Category: HipHop

This is Not a Showcase: Birmingham HipHop Shows Out Tonight for Foreign Exchange Show

1421202_10201839221794504_1245245994_oTonight at 433 20th Street South, there will be a coming together of what might be the best emcees, poets and singers in the city.

Baron Amato is home from NOLA for the holidays and so it’s time to show out.

I CANNOT EXPRESS HOW I EXCITED I AM! ALL CAPS!

BHAMFM has done features on the beautiful Jazz’Mine Garfield and Baron Amato, so we cannot wait to see the local artists they’ve recommended (including Indyah, Eugenius, Chris Jay… they’ll all be there). Tonight, for $5 you can see the most soulful artists in town at a cool new venue called the Foreign Exchange Experience.

Next week, we will be interviewing Eugenius & Haruskii, two of the guys on the bill who are also putting the show together.

Need some chill in your life? Time for something new? Head on down. BHAMFM approved for sure.

 

 

Watch below for some hints as to how it’s going down tonight.

 

INTERVIEW: ShuwnRay about success in local hiphop, having a talented family & who’s next in Birmingham

ShuwnRay3
Childhood photo of ShuwnRay (lower right) & his twin brother Anthem (top)

Not too many success stories / ’cause in my hood it was all sad stories”

The hook of ShuwnRay’s second track on his album 2:32 PM (Birth of a Tyrant) means more to me than most people. And not in the “oh I really get into the music I write about” blogger way.

No. ShuwnRay (or as I know him, Rashuwn Brown) and I grew up together on the west side of Birmingham. I always knew he was special. He’d survived sickle cell disease to become an outstanding student leaving most of us in class looking at him crazy like “damn, now we have no excuse not to do better”. He even makes callbacks to our high school days on Birth of a Tyrant, naming girls who wouldn’t give him the time of day back then and now *surprise* ain’t laughing anymore.

But I digress. He has grown into a genuine artist who makes not only catchy and conscious rap & hiphop, but did it on his own. As he tells the story for everyone to hear on his album, he made a conscious decision to be an artist. He prospered and grew in his craft in his A&M dorm room studio, much to the sacrifice of his grades.

“I wasn’t nor did I want to be popular I was just a skinny dude who wore glasses and his twin bro was a star basketball player,” he says.

His story is not rare. Not even in his family. I also spent my younger days with his twin brother Rafeal. Ralph (as we called him) cut an almost 7 foot tall lanky figure and their family’s infectious smile. He went from Minor High onto Berklee College of Music and now is a producer in Atlanta with Sony/ATV Music Publishing, after a stint with Sony BMG. But Shuwnray’s story is not JUST about his superproducer brother who now goes by Anthem.

To say these guys are lucky is not fair. Hard work is no stranger to them, or anyone from the West side of the Magic City for that matter.

To step away from his latest album, I ride really hard to “Nightcap”, his slow jam single with Dee Skillz.

https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/track=3492255602/size=medium/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/transparent=true/

When you hear ShuwnRay spit bars on 2:23 PM (Birth of a Tyrant) about success, grinding and working for what he has — this is NOT an immitation of his peers in NYC, LA or any sort of homage to the current obsession with “hustling” in the wider scale of his industry. It’s a part of his DNA.

Read our interview & listen to the record below.

BHAMFM: How long have you been seriously writing & making your own tracks and who were your biggest influences growing up?

ShuwnRay: I started doing music in 2001. I was in a gospel rap group with my brother Rafeal “Anthem,” and my best friend Jarvis Foster. I did music on and off in high school but didn’t find a passion for it until I moved to Huntsville, Al and meeting a bunch of talented artist from all over the nation helped me grow into the artist I am today. One of my biggest influences is my mentor Rodney George. He taught not only me but my brother as well how to produce, and how to count bars and structure a full song. Musically my biggest influence has to be the one and only Scarface.

BHAMFM: Tell me about some of the equipment you accumulated building your dorm room studio and how does that compare to where you record now?

ShuwnRay: I used to record people in my dorm room at Alabama A&M with a Basic HP desktop computer, a headphone microphone, and a house stereo. I did all my recording in Adobe Addition and production in Reason. I honestly believe most of my best work was done in my dorm room and as far as sound it was the best campus because I have a great ear for music. Alot of artist such as Nashville rapper Dee Goodz and Knoxville rapper Young Cos started making music in my dorm room. The difference now is I’m older, my mixing is better, I have better equipment and years of experience. I still record my own music but I try to let other people mix and master it.

BHAMFM: How long did it take you to make the Birth of a Tyrant album and who were you favorite people to feature on the record?

ShuwnRay: I started my 2:32 PM (Birth of a Tyrant) project in November 2012 and finished it in April of this year. I can’t really single out any of the artist on there because every song is dope and each feature brought something different but if I had too I’d say Paradise featuring Cory Savage and Cuttdogg, Never Over featuring J. Dotta of K.L.U.B. Monsta and Mack Down featuring Paper. Never Over is one of my favorite tracks because it’s all me!! In high school I wasn’t nor did I want to be popular I was just a skinny dude who wore glasses and his twin bro was a star basketball player. I originally wanted K.L.U.B. Monsta as a whole to hop on the track but due to scheduling conflicts J. Dotta murdered the song not only for him but for his brothers too. (More of BHAMFM’s love with K.L.U.B. Monsta here, produced by none other than ShuwnRay’s brother Anthem)

ShuwnRay's twin brother in the studio (photo courtesy Sony/ATV Music)
ShuwnRay’s twin brother in the studio (photo courtesy Sony/ATV Music)

BHAMFM: Is collaborating with your brother a big part of your career plan? How often have you guys worked together in the past?

ShuwnRay: When you talk about Birmingham and dope underground music everybody knows about “Anthem”, but many people don’t know this super producer from Birmingham has a twin brother who does music also. If I had it my way, he would be the only producer I work with but things never go as planned. At times I wish we were on the same level musically but I understand this is a business and people are in it to make money and to get noticed. My last two projects were produced by him and when you have a producer who is “hands on” with your entire project and understands what you’re trying to do you create something epic. I hope one day we’ll be able to bang out a project with him behind the scenes in person instead of just sending beats. I understand he has other artists he’s working. Even though he’s my twin brother: musically I’m not a priority yet. I still have to something to prove not only to him but my entire family and show them I’m dope. Now, it’s time to make something happen! For the record — to all those people who think I get my beats for free: NO! I still have to pay like everyone else… but I do get a discount (laughs).

BHAMFM: What is your biggest motivation right now, working on new material for 2014?

ShuwnRay: My biggest motivation right now is not failing! I don’t have a job so music is full-time for me. This year has been good. I’ve done several shows, released a new album that people love and I’m gaining new fans weekly. Last year around this time people didn’t know me. Now they do. A lot of things and people motivated me to go extra hard but not getting chosen to perform at the SXSW Music Festival and A3C Hip Hop Festival really made me say okay it’s time to get it. In a few weeks I’ll be releasing a joint project with Birmingham hip hop artist Dee Skillz entitled Love’s End.

(Editor’s Note: We were lucky enough to get a leaked preview of their collabo. Take a listen below!)

Love’s End is a story about finding love, falling in love, losing love and trying get back that love. Its a very dope project with a concept we all can relate too. I’m working on projects with Jacob Duran and Back Wood ENT. also so be on the look out for those albums sometime next year. I haven’t set a date for a solo ShuwnRay project yet but I am in the stages of acquiring beats, writers and ideas for it but for the most part I’m promoting 2:32 PM until late summer/early fall of 2014.

BHAMFM: Who are your closest allies in the local hiphop community? What singers/mcs should people be paying attention to?

ShuwnRayJacob Duran has to be the closest artist I’m working with right now. We have a lot in common and if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t even be in the position I am right now. He gave me a chance to perform and be a part of The Circuit which opened SO many other doors. Prep Boi Fresh, Heavy, Ben Gudda and the whole Back Wood ENT camp, we’ve been cool since high school so it’s only right to affiliate yourself with people you grew up with plus they make good music and its more of a family situation with them. Dee Skillz, Eugenius and the entire LDLR crew I mess with them hard. Cory Savage is another artist I met last year and we’ve been cool every since. Aside from being a dope artist dude is smart and the conversations we have about life and music are mind blowing.

People should pay attention to K.L.U.B. Monsta, Skoolie Escobar, Jas’mine Garfield, Gabriel Tajeu, Haruskii Stankface.

Also, people need to be on Truth Turner and my homie from Indiana, Flaco. Flaco is super dope and I hope I can get him to come down to Alabama and showcase his music one day soon.

BHAMFM: What performances do you have coming up?

ShuwnRay: As of right now we’re making plans to go to D.C., ATL, Nashville, Knoxville, Baton Rouge and a few more places in 2014. I really don’t have any definite shows in Bham right now but I will be at open mics and checking out other artists’ performances. My plan is to do one more showcase before the year is over so hopefully I’ll have the details about it within the next few weeks.

https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=1544147875/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/notracklist=true/transparent=true/

LISTEN: Klub Monsta’s CANVAS

I saw KLUB Monsta for the first time at the second Secret Stages. They were playing in a tent in a parking lot across the street from Metro. It was getting dark, and there weren’t any lights for them, as you can see:

It was hard to see, but nobody cared.They were far and away the best thing I heard at Secret Stages that year. I remember turning to Whitney and

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saying, “Who are these guys?”. She didn’t know either.

I introduced myself after their set and they were some of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. They told me about Separate But Sequel, which I devoured. They did an awesome video in the back of Bottletree, and then they got quiet.

10/24 they woke up. The new album, CANVAS with DJ Wally Sparks is available now on Bandcamp and pretty much all I’ve been listening to when I’m in front of my computer.

I’m in no way an impartial, critical observer here. I’m not even going to try to review this thing. I love it. Have a listen.

Review: Danny Brown – “Old”

Authenticity in hip-hop, for whatever reason, is a prized commodity. No matter what you rap about, the inevitable question surfaces: “are you for real?” On the surface, Danny Brown seems like a prime candidate for such suspicions of realness. A 31-year old guy with no front teeth, skinny jeans, half a haircut and a spaced-out voice rapping about fucking groupies, tripping balls and slinging dope? If it sounds like a joke, the music is anything but. With Old, Danny silences his naysayers while both satisfying his existing fanbase and welcoming new listeners.

Success is a long time coming for Danny Brown. If you really want the full scoop on the Detroit native’s past, check out Complex’s beautiful cover story. In terms of his rap career, Danny’s undergone something of a career rennaissance in the past three years. Starting with The Hybrid in 2010, Danny adopted a more cartoonish persona created after experiencing the effects of Adderall. The success of that tape led him to sign to Fool’s Gold Records, where he released the critically-acclaimed XXX in 2011. Two years, a couple loose singles, and a slew of feature verses later, and Danny’s label debut has finally hit shelves.

Despite its standard runtime of around an hour, Old feels like a double LP, as the album is carefully divided into two parts, delineated by the tracks “Side A” and “Side B.” The first half harks back to Danny’s pre-Hybrid days, delivering gritty stories of drug dealing and what life was like for Brown as a kid. The majority of the tracks are delivered in a more natural tone than his zooted persona. The stories he tells, like watching a crack fiend light a pipe directly off a stove top on “Torture,” are as gritty and authentic as any artist today. If you initially approach the album expecting the hyperactive persona that’s made Danny popular, you’re sure to be thrown for a loop.

The second half of the album dives into the Danny Brown from XXX, the fanatical molly-user with freaky sex on the brain. If I could choose the soundtrack to a felony, this is the music I would choose. Where Side A harbored pent-up aggression and resentment, Side B serves as the vent. When Danny snarls the hook to “Side B (Dope Song),” I get the barely containable urge to flip over my desk and punch a hole in a wall. This feeling carries through the heart-thumping single “Dip” and lasts until the closing track “Float On,” in which Danny lays bare the struggle of creating the album you’re listening to. It’s a welcome end to the madness, and brings you back to the Danny from Side A, leaving you with a rounded view of his character.

Perhaps due to his veteran status, Danny’s official debut doesn’t suffer the same pains as other rapper’s initial efforts. No song overstays its welcome, as every track besides “Kush Coma” clocks in at under 4 minutes. It allows the album to flow without ever growing stale. No guest spot seems forced, and Danny feels at home with everyone he works with, from Freddie Gibbs to Purity Ring. The production of the album commands your attention; multiple listens are required to truly dig into Danny’s substantial lyricism because the beats are so gripping. If there is a flaw, it’s that the connection between the two sides is somewhat flimsy, as they feel like two different albums until the very end. Even so, they’re two very good albums, so it’s really just nitpicking.

Danny’s got his finger on the pulse of his fans, and Old is like the best of both of Danny Brown’s worlds. On “Side A,” he raps “they want that old Danny Brown / to bag up and sell a whole pound.” While that’s not who he is anymore, he still gives those fans an album’s worth of material before appealing to his newer fans with Side B. It’s a testament to Brown’s natural charisma and skill that it doesn’t come off as stilted or “fake.” Old is an album shows that you can be crazy and down-to-earth, a tortured soul and a party animal, thoughtful and mindless. Life doesn’t deal in absolute definition, and neither should rap.

Score: A

Favorite Tracks: “The Return,” “25 Bucks,” “Torture,”  “Side B (Dope Song),” “Dip”

Hip hop staples Shaheed & DJ Supreme debut video for their newest single “Saliva”

Shaheed & Dj Supreme-SALIVA (official music video) from tig knight on Vimeo.

The Comm Vess homies and Bham heroes have released their newest video and it is a banger!

If you haven’t seen them live (where do you live again?!), there next show in town is at Parkside on October 11th. That one’s a can’t miss, y’all. There’s never an excuse not to support local hiphop.

Their Soundcloud is killing it. Here’s my personal favorite track.
Welcome to your workday, off day, weekend and tailgate soundtrack for months to come y’all:

ALBUM REVIEW: EARL SWEATSHIRT – DORIS

Socially conscious music, for the most part, is annoying to me. Especially socially conscious rap music (*cough* Macklemore *cough*) I’m not sure why I started this post with that statement but whatever, maybe it was the VMAs, who knows. I guess Earl Sweatshirt is a rapper and Macklemore “raps”. But Earl isn’t “facing the issues” on his highly anticipated, universally loved new record “Doris”. It’s just a straight up, personal record by a guy who’s just “trying to make pretty music”.

This is supposed to be the part of the post where I tell you Earl Sweatshirt is part of Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (OFWGK†Δ) a collective of rappers (and two phenomenal singers, Frank Ocean and  The Internet) that came out strong in 2010. He released a few songs and an EP during that time. This is also the part where I tell you Earl fell off the face of the music planet for a while and supposedly went off to a “therapeutic retreat school for at-risk boys” at his mother’s request, only to resurface in February of 2012. You can look up the rest of Earl Sweatshirt’s bio for yourself.

Earl is, by far, the strongest lyricist in the Odd Future crew. Tyler, The Creator is probably the most prominent of the crew but Earl, to me, is the most clever with his words. “Doris”, Earl’s first major debut, has all the stylings of his previous efforts with classic 808 beats and that very dark, horror movie like instrumentation (i.e. the song “Hive”). The tracks were produced by such veterans as The Neptunes, Frank Ocean, and RZA, so that should be a good indication of how well it was done. You can tell they tried to preserve the minimal nature of Earl’s other pieces of music. It’s almost like a signature sound.

Earl’s lyrics are dark and very self-aware on this record, particularly “Chum”. “Too black for the white kids and too white for the black…”, Earl raps on the track. “Molasses” features and was produced by the legendary RZA from another rap collective you might remember (read: Wu-Tang Clan). RZA definitely put his mark on this stand-out track. The slow, classic soul song (Lennie Hibbert – Rose Len) sampling track displays Earl’s skills as a strong lyricist. RZA really just raps the chorus. “Hive”, “Chum” and “Molasses” are just three of my favorite tracks on the record.

“Doris” is out now everywhere and is already making waves on the charts. This one is definitely going to make some of those “Best of the Year” lists. Earl Sweatshirt is a very young person at only 19. Hopefully he continues to make music and write words in the poetic way that he does. If not, if he decides to hang it up after this record, I bet he’d be just fine with this body of work. “Like it’s nothin’, cuz it’s nothin’ bitch…”.

The One in Which Whitney is in Her Wheelhouse: BRAGGY RAPPERS

I gave myself a week to calm down. So here we are. KENDRICK LAMAR.

(#poet #didnt #know #it)

He recently guested on Big Sean’s 8 minute opus titled “Control”.

OH MY GOD.

There’s a lot of branches, switches and twigs on the hiphop family tree but Kendrick Lamar turned into what would happen if the folks at CERN decided to bring Tupac out of hiding & have him do an lyrical assassins album with Kanye when he’s angry.

The closest thing I have ever heard to this verse is the anger & targeting that bellowed out of my speakers the first time I heard “Hit Em Up” as a teenager.

He calls out every every popular MC and counterpart to a dizzying point. Alot of people were surprised. I mean, if you’ve ever heard Kendrick’s “Rigormortis” or are a fan of his unique flow at all, you could’ve seen this coming.

Shall we list? No but this handy flow chart from Buzzfeed is most necessary. Don’t be drinking anything as you read (a heads up, y’all).

Some rap veterans like my close personal friend (and imaginary husband) T.I. actually weren’t that injured by it and responded in kind directly, not with a vitriolic popback but a simple & well-worded response to a Vibe magazine interviewer.

Pusha T, everyone’s fave hypebeast and member of twinsies group Clipse, fired back directly via Twitter. He’s done similar shit himself so that was no surprise and actually made this showdown (if it ever happens) a little more interesting.

Kendrick showed no bounds on age, race, city or style. He was basically just saying “I am the best AAAAAAAAH”. Except the AAAAAAAAAH was an expletive filled list of his contemporaries. Ok? Whatever works.

Personally, I’d prefer all the violence, drug dealing and boasted violence to be imaginary in hiphop (HEY RICK ROSS) since the 90s brand of gangsta rap was not very conducive to the cream of the crop MCs, well, staying alive.

If you are, somehow, interested in the blast radius of it all and a bunch of people who weren’t even mentioned chiming in on his verse, then by all means click here to see the sadness.

As you’ve seen on the site since we started, my husband Chris is a massive Kanye fan. This is all very new, in the sense of he wouldve never been into Kanye when we first started dating.

And so that exact thing lends truth to Mississippi rapper BIG K.R.I.T.’s claim that Lamar’s verse was just for sport. In other words, a stunt.

AND IT WORKED.

BECAUSE HERE IS A WHITE GIRL IN BIRMINGHAM TALKING ABOUT IT.

The only surprising things AT ALL to me about this track are length & Jay Electronica getting a little reckless. I sort of look to him as the KRS-ONE of our generation. Hmm.

I personally enjoy competition, so Roll Tide to ya, Kendrick. I enjoy complete takeovers and knowing what’s the best of almost anything I dig into.

Him proclaiming it in the public realm in no uncertain terms reminds me of a certain claim a few years ago that I even bought a t-shirt emblazoned with the words to show my support for grandiose bipolar bragadociousness in hiphop.

Everybody click that very last link and listen because everyone in every place at every time needs a lil of that genius Ghostface + Neyo + Kanye track in their life.