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Hard Times Don’t Last: A Conversation with Rap’s Newest Star 42 Dugg

Two decades ago rap music was beginning to transform from a counter-culture that at times made national headlines and even more hit records to one of the primary genres in America’s musical lexicon, and in a pop-culture sense was beginning to be seen by at least the youth as what was en vogue at the time. However, not all of our country received it that way and many criticized the genre for being too materialistic and braggadocious to even be truly considered to be art, but it is interesting that as these twenty-some years have passed, income inequality in our country has dramatically risen and has made it more difficult than ever to be a member of America’s working poor and lower-class in general and scarcely in this nation’s history have there been periods where upward mobility looks more impossible than it has in the past decade for those at the bottom of the totem pole. In my opinion, this is precisely why rap music, a style that like I said was considered to be too flashy to have any substance whatsoever, has become the new musical status quo for people both young and old with an influence that’s spread …

lilspirit: the making of a popstar

While SoundCloud has lost some of its prestige in the public eye with the rise of DSPs, it’s undeniable that there are still artists building core fanbases on the platform, and with time, shifting far beyond the limitations that “SoundCloud rapper” or “SoundCloud artist” might imply. California native lilspirit is a perfect example. Tapped by Internet Money via the infamous “I want to sign you” Taz Taylor DM, spirit has grown from self-described “SoundCloud emo rapper” into a full-force pop artist in less than a year’s time, using SoundCloud to build out his early-stage foundation. Now having released numerous singles to the tune of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of plays, the SoundCloud-bred development stage for spirit has proven to be instrumental. Easily recognized by his light blue hair and relaxed demeanor, he’s grown a rabid fanbase, and one that helped spirit gracefully make the lauded jump from SoundCloud to DSPs – a historical pain-point for many “SoundCloud” artists looking to grow out of their bubble, but a signature move for the Internet Money camp. Fast-forward to the present, and with american spirit out now – a title alluding to the light blue American Spirit cigarettes he used to …

#LF95 – [Lupe Fiasco] [prod. Kaelin Ellis]

Lupe Fiasco is my favorite artist. Notoriously known for his sheer lyricism that only Harvard graduates can fully comprehend, Lupe is likely your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper. Lupe is a true lyricist, but this label alone is not sufficient enough to describe the thirty-eight-year-old unfettered music veteran. Some have even claimed that the musical work and career of Lupe Fiasco was simply ahead of its time, with an audience not yet prepared for the boldly unfiltered content he delivered. Nonetheless, Lupe’s resume is among the very best, with seven studio albums, one Grammy, (twelve nominations) 2006’s GQ man of the year, along with million-plus records sold and streamed. However, these accolades aren’t what matter most to Lupe; it is instead the lifelong respect/acknowledgment from his music peers that shaped and influenced him. For instance, in a joint Instagram live conversation with Joe Budden, Joe revealed Jay-Z himself once stated that he thinks Lupe Fiasco is the best rapper ever. Lupe also tweeted that Jay-Z wanted to sign him to Roc-A-Fella records. Moreover, when legendary emcee Nas was asked by N.O.R.E which rapper most reminds him of himself, Lupe was his answer. Most recently, Off-White CEO and fashion designer Virgil Abloh tweeted that …

Before I Go – [Mimi Webb]

A pop ballad can be hit or miss, and it depends purely on an artist’s voice whether or not it gets pulled off successfully. Rising UK singer/songwriter Mimi Webb demonstrates she’s capable of ballad-level success on her stellar and emotionally wrecking new single, “Before I Go”. The song, which has already gotten traction thanks to TikTok phenom Charli D’Amelio, picks up even more steam today with a music video worthy of its emotional depth. Tremendous vocal performance aside, 19-year-old Webb embodies the melodramatic peaks of this record with the poise of a veteran pop star. She sings in unison with orchestra string arrangements and booming percussion, reaching a level of rawness that feels genuine and unrestrained. As the song’s lyrics speak to the feeling of lingering on to the last fragments of a relationship, the video shows Webb going on a literal drive down memory lane. Flanked by picturesque scenes of couples in love with each other, the visual of Webb passing by these honeymoon vignettes at sunset makes for a powerful accompaniment that plays off the song’s theme in a clever, unexpected way. Watch the video for Mimi Webb’s soon-to-be hit “Before I Go” below, and keep an eye …

Prayer – [Bensbeendead.]

In moments like the one we’re living in right now (not that there have been many moments like the one we’re living in right now), sometimes a solid pop ballad can be just the shoulder we need to lean on for emotional support. If that’s what you’re in the mood for, then look no further than Bensbeendead.’s latest release, titled “Prayer”. The Portland, ME artist returns with one of his most vulnerable performances yet, as he calls out to the void for some sort of divine intervention. The production meets his energy, slowly escalating with the emotion in his voice until it erupts into a choir of distant and ominous vocals. Adding to the dramatic quality of “Prayer”, the music video captures the song’s most poignant moments through a strikingly simple vision. As Ben walks through a valley with the sun setting behind him, things feel of apocalyptic and deserted as if he’s the only man left alive. Director Ant Wheeler’s eye for minimal yet impactful scenes combined with the desperation Ben brings in front of the camera successfully captures the poetic tone of “Prayer”, making it one of those music videos that just gets you to appreciate the song …

Switched Up – [Oliver Malcolm]

Music will forever be the centerpiece for new artists looking to gain attention, but it’s hardly the only necessary aspect anymore. With increasing frequency, we’re seeing the importance of presenting a visual dimension to the music, and how this further attracts listeners especially when they’re previously unfamiliar with the artist. If the listener can get a feel for who the artist is beyond the music within their first few impressions, they’re far more likely to be intrigued, and therefore, far more likely to stick around as a fan. Today, in this very vein, UK talent Oliver Malcolm is here to offer a mind-blowing introduction to his artistry with his debut release, “Switched Up,” complete with a matching music video. Structured around a frantic acoustic melody, “Switched Up,” the song, is an explosion of energy, almost rushed in its cadences yet never misstepping along the way. As Malcolm tackles the instrumental with electrifying vocal runs and some stellar songwriting, might I add, he quickly makes it known that he’s worth the attention. He has something to say, and he’s got a hell of a way of saying it, from the boldness in his sound to the deep-seated supply of charisma that …

Believe – [Meek Mill] x [Justin Timberlake]

On Meek’s Instagram when he dropped the song Believe, he said this is for motivational purposes only. When I thought about it, I can’t remember a time when Meek isn’t trying to motivate and give people light in dark situations. That’s why he has always been one of my favorite people in the industry let alone the artist because he understands the platform he has been given and uses it to inspire much more than just himself. What’s also crazy about this song is he got Justin Timberlake to hop on it and I can’t remember that last time JT has been on a public record even though I’m sure he is song-writing and working on music all the time. The collab reminded me a little bit like the one with Jay-Z ft. Justin on Holy Grail or T.I. with Dead & Gone… completely different tracks but having a singer like him jump on a chorus in a rap track with empowering verses is amazing. The video is nothing short of a true dramatic film directed by Maxime Quoilin which contains real-life experiences that people go through such as addiction, prison, and being motivated to be a better person than …

A Conversation With Pivot Gang’s MFnMelo

For MFnMelo, the adage that you’re only as good as who you surround yourself with seems to hit home in a way that’s different than most people’s interpretation. It’s more about looking out for everyone in his inner circle over himself, only feeling fulfilled if those around him do too. This value for looking out for his loved ones holds true so much for the Chicago rapper that it comes up as the central theme of his latest project, ‘Everybody Eats’–an impressive sophomore effort from the Pivot Gang member that positions his consistently strong flows and ear for melody at the fore. 2019 marked a busy year for MFnMelo, marked by both the releases of ‘Everybody Eats’ and Pivot Gang’s group project ‘You Can’t Sit With Us’. On both projects, Melo came into his own, distinguishing himself sonically while proving to be yet another powerful weapon in Pivot Gang’s homemade arsenal. With 2020 ahead of him, Melo stresses to only expect “more muhf**kin” in the near future. Find out exactly what to look out for from Melo and watch him break down the process of making ‘Everybody Eats’ in our new interview below: *interview by Mike Del Ro & Elliot …

Premiere: Who Am I? – [Michael Christmas]

The world of Michael Christmas extends far beyond music. Most notably, there’s the added dimension of visuals that make his artistry so compelling, from the humor of “Girlfriend” to the day-in-your-shoes relatability of “Not The Only One.” With every new visual release, Christmas sets the backdrop for his creative process, and give fans a peer into the wide-eyed imagination of the man behind the mic. Today, the Boston artist is back and better than ever, here to deliver the cinematic new visuals for “Who Am I?” off of his recent Baggy Eyes 2 EP. As a song, “Who Am I?” touches on Christmas’ struggles with self-motivation, using a plethora of personal experiences to paint the picture. In such a way, it only makes sense that the song would receive an accompanying visual, and finally, it’s here. With a penchant for movies and a well-documented love for acting that we’ve seen in past visuals, Christmas notes, “I wanted to make the ‘Who Am I?’ video because I’ve always wanted to do a crime drama film, and I feel like the 2 sides that were written for Mr. Barnes (me) perfectly represent doing the right thing and doing the wrong thing, which is …

OBE – [Travis Bickle]

It’s clear that Travis Bickle doesn’t think like the rest of us. With treasured songs including “Best Friend Shows Me Love” and “Joan of Arc” to attest, the Atlanta-bred talent embodies a left-of-center, genre-agnostic style of music, quite unlike anything you’ve heard. Every time he releases a new song, it becomes a moment in and of itself, propelled by a sense for sound that feels more like an experience than anything else. Today, the man himself has done it again, releasing perhaps one of his best records to date in “OBE.” Just over 3 minutes in length, “OBE” is a rollercoaster of a song, showered in dramatic changes, decadent melodies, and a hint of unpredictability. In today’s day and age, we often hear conversations about Spotify-centric music and artists who boast impressive play counts, but aren’t really pushing the ball forward. Consequently, they don’t stick around for long, while the inventive, eclectic approaches of artists like Bickle seem to sustain. “OBE” is proof of such, and will undoubtedly be thrown in heavy rotation for the months to come. Because quite frankly, no one is doing it quite like Travis Bickle right now. Check out “OBE” on SoundCloud below!