In this week’s Friday Five, we’re leading with a piece from Mixmag where DJs pick out their favourite club and explain why. We’ve also got pieces from The Guardian, Billboard, Refinery 29 and Pitchfork. Have a great weekend ahead! 12 DJs On Their Favourite Clubs – This deep dive from Mixmag collects stories that paint … Continued
The post Friday Five: 12 DJs Talk About What Makes A Great Club Night appeared first on Digital DJ Tips.
Kendrick Lamar is rightfully notarized as a slayer of beats. The world knows him as a rapper’s rapper, the lyricist embraced by all those who consider themselves lyrical. His stature as one of the best breathing is why expectations are heaven-high each time he resurfaces with a new song, album, or guest verse.
Since changing his name from K.Dot to Kendrick Lamar, the Compton royalty has been a generous collaborator with contemporaries not bound by genre or stature. Bars have been gifted to Taylor Swift and Tech N9ne, Fredo Santana and Maroon 5, Flying Lotus and Imagine Dragons. The list is long and always growing.
2017 was a big year for Kendrick—DAMN.'s domination blasted him into a new atmosphere of success and prominence—but he also stayed busy on the feature front, appearing 12 times as a guest on various songs. Excluding Jeezy’s “American Dream” and U2’s "Get Out of Your Own Way," in which Kendrick’s contributions were relegated to brief outros, it was only right that we figured out which features were best.
Based on the caliber of his bars, how they were delivered, and the lasting impression of each verse, here are all of Kendrick Lamar's 2017 guest verses, ranked.
10. Mike WiLL Made-It — "Perfect Pint" ft. Kendrick Lamar, Gucci Mane & Rae Sremmurd
In addition to their excellent efforts on DAMN., Kung Fu Kenny and Mike Will cooked up another collaboration that can be found on Mike’s Ransom 2 album. Kendrick appears with a calm, relaxed demeanor, completely different from the explosive energy that surges through records like “DNA.” and “XXX.” Floating with ease, his entire verse is like watching a black belt perform warm-up exercises before a serious competition. The way Kendrick can weave Shawty Lo homages with casual braggadocio is what makes the little moments rewind-worthy. Overall, “Perfect Pint” is a comfort zone verse that doesn’t attempt to wow with zealous flair but with easygoing effortlessness.
9. DJ Kay Slay — "Cold Summer" ft. Kendrick Lamar, Mac Miller, Kevin Gates & Rell
Strictly based on his vocal tone and lyrical approach, Kendrick fans will quickly realize that his verse “Cold Summer” verse isn’t brand new. Kay Slay likely acquired the vocals somewhere between Section.80 (2011) and good kid, m.A.A.d city (2012). Still, there’s a nice nostalgia about a younger, less animated Kendrick who was still pulling much of his inspiration from the local surroundings. One striking lyric that is still grabbing: “She said, 'Nigga I'm hopin' you make a way out, before I make this Mac-11 do it for me.'" The mad city imagery that would turn Kendrick from promising emcee into storytelling king makes this one worth a visit and then a revisit.
8. N.E.R.D — "Kites" ft. Kendrick Lamar & M.I.A.
What Kendrick brings to “Kites” is the electricity of a rapper with no creative restrictions. The entire verse is transformative: flows are switched, delivery is altered, and the bigger message is never lost in the constant transitions. It can be dizzying how much he’s able to pack into a verse; he’s a wizard when it comes to word construction with the intent of creating a bigger picture. “Kites” is one of Kendrick’s best puzzle pieces this year, and the back-and-forth with Pharrell is one of many highlights.
7. N.E.R.D — "Don’t Don’t Do It!" ft. Kendrick Lamar
In the last minute of “Don’t Don’t Do It!” Kendrick suddenly materializes in a frantic storm of breathless bars. This is the hurried lyricism of a man with not a minute to waste; a man with a message he must relay with all the air in his lungs. Inspired by the murder of Keith Lamont Scott, Kendrick's approach captures the anxious anxiety of witnessing another life taken by police brutality. Placing Kenny at the end closes the record in strong, sincere frustration.
6. Rich The Kid — "New Freezer" ft. Kendrick Lamar
By far Kendrick’s most fun verse of 2017. How can you not get a little giddy as he raps about milly rocking when the direct deposit hits? Or the thought of his childish grin as he paints a picture of desire for his own set of Tia and Tamera twins? “New Freezer” is all swagger and stunting, bragging and boasting. Instead of delivering bars to make heads spin, Kendrick thrills by dabbling in trap while moonwalking across the beat. The entire verse shows how an intricate stylist can work within the trap medium. Kendrick is able to do it all, while other rappers aren’t able to quite do it like Kendrick.
5. Vince Staples — "Yeah Right" ft. Kendrick Lamar & KUČKA
The first collaboration between Vince Staples and Kendrick Lamar did not disappoint. The bass rattles with the force of a Leviathan shaking the ground, monstrous and robust. As Kendrick's verse begins, the beat breathes, and he’s rapping his signature double-time in near silence. As the bass returns, the verse becomes more animated and vigorous, their intensities begin to intertwine as one. The verse is a short one, it comes and goes swift as Speedy Gonzales on the hunt for fresh cheese, but each line proves this is Kendrick in his zone. How he closes is the final act of beheading: "I don't fair fight but I bear fight / Lookin' for my next roadkill for the headlight / Hangin' on my last four kills for the highlights / My life, hiii life, high five, bye, bye.”
4. Future — "Mask Off (Remix)" ft. Kendrick Lamar
I didn’t like Kendrick’s “Mask Off” verse upon first listen. On such a nonchalant, easygoing single, he brings a whirlwind to a house party. He's like the tornado Frank Ocean swears ruined his room in “Thinkin Bout You.” Revisiting months later, there’s a newfound appreciation for Kenny’s technical penmanship, witty lyricism, and the enthralling stream-of-consciousness. Imagine Kendrick in mixtape form similar to Lil Wayne. It wasn’t supposed to elevate a hit, “Mask Off” was just a platform for him to spazz and fill one of the year’s biggest songs with some of his most memorable lines of 2017. From Prince living through him to a conscious rapper going commercial, “Mask Off (Remix)” isn’t just a whirlwind, it's also a victory lap.
3. SZA — "Doves In the Wind" ft. Kendrick Lamar
“Doves In the Wind” is Kendrick’s most eccentric guest appearance of 2017, fitting of one of the most unconventional great songs of the year. He follows SZA’s lead, giving tribute to vaginas, but from the male perspective. He raps about pussy with such passion, playing with various deliveries and vocal pitches―animated, lively, and humorously executed. It's another great example of Kendrick's greatness not being strictly what is said, but how he says it. He can be lyrical, obviously, but mostly he knows how to be captivating and make each verse a charming listen. Women appreciation at its finest.
2. Thundercat — "Walk On By" ft. Kendrick Lamar
Thundercat's “Walk On By” isn't Kendrick being a wizard of lyricism or a master of many styles. He takes a step back, reverting to being a storyteller who would rather bewitch listeners with his imagery than enchant by showcasing his prowess for otherworldly delivery. His tone is a somber one; it feels as if he’s truly reminiscing through the mazes in his mind. It’s easy to be pulled in by how he admits to the days of bagging dimes, reflecting on how unfamiliar faces inspired plots and conspiracies, and the immature thoughts that plagued him as a youth. The verse is a return to the Compton of old, what Kendrick used to see, a world he’s no longer apart of but which he can never truly be removed from. In many ways I compare it to JAY-Z’s “Drug Dealers Anonymous” verse and how Thundercat, like Pusha did Jay, returned Kendrick to a familiar place that is much darker than his current, brighter days.
1. Rapsody — "Power" ft. Kendrick Lamar & Lance Skiiiwalker
Rapsody’s “Power” features the kind of Kendrick Lamar verse that will have him in the hip-hop halls as a master of the craft. The wordplay, style, and overall execution is a level of artistry that should be the benchmark others strive to reach. Every single line is a bar worth dissecting, a lyric worth quoting, or a reason to debate why Kendrick should be revered as a writer. He understands the power of imagery, crafting vignettes that stick in our mind long after the verse ends. How he can mention homelessness and later brag about standing on the White House lawn, how he mentions Jamaica and adds patois to his dialect, adding the full effect of his travels to the verse, how he can admit to a past of shooting at people and juxtapose it with his present as someone who shoots movies―there’s so much to unpack and hear in a state of awe. This is Kendrick’s cramming at its best, filling the canvas with words you must stare at. Naturally, he had to return the favor to Rapsody who murdered her verse on To Pimp a Butterfly's “Complexion," but I’m certain she didn’t expect him to gift her his best guest verse of 2017.
By Yoh, aka Editorial Killer Yoh, aka @Yoh31
As we continue to leave behind 2017 in hope of greener pastures in 2018, let's take a look back on all the most popular things from this year on DJBooth.
Here are the ten most read articles of 2017.
10. An Open Letter to Lil Pump: “Xanax Is Not The Wave” (July 10)
It's not. If you want to know why it's not, then click the link and esskeetit. Read here.
9. From Lil Uzi Vert to Future, Rap’s Biggest Stars Are Depressed & So Are Their Fans (July 5)
It was a banner year for depressed superstars. A reminder that the music we listen to affects us, especially when we let it passively sink into our brains. Read here.
8. Eminem Left the Ivory Tower to Fight a Losing Battle (December 12)
Sorry, Marshall. Read here.
7. Brent Faiyaz’ Manager Pulls Back the Ugly Curtain on the Major Label Ballgame (October 31)
A must-read for anyone desiring a career in the music business. Ty Baisden names names and talks his shit about the realities of the major label system, the idea of independence in 2017, ownership of black art, and treating the music business like any other business. Read here.
6. Quavo, Takeoff & Offset: An Argument for Each Member As Migos’ Best (May 18)
It was a huge year for Migos and a huge year for arguing which member was better than the others. Read here.
5. Kendrick Lamar’s ‘DAMN.’ in Reverse is a Warning & a Wake-Up Call (December 11)
There is much more to DAMN.'s collector's edition than just a reversed track order. Read here.
4. Is Migos Holding Quavo Back From Becoming a Breakout Solo Star? (January 27)
3. ‘DAMN.’ Decoded: Kendrick Lamar’s Album is About Breaking the Curse of Disobedience (April 14)
It's no surprise that DAMN. was the most dissected and discussed album of the year, starting with Yoh killing hope for a second album on the night it dropped. Read here.
2. Kendrick Lamar Responded to Our Article About His Fear of God (April 28)
Not to brag, but next time someone talks shit about our esteemed platform, point to rap's reigning MVP penning a full-length piece regarding his relationship with God in admiration of the accuracy of our write-ups. Okay, maybe I'm bragging. Read here.
1. Xxxtentacion, Kodak Black & Rap’s Ugly Embrace of Sexual Assault (March 13)
In a year marred by news of sexual assault, it's unpleasantly unsurprising that our most popular feature of 2017 dealt with the separation of art from artists accused of—and with careers perhaps propelled by—horrific crimes and vile behavior. May 2018 bring an end to such ugly embrace. Read here.
Eminem's new album Revival hit No. 1 this week on the Billboard 200, marking his eighth consecutive No. 1 album, but despite the record-setting mark, only two songs from the 19-track project have been able to impact on the world's most popular on-demand streaming platform.
As of Wednesday, December 27, only "River" featuring Ed Sheeran (No. 3) and "Walk On Water" featuring Beyoncé (No. 133) are present on the Global Spotify 200 chart.
Having the third most popular song in the world on Spotify is an incredible accomplishment—one that proves the label picked the wrong lead single—but compared to several other major label releases over the past 12 months, it appears Eminem's strategy of trying to make music that appeals to everyone has actually backfired.
Take Post Malone's Stoney, which was released on December 6, 2016. Currently, Malone has six songs on the Global Spotify 200, four of which can be found on that album: "I Fall Apart" (No. 18), "Congratulations" featuring Quavo (No. 37), "Go Flex" (No. 125) and "White Iverson" (No. 150).
Malone's Stoney material has experienced a chart resurgence, in part, because of "rockstar," his 21 Savage-assisted smash single which is currently No. 1 and has earned over 565 million plays, but the Republic Records artist also has maintained a consistent sound throughout the past two years, delivering exactly what his core fanbase appears to desire from him.
While it's certainly possible that Revival will be a late bloomer, with several records from the album making waves in the months to come, it should be alarming to Eminem and executives at Shady Records that the initial response to an album from one of the world's biggest rap stars, featuring countless A-list pop stars, has been completely and entirely underwhelming.
If 2017 has taught us one thing, it’s that genre is becoming more and more antiquated.
On his own mission to dissolve genre, New Orleans trumpeter, composer, and producer Christian Scott, in conjunction with 1800 Tequila and Billboard’s Refined Players series, traveled the country to assemble his own five-piece, genre-defying band.
"A sonically riveting and diverse group of talent," as Scott describes his band, "The Refined Players represents a new vanguard of creators intent on building bridges.”
Scott brought together his vanguard—made up of Joe Dyson, Weedie Braimah, Joe Harley, Elena Pinderhughes and Derrick Hodge—in the span of three days, going from New Orleans to Philadelphia, to New York and back to New Orleans to record the final product: “Freedom Is A Word.” With a vocal performance from Vic Mensa, the song is driven by the universal and unending spirit of music.
In that breath, Mensa enters the track through a time warp. His verse is ushered in by a series commanding trumpet riffs and the surprising bravado of a flute. His measured delivery and flow harken back to his earlier, jazzier days (“Hollywood LA”), while the poignant political lyrics position Mensa as a beacon of light for the present and the future.
Mensa’s conviction is matched by the coiling and uncoiling of the arrangement, the melodies and rattling rhythms ceding the floor to each other before coming to an explosive crest. Moving from deep oranges to a royal blue timbre, the track exemplifies its own journey. Finally, with his voice dripping in Auto-Tune, Mensa belts out a despondent truth: “Freedom is a word that I’ve never known.”
Freedom may be a word Mensa has never known, but his work with Christian Scott is nothing short of artistic liberation.
Success tastes best when it's found on your terms. Just ask Los Angeles rapper Nipsey Hussle, who, with almost a dozen mixtapes to his name and a fanbase ready to pay upwards of $100 for his music, recently inked a deal with Atlantic Records while gearing up to release his long-awaited debut studio album, Victory Lap, in 2018.
In light of his album and his signing, Nipsey joined the Rap Radar podcast to explain why his partnership with Atlantic was the necessary next step to evolving his career.
"I just think that the type of music we make, and the type of message and the type of thing that this is, should be consumed on the highest level,” Nipsey explained. “That ain't with no vanity or no arrogance, I just feel like [the music] deserves to be doing stadium tours and topping Billboard, but by no means does the ambition to do those things change the business strategy. We always going to have to force they hand to get to that level. We wasn't gon' fold to get there.”
In response, Brian “B.Dot” Miller asked Hussle if there is a "glass ceiling" for independent artists, to which Nip replied, “I don’t think so,” citing Tech N9ne and Chance The Rapper as indie artists who have seen unprecedented success. In that same breath, though, Nip made it clear that the exception cannot be the rule.
“I also know that, what you really just doing is you building the infrastructure, you building the enterprise around your art,” he said. “However you go about doing that, you gonna have to do that to take it to the next level.”
While Tech and Chance are beacons of light for independent artists, neither has journeyed down a path, ten thousand hours and all, that can easily be replicated. From low budget mixtapes to theoretical Platinum plaques, there are a tremendous number of unseen steps and resources (read: money) being secured.
Artists must realize that every move they make cannot be based exclusively on passion. Even a musical prodigy has to start by building out their core fanbase and finding—if not creating—a business model that works for them. For Nip, partnering with a major label was the next logical step; for Chance, it was Apple Music exclusives. For the next breakout star, the sky can most certainly be the limit, as long as they do their part to help their stars align.
Regardless of natural talent, however, all artists require serious business acumen—an acumen that has helped Nipsey Hussle secure a deal with Atlantic so sweet he is legally blocked from disclosing the exact terms.
Since 2012, Chance The Rapper has risen from a local Chicago buzzmaker to an international superstar without the support and assistance of a major label, but according to one industry tastemaker, that doesn't make him the independent artist blueprint.
"Chance [The Rapper] is an anomaly, he's special, but... his success is misleading," said Carl Chery, Head of Artist Curation for Apple Music, on a Budden-less episode of Everyday Struggle. "Now you have all these other independent artists thinking you don't need a label. Chance is special. He's charismatic, he's smart as hell, he's just special."
It's easy for young, independent artists to see Chance's late-night performances, his sponsorships, and his awards, and to assume that all of that can be attainable for them too, but watching someone's every move and trying to follow in their footsteps doesn't guarantee success.
We must also take into consideration that the definition of "independence" has completely changed over the past half-decade. Since before he released his acclaimed Acid Rap mixtape, Chance has been repped by Cara Lewis, the most powerful booking agent in the industry. Does Lewis' representation of Chance mean that he isn't truly independent? Depending on who you ask, the answer will differ—we know, we did it earlier this year—but either way, Chance doesn't owe anyone an apology for his success. He should be allowed to talk about leading the independent artist charge while knowing full well that the level of success he has achieved isn't realistic for everyone.
Since partnering with Apple for the 2016 release of his GRAMMY-award winning "mixtape" Coloring Book, a decision that netted the Chicago native a cool $500k in exchange for a two-week exclusive on the platform, Chance has staunched defended the decision in light of his independent artist badge. "I feel like if I didn't clear it up people would keep trying to discredit all the work we did to make Coloring Book what it became," Chance tweeted.
Millions of children watch LeBron James and Steph Curry play basketball, but the path both future Hall of Famers took to NBA stardom isn't the road most wannabe ballers will travel down. That doesn't make their success misleading, it just means, as Chery stated above, that they are special. Not everyone is special.
It’s Christmas Eve (well it is here anyway), and I’m finally ready for whatever the next few days holds in store. This will be a rare treat for me as I’ve decided to pretty much switch off for an extended period and disconnect from the online world for a few weeks. That is of course […]
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