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It’s been a busy week in rap and today I present eight tracks that I really like.

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It’s 2014 and half of the year is already in the rear-view where many people are stuck on moments in February with each of the top sports championship games ending in blowouts. Here I am catching up with much of the year in music, capped with great loosies and singles but not too many albums that I sunk my teeth into. Pertaining to the ever-growing genre of rap, much of my focus centered on one region within their resurgence: The West Coast led by the G-Funk synths and hand claps of DJ Mustard.  Atlanta continued to churn out hits and burgeoning young artists with club numbers and New York stretched to find ways to “bring NY Rap back” all the while ignoring the interesting music that is formulating in their inner-circle.

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BET AWARDS '14 - Backstage And Audience

When Busta Rhymes announced that his latest single for Extinction Level Event 2 – the sequel to his 1998 third studio album that’s best known his collaboration with Janet Jackson – will feature Eminem, a bittersweet feeling trickled around my heart. Sure, this is not the first time the two have knowingly worked with one another* and the two are still lyrical giants that tower people in awe. Yet it felt like a newsworthy note that felt on deaf ears for a collaboration that’s 15 years too late.

Back when I was a child, I along with much of the rap world saw Busta Rhymes and Eminem as two of the most colorful and dynamic rappers in the industry. Their charisma was off the charts and the way they intricately mixed humor and their bombastic personas with their technical prowess made them all-time greats at their craft. Ten-year-old Mac always wondered when the two would connect to make something epic and tear the very fabric of space and time. Now at 23 growing up to a genre that has changed drastically, the news of a Busta and Em collab felt contrived.

Listening to “Calm Down” left me empty on the number of levels; an unfulfilling trip back into nostalgia complete with a flip of House of Pain’s “Jump Around”. It is not a bad song per se, but it wasn’t entirely great either. Busta and Em show that they can tip-toe as effortlessly as anyone laying down bar-upon-bar of furious six-minute lyrical shadowboxing. Not to mention that the artwork is fucking phenomenal, but something was still very amiss. The two really did their best to turn back the clock and while that was nice and all, it lacked the authenticity it should have had.

There was a time where Busta at his most maniacal and visually creative tag-teaming with Slim Shady at his most ridiculous would have made for a superb moment at the height of their careers. The only other rapper I can think of that had highly exuberant qualities as a lyricist and entertainer at the time was Ludacris, whose triumphant triumvirate of albums put him on top of Atlanta’s hottest rappers in the mid-2000s. Another common ground I can find with that is throughout time detractors critiqued their flash over their substance, in particular to the latter. With Luda being a Southern rapper, the deck was stacked against him tenfold and his subsequent efforts in adapting to the times left him broken.

His counterparts found ways to combat them in numerous flashes of brilliance at their disposal. Busta began to simmer down a bit and connected with Dr. Dre with Aftermath, seemingly aligned with Eminem but still haven’t come in frequent contact with one another. Out came The Big Bang, a criminally underrated record in its own right and the last really great effort Busta has created in a full body of work. Eminem on the other end rode the success of the Slim Shady persona long enough to kill it off (somewhat) with his two outings The Eminem Show and Encore. From that point on, he focused on rapping and rapping well along with cleaning himself up personally.

While he attempted to make a resurgence of the bleach blonde psychopath on a few occasions (Relapse, The Marshall Mathers LP II), it was more nauseating than charming hearing a 40-year-old make dick jokes again. And that’s what I was looking at listening to Busta’s new single: sad, dejected, and confused with what has transpired. Things just aren’t the same with those two musically and no matter how great they can bend their syllables in 2014 as they could in 1998, I’ll always feel robbed of something special.

So instead of tearing the track apart, I’m just going to cherish it for what it is and that’s two favorites just rapping for a long time.

* I will say that “I’ll Hurt You” is as good as a collaboration we will get from the two and is much better than their most recent one. Crazy how that song was kept off of The Big Bang final cut. 

Paul Cantor wrote a strong piece on Busta Rhymes’ recent career steps and explained it better than I ever could here. He’ll always be great to me and he can do whatever he wants. I just wasn’t feeling it here. 

 

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2004 is a year to be celebrated. Well, the celebration started not too long ago with the retrospectives of Kanye West’s debut album The College Dropout. Coming at a time where bravado and machismo permeated through much the inner-rap circles, Kanye began a career of being a trendsetting rebel that spans a decade of controversy and admiration. It is also the year where Usher released what I still consider one of the greatest R&B albums of all-time with Confessions.

That year was also the my formal introduction to Madlib and MF DOOM, courtesy of a couple of fanboys pimping out how good the latter was as a rapper. As far as Madlib is concerned, I always heard him through scattered songs on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and thought they were dope. I never made an effort to explore him further until this album and the same applied for DOOM. You could say it was a life-changing experience in some way, as it was an album I’ve never endured in a fascinating way as this did.

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It’s been a while, but I am back again to give off a round of mixtape reviews from the past month. I look into Atlanta’s ever-growing diversity, their obsession with the Spanish language, eclectic sounds, and Problem’s right-hand man making a name for himself.

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‘Tis the season for giving and to all a Merry Christmas this week. I hope everyone will be able to enjoy some egg nog and ham while spending time with family unwrapping gifts. 2013 has been quite a year for music including Hip-Hop and I decided to present a few mixtapes that were great, but slightly fell under the radar during the year-end awards. These projects vary in sound, region, and themes, but all are pretty fucking solid cohesive bodies of work. Without further ado, I give to you the Super 8.

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