Sunday, April 24, 2011

Rhymes: An Interveiw with The Coup's Eric Zirger

We at BRL TV were able to sit down with The Coup Kids' Eric "Zirgs" Zirger for an interview. This interview will also be featured in the group's full-length documentary about the group recording their debut project, Six Strings & a Mic: An EP. Zirger touches on many topics during this interview including how he got started playing guitar, how he first started writing his own guitar riffs, how he got into writing lyrics, and more.

While there is no set release date for my and Zirger's debut as The Coup Kids. We are probably looking to release it before June. Here is the link to the two singles we've released from the project, thus far.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Rhymes & Life: What the Eff is a Custom Made?

When I started writing album reviews at last November, the second album I was assigned to do was Custom Made’s Hi-Def. I was blown away by this album, and the west coast group quickly became one of my favorites.
I recently had to opportunity to talk with Scoobs of Custom Made for a phone interview. He gave a really great interview, but unfortunately when I tried to upload the audio file onto my MacBook, it erased all of the data on my voice recorder, including my interview.
Luckily I jotted down some notes during the interview, and I have enough to salvage the story:

What the eff is a Custom Made?

Custom Made is an underground rap trio based out of Las Angeles. The group consist of three emcees: Scoobs, Element and Bluff. They have four LPs released on underground powerhouses such as Babygrande, Rawkus, and Coalmine Records.

All three members have a unique style to their rap deliveries and have lyrical content heavily influenced by their L.A. surroundings, Scoobs said. Scoobs, whose delivery has the most energy and aggression in the group handled production, but doesn’t make beats anymore because he wanted to focus mostly on emceeing, he said.

Custom Made features several skilled in-house producers including Abstrakt Soundz, THX, Finesse, and Jayem. Despite being from the west coast, their production style is heavily influenced by 1990 east coast hip hop.

A Las Angeles State of Mind:

The group’s debut album, LA State of Mind took about a year to record during their senior year in high school, Scoobs said.

“We all knew each other from cyphers in our high school,” he said. “Eventually we started to respect each other’s styles, and we formed the group.”

At that point Custom Made was a five-member group: Six, Bluff, Element, Scoobs and Aneek. And their sound was extremely raw and unpolished, but LA State garnered them local buzz and critical acclaim including an 8 out of 10 at one of the most respected hip hop review websites,

The album was released on the group’s own Custom Made Records, a label started by Scoobs that has distribution by IODA. This label was the platform for the group to release their Street Cinema mixtape series.

The Street Cinema mixtapes, along with other underground acts out of LA, helped spark a mixtape scene, that was not getting much attention, Scoobs said. He also credits the mixtapes for getting attention from record labels including Babygrande, which they signed with in 2006.

Taking Babygrande Steps:

Upon signing with Babygrande Records, the group was rushed to release a project to capitalize on their buzz they were making with their Street Cinema series, Scoobs said.

He said that they were forced to release Sidewalk Mindtalk, a compilation of their best tracks from their mixtapes, which was packaged with a DVD.

“We wanted to get out there, we just wanted to release new material,” Scoobs said. “They kept making us shoot these videos (for the DVD) and we had an album’s worth of new material.”

Custom Made’s roster also went through some changes in 2006, as Six was sentenced to four years in prison and Aneek moved to the east coast to settle down and start a family, Scoobs said.

He said that Custom Made is still on good terms with Aneek and Six, and Six even appeared on many tracks on their latest LP, in a “Malik B for The Roots type of role.”

C-Made’s relationship with their label continued to grow sour, as Babygrande kept ignoring the group’s wishes to release an album.

“Babygrande is based on the east coast,” Scoobs said. “So it was pretty easy to ignore us out here in LA.”

When Rawkus Records announced their “Rawkus 50” campaign in 2007, a friend of the group recommended that they submit their album to Rawkus, and that’s how their second LP Truth Be Told was finally released.

Truth Be Told was the album we had recorded for Babygrande,” Scoobs said. “But they didn’t want to release it, and we wanted to get it out there… And that kinda hurt our relationship (with Babygrande) a little.”
After releasing their first proper album on Babygrande, Original Dynasty in 2008, Custom Made parted ways with the underground hip hop label.

“With the knowledge I have now, would I go back and do things differently? Most definitely,” Scoobs said. “But I can’t be mad (at Babygrande). They gave us our start, and I learned a lot (from) our situation there.”

‘High’ Definition:

After leaving Babygrande, the group inked a one album deal with New York-based indie label Coalmine Records.
Initially Custom Made’s fourth LP, Hi-Def was set to be a collaborative album with another group, that’s why there is a lot of guest appearances, Scoobs said.
Hi-Def shows the growth of Custom Made’s sound. The album is a lot more introspective than previous efforts from the group, and it is heavily inspired by drugs. Many songs make reference to drug abuse, dealing drugs and the harm drugs have on their neighborhood.

A Promising, Yet Uncertain Future:

Custom Made has big things in store for their future, Scoobs said. Last March, Scoobs branched out for the first time releasing his first solo mixtape, Trap Star Vol. 1.

Scoobs said he is currently working on videos for his current project, and will likely release the second volume of his Trap Star mixtape series before the year’s end.Element is also expected to release a follow up to his 2008 project, Great Expectations.

Custom Made is also planning on re-releasing their back catalogue in physical format through worldwide distribution, Scoobs said.

While the future is bright for Custom Made, there are many questions surrounding Bluff’s troubles with the law.
Recently he was indicted on 15 counts of wire fraud, and is facing up to 20 years in prison. Bluff is currently on house arrest.

Scoobs said that Bluff is optimistic in getting the sentence shortened and has a good team of workers. He also said Bluff committed the crime many years ago, and that sometimes “crime doesn’t pay.”

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rhymes: Bon Iver Announce New Album in June

I've been waiting for a new LP from Justin Vernon and company for some time now. Interesting enough, the band who's been the soundtrack to my last couple of winters is going to release an album in June. I'm excited to hear what they got in store for their 2nd LP which is self-titled.

01 Perth
02 Minnesota, WI
03 Holocene
04 Towers
05 Michicant
06 Hinnom, TX
07 Wash.
08 Calgary
09 Lisbon, OH
10 Beth/Rest

Untitled from Bon Iver on Vimeo.

(swiped from richdork)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Rhymes: Raekwon - "Ferry Boat Killaz" (Music Video)

Raekwon - Ferry Boat Killaz from LRG on Vimeo.

Here's the Chef's latest music video off of the Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang album. I have yet to hear this whole album (because I'm brokeee), but every track I've heard has been fire. This one is produced by Alchemist.

Rhymes: Phonte Solo Album to Be Released in September

In a video from Phonte and 9th Wonder announced that they will be collaborating again on Tay's upcoming solo debut.

Last year around this time, Phonte and 9th had a public dispute on Twitter about the Little Brother bonus track, "Star" which appeared on Phonte and Big Pooh's final album as a group. The two took it to the internets again a few months ago, announcing that they had finally squashed their beef, after several long and heated discussions.

Now Phonte is gearing up to release his long-awaited solo debut album, and 9th will be producing much of it taking on a role similar to J Dilla's on Q-Tip's Amplified album (Dilla co-produced with Tip on all but 2 tracks). The album will coincidentally be released on the 6-year anniversary of the classic Little Brother album, The Minstrel Show, September 13.

I'm extremely happy to see these two great minds work out their differences. Their early Little Brother work was one of the best hip hop of the last decade. 9th has seemingly grown as a producer as made evident by his work in 2010 including great albums such as Murs' Fornever and David Banner's Death of a Pop Star.

I've been awaiting a solo "Rappin' Tay" album for years. He gave us a little glimpse of the first Foreign Exchange album, but it was predominantly "Singin' Tay." Phonte has been one of the most premier emcees over the past decade, and his up-coming solo record is easily one of the most exciting projects being released this year.

Here's a little glimpse of "Rappin' Tay" off of Little Brother's LeftBack LP released in 2010.

Rhymes: Pack FM - "Nasty" (Live Performance)

PackFM - Nasty (Live in Basel) from on Vimeo.

QN5 emcee, Pack FM performs his lead single off of his 2010 album, I F*cking Hate Rappers in Switzerland while on tour with the CunninLynguists. His flow is incredible on the studio version, and it's amazing to see him perform it live.

BRL Radio: Headphones & Backpacks Podcast Episode #1

BRL Radio- Headphones & Backpacks Podcast episode 1 by zgase
This is my first attempt at a podcast, and a nice reminder that I should stick to print journalism. In this podcast I talk about some latest news in hip hop, and play some recent tracks that should be getting some more attention.

1. XV – Witchita
2. Talk about XV
3. BRL Intro
4. Talk about Atmosphere's New LP
5. Atmosphere- "If you can save me now"
6. Talk About Family Tour
7. Grieves – "Lightspeed"
8. Blueprint – "Radio-Inactive"
9. Phonte’s solo album….
10. Little Brother – Tiggalo for Dolo
11. Custom Made info
12. Scoobs – These Days
13. Talk about StudyAbroad album
14. GooseFlames – few good blokes
15. Wrap it up – upcoming posts, future podcasts
16. The Coup Kids – All Iever wanted

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Rhymes: What the Eff is a Marz Lovejoy?

(video swiped from
One of my favorite parts of writing for Okayplayer is discovering new artists that I probably would've never heard from. Of all of the albums I've reviewed so far, two artists really stood out to me: Custom Made (more on the LA trio later) and 19 year-old female emcee Marz Lovejoy.

Marz is the total package: charisma, lyrics, style, mic presence, and ability to craft songs. Her 7-track EP, This Little Love of Mine was released last November is a short, but great listen and I highly recommend it.

More info HERE.

Here's a music video from Marz, also my favorite track off of the EP.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Rhymes: Fleet Foxes - "Grown Ocean" (Music Video)

Fleet Foxes - Grown Ocean from Fleet Foxes on Vimeo.

Here's the 2nd single off of the Fleet Foxes highly anticipated sophomore effort, Helplessness Blues. The Seattle-based band's follow up to their highly acclaimed self-titled debut is set to be released May 3.

Rhymes: Atmosohere - The Family Sign (Released today!)

Atmosphere's long awaited 7th LP is finally released today. My review of the record will come later in the week, via Okayplayer. But it is the group's most mature sounding effort to date, and exactly what hip hop should sound like when it's made by people almost in their 40s (Jay-Z take note, bro).

The Video up top is a presentation of the album's awesome artwork (I'll be picking up my copy on Sunday once I get paid). And the video down below is the great music video to "She's Enough" the album's second single.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Rhymes: 1st Quarter All Stars

The months Jan-March are traditionally the least interesting months in terms of music releases, but in 2011 we've seen quite a few of interesting releases:

Here is a list (in tentative order from best to worst with a tentative rating):

1. CunninLynguists - Oneirology (9.5 out of 10)

Easily the year's best release comes from the 'Lynguists. Their current 9.5 rating could easily turn into a perfect 10 by the year's end, as I'm picking up something new with each listen.

2. Big K.R.I.T. - Return of 4eva (9 out of 10)

Admittedly, I slept on K.R.I.T.'s 2010 release, K.R.I.T. was Here and that was a BIG mistake. R4 is a phenomenal release. The release displays is excellent emcee skills and songwriting ability as well as his classic southern production which gives me flashbacks of 94-96 era of Dungeon Family.

3. Saigon - The Greatest Story Never Told (9 out of 10)

The long awaited Saigon debut was finally released this year, and it was well worth the wait. Top notch production from Just Blaze, and socially and politically conscious lyricism from the former Entourage star, will make this record one the year's best.

4. Reks - R.E.K.S. (8.5 out of 10)

This Boston emcee paired with top tier boom bap production from the likes of DJ Premier, Pete Rock, The Alchemist, Sean C & LV, Nottz, Hi-Tek, and show stealer, Statik Selektah make up a record that sounds like it come out in 1996.

5. Stalley - Lincoln Way Nights (Intellectual Trunk Music) (8 out of 10)

This Ohio emcee has released one of the year's most interesting mixtapes. With hard hitting production from Rashad, Stalley raps mostly about his sound system and his cars, which may sound boring and cliche, but he does it damn well.

6. Apollo Brown - Clouds (8 out of 10)

This Detroit beatsmith released an excellent instrumental album, with amazing samples and hard hitting drums. This atmospheric record is a great listen even without rymes, but I'd still really like to hear some dope emcees rip these tracks apart.

7. Chip Tha Ripper - Gift Raps (7.5 out of 10)

His latest release, Gift Raps, with producer, Chuck Inglish, is the Cleveland rapper's best release of his young career. This focused effort will probably land Chip a record deal, and the emcee is starting to fulfill his potential.

8. Scavie Scoobs (of Custom Made) - Trap Star Vol. 1 (7 out of 10)

The Custom Made emcee branches off to release his first solo project, Trap Star. Noticeably more aggressive and focuses more on gangsta rap themes than the group's 2010 release Hi-Def, Scoobs finds his own voice on his solo debut, while staying true to his Custom Made family.

Here is a list of releases that I've listened to a few times, but need to listen to more before I can give them even a tentative listen:

#. Pharoahe Monch - W.A.R. (We Are Renegades)

This politically charged record has some bangers on it for sure, but I need to give it a few more spins before I can decide how I feel about it.

#. Pac Div - Mania!

The West Coast group's third mixtape in as many years, has the potential to be their best. While they're prepping their major label debut, their independent work has made them one of my favorite groups of the past few years.

#. Money Making Jam Boys - The Prestige: Jam Boy Magic

This Philly-based super group that features Black Thought, Porn, Dice Raw, STS, and Truck North released their debut mixtape this year. I've given it one or two quick listens, but still need to give it a close listen to decide how I feel about it.

#. Grynch - Timeless EP

I've only give the Seattle emcee's new EP only one quick listen but the title track and the Sabzi (of Blue Scholars) produced remix to his excellent 2010 single, "My Volvo" are two excellent tracks.

Here are two albums that I am highly anticipating but due to lack of funds I have yet to listen to:

#. Talib Kweli - Gutter Rainbows

#. Raekwon - Shaolin Vs. Wu-Tang

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Juice's Thought: Green Lantern

“In brightest day, in blackest night, No evil shall escape my sight!” Fans have been waiting to hear this on the big screen for years. Now me personally: I don’t really care too much about the Green Lantern. I was first introduced to this hero in the animated TV show called “Justice League” that ran from 2001-2004. The Green Lantern in the show was not “Hal Jordan” (The hero who started the comic book.) There are many Green Lanterns; however, I believe that only two of them are human, and the others are aliens.

This trailer shows how Hal Jordan becomes Green Lantern. All I know about Hal Jordan is that he gets the ring from a dying alien who was a Green Lantern. Now this transition of power is a good sign because the movie is following the comic book very well. Fans love it when movies follow the story out of the comics. The reason I did not care for this hero is because it took me a while to understand his power. And when I learned what it was, it was not very impressive. The ring can make anything that he can think of. It also gives him the power to fly, travel through space, and change his clothes. Still, the Green Lantern is a very powerful hero.
Every Green Lantern’s job is to protect their sector. Hal Jordan’s sector is Earth. The source of the power is the ring. The ring needs to be charged by a lantern that each of them own. The lanterns come from a planet, and on that planet are the Guardians. The Guardians are the leaders of the “Green Lantern Corps” They give people the job of the Green Lantern’s sectors and have the power to give and take away the power of the heroes.

I don’t really know any of the villains of the Green Lantern. All I know that Yellow is the “Kryptonite” of the Green Lanterns. So yellow can hurt them. The Green Lantern’s foes tend to wear yellow as it helps neutralize the Green Lantern’s power.
I like Ryan Reynolds play Hal Jordan because I know that Hal is a funny guy and Ryan Reynolds is always hilarious. This movie does show a lot of space, and I would love to see a fight scene take place in space. Now I don’t like “3D”,but this movie should be in “3D.” I say this because the only thing that should be 3D in this movie is the green light from the ring, and the enemy’s attacks. Anything else would be unnecessary.

This movie comes out June 17th, , and I can’t wait. It looks like a good time, and although I have never been a big Green Lantern fan, I hope there will be a midnight showing.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Rhymes: Big K.R.I.T. - Return of 4eva

R4 cover

After his highly acclaimed 2010 album, K.R.I.T. Was Here he started to make a lot of noise on-line getting rave reviews from outlets including Okayplayer, Pitchfork, and many others. Admittedly I slept on the album, and I did try downloading the album a couple of times, but the link wasn't working and I wasn't compelled to keep trying.

When his second release came out, I decided to finally check in on what the hype was about. And almost instantly I became a believer of the Mississippi producer/emcee.

His style is a hybrid of all of my favorite southern artists. His production sounds a lot like Organized Noize, and his vocal delivery gives me flashbacks of the late/great Pimp C.

With obvious influences from Outkast, UGK, 8Ball & MJG, and Three Six Mafia, K.R.I.T. has brought a sound back to the south, that has for the most part, been absent for years.

Hopefully Def Jam gives him artistic freedom to do what he wants. They did do a good job with Big Boi's album last year, even though they didn't promote it well, it's still better than what Atlantic has been doing with young promising talent (see: the corpses of B.o.B and Wiz Khalifa).

Tracks to check out: "Rise and Shine" "Dreamin'" "American Rapstar" "Lions and Lambs" "Another Naive Individual Glorifying Greed and Encouraging Racism" "Free My Soul" and "The Vent"

BONUS: R4 Theme Song Music Video: