Wu-Tang Wednesday: Ghostface Killah, GZA, & Killah Priest - "Purified Thoughts"

What, you thought you weren't going to see me? I may be the Osiris of this ish, but that doesn't keep work and night class from piling up. I apologize for posting so near the witching hour, but technically 11:30 is still in time to celebrate what remains of this revered Wu-Tang Wednesday. I'll leave you with a quick post before going into hibernation.

Blue Scholars - "Sagaba"

In the Upper Left, the Blue Scholars are known as frontiersmen. Pioneers who boldly blazed the trail for all other Seattle emcees in the wake of the Teen Dance Ordinance. One DJ and one MC, Sabzi was the gifted, multitalented musician and deejay whose instrumentals provided the canvas for the charismatic Geologic (aka Prometheus Brown) to paint pictures with his revolutionary rhetoric.

But often lost in the conversation of the Scholars' prominent role in resurrecting Seattle hip hop--hidden behind the unjust slights of "backpack" or "conscious"--is the fact that George Quibuyen is one of the most gifted storytellers, not just among Seattle emcees or within hip hop circles, but among some of the most distinguished contemporary authors.

Wu-Tang Wednesday: "Triumph"

Congress may have the power to shutdown the government by invoking the law of the Thunderdome, but it will never stop Wu-Tang Wednesday. To quote one dearly missed Ol' Dirty Chinese Restaurant, "Wu-Tang is forever."

Legend tells that the best way to Protect Thy Neck during the imminent post-apocalyptic hellscape is to barricade yourself within a worthy fortress, fill your bathtub with water, arm yourself with enough Twinkies and weapons (preferably Hattori Hanzō steel) to ride out the fall of humanity, and bump Wu-Tang as loud as possible (so any potential aggressors will know you Ain't Nuthing Ta Fuck Wit).

But until the fun begins, this epic track off the Wu's sophomore double album will have to hold you over while you shatter your mirror in order to prepare a haphazard spear with your broom handle.

Blue Scholars - "John DeLorean" x Brooklyn Concert

As the seminal Seattle hip hop group who helped resurrect hip hop in the Emerald, I've lost track of how many times that I've seen the Blue Scholars in concert since my Garfield days (upwards of 10 at last count). However you may feel about the socially conscious pair, Geo and Sabzi bring an energy second to none to their live shows (one of their crowning achievements might be absolutely demolishing Kanye West when they opened for him at Bumbershoot 2006--a moment that signaled the arrival of the Seattle hip hop scene).

It's been around three years since I last saw them at the Capitol Hill Block Party (they haven't done nearly as many shows together since Sabzi moved to NYC). Needless to say, I was excited to hear about their show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg this Friday (10/4). Performing with the Scholars will be Made In The Heights (Sabzi's collaboration with singer Kelsey Bulkin) and The Bar (a collaboration between Geo and Bambu).

To all of those Upper Left natives currently residing in Gotham, I highly recommend not missing this show. The same advice applies for any lovers of superb live hip hop. In celebration, I'll share this underrated Blue Scholars gem that they dropped for free back in 2011. Enjoy.

Peace, Love, & Hip Hop,

Previous: Blue Scholars - "The Long March"

The Physics - "Am I Crazy?" (feat. Alisha Roney)

A brand new song from The Physics that is distinctly different from anything that we've heard from Justo, Thig Natural, and Monk Wordsmith. "Am I Crazy?," which serves as the first single off their December release, Digital Wildlife, is much more experimental, electronic oriented, with a haunting Alisha Roney chorus without many bars of actual rapping on the instrumental. In terms of their discography, the song that comes closest in sound is "Fix You," but "Am I Crazy?" is more sparse, barren, tragic.

Per the Physics:
"Digital Wildlife is about the relationship between digital and analog. Today, our lives take place so much within the digital domain, but our humanness rears itself throughout. The production and recording follow the same theme: we're mixing electronic sounds and analog production elements, and we're recording the album digitally, later to be bounced to analog tape."
The Seattle trio hasn't steered us clear thus far so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. That being said, they are certainly taking a risk with this direction. We'll see on December 13 if that risk warrants a reward.

Peace, Love, & Hip Hop,
Nocturnal Noah

Previous: The Physics - "Coronas On Madrona"

Flatbush Zombies - "Mraz"

Meechy Darko, Zombie Juice, and Erick Arc Elliot aren’t really interested in what other people think about their music. They enjoy making it too much, which is probably why their first mixtape D.R.U.G.S. lured me back three months later, even after writing them off as another Halloween-obsessed group being dark for the sake of attracting attention[1]. I’d already been turned off by the disparity between Odd Future’s hype and their talent[2], so I was wary any seemingly unnecessary coffin references.

My fears turned out to be unfounded. The Flatbush Zombies, while keeping their undead motif going strong, have continued to put out solid music free of gimmickry (and full of drugs). It’s eclectic, energetic, and just different. It’s not surprising that when asked about how they make music, they respond that they make no effort to create a cohesive sound. I can’t help but agree when they say that shit would be “boring.”

The Flatbush Zombies dropped their sophomore mixtape on September 12th, and it’s quite good[3]. “Mraz,” and its accompanying video, was released months before. While it’s sometimes frustrating to get recycled tracks on an album (or in this case mixtape), “Mraz” is a stand out track on the album with an excellent video to boot. It perfectly showcases why the Zombies are so good, and gives a little insight into their music as a whole. It’s old school hip hop, referential, gritty, and energetic to the point of being a little out of control. Their cultural references aren't as simplistic as a name drop; they're Gang Starr and Eazy E breakdowns seamlessly woven into the musical tapestry they’ve been ashing on for the last 3-plus years.

[1] This was "Thug Waffle," and even Zombie Juice says he hated that song. Understandable because his verse is kinda weak.
[2] This is an on-going disappointment now that Earl Sweatshirt’s underwhelming debut album has dropped.
[3] Although maaayyybe not as good as D.R.U.G.S.

Wu-Tang Wednesday: Kanye West & ODB - "Keep The Receipt"

Every court needs its jester and, during his all too short time on this planet, Russell Tyrone Jones aka Dirt McGirt aka Big Baby Jesus aka Ol' Dirty Chinese Restaurant aka Ol' Dirty Bastard was the undisputed Clown Prince of hip hop. Ever the absurdist, ODB was interrupting award shows long before K. West was even thinking about college, let alone dropping out. At a time when his solo debut was charting in the top 10, Jones once took two of his thirteen offspring in a limo to collect food stamps while being filmed by MTV News (There are so many things about that sentence to break down, but that's not a misprint, he had 13 kids. And people give Shawn Kemp a hard time).

ODB was blessed with a distinctive voice and uniquely absurd half-sung, half-rapped delivery. "I rap and I sing, but I don't know how to sing," is how he once described his fatherless, free-associative, ludicrously profane style that provided the wild-card energy on 36 Chambers and was so desperately missing on later Wu-Tang group albums. 

That style and energy was beloved by many a fan including a budding rapper/producer coming out of Chicago. Kanye West once claimed that, could he be blessed with anybody's voice, it would have been ODB's. With both emcees having recently signed to Roc-A-Fella records, Dirt McGirt was one of the first emcees that Kanye sought to collaborate with when he was recording his debut album in 2003.

The Saturday Knights - "45"

Don't bother to break down the lyrics of The Saturday Knights' "45." They're complete nonsense. But that doesn't stop this foolish track from being an incredibly catchy party/dance song. In fact, to call it call the Seattle trio's song 'catchy' would be a massive understatement. One spin and it will cling in your cabeza for days.

The genre-defying group of Barfly, Tilson, and DJ Suspence dropped off the map after 2008's Mingle, having only released one album and their self-titled EP. Their time in the limelight may have been short, but their lasting impact on Seattle hip hop remains.

Along with The Physics, Dyme Def, and J. Pinder, they were among the early second-generation acts after the repeal of the draconian Teen Dance Ordinance. But unlike first generation acts like Blue Scholars and Common Market, who people outside of the Upper Left could (at times derisively) label as "conscious" or "backpack rap," SK was more concerned with party rhymes than revolutionary rhetoric.

The Saturday Knights were one of the first groups to really redefine what Seattle hip hop could sound like, opening the door for Fresh Espresso, Scribes, and State of the Artist. And if that isn't enough, they've also left us with this song, which you will now be unable to stop playing all day.

Peace, Love, & Hip Hop,
NxNW Noah

Wu-Tang Wednesday: "Method Man"

I apologize gratuitously for my recent absence from the blog. The past two months for me have been filled with me jumping through hoops tracing Jackson Pollocks filling out job apps that have no remote chance of being read by HR, interviewing, and partaking in the true Grail Quest of attempting to find affordable New York housing (Legend tells that it can be found somewhere between 110th Street and El Dorado. Somewhere between the Hudson and the Sands of Ilium).

When Alan Moore wrote The Killing Joke, I'm now fairly certain that it was meant to be an allegory for trying to find an apartment in Gotham. It's enough to make even the sanest man go crazy. But now that I've miraculously survived the process unmurdered, with a small shred of my sanity, and without having to part with any organs on Canal Street, I'm back to bring hip hoppery to the people.

I may be working 10-8 most days with a couple of night classes per week, but, now that my partner-in-crime Carver Low and I are in the same city, we can better guilt kindly push each other to post more often. My goal is to have at least one post per day for you good people.

I'll set it off with what will be a weekly series honoring what is arguably the most influential hip hop collective of all time: The Wu-Tang Clan. The posts will showcase stellar songs from the Wu's immense discography of group and solo albums as well as featured tracks, remixes, and rare unreleased songs and freestyles. Think of it as a friendly hump day reminder for Shaolin devotees to Protect Thy Neck. Hit the jump for the first post to Bring Da Ruckus:

Mock At Your Convenience

For recent college refugees, the job application process is a long, arduous, all-too-familiar ritual often involving poking, prodding, ignoring, internet filtering, rejection, and entry-level positions that, for reasons that confound modern science, require 3+ years of experience. I myself have been questing for that Holy Grail--an entry-level writing position willing to hire an entry-level writer--to no avail and remain trapped in the purgatory of freelancing and selling my body on Aurora.

Phil Ade - "The Letter" x "Going Off"

Some emcees seem effortless. Whether it's merely a facet of their voice and flow or a product of years of freestyling that produces a comfort with spoken word, some rappers can string together complex syllables without them seeming forced or self-aware. It's the opposite of the one-word punchline rhymes that saturated the rap game a few years back, and still appear in some places today. Phil Ade is one such rapper with an effortless flow, belying his youth.

Phil Ade hails from DC, and you can hear his city's influence on his tracks. He raps over go-go beats and his DMV accent draws quick comparisons to Wale. His style is quite distinct from Wale's, though. It's a bit more understandable, which is nice because sometimes I have no idea what Wale is saying through his DMV vocal flourishes.

The first track featured here, "Unusual," is also the first track on his second mixtape The Letterman. It absolutely oozes old school hip hop, conveying Joey Bada$$ levels of rhyming with a style that is (IMO), much more distinct. He pays homage to the old school, but doesn't let it define him. Nowhere is his effortless flow more apparent than when he strings together such complex rhyme schemes as "How you down to earth, but claim you astronomical? / in news periodical articles with artists headed to the mainstream, you don't seem very nautical".

"Going Off" is from Phil Ade's first mixtape, Starting on JV. The beat is raw, straight DC go-go. True to the title, he goes off on the uptempo beat, never losing steam in the entire song. The song itself clocks in at 3:39s, and there is not chorus to be spoken of. Tracks like this are the perfect way to get introduced to rapper, stripped-down, with as few distractions from their lyrical prowess as possible.

To top it off, Phil Ade seems to have his artistic intent in the right place*. He let's us know in that same effortless flow that he has on so many songs at the end of "The Letter," spitting:

"but when I'm in a Porsche and Range / 
and I have a portion of fame /
dear lord, let my course be the same"

"The Letter"

"Going Off"
*Granted, this can change at a moments notice. Who could have possibly imagined Yeezus after College Dropout came out?

Mac Miller - "Best Day Ever" x "Nikes On My Feet"

Mac Miller is a polarizing rapper. It's easy to write him off out of hand because he's a white kid from the 'burbs who managed to blow up in a traditionally black genre. His debut record Blue Slide Park was the first independent hip hop record to debut at #1 on the Billboard charts since Tha Dogg Pound's Dogg Food. No small feat, but Mac Miller is apparently not one to rest on his laurels. He's been prolific, releasing multiple mixtapes since Blue Slide Park, including an interesting foray into Jazz music under the pseudonym Larry Lovestein. Now, he's releasing the follow up to his debut record on June 18th, the same day J. Cole is dropping Born Sinner and Kanye West is unleashing Yeezus.

Much of the hate that Mac Miller receives is because he is so damn popular. The subtext is because suburban white kids love his music, and they control most of the buying power for media. But on June 18th, Mac Miller is suddenly the dark horse. Yeezus is an eclipse of a record, gathering almost Daft Punk levels of hype, and Born Sinner is no slouch either in terms of buzz. Each record looks to be very distinct, and one look at each of the album covers confirms this*. Yeezus is all high art and ego. Born Sinner plays directly to J. Cole's dark/light aesthetic. Watching Movies With the Sound Off? Let's just say it's a bit irreverent, poking fun at the seriousness of Kanye's more recent releases.

That's why I enjoy Mac Miller, he's not overly serious. He has fun. In today's era of irony, people are too easily written off as naive. Isn't there something glorious about being young and stupid? Rapping about Hennessy, sneakers, and skipping class might not be high art, but it's fun as fuck to listen to. These songs are from two of Mac Miller's earlier mixtapes, and they embody why everyone should have their weekly dose of Mac Miller. The simplicity helps cleanse us of the intensity of everyday life.

"Best Day Ever" is an intro, but it's also a fantastic song in its own right. It's message is simple, and it's delivered in the best possible way. I used to play this song in the morning when I woke up, and every once in a while I still do. It's one of those life-affirming things that, once we stop caring about what's trite and what's hip, is something everyone can relate to.

"Nikes on My Feet" was the first song I listened to by Mac Miller. I was immediately hooked, and not just because I related to Miller's obsession with a certain Swoosh symbol. The beat is simple boom bap with a sublimely fuzzy keyboard melody tying everything together, creating a perfect crossover sound that gives just enough of a nod to the old school sound that helped inspire the track.

Since these two songs, Mac Miller has experimented with many different styles. He's continuing to grow, which is what makes him so exciting. June 18th will be a great day for music, and a lesson in the longevity of a hip hop artist. Kanye has continued to grow throughout his career, but J. Cole's debut record was underwhelming at best, because it was more of a step back than a step forward. It remains to be seen where Mac Miller lands on this spectrum. Judging by his album cover, I don't think he much cares, and that's why I'll be listening to Watching Movies With the Sound Off on June 18th.

"Best Day Ever"

"Nikes on My Feet"

*Yep, I'm judging a book by its cover. Who said looks aren't everything?

J. Cole - "Crooked Smile" (feat. TLC)

When I say that J. Cole the singer ruins J. Cole the rapper's songs, it's tracks like the J. Cole/Elite-produced "Crooked Smile" that go a lot further in proving that than "Power Trip." Unlike the latter, J. Cole the singer is no where in sight on "Crooked Smile." Cole is a replacement level singer at best, someone that doesn't cost himself any more money to feature as a guest appearance and could fill in for another singer, but he isn't the singer that you want carrying a song.

With the wealth of singing talent in the music industry these days and how much money that major labels spend refining albums, you would think that Roc Nation would spring for a Miguel, Cody Chesnutt, or even a Fences guest appearance instead of having Cole sing on his own songs. It's the difference between a single being catchy like "Crooked Smile" or forgettable like "Power Trip." Jay-Z and Kanye both understand their own limitations and you won't see them singing on their own songs (we won't speak about 808s & Heartbreaks in these parts).

In fact, if I heard either singing on "Can't Knock The Hustle" or "All Falls Down," it would ruin both classic songs for me. At least Cole isn't below replacement level (see Nas, who almost single-handedly ruins It Was Written on "Street Dreams"), but his singing keeps many of his songs from reaching that next level and he thankfully leaves the singing to TLC on this catchy tune about dealing with his own flaws. Born Sinner drops on June 18th.

Previous: J. Cole - "N***az Know"

De La Soul - "Get Away" (feat. The Spirit of Wu Tang) [Music Video]

De La Soul is the rap equivalent of Alec Baldwin, an act that was very successful in the nineties and probably the most popular of their fellow Native Tongues brothers (it is admittedly a matter of choice between De La and Tribe, but for the sake of the analogy, I'll give the nod to De La), but when the new millennium rolled around they seemed washed up.

But like Baldwin on 30 Rock, De La has reinvented themselves over the course of the past decade. Just when fans were about to dismiss them as De La Were, Posdnuos, Trugoy, and Maseo dropped their critically acclaimed album, The Grind Date in 2004. While not the most commercially successful (see 30 Rock's reviews vs. actual ratings) the album was sonically distinct from anything the group had put out before and I still hold it to be the most underrated album of the 2000's.

Scarface - "No Tears"

The Geto Boys deserve at least 50% of the credit for Office Space (3% of the credit goes to my esteemed colleague, Carver Low's uncle, who plays the Jump-To-Conclusions guy). The film contains three of the best uses of rap songs in movie history (the above clip, "Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangster," and "Still") and they completely shift the entire the film.

Outside of musicals, I can't think of another film where the music set the tone better than Office Space. The H-Town hip hop perfectly introduced us to these characters, who, despite their meaningless white collar jobs, their assclown Michael Bolton names (Why should I change? He's the one who sucks.), and unnecessary TPS reports, absolutely connect with and love this music.

Since I was four when he dropped The Diary and have little memory of that time other than watching Power Rangers and my dad picking me up from pre-school for Mariner's games, this is the film that actually introduced me to Scarface and the Geto Boys.

The Physics - "Coronas On Madrona"

I originally posted this song as a part of The Physics' Three Piece, but with summer in the Northwest fast approaching, I wanted to give "Coronas On Madrona" its proper shine. The sun has been peeking out today, giving us a preview of the 70 degrees, no humidity, gorgeous days of Seattle summer that we can expect for the next 3-4 months in the Upper Left.

Almost every song in The Physics' discography is a summer gem meant to be played this time of year. From "Good" to "I Heart Beer" to "These Moments" to "Skylines," nearly every song is a laid-back, soulful masterpiece that can immediately bring you back home. "Coronas" is one of the group's very best and ended up making the final cut for our 64-song Seattle hip hop bracket.

Whether your sipping on a Corona at a Madrona BBQ, Red Hook/Elysium on Capitol Hill, or a quality imported brew at Brouwer's in Fremont, it's a quintessential Seattle anthem meant to be enjoyed on an idyllic Northwest summer afternoon.


Nas - "Be Worried" (prod. Swizz Beatz)

Swizz Beatz' "Top Down" was already a decent song in its own right way back on GTA IV, but Nasty absolutely demolished it. This track is from a few years back (Mr. Jones recorded it sometime between Untitled and Distant Relatives), but a lot of people haven't heard it so I'm bringing it back. "Be Worried" may not be as hardhitting as his Stillmatic tracks (let's be honest, few are), but it's a fun song that's an example of an emcee nearly two decades into his career and still near his peak.

Peace, Love, & Nasir,
Nasty Noah

Previous: Nas - "My War" (feat. Wu-Tang Clan?)

J. Cole - "N***az Know"

A much more lyrically vicious effort from J-Dot than "Power Trip" (J. Cole the singer is, thankfully, nowhere in sight). A bare bones instrumental places all the more emphasis on Cole's lyrics. Born Sinner drops on the same day Yeezus rises (June 18th). Check back later for the official track list.

Previous: J. Cole, Big K.R.I.T. & Kendrick Lamar - "They Ready"

Wale - "Sight Of The Sun" (feat. Fun.)

This is the Wale that hip hop heads fell for leading up to Attention Deficit. It's very reminiscent of pre-AD tracks, "Bittersweet" and "Fly Away" where the DMV native drops a verse or two over a celebrated song. This time, Wale brings back his effortless flow and witty wordplay over this gorgeous Fun. song of the same name. Here's hoping that it's a sign that The Gifted (dropping June 25th) will be more Attention Deficit and less Ambition.

Wale's dumbed down his sound and lyrics for popular appeal since signing to Maybach, so you can never tell, but I'm still hoping at the least for a Nas-esque career arch (a revered debut album followed by disappointing releases before a career resurrection). Too bad hip hop is too PC these days and it doesn't look like Jay-Z/J. Cole is going to drop a Wale diss track anytime soon to awaken Folarin from his slumber.

Peace, Love, & Hip Hop,

The Roots - "Break You Off" (feat. Musiq)

I'm not typically a proponent of 7+ minute songs. My ADHD attention span typically can't take tracks of that length, but I love every second of The Roots' "Break You Off." As the title implies, it's not their most politically centered song (it's essentially about that pursuit of meaningless sex), but it may very well be my favorite Roots song.

From the live band backed instrumental to the swooning Musiq hook and bridge to the seemingly effortless Black Thought lyrics, this hypnotic dance track has no flaws.

The one-two combination of "The Seed (2.0)"-"Break You Off" is absolutely deadly on the group's 2002 album, Phrenology and part of the reason why the album is almost universally upheld as a hip hop classic.

Previous: The Roots - "Doin' It Again" x "The Fire" (feat. John Legend)

Curren$y - "Address (feat. Stalley)"

"Y'all muthafuckas graduated already??"

I recently discovered that around this time of year, when kids are graduating from high school and college and other education-type institutions, I get a little nostalgic. Most people aren't good at saying goodbye to things they love, and I fall easily into that category. When you see other people re-living something that you can't have back, you naturally get a little bitter.

Instead of examining a song that conveys empathy towards bittersweet endings or a song that's just plain bitter, let's take a look at "Address," off of Curren$y's debut (and I will argue tooth-and-nail, best) record. The beat is Ski Beatz at his best, laying spaced-out choral tones over a steady 808-break. Curren$y is at his best here, stringing together phrases with nearly non sequitur sequences that mesh into one bright but cloudy image. Meanwhile, Stalley plays a similar game, his laid-back everyman flow allowing him to make creative slant rhymes like "long beard / round here" to string his verse into one very cohesive piece of writing.

However, the greatness of this song, and why graduates (and anybody else who is transitioning somewhere in their life) should take a listen, isn't in it's lyrical components. It's in the refrain.

"It's all good ain't gotta be said, it's already understood /
ain't nothin', ain't nothin' change but the address /
Fool ain't nothin' change but the address"

He may be talking about his own staunch refusal to go mainstream, but we can all take a page out of Curren$y's book here. Every time some thing ends, it feels like everything is different. That's rarely true. Spitta reminds us that, no matter how many times the script gets revised, we're still in the same role. We're the same people we always were, and probably always will be. I don't mean to say we aren't going to grow, just look at the difference between Pilot Talk and The Stoned Immaculate. What I'm saying is, no matter where we go, who we are always holds us down, in the best way possible. Curren$y says it best in one of his sneaky-good, oh-so-Curren$y lines:

"Makin' hot wheels outta hoopties / holdin' it down like balloon strings"

Curren$y - "Address (feat. Stalley)"

Blue Scholars - "The Long March"

Quick post today. Since I'm prepping for job interviews, I figured it would be appropriate to post the title-track off Geo and Sabzi's second album. The Long March EP is probably my favorite Scholars project (sorry Bayani, you came close). I'm a huge proponent of EPs because they tend to cut down on lesser filler tracks, leaving listeners with the crème de la crème.

The Long March is no different and I bumped it constantly when I first acquired it back in 2005. A lot of tracks from the EP barely missed the cut for our Seattle Tournament Bracket and for a while I knew every single lyric to every single song (I've got to shout out to the beautiful, haunting "La Botella" tale). Give me a couple spins through the thirty-five minute EP and it all comes back to me.

When I introduce people to the Scholars, I point to this criminally underrated EP first and Bayani second. Lyrically, it may be Geologic/Prometheus Brown at his finest with his fieriest revolutionary rhetoric. Production wise, it's a beautiful blend of the golden age horns that Sabzi was using on Common Market and the sound he had used on the Scholar's self-titled debut (marking a transition before the synth-filled sound of Bayani).

The EP is further proof of why these blue collar scholars are the kings of smart, political rap from Renton to Shoreline. The Seattle shoutout song "Cornerstone" (206 rock rock on) followed by this song about labor grind was the perfect way to start out The Long March and it continued from there. Enjoy and left right, left keep marching on.

Peace, Love, & Hip Hop,
No Days Off Noah

Previous: 206ness Tournament Bracketology | Blue Scholars - "Second Chapter"

Common Market - "Tobacco Road"

I'll forever call it home and I'll feel it whenever I call home.

It occurs to me that I don't have an individual post highlighting one of my favorite songs of the genre. There's a reason that this track made the final four in our gigantic 64-Song Seattle Hip Hop Bracket--nearly everything about this song is perfect.

In my youth (circa four years ago), I used to prefer Common Market's self-titled debut. Between Sabzi's horns and RA Scion's lyricism and hopeful message, 2005's Common Market was an absolute triumph of golden age sound. But as I've spun the duo's sophomore album more often in the past couple years, I've come to realize that Tobacco Road is a northwest classic in its own right.

Living Legends - "Nothing Less" (feat. Slug)

I can't believe that it's taken me this long to get around to posting about this legendary Cali collective. The LA/Bay Area-based Living Legends are composed of some of the most well respected underground west coast emcees (including Grouch and Murs) and have been making classic music together for nearly two decades.

This song, my favorite off 2001's Almost Famous, is one of the group's best and contains one of the Sad Clown's better verses. It's a gorgeous track that, in four brief minutes, touch upon all the important steps in a person's life. Enjoy.

Big K.R.I.T. - "If I Fall" (f. Melanie Fiona) x "Country Shit"

In celebration of the King Remembered In Time's show in Seattle on June 1st, I wanted to drop off two of my favorite K.R.I.T. tracks. The first is the gorgeous Melanie Fiona-assisted "If I Fall"--one of the best off the Mississippi emcee's debut 2012 album, Live From The Underground. K.R.I.T. is the natural successor to Southern rappers like Houston's Scarface. He's an emcee able to make diverse songs from the deep, intelligent commentary tracks ("Hometown Hero") to the hype tracks ("Country Shit") to Trap music staples ("Money On The Floor").

I have an irrational love of "Country Shit" having seen K.R.I.T. perform it live in Chicago last summer. Along with "Just Touched Down," "Return of 4Eva," "Rotation," and "I Got This," this hype track is just one of the many songs that lend themselves to one of the best live acts that I've seen. It's incrediblly high energy and fans absolutely go nuts whenever he plays this song. If any of you are in The 6 next Saturday night, I highly suggest finding your way to El Corazon.

If you like what you hear, make sure to cop K.R.I.T.'s debut album and download the rest of his mixtapes (particularly K.R.I.T. Wuz Here).

Peace, Love, & K.R.I.T.,

"Country Shit"

Previous: J. Cole, Big K.R.I.T. & Kendrick Lamar - "They Ready"

Logic - Welcome To Forever [Review]

This is the realest,
Only unto the real shall I reveal this.
I even made this beat myself just so y'all could feel this.
From Nasty Nas to Big L to A Tribe Called Quest,
We the Rattpack in other words the tribe that's next.

One of the things that I've always appreciated about sharing music on this blog is that it's forced me to stay up to date on the latest up-and-coming artists. In order to bring the best of the best to you good people, I have to scour the internets to find that next best act. It's part of the reason why my recent absence was all the more painful--I basically have a year-long gap in my iTunes library (I promise that I'm mostly caught up). 

That's part of the reason why I missed out on the rise of DMV emcee Logic from high school dropout to XXL Freshman. But it's also why I was able to come to Welcome To Forever with fresh ears and without any biases. It was my first time hearing this talented artist and it's why it was such a pleasant surprise that this mixtape was one of the best things that I've heard lyrically in sometime.

J. Cole, Big K.R.I.T. & Kendrick Lamar - "They Ready"

J. Cole will always be held to a higher standard. He's the Andrew Luck of this generation's rappers. The number one overall pick by Jay-Z, a man that many hold to be the GOAT. Cole has all the tools to surpass his mentor and like Luck will always be compared to the man he succeeded (Manning for Luck, Jay for Cole). Anything less than MVPs and rings will be viewed as a failure for Luck. It's why good will never be good enough for J. Cole or Luck. It's why Cole World--a good album in its own right--was a disappointment. Every time that Cole hops on a track, we expect a classic song or a classic album. It's an absurd expectation, but that's what he's capable of and something that he'll have to struggle to live up to.

If J. Cole is Luck then Kendrick Lamar is the RG3 of this generation--a similarly gifted rapper who was the first round pick by another classic artist--Dr. Dre. As one would expect from one following in the footsteps of former Dre proteges Snoop Feline and Eminim, Lamar can rap circles around your favorite emcee better RG3 juking out defenders. Lamar will be held to similarly high standards (but not nearly as high as J. Cole). It was not surprising at all that Lamar had the best freshman album of these three talented rappers--he's gone the furthest in living up to his immense potential so far (if only he could get some more diverse instrumentals on his next album).

FUPM - "Alright, Alright" x "Dope Out My Window"

FUPM. It stands for Fuck You, Pay Me, and I'm not one to argue with these guys (download links aside). FUPM is Bobby Creekwater and Stat Quo. Both have made a name for themselves independently; Bobby Creekwater as a once "next up" emcee who never made that final leap to the mainstream (we've featured him on the site before), and Stat Quo was the second emcee signed to Aftermath Records after 50 Cent.

They're both undoubtedly talented rappers, but before now neither had found a sound that fit either of them. Now, together, they have. Maybe it was age, experience, or just a change in the culture around them, but these two songs are some of my very favorites to slap with the windows down rolling around town once summer arrives. There's a supposed album in the works very soon, but FUPM's social media accounts haven't been exactly prolific recently. So, I'll use this post as hype for something that might not even exist. Never discount the power of hype.

The first track samples and is based around a Kevin Hart joke, but despite any apparent facetiousness, I too found myself chanting "alright, alright, alriiiiight" after the first few listens. Bobby Creekwater and Stat Quo trade verses throughout the song, both absolutely killing the track. The second song especially embodies why these songs are excellent. The song is ostensibly about smoking copious amounts of marijuana and having that shit flow out the window with abandon. I liken it to when I roll down the windows so that everyone has to hear the audio dope* I have turned up beyond loud. It's near impossible to pick out a favorite verse from these songs, so I'll just leave you with these bars from Bobby Creekwater, who shows that swagger is only played out when the term is used undeservedly. These muthafuckas have some swagger.

"I got one night, with an appetite
and a swagger this bitch just have to like /
she got half a night to rock half the mic
she gon' probably remember this in the afterlife"

"Alright, Alright"
"Dope Out My Window"

Previous: Bobby Creekwater - "2 Far Gone" x "I Hate You Too"

*Credit, Curren$y

Champagne Champagne - Champagne Mixtape

As promised, the Seattle trio of Thomas Gray, Pearl Dragon, and Gajamagic dropped off their Champagne Mixtape this morning. The five tracks aside from the intro are a mix of old and new. "Cave Singer Pop Rocks" is the trio's extended rendition of "Soda & Pop Rocks" (off Private Party) that Gajamagic places over new mellow beat. The same story with "Playground Swine" which is "Swine" over a new beat, but as far as I can tell, the other three tracks are brand stanking new.

Champagne Champagne - "The Breaks" x "Four Horsemen"

Champagne Champagne is a group that tends to slip under the radar even within the Seattle hip hop scene. Part of this has to do with the fact that they're atrocious to google (nearly every rapper has a song/album with Champagne in the title). Part of it has to do with the fact that this two out of three of this experimental synth/rock/hip hop trio's best songs come as features on other artists' albums.

"Kings" was the best song on Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' monumental Vs. EP and Sir Thomas Gray had what was perhaps the best verse on the entire project. The trio were also featured on "What You Asked For," which was by far the best song off State of the Artist's debut, Seattlecalifragilisticextrahelladopeness (this time with Pearl Dragon giving the album's best verse).

Dumbfoundead & DJ Zo - "Zonin" x "No Strings Attached"

Soak it up, and dance all night til you sweat out all the toxins /
so soak it up, this is that music for your body to get lost in

Dumbfoundead hails from Koreatown, LA. He's brash, cocky, and nothing you'd expect from an immigrant Korean kid brought up in Los Angeles. Or maybe he is, depending on your perception of Asian stereotypes. No matter what stereotypes prevail, Dumbfoundead breaks them all.

Recently, Dumbfoundead was featured on NPR's Code Switch series. He also recently released a new mixtape, Old Boy Jon (download it, it's free). These are all great ways to get acquainted with the rapper who's done more for Asians in hip hop in his career than anyone else, and may have undone everything that Jin did*.

These songs are the first two that appear on the Cut + Paste mixtape, and also the first two songs I listened to by Dumbfoundead. The tape's concept has DJ Zo sampling popular indie songs and mixes them into beats for Dumbfoundead to express himself on. The combination of Dumb's laid-back flow and the variety of artists DJ Zo samples, the concept the works quite well, sounding distinct enough to fall well outside of the overwrought 'mash-up' genre.

Clinton Sparks - "Gold Rush" (feat. Macklemore, 2 Chainz, & D.A.)

Not really the artists that I'd expect Macklemore to collaborate with on his first new music since The Heist. It sounds more like the newly signed Def Jams artist Clinton Sparks hired two buzzworthy artists (Mack & 2 Chainz) to help hype up his album. The song might work better with a different instrumental (especially without those annoying high pitched whistles), but maybe it's a song that will grow on me or will be remixed with a better instrumental (I'm looking at you Ryan Lewis).

Still, you can't really complain about the first new Macklemore in over eight months.

Black Moon - "What Would U Do" (feat. Sean Price)

I'm normally not a huge fan of New York's Black Moon, but I have an irrational love of this song off their Total Eclipse album. Even though it's from 2003, the sparse De Beatminerz instrumental has a distinct 90's feel and features emcees Buckshot and Sean Price trading short verses that sound much more like a conversation than songs with more bars per verse.

It's an underrated classic that deserved a bit more shine. Enjoy.

Shad - "Rose Garden" f. Lisa Lobsinger x "A Good Name" x "Call Waiting"

One of hip hop's better kept secrets hails from our neighbor to the north. I first heard Canadian-raised Shadrach Kabango when he opened for Macklemore & Ryan Lewis in New York a couple years back. Based on his incredible live set, I immediately copped his 2010 album TSOL and haven't been disappointed by what I've heard from Shad since.

The son of Rwandan immigrants, Shad is a natural storyteller who uses playful lyrics to convey at times deep, powerful messages over a classic golden age sound. Despite some of the deeper songs, he never comes across as preachy and is one of my favorite Canadian emcees along with Saukrates.

Of these three, "A Good Name" is probably my favorite. It sees Shad take pride in his origins, tracing his given name back to the Biblical Shadrach (Saved by a faith stronger than flame/ If I'm half as brave, then I'll honor my name) before tracing his surname back to Rwanda and his own father.

It's a great song off a great album. If you like what you here, make sure to cop TSOL and be on the look out for his follow-up, Flying Colours, set to be released sometime later this year. Enjoy.

"Rose Garden"

"A Good Name"

"Call Waiting"

The-Dream - "IV Play"

Sometimes, you have to listen to the poppiest thing.

The-Dream can be corny. He's known to use the posse shout "Ayee!" more liberally than Guy Fieri uses mayonnaise*, as if all his homeboys are in the room with him every time he's making sweet love to a respectable lady-friend. He gets away with it because his songs are the epitome of Pop music, in their own right. There isn't ever one sound or genre of music that defines Pop, because it's defined by whatever is popular at the time, and The-Dream has written and produced quite a bit of popular music in his career. The-Dream realizes Pop music, every cheesy** move included.

J. Cole - Born Sinner Artwork x "Shook"

In a tweet earlier today, J. Cole announced that his sophomore album, Born Sinner, has been completed and the release date has been moved up to June 18th from the original June 25th, which means that it will be debuting on the same day as a certain Chicago producer's highly anticipated Yeezus. Stay tuned for the track listing and in the meantime, make sure to check out the Kendrick Lamar Born Sinner story that Cole released to build hype for the album.

Here's hoping that J. Cole the singer doesn't ruin too many of J. Cole the rapper's songs (as demonstrated on the album's first single, "Power Trip"). Hit the jump for the deluxe version artwork and the stream/download of one of my favorite pre-Warm Up Cole freestyles over Mobb Deep's classic "Shook Ones" instrumental. Via Xclusives Zone.

KnowMads - "Happy Simples" x "Who Are You?"

Two underrated songs KnowMad songs that both missed the final cut for the 64-song 206ness bracket. Both are off the first album, So It Goes, which I'm still astounded that the group made when they were sixteen and seventeen. The quality of the album is made all the more astounding when you listen Professor Macklemore's Open Your Eyes, which he made when he was around the same age. Where Open Your Eyes sounds like a rough demo cut, So It Goes sounds like a refined album with several classic Seattle songs ("Sunrise" made it to the Final Four of said bracket).

"Happy Simples" is a song that I often compare to Grynch's "Memory Lane." Its beautiful song about growing up and lost innocence that sees them rapping to Cheef's kid brother about the difference between life at his age and life as a teenager. It's an incredibly endearing song that demonstrated the KnowMad crew's talent from a very early point in their careers.

"Who Are You?" loses a lot of steam after Tom Pepe's first verse, but that verse is still one of my favorites from this very talented, young Seattle emcee.

Well I'm a big bad motherfucker waiting for his time,
I'm a millionaire Scarface waiting for his line.
I'm a million steps ahead of you, piercing through the sky,
Many will follow, but very few can fly.

If you like what you hear, make sure to download their first two albums, which they released for free.99 and support their latest effort, The KnewBook.

Peace, Love, & The 6,

"Happy Simples"

Note: "Who Are You?" is having errors uploading to Audiomack, if you want to hear it, go here.

Kidz In The Hall - "Wheelz Fall Off" x "Day By Day/We Almost Lost"

In high school I was most talkative
Now I'm most decadent
Flow heaven sent
Laced intelligent
Your's irrelevant
Hot like fire cooler then peppermint
Still benevolent
Rose gold necklace
You was left negligent
Case closed, no settlement or arraignment
Spit for my sanity not for entertainment
Never on some lame shit
Lean to the left y'all on the same shit
Imitate the same hit
You think that's dope I say hardly
Don't listen to radio singled out like McCarthy
Trying to be the black McCartney

Sam Lachow presents..."Young Seattle Pt. 2"

EDIT: Added a couple Sam Lachow (and Raz) songs down bottom to get to know him better. The first is a sorta-kinda love song from his EP 5 Good Reasons with Raz Simone, the second is the opening track from his Avenue Music EP.

In light of Macklemore's runaway success, let me introduce some Seattle spitters that haven't ever been featured on this site. Internet, meet Sam Lachow, Gift uh Gab, Nacho Picasso, Jarv Dee, La, Raz Simone, and Grynch.

These rappers aren't total unknowns (we've featured Grynch on this site more than once), but this showcase is a great way to get acquainted with their various styles. Each of the emcees is quite different, keeping the song really fresh. It also doesn't hurt that each emcee only gets a quick 16 before handing off the mic. This is a video that needs to be watched more than once.

Sam Lachow and Kromagnon construct a sparse beat, perfect for each verse to have full reign of. Most posse cuts have a repetitive beat that doesn't grow over the course of the song, but this song takes a more subtle route. Instead of leaving the boom-bap of Sam's verse for all the other's to do their thing on, the producers make slight shifts after each verse, complementing the style of each emcee. Sam Lachow's goofy, laid-back flow sets the tone, Gift uh Gab gets a shaker effect and a breakdown, Nacho Picasso takes the beat into outer space...I could go on, but words pale in comparison to the aural experience.

Just like any good posse cut, there's the accompanying debate about who really killed it. I'll withhold my opinion, but let us know down bottom.
"Coyotes (feat. Ariana DeBoo)"

"Got Soul (feat. Ariana DeBoo)"*

*I swear Ariana DeBoo isn't on all of his tracks, although her voice is beautiful.

OutKast - "Last Call" (feat. Slimm Calhoun, Lil' Jon & The Eastside Boyz, & Mello)

Quick post today since I'm out of town:

Even though Speakerboxxx/The Love Below was labeled as an OutKast album, in reality it was just Three Stacks and Left Foot's first solo albums that they released together. Only two of the thirty-nine tracks feature the ATLiens performing together.

The Love Below is more popular, with hits like "Hey Ya!" and "Roses." It also features more singing than rapping from André 3000, which is perfectly fine. I hold that Benjamin and Lauryn Hill are the only people on earth talented enough to pull off both (to which the new wave of rappers bears increasing testimony--as much as I love J. Cole the emcee, I hate J. Cole the tone deaf singer who ruins J. Cole the emcee's songs).

But Speakerboxxx is the better pure hip hop album and my favorite of the two. From the booming bass of the "Intro/Ghetto Musick" to "Church" to the Hova-assisted "Flip Flop Rock" to the closing "Last Call" there isn't a single skippable song on the album. Big Boi often gets overshadowed in everyone's love of his recording partner, but he's a Top-15 emcee in his own right. Any Top-25 list is not to be taken seriously without mentioning Patton somewhere on the list.

"Last Call" is a sneaky good party track that a surprising amount of people haven't heard (mostly because a lot of people just pay attention to singles). Its one of my personal favorites and is one of the best ATL songs. Bump it at the party this weekend and, whatever your plans, remember to stay classy.

Peace, Love, & ATLiens,

Previous: Purple Ribbon All-Stars - "Kryptonite (I'm On It)"