Artist: Poison Pen Title: BK's Fat Boy Label: EMVEEZ/Gold Dust
Creeping up on 2009 like a case of swine flu, the self-professed fat boy of Brooklyn may not be mistaken for the new Biggie Smalls, but his style is still infectiously fun. "Whether, pins and denim or suit and tie/I bleed, venom, for Do or Die/Don't think too hard or flash too many signs/Don't rap too much, just givin the time." DJ Static's track is simple and symphonic, uptempo with a nice switch-up on the chorus to a slow soul break saying "beware, young girl." Pen brims with confidence and brags that "blockin ain't an option" when he's headed your way, and he's got the charisma and distinctive flow (a little raspy, a little bit Funk Flex, in a good way) to back it up. I'm not sure if his lyrics hold muster over the long haul given this is only 2:18, but future singles will prove out whether he's the real deal or not.
You should already be familiar with BBAS right now after RapReviews previously gave exposure to the hard bumping "Brooklyn Queens Expressway" single. In yet another attempt to prove the best things in life really +are+ free, this New York collective returns with a DJ Goo produced track has more layers than a Dagwood sandwich. Pick apart the fixings and you can hear crowd noise, soul samples, funky drummers, echoing conversation and smooth hip-hop lyrics. That may read like a cacophony in print but when you put on a pair of headphones this is a beautiful medley. J57 brags that the AllStars will steal the show "with the hands raised high like it's Van Damme's order" but one-ups himself under a minute later with a vow to keep hands in the sky "like it's Bishop and O-Dog." Soul Khan's voice sticks out like a sore thumb in a good way - a distinctively nasal flow like the 2009 B-Real. When he notes BBAS have their shit together and he'll "never be the forty-oh that hits the pavement" the song abruptly comes to a halt. While it's like smacking a brick wall at 70 MPH, it doesn't hurt one bit - in fact it just makes you want to hit rewind and take the trip all over again. Go to the Brown Bag AllStars website and get your ticket to ride.
Today we take a look at a brand new line of hip-hop trading cards. If you saw these at the corner bodega or local Wal*Mart, would you pick them up? Would kids spend their own allowance money to get them? Could hip-hop trading cards be bigger than Pokemon?
While The Official Hip-Hop Trading Cards may be a brand new product in 2009, trading cards have been around an awful long time, going back to the days when they were called "tobacco cards." Initially cards were inserted into packs of cigarettes just to stiffen them up and make them more attractive on display, but soon enough it occured to someone to put famous people and athletes on the cards to make them collectible. This resulted in the first card collecting controversy as concerned parents and religious groups were convinced it encouraged youth smoking, and unintentionally early 20th century baseball player Honus Wagner created the first "rare card" by demanding his image be removed from packs and destroyed. Finding an authentic Wagner T-206 card in good condition in 2009 is like getting a free $2,000,000 lottery ticket.
Trading cards are easy to come by these days without having to get a nicotine fix. In fact you don't even have to get a stick of gum with your trading cards, which was the rule of thumb when I was a little kid. I'm glad that was done away with that, because it was always the consistency of cardboard and left a nice greasy stain on the back of your favorite ballplayer's card. When I got older I realized there were more than just baseball player trading cards out there. I started picking up football cards, comic cards, any kind of pack I could get for less than a buck - sometimes four FOR a buck. Amazing that one pack can cost you FOUR bucks these days. I digress - there were a lot of options out there for a young card collector, even one on a pittance of an allowance. For a young hip-hop head with a subscription to The Source I found what I THOUGHT was the ultimate - Yo! MTV Raps trading cards. A complete box like the one pictured here contains 36 packs of cards, 10 cards to a pack. By the time these came around in 1991 trading cards were already creeping closer and closer to a dollar a pack, and the only store that carried them was 20 miles away, but that didn't stop me from trying to complete the first series. For the life of me I can't remember the one card I'm missing. It doesn't help that I can't find the album they're stored in either - an actual Yo! MTV Raps card collector storage binder I sent away for in the mail. I suppose that's a collector's item now in itself. (And yes, if I do ever find that binder, I'll probably open the box in the photo to get that one card.)
Unfortunately, even though I was stoked about the fact somebody had released trading cards for the culture and art I obsessed over, there were plenty of glaring holes. There was literally no rhyme or reason to the organization of cards. Big Daddy Kane gets three cards. Vanilla Ice gets EIGHT. That's even more appalling when you consider that BDP only had three cards, just one featuring KRS by himself. I suppose the creators thought that the best-selling artists at the time deserved more shine when they came up with the design, but Rob Van Winkle had already been exposed as a fraud by the time these cards hit stores and getting almost one of his stupid face per pack was to quote the aforementioned KRS "WICK WICK WACK." I wantonly destroyed the duplicate Ice cards - immature but fun. Slick Rick only had one card in the set, while MC Hammer had FIVE. You get the idea. As a representation of the current hip-hop scene in '91, let alone the culture of hip-hop as a whole, it was outrageously bad. No offense to the dead but when Ted Demme gets a card yet Kool G. Rap & DJ Polo do not, especially in that era of rap, your whole concept is FUBAR. It was even sexist, as neither MC Lyte nor Queen Latifah were represented. At least Public Enemy got 9 out of the 100 - more than Mr. Winkle, but just barely. As for the prizes, I didn't win that trip to see Yo! filmed live in New York City... or anything else for that matter. Ah well.
For a short time there was a competing series of cards called THE RAP PACK, which unfortunately were even harder to find than the Yo! cards. I say unfortunate because although the graphic layout of the artist cards wasn't very appealing (big blocky text - to the point of being cartoonish) they actually cared enough about hip-hop to include GRAFFITI ARTWORK STICKERS. I treasured these. When I was bored in high school I would attempt to copy the designs in my notebook, or come up with my own, neither of which would turn out well - but it kept my mind focused on the music and the culture. I think out of 150 cards in the series I only ended up with about half, but they DID have N.W.A. cards, which the Yo! set sure as shit did not. I was impressed. That was about it for trading cards though - for me AND for hip-hop. Every now and then I look at trading cards at the grocery store just to see what kids collect these days. You can still find sports cards, celebrity trading cards, occasionally even pro wrestling cards (I found the pack pictured left at a Meijer in Michigan, clearly dated given WCW died years ago) but for the most part it's all Bakugan and Pokemon. You gotta catch 'em, err, collect 'em all.
In 18 years since Yo! cards first hit shelves I never saw another pack of hip-hop trading cards and honestly thought no one would every try again. TOHHTC caught me by surprise. I got their press release in e-mail and was immediately intrigued - after all this time someone was actually giving rap cards another chance. I requested a sample pack for review and the producers kindly sent me what you see pictured to your right. The Official Hip-Hop Trading Cards come in clear plastic, five to a pack, plus one insert with the company's logo on a separate card. It's an immediate positive to be able to see what the cards look like before buying a pack, so you know the product is real hip-hop and not some cornball BS. On the negative side if the distribution of cards in the series is truly random, what's to stop a kid from pawing through an open box of packs just to find the one with a Jay-Z visible on the back? With all due respect to Fredro Starr, this one's probably getting thrown back in the box. He ranks higher than Vanilla Ice simply by having been in Onyx, but his solo career hasn't exactly lit the world on fire in the last eight years. At least the biographical information from the interview seems thorough and accurate, so if Fredro Starr actually was your favorite rapper ever, you'd be happy with the "stats" on the back.
Design still seems to be an issue in oh-nine. These are a lot better than the cards I remember getting in THE RAP PACK but they could still use some work. Once I opened up the pack and spread out the cards I discovered that they all had a single solid color border, with most rappers sporting the same generic "mean mug" pose for the camera. Other than the chains they're wearing and the fact one is a producer and the other raps, Dame Grease and Fredro Starr are completely interchangable. Besides that the static shots bring back an age old debate from my youth - whether or not "action cards" were better than "headshot cards." It's certainly more impressive to see Andre Dawson swinging for a homerun than standing there smiling for the camera, but there's also something to be said for getting to know the face of a star when it's not covered by a ballcap or dripping in sweat. Unfortunately I have no idea if there's any such thing as action cards in TOHHTC because I only got one pack and all five hip-hop representatives are just chilling - nobody's doin' shit. The samples on their website suggest that's the norm though. Maybe series two will feature Tame One bombing a wall, LL Cool J rocking the bells, Crazy Legs doing a backspin and DJ Revolution on the turntables. There's always hope.
Earlier I apologized for knocking Fredro Starr as a B-list rap star, but at least his was a name I knew and recognized, so I'm REALLY going to have to apologize to Caktuz Tree..?13. To his credit he's rocking the only original pose of the pack, looking away from the camera and sporting a baseball bat - a nod to my old card collecting days I approve of. If you're trying to establish these as the OFFICIAL hip-hop trading cards though go with some OFFICIAL rappers from the get-go. The best analogy I can think of is if you bought a pack of Topps baseball cards in 2009 hoping to get Albert Pujols and instead found the St. Louis players in your pack weren't even in the majors - they were toiling away in some AA franchise in North Carolina. I don't want to belabor this point, but I can't imagine any kid buying a pack of these and being excited to get CAKTUZ TREE instead of Nas, Busta Rhymes or 50 Cent. Even if you're a snob and don't consider Atmosphere or Sage Francis to be in the major leagues, they still have more name recognition than Mr. Tree. I probably see upwards of 500 rap albums a year and this name hasn't come up once, not even as a cameo appearance. Now that I own his trading card though I'll certainly notice him the first time it does.
I'll say this for TOHHTC 2009 - I appreciate their effort and I appreciate their willingness to embrace the whole of hip-hop from the A-list to the Tree-list. Their e-mail responses were nothing but professional and courteous, and they even sent me a follow-up inquiry to make sure the sample pack arrived. I also appreciate the holo-style silver foil logo that the bottom of each card is embossed with. It definitely brightens up the dull solid color borders and adds a touch of class to the series, so their design is already headed in the right direction.
The biggest thing I can knock is not actually their cards or their professionalism - it's their website designer. TOHHTC is very flashy but it's all sizzle and no steak. The "about us" section really tells you nothing about them at all. It would be nice to get the whole story about what inspired them, how they got funding to launch the product, what level of distribution the cards have, what their goals are - anything more than "contact us for more information." That seems a little lazy, as is the fact the word "collection" is spelled wrong. Most of all there needs to be at least one page on the website that tells you how much a box of packs sells for, the suggested retail price for individual packs, and how many cards there are in the series - preferably with a detailed checklist so you'd know if you ever completed the set. Given the cards aren't numbered on the back, this is a NECESSITY especially given any card collecting kid in '09 is sure to get on the web while brokering card trades with their friends. After all you can't trade cards at school - mine always got confiscated that way - and since these probably cost a buck or more a pack that's money you can't afford to lose. I think after 18 years, Official Hip-Hop Trading Cards are an idea whose time has come - again. There's plenty of potential to do it better than it was done when I was young, and if they step their game up this will not only be fun but vitally educational to the culture. If kids today can get a Gucci Mane card and a Schoolly D card in the same pack, we all win in the long run. I only ask that they consider bringing back the graffiti stickers - I miss that shit. And for the love of God, no Vanilla Ice cards.
Hip-Hop Shop is the precursor to K4D every week on Sunday night. Episode 40 features new material from Brown Bag AllStars, iCon the Mic King, DJ JS-1 and even our homeboy Ric Atari! If you would like to sponsor Hip-Hop Shop please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. The Hip-Hop Shop is 100% podsafe so distribute to your friends and tell them to visit RapReviews.com!
BBC News and the official Beastie Boys website are both reporting that Adam Yauch, the famed MCA of the Beastie Boys, has a cancerous tumor in his left salivary gland that has to be removed. Needless to say this is sad news to hear, and Beastie Boys fans will also be dissapointed to hear that their summer tour has been postponed as a result, including an expected stop at Lollapalooza. The thoughts and prayers of an entire hip-hop community and worldwide fanbase are sure to be with him. Yauch IS expected to make a full recovery post-surgery. We'll keep you updated on his condition.
The very first time I heard Doug Simpson’s “Freight Train” I knew there was something special about him. There was a raw energy to the song that I hadn’t heard in quite a while and it didn’t hurt that former Artist Of The Week Slim from Euphon was the one to bring him to my attention. In addition to his work as an artist, Simpson, who notes that it only made sense to him to go with his real name because “wild side, party side, tough talk, introspective side, whatever - it’s all still you,” also formed both Ironhorse Music Group and The Aqua League Beat Society. A little research turned up the info that Simpson’s production work has already been heard all over the world thanks to placements on MTV, MTV2, The Speed Network and Bravo and this week I caught up with the multitalented musician to find out more about what he’s working on now, how and why he formed The Aqua League and IHMG, and how he feels the rap game would be different if he was the most famous emcee in the world.
When it comes to the creation of music, i have learned that simply knowing how to make it, is not always enough, its "making it sound GOOD", that turns it into both a fun and challenging process... and that's where my knowledge of audio engineering comes in handy! I majored in audio/radio production during college and then spent 7 years honing the craft while working at XM Radio. Though i got paid to produce or "image" radio drops and promos all day for XM, some of which i will post up in a future entry, it was in fact my time spent after company business hours mixing my own songs, that helped make my ears as sensitive as they are to how things should sound. From the recording to the mixing and in some cases, even the mastering, i had to do it all out of necessity, and thank God because i have learned how to be a much better producer now, from those experiences in the past.
Recently, i have began using my audio engineering skills to support myself and ultimately my own musical efforts. Earlier this summer, i got the opportunity to master the latest album of an emcee from one of my fav underground groups- Poems of LA Symphony. Shouts to the homie Oddisee for making that happen! Ironically, Oddisee mixed and produced a few tracks off the record ("Black And Read All Over") which will be out July 28th on Mello Music Group. Stay tuned for more personal insight & experiences from me on the art of audio engineering... in the meantime, here's an article from Remix Magazine detailing how i mixed "The Scenic Route", check it!
Saturday, July 18, 2009 3:00 PM - 7:00 PM All Ages COVER: FREE
Q-TIP WILL BE PERFORMING SELECTIONS FROM HIS SOON TO BE RELEASED ALBUM
“KAAMAL THE ABSTRACT”
IN-STORES SEPTEMBER 15th
Q-Tip is an American hip hop artist, singer, and occasional actor from Queens, perhaps best known as the leader of legendary hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest. After Tribe disbanded in 1998, Q-Tip pursued a solo career. His first singles "Vivrant Thing" and "Breathe & Stop" exemplified his move towards more pop-oriented recordings, closely followed by his solo debut LP Amplified. As of late, Q-Tip has been very active, touring with the full line-up of A Tribe Called Quest as well as continuing to work on his own solo career.
RAP CELEBRITIES TO FLOOD HOUSTON IN CELEBRATION OF 2ND ANNUAL "TRAE DAY" EVENT FREE FAMILY BLOCK PARTY AT TSU PLANNED
Houston, TX - Last year, on July 22nd, Houston rap history was made as native rap artist, Trae Tha Truth, was honored by his city with the reading of a Proclamation declaring that day "Trae Day"; the first time this honor was given to a rap artist. The honor was bestowed upon Trae for his constant and selfless work within the communities of Houston, focusing on at-risk youth. The ceremony was followed by a free family Block Party, replete with members of Houston City Council alongside a host of local music celebrities and was attended by some 10,000 people, who braved sweltering temperatures in the high 90's to congratulate Trae and line up for the free school supplies he had provided.
This coming Wednesday, July 22nd, from 3-9PM, history will repeat itself as Trae and friends take over the parking lot of TSU Stadium for the biggest daytime party to hit the South Side. Trae will be joined by US Congresswoman, Sheila Jackson Lee and Members of Council Peter Brown and Ron Green, as well as a host of music celebrities from far and wide including Bun B, Rick Ross, Gorilla Zoe, Mannie Fresh, Yung Joc, Hurricane Chris, Shawty Lo, Slim Thug, Blood Raw & USDA, J Dawg, Rich Boy, GS Boys, Rocko, Jayton and the whole ABN group, Ron Artest, Von Wafer and Herculeez and Big Tyme. The day will include a great roster of family activities with live performances, train rides, pony rides, face painting and moonwalks and will also offer an HIV/STD testing site and free school supplies while they last.
Contests include a watch giveaway by renowned jeweler, King Johnny and rims courtesy of Texan Wire Wheels and local station 97.9 The Box will provide a live remote.
A more adult celebrational after-party will be held that night at the Roxy Nightclub.
Media is invited to cover the event and should RSVP their coverage intentions to Nancy Byron, OGPR.
DJ JS-1 - "Ridiculous" Remix feat. Masta Ace, OC, and Pharoahe Monch 07.14.2009 JS-1 Is Back With Exclusive Remix Featuring New Beat And Verse From Masta Ace
DJ JS-1 recently dropped his first single, "Ridiculous." Teaming with OC and Pharoahe Monch, the two New York emcees' verses meshed with JS-1's beat to create a track that had listeners buzzing. Now, JS-1 returns with the remix. Featuring a brand new, old school, synth-chopped beat courtesy of JS-1 and a surprise guest verse from another legendary New York emcee, Masta Ace, the remix proves to be just as ridiculous as the original. "NO SELLOUT" (Ground Original 2) is now available via Fat Beat Records.
As a member of the world famous Rock Steady Crew, partner of Rahzel (the world's #1 beatboxer), and occasional tour DJ for KRS-One, DJ JS-1 has toured the planet with over 1,000 shows in more than 32 countries and hundreds of cities. During that time, the Queens, NY native has shared the stage with a wide variety of artists, including 50 Cent, RUN DMC, Maroon 5, Wu-Tang Clan, The Roots, Busta Rhymes, Talib Kweli, Redman & Method Man, Wyclef, OAR, Dashboard Confessional, Snoop Dogg, All American Rejects, Mike Patton, and many more. As a producer, JS' list of accomplishments runs just as long, having worked with a number of artists, such as Common, Will Smith & Jazzy Jeff, Immortal Technique, Big Daddy Kane, Dilated Peoples, Kool G Rap, Masta Ace, Pharoahe Monch, Brand Nubian, and Kool Keith just to name a few. For the past three years, JS-1 has stayed busy touring, producing, making high-profile TV appearances, and completing his new album. The result is an album will serve to make DJ JS-1 a household name for all within the hip-hop community.
For No Sell Out, an album recorded as an addendum to his previous solo effort Ground Original, JS-1 enlisted the help of an extensive and notable list of guest emcees, including KRS-One, Large Pro, Pharoahe Monch, Canibus, Sean Price, Blaq Poet, Killah Priest, Ill Bill, Kool Keith & Ced Gee (Ultramagnetic Mc's), Aesop Rock, Vast Aire, Chino XL, Sadat X, AG, OC, Craig G, CL Smooth, Edo G, Prince Po, Akrobatik, J-Live, Vinnie Paz of Jedi Mind Tricks, Rakaa of Dilated Peoples, Krondon, C Rayz Walz, Vast Aire, Nutrageous, Copywrite, PMD, Rahzel, EMC (Masta Ace, Strick, Wordsworth, Punchline), Termanology, Torae, Pumpkinhead, Jak D, Big Noyd, Q-Unique, Brother Ali, Slaine, Virtuoso, Pack FM, Supastition. Block McCloud, Trez, Rugged Intellect, and DJ Premier. No Sell Out is available in stores everywhere via Fat Beats Records.