Houston Speed-Rhymer Reps His City
3:00PM ET March 31st, 2012
Contributor : D. L. Thomas
A Rocky Williform Company
Rappers are notoriously confident.
Cockiness is a cornerstone of emceeing, but for Houston's Marcus Manchild--confidence in hip hop wasn't immediate. The former basketball standout may be one of the hottest up-and-comers in the Lone Star State, but in the beginning, he wasn't exactly bursting with confidence at his abilities. "I thought I was bad," he says with a chuckle. "But I started getting better and better and my partners would be like 'You killing it' and I just fell in love with it. They motivated me, basically. Since then, I've been going."
And going, and going.
Manchild has become one of the most talked-about young rhymers in the game--and he's gotten cosigns from veterans ranging from his fellow Houston rhymers Slim Thug and Bun B to Chicago spitters like Lupe Fiasco and Twista. The latter is one Marcus' major influences.
"Shoutout to the homie Twista," Manchild adds. "I give him all his props."
Being from Houston, Manchild knew that his own speedy delivery would set him apart from his peers. "My partner told me it kind of made me versatile and gave me my own kinda lane," he says of his rhyme approach. "We tend to hear stuff on the radio and on the internet and its hard to not mimic it. It gets stuck in your head--especially when you're not own. It kind of shows in your rap. [I said to myself] 'If I can make this happen, its gonna be unexpected.' Especially coming from down south, from Houston."
The speed-rap approach was actually a happy accident that Marcus attributets to a few too many libations in the studio during one session. "They had a song called 'Bottoms Up' and I remixed it on my first mixtape ever called 'Preseason,'" he shares. "I told my homies, 'Let me be in here by myself with the producer.' I was f**ked up and sh*t and started rapping too fast and he was like 'You still on beat.' Since then I was like, 'Let me practice this.' So I kept going with this."
The veteran support Manchild has received from notables like Bun B and Scarface hasn't gone unnoticed, either. He believes that the key to his success in the industry is his ability to listen and absorb. " Its a blessing that they even gave me a chance to get on records with them," he says of the Houston rap elite. "Shout out to them. It tripped em out when Slimm first gave me some advice: 'Don't ever think about the business first, because that'll take the fun out of your rapping.'"
Manchild remains humble--despite the A-list fans and the praise he's gotten in his hometown. He credits much of his success to his affiliation with the AMG label and the familial approach they've taken. "They keep you working and keep you going," he says. "They make sure everything you're doing is on-point. Its a brotherhood. All of them are older than me so they treat me like a little brother. its more than music, its actually family. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be in the position I'm in now. Nobody would know who Marcus Manchild is."
More and more people are learning, however. And Marcus Manchild's track "Problems" has helped his ever-growing fanbase see a different side to the fun-loving rapper. The intensely introspective track is Manchild's proudest moment thus far. "Shoutout to Bun for being on that," he says of "Problems." "I always talk about the good stuff that goes on and i never really get to express to people what has happened in my life and what still goes on in my life. I felt like I had to do that for fans to respect me and my music, instead of just thinking 'he's another ni***a that's rapping.' I feel problems was just a good track to put out there.
But, despite "Problems" and its heady subject matter, the young emcee is still enjoying himself. And he's still learning the game. Both off-stage and on.
"In Minnesota I had a bad incident where I went up and shouted out Detroit," he reveals, laughing. "They was rocking, they was hype and at the end I was like 'Y'all get down here in Detroit!'"
10:00PM ET February 28th, 2012
Contributor: Todd Williams
A Rocky Williform Company
It's easy to roll your eyes at the idea of another high-profile 'hipster' rapper releasing an alt-rock album. After all, Lil Wayne's Rebirth, hackneyed vanity project that it was, didn't do much to endear that particular movement to the masses. As loathsome as the late 90s rap-metal boom was, it didn't initially come off as cornball and forced as many of these 'rock-rap' releases.
But WZRD, the duo comprised of rapper Kid Cudi and producer Dot Da Genius, have crafted their own entry into the burgeoning subgenre. Their self-titled debut makes for an interesting listen--but doesn't always hit the mark that they undoubtedly sought to achieve when the project was announced last year.
But even it's misses are compelling--though that could be damning with faint praise.
The processed power chords of "High On Life" don't seem to mesh well with Cudi's somewhat stiff singing. He sounds unsure of himself on a track that would be a triumph if he just allowed himself to cut loose. When he sings "I'm ODing, High Off Life," you don't really believe him. "Love Hard" suffers from a similar problem--but here, the issue is a song that's all feel that doesn't really go anywhere musically. "Live & Learn" is a near-hit for the duo, but its bouncy verses are undermined by a non-hook that is near-unintelligible and makes the song sound unfinished--despite the fact that its heavy coda is one of the more dynamic moments on the album.
"Dream Time Machine," which features Empire of the Sun, finds the duo attempting what sounds like an approximation of late 90s/early 00s Radiohead--a feel that permeates a lot of the album. And its closer to Cudi's own druggy, moody singsongy style on his 'normal' releases. He sounds much more at home here, offering more of the po-faced introspection his fans have come to expect. When WZRD find this sort of combination, the songs typically work. "Brake" is probably the most atmospheric moment on the album, full of hard percussion and ethereal distortion, with Cudi's trademark druggy, echo-heavy vocals floating above the din as opposed to wallowing in it.
"Teleport 2 Me, Jamie," is an obvious choice for the first single. Not because it has 'hit' written all over it, but its probably the most 'conventional' sounding song here. With its singalong hook, lovelorn lyrics and off-key "na-na-na-nas," its probably the most akin to Cudi's previous releases. And the slightly off-kilter cover of Leadbelly's "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" (which is actually more of an approximation of Nirvana's 1994 'unplugged' version) works well and shows that WZRD understand where they want to go musically.
If only their original tunes had the songwriting heft to back up their ambitions.
What hinders much of the WZRD project, like a lot of rappers' recently-released excursions into alt-rock, is that while Dot and Cudi nail the feel of the rock artists they are obviously influenced by, they forego melody and structured songwriting. Behind all of that pathos and angst, there has to be a melody--or at the very least, if you're going for abstract and unconventional, (a la Radiohead or Mars Volta) it helps to have the chops to pull it off. But, one has to admire WZRD's commitment to their vision. Even if all of their ideas aren't fully realized on this project.
Sultry Singer/Songwriter Carves Her Own Niche
7:00AM ET February 10th, 2012
Contributor : D. L. Thomas
A Rocky Williform Company
"I hate interviews. I really do."
You have to at least appreciate honesty. And, Brittany BOSCO, the doe-eyed beauty that fronts the BOSCO Band, is nothing if not honest. The Savannah, GA native has built a following on the strength of impassioned songwriting and an artistic fearlessness that has won her fans from Atlanta to Austria. Her genre-bending sound and ever-evolving image makes David Bowie and Annie Lennox comparisons understandable--but they're also a little too easy. BOSCO is a unique force, and Brittany's voice is all her own, and beneath the veneer of the unapproachable auteur lies a very relatable Southern girl who credits her personal and musical roots for her sound.
"I am really grounded in that whole very grass roots, very organic feel," Brittany says of her background and its influence on her. "Savannah is very organic--that's my style. Its something that I brought [from there] that was different compared to the music scene in Atlanta."
She pauses thoughtfully, before adding, " I think thats how i relate."
Her senior year of high school, when she had to sing in a cathedral, Brittany began to understand how stepping out of her creative comfort zone could yield great rewards for her artistically and personally. "You do this piece in another language," she shares of the experience. "You have different people come look at you; different colleges and stuff like that."
That recital was the first of many experiences that set her on her current path, but even as she moved to Atlanta and took her first steps towards becoming one of the city's most promising indie acts, she found herself having to prove to cynics that she knew what she was doing. "You always figure 'Ohmigod, this is something that i wanna do,'" she says. "[But] its like, to people dreams can seem so far-fetched and not tangible."
"But its almost like getting over that fear of other people's insecurities," she continues. "I was just like 'Enough. i've had enough of that.'"
A 2010 tour of Europe helped crystallize for the young artist that she was doing what she meant to be doing, and her art was most important. "Right when I got back from my European tour," she says. "That's when it all resonated with me."
Despite Atlanta's reputation for hip hop club anthems, BOSCO has helped remind fans that the city's musical identity is far more varied than some may realize.
"You have to create your own scene. you have to have that burst of creativity," she says. "But on the flip side of things, i want to cultivate and bring to the surface that there's more than mainstream hip hop in Atlanta. There's soul. There's indie rock. There's more than just that. "
Brittany represents the latest in a long-line of Georgia artists that are building their followings from the ground-up. Building on the tradition of indie rock godfathers R.E.M., BOSCO is putting together another DIY tour. "We're raising money to go on tour," she reveals. "We decided to use KickStarter to raise $5000. We're going to do a southeast tour in May and Europe in September."
Brittany BOSCO is confident that just being true to herself will make or break her career. She isn't planning on selling herself short or selling out. "If that was the case, I would've been signed two years ago!" she says with a laugh. "If I wanted to do that I would've been signed a long time ago. But I refuse. I'm just gonna keep doing what's true to me. It's not my fault if people don't comprehend. Just continue to walk and do it until their level of consciousness catches up with yours."
Fiery Philly Rhymer Has A Knack For Being EVERYWHERE
5:30PM ET January 25th, 2012
Contributor : Todd Williams
A Rocky Williform Company
"Sean Falyon Be Everywhere."
The Philadelphia rapper's mantra is more than just a clever motto--its a truism if ever there was one. He's seemingly at all places at all times, from swanky boutiques in SoHo to the smoke-filled corridors of hole-in-the-wall clubs of Atlanta's Eastside. But whereas several of today's hungriest emcees spend their time 'on the scene' pushing their latest mixtapes or elbowing for a chance to impress the newest local superstars, Falyon seems to understand the value of making real connections.
In other words, people really like this guy.
"What sparked the [Sean Falyon Be Everywhere] idea was a producer named Cory Mo," Falyon explains with a laugh. " When he first got to Atlanta, I kept running into him and he was like 'Damn, Sean Falyon be everywhere.' And I was like, 'Imma use that!'"
Falyon's got that combination of everyman accessibility and an easygoing nature, coupled with a fierce determination to succeed and an impassioned approach to rhyming. Before heading south to Atlanta, Falyon was grinding in his native Philly, hustling with his own T-shirt company and only dabbling in music sporadically. "When I was in Philly, I didn't take [music] seriously," he says of that period. "I tried to take it serious when I hit college. You'd rap to be cool and get recognition. I actually recorded my first recording when I started going to Chicago. But then, I was like 'We ain't making no money, we ain't doing nothing.' So I went back to school. But in school I wasn't really focused on school, i was focused on throwing parties and doing T-shirts."
"But the best thing about school [was] it helped me network," Falyon explains. "I met a lot of artists, like DJ Unk and Bonecrusher and people like that. I was meeting folks through the clothing. Fashion and music go hand and hand, so it was like, 'You're down in Atlanta, you're around a bunch of rappers and you used to rap.' So [music] was bound to happen sooner or later."
Meeting with Bonecrusher, in particular, helped shift the rhymer back to his first love. The star asked Falyon to rhyme on a song, and it reignited Sean's love for rapping. "We actually had this song called 'Swerving,' with Bonecrusher and Cutty Cartel from Jim Crow and Dungeon Family. It was the first record that I mixed and mastered and sat through the whole process. People [heard] it and they were like 'Damn, I like it.' The response was crazy."
[Check Out Sean Falyon's "SFBE Riot" Here]
But even after hopping on a track with an established star, Falyon still held down a day job to help make ends meet. "I was still working," he shares. "I was at a customer service place doing accounts management, I worked at a hotel. I was leaving the house at six in the morning and not coming back till eleven. [But] I felt like if I worked as hard with [music] as I did with the t-shirts and the other jobs, this could be something. This could be my life."
Today, music is Sean Falyon's life. His "Sean Falyon Be Everywhere" mixtapes generated tremendous online buzz and garnered him an enviable following among fans of indie hip hop, as did his Playboy Tre and Tony Williams-assisted mixtape "1970 Charger." He was named one of the Top Artists of 2012 by Jenesis Mag, and the emcee has also been featured on ThisIs50, Arts Beats & Lyrics and MTVU. And there's more to come.
"I'm working on a remix project called 'Seven Degrees of Sean Falyon,'" he says. "Working with B.oB.'s lead guitarist and music director. And I'm working on the album, [and] I'm also looking to build my brand--even outside of music."
"For me to fulfill my dream, I gotta support it," Falyon says. "Being indie and self-managed, I still have to wear every cap in the world to make things happen. Bigger and better things."
As Falyon continues to climb, its certain that those that don't know now will eventually begin to see the light. At the very least, we know you'll see him.
'Cuz Sean Falyon be everywhere.
Follow Sean Falyon at Twitter.com/SeanFalyon
and Check Out Updates & More Music At SeanFalyon.com
What Does the Success or Failure of This Film Really Mean?
3:00PM ET January 21st, 2011
Contributor: Todd Williams
A Rocky Williform Company
Todd Williams is Senior Editor for HipHopBlog.com and A Pop Culture Commentator, Music Critic, Hip Hop Historian and Screenwriter. This Op-Ed Piece Does Not Necessarily Reflect the Views of HipHopBlog.com
Another Black film release, another opportunity to examine the state of Black Hollywood and what impact said film will have on Black Hollywood.
There's been much discourse surrounding the film Red Tails over the last several weeks. Much of it rooted in equal parts hyperbole and cynicism, much of it about Hollywood racism, Black apathy and the dubious motivations of a long-time Hollywood heavyweight who suddenly has been decreed a de facto spokesperson for the Black struggle in Tinseltown; early criticisms of the film have been peppered with references to producer George Lucas' efforts to 'guilt' audiences into seeing his film. Lucas made headlines by appearing on "The Daily Show" and discussing the resistance he encountered from Hollywood executives uninterested in helping to produce a film with a large budget and a majority Black cast. Some that have seen the film and were unimpressed were especially vicious in their attacks on Lucas for what they felt was a mediocre 'bone' thrown to Black film audiences, tossed with snide condescension from the quasi-benevolent benefactor of Star Wars fame.
But Lucas' complaints have been volleyed about by several Black filmmakers for decades, as many of his detractors point out. But what's not usually acknowledged, however, is the rather obvious fact that what Lucas says it's true--even if we're less-than-comfortable with him being the one who says it. So if this is indeed a problem that we can all agree on, why can't we agree on how to address it? Or who is best suited to address it?
Why did a White man telling the truth about race, Hollywood and the struggle to see our stories anywhere other than on premium cable or independent film circuits turn everyone into cynical naysayers? And, in the case of this particular battle, is it more important for a big-budget Black film to be successful or good?
Filmmakers like Michael Bay and Brett Ratner will never be mistaken for Martin Scorsese or Stanley Kubrick, but their films have made money. Having a big Black film open well could send a powerful message--moreso, even, than if the film is a cinematic masterpiece.
Let's understand something; Black audiences have proven that they will support Black films. Black romantic comedies, melodramas, indie films that get strong word-of-mouth buzz, and 'hood' comedies have gotten support from audiences for years. The problem, fundamentally, is that studios have not produced enough all-Black action films, period pieces and epics for there to be a fair gauge of Black audience support for such films. But the few times one manages to get greenlit, produced and released, it does matter whether or not audiences care enough to spend money to see it.
And, yes, this dilemma is rooted in Hollywood's inability (or unwillingness) to market predominantly African American films to non-Black audiences--particularly in the overseas market--but that doesn't mean that Black audiences are always turning out in droves for these films, either. Especially in the case of bigger budget films that require a higher box office to be considered successful than a movie that cost less to produce.
Obviously, the ideal end is for Blacks to finance their own studios to tell their own stories. But, we can't be naive enough to think that, even in that ideal scenario, there won't be films that are less-than-stellar. But, realistically, the ultimate goal is not to create a mystical film universe where every Black release is Citizen Kane. The objective is to have so many voices telling so many stories, that no one project would be definitive or viewed as some make-or-break torchbearer for all of Black moviedom.
But it takes a lot longer to get there when films like Miracle At St. Anna and Red Tails bomb at the box office. What possible reason would any film studio--Black, White, Hollywood major or arthouse indie--take the chance of funding an expensive film that audiences have proven time and again that they don't want to see?
How can we blame studios for casting the Lone Black Superstar in blockbusters alongside 'safe' White castmates, as was the case with Eddie Murphy for much of the 1980s and Will Smith for the majority of his career? How can we criticize the lack of an advertising push for challenging, multi-layered films like the captivating Pariah when even accessible popcorn flicks can't put butts in seats?
Blacks can win Oscars till we're blue in the face. It won't mean a thing when it comes to box office.
For all of the cinematic shortcomings of Tyler Perry's filmography, (and there are many), his audience supports his work. Part of the reason is his effective branding, but also its because he gives them the films they have proven (with their wallets) that they want to see. As a result, not only has Tyler Perry Studios been able to churn out a seemingly infinite amount of buppie rom-coms, but similar-themed films like Woman, Thou Art Loosed, Jumping the Broom and more have been released by various other studios in recent years.
The movie Red Tails will not be the end all-be all of African American cinema. What the possible success of this film represents, more than anything, is an opportunity for audiences to let the filmmaking community know that they can support a film that has a significant budget, a wide release, and a cast full of Black people. There have been, and will always be, brilliant black indie and art house films. There will be riveting made-for-television movies with stellar writing and remarkable casts. We've seen those before. But what we see far less of are period pieces and action films with majority Black casts, big budgets and, most importantly, a significant advertising push.
Or we can just sit back, give Tyler Perry 8 or 9 days to write, shoot, edit and release Madea Saves Easter and applaud in unison when it crushes the competition on its opening weekend.
Because that's a victory for Black cinema, too. Right?
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