Tag: rap

Michael Gonzales is one of hip-hop’s most influential and important journalists. With his work appearing everywhere from Vibe to ego trip and Wax Poetics, as well as authoring 1992’s essential hip-hop primer Bring the Noise, his voice is one of the most knowledgable and engaging to ever cover the culture. With his new essay ‘Memories of Crack City’ appearing in the latest issue of One More Robot magazine, we bring you this excerpt from his ‘Living in Crack City’ article as well as include his Top Five picks for the Greatest Crack Songs of All Time.

As a native New Yorker born and raised on the uptown streets of Harlem, my personal version of ‘Living for the City’ went from stickball games in the street to dodging bullets in the day as crack vials shattered beneath my sneakered feet. Yet, while smoking crack rocks began its raging rein of terror in 1984, the same communities were also contributing culturally with the rise of rap music.

With rappers becoming the aural equivalent of Italian neo-realists directors, my favorite being Vittorion De Sica, these young poets were unafraid of showing ‘the real’ in their material. It was only a matter of time before crack culture (selling, buying, dying) and rap music began to overlap. Twenty-eight years after I first heard a cocaine corner boy on a 145th Street muttering, “Crack, crack, crack,” there has been thousands of rock related songs released.

When I began working on my latest drug-related essay ‘Memories of Crack City’ for the forthcoming One More Robot Summer Issue, I spent a lot of time on YouTube getting lifted and inspired by crack songs created by everyone from Schoolly D to Lil Wayne to Rick Ross. However, since this is issue #10, I decided to pick my personal top-ten crack classics based discs to serve as the soundtrack. In addition, since the piece is about New York, all the songs selected are East Coast based. As one crack head screamed to the other, “Rock on!”

5) Fat Joe – “Crack Attack” 1998

4) Grandmaster Melle Mel – “White Lines” 1983

3) Jay-Z – “Rap Game/Crack Game” 1997

2) The Notorious B.I.G. – “Ten Crack Commandments” 1997

1) Masters of Ceremony – “Cracked Out” 1988

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The Young and The Hip-Hop on: Fashion

With hip-hop being a youth-based culture at its core, we at the Hip-Hop Culture Center feel it’s important to give the youth a platform to express their feelings on what interests them about hip-hop’s current climate, as well as where they think it’s going. Today, our youth reporter Damar M. Grace takes a look at hip-hop fashion!

    Hip-Hop’s Impact on Fashion

Hip-hop is a form of musical expression and an artistic subculture that originated in African-American and Hispanic-American communities during the 1970s in New York City. As hip-hop started to become popular, it created a strong influence in societies’ fashion. For years, many adolescences mimicked the styles of their favorite celebrities to follow what society deemed as “cool” during that era. From the 1980s tracksuits, sheepskins, and leather bomber jackets, to the 1990s over-sized pants and big flannel shirts, and lastly the 2000s style which has and still is changing constantly from baggy pants and XL t-shirt , to tight pants, snapbacks, and a polo shirt. However, popular name brands like Adidas, Jordan, Reebok, Converse, Ralph Lauren, and Tommy Hilfiger have flourished exponentially from the influence that popular celebrities have spread unto society throughout the years. Celebrities themselves have noticed the impact he/she has had on society itself, even deciding to create brand names of their own like Wu-Tang Clan’s Wu-Wear, Russell Simmons’ Phat Farm, Diddy’s Sean John, Nelly’s Apple Bottom Jeans, 50 Cent’s G-Unit Clothing, Eminem’s Shady Limited, and Damon Dash and Jay-Z’s Rocawear. Each celebrity, with their millions of fans, influence them to buy and purchase their merchandise.

Hip-hop artists create fashion trends by stating a certain brand name during their song, as well as wear certain clothes and shoes during their videos, which a large amount of people follow. Many today are seen wearing the popularized brand name Ralph Lauren, which Kanye West states he takes credit for in Rhymefest’s song “Brand New.” By stating “Ralph Lauren was boring before I wore them,” Kanye shows he believes that he caused the rising boom of Lauren’s brand by wearing their clothes publicly, causing viewers to believe that since Kanye wore those clothes, the brand must be cool.

Today’s music has a strong impact on viewers, and has received criticism for its influence on their susceptible minds. One negative response to hip-hop fashion is the sagging of pants. Originating from the jail practice to give other inmates an invitation for sexual intimacy, musical artists have taken that fashion statement and created it into a way of expression; as a symbol of freedom and rejection of the values of mainstream society. However, this expression has been abhorred by certain people in society explicating the sagging of pants as disrespectful, and disgusting. Additionally, to show their deprecation toward the sagging of pants, laws and dress code regulations have been issued in certain locations to relegate this behavior.

Another negative impact of hip-hop is its commercialization. Music videos feature rappers in expensive cars and houses, wearing expensive merchandise, and boasting about their cash. This encourages people to live beyond their means in trying to keep up with this image by illegal means like robbery. It also influences young people to use violence to resolve conflicts instead of finding a peaceful solution.

With some bad also comes good and hip-hop has proved to be extremely profitable to those that achieved the ranks of stardom influencing young people to succeed in a hip-hop career. Hip-hop has also built an industry around its sense of fashion and music sales which creates jobs for creative minds. Regardless its
good and bad attributes, hip-hop is here to stay and, for many young people, it is a way of life. While it can be destructive to those who fall prey to its negative influences, it’s proven very effective in communicating positive messages.

Damar M. Grace is a 17-year-old honor student from Hackensack High School. He is a member of his school’s Young Men of Excellence, Hip-Hop Club, and Tri-M, a group of gifted students who excel in music. He’s a hip-hop fan who reads the lyrics along with the music to “really hear what the artist is saying” and considers Eminem, Lupe Fiasco and Kanye West among his favorite artists.

The Hip-Hop Culture Center and Freestyle Mondays present the RAP BATTLE OF THE WEEK!

Once a week, the Hip-Hop Culture Center will be bringing you the best in freestyle rap competitions from Freestyle Mondays’ Off-The-Head Gameshow Battle at 116 Macdougal!

But this isn’t your average rap battle. With a spinning wheel AND a plinko (Plink, Yo!) board determining what the topic is, MCs will have to stay on-topic as they come of the top!

To start things off, we’re giving you a bonus TRIPLE SHOT of battles to set the tone for the type of off-the-top lyrical combat you can expect.

Be sure to let us know your favorite lines and who you thought won in the comments!


B-MORE vs. B.S.


Stay tuned to H2C2 for more battles and be sure to check out the Freestyle Mondays Off-the-Head Gameshow Battle the FIRST MONDAY of EVERY MONTH at 116 MacDougal in Manhattan!

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Eric B. & Rakim’s Paid in Full Turns 25!

Last week, Eric B. & Rakim’s groundbreaking album Paid in Full turned a full quarter-century old. Rakim’s smooth flow and staccato use of syllables layered over a soulful wrecking ball of samples made his storytelling and braggadocios boasting made for some of the most influential rap records ever committed to wax. Even the cover art set the tone for flashy empowerment in hip-hop imagery.

In the interest of hip-hop, we asked some of our favorite H2C2 MCs to drop some bars in celebration of this momentous occasion, and we encourage our readers to respond back with some rhymes of their own.

Check the rhymes HERE – http://h2c2harlem.com/news/

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As seen on NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” as well as in some of the best received rap battle on the planet, Jus Daze has been making waves throughout the rap game. We had the chance to sit down with Jus Daze and discuss his new mixtape, life as a battle MC, and much more!

Let’s start with the name ‘Jus Daze,’ what does it mean to you and how did you get it?

Daze is a play off my actual name, which I made for myself in the 3rd grade and it just carried through my entire life. The “Jus” part was added accidentally because of my screen name and email address at the time “JusDaze”. I couldn’t have “Daze” as my screen name and I didn’t want numbers at the end of my email address (I always hated that) so I wrote Jus, as in “just” Daze!

You were born in Brooklyn, but currently reside in Queens. Do you feel your music has more in common with Queens-born MCs?

To limit myself to one area musically OR demographically would be foolish. I think my style is born more from the sounds of music genres that have meshed with not only hip hop, but world sounds. I grew up with my mother playing a lot of soft-rock based artists like Rod Stewart, Phil Collins, some soul like Luther Vandross, The Isleys, and my aunt playing lots of Doo-wop, Sinatra, and oldies. To say whether or not I relate more to the sounds of a “Queens-born MC” is tough. Some might categorize my music as “lyrical” or “music with meaning”, which pinpoints a lot of “Queens-born” authentic MC styles, but I like to think of myself as artist who doesn’t necessarily fit the category of any particular TYPE of characteristic. I could kill an MC lyrically, make love to a woman, thank my mother for her blessings, and express inner emotions all through my music, so if that’s what being a “Queen-born MC” does, then sure, I’m a “Queens-born MC”, otherwise I’m whatever that category of rapper is!

What was your first exposure to hip-hop?

My first exposure to hip-hop was probably being born in New York! Whenever this question is asked I usually don’t know how to answer because I feel like I was born with hip-hop in my heart. I don’t know how I started, why I started, but I ALWAYS remember rapping. I guess I’d say my first exposure to Hip Hop was seeing so much of the lifestyle surrounding where I lived. I grew up in East New York near Highland Park where there were a lot of gang activities going on at the time, but also a lot of Boombox Boom Bap radio playing, live MC’ing at block parties, and of course “Video Music Box” on TV. The first performer to ever make me go WOW was Michael Jackson. His stage charisma was amazing. He sang and danced almost effortlessly, or at least made it seem like it was and that impressed me. I also seen LL Cool J’s “Momma Said Knock You Out” video and was very impressed as well. I guess being exposed to Hip Hop around my neighborhood, among my friends, at school, and through the media made me take my initial interest, which nowadays has become my lifestyle.

A good amount of your listeners likely discovered you through your rap battles. How did you first get involved with Grind Time and the NYC battle circuit?

I actually stumbled upon Grind Time battles at work (it’s ok I don’t work at that spot anymore!) I remember watching Smack DVDs from back in the day ,watching the classic Mook vs Serius Jones battles and others, plus over the years I partook in a lot of on-the-spot random freestyle battles myself. When I first saw Grind Time I thought wow these dudes are incredible (initially, I thought it was all freestyling). But as everything does with time, it was a written format which evolved from the on the spot random battles most New Yorkers/hip-hoppers are accustomed to. I watched, I saw an opportunity to get involved and seized it! I battled Upstate for my first Grindtime battle, the footage never saw the light of the day, but I won by a landslide and that resulted in me making the league that day. I battled two weeks afterwards against Paranormal, which was my first on-cam battle and since then, my resume speaks for itself. I’ve won EOW MC Challenges, Rhyme Calisthenics, Anthony Anderson’s Mixtape Comedy Freestyle battle, and other MC based challenges, most of which there is no prior preparation, but as an “MC” you should be able to Master any Ceremony you’re placed in. MC’s and rappers are two different things in my opinion, but that’s a whole other topic.

Last year you released your debut album Common Law. Did it present a challenge to get in the album-crafting mindset while you were still active on the battle circuit?

The album was being worked on before I started battling, which is why I really got into the whole battle circuit to begin with. Making music has always been the main focus for me, personally, but little did I know what challenges would face me trying to do both congruently. Did it present a challenge? Oh yeah, definitely. Working on music and battling (in the written format) are like speaking two different languages simultaneously in the same sentence at the same time! Battling helped the success of my album to receive the amount of downloads, media exposure, celebrity and worldwide recognition it’s gotten, but it was A LOT of hard work. Finding time to write, memorize, record, perform, & battle…ALL WHILE WORKING a regular 9 to 5 is no easy task. I’ve always said that when there’s a passion for something you love, you don’t find the time, you MAKE the time for it. This was no different in juggling what it takes to get an album recorded, mixed, mastered, distributed (which I myself did) and seen by the masses. But, as any challenge does once you overcome it, it makes you have an even stronger mindset and smarter outlook going into the next endeavor, if you choose to. Since then, major opportunities have come up and even bigger and better things have happened because I know how to move a little bit smarter and the “do and do not’s” of what it takes.

What made you decide on the album title Common Law?

My marriage to hip-hop. I’ve won numerous talent competitions, rap battles, gained and lost for the love this culture and music. No matter what, I’m unofficially married to it. My dedication and devotion goes into my work and from the responses I get, I think the fans see. I appreciate their comments and feedback more than I can even express!

You recently battled on NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” what was the experience making the leap into network TV like?

Crazy! The amount of exposure and recognition I got after winning the “Ready Set Flow” challenge was incredible. Network television is the market to go into if you’re trying to be seen and heard! Obviously it’s opened opportunities, it’s gotten me seen by people who regularly might have not seen me. It’s also had a nice amount of people who never payed any attention to you jump on the bandwagon, which is to be expected with any gaining of popularity or fame, but I’ll tell you this…the inner workings of what goes on behind a television show is not that much different than what goes into planning, hosting, and executing a major battle/hip hop event. I’ll leave it at that, but the underground and mainstream are not that far apart structurally.

Most recently, you put out the King of Queens mixtape, which includes a lot of your best freestyles from the past year. With all that you’ve done in the past 12 months, do you feel your approach to MCing in the booth or on-stage has changed much?

Hell yeah. I feel like I’m being more of myself now because the impression of “Who the hell is Daze?” doesn’t have to be met. People now know my personality, my thoughts, my life and who I am a little bit better so it allows me to be more comfortable and express more of what I want to in the booth. Like I said before, I’m blessed with the feedback and response I get from the fans. When fans come out to shows they show me nothing but love and support what it is I’m doing. If I keep moving the way I’m moving, I think I might be alright with this hip-hop stuff for a while!

If you had to pick a favorite battle that you were in, and a favorite battle you enjoyed as a fan, which would they be?

My favorite battle is probably me vs C4. The audio & visual are really good in it. Either that, or me vs D’Meitz. But the mainstream culture may not get what is and isn’t “battle etiquette”. I’d say to Google anything I’ve done. I’m pretty much satisfied with all my work. I wouldn’t put my efforts into anything if I wasn’t giving it my all or my best. As far as a battle I’ve enjoyed, one of my favorite battles of all time is Serius Jones vs Jin, it’s the true definition of what a “bodybag” (a term the battle community uses for a clear victory) is.

Check out more of Jus Daze’s music at http://www.jusdaze.com/ and be sure to follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jusdaze !

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In one of the more bizarre conflicts in recent hip-hop memory, legendary producer Pete Rock has taken offense to Chicago MC Lupe Fiasco’s new song “Around My Way” which has a beat almost identical to Pete’s hip-hop hallmark “T.R.O.Y.” Lupe claimed Pete gave his blessing, Pete says he was contacted but was never followed-up with, and even the supposed squashing of the beef following a phone call last week has only seen tension further escalate as both sides allege the other deviated from what was discussed.

In the interest of hip-hop, we asked some of our favorite H2C2 MCs to weigh in on this development, and we encourage our readers to respond back with some rhymes of their own.

Check the rhymes HERE – http://h2c2harlem.com/news/

The songs in question:

RIP Beastie Boy Adam “MCA” Yauch

We at the Hip-Hop Culture Center were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Beastie Boys member Adam “MCA” Yauch. From his influential work with the group through his charitable endeavors, he leaves behind an admirable legacy and will be missed.

We asked some of our favorite H2C2 MCs to share their thoughts on his passing, you can read their rhymes and leave a few of your own here – http://h2c2harlem.com/news/

Kiss It Goodbye: KISS FM and WBLS Announce Merger

Last week an unfortunate transmission was felt by the hip-hop community with the announcement of prominent New York station 98.7 Kiss FM’s merger with longtime rival WBLS.

We asked some of our favorite H2C2 MCs for their thoughts on the matter, and they were happy to respond in rhyme form!

Check out their bars and be sure to leave your own thoughts in rhyme form here – http://h2c2harlem.com/news/

Photographer Simone Green

One of hip-hop’s most respected photographers, Simone Green was right in the thick of things during Death Row’s 90s dominance. Along with being behind some of the most memorable images of that era, she’s recently released her book Time Served: My Days and Nights on Death Row Records available now at www.Deathrowtimeserved.com .

Tomorrow through July 29th, her work will be on exhibition at the Auburn Research Library, in Atlanta, Georgia. We had the chance to sit down with Simone and discuss her new book as well as what it was like being *the* Death Row photographer.

You’ve mentioned in the past that your photography became lucrative once you started shooting for Death Row. Prior to this, where were you shooting?
I worked at “Soul Train,” and I did some freelance work at the Jack the Rapper convention.

You’ve mentioned a level of bullying at Death Row. Had any of it ever stemmed from your photos?

(Laughs) No, they never had a problem with my work. Even now, with so much that went on and I had to get closure. I had a conversation with Suge and he straight-up apologized, but we didn’t have a problem when it came to my work.

The bullying was everybody there thought they might step out of line, and everyday something could happen. One day, it was me. But, in terms of my work, I had my first experience at Death Row on the “Doggy Dog World” video shoot. It was such an experience seeing that incredibly artistry on another level.

The image of Death Row, from the cover arts to the promotional images, conveyed a very specific style. When working, did Suge give you any specific instructions or boundaries?

No, not very outward or noticeable. One time I was late for a party Dre was having. He said I was too late to shoot what he wanted, so he sent me home. Otherwise, I had no other instructions. Suge wanted everything shot though, every time he was seen he wanted pictures taken.

One incredible thing about your work is that you own the rights to all your photos. Knowing Suge never got that in contract, were there ever any discussions regarding the rights?

No, never. Really, I don’t give that away and we would have had a problem. When I first took photos, I demanded respect. Knowing by-lines and rules, I had to get it and did it. I’ve learned if you don’t mention it, they don’t mention it. I had a cousin who was hard on me for getting photos. I couldn’t sing or dance, so I had to be the best at it.

After the book’s release, have you been in contact with anyone from Death Row?

Just Sam Sneed, nobody else.

What’s one photo from your time at Death Row that you consider the quintessential Simone Green at Death Row photo?

The one with Snoop where the shadow falls off him. Snoop’s easy to photograph. He slips into any mode for any kind of picture.

Out of your entire body of work, which photo are you most proud of?

There’s one of a Teena Maria live performance. I did her make-up and photographed her in Atlanta at one of the last shows she did before she died. There’s a real feel to the picture.

Why do you prefer shooting on film over digital?

With digital, you lose a slight bit of detail. You can see the softness better on film. Digital swings at you sharp and it can look overdone, whereas film tries to calm that down.
I also like the hands on feel of working with film. I like being in the dark room and watching the film develop. It really feels like mine.

Interview conducted by Chaz Kangas

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Brian McKnight’s Teaching WHAT?!

Brian McKnight

Earlier this week, shockwaves were felt through-out the music world when Brian McKnight revealed his surprisingly vulgar new song. We asked some of our favorite H2C2 MCs for their thoughts on McKnight’s new direction, and they responded in rhyme form!

Check out their bars and be sure to leave your own thoughts in rhyme form here – http://h2c2harlem.com/news/