The Faces of the Teen Swag Movement

Casey-Veggies

Ronzo’s Word is a big fan of the “Teen Swag” movement.  Yes, this is a term that I came up with, but I can’t really think of a better way to describe the new young rappers rising up the ranks.  These guys are exuberant, confident, and ready to swag out all of the time.  Lifestyle raps at its finest.

Not that this is a new thing to happen to the music industry, as young artists have always pushed the creative bar and artistic movement forward.  The OG’s have consistently been trying to catch up to the flavor of the week, whether it was twenty years ago or yesterday.

But the thing is, this is our time.  I wasn’t grown enough to see a young Nas prosper with a groundbreaking lyrical masterpiece, and I especially was too young to see NWA’s brash, rebellious attitude shocking the nation.  While those experiences must have been brilliant to witness, it’s exciting to see the new waves of Hip-Hop evolution as they roll in.

Name’s like Sir Michael Rocks, Dizzy Wright, Vic Mensa, and Chance the Rapper all come to mind when trying to pinpoint this style, but don’t exclude many of these other artists following right along with them; And the best part is, all of these names listed vary in what their music sounds like, but come together through one idea: “hey we’re young, and it’s time to live it up before it’s too late”.  I say more power to them, what else are you supposed to do when you’re young and rich?

Over the next couple weeks I’ll be breaking down the previous work from all these artists, as well as what there is to look forward to in the near future!

Young Veggies

One name that stands out to me in particular is a man named Casey Veggies.  Casey is a very savvy, entertaining rapper from Inglewood, California.  Originally part of the highly eccentric OFWGKTA crew, Casey ventured off on his own path as a solo artist.  Often overlooked by casual Hip-Hop fans and radio tastemakers alike, it’s time to take a second look at this man’s music.

The collaboration Fresh Veggies was touched upon by me back in December, when I listed things I wanted to hear from the “Teen Swag” duo of Rockie Fresh and Casey Veggies.  The mixtape certainly did not disappoint, providing heavy spin records that go just as hard now as they did back when it first dropped in December.  Rockie and Casey have made excellent collaborations for years, as Rockie’s  laid-back style goes perfectly with the turn-up attitude of Casey Veggies.

2013 was a breakthrough year for Veggies.  Life Changes, a mixtape that basically was a debut album, made quite an impact.  As his style continues to change, the sound becomes more defined.  I don’t have much experience with pre-Life Changes Veggies, but his previous work on the mixtape Sleeping in Class was highly lauded among blogs and critics alike.

However, after listening to Sleeping in Class recently for the first time, it’s clear that the music is evolving at a very fast rate.  The delivery has become a little less aggressive, and the style is a little bit more about riding the beats, creating mood music.  Here’s a comparison of two songs, one from Sleeping in Class and one from Life Changes:

The thing is, this cut from Sleeping in Class is probably one of the songs that sound the most like some of his newer music.  There is a big difference, however, and you can hear it in the delivery.  His voice is powerful and spoken with a higher energy.  Almost like he’s attacking the microphone.  It’s clear that he was incredibly hungry, understandably so.  This is truly a banger, and definitely the gem of the mixtape.

Alas, it worked, and everyone across the underground Hip-Hop scene immediately took notice of the high school “Teen Swag” visionary (yeah I’m liking this term quite a bit).

“Everything Wavy” is most likely the highest energy track from Life Changes.  The looped sample, repeatable hook, and head bobbing drum beat all have significant similarities to “Ridin Roun Town”.  The difference is, as previously mentioned, mostly in the delivery.  Casey sounds comfortable with his sound over the highly sophisticated beats, there’s no denying it.  Life Changes has a significant beat quality improvement than any previous projects, from talented producers such as The Futuristiks, DJ Dahi, and Harry Fraud.  No need to attack the microphone anymore, creating the mood is most important.

Life Changes is a fantastic step in the right direction for Young Veggies, as he becomes a staple in the Hip-Hop world.  Plus, the fact that he recognizes the supreme talent of the artists around him in the same lane, and collabs with them, shows how business savvy he can be as a musician.  The rest of 2014 and beyond should be more than helpful for Casey Veggies.

-Ronzo

A Whole Lot of TDE in 2014

top dawg

With the year TDE is expected to have, all members of the label should have plenty of time to golf and do other rich people activities.

The leader of TDE, Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith has turned the hip-hop world on its ear with all of the high profile news he’s been releasing since the beginning of the year.  Plus, with Oxymoron (Schoolboy Q’s debut, projected to be number one on the charts by March 5th) officially out now, this is sure looking to be TDE’s year.

First, this news came to end 2013.  It’s a bold claim, sure, but completely reasonable especially because of new signees Isaiah Rashad and SZA.

To start 2014 off, Rashad dropped his Cilvia Demo project.  It’s a surprisingly thorough album, with a deep tale of his upbringing.  The brash young rapper plays between an aggressive style and a soulful one, without having his lyrics suffer.  Not to mention, his style is perfect for the “elegant” (just my own description) banger beats provided to him.

I like this guy’s swagger, and he’s got a knack for making catchy hooks that have a little bounce to them.  It’s kind of like when you know that something just feels right. Nothing but promise on the horizon.

Here’s where it gets really good…

Now, about Oxymoron. It was good.  Really good.  The type of TDE brilliance you would expect.  Through all of the different things that happened to have the album delayed, I can say now that it was well worth the wait.

“Man of the Year” and “Studio” are fantastic tracks ready to jam out with, while “Hoover Street” and “Perscription/Oxymoron” give introspective looks to the trials and tribulations of Groovy Q’s turbulent history.  Even tracks like “Break the Bank”, which admittedly I wasn’t too keen on before the album, fits nicely into the atmosphere as a whole.

Black Hippy is full of talented lyricists, each with their own flavor.  It has been dope to see the musical evolution of all of them, continuing to impress with each new release.

But wait…there’s gotta be something else….

Just when you thought that everything was going according to plan, as you sit there satisfied with that new Isaiah Rashad and Schoolboy Q, the fantastic news keeps coming.

Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith and co-president of TDE Dave Free reveal in this latest Billboard interview that not only is a Kendrick album dropping in September, there’s also a Black Hippy album coming!

WHAT

Not to downplay Kendrick’s upcoming release, that’s great news in itself.  But this Black Hippy project news was not expected.  Not after Ab-Soul spent so much time denying that there would be one.

Not after it seemed solo releases were the main focus.

Not after there has been almost no mention of this until now.

After all this time, one of the “collaborations supposed to happen” albums is finally getting created.  “What better time than now?” has to be the thought at the TDE headquarters, as the crew is at the top of the Hip-Hop game.

Now if only some of these other supposed collaborations previously talked about would drop already (looking at you J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar).

Soooo, what can we expect then?

Expectations are high for this album, to say the least.  “Say Wassup” is still one of my favorite songs released in the past 5 years, and I have every reason to believe that the group debut album will be right along those lines.

It really comes down to how they approach it. Official Black Hippy tracks, with each member adding a verse, has been a dream for Hip-Hop heads for quite some time, so those will be in high demand.  Each artist has evolved a whole lot, and it will be interesting to see how their new styles match up.  It’s safe to say that the sound of this upcoming project will be quite different than the days of “Zip That, Chop That”.

This should be good.

I’m excited for it, and I hope you are too.  This is gonna be a good year in Hip-Hop, and TDE is leading the way.

-Ronzo

*******

UPDATE: HitsDailyDouble now has proof of Schoolboy Q’s number one album, as Oxymoron has sold 138,000 copies in its first week.  You guessed it, that’s a number one album on the Billboard 200 charts.  Congratulations Q!

RAW Papers Cypher: Like (of Pac Div), Sir Michael Rocks, Mod Sun, and Dizzy Wright

raw papers cypher

 

Who knew RAW Papers kept their ears to the Underground Hip-Hop scene? It’s fitting, since the majority of Hip-Hop artists are avid reefer supporters (plenty are also avid cigarette smokers).

It’s also fitting that these artists all have ties to the West Coast at the current moment.  California is (arguably) the state with the most advocates for the green medicine, and the highest amount of budding talent in the Hip-Hop game.

Four of Ronzo’s Word’s favorite MC’s came along for the promotional cypher, in order: Like, Sir Michael Rocks, Mod Sun, and Dizzy Wright.  Enjoy.

P.S. RAW, you should do more of these. Absolutely.

 

-Ronzo

Vic Spencer – Profound ft. Tree

Vic Spencer

 

Chicago native Vic Spencer drops some entertaining visuals for his song, “Profound ft. Tree”.  If the styling of Tyler the Creator, Hopsin, Earl Sweatshirt, etc.. then this is right up your alley.  He most resembles Earl, based on my first listen to him, with the slow flow and nonchalant delivery.

This “Profound” track is grime at its finest, especially with hard hitting lyrics that may or may not offend you.  If you like it, be sure to download his latest project, The Rapping Bastard, which is available at his Bandcamp for a price that you may name!

 

It’s dope to see all of these Chicago natives really coming together and forming a thorough music scene.  The violence there lately is terrible, and its nice to see all of these different artists with outlets such as music.

-Ronzo

A Look Back: Skeme – The Statement

Skeme_The_Statement-front-large

I’m honestly not sure if West Coast Gangster Hip-Hop will ever die.  New artists keep coming in, changing the genre, innovating the sound, and evolving the culture.  I wonder if Ice-T, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, or even Snoop knew that this two decade-plus dominance was in the future for the then-budding Gangster rap genre. Skeme is probably one of the closest to this original sound as it gets these days.  Even though the sound is far removed from classic old school G-Funk, the swag is larger than ever.

The Statement was my introduction to Skeme, a mixtape full of Southern-influenced bangers that hit just as hard now as they did a couple years ago (the project dropped in 2011).  This new wave of West Coast Hip-Hop brings along the trunk rattles and bounce, which are characteristics typical of Southern style.  The third coast has been influential enough to mold the East Coast and West Coast sounds in the past 15 years, but each coast still maintains their identity.  Skeme understands this, making perfect music to play in your car.

You know what I mean.  It’s that type of music that relaxes you and puts you in a good mood as you cruise past the world at “reasonable” speeds (whatever you think is, of course).

“We On (Brand New Day)”, “That Good”, and “I Can’t Lose” are just jams, plain and simple.  “Westside Rooftops ft. G. Austin”, “Let it Breathe”, and “When You See Me” show his pop sensiblity.  Plus, to top it all of, his Dom Kennedy-assisted “No Stress” is a smooth song with a catchy hook.  Versatility is clearly in the tool kit for this rising West Coast sensation, and he continues to prove it with releases such as his latest project, Ingleworld.

Skeme is on the rise, while West Coast Gangster Hip-Hop continues to stay at the top.

 

Take a trip back to a couple of years ago.  Do yourself a favor and listen to The Statement.

-Ronzo

Talent Attracts Talent: A Look at Talib Kweli Collaborations

Talib-Kweli

One of the greatest parts of Hip-Hop is the emphasis on collaborating and putting multiple artists on a single track.  There are plenty of classic jams throughout Hip-Hop history built on this idea, and one thing’s for sure: Talib Kweli is really good at being involved with them.  Either being recruited, or starting them himself.

Lyricists appreciate other good lyricists, usually out of plain love for the music.  Studying the game and recognizing other good musicians is just as important as making the music yourself.  Being surrounded by talent makes Talib easy to recognize, as he’s frequent collaborators with Mos Def, The Roots, Lauryn Hill, and Common, to name a few.  The collaborative album Black Star with Mos Def is an album that has been specially preserved in the gallery of Hip-Hop history. Their names were arguably the biggest on Rawkus Records in the late 90s.  Impressive legacy, to say the least.

Today, I’m going to look at three especially impressive tracks, including one recent track that might be the best Talib collaboration yet.

Talib Kweli – Guerilla Monsoon Rap ft. Black Thought, Kanye West, and Pharoahe Monch

“Get By” is what really propelled Quality into classic record territory, but it would be foolish to pass up on this posse cut gem in the middle of the album.  The most underrated MC of all time (Black Thought), the syllable king (Pharoahe Monch), the creatively mad genius (Kanye West), and Talib all on one track? Quite an impressive feature list for the first solo album of your career.

To be completely fair, Kanye doesn’t have a verse, but he does provide the beat and the hook.  All these guys go in, as per usual.

Reflection Eternal (Talib Kweli & DJ Hi-Tek) – Just Begun ft. Jay Electronica, Mos Def, and J. Cole

The coolest part about this collaboration is the snapshot of where both Jay Electronica and J. Cole were in their respective careers.  Jay Electronica had his infamous signing to Roc-A-Fella Records that very same year, and the Hip-Hop community was swept up in his mystique.  With no legit album (and a constant promise of an approaching project), people wanted to hear more and more.  A lot of fans were dying to hear more and more music.

J. Cole’s position was quite different at this time.  During his Friday Night Lights era, he was definitely not getting the same respect he gets nowadays, post-Sideline Story.  One thing I’ve always respected majorly about Cole is his ability to write poetically.  The guy’s been doing it his whole career, and the verse on this is no exception.

You can tell on this track that all of these artists knew what was at stake.  A Jay Electronica appearance was a huge boost to the importance of the track, raising the bar for what needed to be written among all four rappers.

Talib Kweli, Elzhi, and Phonte – No Competition (prod. by Khrysis)

“No Competition” is a gift to Hip-Hop heads across the world.  All three of these rappers have been praised individually for their lyrical prowess and songwriting in general.  It’s impressive that all of them are still doing it as well as always to this day.  It all comes together over nice production by a rising star in the Hip-Hop game, Khrysis.

This cut is on the album Jamla Is The Squad, which just released on January 28th.  Be sure to check it out.

-Ronzo

No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn, Won’t Quit ‘Til I Hit California Part One

busdriverIn this series, I’ll be taking a look at my favorite rappers from different regions of the U.S. This week, I’ll be starting off in the west coast.

Any kid who grew up playing the game Tony Hawk’s Underground (or visiting a friend’s house for the express reason of playing their video games) is familiar with this tune

Busdriver – Imaginary Places

How unforgettable is that? The dizzying flow over the Bach flute sample, the laugh out loud punchlines, and a brief breakdown serving as an introductory class into teenage rebellion. Like a lot of people, this was my introduction to the L.A.-born Regan Farquhar, alias Busdriver, veteran of the Project Blowed collective and my personal favorite of the west coast scene. The album from which this track was pulled, Temporary Forever, was one of my very first hip-hop purchases and proved to be quite formative on my budding mind. Opening with a sample from the cult movie Repo Man (see this movie or we can’t be friends), it pushed me face first into a world of double-double time flows, cutting wit, and damned funny raps. You’ll never see him sacrificing insight for comedy, but you can definitely catch him riffing on inner city violence in the same tone Bugs Bunny laments his own death on Gun Control. 

If this was all I ever got from Busdriver, then I’d be happy, but I sure as hell wouldn’t be doing this write up. The next release of his I picked up was his 2003 collaboration with rapper Radioinactive and producer Daedalus, known as The Weather.

The Weather – Pen’s Oil

This was my first exposure to experimental art rap. The “throw everything we got at the wall and see what sticks” beats didn’t seem to fit any kind of flow, but the two emcee’s accomplished the seemingly impossible. Half concept album about fictional famous boy band The Weather, half madcap trip around the globe, your mileage is going to vary on this one. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea (and it definitely took me a while to click with it), but I’m confident that anybody should be able to find something to like about it.

Next up, here’s a song from what I would call my favorite release of his, 2005′s Fear Of A Black Tangent

Busdriver – Happiness’s Unit Of Measurement

This album puts a skill on showcase that I appreciate in any artist: Venom. This whole record is dripping in it, both directed at others and himself. There’s a certain quality in venom, it’s not just wild wanton hatred. There’s a direction in venom, knowing who the target is, what they did, why that’s wrong, and what you’ll do about it. Busdriver is naming names here and his own name is among them. This album came after his brief flirtation with the fame garnered from getting your song in an extreme sports game in the early 2000′s and has all the bitter attitude you’d expect to come attached. The humor is still on display, but he’s not giving his targets as much slack. He’s not above taking shots at the audience, either. Just look at the track Map Your Psyche featuring artists Abstract Rude and Ellay Khule:

We’ve mapped your psyche, we know what you’ll do before you do, packaged it nicely and sold it to who feeds off the style

No one’s safe, and nobody ever was.

This is all well and good, but we want some blatant brags, right? We need our rappers telling us how good they are and how much every other rapper sucks. Surprise, Busdriver has you there too. Check out his 2011 collaboration with fellow Hellfyre Club member, Nocando, “10 Haters”, under the group name Flash Bang Grenada

Flash Bang Grenada – 10 Haters

This thing is wall to wall bangers. The two emcee’s are in sync and have their tongues planted firmly in their cheeks as they point and laugh at any who would dare question their supremacy. Clever rhymes combined with fantastical boasts (“I can teleport, ho”) is a surefire way to my heart.

Finally, I want to direct attention to Busdriver’s latest album, 2012′s Beaus$Eros

Busdriver – Kiss Me Back To Life

This was a genre bender. Busdriver boldly defies anyone who would dare put him in the hip-hop box. Produced entirely by Belgian electronic artist Loden, this album splits time evenly between introspection on the topics of love and fame and blatantly calling out aging rappers (again, himself among them).

This is an artist whose next release I’ll always look forward to.  He owns a catalog that I would recommend to anybody who even half asked. Is he the best of the west? That kind of question is above my pay grade, but he’s definitely my favorite from the golden state.

- The Froond