Who Responded To Kendrick Lamar's Verse on Control?

Hip-hop woke up. After several months of relative stagnancy and few highlights in the mainstream scene (underground heads, put your picket signs away), Kendrick’s inflammatory verse on Big Sean’s Control not only got most music fans talking, but also provoked precisely the sort of response he would have wanted from his rapping peers.

Many responded via Twitter, video or other means, and though none of those who were namechecked have taken to the studio to put out a response, several others have taken up the baton and either delivered a worthwhile response or used the opportunity to get a little bit of media coverage. The latter statement isn’t meant disrespectfully either- hip-hop is about as prominent in ‘water cooler’ and social media discussions as it has been in a rather long time, and it’s a great chance for some acts to get their names out to a wider audience. It’s tough to be mad at that opportunism.

The dust is beginning to settle, and though there’s bound to be several other rappers who are preparing responses (Joe Budden for one), now seems a good time to offer a quick recap on those who’ve offered musical replies to Kendrick’s barbed bars. Head below for a collection of the releases thus far (in no order). → Continue Reading

Beach House-Forever Still

My rather lengthy comments on this can be found further below. The space here is best reserved for Beach House’s great intro to this piece. Head below for the review.

We had previously been involved in too many live sessions, radio tapings, photo shoots, etc., where the outcome was far below our personal artistic standards. We also felt a need to distance ourselves from the “content” culture of the internet that rewards quantity over quality and shock over nuance.

Forever Still is directly inspired by Pink Floyd’s Live at Pompeii. We wanted to perform in a non-typical setting without losing the spirit of our music. We felt the songs would resonate in a more majestic and spiritual landscape. The experience was an intense three nights of filming. Everyone involved in production and crew was benevolent in their time and talented in their efforts.

The basic concept is four songs performed from sunset to sunrise. We tried to keep the edits minimal with long takes in order to focus on the energy of the songs, the landscape, and the physicality of live performance. The entire film was shot in or around Tornillo, Texas, where we recorded Bloom. Like Bloom, we hope that Forever Still is experienced as a whole, long form. → Continue Reading

13 for '13

2013 v3(2)

Year after year, we change the format of the end-of-year OTU round-up (routine is boring), and this year I’ve opted for a forward-looking feature rather than reflecting on what was a rather disappointing year in the music world. Many are desperate to have their tastes for 2013 dictated to them by either the BBC Sound of 2013 or MTV’s Brand New for 2013, but the interesting thing is we’ve been championing some of the acts they’ve thrust upon you this past week for quite some time. The rest of them we probably don’t care about.

So, here’s a chance to get clued up with some genuine upcoming talents that I expect to release more fantastic material this year and break through that next barrier of success, whether it’s into mainstream consciousness or slightly wider underground appreciation. Note that I didn’t say commercial success. Whilst some will certainly find that and it is a facet of their potential growth this year, it’s far from essential, and each selection here deserves to be so on quality and potential more than anything. Regular reader or not, you’ll have heard of several of these selections before and be assured those acts are here on merit, not because a label asked us to do so; something the aforementioned 2013 ‘predictions’ from the mainstream outlets can’t honestly claim. Let’s go. → Continue Reading

Catching Flies-The Stars EP

I’m sure you get hundreds of these a week, so here’s another one to add to the pile (sorry!) I’ll keep it short and sweet. I’m a 21 year old producer from London. Just so you know, I’m not shit.

We get thousands of submissions monthly. Some are good, some are bad but most are from PR companies reusing the same old email title and the same old email template. Boring and samey. So, if you take the time to write the above in your email about your free EP (download or stream), you’ve got my attention. If your material then walks the walk, you’re about to get everybody’s attention.

For artists who put out instrumental work, there’s nothing to hide behind. No flashy hook or witty punchlines. You’re judged entirely on what’s presented, not what’s percieved, and hence it can be incredibly difficult to ‘get it right’. As most producers don’t accomplish that, others who do get slept on, and understandably so. Wake up.
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Deciphering Frank Ocean's Pyramids Video

It’s been 3 and a half months since many of us were blown away by Pyramids, and Frank finally drops off some visuals for the single, as well as from the Channel Orange album as a whole.

The video is primarily based around the second half of the track, that which focuses on his unemployed self being involved with a stripper. Many will be disappointed that he didn’t do much with the more grabbing first half of the audio, but this feels much more suited to the aesthetic and creative complexity director Nabil is famed for.

The length of this video and level of detail makes this a review I can’t quite fully contain within the confines up here. If you’re interested in what is only my second ‘Deciphering..’ (here for the first, which was much longer than this!), click below for some accompanying reading that you may or may not agree with-it’s a clip that many will interpret differently. If not, you’ll enjoy the video regardless, and be sure to grab Channel Orange.

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OTU Presents: The Winter EP Vol. 2

Grab your scarf and gloves, stick on a pair of headphones and warm up with the second volume of our Winter EP. There’s been a rather large gap between this edition and the first instalment, but it’s arrived eventually and couldn’t be better timed with the weather getting much colder recently.

Once again, our resident designer (Indi) has lovingly put together a crispy new artwork, which adds a nice touch of visuals to accompany the listening pleasure of the 5 tracks included below. As per the previous edition, there’s no restriction on genre, artist or anything else: if it feels wintery, it’s got a chance of making the cut!

Click here for volume 1, and head below for volume 2.

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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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Jay-Z and Kanye West-Watch The Throne Review

After delays, rumours of unrest and much more, Monday saw the long-awaited release of Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch The Throne. Arguably, one of the most anticipated collaborative albums in the past decade, it’s undoubtedly one of those rare events that captures the attention of the entire hip-hop community, consequentially resulting in thousands of reviews and opinions. Add one more to that list.

There’s been no hiding my positive opinions on Kanye West and his work over the years, whilst any appreciation for Jay-Z at this stage surely goes without saying (regardless of The Blueprint 3). The collaboration of the two should theoretically give rise to one of the finest synergies in hip-hop history, with two vanguards of hip-hop cementing the genre’s dominance across music.

Theoretically, anyway.
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Do Not Listen To Mikill Pane

Everyone likes breaking rules, and I’m going to give you three good reasons to break the one typed above. If I’m writing a feature exclusively on one artist, you know I mean it too.

It’s no secret that we’re big fans of Mr. Pane’s work here at OTU, and there’s little doubt that he’s one of very few UK rappers that can command a microphone in such a multifarious manner, adapting himself to dubstep-influenced beats just as comfortably as brighter productions, and many more in between.

There lies the focus of this feature: ‘many more in between’. With the release of what’s been referred to as his ‘debut’ single, Summer In The City, many will be unfamiliar with his work outside of the few tracks fed to you here, so head below and see just why I regard him as the most listenable rapper in the UK scene. Reviews and downloads available for his three best tracks with one click of your grubby mouse.

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R&B Fridays: The Top 30 Tracks From Episodes 1-100

After delivering well over 1000 songs in the first 100 episodes, in honour of the 100th episode I’ll finally acquiesce to the oft-repeated demand for a recap by you R&B Friday fans. We’ve seen artists have great periods of consistency, others drop off a phenomenal effort and fade away, and everything in between: here we’ll seperate the great from the truly elite, and controversially select the definitive top 30 tracks to have graced the (often) selective walls of R&B Fridays.

The rules: Tracks MUST have been part of an episode, meaning tracks in the pre-post recap and in seperate posts do not count (unless a version of them was originally posted in an episode). This may explain tracks that you’re outraged about being omitted, so remember this. Every track included in the episodes is up for consideration, except for throwbacks. Finally, this list IS in ranking order, starting with #30 and down to the #1 track of R&B Fridays. Having changed my mind many times over the last week on the entire 30, I’ve forced myself to pick the final list and despite disagreeing with it myself every time I look at it, I’m putting it out there (at some point, every song has probably been at #1!). Click on to disagree and get angry.

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This Music Is Too Mainstream

In order to be a great writer, you have to do a lot of reading. I don’t particularly claim to achieve either of these, but what I do know is that as a feature writer, you never know when inspiration is going to hit you. It’s actually been seven months since my last article. Yet before that, I churned out six in as many months by this time last year.

Hardly the cornerstone of consistency, I hear.

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OTU's Top 15 MCs of 2010: The Top Three

Hopefully by now, you’ve managed to have a look at who the OTU team rated as the rest of the top 15 Mcs, with numbers 15 to 4 being revealed last week. If not, catch up here.

Whilst I’m sure many can guess 1, 2 or maybe even all 3 of our remaining picks based on the omissions from the aforementioned list, the order in which they’re placed may be more difficult to pre-empt. Click on to see who the OTU team have voted as the top three MCs of 2010.

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Deciphering Kanye West's Runaway

When this feature-length video was released a couple of weeks ago, it was met by some with a disorienting mixture of shock, confusion and appreciation, and by others with the unwavering clarity of ridicule.

Is Kanye West just an egocentric maniac, hell-bent on imposing his ‘creativity’ on everyone who’ll listen? Is he screaming so loud that even those not listening have no choice but to pay attention?

Or is it something more noble? Is he attempting a renaissance of the crumbling music industry with an injection of artistic integrity?

To fully make a judgement in either direction, you must first fully understand his biggest artistic project to date from a personal and creative perspective.

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MTV Announces The 'Hottest MCs In The Game'

This list loses more respect year-by-year. If you’re not familiar, they pick the ‘top 10′ mainstream MCs based on ‘rhyme skill, flow, buzz, commercial success, business ventures, Web presence and cultural influence’.

Realistically, they don’t. Some extended thoughts on the list are available after the click, as well as a revised list using the line-up they picked. I’m not going to dare to go into who I think should be on the list, as we’ll be here all day…

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Twitter: A Hip-Hop Revolution

There are some things in life you come to expect. Your mum doing your washing, prolonged rain spells, Christmas on the 25th December, Raekwon sending out a tweet. Wait. What? Yes people, it would be strange for me to visit my Twitter and there be no daily/hourly/minutely (believe me, some do it *cough* Noreaga) tweet from at least one of the many hip-hop artists I happen to follow.

Since the 140 character micro-blogging phenomenon stormed the Internet in 2006, a wide range of celebrities have been using the social networking site with popular persons such as Ashton Kutcher and Britney Spears amongst some of the first to join in the Twittermania. But it’s not only film and (one-time) pop stars who took to Twitter. MC Hammer held the hip-hop Twitter-torch for a while all on his own before others started to see the value that it brought in promoting their work and connecting with fans.

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Sleeping With Open Eyes: Part 1

Illmatic, Enter The Wu Tang, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, The Infamous, Reasonable Doubt, Ready To Die, Mecca And The Soul Brother, Tical, Lifestyles Ov Da Poor N Dangerous, Doe Or Die, The Low End Theory.

I’m hoping these albums strike some sort of chord with you. They should do. They form part of the 1990’s best hip-hop records ever released, never mind just East Coast. I’ve read countless blogs, Amazon lists, Wikipedia articles, Last.fm pages, magazines and books where these albums feature almost predictably on everyone’s  (mine included) “best of’s”, “albums to listen before you die” and “real hip-hop” playlists and no doubt will continue to as long as hip-hop remains in existence.

My point? What about those undeniable records of genius simply overshadowed by the above? The ones which fell victim not to the quality of the music itself, but merely the timing of its release. In an industry today where even the truly beautiful flowers are unable to rise above the magnitude of towering weeds, how impossible would it have been for such a flower to rise above a 100ft tree full in blossom? Put it this way, I wouldn’t have wanted my release date on April 19th 1994.

This is part one of an assortment of underrated hip-hop records from the 1990’s, carefully handpicked and selected for you by myself. → Continue Reading

2010: An Indie Odyssey

Seeing as this is my first post on OTU, I believe a look at times ahead for indie is in order! Times of veritable excitement these are too, so exciting in fact that I literally had a crisis when I saw the just who was releasing music in the summertime. In anticipation of this, here are the three albums that I expect to dominate playlists over the coming months…..

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Guru: A Tribute To An Everlasting Legacy

This week hip-hop was plunged into mourning as we lost Keith Elam, fondly remembered as Guru; the mastermind behind rap music’s most-loved duo, Gang Starr.

No doubt there will be a few bandwagons driving through the blogs over the upcoming weeks. ‘Tupac-syndrome’ (no disrespect Pac) will flood the forums as Guru makes his way into everyone’s top five. Don’t get me wrong; I have a front row seat on that bandwagon. The difference being, I’ve been here a while.

Guru played an important part in developing my love for this genre. This is my way of giving back to the man who helped shape my journey. But this isn’t about my scrobbles on Last.fm, it isn’t about DJ Premier, and it isn’t particularly about Gang Starr. This is mine and Overrating The Underrated’s tribute to Guru.

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Justification Throwback: Angels & Airwaves Part 1

I haven’t written a feature in a while, so let’s do one I’ve been thinking about for a while. Narrow-minded folk, go elsewhere, this isn’t for you. Go and put some mindless crap on repeat and have a nice evening.

Most of you will know I pretty much worship these guys. However, unless you know me quite well, you won’t know why. If you care, read on. If you don’t, I won’t hold it against you.

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Big Pun: Formidable and Unrivaled

I’ve disappointed you all. I’ve let the OTU team down and I apologise profusely…

There is no Big Pun on the site…

So to make it up to all of you, I’m going to bolster a huge feature article on him to feed all your starving appetites.

Read on kids and kidettes.

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Caution: Mind The Gap

I was in bed last night pondering upon a question I had been asked by @RupeshB: Who did I think was the most consistently on point rapper throughout their career? The answer I gave couldn’t have been a freshman MC (hell even I could be consistent for five minutes) and therefore had to be someone who had seen the changes in the demands of the genre; Someone who had spanned the 90’s and 00’s; Someone who had not necessarily cemented his stature in the hip-hop hall of fame; Merely someone who, throughout their career, has consistently brought a high standard of rapping ability time and time again and yet is still doing it to this very day.

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The Music of 8 Mile (The 90’s Version)

So before getting into things I feel it is only appropriate to show our remorse at the tragic death of Brittany Murphy and our thoughts at OTU go out to all her family during this difficult time. Her work was admired by masses across the globe, and her performance in 8 Mile was, for me, one of her best moments on the big screen.

Ever since joining the OTU team I’ve been looking forward to doing this review. Why? Not only is 8 Mile an awesome insight into the hip-hop world back in the mid nineties, but also because it showcases an array of hip-hop talent throughout the picture. You cannot get these on the OST released with the film, these are the tracks from the 90′s when the film was set. 7 years on from the film’s UK release date, I’ve got eleven absolute gems (the other two are essential to cover, but don’t achieve the minimum standard 4 BDK rating) to share with you over the next few minutes of your life and I guarantee they are going to make you feel more complete because of it…

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Biggie: “I thought I was the illest…”

I struggle to think of any other MC who gives me goose bumps like R.A. The Rugged Man. I don’t care if you don’t read any of my articles ever again but I beg you (I’m actually on my knees right now) to take ONE minute reading this and be prepared for it to change your perception of hip-hop forever. I had to drop this feature because I’m sick of people sleeping on such an unbelievable talent and someone who deserves success more than any other artist out there.

Think of R.A. as possessing the lyrical ability of Pun, L and G Rap combined; the street respect of Krs One; the mental disposition of Ol’ Dirty Bastard and the skin tone of Eminem. Yeah, R.A.’s white.

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