Ten Current Tracks That Prove 2015 Hip-Hop Is In A Very Healthy State (Audio + Video)

Posted by Billyjam, October 31, 2015 05:10pm | Post a Comment

You can't blame some hip-hop fans for complaining that there's no good new hip-hop being made anymore, provided they are not making a blanket statement about all new hip-hop but merely referring to the bulk of what's popular in new rap & hip-hop these days. You know, the stuff that you hear blasted everywhere and repeated ad-nauseam on commercial radio. But the truth is that, if you take a little time and research to seek it out, there is in fact more good hip-hop being released now than ever. A lot of this new music's production and rhyme delivery pays respect to hip-hop's deep rich past while still pushing the genre forward and sounding new.

Below I have assembled ten tracks from the past few months with accompanying videos (some audio only) of new hip-hop that proves the genre is alive and well.  Alongside new hip-hop artists are many longtime acts who are still making quality music - even if not to the same wide an audience as they once commanded. I heard a few old school hip-hop fans comment recently how they didn't realize that Public Enemy (PE) were still around until seeing the longtime revolutionary group's recent live set on Jimmy Kimmel Live. PE never went away and recently released their best album in years - Man Plans God Laughs - that they performed the title track from on JKL (video below) in a "Fight The Power" medley since the song references back to the original from 26 years ago. NorCal legendary duo Blackalicious returned after a decade's absence with a powerful, fan-funded new album Imani, Vol 1 (LP version). Currently on a UK tour, they've been winning accolades for both the album and their performances. The NorCal duo have attracted a whole new wave of fans in recent times due to Daniel Radcliffe who did a rendition of their 1999 ABC tongue-twisting song "Alphabet Aerobics" on The Tonight Show a year ago.

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Zeke Thomas' "Blackness" featuring Chuck D and Jasiri X Addresses Key Issue of The Day

Posted by Billyjam, June 23, 2015 04:49pm | Post a Comment

Zeke Thomas "Blackness (feat. Chuck D & Jasiri X)" (2015)

If you ever despair that comedy seems to have eclipsed music's once key role as the lead thought-provoking voice, offering insights into the news making social and political issues of the day, Zeke Thomas's vibrant new track "Blackness" featuring Chuck D and Jasiri X will dispell that feeling. The song and its accompanying Charlie Zwick directed video above prove that popular music can still be political and central to the national dialog.  And right now that national dialog seems to be squarely focused on the topic of race in America. It is the also the one addressed by EDM producer Zeke Thomas — the club DJ / producer / son of NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas on the track "Blackness" whose release could not have been more perfectly timed with its publication over the past week. On "Blackness" Thomas is joined by the always politically outspoken hip-hop voices of veteran rap revolutionary Public Enemy's Chuck D, along with contemporary political rapper (self-described "Raptivist") with some  in-your-face, social commentary. Reportedly it was longtime political activist Harry Belafonte who introduced the Thomas to both Chuck D and Jasiri X. The introduction came from his organization Sankofa that encourages "artists and performers of color to actively create art that may serve as a catalyst for positive cultural evolution" for the single that was released by Tommy Boy. My hope is that Thomas will release a hip-hop mix too. My other hope is that a new wave of political rap like when PE were at their peak 25 + years ago, with powereful outspoken songs like "Black Steel In The Hour of Chaos" off the album It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back (video below), will make a re-emergence in popularity.

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Hip-Hop History Tuesdays: Number One Hip-Hop Singles of 1990

Posted by Billyjam, March 24, 2015 09:31pm | Post a Comment
The following list of number one hip-hop singles from 25 years ago is based on a combination of sales and radio airplay and comes care of Billboard magazine who calculated the initially published charts throughout 1990 in the weekly music magazine. Some were culled from albums released in 1989 but all singles charted in '90 with Salt-N-Pepa's "Expression" (remembered by many by its repeated catchy hook "express yourself") holding down the number one slot for the longest at eight consecutive weeks from mid January through mid March that year. Meanwhile Candyman's pop rap single "Knockin' Boots" spent five weeks at number one. Interestingly Vanilla Ice's ever-popular mega hit "Ice Ice Baby" only spent one week at number one on the hip-hop charts in 1990. However it soon crossed over to the separate pop singles chart where it enjoyed much more success going to number one for 13 weeks. The East Bay based, Tommy Boy act Digital Underground's biggest hit single of their career "The Humpty Dance" was number one for five straight weeks beginning on St. Patrick's Day, 1990. BDP artist D-Nice's "They Call Me D-Nice" spent four weeks at number one as did "We're All In The Same Gang" by the appropriately named West Coast Rap All-Stars, featuring Ice-T, Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, MC Ren, Young MC, Digital Underground, MC Hammer, King Tee, Body & Soul, Def Jef, Michel'le, Tone-Loc, and Above The Law's Cold 187um & KMG, which spent a month at number starting on July 21st. Meanwhile Ice Cube, with his debut solo post N.W.A. single "AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted" from the album of the same name, spent three straight weeks at number one beginning on June 9th, 1990 - but never had an official video made for it.  Most of the others spent one or two weeks at number one. For exact number of corresponding weeks at number one to individual hip-hop single see number in brackets following title of song, all below in video format in chronological order of release as singles.

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Hip-Hop History Tuesdays: 1988, The Year Considered By Many As Hip-Hop's Greatest

Posted by Billyjam, March 10, 2015 03:00pm | Post a Comment

For this week's Hip-Hop History installment we rewind back to wonderfully vibrant year of 1988. It was a time when hip-hop still constantly growing, with exciting sounding new artists constantly unfurling new lyrical and musical sounds. To me '88 was part of the third wave of hip-hop - with the first wave being the (original) old school artists of the 70's/early 80's, who were eclipsed earlier in the 80's by Run-D.M.C. who ushered in the "new school" - but who themselves in turn were eclipsed by this newer third wave of hip-hop. It often seemed (and more so in retrospect) that every record released in '88 was a good record. Of course, as with any music in any time period, there were hip-hop duds released in '88 too. However overall it is fair to say that 1988 had a larger percentage of quality, diverse-sounding, influential, and timeless hip-hop releases than many other years in the genre's four-decade history. And no wonder; it was part of the time frame known as the "golden era" of hip-hop that is widely considered to be the artistic pinnacle of the art form.   I think part of the reason for this, along with the lyrical aspect of the artform still being relatively young and still being explored by new emcees like Rakim, was the fact that sampling was at its creative peak. Remember this was in the period before the infamous 1991 landmark Gilbert O Sullivan vs Biz Markie copyright case that essentially brought an end to free range sampling, and would end up in hip-hop being a little less adventurous sounding due to all the restrictions placed on it regarding sampling.

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Hip-Hop History Tuesdays: Public Enemy's "It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back"

Posted by Billyjam, February 24, 2015 02:01pm | Post a Comment
public enemy it takes a nation of millions to hold us backBack in April 1988 Public Enemy (PE) released the classic album It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back on Def Jam Recordings. And prove that it's a classic is the fact that  27 full years later Nation still packs the same punch it did when it was initially unleashed on the world back in the late eighties. Widely considered the Strong Island (aka Long Island, New York) crew's greatest work ever, It Takes A Nation... was not only one of PE's finest moments, but hip-hop's as well. Released during the much lamented "golden" era of hip-hop, the album, which was the follow up to PE's 1987 debut Yo! Bum Rush the Show, defied the stereotypical "sophomore slump" that so many artists suffered from.

PE's debut was an excellent hip-hop album but this sequel simply blew it away since it was a jaw-droppingly amazing album (of any genre) in every way. Production-wise, it was so richly layered and hardcore that it just grabbed you and didn't let go. Chuck D's militant and thought-provoking, in-your-face revolutionary lyrical flow was so powerful it scared some people. But mostly it won over new fans who still thought of rap as some fad or disposable urban pop. Combined, all the elements of Nation made up an album that was unlike anything heard in hip-hop, or any music, up to that point. I remember that summer of '88 in the Bay Area hearing it blasting everywhere I went in every type of neighborhood. I had never experienced that before!

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