88.1 WKNC’s Pick of the Week 3/23
By John O’Neal, WKNC DJ Buck Nasty
There’s a lot of hip-hop knocking on people’s doors nowadays, from little-known artists like Yelawolf to full blown show-stoppers like Nas. But nothing draws attention like having a lyricist who can wow you with his smooth flow while also injecting heartfelt emotions that leave you wanting more.
That person is Shawn Chrystopher, who hails from Inglewood, California. His latest album, You and Only You, is available free for download on www.youandonlyyou.com and features more hits than any album you would buy.
Shawn Chrystopher starts by using his real name as his rap label, which is surprising. He also sports no label, so he has the creative authority over all his own sounds.
It’s OK if you haven’t heard of him after three mixtapes, three albums and two singles. I first heard of him after watching The Reason’s music video on YouTube, which is a dry showcase of what hip-hop should be.
What you don’t expect is for his main song to be so raw. “You and Only You,” the first song on the album, is spoken word. It reminds you that rap is only poetry over a beat, which a lot of artists forget. He talks about the material wants his girlfriend wants, and how he wants to make it big in the business for his mother.
I give a quick listen to songs on little-known rapper’s albums, not because I don’t think they don’t have anything to say, but because the first 20 seconds make or break a song to me.
“Emergency Broadcast” will have you still listening for all one minute and two seconds of it, with your head bobbing. With the ripe trumpets and the melodic voice he presents, you wonder why rappers don’t stay this fresh.
Another song that had me pressing repeat was “The Hangover.” Many movies and songs have tried to embody this feeling, but Chrystopher captures it with ease. You can visualize the scene he is painting, and the beat’s feel complements the message very well.
The image that a rapper is living well is a message that’s put out too much. I thought Shawn Chyrstopher’s “Sold Out Shows” featuring Cameron Wallace was another song like this. But his verses embody what he actually feels and how he puts so much effort behind making it.
You may not love hip-hop for whatever reason, but Shawn Chyrstopher’s self-made sound is refreshing and worth the download, especially because it’s free. He’s at the South by Southwest festival right now without any label backing promoting his music, and I wish him the best for it.
Seattle’s Che Blaq has brought a new innovative sound to the genre of R&B by combining the sounds of electro-pop, hip-hop, and vintage soul. What makes Che stand out amongst other upcoming R&B artists is his smooth, yet soulful and powerful voice, catchy and fresh melodies and edgy production.
Che’s debut album “Fearless” will be arriving in stores soon and promises to be filled with songs written, produced and arranged primarily by himself.
Aside from his solo endeavors, Che is one half of R&B duo, The ARq, along with Jay Dot, who recently released their second album “Untouchable 2.0″. He is also the CEO of HouseHold Entertainment/Island Hills Publishing.
Q: How would you describe your sound?
A: Electro-pop-soul. It’s a complex mixture of ambient undertones, heavy rhythmic patterns, and bright synths. Really emotional epic stuff.
Q: Who are your primary musical influences?
A: Sade, Sting, Seal, Daft Punk, Placebo, Donny Hathaway… I don’t really have a traditional ear for music. I try to keep an open palette.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish through your music?
A: I want to give a voice to the so called “different”. The people that don’t really fit in. The ones that seem to always get picked last. We all have a story…
Q: What’s been the highlight of your career thus far?
A: Being able to create something that the world has given so much love to. Doing what you love to do for a living is truly a blessing.
Q: If you weren’t singing, what would be be doing?
A: I’d probably be a wrestling promoter…lol. I’m such a fan!
Q: Guilty Pleasures?
A: Krusteaz DIY chocolate chip cookies, anything Batman, and scary movies.
Q: Fave TV show/cartoon?
A: Fringe, Law & Order SVU, Spongebob, and Kid vs. Kat
Q: Celebrity crush?
A: Eva Mendes and Rosario Dawson…lol
Q: Biggest Pet Peeve?
A: Being late.
Q: Anything you’d like to add about yourself in two or less sentences?
A: If you see me online, scream at me. I’m a pretty easy going guy.
Look out for Fearless later this year.
The 4th annual North Carolina Underground Music Awards (NCUMAs) will be held on March 19 in Greensboro, NC.
The NCUMAs is the brainchild of Carl Major Potter III and sister Sanedria Potter and is a chance for unsigned, independent and local R&B and Hip-Hop artists, deejays, and producers and to be recognized and rewarded.
The nominees have already been chosen (by the fans) and voting is currently open up until two weeks before the show. Performers will be announced shortly.
11/19 WKNC 88.1 Pick of the Week, written by Kunal Vasudev, DJ Wise, Underground 88.1
Though the MC-producer collaboration is a concept that seems to have been left in the past, every so often an MC and producer team up for an album that recalls the days when acts such as Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth and Gang Starr ruled the Hip-Hop scene. Brooklyn MC Skyzoo and New Jersey Hip-Hop producer !llmind team up to craft a sharp, 12-track record that seamlessly combines the sounds of Golden Age Hip-Hop with the sounds of today’s Hip-Hop.
From the opening track, Live from the Tape Deck presents itself as an album built heavily upon hard-hitting beats and filling rhymes. The album is Skyzoo’s sophomore effort, fresh off of his 2009 debut The Salvation, and definitely showcases the MC’s evolving lyrical abilities. Where The Salvation left off, Live picks up, featuring a more focused Skyzoo who exhibits the ability to use fundamentally sound rhymes to construct fleshed out verses. His grasp of the English language is displayed as well, as Sky is able to twist words to his desires and utilize them in simple yet effective ways. This is very clear from the get-go in the second track of the album, “Frisbee,” where Skyzoo starts each line with the last word of the previous line so seamlessly that you don’t even notice that it is being done. Even further, “The Winner’s Circle,” finds Skyzoo roleplaying as Lebron James, taking a little under three minutes to explain what took Mr. James an hour and a some years to get out to the world. But Skyzoo’s abilities are truly exhibited on “Krylon,” a track, which, on the surface, seems to be a simple ode to graffiti, but digging beneath the rhymes reveals a deep track filled with metaphors about violence in it’s many forms, whether it’s physical, emotional, or sexual.
Of course, the album is not all about the impressive lyrical talents that Skyzoo showcases. !llmind, the Filipino-American producer hailing from New Jersey, displays why he is one of the most sought after producers in the Hip-Hop underground, producing for acts such as Little Brother, Boot Camp Clik, Supastition, and most recently Skyzoo. With Live, !ll attempts to capture the analog sound of the cassette and give it a more updated feel. What you have is typical East Coast boom bap percussion beneath layers of strings, synths and keys, which !llmind uses to create a haunting soundscape for Sky to mold his rhymes. It also does a brilliant job of recalling the hard-hitting sounds of the past while looking into the future of Hip-Hop production. The production calls for the best speakers one can find just to appreciate the richness, the honesty, and the fullness that !llmind weaves into his beats.
Live From the Tape Deck also has the bonus of making every part of the album feel apart of the album rather than just a collection of singles compiled together. The features, though appearing on four of the twelve tracks, match perfectly with Skyzoo and fit well with the records they are featured on, from Rhymefest on a political track to Torae backing up Skyzoo as “The Barrel Brothers.” And the intros & outros seamlessly transition into one another, never seeming out of place as the album progresses.
Ultimately, while Live From the Tape Deck evokes memories of the past, both through it’s title and the sound of the album, it is hard to attain that same feeling from the days of the tape deck. But Live brings Hip-Hop to its basic essentials: the beats, the rhymes and life. Nothing more, nothing less, and Skyzoo & !llmind combine to make it one of the best releases of 2010.
Authenticity, in stores 10/12, is the follow up to the Grammy-nominated and critically acclaimed Leave It All Behind, which featured hits “Daykeeper,” “All Or Nothing,” “Take Off The Blues,” and “I Wanna Know.”
The Foreign Exchange is comprised of Hip-Hop underground legend Phonte of Little Brother and Dutch producer/musician Nicolay. The duo met on the message boards of Okayplayer.com in 2002 and formed the group without having ever met, hence the name The Foreign Exchange.
The Foreign Exchange will be having a listening party for Authenticity Sunday, October 17 at 7:00 p.m. at the Six Plates Wine Bar.
by Pedram on Sep.07, 2010, under Underground
Whats up WKNC-ers! This is my first ever blog post, so don’t crack on me for not being too blog-savvy… but here it goes:
Tuesday night (Well technically Wednesday morning) on Underground 88, I invited a group of three very intelligent and beautiful ladies, Lilu, Danielle, and Julie, as well as an equally awesome and talented young man, Troy Jaques, onto my midnight hip hop show to discuss their charity event being held on the 12th of September. Before I go any further, here are the details for the event:
What: Emerge Fall into Fashion show and afterparty
Where: Mirage Night Club in Raleigh NC
When: September 12, starting at 8:00 p.m.
Why: Charity event, with proceeds going to Haven House Services
This group will be showing fall fashions from Dollface Boutique, Leluna Star, Julkee, and Zac Schell Designs. Not to mention for any of you local hip hop fans… KOOLEY HIGH will be performing right after the fashion show, as well as an after party for 21 and ups. Don’t worry under 21-ers, the fashion show, sushi and Kooley show will be open to you as long as you are 18. These designers (three out of four NC state Alumni) have been working very very hard to provide you with an awesome event and some great fashion design; these people live for their art. They will also be present at First Friday presenting their work.
I’m a social work major, so I get real excited by charity events, especially one for a cause like Haven House. Haven house is a private, non-profit organization headed by a volunteer board and operated by local members of the community who are interested in helping the youth of our community when they are in difficult situations. They are funded mostly by the United Way, government grants and donations. The proceeds from this fashion show go to Haven House, and not to mention Kooley High’s awesomeness will be present after the fashion show. And you get to look at cuties in cute clothes… and sushi. And summa dat bubbly if you’re old enough. All for a good cause. What else could you ask for?
If you’re interested, you can check out more information on www.emergefashionnc.com
It was a great pleasure working with these cats, and I’m real excited right now.
Charlotte native, Bettie Grind is storming the music scene with his hit single “Dammit I’m Fly” and latest Mixtape, I Am G’Sus. The rapper, who many call the King of the Carolinas, is determined to make his mark in the industry and bring the much needed and deserved attention to the region.
Princess of So So Def Records, Dondria will also be calling in at 9pm to “Real RnB Radio” in celebration of the release of her debit album, Dondria vs. Phatfffat. The soon to be released album features the hit singles, “You’re The One” and “Shawty Wus Up”.
Originally discovered on YouTube, Dondria is fastly becoming one of R&B’s most promising stars, with her soulful voice and impassioned delivery.
In case you missed our last interview with the R&B sensation, listen here.
Album: Champagne Champagne
by: Jose Jose
Champagne Champagne’s debut album finally got released for purchase and download this month, and it rises to every bit of anticipation that was generated by their earlier EP. The group, comprised of Pearl Dragon, Sir Thomas Gray, and DJ Gajamagic [Mark Gajadhar from the pop-metal band The Bloodbrothers], composed a great mix of dancified hip-hop that is overflowing with themes of love, lust, and reckless disregard for anyone that would get in their way. The album takes your soul from the depths of betrayal to ecstatic party mode, and you’ll be nodding your head to the beat the entire time.
The first track, “Soda & Pop Rocks”, strikes out with a deep, pounding bass that sets the mood for the whole album. The song is a shout-out to the hoods of Seattle, so as you’re tapping your feet to the beat Pearl Dragon calls out: “in the CD [Central District] bumpin’ CD’s/ my city’s not pretty, it’s gritty.” He makes it clear that no one can stop them from “blowing up like soda and pop rocks.” They carry the aggressiveness and determination of S&PR into “Radio Raheem” and depict the struggle their friends and family have been put through by violent police actions. The distorted guitar in the back only adds to the gritty reality of Seattle painted in S&RP.
Most of the album, however, is about girls. “Molly Ringwald” is a slow dance tune with spaced out and trippy synths behind it in which GajaMagic sings about his love of a girl that looks similar to Molly Ringwald. It turns out to be so sad because after a one-night stand she never talks to him again. The pain doesn’t stop there, though. In “Cover Girls” Pearl Dragon rhymes about a girl he dated that cheated on him with his friends. The synths and haunting backing vocals make it very heartfelt and depressing when he says ”I didn’t know that you could be influenced by some other guy/ every time I look into your eyes I know it’s a lie.” Insult is added to injury when, later in the song, the girl comes back only to give him “what she gave every other guy – the clap.” After hearing this song, it’s obvious that Pearl Dragon never wants to love another woman.
The group has no qualms about hooking up with girls, though, because in “Champagne Loves Your Brain” they aren’t talking about your intellect. The quick bass and playful guitar will have you bouncing again as you hear about the group’s physical desires. They aren’t selfish, though, as evidenced in “What’s Your Fantasy.” Over a funky bass and seductive saxophone, every sexy girl gets an account of the services they could receive, which sounds quite extensive.
It is quite clear from their name and album cover that Champagne Champagne is simply trying to have a good time. This album shows that even with a broken heart or police trouble you can still dance and live your life like a party.
Each week, Playlist 7 sponsored by ReverbNation and Windows 7 will allow listeners to stream 50 songs by independent artists.
Featured genres include alternative, electronica/dance, hip hop, jazz, Latin, and rock. Then, listeners can select 7 of the 50 songs for free download. Featured artists and songs will change each week that Playlist 7 continues. Tracks from artists featured the previous week will be available for a limited time in the audio library.
In addition to Playlist 7, music is always available to stream from ReverbNation, including tracks from several North Carolina artists.
During a year in which hip-hop seems to be coming back into the hands of actual emcees and leaving the hands of industry-supported artists, an album was dropped on September 8, 2009. An album that many, after 14 years, thought would never see the light of day. That album was the highly anticipated sequel to Raekwon the Chef’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, the album said to introduce the mafioso aspect to hip-hop back in 1995. Definitely being one of the hip-hop albums released this year, and in a very long time, it was only fitting that the Chef go on tour to promote his album. After a month or so in Europe, he finally hit the States and landed in the middle of North Carolina on December 6, 2009 at Carrboro’s Cat’s Cradle, when Raekwon, with the help of two special guests, put on a show just as equally dope as the album.
Of course, before getting to the main show, it must be brought to the attention that not all things started off with a bang at Cat’s Cradle. One of the opening acts, recently signed by Raekwon’s Ice H2O Records, came on stage for their performance. Having been to quite a few shows at Cat’s Cradle now, this was by far the worst performance I had ever seen. The name of this group is easily forgotten, as was their performance. Five guys bouncing on stage, bringing rhymes that you would hear from Gucci Man or Lil Wayne — and they were straight from North Carolina. Definitely not a great way to start the night. But thankfully, Raekwon’s arrival on stage pushed away all the horrible memories of that performance.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to see the God MC on stage, kicking a hole in the speaker, pullin’ the plug and then jetting. And I thought that was the greatest show I had been to. And while Rakim will always be the greatest rapper in my opinion, Raekwon destroyed the live show. The hunger was there — the drive, the passion. It was like watching a ghost from the past. And it reminded you why the members of the Wu-Tang clan still have the one of the biggest followings of any rap group in the world.
Without even saying a word, the presence of Raekwon on stage was enough to send the crowd in a frenzy. The Chef had arrived and the symbol of the Wu-Tang Clan had immediately gone up, with choruses of “Wu-Tang!” echoing through the venue. And then the saga continued. From the legendary joint, “C.R.E.A.M.” to “Da Mystery of Chessboxin’”, Rae kicked it off properly with joints from the classic Wu debut, 36 Chambers. And then, getting the crowd pumped up and talking about bringing real hip-hop back to the scene, Rae went straight into Cuban Linx I, grooving on stage to the song sampled in “Ice Cream” before launching into the actual song, accurately taking on verses by both himself & Wu-Tang brother, Ghostface Killah. Then it was on to the next one, ripping apart the song, “Criminology” and takin’ us back to “the good ol’ days”. But the Chef, already down with a cold and slowly losing his voice, decided to take a brief intermission and introduced to special, special guests on to the stage…
CNN. Capone-N-Noreaga. Bringing us a special “War Report”, and serving us up with classic tracks, including the amazingly dope cut, produced by DJ Premier, “Invincible.” For about 10 to 20 minutes, CNN tore up the stage, leaving none in their path. And you could tell they were going hard. Capone came back on stage for a brief minute to talk about iPhone apps, of all things, and could barely speak above a whisper because he lost his voice from the performance. And for all of you looking for the next CNN album, keep on the lookout for The War Report 2, due out on Ice H2O records sometime in early 2010.
Of course, after the brief intermission, the Chef came back up to the front and got right back in the swing of things, giving praise, respect and love to his brother, Ason Jones, also known as Ol’ Dirty Bastard and then destroying track after track after that was on the Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II, from “House of Flying Daggers” to “10 Bricks” and “Black Mozart”, Chef ended the saga with a bang, effectively closing up the sequel and conclusion to the original Cuban Linx album.
by DJ Wise
I always say that if you’re going to be a nerd, you shouldn’t apologize. Be proud!
Herein lies my justification for being unapologetically nerdy about some things. I suppose the same applies for being a band: if you’re going to be socially conscious, be unabashedly so.
Judging by their first full-length release, “Silence Fiction,” Durham-based band The Beast must agree. Almost every track is infused with laments, celebrations, and everything in between concerning matters of religion, race, politics, Bojangles, and other matters of pertinence.
And there’s no vacillating on some of these issues. The Beast is in your face about words like freedom and about race issues. It’s no wonder, then, that emcee Pierce Freelon is a visiting professor in the political science department at the UNC-Chapel Hill and the founder of the blog blackademics.org.
Additionally, The Beast’s recorded lyrics are less the product of writing than freestyling, so Freelon’s messages are genuine, if a little overbearing at times. But if issues don’t get you excited about music, then that’s okay too. The Beast is anything but a one-trick pony. I’ll get to that shortly, but their formative process is a prerequisite to understanding their sound.
The Beast could be called an academic super group. Freelon — whose mother is Grammy-nominated jazz singer Nnenna Freelon — needed a backing band for his thesis work in Pan African Studies at Syracuse University. He went asking at his alma mater, UNC-CH, and came back with three musicians all studying jazz.
While Freelon, Eric Hirsh, Pete Kimosh and Stephen Coffman were scoring the music for a film relating to the thesis work, they decided to stick together longer than originally intended. The result has been two EPs and an imminent LP that are refreshingly unique.
This distinctive sound is what, in my mind, makes The Beast noteworthy.
The band members are all students of jazz and manage to mix a vast array of musical influences. Their MySpace page will tell you they fit into the “Hip Hop/Jazz/Soul“ genre, but that is a bit disingenuous. The song “Translation” illustrates this point perfectly. It begins with an intense beat with Freelon rapping, but around the one-minute mark the band turns the song into what sounds like a salsa number, with some of the accompanying lyricism in Spanish. Such a tightly executed change of pace indicates quality musicianship and great production — courtesy of Sound Pure Studios.
The entire album is full of surprises similar to this one, as well as several points during which Freelon’s contagious energy culminates with a chant of “Whoo!”
Messages, influences, and production aside, this album is carried by its songs, each a unique story — some of them approaching didactic. Each song adds something new to the list of the things that The Beast does well, which in turn gives the album great replay value. “Silence Fiction” is long awaited but worth that very wait.
Inflowential just released a new music video for “Sheriff”, their contribution for the Hear Here local music compilation. The video was made by Jason Arthurs, and features footage of Inflowential recording at Flying Tiger Sound. The song addresses the issue of police brutality and references the Bob Marley classic, “I Shot The Sheriff”. Check it out!
Inflowential will be playing with The Love Language and Motorskills on Saturday, October 3rd, for the Hear Here finale show at the Pour House Music Hall. The doors open at 8pm, the show starts at 10pm, and tickets are $7. See you out there!
The top 10 hip hop albums played in our Underground format this past week:
1. J Cole - Lights Please
2. XV – Life Vs. Living
3. KRS – One and Buckshot – Survival Skills
4. Perfekt and Chance - She’s Dat Gurl
5. Saigon – “Believe It” [Single]
6. Slaughterhouse – The One
7 . Charlie Smarts - Bonanza
8. Dirty Money -Angels [Single]
9. So Supreme – Sha Stimuli
10. Pittsburgh Slim – “Girls Kiss Girls” [Single]
All this week, be listening to Underground on 88.1 FM for your chance to see Lil’ Wayne in concert. Live Nation presents Lil’ Wayne with special guests Soulja Boy, Young Jeezy, Drake, and Jeremih on Saturday, Aug. 8 at the Time Warner Cable Music Pavilion at Walnut Creek. Former WKNC hip-hop music director DJ Nominal named Lil’ Wayne’s Carter III as one of his favorite hop-hop albums of 2008. Your first chance to win tickets is this Saturday, Aug. 1 during The 2.0 Show with D-Cutta.
by bloggie on Jul.30, 2009, under Underground
The Independent Weekly has recognized Durham producer 9th Wonder in the 2009 Indies Arts Awards. Formerly a member of the Little Brother trio, 9th Wonder is an instructor at N.C. Central University and produces with artists such as Ludacris on the side. He also won a Grammy for his work with Mary J. Blige.
Read the full story about 9th Wonder’s award and other accolades here.