Thursday, 30 May 2013

SAMRO mentorship programme sees a meeting of musical minds

South Africa’s composers of tomorrow are receiving personal tuition by the best in the music business, thanks to the SAMRO Foundation’s new mentorship programme.
This novel programme, aimed at developing the country’s next generation of music creators, pairs established local composers with promising up-and-coming composers who are eager to create new works in the jazz or Western art genres.
The aim is to equip promising young musicians with the necessary skills and techniques to expand the current oeuvre of original South African orchestral works – a sphere of music whose development is lagging behind that of others in this country.
“As a collecting society that chiefly serves the composers and authors of music, SAMRO strongly believes it is essential to invest in cultivating our country’s bubbling-under composing talent. This will hopefully help address and correct the current shortage of significant orchestral works by South African composers,” explains André le Roux, the Managing Director of the SAMRO Foundation.
The six-month mentoring programme kicked off in May 2013, and is already seeing a constructive meeting of minds between eight up-and-coming composers and six seasoned music professionals and academics. Should this pilot project prove successful, the Foundation envisages it becoming an ongoing programme.
Professor Peter Klatzow, a composer and former teacher of contemporary classical music at the University of Cape Town, and himself the winner of the SAMRO Overseas Scholarships Competition for Composers in 1964, is mentoring Amy Crankshaw and Andrew Hoole. Crankshaw, a third-year student at UCT, is studying towards a BMus in composition, with French horn and piano as her main instruments. She plays principal horn in the UCT Symphony Orchestra and in several chamber music groups. Hoole, who studied jazz composition and arrangement at UCT and is working on his Masters in composition, collaborated on the locally-produced animated feature film Adventures in Zambezia as assistant composer and orchestrator.
Notable jazz arranger, composer, teacher and pianist Noel Stockton, who lectures in jazz studies at the University of the Free State, will be sharing his vast experience and wisdom with Andrew-John Betheke and Mandla Mlangeni.
Mlangeni, a Soweto-born trumpeter, composer, bandleader and arranger who also studied at UCT, was the runner-up in last year’s SAMRO Overseas Scholarships Competition for instrumentalists. Betheke, another UCT graduate who now works in Grahamstown, has experimented with orchestral and choral writing and produced a symphony that was brought to life by the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Eminent composer Stefans Grové, one of the founding fathers of South African art music who is known for incorporating indigenous African elements into “Western” orchestral compositions, is coaching Evans Netshivhambe and Bernette Mulungo.
In addition, having been commissioned to compose a work for the SAMRO Scores for Young Players publication in 2010, Netshivhambe, a University of the Witwatersrand BMus graduate, has also written works for string and wind quartet. Mulungo is studying towards a Masters in music composition at Wits, focusing on research and theatre music. As composer, arranger and performer, he has created music for several campus and professional productions.
Dr Rexleigh Bunyard, a musician, composer and lecturer who is currently teaching voice and violin at Roedean School, is mentoring Jessica da Silva. Da Silva is majoring in composition studies and community music for her BMus at Wits, and has already had her orchestra and string quartet pieces played by the JPO Academy and a professional outfit, respectively.
British-born composer, conductor and cellist Allan Stephenson, who has lived and worked in South Africa for 40 years, is advising Laura Stevens. Stevens, a cellist, pianist and composer who studied at UCT before heading to the Royal College of Music in London to pursue her Masters, wishes to further hone her skills in particularly concert hall and screen composition.
Upon completion of the programme, the six candidates will be expected to produce an orchestral suite, which will then become part of SAMRO’s range of orchestral repertoire.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

One Hit Wonders

Have you ever had something so good that you want it again and again, but you can't? Like the expression chasing the dragon - one hit wonders come into our lives and pull a Houdini just when we started liking their material. For some that break through was pure lucky, a lucky song pick accompanied by a dope beat, whilst some it's their talent that made us take notice and made us like them. Just like the mist – they just disappeared into thin air.

Skee-Lo - I Wish"
Skee-Lo's only hit is something of an underdog anthem. It's for everyone who wished they could be a little bit better at something. Who can't identify with that? Oddly enough, it rose up the charts and earned Skee-Lo a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Solo Performance in 1996 (he lost out to Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise). But months after the song was released, Skee-Lo essentially retired from rap due to legal disputes with his label, Sunshine Records, over who wrote and produced the song.

Vanilla Ice - Ice Ice Baby
This 1990 song may have become a punch line of sorts, but it was the first hip hop song to top the Billboard charts, changing the game in terms of what the genre could and couldn't do commercially. Aight, stop/ Collaborate and listen, the iconic opening lines to Ice Ice Baby, a song so great that it destroyed Robbie Van Winkle AKA Vanilla Ice’s career.

985 - Utlwa
I remember many ladies hated DI’s verse – DI was the female member of the group or was she – hell no one ones and cares. She rapped about how her body would self-destruct, how she got wetter than a tap, more like Lil’ Kim’s SA very own. (For all youngings - YouTube them.) Deipkloof natives blew up with Utlwa, but we couldn’t hear any more hit from them. They are still around, still chasing that mainstream hit. 

All The Coca Cola Pop Stars: 101, Adilah And Ghetto Lingo
101 was the first group put together Idols style and they went on to release two or one tracks that grabbed people’s attention and it was downhill. Then came in Adilah, four pretty faces and a dude, they gave us sesfikile and dropped off the radar. Lastly came, Ghetto Lingo – honestly when I heard their first single – I went straight to the graveyard to grieve their careers. Like a sneeze – they were all gone.

Cali Swag District - Teach Me How to Dougie
A lot of rap songs in the past few years are accompanied by a signature dance move, but none reached the heights of this 2010 hit, immortalized when First Lady Michelle Obama busted it out with Dr. Oz at a Washington D.C. elementary school. Cali Swag District's follow-up efforts were derailed later the following year, when group dancer M-Bone was shot and killed. Cali Swag District's song went viral and wound up amassing over 30 million plays on YouTube. It also sold over 2 million copies. And oh yeah, it certainly didn't hurt, but CSD suffered a setback when M-Bone, the group's dancer, was shot and killed. They have yet to recapture the same level of success.

Mims -This Is Why I'm Hot
Mims had been grinding it out as a serious underground rapper, when-perhaps frustrated with the way things were going-he decided to make something with a tad more commercial appeal. The irony of it all was that he admitted right on the song that it was all kind of some elaborate joke. "I can sell a mill sayin' nothing on the track," he spit. And then he did! Joke's on you, buddy.

Wikid ‎– Anger Management
Wikid was or is still is a dope MC wherever he is but he couldn’t maintain longevity for whatever reason. He blew up rolling with Amu and Mr Selwyn and dropped Anger Management and that was it. Wikid dawg, what happened?

Nonchalant - 5 O’clock In The Morning
Released in 1996, "5 O'Clock" was a story about hustling, told from a women's perspective. At the time, that was a point of view on the subject that hadn't been tackled and the beautifully gloomy tune shot up the charts and became a #1 rap single. Unfortunately, Nonchalant's follow-up efforts weren't received as well.

Zulu Mobb - Comfort Me
“Jesus relieve my stress,” rapped a group known as Zulu Masters Of Black Bravery AKA Zulu Mobb consisting of Inshala and Dez. When you set the bar high, a lot will be expected from you and nothing less. The guys never lived up to the hype proving the saying don’t believe the hype.

J-Kwon -Tipsy
Missouri rapper J-Kwon will forever be remembered for this contribution to hip-hop. "Tipsy" went to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. With its "We Will Rock You" drums and catchy hook, "Tipsy" seemingly came out of nowhere. Then Kwon disappeared just as quickly, which in hindsight, most rap fans are probably OK with.

GP gangster - Brand New Day
Hailing from Zola - Bafana, Nkosana and Tumza, made their names through writing for others and someone might have influenced them to drop an album. So they did and broke through with Brand New Day, but failed to live up to it.

Rich Boy “Throw Some Ds”
When rap fans were hungry for a new song about protruding car rims - this also coincided with rap’s obsession with the ‘dirty south’ and was the perfect time for a fresh-faced fella by the name of Rich Boy. Straight out of Alabama, a state more associated with Nascar than rap music, he hit like a juggernaut wearing a Jesus piece with the instant classic Throw Some D’s. Sadly for Rich though the track was a hit based on the addictive beat rather than his close-to-incomprehensible molasses thick voice. Producer Polow Da Don has become hit-maker for the stars while Rich Boy remains in rap purgatory, plotting his mainstream comeback.

My Man Ft Lebo Mathosa -  Siyavuma
If memory proves me right, My Man was the first none Skwatta member on Buttabing Entertainment and dude resembled US rapper Game. The track blazed through the airwaves and was certified a hit and went on to drop an album called, Imenemene. That was the last we heard from him and word has it that he stepped on some Ventilation(Slikour) toes and learned the hard way.

Guerilla Black
Compared to Brooklyn’s legend the late great Notorious B.I.G – Black’s career was in serious trouble from start. Dude had two hits Compton, featuring Beanie Man and You're The One, featuring Mario Winans. That was that, his short contribution to hiphop. The last we heard, he was arrested for credit card fraud – guess times are hard.

Honourable Mention
Pitch Black Afro
Now Afro wasn’t a one hit wonder per say - his first album Styling Gel had a few hits – he’s more like a one hit album dude. Yeah we will call him that, produced by the legendary DJ Cleo, the album hard hits like Pitch Black Afro, Matofotofo and Pidipidi just name a few. Clubbers danced to his songs, cars blazed them and then something happened between him and Cleo - dude fell off and his career was never the same.

Rappers Murdered On Their Own Tracks

It a simple unwritten rule - you can’t have a man come into your house and just do as they please. Same thing with tracks, if you had to feature anyone, why let them murder you on your own shit?
Whenever one rapper reaches out to ask another to guest on their song, there's usually genuine respect unless the feature was mandated by the label. But either way, you don't want your guest turning in a lackluster performance since that wackness reflects badly on you. Then again, you don't want anybody jacking your spotlight either.

Ever since Nas hurled those immortal words "Eminem murdered you on your own shit," we've been thinking about all the songs where rappers stepped in and straight bodied their hosts. That's why we're taking a trip to the land of damaged egos and career-making cameos with songs where rappers got murdered on their own shit.

Jay-Z f/ UGK Big Pimpin'
Murderer: Pimp C
Album: Vol. 3: The Life & Times of S. Carter

"In the South, I'm regarded as the guy who, quote unquote, out-rapped Jay-Z," Bun B once boasted about this song. "Not saying that I'm a better rapper than Jay-Z, but I was able to out-rap Jay-Z on a track." Bun might have a point there, but as dope as his verse is, he's still playing second fiddle to the late great Pimp C, who made this Timbo track his bitch, added it to the stable, and put it on the stroll. Drunk people in clubs nationwide rejoice at being able to sing along to his slow, trill delivery. The legacy of this verse lives on - it was even quoted at length this year on Kendrick Lamar's "Blow My High (Members Only)". Maybe that's why the video version magically boasts an extra Hov verse at the end.

The Fugees f/ Pace Won, Young Zee, Rah Digga & John Forte "Cowboys"
Murderer: John Forte
Album: The Score
The year 1996 belonged to the Fugees. The Score was flying off the shelves thanks to "Ready Or Not" and "Killing Me Softly." Unfortunately, those radio-friendly singles overshadowed the lyrical frenzy of "Cowboys," featuring three members of the legendary Jersey crew The Outsidaz. But it was an unknown MC by the name of John Forte who came out of nowhere at the end tore the entire song out of the frame.

Wale f/ J. Cole & Melanie Fiona "Beautiful Bliss"
Murderer: J. Cole
Album: Attention Deficit
In 2009, Wale dropped his debut album and tried his damnest to prove he was going to be the next big thing. Unfortunately for him, his debut album was basically a complete disaster. To make matters worse, he invited J. Cole to rhyme alongside him on "Beautiful Bliss." Cole ended up outshining Wale so bad it left us thinking we jumped the gun with Wale and should have been more concerned with Cole's debut.

B.o.B's "Gladiators,"
Murderer: J. Cole

Cole is a murderer, he should be doing lyrical time in some jail or something, the man is on a mission to murder all those who feature him. I can't remember what B.o.B is saying in the joint that’s cause Cole just owned the song. He says it best, "You'll see we not the same/I got a shit list with lots of names/And plus hit list with of rappers I'ma cock and aim"

EPMD f/ LL Cool J "Rampage"
Murderer: LL Cool J
Album: Business As Usual

Yeah Mr Todd Smith seems soft but he is not one to be messed with and a couple of MCs might testify to that. Long before Hollywood, Ladies Love Cool James was a beast on the mic and at a time when Def Jam was heaven to a swam of Mcs - LL held his own on the EPMD track.

Lil Wayne f/ Fabolous & Juelz Santana "Nothing On Me"
Murderer: Fabolous
Album: Tha Carter III

From the hypnotic 808s of "A Milli" to smooth cuts like "Ms. Officer" and the jazzy touch of "Dr. Carter," the beats on Lil' Wanye's Carter III were eccentric as Weezy himself. That might explain why this beat, provided by The Alchemist, had a distinctively East Coast feel. But Tunechi may have made a mistake by giving Funeral Fab home-court advantage. Bear witness to Fab putting on a punchline clinic as he spits an extended metaphor about the Wayans brothers before weaving into a long riff on Italian food. Juelz holds his own, but by the time Wayne shows up, it's just too late. He's got nothing on Fab this time around.

Ma$e f/ DMX, Black Rob & The LOX "24 Hours To Live"
Murderer: DMX
Album: Harlem World

A textbook definition of finishing up strong: There was no way DMX wasn't going to rip this rugged and raw beat to shreds like a pitbull with an old tire. While all of the other MCs on the track seemed to be at peace with their impending lyrical demise, Earl was stuck in straight-up maniac mode. A year later, DMX's career would finally take off as he became the hottest rap in the game. And yeah, we remembered his name.

Nas f/ Ludacris & Jadakiss "Made You Look (Remix)"
Murderer: Ludacris
Album: God's Son

Oh, you thought Luda was only comfortable on bouncy Southern-tinged beats? Think again. While Nas and Jada might have treated this as just another 16 to add to their illustrious portfolios, Luda came back for the first time with a vengeance. It felt like Cris was out to prove that he could hold his own alongside two of NYC's most prolific spitters. And that he did. If you don't believe us, watch the crowd reaction at the 1:20 mark here.

UGK f/ Outkast "International Players Anthem"
Murderer: Andre 3000
Album: Underground Kings

Before the song goes into super crunk mode, "International Players Anthem" is set off by one of the best lyricists to ever rise from the Dirty Dirty not to mention hip-hop, period. Andre weaves a clever story detailing the complexity of the opposite sex over some horns and a church choir. It's a perfect set-up right before the bass drops in, Pimp C sets off his verse, and the song blasts that church into rubble. The only bad news is that this song started 3 Stacks' habit of focusing on crazy guest verses. Years later, there's still no solo album in sight. Guess we're going to have to keep bumping The Love Below a little longer.

Kanye West f/ Nicki Minaj, Jay-Z, Rick Ross, & Bon Iver "Monster"
Murderer: Nicki Minaj
Album: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Nicki has had a ton of great guest verses, but this one was the meanest yet. Going toe-to-toe with some of the best in the game, she turned heads swiftly after unleashing this ferocious split-personality flow. No pretty Barbie smile or Taylor Swift co-signs required on this one.

Game f/ 50 Cent "Hate It Or Love It" (2005)
Murderer: 50 Cent
Album: The Documentary

With their beef at least 50 can say I murdered Game on his track. When they were still in one camp, Fif' jumped on the track with Game and the result never favored the Compton born.

Raekwon f/ Nas & Ghostface Killah Verbal Intercourse 
Murderer: Nas
Album: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx

Being the first ever non-Wu member ever featured on a Wu track, on arguably the strongest debut solo effort from a Wu-Tang member is a pretty dubious honor. And Nas exploited that to the fullest. RZA's mellifluous track compliments Nas' flow like a pinky ring to a silk shirt. And they had the nerve to let him go first?

Jay-Z f/ Kanye West & Rihanna Run This Town 
Murderer: Kanye West
Album: The Blueprint 3

If there's any misconception about how superb Kanye's verse is on "Run This Town," just check the video. You can see Jay-Z mouthing the lyrics right along with 'Ye, almost as if he wished the awesome 32-bar verse was his. Yeezy didn't just rattle off one of the best raps of his career, he also defeated his teacher. When XXL asked Jay-Z about being out rapped by 'Ye he conceded the point: "As long as I've been in the game, that's going to happen, once or twice or even three times." In other words, "Yeah Ye got me, but I've won so many times who's counting?"

LL Cool J f/ Canibus, Method Man, Redman, & DMX "4, 3, 2, 1 (Original)" (1997)
Murderer: Canibus
Album: Phenomenon

Ah for all those that are new to rap music or were in a comma - this here is the track that distorted Canadian rapper Canibus' career. Bus murdered LL and his career went just went downhill. Even LL testified how he set him up with Wyclef and spent his whole album budget.

Amu - Attention ft. Mr Sewyn & Pro-Verb
Album: he Life, Rap and Drama
Murderer: Mr Sewyn

Mr Verb played it safe like avoiding stepping on toes, easily forgetting his verse, but as the track was headed to a yawn state - Mr Sewyn stepped up and cleaned the floor with Amu and Verb's verses. Translating what he says on the track, "My blood is filled with hate/wasting my strength on hiphop/to be in this state/maybe the mistake is I wasn't inspired."

Nicki Minaj f2 Chainz "Beez In The Trap"
Murderer: 2 Chainz
Album: Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded

Chainz officially made the jump to mega-stardom right around the time he was featured on the hottest single off NIcki's sophomore album. It's the first time we've ever heard the word "Doohickey" in a rap verse before and probably also the first time anybody ever told NIcki he would put it in her kidney.

Future f/Diddy "Same Damn Time (Remix)"
Murderer: Diddy
Album: Pluto

A few years back, when everyone thought Diddy's rapping career was down for the count, he hopped on Waka Flocka Flame's "O Let's Do It (Remix)" and totally spit one of the best verses of that year. Puff picks up where he left off on the "Same Damn Time (Remix)," spitting obnoxious and outlandish rhymes that he owns because, well, he's Diddy and he can do whatever the fuck he wants.

Kendrick Lamar f/Gunplay "Cartoons and Cereal"
Murderer: Gunplay

Every year rap goes through a transition and if Gunplay could have come out ten years ago, um maybe his songs where going to be thrown in the trash as just that… trash. But now the Miami native and Rozah's sidekick is trying to step away from the shadows of the beard one. Kendrick has massive talent, but on Cartoons and Cereal, it’s Gun that wanted it the most.

Young Nations f/Pro Syeke Ngendaba
Murderer: Pro
Album: Nations Uprising

Pro formally known as ProKid, made his name sending MCs to their career graves. Who can ever forget the battles of Gandhi Square? Young Nations fresh from the US, jumped into the studio and reached out to Pro. Maybe Pro thought, hey man let me show this SA Yankee how we do it over here and the result - I'm not even sure if Young ever realized and album after this.  

Game f/Kendrick Lamar "The City"
Murderer: Kendrick Lamar
Album: The R.E.D. Album

Some would argue that Game is not a strong rapper and that it was a walkover for K-dot, but why step into the ring with a monster if you are not prepared to fight? Kendrick rips this track to shreds, from his hook to his verse - there's no denying the man poised to take over the crown of the west coast.

Scarface f/2Pac "Smile"
Murderer: 2Pac
Album: The Untouchable

Pac was a great motivator on tracks, spoke of the struggles of black people and yes he had tracks about bitches but what Pac wasn't was a super lyricist. Two poets joining forces on a track that asks you to smile even through hardship. Pac was built for these sort of tracks, it's like calling Michael Jackson to come babysit your kid (God rest his soul). Pac gives us a wakeup call on the state of the hood. "No fairy tales for this young black male/Some see me stranded in this land of hell, jail, and crack sales/Hustlin' and heart be a nigga culture."

Da L.E.S f/Bongani Fassie and Maggz "on fire"
Album: Fresh to Def
Muderer: Maggz

Maggz used to roll with Pro once upon a time and he is or was lyrically a man bold enough to step up to Pro and could have won. We have heard stories of his mic aggression and he shows it on this joint, he bodies L.E.S

Monday, 27 May 2013

Do We Really Have Classic Albums?

Shady once said that The Source was like the Bible of rap music and getting 5 mics was like getting to heaven or close to it. It determined if people were going to buy your album or not. Then the whole beef between The Source owners Benzino – info leaked that some of those 5 mics weren’t given on merit alone.

So the question is – what makes an album a classic? Do we support the OG and give them respect because they have been around for donkey years or do they really have classic albums? Which South African rap star has a classic album? Lots of questions with no answers – hold up… before you go running and say the rap game in SA is still fresh. Check your facts and you will see that it’s been kicking for a minute now.

Before their hiatus - Skwatta Kamp is four albums deep and only two stands out - Khut En Joyn and Mkhukhu Funkshen. And between the two if I had to crown one a classic album...I'd say Khut En joyn. Mkhukhu Funkshen was a commercial success no doubt but comparing it to Khut En joyn would be like saying Kingdom Come is better than Reasonable Doubt or that Nastradamus is better than Illmatic. But this still doesn’t answer the question, what defies a classic album?

Some albums as we got to learn from the Benzino era that some album ratings’ are based on who those writers are cool with. Also it falls down to who you like and whether or not you are feeling their album or not.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Paying Homage To X

Fifteen years ago this month, DMX changed the face of hip-hop with the release of his debut album. MTV banned his videos, the record sold over a quarter of a million in its first week (eventually going quadruple platinum) and he brought back a sense of aggression and street rebellion to rap, during the height of its jiggy and flashy outfits years. TSS had to herald #DMXWeek, and pull his copy of It's Dark and Hell Is Hot out of the closet and try to determine what exactly it was that made its release such a watershed moment in rap history.

DMX has a knack for extraordinarily cold-blooded lines and natural dialogue, the latter evidenced by the many tracks he employs it on. Other than that though, Dark Man X is not a particularly striking lyricist. Hit em with the ox to the grill / Eh, ah, kill nigga kill', is not Pulitzer material, but then again, X isn't writing a book and in the form of a rap his grunts, growls and sometimes relatively simple lyrics, are highly effective throughout. The crux is in his delivery and vocal inflections. Wether he's begging for forgiveness or bludgeoning a foe, DMX sounds like a storm of emotions bursting through a cracked surface, and you believe every word he says.

Besides violence and robbery, the other recurring theme in It's Dark and Hell Is Hot is religion. Christianity, to be specific, and both Hell and Heaven are very real concepts to him. DMX is obviously a proponent of east coast gangster rap, but unlike most of his peers, he doesn't paint himself as a Stringer Bell-type character, calmly in control and building his empire with a firm understanding of what drives capitalism in its darkest corners. He seems (though less calculated) more akin to Omar(those that are lost - check The Wire), a lone gunman and urban legend feared throughout the hood, for whom reputation is everything, revenge trumps business sense and violence is inescapable. He robs, steals and kills, because it is the only way he knows to survive (Somewhat ironically, the visceral excitement of this kind of street drama also resonated greatly with suburban white kids, giving them music to rebel against the status quo with). His lifestyle presses heavily on his conscious, and simultaneously excuses him of changing his ways, as he is convinced that he's already destined to hell. The only way he sees out for himself is rap, but in Damien even that is tainted by a deal with the devil, turning his way out back towards his former self. I can see, ain't nothing but trouble ahead he somberly concludes, residing in his fate.

Damien is a great example of DMX's ability to suit his many vocal inflections to the song at hand. Putting on different voices for the titular character, he embodies both sides of the dialogue, like he does similarly on The Convo, the song's mirror-image containing a conversation with God. DMX paints himself as a monster, a full-blooded ghetto horror story (“1, 2, X is coming for you children eerily sing on ‘X-Is Coming), but he knows he can and should be something else. The Jekyll and Hyde-like struggle within him is literalised on ‘Stop Being Greedy, the greatest song on the album and perhaps his entire discography. Both sides of DMX trade bars throughout the song, his voice an aggressive bark for one (I'm broke so I'ma bashed his head wide-open / Begging me to stop but at least he died hopin') and passionate resilience for the other (But I don't like drama so I stay to myself / Keep focus with this rap shit and pray for the wealth). The chorus is doubled and DMX spits it in both voices, giving the same lines entirely different connotations just by how he expertly shifts his delivery.

DMX knows the edge. He was teetering from it for almost the entire album. It's when he sidesteps the internal conflict that makes him such an unpredictable and magnetic presence, that the album falls flat. Like in the (at the time practically requisite on a major label rap album) R&B-ified loverman song How's It Goin' Down' or the overly saccharine schmaltsing of the Phil Collins sampling ‘I Can Feel It' (You know the one, about that guy who could've saved that other guy from drowning, but didn't, and Phil saw it all, then at a a show he found him). Even including those unflatteringly aged warts though, it's not hard to see why It's Dark and Hell Is Hot made such an impact.

When rap was at its most anaemic, DMX reinvigorated it with a dose of venom. In another time and place, he might've been a great blues singer, struggling with darkness, doubt, self-loathing and faith. But he was born in Yonkers during the latter part of the 20th century. That means all that frustration and raging emotion was poured into his rapping. Rap, especially from the New York area, was mostly concerned with lyricism. Wit, punchlines, storytelling, the technicalities of an impressive flow and while all that is far from unimportant, DMX brought the raw, gritty, unrelenting and sometimes uncontrollable emotion into it that was missing in 1998. You can hear the echo of his bark in Schoolboy his vocal inflections and ad-libs. You can hear it in Kendrick Lamar's balancing of religion and street tales. You can hear it in every rapper that went from a shiny suit back to a wife-beater.

It sometimes seems as if DMX was always headed for destruction, and knew it too. But reporting live from the edge, he first pulled rap back to its initial place there, blood still dripping from his canines.

Can Mixtapes Help The SA Music Industry?

"They're where an artist works out who they want to be, before they commit to an album," breakout emcee Angel Haze tells NME. "Mixtapes are the difference between an artist working out who want to be and who they are." The 20-year-old should know – her free-to-download 2012 tape 'Reservation' turned her from a New York unknown into one of hip-hop's fastest rising stars, with her debut album due later this year expected to be one of the biggest selling of 2013.

Haze follows in the path of fellow mixtape-to-mainstream successes Lil Wayne, Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean, A$AP Rocky and The Weeknd. Before the world knew of these great artists - they set alight their buzz on social media with mixtapes then mainstream follows. Well, you might argue that Weezy didn't start with mixtapes, but when his light was fading, he turned to mixtapes to remind people of his talent.

But could mixtapes also be the difference between sink and swim for a struggling music industry? The Weeknd's debut trilogy of albums had been available on his website for more than a year before being packaged together for a physical release by major label Island. That didn't stop more than 100,000 copies being snapped up in its first two months of release in the US alone. Sony, meanwhile, are already seeing a return on their reported $3m investment in Brooklyn fashionista A$AP Rocky, whose woozy brand of slow, sinister hip-hop went platinum recently with single 'Fuckin' Problem'. Haze isn't surprised.

"Of course those guys are doing well. Releasing a tape is a chance for people to check out your music, understand what you're about, then when you have a real album ready to go, you have a fan base there ready who are proud to have been there from the beginning with you. It's not enough these days to have a shitty 30-second clip on your Myspace page, a two minute video on YouTube. People are much more likely to give you a chance when you have something substantial out there for them to check out for free," A$AP Rocky.

But mixtapes are about more than revenue streams. Because they're released for free, there are looser laws on sampling that allow for greater creative freedom and more exciting crossovers. Case in point? Try Haze's own 'Classick' tape, which sees her borrow beats from Eminem and Lauryn Hill. "That tape was a blast. So often artists want to use a beat out of respect and homage but get caught up in red tape, you know? You can be so much more creative and flexible with it. I love those songs, and wouldn't have been able to put my own twist on them without some suits knocking down my door or some shit if I'd released it in stores or whatever." Haze adds: "They're also good in that you get a lot more experimental. A mixtape doesn't have to be coherent like an album. It's liberating." Listen to Frank Ocean and Kendrick Lamar's recent debut albums-proper and hear a little of how that fractured, experimental spirit has lingered – tracks stop, start and diverge again on thrilling tangents.

They might be a relatively new answer to the music industry's problems, but mixtapes are in fact pretty much as old as rap music itself. With the emergence of the cassette format came tapes of Grandmaster Flash, Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa and other hip-hop pioneers' party mixes, traded in the streets and on West Coast corners. From here, the format became a rite of passage for any rapper towards broader success, with everyone from Snoop Dogg to Sean 'Puff Daddy' Combs circulating tapes. By the time 50 Cent hit number one with his debut album Get Rich Or Die Tryin',' to this day the fourth best-selling hip-hop album of all time, he had released over 20 tapes. "I saturated the street market 'cos mixtapes are the entry level of hip-hop," he explained to MTV in 2003. Established artists like Kanye West, Rick Ross and Drake continue to put out occasional tapes because according to Fiddy, "They're the way of proving your credibility, proving you're still real, to the people on the street."

You might wonder why any mentions of South African artists aren’t - well mention ten that build their fan base with free music? That's right you will probably end on three or maybe to push it, count five. Others might argue that why give away something you have worked so hard for? Well, the African industry is a whole different ball game altogether - 9ja artists are making a killing compared to many other countries. What are they doing right that others are doing wrong? That's a whole new topic by itself, but Ice Prince blew up with Oleku way before he had an album. The single was up on sites to download he toured with just a few tracks under his belt.

Mixtapes may have evolved in the digital age, now no longer distributed on the street but on hosting sites. Bilal gave away a mixture on Facebook - all one needed to do was like his page and BANG!! download link.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

An Era Ends On Social Media

"Richard Pryor go and burn up, and Ike and Tina Turner break up/Then I wake up to more bullshit," rapped Jigga - and he went on to ask "Niggas, where's the love?"

If the world was to enter into some kind of apocalyptic mode -everything washed away with just a few survivors left. When rebuilding Earth - the next generations stumble upon  some hip-hop archives, they found find the mid 90s until the early 2000s - hip-hop groups flourished.

Just to name drop a few... groups like NWA, Three 6 Mafia, Salt-N-Pepa, Ruff Ryders, Onyx, Naughty by Nature, Mobb Deep, The Lost Boyz, G-Unit, Gang Starr, Geto Boys, EPMD.

These groups and many other, helped pave the way and inspired many artists today, Naughty by Nature was the first hip-hop act to win a Grammy and weren't even allowed to collect it on the stage and not to mention the legacy of Wu, NWA or Mobb Deep, OutKast.

"It's funny how money change a situation/Miscommunication leads to complication/My emancipation don't fit your equation," Lauryn Hill Lost Ones.

The surviving humans would smile going through the remains of the post apocalyptic hip-hop archives, but then something would wipe the smiles away. They would wonder, why… why was a legacy tarnished like that? In-group fighting, egos, money and lies pissed on legacies. We wake up to news of so-n-so group fighting.

Lies of twitter accounts being hacked, going on radios dissing their  partners, dropping diss track to their mans, people they rode with possible grew up with.

What the fuck is wrong with these old folks? They need to sit down and stop acting like some spoil rich white girl seeking attention. Let us enjoy the moment the legacy without these grown ass folks taking shots at each other.

"They got so much to say, but I'm just laughin at cha/You niggaz just don't know, but I ain't mad at cha," 2Pac I ain't, mad at cha.

What happened to working things out in a civil manner without airing the dirty laundry on social media? Havoc went at Prodigy via twitter and claimed his account got hacked then later manned up and admitted it. Before that Noreaga went on a radio station and vowed never to work with Capone again. Then Treach goes on a rant and disses Vinny.

What about André 3000's stunt of issuing a statement after the remix of Frank Ocean's Pink Matter? Big Boi features on the track, Dre quickly issued out a statement saying "It's important for me to be clear about the origins of my contributions to Pink Matter, I was approached as a solo artist. I never want to mislead our audience - I'm worried that some would think these were Outkast collaborations."

LOL sit your Hollywood Ass down Dre, we don't wanna hear that.
a few mankind survivors. Rebuilding and visit our past - they would find a wealth of information of our culture hip-hop. They would find from the 90s to the early 2000s -  hip-hop was at its peak, rap groups flourished and built a legacy for years to come. Groups like Wu Tang Clan, Dogg Pound, NWA, EPMD, Naughty by Nature, Capone-N-Noreaga, Mobb Deep… the list is endless.