A TRIBE CALLED QUEST: We Got It From Here…Thank You For Your Service

RELEASED: NOVEMBER 11, 2016, Epic Records/Sony Music

Review by Michael Grant, C.E.O. of RePPiN4U

On this day, we are celebrating  5 years of promoting great music and gaining respect and credibility from fans and artists. To this I could say “We Got It From Here…Thank You For Your Service”. But we gonna keep going. Trap music? Mumble Rap? Freestyling from smart phones, WE DON’T DO THAT OVER HERE!

So as a celebration, I decided to review this album, which is a celebration of iconic Hip Hop pioneers A Tribe Called Quest, when you mention the words Hip Hop, these are the guys that instantly come into people’s minds who define it and are mentioned in the same sentence with groups such as Public Enemy, Eric B & Rakim, Wu-Tang Clan, De La Soul.

March 22, 2016 was a horrible day to wake up to. Checking your social media has become one of the regular things to do in the morning with brushing your teeth and changing your brief. The loss of Phife Dawg rocked Hip Hop to its foundation and is up there with the losses of Big Pun, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and J Dilla, talking of which, was the first thing on my mind when I heard the news. I remembered Phife’s track ‘Dear Dilla’ which I consider very underrated and slept on. The lyrics in that, looking at it now made me think ‘whoa’… did Phife kinda know he was going? Almost like he dedicated the song to himself?

Hold tight, this ain’t the last time I see you
Due time, that’s my word, I’mma see you
Frontin’ ass rappers now here stealin’ intros
Posin’ like they hard when we know they all see through…” 

actq-new-albumWhile Hip Hop was in mourning for the longest since Sean Price, A Tribe Called Quest reconciled and secretly recorded a comeback album on the back of their recent reunion tour, and two weeks before the allotted release date, they dropped the bomb on us. Yes, half of admitted to be skeptical after the blemish that was ‘The Love Movement’, the rest of us were praising the most high that in the midst of this ‘mumble rap’ era, an album would come along to take us away from all that and take us back to the days of Midnight Mauraders. This is their first album after 18 years, and their ‘true’ final album. Have they gone out in a bang? Or will The Love Movement be the last image that fans will be forced to remember through the ages?

As you hit play on your iTunes (or in my case, CD which I highly recommend you do) you are instantly reminded of why you love ATCQ in the first place. ‘The Space Program’ does just that. You are glad that throughout the history, they finally made something happen here.

‘We The People’ is insanely amazing. The art of the Hip Hop anthem has not been forgotten… when this drop in a party or in a car – THAT’S A WRAP. What’s better, it could not have come at a better time in Trump’s America with Q-Tip’s tongue in cheek humor with the hook, while Phife brings a scathing verse.

The niceness continues will ‘Whateva Will Be’. So far J Dilla is up there smiling and thinking -‘my boys have done it again’ with the Nairobi Sister’s Promised Land sample, where the subject matter of social injustice and Trump’s America continue.

It’s from here now that ATCQ begin to diverse their music whilst keeping it them. A collaboration with Elton John would be the last thing on hip hop heads minds, but when you have been in the game as long as these guys, your exploration of music will branch out. Here a returning Bussa Bus appears in  a ‘Solid Wall Of Sound’ in his outta order Jamaican persona, it makes for a very interesting track for listeners to absorb a bit more than the first three tracks previous. It serves as a great intro  however to ‘Dis Generation’ where we see the whole tribe minus Consequence going line for line. Their diverse direction starts to ring the ears of Andre 3000 who comes through in ‘Kids’, blending in nicely like he’s part of the tribe too. The way he and Q-Tip describe the way we want our kids to believe something when in reality it’s harder to explain the harsh facts.

In ‘Melatonin’, Q-Tip goes for dolo while Abbey Smith provide extra vocals. great track but I strongly advise NOT to use the drug as it’s design is to help people who have trouble sleeping, and this is a project that 7 tracks in, should NOT be slept on.

I like the fact that ATCQ have maintained some nostalgic elements, like in ‘Enough!!’ The classic instruments used in ‘Bonita Applebum’ are brought back here to continue to please their long time fans and attract new fans in the process. This is one of those tracks that will become a favourite in the long-term after several listens. I also like te fact that ATCQ treated the project as if it was released some 20,25 years ago by including a ‘Side A’ and a ‘Side B’ in the project. Consequence kicks the B Side off with ‘Mobius’, but it’s Busta Rhymes who runs away with this one, channelling his inner Woo-Hah!! into the track! Very interesting how the rest of the tribe stand back and let these two go in, making it sound like ATCQ 2.0.

snl-a-tribe-called-quest-busta

Just as Bussa Bus tore up Mobius, Phife Dawg puts mumble rappers on blast in ‘Black Spasmodic’: “Trash rap the dead, pu$$y kill the chirping/No more f**k boys, sit down, sh!t can only get worse/And how do you touch mic with flows uncertain?
Speak game dry, boy, that flow ain’t workin’/Folks throwin’ items, them vex and cursin’
F**k made me wanna see these n!&&@$ in person?” Consider it the preparations for the ‘Killing Season’, which brings Talib Kweli and Kanye West into the mix, who thankfully for you hip hop purists has been relegated to just the hook. Also it’s great how they showcased Jarobi & Consequence here.

“Have you ever loved somebody?
Way before you got to dream?
No more crying, he’s in sunshine
He’s alright now, see his wings…”

Another track I consider a growing gem outside the obvious favourites is this one right here – ‘Lost Somebody’, where their expressions for their loss in Phife Dawg becomes very moving.

Even though ATCQ have moved forwards with their music, they decide to try ‘Movin Backwards’ one time and bring Anderson Paak with them. Here Jarobi throws shots at Fetty Wap and all the trap lords, leading by example set by Phife. Then Kendrick chimes in for a memorable, Source Hip Hop Quotable quality verse in Conrad Tokyo while Phife expresses his disdain for the presidential election. Imagine if he actually saw the results in the physical.

‘Ego’ sees Q-Tip going for dolo once again, bringing more nostalgic sounds into it provided by musician Jack White. Great to see him use the wordplay and break down various forms of Ego, even onto himself: “Ego make you violent or govern like a tyrant/Or switch a dictionary’s word from vibrant to vivrant/Fool the thirsty people, selling tap water in bottles/Fooled a girl with NYU scholarship and now she models
Ego has no ending, has people pretending/Religious zealots get jealous ’cause guys want their defending…”

Finally, ‘The Donald’. Which is a unique tribute to Phife which features the Trini Gladiator in his own ode. Salute the man known as Don Juice.

…And Phife Dawg is still not dun! His final solo album will be touching down in our stores sometime next year and that will be even more anticipated than ever now. Let’s keep it 100 – when his first solo dropped, not many of us noticed, all eyes were still on Q-Tip.

A part of me doesn’t want A Tribe Called Quest to end even though they can say they have on a great note. A part of me wants Consequence and Busta to become official and be ATCQ 2.0. They have successfully erased the lasting image The Love Movement had and crafted an album we never saw coming and were given just 2 weeks notice to prepare. 2016 has been a surprise year for the Native Tongues, when just a few months prior, De La Soul blessed us with new music too. Special mention to Busta Rhymes who really went in with this project, making both Dilla and Phife proud, an reminding us of how versatile he really is. While I personally would give the Album Of The Year award to Common, ATCQ is also worth deserving because of the story behind it.

TAKE A BOW GUYS, THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE.

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TALIB KWELI LIVE @Institute Birmingham, November 14, 2015

Review by Michael Grant (RePPiN4U CEO)

This morning, I woke up
Feeling brand new, I jumped up
Feeling my highs and my lows
In my soul and my goals
Just to stop smoking and stop drinking
I’ve been thinking, I’ve got my reasons
Just to get by, just to get by
Just to get by, just to get by…

TALIB KWELI LIVE2On November 14, 2015, this was how I felt, minus the drinking and smoking part – I stopped drinking two and half years ago. I’ve never put a cigarette to my mouth. (Yes I see the gasps out there.) But I could still relate in different ways. I was about to see one of the most respected artists in the game of all time. But let’s go back a month or two before this when it was announced…

I lost my mind when I found out… then some of my FB friends were like, Joey Bad@$$ is performing the same place, same night… the record skipped in my head. Here’s me, never been to the Institute Birmingham, like, so hang on, I got a ticket for Kweli, I did some research, turns out, it was two seperate shows… I thought it was a promoters error… or was it? Read on…

Usually I’m in the venue from the start, but this situation was different, so apologies go out to DJ Tricksta which I am sure pulled off another amazing set before Kweli took the stage, and to Trademark Blud for warming up the show. When I was en route I got a phone call, that the curfew was 10pm. I was like, WHAT? 10pm??? I was used to at least 11pm closes. The first time I saw Busta at Oceana Birmingham back in 2008, Busta didn’t step on stage until 2.45am and rocked the crowd until about 4.15am. Or the Nas & Damian Marley show at the O2 Academy in Birmingham where they finished at midnight and that still stands as one of the greatest shows I had ever witnessed. So I thought ‘nah this is a bluff’. SAM_4535

So I got there at about 8.45pm, Just in time to see Kweli step on stage. At this point I still didn’t clock on, I thought – this man got a catalogue of hits – this show isn’t ending at 10pm…  Kicks off the show with LISTEN!!! And believe me, the crowd were listening! Great highlights were Kweli performing some of his Prisoner Of Conscious cuts, particularly ‘Rocket Ships.’ He knew that the track would get the crowd partcipating by throwing their Ws up in honor of the Wu-Tang Production.

Not a bad word has ever been said about Kweli why? Because he speaks the truth, he spoke to the crowd about one of the issues that have been constant in social media and that’s the true definition of the term ‘Black Lives Matter’. It really meant ‘Black Lives Matter AS WELL’. A lot of people got the term twisted and it was great to see the leader of the Blacksmith movement clarify a few things…

Talib did his homework and knew the UK crowd are more in touch with their reggae connections so he too went to that realm. The crowd ate it up. From the reggae/hip hop fusion of Foxy Brown to the true reggae roots of the Marley family, the likes of wish Peter Tosh would be proud of and he doesn’t haave to be sick and tired of hearing ‘darling I love you’, saying that Kweli reached out to his women in attendance with tunes like ‘Come Here’ and ‘Hot Thing’. In the latter, halfway through his DJ flips the beat and to be honest, while many recognize it from Lil’ Kim’s ‘Crush On You’, it didn’t really match with the flow and had heads slightly confused, but that’s just a minor.

Talib more than made up for that slight mishap and went into a string of J Dilla produced tracks that had the crowd wilding. J Dilla ALWAYS WORKS… but considering the catalog of hits he has, I would have rather heard those, big tunes like ‘Move Something’, ‘Hostile Gospel’ and ‘Down For The Count’ were sorely missing from the set. Considering that his new album with 9th Wonder had just been released at time of this review, I thought he would have at least performed ‘Every Ghetto’.

Another hot moment was Kweli’s acknowledgement of Joey Bad@$$ in the same building but on the higher floor and his disdain of the promoters. They booked both artists in the same building but two seperate shows like it was an ‘age’ issue, like the older heads would check for Kweli while the younger generation would more likely check for Bad@$$. That wasn’t the case, although it seemed that Bad@$$ may have took a larger crowd as the Kweli show was comfortably packed, by that I mean the room wasn’t overcrowded like sardines, it had a nice vibe in there.

If you have seen the DVD of Kweli Live at the Shrine, you would know that Kweli openly states that he ends the show with ‘Get By’, but before he performed that and ‘The Blast’, he took a moment out to remember the victims of the terror attacks in France, but also made it important to remember the innocent people caught up in terror attacks around the rest of the world too and not what the media percieves it to be. At time of this review this became a heated discussion among social media users.

SAM_4525So after Get By, the show came to it’s ‘puzzling’ close. People including myself looked either at our wrists or our phones for the time – it said 9:37pm. So here was me, among many others, thinking ‘nah, it can’t be over, he got such more to give.’ we thought he was gonna come back with a surprise or something… the crowd’s chants for Kweli were getting louder and louder… but the DJ came out and told the crowd the show was really over. Naturally this was followed by mutual booing, with a sense of understanding. What made things more bizarre, the Joey Bad@$$ fans were also exiting the building. So that show finished at the same time.

Whether it was bad promoting or the venue’s policies, one thing is for sure: Hip Hop heads may put the brakes on to future acts that may appear at the Birmingham Institute. A 45-minute set is clearly not enough for a man of Kweli’s calibre, that’s the average running time of artists albums., and the 10pm closing time is unforgivable, but what Kweli did inside that 45-mins, he played the hand he dealt and ran with it, and just like the sample in the track – ‘LISTEN!!!’ He gave us a show that had us in the end saying…’Wait wait wait WAIT JUST A MINUTE!’

 

 

 

PHAROAHE MONCH – PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

History of PTSD

Pharoahe_Monch_PTSDCases of PTSD were first documented during the First World War when soldiers developed shell shock as a result of the harrowing conditions in the trenches.

But the condition wasn’t officially recognised as a mental health condition until 1980, when it was included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which was developed by the American Psychiatric Association.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events.

The type of events that can cause PTSD include:

  • serious road accidents
  • violent personal assaults, such as sexual assault, mugging or robbery
  • prolonged sexual abuse, violence or severe neglect
  • witnessing violent deaths
  • military combat
  • being held hostage
  • terrorist attacks
  • natural disasters, such as severe floods, earthquakes or tsunamis

PTSD can develop immediately after someone experiences a disturbing event or it can occur weeks, months or even years later.

PTSD is estimated to affect about 1 in every 3 people who have a traumatic experience, but it’s not clear exactly why some people develop the condition and others don’t.

Source: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Post-traumatic-stress-disorder/Pages/Introduction.aspx

In the case of Troy Jamerson, better known as Pharoahe Monch, those terrible events may include some of the aforementioned, but there is also a good chance of terrible events such as Kanye West interrupting award shows, artists in the game rocking skinny jeans so tight that their preference comes under question, or artists not representing hip hop in its purest form, or most recently, a young pop star whose name we shall not mention being caught on camera singing racist songs and wanting to join that Klan.

Consider this album as antibiotics to your problem you may have called PTSD… maybe you and Pharaohe can relate.

‘Time2’ (squared) is the album starter sees Pharoahe bring back his stuttering rhyming and voice altering style that was first seen in the classic Simon Says. Have you heard a bad Pharoahe Monch/Mr Porter collaboration? Their latest offering, ‘Losing My Mind’ focusses on the album’s theme and concept. This is followed on nicely by the ‘Heroin Addicts’ of the world, which is the introduction to ‘Damage’, a guitar ridden track which sees Pharoahe’s third installment describing life as a bullet, Pharoahe never fails on this latest chapter. Here’s hoping it gets a video and gets regular play in the Hard Rock Cafe.

Another track that is sure-fire to get the visual treatment is the album’s first single. Pharoahe doesn’t need to remind us that he’s a ‘BAD MF’ man!!!!! We have seen him survive a mosh pit with no scratches in that first video! If you find yourself floored in the middle of one of those, smart money says you’re finished. Not Pharoahe!

The next track that follows could well be the album stealer. It’s not latin, white or blackPharoahe Monch music, it’s that cooked up coke, and crack music!!! ‘Rapid Eye Movement’ features another award-winning verse by Black Thought: “…And my tactical cam that never stood for any national anthems/Whats hood, I am the actual answer/And I’ll prove it/Black attire, rapid fire, rapid eye movement/I’m from a species that is higher, I am not human/Extraterrestrial alien, a monster killer of conscience chillin’/In a barrel of lobster/Ex-Slave, sadomasochist, I that gave the massa of my ass to kiss/A dyin’ breed, I’m the last of this/Black is as miraculous as Jesus of Nazareth/When I vocalize the crowd rise like Lazarus…”

You have heard the Michael and Janet classic… now hear Pharoahe’s version! They just don’t want to be messed with, but being on the World Cup vibe, Pharaohe’s glock will leave you ‘Messi’ like playing for Barcelona! Pharoahe’s war with himself makes him want to SCREAM!

Listen to the Marco Polo produced ‘The Jungle’. Does the beat sound familiar to you??? Like you heard it on a classic track on a popular Wu album back in 1995? That was the first thing that struck me with this track.

Surprisingly this is the first video released from the album. ‘Broken Again’ is a story of one man’s struggle with heroin, knows he’s gotta let go but for some reason cannot get away. If there is one thing that Pharoahe and Jean Grae are great for, is creating thought-provoking videos like the one above, something that is lacking in hip hop videos as of late.

The flow and concept continue with the album’s title track, where you listen to the self struggle continue and reach boiling point at times when Pharoahe looks death in the face and gives a resounding middle finger. Decoding the first few lines of the second verse, Pharoahe refers to a Faith Evans track – ‘Everyday Struggle’, which was also the name of a track by Christopher Wallace himself:  “When your cerebral ceases to administer solace/And the only Faith you have left is a CD/From a singer who had a son with Christopher Wallace/Tomorrow is never/Hope is abolished/Mind and soul have little to no unity/Life threw a brick through my window of opportunity…”

The track abruptly ends to bring Pharoahe and Talib Kweli their D.R.E.A.M.S. The twenty year old Wu-Tang Clan classic hit continues to be the main influence behind this track as both emcees break down the word DREAM and come with multiple acronyms.

The album closes with a clever remix of The Grand Illusion from Pharoahe’s W.A.R. We Are Renegades album. This time entitled ‘Eht Dnarg Noisulli, Citizen Cope tags out, The Step Kids tag in for the hook. As great as this track is, as far as outros go, Pharoahe may never be able to top the previous album’s outro, Still Standing with Jill Scott.

4 albums in and Pharoahe Monch has created yet another solid consistent offering and never disappoints. At this point, his only competition is himself: Someone that is never caught under pressure of creating another project every so often. Someone who takes his time, making sure that the concept, lyrics and delivery are right and exact. If I was to nit-pick at any negatives in the album, it’s that right after it was released, Pharoahe released another track called Get Down, which could have served well as a bonus track at least. On the flip side, the mood of this track is strikingly different to the album itself.

The race for Album Of The Year has begun. Good luck Pharoahe, with upcoming projects from Common, Phife and the Wu-Tang to name a few, you will need it.

Michael Grant – RePPiN4U

 

 

 

 

TALIB KWELI: PRISONER OF CONSCIOUS

Talib-Kweli-Prisoner-Of-ConsciousPRISONER: a person deprived of liberty and kept under involuntary restraint, confinement, or custody; especially: one on trial or in prison.

CONSCIOUS: capable of or marked by thought, will, design or perception: relating to, being, or being part of consciousness <the conscious mind>

This is Talib Kweli’s dilemma. Such a credible artist and respected in the eyes of many, but they only see him as just a conscious rapper. After Black Star, Reflection Eternal, Quality, The Beautiful Struggle, Eardrum, Revolutions Per Minute and Gutter Rainbows, Kweli now wants to show a more diverse side, but still deliver that consistency that he has shown throughout, and in this album, he has succeeded…. and all without his #1 producer Hi-Tek. Is it a risky move I hear you ask? Well put it this way. Ghostface Killah has produced many albums without RZA production and look how well that turned out…

Violins and pianos kick off the album in epic fashion. Talib is preparing his ‘Human Mic’ check… great to hear that he is on top form ready to go, even paying homage to Slum Village at the end …“to take a child you gotta raise it up…raise it up…”

By the second track Kweli demands that this album be ‘Turnt Up’…. with a T!!! No shame in hearing an opera singer blasted out of your car stereo while cruising. Talib and producer Trend is those guys that can take a classic (Eric B & Rakim – Paid In Full) and bring it in to 2013 in glorious Technicolor.

‘Come Here’ featuring Miguel is officially the first single from the album, it’s not exactly true and I will explain why later. This has that blend of that mature grown sound combined with that relevant, current sound that can be played in all the clubs or in your home when you’re having a romantic moment with your half, and has that potential to be a timeless classic like Snoop Dogg & Pharrell‘s Beautiful.

Talib shifts gears swiftly and lives the ‘High Life’ with Rubix & Rajah. Producer Oh No gives the track a hint of a Tribal African twist and produces a feel good sound while letting the beat ride out. Here Talib has managed to change the flow of the album without making it sound out-of-place. Rubix and Kweli go tag team in a frantic pace in one of many stand out tracks.

Talib continues to switch lanes in ‘Ready, Set, Go’ featuring Melanie Fiona. His lyrical prowess hasn’t slowed since the album started: “The deviltalib kweli try to deny us the highest of elevation/They keep us at sea level so I’m staying on my A game/They local like C when I express like the A train/My A-alikes take what I write, use it to maintain/We be alike see alike cause we got the same brain…” Then he goes on to throw darts at the mainstream as he shows them how it’s done… “Rappers nowadays are confusing you/I know you tired of the usual like Trey Songs and Drake/That’s why I’m keeping the faith/Keeping the pace although it’s all about the winning it’s never about the race…” If Drake has any Common Sense left he won’t go against Talib… see what I did there???

If Jay-Z can have a Moment Of Clarity and wanted to be lyrically Talib Kweli, then in ‘Hold It Down’, Talib returns the favor. If he was ingredients for a soup, he would be a young Raekwon, a bit of KRS-ONE, some Q-Tip, some Rakim and a bit of Ice Cube…. Talib continues to slay the rappers who think they have it held down. Then he continues to ‘Push Thru’ with Kendrick Lamar & Curren$y, in the albums many collabs with new hungry MCs. This track was actually released as a single last year, and had heads ready for the album, and after a long wait, it is well worth it.

The album has many highlights, but ‘Hamster Wheel’ might be the crowning jewel. Talib tells a story of a woman who broke up with a dude and barely escaped with her life, then finds herself involved with a guy who she thought she could confide in, but her paranoia and insecurities lead to her being put out in the streets. The heartfelt flow continues into ‘Delicate Flowers’, where Kweli speaks on women’s feelings and how men need to be careful where they walk on the minefield.

Going from smooth, heartfelt sounds to the Wu-Tang sound, Talib & Busta Rhymes spazz out on the RZA produced ‘Rocket Ships’, but’s it the ever  animated Busta who steals the show by cussing the woman for cooking pork in his house while the woman has no awareness to why pork is unacceptable in the 5%.

Talib has received flak by putting a returning Nelly on the track ‘Before He Walked’. Clearly these fans who were quick to call Kweli a ‘sell-out’ didn’t not grasp and understand the concept of the Prisoner Of Conscious. The result: a great track that is misunderstood. It is the next track ‘Upper Echelon’ that will raise heads eyebrows at first listen, but this is the sort of beat that lyrics are over looked by the casual fan. Lyrically it is amazing: “See I be listening to real sh!t/real spit/my die hards feel it/type of sh!t the fake n!**@$ find hard to deal with/I’m on a higher plane I’m destroying it while I’m building/my threat can’t be contained/so my name on Obama kill list…” How many mainstream artists you know can come with complex word play like ‘incorrigible’ and ‘valedictorian’ on a beat like this??? As I thought, not many.

‘Favela Love’ is a sure-fire single/video waiting to happen. Talib takes it to Brazil with Seu Jorge, whose native vocals are so hypnotic it puts you in another zone. This would have been nice to end the album. But Kweli goes one better.. and ‘It Only Gets Better’ with Floetry’s Marsha Ambrosius. The song tells the nieve that just because there is a black man in the White House does not mean that racism no longer exists.

The iTunes version has Ryan Leslie returning the favor hoping to make an ‘Outstanding’ track with Kweli for the ladies. While this is another achievement for the pair, it just falls short of the previous collab they did called ‘I’m Ready’, not taking away from this track of course. Then there is the amazing ‘Can’t Barely Breathe’. I have to criticise Talib for making this a bonus track and not on the physical copy but I understand.

Prisoner Of Conscious has just entered Talib Kweli into the Album Of the Year 2013 race. There are not many who can test Kweli’s complex lyrical wordplay, over tracks that keep him current, at the same time delivering fresh sounds, and real life stories. Even the physical copy has one of the best inlays that hip hop has seen in long while, from his name written in Arabic to the different definitions of the album’s title. This is a definite purchase in either physical or digital, anything less makes you a Prisoner of Ignorance.