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
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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 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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All Hail King Push

It was around 13 years ago when the neighbourhood pusher proclaimed that he "pumped bass like that, jack." In the...

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