Tag Archives: hip hop

dj khaled

Free Samples: How DJ Khaled Dominated the Summer

 

While we can all thank Justin Bieber for teaching us how to speak Spanish this summer, DJ Khaled also had his fair share of success these past few months. The Miami producer’s tenth studio album Grateful debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and has remained in the top four for the past six weeks. The album has now been certified gold. His smash hit “Wild Thoughts” featuring Rihanna and Bryson Tiller peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and is nominated for three MTV Video Music Awards including “Video of the Year.” If that wasn’t enough, the chart-topping “I’m the One” featuring Justin Bieber, Chance the Rapper, Quavo and Lil Wayne has now been certified three times platinum. So basically, if you wanted to sum up Summer 2k17 in a sentence or two, the words “DJ Khaled” would definitely be in there — along with “hangover” (but maybe that’s just me).

too short“For Free” feat. Drake (2016)
Song Sampled: “Blow the Whistle” by Too Short (2006)

The lead single off Khaled’s previous album Major Key, “For Free” samples lyrics and cadences from Too Short’s “Blow the Whistle” and interpolates Akinyele’s 1996 track “Fuck Me For Free.” In addition, one of Drake’s verses references Kendrick Lamar’s song “For Free? (Interlude)” off To Pimp a Butterfly with the line, “and like your boy from Compton said/You know this dick ain’t free.” The track is the fourth collaboration between DJ Khaled and Drake, following “No New Friends,” “I’m On One,” and “Fed Up.” Khaled claims he received Drake’s second verse while shooting the album cover for Major Key. He said, “I had a real lion on the album cover. I was sitting on the throne, and the lion was right here. Drake texts me with the second verse done. Mind you, I’m shooting my album cover, the lion is in front of me, and I’m on the throne. I swear on everything this is a true story. I even snapped and said, “The Drake vocals came in!” And the lion roars. This is all real. I’m not lying! You can go document and go find this. I thought that was so powerful and spiritual and amazing. I couldn’t sleep at night until it was done.”

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“To the Max” feat. Drake (2017)
Song Sampled: “Gus Get Em Right” by Jay-O (2015), among others

DJ Khaled began teasing the song on his Instagram, asking if “the Drake vocals came in yet,” attempting to recreate the success of their previous collaboration. Most of the “To The Max” production is a sped up sample of Jay-O’s “Gus Get Em Right,” which is heard prominently in the intro, chorus and outro of the song. The track also contains a sample of T2’s “Heartbroken” and sounds very similar to DJ Jayhood’s 2007 remix of the song, which the New Jersey beat-maker claims has “the exact same chops.” He wrote on Twitter: “I don’t want to say Drake DJ Khaled stole my ‘Heartbroken’ track.. I don’t own the sample but they were inspired.” Jayhood then went on to say that he respects both Drake and Khaled and that there is no “bad blood.” In an interview with The Fader, Jayhood said, “It was definitely sampled from the version I did. The chops are not the same from the original, it’s from the one I did. My drop is even in there.” T2 later confirmed that he was asked by Khaled’s team if they could sample the song, and although he agreed, he claims he hadn’t officially signed anything to approve the sample. “That was a bit of a surprise,” he said upon hearing the track. “I was not aware it was going to come out. I need to speak to people there [his publishers Sony/ATV] to get a clearer picture.”

 

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 “Shining” feat. Beyoncé and Jay-Z (2017)
Song Sampled: “Dionne” by Osunlade (2013)

Released as a surprise single right after the 2017 Grammy Awards came to a close, this track samples “Dionne” by Osunlade, which itself uses Dionne Warwick’s 1970 tune “Walk the Way You Talk.” DJ Khaled came up with the idea for the song while at a restaurant a week after his son was born: “I was at Nobu eating and I heard this sample. I put my phone up and I Shazam’d it [saying] ‘Man, this is my single!’ [Then] we went in the studio and we flipped it. So we sampled it and we chopped it up […] and it ended up being a masterpiece.” After signing a management deal with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation early last year, Khaled presented the beat to the rapper at the entertainment company’s Christmas party:

“I just got to do ‘I Got The Keys’ with him, so I ain’t wanna ask him for another record;          but I knew the record was so dope so I’m like ‘Let me play it for you.’ And the first 20,
30 seconds he was bopping his head, I seen him already rhyming in his head. And after I   played him the record I was like ‘Yo, I know the answer is “No,” but if you wanna play this to your wife, man, that’d be dope.’ I remember I was at the Roc Nation Christmas party [and] Beyonce came up to me and she was like ‘Yo, I like that record.’ I damn near   passed out! I was just speechless […] So, what happened was the night before the Grammys, Jay-Z hit me up and said ‘Record done.’ Meanwhile I was wondering if they were even gonna record it. So I had kept that beat and that vibe and I didn’t touch it. I was gonna hope that, you know what, my prayers are gonna come true. [It was] meant to be. I knew they liked it, but I didn’t want to keep asking them because they’re two big people. I just let the vibe take control.”

Khaled and his team then mixed, mastered, cleared the samples and got Jay and Bey’s approval all in less than 24 hours before dropping the record. Sounds like a Christmas miracle if you ask me.


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”Wild Thoughts” feat. Rihanna and Bryson Tiller (2017)
Song Sampled: “Maria Maria” by Santana feat. Wyclef Jean (1999)

A serious contender for this year’s Song of the Summer, “Wild Thoughts” heavily samples the main riff from Carlos Santana’s 1999 smash hit “Maria Maria” featuring Fugees frontman Wyclef Jean. During Grateful‘s recording, Khaled invited Tiller to his house for dinner and played him the initial demo of “Wild Thoughts,” asking him if he could do something with the song. Tiller returned home, quickly recorded his verse and sent it to the producer who used it on the final recording. As for Santana’s reaction to the track, the latin guitarist said he was “honoured” that Khaled, Rihanna and Tiller “shared this summer vibe with the world.” He went on to say that “there is a reason that the infectious groove/theme that Wyclef and I created on ‘Maria Maria’ still resonates today. It speaks to the heart. DJ Khaled, Rihanna and Bryson take that vibe and bring it to a new dimension with ‘Wild Thoughts,’ but the groove and essence of the song is still intact” — which is exactly what a good sample should do.

– Matthew Martino

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Free Samples: Jay-Z’s R-Rated Gospel

Jay-Z’s long anticipated thirteenth studio album 4:44 finally arrived late last month and it has already topped the Billboard 200 chart. After a four-year hiatus, the LP is getting high praises from the hip-hop community and reminding listeners of all genres why Hov is without a doubt one of the greatest rappers of all time. Last month Jay also made history by becoming the first rapper to be inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame (which he could not attend because Beyoncé just happened to be giving birth to their twins). So, it’s safe to say that Jay-Z’s summer is probably going a lot better than yours.

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“Dead Presidents” (1996)
Song Sampled: “A Garden of Peace” by Lonnie Liston Smith (1983), among others

The breakout single off Jay’s debut album Reasonable Doubt, this track was certified gold just a few short months after its release. The song samples Lonnie Liston Smith’s “A Garden of Peace” for the main melody and A Tribe Called Quest’s “Oh My God (remix)” for its percussion, while the chorus is a sample of Nas rapping “I’m out for dead presidents to represent me,” from his 1994 song “The World Is Yours (Tip Mix).” Nas was originally invited to perform the chorus for Jay-Z and appear in the track’s music video, but he declined and thus began their public feud. Nas confronted Jay in his track “Stigmatic Freestyle” stating, “You show off, I count dough off when you sample my voice.” Jay-Z then responded in the song “Takeover” with the lines: “So yeah, I sampled your voice; you was usin’ it wrong/You made it a hot line, I made it a hot song/And you ain’t get a coin nigga you was gettin’ fucked then/I know who I paid God, Serchlite Publishing.” Their feud officially ended in 2005 at Jay-Z’s I Declare War concert, when they performed “Dead Presidents II” together.

annie jay z“Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” [1998]

Song Sampled: “It’s the Hard Knock Life” from Annie (1982)

This is undoubtedly the song that skyrocketed Jay-Z to fame. It samples a high-pitched version of the musical number “It’s the Hard Knock Life” from the 1982 film Annie, which is fitting as Jay raps about his rags-to-riches story. The song peaked at number fifteen on the Billboard Hot 100 and was nominated for Best Rap Solo Performance at the 41st Grammy Awards in 1999. Of the track’s inspiration, he says: “[One of my sister’s name is Andrea], but we call her Annie. That’s how the Annie sample came about. When I seen that on TV, I was like, ‘Annie?’ And then, I watched the movie. […] Any person that goes from ashy to classy or, you know, is from the orphanage or the projects—it’s pretty similar.” Jay later wrote in his memoir Decoded that in order to clear the sample, he sent a letter to the song’s copyright holders, lying about how he had seen the musical on Broadway as a child and written a competition-winning essay on it at school.

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“Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” (2001) 

Song Sampled: “I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5 (1969)

The first collaboration between Jay-Z and Kanye West, this track prominently features a sample of “I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5. The song’s main hook, “H to the izz-O, V to the izz-A” uses the -izzle language code (which was invented by E-40 and popularized by Snoop Dogg) to spell out “H.O.V.A.” in reference to one of Jay-Z nickname “Hova,” which is play on God’s name (as in “Jehovah”, aka “Yahweh” aka “Hashem”). Jay debuted the song during the 2001 BET Awards and producer Kanye West explained that it was one of the defining moments in his life:

“I was on the phone with my girl, and she just started screaming, and my two-way                  [pager] started blowing up. I was just thinking, ‘Damn.’ That was like the time in the                [movie] ‘Five Heartbeats’ when they heard their song on the radio and they start running      through the crib. If they ever do a movie about me, that’s one of the spots they’re gonna      have to put in the movie. This song is really gonna change my life […] Until an artist of          [Jay-Z’s] caliber co-signs for you, the industry doesn’t believe in your skills. Now they              know.”

Kanye referenced this track on his 2004 song “Through the Wire” about his near-fatal car accident: “That right there could drive a sane man berserk/Not to worry, Mr. H-to-the-Izzo’s back to wi-zerk.”

UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01:  Photo of Billy Squier  (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

UNSPECIFIED – JANUARY 01: Photo of Billy Squier (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

“99 Problems” (2004)
Song Sampled: “The Big Beat” by Billy Squier (1980), among others

In Decoded, Jay writes that he used “99 Problems” to confuse critics by hiding a deeper meaning behind its superficial chorus. The hook “I got 99 problems, but a bitch ain’t one” was taken from the Ice-T single “99 Problems” off his album Home Invasion (1993). Jay’s track was produced by legendary beat-maker Rick Rubin, who provided Hov with a guitar riff and stripped-down beat derived from “The Big Beat” by Billy Squier, “Long Red” by Mountain, and “Get Me Back On Time” by Wilson Pickett. “The guitars were a combination of old records that were sped up or slowed down, scratched in, or in some cases, we played guitars and then made a disc and scratched them in with a digital turntable. It was all processed and made new,” Rubin said of the track’s production. He recalled that it was comedian Chris Rock who was the inspiration for the song. Rock told Rubin about Ice-T’s track and its catchy hook and was convinced that Jay could make an even better song out of it. Said Rubin, “I told that to Jay, and he wrote the song based on the title. The idea was, it’s the opposite song. In the Ice-T original song, it’s all about the girls. Our idea was, ‘OK, this will be a song with the same hook about the problems.'”

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“Ni**as in Paris” with Kanye West (2011) 

Audio Sampled: Dialogue from film Blades of Glory (2007)

Fun fact: Will Ferrell is featured in Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 greatest hip-hop songs of all time. Inspired by Kanye West’s travels in Paris, the iconic song’s production was originally offered to rapper Pusha T by producer Hit-Boy. Pusha turned it down, claiming “it sounds like a video game. Get that shit out of here!” Then Jay and Ye got their hands on it and the track went platinum just under two months after it debuted on the Billboard Hot 100, just shy of two months after the album’s release. The smash hit also racked in the trophies, winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards. During the Watch The Throne tour, the two would perform this track multiple times at each concert. The crowds loved it. When they reached Paris, it was performed 12 times in a row. Talk about balling hard.

– Matthew Martino

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Free Samples: Drake’s Late Night Grooves

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It’s not every day that a record set by Michael Jackson is broken by a fellow Canadian — or by anyone, for that matter. But that’s exactly what Drake did at this year’s Billboard Music Awards. Drizzy took home 13 trophies, beating the previous record of 11 nominations in a single year held by the King of Pop. Not a bad night.

Drake’s signature fusion of hip-hop and R&B, along with unique dancehall influences, skyrocketed the rapper to the top of the charts. Frequently looking to other musicians for inspiration, Drake’s samples range from vintage slow jams to more modern artists, combined with memorable lyrics and catchy hooks to create the 6 god’s unmistakable sound.

 

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“Best I Ever Had” (2009)
Song Sampled: “Fallin’ in Love” by Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds (1975)

Drake’s break-out single off his So Far Gone EP was riddled with controversy. Producer Kia Shine claimed that he co-wrote the smash hit for Drake, making him entitled to part ownership of the song. Shine had produced a track for Lil Wayne titled “Do It for the Boy,” which “Best I Ever Had” uses a small portion of. Drake claimed that he had never worked Shine with, let alone met him. “I wrote the entire composition in Toronto and I borrowed one line from a Lil Wayne song that he produced the BEAT for. The claims of 25% ownership are false and for an artist to brag about splits on a song is distasteful to begin with,” Drake wrote on his website. If that wasn’t enough, the rapper then got sued by Playboy. On June 24, 2010 Playboy Enterprises filed a lawsuit against Drake, Cash Money Records and Universal Music Group, claiming that “Best I Ever Had” samples American rock group Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds’ 1975 hit “Fallin’ in Love”, a song to which Playboy owns the copyright. Listen to 10 seconds of the ’70s disco track and you’ll be waiting for Drake to come in and start his verse.

 

jamie xx gil scott heron“Take Care” feat. Rihanna (2011)
Song Sampled: “I’ll Take Care of U” by Jamie xx and Gil-Scott Heron (2011)

The second collaboration between Drake and Rihanna after 2010’s “What’s My Name?”, this track samples the beat and the hook from Jamie xx’s remix of Gil Scott-Heron’s version of “I’ll Take Care of U,” which was originally recorded as a blues song by Bobby Bland in 1959. In addition, the rapper also references Lesley Gore’s 1963 number one single “It’s My Party” where she sings, “it’s my party, I’ll cry if I want to.” Drake reworks the lyrics to “It’s my birthday, I’ll get high if I want to/Can’t deny that I want you, but I’ll lie if I have to.” If you listen to the chorus of “It’s My Party,” you’ll see that Drake even mimics its tone in this part of his song. These lines are fitting, as Take Care (the album) was originally set to be released on Drake’s birthday (October 24th).

 

timmy thomas

“Hotline Bling” (2015)
Song Sampled: “Why Can’t We Live Together” by Timmy Thomas (1972), among others

Getting sued by Playboy wasn’t the only questionable thing that happened to Drake throughout his career. His smash hit was originally titled “Hotline Bling (Cha Cha Remix)” after singer-rapper D.R.A.M’s “Cha Cha” when it premiered on Beats 1 OVO Sound Radio in July 2015. The two tracks sound eerily similar and Drake has even called it a “quasi cover.” However, although Timmy Thomas is listed as a co-writer on “Hotline Bling” due to the sampling of his 1972 soul hit “Why Can’t We Live Together,” D.R.A.M.’s song has since been removed from the title and is nowhere to be found on the credits. “I feel like my record got jacked,” D.R.A.M. says, “and it’s not just me. People been comparing ‘Cha Cha’ and ‘Hotline Bling’ since it came out.”

 

kyla

“One Dance” feat. Wizkid and Kyla (2016)
Song Sampled: “Do You Mind” (Crazy Cousinz Remix) by Kyla (2009)

It’s hard to believe that “One Dance” was Drake’s first number one single on the Billboard charts. He had been featured on two number one singles prior to the dancehall-infused smash hit, but they were both under Rihanna’s name: “What’s My Name?” and “Work.” “One Dance” features a slowed down sample of the vocals and chord stabs from a 2008 UK funky house anthem, Kyla’s “Do You Mind,” along with a verse from Nigerian singer, Wizkid. He and Drake had teamed up in 2015 to remix his song “Ojuelegba.” Drake had reportedly been a fan of Kyla’s song for several years and after convincing his producer to use “Do You Mind” as a bridge, production of “One Dance” took only about a week to complete. Kyla said of the experience:

“I thought it was going to be a good few weeks before it dropped, but I saw it in the paper on Monday, and Tuesday it was out. It was really crazy, really quick […] They got my track, cut the bits out that they wanted, and just made a song out of it. They explained to me that two tunes [from Views] had been leaked, so they weren’t going to send the song over to me. They played a little snippet of it over the phone. They were very much like, ‘Let’s run with this version, there’s no time for recording it or anything like that. We’re getting hacked left, right, and centre.’”

In fact, Drake and his team were unsure how “One Dance” would be received since they thought it was a significant shift from his previous work. Therefore, they decided to release “Pop Style” along with it, since they felt it was more aligned with conventional rap. After claiming the top spot in the US and global charts, as well as becoming the number one streamed song in Spotify’s history, it’s safe to say Drake and his team underestimated the broad appeal of “One Dance.”

 

earth wind and fire real

“Glow” feat. Kanye West (2017)
Song Sampled: “Devotion” (Live) by Earth, Wind & Fire (1975)

Despite having joined forces with Drake numerous times in the past, that didn’t stop Kanye West from dissing the hitmaker in a lengthy concert rant late last year. At a  Sacramento gig, Kanye called out Drake, DJ Khaled, Jay Z, Beyoncé and others after stopping his show three songs in. Kanye dissed radio stations for not playing his music, implying that Drake and Khaled had boosted their track’s performance on the radio. “We can love each other, but the rules gotta be fair,” he said, “Khaled, and Drake, and radio, and Doc, and 92.3 and everybody, is it just me or did you hear that song so many times? You say you wanna play it ‘For Free?’ Ayy, ayy, you know what it is, though.” He also claimed that MTV executives told him Beyoncé would be winning the Video of the Year VMA for “Formation.” “Beyoncé, I was hurt cause I heard that you said you wouldn’t perform unless you won Video of the Year over me, and over ‘Hotline Bling,'” he said. “We are all great people, we are all equal, but sometimes we be playing the politics too much and forgetting who we are just to win. Fuck winning!” Kanye said. Finally, the rapper called out long-time collaborator Jay Z: “Call me bra. You still ain’t call me. Jay Z, call me. Ayy brah, Jay Z I know you got killas, please don’t send ‘em at my head, just call me. Talk to me like a man,” he said. Kanye seemed angry that Bey and Jay hadn’t reciprocated the love after the infamous Taylor Swift incident at the 2009 VMA awards. “I went down 7 years of my life of motherfuckas hating me cause I said Beyoncé had the best video,” Yeezy concluded. “Glow” does not necessarily mean that the two have made amends, however, as the track was most likely recorded around August 2016 — well before Kanye’s November rant.

– Matthew Martino

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Free Samples: Kanye West and the Art of Sampling

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Hip-hop and sampling go together like peanut butter and jelly, like apple pie and ice cream, like police brutality and unarmed African Americans (case in point: remember the Dallas police officer who recently shot and killed unarmed 15-year-old Jordan Edwards, the passenger of a car that was too far away for the officer to tell if there was any imminent threat?).

According to Amir Said, musician and author of The Art of Sampling, sampling is “one of the most innovative music processes to emerge in the late-twentieth century.” The technique consists of taking a portion (or sample) of a song and inserting it into a new production, creating an entirely different concept and sound. This is has been the foundation of the rap genre since its humble beginnings, allowing beat-makers to express themselves and expose the harsh realities that far too many young black Americans like Jordan Edwards experience everyday.

While some may discredit the practice as simply stealing, there is no doubt that sampling has left a profound impact on hip-hop and popular music as a whole. Perhaps Mark Ronson said it best in his TED Talk: “Sampling isn’t about hijacking nostalgia wholesale. It’s about inserting yourself into the narrative of a song while also pushing that story forward.”

In keeping with this spirit, CKUT’s latest project, Free Samples, will highlight a rap artist each week, dissecting a handful of their songs and what they sampled along with the history behind each track.  Continue reading

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Concert Review: A$AP Ferg @ Metropolis

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A vodka-stained shirt, a fight, saving a life, sweat, and bruises summed up a night at A$AP Ferg’s Turnt & Burnt tour stop in Montreal. A very youthful crowd packed Metropolis when doors opened at 8pm, and it seemed as though people weren’t just there for a concert; instead, it was an opportunity to post up with their squads to let others know they were in the building. The crowd flaunted its latest fashions, leaning against walls with one foot up intending to stunt on the kids who think they’re cooler. In a way, the environment was tense, but you knew that underlying this subtle competition was the excitement of seeing A$AP Ferg & Co.

45 minutes after the doors opened, up & coming A$AP Mob member Marty Baller took the stage, performing songs from his newest mixtape, Marty G Raw. His eccentric, animated energy coupled with bass-heavy, high bpm songs enthralled the crowd into a frenzy of shoving, jumping, and pure aggression. That standoffish tone that had been so present pre-show had completely vanished. Everyone was in a sort of unison, moving together as one large pulsing mass. Marty Baller delivered as one would expect an emerging artist to: he performed as if he had everything to prove. After his set, one nearly forgot the show had only just begun. After a short intermission, Rob Stone took stage to face a sweaty, revved up crowd demanding more. His set only added fuel to the fire and the energy was intensified. When it seemed as though his set was over, the stage lights faded out until the venue stood pitch black and an excited confusion filled the air. After a short period of silence, the chilling whistle of Stone’s most popular anthem, Chill Bill, pierced the atmosphere and the crowd erupted. The crowd split into two walls, and at the moment the first bass dropped each side collided with the intensity of two sides at war. Bodies were flying, feet were in the air, and arms flailed. It was survival of the fittest in this pit of ear-splitting, vibrating bass and hostility. Following Rob Banks’s set and another quick intermission, I awkwardly thrusted my way towards the front of the stage in anticipation of the final opener, Playboi Carti. At this point, we all desired more sweat and bruises and Carti gave us just that. Decked out with sunglasses and a winter coat, his image reflected the peculiar, youthful style that was so readily displayed by the crowd before the show. Carti’s energy, coupled with performances of his most popular songs, “Fetti,” “Beef,” “Talk,” “Run It,” and “Broke Boi,” reminded us the show had only just begun and that we needed to go just a little bit harder. Moshing persisted for the entire set and the crowd moved as one in every direction squeezing everyone within. Many people lost their balance and fell, forcing myself and others to help them from being trampled; it was a telling reminder that we were all in this together.

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After Playboi Carti’s exit the final intermission commenced, during which many individuals hastily made their ways out of the crowd for some much-needed hydration. There was a small fight and a drink was inadvertently spilled on me, but it was all part of the experience — not to mention fitting preparation for the show’s conclusion.

A$AP Ferg finally took stage at around 11:00 after what had already felt like an entire music festival. The entire venue was illuminated in purple and pink lights from the stage that created a very hazy, mysterious atmosphere. He opened with “Rebirth” from his most recent album, Always Strive and Prosper. He then performed “Hood Pope” from his 2013 album, Trap Lord, singing acapella at one point. Marty Baller also made another cameo when performing “Telephone Calls” alongside Ferg. A$AP Ferg concluded the show declaring it was finally time to get “burnt.” This worried me. I thought I was beyond burnt at this point. More like pan fried and slightly overcooked then thrown to roast in an oven. And in an instant the high tempo, heavy bass tracks of “New Level,” “Work,” and “Shabba” played back to back, squeezing all of the remaining life from the crowd. Upon the conclusion of his set and the crowd’s applause, I felt a sense of relief walking out of Metropolis. I was dead; bruised everywhere. The sweat that drenched my face was now salt making the commute home in the cold rain more bearable. It was quite nice actually. The undying, almost relentless energy of the show made the experience truly rewarding and enjoyable. Overall, A$AP Ferg’s Montreal stop on his Turnt and Burnt tour was nothing short of “Turnt & Burnt”.

– Review by Nathaniel Bahadursingh

Album Review: We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service – A Tribe Called Quest

Image result for we got it from hereThe album title was Phife Dawg’s idea. He didn’t really have a reason, but rather thought it had a nice ring; I’ll be damned if it doesn’t encapsulate A Tribe Called Quest’s rather epic journey through the years, as well as the recent passing of Phife, 45, in March of this year from diabetes complications. Their first album in 18 years since the 1998 release of The Love Movement was recorded in Q-Tip’s New Jersey studio, ensuring that everyone working on the album showed up in person to record their parts before Ali Shaheed Muhammad, master of mixing, pieced it all together. MC’s Q-Tip and Jarobi were the main players for the album, with participation from big names such as Busta Rhymes, Consequence, Jack White, Kendrick Lamar, Anderson .Paak, and Andre 3000, to name a few.

We got it from Here… provides the nostalgic sound of the OG Tribe with some new perspective. As always, ATCQ cleverly disguises darker themes in effortless beats, clever sampling, and an impeccable knack for call-and-response lyricism. The tracks could provide a wildly successful background to a party or spark an idea for a thinkpiece, depending on how carefully the listener pays attention to the messages woven inside the smooth mixes. Here, ATCQ addresses very relevant cultural and political aspects of 2016: racism, Trump’s stump policies, and POC/minority rights. The more universal themes included in the album are related to kinship, the inevitable passing of time, and self-worth. If you really tried, you could reduce We got it from Here… to a tribute album, and in some ways it is: both Phife Dawg and the core four are lauded in various tracks. However, it would be naive of anyone to assume that ATCQ is anything but two-dimensional; all of the tracks are layered with nuanced references to topics both of the heart and of the head.

We got it from Here… begins with a sample from the 1974 film Willie Dynamite before Q-Tip and Phife Dawg start the call to arms in uniform; the race is off. “The Space Program” provides an excellent opener for the 16-track album, with all players present and accounted for. The track ends with a well-known scene from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971). “A Solid Wall of Sound” features both the vocals and guitar work of Jack White and the vocals of Elton John. The track is a tribute to ATCQ, with Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, and Busta Rhymes providing a head-spinning deluge of rhymes featuring a good deal of patois slang. “Dis Generation” follows the same lines, with the Tribe discussing and commenting on the events of the passing years.

“Lost Somebody” is a tribute to Phife’s passing, with Katia Cadet providing a bittersweet chorus underneath Q-Tip and Jarobi’s lyrics. The track begins with low bass before moving into a subdued, somber (for ATCQ) ballad-rap. Q-Tip provides Phife’s history; fitting, as the two were close friends growing up. Jarobi pays tribute to the man he knew as his bandmate. The track ends mid-chorus, a clear representation of Phife’s untimely and surprising death. Realistically, Jarobi admitted in interviews that he was simply unable to finish the track. After a short delay a very weird, jagged guitar solo cuts through the silence (thanks, Jack White), but the interlude is unexplained, maybe on purpose. Kendrick Lamar is granted his own verse in “Conrad Tokyo,” and he effortlessly slips into the Tribe call-and-response. The track deals with heavier themes, discussing the current political atmosphere in the USA. The sultry, agitated beat conveys a smooth tension; Jack White’s mysterious guitar makes a reappearance at the end of the track.

We got it from Here… ends with “The Donald,” another tribute to Phife Dawg. His passing is acutely felt in the entire album, between references snuck into a lyric and the dedication of two tracks to his name. It is clear that while the album essentially picks up where the crew left off 18 years prior, this will probably be the last we see of new ATCQ material for a long while. Time is needed to grieve and recalibrate; in addition, much has happened since the last album release. These men are no longer the 19-year-olds that wowed crowds in Paris and across America; they have families and individual careers, and may not be as willing to relive their past lives through constant reunion tours. In essence, A Tribe Called Quest has also been laid to rest with the release of this album. But fans, no need to mourn; the music heard in We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service is universal and timeless, and will surely inspire a new crop of aspiring hip hop artists and good friends to continue the music-making cycle.

Album Released: November 11, 2016

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam 

 

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Hip Hop You Don’t Stop for If You Got Ears September 2016

 

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If you haven’t heard of Montreal’s Hip Hop You Don’t Stop, you’re in for a treat this month. HHYDS is a powerful initiative that provides positive alternatives for at-risk and underprivileged youth in Côte-des-Neiges and NDG. The project allows people to participate in various activities such as dance, music, writing, and visual art, in the aims to help channel energies into constructive and creative purposes. The organizers of this project have been doing their magic since 2005, and now in 2016 they have agreed to host If You Got Ears for the month of September! You can expect a whole lot of great music, talks, and positive spirits. We’ll be bringing more information on the specific details of the show in the near future. But for now, trust us, it’s going to be amazing~~

Tune in to the Montreal Sessions, every Tuesday from 3-5pm EST

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Album Review: Noname – Telefone

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For the past three years Chicago-native rapper Noname kept a low profile and has had fans eagerly anticipating a release from the wonderfully robust MC. Years of talking about a mixtape and making fantastic guest appearances on fellow Chicago artists Chance the Rapper & Jamila Woods latest projects, it’s only appropriate that Noname shines bright and proves to everyone that she is a name worth remembering, regardless of the lack of one. Her debut mixtape, Telefone, exhibits her versatile skills as an artist with bubbly production that’s coated on every track and can instantly fill a room with glee. Her seductive delivery touches upon both heated and personal issues that wedge their way into your thoughts and make you reflect on the kind of atmosphere that courses through the entire tape.

The track “Yesterday” sets the tone for the beautifully inspired project. Noname wastes no time and jumps right into her skillful wordplay that is enchanting and sweet to the ear; there is a lot of content within the song but it’s not intimidating to listen to. It’s rather light with a pretty piano progression that’s supported by harmonious vocals that add to the uplifting effect of the song.

“Sunny Duet” is one of my favorite songs off Telefone. Fellow Chicago artist theMind lends his soulful vocals over a soft melody that satisfies the heart. The track is buttery and smooth with Noname carrying the rhythm of the track in a way that seems effortless. Cam O’bi’s production is glossy and puts a huge emphasis on the kind of feeling that the song is trying to convey – a summer anthem for the lonely and confused.

Atlanta rapper Raury channels a similar flow to that of notorious Outkast member André 3000 on “Diddy Bop” with a wonderfully catchy hook provided by Cam O’bi. Ethereal synths float their way throughout the song and put the mind at ease, as each artist pushes their effort to make us feel like we shouldn’t have to worry about the uncontrollable predicaments that we face in life.

“Casket Pretty” sheds light on a dark issue that surrounds the streets of the windy city. Chicago has been known for its high murder rates, its residents subjected to receiving phone calls about loved ones fatally passing away due to the violence that posses the corners of the streets. Noname elaborates on the idea that black people who roam the streets share the same fate as a corpse in a casket. This is a surreal display of reality presented with a melancholic production style provided by Saba and Pheolix.

Telefone is an incredible achievement as a debut mixtape for an up and coming artist such as Noname. It’s relatable on a surface level while maintaining the integrity for those who can decipher the complex wordplay that’s ingrained in the efforts of the young Chicago artist. The latest project from the stunning MC does a superb job of sedating us to it’s surreal themes while shedding light onto the issues that the citizens of Chicago have tackled throughout the past few decades.

-Review by Michael Eidelson

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Album Review: BADBADNOTGOOD – IV

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Five years after the release of their debut album, the Canadian jazz band BADBADNOTGOOD has made a name for themselves as one of the most versatile quartets to enter the music scene. BBNG has evolved plenty; they’ve been touring the world and working on music continuously throughout this past decade. It’s fascinating to hear the evolution unfold and witness into which directions the band is willing to venture. They demonstrate a brilliant idea of what jazz music could sound like if hip hop artists were to tackle the genre. After having covered Odd Future, J Dilla, James Blake and Flying Lotus tracks, and worked on an entire collaboration album with Wu-Tang member Ghostface Killah, now BADBADNOTGOOD has released their fourth solo effort appropriately named IV. This album is the band’s most confident and endearing project so far; it exhibits a style that has been crafted by inspired young artists. The production is brighter, cleaner and as engrossing as ever thanks to the talented guests featured on the project.   Continue reading

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Album Review: Gesamtkunstwerk – Dead Obies

a0431750848_10“Gesamtkunstwerk” is a German compound noun that translates to “total work of art.” It is also the title of the latest release from local rap group Dead Obies, a wonderful Frankenstein of live tracks edited and enhanced in the studio. Gesamtkunstwerk is still a blend of hip hop, rap, and electronica, but the Dead Obies have shifted their focus from lyrics to production for this album, taking an almost exhibitionist approach to their craft. The process of creation is baldly displayed without compromising the integrity of the lyrics or production; what continues to set the Dead Obies apart from other Quebecois rap groups is their language choice, or rather a lack of one. Self-dubbed “Frenglish,” the members slip effortlessly between English and French with such speed and expertise that the two distinct languages blend into one poetic slurry.

Following the success of their 2013 release Montréal $ud, Dead Obies decided to make their next opus a gift to their loyal fanbase. Teaming up with music improv group Kalmunity, they played at the Phi Centre for three nights and sampled the live recordings, taking performances, the crowd’s applause, and individual audience interviews and mixing them in with recorded takes. This seamless patchwork of live and recorded takes was stitched together with surgical precision by the group-appointed producer, VNCE.

The album is intended to be heard as a whole work, and I would agree with this sentiment. Of course, there are a number of tracks that stand out among the fairly large list. Gesamtkunstwerk leads in with “GO 2 Get,” an explosive opener that serves as an immediate draw. Lamenting the everyday troubles in life to an undercurrent of cheering fans from one of the Phi Centre performances, the track provides an excellent introduction to the overall tone of the album. The six rappers who comprise Dead Obies take turns spitting out lyrics, effortlessly subbing in and out. “Waiting” is a celebration of concert life, lively trap music combining with a sensual bass beat. “Jelly” is more funky, with cooler synth laid over deep bass and remixed rhythmic vocals.

“Explosif” begins with a sample of distant fireworks, then continues with slow, smoldering instrumentals mixed in with varied odes to party and drug culture for an extensive eight minutes. The blend of French/English vocals is particularly noticeable in this track, adding to the mixed messages provided by individual members of the group. “Aweille!” is one of the singles released before the album, and is an aggressive dance track that includes a perfectly catchy chorus of “aweille” (a local phrase roughly equivalent to “come on!”), repeated and remixed. “Untitled” is a jazzy, smooth track that shows off the group’s more sensual side, and approaches something played on a late-night show for slow-wave funk. Towards the latter half of the track, the lyrics dissolve into a live recording, with the members taking turns talking in French to an instrumental vamp and a cheering crowd. “Outro,” the final track on Gesamtkunstwerk, is an instrumental electronic track that smoothly and quietly ties together Dead Obies’ “work of art,” ensuring the transformation from just another local rap album to something deserving of admiration and high praise; rap is just one form of artistic expression they utilize.

Gesamtkunstwerk ultimately serves as a big “thank you” to the Dead Obies’ fans; Phi Centre saw a big turnout for the fairly underground rap group, and allowed them to produce the album well. They gained, then lost, a Musicaction grant funding the production of the album; due to strict Quebec laws governing language, the group did not meet the 70% French lyric quota. However, even as they are continually rejected by mainstream media and their own province, Dead Obies still maintain a loyal (and growing!) fanbase and the quiet integrity of talented artists with a vision. They are dedicated to their craft and to creating the “total work of art” that they feel listeners deserve.

Album released: March 4, 2016

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam