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  • ihateyouALX INTERVIEW

  • It Ain't Safe Outside by Propain

    Southside Houstonian Propain dropped off his album, It Ain't Safe Outside at the top of February. Since the album has released I play it through at least every other day. It Ain't Safe Outside is nothing short of a collection of stories, observations, thoughts and feelings directly from the soul of Propain. He thoroughly paints pictures with each bar, chorus, feature and sample. The album also connects some of the legends of Houston Hip Hop and it's contemporaries such as: Z-Ro, Sauce Walka, Lil Keke, Slim Thug, Paul Wall, Lil' Flip, Big Pokey, Big Jade, Peso Peso & more. The album's production is handled by XO, Liljunemadedabeat & more. Production wise the album uses enough samples for the listener to find familiarity but also uses them in a way that it becomes it's own entity (s/o the creativity of Houston producers.) Propain is able to emit an energy that represents an undying love, care and support for his city. Throughout It Ain't The Same, Propain is emotes love, grief, faith, pain and anger. The aspect that continually has me revisiting the album is Propain's vulnerability and willingness to share them with his fans, supports, listeners. There's a courage that comes from speaking truth and staying true and authentic to one's soul. It was difficult to choose favorite songs from It Ain't Safe Outside simply because the entire project sounds/feels so concise and coherent. From dribble, the album's opening track, "It Ain't Safe Outside" featuring Z-Ro has news clips and clip from Dave Chappelle's special where he mentions George Floyd. Already with the tone set, Propain dives into his thoughts about the state of the world from Corona Virus to police brutality. "We don't get no therapy we just walk around like nothing fazed, just another day" The next song, "Mama's Eyez" is told through Propain, but through what he imagines his Mama has seen. The track highlights how black death, poverty, gentrification and a variety of struggles traumatize us. Still very heartfelt, "Heart To Heart" serves as a reflection/vent for Propain and the weight that he often carries on his mind and shoulders. In this song we hear a lot of his inner most thoughts and feelings. "I've been righteous all my life and all I got were scars" "Championship Game" is used as a song to transition the album into a faster pace; he's talkin' his shit in this song. After Propain pops his shit a bit the album moves into "H-Town" featuring Sauce Walka. The track has very soulful production that uses a sample that sounds familiar to "I Ain't Made At Cha" by Tupac Shakur. A beautiful song where both artists pay homage to their city while also recognizing their own individual impact. It Ain't Safe Outside shifts into the song, "Saturday Night Freestyle" that shows more versatility from Propain. The song is full of different rhyme schemes, pace increase, really spittin' - the type of song you'd put up against some grimey ass NY rappers. My favorite words from the song: "But my niggas we gotta switch the direction. Your baby mama birthed your child and that's your biggest blessin'. Regardless of y'all's status, even if you not together, if you don't do nothin' else you gotta respect her" After the freestyle, "Ashley Banks" gives a sweeter tone, a true love song. I appreciate this song a lot because we're hearing about romantic love and shows another level of vulnerability from Propain. There's a Trillville, "Some Cut" sample tucked in (at least the bed squeaking aspect.) The next track, "Freak" featuring Big Jade is a great song especially with the added Adina Howard sample. My only concern with this song is I'm noticing a pattern of only putting fire ass lady rappers on songs that have them expressing sexual tendencies. I want to hear lady rappers rap about more than their sexuality especially on an album that touches on much more than that. Propain then turns the energy up with Peso Peso on "Rap Life" where they both give braggadocios raps. Production is hard af. "So it seems fame is stronger than that crack pipe/ these hoes will sell their soul and do whatever for some app likes/ these niggas breakin' all their street codes just for that rap life/ they rather look like money than really get their sack right" After the "conscious" turn up, Propain guides us to one of the first singles from the album, "Kill Me" featuring OTB Fastlane. This track touches on the frustrations of the many threats facing a young black man and/or boy. A memorable moment from the song is how he speaks on a friend who was locked up and how that will affect his daughter and where she will be when he's released. Another soulful song with poignant lyrics and beautiful trap spirituals from OTB Fastlane. The last two songs of It Ain't Safe Outside are, "Underdawg" and "Way Too Fly." A perfect ending the album simply because in "Underdawg" he's literally talkin' about what the title concludes, the struggle of the underdawg but still demanding respect and acknowledgement. Then the album finishes with "Way Too Fly" where Propain enlists Houston legends: Lil Keke, Slim Thug, Z-Ro, Paul Wall, Big Pokey & Lil' Flip. Good luck finding your favorite verse from the song! Overall, Propain delivered one of my favorite albums this year yet. It Ain't Safe Outside highlights all the different factors that make outside "unsafe" but at the same time represents that it ain't ever been safe for black people "outside." A very vulnerable album that speaks on black plight, respecting your baby mama, money management, staying true to your Self, where you from/how you represent and most importantly, beware of the snakes! Listen here.

  • CROWNTHEM Newsletter | Vol. 1, Issue 4




    Let's start with this last album, Neighborhood Diamonds. I want to know what your creative process was behind this one, because it seemed like you had to up some of your skills to get this one done? BRYCE: Yeah, 100%. It actually started last year, well before quarantine hit. I was on the "Independence Tour," my self-funded tour, first tour, ever. I had a 5 city tour going on, then the final stop was supposed to be my birthday, March 13th in L.A. [That] was supposed to be that last one. That was the height of the COVID stuff, height of all the chaos/uncertainty, and that's when my show was supposed to happen. After that got cancelled, it was like a couple of weeks or so just figuring out "what is next?" I started creatively just trying to find different stuff. It started with just tuning into different Zoom lives about music business, stuff like that to just keep my brain occupied. Then, from there I kinda like for a month, I started just pickin' up a camera and kinda learning photography. For a month, just to learn it, taking different kinds of pictures and understand how the camera works, all of that stuff. From there, having that confidence to learn led to me having the confidence to learn Pro Tools. Once I got into Pro Tools, it obviously led to me recording more and just to be more creative. Express myself. After I started doing that, I had producers that were sending me beats, and honestly, that's how it all started. I took that approach, and after a couple months of me recording I was like, "okay, I'm going to make a project," Neighborhood Diamonds. I was in the process of branding that more thoroughly. I thought it was only right to call the project this. It kinda just spiraled from there. Did you take them pictures of the various people that were part of your project? (referring to his info graphics that he posted on social media.) BRYCE: No, so those pictures that you saw from that, was pictures that they already had and sent 'em to me. I posted some of the stuff earlier in the year that I took pictures of, cuz’ really I was just takin' pictures of stuff in my neighborhood, stuff in my apartment. Like nothing of any real directing just kinda learnin' how the camera works, that's really it. Tryna get the best picture. I didn't really post anything, it just helped me learn and experience how photography works. I feel that, kinda keepin' a grip of all the circuits of runnin' your own personal thing. BRYCE: It's like you said, and it was quarantine. It kinda just added another layer of independence for me. Being able to control as much of my art and the creative process as possible. That confidence from photography spilled over into the music and learnin' how to record and mix myself. So, I feel like that just gave me another level of freedom. That's dope, do you think you'll continue mixin' your stuff from here on out? BRYCE: Absolutely, absolutely. I still wanna go record with the people I normally record with because sometimes it's better to not be hands on with that part of it, just because I like to get an outside perspective. In terms of me being able to not wait for anybody, I have ideas. And knowing I can record it and if I really want to , mix it and put it out - I'mma continue to get better with that. It's everything for me. At some point, as I learn more, I want to get to [a] point where I don't gotta record with anybody. Just myself, I can do it myself. That's the goal, for real. I been thinkin' bout that a lot and what I'm doing with CROWNTHEM. I want it to be a print magazine so I'm out here tryna figure out how I can print, bind and ship it myself. And truly, that's what I wanted to talk about next - your rebrand. Watching you rebrand has been inspirational as fuck. Your rebrand started about 2017 or somethin'? BRYCE: Spot on, it was right when I moved from Oakland to L.A., 2017. What was the motivation and purpose behind your rebrand? BRYCE: It really was that moment when I took that leap of faith to move to L.A. I knew it was time for a whole transition. I kinda lived my life in a way where I broke it down by chapters and me moving to L.A. was a start to a whole new chapter. I just wanted to have a clean slate. As you noted, I was "Int'l Haysus" before I left. Then [when] I went to L.A. is when I did the rebrand of "BRYCE Savoy," my name, and who I am. I'm still growin' and learnin' myself, but that was the pinnacle of just me knowin' who I am fully and steppin' into that. That came the name change and from there it is so much easier. Previously, every year up until that point, it was always me tryin' to build this persona in a sense. You know, somethin' kinda outside of myself but it never panned out the way I wanted it to. Don't get me wrong, I had some good moments and learned a lot, but it wasn't until I went with my name that everything started to click. I found my purpose. We started "The Black Neighborhood" right around the same time. It was just a full circle moment, and I felt like the best way to kind of express that was to rebrand everything and say, "this is how I'm goin' to approach it from here on out, this is what people will know me as or know me for." So, just makin' that decision and takin' that leap of faith. It's been impressive to see, because there was a moment I couldn't find your previous music just because I couldn't remember what your name used to be. Your rebrand is strong and all the different avenues you're takin' with it; "The Black Neighborhood," "#ForeverOaklandFridays," scholarships for the students that are heading to college here soon… BRYCE: Yep, yep, so we still in the process of going into the final round here in the next few weeks, then we going to be givin' out 2 scholarships to incoming freshmen, HS seniors (now.) After putting 10,000 hours into this, I started doin' the music back in 2003. 18 years later you just learn and learn and learn, and then you finally get to a point where you figure it all out and just go from there. That's where I'm at now - knowing what I want to do, and knowing how to approach that. Really being adamant and disciplined about it. Your brand and music expresses all that for sure. It's real cool to see BRYCE. So movin' to L.A. has really helped you elevate in all those ways? BRYCE: 1000%. Just the simple fact of getting' away from my comfort zone, you know. Being from and growin' up in Oakland and The Bay Area, you can get complacent at a certain point just because your people here, you're comfortable, you know pretty much how to navigate and all these things. So, going to a place like L.A. that’s obviously a hub for entertainment allowed me to grow in a way that I wouldn't been able to if I stayed in Oakland. Just the simple fact that everybody is going out there to chase some kind of dream or whatever it is, because of that people are trying to network and connect. You may build with somebody, you might not. But the fact that you had the opportunity to do that, and everyone is just less than 1 degree of separation to getting' to where you want to be - it was just so important to me. Also, I have a lot of family out there. Like my father, he's been livin' out there for 20+ years. So, I knew even on a personal level, at some point, if I really want to grow and become that man that God created me to be, then I would have to be closer to him and move over there and spend time with him. All of those things came to me when I found my purpose, all of those things just made a lot more sense of what the next steps were to me. Bein' out there 3 years later, it's workin' out exactly how [I] envisioned it and even better. So good to hear, that's alignment bruh, for real. So, movin' out there, has your Hip Hop community changed? Are you able to connect your Hip Hop communities from Oakland to L.A.? BRYCE: Absolutely. It's grown, you know. 'Cause I'm from Oakland so there's people who is doin' the same thing I'm doin' that live in L.A. from Oakland, so I have that network. There's people from Howard, my alma mater that live out there, so I have that network. Then people I kinda knew growin' up in L.A. in the summers and for holidays with my pops, so I have people from there. Just merging all of those networks and they overlap each other, so there's synergy in that. I'm able to build all of those communities, all of those different networks into one community. That's really what it's all about for me - building community wherever I'm at. Los Angeles, 100% allows me to do that. It looks like you're trying to expand "The Black Neighborhood" to other cities too. BRYCE: That's the plan, at this point it's wherever our founding members are at. A couple of us live in The Bay Area, Los Angeles and a couple other members live in New York. It's all about trying to build a community for our people whatever city we're livin' in. I'm really tryin' to man that more and it's a little challenging, because I went out there with the intentions to just go balls to the wall with the music and I've been doin' that. So sometimes it can be hard to balance both TBN and the music, although they're intertwined in terms of community service. I'm going to do a better job this year. I have people who want to help, it's just a matter of putting everything together. I can't imagine, that's a lot of community work and individual work at the same time. Which, they do go hand in hand, but yeah it really sounds like you carrying on that Oakland tradition - really out here For The People, for real. BRYCE: For me, you can't have one without the other. I can't serve my community without the music, and I obviously can't do the music without doin' the community work. I look at it like it's what I was put on the Earth to do. Coming back and forth from Oakland to L.A. is definitely tiresome, but shit, it's what I asked for. I love it, honestly. It's been a blessing for me. Whatchu lookin' forward to in the new year? Whatchu got planned? BRYCE: For the first couple months of the year, it's just continuing to push this body of work, Neighborhood Diamonds project. Getting it in as many peoples’ ears, eyes, faces as possible. This is my first full length project. I'm just doin' all that I can to make sure I have as much content as possible. I'm gearin' up and rampin' up to be able to drop as much visual content, content in general related to the project. From there, I don't know, I have some stuff in the works related to the project, but the great thing about how my life always works creatively, is that I'll have a plan goin' into the year, but things change and I'm able to transition and pivot in real time. I'm lookin' forward to that. I'm always recordin' and workin' on things, but what is also important to me is timing and what feels right. What will happen next creatively, I have a lot of things lined up. Iit's just a matter of what makes the most sense timing wise. Well I appreciate that, because today it doesn't seem like many artists sit with just one project and get the most out of it. I'm excited to see, even just you droppin' those infographics about who was on the album - really elongating the process, again and being thorough to get the most out of it. It's very beneficial, not a lot of people are getting everything they can outta each project they drop. BRYCE: Right, and it's dope to hear you say that. And several people within the span of the last month or so have commended me on my rollout and how I go about marketing. I've always looked at myself as a major artist, you know, whatever that kinda means to you. I always studied the game and seen what they're doin' and do the same shit, honestly, but just add my own flavor or spin on it. Lookin' at these bigger artists, mainstream artists with actual major label budgets, it allows me to kind of be creative- and what that would look like for me?- that's the approach I take with everything. Okay, "what is being done, what can I do differently, and also, how can I expand on those ideas. I know everything that's going on with technology and our attention spans has shortened, and I tried to fight that for the longest, but even for myself I know how it is. It's kinda been my purpose with this project, people may have seen it for the last few months but it's about how I can recreate content, give new info, visuals, audio, whatever related to the project I know it's going to keep circling back. Continue to expand the lifespan of the project. Which could be a challenging thing, because the platforms we use need things to be succinct that it's even hard to expand sometimes. BRYCE: That’s a great point. That’s the challenge, and beauty of it -that’s what I live for. How can I say so much with saying the least amount of things. Saying less than necessary is what I love doing now. When I met you, you were working with MuzicZoo. Ever since then I don’t know what happened, you left/moved what was the transition like from there? So I left MuzicZoo because I was gettin’ into my final year of the Masters at Mills College. I just had to focus on that and working on sections of my memoir. After that I moved down to Atlanta and got tired of seeing all these journalism opportunities for different magazines and Hip Hop platforms, applying to them and not having the portfolio that matched my expertise. So, I went back to pull up my old articles from MuzicZoo and the site wasn’t there anymore. I tried reaching out to him, but I know he’s busy with his real estate business. At that point I was just like, “wow, I just need to create my own portfolio,” so I can apply to these positions that I want to be in, and that’s how I started CROWNTHEM. Down in Atlanta, unemployed as fuck, trying to figure out what to do. Really was just a twitter account. Then I came up here to Memphis and was like, “let me just try and put all this into PDF form, some type of Hip Hop directory.” I had a few people reach out to me after the last issue and ask if I would be interested in CROWNTHEM being it’s own section in a larger magazine but I’m not sure about that, I want it to be mine. I don’t mind building with people who are on my level and on a similar vision. BRYCE: I know what you’re sayin’. That goes back to the whole idea of being independent and psychology behind it. The idea of being able to take something you’ve created and make it a tangible thing that everyone can relate to or everybody can latch onto. That’s the artistic and creative freedom that we’re all striving for, whether we know it or not. So yeah, you been and it’s crazy because when I first saw, I didn’t know it was you until you DM’d me. I didn’t know who I thought it was but I was like, “oh shit, this is someone who is tapped in, because I see postin’ bout someone in Oakland, then I see you postin’ bout someone that I know from Howard and ATL, my boy Pac. [November issue front cover Pacman ADV) Ohhh, that’s how you know him? BRYCE: Yeah, we went to Howard together. Oh okay, that makes sense now. BRYCE: Yeah so when I saw that I was like shit – I feel like whoever it is, is really tapped in to these indie artists, and not the indie artist with major budgets, but indie artists really putting it in from a grassroots perspective. Those are the ones that are going to win, because it’s only a matter of time before we rise to the top. And you already will have the connection/relationship that you built with us on a ground level. I commend you on that, that’s beautiful and everything looks professional… you obviously know what you’re doing. From a pure, objective perspective, it looks great. I appreciate that for real. BRYCE: Shit, I appreciate you. I know we had to have met at least 4 years ago. Bruh, it was like 6, it was 2015 I’m pretty sure. BRYCE: Facts, it was definitely 6. And it’s funny because I’m looking at where I was as an artist 6 years ago, and I feel from that time ‘til now you saw somethin’ then I didn’t probably even see in myself. To see where we both at now, is beautiful. It’s cool as fuck. It’s kinda like full circle, it’s like a lap. BRYCE: It’s been a full lap.

  • CROWNTHEM Newsletter | Vol. 1, Issue 3

    Vol. 1, Issue 3 (December) Playlist

  • CROWNTHEM's Top 20 Albums of 2020

    $ilkmoney - Attack of the Future Shocked, Flesh Covered, Meatbags of the 85 Lorde Fredd33 Folklorde Ron Obasi Sun Tapes T. Carrier - Gumbo God Effect Bino Rideaux - Outside Kamaiyah x Capolow - Oakland Nights Deniro Farrar - Sole Food Duke Deuce - Memphis Massacre 2 Joey Fatts - Still Cutthroat Jameel Naim X - '06 Weezy Brittney Carter - As I Am Nana - Save Yourself Sheff G - Proud of Me Now Chris Crack - White People Love Algorithms Shordie Shordie - >Music Flee Lord - Hand Me My Flowers ANKHLEJOHN - As Above So Below Blacc Zacc - Carolina Narco Larry June - Keep Going Sleepy Hallow - Sleepy For President

  • CROWNTHEM's Top 10 Vet Albums of 2020

    KRS-ONE - Between Da Protests Smoke DZA - A Closed Mouth Don't Get Fed E40 - The Curb Commentator Channel 1 Slim Thug x Killa Kyleon - Down In Texas Blu & Exile - Miles Royce da 5'9 - The Allegory Freddie Gibbs x The Alchemist - Alfredo Ransom x Nicholas Craven - Director's Cut 3 Styles P - Styles David: Ghost Your Enthusiasm Killah Priest - Rocket To Nebula

  • CROWNTHEM's Top 10 Producers of 2020

    Great John fav 2020 prods: One and Only by Sheff G (album) Ohbliv fav 2020 prods: Sages by Henny L.O. Drew Banga fav 2020 prods: Quarantine EP by SU'lan Pete fav 2020 prods: At Heaven's Gate by Jimmy Golden Jansport J fav 2020 prods: Soulfidelity Tip12lve fav 2020 prods: >Music by Shordie Shordie Cookin Soul fav 2020 prods: Caribbean Bites Hit-Boy fav 2020 prods: Also Known As by Dom Kennedy 38 Spesh fav 2020 prods: Trust Army II Knxwledge fav 2020 prods: 1988

  • CROWNTHEM Newsletter | Vol. 1, Issue 2



    BLESSED NOT LUCKY is an album that unapologetically reps East Atlanta. Buddha’s storytelling abilities use various similes and pop culture references in order to convey his narrative. Throughout the album Buddha references several Hip Hop veterans and/or legends in his lyrics. He is also very apt at mentioning historical sports moments and figures in accordance to thoughts, feelings or the innerG of Buddha’s life. I was initially drawn to the album because of the cover art. The imagine above shows: Buddha smoking, wearing a Michael Vick jersey standing in front of the Big Boi portion of the Outkast mural in L5P. Hella Atlanta. The album begins with production by Rudeboii — slight sirens, a deep bass and Buddha in the background loosely singing the hook until the beat builds up and he comes on the track commanding: “I’m on Runtz and D’usse, D’usse and Runtz/tell me what you say you want/ this ain’t no game, Jayceon/ I want that blunt and the bong/ passed a backwoods to my momma/ I’m getting high like Obama/ I don’t gotta hide like Osama/ my shit a new groove like dat llama” Initially, I felt it was too simple and was like, “wow another one of these youngins rappin’ about runtz and D’usse.” Hype…but as I listened to the project a few more times through I found myself singing the hook and looking deeper into the lyrics and found multiple meanings within the lyrics I initially found simple. The Obama aspect of the line has 3 meanings I was able to identify: “getting high like Obama” — a simile referring to the infamous picture of Obama smoking weed, “getting high like Obama” — rising in social rank and importance to a particular community, and “getting high like Obama” — could be a direct correlation to smoking on Obama Runtz. It also feels as though the alternating line, “I ain’t gotta hide like Osama” could refer to opps but seems connected to Buddha smoking with his momma; that the woman that gave birth to him knows the ins and outs of what he’s pursuing. There’s a certain pride one can carry themselves with knowing that one or both of their parents are somewhat fucking with the aspirations, dreams and means to get there. Familial support is important even if it’s represented as smoking a blunt with mom. The last section, “my shit the new groove like dat llama” — love this simply because The Emperor’s New Groove is a Top 10 movie from childhood but also because BLESSED NOT LUCKY does have a different groove to it. The second track, “Vibe Check” is upheld with a smooth and clean production by Banbwoi. In the song Buddha questions various situations and people tryna understand where their innerG at, “vibe check; where the fuck are the vibes at? After a vibe check you’ll find Buddha using similes to express and harness his own vibe with likeness to the determination of Tom Brady and ruthlessness of Tom Chambers in his line, “Do whatever to win, like Tom Brady/ Put my foot on they neck like Tom Chambers” After “Vibe Check,” BirdieBands brings us into a more playful and fun production with “Slip N Slide.” This is one of my numerous favorite tracks on the album because Buddha was able to catch a balance of declaration and celebration. “I saved the day and I paved a way/ I made a play but I can’t fade away” In this line Buddha is taking credit for the path he is forging — a slight flex of personal capabilities and taking his dreams into his own hands (despite the path others may have wanted him to take.) This was a track that I could hear features from other Atlanta artists like KEY! or Young Nudy (although the track is great the way it is.) BLESSED NOT LUCKY then slows down a little in the next song, “I Know a Girl” where Dylan Furai creates a smoother and daintier production that still has a consistent hitting bass. In this song Buddha speaks on the balance innerG he receives from women in his life. For every woman that loves and supports Buddha there’s a woman or two who may be waiting on his downfall. The following song, “Check In My Name” has such a beautiful production by Crackgod that rides the line between R&B and Hip Hop/Rap. Definitely a production that you cruise to late at night looking at city lights. The song features Cluu (also from East Atlanta) and DAVESTATEOFMIND (who laces the track with gorgeous vocals.) I LOVE this song purely off of the vibe and the texture both of the features add to the song. After a more sentimental song Buddha gets back to drawing a line in the sand between him and whoever believes they’re in his league with, “We Don’t Relate.” And if I’m being honest there’s not more I can say about this song besides Buddha’s lyrics: “we ain’t run the same race/ we ain’t playin the same game/ we don’t wear the same thing/ we don’t think the same way — we don’t relate… goat shit call me LEBRON BRADY” Yeah, bars and confidence. Besides that great production by Miles650. We get back to another dope production by Dylan Furai (Dylan Furai hoe) on “POP.” I didn’t like this song too much (not because of content or sound but just how the song/content was laid out.) But what I do appreciate about the song is all the geographical references such as: Marta, Smyrna and Turner (which I probably wouldn’t have not recognized if I didn’t live in Atlanta for a couple years.) Then we get to the track, “Dr. Dolittle” with production by Danny1of1 that sounds like a combination between drill and trap (which are kind of cousins.) The song features Jourden who just magnifies the track to the 1000th degree. Her entire verse has so many dope punch lines and references along with a laid back confident delivery. My favorite line is below but y’all just gotta really tap in with the project and hear this song and verse for yourself. “I’m bumpin’ that Wu/ this how a Ghost talk” Again, I just appreciate how many Hip Hop legends made it into conversation in this album in entirety. The next two songs, “Stuck!” and “Misunderstood” are great tracks with production by OVRCZ and Devin Leavell. My only comment about these two tracks is that they are the two shortest tracks on the album and are lined up back to back. I’m not too fond of that layout. I do wish they were separated or even made into one song like how they did in the early 2000’s (having 2 different songs be one.) Although, I do understand that that’s just how things work out sometime maybe the sounded best by each other when creating BLESSED NOT LUCKY. Dylan Furai may be one of my new favorite producers. Just off this album he’s already produced 3 of my favorites and the next song, “Gresham Road” is one of them as well. I always love when artists genuinely represent where they are from and don’t shy away from the realties of where they come from. “I got a backend I ain’t tryna reverse it/ I am who I is/ I ain’t gotta rehearse” On “Gresham Road” Buddha tells us a little more about what it means to be from Zone 6, East Atlanta. He also makes a reference to Sean Carter and aspirations to be on that level one day. After Buddha’s verse we get to the chorus that is signified by the bass picking up, dropping a little harder and Buddha coming more dominately, “Say he got smoke on Gresham but nigga I post on Gresham/ I blow zaza, no regular and I’m smoking some pressure.” This song reminded me of Zone 6 (Remix) by Young Nudy — not in the sense that Buddha was copying or that the songs sound similar (because they don’t,) but both artists in both songs are representing and celebrating where they are from at the same time. “GO BIG” produced by Diitii was one of my least memorable tracks but when I asked my girl (who is from Atlanta) to spin the album this was one of her favorite songs so I paid it more attention. The chorus stood out to me the most, “Shawty want tits, I’m with it/ shawty want ass, I dig it/ shawty want lips, I get it/ shawty want dick, she get it” This was dope. Buddha ain’t policing his woman and the way she wants to present or enhance her body. There seems to be a double meaning here; that his girl(s) want all these aesthetic/body type enhancements and Buddha acknowledges it because he got it (or will in near future) to provide her with the resources/money to get it done. It also sounds like he’s simply just supporting and acknowledging what his girl(s) wants/envisions/how she wants to claim her body — there’s a pattern of Buddha supporting his girl and friends in this song… he states what his girl or friends want or talking bout then he follows up the rhyme/bar/line by giving his response to it (in support of.) The final track , “Defrost (outro)” is a genuine outro track. Wakai’s production slows down and makes it feel like a wind down/end of album/but we’ll be back. This was the song that had me spinning the album over and over and it was specifically for this line: “They ain’t just killin these sons they killin these daughters/ I know we lambs of God — is that why we slaughtered?” Not very often do rappers talk about that reality for women too and this was my first time feeling like an artist genuinely cared about us in that way. Shoutout Buddha for thinking about us women beyond attraction or family. Besides this line I really fucked with the chorus too, “Back and forth road trips, Atlanta — B.R./ I bring my strap for protection not tryna be hard/ I do this shit cuz I’m chosen it don’t be hard/ they say once your heart frozen it won’t defrost.” There’s a theme here of our reality as Black people and what’s threatening our lives but also how we can protect ourselves (the best we can.) BLESSED NOT LUCKY is an impressive debut album from Atlanta artist Buddha. He has impeccable beat selection and is able to tie in many references and similes that tells us about him, the world he’s living in and where he is going. If you enjoy hearing what’s bubbling in the undercurrents of Hip Hop in the South (specifically Atlanta) this is a great one to tap into! Available on all streaming sites:

  • Jimmy Golden - At Heaven's Gates

    “Is this what Heaven like? I feel like I’m living in Paradise,” Jimmy Golden sings in his opening track, “Paradise!” off his new album, At Heaven’s Gates solely produced by Acr0bat. The hook creates a dichotomy in a time period where we find ourselves weighed down by the current factors facing humanity and the world — in different countries, various cities and towns, and in an array of languages. Knowing, seeing, hearing, feeling our reality right now I wondered: what is it Jimmy Golden is experiencing that has him expressing innerG of a heightened state? As I moved through the album several times over it became apparent that the “Heaven” and “Paradise” Jimmy captured in that song is stemming from actively staying in the present (a very difficult task when everything around you is constantly moving and changing.) The second track, “I Can’t Decide!” represents being present with a bit of indecisiveness. Acr0bat, of course, laces the track but this time with a more playful trap/pop influence that gives the song an ambitious innerG. The transitions throughout the song were very enjoyable — Jimmy is able to switch between rapping and falling into melody quite effortlessly. The song also represents an urge to MOVE, see, feel… like a yougin’ is really just tryna live. Truthfully, Jimmy Golden has provided the best line to sum up how many of us feel, “I don’t even know what day it is / Quarantine got a nigga bent / bitch, I’m lit I’m tipsy — you know I get jiggy, yeah.” We get to the third track on the album, “Baby Tesla?” which sounds exactly how the album cover looks — shooting for something, reaching for stars, immense symbolism that can be decoded in time. Around the one minute mark Acr0bat switches up the beat to a smoother sound that feels as though you’re on a space cruise navigated by Acr0bat and Jimmy Golden. One of my favorite lines, “I’mma stay with it no matter how sad I get — bitch I am the best I am far from the average.” This line is an affirmation — a moment where Jimmy exhibits belief and faith in self through his acknowledgement/awareness of feelings or thoughts. There’s a knowing that his pain or sadness is inevitable but so is growth, love, light and happiness. Then, At Heaven’s Gate pivots a little in the track “4 the Old Heads.” This was one of my favorite songs because Jimmy shows his rapping versatility using a reggae/dancehall influenced flow with how he breaks flow patterns to rap from the back of his throat. With the different flow it makes it easy for the listener to hear his rawness and confidence using a more slightly aggressive flow. A notable line from the song that exemplifies Jimmy’s intricate rhymes, “And don’t you fuck with a vet/ runnin your stairs like Artest / they barely playin Harden defense ain’t no way I get checked / or get a foul, foul out, then I’ll plow the ref, get me a tech, flight the desk, get the team jumpin…” Then again, Jimmy and Acr0bat switch the sound and flow up a bit more on, “We Are Golden!/Wrestle With Jah!” where Acr0bat gives us production that feels/sounds like galaxies speaking in a grungy basement. Additionally, Jimmy comes rapping at a higher velocity and punk appeal that you can feel reverberate through his throat chakra. The second half of the song, “Wrestle With Jah” holds strong symbolism of God/Jah/Allah and an internal battle of what can be perceived as good vs. evil. “They gonna say that I’m lucky but I’ve worked so hard/ I just be talking to God, He is never too far/ I give to Allah, He talkin to me — I just be talking in all of my dreams/ Allah told me to go shoot at you geeks — wait that was a demon/ talkin to me for no reason/ I need a date with the deacon/ really been looking for Jesus — please tell me why I can’t see him” I found this part of the song interesting because “Wrestle With Jah” feels like a direct reference to Jacob wrestling with God: “And Jacob was left alone, and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of day” (Gen 32:24.) For some of us who aren’t too familiar with the Bible — Jacob wrestles with God (mentally but feels physical) at Jabbok. It’s a place that is lonely and must be faced alone; a private war between you and God/Allah/Jah/The Creator. Ironically, physically, Jabbok is a tributary of the infamous Jordan River. In Hebrew it means, “to empty itself” and is known as a place of total surrender. The theme of Jacob at Jabbok mirrors Jimmy Golden in our current world and possibly even where he’s from, Tampa, Florida. Regardless, the theme is constant throughout At Heaven’s Gate — Jimmy searching for God/Jah/Allah and wrestling with his own existence and the factors that may threaten it but still proceeds to come out on top. Below you can watch Jimmy Golden’s performance for “We Are Golden!/Wrestle With Jah!” on ByteTV for one of their #Crispy Sessions. His innerG is off the charts! “I Vaguely Remember” is my favorite track from At Heaven’s Gates. I love it because Acr0bat and Jimmy’s chemistry is undeniable and really dope — they compliment each other’s style and versatility well. It was nice to hear Acr0bat vocally on a track juxtaposed with the texture of Jimmy’s voice/tone. This track has a real laid back, almost “West Coast” vibe to it with unique vocals. Also, this is a song where Jimmy touches on the reality of being Black in the United States. Subsequently, Acr0bat provides beautiful production on the song “Witch Prollems” featuring Cosmella Sol. This song was my least favorite song but also is the song that peaked my curiosity about Jacob at Jabbok; “I think this is the battle that Jacob had dreamed at Jabbok.” In this song it felt as though Jimmy is battling in a different conflict than what was expressed in previous songs. This feels like a conflict more intimately connected to lust and how it’s hard to identify lust as a conflict when it provides so much pleasure. Lastly, “GO!” serves as an outro, summary of topics (in a sense,) and intermission until Jimmy Golden goes on his next mission and shares it with us. He adds one a couple more affirmations to the track, but I’m partial to to the positivity, “I gotta glow I don’t care how dark it get.” Overall, At Heaven’s Gates is full of symbolism ranging from God/Jah/Allah to sports and our current state as humanity. The album is a testament to Jimmy Golden’s obstacles and triumphs — a telling of affirming where one is going despite the pain, hurt and confusion. Most importantly, At Heaven’s Gate reinforces the importance of having fun and finding enjoyment in the moment you’re in. I look forward to more work from Jimmy Golden and Acr0bat (both separately and collectively.) If there’s anything more I could ask for it would be to have more music videos to experience Jimmy’s visual storytelling alongside his vocals. Be sure to give the album a spin! Spotify: Apple Music:

  • Malcolm Eppz - RNR, Vol. 1

    The artwork for RNR, Vol. 1 by Malcolm Eppz has hues of pink, purple, blue and you see Eppz on the cover with a city scape below — while this cover is beautiful, artistic and shows us that there is something to know about this artist (what city is below, why did he choose those colors? are the colors indicative of the content?) When you hit play on the album it does not give you pink skies or colorful tones but a story of grit before luxury; a telling of getting it out the mud. Cleveland native Malcolm Eppz that now currently resides in Hawaii created an album of raw testimony without an obsession of self but celebration of the oppositions and obstacles along his journey. In RNR, Vol. 1, Eppz uses subtle self-references that also highlight where he has been and heading towards. Throughout the album you’ll find soulful production with some dusty loops that sounds like a contemporary boom bap sound. Within the first few songs, “Beijing Reyjene” and “Good Lord,” we learn intricacies about Eppz hustle and what he did to set himself up for success and away from a rougher environment of Hough Heights. In “Beijing Reyjene” Eppz notes, “in the military, 20-somethin, I tell you I was on a mission, buzzin / I wasn’t goin to be a statistic” This line infers that at a young age Eppz came to terms of his reality as a black man in the United States and wanted to avoid that statistic that is known and apparent everywhere. The second track, “Good Lord,” opens production by Sheed The Buddah and Eppz lacing the track telling us about his rise from Hough Heights in ’89. Eppz has great storytelling ability that often leaves the story up for interpretation on whether it is a personal lived experience or another’s experience that he noticed — or maybe it’s both. “Eppset Bomb,” is the third track on RNR, Vol. 1, with production by SAV that brings this aspect to the forefront, “I rather play chess with frenemies than be some ordinary nigga pickin through bud stems simpin’ over underwhelming women” While we can wonder if Eppz is talking directly to his life or not it does allow us to understand how one can take control of their destiny even in the presence of fear or uncertainty (playing chess with frenemies.) Either way the lines serve as a statement to get out and go get it regardless of the opps/obs (opposition and obstacles.) Additionally, the line infers that it is often easy to sit in despair or lack of ambition out of fear, but you must proceed anyways. As we fade out of that track a more political statement is made on “Panoptican.” On the first listen of RNR, Vol. 1 this track caught my attention because of the politics embedded within and my own knowledge and weariness towards the concept/theory of the panoptican. I was instantly interested if Eppz would expand on how the concept/theory is used in prisons, our communities, schools, virtually/digitally and essentially everywhere. In the track Eppz raps, “eat your turkey burger — play with your watches, the panoptican / watching us through binoculars / it’s more than cops tryna stop ya, the panoptican / surrounded by opps with no other options” This was a pivotal moment in the listening of RNR, Vol. 1 because the line represented that Eppz is far more than a wordsmith but a wordsmith with content that many rappers are not necessarily engaging in. There’s a lot of dialogue about what the cops are doing to us as “black” people (it’s more than cops tryna stop ya) but hasn’t quite expanded yet to other ideologies that allow for continual state violence of civilians but specifically “black” civilians. Additionally, when actually listening to “Panoptican” there is certain tone that Eppz holds that signals that “We The People” can also use the knowledge and awareness of the panoptican to our advantage. After a track that advises you to look beyond the politics and realities in our face the album transitions into a real player-esqe production with a smooth hook, “we want the chips and the paper.” Another strong suit of Eppz is his use of double entendre. As you vibe out and want to take a cruise with the track “Chips & Paper” playing, Eppz shows us his skill in the very memorable line, “I rather ride the Cadillac / wave out the top like JFK / I just want the paper — give me the masters, fuck bein’ a slave” This line serves as a social commentary towards record labels in relation or comparison to similar ownership portrayed in slavery (master/slave.) The line also is a self-declaration or vow of independence to keep/own one’s masters to not become a slave to someone else’s ownership. Also, throughout the album you will hear Eppz call himself “Malcolm Eppz” and some references to Detroit Red which then alludes to a double entendre on his name. Is he calling in the ancestral spirit of “Malcolm X,” is he calling on himself, “Malcolm Eppz,” or is a combination of both? Does his elevation of self resemble the transformation of Detroit Red to Malcolm X to Malik el-Shabazz? “The POP” has a very gritty, underground/basement type feel and production. This was a track where I wished the vocals were brought forward a little more but was still a great song regardless. A notable line, “masculine, fashion-forward, Gucci slippers with the ankles out” I enjoy this line because it expressed that Eppz isn’t afraid to be him despite opinions. It represented that he is comfortable in his masculinity and it can look like whatever he wants it to — don’t take his fashion-forward appearance for more than what it is. A declaration of “being fashionable does not make me any less masculine.” Next on the album was “Popular Slut Club” which has a beautiful sample that contributes to the flawless production by Racks Nicholson. This is the only track that I can say was not my favorite but nonetheless was still interesting and valuable towards understanding aspects of Eppz. What was initially interesting to me was how the title is somewhat vulgar, but the actual contents of the song are not very vulgar at all. The most vulgar part is the line, “she put the pussy on my mustache / now I’m in a trance,” which is modest considering countless other vulgar Hip Hop lyrics. A very memorable line because often sexual lyrics point to the woman doing something to please the man (not saying that eating pussy is not,) but the lyrics often denote submission instead of assertiveness of what may please her instead. I expected the song to be vulgar or a pussy-popin’ anthem but it’s more of a recalling of a one-night stand while out with the crew (you hear their voices and laughter come in and out of the track.) On “The Glow” Eppz shows us more of his entrepreneurial free spirit that points at his evolution. “I burn one, I used to move them by the pound now I smoke them by the O.Z.” Additionally, he has other lines that speak to finding independence when it comes to the weed or in general to be more mindful of certain products you use, “all the new flavors I don’t trust ’em / only like the calm shiht / if you grow your shiht that’s boss shiht.” Another moment of political commentary that points to holistic health. The commercialization of weed and how processed and detrimental it can be — an advisory to grow your own if possible, you never know what could be done to the flower you ‘bout to smoke. On “Dunder Butter,” Eppz is very reflective of where he came from but also tells us how he is presently moving into his future created by his ambition and hustle. “this that dunder butter / we break shiht down / move racks to pounds / we losin count.” As we move into the last two tracks of RNR, Vol.1, “Volumes” has gorgeous production and the song serves as a thematic wrap up of the album. But, again, Eppz does it in a manner that doesn’t come off redundant. He makes a couple references in the hook, “stay tuned for the next volumes” and surely, I’ll be looking forward to the next releases of this series. The final track on RNR, Vol. 1 is “Late Night Cruise” where the production puts you in the mind state of cruising beach side through a city at sunset. The chorus of the track, “late night cruising/ we all under stars, palm trees and bomb weed, speedin,” enhances the mind state with your crew and celebrating wins but figuring out how to level up again. I found RNR, Vol. 1 to be a cohesive project that was sequenced very well to tell a story through several stories and experiences. I appreciated the space in his story and how he doesn’t give us the same stories or part of him repeatedly. Instead, he offers controlled doses of his story — every track there is story of where he comes from and what he’s doing it for. Eppz has a strong voice and confident delivery that has you wanting to catch every line. It’s very obvious Eppz is an authentic artist who delivers a rawness that is only present when it’s brought out the mud or through gritty circumstances with soul still intact. I look forward to see/hear what Malcolm Eppz delivers next and how he levels up and makes his next moves. Spotify: Apple: YouTube: 11 songs, 31 minutes

  • Trilly! - Awaken from Reincarnation

    Young yet mighty was my impression of Trilly!'s latest EP, Awaken from Reincarnation. Hailing from Smyrna (right outside of Atlanta,) the 18 year old is nothing short of a poet. Many of his interludes, songs and verses reflect the pain of his youth - from loss of friends, suicide, lack of familial support for his dreams and the forging of his own path of success. Trilly! defines success for him as, "waking up everyday being able to do what I wanna do and change other people's lives." Awake from Reincarnation is a very cohesive project without one skip. Trilly! is on his way of being a master at telling his story, thoughts, dreams, feelings and ambitions. A couple of my favorite tracks were, "Don't State" and "Doubt It." Both tracks highlight pain and trying to find footing/grounding in different ways and somewhat along similar topics. "Don't Stare" serves as Trilly!'s critique of the supposed leadership figures for the youth. He points to different ironies in lyrics like, "parents wanna lie to me, teachers keep on doubting me, counselor think he counselin, thinkin gas as loud as me, pastor know everything like he born in B.C., everyone think I'm ignorant because I was born in the century, be little me…" It reminded me of Tupac's song "Ghetto Gospel," where he states, "we've left them a world that's cursed and it hurts." Trilly's lyrics represent the symptoms of the cursed world that has been left for the youth to deal with and part of the curse is not respecting and valuing the youth goals and dreams. The track "Doubt It," points to the lack of familial supports with lyrics like, "fam fucks me over the most, trust NOBODY." Simultaneously, Trilly! provides lyrics of, "I'm just tryna get my mom right." These almost opposing lyrics made me reminisce on the similar relationship I had with my mother in my youth and still currently but also how the youth often have to put on for their parents. It's ironic because because the youth do this through their creative means that their families do not often support. Even when the parents or family aren't being supportive there's always an inkling of, "getting your moms right" - that's a lot of weight and worry to carry but is very much a reality for a majority of our youth. Another interesting aspect of Awaken from Reincarnation is, "Wise Words from Lisa" and "More Wise Words from Lisa," where this Lisa character's voice and support is woven in thru the intro and interlude. Her voice and support represent the opposite of what Trilly! shows us/tells us within his other tracks. Although Trilly! seems to be yearning for his mother's support of his dreams, Lisa seems to be that figure delivering that support and love. I'm excited for what Trilly! does and how he continues to enhance and elevate with his craft. He is a definite underground Atlanta gem moving in the undercurrents similar to his predecessors like JID and Grip. Tap in! Spotify: Apple: SoundCloud: YouTube:

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