The 5 Defining Moments of 2011: #5

Welcome to our end of year special, and once again we’ve changed the format (here for 2010,and here, here, here and here for 2009). Whilst we enjoyed last year’s Top MC’s round-up, the reasons for change were two-fold: firstly, the sheer dearth of ‘top MC’s’ this year, and secondly the need to incorporate the many other genres that we’re fans of.

To satisfy that requirement, Indi and myself have compiled 5 moments (we use that term loosely, as many/most of them aren’t exact moments) that we feel accurately represent and summarise 2011 from our collective perspective. As expected, we’ve cheated in places by grouping certain things together, but I’m sure you’ll all see its for the greater good. Or, alternatively, you’ll understand that we do it because we feel like it.

As per every year, many of you will agree, many will disagree but frankly we’re glad you have an opinion and would love to hear it. Without further ado, click on to see the moment(s) that kick off our top 5 countdown.

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Frank Ocean-4 Tears

A rare blast of official material from Frank, accompanied by the statement that “i just listened to this a few times for myself. figured maybe some else needed to hear it. it’s called ‘4 tears’.”

It’s only a short effort at just under 2 minutes but is full of the originality and verve that makes Frank’s tracks so irresistably unique. Of course, that’s largely down to his superb command over melodies, and here he injects a raw, emotional style into the simple, open lyricism that makes for a passionate blend, without ever straying far from his naturally laidback nature. An enjoyable burst of music, and Frank Ocean fans will love this.

Frank Ocean-4 Tears

Gilbere Forte-Sweet Freestyle

Exactly the type of rapper that should be taking this production on, the hungry, passionate style of Gilbere Forte slides in excellently on the head-nodding No. I.D. production. Lots of energy and intensity throughout, with a general air of confidence that’s usually found with Gilbere tracks, the freestyle boasts a steady flow and some nice lines to make this a very worthwhile remix that fans of the original will surely enjoy.

Ghetts - Momentum [Mixtape Hosted by DJ Whoo Kid]

Ghetts becomes the latest UK artist to get the DJ Whoo Kid mixtape treatment and brings us 19 tracks of new material. One worth checking out, including features from Giggs and Devlin. Download below.

Ghetts – Momentum (DJ Whoo Kid Mixtape)

Tinie Tempah - The Motto (Merry Xmas Freestyle)

Tinie Tempah wishes us a merry Christmas with this little freestyle vid. Rapping over Drake and Lil’ Wayne’s track, The Motto (for which they just released a video for), Tinie flows pretty nice to this beat. Pretty cool cameo from the delightful Ed Sheeran too.

Go grab Tinie Tempah’s Happy Birthday EP from here. As you can tell he likes special days.

Fabolous - There Is No Competition III: Death Comes In 3's [Mixtape]

Merry Christmas to you all! Fabolous has a present for us, the third (and final?) mixtape of his There Is No Competition series.

Given the quality of his recent mixtapes I expect this to be good too. Also, must add I really love the artwork for this! Download below.

Fabolous – There Is No Competition III: Death Comes In 3′s [Mixtape Hosted by DJ Drama]

Childish Gambino - Heartbeat [Live on Letterman]

Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino is a name that you should be hearing more and more of in 2012 (especially seeing as the awesome comedy that he stars in, Community, is currently on hiatus!).

Performing live on Letterman, Heartbeat is one of the leading lights on his current album, Camp. Great to see him perform this, as he gears up for two London shows in January (on the 25th and 26th) the first of which sold out (I have a spare ticket btw if anyone wants to be super nice to me) within 10 minutes! That just gives you an idea towards his burgeoning reputation.

XV - The Kick [Video]

Very poignant video here from XV as he gives us the visuals for his excellently atmospheric track, The Kick. The track samples a familiar track (familiar to those of you who’ve seen Inception!), and provides the backdrop for some tantalising introspection from XV.

I don’t have too much to add in terms of the analysis of the track as Ajay covered it well here (where you can also download this song).

Game and Tyler, The Creator-Martians vs. Goblins Video

I’ve not yet listened to The R.E.D. Album in full, but there’s no doubt this was the best single released prior to the full album’s release. The reasoning is three-fold: the production is hypnotising, the blend of artists works (including Wayne, who doesn’t appear in the video), and Tyler (as his Wolf Haley persona) surprises listeners by coming through with what is the show-stealing verse.

The video is as odd as you’d expect, taking place in a mental asylum of Arkham proportions, and allowing Game to have a little fun with the visual output. Lots of aggressive, psychotic mannerisms and expressions from Game, blending with the general lunacy well, whilst Tyler’s appearance is relatively tame by comparison as he mostly plays around with a cat. An entertaining enough video nonetheless, largely thanks to being heavily supported by a good track. Grab the audio on Game’s latest LP now.

Big Sean and 2 Chainz-Keep It Gee

After catching an unofficial leak a few days ago, Sean wisely decided to let loose of the final, mastered version from his upcoming FFOE (Finally Famous Over Everything) mixtape. Be warned: the reasoning for spelling ‘G’ phonetically is NOT explained.

Regardless of that ambiguity, it’s an enjoyable effort from the Detroit MC. The production is atmospheric and packed with lavish levels of bass, with an air of opulence that matches Sean’s subject matter. He tailors his delivery well too, as a more whispery style occassionally slips in alongside his regular laidback style, and as with every 2nd track that’s released into the hip-hop sphere these days, 2 Chainz is on the feature with a solid verse. Has a name change ever improved anyone’s career as rapidly as it has for 2 Chainz/Tity Boi? A nod-your-head, chillout effort that won’t spark any musical revolutions, but is an effective, enjoyable listen.

Big Sean-Keep It Gee ft. 2 Chainz

Pusha T-Sweet Freestyle

A quick hit from Pusha T, as he spends just over a minute having a play with Common’s Sweet instrumental. Big fan of the original and the instrumental, and Pusha comes through with a very enjoyable set of bars, though it’s disappointing he didn’t go any longer on this. Naturally, many will be looking to see if Pusha’s fired any Drake shots as he has been perceived as doing so previously, and admittedly there are one or two interesting lines in this…or I’m just hoping too hard for the ignition of a rap war.

Pusha T-Sweet Freestyle

Drake, Tyga and Lil' Wayne-The Motto Video

The second OVOXO release for today, and for what is probably my favourite song from Drake’s Take Care album. The bounce, energy and verve of the track is incredibly infectious, and certainly has a nice knock when turned up in the car.

The video generally keeps that upbeat vibe going, with plenty of action and scene switches in Drake’s verse enhancing the audio’s dynamism. That’s then counterbalanced by a more relaxed set of scenes for Wayne’s verse, matching his more laidback deliver in what remains the highlight of the track. I’ve criticised Wayne’s work in recent times, but his verse here has a real addictive quality that is visualised well with a charismatic appearance from the New Orleans native. Tyga’s managed to creep his way onto this version too, and though I’m not a big follower of his music, he does OK with his verse, largely because it seems his voice has finally broken.

Grab the track on Drake’s Take Care, available now.

The Weeknd-Echoes of Silence

Much like its predecessors, the final part of The Weeknd’s trilogy arrives completely unexpectedly to close off what’s been a huge year for the singer.

I was a little disappointed with Thursday, and whilst there were a couple of excellent tracks, it lacked the cohesiveness that made House of Balloons such a great listen. Early signs suggest Echoes is an improvement in that sense, and hopefully his recent exposure to pastures new by featuring on one of the year’s best selling albums will see further evolution stylistically. With the trilogy now closed off, it’s fair to assume he’ll now be focusing on his official debut album, with which I’m sure he’ll experience much success in 2012. For now, grab Echoes of Silence below.

The Weeknd-Echoes of Silence

Asher Roth-Pabst and Jazz (Mixtape)

Admittedly, I’m slightly confused. The talk from Asher going into this tape indicated this was going to be a purchasable release rather than a free mixtape, but I’m certainly grateful that it’s now emerged as a free mixtape.

The four or five tracks that had already been released from this tape are all of a very good standard, and I’ve got no doubt Asher will continue that consistency with the rest of the tape. Plenty of good guest spots throughout, and his recent excellency on Blended Babies instrumentals has resulted in that production outfit supplying 14 of the 16 beats on the tape. Should be a great listen, and you can grab it for free below.

Asher Roth-Pabst and Jazz

Lloyd, Trey Songz and Young Jeezy-Be The One Video

Going into Lloyd’s King of Hearts release a few months ago, this was undoubtedly the track that really excited me and got plenty of rotation. I’ve somehow conspired to overlook listening to the album (which is odd, considering my long-term support for Lloyd), but that doesn’t change the fact that this is undoubtedly one of the year’s better R&B efforts.

The upbeat, energetic style of the track is matched by the charisma and confidence of all artists involved, whilst the intensity and moodiness of the audio which is captured excellently by the dark lighting that engulfs many of the scenes, along with the sexually aggressive male-female interactions (the clear crotch grab by one of the models on Lloyd, for one!). It’s a fast-moving, fiery video that has an all-too-rare unfiltered, raw feel about it, and is certainly worth a watch for a refresh of the excellent audio. Grab Lloyd’s King of Hearts on iTunes now.

Common-Celebrate Video

Common has been ceaselessly releasing material in the run up to his album release, and on the eve of The Dreamer, The Believer reaching fans (legally), we’re treated to the fourth video from the album.

The video begins in an extremely feelgood fashion, focusing on two different celebrations which ultimately end in the same sort of positivity, and that upbeat vibe is continued as the fantastic audio enters the fray. The light, jaunty melodies of the track are matched nicely with the energetic, uplifting visuals throughout, and crucially the video avoids over-complication by simply collecting together various celebratory scenes to enhance the audio. The finer details are still present, with Common dressed as sharp as ever, and a couple of all-star cameos mixed in the action-packed scenes, and whilst it’s not a video that you’ll clamour to watch again and again, it’s a good representation of the audio.

Be sure to grab the album on its release tomorrow!

Azealia Banks-Liquorice

There’s a ton of buzz around Azealia at the moment, and with many feeling the multi-talented, eclectic artist is destined to dominate 2012, here’s a rather good example of just why that may happen.

Blending a house style with a hip-hop sensibility, the production has a retro yet unique sound that will certainly win over the mainstream music fans, whilst also harbouring an appeal to those who loved the UK garage sounds of the early 00′s. Azealia demonstrates her rapping and singing talents throughout, with verses boasting an energetic, speedy delivery that contrasts excellently with the soulful vocals on the hook. Definitely worth a listen, and most certainly one to watch over the next few months.

R&B Fridays: Episode 131

This is the first line that sets up the post.

This is the second line that recaps on any relevant posts.

This is the third line that is often filler.

This is the final line that leads you into the click below.
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Childish Gambino – Heartbeat (Violin Cover)

Since when did the electric violin exist?!

I’m glad it does, as Gambino fan Jason Yang takes the time out to put his to great use with a fantastic cover of Heartbeat. From the offset, it’s clear we’re in for an excellent treat as the soft vocals of the intro are covered smoothly by the violin work, before the cover really explodes into life as the original does. The first ‘verse’ has a couple of moments where the string work goes ever so slightly offbeat, but Yang recovers it instantly and brings his best once again on the hook.

A very sharp, original take on Heartbeat and certainly worth a watch for fans (and really, who isn’t?) of the original. Read a review of Childish Gambino’s Camp here, stream the album here, and buy it here.

Tinie Tempah-Happy Birthday EP

I’ve never been the biggest fan of this guy’s music (though undoubtedly, some of it is irresistable in a club!), but he certainly has his fans and the recent release with J. Cole and Wretch 32 from this project wasn’t a bad track by any means.

The full (free) project includes more big guest spots, including G.O.O.D. Music’s Big Sean and Pusha T, UK favourites Giggs and Chipmunk, and many other names from both sides of the Atlantic. I’m sure there will be a couple of entertaining club stompers on this for the mainstream heads, and you can grab the whole 8-track project for free below.

Tinie Tempah-Happy Birthday EP

Asher Roth and Action Bronson-Choices

Released by Asher moments ago on his Twitter account, Asher links up with the fast-rising Action Bronson for the latest track from his upcoming Pabst & Jazz project (dropping next week).

Blended Babies serve up a retro-inspired, funk guitar-driven production that has an irresistably smooth vibe that will certainly appeal to many. It’s an easygoing, organic production that matches Ash’s laidback raps perfectly, whilst Bronson’s more shrill raps contrasts favourably with both the production style and Asher’s raps. I’ve not managed to hear much of AB’s work but he comes through strongly here with a tidy flow that leaves a good first impression. Solid all-rounder.

Drake and The Weeknd-Crew Love (Love Thy Brother Remix)

Many people’s favourite track from Take Care (I like the production but I’m less keen on the vocal and lyrical work, like much of the album), and it’s taken for a spin around the electro block with this thumping remix.

Dominating synths, sharp electronic samples and a booming percussion combine themselves for an enjoyable dance track, and really there’s only a light sprinkling of Drake/The Weeknd’s vocal, with relatively muted samples that add a subtle touch of R&B to the lively, positive production. Oddly for a remix, it bears no resemblance to the original but is a strong enough piece of original production to warrant a listen.

Ghetts - On A Level Remix ft. Scorcher, Kano & Wretch 32 [Video]

Some UK goodness to brighten up your week, Scorcher, Kano and Wretch 32 jump on the remix for Ghetts’ successful On a Level track. Like the original, this song’s production is unbelievably disjointed, but it works. Drum & Bass elements as well as some garage and dance along with a more traditional sound, it’s actually quite hard to describe how the production flows on this one, it’s certainly not linear.

In these four artists though the beat’s eclectic nature is tailor-made for each of their flows and that’s why it works. Scorcher impresses and Kano continues the excellent return to form he’s brought in 2011. Accompanied by Wretch 32 who has surely got the most chilled and best feel-good flow in the game. Go buy the track from iTunes by clicking the link below.

Ghetts – On A Level Remix ft. Scorcher, Kano & Wretch 32

Common-Raw (How You Like It)

This man can do no wrong. Another track emerges from next week’s release The Dreamer, The Believer, and once again Common comes absolutely on point with his raps whilst No I.D. further cements his position as one of hip-hop’s finest producers.

Head-nodding percussion, hypnotising guitar plucks and miscellaneous other instrumentation combines for an organic sounding production, and No I.D. embellishes that soundscape with a mellow vocal sample on the hook. Common blends the aggressiveness of Sweet‘s lyricism with the laidback flow he’s primarily utilised in recent years, providing a set of raps that will undoubtedly engage almost any hip-hop fan. The combination? Raw hip-hop. Just how you like it.

Common-Raw (How You Like It)

XV-Chaka Shao Khan

I saw the title and did wonder whether a mixture of the old-school songstress and Mortal Kombat villain would look anything short of horrifying. Thankfully, XV cleared that up for us with the artwork. Panic. Over.

Unsurprisingly, a Chaka Khan sample is used for the melody here, and ties nicely to the rest of the lively, key-driven production that DJ Tech-Neek serves up, and as a beat that has a mid-2000′s Kanye vibe, it’ll win many fans. Vizzy’s at home on almost any production, and one as easygoing as this proves no different as he provides an energetic yet controlled set of raps that further enhances his status as one of the more consistent MCs in the game. Props for that Triple H reference too.

XV-Chaka Shao Khan

Lupe Fiasco-American Terrorist III

I’ve not listened to his recent mixtape, but it’s fair to say his material over the last year has met a mixed response. This track, however, shows signs of recovery and is an enjoyable listen.

If Daft Punk ever decided to take a slightly Gothic twist, it would probably sound like this production. Retro electronica, a spacey atmosphere and a generally dark vibe blend surprisingly well together, complimenting Lupe’s distorted vocals, and certainly the board work deserves credit for taking a worthwhile risk in its style. Lupe’s raps are decent, occassionally threatening to burst into controversy and retreating back to a more laidback style, whilst loosely keeping a thread of story together through the verses. Not quite on par with the original American Terrorist (does part II even exist?!), but a decent listen nonetheless.

Lupe Fiasco-American Terrorist III

Common-Sweet Commentary

Com’s been releasing daily video commentaries on each track from his album, and truthfully this is the one that most of us have been waiting for.

He’s unapologetic and succinct with his breakdown, explaining how the lyrical onslaught began with an ego trip, and evolved into ‘stepping into the ring’ with the ‘softness’ that currently engulfs the hip-hop game. It’s clear even from the brief moments he touches the latter subject in this video that he’s suppressing a little bit of fire and anger towards ‘the soft cats’ (let’s be honest, it’s pretty clear who he must be primarily referring to!).

You can check out the Sweet video here, and be sure to grab that album next Tuesday!

R&B Fridays: Episode 130

Nothing to really recap on in the world of R&B this past week, it’s been a rather slow one.

Wait, what? Why is Indi in charge of this week’s R&B Friday and where the hell is Ajay? Well folks, he went overboard on his pump level this weekend and he’s been locked up for everyone’s safety (don’t worry though, with his legally entitled one phone call, he hand-picked this week’s tracks for me to review anyway).

Click on below to get hold of this week’s holy trinity of R&B goodness.

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50 Cent-The Big 10 Mixtape

We’re back!

As promised with the recent release of Stop Crying, 50 drops off the full The Big 10 project and the aforementioned track certainly has expectation and anticipation levels at a high. Only a 12-track mixtape (spoken like a true spoilt hip-hop fan), but it seems to be all original material which will hopefully provide a few repeat-worthy tracks. Unfortunately, Tony Yayo is one of the two featured artists (interesting that 50′s not included the heavily-buzzing Lloyd Banks), but I’m sure you’ll be able to look past that if the rest of the music holds up. Free grab below.

50 Cent-The Big 10