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H2-O Vs. Nas

New York City, as the birthplace of hip hop, was the cultural center of the famous feud between the east and west coast hip hop communities back in the 1990s. During this time both sides of the country had burgeoning hip hop scenes, albeit with differing musical ideas. Rappers on the west coast used more energetic beats based around synthesizers, while rappers on the east coast used sparser beats based around pianos and turntable scratches. One of the most prominent east coast rappers during this period was Nas, who’s debut album Illmatic set the blueprint for the “east coast sound” that would be closely followed by artists like The Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z. While the overall sound of hip hop has developed and changed over the last decade, OurStage’s own H2-O is a skilled MC with a sound that is very similar to Nas’ gritty east coast sound.

OurStage's H2-O









The first thing you will notice when listening to H2-O is that his voice sounds very similar to that of Nas. If you listen to his track “This Is Me,” you can hear a lot of similarities between the two artists. The beat is simple and sparse, but at the same time very elegant. The beat mostly relies on a looped piano sample, with only a simple bass line and drum beat backing it up. The beat is reminiscent of Nas’ classic song “The World Is Yours,” which uses almost the exact same instrumentation and tempo. In addition to the vocal similarities, H2-O also possesses a equivalently strong delivery and flow. His lines are delivered very clearly and it is easy to understand exactly what he is saying, a valuable skill that is extremely underrated. He also uses complex and unusual rhyme patterns, a skill that Nas is known for.

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Exclusive Q&A: Jason Derülo Looks Ahead To ‘Future History’

Jason Derülo’s meteoric rise to the summit of pop stardom has been anything but simple luck. In the two years since the release of his debut single “Whatcha Say,” Derülo has proved a tireless entertainer, writing over 150 songs for his sophomore album, touring with Lady Gaga and and enduring a seemingly endless array of press appearances. Lucky for us, he hasn’t tired of all the attention yet. We caught up with Derülo to talk about his new album Future History, his writing process in the studio, and the answer to the burning question that all the ladies want to know.

OS: The title of your new album Future History also appears in a tattoo that you have. Which came first, the album title or the tattoo?

JD: The tattoo came first. I got it about two years ago. Future History represents where I came from and where I see myself going. I called my album Future History because it bridges the two.

OS: You’ve mentioned that you grew a lot between releasing your first album and recording Future History. What experiences specifically stick out as having the greatest impact on you?

JD: Falling in love, falling out of love, traveling the world, my cousin passing away and being away from my family are all some of the things that helped me grow over the past two years.

OS: What would you tell people to expect from the new album if this was their first time listening to Jason Derülo?

JD: I’m a music lover and I love all kinds of music, so in my songwriting you will get influences from a bunch of different genres. Music should be made with no limitations. To keep myself from limiting my material, I don’t use a pen. I just go in the booth and sing whatever comes to my mind and heart.

OS: You’ve got a very strong musical theater background and even scored a gig in the Broadway production of Rent. If you could star in one musical theater production,which would it be?

JD: Ragtime.

OS: What’s it like for somebody who’s so passionate about songwriting to work with a team of producers who have different visions for your music?

JD: Collaborating is a lot of fun. I have a clear vision of who I am and what my music should sound like and what I want it to be. The people I work with help me bring that vision to life and take it to the next level. I’ve been blessed to work with some of the most talented people in the world.

OS: By now you’re a certified sex symbol, so the ladies have got to know: what’s your status?

JD: Single and ready to mingle.

OS: You’ve got a great sense of style, and in your videos you’re always wearing fresh kicks or cool studded jackets. What’s your favorite item in your wardrobe to wear?

JD: I like white t-shirts and high top sneakers.

Check out Jason Derülo’s latest album Future History out now!

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Soundcheck: When Hip-Hop Goes Pop

Mash-ups are a mainstay on the hip hop scene with rappers constantly collaborating to deliver fresh material.  Even the most vicious emcee paired up with the current R&B diva has a natural charm, and we’ve come to expect Rihanna, Beyoncé or Kelly Rowland backing up big verses from big rappers.  Now, it seems that hip hop has crossed over into the pop star realm, blurring the lines between the sugary sweet stylings of pop icons like Britney, Katy and Bieber with the hard-hitting sound of the streets.

We got our biggest dose of the crossover craze when Nicki Minaj announced she would join Britney Spears on her Femme Fatale Tour this year. In a groundbreaking move, fans of pop music’s reigning queen would be shoulder to shoulder with fans of the hottest thing to hit hip hop in years.  What resulted was one hell of a party!

Now, other singers are following suit, and pairing up with some unlikely collaborators. Justin Bieber will throw a little hip hop into the holidays when he releases Under The Mistletoe, on November 1.  The fifteen-track holiday album features a version of “The Little Drummer Boy” with none other than Busta Rhymes. We can’t imagine Rhymes’ grimy, gruff voice singing about the birth of Christ, but we’re all ears.  Other guests on the album will include Usher, Boyz II Men and Mariah Carey.

Continue reading ‘Soundcheck: When Hip-Hop Goes Pop’

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


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