Top 30 Hip-Hop 2015 Hit Albums

Posted by Billyjam, December 27, 2015 07:47pm | Post a Comment

With its number one album being the critically acclaimed Kendrick Lamar modern classic To Pimp a Butterfly, this Top 30 Hip-Hop Hit Albums in 2015 list is one of three Amoeblog hip-hop year-end lists. This list's results are compiled by drawing from various sales figures of the year's top-selling albums, while also taking into consideration overall critical response. The factors included are first week sales on the Billboard Top 100 chart, overall sales at Amoeba, plus Metacritic ratings. A lot of the time, both sales figures and critical ratings are equal, but on some occasions they were not (hence why some albums might rate higher on this chart than lists based solely on sales). Still, overall the Top 30 that made the list is reflective of the most commercially well-received albums in 2015. With a few exceptions and regardless of the order, this top 30 includes most of the top 30 best-selling albums of the year. Exceptions would include Dom Kennedy's By Dom Kennedy and Drake & Future What a Time to Be Alive because both 2015 albums were digital only and unavailable through Amoeba. The list is also reflective of a lot of the artists whose album tracks received major radio airplay in 2015.

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Christmas 2015 White House Mixtape

Posted by Billyjam, December 25, 2015 08:08am | Post a Comment

Destiny's Child "8 Days of Christmas" (2001): 1 of 14 songs on 2015 White House Holiday Mixtape

Yesterday the White House, via a published Spotify playlist, unveiled the playlist (left) chosen by the president and First Lady (The First Playlist?) for this 2015 Christmas/holiday season. Descriptively entitled Holidays with the Obamas, the virtual mixtape noticeably does not include any hip-hop by the man dubbed by many as the "first hip-hop president." Not even Run-D.M.C.'s ubiquitous holiday hit "Christmas In Hollis" (slightly devalued IMO by its use in a car commercial) that was first released in 1987 when the president was 26 and Michelle was 23 and they were both reportedly fans of hip-hop & rap. Also absent are such hip-hop friends and guests of the current White House as Common and Jay-Z. But then come think of it, neither recorded Christmas songs that I am aware of. However Hova's wife and fellow former White House performer Beyonce did make the current playlist, as part of the female trio that catapulted her to fame.

A live version of Destiny Child's "8 Days Of Christmas" (video above) from the 2001 album of the same name ranks along with such other soul-fueled holiday classics as Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” (just reissued on 10" picture disc), and Stevie Wonder’s “Someday At Christmas.”  Also here is The Jackson 5’s “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” (audio below), which was initially released on the 1970 full-length Jackson 5 Christmas Album (one of three albums released by the group that year). Released a decade before they were even born, but remaining a Christmas classic ever since, is Eartha Kitt's 1953 recording "Santa Baby." The song has been covered over the decades since by other artists such as Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Taylor Swift, and Ariana Grande.

New Orleans-born Bay Area soulstress/actress Ledisi's version of "Silent Night" is included as are Brian McKnight and Boyz II Men’s “Let It Snow,” and the late great Luther Vandross' 1995 recording "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" (audio below).  As with any music list compiled by any person (especially POTUS), people will find fault and question why such a song was included or why another was not. My critique was, why no rap?, while another's was how come "Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto" by James Brown was not included? It's all subjective so we can wonder all we want. However, more telling will be future Barack Obama Christmas playlists after he no longer holds the office of president and will be free to really let loose and include anything he truly wants. I'm visualizing a hardcore rap Xmas playlist featuring songs like the recently reissued Eazy-E "Merry Muthafukin Xmas." But we'll just have to wait and see.

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Hip-Hop History Tuesdays: 1984 KECG 88.1FM, El Cerrrito High Radio Station feat. Talented DJs like Rhymeo Rob & Special One (RIP)

Posted by Billyjam, December 22, 2015 10:57pm | Post a Comment

"Jam to the sound of the Bay town; K - E - C - G" announces in rhythm over an electro beat one of the young professional sounding KECG DJs. The year was 1984 and the El Cerrito High School radio station was a place to find hip-hop on the FM dial when choices were limited on the radio dial in the Bay Area. The low powered signal (10 to 17 watts) radio station that had miraculously snagged a coveted FCC license in the Bay Area, was located all the way to the far left of the dial at 88.1FM.

You could tune in if you were in El Cerrito or some neighboring parts of Richmond, Berkeley, or North Oakland. KECG only broadcast during school hours and during the school year, but if you caught it when on the air odds are that you would be treated to some great live hip-hop mixes presented an amazingly talented crew of young DJs. In the mid-eighties I was a listener. I got to hear young mic & turntable talents such as Special K, DJ  Rhymeo Rob, and Debonair Pierre who each got involved by taking the rewarding class on their high school curriculum. Not only did these young KECG hip-hop DJ students, who displayed a raw talent and effortless affinity for mixing and scratching as well as announcing, get to learn a new skill that would stay with them forever, but they had a hell of a lot of fun in the process.

I was reminded of KECG radio recently after finding some dusty cassette recordings I had made of KECG back in 1984. With enthusiastic young hip-hop DJs growing up on the then new art form, KECG offered a great example of real hip-hop radio of the day -- whenever school was in session.  Back in that era in the Bay Area, the other limited options to hear hip-hop on the radio included community San Francisco radio KPOO, commercial radio outlet KSOL that featured lunchtime daily mixes and other slots, plus the college stations like KALX and KZSU, which would typically program blocks of hip-hop Sundays or weekends. In contrast, KECG bumped hip-hop during the weekdays. The May and October airchecks I just unearthed featured DJ playlists that included records like "What Is A DJ If He Can't Scratch" by The Egyptian Lover (plus everything else off that "Egypt Egypt" 12" single got a lot of play on KECG!), Knights Of The Turntables' "Techno Scratch," Run-D.M.C.'s self-titled debut album and all their singles up to that point, Ice-T's "The Coldest Rap," Hashim's "Al-Naafiysh (The Soul)" (aka "It's Time"), and funny man Russ Parr as Bobby Jimmy And The Critters' "Big Butt." Like other hip-hop DJs at the that point in music history, the KECG DJs also played lots of similarly BPM driven, funky music. Hence you would also hear such records as Prince's "Erotic City," or (from his movie Purple RainMorris Day & The Time's "The Bird," Chaka Khan's "Chaka Khan," and Shannon's breakout freestyle hit "Let The Music Play."

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Best of 2015 Hip-Hop: Top Ten Collaborative Projects

Posted by Billyjam, December 20, 2015 03:44pm | Post a Comment

The ease with which hip-hop artists dotted around the globe can instantly connect with one another, along with the current music industry model, are two key contributing factors to the wealth of collaborative projects between artists these days. Compared to the old music model, the average artist today is no longer  beholden to any one record label, hence giving them freedom to act more like free agents. For the recent collaborative project between Aesop Rock and Homeboy Sandmanthe promo of the free release was shared by Rhymesayers who handled the video side and Stones Throw who handled audio promo via their Soundcloud of the recording given to fans for free. The project is the five-song EP Lice with various contributing producers including Optiks and Blockhead.

In 2016, Stones Throw will do a limited run vinyl pressing. Stones Throw is the home to another excellent collaboration, Anderson Paak with Knxwledge as NxWorries . Their six-song EP Link Up & Suede is an amazing musical melding of the two talents. Fresh from collaborating on six tracks off Dr. Dre's 2015 hit album Compton, Anderson Paak joined forces with NJ to LA super-gifted prolific producer Knxwledge who got wide attention from his contribution to Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly, and whose May 2015 Stones Throw release Hud Dreems (also avail in 2LP format) ranks as the best instrumental hip-hop album of the year.

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Hip-Hop History Tuesdays: Amoeblog Interview With Andre Barefield: Publisher of The Booty Crack magazine (1994 - 2002)

Posted by Billyjam, December 15, 2015 07:07am | Post a Comment

Understandably, the imagery alone of bygone Bay Area-published magazine The Booty Crack scared away some potential readers.That minority of readers mistakenly deemed the envelope-pushing magazine as just too plain "ignant" for their tastes. The rapzine's in-your-face editorial style, raw street language, and no-holds barred content was an affront to their sensibilities, and the expectations of what a hip-hop magazine should be.

Simply put, The Booty Crack was unlike any other hip-hop magazine up until that point in time. It was at the beginning of 1994 when San Jose A&R man-turned-publisher Andre Barefield put out the first issue of the controversial but popular, game-changing magazine. At that time there was a wide choice in the ever-growing field of hip-hop publishing. There were many magazines on newsstands and at record stores that covered hip-hop music as well as various aspects of the culture and interrelated topics too (b-boying, graffiti, sports and sneaker fashion, etc.). There were regional zines like The BOMB hip-hop magazine out of San Francisco and The Flavor out of Seattle. Then, of course, there were the more widely distributed national ones like the Source, Rap Pages, and Rap Sheet. The latter's tabloid newspaper style was a format shared by The Booty Crack. But all similarities between The Booty Crack, Rap Sheet, and those other hip-hop magazines ended there.

While most rap writers and hip-hop magazines at the time fawned over their subjects, The Booty Crack talked shit on them and everyone else they covered in their avidly read pages. In fact, The Booty Crack went beyond just music. It was a hip-hop themed but also about the people and the culture surrounding it - and not always the prettiest parts. Pioneering its own brand of confrontational journalism, The Booty Crack was fearless in what it published. Long before the shaming era of the internet age, The Booty Crack was shaming and calling out people publicly in its Buster of the Month and its Nympho Info columns. As a result they landed in many lawsuits with the unhappy subjects of these columns.  Naturally, those not targeted in these printed attacks loved reading these exposes about others.

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