Lonnie Rashid Lynn and I go back a long way. Not personally mind you - I've never met the man one on one - but I did drive all the way to Chicago in college just to see him perform at the Metro (and drove back in a literal blizzard to boot). There aren't that many rappers I would entertain a six hour+ drive for, then or now, let alone on a broke-ass college student's budget. I felt some type of way about Common though, because to me he was the voice that uplifted the Midwest in general and my favorite city Chicago in particular. I still consider "Resurrection" and "One Day It'll All Make Sense" to be certified hip-hop classics, and taken on balance Common's catalogue can rival or surpass almost anyone's over a two decade span - especially considering the average artist's career doesn't even last one-fifth that long. Over that time he transformed from a squeaky voiced emcee just trying to be heardto a prophet of hip-hop, declaring his undying love for "H.E.R." and honoring that commitment even as his recent career as an actor has blossomed. Maintaining your status as a voice for hip-hop, a "rapper actor activist" as Common himself says on "Home," that's a tricky proposition especially as you're entering your 40's. It would be easy to be accused of being egocentric to think that you're the leader of a whole movement, or that you still deserved to be held up in the spotlight when so many rappers half your age are trying to get a piece, or (and this might be the trickiest part) being out of touch with the increasingly violent streets of the Chi when your life is now fairly comfortable from a long and successful career. "Black America Again" answers those questions both throughout the length of the album and on the title track in particular, as Common fires an immediate shot across the bow with "Here, we go, here here we go again, Trayvon'll never get to be an older man." No matter how much success has changed Common's circumstances, it hasn't changed his beliefs."
"As said by Marsellus to Butch in 'Pulp Fiction.' But not solely applicable to the inscrutable world of prizefighting. The rap game has to be the epitome of such a business. Hundreds of real success stories have fueled hundreds of thousands of false hopes and a continually handed down superiority complex that is inherent to rap only strengthened the resolve. At times it gets a little too much and we don't know whether we should feel pity or contempt for the many delusional minds, but most of the time we accept them as part of the game and the entertainment it provides. Earl Stevens is the type of guy to give the same speech. Well, not exactly the same, because he's not a rogue character who's got some karmic Tarantino-ordained fate coming. He doesn't have to put it this explicitly. His sheer existence, the extraordinary consistency of his career, exposes the poor souls who put their faith in improbability. Music industry experts may object at this point that the rap entrepreneur's recent conduct bears traces of irrationality as well. In the past 7 years he has put out 14 solo albums, all of them comparatively elaborate in terms of musical and sonic quality, involved personel, artwork and video clips and all of them also released physically. What is clear is that such a business model only works out if the artist himself has built his career from the ground up and was involved when every single brick was laid. In rap music, E-40 is more or less the only one to do it on that level. Which other artifact from the glory days of rap even remotely runs the chance to strike gold with singles these days? E-40's success and survival are all his. In a business that is more tell than show, he is living proof of his own realism."
"So Flash, why are you reviewing a Christmas album over two weeks after Christmas? What gives?" You'd rather I wait until THREE MONTHSafter Christmas? You'd rather I review it this summer? You know that might not be such a bad idea - I should start reviewing Christmas hip-hop albums in July. Basically though a lot of holidays albums couldn't be addressed in a timely fashion owing to travel commitments to visit family and work commitments covering mixed martial arts. In fact I've got several of the latter coming up this week including one later this afternoon, but I'm literally burning the midnight oil to bring y'all a few extra reviews this week including this one. Moka Only traditionally releases a free download holiday themed album, though you can also cop this one in a physical edition or support him by paying for a digital download from the links above. Even though he supports the "Martian Xmas" theme with pop culture Christmas samples from the aforementioned TV shows, and the sound of a Charlie Brown holiday special on tracks like "What Up November," you could actually pass this off as any one of his numerous releases throughout a year and not have it fall out of step or be out of place. In other words it's a seasonal release but it's actually not -- ya dig? Only songs like "A Little Coal" hint at what you'd get in your stockin' if you ain't rockin'. This entire release is self-produced save for Chin Injeti's injection on "The Wish," and that's just fine since Moka always has been (and continues to be) best served by being the total package - producing and rapping himself. He's so talented that as he says himself "You can make a song out of damn near anything" and he routinely does. That's the charm of Moka Only really. You get the feeling he's just spending all day going through his crates, suddenly comes across a loop he really likes, and the next thing you know he's making a Pharcyde inspired track like "Bread Butta."
"It's in no way a surprise for Illect Recordings to drop a Christmas album. After all this is a label who are well known for their Christian hip-hop, but it should also be noted that they are well known for dropping spiritually influenced raps that are NOT cornball. I've always enjoyed the balance that the label is able to strike between head nodding boom bap hip-hop and their faith, though if you're the kind to be turned off by even one reference to God or Christ then you'd probably be lost on their output. It's probably a reflection of my deeper appreciation for different points of view that I no longer take any artist coming out for their religion as having it shoved down my throat. I don't listen to an Illect album and feel the need to run to church and pray for my sins to be forgiven, and they certainly don't try to rap chapter and verse from the Psalms as though they are freestyle rap bars. Now that being said it's going to be pretty hard to drop a Christmas album as a Christian imprint and not be a little more heavy handed, especially given the natural inclination to counteract how secular the holiday has become and remind people of the religious reasons for the week off work we all get each December. Sometimes but not too often it gets a little pushy on "Christmas Recording," and that can be blamed largely on the fact it's a compilation album, because individually the artists would probably try to strike a more balanced and somewhat secular tone on their own albums. Still even when the theme of the season is directly hammered home, the production can make it more than just a Christmas carol with invocations to God. Take "We Three Kings" for example, a song where Page One, Theory Hazit and MG! the Visionary break down the meaning of the gifts that were brought to the baby Christ. Thanks to a funky as hell (SORRY!) bassline and scratching by DJ Because, this is a head nodder you can't skip over."
On a bad day when I need a good laugh Jonathan "JonTron" Jafari is often the cure I'm looking for. I can't say I was down since day one as no doubt many of his subscribers can, the same people who can remember when he reviewed the awful Nintendo 64 game Daikatana back in 2010, but what's certain is that his comedic and cinematic take on reviewing things struck a chord with large numbers of people (over three million subscribers as of this article). This in turn led to a partnership with Arin "Egoraptor" Hanson for a YouTube series called GameGrumps, which ironically is how I discovered Jon's work.
You see I learned about JonTron through becoming a fan of the Grumps after JonTron had already left to concentrate on his own projects, something which became a source of controversy among fans of the Grumps. The coincidence of a new spinoff show called "Steam Train" being announced at the same time as his departure only fueled the anger of his fans and led to a lot of conspiracy theories, which ironically is what led me to his work. All I knew of the Grumps was the team of Arin Hanson and Dan Avidan, the latter of whom received the brunt of the vitriol from people who liked the original team of Arin and Jon, so I had to know. Who was JonTron and why were so many Game Grumps fans talking about him? What was "EGGGH?" Why did they make references to him? So I did what any of us would do - I Googled his name - and it only took watching one video to make me a subscriber.
I'm not here today to address any of the numerous conspiracy theories that exist on the internet about how or why Jon left the Grumps. (1.) Those reasons are Arin's and Jon's and it's their business to discuss it as little or as much as they want. (2.) There's nothing the internet does better than speculate and gossip and if you want to do that plenty of Reddit threads on the subject already exist - go read them and have a ball. (3.) They're clearly still friends given that Arin appeared in one of JonTron's "StarCade" videos, which coincidentally is in my Top 10 below. So instead of contributing to the large internet pile of speculation that doesn't matter and changes nothing, let me just say Jon is one funny m*therf#$!er and is perfectly capable of holding down a show on his own. Best of all he's not held to just video games -- the JonTronShow channel may cater to gamers but it also covers other slices of pop culture with the same irreverent wit and humor he brought to video game reviews. So take a seat, grab your popcorn, and enjoy this list of JonTron (and Jacques') best performances.
1.) The Zoo Race
2.) Titanic: The Legend Goes On
3.) Plug and Play Consoles
4.) Disney Bootlegs
5.) StarCade Episode 9: The Star Wars Holiday Special
The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. has been remembered, venerated and perhaps even idolized as a champion of non-violent civil disobedience. He and Mahatma Gandhi are often compared favorably in terms of the movements they led, the work they achieved, and even in the fact that they ultimately became martyrs to their cause at an assassin's hand. Their deaths did not slow down the pace at which change was coming as their killers hoped. If anything they ACCELERATED change as those in power feared the reprisals of an already unhappy populace who had just seen one of their leaders shot down in cold blood. Indeed the riots following MLK's death were a very foreseeable consequence of James Earl Ray's actions.
Some have come to believe over the years that followed that King would have been saddened or heartbroken to see people rioting after his death, seeing his movement marred by violence, seeing people respond to the hatred which caused him to be slain with even more hate. People love to quote from the famous "I Have a Dream" speech, but less remembered is a speech he gave at Stanford University now known as "The Other America." His views on riots were more nuanced than you may have thought for a man who is known for non-violent protests, and although he did condemn violence, he spoke about it as a symptom of the disease of racism which should be heeded as a warning to cure our collective ills. Riots were in fact the direct consequence of what the good Reverend called a "triple ghetto" for its black citizens: "A ghetto of race, a ghetto of poverty, a ghetto of human misery."
"I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality and humanity."
As we remember and celebrate the work that Dr. King did to overcome the evils that plagued our nation then and still do today, we must also remember that to condemn those who protest or riot is to also do him a disservice. The Reverend was a man of peace, but he was also a man of the people, and as surely as he embraced non-violence he also understood how racism made so many people so angry about the disenfranchisement and poverty they experienced. He did not ignore this anger nor did he condemn it -- he sought only to remind us that this anger would not go away just because you could call in the police or the National Guard to quell the riots. That just pushes the anger back down beneath the surface, waiting to boil up and explode all over again. His lesson to us is to do more than pay lip service to change. We as a society all have to address hatred and racism in meaningful ways that make a direct impact on the day to day lives of those suffering from its effects. If not we should become used to riots -- they are the inevitable outcome of opportunity denied.
It's time for another edition of The Hip-Hop Shop. Episode #409 is called Find a Way With Words. We have new material from Jorai, Milwaukee Monstas, Mr. Lif and more! Follow us @RapReviews so you never miss a new podsafe free show.
* Jorai - Find a Way
* Milwaukee Monstaz f/ Timbo King - Soldiers of Words
* Mpulse - The Storm
* Chino XL, Pace Won, Spider Da God - New
* Revalation (Rev of EMS) - Justice For Justin
* L'Orange & Mr. Lif - There's an Art to Sleeping
* Villain - So High
* Curt Digga - Pretty Thugs
DM360: Ran Reed is strong-arming 2017 with the impending release of his new compilation LP, Still Commanding Respect, that he’s promoting today with a double-feature video for standout tracks “Pathetic M.C.’s” and “Doo Doo.”
A.R.: I wanted to send you new music from Portland artist Quiz Zilla and his super catchy/dope new single Wolf In Sheep's Clothing. This is Quiz's first release in a while after stepping away to rebrand himself.
Quiz Zilla - Wolf In Sheep's Clothing (Prod by BLUMAGIC)
Wanja: After seventeen years behind the scenes, Justin White finally unleashes his scathing debut, "Impromptu." Described as a public service announcement to hip hop and American society as a whole, White details the deterioration of his mental state parallel to the current decline of human decency using intricate rhyme schemes, crafty wordplay, and unforgiving metaphors over a soundtrack of stellar production.
AZ's Teammate Markus Drops 'Prices' LP | Now Available Through All Major Digital Retailers & Streaming Outlets!
DM360: After releasing several notable projects over the past few years, Teammate Markus shares his most impressive and remarkably produced effort to date with Prices. It serves as the rising Tempe, Ariz. rapper's full-length debut and, fittingly, captures everything you'd want from an artist in his first proper showing.
That being said, Markus' previous releases allowed for growth and maturation, because while still young, there's a weight to the emcee's words throughout this record. And you hear it right from the jump with "We Out Here," a magnetic and energetic opening cut that he's been playing live recently to the joy of his crowds.
"It really sets the tone for the whole record," Markus says of "We Out Here," while adding that other personal Prices standouts include "About You" and "Cup of Tea." The former is a surprising slab of funk, fueled by Markus' fun vocals and producer Harry Mars' bright instrumentation. "Cup of Tea," which received the video treatment, is also fun, but in more of a stunt-on-your-haters type of way.
Harry Mar's bright instrumentations provides the lush canvas for the entirety of Prices, and that becomes evident with each track that plays on the album. He and Markus are a natural duo—they also play together in the band Without Feeling Weird—and like-minded studio rats. That, too, is evident when you hear a cut like "Drunk As Me," which boasts thoughtful production from Mars and world-weary wisdom from Markus.
"My goal for this record is to really make a statement," Markus says of Prices. "I want people to know that in our little corner of the valley we are making music at a seriously high level, and I want people to feel as proud of it as I do."
One listen to Prices and it's safe to say you'll feel that pride, and then some. Prices is now available through all major digital retailers and streaming platforms!
VIDEO: "Cup of Tea"
01. We Out Here
02. One Hundred and 1
03. Drunk as Me
04. Pretty Neat
05. Med Card
06. About You
07. Price (feat. Cam Meekins)
09. Cup of Tea
13. In My Soul