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Soundcheck: Hot Summer Hip-Hop

The 2012 BET Awards were held Sunday night in Los Angeles, setting the tone for a sizzling summer of new music from some of hip-hop’s biggest names. Beyoncé took home the trophy for Best Female R&B Artist while Nicki Minaj nabbed Best Female Hip Hop Artist for the third year in a row.

Whitney Houston was given one final farewell from a group of very talented loved ones including her mother, Cissy Houston, who sang “Bridge Over Troubled Water” to a sobbing crowd. Mariah Carey and Angela Bassett, along with the rest of Houston’s Waiting To Exhale cast mates, also delivered heartfelt tributes.

Performances from Chris Brown, D’Angelo, and Kanye West provided previews for some of this season’s most anticipated releases. Brown’s album, Fortune, was just released on July 3.  Last weekend, Brown was honored at the 2012 BET Awards winning Best Male R&B Artist after he gave a power-packed performance of “Turn Up The Music” and “Don’t Wake Me Up” to a turned up crowd who can’t help but be mesmerized by his unrivaled dance moves and brightly painted bare chest. His newest singles dropped last week and included one Drake diss and two crazy collaborations; “ Mirage” featuring Nas and “Get Down” featuring B.o.B., as well as one stellar solo offering, “Trumpet Lights”.  Continue reading ‘Soundcheck: Hot Summer Hip-Hop’

Soundcheck: Chief Keef Signs To Interscope Records

Chief Keef has been causing quite the stir.

Just last month, his single, “I Don’t Like” shot up the charts after Kanye West added himself, Big Sean, Pusha T, and Jadakiss to the remix. Within days, a bidding war ensued and the youngster was trying to choose between his three front-runners; YMB, CME, and Atlantic among others.

Now, it looks like the new teen dream has finally chosen a home at a major label, making his announcement last week.

“I’ve been talkin’ to a lot of labels, but I just noticed that Interscope got people like 50, Eminem,” he said. “They was talkin’ like I was talkin’ and I liked that. All these other labels, I was talkin’ to ‘em, but it’s time anyway for me and I’m goin’ with Interscope.”

Other interested parties put up a good fight, with heavy hitters like Birdman and T.I. clamoring to sign the sixteen-year-old Chicagoan.  Last month, Birdman sounded confident that he would sign Keef to Cash Money Records.

“I like him, he kinda reminds me of us,” he told MTV News. “[He's] out the streets, I think he’s swagged up and I’m definitely talking to his people and I’d like to see if we can make it pop, see if I can see if I can get him to be down with the team.”

Like many others in the rap game, the YMCMG CEO seemed to be impressed by Keef’s youthful outlook.

Continue reading ‘Soundcheck: Chief Keef Signs To Interscope Records’

Soundcheck: Tito Lopez–Raising The Bar

Every now and then, an artist emerges who reminds us that hip hop isn’t dead—an artist who revives the lyricism, storytelling, and passion that once made the art of rap so powerful; an artist who epitomizes the hunger, the drive, and the inspiration it takes to write songs that turn to classics and make hits that speak to generations.

Tito Lopez is that artist. And he knows it.

The 24-year-old Gulfport, Miss. native has been a quiet storm of talent for years, making his debut with Impatiently Waiting in 2008. He’s been gaining momentum after the release of his 15th mix tape, The Lost Files of Tito Lopez: Reloaded, heated up the streets with a stellar single and video, “Mama Proud”. He’s been heating up even more since a slew of successful appearances, one pretty heavy co-signer, and his latest mix tape, Hunger Games dropped Thursday.

“Kids that fight to the death, is a fucked up premise behind the movie, but that’s what hip-hop does,” he says.  “I want to bring back that competitive spirit in hip-hop.  There’s no distinct sound like back in the day. That’s really my mind state.”

Continue reading ‘Soundcheck: Tito Lopez–Raising The Bar’

Soundcheck: Usher Releases ‘Looking 4 Myself’

Usher released his long-awaited follow-up to the über successful Raymond vs. Raymond today with an unexpected new sound. Though many critics call Usher’s seventh studio album, Looking 4 Myself, one of his strongest ever; the project left me looking for my money back.

The 14-track album features tracks from Rico Love, Will.I.Am, Jim Jonsin, Max Martin, and Diplo among others.  It also features cameos from Rick Ross, ASAP Rocky, and Pharell. While his first single, “Climax” is currently at No. 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and No. 1 on the Hip-Hop/R&B Songs chart, it has failed to win me over since its release last month.

I can respect and actually applaud an artist who isn’t afraid to push boundaries and challenge preconceptions, but I think Usher has taken this reinvention a bit too far.  What many critics are praising as ‘groundbreaking’ and ‘genre-crossing’ really just sounds retro and recycled to me.  The lines between innovation and replication have blurred, and I’m left with an album that feels like a cross between pop hits from the late 1980s and *NSYNC circa 2001 on their No Strings Attached tour.  Continue reading ‘Soundcheck: Usher Releases ‘Looking 4 Myself’’

Soundcheck: Twista To Sign With G.O.O.D. Music?

When Krizz Kaliko released his fourth album, Kickin’ and Screamin with his single, “Kill Shit” featuring Tech N9ne and Twista, he reminded fans that the Chicago rapper is still relevant…and really fast.

Tech N9ne said he avoided writing his verse for the song for a week after hearing Twista’s lightning fast flow.

“I didn’t want to write it. I didn’t want to have to write after Twista. Twista’s a murderer so I ran from the track for a week,” he said on his blog.  “I really don’t like rapping fast because it’s so hard to write but it’s one of my specialties. It was another reason I was running but once I sat down and did it, it came out superb. I think Twista killed everything on it. Everybody’s talking about how much they love my verse. I love it and I love how they love it but they really need to listen to Twista. That boy did something amazing. Yeah I didn’t want to write it and everyone came out beautiful…His verse is just so intricate. It’s just quadruple timing. The tricks that he’s doing in there, you just have to pay attention to his words and what he’s saying in there—so wonderful.”

Still, Twista has been downplaying the possibility of signing with Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music since statements he made last month have sent speculations swirling.

He told Thisis50.com, “I don’t know what it’s going to be [with G.O.O.D. Music],” he said. “[The media] takes it the way they want to take it. [All I said was] that I’m open to sign with whomever as long as the situation is right…it’s all love. [Kanye and I] both from Chi Town and he’s been in the game doing his thing for a long time. I definitely don’t look at it like [I won't sign under a younger artist]. Like I said, as long as the situation’s right.”

Continue reading ‘Soundcheck: Twista To Sign With G.O.O.D. Music?’

Soundcheck: Is Ma$e Making A Comeback?

Last week’s big announcements from Maybach Music Group made major waves in the music world, but left some fans disappointed.  Many expected Ma$e to be announced as Rick Ross’ newest signee, after months of speculation that he was returning to rap.

French Montana alluded to Ma$e’s return after he was spotted in the studio him and Ross last month. “Ma$e sounds good, sound like he never left. His flow is crazy. We’re going to let the world hear soon enough. Stay tuned. Just stay tuned.”

Fans didn’t have to wait too long to hear Ma$e on the mic thanks to a surprise release from MMG. Wale’s latest single, “Slight Work” hit airwaves last month and features Ma$e, Diddy, French Montana and Meek Mill.  During an interview with Funkmaster Flex on Hot 97, Ma$e explained that Bad Boy’s French Montana was the mastermind of the collaboration.

I think it was French, man. A lot of love goes out to French. I don’t know why he was repping me so strong, but he was showing me Harlem love. He ain’t even from Harlem, it’s crazy. It was really French,” he said. “We totally opposite, but he just showed me wild love. I rock with who rock with me.”

Continue reading ‘Soundcheck: Is Ma$e Making A Comeback?’

Soundcheck: Life Is Good For Nas, Despite Baby Mama Drama

Nas is back on the mic in a big way.  The Queens, NY native is readying his tenth studio album, Life Is Good for its July 17 release date.  Armed with an arsenal of new material, the most celebrated lyricist in the game in coming for his crown.

Last week, he dropped his latest single, “Daughters” produced by No I.D. and inspired by his own daughter, Destiny. In it, he grapples with the realities of raising a teenaged girl through heartfelt accounts of their more difficult moments, like when she tweeted a photo of a box of condoms in February.

“She’s so important to me and she always has been. They grow so fast and time flies, man. Before you know it, you’re looking at a little lady,” he told XXL. “She’s my first kid, my first time watching a child become a teen and a little adult before my eyes. That’s one of the most important things in my life. She is. I can’t get away from talking about it. It’s actually one of the first songs I recorded for this album.”

While fans and industry insiders praised his prose; his infamous ex, Carmen Bryan was not so pleased about his depiction of their daughter.  She quickly took to Twitter to heir her grievances with her ex’s latest revelations.

“Just heard ‘Daughters’ by Nas. What a disappointment! He had nothing positive to say about our daughter and his depiction of her is false,” she posted Thursday. “She’s extremely talented, caring and has a huge heart, none of those things were mentioned. I’m proud of her,” she blasted. She also insisted that Destiny herself was not a fan of the song either.

Continue reading ‘Soundcheck: Life Is Good For Nas, Despite Baby Mama Drama’

Soundcheck: Hip-Hop Hits Festival Season– Paid Dues, Coachella & Lollapalooza

It was 10:45 Sunday night when Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg hit the main stage to close out the three-day music festival at Coachella. When the lights went low, the infamous West Coast duo resurrected some old hits and old friends for their highly anticipated, headlining set. 50 Cent, Tony Yayo and Eminem all came out to perform famous collaborations with the prolific pair; leaving lots of room for long breaks for Dre.  An elaborate hologram of the late Tupac Shakur appeared alongside the duo onstage to deliver his verses from “Two Of America’s Most Wanted” and “Hail Mary” from beyond the grave.  The tribute was interesting; but a bit morbid as well and the crowd seemed a bit puzzled to say the least.  Overall, the ninety-minute headlining set was nostalgic at best; and while it was enjoyable; Dre’s contribution didn’t suggest the comeback he has been promising for years now.  Backstage fans included Rihanna, Fergie, Will.I.Am and the Fire Marshall shut down the area for capacity reasons, leaving stars like Paris Hilton scrambling from the side stage.

Continue reading ‘Soundcheck: Hip-Hop Hits Festival Season– Paid Dues, Coachella & Lollapalooza’

Soundcheck: Hip Hop Speaks Out On Trayvon Martin Murder

In the five weeks since the tragic killing of seventeen-year-old Florida teen Trayvon Martin, the hip hop community is stepping up to call for justice and action.

Tons of hip hop heavyweights—including David Banner, E-40, Frank Ocean, Big Boi, Diddy and countless others—have spoken out on the tragedy.  Many of them have created viral videos in which they don hoodies to support the slain adolescent, who was killed at the hands of a neighborhood watch volunteer that said the teen, “looked suspicious.”

On February 26, George Zimmerman (a twenty-eight-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer) called the police after he noticed Trayvon entering a market (to buy Skittles and Iced Tea for his younger brother). After ignoring police instructions to remain in his vehicle, Zimmerman allegedly accosted the unarmed teenager and shot him to death. When police arrived on the scene, Zimmerman claimed he acted in self- defense, and has therefore avoided an arrest since the incident.

Continue reading ‘Soundcheck: Hip Hop Speaks Out On Trayvon Martin Murder’

Soundcheck: Nicki Readies ‘Roman Reloaded’ For April 3 Release

Nicki Minaj is finally ready to release her highly anticipated sophomore album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded.  The twenty-one-track album features verses from Nas, Drake, Rick Ross and Cam’Ron among others. Last month she told Complex she intended to sell 5 million copies of the album and tour the whole world.  From the looks of it, she’s getting awfully close to her goal. The Harajuku Barbie is already busy promoting the record, and she’s wasting no time hitting the road. Minaj will kick off her European tour at Stockholm, Sweden’s Annexet on June 8th. Other destinations include Belgium, London, Brussels and Paris before the tour wraps up at the UK’s annual V Festival 2012 on August 18th.

Continue reading ‘Soundcheck: Nicki Readies ‘Roman Reloaded’ For April 3 Release’

 


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