Consider this one of those odd situations where I’ve been listened to a track for quite a while, but just forgot to share it with everyone. It’s been a fixture in my playlists for a couple of months after stumbling on it completely accidentally (it got automatically played by Soundcloud right after I was listening to something else), and offers a nice refresh of the popular single from Kendrick’s GKMC album.
The original’s production wasn’t exactly lacking in gentle or smooth qualities, but this takes those elements and really enhances them a great deal. The entire original beat is stripped out, and in its place come airy, delicate synths, feather-light piano touches and light, unobtrusive percussion- it combines into a relaxing production that feels excellently suited to a summer evening. Kendrick and Drake’s raps were far from aggressive on the original incarnation, and hence here their laidback qualities are enhanced even further, with the production infusing a more easygoing vibe into their flows and vocal work, versus the occasional jagged edges (not a criticism) found in the Janet Jackson-sampling source work. Definitely worth giving a go, and a simple yet effective twist on the enjoyable original.
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
The newest release from ScHoolboy’s Oxymoron album, and one that I’m sure will find a grateful home in many iTunes libraries given the relative lack of information and music relating to this album thus far.
The production is one that might take time to grow on listeners. Whilst his traditionally dark, moody vibe is present with dominating bass hits and sporadic dashes of atmospheric synths and melodies, the pace of the beat pulls those elements together into a more energetic, head-nodding direction that compromises the sombre vibe somewhat. It’s initially a little disorienting, but repeat listens gradually soften the contrast and alternately move the beat between being upbeat and atmospheric, creating a rather dynamic listening experience. Q and Kendrick’s performances are differentiated well, with Q’s generally laidback style crisply running along the bouncy bass, whilst his occasional bursts of aggressiveness and intensity add good variety. Kendrick initially offers an altered cadence (though longtime listeners will have heard it before), with a higher-pitched delivery working with the spaced-out production elements to create a rather trippy vibe, before switching to a few ‘regular’ styles to close. One you’ll need to give several plays to fully enjoy.
Cole set up a bunch of listening sessions a few days ago, each at a specific bunch of co-ordinates across various locations for those unable/uninvited to the main NYC album premiere, and now provides the full LP for stream a full 11 days before its release.
A mixture of reasons make up that decision; it’s surely as motivated by the recent leak of his album as it is by the confidence he has in the material, and hence it might not have been Cole’s preferred time for this stream release. Nonetheless, he’s backing himself, and I thoroughly hope the material stands up to scrutiny- given the generally negative response amongst the hip-hop community to his debut album, there’s no denying Cole needs this one to come off, and all of the early signs are that he’s definitely surpassed that disappointing first take. Features are as expected from the tracklist release some time ago, with Kendrick Lamar, TLC, James Fauntleroy, Amber Coffman and Miguel all appearing, whilst the deluxe edition of the album will also include Truly Yours 3, which features 50 Cent and Jhene Aiko. Stream the project (without Truly Yours 3) here
Most collaborations are rather predictable, partly because many take place across hip-hop, but here Quadron unexpectedly bring their chillout style together with the rap smarts of Kendrick for a strong track.
Whereas their lead single was a switch in sound for Quadron, this effort is a return to their mellow roots and a track that will satisfy their longtime fans, whilst also providing the newer fans (this collab will create many, I’m sure) a glimpse into what they’re best at. The production is a laidback blend of gentle percussion, soft yet progressive synths and a couple of warm melodies that’ll probably land you on a beach holiday in mere seconds. It grows with time too, incorporating livelier, more exuberant melodies to match Coco’s considerable vocal gifts, with her initially delicate vocals bursting with vivacity as that production evolves. Her performance is typically flawless throughout, whilst Kendrick again shows he’s adapatable to almost any production type, with a watertight delivery packed into an easygoing cadence that blends well with the backdrop; he does it so effectively that his stuttered line quite cleverly breaks the entire track’s flow, and certainly commands attention. Velvety-smooth goodness from Quadron once again, and be sure to grab the Avalanche LP on 4th June.
The video’s content certainly won’t harm those chances of mainstream popularity. There’s quite the dichotomy of emotions displayed throughout, from the natural sadness of the funeral in the opening through to the progressive happiness and energy the on-screen activities exude toward the end, and the gradual connection between the two is a smooth transition. From early on, you expect there’s a twist coming of Kendrick being in the coffin, a suspicion built on by his repeated isolation, particularly rapping alone in a dream-like, heaven-esque landscape dressed in an angelic all-white outfit, and though the occasional flashes of his fun goings-on inside the limo suggest otherwise, it’s hard to shake the feeling that the twist is coming. Eventually, the video wears you down and you begin to lose that hunch, with his humourous scenes with Mike Epps being a notable factor in that progressive approach, and the climactic, definitive ‘announcement’ at the end closes that notion entirely. It’s good to have an additional layer of story thrown on top of the audio here, and though most (myself included) would have been fine with a textbook “summer” video, this direction makes for much more compelling viewing. I’m not even going to post an iTunes link because surely, surely, we all own this by now.
Some may remember this track from the tailend of last year, released as a cut from Tip’s Trouble Man album due to sample clearance issues. It’s now found a more permanent home on the upcoming Hustle Gang: G.D.O.D. (Get Dough or Die), a forthcoming release set to showcase T.I.’s Grand Hustle signees.
It was a fairly impressive listen on its initial release, and this retooled version of the audio only serves to enhance that. The essentials of the audio are in place, with Kris’ soft vocals and the relatively gentle production tempering the storytelling style of each MC’s work, whilst their verses are still lyrically commendable.
The video isn’t particularly complicated, and as far as mainstream acceptance goes, it should do well. Each rapper is set amongst open landscapes, enhancing the retrospective and thoughtful nature of their raps, whilst the flashback scenes play on the context of their lyricism well enough without being too obvious or attempting to add any additional layers. There isn’t much more going on, but it’s a solid accompaniment to an admirably introspective mainstream hip-hop effort, which is available on iTunes now (US only, expect the UK release in the coming days).
Miguel has become one of a handful of R&B artists keeping the genre mainstream without turning too ‘pop’, and with Kendrick being a mirror of that for hip-hop, this is a poetic coming together.
With that said, this isn’t a track I’ve immediately taken to. As ever, Miguel’s vocals aren’t lacking at all, but it feels stuck somewhere between a Maxwell slow jam and a chart-friendly R&B number, and hence it gets lost at times in terms of its intended purpose. The verses are full of bedroom music crooning, accompanied by a gentle production that rightfully opts to support rather than match Miguel’s vocals, but the hook instead seems to take a few steps back to opt for a catchy vibe, rather than building on the progressive verses. Kendrick’s contribution generally retains the track’s momentum, and though his sharp tones do occasionally sound out of place on the mellow backdrop, his lyricism is contextual enough to work through it. It’s not a bad song by any means, and though I’m sure it’ll continue to improve with time, it’s not one that I’m itching to give another spin.
The video’s minimalism is a good stylistic choice, enhancing the simple production, organics of Miguel’s voice, and the sultry vibe of the lyricism. I’m particularly keen on the fact Miguel doesn’t feel the need to constantly have his face on camera, and is rather more focused on creating the right environment to visualise his works. A good video for an audio that many mainstream heads will appreciate.
Fair play to Funk Flex for this though, as the lineup is unbelievable and essentially a snapshot of mainstream hip-hop at this moment in time. Appearances include A$AP Rocky, Joey Bada$$, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Childish Gambino, Fabolous, Action Bronson, Slaughterhouse, Young Jeezy and many, many more; for a full list, check out the back artwork over at Funk’s place. Many of the tracks from this tape have leaked out individually in the last 24 hours too, and thankfully they’re tagless versions, with one notable example being the Joey Bada$$ effort on the mixtape. If you’re after any of the other individual tracks, I’m sure a quick Google search can help you there, otherwise grab the bumper project for free below.
DJ Mustard has done it again. Most of his beats have rather similar features (Rack City, T.O., Red Cafe’s Game Over and so on), namely bassy, booming melodies, but quite simply it works. Here, that formula is sped up a little and accompanied by a more minimal percussion than usual, with the claps only really showing up sporadically, but once again the beat is completely held together by those bassy, low-down notes.
The raps are everything you’d expect for a mainstream track of this ilk, with Jeezy’s gristly, double-layered voice being a good contrast to the chunky production, whilst his intensity sets him apart from his company on the track too. In terms of technical skill and wit, Kendrick unsurprisingly takes the win, whilst the other two verses are pretty redunant in truth. A fun effort that’s worth a go, though primarily for Jeezy and Kendrick.
Those who have watched his recent videos will be familiar with Cudi’s glamorous framing, a visual style he’s applied to his artwork here. The centrepiece of the artwork is certainly unique, with the explosiveness potentially representing Cudi pressing the reset button on his work, to some extent, or is quite simply just a massive fireball thrown in for a striking visual impact. It’s probably both, though the title of the opening track would probably suggest a lean to the former.
In any case, it’s definitely original enough to turn some heads on shop shelves (excuse me HMV, people still buy CDs right?). Whilst the artwork might be somewhat ambiguous, the tracklist is not: the features are incredibly diverse, with a collection of well-known and unexpected acts representing a multitude of genres, whilst there are several tracks many expected to be included (such as the three solo efforts he’s released most recently), along with some nice continuations of his Man on the Moon theme. Check it out below, and look out for the LP’s release on 23rd April (probably the 22nd over here).
On Wednesday night, Jay-Z’s DJ, Young Guru, treated guests at a SXSW party in Texas by playing the official remix to this excellent Kendrick track with new verses and Jay-Z also hopping on. Given that we had no idea this was in the works, this had the internet going nuts – especially as this song being played at the party was fully caught on film.
A CD quality version of this has dropped (albeit the clean version, boo, Kendrick just dropped the dirty version, yay!). Kendrick was one of the few bright things about hip hop in 2012, so it’s always refreshing to hear new material with him. Major co-sign for him as well with Jay-Z jumping on this track, and it says a lot when I say I genuinely prefer Kendrick’s verses. Listen below.
There’s little doubt Kendrick’s been sitting on a potential chart favourite with this track, and he’s now cutting it loose with the video release.
With such a track, it would have been easy to deliver a visual that has them fawning over women, and vice versa. Thankfully, this isn’t that. The clip opens in that manner to some extent, with Kendrick eyeing and talking to a lady of interest, before things quickly turn sour as the club is attacked by a gang, with the dark, relatively grimy environment adding a believable realism to that encounter. Drake’s verse would have been easy to isolate into a visual serenade due to the lyricism, but again a surprise is sprung and his verse ends up being the anchor of the video: it’s revealed he’s calling someone who was apparently caught up in that skirmish (whilst another is in his bed, no less), who is then revealed to be the target of Kendrick’s own affections. The heartwarming and tragic finale of Kendrick’s lifeless body sprawled protectively over their shared love interest perfectly sums up the level of depth they’ve added to the audio with this visual, and it isn’t the kind of video you can look away from for a minute and still know what’s going on (which you can do with 90% of music videos, thanks to their pointlessness); that might make it less of a contender for mainstream airplay, but it’s still an excellent video that enhances the audio greatly.
It says a lot about how much 50 Cent’s stock has fallen when the first thing that comes to mind when I heard about this collaboration was “wow 50′s done well to get on a track with Kendrick Lamar”. Or maybe it’s testament to how far Kendrick Lamar has come, after his major label debut he’s certainly gone up in my eyes as one of the stars in hip hop today.
Onto the track, this one has me actually semi-excited for 50′s upcoming album, Street King Immortal. The west coast vibe of this track certainly suits 50 well, who’s at his best these days when he’s making laidback tracks. It’s somewhat reminiscent of his collaborations with The Game in what seems a lifetime ago now. Check it out below.
So, it appears someone took a shot at Rick Ross. Now, I’m sure we all agree Ross isn’t exactly slimmer of the year, and hence shouldn’t be too hard to hit, right? Yet, they missed. Either he’s very lucky or this is a bit of a stunt before his various projects drop this year. Call me a cynic for suggesting that, but we all know it happens.
Nothing more than a verse tacked on the top of Kendrick’s excellent album jam and a few adjustments to the bass of the track (turned up and pitched slightly differently), and though his laidback flow fits the beat well enough, there’s not a great deal going on that makes this worth listening to over the original. Probably worth a quick listen, but don’t hurt yourself trying to replay it or anything.
If TDE’s members are to be believed, 2013 is going to be all about Ab-Soul and ScHoolboy Q. This was one of the standout cuts from Ab’s Control System album, and certainly one that garnered plenty of attention across hip-hop courtesy of his labelmate attaching his name to this.
Ab’s lyricism veers between confident, humble, biographical and even somewhat altruistic at times, displaying his versatility as a rapper and packaging those raps into an intense and hungry delivery that adds plenty of gravitas. That Kendrick verse is a great addition too, his introspective style fitting well with the spaced-out, atmospheric production, and there’s no doubt this is a mighty fine slice of hip-hop from start to finish.
The visual is both engaging and relatively simple, with a very dark, almost-underworldly style that plays on the aura of the production well, with shots of dilapidated buildings, personal close-ups in dim lighting, and rapid shifts from scene-to-scene that create a slight sense of unease. There’s a ton of messaging packed into here too, a favourite being the surveillance-esque footage of Kendrick being driven through a dead street, indicative of his status as ‘everyone’s MC to watch’ in an alarmingly-empty hip-hop scene, and I’m sure you’ll find plenty more worth noting. An engrossing watch and a good track.
One of the tracks we received in advance of the full good kid, m.A.A.d city album release, and it still remains one of the highlights on the fantastic LP.
The Hit-Boy production is aggressive and full of intensity, making for a style that sits apart from the more obviously introspective work on the album, but of course still slides into its storytelling nature nicely. Kendrick’s peformance matches the production’s vibe, delivering a much more ‘typical’ rap performance that’s laced with a hint of urgency and hostility, and that more widely-accepted style of rap comes across in the video.
Rather than the metaphorical route several of his previous videos have rightfully chosen, this strips things back and goes for a gritty, ghetto-focused visual that encapsulates the nature of the audio excellently: from the inclusion of the amusing skit of his father and his Domino’s to the monochrome shots of Kendrick’s hood and home, there’s an inherent realism that ties to the typical hip-hop cues (including a scantily clad Sherane) for a video that will probably get some good mainstream exposure. A fitting video for a track still getting heavy rotation.
Unfortunately, this star-laden track isn’t going to find a home on T.I.’s Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head album, set for release tomorrow, but arguably it’s one that will increase the album’s buzz more than any track that’s preceded it. Apologies for the radio rip, but that’s all that’s doing the rounds at the moment.
The wistful, melodic hook work by Kris Stephens gives this a mainstream-friendly anchor point, whilst also enhancing the introspection of the individual rappers’ lyricism. Tip opens up with some reminiscing bars about a love interest in his past, packaged into a typically-slick flow that sets the track off well before B.o.B follows suit with his own sharp delivery. His verse focuses on a seemingly possessive old flame, and there’s a much more personal vibe about this one, particularly the pregnancy revelation. As is becoming customary with a K Dot feature, hip-hop’s golden boy is on last, and does a nice job with a slightly more bitter recollection of an ex-lady of interest, whilst also throwing a quick shot at Mitt Romney. It’s a nice bit of introspective hip-hop that’s softened by the hook, and hence makes for replayable listening.
Dido returns in 2013 with her first album in 5 years and here’s one of the songs that’ll drop from that, a surprising collaboration with hip-hop’s man of the moment Kendrick Lamar. Let Us Move On is a fantastic song reminding us all what a great voice Dido has, particularly against a haunting but reflective backdrop, which is tailor-made for Kendrick to assist with a great verse, continuing on his fine form in 2012. Her album, Girl Who Got Away, is set for release March 4th 2013.
The context Game applies to the #SundayService audio releases has given this series a nice uniqueness. Each time he’s released a track cut from Jesus Piece (due to sample clearance issues), he’s let fans know where it would have fit in on the album-the artwork here collates the previous two and shows where this track should sit.
It’s a shame this isn’t on the LP, as it’s an enjoyable effort. The soulful production is a real treat, combining a gentle yet slightly uneasy vocal sample with soft wind instruments and crisp percussion for a sharp yet mellow beat. Coming in at just shy of 6 minutes long it’s not rushed either, allowing for somewhat extended verses. Game opens with a focus on the various associations with the song title, whilst he throws in a list of infamous assasinations into the second verse, and Scarface closes with a mix of the Game’s two content choices. Sadly, Kendrick is only on hook duty but this is a good track nonetheless and be sure to grab Jesus Piece tomorrow.
Why would Vevo upload this to YouTube, and restrict the countries that can view it? If it’s to get people to use Vevo’s site, it’s worked only to reveal the mess that is their own player-you can’t pause or mute adverts, and you have to work for an embed code that’s a mile long. Amateur.
After the highly successful Goldie, this follow-up solo release from a few weeks back has really set Rocky up for some continued mainstream success. Undoubtedly, it’ll be a club favourite this winter thanks to both the hook and the features, whilst the production’s slightly dark nature gives it playability outside of those realms.
The video really amps up the energy of the track, capitalising on its inherent intensity with a constantly-moving camera and plenty of activity from the rappers, whilst a dimmed colour palette tempers that activity somewhat. Rocky’s at his magnetic best here, dressed crisply as ever and oozing the charisma he’s becoming famed for, whilst Chainz brings his odd brand of chaos to the hook, Drake comes through in a lively and oddly dressed manner, and Kendrick closes by showing off a more positive and fashion-conscious side of him we rarely see on video. Over time, Drake’s verse has really grown on me and he probably takes it on flow alone, whilst I’m much preferring this remastered production too: this is a good mainstream audiovisual that will greatly enhance Rocky’s reputation.
Another excellent remix from the talented Star Slinger, as he takes arguably the most popular track from Kendrick’s GKMC album and adds a little liveliness to proceedings.
Given the holy status of this track has attained amongst Kendrick fans already, tweaking it will naturally be met with some apprehension, but fear not as it ends up being more a sampling of the track than a rework and makes for good listening. The slower percussion is thrown out for something sharper and quicker, which combines with the distinctive guitars of the original (or more accurately, of the Boom Clap Bachelors sample) and a couple of new synth additions for a beat that may help this become a club favourite. The only vocal used is the memorable hook, which works well with the new beat in its new context here, and this is a good remix that might just help the track spread to otherwise-uninterested fans of other genres. Thanks to Ed for the find.
There was so much buzz and talk about GaGa and Kendrick’s friendship a couple of months back, and even more so when it was announced they had a collaboration on the latter’s most recent album, which of course never made the cut (for political reasons, I believe).
Thankfully, GaGa’s DJ has been kind enough to liberate this demo version of the good kid, m.A.A.d city jam (why more artists don’t let this stuff go I’ll never know), with GaGa taking over hook duty and really doing a decent job. It’s not going to outdo the original by any means but her version is legitimately likeable, scaling back her usual exuberance for a laidback performance that reminds those of us who don’t follow her music that she does possess some ability. It’s not even that she’s vocally perfect either, it’s actually the opposite: her raw yet mellow delivery matches the vibe (sorry) of the instrumental perfectly, compliments Kendrick’s verses, and even his work on the hook. I wonder though, there’s a warped second voice in the hook of the album version-could it be a distorted version of her vocals? Tough to say, but it’d be great to hear a finalised version with this hook and the original mixed.
The trio’s GMB album is due on 27th November, and whilst the releases so far have been of a consistently good quality, there’s no doubt that adding fellow West Coasters Kendrick and Blu to the lineup will really turn heads.
In keeping with their more aggressive approach on this album, there’s crunching production on this one that gives their raps much more intensity, and makes for a nice departure from the more laidback beats we usually associate with all of the acts on here. The boom-bap percussion complements the Div’s cadences extremely well, whilst Blu’s dulcet tones contrast rather nicely with it to create a distinctively underground rap sound, and Kendrick’s high-paced flow rides the production slightly differently to the rest for a final touch of diversity. A variety of performances and results, and they combine for a very replayable track that bodes well ahead of GMB.
The week is up… Yall did it… Appreciation day is TODAY. Me and COLE was in the stu lastnight…
The support for Kendrick’s debut LP has been nothing short of magnificent, both critically and commercially, and in his typically generous fashion he lets this one fly. Cole and Kendrick’s previous work in this format spawned HiiiPower, one of the highlight’s from Lamar’s Section.80, and they’ve most certainly come up with the goods again. Cole (and Canei Finch) serve up a powerful production that blends slow-rolling percussion with melodies that seem somewhere between vintage horror movie and gospel (seriously), and it’s a versatile one that allows Kendrick to try out several deliveries that all work excellently. Another great release from an MC that’s arguably sitting at the top of the pile right now.
The fearsome foursome come together once again for another Target bonus cut from Kendrick’s LP, this time grabbing the album’s first single and taking it for a ride.
Kendrick’s work on here is unchanged, but the rest of the TDE crew drops off enjoyable work that spices up the original, which I’m sure has finally dropped out of many’s playlists. A much different vibe to the grim Swimming Pools Remix, each of the feature verses are much lighter and laced with a touch more arrogance, with Jay Rock probably just edging it: he tones down his aggression, which leaves his delivery as gritty yet laidback, a great complement to this relaxing production. Another likeable remix.
With any good album release comes a slew of bonus tracks from various retailers, and as ever most of them are only available to consumers shopping at certain outlets. Essentially, most fans won’t get to legally own some of this material unless they buy the album several times. Way to combat piracy. Not.
This one (and another coming shortly) were found on the Target edition of the album, and it’s a damn shame they’re not more widely available. The original Swimming Pools still gets heavy play, and throwing the TDE crew into the mix provides a great upgrade on that, with the moody tones of each rapper suiting this dark production. The highlight verse of the new additions has to be Q’s, utilising a similar flow to Kendrick’s opening verse on the original, but lacing it with a unique touch that seperates it from its reference point. Kendrick himself appends a new verse over a retooled production to the end, with the beat being much less atmospheric and more on a thudding, underground hip-hop style. Top remix, and let’s hope it becomes more readily available soon.
Of course, today marks the official release date for Kendrick debut LP good kid, m.A.A.d city, and with that comes a slew of additional material.
First up is this scintillating set of freestyles over a set of superb old-school instrumentals. K.Dot’s fans are going to really love this one, and alternately if you haven’t yet subscribed to the Kendrick hype, you’re about to. Big Boy’s beat selection encompasses some utter classics from the West Coast, and whilst I don’t want to ruin it before you’ve watched it, even the loosest of hip-hop fans will recognise several of the tracks. The highlight however is Kendrick seamless work on and between each one, bringing forth several styles from a laidback flow that emphasises his intelligent lyricism to a rapid fire tongue-twister, and in either case it’s frightening how smoothly he blends with the production of choice. The backing vocalists are very annoying, but otherwise this is a great watch that’ll encourage you to get that album if you haven’t already.