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Tag: "New Hip Hop"

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Hip Hop Habit: Yes Lord

Hip Hop Habit LogoAs a man with familial connections to Northern Philadelphia, I’ll be the first to tell you the day-to-day existence there is less than rosy. Needless to say, growing up in that environment is tough, but surviving it with the goal of becoming rap’s next superstar? That’s downright ambitious. Luckily for Yes Lord (born Jamal Tillery), ambition is innate.  Although Tillery bounced in and out of trouble as a teen and had difficulty staying in the same school for an extended period of time, he found his drive after attending college. Since then, he has churned that motivation into 1 BA , 2 MBAs and even runs his own businesses. The music? Well you could say that’s pretty ambitious too.

As is often the case with singles these days, the song Yes Lord’s received the most recognition for here on OurStage is not his strongest. Winning first prize in last November’s Converse Get Out of the Garage Urban Competition, the tongue and cheek “Hold Me Down” blithely describes the emcee’s adoration for the lady in his life over a moderate beat that leaves listeners asking for more. What’s important to note about this piece is that it carries a trait resoundingly present in much of Tillery’s content: desire. As noted above, Yes Lord has proven himself to be a very motivated person, and once he wraps his mind around what he wants, there’s no stopping him. Such is audible in “Hold Me Down,” where it’s heard through the satisfaction of successfully pursuing the woman he loves. However, his dream chasing really gets inspiring is in ghetto-documenting “Life in the City.”

Yes LordThis track follows the one time delinquent down both the rabbit hole of drug addiction and the rare yet resilient comeback. Opening with promising vocals from featured singer Jeremie Morris over an ironically calming beat, the slow tempo automatically places Yes Lord’s tone into a category of resolve; he’s not happy with the present but he’s confident in what the future can hold. But, if there’s any truth to Slug’s (of Atmosphere) line “Junkies won’t bounce ‘till they hit the ground” then Tillery provides the supporting evidence. Referring to himself as a “coke sniffer, chain smoker, perk popper, and weed mover,” it’s safe to say he was going nowhere fast: “Graduation nah I was agitated/ and fascinated with dice as they scratched the pavement passing payments/ cash that was actually tainted/ crack acquainted/ marijuana sacks is flaming.” After a bust introduces him to rock bottom, Tillery uses a new year as fuel to power his goals of replenishing cash flow and doubling up on real estate.  His story is truly moving.

With enough earned business know-how to run his career independently, it’s pretty safe to say that Yes Lord controls his own destiny. He’s won various awards and performed at multiple hip hop events, but time will show these things were just steps along the way to the big time. Check his tracks out in the player below, and let us know if he enthuses you in the comments!

Nicki Minaj: We Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet

It’s hard to believe the “Queen of Mixtapes” turned “Queen of Features” can’t perceive her own buzz. If you’re tuned in to a hip hop station, chances are good that you’ll hear Nicki Minaj on at least three songs in a row. She’s currently featured on ten songs in heavy rotation, including “My Chick Bad” with Ludacris, “Bottoms Up” with Trey Songz, and “Get It All” with Sean Garrett.

Featured on over thirty tracks this year with artists ranging from Gucci Mane to Christina Aguilera, Minaj has demonstrated remarkable versatility without ever releasing an album. Her own single, “Your Love” soared to #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #7 on the Hot R&B/ Hip Hop chart after the previously discarded track was leaked in June.

Credit: Howard Huang (Courtesy of Universal Motown)

What’s the appeal? Her dynamic deliveries, quirky characters, and cartoon-like voices lend a theatrical element to her rhymes that haven’t been seen from a female emcee. She’s unapologetic about her sexuality, confident in her abilities, and unyielding in her quest for super-stardom. It also doesn’t hurt that she’s down with the reigning cool kids of hip hop, signing with Lil Wayne’s, Young Money imprint in 2009. Her verse on Young Money’s hugely successful single, “Bedrock” puts her at the center of the crew’s triumphant takeover as she held her own alongside hip hop’s current golden child, Drake. She nabbed two BET Awards this year including “Best New Artist”, and is nominated for an MTV VMA for her Hype Williams-directed video, “Massive Attack.” Still, the self-proclaimed “Barbie doll” says fans haven’t even tasted what she plans to serve up on her first, full-length album, Pink Friday, due out November 23.

According to Nicki, and her alter egos, she hasn’t even scratched the surface of her success.

-Cortney Wills

Cortney Wills is a music and pop culture writer.



The art of rap is a lot like the science of perfume. There’s the top note an initial punch to your senses that gives you your first impression. Then there’s the base note the depth of character that is perceived after the top note fades away. If your base note isn’t quality, then whatever you’re laying on top is pointless.

Melo Tha Truth has mixed up a winning concoction for hip-hop fans. He uses the usual top notes to grab your attention name-checking his clothes, his sexual prowess and his lyrical swerve. But underneath all that swagger you get real chops. “Akademiks,” a shout-out to Melo’s favorite clothing line, is a stripped-back track built on the rapper’s dexterous flow over a looping Middle Eastern line. “I’m That Shit” gets more aggressive, showcasing an epic beat that would do Kanye and Jay-Z proud. Melo’s hunger to make it past hip-hop’s velvet ropes is acute. “I’m ahead of my time like daylight savings / I belong in the sky, I’m a star in the making.”

Let’s hope the industry picks up on his scent.


OurStage Interviews Rising Star: Yak Ballz

Queens-raised lyricist and OurStage artist Yak Ballz is making NYC proud by showing he’s got the talent and…er, cajones to take on the rap game. After releasing his first record in 2000, Yak Ballz found himself being courted by El-P, alternative hip-hop king and owner of Definitive Jux (which is home to artists such as Dizzee Rascal and Aesop Rock). Since then, Yak Ballz has established himself as one of the emerging voices of independent hip-hop.

Q: Why do you think you are doing well on OurStage?
A: I think my music, when given the chance, is too original to go unnoticed. Fortunately for me, most visitors of are looking for good music and mine has managed to stand out as a result of their votes.

Q: Favorite thing about the site?
A: The artist profile template. I like how it’s formatted. Super organized, user friendly and appealing.

Q: What’s your coolest moment with a fan?
A: In Kansas City, when a war veteran soldier who was around my age took off his titanium prosthetic leg for me to sign. It was a powerful moment and one of my most memorable with a fan.

Q: What do you think the internet has done to change music?
A: The internet has made music accessible on an international scale. It’s also made record sales drop at an alarming rate. For Independent artists like myself, income is made from shows and merch because the availability of music on the net affecting record sales so negatively leaves us no other choice.

Q: What is your biggest fear?
A: That my art will never get the recognition I feel it deserves.

Q: Coolest moment performing?
A: Playing the Abbey Pub in Chicago, and crowd surfing over a sold out screaming audience.

Q: If you could open for anyone, who would it be?
A: Rage Against the Machine, but Gym Class Heroes would probably be a good look right now.

Q: What do you think makes you stand out from your competition?
A: I credit myself for being a great performer where a lot of hip hop artists aren’t. I try to let it all hang out on stage.

Q: And the name? … please explain where you got Yak Balls!
A: I used to intern and work for a urban boutique and record store in the east village of NY called Bobbito’s Footwork in the late 90’s. It was owned by famed DJ and radio host Bobbito Garcia, who would later put out my first 12 inch on Fondle’em records. Footwork was a place NY graffiti writers would congregate. I befriended them as they frequented the store. I told them my real name was Yash. My real name was unacceptable in their world if I was to be a part of it so they called me started calling me Yak. Bobbito had a radio show with DJ Stretch Armstrong and the two of them would shout me out on the radio and put the word “balls” at the end as a joke. “Yak Ballz” ended up sticking and Bobbito would leave me answering machine messages at Footwork telling me what I needed to get done and calling me Yak Ballz. Everyone got a kick out of it and would replay the
messages. It was a joke that never got old I guess.

Check out Yak Ballz!!

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