Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

T.I., “Stupid” Choices, and Guns

October 22, 2007

Timely wisdom, from one of my favorite people in hip-hop: Jay Smooth. There’s not much else one could add to his insightful commentary (background on the T.I. controversy can be found here). Enjoy:
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If you haven’t peeped it already, Jay Smooth’s video blog, Ill Doctrine, is easily one of the best on the internet; don’t sleep…


Why the Soul Music Drought In ’07?

October 8, 2007

After getting finished listening to Ohmega Watts’ newest offering, Watts Happening, I continue to be flabbergasted by the quality hip-hop that we’ve heard in 2007–and we’re only three quarters of the way in, with LPs from Jay-Z (curious) and The Roots (egh…) on the way.

This is surely something to appreciate, but at the same time, I can’t think of a good R&B/Soul album that has dropped this year. I put this out there to get the brain-trust thinking: am I overlooking someone?

I’m an admitted stan right now, and I’m really feeling his newest LP, Songs About Girls. But I refuse to put a producer who really ain’t a singer in this list–especially if he is only making the list by default. That album is fresh, in my opinion; but I’d like some more choices.


Black Milk on point… again.

May 18, 2007

Not to get too far astray, but back in March while Pete and I were discussing Black Milk’s “Shut It Down”, I asked the question:

How is this not the hottest hip-hop record in New York right now?

Well it appears that this week Milk acted upon the sage advice of this lowly and irrelevant blogger (feel free to laugh now), and decided to drop this track as his next sing-lay. The “Sound the Alarm” remix is off the hook, with a grimey-ass new beat and a guest shot from Royce 5’9″.

This is sort of left-fieldish, but I have a feeling that if Funkmaster Flex can get his hands on this record, he might take to it and let it blow.  We’ll see…


April 30, 2007

Squire, let me first say that I inevitably agree with you RE: Madlib and DP.  I just don’t get how popular Run-DMC is on this blog… is this some web crawler activity, or some sort of Run-DMC revival. I mean, I’m as a big of a fan as anybody, but I’m just confused.

Total Views for Post Titled “Run-DMC”

“Shut It Down”

March 23, 2007

How is this not the hottest hip-hop record in New York right now? It’s almost like some Midwestern producers are more New York than New York’s own producers…

Black Milk – “Shut It Down” (iTunes)

I’ll have some more thoughts on this track, but it’s Friday and I’m punching the clock for now…

Shades of Dilla

March 22, 2007

I get the feeling that this is going to be a recurring theme here, and I don’t think that it’s by accident, but I agree with Pete that some of the Dilla-isms on Popular Demand are downright uncanny.

In particular, “Three+Sum” (which I think should have been the B-side on the 12″, or even the next single) sounds like it was ripped from what I think you can imprecisely dub Dilla’s Donuts period (including all those 2005 beat tapes that hit the internet). Pete also aptly points out that the subject-matter is similarly Dilla-tastic.

Tracks like “Sound the Alarm“, on the other hand, remind you more of Dilla’s Welcome 2 Detroit/Ruff Draft period. I challenge anyone to pick up a copy of Ruff Draft, throw on “Reckless Driving“, and tell me that you don’t hear the similarities to “Sound the Alarm.” Even the hook-writing is eerily similar.

I’ll look for the quote, but I recall one reviewer describing Milk’s beats as J Dilla without the idiosyncrasies. I think that’s right on point. His shit is just a little more polished, and just may be a litlte more palatable for mainstream hip-hop audiences. We’ll see.

First Single: “Sound the Alarm”

March 22, 2007

The first single from “Popular Demand” is “Sound the Alarm,” for which they also put out a video. If you recall, I criticized ISWHAT?! and their hip-hop hooks. Let this track stand as the perfect example of the right way to do it. The shit is infectious.

Guilty Simpson looks a little stiff, no? Big guys gotta be comfortable in their own body or else they just make everyone around them uncomfortable. Otherwise, I thought it was a solid hip-hop video, if not groundbreaking–but I would advise against watching this if you liked the video, it sort of detracts from the “realism.”

The 12″ single also includes the track “About Me” (off the Pressure mixtape) and the B-Side is “Say Something” off of the new LP.

RE: Black Milk’s Commercial Viability

March 20, 2007

Bottom line: he could lace tracks for 50 Cent right now; they would make some real hood shit. But does he want to? That is, if you had the choice, is 50 the right major label artist to hook up with at this moment, if you’re Milk, you want to get paid making some of his raw shit? If not, then who is? Jay? Nas? T.I.?

I was going to go this route but I wanted to keep my original post brief. 50 Cent was the exact artist that came to mind to. Not so much because of his lyrical dexterity, but he seems the prototypical artist one may consider to hit the major circuit. (And, not for nothing, but 50 usually does a good job picking beats…particularly for his singles). But, off your suggestion, I think T.I. would be a good fit. He has a lazy flow that may work really well with a Black Milk beat.

Black Milk’s Commercial Viability

March 20, 2007

Son… you read my mind with that suggestion that Milk’s shit could really get commercial run. I actually even had an entire paragraph on that written in my intro, but deleted because I wanted to talk about it later and in greater depth.

It’s just that his shit bangs like an Aftermath beat, but it’s even grimier; you can’t tell me that the streets won’t feel that. While it’s probably for the better that Milk’s Lloyd Banks collabo never got released (the LP flopped, and Banks is hardly an emcee to showcase Milk’s production), but it’s an inkling of the potential major label support this kid could get.

Bottom line: he could lace tracks for 50 Cent right now; they would make some real hood shit. But does he want to? That is, if you had the choice, is 50 the right major label artist to hook up with at this moment, if you’re Milk, and you want to get paid making some of his raw shit? Is G-Unit on its way out? If so, then who is the right person to hook up with? Jay? Nas? T.I.?

Little Brother On Point…

March 18, 2007

Another line from that AP story discussed below really jumped out at me.

…Last summer, as the “Chicken Noodle Soup” song and accompanying dance became a sensation, Baltimore Sun pop critic Rashod D. Ollison mused that the dance — demonstrated in the video by young people stomping wildly from side to side — was part of the growing minstrelization of rap music.

“The music, dances and images in the video are clearly reminiscent of the era when pop culture reduced blacks to caricatures: lazy ‘coons,’ grinning ‘pickaninnies,’ sexually super-charged ‘bucks,’ ” he wrote.

Isn’t this exactly the statement that Little Brother was making with “The Minstrel Show”? Those are some smart brothers, and they deserve props–even if they kicked out 9th Wondra (kidding). But I’ll be damned if this isn’t the most scathing sort of criticism to lob at the hip-hop industry right now. It really hits on the underlying, messy issues of race at work here, and it comes from a voice within the hip-hop community. Hip-hop will never die with guys like this around.


Hip-Hip going underground?

March 18, 2007

I think that was an interesting article, particularly in the context of some of the thoughts Kyle & I have traded over the previous week; plus it includes some great quotes, e.g. ‘”I’m not removed from it, but I can’t really tell the difference between Young Jeezy and Yung Joc. It’s the same dumb stuff to me,’ says Duncan-Smith, 33.” Hilarious.

Some thoughts I have for hip-hops future:

  1. It’s not dead or dying. Instead, (and in light of some the statistics Kyle highlighted), we may see a retreat to the underground. As “popular” as some hip-hop is, there may be (and I’m speculating) a population of artists that strengthens as the public image of hip-hop seemingly continues to worsen; mainly artist whom share similar sentiments that Napolean presents on The Life We Chose.
  2. In line with a string of underground releases (Ohmega Watts, Lushlife, Kero One, Jneiro Jarel, etc.), there seems to be a movement back to the sound and style of the “Golden Era” of hip-hop. There have been some traces of this in commercial releases, but I guess only time will tell if this movement will reach the popular level of aboveground acknowledgment.
  3. As Kyle said, hip-hop has been written off in the past; similarly, its identifiable sound has gone through changes. Historically, we may simply be at a point where a shift is occurring – whether or not that is spurred by the negative public image is debatable.
  4. KRS-One says: Lesson 3 for how to be an emcee “might be contradictory or funny, but emcees should have other ways of gettin’ money, that’s to say learn other things besides music, make money elsewhere, so hip-hop, you won’t abuse it.” – “Health, Wealth, & Self” from KRS-One

Has Rap Music Hit a Wall?

March 18, 2007

That’s the question posed by a recent AP feature story, and the same question we touched on here. This article was too good to pass up mentioning it in a post.

The answer I think is all in how one defines the wall. If the “wall” is defined as the ongoing mainstream commercial viability of hip-hop, then I think it’s possible that the wall has been “hit.” But if the wall is end of the genre, or the utter lack of creativity or vibrancy within this culture, then I think you are dead wrong, and acts like ISWHAT?! are proof of that.

Some of the empirical evidence cited by the author was interesting.

Though music sales are down overall, rap sales slid a whopping 21 percent from 2005 to 2006, and for the first time in 12 years no rap album was among the top 10 sellers of the year.

A recent study by the Black Youth Project showed a majority of youth think rap has too many violent images. In a poll of black Americans by The Associated Press and AOL-Black Voices last year, 50 percent of respondents said hip-hop was a negative force in American society.

For the sake of brevity, I’ll bracket off the race issue (because that’s even more interesting). But like any market, there must be a point where the pop music market becomes saturated with thug rap. But are we seeing that right now, at this particular juncture? I can’t say that for sure (and I don’t necessarily think so), but the prospect is an interesting one to ponder as it is coming, at some point.

But you know what? Even if we are witnessing the end of the commercial viability of hip-hop, I’m not worried. I actually think hip-hop music is as strong right now as it’s ever been. The mere utterance of names like J Dilla, Ta’Raach, Black Milk, Platinum Pied Pipers, (Detroit is in house right now), Madlib, et al. is enough to rebut any suggestion that the genre is dead. And we should throw ISWHAT?! in there as well. People might write off hip-hop, but it’s been written off before–so that doesn’t worry me. Should the hip-hop “bubble” burst, the worst that could happen, in my view, is that Young Jeezy has to pinch a few pennies to make that Def Jam money stretch a little bit further… boo hoo.

viva la hip y la hop…


March 16, 2007

I love hip hop as well, and I like its diversity (allowing me to pick & choose). My taste goes in cycles. At times, my scope is narrow; other times, I consciously try to be more open to things that I may not ordinarily listen to. Right now, I’m in a state more aligned with the former. I usually make judgments (perhaps quickly at times) as to whether I like something based on the artist’s background. I love emcees and beatmakers who demonstrate a clear knowledge and respect for music (playing an instrument is a bonus but not a requirement). J Dilla – crazy beats; clearly knew music, innately it would seem. This quick litmus test is the reason I love guys like Madlib, Common, Pharrell, and Aloe Blacc. I listen to their music, and I can hear somebody who is an artist, lyrically or otherwise.

Often times, perhaps to a fault, I write guys off who I don’t think know jack about or respect music; guys who rely heavily on an image or gimmick to make a quick buck. Often, these gimmicks are built on perpetuating some stereotypical image, or some cheap topic, e.g. “how delightful it is to receive sexual gratification from this select bevy of women.” Like Kyle mentioned, I’ve too have become more sensitive to this as I read about real issues, for example, family dynamics in urban areas. It seems to me, while I claim to be no advertising expert, that a significant amount of this music is targeted at impoverished areas. Songs that make light of “beat[ing] the p*$sy up” are heard by children (despite the stickered warning). This, I find, is problematic for children who are internalizing these messages. Research has demonstrated that misogynistic lyrics have a similar effect as pornography on male listeners. Note that the subjects in most research has been college males (due to some ethical obligation not to expose young children to pornographic material, seen, heard, or otherwise) – think of the impact on an 8-year old who is still formulating his or her gender roles and identity. This doctor (Dr. Michael Rich), drawn at random (i.e. not hired by me) suggests in an interview with that:

“The connection to misogynistic music and behavior may be evident in other areas of young people’s lives, too, says Dr. Michael Rich, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Boston and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Media Matters campaign.

“The music portrays this kind of dating violence and coercion around sexual activity as normal relationships,” said Rich.

“I see an acceptance among teenagers – both girls and boys, of the kind of sexual objectification celebrated in this kind of music. There is this notion that it’s okay to be used for sex and that there is not any emotional commitment necessary.”

That being said, it’s often difficult to draw the line to what I like or dislike; when do I use my musical judgment? When do I use my social judgment? Which brings me to Kyle’s post on positive rappers. I try to always give props to emcees who present lyrics that sound thoughtful…or even attempt to push a prosocial message. For example, Common’s “Love is” from Be. (Dilla, Dilla, Dilla). On it, Com explores the travels & travails of love in the ghetto. Also, The Procussion’s “Water’s Edge,” where they preach respect and love for others in a way that is still hip hop. The end soliloquy is one of my favorites , right up there with Common’s Pop’s monologues. (By the way, keep an ear open for Blu)

For me, the question always remains, how much art and I willing to sacrifice for social responsibility, or vice versa. I don’t pretend to know, nor do I think I’ll ever figure it out. Like other forms of art, a lot depends on feeling, something immeasurable, and situational. I’m satisfied knowing that for every gimmick, there’s an artist with integrity, artistic and/or social.

All I know is, “if I don’t like it, I don’t like it, it don’t mean that I’m hatin,” Com.


Armstrong, E. (2001). Gangsta misogyny: A content analysis of the portrayals of
violence against women in rap music, 1987-1993. Journal of Criminal Justice and
Popular Culture, 8
(2), 96-126.

Barongan, C., & Hall, C. N. (1995). The influence of misogynous rap music on sexual
aggression against women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 19, 195-207.

P.S. The above are just some example studies that explore the misogynistic influence of “rap” music. Kyle & I are trying to run a clean ship here so I did not link to the original studies, although I think you would have needed a password to access them even if I had. There is plenty of similar research out there, as well as the specific damage done to young boys. For a great read, check out Raising Cain by Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson.

Possible Single?

March 13, 2007

This track sounds like it could be positioned as their single. I haven’t looked around to see if they released one yet, but let me know what you think. I’m feeling it though…

ISWHAT?! – “Casket” (iTunes)

UPDATE: I take that back about feeling that track… I was confusing it was the track that follows it. This song tries to be upbeat and fun but just sounds hollow and unoriginal to me. It sounds like Doug E. Fresh meets Fat Boy Slim and J5. No thanks.