Justin Bieber hints collaborations with Rappers

Rap is… Pop Collaborations



The Biebz has been releasing a steady stream of impressive songs for his #MusicMonday campaign- Hold Tight, PYD, and All That Matters have been fan favourites because of the R&B-leaning Pop sounds.  But it looks like the series is about to get more interesting.  Earlier this week Justin took to twitter to announce an unexpected collaboration with Chance The Rapper. According to Complex, their single “Confident” will drop next week.

While the collaboration with rappers and pop artists isn’t something new, it did take some getting used to. There is still a WTF moment when a teenybopper pop star teams up with a hard core rapper. Look at Miley Cyrus’s album “Bangerz”. The hip-hop, urban influenced albums features rappers Ludacris, French Montana, Big Sean, Future, and Nelly. Some of us are still scratching about that one.  But it was a match made in heaven as “Bangerz” peaked at number one of the Billboard 200.

Pop stars know that the fusion of rap and pop music will help them top the charts as rap’s popularity has grown massively over the years. But why do rappers mix their ‘urban’ with pop’s suburban? It’s because they want to cater to a larger mainstream audience.  Rap integrated with pop will broaden rappers mainstream popularity. Justin and Miley fan, Hannah agrees, “I’m a massive fan of both artists. Miley’s album blew me away, and I must admit the urban feel had much to do with it. I found myself then listening to more music from the rappers featured on her album. I didn’t consider myself a fan of rap music but her album has made me now.”

Collaborations might be a promotional strategy but it also creates an avenue for great music. Not to mention allows rappers to gain more listeners. Justin’s also unveiled that another track will feature Lil Wayne, R.Kelly, and Big Sean. Hannnah says, “I might have to give these rappers a listen too.”

Another Kanye West Rant

Rap is disliked by the Media


Kanye West went on a rant again. This comes are no surprise as the rapper is infamous for bellowing out his frustrations in front of a crowd while in concert. Recently while in Oakland for his ‘Yeezus’ tour the Chicago rapper declared, “I control the media. I get on TV Shows and do what I want, when I want, how I want. My way!”  For Kanye to express he is more powerful than the media brings up a relevant topic between rappers and the latter. Do the media dislike hip-hop?  But more importantly does it even matter to the rapper?

In a recent interview with Complex magazine a rapper by the name of Nipsey Hussle expressed what he thinks of the media. He said, “I felt like we’re at a point where our culture’s getting exploited and it’s looking like they’re trying to do us like they did rock ‘n’ roll… they’re trying to extract all of our natural resources for their own exploited reasons.”

The media tries to point out every flaw a rapper has with sarcastic and degrading articles.  Writers aren’t writing about the music instead they come from a bourgeoisie stance looking down on hip-hop. Some might say writers have every right to criticize because of the misogyny, violence, and sexism in rap. But where writers gain authority to criticize the culture and their music is the central question made by rappers.

For rappers like Nipsey and Kanye, writers who come from outside of their culture will not understand them or their music. They do not have the right to criticize or make up rules about relevancy. On the Jimmy Kimmel show Kanye said “I feel like media does everything they can to break creatives, to break artists, to break people’s spirits.” Stories like Complex’s list of “10 Underachieving Rappers” break a rappers spirit and hurt the culture.

Rappers thus want to show it doesn’t matter what is said about them. They do not need the media to succeed. Like Kanye they control the media by developing their own outlets and deciding when they want to talk to the media and what they’re going to talk about. In his recent interview with Complex, Nipsey Hussle sways the direction of the interview to critique media’s credibility and give the magazine an unbridled piece of his mind.

Then look at Kanye West’s interview with Jimmy Kimmel. It is genius what Kanye does. After a twitter dispute with Kimmel, the rapper capitalizes on it by appearing on the comedian’s late night show and used it as a platform to talk about what he wants. It was almost uncomfortable to watch Kimmel hardly get a word in. This is the kind of control he is talking about.

But Kanye doesn’t have to, in fact it doesn’t really matter what bad press rappers like Kanye get. They can succeed without the hurting of the media. Nipsey Hussle is an unsigned artist making $25,000 a show. All 1,000 of his CD’s priced $100 each sold out within 24 hours. Everyone knows the stats on Kanye.

Nispey Hussle sells $100 album

Rap is Innovative


Rapper Nipsey Hussle stunned sceptical fans when he announced to sell 1,000 CD’s of his ‘Crenshaw’ mixtape priced at $100 each.  What was even more surprising is although the mixtape was still available for free online, all 1,000 sold out within 24 hours. The pricey physical copies were more than a deluxe edition as it included an autograph and free ticket to a future Nipsey performance.  What better to show your music is worth a premium! Innovative indeed.

The 28 year old rapper got this idea from reading ‘Contagious’ by Jonah Berger. The book is filled with marketing concepts that musicians can use to boost album sales and how to get more word of mouth. Nipsey applied some of the ideas with ‘Crenshaw’. He created a “Proud2Pay” marketing campaign which he plans to use again for his album ‘Victory  Lap’, expected later this year.

Fans aren’t the only ones supporting the Proud2Pay movement. Jay-Z publicly ordered 100 copies of the mixtape. Other rappers are keen on this new wave, Eminem is said to do something similar with his Marshall Mathers LP. Rapper’s aren’t just rapper’s, their smart businessmen as well. There is always something innovative happening within the rap culture, think about Kanye West’s wearing jewelled masks in concert or Diddy starting his own network Revolt TV.

Too sell a high priced album to a small amount of people is showing the direction most rappers want for their albums. Instead of spreading across a broad audience, they want to cater to their super fans. Die-hard fans will indeed support their favourite rapper. They did for Nipsey. It’s like any art form, the value is often determined by a few who are willing to pay top dollar.

Eminem’s ‘Rap God’

Rap is Homophobic? Or is it just Eminem?


Slim Shady is back, and true to form he’s bashing homosexuals again. Earlier last week Eminem released his single ‘Rap God’ and it’s since then caused some public outrage because of the multiple homophobic lyrics. Although spewing highly offensive lyrics from the rapper doesn’t come as a surprise, it shouldn’t be accepted. If there is room for the Frank Oceans in hip-hop then there isn’t going to be a place for Eminem’s apparent homophobia. The state of hip-hop is changing and becoming gay-friendly. Eminem needs to change with it.

In the first verse Eminem uses violent homophobic language saying: break a motherf—-r’s table over the back of a couple f-ggots and crack it in half.” The next verse then goes on: “So gay I can barely say it with a straight face-looking boy / You witnessing massacre like you watching a church gathering taking place-looking boy.”

While some are speaking out about the song, publications like Rolling Stone, and Time have praised the single whilst ignoring the problematic lyrics. These publications might be used lyrics like this coming from Em but that doesn’t make it acceptable. “It’s not acceptable at all,” says university student Beki. “My best friend is gay, so I am very offended when I hear homophobic slurs and Eminem is known for them. I’ve never liked him and the media needs to take notice that more people won’t like him either if he continues with his homophobia.”

But Eminem has said many times that he is not in fact homophobic. In 2010 Em came out in support of gay marriage in an interview with New York magazine and has also sat with Anderson Cooper maintaining that he doesn’t hate the gay community. But the gays aren’t buying it. Rob, an opely gay man says “I do not believe that at all. Eminem does not like gays. The proof is in his new song. n

It’s safe to say homophobia has existed in hip-hop for a long time. A lot of rappers have made homophobic slurs. but now rappers are speaking up in support of gay rights. A$AP Rocky has been quoted before saying he doesn’t discriminate on sexual preference and Jay-Z has backed President Obama’s reversal on gay marriage last year. When Frank Ocean came out about his first love being a man 50 Cent, Tyler the Creator, Snoop Dogg defended the musician.

More recently rapper Mackelmore has become another hip-hop star to advocate gay rights with the lyrics and video of his song ‘Same Love.” The song has become a marriage-equality anthem and also a new model for homophobia to be eradicated in rap.

Eminem needs to evolve with hip-hop and stop using words hurtful to the gay community. The ‘I didn’t mean anything by it” rationale isn’t good enough. He had the opportunity with Marshall Mathers 2 to grow like hip-hop has over the years. But he has failed to. We do not want to be subjected to this again. Eminem needs to be aware that these kinds of lyrics will soon dampen fans enjoyment of him and might hurt his career.

J.Cole on MTV’s ‘Life & Rhymes’

Rap is VulnerableImage

The first thing a rap critic will say is that the music promotes violence, drugs, sexism, etc.  While in some cases that is true, there are quite a few rappers who talk about subjects of more substance that are relatable and make you think.  J. Cole is one of those rappers. The single ‘Crooked Smile’ is a perfect example of how he does this.

In the new series of MTV’s ‘Life & Rhymes’ J. Cole talks about the song’s meaning for him and his humble beginnings.  The idea behind ‘Life & Rhymes’ is to have a featured artist break down specific lyrics from a particular song and then explain the significance and meaning behind it. Cole took a nostalgic trip back to his old apartment in Queens, NYC and talks about the powerful meaning behind ‘Crooked Smile.’

Cole shows a different side to what rap is. It’s vulnerable. In the first half of the episode he takes viewers inside the small room he had before he blew up as a rapper and talks about the struggles coming up in the game.  He talks about being behind on his rent and his landlord letting him miss months of payment because he believed in his talent. It’s these kinds of stories, these vulnerabilities shows how rap and the hip-hop culture is so much for than what critics think.

In order to touch your listeners rappers have to open up, and he does so in ‘Crooked Smile.’

‘They tell me I should fix my grill cause I got money now

I ain’t gon’ sit around and front like I ain’t thought about it’

In the episode he talks about being just like everyone else and having insecurities. He admits to not being insecure again until he got in the spotlight as a well known rapper. Many have questioned why Cole doesn’t get his fixed teeth since he has money to but he isn’t worrying about what people say about his teeth and wanted to use the song to empower other people.

‘A perfect smile is more appealing but it’s funny how
My shit is crooked look at how far I done got without it
I keep my twisted grill, just to show the kids it’s real
We ain’t picture perfect but we worth the picture still’

It’s an empowering song telling everyone we shouldn’t care of what society says trying to tell you you’re not good enough, don’t look good enough, etc. It’s reminding you to be happy no matter your situation and embrace your flaws by being comfortable in the skin you’re in.

J. Cole’s motivation for ‘Life & Rhymes’ is to touch the people. He does.

Watch the Cole’s ‘Life & Rhyme’s here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcbva85QQsw

BET Hip Hop Award’s Cyphers

Rap is Lyrical Part II Image

Every year the BET Hip Hop award cyphers are always the talk of the show. This year everyone was talking before the show even aired with leak teasing Kendrick Lamar’s verse. Anticipation was high to not only see Kenrick’s full verse but all the new comers and legendary rappers MC their lyrical skills by freestyle.  This year the groups were somewhat diverse and showed the range of rap music being made right now. Some cipher verses were indeed lyricism at its finest.  Here are some stand out examples:

A$AP Rocky: The A$AP Mob leader unfurled a verse that was as intense as it was playful. With references to Malcolm X, Huey Newton, MLK puts together contrasting influences but makes it cohesive.

 Joell Ortiz: He’s a confident technically gifted rapper. Wasting no time in his opening line holds your attention the entire freestyle while using extended play on words.

Nick Cannon:  The rapper/actor had surprisingly some of the best punchlines. He also brought something missing in all freestyle. While other artists stick to being technically dexterous Cannon came with the fun and sense of humour.

Joe Budden: After Kendrick, Joe probably had the next best lines in his verse. The laid back flow is always calculated. Enough said for lines like: “I’m quick on my feet, I can moonwalk sideways.” Or “When you talk about the best rappers, it’s rhetorical.”

TDE: The whole Top Dawg Entertainment came strong and annihilated the competition.

Schoolboy Q was naturally flowing. He set the tone for the fire-raising TDE cypher.

The newest signee of the crew had the most pressure. Isiah Rashad had to prove himself worthy of being a part of TDE. He delivered a strong verse of witty asides and boasts, not letting the pressure get to him.

Ab-Soul is probably the most laid back of the crew. He showed off his skills staying true to himself with a more calm delivery. His introspective flow though doesn’t hide the confidence of his writing.  

Jay Rock came with the gritty gangster style that no one had in any of the cyphers. His growling delivery made his bars stand out and definitely made him a rapper to not sleep on.

King Kendrick of course stole the show. He came with sharp punchlines that he knows would have everyone talking. And everyone still is. His verses were electrifying without losing its craftiness and elaborate without being dull. His effortlessness brings a lot of quote-worthy moments which implies he thinks about his rhymes a lot more than the next rapper. Just like all his verses this had depth that came in multiple dimensions.

Trying to pick who had the best verse was pretty simple, although that wasn’t the point. Best verse or not, some of these cyphers showed there is still hope for raw, uninhibited lyricism talked about in the previous post. There are rappers still concerned about saying something listeners would remember then showing off complex rhyme skills.


Watch the BET Hip-Hop Awards Cyphers here:


Meek Mill’s ‘Dreamchasers 3’ Release

Rap is Lyrical


A lot of rappers today rely on charm, style and catchy beats. Meek Mill though is not one of those rappers. In the midst of his Dreamchasers 3 mixtape release, Meek Mill shows that personality alone has not won over rap bars and lyricism might still exist.

But what is lyricism? As hip-hops audiences have extended over the years, so has the meaning of what makes a rapper lyrical. Hip Hop critics will say lyricism is about wordplay and imagery. But being lyrical also means having obvious dexterity with a purpose.  It’s about technical skill as well. A lyrical rapper will have listeners hanging on to their every word, story, or punchline.

Meek Mill is considered lyrical more from how he raps than what he raps about. He has a moniker hurried delivery and is able to speed up or alter his flow at the proper times to keep the listener interested. His fast paced lyrics build a searing sincerity it displays his technical control and can only come with years of practice. The brisk directness he puts his words together makes Meek’s verses raw, even brutal they cut through you.

DC3 is no different as the authentic street rapper sticks to what he knows using the themes of loss and victory in the face of opposition. The mixtapes most poignant moment are the two songs dedicated the senseless murder of his protégé Lil Snupe. Meek raps intensely what seems like a triple-time delivery yet still has the ability to paint a vivid picture of his genuine sense of loss he feels. The anxious energy he brings to every song creates an urgency you feel like you have to listen.

But as I’m writing this post and listening to DC3 I’m questioning if Meek Mill is a good example of a lyrical rapper. Yes he brings a different style of unmatched technical prowess. But will lyricism for most of us still be about innovative and powerful play on words? If you listen close and get past the energy of Meek’s flow does what he’s saying matter? I think it does and I think the Philedelphia rapper understands it does too. That is likely why DC3 is Meek’s most reflective project yet. He’s learning how to mellow things out a bit thus broadening his raps skills.

It’s important he does this because although technically he can rap in this sleep, when rappers like Kendrick Lamar are raising the bar lyrically will the velocity of Meek Mill be enough for him to face his rap peers?

The next post shall discuss this debate on lyricism more. Stay tuned.

Listen to Dreamchasers 3 here: http://www.audiomack.com/album/2dbz/dreamchasers-3

Erykah Badu Tweets to Drake

Rap is: Competitive


Nothing has been the same since Kendrick Lamar’s verse on ‘Control’. It’s been months after the track caused an internet frenzy and fans, bloggers, even other rappers are still debating the super-controversial lyrics. One of those rappers who all summer had kept silent until recently is Drake.  In an interview with Rap Radar’s Elliot Wilson, Drake said “That [‘Control’] verse was a moment to talk about [but] are you listening to it now.”  Kendrick has since added fuel to the flame during his latest freestyle from the 2013 BET Hip-Hop Awards Cypher.

He raps, “And nothing’s been the same since they dropped ‘Control’ / And tucked a sensitive rapper back in his pajama clothes / Ha-ha, jokes on you.” Music listeners are speculating the ‘sensitive rapper’ is Drake, and now everyone is calling for him to continue this war of words between the two and respond back to Kendrick. Even Erykah Badu. The singer went on twitter stating “Drake, u gotta come-back boy … This HipHop.”

It’s interesting to see Erykah express her views as it shows the collective music world is waiting on Drake’s next move. Although Drake has yet to respond to Kendrick’s lyrical attack, this is a perfect example for the first blog of what Rap Is. It’s Competitive. It’s a battle of rap skills.  A battle of who is the best.  A rapper takes a risk, wilfully putting a lyrical target on his back and calls out other rappers challenging them to step up to the competition.

 Kendrick calculatedly used his verse in ‘Control’ to show he’s going for the title of best rapper. His response to Drake further shows the only way to claim the position is to battle the best. Drake will not be taken serious as an MC if he doesn’t respond and come out swinging.

This competition is exactly what mainstream rap needs as the hip-hop world has felt over friendly for a while. Rap fans are thirsty for this competitive spirit to come back- case in point Erykah Badu’s tweet.

Watch Drake’s interview here: http://theboombox.com/drake-crwn-part-1/

Listen to Kendrick’s freestyle here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mg0HDZ6kcIY