Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Downtown © Macklemore LLC

The Perception of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (And Their Return…)


Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Downtown © Macklemore LLC

Let’s keep things 100% real – ALL-THE-WAY-REAL! For a share of hip-hop fans, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis became a sore subject a couple of years back. What did those guys ever do to anyone? Nothing personal of course, but they shocked the world by beating out Kendrick Lamar for every rap Grammy. Ah, that’s where those hard feelings come into play. Honestly, even Macklemore himself was shocked by beating out arguably the more transcendent artist and was perhaps too apologetic for no reason.

Those that are familiar with the voting demographic of the Recording Academy honestly shouldn’t have been surprised that the more commercial, less risqué hip-hop act came out on top at the Grammys. Even knowing the system though, seeing a golden opportunity like Kendrick Lamar walk out of the Grammys empty handed and his contemporary hip-hop masterpiece snubbed was disheartening. But this isn’t really about Kendrick Lamar – it’s about Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ perception and their comeback years later.

The arguable overvaluing of talented duo does raise the question, had Macklemore & Ryan Lewis been black, would the opinions of their Grammy success have been different? One part of me wants to say yes without question yet another part says the opinion wouldn’t have been that markedly different. There are legitimate points to both sides, so let’s break this [BLEEP] apart!

One the one hand, white hip-hop artists have grown in number over the past couple of years. For a long time in hip-hop, there were only a select few and garnering the respect was difficult. Even with the increased level of success of white hip-hop artists these days, only a few – namely Eminem – have experienced unquestionable commercial success and relevancy. So returning to the point, if Macklemore & Ryan Lewis been black might their success be better appreciated? – Quite possibly. Still, speaking as an African American myself, I enjoyed “Thrift Shop,” so race itself plays no role.

Had Macklemore & Ryan Lewis been black and experienced the same success that they did for The Heist, it WOULD NOT have changed the opinion or my own. Kendrick Lamar was considered something of a “savior” to rap music in 2012 and good Kid m.A.A.d. City was considered among the best album on many critics list including mine. While “Thrift Shop” and “Same Love” were terrific, pop cultural impactful songs, personally, Lamar’s conceptual autobiographical album was deeper . Hence, their race didn’t matter then and doesn’t now. Personal preference, and many folks felt the same way.

Moving on, the Grammy winners return with “Downtown,” which features Eric Nally, Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee & Grandmaster Flash. The best way to describe “Downtown” is F-U-N – fun! Will the fun, fresh single win over folks who question the legitimacy of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, particularly after besting Kendrick Lamar at the Grammys? Probably not, but again it’s personal preference. If you enjoy more pop-oriented hip-hop that eschews the street and grimier facets of the genre, this should appeal. If you prefer a tougher, more honest brand of hip-hop with more f-bombs and ‘make you cringe’ filthiness, this isn’t for you. Objectively, this is enjoyable pop-rap, just like the duo and their guests intended it to be.

John Legend, Love in the Future © Columbia

8 ‘Genesis’ Songs 


John Legend, Love in the Future © Columbia

No not the band silly – but rather “in the beginning!” Honestly, some of these songs have little to do with beginning, but whatever. “It is what it is” as the old saying goes.

1) Eminem, “We Made You” (Relapse, 2009)

“We Made You” really has nothing to do with “the beginning” – just Eminem going H.A.M. as always.

Genesis lyric:

“You’re a rock star / everybody wants you, player / who can really blame you? / We’re the ones who made you

Funniest lyric:

“Damn girl, I’m beginning to sprout an Alfalfa / Why should I wash my filthy mouth out?”

2) Taylor Swift, “Begin Again” (Red, 2012)

“Begin Again” is a love song – what else would you expect from Taylor Swift?

Genesis lyric:

“I’ve been spending the last eight months / thinking all love ever does / is break and burn and end / but on a Wednesday in a café / I watched it begin again

3) U2, “Original Of The Species” (How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, 2004)

Simply beautiful, “Original Of The Species” is a fitting tribute with truly poetic lyrics.

Genesis lyrics:

“I’ll give you everything you want / except the thing that you want / you are the first one of your kind

“Baby slow down / the end is not as fun as the start / please stay a child somewhere in your heart”

4) John Legend, “The Beginning” (Love In The Future, 2013)

“The Beginning” seems to be about the natural progression of a relationship/marriage to building a family.

Genesis lyric:

It’s the beginning of forever / you don’t have to end / keep doing it, and doing it again”

5) The Decemberists, “A Beginning Song” (What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World, 2015)

Yeah, I’m not going to try to interpret “Condescend to calm this riot in your mind” or “The tenor of your shins / the timbre of your limbs.” 

Genesis lyric:

Let’s commence to coordinate our sights / Get them square to rights, get them square to rights” 

6) Arcade Fire, “Ready To Start” (The Suburbs, 2010)

Don’t be a conformist: “I would rather be wrong / than live in the shadows of your song / my mind is open wide.”

Genesis lyric:

“If I was scared, I would / and if I was pure, you know I would / and if I was yours, but I’m not / Now I’m ready to start

“Businessmen drink my blood / like the kids in art school said they would / and I guess I’ll just begin again / you say ‘can we still be friends?’”

7) Pendulum, “Genesis” (Immersion, 2010)

It’s instrumental and is titled “Genesis,” so therefore it fits.

8) Justice, “Genesis” (Crosses, 2012)

AGAIN, it’s instrumental and is titled “Genesis,” so therefore it fits.

Tech N9ne, Special Effects © Strange Music

Review: Tech N9ne Delivers Epically Eclectic Effort with ‘Special Effects’


Tech N9ne, Special Effects © Strange Music

Tech N9ne • Special Effects • Strange Music • US Release Date: May 4, 2015

Tech N9ne is one of a kind. Yep, this is a cliché characterization that could be used to describe almost any musician, but in the case of Tech N9ne, it’s true. He ranks among the most eclectic rappers in the game, with most of his eclecticism coming from being an underground presence as opposed to a commercial figure. As of late, Tech N9ne has naturally built a more faithful commercial fan base, hence why many of his albums have consistent debuted in the top echelon of the Billboard 200. N9ne’s latest effort Special Effects is no different – it landed at a familiar spot – number four on the albums chart.

Special Effects is a big album – ambitious in scope and overextended in regards to duration. Even if its 80-minute run is overlabored, Tech N9ne offers an album that is strong from start to finish. Given his stylistic restlessness, Tech N9ne incorporates a little bit of everything on Special Effects and by everything that includes classical music as well!

On “Aw Yeah? (Intervention)” Tech N9ne ‘goes off,’ literally. He says it best himself: “I’mma yell while I’m walking through this hell cause I’m furious.” The sentiment of “Aw Yeah? (Intervention)” is anger, finding the rapper struggling with the loss of his mother. This is confirmed on the exceptional “Lacrimosa,” which like the Mozart requiem movement that fuels it, is a memorial of sorts (“Zoned out cause my mother is gone…my duty go if I’m moody yo, get up and get the song out…”).

The classical influence of “Lacrimosa” is completely worn off by the ‘Sunday Evening’ portion of Special Effects led by “On The Bible,” which is unquestionable hardcore, street-based rap. “Bible” is used as a source of morality within the title and contextually, but ultimately, there is little sanctified about “On The Bible.” “Shroud,” another winner (featuring Krizz Kaliko), is eerily dark, as N9ne raps, “This is darkness accumulated / over the years and heartless buffoons that made it.” Things grow their most disturbed on “Psycho B**ch III” featuring Hopsin. Honestly, no explanation is needed: “You’re just a shady b**ch, on the daily on some crazy s**t / you don’t f**k around with a lady, it’ll be a blaze where your Mercedes sit.”

“Wither” is nothing short of epic. Featuring Corey Taylor of Slipknot, has rap dude ever rocked out harder? This is one of the better metal/rap combinations you will ever here as both artists feed off of each other’s energy. “Wither” is the final full-length closing out ‘Sunday Evening’ before “Hood Go Crazy” dominates the ‘Monday’ portion of Special Effects. The production work of “Hood Go Crazy” allures and hypnotizes the listener before N9ne further ‘blesses’ the standout with his blunt rhymes. He gets some help from B.o.B. and 2 Chainz. How does N9ne follow it up? – With a joint featuring Lil Wayne, Yo Gotti, and Big Scoop (“Bass Ackward”).

‘Tuesday’ features just one song, “No K” featuring E-40 and mainstay Krizz Kaliko. Arguably Wednesday’s joints stand out more, including the Eminem guest spot on “Speedom (WWC2)” and the malicious, haunting groove of “Yates” featuring Marcus Yates. Of course N9ne eats up the production and the competition, proclaiming, “Lately I’ve been like f**k rap… cause all these tough cats really don’t have no nutsacks / trust that ‘nough scratch does back much wackness / flush that s**t…” On ‘Thursday,’ one of the more ‘pop-oriented’ records appears via “A Certain Comfort” featuring Kate Rose.

The remainder of Special Effects is consistent without outperforming the very best. For example, “Life Sentences” is another solid showing, but could never supplant “Psycho B**ch III.” Similarly, the classical touches of “Dyin’ Flyin” are stunning, but not quite enough to usurp the valedictory “Lacrimosa.” Still, that choir at the end though coupled with those strings – gorgeous and chilling!

Ultimately, Strange Effects is another superb album from Tech N9ne. Is it perfect? – No, but its pros (including ambition) easily outweigh its cons (mostly length). Yes it’s too long, but at least Tech N9ne knows how to do an album up right and keeps his audience engaged. Truly, there is something for everybody to spin over and over. For yours truly, its “Lacrimosa” and “Hood Go Crazy.”

Favorites: “Aw Yeah? (Intervention),” “Lacrimosa,” “Shroud,” “Psycho B**ch III,” “Wither,” “Hood Go Crazy,” “Yates,” “A Certain Comfort.”

★★★★

Yelawolf, Love Story © Interscope

Review: Yelawolf Delivers An Eclectic Effort With ‘Love Story’


Yelawolf, Love Story © Interscope

Yelawolf • Love Story • Interscope • US Release Date: April 21, 2015

It’s no shock that Alabaman rapper Yelawolf’s first major label tanked. If it wasn’t known, Yelawolf makes listeners aware: “One, my last record flopped / two, it wasn’t my time.” Whether 2015 is Yelawolf’s time, only time and sales will tell. Regardless, if Yelawolf was aiming for a commercial album, Love Story isn’t it. Instead, Love Story is an eclectic effort with some truly enticing moments. Arguably none of them seem prime candidates to ‘breakthrough,’ but with commercial aspirations set aside, Yelawolf has made an album that’s easily worthy of partaking.

Throughout its course, Yelawolf poses himself as something of a southern hip-hop cowboy, hence including elements of rock, singer/songwriter fare, and country. This characterization separates Yelawolf from the multitude, not to mention executive producer Eminem. “Outer Space” kicks things off with a bang, capturing the listener’s attention with its ample profanity and unique production. “Change” is equally alluring; as the majority of the record is sung before Yelawolf explodes with fiery rhymes. From the get-go, Yela is on another planet, and to quote Jack Nicholson via Mars Attacks, “Ain’t that ain’t bad!”

“American You” is a lovely record and like everything else, quite unexpected. Even though there’s little that’s hip-hop about this joint for the majority, within Love Story early on, it’s the most accessible, infectious song – it’s no surprise it’s a single.   If “American You” is too pop-centric, the rock-fueled production of “Whiskey In A Bottle” – not to mention aggressive, unapologetic rhymes by Yelawolf – will definitely tickle your fancy.

Following the soulful balladry of interlude “Ball And Chain,” “Till It’s Gone” benefits from driving, southern production and Yelawolf’s pointed, agile rhymes. As great as he spits the verses, he also sounds terrific singing the memorable hook, “Ain’t much I can do but I do what I can / But I’m not a fool, there’s no need to pretend / just because you got yourself in some s**t / it doesn’t mean I have to come deal with it.” “Devil in My Veins” comes off as an old school country/folk ballad, rivaling say “The House of The Rising Sun” for a comparison point. Should it work? Maybe not, but given Yelawolf’s strong ties with the south and a compelling singing voice, it does.

If “Devil” was too far left of center, the triumphant “Best Friend” atones for all improprieties. Yelawolf’s unique tone of voice is perfect for this introspective, spiritual song and adding a razor sharp Eminem only makes things better. Certainly a hard act to follow, “Empty Bottles” doesn’t do too shabby. However, “Heartbreak” one-ups, with its gospel-infused, soulful production and Yelawolf’s frank raps. “Heartbreak” has a similar vibe to “Whiskey In A Bottle” and “Best Friend” – it ranks among the best.

On “Tennessee Love,” Yelawolf shows his romantic side, hence contrasting the edgier, heart wrenching “Heartbreak.” “I’d never let someone straight up disrespect you / I’d never let someone call you out your name…” – in other words, Yelawolf is going to hold her – Fefe Dobson down. Need more proof – “Can I put this ring on your finger? Let you know that I’m serious, marry me now.” After falling in “Tennessee Love,” Yelawolf raps about his Chevy on “Box Chevy V” – it wouldn’t be the first time. Sure, it’s tried and true, but he makes it appealing.

“If God is my angel, the f**king devil’s the pistol / better put your face behind safety glass when I load up.” Wow! Yelawolf ‘goes hard’ on the title track, which is certainly unexpected given the song title. “Johnny Cash” is about his career as a rapper, ultimately aspiring to be as big as the celebrity that graces the song title. What’s more fitting than another song referencing the south/country? “Have A Flight” is another non-traditional, un-hip-hop number, but perhaps that’s what makes it stand out.

On “Sky’s The Limit,” Yelawolf criticizes ‘The American Dream,’ considering it ultimately to be flawed: “They say the sky is the limit / well I guess it depends on you / in your views / in this American dream.” His verses are incredibly realistic, painting the darker side of life. He follows up with the emotional penultimate track “Disappear,” which ranks among the heaviest of the album. Smartly, Yelawolf closes energetically on the country-rap amalgam, “Fiddle Me This.”

Ultimately, Love Story is a fine sophomore album from Yelawolf that is very different from his debut Radioactive. Regardless how one views his stylistic fluctuations, the material that Yelawolf presents and statements he makes are strong. The biggest rub is the length, which clocks in at a rare 75 minutes. Even so there are ample moments that make Love Story notable.

Favorites: “American You,” “Whiskey In A Bottle,” “Till It’s Gone,” “Best Friend” featuring Eminem, “Heartbreak” 

★★★½

Rae Sremmurd, Sremmlife © Interscope

Chart Takeaways: The ‘SremmLife’ is Upon Us At Number Five


Rae Sremmurd, Sremmlife © InterscopeIt was a quiet week, but there are still takeaways to be made so HERE THEY ARE!

1) Taylor Swift makes it nine weeks at number one with 1989. Shocker right?

2) The new Billboard 200 tabulation formula has been great for Ed Sheeran and Ariana Grande, whose respective albums sit at #2 and #10 this week.

3) Nicki Minaj’s The Pinkprint has spent its entire first month in the top three, this week dropping one spot to #3 after three consecutive weeks at #2. Guess “Anaconda” paid off…

4) Youthful, fun southern rap duo Rae Sremmurd land at #5 with their debut album, SremmLife. “No Flex Zone” and “No Type” baby!

Sam Hunt, Montevallo © MCA Nashville5) Sam Hunt continues to do some things on the Billboard 200. Montevallo rises from #19 to #12.

6) Sia’s 1000 Forms of Fear jumps astoundingly from #94 to #20. Wonder if latest single “Elastic Heart” plays a part?

7) It was a good week for Jessie J, whose Sweet Talker rises from #75 to #22. Yep, she’s “Burnin’ Up” for sure!

8) It’s no “Lituation” for Fabolous as The Young OG Project drops it’s third straight week on the chart from #20 to #33.

D'Angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah © RCA

9) Despite releasing one the best albums of the new millennium, D’Angelo’s Black Messiah has yet to gain momentum on the chart since debuting at #5. It only drops minimally from #32 to #34 this week.

10) Empire: Music From The Pilot (EP) lands at #36 on the tally. If you haven’t seen the Fox hip-hop soap opera, well – you’re missing out!

11) “We Dem Boyz” Wiz Khalifa’s former #1 album, Blacc Hollywood rises from #52 to #43.

12) To quote the late, great Andraé Crouch “Finally!” While Crouch was referencing God’s love, ‘finally’ in this context means that Mary J. Blige has made a gain on the chart after a modest beginning for The London Sessions. It rises from #59 to #45.

Joshua Radin, Onward and Sideways © Glass Bead

13) Singer/Songwriter Joshua Radin debuts at #49 with Onward And Sideways.

14) Foo Fighters fall as Sonic Highways drops from #53 to #65 in its 9th week.

15) After 62 weeks on the chart, Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2 sees a spike from #74 to #67. Similarly, so does Drake’s Nothing Was The Same, which rises from #88 to #68.

16) Ugly chart geography for the excellent Charli XCX. Sucker falls from #56 to #72.

17) Kendrick Lamar keeps doing damage 115 weeks in. Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City rises from #98 to #77. KL just keeps on winning!

5 Seconds of Summer © Capitol

18) 5 Seconds of Summer, summer has long been over. 5 Seconds of Summer drops 40 spots from #38 to #78, after 25 weeks on the chart.

19) Pink Floyd’s The Endless River seems like it’s done – it falls from #80 to #100 in only its 9th week.

20) Logic sees a rise: Under Pressure rises modestly from #106 to #101. It’s the little things.

21) “Rude” seems like it’s faded as Magic!’s Don’t Kill The Magic falls from #87 to #107 in week #16. Maybe people don’t care if they “marry that girl.” Just saying!

Brantley Gilbert, Just As I Am © VALORY

22) Brantley Gilbert has done well from himself, but Just As I Am slips from #82 to #116 this week, his 34th.

23) People missing a surprisingly quiet Rihanna – apparently! Unapologetic reenters the Billboard 200 at #120. Unapologetic originally debuted at #1.

24) The news continues to be bad for Rick Ross. Hood Billionaire drops again, falling from #93 to #122. Not a good album for RR.

25) Look who else reenters the charts! Lauryn Hill’s classic The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill returns at #131. It is a former #1, multiplatinum affair that won multiple Grammys including Album of the Year.

Marilyn Manson, The Pale Emperor © Loma Vista

12 Hellish Songs


Marilyn Manson, The Pale Emperor © Loma Vista

Nick Jonas said it best: “It’s my right to be hellish / I still get jealous.” Yes, “Jealousy” is certainly sinful and can land you in, well Hell. But this playlist-driven post really isn’t about jealousy, Biblical matters, or even as much about hell itself other than each song title features ‘hell’ in it (or in the case of Drake’s “HYFR,” it stands for the word hell). Here’s 12 Hellish songs – make sure to repent after reading and listening!

1) AC/DC, “Highway To Hell” (Highway To Hell, 1979)

“Hey Satan / paying my dues / playing in a rock band…” Yep, judging by the lyrics of the AC/DC classic, the band seems to have their tickets booked for the fiery pit. They screwed, or should I say, they’re damned… 

2) Pink Floyd, “Run Like Hell” (The Wall, 1979) 

“Feel the bile rising from your guilty past / while your nerves in tatters / as the cockle shell shatters / and the hammer batter down the door / you better run.” Pink Floyd definitely make you feel uncomfortable with the lyrics of “Run Like Hell,” so much so that you do want to run. Ah, the realistic nature of the concept album/track. 

3) Drake featuring Lil Wayne, “HYFR” (Take Care, 2011)

What do you get when you put Drake and Lil Wayne on the track? Helpings of raunchiness – and of course an epic collaboration. Although the questions raised in the hook might annoy Drake and Wayne, the bold answer is, well explicit: “Hell yeah…f*cking right.” 

4) All American Rejects, “Gives You Hell” (When The World Comes Down, 2008)

Ten words: “When you see my face / hope it gives you hell.”

5) Kanye West, “Hell Of A Life” (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Family, 2010)

Apparently, Kanye West doesn’t need anymore excesses in his life: “No more drugs for me, pussy and religion is all I need / Grab my hand and baby we’ll live a hell of a life.”

6) Eminem featuring Dr. Dre, “Hell Breaks Loose” (Relapse: Refill, 2009)

“Hell Breaks Loose” is a solid additional track on the reissued version of Eminem’s Relapse, Relapse Refill. It describes the unapologetic, controversial MC perfectly. Because “Shady came and just crushed the game /It’s really not even fair to them, cause they pale in comparison…”

7) Schoolboy Q, “Hell Of A Night” (Oxymoron, 2014)

Party time: “When the sun falls, then the moon lights, might be a hell of a night.”

8) A$AP Rocky featuring Santigold, “Hell” (Long.Live.A$AP, 2013)

According to A$AP Rocky, “Heaven need a villain like Hell need a newer idol.”

9) Avril Lavigne, “What The Hell” (Goodbye Lullaby, 2011)

“All my life I’ve been good but now / I’m thinking ‘What the hell’ / All I want is to mess around…” So, she wants to hook up with no strings attached?

10) The Black Keys, “Hell of a Season” (El Camino, 2011)

Those Kentucky Wildcats became 14-0 as of a much closer than expected victory versus the Ole Miss Rebels (89-86 OT). Random, but the title of The Black Keys joint is “Hell of a Season,” right? 14-0 is a great start.

11) Raphael Saadiq, “Go To Hell” (Stone Rollin, 2010)

In the case of Raphael Saadiq, he’s trying to avoid the fiery pit: “Here’s the situation, the devil knows me well / see I’m trying to do my best, not to go to hell.”

12) Marilyn Manson, “Birds of Hell Awaiting” (The Pale Emperor, 2015)

You can’t have a ‘hell’ list and not have Marilyn Manson included, right? “Birds of Hell Awaiting” hails from Manson’s 2015 album, The Pale Emperor (Available January 20).

Mali Music, Mali Is © RCA

Grammy Predictions: Who Wins in the Urban Categories?


Luke James © Island

The Grammy nominations have been announced. Now it’s time to dig in (early) and predict who wins within the urban categories – aka R&B and rap. Names to remember – Beyoncé, Kanye West, and Eminem. There are others, but wouldn’t many agree the three heavyweight vets have a great chance of being victorious?

 

Best R&B Performance:

“Drunk In Love,” Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z (Beyoncé)*

“New Flame,” Chris Brown featuring Usher & Rick Ross (X)

“It’s Your World,” Jennifer Hudson featuring R. Kelly (JHUD)

“Like This,” Ledisi (The Truth)

“Good Kisser,” Usher

As puzzling as some of the R&B category has been over the past couple of years, the R&B performance category is solid. It’s a bit bothersome that August Alsina, Luke James, and Prince (no love for “Breakdown”) were omitted from this category, but overall, there’s nothing objectionable in the least. Despite the soundness of all five performances, Beyoncé and Jay-Z come out on top.

Best Traditional R&B Performance:

“As,” Marsha Ambrosius & Anthony Hamilton (The Best Man Holiday – Soundtrack)

“I.R.S.,” Angie Fisher

“Jesus Children,” Robert Glasper Experiment featuring Lalah Hathaway & Malcolm Jamal Warner (Black Radio 2)*

“Nobody,” Kem

“Hold Up Wait A Minute (Woo Woo),” Antonique Smith

Best traditional R&B performance is always a less familiar, less ‘commercial’ category, hence the inclusion of two unknowns (no disrespect) in Angie Fisher and Antonique Smith. The most ‘familiar’ performance comes by way of Kem’s “Nobody” from Promise To Love. Still, take a listen to Angie Fisher’s “I.R.S.” and you’ll be instantly captivated… INSTANTLY! Antonique Smith’s got some ferociousness about her too. Toss up…

Best R&B Song:

“Drunk In Love” (Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z)*

“Good Kisser” (Usher)

“New Flame (Chris Brown)

“Options (Wolfjames Version)” (Luke James)

“The Worst” (Jhené Aiko)

Another sound category, but like R&B Performance, Beyoncé and Jay-Z will win. Arguably, “Options” or “The Worst” are stronger ‘songs.’ Still, with “Drunk In Love” missing out in the big categories, the atonement comes from sweeping in the R&B field.

Beyoncé, Beyoncé © Sony Best Urban Contemporary Album:

Sail Out, Jhené Aiko

Beyoncé, Beyoncé*

X, Chris Brown

Mali Is…, Mali Music

Girl, Pharrell Williams

The worst thing that could happen for Pharrell Williams did – Beyoncé was nominated in the same category. These are fine choices for Urban Contemporary Album, though it would’ve been nice to have thrown August Alsina’s Testimony into the mix. Still, getting Mali Music’s underrated yet excellent Mali Is in there is superb. But we all know that despite how stacked this category is, there is one heavyweight champion, and her name is Mrs. Carter.

Toni Braxton & Babyface, Love Marriage & Divorce © Motown

Best R&B Album:

Islander, Bernhoft

Lift Your Spirit, Aloe Blacc

Love, Marriage & Divorce, Toni Braxton & Babyface

Black Radio 2, Robert Glasper Experiment

Give The People What They Want, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings

Has it been mentioned how ‘different’ the R&B album category looks as of late? It’s almost like a crapshoot anymore. In some regards, it’s great to see lesser-known artists snag the nominations. On the other hand though, what about the better-known artists who are also getting snubbed? Here, there are plenty of absences, including the likes of Prince (Art Official Age), Jennifer Hudson (JHUD), and Ledisi (The Truth). Still Bernhoft has to be feeling good right now – whoever he is.

So who wins – great question that’s incredibly hard to answer. Robert Glasper won for Black Radio, so seems like he could be victorious here. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings are definitely underrated, and winning Best R&B album would definitely be well deserved. But how about awarding two vets in Toni Braxton & Babyface – knocking out “two birds with one stone?” Then there’s Aloe Blacc, who’s “The Man” sadly went unrecognized. Could this be his moment? Likely, looks like a two-way race between Toni/Babyface and Robert Glasper.

Best Rap Performance:

“3005,” Childish Gambino (Because The Internet)

“0 To 100 / The Catch Up,” Drake

“Rap God,” Eminem (The Marshall Mathers LP2)*

“I,” Kendrick Lamar

“All I Need Is You,” Lecrae

The biggest snub in the Best rap performance category might be Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda.” Still, there are three pleasant surprise inclusions with “3005,” “I,” and “All I Need Is You.” This would be a great opportunity to reward Kendrick Lamar, who somehow went home Grammy-less last year, but Eminem’s “Rap God” is too epic to refuse.

Best Rap/Sung Collaboration:

“Blak Majik,” Common featuring Jhené Aiko (Nobody’s Smiling)

“The Monster” Eminem featuring Rihanna (The Marshall Mathers LP2)

“Tuesday,” I Love Makonnen featuring Drake

“Studio,” Schoolboy Q featuring BJ The Chicago Kid (Oxymoron)

“Bound 2,” Kanye West & Charlie Wilson (Yeezus)*

Another stacked, excellent category. The most surprising inclusions are “Blak Majik” and “Tuesday.” You could include Schoolboy Q’s “Studio” in that mix as well. Still, this seems like a showdown between the #1 hit “The Monster” (Eminem and Rihanna) and one of Yeezus’ most valedictory moments, “Bound 2.” “Bound 2” is the better of the two songs, and it’s hard to see “The Monster” winning when the stronger collab between the two – “Love The Way You Lie” went home empty-handed a couple of years ago.

Best Rap Song:

“Anaconda” (Nicki Minaj)

“Bound 2” (Kanye West & Charlie Wilson)*

“I” (Kendrick Lamar)

“We Dem Boyz” (Wiz Khalifa)

“0 To 100 / The Catch Up” (Drake)

Best Rap Song is a question mark. The nominations are excellent, but it’s hard to pick because one questions if voters award this one alongside best rap performance. Interestingly, “Bound 2,” “I,” and “0 To 100 / The Catch-up” are nominated in both categories. Then again, there’s “Anaconda,” which was snubbed in the performance category that could be victorious here given its impact. Toss up, but frontrunners in my eyes are Kanye/Charlie, Kendrick, and Nicki.

Iggy Azalea, The New Classic © Def Jam

Best Rap Album:

The New Classic, Iggy Azalea

Because The Internet, Childish Gambino

Nobody’s Smiling, Common

The Marshall Mathers LP2, Eminem*

Oxymoron, Schoolboy Q

Blacc Hollywood, Wiz Khalifa

Is Wiz Khalifa really nominated here? The other five albums all make sense. Who isn’t rooting for Childish Gambino’s Because The Internet, arguably the best album of the bunch? Even so, don’t we all believe this is a race between Eminem and Iggy? My guess is Eminem will win, though it would be nice to see either Childish Gambino or Common pull off the upset with exceptional efforts.

Photo Credits: © RCA, © island, © Columbia, © Motown, © Def Jam
Beyoncé, Beyoncé © Sony

Who Should Win Grammys: Winning Predictions Before Nominations!


Beyoncé, Beyoncé © Sony

Grammy nominations haven’t even occurred yet, but in my mind, there are scenarios already brewing. After looking at the categories and looking back over the year, here are some key categories and who I think will come out on top. Yeah, this is a dumb post as there are no nominations yet, but at least it’s a fun dumb post that has some realistic possibilities.

Record of the Year: Pharrell Williams, “Happy” 

“Happy” has to win something, and this seems like a category it could be hard to beat. 

Album of the Year: Beyoncé, Beyoncé / Sam Smith, In the Lonely Hour

Beyoncé, Beyoncé © Sony

Beyoncé seems due for album of the year, particularly with Beyoncé, her most cutting-edge album to date. That said, Sam Smith’s In The Lonely Hour is a ‘beast’ in itself. Don’t count out Pharrell either.

Song of the Year: Sam Smith, “Stay With Me”

John Legend kills it on “All of Me,” but it’s hard to imagine Smith not being a near-lock.

Best New Artist: Sam Smith

Sam Smith, In the Lonely Hour © CapitolHis biggest competition will likely be Iggy Azalea, and we all know rap doesn’t fare well in the big categories.

Best Pop Solo Performance: Sam Smith, “Stay With Me” 

Sam Smith, In the Lonely Hour © Capitol

Write it down, this is Smith’s to lose (if he’s nominated for it).

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance: Jessie J, Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj, “Bang Bang”

Jessie J, Sweet Talker © Universal Republic

There are plenty of great collaborative performances, but this is one of the best.

Best Pop Vocal Album: Sam Smith, In the Lonely Hour 

Sam Smith, In the Lonely Hour © Capitol

Sorry Katy Perry, Ariana Grande, and Lana Del Rey – Smith takes this one if he takes nothing else.

Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album: Barbra Streisand, Partners 

Barbra Streisand, Partners © Columbia

Maybe Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett could almost taste that Grammy win, but Streisand edges them. 

Best Rock Album: Jack White, Lazaretto

Jack White, Lazaretto © Columbia

Rock wasn’t anywhere near being at juggernaut status, but Jack White was. He should still win even if The Black Keys are nominated alongside him again.

Best Alternative Music Album: Arcade Fire, Reflektor

If The Black Keys are moved to this category, they have a shot. Beck’s Morning Phase is deserving, but will probably be ignored. Reflektor isn’t an album of the year nominee from my perspective, but could take this category easy.

Best Urban Contemporary Album: Pharrell Williams, G I R L / Beyoncé, Beyoncé

Pharrell Williams, G I R L © Columbia

This is a game of who is nominated where. If Beyoncé is nominated in this category, she wins hands down against everybody. If she isn’t, it opens up this category to a much deserving Pharrell Williams. 

Best R&B Album: Beyoncé, Beyoncé / Prince, ART OFFICIAL AGE

Beyoncé, Beyoncé © Sony

For Prince, Beyoncé scoring a nomination in the Urban Contemporary category would be good news. If Beyoncé is nominated here, it is hard to see anybody beating her, particularly if she is shut out of the big categories.

Best Rap Album: Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP 2

This category has no definitive winner for me this year. It would be great to see Common or Childish Gambino go home victorious, but Eminem seems like a likely choice. 

Best Country Album: Miranda Lambert, Platinum

Eric Church has an argument, but Lambert may have the voter’s support.

Photo Credits: © Sony, © Columbia, © Capitol, © Aftermath

Iggy Azalea, The New Classic © Def Jam

Playlist: 45 Songs With the F-Bomb in Their Title


Game, Blood Moon- The Year of the Wolf © Entertainment One

Don’t call this list profound, call it profane! Corny yes, but true! All of the songs on this list feature every college guy’s (and probably girl’s) favorite expletive in some form – that would be the f-word if you were confused. So, here goes the list!

1) 2Pac, “F*ck The World” (Me Against The World)

2) A$AP Ferg featuring A$ton Matthews, B-Real, Fredo Starr, Onyx & Sticky Fingaz, “F*ck Out My Face” (Trap Lord)

3) A$AP Rocky, “F*ckin’ Problems” (Long. Live. A$AP)

4) Akon featuring Snoop Dogg, “I Wanna F*ck You” (Konvicted)

5) Amy Winehouse, “F*ck Me Pumps” (Frank)

6) Arctic Monkeys, “Who The F*ck Are Arctic Monkeys?” (Who The F*ck Are Arctic Monkeys)

7) August Alsina featuring Pusha T, “FML” (Testimony)

8) Babyshambles, “F*ck Forever” (Down in Albion)

9) Bad Religion, “F*ck You” (True North)

10) Beastie Boys, “Hey F*ck You” (To The 5 Boroughs)

11) Big Sean featuring E-40, “I Don’t F*ck With You”

12) Bring Me the Horizon, “F*ck” (There is a Hell Believe Me I’ve Seen It. There Is a Heaven Let’s Keep It A Secret)

13) Buckcherry, “Say F*ck It” (F*ck EP)

14) Cee-Lo Green, “F*ck You” (The Ladykiller)

15) Chief Keef, “F*ck Rehab”

16) Die Antwoord, “U Make A Ninja Wanna F*ck” (Ten$ion)

17) DMX featuring Jadakiss & Styles P, “We Don’t Give a F*ck”(Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood)

18) Dr. Dre featuring Devin the Dude & Snoop Dogg, “F*ck You” (The Chronic 2001)

19) Eamon, “F*ck It (I Don’t Want You Back)”(I Don’t Want You Back)

20) Eminem, “Just Don’t Give A F*ck” (The Slim Shady LP)

21) Eminem, “Still Don’t Give a F*ck” (The Slim Shady LP)

22) French Montana featuring Ace Hood, DJ Khaled, Mavado, Scarface & Snoop Dogg, “F*ck What Happens Tonight” (Excuse My French)

23) Game featuring Chris Brown & Lil Wayne, “F*ck Yo Feelings” (Blood Moon: Year of the Moon)

24) Green Day, “F*ck Time” (!Dos!)

25) Iggy Azalea, “F*ck Love” (The New Classic)

26) Ja Rule, “F*ck You” (Rule 3:36)

27) Jay-Z featuring Pharrell Williams, “F*ck All Nite” (The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse)

28) Jeezy featuring August Alsina, “F*ck The World”(Seen It All: The Autobiography)

29) Kendrick Lamar, “F*ck Your Ethnicity” (Section.80)

30) Lil Wayne featuring 2 Chainz, “Rich As F*ck” (I Am Not A Human Being II)

31) Lily Allen, “F*ck You” (Alright, Still)

32) Ludacris featuring Fate Wilson, I-20 & Shawna, “Get the F*ck Back” (Word of Mouf)

33) Neon Hitch, “F*ck U Betta”

34) NOFX, “Fun Things To F*ck (If You’re A Winner)” (45 or 46 Songs That Weren’t Good Enough to Go on Our Other Records)

35) NWA, “F*ck Tha Police” (Straight Outta Compton)

36) Scarface, “F*ck Faces” (My Homies)

37) Schoolboy Q, “F*ck LA” (Oxymoron)

38) Scissor Sisters, “F*ck Yeah” (Magic Hour)

39) Seether, “F*ck It” (Disclaimer II)

40) Skrillex, “F*ck That” (Recess)

41) Team America, “America, F*ck Yeah”

42) Tony Yayo featuring 50 Cent, Lloyd Banks & Olivia, “We Don’t Give a F*ck” (Thoughts of a Predicate Felon)

43) Tyga featuring Chris Brown, “F*ck For The Road” (Hotel California)

44) Yelawolf, “Get The F*ck Up” (Trunk Muzik 0-60)

45) Young Money, “F*ck Da Bullsh*t” (We Are Young Money)

That’s a lot of f-word songs to say the least. And guess what – there’s lots and lots more! That’s profane alright!

G Eazy, These Things Happen © Blueprint / G-Eazy

12 Awesome Rap Rhymes from 2014


Common, Nobody's Smiling © Def Jam

2014 has been filled with some exceptional one-liners courtesy of any number of rappers. While rap music in 2014 has been as strong as it has been in past years, it still has had its moments and definitely its memorable lines. Here are 12 awesome rap rhymes from 2014 in no particular order. 

1) G-Eazy featuring Remo, “I Mean It” (These Things Happen)

G-Eazy performing at Roseland Ballroom in 2013

“You really think she stay true? I doubt it / cause I’m f*cking your girlfriend, and there’s nothing you can do about it” (G-Eazy, Verse 2)

Although G-Eazy comes over as a bit too ‘full of himself’ on recent album These Things Happen, it’s hard to deny him the satisfaction of pulling off the old “sleeping with your girl” line with flying colors. Rappers (and R&B artists) have been stealing girls for a minute… As G-Eazy says all the time, “these things  happen.”

2) Rick Ross featuring Jay-Z, “The Devil Is A Lie” (Mastermind)

Rick Ross, Mastermind © Def Jam

“F*ck the game raw when I came in it / getting money ever since I came in it / you couldn’t stop me if you tried / motherf*cker cause the devil is a lie” (Rick Ross, Verse 1)

Rick Ross got plain nasty with it on “The Devil Is A Lie,” the best track from Masterminds. In this particular lyric, he manages to relate sex and money to the rap game, and then fittingly, proclaims “the devil is a lie.” The Biblically derived title ends up being blasphemous when Rick Ross claims himself to be “the truth” (wouldn’t that be God?), but who would expect any different?

3) 50 Cent, “Hold On” (Animal Ambition: An Untamed Desire to Win)

50 Cent, Animal Ambition © G Unit

“It’s not a big deal to me, stay calm / I’ll shoot the sh*t out of a n***a, then call it Barrel Bonds / but, if I don’t do this sh*t myself, bet I’ll get it done / sh*t on my n***a, you sh*t on me, we of one”

So basically, 50 Cent is saying he’ll willing kill somebody, but if it’s not him, he’ll make sure somebody else does. That’s some deep stuff…

4) Common featuring Vince Staples, “Kingdom” (Nobody’s Smiling)

"20090120 Common at 2009 Obama Home States Inaugural Ball" by TonyTheTiger (t/c/bio/en:WP:CHICAGO/en:WP:LOTM) Original uploader was TonyTheTiger at en.wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons using CommonsHelper.(Original text : I created this work entirely by myself.). Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:20090120_Common_at_2009_Obama_Home_States_Inaugural_Ball.JPG#mediaviewer/File:20090120_Common_at_2009_Obama_Home_States_Inaugural_Ball.JPG

“Second row of the church with my hood on / my homie use to rap, he was about to get put on / at his funeral, listening to this church song / his family yelling and screaming, I hurt for ‘em” (Common, Verse 1)

Nobody’s Smiling is an album about the many issues that plague Chicago, where Common is from. On this particular rhyme from “Kingdom,” Common speaks on how upset the family of a deceased rapper is at his funeral and suggests its an everyday occurrence (violence, etc.).

5) Schoolboy Q featuring Kurupt & Tyler the Creator, “The Purge” (Oxymoron)

Schoolboy Q, Oxymoron © Interscope

“…With my strap, that’s my peace offering / five shots get run out, five bodies falling / come put your lights out, I spark your apartment… / Strap on his hairline, his forehead gets softened / send extras through his chest bones, sh*t he don’t need that coffin…” (Schoolboy Q, Verse 1)

Schoolboy Q and company truly do “purge” on this dark, twisted song. On the rhymes featured above, it would be safe to say that Schoolboy Q goes off.

6) Kid Ink, “The Movement”

"KidInkMarch2012" by Magic Rabbit Productions - http://www.flickr.com/photos/magicrabbitproductions/7047687169/. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:KidInkMarch2012.jpg#mediaviewer/File:KidInkMarch2012.jpg

“I know you can feel the movement, moving, It’s nothing more than a movie / all this moment feel like 50, nothing but G’s all in my unit / we built this from the roots, smell like trees all in my room / fire cook the kush in the blunt, get out of the kitchen if it’s too humid” (Verse 1)

Sure, 50 Cent and G-Unit’s popularity have waned in recent times, but you’ve got to give it to Kid Ink for the slick reference. ‘Course, he also manages to reference ganja… LOL

7) YG, “Bicken Back Being Bool” (My Krazy Life)

YG, My Krazy Life © Def Jam

“I’m a real Bompton n***a with a motherf*cking attitude / walk up in the spot, you would think that a n***a mad at you / I was on the block chilling, homies, what’s the mission / came back in a quickness, hoping there wasn’t no witnesses” (Verse 1)

“Bicken Back Being Bool” is an interesting song in itself because it plays up the fact that Bloods don’t say words that begin with the letter C. Here, YG shows off his “attitude” and references violence, if not explicitly.

8) Busta Rhymes featuring Eminem, “Calm Down” 

Busta Rhymes featuring Eminem, "Calm Down" © The Conglomerate Entertainment

What in the fat fishes of a phenomenal Fahrvergnügen f*ck is going on? / back with the B.A. Baracus callous, bang on another song I’mma / have these n***as nervous / And clipping they nails and dribbling and witness them / Nibble them like sunflower seed shells…” (Busta Rhymes, Verse 1)

Busta Rhymes returns in a big way with “Calm Down.” Just select the whole verse and you’ve got the idiosyncratic MC at his best.

9) Busta Rhymes featuring Eminem, “Calm Down”

"Eminem Shanghai graffit" by Sabine Fricke; Graffiti: Unknown - Sabine Fricke. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eminem_Shanghai_graffit.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Eminem_Shanghai_graffit.jpg

“Who raps nasally, eyes hazelly, rhymes crazily / but sounds like he may need some Flonase when he’s speaking? / what kind of stupid question is that? / Hey Mrs. Abraham Lincoln / other than your husband’s fucking brains that were leaking / how’d you think that play was this weekend?” (Eminem, Verse 2)

Eminem goes off too… enough said!

10) Lil Wayne featuring Drake, “Believe Me”

"Drake at Bun-B Concert 2011" by thecomeupshow - Shot by Drew: Drake (The Come Up Show)Uploaded by Skeezix1000. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Drake_at_Bun-B_Concert_2011.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Drake_at_Bun-B_Concert_2011.jpg “Got a verse for anybody wanna take about the clique / I’ve been talkin’ sh*t light, you don’t wanna hear me rip…doesn’t matter, could be winter or the summer / on the road, I do One Direction numbers, I don’t f*ckin’ miss…” (Drake, Verse 1)

Basically, Drake is saying he’s the “hit.”

11) Nicki Minaj, “Pills N Potions” 

Nicki Minaj, "Pills N Potions" © Cash Money

“Self-righteous and entitled but they swearin’ on the Bible that they love you / when really they no different from all your rivals / but I still don’t wish death on ‘em / I just reflect on ‘em” (Verse 1)

Rather than being vindictive towards haters, Nicki Minaj takes the high road, rising above – definitely a mature move.

12) Iggy Azalea featuring Charli XCX, “Fancy” (The New Classic)

Iggy Azalea, The New Classic © Virgin EMI Records, a division of Universal Music Operations Limited

“Taking all the liquor straight, never chase that / rooftop like we bringing ’88 back / bring the hooks in, where the bass at? / Champagne spilling, you should taste that” (Verse 1)

Not sure that “Fancy” is the right word to describe one the year’s biggest hits, but Iggy is something.