rap

The PotW Staff Remembers Their First Favorite Album


Music listeners are essentially dopamine addicts. The chemicals are secreted every time we hear a song we love.  We all remember the CD that changed us from casual listeners into audio fiends. Maybe we enjoyed the smooth grooves of a boyband or decided Sisqo had some street cred, but there’s nothing quite like discovering that life-changing album. Even if it was Creed’s greatest hits. Allow us to wax nostalgic for a second.



My introduction to music had an uncertain beginning. As an eight year old, I went through the painful process of being forced to return several albums by god-fearing parents. Targets included: Coolio for explicit language/bad hair, The Bloodhound Gang for poo jokes and boy band All-4-One, of “I Swear” fame, for sweetly harmonizing sex metaphors.

Months after letting Bryan Adams and a Christian rap tape gather dust, I sat watching Space Jam in a small theater. During the scene when a young Michael Jordan dunks, my eyes watered as I pictured myself also soaring through the air. I was blissfully unaware of a future in which I would a) still be white and b) only grow to the height of Big Sean. However, as soon as I could convince my family I wasn’t about to turn into Satan, the Space Jam soundtrack was in my uncoordinated little hands.

It was a crash course in rap and R&B, featuring everyone from Jay-Z to D’Angelo, to disappearing acts like Changing Faces and my former musical brethren All-4-One. Before his underage rendezvous gained interest, R Kelly sung his anthem “I Believe I Can Fly,” Coolio gave inspirational life advice which he clearly didn’t follow on “The Winner,” and Biz Markie met the Spin Doctors on “That’s The Way I Like It.” There was also a mysterious artist called “feat”or “ft,” who seemed incredibly prolific and appeared on almost every song. I distinctly remember telling people they were my favorite artist, until I discovered months later that “ft” was actually short for featuring.

“Hit Em High” was the album’s posse cut and undoubtedly my personal favorite. Somehow it managed to sound hardcore despite featuring no swear words, a feat even that the mighty Lil Romeo was unable to achieve. I listened to the soundtrack almost every day and could rap the lyrics word for word. My perception of music was forever altered and although my basketball career tanked, my obsession with everything audio had begun. It wasn’t until years later that my musical taste regressed to Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock. Oh the follies of youth.

 


Killer Mike Interview

By Jimmy Ness and originally published at HiphopCanada

Killer Mike destroys outdated clichés that Southern rappers are terrible lyricists who mistake swag for talent. The Atlanta MC covers strip-clubs, Reaganomics and police brutality without losing any of his ferocious delivery. Mike’s potent lyrics push the listener to improve themselves, and it’s tough to ignore his wealth of life experience.

After being taught the intricacies of selling drugs by his mother, Mike was making a living hustling until issues with the law forced him to turn his efforts toward music. His first break came from OutKast’s Big Boi and he’s since worked with numerous third coast legends including UGK, T.I, Three 6 Mafia and Dungeon Family.

At 37, Mike’s an outspoken individual with a passion for church, family and politics. But he’s no ageing hip-hop scholar reminiscing over dusty boom-bap records. His newest release R.A.P Music is a strong contender for album of the year and shares similarities with the Ice Cube classic AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted. Mike’s bellowing social commentary is backed by production from Brooklyn’s EL-P, who is a renowned underground rap figure himself. HipHopCanada spoke to Killer Mike before his Into The Wild Tour with EL-P, Mr Muthaphuckin eXquire and Despot,which touches down in Vancouver on Monday 2nd July. We chatted about meeting Notorious B.I.G, his new album and his friendship with Pimp C.

EL-P produced your latest album R.A.P Music, which is an interesting pairing considering he’s known for an underground East Coast sound and you’re from the South. How did you two link up?

I met EL-P through Jason Demarco, who works over at Williams Street Records and is a mutual friend of ours. He also had done some business with us, like putting me on a single, matching me up with Flying Lotus to do a song. He just asked if I would be willing to do a record over there. To do a record over there would give me the kind of freedom you don’t really get with other record companies. He asked if I wanted to do some cool experimental stuff and I said yeah.

The first producer he put me with was EL-P. I just quickly kinda fused with El and we started working on a whole record. Within that we became friends and made a classic record. We are probably going to continue to make music for most of our careers. 

Tell us about the creative process between you and EL-P making this record.

I had rented an apartment close to where he lived. I went to his house every day. We smoked our weed, he made beats and whatever came into my head I stood up and said on the microphone.

Your grandmother marched with Martin Luther King and your grandfather was a union member. Is politics something you’ve always been interested in?

I’d say from the level of social politics. Just doing what’s right for the community, so yeah in that aspect. My grandparents weren’t shmoozers in any aspect to any particular politicians, but they were very supportive of African American rights, worker’s rights. They made sure that we were politically aware and that my sisters and I were into voting, being part of the political process. It just made me more aware of the world around me.

One of my favourite quotes from R.A.P Music is “I believe that government should fear the people and not the other way around.” Tell us a bit more about this idea.

I honestly believe that unless the government is scared about the will of people, their moral compass is always off. I’m not saying that the people always have the right answers but I definitely think that the government is a representative of the people, for the people. If it’s only working on the behalf or for the interest of a small group, I don’t see the value in that government.

I believe the people should always be vigilant, making the government aware that at any given time a vote could happen. Revolution could happen. It doesn’t mean everybody picking up arms and wilding out, but it does mean we will vote for someone else. It won’t be the typical we will choose between the lesser of two evils. So I’m interested in seeing people grow that and just focus more on liberty instead of making a choice and joining political parties and their ideologies.

You also mention some unique subject matter like your father being a cop and loyalty to your wife, that’s not something the typical rapper would put in their music.

Well it should be. You know, I’ve never really learned how to be the personification of something I’ve created. I’m just me. I’m lucky enough to have people interested in me. And they like me. It interests people that my wife and I smoke weed, do business, take care of our children and still find time to go to the strip club and fuck around with girls and talk shit. You know, that’s some cool shit so people are interested in that. I don’t have to figure out a weird ass persona or other shit to give you. It’s just easier for me to give you me. I’m a man of complexities and contradictions and people are always looking to see how I balance it, because I believe everyone has certain inclinations that I have. I don’t hide. I just put me out there for people to see and it interests them, I’m fortunate in that.

What happened on the first night you recorded with Big Boi from OutKast? I heard you also met Gucci Mane.

We went to an old strip club. I had a homegirl that was dancing out there. She was helping me get the demo money and shit together. We all just went out there together on one of the first nights we hung out. They saw that I got treated like a man of respect. We got cool after that and I think I did “Snappin and Trappin” with Big that night and then later we did “Funkadelic.” Those were the first songs two we did together.

Gucci was there, he was rapping too. I mean everybody was in the streets but everybody was rapping too, trying to get out of the streets.

You decided to pursue music because your crew was facing major criminal charges?

I was a hustler, they were robbers. They robbed people. They got caught with someone in the trunk and they spent a year and half fighting the case. And they beat the case, it was like 40 years to life. I just used that time to get my mind sharp, start grinding. Forget about everything around me and get busy. It was at that point that I wanted to get out of the streets. I just knew that while they were gone, it wouldn’t be long before I ended up in someone’s trunk, you know.

OutKast, Bun B, Three 6 Mafia, Dungeon Family you have worked with some of the South’s most famous talent, was there anyone you were particularly impressed by?

I would just say you know being able to call 8 Ball, and being able to call Bun B and reach out to Pimp C and have MJG acknowledge my verse, it’s dope. It’s just an amazing feeling. It’s what I sat at high school and day dreamed about, rap. For me, getting that opportunity to be in the studio with Paul and Juicy and seeing the process of making a beat and putting cuts on records was just an honour for me.

I just feel like I’m a very fortunate fan and I’m a very capable MC. I brought a lot of honour to the South and I appreciate the slang, and I appreciate the respect I get because of that. Basically I’m just a rap fan and I get to compete, contest, to make music and to have fun with my heroes. That’s an amazing feeling every day.

You met Notorious B.I.G when you were younger?

Yeah like standing at the back of a warehouse when they were walking back. I was literally just like “oh shit, Biggie! What’s up? What’s up?” He gave me the blunt roach before he went into the club. I had to be like 17-19 maybe. It was at like the end of high school and beginning of college. It was before he had like all the way blown up, you know what I mean. It was when him and Nas were talked about in interviews, Puff was running around with Faith then. It was around the same time he was at one of the barbecues. He had popped and had a presence in Atlanta.

[Killer Mike is referring to a performance Notorious BIG did in Altanta in 1994 at OutKast’s Atlanta Barbecue music festival. Mike would have been 19 at the time.]

You also wrote to Pimp C while he was in prison and he visited you when he got out?

Yeah I wrote him while he was in prison and he wrote back and he visited me. He gave me a verse, but I don’t know if I’ll ever release it. I really felt love from him. He gave me some advice. I asked him “do you have any advice from me?” He just said “whatever you do man, it’s about how you rap. Rap like a drowning man fighting for air. You just gotta be on it. Be cool and all that. Nothing else matters, not your age, how long you been going or any of that. What you gotta do is just keep at it and keep going.” I appreciated him for it you know, I really do. He took time to talk to me. He helped me.

How do you feel about the growing popularity of the South? Earlier it was considered the downfall of rap music and acts like OutKast were famously getting booed in New York during the Source Awards.

I’m just glad that hip-hop is open to all possibilities. When that was going on in the South, it was like that hurt. It definitely hurt your feelings, but we knew what we were doing was dope. Same for the West Coast, same as I imagine for New York kids who started hip-hop when they were rallying up under disco. I’m just glad that some of the regional differences are gone. But with that said, I think it’s important that we maintain some of our regional differences so we don’t have this one homogenous style. We had to honour our greats and we did, and now we’ve reaped the rewards.

You haven’t been on a major label since your first album with Columbia in 2003, how was the transition into being independent? The internet wasn’t quite the music marketing success story it is now.

I’m happy. What I’ve been doing has been working for me so I’m fortunate. I don’t really put a lot of thought into what I was or how that experience was. I was what I was and I am what I am. What I am is respected and revered and in control of my own destiny. Rapping like a motherfucker. I like where I am, I appreciate it.

You decided to invest back into your community by opening a barber shop. What made you get into this business?

I think that the music is there and that our culture and society is there, so what better place. Rappers need to do something other than making new rap records and music, and start reinvesting in their community. And part of that reinvestment is owning things like barbershops, car washes and small stores. Paying back to where we are from. I’m very proud to be part of a group of people who has done that.

Tell us about the Into The Wild tour you’re bringing to Vancouver?

Yeah, the Into The Wild tour is Wild! Despot, Mr Muthaphuckin eXquire, Killer Mike and EL-P. We are just having a ball, we are all good friends and just going from city to city. I know that we just love the audiences out there and they get a chance to see, touch, taste and smell the music that they love.

What’s next after this tour?

Relax with the family and put out another album!

Shady Blaze interview

main attrakionz

Shady Blaze spits syllables like a Gatling gun and his rapid fire flows have 90s rap fans reminiscing over smoking sessions to “Thuggish Ruggish Bone.” Despite his close friendship with fellow Oakland natives Main Attrakionz, Blaze doesn’t just make cloud-rap or whatever else avid Tumblr users want to call it. Instead the Green Ova soldier works with a variety of producers to keep his sound in constant evolution. 

His early work (and by early I mean like a year ago) stuck to traditional themes of narcotics, guns and women. But he’s recently touched on NWO conspiracies, family issues and even flirted with slow rapping like regular humans. Despite terrible phone reception and my recording software threatening to kill the interview, we talked about him wanting be a singer, his rap influences, learning the speed flow technique and meeting Main Attrakionz. He also complimented me on my questions which was the perfect confidence boost for a hung-over Sunday.

By Jimmy Ness
 
There isn’t a lot about you on the internet, tell us about yourself?

Man, I’m from East Oakland, California. I’m 24 year’s old and I’m part of Green Ova Chapter Five. I’ve been rapping since I was a little kid. Just got serious with it when I was about 19 because Main Attrakionz really pushed me to keep doing this and here I am.

Where does your rap name come from?

At first my name was Velocity, because of how fast I was. After that, Shady Blaze basically came from my friends and the streets. Shady came from the part of East Oakland I lived in. It was off of 89th Avenue and that was known as the Shady eighties. I moved from there and basically I was known as Little Shady. Blaze came from when I used to produce and make hot beats. So I just put Shady Blaze together when I first created my Twitter, but my rap name at the time was Velocity. Then everyone just started calling me Shady Blaze so I just went with that.

How did you start rapping?

I’m not going to lie to you, at first I wanted to be a singer. When I was a little kid I wanted to sing. At the age of 11, I realized I wasn’t good enough to be a singer. I couldn’t sing for shit. Then when I moved to 89th Avenue in Oakland, I met a lot of friends there who were really into hip-hop and they kind of introduced me to it. I started copying them and writing raps and rapping on the street. We were making little songs on little cassette tapes. We would play an instrumental on another radio and record to it. We just played it to everyone and from there I’ve just been rapping ever since.

Did you come from a musical family?

My dad is a singer. He’s got his own studio. I didn’t really know him when I was little. I didn’t know anything about him. My mom happened to run into him again and I met him when I was 14 and he had a studio up and he was making his own music, he was doing shows and all of that. [The father of Shady Blaze is a traditional R&B singer named Supa Jay]

Who influenced your rapid-fire style?

It’s got to be Bone Thugs N Harmony. But when I first got hooked on rap, I was listening to a lot of Ca$h Money. Juvenile, BG, Lil Wayne, Young Turk, Big Tymers. That’s all I listened to.

Then I found a CD in my stepdad’s car and it was Bizzy Bone’s Heaven’z Movie. I was just going through it and listening like hmm let me just see what’s on here. And I listened to “When Thug’s Cry” and I didn’t know the song, but I recognized it so I listened again. I was like 14 year’s old at the time. The fast rap just caught me. I was like man this is incredible so I started listening to his other stuff. I took it to school one day and I’m like “ya’ll know this guy right here?” and they were like “yeah it’s Bizzy Bone, he’s from Bone Thugs N Harmony.”

My friends were telling me Bone Thugs N Harmony just dropped a new album called BTNHResurrection. So I went to the store fast and picked that up and became a big BTNH fan. I started buying all their old stuff Art Of War, East 1999, all of it, Faces Of Death. I’ve got everything. I just started listening to them and it just spoke to me. But then their fast rap kind put me on to Tech N9ne and Twista and D-Loc and Dalima and all those fast rappers. It just started catching me and then I started doing it.

Did people think you were copying or biting their style when you started rhyming fast?

I experienced a lot of it. At first it got to me. At first you want to click everybody that says something and start typing back to them fast and hit them back up. But at the same time, the deeper you get in the game the more people are gunna come at you. So you just have to start learning how to accept it, how to take it. I would just stick to myself.

People can stay he’s biting their style, he’s biting this style. But the game got to evolve man. They did their thing. They influenced me to do it, and want to be not like them, but to do music the way they did it. It’s cool to me. I love doing it. I love their style. I love the way they make their music. It makes me feel good when I’m making my own, you know what I mean?

How did you learn the fast rapping technique?

That’s crazy you asked that because I’m going to be real. When I first listened to Bone Thugs N Harmony, I was like they rap so fast! So I never understood what they were saying at first. But I just loved the way they did their thing and I started with Bizzy Bone. I had a cassette tape player, so I would record his CD to a tape. You could play it back and rewind it and slow it down, you could make it go slower. So I would write down each lyric he would say and as I would play it back at regular speed I would start rapping with him trying to see if I could keep up. At first it was hard, but as I started memorizing those words I started getting it down and I started writing my own fast raps after that.

You also slow down and rhyme normally on some of your tracks as well?

To be honest with you, it started in 2011 – when I actually started to rap fast. Before that I was rapping slow. That’s what is crazy. It all started because of my homie Squadda B from Main Attrakionz. He hit me up and was like “there’s a group out there called Children of the Corn and they remind me of your style.” I guess they were on some fast rap type of stuff. Then the next day he sent me a beat and I just started rapping fast. When we made the song it was called “Dirt On My Name.” After that, he just started sending me a bunch of beats and we made Shady Bambino.

It dropped February 2011 on greenovamusic.bandcamp.com and it was just fast raps on that. That’s what really put me out there. That’s what really got me noticed, Squadda B’s beats and the fast raps. So I stuck with it. I didn’t really go back to doing slow raps. But now and then, yeah I do slow raps. It depends on the beat and how I feel.

Do you make music full time or work on the side?

Nah, I do music full time. Actually I’m not even really making that much money to be honest. I’m not doing that many shows, but when you do a show you get paid this and that. Basically I’m living with my girl to be honest and she’s paying, she’s paying for the rent, she paying all that. I’m just going from studio to studio you know what I mean? I’m not working. I’m not doing anything. I’m just recording.

What do you think of the music scene in the Bay Area?

Right now, there are a lot of different styles in the Bay Area. It’s just our radio people are getting paid to play just one type of music. There are so many different styles and so many talented rappers that are not getting known and not getting looked at because they are coming up from nothing. Like Biggie and Pac and shit, we are coming from nothing right now but that’s not what the radio wants to see. They want to see people who have got the money already. People who have got the money to pay the radio stations to play their music over and over again. And people who are tying to come up don’t get noticed because of that. It kinda sucks out here, but that Hyphy shit was cool. That was a movement. The DJs were playing it all over.

How did you link up with Main Attrakionz?

I had just turned 15 year’s old. They were 12 when I met them. I met them through a friend. I produced at first, I didn’t rap. I had a keyboard and everything at my mom’s house in this little garage. One of my friends hit me up and was like “there are these two kids and they are dope at rapping, we are going to bring them over.” We went over there to pick them up and it was Squadda and Mondre. We came up with the name Main Attrakionz. We were all Main Attrakionz as a group. I didn’t see them again for about four years and when I met back up with them they were Main Attrakionz. They kept the name.

You guys mention Green Ova a lot and also release albums under the Green Ova name, what is it?

Green Ova is a family. You know what I mean? A bunch of guys, we grew up together and we trying to survive out here. No matter what we go through, we have to get money and make sure we are good. So that’s basically it. When you hear Green Ova that’s all you really need to know, get money and survive. Aint doing stupid stuff, getting locked up, getting into a beef situation or any of that. We are just doing us. The members of it are just Squadda B, Mondre, Dope G, LOLO and then me. That’s the Green Ova chapters, one to five.

As far as a record label, Main Attrakionz basically started this whole thing. If it wasn’t for them I basically wouldn’t be rapping right now, I’m going to be honest with you. I would not be rapping.

Producer Ryan Hemsworth said in an interview that you and Main Attrakionz were fastest working artists he knew. You went through a period of constantly dropping new albums but you’ve slowed down recently, why is that?

[Laughs] Oh man, you ask some good questions. The time when I was recording and dropping back to back mixtapes, I didn’t care about the mixing process. I didn’t care about any of that. I just wanted to get the songs out, you know what I mean? All of that backfired on me you know cause Shady Bambino was cool, it sounded good but Shady Business that was just awful. That was a half-ass album.

And then from all the blogs and the critics and everything, I learned that it was quality over quantity. You got to make sure your songs sound good before you put them out. I used to just put my songs out just because I did it, instead of putting time into it. That’s why we have to slow the writing process and make sure everything actually sounds good before we put it out for the public.

You touch on some political themes and personal stuff in your music?

It’s just me being real man. A lot of the times when I’m in the studio, I’m in there alone. It’s just me. I just sit in there listening to the beat for so long and I just start thinking there’s so much going on in the world today that shouldn’t be happening. Everything feels funny to me. Everything in the world when it comes to the radio, the videos, everything just looks so funny to me. If it’s funny, I just have to express myself and how I feel about it.

And my family, they go through problems as well. I don’t want to say that when you go through so many problems you write better music but it happens ya know?

You work with a lot of different producers?

I work with so many producers because I put my email on Twitter and everybody hits me up with beats. And there are so many feels and styles and so many different types of rap I can do. They are not out yet but they will be out. I don’t like sounding the same on a track, if you get a rapper that sounds the same on every track you get bored after a while. I love coming different and I love trying different things because if it’s boring for the public, it’s boring for me. So the only answer is to try something new.

You’re making a new mixtape with Deniro Farrar?

Yeah at first it was an EP, but with all the songs we got now it will be like a project.

Deniro said you haven’t actually met in person?

Yeah, we never met. Basically I was on the internet and his manager contacted me. He said he had a song with Deniro Farrar on it and it was the “NWO” track with [producer] Nem270. I listened to the verse and I was like this is deep, I should get with it. So I wrote my verse for it and after listening to the whole song I realized me and him had the same look on what was happening in the world, government and all of that. So we did a second song and I was like damn this chemistry is like really building up. So it’s crazy because he sees the same shit I see and he’s not even around me, he’s from the East Coast and I’m from over here, the West Coast. To see other people feel the same way I do, that’s deep. I feel like I’m not the only one. I don’t feel like I’m insane, like damn this shit is real. So we both make music and we might as well start this revolution. Get people to rock with us. Let’s do it.

What are the world views that you and Deniro share?

Fucked up government man. Shit isn’t fair for people. Some people starve, some people are hungry and poor as hell and then you got the rich people who don’t even pay for shit. Everything’s backwards in the world today man. I’m not saying I’m going to be on the one to put shit back together, but I’m not going to stand here and just watch it happen. I’m going speak my mind about it. I’m not trying to be a superhero or nothing, save the world and shit, I know I can’t do that. But at the same time, shit going on in the world is looking stupid man.

What do you want to achieve with your career?

I want to do this long term because I love doing it. I love being able to express myself in music and get paid for it, you feel me? At the end of the day it’s all fun, you can have the shows, you can have the videos. I’m going to be doing this for a long time for sure. I definitely don’t want to go to working in a warehouse or no McDonald’s making hotdogs or hamburgers and shit. This is definitely the real deal. Anyone that says they rap and they don’t want to make money off it, they lying. I for sure want to make this a career, this is cool.




Waka Flocka Flame - Rooster in my 'Rari


Waka Flocka Flame - Rooster in my 'Rari

By Jimmy Ness

Originally published at Passionweiss

This bangs so hard even the snarky elitists want to rip their cardigans off and smash stuff. Flocka shout raps to the roosters/chickenheads who sit in his Ferrari and try to sample the Flockaveli fortune. His opening acapella line sets things off nicely- “Pay for what girl? You better pay for this dick!” Fozzie Bear is too busy for gold diggers when there’s stacks to throw, other groupies to sample and Xannies to chew. 

You already know what this sounds like: booming trap beats and basic yell-along lyrics. But that’s not a bad thing. No one wants to hear political Flocka raps unless they’re about getting crunk with Obama and breaking windows in the White House.


“Rooster in my ‘Rari” doesn’t push any musical boundaries, but it’s a nice fiesta from technical wordplay and aggressive social commentary. Especially if you’ve been bumping Killer Mike and EL-P’s albums this month like the rest of us. Flocka’s music is stupidly fun and if you ignore any Trey Songz collaborations, Triple F Life might be the soundtrack for summer rioting and two day hangovers. Waka still does gutter shit better than any of those Chicago high-schoolers.

Ab Soul - Empathy ft JaVonte and Alori Joh


Ab Soul takes a break from rapping about pills and dirty Sprite to channel the spirit of OG Nate Dogg. The Black Hippy grooves while ringing a booty call, tries his best to look like Wish Bone and wears sunglasses in the dark. With help from TDE affiliate JaVonte, Soulo sings a mellow tune and proves he’s more than a drug rap visionary.
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He briefly adds a few double-time bars to “Empathy” but mostly sticks to surprising you with smooth vocals. This isn’t an R&B croon-fest though. Brief psychedelic visuals and hypnotic repetition of the track title makes the song a little more unsettling than Chris Brown without handcuffs. This slow jam also comes with an important message: let Ab Soul hit it and he might spend that $700 a show money on you.
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Empathy also features Ab-Soul’s close friend Alori Joh, who passed away a few months ago. She was 25, attractive and appeared on several TDE releases. RIP Alori. If you’re chilling with Nate Dogg, can you tell him to swap places with French Montana?

Deniro Farrar - Play No Games


By Jimmy Ness

Smashed buildings, muddy water and sledgehammers. “Play No Games” is rugged imagery on a gritty and grey specrum. Deniro Farrar locks eyes with the viewer and rhymes about poverty. It’s an overused subject, but he speaks without a trace of pretentious bravado or corny consciousness.

No witty punchlines, no preachiness, no swag. Just compelling rhymes. Farrar wears a weathered sports cap and dirty boots as he raps about alcohol addiction and death. “Sick and tired of funerals and going to these wakes. Killing off each other, while they laugh in our face.” His raps are straightforward and his intentions are clear: he simply wants to tell his story.

Halifax producer Ryan Hemsworth’s thumping minimal beat is something you’d expect The Weekend to wail hipster drug tales over. Yet it somehow works for Farrar’s precise delivery. A haunting How To Dress Well sample repeats itself and the song reeks of hopelessness. As “Play No Games” ends, Deniro throws his hands in the air and walks away, having experienced the track’s despair personally in Charlotte’s housing projects. It’s struggle rap at its finest.

DJ Carnage Interview


Originally published at Passionweiss
DJ Carnage is a young producer who doesn’t care about old school rap values. He’ll make authentic gutter music for grill wearers and annoy them next week with poppy dubstep. Sneaking on the internet radar after producing Kreyashawn’s collaboration with Theophilus London “Shrimp Pt.2”, his uniquely rhythmic bass obviously stood out and he’s continued to carve a creative sound, whether working with the A$AP crew or remixing Beyonce.The DC native is also a charismatic rapper who smiles in all of his music videos and swears too much during interviews. We talked on a fuzzy phone line about working with the A$AP Rocky, smelling manure in Maryland and his varied production style.

By Jimmy Ness

What have you been doing at Coachella?
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Man, I’ve been out here on the Borgore tour. You know, I’ve been on the bus with Document One and Borgore and we have been doing shows and shows and shows. One of the stops on Borgore’s tour is Coachella. We’ve been watching other shows too, it’s pretty cool. I watched Rehab yesterday. I also watched Feed me, Madeon, Afrojack and we watched Swedish House, oh and The Black Keys.
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I read on Twitter, you said Kendrick Lamar sounded a bit like DMX?
Kendrick ….uh yeah when he was rapping he was very grungy, I don’t know. I can’t do real hiphop music, like I can’t listen to it. It has to be fast or obnoxiously stupid or something. I don’t know, I just can’t sit there and listen to someone try to be lyrical. You know, I just can’t do it.

Tell us a little about yourself?

I’m from Maryland, DC. Umm I’m 21 and ah you know, fuckin’ living in LA now because there’s more shit to do than in Maryland. I was out in the country. There were too many fuckin’ cows, waking up every day with the smell of manure and shit. So that’s just how it is, I’m living in LA now. Fucking young ass just turned 21 in January.
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How did you start making music?
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My mom and my step-dad bought me a Studio Bible and it was when I was living in the country. I had nothing to do so I just fucked around on my computer and tried to do something with my life. I just started making beats and long after that I got good, and I moved to LA. Your production style is very diverse.
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How would you describe your sound?
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Honestly, I don’t know. My influences are weird. One day I want to make some trap ass gutter shit and listen to Gucci. Then the next day I want to make some Progressive House like Swedish House Mafia, or some random day I just want to make some motherfucking grungy ass dubstep or
something. My managers hate it too because I have to make some hiphop shit and I’m just not in the mood , I just wanna make some dance shit. Or one day I have to make some dance shit and I just want to make some weird-ass bass shit. I don’t know. It’s whatever the fuck I feel like, I need to change my work ethic but that’s how it is.

What is Trap-Step?
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Trap-step is a mixture of trap music, you know the snares and 808s. You know the entrance of a trap song then right before the verse is about to come on you drop some nasty sick ass tune. It’s like the best of both worlds. You get to hear some grungy ass shit that makes you want to grit your face and as soon as the drop comes on, you want to slap the shit out of the person next to you.
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A few years ago you flew to Hawaii and watched Kanye make a beat for My Dark Twisted Fantasy?
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Yeah it was my boy Lino who told me to go out there. I went out with him and he was like ‘yo lets chill with them.’ We went out there kicking it in Hawaii. Lino, this guy I’ve been working with for hella long, he’s a great rapper. We went there and watched them make beats for like an hour. It was weird, quick and fast but they made a lot. [Kanye] He was really nice. He was really passionate about everything.
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How do you and Kreyashawn know each other?
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I’ve known her because she used to fuck with the crew. Everybody from the Bay I used to fuck with. So we were just friends and shit cause we would Tweet, and Skype each other and talk on UStream. She fucked with Lil B and I fucked with Lil B. One day we were like yo let’s make a freestyle and shit, and from there we did “Shrimp”.
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What do you think about the hate she receives?

She’s a really cool and talented girl. I think people say the hype is leaving because she hasn’t dropped new music. But I’m quite excited to hear her album though.
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You also linked up with Theophilus London through Twitter and made the beat for “Big Spender” with A$AP Rocky?
Yeah we did, because of Kreyashawn.

I sent Theo the “Big Spender” beat around August or something, a long time ago. He went crazy over it. We finished it in Australia and I was like “when are we going to release it?” Then around January, this year, A$AP Rocky jumped on it. They didn’t finish it though so that’s why it took so long. Then we had to wait a couple of months to get the sample cleared, so that’s how it happened.

I met A$AP at South by Southwest but I think I’m going to meet A$AP today again at his show, him
and A$AP Ant.
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One of my favorite tracks you’ve produced is “Tell ya” with A$AP Ant and Bodega Bams. How did that come about?
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It’s really grimy. I usually don’t make music like that and it was one of those things where I randomly felt like making music like that. It was weird. I just felt like making some grimy ass shit. My boy Bodega I’ve known him for years and years, he’s my big brother, and he’s an incredible rapper. Whenever I make some grungy hiphop shit I always sent it to him cause you know, he does that New York type shit. He did it and then gave it to A$AP Ant. I didn’t know that then. He hopped on it and I heard it and it was sick as shit. Then they shot the video, everyone from A$AP heard it and they fucking pushed that shit. So that’s how Told Ya came about. I love the tune.
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Are you doing anything with the A$AP crew in the near future?

Yams hit me up and said that they wanted some tracks for the A$AP Mobb album so we talked about it and shit. You’re going to hear some new Carnage and A$AP soon. Some massive tunes.
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You also rap, is that something you do just for fun?

When I rap, yeah it’s for the fun. It’s really like I have nothing to do that day and I’m not inspired to make any beats. So I rap on some shit and people like it, so why not make more you know. A lot of people tell me they like the videos and all that because it’s really fun, like a really fun energy. And that’s how I want it to be, I want it to be like, it’s like whatever you know. But not in the whatever sense that people don’t take me seriously. I’ll tell you a secret. It’s kind of cool that I don’t take my rapping seriously because at the end of it, I know that my beats and my production is something serious. I like to fuck with people’s heads. So they hear my rapping and THEN hear my beats….. and they are like “fuck is he actually a genius?”
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What do you want to achieve from your career?
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I want to be known as a legend. I want people to see me and be like “this guy is like remarkable.” I want to be on the Daft Punk, Timberland or Dr Dre level. I want to be known, you know. That’s my goal in life, to be one of those people that when I walk in front of other people there is a whole mob everywhere, like wow! Like they are in awe. That’s what drives me. Every single time I go to a show I’m pissed off because I haven’t reached that level yet, so it makes me work harder.



A$AP Ant and Bodega Bamz - Told Ya (Produced By DJ Carnage)


By Jimmy Ness

Bring the menacing shit. Razor blades in larynx, Bodega Bamz snarls all over “Told Ya” and treats apocalyptic Baltimore like a crack Disneyland. What Bamz lacks in technical street slang, he makes up for with threatening conviction. His diamonds are black and blue cause he bruised them. Straight out of Spanish Harlem, Bamz proves New York rappers adding winter grime to Southern beats hasn’t lost its charm.

A$AP Ant goes next and dismisses your assumption Rocky and Ferg were the only ones in the crew worth watching. Employing a double-time flow, he decimates DJ Carnage’s post-regional bass thump and as a screwed sample of Three-Six Mafia’s “Playa Haters” lurks in the background. The legend of Juicy J grows bigger.

Look out for Carnage too. His growing catalogue of excellent beats includes electronic, hip-hop and everything between. He also raps with an engaging sense of humor and doesn’t take this music shit seriously. Catch him making indie girls feel awkward in the “Loaded” video with Theophilus London. If you weren’t surfing the trill-wave, you might opt to buy a board. And for the record, Ant and SchoolBoy Q need to collaborate on a bucket hat appreciation track immediately.

Tree - Sunday School review


By Jimmy Ness

Despite blessing himself with one of the most un-googleable names imaginable, the sample-warping Chicago producer/rapper Tree is intriguing. He sounds like an injured donkey but also boasts a deep singing voice. His bizarre drawl is singular but bears a resemblance to Danny Brown, Z-Ro, and Pastor Troy. He flips soul records like a traditionalist, but he sounds little like a traditionalist. He’s not the most eloquent rapper, but he’s relatable, charismatic and a great producer. His new mixtape is a lot better than the alternate Sunday school where you inevitably fell asleep or were invited to nerdy prayer parties.

The album initially takes a while to process because it’s hard to take Tree’s break-neck voice in large doses. But “Die” is an immediate stand out. The chorus “Lord, don‘t let me die, man’ hits anyone who has clung to religious notions when life is going downhill. This struggle with religion defines much of the album’, particularly on “All” and “Chuch” where Tree questions whether he is a good person despite being a piff-puffin’, lady lovin’ sinner. Later in the mixtape, his lyrics invoke personal moments including loneliness, fighting with his brother, and being poor. It’s compelling, but unfortunately, there’s not a lot of it. Luckily, his charm carries the rote gangsterisms that it often falls back on.


Tree isn’t a perfect rapper. His vocab is simple and some of his rhymes are little more than struggle rap without the narrative. He also follows in the hefty footsteps of Rick Ross circa “Hustlin,” by rhyming the same word with itself about five times. But like ODB before him, there’s something unique about Tree that makes the clumsiness enjoyable. ‘Talkin’ Naples, Naples, Italy and Caicos, my homies riding horses,’ is my favorite line from the album and a ridiculous attempt at bravado. Every time I hear it, I can’t help but imagine a 90′s Snoop Dogg riding a galloping white stallion while eating a croissant.

Tree doesn’t have to rap fast or super-technical to be interesting. He’s simply a fun listen and judging by his thoughtful demeanor during interviews his unique sound was definitely a planned decision. “Couple of niggaz don’t like my shit, but a couple of these niggaz don’t write my shit,” his raspy voice proclaims on “Doo Doo” before launching into more simple memorable rhymes. The line works as a mission statement: you might not like Tree’s style, but it’s original and difficult to emulate.

Sunday School is self-produced and Tree’s beat-making game is sharp. He chops vocals in a different way than most soul samplers: often just looping one or two hypnotic words which relate to the song’s theme. Instead of drowning us with overplayed Amy Winehouse or Aretha Franklin samples, he uses just a smidgen of their voice to much greater effect than every boring snap-backer jumping on an Adele chorus. Tree also knows how to compliment his voice with odd tempos and sudden beat changes which make you listen more closely. GLC’s feature on “Texas Tea” is a memorable example simply because of how the music changes with his performance.

Tree might be struggling to explain away his sins, but I’m pleased he found stolen equipment to practice his divinity skills on. If you need further convincing on MC perennial woody plant, listen for the nice production and appreciate the rest later. Don’t be fooled by first impressions, King Louie and Chief Keef aren’t the only Chicago rappers worth checking for.

Whatever you do, don’t funk with my crew: THEEsatisfaction



By Jimmy Ness

Originally published at passionweiss

Do I sense a funk revival? “Trippy Mane” is the best recent ad-lib, TDE are the coolest black hippies around and Dam Funk has been making undeniable cosmic jams for years. Maybe we won’t be wearing flowery headscarves anytime soon, but these two Seattle ladies are definitely onto something a young John Travolta would enjoy.

Catherine Harris-White and Stasia Irons urge listeners to “Leave your face at the door” and “Turn off your swag” at the beginning of this carefree joint. “QueenS” is about nothing but groovin,’ boasting an extremely danceable beat that Daft Punk should’ve made post-Homework.

Multiple hazy vocal layers and background ‘ooh aahs’ remind us of the importance of enjoying music with drugs — with the afro’d pair telling everyone to shake their groove thangs in a way which comes off as genuine rather than nostalgic.

You might know THEEsatisfaction from their guest features with label mates Shabbaz Palaces on Black Up. But this particular track has no dark conscious raps or deeper meanings — this is simply some cool futuristic funk. You should probably get your platforms with goldfish in them ready for the release of their mixtape Awe Natural3 later this month.


In defense of: Chip Tha Ripper


By Jimmy Ness

Originally published at passionweiss.com

Cleveland’s coldest is too often dismissed as Kid Cudi’s lesser sidekick. Undoubtedly Chip’s affiliation with melodramatic Mescudi has grown his fan base, often at the expense of his credibility. But he’s also a talented and likable rapper worthy of individual praise.

Charles Worth claimed to decline appearing on this year’s underwhelming XXL Freshman cover, and who could blame him? The 25 year old was part of the underground circuit before Cudi became a hipster hit and comparing him to the likes of
this, proves he’s disrespected.

On Chip’s first mixtapes he rapped with an unremarkable Southern style, which sounded sleepier than a sedated Z-Ro. His albums suffered from the traditional pitfalls: bloated posse cuts, weak hooks, unoriginality etc. But like most early projects, talent was hidden amongst cliché talk of guns and girls. Charles soon took an evolutionary leap after his fourth project You Can’t Stop Me and left his Chopped and Screwed days behind for a more light-hearted style.








Nerdy humorists from the popular SomethingAwful.com forum helped turn Chip into a minor internet celebrity after his 2007 S.L.A.B freestyle. His absurd “Interior Crocodile Alligator, I drive a mobile Chevrolet theatre.” line spread everywhere and has millions of Youtube views. From videos of National Geographic crocodile documentaries to typical internet fuckery, it proved he knew how to write catchy and sometimes humorous lyrics.


Chip showcased his impressive flow and unique style on 2009’s The Cleveland Show, but his real magnum opus was released two years later. Gift Raps has thirteen solid tracks without a single false move. The coldest sounds better than anyone over Chuck Inglish’s inspired beats and has enough charisma to carry the project without guest features. From smooth double-time rhyming on intro “The Entrance” to boom-bap raps on the triumphant “Light One Up”, it’s still one of the most cohesive and replayable albums in recent memory.

The ménage a trios fantasy portrayed in “Plural” is one of Chip’s best tracks period. Charles tells an uncomplicated tale about hanging out with two females before a drug-induced party. Instead of focusing on lyrical dexterity, he keeps the rhymes simple which strengthens the imagery.

“More girls arrive to my surprise. They had a bag of shrooms and kush and didn’t bring no guys. Here we go, get ready, good thoughts and fly colours.”

And finally we have a hypnotic chorus, which threatens to stay in the listener’s brain forever.

“Two going at once, I like my girls like I like my blunts (wherever, whenever). And that’s two going at once.”

Yes, Chip is not covering deep subject matter or rhyming the elements on the periodic table. But rappers often forget that music is meant to be enjoyable. Charles doesn’t over-extend himself and covers well-tread topics with a new perspective or vocabulary. He switches from comparing Cleveland and Jumanji to warning listeners not to eat high fructose corn syrup, all with the same light-hearted tone. His feel good raps have more in common with the Run DMC’s of the 1980s, than today’s jaded generation.

Teenage skateboarders and trap-stars reuse each others lines while Chip spits under-utilized slang. Who else still says fresh or talks about handing out money instead of making it rain? 

“Forever I’ll be F R E $ H, chillin’ up in I-Hop with that country fried steak, super smooth Kenny G and these raps be the sack, shined up in the wax, bet them panties gon’ collapse.”

This year’s project Tell Ya Friends had a little too much filler and not enough Cbuck Inglish, but there’s still some of The Ripper’s magic on tracks like the audio smoker’s session “Soothing” or Lex Luger produced “Out Here”. The latter sounds surprisingly unlike “Blowing Money Fast” version ten and you can hear the beat maker was also inspired by the glorious Gift Raps production.

If Chip‘s strong points aren‘t enough to convince you, feel free to stick with Slaughterhouse reciting dictionaries. Sometimes less is more.




Nez and Rio Interview

This is my first feature at Fake Shore Drive. Makin moves!

Producers Nez and Rio recently worked with Schoolboy Q on his acclaimed Habits and Contradictions project. They showed their talent when the collaboration resulted in fan favorites Druggy’s With Hoes Again and NiggaH’s Already Know. The young duo has also made beats for Chicago’s new school of hip-hop alumni including King Louie, YP, and Chance The Rapper. We chatted about their recent Treated Crew affiliation, their musical inspirations, the lack of Chicago artists on the XXL freshman cover and Rio buying an early Kanye West tape for $5 bucks.

By Jimmy Ness

How did you two start working together?

Nez: One day we were at Rio’s crib and we were like let’s make a beat. It just happened randomly and from there it was kind of organic. It was never like oh “we about to be a group” off top. We were chillin’ on some cool shit, then we would be making beats and it just kinda grew from there.

Rio: We were both producers separately first and we were fans of each other’s work, and then one day when he came over it just happened organically. We started to work.

Nez: It had to be like 2005 so that’s a long time. It’s been a minute.

What music did both you grow up listening to?

Rio: Man everything. I came up in a house where there was never really a moment when my family wasn’t playing music. I really got into old soul, funk and jazz from my dad and I was really pulled into r&b and hip-hop by my older brother. I was lucky enough to have an older brother who was able to get the more graphic versions of the music that kids my age weren’t quite able to listen to. There was never really a dull moment when it came to music being played because we all were into it a lot.

Nez: For me, it was my father who was into hip-hop. He was playing hip-hop, jazz, funk, same type of shit and African music too. I’m from Kenya so he brought a lot of that influence and then my mother would always play heavy r&b and gospel. So between those two they really put me up on a lot of music early and got me hip.

How did you guys get into beat making?

Rio: When I got a little bit older and went to high school, I took a music class which was concert choir and they had this computer lab. In that computer lab some friends of ours used to have this program called Fruity Loops. It was music production, but it was Fruity Loops 1. It was like the first test demo version of the program, so it was free and in order to make music we would actually install Fruity Loops at the beginning of our class period. It was a computer class so they would allow us to work with headphones and we’d make beats during class and then delete the program and save all of our beats to floppy discs and shit. This was at Kenwood High. I guess it kind of just grew from there. Then we started to become more musical and put more into it. That and being heavy hip-hop kids too, I don’t really know too many hip-hop kids that were like breakdancing and doing graffiti and shit like that at our age. We were doing all that shit in like Elementary School so it was like a big progression for me.

Nez: For me it was like a similar act, I had been shown fruity loops when I was around 15. My homie Aaron had it at his crib and I was blown away I was like “Oh shit, you can make beats!?” I had always wanted to make beats when I was young, but when you’re in 8th Grade your mother wasn’t getting you no MPC or nothing like that.

Rio: It was too expensive.

Nez: Yeah, it was too expensive for her and you know it’s like a toy. She’s not spending a thousand dollars, it was like two grand back then. But once I got shown that program I was hooked, from there it kept going and I kept building on it.

Rio: It’s kind of funny. Looking back on it, I was always the kid that when my rap friends had a cipher, I would be the kid that was beat boxing. And I look back years later and I’m still that kid, it just kind of progressed.

Who were you inspired by in the Chicago scene?

Rio: I guess in terms of Chicago musicians, I would say the big Chicago producers like R-Kelly, Traxster, No I.D and then in terms of musicians Quincy Jones. In terms of hip-hop musicians it was like Common, Do or Die and Crucial Conflict. Listening to Kanye, I was I guess fortunate enough to have an older cousin who was kind of close to that camp, actually a part of that camp. I kind of watched that as it was happening, Kanye was like blowing up in front of my face.

I had to be one of his first hardcore fans. I remember my cousin Jua’s friend Don [Don C] tried to sell me his mixtape and at first I didn’t buy it. He was like “yo, it’s like five bucks,” and I was like “na I don’t want it.” You know cause I passed it off as just some random guy, and he said “trust me man it’s good, take it and if you like it then you know give me the five later.” And of course the next time I saw him I gave him five bucks to hold onto my part of the bargain. Jua, just his network of friends is just ridiculous. He’s friends with everybody it seems. Shout out to Jua.

You are part of the Treated Crew, tell us about the group and how you got involved with them?

Nez: The Treated Crew is basically a group of cats that were already cool. We were already friends, we already worked together and did music together. But basically everybody decided to unify, to come together, to come in this game stronger. Million $ Mano came to us both and was like “yo listen this is the movement.” He had just come back from the first leg of the Watch The Throne tour and was like “this is the movement G, let’s do it,” and everybody was just like down with it, you know what I mean. It was just a dope idea for all of us young dudes from Chicago to come together and show people that we all rock together and do some positive shit.

Rio: It was also at a perfect time because we were already talking about doing something else that was unified, kind of like a collective. Those are really just our homies growing up. For instance when we were young we were all breakdancing and rapping together, and those were all the same dudes in the cipher. This is really just kind of like a label. You know at the end of the day, we were really already on that same shit. We were already rocking together, it’s just a label that visibly works. It makes our individual work a lot stronger as eclectic music.

Obviously there’s a lot of young talent coming out of Chicago. What did you think of the lack of Chicago artists on the 2012 XXL Freshman cover?

Nez: You know with those things it just seems to be the outside looking in. A lot of times it seems like those things seem to be label pushed or whatever. I don’t think that’s the end or be all. Because the XXL cover came out and no one from Chicago is on it, that really doesn’t mean anything at the end of the day, it’s just publicity.

Rio: The XXL cover to me is like a weather forecast. How often is your weather forecast right? You know what I mean? So really at the end of the day like sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s not. And if you feel like it’s not, that should serve as your personal motivation to turn up your situation. If you’re not making enough noise personally then you need to turn it up, make people realize what’s going on.

You’ve worked with YP, King Louie, Chance the Rapper, Freddie Gibbs etc. Do you have any favorite collaborations?

Rio: I would say actually (Treated Crew’s) Mr Take Your Bitch is one of my favorites because it gives us the chance to work with all of our homies on one record. That has a lot people from our crew on there.

Nez: The Louie shit is hard too I like that. Louie has this joint we did with him called Band Nation. It’s going to be one of the next singles coming out real soon. That was dope too. But yeah everybody man. It’s cool working with everybody, I really like what’s going on in Chicago right now. It’s good energy. Everyone seems to be working and just on it, trying to get better.So that’s really dope.

You recently produced two tracks on Schoolboy Q’s album, how did that come about?

Rio: We gave the beats to him in person. Him and Kendrick Lamar came to Chicago. We tried to find out a way to actually get to their camp. We knew that they were coming in town and sought out their contacts and tried to find out who’s bringing them in and all that kind of stuff. 

A good friend of ours is Hustle Simmons, he actually linked us with J Script and he told he was going to have a listening session for Kendrick to come here and listen for beats, I think for Section 80. I guess this was his last chance to listen to beats for Section 80 from Chicago artists or whatever. The whole TDE clique came through and Q was actually there. I was familiar with Schoolboy Q through Setbacks and Michael Jordan. I was already a fan of his too, so when we were in the session exchanging contacts and music after we were chosen as a beat to listen to, I reached out to Q as well.

I was like “Yo Q, you know what’s good with you?” Cause you know, he was right there. And he was so dope to me even then that I wanted to work with him. We exchanged contacts with him, so he was like yeah “I’m going to choose some beats out of that group” and Druggies With Hoes Again was actually one of the beats that got played that night, that they chose. He ended up taking that and then we kept in contact and that’s how NiggaHs Already Know came to be too.

Do you ever feel disappointed with the way an artist has used your beat?

Nez: There has been sometimes when you’ve felt like maybe it could have been executed better, but I think recently the artists we have been working with have been knocking the beats out of the park.

Rio: I guess the more you do, the more artists tend to trust you and trust your opinion and your artistic direction for what the song should sound like. The more communication and trust that’s thrown around, usually the better the record. Sometimes you have the opportunity to work with a phenomenal artist like Schoolboy Q, where you can send a beat in an email and you know that it’s going to come back dope. But every artist isn’t quite like that, some people need you to give them the flow or give them a hook.

Who are you working with in the future?

Rio: Ourselves. We’re actually working on our second mixtape. As of right now, it doesn’t hold a title. We’re not positive that it’s going to be a Let’s Get Ill 2. I’m not quite sure if we want to do a sequel or something different, but the music that comes out is going to determine what kind of project it’s going to be. Look for more collaborations with Treated Crew and Schoolboy Q.

You both rapped on your mixtape Let’s Get Ill instead of using guest features, which is quite a surprising choice for producers. Why did you decide to rap personally on the album?

Nez: We always had the idea of being artists, because we’re the kind of producers that when we make the beat we are thinking about the entire song as it’s going along with the hook, the flow, what it should sound like. We already have that idea in our head and then a lot of times where it just got to a point where we felt like we had something we wanted to express in another outlet. It was just a time where we felt like we wanted to get an idea off and that was what came out.

Rio: Yeah, we’ve been rapping, writing and singing for a while. It just wasn’t public. That’s kind of like the thing with us, we like to work on something behind the scenes until we feel like it’s ready to be exposed. I think that’s one of the good things about us, until we feel like something is good enough to put out there we’ll just let it cook.

You guys are also making a documentary. Can you tell us what that’s about?

Nez: That’s basically going to give you a little insight into how we live, our personalities, get a chance to see who we are as people, as artists as producers. Just like more of a day to day insight to what we are about, you get to learn more about Nez and Rio.

Rio: Yeah, more about our creative process. Some stuff has to stay classified like as a result of us being evil wizards that just come up different techniques or whatever. Some stuff you just want to keep to yourself. But other things you know, there are definitely going to be windows into our world when it comes to our lifestyle.

Sounds like you are very busy at the moment. Are you both producing full time or working on the side as well?

Nez: Right now we are still working regular jobs to make ends meet. The artists that we have been producing, you know most of the stuff is digital. Digitally released. So we are still up and coming, very much so. But that’s temporary, we are working pretty hard to make this happen. I always say we are producing full time, that’s what we’re doing. Everything else is just part time

Boldy James interview

boldy james detroit

Boldy James avoided stale drug dealing clichés and showed he had a knack for gritty storytelling on last year's mixtape Trappers Alley: Pros and Cons. The Detroit rapper exposed his guilty conscience over warped soul production and showed an unheard side to hustling. James spoke

through a thick haze of marijuana smoke about being physic, trying to leave the streets and collaborating with Alchemist.

By Jimmy Ness (originally published at Passionweiss)

Who introduced you to rap music?

My two big homies from my block on the East Side where I used to live, actually we just came from over there. They call themselves Rich Gamble and Doc Proctor and they do beats. 

They used to rhyme and shit. I was like five or six when I jumped off the porch and started fucking with them.

What was your first rap album?

It would have been some Heavy D & The Boyz, MC Hammer or Dj Quik's Born and Raised In Compton. 

Were you inspired by any local acts?

Locally I would say just the dudes I ran with, like my fellow Concreatures and probably the late great Blade Icewood. He was a Detroit legend. He got murdered in my neighborhood about seven years back and he was the best thing smoking around here. 

Detroit was in a crisis on the music tip so I guess the Street Lord'z and Juan, they brought us back for a minute. But most of us, we really be in the streets around here. So most of those boys couldn't pull their rap dreams off. Like I said Blade got killed and now Juan is in jail, it's the same old story around here man. I'm just trying to break the mould.

Did you see a future in music?

Na I never did anything but write raps to help me temporarily escape my reality, that’s all. I was going to write raps whether I made it or not because that's just something I always did.

I got a big family man. I got three little sisters, I aint got no brothers but I got a whole lot of cuzos and shit. We mostly come from broken families so we be meeting each other all the time. If my people need me I gotta do what I gotta do to be there for them. So they don't have to resort to doing anything against their morals and do nothing crazy for money like sell drugs to the little fellas in my family, or turn tricks and be out here stripping in clubs.

I guess I'm the sacrifice you know. That's all that really mattered to me, everything I do is for my family.

You released your first project Trappers Alley: Pros And Cons in your late twenties, why did it take you this long to put an album out?

I just never got focused enough to take the music seriously. I used to think someone was going to hear me and think I was this great rapper, and possibly just drop a stack of money in my lap. But you know, that aint how this work. You got to put the work in first and you get the payoff later down the line.

I was in the streets not knowing that this could possibly change my life and I wouldn't have to take things to such drastic measures all the time. My younger cousin Chuck Inglish from The Cool Kids, he's been doing his thing for a minute now and we been doing music way before we knew any of this shit was going to pop. He stayed focused enough to pull it off for himself and his family, so I had to buckle down and realize the things that were important in my life.

You know how some people go school to have something to fall back on if whatever they are shooting at don't work? That's how the street is. She always has open arms. If ever anything wasn't working for me or if I needed to get some fast money or something, that's what I ran to.

Chuck Inglish supplied the majority of the production for Trappers Alley, did you grow up making music together?

I've been making music with Chuck forever. That's the first person I ever made music with other than a few people from the neighborhood like Proctor and Rich. I've got so many songs with Chuck and over Chuck beats that are in the archives, you would be surprised. 

We talking about hundreds of Chuck songs, no joke.

Brains also laid down some beats, how did you two link up?

See Brains is from Jersey originally, he stays out in the Chi and I met him through Chuck. I've only known Brains for the past four or five years or whatnot, but that's my people.

Brains he's my in-house producer, my personal lil' engineer you feel me? He help mix my tracks and we smoke a lot of weed, just get it in the studio, just create. That's my dude.

How did you feel when The Cool Kids blew up, were you still hustling at the time?

It motivated me more than anything. But like I said, whether I did this shit professionally or if I never touched a Cool Kids track and you'd never heard of me man, I'd still be writing these same raps. 

This is what I do bro.

You're talking about was I hustling then? Shit I aint never stop hustling. I'm trying to crack the code on this rap shit so I can pull this miracle off for my family and get out the streets.

I don't want to put my family through the same stories you hear about, the shit most black parents in my predicament go through on the regular eight to nine times out of ten. You know nigga get locked up, shot over some stupid shit, crippled, catch a disease, be out here strung out on drugs or some shit. You know that affect your kids. I'm just trying to let my kids see what a real man is by example. You can't be out here talking people to death, if you want to lead you gotta be a leader.

I really like how there's a lot of personal reflection on the album and you aren't afraid to admit weakness. Why did you decide to include this stuff rather than go the typical rapper route?

I'm a humble dude. Being in these streets, it took me through a lot of ups and downs. I've been through it all, so I know what to do in any situation. But for the most part we real easy going people over here man. We don't want to do nothing but make sure the family eat and make sure we happy with just the simple things in life.

Fuck all that other shit, it aint about that man. For the most part it's about what makes you happy. It doesn't take a lot to make me happy. As long as everything in line, I'm good. I'm easy.

Like I tell everybody man. It's just music. You believe what you want to believe. I'm just writing from a Donald Goines standpoint. I really live this shit so it's nothing for me to pick up a pen and tell you about how my day went or about a situation that just occured or some shit. I don't have a real broad imagination. I just be kicking it and I just tell it how it is man. I be humble, because that's really me.

Why did you call yourself Boldy James?

That was my big homie. RIP to my man Boldy James, James Osley the third. The significance in the name was he was my neighbor and we grew up across the street from each other. 

The streets took his life away from his family and all his friends, and we miss him.

Before he died my homeboys always told me I got this type of physic shit or something. I be seeing shit sometimes, I be calling it and it just be that down the line. Divine intervention or whatever you want to call it.

I picked the name before he died because my dude didn't rap he sold cocaine. So when he passed it was just weird that I took his name and ran with it, and my dude was like there you go on that same shit again.

So now he just live through me because he was my family and I really loved him man. He really took care of me and looked out for me. He showed me a lot of things and that's the reason I'm still here to be able to have this interview with you today.

Your album is extremely localized and talks about a lot of specific people or places in Detroit. How does it feel that people all over the country are enjoying it?

That's beautiful to me because all I do is write the music to make sure it hit home with me first. I feel like I'm a people's person for the most part you know what I'm saying? I deal with a lot of hands on shit with people on the regular so I know how to deal with people. When I write the music I expect it will touch real people in a certain kind of way and hit a certain spot in their heart, and if that's what it’s doing then I'm doing my job. That feel real good man.

I hear you've been recording a full length with Alchemist in LA and you are hoping to get a Prodigy feature?

For sure, we got like 10 done now. We just got some more work to do cause I work different than a lot of people man. I just crank the joints out then I sit back and smoke a million blunts, then listen to the the songs.

[On the Prodigy feature] That aint no problem man it's the family. What up Big Noyd. We the mob. Real talk. Everywhere I go that's the only activity I know, criminal activity. Mob life. All that. That's how we live, Detroit city to the rest of the US man. Every city I touch down in, that's all love. 

It's all good, if I aint got it I can get it.

You're also releasing a new project on February 27th?

Consignment: Favor for A Favor (The Redi-Rock Mixtape). It's going to be crazy man. I got my man School Hustle from the Drugzone, my neighborhood. Someone I knew personally for over 20 years. I got my man Rich, J.P. I got Blended Babies on a couple tracks on there. Brains is all through the joint, you know we put a couple of classics together for ya'll. LEP Bogus boys are on there and more.

Anything you want to add?

Concreatures #227. We here man and I just plan to keeping making good music for you all, and I hope you enjoy the show that's all, you know. Roll up.

Boldy James : Concreatures and Crack Spots

Here's my first article over at my favourite website Passionweiss, in case you missed it: 


Boldy James has a love affair with the block. He sounds like Prodigy, flows like Curren$y and creates the kind of grimey tracks that most 90s rappers should be making. The 29 year old bares his wounds and retells days of struggle in a similar style to last year’s gangsta poster boy Freddie Gibbs.

Boldy’s proud of his hood conquests and the small triumphs that come from making illegal dollars. But he’s also unflinchingly honest in his failures. The Detroit native isn’t playing Scarface and importing Cocaine straight from a Mexican cartel. He’s trying to get off the ground while fighting with family and thinking about the consequences of life in prison.

Last year’s mixtape Trappers Alley: Pros and Cons snuck under almost everyone’s radar. It had enough of an East Coast sound to get the old heads jumping in their rest homes, if only they had listened. Chuck Inglish (James’ younger cousin) supplied the majority of production with help from relative unknown Brains. The album features raw soulful beats which allow room for Boldy’s slurred flow. At 30 tracks deep it’s too long for a single listen, but he carries the project surprisingly well for his first full-length.

While Young Jeezy and Rick Ross are busy being millionaires, James keeps his raps authentic with regional name drops and enough cryptic dope slang to make Raekwon smile.

Might as well give it all to me, I can move it all, magical with the wand, don’t panic when it dissolve, that’s just it’s purest form, no additives but the arm and hammer.”





When Boldy states “I sold dope my whole life” on track six, it seems entirely believable. His knowledge of local spots, characters, and jargon portrays an intimate knowledge of his craft. Despite a few missteps such as the boring sex talk on Killin’ In The 5TH, there’s a refreshing lack of unnecessary bravado and over-exaggeration.

The concrete king doesn’t spend too much time talking about imaginary guns or girls. Each of his detailed stories is mixed with a grim touch of self-reflection. Many lyrics seem autobiographical and he doesn’t shy away from rapper sore-points such as feeling scared or alone.

On ‘Optional’ James openly states that selling weight wasn’t his choice of career.

I deal drugs, because the money come much quicker. But I never wanted to be a drug dealer. Giving sacks and satchels to the young critters, setting a bad example for my little sister.”

These small hints at vulnerability make Boldy more interesting than most trap rappers. Admitting that he’s not invincible brings him closer to the listener. We can empathize with personal worries about safety and relationships, more than we understand putting rims on a Maybach.

James later personifies his street corner as the feminine Connie (from concrete) and dubs himself a concreature. They are separate entities, but have formed a tangled relationship.

My old lady steady bullshittin’ telling me to stop, but I’ll leave her fucking ass before I leave this fucking block. She loves me, and you ain’t gotta love me. Cause if you don‘t, the block will hug me.”

The duo have an unhealthy alliance, which is doomed from the beginning. Boldy relies on his neighborhood alleyways for income, but he also knows they’ll be his downfall. By focusing on the personal strain of selling drugs, the concreature enters under-explored rap territory.

Boldy James might be a feared dealer, but he’s also the first to admit he’ll be sleeping in jail cell sooner than a mansion.