A Look Back: Skeme – The Statement


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.



Talent Attracts Talent: A Look at Talib Kweli Collaborations


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.


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

Monday Grooves 2/3/14


Let’s face it.  That Super Bowl last night was just not fun to watch.  Sure, the Seattle Seahawks deserve the title, especially after a fantastically dominating season, but they also deserved to be challenged.

The game was horrible for many reasons, but the one that made the most sense to me was the schedule the Denver Broncos waltzed through.  All sorts of offensive records were overcome left and right, perhaps shrouding their weaknesses in mystery.  Not that they had a lot, though.  In this day and age in the NFL, where offense is king, not many other teams besides the Seahawks could’ve shut down the fiery Peyton Manning-led Broncos the way they did.  A talented team was beaten by a more talented team.  Goes to show you, defense still wins championships (unless your name is Jerry Rice or Joe Montana).

The AFC West looked as deep and talented as can be, right until the postseason started.  The Chiefs had an epic collapse at the hands of the Indianapolis Colts, while the Chargers were knocked out of contention in the next round by the Broncos.  So, even in a season where records were broken as often as plates in an earthquake, barely making it out on top of a weakened AFC should’ve been a clue.  Peyton is one of the greatest QB’s of all time, when it comes to numbers.  Unfortunately, the wins don’t say as much.

Things are very different on the NFC side of things, however.  Similar to the Western Conference in the NBA, the NFC clearly has the cream of the crop when it comes to championship-worthy talent.  The Seawhawks and the 49ers should be an incredibly entertaining rivalry over the next few years, with other teams such as Arizona, Green Bay, Chicago, New Orleans, and Carolina thrown in just to make things interesting.  Even my team, Detroit, could make some noise (I mean they should, the talent is there.  But who really knows with the Lions?)

But anyways, that was last night.  It’s now time for basketball season, as we move closer and closer to the glory of March Madness (GO BLUE).

Here are three grooves to get this week going for you:

Sir Michael Rocks – S.S. feat. Latif

This record amount of snow and cold weather has got me wanting warm weather more than ever.  Sir Michael Rocks, with his swagged out flow and hilarious punchlines, you would he figure he’d have multiple summer songs.  However, he’s only got a couple.  One with The Cool Kids, and one on his own.  (He does have summer and warm weather scenes in many of his videos though)

As always, one of my favorite things about Mikey Rocks’ music is how effortless he makes everything seem.  He honestly sounds like he’s having a good time, all the time.  The style of grand minimalism lives on.


Childish Gambino – 3005

Childish is one of the poster children of being a hit-and-miss artist.  With quality lyricism and excellent voice control, he has the potential to pretty much make quality music across the board.  The only problem is, the songwriting can be a bit…lacking at times.  This was the problem on his most recent release, because the internet.  During my experience listening to the project, I never truly felt pulled into the sound.  One track will have me impressed, while the next may not captivate my attention whatsoever.  Consistency and an established identity are the main things he needs to work on.

“3005”, however, is a perfect example of a hit.  The hook stays stuck in my head all day after hearing it.  Plus, Childish delivers with a pinpoint accurate flow and intelligent rhyme schemes.  That’s enough to stay in my rotation.


Ke$ha ft. Lil Wayne, T.I., Wiz Khalifa, and Andre 3000

I know what you’re thinking.  Ke$ha is not a popular choice of mine, but this song is something special.  I’m not too familiar with the original Ke$ha song, to be honest, but when I first decided to press play on this remix, I was blown away.  Everyone goes in on it.  I mean, in.

Wiz Khalifa, who is notorious for his lazy lyricism, is also known to have really impressive feature verses from time to time (“I’m On” by Trae the Truth, and “High” by Big Sean are two prime examples).  The latter shines here, with Wiz having arguably the strongest verse out of all 4 MCs (hard to argue with Andre’s though).

The best part about it is how it all came together.  Ke$ha handpicked her favorite rappers for the remix edition.  As she told Rap-Up.com,

“Get ready to get even $leazier with this sick collaboration I did with 4 of my favorite MCs of all time: Weezy, Andre 3000, Wiz Khalifa, and T.I.,”

This definitely earns some cool points for Ke$ha in my book.  Good work.


Big Sean – 1st Quarter Freestyle

Big Sean


After not hearing new material from Big Sean for awhile, it’s nice to see him making an enjoyable freebie track.

One of Sean’s top assets is his ability to string together nonsense in a really entertaining way.  This lyrical method isn’t exactly new to Hip-Hop, but Big Sean is, and always has been, one of the frontrunners of the style these days.  It’s what made him attractive to Kanye.  Even with the heavy pop presence and success Big Sean has had in the modern day industry, he’s stuck true to what made him famous in the first place: the feeling that he could just keep going, and going, and going…etc.  He may not be the most sound lyricist, and he also might not be among the deepest of song writers.  But he sure knows how to entertain; and that’s definitely respectable.

In his newest release of 2014, Big Sean goes for 5 minutes over production by Key Wayne and Travis $cott.  Serving as his introduction to 2014 (or in other words, his 1st quarter), it’s quite nice.  Check out the Mike Carson-directed visuals down below, and if you like it, go download it here on Soundcloud.