kiwi music blog

Jeezy Interview for Brick Mag


Profiled the hustle god Young Jeezy for Brick. Available in UK and US stores, or pre-order here.

Here's a snippet too. 

Tech has Steve Jobs, Buddhists have the Dalai Lama, the streets have Jeezy. Trap’s avowed saint, his voice scolds subwoofers like hot coal. Each rasped ad-lib is a street mantra. Every “aye” or “let’s get it” a firm earworm, sticking to the synapses and energising dopeboys. Harder than mortar, renowned for flipping bricks of another kind, Jeezy’s perpetually consistent. The Snowman has soundtracked more white powder than Frosty. But it’s more than that. Whether flipping rock or real estate, Jay Wayne Jenkins embodies the grind. He’s the street dream, the late shift, the second job on a Sunday, the determination to succeed and the hustle to do it. Who else took a pay cut to pursue music and picked Birdman up in a Porsche before fame, just to stunt? Who else negotiated simultaneous contracts with L.A Reid and Diddy, counted America’s most infamous cartel B.M.F as allies and bought two million of real cash to a cover shoot because he didn’t want any fakery? Only Jeezy.

Now 40, and pursuing a tenth street sermon, the Snowman’s an industry vet. From grams to Grammy nominations, number one albums to false arrests and public beef, he’s seen it all. Jeezy should be satisfied, at peace. But that’s not how the resolute hustler operates, he’s addicted to adversity. Years of pot whipping and pistol gripping will do that. “I just feel like you should never stop challenging yourself, that had a lot to do with my success. Just being put in predicaments that I could figure or navigate myself through, that’s the excitement.” Talking to Jeezy is like attending a prime motivational seminar, minus cheering moms and regrettable instalment fees. A hood Tony Robbins, his conversation makes you want to be better, try harder, do more. We half-joke about starting an advice column. Every other line is quotable. He means it too. “Your next move has got to be your best move, especially if you’re from where we’re from. It’s always about getting to that next level, surrounding yourself with the right things. How can you push yourself to do something you’ve never done before? That’s what it’s always about.”


London Restaurateurs "Chinese Laundry Room"


Did this lil write up for London's Root & Bone monthly. 

How did two feisty designers create palate kicking Chinese cuisine despite a fire, cultural stereotypes, all nighters and zero chef experience? A dab of confidence, loads of motivation and a touch of good natured naivety was their blueprint. 

Peiran Gong and Tongtong Ren’s Chinese Laundry Room is nuzzled within Angel’s foodie haven Upper Street. Named after the original immigrant venture, their eatery evokes warm nostalgia through a 80s dining room aesthetic. Interior design outfit Michaelis Boyd Studio crafted a colourful mishmash of kitsch furniture, patterned tiles and kooky vintage art. With a repertoire boasting sweet tofu curd, beer sauce clams and five spice basil popcorn chicken, their food is equally chromatic. Old school exotics such as tripe, trotter, bamboo fungus and chicken carcass also boldly feature. Ren and Gong proudly modernise childhood traditions, educating unfamiliar taste-buds in process. 

The pair were unversed with fast food stereotypes before U.K emigration, their methods at odds to the five minute wok toss. “That’s not the type of food we grew up with, so we don’t want to eat that. We don’t really eat stir fried rice and noodles,” Tongtong attests. Foregoing mass production, sleep and sanity, the duo handcraft their dumplings, noodles and spring onion pancakes. Humble flour balls don’t evoke thoughts of precision, but there’s a difficult art to the folds, dough thickness and wrapping technique. It takes four hours to make 150 dumplings, only 30 servings. As a staple food always sold cheaply despite intensive preparation, it's a selfless pursuit. Ren and Gong say valuing all things edible is Chinese tradition. Families often start preparing dinner in the morning and dishes such as Mei Cai Kou Rou (steamed pork with preserves) take hours of concoction. Peiran says “in China, it's impossible to see someone on the street eat a sandwich for lunch. Every single meal has to be hot, cooked food. They can't understand how someone could go for something that easy.” 

Oddly, the duo’s unification wasn’t spurred by edible exploits. Both studied design in Bejing and were acquainted by a friendly tutor. Ren and Gong later owned labels until culinary daydreams took charge. Before setting up Chinese Laundry Room in 2015, they’d drag themselves to 4am meat markets after work or a night out. Their visual instincts, honed by the Royal College of Art, remain intact. “We definitely cook and appreciate food from a designer’s perspective, since that is basically our methodology towards everything” affirms Tongtong. Everything from menu illustrations to the candy pink signage smacks of artistic flair. Unfortunately a terrace fire recently seared their meticulous handiwork. Peiran was locked inside, but fled unscathed. Three forensic scientists failed to uncover the inferno’s mysterious cause. Doors are temporarily shut for the next few months, yet the plucky twosome aren’t defeated. They’ve kept occupied with menu brainstorming, a residency at Marylebone’s Carousel venue, and quickly invited me to sample (gorge on) their recent creations.  

When arriving at Tongtong’s South London flat, it takes microseconds to spot the flamingo pantene lathered on her door. I’m here to sample perhaps their bravest offering. The century egg. Aged for weeks in clay, ash or rice hulls, the six hundred year old delicacy is a rare sight. Tongtong and Peiran are one of few restaurateurs promoting the preserved nucleus. As white and yolk become dark green, it forms a tar coloured globdule with a potent aroma. My timid nibble is rewarded with a singular experience. 

Sliced on soft tofu with a chilli soy vinaigrette, the egg is complemented by diced cashews. Each bite varies slightly in strength, at times rustic or acidic. The flavour variance is caused by salt induced PH chemicals breaking down protein and fat. An acquired taste, but far from stomach shattering, my curiosity is sated. We also feast on meaty whelk snails with celtuce, grandma’s tasty cured sausage on garlic shoot, succulent pig’s head and green wild rice shoots as well as Zhajiang hand pulled noodles and too many other belly stuffers to name. 

Ren and Gong’s experiences as well as a passion for family recipes and local produce spur an abundance of authentic taste. Despite shared values, both chefs hail from regions with differing fare. Tongtong was raised in Hubei, an ancient outpost blanketed by rivers and lakes. Locals are spoilt with rice, unique vegetables and fish aplenty. Hubei’s breakfast scene also inspired Chinese Laundry Room’s covetable brunch staples including tomato omelette dumplings and fresh peanut milk. In contrast, Peiran originates from rural Dailan, where options were extremely limited due to a minus thirty climate. “I remember when I was little there were only two types of vegetables, daikon radishes and Chinese cabbage. [Due to shortages] One family in a month, would share one apple. We don’t waste anything.” This scarcity instilled techniques such as spicing, salting, twice or thrice cooking to wrench all flavour. An unfamiliar texture or colour is an easy sacrifice when you’re on day five of radishes. Families also save by making goods like rice wine or tofu and there’s always something hung out to dry.  

When I mention how ballsy it is to share authentic fare with unversed westerners, the duo resist any lofty ideals. “It’s like telling a story. When you like something so much, you want to share it with other people,” Tongtong shrugs. “We just make what we like.” Sounds fair to me. 

Rich Homie Quan For Brick Mag

Warren G Interview

Warren G Interview

The G Funk era is eternal. Dre, Snoop, 2Pac, Nate and Warren G are the holy quintet. “Smoke weed everyday” is their sacred mantra. Thirty years after Above The Law and Dre conceived Gangsta Funk, the influence continues through DJ Mustard’s minimal bounce. Kendrick and YG tried their hand at it. Quik never stopped. Rap fans recite the “California Love” chorus quicker than their national anthem. You can be anywhere in the world and theoretically know how it feels to roll through Long Beach in a Dickies suit with a bottle of Malt Liquor. I could Crip Walk before I really knew what a Crip was. My fingers involuntarily twist into W’s anytime Doggystyle plays. I still miss Nate Dogg.

Passion of The Weiss Favourite Songs of the Summer part one

rap summer mixtape

I concepted and organized this feature for Passionweiss, as well as part two.

Asking music writers to agree on one thing is an impossible task. Some think Young Thug’s otherworldly yelps ruled the summer while others would prefer he return to his home planet. One thing you can depend on is most of these tunes will inspire unrestrained dancing all the way into autumn. See below for our varied favourites from the sunny season. 

My picks:

Migos: “Handsome and Wealthy”

Based on which Migos track has infiltrated more clubs and white family minivans, you might assume I would choose “Fight Night” as my favourite song of the summer. However as someone well versed in Versace connoisseurs rapping in triplets, I prefer the karaoke-inducing chorus of “Handsome and Wealthy.” Quavo, Takeoff and Offset released their crowded “No Label 2″ mixtape earlier this year, which featured 25 tracks of Pyrex kitchen cookware references and shout raps. This tune sees the group pushing their sound into more melodic territory while continuing their ascent to overthrow ZZ Top as the world’s best power trio. The three amigos from Atlanta have also perfected novelty ad-libs, if you’ve never chanted “handsome” “professor” and “can you tell me” in quick succession you’re missing out.

Runner Up: iloveMakonnen- “Tuesday”

It’s a rare skill to make partying on a weeknight sound melancholic and Makonnen’s pitch shifting wail delivers. I’m not convinced the 25 year old who feels guilty about the good times will live up to his current hype, but along with this and “I Don’t Sell Molly No More” he’s got two unique jams in the chamber.

Read the rest here. 

Summer mixtape

southern rap

Here's a playlist I originally created for Passionweiss 

“Welcome to the land where it just don’t stop. Trunks pop, tops drop, and the front-end hop.” I like to imagine summer is a lot like the world Houston rapper Fat Pat [RIP] describes on “Tops Pop,” where the music is funky, the cars have impractical modifications and the barbeques are forever blazing.

London’s non-existent beach culture and grimy urban backdrop can put a damper on any sun loving spirit, but listening to the tracks assembled below helps ease the chill. The loose criterion for these tunes is good vibes, the odd cheesy synth and choruses that inspire singing when friends are out of hearing range.

I’ve recently begun digging through classic Southern rap and while most pioneers from the East/West Coast have reached international acclaim, there’s a plethora of talent below the Dixie that hasn’t reached foreign ears. For this reason I’ve included Big Mike, Z-Ro and Dead End Alliance as well as B. Bravo for being one of my new favourite funk producers, The Dream for releasing his best material in a long time and Pimp C for being Pimp C. So lean back, sip your favourite brown liquor, push play and lend a thought to those of us not surrounded by summer dresses.

1) B.T. Express- Give up the Funk (Let’s Dance)
2) Juicy – Sugar Free
3) B. Bravo – Energy
4) Fat Pat – Tops Drop
5) Big Mike ft Pimp C– Havin’ Thangs
6) Slim Thug ft Z-RO– Summertime
7) Big Krit ft Devin The Dude – Moon and Stars
8) Undergravity – Goin’ Live
9) Ghostface Killah ft John Legend – Let’s Stop Playing
10) Chuck Inglish ft Vic Mensa and Killa Kyleon – James Harden
11) Slick Rick ft Outkast – Street Talkin’
12) Dead End Alliance ft Lil Keke – Sun hit the fade
13) The Dream – Outkast
14) Don Brown – Don’t Lose Your Love

15) Kool & The Gang – Heaven at once

Click here to listen. 

Azealia Banks - Heavy Metal and Reflective

azealia banks beef

By Jimmy Ness

Azealia Banks just won't go away. From dissing an A-Z of artists to alienating herself from a formerly supportive LGBT audience, she's running a master class in self-sabotage. However, despite claiming page one of the industry blacklist, Banks packs the talent that most hipster quasi-musicians lack. "Heavy metal and reflective" is her first track since leaving/being kicked off Universal and a decent reminder of why we liked her the first place. 

Though it’s tempting to deny, Azealia Banks a compelling rapper. The twenty three year old can rhyme fast, aggressive and raunchy. In less than three minutes she delivers slick talk reminiscent of Missy Elliot’s purple-lipped banter on “She’s a Bitch.” “I be in Osaka with that papa, took that best trip, buy me Tamagotchi, sipping Saki and Moets’s.”[sic] Azealia rattles off entertaining first person bravado in near broken English without incorporating the mediocre pop elements or cliché sexual tropes that plague her contemporaries. The closest she comes to pandering is mentioning bisexuality, but she avoids re-treading tired lesbian references with some fun wordplay and delivery. “It’s some sex shit, I be with that Betty with that bubble and them breasts's. I be lookin very jiggle jello in them dresses"

The pounding beat also can’t go ignored. A mechanical high-tempo thump with occasional spoken vocals assists Azealia, while Yeezus nods his head approvingly from a pleather throne. Banks might be hanging on the edge of irrelevance by her turquoise painted fingernails but if she can use arrogance to fuel musical proficiency like ‘Ye before her, she might just be ok.

Don Trip - "Wake Up"

don trip rap

Originally published at Passionweiss

Don Trip’s latest single “Wake Up” was released the other week with minimal fanfare. Along with Starlito and Kevin Gates, he’s one of several young artists that dispels the conservative rap coalition’s claim that rap isn’t lyrical anymore. Like the aforementioned MCs, Don Trip also hasn’t fully made an impact with the kids. Despite appearing on the 2012 XXL Freshman cover and working with Dr “iRich” Dre, mainstream success eludes him for now. Luckily, this means we get to enjoy unfiltered street rhymes while bubble-gum rap fans are busy debating if Iggy Azalea writes her own music. This is an obvious blessing and the Memphis rapper has delivered a hustler’s dedication with bars upon bars.

“Wake Up” serves as both a motivational anthem and a forewarning for those who were sleeping on Mr Don Trip. The 26 year old spits over frantic production and sticks with his grimy drawl rather than jacking the Migos flow as per almost everyone else in the past year. The track’s hook sounds elementary on paper “wake up, wake up, it’s time to get me some money, got to get off my ass, you can’t get rich for me,” but it’s catchiness combined with the adrenaline pumping beat makes for wall-punching music. There’s not much here beyond moneymaking metaphors, but sometimes we all need a song you can frown and nod to. Now how about releasing that Step Brothers 3?

Kevin Gates - By Any Means review

kevin gates by any means

By me and originally written for Passionweiss

Heavily inked, emotionally scarred and fresh out of the slammer, Kevin Gates returns with 16 bi-polar bangers. By Any Means is less personal than last year’s Stranger Than Fiction and The Luca Brasi Story, but the Louisiana’s rappers remains one of the best young gangsta rappers this side of the Mississippi. Gates has the hooks, the singing, the story and the passion. Of course, it helps that he’s been blessed with the rare combination of versatile vocal chords and awareness of how to use them. From his threatening croak on standout “Homicide” to the palpable sincerity on “Movie,” KG is as far removed from one-dimensional MCs as it gets.

The 28 year old also defies the tradition that rappers need to be invincible. His willingness to showcase flaws is a large part of what makes his music compelling. Gates covers depression, anxiety, self-doubt and a slew of other pitfalls rarely touched on in rap. Add in his penchant for including vivid real life details from his turbulent past and you’ve got a killer combo. Whether it’s because he’s attempting to make a mainstream friendly project or because he’s saving material so that the relentless mixtape circuit doesn’t end in creative burn out, these details aren’t quite as apparent on this record as they were on his 2013 output. There are no epic tales of attempted murder by best friends like “4.30am” or cinematic true-life tales of crime ala “iHop” on here. You’ve got to listen a little closer, but it’s worth the effort.

 Gates adds humanity to what could have been a generic hustling theme on “Wish I Had.” Instead of lazily attributing his motivation to the American Dream aka wanting to get rich, he phrases the chorus in a more relatable way and it takes on a redemptive quality. “Out my window, I see everything I dream about and wish I had.” During the song, he also acknowledges his self-consciousness at being a two-time felon, desperately wanting to write a hit and being a good person that can transform in the wrong circumstances.

Later on “Sposed to Love” there’s more mention of this duality of character and the imperfection he’s willing to display on record. Gates is passionately in love and deeply offended when his partner doesn’t answer the phone, but he’s also bordering on the obsessive and admits to hitting her in the heat of the moment. The realistic portrayal of domestic violence undoubtedly makes it the most divisive track on the album. Some listeners may feel he’s condoning this behavior as he comes across as cocky rather than apologetic, but references to Chris Brown, stalking and jail make it clear he’s aware of his moral wrongdoing.

Musical psychoanalysis aside, this tape is also trunk rattling. Get Em Gates understands the quandaries presented by turning down for no good reason. As one of the chosen few who isn’t overshadowed by Juicy J and 2 Chainz on his own jams, he can rap with the best from planet Versace. Despite his currently unproven mainstream appeal, “Don’t Know” and “Arm And Hammer” have the type of hypotonic hooks you’ll find yourself accidently reciting during work meetings or on the subway. Along with his chameleon vocals and a healthy dose of neuroticism, part of what makes Gates listenable is his varied delivery style. He’ll switch flow several times, moving within seconds from Migos inspired double-time to shouting threats down your ear canal.

With a hulking audio presence, Gates doesn’t need to rely on features and thankfully he hasn’t succumbed to this cheap tactic. For the most part, the guests are used sparingly and fit in nicely. The late Doe B in particular shines with his effortless flow during “Paranoid,” making it all the more obvious the world was robbed of the 22 year old’s potential. Then of course, there’s Plies. He doesn’t quite ruin “Keep Fucking With Me” by spitting a marble mouthed verse, but he definitely comes close.

 Being locked up on a three-year gun charge partially derailed Gates’ career during the mid-2000s. But he also claims long periods in jail gave him the opportunity to form his unique rhyming style. In an interview with HipHop Dx, he said prison changed his attitude toward music too “I want the Rap game when I come home. You never know how much something means to you until you can’t do it. “Personal issues have made him both great and imperfect. Few have a darker past than Kevin Gates, but few have a brighter future.

Dante Higgins and Undergravity - The Freshest MCs

dante higgins

Written for Passionweiss

Introducing Undergravity, the self-proclaimed “funkiest duo in Houston” consisting of Atom Bomb and Mastermind After Cash. The Space Jammers recently joined forces with local freestyler Dante Higgins, who you’ll recognize by his higher vocal pitch. In the process, they released a video for “My Town” the other week, which drew my attention for several reasons: the jammin’ beat, catchy sung hook and thanks to M.A.C. the most fun line I’ve heard all month (“You might find a n*gga on a horse, you might find a n*gga in a Porsche.”)

Excellent equine references aside, their throwback Southern sound is a welcome oasis from trap’s current bass-knocking dominance. On first listen the trio may draw lazy comparisons to 3rd Ward alumni UGK and while neither residing at that level or sounding identical, it’s a safe bet they’re fans. “My Town” comes from last year’s mixtape The Freshest MCs which features Atom, M.A.C and Dante trading bars over soulful or funky beats with horns and keys to drive slow to. 

“Goin Live” boasts more fun lewd raps, with Higgins again proving that the collaboration was a good idea. His imaginative nurse fantasies detail why having a medical expert involved with your escapades is a safety conscious decision. (“She hooked me up to a jumper cable, pulled out a defibrillator, Looked at me and said don’t be scared, I’ll shock your ass if your heart ain’t stable.”) A luxurious saxophone similar to a La Musica De Harry Fraud beat plays throughout and between songs like this or the 2Pac-sampling “Yellowstone B,” you can tell these guys are sure-handed at selecting their production. 

The Freshest MCs serves more as a taste of the group’s versatility than a complete album. That said, it’s strange to hear lines about having no money during the humble “Fly On The Wall” and then braggado directly afterwards on the unimaginative “Did You Miss Me.” The bottom line is that these guys rap well, their music is solid, and they’ve got chemistry. If they don’t ditch Dante and keep rapping over funky beats, they’ll keep rising.

Shy Glizzy: Street Poet or Poor Man's Boosie?

By Jimmy Ness and originally written for Passionweiss

It’s cool to be weird in 2013. Danny Brown is Yakuza dope boy chic, Future’s an astronaut, Lil Wayne wears leopard print jeggings and Lil B’s cat has recorded more songs than you. Nostalgic fans see the ‘90s as the zenith of rap and I’m not inclined to argue, but there’s also something to be said for this era in which artists are free to experiment.

Washington D.C.’s Shy Glizzy isn’t the most innovative or strange, but there’s something oddly fascinating about his raggedly long sideburns, high pitch and sometimes boyish persona. The 20 year old, whose name is an acronym of ‘Street’s Hottest Youngin’ and a slang term for a glock, is a relative newcomer with less than five official mixtapes under his name. There’s only a few interviews with him online, and it takes a deep Google search to reveal his supposed government name: Marquis King.

Glizzy claims to have spent much of his youth robbing people and discovered he had a talent for rap after trying to write a book during a stay in a youth detention center. While third rate crack rappers from the front page of Datpiff trade phony coke stories and clamber over each other for the next big trap single, the Southeast DC rookie distinguishes himself with tales of the underclass, a nasally twang and simple, yet effective hooks. But is he just a poor man’s Lil Boosie?

Wale nearly signed the 20 year old to his BOA label, and MMG also courted him briefly. Everyone’s favorite felon Gunplay even appeared in the video for “Busters,” but not everyone is convinced. Chief Keef and Fat Trel had him banned from their DC show last year over some convoluted Twitter beef, which is probably Mr Folarin’s fault. Glizzy, of course, used this as an opportunity to gain some shine and released several tracks including a mediocre Keef diss called “3 Milli.” Shy flashes a piece in the video, says the O Blocker sounds like he’s 40 and spits the terribad line “I’mma catch your grandmother and shoot her in her titties.”

Despite the uninspired granny diss, Glizzy is a pretty unique character and the wiry rapper occasionally avoids the ultra-masculine bravado of the traditional MC. Shy references being raised by his grandmother and mother in various songs, sometimes calling the latter “mommy.” On “I came from nothing” off the mixtape Law, he also mentions his lack of athleticism. “Lord have mercy on me. Uhh, I wasn’t blessed to be LeBron. I wasn’t blessed to have a Michael Vick arm.”

Glizzy’s latest mixtape, Fxck Rap, is also an interesting listen. There’s personal tales about getting kicked out of multiple high schools, trying PCP and the murder of his father. But Shy’s true strength lies in catchy song writing.

“Swish” and “Pilot” are pretty solid singles and the album’s production is decent. “Swish” thumps like a trap anthem should and Glizzy uses the line “Pop a model, pop a bottle,” which could be a hook in itself. He also mentions groupies who are willing to do anything for a Twitter follow, and my hope for the human race decreases.

Glizzy’s appearance on newcomer AR-ab’s track “Shoot Gunz” further demonstrates his unique presence. Though the track is AR-ab’s, it belongs to Shy. He nasally raps the hook, switches his flow and calls himself “a glock connoisseur” before his co-star intrudes with forgettable thug raps.

However, Shy’s vocabulary is limited and he relies on rapping the same word multiple times. Some of his metaphors break the barrier between funny a la 2 Chainz and straight embarrassing. Lines like “I told her I’m the shit, she say you don’t even stink,” are lazy at best and should be kept for post-jail Lil Wayne. On Fxck Rap, Glizzy admits he’s only been rapping for two years, and it often shows.

If I were a rap soothsayer, I’d say Shy has three career paths. He will improve and put out a solid project that will win him mass appeal. He could fade into obscurity or get big quickly off a gimmicky single. Being a pessimist, I’m going to assume it’s one of the last two and an early collaboration with Trinidad James might mean he’s already looking for a trend or “hot artist” to piggyback him. But Shy Glizzy shows promise, and I’d be happy to be proven wrong.