Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Video: Jay-Z and Kanye West - No Church for the Wild

Jay-Z and Kanye's album opener from 'Watch the Throne' gets a video.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Essay: Hip-Hop Battles - What are you fighting for?

"This ain't a battle, it's a war"

If I were to ask you what type of film that line came from, would you say an action flick or a war movie?  In fact, it's actually taken from a new dance movie that was released this week in the US, Battlefield America.

The premise, as in most dance movies, is pretty simple - a rag-tag group of under-privileged youth are pulled together into a lean, mean dancing machine by an young lawyer (sounds a little like The Mighty Ducks, but that's another story).

The structure of the plot revolves around the kids winning the big competition at the end, the Hip-Hop battle, hence the war metaphors.  Whilst I don't have problem with the movie per say, it did get me thinking about battling.

Hip-Hop battling began with the birth of breaking, when breakers formed crews and the crews would 'battle' each other.  The idea was that the neighborhood kids would be so invested in their breaking and their crews, that they would be less likely to get involved in the violence and criminal activity so often found the lower socio-economic areas of the inner-cities.

Over the last 30 years, battling moved out of the inner-cities and into the suburbs.  Crews now battle each other on stage, in organized Hip-Hop competitions for the right to call themselves the best crew.  There's even America's best dance crew, a TV show dedicated to crews battling each other with choreographed dance routines.

Whilst I love that Hip-Hop culture, it's four elements and the spirit of the streets has branched out into a world-wide phenomenon, I feel that there's also many ways in which that same spirit is being interpreted incorrectly.  Whilst the visual impact of Graffiti, MCing, Breaking etc, is easy to translate, the spirit of the culture isn't one that's easy to understand and appreciate, and it's even harder to embody.

When we 'battle' in the Australian sense, it's less metaphorical and more real.  It's seems that movies with the good and evil protagonists have shaped in our minds a version of battling where 'our team' is on one side, and 'your team' is on the other.

This 'us vs them' mindset divides communities, and dance communities especially.  Whilst dance school owners and teachers may be a part of that larger dance community, their students aren't yet, and the worry I have for the future is that as the next generation of teachers and owners comes through, the 'battle scars' will leave the local dance community fractured and scattered.

The key thing to remember and to promote among your pupils, is the spirit of Hip-Hop, and I'm not talking about some swagger they might've purchased in the way of some new kicks off from Eastbay.

I'm talking about the spirit that creates something from nothing, that requires us to come together to celebrate and share our creations.

We all love dance, we all love the music, lets enjoy the culture together and not let our 'battles' define our identities.  

Monday, May 21, 2012

Review: Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music

“Hardcore G-Shit, Homie I don’t play around”

That’s the first thing you hear on Killer Mike’s new record, and it sets the tone for a powerful record.  The track that houses it, ‘Big Beast’, is indeed hardcore, and showcases not only Killer Mike, but also down south legends Bun B and T.I.

The industrially heavy, old-school influenced production, for the whole album, comes courtesy of 90’s rap stalwart El-P, late of Company Flow and more recently the go-to guy for no-compromise straight up Hip-Hop bangers.  

Each track is tied to every other track in some way, with each production containing elements heard on other tracks.  This maintains the albums coherence and thematic structure, but it never feels repetitive or overdone.  There is enough variance in style to keep the listener engaged.

‘Southern Fried’ could be a straight up east coast boom-bap track, but the southern blues guitar sample is cut up in such a way that it gets both crunk and gangsta without sounding inauthentic.

The concussive production sets an aggressively loud sonic template, but vocally Mike’s resonant roar is up to the challenge.  His rousing growl has always allowed him to sermonize on the microphone, but here he also channels his own fears and stories to give his tales an additional emotional heft.

He also shows a steeped reverence for the Hip-Hop history.  Vocally he recalls Big Boi on a couple of tracks, throws out references Ice Cube and NWA, and drops stories like Slick Rick.  I’m not sure whether it was the production that steered him this way, but I think whatever music he had to work with would’ve had been inspired by the legends of the game.

Family also plays a big part on the record, with verses dedicated to his girlfriend, and a stellar song about his grandfather called ‘Willie Burke Sherwood’.  The stand-out track, if there is one, is the fiery ‘Reagan’, which takes the former president to task for his war on drugs, a move which put more young black men in jail instead of getting drugs off the streets.  

It’s hard to think of an album in the last ten years that’s as angry as it is enjoyable, as thoughtful as it is referential.  It’s a cross-continental classic, an urban connection that bridges the gritty frustration of New York City with the introspective funk of Atlanta.  

'Big Beast'


Monday, May 14, 2012

Video: Usher performs 'Climax' and 'Scream' on SNL

Usher dropped in on Saturday night live and performed his two most recent hits.  Although Scream showcased his dancing skills, 'Climax' pushed him a little as he had to bring the falsetto throughout the whole track.  He done did it and you can check it out below.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Happy Mothers Day! Listen to a great new Mothers Day track from Nas

A special Pure Funk shout-out to all the Mum's, those who are with us and those who've passed on to a better place.

Nas lost his mum not that long ago, and you can tell that it meant a lot to him.

Listen to his tribute song HERE

Video: R Kelly - Share My Love

This is a bit of a left turn for the R, and once again he's chosen the right path.  Usually confining himself to minimal R&B with over-the-top lyrics, Mr Kelly  has decided to splash out on a string-filled disco track.  You heard right, I said Disco.  He dials down the super-sexiness in the lyrics (although the brief 'Populate' refrain is ludicrously sublime) and finds the perfect pitch to make a hit out of what easily could have been a gross miscalculation. Touche'.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Video: Swizz Beatz & A$AP Rocky - Street Knock

It's showing my age when I say I'm excited about seeing former pro basketballer Allen Iverson in a music video. Why?  Iverson ushered in an era of street-style basketball in the late 90's that was inflamed by his supposed 'gangsta' attire.  I mean really?  With his tatts, cornrows and gold chains, AI was the proto-type for almost every ball player to hit the court these days.  Btw, he had mad skills too.

The song, by the way, is pretty nice too.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Stream: Meek Mill - Amen (feat. Drake)

Over some rolling church organs and a gospel choir, you'd expect Meek to aim for a conservative audience, but he goes the opposite direction on this track, calling out the ladies.  You can hear he's having fun, though, and in turn, so are we.

Download the track at Pitchfork

Monday, May 7, 2012

Video: Girl Talk - All Day (The Album made into a 12 part 70 minute film

If you've read this blog at all over the last few years, you may seen my ecstatic reviews for all of Girl Talk's albums Nightripper, Feed the Animals and All Day.  His albums are mashups of classic top 40 tracks from the 50's until now, with a heavy bent on Southern Hip-Hop and Dance music.  They are tremendous fun and technically ambitious (Girl Talk's Greg Gillis used to be a Chemical Engineer and his tracks are crafted based on complex algorithms).

A resourceful and creative crew have pain-stakingly crafted a dance film around the 70 minute mega-mix that is All Day and it is available in it's entirety online.  Give it a look, it's entertaining and at the very least you'll be exposed to some of the best mashups you'll ever hear.

Check out all 12 chapters HERE

See Chapter one below

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Essay: I had to say something about MCA from the Beastie Boys

Of the articles I read I've so far in the immediate wake of the news of the death of Adam Yauch, aka MCA from the Beastie Boys, most have consisted of memories of either meeting MCA and the boys, or having them sound-track some important time in your life.

Being a Hip-Hop head from the little city of Adelaide, I fall firmly into the second group.  I never met MCA, and only (regrettably) saw the Beasties once.  At the time that their fame and influence was at it's peak, I was poor, and barely had enough cash to purchase my Ill Communication and Hello Nasty cd's, let alone afford concert tickets.  However, even if I was cash-poor, and grew up in the country, I had those tapes and cd's, and they fucking awesome.

So, what do I remember about those Beastie Boys and more specifically, MCA?

Was it listening to Pauls Boutique a long time after I already should have and realizing what an idiot I was?  Even in 1996, an album loaded with that many old-school samples was already a historical artifact.  By that stage (and because of albums like Pauls Boutique), sampling had become highly litigious and very expensive, and the idea that you could use more than one or two samples in your songs was impossible, even for bigger acts like Notorious BIG and Tupac.

Was it sitting in my car at basketball on a random Friday night in 94, cold, but with a couple of friends geeking out over the 'Get it together' remix, a track that I'd been tracking down for weeks (in a time before downloading was an option).  It was cool the first time I heard the following lyrics blasting on my tapedeck and out through the speakers... I'm the M to the C to the A and it's a must, the rhymes that we bust on the topic on lust

Was it getting blazed and watching 'So Watcha Want?' on Rage in early hours of Sunday morning (this happened more than once), with MCA in his beanie waxing lyrical "Well I'm as cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce/ You've got the rhyme and reason but no cause/ Well if you're hot to trot you think you're slicker than grease/ I've got news for you crews you'll be sucking like a leech".

There are many more, and as soon as I'm finished writing, I'm going to enjoy remembering more.

MCA always seemed like the elder statesman to me.  The ever-graying hair he sported in their video's belied his boyish braggadocio on record, and they gave his lyrics an air of sage-like wisdom.  He grew in to the leadership role gracefully, becoming an ambassador for Tibetan Freedom and the director of some the Beasties best video's.

The day I found out that video director Nathaniel Hornblower was in fact MCA, I wasn't surprised.  Indeed, it seemed like they Beasties could do anything, and it was only later that I realized that MCA's work ethic was responsible for a lot of it.  They had their own record label and signed Ben Lee (when he was still cool), and they had their own magazine (Grand Royal), that was a pre-cursor to the culture-trolling hipster publications and websites that are prevalent today.

He founded his own production company, which is undeniably cool.  To find great directors and great scripts, finance them and see them turn into movies like Meeks Cutoff and We need to talk about Kevin?  It's a phenomenal achievement, and I bet Adam enjoyed every minute of it.

I will never achieve as much as MCA achieved in his time, and I will never have the cache of irrevocable cool that he, Ad-Rock and Mike D had, but that's ok, because that was his thing, and he lead as full a life as one could have in the short time he walked with us.

Vale MCA, may the angels be bumping 'Shake your rump' tonight.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Essay: R.I.P. Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys

Besides being one of my favourite MC's in one of my favourite Hip-Hop groups, MCA was also an activist for the Tibetan Freedom movement and an accomplished film producer, director and distributor.

His voice sound-tracked many unforgettable moments of my youth.

Read the official obituary HERE 

Read Paste magazines '100 Artists remember Beastie Boys Adam Yauch' to get some idea of his influence.

And Pitchfork has a 'Best of the Beastie Boys' tribute

Video: Rihanna - Where have you been

Rihanna has a sexy new clip, and she dances a lot in it.  What more could you want for a Friday, except maybe rainbows that spew lemonade and sprinkles?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Stream: Usher - Lemme See (feat. Rick Ross)

Usher's on a hot streak with his new single, which is a stellar, sexy Jim Jonsin produced track.  Rick Ross drops in for a typically plaintive Rossian verse.