DJ Khaled-I Wish You Would ft. Kanye West and Rick Ross

YMCMB’s resident town crier always reels in the big names for assists, and this cut is no different as two of hip-hop’s luminaries (and frequent Khaled collaborators) join him for his latest single.

Rapper-turned-producer-turned-rapper/producer Hit-Boy helms this one, serving up a Lex Luger-esque beat that’s full of ominous synth and punchy bass, coming at a menacing pace for the verses before switching up with a little more intensity for the hook. Kanye opens up with a verse that probably won’t go down in history as a game-changer but a solid one nonetheless, though his hook is much more notable thanks to an influx of emotion. Ross switches things back to a more chilled level for his verse, before ‘Ye steps back in once more. It’s nothing more than OK for me, but I’m sure plenty will enjoy this.

Big Boi-Gossip ft. UGK and Big K.R.I.T.

It’s a Southern party for Big Boi’s first single from his next solo album, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, as the Outkast member grabs newbie Big K.R.I.T along with Houston old heads Bun B and Pimp C (from beyond the grave).

Heavy bass and a simple vocal sample anchor the track, whilst a few additional hits of keys, synths and electronic samples interject themselves throughout for little injections of liveliness, and the result is a beat that feels very much new-school (very close to something The Cool Kids would produce) but with a heavy Southern swing thrown into the mix. The raps are strong from top to bottom, courtesy of a series of excellent flows from each artist, in addition to Big Boi’s wordplay, K.R.I.T.’s slick delivery, and Bun’s effortless presence. A solid single that’ll play well enough in the mainstream crowd, whilst satisfying the hip-hop heads.

Cheri Coke and MeLo-X-X/COKE EP

Cheri Coke and MeLo-X presents the brain child of late night sessions at the Bermuda home studio in Brooklyn. The X/COKE EP is an exploration into a new plateau for Cheri and MeLo respectively. From bass knocking rhythms to spaced out echos that travel around the proverbial sound scape this project is a natural high for all who listen.

Big fan of MeLo-X’s production style, and pairing him with a smooth vocalist in Cheri Coke is a move destined to really bring the best out of those beats. I’ve heard one track from this already, Free, and thoroughly enjoyed the laidback vibes of the song, making for the perfect relaxation music on a nice summer day. Free project too, so you’ve really got nothing to lose; hit that link below for the stream and download.

Cheri Coke and MeLo-X-X/COKE EP

Alicia Keys-New Day

Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz don’t just make babies, with the husband and wife combo working excellently as Swizz lays down a beat for Alicia’s first single from her upcoming album.

The production is very lively, with a marching band-esque percussion really injecting some power and energy into the track, whilst the progressive keys and thick synths add an uplifting vibe to the track. Of course, Alicia rarely disappoints with the vocals and delivers a rousing performance, matching the positive style of the beat step-for-step with a lyrical and vocal set that moves away from her usual melodic style into a more pop-driven fare that feels much more positive than previous material. Probably one that’ll get much more club airplay than her back catalogue, this is one the mainstream heads will definitely enjoy.

Lupe Fiasco-Around My Way (Freedom Ain't Free) Video

Huge fan of the song, and mere days after releasing the second track from Food & Liquor 2: The Great American Rap Album pt. 1, Lupe comes through with visuals for the first single.

On the surface, it’s surprisingly different for a Lupe video, by virtue of appearing to be a much more youthful, typical rap video. However, when combined with some of the lyricism and visual features such as the cartoon characters, it is instead poking a little fun at the fantasy lifestyle rappers such as himself as supposed to lead: Driving fancy cars, walking around rapping in the streets, smoking weed and so on. Generally, Lupe’s disassociated himself with such stereotypes, and hence you get the impression he’s sending out a message here. The moment you realise that, the video moves back into regular Lupe territory. For fans less accquainted with Lupe, this just looks like a solid, normal hip-hop video with no underlying message, and hence its actually a prime contender for some mainstream traction whilst still satisfying the fans who ‘get it’.

Great track, smart video and I’m really looking forward to the album release on 25th September.

Shady Blaze-G.O.D.

Having really enjoyed one of his tracks almost a year back, it seems odd I’ve not kept closer tabs on Shady. Nonetheless, he’s back in our sights with a great release that’s been turning heads for the last 24 hours.

I couldn’t pinpoint the sample (and neither could the rest of the internet, it seems) but it eventually struck me: Shady’s reworked J. Cole’s Blow Up from the Friday Night Lights mixtape to excellent effect here, making much better use of the sample and delivering raps that are quite simply superb. Shady’s flow is incredibly watertight throughout the track, switching between various speeds with great ease, whilst still having enough left to drop off an anthemic hook. The hunger’s definitely there in his voice and Shady’s ‘come up’ raps are a passionate, skillful listen that will continue to get plenty of deserved attention in hip-hop circles.

ANTHM-Joy & Pain ft. Freddie Gibbs

I caught one of ANTHM’s tracks, Life Imitates Art, a while back and thoroughly enjoyed it, and having recently stumbled on another gem from him I’ve got good hopes for the rapper.

Grabbing a nice Freddie Gibbs co-sign (plus a Blu feature on the full Joy & Pain EP), this track boasts a superb production that seems to constantly change. The first verse utilises minimal percussion to enhance the intense synths, before switching to a quicker pace in a hook that samples the beat from Jesse Boykins III’s I Can’t Stay. Towards the end of the hook and for Gibbs’ verse however, there’s a prominent electronica-style melody that brings a real atmospheric vibe to the track, whilst the final verse brings the aforementioned sample to the forefront. It’s a dynamic beat that’s seems to grow in stature as the song develops, a feature compliment by raps that begin with introspection and end with positivity. Sadly, I’m out of space to do justice to the raps, but I’d wholly recommend this as essential hip-hop listening. You can grab the track as part of the full free EP below.

ANTHM-Joy & Pain EP

August Alsina-Sucka ft. Lloyd

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Lloyd, and he generously took to Twitter to let loose this single with upcomer August Alsina.

It’s a pretty good R&B collaboration from the duo, and makes for surprisingly refreshing listen in a music environment that’s just not churning out (non-dance infused) R&B at the minute. August opens with a passionate performance that makes for a good introduction to what he can bring to the table, before those trademark tones of Lloyd come through to really bring the song up another level. The two trade vocals towards the end to good effect, and close off what is a solid jam that’ll impress the R&B and pop heads.

Jared Evan-4th Chapter EP

Jared’s hybrid sound was a little hit-and-miss early in his career, but over the last year (approximately) there’s been a marked improvement in the consistency and as a result, the combination of alternative, pop, R&B and hip-hop that he brings to the table sounds increasingly impressive.

This release marks his debut EP, an 8-track effort produced by !illmind, Ill Factor and himself, and from the few tracks I’ve heard from it has the makings of being a real breakout project for Jared. There are no features and no big-name co-signs (though I recall he’s received plenty in the past), and instead Jared’s walking this one alone in an attempt to really cement a position in a music game that’s primed for another hybrid star. Time will tell if Jared can pull it off, and you can be a part of the progress by grabbing the free EP below.

Jared Evan-4th Chapter

Childish Gambino-One Up

Childish Gambino is set to drop off his next mixtape, Royalty, on 4th July and on a stop-off at a US radio station he let loose of another track from the project.

As a result it’s just a radio rip for now, but I’m sure that’s enough to whet the appetite ahead of that release next Wednesday. It’s markedly different to almost anything we’ve heard from CG before (and could have featured in this live performance), with a dark, intense production that lends itself to raps that are harsher and a touch more aggressive than any of his previous material. It’s not quite blood and thunder yet, but it’s a step away from the lighter, more pop-oriented material that he’s released, and hence is a good show of variety. Whilst many Gambino fans won’t enjoy this, this was a direction that was expected after watching the aforementioned performance, and as the first track of this ilk to actually emerge, I’m sure instead he’ll gain many more hip-hop fans with this one.

Lupe Fiasco-Bitch Bad

The second release from the upcoming Food & Liquor 2: The Great American Rap Album Pt.1, set for release on 25th September, and expectations are high following the enjoyable Around My Way.

It’s not quite as immediately-gripping as the aforementioned track, instead it’s one that packs in the kind of lyricism that needs a few listens, and is a far cry from the travesty that was Lasers. The beat has a recent-Kanye West vibe to hit, with a production that sits somewhere between mainstream acceptability and head-nodding hip-hop fare, largely held together by a hardworking, heavy bass. Lupe’s verses are a nice mix of intelligent and accessible, as he keeps the subject matter clever with a commentary on stereotypes of women (and men) inside and outside of hip-hop, in a performance that will draw comparison with the similarly-styled subjects in Dumb It Down. Likeable track that will improve with every listen.

Masspike Miles-Skky Miles EP

The R&B game hasn’t provided much by way of quality for months now, but Masspike Miles is one of the few emerging artists who has delivered some good material.

As far as EPs go this is actually relatively lengthy, coming in at a healthy 10 tracks, whilst the MMG crooner grabs a few rappers along for verses with appearances from Ace Hood, Wiz Khalifa and Torch. If you’re unfamiliar with this guy’s work, I’d highly recommend giving his previous and recent releases a look over here, and I’m sure that’ll fully convince you to head below and pick up this free EP.

Masspike Miles-Skky Miles

Frank Ocean-Channel Orange Artwork and Tracklist

One of the most anticipated projects of the year, and the artwork and tracklist for Frank Ocean’s debut album were revealed late last night.

The artwork is pretty minimal, in keeping with Frank’s generally unfussy nature, and whilst it probably won’t inspire any artistic visions, it will certainly catch the attention of shoppers when sitting on the shelves.

The tracklist contains a few tracks Frank fans will recognise, including the much-loved Thinkin Bout You, the recently-released Pyramids, and a new version of White, his solo effort on the recent Odd Future Tape Vol. 2, that features John Mayer. The other features on the album are both noteworthy, as Odd Future’s Earl Sweatshirt and the legendary Andre 3000 join up with Frank to offer a helping hand. One notable is how many of the track titles seem to be related to those around them (5, 6 and 7 for example), and I hope that leads to some storytelling theme across the album. Click below to see the full 17-track list.
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Bloc Party-We Found Love Cover and Flux (Live)

Bloc Party made their long-awaited return to the live scene last night, performing at Camden’s Koko in what I’m advised was an excellent comeback show. By all accounts, Kele and the band have really improved their live show, and it seems this video has emerged as a highlight of the night.

Flux is definitely the favourite track of many from Bloc’s back catalogue, and last night they opted to mix it up a little by briefly covering Rihanna’s ubiquitous hit We Found Love for the intro to the track. It actually ends up working pretty well as an intro, helped along by plenty of crowd participation, and the slowed-down cover leads seamlessly into the intense, pulsating production of Flux.

Certainly worth a watch (the audio quality is surprisingly decent), and this will definitely raise anticipation ahead of that Four album, due for release on 20th August.

Asher Roth-Good Morning View

Some very likeable newness from Asher, which I’m going to assume and hope is from his upcoming Is This Too Orange? album.

The title and artwork actually capture the essence of the song brilliantly, as the smooth yet lively instrumentation genuinely has that early morning sunrise vibe to it, combining guitar plucks, soft keys and easygoing percussion to be perky enough to grab your attention but with enough mellowness to prevent it from becoming overly energetic. Asher’s work matches up to those qualities excellently, delivering a chilled out set of verses with a summer-centric subject matter, alongside a catchy and upbeat hook that is kept short and sweet, ensuring the track anchors around the detail in the verses rather than the hook. A great summer jam from Asher, and I’ll be giving this one a lot of time over the coming weeks.

Slaughterhouse-My Life Video ft. Cee-Lo

Being Slaughterhouse’s most uplifting and feelgood song to date, many SH fans really didn’t take to this track on its release some time ago. I wasn’t one of those fans to be honest, and to me it was refreshing to hear some positivity from four talented rappers who’ve toiled away in the underground for the last decade, and are now finally getting their due.

The motivational Cee-Lo hook anchors this one, and again whilst its pop styling might not be to everyone’s taste, his powerful vocals are the best possible choice for a celebratory track. The raps are solid throughout, with a nice mix of biographical ‘come-up’ raps and a little braggadociosness, and whilst its not full of their typically aggressive, cutting raps, the flows are still strong from each member.

The video opens with an amusing Eminem feature, before launching into the energetic scenes with the Slaughterhouse quartet. Stylistically, there’s nothing here we haven’t seen before, and hence its an easy watch that fits in with the lively audio well, giving the rappers’ lighter side some much-needed video time. Their most mainstream-ready song to date, and one that hip-hop fans should still enjoy. Grab this on iTunes now.

Sh*t You Forgot About: Episode 4

Isn’t it ironic that I forgot to post these?

To take the positives out of the situation, it does mean that the choices for this week’s episode sort of fall into my lap, based on old-school tracks I’ve found myself inexplicably listening to recently. The diversity you’ve come to expect (or at least did 2 months ago) from this series is still there, with 4 tracks in 4 different styles, and a nice mix of genres thrown in.

Head below for the latest instalment.
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Problem-T.O. ft. Skeme Video

Sometimes, I just attach myself to an artist and I’m not 100% sure why. Over the last year or so, I’ve really kept an eye out for Problem’s music/features, and whilst I’ve probably missed some, there’s a general likeability about the guy that I can’t quite pinpoint. The likely reason is a combination of his brash style, catchy delivery and ear for a beat, and frankly his music is simple stuff that just gets your head nodding.

Aside from his feature on a Snoop track a couple of years back, this is the track I’ve enjoyed most of his to date. It’s no lyrical masterpiece, it has no complex wordplay, and isn’t a feat of production genius. Instead, it’s a rude, simplistic and fantastically addictive track that remained a guilty pleasure track of mine for months recently. Easily my favourite track on Problem’s Welcome to Mollywood, DJ Mustard beat draws on his popular Rack City beat for inspiration with a dark, intense style coupled with a club sensibility, whilst Prob and Skeme hold nothing back with their catchy raps and extremely infectious hook. One of those tracks that bounces pretty nicely in the car, and you can grab it on Problem’s mixtape here.

Crooked I-Psalm 82:v6

If I’m not mistaken, this marks the first lengthy project by any Slaughterhouse member this year, and hence this will certainly be a welcome release for the hip-hop heads.

18 tracks make this one, and Crook grabs a host of interesting features across those, ranging from the expected Slaughterhouse and Horse Shoe Gang appearances to veterans Twista and Kurupt, and many more in between. The suggestion is that there’s a lot of diversity from the COB representative here, and given his track record of excellent raps, I’m sure this project won’t disappoint. Free grab below.

Crooked I-Psalm 82:v6

Bramzwig-Puzzling Thing

“Puzzling Thing” is the first release from my next mixtape coming out at the end of June. Expect the whole mixtape to have unique beats that remind you of the glory days of hip-hop, accompanied by lyrics that make you smile and think about your own life, as well as the lives of others.

Time to give some exposure to an upcomer, as Bramzwig drops off his latest effort. Many will be unfamiliar with his work, and whilst he’s probably not to everyone’s taste, there’s certainly some talent there. Inevitably, he’ll draw comparisons with Mac Miller for his feelgood style but there’s more drive and hunger in Bramzwig’s raps, as well as a little more diversity as far as subject matter goes. This clip is a fairly short one, but should hopefully serve as a good introduction, with a decent production that has a strong J Dilla influence, whilst the raps are packed into a solid, consistent flow from start to finish. Worth a listen, and I’m interested to see what comes next.

XV-Stone Cold Video

New visuals from Vizzy, right on the back of his most recent mixtape release, Popular Culture. This clip was one of the first tracks released around the time XV announced the mixtape, and hence is a good choice for a clip given its familiarity with audiences.

The video’s pretty laidback and summery, taking place across what I assume to be XV’s hometown in various regular and everyday spots. There’s no real pretention here and for that reason it’s a very easy watch, showing XV as a regular guy whilst allowing him enough room to display a little energy and personality, not least by hanging around in a Stone Cold Steve Austin t-shirt.

The chilled, everyday nature of the video compliments the softer side of the production nicely, and hence this is a good all-round audiovisual that will certainly entice many into getting that mixtape, if they haven’t already.

Crooked I-Exodus 23:1 Freestyle

Pusha T and The-Dream’s original Exodus 23:1 is easily one of my favourite tracks right now, and the ominous production is hijacked by one quarter of the Slaughterhouse machine for a quick freestyle blast.

The style of production is extremely well-suited to Crook’s raps, with his intense and aggressive delivery fitting the aura created by the powerful yet minimal beat, as Crook packs in some typically slick flows alongside lyricism that gives this lyricism the same punchiness that makes the original so playable. I don’t expect OTU fans to be a stranger to this guy’s work, and those who were fans of his HHWR series many moons ago will want to pick this one up.

XV-Popular Culture Mixtape

Big fan of the artwork for this one, as XV throws together a whole host of pop culture icons in the classic Simpsons sofa scene, ranging from The Joker to Kim Kardashian. Some of the appearances are actually contextual, matching up to certain song titles on the 17-track tape, whilst the rest are referenced lyrically I’m sure.

We’ve already heard several tracks from this tape, which includes efforts as far back as the Inception-sampling The Kick from late last year. Of course, there’s loads of new stuff too, amongst which you’ll find appearances from B.o.B, ScHoolboy Q, Emilio Rojas and more. This seems to be a precursor to the upcoming Awesome EP, and hopefully his full-length debut album isn’t far behind. Free grab below.

XV-Popular Culture

Azealia Banks-Aquababe

More newness from the buzzing Azealia Banks, this time from her upcoming Fantasea mixtape, set for release in just a few weeks on 4th July.

As per her previous material, there’s tons of bounce in this one, with the production made up mostly of a thick bass that’ll rattle your speakers pretty heavily, setting a consistent backdrop for the range oflighter electro elements and sound effects that are thrown in seemingly at random. Banks’ raps don’t quite have that slick delivery her previous material does, and whilst that’s largely due to the adaptation needed for this slow and bassy beat, her quick flows usually compensate for her lyrical content and that fallback doesn’t exist here. Nonetheless, it’s a solid listen that’ll keep her fans going until that tape drops.

Chris Brown-Oh Yeah ft. 2 Chainz and Snoop Dogg

When he’s not getting into fights with Drake and/or Meek Mill (my views on that here), Chris Brown is releasing music that may well find a home on his upcoming Fortune album. I’ve not checked out too many of the releases from this project, but gave this one a go and its a solid pop/R&B jam that’s worth a listen.

Breezy drops off a very catchy hook on this one and refrains from making it too light or poppy, instead sticking with a strong harmony and keeping it smooth to bring some R&B style back into his craft, whilst the production is a slow, bassy affair that will get some heads nodding. A little disappointed that he overloaded on the Autotune for his verse but his delivery is solid and each of the guests bring strong contributions, with man-of-the-moment 2 Chainz dropping off a short verse halfway before Snoop brings a fun verse that bleeds his unmistakeable adlibs into the final hook for a nice closer. Good all-rounder that raises expectations for the upcoming album.

The Killers-Battle Born Trailer

After a four-year hiatus, The Killers return with their upcoming Battle Born album, set for release in Autumn/Fall of this year. Having been a huge fan of their first two albums, I have to admit I was hugely disappointed with their last album, Day & Age, and I really hope they turn it back around with this effort.

The trailer doesn’t give much away, though there’s plenty to be read if you look hard enough (isn’t there always?). The general dark palette of the video is suggestive of a departure from the squeaky clean retro sound of the last album, though the electronically-heavy background music and retro-style font (a bit of a stretch?) contrast with that notion a little and suggest the music might not be too far away from Day & Age. Nonetheless, let’s not jump to judgements before any music’s released, and I’m sure a single will be forthcoming soon. Watch this space.

Azealia Banks-Liquorice Video

Having been released way back in December, in today’s short-term music climate it feels like this song has been out forever. Nonetheless, Azealia included it on her recent 1991 EP and it’s set to be her next single, with a pretty strong reception to the track from mainstream heads thus far, and hence it’s a good selection for the visual treatment.

Whilst it lacks the instant ‘cool’ of 212, this is a good video style to try and crack that mainstream crowd. It’s bright, colourful, fun and stylish, as Azealia’s allowed to express a little more freedom in terms of showing off her interest in fashion, and on the flipside has a few elements that are somewhat more conventional for a music video, particularly the forest scenes (though I can’t tell if they’re meant to be a parody or not?) and the general structure of the video.

Most importantly, it’s an energetic video that matches her razor-sharp flows and the lively electro production well, making this an audiovisual package that could make a real assault on the mainstream consciousness over the summer. Expect to hear this in a club near you very soon, and you can grab the EP over here.

Jay-Z and Kanye West Perform No Church In The Wild at the LG Arena (13th June)

If it isn’t front row, it isn’t worth watching. We’ve seen plenty of Watch the Throne footage filmed from what appears to be 2 buildings away but here at OTU we strive to be better, so enjoy some up-close, exclusive footage from last night’s Watch the Throne show.

We’ve got several clips for you, but this is certainly the best (and longest) of the bunch. Many thoroughly enjoyed this track from the album, and its accompanying music video, and there’s no doubt the track was done absolute justice in one of a series of excellent live performances from the duo. Start to finish, the show was full of energy, skill and heaps of chemistry between the two hip-hop superstars, with Kanye’s natural showmanship and entertainer’s streak complimenting Jay-Z’s flawless rhyming and effortless charisma.

Enjoy the video, and keep an eye on our Youtube channel throughout this evening for the rest. They’re only short, but will surely give you a sample of what was a phenomenal show.

The Weeknd-Our Love

One from the vaults that has emerged this weekend, presumably recorded in his previous musical stint as part of The Noise.

In honesty, this track isn’t one I’ll be playing again. Clearly, this was a formative period for The Weeknd, shown by the relatively bland pop style of the track which is extremely simplistic from start to finish: the lyricism is paint-by-numbers pop stuff, the hook is worryingly lightweight, and the production doesn’t really bring anything to the table. However, to reiterate this is clearly very old material during the early part of his career, and hence you can’t really criticise the guy. Instead, it’s a good look into just how his material has evolved, and proof that some good can come out of talents who are seemingly generic pop voices.