10 things every rapper should do before they start rapping

I did like three of these things.

When it comes to rap music, abysmal record sales often start with abysmal records. Though a few bright spots do exist (Kanye, we see you), a barrage of bling-obsessed studio thugs has made the rap landscape look mighty bleak.

A return to the golden age may be a rap purist’s pipe dream, but the state of hip-hop affairs can certainly be improved.

With that in mind, we present The Top 10 Things Every Rapper Should Do Before They Start Rapping:

Ready when you are.

1. Read the dictionary. That doesn’t necessarily mean emulating Malcolm X and going cover-to-cover with it. Necessarily. But some time invested in expanding your vocabulary will be well-spent. This way you won’t end up rhyming “handle” with “weather” and “hood” with “hood,” or “new shit” with “new shit” and “sun” with “hundred.” At the very least, consider setting up a word of the day alert at Dictionary.com. Read More

Stevie Wonder brings classic ‘songs’ to life at Boston show

stevieGrown men shouted “I love you, Stevie!” Sixty-year-olds pumped their fists, twirled and took selfies. Ushers danced in the aisles. And for a couple of hours, all was right with the world again.

Stevie Wonder performed his seminal 1976 album “Songs in the Key of Life” at the sold-out TD Garden Tuesday night, and in the process delivered a music clinic, art therapy session and dance party rolled into one.

The 64-year-old music legend multitasked with the energy of someone half his age – he sang, riffed with his backup singers, played keyboard, piano and harmonica and sermonized about topics ranging from love to racism to magic. When his instrumental work drew a standing ovation, he joked, “You guys only stood up ‘cause you know I can see you more clearly.”…continue reading at The Sun Chronicle.

Is Raven-Symone delusional about race, or are we?

raven-symone1Raven-Symone has rattled the Twitterverse by telling Oprah she doesn’t want to be labeled as gay or African-American.

In an interview for OWN’s “Where Are They Now,” the former star of “The Cosby Show” and “That’s So Raven” said she’s proud to be who she is and what she is but doesn’t need language or a “categorizing statement” to express it. “I don’t want to be labeled gay,” she said. “I want to be labeled a human who loves humans. I’m tired of being labeled. I’m an American. I’m not an African-American, I’m an American.”

The backlash has been fast and furious, with social media posts and think pieces declaring that Raven-Symone is confused, lost, delusional, wrong, ignorant, stupid and self-hating. Some have said her views are evidence of living in a celebrity bubble or being a member of the New Black brigade, just another Black star doing whatever they can to distance themselves from blacknesscontinue reading at Rap Rehab

Who benefits from rap stereotypes?

blackfaceMost hip hop heads would agree that rap music in its heyday was an incredibly diverse genre that had room for hippies, hustlers, militants, gangsters, teachers, romantics, intellectuals, party animals, poets and more.

From the ‘80s to the mid-’90s in particular, rap boasted a wide range of styles, images, messages and sounds. Think about some of the most influential acts pre-2000 and how different from one another they all were — from emcees like Big Daddy Kane, LL Cool J, Rakim, KRS-One, Jay Z and Nas to groups like Public Enemy, N.W.A, De La Soul, Wu-Tang Clan, A Tribe Called Quest, Gang Starr, Outkast and Mobb Deep to female standouts like MC Lyte, Salt-N-Pepa, Queen Latifah, Monie Love, Lauryn Hill, Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, Missy Elliott and too many more to name. Artists and groups had unique, well-defined brands that made them instantly recognizable and impossible to imitate.

But once corporations realized that rap was not a passing fad but a growing phenomenon they could milk for profit, control of the content shifted from black artists who expressed themselves as they saw fit to white executives who paid black artists to express whatever benefited white executives…continue reading at Rap Rehab.

On the Boston skyline, memories of my father and magic

boston skyline 5I associate the Boston skyline with my father, who would take me into the city every so often during my childhood. This was our time together. We’d cruise down Route 93 in his gigantic red Oldsmobile that always felt like it was floating, leaving the familiar, mundane streets of Wilmington behind as we headed for a place I hardly knew.

I don’t really remember where we went on these trips, which almost always took place at night. I think we ran errands or visited people, though what I remember now is not the errands we ran or the people we visited but the sight of the skyline as we approached the city.  Read More

I’m just now realizing how brilliant Amy Winehouse was and it’s killing me

amy-winehouseI’ve been listening to a lot of Amy Winehouse lately. It’s pretty much all I’ve been doing. That and watching her videos, interviews and documentaries. I should have realized how brilliant she was a long time ago, but I didn’t. And now that I have, it’s like I’ve become obsessed.

A guy I briefly dated in 2007 burned me a copy of “Back to Black” and told me I should check it out. He said something about it being “different” or “retro.” But because he was kind of lame, and because people would regularly send me terrible music they claimed was incredible, I was skeptical. I dismissed his words, ignored the Amy Winehouse buzz and didn’t bother to play her album a single time. I mostly knew her as the girl who sang that kind of cool song “Rehab,” the one with the beehive who looked increasingly emaciated and troubled. I glanced at her from a distance but never really looked.  Read More

After a fight with a boyfriend, I picture soccer fields

soccerIt’s after midnight and my boyfriend and I are having a fight, and it reminds me of a fight I had with an ex-boyfriend. It’s a fight that makes me feel bad about myself, and for some reason I picture the soccer fields in Wilmington, my hometown. This is where I spent my afternoons and weekends during much of my childhood.

The memories are hazy and disjointed. I think about stamina, and how much I had back then, how I could run up and down the field for the entire game and never get tired. And then my body changed, everything changed really, and suddenly I couldn’t catch my breath.  Read More

4 things I noticed at the Drake vs. Lil Wayne concert

drakevslilwayneI already wrote a review of the Drake vs. Lil Wayne tour, which stopped at the Xfinity Center in Mansfield Monday night, but here are a few thoughts and observations from the concert that didn’t make that review:

Best concert ever? When I searched the #DrakevsLilWayne hashtag on Twitter I saw an alarming number of people say this was the best concert they had ever been to. And my response to those people is: You need to attend more concerts. Yes, this was a good show, and Lil Wayne in particular brought his A-game. But the best concert ever? Please. Both artists have staged better concerts individually. Drake’s Club Paradise tour in 2012, for example, far outdid anything he offered up on Monday night. And I understand that the two rappers together pack an extra punch and fans were excited to witness the dynamic duo in action, but with cheesy video game graphics, a show full of stops and starts and Drake’s drowsy new material, this was far from the Kanye West pinnacle of live performance….continue reading at Rap Rehab.

Review: Young Money label the winner in Drake vs. Lil Wayne tour


drake-wayneMANSFIELD – Rap stars Drake and Lil Wayne played adversaries at the Xfinity Center Monday night, rattling off hits and trading comedic put-downs in a battle for “immortality” and the title of “greatest rapper in the world.” The Drake vs. Lil Wayne tour featured multiple rounds of competition, a smartphone app for fans to download and cheesy graphics that turned the two megastars into video game characters.

For just over two hours, the hitmakers alternated 15-minute sets, shared the stage for a song-for-song battle and unleashed their best material during a final round before they united for a series of joint hits while fireworks and flames danced behind them. Then Lil Wayne was declared “the winner” (rightfully so), Drake sang Lil Wayne’s praises as the “greatest rapper to ever do this” and the charade was over.

Yes, the competition may have been a smart way to spin a co-headlining tour and get a video game maker on board for a sponsorship. And it was fun to see Drake and Wayne as fake foes. But their matching Young Money chains said it all – Drake is the flagship star of Weezy’s Young Money Entertainment, and their allegiance is clearly to one another…continue reading at The Sun Chronicle.

Drake vs. Lil Wayne: Will competition bring out the best in rap’s dynamic duo?


drake-lil-wayneThe Drake vs. Lil Wayne tour is billed as a competition between the two rap superstars, complete with its own smartphone app for fans to download.

According to reviews of the tour – which stops at the Xfinity Center in Mansfield on Monday – the rappers alternate 15-minute sets on stage, dropping hits and trading jokes and jabs at each other. At the end of it all, fans vote for the “winner” via an app that features digitized likenesses of Drizzy and Weezy.

Sure, the competition is an interesting way to liven up a co-headlining tour and promote an app that will undoubtedly be used for some money-making purpose in the future. It turns Drake and Wayne into virtual superheroes, which probably isn’t that far from how fans see them anyway. It incorporates the concept of battling, something that has always been a key component of hip hop. And it’s tailor-made for our current era, when concertgoers are typically glued to their smartphones.

But let’s not kid ourselves – Drake and Wayne may be playing adversaries for the purpose of this tour, but in reality, they’re on the same team (literally, Cash Money Records) and function more like a dynamic duo…continue reading at The Sun Chronicle.


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