Main, Reviews, rileysbest

‘Don’t Smoke Rock’ Is Crack [Pun Intended]

“They chasing a hit, I’m chasing legacy.”— Smoke Dza I was actual sworn to secrecy about the existence of the…

“They chasing a hit, I’m chasing legacy.”— Smoke Dza

I was actual sworn to secrecy about the existence of the much hyped “Don’t Smoke Rock” all the way back in January 2016. However, I wasn’t provided with any preview content, so I had to wait it out with the townspeople for this gleaming piece of New York street art. I use the word art purposely–and unapologetically–as this project is drenched in organic dopeness that can’t be bought. Like most of the best collaborative producer/MC projects we’ve heard over the past decade, Don’t Smoke Rock stemmed from a song that worked so well the two (Smoke Dza and Pete Rock) decided to see how deep the rabbit hole goes; spoiler, it goes deep [pause]. What it’s culminated into is a thirteen-song ride on the East Coast side of things with a cast of guests that commands respect–from MMG capo Ricky Rozay and Detroit bar-god Royce Da 5’9 to Dza’s fellow Harlemite Cam’Ron. Of course, those are amongst a host of others.

The intro sets it up as a stark contrast the gentrified [Harlem, New York] of today. Rather, it’s a reflection of the gritty streets that were visualized through street-tales by fallen greats like Big L. Production wise, Pete Rock sounds as hungry as he did when he dropped PeteStrumentals back in 2001–he looks refreshed and re-focused. Two of my highlights remain the singles that dropped with the pre-order, “Limitless” with Dave East and “Milestone” featuring Jada, Styles, and BJ The Chicago Kid. There was also a certain level of dopeness hearing Wale over PR production on “Show Off.”

If you’ve been sleeping on the Kush God, this project is the epitome of what the five fingers said to the face–a yank at the collar and an assertion of dominance. He understandably has more to gain from this pairing, even if the sonic-marriage seems leveled out. He’s managed to awake a sleepy giant who produced a monster record from intro to soulful outro; I’d be shocked if this album wasn’t considered a career-highlight, even years from now. “New York City, make some noise for your sounds.”

Riley here — father, artist, videographer, professional writer and SERIOUS hip-hop head. I'm a member of the Universal Zulu Nation, and I think everything is better on vinyl. Add me on Twitter! @specialdesigns
Featured, Main

This Week’s ‘On The Cusp’ Playlist

On The Cusp is a living playlist dedicated to showcasing the buzzing new music on our radar — as curated…

On The Cusp is a living playlist dedicated to showcasing the buzzing new music on our radar — as curated by our writer Riley Wallace. For all inquiries and submissions, hit up the playlist’s official Twitter feed.

This week’s cover artist is Chris Allen.

Continue Reading
Main

Mark Steele “It’s Been A Minute” Album Is Almost Here

Preparing for his It’s Been a Minute album, Mark Steele, in great spirits, opened up in our interview about change…

Preparing for his It’s Been a Minute album, Mark Steele, in great spirits, opened up in our interview about change leading to new beginnings in his life. “I’m at a crossroad right now. I feel this energy of something manifesting,” Steele tells Above Average Hip-Hop. “I’ve never felt this close. It’s such a dynamic too, I still go through everyday struggles just like the next person.” With change appearing in the MC’s life, he is more in tuned with who he is, where he is headed without forgetting where it all started. Durham, North Carolina.

Steele was born and raised in Durham where he grew up fast witnessing a lot. “We’re kind of like a melting pot. We get influenced by everybody because a lot of people come down here for an easier way of living,” Steele notes. “I think I’m a great representation of what Durham is: multilayered.” Steele embraces sounds from New York, Philly, Atlanta, and DMV area. With hip-hop adapting to each new generation, it’s a blessing to hear real lyrics every chance you get. Steele also influenced by hip-hop’s “golden age,” the 90s rap era, where “everything lyrical” is major to him. “I’m fearless with creating records and not really caring what’s popular a lot. I’m bringing lyrics,” notes Steele. “I’m one of those rare people, a trendsetter.”

The MC started rapping in a duo group called Mic & Rep with his friend in high school. During his college years at North Carolina Central University, he met record producer and executive, 9th wonder, who later on becomes his mentor. From that point, his solo career began.

“My music has substance, it’s conceptual.” Whether it’s good or bad I can create some type of art from it, I know that I’m good.”

Best known for his ESPN Sports Center anthem “Greatness,” Steele has been working none stop to become a leader of hip-hop’s new generation. Coming off his Before A Minute mixtape hosted by DJ Wade Banner serves as a prelude to Steele’s forthcoming album It’s Been A Minute. “This is the best thing I ever done in life, I can’t wait to give it to the people,” notes Steele. The rapper doesn’t have to wait much longer, this Friday (Oct.12) we’ll be able to hear his anticipated project where he shows vulnerability and honesty. “A lot of hidden messages in the album. You’re going to have to dissect it a couple of times. It’ll be from how the record was structure, topics, lyrics, and transitions,” he says.

With limited features on the new album, Steele managed to get No Malice. Steele tells me they share mutual producers and it was “the grace of God” to get No Malice on his album. With everything leading up, he’s happy where he is and excited for what’s to come. He shows the definition of hard work and where it can lead you, but importantly how he takes one step at of time.

“Have you ever been so stressed and so blessed in the same breath? That’s exactly where I’m at right now. It’s an interesting period and I’m just enjoying the moment.”

Towards the end of our conversation, Steele shares his last words. “For anyone that’s trying to pursue anything. Doctor, lawyer, artist, etc. The biggest keys: keeping god first, putting in the work, and lastly, don’t give up.”

Mark Steele is also co-headlining his It’s Been a Minute album release concert at Drom in New York City alongside No Malice on Friday, October 12th. Purchase your tickets here: https://goo.gl/BgnXD2

Get familiar with Mark Steele. Check out his latest music video for “Grace of God” featuring No Malice.

 

Continue Reading
Main

Diplomats Announce “Diplomatic Ties” Album Dropping Thanksgiving Day

Fans of the Diplomats have had dreams both built up and destroyed over the years as squabbles and disagreements (most…

Fans of the Diplomats have had dreams both built up and destroyed over the years as squabbles and disagreements (most notably between Jim Jones and Cam’ron) have prevented a proper reunion (outside of a few showsand follow up to 2004’s Diplomatic Immunity 2 LP. After teasing a long-awaited project back in September, it appears the project now has a title and official release date.

As the group’s set at A3C in Atlanta drew to a close, Jim Jones made the announcement fans had been waiting for.

“On Thanksgiving, there will be a Diplomat album dropping,” exclaimed Jim Jones with his arm draped over Freeky Zeeky’s shoulder. “It’s called Diplomatic Ties, and the documentary will be out a week after that.”

“We havin’ some fun,” he added. “We been in the studio … we appreciate all the love.”

Jones first shared the new project three weeks ago, posting a photo an Instagram of the tracklist — which is a strictly Dipset affair, except for a lone feature from XO spitter Belly. A final tracklist and official artwork have yet to be revealed.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bnkxig9Ao7S/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet

Tentative tracklist for Diplomatic Ties, is below.

1. “Intro” featuring Juelz Santana
2. “Live Forever” featuring Jim Jones and Cam’ron
3. “Sauce Boss” featuring Jim Jones and Juelz Santana
4. “On God” featuring Juelz Santana, Jim Jones and Belly
5. “Big Deal” featuring Cam’ron and Jim Jones
6. “Oh Lord” featuring Cam’ron and Jim Jones
7. “Celebrating Life” featuring Juelz Santana and Jim Jones
8. “By Any Means” featuring Juelz Santana and Jim Jones
9. “Sets Back” featuring Cam’ron and Jim Jones

Continue Reading
Main

Diplomats Announce “Diplomatic Ties” Album Dropping Thanksgiving Day

Fans of the Diplomats have had dreams both built up and destroyed over the years as squabbles and disagreements (most…

Fans of the Diplomats have had dreams both built up and destroyed over the years as squabbles and disagreements (most notably between Jim Jones and Cam’ron) have prevented a proper reunion (outside of a few showsand follow up to 2004’s Diplomatic Immunity 2 LP. After teasing a long-awaited project back in September, it appears the project now has a title and official release date.

As the group’s set at A3C in Atlanta drew to a close, Jim Jones made the announcement fans had been waiting for.

“On Thanksgiving, there will be a Diplomat album dropping,” exclaimed Jim Jones with his arm draped over Freeky Zeeky’s shoulder. “It’s called Diplomatic Ties, and the documentary will be out a week after that.”

“We havin’ some fun,” he added. “We been in the studio … we appreciate all the love.”

Jones first shared the new project three weeks ago, posting a photo an Instagram of the tracklist — which is a strictly Dipset affair, except for a lone feature from XO spitter Belly. A final tracklist and official artwork have yet to be revealed.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bnkxig9Ao7S/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet

Tentative tracklist for Diplomatic Ties, is below.

1. “Intro” featuring Juelz Santana
2. “Live Forever” featuring Jim Jones and Cam’ron
3. “Sauce Boss” featuring Jim Jones and Juelz Santana
4. “On God” featuring Juelz Santana, Jim Jones and Belly
5. “Big Deal” featuring Cam’ron and Jim Jones
6. “Oh Lord” featuring Cam’ron and Jim Jones
7. “Celebrating Life” featuring Juelz Santana and Jim Jones
8. “By Any Means” featuring Juelz Santana and Jim Jones
9. “Sets Back” featuring Cam’ron and Jim Jones

Continue Reading
More in Main, Reviews, rileysbest
Roy O. Serves Up Bars On Scratch

"It's the incredible, your girl will say I'm edible--and to these rap cats I'm something that theoretical." --Roy O. Roy...

Close