Run Those Jewels

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Last year, El-P and Killer Mike were the team-up that no one saw coming. What was initially supposed to be a couple of collaborations, eventually turned into the album R.A.P. Music. It was a project that smashed any and all expectations and reminded people why Killer Mike is an O.G. The only downside was that Mike and El only appeared on two tracks together (Butane off of R.A.P. Music and Tougher Colder Killer from El’Cancer 4 Cure). When those two got the chance to trade bar after bar of tough guy braggadocio, it was pure magic.

They knew what the people wanted and last Tuesday they finally gave it to us in the form of El-P + Killer Mike = Run The Jewels. 33 minutes of unadulterated bad guy shit and more released for free (FREE. AS IN DOWNLOAD IT RIGHT HERE) by Fool’s Gold. Thematically, the duo sticks to their guns. Check out “DDFH” for a track about not trusting power and a hook I can really get behind at my darkest (Do Dope Fuck Hope). It’s not all gloom and doom, though. “Twin Hype Back” packs some of the best punchlines I’ve heard from either artist, and features DJ Prince Paul trying to seduce a girl with promises of artificial insemination, molly, and Uno cards. The key track is the closer, “A Christmas Fucking Miracle”. The two MC’s put forth their thesis, with El-P reminding you that power has no power over you, and Mike correcting the spelling of America (still spell it with the triple K).

This is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year. Killer Mike and El-P have a chemistry that’s as hard to match as it is to explain. Strictly speaking, the combination of Brooklyn prog-rap and Atlanta dirty dirty shouldn’t work, but it does. It’s just one of those gifts from the universe, like chocolate and peanut butter. Pick this album up and you will not be disappointed. Except maybe when it ends; but at that point you can just start it over.

-Froond

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Moses Manuel – Rap Over This

Moses Manuel

Continuing the string of Dopamine Knights posts, check out this throwback from Moses Manuel.

Rap Over This is the original debut from Moses, and also the inspiration for many Dopamine Knights projects still yet to come at that time. For example, check out the original “Aliens” instrumental, the influence for a track recently released.

Whether you’re trying to freestyle, listen to some dope original beats, or chill out, Rap Over This is the perfect soundtrack to your day.

-Ronzo

Dopamine Knights – Kush & Caffeine

Check out the latest from the Crunk Table Collective!

The Dopamine Knights are back with another super jam. This time, it’s an ode to our two favorite drugs: marijuana and caffeine. Over a smoked out Ace Adams beat, poetics are flexed, perfect for your afternoon smoke session. Which of course, you’ve gotta have a cup of coffee for.

Hope you enjoy, this is only the beginning. So much more coming your way.

-Ronzo

A Tale Of Two Drafts

10 years ago, the 2003 NBA Draft produced stars like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, who are all still superstars in the league now. That draft went down as one of the best drafts in history. Tonight’s NBA draft has some big names as well, so lets compare this years top 5 selected with the top 5 picked in 2003.

LeBron James was the first picked taken in 2003 and is now the best player in the NBA

LeBron James was the first picked taken in 2003 and is now the best player in the NBA

Just like in 2003, the Cleveland Cavaliers held the first pick. In that draft, they selected Lebron James, now the best player in the league. Tonight, the Cavaliers surprised many by selecting forward Anthony Bennett out of UNLV. While Bennett is undersized for a PF, he has great athleticism. Next to Kyrie Irving, they can form a formidable duo for the next few years.

Darko Milicic. He was the second pick in 2003’s draft, but ended up never panning out for the Pistons after being projected as a can’t miss prospect. In tonight’s Draft, The Orlando Magic held the second pick. They chose SG Victor Oladipo out of Indiana. Oladipo has crazy athleticism, and is a ball hawk on defense. He will be a great piece for the Magic to build around in the future.

Darko Milicic was supposed to be a can’t miss prospect.  Instead, he ended up being one of the biggest busts in history.

Darko Milicic was supposed to be a can’t miss prospect. Instead, he ended up being one of the biggest busts in history.

The Denver Nuggets held the third pick of the 2003 Draft, selecting Carmelo Anthony. After 10 years in the NBA, “‘Melo” is arguably one of the best players. He plays for the New York Knicks currently, but during his Denver days he was a great leader. This year’s 3rd pick belonged to the Washington Wizards. They selected Otto Porter Jr. out of Georgetown. Porter will be a hometown favorite for the Wizards, but he also brings great length on the wing and excellent defensive skills. Putting him next to John Wall and Bradley Beal, this team has an excellent core to build around for the future.

Chris Bosh was the 4th pick taken in the 2003 Draft, selected by the Toronto Raptors. He never really got the help he needed while in Toronto, leading him to jump ship and join Dwyane Wade and LeBron James in Miami. He may be looked at as the third wheel to the Big 3, but he has been an important part of the Heat’s back-to-back title runs.

This year, the Charlotte Bobcats selected Cody Zeller out of Indiana. Zeller has great fundamentals and a high basketball IQ. Ever since the formation of the Charlotte Bobcats, they have only had one winning season. This team doesn’t have a lot of talent, but they have some young pieces. This team will need a lot more help if they want to be successful.

In 2003, the Miami Heat selected Dwyane Wade with the fifth pick. After a great tourney run at Marquette, his draft stock rose, eventually becoming a top 5 player in the NBA. Unfortunately, he was eventually slowed down by knee injuries. In this year’s draft, the Phoenix Suns selected Alex Len, the big man out of Maryland. Len is a true 7 footer with great post moves. Surely, he will be an anchor down low for years to come.

This year’s Draft also featured top prospects like Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore, Trey Burke, C.J. McCollum, and Michael Carter-Williams. While this draft has lots of talent, the 2003 Draft had superstar talent that has anchored the NBA for the past 10 years. We can only wait and see what this year’s talent can do with their futures.

Can this year's draft class stack up to 2003′s? Only time can tell.

Can this year’s draft class stack up to 2003′s? Only time can tell.

-S. Dot

Netflix Suggestion: Just for Kicks

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Boy, do I love sneakers. Nikes, Adidas, Pumas, Asics, you name it. I’m always on the lookout for the dopest pair. Unfortunately, the cost of all the different shoes I want is far too much for me to spend on a regular basis. I do what I can with what I have, but my collection is far from complete. With all of the new releases and retros making their way to stores across the world, though, I don’t think my collection will ever be complete.

This interesting documentary shows the detailed history of the rise of sneakers. Everything from Run DMC’s monumental association to Adidas, to the rise of Air Jordan is covered, and then some. The heavy sneaker collectors take the center spotlight in this one, showcasing their collections and sharing stories of how they got them.

Some of these guys take it to the next level with their sneaker collections. Copping multiple pairs of a shoe seems slightly unnecessary to me, but honestly, if I had enough money I couldn’t say that I wouldn’t do the same.

The sneaker world is a cool place to learn about, and watching this documentary is a huge step in doing just that. I think you’ll enjoy it just as much as I did, especially if you love sneakers like I do.

-Ronzo

Interview: Tribe One

tribeone

Niles Gray, aka Tribe One, is moving up in the world. He’s going on tour with nerdcore icon mc chris, his group The Remnant just dropped a new album, and his latest project Malibu Shark Attack is not only a genre defying cross Atlantic trip, it is also possibly the raddest name I have heard in a long time. Tribe oh so graciously agreed to sit down for a chat so we could talk rap, the indie struggle, and how Daredevil would be the baddest MC in the Marvel universe

art by Rusty Shackles

art by Rusty Shackles

Ronzo’s Word: Alright, first off, how did you first get in contact with Rocky O’Reilly?

Tribe One: He actually contacted me first. I was just off of mc chris‘ Race Wars tour in 2011. I had joined up about three weeks from the end to support Adam WarRock and ended up meeting all around awesome dudes K-Murdock, Mega Ran and MC Lars. Apparently I ended up being mentioned on Lars’ facebook page at some point and Rocky, who is a huge MC Lars fan, saw my name and decided to email me out of the blue. Before that I had literally never heard of or from him.

RW: So was deciding to work with him was just a spur of the moment kind of thing? Did he show off a few beats?

TO: Haha, yeah pretty much. I was just sort of beginning to form the idea that becoming a touring musician was something that was a possibility for me. So I knew the first step to doing that was making music. In his email he attached the music for what would become our songs “Yo Into New York,” “Moment of Truth,” “No More Tears,” “It Takes Time,” and “BDMTHRFCKR.” The first thing I noticed about his production was that it was NOT rap production, which was immediately intriguing to me. The second thing I noticed about it was that it was INCREDIBLE.

RW: Would you say that him being outside of your genre was the biggest draw? Besides the incredible-ness, obviously.

TO: Haha, yeah. Other than the incredible-ness I was definitely interested in the challenge of writing to music waaaaaay outside of my comfort zone. This sounds really pretentious and awful, but I really did have to stretch my brain to come up with flows and rhythms that I thought sounded good over his music. Imagine me sitting in a lounge chair with a glass of red wine and my legs crossed and you’ll have a good idea of how I look as I say these kinds of things. Also, I’m wearing Batman pajamas.

RW: The very image of elegance. I actually really like to hear that kind of thing, I don’t find it pretentious at all. Now, here is a question where you might get a bit pretentious: how would you describe Malibu Shark Attack’s music?

TO: Hahaha, oh god. Rocky and I were emailing a while back and trying to come up with examples of bands and rappers that we thought we sounded like and we couldn’t. I think we’ve honestly made an album that doesn’t sound like anything else. At least anything I’ve ever heard. And, yes. I do realize how douchey that sounds. On the first song of the album I say “Rocky’s still making that post new wave-prog-electronica-indiecore synthpop/ He said to put on it whatever I wanted but all I could think of was Hip Hop.” I think that’s a pretty good summary.

RW: Now Malibu Shark Attack isn’t your only project you’ve been working on, there’s a new Remnant record out today. What can people expect from that?

TO: OH MAN. I’m so proud of the new Remnant album, dude. It’s honestly the best thing we’ve ever done. It’s definitely more traditional Hip Hop, but all of our friends are soul singers, so all of the features on the record except one are suuuuuuper dope singers. If you’re more on the xenophobic end of the rap fandom then The Remnant is totes for you.

indiansummer

RW: What influenced that? Was there a conscious effort to make it more old school or did it just come out like that?

TO: It kind of just came out like that. We knew going in that we wanted to do more of a “rap” record than our last one, which was a theme-album about love and relationships. The first beats that we got for the album were from Deacon the Villain of CunninLynguists and NWL. And when heard them we basically said “THIS IS WHAT OUR NEW RECORD WILL SOUND LIKE.” Because when one of your all time rap heroes gives you beats, then by golly you make them the foundation of your album.

RW: That’s a quote to live by, “by golly” included. You know that’s on the record, right?

TO: IT GOD DAMN BETTER BE, SAM

RW: Now you mentioned that, around when Rocky first got in contact with you, you were thinking about becoming a touring musician. How does the move from being a guy with a regular paycheck to a full time artist feel?

TO: It’s incredibly terrifying. Also, incredibly liberating. I think a lot of my coworkers were expecting it to happen. I’d been requesting more and more days off to play out of town shows and tour and then when I’d come back, instead of being energized and exhilarated, I’d be more and more distraught at being back at work. Haha. I really love what I do and I 100% believe in the Public Library as an American institution (I’m a public librarian, btw) but I think I honestly have a chance at making music work and I’ve been dreaming of it for too long to pass up this opportunity. My last day of work is July 3rd, making July 4th my first day as a full time indie rapper. Independence Day!

RW: Symbolic as hell

TO: Yeah, I kind of wish I’d waited til the 5th, though, because I’m not going to get that sweet sweet holiday pay for the 4th.

RW: I think that’s becoming an increasingly common story for indie rappers and artists in general. People with day jobs or even careers deciding that they want to make a living making art. Do you have any advice for artists who might be on the same track?

TO: The advice I always give to people considering doing rap in ANY capacity is to perform every single chance you get. There really is nothing like being in front of people to force you get comfortable with yourself as an artist or just who you are as a person. There’s nothing like it to figure out which of your songs are crowd pleasers or just straight up terrible. And it’s legit the ONLY way to make money as a musician. And the only way to get to the point where people will want to pay money to see you perform is to get good at performing, which you can only do by performing A LOT. My good friend Mikal kHill always gives another piece of advice, which I’ve come to agree with him on. He says to read the poem “So You Want To Be A Writer?” by Charles Bukowski. The thing about Bukowski is that he’s an absolute asshole, but he’s completely correct.

RW: On the subject of performances, what are you doing to get ready for your upcoming tour? Is this the biggest tour you’ve been a part of?

TO: Basically I’m just freaking out about whether or not I’ll have everything ready by the time I have to leave. It’s definitely the biggest tour I’ve been a part of. I don’t count the other mc chris tour because I joined up towards the end of that one. We’re doing 51 shows in under 60 days. It’s crazy. Like, actually crazy. I couldn’t possibly be more excited, though. It’s gonna be amazing, dude. I’d be worried except for the fact that I’ll be riding the whole thing with my really good friend Jesse Dangerously, who I toured with last year for the NOFRIENDS tour.

RW: It’s always good to have someone like that. Is there any stop that you’re looking forward to in particular?

TO: I mean, the whole thing is going to be rad, of course. There’s a lot of places we’re going that I’ve never been or never thought I’d ever go at all, let alone to do rap there. I’m most excited about the West Coast leg, though, because that’s where I’m from originally and I don’t really ever get chances to go out there anymore. Plus, my family is still out there and they’ve never seen me rap before. It’s going to be super emotional and significant for me. Also, the Atlanta show because I’ll get to sleep in my own bed again.

RW: Nice. Well, we’re heading to the tail end, so I got a couple of corny interview questions I gotta get through. What are you listening to lately?

TO: Like most of the world, I’ve been listening to Yeezus. I don’t really like it, though. There’s a couple songs that are amazing but as an album I don’t think it’s anywhere near as good as Graduation, which is the last Kanye record I heard. I’ve been rocking the living HELL out of Hokey Fright by The Uncluded. Their song “TV on Ten” is just devastating.

RW: If I can get a plug in, I did a write up of “Delicate Cycle” over the weekend

TO: The new Vampire Weekend album is pretty great, too. Their song “Step” is probably the best pop song I’ve heard since their song “M79” from their first album. It’s pefect. It’s so pefect that it caused me to misspell “perfect.” I’ll put on some other album and get about 3 or 4 songs in and then just be like, “THIS ISN’T AS GOOD AS ‘STEP!'” And then I play it on repeat for like a half hour.

RW: Alright last question, time for nerdy speculative hypothetical nonsense. What comic book hero do you think would make the best rapper?

TO: Skill-wise, it would definitely be Daredevil. He would DEVASTATE people in mc battles. He’d use his super senses to hear elevated heart rates and smell the sweat on their foreheads as he just went straight for the kill. As far as most interesting… does it have to be a hero? I think Batroc the Leaper would make an AMAZING record. And it would, of course, be called “Ol’ Dirty Batroc.”

shoutout to the five readers who know who this is

shoutout to the five readers who know who this is

RW: Naturally. The dude already has rapper-level amounts of swagger

TO: EXACTLY. The only bad song on the album would be his cover of Kriss Kross’ “Jump, Jump.” His French accent would just sound terrible saying little-kid raps.

RW: That was an unbearably corny joke, dude

TO: I REGRET NOTHING!

You can stream and purchase Indian Summer by The Remnant on their Bandcamp page. Be on the lookout for the debut album from Malibu Shark Attack, coming in July. Catch Tribe One on the the mc chris Revenge of the Nerd II tour

-Froond

Top 5 Detroit MC’s of All Time

Detroit Skyline

The D has always been a hotbed of musical talent, whether it’s in Hip-Hop or not. Guys like Kid Rock and J Dilla have made their marks in not only Michigan and the United States, but the entire world.

We have a long and rich history of music as well. For instance, the stylings of Motown swept the nation in the 1960’s with fantastic dance music, groovy styles, and famous personalities.

It would only be fitting that some of the greatest Hip-Hop artists have come from this city, as well. Also, being from Ann Arbor, I can’t help but pay homage to the most important city in the state that raised me.

While it’s hard to narrow down just five, especially with many new artists making waves in the industry currently, here is my list of the most successful MC’s to ever come out Motor City.

The majority of the list is based on lyrical content, success in the industry, and subject matter.

5. Big Sean
Big Sean

While many may not consider Big Sean to be one of the better lyricists in the game, nobody can deny the fact that the man has talent for making major hits. His huge impact in the music industry started about 3 years ago, and has been gaining more steam ever since. For awhile, Big Sean on your hook, or on a feature verse, meant that your song was going to get noticed. His album Finally Famous was at the forefront of this charge, with three singles getting major airplay on the radio. “Dance (A$$)” was all over the place in 2011-12, even getting a remix nod from another artist making huge waves at a similar time, Nicki Minaj. “My Last” had a resurgent Chris Brown on it, and “Marvin Gaye & Chardonnay” honestly has one of the best Kanye West features heard in a couple years. The high quality features really took Big Sean to the next level, showing him as a legitimate artist to co-sign and support.

Plus, the story of Kanye finding Sean is quite a good one. After a good relationship was built with WHTD, Big Sean was making routine appearances. Kanye, doing an interview in the area, stopped by to hear a freestyle verse, loving every second of it. Sean was signed to GOOD Music two years later, ready to make an impact.

Of course, Kanye didn’t realize how important of a sign this would be for GOOD Music until the Finally Famous Mixtapes dropped. Catching fire immediately with “Getcha Some”, and a flow he called Supa Dupa (one he claimed to make), Big Sean was ready for the scene.

Hall of Fame drops later this year, so let’s see if he can continue his hot streak. Regardless, the impact he has made in the industry deserves recognition.

4. Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Bringing something new to the table is always important in music, and it seems like that’s Danny Brown’s main focus. His ability to take humor, intelligence, and creativity and combine it into one is something extra special. Not only that, his unique voice and delivery add to his mystique. What’s most important though, is that he has the lyrical skills to back it up. One of my favorite songs in recent memory is his banger made for Scion, “Grown Up”. Danny Brown’s ability to build a scene for you about his childhood is something that anyone can respect. His lines have you involved heavily in the story, and the drums hit hard. Perfect for some head-nodding.

Plus, you can’t go wrong a with a super dope video:

The album XXX made major waves in 2011, placing him at the top of the Hip Hop underground scene, as well as helping him gain respect from many of the top Hip Hop critics across the world.

Many may shy away from Danny Brown’s experimental style, but the important thing is he’s always going to be doing what he wants. People respect that. Plus, with the major hype being built up for his debut album Old, there seems to be a lot more coming from the young MC rocking skinny jeans and a foreign haircut.

3. Royce da 5’9″
Royce da 5'9"

Royce da 5’9″ fits perfectly into the long list of “Great Rappers that Never Made it Big”. Royce boasts one of the most powerful tongues in all of the industry, period. This dude can spit.

“Gun Harmonizing feat. Crooked I” and “Boom” still make my jaw drop, even after listening to Royce for many years now. Not to mention, strong showings like the recent “Writer’s Block feat. Eminem” proves that Royce still has all the talent in the world. His album with Eminem, Hell: The Sequel was the first album that Royce gained commercial success with, but unfortunately, it’s not close to his best work. Both Eminem and Royce da 5’9″ are at the tail end of their careers, and the project was majorly held up by Eminem’s star status. This go-round was a far cry from the original “Bad Meets Evil” track, an Eminem song that introduced the tandem. Rock City, and Street Hop are both quality records that show what Royce can do. The latter is filled with DJ Premier beats, and the former is his impressive debut.

Don’t get me wrong, though, it’s not as if Royce has not achieved any success. Working with DJ Premier is proof in itself of being a talented MC. Premier doesn’t work with untalented acts. Also, it’s a major plus that the majority of his albums have been received well critically.

It’s quite strange that commercial success has been so elusive with Royce, but regardless, he remains one of the dopest to ever pick up the microphone. Even About.com recognized Royce da 5’9″ as the 33rd best MC out of their top 50. Now it’s your guys’ turn to recognize him.

2. Elzhi
elzhi

Here’s another mainly unknown MC that can rap circles around anyone you place him in front of. Originally a member of Slum Village, his complicated rhyme schemes are full of fancy alliteration and internal patterns. The Preface was his first solo project with national distribution. It boasted many different styles all executed to perfection, which is shown through a song like “Colors”. The track has him using all different types of colors as rhyme schemes to describe different situations. Other tracks like “The Guessing Game” has the listener trying to figure out which direction he’ll take a multisyllabic rhyme once started. This is much more difficult of a game than he makes it sound, though, as Elzhi’s lyrical direction will consistently surprise you. The Preface was my introduction to Elzhi, and probably the most impressive project I’ve heard from the MC (including his Slum Village days).

The special thing about Elzhi, or any other similar lyrically talented rapper, is that the real meaning of the lyrics are hidden deep within the complicated rhymes and rhythms of the verses. Albums full of tracks with this level of meaning, mixed with beats that have just the right feel, create classic albums.

For an example of what Elzhi is capable of, here’s a lyrical breakdown of one of my favorite verses, his feature on “K.G.B.” by Binary Star.

A predator with the literature
it shows through my signature
deliver more, did just for your clique
what’s even more sick is I’m a visitor
and plus they be diggin more
scopin the perimeter
sneak within the floor
terminator 2, split your brain in two
while you snore

The ridiculously clever use of internal rhymes are scattered throughout these couple bars. Elzhi manages to do this throughout the majority of his tracks, even for the entirety of songs.

Elzhi can almost be considered a throwback to the rap days of old, where lyrics were the most important thing to have if you wanted to be recognized. He’s one of the major reasons as to why Slum Village was as good as they were (besides the fact that they had Dilla), and also a very important part in making Detroit Hip Hop what it is today.

1. Eminem
Eminem

There’s really not much I can say about Eminem that hasn’t already been said. Even if nowadays his subject matter might be watered down, or his flow too one-dimensional, you still hear verses from him that completely surprise you. The man has been making the whole Hip Hop nation stand at attention since his Rawkus Records days.

With a Dr. Dre cosign and a majorly successful album, The Slim Shady EP, Eminem shocked the entire world. His ability to make incredibly complex rhyme schemes, while still keeping everything he was saying original and innovative, was something that nobody had ever really heard before. At least, nobody had heard it at the level he was doing it.

He made songs about doing drugs and killing people, and made it sound cool. His subject matter was so overwhelmingly controversial, politicians were striking back at him for it. Most artists don’t incite this kind of attention from the government; but when you’re that famous, it’s a little bit different. From 1999 until about 2005, Eminem completely dominated the music industry.

He’s even starred in a movie about his own life. There are only a few artists in all of music history that can lay claim to that.

The best part? He’s from the D. Nobody has represented Detroit better than Eminem, and he will continue to represent it until the day he dies.

Honorable Mention: Guilty Simpson, Proof, Obie Trice, Bizarre, Xzibit

-Ronzo