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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#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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interview, Interviews, Main

#Interview Mark Spratley AKA @SpratFool Is Proving You Don’t Need Clout Tokens To Solidify A Musical Empire

Mark Spratley is a name in the industry you certainly should get acquainted with. A master of many, creating an…

Mark Spratley is a name in the industry you certainly should get acquainted with. A master of many, creating an entity in so many different lanes within the industry from management, PR, writing, events, curation and much more. Within five years of the industry, Sprat has accomplished what takes many 20-30 years. The young 27-year-old mogul is creating an empire before our eyes, and it only seems to be getting more and more impressive. Why wouldn’t it?! From helping to bring artists such as Lud Foe, DDG, DaBaby, Smooky Margielaa, Albee Al, Sicko Mobb, Nikko Lafre and many more to the limelight, his resume is vast.

Take a look at our most recent interview with the Starting Five CEO as we discuss music, how to get in the industry, his journey and much more.

Make sure to follow Sprat on Twitter and IG @SpratFool

You’ve been in the music industry for only five years and have already created something massive. How did you do it and what is planned for the future?

Countless hours, grind, plotting and studying. I’ve learned, and LVL’d UP. That’s it. I knew if I put in the work, I would find a way. I go 3000% for whatever I do or whoever I work with. Some people make the same moves and expect things to change. Some people aren’t willing to starve to binge forever. I’m out here mastering and succeeding at whatever I do. I make sure of it. I’ve got an insane ear for music, that’s been known. That’s why some of your favorite A&R’s would be asking me to pull up to their office on the regular.

I’m here to take over though. I’m going to continue to put people into position and maintain my brand. The empire is forming; the foundation has been laid and built.

We recently saw in another interview that you have a new platform on the way? What’re the details on that? (If you can give us any)

NEW DAY, NEW WAVE (LITERALLY). Zias (Popular youtube star &influencer) and I are partnering up on a new media outlet x platform for something special. We’re about to surpass the field quick. Two powerful influencers, we already got the traffic between both of us, both widely connected. Run it up!

Bunch of content on the way from both of us

If you could tell someone looking to get into the industry one piece of advice, what would it be?

GRIND SMART. Bring something to the table. Your passion and time can go a long way. Learn. Be willing to do what the next man is not.

Do you know how much free time and work I gave out to get to where I am now?! Now my time costs. Money isn’t everything, in the beginning, work for your opportunity. People worried about $20-$5000 (Short term money) when sometimes you just need to see the bigger picture.

You wouldn’t want everyone to bring ketchup to the BBQ; you need someone to bring the bun, the burger, the juice, the drink and everything else. Do you feel me?! Same goes for the industry or any job you do in life. Bring something different to the table and create a demand for it. That’s when you create stock for yourself (You create worth).

What were you doing before becoming a music mogul?

I was doing the school thing before I decided to leave for music full time. I was making money however I needed to.

What new artists do you have your eye on?

NEW SIGNINGS on the way. I’m getting back in my artist bag 3000%. Look out for all of that. I got to hold my list down for the time being.

How did you get into PR?

Fresh Moss and Neako had me on a lot of PR type of moves early. I always studied and noticed was going on in the game. Got tired of hitting up a lot of these foolish and corny “Bloggers” and people that were out and around at the time that felt entitled. A lot of them aren’t even around anymore haha. Many didn’t want to see someone else moving faster or making something out of all this. I decided to take everything into my own hands. From then on I turned this PR wave into something masterful. Countless artists have popped off since through my PR, their ability and me connecting these dots on the daily.

Top 5 modern artists most likely in your daily music mix?

It all depends on the day and mood

Lately… DaBaby, pre kai ro, Lil Baby, YNW Melly, Stunna 4 Vegas & DaiDough. I’ve been bumping FBG Duck heavily as of late; bro got energy.

A few artists are rising out of New Jersey that you’ve been alerting us about for over a year or 2. From Daidough to Coi Leray and many more. New Jersey has some talent for sure, how do you think your state will hold up in 2019?

New Jersey is UP right now, and it’s only going to get crazier. A lot of artists doing their thing. Daidough got home and been going stupid. Coi Leray has been spazzing since G.A.N.

Albee Al doing him as always, Tsu Surf home and just dropped a fire project, Arsonal on damn TV, Fatboy SSE is outta here and in his lane, Mir Fontane been putting in work. Jersey got a wide variety of sounds, every city/town is different, North and South Jersey completely different.

Beyond the artists, there are so many talented people coming up out of NJ and doing their thing in this music industry or elsewhere. It’s great to see people winning from your home state.

We remember you going crazy at SXSW with Smooky Margielaa a few years back when he was only an artist with a 10k following, how did you all meet?

Shit, my man Mike had told me I had to bump something while we were in LA. The track happened to be ‘Layed up,’ heard it and it was a wrap for me. His mans was GRAPE, we were all in LA, so we all linked up at the apartment, vibed and got to work immediately. Started putting in that push, went to SXSW and went full force after SXSW. Glad to see Smooky up right now.

We dove into your Twitter and did a little google search on you while doing some more research. We saw you got into it a little with Akademiks online last year? LOL, tell us more?

LMAO! If you did some research like you said I’m sure you know what was said. Jersey people certainly don’t tolerate bullshit. I called BS on something he spoke on. Jersey got behind it. That’s it.

What ever happened to Nikko Lafre?

Man, I can’t speak on another man that’s not with me. We had something crazy growing, that’s where I’m going to leave it.

Drew Love out here winning though with THEY, Lee Beats out here winning, Johnny Rain out here still doing his thing up.

#Interview Mark Spratley AKA @SpratFool Is Proving You Don't Need Clout Tokens To Solidify A Musical Empire

Thoughts on R Kelly latest situation and documentary?

SHEESH! I don’t want to believe it, but it’s their right before our eyes. It’s a shame because his music and voice are legendary. I feel as though 60 Minutes would have been a more credible platform to present this problem to the world instead of a Lifetime documentary. I’d like to hear R Kelly voice his defense for sure, but regardless his actions are sickening. We’ll see how it taints his legacy, it is 2019 so who knows.

2019 plans?

REGULATE

#Interview Mark Spratley AKA @SpratFool Is Proving You Don't Need Clout Tokens To Solidify A Musical Empire #Interview Mark Spratley AKA @SpratFool Is Proving You Don't Need Clout Tokens To Solidify A Musical Empire

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interview, Interviews, Main

#Interview Mark Spratley AKA @SpratFool Is Proving You Don’t Need Clout Tokens To Solidify A Musical Empire

Mark Spratley is a name in the industry you certainly should get acquainted with. A master of many, creating an…

Mark Spratley is a name in the industry you certainly should get acquainted with. A master of many, creating an entity in so many different lanes within the industry from management, PR, writing, events, curation and much more. Within five years of the industry, Sprat has accomplished what takes many 20-30 years. The young 27-year-old mogul is creating an empire before our eyes, and it only seems to be getting more and more impressive. Why wouldn’t it?! From helping to bring artists such as Lud Foe, DDG, DaBaby, Smooky Margielaa, Albee Al, Sicko Mobb, Nikko Lafre and many more to the limelight, his resume is vast.

Take a look at our most recent interview with the Starting Five CEO as we discuss music, how to get in the industry, his journey and much more.

Make sure to follow Sprat on Twitter and IG @SpratFool

You’ve been in the music industry for only five years and have already created something massive. How did you do it and what is planned for the future?

Countless hours, grind, plotting and studying. I’ve learned, and LVL’d UP. That’s it. I knew if I put in the work, I would find a way. I go 3000% for whatever I do or whoever I work with. Some people make the same moves and expect things to change. Some people aren’t willing to starve to binge forever. I’m out here mastering and succeeding at whatever I do. I make sure of it. I’ve got an insane ear for music, that’s been known. That’s why some of your favorite A&R’s would be asking me to pull up to their office on the regular.

I’m here to take over though. I’m going to continue to put people into position and maintain my brand. The empire is forming; the foundation has been laid and built.

We recently saw in another interview that you have a new platform on the way? What’re the details on that? (If you can give us any)

NEW DAY, NEW WAVE (LITERALLY). Zias (Popular youtube star &influencer) and I are partnering up on a new media outlet x platform for something special. We’re about to surpass the field quick. Two powerful influencers, we already got the traffic between both of us, both widely connected. Run it up!

Bunch of content on the way from both of us

If you could tell someone looking to get into the industry one piece of advice, what would it be?

GRIND SMART. Bring something to the table. Your passion and time can go a long way. Learn. Be willing to do what the next man is not.

Do you know how much free time and work I gave out to get to where I am now?! Now my time costs. Money isn’t everything, in the beginning, work for your opportunity. People worried about $20-$5000 (Short term money) when sometimes you just need to see the bigger picture.

You wouldn’t want everyone to bring ketchup to the BBQ; you need someone to bring the bun, the burger, the juice, the drink and everything else. Do you feel me?! Same goes for the industry or any job you do in life. Bring something different to the table and create a demand for it. That’s when you create stock for yourself (You create worth).

What were you doing before becoming a music mogul?

I was doing the school thing before I decided to leave for music full time. I was making money however I needed to.

What new artists do you have your eye on?

NEW SIGNINGS on the way. I’m getting back in my artist bag 3000%. Look out for all of that. I got to hold my list down for the time being.

How did you get into PR?

Fresh Moss and Neako had me on a lot of PR type of moves early. I always studied and noticed was going on in the game. Got tired of hitting up a lot of these foolish and corny “Bloggers” and people that were out and around at the time that felt entitled. A lot of them aren’t even around anymore haha. Many didn’t want to see someone else moving faster or making something out of all this. I decided to take everything into my own hands. From then on I turned this PR wave into something masterful. Countless artists have popped off since through my PR, their ability and me connecting these dots on the daily.

Top 5 modern artists most likely in your daily music mix?

It all depends on the day and mood

Lately… DaBaby, pre kai ro, Lil Baby, YNW Melly, Stunna 4 Vegas & DaiDough. I’ve been bumping FBG Duck heavily as of late; bro got energy.

A few artists are rising out of New Jersey that you’ve been alerting us about for over a year or 2. From Daidough to Coi Leray and many more. New Jersey has some talent for sure, how do you think your state will hold up in 2019?

New Jersey is UP right now, and it’s only going to get crazier. A lot of artists doing their thing. Daidough got home and been going stupid. Coi Leray has been spazzing since G.A.N.

Albee Al doing him as always, Tsu Surf home and just dropped a fire project, Arsonal on damn TV, Fatboy SSE is outta here and in his lane, Mir Fontane been putting in work. Jersey got a wide variety of sounds, every city/town is different, North and South Jersey completely different.

Beyond the artists, there are so many talented people coming up out of NJ and doing their thing in this music industry or elsewhere. It’s great to see people winning from your home state.

We remember you going crazy at SXSW with Smooky Margielaa a few years back when he was only an artist with a 10k following, how did you all meet?

Shit, my man Mike had told me I had to bump something while we were in LA. The track happened to be ‘Layed up,’ heard it and it was a wrap for me. His mans was GRAPE, we were all in LA, so we all linked up at the apartment, vibed and got to work immediately. Started putting in that push, went to SXSW and went full force after SXSW. Glad to see Smooky up right now.

We dove into your Twitter and did a little google search on you while doing some more research. We saw you got into it a little with Akademiks online last year? LOL, tell us more?

LMAO! If you did some research like you said I’m sure you know what was said. Jersey people certainly don’t tolerate bullshit. I called BS on something he spoke on. Jersey got behind it. That’s it.

What ever happened to Nikko Lafre?

Man, I can’t speak on another man that’s not with me. We had something crazy growing, that’s where I’m going to leave it.

Drew Love out here winning though with THEY, Lee Beats out here winning, Johnny Rain out here still doing his thing up.

#Interview Mark Spratley AKA @SpratFool Is Proving You Don't Need Clout Tokens To Solidify A Musical Empire

Thoughts on R Kelly latest situation and documentary?

SHEESH! I don’t want to believe it, but it’s their right before our eyes. It’s a shame because his music and voice are legendary. I feel as though 60 Minutes would have been a more credible platform to present this problem to the world instead of a Lifetime documentary. I’d like to hear R Kelly voice his defense for sure, but regardless his actions are sickening. We’ll see how it taints his legacy, it is 2019 so who knows.

2019 plans?

REGULATE

#Interview Mark Spratley AKA @SpratFool Is Proving You Don't Need Clout Tokens To Solidify A Musical Empire #Interview Mark Spratley AKA @SpratFool Is Proving You Don't Need Clout Tokens To Solidify A Musical Empire

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Erykah Badu – But You Caint Use My Phone (First Listen)

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