“Lately I’ve Been Sol Searching” is a project from Musa Reems entirely produced by Curbside Jones with only one feature from Amare Symoné. The five track EP is a calm, cool, and lyrically embracing journey from Reems cruising over the Curbside Production with his punchlines and rhymes that showcase his strengths and leaves an impression of his style over the five tracks.
In 2012, Kendrick Lamar released one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the past few years. Good Kid Maad City was Kendrick’s second album to the masses and it was an in depth, personal dive into a chapter of Lamar’s life that was told on the album in a nonlinear narrative. The album deals with moments from Kendrick’s life that are laid bare for us as the audience listens to the “Backseat Freestyle”, voicemails from his parents as the night grows worse and takes several turns in an almost cinematic style arc. The production, executively produced by Dr. Dre, sticks to the smooth somber moments on the pillars of rough around West Coast raps and the character arc of Lamar as the tracks progress and it was apparent Lamar had something special with GKMC. The harsh realities of Compton, California and his life shaping the story, people across the country and the world tuned in to listen too and gain some awareness about one rapper’s album detailing gun violence, women, religion, and growing up when life is moving too fast for you through twelve tracks (with more if you got the Bonuses!) The unofficial GKMC short film captures these themes, location and life of Compton beautifully and it’s pushed further and enhanced by the music for sure.
Good Kid Maad City turned five years old on October 22 and what better way to celebrate the album that threw Kendrick Lamar into the stratosphere by reflecting on it and seeing how fans feel about the album? I reached out to several fans to ask how they recall feeling about the album those five years ago and how it’s aged in their opinion.
This is taking a look back on Good Kid, M.A.A.D City.
@bolu_ay – It’s 2012 and the entire world has been raving about some guy named Kendrick, who I admit is an impressive rapper , but he just never did it for me. It was then I learnt how to appreciate music and learn to appreciate art, I finally got tired of the hype and decided to do a proper study, it’s influences, what the album was about, Kendrick’s contradictions, the story of his life to a degree. I decided to give him a chance when I hear “Bitch Don’t Kill my Vibe,” it resonated and made want to actually see what he was about and give the album another listen without overrated bias just a fascinating study on growing up in compton, what he loves about and what he hates about it, and in a small way I relate cause I am from Nigeria and that frustration with a place he loves and adores resonated with me like “Real” it’s by far my fave Kendrick song and actually made me into a huge fan, and yeah he was robbed of the Grammys in 2017. I think it’s a timeless album and is an interesting contrast to DAMN, which is more about Kendrick dealing with being famous than others.
@ajclassic – I was listening to it at work and I was very compelled by the storyline at first. “Backseat Freestyle” was the first banger and I liked it. The album reminded me of Death Certificate by Ice Cube. I mean the record he had with MC Eiht was actually over the “Bird In a Hand beat” which I liked. I remember finishing the album thinking it was pretty good. I just never felt the need to relisten like the songs were all over the radio after the album dropped and I really felt like Kendrick was inescapable. That was the biggest debut album that year and it felt like it. I thought the album was good but not this instant classic everybody said it was. I didn’t find any of the records particularly timeless and I feel like that’s what makes an album timeless.
@thirdeyesquints – Ight so basically, when GKMC dropped I was already a Kendrick fan, having been introduced to his full catalogue Christmas of 2011 when I was home from school on break, so going back down south anticipating an album had me hype because at that point the best thing I’d heard from him was Section 80 and I loved the storytelling on that one. Fast forward to a week or two before the album dropped, Heart pt. 3 comes out. Instantly became my new focus track. Then GKMC hits and I’m like…this nigga got a minivan on the cover, calling it a short film. This about to be epic or complete trash. Ended up being epic enough to take my attention away from Lupe’s Food and Liquor Vol. 2 which also dropped around that time. But yeah that album became my manifesto for the rest of that year, the tracks caught me from jump and every song was like a different piece of my own childhood. Case in point, I grew up on the edge of Compton and Watts, so every time he mentioned a location nearby my house I started thinking, this guy lived my same life just a few blocks over. And I imagine that’s the way folks over here felt when NWA dropped because it’s one thing to be a hometown hero and have a cohesive record, but when you capture the essence of growing up on the wrong side of the tracks and make it poetic, that’s when you know you’re tapped into something classic. To date I’ve only skipped through two tracks on the album after the initial drop, and that’s because I’m not a fan of new Mary J Blige and “Real” because it was the moment that pulled the story together for a close and I’m no longer listening for the narrative. People compare DAMN and TPAB to it but there’s a certain kind of hunger that freshman efforts have that you only get echoes of on the later albums. Like Backseat Freestyle was more than just a song about young K. Dot, it was the prelude to the Control verse that would mark him as the leader of his class. Every record on GKMC demands respect, even the ones I don’t care for, and I say that because I still feel guilty when I push past a record I’m not in the mood for but I still give it credence for even existing on the same album as the others. This has never been one of those albums where I feel like things should’ve been left off. Everything belongs. Everything is excellent in a way that his other records only seek to remind you of rather than standing on their own.
@RAMIMWAMBA – I think it dropped at the perfect time in my life, which is how we envision all our favourite albums doing, fresh out of high school, just started college, I think the systems are different here, so College for us, is a step before University. The album really hit home for me, it solidified the notion that Kendrick is for you Rami, the concept of deep down being a “good kid” and the environment and people around you influencing your actions, I wasn’t gang banging at aaaall, but Art of Peer Pressure can relate to any shy black boy who wanted to be like his cousins. I’d spent the year prior getting to know Kendrick, listening to mixtapes, freestyles, singles, anything! I was pestering my friends about Section.80, showing Rigamortis to anybody who’d lend an ear or two, so when the album came I was ready to be disappointed, when you build things up like that that’s often the case. Lupe Fiasco was my “fave” but Lasers was Lasers, Eminem’s novelty had worn off and Drake got too much pussy for me to ever relate. So when I pressed play on my Blackberry on the album I’d illegally downloaded on my way home (I’ve bought every Kendrick project since) and you hear that tape being injected and the sound system gearing up, along with the group prayer, I sighed the biggest sigh of relief, I don’t know why, but I was just so happy, to feel/hear that atmospheric sound, the imagery, sense of time and place, it was ballsy of him to go concept, when everyone was expecting him to go pop. To me, the music was out of this world, he married lyrical potency, storytelling and mainstream rap sensibilities perfectly, he really kept a balance on that album, and I was so surprised, it was unheard of for me at that point, didn’t listen to anything else until the end of my first year in college. I knew it was a classic, I likened it to the Illmatic of my era, the one album I’ll always be mentioning to people younger than me when I’m describing the millennial era as rap’s golden age, it’s essential listening. Present time, my views are just as strong, and I’d defend that album to the end of time. It’s such a moment in time for me, so many memories and friendships have been made from songs on that album and that artists, it’s amazing to see what he’s become, so clinical in his movements, militant almost, meticulous with his artistry, and everything was more or less there in that album. He got a fan for life with that album.
@John_Noire – “To understand the importance of good kid, m.A.A.d city, you have to understand its context. My first introduction to Kendrick Lamar was Overly Dedicated. From the breath-taking lyricism of “The Heart Part 2” to the ingenious imagery of “Heaven & Hell”, Kendrick’s talent was self-evident. Not since Lupe had I witnessed an emcee of Kendrick’s calibre. But there was a question that remained over his head until his major-label debut: Could he deliver? Any child of the blog era will remember the million emcees we championed as ‘the one’: the one to deliver the classic album, the one to bring balance to hip-hop. So many had tried, so many had failed. Whether it was of their own doing or by label intervention, it seemed that mainstream rap was doomed to mediocrity. Therefore, Kendrick became our last hope. Every step he made was on a high wire we were familiar with, we just prayed that he would be the first one to make it to the other end.
Fast forward to October 22nd, 2012. Everything Kendrick had done till then made me believe the hype: Section.80, “Buried Alive”, King of the West Coast. Kendrick could do no wrong and this was the moment of truth. The first time I listened to good kid, m.A.A.d city was in alphabetical order. Initially, I was worried but it wasn’t until I heard “m.A.A.d city” and “Sing About Me” that I realized Kendrick had done it. He had delivered the first classic album of our generation. For me, a classic album has to do one of two things: represent the best of the genre or innovate it. good kid, m.A.A.d city did both. Since its release, good kid, m.A.A.d city has impacted hip-hop in the following ways: (i) Set the blueprint for artists to be themselves and avoid the trappings of major-label compromise (ii) Gave a platform for more lyricism and social consciousness in the mainstream (iii) Reintroduced the importance of concept albums and storytelling (iv) Started a West Coast Renaissance that is showing no signs of slowing down. When I was growing up, I would hear all these stories about how amazing Biggie and Nas were on their come-up. How you just had to be there to see it. How it would never happen again. Kendrick Lamar is my chance to watch greatness develop in real time and good kid, m.A.A.d city was the beginning of that journey. Five years later, that hasn’t changed. I’m just happy I now have the opportunity to talk about it.
@incognegroi – People out here were extremely happy for him & it was a pivotal time for the city but I feel like people had mixed emotions about it despite him becoming successful. Like he was one of those artists that would lose sentiment because outside culture & mainstream America would fetishize him. Especially with the success of his second album I believe America crowned him a sweetheart rather than incriminate him which usually means he’s become disconnected from the city. If you look in those crowds from OD to Damn, periodically the crowds have a lot more snow in them you feel me? And at that point that’s when you know it’s less about the culture and more about him being a “star”. It was a dope album probably the truest and closest part to Kendrick Lamar we’ll ever get again. We’ll never get K Dot again just because when you in the hood you see things for what it really is, but when you on the road and working you lose the sentiment.
@OhiniJonez – Good kid Maad city dropped, changed the world around me, and I didn’t give an iota of a fuck. Not that I didn’t appreciate Kendrick’s skill and content, I just didn’t have a love for the music anymore. 20 hour days producing, recording, mixing and writing made any music I heard outside of my bubble feel like ‘meh’… and there was probably someone like me somewhere when Illmatic dropped too.
I didn’t really understand the album until I started seeing its impact. 2012 was an interesting year, a time when the love children of Weezy, Yeezy, and Based God roamed the Earth; Kendrick slapped all that in the face. While the stylistic choices didn’t go, I noticed there being more effort in flows, more effort in content and all roads pointed to Good kid Maad city. As a child of the first Kanye renaissance of the culture, I became instantly aware of the all important event I hadn’t noticed. This was the first classic of the new decade, the first album to have an impact beyond sales. I saw kids of all identities, nationalities and backgrounds truly resonate with something. What was merely a great album to me was life affirming and life changing for a whole generation of hip hop listeners. Good kid Maad city was a teaching moment as well; once it was compared to albums like Illmatic, Ready To Die, It Takes a Nation…, and AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted one could see folks born well after these albums were released debating the comparisons. I don’t care if they were right or wrong, a generation listened to Illmatic to find common ground between their father’s CD collection and their iTunes library. I found common ground between my father’s love of Gil Scott Heron and Kendrick’s own harrowing narratives of merely existing in Compton
Aight, this brings me to my last point. In an era of super hippies, super thugs, and over exaggerated personalities Kendrick released an album that celebrated being a regular nigga in surreal circumstances. The stories aren’t told from the perspective of the bystander, or the perpetrator. They are told from the perspective of the nigga in the backseat who got caught up in some crazy situations. He wasn’t a super player, he was a high school kid trying to balance getting laid and bringing his momma’s van home. What made this album a classic was the universal appeal of Kendrick Lamar as a human, and not a character.
@LILETHBASEDLORD – I remember when I first heard Swimming Pools (Drank) and thinking how good it was at that time and I used to play it a lot until the radio basically killed it, same for Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe, especially the remix with Jay-Z. When I finally heard the whole album, I remember basically loving everything from Master Splinter’s Daughter to Sing About Me, Dying Of Thirst and not really caring for the rest. Nowadays, I actually like the singles all over again, not to entirely Swimming Pools anymore. Bitch, Don’t kill My Vibe actually aging pretty good. M.a.a.d City isn’t really in my opinion. Sing About Me, Dying Of Thirst is still the best song on the album to me. After two more studio albums from Kendrick and acknowledging Section .80 as an album, I’d rank GKMC at number 4 honestly.
Good Kid, Maad City gave an even bigger spotlight to the kid from Compton and the world was forever changed because of it. A story of love, death, rebirth, and finding yourself even in the worst of circumstances is the story of younger Kendrick on the album. Here we are five years later still listening, still reflecting, and going back to see why we think this album is so great in the first place. I want to give a big THANK YOU! to everyone that gave their words to this piece and to everyone out there that’s reading it.
While we’re waiting for the new album from the ever-mysterious Cage, here’s a new track to tide us over.
Produced and mixed by Jason Mayer.
Cage also has a few live shows coming up soon.
12/21/17 – The Constellation Room – Santa Ana, CA (Tickets on sale 11/3)
12/23/17 – the Roxy – Los Angeles, CA (Tickets on sale 11/3)
The shows will be billed as “Cage vs. Sam Hill.” Cage will be performing oldies, the hits and brand new songs. This will be Sam Hill’s debut performance with a full blown stage production. This will be very special and not to be missed!
While you’re here, check out these other Sam Hill songs.
In honor of Halloween, Skepta delivers on a six song EP titled “Vicious”. The short and sweet project features the likes of Lil B, Section Boyz, and some of the A$AP Mob, A$AP Rocky and Nast. Vicious is Skepta’s latest since his project Konnichiwa album last year. You can stream the project on Apple Music here and watch the video for one of the songs on the Vicious below!
I know the music industry, in all its facets, is steeped in politics.
At the end of the day, all of t h i s is a game we have to play. The game doesn’t care how exhausted you are, how stressed, how meager the paycheck, how frightened you are of failure…because the air is so sweet at the top, that all the suffering feels worth it. The game, to a degree, glorifies suffering. At a point, the game has made me jaded and that metastasized into fear which prevented me from writing for many months. Even as I type this, I still second-guess every word written.
For that reason, I have a soft spot in my heart for emerging rappers because the terrain is impossibly rough, the doorway to success so narrow, that many often quit before they see any kind of return. I want the world to know their story and this became and is still the reason why I write.
I do pride myself in being both the doorway and bridge towards the next step, but what I’m not is a doormat. I know rappers who would ask, “Can you write about my mixtape? I need exposure” are the same rappers who don’t read musical editorials or album reviews or op-eds. They read stats. They look for the number of followers and the level of engagement with said social media account. They look for verified checks next to names and read bio for accolades and big name editorials spaces.
Now I’m not particularly sure what was in retrograde this past week or what horoscope is passing over what horizon, but a handful of people from my past have made attempts to come back into my life. Coincidently, several rappers through Twitter and LinkedIn have asked me if I could write about their mixtape –which moved me to write this. I don’t know if either / or are related, but it’s been a week (more so than usual) of people wanting something from me in order to advance or satisfy themselves. On Twitter, I keep myself inbox open so anyone can reach me, if they so choose. I’ve been able to connect and slowly build an organic network as a result of constantly putting myself out there. The rappers I have built a rapport with have been through mutual connections or because I reached out. I encourage rappers to reach out because I do want to hear from you, yet the overall sloppiness makes me feel you don’t take yourself seriously then neither should I, and you don’t care enough to understand how decorum works in theses spaces. Also, it makes me think you don’t believe in yourself. When starting out, just as important as it is to be likable, you need to do the work and create exceptional art. While, yes, you have to promote yourself furiously, but when all is said and done, if the music cannot speak for itself then what are you even doing?
When I asked one rapper who was requesting exposure, “How they found me” they said, verbatim, “I typed in ‘looking for promotion’ & your name was 1st on the search”. If for nothing else, I have to respect that level of honesty because it’s never actually malicious. It’s just annoying. This rapper didn’t seem to care whether I was offended that they asked permission to use me. I’m just baffled by the severe lack of the finesse™. I get it: you don’t have the time care about me even though I have something you need. I’m a writer, and I need to a degree, validation. Validation that my words carry weight. Validation that my thoughts and opinions matter. Validation that I’m not just writing to hear the sound of my own voice but to move people, to touch as many as I can before I’m dead. I’m not too self-important that I can’t admit that. My frustration lies in lack of reciprocity in compassion. Maybe, if you believe your art, dear rapper (who will never read this), is just as important as mine, what does it take for y’all to be respectful of someone’s hard work & time? What does it take to do research (real research, not just clicking on one or two things I’ve written and vaguely skimming it. Actually knowing my musical tastes and seeing if we’re even in the same ballpark, friend) before you embarrass yourself and that is my strongest memory of you.
Every time a rapper follows me on Twitter, I go looking for their SoundCloud, Spotify, Apple Music, DatPiff, Bandcamp—wherever their music lives, I too wish to live with it, however brief. Have respect for the work you put in, because it’s super corny to vaguely @ people your YouTube link on Twitter–it honestly looks like you did it by accident. Dear rappers (who want exposure & can’t be bothered to read this), if I’m a means to an end, if all the music journalists you can tag into the oblivion of the Internet are nothing more than step ladder towards whatever you’re after, you really should question what you value. Because it’s clearly not your work.
Yet, I say all this to say I am on your side. I wouldn’t even be writing this if I didn’t care. I want you to be great and I want you to want to be great, so let’s break down how you are getting in your own way. To start, please use a salutation and address the person by their name (e.g.:Good Morning / Afternoon / Evening, Mr or Ms or Mx). Here it is also paramount that you know the person’s gender markers (as not everyone identifies as ‘he’ or ‘she’). Making this mistake could have your music thrown in the trash before it is even listened to. Next (and actually before you even draft a letter), do a bit of research on the writer, the platforms they write for, and in favor of yourself, their writing style. If your style of music isn’t something historically this writer rates or listens to, it may not be a good idea to solicit them even if they write for a huge platform. As stated before, it needs to be sincere, even if it’s fabricated sincerity. Why would anyone do something for someone, especially if they don’t even know them, if it feels the person on the other side of the request is fake…? Would you, dear rapper (who will never read this), let someone use you? Let someone step on your head so they can move forward? I would sure hope not.
Finally once you have properly done research on the writer in question and sent the message to the proper channels, please and I cannot stress this enough, explicitly state “I respect and value your time”. Many writers are worn thin, work long hours, and don’t have the time to waste, when you pop into someone’s DM on some “Ayo ma, let me waste your time”, I promise you they will never respond back. Even if they like your music. Finally, end with something to the effect: “Thank you for your time and I look forward”. All of this is critical because it sets the precedent for the kind of artist and brand you want reflected in the world. All of this is critical because building and nurturing professional relationships will set you apart from your contemporaries and will propel you farther than anyone else. The amount of reverence in “please”, “thank you”, in genuine engagement, and those relationship are immense payoffs in the long run. I want this for you, dear rapper (who will never read this), to be successful but it’s on you. This is your career, it’s your life. How do you want to be remembered? How do you want people to talk about you when you’re not around to defend yourself?
- Research the writer you are soliciting
- Address them properly
- Ask them (kindly) if you can send them music. Say ‘please’
- Thank them vigorously
Bonus: follow up in about a week or so, and again, say ‘thank you and I look forward’.
A rapper who reached out after reading my article on Akinyemi, sent me a thoughtful message which I felt was an incredible example on how to approach speaking to journalists.
This message hits every mark I talk about. They ask instead of demand. They say thank you. They did their part and researched. I could diagram and dissect every part of this, but by now I trust you get the idea. Naturally I did respond because I’m interested now and I feel this rapper sees me as their equal. I say ask for them to send me two tracks and the correspondence continues:
“Don’t wanna ask for a write up or anything just wanna build on that relationship”. It’s powerful, really, building organic professional relationships. I worry the more hip-hop grows and is passed down through the years that this will be a lost art. A lot of the rappers you love got put on because they fostered a strong network. They put in that hard work on their art and built connections. In order to for your favorite rapper to rise into the spotlight, they offered something up.
In “Fullmetal Alchemist” it’s called “The First Law of Equivalent Exchange”: Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. To obtain, something of equal value must be lost”. Dear rapper (who will never read this), that requires you to be a better student of the game, humble yourself, and don’t bite the hands that you hope will feed you. Good luck out there.
I.S. Jones is a writer living in New York by way of California. Please send her pizza, not nudes. If you want to send her music, send one track on Twitter & she’ll get back at her earliest convenience. Her moon is in Scorpio. You can tweet at her here.
The sweat of Akinyemi‘s brow makes his rap a kind of gospel.
It’s 11:35 PM on Sunday, September 17, 2017 at his release party for premiere EP “summers” and my already bad knees hurt too much to be standing any longer. I was going through such an ugly depression, I could barely remember to eat much less get myself out of bed for a show, yet I knew I needed to be in the numbers when Akinyemi presented his first mixtape to New York, and subsequently the world. And here I am here to bare witness.
In front of me, there are people either younger than me or my age gathering in clusters to be as close to the main attraction as possible. They chatter about the acts before him: ATELLER , Amy Leon and Gracie Terzian and how incredible every single one of their sets was. The band begins setting up the overhead projection to display on a loop Akinyemi‘s visuals.
I begin to survey the room once more amid the soft red lights. The crowd was a decent size, not enough to fill the room, but enough, I imagine, for the rapper to feel proud of what he’s accomplished leading up this moment–booking the venue, making sure there was merchandise to sell in the first place, extensive promotion on social media platforms, positioning himself to have interviews right before this night so he would attract new fans–everything Akinyemi did, the effort he put forth, right before the sweat emerge onto his forehead under the soft red lights is a testament to a new rapper who demeans his presence be known.
Between the heavy bass drums, guitar riffs, delicate keyboard, Akinyemi has swept us into the imagination of his summer. When he came onto the stage and went right into his set, playing a new song called “coffin”, him and the keyboardist had been working on for a minute, he had already generated such a well-deserved hype about himself that members of the audience we’re yelling back “Yo, I need this song! Drop it already”. At this stage in his career, Akinyemi isn’t quite the underdog anymore, but he makes you want to cheer him on. He makes you emotionally invested in his win.
Some time later, we met up to further discuss “summers” and I do my best to live with a rapper’s project before any interview. I could only imagine an album such as this one being made in New York—the melodic pitch, the careful (but not overdone) boom-bap, rhythmic style that escalate in session with each connecting bar, upbeat tempo, and more somber introspection—Akinyemi undoubtedly took the time to understand what this project would make of him and vice versa. It almost seemed movie-esque how “dust calling” complimented the atmosphere just outside my window: a basketball dribbling on the court as kids yell after each other, someone blasting music from their car stereo—Akinyemi is creating the soundtrack to his life and by proxy the soundtrack to everyone else’s. What I enjoy most about Akinyemi is how refreshingly ordinary he is, as though rapping is in fact his superpower.
I met up with him at Union Square, and as we begin talking, an acquaintance of his daps him up, “Hey yo Akinyemi, let me hit you with me the semi!” Standing at 6 foot, Akinyemi sports an Afro and multi-colored long sleeve button up. The acquaintance complimented him on his outfit and hair, saying he digs his 80’s style.
I.S. Jones: Let’s talk about you and your music. During your release party, the execution was incredible. Merch was on point. Production was on point. The venue Brooklyn Bazaar was well chosen, talk to me about your team. Who are the people that made the dream happen?
Akinyemi: So my team is Noah Padawer-Curry, that’s my manager, Sharell Jeffrey is my publicist, those two. Sharell has been around since March and Noah Padawer-Curry [has] been my manager [as of] two and a half months ago. We’re mad efficient, it’s crazy. I didn’t realize how much I needed them until I had them. How much more shit gets done. Like, I could be at a studio session working creatively, while business stuff is still happening behind the scenes.
For the release show, it was very me though, because I didn’t want to seem Hollywood. I didn’t want it to seems like “my people” contacted the acts. I personally hit up every act that performed. I called them & was like “Yo, I want you to perform”. The band and I got together, and I wanted every act to feel like I wanted them to be there.
Jones: Did you design your own merch as well?
Akinyemi: No. The ‘wavy’ AKINYEMI logo was designed by Emerson Bowstead. He designed the cover for “Eurydice”, “Maple” and a couple other songs. The back, the cover art of “summers”, was made by Jose Misael. He’s a childhood friend and he went to City College of Study & Design. I got them in a room and they decided Emerson Bowstead would design the front and Jose would design the back. Ever since then, I’ve been able to take the transparent and use that as the logo for everything.
Jones: A little bit before “summers”, you dropped your single “Eurydice” and we talked about how you felt “it was not your best work”, yet at the same time. There is a dramatic artistic leap between “Eurydice” and “summers”. Talk to me about how you grew between that single and the project.
Akinyemi: I made Eurydice right in the middle of making “summers”. “summers” took me about a year, from last July.
So I’m making [this mixtape] and I knew I wanted to make a song called “fleece”. The first time I recorded it, I wasn’t really fucking with it. I would then work on two new songs and name [one of] them “fleece” before they were even finished, determined to rock with the song title and topic. Three months later, [I’m talking to] Raf (Rafael Moure that’s my engineer), I’m like, “Yo, chuck summers. Let’s work on some other shit”. So, my and this producer Eddie Res, who lives in Harlem, we linked up and we made five records. “Eurydice” is actually on an EP that him and me have actually done. That EP is called “Liminal”. I just fucked with the record, so I put it out. I know my team was like “What are you doing?” in terms of the release schedule. Because I wanted to drop “Eurydice” then “summers” then another EP that has nothing to do with “Summers” and my team was like “Where is your mind at?”. I just liked the song, so I recorded it while I was working on other songs. I spent enough time away from summers, and I go back to it with a clear head. I’m thinking “This is what I need to fix, this is what I need to fix”. I just had a much clearer vision on the project because I spent a month or two away from it.
Jones: So you’re back and forth between summers, and singles, and everything…?
Akinyemi: Yeah, so it wasn’t singles, I was deadass making 6 EP’s at the same time. I had: “summers”, I had “Liminal” (the EP with Eddie Res ), I had “I am U” (an EP with ATELLER), this EP I’m making with the producer Lionmilk with produced the outro for “fleece”, I have an EP with my band “Chiv Culture”. I’m doing all that the same time, while in school, just like…not sleeping, just being schedule crazy. I don’t know, I just needed to take time away from everything. Took time away from ‘summers’ to make an EP, came back to “summers”.
Jones: You’re also very popular I’m noticing. Even just seeing you interact with people, I know networking is really huge part of being an artist. How do you leverage personal relationships into professional ones? How do you leverage relationships towards helping you with your art?
Akinyemi: If I’m doing business with someone, even if they’re my friend, I still want to do some type of paperwork. Matt is a good example of a personal relationship (which can also be professional). It’s all about being explicit and I feel people don’t do that. Just say, “Hey, I’m worth this much. This is what I can bring to the table. These are the resources I would need”. Overall, I just feel it’s about being very honest and open with people.
Jones: Your name means ‘fated to be a warrior’ in Yoruba. My name means “the child who fell into wealth”, by the way.
Akinyemi: Yo, Nigerian names are fucking dope.
Me & Akin: [laughs]
Me: Naijas are the best
Akinyemi: The child who fell into wealth…? That’s so dope.
Jones: Growing up in Nigerian culture, in some capacity, I don’t know how much your parents spoke Yoruba around you or if you ate fufu growing up. How much does being Nigerian influence your work? If at all.
Akinyemi: You’re gonna get a little of that in my next project, “Warrior’s Fate”, which is based on my name, but I never really incorporated African culture in my music, but being Nigerian has allowed me to work harder. Deadass?
Jones: Trust me, I get it.
Akinyemi: My parents do not bullshit at all. Being a first generation child and knowing how hard my parents struggled, like really hustled. With Nigerian parents, it’s hard to impress them. I was in school and I would come to them like “Yo, I got 100 on this test”. They would be like, “Word, do it again” [laughter]. That’s it, that’s all you get. I don’t know, it wasn’t until recently that my parents started supporting my music. Before, they never supported it. They felt it was a waste of time. If I went to an open mic, they would ask how much I’m being paid. Not being paid made them think it was a waste of time. So, me going hard in music, it was to prove them wrong. I’m just gonna go extra hard just so when I become successful, they’ll support me. I feel if they were supportive in the beginning, I would be complacent. I feel if they had everything—my mom, for example, booking studio sessions for me, and putting up the bread for this, I wouldn’t really want it. I feel you really have to struggle in order to want something. Being Nigerian has made me realize I really wanna do this.
Jones: I’m very curious about the significance of the number 7 in summers. It keeps popping up but in subtle ways. The word ’summers’ has 7 letters in it, there are 7 tracks on the EP, and the album cover skillfully is a picture-by-picture of every song, which is cool. How does that number play a role in summers?
Akinyemi: Lowkey, that’s a coincidence [laughs] but I just thought it was fire and I noticed it after it was done and I was like, “Yo, I could run with it”. I knew I wanted seven tracks. I knew I wanted it to be called “summers”. I knew both were 7 letters, but I wasn’t thinking the reoccurrence of 7, you know? I was plottin’ or anything like that. I made it 7 because 7 is the number of completion. In terms of the scenes, Jose took a portion of the cover art he created from “dust calling” and used that to begin making the cover for “summers”. He was like “every song is an experience, a vivid experience, so let’s showcase that on the cover art” and like on the cover “fleece” and “asylum” are very visible. “onetime” (on the top left) my older brother and sister are playing patty cake while my middle brother is hitting me, which is a true story. “change” is about having nothing but being comfortable with it. Dude is on a couch with his feet up on a table, but his TV is off. On his phone, if you zoom in, is 4 pennies ($0.04) then I start the song: “Four pennies roam around in the back seat.” It’s just like this: “Imagine yourself having nothing and just being totally comfortable with it”.
So that was “change”. “winter” is about “A&R are in charge of my sound and what I complete”. Winter is the opposite of summer and I feel like ‘winter’ was the song that blogs wanted. That was the song that hip-hop blogs would gravitate toward—the boom-bap, rap track that I’m rapping for mad long. In that song, I wanted to make a message, “Yo, this is what y’all want”. In the song, I’m talking about being controlled by labels and being controlled by other organizations that control your creative control. It’s just me being an independent artist. I showcase that on top of the cover art with a person being held by a puppeteer.
Jones: Congrats on your feature on the Village Voice. In the feature it stated you fostered a professional relationship with Canadian Rapper DuqueNuquem and that opened the door for “dust calling”, is that my understanding?
Jones: If you take the first step in reaching out, how do you reach out to producers and other artists, especially if they’ve never known you or heard of you before, how do you entice them to work with you?
Akinyemi: So with Duque [Nuquem], it wasn’t really like me odee’in his inbox like, “Yo, I fuck with you! I’m trying to work”. I was introduced to this group called the “Rootnote Collective?” “And they showcased mad talented producers like Elaquent and DIBIA$E, and DuqueNuquem was one of those artists, he was apart of Rootnote Collective. On that compilation, I heard “Caught in Spain” which ended up being the beat for “change” on the project.
I commented on everything, “Yo, this is fire”. I was really engaging his work. Then a week later, a year ago, I think he reposted ‘Distant’ and liked it. Then reached out, “Distant is really fire. I’m definitely trying to do something. I was like “Wow”. He has a huge following. Mind you, I only had 150 followers at the time when that came out, and he reached out. We talked via Soundcloud inbox, for a while. I added him on Facebook. He had a project called “Foreign Interest” and I did sone of the tracks on that, send it back to him & liked it. He just sent me mad beats and a folder of six different beats. One of those beats were “Dust Calling”, one of those beats were “highway”, and we just kept in communication. I sent him updates and he sent more tracks. I never met him or spoke to him on the phone. We just talked via Facebook Messenger for the past two years.
Jones: Who are the production hands on “summers”?
Akinyemi: Christian Duquette or DuqueNuquem produced every song. On ‘Fleece’, it molds into an outro section which is produced by Lionmilk. ‘Fleece’ is co-produced by Lionmilk. In the first two and a half minutes, Daniel Winshall plays bass on “Fleece”. On “onetime”, Hadassah is singing background vocals with Markis Williams on keys.
Jones: Now with “summers” out of the way, what’s next?
Akinyemi: I’m working on ‘Warrior’s Fate’, initially that was supposed to be my debut. So you’ll find on “dust calling” a warrior that’s on his way to his house & that warrior has bandages on his arm. I worked with Jose to show a progression of the warrior and you see this on “dust calling” is a novice with bandages for armor. On “Warrior’s Fate”, you’ll find out the warrior is more advanced, with chain mail. The warrior is me, but I wasn’t ready just yet. Before “WF” was more of a compilation, whereas now I feel like I can tell the story of who I am and how being Nigerian fits into the piece of it.
If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and listen to “summers”. Here, Akinyemi pushes his own boundaries of sonic and lyrical dexterity, he taps into the dark and often frightening untouched memories, he explores the self as the body in constantly in flux (much like the seasons), but above all Akinyemi meets you where you’re at with his music. He’s not a rapper of bravado, but rather one of finding his truth and negotiating who he is in his music, and I want to believe he hopes you’ll find yourself in his music too.
“summers” can be found below:
I.S. Jones is a writer living in New York by way of California. Please send her pizza, not nudes. You can tweet at her here.
For more info on BRZOWSKI and ENMITYVILLE visit:
Vocals by BRZOWSKI
Produced by 80HRTZ
Post-Production, Mixing and Mastering by C $ Burns
Cello by Mary Weatherbee
Turntables by Mo Niklz
Directed by Jason Knightly at Lucky Hand Studios
The name DJ Clue? may not mean much to the young ‘uns in this age but once upon a time, he was the main man. He was the DJ Khaled of the late 90s. Able to unite acts from different sides of the coast while maintaining his NY swagger. This is the man who introduced us to Fabolous, Joe Budden (Yes, same Budden), groomed a young DJ ENVY (Of Breakfast club fame) and well Paul Cain (do your googles). While not new to the game, his mixtapes were very notorious in the 90s and sold faster than pure white but his major debut didn’t happen until late December 1998. This was after he struck a lucrative deal with Def Jam via Roc-a-fella and his own imprint Desert Storm, but this piece is not really about DJ Clue? but rather a series he created on his debut album “The Professional”.
The song in question is the aptly titled “Fantastic Four”, an all out, no holds barred lyrical slugfest featuring the best of the best going all in sans the gimmicky hooks and all. The song featured Cam’ron, Big Pun, N.O.R.E (then known as Noreaga) and Canibus, all in their prime with 1 album each to their names. Today we look at the song in question, how they fared on the track and what they are up to in 2017.
Then he was an Un-tertainment flagship artist (alongside Charlie Baltimore), the Harlemnite’s debut was a solid one and worth checking out. Cam’ron came through with his street smart, off the cuff flow-which I most say- has been perfected now. He stays witty and nasty with lines like “Girls grope then I smile/ That’s when they fall cause they lick my balls right after I play ball/ No wash-up, no nothin’/ Hear what I say y’all?O.K. y’all. Ask AJ y’all ” and “I’ll turn the baddest bitch gay y’all/ Like Stacy Dash, she was eatin’ Tracy ass at this other lady’s pad“. Now do you see where I’m coming from (no pun intended)?
Cam went from Un-tertainment to Sony/Epic Records to Roc-a-fella/Def Jam/Diplomat Records and gave us that unforgettable role as Rico in the Damon Dash produced “Paid In Full” movie. The cat is still shining.
Big Pun had the highest selling debut (Capital Punishment) amongst the foursome and was definitely that cat everyone wanted to feature. Known for his fierce machine gun flow and lyricism despite his size, Pun came to do damage with his opening lines; “Fuck all y’all non-believers, I roll wit God, the squad and T.S / Out wit the BS; we platinum, they even doubted Jesus/Niggas is 85%, I’m 400 solid” and as per usual kills his set though I deep down believed he could have done more damage knowing ‘Bis was also on the same song.
Big Pun unfortunately passed away in 2000 but still left us with 1 classic debut and 2 solid post humous projects amongst numerous features etc. He definitely passed the torch to his son Chris Rivers who is currently on the rise.
QB emcee Noreaga or N.O.R.E was the shining star out of his group CNN (Capone -N- Noreaga) and as the almighty wanted it he went solo due to Capone’s unfortunate incarceration. Known for his left field style of rapping, N.O.R.E was able to carve a niche for himself amongst his QB peers at the time (Mobbdeep, Nas, Tragedy, Nature, Cormega etc). He was one of the first cats to work extensively with The Neptunes so you have to give him that respect.
Lyrically I expected the usual N.O.R.E and that was exactly what he delivered. His animated flow and love for fellatio goes unnoticed with lines like “Ayo, the President is like me, he smoke weed too/ Don’t really like to fuck, he just get head too” and even declares “N-O-R-E, I just lace the heat/ I don’t complain about the track, give me any beat“.
N.O.R.E was and is unorthodox from the jump. He was somewhat ahead of the curve and maybe not as successful on the mainstream like Nas or Jay-Z but he is still respected across the board. He has gone to bless us with 3 studio albums, a cameo in in the Damon Dash produced “Paid In Full” movie and now hosting one of the top hip-hop podcast in this era. Get hip to “The Drink Champs” if you haven’t, it is definitely worth the listen.
In 1998, Canibus was the guy you would be scared to be on a song with. Before this, he had several random features/freestyles on those Clue? mixtapes I mentioned earlier (Check his 97 Mentality Freestyle). Canibus was killing features, left, right and center. The Refugee affiliated emcee was a sure shot when it comes to features and his verse on “Fantastic Four” was no exception. They called for a no holds barred, well Canibus delivered the finisher with 32 bars (why did they let him rap for that long though?) and left everyone else in the back seat.
In 2017, his name may not hold weight like before but he is still well revered in many circles that cherish true lyricism. He has released multiple albums, mixtapes since then and also was part of that disastrous (see what I did there) battle with Dizaster.
It’s been almost 20 years since this epic collaboration came about and while the players have moved on to other ventures, the legacy they left should not go to waste. Respect the architects.
Living in Detroit, do you think people already had a preconceived notion of what your music was going to sound like? – That’s a really great question. ABSOLUTELY. being from a city that Eminem controls musically is underwhelming. Underwhelming because everyone only knows about him and maybe J-DILLA. But I’m from the hood, the real hood and my parents, block, neighborhood never played Eminem or Dilla. Detroit is its own cultural ecosystem. And they do not like anything mainstream at all. Now here I am, as a extremely creative person that comes from that hood ecosystem but I want to make music the way I feel. Stressful? Hell yeah it is. I got cousins in the hood that talk my head off every time I see them about how I used to rap.
With your music, how would you say you’ve progressed with how you approach the process of crafting everything? From the single, album, video, and social media. – I’ve progressed so much throughout the years, literally every few months I get better. Me and Chuck Inglish debate so many times over me progressing a year ahead every few months. He’ll be like this record is awesome stay here and capitalize on it. And the next time I see him I’ll be in a whole new world. I can’t really control my creativity it just pours out, but I’ve learned so much from my mentors. They applaud how much creative energy and versatility I have. I’m literally a visual director. Chuck called me one day and said “I want you to write and produce this visual off my album”. It was for Sweatshorts, off of Everybody’s Big Brother. The album he released before The Cool Kids album.
How is it working with Chuck Inglish, as a relatively new artist and fellow musician? What’s he taught you thus far? – Actually Chuck, Mikey, and Asher are the Wizards. I call them the holy trinity. With Chuck specifically it’s mind blowing. He’s selfless, completely. Anything he can, he will do, not just for me but for every artist he meets. That’s why The Cool Kids get so much respect, they aren’t removed from the culture. Never have, and me and Chuck so happen to be very close friends. You don’t meet a lot of musicians who are engaging. I think he personally was drawn to me because of that.
With your album, what messages are you trying to get across to your listeners and what’s your process of crafting songs for the project or singles? – The number one idea I’m trying to get across to my fans and listeners is freedom. Freedoms to be yourself. I get pressured a lot to talk about street shit on my records, because everyone knows I’m from the hood. But I talk about religion, love, guilt of being a man, purpose, perseverance, etc. I am extremely versatile, I can do whatever I want musically without a crew giving me ideas. My ideas are all mine.
How much have you dabbled in music videos and merchandising? What are some of the hardships of creating and deciding on the next step for your music? – In order to call yourself creative director and video director, you have to do such occupations. I do them well. I direct all of my visuals and I’ve directed visuals for Chuck and Asher also I wrote about what it feels like directing (https://massappeal.com/helios-hussain-on-writing-directing-chuck-inglishs-sweat-shorts-video/)
The second instalment of Chris Lighty‘s Violator movement was as heavy as the first one and if you may permit, took it up a notch-even though critics said it wasn’t as successful. The compilation which dropped in 2001 aimed to blend new rising acts with the established ones and offered a platform for both mainstream and underground acts.
In this piece, I plan on dissecting a song that was featured on the project using the where are they now approach and the contribution they made on the song and in the rap-sphere in general. The song in question is the 6 man posse cut titled “Next Generation”. As the title suggests, the song placed the young rising rap acts together with just 8 bars each to represent- as announced by DJ Kay Slay who acts like the moderator. The chief suspects on the song includes Jojo Pellegrino, Cadillac Tah, R.C., Fabolous, Fortune and Remy Martin.
NY native with a very distinct flow. I will admit, the first time I heard of him was on the aforementioned compilation album and he was on 3 tracks (1 solo). His flow on “Next Generation” is surgical, very engaging and he does his thing with the little time he had. I suggest you check out the other joints he was on (“Fiend” and “Grind Season” with Kurupt) to really appreciate the man.
He was definitely next to blow but I don’t know what really went down and he hasn’t had a huge comeback since then. Although he has some new material out.
Murder Inc member and Ja’s right hand man. He was buzzing at the time with his verses on Ja’s songs and Murder InC collabos and all. He is not really known for being super lyrical but he is aggressive to the teeth with his style which he displayed on the song.
He did go on to release an album and well Fifty Cent happened and Murder Inc was never the same.
The one time member of the underground group Da Franchise, R.C aka Red Cafe wastes little time in showing how hungry he is on the track. With lines like “Got a tre eight that throws more kisses than Jada/ And a bitch serve the guard proper, hey/ She give me blows under the belt like a dirty boxer“. R.C delivers one of the best 8 bars on the entire song.
A close affiliate of Fabolous, Red Cafe worked with him a bunch of times and bounced from label to label. He dropped a handful of mixtapes and even got a small role in the Notorious biopic. He is also an established ghost writer and has penned songs for highly reputable acts in the industry.
First time I heard of Fab was from the old DJ Clue “The Professional” tapes and while his mainstream appeal is apparent, he never gets the due props for actually being a dope emcee. Even I sometimes tend to overlook the man for being able to switch lanes from lush, pop oriented sounds to that New York Gritty vibes without breaking a sweat. This song came out some months before he dropped his debut “Ghetto Fabolous”
With just 8 bars to showcase his skills, Fab comes through with the slickness. His nonchalant flow often hides the intensity in his bars as he kicks off with a very graphic opener. “I come out with fire/Stop, drop, roll out the booth/ The rims come out the tires/ I stop, hop fall off the roof“. Very intentional as he kicks internal rhymes with the fireman drill scheme. He follows up with the now outdated Michael Jordan reference “Only thing you should know is that’s important/ This playa comin’ back with the 4-5, like M. Jordan“. I say it’s outdated because that was almost 2 decades ago but don’t get me wrong, it’s still a solid line.
As we all know Fabolous is still doing his thing, with platinum albums under his belt and a record number of mixtapes. His fire is still glowing bright as ever and also that Jadakiss collabo! Need I say more?!
I may be wrong but I think he is also a member of “Da Franchise”. I really don’t know much about the cat and his verse was pretty ok. Not mind blowing but decent with a few solid lines like “Four chain, Glock on em’ with no warning/ Leave ya hood like a circle with no corners”.
Yes, the same Remy Ma before she truncated her moniker. This was Remy at her peak though, just a year after she debuted on Big Pun‘s sophomore album “Yeah Baby“. As for her performance, I expected more and to be frank her verse here was “aaight“. It felt as if she wasn’t really interested at all and her appearance didn’t enhance the song at all.
As we all know Remy took some time off in jail, came back with a banger with Joey Crack and beefed with Nicki Minaj. She’s still pretty dope and I can only hope for more from the 1st lady of Terror Squad.
In a nutshell, it appears only 2 out of the 6 emcees on this song remained in the general spotlight, while some kept to the underground circuit and others faded into obscurity. 2001 was definitely a long time ago and the industry is changing in ways we can’t imagine and it keeps evolving. The least we can do is look back at those who came before now and give them their just dues.