Editorial, interview, Interviews, Main, rileysbest

Raekwon Shares His Definition Of A ‘Classic’

“If they feel that it’s a classic, that’s all that counts.” — Raekwon Raekwon’s mafioso themed opus Only Built 4…

“If they feel that it’s a classic, that’s all that counts.” — Raekwon

Raekwon’s mafioso themed opus Only Built 4 Cuban Linx turns 22 today. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to interview the iconic Wu-Tang Clan member; the following was an unreleased portion of our conversation, which I’m sharing in honor of the project’s anniversary.

“When I think about records like Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, I think [people] loved it because they didn’t have to rewind or fast forward,” Rae told me while discussing his debut’s impending 22nd anniversary. “You could just play it right through and be comfortable … to me, that’s a trait that defines classic music. When you can sit in the car, listen to it and be like, ‘Damn, I didn’t have to touch it or keep fucking with the records’ … you can just let it bang.”

“It’s just well-rounded,” he continued, discussing the album’s overall composition. “To me, that’s what represents a great album, when it’s well rounded. You’re giving everybody a piece of you, and everybody can appreciate the sequencing, the composing, the skits, the funniness, the happiness, the emotion.”

One of the most charming things about OBFCL is that, while the singles were massive, the project truly came together with a cohesive listen. “I think I was always designed to make albums anyway, and not just sit on singles,” Rae said with a laugh. “When it came to Cuban Linx, it had dope singles on there, but it was the album that made it a classic.”

“Look at the cleverness, the wow, the fun, the emotions, and the seriousness. I feel like that’s what makes you have a classic; when you’re able to give everybody all of that at one time, and not just keep doing the same shit. That’s my definition of it, but you know, it’s all about the music, man. You’ve got to make music people can relate to, and give them the best of you.”

“If they feel that it’s a classic, that’s all that counts.”

You can read my original interview with Rae, here.

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
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interview

Rising Malaysian Star Zamaera Is Poised For Greatness

Z chats Malaysian Hip Hop culture, her new project, and much more.

Photo credit: Kanya Iwana

23-year-old Malaysian MC Zamaera has been slowly bubbling onto many radars as of late. After appearing on a viral installment of Yo! MTV Rap Asia’s Rap Cypher, knocking out her first festival appearance, and dropping a buzzing new single titled “Z vs Z” ahead of the upcoming EP of the same name, she is primed and ready to take things to the next level.

Hip Hop in Malaysia has grown exponentially throughout 30 plus years,” she explains to AAHH, indulging our ignorance of the regional scene. “I didn’t live through the early stages of this groundbreaking period in the Malaysian music industry, but one characteristic of Hip Hop is its continuous evolution in sound, style, and swagger.

“It doesn’t matter if you jump on the Hip Hop bandwagon in the 80s or 2000s; if you have something to say — visually, lyrically or sonically — you’re a part of the culture,” she adds.

 
As Z explains, Malaysian society’s reaction towards Hip Hop has been somewhat of a gradual appreciation. She fell in love with the culture in her late teens. “Love, heartbreak and all the sweet sins of adolescence brought me to Hip Hop; and now I’m in it for life.”

She’s accomplished a lot — considering her debut video dropped just over a year and a half ago. This year, she was blessed with the opportunity to journey to the US to develop and focus her craft, and her career. It was here that Z vs. Z was born.

“It was a very reflective period for me,” she notes of the experience. “I did all of the creative work while I was there. I worked with the amazing producer Floyd “Timeless” Thomas, writing the lyrics. I also teamed up with the ever so talented creative director — Kanya Iwana — and the most brilliant ALL FEMALE TEAM, Savannah Chonis, Francesca Martin, Nawel Abdelaziz, and Shaina Santos for the album artwork.

 
“The experience was humbling, overwhelming and stimulating,” she adds. I was given a chance by Lakefront Records, which resulted in the recording of this EP in the United States [specifically, Chicago]. It was overwhelming because I was in a foreign place, where EVERYONE is trying to make it. Stimulating, because of the work ethic that I managed to experience. The entertainment industry is no joke, and that motivated me to do more for myself as an artist.”

The new EP, as she explains, is the essence of her as an artist, stemming from reflection and acceptance — two things she describes as dominant themes in her writing. “It took about two months for the idea to be translated into the entire project,” she reveals.

During her recent appearance at the Good Vibes Festival in Selangor, Malaysia, she had a chance to debut her two-month labor of love in front of a receptive audience — an experience she doesn’t take for granted.

“That was a day of many firsts. The first time I performed at a festival, first time I used in-ear monitors, first time performing with dancers, first time I played the entire EP LIVE,” she exclaims proudly. “I’ve learned to let go of the things I don’t have control over — but all in all, it was an adventure of a lifetime.”

With a dizzying 2018 thus far — and an even more jarring 2019 ahead — Zamaera’s current mood is focusing on her mind, body, and soul. With an endorsement deal with Nike Malaysia, her project, and (if it all pans out the right way) a tour, you can hardly blame her for cherishing a little downtime.

“Follow me on my social media,” she says as our interview draws to a close, “because I will be announcing something extremely exciting very soon.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bn9ChNxg2Sq/

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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.

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interview

World Premiere: Koncept Takes To The Night Streets Of Seoul In “Fuck You Music” Visual

The song is about anyone that ever told you that you couldn’t do something or that you couldn’t accomplish your dreams,” Koncept explains.

AAHH proudly presents the second of five new visuals by Brown Bag All-Stars alum Koncept, who we’ve been rocking with for a minute now. Set amid the futuristic looking night lights of Seoul, South Korea, the song, “Fuck You Music” — which appears on the Sony Asia release 14 Hours Ahead as “You Music” — is a middle finger to anyone who ever tried to hold you back.

Relevant: Koncept Talks Korea & Premieres New Video For “Never Again”

The song is about anyone that ever told you that you couldn’t do something or that you couldn’t accomplish your dreams … [that] you can’t go after what you believe in. This is a big fuck you,” he explains.

“I was working really hard on things and I was sort of in a place where I had no choice but to wait for something to happen … I was in a funk,” he said of the song’s creative inception.

Currently in the Los Angeles putting the finishing touches on his new album, Koncept shares that he is planning to come out strong after the final three visuals in this latest run are released; his roll-out includes an Asian tour with Scoop DeVille that kicks off in November with stops in Korea, Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam. Intriguingly, he also describes plans for a collaborative project with the “Poetic Justice” producer.

Check out Koncept’s “Fuck You Music” video, above.

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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.

 

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