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Interviews Videos

Jasiri X Interview

Jasiri X is a jack of all trades; an MC, Activist and Entrepreneur, Jasiri uses his gifts to follow in the footsteps of other groundbreaking, socially-conscious artists such as, Public Enemy, KRS-ONE and Tom Morello. Where other artists proclaim their status as a Hip-Hop mogul, Jasiri dedicates his time to bringing awareness to social, and political issues. Check out, “What if the Tea Party was Black,” and you’ll understand why Jasiri is a force to be reckoned with. MVRemix had the opportunity to talk with Jasiri about what he does, influences, working with artists that share his same passion and fervor for informing the people and future plans.

MVRemix: You are an MC, activist and entrepreneur. How did you become what you are today?

Jasiri X: Reading [chuckles], also I was raised in a household that was very conscious. At a certain point in my life helping my community became more important to me than Hip-Hop, even though I love it. To be able to do both simultaneously has been a blessing.

MVRemix: Your songs always carry a message, and due to the responses you get, you obviously strike a nerve. Is that the intended goal, or are there other things you try to get when you release a new song?

Jasiri X: I want to strike a nerve, but also hopefully create dialogue. I believe the messages I carry are true, and if we can talk about them we can begin to see things eye to eye.

MVRemix: It is great to see you use hip hop in such a positive way, that really has not been seen since the days of Public Enemy. What influenced you to take this approach?

Jasiri X: Public Enemy [laughs], also X-Clan, KRS-ONE, Bob Marley, Nas and Wu Tang.

MVRemix: How was it working with X-Clan’s Paradise the Arkitech and NYOIL when you did “Enough Is Enough?”

Jasiri X: Paradise is like my mentor/brother; I don’t do anything without first having at least a conversation with him. It’s been a blessing to work with someone who has produced classic Hip-Hop albums. NYOIL showed me the power of videos in getting your message across, and he taught me about the video side, and even recommended the program I use to edit. He also connected me to Rel!g!on and Wandering Worx which is my current label, so he deserves a lot of credit in my development.

MVRemix: Your videos have contributed to not only raising awareness about who you are, but raising awareness of issues that are going on in the U.S. How has the reception been from both supporters, and opposers?

Jasiri X: People usually either love it or hate it, especially in the cyber world, but in person I get a great deal of respect from supporters and opposers.

MVRemix: You shot “American Workers vs. Multi-Billionaires” in Madison, Wisconsin, during the people’s takeover of the statehouse. It reminded me a little bit of Rage Against the Machine’s video for “Sleep Now in the Fire.” How was the experience, and hearing the opinions of the people there?

Jasiri X: It was an incredible experience! Seeing all those people in the statehouse gave me goosebumps, and really made me understand the power we have when we unify. The people were extremely nice and respectful, and very educated about the issues.

MVRemix: Speaking of Rage Against the Machine, you performed “American Workers vs. Multi-Billionaires” with Tom Morello, in Los Angeles for the Our Communities, Our Jobs Rally. How was it working with Morello, and do you have any plans on collaborating with him on anything else?

Jasiri X: He did one of the most incredible shows I’ve ever seen, and he was one of the most down to earth people I’ve ever met. I actually just met someone who works closely with him, so hopefully a collab is in the very near future.

MVRemix: You performed and presented at the Netroots Nation, which is a really cool conference featuring people such as, Dan Choi, Biko Baker and other important individuals. How was it performing in front of all of these political activists, and how did your presentation go?

Jasiri X: I got a great reception at Netroots. I don’t think a lot of people knew how powerful a tool Hip-Hop can be, especially politically, when framing our issues. I got recognized a lot too because of, “What if the Tea Party was Black?” which was kinda surreal.

MVRemix: You’re gearing up for a second album, you’re continuing work on your successful series, “This Week With Jasiri X” and you recently headlined a fundraiser for Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha. What inspires you/ pushes you to continue doing all of this?

Jasiri X: Well it’s my job now [laughs]; this is how I make a living so the more I do, the more progress I make, but I also love using my gifts to help others. There is no better feeling in the world.

MVRemix: You are all about change, and supporting problems that need immediate solutions. What would you say to those who also want to make a change, and want to help out?

Jasiri X: Keep pushing and working towards real change; we’re in the late innings and we’re winning so stay focused.

Don’t forget to check out the new video by Jasiri X – Jordan Miles

Jasiri X tells the story of Jordan Miles, the 18 year old honor student who was brutally beaten by 3 undercover Pittsburgh Police officers while walking to his grandmother’s house. “Jordan Miles” was mixed by Diezel and directed by Paradise Gray.

Call Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala at 412.350.4400 and demand he file charges against the 3 police officers who brutally beat Jordan Miles

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Interviews

Blueprint Interview

To say that Albert Shepard, better known as Blueprint, is just a rapper, would be an understatement. His music pushes boundaries, combining influences and sounds that have recently gained acceptance in the realm of hip-hop.

Founder of Weightless Recordings, and a part of Rhymesayers Entertainment all-star roster, Blueprint has paid his dues to get to where he is now. This road has not been easy though; battling with sobriety, and the desire to challenge the “conventions of what hip-hop is,” as Blueprint puts it, led to a five-year hiatus, where Blueprint developed a new aesthetic on creating music. The end result: Adventures in Counter-Culture, an innovative, unconventional approach.

A personal and artistic transformation, Adventures in Counter-Culture showcases Blueprint’s abilities to weave together synths and drum hits, while using intellectual and progressive lyrics. MVRemix talked with Blueprint about this change, support from Rhymesayers, sampling, touring and the newfound electronic R&B sound that Blueprint had crafted way before Kid Cudi or Drake were around.

MVRemix: Adventures in Counter-Culture was not only a musical journey for you, but it led to you improving your life in various ways. How did the process of making this album help shape you into a better person, and a better musician?

Blueprint: Well, when I first started working on the album I really had no idea about the time and scope of what I was trying to do. I understood that I was going to be bringing together a bunch of different genres of music, but I was really unaware of how difficult of a task that would be. So as I got deeper and deeper into the process it started to hit me–that there was no way I was going to finish it and make it the album it needed to be unless I stopped doing a lot of things I was doing.

So, socially having something that ambitious kind of forced me to take a step back from a lot of the social things I was a part of, and since most of it wasn’t good for me anyways, it made perfect sense. Things I was doing like drinking almost every night, and staying out until 4-5 am–that had to stop. But, the hardest part of quitting that lifestyle isn’t really quitting itself, it’s finding meaningful things to do with your time, so you wont go back to doing it all over again. So, I started working out and riding my bike more.  That led me to eating better because I wasn’t going out every night. Because I wasn’t going out every night I had time to start reading again, so I got a library card and read tons of books. All those changes allowed me to put 100% into music again, and not get caught up in the distractions–but they also made me a better person.

MVRemix: When I reviewed your album, I noticed there were certain sounds that definitely reminded me of Kid Cudi, Drake and the more synthy, electronic R&B sound you hear in some of the big hip-hop artists nowadays. You had developed this sound way before any of these artists were even known. Were you skeptical at first of how the sound would be received/ were you reassured when artists such as Kid Cudi, Drake, and even Kanye, became popular?

Blueprint: When I first started Adventures it was 2006, it was before Cudi and Drake really existed, and before Kanye had put out 808’s and Heartbreaks, so at that time there was literally nobody doing that and no frame of reference for what I was doing.  I could see where the music needed to go, but it was difficult to get people around me to really understand it because there was nobody doing it back then. Plus, this was right after I had put out the 1988 album and the Soul Position album Things Go Better with RJ and Al, so it was a very dramatic musical change for some people.  I believed in what I was doing but there were definitely times where I wasn’t sure it was going to work out, so it helped a lot that Cudi, Drake, and Kanye did what they did because they definitely made it easier for me.  For the first time, where I was going actually made sense to some people who didn’t get it before because even though Kanye, Drake, and Cudi aren’t doing what I’m doing, they are singing and rapping, and that’s a necessary frame-of-reference for some people to understand what I was doing.

MVRemix: Your philosophy now seems to be, more instrumentation and less sampling, which can definitely be seen on your latest album. Did this mainly develop through wanting to just go against what you were comfortable with doing, or were there artists who also influenced you to move in that direction?

Blueprint: I think it developed mostly because everybody around me was getting sued for samples, and I realized that if I didn’t have any other way of making a good beat then I would probably be next! I started working on doing beats without samples around 2005, actually right after the 1988 album came out, just experimenting and wanting to do something different, but also knowing that my future as a producer could be dependent upon my ability to adapt, and have more than one style of production.

MVRemix: I read in another interview that you had been getting into Kraftwerk, which is a great band. Did their electronic sound have any influence on the songs you wrote?

Blueprint: I don’t think Kraftwerk influenced any specific songs on Adventures in Counter-Culture, but they definitely influence and inspire my instrumental work. They were the first group that made me realize I needed to study to really gain an appreciation, and understanding of electronic music. A lot of people think of electronic music as just dance music, but the history of it has always been a lot more than that.

MVRemix: After a five year hiatus, you came back stronger than ever. Was Rhymesayers supportive of your new sound?

Blueprint: From the beginning they were very supportive. They never told me to go back to my old style, or to do something that would be easier to make or market. They only wanted me to take the music as far as I possibly could.

MVRemix: There seems to be a gap in hip hop where some artists still rely on samples, while others create their own beats/ melodies. You have The Roots, N.E.R.D. and artists on Rhymesayers, including yourself, who seem to want to have their own sound, without relying heavily on sampling. Do you think sampling stifles an artist, or can it help them in a certain way?

Blueprint: There are certain artists who I think just need to have samples in the beats. Cats like Ghostface, MF Doom and the Wu-Tang–cats like that. I think those guys are stifled by not being able to sample as much. But, there’s also a group of people who can create something really unique without it. I think prior to Adventures in Counter-Culture, I was headed down the path of being completely reliant on samples, which is really hard to reverse once you hit a certain point. So, my goal as a producer was to be good at both styles, so that I didn’t have to rely completely on sampling because the sampling laws are getting ridiculous, and artists are getting sued right and left. I’m not at the point where I can afford to pay a lawsuit, so I’ve gotta be careful. Although I can’t really sample like I used to, I still make beats using samples all the time, so I’m still into that style–I just cant do it for myself like I used to.

MVRemix: How has the fan reception been? When I last saw you perform in Austin, everyone was digging it, and I definitely enjoyed your Keytar skills.

Blueprint: So far the reception has been great. Austin was a really good night, and one of the best nights of “The Family Sign Tour.” I’m really happy with how people have responded to the album so far.

MVRemix: Besides working with Rhymesayers, you also have your own label, Weightless Recordings. Are there any new projects going on with either Rhymesayers/ Weightless?

Blueprint: Because of the time I’ve had to dedicate to the new album, I actually haven’t had any time to spend on Weightless this year. The next release should be an instrumental album by producer Latimore Platz, but we’re not sure when that’s going to drop since it’s not completely done yet. Maybe after that we might do another Greenhouse EP and album with Illogic.

MVRemix: Where do you want to see yourself in not just hip-hop, but in music as a whole as you continue to grow as a musician?

Blueprint: As a musician, my goal is to just keep pushing as far as possible, and challenging the conventions of what hip-hop is, and to keep making better and better music.

On album and live, Blueprint delivers a performance that is raw and powerful. One can only imagine the creative thoughts floating in Blueprint’s mind, and if he remains on the road he is on now, hip-hop will continue to change, widening the spectrum, and reinventing a realm that we all have become complacent with. Different, confident and innovative, Blueprint is the breath of fresh air hip-hop needs, and trust me, you will be thankful for it.

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Reviews

Tyler, the Creator – Goblin album review

Tyler, the Creator is like the Quentin Tarantino of alternative hip hop; he addresses issues that will make you squirm, sometimes allowing a small opening for comic relief, before sending you back into a world of darkness that may leave you cynical and helpless. His words are not for the weak; he takes time throughout his latest album, Goblin, to explain he’s young, that this is fiction and that anyone who takes it seriously should be dismissed, ridiculed or murdered. This is the complex world of Tyler, the Creator; a world where his dark, unapologetic delivery may lead you to succumb to its bidding, testing your strength, in hopes that through all of the darkness, you will find the creative beauty at the end of the tunnel.

Goblin continues where Tyler’s first album, Bastard, left off. Dr. TC, Tyler’s fictional therapist, attempts to help Tyler battle against his Johnny Rotten-esque alter-ego, Wolf Haley. It is obvious that Tyler is heavily influenced by the Neptunes; piano-driven chord progressions, Tyler gives a head-nod to Pharrell, but still adds the minimal, spacey swooshes that will make you cringe. “Goblin” is an example of this; combine this with self-reflective lyrics and you get a great track that introduces you to Tyler.

“Yonkers,” the first single off of the album, shines on its own; you will be listening to this track over and over again, trying to catch Tyler’s creative wordplay as he battles against Wolf Haley. “I’m a f****n’ walkin’ paradox (no I’m not), threesomes with an f****n’ triceratops,” begins Tyler on “Yonkers.” In a matter of two minutes Tyler manages to offend religious followers, Hayley William fans, and threatens to “stab Bruno Mars in his esophagus.” If you’re still listening you’ve made it through two-fifteenths of the album. But be forewarned; it gets darker.

“Radical” is a combination of the skateboard culture Tyler was raised in, along with Seeing Sounds-esque synths and drums. The bridge parts sound like they could easily be replicated in a Neptune’s track. It is a melodic remedy that contrasts against the overall griminess of the song. Obviously a track that stands out more live because of its heaviness, “Radical” is still a well-produced track.

“Nightmare” is a fitting title for this song; bubbly percussive hits, eerie sounds hidden in the background and piano progressions that move like a well-structured jazz tune, “Nightmare” is hauntingly beautiful. “Tron Cat” is similar to “Yonkers;” it stands out more so than the others, showing Tyler’s abilities to just deliver and deliver. “Said f**k coke, so now I’m snortin’ Hitler’s ashes,” says Tyler,among other things that will leave you wondering, “did he just say that,” as you hit the repeat button.

“Sandwitches” almost goes as hard as “Radical.” Hard snare hits, heavy, staccato synths and a massive delivery from Tyler and guest Hodgy Beats, makes this one infectious. “Analog” should be a nominee for 2011 hip hop love song, but the reverberated percussive hits, eerie laughing in the background (maybe from Outkast’s “She Lives in my Lap?”) and deep vocals, may not be the best song to arouse your significant other. “This is not Dawson’s Creek/ Could you meet me by the lake,” says Tyler. Strangely, it is one of the more happier sounding tracks on the album, but it still retains some darkness, as if it belongs in a Friday the 13th  movie.

“Window” brings the album back to the darkness; Tyler’s battle with Wolf Haley deepens, as “friends” Domo Genesis, Frank Ocean, Hodgy Beats and Mike G contribute, before inevitably being ended by Tyler. “My window is a book, and I’m a f****n’ crook,” rhymes Tyler, as he  dives deeper into the abyss. Melancholic piano notes floating above heavy synths, “Window” is dark. No comic relief, no references that will produce any smiles, “Window” prepares you for the last part of the album: golden.

“Golden” is like the ending scene to a really good movie; it pieces the last remaining puzzle pieces together. Out of a mixture of choral sounds, hard-hitting snare hits and arguments between Dr. TC, the ultimate epiphany is realized by Tyler: that Tyler is Dr. TC. In Fight Club-esque fashion, Tyler ends “Golden” by revealing to us just how chaotic and perplexing his mind is.

“We don’t make horrorcore you f****n’ idiots. Listen deeper in the music before you put it in a box,” says Tyler. To simply label Tyler’s music as horrorcore, would be a foolish thing to do. His music is much deeper than that. He hits a sensitive area that has not been addressed since Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP. Not to mention, Goblin is well-crafted; it is a concept album that sends the listener in every direction it can, and if you cannot stomach it, walk away. Tyler does want to be mainstream, and maybe it would be good to get some mainstream sound that cannot be easily digested. Tyler cannot be stopped, and any opposition that plans to bring him down better be ready, because it will not be easy.

Hate him or love him, Tyler, the Creator is making a name for himself. Kanye West called the “Yonkers” music video the best of 2011; Tyler has performed on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and he also performed at this year’s SXSW, held in Austin, TX. Tyler, the Creator is not your average hip hop; his shows are chaotic and reckless, bringing the roots of hardcore punk into his live shows with stage diving, energy and in-your-face vocal delivery. Goblin is a great album for both newcomers and dedicated fans alike. The album obviously has some lesser tracks; “Bitch Suck Dick” could have probably been left off, but the album, overall, is frighteningly good.

A good artist will sometimes push your buttons to see just how much you can handle. They will force you to take in every word and note from beginning to end, until you have had enough. They will not hold your hand, but rather watch over you, hoping that in the end you will see the masterpiece through their chaos. Tyler is that kind of artist, and it may take a few listens to realize that, but once the epiphany occurs, you will be hooked.

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Reviews

Hugo – Old Tyme Religion album review

It is not often that a musician can say, “Beyonce has featured one of my songs on her album.” That is, unless you’re Hugo. Chulachak “Hugo” Chakrabongse has an interesting background. Born in England but raised in Thailand, Hugo’s musical ventures were restrained; his music with past band Siplor was banned on the radio. Relocating to New York City, Hugo found influence in blues artists Robert Johnson and Howling Wolf, as well as more mainstream artists such as MGMT, Nirvana, Dr. Dre and Jack White. Hugo’s unquestionable talent and desire to create accessible music, led to a record deal with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label in 2010. The resulting product, Old Tyme Religion, is innovative and well-crafted, having a great combination of rock roots and hip hop swagger.

“Old Tyme Religion” starts off with explosive percussive sounds, leading into a chorus with heavy guitar riffs and Hugo singing, “waiting on that old time religion.” Hugo’s cover of Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” retains the energy of the original, while adding some White Stripes-esque heaviness to it. The thumping bass drum, harmonica and acoustic instruments will have you nodding your head constantly.

“Bread & Butter” has a chorus that is absolutely infectious. The verses start off soft, with Hugo calmy singing over acoustic strumming, before being backed up by organs, heavy drums and cymbal hits in the chorus. “I’m sharp like a blade, and cold like a knife,” sings Hugo, the rough and tough lyrics fitting the song’s explosive sound.

“Hopelessly Stoned” is like a cross between The White Stripes and The Black Keys. Its garage rock sound is so grimy, but in a good way. The hand claps will sneak up on you, forcing you to tap your foot or clap your own hands. The psychedelic keyboard and organ in the chorus will send you on a path of surrealism as Hugo sings, “hopelessly stoned.”

“Born” shows Hugo’s admiration of The Beatles. You could totally picture Lennon and McCartney singing, “what in the world were you born to do,” over some fuzz bass and ringing tambourines. This one is definitely a highlight off of the album; its just a well-written song, and the guitar solo towards the end is an added bonus.

“Mekong River Delta” may be Hugo’s nostalgic nod to his past life. “And all that I could hoep to find, is a little piece of my own mind,” sings Hugo. The acoustic guitar and echoey string parts flow like that of a river, sometimes rising with the addition of cymbals and piano, before softening down again.

“Different Lives” seems to express Hugo’s present life growing as a musician. Melancholic but beautiful, “Different Lives” shifts from the more upbeat tracks, to a more reflective, somber sound. “Wake Alone” follows with the somberness of “Different Lives,” as Hugo sings about a lost opportunity with someone. Although the theme is cliche, Hugo’s lyrics are deep and natural; you will be able to relate as he ponders upon finding someone better or equal to whoever the song is referring to.

Hugo has a lot going for him. Both him, and his cover of “99 Problems” were featured in the box-office hit No Strings Attached; he has performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live; and he is currently on tour with Augustana and The Maine. Along with Old Tyme Religion, Hugo’s future is looking bright. Old Tyme Religion is a great start for Hugo; it shows that he can create well-written, accessible songs, while remaining himself and taking ideas from multiple influences.

“I consider myself to be making mainstream music. That’s what I want to do, play for people that like the material,” says Hugo. Heading in the direction he is on, Hugo won’t have to worry about people liking his material; it is fresh, reflective and authentic, grabbing your attention and pulling you in for a listen.

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Reviews

The Alchemist and Curren$y – Covert Coup review

Shante Scott Franklin, better know as Curren$y, has been making a name for himself in the rap game. Having worked with the likes of Wiz Khalifa, Raekwon and Freddie Gibbs, Curren$y is definitely an artist worth knowing about, and his latest album, Covert Coup, shows why that is.

 I must say, not being too familiar with Curren$y I did not know what to expect. After listening through Covert Coup though, I now see why he has gained the attention that he has.

To begin with, production by Alan Daniel Maman, better known as The Alchemist, makes this album that much better. Each track is ear-candy as The Alchemist utilizes unconventional samples that range from soul, to breakbeat. Add in Curren$y’s smooth flow, and you have a combination that is absolutely enjoyable. The album may bring to mind Madvillain’s Madvillainy, with its short tracks, a sound unfriendly to commercial radio and a blending of great production and rhymes.

“BBS” starts off with soulful bass lines, piano and guitar, while Curren$y reflects on life in the rap game. The haunting, melancholic production is great as it helps propel Curren$y’s rhymes into the listener’s ears.

“The Type” is a combination of reverberated synths, spacey sounds and percussion hits. Prodigy, of Mobb Deep fame, is an added treat to an already enjoyable track.

“Patty-cake, patty-cake, I’m baked my man,” begins “Life Instructions.” The Alchemist really shows off on this track; the bass and guitar lines are infectious. “I’m kinda high,” rhymes Curren$y on “Smoke Break.” The groovy, almost psychedelic sounding “Smoke Break” fits well with Curren$y’s slow-paced, yet sporadic rhymes.

“Scottie Pippen” stands out because of guest rapper Freddie Gibbs. Doing double-time rhymes, Freddie Gibbs’ style stands in complete contrast to Curren$y’s, but both styles work together very well.

“The toxic air that I’m breathing would leave a average man weakened,” rhymes Curren$y on “Ventilation.” Rapping about his weed-smoking, Curren$y’s rhymes just flow over The Alchemist’s spacey production.

“Heavy Metal” is a fitting title for Covert coup’s last track. Heavy bass and cymbal crashes, the production is booming, and Curren$y’s delivery goes well with it. “I spit the picture so vivid because I really live it,” rhymes Curren$y over bullet shots and other explosive sounds.

Clocking in at about 28 minutes, Covert Coup is arousing and highly listenable. The album is focused, which may not seem like it due to its surreal atmosphere. Curren$y and The Alchemist make a great duo as unconventional production and dense lyricism come together to create something new and refreshing. Every song is worth listening to, although there are some that you will just constantly have on repeat.

Underneath Covert Coup’s haze are quirky lyrics and enjoyable sounds that will sneak up on you, having your finger press the replay button over and over again as you hear a new rhyme or note you had not heard before. Strong, creative and impressive, Covert Coup is more than just a 4/20 album; it stands out, pushing the boundaries of rap and taking risks that end up working. Not only that, but it’s free. So, download the tracks and just lay back, because from beginning to end Covert Coup will grab your attention, and leave you wanting more.

The Alchemist and Curren$y - Covert Coup review

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Atmosphere Reviews

Review: Atmosphere live at Stubb’s

Atmosphere performed at Stubb’s, Monday, May 2 in Austin, Texas. Opening for the indie rapper were other Rhymesayers members, including DJ Abilities, Sab the Artist, Grieves and Budo and Blueprint.

Gregory Keltgen, better known as DJ Abilities, is well known in the Midwest for being one of the best battle DJs in the local scene. Along with working with the late Eyedea in Eyedea and Abilities Keltgen has made a name for himself as a talented DJ. Sab the Artist brings hip hop back to the age of just having fun. Originally starting off with the name Beyond Sab co-founded Rhymesayers Entertainment and has helped in making the label what it is today.

Grieves and Budo are a duo that pushes the boundaries of hip hop. Multi-instrumentalist Budo provides soulful horns, keys and guitar, while Grieves raps about the difficulties and joys of being on the road and back at home. Blueprint is a critically acclaimed rapper who has released his latest album Adventures in Counter-Culture. Blueprint manages to remain innovative, combining synths, keyboards, drum machines and his own unique rapping ability to create something that is fresh and enjoyable.

Atmosphere should be a name that everyone knows. Take a listen to songs such as “Say Hey There” or “Trying to Find a Balance,” and you will understand why Atmosphere is at the forefront of independent hip hop. Comprised of rapper Slug (Sean Daley) and DJ Ant (Anthony Davis), along with touring members Erick Anderson (keyboards) and Nate Collins (guitar), Atmosphere is a combination of Slug’s introspective rapping style and the soulful sounds of contributing band members.

Sab and his brother and DJ Ganzobean got the party started.  Charismatic, fun and enjoyable Sab had people moving along to his rhymes. Sampling Grizzly Bear’s “Two Weeks,” “Lookin’ at Girls” was a nice treat as Sab rapped about how he cannot stop looking at girls. Sab the Artist started off the night right with their good-natured rhymes and party-friendly beats.

In between sets was DJ Abilities, who combined samples from Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Shimmy Shimmy Ya,” Beastie Boy’s “Paul Revere” and the ever so famous “Bed Intruder” song. Fans were impressed by DJ Abilities’ turn tabling and mixing of fan-favorite samples.

Grieves and Budo immediately pulled everyone in as they started with “Bloody Poetry.” Producing soulful keyboard and trumpet sounds Budo was switching instruments every second while Grieves laid down his rhymes.

Following Grieves and Budo was Blueprint who kept the energy high. Playing songs off his latest album, Blueprint had the crowd going absolutely wild with synth-heavy songs such as “Automatic.” Add in a bass player and a DJ, and you have an even more enjoyable performance. Blueprint’s performance became even better as he strapped on a keytar and went into “So Alive.” Showing off his skills as a keytarist, Blueprint moved around while singing “so so alive” during the chorus. Smiling at the audience Blueprint began playing “Radio-Inactive” on the keyboards. “So thank God for every fan, every single listener,” rapped Blueprint as he pointed out to everyone in the audience, the crowd producing a loud scream that brought an even larger smile to Blueprint’s face.

Up next was the one and only Atmosphere who began the show with “Until the Nipples Gone.” Instantly everyone was jumping and clapping as Slug and the rest of the group immediately took control of the audience. “Hello Austin, Texas. It’s Atmosphere,” yelled Slug. Going into “Between the Lines,” Slug had everyone saying the chorus.

“I like when the lights are low, because I can’t see any of you. We are all the same,” said Slug as the group went into “Sunshine.” The group did not miss anything, and Slug’s rhymes and charisma only made this fan-favorite song that much more enjoyable.

Slug then threw another one at us; Anderson and Collins played some improvisational parts before laying down the groove to “Puppets.” “Cut those strings,” yelled Slug as he went into the first verse.

Keeping the energy up Anderson started playing the piano part for “God Loves Ugly,” and the crowd yelled. Ant was bobbing his head and really getting into it with one cigarette in mouth. “God loves ugly,” shouted the audience as Slug smiled. “Go to sleep my little time bomb,” yelled Slug as the lights dimmed and the crowd continued screaming.

“Y’all are too live for me. I’m actually intimidated now,” said Slug. With Ant and Anderson walking offstage, Slug and Collins went into “Guarantees.” “My shorty got caught smokin’ weed at a concert, Nicki Minaj is a mother effin’ monster,” rhymed Slug smoothly and without thought, making audience members laugh at his reference.

“Right now we are all a community. We are family. You came here tonight to take your mind off problems and have a good time. It’s a beautiful thing” said Slug as the group went into “Lovelife.”

Yelling “Atmosphere” and “Slug,” the group came back onstage and gave an encore that left the audience satisfied. Collins started off “Trying to Find a Balance” with the whole group following suit. “In the days of Kings and Queens, I was a jester,” sang Slug as everyone in the audience and the balcony replied with, “treat me like a God, oh they treat me like a leper,” during the chorus.

Ending their performance with “Yesterday,” Atmosphere could not have chosen a better song. Intimate, heart-felt and perfect, Slug’s delivery was just like how it is on the recording. Sending chills down my back Anderson’s piano part was right-on, its soulful, happy sound underneath Slug’s rhymes about missing his father. “I thought I saw you yesterday, but i knew it wasn’t you, cause you passed away, Dad,” rhymed Slug with so much conviction it could be felt.

From working at a record store and doing overnight shifts to support his son to playing sold-out venues, Slug’s experiences can be followed through his music. Knowing that he would not be where he is without the support of his fans, Slug makes sure that every one of his fans gets either a picture or a handshake. “Get ready to have fun tonight,” said Slug as fans entered Stubb’s, a smile on his face as he walked up to fans who wanted a hug, picture or both. This is what makes Atmosphere great.

Creating enjoyable music, giving their fans a good show and actually interacting with their fans is what made their performance much more intimate and entertaining. As Slug said, “we are all family.” The faces of teenagers and adults smiling as they exited Stubb’s shows that Atmosphere did not disappoint their “family” in Austin. Atmosphere is the life of the party, regardless of bad weather.

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Reviews

Blueprint Adventures in Counter-Culture album review

Albert Shepard, better known as rapper Blueprint, is a force to be reckoned with. Starting out in 1999 Blueprint has since risen in popularity being signed to independent Hip-hop music label Rhymesayers Entertainment, the home of other well known underground acts such as Atmosphere, MF Doom and P.O.S. Releasing his latest Adventures in Counter-Culture Blueprint’s delivery remains strong in both his rhymes and his production.

“Who’s got the biggest clique? I could give a shit, I roll so heavy solo you can probably feel my steps” rhymes Blueprint on “Go Hard Or Go Home (Printnificence).” Backed by eerie strings and symphonic parts this track compliments Blueprint’s hard vocal delivery as he talks about wanting to make the perfect beat and alluding to rock icon Jimi Hendrix.

“No offense, I ain’t listenin’ man. I came here to kick it not to hear your shitty band” rhymes Blueprint over production that sounds like it came from a Super Mario game in “Keep Bouncing.” Talking about drinking and being constantly drunk Blueprint’s rhymes go well with the free-flowing video game sounding synths.

“My Culture” talks about events that have occurred in the past and present over an electronica dance beat with gospel vocals. “Some of these rappers only rap about a home and a broad because they don’t know what’s happening at home or abroad.” Reflecting on the deaths of rappers Tupac and Biggie and international problems Blueprint’s “My Culture” stands out as a track that implies that the world is a violent place and “Time is short.”

Taking some cues from fellow Rhymesayers labelmate P.O.S. Blueprint’s guitar-heavy and snare drum-filled “So Alive” is a departure from other songs on the album. Exchanging his rhymes for singing this track sticks out in a good way. “So so alive” sings Blueprint over a punk sounding guitar part.

“Radio-Inactive” begins with a calming piano part followed by guitar parts and Blueprint’s rhymes. “And while I may not get the same hype as the next man, everything in my life is going according to his plan” rhymes Blueprint over production that is tinged with Ratatat influenced sounds.

The 1980s sounding “Fly Away” has some really creative sounds along with some good delivery from Blueprint. The electronic drums and synthesizer parts sound like something coming out of an A-ha track while Blueprint’s singing flows smoothly over it. “Spread my wings, take flight. Fly away” sings Blueprint.

“The Rise and Fall” is a combination of spacey sounds, groovy drums and string parts with Blueprint’s rhymes talking about a failed relationship. “Though you had it all, right up in your palms. Forgot until its gone, the rise and fall” sings Blueprint. A very relatable song those of us who have experienced love and its aftermath can relate to Blueprint’s story of not knowing the value of somebody until they’re gone.

Sounding like an Animal Collective track with its electronic drums and psychedelic sounding synth part “The Other Side” is the epitome of Blueprint’s experimentation on this album. “And today we celebrate your life. I’ll just wait til’ I see you on the other side” sings Blueprint over trippy synths and a carousel-sounding keyboard part.

Adventures in Counter-Culture shows Blueprint experimenting with synths, keyboards and drum machines, creating a new, experimental sound that may take some time to get used to. There are some tracks that lack the same creativity as those listed, but the album overall is listenable and shows that Blueprint can experiment and move out of his comfort zone, and still create an enjoyable album. Taking cues from innovative artists such as Kid Cudi Blueprint’s experimental sound blends well with his vocal delivery. Intelligent and creative this album is definitely worth checking out.

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Reviews

Pac Div – Mania! mixtape album review

When you first listen to Pacific Division, better known as Pac Div, what will come to mind are groups such as The Cool Kids, Eric B. and Rakim, De La Soul and many other old school hip-hop groups. If you are familiar with any of those groups then you can already tell that Pac Div is worth your attention. Starting in 2006 Pac Div released their first mixtape Sealed for Freshness: The Blend Tape to positive reception. Magazines such as Billboard, Rolling Stone and Source elevated the group’s success, and opening for artists such as Nas, Q-Tip, Busta Rhymes, Ice-T and Ludacris only added to their popularity.

A trio consisting of brothers Like and Mibbs and long time friend BeYoung, the group has had a busy year. Along with performing at Austin, Texas’ SXSW music festival and touring, Pac Div is gearing up to release their upcoming album Grown Kid Syndrome. Until its release you will have to listen to their latest mixtape Mania! that, as soon as I started bumping it, could not stop moving my head.

Mania! is a combination of great flows and some of the best production I have heard in a long time. Beginning with “The Mirror” Pac Div reflects on their lives and produces rhymes that are not only uplifting, but well-crafted. “You can’t earn stripes if you’ve never had scars” says Pac Div as they preach optimistic rhymes over a heavy beat and symphonic strings.

“SuperNegroes” is one of my favorites on this mixtape. Sampling Rob Base’s “It Takes Two” and the synth-keyboard part from N.E.R.D.’s “Lapdance,” “SuperNegroes” is a straight up party-bumping track that you will probably have on repeat. Put in one of the greatest choruses ever created (listing a bunch of girls’ names, implying that they only plan on getting the girls with a common, attractive name) and “SuperNegroes” will have you raising the volume of your speakers in no time.

“Fallin'” is another favorite. Sampling Andre 3000’s “Prototype” this track will bring to mind songs like “Bonita Applebum,” with its smooth flow and simple groove. “I’m at the studio now, I’ll be back by ten. She right on time, we back at it again” rhymes Pac Div over this well-produced track.

“Same Ol’ Shit” has some of the best production throughout this whole mixtape. Banging with loud marching band sounds “Same Ol’ Shit” hits you in every direction. “Life is like a movie, but there ain’t no script” says the group as their tough rhymes are supported by the heavy beat.

“Your Fuckin’ Song” has some super good flow, although the production is not as great as other tracks. Clever wordplay such as “I swear you act just like virgins, you gonna need Madonna” and “I don’t read the dictionary I just redefine it,” allows this song to still have a strong presence on the mixtape.

“Somethin'” definitely is the odd one out. Although the rhymes are still good, the production seems to not fit the overall sound of the mixtape. It is still listenable and you will enjoy some of the references to past events (“Yeah I mean Clinton. I ain’t mad at him man, he was just pimpin'”), but the production feels like it belongs on a motivational commercial or something.

“Still a Knucklehead” is another head-bobbing track with a goofy synth part that will invade your head as soon as it starts. A guest appearance by The Cool Kid’s Sir Michael Rocks makes this track even better as he delivers an always enjoyable flow. “Kinda like a big deal” says Pac Div as they rhyme about their popularity, getting into clubs and hanging with girls.

“Out” and bonus track “Shine” are some good outro tracks, but are not as significant as the other tracks on the mixtape. “Out” is another reflection track supported by a catchy xylophone part. “Shine” is a nice extra featuring Marz Lovejoy helping out the group on the chorus of the track.

Mania! is a dope mixtape that features great flow, production and interesting guest appearances. Fans of Pac Div will not be disappointed, and those who have yet to get into them can start here. Each track shows a different side of the group, and although some tracks are much stronger than others, you will catch yourself listening to this many times around. Not to mention, the mixtape can be downloaded at the Pac Div Daily website for free. So, if you are into good production, smooth flow and free music, definitely give Mania! a listen.

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Reviews

Gucci Mane The Return Of Mr. Zone 6 album review

Debuting in 2005 Gucci Mane has become a key member of mainstream Hip-hop. Starting off with Trap House Gucci showed his rapping abilities on songs such as “Icy” with Young Jeezy. Following Trap House Gucci became even bigger with The State vs. Radric Davis, and hit songs like “Wasted,” “Spotlight,” “Bingo” and “Lemonade,” which has been used by rappers Big Sean, Yelawolf and Bun B, just to name a few. The Return Of Mr. Zone 6 continues with Gucci’s Southern-bred Hip-hop, backed by producers Drumma Boy, Southside and Zaytoven.

“Money and the power” begins Gucci in the title track “24 Hours.” Gucci’s delivery is smooth throughout this song, but what really sticks out is the dark-sounding production behind it. Describing a day out of his life Gucci talks about “Bluntin’ like Marley” and “Bein’ like Ice-T.” The comparisons to other musicians, along with his fun delivery, make this introduction song that much more enjoyable.

Gucci enlists the help of Birdman to create the thug anthem “Mouth Full Of Golds” that has one of the most memorable hooks ever. Add humorous lines like “Please pardon me, but I’m passin’ gas” and Birdman’s rhymes, and you’ve got yourself a track that keeps Gucci’s fun delivery going.

“I Don’t Love Her”  talks about things that Gucci loves about his women. With an eerie-like organ and xylophone sound and guest appearances by Rocko and Webbie, the song keeps the idea of thug romance in check. The tracks and their title names get better as the album progresses.

“Pancakes” continues the formula of eerie-sounding production, smooth delivery and memorable hooks as Gucci connects the breakfast food with victory. “Patty cake, patty cake, I hop around with pancakes” sings Gucci throughout the chorus. Definitely one of the more catchier songs on the album “Pancakes” showcases Gucci’s creativity. A reference to a classic nursery rhyme, a metaphor between pancakes and victory and a creepy-like beat make this track stick out over other tracks.

Ending with the track “Trick Or Treat” Gucci enlists the help of Slim Dunkin, Wooh Da Kid and Waka Flocka Flame to talk about orange Camaros, AK’s and making a “Stupid horror scene.” Along with its spooky production “Trick Or Treat” seriously sounds like a possible theme song for some horror movie.

Facing charges in late 2010 and also spending some time in a Georgia mental institution Gucci has come through with some very strong tracks and some really great production. Creative synth beats, goofy wordplay and singsong choruses that will get stuck in your head, if you have never been into Gucci and wanted to get into him, this would not be a bad place to start. If you are expecting insightful lyrics or a reflection on his prison sentences, be forewarned: you will not get any of that. You will get brilliant punchlines that, if you are familiar with pop culture icons of the last 21 century, will leave you laughing at Gucci’s wordplay. So, check out Gucci’s latest album and enjoy the tracks. The clever delivery and eerie production will appeal to both Gucci fans and newcomers alike.

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Interviews

Immortal Technique/ Da Circle Interview

Dance With The Devil. If those words do not bring to mind the powerful and captivating lyrics of underground rapper Immortal Technique, then you obviously need to do some research. Felipe Andres Coronel, better known as Immortal Technique, is one of the best rappers in the game right now. While some rappers spend their money on luxurious living, I.T. actually uses money he receives from his albums to help children in Afghanistan, create grant programs for high school students and speak to young adults that are in prison. In the vein of rappers KRS-One, Chuck D and Zach De La Rocha I.T. delivers a message that not only addresses current problems, but does it in such a way that you feel the song on a much deeper level.

Da Circle which consists of Fatz D’ Assassin and Goodtime Slim, are also rappers that you definitely need to check out. Hailing from the streets of NYC Da Circle has been around for awhile. Starting out as The Usual Suspects with six members, Da Circle eventually became the duo that it is now, and a loss of members has not slowed them down. Working with people such as Poisen Pen and I.T., Da Circle obviously is someone to know about.

Both signed to Viper Records I.T. and Da Circle were representing their label throughout the whole week of Austin, Texas’ SXSW 2011 music festival. Taking a break out of their crazy schedule both groups talked to me about their music, the SXSW atmosphere, future plans and other things.