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Sixteen years ago on this day, the Wu-Tang Clan dropped it’s second album as a group, following the legendary “36 Chambers” LP. Forget a mixtape this week. I’ve put aside my usual assortment and dedicated this one to tracks only off Wu-Tang Forever. Here are my favorites.                     @codymarcroft

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

 

 

Happy Memorial Day from yours truly. Shout out to all the soldiers who have perished while preserving our freedom here in America, and those who currently serve our country.

Lately I’ve been into Action Bronson. Dude is hilarious, personable, and chooses production/producers wisely. Not to mention, he can rap well.

This first one is probably my favorite rap video of the decade, at least. Also, love when Action raps over guitar loops. It seems to fit his voice and his aggressive, in-your-face delivery.

 

 

I love Action’s punch lines. He packs many of them in this 2 minute jam. The Sandusky line might’ve been a case of “too soon,” but what can you do, right? (“Foul living like Sandusky and Paterno”).

 

 

Action must has a weight lifting theme going on. Here’s his latest music video; this one for the single “Strictly 4 My Jeeps” which will appear on Action’s upcoming album, “Saab Stories” (love that album title). Yes, I will be reviewing that album.

 

 

Here’s another track off Action’s Mixtape collaboration with producer The Alchemist. This is another tape my buddy Rug_Lyfe got me into. He’s a big Alchemist fan, and I have become one as well. The man talking about Chandeliers at the end is a great touch…

 

 

Another awesome cut off “Rare Chandeliers”. Great opening lines from Action…

 

 

I love the bass line that runs underneath the beat. And the sampled hooks are groovy as it gets.

 

 

Couldn’t resist getting Roc Marciano in this week’s Mixtape Monday. He handles a feature in this one.

 

 

Him and Action tagteam the beat again…

 

 

Along with Action Bronson’s  rap catalog, he seems like a good dude. Apparently at a Coachella 4/20 show, he tossed 4oz of weed out to the crowd. 4oz. That’s a lot of money, and a lot of trouble he could potentially face.

But better than that is the fact that he went into the crowd and pushed a man in a wheelchair to the front of the crowd… Classy guy.

 

 

who then proceeded to crowdsurf…

 

snoop

I’m a fan of Snoop Dogg – from Doggystyle to collaborating with Wiz Khalifa to his smooth confidence on The Price Is Right, and other various appearances in pop culture: Starsky & Hutchthe Pepsi commercial and his reality show, Snoop Dogg’s Fatherhood. Well, maybe not the latter. For the most part, I’m down with Snoop Dogg. Dogg, not Lion.

Snoop felt the need to reinvent himself, but the product was poor. Snoop Lion’s debut album, Reincarnated had me scrambling to find all the gin and juice I could throw back just to make it out of track 3.

As if combining Reggae and pop music isn’t risky enough, it was worsened by the fact that Snoop, who has no business in Reggae, was behind all of it. It was the equivalent of that kid who wears the red, yellow, and green bracelet and Bob Marley t-shirt because he smokes a lot of pot. Great, Snoop hung out in Jamaica for some months, but that doesn’t qualify him to make a Reggae album. Reincarnated is gimmicky, the pop-influenced production is cheap, and the content is absurdly stereotypical – the result that Bunny Wailer had feared.

Blatant pot references like songs titled “Smoke the Weed” and “Lighters Up” centralize marijuana in Reggae culture, which is inaccurate. Not to mention the dreadfully cliché album artwork. You wouldn’t find such literal references on any Toots and the Maytals album. Maybe 1 or 2 song titles throughout Bob Marley’s entire discography. He failed miserably at defending his ludicrous assertion that he is Bob Marley reincarnated.

 

 

 

Props to Snoop on getting Drake to rap about something besides women – credit where it’s due. On the song “No Guns Allowed” the two rap about the negativity of guns in society. It’s also nice to see his daughter singing with him. Regardless, it comes off as synthetic. I’m not pinning Snoop as a liar who doesn’t actually care about violence in society, but it seems that because it was a ‘Reggae’ album he felt the need to speak about peace.

 

 

I don’t think anyone is buying his act. That he is trying to find himself and explore the roots of reggae. Regardless of the Jamaican singers who were featured on the album, appearances from Miley Cyrus, Drake, and Chris Brown confirm that this was a reach for mainstream success.

This isn’t a case of a rapper trying to stretch out and explore his talents. Reincarnated came off as a washed up rapper trying to stay relevant. The problem is Snoop isn’t necessarily washed up. He may be bored with rap, but he is still a prominent pop-culture figure – one that I enjoy. He needs to stay in his lane. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying and appreciating the genre, but the album did no justice to Reggae music or Snoop’s career.

This week is for the Mary Jane fans. Here’s a list from my itunes library of the most appropriate hip-hop songs for smoking the ganj. Stoners: keep it safe, keep it real, and keep it lit. Enjoy.

If you haven’t heard it before, listen to this first on a sunny day. You’ll thank me later for the memory.

 

 

The background vocals and beat sell this track as a smoking song.

 

 

Everyone’s heard this classic…

 

 

 

Smooth groove from Schoolboy Q. “Just got 20 dollars, gettin’ blazed tonight.”

 

 

 

 

That SAMPLE!!

 

 

 

 

That bassline. Get ouuutta here…

 

 

Another P.U.T.S. classic…

 

 

 

 

 

@codymarcroft

Along the way I lost faith in Portland’s hip-hop. Too many people in my scene stumble off the beat and path of rapping for purpose, or making music because they love it. Instead, they get lost in the thought of fame, attention and money. You know, the stereotypical ‘bad rap’ evaluation: lazy rhymes where the only consistency seems to lie in the subjects: cars, bitches, and money. For most kids I’ve heard around the Portland area, it seems that hip-hop is more of a shortcut to fame than it is an art form.

Seamus Kilbride, AKA Kila, restored my faith. The 19-year old rapper, currently situated in the Bronx, released his debut Mixtape, 93 Til this past week. The sense throughout the 19 tracks is that Kila doesn’t care about the status – but rather he is rapping because….. he loves to rap. That’s refreshing.

93 Til is raw hip-hop; no gimmicks or catchy hooks. Kila speaks with passion, soul, and relief. With 19 tracks, it seems like the young MC has been working diligently while waiting for the right time to drop his content. 93 Til is the result of such patience. Instead of pumping out multiple, mediocre mixtapes, he waited until he mastered his delivery. By no means is it a perfect project, but it’s a strong debut.

Every song was packed with energy. Kila reeled off line after line. The rhymes seemed infinite. Kila used beats from 9th Wonder, Dilla, & Doom amongst other lesser-known producers. Nearly every track featured a different producer. Check out all the tracks I posted, then go download his tape if you like it. Kila – 93 Til – Mixtape Download

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My favorites that aren’t on here: “A Glimmer” & “Look of Love”. Go check ’em out.

@codymarcroft

The prolonged wait for Ghostface Killah’s tenth album was filled with anxious hype. Ghostface Killah delivered, however, with yet another fantastic album to augment his solo career. Ghostface cleverly wrote Twelve Reasons to Die; an album that told a fictional story about a mafia man in Italy. The plot was supported perfectly by Adrian Younge’s phenomenal production.

Throughout the album, Ghostface plays the character of Tony Starks, as he declares in the first track, “Beware of the Stare.”

 

“I might shoot ya, make your ass an example/

You can’t f*** with Tony Starks and not get trampled/

Get hunted like a rat in a field; I hate rats/

Hate fake ass n****s that love to set traps.”

 

The story of Tony Starks becomes one of revenge. Starks, who is involved in the mafia, is killed by his people after having an affair with the ‘bosses daughter’ so-to-speak. They toss Starks into a pot of vinyl, and he is melted down and made into a record. Throughout the album it is revealed that Starks has come back in the form of Ghostface Killah on vinyl and proceeds haunt his former crime family, the DeLucas. What happens every time the record plays? Somebody dies.

All of this is evident in the first song, but doesn’t become completely clear until you listen through.

 

 

One of the things that makes the album great is Ghostface’s storytelling ability, tying fiction into music. This is most apparent in the fact that Tony Starks comes back through Ghostface Killah on a vinyl record. But there are hints of other references as well, like in the second track, “Rise of the Black Suits”:

 

“Jay De Lucas put me with the fam to grow/

I was a boss amongst white boys, rocking the flow/

I had hoes, bankrolls and minks by the dozen/

My rise to power was quick, they just wasn’t/

Trying to make me a made man, they f****d up the game plan/

I blacked out on them and started my own clan/”

 

The last line is a clear reference to the Wu-tang. He does it again in the hook, with a reference to “C.R.E.A.M.”:

 

“Follow no family rules, rules are for fools/

Chase the paper ’cause it’s the cash that rules.”

 

The 3rd track, “I Declare War” is where the action rises. Appropriate to the title, this is where Wu-tang army comes in. Masta Killa gets on the second verse and RZA narrates the story with an outro.

 

 

The surge of Wu-tang features and war theme continues on the next cut. U-God and Inspectah Deck hop on the track with a pair of verses. The music stays upbeat. You can feel the revenge of Tony Starks taking shape as the Killer Bees buzz through.

 

 

Just as the action picked up, Ghostface slows down to bring you back into the story. The timing of the change of pace is on point. In the next track, “Center of Attraction” the plot thickens. The song tells about Starks’ affair with Logan, the bosses’ daughter. In the first verse, Starks believes she is perfect for him:

 

“She knew my lifestyle; chick of a crime boss/

She would hide my guns in the house then lie to the task force/

Finished my sentences; knew my exact frame of mind/

Knew everything I had was hers, and she was mine.”

 

But Cappadona enters in the second verse and warns Starks that Logan is a set up girl, and the DeLucas family wants a reason to get rid of Starks:

 

“You think God sent her? Nah, it’s the devil instead/

They got plans for you Tone – they want you dead, dead, dead/

So get rid of that cherry pie pie, she’s mad poison.”

Starks comes back in the third verse brushes off Cappadona, claiming he is too paranoid.

 

 

Everything in this album comes together well. With eleven tracks, it’s long enough to tell the story, and short enough to keep the listener engaged. It’s easy to see why Ghostface has longevity. The production from Adrian was on point, and so was Ghostface’s creativity. Entertainment-wise, this is my favorite Ghostface album. The long wait was worth it.

I won’t give away the rest. Check out the remainder of the album to figure out the ending of Ghostface’s tale.

Today Stevie Wonder turned 53 years young. In honor of the soul man’s birthday, I decided to select various hip-hop songs that have sampled Stevie Wonder’s music. Enjoy.

 

I can never get enough of the Madlib-MF Doom collaboration. Classic track from the duo. They sampled Stevie’s 1968 song, “How Can You Believe?”.

 

 

Dilla always seems to make Mixtape Monday – this time it’s a cut off his famous album Donuts. The Stevie sample is from the well-known song, “For Once In My Life”.

 

 

How about some old J. Cole to start the week? The beautiful loop you hear throughout this one is from the 1969 song, “My Cherie Amour”.

 

 

Let’s continue with the New York rap. Wu-tang up next. One of my favorite songs from Stevie, “Living for the City” is sampled by the Wu.

 

 

More from New York – but a different group: A Tribe Called Quest. New York loves some Stevie Wonder. The sampled is from “Sir Duke”.

 

 

From east coast to west coast. 2pac makes his Mixtape Monday debut, and gets the closer in this week’s edition. The Stevie song used is “Part Time Lover”

 

 

Enjoy your week all. Happy 53rd Stevie! Thanks for the great music, and the subsequent contributions to hip-hop.

 

 

Logic opened his new mixtape with a sigh of relief. The title track, Welcome to Forever, put him atop a mountain looking outward at all of his accomplishments. I’ve been on the Logic train since he dropped Young, Broke and Famous back in 2010, and seeing his career progress has been thrilling.

 

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Logic in the past three years, it’s that the up-and-coming rapper is a pure lyricist on a mission. He has delivered multiple mixtapes that have met acclaim. He has shown off his extensive vocabulary, mind clutching punch lines, slick references, and great use of samples. Nas is a common vocal sample for Young Sinatra.

Logic is, as he describes, “only cocky when I rhyme.” It’s true if you’ve ever seen his interviews. He’s humble, transparent, and doesn’t front or act like anybody else. It’s evident that he has studied hip-hop – old and new – learned how to rhyme, what to rhyme over, and has put together quite the resume leading up to his recent signing with Def Jam.

That brings us to the new mixtape. The twenty-track tape feels like a celebration for how far the Maryland rapper has come in the past few years. It features a solid mix of ‘mainstream’ or ‘new-age-rap’ and old school cuts. The balance is nice, and the skits break the tape up well.

If I could, allow me to burn on this: Hip-hop fans need to be easy on the ‘he’s going mainstream’ claims. Rappers need to stretch out. Putting out the same-sounding music on every record is going to become played out. Not every rapper is trying to become the next Drake when they slow down a beat, and semi-sing their lyrics. It’s a style of rap, and artists will use it. I say this because I’ve heard people call Logic out for it, and even J. Cole. Whether deserving or not, that criticism is getting old. People tend to overlook all the qualities that make those artists much different than Drake. They’re experimenting, not trying to fit Drake’s mold. I digress.

This isn’t Logic’s most focused mixtape, nor his best. But after all that he’s accomplished, a 20-track, feel-good record is acceptable, and there’s plenty of music to enjoy on it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

j-cole-truly-yours-2

I’m a believer in J. Cole; always have been, always will be. Dude is real. Many people shared that sentiment until his album came out. Then came the notion that J. Cole was leaning towards the mainstream; trying to be Drake – something along those lines. But those lines don’t matter anymore because they have been erased. The best part: it only took six tracks to do so. That’s efficiency at its finest.

It’s not the next platinum record. It’s not going to top charts, but Truly Yours 2 is a mixtape that assures J. Cole fans that, at the core, he is the same person today as he was in The Come Up days: A genuine, honest rapper.

He didn’t flip the ‘haters’ off. Nor did he resort to Twitter to proclaim his dominance in hip-hop, or his ‘realness.’ He did what all hip-hop artists should do: He worked hard in the studio and created music – good music. J. Cole handled his doubters through his actions not his words (Coincidentally, the act of making music comes partially in the form of speaking. Interesting paradox there… Anyways…).

I don’t understand why anyone would dislike J. Cole as a hip-hop artist. To each his own, but what’s not to like? Cole is versatile. Rapping or producing, Cole has proven to thrive. He’ll even sing a hook if he finds it appropriate. He’s no Marvin Gaye, but his hooks are sufficient. His catalog runs deep, and Truly Yours 2 is a solid addition to the list.

J. Cole opens the EP with soulful samples. He handled half of the production on the EP. The first soulful loop came from the phenomenal Lauryn Hill, off her track “Nothing Even Matters”. And he weaves homage to her into his first verse when he raps,

 

“This sample was yellin’ “loop me!”, Ms. Hill please don’t sue me.”

 

And in the hook when he sings,

 

“I think I need to let it go/

‘Cause Nothing Even Matters.”

 

Also, what I love about this opening track is J. Cole quickly addresses comparisons to drake when he raps,

 

“Cause I ain’t one of these rappers out here frontin’ like he got it, n***a/

I ain’t f***in’ got it n***a/

Throwing thousands in the strip club with Drizzy/

Difference is I’m throwing four, he’s throwing fifty.”

 

His realistic mindset brings him down to earth. It’s refreshing to see someone who remains level headed, rather than jumping on the defensive in attempt to dispel critics. Cole knows he hasn’t reached Drake’s status, and his ability to admit it reveals his humble side. Overall, the song is stripped down to J. Cole speaking his mind. Nothing fancy, just some smooth bars, homages, and clever references over solid production.

 

 

Cole keeps the soul rolling with a sample of The Manhattans. Then he picks up the pace with a funky beat in the track “Chris Tucker”. He increases the aggression in his delivery on that track with a bragadocious tone.

Cole keeps a fast pace with the track “Head Bussa,” and proves that he is still an strong lyricist. He plays on an old expression:

 

“She told me, boy you want your cake and eat it too?

I said it’s cake, that’s what you’re supposed to do.”

 

Wordplay and pop culture references? Check:

 

“They killed Saddam, now I wonder who’s sane/

How you balance being Batman, Bruce Wayne?”

 

 

It’s not too difficult to keep a listener engaged for six songs, but it still takes effort nonetheless. Cole did a good job of varying the pace. The soulful opening, upbeat middle tracks, and then slowing it back down a bit for “3 Wishes” keeps the listeners on their toes.

“3 Wishes” has a nice bass line running underneath the beat, with an occasional videogame sound effect trickling down over some looped keys. This is the only track where Cole did not handle production.

 

 

And just as you think the tempo will stay down, Cole brings it back up for the last song. He wraps up the mixtape with a track in which he co-produced, sang the hook on, and rapped on. J. Cole, A.K.A. Mr. Versatility, A.K.A. Yours Truly.