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Tuesday, July 3

Vinnie the Intern Blog #4: The State of Hip-Hop

I have been a hip-hop fan for as long as I could recall. My first memory of hip-hop was playing my brother's cassette of Dr. Dre's "Dre Day" as loud as I could on my boom-box. I chose Biggie over Tupac and Jay-Z over Nas. I shuddered as hip-hop became an auto-tuned, radio-processed mess. But through all of this, there have always been true artists that have continually defined the state of hip-hop. The artists I list in this blog gave me the same feeling that I remembered while listening to "Dre Day" all those years ago. 

WHY? - Sod In The Seed - EP(Anticon/Aug 14th)

Last week Oakland's WHY? released "Sod In The Seed" off their Sod In The Seed EP due out on August 14th. It is WHY? at their finest. With its gripping opening line, "Let's review some recent facts...," I was immediately reminded of the first time I heard Alopecia (2008), my favorite WHY? album (as well as on of my general favorites). The song is available for free download on the band's Soundcloud. The reference of Whole Foods and Mac G4s bring to mind a time when vocalist Yoni Wolf spoke of R. Crumb exhibits, being at a Silver Jews show, and Showbiz Pizza. The band backing the ramblings are sounding as solid as ever. With bells and a steady bass line, WHY? appeal to hip-hop fans and indie rock fans alike.

Joey BADA$$ - 1999 (Cinematic/Creative Control)

Exciting newcomer, Brooklyn's Joey BADA$$ released his mix-tape 1999 with assistance from his group PRO ERA and from producers such as Knxwledge and MF DOOM. While the rousing fact may be that this artist is only 17, I find it equally incredible that this would not be out of place if you nesteled it between A Tribe Called Quest's The Low End Theory (1991) and Wu-Tang Clan's Enter the 36 Chambers (1993). Songs like "Survival Tactics" and "Killuminati" both featuring spots by PRO ERA confidant, Capital STEEZ, are proof that gritty New York hip-hop is not just a thing of the past. Joey BADA$$ and the rest of PRO ERA are true artists to watch out for. Check out the video for "Survival Tactics" below.

Death Grips have earned much praise for their abrasive sound that includes Zach Hill on percussion and MC Ride on vocals. Their videos, similar to their musical prowess, have an emphasis on being innovative without a cushy budget, despite being on a major label (Epic Records). Last week Death Grips released their newest video "Double Helix" off of The Money Store, released in April. 

Another artist picking up quite a bit of attention is Azealia Banks with her debut EP, 1991, released earlier last month. Banks received praise for her single "212" towards the end of last year, which now has upwards of 22 million hits on Youtube. The single, along with the previously released "Liquorice" both made appearances on 1991, making up half the album. The other half, I am pleased to say delivered to these high expectations. Especially the exceptional title-track which takes form more in progressive-house rather than hip-hop. Banks will release her follow up to 1991, the mix-tape Fantasea, next Wednesday.

When I hear claims of the state of hip-hop is in dire need of change, I have to respectfully disagree. There is a lot going on in the world of hip-hop that feels new and exciting. Anyone interested in something new in hip-hop should look no further than WHY?, Joey BADA$$, Death Grips, or Azealia Banks.

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