Friday, November 30, 2012

Rhymes: Atmosphere - "The Waitress" (A Short Film)

The Waitress from nimb on Vimeo.

So this dude made a great short film based off of one of my favorite Atmosphere songs ever. The video was done incredibly well. Great cinematography, great acting, and other fancy cinema lingo I learned in my introductory level film course. Enjoy.
The Waitress is a short film. It is based on the the song: The Waitress by Atmosphere. The film was shot in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was shot on a Red One, using prime lenses, a Pro Steadicam, Eazy Dolly and a handheld Zacuto rig. All editing was done in FCP 7, Color grading was done in DaVinci Resolve. Hope You enjoy it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Rhymes: masterminds - "fightmusic (Feat. Murs & Slug)" (Artist Spotlight)

Obviously seeing a track featuring Slug and Murs in my inbox is going to catch my eye, but the New York based duo masterminds are very dope. They got a very raw, DIY aesthetic, with hard hitting drums and dusty samples. "fightmusic" is one of several high energy tracks on their new album "Giant Antlers." Check out their extremely bizarre, animated video up above, and you can check out their whole album here: I've only played it once, and so far it's pretty excellent top to bottom. My initial favorites are "fightmusic," "east harlem rose," and "new york i love you. i'm drunk. you're insane."

fightmusic from the masterminds on Vimeo.

the masterminds are tarik and kimani. born in new york. formed at wesleyan university. son's of 60's jazz, 70's soul, 80's pop, 90's hip-hop, and 00's indie rock. we've been friends since 1994. put out our first 12" in 1996, and our last record in 2002. took some time off to be alive, and now we're back.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Rhymes: Jahshua Smith - "-Censored-" (Artist Spotlight)

It's not too often I get something in my inbox as refreshing and focused as this new track from Detroit emcee, Jahshua Smith. The socially conscious track features an excellent beat provided by StewRat, and Smith lays down some nice flows. I suggest you keep on eye on this guy, as I know we here at BRL will be.

The official single off the impending album "The Final Season" by Jahshua Smith. Featuring potent cameos from Mic Write (Cold Men Young) and Lansing's Rafael, the track examines the social scope of racism and classism while actively being censored by the powers that be.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Rhymes & Life: My First Election Day (Nov. 4, 2008)

After several visits from both campaigns, seeing the iconic “HOPE” Obama poster plastered all over campus, an onslaught of Facebook posts attacking each candidate, and playing Q-Tip’s lead single “Gettin’ Up” in my headphones walking to classes, Nov. 4 was finally among us.

Like with any big life moment I’ve had since Summer 2000 (when I first heard a rapper named Eminem, and subsequently fell in love with the genre and culture), I could trace Nov. 4, 2008 back to specific hip hop record.
That record was “The Renaissance” by Q-Tip.
Sure “The Renaissance” was one of the best albums in 2008, and was one of the most anticipated albums in sometime, what makes that album so memorable was its release date. Nov. 4 was not only the day the Tribe Called Quest alum released his long-awaited (9 years to be exact) sophomore LP, but it was also the day our nation elected Barack Obama as President.
Say what you will about Obama and his polarizing first term as president (personally as a recent college grad making $10.50 an hour, I’m grateful I can still be on my parents’ health care plan), but you cannot take anything away from the historical event that took place on Nov. 4, 2008.
I was a freshman at Bowling Green State University at the time, and it was my first time in a very politically charged, left wing-leaning environment. I was never really involved in politics prior to going to college, but all of a sudden, it seemed to matter (maybe it’s because I was finally eligible to vote?) Some of my favorite moments as a Freshman at BG was hanging out with my friends, watching the Presidential Debates in our dorm room and mocking everything the poorly spoken John McCain said, and laughing every time my friend said how handsome Obama was.
Like much of my college experience, I remember nothing about classes on that particular Tuesday. I’m assuming I did go, because I knew my mom was going to pick me up to take me home to vote, and she almost certainly inquire about my class attendance. But I do remember vividly waiting about ten minutes at the polling place, casting my vote, then rushing back to BG before the record store closed so I could get the new Q-Tip album.
For the rest of night, I sat in my dorm room playing the album front-to-back a few times while playing my roommate in Madden 09, and maybe finishing up some homework, before the results were announced. I was blown away by the production – that classic boom bap that Tribe mastered in the early 90s, but with subtle modern twist. The guitars of “Johnny is Dead,” the vocal cuts and bassline on “Won’t Trade” and spastic drum patterns of “Manwomanboogie” echoed throughout my dorm room for at least a month straight.
And after probably no less than 20 times of playing the moody “You,” it was time to see who won the election. I remember it not being as close as people had predicted, and Obama locked it up relatively early (compared to the Bush races, at least), but it still didn’t take away from the excitement of my first Election Day. 

After the announcement was made official that America had voted it’s first African-American President, it was one of the most surreal moments I’ve ever been a part of. In my four years at college, seeing people celebrate the first black President by running around campus and pulling fire alarms, was easily the most memorable moment. While I played Nas’ “Black President” and Young Jeezy’s “My President,” outside was chaos, but in a non-threatening jovial way.
Obama’s acceptance speech at the end of the night was truly incredible. After the initial pandemonium that had occurred moments after the announcement, campus drew to a deafening silence while Obama spoke for the first time as President Elect. 

So like I said earlier, people who gave Obama their undying allegiance in 2008, may not support him anymore, or may not be as optimistic as they were on the day he was elected, it was still an amazing day. And every time I play Q-Tip’s “The Renaissance,” I go back to that time of hope, optimism and excitement for what the future will bring.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Rhymes & LIfe: Danny! - "Keep Your Head to the Sky"

Yeah, I know this joint has been out since the beginning of 2012, but he posted it on Tumblr again, and I felt it necessary to share some personal thoughts/reflections on Danny!'s music and my life.

I’ve been riding for Danny! fairly hard the past 4-5 months. But damn dude just makes some really uplifting music. I’m in the midst of some pretty hard times in my life currently, and I can honestly say “And I Love H.E.R.” has been one of the most helpful albums for me to listen to the past few months.

Back in May, he allowed me to listen to Payback (1.0), and this was right when all these bad things started to happen. I really wish I would’ve been able to listen to tracks like “Get Up” along with the rest of the album, but unfortunately that wasn’t the way things played out. “Misery” off of And I Love H.E.R. more than made up for it though.

Anyways by the time Payback (2.0) comes out (SEPTEMBER 25), I really hope to be on the other end of this whole thing I’m going through. But if not, I know Danny!’s gonna hold me down with some great, inspirational music. Check this track out and remember to cop Payback on 9/25 via Okayplayer Records.

And if September is too far away for ya'll, he just re-released his 2nd instrumental album, Dream, Fulfilled today.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Rhymes: Ben Z & Dejection - "Liquid Reflections" (Artist Spotlight)

Today I received an email from an emcee named Ben Z, who hails from Madison, Wisconsin. Yesterday he released his new album "Liquid Reflections" which is entirely produced by German producer, Dejection. Ben's technical lyricism and Dejection's European, electronic hip hop production is a pretty solid combination. Check out tracks like "Circumstances," "Childhood" and "Love," which has a very cynical yet thought-provoking take on relationships. You can stream the album at their Bandcamp page, and they're offering a $10 download as well as a $15 CD. Press Release:
On August 7th, 2012, Madison, WI-based emcee Ben Z and Darmstadt, Germany-based producer Dejection released their full length album, “Liquid Reflections”. This bold album was born out of SoundCloud collaborations across the globe. It features a new and unique sound that combines Ben Z's intelligent lyrical style and catchy hooks with Dejection's bouncy electro synths and pounding drums. This new brand of hip hop will capture your attention right from the beginning with tracks such as “Reflect” and “Not just who you see”. Not only have Ben Z and Dejection delivered a powerful, thoughtful, new style of music; but they also brought along an amazing supporting cast of guest artists including: Sphinx Guiliano, theEditson, Jer 1 of Figureheads, Marlene Johnson, and One Hello World. To listen to and purchase Liquid Reflections, please go to: To keep up with news, videos, and other information on Liquid Reflections, please go to:

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Rhymes: Rakotep - 2 (Artist Spotlight)

Since I started writing for Okayplayer and Rapreviews, I've been getting an influx of artists emailing or tweeting me asking if I could post their music. I've always done my best to at least check out the music and give it a couple of listens, but I haven't always been the best at actually posting about it. So I'm going to try and post artist spotlights more frequently. With that being said, BRL's first Artist Spotlight is a duo called Rakotep. They consist of vocalist/emcee Stacy Epps and French producer Astronote. These two tracks are off of their upcoming album.
//Rakotep = Stacy Epps + Astronote (2)//

Please check out the new musical offering "2" from Rakotep, the duo composed of veteran emcee/songstress Stacy Epps and French super-producer Astronote! Two songs from their upcoming debut self-titled debut, "2" satisfies your hunger for musical balance with the joint "Neva Know" featuring smooth sounds and soothing vocals and "Finish" a lyrical feel-good summer track with heavy bass-lines and hard drums.


Stacy Epps collaborated with artists such as MF Doom, Madlib, J Dilla, Oh No, Georgia Anne Muldrow and Flying Lotus. Astronote produced for artists such as Talib Kweli, Buff1, Donwill of Tanya Morgan, Joell Ortiz, Guilty Simpson and Mayer Hawthorne.

Stacy Epps website:
Astronote website:

Monday, May 28, 2012

Rhymes: Nas - "Daughters" (Music Video)

Hello my fellow beets, I know it's been a while, but I was super busy graduating and getting a job and all that jive. But I am finally back with a dope video/song off of Nas' upcoming album, Life is Good, which is set to drop July 17! This is the third video off of the up-coming album, and it is a really great song about being a father to a teenage daughter.

The song has recently gotten some flack from Nas' ex, Carmen for making their daughter, Destiny look bad. And I agree that the song and video highlight a lot of negatives including a line about her posting pictures of her condoms on Instagram. But at the same time, Nas is an artist and he is going to write about his life. He often blames himself in the song for not being a strict enough father or not always being there for his daughter. Overall this is a very moving and genuine song (produced by No ID, who is going to exec produce the album), and hopefully the rest of Nas' 10th LP will be as good.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Rhymes: Where in the World is Jay Electronica?

Let's talk about the hip hop phenomenon, Jay Electronica. Nobody can deny that this guy is one of the best upcoming rappers around, but why has he put out so little material? HipHopDX noted him as being "more of a myth or urban legend than a...rapper." While this does prove true for the elusive emcee, it is being more and more prevalent that Jay is about to make something huge. Ever since "Act 1: Eternal Sunshine (the pledge)" was released in 2007, we have been waiting on Jay Elec's debut studio album, titled "Act 2: Patents of Nobility" (interestingly enough). Releasing such tracks as his Just Blaze-produced Exhibit Series (check "C" below), "Shiny Suit Theory" and "Dear Moleskine," it's a wonder how long the rapper is going to hold out on us. He's only released a few songs and no official albums and the rapper has quite the extensive fan base, praise and perceived anticipation. Even after labels didn't want him for "taking too long" to put out material and finally finding a home with Jay-Z's "Roc Nation" label, Jay still avoids the spotlight, leaving us all to ask "when?"

Hopefully we won't have to wait any longer. Fed by random tweets, most believe that the album will be released this year, 5 years after Jay Electronica made a name for himself with his first release. Jay has said that the album is finished and that he has handed the project in to be finalized. He's certainly stirring up a storm and concocting one (hopefully) beautiful, musical masterpiece, with lead singles like "Exhibit C" and "Dear Moleskine." Both songs are amazing and can only make us wait just a little bit longer. After all, taking 5 years to make an album has only got to mean one thing: this album will be gold.

Check out the two songs that are supposed singles from the album and tell us what you think about Jay Electronica and his music.

I hope you enjoyed my article and please check out my website at

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Rhymes: Tonedeff aka Peter Anthony Red

We all knew it was going to be a big year for QN5 founder, Tonedeff, but we thought it'd start with the highly anticipated Chico and the Man album with Kno.  But instead the rapper, who hasn't released a full length LP since 2005, threw us a real curve ball earlier this week when he announced his new project under the monkier, Peter Anthony Red.

Tone will release a free EP under the Peter Anthony Red name, followed by a full LP titled Hyperrealism, with the full version of the song above. This project will feature mostly singing, which is what fans have been begging  for since the release of "Gathered" in 2005.

Tone also reassured fans that Chico and the Man will still eventually be released, but he has a lot in the works, here is a list of projects that he will be releasing in 2012 and beyond:

  • Peter Anthony Red - Untitled EP 
  • Tonedeff - Polymer 
  • Tonedeff and Kno - Chico and the Man
  • Peter Anthony Red - Hyperrealism
  • Tonedeff - Monotone EP Re-release
Also Tone alluded to releasing another Tonedeff LP that will be the sequel to Archetype, another RP of his infamous "fast raps" and the long awaited Asterisk 5 QN5 compilation are all also in the works.

BRL will keep you posted when we get more music and news.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Life: Mr. 300

What's up my fellow Beets? This is officially BRL's 300th post. It's been a pretty crazy ride and took us just over 3 years, but we are now among the elite blogs who constantly spam your Internets.

But on a more serious note, it's been a while since my last post here, but I can assure you I've been on my grind. I am now writing for 7 (that's right seven) different publications and blogs. As I'm about to graduate it's important to get my name out there as much as I can, so I've started writing with (which I've already mentioned) and now I'm going to be writing for  which is a blog that focuses on culture and fashion right here in Ohio.

My career took another big step with Okayplayer, as I interviewed and published a story on De La Soul. Getting this interview was really amazing, and talking with Pos and Dave over the phone was probably the biggest milestone of my budding career.

And as you can see in the picture up top, I am officially a staff member at I have been a frequent visitor of that website since I was in 7th grade and Flash and company sort of shaped my career path long before I knew what I wanted to do. My first review for RR was Mac Lethal's latest album. 

Yupp so that's pretty much it. We made it to 300 with a little help from Taylor (who hasn't written anything on here in years) and Ryan. And of course we couldn't do it without you, our vast and undying supporters.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Life & Rhymes: The Rise & Fall & Re-Rise of Hip Hop in America, Pt. 2

The Ten Albums That Fixed Hip Hop
Now, if you're reading this and haven't read Pt. 1 of this "Rise & Fall & Re-Rise of Hip Hop," then you need to click HERE and check that out. To continue from Pt. 1, hip hop was great at first, but took a heavy blow and declined into a practically soul-less, money-making business scheme that did nothing for the genre of rap and hip hop. BUT, alas, many artists took to the plate and hit the pads and boards and came out with what I consider the top ten albums that fixed hip hop. Below  you will find the albums, ranked in order of effectiveness of 'fixing' hip hop, with a review of the album and how it helped steer hip hop back in the right direction. To me, I think it is these guys that us hip hop heads have to thank for bringing hip hop on the right path. Check it out:
"Goblin" - Tyler the Creator [2011]; Ok, so Tyler the Creator isn't the greatest rapper ever (no offense), but you gotta' give him props for completely reinventing the sound of mainstream hip hop; not single-handedly of course, but who would've thought that five years ago so many people would listen to songs with as many curses as he uses and how many obscene topics he raps about. "Yonkers" became a big hit after it dissed superstars B.o.B, Haley Williams, and Bruno Mars for their songs "Airplanes." Thanks to Tyler, the whole sound of mainstream hip hop took a small shift from poppy, commercialized beats to more intense and dark-sounding loops, and repetitive hooks to hook-less songs that are reminiscent of the "I don't give a f***" mentality of a young Eminem.
"Best Day Ever" - Mac Miller [2011]; Mac Miller did similar things to hip hop that Tyler did. They are two completely different artists, so how can they be compared? Well, for one, they're both hot, new artists who emerged onto the hip hop scene out of nowhere and took it by storm. Although smoking is a topic heavily used by Mac Miller, his "Best Day Ever" mixtape garnered national attention and brought him into the mainstream spotlight. You can't deny Mac is dope; he's even throw down crazy verses on some 9th Wonder beats and other notable underground features. Mac Miller has talent and help to curb the mainstream sound from poppy to something more centered on microphone skill, something that was lost for a few years.
"Be" - Common [2005]; Now Common has been dope since he was Common Sense, but who really on the outside (mainstream) knew Common? With Kanye West as the producer, Common's career was revitalized with his phenomenal lyricism and message on this 2005 masterpiece. How did it fix hip hop? Kanye West was huge back in 2005, he dropped "The College Dropout" a year earlier that launched his solo career, and was preparing the release of his sophomore album, "Late Registration," which would boast hits like the radio-friendly, "Gold Digger." But the important thing to note is that this album wasn't like albums that came out at its time. This album was nominated for four Grammy's, which really brought this album to the attention of the mainstream audience, which helped to reinsert alternative hip hop and conscious hip hop into the popularity of the hip hop community.
"Donuts" - J Dilla [2006]; Sure, I'll admit, at the time of its release, "Donuts" was practically unheard of by the mainstream population, although a great deal of hip hop fans mourned J Dilla's death just three days after the release of this album. And although many heard this album upon its release, the majority of its listeners, including myself, did not hear this album until well after its initial release. It was then that this album gained national praise by the underground hip hop community where many consider it the greatest instrumental album ever created. Rhapsody rated it as the third greatest hip hop album of the 2000s and was rated very positively (mostly 9/10's) across the board. Dilla is one of the most unknown, but known hip hop artists ever, and by that I mean, most people have heard Dilla's stuff, they just don't know it was Dilla. For example, Drake rapped over a Dilla beat on one of his mixtapes, but how many people know that it is Dilla? Dilla revolutionized the production side of hip hop, a whole decade after Pete Rock first made it truly famous.
"Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor" - Lupe Fiasco [2006]; This album is a masterpiece. What this album really did for the genre was productively bringing alternative hip hop to the forefront of mainstream rap. For a time, it was cool to sound like Lupe, and by that I mean with sample-filled beats and smooth, intelligent vibes and meaningful lyrics and subject matter. Songs like "Hurt Me Soul," "Kick, Push," and "Daydreamin'" were radio hits and enjoyed by fans across the hip hop community. Lupe helped to expand the hip hop genre into something more alternative and creative, which really helped draw in a whole new audience to hip hop. This album is dope and definitely created a bridge between underground and mainstream hip hop.
"Late Registration" - Kanye West [2005]; Along with the release of Common's "Be" a few months earlier, the soul-sample filled beats and diverse lyrical tactics employed by the young, new Kanye West really floored hip hop. He brought a whole new feel to hip hop, both lyrically and with his instrumentals and production skills. He mastered and popularized the 'chipmunk-sound' in sampling and brought a truly hip hop sound to the mainstream. Sure he had some radio hits like "Gold Digger" and "Touch the Sky" but those records are dope and deserve praise for bringing the art of sampling a mainstream audience.

"Recovery" - Eminem [2010]; After flushing away the drugs from his body, Eminem came back to the spotlight after half-a-decade of slacking off with his music. Although, personally, I don't find "Recovery" to be Em's best piece of work, it did have a huge impact on the hip hop world. Eminem was back, and that meant one important thing - the 'king' was back. Many hardcore Shady fans attribute the rise of commercial 'mainstrem' rap to the hiatus of Eminem. Although this may be partially true, I don't know if I could put the crutch with the entire Shady camp. He did, however, brought more hardcore rap and creative, witty, and insanely-crazy lyricism back to the genre, which was almost non-existent in his absence. With his re-emergence, the bar of flow and lyricism was raised a lot higher.
"The Blueprint 3" - Jay Z [2009]; This album made the list because of one song: "D.O.A. (Death of Auto tune)." That song, coming from a legend, a great like Jay-Z, truly put a damper on the overused auto tune (vocoder) effect, most notably made famous by rapper/singer T-Pain. Now, there is nothing wrong with using auto tune once in a while, but making an entire album out of it... c'mon now. Jay-Z took something everyone thought was cool (auto tune) and made it uncool... that takes a lot of power, something Jay, thankfully had. So thank you Jay for fixing this. 
"A Kid Named Cudi" - Kid Cudi [2008]; Ok, hear me out. This album served a similar purpose to "Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor" because the main thing about Kid Cudi is that he brought alternative hip hop to an all new high. Before Kid Cudi, who was rapping with dreary vibes over hypnotic beats and talking about night-terrors and his life's struggles with such a captivating tone? Kid Cudi took the underground sub-genre of alternative hip hop and pushed it to the forefront of the rap world. How many kids did you hear back in '08 and '09 talking about Cudi or listening to Cudi? Cudi was spellbinding and brought a widespread amount of youth into the genre of (alternative) hip hop. He then followed up with his album "Man on the Moon: The End of Day" in 2009, which went on to be certified Gold. We have Cudi-just like Lupe-to thank for allowing alternative hip hop to re-surge in the mainstream world of hip hop and rap. 

"Hip Hop Is Dead" - Nas [2006]; This album brought to the attention of the hip hop community that something was seriously wrong with rap music at the time. Nas spelled it out in his 16-track album that hip hop was nothing like it used to be and something needed to be done about it, and who better than the veteran Queens spitter, Nasty Nas to deliver the proverbial slap in the face. It wasn't very effective in the long run as many rappers took to rhyming saying that hip hop wasn't dead, contrary to what Nas though, however, it did create a stir in the hip hop community, so it is worthy of recognition as an album that helped to fix hip hop. But without this album at the early onset of rap's downfall, no one might've realized how bad of a direction rap was going in and, who knows, maybe we might've not been able to enjoy the great change in hip hop music that we have been able to experience.
I hope after reading these two articles that you would agree with me in that hip hop is back to being great again. If you have any questions or comments or disagree (or agree!) tell me by commenting or emailing me at Also please check out my website by clicking the link below. Lots of dope hip hop albums, reviews, interviews, news, & more! Peace!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Life & Rhymes: The Rise & Fall & Re-Rise of Hip Hop in America, Pt. 1

An Introduction
Hip hop has come a long way since its inception in the latter half of the '70s. From break-dancing kids, taking up the streets of inner cities with their boomboxes and crews, to hip hop music becoming, seemingly, the #1 genre in America. A few years ago, and still today, almost every hit single played on the radio station is a hip hop (or at least hip hop influenced) track. So with all of this success, you would think people would be happy with the state of hip hop, right? Wrong. If you're like me, a true hip hop head, you would know that for years and years, many fans of the genre have been bashing the "bubblegum rap" and "mainstream" hip hop that has plagued and basically trashed the image of the genre we all know and love.
The Divide
In a very general, blanket-statement, hip hop can be divided into two types: mainstream & underground. The difference? Mainstream gets airplay and national recognition, while underground, not so much. Now, back in the day, I'm talking the Golden Age of Hip Hop from the late 80s to the mid 90s, the hip hop that was widely regarded as "good" hip hop was stuff that many underground lovers today enjoy. Nas' "Illmatic," A Tribe Called Quest's "Midnight Marauders" and "The Low End Theory," Pete Rock & CL Smooth's "Mecca and the Soul Brother," these were all considered dope. The recognition and praise was widespread, making the divide between 'mainstream' and 'underground' seemingly nonexistent. It was here that rap was at its pinnacle. Hip hop was in its Golden Age, in its finest years, and there was hardly any "whack" stuff out. In my opinion, the onset of advanced computer technology, the MP3, and the realization of hip hop as a money-making scheme, rather than a soulful musical genre, all led to the divide between what we call 'mainstream' and 'underground' hip hop. The 'underground' stuck to the music, to the love of the art, while the 'mainstream' sought after the forever-famous "road to riches and diamond rings." 
Pitfalls and Shortcomings
I personally believe Nas was a year or two too early when he said that "Hip Hop [was] Dead." In all actuality, I never really thought hip hop was dead, 'cause I always played stuff that I felt was dope hip hop, but hip hop did see some unfortunate pitfalls and shortcomings in the latter half of the 2000s. Now, I don't want to bash any artist in particular, but what is really important to note about the rap music that came out about five years ago was what? -- centered around money, cars, jewelry, partying, girls, etc... Now subject-matter isn't everything in the genre, as beats play a big part in the sound of the music, but c'mon. I understand if your record label is making you put a hot radio hit or two on your album, but to make every song sound the exact same, with repetetive hooks, thoughtless lyrics, and copycat rhymes, it was just too upsetting. To see hip hop burst out of New York City and California with such creative innovation, and within a decade to see the creativity practically come to a standstill, where artists sounded so similar they seemed to blend together and were nearly indistinguishable when featured together was upsetting. To further prove my point of hip hop's pitfalls and shortcomings, you can even ask Time magazine who questioned in 2005 if 'mainstream hip hop was dying.' It almost seemed impossible for hip hop to ever return to its glory days when creative lyricism and true heart and soul was put back into the music... that was until the turn of the 2000s to the 2010 decade...
Hip Hop is Reborn
Call it a shout out, but there are so many artists to thank that helped turned the life of hip hop around, because it definitely took a turn for the better in the last few years. I am a huge hip hop fan, and have been for several years... but I'm not one-dimensional, nor am I ignorant, nor am I a 'hater.' I took a short few decades of a musical genre and did some studying, listening and analyzing to give my educated opinion on the state of this music that we call rap and hip hop. I truly feel this way, that hip hop was at its best, then, rather quickly, dropped into something almost embarrassing to compare to older hip hop, to something we can all be happy with. Again, I don't mean to bash any artist in particular, it is just how I feel. But, I am glad hip hop is back and I look forward every week to the new albums that come out that give a breath of fresh air to hip hop. All of you still hatin' on hip hop by saying that all these rappers suck and these mainstream guys are crap and are sticking to stuff like Biggie & Pac, it's time to realize that there is so much good hip hop out right now, you just gotta' know what to look for and where to look. So, in my opinion, I think hip hop is going to last and is going to be dope for a very long time.
Please check back tomorrow for Pt. 2 of this article where I break down the top 10 albums that aided in the resurgence of hip hop (in my opinion)!
I hope you enjoyed my article and please check out my website at

Monday, March 19, 2012

BRL Update: Welcome Ryan Stone of Hip Hop Speakeasy

As I previously mentioned I am now writing for the dope hip hop blog, Hip Hop Speakeasy. And one of the founders of that site, Ryan Stone (aka) Stone has reached out to me and asked to write for BRL.

So BRL now has a new writer on the staff, which will hopefully bring more wisdom to our cult followers. If you've seen HHSE you already know he's a pretty dope writer and has a great ear for abstract hip hop. We are excited to have him on our staff, and be on the look out for his posts.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hip Hop Speakeasy: An Optimist's Most Anticipated Albums of 2012

I've recently joined the crew over at Hip Hop Speakeasy, and this is my second post there. Check it out.

Hip Hop Speakeasy: An Optimist's Most Anticipated Albums of 2012: Yeah, I know it's almost March, and by now you've seen countless blogs' list of all what 2012 will have in store for us hip hop heads. Instead I will be bringing you a list of albums that we might (but let's be honest, this is hip hop, so probably not) get to hear in 2012:

Monday, February 20, 2012

2011 End of the Year Wrap-Up: Albums 10-1

10.) Action Bronson & Statik Selektah - Well Done

Bronson's second LP of the year is even better than his debut, as he gets a little more personal and focused over top notch dishes served by Statik Selektah.

9.) Phonte - Charity Starts at Home

The long awaited solo LP from the Little Brother front man does not disappoint with a little help from an old friend, 9th Wonder.

8.) Foo Fighters - Wasting Light

Had you told me a year ago that Dave Grohl and company would release one of the best albums of 2011, I would've assumed that Kurt Cobain resurrected. One of the year's most surprising releases, is a fury of big hits and great rock music, done the old fashioned way.

7.) Big K.R.I.T. - Return of 4eva

I slept on K.R.I.T.'s 2010 release (mainly due to the influx of shitty mixtape rappers that appear on blogs everyday), but I woke up for this magnificent release. Better late than never.

6.) The Weeknd - House of Balloons

The Weeknd is undoubtedly the year's biggest mystery, but by the end of the year the Toronto crooner found his way onto multiple tracks on one of the year's highest selling albums.

5.) Drake - Take Care

And that album would be Drake's sophomore LP. Drake's tendencies to lust for pole dancers and drinking too much makes for some of the most interesting 80 minutes of music in 2011.

4.) Kendrick Lamar - Section.80

Here's another rapper (like Big K.R.I.T.), who I didn't pay much attention to in the past couple of years despite releasing a few great projects. Section.80 is very moving and introspective, and the best part is there is much room for improvement for one of hip hop's brightest young stars.

Top 3 Preface:
All year there were two albums that were head and shoulders above the rest, and could potentially be considered classics someday. Both of these albums were significant to my year and my life in 2011. When I hear these albums I will always think back to what is what like to being 22-year old college student, being in a long distance relationship with a great girl, working 3rd shift as a janitor, and perhaps getting a little too drunk on the weekends with some great friends.

But in December another album joined those two elite albums, and I knew my top 3 even before making my calculations and ratings. Only one point each separated these three albums:

3.) Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues

This record will probably be the most memorable album of 2011 for me. Robin Pecknold's songwriting perfectly captures what it's like to be in the quarterlife crisis and have no idea what you're going to do with your life. Just the opening lines to the album alone, perfectly capture what my peers and I went through in 2011: "So now I am older than my mother and father / when they had their daughter / now what does that say about me?"

2.) The Roots - undun

The Roots' first concept album is also one of the band's best. While the narrative isn't the most original story I've ever heard, and the storyline isn't always 100% clear, the music and the lyricism is absolutely flawless.

1.) CunninLynguists - Oneirology

Now if The Roots want to know how to do a concept album, they should be taking notes from these guys. Once again Deacon, Natti and Kno put forth a brilliant piece of music with a cutting edge story line about a troubled man's dreams (or should I say nightmares?). The group effortlessly ties in socially and politically conscious themes into the storyline, and invite big time guest spots from Big K.R.I.T. and Freddie Gibbs. Oneirology proves that one of hip hop's most slept on groups should be mentioned among the greatest of all time (sorry Taylor)!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

2011 End of the Year Wrap-Up: Albums 20-11

20.) The Weeknd - Echoes of Silence

On the final installment of the Toronto crooner's trilogy, The Weeknd improves his songwriting and shows that he is no one trick pony.

19.) Jay-Z & Kanye West - Watch the Throne

The epic collaboration falls short of lofty expectations, but still manages to push the hip hop envelope. Talks of a follow up for 2012 are promising, as the final product won't be as rushed.

18.) Asher Roth - Pabts & Jazz

On Pabts & Jazz, Asher flexes his lyrical muscle, and shows that his post-"I Love College" career will be something to follow. This jazzy effort is easily Roth's best work.

17.) Thurz - LA Riots

The other half of UNI drops a politically charged album surrounded around the Rodney King riots.

16.) Bon Iver - Bon Iver, Bon Iver

Justin Vernon and company step out of that cabin in Wisconsin are create the anti-"For Emma," with beautiful, lush production and abstract, impressionistic songwriting.

15.) Blue Scholars - Cinemetropolis

Geo and Sabzi's fan-supported, movie-inspired LP, showcases top notch production and socially conscious rhymes.

14.) DJ Quik - The Book of David

The West Coast vet has a late career revival with some excellent post-G-Funk production; a great summer soundtrack.

13.) Saigon - Greatest Story Never Told

The most aptly titled album finally is released, and exceeds expectations.

12.) Adele - 21

The year's best-selling records is also one of the year's best albums.

11.) Atmosphere - The Family Sign

The indie rap vets turns into a quartet, with bluesy guitar-based production and grown man rap songs.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

2011 End of the Year Wrap-Up: Albums 30-21

30.) Raekwon - Shaolin Vs. Wu-Tang

Raekwon continues his hot streak with another great album sans RZA.

29.) Blueprint - Adventures in Counter Culture

The Columbus, Ohio native examines American popular cultures, with one of the most original and creative releases of the year.

28.) Blu - No York!

Blu's major label debut that never was, is one of the most polarizing releases of the year, but was also one of the more enjoyable.

27.) Death Cab for Cutie - Codes & Keys

Death Cab's latest is filled with more optimism than previous releases, and more keys.

T-26.) Yuck - Self-titled

Whoops, I accidentally forgot to add the British band Yuck to my Excel project. So I put them tied with The Black Keys as they both had a score of 67. Their grungey debut is a straight 90s throwback from the heavy guitar riffs, to the minimalistic (but effective songwriting), and to the (presumably intentional) shitty mixing.

T-26.) The Black Keys - El Camino

The Keys' latest is their poppiest release yet, but it's also one of their best.

25.) Murs - Love & Rockets Vol. 1

Murs teams up with Ski Beatz for his best release in a few years.

24.) Beirut - The Rip Tide

The baroque pop band drops one of the prettier releases of 2011.

23.) Bright Eyes - The People's Key

On Bright Eyes' rumored-to-be last album, Conor Oberst's songwriting covers religion and aliens, but I assure you it's still pretty awesome.

22.) Evidence - Cats & Dogs

Evidence's long-awaited Rhymesayers debut shows the Dilated Peoples rep at his most personal over incredible production handled mostly by Alchemist.

21.) J-Live - S.P.I.T.A. (Said Person of That Ability)

The underground vet drops some phenomenal boom bap vibes

2011 End of the Year Wrap-Up: Albums 40-31

First of all here is my criteria/rating scale:
I have taken categories and gave each of the 127 giving them each a rating of 1-10, here are the categories
  • Replay Value - How often did I feel compelled to go back and listen to this album throughout the year?
  • Vocal Performance - For hip hop albums this included flows, rhyme schemes, cadences, etc. For rock albums melodies, quality of vocals, harmonies, etc.
  • Production - How good were the beats/ music.
  • Subject Matter - Lyrical content, song topics
  • Songwriting - Ability to structure a good song, includes quality of choruses/hooks and bridges
  • Cohesion - How well did the album flow? Did it sound like one piece of music, or just a bunch of random track?
  • Originality - How original or creative was the album?
  • Gut feeling - My initial instinct on what I thought the album should rand 1-10

In addition, I also added a "Fillers" category, which took off a negative point for every song I rated 2 or less stars in my iTunes.

I also had a category called "The Big 300" which awarded a bonus point to an album for every track that was picked as the best 300 songs of 2011.

40.) Pac Div - The Div

Finally after years of sitting on Warner Brother's shelf, the Cali trio unleashed their debut album to world, and it's the group's best work.

39.) Grieves & Budo - Together/Apart

On Grieves' Rhymesayers debut he didn't quite show as much artistic growth as I had hoped for, but his 3rd full-length has plenty of great tracks and phenomenal production from Budo.

38.) The Antlers - Burst Apart

The Antlers follow up their groundbreaking, Hospice album with the beautiful Burst Apart. A few steps back in storytelling, but a few steps forward in musicianship.

37.) Young Jeezy - Thug Motivation 103: Hustlerz Ambition

Jeezy fights off career obscurity by sticking to the basics.

36.) Yonas Michael - Lost in Hollywood

The former UNI emcee's solo debut is a genre bending, rough around the edges journey through L.A.

35.) Apathy - Honkey Kong

The Connecticut emcee pokes fun at his whiteness, while lyrically beasting over top notch production from the likes of DJ Premier and Evidence.

34.) Action Bronson - Dr. Lecter

The Ghostface-sounding rapper drops his delectable rhymes over some great break beats.

33.) Freddie Gibbs - Cold Day in Hell

The Gary, Indiana rapper drops his first project since joining forces with Young Jeezy, and it shows the promise of the new marriage.

32.) Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto

Chris Martin and company dabble in narratives, electronics and Rihanna, and the results are shockingly good.

31.) Killer Mike - Pl3dge

Killer Mike's 3rd installment of his Pledge Allegiance with the Grind series is among his best and most political work, and the ATLien is finally getting the credit he deserves.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

2011 End of the Year Wrap-Up: Top 10 WORST albums of 2011

Okay you've seen the Honorable Mentions list by now, well here's the ten bottom feeders of 2011. Now this list is a tad biased because I don't really care to listen to albums I know I'm not going to like. Most of these albums were projects I was selected to review for Okayplayer or the BG News over the past year.

So are these the worst releases of 2011? No. But they are the worst albums I listened to last year.

Tyler your album was pretty shitty, but not nearly as bad as these albums.

First of all here is my criteria/rating scale:
I have taken categories and gave each of the 127 giving them each a rating of 1-10, here are the categories
  • Replay Value - How often did I feel compelled to go back and listen to this album throughout the year?
  • Vocal Performance - For hip hop albums this included flows, rhyme schemes, cadences, etc. For rock albums melodies, quality of vocals, harmonies, etc.
  • Production - How good were the beats/ music.
  • Subject Matter - Lyrical content, song topics
  • Songwriting - Ability to structure a good song, includes quality of choruses/hooks and bridges
  • Cohesion - How well did the album flow? Did it sound like one piece of music, or just a bunch of random track?
  • Originality - How original or creative was the album?
  • Gut feeling - My initial instinct on what I thought the album should rand 1-10

In addition, I also added a "Fillers" category, which took off a negative point for every song I rated 2 or less stars in my iTunes.

I also had a category called "The Big 300" which awarded a bonus point to an album for every track that was picked as the best 300 songs of 2011.

10. Machine Gun Kelly

Rage Pack

09. G Huff & Vice

Where Do We Go From Here

08. Mac Lethal

North Korean BBQ

07. Y-Love

See Me

06. Game

Red Album

05. Childish Gambino


04. Lou Reed & Metallica


03. Lupe Fiasco


02. Wiz Khalifa

Rolling Papers

01. DJ Khaled

We the Best Forever

Tyler, the Creator's Goblin just missed the bottom 10 albums of the year, but I felt like he needed to be mentioned because: A. He had so much hype built around his album and it was a total bust. B. I actually paid for the album (unlike the rest of the albums/mixtapes on this list).

Most of these albums I expected to suck (ie: DJ Khaled, Game, Wiz), some I suspected would suck but was curious anyways (MGK, Childish Gambino, Lou Reed & Metallica), and there was one album that broke my heart so badly when I heard it, I didn't speak for weeks (Lupe Fiasco).

Now we here at BRL have been huge Lupe fans from the start, and when Lasers got pushed back time and time again, we totally supported him and rooted for him. Finally the album dropped, and it was pretty evident, Lupe's heart was not into it. Lupe promises to get back to his roots with his next LP, Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, but if the success of Lasers and his mediocre Friend of the People mixtape is any indication, the Lupe of old is long gone.

2011 End of the Year Wrap-Up: Honorable Mentions

Yeah yeah I know it's mid-February, but as a full-time student, part time janitor and full-time baller, it's extremely hard to find the time to finish up a list of 127 Albums, EPs, and mixtapes I listened to last year.

Now after my extremely thorough rating system has been completed (at the end of January, but haven't had time to post it), I will post the lists.

Sorry Daedelus, your album was pretty cool, but you just missed our top 40.

First of all here is my criteria/rating scale:
I have taken categories and gave each of the 127 giving them each a rating of 1-10, here are the categories
  • Replay Value - How often did I feel compelled to go back and listen to this album throughout the year?
  • Vocal Performance - For hip hop albums this included flows, rhyme schemes, cadences, etc. For rock albums melodies, quality of vocals, harmonies, etc.
  • Production - How good were the beats/ music.
  • Subject Matter - Lyrical content, song topics
  • Songwriting - Ability to structure a good song, includes quality of choruses/hooks and bridges
  • Cohesion - How well did the album flow? Did it sound like one piece of music, or just a bunch of random track?
  • Originality - How original or creative was the album?
  • Gut feeling - My initial instinct on what I thought the album should rand 1-10

In addition, I also added a "Fillers" category, which took off a negative point for every song I rated 2 or less stars in my iTunes.

I also had a category called "The Big 300" which awarded a bonus point to an album for every track that was picked as the best 300 songs of 2011.

Now without further adieu, I bring you the honorable mentions list. This list includes every album that didn't quite crack my top-40, but still gathered a rating of 45 or higher (the highest rated album was 84, and the lowest was 21)



Imaginary Cities

Temporary Resident

The Weeknd


Apollo Brown


Frank Ocean





The Dreamer/The Believer

Freddie Gibbs

Lord Giveth, Lord Taketh Away

Red Hot Chili Peppers

I'm With You

MarQ Spekt & Kno



Rhythmatic Eternal King Supreme

The Cool Kids

When Fish Ride Bicycles

The Decemberists

The King is Dead


Junk of the Heart

Ryshon Jones


St. Vincent

Strange Mercy


The Whole Love

Bamboo Bros

American Jibaro

Danny Brown




My Morning Jacket


Random Axe

Random Axe

Amy Winehouse


Blu & Exile

Give Me My Flowers While I can Still Smell Them

Mac Miller

Blue Slide Park



Danger Mouse




Chip Tha Ripper

Gift Raps

Patrick Stump

Soul Punk


Lincoln Way Nights


Varsity Blues 2

Iron & Wine

Kiss Each Other Clean

Corinne Bailey Rae

The Love EP

J. Cole

Cole World

Jill Scott

The Light of the Sun

Wu-Tang Clan

Legendary Weapons

9th Wonder

The Wonder Years

Royce Da 5'9"

Success is Certain

Schoolboy Q



Zero Heroes

Black Rob

Game Tested, Streets Approved

Florence + The Machine


Gil Scott-Herron & Jamie xx

We're New Here

Hail Mary Mallon

Are You Gonna Eat That?

Pharoahe Monch



King of Limbs

Freestyle Fellowship

The Promise

Gillian Welch

The Harrow & The Harvest




If Not Now, When?

Lyle Horowitz

Smiles of a Summer Night


Before I Awoke





Mayer Hawthorne


Rapper Big Pooh

Dirty Pretty Things

Bad Meets Evil

Hell: The Sequel

David Dallas

The Rose Tint

Money Making Jam Boys

The Prestigue



Lupe Fiasco

Friend of the People

Nappy Roots

Nappy Dot Org