What happens when you take one of the biggest songs of the year and have some of the biggest celebrities in the world read the lyrics out loud? You get some hysterical renditions of Drake’s smash hit “Hotline Bling” performed (use that word how you please) by huge stars from Bryan Cranston to Rooney Mara just to name a few.
Although creatively Manhattan Digest is about Manhattan culture, something I still happen to love to write about and cover is the music industry. The music industry itself was what I started writing about in my journalism career nearly six years ago, and something I still have a penchant for jotting down every couple of months. Something that we here at Manhattan Digest have done since the site’s inception nearly three years ago is cover the Grammy Awards before, during and after. The before part starts with who we think will be nominated in the big categories this year, seeing as the deadline for nominations just passed and the nominees will be announced in early December.
Whereas I don’t think this was really a banner year for music in general, there were some shining exceptions that proved that point to be an epic fail. New artists emerged and conquered the charts, legends released some very well received albums (Madonna, Janet) and legends in the making continued their domination of the industry both on and off the Billboard Hot 100. But there have been so many instances where the charts and sales don’t matter when it comes to winning a Grammy, that it merely is just pure talent. Take last year’ winner for Album of the Year, Beck. A true shocker of the night but when you think about it, the album itself really was incredible, highly rated and proof that Beck still has it going on more than 20 years into his illustrious career. So what does really matter when it comes to a nomination?
Based on a bunch of different factors, here is who I think will be nominated in December for the three major awards- Record, Album & Best New Artist. Record is up first.
Record Of The Year-
Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars- “Uptown Funk”
Taylor Swift- “Blank Space”
The Weeknd- “The Hills”
Ed Sheeran- “Thinking Out Loud”
Walk The Moon- “Shut Up And Dance”
Honorable Mentions/Possible Nominees:
Rachel Platten- “Fight Song”
Little Big Town- “Girl Crush”
Rihanna Featuring Kanye West & Paul McCartney- “4 5 Seconds”
Wiz Khalifa Featuring Charlie Puth- “See You Again”
So the ones for ROTY (Record of the Year) that I think are on lock are Taylor, Mark/Bruno and Ed Sheeran. All three were monster hits that charted at the top. All three are Grammy darlings as well, with Taylor, Bruno and Mark winning several times before. People forget that Mark produced Amy Winehouse’s epic “Back To Black” album that won him Producer Of The Year, non classical as well as two other awards. Needless to say, they are an easy lock. The Weeknd had an amazing year and is no doubt a shoo in to be nominated for multiple Grammy’s, the only thing I question is if he gets a ROTY nominee what song will it be? I was never the biggest fan of “Earned It” and think that “The Hills” is a much better song both lyrically and in its delivery. Rounding out is “Shut Up And Dance” by Walk The Moon. There always seems to be a quirky, rock/alternative nominee in these categories and they would be the ones to fill it. Should it win? No, but a nomination doesn’t hurt.
Album Of The Year-
Taylor Swift- “1989”
The Weeknd- “Beauty Behind The Madness”
Kendrick Lamar- “To Pimp A Butterfly”
J. Cole- “2014 Forest Hills Drive”
Mumford & Sons- “Wilder Mind”
Honorable Mentions/Possible Nominees-
Luke Bryan- “Kill The Lights”
James Taylor- “Before This World”
Drake- “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late”
I really have been dreaming of a day when an authentic hip-hop album wins AOTY (Album of the Year) again. The last time that happened was over a decade ago when Outkast won for “Speakerboxx/The Love Below”. Three uber-strong contenders that I hope will be in contention for AOTY are Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and The Weeknd. I don’t think J. Cole is a lock however he should be as his latest effort is his best to date. Kendrick was robbed of this two years ago by Daft Punk, but was also robbed in the rap categories by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. So I hope there is some form of redemption in a nomination, if not a win. Mumford & Sons won in this category a couple of years ago for “Babel” so i wouldn’t be shocked if their latest effort got a nod as well. Taylor will of course be nominated again as “1989” was groundbreaking in the past year. Will she win like she did for “Fearless”? Not sure, but my money is regrettably on her. If they need a country nominee then Luke would be good to throw into that pile. James would be an old favorite and Drake had an outstanding year especially with “If You’re Reading This”. Should be interesting to see how this plays out.
Best New Artist-
Honorable Mentions/Possible Nominees:
Walk The Moon
Already nominees at last year’s awards for their single efforts, Hozier and Meghan Trainor will no doubt get nominations for Best New Artist as their debut albums were released after the deadline. Rachel Platten kind of came from out of nowhere with her power anthem “Fight Song” and could easily be a nominee. There is always a hip hop and country nominee in these categories, and you couldn’t get any bigger than Fetty Wap for the former and Sam Hunt for the latter to fill this category. My money is actually on Hozier to win this, but you never know.
For more information on all things Grammy awards, check out their official site.
DiMi Marc closes out strong with Trap’d Soul’s Tune
To be ambitious is one thing, but to go to that level and succeed on all points in what you are trying to achieve is damn near impossible, especially in the music game. Well DiMi Marc has done that and then some. After reviewing his first two mixtapes released in the past month I was eager to finish the trifecta with his third release, “Trap’d Soul’s Tune”. This one is the most inspiring of the three, the main focus would be keeping yourself motivated when a lot of outside noise seems to keep you down. What DiMi accomplished with the other two mixtapes he continues to do on this one and then some. Check out each song below and my review to go along with. Overall, just like the previous ones, this gets a 9/10 in my book. “Trap’d Soul’s Tune” is a great way to finish something that DiMi Marc already accomplished. Check it out.
Souls- Great introductory track with a unique relaxed beat. Reminds me a bit of “Hold On We’re Going Home” in the beginning then it gets hard towards the middle of the song. Good stuff.
Free Spirit- I think what makes this song so great is not the beats but the lyricism involved. It basically details the desire to be free and do whatever you want but your dreams and determination put you into that “Trap’d Soul” kind of mentality that you can’t get out of but want to stay in. Definitely one to listen to.
Factory- Reminiscent of what a lot of people think of the industry, “Factory” details how DiMi thinks how a lot of these people are factory based and not real in what they are doing, quite the contrary to what he is putting out. Just like “Free Spirit” this song has a great message worthy of a listen or two.
Wings- 80’s throwback in my opinion with the opening beats. I find that more than the other mixtapes that this one has a lot to do with reaching for your dreams and dealing with the road blocks along the way. This one details it the best out of the entire mixtape.
Level Up- The R&B on this is so freaking smooth and silky from Father Dude and makes me miss 90’s R&B more than ever. Beat wise this is the best on the mixtape, and the contrast between rapping and singing really blend well to make this song that much more elevated.
Critics- This mixtape for the most part has been mellow with it’s beat but this is probably the most turnt up song off of the whole damn thing. That is quite the change from the previous track but a good one in that it’s just another damn good one. Fuck your haters- it’s that simple with this song.
Masked- The song details how one goes through life with their guard up and the pain one can experience in their lives that they don’t let other people see. Not my favorite track off the mixtape but another good one in my books.
Amadeus- Love the slow piano in the beginning of this track. It’s a water down version of being turnt up with Amadeus, kind of the song you bob your head to while having a drink in your head. Love the skip beat in the chorus with his smooth vocals on this track.
Voice In The Wind- I would say of all the tracks on here lyrically and flow wise this is where DiMi goes the hardest, even with a calming beat in the background. Besides “Level Up” this is my favorite track and one you should listen to.
Love 4 You- Great way to end this trilogy, detailing all the love he’s got for the people that affect DiMi. Like a personal dedication page you use to see in an CD sleeve, but sung with a great beat.
I would recommend using all three mixtapes for whatever mood you are in. Going through turmoil in your love life? Try Trap’d Soul’s Love. Want to get turnt the fuck up on the dance floor with you and your friends? Go for Trap’d Soul’s Will. Want a good mix of both and then some? Trap’d Soul’s Tune is all for you. Bottom line, DiMi Marc will make fulfill your ear fantasies with whatever sound you are looking for at that moment. Check out the link to all three and be on the lookout for big things in the future for this talented dude.
After reviewing DiMi Marc’s first mixtape a week ago here on Manhattan Digest to amazing fanfare and high praise, I was super excited to review his second of three mixtapes he is releasing this month- Trap’d Soul’s Love. The first mixtape was more on the turnt up side, where as DiMi Marc’s second one brings a more soulful and down to earth version of the talented emcee. He mixes a lot of what is popular nowadays in music, blending great genres and sounds reminiscent of superstars Drake, Miguel and J. Cole for instance. Overall, this mixtape earns a 9 out of 10 in my opinion, as DiMi Marc continues to bring out his best and continuing what I hope for him which is to make it to the top of the charts. Check out my review of each song off of Trap’d Soul’s Love and check it out in full here on his Soundcloud page!
Rock (With JL)- good mixture of R&B and hip-hop. Sick sex anthem that has a great beat to it. Euphemisms are obvious but good (I rock your body, we’ll make rock and roll).
All That Matters (Justin Bieber & Chiefs)- if any song on this mixtape could be a single it would be this. May be because of the Bieber hook but it adds really well to DiMi’s flow in this song. Good flow from DiMi as usual.
Feverio (with Sango)- love the opening part with the questions- would you ever let me take you to the moon, would you ever let me love you too soon? Asks the questions about falling for someone blended with a really relaxed beat. Love it.
iii- The essence of a breakup is detailed poignantly through DiMi on this song. Sticks with the love theme with the slower beats, similar to Dream and Miley Cyrus’ “Real And True”.
Morning Call (with Empia)- The throwback Sonic The Hedgehog type beats on the chorus mixed with a great drum beat makes this another stellar standout on this mix. Good transition from break up to missing the one you love.
Moondust- Absolutely love this song, probably my favorite off this whole mixtape. Love the build up in the beginning and the lyricism is amazing.
Good 2 U- Normally with his mixtapes the music takes over the first 20-30 seconds but he goes right into his rapping pretty quickly, detailing how he was good to the girl he was with. The pain is real in this as this is one of the harder songs on this.
Found Better- anytime a man and woman duet on something it’s always a working formula. Him and Kim Cole slay this song, detailing each persons POV on how they found something better. Sick.
Crush- Chorus on this is addictive, with Lisette Love giving a really big Shawnna type throwback with the sound and feel of this song.
I Know You Got Work- great way to close this mixtape. Empowering and a great message to women out there.
Check out the video for Good 2 U here! Sick song and a sick video!
As sad as it is for me to say this, I was not invited to the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards that are happening tonight in Inglewood, California. I repped Manhattan Digest to the fullest at last year’s show when they were held at Brooklyn’s very own Barclay Center, and gave us one of the most epic performances in VMA history- Miley Cyrus. If you don’t know what happened then you have been living under a rock for the past year. Needless to say, this year’s VMA’s is sure to be unpredictable and insane as it usually is. The lineup of performances look sick, with the opening being pop divas Jessie J, Arianna Grande and hip-hop songstress Nicki Minaj doing their current top 10 single “Bang Bang”. Other noteworthy performances of the night should be Taylor Swift, who will be performing her new hit “Shake It Off” from the much anticipated new album “1989” due out October 27th. And of course, the lady of the night will be eight time nominee and already multiple VMA award winner Beyonce, who will be receiving the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award later in the evening. This award has been bestowed on several legends in the industry, from Madonna, Janet Jackson, The Rolling Stones and most recently pop pioneers Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears. Should be a performance of epic madness and one that I cannot wait to see.
So let’s breakdown the other thing that people are there to see- who will win each category at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards. This year’s pack is stacked with some of the biggest artists and songs of the year, and is making it tough for this journalist to choose who will win and who should win. It is still funny to me that MTV broadcasts something like this when I believe I was wearing JNCO Jeans the last time they actually aired a block of music videos, but it is the most highly anticipated award show of the season, so I can see why they keep it going each year. Let’s breakdown each category, starting with the “Artist To Watch, Presented by Taco Bell”.
Artist to Watch, Presented By Taco Bell
5 Seconds Of Summer- “She Looks So Perfect”
Fifth Harmony- “Miss Moving On”
Sam Smith- “Stay With Me”
Schoolboy Q- “Man Of The Year”
Charli XCX- “Boom Clap”
Who Will Win- 5 Seconds Of Summer, Who Should Win- Sam Smith
5 Seconds Of Summer really came out of nowhere and has won the hearts of millions of adoring teens, who are the ones voting on this particular category for the most part. They are One Direction with talent, drums and guitar for the most part, so I sure as heck see them easily winning this won as it is a fan based vote. Fifth Harmony could’ve been a heavy contender for this if 5SOS wasn’t in it, but they won’t win this one. Schoolboy Q is amazing, as well as Charli XCX’s song from “The fault In Our Stars” but not enough to garner this. If Sam Smith doesn’t win this at the VMA’s, he sure as hell will win at the 2015 Grammys and several other prestigious awards. His solo work this year on “Stay With Me” on top of his brilliant performances with other artists such as Disclosure and Naughty Boy prove what a threat this guy is to the industry, and I hope he gets some love on VMA night.
Best Rock Video-
Linkin Park- “Until I’m Gone”
Imagine Dragons- “Demons”
Black Keys- “Fever”
Arctic Monkeys- “Do I Wanna Know?”
Who Will Win- Imagine Dragons. Who Should Win- Black Keys.
Imagine Dragons have had a pretty awesome two years, and this was only the 2nd song released off of their amazing debut album. “Royals” is not a rock song, so I don’t get why it is in this category. Lorde has a better shot in other categories than this one, and sadly I don’t think Arctic Monkeys have a shot in this category either. Black Keys should win as “Fever” is an amazing video, but no doubt Imagine Dragons will be the one taking this home tonight.
Best Pop Video-
Arianna Grande Featuring Iggy Azealea- “Problem”
Iggy Azalea Featuring Chari XCX- “Fancy”
Avicii Featuring Aloe Blacc- “Wake Me Up”
Jason DeRulo Featuring 2Chainz- “Talk Dirty”
Pharrell Williams- “Happy”
Who Will Win- Arianna Grande & Iggy. Who Should Win- Pharrell.
This really has been the year for Arianna and Iggy, however I think because Arianna has a bigger tween and teen fanbase she should lock this one up. “Wake Me Up” should be more in the clubland award than this one, and “Talk Dirty” just seems too urban for this as well, as is “Fancy”. “Happy” is a freaking brilliant video that screams pop with a R&B flare, and should be the one to win in this. But expect pop ingenue Arianna Grande to be leaving with not just one but a couple of VMA night.
Best Female Video-
Arianna Grande Featuring Iggy Azalea- “Problem”
Iggy Azalea Featuring Charli XCX- “Fancy”
Katy Perry Featuring Juicy J- “Dark Horse”
Who Will Win- “Royals”. Who Should Win- “Dark Horse/Partition”
I think “Royals”, even though it is quite simple, kept my focus a lot more than the colorful pops that Iggy and Arianne presented in each of their videos, and the song is better than both so based off that it will and maybe should win. I loved the video for “Dark Horse” as Katy keeps bringing us really unique and out there videos that she has done so well over the years. “Partition” isn’t the best video from the Beyonce album, but the look and feel of it should really make her a good contender for this category tonight.
Best Male Video-
Ed Sheeran Featuring Pharrell Williams- “Sing”
Sam Smith- “Stay With Me”
John Legend- “All Of Me”
Eminem Featuring Rihanna- “Monster”
Pharrell Williams- “Happy”
Who Will Win- Ed Sheeran. Who Should Win- All of them (Minus John Legend).
This is quite possibly the strongest category of the bunch this year, as all videos and songs are incredible in their own unique ways. John’s song is amazing and is this generation’s new wedding song, however the video was basic and more of wedding video than an actual music video. I happen to love Ed Sheeran’s vocals and video for “Sing” so that gets my vote easily. I wouldn’t mind multiple VMA winner Eminem winning this for old times sake, however I think this is Ed’s to lose.
Best Hip-Hop Video-
Childish Gambino- “3005”
Drake Featuring Majid Jordan- “Hold On (We’re Going Home)”
Kanye West- “Black Skinhead”
Wiz Khalifa- “We Dem Boyz”
Who Will Win- Drake. Who should win- All of them.
Another really amazing category. I have to say Drake will win just based off of how popular the video and song was, however Eminem might be knocking at Drake’s door for this so don’t be surprised if he pulls an upset. Kanye’s video is one of his best ever with his own social message that makes this video and song one of the standouts off of his last album. Wiz hasn’t really had the biggest success since “Black & Yellow” however “We Dem Boyz” is a great video and keeps his street hustle going in the hip-hop game. Childish Gambino deserves a lot more success than then man is given, and I am super pumped the “3005” got the nod this year.
Video Of The Year-
Pharrell Williams- “Happy”
Miley Cyrus- “Wrecking Ball”
Beyonce Featuring Jay-Z- “Drunk In Love”
Iggy Azalea Featuring Charli XCX- “Fancy”
Who Will Win- Miley or Beyonce. Who should win- SIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!
“Chandelier” is such an AMAZING song and video that I really just want to see Sia make a public appearance and win this. She’s like the female Daft Punk, you really never see her so I think it would make an AWESOME VMA moment if she won. I don’t get why Iggy is in this, the video is great but not at this level, she’s too new. As much as “Wrecking Ball” is a great video it is more 2013 than 2014, so I don’t think it deserves to win this. “Happy” is amazing, but I fear Pharrell may be shut out due to the younger demographic. Seeing as this is Beyonce’s night, expect her to win her second Video Of The Year trophy (done once before for “Single Ladies” back in 2009). But this is quite the unpredictable category, so you never know.
Who do YOU think will win tonight? Comment here and for a full list of nominees check out the official website for more info.
Maybe I’m privy towards people I interview from Long Island cuz that’s my hood and ain’t nobody gonna tell me different. OK now that I got my boughetto chit chat out of the way, someone who I have been a big fan of for a long time now is hip hop & R&B ingenue is Long Island’s very own DiMi Marc. I have been able to interview him in the past but when I got word of the epic madness he has going on this month and months to come I knew I had to do a follow up and pick his brain on what is to come.
DiMi Marc is doing something quite extraordinary, releasing three different mixtapes in the month of August. One is all about the party and being turnt the fuck up (Trap’d Soul’s Will), love (Trap’d Soul’s Love) and emotional turmoil (Trap’d Soul’s Tune). Quite ambitious for an artist of any level, but seeing as this dude has the talent and flare to back it up, I am sure this is going to be a success. I recently sat down with DiMi Marc to discuss his ever budding career, amazing mixtapes and if there really is room in the industry for someone like him. Take a look.
So Dimi, long time no talk since our last interview. What have you been up to?
It feels like it’s been years! I’ve been preparing. Really growing as an artist, exploring my sound, and getting a clearer sense of where I want to be in the future. I’ve been working with producers and artists from around the world. Building connections and friendships. I’ve been in the studio a lot. And I’ve been handling a lot of business.
You seem to split your time a lot between Boston and New York City, do you find the Boston music scene to be just as prevalent as the New York City one?
It’s certainly different, but not in a bad way. There are people in both cities who are passionate about what they do and are extremely talented. No matter where you are there are opportunities. But the music scene has also moved to a global level for me. Due to the advances in technology, almost on a daily basis I’m working with someone who isn’t in the same city, and most of the times, not even the same country as me.
Looks like you are releasing three mixtapes in a short period of time this month. Quite ambitious. Why so many?
Well for me, these mixtapes are just a small piece of what I’ve been working on for a long. This year alone, I’ve created close to 100 songs, if not more. Which means I have many projects in the pipeline going forward. There’s this infectious work ethic that has me constantly creating something. And it’s tough because I want to share so much, but everything has it’s time. So starting off with these three mixtapes is right because they’re all tied together as one, Trap’d Soul’s Trilogy.
Let’s break down Trap’d Soul’s Trilogy. The first mixtape is Trap’d Soul’s Will. What is that one about?
Trap’d Soul’s Will is the part about wanting to go out and party and turn up. It’s about having fun and not being tied down or trapped by society. It’s the most “turn’t” up section of the Trilogy.
Next one is Trap’d Soul’s Love. Describe that.
Trap’d Soul’s Love is quite literally about the love experiences of the soul. It follows the ups and downs of being in a relationship, breaking up, and trying to move on and find someone new. But above all, I think it’s about constantly questioning and attempting to communicate with one’s romantic partner.
Finally in the trilogy, we have Trap’d Soul’s Tune. Tell me about that one.
So Tune is all about the emotional turmoil felt by the Trap’d Soul. It’s about exploring what is wanted most in life, dealing with feelings of loneliness and fake people, fighting to be understood, and constantly moving forward into the future.
Wow so you really broke each down to emotional, party and love songs. What inspired the breakdown of each?
From the very beginning, Trap’d Soul’s Trilogy was always one project that grew organically into distinct parts. I first introduced Trap’d Soul with It’s A D-Mix 2 at the end of 2013 as an exploration into the combination of hip hop with EDM Trap music. For It’s A D-Mix 3, I wanted to continue that combination of genres but also work towards exploitation of feelings. For me, music has always been about the feelings it invokes more than anything else. So the 3 parts are overarching themes in a collection of feelings. By separating the music into different parts, I created experiences for how you, as a listener, are feeling or want to feel. When you are feeling like acting the fool or being light spirited, you listen to Will. When you’re feeling mellow or are attempting to remember why you do what you do, you listen to Tune. And when something romantic or a lack of romance is going on in your life, you listen to Love.
With thirty songs out, can you let me know which song off each mixtape you like the most and why?
That’s tough! That’s like asking a parent which child they like the most. [Smiles and chuckles] My favorite songs change depending on where I am that day. And that’s the beauty of the trilogy. What you’re connecting to most is tied to what you’re experiencing. Every time you listen you have the chance to fall in love with something new.
Are you doing any concerts in the Manhattan area where my readers can come and see you perform these great songs?
I’m not too sure, right now I don’t believe anything is concrete just yet. I know my team and I have been in touch and in talks with different promoters and venues, so hopefully soon! It’s been such a while since I’ve had the opportunity to perform live out here. But what I would love to do more of are house party concerts. I used to do them a lot back in college and it was always such a blast. If anyone is throwing a party, shoot us an email ([email protected]) or call/text (631.209.7023) and I’ll come rock out with y’all.
Seeing as you are a cross between Drake & Kanye, which seems to be a popular genre of music nowadays, do you feel like there is room for a DiMi Marc type in the industry?
What has been amazing is having so many people tell me I remind them of Kanye, or Drake, or Eminem, Gambino, Cudi, and even LL Cool J. It’s amazing and I’m honored and humbled to have my music placed at such a high caliber. Those are certainly artists that I, and many other cats coming up in the game, have drawn influence from. And that is what art is all about, inspiring and drawing greatness out of others. That sad thing is there are tons of artists out there. Dope artists! Artists that haven’t been heard yet and that you and I may never get the opportunity to hear. Artists that are better than me and probably everybody out right now. So I’m not focused on being the dopest lyricist or the greatest singer. I’m focused on making music that touches peoples. Music that makes people dance, cry, smile, think, love. I’m focused on making music that makes people feel. By focusing on the feeling in the music it allows me to exists in multiple genres and create a wide range of music. In today’s industry many artists are good or great at one or two things. Most of them stay in their lane. Some artists attempt to do different things and fail. But there are few artists today that are truly able to cross over into different realms and succeed at there goals. And I’m blessed to be one of the few artists who can do that. So yeah, there is room in the industry for DiMi Marc.
Now that 2014 is more than halfway over, do you have an ultimate goal as to where you want this trilogy to be when the new year hits?
I want it to be in your headphones or coming through your speakers. I want the trilogy on your mobile phone or spotify playlist. I want people to listen to it. Share it. Enjoy it. I really want the trilogy to be something that people can always connect with and have at their finger tips to vibe with. I’m aiming for a lot downloads and buzz about the trilogy because I’m hoping that when someone’s getting ready to go out, they’re bumping to Trap’d Soul’s Will. When life isn’t exactly going your way, you’re playing Trap’d Soul’s Tune. If love is going right or wrong, you’re singing along to Trap’d Soul’s Love. That’s my ultimate goal for the trilogy by the end of the year, for it to be there for as many people as possible.
Coming to the end of the year, my brother and I began talking about who should write what best-of-the-year-lists for certain mediums. We both agreed that he should make a top 10 list for music, but the more he talked about his process towards completing a list, it made me wonder how much different a list by me would look. It made me realize that while I had enveloped just as much music this year as he did, there were just too many different genres and styles that I listened to, that I began to feel that a top-ten music list from me would be a nigh impossible task for me. That said, there is most certainly a genre of music that we both agree is more my area of expertise. That area is hip-hop music, and it didn’t take me long to realize that I simply needed to do a top ten list for it this year, and immediately!
I have to say 2013 was a great year for hip-hop, and one that really re-sparked my interest in the genre. I often say hip-hop music was my gateway drug towards becoming the music nerd that I am today, and this year proved actually nostalgic for me in that regard. There was just such a platitude of great artists working at the top of their game this year, from ones that recalled rap’s golden age in the 90s (Ka, Action Bronson), to highly popular acts moving rap even further into the 21rst century (Drake, Kanye West, Danny Brown), as well as some new alternative acts that seem to have already found their own unique niche that lays calmly in between these two points (Chance the Rapper, Earl Sweatshirt). I left off some albums that I deemed too “experimental” to carry the misnomer of hip-hop (with all due respect to the excellent albums Death Grips and The Weeknd put out this year), but I did include releases that artists were referring to as mix tapes this year (As holy shit, we saw some great “mixtapes in 2013!). So sit back, relax, and strap on your seat belts (courtesy of Dr. Dre I suppose), as this young journalist takes you down his top recommendations for 2013 rap music.
10. Le1f – Fly Zone/Tree House
I know it’s kind of cheating to put two mix-tapes on this list, but I feel that Fly Zone and Tree House both reflect such engaging-yet-conflicting sides of the New York beat-maker/rapper. Fly Zone is clearly the more upbeat of the two, with Le1f demonstrating that his unique talent for rapping over electronic beats could become a club sensation, while Tree House is smoother and sexier, and shows he could be Marvin Gaye if he wanted to. Like Action Bronson, I feel that Le1f is just warming up with this steady stream of mix-tape releases before giving us his first studio release sometime next year, but both of these records give us all something to be really excited for.
9. Earl Sweatshirt – Doris
It took years to get here, and arrived after the whole hot topic of “Free Earl”, so it was a bit of a dismay when listeners of the 19-year old rapper’s major label debut record began calling the album “merely good”. Still, Earl Sweatshirt (easily the best rapper in the LA-based hip-hop collective Odd Future) made a very strong record here, and showed that his subject matter had evolved beyond the already-tired horror-core raps that had made his brand name popular among America’s impressionable youth. A little too abstract at times, as Earl’s rap persona is still a tough nut to crack, but a brilliantly rapped record with some of the most playful use of production you’ll see all year (check out the song Molasses to see what I mean).
8. Drake – Nothing Was the Same
I have to admit that at first I was a little upset with Drake’s third LP. I thought Take Care was a brilliant album that trumped his freshman release in every regard, and I found that Nothing Was the Same was a bit of a return to the style that was on Thank Me Later. Thing is, this album does indeed use the raw honesty that the rapper conveyed on Take Care, just in a flavor that’s closer to hip-hop, rather than the R+B stylings that saturated his last release. It’s overall a very moving listening experience, and Drake may very well go down as the Prince of our generation (at least until Andre 3000 finally starts putting out albums again!).
7. Pusha T – My Name is My Name
Clipse was one of the best hip-hop duos of the 2000s, and for Pusha T’s solo record he proves that he can hold his own without his brother Malice backing him up. Sure, it doesn’t hurt that he has Kanye West executive producing the record, but aside from the high-end production and polish, Pusha T shows he has the wit, charisma and energy to be his own voice, and not just another protege of Yeezy’s. Also, I just have to say that Kendrick Lamaar gives possibly the best guest spot of the year on Nosestalgia, and I already can’t wait to hear his next album!
6. Ghostface Killah – 12 Reasons to Die
After two decades of being the Wu-Tang Clan’s most eclectic and evolving emcee, one has to ask if there’s anything more the 43-year old veteran can do…clearly a lot! Enlisting American composer Adrian Younge (who supplied the soundtrack for the blaxploitation spoof Black Dynamite), Ghosftace has given us a giallo-film-inspired concept album about a crime lord who is killed in a gang war, and then resurrected to lay bloody waste to his enemies. Spitting violent imagery and pulp narratives at a rate and quality that would make Tarantino proud (would it be asking too much for him to direct a film adaptation?), and featuring guest appearances by most of the other Wu-Tang Clan, as far as I’m concerned, this is the best thing to invoke the group’s spirit to come out of 36 Chambers 20th anniversary year. I’ve been calling Ghostface my favorite emcee for years now, and 12 Reasons to Die is proof enough to me that he’s going to remain so
5. Ka – The Night’s Gambit
If it wasn’t the most under-appreciated rap album of the year, then it’s only because not enough people listened to the damn thing! Ka, a Wu-Tang affiliate who some of you might have heard rap a solo track on the GZA album Pro-Tools, is that rare breed of rapper that uses his middle-age as a benefactor. At 41, Ka’s mindset seems to still be inherent to the 90s, with his talk of thug life, street poverty, and that era when New York was known as the Concrete Jungle, all while using eerie beats that recall early Mobb Deep and Wu-Tang. Yet he approaches these well-worn topics with a sense of maturity and wisdom, that lets you feel like you are really hearing the words of a wise street prophet, who has managed to survive the chaos of urban decay. Whether talking about spiritual re-awakening after violence, or rapping a street narrative that also happens to be a hip-hop history lesson (the track Off the Record incorporates the names of classic hip-hop records in the lyrics, similar to how the GZA referenced record companies on his famous track Labels), The Night’s Gambit is serious, no bull-shit, hardcore rap, and it’s up there with Savages’ Silence Yourself as one of the most awe-inspiring throwback albums of the year.
4. Chance the Rapper – Acip Rap
He’s barely out of his teens, raps while on drugs, often rhymes using the most nonsensical sentences, and he sounds like Ol’ Dirty Bastard as a pimply faced teenager with asthma…I love him already. The Chicago emcee is certainly unique, but it’s also surprising how heartfelt and thought provoking his songs can be. On songs like Acid Rap and Everything’s Good (Good Ass Outro), the rapper brings up all his woes concerning death, addiction and loss of innocence, all while coming off as a cute-and-cuddly teddy bear who happens to be a chain smoker. I’m hoping that in the future Chance realizes that Acid Rap is just too good to be called a mix tape, and will indeed be seen as his proper debut (I felt something similar happened with Danny Brown’s XXX). Regardless, Acid Rap is my pick for best debut record from a rapper this year, and possibly the genre’s most unique new voice since Danny Brown.
3. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels
El-P and Killer Mike both released great albums last year (which El-P both produced), so obviously the only question remaining was this: what if they made one together? Well, fans got their answer through Run the Jewels, a project that both rappers said was intended to merely be a fun little exercise for them, but it ended up being one of the best and most succinct hip-hop releases of the year. Over the album’s ten tracks, Killer Mike and El-P mostly restrain from being overtly political or meaningful, and instead just talk shit and try and have a good time. It’s a half-hour of witty verses, El-P’s futuristic beats, and an attitude that’s as tough-as-it-is-intelligent, and must be the most consistent and compact rap record this year. It sounds like a Method Man and Redman album from the year 2054, which sounds all the more awesome the more I think about it.
2. Kanye West – Yeezus
Technically it should be number 1 on this list, but something kept me from putting it there. No, it’s not that it’s too obvious, it’s more that I’m not exactly sure how well the album will age down the line. Right now, however, Yeezus is a brilliant release from hip-hop’s most discussed personality, and one that acts as sort of an inevitable destination point for him. While certainly a bizarre album, both lyrically and production wise, Yeezus is very much a culmination of all of Kanye’s past albums and his always evident obsessions, from his infatuation with his egotism, to his possibly clinical sex drive. At forty minutes also, the album is lean and filler-less, and even seems to fit the format of some of the synth-groups that Kanye appears to be imitating (i.e. Suicide, Throbbing Gristle). It’s still unclear whether Yeezus will go down as the rappers crowning achievement (might be hard to do, cause shit, that guy’s put out some really fucking good albums), but it’s likely that it will go down as his most Lynchian work. Like Eraserhad, I’m not entirely sure what it is or what the artist behind it is trying to say, but I am sure that it’s fantastic!
1. Danny Brown – Old
Is Danny Brown the single most crazy, endearing, vulgar, eclectic, distinct and original emcee in the game right now? That’s certainly a helluva claim (especially as a lot of those adjectives seem to contradict each other), but after listening to Danny’s latest release it’s hard to think of another. Over Old’s 19 tracks, the rapper touches on a plethora of different music styles that range from gangsta rap, to house, to alternative pop, while never breaking his singular character. What’s more, he’s a rapper that always has something to say, such as when he’ll spit party rhymes that are as ugly as they are lively, and then speak on darker issues such as his struggles with depression and addiction. Hell, as much as I love Danny Brown’s on-stage persona as a drug and sex fiend, I’m hoping he only continues to show more of his softer side on later records. A masterpiece of an album from a performer completely in control of his image and artistry
Miley’s song could be nominated, folks. Be aware.
The announcement of the songs nominated for the 2014 Grammy Awards are only 18 days away at this point where they are set to be announced live on CBS the night of December 6th. A tradition that they have been doing for a couple of years, the event will take place at 8/7 central, hosted by LL Cool J and featuring performers (and potential nominees) Drake, Macklemore and Keith Urban to name a few. As exciting as the performances are themselves, millions of music fans and performers alike will be giddy with anticipation over who will be the actual nominees for next year’s biggest music event. But who will be nominated in each category?
The award for “Song Of The Year” is different from “Record Of The Year” in that Song is awarded to its composers whereas Record can go to the performer and production team for that song. To me, this award exemplifies the best written song of the year, the one that is different from the rest and really made you think about its lyrical content in order to win this type of award. In recent years, this has been won by John Mayer’s “Daughters”, Adele & Paul Epworth’s “Rolling In The Deep” and the guys from Fun’s song “We Are Young” last year (Miguel’s “Adorn” should’ve won, in my opinion). So who has the chance to win the award this year? Take a look at who I think are some of the potential nominees.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert- “Same Love”(Written by: Ben Haggerty, Mary Lambert, Ryan Lewis & Curtis Mayfield). I love it when an artist of this caliber comes and makes a song about marriage equality, especially when he is in an industry that is known for its overabundance of homophobia. Written in particular about legalizing same sex marriage in Macklemore’s home state of Washington, the song does a simple yet extraordinary way of flowing lyrically why the use of the words “gay” and “faggot’ are truthfully wrong and why we should accept people as a whole no matter what their backgrounds are. In my opinion, this has never been doing before hip-hop wise, and I give Macklemore a ton of credit for being brave enough to do this. I also love that he has featured a ton of relatively unknowns on his album as he himself was practically one before the release of “Thrift Shop” in late 2012. Just like he did with Thrift Shop (Wanz) and Can’t Hold Us (Ray Dalton) he features the beautifully gifted Mary Lambert on this track to add a soft yet powerful female element to the song. Definitely the winner in my book here.
Miley Cyrus- “Wrecking Ball” (Written By: Henry Russell Walter, Sacha Skarbek, Stephan Moccio, Maureen Anne McDonald and Lukasz Gottwald). Let’s keep it 100 here folks, this was the year of Miley. We couldn’t escape her presence this year and say what you want about her but she does do a pretty good job at keeping us talking. The second release off of her album “Bangerz” became known a bit more for its very controversial video than it did the actual song. The song itself talks about the end of a relationship and the dealing of heartbreak at a young age (mainly this song is about Liam Hemsworth, whom she was engaged to until recently). It is her best effort yet, in my opinion, and has a lot of raw energy and grit to her which is something that she hasn’t really done in the past, being all Disney and whatnot. This song earned her her first number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and a permanent spot in our brains (for that video and other stuff) but more importantly in pop culture. She ain’t Hannah Montana anymore that’s for sure.
Pink & Nate Ruess- “Just Give Me A Reason” (Written By: Pink, Jeff Bhasker & Nate Ruess). It really drives me nuts that almost fifteen years into her career I still feel like Pink doesn’t get the recognition she deserves. The third release off of her popular album “The Truth Above Love”, “Just Give Me A Reason” is another one of those amazing songs that talk about the woes of a relationship and how hard it is to hear the other person when you yourself are in a ton of pain that you can’t see your way out of. Pink’s deep and low falsetto blends very well with Nate Ruess’ high-pitched vocals and makes this song that much more special. Pink, who we usually see do songs from a more solo perspective, truly shines on this one and proves why even after all this time she is still one rocking chick.
Drake- “Hold On We’re Going Home” (Written By: Aubrey Graham, Noah Shebib, Majid Al Maskati and Jordan Ullman). Something that I am still in shock about is the fact that Drake’s title track and album for “Take Care” didn’t get a single nomination in the main categories at last year’s Grammy’s, which is crap. I am really pulling for this talented guy to be grab a nomination for this song on some type of level, because this is one of his best one’s he has put out thus far. Blurring the lines of rapping and singing, the R&B crooner and hip-hop mainstay released this song second off of his very successful third album “Nothing Was The Same” to the delight of fans and critics. A simple song about how he feels for his female counterpart, the song has been a hit on the charts and in the minds of many of his female fans as he continues on his path to being one of the greatest hip-hop artists today.
Lorde- “Royals” (Written by: Ella Yelich O’Connor & Joel Little). I fucking love this song, forgive me for my language but I feel like that emphatic “FUCK” needs to be in there. A surefire lock for a Best New Artist, this song is the anti “Bling Bling” and “Beemerz, Benz & Bentley’s”. Meaning that she is aware of her background and upbringing and doesn’t have to sing about the jet set lifestyle in order to make it big in the industry, kind of like Sara Bareilles “Love Song” did with her tongue and cheek version of not writing a love song for her debut record. I am really pulling for her in February and really in the future because she is definitely one to watch out for.
Justin Timberlake- “Mirrors”
Taylor Swift- “Red”
Bruno Mars- “Treasure”
Sara Bareilles- “Brave”
Imagine Dragons- “Radioactive”
Who do you think should and will be nominated?
Awards season is upon us! 2013 had to have been one of the greatest years in music in my honest opinion, with so many diverse artists coming out with some fantastic songs that really took the world by storm and put some of them on the map for the first time (Lorde) and on it again (Justin Timberlake). Now with the Grammy Awards rapidly approaching in February and nominations being announced in shortly a month, now is the time to look at who are the most viable choices to be nominated. Here is a good list of six contenders looking to take the top prize at the 2014 Grammy Awards-
Justin Timberlake- “Mirrors”
I personally think he has the Album Of The Year category on lock, but needless to say this has been the year of J Tim. After taking a near seven year break from the music industry to focus on his acting career, he roared back into the music scene with not one but two records. After releasing the first track of “The 20/20 Experience” called “Suit & Tie” with Jay-Z, many critics felt as if that track in particular wasn’t a strong enough showing especially coming from his other two efforts, “Like I Love You” off of “Justified” and “SexyBack” from “Future Sex Love Sounds”. Although that song was a top ten hit, it failed to make a huge impression on fans as well. Then “Mirrors” was released, and all was forgotten. The song made it all the way to number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, selling three million units and ultimately winning a prize that has alluded him at the Video Music Awards- Video Of The Year. A strong contender indeed to win this.
Daft Punk Featuring Pharrell Williams- “Get Lucky”
Adored by fans worldwide, millions of them were eagerly awaiting the release of “Random Access Memories” which was the first release from the group since they made the soundtrack to the uber successful film “Tron: Legacy”. The lead off single featured the man of the summer Pharrell Williams, who was also featured on another little track called “Blurred Lines”. With his smooth vocals mixed with Daft Punk’s gymnastic type rhythms, the song became one of the three biggest tracks of the summer, and scored a number 2 slot on the Billboard Hot 100. Having Nile Rogers appear on the track isn’t too shabby as well. They could be a top contender for this as well, but I do feel like they will win all of the EDM awards. Yet, I do wonder how they would accept this award with those helmets on. Interesting!
Taylor Swift- “I Knew You Were Trouble”
This is not a personal choice, so please don’t jump down my throats for this. The Grammy’s love Taylor. They love her so much that they gave her album of the year award back in 2009 for “Fearless” over some insanely strong competition (DMB, Beyonce, Gaga & Black Eyed Peas). The former Best New Artist contender should definitely expect at least one nomination in the main categories as her “Red” album was released too late in 2012 to be considered for last year’s award. My personal favorite track off this album is either the title one or “Everything Has Changed” with Ed Sheeran, but this song was huge for Taylor and really brought her more into the pop-rock mainstream than ever before. A much better effort than last year’s ROTY nominee, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”, Taylor will be a sure fire lock for this song to at least be nominated in the pop categories as she has in a way ditched the country ones a long time ago.
Said this in the last article, but she truly defines the whole late in the game thing. The fresh faced 16 year old from New Zealand quietly made her U.S. debut with this song which was played on heavy rotation on MTV Hits and a couple other channels. When airplay got ahold of it, it brought the track to another level and put her on the market as an artist to watch. A true shoo in to be nominated for Best New Artist, this talented songstress will be the perennial Alternative track nominee, unless Imagine Dragons come in with “Radioactive”. Still I am pulling for this girl 100 percent for at least this nod.
Robin Thicke Featuring Pharrell Williams & T.I.- “Blurred Lines”
Ah yes, Robin Thicke. Jesus you couldn’t escape this song and to be honest you really didn’t want to. This song came to life back in late May of 2013 when they all performed it on “Ellen”. The song itself was a true hit but it also was accompanied by a very racy video which included semi naked models parading around a set. Robin has earned quite some notoriety for this song, in particular his Beetle Juice inspired outfit at the 2013 Video Music Awards with the foam finger loving Miley Cyrus, to which they both performed this song. Needless to say, after being in the industry for multiple years with only one big song to his name before this (“Lost Without You”) this is the true time for Robin and his silky vocals to get his recognition.
Bruno Mars- “Locked Outta Heaven”
Here is the thing with Bruno Mars, you either love his music or you can’t stand it. Just like Taylor, Bruno is loved by the Grammy’s. The first song off of his album “Unorthodox Jukebox” was received very well both by fans and radio alike. He took a dirtier approach to this album, as his first album tended to be more about love and adoration for love for women. This track in particular talks frankly about what it feels like to be locked outta sex (Keep it real) as well as other songs of his like “Gorilla”. 2014 should be a huge year for him as he has been tapped to be the halftime show at the upcoming SuperBowl being held at Giants Stadium in New Jersey. Strong contender indeed to win this category.
Honorable Mentions (And possible contenders)-
Pink & Nate Ruess- “Just Give Me A Reason”
Imagine Dragons- “Radioactive”
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Featuring Mary Lambert- “Same Love”
Drake- Hold On We’re Going Home”
Who do you think will be nominated? Check out The Grammy’s official website for more information.
The Video Music Awards are the one award show I look forward to every year because beyond anything it tends to be pretty freaking awesome. It ranks as one of the most social events of the year and has birthed and revamped many careers over the past three decades. Now in it’s 30th year (crazy), the VMA’s are set to take place back where it all started- New York. It will be broadcasted live on August 25 at the brand new Barclay Center right in the heart of Brooklyn. Heck, even the classic Moonman got a great redesign for only this year. Truth be told, this will be another one for the record books. How can I tell? All the great people are nominated this year. Let’s break down each category.
Video of the Year-
The ultimate, the biggest award of the night has got to be “Video of the Year”. In recent years, R&B Divas like Beyonce (Single Ladies) and Rihanna (Umbrella, We Found Love) have taken the trophies yet over it’s 30 year history has seen this award go to a bevy of legends such as Madonna (Ray of Light) and Eminem (Without Me) just to name a few. This year three R&B crooners, a hip-hop legend in the making and one of the biggest female stars on the planet all under one category. Robin Thicke has his first set of nominations this year with his number one chart topping “Blurred Lines” featuring Pharrell Williams and T.I. That song has been voted by several publications as the song of the summer, and boy has it been good to him. Justin Timberlake returns to the VMA pool with the second single off his album The 20/20 Experience with “Mirrors”. He has been in this category twice before for “What Goes Around… Comes Around” and “Cry Me A River”. Country-turned-Pop diva Taylor Swift has her first Video of the Year nod with the second single off her album “Red” called “I Knew You Were Trouble”. Rounding out this category is R&B hit maker Bruno Mars “Locked Outta Heaven” and who I think will and should be the winner, Macklemore &Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop” which currently sits as the biggest selling song of 2013. It’s also a rad video. Yup.
Best Hip-Hop Video-
This category has been around since 1999 (it changed from Best Rap Video) and has been won by quite the bevy of artists such as Beastie Boys, Jennifer Lopez and Missy Elliott. The nominees this year scream out for the fresh new faces that are taking over the industry and keeping it hot and hopeful for the years to come. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, who are up for 6 this year, come in again in this category with “Thrift Shop” but they have some truly stiff competition in place. Newbies in the game from Kendrick Lamar (Swimming Pools), A$AP Rocky (F***ing Problems) have their first shots at winning a moonman, and perennial favorites such as Drake (Started From The Bottom) and J. Cole (Power Trip) are looking to make their mark in this category. “Thrift Shop” will most likely win in this category as well, but there is a crowded room for anyone to come out on top.
This award, only given out in 2007, 2010 and 2011 has been won by all the big divas in recent years such as Katy Perry (E.T. with Kanye West), Lady Gaga (Telephone with Beyonce) and Beyonce and Shakira (Beautiful Liar). The divaness in this one is not on the mainstage, as the five nominees couldn’t be different from each other. Robin Thicke shows up again in this category with the saucy “Blurred Lines”. Hot dance tracks such as Pitbull & Christina Aguilera’s “Feel This Moment” and Calvin Harris & Ellie Goulding’s “I Need Your Love” populate the crowd as well. The two that I see truly going neck to neck on this is Justin Timberlake & Jay-Z’s “Suit & Tie” and chart-topping “Just Give Me A Reason” by Pink and Nate Truess.
Check out the full list on MTV.com. Who is your pick to win? Be sure to watch the MTV Video Music Awards live on August 25th and see if your favorite wins!