Monday, May 24, 2010

What We Can Learn From Hip-Hop In Brazil

How would hip-hop look today if it wasn’t controlled by large business corporations? To best answer the question I researched extensively the structure of hip-hop in Brazil. The art-form is the music of choice for much of the youth of Brazil. However, the entertainment world is not as lucrative and the chances of striking it rich through hip-hop music are slim to none.

This leaves the artists right to expression untainted. There is no hidden agenda of rappers controlled by outside forces. Instead young aspiring talents take control of hip-hop in any way they see fit. There is an equal opportunity for an emcee to be heard whatever the direction of style they take.

Of course as rap was exported to Brazil from the U.S. many choose to copy stereo-typical elements of the genre. But for the ones that don’t, an opportunity to highlight social problems and criticise corrupt sections of society presents itself in ways previously unseen. As hip-hop is the most direct form of lyrical expression, a realness comes across which has the power to change the landscape around it.

It is used primarily to educate the masses on the reality of Brazilian slum living conditions. A far cry from lavish excesses. The culture is far more connected to local communities than the glitz and glamour world of MTV. Below is a video by Brazilian hip-hop artist MV Bill which depicts ghetto life in a less than favourable fashion.

In America, artists like Immortal Technique and Dead Prez are marginalised. In Brazil they are the norm. Through interaction with hip-hop, people from all walks of life are educated on realities often hidden from mainstream views.

The true beauty of the music in Brazil is that it works side by side with local community organisations who see the value of it’s educational properties. Many artists are directly funded and supported by groups which look to highlight and solve the problems within society.

Anderson Sa is the founder of Afro Reggae a modern day movement similar in style to Afrika Bambaataa. A former drug dealer, his ideology is to use the method of hip-hop to promote the value of education. With the support of Amnesty international, Afro Reggae run workshops for disadvantaged youths in slums, turning them away from a life of crime.

Perhaps if Tupac Shakur had the support of such positive organisations, things would have turned out differently. The U.S. medias obsession with petty squabbles was ultimately a factor in the loss of it‘s greatest hip-hop icon. But then there is so much to be learnt from a culture undisturbed by commercialism. A culture where artistic growth is allowed to thrive to be a real force for good.

The story of Afro Reggae is told through the movie “Favela Rising”, it should inspire all of us to know that change is within our own capabilities. We don’t need to rely on politicians and we don’t need to rely on Interscope to deliver us the next rap star. Mention hip-hop to someone on the street in America and it will probably conjure images of idiotic males glorifying prostitution and guns.

In order to take back our music we need to desensitise ourselves from the popular choice and strive to uplift our culture. The emcees of tomorrow can be the men that change the world through an exciting artistic medium, we just need to realise it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Raashan Ahmad Download

"I wanted to share some rare party joints I’ve been involved with over the last year or so with some of my favorite emcees."

- Raashan Ahmad



Gift of Gab, Aceyalone, Chali 2na, Lateef with Production by Headnodic, Descry,

and of course Raashan Ahmad.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Get To Know: Pack FM

If your new to Pack FM, and just seen his interview on my blog, here's some great videos of him in action:

1. Freestyle:

2. Live:


3. Plucking Daisies:

XXL Freshman: The Praise Of Ignorance

Can someone tell XXL that gangster rap died in 1996?

Have a look at the cover above. This is the list of rappers which XXL declares to be the future of hip-hop. Not that we should care, but as it's the best-selling hip hop magazine it makes you wonder what the new generation of readers will try to emulate. Instead of progression, the selection is a depressing glorification of ignorance. There is little understanding of lyricism, creativity, artist development and ability to inspire.

Of the ten selected ‘freshman’ only two show any real promise, J. Cole and Fashawn. Nipsey Hussle, Pill, OJ Da Juiceman, Wiz Khalifa, Big Sean, Freddie Gibbs, Jay Rock and Donnis make up the rest. XXL declares these to be a 'new breed of hustlers' which clearly focus's on the larger than life personality of the act's, rather than the music. The list's saving grace is twenty-one year old Fashawn. A young emcee showing lyrical ability far beyond his years. Particularly eye-catching are his lyrics on “Stars”;

“When I was young, I figured if I became the stars
Maybe they wouldn't seem as far
Maybe I wouldn't dream as hard.

Wanna stop, but all I hear is that applause
I'm addicted to the energy it causes
I wanna relive it every minute, that star-dom

Know I'm a shine despite all of my hardships
I consider them lessons instead of losses.
My old Nikes wouldn't fit, so I tossed 'em
They wasn't fit for the fire I had to walk through
A lot of disappointments, a lot of promises
A lot of niggas fell off, they lack confidence.

They had a dream but didn't know how to conquer it
It's not your accomplishments, it's what's inside of us

A star is a star and it shines regardless
Of the money and the fame, it's what's in your heart
So many stars”

The limited rappers selected should learn to write lyrics with meaning like Fashawn. Bar him and J. Cole the cover promotes artists which are simplistic and void of imagination. When I first heard “O.J. Da Juiceman” I taught it was a parody of garbage rap music. Unfortunately, he’s for real. Surely declaring someone to be the future of hip-hop should require skills? Yet OJ is the lyrical equivalent of a whinging toddler proclaiming to be richer and more successful than his competitors.

So who should have made the list? Dom Kennedy and XV are emcees who although not perfect, deserve recognition ahead of talentless loud mouths. All we can do as fans is support new acts like Homecut and choose to ignore the 'stuck in the past' selections of magazines such as XXL. No wonder Pack FM hates rappers. Hip-hop should have a bar of quality set high. We should honour timeless creations which expand the mind, forget a bunch of actors trying to sell you an image.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Interview With Pack FM

Pack FM's debut album “whutduzFMstand4?” won UGHH album of the year in 2006. Four years later, May 2010 see's the release of the Brooklyn native's second solo-lp. As one of the underground's most crtically acclaimed artists it's great to see him take some time out for hip-hop 4 the people.

Questions i asked Pack FM:

1 After a long wait for your second album, what should fans expect?

2 Are you hoping to gain success on a mainstream level or looking to appeal to a more underground following?

3 How do you explain the difference to people between emcees and rappers?

4 Which other forms of music do you draw influence from when creating new material?

5 If you could work with any artist past or present who would it be?

6 What are your earliest memories of hip hop?

7 What is your favourite song you've recorded?

8 If you weren’t an emcee which career would you choose?

9 And finally have you any plans to tour outside the U.S.?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Nas & Damien Marley - Distant Relatives: Album Review

*this review took a long time to write, if you use it, credit me* (c) Patrick Lane.

Release Date: May 18th, Universal Republic/Def Jam


‘Distant Relatives’ is a concept album which says that we are all brothers on this planet, it is also a reference to the relationship between the two men, who despite their differences share so many things in common. Nas and Damien Marley have a chemistry seldom seen in collaborating artists. Their flow bounces off each other, transcending cultural boundaries. This album is a spiritual experience. The songs serve a purpose; to enrich the soul.

Nas and Damien come from backgrounds which allows them to speak on issues in way’s other artists couldn’t. It gives an authentic feel to the lyrics which are seeped in history and politics. “As We Enter” opens the album with real swagger, the lyrics boast of the artist’s credentials while reflecting street ethics. “Tribes At War” sees the introduction of K’Naan, an African emcee who’s fast becoming one of the most exciting talent’s of his generation. The song has a military feel to it, which is a continuous theme on “Strong Will Continue”.

These are lyrics which promote the prosperity of the African people. The songs tend to criticise greed and corruption, “Leaders” features Stephen Marley and denounces political oppression. While “Friends” discusses the values of companionship. The most prominent message in the opening part of the album is the strength of warfare and knowledge in overcoming oppressive situations. The artists themselves act as guides to a better standard of living.

“Count Your Blessings” is an expression of a humble reality. It’s a positive mantra for the listener to focus on. It touches on positive thoughts in the face of adversities. Nas and Damien are clearly well educated and use their voice to champion the cause of the poor. “Dispear” is a revolutionary vision, a commentary on corrupt ruling classes and the power we can have through knowledge and action. The song plays like a call to arms for the oppressed to rise up.

“Land Of Promise” is about cultural empowerment, a dream for a better Africa. One where the kingdoms former glory is restored. This album looks to uplift the youth with messages real to everyday life. The gospel feel of this work makes the LP at times very moving. “In His Own Words” gives praise to God through tough conditions. The struggles of ghetto life are comforted through Marley’s lyrics “Jah told you, in his own words, I’ll see you through.” The artists although speaking on things real to them, speak for entire nations with their ideology.

“Patience” in the words of the artists is a discovery of the world before this world. There are so many layers to these lyrics that they can be studied at length with many things to be got from the messages. As Nas declares “this is for all the knowledge seekers in the world” the song questions whether science really has all the answers. One of the more criticised moves of the LP was to include Joss Stone and the dreaded Lil’ Wayne on “My Generation”, amazingly he dosn’t manage to ruin the song which exceeds expectations.

Although I would have preferred a feature from someone like Talib Kweli I can just about stomach his presence. Clearly the purpose of the music is to elevate their own race and heritage yet they are sure to be all inclusive in their message. As the human race holds its origins in Africa we can all be considered ‘distant relatives’. With that in mind, unity is a strong element of the music, ‘We are all sons of Africa’, proclaims Nas on “Africa Must Wake Up”. It features a return for K’naan and is the perfect ending to a classic album.

“Can you blame my generation? Subjected to gentrification!
Depicting their frustrations over ill instrumentation.
‘Cause music is the way to convey to you what I’m facing,
Placing my life in front of your eyes for your observation”


Nas on “My Generation”


Besides being award-winning artists in their own right, Nas and Damien Marley are sons of famous musicians. Nas is the son of jazz musician Olu Dara, while Damien’s father needs no introduction. The influences of such rich family trees can be felt through the sounds of ‘Distant Relatives’. Damien’s brother Stephen handles a lot of the production, with the two brothers working with Nas to create a hybrid of reggae and hip-hop. As the theme of the album is to honour Africa, plenty of African sounds mix with the already unique styles of Nas and Damien.

The lead single and opening track “As We Enter” is the most straight forward hip-hop beat, an up tempo club banger. “Tribal War” uses African chanting and drums, the first glimpse of the albums exploration into the sounds of Africa. A heart-beat with piano chords set off a chain gang vibe to “Strong Will Continue”. A heavy track that uses guitars for a big impact. In comparison, “Leaders” incorporates a more acoustic aesthetic to complement the drum filled opening of the album.

African vocals set the intro for “Friends”, which is darker than previous songs. Nas and Damien seem at ease over both dark and head-nodding beats which is a strength of their music. “Count Your Blessings” is a cheerful acoustic complementary to Damien’s smooth singing voice. The album at times has a frantic feel which adds to the cinematic vibes of the songs, as is noticeable on “Dispear”.

“Land Of Promise” is pure dub-step reggae which sees Damien Marley at his very best. His singing abilities allows him to switch between styles with ease. The versatility of the music makes for unpexeceted jewels. “In His Own Words” uses a gently strung guitar and hand claps with gospel vocals to create a spiritual piece. It plays as a heavenly glimpse of the positive sounds of ‘Distant Relatives’.

The album has no songs which you'd want to skip. The cohesive nature of the records makes for a fully immersing LP. This is all the more admirable given the changing nature of sounds which come together to form 'Distant Relatives'. "Nah Mean" is one of the more straigth forward hip-hop booming beats which complements the come down of "Patience". The songs set up the grand finale perfectly:

"My Generation" is simply quite a beautiful moment on the album, a choir of children accompanied by Joss Stone sing the chorus, while Nas and Damien rap over a slightly harder piano beat. Lil’ Wayne must have borrowed Nas’s rhyme book to write a genuinely inspiring ending verse.

The album concludes with “Africa Wake Up” featuring the return of K’Naan. A poignant message told through violins and laid back piano sounds. Nas describes this album as “world music”, a sound which crosses the boundaries of genres. With the help of Jamaican musicians and production by the Marley brothers, a fresh sound for 2010 will be a long time remembered.



The most anticipated hip-hop album of the year delivers. This is the best rapper alive combing with one of music's best creative sparks, a must have record.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

H.E.L.P. - Hip Hop Educational Literacy Program

Imagine if your school teacher was an emcee and the subject he taught was hip-hop. Well for some lucky students, that dream is now a reality, because Asheru teaches in Washington DC. For 13 years he has taught as well as produced incredible hip-hop music. And after feeling aggrieved with the education system failing to connect with the youth, he has created H.E.L.P. standing for "Hip Hop Educational Literacy Program".

His idea was simple, to engage students with books filled with their favourite hip-hop lyrics and therefore they will get the oppurtunity to learn important tools like literacy analysis. Asheru is sure to pick songs and artists of the highest calibre such as Nas and Common. While the books themselves have been endorsed by Krs-One (pictured above with Asheru) and Dr. Cornel West of Princeton University. NBC recently picked up the story:

View more news videos at:

Aside from making a real difference to the youth, Asheru's music is critically acclaimed by fans of underground hip-hop. He wrote and performed the theme song for the popular 'Boondocks' cartoon. While many proclaim his debut LP "Soon Come" to be a classic album. Recently Asheru released a stand alone single which featured an emcee from South Africa as part of his project to unify hip-hop globally. Here you can listen to Asheru (verse 3) on his brand new single 'Love On The Go':

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Panacea - 12 Step Program: Review

Released: May 4th Independently.

Purchase: Online

So the new Panacea album is here. The fifth in the series, up until now they've had a near perfect discography, can they do it again? Producer K-Murdock sent me the advance last week so I took my time over this one. I decided to break the review down into two parts, themes and sounds. So here it is:


This album is a celebration of life. An exploration into the soul of mankind. Each track represents a step, a new adventure with a lesson to be learnt. In many ways, the songs on show represent the values of the emcee Raw Poetic who expresses himself through philosophical poetry over beats.

To really get a sense of Panacea (meaning the cure for everything), you must pay attention to the lyrics of each track. In my interview with K-Murdock last month he told us that Panacea always try to create stories through songs. To let these tracks sail over your head lyrically would be to miss out on the stories.

Everybody will take what they want from the records. My own feeling is that the LP teaches us that life is short and finding your true identity by letting go of worldly influences is key to achieving your hopes and dreams. It might sound a bit pretentious, but if you approach it with an open mind you will hear the purity in the music.


4. Sync-in City - A song with a double meaning. It questions the reliance some people have on their towns, proclaiming identity should be found outside of maps. It's also a humorous reference to the fact Washington was built on a swamp and every year it sinks just a little.

5. Blue Oceanwave - The theme of this song is removing your soul of all harmful influences. We go on an adventure to the ocean were our character baths away all of his demons after owning up to his faults and failings.

11. Immortal - It seems to be the mind set which our character recovering from past troubles eventually reaches. It's a state of being which allows the soul to live on through eternal influence and memories.

I find it amusing that Raw P says he has no time for religion, when he may have just created one :)


Sonically, K-Murdock is way ahead of the game here. There is a tremendous cohesion to each track which makes the album fantastically replayable. In an age of short attention spans and mixtapes this LP demands you play it all the way through.

"The Long Pull" is the curtain raiser for what your about to hear. Murdock combines soft snare drums with relaxing chords of the piano. The raw hip hop element comes back in with a sample of Rakim's "Been A Long Time". Whilst track two is the head nodding "Collard-Fried Grey Sky", this song has a party element to it and is a candidate for hip hop song of the year.

Murdock makes full use of the equipment available to him in "Stumble Home". He employs a range of obscure electronic noises to make the song work. Each contrasting sound achieves an awesome balance, which is testament to Murdock's skills as a producer.

"Sync-in City" is another classic, the ambient intro sets the tone for the laid back feel of the music. Whilst track five "Blue Oceanwave" is full of waves crashing and crazy sound effects alongside a funky bass line. Murdock admits to using more synth's on this album than any other which is evident on the tracks that follow.

The album climaxes with real celebratory tones on "Revolution World Crazy" which some people have compared to G-Funk. But it's track eleven "Immortal" that steals the show, the first time I heard this I taught of it as a possible lead single, apart from it being insanely catchy it manages to encompass all of that unique Panacea sound.

No wonder this album was released on Raw P's birthday, the whole thing feels like a celebration of triumphant hip hop music. If you close your eyes you can almost hear the fireworks. The last song is "Incubator Purgatory", a mellowed out conclusion to a bombardment of colour.

HH4TP Official Rating:

* * * * *

I have to give this five stars, a lot of us bloggers find it hard not turning our posts into Panacea tribute pages. Along with Blu & Exile, Panacea can do no wrong right now and it'll take a great effort to beat this for album of the year. Nas & Damien, it's over to you.....

MF Grimm Visits College

MF Grimm a.k.a Percy Carey took some time out last week to talk to students in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. The students of Rider University were treated to a lecture from Grimm in which he discussed overcoming great adversities to become a successful writer and emcee.

In 2007, Grimm released his first graphic novel detailing his life. "Sentences: The Life of MF Grimm" was nominated for two Eisner Awards, which are considered the most prestigious awards in the comic book industry. His life itself reads like something striaght out of a comic book, he's survived been shot, grew up next door to Morgan Freeman and while serving in prison he studied law and managed to launch a case which saw him set free.

A lot of people think of Doom when this man's name is brought up, the two were once friends and long-time collaborators. Yet anyone familiar with the lives of the two men would know that Doom has resorted to cheating fans out of their money with fake shows while Grimm spends time putting back into the community.

Part two of his novel is expected this month along with new music to follow up his classic album "The Hunt For The Gingerbread Man". Below is a link to my favourite Grimm track of all time "Scars & Memories", the lyrics to this are truly special as he wrote it from his hospital bed after finding out he will be paralysed for the rest of his life following the shooting incident.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Concert Review: Gil Scott-Heron

Gil came out to a deafening applause, no fanfare or music to welcome him, just picking up the microphone, he opened up by saying "when your as good as me, you don't need no introduction, you just come out!", and with that he set the tone for the evening, when this man talks he commands respect, the grandfather of hip-hop music, the room hushes up to hear his every word.

Not knowing what to expect, the crowd were treated to a comedy routine from Gil, amusingly he touched on topics such as the difficulites of touring Europe during the time of a freak volcano eruption & the reasons why he dosn't like Black History Month. After giving Richard Pryor a run for his money, he sat down to the piano. He then performed an old African piece and songs from the early part of his career.

This led neatly into him being joined on stage by his fellow musicians, when the celebrations really began. Oddly, he seemed to ignore songs from his new album "I'm New Here". Those who came expecting to hear "Me & The Devil" (vid below) or "New York Is Killing Me", were instead introduced to some jazzy style songs from the 70's. Not that the majority of the room seemed to care, the average age was over 30 and all felt the vibes Gil was creating.

One hilarious part of the show was Gil commenting on hip hop artist's and their tendency to sample him, "I didn't know i'd been sampled by Tupac Shakur, Kanye West, a real cool brother called Common and others so i had to run home to listen to it when people told me, all i taught was.... sh!t sounds the same to me!" a memeber of the audience then shouted out "and Mos Def!" to which Gil replied "hey... Sh!t happens".

Also absent from the show were some of his well known poetry readings such as "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" & "Whitey On The Moon". Ending with much loved classic "The Bottle", he then came out for an encore to delight of a much excited audience.

Gil Scott-Heron - "Me And The Devil" from Adam F. on Vimeo.

Gil Scott-Heron Live In Tripod

Me & my friend Shane took these photos at last night's Gil Scott gig in Tripod: