Passionweiss Top 50 Albums of 2014

Here's my two pieces from the Passionweiss Top 50 albums. Read the rest here, there's some quality writing on that thing.

49. Gangsta Boo and Beatking – Underground Cassette Tape Music

The speaker-knocking result of two renowned hard-asses combining their vulcanized fury, Underground Cassette Tape doesn’t fuck around. Memphis OG Gangsta Boo and Houston’s father of the year, Beatking, have laced this project with 15 bangers you can suplex #sadboys to. As Torii MacAdams said, it’s both unexpected and awesome to see the Triple Six Mafia’s former first lady catch a deserved second wind as one of the baddest MCs in the game. Props also due to Beatking for assembling top-notch production with a crew of relatively unknown beat chefs.

Underground Cassette Tape Music feels more like a studio album than a random assortment of mix tape tracks, and that’s largely due to the consistently speaker-crumpling beats. The guests are on point too: Paul Wall calls himself Slab God, 8 Ball delivers a brief sermon next to a Pimp C sample, and OJ Da Juiceman slurs sweetly. But it’s the natural chemistry between Beatking and Boo that makes this the de facto anthem for any exotic dancer worth a damn.

19. Migos – No Label II

With No Label 2, Migos proved “Versace” wouldn’t be their last heater to rock the bando. A sequel to their 2012 mix tape, the gold-obsessed trio stick to their unlicensed guns with more tales from the hood twilight-zone. Delivered in staccato, each line a repeatable phrase for the ADD listener. Migos continue to expand their delivery past rapping in triplets, but anyone familiar with the gonzo hood scholars should expect regular references to Motorola cell phones and infinite shouted ad-libs.

Quavo & Co. recently added “repeat hit makers” to their trap resume, producing plug-endorsed bangers, “Fight Night” and “Handsome and Wealthy.” The latter shows Migos tiptoeing into melodic hooks, which are also present on the popular “Freak no More” and the Zaytoven produced, “Add It Up.” Of course, it helps that they enlisted a production hit squad including the always-hungry Metro Boomin, 808 mobster Honorable C Note, and frequent collaborator, Phenom Da Don.

Using a hectic schedule modelled after Gucci Mane who was previously managed by current boss, Coach K, the trio have already released follow up, Rich Nigga Timeline. The quality of the two is comparable, but No Label 2 took them from from luxury garment name-droppers to new Atlanta’s very own John, Paul and George. At 25 tracks long, No Label 2 isn’t designed for a single headphone session unless you have a superhuman resistance to listener’s fatigue. Instead, condense your favorites into one riot-inducing mix and you’ll have suburban moms tweaking before you can say, “In the trap with two guns like I’m Tomb Raider.” 

Salva Interview

salva music

Originally written for Passionweiss

Salva’s potent and pounding beats traverse several genres, everything from hip-hop, house, and Miami bass to dance and funk. The L.A. resident’s new album, The Peacemaker, was recorded at Red Bull Studios in Santa Monica and released gratis last week. The project includes some of this year’s best rap production coupled with verses from Kurupt, Schoolboy Q, E-40 and Young Thug. It also bangs so hard you’ll punch holes through every wall in sight and continue swinging.

During our conversation, the Chicago native’s enthusiasm and musical knowledge never wavered. He spoke passionately about staying cool when meeting legends like DJ Shadow and Kurupt, being inspired by a speech from RZA and his family’s history with the Philippines government. He was also genuinely one of the nicest interviewees I’ve encountered. I even shocked him with some common ties regarding his first production efforts. This one’s a goody.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but your recent single “Freaky Dancing” has quite a retro vibe.

Yeah, for sure. I guess that was from working with Ruckazoid and he’s definitely an unsung hero. He’s a musical genius front to back, from turntablism to singing to rapping. He really does it all and he doesn’t really put out a lot of stuff publicly. Really just the vibe is like a Stevie B, Latin freestyle, retro funk kind of thing updated with 8o8s and half-time. So yeah it just came out man. We made the track, he penned it and we finished the production together. That’s one not necessarily of indicative of what the record will sound like, but I wanted to drop it just because a lot of people ask why I don’t do that sound anymore. So that’s one out of two or three cuts on there that have that funk vibe to it.

You probably could have gone for a really easy single. The obvious one with the biggest features on it.

Yeah and “Old English” with Young Thug and stuff has been released and it’s been really successful with making radio and stuff. So the stuff like that on there, people already know I do that. It’s kind of showing my newer fans that I acquired from that, another sound. I think all the heads that get it, like it a lot and those that don’t I think it’s weird (laughs).

How do you decide who ends up on these collaborations? “Old English” for example or “Drop That Bitch” with Kurupt, Schoolboy Q, Bad Lucc and Problem?

So this whole record was A&Red in house, I collaborated personally with almost everyone on the record except E-40 and Young Thug, they sent their verses in. You know it took me a year to kind of rangle everybody up. As far as the collaborations it was like building blocks. Nick Hook got Young Thug on that track when he was in Atlanta. Freddie Gibbs was in the studio a couple weeks later and he was like “I gotta get on this.” Then Ferg wanted to get on it and that kind of happened. Same with “Drop That Bitch,” I got Kurupt, then I happened to be in the studio with Schoolboy Q because I did a small piece of writing on his album.

You wrote on Schoolboy’s album in terms of production or actual song writing?

No actually, a little bit of lyric writing on “The Purge” with Tyler The Creator and Kurupt. So when Kurupt and I worked together, who is a legend in his own right, we kind of penned stuff together because I kind of helped him with the cadence on these wacky new productions that he doesn’t fully understand.

Does Kurupt appreciate the new sound of production coming out in terms of bass, trap etc?

Yeah, he’s a music lover man. He fucks with all of it. He’s just a good-hearted dude. He’s a really good cat and he’s down for whatever. For me to roll with him is just respect, because all these younger guys just grew up on him. He’s definitely a safe dude to go into a rap session with because he gets all the respect in the world.

For “Drop That Bitch,” you went through a strange sample library, which included sounds from medieval weapons. Are you planning on featuring any of those other interesting samples on your future tracks?

Yeah, even the beginning of “Old English” is from like some weird ‘50s experimental record. There’s weird shit always peppered throughout just because I’ve got a record collection and a turntable. That’s the old hip-hop head in me who just likes the atmosphere of some old weird shit that someone recorded 50 years ago. You can’t make that inside of a laptop, so it’s always good to try to incorporate that stuff.

Is there an Xzibit vocal at the end of it or did I just imagine it?

Yeah, so the hydraulics sound is from Dr Dre’s Chronic 2001. So Xzibit is kind of talking in the background over that stuff. That’s actually one of the reasons why this record is going to be free because there’s an Eazy-E sample and some of this stuff is kinda…

Hard to clear.

Yeah, and I had interest from major labels and stuff but I kind of just wanted to get it out to the people man. Just because I’ve been working on it and my only goal is for people to hear it and like it. Not even like it, but just make their own opinion and that was kind of the premise to work with bigger rappers. I don’t want the exposure for the hype. I don’t want to try sell myself to have people think I’m cool because I’m fucking with these guys. I just aim to work with A-1 artists you know. It’s really just a matter of putting this out free and I hope people download it and enjoy it.

Why did you decide to call your album The Peacemaker?

Well, the idea was bringing together these rappers that shouldn’t be on the same track and bringing these worlds together. It’s that and from when I was trying to think of a new brand name. People used to call me “The Problem Solver,” but since I started working with Problem I dropped that moniker because I didn’t want it to be weird. So I was trying to think of what the new tagline would be. I thought back to my high school days and grade school days. We used to roll around with our combination locks, our padlocks from our lockers at school wrapped around a bandana and we’d ride our bikes and go smash the fuckin’ mailboxes and get in all kinds of trouble. We used to call those things “Peacemakers.” That was the nickname we had, different kids in different cities called them different things, but that’s kind of what that is. Peacemaker is also a Smith & Wesson, a B52 Bomber and there’s different kinds of explosives that are pseudonyms for that word. So yeah man, it’s just gully, it seemed fitting.

Where does the name Salva come from? I know it’s your actual last name, and there’s a few Spanish soccer players with the same name.

So it’s a Spanish name, but my grandfather is from the Philippines. Basically, they were Spaniards living in the Philippines.

Your family immigrated over there?

Yeah, actually my grandfather was from the bastard family, if you will, of the president’s advisor in the Philippines during WWII. He was from the advisor’s family with his mistress. [the advisor] had nine kids with the mistress and they all got shipped off the mountains during the war and I think three of four of the children died. The rest came to the States and my grandfather actually stayed over there. He was the only child from that family that would stay with my great-grandfather’s legitimate family and I think it was a little trying on him as a kid because he would see people put to death and see some shit growing up.

So as a teenager, he came to Chicago and that’s where he met my grandmother who is Italian. So the whole other side of the family is Italian. That’s the fuckin’ lineage [laughs].

I’ve heard you’re quite the turntablist? 

Used to be more than now but yeah, I definitely still incorporate it at least. Not a lot of hand-rocking or too much scratching and stuff, but when I play more hip-hop based shows I definitely like to be on turntables and feel that out. But yeah, I came into all of this from watching QBert and Mixmaster Mike, Shortcut, B.Styles, all those guys, Cut Chemist, DJ Shadow. That was definitely my first serious musical inspiration aside from being a fan of hearing music as kid.

Turntable TV?

Yeah exactly, I had all of the VHS tapes.

You were a radio DJ for a while at BBC Radio 1, how was that experience?

It was incredible man. It was a dream. I was coming over to London once a month to record. Radio 1, 9pm live, a good estimated 7-9 million people reach and you know I got the program the full hour, no commercials, anything I wanted to play and I played everything from rap to juke to house to UK bass stuff. It was a fucking great variety in the hour of music that I was into at the time and the BBC family is incredible. The whole thing was just great. It really got me into loving radio and loving that format. Since then I’ve kind of done Shade 45, Sirius XM, Power 106. I’ve kind of been dipping into radio when I can for sure.

I told a friend over here in the UK that I was interviewing you and he said he put out some of your records on a label years ago. He told me about your really early material, when you were with the Def Harmonic crew?

Oh who is it? Shit… it’s definitely been a minute! Uh was it Altered Vibes? [laughs]

That’s the one.

Yeah man, haha!

What were you doing at the time, were you spending a lot of time in London or was that just a label that found you?

During that time I was living in Miami. I’m from Chicago and when I came back, one of my best friends who I still work with now but more on the business tip, he was the DJ for Def Harmonic and I got introduced to them and that was probably some of the first hip-hop stuff I put out production wise.

I probably only had a couple of records on Altered Vibes from those cats I produced, but I was definitely in the crew with them and working with them. That’s when I first started doing vocals and I was actually rapping and trying to sing. I was really trying to find my voice and what it was, it was actually an Antipop Consortium style group where we would rap and shit on stage and that was kind of in that era where that was happening. That was kind of stage two or stage three of my journey.

What were your raps like and how do you feel looking back on them?

Definitely bizarre and I definitely have a disposition towards white rappers a little bit just because of it. I love Action Bronson and Eminem’s early stuff was fucking epic, but I guess I can’t really stomach white rappers trying to be hood and trying to be gangsta. It’s not really believable, and because I love really hood rap. The ebonics, you know it’s like if you don’t really speak like that, you really shouldn’t rap like that. There’s plenty of white rappers that I admire though man, like Slug from Atmosphere. Danny Seth from London is pretty sick, I do fuck with him. I don’t feel the same way about British rappers. White British rappers get the pass because those guys are gully.

You’re going to Hawaii tomorrow with Dam Funk and Just Blaze. Have you met them before?

Yeah it’s going to be awesome. I met Just through Red Bull Music Academy a few years ago. We’ve kicked it a couple of times. I’ve been to his studio in New York. He’s a really nice dude man. He’s super cool. Obviously a legend and I’m a huge fan, so it’s going to be fun. Dam and I have bumped into each other a couple of times and I’m definitely a fan of his too so it’s a fun line-up.

Are you someone who tries to record on the plane or at the airport while you’re on tour? Do you try and work with artists you’re doing shows with?

Yes and no. It depends how long the travel dates are, sometimes the travel is so brutal that it’s like all I can do is veg out. But there’s other times on flights when sometimes the plane lands and I don’t even want the flight to be over because I’m locked in my headphones. So it’s different. But yeah, especially when I tour Europe, when I’d come up there and I’d like work with Boys Noize, and just try to work with cats in the cities that would host me and have me. Back in the day in London I would stay with Om Unit. Definitely if there’s time I like to get it in, but on this Hawaii trip I probably won’t be doing much. I’ll be doing more relaxing than anything else.

You’re a huge lover of music and someone who legitimately seems to enjoy a real variety of genres. Is that from working in record stores when you were younger?

Yeah, for sure. That’s definitely what I would attribute it most to. When I was in Miami, I was working at a record store that’s not really around anymore.

At that time in the year 2000, drum and bass was at its height worldwide and the DJ Shadows, and the acid jazz, all that stuff was happening. Breakbeat was big, new school breaks, proper electro, techno. All these things were kind of at a bubbling point, rap of course too. I just really got lucky enough to get schooled by the other buyers at the store who were just super on top of what it was. So not only did I get to explore these styles but I got put on by the local heads, I definitely got blessed in that respect. When I was back in Milwaukee, I was working at an indie rock store so I was the only electronic and hip-hop buyer there so then it was like oh shit I missed out on this whole world of Indie rock as well so I was digging into that kind of stuff. Animal collective, the whole range, all the different hybrids of electronic and rock and that kind of stuff so yeah, it’s just what I love man.

You chatted with Mannie Fresh at Red Bull Music academy about DJs who don’t have the essential skills of the craft. The DJ who didn’t learn the basics because it’s so easy to play something off a laptop. Because of the type of music you make, some people might put you on a bill with these artists. Do you sometimes encounter performers who you don’t entirely respect or enjoy on a musical level?

Yeah dude, even very close friends. That was a difficult hurdle to overcome creatively over the past few years because my friends in the UK that are house and techno heads, they’re very elitist and they’re very picky. They don’t like EDM. They don’t like American dance music and all those things. To a degree from a tastemaker’s perspective, I agree with that too but I guess I have found an appreciation for people appealing to the masses a little bit more. I think there’s a happy medium. So my head is a little more open to pop and stuff like that than the average underground DJ. But on the flip side you have the kind of corny pop American DJs that play lifeless music. There’s a whole range so I try to stick somewhere in the middle. Coming from turntablism and hip-hop is where I get that at the end of the day it’s a party rocking aesthetic. I call my stuff intelligent party rock. I’m going to play stuff that gets the crowd stoked. I’m going to play stuff they know, but try to do it in a new way.

Try to challenge them as well.

Yeah, try to sneak in some stuff they don’t know. With the gigs over here it’s getting increasingly difficult to do that unfortunately.


Things have gotten really over-saturated in any city throughout North America and Canada. Anywhere I tour, every bar in the city has a DJ.

It’s so accessible to become a DJ, you just need a laptop.

Yeah, it’s not special anymore to go see a DJ for regular people and those who don’t come from the culture – old school rave culture, or hip-hop or house or whatever. The younger heads. It’s not a negative thing, they just don’t come from those cultures so they don’t know about respecting the DJ as a tastemaker. Somebody like Jackmaster for instance, I would go see one of his sets and be really keen on hearing what records he’s going to break and what he’s going to play. Or back to the drum and bass shit, you hear Dillinja or Ray Keith or somebody else and it’s like they’re playing all dubs you’ve never heard. That’s kind of been lost as electronic music has gone pop at this stage. Times have changed and you have to adapt because you know this is my profession as well, it’s not just my passion.

During your time at the Red Bull Music Academy, you described RZA’s lecture as an emotional moment to the point of being “almost spiritual.”

First of all, I had just finished reading his book. I thought it was a great read and one of the most emotional parts is him losing ODB and just that human story of losing one of your best friends.

And for it to happen in the public eye as well.

Yeah and Wu Tang is a pillar of my hip-hop roots as it was for most of us who were around during that time. 36 Chambers I think I got that in like seventh grade and I didn’t even fully understand what I was listening to. By the time Wu Tang Forever came out, I mean I must have listened to that double disc a 100,000 times [laughs]. Just based on that fact and RZA being one of my catalysts in being a producer. I think some of the first things I was messing with in production, like a small 8 seconds of production time on a Yamaha sampler and I was just learning how to loop rhythms, so he’s definitely a hero and I’m just such a big fan of his. He’s well spoken and he has a crazy story to tell. He talked for a good two or three hours. He wasn’t just trying to do his thing and leave. He really put some knowledge on us and I so respect how he went into movies and worked with Quentin Tarantino. Just the whole journey is something that I dream of doing one day and just transcending being a musical artist. His whole leadership thing too. Whether or not I play the leader role, running labels or helping manage artists myself, it’s just inspiring.

I read that the A&Ring or providing leadership to other musicians is something you’re aiming towards in the future.

Definitely. I don’t even plan on retiring. I don’t see a day in my future when I’m not involved in music. Some of the session players from Michael Jackson’s and Quincy Jones’ era are still working and still doing stuff for awards shows, movies and artists. To me, I’m put here to be involved with music so all those things provide longevity as well. Now days where the DJ is a frontman and a celebrity in their own right, I don’t know how long that will last. But even for a vocal artist, not many get to perform and tour forever. That’s a big reason I moved to LA too. For as much as people say the music industry is the devil and is failing and all these negative things, at the end of the day it’s not an omnipotent presence that has any control. It’s an industry that’s commoditising art and that’s not an easy thing and I think there’s a lot of players in the game who do help push things forward and do help create art. There are good A&Rs and there are good label heads and there are good managers. So I appreciate the backend too you know.

As your career becomes more successful and you meet more of these legends who had a massive impact on you personally, do you find over time you’re less shocked by it and it becomes the norm?

I think a part of being a professional is being able to work through your fan boy moments, you know? I toured with DJ Shadow and we became personal friends. He came to my studio and he’s definitely in my top five inspirations with Entroducing coming out in ’96 and obviously how it changed sampling. Now we’re homies and I guess it’s for real. I think some of my old friends from grade and high school that I don’t keep in touch with anymore will think it’s the most bizarre thing in the world working with these people.

At the end of the day they’re only human, which is probably something you learn more and more. Maybe extremely talented humans, but no one is as sacred and divine as the media portrays.

Totally. I still keep the respect and admiration. That never leaves. I stop myself from getting geeked out enough to not be able to work with them on that level, but deep down I know who the real innovators are.

You closed down the Frite Nite label you ran?

Yeah, it’s been shut down for about a year or so now. I still work with like Teeko and B. Bravo, they opened up my boiler room the other night. We’re still all good friends, I still look out for everybody in that crew and we still all work together, but I had to kind of put it to bed because I was touring and promoting shows myself. Managing these guys, it hit a point where I couldn’t perform as an artist if I was doing it at that rate. So getting another label imprint is definitely in the future and something I want to do again with the right resources.

You’ve collaborated with Problem and Bad Lucc pretty frequently.

So I have a friend Yesi Ortiz at Power 106 and she’s a radio celebrity out here in LA. She’s kind of been on the radio for a long time and is really well known. Power 106 really champions Problem and they have for the past couple of years. The “Mercy” (remix) was on Power 106 and that was on the radio every single day, five times a day, for a good year straight and they basically were like “yo, we need another remix of something that’s been in rotation.” So I remixed Problem’s song “Like Whaat.” Simply from that he was appreciative and after a couple reach-outs we got in the studio. I think we cut like five records during our first day together in like four hours. He like a lot of these cats, because I’m white and come from this alternative thing, kind of think I’m just a dance producer. So I come to the studio with a shit-load of rap beats and they’re like “oh shit.”

When you’re in the studio with these guys who are known for being gangsta rappers, have you felt intimidated at any point?

Not really man, these guys are all professional. I think one common thread between everybody, is everybody likes to make money, be successful and get paid. Especially in LA, what’s great is everyone’s just grinding. The people that I would consider real professionals, whether it be rappers or anybody, they’re working every single day man. They’re working every single hour they can squeeze into the day whether they’re recording, writing, doing press or whatever it is. So to these guys it’s just another day at work. I guess Schoolboy Q was a little intimidating, but he was definitely respectful and all that. He’s just a reserved dude and he’s fucking dope.

I thought Freddie Gibbs would be pretty intimidating as well.

You know what, he’s a really nice dude man. He’s a hard ass motherfucker, he’s a gangsta motherfucker but he’s respectful too and professional [laughs].

Cheers dude.

Thank you so much man, I really appreciate your time.

Hype Williams Ain’t Walking Through That Door: The Demise of Contemporary Rap Videos

missy elliot

Originally written for Passionweiss

Modern rap videos seem to direct themselves. They have 2-3 scenes. The artist does their best frowny face and points a finger gun at the camera. There’s a cool rented car, a gritty urban backdrop, a seductive vixen and an appearance from another popular artist. You submit one view to YouTube and the hip-hop bots tirelessly start the next project on the content assembly line.

As major rap labels edge closer to the precipice of irrelevance, creativity is the first casualty in their Soundscan scramble. Like Doc Zeus stated in his article on Jeezy’s recentcolourless album, labels are trying to stay profitable by relying on unchanging methods. Popular guests are recycled as Chris Brown cashes another check for singing “the ladies track” and artists collaborate with the same dependable producers in pursuit of that Billboard debut. This clinical formula for success has sucked the life out of music videos, and often the visual art form is reduced to a few cliché scenes hastily packaged into a marketing plan.

The 90s golden era is largely an invention of nostalgia and there’s plenty of cringeworthy examples from the past too, but it’s undeniable that budget cuts have impacted the quality of music videos. The days of feeding supermodels champagne by the crateduring a million dollar trip to the Trinidad Carnival are long gone. But money shouldn’t limit creativity. The best clips can be shot with no budget on a stolen camcorder or a third-hand smartphone. Chief Keef rapping in his mother’s kitchen or flashing a UZI is more exciting than French Montana dapping Rick Ross for the sixth time.

A depressingly relevant illustration is Juicy J’s single “Ice.” The uninspired video fails to capitalise on three of the most charismatic major players in rap. The legendary Memphis misogynist rhyming alongside Dungeon Family’s emotional cyborg Future and the A$AP Mob’s sole creative Ferg sounds vibrant in theory. Unfortunately the clip, which premiered on Worldstar, doesn’t feature a frostbitten Future surrounded by mean-mugging snowmen. Cold, sterile and coma inducing, it barely packs anything interesting at all.

The trio unexplainably recite verses in a disused warehouse and on neon lit stairs. They fulfil the metaphor of wearing diamond-frosted jewellery (ice, geddit?) and for some reason lingerie babes pose seductively between scenes. In a storyboard that any armchair rap fan would have conjured in five minutes, the only quirky surprise is Juicy’s Brazzers t-shirt and a quick glimpse of celebrity jeweller TV Johnny.

Posted on popular blogs and delegated to page two within half a day, a new uninspired video is released as quickly as yesterday’s is forgotten. Nicki Minaj’s cartoonish booty showcase “Anaconda” sabotages attempted creativity by including excessive product placement. The hypersexual clip randomly features dancers in front of a huge sign for fruit-infused Moscato brand MYX Fusions, the detox tea MateFit, a Beats Pill speaker and VSX workout gear.

G-Unit might have gone independent, but they’re not doing much better. On recent track “Watch Me,” Eif Rivera resorts to his familiar method of using quick cut scene changes to disguise zero interesting concepts. Nausea inducing editing can’t compensate for the rapping in a hallway cliché or the cheesy drummer pretending to play the “rock inspired” beat.
Some modern artists do get it right though. Missy Elliot, involved in some of the most bizarre and well-choreographed visuals of all time, has recently directed two great flicks for her artist Sharaya J. Vice nailed a potential video of the year for Action Bronson’s “Easy Rider”.

What most rap videos are missing is some unpredictability – a cool surprise or the willingness of the director to push the artist to do something different. Despite our unlimited appetite for content, some images don’t fade once the press cycle is finished. We remember Ghostface’s hatT.I rapping in front of Shawty Lo’s projects and Pimp C burning dollar bills. Music videos should be treated as an art form not a necessary rehash of the same ideas.

The Blogger’s Guide to Hyping an Underdeveloped Artist

Why aren’t you viral? Don’t you want a Been Trill scarf? Aren’t you trying to fast track your writing career without shelling out for an MFA? Luckily, dear writer, you can gamble self-respect against click-through rates. In the age of the cyber composer, any rapper with a gimmick, a lack of dignity and a laptop can induce headaches and hypnotic devotion. And you can be a part of this. Use the perpetual motion machine of rap blog hypetrains to your advantage by following the simple steps below.

Step One: Discovery

Before spreading audio self-flagellation to the masses, you’ll need to uncover your very own Yung Lean, rhyming pot-plant, or other such rising star. (Find someone with a weird or mildly offensive niche for maximum #exposure.) Misplaced nostalgia, obscure internet fandom, and easily replicated micro-trends tend to be safe bets: The first rapper to successfully incorporate Tuvan throat singing may create a tinnitus outbreak, but could also feature on a 2015 single of the week listicle.

Anyway, to unveil the next Lil Debbie, don’t start with Soundcloud or YouTube. Image is everything. Since you didn’t live through the Korean War, you better skip Google Images, too—go straight for Tumblr. Search for pictures of rappers in velvet shawls, rappers with wild (preferably #rare) animals. Value the $–the symbol itself, not the currency.
The artist (their favorite artist must be Basquiat, by the way) may have invented his or her own genre, which often will be a combination of an existing category with a random addition. Previous examples include Cloud rap, Witch house and Chill wave. You can make up your own using the same formula too: Tinder-trap, Brony house, Bro Bass.

You should also start reading those unsolicited emails from music PR and amateur promo street teams. Look for words used to describe the basement artist like “otherworldly,” “dynamic” or “genre-breaking.” Anything which sounds vague, mysterious or potentially unlistenable should be a good sign you’re on the right track. Also keep an eye out for randomly generated names – “Lil Tulip,” “Yung Eye-Drops,” “Mr Knitted Sweatshirt,” you get the point.

Step Two: Talent evaluation

Skip this part.

Step Three: Promotion

After finding someone who will prove Seapunk isn’t dead, it’s time to promote this vapid tunesmith on cyberspace. Vomit out a think-piece or slide show and explain in careful detail how you’ve always known the artist would revolutionise music. Insert yourself in the story with plenty of unnecessary anecdotes (maybe pictures!) so the audience really gets the connection, you know? You could detail how the two of you communicate with knowing smiles or revisit the time you accidently posted the same Echo The Dolphin meme on Instagram.

Later in the piece, highlight how futuristic their sound is and imply that only intelligent people with a wealth of life experience will enjoy it. Refer to the laptop artist and their three weed-carriers as a “movement,” then finish by proclaiming your chosen hero is “really developing as a musician” or “exploring their emotions.” Below are some bonus click-bait headlines for your perusal.

Step Four: Continued hype

In the event your parasitic host creates a mediocre or almost-good song, this is the perfect time to follow up with a feature about how you knew them first and they’ve actually been grinding in their bedroom for hours. Also worth considering is a two-part documentary about how they started out in their mother’s house, despite the fact that every human person started out in their mother’s house. (Also, call her.)

You’ll need to attend some of their live gigs as a show of support, too. These will likely have a young audience (the other talent show contestants, probably) with a few creepy older tastemakers, social media influencers and Z Grade celebrities pretending to “get it.” Perhaps there will be a prestigious product giveaway and members of the audience trying to copy iconic parts of the performer’s outfit. If he’s wearing a non-breathable plastic turtleneck in a sweltering venue expect to see at least a few look-a-likes. Finally, when the show is labelled performance art, has sound difficulties and contains either rambling or intelligible screaming this is yet another confirmation you’ve found the right person to promote. Here is a perfect example.

If Caverns!!! doesn’t actually release music worthy of praise, continue to proclaim their greatness and ignore this important detail. Make sure you use the relevant hashtags and Ebonics that you would never dare to utter in real life. They too should Tweet regularly with outlandish and barely understandable prose.

Step Five: Capitalise on your success

Congratulations! Now the pseudo-artist has reached their nerd-fan or Tween copycat quota, you can bask in the moment. It’s time to enjoy the temporary influx of digital interaction in the form of one-word replies on your Instagram posts and unsolicited Snapchats. Fill your social media channels with praise for them as well as subtle praise for yourself. (Isn’t it the same thing?) Maybe you’ll finally even get that scarf.

Step Six: The End

The brief success of your keyboard composer will come to an inevitable end due to failing to translate offline and people eventually coming to their senses. You can devise a fool proof plan to distance yourself before the impending irrelevance: Tell people you weren’t really messing with the production on their latest project, purposely misconstrue one of their lyrics as offensive or start sneak dissing them on Vine. The internet hype-cycle is like an emoji obsessed Buddha – always reinventing itself and easily susceptible to the latest trends. Now you’ve reached the end of your first internet musician lifespan, return to step one and discover a new micro-trend you can engage a parasitic relationship with.

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. 

B. Bravo Interview

Originally published on Myspace

Conjuring images of smoky discothèques, groovy roller discos and uninhibited dance-offs, this L.A. producer with a rich musical background creates undeniable boogie jams.

NAME: B. Bravo

HOMETOWN: Monterey, Calif.

HOMEBASE: Los Angeles, Calif.

B. Bravo's cosmic grooves and talk-box experimentation push the boundaries of funk while spreading the positive vibes of a far from gone genre. The LA based producer's natural progression toward intergalactic tunes was partly stimulated by the G-Funk sound of 90s rap and he continues to be inspired by the forefathers of funk. Bravo has graced Red Bull's Music Academy and he keeps busy working with production partner Teeko as well as playing sax and keys in San Francisco band Bayonics.

What drew you to funk music?

I remember going to the Monterey Jazz Festival when I was a kid in school and Tower of Power were playing there. The reason they stood out to me was that they were so different than all the other acts. Everybody was sitting down for the other performances. They [Tower of Power] were just like this powerhouse and they had this horn section with a driving beat. Everybody just jumped on their feet and started dancing. It was an instant reaction, everybody was dancing even like the security guard. I remember seeing my friend's dad just dancing and smiling. I was just like "wow what is this? This is crazy." I was like "what are these sounds?" Just the feeling and the energy they created was totally different so that was one of my first experiences seeing it live.

Have you played with any of your personal funk heroes?

Years ago, back in the Bay Area, my band Bayonics were playing on KPFA Radio in Berkeley. George Clinton came in the studio with his bass player named Thumpasauras Rex. We got a chance to meet George and talk with him, and we ended up jamming all together in the studio. That was pretty epic; this must have been in probably 2005. It was pretty crazy, the whole time we were kind of looking at each other like, "Woah man. This is insane." I remember he had the thickest, manliest hands I'd ever shook, it was like grabbing on a tree branch or something.

A large part of classic funk and soul music was related to the struggles of Black America. Did you find it hard to relate to that growing up?

Myself growing up, I wasn't necessarily from a poor family. My dad was actually from a really poor family in Japan, so he basically came to the States with nothing in the late 70s and so through his stories I've known a lot of that- the struggle of making your own way and being your own man. The area that I grew up in was definitely working class, but I think it's a universal message. Funk music was originally made by people in the struggle, whether it would be race, economics or class.

Do you see funk regaining the same relevance it had in the '70s and '80s?

I mean a lot of people are like, "Oh you guys are bringing back funk. It's a like dead genre." I don't really see that. It transcends through a lot of different genres to me. I don't know whether there's going to be top 40 funk songs or not. I'm not sure if that's where it's heading, but I don't think that's really the aim. The aim is to spread the message to people. We're not trying to make pop music. We're trying to make music that will touch people and uplift people, give them something they need in the world that they're not really getting from other sources.

You've collaborated with Salva and released music under his label, how did that happen?

He's the one that really got me started releasing music as a solo artist. We met at this regular job in software. This was in about 2007. He hired me to work for him and on my resume it said I had an interest in music and DJing. We got to talking and we were listening to each other's music. He was like, "I want to create a label and release some music; do you want to do something?" So I put together an EP and that was kind of my first solo release. That's what started everything for me. He's right here in L.A. so we've been working on stuff together and that's my main man.

Moe Man - Straight Real

kapitol click

Originally published at Passionweiss 

In 1996, G-Funk was still the soundtrack to bouncing cars, block parties and Malt Liquor bottles. DJ Quik dropped the classic Safe + Sound the year prior and 2pac was yet to introduce rap music to suburbia with “California Love.” Oakland’s Moe-Man took influences from G-Funk as well as the Bay Area’s Mobb Music on Straight Real, which he released independently the same year. Sadly, the project went unheard in the mainstream despite its quality. Considered an underrated Bay Area gem and a rare find even in the golden age of music piracy with copies selling on Ebay for $800.00, Straight Real deserves to find its way to your stereo.

Producer K.T. The Orchestrata laced the album with bass heavy beats and fly synth jams. Moe-Man shouts him out various times on record and claims they’re brothers. Whether he means brother in blood or soul isn’t clear, but K.T’s relationship with the funk is evident as soon as you hit play. The keys on “Don’t Take The Streets Lightly” are slicker than Eazy-E’s Jheri curl and the instrumental for “Is It Like That?” sounds good no matter who’s rapping on it. Samples from The Isley Brothers, Afrika Bambaataa and Too $hort prove K.T has excellent taste and the album is populated with classic R&B to add further flava. He raps on the album as part of the Kapitol Click alongside Big Daddy-O and Shoddy Shod, but K.T’s best work is as the groove constructor behind the boards.

Moe, not to be confused with Houston’s Big Moe, rhymes quickly and confidently. He can’t be faded, talks shit and lays game down like Nino Brown. His style and delivery is a paradigm of West Coast rap in the 90s. Moe sticks to classic rap tropes for the majority of the album and it sounds great. His wordplay is simple and lacks the charisma N.W.A packed during the same era, but it works. Moe-Man speaks on the struggles of poverty on “Young Bro,” while his producer switches style to something more akin to a Native Tongues record. Only during “40 Oz. Kid” does he sound completely out of place, attempting to emulate Slick Rick’s smooth paced delivery without the necessary creative wordplay. 

Where are K.T The Orchestrata and Moe-Man now? If Google’s crack surveillance team only has four relevant links about your output, you’ve either stopped making music or avoided the internet. In the age where even struggle rappers and local stars have some mention online, it seems sadly inconceivable that either has established prolific careers. K.T’s vanished despite his tunes having more bounce than a fatty on an inflatable castle. Whilst Moe-Man has supposedly performed in Vegas under the name Moetrouble and this YouTube account which sporadically posts videos just might be him. Maybe our Bay Area readers/local rap detectives can help uncover the mystery? Any information will be rewarded with one low quality pirated copy of Straight Real, a picture of E-40 holding his glasses between his thumb and forefinger and a Walkman with foam headphones.

Young Scooter ft Kevin Gates and Rich Homie Quan - Drugs Remix

scooter gucci

Originally published at Passionweiss 

Young Scooter’s struggle bars ensure the “Drugs” [Remix] won’t be making an appearance on anyone’s song of the year list, but only the heartless won’t appreciate Rich Homie Quan’s sincere croons dedicated to brain altering chemicals. Originally written off as a Future clone, the 24 year old has croaked himself a different lane and a few undeniable hits along the way. It’s not entirely fair to write off Scooter’s mumble mouthed rhymes as they’re entertaining enough, but it’s his perpetually affluent hook man who owns the track.

Kevin Gates comes along in the last minute with a tacked on guest verse and though his feature could have been better used elsewhere, complaining about a free verse by one of the best is punishable with ten Lil Twist bars. The sensitive thug takes a damaged view on substances and exposes detail about friends who’ve changed, the impact of bad drugs and his daughter learning to walk while he was incarcerated.

Quan and Gates also appear on remix of “Two Rounds” by Houston MC Propain. The original debuted on the latter rapper’s very solid albeit uncreatively named Ridin’ Slab mixtape from last year. This is another jam boosted yet again by the Rich Homie’s melancholic vocals and intricate couplets from Gates, who at this stage I must refrain from writing further praise about lest I enter full Stan mode. Sex raps for radio are typically a PG borefest, but the song is anchored by witty reference to the classic “O-o-h Child” (Things Are Gunna Get Easier) by The Five Stairsteps. Listen below and give thanks to the luxurious Homie.

A$AP Ferg Interview


Always Strive And Prosper. Before Ferg joined the A$AP Mob, he already lived by their motto thanks to his father Darold Ferguson. While residing in Harlem’s notorious Hamilton Heights neighborhood, Ferg senior established a reputation as a renowned hustler. He printed shirts and designed logos for luminaries including Bad Boy Records, Teddy Riley, Heavy D and Bell Biv DeVoe.

Inspired to carry his father’s legacy after his death, A$AP Ferg pursued fashion and attended art school. He was later convinced to focus on music by friends and was featured on A$AP Rocky’s first mixtape Deep Purple. With his creative background as the foundation, Ferg’s vocal experimentation and unique visual direction ensured he was the second major label signee from the A$AP mob.

Ferg’s debut Trap Lord was released last year, and included bangers such as “Work” (remix,) “Shabba” and “Hood Pope.” Before his June show at the NXNE Festival in Toronto, he told me about working with Bone Thugs on “Lord,” Diddy calling him after his record deal, speaking regularly to Fab Five Freddy and wanting to collaborate with Phil Collins.

Do you have a favorite Harlem record?

Yeah, I do. I actually do, one of my favorite Harlem records is “Been Around the World (Remix)” by Puff Daddy, Ma$e and Carl Thomas.

When you were young did you ever see rappers like Ma$e, Cam’ron, etc. in Harlem? Juelz Santana is actually from your neighbourhood Hamilton Heights too.

Yeah, I think he is. 151st or somewhere over there. But yeah I used to see Juelz all the time. I used to see Jim Jones all the time, Cam knows my family. I’m real cool with Cam. Every rapper from Harlem I’m cool with. I’m cool with Puffy, Ma$e. But I met Ma$e once I got on, everybody else I knew them before.

Was that through your father D. Ferg?

Nah not through my father, just through like knowing them and seeing them around and saying what’s up, being a kid from the block. But then when they found out who my pops was, they would be like “oh shit.”

The A$AP Mob started a few years before you and Rocky joined, as a collective of people who shared similar taste in music, art and fashion. We all know about A$AP Yams being one of the leaders, but can you tell us a bit about A$AP Bari who was also a core founder?

Bari is just one of those live spirits. He’s one of those guys that everyone loves. He connects the dots and he’s always on a voyage. He kind of reminds me of Basquiat, just the way his spirit is so free. The way Basquiat used to live with his girlfriend and give all of his money away. Bari doesn’t care about money at all, he’s totally about the people and he keeps the A$AP spirit alive. He always gives you the home feeling, he’s always on the latest trends, the latest fashion and he kind of brings that to the group. He’s definitely very interesting.

Is he similar to Slim, Birdman’s brother, from Ca$h Money? A silent partner behind the scenes?

He’s not like Slim at all. See Slim is more like a boss with his hands in the business. Bari is really not about the business. He’s about fun, fun and more fun. Bari acts like an artist. He gets more girls than me.

I heard you know Fab Five Freddy, and speak to him quite regularly?

Yeah, you know I ran into Fab in Harlem. I bumped into him in the street. I saw him going into like the 99-cent store, a convenience store. I just ran into him and he’s a legend so I wanted to talk to him and introduce myself. I grew up watching Beat Street and all of these things that he was a part of. I knew he was good friends with Jean Michel Basquiat, who is one of my favourite artists. Fab Five Freddy opened doors for a lot of artists, painters and actors as well as musicians so I just wanted to meet this great person who did all of these things.

You’re quite similar in terms of your interests as you’re both creatively driven, especially with your backgrounds in art.

Exactly. He’s a jack-of-all-trades. He told me that once he had a song that blew up, a hit song, I forget the name of it, but it kind of blew up in London first then it came back to the U.S and around that time he was doing music, and now he paints, and before that he was doing film. He did New Jack City and a bunch of other famous movies that a lot of people didn’t know he was involved in. So he’s definitely one of those Renaissance men who had his hands in everything.

Before you blew up and were taking music seriously, you went through a period where you weren’t really into hip-hop because you felt you couldn’t relate to the music?

Right, it wasn’t that I couldn’t relate to the music, it was that I wasn’t getting anything out of hip-hop. There wasn’t anything penetrating the mental, you know what I mean? I wasn’t learning anything from it. I was listening to a lot of old hip-hop, a lot of 2pac, a lot of Biggie, just learning life lessons from rappers. But then hip-hop had this phase where it was all about fist pumping and turn up music, you know that’s fun, but it was like let’s get back to the matters at hand. What about the problems that are going on in our society? We didn’t really have a bunch of artists talking about these things. But now you have a Chance The Rapper, you even have songs like the “Hood Pope” and the “Cocaine Castle” off my album. You have more conscious songs. Before it was not cool to be conscious or even step in those grounds, but now artists don’t give a fuck any more.

I’ve heard you call yourself an “old soul” because of the music you grew up on. I was pretty surprised to hear Phil Collins was one of the artists you’d like to collaborate with?

Yeah, Phil Collins just has a nice voice. I kind of grew up hearing his music like “In the air tonight” and all of that iconic music. I was just thinking about about the biggest artists to work with. Of course now I know of more artists, but those were the artists that were singing the ballads when I was growing up, but yeah Phil Collins, Seal and all of these people.

Trap Lord has been out since August last year, are you happy with how the record turned out overall?

Yes I am. I’m very pleased. People have been very receptive to it. A lot of people loved the album. There was a lot of people that carried me as an artist just because my style is so different from a lot of the A$AP members. A lot of people were saying it was different in a good way – it was fun and different. I guess they were ready for it.

You worked with Bone Thugs on the track “Lord.” I know you were in the studio in person with Bizzy and Flesh, but what about the others?

I worked in person with Flesh and Bizzy, but I was on tour with the group. All of those guys are my uncles. Bizzy calls me the most though, and Flesh gives me the most knowledge.
I feel like Bone Thugs in general are underrated. They should be like way bigger than they are, but that’s just me. They are icons in my eyes. They are like the Michael Jacksons of hip-hop. It’s like a group of Michael Jacksons, or like The Jackson 5 to me.

Bizzy seems like an interesting dude.

Yeah, he’s funny too. One night he calls me at three in the morning asking for Wale’s number. That’s how random he is.

You wanted to have DMX on Trap Lord too?

Oh yeah, I wanted DMX to say a prayer on the album. But it’s hard to catch up to that man. He’s busy.

I always appreciated the artistic direction of your videos, is this something you work hard on?

I write my treatments and direct. I don’t really try hard. It comes natural to me because it’s fun. A lot of my friends that I went to school with, because I went to art school, they are into film and videography and things like that so it’s not hard for me to reach out to them and get things done. It’s all fun for me to allow the imagination to work and for me to write the treatments down and get the production prepared. That’s all fun for me because it’s seeing my creation come to life.

Is creating art still a big part of your life or do you not have a lot of time?

My life is art. I still find time for art because I have to provide for my family. That’s why this is living the dream because I’m living through my art.

Where do you want to take your sound on the next record?

I want it to be more innovative. A bigger sound. When I say bigger, I mean it’s going to be more worldly. It’s going to appeal to everybody versus just myself and those like me. I’m going to stay grounded to those who support me and my base, but I’m definitely trying to expand my sound entirely.

You’ve said previously that when the A$AB Mob started, you were doing things like riding BMX bikes and wearing your own styles of clothing, but people didn’t understand you guys. Did you feel like outcasts?

We definitely were outcasts, but that’s where I’m comfortable now because I can’t stand to be like anyone else. I can’t stand to have the same fashion as someone else. If everybody is wearing black, I’ll wear white. If everybody is wearing white, I’ll wear black. I guess that’s a Harlem thing, because I think that’s when Cam got tired of everyone’s clothing, that’s when he started wearing pink. So I think it’s just Harlem, they breed a lot of people that do their own thing like innovators and creators. That’s kind of how I am to a certain extent. I want to express myself and be different from everybody else.

This is a bit of a random question, but how did you start using the word “Jiggy”? Is that a Harlem thing? I have not heard that word in years.

Jiggy is a definitely a Harlem thing, but we’re making it a worldwide thing. I’m bringing the jiggy back. Jiggy is a feeling. Jiggy is a style. You have high fashion, which also can be jiggy, but it’s more of a feeling than anything. You can wear anything and feel jiggy, if it’s dope. It’s really how you wake up in the morning and feel. It can be the music you listen to. I’m going to give you the perfect definition of jiggy.

Go for it.

A lot of old Puffy and Ma$e videos used to be jiggy shit. A lot of Missy Elliot videos. They used to wear outfits instead of t-shirts and jeans. That was jiggy. Platinum was jiggy. Waves in the hair was jiggy. Keeping your sneakers clean is jiggy.

I love those Missy Elliot videos, those are classic.

Yeah, I love Missy Elliot. I can’t even begin to explain.

A$AP Ferg Diddy

I’ve read that Puffy was aware of your sound and the A$AP mob, but wasn’t sure how to market you and didn’t quite understand the movement because it was so different. Did he ring and congratulate you once you blew up and was he surprised by it?

Yeah, he told me. When I first got signed he called and congratulated me, and we spoke on the phone for an hour. He was just telling me how proud my pops would have been of me and he was telling me what he thought when he had first seen the movement. He loved it, but he just didn’t know how to approach it or where to take it. I guess that was a good thing because we kinda cracked the pavement. We came with the unorthodox. People needed that. People were getting tired of the same generic shit, that you see on World Star or on TV. People were just seeing the same rappers with the stupid ass jewellery, looking dumb in interviews. So we just came to bring that jiggy shit.

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.

Kevin Gates update

kevin gates ymcmb

Originally published at Passionweiss.

Kevin Gates is so good at rapping that the XXL Freshman ’14 cover could have been a close-up of his face. Few MCs combine lucid crime recollections, vulnerable introspection and speaker knockers quite like the Baton Rouge renegade. While the Passionweiss squad works on converting the site into an unofficial KG focus group, I’ve taken on the enviable task of sharing with you a few of his latest releases in the lead up to Luca Brasi 2.

Fellow Southerner Trae The Truth featured Gates on “Dark Angel,” and released the video last week. Despite a cameo from Lil Bibby instead of Jessica Alba and trying a little too hard to be cinematic, it’s worth a watch. KG starts off with a lengthy verse that covers more interesting topics in two minutes than many artists do on a whole album. Gates performs a soliloquy referencing belief in a higher power, struggles with drug use and trying to sate a mourning family’s loss with money. The 28 year old also boldly admits to sexual inadequacy, which is something even less heard in rap than stringed instruments. Although it doesn’t have the same emotional impact, Trae’s verse shouldn’t be ignored either. He does an admirable job of following up Kevin’s powerful testimony, delivering solid tales of struggle with his trademark rapid-fire flow.

Next up is the video for “Posed To Be In Love,” which was included on this year’s mixtape By Any Means and may or may not have been shot using an iPhone camera. Some listeners felt Gates’ decision to discuss domestic violence glorified spousal assault, but the track is more complex than the knee-jerk reaction it inspires. It’s fair to assume with an artist as self-aware Gates, that he includes nuances to the story for a reason. Kevin mentions stalking and an obsession with his female counterpart to cement his character as a deranged lover rather than someone to be revered.

While not the best decision to release visuals for a tale of battery when he could have chosen another single, the clip does further distance KG from the story. He’s seen as an observer in the video rather than the protagonist. Like many great artists his lyrics are capable of inspiring a range of emotions including shock, awe and sometimes revulsion.

Thankfully Gates also left us with a few gems before hitting the road and he’s yet to show any signs of creative burnout aka “Mixtape Circuit Syndrome.” Listen below for his menacing OG Bobby Johnson freestyle, the threatening croak of “Nothing” and finally the hypnotic “Cut Her Off” freestyle. You’re welcome.


Edit: Gates' new track with Lil Bibby included above. 

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?

100s Interview


Originally published at Passionweiss

100s (pronounced “hunnids”) was born in the wrong era. The 20 year old has been fascinated by the ‘70s since being exposed to American Pimp, Iceberg Slim’s autobiography and nuclear levels of hair spray. His parents moved him to the Ivory Coast due to failing grades and his last two years of high school were spent in a three-bedroom house with 15 others. During this time, 100s heard Mac Dre’s “Gumbo” and decided to make music for pimps, pushers and paper-chasers.

Three years after returning home to Berkeley in 2010, debut album Ice Cold Perm was released. With the same stony-eyed stare and a cover inspired by Snoop Dogg’s Tha Doggfather, 100s embraced his influences with rhymes about running game, retro cell phones, Cali beaches and floor length jackets.

He quickly gained a fan-base and Fools Gold records picked him up after noticing the music industry was missing immaculate hair. Earlier this year, 100s followed his debut with the purple-tinted IVRY. The eight track EP focuses on retro R&B crooning and synth-heavy production, but still packs the essential freaky raps.

I spoke to the half Black/half Jewish rapper about whether he prefers The Mack or Superfly, his musical heroes and why he’s open about never actually being a pimp. Despite being quite reserved during our conversation, 100s mentioned his time in the Ivory Coast was one of his favourite things to discuss so we also covered topics including culture shock, catching Malaria, and realizing how lucky Americans were with their living conditions.

What made you decide to go a little more melodic with IVRY?

I guess, it’s just growth. I’ve always liked more melodic music than traditional rap so I guess it was just a matter of time. The more you do something, the better you get at it. There’s just different kind of songs that you learn how to do as you get better at what you do. I aimed to kind of do that [make more melodic music.] I have this whole concept behind IVRY. It was actually a concept album. I never really explained the concept.

Can you tell us a little about the concept now?

It’s kind of abstract of course, but it chronicles this person in this other dimension in the future or in a different time or whatever. It was meant to be almost like a story. If you really listen to it all the way through and you change the tracklist around it would have been a different story with different events in life. It just takes you to a place, to a time.

You were talking about a project named Sex Symbol, before IVRY dropped. Are they the same thing?

Nah, Sex Symbol, I need to chase down everybody I said that to. That’s no more, that’s not happening. That was just a phase. I was kind of hot off some shit, but that’s not happening. I guess, what it would have been is now IVRY.

You often collaborate with Joe Wax. Can you tell us about him?

He’s been producing for maybe five or six years. We went to the same middle school and we both got sent away at the same time. He got sent to some boarding school in the middle of nowhere and I got sent to Africa, so we bonded over that. Then we came back and started making music.

Even if he’s not necessarily producing the song or whatever, he helps me create. He’s my guide and my homie. He’s always involved in what I’m doing. He has really good taste.

You like to be heavily involved in the creative process?

Yeah, IVRY was the first time I’ve co-produced.

We’ve talked about some of your rap influences, but what about other artists that had an impact on IVRY? Prince?

Yeah, I love Prince. Hell yeah. Prince, Rick James, all of these people.

Rick James had quite a flamboyant style as well.

Exactly, he was a genius you know. If you really listen to his catalogue, the stuff that not everybody knows. If you really dig, he’s a genius. He probably played bass and fucking electric guitar and whatever, super talented dude.

What do you love so much about the 70s-80s? What exactly drew you to that era?

I don’t know, I don’t really think it was a conscious decision. Ever since I was younger, I was fascinated with that era and identified with it.

Do you prefer The Mack or Superfly?

Honestly, I would pick another one. I would choose Willie Dynamite. I really like Willie Dynamite. I guess after that film, I like The Mack better than Superfly. I’m a movie guy.

You’re influenced by people like Too $hort, Mac Dre, Snoop Dogg etc. But can you also tell us about Dre Dog?

I’m big fans of them. Dre Dog, who is now known as Andre Nickatina, he’s a Bay Area legend you know. I mean he’s a legend period. It’s hard to describe what he is and what he sounds like, you’ve just got to listen. He’s super different.

Have you met any of your musical heroes?

I met Andre Nickatina. I brought him out in San Francisco. That was some dream come true shit, know what I’m saying? [laughs.] I’ve been a fan of his since I was about 13 year’s old. I opened for Snoop one time but I’ve never met him, this was like a while ago.

You’re a comedy fan as well, who’s your favourite comedian?

Eddie Murphy. Well Eddie Murphy now, ahh you know… but Raw or Delirious Eddie Murphy, that Eddie Murphy.

Do you think your interest in comedy also effects the music? A lot of people said the video for “1999” was pretty tongue in cheek.

I guess since the music is a reflection of me. I enjoy comedy and that’s part of me, so maybe it does bleed into it, but I wouldn’t say I purposely do that. I take what do seriously, you know. It’s about perception, some people get the music and some people don’t.

As a 16 year old, were you scared when you landed in the Ivory Coast? That’s quite the culture shock.

Yeah, now that I think about it, it’s kind of surreal. It’s like, did everything happen? But it did. It was hard to adjust because it’s like night and day. When you’re over there and you think there’s this whole other world, it’s like another planet exists.

You had Malaria five times? What’s that like?

I probably had it more. When you’re from America or whatever, you’re fragile. You’re not conditioned for those types of diseases. Back there people are conditioned, but when you didn’t grow up with it, your body doesn’t know what to do. How I would describe is like you’re cold and you’re hot, your body aches, you have nausea, no appetite. It’s just like… shit. [Laughs] It feels like “this is the end.” It’s horrible. I feel like as you get it more you get over it faster though.

Did the Ivory Coast change your perception of the world? I bet you came back with an idea of how lucky you are with the living conditions in America.

Yep, one hundred percent. One hundred percent. I tell my friends that all the time and I always try to get that across. The same way that Jewish people have a birth-right to go back to Israel. I think African people should have that too. It gives you a wider understanding of what’s going on and makes you realise that all the petty shit that you worry about or deem important really isn’t.

I’ve heard there’s a lot of internalized racism over there and white people get special treatment over their own culture.

Definitely, of course. That’s just part of it. I don’t really know what it stems from, but you always see that. It’s maybe because they were colonized by white people or whatever. Some African people think that white people are better. It’s really insane.

How long did it take you start making music after you returned from the Ivory Coast?

When I came back, I wasn’t really fucking around you know. I had so much time to think and visualise what I wanted to do when I was there, that when I came back I didn’t waste my time.

Have you been back?

Nah, I want to go back. I want to go back soon. Hopefully I go back soon. I think there’s a festival over there next year so I’m going to try go to that.

You’re proud of your African heritage, are you equally proud of your Jewish side?

Yeah. I would say that I’m not as in touch with my Jewish heritage as my African, but I am proud of it.

Ice Cold Perm was a reasonably polished project. Were you working with labels behind the scenes at the time?

Hell no! [laughs] It was me, my friend Joe and our friend Oliver, who is Joe’s big cousin. He has a website called, which initially put it out. Me and Joe just recorded it in his bedroom. We would all talk about what would make it and what wouldn’t ya know, and then we just dropped it.

What made you decide to sign specifically to Fools Gold? I’m sure there were also other labels that approached you.

I just liked what they had going on. I knew that I was moving towards that kind of melodic sound, at least at that time. It felt like a good fit.

Were you nervous about performing on some of your earlier tours? You gained an audience quite quickly.

Not really. I recall I was nervous the first show I ever did. After that, once you kind of realise that this is your passion, everything comes out on stage. As soon as you touch the stage and you realise that this is your time, you forget about everything.

I know you’ve toured Australia before, how was that?

It was amazing. It was weird for me to just see that I had reached people out there and they embraced me. It was super cool, I loved it and would love to go back.

Where do you see your sound going next? Maybe into Funk?

Ah… no. I guess that will all be revealed in time, but I am working on new things. I’m working on a lot of stuff. I’m not going to talk about specifics, but it is coming and you’ll see.

Have you collaborated with Danny Brown?

No, it hasn’t happened yet.

You’re in an iPhone 5C commercial. How did you get involved with that?

My friend the same guy who put out my mixtape, Oliver, he was doing the casting. I wasn’t going to do the ad. I was trying to help him find people to do it. I think it was last minute and he was like: “Dude, I can’t find anybody. Just send me a picture of you or some shit. “ So I sent him a picture and they liked me, so I did it. It was fun.

When did you start growing your hair?

Shit, I would have been 10 years old or something. It was Fifth grade.

Why did you do it?

I don’t really know. A lot of the people I was fans of had long hair. Whether it was from rock music or whatever. I used to really like wrestling when I was younger and all these old wrestlers had long hair, so that’s what I wanted to do.

How would you rate your hair in comparison to DJ Quik’s on Rhythmalism?

Ah, I don’t know if I’ve seen it on that particular album cover. He’s got a hell of a perm or whatever it is [laughs.] I mean it’s nice or whatever, but I like mine more.

I watched some of the Hollywood Shuffle film you sample on “My Activator.” What’s your favourite type of Activator?

[Laughs] I don’t even know any different types. I don’t know shit about them. I just love that movie.

You obviously like the 70s look and you’ve got the hair, did people ever call you gay?

Of course [laughs]. Of course. Yeah. I’m not an insecure man. I’m chilled. I don’t get caught up in that shit. If you want to call me gay or whatever you think, that’s your opinion. I can just be me. I keep it moving. I don’t think anybody necessarily is meant to be understood.

I heard a rumour that some classmates of yours claimed you were pimping girls at 16 years old at Berkeley High?

Ohhh no. No, what the fuck! [laughs] See I didn’t even go to Berkeley High.

Sorry I’m asking some tougher questions.

No, it’s all good. I like these questions. I get tired of the weak-ass ones.

You’ve also said previously when you’re talking about “hoes,” or whatever, that doesn’t necessarily translate to real life and real people. Can you tell us about that?

To me it’s clear, but I’ll explain it. Not every record is necessarily about a pimp and a hoe or whatever people think it is. It could be anything. It could be a metaphor, it could be taken however. That’s why I said it’s not meant to be taken literally. If I’m talking about that, it could be something else. It could be what’s going on in my life or whatever. It’s just abstract as it comes. When I’m writing I’m not always thinking about that type of shit.

You’re pretty open about admitting you have never been a pimp and you’ve never claimed to be one. What do you think about people who criticise your authenticity?

It’s only an issue of authenticity, if you view it as one. If you view it as expression and it’s not meant to be taken literally, there’s no issue of authenticity. When it comes down to people judging it as if it’s meant to be taken literally, then yeah the issue comes into play. If it’s pretty much any genre other than rap, then people know not to take it literally. It’s just an expression, you don’t know what the fuck they [the performer] are talking about. On some level, I would compare it to that. Of course I’m open about it [not being an actual pimp], because I don’t want you to take it literally.

You see yourself as a performer and musician first?

Yeah, one hundred percent. Honestly, I have two projects out and I’m always growing and doing stuff, so people will see what everything turns into.