Tag Archives: hip-hop

What the fuck is OFWGKTA?

It’s a question I’ve received a few times after nerding out on Twitter: what the fuck is OFWGKTA? That unwieldy acronym stands for “Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All.” Odd Future is an LA rap collective made up of rappers, beatmakers, artists and skaters. In name: Tyler the Creator, Hodgy Beats, Earl Sweatshirt, Domo Genesis, Mike G, Frank Ocean, Left Brain, The Super 3, Syd tha Kyd, Jasper Loc, and Taco Bennett.

Everything about them is polarizing, from fandom on down. They’re old enough to drive but barely old enough to drink. They love non sequiturs but have no love for their fathers, who are either absent or might as well be. Everything is swag or not.

The beats are grimey, borrowing from chopped-and-screwed trap hop, Stones Throw futurism and everything in between. Wu-Tang is the nearest comparison, if only in form but not function. Lyrical topics include, notably, drug abuse, violence, and rape, alone or in combination. The one-upmanship is pure high school male, the depravity and vileness a product of our unshockability. Blame it on 9/11 and / or the Internet.

If you don’t get it, it’s not for you. Hell, it’s barely for me. At 26, I might as well be 2 Dope Boys, Nah Right, or worse – Steve Harvey. So instead of trying to digest the group’s 150+ songs, I’ll just provide the essentials that capture Odd Future’s essence better than I can.

All music is freely available on the OFWGKTA web site.

OFWGKTA – Radical

More fully-formed than their original offering, the Odd Future Tape, Radical is their most accessible material, if only because of the Mos Def, Gucci Mane and Roscoe Dash beats they hijack. Here’s Hodgy Beats over Dash’s “Turnt Up” and Earl and Tyler over Gucci’s “Lemonade”

[wpaudio url=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Turnt_Down.mp3″ text=”Hodgy Beats – Turnt Down”]

[wpaudio url=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Orange_Juice.mp3″ text=”EarlWolf – Orange Juice”]

Tyler the Creator – Bastard

Tyler the Creator aka Ace aka Wolf Haley, in the inevitable Wu Tang analogy, is the RZA. On Bastard, he puts his cards on the table on the first track: “This is what the Devil plays before he sleeps… I cut my wrists and play piano because I’m so depressed.” “French” is a banger you might nod your head to until Tyler spits out “rape her and record it / then edit it with more shit.

Earl Sweatshirt – Earl

Tyler’s little cousin is Earl Sweatshirt, and like a younger brother, he has to go big or go home. Earl’s current absence from the group (due either to boot camp, jail, or a severe grounding) will definitely leave a void: he’s one of the sickest, most fascinating members of Odd Future. “epaR” is a violent fantasy sequence with a hook that beats its not-so-subliminal title. And his self-titled rant features their most telling video yet.

[wpaudio url=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/epar.mp3″ text=”Earl Sweatshirt – epaR”]

Ready for more?

  • Hodgy Beats’ Dena Tape shows flashes of talent, but he really puts it together when he joins Left Brain to form MellowHype; the Halloween themed BLACKENDWHITE is their better album.
  • Domo Genesis takes the reins as the requisite weed rapper; he beat Wiz Khalifa to the punch on his Rolling Papers tape.
  • Odd Future isn’t just about rap: subgroup Jet Age of Tomorrow has released two albums of mostly-instrumental space funk that is trippy on another level.

Mixtape Review: RAtheMC – Heart of a Champion

Next to Phil Ade, RAtheMC is the brightest rising star in the DMV hip-hop scene. She rocked the stage at last October’s All Killer No Filler and her Twitter-themed mixtape Trending Topic was one of the best local releases in 2009. Since then, she’s been steady grinding, prepping Heart of a Champion, backed by AB the Producer.

Heart of a Champion showcases the same talent and range as Trending Topic. Ra’s flow continues to sharpen, and in the Age of Drake, her self-sung hooks are a well-executed necessity. Tracks by AB the Producer are clean soundscapes for Ra to perform over, never repetitive in tone or style. Throughout the tape, samples pay tribute to Ra’s forebears: Sade’s “Love is Stronger than Pride” on “Pretend” and Lauryn Hill’s “The Sweetest Thing” on “Intoxicated.”

Ra references DMV leaders Wale, Tabi Bonney and XO; the latter appears on the sweeping “So Gone So Long.” Throughout the tape, on songs like “One Shot” and “Heart of a Champion,” Ra proves she is focused on one thing: following in their footsteps – and going farther. After Ms. Hill’s bewildering performance at this weekend’s Rock the Bells, it’s clear that the crown is ready to be passed. So why not to RAtheMC?


RAtheMC – Heart of a Champion Tracklist

01. Pretend
02. The Grind
03. Intoxicated
04. One Shot
05. Dreams
06. One Life
07. Change
08. Pricey (ft. Ihsan Bilal)
09. Lights
10. Smile
11. Heart of a Champion
12. Good Friends (ft. AB the Pro)
13. Gone So Long (ft. XO)

Two years after his death, Def Jux releases Camu Tao's King of Hearts

Camu Tao, born Tero Smith, was a multi-talented performer and member of the Definitive (nee Def) Jux family. Coming up in Columbus, OH in the late 90s, he worked with underground rap pioneers El-P, Aesop Rock, RJD2, and Cage, among others. His “Hold the Floor” was the archetypal Def Jux cut, with a raw, grinding beat and technically sharp, unapologetic rhymes.

Sadly, Camu Tao passed away after a protracted battle with cancer in 2008, a month shy of his 31st birthday. Not only did he leave behind his family, friends and fiance, but he also left behind the songs that were to be his debut solo album, King of Hearts. Luckily, the album is set to be released on August 17 by Definitive Jux and Fat Possum Records.

King of Hearts paints a picture of an artist on the edge of something special. The album’s 16 tracks are a bit rough around the edges, as most were demos when Camu passed. Still, King of Hearts finds Camu reinventing himself in the mold of K-OS and Saul Williams, with a unique style that is difficult to pin down. Moving away from the distinct hip-hop of Def Jux to a more Afro-punk sound, Camu is at ease over programmed beats, chiptune synths and crunchy guitar riffs. “Bird Flu” and “When You’re Going Down” are dancefloor-ready pieces of electropunk, equal parts mournful and angry: surely the emotions of a man during his last days.

Whether crooning on “Fonny Valentine,” political-rapping on “Ind of the World,” or swinging on “The Perfect Plan,” Camu is sharp, poignant and emotive. The hook for “Plot a Little,” a catchy, Neptunes-like sing-along, captures the album’s feel: “Rock for a little bit / fly for a little bit / plot for a little bit / make it contagious.” Over King of Hearts, the sonic dabblings of the self-described “rebel to conformity” are definitely contagious.

The music of artists like Jeff Buckley, Nick Drake, and Joy Division’s Ian Curtis is notable for its posthumous influence. Camu Tao’s King of Hearts will probably not have as far a reach, but it will stand as a vibrant final farewell from an artist who obviously had much more to share.

Roots' collaborator STS releases free Sole Music EP

STS (formerly Sugar Tongue Slim) is an up-and-coming rapper from Philly by way of Atlanta. After appearing on the Roots’ How I Got Over (contributing a verse on the Joanna Newsome feature “Right On”), STS is poised for big things this year. Today, in conjunction for Honey Magazine, he releases the free Sole Music EP, six tracks about his twin fixations, sneakers and strange.

Owing to his background, STS’ style is equal parts street-wise Philadelphian and Hotlanta flow. Both sides of the coin show up on Sole Music.

The title track sounds like American Gangster-era Jay Z. It’s a midtempo ballad dedicated to a sneakerhead relationship. I’m torn on the stylized (and possibly dated) hook, but it is catchy: “Spiz’ikes to Flizights, thank God for Nizikes / Used to rock the shelltoes with three strizipes / Air Force 1’s, got Adidas Prototizypes / Pair of Chuck Taylors or maybe the A-Lizzife.”

STS isn’t content to just walk in Wale’s Nike Boots, though, dedicating “Take Me to Hadley St” to Mr. Folarin’s rumored-girlfriend Solange Knowles. The funky track is pure Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. “Onionmania” and “Brown Babies” are smooth and soulful, too, and STS’ flow has a piercing, nasal quality that keeps you on your toes.

Sole Music is a short but sweet record to spin as STS works on his debut The Illustrious down in the ATL. If you like what you hear, pick up STS’ Demand More mixtape series; Demand More 2 features “In for the Kill,” a Drake-esque rap over a sample of Skream’s groundbreaking remix of the La Roux song of the same name.

The Verge: Phil Adé

Welcome to The Verge: a column dedicated to music on the edge of a breakthrough. It’s been a minute since I’ve put some hip-hop in the Verge. A new mixtape from my favorite DMV rapper has changed all that.

Phil Adé, Raheem DeVaughn’s 21-year old protege, is back with the follow-up to 2009’s Starting on JV, the Don Cannon-mixed The Letterman. The mixtape affirms that if DMV hip-hop is high school, Phil Adé is the Most Likely to Succeed.

Building on Starting on JV’s high-school-sports-as-life theme, the album kicks off with the inspirational speech from 1977’s basketball drama One-on-One, before Phil flows over a Premier-esque DJ Alizay beat on “The Letter.”

Throughout the tape, Phil is laid-back and confident, whether on Golden Age throwbacks like “The Letter,” Phil-as-Pharrell tracks like “Borderline,” or upbeat jams like the Lil Wayne-sampling “Rapper Eater.” Phil’s versatility is what sets him apart from so many of his counterparts. His wordplay is sharp and his rhymes are tight, and he isn’t artificially constrained by trying to fit into one hip-hop pigeonhole.
Raheem DeVaughn’s R&B influence shows up more than on Starting on the JV, in the funky beat and hook by Kyonte on “The Jacket;” the man himself appears on “Out Your Clothes” and “Young Black Successful.” Other DMV cameos are tastefully mixed across the tape: Tabi Bonney on “Like Dat,” Kingpen Slim on “Tipsy Mood,” and Skillz on “OMG.” The highlight of the guest spots is a remix of Starting on JV‘s “Hollywood” that features Wale, Raekwon, Tabi, and Raheem.

Like Starting on JV, The Letterman is a polished, professional mixtape that lets Phil Adé shine. And like the kid in high school who could easily hang out with the ghetto boys, the cool kids, the nerds, the outcasts – Phil Adé is about to be popular on the next level.

The Verge: Dominique Young Unique

Welcome to The Verge: a column dedicated to music on the edge of a breakthrough. Last week, I wrote about Brooklyn-based blog favorites Sleigh Bells. How about something a little dirtier?

Meet Dominique Young Unique, a 19-year old party rapper out of Tampa – or T-Town as she lovingly refers to it. Dominique is the protege of Yo Majesty producer David Alexander, who has signed her to his label and given her the type of bouncy bass tracks that he made for Jwl B and Shunda K. Check out the video for her standout track “Show My Ass,” which goes from club-influenced claps to some 808 electro grime.

She might not have Nicki Minaj’s skills on the mic, but she doesn’t have her idol’s stylized flow, either, instead spitting frenetic, high-energy rhymes guaranteed to get a party started. With Rye Rye missing in action, there is a void in the business for a barely legal spark plug. Dominique Young Unique just may be the “Hot Girl” we need.

Look for Dominique Young Unique’s Blaster EP this month on Art Jam, and catch her at the Feedback Dance Party at DC9 on June 12th

Hard Jams: Eminem – Bad Influence

(Part of TGRIOnline.com’s on-going focus on “hard jams.”)

After listening to the Dead Wrong remix, I was reminded of a track that was the hardest jam I had ever heard at the impressionable age of 15. Hidden amid the nu-metal of the End of Days soundtrack was Eminem’s non-album cut “Bad Influence,” a companion piece to The Slim Shady EP‘s “Role Model” (which is namedropped in the song).

Resigned to his role as musical bad boy, Em relishes his media image and hits his usual talking points. He attacks his peers (Brandy, Ma$e, Lauryn Hill), and promotes violent misogyny (“Looking for hookers to punch in the mouth with a roll of quarters”), drug abuse, and suicide. The song is a sarcastic nod to the PMRC-crowd. Fuck a subliminal message, Em puts his suicide solution right there in the chorus.

The first two verses are pretty pedestrian for Em, but the third kicks off with the sickest 12 seconds that he’s ever laid down, both in terms of lyrics and flow:

My laser disc will make you take a razor to your wrist
Make you Satanistic, make you take the pistol to your face
and place the clip and cock it back
and let it go until your brains are rippin’ out
your skull so bad to sew you back would be a waste of stitches.

I vividly recall replaying that rhyme over and over again. Even at 15, we got the joke. Clearly, Em didn’t have the power to make us end it all. But he had the power to point to the idiocy of authority figures and shine a light on their ignorance, which is actually empowering to most teenagers. Once again, Emimen got the last laugh. And that’s hard.

Freddie Gibbs and the Return of Gangsta

Part of the Alpha Male Music Week at True Genius Requires Insanity.

You could probably write a thesis on the alpha male in hip-hop (if be_gully hasn’t already written said thesis, there should at least be an abstract on the subject here soon). Some combination of money, women, drugs, and guns are lyrical mainstays of rap for a reason. Reveling in such pure id is escapism of the highest degree. When it comes to lyrics that are exciting and engaging, transgression is better than introspection.

Which brings us to the class of 2009. The much-debated freshman class of hip-hop as editorialized by XXL (alphabetically: Ace Hood, Asher Roth, B.o.B., Blu, Charles Hamilton, Cory Gunz, Curren$y, Kid Cudi, Mickey Factz, and Wale), for the most part, are big into beta. So, for fans of hip-hop that demonstrates both street authenticity (Gucci Mane) and rapping talent (not Gucci Mane), who is out there fighting the good fight?

Enter: Freddie Gibbs. Born and raised in Gary, Indiana, the 27-year-old is out to prove that gangsta isn’t dead. After being dropped by Interscope Records, Gibbs produced and released two mixtapes within months of each other this year: The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs and midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik (a third, The Label’s Trying to Kill Me, is a compilation tape that cuts-and-pastes from both). Right off the bat, the title references touch on a desire to be a part of the pantheon of rap classics rather than on the level a mere mortal.

Gary, Indiana is fucking hard. The crack age coupled with the decline of American industry have left Gary harder hit than either East St. Louis or Baltimore. There is no silver lining. And this is the crucible in which Gibbs has been forged: “Sixty percent unemployment / Why you think we sellin’ dope?” The facts of his environment are inescapable, physically for many and mentally for all. Gibbs’ lyrics are unapologetically about this life, not to glorify or to educate, they just exist, familiar stories that are so outrageous they seem fictional. The themes are classic alpha male rap: dealing drugs and smoking weed (“Boxframe Cadillac”), scamming chicks (“Bussdown”) and killing dudes (“Murda on My Mind”).

Stylistically, Gibbs’ hardened voice and smooth flow take many forms: at times, it’s the Southern syrup of UGK, at others the rat-a-tat of Midwesterners like Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. The beats range from pure g-funk (“Talkin’ Bout You”) to trap-hop (“Summa Dis”), paying reverence to a by-gone era with tasteful samples (Biggie’s “Beef” shows up on “Standing Still”). Contrast this with the constant, braying namedropping of the Game: which is a better (and more alpha) tribute to the golden age of gangsta?

For a song that encapsulates Freddie Gibbs the artist, take this alpha male manifesto from the chorus of “Womb to the Tomb:” “From the cradle to the grave / the womb to the tomb / Imma get it win or lose / I’m just out here making moves / from the womb to the tomb / the cradle to the grave / till I jack up out this bitch / I’m out this bitch / get paid.” Sure beats “Man, I love college.”