Rap

Talk Stoop with Prince Paul

July 30, 2016

Prince Paul Wax Po

Last month I got to catch up with my favourite hip-hop producer, the one and only Prince Paul in Manhattan’s West Village. If you had told seventeen-year-old me this, I probably would have died.

There’s a certain risk that comes with meeting one’s heroes, we’re all just human after all, but Paul is one of those dudes who’s even cooler than you imagine. Super hilarious (that’s hardly a surprise) and super modest, despite having produced some of the greatest hip-hop joints there are.

We chatted about his upcoming projects – new groups Brookzill! and SuperBlack, as well as a new solo album – recording with De La and Gravediggaz back in the day, exchanging snail mail with Daddy-O, making movies, and life lessons learned along the way …

You can also check it out on Wax Poetics here!

Mega props to Zhubin Rahbar for filming the interview, and to Matt ‘Matman’ Smith for editing it to look so fresh! :)

Pete Rock & CL Smooth All Souled Out 25th Anniversary Mixtape

July 2, 2016

The homie Chris Read has crafted yet another super dope mixtape, this time to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s debut EP All Souled Out.

Originally posted on Wax Poetics here.

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To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s now classic debut All Souled Out, released June 25th, 1991, our buddy Chris Read has crafted yet another stellar mix for Wax Poetics and WhoSampled. Featuring tracks from the EP, alternate versions, interview snippets, and original sample material from the likes of Eddie Kendricks and Eddie Bo, the mix pays true homage to the record that introduced the hip-hop duo and set the stage for later seminal LPs Mecca and the Soul Brother and The Main Ingredient.

Take a listen and enjoy!

Artwork by Leon Nockolds

Track list:

1. O’Donel Levy – ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’ (Sampled in ‘Mecca & The Soul Brother’)
2. Chris Read – Theme #3 (Scratchapella)
3. Pete Rock & CL Smooth – ‘Mecca & The Soul Brother’
4. Heavy D & The Boyz – ‘Gyrlz, They Love Me’ [Extract] (Sampled in ‘Mecca & The Soul Brother’)
5. Mountain – ‘Long Red’ [Loop] (Sampled in ‘Mecca & The Soul Brother (Wig Out Mix)’)
6. ESG – ‘UFO’ [Loop] (Sampled in ‘Mecca & The Soul Brother (Wig Out Mix)’)
7. Pete Rock & CL Smooth – ‘Mecca & The Soul Brother (Wig Out Mix)
8. Eddie Kendricks – ‘Girl You Need a Change of Mind’ (Sampled in ‘Good Life’)
9. Mountain – ‘Long Red’ [Extract] (Sampled in ‘Good Life’)
10. Pete Rock & CL Smooth – ‘Good Life’
11. O’Donel Levy – ‘I Wanna Be Where You Are’ [Loop] (Sampled in ‘Good Life’)
12. James Brown – ‘Funky Drummer’ [Loop] (Sampled in ‘Go With The Flow’)
13. Fred Wesley and the J.B’s – ‘You Can Have Watergate Just Gimme Some Bucks and I’ll Be Straight (7″ Version) [Extract] (Sampled in ‘Go With The Flow’)
14. Pete Rock & CL Smooth – ‘Go With The Flow’
15. S.O.U.L – ‘Burning Spear’ (Sampled in ‘Go With The Flow’)
16. Beside – ‘Change The Beat (Female Version)’ [Extract] (Sampled in ‘Go With The Flow’)
17. Eddie Bo – ‘From This Day On’ (Sampled in ‘The Creator’)
18. Pete Rock & CL Smooth – ‘The Creator’
19. Pete Rock & CL Smooth – ‘The Creator (Slide to the Side Mix)
20. Pete Rock & CL Smooth – ‘The Creator (Surfboard Mix)’
21. Lou Donaldson – ‘Turtle Walk’ (Sampled in ‘All Souled Out’)
22. Pete Rock & CL Smooth – ‘All Souled Out’

Breathe & Stop

April 11, 2016

Urdhva Dhanurasana on the beach

I just got back from a pretty magical month in India studying Yoga at a school called Sampoorna. Hot, sunshine infused days were spent practising meditation and asanas amongst the lushest jungle vistas you can imagine. It’s hard to summarise the impact of an experience so removed from one’s usual routine, and I think I’m still in the process of distilling my meaning from the time.

Studying the philosophy of yoga really clarified and deepened my understanding of some things that I already felt to be true. We discussed spirituality and totality at length; how everything is connected and one. To me it’s like that feeling you get, that swell in your chest when something leaves you awestruck and at once you feel tiny yet somehow connected to it. I think I’ll always remember one time when I was eighteen, eating a bowl of cherries and listening to Public Enemy’s “Shut ‘Em Down” and experiencing this overwhelming sense of amazement, contemplating the song and all the history and emotion that led to it’s recording, and knowing that the flavours of the cherries and the wood frame of my bedroom window and me sitting there thinking about it were all connected to it and part of a much bigger whole.

(including “Shut ‘em Down” here because it really is such a dope and powerful song, props to Mark Pellington for the tight music video too!)

Back to India. I met many beautiful souls in Agonda, Goa, which is itself one of the most naturally beautiful places I have been to. Here are some pictures and memories …

~ Sunrise on the beach after morning meditation ~

Sunrise

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~ Canopies of green ~

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~ Steps up to the shala where we practised yoga and had our anatomy/alignment/philosophy lessons ~

Steps to Enlightenment

~ View out to the Arabian Sea from the empty shala ~

Rooftop Shala

~ Breathtaking sunsets each day ~

Sunset through the palms

~ Cola Beach ~

Cola BeachCola Beach

~ Me posing on a boat ~

Me on a boat

~ Cola beach lagoon ~

Cola Lagoon

~ Palm tree day dreams ~

Palm Skies Palm Tree Vista

~ Another magical sunset ~

Sunset

~ Yoga mat awaiting in the shala ~

The mat awaits

~ Sunset on the day of Holi ~

Sunset on Holi

~ The Final Fire Ceremony ~

Fire ceremony Fire ceremony

~ Me graduating! ~

My Yoga graduation

~ My last sunset in Agonda ~

Last sunset

~ Flying home over Oman. Oh Man! ~

Flying home over Oman

 

I guess I feel somewhat restored after my trip, inspired to write and adventure more than I’ve felt for awhile. I fully advocate taking time out from whatever to do these types of things, and right now the wise words of Q-Tip (such a modern day guru) couldn’t ring more true. Breath and stop. For real. And give it what you got. 

Let’s go!!

 

 

PS. Big love and gratitude to all the teachers and incredible people at Sampoorna! <3 The energy there is so special. Check them out here : Sampoorna Yoga

Dating Advice from Female Rappers

August 29, 2015

This month I wrote my first ever article for Buzzfeed titled “16 Times Female Rappers Were Totally On Point About Relationships.” Basically an excuse to listen to all my favourite female hip-hop artists on repeat (think Bahamadia, Yo-Yo, MC Lyte, Monie Love …), I had a great time writing this piece. I’ve shared it below, and you can check it out on Buzzfeed here. Enjoy!

monie latifah

1. “Let’s Talk About Sex,” Salt-N-Pepa

“Let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be.”

Salt-N-Pepa were serious trailblazers when they encouraged honest conversations about sex back in 1991. Fulfilling relationships thrive on good communication in and out of the bedroom. Your partner can’t read your mind, so it’s important to maintain a healthy dialogue where both can express feelings and share desires with one another. And really, when you have that, the only way is up.

 

2. “You & Me & Everyone We Know,” Jean Grae

“I think too much. Overanalyzing everything sucks.”

Word! It’s super easy to read too much into everything when feelings are at stake. But dwelling often causes headaches.

If you’ve ever found yourself analysing texts with friends and driving yourself a little too crazy, learn from Jean Greasy and try to get a handle on those thoughts. Do something to take your mind off of your relationship – get outside, exercise, see friends, create something, or even meditate. Just something to get out of your head. Over-thinking really only makes your feelings weird and can totally kill your love buzz.

 

3. “Who’s The Boss,” Antoinette

“Daytime, nightime, anytime’s the right time.”

Antoinette is The Boss because she knows to stay present, ready, and open in order to rise to the demand of any given moment. No question that mentality extends to her love life ;)

In “Who’s the Boss,” she reminds us there’s no such thing as perfect timing. The key is to keep your eyes, mind, and heart open so as to not miss or overlook something special just because you were too busy staring at your own feet.

Somebody special can come along whenever, so always come correct like Antoinette.

 

4. “Brothers Ain’t Shit,” Roxanne Shante

“Stop smilin’, I know all you wanna do is hit. And I really don’t give a shit.”

Avoid those players who are only after one thing. They’re slimy (and ain’t sh*t).

But seriously, somebody purely out to get a piece with whoever they can likely won’t be the best lover. And hooking up with them probably won’t be the best experience. Not all sexual encounters need to be cosmic lovemaking, but you want your partner to treat you like a person and not a piece of meat.

Roxanne Shante calls scuzzballs out and so should we all!

 

5. “Make You Mine”, MC Trouble

“Give me the time to cold break it down in a rhyme, ‘cause I think you should be my guy.”

The late MC Trouble had some serious guts. In this song, she declares her affections to her crush, and lays out exactly what she wants. This is awesome for two big reasons. Firstly, having the courage and confidence to express your feelings is super attractive. Secondly, other people can’t read your mind, and to spell out your interests could open doors that might otherwise have stayed closed.

Follow in Trouble’s footsteps. If you like someone, let them know!

 

6. “Can’t Play With My Yo-Yo,” Yo-Yo

“The earrings I wear are called Dolphins. Check the booty, yo, it’s kind of soft and if you touch it, you living in a coffin.”

Just because you look good, that doesn’t mean that people are entitled to something. Yo-Yo knows this and won’t put up with objectification or disrespectful attention from anyone. Basically, she’s not to be played with. And you’re not either! You’re entitled to a sense of self-respect and firm boundaries when out meeting people. It doesn’t hurt to have Ice Cube singing your hook either!

 

7. Tre Hardson & MC Lyte “Roots, Love, & Culture”

“I’d rather wear the last name of a brother with a brain. Hear what I’m saying?”

Despite a penchant for bad-boy Ruffnecks, MC Lyte advocates settling down with someone who isn’t a moron.

When you’re looking for a long-term partner, they’ve got to have the brain to make the long haul bearable. Intelligence is super sexy and so is the ability to hold quality conversation. Cerebral sparks are important for long-term satisfaction as much as physical desire. Go for someone who melts your mind as well as your knees.

 

8. Bahamadia “True Honey Buns”

“To all my girls, do what you gotta do, but it ain’t what you do, it’s how you do it.”

It’s fine to go out, get yours, and have fun; there’s really nothing wrong with partying and casual hook-ups. Just make sure it feels good and right for you. Be in charge of yourself, and know that you can do whatever’s right for you, just do it from a place of self-respect.

 

9. “Lookin’ Good To Me,” Nonchalant

“Looks can be deceiving. Let me tap the brain so I can justify the reason why I’m calling your name in my sleep.”

Nonchalant knows not to go for someone solely based on their looks. It’s an injustice to the cutie and to yourself.

We should should treat potential partners and hook ups the same way we want them to treat us! And when it comes down to it, do you want someone to be with you because of the beauty of their character, or just because they look good in skinny jeans?

 

10. “Strawberries,” MC Smooth

“Strawberries on top of me. Candlelight, a little Hennessey. That’s the way my love flows.”

In this sultry ditty Smooth reminds us that the way to keep love flowing is to keep the romance alive.

It’s easy to let the magic fizzle once you get comfortable with your partner. While there’s something so nice (and important) about letting your guard down and not trying hard to impress someone, things can get straight up boring if the romantic sexy element fades away entirely – don’t forget to treat each other every now and then!

 

11. “Another,” Lil’ Kim & Notorious B.I.G.

“What do ya do when your man is untrue? Do you cut the sucker off and find someone new? I need another man in my life.”

In this song Lil’ Kim and Biggie both come to realise that you shouldn’t put up with a serial cheater, and prove that sometimes the strongest ties aren’t always the healthiest.

If your partner is repeatedly being untrue and causing you pain, you have to face the facts and move on. If someone doesn’t learn from their mistakes, chances are that they’ll keep hurting you.

 

12. “Daddy’s Little Girl,” Nikki D

“A night so hectic, a bit unexpected. Before I made love, I shoulda been protected.”

In this song, Nikki D perfectly sums up what happens when you throw caution to the wind in a hookup. As her cautionary tale unravels, we’re reminded that not being careful can have nasty consequences.

So, learn from Nicki D and protect yourself! Unwanted pregnancies, STIs, and STDs are not the one.

 

13. “Born 2 B.R.E.E.D,” Monie Love

“So who are you to tell me how to run my family, I can plan it myself, I need nobody planning me.”

It’s your life. You get to decide when the time is right for you to settle down, have babies, or get married. It’s so easy to feel pressure from friends, family, and society at large to live your life a certain way and/or follow a traditional trajectory.

But as Monie states, you were born to “Build relationships where education and enlightenment dominate”. Whether you start a family young like Monie or wait until later in life, it doesn’t matter. It’s up to you to do things however is right for you. Go Monie! (Where she at?)

 

14. “No More Tears,” Jane Doe

“Stressed and depressed about the things you did. You broke a queen down, almost lost my crown. Not gonna cry no more.”

Love can hurt, and some breakups can leave you feeling pretty broken.

Jane Doe gets out all of the pain and frustration of ending a relationship in this song, and reminds us it’s important to feel whatever it is that we’re feeling and to process all of that emotion. Crying it out can really help. But there comes a point where you have to draw a line, and stop crying. Only then can you build yourself back up, and move on. Jane Doe knows.

 

15. Queen Latifah “U.N.I.T.Y.”

“Scared to let you go, even though you treated me bad.”

From sexual harassment on the streets to domestic violence in relationships, Latifah fills the refrain “Who you calling’ a bitch?” with so much stored pain and anger from the black female perspective. One of the points in “U.N.I.T.Y” is that abusive relationships aren’t loving relationships. Queen Latifah goes so far in with this song, it can be hard to listen to without choking up.

 

16. “It’s My Beat,” Sweet Tee

“It’s my beat, it’s my beat. It’s my beat!”

This song is the rap embodiment of “do you”; and there’s nothing more important than remembering you’ve got to do right by yourself in whether it’s in your work, your art, your friendships, or your romances.

Sweet Tee is radiant on this track simply because it’s her beat (and what a beat!). When you’re in sync with yourself, and do your thing, everything flows as it should. Sweet Tee proves that if you groove to your own beat, you’ll be irresistible.

 

Wax Poetics Issue 61 : Bishop Nehru & Soulection

April 25, 2015

I remember the first time that I bought a copy of Wax Poetics back in 2007. It was the Rick James issue with a feature on New York hip-hop club The Latin Quarter by Brian Coleman. Reading it blew my mind and provided glimpses into a world that inspired me to no end.

Issue 23

I never thought then that I would one day get to write for the magazine, so it is such a thrill to see my first cover feature for Issue 61. I interviewed young rapper Bishop Nehru back in January, after having first seen him play at Birthdays in Dalston last year. Having already released an album with MF Doom and now working with Nas, Nehru’s career is seriously set to skyrocket.

Bishy

The feature runs back to back with a Ghostface Killah interview written by my Bay Area homie David Ma in what I feel is a very strong issue of the magazine. The alternate cover has James Brown and Curtis Mayfield back to back, two true musical icons with such musical depth and mass appeal. The overall theme for the issue is in highlighting the Black Lives Matter message in music, and examining the prominence of racial politics in music today as oppose to previous decades.

As well as the Nehru piece, I also have a feature in the issue on the Soulection collective: a record rundown with Joe Kay detailing the key records that have shaped the Soulection’s journey thus far. Joe’s selection are great and brilliantly varied – Slum Village, Arthur Verocai, Genuwine, and Rage Against the Machine all make an appearance.

Again, I am super excited about this issue. Big shout out to : Brian DiGenti, Freddy Anzures, Andre Torres, Bishop Nehru, Joe Kay, Jacqueline Schneider, David Ma, Robert Adam Mayer, and Eric Coleman!

The Cambridge Companion to Hip-Hop

April 4, 2015

This Spring sees the publication of my first academic chapter in The Cambridge Companion to Hip-Hop. The Companion, edited by Justin A. Williams, features a wide selection of Hip-Hop oriented essays from an array of contributors including Anthony Kwame Harrison, Adam Haupt, and Chris Tabron. I feel rather honoured to be a part of the collection, and also excited to see my work published in a book for the first time. My chapter “MC origins: rap and spoken word poetry” explores the shared history and facets of spoken word poetry and rap forms, with special case studies into the Black Arts Movement and the Good Life Cafe/Project Blowed.

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I met Justin A. Williams in 2011 while interning at the old Mixcloud offices on Featherstone Street, back when Mixcloud shared office-space with Drum&Bass Arena. Williams visited the then HQ to conduct fieldwork and speak to Mixcloud co-founder Nico Perez. After being introduced, we began chatting about academia and geeking out about Hip-Hop…

As I had researched spoken word poetry and music in depth for my undergraduate dissertation, and was building up a portfolio of hip-hop interviews, Williams commissioned me to write a chapter on spoken word poetry and rap for his next project: The Cambridge Companion to Hip-Hop.

Over the following months I began incorporating research for my chapter into my writing projects, sneaking in questions about poetry and rap during many of my interviews. In reflection, I appreciate how many memorable experiences and ideas I have been fortunate enough to encounter and enjoy through working on this project. I can so clearly remember sitting outside on a sunny day in Oakland talking to Bay Area poet D. Scot Miller about the transcendental merits of Camp Lo and Q Tip, partying with Freestyle Fellowship in Hollywood, afternoons in various libraries across London and San Francisco with a mountain of books by my side, and all the times that listening to poetry and rap made me feel inspired and excited to be alive. I believe that expansion of the mind is a very beautiful thing, and feel fortunate to have spent time developing my understanding of art and expression relating to some of my very favourite music. In sharing my work, I hope that it can stir some thoughts and feelings, and that readers can ultimately take something from the chapter.

To all those who have have been generous with their time, allowing me to pester them with questions and abstract musings I am eternally grateful. In no particularly order I would like to thank: Justin A. Williams, David J. Pugilist, Amiri Baraka, D. Scot Miller, Freestyle Fellowship, SlimKid3, Abstract Rude, Robert Glasper, and of course all the musicians and poets who have made my world richer through discovering their work.

You can find the Companion here .

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