OTU Presents: The Winter EP: Volume 1

My love of ‘winter music’ has been far from secret here on OTU, and several discussions with music fans of various tastes have led me to believe many OTU readers share that appreciation.

We’re all about satisfying the fans, so welcome to our new 5-part feature. Each edition features a selection of tracks that are taior made for the dark winter period, and in keeping with OTU’s diversity code, expect some old tracks, some modern tracks, with a vast range of genres represented (in no particular order either; for example, Vol. 1 doesn’t necessarily have all of the best tracks!)

Just to really drive those frosty vibes home, we’ll even provide you with fresh, original artwork for each ‘EP’ for you to download at your pleasure and finish off those playlists. Kind aren’t we? Without further ado, click below for 5 tracks to get your winter started.
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A$AP Rocky-Demons Video

One of my favourite tracks from the likeable LiveLoveA$AP mixtape, not least because it samples the excellent Clams Casino’s Numb instrumental.

Whilst I mostly agree with the notion that Rocky is more ‘style than substance’, there’s not too much wrong with that in truth, and his style makes for very easy, enjoyable listening. This track is demonstration of that, as he mostly delivers ‘stoner raps’ that aren’t anything particularly new, but when combined with his laidback flow and impeccable beat selection it creates an accessible all-round package that will continue to find fans. The video is fairly simple, having a generally hazy and misty effect, with the footage comprised of live shows, Rocky’s neighboorhood and various shots of the A$AP crew generally hanging out. Nothing particularly complex, and it works well enough with the audio.

EDIT: As I’m writing this, I’m advised this video wasn’t an ‘approved release’ and an official video for Wassup is on the way. Whilst not approved for release or finished, it’s clearly an official video in some capacity, and you can grab the audio on the LiveLoveA$AP mixtape here.

Daley-Smoking Gun Video

A highlight from his debut project, Those Who Wait, the soulful tones of Daley are brought to life with this very watchable visual.

The monochromatic filter throughout the video is a perfect fit for the intense, slightly dark lyricism, and its straightforward nature contrasts well with the diverse set of genres Daley crosses with the audio. The finer complexities are embodied in the more artistic elements of the video, with the various painted women adding a mystical, ethereal aspect to the video, whilst the gradual development of the scenery and weather conditions progressively heightens the intensity of the clip.

Certainly worth a watch, and most definitely worth a listen. Grab the track on the free mixtape here.

50 Cent-Stop Crying

The first single from 50′s upcoming The Big 10 mixtape, celebrating 10 years since his breakout 50 Cent Is The Future mixtape. It’s hard to believe that 50 has only truly been in the game for that long (not counting Power of the Dollar), but a testament to his success as a rapper and a businessman.

Hard-hitting with a real head-nodder of a production, 50 certainly captures some of the intensity and hunger that was missing on his last release with some aggressive raps, complementing the crashing percussion and thick bass nicely. Undoubtedly, the gritty qualities of this will win over many of the hip-hop heads, and in a scene increasingly dominated by light, R&B-influenced productions, this stands out as one of the more simple, uncomplicated hip-hop efforts in recent weeks. Good signs ahead of that mixtape.

50 Cent-Stop Crying

B.o.B-E.P.I.C. (Every Play Is Crucial) Mixtape

Brand new 15-track mixtape from B.o.B, with the build to his upcoming sophomore album, Strange Clouds, now gathering pace. Undoubtedly, his reputation and popularity have soared over the last 12-18 months since his debut album, and I’m sure this will be warmly recieved by many as a result.

That upturn in fortunes for B.o.B manifests itself with a fantastic roster of producers and featured guests, with Eminem, T.I., Mos Def and Jim Jonsin all making appearances on the mixtape. His previous mixtape was released almost exactly a year ago and certainly had its moments, and hence I’m sure there will be some good highlights on this one too. Free grab below.

B.o.B-E.P.I.C. (Every Play Is Crucial)

R&B Fridays: Episode 128

An interesting collection of ‘mid-rangers’ this week, as 3 of the 4 included artists are of the sort who regularly release material and frequently collaborate with big name artists, but don’t quite seem to have fully nailed down a spot in their respective lanes. There’s always plenty of talent floating around in that middle ground, and inevitably it’s where we find the next big stars: time will tell if any of these guys are to be that breakout artist.

2 posts to catch up on from the week gone by, with Mike Posner releasing his first project since his debut album, and The Weekend unleashing his first ever music video (I use that term loosely). Click below for this week’s goods.

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Kano - Room Service: Make Me Proud

Kano announces a new mixtape (which is for the ladies) called Girls Over Guns, for which you can see the pretty cool artwork on the left. Not only this, but he also gave permission tonight for this track to be let go for us to hear!

He lays down some verses to Nicki Minaj’s and Drake’s Make Me Proud, which instantly improves the track (to my ears). Following on from his impressive Not 4 The A List exploits, it’s a good reminder of the versatility he has as an emcee.

Props for SoulCulture for the download, click here to get the track and to check out the tracklisting.

Quest - The Walk [Produced By Mt. Eden]

As someone who has a lot of time for Mt. Eden, in most part for the excellent dubstep remixes of mainstream tracks, I gave this a listen after stumbling upon it (props to the Gowhere hiphop lads!).

I didn’t (and still don’t) know much about Quest, but it’s testament to his ability that I found him to be the most impressive thing about this song.

Production wise this is what Mt. Eden did with Imogen Heap’s The Walk – providing a nice choppy but frenetic beat which Quest has no problem spitting in time with, displaying an excellent double-time flow, putting to shame a lot of rappers in the game right now. If you like some light hearted raps laced with a great flow, then this will be your thing. I’ll certainly be looking out for Quest’s future stuff. Download this track below.

Quest – The Walk

Tinie Tempah - Like It Or Love It ft. Wretch 32 & J. Cole

A few days late on this one, apologies! But on the upside: if you haven’t heard this yet then you can rectify that by grabbing it now.

Big look for the UK here with Tinie recruiting J. Cole for a track that will feature on his upcoming mixtape, Happy Birthday. Also enlisting one of my favourite emcees about in Wretch 32, he instantly makes this a track that will feature in my rotation for the foreseeable future. Download link below.

Tinie Tempah – Like It Or Love It ft. Wretch 32 & J. Cole

The Weeknd-The Knowing Video

Difficult to believe considering his popularity, but these are the first official visuals from The Weeknd, aptly set to the opening track on his first mixtape. He’s opted to debut in style with a mini-movie, and though this may be unpopular with his new mainstream fans, I suspect the earlier followers (who I’m assuming to be a little more artsy) may enjoy it.

The video is undoubtedly a little bizarre, but patience and focused viewing reveals it to be a good visualisation of the dark, ethereal nature of the audio. The video centres around the The Weeknd and a female who once shared a ‘world’, with the subsequent seperation causing The Weeknd’s world to to crumble. The female then steals his heart and unsuccessfully attempts to crush it, ending with her world then beginning to crumble, and a satisfying bit of closure as he finally ‘lets go’.

The visual effects used throughout are excellent, with the 2D ‘Jankyvision’ creating a mixture of realism and animation that adds surrealness to the apocalyptic scenes, whilst the space setting adds a real sense of importance and atmosphere, and the dark colour palette enhances the unsettling vibe around certain scenes. The often-subtle pointers toward the lyrics of the song are a nice touch, infusing a touch of regularity to counter-balance the unusual goings on throughout. One that needs to be viewed properly for full effect, and an enjoyable watch once you’ve done so. Grab this track on his House of Balloons mixtape here.

Mac Miller-Black Friday Mixtape

Firstly, congratulations to Mac for debuting at #1 in the US a few weeks ago. As the first independently-distributed album to top the charts since 1995 (Tha Dogg Pound, before you ask), he deserves huge credit for such incredible success.

Following right on the heels of that album is this mixtape, released by Mac’s former cohort DJ Capcom. Composed of ‘very old songs‘, these were recorded a couple of years back ‘when i was 16-17‘ (it’s easy to forget he’s only actually 19!), and will surely be a decent listen to his dedicated fanbase. I can’t fully count myself amongst that group though I certainly enjoy some of his material, and I’m sure Blue Slide Park will make for decent listening when I get around to it.

Mac Miller-Black Friday

Ludacris - Bada Boom (Big Sean & Drake Diss) [Video]

Luda returns to our screens with the visuals to his much talked about (somewhat delayed) response/diss to Big Sean and Drake questioning his use of the hashtag flow. It’s a good reminder of what Ludacris is actually capable of when he’s got some fire in the belly, I haven’t heard him this heated since he decided to Stomp on T.I.

The video itself is pretty decent, paying homage to The Fifth Element with the opening sequence – instead of war, the videos this benevolent woman sees are a collection of the biggest diss records of the last 20 years or so. If there was any doubt to Ludacris’ intentions with this song, there shouldn’t be after seeing this video; he feels pretty strongly about this! No idea why he’s waited a year to get this off his chest though.

Go grab the mixtape this is from by clicking here.

Lupe Fiasco-Friend Of The People Mixtape

Anticipated mixtape from Lupe Fiasco, and being the first project to follow his awful Lasers album, there’s a lot of expectation on this one from the longtime Lupe fans.

Early signs are mixed, with criticisms of the beat selection being rife, though the response to his raps seems generally more positive than those found on the aforementioned album. If his most recent track is anything to go by, the view that he’s delivered solid raps over questionable productions is quite understandable; should this be the case, I fear any hopes for a return to the excellent production and rapping found on his first two albums will be permanently dashed. With the mixed messages that followed Lasers‘ release, this seems a pivotal moment for Lupe in deciding whether to pursue a mainstream-friendly sound, or to cater for the dedicated hip-hop heads. Click below to find out which way he’s gone.

Lupe Fiasco-Friend Of The People

Blink-182-Wishing Well Video

One of my favourite songs from their thoroughly-excellent Neighborhoods album, and certainly one of the more mainstream-ready tracks.

The video is comprised of live show and backstage footage, much like the last video, and though it’s disappointing to not have a ‘real’ video, there’s no doubt that this still captures the essence of the track. Full of action and energy, there’s plenty of performance shots alongside the customary funny moments (there’s lots of crotch thrusting), packed around the vibrancy of the live crowds. Unfortunately (and annoyingly), they’ve not made it available for embedding, so you’ll have to click below and head over to get182.com to watch the clip.

Blink-182-Wishing Well Video

Kendrick Lamar and Busta Rhymes-Rigamortus Remix

Many people listed the original as their favourite track from Kendrick’s excellent Section.80, with his speedy yet laidback flow winning many hip-hop heads over. So, who better to grab on the remix than a man whose own quickfire flows have made a return to the spotlight in recent months?

The combination is a good one, as Kendrick’s very enjoyable verses are supplement by an equally-likeable contribution from Busta, who tones down his natural aggressiveness to fit the mood of the track, without sacrificing the quality of his delivery. The production is unaltered and rightfully so, with the jovial horn melodies adding to the frantic nature of the track in a manner that synergises well with the raps. Definitely one to grab whether you’ve heard the original or not.

Kendrick Lamar-Rigamortus Remix ft. Busta Rhymes

The Roots-Sleep Video

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us when we live.

The latest set of visuals from the upcoming undun album, with these set to the opening track of the album, and as the album is a story told in reverse this is one of the more revealing visuals from the series they’ve released. The revealing nature of it is not merely from its placement at the beginning of the album, but also as it works in sequence with the first video we were shown from the album, offering an alternate view on the killing that takes place and all but confirming the assumption that the hooded character was indeed Redford.

As with the previous videos, there are plenty of little details that suggest further messages. Most poignant is the sheer number of people that we see walk or run past the killed youth in the hazy background, with seemingly no-one stopping to actually help, clearly an indictment on the disaffected inhabitants of violence-infested locales such as the one we’ve been shown here and in the other videos. Worth a watch, and look out for that album in a couple of weeks.

J*Davey-New Designer Drug (Free Album)

It’s been a very long time coming, but finally J*Davey have come through with their first full album, and have (sort of) made it available for free. To elaborate, all you need to do is buy The Liner Notes digital booklet from the below link and the album comes for free: considering the grand total is $2.99, it’s a very small price to pay for music from one of the most diverse, genre-bending duos in the music game.

There are a couple of tracks that mildly dedicated followers will be familiar with, including the excellent Mama’s Back, the recent duo of Whatchalookin@ and Kill 4 Fun, and a couple of others. I’ve got no doubts that there will be a few more gems on this album, and I’m thoroughly excited to give it a go. Grab it for yourself below.

J*Davey-New Designer Drug


He’s been absolutely relentless (and as a result, generous!) with new releases in the last month or so, and there’s even nore new material from Common’s upcoming The Dreamer, The Believer with this track stream.

A soulful yet lively effort, the production boasts slick, light key work that blends excellently with the crashing percussion, and equally well with the male vocals on the hook and female vocals on the bridge. Common switches to a calmer rapping style than on the blistering Sweet, and comes through with a more uplifting message via some solid storytelling and consistent flows. The overall package is a very smooth listen that clearly draws influence from the Be/Finding Forever sound, and combines that with a hint of urgency and passion.

It’s shaping up to be an extremely diverse album from the tracks we’ve heard thus far (props to No I.D. for serving up such a range of productions), and the one consistent factor throughout has been Common’s tangible hunger for rapping. Can’t wait for that album on 20th December.

Young Jeezy, Jay-Z and Andre 3000-I Do

Thug Motivation 103 is seemingly just around the corner, and the most anticipated track from the project emerges, as the Snowman grabs two of the game’s icons for one of the year’s better hip-hop lineups.

A very bright, perky sample sets a tone of positivity from the offset, with luscious bass amply supporting it throughout. Whilst it’s an uplifting production, it doesn’t overshadow the vocal work as many of these sort of productions can, and that’s just as well with three very enjoyable verses from each rapper. Each artist takes turns rapping about their siginifcant other, with Jeezy’s slow, husky raps opening things up in style, whilst Jay follows up and really throws back to the early 00′s, as his lady-centric raps effortlessly take to this soulful production. 3 Stacks closes the affair out and much like Jay, the throwback vibe is stamped all over his verse, as Dre’s subject and style slide onto this beat smoothly throughout. A very likeable slice of rap.

Young Jeezy-I Do ft. Jay-Z and Andre 3000

50 Cent-What Up Gangsta Pt. 2

Out of nowhere, 50 decided to let loose of the official ‘sequel’ to one of his most popular tracks, the speaker-rattling What Up Gangsta from his classic Get Rich or Die Tryin’ album.

Unquestionably, it’s a ploy to bring a little more credence to his somewhat-ignored musical output these days, and as a result the audio doesn’t match up to its predecessor at all. The heavy-hitting, head-nodding vibe of the original is replaced with a much lighter, quicker-paced track, and whilst the verses are ‘gutter’ enough, the hook feels very forced and lacks any real catchiness or memorable moment. Generally, the track feels like its missing the passion and intensity found on the predecessor, and it’s those factors that also seem to be missing from 50′s work in the last 18 months. Credit to the man for his work outside of hip-hop though, and much love should be shown for his recent Street King project.

50 Cent-What Up Gangsta Pt. 2

Mike Posner-The Layover Mixtape

As promised, Mike Posner drops off his first new project since his 31 Minutes To Takeoff album, and there’s a ton of potential in this heavily-stacked mixtape.

A huge 21 tracks have made the lineup, with a good mix of covers and original material, whilst the features are definitely plentiful with Bun B, Elzhi, Casey Veggies, Machine Gun Kelly and many more hopping along with Mike for this mixtape. Clever little move from Mike adding in some funny subtitles to each track, which I suppose is both entertaining and informative (‘Drive to This’, ‘Fall Asleep To This’ and so on!), and also suggests there’s a good diversity of styles on show. Grab the project for free below.

Mike Posner-The Layover

DJ Premier, Nas, The Berklee Symphony Orchestra-Regeneration Video

I must admit I slept on this track a little bit when it dropped a few weeks ago. But oh how I was wrong.

The visuals immeasurably add to the epicness of this track and paint a vivid picture of Premo’s journey in creating this envelope-pushing piece of history. After brief shots of Premo learning how to compose, the visual cuts back between the symphony hall and Preem’s studio equipped with Nas spitting his infectious poetry. I know this wasn’t supposed to be about Nas, but I just wished there was another verse floating around out there somewhere. We can only wait and hope.

Read Ajay’s thoughts on the track itself. 

Young Jeezy ft. T.I. - F.A.M.E. [Video]

This song was like an announcement that both Jeezy and T.I. are back to infectiously infest our airwaves, and the video is a good job of delivering that message too. Nice materialistic video, which does well in conveying the message that the problems these stars have to go through, whilst bad in itself, ultimately is nothing compared to certain hardships, encapsulated perfectly by the following Jeezy lines from this song:

“Sometimes you wanna scream to God, but he can’t hear you
And even if you did, this’ll probably be his answer
F*** you complainin’ ’bout? It ain’t like you got cancer”

Even so, these fellas have no time for haters it seems.

So Jeezy’s album, TM103, is supposedly out soon? Looks like the Snowman is back in time for Christmas!

See what I did there? I’ll get my coat.

R&B Fridays: Episode 127

Why yes, it is a Friday!

2 relative newcomers and 2 very established artists in this week’s episode, providing plenty of diversity for all to enjoy. Whilst we’re on that number, there are 2 related posts to catch up on from the week gone by, with a SBTRKT remix of Frank Ocean’s Thinking About You, and a track from Mike Posner’s upcoming The Layover mixtape, with the full project set to drop at some point this weekend.

Click below for this week’s tasty morsels of audio replenishment.
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Mr. J. Medeiros-Saudade (Free Album)

Dedicated OTU fans will recall a rather excellent track from Medeiros back in June by the name of Neon Lights, one so enjoyable that it’s yet to actually leave my ever-changing ‘go-to’ playlist on iTunes. That certainly speaks volumes for the quality of this track in a genre saturated with short-term replayability.

Onto more pressing issues: Medeiros has made  Saudade, the album Neon Lights is taken from, available for free download but only for a short period. Having been out for a few months, the album is usually only available in the usual digital outlets, and I’m sure this temporary show of generosity will help to increase his buzz and also give those of us who enjoyed his single a reminder to give the full album a listen. Free grab below, and if the aforementioned single is any indication of the album’s quality, we’re in for a good album.

Mr. J. Medeiros-Saudade

Frank Ocean-Thinking About You (SBTRKT Remix)

Good and bad sides to this one, from the masked man with a dislike of vowels. The subtlety of change in the verses is excellent, with a slight tempo shift, more reverb and a couple of other small additions that add gentle originality to Frank’s excellent track without being dominating. However, the same can’t be said for the hook, which features an incredibly grating synth that sounds horribly out of place, both in the context of the remix and of the original. I’m sure the techno heads will love the inclusion, but for me it’s a horrible distraction away from the best part of Frank’s vocal performance on the track, and really doesn’t do that original hook any justice.

Busta Rhymes and Chris Brown-Why Stop Now

Fresh from announcing his official signing to Cash Money (along with Mystikal, who is still rapping apparently), Busta drops off his latest single with Chris Brown coming in for the assist.

A bass-heavy, relatively minimal production, fans of Chris’ Look At Me Now will enjoy the beat here, though the highlight is undoubtedly Busta’s lightning-quick rapping, as he comes through with some incredible speed on his verses (the first in particular) to anchor this track admirably. Breezy’s hook is a little uninspired in truth, and whilst I’m glad he’s not been forced into the powerful-style hooks he’s normally associated with on mainstream features, it still comes up a little short for me. Worth grabbing for those Busta verses though.

Busta Rhymes-Why Stop Now ft. Chris Brown

The Roots-Stomp Video

Sometimes you have to pick the gun up to put the gun down.

Prolific is an understatement as we’re treated to the third set of visuals from The Roots’ upcoming undun album, and it’s another short yet effective video in the Redford Stephens story. The facelessness (new word?) seen in the previous video is further continued here with Redford adopting a plain-faced disguise for his various violent crimes, with the nature of the robberies certainly adds a dark, realistic feel.

The faceless crimes enhance that ‘just another bad youth’ image, one that the preceding quote and the previous videos suggest will be stripped away with further video and audio from the album. Undoubtedly, this is probably the most engrossing project currently active in hip-hop, and once again I’m very excited for the full album to drop on 9th December.

Blue Fiveone-Out the BLUE

We were treated to some enjoyable material from RDGLDGRN recently, and now it’s Blue’s turn to drop some good content in the wake of The Five One’s dissolution.

Sampling The Roots’ excellent A Piece of Light interlude from their How I Got Over album, Blue grabs hold of the soft, soulful production to let loose his first slice of solo material, and does a solid job throughout. A barrage of honest raps ensues, and whilst inevitably many will search for any shots or references to his former bandmates, credit should be given to some good introspection and insight, solid wordplay and a steady, consistent flow. The gentle production contrasts nicely with the raps, and the melodic vocals towards the end add a nice flash of diversity to the track, making this an easy listen that will slide onto many playlists.

Blue Fiveone-Out the BLUE