Rap Has Officially Trumped Rock n' Roll As America's Most Popular Music Genre

So the Nielsen's data people have come out recently and have officially declared rap music the most popular form of American music trumping rock music in sales and consumption. This comes as no surprise to those with a little age on them, who have been able to observe firsthand the trajectory of rap's popularity. Rap went from not getting any music videos shown on mainstream outlets and being largely ignored by music based award shows to being almost only form of music you see featured in movie trailers, commercials, and hear in nightclubs. Its become more and more evident that hip-hop is here to stay. Even with popular slang, terms that originate from hip-hop culture are what dominate. Terms like "dope" and "lit" have replaced "gnarly" and "cool". Whatever styles of dress and grooming you see among the current rap artists are what gets adopted by their adoring, young fans(and in a lot cases, even pop artists)- in the 90's it was gold & platinum jewelry, baseball caps, baggy jeans, Jordans, etc., now it's skinny jeans, grills, dashiki hoodies,  and whatever else the young kids are running around in these days. But I have a few theories as to why rap has overcome rock as America's most popular music:

White people have always stolen, or "borrowed" from black people. Like it or not, white mainstream culture has always looked to black culture as the indicator of what's cool, edgy, and the "next big thing", often to exploit it monetarily, and less often just because whatever music black people are cooking up genuinely appeals to them and makes them dance and feel good. Black people have always been creators and have always seemed to be able to create something from nothing, or at most, very little. Divorced from our original African roots when brought here to America, we created jazz and blues as an original art form. White people became fans and began to make their own jazz. The rhythm and blues Black southerners created served as the skeleton for what became rock n roll, and the new rebellious music that was once labeled "nigger music" was quickly becoming the soundtrack to the lives of white youth. White people took it and made their own rock music. Hip hop music has been able to fight off the next White takeover of itself so far, but that doesn't keep white pop culture from borrowing elements of the music like the aforementioned slang, dress, and forms of dance. They show their support for the most current form of black music through buying albums and tickets to hip-hop shows (In fact, I've never been to a hip hop concert that wasn't at least 50% white). Simply put, white people always adopt whatever black people are doing because it's cool. And I don't think they're gonna stop "borrowing" things from us any time soon. 

Rock music stopped being edgy and also fell off. The age of classic rock has been long over, and the age of rock being looked at as edgy/scary has been over for even longer. Rock had to almost reinvent itself with the birth of heavy metal to appear scary and dangerousat one point. Rap, however, due to the conscious and subconscious perceptions of the young, Black male (or how White America sees the young, Black male) became the King of Everything Scary when it burst onto the scene in the 80s. America saw this as the music of criminals, drug dealers, thugs, gangsters, and street scum who up until now had no voice and didn't deserve one. A couple of guys with long hair who wore spandex and pretended to salute Satan had nothing on Eazy-E, Ice T, and Public Enemy. Their music was brash, unapologetic and drenched in profanity. And on top of it, they didn't even play instruments! But despite these factors, America's infatuation with violence and misogyny (and penchant for looking to Black culture as to what's cool) kept feeding the beast. White America couldn't look away from rap culture but at the same time, didn't want representatives of this new culture living next door to them. Another factor is that rock has been assimilated into pop music to the point where most people can't name off the top of their head a whole lot of true rock groups that are pushing the genre forward. Sure, you have your Black Keys and White Stripes, but when it comes to rap, most youth can name more rappers than they can name rock artists.

The versatility of rap music provides something for everybody. Throughout the past 30 years rap has  evolved way beyond party music. It's the genre known for speaking out against things like police brutality and social injustice. It's great for storytelling. It's great for talking about love. It's great for talking about hate. It's great for talking about a good day. It's great for talking about a bad day. It's great for talking about nothing. It allows for introspective self reflection. And did I mention it's still great for partying and dancing to?! Even if the ultraviolent overtones of 21 Savage don't fit you, you have a Drake (and his many clones) to chill out to. If the garbled ramblings of Lil Yatchy or Migos aren't your cup of tea, you have artists like J-Live and Pharoah Monch out there still flexing their vocabulary. Don't like the beta-male crooning of Drake? You may like the confident, grown man bravado of a Black Thought or Jay-Z...Wanna hear rap from a female perspective? Rapsody, Jean Grae, Bahamadia, Remy Ma, Nicki Minaj, Missy Elliot, Eve, MC Lyte, Rah Digga, Queen Latifah, Snow Da Product, Nitty Scott, Young MA, or one of many others are available to check out. There's literally rap for every personality, every mood, and every age group that's been alive since it's inception.

So taking everything mentioned under consideration, acknowledging that rap music is here to stay, I surely hope it continues to morph, grow, evolve, and continue to be an accurate reflection of the black experience in America.  

Why Some Folks Can't Leave R. Kelly Alone. Newsflash: It's Only Partially the Music.

Apologies for sharing this creepy ass photo of R. Kelly by Sebastian Kim (GQ.com)

Apologies for sharing this creepy ass photo of R. Kelly by Sebastian Kim (GQ.com)

Look, I'm going to admit from the jump that I was never an R-uh fan.  I'll let others talk about and write articles about his music and how it moves them, has moved them from decades.  I believe them.  I believe that for some people R. Kelly and his music are so inextricably linked in the soundtrack of their lives that it's hard to let him go.  I personally just never gave a fuck about the dude.  So maybe that makes it easier for me to be objective about his status as asshole, manipulator, and predator of young, Black women. 

R. Kelly in his creepy mask and even creepier lining.  Seriously, where they do that at? (Google.com)

R. Kelly in his creepy mask and even creepier lining.  Seriously, where they do that at? (Google.com)

But even given that, it's hard for me to understand why some of y'all are out here taking it rather personally that R. Kelly has come under suspicion again.  Spinning multiple plates in an effort to absolve a guy who done told you he was the pied piper, who spent at least part of a decade running around in a creepy mask and cape, singing songs with unabashedly terrible lyrics like "I'm butt-nekkid; sweat socks and house shoes."  But, as per usual, most of R's fans want to find a way to blame anyone but the guy accused of doing all the raping.  This time, most of these folks are coming for the girls' parents.

Now, I do understand the compulsion to side eye these parents, with all the press conferences, and wrinkled-bedsheet-background-having, wardrobe-change-featuring YouTube videos.  In front of these parents were all the rumors, the man's music itself, the existence of child porn featuring R. Kelly with a child, the fact that he illegally married Aaliyah when he was good and grown and she was 15, and the compendium of evidence that Jim DeRogatis has been putting together on R. Kelly for literally decades.  And these parents were still cool with not only taking their young women to an R. Kelly concert, but then also taking them backstage to meet the pied piper himself, literally offering their babies up on a silver platter to one of the world's best known manipulator of young minds.  One of the moms complaining now admits that she had knowledge of Kelly's misdeeds, but that she somehow thought nothing could happen if she was there.  That is willful ignorance at best, mercenary callousness at worst.  It's outrageous!  So believe me when I say I get why people are coming for these parents. This mother ignored everything she knew about R. Kelly so that she could have a chance at money and fame by sacrificing her daughter to him. 

The Pied Piper of R&B leading children astray. (Google)

The Pied Piper of R&B leading children astray. (Google)

But how many women sacrifice their even younger daughters on different altars?  I'm talking about the mom that forces her clearly reluctant daughter into a too tight, too long hug with the same great uncle that used to feel her own ass up back in the day.  I'm talking about the mom that chastises her daughter for having "impure thoughts" when she begs not to be forced to accept a ride from the youth minister.  Or the mom that blames her daughter for being "fast" when she catches her grown ass boyfriend in her daughter's room.  See, from an early age, girls are taught to ignore their internal warning systems in favor of not making a scene and embarrassing men.  Society reinforces in every way possible that no matter what the provocation, women should keep quiet, and always seek to minimize the discomfort of males.  Black girls, who have for centuries been villainized as prematurely hyper-sexual creatures, are particularly vulnerable.  One only has to look at comment sections under any article involving an underage Black girl and an older man to see how easily the allegations against these vile, grown men are dismissed, their victims reviled as "fast" girls who "knew what they were doing."  It's my belief that many people cannot denounce R. Kelly without first being forced to come to terms with the men in their lives guilty of the same things Kelly has been accused of, and then coming to terms with their own complicity in staying silent.  Better they pretend that bad things only happen to bad girls.

Women in general are not being protected from predatory men.  Black girls in particular are not just being sacrificed, but when they try to speak out, they are then blamed for being victims.  When we do this, we are adopting as our own the White supremacist myth that Black women are rabidly sexual creatures that lure men by their female wiles and animalistic natures.  No.  We must do better by our girls.  But how can we do this if we can't even turn the dial when R. Kelly comes on?

Rap Groups That Need To Reunite, TODAY!

Tragically, we've seen way too many MCs pass away in recent years. The departure of Mobb Deep's Prodigy has laid to rest any hopes of another Mobb Deep album or seeing them perform live one last time. And the passing away of J-Dilla, ODB, Fresh Kid Ice, Poetic, Guru, Jam Master Jay, MCA, Eazy-E, Baatin, and Proof has effectively nixed any prospects for complete reunions of groups like Slum Village, Wu Tang Clan, 2 Live Crew, Gravediggaz, Gang Starr, RUN DMC, the Beastie Boys, NWA, & D12, all of which have classic (or at least great) albums under their belt.

Fortunately, and in bittersweet fashion, my favorite group of all time, A Tribe Called Quest, blessed longtime fans with an official farewell LP that was in the works right before the untimely passing of core member Phife Dawg. And it turned out to be the best rap album released last year IMO.

So here's a list a hip hop groups, who's members are all alive still, that I would like to see reunite for at least one more album, before Father Time and the Grim Reaper strike again. Some of these groups are beefed out and split up bitterly, some just had creative differences and went separate ways, others might just be on hiatus. But they made magic happen when they were together, and I'd like to see that happen again. So, in no particular order, this is who I wanna see make one last go at it:

1. Black Star- Mos Def and Talib Kweli joined forces for only one album, but that album just happens to be regarded as one of the greatest hip hop albums ever. Both these MCs have gone on to do solo projects, have solid discographies, appear to be on the same wavelength creatively and lyrically, and are on good terms with each other and friends. So reportedly, its just scheduling conflicts and other personal obligations preventing an official reunion project. But if it ever does materialize, expectations will be set incredibly high, and maybe that alone will prevent it from happening...

2. The Fugees- There is some understandable bad blood between Lauryn and Wyclef, but man, can't they put that aside to help out Pras?!! I doubt he's driving an Uber now, but I'm sure he wouldn't mind the income from another Fugees album and tour. Once they found their stride in the studio, the music they cranked out was nothing short of amazing. But right after they dropped their one classic album, they went their separate ways and Lauryn and Clef almost immediately started throwing shade at each other and Pras dropped Ghetto Superstar. SMH. This is the one group I think is least likely to get back together though.

3. Pete Rock & CL Smooth- Why Pete Rock and CL started not getting along is still unclear, but what is still clear is their chemistry together on a track. CL's buttery, clear flow glides perfectly over Pete Rock's soul drenched, jazzy, boom bap productions. Even when it's been years since their last collabo, they seemed to have never missed a step. Not to mention, no other rapper sounds as good and natural over PR's beats than CL Smooth, and Pete Rock has collaborated with ALOT of MCs over the past 20+ years.  

4. Little Brother- This group was a victim of what I call the Gang Starr Effect, where the producer's acclaim and popularity surpassed that of the group members he came in the door with. As a group, Little Brother seemed to be stuck in the underground, and looked at odd by television networks and radio stations who couldn't make heads or tails of them due to them possessing no clear marketing gimmick outside of dope beats and rhymes. But at the same time, underground rap fans adored them, musically they seemed to have picked up where A Tribe Called Quest left off. While the group seemed to have hit a glass ceiling in the industry, 9th Wonder's production was being sought out by high profile acts like Jay-Z, Destiny's Child, and Erykah Badu. It was only a matter of time before the trio went their separate ways. Phonte, Big Pooh, and 9th Wonder have all had decent careers since, and appear to all have plenty of gas in the tank, so I think if they were to reunite their talents one last time, the result would be phenomenal.

5. Company Flow- El-P has reached "super-producer" status since his Company Flow days, producing classic albums and songs for Mr. Lif, Murs, Aesop Rock, and Cannibal Ox while heading his own indie record label, releasing a jazz album, a movie soundtrack, stellar solo LPs, and most recently joining Killer Mike to form rap duo Run The Jewels. El-P's sound has evolved and become incredibly diverse over the years, so I'd be anxious to see what he'd cook up for Big Juss and Mr. Len. As a group, they never shied away from speaking on politics, religion, family structure, and commercialism, so given the current, modern climate in Trump's America, I'm sure they would have plenty to say. Their only full length project, Funcrusher Plus, is also regarded as one of the greatest independent rap albums ever. Big Juss' solo album didn't have much replay value from what I remember, and it was clear El-P's production kind of forces the listeners to be attentive to their dense flows. I don't believe Mr. Len ever released a solo project, but I'm really curious as to what they would churn out.

Jay-Z's 4:44 Critical Acclaim, Explained

By now, unless you've been living under a rock, in a cave, on the moon, and your fingers in your ears, you've heard Jay-Z's latest album 4:44, or at least heard the reviews and commentary on it. Mainly, how much of a "grown" and "mature" album this release is. Over the course of the LP, Jay highlights the benefits of things like generational wealth, good credit, and investing in things like art and real estate. Concepts that are very foreign to a lot of young black men who listen primarily to rap. He also is very open and honest about personal shortcomings and his family dynamic. To put it bluntly, this was a very unconventional rap album and a very unconventional Jay Z as well. It was an creative left turn for him as an artist, and a thematic Russian roulette as far as rap albums go. Already, I'm hearing disc jockeys and critics placing 4:44 as one of Jay's top 3 albums, and some are even putting it at numero uno. That's saying a lot considering Jay Z is considered one of the best to ever touch the mic, and this is album #13 for him. After having a week to digest it properly, I can say I was pleasantly surprised by the album, but don't want to be a prisoner of the moment and put it on a pedestal prematurely, but I do think it falls on the more favorable side of Jay Z's discography.

But on to this business of how "grown" this album is. Let me first say that the definition of "grown" is extremely relative, especially within hip-hop. 4:44 has earned that label due to it's touting the aforementioned themes and avoiding hanging it's hat on what 99% of the rap world prides itself on: promiscuity, partying, pills, money, clubbing, violence, frivolous spending, and stunting. So kudos to Jay Z for that. But to perfectly honest, Jay Z isn't the first MC to record a "grown" album if you were to go by that definition. Granted, Jay Z is first rapper of his stature to do so, and maybe that's why he's being looked at like he's reinventing the wheel, but for years the Commons, Mos Defs, Talib Kweli's, and countless others have been putting out music that by any definition would be considered introspective and mature. But...we know how it goes. Because those artists and others like them haven't achieved the level of wealth Jay Z has, their opinion's and in turn, music, holds less weight. People of all races, but in particularly the black community, equate wealth with talent, business acumen, intelligence, professionalism, and credibility. These other "lower level" rappers also don't have the stature to partner with another major corporation to wholesale their album in advance sort to speak. So when Jay Z speaks, the world listens. And he chose to use his moment in the spotlight to impart some gems on the minds of listeners. This is something that is just not simply done (or is extremely rare) by rap acts who are on and popping right now. In fact, if Jay had released 4:44 as his second album, instead of his thirteenth, it might have been career suicide (especially considering there's no real radio single on here). Sure, back in late 80s and early to mid 90s golden era of hip-hop, who had numerous groups and artists who were instilled with a sense of black pride, spirituality, and knowledge of self, but hip hop has been going the way of the savages for a good 15+ years now. Some would argue longer. So when you hear people say "It's about time a rapper made a grown, mature rap album!" they're really talking about rappers among the current crop who are getting radio play and magazine covers, right now.

As for the rest of the rap world, hopefully they'll take notes. Maybe they'll put forth more of an effort to rap about adult things without fearing their sales going down the toilet. Maybe they'll experiment more and rap about family life as opposed to club culture. Maybe they'll encourage younger listeners to show more soundness of mind financially. Listeners will go on whatever journey you take them on as long as it sounds good.  Jay Z and many others who've come before him just proved that.

So, What's the Going Price for a Black Life These Days?

Family of Philando Castile, including his mother, Valerie, respond to the acquittal of his killer. (Craig Lassig/European Pressphoto Agency)

Family of Philando Castile, including his mother, Valerie, respond to the acquittal of his killer. (Craig Lassig/European Pressphoto Agency)

Weeks after being gutted by the acquittal of that asshole that murdered Philando Castile, we found out that Castile's family is being awarded a $3 million settlement.  I'm happy for them.  Really, I am.  It won't bring their loved one back, but at least it's something, and God knows they deserve something.  Yet, happy as I am when I hear of families receiving some sort of financial restitution, it is never enough, as a cash payout for a stolen life can never be enough.  And after so many headlines like this, I have to ask why is it that all these cities, all these police departments would rather shell out cash by the millions instead of putting an end to the carnage? 

This is happening across this country in cities large and small, but we'll focus on just one.  Back last year it was reported that the cash strapped city of Chicago had paid out over $662 million in a little over a decade for police misconduct.  That's over half a billion dollars.  Yet, the city has only made token efforts to reform its police department, because apparently they'd rather just keep killing Black and Brown folks and paying off their families instead of making real changes to get real results.  I don't claim to have all the answers to end police misconduct towards minorities, but surely half a billion dollars, if pointed in the right direction, could effect some real change?  But instead, Chicago, and other cities and towns like it, would rather keep the status quo than keep their money.  It defies logic.  But to do otherwise would be to defy racism.

The police department and the cities that support them are built on a foundation of white supremacy; racism is woven into the very fabric of American society.  To start to pull at all the bad threads that make up that society could cause the entire cloth to unravel.  Dismantling these systems -- of which police misconduct is but a symptom -- will take time, effort, and yes, money.  More time, effort and money than our society is apparently will to expend just to save a few minority lives. 

How many more lives will be snuffed out?  Shootings by police are at an all time high, white supremacy retains its chokehold on American society, and the taxpaying populace seems almost perfectly content to shell out $3 million here, half a billion there for the loss of a life in state sponsored murder.  In Chicago the total was $662 billion from 2004 - 2016.  What will that figure look like in the next decade? 

Dear Black People of the Internet

Guys, we need to talk.

Facts:

1.  The cookout ain't real, y'all.

So can we stop blaming Black people who supposedly granted invites to the cookout to Mayosapiens when they inevitably get caught up in self-inflicted controversies?  First of all, the cookout ain't even real, yo.  We are in no danger of a horde of White folk flooding our cookouts, invitations in hand, and eating all of Auntie's potato salad before we can even get there.  Repeat after me: The cookout is a figment of our collective Black imagination.  Invitations to it exist only on the mythical plane, somewhere between a fair criminal justice system, and a bid whist game without your Uncle June cheating.  Therefore, and by virtue of being Not Real, we cannot blame the bad actions of White people on the Black folks that supposedly invited them.  Real talk?  There is no White person alive that is only racist because somewhere along the line, a Black person told them it was okay.  Ain't never worked that way, ain't never gonna work that way.  White people do not, and have never required our permission to be racist.

2. Black people can think/talk about more than one thing at a time.

I hardly even know how to address this one, because it's so gaht damn demeaning.  Every time Something Awful happens, and Black people try to engage in a little self healing by deliberately seeking distraction and talking about something silly instead of letting the grief break us, what happens?  You've experienced this, right?  Some asshole has to come and remind us that Something Awful has happened, and to accuse us of caring more about the rap beef or Twitter feud or whatever the hell it is that we're using so that not all 24 hours of the day are taken up with heartache.  I'm not sure if the person trying to chastise me is so fucking stupid that they honestly can't conceive holding 2 different thoughts in their head at the same time, but I'm pretty good at it.  I can be grieving about Something Awful, amused at Black Twitter, and still mad that the 'Hood Wendy's on a'hunned 'leventh street fucked my order up 2 weeks ago.  Black people are capable of multiple thoughts and feelings at once, and are even allowed to express that.  We are complex beings.  Well, maybe you aren't, but the rest of us are.

3. Black people are allowed to love and revel in their hair, no matter what. 

I don't care if you cut off a literal pony's tail.  If it's on your head and you like it, I love it.  You are not more woke because you don't have straight hair, and you are not less woke because your curl pattern is a little looser.  How I choose to wear my hair is just that -- a choice.  A personal decision.  Can we not judge sisters that prefer a long, straight weave or a relaxer?  Can we not prop up OR denigrate sisters that, through a trick of genetics, have hair more curly than kinky?  And we most certainly need to not knock our kinkiest sisters for their beautiful coils.  No one needs to be telling anyone else what they need to do with their hair, or judging their sisters for their personal preferences.  Black hair is beautiful, and you know what Black hair is?  Hair that is on the head of a Black person.

Til' next time,

Geechee Anne

Dear White People of the Internet

A chat, if you will.  Because this whole sharing the internet thing with some of you guys is getting pretty stressful.  Let's take it slow, and address just three things.

Facts:

1. Black people don't know anything more about their neighbors than you do. 

On every gaht damn news story involving a crime committed in a predominately Black neighborhood, some dumbass opines that the neighborhood knows who did it, and the neighborhood simply need to turn the miscreants in.  Crime solved.  My God!  Why didn't we think of that?  Here we are, mired in violent neighborhoods we wish to God we could move from, but are instead immobilized against our will by decades of institutionalized racism, literally living in fear of our own lives and those of our children, and all we had to do was tell the police who done it?  Really?  What decade is this?  The time when everyone on the block knew each other is long past, and that goes for White Town too.  If you, Mr. White, don't know the name of your neighbor across the cul de sac, what makes you think I know my neighbor across the street, and know them intimately enough that they'd apprise me of a crime they just committed?  Could you do the same if the guy three doors down was killing people and stowing the bodies in his garage?  Do you even know that guy's name?  This is not a thing, and you know it.  Stop.

2. Like you, minorities can choose to wear what they want. 

Similar to men who think any woman wearing a dress is "asking for it," apparently minorities are not allowed to wear what they want, when they want to wear it.  Ladies in hijabs deserve to be assaulted because they should know better than to wear that in 'Murrica.   Young Black men targeted by the police because they happen to be wearing a baseball cap (while Black) should know better than to wear gang attire.  Hell, I recently read a news article about a five year old boy who was shot, and in the comments, some ass said his parents shouldn't have "dressed him like a thug" if they didn't want him shot.  This was a tiny 5 year old wearing a baseball cap, jeans and a button down shirt -- basically the uniform of every 40-something White dad picking his kid up from my son's school -- but because this was a Black child, of course he was a thug.  Can you not do this?

3. People of Color have the internet too. 

I know, shocking!  I'm a lover of history, and am very interested in the neighborhood I grew up in.  A neighborhood that was halfway decent when my parents moved into it, then quickly spiraled into poverty and crime once White Flight destabilized it and ruined property values.  Facts, people: Crime is a symptom of poverty, not race.  And White Flight destroys the entire economic underpinning of a healthy neighborhood, inexorably leading to low property values, which in turn means low property taxes which results in poor schools and poorer education.  A massive case of White Flight sets a neighborhood on an unerring course towards poverty, and yes, crime.  Yet, I cannot tell you how many times I'm reading a post on a FaceBook group, which oddly enough is not called "Memories from Before N*ggers Ruined the Neighborhood," and instead of simply reminiscing or sharing historical facts, the conversation devolves into how awesome the neighborhood was before "the animals" moved in and tore the place up.  Animals like my parents, I suppose.  Sorry, nope.  If you White Flighted your ass out of the neighborhood because you couldn't bear to share your space with minority families, then you ruined the neighborhood.  Oh, and when I'm then moved to snatch a wig or two on this topic, it becomes clear that these bastards are so secure within their White bubble that they've never even considered that there might be some representatives of the group they're denigrating in the same forum as them.  Sorry folks, Black people have the internet too.  We can read, and we will read you.

So, yeah.  Three things.  Three really simple things.  Can you do it?

Toodles,

Geechee Anne

Best Hip Hop Albums Of The Year, So Far...

Here we are already at the halfway point of the year, and 2017 seems to be shaping up a lot like 2016: police are still killing unarmed people of color with no consequences, celebrities continue to bite the dust,  comic book heroes dominate the box office, politics continues to show us white skin and money take priority over everything... but fortunately the year has been shaping up to be a pretty decent year for hip-hop music as well.

Here are the 10 best hip-hop albums I've heard this year so far. By the end of the year, this list will likely change and I may have a whole different 10 albums, or maybe it might be the exact same albums, who knows?! But if you haven't checked out these releases yet to come out this year, I think you won't be disappointed if you did.

10. Insight & Damu The Fudgemunk- Ears Hear Spears: veteran Boston MC/producer Insight blesses fans of true school, boom bap hip hop with a no-frills, no-filler 10 track album featuring stellar production from D.C. producer Damu The Fudgemunk accompanying his effortless rhyme flows. This album sounds like it was frozen in time in 1996, and then was released today. A must listen for fans of boom bap!

9. Substantial- The Past Is Always Present In The Future- Maryland lyricist and underground veteran Substantial comes out of nowhere with this moody, yet very mature sounding LP that will impress any head who needs to hear some real grown up rap. While this album is not as heavy on the comedic, battle ready punchlines of Substantial's earlier work, he switches gears a bit and is more introspective, spitting rhymes about his past, parenthood, and the trajectory of black peoples' progress in America. Definite sleeper.

8. Nick Grant- The Return of the Cool- South Carolina lyricist Nick Grant blesses fans with another consistent project that combines witty, razor sharp, punchline driven lyricism with radio friendly production that will keep heads nodding and hips shaking. As one of the most underrated and underappreciated MC's in the game, Nick Grants proves on song after song why everyone needs to be put on notice about this dude.

7. The Underachievers- Renaissance- Flatbush, Brooklyn duo Issa Gold & Ak The Savior embrace the melodic, dusty, boom bap production (which has been making a comeback these days) for their appropriately titled Renaissance album.  Rhyming about life lessons as well as smoking really strong weed, they are a group that you can chill out to but also know to take very seriously when the mood calls for it.

6. Talib Kweli & Styles P- The Seven- Never judge a book by its cover, because while the album cover for this looks like it was done by a 6 year old with only 3 crayons, what's contained on here musically is a true work of art. It's an EP, so while it's runtime is not as long as a full length LP, it's straight to the point with no frills and filled with clever, well thought out lyrics over hardcore, boom bap flavored beats. Talib delivers for the conscious rap fans and Styles delivers for the street rap fans, yet they compliment each other perfectly while speaking on the same topic on the same song, but through two different prisms. So there's something on here for everybody. Don't sleep!

5. Venomous2000 x Trilian- Sounds of the Great Ones- This album truly came out of nowhere for me; it popped up in my recommended album feed in my Bandcamp page and I really dug the album cover and decided to check it out. And boy, was I pleasantly surprised! Venomous2000 drops track after track of dope, battle ready lyrics over Trilian's aggressive, polished production. Fans of Dilated Peoples, Wu-Tang, Redman, Cannibal Ox, etc. will appreciate this brand of increasingly rare hip hop. Contributions from Inspectah Deck, C-Rayz Walz, The Artifacts, Reks, and Shabaam Sadeeq also give this album a punch as well.

4. Raekwon- The Wild- Wu-Tang wordsmith Raekwon comes back strong his seventh solo LP. On this release, he utilizes a variety of classic old school break beats as well as lush, soulful Motown era samples that give the album a definitive vintage feel. But there are moments in the album where Rae shows he can still hold his own amongst the current crop of spitters and dips his toe into the more contemporary sounds of the day and invites guests like Lil Wayne and G-Eazy. Not to mention, the autobiographical dedication to Marvin Gaye he does is worth the price of admission alone.

3. Murs- Captain California- Mid City, L.A. veteran Murs has been blessing the underground masses with dope underground music for 20 years now, and on his 15th LP, Captain California, he returns to his roots sort of speak with cleverly written songs about everything from hollering at females to gentrification to just having a bad day in the hood. Most of the songs on here are stories, so it makes for a very entertaining listen. The production has backbone but is still easy on ears enough that it doesn't take too much attention away from the one you should be listening to the most, the MC. Check out this album, but if you haven't already, google this man's discography and check it out. Because this album is merely a tip of the Murs iceberg.

2. Joey Badass- All Amerikkkan Badass- Joey is an MC that I have been rooting for since I heard Survival Tactics back when he was only 17 years old. From the jump he embraced the grimey, boom bap, laid back production that was the signature sound of 90s golden era hip hop to compliment his steady fire flows. But being so young at the time, you didn't know if he was going to be a one-trick pony and fizzle out or grow with his art. Fortunately Joey B eludes the sophomore slump with delivering a concise, consistent, and sonically diverse album that tackles race relations in America in a way that I have not seen done since the days of Mos Def and dead prez, and definitely don't see from many of his peers.

1. Kendrick Lamar- Damn. This should come as no surprise that this album made the top of the mid-year list. Ever since he entered the game, Kendrick has demonstrated a consistency that has not been seen in 10+ years from hip hop artists and shows no signs of slowing down or falling off. Damn. is an album that is deeply insightful, reflective, and socially aware but at the same time radio friendly and melodic enough to compete with all his rap contemporaries.

PRESS RELEASE: 1Hood Media’s Blak Rapp Madusa Returns to Ladyfest 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
info@1hood.org

1Hood Media’s Blak Rapp Madusa Returns to Ladyfest 2017

PITTSBURGH, PA (June 19, 2017) — Socially-conscious rapper, poet, activist, and historian Blak Rapp Madusa of 1Hood Media performs at Ladyfest Pittsburgh on Saturday, June 24, 2017 at Cattivo in Lawrenceville, located at 146 44th Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15201. The performance begins at 10pm.

Ladyfest Pittsburgh is a three-day, DIY, and community-based music festival in Pittsburgh, featuring lady-fronted and lady-dominant acts. The annual festival highlights artists who are underrepresented and active in the vibrant arts and music communities around the world. Ladyfest Pittsburgh aims to bring all underrepresented populations of the community together, as well as to create an inclusive, safer space for people of all backgrounds/identities to enjoy music and the arts.

Featured among the performers is 1Hood’s Blak Rapp Madusa. Through spoken word and melodic lyricism, Blak Rapp paints a vivid picture of her culture via social and political justice interwoven with spiritual inspiration. With a degree in Africana Studies from the University of Pittsburgh, M.A.D.U.S.A., whose name is an acronym for "Making A Difference Using Skills and Activism", uses her vast knowledge and experiences to relate to the masses. collective of socially conscious artists and activists who utilize art as a means of raising awareness about social justice matters affecting people around the world. 1Hood offers performance, written and visual art to connect communities and amplify messages.

“I am super excited about playing LadyFest this year,” says Blak Rapp. “Last year it was amazing and powerful to see other sisters throwing down in solidarity. This year I plan to perform a couple tracks from my upcoming mixtape, Mary's Daughter.”

She continues, “Mary's Daughter is about my life. It's about the trials and tribulations that I faced as a black female hip-hop Artivist (artist and activist). What inspired me [to create Mary's Daughter] was making a transition from Islam to a different spiritual awakening. By being unapologetic about my blackness, my queerness, and femininity, I hope to inspire other women and girls to be great.”

Tickets and more information about Ladyfest Pittsburgh can be found on their Facebook page here.

Event Details
Ladyfest Pittsburgh
Blak Rapp Performance @ 10pm  // Doors @ 7pm
Cattivo
46 44th Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15201
Tickets $10
Ages 21+

No Justice for Philando Castile

Another day, another injustice.  Another murderer in blue free to go on with his or her life.  Philando Castile, murdered in callous cold blood, will not see justice through the courts.  I don't often quote religious texts, but Genesis 4:10 is applicable here: "What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood is crying out to me from the ground."  What have you done, America?  Because Philando's blood cries still, its voice mingled with that of untold numbers of others killed by a coven of predators masquerading as protectors.

We were all there.  We sat in the claustrophobic confines of that car with him and we saw his murder through the unflinching eye of his girlfriend's camera as she recorded his last breaths.  It was one of the clearest cases of murder yet, and even then, some knew that it would all come to naught.  Foolishly, I was one of the ones that hoped, hoped as never before that for once the preponderance of clear evidence in this case would be enough.  That for once, one of us would see justice.  But nope.  The thin blue line has held, and this young man, this young man that did everything right, did everything the respectability hordes of the internet say should keep you safe, will not see justice.  Not him, not any of those before him, and not any of those that will surely come after.

Another long awaited verdict came down today also.  It was for a terrible crime, where a young girl sent a series of indescribably cruel texts to her young boyfriend, encouraging him to kill himself, until one day he did just that.  The court found her guilty of involuntary manslaughter.  Do not mistake me here -- I feel this is just, and hope that she is sentenced as harshly as possible.  But how surreal is it to hear this verdict on the very same day that that an officer of the law, who snuffed out a life like it was nothing at all, is to walk free, cleared on all charges.  This man, who held an instrument of death and deliberately pumped seven bullets into another man is somehow not guilty of murder.  Other charges were also brought against him, but he won't even be held responsible for endangering the lives of the other two innocents in the car, Philandro's girlfriend and her daughter, lives he physically endangered in that moment,  but psychologically endangered for the rest of their lives.  Yet, a girl that sent words -- not bullets -- is guilty of manslaughter.  Our society can see the clear wrongness of what she did and set in motion the wheels of justice, but cannot see fit to punish a murder caught on video.  If you knew nothing at all about the two dead men at the center of these cases but the outcomes, would you be able to guess their respective skin colors?

Another day, another injustice, another check mark in the column that says that for most in this country, Black lives don't matter.  Rest in power, Philando.  Your blood cries out to us still.