Editorial, Main

Can I Live? The Rap Writer’s Essential Question

I’ve never played the piano, unless you count that mindless tinkering we all do as kids. I’ve always looked at…

I’ve never played the piano, unless you count that mindless tinkering we all do as kids. I’ve always looked at that box of wood lined with keys like a Rubik’s Cube; a puzzle that doesn’t compute between my ears. I couldn’t tell you the difference between the long, sleek, white bars or the stubbier, taller black ones which offset them. Yet, there’s this undeniable feeling I get every time I hear “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” by ODB that can only be described with a feeling. That simple jangly intro is synonymous in my mind with youth and energy. It’s the sound of simultaneous pain and jubilant celebration from one of the Wu Tang’s most troubled geniuses.

I’ve never worn silk panties, but I love the way they feel. I’ve never been a detective, but I’m fascinated by The First 48. I can’t drive a race car yet I’m convinced that Ricky Bobby is a national treasure. So what does it all mean? After reading a blog post of epic proportions from the homies at Good Beach, I found myself posing all sorts of rhetorical questions in the mirror. Have I been faking it for the last two decades? Have I overstayed my welcome in a culture that raised me? All at once, it became apparently clear. I ain’t shit.

That’s true, but only if you ignore the twenty-plus years of my life I’ve dedicated to listening, researching, writing, and reporting on hip hop music and culture. I’m no rapper, unless you count my infinite stopped-at-red-light-bars, or my iPod classic shuffle while cleaning my apartment when no one is around to correct my misinterpretations. But, I’ve been a hip hop writer (and fanatic) long enough to know that you need only two things to make a valuable contribution to this infinitely expanding and ever fleeting world of digital media: eyes and ears. If you’re able to look at and listen to the sights and sounds of the culture with an open mind and expandable palate, you’ll never find yourself in the line of fire from the Hip Hop Police.

So do you have to rap to write about rap music? Do you have to live it to feel it? For starters, as a writer you don’t have to be real to relate. You simply have to relate. I got punched in the throat during my first fight on the playground in 6th grade. It wasn’t on a street corner, and it certainly didn’t involve money or guns. But it hurt like a bitch and provided two valuable lessons. One, we aren’t made of glass. And two, I found solace in the form of Eric B. and Rakim pumping through my Walkman earphones for reasons I couldn’t yet explain.

In my craft, which I’ve spent years honing, I have to fully engage in a piece of music to effectively cover it. When I’m able to feel the anger, energy, misery, or the joy in a track it becomes my job to articulate that response in the form of words. That reaction doesn’t come necessarily from a place of complete symmetry with the origin of the art itself.

Hip hop, both past and present, has always relied on whip appeal. This crazy, rhythmic, urban punk rock roared from American slums in the 80’s scaring one old politician at a time and completely took the world by storm in a matter of years. Turn on the TV at any hour and you’ll only wait a few seconds before seeing hip hop’s influence in advertising, character development, and tone. Ironically, chart position used to act as a heat gauge where sales equaled stature, but now? It’s all about blog power. Who would have thought 15 years ago that an artist’s rise could be traced back to the website who took a leap on a co-sign? The internet is the A&R, label, and manager all rolled into one. This also means we’re inundated with daily amateurish coverage of hip hop music and culture to the point of saturation.

Ultimately, in order create meaningful critiques and reviews, music must generate raw reaction. The goal is to execute and present a final product that provides material for endless debate. And just like all art, in writing you have hits and misses. Some sites are complete trash, while others continually set the bar higher and higher each year. Yet, the tie that binds the trash from the flash is the love. Music writers, even when they write about something they hate or they’re simply bad at putting words together, must attack each piece with passion.

Critics have a tough job. They’re looking at a potential 50% disapproval rating from the rip. Then you start breaking music down into sub-genres and small niches and it becomes damn near impossible to please even half of the audience. Take critics of trap music for instance. They may never comprehend the mood and nervous energy of a genre born and bred to capture the mania of drugs and guns. Not every writer, even the professionals, will take the time to connect the cadences and jittery rhythms of the music with the lifestyle. But a smart, culturally aware writer, regardless of a lack of Pyrex experience, will find a way to shine a lasting light on it.

It’s also important to remember that as “real” as the rap culture claims to be, there’s just enough evidence to prove that we pander to and celebrate musical actors and actresses, quintessential fakers; and there’s nothing wrong with that. So what are we really relating to anyway? I’d say we’re mostly captivated by the art of storytelling. And another painful truth is some fans and critics will never bother to understand the cultural center of a song or record, because they simply don’t care on that sort of visceral level.

And sure, rap writers get wet over the “Golden Age”, and I’m guilty as charged. Of course I have a set of classics I abide by. I’m a student of the 90’s. It’s the culture I was raised in. It’s the music I heard during some of the most delicate and turbulent moments of my youth. But let’s be honest, there’s nothing wrong with establishing that personal canon as a gauge by which you formulate your opinions as a writer.

Truth be told, a boat load of trending rappers don’t rap anymore; they hop from foot to foot when the social media balance swings one way or another. They make ringtone singles accompanied by Youtube dance crazes. A ton of the internet sensations that blogs and sites inflate and co-sign (sometimes on the strength on a few sub-par SoundCloud uploads) appear to live in a state of perpetual turn up, one that’s not physically or realistically possible.

All that crazy energy may be necessary for the evolution of the culture as a whole, but it remains to be seen if today’s mood music will stand a significant test of time. Maybe we’re moving away from an era of classics? Singles will probably replace the notion of the full-length LP. But if we keep pushing these one- hitters we’ll have to keep digging deeper to unearth and separate the gems from the turds, and I’m completely fine with that.

I write about music that moves me. I watch films that appeal to me. I eat at restaurants that serve great food. I don’t rap, act, or chef. Just because I can run, doesn’t mean I’m trying out for an Olympic sprinting team. And because I truly feel Future’s music doesn’t mean I’ll ever fuck up a single comma. Either way, I’m going to keep oversharing, one new release at a time. You’ll keep reading and reminding yourself that we don’t have a clue. It’s the way of the world these days. Traffic is traffic, get money.


My name is J.D, the music fanatic, writer, blogger, and educator. I've been in love with hip hop since Bishop got too close to the ledge. If it moves me, I'll cover it. I've written an unpublished novel, created Shiny Glass Houses, and had my work featured on the Bloglin for Mishka NYC. I'm lurking in the shadows on twitter @ThexGlassxHouse. Read. Comment. Get money.
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Heavy Hitters’ DJ Flee is About to Takeover

28-year-old DJ Flee, also known as Bodega Flee, is one of the hottest new tastemakers in Hip Hop. The Uptown…

28-year-old DJ Flee, also known as Bodega Flee, is one of the hottest new tastemakers in Hip Hop. The Uptown New York Dominican is a lustrious member of the legendary Hip Hop faction, The Heavy Hitters (DJ Enuff, Tony Tone). The former Basketball player made a name for himself in the city with his signature Uptown sound and irreparable tricks on the turntables.

Discovered by the same legends responsible for presenting the world to today’s legends from across the U.S. like DJ Felli Fel, Bootleg Kev, and Peter Parker. Flee has quickly become one of the most notable faces of the brand with his fast-growing fanbase and credible ear for breaking the undeniable next superstars to the East Coast.

Through his journey in radio, Flee has had the opportunity to discover plenty of new genres of Hip Hop that would help transform his style. Experimenting with trendy genres like Dirty South and Gangsta bouncing West Coast with a blend of his Dominican roots.

In Boston, Miami, Orlando, and New York, Flee is the most sought-after radio DJ in the ever-changing broadcast market. Keeling the prestigious pride and name of the Heavy Hitters brightly lit outside of the East Coast. Artists like Zoey Dollaz can credible a large amount of their popularity to DJ Flee’s exposure.

Hard work, dedication, experience has earned DJ Flee the tastemaking position he firmly sits in within today’s Hip Hop. Ready to transition himself into superstar status, the promising DJ continues to develop a signature style that infusion the old school traditions and new school evolution to the East Coast. Heatseeking, DJ Flee is easily becoming one of the biggest DJs in Hip Hop today, honestly, it’s only a matter of time before he is the biggest DJ in today’s Hip Hop. So stay tuned.

DJ Flee’s journey continues on, follow the Heavy Hitter sound today via Instagram and Twitter.

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@KorleonKOJ – “Motion”

Today RichBoy Ent. CEO and founder Korleon aka “The King of Jackson (K.O.J).” releases his new song, “Motion,” debuting the new track with a music video on YouTube.  Released just…

Today RichBoy Ent. CEO and founder Korleon aka “The King of Jackson (K.O.J).” releases his new song, “Motion,” debuting the new track with a music video on YouTube.  Released just in time for Memorial Day, the highly anticipated music video for “Motion” precludes a host of releases by the ATL veteran by way of Jackson, Mississippi. Hoping to continue the momentum, Korleon will drop his mixtape The Four in the coming weeks, which will be followed up by Strictly 4 My Sippers this Summer.

Basically I’m just tappin in with the ladies. They rock with me and I rock with them equally so I felt I needed to satisfy my female fan base and cater to them. I wanted to create something that they could vibe to and something where I remained true to myself,” Korleon K.O.J. explained. “I feel like it’s a way better look for me to be with 7 different women in all shades and colors around the city, rather than me rolling around with 20 of my ni**as.”

Within the last two years Korleon launched a new studio in Atlanta called Walker St. 2.0 where his RichBoy Ent. team has been building a movement. To date Korleon and his team have recorded a host of artists including multi-platinum artist Slim Jxmmi of Rae Sremmurd, Mase, Jose Guapo, Big Bank Black and of course D4L’s Fabo.

“We opened back up the studio in March of 2017, we’ve had a lot of indies, superstars and its just been a blessing, I’m just glad that we have been able to make it happen. Its been a whole host of people to record there over the past few years,” Korleon said of his studio. “Of course me and Fabo been working on music together and I got The Four project that will preclude the Strictly 4 My Sippers project. I got the visual coming for Colorado soon and I got some stuff coming up with DJ Twin in the immediate future sometime in July.”

K.O.J. is often seen touring alongside and has frequently collaborated with on tracks with Fabo, who he says is his brother and day 1.

“Fabo my brother, Giksquad! Those my brothers. We been down since day one and we gonna be down forever, that’s my brother. He stays booked out and if you go through the archives, I’m at most shows, so it’s really just mores what’s continuing to go on. We were at Rolling Loud and everything, he stays booked.”

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#IndieSpotlight: Major D-Star Drops Off “Stack Pray & Stay Out The Way” Visual

Gotta love when an artist you like drop a project you’re feeling, and proceeds to give a visual identity to…

Gotta love when an artist you like drop a project you’re feeling, and proceeds to give a visual identity to the records you were feeling the most. That’s the case for AAHH mainstay Major D-Star; after releasing his long-awaited Trap Star  mixtape back in February, he is dropping off “Stack Pray & Stay Out The Way,” a song I personally described as an illustration of his immense focus on his “current hustle of choice, music.”

RECENT: Major D-Star Drops “Trap Star” Mixtape

The video, like his others, delivers on quality. Directed by Wally Woo, with a multitude of scenery interspersed around a loose storyline of himself working as a mechanic — which he playfully describes as his way of “stacking and staying out the way” in the into — it gives ample life to one of his project’s most infectious earworms. If you have yet to bump his full mixtape, go ahead and click here; either way, press play on this catchy little banger, below.

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#IndieSpotlight: Silas Luster’s “W.A.V.” Is A Slice Of Subversive Goodness

Provincetown, Massachusetts, MC Silas Luster released a brand new EP W.A.V. on March 29th that I’ve meant to share my…

Provincetown, Massachusetts, MC Silas Luster released a brand new EP W.A.V. on March 29th that I’ve meant to share my thoughts on, but to be honest, it was a dense listen. Not in an unapproachable way, mind you. Instead, it’s like an onion made of many, discussion worthy layers, painted atop lush soundscapes that are (at points) reminiscent of OG EL-P production from the early Def Juxx days.

RELEVANT: Getting To Know Provincetown Artist Silas Luster

The EP kicks off with “Sion,” which starts with his wordy flow over a head-nodding instrumental that switches up halfway through, into this bongo drum pattern over which he drops the strongest verse easily on the project; I’d love to see it live. “Diewittit” is another song that I found myself revisiting over and over. His cadence and rhyme schemes at times have this loose appeal that reminds me of the Freestyle Fellowship-esque aura that dominated college radio in the 90s.

He speaks a lot about his journey, and also a lot of spiritual topics — from the universe to putting meditation over medicine. It’s a lot to unpack, in a good way. You can hear the spoken word elements that seem to be the backbone of his bars — check the acapella interlude “What’s Love?” as a great example of what I mean.

The almost haunting chorus on “O.S.H.N” wasn’t necessarily jarring but did set the song apart as a black sheep of the EP. Not that it’s a bad song — it’s one of the strongest tracks — but, it’s just a different vibe that stuck out to me.

Overall, I dig this EP a lot. If you find yourself a little inundated with the sea of Lil rappers, and the endless sea of meh that often dominates the mainstream consciousness, Silas offers up a slice of subversive Hip Hop. It’s music crafted to both cathartically get things off of his chest and also get your thinking — depending on your aptitude on some of his topics, maybe even get you googling and reading shit.

He is currently touring throughout New England and the Tri-State. Check the schedule.

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