We all know the story of the rapper who has a strong underground following and then gets signed to a major deal and puts out an LP highly diluted by crossover appeal material, at times even forfeiting the appreciation of long-time fans hoping to reach a broader audience.  This is the recipe for failure that makes guys like me not even want to bother purchasing albums and stick to mixtapes and then get pissed when I hear some of my favorite artists got signed or have something mainstream in the works; not because I don’t want them to succeed or get widespread recognition, but because success and recognition often means a healthy infusion of wack juice.  Curren$y (also known as “Spitta”) took a different approach.  Having built a substantial cult following from the many mixtapes he’s released, Spitta brought his own formula to a mainstream LP without changing much at all, if anything.

Weekend At Burnie’s is an appropriate title, as the album is pretty much weekend music through-and-through, but that isn’t to say it doesn’t also make for a tranquil workweek.  Before you reach for the stars, this album is not reinventing the wheel, but would you rather have an artist stick to what they know and produce heat or put out some lukewarm material hoping for crossover appeal?  Curren$y enlisted the help of Monsta Beatz (Havoc of Mob Deep contributed two tracks as well) for most of the album and this is obvious.  The tracks are often so similar and so laid back, one can run into the other if you aren’t paying attention to the break between songs.  This isn’t a bad thing.

“She Don’t Want A Man” is a cautionary tale of sorts, with Curren$y warning the squares of the world to keep their women in check before their perfect housewife is using their money to smoke the finest weed with rappers.  “Televised” features Fiend, whose voice and delivery suit the sleepy nature of the track but whose nonsensical bars (“paint job fine as the hair on a frog’s back”…#ManWhat) detract from what the song could have been.  The celebratory horns and thumping bassline on “You See It” are certified dope and show Spitta’s formula in action.  Laid back and jazzy beats with solid verses that the uninitiated would write off as lazy but those in the know appreciate the value of.  Hidden gems throughout.

Trademark & Young Roddy

On a side-note, we also know the story of the posse members or “weed carriers” as they’re known in hip-hop circles; generally they’re subpar rappers who are granted studio time by association with their mentor (i.e. Young Jeezy’s Slick Pulla or Rick Ross’ Gunplay) and usually can curse an otherwise decent track.  Curren$y proteges Young Roddy and Trademark Da Skydiver prove to be destined for more than carrying Spitta’s weed (besides, I have a feeling Spitta carries his own weed).  Both appear on “Still”, “On G’s” and “Get Paid”, letting their chemistry as a duo compliment Curren$y’s obvious dominance on all three joints.  They already dropped a solid mixtape together and I’m definitely looking to see more in the future.

Though some would argue that Curren$y is a one-dimensional rapper, I’d rather that than him try to be all things to everybody.  Weekend At Burnie’s fills that niche of a perfect summer disc…no need to skip through songs for the appropriate track to ride or chill to…they’re all appropriate.  As usual, Curren$y dropped a solid album on us by simply being humble enough to understand that fans worth having will come to you and get with the program if the program is worth it.  Weekend At Burnie’s is for riding, smoking, living well and the occasional sprinkling of game and real-nigga-isms.  Enjoy and don’t overthink it.

#JetsGo x Curren$y

You See It x Curren$y

 

 

Silence!  Beard Gods Are Speaking.

At long last, I bestow upon you hapless wretches the official Beard Bible.  This guide will provide you with all of the information you need to grow and maintain a luxuriously profound beard, as well as some supplemental info about beard growth and the associated lifestyle.  Beard season is never over.  Moses grew a very serious beard and still led his people to sweet, sweet freedom through the deserts of Egypt, parting seas and burning bush and what-not, so don’t be a sissy.  You can rock a beard in the heat with proper care and maintenance.

On a Black man, the beard is more than a cover-up for razor bumps…it is a statement.  We don’t have to be clean-shaven and softshoeing in order to operate in the white man’s world.  You must behold the beard and accept our dominance with the same deference shown to the Vikings or the extra strong dude from Superman 2.  You think twice about going toe to toe with a man with a beard.  The very hair growing from his face defies every contemporary American standard saying that in order to be a professional or to be trustworthy, you have to be clean-shaven.  There will never be another bearded president, for example.  Recent years are showing the beard coming back into popularity, though, with the likes of Rick Ross and Zach Galifianakis bringing the full, obnoxious Dan Haggerty beards back into prominence, bearded brethren everywhere are letting their facial hair flourish.

Stalley.

The Struggle

And now for an enlightening passage from Brother @NerdAtCoolTable on the necessary inspiration for natural beard growth:

The only way to have a real respectable beard is to have been through struggle.  This beard didn’t just appear.  I been through high school stress, relationship stress, parenthood stress,  scuffles, robberies and shootings.  You can look at a beard and tell instantly if it’s struggle-inspired. Cats wit the wavy, curly, pretty beard…never been through anything.  Dudes with the scruffy beard..that “you need to comb that” beard…earned it.

Grooming

You can’t just grow hair up out your face all willy-nilly, dawg.  Just like the hair on your head, you have to actually care for the hair on your face, specifically if you’re a Black man trying to grow a healthy beard. Put some time and effort into cleaning and maintaing your beard.  The same things a wise dude uses to keep the hair on his head in good condition are some of the same things a wise dude needs for his beard: shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer.  It’s important to be more conscious of what you put on your beard, though, as it is still your face.  If you’re one of those dudes that uses body soap on your face, you just need to stop and go get you some products.  There’s no shame in it and it’ll help you avoid looking 40 at 30.  But first things first, there’s no reason your beard should feel like a bunch of copper wiring.  Trust that she doesn’t wanna feel that on her body.

  • Clean – Every couple of days (shampooing every day will dry out the natural oils), lather up with some baby shampoo and if you have any conditioner for sensitive skin, that too.
  • Moisturize – Tea tree oil is great for hair, skin, and doesn’t leave buildup.  Massage the stuff into your beard down to the roots, then comb it out to the ends.  Wifey will appreciate it later on when she’s running her hands through it, trust.

Beard Trouble

Everybody wasn’t blessed with genes that allow them to grow a full beard.  Some can’t grow any at all and some opt for the 6 scraggly hairs on the chin a la T.I. — stop that.  I guarantee had he not wifed up Tiny, his beard would have been prospered.  It’s been scientifically proven that the quality of woman you’re with has a direct correlation to beard growth quality.  It’s also hereditary, but I digress.

  • Can’t grow a beard – Keep shaving anyway.  This should be done frequently.  Shaving stimulates what’s there.  It took me ’til about 23 or 24 to grow a full beard pattern, as in sideburns connecting to my goatee.  What changed was that I got into a semi-regular shaving regimen, having a barber take care of what I couldn’t at home.  Before I knew it, I was bearded, bro.  Invincibility was achieved.
  • Patchy beards – If your facial hair resembles Pangaea, just start from scratch.  Shave it low and keep up a shaving routine until you start to see it even out.  Remember, some people won’t be able to grow the fully, so you may need to opt for a chinstrap or a goatee.  No shame in that…still in the family.
  • Razor bumps – There are a number of depilatory products like Magic Shave (smells like brimstone and despair), but I think a lot of guys just don’t use the right products.  The Art of Shaving or The Grooming Lounge are great spots for good men’s shaving items: pre-shave, shaving cream, after-shave lotion, etc.  Professional shaves are great as well, but if you’re a hands-on guy, you may want to learn how to use a straightrazor yourself.  Plastic disposable razors are made for the majority of hair (read: white me n’s hair) and isn’t designed for Black men’s hair, which grows hooked under the skin, causing irritation when pulled out at the wrong angle or without the proper chemicals to loosen the hair first.    Always use a hot cloth on your face prior to shaving (or a hot shower) to open up your pores and splash with cold water afterward to tighten them up.
  • Front-Free Beard Tip: Once I got serious about growing my beard, I stumbled upon a great product intended for regular hair which really worked to increase growth.  Go get this:

My Personal Grooming Setup

Womenfolk On Beards

If you’ve been reading this beardless, you may not care about any of this…or you’re just being a little bitch about the situation and frontin’ like you don’t.  Your girlfriend/wife cares, though.  There’s a lot to be said for a man willing to let his beard grow, not to mention keeping it maintained.  It shows an attention to detail coupled with a boldness no woman in her right mind can deny.  In a nutshell, beards drop drawls, dawg. Just read what the ladies have to say.

There’s just something about face-fur that is simply luscious.  Yours could actually use a trim…

– The Mrs.

Honestly, beards are the new Colt 45.  They work every time.

– @BitchUJusMad

I have several guilty pleasures in life. I drink far too much wine, laugh when babies fall, cuss when its not even fucking neccessary. But nothing compares to the feeling I get when I see a lush, full, impeccably trimmed beard on a sexy man. Especially if it frames a delicious set of lips.
Something about the visual just screams “Have a seat here!” “Enjoy the ride!”…well, don’t mind if I do. It doesn’t matter where I am; work, book club, church (Lord forgive me). Just a glimpse of a full beard presses play on the naughty thoughts in my mind.

– @MsCarlaIfUNasty

I love beards. Well-groomed, clean cut beards & goatees. It’s not an accessory to a man, it’s a statement. Not that the beard doesn’t make the man attractive it just makes him stand out more to me. Salute to the men who keep it up.

– @Sumayalina

A well-maintained beard takes time & effort, which is endearing. The beard is mysterious & just visually appealing.

– @SheBAWSE

Beards are masculine. They are a throwback to Grizzly Adams hunter-gatherer types. I only expect my lady 2 have a baby face…

– @moniquealicia

Beards are so manly. It’s like they show how much testosterone a man has or somethin. Plus my daddy has a beard.

– @Amazing_Aura

The way it feels when my bf’s beard hits that spot on my neck>>>>>the rapture

– @HnySuklChocolat

We’re just winnin’.  Check out The Beard Bible for all things beardly.

Welp.

I remember watching CMC (California Music Channel) back home in the Bay Area, CA and seeing the video for “Luchini (This Is It)” for the first time, sandwiched in between the local rap and run-of-the-mill mainstream videos being played at the time.  I stopped everything I was doing.  All I knew was I liked what I was hearing and that these dudes were bringing something completely unique to the table…and still doing just that in an industry climate where originality isn’t appearing to be highly lucrative or popular.  Big shoutout to Camp Lo for taking the time to sit down and speak with Front-Free briefly about their history in the business and the upcoming 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s project.

When Camp Lo hit the scene, it wasn’t like anything else out there at the time.  From the stream of consciousness flow you guys were kickin’ to the overall 70s theme used in the concept, clothing and lyrics, Camp Lo was just out there with it.  Was this a concept you guys created for hip-hop or was this something Geechie Suede and Sonny Cheeba just came into the game with already intact?

Geechie Suede: Yeah, we pretty much strategically approached it with a cinematic appeal. Twisting it in our own Bronx way to show our originality and ability to captivate a broad audience through doing something different.

Sonny Cheeba: …We went over how we was gonna bring somethin’ new to the people of hip-hop as far as style, delivery, slang, etc. but the slang is forever.

Who would you say were your musical influences, within hip-hop and outside of hip-hop?

Geechie Suede: Slick Rick, Big Daddy Kane, Native Tongues, Digable Planets…we always bumped Meth, Nas and B.I.G.!!!   So many more but as for outside of hip-hop, I gotta add Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Earth Wind and Fire.

“Luchini” was a huge hit.  How much pressure was there to come up with another “Luchini” and did you find yourselves wanting to stick to formula or stray completely away from that to give fans something different?

Geechie Suede: Well, we accept things for what they are and  just move how we feel most natural.  The formula is to just do what you love and we love an array of things, so the end result will always be unpredictable and timeless..

Sonny Cheeba: We do like to try new things with the music ’cause artists grow, but it’s like, at times you dont want your soul food tasting like Denny’s, so as artists we have to know that going in.

So you gave us the 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s joint (what’s the name about?).  Tell us about the upcoming project with Pete Rock.

Geechie Suede: Keeping it cinematic as we always will…. 80 Blocks from Tiffany’s is a [1979] documentary about BX gang life and  the struggle that was taking place around that time.  That would later become the very ingredients for the early stages of hip-hop’s emergence.  We chose this because its our honor and job here to tell the story of the Bronx..

Sonny Cheeba: 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s is a BX thang, but really anybody from where we from knows every day can’t be flashy cars and diamond rings.  There’s also the others side of that coin.  It may not shine the same, but it’s still just as bright.

What’s next for Camp Lo?

Geechie Suede: We have a few things in the making with some real nice surprises stirring but [80 Blocks From Tiffany’s]is definitely the focus right now..Then the flood begins.  Lo never ends.  We love to keep the shock value high for the people.

Camp Lo’s always been ill with the stream of consciousness flow and painting the hell out of a picture for the people, so the music makes its own case.  Get with it.  And of course we know what kind of damage the legendary Pete Rock can do, so if you haven’t already, download that 80 Blocks mixtape here as a appetizer before the official Camp Lo/Pete Rock joint drops in the near future.

Vintage: Coolie High x Camp Lo

New: Mic Check x Camp Lo

 

A Moment With Camp Lo from Michael Béon on Vimeo.

If you’re looking for that Jansport rap, it ain’t here.  Take that shit up the block.  Pharoahe Monch just dropped an LP not too long ago and it’s dope, but this is just something else entirely.  If you’ve never stood on the couch in the club buggin’ out, you may not get into it.  If you’ve never thought about smashing off your probation officer to get out of a piss test, this may be just aiight to you.  And that’s fine.  Basically, Cam and Vado ain’t reaching or trying to impress people who aren’t already fans.  And that’s fine.  Trying to spread themselves too thin to too many potential listeners and in turn stepping on otherwise quality product is where a lot of rappers fail.  There isn’t really a whole lot here aside from blunts, birds, and bitches, but Cam and Vado still manage to find new ways to flip the same product. 

Cam is in his usual cadence as easily one of the funniest MCs out there (“You ain’t carryin’, holmes / I’ll have ’em carry you home / for bein’ juiced up, Marion Jones” on “Face-Off”), whether he intends to be or not.  Though reactions to Slime Flu were mixed, Vado seems to be back in the form we heard him in on earlier joints like “Ric Flair” and “Stop It 5”, the latter of which also appears on this album.  The nigga-please anthem “Stop It 5”, crew salute “We All Up In Here” and club banger “Speaking In Tungz” have been out for a long time, so their presence here reeks of filler, but they’re still relevant joints, so they don’t take away from the whole of the album.

A lot of the songs here tend to run together, so there’s no need to run through many specifics, though “Killa” and “American Greed” tend to stand out as slap-a-housing-cop music.  Listen to those two and you’ll be baggin’ up work in no time.  That’s how you spend a tax return.  Go follow Harper Hill on Twitter or something if you’re looking for introspection or to be uplifted.  This is just something to ride to and that’s OK.  People have to stop trying to decide what’s hip-hop and what isn’t or who should be more diverse in their subject matter.  There’s something out there for everybody.  Gunz N Butta is not classic LP material, but it’s definitely valid for the time being and bound to keep Cam & Vado buzzin’ as a duo.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFKKHoNYcz8&feature=player_embedded

YO!  Today and tomorrow are the last days of this VIBE Ultimate Blogger contest I’m enrolled in.  I’m currently in 7th at press time, but all I need is to make 5th place by the end of tomorrow to become a finalist, at which point the judges will have to deliberate.  Help me.  Click the image below to vote for Front-Free and please use the “tweet” and Facebook share options to get the word out TODAY.  I appreciate all of you, new readers and old ones.  Peace.

You probably best remember Philadelphia MC Sandman (aka Sandcannon) from his role as 1/4 of The Re-Up Gang, with The Clipse and Ab Liva (of Major Figgas).  After leaving the group in 2008 over artistic differences, Sandman has been on his solo grind, releasing street-oriented mixtapes Philadelphia Ego, Gianormous and Heart of the City. What may not be well-known is that Sandman had been doing his thing well before meeting Pusha and the Re-Up Gang, from running his own imprint, Cannons Inc. to a former deal with Interscope.

Front-Free: First, I wanna thank you for taking the time to sit down and rap with us for a hot minute, I know you’re hard at work promoting Cannons Inc. and upcoming projects.

Sandman: Oh, it’s not a problem, my nigga, this is actually my first exclusive interview since I got out of prison in January so I definitely wanted to take this opportunity to be heard out here.

FF: Word, thanks again and congrats on making it home.  OK, so let’s get into it.  I think many fans of The Re-Up Gang like myself who know how much you brought to the table understand your reasoning for leaving the group, but at the same time feel like there is no Re-Up without the gravity you added to their tracks.  Are you still on speaking terms with the rest of The Gang and do you foresee any possibility of working with them in the future?

Sandman: Niggas squandered a great opportunity…you know it, the world know it.  I hope they don’t think that the world don’t see that the shit got squandered.  As far as speaking terms, I haven’t spoken to Pusha or Malice since the split.  I’ve spoken to Ab Liva twice.  When the split happened, I didn’t know if niggas would see my reasoning, but at the time, it was more important to put myself in a better situation.  If you heard the Re-Up Gang album, it was titled “The Clipse Presents…”  NAH BITCH…Re-Up Gang presents the Re-Up Gang!!!  When it’s all said and done, I’m not a dick-eater, I’m not a follower, I’m a leader, so I had to go.  I thought the Re-Up Gang was gonna take me and Cannons Inc. to another level and when I saw it not going that direction, I had to go.  How did Re-Up Gang drop 3 classic mixtapes and not release one fuckin’ video?  But I got a joint on my upcoming mixtape called “Straight To It” that’s gonna get into that whole situation.

When Pusha met me, he had 5 of my CDs in his hand.  People may or may not know that [The Clipse’] first mixtape was actually my ninth.  So he knew how I got down off top and approached me with the Re-Up Gang idea, so I really don’t know of any Re-Up Gang without Sandman.  The shit was built around me.  In fact, I see my influence in Pusha T’s flow now.

FF: Word?

Sandman: Go back and listen to “Grindin'” and compare that flow to his flow now.  You’ll hear Sandman all in there, but I’m flattered.  You can print that.

FF: I’ve seen “Reunite The Re-Up Gang” on a couple of blogs out there.  Is that even a possibility at this point?

Sandman: I’ve noticed that and it’s like this…why do I only see those type of remarks on my joints?  You don’t see those comments on Pusha T joints or Ab Liva joints, but you see it on mine.

FF: A lot of groups we see in hip-hop present themselves as being closer than they really are, but when they split, we hear a different story.  Was the Re-Up Gang really close before the split?

Sandman: Oh yeah…me and Malice used to read the Bible together in the back of the tour bus.  He cried when my grandmother got cancer because of the pain he had experienced with the death of his own grandmother.  That’s how real it was.  But at the end of the day, the Re-Up Gang is something The Clipse used to get them back to the streets where they started at.

FF: Tell us about Cannons, Inc.  What do you have on the stove at present?

Sandman: I got my solo mixtape titled Mt Crushmore droppin’ soon.  That’s gonna be all instrumentals; everything from “Victory” by B.I.G. which I went crazy on to “Think About It” by Special Ed, which already dropped on the ‘net.  I did a joint to “Xplosive”and soon as I left the studio, I got the news that Nate Dogg had passed, which was crazy.

I’m currently shopping my album Grains Of Sand around…

FF: You looking to go through a major label?

Sandman: Nah, mainly just looking for distribution on a finished product.  I did the major label thing with Interscope before Steve Stoute got fired and had a verbal agreement with Diddy to sign to Bad Boy, but that was of course before he hit the club with Shyne, so you know…

FF: Understood, understood…so who else should we look out for from Cannons Inc.?  I know a lot of the guest appearances on your mixtapes have been fire, so give us the full roster.

Sandman: I got Housewife, my blood sister dropping her joint called I Am HDub, she dope as shit.  Other artists on Cannons Inc. are Cheech Myers, Spazz Cannon, Kawshen, Sock, Slash, Deuce Sceem, and Eddie Somerset.  I’m tellin’ you my roster’s about to run through the whole industry…easy.  Also, look out for that Cannons Inc. compilation The Unstoppable.  Check out the website for details.

*NEW This Week: Download Armed & Dangerous off the upcoming Mt. Crushmore*

FF: Listeners of your solo work can definitely tell you’re taking it back to the glory days of hip-hop, yet mixing more of a gangsta rap vibe in there.  Who are your biggest influences and who, if anybody, are you listening to currently?

Sandman: I’ma show my age with this one, but my biggest influences are LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, KRS-One, Schooly D and Cool C.  DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince’ “Girls Of The World Ain’t Nothin’ But Trouble” and LL’s “I Need Love” made me write about women.  Kool G Rap showed me the hustle shit because everything he rapped about I saw in my uncles.  Listening to KRS taught me how to tell a story.  Kane taught me how to be metaphorical in my rhymes, and Schoolly D?  Just live Philly shit.  I think you combine all these styles from back then and you get my style today.

As far as who I’m listening to today, not a whole lot of people.  I listen to Rick Ross, though…by the way, I tip my hat to Meek Mill for getting signed to Ross’ label and doing his thing.  Meek put in a lot of work up here on the Philly scene so I’m happy to see him come up.  Ace Hood joint “Hustle Hard” is dope and there’s a new video I just saw called “Yonkers” by a dude named Tyler the Creator where he eats a beetle (laughs).

FF: Is hip-hop dead to you and if so, what’s the remedy?

Sandman: Nah…hip-hop ain’t dead at all.  The versatility in hip-hop is dead.  The diversity in hip-hop is dead.  Hip-hop is like somebody pressed the repeat button a bunch of times.  Being yourself is dead, so hip-hop is stuck in a hall of mirrors where everything looks the same. If anything, tell your readers this: My man Sandman told me that when a nigga is on the mic, it’s one of two things: he’s either being the nigga he is or the nigga he wants to be.  It’s nothing else.  When I was recording a solo joint “Just A B-Boy” for The Re-Up, Pharrell actually pulled me out of the booth and told me “that love you have for hip-hop?  Don’t lose that”.  I haven’t.

VIDEO: “Anchor” by Sandman

DOWNLOAD SANDMAN aka SANDCANNON’s MIXTAPES:

Download Gianormous

Download #1 Suppliya

Download Heart Of The City

Download Philadelphia Ego

Mt. Crushmore Coming Soon!

From TheOriginalDavid.com:

the original david was conceived in the eighties. it’s the result of hip hop, the challenger, sesame street, reading rainbow, boom boxes, eight tracks in the garage, records in the house, weekly readers, national geographic, the tearing down of the berlin wall, british knights and triple fat goose, goonies, breakin, pepsi vs coke, mc tonight, where in the world is carmen sandiego, a tribe called quest, and new edition, and africa. david is the product of that environment, David represents that mix, the clash of culture, hip hop, creativity, and current events. we lived this. we’re 100% authentic and our clothes are not virtual. We design in 3-D for the restless and underwhelmed. David is the brand of a generation. in every language there’s a david.

The vision and grind behind The Original David is something that should be inspiring to upcoming artists and entrepreneurs alike, so Front-Free sat down with Rakiyt Zakari of The Original David to talk about the one-of-a-kind brand, from its inception to its future.

  • Where did the name “The Original David” come from?

I named the line The Original David because I wanted to use a name that everyone could identify with. Everybody knows someone named David and it’s a name found in different variations all over the world. Our tag line is, “in every language there’s a david”, meaning that in some sense we’re all Davids, regardless of race, religion, and background. David is also my son’s name…heir to the throne!

  • What are a few of the obstacles you faced in your journey and how did you overcome them?

Some obstacles I experienced were/are editing my creativity into a marketable product and communicating my perspective. Also, finding my voice in an industry, and genre (streetwear) that can be very nepotistic has been frustrating at times. I’ve learned that experience is the best remedy for these types of growing pains. I had to learn how to limit my time in the paint (r.i.p. Bob Ross). Limitless inspiration is a kryptonite to creative people; it’s alluring and distracting and can be hard to control, especially when you know the next steps are trying to figure out how to take an idea to market. I’m still struggling with that but I’m getting better and found one of THE BEST guides ever in this book ‘Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality” by Scott Belsky. That book changed my life.

The fashion industry has a penchant for promoting from within. Proximity and diligence will get you far. As a single mom, and generally low-key personality, I don’t have the time nor bravado to push my product as much as I like. For instance, I’m the first woman to ever do an apparel collaboration with Jordan Brand, not many people know that. What’s special about The Original David is that the people who support the brand really fuel it’s reach. I think their endorsement, more than a big marketing push, gives David it’s authenticity. This is such a personal project and reveals a lot about the schizophrenia that characterizes my personality, I think the biggest obstacle was learning to be comfortable being me. Now I’m working on getting a publicist.

  • Music and specifically hip-hop seem to play a big part in inspiring your pieces.  What is currently in rotation on your iPod?

Yes music is a must. Hip hop is a running undercurrent of inspiration in a lot my designs. Right now I’m playing:
• “Cream Of The Planet” x Ski Beatz & Mos Def
• “Coming Down” & “Wicked Games” x The Weeknd
Return Of 4eva x Big KRIT
• A lot of classic Mobb Deep and Black Moon
StarWars‘ Darth Vader theme song
• “One Hand Push Up” x Rhymefest
• “Ultraviolent” x Theophilus London


In 10 years I see The Original David having an established relevance in pop culture. My goal is to open a flagship store, and be the main distribution point for the brand. I want to expand the product line up, to include more apparel, leather goods, and toys. I want to by then have developed a consistently strong look and perspective for The Original David in a way that opens the brand up to more collaborative projects . I’d love to work with companies like Polaroid, TDK performance, and Converse.

There you have it straight from the innovator’s mouth.  Be sure to check out www.TheOriginalDavid.com and check out the complete Original David offering.  Front-Free collaborated with Original David to drum up the following playlist for your listening pleasure, inspired both by the creator’s musical inspirations and my take on the Original David’s pieces from the outside looking in.

 

I ended up downloading The Weeknd’s House of Balloons mixtape as a result of a very simple suggestion: “Man, just download it”.  I was asking one of my Twitter followers what it was supposed to be after reading a few cryptic tweets hyping the project.  I didn’t know what the genre was supposed to be, if The Weeknd represented a group or even if it was supposed to be spelled “The Weeknd” (which I learned yesterday is pronounced “the weakened”).  I just downloaded it, not knowing what to expect, which was probably for the best.  Upon giving it the first pass while transferring the songs from WinRAR to iTunes, I was impressed.  The production quality is top-notch and there’s a common theme amongst the songs, whether played in order or at random.  For the purpose of me enjoying the music, I had to just completely ignore the fact that The Weeknd is touted as a “protege” of none other than Audrey Aubrey “Drake” Graham.

So first I was like…

The Weeknd is sometimes referred to as a Toronto-based group (vocalist and two producers), but I have also seen it described as solely the vocalist, Abel Tesfaye, whose vocals take you back to 12-Play-era R. Kelly on certain tracks and notes.  The vocals coupled with the production, though very modern, reminds me of an R&B take on Phil Collins (which is a huge compliment, since I’m a fan of Phil Collins), infused with some electronic and alternative influences.  Standout tracks like “The Knowing” give listeners some of the vulnerability missing from a lot of today’s R&B, over a track reminiscent of the brooding, ethereal feel of much of Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreaks.  The title track is, for lack of better wording, a good-ass time, until I really tuned in on the rap at the end of the song.

After several listens, I began to pick up on some serious flaws.  I’m the kind of listener who needs 2-3 listens to truly evaluate a project.  The first listen is the “can i even tolerate this” evaluation, where I listen for production quality.  The second and third listens are dedicated to the song itself: whether or not I’m moved by the song and the quality of the songwriting specifically.  The latter is where The Weeknd falls short, unfortunately.  There are certain songs on House Of Balloons where, upon giving it a closer listen, a needle scratched the record in my mind.  “Did he just say something about Alize and breakfast cereal?”  Yes, he did.  “Did he just say ‘let me motherf*cking love you’?”  Yes, he did.  Over beautiful arrangements.  Damn shame.

 

...but then I was like...
…but then I was like…

Anybody who knows me knows I don’t shy away from the use of expletives, but only when they add to whatever I’m saying.  The song “Wicked Games” is a prime example of completely unnecessary use of expletives that actually take away from the song.  The first verse is littered with the pervasive use of “motherf*cking” in a way that makes it seem that the songwriter couldn’t think of anything else.  Otherwise, the song is awesome.  Modern R&B suffers from artists choosing to make their music immediately disposable by including name brands, modern slang, and expletives, as if they’re competing with rappers for the same subject matter.  Most of the time, this is done over an equally disposable track, but it almost makes me more mad that The Weeknd does the same at times over otherwise quality music.

Ask me if I stopped jammin’ though? Nope.

It seems like The Weeknd’s goal was to go completely in a new direction from most modern R&B with House of Balloons in terms of the sound, artwork, and choosing to allow the music to speak for itself by shrouding himself/themselves in mystery, but in doing that, neglected to put the same creativity and daring into actually writing the songs.  This doesn’t make House of Balloons a complete wash or anything that you shouldn’t download if you haven’t already, though.  This is dope music that’s leagues beyond what most R&B dudes are doing these days and it deserves some shine.  Hopefully, the Weeknd will push the envelope a little more in the right direction on his/their next project and focus on simply making classic music as opposed to trying to shock people with bad words and debauchery.  It’s shocking enough that The Weeknd had the balls to shirk the cookie-cutter expectations and create a sound that’s completely unique.  Now I’m just waiting for the writing to catch up to the production quality.

“The Knowing” x The Weeknd

I don’t think I’m reaching in saying that this could signify the demise of the LP.  I’m going to be honest and say that I’ve paid for very little music in the past several years, so it’s rare that I listen to a project I received entirely for free and feel like somebody’s getting shorted. This is the kind of project that makes fans wonder what could possible be left for the album, but it makes a fan of me not even care.  Artists are usually at their prime before their first studio LP when they’re still hungry, but hopefully this project is an indication that KRIT won’t be sacrificing artistic integrity for mainstream success…or that he won’t even have to.

Big KRIT’s Return Of 4Eva is a classic, plain and simple.  Will it be for everryone?  No.  Will people deny KRIT his props because he speaks with a Southern accent?  Absolutely.  Will people try to detract from the project’s quality simply because everyone else likes it?  Of course.  Such is the nature of hip-hop and some of its so-called fans’ desire to see it remain stagnant.  For the open-minded, however, this album (I’m just gonna call it what it is) was well worth the wait and will have the staying power of a classic LP.

It’s clear that KRIT has a keen ear for sound, as there’s a cohesion here that’s lacking from most mixtape projects, namely Fear Of God, which I reviewed last week.  Instead of slapping a bunch of songs and freestyles together, it appears KRIT put some effort into creating a linear vibe, from the early-morning musings of “Rise & Shine” to the late-night, roll-a-blunt-and-reflect feel of “The Vent”.  The only complaint I have are that some of the features make the project seem dated at a glance.  I don’t think anybody was really pressed to hear verses from Chamillionaire, David Banner or Ludacris.  I think people would have appreciated hearing either the newer artists he’s been known to work with recently or classic southern MCs like 8Ball & MJG, Scarface or OutKast.  The standout feature was actually Big Sant, whose verse on “Made A Lot” is more notable than any of the more established artists KRIT worked with this time out.

I won’t run down every single track on this project, because there’s really nothing to be done but download Return Of 4Eva if you haven’t already and listen for yourself.  If anything, it deserves an unbiased ear. It would be selling the man short to say who he sounds like, but you’d be foolish not to notice the influence of UGK, Outkast, 8Ball & MJG, and even the honesty and introspection of Common in his work.  It’s easy to get lost in the composition, soul samples, and trunk-ready beats, but once you get past all that, you realize KRIT actually has subject matter.  I like brainless hip-hop every now and then just like the next unpretentious hip-hop head, but KRIT’s fusion of conscious rap and Southern sounds is a breath of fresh air in a room chock full of Newport smoke.

Side Note:

On “The Vent”, KRIT makes a good point:

“If it don’t touch my soul, then I can’t listen to it / the radio don’t play the shit I used to love / or maybe I’m just growin’ up”

While we as hip-hop fans complain about what’s on the radio or TV screen, we have to remember those of us not born in the 1990s are no longer the primary audience.  Yo! MTV Raps was an epic show, but wouldn’t last today for the upcoming generation’s varied tastes.  I don’t understand why grown people complain about not being able to find good hip-hop.  Nothing worth having is easy to find and if you have Internet access, there’s no reason you can’t find quality music that fits your tastes.  But I’m also convinced that some of you just wanna be miserable, so have at it.

“Made A Lot (f. Big Sant)” x Big KRIT

“The Vent” x Big KRIT

I’ve spent most of this year thus far waiting on this mixtape.  I’m not alone.  Pusha T clearly put on his Andre Young starter kit marketing the release of the long-awaited Fear Of God mixtape.  The anticipation may have both helped and hurt the reception of it, though.  Some have been so outspoken about how good it’s supposed to be, that it may be hard to tone down their appreciation at this point.  Some waited so long, they received the mixtape with arms crossed, screwface firmly affixed.  I feel like I’m floating somewhere in the middle.  I was a fan of the Clipse.  I was a fan of the Re-Up Gang (Clipse along with Ab Liva and Sandman, the latter of which is no longer with the group).  When Pusha decided to go solo, I was 100% for it, though I did have concerns about the loss of balance between the brothers Thornton, which made previous works almost seem symbiotic.

I rarely buy LPs.  Mixtapes, in my opinion, are the future of the industry.  Studio LPs have become for the most part marketing machines that further the label’s agenda and not necessarily that of the artist.  Unless you’re someone like Raekwon, who has built a solid fan base on virtually no radio airplay or commercial leanings, new artists are pressured to cater to the largest audience possible, sometimes sacrificing quality in the process.  Unfortunately, Pusha’s Fear Of God seems to lean more towards new-artist-LP territory than mixtape classic.  Amongst the majority of joints being proper, there are a few obvious reaches for mass appeal that detract from the overall feel of the project

Don’t get me wrong…this is a dope mixtape.  “Open Your Eyes”, “Alone In Vegas Outro” and “My God” are Pusha Ton in rare form.  Production and flow are a seamless pairing on these joints.  Those who complain about Pusha not having much subject matter are the type who like to order pizza, hamburgers, and Chinese food all from the same spot.  There’s nothing wrong with finding your niche and mastering it as opposed to trying to impress people by half-assing it in multiple niches.  That being said, there a re a few attempts at branching out that lead to missteps on Pusha’s part.  On “Raid”, Pusha enlists 50 Cent and Pharrell to basically try to emulate the same energy created on “Popular Demand (Popeye’s)” by the Clipse with Cam’ron.  The maddeningly repetitive “Touch It”, with Kanye West to me sounds like a throwaway Yeezy joint Pusha just hopped on.  “Feelin’ Myself” is by far the worst joint on here and borders on intolerable, with a syrupy hook lent by vocalist Kevin Cossom.  Exceptional lyrics from Pusha aside, this song interrupts the whole vibe of the mixtape, taking you from feeling like you have 20 kilos of coke in your trunk to 20 kilos of pure glitter.  Understandably, you can’t expect an artist to remain the same person throughout his career, especially when breaking away from a group, but it isn’t unreasonable to expect a product that doesn’t veer completely away from what you know him for.

The freestyles are where he shines, but using tracks like “Money On My Mind” and “Speakers Going Hammer” as instrumentals just make them come off dated.  “Can I Live” is a classic instrumental and something that makes you wonder why Push never freestyled to it before.  All in all, I won’t say Fear Of God is wack by a long shot.  Those claiming it’s cold hot dog water are just being contrary, in my opinion.  However, it seems to me that Pusha didn’t take full advantage of the freedom granted from mixtape creation to do the girttier, less-radio-friendly tracks that make someone like me prefer mixtapes over LPs.  Tracks like “Touch It” would be great for his G.O.O.D. Music debut, but the streets wanted a mixtape and got something that was half-and-half.  Just being fair.  At the end of the day, Pusha T is still an exciting artist and somebody I want to see more from.  Hopefully, he’s got his ear to the streets and won’t let schlock like “Feeling Myself” serve as the blueprint to his career.  Pusha’s bars are unquestionably fire, but laying them over the tracks he’s selected here is like pearls to swine on a few tracks.  But let’s not act like Pusha isn’t leagues ahead of his class.

“The rhythm is the bass and the bass is the treboooooooh….”

The hip-hop community is burying yet another legend in the game with the passing of Nate Dogg, best known and loved for his ability to smooth out a track with his unforgettable hooks and laid-back, gangsta-ass era.  Nate was one singer you wouldn’t want to run up on and he made some of the most gangster lines come off smooth as hell.  He could take “now that I’m sober you ain’t that fine” and sing it like it was the most thoughtful of compliments to a woman. 

Today, let’s remember the man in two ways.  One, of course remembering the legacy of classics he left us with and two, by taking better care of ourselves as a people.  Nate Dogg died of a stroke at 41 years old.  I’m guilty of walking around like I’m invincible too, but this is a big wake-up call.  Got health insurance?  Good, you have no excuse not to be seeing a doctor for regular check-ups.  People are gonna have their vices and to me, life’s too short not to enjoy some of those, but you have to balance those with eating right and engaging in regular physical exercise.  We’re losing too many brothers and sisters too young.

On a lighter note, enjoy this Wikipedia entry that provides a synopsis for the classic Warren G & Nate Dogg joint “Regulate”:

On a cool, clear night (typical to Southern California) Warren G travels through his neighborhood, searching for women with whom he might initiate sexual intercourse. He has chosen to engage in this pursuit alone.

Nate Dogg, having just arrived in Long Beach, seeks Warren. On his way to find Warren, Nate passes a car full of women who are excited to see him. Regardless, he insists to the women that there is no cause for excitement.

Warren makes a left turn at 21st Street and Lewis Ave, in the East Hill/Salt Lake neighborhood[6], where he sees a group of young men enjoying a game of dice together. He parks his car and greets them. He is excited to find people to play with, but to his chagrin, he discovers they intend to relieve him of his material possessions. Once the hopeful robbers reveal their firearms, Warren realizes he is in a less than favorable predicament.

Meanwhile, Nate passes the women, as they are low on his list of priorities. His primary concern is locating Warren. After curtly casting away the strumpets (whose interest in Nate was such that they crashed their automobile), he serendipitously stumbles upon his friend, Warren G, being held up by the young miscreants.

Warren, unaware that Nate is surreptitiously observing the scene unfold, is in disbelief that he’s being robbed. The perpetrators have taken jewelry and a name brand designer watch from Warren, who is so incredulous that he asks what else the robbers intend to steal. This is most likely a rhetorical question.

Observing these unfortunate proceedings, Nate realizes that he may have to use his firearm to deliver his friend from harm.

The tension crescendos as the robbers point their guns to Warren’s head. Warren senses the gravity of his situation. He cannot believe the events unfolding could happen in his own neighborhood. As he imagines himself in a fantastical escape, he catches a glimpse of his friend, Nate.

Nate has seventeen cartridges to expend (sixteen residing in the pistol’s magazine, with a solitary round placed in the chamber and ready to be fired) on the group of robbers, and he uses many of them. Afterward, he generously shares the credit for neutralizing the situation with Warren, though it is clear that Nate did all of the difficult work. Putting congratulations aside, Nate quickly reminds himself that he has committed multiple homicides to save Warren before letting his friend know that there are females nearby if he wishes to fornicate with them.

Warren recalls that it was the promise of copulation that coaxed him away from his previous activities, and is thankful that Nate knows a way to satisfy these urges.

Nate quickly finds the women who earlier crashed their car on Nate’s account. He remarks to one that he is fond of her physical appeal. The woman, impressed by Nate’s singing ability, asks that he and Warren allow her and her friends to share transportation. Soon, both friends are driving with automobiles full of women to the East Side Motel, presumably to consummate their flirtation in an orgy.

The third verse is more expository, with Warren and Nate explaining their G Funk musical style. Nate displays his bravado by claiming that individuals with equivalent knowledge could not even attempt to approach his level of lyrical mastery. There follows a brief discussion of the genre’s musicological features, with special care taken to point out that in said milieu the rhythm is not in fact the rhythm, as one might assume, but actually the bass. Similarly the bass serves a purpose closer to that which the treble would in more traditional musical forms. Nate goes on to note that if any third party smokes as he does, they would find themselves in a state of intoxication daily (from Nate’s other works, it can be inferred that the substance referenced is marijuana). Nate concludes his delineation of the night by issuing a vague threat to “busters,” suggesting that he and Warren will further “regulate” any potential incidents in the future (presumably by engaging their enemies with small arms fire).

Check out Nicholas Ryan Gant’s “Ode To Nate Dogg”.

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