Editorial, Main, yearend

Special’s Top 5 Albums Of 2015

First things first, I hate lists. I’m not a fan of “countdowns” around this time of year, as they’re WAY…

First things first, I hate lists. I’m not a fan of “countdowns” around this time of year, as they’re WAY too subjective in nature, and often result in tons of shade from other fans, writers and – well – urban Twitter on a whole. For this reason, I’ll simply be sharing a list of five albums I found significant this year. Please note, this is my personal top-five, and may not necessarily reflect the entire team. I’ll share some of the how and why along the way, as well.

Here they are, in no particular order:

Action Bronson – Mr. Wonderful

Does Action Bronson sound like Ghostface? Yes, kind of. Do I care? No! Much like Shyne, he has little control over his vocal cadence. So what other obstacles do you have blocking you from enjoying this man’s music? Exactly.

Do yourself a favour and give him an honest listen. I first got into Bronson off of SAAB Stories and then began digging through his past catalogue. More than his music, though, his overall brand is on point. From his Fuck That’s Delicious series – and – his videos in general to his upcoming book, he’s using what used to be a hobby to help him fuel his true passion, which is food/cooking.

Mr. Wonderful is a dope listen to cover to cover. From dropping salty-ex boyfriend slang on Blue Eyes with Chance The Rapper and skating the fine line of mainstream hip-hop with the 40 produced Actin’ Crazy to the dreamy flow of Terry, he delivers a well-balanced meal for the real heads –flavourful, with tons of spice. See what I did there?

Wale – The Album About Nothing

I was into this album before it even dropped, just because of the promotional campaign. The videos with Jerry Seinfeld on WorldStar, the spread in Complex – it spoke volumes about what we can/should expect from Wale. From the beginning, his affiliations always painted a vivid picture of the hype that surrounded this man, from his early collaboration with Lady Gaga (when she was at the top of her shit), to this relationship he’d seemingly struck up with one of the wealthiest and more respected comedians in the game. Wale is at that level, so not taking one of his releases seriously seems irresponsible on our part.

That’s the message he projects, anyways.

This album was underrated in my opinion. I felt like I didn’t see enough chatter about it. When I tell you that I could not stop singing The White Shoes in my head for the latter part of the year, I’m not exaggerating. The album cleverly uses monologues and conversations with Jerry, and clips from the show as a jump off points for an honest, and at times heartfelt, collection of music. Covering topics that range from marriage to police brutality, This album is another cover to cover kind of project. Recommended listening includes: The Glass Egg, The Girls On Drugs, and The Pessimist featuring J.Cole.

Joey Badass – B4D A$$

Every generation needs a Nas and Joey kind of fits that mould. It takes a special kind of artist to get DJ Premier school-girl-giddy hyped – just saying. Not that nobody else under 25 was on the wave, but Pro Era has certainly made it cool as fuck for kids to excavate the 90’s and mine that nostalgic sound into their records. From the first time you hear Waves, you just knew this kid was special. B4D A$$ was highly anticipated, and rightfully so; the album lived up to the hype, and gave fans exactly what they wanted: realness.

If you can honestly listen to Paper Trails and Big Dusty, or – shit – even Save The Children (which kicks-off the album), and tell me he isn’t talented as hell, then we can’t be friends. The album sounds like Joey built a time machine and recorded it in a dusty NYC basement circa 90’s aesthetically, yet it’s relevant, immediate and oddly innovative. This kid is only 20, wrap your mind around the damage he’s going to over the next decade.

Stop blaming kids for killing hip-hop…

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

Kendrick Lamar is a difficult artist to listen to – for me anyways. I like to immerse myself in the culture but am often turned off by things that have too much hype surrounding them, à la Drake for example. Maybe it’s the perpetual hater in me. As a writer, I often feel like I don’t need to convince or cast too much opinion on universally accepted norms because yawn (what’s the point). What I’m getting at, is that I feel like not liking Kendrick means something is wrong with you, because he’s the best. It’s hard to walk into his music objectively.

This album, though, was brilliant. It was – in all honesty – a brutal listen. It was powerful, and at points uncomfortable; however, it was honest, and ridiculously well executed. He refuses to sit idly amongst the rocky climate of today’s reality on the streets of America. While some artists within the circumference of his apex may decide to make “art” that seems to serve as lifestyle branded commercials for opulence many of us will never experience, Kendrick did a great job of showing not only his artistic range but his ability to swim upstream (so to speak) and not get his crown wet. It’s a must-listen, period.

Lupe Fiasco – Tetsuo & Youth

Lupe Fiasco has certainly had a frustrating go at music over the past few years. Honestly, I’m not afraid to say I hated Lasers. It felt very watered down and lacked pretty much everything I loved about Lupe on his debut and The Cool. He seemed to lose his way, and to add injury to insult; it sold amazingly well. This album, though, Tetsuo & Youth, was his opus – and seemed to display a Lupe that real heads who have been watching him for years knew he could be. I liken him to Goku, powering up in the mountains before becoming a super-sayan.

The album is daring, immensely detail-rich, and devoid of any overbearing need for commercial recognition. It’s artistic, inspiring and a must-listen for artists and “real” heads alike. Lupe plans on releasing 3 albums in 2016, so let’s hope he stays in this lane for the whole trip.

Early. [drops mic]


Runners-Up

Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late

I can’t front, this album, which Aubrey dropped out of nowhere, is hype as hell. If you exist – and like hip-hop – you’ve heard this album, and don’t require my co-sign. I just wanted you all to know that I’m not a hater, even though I fail to recognize Drake very often here on the blog.

He doesn’t need me – at all.

Pusha T – Darkest Before Dawn

Just dropped a review of this album last week. It deserves all the recognition it gets, and I can attest that everything you’ve heard about it is the truth. Pusha T delivers his best project to date. Get your hands on this ASAP (like Rocky).

What were your fave albums of 2015? Tweet me and let me know!

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
Editorial, Featured, Features

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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