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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’

Computer Geeks Turned Rock Stars

The music industry is undergoing one of the largest shifts in recent history. For the first time ever, the folks behind the mixing board are getting just as much recognition as the pop starlets singing over their beats. In a sense, hip hop was the first genre to bring the producer/writer to the forefront with the likes of Dr. Dre, Primo, and Kanye, but even still the MC was the focal point as lyrical content was the most important aspect of the style.

Now, it is the button-pushers, knob-twisters, and fader-flickers that have taken the reigns of the music industry. As EDM continues to rise in popularity, a new breed of rock star seems to be emerging. These are mostly guys who spent their childhoods taking apart computers instead of learning power chords. Gathering production techniques from dark corners of Internet music production forums, instead of making out with groupies in dark corners of the club. Up until a couple years ago, electronic music production was very much a bedroom hobby for most of the community. Occasionally, if you had some real talent and the right connections, one or two of your singles might be picked up by some obscure European label, and a stream of royalty checks may start showing up in your mailbox, but only if DJs decided your track was worth the purchase. But even this model still kept the DJ relegated to a booth hidden from the crowd, the maestro of the party, not the focal point. As EDM shifts and takes on a new identity in America, a country so deeply invested in our celebrities, it makes sense that the DJ/Producer has moved out of the booth and onto the stage. Because of this, producers who often never intended to leave the confines of their bedroom are being thrust on stage and asked to develop some sort of live performance for a genre that is largely dominated by playing pre-recorded songs over a PA system. While we’re sure Kaskade and Avicii would not claim any reluctance to their newfound stardom; it certainly comes with some bumps in the road.

Take Deadmau5, arguably the biggest star EDM has seen since Tiesto, for example. Deadmau5, a.k.a. Joel Zimmerman, kicked off the electro-progressive-house revolution long before every frat boy in America was womping to Skrillex.

But he got his start as a computer programmer and sound designer. Always having an attraction to EDM after attending some of the illegal ’90s era warehouse raves, he spent much of his free time on music production forums, adopting the handle DEADMAU5 after finding a dead mouse (literally) behind the fan of his computer tower (the ’5′ was a necessary reduction to stay within the 8 character limit imposed on many early forums). His infamous mau5head has given him and his music an instantly recognizable brand; rabid fan base not withheld, making him the wealthiest of the “new generation” of EDM stars.

Continue reading ‘Computer Geeks Turned Rock Stars’

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’

Second Coming: What Do Holograms Mean For the Future of Live Music?

Let’s face it, sometimes the past should stay dead. But when an awesome artist fades from popularity,  fans later wonder, “Where are they now?”  You may not know it, but many artists you’ve loved in the past are still hard at work writing new albums or preparing to tour again. Fortunately, you now have “Second Coming” to reintroduce some of your favorite acts of the last few decades and give you the scoop on what you can expect from them in the future.

We usually discuss comebacks and reunions in Second Coming, but in light of recent events, we felt it was necessary to address one of the hottest topics being debated in the music industry right now: the hologram. The half-awesome, half-creepy performance of “Hologram Tupac” at this year’s Coachella Festival sparked both excitement and outrage from the music world. Those who were present at the event said the audience mainly expressed confusion at the haunting display of technology (which isn’t technically a hologram…but the terminology has stuck).

Snoop Dogg with Holo-Pac at Coachella 2012

After the initial hype died down, many began to question what Holo-Pac could mean for the future of live musical performances. Would we soon be seeing holograms of Michael Jackson? The Beatles? Jimi Hendrix? And is it even ethical to use a person’s likeness in this way after they’re gone? After all, Tupac never lived in a world where Coachella existed, so he never said “What the f*ck’s up, Coachella?” Whether it was the use of voice replication technology or a very good impersonator, it’s tough to say whether or not this kind of performance add-on is morally correct.

Since Holo-Pac, there have been other talks of using this technology beyond Coachella. There were rumors that Dr. Dre was planning a world tour with the ghostly image of his former peer, though he has recently denied having any plans to do this. Last week, the surviving members of R&B/hip-hop girl group TLC added to the hologram buzz when they announced the possibility of bringing late member Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes with them on their upcoming reunion tour. Others have considered the possibilities of a livestreamed hologram of an artist that is actually performing in another city. The introduction of the hologram could clearly have a big impact on live musical performances, but the jury is still out on whether or not they should become commonplace.

Are you for or against hologram performances? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Coachella Breaks Records for Attendance…And Arrests

According to Rolling Stone, the first week of Coachella 2012 didn’t just break an attendance record – it broke an arrest record, too. The Indio, California police department has estimated that 80,000 to 85,000 people attended each day of the three-day festival. This is up 10,000 people last year, the previous all-time high. The police department claims that there has already been 130 arrests at the festival, as well. This is a big increase compared to last year’s 40 arrests. Due to the tremendous increase in attendance, most of the arrests are alcohol-related. Despite the seemingly large number, Benjamin Guitron of the Indio Police Department told NBC that this number was small “compared to other events-sometimes there are 200 arrests at football games.”

The second weekend of the Coachella Festival will begin tomorrow. According to Rolling Stone, the line up is essentially identical to last week’s. From what we can tell, some big names include Swedish House Mafia, Radiohead, Bon Iver, and of course Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and the now-famous Hologram Tupac for Sunday.

Click here to check out Coachella 2012′s full lineup.

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’

The Second Coming of Dr. Dre

Let’s face it, sometimes the past should stay dead. But when an awesome musical artist fades from popularity, their fans later wonder, “Where are they now?”  You may not know it, but many artists you loved in the past are still hard at work writing new albums or preparing to tour once more.  Fortunately, you now have Second Coming to reintroduce you to some of your favorite acts of the last few decades, and give you the scoop on what you can expect from them in the future!

THEN: Gangsta rap pioneer André Young (a.k.a. Dr. Dre) was born to teenage musician parents in 1965. He grew up to be a staple in the music scene of south central Los Angeles, deejaying at as many clubs and parties as would hire him. Along with his group N.W.A. (for whom he was also producer), Dre was at the forefront of the gangsta rap movement until 1992, when he went solo and founded Death Row Records with Suge Knight. His debut record, The Chronic, went triple platinum within a year, solidifying Dre’s status as a full-fledged rap heavyweight. He spent the following few years focusing on producing and mentoring new, up-and-coming artists, sitting behind the board for artists like Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Busta Rhymes, Jay-Z and 50 Cent. Dre also released a sophomore solo album, 2001, which went sextuple platinum. In 2004, he began work on a third album, Detox, but after pushing back work for other projects and losing his son to a heroin overdose, the album was never completed. Continue reading ‘The Second Coming of Dr. Dre’

The Second Coming of Lil’ Kim

Let’s face it, sometimes the past should stay dead. But when an awesome musical artist fades from popularity, their fans later wonder, “Where are they now?”  You may not know it, but many artists you loved in the past are still hard at work writing new albums or preparing to tour once more.  Fortunately, you now have “Second Coming” to reintroduce you to some of your favorite acts of the last few decades and give you the scoop on what you can expect from them in the future!

THEN: A protégé of the late Notorious B.I.G., Lil’ Kim made her debut as a member of rap group Junior M.A.F.I.A in 1995. A year later, she reintroduced herself to the world as a solo artist by dropping her own album, Hard Core, and appearing on tracks by Mary J. Blige and Missy Elliott in 1997. The album, which was very accurately described as “gangsta porno rap” by US politician C. Delores Tucker, raised more than a few eyebrows. Kim’s sophomore album, The Notorious K.I.M. (see what she did there?), reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 200 charts. The same year, she contributed to the anthemic “Lady Marmalade” cover sung by Christina Aguilera, Missy Elliott, P!nk and Mya for the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. She saw additional success with her duets with 50 Cent (“Magic Stick”) and X-Tina again (“Can’t Hold Us Down”), but her fourth album, The Naked Truth, didn’t do so well, commercially. In 2005, she served  a year-long prison sentence for perjury. Four years later, Kim returned to the spotlight when she appeared on Dancing With The Stars and finished in fifth place.

NOW: Though she hasn’t released an official album, Kim has been in music news lately, thanks to her ongoing rap feud with Nicki Minaj. Soon after accusing Minaj of stealing her style, Kim became the subject of Minaj’s biting, diss-laden track “Roman’s Revenge,” which featured Eminem. Kim responded with a mixtape titled Black Friday, taking multiple shots at Minaj’s album Pink Friday. The rap battle rages on, as Nicki has seen recent success with her Kim-targeted single “Stupid Hoe,” and has named her sophomore album Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded after Roman, her angry male alter-ego who loves to hate on Kim.

But, feuds aside, Kim’s gearing up for a big year in 2012, including the release of her new album. She enlisted the help of rap heavyweights 50 Cent and Dr. Dre for the record, which has not yet been titled. Kim has also written a book, titled The Price of Loyalty, which is set to be released simultaneously with the album, as well been the subject of a documentary. According to, Kim said the following about her book: “When I did my book deal they were basically like ‘we want the Kim life story.’ But my lawyers were like ‘no, no, that’s like four different checks. ‘Cause [my story is] to be continued, to be continued, to be continued.”

It’s everyone’s favorite stripper quartet! Check out Lil’ Kim’s appearance in the video for “Lady Marmalade” below:

Snoop’s Latest Hustles

Snoop has been a busy boy.  Aside from promoting his super successful single, “Young, Wild & Free”, and working on the highly-anticipated film, Mac & Devin Go To High School with Wiz Khalifa, he’s also resurrecting the Dogg Pound as executive producer, headlining Coachella with Dr. Dre and launching a new brand in the meantime.

Snoop’s latest venture is Executive Branch, a new line of cigars that will be sold for  $0.99 per pouch.  If his latest arrest is any indication, something tells me these aren’t really for smoking tobacco.  Still, the proud pothead was arrested this month in Texas, for possession of marijuana on his tour bus. 

While the pot possession wasn’t so surprising, the location of the sniff-out was quite coincidental.  His bus was stopped at a checkpoint in Sierra Blanca, the exact same spot where Willie Nelson was busted in 2010.  Despite Snoop’s valid California pot prescription, Texas enforced their zero drug policy and cited Snoop on misdemeanor drug possession.  If convicted, he could face up to six months in prison.

Legal woes aside, Snoop is riding high with the success of his recent collaboration with Wiz Khalifa. Their recent album, Mac + Devin Go To High School produced the platinum single, “Young, Wild & Free” and set tongues wagging about their upcoming feature film of the same title.  Poised as this generation’s Cheech & Chong, the duo shows no signs of slowing down.  Snoop seems to take pride in the big brother role he’s assumed in Khalifa’s career.

“My brother from another mother. Everything I loved he loved. It was like watching myself all over again just seeing a young Snoop Dogg all over again,” he said. “He had a lot of people in his hands and he was leading them in the right direction and I was just wanted to make sure that he knew that he was doing the right thing and to keep doing what he was doing. He continued to do it,” he said of Khalifa.  Based on the enduring success of Khalifa’s brand, (he’s up for two GRAMMYs next month), Snoop’s done a good job as mentor.

He’s stepping into another advisory role, this time for Kurupt and Daz’s upcoming Dogg Pound release, a project he hasn’t worked on since his Death Row days. With Dr. Dre by his side, the two will executive produce the upcoming album, Alumni. In an interview with, Kurupt said the chemistry is definitely there. “Snoop is overseeing. We put the beats together, submit it to him [Dr. Dre] to let him know what we are working with and he comes and adds his flavor to it. It’s natural.”

The Dogg Pound project won’t be the last of Snoop and Dre’s collabs, as the two will be headlining both weekends of Coachella this year.  While the jury is still out on whether Detox will ever see the light of day, the team up with Snoop is certainly a good sign.  Realigning himself with Dre is sure to result in some classic throwbacks, and his continuing work with Khalifa solidifies his spot in the new hip hop market, Snoop may just have his best year yet.


Soundcheck: GRAMMY Showdown — Nicki vs. Kanye vs. Jay-Z

The 2012 GRAMMY nominations are in and it looks like another big year for hip hop, with the genre’s brightest stars earning the majority of nominations for the music industry’s biggest honor.

Leading the pack with seven nominations is Kanye West. His hit “All Of The Lights” earned nods for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and Song of The Year while his joint album with Jay-Z, Watch The Throne, is up against his own My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy for Best Rap Album.  The duo is also nominated for Best Rap Performance for their song, “Otis”.

Bruno Mars and Adele are tied with Foo Fighters with six nominations each.  While it may seem a little dated by now, Mars’ debut missed last year’s cut-off.  His debut album, Doo-Wops & Hooligans is up for Album of The Year while his hit, “Grenade” is vying for Song Of The Year, Record of The Year, and Best Pop Solo Performance.  Lil Wayne isn’t far behind with five nominations including Best Rap Performance for  “Look At Me Now” with Busta Rhymes and Chris Brown. Like West, Weezy will battle himself in the Best Rap/Sung Collaboration category where he’s nominated for “I’m On One” with Rick Ross, Drake, and DJ Khaled and “Motivation” his duet with Kelly Rowland.

Continue reading ‘Soundcheck: GRAMMY Showdown — Nicki vs. Kanye vs. Jay-Z’


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