Category: Music

The Marathon Continues: How Nipsey Hussle’s Vision for L.A. Will Live On

“I don’t ever make moves under pressure,” Nipsey Hussle explained to me back in February 2018. His final album, Victory Lap, had been out for less than a week, and he was stopping by New York City for an on-camera interview. The early numbers were looking good on his latest release. Last time that he checked, the project—which would eventually be nominated for a Best Rap Album Grammy—was headed for a top 5 debut.

On one level, the title Victory Lap represented the third installment of his Marathon trilogy. But as he savored the moment, reflecting on his accomplishments to date, Nip unpacked the words more fully. “We was able to become real successful in the mixtape space,” he said, sipping a cup of tea. “And obviously we announced the partnership with Atlantic Records. We established businesses and built an ecosystem around the music with the Marathon Store, with the Marathon Clothing, with the Marathon Agency. One of the things [Victory Lap] means to me now, when I think about it, is being able to stand up in the game. Being clear that Nipsey Hussle has a clear lane in the game, and built it, and took the stairs. We had opportunities to be assisted, but chose to do it on our own.”

In the weeks since Ermias Joseph Asghedom’s senseless murder, his legacy has come into sharper focus. If anything, the man known to many as “Neighborhood Nip” downplayed his impact as an entrepreneur and community leader during our conversation. Any misconceptions have been erased by his memorial service at the Staples Center, not to mention his hearse’s heroic last ride down a street that would soon be renamed in his honor. The intersection of Crenshaw Boulevard and West Slauson Avenue—where he came up hustling, invested millions, and ultimately lost his life—will henceforth be known as Ermias “Nipsey Hussle” Asghedom Square.

The all-too-familiar rap star narrative of diversifying into new business ventures while turning one’s back on the streets that raised him did not apply to Nipsey Hussle. He had a vision that went way beyond handing out turkeys on Thanksgiving. Nipsey was extremely involved in his local community, founding and supporting numerous L.A. businesses and organizations. According to some estimates, the businesses he and his partners built employed over 40,000 people, many of them ex-convicts who might have had difficulty finding a job elsewhere. From the co-working space Vector90 (a business incubator with built-in STEM academy) to local ventures (a FatBurger partnership, Steve’s Barber Shop, Elite Human Hair, the World on Wheels skating rink, and more), Nipsey Hussle put on for his city like no other rapper in history.

Nipsey was just getting started. Plans had been drawn up to open a six-story residential building atop his smart store with a light-rail train connecting the area he dubbed “Destination Crenshaw” to LAX. More than just meeting with LAPD officials to discuss curtailing gang violence, Hussle was also planning to visit Washington D.C. along with T.I. and their business associate Dave Gross for a series of meetings with Congress to discuss the nationwide rollout of Vector90 as part of a larger initiative called Our Opportunity. There was a lot of important work left to be done, which helps explain the widespread sense of outrage at his untimely death.

Back in February 2018, Nipsey spoke about how he dealt with one of the most difficult times in his career, between the end of his deal with Epic Records and the game-changing rollout of his 2013 Crenshaw mixtape, which he famously sold for $100 apiece. “Real-life things,” is what he said he was going through at the time. “Street shit that never really got written about, ’cause it doesn’t belong on the front page. My brother going to jail. Us getting raided. Us having real war in the streets.”

At times like these, this son of an Eritrean immigrant evoked a Red Sea metaphor that may be helpful today. “I tell my daughter don’t let the water in the boat,” Nipsey said. “The boat’ll never go down if you don’t let the water in the boat. And that’s just water—you know what I’m sayin? That’s just rough seas. We got a destination. We trying to get across the ocean to the other country, or to whatever land on the other side of this water. All that other shit, you go straight through the waves. Just don’t let the water in the boat.”

Over the past few weeks, I spoke with some of Nipsey’s family members and inner circle about their plans to carry his legacy forward. Having spent years living and working alongside this visionary artist, thinker, activist and entrepreneur, they were all used to life in Marathon mode. Even as they fought back tears, they all agreed that this particular marathon will continue.

READ MORE: https://www.complex.com/music/2019/04/nipsey-hussle-los-angeles-friends-family-interviews/

Before the Beat: How the Sounds From Your Favorite Rap Songs Are Created

What is it like to create the raw sounds that producers and musicians use to make songs?

For William “Sound Oracle” Tyler, it’s like making the art that Nick from Family Ties would construct from garbage. For Raymond “!llmind” Ibanga, it’s like cooking. For Robert “G Koop” Mandell, it’s like creating (and then immediately destroying) an elaborate sand mandala. To these elite music makers, the metaphor for describing the art of sound design may differ, but the creativity and dedication needed to stand out in this essential but little-understood corner of the hip-hop universe remains consistent.

Given how producer-centric hip-hop has become in recent years, most fans understand that a producer is the person who makes beats that rappers spit on top of. But less examined is how the sounds that producers use are created. The drums that knock in a certain special way, the head-turning keyboard sound, and the “ahhhh” that you hear everywhere? Someone had to create those in the first place, before they could be deployed in your favorite songs.

Given how producer-centric hip-hop has become in recent years, most fans understand that a producer is the person who makes beats that rappers spit on top of. But less examined is how the sounds that producers use are created. The drums that knock in a certain special way, the head-turning keyboard sound, and the “ahhhh” that you hear everywhere? Someone had to create those in the first place, before they could be deployed in your favorite songs.

The process of creating those sounds is called “sound design”—a term that encapsulates not only individual sounds, but also melodies and loops that producers will then sample, rearrange, and add elements to (you can get an in-depth look at that process here).


Everything You Need to Know About Solange’s New Album When I Get Home

Solange: Photo: Black Planet

As if willed into existence by our collective despair, Solange surprise-released her fourth album, When I Get Home, last night right at the intersection of Black History Month ending and Women’s History Month beginning. Her mind! Like her previous, groundbreaking album A Seat at the Table, Home is a rich tableau of collaboration, black history, and references to her Houston upbringing (the homeward destination implied by the collection’s title), but the album takes even more experimental risks with her sound. Among the mix of artists involved are Gucci Mane, Dev Hynes, Earl Sweatshirt, Cassie and … a viral Atlanta public-access sexpert? Let’s plunge right on in to the world of When I Get Home.

Backstory

It’s not entirely clear how soon after A Seat at the Table Solange broke ground on When I Get Home — she took some time off in 2017 to treat an unspecifiedautonomic disorder — but exactly one year ago, she revealed in a Billboard cover story that she’d been working on new music. She mentioned writing in Laurel Canyon, Topanga Canyon, and Jamaica, and said she was “following” Joni Mitchell for inspiration, sometimes unknowingly: “It has been really wild. The house that I was just recording in [in] Jamaica, I stayed there for four days. And then the last day, the owner was like, ‘You know that mural that’s downstairs in the spare bedroom that the engineer booth is in? Joni Mitchell painted that.”

Later in the year, Solange did another interview for the New York TimesT magazine, where it was reported that her fourth album would “likely arrive into the world fully formed at some mysterious and unexpected moment, like a meteor cratering into the culture” sometime that fall. “But she will not be rushed,” the piece warned. The album would be “still very much in progress until the very end,” and it remained untitled at the time of publication. “I like to be able to tell the story in 13 different ways, then I like to edit,” she said. Though it was unfinished, Solange knew how it would sound, noting that jazz would be at its core — though not exclusively. She said electronic and hip-hop drum and bass elements would also be present with the intention to make it “bang and make your trunk rattle.”

Once again citing Joni as an influence (for “lessons in balancing a career as a musician with the demands of visual creation”), she named other muses: director Busby Berkeley, dancer and choreographer Diane Madden, and Vegas theater, for inspiration for her new live shows; Missy Elliott, for visuals; and Aaliyah, Sun Ra, Rotary Connection, and Stevie Wonder’s Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants, for sonic cues. The Times wrote, “The record will be warm, she says, fluid and more sensual than her last one.”

Release

Like A Seat at the Table, Solange gave us little time to prepare for When I Get Home, mostly because sharing her art makes her antsy; drawing out the process would only make it worse. (“I have this fear living in my body about releasing work,” she told the Times. “I don’t know any artist that doesn’t feel that before they hit the send button.”) Instead, Solange reemerged on — of all places — BlackPlanet, bringing back from the presumed dead one of the original social-media platforms (predating even Myspace) that was created specifically by and for black people. She launched her own page with lyric excerpts and a dossier of new images, both still and moving, that appear to be pieces of a larger visual project.
They — along with the album’s cover, another striking portrait of Solange — were shot by Max Hirschberger and Alex Marks, creative directed by Cary Fagan, and styled by Kyle Luu and Mecca James-Williams. Images included a pole dancer (Instagram’s @neyon_tree) and scenes from a ranch, with horses and dancers styled in modern cowboy looks. Solange had referenced the latter inspiration in an earlier interview as something she’d recently taken an interest in. “Hundreds and hundreds of people every weekend are getting on horses and trail-riding from Texas to Louisiana,” she told Billboard. “It’s a part of black history you don’t hear about.” She later teased what appears to be a music video on her Instagram, instructing fans to dial the number 281-330-8004 for more clues. It’s the exact same number Mike Jones used in his song “Back Then” (“Mike jones 4 life!” she added in the caption.) She then shared the album’s full 19-song track list, with multiple songs named for geographic locales within Houston. Per her mother, Tina Lawson, it’s a map of Solange’s life: “Binz” (the street where she grew up); “Almeda” (the street where she’d get a shrimp po’boy at There’s No Place Like Nola — or Nolas, for short); “Exit on Scott” (the street where she’d eat fried chicken and beans at Frenchy’s); “Beltway” (take it to get seafood at Pappadeaux); and “S McGregor” (for a “trip down memory lane” on the street where Debbie Allen and Phylicia Rashad’s father lived and “we jogged on the bayou”).

Collaborators

Though Solange undoubtedly sits at the head of her table, there are others who got a chair. When I Get Home is her most experimental work yet, the result of massive group effort between more than a dozen artists who’ve been in Solange’s orbit for some time. The album features guest verses from Gucci Mane (“My Skin My Logo,” on which Solange also tries her hand at rapping) and Playboi Carti (“Almeda”); Cassie and Abra are the lone featured women, with vocals on “Way to the Show” and “Sound of Rain,” respectively. The rest of the album includes repeat production and vocal contributions from her circle of close friends: Dev Hynes, Tyler the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, The-Dream, Pharrell, French artist Chassol (with whom she’s toured), Panda Bear (a.k.a. Animal Collective’s Noah Lennox), Sampha, and Jamire Williams.

Atlanta producer Metro Boomin is also brought into the mix, with production on “Stay Flo” and vocals on “Almeda.” Gio Escobar, the de facto leader of the “post-genre” New York group Standing on the Corner and a close collaborator of Earl Sweatshirt, has multiple production and composition credits, lending his group’s freewheeling, sample-heavy sound as the album’s connective tissue. The Internet’s Steve Lacy also contributed production, which Solange hinted at when she previously told the Times that the two had been “jamming” together. “He’s like, ‘OK, I got these chords.’ ‘Hey, papa, let’s go!’” she said.

While A Seat at the Table was narrated by New Orleans legend Master P and Solange’s personal legends, her parents, this new album doesn’t have a narrator in that sense. But it is chopped up by interludes and snippets that involve Houston’s finest, specifically focusing on Solange’s heroes of the Third Ward, where she grew up. Most of them are samples, but even rap titan Scarface makes an original one-line special appearance for the interlude “Not Screwed!”

“S Mcgregor”
This first interlude samples a clip from the 1987 TV movie Superstars & Their Moms, where Houston’s own Phylicia Rashad and Debbie Allen recite a poem called “On Status” written by their mother Vivian Ayers-Allen, accompanied by piano: “And now my heart knows no delight. I boarded a train, kissed all goodbye.” The song’s title is a reference to S MacGregor Way in Houston, where the sisters grew up. READ MORE: https://www.vulture.com/2019/03/solanges-when-i-get-home-explainer.html

21 Savage Says He Didn’t Mind Barely Being Mentioned at the Grammys While In ICE Detainment

Last weekend, fans felt slighted on 21 Savage’s behalf when the Grammys came and went with barely a mention of the double nominee or his detainment by ICE officials over his immigration status. (Producer Ludwig Göransson was the only person to mention 21 Savage by name, and you might not have even spotted Post Malone’s “Free 21 Savage” shirt, as it was under his jacket.)

Last weekend, fans felt slighted on 21 Savage’s behalf when the Grammys came and went with barely a mention of the double nominee or his detainment by ICE officials over his immigration status. (Producer Ludwig Göransson was the only person to mention 21 Savage by name, and you might not have even spotted Post Malone’s “Free 21 Savage” shirt, as it was under his jacket.) Following his release on bond after nine days in custody, the British-born, Atlanta-raised musician says he honestly wasn’t bothered by the fact most of his peers didn’t offer any verbal support. “Nah, I was stressed about getting out,” he tells the New York Times in a new interview. “The Grammys is the Grammys, but when you in jail, the Grammys is nothing.”

“I don’t care what nobody say — everybody in that building who’s connected to this culture, I was on their mind in some type of way,” 21 Savage continues. “That’s all that mattered. They didn’t have to say it ’cause everybody knew it. It was in the air. All the people that was there, they said the words in other places and that matter just as much. All the big artists was vocal about the situation, so I was appreciative.”

Instead, the rapper, who says he became aware he lacked legal status as a teen, “probably like the age when you start to get your driver’s license,” after overstaying his visa, is focused on staying in the country. “My situation is important ’cause I represent poor black Americans and I represent poor immigrant Americans,” he says. “You gotta think about all the millions of people that ain’t 21 Savage that’s in 21 Savage shoes.” He is currently reportedly waiting for an expedited hearing. Oh, and despite how hard you all went, 21 Savage says he even liked your memes about how British he is. Or, at least, he acknowledges them. “Some of them was funny — I ain’t gonna lie,” he jokes. “I was appreciative of that.

READ MORE: https://www.vulture.com/2019/02/21-savage-didnt-mind-grammys-silence-while-detained-by-ice.html

A decade later, Drake’s ‘So Far Gone’ mixtape hits streaming services

On the heels of his Grammy win for Best Rap Song, Drake revealed on Instagram that his 2009 mixtape So Far Gone is coming to streaming services for the first time. Though it was originally available for free online, this marks the first streaming availability for the 18-track collection that features cameos from Lil Wayne, Santigold, Trey Songz, Bun B and more. The mixtape also includes the single “Say What’s Real,” which was produced by Kanye West.

So Far Gone not only turns 10 on February 13th, but it’s also a body of work that helped put Drake on the map. These early works don’t always make it to your go-to streaming service, especially when it comes to hip hop mixtapes, so it’s always nice when they do. You also won’t have to wait to get re-acquainted as Champagne Papi explained that the mixtape will be available to stream tomorrow, February 14th.

GQ interviews Leon Grey the guy you should be listening to right now

We know it’s almost Valentine’s Day and people will go out and get expensive gifts. We found the perfect gift for you in the form of an artist you will need on your Valentine’s Day playlist, Leon Grey. We discovered the British artist on the Gram, a few months and we have been obsessed with his banging tunes since. We managed to get a hold of him and chatted everything from music, style and some cool Instagram tips. 

GQ: In 2016 you were featured on a couple of online sites, but the focus was mainly on how hot you are and your Instagram profile is. What are your Instagramming secrets? How do you get that perfect shot and perfect profile?LG: Yes, throughout the years I have been featured on a few platforms which is great, and I am truly humbled! In terms of my Instagram secrets, there isn’t much to it! I am always myself and try and be natural and confident. Lighting and background are important, but the main thing is to have fun with it.
GQ: We follow you on Insta so we know you are a singer, and after reading this, many will know as well. Tell us about your musical journey? How did it start and where are you wanting to take it?LG: Music has always been a huge part of my childhood and growing up, professionally it started in 2011 when I was part of a music group called The Goods which was made up of my three close friends. After a few years, I decided to focus on going solo with the great help of my good friend/producer Duncsuei.
I am constantly working on my music, writing and recording daily. I am fortunate enough to be working with talented Producer Max Herman who provides me with valuable guidance. I am hugely dedicated to my craft and I hope in the future that more people from all around the world will love and appreciate my music.
GQ: How would you describe the kind of music you sing?LG: My music is a combination of reggae, soul and R&B. its Leon Grey vibes! It’s taken me a few years to find my sound and I do feel as an artist your sound will always develop, change and grow with you.
GQ: Who inspires you musically?LG: The list is endless Michael Jackson, Maxwell, Bob Marley, Dennis Brown and my mother of course just to name a few. My mixed heritage (Jamaican & Greek) has also played a big role. It’s not only who inspires me by what inspires me, a lot of my inspirations also come from emotions, the sea, the mountains, bustling cities, sounds – I often listen to array of genres from all around the world, it fascinates me how drum patterns and sounds can differ from each town let alone continent!
GQ: What’s your dream for yourself as an artist?LG: My dream would be to create music that can positively impact on someone, whether it’s for a second, a day or a lifetime.  Another dream of mine is to educate the next generation and reassure them the world doesn’t always have to be a negative place. I hope to do this through my music but more so through my voice as a young black man that has been thrown very tough challenges throughout my life.

GQ: You are a well-groomed gent. What’s your grooming routine? And what tips can you give to the GQ guy?LG: Thank you! My locks take a lot of grooming! I wash and retwist and style them myself every couple of weeks using natural oils such as lavender and chamomile, which I also use on my beard. I always use Aloe Vera that I extract from my actual plant I also use this on my body. One of my favourite hair products is the Jamaican Black Castor oil from Rooted Treasure they use traditional hand-crafted processes to create this product. 
My daily skin care routine consists of Kiehls facial fuel wash followed by my favourite face cream Origins ‘Save the males’. I love body oils and strong scents; Jo Malone Oud & Bergamot body oil is so good! My go-to fragrances are One Molecule, All Creed perfumes (I’m addicted) and Tom Ford Noir Extreme has been a firm favourite. In terms of grooming tips, take care of yourself and keep to your skincare/hair routine. What’s on the inside is the most important – Drink water high in PH, work out, eat nutritiously and meditate!
GQ: Outside of music what else does Leon do?LG: Well… I do get up to quite a lot! I love fitness and training and eating well. I am a huge anime fan especially Dragon Ball Z. Travel is a huge passion of mine, if I could I would probably sing and travel the world constantly –  there’s just so much to see. I am yet to see much of Africa which is at the very top of my list.

GQ: You live in London which many believe is the best place to have a great turn up. What are your favourite places to party in London?LG: London is such a great city, so much to do. Due to always being in the studio I don’t get time to party as much as I would like. I’m a fan of bars, pubs and restaurants. Birthdays in Dalston has good hip hop vibes, True Craft in Tottenham have the best sourdough pizza’s, beer and always play the best tunes. A favourite place of mine has to be Kiln in Soho where my very good friend Meedu is Head Chef, a must when you are visiting London.
GQ: At GQ we are all about embracing your personal style, what’s your personal style and how has it evolved over the years? LG: I agree GQ are such advocates of embracing personal style. Dressing how you want is hugely important I have always loved colour and statement pieces since I was a child. I am a 90’s child to colour runs through our veins. I am more about the look of the item than where it’s from or who its designed by, I like to be comfortable but also stand out of the crowd. Jewellery is my main stylistic element I would say, over the years I have collected silver rings (which I wear on every finger) from all over the world some of which are a huge significance to me. 

READ MORE: https://www.gq.co.za/culture/entertainment/gq-interviews-leon-grey-the-guy-you-should-be-listening-to-right-now-19175191