Features, Main, New Music, Reviews

Shady XV Is Here

Let’s be honest, Eminem is one of the best rap artists out there – he can rap circles around you….

Let’s be honest, Eminem is one of the best rap artists out there – he can rap circles around you. If he’s not on your list of best artists you’re just being a hater; although he can come off kind of hocky at times, he pretty much earns a pass. His latest release Shady XV is a compilation that showcases his re-energized Shady Records. It’s a good look for hip-hop, and we’ll explain why in a minute. Let’s talk about the tracks.

The album starts off with a barrage of bars from Slim himself on the self-produced title track, which sets the tone. Stand-outs from there include Vegas (by Bad Meets Evil), which features the overhyped Iggy Azalea rape jokes (ha?), Slaughterhouse’s Y’all Know Me produced by Primo and the Just Blaze/Boy 1da produced Psychopathic Killer. Em’s self-produced Right For Me and Fine Line are also good listens. In all the project features Kobe, Slaughterhouse, Yelawolf, Skylar Gray and anyone from the D that matters.

Now why is this album a good look for hip-hop? It’s cover to cover bars. It seems like good old fashioned skills are slowly taking the main stage again in hip-hop – and like any “corporation” it needs to start from the top down. Instead of signing gimmicky “hype” artists, Em seems to be rolling with spitters (like them or not). D12 kind of gets a pass, but everyone else here has bars.

The album closes with the Static Selektah produced Detroit vs Everyone, which (again) we predict will be a thing once other cities drop replies. Disc 2 is all old joints, we skipped that.

It’s now out everywhere – stream it 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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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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BmbuWEST drops The Diversity Tape

BmbuWEST is a hip-hop production duo from Philadelphia, PA. The duo, consisting of Cory ‘FortuneWest’ Wilson and John ‘Bmbu’ Alsace,...

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