The Trouble With Stans

The difference between a fan and a stan is simple when it comes to music.  A fan appreciates the music of a certain artist and will support them and put others onto it, but also remembers that they do not know this person.  A stan has deluded themselves into basically thinking the celebrity that they worship is beyond reproach and how dare anyone speak against them or critique their work.  A stan fails to see the flaws in anything the artist puts out, so can’t discuss their work intelligently.  They also fail to see any humor in ridicule of said artist, as they have romanticized them to a degree that makes you wonder if they keep a shrine at home.  If you will take time out of your day to angrily respond to a blog post or album review that disagrees with your opinion about an artist, you might be a stan.  You can disagree, but to immediately go in on the author and throw a bitch-fit over somebody else’s opinion when it’s 100% free to start your own blog and get your own ideas out there?  You might be a mark-ass buster-ass stan, dawg. 

This is how I see stans...

Everybody isn’t going to like what you like.  And that’s okay.  I don’t know what the f*ck a lot of you people are doing to your iTunes library and sometimes I think it’s unfortunate, but I’m not stopping you from listening to what you want to listen to.  On the same note, you can tell me what I like is wack and I can think you’re crazy, but one monkey don’t stop no show.  If you’ve got a valid point and can argue it intelligently, why would I not give the discussion a moment of my time?  And if you’re cracking jokes and it’s genuinely funny, why would I not laugh?

Example: I’m a fan of Raekwon.  However, that doesn’t mean that Rae’s yearbook photo will ever not be funny:

Yep…still funny.  Also, this…

Basically, nobody is above jokes or critique of their work.  Prince is an amazing entertainer and will always be remembered as such, but let’s not sit here and act like he didn’t put out some highly irrelevant work from time to time.  And let’s also not act as if the image Dave Chappelle put into our minds of Prince shooting hoops in a blouse isn’t funny as all hell, also. 

 Stans actually do the artist a disservice.  If you’re willing to accept any and everything an artist creates as without flaw, the artist will not see any reason to grow or progress and will continue releasing subpar work, or just work that isn’t as great as what they could be doing, had their fans been pushing them to improve.  So next time you think about jumping up to defend a celebrity who doesn’t pay any of your bills, channel your inner O-Dog, dawg…


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Ambition: Selling Vs. Selling Out

Over the past week, it’s been interesting to read and hear some of the feedback from readers, followers, peers, and others about Wale’s Ambition, the MC’s sophomore effort and first official release on Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group.  It really warms the heart to hear people having debates that concern more than comparing one rapper to another.  No, there have been more points being brought up about artistic integrity and the business over art approach that artists tend to take in order to move units.

This is not a review.  I gave Ambition a few spins and decided it was not for me, for the most part.  There were some tracks I could get with, but many more I couldn’t.  One of my pet peeves when listening to hip-hop studio albums is when I can listen to an album and, track for track, can tell where an artist said:

“Yeah, this one’s for the bitches” (Wale went OD on this particular one for Ambition)

“Yeah, this one’s for the club”

“Yeah, this one’s for the radio”

This was all too apparent on Ambition.  I’m not sure what I expected, though, since his debut, Attention Deficit didn’t get much play in the ride, either.  Thing is, I happen to live in DC, where Wale had a presence on mixtapes while my friends back home on the west coast were saying “who the fuck is whale?”  I was actually a big advocate for him as an artist.  Then he got signed.  Then came “Chillin'” (Lady Gaga?  You serious?), which to me marked the “welp…respect don’t pay the bills” point in Wale’s career.  And that’s okay…teenyboppers need some music to Dougie to in their tapered skinny jeans and what-not.  Just admit that respect isn’t what you’re here for as an artist.  Admit that you’re not here for props.  Doesn’t seem like Wale got that memo, though.  The guy will rant and rave on Twitter about people’s opinions of him as an artist as if he were a passionate, hungry, young MC and then proceeds to put out “I’m just here for my check” records. 

There’s a big difference between wanting an artist to keep making the same music forever (illogical) and wanting an artist to show progress throughout his career (perfectly sensible).  A true artist can keep his original fan base and still rope in new listeners through crafting quality music and putting in good old-fashioned hard work.  That isn’t to say that Wale is or isn’t a “true artist”, just that Ambition sounds like pandering for crossover appeal and airplay and Wale has potential to be above the need to do that. 

I’m no hip-hop purist.I honestly want better for not only him but for today’s hip-hop.  With all of the resources at our fingertips thanks to technological advances, there are still those who have no desire to seek out anything that isn’t being spoon-fed to them by urban radio. 

One of my favorite Wale joints off of Paint A Picture: Mary Mary x Wale

One of the joints off the new album I actually liked: Double M Genius x Wale

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Album Review :: Charity Starts At Home x Phonte

Phonte is the type of artist you’re glad to have in your iPod and don’t necessarily mind if nobody else does.  You might not reccomend his music to all of your friends, just the ones who have taste…the ones who expect a little more out of music.  The same can be said of the two groups Phonte has been a member of: Little Brother and Foreign Exchange.  Though you want the artist themselves to do well, it’s the type of music you almost don’t want to get too popular for fear of it losing its integrity and its quality in the process.  Phonte’s debut Charity Starts At Home is like proof that Phonte is probably not the artist who will blow up all crazy and sacrifice quality in doing so.  That is, if Phonte himself or the buying public elect for him “blowing up” in the traditional sense.

It’s easy to appreciate the production as much as the rhymes.  9th Wonder surprisingly appears on four of the 12 tracks, but the other producers get just as busy.  For example, Fatin 10 Horton produced “We Go Off”, which features Pharoahe Monch exchanging bars with Phontigga over a beat reminiscent of Little Brother’s heyday, similar to “Eternally” which features Median.  Elzhi appears on “Not Here Anymore”, a joint with a soulful hook and chock full of rewindable lines.  

“The Life Of Kings” is a thoughtful, jazzy 9th joint that boasts Phonte in the company of the very capable Evidence and Big K.R.I.T.  Phonte meshes well with all of his guest artists in the sense that they’re complimenting him and not the other way around or overshadowing him altogether.  Some of the best tracks are Phonte holding it down dolo, though.  “The Good Fight” is a track that briefly touches on job loss and the economy, flying in the face of mainstream hip-hop’s all-out denial of these things going on in the world.  

“Everybody prays for the day they see the light / but the light at the end of the tunnel is a train” – Phonte “The Good Fight”

There’s a strong soul element to Charity Starts At Home, with a lot of tracks being joints you could easily play for your woman when you’re in that smoothed-out state of mind.  Eric Roberson appears on “Who Loves You More” to lend vocals, while “Gonna Be A Beautiful Night” featuring Carlitta Durand, is almost a pure new soul joint that only features a verse from Phonte.  “To Be Yours” is a piano-laced interlude that probably should have been longer.  However, Charity Starts At Home is masterful in its brevity: twelve tracks without any unnecessary components or uncalled-for intros or interludes.  

“They say the streets turn niggas into sinners / but them jail cells be turning niggas into dinner / so they sing in the summer, be home by the winter / interrogation room be turning niggas into tenors”  – Phonte, “Who Loves You More”

What I appreciate about this album overall is its honesty.  I like Rick Ross just as much as the next open-minded hip-hop fan, but I’d question a person who could listen to that type of music all day, every day, without any soul or anything different thrown in for good measure.  Can’t be pouring Ciroc on model bitches every night…some nights you might just wanna sip a brew after a long day at work.  Phonte speaks to those of us who want something more; those of us who have steady jobs, children, and some responsibilities…and does all of this while still making fun records and not preaching.  Granted, this may not be your cup of tea and it’s definitely not for everyone, but “for everyone” isn’t something I give much weight to when determining quality music. 

Rating: BUYABLE + Attend the live show

Not Here Anymore x Phonte f. Elzhi


The Life Of Kings x Phonte f. Evidence & Big K.R.I.T.


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Carter 4: Room Temperature Hot Dog Water Music (This Is Not A Review)


Okay, people.  I really tried to sit down and give an unbiased listen to this album.  I really opened up WordPress with the intention of writing a solid, thoughtful review.  However, the more One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, mixtape-freestyle-level federal-assistance bars this man Li’l Wayne dropped on the first several tracks I listened to, the more I came to an unfortunate realization.  I can’t very well put more thought and effort into writing a serious album review than Li’l Wayne himself put into making a serious album that his fans (this does not include me) have been anticipating.

Wayne and his fans tout him as the best rapper alive, but how do you claim this if your music declines in quality over time and you show no maturity or evolution over the span of your career?  Basically, he evolved into a rich toddler.  Wayne is a 28-year-old grown man and is still to this day (on studio album #9) kickin’ Romper Room raps like there’s no tomorrow.  Let’s get into a few of these anemic bars:

Really, Wayne? You’re “going in like your water broke”?

Really, Wayne? They left you out to dry like a towel rack?

Really, Wayne? You’re all about your riches so your name should be Richard?

When it Waynes, it pours?!?!?!  Really, Wayne?  Really, Wayne?

Weezy F. Baby. The F stands for Fuckouttaheeeeere...

I can’t believe his fans are really about to be okay with this project.  I mean, I guess you can get anything past people who condone their favorite rapper screaming Blood gang whilst rocking vermillion skinny jeans.  I would think a prison bid would have given this man time to think a little bit and master his art a little more, but all these raps tell me is that Wayne probably had a Nintendo Entertainment System in his cell with one game: Bubble Bobble.  Dwayne had two books in his cell during his entire sentence judging by these bars: Harold & The Purple Crayon and Goodnight Moon.  There was no personal growth, no reflection, no Eye of the Tiger style preparation for his ability to get free and back in the studio…just a whole lot of pushups and he mighta learned origami or flipped through some Archie comics.

The sad thing about the Carter 4 is that the only things that make the album listenable or noteworthy have nothing to do with Wayne himself.  Every rapper featured on the album (yes, even Aubrey Graham) make an example out of him on each track.  Andre 3000 waltzed into the studio in a bow tie and gaberdine slacks and made a grandson out of you on your own joint; how’s that feel?  Tech N9ne probably rocked a Johnny Cage from Mortal Kombat outfit to the studio and embarassed you, Dwayne.  I can’t recall any album in recent memory where the best tracks are the interlude and outro and I definitely can’t remember any previous album from a solo artist where the best tracks don’t even feature that artist.  On top of all this, the production is pretty damn good.  Too bad Wayne didn’t do anything but smear some primary colors on these canvases.

On a sidenote, Dwayne…get ya man Juelz and do that collaboration album y’all were talkin’ about 16 years ago or some such shit.  I don’t think anybody wanna see him doubting himself like this…


Couldn’t resist:

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Album Review :: The R.E.D. Album by The Game

The Game represents a conundrum many consumers of culture face in the modern day: in the information age, we know way too much about celebrities and their personal lives and everyday emotions.  Not only do we have more access to celebs than ever before; they also have more access to us, via emotionally-charged Twitter rants, blog posts, video blogs, DVDs nobody really asked them to make, etc.  The Game is one such rapper: a talented MC who is unfortunately known more for his feud with 50-Cent and company than for his actual output.  I’m born and raised in California, so when Game first appeared I was appreciating seeing the west coast back on the scene, but the more Game’s personality emerged, the more I distanced myself from him as an artist.  Though musically I felt he was talented, and still do, his material has always been plagued by his now-trademark incessant name-dropping and constant whining about his estrangement from mentor Dr. Dre and issues with Interscope and 50.

The R.E.D. Album is like a slow re-structuring of Game’s whole approach to music, though transition is not complete yet.  The usual issues still pop up, only peppered in amongst quality music and decent choice of guest stars here and there.  The elephant in the room here is the re-appearance of Dr. Dre like a wayward father, providing vocals on several interludes as well as the track “Drug Test” along with Snoop Dogg and Sly, an appropriately West-Coast club banger also co-produced by Dr. Dre along with DJ Khalil.

Kendrick Lamar without question steals the show on “The City” with a stellar verse and hook contribution.  “Heavy Artillery” brings us the Rick Ross we’re used to and the Beanie Sigel we’ve been wanting since The Roc fell apart some time ago.  “Paramedics” is a frantic joint that Young Jeezy should have probably tried to put on his mixtape from a few months ago, considering his contribution here is better than anything I’ve heard from him in a while.

The mournful “Ricky” has a cinematic feel to it and is probably one of the best tracks on the album, but might have been better if Game had stuck to a specific topic or linear storyline as opposed to just arbitrarily rhyming.  “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” provides that storytelling missing on “Ricky” with Game adopting a whole other flow for the time being.  This is the stuff of vets; changing up the flow and subject matter adds texture to the project so the listener isn’t hearing the same “look I can rhyme” 16s on every track, but hearing new approaches to keep the interest there.  “Born In The Trap” is produced by the legendary DJ Premier, who predictably gets busy on the boards.  If only Game could have avoided dropping the name of every single rapper with a record contract on this track, this would have been a highlight.

The Game’s gang affiliation is no secret and is even more prevalent on this album and at the same time it’s even more questionable.  On “Red Nation” and “Martians vs. Goblins”, Game joins forces with fellow Hollywood-Blood Li’l Wayne for a bunch of questionable flag-waving (what kind of Blood says “when I’m with my uncle, fuck it, then I’m a Crip too”?).  On the latter, Tyler the Creator shows up to spit some trite, unnecessary-expletive-ridden and predictably homophobic shock-rap over what’s coincidentally a pretty dope No-ID track with Game emulating his style to lackluster results.  Kind of a waste, in my opinion.  “Red Nation” might have been worth a damn if anybody really took either rapper’s affiliation to the Bloods seriously…and if this was ’92 and anybody cared.

May need more people.

Game puts the guns and the bandana away on a few tracks to mixed results.  “Hello” featuring Lloyd goes overboard with the “take you out the hood and buy you everything in the world, girl” Captain Save A Ho rhymes, with Game dropping every single brand name he could think of just like he usually does with MCs.  Lloyd’s vocals are just way too predictable and terry-cloth soft.  “Pot of Gold” featuring Chris Brown is so cheesy it made me uncomfortable, just like when the Game was rocking a red mohawk.  I understand the motivation to move units, but there’s a line between mainstream appeal and just making rap songs that sound like they came straight off the One Tree Hill soundtrack.  Where The Game does the crossover properly is “All The Way Gone” featuring Mario and fellow emotional rapper Wale, where the rhymes actually compliment the syrupy backdrop instead of sounding copied-and-pasted.  I’ve never been a Drake fan, but the pairing with Game on “Good Girls Go Bad”,which sounds like a knockoff Kanye track, is actually not bad. 

As far as studio LPs go, The R.E.D. Album isn’t as bad as most people expected and Game might be back on the radar for the time being.  You take the good with the bad: the records where the artist is actually spittin’ along with the records where he’s trying to reach the women and the party scene.  Though it’s clear The Game hasn’t listened to the criticism over the years and made the changes he needs to, it’s clear he’s putting more effort into making quality music.  If only he’d allow us to see more of his lyricism and less complaining, flag-waving and name-dropping, hip-hop heads could begin to take him somewhat seriously, all butterfly tats aside.

 Ricky x The Game

The City x The Game f. Kendrick Lamar


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Album Review :: Watch The Throne

People have forgotten how to listen to a hip-hop album.  In 2011, hip-hop fans have become accustomed to gauging a new album’s worth based more on the span between announcement of the project and actual release and, in this age of free music, whether or not it’s worth a buy.  Regarding the latter, an album has to basically move mountains to be worthy of a purchase, what with it being as effortless as a bodily function to acquire said album.  It’s also the era of the a la carte album…buy what you want, leave the rest.  That being said, there are a number of factors that will cloud most people’s perceptions of Watch The Throne, the product of an epic collaboration between Jay-Z and Kanye West.  I decided to listen to the whole thing front to back as opposed to

Watch The Throne can best be described as an event.  Jay and Ye succeeded in building just the right amount of anticipation for what turned out to be a pretty solid album, yet an album plagued by the hype machine that inspires fans to expect the gates of heaven to open as soon as they hit play. 

“No Church In The Wild” features Frank Ocean and succeeds in setting a sort of tone for the album, but unfortunately that energy falters once you hit “Lift-Off”, which is an accomplishment in terms of production, but Beyonce’s over-the-top vocals add a cheesy, Bond film theme song element to the track.  I almost expect a Kidz Bop rendition of this song to come out in a few months.  Luckily, “Niggas In Paris” and “Gotta Have It” make up for that misstep, giving you a little more of what you might have wanted/expected out of the project. 

As explained throughout the song, RZA joins the team on “New Day”, a mellow joint that attempts to strike some of the same chords as Jay’s “Beach Chair”, but doesn’t quite reach far enough.  Nevertheless, comparisons aside, as it should be, this is a dope song.  “That’s My Bitch” is almost purely disposable in my opinion, but may suit the palates of some.  Like all of the songs on the album, even for tracks you don’t like you still have no choice but to respect the talent behind the boards.  I’d even go so far as to say that an instrumental version of the album needs to be released ASAP.  The replay value would increase exponentially.   

I almost turned to the next track as soon as I heard Swizz Beatz’ voice on “Welcome To The Jungle”.  Like how and why are people allowing his tired vocal contributions into the recording booth?  He represents a personal pet peeve of mine,  but for the sake of giving the album a fair listen for review’s sake, it’s actually a decent track.  I suppose “Murder to Excellence” and “Made In America” constitute the socially conscious portion of the album, but came across as skip material to me, particularly with Frank Ocean’s unnecessarily sugary vocals on “Made”.   I grew to like “Why I Love You” after a couple of listens (I give everything a full 3 listens before reviewing it), but “Primetime” and “Illest Motherfucker Alive” (bonus tracks) could have easily replaced “Lift-Off” or “That’s My Bitch” as regular tracks.

There are a few fumbles here and there, but I don’t think it does the listener any good to sit there and pick an album apart for what it isn’t as opposed to appreciating it for what it is.  This project from these two artists doesn’t surprise me, but this level of artistry from any artist should be refreshing.  In an era of stale LPs and stellar mixtapes, West and Jay dropped an album that can be described as dope…buyable if people still really bought albums like they used to.  Perfect?  By no means…but how many albums can really be played straight through with no missteps or tracks that don’t appeal to you specifically as a listener?  And if you can think of two, how common does that make such an occurrence?  Quite simply, if you didn’t like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy Kanye, then you won’t like Watch the Throne Kanye.  If you haven’t cared for Jay-Z’s creative direction over the past few projects, then don’t expect Blueprint or Reasonable Doubt Jay to appear here.  However, there’s no pandering for new audiences or conforming to sell units in my opinion…just two artists trying to expand the artform based on what was palatable to their seasoned ears.  As usual in their respective solo careers, Jay and Ye set the trend and at the same time make it impossible for others to successfully follow behind.  Whether you can get into it or not, this is the kind of different that’s good.  Some will make it out to be more than what it is, while some will unfairly deem it trash, whatever the motive may be for such a judgment.

Personally, I’m grateful.  Not dumbfounded by the excellence of it or by any reinvention of the wheel (this was not that), just grateful for something to add to the collection.

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Review :: Weekend At Burnie’s Burns Nicely

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



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The Beard Bible

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.


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.


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.


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.


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Front-Free Gets Lo With Camp Lo

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.

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Review: Gunz ‘n’ Butta by Cam’ron & Vado

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.


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.

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