You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Opinion/Feature’ category.

mac miller singing

 

Say what you want about Mac Miller, but his boldness deserves props. Mac released a new track (and music video) today, and although he’s done it before, but it was still a surprise to see Mac singing. Don’t go back, you read that correctly. The jazzy track, titled “Objects in the Mirror” was produced by Pharrell and includes live instrumentation from The Internet. I’m not pushing Mac up on a hill with the Frank Sinatras, Dean Martins, Marvin Gayes and so-on, but I appreciated the new vibe from Miller. His voice isn’t cut out for singing at all, but I still enjoyed the song; strange paradox. I’ve always found respect for Mac Miller even when I’m not completely sold on his music.

 

 

“Objects in the Mirror” is one of the cuts off Mac’s upcoming album “Watching Movies with the Sound Off” which is set to drop on the highly anticipated 18th of June. Even with Quasimoto, J. Cole and Kanye also releasing albums on that same day, I have saved enough energy to also be excited about Mac’s project. Action Bronson, Tyler the Creator, Ab-Soul, and Schoolboy Q are all featured on the album. It should be interesting. Stay tuned in to 92tilinfinity because hip-hop has a busy month coming up.

@codymarcroft

 

 

Advertisements

I’m not the biggest Mac Miller fan. Lately, I haven’t been into his music at all. I liked his KIDS and Best Day Ever mixtapes simply because they were fun, positive, enthusiastic – and as a teenager in high school, I could relate to a lot of it. As I’ve grown out of high school, and since Mac Miller has progressed in his career, I’ve lost touch with his music. I respect his hustle, his persistence with rap, and his knowledge of hip-hop, but I don’t get excited about his music like I used to. I like that he’s experimented with music – along with rapping he’s been producing, and has put out a jazz EP under the pseudonym Larry Lovestein. He’s bold, and I respect that. But in terms of rapping, he’s nothing more than mediocre.

With that said, yesterday he dropped the music video for a track he made with the production of Flying Lotus. YES. Finally something I really enjoy from Mac Miller lately. The video is strange, weird, creative, humorous, sarcastic. There’s always something you can appreciate in an artist. I’m exercising that thought. Mac Miller will always annoy me in some way, but I do respect him.

 

“Why do bad things happen to good people? Seems that life is just a constant war between good and evil.”

 

That was most likely the sentiment of all those involved with hip-hop when MC Keith Elam – the very person who spoke those words – passed away. Elam, known in the hip-hop world as Guru, died on this day – April 19th – three years ago.

His name was an acronym, which stood for “Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal” – and he had plenty of rhymes, indeed.

A Roxbury, Massachusetts native, Guru’s career took off with his founding of Gang Starr in 1985. Gang Starr began in Boston as a hip-hop group consisting of various rappers and producers. However, the it released a handful of records that failed to receive much attention. The group inevitably split in 1989, leaving Guru as the only member willing to pick up the pieces. He found the perfect fit in Houston, Texas native Christopher Martin – better known as DJ Premier [I’ll refer to him as Premo] – who would soon become one of the best hip-hop producers of all time.

Along with Gang Starr, Guru did some solo work – most notably his experimental fusion of live jazz music and rap in a series of albums titled Guru’s Jazzmatazz. From 1993 to 2007, Guru released four volumes. He worked with jazz musicians such as Donald Byrd, Herbie Hancock, Branford Marsalis, Lonnie Liston Smith, Roy Ayers, among others.

He also scored guest appearances from Slum Village, Pharrell, Erykah Badu, Big Shug, Common, Macy Gray, The Roots, Bilal, and others.

In Vol. 1 (1993), Guru speaks about the project:

“Peace yo, and welcome to Jazzmatazz –an experimental fusion of hip-hop and live jazz. I’m your host the Guru. That stands for “Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal.” Now I’ve always thought of doing something like this, but I didn’t want to do it unless unless it was going to be done right, know what I’m saying? Because hip-hop, rap music, it’s real. It’s musical, cultural expression based on reality; and at the same time, jazz is real and based on reality.”

Here’s a cut off Vol. 3 (2000), featuring Erykah Badu.

 

 

But with the addition of Premo in 1989, Gang Starr would become most critical to Guru’s legacy. With himself as the rapper and Premo as DJ and producer, Gang Starr grew to be loved by underground hip-hop fans everywhere. The newly organized duo pumped out its debut album in 1989 with the release of No More Mr. Nice Guy. The album displayed the jazzy samples and eye-crossing scratches of Premo, while showcasing Guru’s talents as an uplifting, positive rapper who could also pack a punch full of attitude with braggadocious bars. No More Mr. Nice Guy set the tone for what would be fourteen years of classic, underground hip-hop.

 

 

 

Gang Starr went on to create five more studio albums from 1991 to 2003. The duo drew massive attention from the hip-hop community and helped construct the reputation of East Coast rap. Guru’s self-described smooth, but rugged monotone delivery captivated listeners around the world. I considered the 1998 album Moment of Truth to be the most popular Gang Starr record (and my personal favorite – so yes, there is some bias). The title track, along with “You Know My Steez”, “Above the Clouds”, and “Next Time” are among the most recognizable cuts from Gang Starr.

 

 

I remember when my brother brought home Dave Mirra’s Pro BMX 2 for our Playstation2. That was the first time I heard Gang Starr, and it was this song. Even at the clueless age of eight years old, I was still impacted by “Moment of Truth”. The words caught on, and I began rapping Gang Starr lyrics around the house (of course without the swears because the game censored them). It was really my first taste of 90s rap. In hindsight, I owe a lot to the late 90s and early 2000s video games for introducing me to rap. Games like Dave Mirra, Tony Hawk Pro Skater, and NBA Live introduced me to Tribe, Gang Starr, Rage Against the Machine, Naughty By Nature, and Public Enemy.

It was a time when I was too young to find that music on my own, and of course my parents wouldn’t buy albums for me because of the stigma about rap. But beyond the profanity, “Moment of Truth” is a positives song, and while I lacked specific understanding of Guru’s lyrics, I caught the gist of being honest, reflective, and humble.

 

“Actions have reactions, don’t be quick to judge/

You may not know the hardships people don’t speak of/

It’s best to step back, and observe with couth/

For we all must meet our moment of truth.”

“No one is untouchable, no man is bulletproof /

We all must meet our moment of truth.”

 

Legendary words.

 

 

One of Guru’s best brag raps, “You Know My Steez.”

 

 

Above the clouds features a Premo beat with enough bump to make your heart leap out of your chest. Your head will bob itself. Guru’s voice was perfect for Premier’s raw, rugged, New York style beats. His lyrics in this track are some of his best, in my opinion – playing on godly figures and outer space references. It was a complete package for Guru, too, speaking with captivating flow and commanding delivery:

 

“I Self Lord And Master, shall bring disaster to evil factors/

Demonic chapters, shall be captured by Kings/

Through the storms of days after/

Unto the Earth from the Sun through triple darkness to blast ya/

With a force that can’t be compared/

To any firepower, for its mind power shared/

The brainwave causes vessels to circulate/

Like constellations reflect at night off the lake/

Word to the father, and Mother Earth/

Seeking everlasting life through this Hell for what it’s worth/

Look, listen and observe/

And watch another Cee Cypher pullin’ my peeps to the curb/

Heed the words; it’s like ghetto style proverbs/

The righteous pay a sacrifice to get what they deserve/

Cannot afford to be confined to a cell/

Brainwaves swell, turnin’ a desert to a well/

Experience the best teacher; thoughts will spray/

Like street sweepers Little Daddy street preacher/

Illustrious feature, narrator you select/

Accompanied by Deck plus the DJ you respect.”

 

Gang Starr suffered a fallout after its last album, The Owners, in 2003. I felt it was noteworthy, but unnecessary to the point of this piece. Today I wanted to celebrate the legacy of the late, great Guru for everything he contributed to hip-hop, all the inspiration he provided for me as I grew up and cultivated my love for hip-hop. Three years ago he sadly passed away, but his memory lives on through the musical trail he left with his distinctive voice and sharp rhymes.

Rest In Peace Keith Elam, Aka Guru, we’re all still listening.

ripguru

 

Some more Gang Starr classics…

 

 

ray j

Ray J’s desperate attempt to have the spotlight back on him comes in the form of a pathetic rap (if you can call it that) aimed at Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s relationship. Now I don’t intend to turn this into a gossip blog – and I won’t. But I had to speak on this.

I picture Ray J being the chump at the bar with little man syndrome seeking a fight, and finding the opportunity when another customer (Kanye) just happens to knock over a beer as he stood up from his barstool on his way out the door. It just happened to be Ray J’s drink so he approaches Kanye and starts mouthing off. Kanye laughs, shrugs, and exits the bar.

Anti-climatic, right? That’s my point.

Ray J will get a few days-worth and a handful of youtube views out of his latest shenanigans. Then it will be back to being a fame drop-out. Temporary gratification is all this amounts to.

And he got the spotlight alright – but not the one he was looking for. What he got was Kanye flashing a spotlight out beyond the walls of his kingdom looking for intruders. Ray J is the intruder. An intruder, but not really a threat.

Here’s a piece of free advice, Ray J: stay away from microphones – or any piece of equipment that will broadcast your unnecessary and sordid messages. Can’t believe I took time to write about this, let alone pay any attention to it.

Anyways, check it out for yourself:

 cudikanye

Kid CuDi announced through the airwaves of L.A.’s Power 106 radio that he’s decided to move on from Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music label.

I have mixed feelings about this decision.

On one hand, I don’t think anybody would deny that CuDi has fallen off the radar. He has taken a backseat to artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Meek Mill, Mac Miller, Joey Bada$$, Tyler/Earl, Action Bronson, Macklemore and others who have recently come up and made a splash in the hip hop (and for some, mainstream) community. Somewhere along the line, CuDi slipped on the Crisco-greased fame slope.

Since the ‘Man on the Moon’ package, CuDi worked with friend and producer Dot da genius on a rock-rap album titled ‘WZRD’. The album peaked at #3 on the U.S. Billboard 200, and #1 on U.S. rock and alternative billboards; but that is deceiving. Those peaks were most likely due to the hype surrounding CuDi after the success of Man on the Moon I & II, along with his successful 2008 debut mixtape A Kid Named CuDi.

After the release and initial wave of excitement that resulted in 66,000 first-week sales [Source 1], WZRD dropped from #3 to #34 on the U.S. Billboard 200 [Source 2]. Furthermore, with three and two star ratings from Allmusic and Rolling Stone respectively – it’s safe to say that the project wasn’t a success critically, nor in among the public.

It’s clear that something needed to change for the 29-year-old rapper. It seems like CuDi agrees with that, given the no-hard-feelings departure from Kanye’s label. He had to make a move, and he did – I applaud him for that.

He told Power 106, “We [him and Kanye] were talking on the phone the other day, and these are things I’ve been wanting to talk to him about – about me starting my own direction. And he got it, because he’s trying to start his new path –try new things as an artist. And he was just like, ‘man, I feel you. It’s cool, whatever.’”

But was it the right move? I’m nervous for CuDi. He’s undoubtedly talented. But he’s leaving, arguably, one of the best producers in hip-hop. In fact, WZRD, CuDi’s only disappointing record is the only one that wasn’t released under G.O.O.D. Music. Man on the Moon I – CuDi’s most successful album – was executively produced by Kanye.

To be fair, CuDi made quite the impression on West after appearing on “Already Home” off The Blueprint 3. West brought in CuDi to help write his popular 808s & Heartbreak. CuDi co-wrote “Heartless,” “Welcome to Heartbreak,” “RoboCop,” and “Paranoid” [Source 3].It’s clear that Kanye was inspired by CuDi – so the partnership went both ways. They helped each other – But that’s just it!

Can CuDi be successful on his own? That’s the burning question. After WZRD, I have my doubts.

Man on the Moon was a success because it related to adolescence – the lost, trying-to-find-his-way tone; along with smoking weed resonated with his crowd. Of course, it is much deeper than my brief description, but what I’m getting at is that CuDi could level with his listeners. But at 29-years-old, how is CuDi going to relate to his audience at this point in his career? I’m not saying he is fresh out of ideas and concepts, but I don’t know how he is going to surpass or meet the expectation that Man on the Moon will always be his shadow on the sidewalk. And now, he’s going to have to do it without the help of Kanye.

Indicud drops on April 23rd. It’s the last album under G.O.O.D. Music. This one is make or break, but even if successful, I’m afraid I’m more pessimistic this time around with the Cudder.

 Mixtape: A Kid Named Cudi (2008)

 Album: Man on the Moon I (2009)

 Album: Man on the Moon II (2010)

 Album: WZRD (2012)