Tag Archives: hip hop

Bronx Rapper Cardi B Became a Pop Sensation, But Will She Make it Last?

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 26: Cardi B performs on stage during the Power 105.1's Powerhouse 2017 at Barclays Center of Brooklyn on October 26, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic)

On the strength of her quirky, vivacious personality, a fantastic head bop of a beat, and fun, post-feminist, sex-positive lyrics, Bronx born hip-hop artist Cardi B took her single “Bodak Yellow” all the way to the top of the Billboard Hot 100. She unseated Taylor Swift for the number one spot and became the first female rapper to sit atop the chart with a solo record since 1998’s “Doo-Wop (That Thing)” by Lauryn Hill. 

Allison P. Davis profiled Cardi B for New York magazine, capturing the artist between appearances, feeling anxious about recording her full-length album. Davis has a way of seeing the Cardi B moment for what it is, and for understanding what the rapper means to her audience, beyond the flash of celebrity.

Cardi B is, considered one way, only the latest bombastic, came-up-on-a–New York–block female rapper to fascinate the world with her sharp lyrics, sharp six-inch acrylics, and grab-you-by-the-balls sexuality. Before her were Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown, Remy Ma, Nicki Minaj, forgotten groups like HWA (Hoez With Attitude). All share an insistence on demanding, over hard-rap tracks, what their male counterparts demand — money, power, respect, quality oral sex — from the female point of view, in the face of criticisms of everything from their overt sexuality and their weaves to their perceived lack of talent.

But if you think of Lil’ Kim and Minaj as the queens of New York rap (or the king, as Minaj often prefers to call herself), each can be understood as representing the rap Zeitgeist of a decade: Lil’ Kim brought a gangster-rap authenticity in the ’90s; Minaj’s savvy image-making, entrepreneurial ownership over herself as a brand, and impenetrable air of control were indicative of the genre’s maturity ten years on from that. And now, one decade later, we have reached, for the first time in history, hip-hop–R&B beating out rock and pop as the dominant music genre in the U.S., according to the 2017 Nielsen midyear music report, and so Cardi has a certain competitive advantage over her predecessors. She can seem almost like a caricature of a female rapper who has remixed the vibes of those women who came before her. (Cardi wouldn’t be pleased to hear this — the only conversation she dislikes more than “which female rapper she’s beefing with” is “which female rapper she’s most like.”) She’s taken the concept of “ratchet” — a southern rap term, first used as an insult akin to “ghetto,” that evolved over the years to mean “raw” — and played with it to her advantage. She’s an adroit creature of the media she’s been saturated by growing up; like all of her age mates, she is highly self-aware, referential. She understands on a cellular level what might go viral, how to craft something for social media, how to speak in sound bites, and how to reveal enough of herself, seemingly unfiltered, to be interesting. But that’s not the real charm or genius of Cardi, which is her ability to not let all of that get in the way of what and who she actually is: funny, a little neurotic, unabashed in her ambition and desire for money, and yet sincere in her attachment to how and where she grew up.

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The Athletes Who Felt Seen by Kendrick Lamar’s “good kid, m.A.A.d city”

(Rex Features via AP Images)

Hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy-winning second album, “good kid, m.A.A.d city,” debuted five years ago last week. For Justin Tinsley at the Undefeated, California athletes, some of whom Lamar referenced in songs like “Black Boy Fly,” reflect on how much the album made them, and other young black men, feel seen.

Lamar and Afflalo knew of each other, even if they didn’t run in the same crews. Aside from being a star athlete, Afflalo was the school’s biggest supplier of music. “If you heard [50 Cent’s] ‘In Da Club’ coming from a car stereo in Compton in 2003,” he told The Players Tribune, “there’s a really good chance that CD was burned by Arron Afflalo.” Business was so booming that teachers and students alike flooded him with requests ranging from Marvin Gaye to The Hot Boys. One student in particular made an appeal for Jay-Z’s 1996 debut Reasonable Doubt. That classmate was Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, who would eventually become a seven-time Grammy winner with 22 nominations.

Good kid, m.A.A.d city, five years old this week, is of course a modern hip-hop classic, one of the true cultural linchpins of the 2010s. The project is a product of a teenage Lamar’s fascination withThe Autobiography of Malcolm X as well as his own experiences on Los Angeles’ Rosecrans Avenue, the Louis Burgers where his Uncle Tony was murdered, Gonzales Park, and street corners where gang members served as gatekeepers. It’s a gospel of a Compton life — stories that don’t make it to CNN, and rarely ever leave the neighborhoods. The album reflects growing up in Compton “one thousand percent,” said Toronto Raptors All-Star guard and Compton native DeMar DeRozan. “It takes you back to exact moments of growing up in there. Everything was the norm. Growing up, that’s just what we knew.”

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While They Were Creating the Album, the Beastie Boys Were Also Creating Themselves

After their 1986 debut Licensed to Ill, the world had high expectations of the Beastie Boys. But their second album, Paul’s Boutique, was viewed as a commercial failure. The hip-hop trio then had the creative freedom to pursue whatever they wanted next, and the result, 1992’s Check Your Head, presented their most ambitious vision yet, and allowed Ad-Rock, MCA, and Mike D to finally come into their own. At Flood MagazineMarty Sartini Garner describes how the Beastie Boys discovered themselves.

But the album is guided by a kind of audacity that refuses to recognize itself as audacity. It doesn’t even dare you to suggest that following the sunbaked rock of “Gratitude” with a conga-led organ jammer is a bad idea; it succeeds almost entirely on the power of the Beastie Boys’ conviction that it would succeed, that the contours of their map might be recognizable even if the landmarks aren’t. “They could relate and dig deeper with Check Your Head, because it fit their [evolution] in a lot of ways, too,” Diamond says of the audience they discovered when they finally took the album out on tour. “It may not have been the same trajectory of music that they discovered along the way, but they could relate.”

It was “this freedom to [try] shit and be inventive and use the whole century as a palette,” as Nishita puts it. “Let’s just smash it all together.”

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‘Turn Off Your Brain and Just Trust Instinct’: Q-Tip on the Evolving Sound of Hip-Hop

A Tribe Called Quest’s sixth album, We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service, is a reminder of how much time has passed. As Noisey editor Kyle Kramer notes, it brings Phife Dawg’s voice back from the dead, uses familiar samples, and has that unmistakable Tribe groove. But the hip-hop group’s final studio album also marks now, and for many fans is very much relevant and political, especially given its release the day after the U.S. presidential election in 2016.

Kramer talks with Q-Tip about being egoless and instinctive — and staying true to himself and to Tribe while evolving with the sound of hip-hop.

I think you have to always look ahead, in anything. We sometimes become creatures of habit, and we want to continue to do things that we maybe have enjoyed or that strike a particular chord that we’ve experienced a long, long time ago. But as time moves on and humanity moves on and man moves on and art moves on and philosophy moves on and so on and so forth, you find yourself either faced with a choice of adjusting and moving on with it or staying put. Now, there’s also some good things about what you may have experienced in the past or whatever, and therein lies the challenge. Of: Man, how do I keep to my ethos and keep to my philosophy but adjust it and update it and still have a fresh kind of attitude about it? And that’s tricky. To be able to do that, again, you have to just be egoless to a degree and you have to allow yourself to be challenged and allow yourself to be uncomfortable. And turn off your brain in a way and just trust instinct. And then fall into that, and I think you may end up on a good side.

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On DJ Kool Herc and a Seminal Moment in Hip-Hop History

Photo by edenpictures

Journalist Jeff Chang’s 2005 book Can’t Stop Won’t Stop offers a history of hip-hop culture, and he’s particularly good at capturing the 1970s Bronx neighborhood party scene that helped start it all, with a young Jamaican-born DJ named Clive Campbell—who moved to the Bronx with his family as a child and soon started hosting parties as DJ Kool Herc. Here, Herc describes the moment he started experimenting with isolating the break in certain songs:

Herc carefully studied the dancers. “I was smoking cigarettes and I was waiting for the records to finish. And I noticed people was waiting for certain parts of the record,” he says. It was an insight as profound as Ruddy Redwood’s dub discovery. The moment when the dancers really got wild was in a song’s short instrumental break, when the band would drop out and the rhythm section would get elemental. Forget melody, chorus, songs— it was all about the groove, building it, keeping it going. Like a string theorist, Herc zeroed in on the fundamental vibrating loop at the heart of the record, the break.

He started searching for songs by the sound of their break, songs that he would make into his signature tunes: the nonstop conga epics from The Incredible Bongo Band called “Apache” and “Bongo Rock,” James Brown’s “live” version of “Give It Up Turn It Loose” from the Sex Machine album, Johnny Pate’s theme to Shaft in Africa, Dennis Coffey’s “Scorpio”— Black soul and white rock records with an uptempo, often Afro-Latinized backbeat. Then he soaked off the labels, Jamaican style. “My father said, ‘Hide the name of your records because that’s how you get your rep. That’s how you get your clientele.’ You don’t want the same people to have your same record down the block,” Herc says. Here was one source of hip-hop’s competitive ethic and beat-this aesthetic.

In a technique he called “the Merry-Go-Round,” Herc began to work two copies of the same record, back-cueing a record to the beginning of the break as the other reached the end, extending a five-second breakdown into a five-minute loop of fury, a makeshift version excursion. Before long he had tossed most of the songs, focusing on the breaks alone. His sets drove the dancers from climax to climax on waves of churning drums. “And once they heard that, that was it, wasn’t no turning back,” Herc says. “They always wanted to hear breaks after breaks after breaks after breaks.”

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“When Our Kids Own America,” Gene Demby, NPR.