Deal Or No Deal – [Benny The Butcher]

By LL intern // 7 Jul 2020

With rap capos Boldy James, Conway The Machine, and Westside Gunn, sharing the headlines, Griselda affiliate Benny The Butcher is ready to make strides in 2020. Benny is coming off a three-year project run, having dropped Butcher on Steroids, (2017) Tana Talk 3, (2018) and The Plugs I Met (2019) respectively. “187 with Griselda wrote in Arabic, murder I’m aware of it, cause I’m who takin’ care of it..” is the chilling opener from Butcher off his latest titled “Deal Or No Deal,” produced by the Buffalo, New York favorite Daringer. Daringer’s instrumentals are always a perfect match for Griselda due to the producer’s ominous signature sound; every collaboration of theirs is like an unreleased scene from your favorite mafia film. Not to mention, Benny is the head of the Black Soprano family. Benny’s motto “violence the only way you answer violence” is well understood by Daringer, incorporating a beat that perfectly emphasizes DANGER to the listener. Labeling Griselda the “super-villains to the music business,” Benny announces that he’s made coke rap sound like a new invention, all while abiding by actual street codes in real life. Butcher implicitly implies there is a good chunk of artists attempting to maintain a similar identity, …

Over You – [Smiley]

By LL intern // 7 Jul 2020

Viral R&B sensation Smiley recently released a vibrant new music video titled “Over You,” directed by veteran videographer DGainz. The young talented artist frequently incorporates joyful vibes, evident since her 2019 breakout. Smiley’s most popular song, “Unthinkable,” currently has over twenty-seven million views on YouTube, netting two hundred-thousand likes and counting. Since then, she has released her debut EP titled “Teenage Heartbreak.” The music video displays a newer sound of her music, demonstrating her readiness to take it to the next level. Despite “Over You” serving as a break up anthem, the message’s tone is carefree, indifferent to the particular relationship split. Moreover, the production suitably matches the concept of the track, enabling Smiley to appear confident and truthful in her words. Appearing positive while dancing throughout, the message is clear that a breakup no longer signals the end of Smiley’s world. Furthermore, Smiley recognizes her self-worth, implicitly calling for listeners to follow suit. One could interpret that the visual itself represents Smiley stepping out of her feelings, (as presented in other songs off the EP) as she embarks upon prioritization of career growth. Watch “Over You,” the latest visual from Smiley below! Words by Brandon Washington

Picture This – [Awon] x [DJ ZID]

By LL intern // 2 Jul 2020

Awon is back with a new single titled “Picture This” following his recent debut on Lyrical Lemonade. The Newport News, Virginia based emcee collaborated with DJ ZID, a DJ and producer out of Zurich, Switzerland. ZID’s production is soothing, incorporating soft tambourine-esque production with a mellow chopping melody. Despite the soothing instrumental, however, Awon’s lyrics reflect the apocalyptic state of current affairs, stating that he’s “seen it all, heard it all couldn’t picture this, only in the movies is the way I pictured this.” I am not sure when the song was recorded, but its release is eerily timely given the current pandemic, upcoming election, and worldwide protests. As Awon reflects, he wishes that he “had magic cause the day to day is tragic, woke up one morning and the population is ravished on the earth, now you can’t even go to church.” These lines very much align with the COVID-19 epidemic, with the virus having a seemingly indefinite life span. Moreover, Awon broadly speaks on the state of misinformation, which has recklessly been perpetuated by the media, as well as the incompetent leaders currently in office. Awon also sheds light on the “for profit organizations taking advantage,” which befits the …

The World is Watching – [Kemba]

By LL intern // 29 Jun 2020

“If you’re going to make music for the times we’re in, you HAVE to get feedback to make sure you’re adding to the conversation in a way that benefits the people you’re promoting to. This ain’t a time to confuse, divide, or sell some sh*t we don’t need. At that point artists are there to serve the people. The difference between making protest music and whatever you normally do is that you’re no longer the authority. There will be people who know more than you. So don’t tell us what to do if you haven’t done the work.” These words were tweeted from Kemba, who has been the exact opposite of idle during this horrific pandemic. When I say pandemic, I am not only referring to the ongoing repercussions of COVID-19, but also the continual epidemic of systemic racism and police brutality. Kemba’s tweet supports the message on “Kill Your Idols,” a song emphasizing the importance of not relying on celebrities or big names for guidance. To Kemba, silence is better than ignorance, because spouting nonsense further deviates from the real discussions that need to be addressed. Having a large(r) does not make one more qualified to speak on a particular …

Five Excellent Beat Projects Pt. 2 – [Marcus D] x [Stan Forbee] x [Oilix] x [A N T I T H E S I S] x [Fujitsu]

By LL intern // 26 Jun 2020

Producers/beatmakers are often unfairly overlooked because of artists. Truth be told, producers are artists themselves, as every instrumental requires its own unique form of craftsmanship, and a precise vision to execute the idea. Without producers, your favorite hit single would simply not sound the same, yet alone exist! Comparable to the clientele work of an artisan or sculptor, when producers craft beats for artists, they must put themselves in another’s shoes to innovate. However, the music of production pioneers Nujabes and J. Dilla demonstrates that instrumentals are entirely separate and complete bodies of work. Applied rapping or vocals are not complements to production, but instead honorary elements that create an alternative version. Therefore, to an extent, the artist serves as a guest feature over the producer’s original creation. To effectively shed greater light to the creative brilliance of producers, I’ve chosen to start a monthly series titled “Five Excellent Beat Projects,” which will highlight five instrumental works that I consider exceptional. This is the second installment of the series. Marcus D – Kirin – Marcus D is a phenomenally talented producer hailing from Seattle, who currently lives in Tokyo, Japan. Marcus has collaborated with American hip hop legends, such as Del the …

Without You – [Raff Alpha] x [Leroy Torawno]

By LL intern // 24 Jun 2020

Raff Alpha is a hip-hop artist from Baltimore, Maryland. Being a dual artist and producer, Raff’s signature sound is traditional boom bap and soul. Having performed numerous shows, Raff has opened up for Talib Kweli, Jay Electronica, Curren$y, R.A. The Rugged Man, Method Man, Redman, Styles P, Dead Prez, Jay Rock, Joyner Lucas, and more. In many ways, Alpha is the epitome of the phrase ‘your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper,’ despite owning an underdog status throughout his career. Entirely independent, Raff is a part of the creative talent agency “Project FILO,” while also being the founder of his own record label “Omega Academy.” Including mixtapes, Raff has an impressive six projects in his discography: The Soul Goods, Alpha’s Rhyme Book, Positive Pain, Never Surrender, The Alpha Male EP, and his latest album, Archangel Gabriel, released in 2018. In my opinion, Archangel Gabriel is Raff’s best release to date. While the album is very much a spiritual project, Raff’s traditional old school flows remain. Raff considers this body of work to be his most personal, visualizing each track as separate messages from God. The final track, “Momma Tonya’s Prayer,” is a recorded prayer from Alpha’s mother. Despite the year following being a quiet one for Raff, the Baltimore …

Looting Freestyle – [Supreme Sol] x [Abnormal]

By LL intern // 22 Jun 2020

Saint Louis, Missouri Native and Project FILO member Supreme Sol is back with “Looting Freestyle,” produced by Abnormal. The powerful track is in response to the injustices committed against Black lives, namely the police. The title does not refer to the looting committed by protesters, but rather, the unjust system that has systemically robbed Black people while deceiving the public in the process. Sol opens up the song by stating “Done asking now it’s time to take / peaceful protests, police will project the tear gas, guns and tanks.” Much of the record addresses how Black people have been propped up and used as ‘footstools,’ i.e. across mainstream media, political discourse, and more aspects of society, all while being ignored from the discussion table. Because of the heightened state of society, the true colors of many have unconsciously been exposed, creating a dichotomy between the racists and anti-racists. In other words, the middle component of the Venn diagram has been expunged; to definitively be a non-racist, one must also be openly anti-racist. These particular lyrics of Supreme Sol’s perfectly capture this divide: “See in times like these you start to see the true nature, are you for Black lives matter …

Master Roshi – [AKTHESAVIOR]

By LL intern // 22 Jun 2020

Commonly known for his discography with his “The Underachievers” counterpart Issa Gold, AKTHESAVIOR has demonstrated that he is equally as talented as a solo artist. For instance, AK’s two Blessings In The Grey mixtapes, released in 2014 and 2016 respectively, combine for a total of twenty-one total tracks. Songs such as “Angel Eyes,” Scottie Pippen,” “Pieces Of A Dream,” “Route 66,” “Winner,” and “Sun Child” are notable favorites that I find myself revisiting often. More recently, the Flatbush, Brooklyn native ambitiously collaborated with Leon Fanourakis a Yokohama, Japan rapper for a project titled FLATBU$H ¥EN. From an analytical standpoint, the strength in AK’s rapping lies in his confident unrelenting flow, which I personally believe is top-tier among his rap peers. However, those familiar with AKTHESAVIOR and The Underachievers know it is their spiritual, thought-provoking subject matter that predominates their body of work. For his latest solo release, AK dropped “Master Roshi,” maintaining the tradition of gifting a song for his fans during the week of his [29th]  birthday. The production is melodic, but the bass is booming, fitting the description of a low-key banger. Lyrics such as “Every day I be countin’ my blessings, now my spirit controllin’ this vessel, I just hope that …