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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

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.

 

Here’s some hip-hop treats to pull your mind from finals for a bit & reward your musical taste buds.

No theme this week, just a random mix of some hot stuff I’ve been playing loudly this week.

 

A lot of praise for Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City but I’m a huge fan of Kendrick’s 1st album, Section.80. It undersold, which is a shame. But sales aren’t everything. The underground shook when Section.80 dropped, and the reception was an accepting nod. This track is one of the diamonds on the project.

 

 

Moooooore Kendrick – with a big splash of J. Dilla. Ohhhhh that SOUL. Can’t you feel it?!

 

 

Underground classic, from a classic underground duo.

 

 

What’chu know about that Aussie rap? Bliss N’ Eso is an ill group. Worth more than a listen – go check their discography.

 

 

Gotta have me some Busta Rhymes once in a while. Also can’t seem to escape Dilla. Here’s another he produced (as a member of the Ummah).

 

 

Not sure what it is about Choo; he’s just a likable artist. He’s on the up-and-up, so pay attention to him.

 

 

AHHH I did it again. More J. Dilla to close this edition of Mixtape Monday out. I played this version (the original has vocals over it) on my radio show last weekend. Filthy beat.

 

 

Had to start off Mixtape Monday with a recent discovery. Traum Diggs knows smooth, crisp and classy. I stumbled upon this song, Sax Fifth Avenue Flow, on the rapper’s Twitter page. I’m all about this song and video. Diggs has the voice and flow for rap. The Brooklyn MC’s vocals float over the sax nicely. I’m looking forward to more stuff coming out from this dude, and you can bet I’m following him on Twitter from now on.


 

The MPC master, Pete Rock, does hip-hop and jazz a favor with this beat. This track is off the legendary 1992 album Mecca and the Soul Brother. Pete sampled one of my favorite Kool & the Gang funk tracks, “N.T.” but the jazz comes from Freddie McCoy’s “Gimmie Some!”

 

 

And what is Mixtape Monday without some Dilla? Here’s a nice jazzy tune for your eardrums. It’s hard not to like anything that Dilla churned out in his time. One of the most beloved (and missed) producers of all time, Yancey dug up some of the best music for his crates. In the above track, he sampled a 1970s jazz group called Placebo, which is actually a really popular group in the world of hip-hop samples. The song is called “Humpty Dumpty” off the album Ball of Eyes, if you’re interested in youtube-ing it. Pete Rock and Madlib have also sampled it.

  

 

Why not stay on the Dilla train? It changes weekly, but this track is one of my favorite Dilla productions at the moment (along with “Don’t Cry” – solely for the sentimental value and emotion behind it).  But this one here, “Didn’t Cha know” is gold; especially with the grace of Erykah Badu’s beautiful voice serenading our ears. Dilla samples another little-known artist, Tarika Blue, off their 1976 album Downtown. Digging up that sample was a testimony to Dilla’s knowledge of music. What a great collaboration on this. Overall Mama’s Gun is a phenomenal album – so you should peep the whole thing while you’re at it (there’s a gang of great producers on it).

 

 

One of my all-time favorite songs from my all-time favorite duo, The People Under the Stairs from L.A. On this track, Thes One and Double K cut up Billy Wooten’s xylophone rendition of “We’ve Only Just Begun.” The song came off Wooten’s 1972 album The Wooden Glass – a live set recorded in Indianapolis, and re-released on CD in 2004. I’ve been looking for the ’72 vinyl for a while now, but the cheapest price I’ve found is $90 (yes, it’s a rare record). Oh well, I’ll find it at some thrift shop for 99 cents sooner or later. I digress. Anyway, the People Under the Stairs looped a piece of the xylophone jam, threw a hot beat and groovy filter underneath, and sprinkled some vocals over it. Some of the lyrics on the song are my favorite from the duo, such as when Double K spits:

 

“I’m a fan of hip hop since E.U. and ‘Da Butt’ was in /

and my n***a Doug Fresh ran the show /

Three Times was Dope, and MTV was ‘YO!’ ”

 

Ahhh, those old-school references are refreshing. E.U.’s “Da Butt,” Three Times Dope (hip-hop group), and MTV’s ‘YO! Raps.’ And then Thes One gets all up in the second verse with more:

 

“Something for sophisticated 8th grade hip-hop taste /

For heads that remember the breakup of 3rd Bass /

Tribe, EPMD, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth /

Hear immense influence, they’re congruent in my grooves”

 

 

K. Dot’s currently the best rapper doing it right now, in my opinion. This one is off Kendrick’s first album Section 80. The album didn’t even sold 100,000 copies, but the hip hop world loved it. Especially with tracks like the [J. Cole-produced] “HiiiPower” “Poe Man’s Dream” “F**k Your Ethnicity” and this track here. On this cut, Kendrick goes off on the beat, laying down bars rapidly. Not much else to say here – just admire Kendrick’s flow over the upbeat trumpet. 

 

 

 zaya pd2

(Image courtesy of Zaya, from facebook.com/Zayamusic)

If there were any thoughts of up-and-coming rapper Isaiah Taylor, known as ‘Zaya,’ moving further away from his potential, the MC’s second installation of ‘Pipe Dreams’ has squandered such beliefs. Pipe Dreams Pt. 2, which dropped on March 12th is a leap in the right direction.

While flow was not an issue on Pipe Dreams Pt. 1, there was growing concern the young rapper lacked content variety. The majority of the songs were limited to bragadocious rap. Money, women, success, fame and dismissing ‘haters’ were common occurrences. Taylor has matured significantly since his debut tape.

A healthy dose of brag rap remained in Part two. The tape opens with ‘Chasing Dollar Signs (Intro)’ where he raps,

“Mother f*** you hatin’ N****s, you probably pissed off  /

‘cause I’m hitting everything, and they saw you miss all,”

with commanding delivery over a thumping beat. The confrontational attitude remains, but unlike Pipe Dreams Pt. I, Taylor balances Pt. II with more introspective lyrics – the main difference between the two projects.

On ‘The View,’ Taylor invites the listener into his personal life with mention of his hometown. He raps, “I’m at The View with my girl” – ‘The View’ being a park on top of Munjoy Hill overlooking his hometown, Portland, Maine. He continues a few bars later:

“It’s crazy, this view just got me thinking ‘bout the past again /

No regrets, just reflect, Good with my life as it is.”

He also makes a clever reference to Nick Caner-Medley, a Portland native who spent time in the NBA, showing that Taylor has become more in-touch with his surroundings.

On the title track, ‘Pipe Dreams’ reflects on the meaning of his work, digging deeper into his own intentions:

“These n****s ask what a ‘Pipe Dream’ was /

Does he smoke? ‘Cause he might mean blunts /

Or is the pipe his pipe, ‘cause if it is then he might need sluts /

It might even be random n**** – just because /

F*** that, dumb n****s with their ears all closed /

I don’t smoke and I don’t need hoes /

Pipe dreams are the goals, it just might not happen /

The only f***in’ reason that I might stop rapping.”

Taylor’s ability to conceptualize appears on ‘Tell Me,’ the fifth track on the tape. Over an electronic-influenced, more buoyant beat, Taylor details a failed relationship – one he is attempting to mend. The hook sums up the message:

“You’re always on my mind /

I need you by my side /

Tell me, what do I have to do to keep you?”

While the positives are apparent, there is certainly room for improvement. Despite stepping up his content and displaying greater detail, there are still vague spots throughout the tape where the term “show, don’t tell” would apply.

On ‘Pipe Dreams’ the rapper claims, “I’ve been working hard just to get here,’ leaving the listener wondering what ‘work’ consists of.  This raises a transparency flag. Without clarity, credibility is hard to keep afloat.

In the same song, the rapper illuminates race issues: ‘I guess I really am lucky, ‘cause I’ve seen n****s with no dreams / black on black crimes, these n****s scoring for the wrong team.’ These are powerful lines, but it begs for elaboration. I was left feeling empty; provoked, then left curious by lack of detail. It kept me at a distance. Taylor had something in mind when he wrote these lyrics, and I would loved to have been enlightened.

In the song ‘Friday’ he states, “This song may sound simple but it’s way deeper,” again, raising the question, ‘what Zaya is thinking?’ At these parts in the mixtape there is a deficiency. I didn’t feel surrounded by Taylor’s situation. I felt like I was standing at a distance.

Overall, Taylor has taken forward strides, and Pipe Dreams II should be seen as nothing less than great improvement. A perfect mixtape, no. But at eighteen-years-old, Taylor is off to a solid start, and has much time to flourish in the rap game.

Buy Pipe Dreams Pt. II

Free Download – Pipe Dreams Pt. II

Free Download – Pipe Dreams Pt. I