Posts Tagged ‘DJ Burn One’

2012 was a really great year for rap producers, probably a better year for producers than rappers, which seems to have been the trend for the last few years. ¬†It is notable that 2012’s list sees the inclusion of several producers who work through primarily sample based means, several who work primarily in the field of original composition, and several who are equally adept in both fields or use interpolation to recreate previous compositions. ¬†This strikes me as notable as I cannot think of a year where there was quite so much balance between the various modes of production. ¬†2012 was also a tough year to select just 10 producers for this honor, as admittedly Roc Marciano, Ka, Harry Fraud, Willie Green, Aesop Rock and others had some very noteworthy production in 2012, but didn’t make the final cut. ¬†As with the rappers, this is in no particular order.

Key Nyata “Suicide Capital” produced by Blue Sky Black Death

Blue Sky Black Death

It’s kind of amazing that it feels like this collective is still “proving themselves” in the industry given the number of years and dope projects they have to their name. ¬†In 2012, BSBD dropped the final two pieces in the trilogy of projects they released with Nacho Picasso over a very tight time frame. ¬†They then quickly retooled and put out projects with the new group Skull & Bones as well as Deniro Farrar before the end of the year. ¬†They’ve got a ton of new material in store for 2013 as well, but it will be interesting to see if they can continue to garner some more major label placements like they did on eXquire’s EP this year. ¬†Perhaps it’s a pipe dream, but it would be amazing to hear BSBD do a full length project with a vocalist who could really float amid the ether of their production the way an Ethelwulf, Future, or Chief Keef could. ¬†Future and Keef seem like a bit of a stretch, but an EP with Wulf seems like it could happen if the two sides came to the table. ¬†Laptop A&Ring aside, there really weren’t many producers who were on BSBD’s level in 2012 so as always it will be interesting to see where they take their game in 2012.

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2012 has been an exceptional year for rap music. ¬†It’s hard to think of a year over the course of the last half a decade that saw the release of so many excellent rap albums. ¬†Remarkably ten of the albums that made the Hardwood Blacktop Top Fifteen for 2012 were produced by just one producer, in three cases (Grief Pedigree, Mista Thug Isolation, and¬†Skelethon) the albums were entirely self-produced by the artist. ¬†Also of note, only two of the top fifteen this year were released by Major Labels, granted there were a few major label releases that were on the cusp of this list (Live From The Underground, The Game’s¬†Jesus Piece, Big Boi’s¬†Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumors, Nas’s Life Is Good,¬†and Mr. MFN eXquire’s¬†Power & Passion), a few others of some note (2Chainz, Rick Ross, Meek Mill, Self Made Vol. 2, Cruel Summer), and there’s still major label releases from TI and Chief Keef to contend with before the year is out.¬†¬†That said, at this point we can be reasonably confident by the sheer excellence of these fifteen albums and by the recent batting averages of the two remaining contenders that in all likelihood this list will stand-up as HB’s Best of 2012 even after the release of¬†Trouble Man, and¬†Finally Rich. ¬†What this tells us more than ever is that some of the best rap music these days is released for free (six of the list’s fifteen albums were at least at one point available at no cost), without major label financial or promotional backing (thirteen of fifteen), and that nothing beats the artistic clarity and vision of a rapper sitting down with one producer (or all by himself) and pouring his heart and soul into a project. ¬†May 2012 bless us with as many substantial rap albums as 2012 did.

15 Most Noteworthy Rap Albums of 2012:

Ka “Vessel”

1. Ka – Grief Pedigree

It’s hard not to root for the underdog and Ka certainly qualifies as that given his interesting, but unheralded career as a non-central member of 90’s NYC underground favorites Natural Elements, and as a solo artist with a sparse guest spot discography, and one promising, but underdeveloped solo album. ¬†It seems that he must have been galvanized by the success of close friend and collaborator Roc Marciano, who took him under his wing a bit on the production tip a bit during the creation of Grief Pedigree. ¬†Interestingly enough though as we look back at the year, Ka championed the nearly drumless gritty sample without the boom-bap production aesthetic at a time when Roc reportedly told him “you might be in for some quiet shows,” and yet Roc ended the year by releasing an album where his own utilization of that rebellious percussion technique stands as the lone criticism from many purists on his excellent¬†Reloaded. ¬†Although Reloaded may have been a more polished and ultimately more musically stunning album, like good kid, m.A.A.d city,¬†Grief Pedigree earns some points for it’s unusual vantage point. ¬†Ka¬†provides the unique perspective of an aging rapper, a veteran of the drug war’s trenches during the NY crack era, but who never made enough as a rapper or through other means to move out of Brownsville. ¬†With¬†Grief Pedigree, Ka¬†combines Rakim’s approach to rhyming by using his words to craft complete rhythmic structures and patterns that you can almost visualize – like architectural designs or seismograph print-outs – with Nasty Nas’s ability to describe his surroundings so intricately that the listener begins to feel and smell the world being narrated around them. ¬†The whole album is connects with the senses in a way so little music manages to do these days. ¬†And then there are¬†the bars. ¬†A lot of rappers claim to be lyricists, and a lot of critics spend times trying to debate the merits of certain types of lyrics or punchlines over others. ¬†That said, those who invest an engaged listen are rewarded with lyrical gemstones:

“I own the night, the heat’s my receipt”

“Stayed in hell all my life, I need heaven’s visa / Know it’s right, but can’t change over night, like Ebenezer”

In Kings county where the Queen never faked a jack/ ¬†the mac-10, and a 9, and my Ace is strapped”

In case you missed it: Here are the two pieces of the interview I did with Ka this year on the making of Grief Pedigree (Part 1: Track-by-Track, Part 2: Additional words)

And here is the entire album in video form in one place, like the rhymes and production, all of the videos are directed by Ka himself.

Ka –¬†Grief Pedigree (the complete video collection in long form)

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The legitimate production crew or group, as opposed to the group of producers who work individually (eg DITC), is not an¬†aberration¬†in rap music – Organized Noize, Neptunes, Block Beataz, Earthtone III – but it’s not all that common either. ¬†Even less common is getting to hear the group really let their hair down and make music for themselves without serious commercial aspirations getting in the way. ¬†Earthtone III was mainly concerned with producing their own work and that of a few other Dungeon Fam rappers, N.E.R.D. made some great music, but the charts always seemed to be an aim in one form or another, Organized Noize’s closest attempt probably came with¬†the historically snoozed upon Sleepy’s Theme album¬†Vinyl Room. ¬†In many ways Vinyl Room might be a reasonable sonic ancestor for¬†iNDEEDFACE¬†if Sleepy’s Theme had been into psychotropics and irreverence.


iNDEED “Black Tears”

When iNDEED dropped the¬†iNDEED¬†EP, earlier this year, I made the remark in my¬†review¬†,of the also 5PMG produced¬†Paraphernalia¬†album from Burn One & SL Jones, that the EP begged consideration for album of the year despite it’s short length. ¬†Although the EP was an excellent introduction to the members of Five Points Music Group as a standalone band, the “album of the year” contender comment was probably a bit hasty for a seven song EP. ¬†What the seven song EP did display was the ability to make great individual songs, often in completely different styles, from the Neptunes-esque “More Than a Dance” to the pimp meets mosh-pit “Brass Knuckles,” to the RZA influenced “Black Tears” to the trademarked straight-up 5PMG sound on “The Pinkpather.” ¬†What the EP didn’t quite make clear the direction or vision of the band: Would iNDEED have a frontman or just rotate singers and rappers in? Would they have a signature sound or be more like a stylized hip hop interpolation band? ¬†What was clear was that they could make great music and that they had a lot of fun in the process. In typical tireless DJ Burn One fashion, iNDEED is now back just a few months later to bless us all with a full length project to show a more fully realized vision of precisely what it is that they have to offer the music world.

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“Sleep At Night” Rittz featuring Yelawolf

Recently I sat down with Rittz to talk about his approach to song writing, the reasons behind his re-release of White Jesus, his relationship with DJ Burn One and the 5PMG production crew, Yelawolf, 8Ball, and what’s next for him. ¬†If you haven’t checked out much from him yet, I definitely recommend picking up the White Jesus: Revival album/mixtape, which is a great introduction to his work. ¬†

JB: For those that don’t know, talk to them about Slumerican. Who’s on the label and what you guys are about? ¬†What sets you apart from other labels?

Rittz:

Well you know honestly, as of right now, Slumerican isn’t really a label. ¬†Basically Slumerican was an idea that Yelawolf came up with. ¬†You know when I had first got in contact with him, he had talked to me about wanting to do something with me and building up a crew. ¬†You know when he had dropped Trunk Muzik, Slumerican just ended up being the name of the crew that we had. ¬†At one point I think it was going to be label, but I think he just got wrapped up as an artist. ¬†I think he’s still exploring that option, but really Slumerican is just a family man. ¬†It’s really Yelawolf started that shit, so it’s really Yelawolf, myself, Struggle, Shawty Fatt, that’s it as far as rappers go. ¬†There’s a lot of other people that aren’t emcees that are Slumerican too that are just skateboarders, DJs, just friends man. ¬†It’s more like a crew as opposed to a label right now.

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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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“Dope Man” – SL Jones & DJ Burn One

SL Jones is an emcee who’s continued to develop over the past half a decade. ¬†Many listeners first became acquainted with him, along with Pill and others, as a part of Killer Mike’s Grind Time Rap Gang on¬†I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind¬†back in 2006. ¬†Since then he put out a stellar debut album back in 2008 with¬†C.O.L.O.R.S. and has dropped some stellar mixtapes/street albums over the past year including two versions of ¬†The Number 23¬†mixtape, a free album¬†Flight Risk, and a set of songs over Clams Casino instrumentals on Pandamonium: Rainforest EP Remixes¬†(all of his material can be downloaded for free via Jonesy’s¬†bandcamp). ¬†While Jones has a lot of quality material out there, and has set himself apart as one of the south’s up and coming artists and the biggest name repping out of Little Rock, Arkansas, he – like mentor Killer Mike – had yet to work on a whole project with one producer until this most recent project.

Enter Atlanta’s DJ Burn One, a producer who has become one of the most sought after names for southern artists looking to create music in the legacy of greats like Organized Noize and the late Pimp C. ¬†While there are a few other purveyors of fine country rap tunes out there, there are none currently doing it with the consistency and musicality of Burn One. ¬†While K.R.I.T. certainly has an argument to dispute that notion, Burn One’s work with live instrumentation with iNDEED has really taken his technique to the next level recently. ¬†Having produced for the likes of Freddie Gibbs, Pill, G-Mane,¬†A$ap Rocky, G-Side, Bubba Sparxxx, Young Buck, Jackie Chain, Rittz, KD, and Starlito it is only a matter of time before DJ Burn One becomes a household name and a full on force in mainstream rap production, especially as the desire to revisit and progress the sounds of a bygone era continues to become more prevalent, as we’ve seen over the last couple years with the likes of SpaceGhostPurrp and Raider Klan affiliates like Lil’ Ugly Mane and others. ¬†As powerful as Burn One’s work typically has been, he’s at his best on full length projects. ¬†His work producing entire projects with iNDEED, Starlito, and¬†G-Mane¬†has proven his ability to create and direct great albums behind the boards. ¬†In years past those projects likely would’ve already earned him the honor of executive producing albums at a mainstream level, with one label or another, but with the industry more focused on the single than ever, and a higher and higher percentage of the best full length projects being given away via bandcamp, datpiff, or livemixtapes Burn One remains appreciated as an industry tastemaker for his ability to locate and work with promising new artists, but under-appreciated (or at least underutilized) by rap’s mainstream for his abilities behind the boards. ¬†However, if 2012 continues the same way it has begun for Burn One, that is likely to change quickly.

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