For Those Who Can't Sleep On Hip Hop

Wow! I saw Bindi Irwin (the late Steve Irwin’s daughter) on the Today Show. She was performing- singing, rapping, and dancing. What could have been a cute, even touching moment (everyone loves the Crocodile Hunter), was an embarrassing situation. Why? First of all, they had grown men (actually, they were teenaged boys- but next to her they looked like grown ups) dancing behind her. These guys were doing synchronized moves- looking like a really bad version of ‘NSync. The little girl can’t dance, sing or rap, so why put her through this? She already has a successful kid’s show- Bindi the Jungle Girl on Discovery Kids and Animal Planet that works and makes sense. On the program, she talks about animals and they are able to effectively recycle content from her dad’s show. But, dancing, singing and rapping? I’m not picking on Bindi, I’m actually saying that they are doing a disservice to her by putting her in this type of situation; it’s exploitation. Even with Michael Jackson, they say his dad was abusive and overworked his kids- no matter what your thoughts are on that, when you see old clips of little Michael performing, there’s nothing to be embarrassed of there; he was a phenom. Watching Bindi perform a rap track with stiff male dancers twice her size was painful.

That, in part, is the problem with the music industry and specifically Hip Hop right now. Everyone wants to be part of the show. Everyone wants to rap, dj, produce, and be a mogul. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to participate within the performance aspect of Hip Hop, but what’s problematic is that all of these wannabe hip hoppers are also expecting to monetize their efforts. This is a capitalist society, that’s fine, but what happens when everyone wants to be in the show? Where’s the audience? Today, it seems as thought there aren’t any fans left; everyone wants to be in the game.

This has created an overall, decreased level of quality in the art form. Again, there’s nothing wrong with capitalizing from your art, but does something happen to the appreciation of the art when the pure motivation to participate is to “get paid”? Who’s doing it for the love and the craft of the art anymore?

It seems as though there is a blatant epidemic of entitlement in Hip Hop today. New artists who are just getting into this seem to have one goal in mind, “how do I get paid?”: No honing in on their skills, no paying dues, no stage show, no originality, nothing new is being brought to the scene, just the attitude of “I spit, so I should get paid.” Ultimately it’s the fault of the labels that have continued to put artists out with little more talent than that of their fans. Artist development does not exist. There was a time in Hip Hop’s early days when artists would have several singles released throughout the span of two to three years, and finally when the artist had built up their skills, and the fan base was built, then the album would drop. Today, you don’t really see this happening. Artist releases are dropped, and when they happen to hit, due to the almighty label-marketing dollar, the fans think- “man I can do that.” No wonder you have many thousands of wannabe artists thinking they can sell platinum records. Guess what? Major labels can barely sell platinum records nowadays.

This trend- putting out underdeveloped, undeserving rap artists- started in the early ‘90s and continues today. This is one of the reasons why music sales in general are on a consistent downward spiral; the quality of content in music is a rarity today. Fans don’t want to buy garbage when they can make on their phat beats. Especially today with every Mac being loaded with Garageband, and the availability of programs like Fruity Loops which make it possible for anyone to make music- technology has enabled everyone to join in. The labels aren’t putting out music that sounds any better than what you could make on your own- with little effort- at home, why would anyone want to buy their music. With the exception of the very young, who are lured to buy music (or actually harass their parents to buy it) as a result the strategic efforts executed by today’s version of commercial radio- The Disney Channel. Their formula- build a singer into the storyline of many of their TV shows, then after much repetition of those programs (ala commercial radio play), the kids are primed and ready to consume the music related merchandise of those pseudo performers. Ultimately, they’re the broadcaster and the releasing company: Think Clear Channel and Sony Music all in one.

So where does this leave us, the fans of real Hip Hop? Well, you’re left to dig for it in vinyl, and within the very Long Tail of the Internet. Don’t bother with traditional media outlets; they’re busy exploiting Hip Hop and Bindi.

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“Pick Your Poison” starts off with a rustic eerie sounding guitar loop and an ill haunting female voice that grabs a hold of your mental and refuses to release its grip. Along with Arsenic and Span Phly’s lyrical barrage is a really stealthy bass line that completes this intro track aptly named “Take the Ticket”.  Therefore we get more lyrical flexing on the next offering, ”Comfortable Straight Jacket”, which definitely stimulates a head-nod reaction with sparkling sounds and confident razor sharp lyrics. The combo of Arsenic and Span Phly is amazing. They are both different in sound but the same in delivery, as each emcee spits with ferocity and conviction. The production mainly handled by Arsenic, compliments both artists  delivering darkly tinged head nodders as well as chilled boom-bap sounds that lovingly rolls at a measured pace. I also have to give props to DJ Elixir who provides on point scratches throughout only adding to this timeless release.

 The lyrics are spit with the demanded anxiety about various issues like the tight “Do The Devil’s Dance” and “Fuck You For Listening”  with both emcees validating their own status. Moving on to the Arkatek produced track “Creatures Of The Night” we get something very good. The beat is hard and rather slow, and the rhymes are fast. One thing that can kill an artist’s album is choosing beats that really don’t flow with the artist’s style; this is not the case on “Pick Your Poison”. There are a few more tracks on this album which feature the same type of vibe as the aforementioned track, and they do not disappoint. Among the other gems are “De Sade- Charenton” with sliced drums and somber horns. With every track you get a mass of soul, creativity, innovation, originality. Only a small amount of emcees and producers possess these traits.

On PYP each song welcomed the next, connecting to each other through links of often subtle melodies. Lyrically Arsenic & Span rests well inside of each track providing a quality blend of lyrics for the versatile production. There is not a dull moment on this entire album, and as a listener I could not help but sit in awe of the wide range of skills demonstrated by the group’s two impressive performers. This presentation was more than just beats and rhymes, it was a score. Every track on this album is hot, both lyrically and in regards to production, so it’s hard to pick out any favorites without naming the entire track list. Yet my favorite tracks on the album as always are the ones that personify the artist’s emotions straight from the heart. Whether you like lyrics or beats, this album has something for you. The production on “Pick Your Poison” ranges from dark and grimy to soulful and alternative, but maintains an overall head-nodding feel. I can’t tell you how many times I rewound the CD just to hear one or two lines at a time, almost in disbelief that someone could go so alternative yet remain so on point at the same time. So, support Citizen Sade by hitting them up @ http://www.myspace.com/desadehiphop or http://www.espionagerecords.com/  . Thanks CyPhEr777

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“Fly Your Favorite” or “flyyourfavorite” is the latest release from Indiana’s own Id Obelus. I was fortunate enough to review previous release which received much praise; mostly for its supreme creativeness. The question is, can he up the ante on this release? The answer is an astounding yes! As I stated in my last review of IO, his style would be considered by most to be extremely unconventional. But, that’s what draws you into his releases, making you listen to them from beginning to end.

On the first track “Soul Dispersion,” you get a good idea of what the guy is talking about, but at the same time, he’s just a smart fella; he’s prone to spit smart rhymes. Often this is in the form of inside jokes, or concepts you might wonder and ponder for more than a minute. The song is one of those overtly playful beats with more thoughts on this whole rap thing. The next track “Voyage from the Frontline” brings back EA’s Xcircles whose multi-layered style compliments IO’s sing-song style impeccably. The beat is an industrial fused prodding manifesto to one’s eardrums. As we all know, the Hip Hop universe is insanely clustered with personal journals, emo hop, philosophical, and depressed rambling. While all of that surely deserves to be out there, getting the alternative from Id Obelus is nevertheless welcomed.

I must add that the mind will drift off, and it’s only due to some of the strengths ID doubtlessly has, that you’ll often drift along with his train of thought. Especially on the offerings where everything works perfect together, like on the Oblio produced “Rural American Rap”. “Insert curse word here…Biatch”!! I LOVE THAT LINE! And once again it’s a case of a dope beat making the vocalist sound even better than he does anyways. The next adventure “1991 1987” is ID’s battle type track containing a “Nutcraker” type bell that bobs and weaves around the listener before soundly boxing their ears. This appears to be the first track that takes us into the rhyming mind and it is leading us through braggadocios words that give the competition a verbal spanking. Id Obelus is able to adopt his style to the Smirk beat in highly impressive ways. Just like his last release, Oblio handled most of the production with some friends that drop by to offer a helping hand. On the song “You Will Die”, Obelus busts a Beastie Boy inspired rhyme that shows how versatile he can be, with the melody enhancing the whole track, making this another dope song.

IO reaches everyone that grows up with less than two TVs and no vacation outside of town and was not content with just putting a couple of tracks together, put ‘em on a disc, call it an album and call it a day. Hence this is one of the cases where a rap record is using its potential; talking to people and to bring a story across, easier and better, than any other genre of music is able to. More than halfway thru the 20 tracks, you realize this album is a roller coaster ride with twists and turns. Many of tracks are often still paired with polished layers.

Other sick tracks to check out are “Eyes Down,” “Without Use” and fittingly ends with “Emotions” that concludes the album with a shimmery yet insistent instrumental that allows listeners to hear the album’s underpinnings from Id Obelus’ peerless perspective that further takes the lyrical content beyond the bragging before it again turns to a poetic exploration of serious issues. In a way every artist, if not to say every person has a record like this in him. But only a few actually have the courage or the skills to make the effort and put this record out. But its impact will also very much depend on the mind state the person is in that listens to it. Hence this very much deserves and needs an open door. I’d recommend anyone to pick this up, and to keep a close eye on his next move. Support Id Obelus by purchasing this breathtaking album @ http://www.myspace.com/idobelus . Thanx CyPhEr777

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IT AIN’T THAT HARD OUT HERE FOR A PIMP:

SOAKING UP GAME WITH PIMPIN’ KEN

By Khalid Strickland a.k.a. Dirty Angel 

 

 Internationally known, nationally recognized & locally accepted.

   In their catchy Oscar award-winning song, crunk rappers Three-6 Mafia claim, “It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp”.   But after meeting Milwaukee’s own Ken Ivey, known to the world as Pimpin’ Ken, I’m not so sure about Three-6’s observation.  Pimpin’ Ken’s chunky jewelry, Versace shades, custom-made Italian suit and extravagant gator shoes aren’t the products of hard times.

      There were a lot of flashy characters in HBO’s cult-classic “Pimps Up, Hoes Down” (1998), a documentary that explored the world of voluptuous hookers and their slick-talking, Rolls Royce-pushing “managers”.  Even among this flamboyant bunch, Pimpin’ Ken stood out; at the end of the film, Ken won the coveted “Mack of the Year” award at the annual Player’s Ball.  Now the man who declared that he’s “internationally known, nationally recognized and locally accepted” currently has a how-to guide in the bookstores.  “Pimpology: The 48 Laws of the Game” marks Ken’s foray into the literary world, and the book contains nuggets of wisdom that can be applied anywhere from the streets to the corporate boardroom (mink coat and cane not included).  Some of the laws in the book, which can be found in Barnes & Noble’s “self-help” section (fo’real), include “Prosperity Over Popularity”, “Grind For Your Shine” and my personal fave, “Don’t Chase ‘Em, Replace ‘Em”.  Pimpin’ Ken also teamed up with rapper Pimp C of UGK to release a straight-to-DVD documentary called “Best of Both Worlds: When Pimpin’ & Hip-Hop Merge”.  The flick features rappers and pimps discussing “the game” from both perspectives, with real-life pimps expressing their feelings on emcees who claim their profession.  “Best of Both Worlds” features appearances by 50 Cent, T.I., Young Buck, Rick Ross, Yukmouth and many other notable artists.  

 

     Although he says he’s no longer active in the pimp game, Ken Ivey is taking his gift-of-gab and considerable marketing skills to other levels.  During our conversation, I asked Pimpin’ Ken why he decided to write “The 48 Laws of the Game” and share his secrets with the average square.

     “One of the reasons why I wrote it, first of all, I knew that there were a lot of young brothers that respected me and they always ask me for advice,” explained Ken.  “So I figured, you know, this gives me an opportunity to give back on an intellectual level.  I was taught years ago that the game was to be sold and not to be told.  And right now, a lot of the squares is wide open for the game to be sold to them, ‘cause everybody wants to know what the game is all about.  So it was the perfect opportunity for me to really share something that’s been inside of me for years, and then get paid at the same time.  They got ‘Pimp My Ride’, they got ‘Pimp This’, they got ‘Little Pimp’.  Every rapper want to be a pimp so… it’s just like when Bill gates came out with Windows.  It was the perfect timing.”

     Well… can pimpin’ be learned or is it a natural talent?

     “The mentality can be learned, that’s what I’m trying to teach… the pimp mentality.  ‘Cause the actual pimping on a (chick)… that’s got to be in you, not on you.  It takes a whole lot of psychological warfare and a whole lot of patience to really deal with (pimping) a woman.  Some of us don’t even got the patience to go to work and (do) a job.  So how’re they going to have patience to sit down and deal with somebody three or four times; maybe six or seven chicks.  It takes a special kind of guy to do that.  The guy that normally would be a pimp could’ve probably been a psychologist, a lawyer or something where you real sharp with your mind at.  See, you got to be sharp in your mind to be a pimp.”

Pimp C of UGK and Pimpin’ Ken

     Once Pimp C touched land after serving a three-year prison bid, he linked up with Pimpin’ Ken to begin filming what would become “The Best of Both Worlds” DVD.  I asked Ken how the project came about.

     “Well, initially it started out as a come home (from jail) thing… kind of like a Pimpin’ Ken and Pimp C night out or something,” said Ken.  “And then, everybody wanted to be down with it.  So I wanted to make it have some more sense.  In the midst of nowhere we changed the direction and it became ‘The Best of Both Worlds’, ‘cause I’m having money… Pimp C having money now.  He come out to a quarter million (dollars) in his first night (home).  Then things got bigger and bigger and then Jive dropped a couple of million dollars and I’m steady getting money, I’m getting book deals.  Since we both got the name ‘pimp’ let’s see why these (rappers) keep using the name ‘pimp’.  And that’s why we actually (did the film), ‘cause you can’t just be a pimp.  My argument was… anybody can say they pimpin’.  But when you’re like Pimp C and you’re tied to the pimpin’, and you’re messing with a guy that’s the Michael Jordan of the pimpin’… then you get some real game when you spit it in your music.  Then, that to me is the best of both worlds; the people get the truth as well as they get the rap.”

     While discussing the link between rap music and pimping, I wondered aloud: Is pimping a young man’s game the way most people consider rap to be?

     “Well, it’s my opinion that after you do a certain amount of affiliation or time in the pimp game, it should be a natural instinct of an intelligent mind to move to bigger and better things… and let the younger guys deal with all this headache,” Pimpin’ Ken articulated.  “Now, some of the guys that I knew that were in the game for years and who are still prosperous, what they would do is after a while they’d open up a strip club.  Then they’ll make all the young guys bring all their girls to the strip club, ‘cause you’ve got strip club pimps too, then they’d charge the girls tip-op: 20 or 30 dollars… $100, $200.  Now they dealing with 50 or 70 girls (and) they’re not physically or mentally tied to them.  They’re just tied to them from a business perspective.  They took it to another level.  That’s called mackin’.  There’s all kinds of ways, as you get older you get smarter.  In my case, I’m still pimpin’.  I’m pimpin’ everybody, but I use mine positively.  I’mma pimp these DVDs, I’mma pimp these books.  I’m pimpin’ legitimately now.”

     It’s no coincidence Pimpin’ Ken compares himself to Michael Jordan.  Like Mike, Ken has been marketing himself like crazy, even landing a deal to endorse shoes.  Don’t be surprised if you go to Key Food and spot a box of Pimpin’ Ken breakfast cereal in the near future. 

     “Pimpin’ Ken is a brand, no matter how you look at it,” details Ken.  “‘Pimps Up, Hoes Down’, I was the consultant.  If you look at the credits, I was the consultant.  I was the one who put that whole thing together; at the same time I was putting my movie together ‘Pimpology Uncut’, which you can get at my website.  I was the first one who did a shoe deal.  I got a shoe deal from Murray Shoes, with the gator shoes.  I was the first (pimp) to get a major spread in Vibe magazine and Source magazine.  The first one out of that whole (‘Pimps Up’) crew that ran in the FEDS magazine.  When 50 Cent first came out he gave me a shout out (in a song) ‘cause he read my name in FEDS.  These guys, they look up to me.  I just left Queens; I was out there on 90th Street with (new G-Unit rapper) Maserati Fox and all them players… them straight killers, man.  I f**k with the hood, I mean for real.  The projects in Atlanta, man, I go down there and kick it with dudes by myself.  Only security I got is my social security card.”

      For more information on Pimpin’ Ken and his various merchandise, visit www.pimpinken.net or www.myspace.com/pimpinkenradioshow.

     For more stories and work by Dirty Angel, visit www.supremearsenal.com and www.myspace.com/blackpacino.

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