The Alchemist’s 2nd LP, Chemical Warfare, finally drops next Tuesday, July 7th. Just think, two years ago (two!) Will Johnson and I sat in Alchemist’s living room talking about this very same project for Scratch Magazine. But as the saying goes, timing is everything, and the hands on the clock weren’t aligned properly back then. So here we are. Having gotten an early listen, it’s truly been worth the wait. As hip-hop veers towards electric slide territory, the ALC’s new LP is a healthy dosage of sample-based hardcore hip-hop. Heavy drums, deep bass grooves, and lyricists spitting like they’ve got something to prove.
I’ve got a bunch of interview clips with Alchemist that I shot last week in the
Koch E1 Music offices. I’ll be rolling them out over the next week or so, but for now, check out what he had to say about touring with and DJing for Eminem, now that the Detroit rapper’s gone sober on us.
“We play a lot of Uno on tour with Em. He enjoys my Uno game. Now that he’s sober, it’s a little bit different these days. Not many tequila parties before the show. It’s more like 80s music and Uno, and we’re ready to rock. Private jets, Uno, pizza, 80s music… Air Supply, “Fast Car” Tracy Chapman, Hall and Oates. That’s basically what we do.”
Then check Alchemist talking about how differently he gets treated as Em’s DJ vs. being The Alchemist.
That’s some truly funny stuff right there.
More to come
Well, I’ve been hyping this kid Will Roush for months. His mixtape is finally here. I’m going to write a separate post very soon about why I chose to get involved with Will’s project, but for now, check out the work.
Know My Name Vol. 1 is a conceptual mixtape, themed around the idea of Will Roush, who’s a new artist, traveling back in time to learn all about hip-hop’s incredible history before moving forward with his own burgeoning rap career. The tape is split between him rocking over classic instrumentals which tie into the project’s theme, and original music.
Seems like there’s a lot of Wu-Tang material dropping these days, huh? Can’t say I’m surprised. Every couple of years the Clan resurfaces and all the members start dropping projects around the same time. It’s a synergy that worked for them back in the late 90s, and it wouldn’t be farfetched to think it’ll work for them again. The Redman/Method Man album, Blackout 2, just dropped. U-God’s album, Dopium, drops next week on Frank Radio/Babygrande. A new Ghostface single “Forever” leaked two weeks ago. And then there are what seem to be the two biggest projects on deck, the Wu-Tang Chamber Music LP on June 30th, and Raekwon’s Only Built for Cuban Links 2 in August.
Is it a Wu renaissance? Maybe.
I’m probably most excited about the Chamber Music album. In a press release sent out by E1 Music (formerly Koch Records), Rza said:
“This album has a very live element of today’s musicians playing the vibe of Wu-Tang, know what I mean? The vibe we would normally sample, the vibe of things that we would accumulate through old soul songs, jazz songs, kung fu movies whatever, now you’ve got musicians that can play this vibe with Wu-Tang MC’s rapping over it. The goal of this album is definitely paying homage to our early sound. In the old days, we had to sample and find snares and things like that or chord changes just to make a beat. Now, this is being done it with a band. A lot of times, you hear rappers over a live band and that loses the hip-hop because a lot of those bands from the old days wasn’t from the hip-hop generation. On this album, we make it sound like it was in the 36 Chambers era. To me, what also adds to this album, you’ve got the Wu-Tang MCs but you also got your other favorite MCs from that era like Havoc, Cormega and others. This album can be played with a live band and it will sound BIG.”
Listen to a few of the tracks that have leaked and then tell me if they match what he’s describing. I think they do.
The thing about this project that is disappointing to me is the way it’s being marketed and sold. E1 is pushing this project calling it a compilation pairing Wu-Tang emcees with 90s rap veterans. But if you look at the tracklisting, there really aren’t that many rap “veterans” on the album.
2. Kill Too Hard Ft. RZA, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Masta Killa
3. The Abbot Ft. RZA
4. Harbor Masters Ft. RZA, Ghostface Killah, Az, Inspectah Deck
5. Sheep State Ft. Rza
6. Radiant Jewels Ft. RZA, Raekwon, Cormega, Sean Price
7. Supreme Architecture Ft. RZA
8. Evil Deeds Ft. RZA, Ghostface Killah, Havoc
9. Wise Men Ft. RZA
10. I Wish You Were Here Ft. RZA, Ghostface Killah, Tre Williams
11. Fatal Hesitation
12. Ill Figures Ft. RZA, Raekwon, Kool G Rap
13. Free Like ODB Ft. RZA
14. Sound The Horns
15. Enlightened Statues Ft. RZA
16. NYC Crack Ft. RZA
17. One Last Question Ft. RZA
Kool G Rap, Havoc, Cormega, AZ, Sean Price, MOP… those are 6 rap “veterans,” so to speak, but they’re also like the Koch all stars. These guys are all part of that label family, they all collab with one another and ya’know, I just have higher hopes for something billed as a collaboration project with 90s rap veterans. There’s 17 tracks. I mean, let’s keep it funky, this is a Wu-Tang album with a few features.
Then you’ve got the Raekwon LP, which is a whole different animal altogether. My issue with this project seems to be the press Raekwon is doing for it, which centers around the same couple of questions, namely, “What happened with Dr. Dre and Aftermath? What took so long? Why sign with EMI?” I guess that’s what happens when it takes you five years to release an album, and every year you’ve sat there and talked to people about it, done press and so on, never to have the project drop. There’s an interview over at XXLMag.com today, where Rae talks a little about Rza and Dre being in the studio together, and reading it, I said to myself, wow finally something interesting about this LP!!!
Not that I’m not excited about the album. But just put the fucking thing out already dude. I know you’re going on the Rock the Bells tour throughout the summer, and you’ll hype the project. Thing is, you might actually sell more records if the album was out by the time you hit the road. The days of the big first week are over, and even at that, you might only sell 30k copies. I just don’t see a Raekwon album moving many units in this industry climate, and that’s having nothing to do whatsoever with the quality of music on the LP.
So is the Wu back? I don’t know. Blackout 2 didn’t sell many records, even though Red and Meth have been everywhere promoting it. U-God doesn’t have much of a buzz (even though I am digging the records I’ve heard so far), and the Ghostface track hasn’t caught on yet. Rae’s album hasn’t dropped yet, and the Chamber Music LP is being billed as a compilation project, even though it’s not. And furthermore, it came out of nowhere! Granted, hype is hard to come by, but you still gotta make an effort.
I like the Wu music that is dropping right now. Whether anyone cares, that’s the question.
This is what BK Cyph had to say about dropping this highly anticipated mixtape project:
I couldn’t pay my mortgage this month, but put out a free mixtape. With all of life’s ups and downs, it feels like music is my only escape. Thank you to everyone involved especially RL and Paul “Gooch” Cantor.
Well hey, you throw my name in anything, I’m gonna support!
But on the serious tip, BK Cyph is a friend, a peer and a confidant. I can say that about a handful of folks in the music industry, and he’s definitely one of them.
The master mix on this project is straight out the Pro Tools 8 from the very computer I’m typing this on. For the production/engineering heads that check out this site, I’ll have you know I used Maxim as a mastering plug for the first time ever. This is after years running the L1 Ultramaximizer. But alas, my Waves plug-ins went bust (long story), so Maxim had to do. Not bad. It colors the sound much in the same way I feel like the mastering suite in Reason does. I do notice that it doesn’t have as much headroom as the L1 though. Levels peak quickly, so the ceiling needs a bit of adjustment, and that in turn affects just how “squashed” the signal ends up sounding. I had to play with it quite a bit. The L series, you could just throw it on the Master channel and never see your signal clip.
1. Til Death Do Us
2. Stars Feat. The Incomparable Shakespeare & Mickey Factz (Prod By RL)
3. Never Sold Crack (Prod By Acafool)
4. The Voice
5. Return of the Dodgers (Prod By Graphic)
6. Flyer Preview (Prod By RL)
7. Bang Bang
8. Beastly Feat. Laws (Prod By JK the Supernova)
9. James Evans
10. Different Over Here Feat. Streets Buchannon, U-N-I, Lex One (Prod By Lex One)
11. BK’s Punch-Out (Prod By RL)
12. Rhymes Are Easy
13. Life is Hard (Prod By RL)
14. Goin’ Back (Prod By Paul “Gooch” Cantor)
Download: BK Cyph- Rhymes are Easy, Life is Hard
I’m not a Slaughterhouse stan. I mean to some extent or another, I’ve paid attention to what everyone in the group has been doing. But to say that I’m tapped into the Slaughterhouse zeitgeist like that would be a huge overstatement. I’m probably most in tune with Joell Ortiz movements, if anyone in the group. And that’s mainly because he’s the youngest of the crew, has the least amount of back history to make me dislike him for any reason. The other guys, maybe it’s just because I want hip-hop, music and fuck it, myself, to move forward, I haven’t really been into their movements like that. I appreciate them for what they do, but it’s just not my thing. I was writing about Joe Budden five years ago. Where’s the new shit?
Still, whatever I’ve heard from these guys thus far has been straight cocaine.
But this freestyle took me back to another era in rap, where clearly if you were going to spit, you needed to come with it like Canibus in 1999. This is late 90s era of niceness, not that 2005 level of niceness, where guys like Jim Jones and insert random swag rapper of the moment get a pass for having whatever amounts to a buzz in this day and age. The bar has obviously been lowered over the years, let’s not kid ourselves.
Slaughterhouse may be upping the ante on what is considered dope in 2009. Granted, it’s to be determined whether or not anyone actually cares, but if it’s any indication, I haven’t had a conversation with a casual rap fan in weeks that has had to do with anything except Slaughterhouse. That’s the topic of convo it seems. And here I was thinking nobody knew these guys outside of the internets.
Flex will drop a bomb (if he hasn’t already done so, sorry I don’t have a radio) on a Slaughterhouse record in 5, 4, 3, 2….
Spotted this video over at Nahright, with Digga talking about changes in production technology, the backstory on 50 Cent’s “Many Men,” and then recreates the track.
I’ve never really felt that “Many Men” was the most complex of tracks, but the beat was always one of my favorites. Goes to show you that you really don’t need to do that much to make a hot record. I think a lot of producers get caught up in trying to chop chop chop the hell out of a record instead of just leaving the vibe intact, then adding their flare to it. I was never crazy about the mix on the song though. I always felt like the drums were mixed very poorly, they stood out in the mix too much.
Another one of my favorite Digga tracks, Camron’s “Losin Weight”
What I really want to know is, what the hell is that touchscreen that Digga is using with Reason?
I need that NOW
The way music is made nowadays just flat out sucks. Not saying the music itself sucks. But the way it’s created. We’ve hit a point where music, specifically rap, is like karaoke. And I was just thinking about all of this, when I came across this post about The Clipse working with flavor of the moment singer/songwriter Keri Hilson. According to The Rap-Up.com,
“It’s an amazing record,” Pusha T [says]. “Uptempo. Party. Girls. Shake every ounce of your ass.” The “Knock You Down” singer’s busy schedule prevented her from being in the studio when they recorded the track, so she phoned it in. “She wasn’t in-studio with us when she did that, but I was listening over the phone,” Pusha discloses. “The way of the music industry these days.”
The way Pusha describes this collabo, I’m not expecting much. Not that I don’t think something great can come from the combined talents of The Clipse and Keri. I do. In fact, I like both acts quite a bit. But I just feel like the way Pusha describes the song, it doesn’t sound very organic, or furthermore, very interesting. Like, isn’t every song these days about partying, girls and shaking every ounce of your ass?
The more troubling thing is how Pusha says the song was recorded. He even uses the phrase “phoned it in.” Phoning it in is often used to describe a process whereby someone was supposed to do something, and they did a half ass job at it. But in the music business, phoning it in is what collaborating recording artists do when they can’t be in the studio at the same time.
In actuality, that’s painting a rosy picture about the situation. It’s quite possibly that Keri Hilson referenced some Neptunes records for her own album, then didn’t use them, had a hook portion of the record that sounded good, so the Clipse “took” the record for themselves, then paid her for the feature and cleared it with the label and so on. I’m just speculating here, but that’s very conceivable.
This post isn’t really about The Clipse though. It’s more about the way technology helps and hurts the artistic process. On one side of the coin it allows for a piece of artistic work to be created without a barrier of physical space getting in the way. Hey, they might have even been on iChat during the process of recording.On the other side, you get this instrumental in your email with Keri Hilson’s vocals on it, you basically just add your raps and it’s done. It’s almost the equivalent of getting an excel spreadsheet at your lame ass 9 to 5 job, making an edit, then sending it off to a senior level manager for approval. It all seems kind of… I dunno… assembly line-ish.
There’s nothing you can do about it. It’s just the way the business exists right now, and it’s depressing. I still think there’s something to be said for being in the same physical space with another person and making art collaboratively. What would “Brooklyn’s Finest” be had Biggie recorded his verse a thousand miles away, in some studio down South. It might have sucked. It might not be the classic that it is today. How many classic collabos have been “phoned in.” That just sounds like you’re getting it done, just to get it done. Not because there’s anything more to it. That could have been Keri Hilson, or if this was four years ago, it might have been Ciara. Fans aren’t stupid. They know all this. Give them something authentic, that is of quality, and they will support. Otherwise you might as well be at that 9 to 5. Might even make more money.
|From Drop Box|
The entertainment business is ego driven. When I entered it, I was wide eyed in terms of what to expect. I hadn’t been burned or disappointed, so for the most part my expectations weren’t ego driven. I always had an ego though. It’s par for the course in this business. But when does too much ego begin to affect your world and those involved in it?
Let’s start with false titles. As soon as you enter the game, you immediately meet hundreds of “CEO’s,” “A&R’s,” “Presidents,” “Producers,” “Directors,” and all types of people with false vanity labels they bestow upon themselves. The key is to navigate around these folks. If someone considers themself a boss, but you sense they don’t have much to offer, steer clear of them. This is not even from a financial point of view. Support, guidance, and learning from someone can triumph over a check any day. People are manipulative and cruel in this business. You can become a puppet quickly. Most importantly, false titles yield false egos. With false egos comes a losing team.
Have I ever given myself a false title for my work? No. If anything, some people don’t even know exactly what I do. In a business where the model is changing daily, how can anyone have a proper lane or title? My advice to you is to accumulate as much information and knowledge as you can in the music industry. Do everything and do not limit yourself. I created my lane pretty much on my own. I continue to do so daily. You should be creating your own brand too. If you work for a big corporation this is a different. If that’s you, you’ve most likely signed contracts disallowing this. However, if you’re molding your own career, sans corporate gig, be a sponge for information and have an open mind to learn from anything and anyone.
In my first column, I wrote, “I do not concern myself with Diddy or Jay Z’s latest signings.” I represent several artists who are arguably better than what those executives represent. I reiterate, if you are a newcomer it is discouraging to compare yourself to executives with multi-million dollar budgets. But what do you do when these older artists won’t step down from the mic? Or better yet, start to promote their own artists with their name attached to it.
It’s difficult enough to break a new artist. Now imagine you are going up against these established executives plus their new “cosign.” It quadruples the degree of difficulty for your quest.
Everybody wants the crown. It’s understandable; this is show business. But there’s a time when the older artists and executives need to pass the torch to a newer generation. If they don’t, what do you do to take control of your own destiny?
It’s a tough call. But don’t be afraid to carve your own path. If you are a young entrepreneur, be a pioneer for what you believe in no matter what. Do not allow the masses to create your vision. Do not allow anyone to give you a title or stop you from evolving. Navigate through this business with no fear or regrets. Explore uncharted waters. Shake things up. Say what you feel and seize the opportunity no matter what type of platform you have. The more you stay quiet in this game, the less people will you hear you. The less people hear you, the less you will eat.
Anyone who’s been on a diet knows that there are just certain food items that you cannot stop eating, no matter how unhealthy it is, or how hard you try to fight your cravings.
For me, that food item is sweetened cereal. Honey Bunches of Oats, Honey Nut Cheerios, Vanilla Almond Special K, Life with Cinnamon, the list goes on and on.
I’ve always been a late night junk food junkie. I started my habit of staying up well past the midnight hour back during the 1992 Summer Olympics, in Barcelona. My brother and I used to stay up until something like 2am every night during the Olympics so we could watch boxing. We’d eventually watch Oscar De La Hoya win the gold medal. At the time, my parents had just separated, and my dad didn’t always buy the healthiest of snacks. It wasn’t uncommon to sit up eating Twizzlers and buttery popcorn all night with my older bro.
That probably lead to me being sort of a chunky fella during my teenage years. I was never terribly fat (not until college), but was most certainly overweight for my age, and had a little pot belly. Throughout high school I tried to get to bed before midnight on most nights, but when my brother stayed local for a semester of college in ’99, he brought his late night frat house lifestyle with him, and wreaked havoc on my sleep. Till this day, I’ve never recovered from that. No matter what job I’ve had, what’s going on in my life, school, whatever, I’ve never been able to get to bed before 2am consistently.
Along with the poor sleeping habits, I eat late. It’s not uncommon for me to eat an entire box of cereal right before I go to bed. I will feel this craving just come over me, and I’ll go to the store, buy a box of whatever sweetened cereal they have on the shelf that isn’t like complete and total sugar, and I will just down the whole box in one sitting.
Now you’re probably thinking that’s insane. And you know what, it is. I’m writing this in the late afternoon/early evening, and the idea for the post actually came to me because I just ate about half a box of Honey Nut Shredded Wheat. But I’m pretty full. I don’t even think I’m going to eat dinner tonight, that’s how full I am. Still, I’m going to hit the gym shortly, and burn off a lot of the carbs that I just downed.
My understanding is that your metabolism slows at night, that whatever you eat will quickly turn to fat. I believe it. I think if I was able to knock off this guilty pleasure, I’d drop another 10-15 pounds easily.
Like everyone else, I’m working my way through it.
Just tastes so damn good!
For some people it’s pizza, or ice cream…. I wanna know, what’s your guilty pleasure?
No ID didn’t alter it too much, but still, some credit goes to him for finding a hot sample. I, for one, miss the days when a dope loop could suffice for a hot beat. I think producers tend to overproduce now, too much chopping and adding unnecessary elements to the track that rob the sample of its original groove, which is probably why it sounded good enough to sample in the first place.