Man On The Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager
04:00PM ET November 8th, 2010
Contributor: Mathis Bauchner
A Rocky Williform Company
Kid Cudi is way past the point of caring what any of us think. Perhaps he never did. With his new album, Man On The Moon II: The Legend Of Mr. Rager, he seems to have outgrown even the influence of his mentor Kanye West. Last year I reviewed Cudi’s debut effort for HHB and criticized him for being excessively gloomy. Let me tell you, things haven’t gotten any cheerier. My perception of Cudi has changed, however, and I’ve come to realize that the music he’s creating cannot be judged on the same criteria as most hip-hop.
His work transcends that or any other genre. He’s developed a style completely his own, and one that certainly didn’t remain stagnant from his first album to his second. On The Legend of Mr. Rager, Cudi moves even further away from hip-hop, opting for darker ballads and more singing than ever. Thematically, he delves even deeper into his own substance abuse. It appears the fame and fortune that Cudi’s accumulated since “Day ‘n’ Nite” shot up the charts hasn’t made things any easier for the lonely stoner.
There’s a certain point when drugs surpass recreation and become something more significant, a key component of a life style rather than an isolated activity. It seems Kid Cudi reached that point long ago, and he’s determined to tell us all about it. Marijuana, cocaine, alcohol: all of them play a key role in The Legend of Mr. Rager. Bumps to get through the day, weed to relax at night, and booze to drown it all. At times Cudi appears hell bent on reaching anhedonia, meaning a state of psychic numbness. It seems that more often then not if he’s feeling anything at all it’s pain.
But this goes beyond the whining that I felt Cudi got caught up in on his first album. There’s something deeper at work here. Tracks like “GHOST!” and “Scott Mescudi Vs. The World” go a long towards capturing the rapper’s frustrations. While Cudi is deeply personal throughout much of the album, he still maintains a universal quality that’s won him some of his biggest supporters.
Any kid who’s partied their way through the bad times can relate to Cudi. On “The Mood” he captures perfectly the anonymity of a crowded dance floor. “The young and wild take chances together / they all jump up, twist and groove / but no one talks, lost in the motherf*cking mood,” he raps. On the title track, “Mr. Rager,” he declares, “This here is dedicated to all the kids like me.”
As much Cudi defies any musical influences, there still seems to be a generation he’s looking to represent. He might not care what we think, but he still wants to be cared about. The irony of this is captured on “Don’t Play This Song,” as he sings, “Want to know what it sounds like when I’m not on drugs? Please, please don’t play this song.” But of course if you’re hearing these words you’ve already made that mistake.
The masterful Emile handles much of the album’s production. He seems one of few producers capable of crafting music that truly compliments Cudi’s unique approach. The Legend of Mr. Rager is by no means an album that bends to commercial tastes. I’d predict that even some of Cudi’s loyalist fans won’t be all that thrilled with it. But make no mistake, Cudi has crafted exactly the album he set out to make, uninfluenced, uncompromised, and for that he should be applauded. He’s an artist with a vision all his own and I, for one, am with him for the journey.
MA-bred Rapper Has Revolution On His Mind
9:00AM ET October 14th, 2010
Contributor : Mathis Bauchner
A Rocky Williform Company
Massachusetts isn’t exactly a hotbed for streetwise emcees. And college campuses aren’t what they used to be when it comes to political passion. But G Biz is a throwback to the Golden Era, when a mean flow and lyrical content took precedence over singsong hooks and simplistic punch lines. In an industry where authenticity has fallen by the wayside and been replaced with record label-approved 'swag,' G Biz keeps his music one hundred percent un-compromised. He sat down recently with HipHopBlog to discuss his new EP, The World Is Mine, and the state of hip-hop today.
So you dropped your debut EP, The World Is Mine, this past week. Talk about the inspiration behind the title and the content of the project.
The idea behind The World Is Mine was just to make something a little more serious, that at the same time reflected where I'm at in my life. There's a futuristic-revolutionary-gangster theme to most of the tracks. The tracks are darker than before, but none of this sh*t was done on purpose. I started recording tracks for the EP this summer, without a theme or any concept for the album or anything, and finished recording early this semester in my dorm at school. After listening to the album and talking with members of my camp who had listened as well, the title The World Is Mine seemed appropriate, especially with a track already under that title.
What are the challenges and benefits of producing some of your own material?
Right now all my music's low-fi and mixed kind of lazily, but I actually prefer that sound. That being said, at some point I'll probably need to get more serious about audio engineering and all that. I'm trying to minor in audio production because I don't want to be paying someone else to mix my music down, I'd rather do everything myself, or at least have the ability. When I was 16, 17 I was a lot more into making my own beats, but for now I mostly focus on spitting.
Who else did you work with on the EP?
The only other MC on the project is my boy P Stat, a fellow Massachusetts rapper who's living in NYC now. P Stat and myself are starting our own label--DPS - Dead Poets Society. P Stat’s a real gangster, a business student at NYU, and one of my closest homes, so we had to put down a track. Be sure to check out Stat's verse on "Tarzan." For production I worked with another close homie of mine, Dixon, who does mostly electronic sh*t, but we on the same level and his beats are always hard. Rajiv Leroy's a dude I met this summer at the Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival. All these kids are like 18, 19 years old, you know?
You’re in school now, but you tend to avoid rapping about the “college scene.” Is that a conscious decision?
It's not a conscious decision at all. I pretty much rap about the same sh*t I rapped about when I started at the age of 15, just on a more mature level. My college scene isn't any different than my home scene. I still ride my bike, chill with my crew and my girl, smoke my weed, play ball [and] work. The only difference is I go to class and live in a dorm. I don't go to frat parties and drink cheap beer or associate with sorority girls and I don't listen to any other college rappers, so I don't really know that “college scene.”
On ‘Harder To Breathe’ you rap “We got politicians that steal, presidents that lie / And people keep livin’ they lives.” Do you consider yourself a political rapper?
I don't consider myself a political rapper. In high school people used to joke I was a Communist and I know a lot of my educational mentors wished I was still politically active. In the last two years I developed an apathetic approach to politics, and that's heard in The World Is Mine. Everything is so controlled now. The things that are in the media questioning our government are there for a reason. Nothing is as it seems. I found myself at a point where I would overanalyze the corruption throughout the world and drive myself crazy. For my own mental health--and the sake of people around me--I had to make a decision to pay less attention to politics.
How do you feel about the direction mainstream hip-hop’s headed, with some of the artists that have emerged in the past year; Drake, Kid Cudi, etc?
Mainstream hip-hop is a joke to me. Like politics, I try to just ignore its existence for my own mental health. All this sample-free maximum profit bullshit crammed down brainless kid's throats. Not all of it is bad, of course, but the fact is that 90-something percent of mainstream rap is stupid. Kid Cudi's alright, I guess. Drake's a clown. Jay-Z no longer makes good music. I don't like Kanye as much as I used to but my little brother, Kronik, still loves the dude. I was happy to see Styles P make a successful mainstream song with Rick Ross. I've always been a fan of the Lox.
What artists do you admire?
I admire some Queensbridge rappers, specifically Cormega and Nas. And AZ, of course. Who I most admire in the underground circuit would probably be El-P. I think he put out a lot of good music through Def Jux with Can O and Aesop and even some young dudes like Cool Calm Pete. I really fuck with MF Grimm. I like The Grouch, Slug. I got a lot of respect for RZA, and most of the Wu.
Visit G Biz's YouTube channel:
Ambitious Producer Is The Latest Virginia-Born Visionary
6:00PM ET October 7th, 2010
Contributor : Malcolm Strong
A Rocky Williform Company
Sizzle isn't afraid to stand out from the crowd. A Virginia-born pop auteur hidden in the southern-fried hip hop hotbed of Atlanta, the ambitious, young beatmaker born Vernon Simms is unapologetic in his love of dance pop music and how it informs his eclectic sound. He cites everything from the Neptunes to the Backstreet Boys as an influence and dares the naysayers to listen with open ears.
When did music first become something you seriously considered doing?
I went to college in West Virginia and I played basketball, [but] I realized I wasn't going into the NBA. I needed to find something. I was rapping and I started making beats and then I went from West Virginia to Orlando. I went to music school to learn about mixing and recording arts. That brought me to Atlanta.
How did growing up in Virginia influence your sound?
I think that it influenced my sound because if you listen to Timbaland or the Neptunes, everything they do is different and it's weird. I'm more of a pop-oriented producer, which is different from what you're used to hearing. I don't think there's a specific 'Virginia' sound because people get Virginia twisted. It's a southern state but it's also comparable to the north. You don't know what to expect from someone from Virginia.
What do you think really makes your sound unique?
I decided that my sound was just the type of music I liked. My whole life I liked pop music. I just like to have fun and dance. I like euro-techno, trance and everything like that.
Is it challenging being an innovative pop producer in an 'urban' hip hop environment?
In Atlanta, just like any major music city, a lot of stuff is who you know. With my type of music, you find a lot of people that aren't ready to crossover into that genre. So you have to step into your own realm and find your own artists to work with to get your sound out right now.
At the end of the day what have you enjoyed the most about this journey?
I love making beats. At the end of the day, if I can ride in the car and hear one of my records on the radio, that's my goal. I wanna hear a song that I helped build be on the airwaves.
My mentors are the Outsiders--they produced "Womanizer" for Britney Spears. I remember I met up with them one time and they told me 'You got something, you got potential.' Hearing that from a Grammy-nominated production team was really big for me. I'm also working with DJ Unk, who I looked up to. To be able to work with him on Sizzle-type music, makes me know i have a chance.
What's next for Sizzle?
I'm coming out with a big mixtape. I'm going to open mics, finding the best underground singers and rappers and doing a mixtape with all of my production and featuring those artists. I want to bring a pop scene to the city [of atlanta] and that's what I plan to do in the next year. Follow me on Twitter, at twitter.com/vsizzle.
The Appeal: Georgia's Most Wanted
04:00PM ET September 28th, 2010
Contributor: Mathis Bauchner
A Rocky Williform Company
First off, a confession...
Before writing this review I’d never given Gucci Mane much of a listen. I ignored last year’s album and the mixtapes that followed, and I found the “Lemonade” video more aesthetically than musically pleasing. But when my cousin, who despises nearly every mainstream rapper, admitted to me that he’s somewhat fond of Gucci, I figured it might be worthwhile to give Georgia’s Most Wanted a chance.
After a thorough listening to The Appeal I found myself pleasantly surprised. In mainstream rap, especially Southern rap, popularity is often determined by a hierarchy of swag. Fortunately, Gucci’s got it in spades. The Appeal is by no means a great album, but there are moments of dope/party boy bravado that Gucci gets just right.
“Making Love To The Money” takes the cash-as-wifey concept to the next level, as Gucci declares “Shawty stayed by my side when I started grindin’ / She the main reason why a nigga shinin’.” “Gucci Time” gives him as a chance to equate his level of intoxication to that of a college frat bro. In a genre dominated by the weed smokers and codeine sippers, it’s nice that there’s a rapper out there who’s still down to get real drunk.
Speaking of “Gucci Time,” I’d like to take a moment to point out that Swizz Beatz really can’t rap. His verse on the song thoroughly blocks Gucci’s otherwise impeccable shine and his chorus on “It’s Alive” is cringingly, high-school-talent-show bad. “I ride on ‘em, plus I style on ‘em / Yes, I lean on ‘em, yes, I flash on ‘em.” Don’t get me wrong, I love Swizzie. He managed to wife up the goddess that is Alicia Keys and he’s a master behind the boards, but that’s really where he should stay.
Instead The Appeal’s award for best lyrical contribution by a producer goes to Pharrell, who turns in a delightfully nonsensical hook on the album’s best track, “Haterade,” which also features a razor-sharp, if somewhat subdued, verse from Nicki Minaj. Her crisp vocals contrast nicely with Gucci’s signature raspy flow.
Other standout tracks include the Bun B-assisted, Scarface-referencing “Little Friend,” and “Grown Man,” which directly addresses the situation that inspired the album’s title. Gucci’s legal troubles have been well documented, and his incarceration last year prior to the release of The State Vs. Radric Davis prevented him from touring or properly promoting the album. Still it sold well and produced a number of successful singles, including the aforementioned “Lemonade.” The Appeal gives Gucci another opportunity to try and ascend the rap ranks, this time as a free man.
A few songs could’ve been left on the cutting room floor, but the 15-track LP is relatively lean as it is. “Trap Talk” has been done about 800 times before and “Dollar Sign” is one I’ve-got-a-sh*tload-of-money song too many. Still there’s something undeniably awesome about Gucci. Anyone who drops a line like “I touch this white titty and a n*gga start trippin’” is good in my book. I wouldn’t immediately leap to call myself one of his biggest fans, but cuzzo definitely didn’t steer me wrong.
Passion, Pain & Pleasure
06:00PM ET September 14th, 2010
Contributor: Jecquea Howsie
A Rocky Williform Company
Elevating his singing style to the highest proportions, almost climaxing as he belts out songs on his album Passion, Pain & Pleasure, Trey proves he’s not a fan of foreplay, and get’s right down to business with the album’s opener.
The sensual melody takes you on the ride of a lifetime. A no-holds-barred sexscapade is expected, and he doesn’t disappoint with “Love Faces”. Sadly, the next two songs don’t measure up to the first. “Massage” and “Alone” seem like throwaways from previous albums.
Finally Trey’s ready to hit the club and look for the next girl. “Bottoms Up”, the dance heavy techno track featuring Nicki Minaj, doesn’t showcase Trey’s singing ability, but then again we’d much rather hear him singing sexed-up love songs.
The next couple of tracks portray Mr. Tremaine in a different light; they almost have a begging quality to them. He does Keith Sweat proud, reminiscing about a broken relationship in the song “Can’t Be Friends”.
One of the reasons why so many women have an issue with Trey is the fact that he feels the constant need to talk during a song—like some men who feel the need to ruin a perfectly good dip between the sheets with pointless conversation, Trey ruins “Made To Be Together” by talking.
The next three or four tracks go by faster than a midnight quickie, and before you can even get your shoes on, he’s out the door. It’s unfortunate that Trey’s album starts of great, but like sex with an inexperienced virgin, it gets boring real fast.
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