Monday, February 28, 2011

The Language of Hip-Hop: A Rap Almanac

What can we learn from the jargon of Jay-Z? Or Lil' Wayne's lexicon? Wired recently posted an article about a man named Tahir Hemphill who is undergoing the task of looking back into 30 years of Hip-Hop and taking it apart - one word at a time.

Hemphill calls it the Hip-Hop Word Count and it "analyzes the lyrics of over 40,000 songs for metaphors, similes, cultural references, phrases, memes and socio-political ideas. For each, it registers a date and a geographical location." This sort of information can provide interesting data as to which region has the most clever artists and where phrases have originated (who said shawty first???!! The world needs to know!). In addition to date and locale of songs, it breaks down syllable count, word count, average letters per word and more - for each of the 40,000 tracks.

Check out the prototype he has done with 243 Jay-Z songs and donate to the cause on Kickstarter.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Hit the 2011 EMP Pop Conference at UCLA - It's Awesome & FREE

The 2011 Experience Music Project Pop Conference will take place Feb 25-27 at UCLA, the first time it's been convened away from its Seattle home. This year's theme is "Cash Rules Everything Around Me: Music and Money" and the slate of papers, presentations, and talks by academics, journalists, writers, musicians, and industry figures is dizzying -- a must attend for anyone interested in all things popular music.

We are thrilled that the Popular Music Project will be in the mix throughout the weekend:
  • On Friday, PMP Director Josh Kun will present new research on the early sheet music industry in Los Angeles, part of an exciting new digital archival initiative he and his students at the USC Annenberg School have been working on with The Los Angeles Public Library
  • On Saturday, PMP 2011 Artist-in-Residence and URB founder Raymond Roker will be leading a roundtable on the increasing prominence of brands in the support and marketing of new music, featuring leading brand reps, marketing consultants, and DJ/producer Viktr Duplaix
  • On Sunday, PMP Director Josh Kun will be interviewing music industry legend Seymour Stein.
Registration is free and open to all. Conference website and daily schedule.

Monday, February 14, 2011

This 'Wuz' Legit

Name five states you’d least expect a hip-hop artist to come from. Maine? Classic. Vermont? Sounds about right. Probably something like Nebraska or Wyoming? Typical. How about Mississippi? Sure it’s down there by the hotbeds of ATL, Houston, Louisiana; but I always figured the hip-hop winds bent around that state when they blew across the country. Apparently they don’t because Mississippi native, Big K.R.I.T. is on track to be the biggest thing from “The Miss” since Brett Farve. (Let’s just hope K.R.I.T. has better texting etiquette.) Last June, Big K.R.I.T. released K.R.I.T. Wuz Here and after one listen I vowed to never doubt the great state of Mississippi again.

It’s that expectation of doubt that seems to fuel this mixtape. K.R.I.T. Wuz Here opens with a few songs that let you know even though this kid is from Mississippi, he can hang. The second track, “Country Shit”, not only show the influences on K.R.I.T from the dirty south styles of ATL and the chopped and screwed sounds of H-Town, but also let’s you know he can put it down just like any artist from either city.

Perhaps the biggest track off this mixtape, “Hometown Hero”, is where K.R.I.T. shows you what sets him apart from the rest. He produced every track on this album and though this is his first studio album, he already seems like veteran behind the glass. Again, we hear the chopped n’ screwed influence in the chorus but where I find so many producers over do it with that style K.R.I.T. does it perfectly. It’s impossible to label the mood of this track because it expertly weaves in and out from positive to negative. This really pulls you into his world as an artist dealing with the ups and downs, struggling against the odds to make it out Mississippi and become a successful rapper/producer.

The dynamic quality of “Hometown Hero” sets the trend for the rest of the mixtape. “Children of the World” is a hard-hitting, autobiographical song that’s comparable to a J. Cole track. “No Wheaties” is an awesome, easy-going song that seems to come out of nowhere, but still feels like it fits in perfectly.

After a rollercoaster of tracks, the mixtape concludes with “Vikitorious”. Using that classic piano sample we’ve heard in a million different cop movies sets this song up perfectly for K.R.I.T. to lay out his mission. He skillfully discusses his frustrations of being disregarded because of his origins. Even though he’s got the skills on the mic and the keys, he still feels like the game is weighted against him. That doesn’t stop him from claiming his eventual victory at the track and the mixtape’s end. And, quite honestly, I believe it.

This kid is raw and gifted. This mixtape has propelled him on to the scene and has taken him to the next level. Look out for big things coming from this kid because you don’t make it out of Mississippi without mean skills and a hell of a lot of passion for the game. Even though he’s been rapping and making beats for five years, K.R.I.T. Wuz Here is only the beginning. Download it here: and brace yourself for what's to come.

Monday, February 7, 2011

It’s All About the “K.I.D.S”

As my ears continue to bleed from Fergie’s heinous attempt at “Sweet Child O’ Mine” during the half-time show at Super Bowl XLV, I seek relief in the smooth tunes of Mac Miller’s summer release, K.I.D.S. This kid may be 18 and white, but this mixtape is saturated with an old school, head-nodding hip hop vibe. Laying down the type of lyrics you would expect from a rapper just out of high school Mac proves this previously forgotten style still has a place in today’s rap climate.

The laid-back, yet ear exciting nature of K.I.D.S. starts off immediately with the first track, “Kickin’ Incredibly Dope Shit”. The light feel of the beat gives provokes that emotion of hope one would expect in a recent high school graduate. The lyrics are perfect for an intro as Mac lays out his current situation of avoiding the college route for the rap lifestyle.

A few tracks later Miller proves his ability to hold is own on a true hip-hop beat with “Nikes On My Feet”. Expect to hit the repeat button on this one a lot. While you’re at it, brace yourself to have “Traffic In The Sky” and “Kool Aid & Frozen Pizza” on loop, as well. This mixtape has often been called a “smoker’s album” but songs like these will elevate you all on their own.

Another incredibly chill song, “Good Evening”, takes a sample from Drake’s So Far Gone mixtape and proves Mac can also style out on the type of beats we’ve come to expect on the radio. This is extremely well exemplified on “Don’t Mind If I Do” where Miller speeds up the tempo of the mixtape to lay lyrics over a hip hop remix of the incredibly popular Owl City song “Fire Flies”.

The lyrics on K.I.D.S. won’t blow your mind, but the feel and flow of this mixtape will. You’ve never heard rap like this before. It’s far from cheesy but incredibly light-hearted and confident. The air of hope is hard to resist, which is why I’m incredibly hopeful to see how Mac will leave his mark on the hip hop world.

Do yourself a favor, download K.I.D.S at and expect even greater things in March when Mac releases his next mixtape, Best Day Ever.