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The Age Of The Internet Rapper

It’s no secret that the Internet is a crucial tool to any artist in the twenty-first century. Not only does the web give artists an easy way to let the public hear their music, but it also gives them a direct line of communication with platforms like Twitter and Facebook. And in no musical community is the Internet more important than in hip hop. The emergence of mixtape culture has prompted rappers to release countless tracks for free online to build buzz and make a name for themselves. The ease in which artists can release tracks, and the speed at which these tracks can go viral, gives the web the ability to create superstars overnight.

ASAP Rocky

For example, take one of the newest Internet rap phenomenons, ASAP Rocky. After releasing just a handful of songs at the end of the summer, he signed a $3 million deal with Sony/RCA. That’s a lot of money for an unproven rapper who’s new to the scene. Although he did release the solid free mixtape LiveLoveA$AP right after signing the deal, there’s no way to tell if he will be able to deliver on the hype when he releases his major label debut. Did Sony/RCA jump the gun and sign him before he was ready?

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Exclusive Q&A: A Conversation With Theophilus London About Love, Life and Antarctica

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsWhen you look at the hip-hop scene at it stands now, with artists like OFWGKTA and LMFAO on the rise, you can feel the genre shifting a bit both in terms of music and artistic vision. Taking a more wild and eclectic approach to not only music but fashion sense is becoming a running trend. With that in mind, the up-and-coming rapper Theophilus London is riding the wave with his unique blend of influences, that read off like something from an indie rock band, and his eye-catching sense of style. This has led to widespread success with his debut release Timez Are Weird These Days getting significant buzz and landing high-profile performances like at this past year’s Cannes Film Festival. Taking some time out of his busy tour schedule, this budding rap star sat down to chat with us about topics ranging from his Tumblr to listening to actress Milla Jovovich cover Prince.

OS: In the past, you’ve voiced displeasure about mainstream rap. Do you feel it’s something you still try to stay away from?

TL: In a sense of [it] being played out, maybe. But, there’s a lot of mainstream rap.

OS: How would you describe the difference between your approach and a regular hip hop artist?

TL: I work off of references. I idolize producers and try to sit down and work with producers on brand new sound. We talk about favorite artists first and foremost and develop a brand new sound. I really can’t say I’m different from other rappers because I’m not in the studio with them or in their creative process.

OS: You announced on Tumblr today that you got Michael Jackson to DJ some of your shows. How did you find him?

TL: I found him in New Orleans. He was hanging out a window. I asked him if he wanted to tour and he said yes. Really glad he came out to tour with us.

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Soundcheck: Hot Summer Collabos

As the end of summer approaches, so does the last of the hot summer music from hip hop’s finest.  The latest batch of all-male mash-ups are comprised of some surprising pair-ups and lots of old school favorites. Here’s what we’ll be bumping ‘til the weather cools off.

Chris Brown ft. Kevin McCall: “Strip”:  The first single from Breezy’s hip hop mixtape, Boy In Detention (due out this week) features a fantasy world starring Chris and a stripper, with McCall providing the rap over Brown’s sexy crooning “Take it off / I want to love ya / Everybody, want to touch ya / Your movin’ right / I want to see what’s up under / You can back it up / Beep, Beep / Like a trucker”.  The up-tempo track was produced by Tha Bizness.

Game ft. Wiz Khalifa & B.o.B: “Standin’ On A Corner”: This trio was a bit unexpected, but managed to deliver a delicious dose of Cali swagger.  More melodic than most Game records, this single gives each of emcee equal time to shine over the unique beat.

Gucci Mane ft. Waka Flocka Flame & Rocko: “In My Business” The second Rocko-tinged single from Ferrari Boyz features Waka Flocka in full effect over the heart-pounding, hard-hitting beat of this street style track that can’t help but make you feel ballsy.

Wale ft. J. Cole: “Bad Girls Club”: The duo dropped this track in July sending the ladies into a frenzy with their sexy ode to their ideal “perfect 10”.  In his signature style, Wale kicks off the track by commanding “Bad bit*hes get low right now” followed by Cole’s sensual delivery of loving lyrics.

Timbaland ft. Pitbull and David Guetta: “Pass At Me”: This sexy single took a second to grow on me, but now that it has, I can’t get the sassy song out of my head.  While the sound is a twist for Timbaland’s usual club-banging style, Pitbull’s command of the latin sound shines through; resulting in a unique ditty you can’t help but salsa to.

Pusha T ft. Tyler The Creator: “Trouble On My Mind”: Pusha goes hard in this mash up with Odd Future’s Tyler the Creator, who delivers a particularly appealing verse, proving his ability to stand out from the Wolfpack.  He and Virginia-bred T (who took the opportunity to congratulate Obama on off-ing Bin Laden) served up a big budget video starring the do as a pair of comical criminals.

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Tyler, The Bizarre, Talented, Offensive, Genius, Divisive Creator

He’s been attacked by gay and women’s rights groups, defended by music bloggers, edited by writers who would presume to tell an artist how to create their work. He’s incited riots on rooftops and been arrested for disturbing the peace. He’s been described as a visionary, an obnoxious teen, a genius and a sexist homophobe. Only one thing is certain—Tyler, the Creator is a phenomenon. Still, we find ourselves wondering what exactly is it about this guy and the rest of the Odd Future collective that gets everyone so riled up. Isn’t he using the same schtick that catapulted Wu Tang Clan into stardom in the nineties? Aren’t his rape fantasies oddly reminiscent of Eminem’s murder fantasies circa 2000? What’s going on here?

The most important element of Tyler’s popularity is undoubtedly his charisma, and he has it in spades. His devil-may-care attitude towards what he says is oddly endearing, and he can get away with being completely ridiculous and spontaneous because he knows that the critics will love him no matter what. After all, when you can use the line, “Rape a pregnant b***h and tell my friends I had a threesome/You got a f*****g death wish, I’m a genie it’ll get done,” you can pretty much get away with anything. He’s also clever when it comes to marketing—actually running his Thurnis Haley Golf Wang spoof on the Golf Channel. In spite of ourselves, we find that we’re amused more and more by each Odd Future meme and video clip that pops up. (Have you seen “Grandma Reads Tyler, The Creator’s Tweets”? Gold.)

Tyler is also highly offensive, and that’s historically been a great way to drum up some chatter. (We’d include some more of his lyrics here, but we’d rather not repulse you and there’s only a certain amount of asterisks a person can use in a blog post without looking stupid.) Sara Quin of the indie folk duo Tegan and Sara was the first person of note to call him out on this last week. “The more I think about it, the more I think people don’t actually want to go up against this particular bully because he’s popular,” she writes. “Who sticks up for women and gay people now? It seems entirely uncool to do so in the indie rock world, and I’ll argue that point with ANYONE.” You can read her full letter here; it’s wordy but incredibly well-written—much more so than Tyler’s Twitter response: “If Tegan And Sara Need Some Hard Dick, Hit Me Up!” Wow. Homophobic and sexist in less than 140 characters.

Sara has a point when she writes that critics don’t take on Tyler because he’s well-liked. And we agree that it kind of sucks that he rose to fame thanks to sexism and homophobia. But to be clear, his act is just that: an act. He’s not the first artist to write horrorcore songs, and he won’t be the last. It may seem like a lame defense, but it’s an important distinction. Tyler is—or at least claims to be—straight edge, so even his raps about drug use are just part of the fantasy. Plus he’s only twenty, and last time we checked twenty-year-olds are notorious for disregarding consequences and speaking without thinking.

And putting out this kind of letter less than a week after the release of Goblin? That’s only going to help the album surpass the 50,000 mark it reached in its first seven days. Because there’s one other reason Tyler is blowing up right now: he’s talented. Very talented. Like, we’ll find ourselves unabashedly putting “Yonkers” on repeat. The album-spanning conversation with his therapist packs a punch despite their lack of fanfare, laid over beats that are simple, often almost barren. We’d argue that he isn’t on par with most of the members of Wu Tang Clan; in fact, he may not even be the most talented rapper in Odd Future. But Tyler is the group’s obvious leader, and with Earl Sweatshirt hidden away at boarding school, he’s stepped into the role with more than enough swag. Despite a few similarities to those rappers who paved the way for his collective, he maintains that aura of being an original, something fresh, something we haven’t quite seen before.

So what’s the consensus here? It’s tough to wade through all the B.S. since every blogger with a keyboard and a set of speakers has an opinion—often a very strong one—regarding Tyler and the rest of the Odd Future gang. But whether he’s just a flash in the pan or busy carving out a permanent role in the scene, we guarantee you’ll be hearing a lot about him for a while. For now, we’re content to sit back and enjoy the chaos that surrounds these Californians and their crazy music. And we’ll continue to justify Odd Future’s place on our iPods with the NPR feature “Why You Should Listen to the Rap Group Odd Future, Even Though It’s Hard.”

David Guetta Reacts Rationally To Leaked Single, Hires Ex-Pentagon Investigator

Apparently, David Guetta isn’t a guy you want to cross. Despite his seemingly laid-back nature and endearingly awkward dance moves, Guetta reacted strongly last week when hackers leaked his new single with Nicki Minaj and Flo Rida “Where Them Girls At,” hiring an ex-Pentagon investigator to track down the culprits. It’s a totally badass move for sure, but we don’t think we’re the only ones who consider it a little over the top. That’s why we’re compiling evidence our own OurStage Investigation (sans Pentagon help) to figure out why, exactly, the 43-year-old beatsmith responded so strongly to the thievery and determine if he’s guilty of overreacting.

Exhibit A: Hackers suck, the track wasn’t finished and the thieves added their own finishing touches.

First, the obvious: leaking music is completely and 100 percent illegal. And not only that, it’s just kind of a crappy thing to do. While fans appreciate hearing a new record a few weeks in advance, the pleasure of rolling out new material should go to the artist who toiled to create it. Guetta’s case is even worse, as the track that was leaked was still an unfinished cut and not a representation of his best work. These hackers even went so far as to change parts of the song and say it was Guetta’s. So yeah. Maybe a little rage is justifiable.

Exhibit B: Guetta isn’t the only artist fighting back.

Earlier this month, the California man who violated federal copyright law by uploading Kanye West’s Graduation before it was released pleaded guilty to distributing pirated music. The  Beverly Hills Courier reports that 29-year-old Richard Franco Montejano could “face up to five years imprisonment, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000 when he is sentenced July 25.” Looks like Guetta isn’t alone it wanting a little justice.

So far, all evidence points to Guetta’s reaction being a realistic one. But then again…

Exhibit C: This happens to everyone. And we mean everyone.

There’s no arguing that it totally sucks when someone leaks your music online. But to be honest, albums leak more often than not these days. The Beastie Boys saw the clean version of Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 leak in late April. Tyler, the Creator leaked about three fake versions of the highly anticipated Goblin before the thing actually leaked a week before its scheduled release. Hell, Skrillex had two laptops with his new album on it stolen from his Milan hotel, and you don’t see him bringing in the National Guard.

Exhibit D: There are ways to combat leaks without hunting down the uploader.

When Hot Sauce’s clean version leaked, Mike D and co. didn’t waste time finding the culprit. They just slapped the album up on their Web site, saying, “as a hostile and retaliatory measure with great hubris we are making the full explicit aka filthy dirty nasty version available for streaming on our site.” The last two albums from Jersey pop-punks Man Overboard have leaked early, and the band responded by immediately putting them for sale on their BandCamp page. Maybe there’s a message for Guetta hidden in there—just save the cash you were going to use on pentagon investigators or fancy lawyers and start selling the album early.

Guetta Verdict: Guilty. If not of overreacting, then definitely of executing a clever publicity stunt to drum up some chatter regarding the new single. And with the combined star power of Nicki Minaj and Flo Rida, we’re pretty sure “Where Them Girls At” will still do just fine.

 


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