What the Hell Is Going on With Eric B. & Rakim’s Twitter?

What the Hell Is Going on With Eric B. & Rakim’s Twitter?

Rants, deleted tweets, mystery—something isn't adding up.

Earlier this week, the official Twitter account for Eric B. & Rakim decided to kick a hole in the speaker, pull the plug, and then jet by dissing an entire generation of rappers. 

“You are now witnessing the devolution of rap music,” its February 12 message stated. “The death of poetry and smoothness, they use this. The absence of a message. The inability to create meaningful change through words and verses, but the worse [sic] is, they don’t even know they hurt this artful purpose, it’s tragic.”

By Wednesday, the account boasted that the message had spread to nearly a million people, and the hip-hop media landscape was reporting on the rant by two of hip-hop’s most iconic pioneers, with many of them attributing the rhyming message directly to Rakim, the spitting half of the seminal duo. The Source even want as far as to claim “Rakim sets the world on fire with tweets about today’s rap music,” and that “The Goat emcee and one half of the legendary DJ/Rapper duo Eric B & Rakim, took to Twitter on Tuesday to […] make his opinion on the rap scene today known.”

You won’t be able to see those tweets anymore, though. With the exception of a Questlove tweet from 2010 and the duo’s pinned tweet (an Eric B. media appearance from February 9), their entire Twitter history has been deleted.

To make things even more interesting, I think I might have caused this. 

Here’s why...

From the jump, there was little to no ground to make the assumption that the God MC was the author of these tweets. Even a perfunctory glance at their timeline revealed the account mostly dealt in media appearances by Eric B., and what celebrities had their picture taken with Eric B.

Last year, the account even beefed with singer Eric Bellinger for a while, after he titled a series of EPs Eric B. Is President. Bellinger’s initial press release called the move a tribute to the iconic song, but the official account for the duo said, “This clown Eric Bellinger still trying to fool listeners into thinking his music is @EricB’s so they download it.”

Furthermore, the bio for Eric B.'s solo account links to the duo’s verified account, but Rakim’s solo account—which hasn’t been active since 2010, a short time after the release of his last solo album—doesn’t. The account was created in 2009, seemingly to promote Rakim’s The Seventh Seal album, but Ra lost his interest in social media soon thereafter.

It seems much more likely that Eric B., or at least people connected to him, have been behind the duo’s account. In fact, there is no obvious reason to assume that Rakim has ever been involved with or connected to the account. Before reuniting for concerts last year, the duo hadn’t been on speaking terms for many years.

“I don’t wish him no bad luck, but I don’t call him,” Rakim told HipHopDX in 2013. “I’m a loyal dude, and you know doing certain things, especially when you are breaking bad with people, you gotta keep it 100 with that person. And it was a couple things in business that I felt that he didn’t handle right that left a real bitter taste in my mouth.”

A hint of what might have caused that bitter taste can perhaps be found in the longstanding rumors surrounding Eric B. paying off other beat creators as ghost producers. In 2008, Marley Marl claimed he produced the duo’s debut 12”, despite only getting credited as a studio engineer. “I took the records to Marley Marl’s house in Queensbridge and paid Marley Marl to be the engineer,” Eric B. said in 2008, responding to the allegations. “Marley got paid. That’s why he’s not a producer, that’s why he is not getting publishing. I brought the music. I just couldn’t work the equipment because that’s not what I did. If you look on the record, it says mixed by Marley Marl and MC Shan.”

Meanwhile, Eric B.’s involvement as a producer with the duo’s classic debut album Paid in Full has also been overstated, at least according to Rakim himself. “The drum programming on the album, our engineer Patrick Adams did a lot of that”, he told author Brian Coleman for his book Check the Technique. “He's a real talented cat. I'd basically just take my break beats and ideas in, and he'd sample it up and put the 808 on it.”

In that same book, Rakim stated he himself was responsible for the brunt of the album’s beats: “Back then, Eric B. wanted to be a businessman so I said, 'Okay, you can take care of the business, I'm going to stick with this notebook right here.' So by not getting involved, he was right there telling them to print whatever he wanted them to print on the album cover. That was my mistake. If we did ten tracks on the album, I did like seven of the beats myself. A lot of times they were just old park records. I had a record collection, I had turntables, I had all the breakbeats.”

With all this in my memory, I decided to email the press agent for Eric B. & Rakim, along with the email contact on Rakim’s official Facebook page and a few other folks who might be able to put me into contact with the duo. My question was simple: “Could you please confirm or deny whether Rakim typed this message like various media outlets are reporting? And if he did not type this message, did he have prior knowledge to its publication, and does he agree with the statement (that we are "witnessing the devolution of rap music") or not?”

A simple fact-check. Like journalists are paid and supposed to do.

Apparently, I was the first to do so, because within half an hour after sending that email, voicing my doubt about Rakim’s involvement with the statement, the comments that had Twitter ablaze for the last three days had been deleted. Along with the entirety of the account’s Twitter history.

By now, an official answer still hasn’t been given. The disappearance of almost nine years worth of messages is probably as close to an answer as we’ll get.

A representative for Rakim has been notified of this article and its contents, but as of press time, DJBooth has not received a response.

British Producer Kurtis McKenzie Shares the Story Behind His ‘Black Panther’ Soundtrack Beat Placement

British Producer Kurtis McKenzie Shares the Story Behind His ‘Black Panther’ Soundtrack Beat Placement

"Kendrick texts back like 20 fire emojis."

We asked British producer Kurtis McKenzie, known professionally as The Arcade, to share the backstory behind "Redemption," the song he co-produced with Teddy Walton, Scribz Riley and Aaron Bow for 'Black Panther The Album,' which features vocal performances by "LOVE." co-star Zacari and South African artist Babes Wodumo.

Last September, I was in my studio in Los Angeles, working on random ideas, when I found a rare percussion conga loop break while digging through my samples.

Scribz Riley, one of the song’s co-producers, had given me a folder of random samples that he had collected and I found a soulful, jazzy piano loop in there. It had this nostalgic, happy vibe, like something about it was very familiar. Once I heard the sample, I already knew what I wanted to do.

At the time, I had been listening to a lot of baile funk, African-inspired music, and I was heavily influenced by that sound. I wanted the record to be uptempo, for the drums to hit hard and for it to have an African tribal groove. I took the piano loop and played chords around that to fill it out and give it more body. Then I found this wild female Spanish vocal sample and used that as the intro to give the track more character.

View the original article to see embedded media.

With most of the records that I produce, I usually try to create something that already has a lot of character. That way, when you press play, it grabs the attention of the artist. With the beat for “Redemption,” the Spanish vocal at the beginning was meant to do just that. Straight away, it grabs your attention. You can you feel something coming.

The original beat I crafted was actually slower in tempo and a lot more chilled, but after I played it for a few artists—everyone was really hyped about it—I felt like the original bass wasn't right and it needed more of a groove, and so I asked Scribz to play a new bass line.

A couple months later, Sam Taylor, who worked at Kobalt Music, linked me with Teddy Walton, who came by my studio. I only played him one idea, which was the beat that became “Redemption.” Teddy only heard the first five seconds and straight away said, “This is the one.” It must have been fate because, days prior, Kendrick had hit Teddy up asking for production with a similar vibe as the beat I had played for him.

We were going crazy in the studio when we saw how hyped Kendrick was about the beat.

Immediately, we switched up the original vibe and made it a lot more aggressive and dirty. We sped it up, changed the structure, and added more drums and distortion. It took us about 30 minutes and then Teddy texted Kendrick the beat.

He texts back like 20 fire emojis.

It was a surreal moment. We were going crazy in the studio when we saw how hyped Kendrick was about the beat. He hadn't even had the beat for two minutes before he told us that Babes Wodumo would feature on it.

A few weeks later, Teddy told me that Kendrick was working on the soundtrack for the Black Panther movie and that it was top secret. I was hyped because I knew how culturally significant the movie was going to be and how much of an impact it was going to make. I thought, to be involved on any level would be incredible.

In late December, I got the good word: the song would be titled “Redemption” and it made the album. I was ecstatic, all my family and friends back home in London were already hyped about seeing the movie and now they were even more excited knowing I was a part of the soundtrack.

Even after the song was finalized for placement, I ended up working on the beat right up until the last minute. The original drums had to be changed because of sample clearance issues. I probably ended up creating six different versions of the beat until I was finally happy with the one everyone has heard on the album.

I knew Babes was on the record because of Kendrick, but I didn't know Zacari was on the song until I saw the track listing like everyone else. On first listen, I was dancing around my studio; it was great to hear two artists from two very different cultural backgrounds connecting on one song.

I'm very, very proud to be a part of this soundtrack but also with a song that is as African-influenced as “Redemption” and which introduces an African artist like Babes Wodumo to the world.

Black Panther the movie and the soundtrack, curated by Kendrick Lamar, is a moment in history. I'm very grateful to be a part of that.

Watch A Boogie Perform “Say A” With a 9-Piece Orchestra for Audiomack

Watch A Boogie Perform “Say A” With a 9-Piece Orchestra for Audiomack

In the latest installment of Audiomack’s Trap Symphony, the Highbridge MC performs his buoyant hit “Say A.”

Life is sweeter when it's soundtracked by an orchestra and a spry piano line.

In 2015, Migos proved that every great trap hit deserves an orchestral arrangement. Fast forward to 2018, and New York’s A-Boogie wit da Hoodie, in partnership with Audiomack, has risen to the occasion to record his own trap symphony version of “Say A.”

For those who have yet to hear the original version, “Say A” is Boogie’s attempt at flipping a negative into a positive, taking his first time being pulled over on his block and transforming it into a jubilant tune. Here, nimble keys and rich string accents amplify the original vibrancy of the single as Boogie skips across the lively piano line while working the stage.  

Last year, Boogie went on the record claiming he wanted to create his own wave in New York amidst the influx of young trap artists. With his undeniable charisma and magnetic stage presence, and the sheer novelty of a nine-piece orchestra behind him, we can confidently say A Boogie is well on his way.

On February 22, A-Boogie will be performing “Say A” at the Global Spin Awards, which will be broadcast on REVOLT.

Frank Ocean’s Beautiful “Moon River” Cover Will Probably Make You Cry

Frank Ocean’s Beautiful “Moon River” Cover Will Probably Make You Cry

It’s really just so beautiful.

Scene: a woeful night on the fire escape, Frank Ocean’s pitch-shifted vocals weaving up your building like thick vines.

Alternative scene: following a string of successful singles, Frank Ocean drops an electrified cover of Audrey Hepburn’s yearning “Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s

“Moon River” follows the minimalist trend established on Blonde; the production is skeletal and Frank’s dueling vocals do the work of building a melody and counterforce.

Frank Ocean has always been apt at making us cry, but the vocal layering on this track strikes a particularly heavy note. Where Frank sings and consequently promises to be there for himself, the track acts as an olive branch and beacon of the light to the lonelier souls. And it’s beautiful.

It’s really just so beautiful.

Meet Bohan Phoenix, China’s Most Uncompromising Indie Rapper

Meet Bohan Phoenix, China’s Most Uncompromising Indie Rapper

The Hubei-born, Massachusetts-raised MC discusses his transnational upbringing, Eminem's early influence, China’s hip-hop ban and more.

Identity moves as the ocean, coming in waves and connecting us as much as it divides us.

For Bohan Phoenix, the middling space between two salient identities inspires him to foster his own. Born in Hubei, China, raised in Massachusetts, and having learned to speak English by listening to Eminem, Bohan’s transnational status has often left him in the undertow of an identity crisis. Now moving with the current, the 25-year-old rapper is using music to foster a unique, hybrid identity.

“The identity crisis, for lack of better word, really made me dig deeper and think about how I want to express myself: in what language, in what manner,” Bohan explains. His latest single, “Party No More,” premiering exclusively on DJBooth, subverts the discomfort of language barriers.

“‘Party No More’ is half Chinese, half English and that’s kind of the format for the whole project,” Bohan says, breaking down his approach. “This shows the two sides of who I am, expressed in their own languages… Whether you only understand one language or both, you get the same idea from 'Party No More': let’s stop looking at colors and whatever, and just listen to the music.”

Bohan Phoenix’s music is boisterous; a true romp. His off-the-wall vibrance has made him a musical act to watch in China, with labels banging down his door. Despite the offers, Bohan has chosen to remain independent, asserting that “as an indie artist, if you’re smart, you can also get those same looks when you grind, get creative, and learn how to work the system.”

“The system,” in Bohan’s case, also applies to the government. The recent ban on hip-hop on Chinese national television has made major headlines in the US, but according to Bohan, this is not the first time the country has tried to censor hip-hop.

“There have been underground MCs who have been banned over a decade ago for cussing out the government and schools and teachers in their lyrics," Bohan details. “It’s nothing new, but is happening on a bigger scale.”

Grander scale aside, Bohan says the ban has no impact on his ability to create. “I will not compromise out of fear,” he declares.

Below you will find our full interview, which has been lightly edited for content and clarity, where we discuss Bohan's transnational upbringing, early influences, China’s hip-hop scene, the hip-hop ban, and his forthcoming album, OVERSEAS.

You were born in China and raised in Massachusetts. How did that cross-cultural experience shape your music?

Having lived in both cultures extensively has honestly influenced my music more than anything else. The identity crisis, for lack of better word, really made me dig deeper and think about how I want to express myself: in what language, in what manner. Ultimately, I’ve found that for me, it’s a mixture of both cultures, which is only natural given my circumstances. Hence the upcoming project title OVERSEAS, the story of going back and forth.

Who were your biggest musical influences growing up?

I really had phases when it came to my musical influences. At first, it was just Eminem, more so his story than anything else. In 8 Mile, I saw how he was an outsider who gained acceptance through music, and I wanted the same for myself. Listening to Eminem is how I learned English. Beyond Em, my other influences were basically whoever he listened to, from Pac to Lauryn, and everything in between. I also love D’Angelo. I basically went backward trying to find connections between hip-hop and everything that came before it.

Did you travel back and forth between the US and China growing up? Did that impact your creativity?

Definitely. I moved to the States in 2003, and I’ve been back to China at least once every year. This definitely kept me aware of where I’m from and who I am, or what I am. It gave me a lot of experiences and life to talk about in my songs and made me think of others in my position, not just Chinese immigrants, but immigrants in general.

You recently moved back to China. Why?

I moved back to Chengdu last July (2017) to live with my grandpa who raised me in China. I also wanted to really live in China as an adult for the first time, since after leaving at the age of eleven, I’ve only gone back for a month at a time whether it's for holidays or shows. In addition, it’s also a crazy time for people who are doing music in China and I wanted to give my voice to the scene as well. I feel like I have a lot to contribute.

What’s the hip-hop scene like in China? Do they have a Kendrick-Drake-J. Cole big three like we do?

The hip-hop scene in China is very, very young and undeveloped right now. Underground hip-hop and battle rap have been around for a while, but only in a very underground way. Last year in China a contest show called Rap Of China became widely popular and pushed hip-hop into the mainstream. There are a ton of people listening to it who had no idea what it was before, or its history.

It’s early, and there’s a lot of people who want to be like Cole, Drake, Kendrick and them but, in my opinion, nobody has been able to do it like them—yet. Artists have a lot of ambition right now and everyone is dreaming big, so it’s an exciting time to be there. Eventually, when people are out of the imitation phase, I think there’ll be some really dope and cool shit happening.

Rather than pursue a record deal, you’ve remained wholly independent. How has that decision impacted your career growth in China?

Being independent in China is actually a double-edged sword. I’ve been approached by just about every label that signs hip-hop and people thought I was crazy for turning them down. I found that most of them barely have a clue what hip-hop is, are corny and are trying to lock artists into crazy deals like five to eight years. That sounds like career suicide to me. Being signed can get you some good looks, like bigger festivals and more commercial endorsements, and since you have a team, you don’t have to do it yourself. But for me, I’ve chosen the independent route because as an indie artist, if you’re smart, you can also get those same looks when you grind, get creative, and learn how to work the system. It’s so much less developed than in the US and has less gatekeepers.

How attainable can success be for an indie artist in China as opposed to America?

If you define success by money, that’s definitely attainable—you can make quite a lot just touring and doing festivals in China and develop a rich fan base and tour history just by staying on the road. China is huge! Mainstream success in China is still reserved to corny pop stars, though. That’s why most rappers in China consider making it to America to be their version of success. How attainable that is is still to be seen. No indie artist has done it yet, and I’m trying to be the first.

There are so many breakout, crossover acts, not just from Asia, but from Ireland and the UK. Why do you think transnational artists do so well?

I think crossover acts in a lot of cases just have so much more to offer. Different perspectives, experience of living in different worlds, and honestly we are starting to enter a time whereof “overseas,” where more and more people are living half a world away for school or jobs or whatever. Everybody can relate to the idea of foreign a lot more than we used to.

China recently announced a hip-hop ban. What’s the deal?

I've been doing shows in China since 2015 and I've been watching hip-hop in China grow slowly. But in the last year, it went from underground to mainstream in a matter of weeks. To me, China is just going through changes and growing pains. Honestly, anytime Western influence can cause such a ripple in China—and hip-hop is most definitely Western culture—China will react. It’s not so much about hip-hop, but more about the West having control over young Chinese minds. I’m not surprised at all that China has tried to ban hip-hop… I was surprised that it even got that poppin’ in a country known for its censorship.

So was this ban a long time coming?

I wouldn’t say it’s been a long time coming because hip-hop has gone through this in China already. There have been underground MCs who have been banned over a decade ago for cussing out the government and schools and teachers in their lyrics. It’s nothing new but is happening on a bigger scale. That’s why these rappers who got in trouble just should have had a better awareness of their surroundings and their limitations.

Has the ban impacted the way you make music or, at the very least, your content?

So the ban is actually only applied to Chinese national television, and not many people under the age of 40 even watch television in China. It’s like for people who watch Cops and Antique Roadshow… It’s just not the demographic we care about anyways. So, no, it hasn’t affected me in that way. But in China, there is a screening process for festivals and bigger commercial shows where you have to submit your lyrics and translations and music videos for approval, and this process will no doubt be more strict this year. Content-wise, like I said, I will not compromise out of fear.

Today, you released “Party No More,” a comedic take on the ban, exclusively with DJBooth. Why the comedy route?

[Laughs] Yeah, it’s just the attitude I want to have in 2018: go harder, no matter what. It reflects what’s going on in hip-hop in China. Last year, the scene exploded and was such a party, and this year, it’s like “Party No More!” It’s one of the more aggressive tracks of mine to give context to what’s happening like even if y’all ain’t trying to have us party, we going harder even still.

How much of “Party No More” is emblematic of your forthcoming album, OVERSEAS?

“Party No More” is half Chinese, half English and that’s kind of the format for the whole project. This shows the two sides of who I am, expressed in their own languages. I worked with my boy Yllis, who’s from Singapore but lives in NYC now. We share a lot of similar experiences.

Whether you only understand one language or both, you get the same idea from “Party No More”: let’s stop looking at colors and whatever, and just listen to the music. The hook: “Just so you know, if you ain’t about it before, don’t act like you about it,” meaning that before nobody gave a fuck about Asian shit, besides kung fu and food, but now they wanna jump on the wagon 'cause the shit is popping off and there’s lots of money to be made.

What do you hope new fans will think after hearing the single? Once they hear the album?

I hope “Party No More” and OVERSEAS can really resonate with listeners, no matter where they’re from. I just hope it inspires them to go harder in whatever they’re doing that day or that year and have fun doing what they do and do it to the fullest. And finally, I want people to see that there’s harmony between two cultures that might seem so different. Don’t let the oceans we have to cross or the languages we don’t understand be a barrier. Let the music do the talking.

NAMM 2018: Allen & Heath Xone DJBooth Walkthrough

NAMM 2018: Allen & Heath Xone DJBooth Walkthrough

The last new video from NAMM 2018 showing the A&H Xone DJ Booth Walkthrough.

 We have a few extra videos from the NAMM 2018 show last month that we still wanted to show you. We were at the Allen & Heath DJ booth when we saw the classic XONE:92, DB2, DB4, PX5, 43C, 43, 23C, 23, and a bunch of Novation and K2 controllers all on display for everyone to rock with. Check out the full video below for the walkthrough of the booth as it was for NAMM 2018. 

From the Crates to the Classroom: Legitimizing Hip-Hop in Education

From the Crates to the Classroom: Legitimizing Hip-Hop in Education

Hip-hop is slowly but surely permeating classrooms across America.

In 2007, KRS-One put this truth to wax: “Hip is the knowledge, hop is the movement / Hip and hop is intelligent movement.”

Fast forward eleven years, and hip-hop is slowly but surely permeating classrooms across America, not just as a subject, but as an educational tool. Classes centered around hip-hop have been cropping up for the better part of the last half-decade, students have been writing about the genre for even longer, and now hip-hop is getting its due as a vehicle for learning.

While we can expect hip-hop to appear in English classes, the genre’s usability extends far beyond its breadth of literary allusions. In order to get to the heart of hip-hop's unbreakable relationship with all facets of education, DJBooth spoke with high school math teacher (and the brains behind the viral “Codak Yellow” music video) Cassie Crim, and professor Alex Fruchter, head of the indie label Closed Sessions.

Scene: Joliet West High School, where advanced algebra teacher Cassie Crim turns Cardi B’s GRAMMY-nominated “Bodak Yellow” into teaching anthem “Codak Yellow.” Shortly after the video drops, Crim notices an increase in performance from one unit test to the next. Her students are more engaged in class, and, as she tells me, are more eager to participate and get that “Crimmy Clout.”

Now in her tenth year teaching, hip-hop has always played a role in Ms. Crim’s personal and professional life, but “Codak Yellow” was her first professionally shot music video.

“We were on our way to a concert, in traffic, in Chicago,” Crim recalls over the phone. “I’m like, ‘Look, I hate traffic, let me go ahead and write to this ‘Bodak Yellow’ and see what I come up with.’ So I actually wrote that whole thing that night, and I’m like… I don’t think I want to just do this on my phone. I want the visuals to be dope as well. I want the kids to be like, ‘Ms. Crim! She’s killing it!’”

Though “Codak Yellow” wasn’t explicitly about math, releasing the video allowed Crim to bridge the gap between herself and her students, to really speak their language, which she claims is critical when teaching a subject as maligned as mathematics.

“I found so many kids engaged [after the video dropped],” Crim emphasizes. “Math is a subject that a lot of kids and people, in general, do not like. They immediately come into my classroom with a chip on their shoulder about math. When I made that video, kids were like, ‘Wait, I don’t necessarily like math, but she caught my attention.’ I even had a student tell me: ‘Ms. Crim, I can’t stand math, but dang, you doing this video caught me off guard and now I’m gonna have to really pay attention.’ He said that to me in the middle of class. Good! That was the purpose. I want to connect with my students, I wanna get them engaged and get that buy-in.”

That buy-in caused a sharp rise in classroom participation and overall performance on exams. Crim found her students to be all the more motivated, with more students handing in and taking their homework seriously. “Speaking their language gets them into what you’re doing in the classroom,” Crim attests. The key to academic success rests on the teacher-student relationship.

Ms. Crim always saw a one-to-one relationship between hip-hop and math education. “With math, there’s so many steps and things you have to constantly memorize,” she explains. “I feel like, with rap, it’s such a good study tool. I remember when I was in high school, I had so much to memorize and whenever I put it to a beat, it just helped me memorize it quicker.”

Long before she crafted “Codak Yellow,” Ms. Crim tackled the quadratic formula. While teaching the formula to the tune of “Pop Goes The Weasel” was a popular trick, she had her students write their own raps to help them remember the formula and all its applications. She also stressed that hip-hop is a universal tool, suggesting she could design an entire curriculum that utilizes hip-hop as a teaching aid.

To her point, Alex Fruchter, Assistant Professor of Instruction at Chicago’s Columbia College, has incorporated hip-hop into all three of his courses—Business of Music, Applied Marketing: Music Business, and AEMMP Hip-Hop Practicum—which serve to prepare students for a life in the music industry. For Fruchter, the marriage between hip-hop and his classes was obvious and natural, and what’s a class on music business without real-life examples?

“I use hip-hop in all my classes,” Fruchter says. “I use stories from Closed Sessions in all my classes, and I bring in artists, attorneys, music supervisors, booking agents, etc. in all my classes. I actually wrote a hip-hop based curriculum called ‘You Can Quote Me On That.’ It used hip-hop songs to teach psychology and sociology to elementary and high school students.”

Of all his courses, the AEMMP practicum is the most closely tied to hip-hop—the students run Columbia’s record label, AEMMP Records. As Fruchter explains, students get the full label experience, from pitching the college for a budget, to setting up studio sessions and events, to running social media campaigns.

“I routinely tell my students that with their size, they are one of the biggest indie hip-hop labels in the country,” Fruchter details. “Over the years AEMMP has worked with so many Chicago hip-hop artists that are doing big things, I think that we’ve really made it a resource and somewhat rite of passage for emerging artists. People like Thelonious Martin, Saba, theWHOevers, ShowYouSuck, Joey Purp, GLC, Rhymefest, Towkio, Noname, C-Sick, and many others have worked with AEMMP.”

While the practicum is more hands-on and interwoven with music than a math class, both educators are seeing the same results from their students: increased engagement, higher grades, and overall motivation. Whether you’re running a label or writing raps to study for your exam, the value of bringing hip-hop into the classroom is beyond apparent. Even so, detractors exist for myriad Luddite and underlyingly racist reasons.

Fruchter claims that while no one has questioned AEMMP, he credits cultural misunderstanding and a lack of critical thinking skills as two reasons for someone to discredit hip-hop centered classes. Luckily, at Columbia College, he has been able to help develop and finalize their new Hip-Hop Studies minor, which focuses on dance, culture, and music business.

Be it a viral video or a new education department, we are seeing crucial strides in the legitimization of hip-hop in the classroom. “Education is part of hip-hop culture,” Fruchter says. “The fifth element of hip-hop is knowledge.” Knowledge has a chance to flourish in our classrooms. 

Hip-hop in education is the move.

We Asked 10 MCs if Believing They’re “The Greatest” Is Required for Success

We Asked 10 MCs if Believing They’re “The Greatest” Is Required for Success

Is confidence just as important as originality? Lyrical ability? Voice?

The barrier to entry in the music industry has never been lower, but in order to be considered among the greatest to ever pick up a microphone, an MC must possess a set of unique characteristics, such as originality, voice, charisma, lyrical ability, and substance.

Professional athletes often brag about being the best in their sport, regardless of whether or not their statistics back up their claims. This showing of confidence is billed as a necessary component to success. In order to beat the very best, and compete at the highest level possible, you need to believe you are the very best.

Makes sense, right? But what about hip-hop? Does the same mindset apply for MCs as it does for professional athletes?

To find out whether or not a self-belief in greatness is a requirement for success, we asked 10 MCs to share their own personal thoughts and their individual mindset with one simple question:

As an MC, do you need to believe you're the greatest to be successful?

Crooked I

"I’ve studied the mechanics of rap my entire career. Metaphors, punchlines, storytelling, cadence, voice projection and vocal tone. I strive to check all boxes. In this climate, talent is less valuable than popularity so one has to be super talented to stand out. I’ve done songs with the gods of lyricism and came out on top on many occasions. Facts. I put blood, sweat, and tears into my craft and I believe, without question, that I’m one of the greatest rappers to ever put words together. I’ve made a comfortable living without radio or any type of “mainstream hit” music. My personal quest to be the GOAT is a huge part of my success. I’ve sent greats back to the drawing board to rewrite after stepping out of the booth. I love that shit."

Problem

"No. What you bring to the table that hasn’t been done is what makes you successful. I once believed you had to think you were the greatest MC to be successful but that’s far from the truth. If that was the case, a lot of these trash cans I watch get treated like royalty would be abolished. My mission has changed. What can I bring to the genre that only PROBLEM can do? That’s my fight with every song, ad-lib, appearance, post, etc..."

Dom McLennon (of BROCKHAMPTON)

"I’ve never wanted to be the greatest MC but I’d love to be the greatest songwriter. I feel like it’s a different type of criteria. Simon & Garfunkel didn’t get the bars off but they said everything a lot of people needed to hear. Saying what people need to hear before they knew they needed to hear it, and how much force you put behind that message, will put you in that place where you can be considered great."

IDK

"Yes, but only amongst your peers. Try not to get ahead of yourself, understand what class you’re in and dominate it before you move to the next one. If not, you risk the chance of not being able to learn. I think the best thing to do is believe you’ll one day be the greatest."  

Marlon Craft

"No, I don't think so. You have to believe you're the greatest at being you, at doing what you do. That no one can create and express in the way that you create and express. But I always find it weird when people say that you have to think you're the best—is delusion a prerequisite? How many successful rappers are not as good at rapping or making music as Kendrick? A lot. Does it take away from their work if they aren't under the illusion that they're better? I don't think so. Personally, I aspire to be the greatest one day, and I think I can do it, but I know I'm not there yet. I think that makes me stronger in my ability to grow as an artist, not weaker. So when I talk shit or exude confidence on a record, people feel it more because it's real, it's true. I know my strengths and weaknesses and so when I brag, it holds more worth. All that said, though, the spirit of emceeing—not JUST making music, generally, but emceeing—is a competitive one. I can't relate to any emcee that doesn't feel the burning desire in their gut to outperform and out-craft every single other breathing rapper on the planet. I just don't think you lose points for being honest with yourself at any moment in time. That's how you grow."

Deante’ Hitchcock 

"By more own standards of being successful, hell yeah. I'm here to have fun but I'm here to compete as well and it's crazy because I don't think my desire to be the best is derived from a crazy passion for music as much as it is an obsessiveness to just be the best in whatever I do. Being successful is whatever you want it to be, though. Once I become "successful" my qualifications for what success is may change, but as of now my mind is set on me needing to be the best to feel successful, in every aspect of what it means to be an artist, an MC, or whatever you want to call it."

Wrekonize

"I’ve always tried to live my life as a humble dude. I actually think all that necessary ego is a myth. Now, I will say that attitude helped me when I was in the battle circuit. But more than believing I’m the greatest, I just focus on that I’m great. It’s been said that “comparison is the thief of joy.” But maybe that’s why I’m not bigger than I am [laughs]."

Tate Kobang

"Yes, indeed, because a lot of hate and trolling happens in this game we’re in and if you’re confident in yourself, you’ll have a shell built to withstand the comments and dislikes. If not, you’re gonna be one of those emotional artists beefing with fake pages and bloggers."

Ciscero

"No, you don't need to believe you're the greatest because art is an expression of self, and everything is subjective. Some people think Soulja Boy is the greatest."

Jimi Tents 

"Yes. Most definitely. It's part of the bravado and braggadocious fabric of hip-hop. And realistically speaking, in most cases, the people that say they want to rap usually start with no real game plan or team. You're in over your head as an artist. And I feel you need that [mindset] to push through the adversity."

Cozz Shines in Ep. 19 of DJBooth & TIDAL’s “Bless The Booth”

Cozz Shines in Ep. 19 of DJBooth & TIDAL’s “Bless The Booth”

Dreamville is in the building.

Dreamville is in the building.

Fresh off Tuesday's (February 13) release of his long-awaited major label debut album, Effected, a project that showcases the MC hurdling toward undeniability, Cozz brings his aggressive brand of lyricism to the latest installment of our ongoing Bless The Booth freestyle series with TIDAL.

Shot at DJBooth’s SoHo, New York City studios, Bless The Booth showcases the lyrical dexterity of rappers both established and on the rise.

Head on over to our YouTube channel right now to watch past Bless The Booth episodes from Rapsody, G Herbo, Don Q, CyHi The Prynce, Wyclef Jean, Nyck Caution, Mir Fontane, Zoey Dollaz, Rob $tone, Jimi Tents, Khary, OMB Peezy, Kris Kasanova, Jarren Benton, Sylvan LaCue, Skyzoo, and Yung Pinch.

Ranking Every Kanye West Album by Level of Cockiness

Ranking Every Kanye West Album by Level of Cockiness

Ye’s arrogance is part of why we love him.

A lot of people hate Kanye West because he’s cocky. But Ye’s arrogance is part of why I love him. We fetishize false humility too much.

Some of America’s most iconic entertainers have been accused of things much more despicable than cockiness. Bill Cosby has been accused of assault by over 60 women. Michael Jackson was accused of abusing boys. Will Smith has been accused of starring in Wild Wild West.

So when we look at great artists who are alleged monsters, why would we crucify an artist simply for loving himself too much? Fuck it, I say the cockier the better.

Here are Kanye’s albums ranked by their cockiness level. You’re welcome.

8. 808s & Heartbreak

Kanye went full emo on this joint. There’s almost no cockiness to be found other than on the single “Amazing.” Kanye had an existential crisis and used it to create his most influential album. My last existential crisis didn’t create anything other than chlamydia and a drinking problem.

COCKIEST TRACK: "Amazing"

COCKINESS LEVEL: A nervous nerd peeing his pants while asking his crush to the homecoming dance.

7. Late Registration

The playful “u mad bro” vibes at the end of every “Gold Digger” verse, the cheerful boastfulness of “Touch The Sky.” NOW we’re getting somewhere. Keep in mind, this is when Ye claimed he would have been in a modern Bible and posed with a thorny crown for Rolling Stone. Blasphemy has never been so radio-friendly.

COCKIEST TRACK: "Touch The Sky"

COCKINESS LEVEL: Quentin Tarantino thinking he’s handsome.

6. The College Dropout

The long-winded rambling on the “Last Call” outro feels like a man celebrating a milestone he hadn’t even accomplished yet. “Breathe In Breathe Out” gave us the underrated bar “I always had a Ph.D, a pretty huge dick,” which I still plan to get tattooed on my forehead.

COCKIEST TRACK: "Last Call"

COCKINESS LEVEL: Floyd Mayweather scrolling through his Instagram comments knowing damn well he can’t read ‘em.

5. The Life of Pablo

Now we’re REALLY getting to that classic Yeezy ego or, should I say, Yeego™️. You could easily make the argument that Pablo should be higher simply because of that infamous line on “Famous," a bar so savage that Taylor milked sympathy from it for months until being she was eventually exposed as the adorable snake she is.

COCKIEST TRACK: "Famous"

COCKINESS LEVEL: Adam Levine jerking off to a picture of Adam Levine.

4. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Kanye’s magnum opus as well his epic comeback after Swiftgate. “POWER” feels like an aggressive battle cry from a man determined to gain your adoration and hatred at the same time. Any fella that hasn’t written “I don’t need your pussy bitch I’m on my own dick” on a Valentine card is a goddamn coward.

COCKIEST TRACK: "POWER"

COCKINESS LEVEL: An obese frat boy confidently posting a shirtless gym selfie.

3. Graduation

I still quote “You should be honored by my lateness, that I would even show up to this fake shit” whenever I'm late for a Tinder date. That might explain why I’m still single.

COCKIEST TRACK: "The Glory"

COCKINESS LEVEL: Tom Brady on a PCP-fueled rampage.

2. Watch the Throne (with JAY-Z)

This Ye/Jay collab is bombastically boastful to the point of borderline cruelty. It’s basically 46 minutes of them throwing their money in your face and God dammit I love it. Their current beef makes me feel like a child of divorce.

COCKIEST TRACK: "Who Gon Stop Me"

COCKINESS LEVEL: Me taking my date to the Cheesecake Factory even though I don’t have a job.

1. Yeezus

The most obvious choice in the history of obvious choices. Who else has the balls to select an album title comparing themselves to Jesus? Who else has the balls to make a song called “I Am a God” where he impatiently demands French pastries with such abrasive urgency? All praise Yeezus Christ.

COCKIEST TRACK: "I Am A God"

COCKINESS LEVEL: Donald Trump having the audacity to refer to himself as a stable genius.

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