Posts Tagged ‘hip-hop’

The Roots are busy:  they play every night as the house band for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, drummer Questlove has over one million followers on Twitter, and last month the band released Wake Up! a collaboration with John Legend. It was their 10th studio album in twenty years and the second released this year.  Clearly, The Roots do not press the snooze button.

Wake Up! covers soul hits from the 1960s and 70s by Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, and Baby Huey among others.  Legend’s smoky and soulful voice blends with The Roots acoustic sound, the songs have a Motown feel to them but the lyrics (sometimes slightly tweaked) have a poignancy that feels relevant in 2010.

In  “Our Generation”, originally recorded by soul singer Ernie Hines, Legend sings:

Hope of the world is in our generation
It’s all left up to us to change this present situation
Take caution from our elders, don’t make the same mistake
Let’s fill the world with love, and get rid of all the hate

The Roots have a gift for embracing all genres –try to catch their “Freestylin’ with The Roots” bit on Late Night, a genius display of musical improv. This album is a showcase for that versatility. They take the funky grooves  of Motown and effortlessly transition between rap, spoken word, and reggae.  In the lead single “Wake Everybody”, Common raps over a gospel chorus leading into another chorus by Legend and vocalist Melanie Fiona.

Amid a sea of strong covers, the album’s one original tune stands out.  In “Shine” John Legend sings: “can’t eat if we don’t feed them, can’t read if we don’t teach them.”  And the  song’s call to action will reach even more people than just dedicated Roots and John Legend fans: it’s a featured tune on the soundtrack for Waiting For Superman, the new documentary about the state of American public education, opening around the country October 8th.

–Max Bass

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Today is a big day for hip-hop: it’s the birthday of both André 3000 and RJD2. Born just one year apart, they both have had an indelible influence on the genre – and in very different ways.

André 3000 is one half of Outkast, whose 2004 double album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below took home three Grammys, including one for the incredibly infectious (and still-catchy-after-all-these-years) single “Hey Ya!”. RJD2’S albums are largely instrumental and a little more under the radar, but they feature some of the best and catchiest beats to hit the underground scene this decade.  He has also produced tracks for talented MCs like MF Doom and Aceyalone and released an album The Colossus earlier this year.

Though both are known for their collaborations with other artists, the two have never worked together.  Luckily, someone else had the good idea that they should.  So, in honor of their birthdays, we present this great mash-up of Outkast’s “ATLiens” and RJD2’s “Ghostwriter.” (Heads-up: mash-up master HueJue1 blended the two songs without bleeping out the naughty words.)


– Becky Sullivan

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I recently discovered The Messengers, the amazing remix project by hip hop artist K’NAAN and producer J.Period. The collection is a tribute to musical greats Fela Kuti, Bob Marley, and Bob Dylan. On the track “Messengers and Prophets,” K’NAAN explains why he chose the artists: “Who has a message? Who has something to say to us? Who has a way to propel us? I feel like Fela Kuti did. I feel like Bob Marley did. I feel like Bob Dylan. And I hope I do.”

The 34-song tribute weaves new lyrics with the decades-old music in surprising, inventive ways. Added to that mix are archived interviews of the three music giants, as well as K’NAAN’s own stories about discovering the genius of their music. The resulting new songs prove stronger than their individual parts.

“Fatima/Stir It Up” sets a track off K’NAAN’s latest album, Troubador, against Bob Marley’s iconic hit. Marley’s soothing reggae immediately sets the tone of reminiscence, and the slower remix version lets the story of a boy’s lost love resonate more poignantly:

Studio 360 first talked to K’NAAN in 2007 about learning English from the songs of rappers Eric B. and Rakim — and how growing up in Somalia, the so-called “nation of poets,” seeps into his hip hop:

You can hear the entire mixtape here.

– Jess Jiang

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Hip-hop gets a bad rap for being male-dominated and misogynist.  But female MCs have been on the cutting edge of hip-hop since the beginning. The 80’s saw outspoken artists like MC Lyte, J.J. Fad, Salt-n-Pepa, Queen Latifah; in the 90’s we had Missy Elliott, Eve, and Lauryn Hill. If you take a look around this past decade, though, you might wonder, where the ladies at?

Kid Sister at SXSW 2010

Fear not. Last month at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, I saw an amazing range of female hip-hop artists — from the provocative political rap of Detroit’s Invincible, to the soulful tunes of Nigerian artist Nneka, to the booty-shakin’ club rap of Chicago’s Kid Sister.

If you thought hip-hop was dead, Invincible says look no further than its women.  “The revival of hip-hop is the women in hip-hop movement.  We’re here to smack people out of their slumber and wake them up.”

On Studio 360 this week, Invincible, Kid Sister, Maluca and Nneka talk about what inspires their music. Listen to the piece here:

You can catch most of these artists on tour right now.  Here’s a sampling of videos of their best tracks.

Nneka is Nigerian but got her record deal while living in Germany for a few years. This is “Walking” from her debut US album, Concrete Jungle. Like Lauryn Hill, Nneka both sings and raps, and mixes styles from reggae to R&B.

Invincible considers herself an “artist-activist” and started her own independent label in Detroit called Emergence Media.  She organized the first Women in Hip-Hop showcase at SXSW this year. This is “Sledgehammer” off her album Shape Shifters.

New York’s Maluca has just released her first single, “El Tigeraso.” The electro-merengue track was produced by Diplo, best known for his work with MIA.

Chicago rapper Kid Sister released her debut album, Ultraviolet, last fall.  Her deliciously fun “club rap” has already caught the attention of Kanye West, Cee Lo, and Estelle, who all guest on the album. But I think the best tracks don’t even need those heavyweights.

Ana Tijoux is Latin America’s best known female MC.  She broke through in the 90’s with her group called Makiza, and after a short hiatus has launched a solo career.  Her new album 1977 (the year of her birth) is being released here this month.  Tijoux grew up in France because her parents were exiles of the Pinochet regime.  She returned to Chile as a teenager, and that’s where she fell in love with hip-hop.

Kings of hip-hop, consider this your 21st century wake-up call. The new queens are here.

– Leital Molad

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Kid Sister

The prize for best booty-shakin’ performance of SXSW in Austin last week goes to Chicago rapper Kid Sister.  Her first single, “Pro Nails” (featuring Kanye West), is just the tip of iceberg. Ultraviolet takes the best of high-energy 80s dance hip-hop and shoots it through a 21st century indie-electro filter: tight, fast beats, crazy synths, rapid-fire lyrics and irresistible hooks. If the opener, “Right Hand Hi,” doesn’t get you off your ass and dancing, I don’t know what will.

– Leital Molad

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Rádio do Canibal
BK-One with Benzilla

The hottest music out of Brazil at the moment might actually be from Minnesota.  On Rádio do Canibal, Twin City beat-makers BK-One and Benzilla have crafted one of the most musical hip-hop records of the year.  As the title indicates, the American DJs cannibalized a slew of records gathered on a recent trip to Brazil.  Dirty salsa beats mix with Tropicália melodies in a seamless 19-track excursion from the City of God to the beaches of Ipanema.  It helps that the roster of guest hip-hop talent includes such stellar wordsmiths as Black Thought, Murs, and Raekwon.

– Derek L. John

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