Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dart's Rant Of The Day: What The Hell Is Hip Hop 2.0?

Like many of you, I sat at home watching the "Last Call with Carson Daly" episode during the week where he showcased some musical acts in L.A. (I believe it was the same week that "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" premiered) when Carson Daly was giving some shine to Charles Hamilton. That wasn't the issue...we all know that I had a love/hate relationship with Charles Hamilton and his music (previous to March 29th, of course...now it's just pure hate), my issue was with a phrase that Carson Daly uttered/coined during the telecast. He called the new generation of rappers that utilize the internet as a marketing tool and give away free music as promotion online as "Hip Hop 2.0". The thinking is that this is the first generation of emcees that utilized the internet...really, son?

Way back in the Spring of '96 a site called 88HipHop.com popped up on the internet. It was a streaming online Hip Hop radio show that featured the best and brightest of both underground and major label Hip Hop. They had videos you could stream as well from previous sessions that aired. It was like heaven for Hip Hop fans...provided no one picked up the phone and you had an up to date modem and a fast enough computer. I had a 28.8K modem back then and everyone thought I was the man because most of 'em still had 14.4K jawns. 88HipHop wasn't alone, either.

Not too long afterwards, another site that would change the online Hip Hop game (and my life) came into being. I'll never forget the first time I typed the URL: http://sandbox.pair.com/ into the field on my computer screen. It took a while to load due to all of the pictures (I do that too, I hear) but when it finally loaded it was paradise for an underground Hip Hop head. Not only could I see every new 12" from all of the most sought after labels like Rawkus, Fondle 'Em. Dolo, Solesides, ABB, Conception, Eastern Conference, Fat Beats, Duck Down, BUKArance, Brick, Makin', Hydra, Miasmatic, Ill Boogie, 7 Heads, Nervous, Fortress, Bad Magic, Molemen, Superegular, etc. but I could listen to streaming RealPlayer snippets of each track before I decided to buy it. They had B-Boy, DMC/ITF videos, Hip Hop and Graf mags/back issues as well. The illest part was they provided links to damn near everyone else's sites as well (Only Built 4 Hyperlinks). 88Hip Hop and Sandbox weren't online, either.

There were a plethora of Hip Hop sites you could frequent all throughout late '96 but by 1997 Hip Hop exploded on the internet...this would be the actual birth of "Hip Hop 2.0" in my opinion. Labels and artists began using the internet to promote themselves and sell their new projects to thirsty Hip Hop fans online. We were all over the place, Fat Beats.com, MixtapeKingz.com, DaveyD.com, TheDSC.com, Rawkus.com. DuckDown.com, etc. Hip Hop magazines began doing articles about the new online Hip Hop explosion. We were going on 88HipHop.com and UndergroundHipHop.com watching live footage of performances by our favorite underground artists. I knew what the Arsonists, Molemen, Jedi Mind Tricks, Ace Lover, Juggaknots, etc. looked like finally.

It kills me whenever anyone who isn't fully entrenched in Hip Hop culture tries to coin a phrase or paint a picture about the current state of Hip Hop without knowing the facts. Of all the Hip Hop messageboards that sprang up, the internet Hip Hop battle circuits where people typed out battle rhymes (75% of them weren't at all spittable), all of the magazines and stores that sold Hip Hop related gear, equipment and accessories went online as well. If you DIDN'T have a computer/weren't online and you were a Hip Hop or Rap fan you were really assed out after a while...and America Online wasn't gonna get the job done, either!

I remember going on Duckdown.com and hearing most of the One Nation album in the audio files section as stray mp3's. Sometimes they'd be up and then they wouldn't be there anymore. I'd get news about all of my favorite artists and progress reports on their new projects. You wanted Wu Tang Clan news? Shit! Take your pick! The Killa Bees were seemingly everywhere online (thanks to their fans). StinkE (now known as Yameen) created a fansite for the Hieroglyphics crew that ended up becoming endorsed by them and expanded into the eventual Hiero Imperium website. The internet was the driving force behind what I now refer to as the Backpack Era (1997-2002).

Hip Hop 2.0 was official when fans could buy Enhanced CD's first from independent Hip Hop label OM Records and later from Loud/RCA releases. I used to pop these jawns in my Power Macintosh 6100/60 (that meant the processor was 60 MHz!) and watch all of the added features on the "Wu Tang Forever" and "Hell On Earth" CD's along with OM's Deep Concentration and Deeper Concentration (Deep Concentration 3's extra features didn't work in Macs). If thugged out ass Mobb Deep fans are online trying to figure out how to play "In The Long Run" chances are that we've entered into "Hip Hop 2.0".

If it wasn't for the internet, who knows how the underground Hip Hop industry would've survived the past 13 years? Shit, the internet is partly responsible for the growth of the major label industry as well. When Bad Boy, Def Jam, Roc A Fella, Ruff Ryders, No Limit, Cash Money, etc. were raking in the dough they used the internet to build and service their fanbases, too. To think that Charles Hamilton ushered in this "new" era where the internet is a vital tool in Hip Hop is more than laughable. Carson, I know that you had a label once (4.5.6) and you helped to bring a classic Hip Hop LP to the masses (The UN's 2004 gem "U N Or U Out") but stick to what you know and stop trying to coin phrases and name shit, OK?

Editor's Note: Carson Daly isn't to blame for the phrase "Hip Hop 2.0" after all (thanks Eskay). Just the fact that I'd never heard it used and I'm around Hip Hop music, emcees, producers and Hip Hop journalists at every turn almost 24/7 365 should tell you something.


Monday, March 30, 2009

Dart Adams presents I Guess You Had To Be There (The J Dilla Edition)

Not too long ago, my boy B.Dot from RapRadar.com posted up a blog where he confessed that he pretty much missed Dilla's entire career. All of the "Dilla Changed My Life" T shirt rockin' zealots around him were convincing him that in the new Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit will be replaced by Dilla holding an MPC 2000XL (The Catholic Church does that from time to time I heard). He finally decided to check out as much of Dilla's catalogue as possible. He came away from the experience saying that he thought Dilla was overrated. When the post first hit RapRadar.com, the Dilla stans and fans went bananas. I understood where he was coming from but I acknowledged that no amount of after the fact research (under the above conditions especially) could make you understand why James Yancey is so revered by other producers, musicians and emcees alike.

The whole wave of Dilla zealots have fucked up the man's legacy almost as much as those damn 2Pac worshippers (some people call 'em the "2Pac Army") have destroyed the experience of listening to Tupac Amaru Shakur's music because of their over the top stannery. The by product? A major music magazine listed 2Pac as one of the most overrated artists in music history. Anyone that's ever been on Okayplayer knows how rampant the Dilla fanaticsm is, the big difference being that I was actually aware of the man during his career and I bought his music and recognized his genius rather early on. I've been a Jay Dee/J Dilla fan since '95 or '96, that when I first realized who he was and that he'd made quite a few heat rocks.

If you weren't around other producers like I was at the time (or unless you are a DJ/musician/artist/producer) that could break down his tracks and tell you exactly why they were so ill or you were around and bought/heard Slum Village's "Fantastic Vol.1", J-88's "Best Kept Secret" Import from Germany, Slum Village's "Fantastic Vol. 2"  down to 2001's "Welcome 2 Detroit" LP with BBE  and all of those Bling47 Jay Dee instrumental CD's that dropped on Sandbox Automatic between 1999-2002 to his "Ruff Draft EP" and "Champion Sound" with Madlib in 2003 then I don't know what to tell you. You can't forget about all of the classic production he did for other artists from 1999-2004. If you weren't aware of J Dilla THEN no amount of posthumous research could properly give you insight to exactly how ill he was on the production tip.

I knew cats that used to play Dilla beats and talk about how ill his chops were and how crazy his beats were...this is back in 2000/1, mind you. My boy Vanguard, brother Buctayla and my boy Cardi used to discuss producers all the time, sounds, drums, who quantized what, what equipment to use or how you could tell what machine/setup a producer used and Dilla was always in discussion along with the other greats in the game. There's a reason that Little Brother named themselves after a song with a Dilla beat, mind you. If other producers are discussing you all the time, you're ill. If Madlib wants to work with you, you MUST be ill.

Near the end of Dilla's life and career the stans multiplied and the vultures were out in force. He managed to get "Donuts" and "The Shining" done before he passed (Karriem Riggins helped in finishing his projects as well). On Okayplayer, people set up threads were you could check in after buying "Donuts" and "The Shining"...on both they ended badly when both albums sold far less than we all hoped. They were both independent albums, after all. In any event, if you're a Hip Hop fan that was never into Dilla and you encounters one of these nuts that tell you that Dilla was the God Of Beats then your expectation level is automatically built up so high that hearing "Raise It Up" 9 years late won't convince you of shit.

Now, the man's entire back catalog is internet gold, the three beat tapes of "treats" he sent out to artists and friends and his 2003 MCA LP "Pay Jay" have all leaked and both versions of "Jay Love Japan" have hit the internet as well. There are still more albums coming out with Dilla beats on them (such as Illa J's "Yancey Boys") and another Dilla album called "Jay Stay Paid" is set to drop on June 2, 2009 on Nature Sounds. In closing, it's damn near impossible to convince anyone of a person's influence and accomplishments if they weren't there to witness it first hand. If B.Dot was aware of Dilla at least since 2000/1 and said he was overrated I wouldn't have even given it a second thought. Since he didn't and did late research then came to that conclusion I had to let him know/suggested that he needed to ask some prominent producers exactly why Dilla is so revered. No stans, zealots nor vultures need apply this time.


Friday, March 27, 2009

What's New In Dart's iPod #71 AKA The March Madness Edition

Those of you that have been following me for years know that I used to be a baller and later on a coach (those who can't do...) and I love basketball. I've learned life lessons from every discipline I've been involved in over my 33 years of life but basketball has seeped into so many other facets of my life. In any event I've been wrapped up in this March Madness like many other people across the globe. Last night, the Memphis Tigers dropped another big game during tournament time but to make things easier to bear the hated Duke Blue Devils got bodied by the Villanova Wildcats (shout out Eric @ WTR and Zilla Rocca @ Clap Cowards/Clean Guns/Beat Garden). I had Memphis in the Final Four so my whole bracket is done in Dallas Penn's Pick Em' Pool. Too bad I couldn't get tickets to see Duke lose in person.

This week I'll be reviewing four new projects that recently hit the 'net/bloggerverse and/or will be landing on store shelves soon in the following order: Flo Rida "R.O.O.T.S.", Pac Div "EP", Rapper Big Pooh "The Delightful Bars" (Candy Apple iTunes Version), Stoupe The Enemy Of Mankind "Decalogue" and UGK "UGK 4 Life". For those of you new to this blog, I don’t rate albums on a scale or assign them a numerical value out of 5 or 10, instead I merely answer the all important question of “Is it worth buying or not?”. Here's how my "Cop It Or Not" ratings system breaks down below:

Oh No! This CD is a drink coaster/table balancer/doorstop/gerbil/hamster room divider/frisbee/discus/makeshift shield/last ditch choice for a visor/alternate shuriken choice. Sell this shit to whoever is dumb enough to buy it from you.

Maeby (Maybe)! Depending on your own set of personal preferences you might like this joint. Give it a listen first to see if it's in your lane or not.

Mos Def! Cop the album when it drops...'Nuff said.

Every time Duke loses an angel gets his or her wings © Dart Adams

Best Joints: Finally Here, Jump, R.O.O.T.S., Never and Rewind

Hot Garbage: Gotta Get It (Dancer), Shone, Be On You (you wasted Ne-Yo), Mind On My Money, Available, Touch Me, Sugar (you wasted Wynter Gordon and then used Eiffel 65's "Blue"? That's grounds for execution right there) and Right Round

Dart's Take: If I were a teenaged White gir from the suburbs that was a cheerleader or on the Pep Squad then this would be my shit right here. Unfortunately for Flo Rida I'm not. This album sucks but I can imagine hearing certain songs in the club or in NBA arenas or at cheerleading competitions for years to come ("Jump" featuring Nelly Furtado, I'm looking at you). I give R.O.O.T.S. an Oh No but we already knew that was gonna happen, didn't we?

Best Joints: Mayor, Taste and Shut Up

Hot Garbage: N/A

Dart's Take: We need an album from these cats yesterday. The full length called "Grown Kid Syndrome" is due later this year and the EP is available on iTunes for only $2.49 so you really can't go wrong listening to some ol' boom bap shit from some of the freshest cats to jump on the scene in recent memory (What up Swiff D!). Support real Hip Hop (whatever the hell that is) and cop it now. I give the Pac Div EP a mos def.

Best Joints: The Release, Power, The Comeback, Radio, Hands Up, On The Real, Nothing Less, Move, Roll Call, The Life and Rear View Mirror

Hot Garbage: N/A

Dart's Take: What's the recipe for an excellent project? It comes down to solid lyrics and production in most cases. You have to engage the listener and make their heads nod. Rapper Big Pooh did that on "Sleepers". He did it again on his "Rapper's Delight" mixtape last year and he's succeeded again with the iTunes version of "The Delightful Bars". With production from Khrysis, Illmind, 9th Wonder, Oh No, Young RJ and Phonix and guest spots from Chaundon, Joe Scudda, Roc C, Jozeemo, O. Dash, Jay Rock and others there's no way for Big Pooh to lose. I can't wait for the other version(s) to drop. Cop this LP now from iTunes. It gets a mos def.

Best Joints: Allison James, When The Sun Goes Down, Evil Deeds, The Truth, That's Me, The Torch, Speakeasy, Transition Of Power, Independence Day and Find A Way

Hot Garbage: N/A

Dart's Take: I've been a fan of Stoupe The Enemy Of Mankind (I say the whole thing, just like A Pimp Named Slickback or A Tribe Called Quest)'s prodction going back to the early Backpack Era (1997-2002) when I used to cop 12"s by Superegular Records with Icon The Verbal Hologram and Jus Allah on 'em coming outta Philly. After the classic Jedi Mind Tricks LP " Violent By Design" dropped in 2000 it was official, Stoupe The Enemy Of Mankind was a beast and a force to be reckoned with in Hip Hop.

After more than 12 years in the game Stoupe drops a concise 10 track project called "Decalogue". There are no throwaway tracks on this project. The beats bang and such underground luminaries as M.O.P., Saigon, Joell Ortiz, Reef The Lost Cauze, Block McCloud, Jus Allah, Supastition (Kam Moye), Slaine, Outerspace, King Magnetic, etc. all drop verses. If you're an AOTP, JMT or Outerspace fan or just a fan of Stoupe's production this purchase is a no brainer. Due to length the best I can do is a highly recommended maybe.

Best Joints: Intro, Still On The Grind, Everybody Wanna Ball, Feelin' You, The Pimp And The Bun, She Luv It, 7th Street, Swishas And Erb, Purse Come First, Used To Be, Steal Your Mind, Texas Ave., Da Game Been Good To Me and Outro

Hot Garbage: Hairy Asshole (you have to put your foot down somewhere) and Hard As Hell (Akon, you ruined yet another song. Take a bow)

Dart's Take: I honestly can't imagine living in a world without anymore UGK albums. Bun B and Pimp C aren't that much older than me. They recorded their first projects back when I was in high school. If you never hear "A Pocket Full Of Stones" or "It's Supposed To Bubble" back in the days or remember a gang of Southwestern and Southern emcees imitating Pimp C and Bun B then I feel for you. UGK were/are legends in every sense of the word and this album cements their legacy as one of the greatest Southern (or otherwise) Hip Hop groups ever. I give "UKG 4 Life" a highly recommended maybe. Rest In Eternal Peace, Pimp C and peace to Port Arthur, TX *Chunks the deuce*

Late Passes (For Doz Dat Slept):

Projects I'm Looking Forward To Reviewing Once They Leak...I Mean Drop in 2009:

Rhymefest-El Che
Jay Electronica-Act II: Patents Of Nobility
Jay Electronica-Abracadabra: Let There Be Light
Royce Da 5'9"-Street Hop
Big Boi-Sir Luscious Leftfoot, Son Of Chico Dusty
Mos Def-The Ecstatic LP
Royce Da 5'9"-Street Hop
Magnif & J Dilla-Detroit Royalty
Blu-God Is Good
Sean Price, Guilty Simpson & Black Milk-Random Axe
Redman-Muddy Waters 2
B.O.B.-The Adventures Of B.O.B.
Billy Danze-Behind Gatez
AG & O.C.-Oasis: Together Brothers
Phat Kat and Elzhi are Cold Steel
The Beatnuts-The Planet Of The Crates
Skepta-Microphone Champion
Ski Beatz-Half Man, Half Amazing
Evidence-Cats & Dogs
Eminem-The Relapse & Relapse 2
Statik Selektah-The Hangover
Cage-Depart From Me

I hate Duke with a passion. I have been a fan of some individual players they've had in the past but overall I just hate the program. It all started when Duke beat my beloved UNLV and Kentucky squads back in the days. Maybe it's the way the media fellates them every chance they get? Maybe it's because so many of their players are overrated? Danny Ferry? Christian Laettner? Bobby Hurley? Johnny Dawkins? Cherokee Parks? William Avery? Jason Williams? Shavlik Randolph? J.J. Reddick? The list goes on.

Maybe it's because Dick Vitale, Billy Packer, Jay Bilas and so many other college basketball analysts and color commentators love them so much? Nah. It's because I prefer North Carolina and Duke just gets seems to get in the fuckin' way all the time and they're chock full of soft ass dudes with no heart or toughness year after year. Either way, fuck Duke and welcome to Boston.