J.Cole’s new album ‘KOD’ is a self-help guide for millennial hypebeasts

jcole album

J.Cole’s new album ‘KOD’ is not just for people with bookshelves, good credit, kindles and a 401K plan. Yes, it’s deep and lyrical enough for a traditional conscious rap audience. But this album is targeting another group.

…..millennial hypebeasts who follow trends with social media infatuations, seeking instant gratification from ‘likes’, quick success, and affiliating with what’s considered cool at the time.

The North Carolina MC is giving a free therapy session for the industry at the right time. ‘KOD’ is a self-help guide for anyone trying to make it from the bottom to the top. But this all depends on how the ‘top’ is defined and who’s defining it.

I’m not surprised this album dethroned the mainstream superstar Taylor Swift’s Spotify record. His title track ‘KOD’ broke the opening day record for most streams in the U.S. Here’s the breakdown: J.Cole’s KOD – 4.2m, Taylor Swift’s Look What You Made Me Do – 3.8m, Kendrick Lamar’s DNA -3.6m, J.Cole’s Photograph 3.55m, The Weeknd’s Call Out My Name – 3.5m.

 

The album leaves a lot to the imagination. For example: What does ‘KOD’ even mean? According to Cole, it could mean three things: kids on drugs, king overdose, or kill our demons. It all depends on how you interpret it. But all three title options have one thing in common – addiction. You’d have to listen to the album to pick up on how many forms of addiction he touches on. Here’s a hint – a whole lot.

When you see how successful the album already is with little promotion, it makes you wonder how a conscious rap project could be so relevant and get this kind of love? Because he’s talking about current topics. This 5th LP is different. It taps into a mentorship he sees missing in the industry and the hip-hop community.

While we love the hype and come-up of artists who rise to the top quickly, that comes with a price. Can they maintain that success? Will their fans continue to support them as they grow from their teenage years and into adulthood? Or are they just hot now and gone tomorrow? Cole – whether you agree with him or not – is breaking down the game to a microscopic level. It’s not meant to offend but just provide the kind of prospective you gain once you’ve been in the game almost 10 years strong.

Just think about it. Cole came up the same time we became familiar with Drake, Wale, Kendrick, Cudi, B.O.B, Big Sean, Wiz, Meek Mill, Big K.R.I.T, and so many other breakthrough artists around the year 2009. I call all these artists the baby GOATS. They’ve survived long enough to know their place in the industry, but also have seen so many changes, styles, trends, fads and ‘new waves’ while maintaining their authenticity.

The times and waves have changed. While I personally embrace the new ‘freshmen’ class of hip-hop/trap music, I know there’s still a place for conscious rap albums like KOD to take off and break records. It’s easy to criticize “SoundCloud rap” and “mumble rap” and dismiss it as ‘not real hip-hop’ but that’s part of the culture now. Just look at how successful it’s become.

In this album, I don’t think Cole has beef with the new sounds, he just wants to warn them about things to avoid (and he has a loooooong list throughout the 12 tracks). The good news is there’s enough room in the industry for a Migos album to sell millions of copies and for a Kendrick Lamar album to win a Pulitzer prize. That’s variety. And it says alot about the taste bud of hip-hop consumers – they love it all.

As I listened to Cole’s album, it reminded me of how the legendary producer NO I.D helped shape the style of Jay-Z’s 4:44 project. The beats weren’t overpowering. The lyrics guided you through the album instead of highly-produced beats that have a personality of its own. It’s a reversal effect from what we’re used to. Cole produced the majority of the album himself. Not surprised because it seems carefully stitched together. He sampled Junior Mafia’s 1994 classic ‘Get Money’, Kanye’s 2004 track ‘We Don’t Care’, the legendary Bill Withers’ 1972 song “Kissing My Love.”

My favorite track from the album is ‘1985’ because Cole takes jabs at the industry without coming from a rude place. He cares about the art as an artist and isn’t afraid to tell you how he feels whether you agree with him or not.

The big question in this ‘self-help guide’ of an album is, who in the industry will listen? Will it shift any artists’ direction? Will the audience he’s targeting even listen? I mean, they don’t have to. I do know one thing. When lyricism gets mainstream love, it makes you wonder why that’s so rare. I mean, just look at the Spotify numbers. I’m happy to see a time in hip-hop where a project like this can make a big splash. The industry is at an intersection right now. And with this album, Cole is standing in the middle of the intersection as a crossing guard trying to guide traffic to detour routes instead of the ‘fast lane’ he considers hazardous roads.

MY PREDICTION: Cardi B’s debut album ‘Invasion of Privacy’ could be the best-selling female hip-hop album of all time

CardiCardi B’s debut album ‘Invasion of Privacy’ is well on its way to break records on the Billboard charts. Early projections indicate the project could sell more than 200,000 units within the first week alone. No doubt about it, ‘Invasion of Privacy’ will quickly make it to the #1 spot on the Billboard album charts. This is something accomplished by only four other female rap artists – Nicki Minaj, Eve, Foxy Brown and Lauryn Hill.

While the projection is around 200,000 units in the first week, it could surpass Nicki Minaj’s ‘Pink Friday’ first-week sale of 375,000 units. It could also compete with Lauryn Hill’s album ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ which sold an impressive 423,000 in the first week back in 1998.

The album has been out for a few days and it is already certified GOLD by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), due to the success of “Bodak Yellow” which was certified 5X multi-platinum towards the end of last year.

The album is one of the most powerful debut projects of this millennium with appearances from Kehlani, SZA, Chance the rapper, YG, Migos, 21 Savage and others.

Carbi B’s success story has captured the hearts of many millennials, reality tv fans and hip-hop enthusiasts all over the world. The “look at me now, I made it out of the strip club” storyline showed a humble artist who has embraced her journey as we watched her become a larger-than-life superstar brand. From her days on VH1’s “Love & Hip-Hop: New York” to becoming the chick with back-to-back radio hits, this is only the beginning for Cardi.

The critics wondered if her success would just amount to a 15-minutes of fame. Nah, not Bardi. Not if she or her dream team has anything to do with it. While you can distinctly hear her New York influence by the way she flows, her hustle is Atlanta.

Her promising music career has had a lot of hype and now she’s backing it up with numbers. Cardi B is here to stay.

The track “Bickenhead” pays tribute to Southern Rap with the 2001 classic “Chickenhead” by Project Pat featuring Three 6 Mafia & La Chat. The album also creatively fuses in samples from different generations to show Cardi can re-invent how we view the classics.

The list of hot tracks goes on and on with bangers like “Drip” featuring Migos, to “I Like” with a Dominican flare, and “Best Life” with Chance The Rapper. This album is worth listening to and putting on repeat. That alone says Cardi  B is no longer the underdog. Respect her hustle.

Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy tracklist

  1. “Get Up 10″”Drip” featuring Migos

    3. “Bickenhead”

    4. “Bodak Yellow”

    5. “Be Careful”

    6. “Best Life” featuring Chance The Rapper

    7. “I Like It”

    8. “Ring” featuring Kehlani

    9. “Money Bag”

    10. “Bartier Cardi” featuring 21 Savage

    11. “She Bad”

    12. “Thru Your Phone”

    13. “I Do” featuring SZA

 

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

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

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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…”

@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.