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Rappers, Reps And Hometowns; Or, Did You Know Drake Was From Toronto?

That’s right, R&B/rap sensation Drake is Canadian! Who would’ve thunk it?

To not know that Drake is from the Great White North in this day and age would require one to have been under a rock, which is subsequently under a large pile of rocks in the desert where there is no WiFi connection. It’s a convention of the genre to toast one’s hometown, or to “rep your hood” (as is the preferred vernacular) but no one is a bigger promoter of their city then Drake. “All I care about is money/And the city where I’m from” is a couplet in not just one but two of Drake’s singles. And the most recent release from his upcoming full length Take Care—”Headlines”—came out with a video that is a visual love letter to Toronto.

Drake ~ Headlines (Official Video) from OctobersVeryOwn on Vimeo.

Is Aubrey Graham on the payroll for the Tourism Board of Ontario or something? The video features the Rogers Center opening majestically for Drake as he stands stoically on the field. We are also treated to shots of Drake gliding vertically above the city in a glass elevator (maybe on the side of the CN Tower?) and Drake in an ugly sweater. Solid effort all around.

Drake’s not the only rapper to really show his city love, even if Toronto isn’t the gangster’s paradise that other hip-hop strongholds have historically been.

Continue reading ‘Rappers, Reps And Hometowns; Or, Did You Know Drake Was From Toronto?’

South By Midwest

Britni Elise

Marvelous Enterprises Artist Development Center in Atlanta, Georgia, has helped launch the careers of New Edition, Usher, Keri Hilson, Aaliyah, Ciara, T.I. and many more R&B, pop and hip hop artists. And although she doesn’t hail from the ATL, Britni Elise may be the Artist Development Center’s newest ingénue. Not only does the Ohio-based singer have a limber set of pipes; she’s got a single that’s good enough to carry her into pop’s upper echelon. “Rock This” is a party anthem extraordinaire, a confident club banger that’s fit for prime time on the dance floor. But it’s not the only ace in Elise’s sleeve. A super charged power ballad, “I Miss U” lifts off at the chorus, Elise’s voice soaring over the scales. And her percussive, shimmering piano track “Hello (So Damn Right For Me)” is polished to perfection. With songs like these, Elise is poised for a big break into the mainstream consciousness. You can bet she’s gonna rock this.

“Rock This” – Britni Elise



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Soundcheck: Fall Music Preview

As the warm weather fades away and summer comes to a close, there’s still one thing to look forward to; a new season meansnew music. Now that J. Cole has dropped Cole World: The Sideline Story, and Weezy finally released The Carter IV this month as well, the bar is already set pretty high for this season’s set-lists.  Here are a few projects we can’t wait to get our hands on.

B.o.B. gave fans a taste of what’s to come last week when he released “Strange Clouds”, the first single off his upcoming sophomore album of the same name. While no drop date has been set, the song features Lil Wayne and a markedly more aggressive Bobby Ray.  He told HipHopDX, “Hopefully fans will be able to hear the new album very soon. I’m as impatient for you to hear it as you are. It’s a more mature sound but nothing too experimental,” he said. “It’s a happy medium between the sound of B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray and the mixtapes, so everyone should be able to enjoy it.”

Drake will release his sophomore effort, Take Care, on October 24 under Young Money Records.  Just last week, he released the cover art to the album with a note to fans:

“Feels like it’s been so long. Is life moving so fast in this generation that when we desire something it begins to move in slow motion? Are we just used to getting what we want right away? Or do we require one another to feel right about all that is going on around us? Maybe our anticipation is justified by the fact that we genuinely cannot wait to share a moment again? Either way, your life and mine are scheduled to meet on October 24…I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Neither would we, Drake.  Wonder if this little note was meant to distract fans from the fact that the album was due out October 4, and has been pushed back.  Still, if his singles, “Headlines” and his latest, “Free Spirit” featuring Rick Ross are any indication of what’s to come, it’s definitely worth the wait.

Continue reading ‘Soundcheck: Fall Music Preview’

The Contender

Hostyle Muggshot

Detroit, Michigan. Home to rappers like Royce da 5’9″, Obie Trice, Proof, Black Milk and—of course—Eminem. With a pedigree like that, up-and-coming Motor City MCs know they have to come correct right out of the gate. Hostyle Muggshot, a member of the Woofpac collective with rappers J-Kidd and Moe Dirdee, does just that, unapologetically delivering his hustler manifesto. On “I Am Focused,” the rapper declares, “When I’m looking for the best I am all I find,” over an onslaught of grinding guitars. Tracks like “I Don’t Sweat” and “Can’t Hold Me Back” will drive that point home even further. On the latter, Hostyle Muggshot promises to “keep my name in the air like fragrance” while shrill keyboards up the urgency. “Future” takes off at a gallop, with the rapper spitting clever lines like “I cope, I never lose hope, I bounce off the ropes, I’m a fighter.” Looks like Detroit may have another hip hop heavyweight to add to its hall of fame.

“Future” – Hotstyle Muggshot



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Soundcheck: Hip Hop Hits iheartradio Music Festival

The “biggest live music event in radio history” hit Las Vegas this weekend when Clear Channel’s iheartradio Music Festival kicked off Friday night at the MGM Grand. Thousands of fans came from across the country to see the impressive line-up, which included the best of the best in every music genre.  The festival marked the launch of Clear Channel’s new iheartradio app, which is designed to make users the program directors for their own fantasy radio station. Abandoning the traditional set-up of genre-specific set-lists, iheartradio allows fans to hear the latest and greatest music from their favorite artists, whether its Jay-Z or Rascal Flats. For a true music aficionado, the resulting playlist would probably sound a lot like the incredible mash-up of music offered at the two-night event.

Black Eyed Peas kicked off the show with “Boom Boom Pow” to an ecstatic crowd comprised of die-hard pop, country, hip hop and rock fans.  The night went smoothly with stellar sets from Jane’s Addiction, Carrie Underwood, Bruno Mars and Kelly Clarkson, all of whom were there to celebrate radio and prove why they rule the charts.  Coldplay delivered an amazing set including “Clocks” and Chris Martin came off as the ultimate front man.  The set was enough to convert me into an instant Chris Martin fan.

Alicia Keys was a beaming beauty when she hit the stage to perform a medley of hits including “Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart”, “Unthinkable” and “Empire State of Mind.”Shealso debuted a new song, teasing fans, “Is it OK for me to play something brand new?” The inspirational number, “A Place Of My Own” was classic Keys, who delivered airy vocals over her perfect piano playing.

Next up was Hova himself, who seemed to be in a particularly good mood when he hit the stage for his forty-minute set.  With Memphis Bleek by his side, he delivered hit after hit from his sixteen-year career.  He repped The Black Album pretty hard and touched on his most successful singles, including “Jigga What”,  “99 Problems”, “Give It To Me” “Run This Town”, “Big Pimpin’” and “Dirt Off Your Shoulder”.  He closed the show with “Empire State of Mind” after Alicia Keys returned to the stage to belt out the huge hook.

Continue reading ‘Soundcheck: Hip Hop Hits iheartradio Music Festival’

Check Baby, Check Baby

Mike Check

Mike Check started his career in music behind the kit, eventually trading sticks for a pen and becoming a songwriter. Turns out it was a good swap. Today Check is one of New York’s up-and-coming MCs, firing up audiences with fervent lyrics about anything from crime and poverty to Christian Laettner. On the bubbling, synth-driven “Mega Man” Check details his A-game with the ladies, promising to “fade away like Laettner” after its over. The mood gets heavier on “My Back Yard,” a lyrical tour of NYC set to a sample of Benny Mardones’ “Into the Night.” From Fifth Avenue to Ground Zero, Jamaica Queens, South Bronx and Brooklyn, Check explores the worlds of the haves and have-nots. The rapper’s fierce determination to move out of the latter category is on display in “For the Rush,” an adrenaline-filled banger about owning the audience. “Every time I close my eyes never seen another dream,” he spits, like New York’s version of Jimmy “B-Rabbit” Smith. If it’s true you gotta lose yourself in the music to really make it, Mike Check is well on his way.

“For the Rush” – Mike Check

Press Shuffle: Songs To Freestyle To

This week our targets are the Urban Channels. We focus particularly on the rhythmic characteristics of these genres: anything from vocal metrical structure to thick, groovy bass lines to old-school drum samples. There’s so much more to rapping than what people usually find in mainstream radio or other means of mass media. Staying true to the spirit of Press Shuffle, we’re exploring the boundaries of music, of digging deep into the scenes and discovering the best the independent music world has to offer. Take this journey with us to explore what goes on behind the scenes in Hip Hop and Rap, and weigh in on the comments below!

Jae Apollo

Rule The World Freestyle” – Jae Apollo: This song is a great example of traditional rhyme schemes; working with the last word of a phrase, the vocalist adapts phonetics to fit his purpose. Proficiently executed, Jae Apollo’s track represents the path modern hip hop has been taking in the last couple years.

Inkredible Freestyle” – FreeVerse: With a more popular flow, FreeVerse sticks to the straight four accents on the beat at a slower tempo. This, with the descending vocal cadence at the end of a line, are both very representative of what usually seen in the Rhythmic Top 40 charts.

No Pen No Pad” – Lil Boy Fresh: He lays back on the beat so much it seems as if he’s eternally vying to catch up with it. The drag widens the pocket, giving the flow a lazed feel that has you hooked into listening what he’s going to say next, line to line.

Don’t Sweat” – K.i.T (eMCee): This track has all it needs to stand out. Flawless production, creative lyrics and hooks galore. The phrasing is interestingly spread between many lines, with the enunciation emphasizing sarcasm and breathing points strategically placed throughout verses.

Mathmatics” – Hollow: Here’s a  prime example of less being more. A simple, groovy synth beat and bass line just keep the time while the MC does his thing. Nothing is there to detract from the performance of the vocalist; it’s all open to him. And in a style of music that’s all about the lyrics, what else could you want?

Can’t Tell You Why” – Freeloadas: There’s something about the feel of R&B tracks of the ’70s and ’80s that sets the tone for hip hop just right. It’s so common to find samples or re-recordings of old grooves and beats because they consistently deliver.

Turn It Loose” – Kenton Dunson: This song popped at us as soon as it hit the 0:07 mark; the chopped up guitar lick is something else. The beat is comprised by nothing more than a kick drum and reverse snare hits, yet remains very effective. It’s remarkable how original something can sound with such simple features and a bit of creativity.

Have any tunes in particular that you care to share? Disagree with any of the picks? Want a theme in particular to be Shuffled? Let us know by dropping a comment!

Listen to previous Press Shuffle playlists over at

Soundcheck Album Preview: Will J.Cole Take Over With ‘Cole World’?

Jermaine Lamarr Cole, better known as J.Cole, has been hip hop’s best kept secret for years.  Ever since Jay-Z signed him to RocNation, we’ve been waiting to hear what all the hype was about.  After his debut album was pushed back…and back last Spring, our interest in the newbie only intensified. After a jam-packed summer of touring and teasing, the wait is finally over.

Cole will release his debut album, Cole World: The Sideline Story on September 27 on the heels of a massive build up.  In the months leading up to his debut release, Cole treated fans to new music through his “Any Given Sunday” campaign, delivering singles each week since July 13. While he had initially planned on dropping a mixtape prior to his major release, he changed his mind, deciding to stream music on his Web site and Ustream instead.

He told media in July, “The music I was gonna put on the mixtape I’mma just slowly drop it. I’ll just drop it out online and they’ll find it. You know, my fans will find it how they will. I’m confident. I don’t wanna run and drop a mixtape. I don’t want people to get confused with that. I don’t want them to love it, because they’ll love it. If I put out a mixtape they’re gonna love it cause I don’t know how to put out a bad mixtape. That’s the problem.”

Cole wasn’t being cocky.  His mixtapes are what gained the attention of Jay-Z back in 2007—The Come Up mixtape earned him a spot on The Blueprint 3 in 2009. After his secondmixtape, The Warm Up hit the streets that year, Jay signed him as the first artist at his RocNation imprint. Since then, Hov has kept his protégé on his toes, making him wait til the eleventh hour to lend a verse to “Mr. Nice Watch”.

Continue reading ‘Soundcheck Album Preview: Will J.Cole Take Over With ‘Cole World’?’

Metermaids Make The Rooftop Shake

Attention hip hop fans! OurStage’s own Metermaids, an underground hip hop duo hailing from Brooklyn, have just released a new album! If you aren’t already familiar with the duo of emcees Sentence and Swell then you should get acquainted, because they’re taking the underground scene by storm. After releasing the Smash Smash Bang EP in late 2009, the pair caught the attention of acclaimed producer 9th Wonder and underground veteran Sage Francis, who signed the group to his label, Strange Famous Records. Since then they’ve been building buzz with a series of mixtapes and EPs until finally dropping their album Rooftop Shake last week. And it is definitely worth the wait.


Continue reading ‘Metermaids Make The Rooftop Shake’

Girl Jam

Portia Monique

Because Seattle is all but synonymous with grunge and “alternative” rock, its other schools of music sometimes have an uphill battle for national recognition. You might not ever read about Seattle’s neo-pop soul movement stealing the flannel throne, but you could very well read about the rise of one of its practitioners—Portia Monique. Monique takes R&B and gives it a forward-thinking hip hop edge. She’s blessed with a voice that can be feather light (see the dreamy piano ballad, “Get To Know You,” which was written and recorded in one sitting) or soulful, strong and limber. “Midnight Thoughts” starts with a fluttering beat, then adds layers and layers of vocals and textures, taking the listener through the twists and turns of a restless mind. The mood lightens on the percussive, synthy “I’m Not Your Girl,” where Monique echoes the sentiment of Lady Gaga’s “Telephone.” The girl has talent, and all we can say is, here we are now. Entertain us.

“Midnight Thoughts” – Portia Monique


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