Drake + The Karate Kid Theme Song- “Best I Ever Had Around”

July 29, 2009 by  
Filed under music

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I knew someone was gonna do it, just didn’t know it’d be me. The theme song of The Karate Kid‘s been begging for a mash-up for god knows how long. And the other night, it just hit me, Drake’s “Best I Ever Had” seemed like the most logical and most relevant fit.

Joe Esposito’s “You’re The Best Around” is kind of a wierd tune. In the context of the movie, the song works almost perfectly. You hear it in the film, and you think man this song is incredible. You get so pumped. I’m the best… around! You’re all ready to crane kick your neighbor.

Then you hear it by itself, and like a lot of cheesy 80s pop rock, it’s not very good. This is the problem I faced when I started working on mashing Drake’s vocals with the track. It’s like, how can I make an artist who sounds so good on his original track sound right on this completely different style of music?

There’s also a big tempo difference between the two songs, as Drake’s track is somewhere around 81bpm, while Esposito’s is roughly 94. So stylically and groove-wise, it’s a big change. To be perfectly honest, I chopped almost every other bar of the Drake acapella just to get him in the pocket. He also rhymes in a sing-songy style that melodically jibes with the original song’s melody. Rather than autotuning the autotune, which just felt almost a little too techno robotic, I opted to make my own little edits on those parts.

And finally, there really is no acapella for the Drake song. I grabbed a DIY acapella that someone with a clever ear for EQ (or a Waves plug-in) uploaded online, but if you listen real closely you can still hear the kicks and snares from the original Drake song. But hey, we work with what we have.

Enjoy

Drake + Joe Esposito (Karate Kid Theme Song)- “Best I Ever Had Around”

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New Album Format Is Not The Answer To Music Industry Woes

July 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Words From The Genius

Today, news reports surfaced about a tablet-based iPod that will work with a rumored new album format that both Apple and the major labels are trying to create. Mathew Garrahan of the Financial Times writes,

Apple is working with the four largest record labels to stimulate digital sales of albums by bundling a new interactive booklet, sleeve notes and other interactive features with music downloads, in a move it hopes will change buying trends on its online iTunes store. Apple wants to make bigger purchases more compelling by creating a new type of interactive album material, including photos, lyric sheets and liner notes that allow users to click through to items that they find most interesting. Consumers would be able to play songs directly from the interactive book without clicking back into Apple’s iTunes software, executives said. “It’s not just a bunch of PDFs,” said one executive. “There’s real engagement with the ancillary stuff.”

While theoretically this new album format sounds exciting, I think to a large extent Apple may be late on this whole idea. The thought of having a wiki-based album format- embeddable links and interactive content bundled in a file- just seems archaic in light of users trending towards accessing music through streaming services. Plus there’s the new iPod itself,

The new touch-sensitive device Apple is working on will have a screen that may be up to 10 inches diagonally. It will connect to the internet like the iPod Touch – probably without phone capability but with access to Apple’s online stores .

It sounds like people who already have albums in digital format will have to repurchase them, and also purchase a new device to access the content on them. It’s pretty difficult getting people to part with money right now, particularly for frivolous things like music devices and for music itself, which they can access for free via the aforelinked streaming services. These services are available as apps for phones, and people aren’t ditching those any time soon.

Think about it, Apple executives want people to engage with content, but the reality is, the content is available already. It’s on Myspace pages, Youtube, blogs, twitter, and so on. It’s in the cloud. Apple’s trying to sell a file-based service when it’s becoming more clear by the day that people don’t want to own anything. Hard drives break, they get full, devices get old, and from a dollar to dollar standpoint, they just don’t make much sense.

From the music industry’s standpoint, there’s more money to be made when people purchase an album for $10 than a single for $1, which is why it was never crazy about iTunes in the first place. The music industry phased out the single in the mid to late 90s because by not giving people an alternative to get the song they wanted, they had to buy an entire album. They raked in the dough as a result. People having the choice to spend $1 over $15 for a CD has been driving a stake through the industry’s heart for five years now.

So of course they’d love to entice people to get back into the album format. I just don’t think it’s going to happen. It’s an antiquated format that doesn’t work within the context of the way people consume media in modern times. It’s not going to work in the future either. It’s the same reason why we read articles in RSS readers and via Twitter now. We just want the aggregation, we want to create our own playlists. Give us the record we like, and save the album for someone who really cares.

Which is another point altogether. Some people really do care. Just not everyone. A select few, die hard fans. And maybe this new iPod will work for them, that rare bunch that wants to enjoy an entire hour of music from the same artist, and then also wants to jump into all sorts of exclusive goodies from them.

But remember, the music industry tried to sell the bloated CD before as well. In the late 90s they packaged CDs with extra content, and then even as recently as a few years ago, you were seeing deluxe CD/DVD packages hitting the shelves, filled with all sorts of extra stuff- pictures, wallpapers, ringtones… etc. Fact of the matter is, only the die hards bought this stuff. The rest of the people passed.

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Kool G Rap and Nas + The Ramones= “The Sedated Fast Life”

July 27, 2009 by  
Filed under music

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Due to the positive response to Wu-Tang and Def Leppard= “Cream and Sugar,” I was inspired to spend my Saturday working on another mash-up track.

It’s a mix of one of my favorite hip-hop songs of all time, Kool G Rap ft. Nas “Fast Life,” with one of my favorite punk rock songs of all time, The Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated.”

A little backstory on its creation. I was actually reworking G Rap’s vocals over another rock track, something from a totally different era, different vibe, different sound altogether, and I got to thinking, even though this sounds good, what kind of synergy do these artists have with one another. I spent a good 15 minutes trying to rationalize it and couldn’t come up with anything substantial.

I kept coming to this part of “Fast Life” where the hook says, “Livin the fast life with fast cars, everywhere we go people know who we are/ a team from out of Queens with the American Dream…. ” And then I thought, what’s another team from out Queens with the American Dream? The Ramones!

I imported the audio for “I Wanna Be Sedated,” and I instantly felt that the double time signature worked great with the “Fast Life” vocals. The song went from a slow, prodding rap song (albeit a great one), to a driving rock tune.

I chopped out a few pieces of Joey Ramone’s “oh oh oh oh oh” parts to give it some variation, then dropped the first instance of the “I Wanna Be Sedated” hook after G Rap’s verse, and another instance of it from later in the Ramones song after Nas’s verse. There’s actually a chord change in this 2nd instance of the Ramones’ hook that I really wanted to expound upon for the G Rap/Nas back and forth on the last verse, but there really wasn’t enough clean source material (without Joey’s vocals) to rework it into something usable. So I just went back to the main chord that is used for the bulk of the song.

From a conceptual standpoint, I also dig the fact that these songs are like polar opposites. Here’s G Rap and Nas rhyming about the fast life, attaining these great things, high finance and luxury goods. Basically, being a success. The American Dream realized. And the Ramones are just like, “hey, that’s great, but get me out of here.” Like screw the American Dream, life couldn’t be any less interesting than it is with all that crap. I thought that was kinda cool.

Feel free to download, play it, pass it around, whatever….

Kool G Rap and Nas + The Ramones= “The Sedated Fast Life” (prod by DJ Bailey and Gooch

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Wu-Tang Clan + Def Leppard= Cream and Sugar

July 24, 2009 by  
Filed under music

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I’ve always been a big fan of Def Leppard, particularly their tune “Pour Some Sugar On Me.” I obviously remember the tune from when I was a kid in the 80s, my brother and I were all into hair metal and shit like that. Pretty much all the big bands at the time got play at our crib.

So I was on a plane a few years ago, and I just kind of rediscovered the song on my iPod (since broken), and thought, wow the intro to the song really goes hard. And then I just put it on the back burner.

Until last night, when I was browsing a folder of Wu-Tang acapellas that I’d recently compiled for a completely different project. I figured, let me just give it a whirl and see how “CREAM” sounds on the beginning of the tune.

I liked Rae’s flow over the drums and the power chords, so I did a little bit of rearranging with some of the different parts of the song, chopped out a drum roll here, dragged a guitar sequence there. Then I completely overhauled Rae and Deck’s vocals by adding some distortion effects, some new delays, a better reverb than the one that was original on the song. I basically wanted the vocals to sound like Rae and Deck cut them to Def Leppard’s track. I’m not fond of when DJs just throw acapellas over instrumentals and it sounds like a blend. I like mash-ups of songs to sound like they were meant to be together.

So here it is…

Wu-Tang + Def Leppard= “Cream and Sugar” (remixed by DJ George Bailey and Gooch)

FYI DJ George Bailey’s the new alias. The reinvention begins.

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The Essential Guide to Music Industry Parties- “Who Are These People?”

July 22, 2009 by  
Filed under Raw Footage

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Yesterday I covered what an industry party actually is. Today, I’ll assume you made your way in the door. Now you’re looking around the room asking yourself, who the hell are these people? Don’t be ashamed. After seven years in the music/media/entertainment business, I still ask myself that every time I walk into an event.

Truth is, most people at events don’t know more than a handful of folks. And the ones who do seem to know everyone, well, that’s not always the sign of a winner. That’s just the sign of someone who goes out too much.

In my experience, you’re going to meet different types of folks at every event you go to. They will most likely be one of the following:

1) The Networking Jerk– I borrow this term from the book Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi. This is the type of person who talks to you with their eyes darting around the room, looking for the next important person to introduce themselves to. They’ve always got their blackberry out, pretending to send important emails (nobody’s sending important email in a club, particularly mid-conversation), then they’re handing you their business card before doing their 1, 2 step like Ciara on to the next person. This jerk will leave the event with 100 new contacts, and will most likely never get a return phone call or email from any of them. Think of this person as the email address that keeps spamming you with MP3’s and invitations to an event you wouldn’t attend even if your own mother was being buried at it. I’m not saying you should ignore them, just don’t let it be you!

2) The Industry Chick– this is pretty self explanatory. These are chicks who work in the business. They’re typically attractive, dressed cute, with a nice smile and a “happy to meet you” attitude. Industry chicks are bubbly bastions of beauty, and they know everyone! If you get in good with them, you’re home free. They will introduce you to all their pals. Just give them the rhythm they give you.  If it looks like the chick’s trying to make it more than a casual thing, then take it where it needs to go. You remember how Tom Cruise lucked up with that broad in Cocktail, right? That could be you. Just don’t brag about it. This is a small business and word spreads quickly.

3) The Do Nothing Guy- this person is sort of an oxymoron. In fact, it’s not that he does nothing, it’s that he does everything. He’s the 30 year old guy who started out in the business as a rapper, then became a manager, then an A&R, then wound up in marketing. Now he runs his own company called Get Bucks Entertainment (or something equally as silly), which is sort of a multi-tiered company with artists, producers, recording studio, marketing company and event production all in one. Not one of these ventures yields income, so that’s why he’s at this event, handing out free Vista Print business cards, in hopes of landing a client. Hey, a sucker’s born every minute!

4) The Aspriring Artist– *sigh* It’s not that you don’t want to talk to artists, it’s just that they rarely approach in a respectable way. Instead, they try to shove mixtapes in your pockets. That said, some aspiring artists are great to talk to. In five or ten minutes, if you’re asking the right questions, you can get their whole story and the reason why they do what they do. A lot of times artists who are “on their grind” wear their hearts on their sleeves, and for industry folks- generally a pretty jaded bunch- it can be rather inspiring to see the fire in their eyes, to see the passion with which they’re selling themselves, and to feel the energy they’re expending just trying to get in the game. This is not just limited to rappers or singers. It can be anyone trying to make it in entertainment. When it’s coming from an organic place, their energy can be very contagious. Embrace those moments.

5) The Employee- what, you thought everyone at this event was going to be LA Reid status? Get real, there are regular people who work in the industry too. It’s an industry like any other, filled with accountants, HR folks, plain jane sales and marketing people, tech support… etc. Don’t believe that everyone in real life wants to get rich or die trying. There are people in this game with real jobs, who go to work 9 to 5 (ok, more like 10 to 6), have significant others and families. They just want to let loose, shoot the shit with their coworkers and grab a few drinks at an open bar. They’re not looking to network or connect or really do anything other than chill the f*%k out. Because of this, they are some of the best people to party with. When in their company, just relax and let the good times roll.

Part 3 “How Do I Act?” coming tomorrow!!!

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The Essential Guide to Music Industry Parties- “What Is A Music Industry Party Anyway?”

July 20, 2009 by  
Filed under Raw Footage

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Over the weekend I attended Dallas Penn and Combat Jack’s first annual Bring Your Own Blogger BBQ. It was a grand event, filled with positive vibes and good energy, people looking to show love to others, and overall I had a great time. But I had one conversation, with an aspiring rapper, which put a slight damper on things. In the midst of our casual conversation, said rapper- clearly not knowing who I was- asked me to “sell myself” to him. Confused as to why any human, specifically a rapper without a glimmer of a buzz, without any money, and furthermore without a record deal, would resort to such tom foolery in a convo, I chalked it up to one thing, this dude just goes to too many “industry” parties.

Ah yes, parties. The supposed lifeblood of the music industry. Everywhere you turn there’s an “industry” party to go to. But what’s an industry party anyway? Why should or shouldn’t you go to them? How should you act there? And what should you take from your experience?

An industry party is an event that will usually draw a large number of people who work (or in this day and age, used to work) as professionals in the music business. I want to hone in on that word professional, because it’s a very loose term when applied to music, and the amount of professionals who attend an event will most likely correlate with the value gleaned from attending the event in the first place.

In Part 1 of The Essential Guide to Music Industry Parties, the answer to the question, “What Is A Music Industry Party Anyway?”

1) Listening Session- This is an event where an artist’s record label marketing department gets a whole bunch of tastemakers (journalists, DJs, bloggers, media personalities… etc) in one room, usually a studio space or an intimate lounge setting, and plays the artist’s new album. The purpose is to draw attention to the body of work that the artist just spent the past year of his/her life working into the wee hours of the morning in a dark secluded recording studio to create. More often than not, industry folks use it as an excuse to chit chat while getting free food and liquor before heading on to another event. Usually by the day of the listening session, a bazillion people who make no money on the periphery of the biz have found out about it, and they swoop down on the location like vultures, in some misguided attempt to “get on.” Unless you’re a tastemaker, stay away from this type of event. You’re not wanted, needed or accepted here.

2) Album Release Party- Typically, there are two types of album release parties. There is a party that goes on in the early part of the evening, some time around 7ish, and then there’s a party that starts around 10, at a nightclub. Before you go to either event, you need to ask yourself who you are and who you want to be around. At the earlier party, you will most likely be surrounded by more professional people. You will drink and eat for free, and the artist in question will be receptive, jovial and appear genuinely appreciative of your support, no matter who the hell you are. At the later party, you will encounter a long line outside the club, groupies (depending on who the artist is), pay for drinks… hey, you may even have to cop a bottle or two just to get in the door. Here, you’ll fix your eyes on the VIP section, where the artist will be posted up with weed carriers, clearly ignoring you. Even if you do get a minute to chat with the artist, he’s so drunk and fixated on groupie pussy that he won’t remember you in the AM anyway.

3) Networking events- parties that are put together for the sole purpose of having people meet one another are the gift and the curse. People in positions of influence are generally too busy to attend events like these. Rather, you find a collection of meandering middle men, aspiring CEOs, artists and executives, people who are self-employed and just a melange of folks who you may never call after meeting them. Still, every now and again someone of importance strolls through, and maybe meeting that person for five minutes is all you need. Then again, there are dozens of other people bending their ear thinking the same thing. That’s one of the reasons why so few people who really work in the industry attend these things.

4) Charity Event- A large number of the people who attend charity events are those fortuitous enough to be charitable in the first place. That means either a) they’re just flat out rich or b) successful in whatever it is they do. Regardless, charity events draw a different type of crowd and vibe. People are at the event for a good cause, they’re around many of their peers, they want to drink and be merry, but look respectable at the same time. It is rather easy to bend someone’s ear at a charity event, hold their attention, and have a real conversation. But you may want to swallow your pride and throw a blazer on instead of that Stop Snitching t-shirt.

5) Product Launch- Usually accompanied by a red carpet and paparazzi (note the paparazzi), product launches are  great for meeting people provided you show up before everyone is too trashed to talk. Come late and you may wind up having 16 conversations in 30 minutes and not one of those people will be even remotely sober. But since red carpets tend to draw high profile celebs, the lists at the doors are usually more strict, and if you can finagle your way in, you’ll probably be around some pretty official people. At the very least, you’ll be able to tweet that you’re at such and such’s red carpet event. And that’s worth something, right?

In Part 2 of The Essential Guide to Music Industry Parties, we’ll tackle the different types of people you meet at these events.

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7 Blunders of the Gaming World — Stupid Rap Video-Games

July 17, 2009 by  
Filed under St. Elsewhere

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Rock ‘n’ roll fans have all the fun. At least that’s what it seems like in the electronic gaming world. While they have huge, popular and well-executed music games like “Rock Band” and “Guitar Hero” us rap fans are stuck with hip-hop inflected games … Read more

 

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Add A Heart Rate Monitor To Your Life

July 3, 2009 by  
Filed under Moving Weight

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I felt like Edward Norton in The Incredible Hulk all day today. Why? Because I was wearing this new Omron HR-100C heart rate monitor that I ordered off Amazon. The monitor is basically two pieces– a band that wraps around your chest area and a watch that displays what your current heart rate is.

I’ve wanted to order one of these for over a year, just never got around to doing it. But I’ve recently grown tired of staring at the heart rate monitors that exist on treadmills and elliptical machines. I don’t know how they work, but they certainly don’t seem accurate. They always look like they’re giving me the same readout. So I splurged, spent the 32 bucks on the item, and waited for it to arrive.

It came in the mail today. I actually was pretty excited to try it out. I didn’t think I’d find it as amusing as I did. Basically, the strap that goes around your chest isn’t uncomfortable at all. When you think about it, you expect it to be annoying, wearing this clunky device under your shirt. But it’s hardly even noticeable.

Then you find yourself just looking at the watch all the time. I must have checked my heart rate every 30 seconds, just to see if it jumped at all. And it did! The way this thing keeps updating itself is crazy, because you can actually see how just walking up out of your chair makes your heart rate jump. Heading to the fridge for a snack? Well watch your heart rate increase as you walk. Watching something exciting on TV? The heart rate jumps. Lying down? Heart rate decreases.

One of the things I like about it is that you can enter a training zone into the devices memory. Basically, you’ve got your resting heart rate, your fat burn heart rate, your cardio heart rate, your intense training heart rate, and your maximum heart rate. They’re all based on the formula 220 minus your age, times 50%, 65%, 80%, 95%, 100%, for each training zone, respectively. You pick where you want to train, and set a low heart rate, and a high heart rate, and then set the watch to alarm you if you fall below your minimum heart rate, or exceed your maximum. I worked out with it tonight, I set mine between 65% and 80%. It worked real well. I actually ended up exceeding my maximum heart rate once or twice.

I think I’m going to wind up using the watch just for every day timekeeping. It’s got a stopwatch, but otherwise it’s pretty simple. I just haven’t had a watch in over ten years. I think I’m due for one. And hey, I may just find myself wearing the band around my chest just for the hell of it. Watching my heart rate is pretty fun so far.

Next up, a pedometer!

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Alchemist Clears the Air On The 350k Lil Wayne Beat

July 2, 2009 by  
Filed under Raw Footage

A few weeks ago, XXLmag.com reported that Alchemist was paid 350k for producing “You Ain’t Got Nuthin” Lil Wayne’s Carter 3. When I caught up with Alchemist last week, he admitted that he was joking in that interview.

Al says:

I can’t front, I was lying. Because the truth is, they really paid me 1.5 mill. 750 was the first half…. I was joking. I guess 350 was believable. No, I don’t get paid 350 grand for a beat.

The Lil Wayne/Travis McCoy collabo for Chemical Warfare that ended up on the cutting room floor leaked earlier today. Listen here. I think this joint should have made the album.

And here’s Al talking about the new electric, up-tempo sound of urban music.

Al says:

“It’s quite electric. It’s like you gotta plug in. CDs come with a plug now. I just wired a special switch now to all my equipment. It’s a swag switch. When you hit that shit, boy, a disco ball comes out… you start doing John Travolta moves.

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Don’t Stop Believing

July 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Words From The Genius

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You will have rough months in this business. You will have days where you really question why you are sticking this out. If you truly put in work, you may even go a full year of feeling like you have no clue why you remain in the race. People will even encourage you to bow out. But if you remain in this for the right reasons, you will reap the benefits. These perks might not be a million dollar check, private jets, or sold out arenas with your artist, band, or DJ. But it will feel right and you will know it. With that said, don’t get involved in this to simply “get on” or be famous. We are often blinded by the glitz and glamour of an industry that is always demanding of your time and mental sanity. You have to always give this your all. Even when times are down, you must stick with your team and lift each other up.

I won’t lie. I often doubt myself and where I am heading. I sometimes lose focus of what my goals really were when I stepped into the business years ago. The music industry can be very deceiving whether you are an outside eye or in the race. Yes, I am wired differently than a lot of you. I have not always made the right choices. I have an intense nature that does not allow me to enjoy much success or achievement. If I do it is very short lived. Is that a bad thing? No. Since I never feel accomplished, I never stop.

Although I am cognizant of my faults, it is difficult to change. Don’t be like me in this aspect. Every step you take in this industry is a big one. Use each positive step in the right direction as a stepping stone and learning experience. Do not try to jump from A to Z. If people are noticing your movement, chances are it will continue to grow if you work hard. There is no half stepping this business! It is true that people cut corners and taste success, but it is almost always temporary. I truly believe that I get a lot of respect from my peers because I avoided the easy way in. I make sure to always show appreciation to whoever covers an artist I represent or reaches out to me for advice. We are all in need of mentors. Including myself.

This is not an overnight business and as I said before, if you have attainted overnight success you most likely will fall. An important colleague and mentor of mine recently made a great point. In mentioning that I was becoming discouraged by the lack of progress on a project we have been working on for years, he mentioned the word “Groundswell.” It was an accurate depiction of who this artist is and what we all have created as a team. This specific project is a grassroots grind that is slowly making its way across the world. It’s the right model for longevity! Think groundswell.

Look, this shit can be very frustrating. For whenever you think you are breaking an artist a bit you fall. Whenever you think you have fallen on your worst day you persevere and mold into something better. In the upcoming years, I’m going to do my best to go with gut instinct. I often think I know more than I do and the truth is, I don’t even know what exact curve this business is heading down. All I can say is that I am one hundred percent confident that if the music sounds right and the people are responding it’s a positive sign. I will never forget the first time I heard every artist I love. Don’t ever forget the second you heard your favorite artist or the artist you believe you will break one day. Believe.

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