For Those Who Can't Sleep On Hip Hop

Every era in hip hop has its own “mystery rapper,” who emerges from out of nowhere with a distinctive and engaging style but no video or public appearances to support him. Back in the late 90′s, early 2000′s, we had The Madd Rapper(later revealed to be Bad Boy Entertainment’s, D-Dot Angelettie) and today we have Your Old Droog. Many speculated that the mc was actually Nas(his tone, delivery, references and metaphors are nearly identical- pitch correct the vocals & you can remove the “nearly” part), but those “in the know” claim he is actually a Russian kid from Brooklyn.

The few images on the ‘net highlighting the rapper “seem” convincing, although the person showcased could easily be a figurehead “in on the joke” assigned to further mask Nas’ true identity. It would make sense for an artist of Nas’ stature to pull a stunt like this. It allows him full creative freedom without industry interference. It seems that the public at large won’t know the truth for a long time…Hmm, maybe not THAT long with today’s spoiler driven society. Either way, Droog’s self titled EP is raw hip hop at it’s best. Mac Miller claims to have recently cut a track with the elusive emcee, so there will definitely be new music on the way. And who really cares if it is or isn’t Nas? Action Bronson sounds a lot like Ghostface and we respect and love ‘em both! Much success to Your Old Droog and the winking “Clockwork Orange” reference(“Droog” means friend) in his name.

Below is the EP. Sample it for yourself. We followed it up with, “Rhyme Strange,” a murky track from when the lyricist called himself, Imaginary Droog(The key word here is: imaginary)and sounded more like The Game.

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Common’s latest album, “Nobody’s Smiling,” is an epic masterpiece meticulously crafted by the lyrical wonder to transport listeners through the gritty and sometimes violent streets of the superstar mc’s hometown of Chicago. With longtime partner-in-rhyme (or beats in this particular case), No I.D. serving as executive producer, the project already has a major buzz around it…and it doesn’t disappoint.

“The Neighborhood” and “No Fear” provide the perfect introduction. Lil’ Herb truly shines on the former track by conveying the harsh conditions of his environment with his take no prisoners vocal tone and intense lyrics (“Used to post up on that strip, I’m looking like a street sign, I been out there 3 days and I got shot at 3 times”). “Diamonds” featuring Big Sean, finds Common reminiscing about the early days of his career, opening for Big Daddy Kane and Eazy-E & hearing voices telling him to “Stay, stay on your grind, like foreplay”.

“Blak Majik” showcases Common over a moody, unrelenting soundscape (with an assist from Jhene Aiko on the hook), while “Speak My Piece” contains the funkiest, head nodding beat you’re bound to hear for awhile. Combined with a warped, infectious sample from Biggie’s, “Hypnotize” and Common’s impressive lyrical dexterity, I predict you’ll have this track on repeat for months to come.

Next up is the driving power of “Hustle Harder.” Rising star, Dreezy attacks the track (“the new kid like a transfer, I’m known to set trends, let ‘em copy like the answers”), bringing back that raw, feral nature missing from most of today’s female emcees. The title track, “Nobody’s Smiling,” allows Common to envision himself as one of the stick up kids or dealers running the south side (“…selling on the block like an auction”). He completely commits to the criminal mentality as he spins dark tales of violence and lost hope over a menacing groove.

“Real”(featuring Elijah Blake) is a radio ready R&B flavored track that caters to the ladies. Common flows over the lush production perfectly. “Kingdom” has already received praise for Common’s go for broke delivery and another star turn from the unstoppable Vince Staples (“tried to hop the gate to heaven, ’cause I couldn’t get a key”). “Rewind That” closes out the standard edition of the album with a reflective Common sharing heartfelt memories of the beloved J-Dilla over a gripping track.

For those who pick up the deluxe edition (and why wouldn’t you?!?) there’s “Out On Bond,” featuring another electric verse from Vince Staples, “7 Deadly Sins”, where Common discusses the inner demons we must all struggle to overcome and “Young Hearts Run Free” (featuring Cocaine 80′s) that showcases the hip hop mastermind spitting over a trippy, drunken instrumental (“state of the art, state of the mind, state of the city”).

So if you’re a true fan of hip hop, “Nobody’s Smiling” should be at the top of your MUST BUY list. Pick it up as soon as it drops. Common from the south side does it again!

- Kevin Keith

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A transcript of a casting call for F. Gary Gray’s upcoming N.W.A. biopic, “Straight Outta Compton,” was leaked online by the Gawker website and immediately drew criticism. The call sheet by Sande Allesi Casting mentioned that it was looking for women between the ages of 18-30. The women auditioning were supposed to sort themselves into one of four categories based on level of attractiveness and socioeconomic class. We’ll spare you the details, but anyone unfamiliar with N.W.A. would probably be appalled. It’s obvious to us though, that the casting director was trying to find women who could believably pass as South Central residents during the band’s rise, as well as models for scenes when the group achieved success. On that note, we’ll leave you with a remake of “Straight Outta Compton” by D.N.A. (a group which includes the sons of Eazy-E & Dr. Dre). We also threw in an interview with Ice Cube’s sons for good measure. Expect a tour in the near future. We’re not kidding.

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Nickelodeon actress, Alexandra Shipp has signed on to play Aaliyah in the upcoming Lifetime biopic. Talk show host, Wendy Williams and Emmy nominated producer, Debra Martin Chase will serve as executive producers for the project. Alexandra is stepping in to replace Disney star, Zendaya Coleman (who walked away from the role after fan backlash & conflict behind-the-scenes). Will Aaliyah’s estate finally allow the producers to use her vocals & music for the project? Will Alexandra be able to do “baby girl” justice? We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, here’s Alexandra performing, “Boyfriend” in a home video along with her 2013 show reel. Comment and let us know what you think.

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The Underachievers(AK and Issa Gold)are one of the most innovative groups to emerge from NYC in recent years. Their dark, gritty & conscious lyrics draw listeners in while the intense and moody production keeps fans nodding their heads in appreciation. Another vital element that sets them apart is the consistent high quality of their videos. Check out their latest, “Metropolis” & a throwback fave, “Gold Soul Theory,” and you be the judge. Don’t let the group’s name fool you. The Underachievers go all out to win. This group is playing for keeps!

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