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Mad Skillz Picks Favorite 2015 Hip-Hop Albums & Discusses His Popular Annual Year-End "Rap Up" Series

Posted by Billyjam, December 9, 2015 10:25pm | Post a Comment
Mad Skillz' Top Three Favorite Hip-Hop Albums of 2015


1) J. Cole 2014 Forest Hills Drive (Roc Nation) (avail also in vinyl)
  
J. Cole's still quite popular 2014 Forest Hills Drive is titled after the address in Fayetteville that the North Carolina hip-hop artist born Jermaine Lamarr Cole spent the happiest years growing up in, not the year 2014. However technically 2014 was the release of this 13 track full-length (avail in both CD and LP formats) which was released exactly one year ago on December 9th, 2014 via Jay Z's Roc Nation label. But like most popular albums released at year's end, whose sales continue far into the following calendar year, it is considered by many as a 2015 release. Widely lauded as one of contemporary hip-hop's most engaging storytellers, it is not surprising that emcee Mad Skillz would chose this album as his top pick of the past year.
   


2) Kendrick Lamar To Pimp A Butterfly (Aftermath)
 
Executive produced by Dr. Dre and released via his Aftermath label, To Pimp A Butterfly is universally popular Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar’s third studio album and follow up to 2012's breakthrough second full-length good kid, m.A.A.d city, Upon its mid March 2015 release Amoeba.com wrote that the album, "doubles down on the idiosyncracies of good kid, eschewing club-friendly tracks in favor of those that cast a light on Lamar’s pure skills as a rapper and wordsmith—always celebrated, yet perhaps distracted by stellar production and good kid’s concept-album style—as well as his ability to put together a layered and compelling album."

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Imagine No Guns: John Lennon & All The Talented Artists Senselessly Shot & Killed Might Still Be With Us Making Great Music

Posted by Billyjam, December 8, 2015 04:09pm | Post a Comment
"Nothing to kill or die for. And no religion too. Imagine all the people living life in peace"

New York City: By 9am this morning when I passed by Strawberry Fields on the west side of Central Park, already a substantial size crowd had gathered to pay tribute to John Lennon who was murdered 35 years ago on this date.  One guy with eyes closed intently strummed "Imagine" on his acoustic guitar as the solemn crowd around him gently sang along. Dedicated to Lennon's memory, the landscaped section of the vast city park is across the street from the famed Dakota Building. It was outside that NYC landmark on December 8th, 1980 that the beloved Beatle was fatally gunned down and killed by a deranged "fan." 

If Lennon's murder had occurred today undoubtedly there would be politically motivated, second amendment advocates, rushing to defend the use of firearms. I'd bet that they'd reason (as was the case in aftermath of San Bernadino last week) that if John Lennon had been carrying a concealed weapon that he could have defended himself.  Even back in 1980  Lennon's assassination brought forth to public discussion the issue of gun control in America. But even the cold blooded murder of the 40 year old John Lennon did not affect US gun laws, or sales of guns. In fact the sales of deadly firearms has multiplied in the years since; bringing with them the toll of human suffering. This morning Yoko Ono tweeted the image above with the disturbing statistic that in the years since the murder of her late husband that over one million people have died by gun violence. 

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Happy 46th Birthday Jay Z + "December 4th" The Grey Album vs. The Black Album versions

Posted by Billyjam, December 4, 2015 09:09am | Post a Comment

Certain dates just stick in your head: birthdays, anniversaries, favorite album release dates, and songs about specific dates. "December 4th" by Jay Z is a good example for me. Titled after the rapper-turned-super-successful-entrepreneur's 1969 birth date (Happy 46th birthday, Hov!) today's date, December 4th,  for me is forever intertwined with that Jay Z song.  But it is not the original version of "December 4th" off the artist's 2003 release, The Black Album (avail in CD and LP, formats) that comes to mind. That track, which was understandably overshadowed by such other album cuts as "99 Problems," "Dirt Off Your Shoulder," and "Change Clothes (feat. Pharrell)," is totally eclipsed by the far superior remix of the song that Danger Mouse unleashed the following year off his bootleg hit album The Grey Album. 

As you may recall, that universally popular 2004 album expertly melded Jay Z's Black Album A-Capella version with sampled and looped portions of The Beatles 1969 self-titled double LP commonly known as The White Album. The Grey Album, although never legal because of all the unauthorized samples, would win fans the world over and go on to top countless critics' year-end best album lists for 2004. Indeed the album was a game changer for both the (until then) virtually unknown hip-hop producer as well as for the mash-up genre itself. Danger Mouse accomplished what some of Jay Z's own producers could not in bringing out the very best in the emcee's lyrics and rhyme flow. The Just Blaze-produced "December 4th" was a perfect example. Danger Mouse's totally different production of the song, while simpler and musically much sparser, elevated it from a throwaway, forgettable track to immediately commanding one. It made listeners want to hang onto every word uttered by Jay Z (and his mom who is featured talking in the song) in the engaging autobiographical tale.

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Kool Keith's New Video From "Time? Astonishing!" with L'Orange, Marks Latest In MC's Long & Prolific Career

Posted by Billyjam, December 2, 2015 10:47am | Post a Comment

Following last week's memorable session sitting in with The Roots on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, Kool Keith this week unveils the new music video for "The Green Ray." With atmospheric music production by L'Orange, the time travel-themed track is culled from the duo's highly recommended 2015 collaboration album Time? Astonishing! Available in both CD and vinyl/LP as well as via download formats, the Mello Music Group-released full-length has been a steady seller at Amoeba Music since it arrived in the store over the summer.  While digging in the CD and vinyl bins at Amoeba for the Kool Keith collaborative album, you'll find it's just one of numerous releases from the decades spanning the artist's prolific career. 

The ever-evolving, shape-shifting lyricist born Keith Thornton, was first introduced to most hip-hop fans via his original Bronx hip-hop crew The Ultramagnetic MCs' 1988 landmark debut album Critical Beatdown. But that was just a teaser for what was to come from this truly unique lyricist who, in addition to four albums with his crew, has unleashed a bevy of solo work with a myriad of producers and varying record labels over the past two decades. Rhyming in an out of-this-world, stream of consciousness style flow, Keith has adapted many personas and aliases over the years. His many stage personas have included Dr Octagon, Dr. Dooom, Black Elvis, and Poppa Large.

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Top Five Hip-Hop Cyber Monday Gift Ideas

Posted by Billyjam, November 30, 2015 11:41am | Post a Comment

Today is Cyber Monday until 11:59pm Pacific Time and Amoeba has slashed prices by 20% on items on Amoeba.com! Just enter the special CYBER20 code at checkout to receive the discount. This sale include some truly dope hip-hop records and CDs that would make both perfect holiday gifts for others and treats for oneself. Below is a top ten list of some of the best hip-hop Cyber Monday gift ideas, and all at 20% off plus free shipping in the U.S. All are classic hip-hop recordings, mostly recent re-releases in either original or newly presented packaging. They include both CD and vinyl releases that are all reduced significantly today only for Cyber Monday at Amoeba Music.    
 


1) Public Enemy's latest, recommended (13th studio) album Man Plans God Laughs + the Chuck D led crew's hits collection Fight The Power: The Collection together as a two CD set make for the perfect introduction to one of the greatest acts in hip-hop history. I cannot recommend PE's latest album Man Plans God Laughs (also available in vinyl) enough. With incredible production ? Gary G Wiz and Carl Ryder (aka Chuck D) the new album manages to capture the PE vibe of old and blend it together on the new tracks on this five star album. Meanwhile the Fight The Power: The Collection  clocks in at one hour, ten minutes with 16 tracks featuring all the classics and more. Included are "Fight The Power," "Don't Believe The Hype," "Public Enemy No. 1," "Rebel Without A Pause," "Night Of The Living Baseheads," "Louder Than A Bomb," "Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos," "Burn Hollywood Burn (feat. Ice Cube)," "By The Time I Get To Arizona" and "Can't Truss It." Regularly priced at $9.98 while the new CD released by SPITdigital is $13.98 = total of $23.96 but with Cyber Monday Amoeba discount = $19.17!
 

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