Versatile Rapper, Lyricist, and Producer Butch Yung takes us through a day-in-the-life of turning Lemons to Lemonade with his latest release “No Sleep in the Trap”. This Audio Portrait is like that of an Ernie Barnes collectible, with production like a synesthetic pallet of sound painting a picture of daily life in the trap working cold, hungry nights for brighter days. The Trap’s glamourized popularity is not its reality- and most certainly not for everyone.
Such a world is an Alto Sax, whispering melancholic brushstrokes of its sorrowed actuality. Signature snare patterns of its war-torn ambiance are accentuated by the intricately laced machine gun dumping that litters late nights in every hood. Sounds of a Trench Town can be heard in the magnetic drive of this murky, eerily romantic piece where the Soul of the streets collide with pressures from the trap like rapids crashing against huge boulders, forcing Coal to create Diamonds by its very own nature.
South Cali rapper El Prez recently released his song and video for 20 Karats On The Wrist, a double entendre in its lyrics and imagery. A wavy Cali instrumental beneath a smooth flow so signature to West Coast Rap delivers his message like a double-sided coin, lending this aspirational record its character. The song teeters a tightrope between the highest of highs and lowest of lows, dreams and nightmares of reaching the top and facing the fear of failure, yet choosing to courageously climb and move mountains despite one’s obstacles. Perseverance is the only thing that sets us apart from our highest achievements, and only those willing to trust the journey succeed.
I asked El Prez to DeCypher a sentimental verse from his song Lose Some, Win Some that brought a conversation of perseverance to mind:
It sparked in me the thought of how often I come up against this idea that there should be no reason why people cannot succeed in an era of instant access to information. “Telling someone things are out there in an age where everyone should have ‘access to resources’ is not enough” says El Prez, “Kids need to be led to The Well to know it exists and that it’s there. My nephew came home one day in middle school and asked for help because the teacher had to pool money together to get supplies! When I attended that school it was never like that. But that’s how it is for kids these days, and so you have a lot of kids that might give up and block it all out, or they will switch into that other person, and we don’t want people to do that. A lot of kids don’t have a path to the Lake to drink, so they need guidance. We can complain or come up with our own solutions so we have to provide the kinds that go into action”
The astounding discrepancies in our public schools when it comes to the youth not having enough school supplies hardly makes sense, considering the ample amount of tax dollars our city collects (which should more than solve the issue), yet we barely seem to see these funds trickle down past support services in such ways that struggling communities can help themselves. However, El Prez shares a golden key to unlock Success for any one, anywhere, at any time, and it boils down to standing in the confidence of one’s destiny;
he says in his song 20 Karats on the Wrist. “The line is spoken to myself as much as everybody else. Especially in Entertainment, you find the most peace within yourself by letting things happen. Just because one person’s success is that person’s success doesn’t define what is meant to be your success. So just be yourself because when you do what you do, the opportunities will pop up when your time comes. Could take 10 years, could take 10 months but just be sure to stay prepared. Take your natural course and tap into your natural abilities to execute and deliver your best. I let my dreams fuel me, rather than getting stuck in fueling the dream and neglecting the Art whenever the business gets overwhelming. You can’t help no one else if you can’t help yourself, so it’s important to learn how to monetize your career. You don’t have to chase your audience though, because they will catch up to you. It’s good to keep a little mystique sometimes.”
Slauson songstress Jhene Aiko embodies a perfect blend of her Afro-Asiatic roots and the chill vibe that West L.A. is known for, creating her special sound that was quite different when introduced at the time. Many are unaware of the key role that Jhene’s style played in the most recent wave of R&B coming out of L.A. and the impact beyond its borders. That style has heavily influenced the Rhythm and Blues you hear across radio airwaves today. How can you be sure of this? one might ask, However if we gather the essence of Japanese culture woven into her Afro-Native nuance, Jhene’s sultry delivery is distinguished by that heritage and the emergence of her rise amongst peers like THC, The Fisticuffs, Dom Kennedy, HitBoy,Overdoz, Kenderick Lamar, Nipsey Hussle and other West L.A. artists who’d crossed creative paths at the rise of L.A.’s dominance of today’s music scene.
Jhene’s decision to share her travels on this latest project Trip invites listeners into a vulnerable space, where she bravely expresses her struggle with depression, drugs, and transcendence toward her higher being. She performed the last leg of her national show in L.A. this past week, accompanied by a Harpist in a jungle-themed oasis against a vibrant backdrop of psychedelic visuals. Positive vibes filled the air and the surprise opening act was Willow Smith, who nailed her performance even with a scratchy talking voice after a grueling tour. The show was truly impressive and the new album Trip is well worth the listen, if nothing else to get away in one’s mind and explore a perspective that might heighten a sense of awareness.
Burn the sage and light the incense for your next bonfire, letting Magna Carda’s “Ghetto Gospel” be the soundtrack to your midnight smoke session. As clouds fill the air, imagine your puff-puff-pass riding the sound wave of Megs Kelli and Dougie Do, whose blend of rap, jazz and electronica have caught the ears of kinfolk from their hometown of Austin Texas to cities beyond. They’ve joined stages with The Pharcyde, Joey Bada$$, Oddisee and have featured on NPR radio. They are paralleled with groups like The Roots and certainly suite a Tidal station with artists like Erykah Badu or Oshun in rotation. Magna Carda is lyrical, smooth as fine wine, and in tune with frequencies that blend with Zen at any time of day.
Don’t be afraid to break out in a five-minute meditation to feed your soul some of this Magna Carda goodness morning, noon or night. It suits any occasion and can set the mood of one moment to the next- in a good way!
Amerikkka documents the experience of being Black under the rule of American Colonialism, where police officers are branded as public servants whose task is “to protect & serve”. The question is; protect and serve whom, what, and why? It is today’s common knowledge that certain communities are given favorable protection over others, particularly Caucasians, Anglo-Saxons, and the assimilated. Wealthy citizens and areas are also prioritized for reasons of profit, yet there happens to be a much more sinister side to law enforcement that is deeply rooted in oppression, thievery, indentured servitude, chattel slavery (aka “Slave Patrol”), and the Ku Klux Klan.
What does it feel like to be Black in Amerikkka? G Perico let’s you know; “Clearly it’s the law breaking the law”, he says. The South Central, L.A. rapper has established himself as one of the most promising voices in West Coast Hip Hop, bravely addressing this place we call the United States. As Tupac’s classic words insinuate, life “Ain’t Nothin’ But a Gangsta Party”. Outside of one’s typical idea of a “gangsta”, it’s important to zero in on those rarely highlighted corporate gangsters and their cronies as gangstas at their own gangsta party. Consider that what may seem an entity designed to “protect & serve” (alongside other aspects of the “Justice” system) are mostly operated via persecution of the poor and from profiteering off of prisoners exploited in the Prison Industrial Complex- some of which are not truly guilty of any crime. Such exploitation amongst officials in powerful positions and their corrupt friends ruin any “just” intention, begging the question of who the actual “gangsta” is and where the true threat lies. Who is really bullying whom and what are the benefits?
As on of three members in the rap group G-Worthy, the project features the Amerikkka single produced by League Of Starz producer Dupri. G- Perico’s reflection on existing within the confines of American oppression offers insight on the feeling of life under Colonial Law and its rippling effects on Al Moroccans. Songs like these introduce us to asking questions about how Al Morocco became Amerikkka and why it’s nearly impossible to trust a Cop no matter how much one might wish to let their guard down.
Check out Amerikkka and stay tuned for a major announcement in the near future.
Atlanta’s lyrical duo Hassan N’ Prodi-G bring its generation a type of eternal classic by way of Al Morocco’s youngest musical ancestor; Hip Hop.
With their upcoming project Melanated dropping soon, thought-provoking brain food from their latest single “Wipe Ya Feet” are bejeweled with infinite knowledge and power sincerely delivered with the finesse of classic Hip Hop.
Prodi-G’s provocatively infused verses texturize each Melody’s Jazzy character, with a cadence that gives its polished sound a raw grit in the truth of “Wipe Ya Feet”. The weight of Prodi-G’s fearless delivery is worth a finger snap or two simply for the bravery of its honesty.
Not only do they deliver pristine quality of substance, Hassan N’ Prodi-G manage to utilize their Lion-like sway without gang violence promotion or misogynous content. However, Hassan is quick to honor the lessons such instances present, like views on the way life works in “The Game”. His clever anecdote will have you thinking twice about what you hear versus what you’ve actually heard. The intricacies are well endowed in offering a fresh perspective to be taken away each time, like a classic BlackStar record.
Their upcoming project emblazons predecessors like Mobb Deep and Outkast, reflecting upon great wisdom while addressing the imbalance of Human society today – particularly for the Melanated.Subconsciously or not, Hassan N’ Prodi-G aide in keeping the culture, helping the group to stand out amongst others by forever residing in the soil which keeps HipHop fruitful.
Overdoz finally drops its album 2008, with fans eagerly awaiting its release since…well, 2008! If you’ve never heard of them, say hello to these West Coast rock stars, whose name rings bells across the land from Dena to South Los Angeles and beyond.
The brothers have been together since day one, chillin’ on avenues and cruising highways most Cali Natives would only pass through. Documenting their journeys in LA, Overdoz takes us back as far as 2008, When Everybody Loved Everybody.
One thing most people don’t know much about is 4711 Expo, the studio where several paths crossed, including the likes of Miguel, ASAP Rocky, Jhene Aiko, Dom Kennedy, the Fistacuffs, THC, and several other aspiring local artists who would collaborate. Folks from every hood would come together in the name of creation where this studio once stood, including Overdoz. It was the block no one would want to walk through at night, with burnt out light posts unworthy of fixing and street-life exchange on every corner.
Today, these old warehouses are barely recognizable, developed into the types of contemporary décor that typically follow gentrification shortly thereafter. Coffee shops and industrial conversions are tucked away on streets where underserved communities of color were once left destitute long after the LA riots had given way to an influx of black wealth amongst the Baldwin Hills, Ladera, Leimert Park, & Crenshaw areas. Although Ujima and Ujamaa principles were reserved amongst several families in the area, others would choose to take their earnings and resources outside of the community, creating an interesting dynamic between rich and poor black families from the hills down to the flat lands. These areas would later face troubles self-sustaining, but the Youth of these local towns would go on to create great art.
2008 is an important project for several reasons. Film director Calmatic has been working with Overdoz for several years, catching controversial footage like Overdoz’s “Rich White Friends” and landmarks that may someday be archived as a blast from the past alongside other monumental black eras, like the times of Black Hollywood in West Adams. These places are important to Los Angeles culture, as they are what make Southern Cali one of the dopest spots across the globe. Of course, such locations would simply be architecture if not for the people who create its diverse artistry, of which Overdoz is a part of.
Their charismatic and quirky humor blends a conscious lyrical wordplay with notes of funk, acid jazz, neo – soul and West Coast HipHop. Someday I imagine them sharing memories as old men in one of these new cafes around here, maybe even some coffee shop that sprouts up near 4711 Expo just for the irony of it.
“You Only Live Once”, says the African Native Sista.
When you’re forced to live life on the edge, you know what it is; Trap or Die
Imprisoned by a system designed to oppress, eliminate, buy, sell or trade the Melanated and the poor, survival depends on creativity and innovation. It’s that rich n*gga/poor n*gga/house n*gga/field n*gga/still n*gga situation, where one’s excellence still faces stereotypes and all-around hatred no matter how hard the black womb/man works to achieve success. If anybody knows the ups and downs of what it’s like to teeter the tightrope between life and death with the men who are stuck in the rat race, it’s women like Nstasia. Her music is an aspect of the black womban’s story in America. It’s symbolic of the diehard love and confident support that a real woman provides regardless of circumstance.
Trap or Die is about the love, loyalty, risks, and heartbreak that a faithful woman endures while standing in the gaps for her man. Societal norms founded upon white American standards often lock most Brothas out of work opportunities that White Privilege reserves for those willing to conform to it. In the trap, the Brotha faces gang violence perpetuated by systematic oppression and the daily fear of a run-in with dirty cops that are out to round as many slaves into the Prison Industrial Complex as they can. Once the brother has a record, it’s nearly impossible to get employed. Next are one’s environmental factors, which affect productivity. One is lucky if a job offers benefits and is close to home, where most businesses would rather not operate if they weren’t liquor stores, churches, or fried food shops. The negative surroundings of addiction, physical health hazards, and scarce resources leave people desperate with limited options. Therefore, those who have never dealt with institutionalized racism, systemic oppression, or the glass ceiling of Corporate America will never fully grasp the struggle of the struggling unless it is the black womban because she is the child, the child bearer, the lover and wife of the black man and can see their battle from every angle.
Nstasia is that classic Womban; still a lady – but probably with a pistol in her garter belt and a No. 2 pencil for all a’those who betestin’! She’s the one who says “if you got me, I got you // Top down we screamin’ trap or die”. She has an alternative style of fashion exhibiting a varietal that exists in black America outside of the stereotypes that parallel the way a woman looks with the way a woman is. The song is dreamy and the vibe is like fishtailing a canyon highway on a sunny day in a getaway cruiser headed for the beach.
Delicious Vinyl Records hosted one of the most memorable Labor Day block parties this weekend, inviting some of HipHop Royalty’s finest to grace the stage. Historic West Adams was once the setting of a predominantly Black upper class prior to its impoverished state of being. Stories of Ella Fitzgerald and other Greats of her era would pass through West Adams and have even performed in some of those buildings that are now local shops. Leave it to a classic label like Delicious Vinyl to take it back to the roots and you’ve got a historical lineup on a historical boulevard.
We got a taste of Soulection’sbest on the spins, Joe Kay & Andres Uribe. With an eclectic mix of classic HipHop, Afrobeat, NeoSoul, AfroCaribbean, and Chicano reverb, there was a taste of something for everyone and folks were eating it up like candy! Not that this is a surprise, Seeing that Soulection is one of the best sound collectives around right now.
Blessed with his presence and wise words, Talib Kweli took a moment to honor Steely Dan amidst the loss of the late Walter Becker, who was a musical genius in one of the best bands of all time. Kweli went on to mention the loss of so many Greats in most recent times, also touching upon the condition of the human collective and racism in today’s world. One of the most poignant topics he touched upon was how important it is to come together as humans and celebrate the beauty of diversity in a time where Humanity is threatened by ignorance and a lack of understanding. Kweli tied in the message with songs like his remix of The Beatles’ “Lonely People”closing with some of his classics. The show was outstanding and DJ Spintelectwas phenomenal. The crowd simply couldn’t get enough of the Black Star.
Chop Black came full force with the G – Funk era, representing for the city of Oakland as one half of the WhoRidaz in the West Coast classic “Shot Callin’ & Big Ballin’”. Like other flowers grown from concrete, Chop Black embodies the struggle of survival in the mean streets of Cali and has since stood the test of time.
Illa J was also there in collaboration with the spirit of the Godfather of HipHop J Dilla, keeping to the legacy of his brother’s classic sound with a twist of his own. A pseudo- nostalgia brought Illa J forth with an evolved art form on the Dillasound, whose eternal music is the template for nearly every form of new-age music in the human atmosphere. It just feels good to know there is a piece of Dillastill alive in the form of his blood brother, Illa J.
Tiffany Gouche never fails to pass through the spot with the aura of a Queen, as if the royal robe were trailing behind her. She is the people’s choice; humble, as her crown radiates the moment she steps on to the platform. The songstress begun just as the sun set behind her, a perfect backdrop for our sonic journey through a lover’s memoir. Riddled in harmonic highways and underpasses, her “Red Rum Melodies”drift along like a lullaby on a journey of sound waves riding into the dawn, prepping that grown & sexy “Pillow Talk” for the late night lovemakers. I could bet that she’s up there with R. Kelly’sbabymaking music for some of this era’s baby boomers!