I found this website called http://www.hiphopinspires.us which specializes in dishing out bite-sized inspirational lyrics from songs ranging from 2Pac, to T.I., to The Roots. One of the reasons why I love hip-hop so much is that the lyrics can really tell a story or convey emotion in ways that other genres of music cannot, because of its lyrical density. Here are some of my favorites:
Sometimes before you smile you got to cry
You need a heart that’s filled with music
If you use it you can fly
The Roots – Sacrifice
I refuse to be concerned with condescending advice
‘Cause I’m the only motherfucker that can change my life
Immortal Technique – Leaving the Past
To everyone out there, who’s a little different
I say damn a magazine, these are God’s fingerprints
You can call me ugly but cant take nothing from me
I am what I am doctor you ain’t gotta love me
Brother Ali – Forest Whitiker
Any inspirational lyrics that hit you in the right spot?
To celebrate a (surprising) year of running this blog and to hopefully kick start new posts, here is a word cloud that graphically displays some of my most commonly used phrases.
Also, Cee-Lo has a hot viral song out – it has gathered over 3 million views on YouTube: Cee-Lo Green – Fuck You Music Video. I highly recommend as it is a beautiful juxtaposition between gospel music and southern hip hop themes.
Twitter has added a new list functionality to their tweeting service. What this does is that you can now group Twitter accounts by categories that you define. For example, if you have a bunch of your own friends’ tweets that you want to filter out, you can do it by viewing the custom list you created. What does this mean for the average reader of this blog?
Rappers (and other similarly inaccessible public figures) are on Twitter to, hopefully, connect with their fans. The list I made gives you a chance to peer into the minds of some of your favorite rappers, 140 characters at a time. Feel free to utilize this resource. Also, if you are a rapper starting off and want some exposure, let me know and I’ll add you to this list. I’m aiming to build the most comprehensive collection of rapper thoughts possible.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, and I hope that everyone has a safe holiday with their families (as safe as you can get with the amount of food that some people are eating!) I thought that it would be fitting to list ten things that I am thankful for about hip-hop.
1) I am thankful for music that anyone can relate to, and has such a huge range of passion and creativity. The same can be said for any genre of music, but hip-hop is one that I connected with.
2) I am thankful for artists that make music for the love of making music. I’m sure Brother Ali did not release his new album for fame or glory.
3) In an industry where a complete lack of skill and originality can result in big profits, I’m thankful that many artists are taking huge risks with their art.
4) I am thankful that producers are now getting a lot of attention – you have to thank Timbaland and Kanye West for that. They are influencing a new generation of RZAs, Pete Rocks, and DJ Premiers.
5) I am thankful for the Internet – it fuels the vibrant underground scene and allows for massive distribution of mixtapes.
6) Speaking of mixtapes, I’m thankful for mixtapes helping artists increase visibility and getting their product directly to the streets.
7) I am thankful for the iPod and the Digital Revolution – instead of everyone consuming the same mass produced megahits, we can enjoy increasingly niche bites of what we really want.
8) I am thankful for the increasing mainstream coverage that hip-hop is getting – I was surprised at seeing the universal accolades for Only Built for Cuban Linx…II
9) I am thankful for the Internet blogging community and their intelligent, hard-hitting coverage of the hip-hop world.
A lot of the topics and themes around this traumatic event has been discussed heavily already, and I would feel like I would be beating a dead horse (no pun intended) if I discussed the implications of violence on women and such. But one thing that I would like to wonder is: how does a very public R&B singer ever recover from this, at the tender age of 19? Do you suddenly become the face of anti-abuse agencies, and educate others about your mistakes? Will writing a heartfelt apology song and releasing it as a single make a difference, ala T.I? Or do you vanish into the background, only to return with a reality TV show?
I am very interested to see how this saga will continue and to see how he chooses to recover from this. Maybe if he is successful he can go back to drinking milk and chewing gum again.
A friend recently sent me a great website that featured someone replicating classic hip hop albums covers with Legos:
Hip Hop Album Covers - Lego Style!
Check out the original link here: Lego Hip Hop Album Covers. As I was scrolling through the list of diverse hip hop album covers, a thought dawned upon me. One of my favorite things to do after I buy a new CD (yes, I still buy CDs that I like) is to listen to it while reading the linear notes and stare at the album cover. Although thoughtful album art is definitely not unique to the genre of hip hop, I searched through my memory and found a couple I really liked:
Love this cover because of the sense of desolation it gives you, which is fully expected...given the album title and its complex, dark lyrical material.
Abstract imagery, great monotone coloring, and artful composition makes this one a winner.
Quasimoto, one of the wackiest and most original hip hop artists to emerge on the West Coast weed music scene, has a simplistic, yet visually rich and abstract album art design. The faceless driver clutching a boom box, while being chased by a police car accompanied by a "Do Not Enter" sign inspires feelings of music rebellion.
Wale, an artist from Washington D.C., has created a perfect parody of the Seinfeld logo for his critically acclaimed mixtape, The Mixtape About Nothing. Hot kicks are Photoshopped in partly to promote the clothing brand which helped to sponser the mixtape. Elaine makes a couple of voice cameos in the mixtape!
Wu-Tang Clan returns to their brooding Staton Island style, laced with obscure Kung-fu movie samples. Their album art similarly follows suit. The rising sun, flanked by the Wu-Tang members, gives the impression that perhaps not all the Wu members are in harmony with each other (there are only six pictured and several do not appear in the album).
Although the album art mentioned above were simply the ones I liked, oftentimes album art sends a strong political, social, or cultural message to the listeners which can be discussed in much greater detail. Alas, that is for another blog post in the future.
Any album art covers strikes you as particularly interesting or inspirational?
There are always some times in life that shit gets you down, ranging from family issues, arguments with your girl, or when that last Butterfingers bar gets stuck in the vending machine and you are out $1.25. In times like these, I find that the best medicine (besides copious amounts of drinking) is usually music.
While it is easy to find drug slanging anthems, songs about banging, or ballads about keeping ladies of the night in line, it may take a little bit of digging to find songs that everyone can relate to. The ballad of the vending machine malfunction, if you will. Here are some that immediately come to mind:
Slippin’ is a rare song in the fact that it sounds better when it is censored. DMX laments about his broken childhood, the struggles that he had to go through in the street, and recalls his recovery from his dark place. Broken into general terms, the lyrics of Slippin’ speak volumes to those who are forced to be independent a bit too early, and to witness the realities of life a bit too much.
See to live is to suffer but to survive
Well, that's to find meaning in the suffering.
Before 2Pac became a T.H.U.G life puppet of Suge Knight’s now defunct Death Row record label, he was a socially and politically conscious rapper with raw emotion in each and every verse. He is mentioned among the greatest rappers of all time not because of his incredible mastery of the mic, but for this ability to reach everyone with his music. Keep Ya Head Up is an ode to the broken woman, a common tragedy in African-American culture. His lyrics serve not only to highlight this tragedy, but to uplift any shattered spirits.
Cause I think we can make it, in fact, I'm sure
And if you fall, stand tall and comeback for more
Atmosphere has been traditionally known for fiercely introspective and dark lyrics, but took a radical departure in their latest album with symbolic stories about a variety of other people, including the daughter of a drug dealer, an alcoholic, and a homeless man who sees his daughter at a diner. Dreamer contains the classic American theme of “pull yourself up from your bootstrap” and visits the life of a gutsy young woman as she navigates through countless obstacles, bad male influences, and raising two children while succeeding. When you listen to this song, you think to yourself “if she can succeed, so can I. And my shit isn’t half as bad.”
Those are just three examples – do any of you have any songs that hit the spot during a bad time?
It’s here – after 14 years, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…Part II has been released.
Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, which was released in 1995, took the hip-hop world by storm. It took popular gangsta rap material that was popular at the time and dressed it up with a pinstripe suit and fed it Italian food. The result? A cohesive, dark, and brooding masterpiece of audio cinema, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… painted a picture of sophisticated Mafia-style organized crime with complex, rapidly delivered lyrics. Immediately afterward, Nas, Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, and other storied rappers from that era retooled their image to fit this new “Mafioso rap” genre. What does this mean for the listener? We had something different to digest – instead of tales of Gangsta riding around town with a smoking blunt (which of course has its own merits), we had story lines, characters, and tales of intrigue, dodging the law, and honor amongst thieves. The influence was similar to how the Godfather revolutionized how people though about crime movies.
How does the sequel match up? Pretty damn well – I would have to say I am impressed.
To describe the hip-hop community’s anticipation for this album would be difficult. On one hand, you have a group of people longing for a successor to one of the best albums of the 1990s. On the other hand, you the classic setup for a mammoth, Kayne-West-styled sophomore jinx. After bumping the CD in my car, at home, and at work while going through my new CD listening habits, here are my conclusion:
Near-classic. 4.5 out of 5.
What surprised me most about this album was how accurately it managed to capture the atmosphere and cinema-quality feel of the first album, even with long time Wu-Tang producer RZA producing only three songs, a deceased producer (J. Dilla) crafting the beats for another three, and a producer best known for West Coast bangers (Dr. Dre) producing two tracks as well. Raekwon and his cohort Ghostface Killah are lyrically ferocious and attack the bars looking to prove themselves worthy opponents in an increasingly tired and mainstream hip-hop world. Concise, relevant skits and movie quotes are dispersed at the right intervals in the album, never becoming distracting and adding an extra dimension to the listening experience that sets the scene for the next song as well as injecting classic Wu-Tang flavor notes into this well-constructed cocktail.
The album starts off with a straight banger by deceased producer: J.Dilla.
This opening track highlights one of the strengths of the album: although a variety of different producers with intensely differently styles worked on the album, it managed to keep a coherent feel with true Wu-Tang flavor. Once you listen to the climatic violins in the background, the melodic chanting, and four of the Clan’s most dexterous lyricists pump out lines such as this:
Deep pockets with the eight on me, sleep with the safe in the wall
The cameras on with the make-up and all
Swap six 45′s, twist reefer in the flicks, papi whoadie ride
Bolt his gun off, from know your horse, she lied
Fly criteria, bury me in Africa
With whips and spears, and rough diamonds out of Syria
Then you know you have a Wu-banger. The next track (Sonny’s Missing), produced by Pete Rock, kicks off the album’s Mafia-themed storyline with Raekwon’s trademark introspective, narrative style spinning a tale of a deadly drug deal gone wrong. Other standout tracks include:
Gihad – produced by one of the most unlikely producers (death rapper Necro), this track actually fits in perfectly with the rest of the album. The melodic chanting reminds me of monks chanting in the 36 Chambers as Ghostface and Raekwon spin a Cosa Nostra tale of a father trying to teach his son a valuable lesson about women and his role in a modern day crime family.
Penitentiary – with its suspenseful melody which never lets up in sneaky intensity, Penitentiary graphically outlines the tale of two prison mates scheming to break out of prison with an elaborate plan fit for a Prison Break episode.
10 Bricks – a true gem of a J.Dilla beat, a Chinese violin is is plucked mercilessly throughout the track as if the strings are going to snap at any moment, and for some reason this beat from the late producer’s archives fits perfectly with the motif and lyrical content of the song – Raekwon, Cappadonna, and Ghostface go hard and do the beat justice with razor sharp precision.
CONCLUSION: After more than a decade, Raekwon shows no signs of slowing down. Even with a huge array of producers and some guest stars sprinkled all over the album, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…Pt II keeps the Wu-Tang Clan relevant with its timeless combination of sharp rhymes, unforgettable stories, and uncanny beat selection.
What a strange title for a new blog. The Hip Hop Octopus. What is this guy all about anyway?
At first, I hated rap music.
I grew up in the late 1980s in a small town in North East LA, called Highland Park. It was a community of Asian immigrants, African Americans, and Latinos, and my only experiences with hip hop was from the street. Sometimes, it seemed to leaking out of the concrete – car systems booming like King Kong was locked in the trunk, graffiti on chipped brick walls, and the wails of police sirens as they chased speeding Fords down the freeway. What fueled my music preferences at that time was chronic childhood insomnia – I scoured the radio for anything that would prevent me from depressingly wandering around in the dark. It was so bad at times that I began to get a sinking feeling when the sun went down because it meant that I would spend the night feeling alone.
Picture of a lonely car courtesy of agira929.
The perfect beast to combat this was incidentally… KOST 103.5. If you are in LA, you know that this is a radio station that specializes in contemporary adult love songs and “soft rock” at night – a sure recipe for disaster on the elementary school playground. At first, I only listened to Elton John and Céline Dion just because they were a soothing way to fall asleep, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t begin to appreciate their music on some subconscious level.
Sleep was bliss. If Candle in the Wind can grant me that bliss, than I can dig it.