Feature: Rapsody’s Idea of Beautiful

rapsody_BGIRLIn this era of Hip-Hop, where the Hip-Hop blogosphere is brimming with articles about the shit that Chief Keef does or does not like, videos of DMX’s surprisingly accurate covers of Christmas carols, and analysis of the twitter beef between 50 Cent and French Montana, it seems almost refreshing when an artist emerges with no other motive than to make good music. No ulterior motives, no gimmicks, just good Hip-Hop. I think that Phonte might have said it best on the Little Brother song Not Enough, rapping “When we’re on stage, the people they all front / dope beats, dope rhymes, what more do y’all want?” Sadly, it seems that the answer to this question is ‘lots.’ With the rare exceptions of dudes like Kendrick Lamar, Big Krit, or Joey Bada$$, the masses rarely seem to give people a chance until there’s a video of them on WorldStar snatching someone’s chain, or unless they have some other gimmick to attach their brand to. Juxtaposed against this subculture of ironic appreciation, the rise of rapper Rapsody, a contemporary to these aforementioned artists, seems particularly interesting. Similar to Little Brother, Rapsody, whose love for Hip-Hop culture is anything but ironic, is a North Carolina native whose career and sound have been heavily shaped by legendary producer 9th Wonder. This love of the culture is apparent just one minute into her album The Idea of Beautiful. “I care about ‘em too much to not say nothin” Rapsody says on the song “Motivation,” an undertone of urgency in her voice. Beginning with a beautifully honest spoken word piece, the song’s lush soundscape sets the tone for the rest of the album. True to the 9th Wonder influence, the album is filled with soulful, boom-bap beats; a callback to better times yet somehow still wholly modern. When I spoke to Rapsody on the phone earlier today, she explained “I grew up heavily influenced by that 90s era and a lot of that was boom-bap. I was a big fan of people like Mos Def, The Fugees, Little Brother, and that whole sound.  I like a wide range of beats, but the soulful beats really, really do something for me. They inspire me more. You can’t beat the soul.” When examining Rapsody’s lyrical content, these influences become rather apparent. Drawing on the lyrical dexterity of a dude like Mos Def, she often raps with the sincerity of a Big Pooh, incorporating an undercurrent of consciousness similar to that of Lauryn Hill’s. Rapsody is no slouch on the mic. CONTINUE READING

Chief Keef: Hail To The Chief (2012 Online Cover Story)

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Early afternoon, November 15, 2012; Las Vegas, Nevada. While Interscope, 50 Cent, and Wiz Khalifa waited for him in the desert, the real secret of Chief Keef story was playing out back in Chicago.

Inside Joe’s Crab Shack at the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace, a team from Interscope Records is awaiting the early-afternoon arrival of 17-year-old Chief Keef in Las Vegas. They have just discovered that Keef missed his flight and won’t be arriving until around 3 p.m. They seem unsurprised.

Chicago rapper Chief Keef—born Keith Cozart—is the most talked-about new talent of 2012, and one of the most hated new rappers in recent memory. While some rap critics consider him a hands-down pick for rookie of the year, others insist he can’t rap, or worse, that he’s a harmful influence on the culture. Still, his sudden rise from obscurity to superstardom has had a fairytale-like arc. Keef is heading to Las Vegas to film the video for “Hate Being Sober” from his major label debut, Finally Rich; the song, produced by Keef’s go-to Chicago heatmaker Young Chop, has the potential to be a major smash, even without its guest spots from established superstars 50 Cent and Wiz Khalifa. The cost of the shoot is reportedly, at minimum, $30,000. The production stands in stark contrast to the teenage star’s low-budget videos, many of which were shot in his grandmother’s Washington Park apartment. The plan is for today’s shoot to take place in the Nevada desert, about an hour outside of Vegas. 50 Cent has taken a personal interest in the production, hand-picking the video crew. All Keef has to do is show up.Just under one year earlier, on November 24, 2011, Chief Keef performed his first-ever concert, a surprise appearance in a south suburb of Chicago called Markham, Illinois. The venue was Adrianna’s, a hot spot for both local and touring artists over the past two years. Keef performed four songs from his solo mixtape Bang, including his first viral smash of the same name. His main producer at the time, a Japanese immigrant named DJ Kenn, captured the frenetic show on video. Watching the clip, it was clear that Keef had already become a local superstar to a large subsection of teenagers on Chicago’s South Side. Adrianna’s that night was divided into two different sections by age; during Keef’s performance, one concertgoer estimated that more than 800 kids in the under-21 section were shouting Keef’s lyrics back at him. CONTINUE READING…

Interview: 50 Cent Talks Working With Eminem, the Threat of Falling Off, and How Social Media Changed Hip-Hop

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50 Cent‘s fifth studio album, Street King Immortal, will be released early next year. It’s his first record in nearly four years, since 2009’s Before I Self Destruct, his lowest-selling project to date. Despite this, 50 Cent remains a hip-hop superstar, and he’s stayed in the news, publicly feuding with boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. and rapper French Montana. He’s also collaborated with rising Chicago artist Chief Keef, who infamously skipped out on the video shoot for single “Hate Being Sober,” abandoning 50 and Wiz Khalifa on a video set in the desert.  We spoke with 50 about his next album’s delays, the major success of his new single with Adam Levine and Eminem, and how much hip-hop has changed since his he hit the scene with his breakout work in the late ’90s and early 2000s.

Interview by David Drake (@somanyshrimp)

What are you trying to accomplish with “My Life,” your new single with Eminem and Adam Levine?
50 Cent:
I recorded that record almost two years ago. That was with me and Adam [Levine]. We worked together and I got him to record the vocals for the chorus. My portion of the song was written and then I flew to Detroit and got Eminem to do his portion. He had a few ideas for songs for this album for me. He had started writing portions of those other records because they had choruses built on it. It felt like those hit records that Em was making at the time. It had those real pretty choruses on them. I was predicting what people [would say] based on the time period. Because it’s been three years since I released my last record, that they would say, “You fell off. You never had anything marketed or promoted for three years.” And them not understanding [that it’s] because it’s my final contract requirement. Contractually, if you go through an audit process and if you find things where you haven’t been paid, it’s a process for legal to actually write the check. You can’t deliver the record in between that time period. You got to wait until it’s completely dealt with. Now that it’s done, I can launch. CONTINUE READING