Categories
Books Hip-Hop Rap Reviews

Biggie Smalls Was the Illest – “It Was All a Dream” Book Review

There are different kinds of biographies.

Some attempt to tell the subject’s story objectively, recounting what happened and placing it in context, but without editorializing or offering opinion. Others are planned as hit pieces, hatchet jobs with a clear intent to damage the person. Still others come from a place of admiration, presenting the individual in a glowing light at every turn.

It’s difficult to tell what It Was All a Dream: Biggie and the World that Made Him by Justin Tinsley was originally aiming to be, but the final product certainly falls into that last category.

Categories
Hip-Hop Music Rap Wu-Tang Clan

The Disappointment of RZA’s Solo Career

The sad truth is that he doesn’t have an undisputed classic in his own— or Bobby Digital’s — name

Definition of alter ego:

1: a second self or different version of oneself: such as

  • a: a trusted friend
  • b: the opposite side of a personality [Clark Kent and his alter ego Superman]
  • c: a fictional character that is the author’s alter ego

— via Merriam-Webster.com


What is RZA’s best solo album?

Actually, back up a moment. Can you even name every RZA solo album?

Categories
Hip-Hop Lessons Life Rap

13 Lessons Learned from Griselda Records

The approach of Westside Gunn and his crew offers valuable wisdom for not only music, but business, writing, and even life

“I really like that whole, like, cliquing up, Griselda shit. It’s just ill to me…I think what they’re doing is great. It just reminds me of a different time and it’s not easy to do. To make that music and just come off wavy and be interesting.”

 — Drake

The 2010s was a decade in which the line between rap and other genres became not only blurred, but largely nonexistent. Referred to by some as the “melodic era,” it was no longer a rarity or even a surprise to see a hip-hop artist transition into harmonizing, and while that had certainly been done in the past, it now became de rigueur as Drake, Young Thug, and many others rode that wave to stardom. 

At the same time, some dudes stepped onto the scene and began flooding the market with their own music that sounded fresh but at the same time reminiscent of projects that had been released in the mid-’90s. No singing, no theatrics, just grim street tales of drugs and violence delivered over grimy, pounding basslines, creating a “gnarly sound inspired by the slimy criminal underbelly of Buffalo, New York.”

Categories
Art Artist Films Greatness Music Pop Culture Wu-Tang Clan

Favorite vs. Best

What is the best film of all time?

Most film scholars (and wanna-be film scholars) proclaim that it’s Citizen Kane, Orson Welles’s 1941 masterpiece that inarguably changed filmmaking forever. CasablancaLawrence of ArabiaThe Godfather, and Gone with the Wind are often in the conversation as well.

Excluding The Godfather, how many times have you heard someone mention one of those films as their absolute favorite? How many are populating a casual filmgoer’s top five? How many Lawrence of Arabia conversations have you experienced in your life?

Categories
Books Hip-Hop Rap Reviews

So Much More Than Just a Biography of a Man and a Movement — “Dilla Time” Reviewed

For the most part, whenever I heard a J Dilla (previously known as Jay Dee) beat, it sounded…off, wrong, maybe even sloppy. I couldn’t totally follow it. I wanted to like it, but I couldn’t fully appreciate it. It made me feel a bit discombobulated.

Only much later did I realize that was the intention. Dilla was not only reinventing what was known, he was inventing what was previously unknown.

As Dan Charnas writes, “What Dilla created was a third path of rhythm, juxtaposing those two time-feels [straight time and swing time], even and uneven simultaneously, creating a new, pleasurable, disorienting rhythmic friction and a new time-feel: Dilla Time.”

Categories
Greatness Hip-Hop In Appreciation of

In Appreciation of: Kurupt

What would happen if the lyricism of Rakim was combined with the vivid street tales of Kool G. Rap and the style of a young Snoop Doggy Dogg?

The outcome would be one Ricardo Brown, better known to the world as Kurupt.

Categories
Writing

My Best Writing of 2021

This is the post where I lay out the best things I wrote this year. Maybe, in a year like this when my productivity was lower, it might include everything I wrote. We’ll never know (don’t check).

Categories
Hip-Hop Rap

The Godfather of the Hip-Hop Magazine

A one-on-one interview with Brian Nagata, the man behind RapZines

For us hip-hop superfans that came of age long before the internet and streaming era, we had to get our fix in other ways. Years before blogs and social media, we got our info from the scant TV programs that focused on the culture – Yo! MTV Raps; Urban Xpressions; Rap City – but most of our knowledge and insight came from publications.

The Source was the bible, but there were others. Only in these magazines could we get a regular diet of in-depth features, reviews, and previews of everything happening in and around the music.

No one appreciates that fact more than Brian Nagata, the founder, owner, and operator of Rapzines.

Categories
Books Hip-Hop Music Rap Reviews

“The Motherlode” – A Beautiful, Undefinable History of Women in Hip-Hop

“Men write history, but women live it.”

Chloe Angyal

It’s true that history is written by the victors, but it’s also been predominately written by men. That is especially true in hip-hop. As the culture closes in on its fiftieth birthday, the contributions of women, whether behind the mic or behind the scenes, have been largely overlooked, marginalized, or outright ignored.

The Motherlode (Abrams, 2021) by Clover Hope could help begin to change that. A cogent and forceful entry in the ongoing need to give the ladies their due, it is a book that is undefinable, or at least not easily categorized, that also happens to be the definitive history of women in hip-hop.

Categories
Writing

My Best Writing of 2020

Everyone knows 2020 was not a typical year. In fact, it was probably the weirdest and most stressful twelve months most of us have ever experienced.

Some of the items I wrote this year were in direct response to what was happening in the world – both in macro and the micro sense – while others could’ve been published any other time.

The biggest change to my writing routine was my output – or lack thereof.