Music about music is a tradition of popular culture. In hip hop, music about the musician is a high-risk, high-reward endeavor. To allow a look past your persona and be vulnerable can ruin your image as a badass, a gangsta, a force of nature or whatever deity Kanye West is sitting by the pool with. For Blak Ace, we’re treated to a reminder that inspirational messages tied into vulnerability can bring a greater sense of character in a powerful way. My Passion is a track that’s about music and the musician. The relationship between art and artist doesn’t have to be abstract. It doesn’t have to focus solely on struggles and sorrows. Black Ace finds that music is worth whatever it takes and is willing to give himself to it for the sake of the life music gives back. Moreover, this song encourages others.
Anyone who can’t get past the notion that hip hop is about selfishness, aggressiveness and general thuggery needs to open their ears. Blak Ace is not the first, nor will he be the last, to understand that music has power and that power can change people. Spreading messages of following ones dreams and living their passions to the fullest doesn’t sound like the bad influence scapegoat that hip hop has become to so many parents. In fact, one of the best qualities of My Passion is that it teaches pride in oneself and belief in a time when people aren’t always ready to follow their dreams. Today, we need more artists like Blak Ace.
Music is by far one of the very few special things which are able to help us, evolve, learn from life and get back on our feet after rough situations. ALX’s song “heartbreak” is a perfect example of this but it is not only written as a vent to let things go but it also makes use of a creative approach which blends pop with hip-hop, providing us with a singable and melodic chorus as well as some really punchy rap verses featuring interesting rhythmic play and flow.
The initial chorus at the very beginning puts us in the shoes of the writer, right at the specific instance of letting someone go but as the rap sections unfold, the vocal tone quality exhibits even more strength and conviction with strong lyrics and a steady beat. Towards the end of the song ALX presents us with a tunefully melodic bridge accompanied by a toned down arrangement and a mellower sound which really allows the lyrics to sink in. Apart from having a song that is expressive ALX also shows us his skills at writing with proper structural balance while blending two genres seamlessly and showing us the power that music can really have.
Rapping, like many other music scenes, has a face that it’s used to. In today’s world, we’re finally starting to understand that pop isn’t just for pretty faces. We’re realizing that women can rock just as hard. A white rapper isn’t the hardest thing to imagine anymore, but this doesn’t mean one can always feel welcome when indulging in another culture’s art-styles. Drew Curry carries the confidence of a rapper, and uses that to push forward with his track Uncooked Crack.
This song teases and pokes in and out of pop culture references. The lyrics aren’t meant to shake your foundation but they also lack the feeling that Curry has something to prove. This isn’t a statement or act of defiance against the status quo. This is Borat-jokes and a fun, simple, good time. The beat is good and the bass is thunderous. The loop of pitch-shifted pianos carry enough interest for anyone questioning the composition of the instrumentals. As for the rapping itself, it’s got a dash of flow and no need for speed. There’s nothing fancy about it, nothing to brag about, just a song that sounds like it was a blast to make. Drew Curry’s released plenty of material, so if straight-forward verses with no extra garnish are what you seek, look no further.
Tee Noah is a rare phenomenon in today’s musical climate. Someone who is able to blend accessible R’nB, dance, pop, even rap and hip-hop vibes together into songs which are both familiar yet fresh and on top of that create something which rises above mere commerciality. He has found or rather deftly created that magic combination of tracks that are infectious and accessible, and at the same time mature and exploratory. Not something you stumble across that often in a genre normally aiming for the quick buck.
But his debut ep, Out of My Mind is a brilliant showcase of how you can play to both ends of the market. The pop kids and club goers will certainly find a lot to love in its sultry grooves and vibrant moves but his ability to wander way outside the usual generic boundaries, throw in rock guitars and neo-classical harmonies will also appeal to those looking to see where popular music goes next.
One of the problems with hip-hop stars and rappers once they have hit the big time is that as much as they rhyme and revel in the dark embrace of the streets which may have been the subject of the songs which got them there, when they have a chauffeur and a place in the hills, it all seems so ingenuous. RuMeal to come from an altogether more real place.
The music is intense, claustrophopic even, mixing skittering beats with urban vibes, sweet distant harmonies and with wandering layers of vocals forming wonderful contrasts and collisions. Dollars is dark, mysterious, confrontational and infectious and coming from RuMeal, totally convincing.
With Holy Light Brandyn Kaine sits at the cross roads of many different influences. You can still hear some of the alternative hip-hop vibes that he has used as a core for previous songs but here he adds some intriguing additional sounds. Dreamy electro-pop and infectious dance grooves push the song in a much more obviously commercial direction but do so without abandoning the more urban soul sound that will keep him sweet with more underground tastes.
But that ability to cater to those who are more discerning in their musical choices and those who just want to hit the club floor and forget the world for a few hours is a neat trick if you can do it, few can. Brandyn Kaine certainly can.
One third of Montreal’s musical collective Blckcoke, here Prince Akeem delivers a track which looks into a dark corners of everyday life. Rap music has always been good at shining a spotlight on the street and the underworld characters that populate it, at the struggle for power and the hustle to stay in control.
What is refreshing here is that in his own gritty and realistic language Prince Akeem looks at the closed-door realities of conflict in relationships, the escalation of emotions and the grim results that can be borne out of passion. This is music embracing the hip-hop ethic that gave birth to it, music as social commentary, music that talks about everyday life. Sometimes the smallest and simplest stories are the most powerful.
One of the great aspects of hip-hop and rap is its ability to mix a street vibe with informed and intelligent lyrics, to play the fool but do so with a knowing wink, subvert the listeners expectations and mix the rough with the smooth. This is exactly why Origin’ works so well. It is a balance of groove driven lyricism and skittering beats, it mixes classicism with modernity, deep thought with throw away comments.
Musically it also confounds in the best of ways, tight clinical beats hold everything together but on it is hung smooth distant jazz saxophones and plaintive piano lines. This is the sound of up town sophistication drifting into the workspace of the struggling bedroom artist, of the self-educated street kid with no money but a ton of ambition. It paints a very real picture of the strange collisions and juxtapositions of the modern city and how music itself is often built of such fascinating interactions.
Despite having turn his back on his early passion for music, rapper Shain Romanowski, better known as A Certain Energy, found that its seductive ways were never going to let him go and after one life changing moment was propelled back into its embrace. With an EP about to drop, Know That is the perfect calling card for his ultra modern, hip-hop driven rhymes.
He takes the classic themes of fame and fortune, singular devotion and the drive to make it but delivers them with more melody and intelligence than the genre has seen in a long time and when he sings of his ambitions, far from coming across as just another street corner wannabe with all the words and no plan, with A Certain Energy you are as convinced as he is that he will get there. It is easy to draw parallels with a certain Canadian hip-hop heavy weight but maybe following the Drake Equation is exactly the path to take.
B Jet is nothing if not soaked in reality. This is really edgy stuff and it comes on as a cross between impassioned hip-hop, a last prayer and a heart wrenching confessional shot through with the grim truths of a life lived the hard way. It is the perfect answer to the saccharine commercial endeavours that have passed from the street to the charts along the way losing the spirit of the fight that hip-hop and rap where born out of.
As the song spirals ever onwards hypnotically through its dark autobiography of survival and struggle it becomes a compelling chronicle, driven by vocals and minimal beat and skittering samples but so powerful are the lyrics, all you hear is the message in all its dark heartfelt glory.