The Weeknd-Radio 1 Maida Vale Session

The Weeknd’s been a busy man this week, and he follows up the highly-praised performance on Jools Holland’s show with this 4-track radio performance.

His abilities as a live performer are tested with his choice of songs, and once again he passes with flying colours. Wicked Games is mostly the same as the aforementioned TV performance in terms of quality, and it’s the other three that most will want to go for. The Zone‘s surely one of his most difficult tracks to perform given the sheer variety of vocal deliveries, but he does an excellent job throughout (and in one take!), though the unecessary and sharp guitar blasts in the first third ruin the soft vibe of that segment.

The Knowing is one that has to be delivered with a feathered touch, and the fragility of the track’s lyrics and vocals are captured well in the opening half, and though The Weeknd’s vocals do hit a couple of rough patches toward the final third, the instrumentation is at its peak here in its progressive nature. I wasn’t wholly enamoured with the studio version of Montreal, but this live performance has really brought me around to the track, and again that’s helped greatly by some strong instrumentation work, whilst the vocal work is unerringly consistent throughout this one. A good set of performances throughout, and I hope to hear more soon.

Rudimental-Hell Could Freeze ft. Angel Haze

A very interesting collaboration for a number of reasons. Angel Haze is definitely one of the brighter newcomers on the hip-hop scene, and given her relatively new status, this is a fantastic opportunity to showcase her abilities to a more mainstream audience. She’s known for her more lyrically detailed style, and hence her adjustment to rapping and singing in a manner that has a wider appeal is a great sign of her flexibility.

Given Rudimental’s usual intense, somewhat glitchy electro approach, this is surprisingly serene, with soft percussion layered with tethered synth pulses to give the track enough liveliness without overwhelming it in energy. As an entirety, it’s far closer to chillout electro than anything you’d expect to hear on the dancefloor. Angel’s flows in the verses are excellent, moving with the production work skilfully, and this is a good all-round effort that demonstrates the versatility of both acts.

Rick Ross-100 Black Coffins

Taken from the official soundtrack for Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming Django Unchained, Ross comes through with what I believe is the first audio release from that project.

Sadly, it’s not great. I like that they’ve tried to keep with the film’s western theme via the production, which for the most part is admirably cinematic and excellently blends that cowboy essence with a hint of darkness, but Ross is a huge letdown here. His tired lyrics don’t seem to match up with the production style at all, and instead it’s just an opportunity for Ricky to lay the same old raps on a slightly unusual production by his standards. Give this beat to someone else and they’d craft a lyrical theme to fit the piece’s intended purpose, but Ross’ lazy work here smacks of a mainstream rapper taking the opportunity to seem like a bigger star by associating himself with Tarantino. At least he’ll be bragging about something different in his raps now.

Game-Judas' Closet ft. Nipsey Hu$$le

It’s not a Sunday but Game’s kind enough to throw out another freebie, grabbing fellow Californian Nipsey Hu$$le for a welcome assist.

Some of Game’s recent releases have been surprisingly enjoyable, and you can add this one to that list. Admittedly, the Timbaland production isn’t massively spectacular, with the shrill melodies becoming reptitive rather quickly, but the chemistry between Nipsey and Game is what makes this one a keeper. They share the opening verse with a line-for-line delivery that makes for a great listen (why does no-one do that any more?), before each coming through with solid enough verses that complement one another and make the most of an average beat. Seems unfinished as there’s a gap for another verse, but it’s a likeable track that’s worth a couple of plays.

HAIM-Don't Save Me (Video)

Day by day, there’s less room on that HAIM bandwagon. I’ve said it before, but they’re perfectly primed for mainstream success, whilst remaining talented and versatile enough to garner appreciation from those who don’t need our tastes dictated to us.

I gave this song a warm response on its release, but repeat listening has thoroughly infected me with its positivity. That combination of alternative with a little R&B funk gives their music a smoothness around the edges that makes repeat plays much easier, and this video will certainly add to that appeal.

There’s nothing particular new happening, with the clip divided between performance scenes and a basketball game, but the inherent charisma and confidence of the trio comes across through each shot, whilst the dark lighting throughout tempers the bounce of the audio and complements the attitudinal lyricism. There’s a lot to like about these guys, and with each release they’re going from strength to strength. You can grab this one on iTunes right now.

The Weeknd-Wicked Games (Live on Jools Holland)

I saw many of you commenting on this last night, and if like me you didn’t get around to catching the TV show, you’ll want to give this a watch.

Surprisingly, this was The Weeknd’s first live TV performance. I say surprisingly because the poise and quality he demonstrates from start to finish here are at levels any veteran would be absolutely delighted with, even more so given the relative difficulty of the vocal work on this one. Compared to some of his considerably-ropier performances very early on in his career, the progression he’s made as a vocalist (and an entertainer) is one that deserves much praise.

The progressive nature of the instrumentation and backing vocals combine excellently too, with the first half of the track emanating an intimate, acoustic style vibe, before his accompanying acts increase the depth and intensity to provide a strong climax for what is a thoroughly entertaining performance all-round.

Jesse Boykins III and MeLo-X-Black Orpheus (Video)

Considering I’m a big fan of both acts, you’d be well within your rights to assume I’d checked out their collaborative Zulu Guru album. Yet, I haven’t and not only that, I had to skip their album release show recently. Mum, if you disown me, I’ll understand.

Jesse’s soulful yet ever-experimental style seems a natural fit for MeLo, a producer who blends and transcends genres seemingly with ease. It’s that category-bending style that comes to the fore here, mostly provided by an offbeat production that’ll throw you initially, before gathering more solidity as the track progresses-the clunky percussion is first joined by Jesse’s whispery voice, before keys, synths and plenty more are added to the mix. It never loses that unusual aspect, but the latter additions add just enough regularity to keep this one listenable, even if it does become quite hard work after the full 4 minutes or so. Surprising to hear Melo rap on this one too, and he does a good job of keeping his delivery consistent over a production that would frighten most rappers. One that’s worth a couple of plays, but with the abilities these two possess you’d be forgiven for expecting something as eclectic but slightly more polished.

Casey Veggies-Smart Water

Always a pleasure to get some new Casey Veggies, and this one comes with a Chuck Strangers production to boot. For those not following the Pro Era clan, along with Joey Bada$$ he’s a part of that collective, both as a beatsmith and a rapper. Great to see more members of that team spread their wings into wider hip-hop, and this is a good look for Chuck.

He serves up a production that utilises a wild jazz sample, which at times almost descends into a freeform style, and straps that to a throughouly meaty percussion line, giving the backdrop an equal measure of hip-hop solidity and vibrant expressionism. Casey’s laidback style is amped up slightly to keep pace with that, and his lively raps synergise with the upbeat percussion excellently, whilst also playing on the percussion’s intensity. Smart slice of hip-hop that’s worthy of a few replays.

Masspike Miles-Skky Miles 2: Cozmic Cloudz (Mixtape)

Masspike is legitimately one of the most overlooked talents on the R&B scene today. Admittedly, he doesn’t brand himself ideally, with a rather aggressive stage name, mispelling of ‘sky’ and excessive use of the letter ‘z’ (it annoys me), but track-for-track his output over the last 18 months has comfortably been up there with his more revered peers.

The prequel to this project found its way to collections everywhere a mere 5 months ago, and Miles caps off a critically-successful year with this 15-track release. Features include Gunplay, Wiz Khalifa and Havoc, whilst the production credits suggest there’s going to be a nice diversity across the soundscapes offered. I know many of you are pining for some new, substantial R&B material and you could do much worse than grab this freebie. Do precisely that below.

Masspike Miles-Skky Miles 2: Cozmic Cloudz

Fabolous-So NY (Video)

Fab genuinely churns out some very likeable material, and this track released a little while back (and now featuring on his recent mixtape The Soul Tape 2) was a favourite of mine for a couple of weeks. The upbeat, jazz and rock-influenced production made for a departure in beat style for Fab, and it’s one that suits him down to the ground as it allows him to inject more energy into his ever-casual rapping style.

From the razor-sharp percussion to the piercing guitar work, it’s a production driven heavily by some excellent live instrumentation, and that gives the track the raw, unfiltered style it needs to properly capitalise on Loso’s hometown lyricism. A mixture of home truths about his city and plenty of biographical lines, the verses are packed with an intensity that gives the lyricism a much more personal feel than we’ve got from Loso in some time, and again that instrumentation enhances that excellently.

The video works well with the audio, interspersing some live performance shots with short clips of New York and its inhabitants. It’s nothing spectacular and rightfully so-as an ode (of sorts) to his hometown, it keeps things as simple as they should be in the context of the lyrics. Very replayable, and you can find this on the aforementioned mixtape.

Pac Div-Black Acura ft. Mac Miller (Video)

Making the laundromat, a living room, and a dank bar look like reasonable places to start a rap career, the guys have an air of comfortable superiority in this first video from GMB.

One of the earlier singles from their GMB album, which was released today, Pac Div celebrate the LP release by sending out some accompanying visuals. The track has an almighty thump about it, courtesy of deep, heavy bass supplemented by minimal melodic additions and a punchy vocal sample, and yet again it ties into the much more aggressive style the Div have gone for with GMB. Commendably though, their lighter side comes out with a couple of more fun lines, and it’s good to see they’ve not entirely abandoned their affable roots.

The video has an interesting dichotomy of environments-the homely, everyday scenes (shot in Mac Miller’s LA home) contrast almost entirely with the dark, intense and frown-heavy shots of the trio rapping their verses. It throws you in terms of how to take the entire audiovisual, and that’s a reflection of themselves: from their previously easygoing work to this more in-your-face music, they’ve kept their output diverse and unpredictable. Good audiovisual, and GMB is out now (US iTunes).

T.I.-Sorry ft. Andre 3000

Not only does the track have Andre 3000, but T.I. makes a reference to Pinot Grigio within seconds of this starting. Which one’s more unexpected? You decide.

Unfortunately, there’s not much to write home about beyond that surprising wine remark. The beat sounds like a Rick Ross castoff, with regality and laidback vibes abound, but nothing to really latch on to as a listener, via wafer thin synths and unremarkable percussion work. Tip’s raps seem tired and uninspired, and though there are a couple of small highlights, it’s generally dull. Andre’s verse is unquestionably the highlight, thanks to his watertight delivery that moves through a couple of different flows, whilst his wordplay is excellent-the stars and comets/comments line is particularly memorable. An average track saved from being poor by the feature.

Win VIP Tickets to Live in London: God Is An Astronaut and Guests

So, unfortunately the last contest we did had to be pulled as the concert got cancelled. A shame, but I’m assured that won’t happen this time: have secured the incredible God Is An Astronaut, MAYBESHEWILL and Nordic Giants to play their very special Christmas Live in London gig.

Hell of a lineup to be honest. The atmospheric, wintery work of GIAA alone will be an incredible experience live in person, and I expect you all to have clammy hands at the prospect of winning these.

Nothing complicated. Just email me ( and tell me you want in. I’ll draw someone out randomly to win a pair of VIP tickets to this event. Feel free to get creative.

Artists: God Is An Astronaut, MAYBESHEWILL and Nordic Giants
Address: Heaven, Under The Arches, Villiers Street, London, WC2N 6NG
When: 05/12/12
Tickets available from:
Ticket Price: £14
Doors Open: 7pm

Game-Stripper ft. Wale

If you’ve ever wondered what sleazy sounds like, Game has just figured that one out for you. Drake (and others) often hover around that border line between being sleazy or just being a ‘player’, but this pretty much leaves that line in the rearview mirror as Game and Wale crank up the seediness for the latest #SundayService instalment.

It’s actually likeable though. The slowed-down, slightly jazzy production makes for a real change for Game, and it’s a welcome one. His naturally rough tones are a great contrast to this softened style of sound, whilst his delivery is adjusted correctly to this near-slow jam style, leaving the aggression he’s normally famed for behind. With that said, his flows have a nice hint of diversity too, with the second verse increasing the tempo slightly and injecting the track with a sprinkling of energy. Wale’s been found on a minimalist beat of this nature before, and hence he takes to it fairly well, though his sharper, nasal delivery doesn’t quite blend with the beat as well as Game’s does. Unfortunately cut from the upcoming Jesus Piece due to sample issues, this is something quite different from Game, and it’s a likeable one.

The-Dream-Tender Tendencies

Another of the extra tracks set for the 18th December re-release of 1977, and one more you can expect to give a couple of plays in your R&B playlists, even if its not massively packed with longevity.

There are very few R&B artists who manage to both harmonise and tell a story effectively these days, with most either capable of great vocal performances with little depth, or overkilling the lyrical complexity at the cost of good vocals. The-Dream’s been doing that, and arguably overlooked for doing so, for quite some time now. This is another good example of that, with his style of delivery moving between singing and near-spoken word to fit the gravity of certain lyrical sections, with the songwriting being good enough to keep your attention throughout better than most tracks of this ilk would. Whilst the production’s minimal nature does fit the title and emotion of the song well, it doesn’t quite progress into the climax you’d expect it to and hence ends up falling a little flat, meaning the song’s content becomes a little too monotonous to ensure any consistent replays of the track. It’s a shame as vocally and lyrically it’s enjoyable, but that beat just falls short.

Jill Scott-Golden (Catching Flies Remix)

Everyone that I’ve spoken to about Catching Flies’ brilliant EP from a short while back has been overwhelmingly positive about it, and it’s with much pleasure that we get something new from the upcoming producer.

He’s got hold of Jill Scott’s infectiously positive Golden (can you believe that was released in 2004?! Frightening), and as the genre of the track suggests, he’s turned it into a soft dreamscape that’s opts for a much gentler approach than the original. Delicate hits of bass, atmospheric synth touches and the occasional inclusion of other instrumentation combines with the distorted vocals for a beautiful slice of production work. Laidback, relaxing and original enough to completely seperate it from the original, it’s another excellent working from Catching Flies. Stream below and download available from his Facebook page.

Game ft. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony - Celebration Remix [Video]

Wasn’t a fan of the original Celebration track from Game, so normally I’d ignore any remixes of it, however the feature on this being Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, well that got my attention. Pretty cool considered the original track actually sampled a Bone Thugs track. What surprised me about this track is that Game managed to get ALL members of the fractious group to appear on this track! They had split (for the millionth time) last year, so this is s collector’s item indeed.

The track itself really suits Bone Thugs chilled out style of harmonious quick rapping, and Game does his trademark copying of his guest star’s flows. It doesn’t always work for him i.e. every time he gets on a song with Rick Ross (eurgh), but I think he sounds good when he tries the quick flow. Anyway, I digress – check this track out, especially if you’re a Bone Thugs fan. Apparently all five members are getting back together to make one last album as a 5 man collective next year, so look out for that (assuming they don’t fall out again before then).

Young Jeezy - Get Right [Video]

You can always count on Jeezy for three things.

1. A splendid ear for a beat.

2. A catchy hook.

3. A hard video to complement his hard rhymes.

As always, he delivers on these three things with his new single, Get Right. A good track for the car playlist.

Fabolous - The Soul Tape 2 [Mixtape]

A year and a half after the first, Fabolous returns with the sequel: The Soul Tape 2. This one happens to have features from J.Cole, Pusha T, Trey Songz, Joe Budden, Wale plus more, so expect it to be a good one.

Download it here or stream it on the left.

You can also go get the first Soul Tape from Fabolous here, if you were foolish enough to miss out on it the first time.

Rick Ross-All Birds ft. French Montana (Video)

There are so many reasons to dislike this song. Ross has been churning out the same repetitive raps for the last 18 months. French is just legitimately terrible whichever way you look at it. I could go on but I won’t, because for some reason I do enjoy this. Call it a guilty pleasure, albeit not on a Backstreet Boys level (I’ll not hear a bad word about them).

It’s probably the beat that reels me in for play after play. It’s lively yet slightly ominous, intense yet upbeat and generally one that just sounds ever so good turned up in the car. The video is as poor as you’d expect, with literally nothing achieved throughout, but it fits the audio well enough, with the piercing melodies suiting the laser show style lighting. The hook doesn’t really make sense (if French keeps no clothes and only cocaine, or ‘birds’, what does he wear?), the raps are silly, but you’ll still find your head nodding when this comes on.

Larry Lovestein and The Velvet Revival (Mac Miller)-You EP

My opinions on Mac’s music tends to go a little up and down, but this is a very interesting project that shows he has tastes and talents beyond the laidback hip-hop he’s best known for. On a side, he seems to be a fan of both alter egos and the name Larry, as he recently started producing under the guise of Larry Fisherman. Odd.

This side project is apparently a jazz EP, with Mac opting to sing rather than rap, though I’ve yet to actually listen to it due to hard drive issues, and hence can’t verify any of that. I’ve been on a jazz/old soul kick recently (nothing wrong with a bit of Fats Domino!), and hence this should be good listening.

Larry Lovestein and The Velvet Revival-You

Fashawn-Champagne and Styrofoam Cups (Mixtape)

I’m really quite unfair on Fashawn. Generally, his features are likeable, and the bits of his material I have listened to I’ve enjoyed. However, I never seem to get around to giving a full mixtape of his a go, and I’m not sure why.

On the plus side, this looks exciting. Quite odd, but there’s something to be said for a nice mixtape artwork and interesting name, and it’s better than the usual tripe that many trot out. Features include Wiz Khalifa, K-Young, Kobe and Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire, and the early reception to this from the hip-hop community has been very positive. Free stream and grab below.

Fashawn-Champagne and Styrofoam Cups

Mickey Factz Releases The Artistic Collection Boxset

The limited-edition box set Mickey Factz: The Artistic Collection contains CDs with all the artwork of his 9 previous mixtapes and #Ynot. The twist- The CDs are blank. Mickey has made the music free and the packaging is the product being sold. Fans have the power to choose how they want to organise & receive the music. hosts the mixtapes for free download and has re-released Mickey’s mixtape discography. Each mixtape contains never before released tracks such as “Locked Away (NERD Remix)” & “Click Clack“ Feat. Bruno Mars.

Very unique release from Mickey, and it’s one I’m sure many will be on board with. It’s a nice way for longtime fans to collate Mickey’s previous works, and I suspect we may see more artists doing this. Buy the boxset here, or find out more at an unusually designed dedicated website.

ILL BILL - When I Die

Brand new ILL Bill, and we have the first official video from his new album The Grimy Awards. The self-produced beat provides a haunting landscape for Bill to reminisce about the lives of his grandmother and the legendary Uncle Howie. It’s always great to hear Bill switch things up and delve into more personal tracks and this certainly delivers.

A running-theme throughout Bill’s career has always been the tales of Howie’s exploits, promoting him to an almost cult-hero status. After Howie died a couple of years back, his problems began to feel more real when listening back to old Non-Phixion albums. More recently, tracks like My Uncle started to show Bill’s concern about Howie’s situation, while Narco Corridos (with DJ Muggs) seemed to give a glimpse of Bill’s immediate feelings after Howie’s death. This history really adds to the track, as we’ve seen Bill maturity and growing concern about Howie’s health, before finally reflecting on his passing and the problems faced.

It’s a solid dedication to both Howie and his Grandmother, and has got me excited for The Grimy Awards which drops January 29th.

On Dec 2nd, Bill will headline the next OTU Live night alongside Vinnie Paz, at Lakota, Bristol. Tickets available: here

Joe Budden - A Loose Quarter [Mixtape]

Joe Budden had been teasing fans with an upcoming announcement, alluding to retirement. Budden fans will be pleased to hear that it turns out the big announcement was him releasing his new mixtape three days earlier than expected!

On first impressions the production’s good, the lyricism even better. Listen below or go download it here now.

WZRD-Teleport 2 Me, Jamie (Video)

I forgot just how good this song was. I’ve not returned to it for quite some time, and hence this makes for a lovely refresh of an excellent track.

On to business. The clip’s a rather unusual yet interesting one. It’s difficult to tell whether the effects, mannerisms and general layout are deliberately old-school and slightly corny, or whether that’s an unfortunate situation-given that the video leaked rather than being released, and Cudi seemingly had no problem with that, it muddies the waters somewhat in terms of its intentions. Nonetheless, it’s a fun clip that’s basically an enormous tripping out session, as Cudi and Dot play instruments in front of a space projection, whilst the former displays some decent emotion for the hook performances. The lighting style of the video is very likeable, as a mostly dark backdrop is frequently illuminated by bright flashes of colour, the aforementioned projection and much more, reflecting the bittersweet nature of the audio rather well. Enjoyable watch, even if it is slightly confusing as to its intented seriousness.

Mangaliso Asi-Blissfully Ignorant (Video)

It was an all-too rare delight to get some new audio from Mangaliso last week, and it’s great that he’s following that up with this video release, also his first in quite some time.

The audio is full of introspective raps set upon a reflective production, and that’s captured well enough in the video, with shades of Coldplay’s The Scientist in the reversal aspect of the clip. In contrast to that however, Mangaliso never appears to go anywhere or do anything besides run whilst surrounded by relatively nice scenery, and the messaging there is clear-despite being around seemingly-likeable surroundings, the chase for genuine success is rather arduous, and oftentimes feels like you’re moving in reverse with no end in sight. It’s easy to relate to that for many, and the melancholy audiovisual makes for a heavy dose of realism. It’s great to see Mangaliso gets some strong camera time, and let’s see if this thought-provoking clip leads to a new project.

Eve-Quiet Storm Freestyle

Eve’s been creeping back into the scene ever so slowly with the occasional release, freestyle or just poking her head around miscellaneous doors. Whilst most of them have gone under the radar (because I’ve left it too late to check them out), there was no way I was passing this one over, as Eve grabs Mobb Deep’s classic instrumental for a brief set of bars.

Don’t be fooled by the video’s length: Eve doesn’t actually start rapping until halfway through, so we only get about 40 seconds of work, but it’s enough to both revive the beat for a few more plays in the hip-hop heads’ playlists, and to suggest she’s back and ready to fire. Her flow is as watertight as ever, as she gets increasingly comfortable with her delivery and that impacts on the lyricism, which gets progressively aggressive (feel free to use that term as an album title, rappers), before the track cuts. She’s flirting with us, and it’s working-I want more, and I hope she’s bringing the rest soon.


For his new album, “Diamond In The Ruff,” Freeway has hit the studio with longtime collaborator, Just Blaze, for the highly anticipated track “Early.” The track marks the first time the two have worked together since Just helmed the bulk of Free’s 2003 debut “Philadelphia Freeway.”

I hadn’t checked out any of the releases from this LP, but the Just Blaze production credit got my attention and I’m damn glad about it. This beat is an absolute thumper, with a bassy, insanely pounding percussion that feels like it just might set fire to your eardrums at any given moment. Freeway’s approach? Match that power with intensity of his own, and he does very well courtesy of empassioned verses and an attitudinal hook that anchors the song excellently. A superb cut that just made Freeway’s album signifcantly more enticing.