Tag Archives: detroit

New Joint – Apollo Brown / Clear Soul Forces

Apollo Brown ft. Clear Soul Forces – “Deception & Woes” (@MelloMusicGroup / 2019)

One of the many standout cuts from the Motor City producer’s guest-packed album “Sincerely, Detroit”.

House Shoes Presents: The Gift Vol. 8 Album Stream – Raj Mahal

raj mahal cover

House Shoes, certified Detroit legend and all-round supporter of quality music, drops the latest in his “Gift” series highlighting the soulful, futuristic thump and instrumental abstractions of fellow Motor City-raised maestro Raj Mahal – listen here.

New Joint – Black Milk

Black Milk – “Give The Drummer Sum” ( Fat Beats / 2008 )

New video clip for the Detroit-based producer-on-the-mic’s recent single from his “Tronic” album.

Universal Magnetic Column (Originally Posted On StreetCred.Com Nov 7th 2008)




Following in the large footsteps of a talented Hip-Hop sibling can be a daunting task for any upcoming artist. Just ask Warren G, Lil’ Daddy Shane and Jungle. So with that in mind, all eyes are on 21-year-old Detroit native Illa J, whose late, great older brother J Dilla is cemented in the consciousness of the global Hip-Hop community as one of the best producers of all-time. Having stamped his trademark sound on releases from the likes of The Pharcyde, A Tribe Called Quest, Common and Busta Rhymes, Dilla’s next-level studio techniques influenced a long line of impersonators and his passing in 2006 left a gaping hole in the music world, along with the sense that a true creative visionary had been lost. So, no pressure on the young Illa J then as he releases his debut album “Yancey Boys”, a project that finds the Motor City MC / producer rhyming over beats provided posthumously by Dilla himself.

The story behind the recording of “Yancey Boys” could easily sound like a clever marketing ploy to ease Illa J into the headphones of hypercritical Dilla fans were it not so filled with pure coincidence. Released on Delicious Vinyl, the label for which Jay Dee produced cuts on Pharcyde’s 1995 album “Labcabincalifornia”, the project came to life following Illa’s relocation to Los Angeles and a chance meeting with DV’s head-honcho Michael Ross, who courteously offered Yancey Jr access to the many unused beats Dilla had recorded for the label during the mid-to-late 90s. Upon immersing himself in his brother’s unheard material, Illa J knew exactly what he needed to do, and got to work on what would become “Yancey Boys”. But whilst the tale behind the tape (or in this case, the CD) is the stuff that Hip-Hop folklore is made of, the burning question is, has Illa J done justice to his older brother’s music and, ultimately, his legacy?

The first thing that strikes you about the album’s opening tandem of “Timeless” and “We Here” is the sense of energy and celebration, a feeling that comes not just from Dilla’s mastery behind the boards, but also from the way in which Illa J has approached the music, singing and rhyming his way through lyrics laced with positive vibes and genuine optimism. As Illa croons, “I spent so much time just thinking about nothing, Now it’s time to turn that nothing into something”, it’s clear that “Yancey Boys” is musical therapy for the upcoming talent, an opportunity to work through the emotional baggage of his brother’s untimely death and turn tragedy into personal triumph.

The instant neck-snapper “R U Listenin’?” features a typically swaggering verse from fellow Detroit resident Guilty Simpson, whilst the carefree b-boy breeze of “Showtime” blends airy jazz pianos with Illa’s likeably cocky rhymes and playful boasts.

The fact that the majority of beats contained on “Yancey Boys” still sound fresh and organic regardless of being approximately a decade old is a testament to just how ahead of his time Dilla was as a producer. Whilst the chime-laden groove of the girl-chasing “DFTF” sounds like the best cut A Tribe Called Quest never recorded for their 1998 swan-song “The Love Movement”, it still knocks hard in 2008. Similarly, the space-dust soul of “Sounds Like Love” finds Dilla combining Hip-Hop’s raw, basement ethics with subtle, spine-tingling melodies, resulting in a sound that is simultaneously retro and futuristic.

If “Yancey Boys” represents Illa J being publicly passed the musical torch from his elder brother, it’ll be interesting to see in which direction the youngster runs with it on his next proper solo outing.

Illa J ft. Debi Nova – “Sounds Like Love” ( Delicious Vinyl / 2008 )



All of you producer types out there might want to check out the recently released “King Of The Beats 2” DVD. Directed by UK-based Hip-Hop junkie Pritt Kalsi, the film features a variety of beat-heads taking up the KOTB challenge, which involves each producer being given a limited budget to go digging for records, which they then have to take back to their respective labs to sample, chop and mutate into a finished Hip-Hop track. All of which seems straightforward, until you realize that the entire process has to be completed within a 24-hour period. Nevertheless, as the old saying goes, pressure makes diamonds, and here you can witness crate-diggers such as DJ Pogo (UK), P Body (Australia) and DJ Priority (USA) each displaying how they approach the craft of producing.

“King Of The Beats 2” Trailer



“Changes Of Atmosphere” from Dela is an album that truly spans Planet Rock, with the project from the French producer featuring an impressive line-up of Stateside artists yet seeing a release on Japan’s Drink Water label. Obviously inspired by such studio greats as Pete Rock, Dilla and Large Professor, Dela’s sound revolves around a strong foundation of crisp drums, jazzy, soulful samples and intoxicating instrumentation.

J. Sands of Lone Catalysts fame offers poignant words of wisdom on the hypnotic “Live The Life”, whilst current subterranean favorite Termanology kicks some street knowledge over the soothing mid-90s style beats of “Stress”.

Dela puts a haunting horn sample to good use on the Talib Kweli-assisted “Long Life”, and North Carolina’s Supastition recounts the constant struggle faced by underground artists on the ethereal title cut.

With further appearances from respected lyricists such as J-Live, Surreal, Blu and Dynas, “Changes Of Atmosphere” is a thoroughly satisfying listening experience that contains substance in both its beats and rhymes.

Dela ft. Naledge of Kidz In The Hall – “It Is What It Is” ( Drink Water / 2008 )



Once considered the backbone of Hip-Hop, it’s no secret that in recent years the DJ has had to fight to remain relevant in an industry increasingly dominated by ego-crazy rappers and producers. Eager to do his part to support the turntablist movement is UK scratch assassin K-Delight, an individual whose many years behind the decks ensure his latest album “Audio Revolution” is a superbly crafted slice of sonic mayhem.

Aiming to encompass all four of the key elements of Hip-Hop culture, this long-player has something for true-school representatives everywhere. Graffiti heads are covered on the educational “Shake, Rattle N Throw”, which features LA-based female MC Shin-B offering a brief history of the artform’s origins, whilst b-boys are given some up rock theme music in the form of the old-school flavored “Wildstyle Dream”.

Elsewhere, the self-explanatory “Forever Hip-Hop” finds Stateside lyricists Skitz The Gemini and Shinobi Stalin paying homage to arguably the most influential cultural movement the modern world has ever seen, whilst “Scratch Club” is a posse cut with a twist, as the likes of NYC’s DJ JS-1, the UK’s DJ Woody and Scotland’s Krash Slaughta team-up with K Delight in a formidable display of deck-wrecking skills.

“Audio Revolution” Live Album Sampler



Chicago-based crew The Primeridian makes a welcome return to the underground rap scene with their sophomore album “Da Mornin’ Afta”, featuring the former duo of Simeon and Tree now being joined by talented wordsmith Race.

Coming out of the All Natural camp, the trio has a strong line in head-nodding, thought-provoking Hip-Hop, and “Da Mornin’ Afta” finds Primeridian matching their lyrical substance with beats provided solely by producers from Europe and the UK (including Netherlands maestro Nicolay of Foreign Exchange fame).

The opening “Change The Meridian (Hard Rock)” announces the group’s comeback in no uncertain terms, offering three-minutes of raw, breakbeat-driven braggadocio, whilst the blaxploitation boogie of “Bucktown (City Of Wind)” features Naledge of Kidz In The Hall addressing Chi-town’s social underbelly.

The pulsating bass and swirling synths heard on “Takuthere” (produced by France’s DJ Steady) provide a soothing musical backdrop for the social commentary of featured artists Iomos Marad and The Pharcyde’s Uncle Imani. My personal favorite here though has to be the beautifully understated “Melodic Healing”, a lush mix of live bluesy guitar, spine-tingling flutes and life-affirming lyricism. Music for the soul, indeed.

Primeridian Freestyle

Ryan Proctor

My Brother’s Keeper – Illa J

Dilla’s younger brother Illa J talks to HipHopOfficial about his musical family background and his new album “Yancey Boys”.

Part One

Part Two

New Joint – Black Milk / Royce Da 5’9

Black Milk ft. Royce Da 5’9 – “Losing Out” ( Fat Beats / 2008 )

Taken from the forthcoming album “Tronic”.

Pass The Torch – Illa J

Dilla’s younger brother Illa J drops a quick sixteen with some help from Aaron LaCrate.

The Tronic – Black Milk

Studio footage of Detroit’s Black Milk recording “Give The Drummer Sum” from his forthcoming album “Tronic”.

Sound Provider – Black Milk

Detroit producer / emcee Black Milk on HipHopOfficial defining his “beautiful ugly” sound.

Speakerboxin’ – Buff1

Michigan’s Buff1 performing his single “Beat The Speakers Up” in Los Angeles at the release party for his new album “There’s Only One”.

New Joint – The Yancey Boys

The Yancey Boys – “We Here” ( Delicious Vinyl / 2008 )

First single from the post-humous collaborative project from Illa J and his older brother J Dilla.

Peep the interview I did with Illa J last year here.

Goodness Music – Buff1

Underground heavyweight Buff1 kicks it with HipHopOfficial and talks about his current single “Beat The Speakers Up” and the Michigan Hip-Hop scene.

Buff1 Interview (Originally Posted On StreetCred.Com Aug 13th 2008)

Having spent the late 90s perfecting his craft as a member of underground Michigan crew Athletic Mic League, Ann Arbor’s Buff1 is nowhere near being the newcomer some of today’s current Hip-Hop fans may view him as. Already proving himself to be a skilled lyricist on AML releases such as the well-received 2002 album “Sweats & Kicks”, Buff took center-stage last year with his debut solo project “Pure”, an apt title for an album if ever there was one.

Combining a deep-rooted love of Hip-Hop culture with a passion for cutting-edge sounds, “Pure” found Buff stepping beyond the strength-in-numbers comfort zone offered to him by Athletic Mic League. Using the album as a platform through which to introduce himself to a wider fan base, the forthright MC added his own worthwhile chapter to the Detroit area’s rich rap heritage, which, of course, includes such heavyweights as Eminem and the late J Dilla, with current local favorites like Guilty Simpson and Black Milk also playing their part in helping to shape the next generation of Motor City music.

Now returning with his recently released sophomore set “There’s Only One”, Buff is hoping to take his unique sound to the masses one listener at a time. Under no illusions about the realities of the rap industry, but prepared to grind hard to reach his goals, Buff offers a creative breath of fresh air in an increasingly predictable Hip-Hop scene. Meet a true leader of the new school.

Ryan Proctor: What lessons did you take away from your time as a member of Athletic Mic League?

Buff1: I definitely learnt the importance of having patience. Just being a young MC and being hungry, thinking you’re better than everybody else and wondering why you’re not always getting the shine you think you deserve, I definitely had to learn to be patient. Being in a group also taught me a lot about teamwork. You definitely have to compromise sometimes and you can’t always be on every song you want to be on. You might have an idea about a particular track, someone else in the group might have a different idea about the same track, and sometimes it’ll go your way, sometimes it’ll go the other way. So learning to be patient and the ability to work well with other people are definitely the two biggest lessons I took from being a member of Athletic Mic League. But that said, we all still get along and the crew are just as much a part of my new album as they were the last one.

RP: So what prompted you to go solo?

B: Actually, it was the group’s idea for me to go solo. They came to me and were like, ‘It’s tough focusing on this music thing now we’re getting older and have more responsibilities.’ Some of the guys have children now and other members had to do the regular nine-to-five thing to pay the bills. We weren’t a bunch of kids anymore just making music for the fun of it in the basement. So the group decided to fallback and focus on putting me out as a solo artist. I was reluctant at first, but I’m glad I did it and I’m proud that the group asked me to be the one to step out on their own. There’s a little bit of pressure for me to live up to what we did as a group in the past, but for the most part it’s just pressure that I put on myself because I want to make good quality Hip-Hop music. I’m always trying to grow as an artist and keep the music moving forward, so that’s the main pressure.

RP: How would you describe the Detroit Hip-Hop scene?

B: When the underground Detroit scene as we know it now was first blossoming, Athletic Mic League wasn’t really a part of that. For one, we lived about thirty minutes away in Ann Arbor, and secondly, we just weren’t old enough at that point in time to be able to go to Detroit to see what was happening. We just had to hear through the grapevine about stuff like The Hip-Hop Shop and The Shelter. So we had to create our own scene in Ann Arbor and that’s eventually what we ended up doing. But once we’d done that it was inevitable that we’d venture into the Detroit scene. So around 2001 / 2002 is when we first started doing shows in Detroit and getting recognition out there. It was tough at first because not a lot of people knew us, but once they saw we made good music it’s been all love ever since. It’s like there’s a big family in Detroit now when it comes to music because everyone’s supporting each other and working together. I think that the state of Michigan is producing the best Hip-Hop music out there right now.

RP: How would you say the new album “There’s Only One” differs from last year’s “Pure” project?

B: I would say it’s more aggressive than “Pure”. The Lab Techs brought a bigger sound to their production this time around. I wouldn’t say it’s a step away from what people heard on “Pure” because a few of the tracks on the new album were originally recorded for that project. So it’s not like we’ve tried to create a whole new sound or take my music in a completely different direction, but this album definitely feels bigger than “Pure”. I really think that when it comes to production and lyrics, the Detroit scene is leading the way right now, and it’s definitely an honor to be a part of that. Nowadays, so many people are talking about taking the music back to the old-school, but whilst I think it’s definitely important to pay homage to that era, I think we should be concentrating on moving the music and the culture forward, and that’s something I’ve tried to do with the new album.

RP: Speaking of paying homage, the album cut “Classic Rap” is a throwback track with a difference – instead of calling out artists’ stage names you refer to them only by their real names. Why did you decide to do that?

B: Everyone knows that artists paying homage on record to those who’ve come before them has been done many times. I also wanted to show respect to those artists I looked up to coming up, but I wanted to do it in a different way. I had the first couple of lines to the song in my head for a couple of weeks and I didn’t really know what I was gonna do with them, then I heard the beat and it inspired me to keep writing the song and I decided I was going to go all the way with the concept of using artist’s real names rather than the names they record under. If people hear the song and don’t recognize the names I’m mentioning then I hope they’ll jump on their computers and do some research because if you really love this music then studying the history behind it is something you should be prepared to do.

RP: The album’s lead single “Beat The Speakers Up” is a potentially radio-ready record that actually criticizes the same playlist system it could possibly find itself a part of. Isn’t that something of a risk on your part?

B: Yeah, definitely. It’s tough as far as the radio is concerned, especially here in Detroit, because there’s only a handful of people who support local music on Detroit radio. I don’t think that’s right and it just doesn’t make sense to me that you can listen to the radio for a short period and hear the same song three or four times. The purpose of “Beat The Speakers Up” was to highlight that issue. I like to go to the club and I enjoy club music, so I wanted the song to be catchy, but I also wanted to put a twist on it with the lyrics. I wanted the track to be able to be played in the club and on the radio, but at the same time, I wanted to challenge people and make them think about the music that they’re hearing.

RP: Another album track that really stands out from a lyrical point of view is “Rain Dance”. What was the inspiration behind that?

B: That came from being in the club and seeing everybody doing something like the Soulja Boy dance. I was watching all these people reacting the exact same way to certain records, whether it was by doing a dance or some call-and-response routine, and I started thinking, ‘What if everyone could be on the same page and reacting in unison to other things in life that matter a bit more than a dance or the fashions people follow?’ I mean, what if we were all working together to help raise the next generation of kids or cleaning up our communities? That’s where the idea for “Rain Dance” came from. Obviously, I wanted people to be able to groove to it, but I also wanted the song to capture the feel of a large group of people all moving and pushing in the same direction for something that matters, like the marches that used to happen back in the day with Martin Luther King.

RP: Do you still feel that Hip-Hop has the ability to instigate positive change amongst its listeners? Or do you think we’re at a point now where most people aren’t even looking towards Hip-Hop for any sort of lyrical substance, they just want the simple, redundant music that’s largely become the norm on a mainstream level today?

B: To answer the first part of your question, I definitely think the potential is still there in the music to make a change. But really, in the current musical climate we’re in right now, I think it will take someone unexpected to do something in that vein for it to really make a difference. I mean, I’m doing my part, but I’ve only got so many listeners right now. I’m not really on TV or on the radio, so I can only reach so many people. Obviously the internet helps a great deal, but even still, I’m not the coolest cat on these blogs right now (laughs). But if someone like a 50 Cent was to try something different and start addressing certain issues in his music, I know it would have a real impact on his listeners because so many people really follow what he does. But that’s the whole conundrum in Hip-Hop right now because I don’t really know what people want, but I still make music because I do feel that I can have a positive effect on people and I feel that there is room for me in today’s Hip-Hop landscape. I don’t know if the masses will ever get sick of only being offered a particular representation of mainstream Hip-Hop music, but I do feel that artists like myself could get to that same level of exposure if people within the industry and the media were willing to push the envelope in order to help us get there. It’s tough because it seems like nowadays we’re pitted against each other in Hip-Hop, like you have to choose a side. But I’m trying to do my part to balance it out.

Ryan Proctor

Buff1 – “Beat The Speakers Up” ( A-Side Worldwide / 2008 )

Hold Tighhht – Elzhi / Slum Village

Slum Village’s Elzhi on HipHopOfficial.Com’s “Artist Of The Week” talking about the Detroit scene, the importance of lyricism and the legacy of J Dilla.

In Demand – Black Milk

Detroit producer / emcee Black Milk performs “Shut It Down” and “Say Something” from last year’s “Popular Demand” album for HipHopOfficial.Com.

Rock City Representative – Finale

Detroit’s Finale talks about his upcoming projects, influences and his artistic vision.

New Joint – Buff1

Buff1- “Beat The Speakers Up” ( A-Side Worldwide / 2008 )

New single from the former Athletic Mic League member’s forthcoming album “There Is Only One”.


Ghetto Boy – Guilty Simpson

The Detroit emcee talks to Vlaze.Com about working with Dilla and his new album “Ode To The Ghetto”.

Underground Heavyweights – Percee P / Guilty Simpson

Bronx rhyme inspector Percee P freestyling with Detroit’s Guilty Simpson on DJ MK’s Kiss FM rap show this week.


Live & Direct – Phat Kat

Detroit’s Phat Kat and Elzhi of Slum Village onstage recently at Toronto, Canada’s Tonic nightclub.