10 Life Lessons I learnt from the Wu-Tang Clan

wutang

Back in 1997, the summer I turned 18, I was finishing school and I had no idea where I was heading. What I did know was that I loved Hip Hop and in particular the Wu-Tang Clan. The rap super group had just released their sophomore album ‘Wu-Tang Forever’ and it was a double disc extravaganza of stanzas that solidified their legend status and tore away any of the glitz and glamour that was rapidly infecting the culture. ‘Wu-Tang Forever’ dropped at exactly the right moment to shine a light for all the fans who were finding it hard to associate themselves with vinyl suits, blowing wads of cash on fizzy wine and sing-a-long hooks. RZA said it best as he closed off ‘Bells of war’ (Track 8, Disc 2) “Pick up the Wu-Tang double CD and you’ll get all the education you need this year”. So, what has the Wu-Tang Clan taught me? Here are 10 important life lessons from the Clan. – Ralph Lloyd-Davis

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The first lesson I learnt from studying Wu lyrics was the economic reality of living in a low budget environment. ‘C.R.E.A.M.’ is probably the most infamous track off their debut album ‘Enter the 36 Chambers’ where Raekwon the Chef and the Rebel INS Inspectah Deck recount their struggles coming up in the ghetto as Method Man chants the acronym of truth “Cash Rules Everything Around Me – CREAM! Get the money, Dollar Dollar bill yo!” This chorus was a wake up call to say that if you’re not earning a living in this world, it won’t stop for you. In today’s economic climate with an already massive and steadily growing divide between rich and poor and a shrinking middle class, I’m surprised the Clan hasn’t been invited to talk at more political rallies or market forums.

The second lesson was delivered on Method Man’s debut album ‘Tical’, the second album to come from the Staten Island-based stronghold. It wasn’t a lesson in street smarts or how to spend thousands of dollars frivolously. It was a lesson in love. ‘All I Need’ featuring R & B royalty Mary J. Blige, is a love song between a man and a woman where their steadfast support of one another has helped them surpass any obstacle in their path. The duet is inspired by the famous soul duet between Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell of the same name, and is given a modern day twist with Method Man’s slang and a sample of Notorious BIG’s ‘Me & my Bitch’ (“Cry together, lie together, I swear to God I hope we fucking die together”), which in itself is a melancholic tale of a turbulent love affair. Method Man’s promise of “mad love to give” his girl and his admiration for her having a “mind of her own” are testament to a mutual respect for the opposite sex that is often missing from rap lyrics. In any case it taught me to look for a strong independent woman to love and not just a pretty face.

Lesson number three (also known as Rule 4080) was taught to me by the GZA a.k.a. the Genius, a name that already inspires enlightenment. The GZA is probably perceived as a wiser member of the Clan due to his prior experience with the music industry. Before the Wu-Tang Clan stormed onto the scene, the GZA had already released a solo album on Cold Chillin Records entitled ‘Words from the Genius’. Needless to say his solo career under Cold Chillin didn’t bear fruit, so when he had a second opportunity to drop a debut album (thanks to some clever deal brokering by the RZA that ensured each member of the Clan could sign with a second label and release solo material independent of their group contract), he let rip on the shady side of the record business with his song ‘Labels’. In just under 3 minutes, the GZA taught me all about how the record executives, A&Rs and other nefarious characters will try and screw over the recording artist and neglect their talent. The most impressive part is that GZA fires shots at virtually all of the existing labels by using their monikers as double-entendres, for example “We’ll all emerge off your set, now you know God damn / I show living large niggas how to flip a def jam / And rough up the motherfuckin’ house cause I smother / You cold chillin’ motherfuckers, I still warn a brother / I’m ruthless my clan don’t have to act wild / That shit is jive, an old sleeping bag profile”. Thanks to the GZA I understood fairly fast that there would be snakes and sharks in business – A fact that proved true in later life.

The fourth lesson wasn’t actually from one of the 9 emcees but instead from one of their close affiliates, Poppa Wu. On Ghostface Killah’s debut album ‘Ironman’, the subject of faith and religion was introduced quite frankly in several of the featuring songs. On track 13 ‘Black Jesus’, Poppa Wu preached openly about the knowledge of self, (Black) Man being God and time being infinite thus debunking the fable of Adam and Eve and the dawn of creation. These views are foundations for the Five Percent Nation, a faith that separated itself from the Nation of Islam during the 1960’s. The Wu-Tang Clan often refers to man as God and woman as Earth which is direct use of the Five Percent lexicon. I am not a religious person, if anything I’m an atheist, but it’s always good to get another perspective on what this life is all about. Something that always stays with me is when Poppa Wu says “Don’t you know if a man could take and flip himself inside out, God, He’ll fall out and die if he sees the shit that goes on…inside?” Conscious observations such as these are food for thought when you think about how complex the human body is and how much we take it for granted.

Lesson five was a hidden jewel that I didn’t find for quite sometime. Listening to Raekwon’s stellar debut album ‘Only Built for Cuban Linx’, there’s a skit before ‘Spot Rusherz’ (track 14) where Raekwon and Ghostface are procrastinating about the heat in their car and an unreleased Wu-Tang song is playing in the background. I finally tracked this song down to a mixtape by DJ Format promoting the American beer St. Ides. The St. Ides track endorses the beverage but more importantly it serves a cautionary warning against drink driving. Raekwon explains how it’s alright to carry on drinking as long as you catch a ride home and don’t get behind the wheel yourself: “With St. Ides in my system / Crack another I’m blessed, let’s go get the next one / And get over, the object is to stay sober / Lay on the sofa, better yet, dial my chauffeur”. Don’t drink and drive kids.

Lesson six is about sex. Safe sex. At the height of their popularity the Wu-Tang Clan were dropping solo albums, mixtape and radio verses and featuring on just about every compilation CD being burnt. One of these compilations was ‘America Is Dying Slowly’ which set out to promote safe sex amongst the youth. The Clan got the title track ‘America’ with each Clan member recounting their experiences and knowledge about sexually transmitted diseases and how to prevent catching them. I guess this song went to my head and my heart because I lost my older brother to AIDS and I know for a fact that it’s easier to get caught up in the heat of the moment and skip that simple gesture of protecting yourself and others.

The seventh thing I learnt from the Wu – and they actually mentioned this on two occasions, first by honorary member Cappadonna (‘The Pillage’ track 3) and then by Ghostface Killah and featuring artists Jadakiss (‘Pretty Toney’ track 17) – was don’t get caught. Run! ‘Run’ paints a vivid picture of what it’s like to escape the Police and the risks you face if you get caught. As an 18 year old Hip Hop fan, I was getting up on walls with my marker pens regularly and smoking a lot of weed in the street, so I always had my eyes scanning the horizon for undercover detectives and have-a-go heroes looking to spoil my fun. After a few run ins with the law and other unsavoury characters I eventually relinquished these pastimes. In fact, I do remember distinctly pulling up my baggy jeans and tying my shoe laces properly after getting chased through the wrong neighbourhood late at night by some stick up kids. Swag isn’t going to save you from getting stabbed. Lesson learnt.

A step away from the abstraction of Five Percent Nation philosophy, the RZA has a penchant for conspiracy theories notably with his verse on ‘School’, track 14 of Masta Killa’s solo album ‘No Said Date’. My eighth lesson was all about not accepting everything you’re taught in school and questioning history. The song starts off with Masta Killa rapping about his introduction to the rap culture which is nice enough but the real main course of knowledge is delivered by the RZA as the beat speeds up to accommodate his feverish flow. As a child, RZA questions his teachers lessons and is quickly asked to leave and reprimanded for disrupting the class. The facts RZA speaks about aren’t necessarily true, but they do shed like on a few questionable moments in the history of the human race and possible cover ups. Here’s an example of RZA’s outburst: “I stood like a man then I questioned my teacher / Why don’t we speak about the wisdom of the sages? / And how did Europe black out in the dark ages?/ And when they got light did they white-wash the pages? / And the inquisition, why was Christian’s thrown in cages? / And why would they try to destroy the nation? / With their birth control and bring control fluoridation? / And why it seems that half the school is racist? :She said “Diggs, to the office!” We about faces…”

For their ninth lesson, the Clan taught me about life in the ghetto, something a lot of rappers could claim responsibility for but Raekwon, Ghostface, Cappadonna and U-God broke it down into easy to understand verses. the self-titled ‘Ghetto’ (track 11 of Ghostface Killah’s ‘Apollo Kids’ album) is a soulful stroll through the tougher side of town. With the soulful prompts of Marlena Shaw sampled from ‘Woman of the Ghetto’ each of the rappers covers a select theme: the scene in the ghetto (Raekwon), making money (Cappadonna), dealing with snitches (Ghostface) and raising kids (U-God). Obviously the picture painted by each rapper is pretty stark and unglorified but it’s cool to hear U-God talk about the solidarity of a community that the rest of society tries to forget. For someone who’s never lived in the ghetto, this is a eye opening composition.

The final lesson from hours upon hours of listening to the Wu-Tang is an odd one and if you had to pick the oddball of the group, most fingers point in the direction of Ason Unique a.k.a. Ol’ Dirty Bastard. ODB, God bless his soul in Heaven, had an acute knack for coming out with some the funniest yet scariest lyrics of the entire Clan. On his debut album ‘Return to the 36 Chambers’, ODB touched upon the topic of young love and all the craziness hormones can induce between people of the opposite sex. In ‘Don’t u Know’ ODB begins by rapping about flirting with girls in his school and how his emotions make him feel rather horny. Featured artist Killah Priest recounts his tale of his teenage sweetheart before ODB takes us back into the classroom. The teacher tells the children to open up their text books and read the first paragraph on oral sex. Naturally ODB is taken aback (“I said ‘Oral sex! What kinda class is this?’ The girl next to me said ‘What’s wrong with you Miss?'”) so the teacher decides to skip the theory part and jump into a practical demonstration on the unassuming rapper. As the teacher begins to perform fellatio on ODB, the story cuts with the promise of a sequel. I think the main lesson I got from this track is to be weary of horny cougars in the classroom.

100s – Ice Cold Perm

100s
Ice Cold Perm

(Free Download)

I love rap that talks about being a gangster, I love backpacker rap that talks about life and social consciousness, but sometimes, just sometimes, I get a need to listen to filth. Back in the day there was Too $hort delivering unutterable smut but what about the new generation? Well, thankfully it looks like there’s a new kid on the block that’s going to take that crown, get it drunk, lay down with it and do something most definitely X-rated to it.

100s is a 19 year old from Cali and has a mouth on him that would make even the most hardened pimps blush. His mixtape, Ice Cold Perm, is one of the best albums of the year without a doubt, showcasing both his lyrical talent and his ability to flow elegantly over the beat. The content is mostly about bedding ladies, but at no point does it get one-dimensional.

Whether he’s talking about Romeo and Juliet getting down or the difference between his old hood-dwelling flames and his new mink-coat wearing, expensive carpet having conquests, 100s is a rapper you’ll immediately be down with. He has character, swagger and let’s not forget that hairstyle of his. The record is free to download and you can get a sample in the video below – It’s not politically correct, you have been warned, but it is brilliant. Get involved.

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Ice-T Announces UK Premier for Rap Documentary

Rapper Ice-T is set to premier his directional debut later this month. Ice-T’s documentary entitled “Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap” is to be screened at BFI Southbank in London on 20th July 2012 with Ice-T hosting a questions & answers session at the event.

The documentary revolves around Ice-T interviewing several influential rap icons including Chuck D, KRS-One, Nas, Eminem, Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg & Kayne West. The documentary will also feature these key figures having their skills put to the test by Ice-T. A trailer for the highly anticipated documentary is available to view below.

Dessa Interview

The Doomtree Crew don’t stop, ever. So when we got a chance to catch up with Dessa from the Minneapolis mob, we couldn’t turn it down. Currently on a huge tour of the US showcasing the amazing new album ‘No Kings‘ to all and sundry, the rapper and singer talked to us about making her solo album, the pros and cons of being holed up in Wisconsin and how she likes her handshakes.

So read on and be sure to click those videos embedded in the text so you can see just why we’ve always been so excited by her and her team-mates. Onwards!

Hi Dessa! It’s time for the dream-team interview [dream team because of my jaundiced face with your wonderful t-shirt on the webstore, obviously] – I was going to open and say “we’ve come on a long way since I first interviewed Doomtree back in 2006” but I remembered you weren’t there because you were busy expanding your horizons in South America [right? I think anyway]. So I gotta open up with how did you come to terms with not being part of the interview back then? Therapy and comfort food? Shock treatment? Booze?

Denial.  I was a part of that interview and enjoyed every minute of it.

I want to get right into it straight away – you’ve just released your new album ‘Castor, The Twin’ on Doomtree Records. For those that don’t know, it’s a reworking of some of your songs with live instrumentation and one of the things I like most about it is that you didn’t just say “there’s an 808 here, let’s just replace it with a real snare”, you brought new levels and layers to each track. So I guess, first up, tell us a little about how you came to the decision that you wanted to re-do your tracks? How did you decide on the tracks that you wanted to use? Was it an epiphany that came to you that 551 would sound dope with a band or did you guys work loads of songs out and cherry pick the best?

When I set off to tour my last album, ‘A Badly Broken Code‘, I asked a trio of live players to travel with me as my backing band. We piled into a van with Sims and Lazerbeak, who served as main support, and headed west to put on some mileage and play a bunch of shows.

(Frank aside: Like a lot of listeners, I have some serious reservations about live hip hop. Done badly, it sounds cheesy or like elevator renditions of otherwise listenable songs. I knew I wasn’t interested in creating a sound that had anything in common with a ‘jam band.’ I wanted an airtight ensemble capable of big crescendos, beautiful counterpoint melodies, and moments of suspenseful restraint. Happily, that’s almost exactly what I got.)

By the time our touring party returned home, we found our set transformed. We’d taken advantage of the live band’s range of dynamics and the players had written new parts for many of the songs. Sean McPherson, my band leader and bass player, was playing bowed upright in addition to his plucked lines—which makes for a moody, classic cello vibe. Dustin Kiel wrote new piano and guitar lines; on at least one song he was playing them at the same time with one hand on each instrument. Joey Van Phillips added a lot of power to the set—he’s a hard-hitting drummer who’s worked in almost every style.

All of a sudden we found ourselves playing music that didn’t sound much like anything I’d recorded. And attendees were asking for the new versions of our songs. So we hit the studio to record the new arrangements, adding viola, mandolin, vibraphone, and timpani.

And maybe a little info on the title too?

In Greek and Roman mythology, there are a pair of twin brothers: Castor and Pollux. (Not so incidentally, these are the stars of the Gemini constellation). Castor is human, Pollux is immortal. In a scuffle, Castor is slain. Pollux loves his brother desperately and campaigns for Zeus to allow him to split his immortality with his twin. Zeus agrees and the brothers alternate days, spending one day among the living, then one day with the dead. In naming the album, I wanted to express the fact that these songs were rearrangements—twins of existing songs. I also wanted to convey the idea that these songs were more organic, tender, nuanced versions—its an album without synthetic production, a very human sound.

I’ve been lucky enough to come out to Minneapolis to see a few Blowouts and over the years I’ve seen you go from straight up rapping over beats to introducing the live element with your band and friends – were you always keen to have that backing behind you? And hard as I’m sure it may be to answer, do you prefer being backed by a band or are you cool with just having Beak or Papes behind you?

Lazerbeak and Paper Tiger make some of my favorite arrangements. In addition to being gifted musicians, they understand a rapper’s perspective: what makes a beat appealing to emcees, and what kind of rhythms make the thing workable. For live performances, though, I’m a sucker for performers who create everything live—it’s like watching aerialists without a net, and knowing that they might make completely different choices from one night to the next.

There’s a brand new track on the album, ‘The Beekeeper’ – when was that written? Was it during the sessions of recording the new album?

I’m never a very fast writer, but ‘The Beekeeper‘ was unusually painstaking. At some point in the song’s history, I think every word was different. I wrote the piano line first, then asked (Jessy Greene, the violinist who now plays with the Foo Fighters) to layer several parts. She nailed it, utterly nailed it. After the neuroses begins: I listened to the song on repeat dozens, or sometimes a hundred times while trying to compose the melodies and lyric content—and then to wrestle them together. For ‘The Beekeeper‘ I knew I wanted something dark and epic to match the piano line. I often write with a zoom lens, focusing on details of scene and character. For this song, I leaned towards the panoramic, incorporating the sort of language that you’d find in a myth or a religious text to describe the broad truths of the human condition.

You’ve got a new rendition of ‘Palace’ on ‘CTT’, which was originally on Papes’ album ‘Made Like Us’. On a personal level, it’s my favourite song because a) it’s awesome, clearly and b) it’s named after the football team I support who I took Paper and Stef to see when they were touring a couple years ago. Can I now claim that Dessa is the newest member of the Doomtree-Palace Connection? I’ll send you a scarf for the Blowout, ha!

I’ll do almost anything for a scarf.

Your album A Badly Broken Code’ got some great reviews [it was my number one album of 2010 in fact] and showcased your ability to both rap and sing in equally high measure. When you’re writing new tracks, do you go in thinking “right, time to make a total rap heater?” or does everything just flow naturally?

There are definitely voices in my head that concern themselves with how my next record will be perceived. But I try to tamp them down and focus on how to best express my genuine experience—I’ve got to trust that people will detect the sincerity in it.

The new CD pre-orders came through with a short story and you’ve already had your ‘Spiral Bound’ book out, do you enjoy writing outside of your music? Is there a separate mindstate when you’re writing poems or stories rather than lyrics?

I write less prose than I wish I did. Music has deadlines that writing doesn’t—at least for a writer without a publishing deal.  Writing prose can feel a little more cerebral than writing rap lyrics—but both involve mouthing words, furrowed brows, frusteration, and maddeningly slow progress.

You have also been a teacher for a while [still doing it even? I’m slack here sorry!] – do you get as much pleasure from teaching as you do from seeing a room full of smiling faces after you’ve killed a Blowout?

I used to teach courses about writing, promotion, and hip hop, but the touring schedule takes a regular classroom gig off the table. McNally Smith College of Music has been gracious enough to keep me on as an Artist In Residence; several times a year I visit campus to report what Doomtree is learning in the trenches. We talk about the habits of successful indie artists, strategies to get press coverage, the social media hustle, and the grind.

Minneapolis has a very supportive hip hop [and music/art] scene and with the backing of the crew behind you, there’s a huge amount of love for you. Does it still surprise you that Blowout sells out super quickly and how about the fact you’re getting love across the board further afield? Are there any shows/cities you’ve played that have been amazingly good?

I figure there are no laurels to rest on. When we put tickets out for the Blowout, it was nail-biting right until doors opened. That said, it can be an amazing surprise to arrive in a new city and find enthusiastic listeners—even people who know the words. That really knocked me out the first few times it happened, I was so dumbstruck I stopped singing myself.

The new Doomtree crew record ‘No Kings’ came out in November. You guys all headed out to a cabin [in Wisconsin right?] to make the record in a concentrated period of time which is a switch up from the last crew album which was a sprawling epic of an album. How did this environment for making music work out and how excited are you by it? What can fans expect?

Man, the cabin was intese. We loaded up on booze and sandwhich fixings and sequestered ourselves for a few days to knock out the bulk of the album. Some of the guys are swift and prolific writers; it can be hard not to feel pressure when you’re the last to finish every song. I spent most of my time walking, trying to hammer out my parts. We’d wake up, have breakfast, pick a beat, and then I’d walk for miles in the woods, with the beat on repeat. After I eeked out 8 bars, I’d head back to the cabin, find out which beat was next, and then set off again.

2011 was a massive year for the crew with your record, the crew album and Sims’ amazing ‘Bad Time Zoo’ and the crew set on the main stage at Soundset [which was fucking awesome to see] – do you all continually push each other to make the music you make? Like, if Cecil drops a ridiculous beat, Mike will want to jump on it, or Beak unleashes another Lava Banger that makes Stef want to jump on his MPC?

I think we’re all motivated by one another and, as we amass more experience, we can better relate to one another’s professional concerns. “Oh, you’re three weeks away from a release date? Man, I know exactly what that brand of excitement, panic, and exhaustion feels like.” Or “Bad turn out in Santa Barbara? I feel you man, push through it. L.A. is around the corner.”

Ok, time to switch it up a little, we’ll do some either/or questions, see what you come back with:
Halloween or Christmas?

Halloween. Sugar and secularism.

Glasses or contacts?

Contacts, unless I’m negotiating a compensation package.

New Edition or Bobby Brown solo?

Lauryn Hill

Normal Skittles or Sour Skittles? [influenced by that huge packet of skittles on your twitter]

Normals, future sure. But only after all the cheap and trashy milk chocolate has been consumed.

High Fives or handshakes?

Handshakes, with a flourish.

Facebook or Twitter?

Twitter. But the crucial transmissions are still sent by passenger pigeon.

And to finish up, do you have any plans to come over to London? Hard as it may be for the whole crew to make it, I know quite a few people who would love to see a Doomtree show in the UK…

I wouldn’t hold my breath quite yet. But it’s time to start crossing fingers. The scheming has begun.

Check out www.doomtree.net and www.twitter.com/doomtree for all the crew updates, Dessa’s twitter www.twitter.com/dessadarling and make sure to grab the crew album ‘No Kings‘ which features this banger:

Rapper Heavy D passed today in Los Angeles

heavy d RIPThe world of Hip Hop is mourning the loss of another of it’s all time heroes tonight as the death of rapper Heavy D (Dwight Arrington Myers) was announced dead today after being rushed to a Los Angeles hospital. He was rumoured to be found slumped in an alley way near his home this morning before being taken to hospital where he unfortunately passed.

The lead rapper of Heavy D and the Boyz whose fame reached heights in the late 80’s within rap was 44 and also enjoyed acting. He was last in the UK on October 8th performing alongside Janet Jackson at the Michael Jackson Tribute show in Wales.

With the news of boxer Joe Frazier dying announced yesterday, the world has lost two heavyweights in two days. Get some of Heavy D’s Don’t Curse tune featuring. Kool G Rap, Grand Puba, C.L. Smooth, Big Daddy Kane, Pete Rock and Q-Tip in your ears today and remember one of rap’s finest.

RIP

Crossfire Chronicles: The New Breed of Rap

Illustration by Matthew Bromley

newbreed_of_rap_chronicles

Thanks to the rise of blogs, there are so many rappers that have peppered the web in the past few years yet it’s nigh on impossible to keep track of them all. So we have decided to give you guys the heads up on rappers that are coming through that you definitely need to keep an eye and ear out for. Sometimes all it takes is that one track to hook you, getting you to press the rewind button so you can learn all the words straight away and sometimes it’s more of a slow burn, letting the music wash over you, submersing yourself into it before something clicks and you declare yourself a fan.

The list below is by no means gospel, but amongst all the names that you’ll be hearing sooner rather than later, there are some rappers who stand head and shoulders above the rest, and they can be found here. You won’t see any mention of the likes of Tyler the Creator or Jay Electronica because they’ve already grabbed the mainstream’s eye but hopefully there will be someone below that will get you interested!

So, without further ado, here is a list of the top five rappers you need to get into:

Abjekt.

1. Yelawolf

Yelawolf is certainly the best new rapper out there at the moment. He’s not hit the mainstream quite yet, but with the ink drying on his contract with Eminem’s Shady Records it can’t be fair off if the talent he showed on his Trunk Muzik mixtape [and it’s re-released with additional track half-brother Trunk Muzik 0-60] is anything to go by. He can switch up to double-time at the drop of a hat or he can run it slow like he does on Pop The Trunk below. Lazy journalists will no doubt refer to Catfish Billy as “The New Eminem” but pay no attention to that, he’d much rather rap about Chevys and getting drunk than murdering his Baby Momma. Alabama is well and truly on the map thanks to Yela. Get involved.

Top Tune: Pop The Trunk

2. Fashawn

Already one album down, Fashawn is working hard on mixtapes having recently released Higher Learning 2 and Grizzly City 3 before releasing his sophomore effort. The Fresno MC might not be the brashest of rappers, but his smooth flow and beat selection are top notch. His debut Boys Meets World featured production by Exile, who provided the perfect backdrop for Fashawn to go in over, from sunny melodies to songs about suicide. If he continues the way he’s going, like he has over J. Cole’s beats, there will be a hell of a lot more people smiling their way down the street. If the track below doesn’t get you bouncing, you’ve got no soul.

Top Tune: Samsonite Man f. Blu

3. Phil Ade

Maryland’s Phil Ade has burst onto the scene in the past couple of years through his stellar Starting on JV and The Letterman mixtapes, showcasing his ability to rap over a diverse selection of beats before his Twitter-friendly #PhilAdeFriday tracks, which were released for free through the social networking site every Friday came to prominence at the start of 2011. He’s now put them into a mixtape of their own, with some tracks featuring him rapping over famous beats from the likes of Ice Cube and Mobb Deep and will be dropping his new album A Different World on July 12th. Check out the track below for some early LL Cool J influenced shit.

Top Tune: Always There

4. TiRon

LA’s TiRon is another rapper who gives the listener a big beaming smile, he just seems to be having so much fun when he raps and it’s that infectious positivity that grabs the listener. From songs declaring his love for food or trainers to tracks discussing the importance of having a Wingman when trying to bag a chick at a party, TiRon [and his running mate Ayomari] delivers perfect call-and-response style tracks which bump along nicely whether you’re in the mood to get hype or whether you want some beats playing whilst you’re cleaning your flat. The track below is a perfect example of what to expect from the guy that brought the world his MSTRD and Ketchup mixtapes as well as T&A, the prelude to the debut album Sucker For Pumps which is a collaborative effort with Ayomari.

Top Tune: What You Waitin’ On f. Ayomari

5. Stalley

Ohio rapper Stalley could have been a high-standard basketball player before injuries curtailed his sporting career. But the NBA’s loss is hip hop’s gain. He has got a fantastic flow, progressing from a backpacker delivery to straight up fire and back again with consummate ease and his beard shouldn’t be underestimated. His latest mixtape Lincoln Way Nights (Intelligent Bass Music) is the best example of why he’s such a competent and impressive MC, showing his dexterity over a number of different styles whilst all the while maintaining his own voice across the entirety of the 16 tracks. Check out Hercules below, the beat will get you immediately and once that’s hooked you’re in.

Top Tune: Hercules

Honourable mentions:

Big K.R.I.T.
Rockwell Knuckles
Erreon Lee
Ayomari
Danny Brown

Tyler, The Creator

‘Goblin’
XL

tyler-the-creator-goblinIt’s almost impossible to approach Goblin, the latest album from Odd Future’s Tyler, The Creator, without any kind predisposed stance. Whether it’s the huge amount of press and hype which currently surrounds the group, or the outward, confrontational personalities of its members, Odd Future set themselves out to provoke, excite and divide. With the group’s profile now at an all-time high, then, for many Goblin will a make or break landmark in their career.

In many ways, this record also marks a huge progression for OFWGKTA. For starters, it will see a physical release through reputable and reliable label XL, currently home to the likes of Adele, The XX and Radiohead. But there are also perhaps unexpected advances in terms of its content, as Tyler continues his growth into one of the most fascinating and engaging individuals of a generation. Personally, I’ve long straddled the fence of Odd Future’s output to date, but I’m happy to invest fully in the collective as a phenomenon, and one with the potential to produce something special.

Goblin, then, finds Tyler in a new found state of self-awareness, and that’s understandable from his position in the centre of the musical universe. If his last album, Bastard, was a rowdy statement of intent punctuated by gags about rape and violence, Goblin is far more affected piece of music, almost schizophrenic in nature. From the word go Tyler is at pains to address his critics, re-iterating that his music is fiction and vocalising a resentment for being labelled horrorcore, and indeed homophobic.

Don’t get me wrong, this is still a largely confrontational record, but it’s also very clear Tyler wants to add more strings to his bow. He’s even included a couple of almost straight up love songs on this record, almost as if to prove his own humanity. These prove to be some of the more effective moments on the record, particularly ‘She’ with it’s memorable, sing-a-long hook by Odd Future’s resident R&B singer Frank Ocean. Lyrically, I’d argue that Tyler’s biggest influence is early Eminem. From the apparently random celebrity bashing on ‘Yonkers’, to the public service announcements and rousing shock choruses such as ‘Kill people, burn shit, fuck school’ on ‘Radicals’. The two also share a similar mischievous humour in their delivery, often veiled by aggression.

Where Tyler perhaps differs to those that have come before him is that Goblin is entirely self-produced, aside from one contribution from Left Brain on ‘Transylvania’. Those expecting an album of ‘Yonkers’ and ‘Sandwiches’ style beats will be disappointed, as these stand out as easily the most accessible songs on the record. Although vocal in his love for the likes of Clipse and Waka Flocka Flame, Tyler’s own productions aren’t necessarily even influenced by hip hop. Instead the album is mostly made up of a mixture of eerie synth arrangements and jarring stabs of distorted bass and drums. These are probably his most intricate productions to date, though, and he throws at them a range of pitch alterations and studio trickery.

I suppose the question on most people’s minds will inevitably be, ‘does this album live up to its hype’? While the answer to this question is perhaps a no, it’s almost certainly the wrong question to be asking, as by its very nature hype is a grossly exaggerated reaction. Following the path of Tyler, The Creator so far, though, Goblin is an album that meets expectations and expands on the ground that he has covered. Moments of inspiration flow regularly through this overly long and at times testing record, but I have no doubts that Tyler is an artist worth persevering with. Yes, it’s rough around the edges, but the most exciting things in life are never clean cut.

Sleekly Lion

Watch: Tyler The Creator’s Yonkers

Tyler The Creator has dropped a video for his new track Yonkers.

The Odd Future rapper has been getting serious hype of late and this track, taken from his upcoming album Goblin, proves why. Lines like “threesomes with a fucking Triceratops” mean you need to listen, straight up. And with a video that includes eating a bug, throwing up and hanging yourself, there’s no way you can really ignore it is there?

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