WALK ON WATER: Beyonce and Eminem Team Up For The Most Disposable Song Of The Year (That Will More Than Likely Get A Grammy)

I can ignore a lot of things as a rap journalist committed to covering things that I think actually move the culture forward. I don’t have to write about or listen to Desiigner or Migos or anyone, for that matter, as I’m lucky enough to be an independent creator with a whole other profession that pays the bills. Every now and then, though, an event comes along that anyone who writes about rap would be a fool not to at least check out, even if it’s just for a hype check.

My “New Music Friday” playlist on Spotify was graced with a picture of weird-beard Eminem, meaning he finally followed up his BET freestyle with a record from Revival. And for the “YAAAS” factor, he’s tapped none other than St. Beyonce herself. That being said and having played the song four times in full and more in snippets…

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Flex [Video] :: Ingrid f. Sevyn Streeter

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I posted one song from Ingrid not long ago after discovering her through Elle.com’s article about Beyonce’s new crop of signees on Parkwood Entertainment and she’s now followed up with a way better song and visual. Sevyn Streeter brings some vocals for the chorus while Ingrid stays true to that Houston sound injected with a woman’s touch. Dope.

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Front-Free’s Best Music Of 2013

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I can’t tell you what was “hot” in 2013 or why people considered it “hot” aside from me wanting to set some of these so-called top notch albums on fire.  If you notice, a lot of the music blogs and websites that do “Best of 2013” lists exclude mixtapes and only list LPs you can buy off iTunes like upstanding American citizens.  You may think this is because mixtapes “don’t count” when discussing albums, but some of the most complete projects (at least in hip-hop) to drop in the last few years have been mixtapes and they’re more than fit for the challenge of standing next to LPs.  So the reason they aren’t included isn’t because they don’t compare, but because they’re free.  If no money exchanges hands, then how can one hand wash the other between the for-purchase bloggers/site owners and the major labels?  Music blogs are the next evolution of the payola system.  People realize urban radio is no longer a taste-maker for the discerning listener, so this role has shifted to bloggers, but the blog game is looking more like urban radio every day…

Anyway, I don’t listen to music for the purpose of saying this album’s better than that one, so this list will not be in any particular order, but I do think it’s important to let my readers know what I thought was dope in 2013 in case they missed something I raved about or in case I forgot to mention something I was feeling until now.  Hopefully, you’re able to check out something you slept on this year and if you thought there was something dope I missed that I didn’t already deride at some point, post it in the comments section.  Let’s discuss.

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  • Blue Chips 2 x Action Bronson & Party Supplies – Any follower of Front-Free knows I’m a big supporter of Action Bronson.  Part of his appeal is that he does great work with a number of different producers and each time, the chemistry is different.  With Party Supplies, you’re probably getting Bronson at his most experimental, gettin’ busy on tracks that are at times clearly unorthodox for a rap project and sound more like the score for a 1970s Blaxploitation flick (see “I Adore You”).  Those still calling Bronson a Ghostface knock-off are at this point just not listening because the man has clearly put himself in a lane occupied only by himself.  Download Blue Chips 2 for free here.marci_b_cover
  • Marci Beaucoup x Roc Marciano – Roc Marciano has been on a hot streak for those looking for an alternative to the paper-thin quality of mainstream hip-pop.  Though subdued in the energy he gives off, Roc is no slouch when it comes to clever wordplay and imagery.  Marci Beaucoup is one of his finer recent projects.  On the appropriately soulful “Soul Music”, Roc brings along A.G., best known as one part of D.I.T.C., which to me speaks to Roc’s appreciation for hip-hop and ear for an authentic sound.  Cop it on iTunes.Haim-5
  • Days Are Gone x HAIM – It’s not pretentious.  It’s not angsty.  It is, however, fun and refreshingly light and, dare I say, girly in the vein of Pat Benatar.  I can’t carry this particular energy with me on a daily basis, but I have a great respect for the authenticity I hear in their work and was impressed with the production value.  My wife put me onto this band a long time ago and I fronted for a couple months before giving it a spin, but I’m never one to not give props where they are due.  Cop it on iTunes.
  • Orange Starburst Baboon x Oscar O’Malley – I love EPs.  This particular one is almost disappointingly short, but given the density of O’Malley’s rhymes, it isn’t impossible to listen to the five tracks over and over again and find something new each time.  The ODB-sampling “Ol’ Dirty Snorlax” breathes fresh life into “Brooklyn Zoo” a Wu classic that would under any other circumstance be nearly untouchable.  Download it here for free. sza-650
  • S EP x SZA – I slept on SZA until very recently when I caught her feature on Isaiah Rashad’s “Ronnie Drake“.  While her most alluring work to date, to me, remains the unattached “Teen Spirit”, the S EP dropped this year and is evidence of how unique this artist is.  Throughout S, SZA comes across with an almost uncomfortable vulnerability.  Quite the refreshing project.  Download it here for free.earl-sweatshirt
  • Doris x Earl Sweatshirt – When all the hypebeasts were sniffing after Odd Future, I was checking it from a distance and hoping these guys would eventually grow out of their shock-rap phase.  Earl, easily the most critically acclaimed of the bunch, has clearly matured a little, relying more on actual skills than saying the most offensive thing possible.  Sweatshirt even acknowledged the progression saying “I hope I lose you as a fan if you only fuck with me because I rapped about raping girls when I was 15”.  He also was hopeful of gaining new ones based on the growth and I’m excited to say he accomplished that goal, as I’m eager to see what he’s got in the works for 2014.  Cop it on iTunes. jayz-6.21.201311
  • Magna Carta Holy Grail x Jay-Z – I’m old enough to think fondly of Reasonable Doubt and must admit that when I heard Timbaland and Pharrell, etc. would be producing MCHG I was disappointed.  However, if anyone has mastered growing up as an MC, it’s Jay-Z.  Maybe being married with a kid makes me appreciate Jay’s situation a little more, but life isn’t the same now as it was for Jay when RD dropped, nor should he rap like it is.  Cop it on iTunesstatik-selektah-extended-play
  • Extended Play x Statik Selektah – This album made me remember what it was like to unwrap a new DJ Clue mixtape back in the early 2000s.  Statik called in a rack of favors on this one, making unlikely pairings like Mac Miller and Sean Price (“21 & Over”) actually work.  Prodigy puts down the solo banger “Pinky Ring” while on “Camouflage Dons”, the veterans Smif-N-Wessun join the newcomers Flatbush Zombies.  There’s a lot going on here and that’s basically what mixtapes used to be when DJ Clue, Funk Flex, and Kay Slay were putting out regular compilations as opposed to arguing over Nicki Minaj singles on-air.Willie_The_Kid_Aquamarine-front-large
  • Aquamarine x Willie The Kid – Hands down, the dopest artwork on anything released within the past couple of years as far as I know.  Willie the Kid is an easy MC to ignore because of his mundane name choice and unassuming image, but he’s a rapper’s rapper with an impeccable flow and a great ear who I’d ignored for too long before AquamarineDownload it for free here.

  • SHE x Alice Smith – If this were released yesteryear and I had SHE on cassette, repeated plays of Smith’s CeeLo cover “Fool For You” alone would have made this tape pop in the player.  In what was otherwise a boring year for R&B, Alice Smith came out of left field with a deeply soulful album that is a throwback to when people worried less about glamour and more about getting some hurt or joy off of their chest and onto a record.  Cop it on iTunes.Prodigy++Alchemist
  • Albert Einstein x Prodigy & Alchemist – I have mixed feelings about Prodigy as a solo artist, considering his nasal, at-times-monotonous flow, but Alchemist is a capable enough producer for his production to compliment P’s flow almost like an actual rhyme partner.  The dense soundscape becomes its own multi-layered contribution and comparison to P’s plainly-delivered, murder-laced narratives and braggadocio.  On “Bible Paper”, Alchemist himself reminds you he can rhyme, too and also shows off on the boards.  Cop it on iTunes.retch-psg
  • Polo Sporting Goods x Retch – This is one reason I waited so late to drop this list.  In the last few days of 2013, Retch dropped his own mixtape produced entirely by Thelonious Martin.  Martin himself is the silent star here, producing a seriously dope set of tracks that showcase newcomer Retch’s style perfectly.  Download/stream it for free here.Beyonce-Album-2013-750x400
  • Beyonce x Beyonce – Some critics get so jaded to the pop machine that they can’t even recognize pop music that’s been done well.  There was a time when pop was actually respected because artists put in actual work to make it as opposed to following a formula composed of what will sell for sure.  While Beyonce could literally sneeze on a track and it would sell, it’s clear she has no plans of getting lazy any time soon.  While it isn’t something I got a whole lot of play out of (I’m far from its target audience), I found it enjoyable and I’m glad this was done to set a benchmark for what pop and R&B artists should be striving for.  While a little silly and trite at times, the music wasn’t disposable and the astute listener can tell there was a vision to this album that was achieved without having to watch all of the accompanying videos (I didn’t).  Cop it on iTunes.131007-boldy-james
  • My 1st Chemistry Set x Boldy James – I’ve never understood the problem people seem to have with MCs who tend to rap almost exclusively about one topic.  Usually, this complaint is directed at “drug rap”, which Boldy James is well versed in.  I’d much rather hear a talented rapper like Boldy rhyme about the life he seems to know well than rap about romance just to please critics and fail or abandon his criminal roots.  While it’s difficult to say these days how authentic a rapper is, Boldy James sells you nothing but authenticity, kicking his lingo with such skill and versatility that you forget he’s still rapping about crack.  Alchemist gets busy here as well, making this an unquestionably hard album including well-placed guest spots from Action Bronson, Earl Sweatshirt, and others.  Cop it on iTunes.JT2020
  • The 20/20 Experience x Justin Timberlake – If you couldn’t at least get loose to “Let The Groove Get In”, then you’re probably too cool for this album.  I just had to get over myself.  While I was of the minority who loathed the peppy “Suit & Tie”, the ethereal cool of “Blue Ocean Floor” was enough to get multiple spins from me.  Like Beyonce, JT showed the music biz how pop was done this year by letting the work ethic speak for itself and then adding some panache to take it over the top.  Cop it on iTunes. quadron-avalanche1
  • Avalanche x Quadron – The fact that this album was considered a commercial failure is a testament to the fact that the majority of people don’t know good music.  This Danish duo comes off like a European Groove Theory, with more soul than one would expect from the songstress and amazing production on each track.  Hopefully, people get hip to this album so that Quadron gets their due props.  Cop it on iTunes.

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How Beyonce Stans Ruined Beyonce For Regular People

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This is not, by any means, an anti-Beyonce rant.  If you came here expecting sympathy for that school of thought, I’m sorry to disappoint.  Despite the fact that I don’t really listen to her stuff, I’m in no way ashamd to admit that yes, Beyonce is dope.  In fact, when you think of the woman’s consistency and work ethic alone, there aren’t many artists today that are worth stanning for if not her.  But I’ve already told you the trouble with stans.  In addition to being supportive to a fault, stans can also affect other people’s ability to enjoy or get into an artist as well.

We live in an age where it’s absolutely possible for a person to never hear a solid minute of the most popular musician in the world if they choose not to.  I exercise this right with many of your favorite artists, trust me.  If you’re smart enough to never listen to urban radio and never turn to the music video station, who’s to say you can’t block out music entirely?  Music blogs allow you to pick and choose the type of music you want to hear and seek out, so there’s really no reason to listen to mainstream pop music if you’re not into it.  I say that to say this: somewhere outside of your immediate circle of influence there are people who don’t listen to Beyonce, out of deliberate avoidance or because they’ve just never really been exposed to her solo work in any real capacity.  But nothing can repulse a potential fan than listening to a stan gush.  You should not be talking about how an album is classic before it’s even completed the download process.  Who can take that seriously?  Give it some time, sit with the music and think critically and honestly about it.  In the modern day, I think social media has ruined people’s ability to process music and TV shows, etc without checking into Twitter and Facebook to give a live play-by-play of everything they’re hearing and watching.  For this reason, live social media reviews aren’t worth a fart in a stiff wind.Beyonce4

The most annoying side-effect of Beyonce stannage is that where one extreme goes, another will surely follow.  While stans gush, those who don’t like Beyonce feel the need to stand up and be counted in different ways: “I’m just saying I don’t think she’s all that”.  Yes, and you “just say that” every time there’s a new release.  We got it.  Then, of course, there are the trolls who act as if the woman is complete trash just to throw their two cents in on the topic du jour and attract the ire (and attention) of all who will listen.  On one hand, you have exaggerated adoration and on the other you have the contrarian response that says “hey, look at me, I didn’t drink the Kool-Aid!”  Neither extreme helps the normal people come to a conclusion about the music or the star herself.  It just makes them wanna get the hell out of there at top speed.

Some people just want to listen to music, not be part of a machine and I’m sorry to say that Beyonce cultists make the machine less attractive by leaps and bounds every time the woman drops an album.  Granted, Beyonce’s unique, significant place in music history is set in stone.  She doesn’t need to acquire another fan as logn as she lives, but what is a fan’s job if not to share their love of an artist with others?  It becomes difficult to do that, though, when people have got you hidden from their Facebook feed or muted/unfollowed on Twitter because they’ve grown weary of your constant stanning.  Ultimately, people will do what the hell they want to do with their lives and social media, but there’s always a down-side to stanning and chances are, you’re doing less for your favorite artist than you think and keeping people from enjoying them who might be interested if they didn’t think the artist’s current fans are all complete lunatics.

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The Day Beyonce Said Bow Down & Everyone Got Mad

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I don’t make a habit of speaking on the latest mainstream happenings or celebrity Twitter beefs, if you can even call this that, but trust me here….I have a point.  Keyshia Cole is mad.  Yesterday, she went so far as to tweet a decidedly meek jab at Beyonce in reference to her latest tired-of-being-humble anthem “Bow Down”: 

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Clearly she has not learned from what happened when Keri Hilson attempted to throw a veiled diss at Miss Knowles some time ago.  People are quick to catch on and you essentially throw yourself to the wolves.  It always becomes an issue of insecurity when an artist tries to throw themselves into the same arena with artists they aren’t even a blip on the radar to.  Beyonce and Keyshia Cole do not compete for the same audience.  Keyshia’s forgettable brand of hoodrat soul is a very specific genre as opposed to Beyonce’s mass-marketed world pop and those who like both are going to support both, plain and simple.  Throwing out ugly little tweets just introduce you as “hater of Beyonce” to people who have never heard your work or have forgotten you existed.  I think Keyshia Cole’s opinion stopped meaning anything as soon as the world was introduced to Frankie and Neffie, but that’s neither here nor there.

Granted, the song itself is abysmal and Beyonce didn’t need to resort to profanity considering her huge following of young impressionable women, but that being said, I’d much rather she show her ass in the studio than do it in her every day life literally on Instagram (a la Rihanna) or figuratively on Twitter (a la Rihanna or in yesterday’s case, Keyshia Cole).  There is something to be said for getting into character when it’s time to perform and maintaining composure and mystique outside of it.  If anything, any female R&B singers who felt slighted by this should have taken it as competition, not a reason to gripe and make themselves the whipping horse of Beyonce’s army of fanatics.  It’s lonely at the top and in Beyonce’s case, it’s no surprise that people have something to say when she decides she’s tired of being humble and rising above every time.  She’s spent her entire adult life in the public eye and she’s allowed to act out once in a while.  Unfortunately, people want to over-analyze things when it suits their purpose.  

We also can’t act as if acting out on the occasional song hasn’t been a staple in R&B/pop music for years, though.  Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative” was one.  Michael Jackson had “Leave Me Alone”.  Granted, both of those were jammin’, but that’s neither here nor there.  The point is, Beyonce is a name that will go down in history whether people like it or not…in history.  I can’t say the same for most of who’s out now…or at least I can’t say they won’t continue to tarnish their own legacies through scandal and self-destruction.  She doesn’t have to be humble in the studio when she maintains that in her life as we the public know it and as part of her public image.

In terms of Beyonce’s music, it isn’t any surprise that not much of it lives on my iPod, but it’s also not marketed toward me.  I do however admire her work ethic and the effort that goes into maintaining her image, presence and quality of work (this little misstep notwithstanding of course).  Beyonce detractors, however, seem to be dead set on being extremely vocal about their distaste at every turn, refusing to acknowledge her abilities or downplaying them, which is fine, but it makes them look foolish and ulterior motives can be telling.  When she doesn’t give you enough of her life, she’s hiding something and when she does a documentary on herself, she’s giving you too much.  Which is it?  Never mind…don’t care.

In closing, we’ve got to get used to celebrities saving their ratchet tendencies for the recording booth or channeling their need to talk sh*t into their artistic endeavors as opposed to making it a part of their persona and everyday behavior.  

Bow Down x Beyonce

 

 

 

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