24 Feb Introducing The King of Rap – Fact or New Controversy

Now more than three decades old as a recorded medium, hip-hop is deeply embedded in popular culture – to the point where its stars seem not only larger than life but also, as Rick Ross once put it, “deeper than rap.” But even as they sell out arenas and top the pop charts, rappers still court the respect and esteem of their hip-hop peers. The title King of Hip-Hop still means something.

In that spirit, just as we did in June with the Queen of Pop, we’ve crunched a pile of data to try to determine who is the current King of Hip-Hop.

 We’re not looking for the all-time greatest, although many of our contenders would vie for that crown. Some of them have only been recording a couple of years; others have been in the game since the 1990s. But that’s what makes hip-hop exciting – it’s plausible for someone who was watching cartoons when Jay-Z dropped his debut album to emerge as a contender for the title.

As with our Queen of Pop tally, in naming the King of Hip-Hop we focused on the very recent past: from 2009 eminemthrough the first seven months of 2011. We ranked 20 solo rappers (no groups – sorry, Beasties) who have dropped an album during that time. We looked at album sales, rankings on the R&B/hip-hop and rap charts, YouTube views, social media, concert grosses, industry awards and critics’ ratings. In alphabetical order, our contenders are: Big Boi, B.o.B, Diddy, Drake, Eminem, Fabolous, Lupe Fiasco, Gucci Mane, Jay-Z, Kid Cudi, Lil Wayne, Ludacris, Nicki Minaj, Pitbull, Rick Ross, Snoop Dogg, T.I., Waka Flocka Flame, Kanye West and Wiz Khalifa.

All of our contenders are men except for Minaj, who reappears from our Queen of Pop survey. We like to think of “King” as a gender-neutral term, and the fact is that Minaj has earned the right to compete in this arena. It would feel strange to leave her out – as a rapper, she’s had a world-beating couple of years, with a chart-topping album, block-rocking singles and a slew of killer guest appearances. Frankly, she deserves to be called a hip-hop king just for her giant-killing appearance on West’s hit “Monster,” in which she crushed West and fellow guests Rick Ross and Jay-Z with one blow.

Fans of the rappers, and the acts themselves, take these sorts of rankings pretty seriously. (We learned that firsthand in the comments section of Queens of Pop.) We stand by our data, but of course we know that no King of Hip-Hop index can capture swagger or flow – if it could, the all-time title might go to Q-Tip or Rakim. As you’ll see, it turned out to be a fairly exciting contest. Our top overall contenders were pretty evenly matched, with five different rappers leading at least one tally each.

Let’s start with the tally that comes with the biggest bragging rights: album sales.

11 Jan A Tribe Called Quest “People’s Instinctive…25 Years

A Tribe Called Quest’s “People’s Instinctive Travels…” at 25

Vinyl doctor Oliver Wang examines a celebratory box set and expanded reissues of the band’s seminal debut

Michael Rapport’s 2011 documentary, Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest, laid bare some of the long-simmering tensions within the group, especially between Q-Tip and Phife. One came away from it with the glum thought that Tribe would only exist as a memory — despite all its members being alive — but then a few weeks ago, Jimmy Fallon announced that the crew was getting back together to perform on The Tonight Show.

What occasioned the brief reunion is the 25th anniversary of Tribe’s magnum opus, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. There’s at least two releases commemorating the album: a remastered CD with three new remixes and a boxset which splits the LP into eight different 7-inch singles, complete with a custom carrying case wrapped by the original artwork. By hip-hop standards, it’s a lavish treatment (though one that’s increasingly common) and this isn’t even for the group’s best or second-best album. However, whilePeople’s Instinctive Travels (PIT) may not be as sublimely conceived or executed as the Low End Theory or Midnight Marauders, it remains one the group’s most influential albums in how it defined the sound of the Native Tongues Family.

 

The Jungle Brothers introduced the Native Tongues concept with 1988’sStraight Out the Jungle while a year later, De La Soul’s dizzying 3 Ft. High and Rising lofted the Family’s creative ceiling. However, it wasn’t until PIT that a recognizable sonic signature for Native Tongues began to cohere around a jazz and soul-sourced vibe that felt like the birth of a new sonic era. Tribe, after all, opened the album with a baby’s cry.

By 1990, artists like Stetsasonic and Gang Starr were already experimenting with jazz interpolations and samples buttribe the “jazz and hip-hop” trend was still primordial. That’s why PIT felt so surprising, even revelatory. Their aesthetic, assisted by engineer Bob Power, found an ideal balance between cafe boho languor but corner cipher vigor. A song like “Push It Along,” offered punchy drums lifted from a Junior Mance cover of Sly Stone but then slipped on a mellow Grover Washington Jr. groove (itself a cover of an Idris Muhammed song). Or take the album’s most enduring hit, “Bonita Applebum.” The Roy Ayers melody is obviously central but try imagining the song without theLittle Feat drums. It might still sound the same but it wouldn’t remotely feel the same.

It was all about finding the right blend of hard/soft elements. Too much of the former and it would have sounded like everyone else sampling James Brown. Too much of the latter and you got acid jazz. Maybe that’s why all the bonus remixes on the 25th anniversary album feel so anemic; they’re all lightness with not enough heft.

12 Sep WaxPoetics – The Insane Collection of DJ Cash Money

DJ Cash Money’s legacy as a turntable heavyweight began in 1988 when he won the DMC World Supremacy battle. After effortlessly beating down the competitors, DMC banned him cashmoneyfrom entering the competition again—no one else stood a chance, they said. The same year, Cash went on to win the New Music Seminar and American Mixing Championship competitions. He remains the only DJ in the world to have held all three titles simultaneously.

Applying his dexterous skills to the studio, Cash has also made a name as a diligent beat builder, putting out mixes for seminal labels such as Sleeping Bag and dropping old-school jams like Where’s the Party At? with partner MC Marvelous. Over the years, he has worked with everyone from PM Dawn and Q-Tip to Busta Rhymes and the Roots.

His underground mixtapes have been sought after amongst the b-boy community, especially cult mixes like his WKIS-FM (a fantasy radio show) and his Old School Need Ta Learn-O – Plot I and II, which have sold out and have been rereleased time and time again.

Still active on the global club and festival circuits, Cash currently hosts a regular night in Manhattan called “The Get Down,” where he drops not hip-hop jams but hot funk nuggets alongside pal Rich Medina.

His mixtape Head Bangin’ Funk 45s started life as a promo for the night and features a fat stack of grooves from the likes of James Brown, Jean Knight, Ohio Players, Rick James, Dennis Coffey, Cymande, Betty Wright, Marva Whitney, Ike and Tina Turner, Pure Pleasure, and Gil Scott-Heron—all cut and blended to perfection by one of the world’s finest turntable craftsmen. 

05 Aug Straight Outta Compton

'Straight Outta Compton’ a perfect blend of hip-hop relevance and history [caption id="attachment_10983" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, F. Gary Gray, Corey Hawkins and Jason Mitchell in Straight Outta Compton (Photo Credit: Todd MacMillan – 2014 – Universal Pictures)[/caption] Watching N.W.A. navigate through the music business...