Posts Tagged ‘rap’

Dub Kweli
Max Tannone

The latest mash-up album from New York producer Max Tannone is both relaxing and inspirational. Tannone combines reggae beats from artists like Michael Prophet and King Jammy with lyrics by “conscious rapper” Talib Kweli. The juxtaposition of smooth reggae melodies and Kweli’s edgy social commentary works surprisingly well, and pays tribute to the Jamaican artists who influenced the birth of rap itself.

In 2007, Kweli stopped by Studio 360 and talked with Kurt about Black Star (his duo with Mos Def) and his early days in hip-hop.

– Max Bass

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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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Colombia has a very wide range of musical styles, reflecting the country’s strong regional cultures and diverse roots – African, indigenous, and European.  It’s similar to Brazil, and that shows in the music.  But I think many of us are more conscious of the richness of Brazilian music.  Here are some listening suggestions for Colombians artists and styles mentioned in my story this week.

Aterciopelados are that very special combination of a creative and original yet extremely popular group.  The band has become political and social advocates.  The title song on Río, the most recent cd, refers to the very polluted Bogotá River; the band has promoted a clean water referendum.  (But there’s also a lightness to Aterciopelados’ lyrics – as singer Andrea Echeverri points out, “río” is also a form of the verb for “to smile.”)  “Canción Protesta” – Protest Song – was reworked for an Amnesty International-UN project as “The Price of Silence,” with new multilingual lyrics.  Here’s the video, recorded at the UN General Assembly hall.  Note that Andrea is very pregnant with her second child!

Amnesty International / The Price of Silence video:

Check out two additional videos: here and here.

Here are more listening and general links for Colombian artists:

Bomba Estéreo mixes cumbia rhythms with lots of sampling and mixing – and also a serious rock attitude.  They’re part of a very creative stable of artists recording for the indie label Polen, in Bogotá.  Nacional Records has picked up the most recent cd, Blow Up, to break the band in North America. [video]


Carlos Vives is the former soap opera sweetheart who was inspired by a role he played to explore the roots of Colombia’s accordion-driven vallenato music, and in so doing so really raised urban audience’s awareness and respect for the music.

First he made a cd, Clasicos de la Provincia, covering traditional vallenato classics.  With the help of producer Ivan Benavides, he followed up with a more contemporary take on vallenato, Tierra de Olvido.  The title cut was a huge hit, and he’s made several more hybrid records. [video, video]


Ivan Benavides also led Bloque, a band that didn’t make it into the final version of our story as things got whittled down. But Bloque is a critic’s choice as probably the first Colombian band of its generation to organically mix rock and roots.


Benavides and British DJ Richard Blair are Sidestepper, maybe the first group to effectively blend electronica with any Latin music.

Sidestepper has been enormously influential on younger artists in Colombia including Bomba Estéreo, and has influenced the popular cumbia DJ scene in Buenos Aires, known as Zizek. [video]


Pernett is a talented young Polen label artist originally from Barranquilla.  Like Bomba Estéreo, they mix cumbia and the African-inflected champeta with modern beats. [video]


Sol Okarina is a fine young artist whose lovely cd Sumergible, also on Polen, blends champeta and other styles with indie pop. [video]


Choc Quib Town is a highly acclaimed Afro-Colombian band that’s a little more rap-oriented, but also blending traditional styles and rhythms into their music.  Oro was nominated for a Latin Grammy in 2009 and is being released in the US in February. [video]


Toto La Momposina features traditional music from many regions in her music.


Another stream of musical hybridism in Colombian music blends jazz and traditional music. This collection from the (sadly defunct) Chonta records is an excellent starting point for further explorations in new Colombian music.


Finally, here are a few good cds for exploring more traditional and old-school Colombian music:

Cumbia Cumbia compilations, Volumes 1 & 2 – classic tracks from the golden age of dance band cumbia in Colombia, in the 1950s and 60s.

Si Soy Llanero: Joropo Music from the Orinoco Plains, released by Smithsonian Folkways.

Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto: This group is carrying the torch for the most traditional form of cumbia, played on the long-tubed vertical gaita flutes with percussion. A good example is their cd, Un Fuego de Sangre Pura.


And I’ve only scratched the surface here!  If you’d like further recommendations, or have questions, thoughts, corrections, or suggestions – post a comment below.  Or you can also contact me directly.

– Rob Weisberg

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Speech Therapy
Speech Debelle

In our contest-obsessed culture, it’s easy to tune out awards hoopla. But England’s Mercury Prize has done what a meaningful award should do: shine a light on an artist who deserves it.  Twenty-six year-old Speech Debelle was virtually unknown before she won the prize last month.  Her debut record, Speech Therapy, is filled with hopeful, street-sassy rapping over organic beats.  Brushes, upright bass, piano and clarinet back up Debelle’s rhymes about growing up in London. She’s had some tough times, but doesn’t let it get her down.  The best track, “Spinning,” opens with her staccato flow: “This is for the tat on my wrist/ this is for the black of my fist/ this is for the S in my lisp…” and leads into an irresistible schoolyard chorus: “The world keeps spinning… nobody knows where it will take us, but I hope it gets better.”  With this delightfully catchy song, you feel like it is.

– Leital Molad

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