Recently murdered rappers share striking similarities: They ‘got it out the mud’ and had next

image2Hip-hop doesn’t pull triggers. Jealousy does. Anger does. The storyline of murdered rappers in the hip-hop game has striking similarities.

Young rappers who ‘got it out the mud.’ Emerging stars who had next, but next never came. Artists who never had nothing handed. Took nothing for granted. But somehow managed to get a glimpse of the good life – successful mixtapes, radio buzz, hometown name recognition, support from well-respected artists, strip club DJs, and grassroot campaigns in the streets.

When you start getting that kinda love, you start feeling like Clayton County’s Jigga man. Montgomery’s BIG. Or even Bankhead’s Puff.

We witnessed their come-ups. Bankroll Fresh. Doe B. Slim Dunkin. Dolla. Lil Snupe. Yung Mazi.

Yung-Mazi-Shot-AgainAugust 6, 2017. Atlanta’s very own Yung Mazi was shot multiple times outside of a pizza joint. The talented Kevin Gates affiliate survived prior shootings that could have easily taken his life. His death was mourned by the entire hip-hop community, serving as a reminder of just how dangerous the rap game can be.  Jibril Abdur-Rahman was murdered at 31 years old. The case is still unsolved.

bankrollMarch 4, 2016. Bankroll Fresh was killed outside of a recording studio in Atlanta. Fresh was big timing for an independent artist. Worked with 2Chainz, Gucci Mane, Jeezy, Zaytoven and so many others. His song “Hot Boy” had the streets on lock. It was an instant new anthem. Couldn’t go anywhere without hearing it. Street Money Worldwide was his life. He wore it like a badge of honor. Fresh died at the age of 28. Trentavious White’s murder is still unsolved.

lil snupeJune 20, 2013. Meek Mill’s protege Lil Snupe had it all figured out at a young age. The 18-year-old Dream Chasers rapper who was on the rise died from multiple gunshot wounds in Louisiana. The teen had the rap game’s attention. Boosie Badazz worked with him. DJ Khaled. Trae Tha Truth. The GOAT Curren$y. Artists hustle for decades to even hop on a track with one of these big name artists. But Snupe did it. At just 18 years old, he live out his dream. Now we may never know how far he could have taken it. Rest in peace Addarren Ross.

DOE-BDecember 28, 2013. Up-and-coming rapper Doe B was shot dead at a nightclub in Montgomery. He was signed to T.I’s label Grand Hustle and managed by DJ Frank White. I remember the buzz he was getting… so unreal. “Let Me Find Out” was just starting to blow up. His mixtape Baby Jesus was popping. And then it all ended so fast. So soon. The South’s Biggie gone before he could prove to the world he could be just as famous as Brooklyn’s Christopher Wallace. Glenn Thomas was dead at 22 years old.

slim-dunkinDecember 16, 2011. Slim Dunkin gunned down before he reached his potential. If you followed the Atlanta rap scene back then, you’d know Dunk has been making noise on his collabs with Waka Flocka Flame. The Clayton County representer was a rising star on Bricksquad Monopoly. He was also close friends with Gucci Mane. While at a recording studio, a fight broke out and then someone pulled out a gun. Killing Mario Hamilton. He was only 24 years old.

dolla

May 18, 2009. Atlanta rapper Dolla had just signed with Akon’s Konvict Musik and was just about to finish up his debut album. With industry ties to Akon, T-Pain, Diddy and Missy Elliot, the young rapper had stardom potential. Dolla was in Los Angeles to finish his album when he was shot dead. Gunned down at a shopping mall. Roderick Anthony Burton II was just 21 years old.

All these rappers left too soon. Their family members probably wonder every single day what could have been. They all came from humble beginnings. So humble, it’s hard to distinguish which struggle is connected to which town. Somehow Clayton County shares the same pain of Montgomery and Baton Rouge if you listen to all of their lyrics.

We don’t have to know exactly who murdered them to know it most likely stemmed from jealousy and hatred. Every industry veteran will tell you that. As a reporter, I’ve interviewed Bankroll Fresh’s family multiple times and talked with Yung Mazi’s friends for our breaking news coverage on 11Alive News (the NBC affiliate in Atlanta). They all express the same pain. The industry tends to have an idea of who got next years in advance. But, someone may not want to see you shine if they can’t.

They all attempted to make it out of the trap… like the previous generation of murdered rappers: Tupac (unsolved). Jam Master J (unsolved). Notorious BIG (unsolved). Soulja Slim (unsolved). Mac Dre (unsolved). Big L. and so many more.

As many cases of murdered rappers remain unsolved and more aspiring artists like Bambino Gold lose their life before they reach their dreams, it’s easy to blame the entire genre. That’s the blame game we’ve been hearing since hip-hop started to become a reflection of the environment the artists hail from. That’s why the legendary Chuck D said hip-hop is the CNN for the streets.

But now, more hip-hop artists are reaching out to the youth to send a message that violence is NOT the answer. To not always mimic what they hear and see. To handle their conflicts in non-violent ways. Maybe this will help save the future generation of rappers coming up. You know, aspiring artists hoping to make a name for themselves. Hoping to make it out the mud and make a mill. Long live Bankroll, Snupe, Mazi, Dolla, Doe B and Dunk.

Author: Neima Abdulahi, news reporter for 11Alive News (NBC Atlanta). Follow me on Instagram: NeimerDreamer

Demystifying the mutation of music genres [Mississippi delta blues + folk + rock ‘n roll]

johnhurtBlues singer Mississippi John Hurt never got the credit he deserved. I mean, what African-American musician born in the late 1800’s did? He came into this world in 1893 – barely free, broke, and somehow discovered his own unique style that easily turned him into a musical treasure. 

Hurt worked as a sharecropper, singing the riveting tunes of the Mississippi delta blues with his fingerpickin’ guitar. He was a self-taught musician. Channeling his God-given talent during an ugly time in history. Humming the tunes of spirituals that kept an entire race optimistic and hopeful. Hopeful that their lively and intricately woven lyrics about better days would someday come true.

The Mississippi Delta, widely recognized as the birthplace of the blues, is located between the Mississippi River and the Yazoo River. The distinctive region extends all the way up to another music landmark – Memphis, Tennessee.

Hurt came from the era where the state you were born in became part of your stage name. This was a trend in the early 1900’s. Examples of other delta blues artists are: Mississippi Joe Callicott, Mississippi Fred McDowell and Mississippi Slim. All these artists would go on to influence commercially successful blues singers like BB King, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker and Bo Diddley. You know, the ones who managed to market their brands in the North aka the land of opportunities.

Here’s how the Delta influenced several generations and movements to follow. Legendary folk singer Pete Seeger was a white man capable of captivating black audiences with charisma and relevancy during a segregated society. Remnants of slavery lingered in Jim Crow’s south. It lingered in the politics, cultural norms and music.

What Pete Seeger was able to do was parallel his music career with social activism – creating protest music that excited people from all backgrounds (and angered others). The Harvard college dropout took a liking to John Hurt’s authentic folksy & bluesy music. Hurt would perform poetic songs about the lonesome valley on Pete’s television show “Rainbow Quest.”

Pete gave Mississippi John Hurt a platform to speak his truths. If it wasn’t for the almost-forgottens like Mississippi John Hurt, Pete Seeger would not have been as successful with his folk music revival movement. You can argue with me on this, but I stand behind it. Generations of influential musicians spiraled out of the Mississippi delta sound.

Artists like Mississippi John Hurt influenced Pete Seeger – who you can’t mention without also acknowledging Woody Guthrie’s career. Seeger went on to influence the lyrical genius Bob Dylan who influenced John Lennon (once he pursued a solo career). Lennon would go on to influence many modern day contemporary rock ‘n roll singers. Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones were both influenced by the delta blues. So were all the British Invasion bands who mimicked the soulful and fiery harmonic delivery of blues singers – a hallmark style distinguishable and hard to execute without the life experiences to bring the lyrics to life.

Blues music originated as a temporary escape to make the best out of harsh situations. You can imagine what I mean by harsh. The testimonies inked in legendary blues songs paved the way for artists who demanded social change – Bob Dylan, John Lennon, etc. African-American folk culture, birthed by the likes of Mississippi John Hurt, deserves its credit. Not just in small-town museums in the Mississippi delta, but everywhere. It’s timeless music. The kind of music probably playing somewhere in heaven right now. Rest in peace to all the delta blues legends.

How Tupac’s concrete rose became Kendrick Lamar’s pimped butterfly

kdot

Kendrick Lamar. Tupac Amaru Shakur. Two complicated poets disguised as rappers in two different eras. Kendrick, who originally went by the stage name K-Dot, started to gain buzz on the Billboard Charts in 2010 – fourteen years after Pac’s death. He was 9 years old when the legendary California rapper was gunned down in a drive-by shooting. The murder mystery has remained a cold case since then. Who killed Pac? Who killed the conflicted ‘concrete rose’ who could quote Shakespeare and Mandela in the same conversation? Well, we’ve all read the speculations, but still no arrest.

No doubt about it, Kendrick constantly credits Pac as his biggest influence. Okay, everyone else does too… but this is different.  They both represent Cali like a badge of honor. Any search engine can easily verify that. If Pac was still alive, he WOULD be proud of Kendrick’s efforts. “Overly dedicating” his career to  revitalizing the West Coast hip-hop scene we first fell in love with in the early 90’s. The golden era when low-riders were steady bumpin’ to funky melodic beats with dirty lyrics your grandma wouldn’t want you playin’. If you know why I put “overly dedicating” in quotation marks, you may be a bigger hip-hop fan than you think.

Here’s why this blog post is titled: “How Tupac’s concrete rose became Kendrick Lamar’s pimped butterfly.” Let me give you a breakdown.

K-Dot and Pac both realized early on in their careers that young hip-hop fans “never do listen unless it comes with an 808.” That’s a direct quote from an old Kendrick song. An 808 is a drum machine that can create powerful rhythmic beats. The machine breaks genre barriers – heavily embraced in EDM, pop, along with Miami bass music and the Atlanta trap sound. What Kendrick means is if a message comes with an 808, the message may actually get HEARD by the youth. After all, music has an ability to make people listen. This is what I meant by ‘poets disguised as rappers.’ They both ingeniously lace beats with rhyme schemes and powerful messages that challenge the status quo.

Both poets introduced two metaphors with striking similarities. “The concrete rose” and “the butterfly.” In Tupac’s poem about the concrete rose, he describes a rose that grew from a crack in a concrete. A seed that wasn’t expected to blossom sprouted to the surface with damaged petals. The rose is Tupac. The concrete is the rough environment he survived. The damaged petals are his battle scars. He wasn’t expected to sprout and blossom the way he did.

Before he was even born, Pac was in prison. His mother sat behind bars while she was pregnant. He would spend the rest of his life feeling imprisoned by societal limitations. This poem represents Tupac the optimist.

As we all know, there are different versions of Pac. This analysis focuses on the man who encouraged people to reach their goals despite their circumstances. While society may wonder why your petals are damaged, Tupac wanted you to see the beauty in your resilience. In order for a rose to grow from a crack in the concrete, it had to adapt to it’s environment. Adaptation is a common theme between Pac’s rose and K-Dot’s butterfly.

Kendrick Lamar’s butterfly metaphor unintentionally appears as a continuation of the concrete rose storyline. The title of his 2015 album “To Pimp A Butterfly” tells the story of a caterpillar that represents his inner demons. We are all caterpillars hoping and praying to one day spread our wings and reach our potential.

Kendrick describes a thought-provoking analysis of the caterpillars he knows in Compton. Those growing up in a black culture emotionally distressed by poverty, gun violence, gang activity and distrust for law enforcement. Will they ever become butterflies? Will their wings be clipped? Will they settle for being a caterpillar for the rest of their life? Talking about how they coulda-woulda-shoulda took the time to invest in themselves (cocoon phase).

Kendrick says the caterpillar can feel institutionalized by the cocoon, same way the seed can feel limited by the crack in the concrete. Both have to endure the challenging process of being confined to find their own unique beauty. Their own individual identity. The reason why Kendrick’s butterfly metaphor is a continuation of the concrete… is because of his remarkable posthumous conversation with the late California rapper.

In the last song on “To Pimp a Butterfly,” K-Dot uses a 20-year-old audio recording of Pac to chat with the legend. You could consider this the unofficial passing of the baton between two Cali artists who never crossed paths. Kendrick tells Pac about how the caterpillar is a prisoner to the streets and how it must protect itself. This is the “to-be-continued” version of the concrete rose twenty-five years after the poem was written.

Because of his tragic death, Tupac will forever be frozen in time as a 25-year-old MC who could have accomplished so much more. Remembered in time as a bright-eyed, gifted, unapologetically black and a socially-conscious optimist.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Both artists have survived living in violent environments.  Their humble beginnings made them tempered, woke and untamed in their music. Let that sink in. Tempered. Woke. Untamed. Spiritually enlightened and informed like Mandela. Passionate like Malcolm. Mainstream like RUN DMC. Edgy like Easy-E. And enough successful radio hits to make Taylor Swift fans rap along to the not-so-clean lyrics.

Tupac would be proud of Kendrick. Tupac Amaru Shakur. A conflicted legend who disguised himself as a gangster rapper. Misusing his influence every now and then to live up to a dangerous hype he helped create. (you know, the infamous feud with Biggie Smalls).

I’ll end this post with what Kendrick would tell Pac if he was still alive today. An excerpt from his song Mortal Man:

“I remember you was conflicted. Misusing your influence. Sometimes I did the same. Abusing my power, full of resentment. Resentment that turned into a deep depression. Found myself screaming in the hotel room. I didn’t wanna self destruct. The evils of Lucy was all around me. So I went running for answers. Until I came home. But that didn’t stop survivor’s guilt. Going back and forth trying to convince myself the stripes I earned. Or maybe how A-1 my foundation was. But while my loved ones was fighting the continuous war back in the city, I was entering a new one. A war that was based on apartheid and discrimination. Made me wanna go back to the city and tell the homies what I learned.The word was respect. Just because you wore a different gang color than mine’s. Doesn’t mean I can’t respect you as a black man. Forgetting all the pain and hurt we caused each other in these streets. If I respect you, we unify and stop the enemy from killing us. But I don’t know, I’m no mortal man, maybe I’m just another…”

Hip-Hop Quote Of The Day: BIG K.R.I.T (@BIGKRIT)

“I know you’ve been down so long, so I’ll be stronger for you.
I know you’ve been down so long, ’cause I’ve been down too.
Yes I understand what you’re going through.
Yes I understand ’cause I’m going through it too.
I pray that you find your way and all things old become new.
I pray that you find your way for my sake because I’m lost too.
Yes I understand what you’re going through.
Yes I understand because I’m going through it too.
Hope you understand when I call out for you to vent.” – BIG K.R.I.T (THE VENT)

@BigSean: ‘Finally Famous’ Album Review

With his catch phrase “I Do It”, Detroit emcee Big Sean can now sit back and say it in past tense. His debut album Finally Famous, which released on June 28,  received raving reviews and positive feedback from the hip-hop community.

After the first day of being released, the album was projected to sell close to 100,000. After the first week, the album sold 84,566 copies. This is a huge accomplishment for two reasons. First, the album leaked two weeks before it even dropped. Second, even when it dropped, the Internet makes it easy to illegally download almost anything. For Big Sean to sell those many records is a testament of his fans’ loyalty.

Finally Famous is a representation of Big Sean’s progress as an artist. Back in 2007, the Detroit emcee dropped his first mixtape titled Finally Famous: The Mixtape. He would follow that mixtape with Finally Famous: Vol. 2 and Finally Famous: Vol. 3. As he continued to build up his credibility and artistic vision, Big Sean planned to execute the content for his album.

The first single “My Last” featuring Chris Brown has remained a fan favorite on music countdowns and the airwaves. Besides Chris Brown, the album has features from industry heavyweights like his mentor Kanye West, Roscoe Dash, Lupe Fiaco, Wiz Khalifa, Chiddy Bang and The Dream.

The intended second single off the album “I Do It” is starting to bow down to the contagious third single “Marvin Gaye & Chardonnay” track, with Kanye West blessing a few verses and Atlanta’s own Roscoe Dash gracing the catchy and melodic hook.

Big Sean has not failed in masterminding a classic album. The young 23 year old Detroit native, proving to be a workaholic,  plans on dropping a new mixtape in a few weeks. Now that’s a constant flow of G.O.O.D Music. Go listen to Big Sean’s labor of love and buy the album Finally Famous.