lot! I feel like it fell upon deaf ears, but it’s one of the ones, as my shit go up, when you go back catalog, it’s like.. Cause Redbird, to this day, has my favourite intro. I don’t think it’s my best intro no more, because this shit, you know what I’m saying? But, it’s my favourite intro. That Truestory song is about my best friend getting killed in college. And I had came from this girl house, and pulled up on him and I seen that shit. I pulled up, and the cops had the shit taped off at my brother’s house. Just the whole situation, I remember going to therapy for like three years, and I had stopped outta nowhere, because it got to the point where they tried to force me to write a grief letter about the situation, and I couldn’t. So that was like my own form of that. So that’s probably like, my favourite intro. Oh wow, I love that song, but that story makes it a lot more powerful. I think that’s what hooked me as well; you were talking about the importance of a good intro, outro and three song run. That record’s basically - however many songs are on there, it feels like a run all the way through. The flow of it is crazy, the storytelling is crazy. It touches on so many of the sounds you expand upon later. P: So how’d you - you got put on through Mavi tweeting it or Instagramming it or something? I think - yeah, it was Twitter. I don’t know if it was Redbird, or when you dropped American Gangster with him, but I know he was tweeting about you a bunch before that dropped. P: Nah, yeah! Shoutout to Mavi. Mavi’s been putting me on his social media for two years now. And the world is finally listening. He’s like the best A&R ever. But not A&R, he a rapper. That’s really my guy, it’s really a family-knit thing over here. One thing I could really say, none of it was forced. Like, even from my relationship with Cody, my manager, it was like at first it was like aight, we just two n***** chilling in the studio on Thanksgiving. Aight, you rap cool so you can rap on my shit. To aight, I actually fuck with you. All of them too, same thing with Mav, same thing with.. A lotta love, a lotta love man. What are you most proud of off this new stuff? “2step” hit me really hard, and I keep going back to all the features too, everyone brought their shit. P: Ooh, most proud. Uh, I’d say.. What I’m proud of, I’d say is the completeness of it all. You know like, I feel like it’s no filler, I feel like I tell each point pretty bold. And, full course meal wise, it doesn’t feel like it was lacking this, this, this, and I get out of there. So I appreciate that. And my standout favourites bro, I been listening literally three times a day, every day since I finally got it sequenced inside of the lil Apple Music shit on the computer. And it changes by the day to day bro. I’d say this: I like “Floor Plan,” a lot a lot, because I feel like bro, that’s the best rapping I’ve ever done on an intro from like, beginning to end. Like, it just like, “Oh okay, this is why no one can fuck with me.” Yeah, you gotta notice. Love your intros man, you don’t let them enter without noticing. P: And I like the outro a lot. But that’s biased, because I be making intros and outros to be that! But, if I had to pick outside of intro and outro - what you would say Cody? I say “Off the Head.” Yeah. “Off the Head.” It’s always fun rapping with my friends. I would say Fuck Em. “2step” is hard too. I don’t know bro!!! My first favourite, Imma go ahead and cash in my vote on “Off the Head.” Nice. P: But if I had a sleeper pick? “Choreo” for sure. I feel like, I be fucking with “Choreo,” like damn. Yeah! “Off the Head” is a good one. You and Mavi always sound so good together man. P: Yeah, I like rapping with him! It’s funny we ain’t rap that much together. Like, me and that human being have like 3 songs, 3-4. Nah, 5 now. Eh. we got… we just started though. But this is like the first year me and him started rapping, so I guess that’s why it don’t feel like that much. But then this year… yeah we got a few. *laughing* we got a few. Yes, we got a few. I’m excited for this shit to come out man. I’m anxious. We finna be in a lil hotel, it’s finna be cool. We got a lil penthouse, it’s my patna - it’s Jo birthday! Yeah, Jo! Shoutout to Jo!! Send my regards to him once he pulls through. You told me he shot a lot of your stuff right? *(Jomir) P: Man. What!!! He shot River Turn. he shot Homerun. He shot Fuck Em. He shot.. You don’t even know about this song, “22.” That’s some mad old shit. I don’t even think it’s out no more. When did you start? … Like, how far back should I be going? P: Oh, nah that not out no more. You wouldn’t be able- but, I dropped my first three songs in high school, but deleted them. But they went viral when I was in juvenile. That shit was turnt. And when I went to college, I dropped like… I wanna say I dropped a tape but I pulled that down. But I dropped four songs that are still there. Because I can’t even find out the login. They got like, mad views. But they hard. Like, them are like the songs I want to still be out from me being a super young n****. Did you always go by PhoeNix from back then? P: No. I used to go by my name. Like, Keegan Mitchell. K Mitch. And so, I dropped Mixed Emotions and Babyboy, two projects under that. One got pulled down because I had a popular feature on there, and the label wasn’t fucking with that. So, that had to come down. And one got pulled down.. Because I wasn’t seeing the money from it. Because I had bad business with one of my first managers, it sorta frustrated me and I stopped rapping for like 2 years. Damn. P: I was off that shit. But, nah, you starting at a good point. Redbird is the only traceable start on the internet of my existence. Okay, I thought I was tripping. *laughing* from my view, you came outta nowhere and I had no idea how. Like, Mavi just found you. P: Nah, I like that! I like how it feels - I feel like the city’s best kept secret man! I be feeling like I came outta nowhere. You really are. And, Charlotte in general, all them guys are way underrated nationally. P: That’s the only thing bro! I need people to stop associating me to Charlotte so heavily. And I love Charlotte. At least stop associating in the extent of like - that I’m a Charlotte artist. ‘Cause that do so much discredit to like, my Houston upbringing and how far it’s pushed me. But yes, Charlotte is like - bro, my number one streams are in Charlotte. Bro, Charlotte.. I feel like backwards Drake. I love the city bro. I definitely love Charlotte. I can’t find no negative words to put to it. I only have love for Charlotte. But, I am a Houston Texas artist, a Houston Texas man. But shoutout to the 4! I love the 4. Like I really do. And it’s so much good shit out here man. And I couldn’t dare take credit for none of the good shit out here, you know. I just come out here and appreciate it and integrate with it. And let it nurture me. This isn’t really a music question but I gotta ask. You’re in the South, I’ve always wanted to come out there and just try a bunch of different food. The culture seems incredible. P: Yeah, come to Texas! Go to Houston, Texas. Go to Dallas, Texas. Charlotte food… Nah, Charlotte got some spots, I’m capping. *laughing* But it’s a growing city bro, that’s what it is. So they got a lot more on the way. And I think that’s why I love it so much. Because it’s growing real fast. They on baby Atlanta time. And I think if you get them in like 5 years, with the help of my boy Mavi, and the rest of Killswitch, and [Lord] Jah-Monte, and their just, cultural life - ‘cause it’s a lot of culture out here bro. They’re their own people, you know. And they have a very beautiful and rich culture as far as even in the South, they own food, what they do… it’s Queen City man! You just gotta come out here and experience it. I definitely got a nice love for it. It’s real hilly, as far as the terrain. They got pretty colour, uh, they leaves on they shit. In the seasons, you can actually see the change of seasons. In Houston, the biggest thing for us in fall, some shit might be all red, all yellow, but it don’t be like multicolour palette and shit. I came out here, and looked at this and was like, oh shit, shit really beautiful!! I love it. I love it, I can’t lie. Good people too. I’ve got some music questions, about stuff you grew up on, mixtapes you ran the most in high school. P: Um, mixtapes.. I don’t even wanna shout a lot of these lame ass n***** out. *laughing* Okay, let me rephrase that. P: Nah nah, it’s cool. I’m… I’ve been influenced (grumbles the word out jokingly). Wayne, the whole the Drought series, No Ceilings, and Sorry for the Wait. Chance, 10Day, and Acid Rap for sure. Damn, real high school mixtapes for sure. P: Isaiah Rashad, Welcome to the Game. Mick Jenkins, The Waters. Mac Miller, Faces. What’s the name of Kendrick’s shit, I can’t remember. Overly Dedicated. All of Drake, literally. Comeback Season. The other one, So Far Gone. Bro, mixtape runs are so big ‘cause I really lived through that era. Wiz Khalifa for sure bro. Taylor Alderdice. Kush and OJ. He has one of the more classic mixtape runs. Curren$y too, Meek Mill shit, Lil Snupe, the RNIC one, before he died, RIP him, rest his soul. Kevin Gates, “Satellites”. Bro, I was a real mixtape junkie bro. I was listening to everything. I may be Southern, but for real for real, everything. I love that. P: Like, you probably don’t even know who Short Dawg is. You caught me, I’m lacking. Do I need to know? P: Okay, he’s popular in Houston. And he was signed to Young Money later on. But the most notable verse you’ll probably remember him last for, is, do you remember the Ab-Soul tape? That had.. Not tape, second album, that had “Stigmata” and shit on it, had Dash and em? The song.. "Waverunners." "Waverunners" had a verse from Short Dawg on it. That was probably the last mainstream notable things from him. He definitely was - in middle school? Mixtape series? Yeah. Before he got signed to Young Money? Definitely was listening to Short Dawg. And like I said, Screwed Up Clique tapes, etcera etcera. Who’s someone you listen to heavy that people might not expect? Something you don’t tell people often. P: Yeät. *laughing* You’re tapped in with the new stuff too huh. P: Boy what?? I listen to everything!! As long as I like it. And as long as you not doing a whole bunch of cap. Alright, alright. In that case, let me ask you, what are your three favourite projects released this year? Or this year and last year. P: End of the Earth. The Souf Got Sum 2 Say. and PERFECT 7. Aw, that’s not fair, you gotta give me 4. And Timeless, by Ahmir. That Messiah! project is crazy! P: Bro, Cody. we was at Baby’s Alright, New York, when bro performed it all the way through for the first time. Ooh. Hard. Down to the art and everything, yeah, definitely one of the best of the last year. P: Bro!! The best thing is, we’re all friends. In real life. That’s beautiful. I can tell. Well. I don’t want to say I can tell, I guess I could have been wrong, but I felt like I could tell when I was watching the videos, seeing you guys rap and have fun with each other. P: Aw yeah, nah. You definitely, like - the chemistry is there. When can like , call each other and you understand each others’ art, it be like literal layups. Like, I could pull up, like aye I got this, and I already know one of them gon’ go on there. Or if we all collabing on some shit, it be like boom, here you go, and then here you go. It’s very efficient, I like to say. Oh!! Fun fact. My manager Cody bro, he’s an engineer. He engineers the Bridge and owns the Bridge. Like, this is his shit. Like, this is his place, all of that. Bridge is him. Damn!! Nah, he’s doing work. I’ve seen the Bridge stuff, I’m a big fan. P: I know!!! OH! OH! I can’t hang up on you, but Jo’s outside, I gotta get Jo and Marco Plus. I’mma keep you on the phone though. Aight, say happy birthday! P: Hell yeah, the Bridge!! *as he walks to the door* TWIN! This is him. I’m in the middle of an interview. This is Jo. This begins a brief, surreal bit where PhoeNix’s phone gets handed around. He extends me over to Jomir, and we exchange pleasantries, me telling him I love his camera work and wishing happy birthday. Then, he gets the phone back and proceeds to introduce me to Marco Plus, telling him he’s in an interview. Before we resume talking, I’m convinced of the magic that is inherent to the Bridge. P: It’s my first interview. See I got famous friends man. Marco Plus be stunting on me, you know what I’m saying. He got classic albums out and stuff. I just got here to Charlotte myself. N***** is here. *to Marco as they enter the studio* I know you wanna get high. Aw bro, I just got finished telling him my favourite projects of the year. End of the Earth, Souf Got Sum 2 Say. Timeless. Perfect 7. But he only gave me three, four, and I really wanted to keep going. My n**** Smiles dropped some crazy shit this year too. Are you hip to Smiles? I’m not, but please keep putting me on. P: You gotta get hip to everybody. That’s Backkkseat. There’s more people, another collective. Like, that’s Marco’s shit. How’d you choose the name PhoeNix? What about it sticks out to you? P: Really easy. I overdosed, twice, actually died. My mama was there. Shit. And then, I felt like, oh, I need to let my old ways die. Phoenix, life and death, all embodiment. Closest thing to having a pseudonym that’s not a pseudonym. Wow, yeah, that’s very literal, I can see why that means something to you. I’m really glad you’re still here. P: Aw nah, it’s good. Drugs can’t kill me, and these fuck n***** can’t either. Why’d you call it Walkthru? P: Oh shit. The literal definition of a walkthrough is just the demonstration of an area or a task. And I’m just demonstrating to these n***** how to be that n**** while existing. My whole life is a walkthrough. *laughing* that’s dope P: Deadass. Like, I’m not laughing. I’m so serious. I done a lot of shit that I don’t think these n***** could do. Yeah, it’s not funny, just makes sense honestly. You don’t mince your words. P: Yeah, I be tryna keep shit simple. Jo dropping phones and shit. But nah, that’s definitely it. That’s why I named that shit Walkthru. It really wasn’t nothin’ too complex. And I tried to play with the names, to keep it, you know, playing around like, anything that had to do with feet, and “Floorplan” taking up space within that regard. So, “Choreo,” “2step,” but then after a certain point I started running out of words. So I just started naming them shits. Damn, I really didn’t even realize … with the names and feet and all that. P: Nah, facts. And “Decorated,” just by chance started to work out. That song is beautiful. P: Appreciate it! That’s Ahmir on that joint. Marco Plus would’ve been on that tape too, but.. I tried to tell you. I need to hear more PhoeNix-Marco Plus stuff, you guys are killing it together, just fire. P: See, Marco Plus! INTERVIEW BY SAI. ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF PHOENIX. EDITS & DESIGN BY J.

  • Namir Blade - Metropolis

    "I create what the future sounds like" is the statement that greets you in the first line of Namir Blade's Twitter bio. Shortly into the Nashville native's latest album Metropolis, one realizes that he's not messing around. The album draws its namesake from the films Metropolis, one being a silent film from 1927 and the other being a 2001 anime film. Both films tackle utopian futures, which hide darker realities just below their surfaces. The first thing that grabs you is the production of which Namir Blade handled 100%. Throughout the 16 tracks of the project we get a diverse wall of sound. Everything here sounds familiar but next level at the same time. A lot of albums try to cater to all the ears of hip hop and fail, Metropolis is the exception. We got trap bangers like "Cain and Abel" that have you ready to ride out, afro-beats inspired dance grooves like "Boa," and "Mephisto" is something you imagine Benny or Westside Gunn going off on, and there's ultra mellow lo-fi style rhythms as well. I can't harp enough on how seamlessly it's sequenced and blended. We're actually getting more than one beat and style on several of these songs and it's all silky smooth. Lastly, much respect to Namir Blade as a rapper, he's just as comfortable going in and out of various rap styles and singing as he is doing the production on this project. These bars are potent when they need to be and introspective and personal when it's time for those quieter moments. It is amazing to hear him jump from street bars, to referencing One Piece and Kevin Feige, to crooning about a hopeful future. Namir Blade is the real deal. This is easily one of the best of the year! I Looking forward to what's next! Released: June 3rd 2022

  • Westside Boogie - MORE BLACK SUPERHEROES

    The city of Compton has been known as a hip-hop powerhouse since the genres inception. NWA in the 80’s and 90’s, The Game in the early 2000’s, the current consensus GOAT Kendrick Lamar in the 2010’s, and now Westside Boogie plans to take that baton and keep the marathon going. The CPT native has been making noise over the last couple of years and that hard work landed him a deal with Eminem and Dr. Dre’s Shady/Aftermath record label. June 17th he blessed the world with his latest offering MORE BLACK SUPERHEROES. The 12 track project is the introspective thoughts of an inner city gang member as he navigates through relationships, daddy issues, insecurities, and the streets. Recorded over soulful beats that help you connect even more to the personal lyrics delivered by Boogie and his signature lisp. On “ANTHONY” he raps, “I really got this hate for you, I really hate for me cause n*ggas say I got my face from you/ this feeling ain’t sustainable but ain’t it true?” Speaking to his relationship with his father. Lines like these show vulnerability in a time when a lot of mainstream music is superficial. MORE BLACK SUPERHEROES is complete project that gives the listener a good balance between deep subjects, clever lyricism, and head nodding beats and melodies. There’s a little something that mostly all hip-hop fans can enjoy. The sequencing makes the album flow intentionally and you can enjoy it from intro to outro. Westside Boogie definitely delivered a standout record for June, and 2022 so far. Released: June 17, 2022

  • CyHi - EGOT the EP

    A preview of one of my most anticipated albums this year, CyHi dropped the EGOT the EP, a sampler of his upcoming EGOT LP. 4 Tracks ranging from somber reflections on life’s pain to up-tempo tongue-in-cheek songs about women. CyHi still sounds like he’s trying to be the best rapper alive, the production is impeccable and the rhyme schemes are as dense as ever. “Help Me God” is just CyHi showing out over a gospel sample, “Madame cum laude when shawty bodied the dean's list/ Huh, that means it's murder in the first degree/ Mercy me, I see murder like Percy P/ Leonidas vers the Persian fleet/ You murkin' me, stay off the oxy, moron, that's like a Virgin freak” Just absolutely bonkers amounts of rhymes between tight and compound punchlines. The best of the 4 is undoubtedly the Jaquees assisted “Tears” from the “Oscar” section of the album where CyHi plans to have the biggest most “cinematic” of the album’s recordings. CyHi reflects on his real life tragedies and wisdom he has gained over the years of his storied career. “We all got partners who will slide, if we lift a finger/ But why we still gotta be street?/ Just to show that the money didn't change us” The justified paranoia of one of the most respected pens in rap history who recently survived a very real attempt on his life comes through direct and sobering over the beautiful keys on this track closing out the EP. words by Xlo Released: May 13th, 2022

  • Poo$ie - Still Ain't Easy

    If you grew up in the era when Cash Money took over for the 99’ and the 2000 (and to be honest the majority of us did,) then you probably fell in love with hard beats topped with New Orleans accents. Now add that, 90’s era lyrical ability, Bay Area game, and you have Poo$ie - Still Ain’t Easy! The 8th ward native who moved to Oakland after Hurricane Katrina embodies the blend you never knew you needed. From the opening track “Celebration,” he brings you into his mind and gets you familiar with his thought process. 17 tracks might seem like a lot in a time where attention spans are getting shorter and shorter but he makes it work. A couple interludes help keep the album cohesive and the perfect amount of features don’t allow the listener to get bored of the same voice. The subject matter plays like an autobiography going from “All Of You,” a song for the ladies with an R&B assisted hook by King Tahoe. To “Cold Feet” a grimy up-tempo slap featuring Nook, Les, and a Manny Fresh-esque beat breakdown that’s guaranteed to catch your attention. All in all, Poo$ie isn’t afraid to show his range and sound extremely comfortable while doing so. Still Ain’t Easy is available for purchase directly from Poo$ie! Another ode to the creativity and business savvy this artist brings to the table. The album is also set to release on all DSPs July 15th. Grab the link and thank me later! Released: June 15, 2022 Words by Flynt Nixon

  • Daniel Son - Bush Doctor

    Bush Doctor is the latest release from Canadian rapper Daniel Son. After linking up with Futurewave for Sun Tzu and the Wav.God to begin 2022, the Toronto native is back with another LP in less than 6 months. Bush Doctor is a slightly bigger plate than the January release but it's no less potent. Right out the gate the Wino Willy produced "Change of Pace," sets the tone for what's to come. Daniel Son got barz, which are on display immediately as he paints a picture of the seedier side of Toronto. It's a struggle everywhere and the themes here are as familiar as something from Griselda, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah. Daniel Son's pen shines on this project as he goes through the crime rap paces. What separates him from the pack is his style and dedication to giving you the big picture. You get the braggadocious highs and also the dark, lonely, paranoid lows. The struggle here is not without consequences and he raps about the wins, dangers, and loses all the same. His flow is effortless and he's just as at home on the down tempo "Born Alone" to the energetic "Don Sonzarelli." 14 tracks of this subject matter can get repetitive but Bush Doctor mostly avoids that with a great range of production from the likes of Phybaoptikz, Vic Grimes, Futurewave, and Giallo Point. There's a nice variety in the sounds, great sequencing, and tempo changes. Daniel Son also brings along fellow MC's like Saipher Soze, Estee Nack, and Eto and more who all contribute fire verses and compliment the project in various ways. The last weapon I wanna mention in Daniel Son's arsenal is his hook game. They're potent and stick to your ribs, they're like Mobb Deep in their prime, it's truly a lost art these days on this side of the genre. The album is a more than solid effort and expect that Bush Doctor will show up on more than a few of the year's best lists. This ain't no throw away, you'll find yourself going back for more! Released: May 1, 2022 Words by Monk (@monkeyblood)

  • Toronto's Placement in the Up-State New York Hip-Hop Scene

    Toronto Hip-Hop: An Extension of Up-State New York Figure 1 L-R: Daniel Son, 6th Letter Futurewave, Daniel Son, Asun Eastwood, Lord Juco, Raz Fresco, Finn, DNTE, Falcon Outlaw, Sibbs Roc, Bozack Morris, Saipher Soze, Vic Grimes... If you have been tapped into the underground hip-hop release radar over the past few years; it's likely you are familiar with these names. Hailing from the city of Toronto, this cast of characters has contributed to the soundscapes of up-state New York's triumphing hip-hop enterprise in recent years. What's more impressive, is that unbeknownst to many, Toronto has finally achieved a long-lasting goal; for its artists to be recognized on an equal playing field with New York artists and be respected by hip-hop culture at large - detached from their Canadian identity. Contextualizing Toronto's Hip-Hop Community in Relation to New York: Ever since the inception of hip-hop in Toronto, the city has actively fought for acceptance in New York. Perhaps the earliest example of success in this regard is KRS One's introductory co-sign to Michie Mee and L.A. Luv's Elements of Style in 1987; a record which sported the instrumental pallet of the Boogie Down Production's own Scott La Rock,. Boogie Down Productions is proud to introduce Canada's greatest musically inclined - future rap representative of the rap industry on a whole. A major breakthrough for female emcees everywhere. Her name; Michie Mee. This is BDP reporting live from Canada! - KRS One, Elements of Style. Figure 2: Michie Mee & LA Luv - Elements of Style 12" In the 1990s, this effort for acceptance continued its prominence. Artists such as Citizen Kane, Da Grassroots, Da Circle, Crooks of the Round Table, Mathematik, Frankenstein, and others clearly embodied New York's signature boom-bap aesthetic and trips to the Big Apple were frequently made to seek record deals and career opportunities. The talents of these artists were undeniable. Arguably some of the best hip-hop to come out of the mid 90s featured Toronto emcees and producers. However, this fact was rarely known outside of the city of Toronto, the artist community, and the odd devoted hip-hop head that pursued independent music on a global front. Rarely were these Canadian artists successful in obtaining US-based record deals, or US-based collaborations. Even more rare, were instances of American artists paying Canadian talent for collaborations on their records. In the 2000s, though the efforts largely remained the same, the results did begin to change. Artists such as Kardinall Offishall - who began rapping in the 1990s, saw some commercial success and appeared on albums from Tony Touch, Clipse, DJ Green Lantern, Akon, among others. To a lesser extent, emcees such as K-Os, Belly (Ottawa), Saukrates and Choclair shared a similar fate; however, these artists acted as one-offs, and never allowed Toronto as a community to fully escape the trappings of a Canadian identity. The most successful Canadian rapper of all time; Drake, too has played his part in this story; transforming Toronto as a landmark within hip-hop's discourse but failing to create a meaningful path for other Toronto emcees to follow. His OVO movement is notable, as is his impact on many Toronto-based artists who have embraced Drake's signature musical aesthetics - however the fact remains that Toronto has not been accepted as equal to New York in any meaningful measure. Griselda, Up-State New York, and a new hip-hop renaissance: It's safe to say that readers will be familiar with Griselda's impact on the culture. Since 2015, the Flygod and extended family have been dominating underground hip-hop's weekly release schedule and have since changed the direction of the scene both sonically, as well incorporating business innovations largely non-existent pre-Griselda. Upon Griselda's 2018 signing with Shady Records, this reality was only exacerbated. Figure 3 Griselda. L-R: Benny the Butcher, Westside Gunn, Conway the Machine Griselda's rise saw many hip-hop acts within the up-state area come out of the woodworks and receive prominent fandom as well as financial security with their art. From 38 Spesh’s TRUST label, to Rochester’s Da Cloth, to Lord Mobb's; Eto and G4Jag, among others; these artists have thrived in the scene that Griselda has pushed and helped popularize. Despite the due-focus on up-state New York, the sounds of Griselda have far surpassed this geographic region. Artists such as Red Lotus Klan's SCVTTERBRVIN from the West Coast, New York City's Flee Lord, New Orlean's Jameel Na'im X, and a plethora of overseas producers such as Superior (Germany), Giallo Point (Britain) and Big Ghost LTD (Japan), all exist within the same sonic bubble and owe - at least some of their success - to Griselda's imprint. As previously mentioned, the impact of Griselda has amounted to more than simple stylistic innovations that have permeated throughout the scene. With Westside Gunn's heavy reliance on hype-beast culture and his insistence on treating physical product (both in the form of merch and physical media) as collectible art-pieces - the way of playing the game has drastically altered from the previous generation. By producing small runs - with the guarantee of selling out - Griselda has single handily made the purchase of a cassette, or vinyl record an investment with a near guarantee of market inflation if the consumer is lucky enough to secure an order before the inevitable sell-out. As the artists grow in popularity, these runs become larger and larger, while continuing to produce less than the market demands. The latest installment of Westside Gunn's Hitler Wears Hermes series (#8 Side B) was released earlier in 2022 with over 5,000 copies pressed, priced on average at over 100 dollars per unit, and sold out in under five minutes. This sort of dominance has created an atmosphere where Conway can confidently - and truthfully - claim, "I do your streaming numbers with the vinyl and the CD." Though others in the scene lack the demand that Griselda has curated, this model of high-priced, ultra-limited vinyl, has proven to work for others that fall into the same sonic template that Griselda has developed. For fans of Griselda's sound, participating in this subcultural economy is exciting and worthwhile - even if the products are not exclusively derived from Griselda's main roster. Those who associate with Griselda either through mutual connections - geographic proximity - or sonic template - have been able to follow Griselda's business models with similar - yet scaled down - success. The Modern Toronto Connection: Although Toronto is not the only Canadian city contributing sounds to this movement - it is by far the most dominant Canadian city on the scene. An artist such as Nicholas Craven in Montreal - may be arguably more prominent with production credits for Mach Hommy, Tha God Fahim, Your Old Droog, Ransom, among others - but he has unfortunately been the sole representative for his city within this new rap renaissance. Toronto on the other hand has - in a few short years - curated a scene of rappers, producers, and DJs so synonymous with Griselda's sound that the city has arguably become an extension of the up-state New York region. It makes sense. Toronto - a mere two-hour drive from Buffalo, is the closest metropolis city to the Griselda capital; with New York City being more than three times the distance away. Those that occupy the Niagara region such as G4 Jag and Jamal Gasol, are in fact even closer to the screwface capital. So how has Toronto broken from its past to be accepted as peers south of the border? It's pretty simple; it's Griselda. This is my opinion on the hustler mindset. Seeing early - [Griselda] dropping - and they weren't big yet - they'd drop 1000 [units] and they're selling out right away. Like that's not enough? So now, this genre also creates a lot of music. One project a year? That's nothing. You can't do that in our genre. Now you look at Griselda and it's like 'oh shit, these guys are collecting that bag.' And that math isn't hard to do, that there's money to be made. - Asun Eastwood, interview with author. It is important to recognize the diversity of Toronto's hip-hop scene; and the varying origin stories that occupy the community. Some artists, such as DNTE and Bozack Morris, have been long standing members of the Toronto hip-hop community - with DNTE (previously known as Al Sham) dropping his Street Visions album in 1999 with his partner KP, and Bozack Morris occupying Toronto's airwaves as a DJ for multiple decades. Raz Fresco, a younger cat on the scene, had signed a deal with New York's Duck Down Records in 2014 and appeared on Buckshot's Backpack Travels that same year. Daniel Son; arguably one of the most prominent in the scene today; began rapping in 2015 with his Brown Bag Money (BBM) click and quickly began collaborating and building relationships with artists such as Rome Streetz, Estee Nack, Al.Divino, among others. The Belizean born Asun Eastwood immigrated to Canada at a young age and began his run of releases in 2017 with projects such as Nimbus and Hollywood Briggs. And Lord Juco has occupied a distinct market with his soccer-themed run of projects with Californian Cousin Feo as the duo Death at the Derby. Despite this complexity, there is most certainly a strengthened community of hip-hop artists within Toronto. Nearly all these artists actively collaborate with one another - and have combined their skillsets to help one another grow and succeed in this hip-hop environment. This has become more evident with labels such as Gold Era which house a large collective of Toronto producers such as Sibbs Roc, Finn and Slang Hughes. A brief look at their webstore will see full album collaborations with Daniel Son, Asun Eastwood, Family Gang Black, Saipher Soze, Lord Juco as well as a plethora of peers originating from the United States. Figure 4: L-R: Finn, Futurewave, Sibbs Roc The collaborations with their United States brethren are important. Unlike previous generations of Toronto emcees, that found it difficult to seek mutual respect with their New York counterparts - this new community is often inseparable from upstate New York. Not only do you see New York artists featured on their track listings (a feat that remains achievable by simply buying guest verses from well-respected rappers), but credible New York artists as well as overseas producers will actively feature Toronto artists within their own creations. Daniel Son for example has been featured on 38 Spesh's 1994, Rome Streetz Street Pharmacy, Estee Nack and Superiors' BALADAS, Buckwild's Music is My Religion, Al.Divino's SUNRAW, and Flee Lord's Lucky 13 just to name a few. Futurewave; one of the scenes most active producers; has full length projects with a variety of well-respected heavyweights in the up-state New York community; including Mooch, Rigz, Rome Streetz, Al.Divino as well as the most recently released MR.TEN08 with Griselda's own Boldy James. This embracement of Toronto's hip-hop community is a new phenomenon. Sure, artists like Drake have achieved one-off success in mainstream hip-hop circuits, but Toronto's hip-hop scene as a whole has never been able to compete on equal footing within hip-hop culture until now. In addition to the artist support, fans have likewise embraced Toronto's talent in a major way. Through the adoption of Griselda's hype-beast model of merchandising, the Toronto hip-hop community has succeeded to ride the wave of Griselda's extended family. One look at Futurewave's WAV.GOD storefront will cement this reality. Futurewave's last major output with Rome Streetz Razors' Edge had multiple variants of vinyl, totalling over 1,000 units produced (between both the WAV.GOD online store as well as the German vinyl distributor Vinyl Digital), and sold out within a 24-hour period. These pieces of wax were priced between 60 to 150 dollars per unit, creating significant financial incentive for each album release. Perhaps the most interesting decision made by this artist community lies within their own constructed identity. Unlike generations that came before them, or the Canadian hip-hop community at large - the artists mentioned in this article rarely portray a distinctly Canadian identity. The themes in their music are generalized, rarely devoting song topics to Canadian topics of interest. Their social media bio's rarely mention Canada. Stylistically - although original - do mimic that of a New York sound. And they refrain from collaborating with those who do hold more transparent Canadian identities. In my encounters with hip-hop heads - often fans of these artists will be oblivious to the fact that they reside in Toronto, mistakenly believing that artists such as Daniel Son or Lord Juco are from New York. This dynamic has separated the scene in question from the Canadian hip-hop community more broadly. Canada has had a rich history of hip-hop with labels such as Battle Axe Records, URBNET, Hand'Solo Records, Peanuts and Corn, Side Road Records, Clothes Horse Records, etc. however these artists have acted as family and kin to one another and portray clearly and distinct Canadian identities. There is simply no mistaking an artist such as Moka Only's nationality. In an interview I conducted with Bozack Morris he claimed: Hip-hop is like this high school shit where people sit at the table and if you're not at the table - you might go to the same school - but if you're not at the same table - people don't acknowledge it. I think that's just what it is. It sucks because I know all those dudes. I know all the people that are in this kind of "Canadian-Toronto" ecosystem and I have seen how much they embrace each other. I don't really care to sit at their table. I just want to make the music that I make. [...] It's funny how when people talk about "Who's from Toronto?" they don't mention anyone in our scene. The quote on quote "Toronto" hip-hop, they aren't mentioning us. They aren't mentioning Daniel Son or Futurewave, and those motherfuckers are putting up numbers. They are eating off this shit more than a lot of these other motherfuckers that ARE getting the props. - Bozack Morris, interview with author. Figure 5: L-R: Lord Juco, Futurewave, Daniel Son Conclusion: Toronto is at a unique place in its own history regarding hip-hop culture. For the first time, Toronto hip-hop artists have successfully blended in with a dominant hip-hop culture. These are not one-off cases such as Drake, or the occasional appearance of Kardinall Offishall on a top 40 billboard hit. This is an onslaught of artists who have commanded respect and received it from hip-hop at large. They do not prioritize their region when forming their identity, and they represent a sound that is becoming more and more associated with upstate New York. I argue that the scene comprised of Buffalo, Rochester, and Niagara Falls, must also include Toronto as an active participant in the scenes sound and success in recent years. About The Author: Alex Kuchma is an award-winning oral historian focused on the history of hip-hop in Canada. With over ten years of experience as a music journalist, Kuchma has conducted nearly a thousand interviews with hip-hop artists and members of the broader hip-hop community. In 2021, Kuchma authored the dissertation 'It's Underground Shit Fool!': The DIY Ethos of the Vancouver Island Hip-Hop Community, 1980-2000. The dissertation examined the creative and innovative techniques that the hip-hop community on Vancouver Island practiced and how the community created a distinctly unique experience for which artists could thrive. His current work through the Faculty of Graduate Studies at York University examines Toronto's hip-hop community throughout the years and the social capital that individuals of the Toronto hip-hop community have garnered with New York state hip-hop scenes. Kuchma is currently working on a general audience book which will use oral histories to convey the story of Canada's participation in hip-hop culture. Photo Credits: Fig. 1: Daniel Son x 6th Letter photo by Lucas Espinola ( Fig. 2: Michie Mee x L.A. Luv ( Fig. 3: Benny The Butcher x Westside Gunn x Conway The Machine (Robert LeBlanc) Fig. 4: Finn x Futurewave x Sibbs Roc ( Fig. 5: Lord Juco x Futurewave x Daniel Son (

  • Kay Anthony - Color Therapy

    Color Therapy by Kay Anthony is a jolt to the system. The structure is made clear from the jump: skits of his therapist asking him tough questions make way for song-length answers. It’s a simple premise, more about how its executed than the setup itself. If this sounds familiar, it’s likely due to the high-profile album it shared a release date with. But while that artist descends from the clouds every few years with the world’s expectations on his shoulders, this is the picture of an artist working his ass off to get there. Stardom doesn’t hit everyone in their youth, and tireless work doesn’t always pay dividends direct. This is the story of someone not just down to earth, but bound to it, dirt under his fingernails. He’s rapping from a position that’s far too real: where neighbourhood realities never fade away, there’s always new personal obstacles to overcome, and the people around you are depending on you now, not later. Listening through, there’s plenty of pivots sonically. He can really rap his head off, as is evident right from the start. But the blistering bars and filthy 808s give way to a spacier, warmer feel as the album goes on. Guests show up to enhance or strengthen the sentiment of songs, excelling in their specific niches, and the tapestry it weaves all together is riveting. While addressing heavy topics like talking to God, angels, relationships and self-love, he never gets anywhere near being preachy or holier-than-thou. And even though the songs are concocted as answers to specific questions, they stand alone individually. Not that he’s seeking playlisting, but concept albums usually go all in on concept and sacrifice the strength of individual songs, which is clearly not the case here. Describing this album is tough; the somber tone and difficult self-truths juxtaposed with the kaleidoscope of sounds and approaches will have you nodding your head while reflecting on your life. “That’s why we like sugar but still end up with cavities, That’s why you chasing alienation and can’t master peace, That’s why your heart is at war but you’re searching for casualties, You too busy tryna defy your limits, what you think, you Master P?” - Kay Anthony, Better Many rappers have trouble making fans understand that they are people. Too often, these brilliant artists are reduced to their symbolic celebrity and the imagined lifestyle it entails. Fans can find it hard to sympathize when their favourite drops a “it’s hard being famous” album, but that’s not what this is. Sometimes, you can have all the talent and hustle, and it still feels like you’ll never stop having to prove yourself, forever clawing for the fame you know should be yours. Kay Anthony breaks down the duality of being a rapper. He talks about the pressure he faces, about feeling hopeless but having to keep going. About the difficulty of caring for yourself. He says “I heard pressure pays”, and you know he’s pushing through it. He’s been through the petty block stuff, the family struggles, and he’s done the exhausting work of climbing those mountains to see beyond them. He’s from NYC, a cold, competitive city with young drillers and old-head billionaires all in one market. Capitalism churns, and it’s up to each person to keep pushing forward regardless, and make a lane if there isn’t one already. Mental health is a continuing and essential theme in his art, as you can see in this short film of his from 2017, DEMONS/PARANOIA. The Village Voice did an accompanying article where they discuss his childhood and familial history. It's hard to find this sort of raw honesty, even in a therapist’s office. And yet, as the voice prods him to explore all sorts of dark corners in his psyche, it doesn’t feel fragmented or disjointed. Instead, we see how all of these things tie together and shape the person we hear responding. We get into his head, feel his doubt, know the rage. In the end, the answer to the question “Will you get better Kay?" “I hope so, some day.” Heard. That song, Better, ends with sage advice from a grandmother, telling us “Baby, trouble don’t last always.” It’s thoroughly an album - a complete project, and a pointed self portrait too. A number of producers were tapped for this, and the lush sound does not let up. Truly incredible tones and textures all the way throughout. Notably, RunitupDay has credits on two of the joints. Fans of Isaiah Rashad’s The House is Burning will appreciate the dreaminess, delivery, and stunning guest vocals. But outside comparisons to his peers and contemporaries, this is an album for any of us feeling lost. If you’re looking for guidance and blessings, or at the very least a splash of color on the gray, you’ll find a kindred spirit in these songs. We’re all in this together with Kay, and you’ll come out of listening knowing you’re far from alone. NOTABLE TRACKS: "Bless Me" (ft. Dot Demo,) "Hopeful Wishing" (ft. Jai Emm,) "Better," "Lord Father Pt. 2" & "30 (Interlude)" EVERYTHING KAY ANTHONY:

  • Bizarre - He Got A Gun

    Let's take a trip down memory lane. The white-hot summer of 2004, gas was less than $2 a gallon and on top of the charts is probably the most iconic R&B album of a generation, Confessions also peppered in with southern club raps that followed the massive Crunk wave initiated in 2003. The Black Eyed Peas had just started their seemingly endless 2000’s commercial success run following their placement during the 2004 Pistons/Lakers finals upset. Tall tees, denim jeans, sweat suits, obnoxious sunglasses, durags and air force ones had my people in a chokehold. This was the era of Hip Hop rising up and taking over the charts for decades to come. Eminem had released 8mile, 2 years prior. His group, D-12 was on top with the best selling Rap album of the year, (until Eminem ended that with the release of Encore in the Fall that same year.) Bizarre, probably the most visible member of the group. Known for his eccentric style: rocking a shower cap, going shirtless whenever possible and his signature off-kilter shock value rhymes… was missing from the group's second and final single ‘How Come’ from the D-12 World album. If you aren't either a purveyor of the underground, or a connoisseur of horrorcore...that's where it all ended for you. Outside of the occasional blog headline about a diss record or two, one even taking aim at the suddenly beloved Arby’s fast food chain, there hasn’t been much noise on the mainstream level around Bizzy or his many projects released since. He Got A Gun is one of the most filthy, disgusting and morally bankrupt rap albums in recent history, but follow me down The Rabbit Hole for a bit, there's more to unpack here. If you can stomach references to substance abuse, murder, domestic disputes and freaky women with autism…you’ll be able to make it past 3/4th of this album unscathed. Following their successful chemistry on multiple L.A.R.S (Last American Rock Stars) projects with Fat Killaz MC King Gordy under Majik Ninja Entertainment; HGAG sees Bizarre team up with Middle Finger Music producer Foul Mouth to deliver one of Bizzy’s most cohesive solo rap records to date. Somewhere between the raw raps of Detroit Horrorcore and the banging minimalist production of Griselda. This album is for Bizarre fans but might struggle to find footing outside his core fanbase. Remaining true to his shock-value punchline style, jokes about beloved mainstream artists, describing events in gross intimate detail not unlike a grimy variant of Rick Ross…will likely not appeal to most mainstream outlets as they tend to exclude offensive “targeted” content such as, “Lil Nas X, He ain’t important especially since he didn’t get that abortion.” The opener, “Uzi (Intro)” introduces He’s Got A Gun extremely honestly, “So me and my man, Foul Mouth decided to make an album called, He Gotta Gun and I came down to his dirty, filthy basement to rap, and I'ma rap for y'all,“ that’s it, that's the concept. 20 tracks of insanity recorded in Foul’s dirty basement in River Rouge… It is an unapologetic embracement of the weirdo shit Bizarre has built his storied career on. Hard drugs, hard drums, guns and deviant sex acts riddle this acid trip of a project. Deep-cut rock and funk samples made into woozy low fidelity grooves are signature to Foul’s style and he delivers some of his best production to date on this album. Stand-out beats are on “9mm,” “FN,” “Smith & Wesson,” “AS 50,” “MG3” (featuring the most melodic chorus on the record delivered by Skyrah), and “Gauge.” The features on this album range from the Golden age of Detroit Hip-Hop with the legends Guilty Simpson and Seven the General, as well as the seemingly immortal Ty Farris. Newer upstarts like Middle Finger’s break-out new artist Kain Cole, the super smooth Mvcknyce, and the prodigious young lyricist Dango Forlaine make their presence felt in a big way on their verses. Even another King of Weirdo’s: Kool Keith himself makes an impressive appearance on track “2 Hecker.” As stated previously, this album may struggle to find new fans, but it is true to Bizzare’s special brand of making music that sounds like a bent rolling tray filled with cigarette butts on the floor of Foul's basement at 3am. Original as always, lyrically a firm move away from the more Trap/cloud rap-heavy Peter album production wise. The mixing and mastering is also on point, courtesy of Foul’s gifted ear. After months of living together and recording, they came up out of the snake pit with what can be considered their most impressive work to date. It is now available on all platforms, alongside a 3-part documentary. on the making of the album. words by Xlo Released: June 3, 2022

  • donSMITH - In Loving Memory

    This past March, Harlem artist donSMITH released his soulful EP, In Loving Memory. The EP features Zacchae’us Paul, Asun Eastwood, Jay Lonzo and Kapi-Ku with production from Sypooda, Lim0, Flousen, Sum Total and RanVanDam. The EP as a whole serves as a transformation of Self, a transcendence through all the obstacles and curses that ended up being blessings. I refer specifically to “curses” as when you watch the video to “To Be Grateful (Long Live)” it is represented as a play with acts. “ACT I: The Curses Become Blessings.” Content, lyrics and message wise the EP is somewhat similar to a testimony or sermon as donSMITH explores various topics that essentially point towards gratitude for the path ordained for you. It’s an EP that asks you to hone in on the beauty of you and your life; where you’ve been, what you’ve seen, where you’ll go and what you’ll do. Are you grateful for it? For the flaws, the stumbles, the losses, lessons, moments of uncertainty that kept you guessin’, riddled with anxiety and indigestion? Are you grateful for it? Could you be who you are without it? In Loving Memory begins with the track “To Be Grateful (Long Live)” that sets the tone and theme of the project. The track begins with a woman’s voice who appears to be a religious leader giving a sermon. As her voice weaves in and out of the track you hear Zacchae’us Paul singing the hook, “I spent my whole life trying to be grateful…” followed with the woman’s voice stating, “God has blessed us to be here 1 more time.” The tone is set - to be grateful. And to be grateful of what? donSMITH enters the song with his verse that highlights an array of things he’s grateful for and the moments and thoughts that tie to those things. From gratitude to patience to privacy, creation (R.I.P. imitation,) hand-me-downs, competition, Nipsey tweet, “having strong enemies is a blessing,” the mission, long live them all. Long live the lessons, blessings and everything in between and beyond. The next track, “Long Time Coming” featuring Asun Eastwood further expounds on the theme of gratitude and how it’s connected to longevity. Oftentimes, when our flowers bloom it can feel like we should’ve received the bouquets a long time ago. Both artists on this track express how they’ve been blessed along their path the whole time even if the blessings were unseen at that time. “Long time coming, in the mirror confident in GOD and the flaws I come with” - donSMITH “It’s the ones that hate complexity try to stifle my glow” -Asun Eastwood “Lonzo’s Prayer” featuring Jay Lonzo also plays into the idea that your gifts and blessings aren’t always physical form but often things that are internal and innate that we have to develop. You know, Jay Lonzo states specifically in his verse, “can’t cry at Christmas if you know your gift ain’t under a tree,” puts the cherry on top of being grateful. In this track the woman pastor is back with more soothing affirmations. She asks the audience to really reflect on where they’re at, “you may not have the Bentley yet, the BMW but BE GRATEFUL.” In Loving Memory, then moves into the 4th track, “God Knows” featuring Kapi-Ku. The song really captures the social ills and pains that donSMITH observes and experiences in his environments. There’s a want in the song to learn how to help on the day2day but also recognizing the risks and predicaments that those gestures might put you in. Initially, there’s this hook in the background that loops, “it wasn’t supposed to be like this,” as if donSMITH is trying to figure out why things are the way they are. Eventually, by the end of the song he comes to terms with it, maybe it was supposed to be this way actually and only GOD knows. The final track, “Still DON” ends the EP strong. It completely ties up the themes of accepting your flaws and obstacles, learning to love the journey and to not just be but become. He’s asking questions of what is legacy (that may be rhetorical to some.) Is it your name? Your lovers, kids? Where you from? What you rep? How does one secure their legacy and make sure it represents you and your mission correctly? And when you’re living your legacy what does that look like in the present tense? All questions donSMITH is asking on the personal level but also very much on a universal level as well. “Legacy got me stuck in my ancestor ways / legacy got me feeling so honored to be here” When I came across In Loving Memory, I was in the midst of reading Hip Hop’s Hostile Gospel: A Post-Soul Theological Exploration by Daniel White Hodge. It’s always a beautiful moment when studies align in real time. The text by Hodge explores over 8,500 songs throughout Hip Hop that aids in his research of where GOD is in Hip Hop, how GOD is referenced, revered and etc. Without question, in another edition of the text or next volume this is an EP that needs to be referred to and in Hip Hop theology studies in general. Whether you’re religious or not, familiar with donSMITH or not this is a significant project from 2022 that shouldn’t be overlooked. EVERYTHING donSMITH:

  • UFO Fev - E Pluribus Unum

    Harlem artist UFO Fev presents a representation of what it means to be influenced by where you come from but still remain original, authentic and 1 of 1 in his newest album, E Pluribus Unum. The album is solely produced by DJ J Hart and hosts features from Ace Arty and Jose Santiago. E Pluribus Unum begins with a clip of an interview where Mike Powers asking about a phone call UFO Fev received from Diddy and what that means to Fev coming from where he comes from. “I ain’t have nothin’ growing up; everything was a double team, break thru the defense, get the bucket - AND 1.” That specific clip of the interview sets up the listener/audience with the context needed to understand that UFO Fev got this shit out the mud. After "Intro" the album glides into “El Sapo” that speaks on the origins of UFO Fev the hustla and his day2day in a poetic cinematic manner. You know, this the beginning of the chapter that establishes where one came from, the root, the source. “Outside” featuring Ace Arty comes after and really is a track that expresses that UFO Fev and his crew were really outside with it. It’s not all talk and more likely than not more action and plays than actual talk about it. From “Outside” we move into the real hit of the album, “Money.” A track that needs to be spun on all radio stations mainstream, independent and underground because it’s really that g ood. From jump, you hear the infamous, “Get Money” loop that puts you in a New York state of mind. You know who he’s paying homage to but what will he do with it? UFO Fev walks us through how he made money off the origins spoken about in “El Sapo” while also reaping the benefits of “Outside” with the crew. With an infamous loop and equally infamous riff/influence of DMX, UFO Fev has the hook and song of the year, “For my next trick I make more money appear / THE RARE. THE REAL. THE CLOTH, WE WEAR.” From such a phenomenal track the album brings us to a grittier track, “Game Shifting” where UFO Fev touches on how he’s changed/shifted the game and continues to do so. The following track, “Pop Pop” featuring Jose Santiago has serious content/theme but delivered in a catchy and fun manner. Then, the album switches back to another notable song on E Pluribus Unum, “In The Rain.” Off production alone this track is gorgeous especially with the use of “In The Rain” by Bill Cooley and Alan Munson. You know, I’m sure all the tracks come from the soul but you feel the soul in this one. You hear the perseverance and feel the climb to greatness. Rain brings growth. “We the kids they never worried bout, the stories you never hear about, parents barely knew of out whereabouts / check the sole of his sneakers, I used to wear ‘em out / now the type of shit I’m doin’ is paramount” “Swish” is a track where UFO Fev is telling pieces of stories of the trenches and how he still made it out. There’s another catchy hook/chorus on this track too. The album switches to the track, “Light” which is more of a love song to friends, family and romantic lovers who have provided some kind of support, some kind of light throughout his life that helped illuminate the path. Those who have provided a source of purpose and perseverance for him. The outro of this track has another clip from Mike Power’s interview that touches on how UFO Fev was about to hang up the mic because he was investing more than he was returning before meeting Fat Joe. From there, E Pluribus Unum transitions into the final track of the album, “Business Man.” This track really captures the ascent of UFO Fev into another realm and also as a businessman. Almost like a more present feeling of the transition for him. As a whole E Pluribus Unum serves as a reflection of personal and generational plight that highlight environment, experiences and elevation from those lessons and learnings. Throughout the album there are various stories, dope hooks, poetic verses and inspiration/motivation to continue with your own craft - turnin’ the hustle to a business. E Pluribus Unum is one of the initial chapters in the story of how UFO Fev turned the hustla into a businessman. Out of one, many; the future is bright and beautiful for UFO Fev. EVERYTHING UFO FEV: &

  • Kr3wcial - Less Than Three

    New Orleans and glbl wrmng artist Kr3wcial delivers his EP, Less Than Three. The EP hosts features from BLU, Mick Jenkins, Pell and Kalipop while also enlisting production from Ghazi Gamali, friendkerrek, Cronos and Kr3wcial himself. Throughout the EP, Kr3wcial fuses Hip Hop, neo-RnB with a hint of Pop to create a smooth “collection of reflections” of experiences with love, <3, Less Than Three. The intro track, “Jewelry” begins with a very calming energy that has Kr3wcial reflecting on the appearance and feeling a lover gave him, “You sure look good on me after I wear you out like jewelry / nirvana, when I feel you give me peace / there’s nowhere else I rather be.” The 2nd track of the EP, “Standards” has both Kr3wcial and Mick Jenkins speaking on some of the standards they’ve come across and employed themselves when dating or embarking on love. Standards have always been a thing but it seems as though in this current social media era that standards have been heightened to almost unrealistic expectations physically, financially, emotionally and intellectually. “Ego Trippin” is the next track of Less Than Three - and just as the title implies it’s about ego. The track expresses how ego can cause conflict in love but also can inflate situations as well. The yelling, the fighting, the lack of seeing eye2eye, needing to be right and maybe a drop of self-sabotage too. Next, the EP slides into the gem of the project, “Who Do You Call?” Off dribble, the production has this real gorgeous soulful appeal coupled with the combination of Pell and Kr3wcial’s similar content yet varying textures in voice. This is the type of song that triggers you in a good way, you know. Where you really have to sit back and assess, “who do you call?” - especially when the person you want to reach out to could have you dip back into toxicity. Or dip back to a place that you grew from or are growing from but you still need that familiar voice of encouragement despite it all. “Who do you call when that drinkin’ ain’t maskin’ the feelin’ and you wanna fix it?” The final track of Less Than Three is “Dumb Bitch Juice.” This was a solid way to end the EP because it speaks on wants, boundaries and at times getting lost in the sauce of romantic encounters. You know, do you keep sippin’ someone’s potion that is not sustainable or beneficial in the long-run? The intuitiveness that comes eventually of knowing someone has something you want but also knowing that it comes with a price and a life you’re already trying to wean yourself from. Less Than Three explores the complexities of romantic love throughout its various stages. The EP highlights how ego, standards, companionship and lack of mutual understanding/communication influence the trajectory of relationships. Even if the trajectory didn’t go as planned there’s always collections of reflections at hand. Additionally, Kr3wcial created his own universe (Kr3wniverse) for the release of Less Than Three.

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