Tag Archives: Brooklyn

New Joint – Skyzoo / Talib Kweli

Skyzoo ft. Talib Kweli – “Spike Lee Was My Hero” (Duck Down Music / 2013)

The NY emcee pays homage to Brooklyn’s favourite film director on this Tall Black Guy-produced track from the album “A Dream Deferred”.

Home Of The Brave – Ka

Quality OutDaBoxTV interview with NYC’s Ka speaking on the negative impact of drugs on his Brooklyn neighbourhood during the 80s, the inspiration behind his brilliant album “Grief Pedigree” and his passion for the art of rhyme.

Album Review – Ka

Ka

“Grief Pedigree”

(Iron Works)

Heads who keep their ear to the ground will no doubt already be familiar with former Natural Elements member Ka’s brand of quiet storm wordplay thanks to his appearances on projects from The GZA and Roc Marciano plus his own 2008 debut “Iron Works”. Now, after having spent the last few months building a steady buzz with a series of well-crafted viral videos, the Crooklyn lyricist drops the self-produced “Grief Pedigree”, an album that is sure to go down as one of 2012’s best whilst achieving the kind of cult-status amongst subterranean Hip-Hop junkies that will ensure it receives steady rotation for years to come.

To put it simply, Ka makes mood music. He’s the first to admit that his contribution to NYC’s Hip-Hop legacy isn’t for everyone, but therein lies this album’s strength. In the spirit of early East Coast classics such as BDP’s “Criminal Minded” or Just-Ice’s “Back To The Old School”, “Grief Pedigree” is the work of an artist making music from the heart first and foremost, with his initial concern being that those in his immediate circle appreciate and respect his craft. If anyone else does, well, that’s a bonus. But whilst listening to this collection of minimalist beats and coded rhymes, you get the impression that even if Ka went platinum, it wouldn’t mean a thing if the homeboy he gives a pound to each time he visits his nearest bodega didn’t also give him props for reppin’ BK correctly. As both an individual and an emcee Ka is a product of his environment, and the sights, sounds and struggles of inner-city New York fuel his art on both a musical and emotional level here with unique results.

On the sparse, keyboard-driven opener “Chamber” Ka swings between hopeful and hopeless, celebrating his drive to make a better life whilst also admitting that when pressed some old habits die hard (“Livin’ off rough streets scarred me, Now it’s hard to be godly if I ain’t eatin’ hardly”). Similarly melancholy is the deceptive “Summer”, which, instead of being the warm ode to fun in the sun that its title suggests, is actually a haunting prediction of drama-filled days to come involving corrupt police, tragic shoot-outs and senseless revenge.

“Decisions” is an attempt by Ka to “teach the shorties” over a chunky soul groove that all their choices have consequences, whilst the lush, hypnotic loop that forms the sonic backbone of “Every…” allows the Brownsville lyricist’s rhymes about big dreams and street politics to hang in the air just long enough to evoke a real sense of the hardships endured by Ka along life’s winding road.

The string-heavy “Iron Age” finds the Crooklyn rhyme-writer teaming-up with Strong Island comrade Roc Marciano, demonstrating the natural chemistry shared by the pair that will surely make their upcoming Metal Clergy project a memorable release. Over production laced with tension, Ka tussles with the fact that as much as he wants to leave the street life behind him he “can’t change overnight like Ebenezer”, whilst Marcberg threatens to “trample” the competiton “like a woolly mammoth”.

Ka’s production technique throughout “Grief Pedigree” is largely based around the simple-but-effective usage of some well-chosen loops. Rather than take the route of packing the album with potentially generic East Coast boom-bap beats, Ka’s decision to build his musical backdrop using a varied selection of unfamiliar samples gives the project a character all of its own whilst also ensuring the emcee’s low-key delivery isn’t constantly competing against dense, drum-heavy tracks.

“Grief Pedigree” showcases the talents of a man who has seen more in life than he probably should have and who has no doubt made some decisions along the way that he probably isn’t proud of. But as much as Ka’s detailed, world-weary verses paint a gritty picture of New York’s underbelly, the material heard on this album also conjures up feelings of redemption and deliverance, as if Ka’s ability to create music is also what allows him to make order out of the chaos around him.

So with that in mind, it’s obvious that with his passion and love for Hip-Hop, Ka would still be making music with our without an audience to share it with. It just so happens that in 2012 that audience now includes listeners not just in Brooklyn, but from all corners of the Hip-Hop Nation. Salute.

Ryan Proctor

Ka – “Vessel” (Iron Works / 2012)

Get It Goin’ – Torae

Talented NY lyricist Torae kicks it with Emilio Sparks about musical inspirations and the pressure of following in the footsteps of Biggie and Jay-Z as a Brooklyn emcee.

Torae Freestyle

New Joint – Brooklyn

Brooklyn – “It’s Brooklyn” ( Eclipse112 / 2008 )

Sky’s The Limit – Skyzoo

Brooklyn’s Skyzoo in NYC’s Fat Beats record store with Loud.Com talking about his forthcoming album “The Salvation” and some of his favourite verses.

Part One

Part Two

Real Backpack Rap – Black Moon / Smif-N-Wessun

1993 Black Moon / Smif-N-Wessun freestyle from NYC’s legendary Stretch & Bobbito radio show.

New Joint – Talib Kweli

Talib Kweli – “Eat To Live” ( Warner Bros / Blacksmith / 2008 )

New ICU-directed clip for one of my favourite cuts off last year’s impressive “Eardrum” album – Eat ya greens, people!!!

World Famous – Billy Danze

M.O.P’s Billy Danze talks to Karma Loop TV about why you should never throw anything at the stage when the Brownsville duo are doing their thing.

True School Allstars – Sadat X / Craig G

Mammoth interview / freestyle session with Brand Nubian’s Sadat X and former Juice Crew member Craig G from a recent appearance on Orlando’s WPRK 91.5.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

 

BK To UK – Joell Ortiz / DJ MK

Joell Ortiz blazes the airwaves on London’s Kiss FM with DJ MK during his UK visit last week.

As I Reminisce – Masta Ace

Early-90s interview with former Juice Crew member Masta Ace.

Thursday Throwback (Part 14) – Group Home

Group Home – “Supa Star” (Payday / 1994)

Some may think this is a bold statement considering the man’s musical history, but this might just be the nicest beat DJ Premier has ever produced.

Still Lyte As A Rock – MC Lyte

Brooklyn’s MC Lyte talks to Pyramidwest TV about female emcees, maintaining her legendary status, and the future of Hip-Hop.

He’s The DJ, I’m The Rapper – Talib Kweli / Mick Boogie

Kweli talks about working with Mick Boogie on their new project “The MCEO Mixtape”.

NY State Of Mind – DJ Premier / NYGz

MusFlashTV footage of DJ Premier and Panchi in London late last year promoting the NYGz album “Welcome 2 G-dom”.

Voletta Wallace Interview (Originally Printed In Blues & Soul Issue 963 / Biggie Cover / February 2006)

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With today being the eleventh anniversary of Biggie’s untimely death, I thought I’d post up this interview I did with his mother at the end of 2005 to coincide with the release of Bad Boy’s “Duets – The Final Chapter” album.

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What do you say to someone who has lost a close loved one? It’s a delicate situation that so many of us are familiar with. Even though it’s been nine years since Voletta Wallace lost her son The Notorious B.I.G. in a tragic Los Angeles drive-by shooting, it’s still a question I ask myself as I wait to be connected via transatlantic phone-line to the mother of arguably the greatest rapper of all-time. To us, the listeners, Biggie Smalls was the cocky-yet-likeable Brooklyn hustler who put East Coast rap back on the map with the lyrical genius and cinematic scope of his classic 1994 debut album, “Ready To Die”. But to Mrs. Wallace, there was simply Christopher, her only child. A young man who played music too loud in his bedroom and kept her up worrying late at night when he didn’t come home, but who ultimately made her proud with his success in the music industry.

There’s a genuine warmth in Mrs. Wallace’s voice when she speaks, but also a sense of purpose that clearly indicates you’re talking to a strong and determined woman. She’s had to be. While the dramatic soap opera of events surrounding the death of Biggie has inspired endless debates between journalists, gossips and fans alike (the East Coast / West Coast rivalry, Biggie’s feud with former friend 2Pac, Bad Boy’s alleged links with LA street gangs), Mrs. Wallace has had to deal with the loss of her son in the unforgiving glare of the public spotlight, while also working hard to bring those responsible to justice. Last summer a U.S. District Court judge ruled that individuals within the Los Angeles police department had covered-up evidence during the initial investigation into the rapper’s murder. That breakthrough decision now allows Mrs. Wallace and her legal team to go back into court with a more robust and informed case that could very well produce the verdict she’s been hoping for all these years.

But in the meantime Voletta Wallace has been busy alongside P. Diddy and a slew of big-name artists and producers, piecing together the last episode of her son’s musical legacy, “The Notorious B.I.G. : Duets – The Final Chapter”. A star-studded collection featuring the likes of Eminem, Fat Joe and The Game, “Duets” succeeds where its predecessor, 1999’s “Born Again”, largely failed, managing for the most part to marry old Biggie verses with contemporary production and guests that compliment the Black Frank White’s artistic greatness. But if, in Puffy’s words, “Duets” finds us “at the end of the road in terms of original releases for a great, great man”, perhaps 2006 will also be the year that sees Mrs. Wallace at the end of her own struggle to bring closure to the death of her much-loved son.

Was there a particular moment when you first realised that Biggie was pursuing a career as a rap artist?

I first really became aware of it when I heard his voice on the radio. But it wasn’t until I heard “Juicy” in its entirety that I realised he was going to become an artist and be good at what he did. I was privileged to be at the video shoot for that single and when I heard the words to the song I knew right then my son was going to be a successful talent. Before that when my son was at home in his room all I ever thought he was doing was just playing noise (laughs). I didn’t really understand the language and all I could hear was a beat banging. But when “Juicy” went gold I saw in Christopher’s eyes how happy he was so I knew that was an achievement for him. But me? I had my life and his life was his life. His profession was his and I never made it a part of my life because I wasn’t really educated in the field of rap. I really didn’t understand it. I just saw that it made Christopher happy but I didn’t feel it was my prerogative to be a big part of what he was doing at the time and I don’t feel guilty about that either.

When you started to become more involved in Biggie’s music after he passed away, did it surprise you how much of an impact your son had made on the world?

It sure did. Just recently we were on tour to support this new Biggie album and just the love that was being shown for my son and also to me was amazing. People were thanking me for my son and for what he’d contributed to their lives through his music. It’s in situations like that when I truly see the impact my son had on the world. It’s eerie though because he’s not here to receive all those accolades. But although I might not have known back when he started-out exactly how much he was appreciated by fans, I definitely know now.

Aside from his music, I think what also endeared Biggie to so many people was the fact that whenever you heard or saw him in interview he always came across as a humble, down to earth individual who was extremely grateful for the position he found himself in.

That is absolutely right and what you’ve just said there to me sums up Christopher. That is exactly how he was. When he went onstage he was the artist, The Notorious B.I.G., but when it came down to dealing with people he was Christopher Wallace. He had such a beautiful heart. When people talked to him they didn’t feel like they were talking to a star, they felt like they were talking to a friend because my son gave love and showed respect. That’s the person I knew.

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I read in a previous interview that there were certain artists you personally wanted involved in the “Duets” project such as Jay-Z and 2Pac. Why was it so important to have those artists on the album?

Well firstly, Jay-Z was one of my son’s very best friends. They hung out and did a lot of things together. They were like brothers. Unfortunately Jay-Z couldn’t be on the last album (“Born Again”) because it was a little bit too emotional for him. So he promised me that when the next project was ready to begin he would be a part of it. As for 2Pac, his mother Afeni and I have had a relationship for some time. She asked me for Christopher’s work (during the recording of 2Pac’s “Resurrection” project) and I said, ‘Okay, we’ll swap. You do for me and I’ll do for you.’ We have a lot in common with each other.

And Bob Marley?

Even when my son was alive I wanted him to do something with Bob Marley’s music but unfortunately it didn’t happen. But I wanted to do it for the new album because I feel that my son is to rap what Bob Marley is to reggae and to hear them on the same song is so special, not just for me but also for Caribbean culture and for those who grew up with that as a part of their lives. Obviously Faith had to be on the record and also R. Kelly, whom my son had a wonderful relationship with. They’re all people that I wanted involved in the project and thankfully they graced us with a lot of love. I didn’t want this to be an album that was just thrown together purely for dollars and cents. I wanted to be involved in it and to do things that both my son would have wanted and that the people wanted to hear. I really wanted the album to be something great that had a real sense of energy to it.

After reading and hearing what so many other people have had to say about your son in the years since his death it must have been quite a therapeutic experience for you to write your own book recently?

See, no-one really knew Christopher Wallace. I knew Christopher Wallace. There are so many books and documentaries out there and such a misconception about rappers and where they come from and what they’re out there doing. I needed to tell the world about Voletta Wallace and my son Christopher Wallace, not The Notorious B.I.G.. That’s really what my book is about.

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Do you find it difficult to deal with some of the less savoury comments the media have made about your son?

Well when I see and read certain things believe it or not I do cry and also I often cringe because the person they’re writing about is not the person I knew. I never knew that person and I mean that from my heart. Sometimes when I read what people have written it’s like they want me to hate my son, but I’m not going to because in my heart I know who Christopher was and my love will always be there for him and my memory of him will always be a happy one. So yes, it hurts sometimes but I just focus on the good memories I have. I don’t blame the media though because they’re just doing their job, but at the same time they should know that there was another side to my son and as his mother only I can really tell people about that side.

Are you optimistic that the new trial will bring the guilty verdict you’ve been hoping for and why do you think it’s taken so long for the case to reach this point?

I’m very optimistic based on what information came out of the last trial. Justice will be served, I’ll have my day in court and the murderer, plus those behind the murderer, will be exposed and I hope suitably punished for what they did. It’s taken so long to get to this point because there’s been a big conspiracy and a big cover-up. I’m sure the powers-that-be saw me as just a simple little mother and school teacher who didn’t know much about the law and there I am going up against the whole Los Angeles police department. So they’re going to hide things and think that I’m naive enough to just walk away. But my son and best friend was murdered so I can’t walk away. There were hidden facts surrounding the case that certain people didn’t want exposed, but now they will be. They tried their very best to portray what happened to my son as something other than what it was. If they could portray it as being part of a rap war between the East Coast and the West Coast then everyone would point the finger of blame elsewhere. But some of the truth is now out and the rest will come.

Initially when you decided to pursue legal action did you find the immensity of the situation a daunting prospect?

No because when it comes to right and wrong the size of a situation doesn’t come into it. When I took on the case I didn’t really see it as me taking on a whole institution. I just knew that something had gone wrong and I needed to expose it. I didn’t look at it any other way. When you’re a murderer, you’re a murderer. Death doesn’t come in size. This is just something that had to be done. In a situation like this you have to stay strong, never look behind you and just know that you’re doing the right thing.

Given that the Hip-Hop media are always very keen to pay tribute to those who’ve been lost in tragic and violent circumstances, such as Biggie, 2Pac and Jam Master Jay, does it frustrate you when you then see magazines sensationalising rivalries and beefs between rap artists?

The murders of the young men you just mentioned have nothing to with Hip-Hop. It comes down to humans killing humans. A rapper is not killing another rapper. What I do see blighting Hip-Hop though is the fact that many of the young men involved in making this music are focusing less on the culture as a whole and more on their own egos. There’s a self-centred, selfish feeling running through Hip-Hop right now with artists being more interested in the size of their homes and cars than their lives and what is going on around them. The music industry is feeding this and it’s taking away from the beauty of Hip-Hop culture which is very sad.

Biggie still has a huge presence within the Hip-Hop world today. What would you like younger listeners to take away from his life, career and music?

I would like younger artists listening to my son’s music to understand how much he enjoyed his work and that he did it because he loved it and that he also viewed rhyming as an artform. Young listeners today need to know that whatever career they might venture into they have to love their work because that’s how they’ll become great at it. That’s how my son became a legend.

Ryan Proctor

The Notorious B.I.G. – “Juicy” (Bad Boy / 1994)

1996 Jay-Z / Biggie Performance In NYC

1997 Wake-Up Show Freestyle

Thursday Throwback (Part 11) – Smoothe Da Hustler

Smoothe Da Hustler ft. Trigger Tha Gambler – “Broken Language” (Profile / 1995)

A bonafide Brooklyn classic and the instrumental that sparked a thousand rhyme ciphers.

Leader Of The New School – Busta Rhymes

Bus-A-Bus is back on the block with his new mix-CD “I’ve Already Outshined Your Favorite Rapper”.

Game Time – Q-Tip / Guru

Footage of two Hip-Hop legends performing at Sony Playstation’s Block Party event as part of this year’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

Q-Tip

Guru