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A Beginner’s Guide To Brockhampton

Here’s a great place to start for new listeners of the acclaimed group.

If you ask any given person to name the most prolific boyband of the twenty-first century, I’m willing to bet his or her answer would be One Direction. He or she would be incorrect. Now, don’t get me wrong; that mistake is common and understandable.

The U.K.-based quintet-turned-quartet did, after all, release five studio albums in four years. That’s impressive. Only one boyband, though, has ever released three studio albums over the course of six months. Only one boasts somewhere between fourteen and thirty-eight members who met on the Internet. That boyband is Brockhampton — and they exploded in the summer of 2017, delivering some of the most exciting hip-hop I have heard this decade.

Riding the momentum of their 2016 mixtape All-American Trash, and a Viceland program titled American Boyfriend, Brockhampton entered 2017 hungry. Over the course of the year, they wrote and recorded so much high-caliber material that they just could not settle for one album. In fact, the creativity flowing between the six spitters, two singers, three producers, and visual arts masterminds was (and continues to be) so intense that the group nicknamed their house in L.A. the Brockhampton factory. For the sake of brevity, I will resist the impulse to write extensively about each member. Here are the nine tracks from the Saturation trilogy you should check out if you want to get into Brockhampton.

Saturation I

“HEAT”

This track was my introduction to BH, and it quite literally blew my head straight off my neck. It was my most played song on Spotify in 2017; the first time I played it was in June. The heavy, industrial drums and muddy bassline have such primal energy that I feel like I’m discovering fire every time I listen. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that Ameer Vann’s verse is one of the hardest I have ever heard kick off an album.

Talkin’ ‘bout release dates, I’m tryna make it to tomorrow.
—Dom McLennon

“STAR”

If I had to encapsulate the essence of this iconic single in one word, it would be bars. Bars on bars on bars on bars on bars on bars on bars. Rapping over a simple beat accented with eerie keys, Dom, Ameer, and Kevin deliver three airtight verses that are so dense with witty pop culture references that each one doesn’t sink in until the guys are three lines ahead. I like to think of this track as a mission statement of sorts for the group; it’s a perfect snapshot of the talent and personality that make BH so compelling.

Heath Ledger with some dreads/I just gave my nigga head.
—Kevin Abstract

“BANK”

One of the most underrated tracks in their discography. The pounding drums hypnotically mesh with a riff that’s played on either keys or a ukulele — I have no idea. The record is made all the more mesmerizing by an odd, ear worm sample of a woman’s voice that immediately locks me in. Kevin is the undisputed genius behind this song, teaming up with Dom to spit one of their best bridges and going solo on an electrifying, off-the-wall outro.

I’m addicted to writing shit that make niggas scared of us.
—Kevin Abstract and Dom McLennon

Saturation II

“GUMMY”

The lead single that got BH fans out-of-their-minds excited for their second LP of the summer. The beat is undeniably groovy and features a piercing synth lead that jars the ears at first but eventually gets under the skin in the best way possible. I have heard this song no fewer than 1,000 times, and Kevin’s opening verse continues to knock me on my ass. The bridge is perfectly tailored to Merlyn Wood’s wild vocal style. Ameer and Dom deliver landmark verses in their catalogues.

I could get shot in the back, and they’d tell the world that I fought em/We ain’t taught em nothing new but somehow they been getting smarter.
—Dom McLennon

“JUNKY”

Kevin’s verse, dude. Kevin’s VERSE. Those sixty-three seconds are enough to sell this single. Not since Danny Brown’s Atrocity Exhibition have, I heard a hip-hop instrumental this unsettling. Each rapper manages to go hard while delivering some of the group’s most vulnerable and revealing lyrical content to date. A perfect display of what makes Merlyn so unique.

Love is knowing you didn’t do it by your lonesome.
—Merlyn Wood

“SWEET”

I swear, there is a reason I’m focusing strictly on opening verses. This one encapsulates everything that makes Matt Champion so great; he brings a charismatic personality with a flow that’s just laidback enough to leave you wanting more. Kevin’s hook is guaranteed to get stuck in your skull after one spin and Dom flows more smoothly than he usually does — which is saying something. JOBA, primarily a vocalist and the group’s sound engineer, snaps on his verse with flow and pitch you won’t hear anywhere else.

Lap you in a UFO, I ain’t started yet/Still gotta figure exactly where to park it at.”
—Dom McLennon

Saturation III

“JOHNNY”

The best BH song to date. If you listen to one, make it this one. With jazzy drums and horns, summery guitar, and nostalgic record scratches, it features one of the prettiest and grooviest instrumentals the group has ever laid to track. Kevin spits a hook that is as unorthodox as it is catchy. JOBA scales back his demeanor and pours his heart out on the album’s best verse.

Anxious, impatient, and always wanting something different/I hate the way I’m feeling, I’m sick of chasing feelings.
—JOBA

“BLEACH”

Guest vocalist Ryan Beatty sings a heart-wrenching hook over a spacey, somber instrumental that features a moody trap beat and meandering guitar. Merlyn brings his best verse to date with an odd, high-pitched inflection that I love.

I wanna die during sex or religion/God, and pussy only know my intentions.
—Merlyn Wood

“RENTAL”

I love this instrumental: trap beat, overblown bass, and keys that alternate between subtle and commanding. The hook is simple, repetitive, and tight. Matt Champion shows off his falsetto; his preface to Kevin’s hook is my favorite vocal performance across the Saturation trilogy.

I got a lot on my mind, not enough hours to shed/Not enough trust to believe, not enough feeling to care.
—Dom McLennon

So, there you have it. If you’re trying to get into the Internet’s first boyband — something you should be trying to do — listen to these nine tracks. If this playlist doesn’t get you hooked, I don’t know what will. Make sure to watch their music videos, too. Whether he’s behind the mic or the camera, Mr. Abstract can do no wrong.

We’ve taken the liberty of assembling this playlist on Tidal for easy listening! Listen here.

I am an economics student at The University of Massachusetts Amherst. Beyond my studies, I work as a DJ at the university radio station: 91.1 FM WMUA Amherst. Back in July, a good friend of mine launched a political debate website called The Dialectic, where I currently work as a staff writer and the Editor-In-Chief. I love all genres of music - everything from hip-hop to post-rock to hardcore punk. Aspiring writer. Avid reader. Coffee addict.
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A Conversation With New York Creative Rodney Hazard

“The process is never linear.” Those were some true words spoken by the New York DJ, Producer and Art Director,…

“The process is never linear.” Those were some true words spoken by the New York DJ, Producer and Art Director, Rodney Hazard.

He’s been on the music scene for quite some time now and recently dropped a new album titled Saint or Savage. The album features several up and coming artists that had a chance to collaborate with the Producer. He spoke with AAHH and broke down the meaning behind the title.

“It’s about making less of a choice and having more action. Stepping into who you truly are and who you want to become, but with more redemption. Which one are you right now, Saint or Savage?”

The basis of the title is also the same mindset he used when he approached the artist on collaborating with him for this project. He only works with artists who are trying to make a difference and be their best self.

“When I decided which artist I would have on the album it was a natural process. I’ve mostly worked with them in the past as well. They all had versatility and were different. The process is never linear; creativity comes in all forms and I wanted to express that.” Hazard wanted this album to be something people never heard before, and you can be assured it’s definitely different!

While some people typically crave to become rappers and singers, its rare to hear that someone’s dream is to be a producer. So we asked Rodney Hazard what advice he would give other people who inspire to be in his shoes.

“It’s important to know that an artists work is never finished so just put your material out there! You must pay attention to the music but keep the people, your audience, as the main focus point.”

It’s clear that Rodney Hazard is making his way through the music industry and bringing new artists up with him. Names such as Young $yrup and True City are on the rise as well.

Young $yrup is also featured on Rodneys newest music video for his song “True Eyes” which is off of his album Saint or Savage. Check out the official music video, below!

 
I’m sure it won’t be long before the name Rodney Hazard becomes a household name. He’s full of knowledge, creativity and knows how important it is to put his audience first. He also lives by the famous saying “each one, teach one.” He believes that we all should strive to help each other, lead and do well!

Saint or Savage is available now on all digital platforms.

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Expect Excellence from Fashion Startup [strive/arrive]

To its 21-year-old founder, fashion brand [strive/arrive] does much more than put out dope apparel; it utilizes raw emotion, promotes…

To its 21-year-old founder, fashion brand [strive/arrive] does much more than put out dope apparel; it utilizes raw emotion, promotes self-empowerment, and thrives on community involvement.

The official brand entitled & stylized as [strive/arrive] was created in 2017 by then 20-year-old Anwar Alston in Greensboro, North Carolina. From the get-go, Anwar placed a heavy emphasis on pushing clothes to his community and keeping everything local. Frequenting the Greensboro Cultural Center for runway fashion shows, Strive has become a stylish symbol of the city’s youth culture and garnered an “if you know you know” type of following.

According to Anwar, every article of clothing visually represents his state of mind throughout his design process. This has led Strive to produce a variety of custom pieces like jackets and jeans scribbled with a vibrant sharpie, to professionally tagged and branded collared shirts and sweatpants; each incorporating different meanings and phrases within them. Strive’s garments showcase eloquent diversity in style and function, and continue to evolve in colorways and material. My personal favorite from the Strive catalog is a baby blue t-shirt reading: HANDLE THE PRESSURE, in a simplistic square outline.

While diverse, the main thing you will notice is consistent in Strive’s clothing is the use of bright colors. Anwar notes that this is intended to promote positivity and mental wellbeing; both important factors to his creative process. One upcoming drop stylized as s[PRIDE] will advocate for the LGBTQ community by incorporating the pride rainbow into t-shirts as well as a thought-provoking design reading “love is ____.”

And though Strive makes an effort to push clothes locally, the brand is also making big moves internationally. This summer will mark the brand’s first major collaboration with London based streetwear brand: Amien Ghaker Jomaa. The drop is scheduled for mid-July along with a separate line of athletic wear. s[PRIDE] is currently available for pre-order on strivearrive.com and in the meantime, Anwar will be holding a fashion show periodically in the Van Dyke performance space of the Greensboro Cultural Center.

Stylish, refreshing, and impressively busy— [strive/arrive] is a growing company that fashion scouts must undoubtedly keep an eye on.

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REVIEW: Redemption by Jay Rock

As a follow up to his nostalgia influenced 2016 album 90059, REDEMPTION sounds as if Jay Rock has finally broken…

As a follow up to his nostalgia influenced 2016 album 90059, REDEMPTION sounds as if Jay Rock has finally broken through to his final form of artistry and is forging his way ahead. The project came with two documentary-style visuals, Road to Redemption parts 1 & 2, that show the TDE rapper’s evolution since signing with Warner Bros Records in 2007, to signing exclusively with Top Dawg and Interscope. The visuals also portray the extremely positive impact the rapper has had on his community in Watts, California since flourishing in the music industry. This mini-doc series serves as a visualization to many of the concepts on this album and provides insight into Rock as a person and his perception in Hip Hop. There is truly no slowing down for the TDE spitter, who showcases his striking ambition for life and Hip Hop on this exemplary 13 track album.

1) The Bloodiest

“The Bloodiest” is Rock’s opening track. Perhaps it’s name is a metaphor for his past life as a violent criminal, perhaps a prelude for the album’s rawness, but either way it’s a hell of an opening statement. The Devil thought he had me I was on back burners, are the words that start the song. Emanating chills, he continues with ghostly, technical bars before wrecking the beat with quick & agile rhyme schemes he matches with the dense subject matter. The listener cannot help but focus like attending a college lecture. The beat, while fire, is the least important aspect of “The Bloodiest,” because Jay Rock is able to say so much in so little time.

2) For What it’s Worth

Track two. “For What it’s Worth.” I’m not even gonna front, at first listen I skipped this song because of the background singing that is now a staple of “woke” Hip Hop. But I’m glad I went back and listened in depth because it is by far the strongest song on Redemption. It’s mellow- but if you hone in on what Rock is spitting you will literally get chills up and down your spine. Exploring the problems of having a relationship during the brink of success, the TDE MC explains how dangerous pussy can be. That pretty flower will spoil you then it poisons you, is just one quick outtake of all the truth he spits on this male-centric, relationship anxiety inspired second track.

3) Knock it Off

“Knock it Off” immediately lightens things up by upping its tempo while Jay Rock touches on a new and less serious subject. The track is dedicated to exposing fakes that try to be like Jay Rock and TDE. The groove is spit over the now classic flute enhanced rap instrumental. “You ain’t me n*gga knock it off!” The background vocals on this track are saucy as hell but don’t overpower Rock’s energy; showcasing the tastefulness of the mix.

4) ES Tales

“Back in these projects/back in these projects/ I lost it all…now I’m back in these projects,” is the haunting opener to Rock’s next track: “ES Tales.” The tone of the album switches up at this point to a digital sounding, video game inspired upbeat tempo; though Jay Rock sticks to his Watts inspired storytelling rap style. At this point in the album, he has outdone himself in regards to lyrical capacity and rhyme scheme, and this track is perhaps one of the strongest in showcasing how many different flows the artist is capable of.

5) Rotation 112th

“Rotation 112th” maintains an upbeat tempo with the fire flute samples that complement the lyrical transitions from low sing/rap to high energy yelling. This song is impossible not to nod your head to; it’s a perfect filler track in the sense that it fits the mood thus far in the project but doesn’t too much to progress its major themes. A smoke break to Rock’s relentlessly meaningful content.

6) Tap Out

TDE calls upon Jeremih’s soothing vocals for the mid-album radio song: “Tap Out.” I call it a radio song because its bound to be stuck in your head. Not in an annoying mainstream way, but in a way that you don’t even notice until you’re humming the lyrics at random times all day. Other reviewers called this track the token sex song of the project.

7) OSOM

I was happy that TDE showed J. Cole some love on this next track; because even if you claim you hate Cole you can’t hate on TDE, especially on this track. “OSOM” (outta sight outta mind) is a tribute to paranoia, as shown in the visuals that recently dropped featuring Cole and Rock together fighting off an overwhelming feeling of dread after a botched robbery. Cole always spits with uncharacteristic rawness when featured and this track was no different.

8) King’s Dead

I don’t even have to go into “King’s Dead” since it was Redemption’s first single. But if for some reason you haven’t heard it yet: it’s fire. K Dot freaked it.

9) Troopers

“Troopers” is an ode to loyalty; noting the kinship that comes with drug dealing and crime. “you ain’t gotta question when its brackin’” is a nice line that sums up the unspoken allegiance Rock feels to his closest homies in Watts. The track is ominous in sound and subjects with the chorus continuously warning his momma that he might not make it home from his escapades with the streets. Though not a hype track or a deeply lyrical journey this track is a good Segway between “Kings Dead” & “Broke+-.”

10) Broke +-

Track 10 is the densest of this project. The Black Hippy rapper delves into American history, capitalism, and personal morals before painting a sonic image of what it means to be “broke” in America. B is for the blood/R is for the ropes/O is for oppression/K is for the kush need it just to cope/E is for the evolution. The words are rapped over a slow, gloomy beat and does well to ground the project after taking its listeners up and down.

11) Wow Freestyle

Wooooow. K dot and Jay Rock reminisce on this joint. It’s a fun sounding track that lightens the mood with back and forth from Rock to Dot and back again. Rock also experiments with his voice adding a little crack to his breathier bars; similar to what Kendrick does on songs like “u.” It gives his words an exasperated effect and adds a nice variety to his cadence.

12) Redemption

Aaaaaand the title track where Jay highlights his near-fatal motorcycle crash that inspired a lot of this album’s subject matter and sound. He explains how he imagined his funeral would be while hooked up to various machines in the hospital helping him breathe. The track is also a testament to second chances; which is what Rock felt life gave him after he made a full recovery from a broken femur and pelvis among other severe injuries. The song isn’t pushing itself to be too strand out, but includes beautiful words from TDE’s one and only: SZA, making it an objectively fire and insightful title track.

13) WIN

“WIN” is a perfect closer to the album. It’s almost a corny track with the chorus a repetitive Win, win, win, win trademarked with Kendrick’s backing vocals. It doesn’t have as much lyrical depth as the rest of the album but it doesn’t need that because it’s almost like a summation of what the album felt like. A thin slice of tiramisu after a hearty meal; eaten simply as a compliment.

REDEMPTION is one of my favorite albums thus far in 2018. It contains the quintessential components of what makes a Hip-hop album fire; from concepts to storytelling to hype tracks. And for Jay Rock specifically, the album represents his growth and development through life and as an artist. If you listen to Hood Tales and Redemption back to back you can really grasp these changes and see how much ground a rapper can cover with a lucrative career. The crew at Above Average is hyped for what TDE will follow this project with!

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#IndieSpotlight: Meet Chicago MC Hunnid

Leaning back in a vintage Bryant Park Chair with a ‘life is good’ smile, award-winning Chicago MC, Hunnid was in…

Leaning back in a vintage Bryant Park Chair with a ‘life is good’ smile, award-winning Chicago MC, Hunnid was in great spirits for our interview in New York City. Now back at his childhood home in the Southside of Chicago known as the Wild Wild 100’s – where he was born and raised – he tells me in depth of what is was like growing up in a poverty stricken environment. “First off, It’s fun, but It’s wild being exposed to a lot of things that you really shouldn’t be exposed to so young. – like crime. Nonetheless, it just embedded a lot of principles in me I wouldn’t change for nothing. That type of struggle you just have to experience and learn from it. Made me strong, aware, and  intelligent,” he notes.

In just a matter of years, Chicago has become the home city for a lot of the hottest hip-hop talents out right now since the early 2000’s. Chance The Rapper and a dozen of hungry new acts are making a way for themselves coming out of Chi-Raq. Hunnid, being one of the emerging talents, tells me staying grounded and passionate is the key to his way into the game. Hunnid is a person who is going to get it by any means necessary. “It’s no pressure [coming from Chicago] because I’m in my own lane, I don’t do drill rap – I don’t categorize myself,” he states. Music been in Hunnid’s life since an early age; he played drums and written poetry. “God chose music for me.”

Coming off his Love V.S. Lust EP, which dropped last June, Hunnid makes sure to drop buzzing tracks for his fans until his next project. Hunnid’s “Money Up” single, which its video premiered on AAHH, racked up over 50k plays to date. This is an anthem about hard work, endurance and dedication – which are what his career rooted from. As he is known for his lyrical flow, “Money Up” takes a less complexed style. Hunnid clarifies why he released it. “I really put value in connecting with the crowd and understanding my crowd. I feel like you got to dumb it down if you want to appeal to masses to some degree,” he says. His upcoming single, “Bust That,” has a different kind a vibe; afro-beat and R&B. “I describe a women’s body movements to firearms,” notes Hunnid.

 
Hunnid and I started discussing the state of hip-hop and where it’s heading in the near future. We both agree that it is changing due to lack of talent. “I feel like a lot of this music is fast food now because it lacks passion. If you passionate about a lot of things and it can be felt — its real, it will never die.”

Like a lot of hip-hop heads, there’s a lot to say or not about the newly released XXL 2018 Freshman List. Does the list still matter?  “I don’t pay attention to it anymore,” says Hunnid. “I don’t. Were in a different age where popularity can make you whatever you want to be. There are so many dope individuals. But they’re just not out here selling their souls. People can take it how they want it – I feel like you have to sell yourself in some way [face tats, color hair] to draw attention to yourself because you lack skill.”

Towards the end of our conversation, we touched on the violence going down in his hometown. “Long Live Streetz is the last thing I want to say,” he says. His cousin, Streetz was an emerging hip-hop mc that was murdered alongside Chicago journalist/blogger Zach TV just a few weeks ago. “I want to make it to that platform where I can say something, and it’ll literally happen. The only person with that type of platform [making a change] is Chance the Rapper, but everybody else is not doing much.”

Hunnid plans on making it big in the game because music is indeed his passion. While on his way to stardom, he wants to take action in his community on gun violence and wants to tell the rest of his story to change the world.

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Producer & DJ Diablo Is Surfing The New Wave On A Gucci Surfboard

Currently on tour with “Gucci Gang” rapper Lil Pump, he’s on a come up!

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