A simple 6-track EP from a rapper and producer with versatile and groovy styles. The instrumentals have tons of personality and soul, and Kilo’s vocals complete the puzzle. Melodies have a lil sumn for errbody with the smooth r&b-type track, storytelling, knowledge kick, and some braggadose.
LADE is a rapper and producer that has put forth some impressive works over the past few years (he used to go by other aliases: Dgh, Doughmars, Je$us). He’s had a few songs of his own and produced a few great tracks for other artists. Namely those on Lord Byron’s Frozen 10 awarded Dark Arts Vol. 2 album, and on Shinobi’s (formerly known as Sir Milo) Corner Stores and Iron Horses.
Lately, he’s been working on building his new YORK imprint, and in talks of collaboration with Blu. After several months of inaction, he’s ready to unveil what he’s been working on.
Over the past year or so you’ve been showing a lot of sneak peeks of your York brand, but the details of it is shrouded in mystery. Can you define to us what ‘York’ is?
LADE: It’s basically a brand that’s starting out music based for now. Music, Videos, Artwork, and eventually stylized tours/concerts. I’m basically behind every facet of it and I’m properly working my way into investing into artists of all kinds to bring the brand to a multi-dimensional reality.
Have you ever heard of the Blue Ocean Strategy? It seems like that’s the type of mindset you’re bringing into this brand.
LADE: Yes, the art of creating what they call “blue oceans” of uncontested market space. Bits and pieces of that book I’ve been using as inspiration to minimize competition. I believe in the music industry today there’s lots of demand that’s not currently being paid attention to. Me, being a strong fan of both the business and artistic sides of the music industry, I feel a unique kind of enthusiasm to bring them to the forefront.
I know you have a really strong passion for hip-hop, but you also seem to be very critical of the current landscape. What do you feel hip-hop needs right now?
LADE: Hip Hop needs an entire reinvention that will take years to accomplish. African Americans critical of the culture need to get in business schools, study the practices behind the scenes, and take back their own culture that they claim Caucasians have “stolen”.
What I plan to do for hip hop is something I can’t do alone, which is why I plan on investing into hopefully a lot of aspiring artists and giving lots of people a chance to make something of themselves by not only benefiting this brand, but by benefiting themselves.
I remember you had a sort of call to arms for people who want to improve hip-hop culture and rap music a good while ago. Are any of those people part of the current movement you’ve got cooking up?
LADE: Yeah. That’s the most difficult part. Getting people who mutually support your vision is stressful, as most people think your plan won’t work, or they just flat out don’t take it seriously. Most people don’t take an idea seriously until it blows up and it’s making millions.As of right now I only have two childhood friends as silent partners. Besides that, I’m basically carrying this myself. For the moment. It’s unrealistic to expect everyone to jump on your ship ASAP. You have to work and show why you deserve that support. Not only is it unrealistic it’s also a little narcissist. To think people are supposed to immediately invest all this hope in you even though you haven’t shown as much promise as all these other geniuses out here who’ve done their work already.
You must have some radical moves in mind, at least by common perception.
LADE: Radical is probably the most accurate term.
You’ve been quiet for a long time. Have you been working on a lot of different content, or on one big piece?
LADE: A lot of different content, but devoted about two months to one piece. Just trying to make the product as effective as possible without being over complicated. I’m a firm believer in simplicity. But it’s not simple to create simplicity, contrary to popular belief.
At least I don’t think it is.
I guess we’ll have to see. So you’ve made music in the past from rapping, to beats, to remixes. What kind of sound can we expect next from you?
LADE: Basically a combination of everything that I’ve been influenced by. And that hybrid of styles will be my initial platform musically, but as years go on, it will grow step by step into new territories. Even through other artists that I plan to be the engine for.
You’ve expressed an interest in doing R&B, is that something in the works or a longterm goal/project?
LADE: I plan to make a separate R&B/soul based division of York. For starters I will eventually have a R&B artist to headline it before that division actually becomes a thing.
In a lot of your production, particularly the most recent, it’s really abysmal (in a deep way) and cavernous. I’m not much of an R&B person, but it seems like a unique sound to the genre. Is that kind of production style slated for the York R&B music?
LADE: Absolutely. I intend to bring a different dimension to R&B music. Not to dismiss R&B of the past or present, because there will be a heavy inspiration of past R&B into what I tend to create. I’m basically just twisting the standard a bit.
So you’re going to be the face of production in your York imprint?
LADE: Yes. 100% of the production will be by me and me only.
There’s a huge standard that separates producers from beat makers. Which are you, and what do you think that standard is?
LADE: Producers are beatmakers who direct a project and have a vision. Beatmakers are just those who make beats and give them out to whoever has money. I’m a producer. Never really believed in the art of having one of my beats on a project if I’m not going to produce the whole project. There’s exceptions here and there but once in a blue moon.
Interesting. The best projects are when the vocalist and producer build together directly?
LADE: Sounds cliché, but yes. Not to say every album with different producers isn’t focused. But the producer and artist has to have a certain chemistry for the project to be more believable.
I kind of asked this already, but is that a mindset you’re bringing into your upcoming release?
LADE: Pretty much being that I’m artistically in charge of the entire thing.
Cool, what’s the timeframe for this release?
LADE: March at the latest. Before then is mini promo.
Diabolic delivers what’s expected of his name. He’s a very aggressive and visceral emcee with a mass amount of shock value in his rhymes. Fighting Words is injected with harsh sarcasm and verbal assaults that add definition to his personality. On the other hand he contrasts with self-revealing subjects and conscious concepts. This duality along with his rhyming skills makes him a well-balanced emcee with an album reflecting that, but not in a way that’s particularly fresh or untreaded before.
The flow used is the primary example. Diabolical is able to put together strings of sick multisyllabic rhyme with just one specific immovable rhyme pattern of “AAAAAAA”. However, this style is delivered in a way that’s reminiscent of the Fighting Words feature artists, RA the Rugged Man; and known to be used by Hopsin. Ironically, he mentions in “Bad Dream” he mentions that a label panel says he reminds them of Eminem who is undeniably a pivotal influence to Hopsin’s music. Fighting Words makes it evident that that Diabolic represents the high shock value section of rap.
What’s entirely unlike the aforementioned two is Diabolic’s heavy and tough bravado. He possesses ruggedness so extreme that when matched up with similar concrete-skinned MCs in “Game Time”, it turns into an extravagant back and forth elbowing for the top spot. “My supporters would slap the shit out Little Wayne fans” It’s like he is the very manifestation of hard itself with the ability to leak that attribute into listeners just by listening. Punch you out your socks like…
At the same time, such a quote represents his oft-used rhetoric of the “real hip-hop heads” who spam “F Lil Wayne” on every underground track posted on YouTube.
Bolic unfortunately seems very comfortable with this clustered and overpopulated identity.
On a lighter note, Diabolic has a very powerful and passionate voice for morality. Throughout the album he mentions how much of a proud father he is and expresses the massive discontent he has with anyone coming in between that. He devotes whole tracks to those who suffer with “Feel Ya Pain” and “Victim’s Story”. In “A.M.E.R.I.C.A. (The Truth Part 3)” he says one of the most profound quotes I’ve ever heard on a track,
This part of Diabolic’s album is like the musical offspring of legends like Immortal Technique and Ice Cube.
Overall, in evaluation of the Fightin’ Words album, one’s favor feels that tug of war. On one side Diabolic is easily defined as a status quo member of that rugged underground shock-value spitter. On the opposing side, here’s a rapper with very expressed passions in his lyrics and a moderately impressive ability to just rhyme.
Pretty cold album here.
Favorites: “Game Time” “Here We Go”
Nobody’s Smiling is Common’s comeback in an age where Chicago’s hip hop scene is incredibly active and furthermore has a negative image centered around violence. In this joint he grazes the topic of the suffering of Chicagoans due to crime, drugs, and violence. Such parts are the highlight of the album, in contrast to most of the rest of it.
“The Neighborhood”, “Kingdom”, “No Fear”, “Nobody’s Smiling” (the song), all embody the spirit of the album. They carry much of the weight of the album. These songs are stories or settings that give a vivid view of the street life in Chicago, and the real feelings of someone personally dealing with it. Lil Herb’s verse is the ideal representation. In the opening tracks he supercedes Common with so much heart, in a way that cannot be described. You’d have to hear his voice. Even beyond such delivery, lines like
draw empathy from listeners.
The filler is hardly as impressive as a whole. There are decent moments, though, such as “Hustle Harder” which is the typical “yeah she’s the baddest chick” type of track. Common showcases a lot more flair and flow in that track than most of the rest of the album. The song as a whole (including Dreezy’s verse) has a sassy groove to it. The premise bears familiarity to fellow Chicagoan MC Tree’s song “Uh Million.” In the filler part of the album, Common also swings a decent braggadose with “Blak Majik” and “Speak My Piece”. The former features some aight melodic spitting from Jhene Aiko.
It only gets worse from there. The other unthemed moments are simply painful. “Diamonds” just seems to be put in to include a former labelmate. Sean’s chorus is light on the catchy, and heavy on the annoying with the wailing and cartoony yelps. The song as a whole just doesn’t earn its existence. Even Common’s bars come across as dull and uninspired, as forecasted by his opening line:
They come across this way in a lot of parts throughout the album too, not just “Diamonds”. In “Rewind That” despite the emotional connection to the topic, he struggles with parts of his verses, sounding like an amateur.
A lot of the young rap features shined over the vet. As previously stated, Lil Herb did his thing with the delivery; Malik Yusef showed off killer wordplay with his spoken word; Vince Staples’ verse was rhythmically impressive. Non-coincidentally, these are among the best songs on the album and fit into the main idea behind Nobody’s Smiling. In interest of “quality control” one could say this album was better off as a 4-track EP that focused on the theme. The extra songs just weigh it down to mediocrity.
Nobody’s Smiling gives a slight breeze from its peak.
Favorites: “Kingdom” “The Neighborhood”
Terrible Songs: “Diamonds” “Diamonds” “Diamonds” and “Diamonds”
DC/Maryland hip-hop artists Cal Rips and Suede Moccasins team up to create something major. Cal Rips is a vet in the scene. Cal is also a member of the Kool Klux Klan, a collective out the DMV area that has consistently maintained relevance in the area and is claims a massive amount of talent. He’s known for consistently smashing verses in features. On the other hand, you’ve got Suede Moccasins, a Frozen 10-awarded producer who has crafted many of the most impressive instrumentals in the past couple of years. You put it together.
The artist formerly known as Brandyn Jaye finally puts together his first project post new moniker. With the name change comes a whole new style to match. Several songs come with a gothic feeling, much akin to his genius dual single Second Circle/Angel. But then it also wavers back into his original, less-dark style.
SO ICEY BOY
The “Nike Boy” music video is a conscious shaking bewildering piece that deserves the upmost merit. E.U and Unkle Luc create something that is characterized by E.U’s persona and mimics the aura of the song.
Madagascar coming soon.