Posts Tagged ‘Big K.R.I.T.’

The¬†distinction¬†between albums, LPs, EPs, and mixtapes was at it’s cloudiest point to date in 2012, and there is relatively no chance that any of those distinctions¬†crystallize¬†into something meaningful ever again. ¬†The reality is that these days most rappers put together “projects,” and those projects either get released for free or they get released for a fee. ¬†Among the projects that get released for free are those where a rapper raps over other people’s instrumentals or samples he or she has no intention of trying to clear. ¬†There are also projects labeled as mixtapes or given away for free, that have entirely original production that get released for free and some of those projects ended up on Hardwood Blacktop’s Best 15 Albums of 2012 list. ¬†To be honest, I’m not overly concerned with those¬†distinctions¬†anymore other than the fact that those of us who like to write about rap like to have a way to differentiate between certain types of releases for the purpose of end of the year lists and things like that. ¬†So here are my picks for best mixtapes of 2012, by my own current loosely defined understanding of that term, which does not necessarily take into account whether a rapper deemed something a mixtape or not (but it might). ¬†In general these projects are not of nearly as high quality as the top albums of 2012, otherwise they would’ve made that list, as you can see from that list there are a couple of “albums” that made the cut that most would classify as mixtapes (Sunday School, Paraphernalia,¬†God of Black¬†EP,¬†MMM Season). ¬†If you’re keeping score at home, those projects¬†would have been at the top of this list.

Meek Mill featuring Big Sean – “Burn”

1. Meek Mill –¬†Dreamchasers 2 –¬†Download

Sometimes a rapper’s (Jadakiss, Fabolous, and Joe Budden just to name a few) game just translates a little bit better to the mixtape circuit than it does to album making. ¬†Whether that has to do with them being better situated to making “street singles” than it does to them making tracks for the club or radio, or whether it has to do with the lack of record label oversight in the mixtape process, or whether the DJs they work with in the mixtape process are actually better A&R’s than their record label A&R’s, the end result is a consistently better free product vs. fee product. It’s too early to say that Meek Mill will always fall into that category as his major label debut¬†Dreams & Nightmares¬†certainly showed promise and contained some great individual songs (“Dreams & Nightmares (Intro)” and “Traumatized”). ¬†There is no doubt though that in 2012, Meek dropped another mixtape (he’s done this a few times before) that was better than a vast majority of the albums that came out in the same year. ¬†Perhaps the most interesting part of Meek as a mixtape artist is that he’s not just someone who drops a flurry of battle-ready sixteens over a bunch of other people’s instrumentals. In fact, some of his best radio singles have been the result of his mixtape work over the last couple of years, hits like last year’s “House Party,” “Tupac Back” and “I’m A Boss”¬†and this year’s “Burn,” “Amen,” and “Flexing” all came from his mixtapes or from the MMG compilations. ¬†By contrast ¬†only ¬†from the first MMG compilation (a mixtape-like project) has really garnered the same buzz. ¬†And while his label has pushed the hell out of “Young and Gettin’ It,” there’s just no way that’s a better direction for Meek than any of the¬†aforementioned¬†tracks. ¬†Dreamchasers 2 was Meek’s most complete offering to date, bringing tracks suitable to almost every type of rap listener and packing plenty of that V-12 energy we’ve come to expect from Philly’s brightest star.¬†While it does drag on a bit as songs begin to run together a little bit after the first nine or ten tracks on the mixtape, there may not have been a better example of hungry street-oriented rapping in 2012.

Choice Cuts: “Burn,” “Amen,” “Ready Or Not,” “A1 Everything

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Jackie Chain dropped his Bruce Lean Chronicles¬†this week, which is his second project this year, and is Hardwood Blacktop’s pick for feel good album of the Summer. ¬†I caught up with Jackie to discuss¬†Bruce Lean Chronicles, the follow-up project Bruce Lean Chronicles Part 2, his debut album with Universal¬†Ain’t Slept In Weeks, his excellent production connections, his creative process, and his growth as an emcee.

JB: Talk a little bit about the scene in Huntsville, Alabama.  You guys have one of the best rap scenes in the US these days, just in terms of the number of quality artists that have come out of there in the last few years.  What do you attribute that to?

Jackie Chain:

Man, we kind of got our own unique style man and our own swag because we’re in the middle of almost everything where we’re three hours from Atlanta, we’re an hour from Nashville, we’re right down the street from Memphis, Texas is a very big influence. ¬†So it’s like we get a lot of these different influences and then we kind of formed our own style. ¬†And I just really think it’s starting to come to the light man. ¬†People are starting to notice it.

JB: Talk a little bit about your relationship with Slow Motion Soundz/Block Beataz.

Jackie Chain:

I’ve known them for over ten years man. ¬†Mali Boi has been one of my main producers ever since I started. ¬†A lot of my biggest songs he did, so Mali’s always gonna be family.

JB: Let’s talk a little bit about a ¬†few songs from your latest free album Bruce Lean Chronicles. First up, talk to people about the track,¬†‚ÄúFirst Love,‚ÄĚ

Jackie Chain:

You know it’s a produced by Diplo who’s a good friend man. ¬†A lot of people just know me for my trap music, my hood music, my street music, my down south type music and ¬†I just wanted to show that even though I don’t do it a lot – I can get down. ¬†I really wanted to do something for the hip hop heads and showcase that you know I’m not the best rapper out there, but I can get down. ¬† ¬†So I just wanted something for the real hip hop heads. ¬†I love storytelling rap, I don’t feel like I do it enough, but I love doing it. ¬†And I love when I hear other rappers do it. ¬†It’s a break for the norm for people, because most of my music is club songs or songs about things we do. ¬†I just wanted to give ’em a little bit of everything on this mixtape.

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“Picture Perfect / Numbers” – Jackie Chain (produced by Beat Billionaire & Sonny Digital)

It‚Äôs no secret among those who closely follow quality southern rap, that Alabama has been one of the single biggest producers of quality southern rap over the last four or five years. ¬†Rich Boy probably helped to shed the initial light with the massive success of “Throw Some D’s,” but Slow Motion Soundz’s G-Side has released several borderline classic independent rap albums backed by the Block Beataz, G. Mane has put out some excellent material, 6 Tre G has been a constant quality participant, and Yelawolf has shown enough promise and talent intermittently¬†to land a deal with Shady Records and release a couple of albums¬†with major label support. ¬†Given Jackie Chain’s catalog of material, and track record as one of the most consistent rappers to come out of ‘Bama, it’s a little¬†surprising¬†that his major label debut Ain’t Slept In Weeks hasn’t seen the light of day just yet.

Chain is a rare artist who is as comfortable cracking wise as he is breaking down drug game or writing hooks one major label push away from mass radio and club consumption. ¬†In fact, with little to no support from Universal over the last few years, Jackie has managed to maintain a pretty solid buzz with rap blogs, including earning numerous honors as an artist to watch and accolades for his various mixtapes. ¬†On the surface Jackie Chain‚Äôs subject matter might seem to be some of the most hackneyed in rap, he raps primarily about moving weed, coke, and pills, pimpin’ hoes, driving nice cars, all laced with southern regional slang, braggadocio, and humorous pop culture references. ¬†While the story Jackie relates in his songs is one that has been told repeatedly throughout the course of rap history, there is an important distinction between those who tell the story, and those who tell the story well. ¬†Those who have told it well over time, have become some of the largest figures in rap, those who have told it poorly have generally been flashes in the pan if they crack the industry at all.

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Its tough to think of another rapper to come out the gate so fully encompassing the range of his great Southern predecessors. ¬†Very few rap artists can draw comparisons from such varied rappers with their music. ¬†His music is at times has the ability to fill the spiritual void left by the absence of Andre 3000 and at other times able to recall the legacy of Pimp C. ¬†While artists from that generation, like Big Boi and Bun B occasionally, or maybe even David Banner when he was at the top of his game, have the ability to express that type of range in their music, K.R.I.T.’s ability to summon those powerful voices is impressive given that most of his contemporaries tend to be focused in a very specific lane conceptually and compounded by the fact that he was a child when that type of Southern rap was most prevalent. ¬† ¬†But if there’s anything that comes through above all else in Krit’s music it’s his sense of history, tradition, faith, and all things Southern.

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There will seemingly always be a market for legitimate Country Rap Tunes,¬†but as that¬†musical methodology has fallen further and further from vogue – as the¬†rap production¬†selected by southern artists has been influenced by the glossiness of the¬†DJ Khaleds, Rick Rosses, and¬†Young Jeezies of the world –¬†soulful¬†dirty south sample based beats have become harder and harder to find.¬† It hasn’t helped that court decisions and technology continue to eat away the profitability,¬†and delay the timeliness with legal paperwork,¬†of¬†sample-heavy records.¬†¬†That said, it’s important to acknowledge that¬†the distance from the¬†heyday of Organized Noize, Pimp C, DJ Paul & Juicy J,¬†N.O. Joe, Mr. DJ, and Mike Dean leaves a gaping void in rap’s sonic landscape that’s craving to be filled.¬† Equally rare in today’s¬†rap world are lyricists who are more concerned with honesty than image.¬† While the merits of honesty in art can be debated against the value of fiction, fantasy, exploration, innovation, and imagery, there is no doubt that it is refreshing to have at least a subsection of artists in any field who speak from their own authentic point of view.¬† Enter Big K.R.I.T., Mississippi producer and rapper, signed to Def Jam, and responsible for the critically acclaimed K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, R4: The Prequel, and Return of 4Eva along with several other mixtapes and a multitude of guest production and features.¬† Unlike some of¬†the other artists highlighted in the Best of the 1st Quarter album review series, K.R.I.T. seemingly is on eve of doing very big things on a mainstream level with a deal from Def Jam, and the co-sign of XXL, but fortunately he hasn’t let go of his desire to keep giving the fans what they need, while we wait for his major label debut, Live From the Underground to hit shelves.

Big K.R.I.T.’s latest, 4Eva N a Day, is an album based on the simple concept of¬†long¬†day,¬†twenty one¬†waking hours to be exact,¬†with¬†songs based on the moods or themes of certain times of day and night¬†throughout the album.¬†¬†Certainly there is nothing particularly groundbreaking about the concept, but it’s solidly realized and for a free album, it’s hard to complain about the depth of an album’s conceptual framework, especially when the music is overwhelmingly solid throughout and the product is cohesively developed.

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