Mark Ronson, Erykah Badu, Mos Def, Trombone Shorty, The Dap Kings and Zigaboo Modeliste-A La Modeliste

Following on from the superb DJ Premier and Berklee Symphony Orchestra track from a few days ago, the second track from the ReGeneration concept brings together a fantastic range of artists to infuse the wonderful New Orleans jazz style with a little hip-hop and soul.

Badu sounds as interested as I’ve heard her in a long time, as she comes through with a phenomenally addictive performance from start to finish, with vocals full of vibrancy and bounce that spans the range of genres to anchor them together in a cohesively funky sound. Zigaboo is relentless on the drums as he drives the track along, whilst Trombone Shorty provides energetic bursts of his horn that blend with the instrumentation brought by the Dap Kings to create a lovely feelgood vibe, with the overall combination proving a genuinely exceptional backdrop to Erykah’s vocals.

Another absolutely fantastic track from the ReGeneration project, and I hope this inspires more to try these styles out. In a music scene increasingly devoid of true character and worth to the music, the passion and purity of the music here makes for a brilliantly refreshing listen.

Childish Gambino-Bonfire Video

Undoubtedly an excellent track, and these visuals are probably about as anticipated as anything Childish Gambino has released to date, with his upcoming Camp album on the horizon.

The video is certainly fitting for its Halloween release, with an extremely dark, horror-esque theme that seems to have very little congruence with the actual lyrical content, but tells its own entertaining story. Opening with a very graphic scene of Gambino vomiting blood, the video follows his journey of confusion and fear amongst eerie surroundings (is there any more intimidating environment than woods at night?!), whilst a group of young adults share scary stories over a bonfire. The devil is in the detail here, as certain motions and great facial expressions from Gambino suggest the story being told is about him, with his ‘ghost’ summoned by the tale being told.

Camp is released November 15th: you can pre-order the album here, or grab this enjoyable single here.

R&B Fridays: Episode 124

This week’s episode features some true luminaries of the R&B game, including the emergence of previously-unreleased Nate Dogg material, the first such release since his unfortunate passing earlier this year.

Two posts to catch up on from the week gone by, with the star-studded video for Ne-Yo’s latest single being released, whilst The-Dream supplied visuals of his own for his collaboration with Big Sean from the 1977 album.

Click below for this week’s juicy bag of treats.
→ Continue Reading

Common-Blue Sky Video

Great new video from Common’s upcoming The Dreamer, The Believer album, and one that amplifies the energy and introspection of the track.

The quick cuts from scene-to-scene in the video have a fast-moving, perpetual motion feel to them, and hence add an franticness to the video that works well with the blends that comprise the production. The cold palette of colours used throughout adds a nice balance to that intensity, downplaying it somewhat and giving it a gritter, more grounded counter-weight. There’s expectedly a good message throughout, with various folk expressing their diverse talents within mere yards from one another, though each shows moments of weakness that humanises the group. Particularly, the pregnant lady appears to be in to almost balance out the positivity, as she appears in despair and confusion, creating a much stronger sense of reality in the video.

Of course, Common’s picked out some nice fashion once again, and I’m sure many will be taking notes from his simple yet excellent selections. Worth a watch, and you can grab the audio here.

DJ Premier, Nas and The Berklee Symphony Orchestra-Regeneration

Follow DJ Premier, Mark Ronson, Skrillex, Pretty Lights and The Crystal Method as they remix, recreate and re-imagine five traditional styles of music. Our five distinctive DJs collaborate with some of today’s biggest musicians to discover how our musical past is influencing the future.

An incredible blend of styles here, as Preemo and Nas reunite over an excellent classical production. Dramatic strings swing the track across a variety of moods to open with, before focusing into a driven, uplifting style to back Nas’ ever-replayable raps. The orchestral work once again excellently shifts moods, whilst Preemo laces the symphony with some trademark scratches, enhancing that excellent crossover feel. Interestingly, ‘of all the takes, the one you hear is the “wild” version (which means they recorded it without the metronome in their headphones) and DJ Premier conducted himself’. Genuinely excellent, and a superb slice of eclecticism.

DJ Premier & The Berklee Symphony Orchestra-Regeneration ft. Nas

Ne-Yo, Trey Songz and T-Pain-The Way You Move Video

Brand new visuals for Ne-Yo’s latest, with a couple of his more esteemed R&B peers along for the ride.

The track is a solid slow jam in a simple, uncomplicated style that has been surprisingly absent in recent years, and the video also proves a pleasant surprise by taking a typical setting for an R&B track, a strip club, and adding an unexpected touch of class to proceedings by focusing a little less on the sleaze in favour of a more sultry, smooth theme. However, that’s not to say this video is quite fitting for younger eyes, as there are certainly some rather raunchy moments!

Much like the audio, the video employs a very simple and effective style and is worth a watch for the R&B heads. Nice to see three big names of the genre come together for this too, given that they’re pretty much fighting for same spot, and equally it’s good to see a few other music luminaries pop up for cameos. Grab an early version of this track here, and keep an eye on iTunes for the official release.

Lloyd Banks-Make It Stack

I’ve had Banks’ Shock The World in steady rotation since its release, and when popping up on a shuffle earlier, I had a moment not too dissimilar to this: Banks’ beat selection has been absolutely excellent for quite some time now, and with each track he releases the affinity for him as a solo artist grows into a real fandom.

Almost expectedly, the beat will engage you right from the off. A drifty, nimble melody opens over a quietened, threatening synth, and shortly after the track explodes into life with an upscaling of both elements thrown together with a luscious bass and sharp additional percussion. Lloyd’s raps are laidback and very easy-on-the-ear, fitting the mellow production exceptionally, whilst his echoed hook has a similar effect. The end result is a very replayable hip-hop effort that will be thoroughly enjoyed on those dark journeys back from work.

Lloyd Banks-Make It Stack

J. Cole-Lost Ones Video

According to the intro, this video was actually shot in 2008 (of course, meaning the song itself is from around that time), and it’s certainly held up well as it makes its way to the public 3 years later.

Whilst the hook is a little too light for me (leave those sort of admissions to ‘the kitten whisperer’ Drake), the verses boast some great storytelling and credit is due for Cole’s ability to effectively switch ‘characters’ from verse-to-verse, in a manner many will compare to Eminem’s incredible Stan (though of course, it’s nowhere near the level of that all-time great).

The video enhances the lyrical tale effectively, with the Antoinette Lenae putting in a very impressive performance that adds plenty of powerful emotion to Cole’s 2nd verse, whilst the cliffhanger of an ending makes for a thought-provoking finishing touch. Definitely worth a watch, and the track can be grabbed on Cole’s debut album.

Mobb Deep and Bounty Killer-Dead Man’s Shoes

The first release from Mobb Deep’s upcoming Black Cocaine EP, and to my knowledge their first new project since 2006′s Blood Money album.

A dark, intense production signals an immediate return to the classic Mobb Deep sound, with bleak synths, creepy organ samples and crashing percussion combining for a hard-hitting beat that feels both familiar and refreshing simultaneously. The raps are aggressive enough to capitalise on the production without being too abrasive, as both Prodigy and Havoc come through sounding hungry and focused, whilst the distorted Bounty Killer vocal sample finishes things off by enhancing the eerie atmosphere on the track. It’s great to have Mobb back, and this is a welcome injection into a hip-hop scene really lacking this gritty sort of material.

Mobb Deep-Dead Man’s Shoes ft. Bounty Killer

The-Dream and Big Sean-Ghetto

It’s still absolutely beyond me how The-Dream is still so horribly overlooked in the R&B genre, but as long as the good music keeps coming, us fans will more than cope. I recall reading he’s ‘retired’ the name The-Dream and will be going by Terius Nash now: confirmation required, but an unnecessary move in my opinion.

One of the more upbeat, club-oriented from his enjoyable 1977 (free) album, Dream displays his versatility by grabbing a relatively atmospheric, slowed-down production and injecting it with an intensity and energy courtesy of catchy vocals, flashes of scathing, personal lyricism and a strong guest spot from Sean, who seems to be racking up these great R&B feature verses. Watch your spot Fabolous.

The video is uncomplicated and fits the song well, fitting teasing scenes with the ladies alongside generic club visuals for a decent representation of all facets of the track. Grab the song on the free album here.

Kendrick Lamar-5 Fingers of Death Freestyle

One of hip-hop’s current favourite sons, and Kendrick does plenty to justify that love here. Taking on five productions each wildly different to the other, Lamar opens on a soft piano laced production, and is quickly pushed into a throttling dubstep beat. Up next is an acoustic effort driven by a soft guitar melody, followed by a textbook lounge music production (or, the sort of music you’d hear in a hotel lift) and finally, Kendrick is thrown a very metal/heavy rock style production. Whilst the lyricism isn’t going to turn anyone’s house upside down, credit should be given for the bravery of tackling a series of incredibly difficult productions, and outside of a few short breakdowns, he does a solid job with his flows.

Kendrick Lamar-5 Fingers of Death Freestyle

Kid Cudi-Bigger Than You

Excavated from those proverbial vaults that throw up gems from time-to-time, we’re treated to a track from 2007 that would have slotted in comfortably on Cudi’s phenomenal A Kid Named Cudi. No mean feat, given the mixtapes status as arguably one of the finest mixtapes in recent years.

Produced by frequent collaborator Emile (who I believe Cudi has since seperated from), the track boasts that slow, atmospheric production that was a trademark of his earlier material, throwing spacey synths and electronic melodies/samples together for an effective beat. Cudi’s leftfield lyricism comes packed in the trademark singing/rapping hybrid, and that output allies with the beat for an introspective yet accessible track that ranks as one of his better ‘unreleased’ efforts to have surfaced. A welcome reminder of the quality Cudi can produce.

Kid Cudi-Bigger Than You

Common-Let’s Move

From the vaults of the underground comes a never before heard tale from Chicago’s Greatest Street Poet, Common. Common’s graphic story comes to life with the assist from visual artist and producer dsteele.

Street poet. Now there’s a title befitting Common’s style and status in hip-hop. This enjoyable effort sees Common’s wonderful storytelling abilities come to life thanks to a series of pencilled, comic-esque drawings from artist and producer dsteele, and it’s a very effective combination.

The result is an audio-visual that really evokes those late 80s-early 90s vibes of raw, soulful hip-hop with a purpose, and you’ll be hard pressed to not find yourself feeling a little nostalgic watching and listening to the old-school vibes that coarse through this track. Not from Common’s upcoming album, but still a great buzz generator for that nearly-here LP, and you can grab the track here.

R&B Fridays: Episode 123

A really weak week for R&B music, with most of this week’s decent content already released by the rising stars of the genre: Jhene Aiko’s latest video, Patrick Stump’s cover of Shutterbugg, Jesse Boykins’ newest visuals and Bridget Kelly’s first EP. The delay this week (as has been the case multiple times in recent months) has been purely down to a lack of content, and it’s an interesting scenario that R&B faces at the minute with such a dearth of top-class talent. Nonetheless, click below for the 123rd episode.

→ Continue Reading


Since our inception in 2009, it’s been no secret that OTU’s favourite band were DC quartet The Five One. An eclectic band of diverse influences, they were a great embodiment of the OTU mentality and it’s a real shame to announce they are a four-piece no longer.

However, from the ashes of bad news rises RDGLDGRN (Red, Gold & Green), intent on continuing the band’s style and success with the release of their wonderfully-titled single. The track kicks off with an instantly-memorable guitar riff, followed by crashing percussion and melodic work from Green with a singing/rapping hybrid, the overall result being a heavier punk influence than The Five One’s material, without sacrificing the hip-hop sensibility. Regardless of influence, the track boasts energy and enthusiasm, all grounded in bittersweet lyricism for a combination likely to win over those disappointed by the aforementioned breakup.

The video involves ladies having a little fun playing, singing and dancing along to the audio, interspersed with performance and personality shots of the band for a solid video. Much more to come soon, and let’s see how this new project develops. Grab the track for free here.

Patrick Stump-Shutterbugg Cover

Yet another show of admirable diversity from Patrick Stump, as he stops by Billboard to cover Big Boi’s excellent Shutterbugg.

It’s a good take on the track, paying good homage to the fast-paced effort by managing to keep up the lively pace of the song, but with enough originality to make it quite distinguishable in its own right. Admittedly, the passionate vocals start to grate on you after hearing the same delivery style from 2/3 minutes, though it’s certainly better to hear too much of a good vocal rather than listening to someone stumble their way through, and credit needs to be given for managing to deliver the vocals at such a frenetic pace.

Patrick’s Soul Punk album was released this week, and hopefully it cements him as one of the leading talents in the pop/alternative world. Grab it here, or go here to watch the lead single.

Drake-Take Care Trailer

One of the most pointless trailers I’ve ever seen, and it’s not Drake’s fault.

Essentially a dressed-up list of Drake achievements, I’m completely at a loss to see why I’m supposed to buy his new album based on what he won and sold for his first album. In a 2:13 video, I counted 13 seconds of his new material in this video and a quick flash of the artwork, whereas Rihanna and Nicki Minaj seem to take up a much longer portion of the trailer, and the video ends with the realisation that actually, it’s been mostly about the numerous hits he was involved in from 09/10. The effects and styles used are incredibly low-budget too, and you can’t help but feel this video just oozes ‘He’ll sell and we know it, why waste money on promoting him properly?’.

Credit to whoever put the audio together as they’ve done a very good job on mixing some of his more popular tracks together,  but it alone can’t save one of the laziest marketing strategies (all-round, not just this video) you’ll ever see for someone of Drake’s standing and popularity. You have to feel for the lower rung of artists when even the most popular guys are suffering with the creative vacuums putting this stuff together.

Jhene Aiko-My Mine Video

You could do an awful lot worse than to wake up to this mellow effort from the excellent Jhene Aiko’s sailing.soul(s).

Jhene’s smooth, naturally laidback voice blends extremely well with the strong songwriting here, packed with back-and-forth, undecided emotion and plenty of reminiscing, and it’s the unique brand of vocals she has that really makes the most of the lyrics. The soft production certainly helps, with light, airy synths adding to the wistfulness, whilst a sharp production adds a little dynamism and strength to the track, preventing it from slipping past relaxation to boredom.

The video is relatively uncomplicated, with plenty of hazy scenes representing the rough attempts at memory recollection, whilst some of the more unusual scenes (such as laying on the stairs) will resonate with viewers as those moments of unexplainable actions that many don’t admit to occurring when emotions come in to play. Generally solid, and represents the audio well. Grab this track on the free album/mixtape here.

Lupe Fiasco - Lightwork ft. Ellie Goulding & Bassnectar

Lupe returns with the sort of track that perhaps should have been on his disappointingly mainstream Lasers album. Sampling Ellie Goulding, he creates an enticing mainstream song, without sacrificing his integrity as a rapper, with his verse being intelligent and something that’s worth listening to more than once.

One that will be added to my car playlist immediately! Download below.

Lupe Fiasco – Lightwork ft. Ellie Goulding & Bassnectar

Ed Sheeran-Lego House Video

When it comes to listening to albums, it often takes me a while due to a rather heavy backlog. On getting around to Ed’s debut LP last week, this was the first track I played and I’ve not listened to the rest of the album; this was so utterly outstanding, I’ve not stopped playing it since. Soft guitar melodies and wonderful vocals from Ed blend together exceptionally, each complimenting the other: The relaxing guitar strums enhance the soothing yet emotional vocal work, whilst the songwriting capitalises on the wistful nature of the production with an emotional, memorable set of lyrics. It’s a spectacular piece of alternative music by virtue of being so simple.

Fellow famous ginger Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) plays the lead role in the video, filling in for Ed Sheeran in his regular daily routine of couch surfing, building Lego masterpieces, performing for hordes of fans and more, mirroring the audio by virtue of being such a simple concept. The video takes a darker twist halfway through as Rupert’s positive demeanour takes a negative turn, followed by the revelation that he’s in fact an obsessive follower of Ed’s, with the previous scenes of the video shown in a new perspective (both physically and metaphorically), making for a thoroughly excellent plot twist. The superb misdirection is held together by some excellent acting, and blends with the thoughtful audio for an incredibly engaging audio-visual experience. Absolutely worth a watch, and one of the better videos in recent months. Grab the audio on Ed’s album now.

Jesse Boykins III-I Can't Stay Video

Probably the second best track on his Way of a Wayfarer EP, but that’s certainly no criticism as it’s a fantastic R&B/soul crossover that makes for an enjoyably positive listen.

It’s one of the bouncier, more lively productions I’ve heard JB3 on, making for a welcome departure from his slower, more soulful style. An infectious effervesence surrounds the track, derived from the strong synergy between the vocals and summery synth work, and it’s a vibe that carries into the video. Full of bright colours, sunny scenes and a general air of fun, the video exhibits both Jesse’s charisma and represents the track well, with each female encounter in the lyrics visualised in brief interactions that make for entertaining microcosms of the relationship.

Worth a watch, and certainly worth a listen. Grab this on the free EP here.

BET UK Ciphers

Asher Roth and Chuck Inglish-In The Kitchen Video

Asher and Chuck hook up for visuals to their recent head-nodding collaboration, and true to the title, most of it takes place in a kitchen.

Well, various kitchens. Ash and Chuck hop around a few cookeries with an MPC and a multitude of crockery, adding a lighthearted vibe to the intense style created by booming, bassy production. There are (of course) scenes shot in a freezer, copious amounts of takeaway food, toast, a slightly annoyed Oriental family, and everything else you’d expect from a hip-hop video.

In seriousness, the track is certainly worth a few listens, as Asher applies his laidback flow to good effect over Chuck’s chunky yet relatively simple production, delivering some memorable lines and exhibiting plenty of comfort on a production that many rappers would struggle with.

Asher Roth’s Pabst and Jazz coming soon, but for now grab this head-nodder here.

Bridget Kelly-Every Girl EP

Talented Roc Nation singer Bridget Kelly comes through with her first project (to my knowledge, anyway), a free 8-track EP boasting some enormous co-signs from her R&B/pop colleagues.

Contributing songwriters include some of the most esteemed names in the business, namely The-Dream, Ne-Yo, Ester Dean, James Fauntleroy and of course, Frank Ocean, suggesting the project should boast some very solid lyricism. Artists of that calibre don’t tend to associate themselves with bad productions either, so I’m sure we’re in for an enjoyable project that will cement Bridget as one of the strongest upcomers in the R&B scene. Grab the project for free below.

Bridget Kelly-Every Girl EP

Pac Div-Shadowboxin’ Freestyle

One of my favourite new-school hip-hop groups taking on an instrumental from (or at least related to) one of my favourite old-school hip-hop collectives, as Pac Div grab GZA’s (of Wu-Tang, of course) excellent Shadowboxin’ instrumental for an enjoyable freestyle and homage to the underappreciated original.

Whilst it’s never going to be a patch on the original, they certainly give it a very good go as each member comes through with some sharp flows and crisp deliveries, and retaining that ‘posse’ feel by virtue of all three taking it in turns to rap, offering some nice diversity. The hard-hitting yet soulful beat proves within the eclectic reach of Pac Div, and this is a remix worth checking out.

Pac Div-Shadowboxin’ Freestyle

Sick Jacken-Slained Sick ft. Slaine

Usually when Psycho Realm and La Coka Nostra team up it’s something special. Brujeria from La Coka’s A Brand You Can Trust is one of my favourite tracks from either collective, and this new effort will definitely be welcomed by fans of either.

With a sample-heavy, soulful beat by West Coast producer G Rocka providing plenty of room for both MC’s to hit their stride, the track opens with an on-form Slaine reaching the levels to be expected from him recently. Sick Jacken comes through, and for me, gives the track a real 90′s westcoast vibe. The third verse is back and fourth between the two, and demonstrates how well the two compliment each other.

The track is from Sick Jacken’s new LPOutdated, and sets the bar high for the rest of the album. Download below.

Sick Jacken-Slained Sick ft. Slaine

Chip Tha Ripper and Wale-25 Wives

Laidback, easygoing vibes from Chip and Wale to finish off your Monday evening.

The production has a wistful, drifty sample as its core melody, and one that’ll catch your ear both for its pitch and effective simplicity, whilst the percussion slowly winds through the track and enhances the aforementioned sample by remaining fairly unobtrusive. Chip brings a decent verse and a solid hook, both packaged in a mellow delivery that synergises with the production well, whilst his lyrical content sticks true to the somewhat lavish and indulgent title. Wale injects the track with more sharpness, as his more urgent delivery contrasts with the relaxed style of Chip’s work for a little diversity. A good track that will fill out a playlist well enough, though lacks that ‘outstanding moment’ to be good enough to dominate one.

Chip Tha Ripper-25 Wives ft. Wale

The Roots and Big K.R.I.T.-Make My

Much anticipated music from The Roots’ upcoming 13th album, undun, slated to be the first true concept album of their long and storied career, and it’s a hugely enjoyable listen.

Soft synths combine with a laidback percussion to provide a smooth, relaxing backdrop, creating a laidback atmosphere that bleeds into the vocal work right from the off. The raps are extremely solid from start to finish, as both Krit and Black Thought come through with introspective, thoughtful raps to capitalise on the production, whilst the soulful hook further enhances the mellow quality of the track. Excellent effort, and looking forward to that album on 9th December.

Slaughterhouse - The Illest

Slaughterhouse return with a new track, fresh from the Shady 2.0 BET Cipher, which I’m sure everyone agrees outshone all the other ciphers into obscurity (except for the UK version which I’ve yet to see, why has this not popped up on the internet yet?).

This song is a statement that the Slaughterhouse machine is about to go into overdrive as they near completion of their first album under the Shady Records/Aftermath umbrella. The very apt Biggie sample for the hook elevates the chilled nature of the beat, a beat some (who are more used to Slaughterhouse’s energetic tracks) may find a tad flat, but all four members come through with an onslaught of lyrical ability. Don’t ask me which one of these lyrical monsters came with the best verse…because I honestly couldn’t tell you. Download below.

Slaughterhouse – The Illest