Local Art

MELO-X KNOWS WHAT IT TAKES TO CATCH BEYONCE’S ATTENTION
October 7, 2016 12:58 pm

MeLo-X  is traveling at warp speed. Pedal to the metal. The Brooklyn-based multimedia artist has a boundless artistic vision that rejects the conventional division lines between sight and sound.

Although best known for his collaborations with Beyoncé—the free-spirited rapper and hip-hop producer has also directed and scored films, designed art installations that they have at the MoMA and Guggenheim, is a trending fashion tastemaker and an advocate for staying grounded and true to your roots.

It would be difficult to find an artist in Brooklyn with a more varied palette than MeLo-X, and that’s saying a lot.

Yoncé-X

The self-proclaimed Renaissance man—born Sean Rhoden—got his first big break in 2014 following the release of Beyoncé’s self-titled surprise album. MeLo-X released an unauthorized collection of remixes titled Yoncé-X EP  which when picked up speed and went viral, eventually catching the attention of Queen B herself.

And there’s no one more powerful, more influential in the music biz than Beyoncé.

Pop artists are often treated as gods living among mortals—transcending human existence and amassing devout worship. If ever there was a pop artist that fits—if not demands this treatment from her fans—it would be Beyoncé Knowles.

Lemonade

So when MeLo-X was asked to co-direct the accompanying film scores to Beyoncé and Jay Z’s On the Run Tour, he jumped at the opportunity and didn’t look back.

Soon he was flying out to LA to help Beyoncé co-write and co-produce tracks “Hold Up” and “Sorry” off her 2016 album Lemonade.

Keep in mind, producing a Beyoncé album isn’t a typical of the industry. Rather, to visualize the scale of such a project, it’s easier to liken the undertaking to that of a Hollywood blockbuster—dozens of writers and producers converge on each track to produce the most immaculate, pungent production possible. But that’s exactly where MeLo-X excels—collaboration.

His sparse productions, often centered around spaced-out percolating frequencies, give a dark, spatial depth to the music he touches—his voice is understated yet distinct at the same time.

Curate

Both his overall aesthetic as well as his affinity for collaboration are in full view on his 2015 solo CURATE EP which features music from buzzing hip-hop artists Little SimzKilo Kish, and Raury—he also released an interactive app to accompany the EP allowing fans to create their own remixes.

2016 has been nothing short of a whirlwind for MeLo-X. He hit the year off with another remix collection, titled Adele-X, centering yet again on the music of a pop music enigma as his subject.

MeLo-X  also recently released a track with glitch-centric electronic artist Machinedrum called “Angel Voice”—as well as helping produce track “Cleopatra” for up-and-comer Queens-via-Bengal hip-hop buzz magnet Anik Khan.  While it might be impossible to tell what MeLo-X will take on next, it’s certain he won’t be slowing down his pace anytime soon.

JULIEN BAKER TURNS PHILLY INTO THE QUIETEST CITY
September 21, 2016 11:09 am

It’s no secret that ATYPICAL SOUNDS loves Julien Baker. She was our November Artist of the Month last year, so when I found out she was playing at Underground Arts in Philly I knew I had to be there.

The two show line-up was Tennessee-based Baker and Philly’s Grayling. As much as I don’t want to admit it for the sake of losing “punk cred,” two show lineups are sick. You get to go see some bands, feel some feels and still not be too tired for the next morning (I was still late for class but that’s just because of who I am as a person).

Grayling came on around 8:30 and played about a 7 song set that shows me that this band is here to stay. They are pretty badass and if you haven’t checked them out you need to do so ASAP. They will make you feel badass too.

Julien Baker started playing around 9:30 and while her set was only about an hour, for that one hour the small venue on 1200 Callowhill, was the quietest place in all of the city. Baker played songs of her record Sprained Ankle, which is a powerful testament to love, heartbreak and realization. It was just Baker and her guitar on the stage with one spotlight that made the singer look like an angel. Just like on her record, her voice quieted down and then tore through the quiet, each time taking the crowd with it.

There was not a dry eye in Underground Arts, I can guarantee it.

BRIANA MARELA: SWEET ELECTRO LULLABIES
August 15, 2016 9:43 am

 

Briana Marela makes moody, ethereal music. Layered vocals pierce through rhythmic ambiance, washy and compressed, like an ice queen in a steel canyon. Marela self-released two albums before getting signed by Jagjaguwar records, who sent her to Reykjavik, Iceland to work with Sigur Rós producer Alex Somers. The result is All Around Us, a collection of emotionally charged, heavily processed, ambient electro-crooning that put me right to sleep upon my first listen.

And of course I mean that in the best possible way. I was quite content to doze off to her dulcet love songs, whisked away by the aforementioned ice queen to slumber in peace atop her steely canyon of sound. I picture myself melting in a vat of butter, only the butter is covered in ice crystals and I’m made entirely of liquid nitrogen, which is poisonous when consumed so don’t even think about it. Excellent music to nap to, or to study to or to do anything mindless that can be accompanied by ambient music. Not great for long car rides or roller coasters or to be playing from an ice cream truck. But hey, that’s just me.

Briana Marela continues to live in Seattle and perform throughout the Pacific Northwest.

A NIGHT OF CHOCOLATE AND CHEVAL
July 28, 2016 6:50 pm

When walking into any small time club, you can expect some loud popular music while waiting for a band to go up on stage to have fun and play some cool tunes. But last night at U Street Music Hall in Washington DC, a small club turned into a musical hot box.

20427_620380401430800_4122135562059143816_nStarting the night with some cool DJ work from local artist Dirty Chocolate, he pumped out some of his own music while playing club hits with elegantly twisted remixes. From metropolitan city Gaithersburg, Maryland, he taught himself how to make music while going deep into the internet. From humble beginnings (graduating the same high school that I did) to sick clubs, Emmanuel Osemene has a strong future ahead of him. I had a minute to chat with him about his experiences with music after the show:

I’ve always been a huge fan of music…I love discovering music and finding people who push boundaries. It’s cool to see talented people use their imagination to make music better. You wouldn’t hear it in my music but Pharrel, Timberland, Daft Punk, Juicy J, Kanye West, Justice, Radiohead, Pink Floyd, and Tame Impala have been some of my biggest influences.

After him, the crowd turned around to the main stage and there were so many switchboards and keyboards that I honestly had no idea what to expect. Then the band started to play and I was immediately blown away as the four of them played musical hacky sack, taking turns on solos and bits of the song while perfectly supporting each other.

Their name is Club Cheval, they live in Paris, France are in the states for a bit to tour. Theyed play song after song of fantastic electronic sound and mixing with a superb drummer in the back who ended the show with the gnarliest drum bit I had ever heard. I had a chance to talk to Panteros666 (the drummer) right after their set list.

Tell us about yourselves…

We live in Paris, but we we are from a little city called Lille…We have a lot of influences there from Britian and Belgium so we have that kind of culture where we just mix everything together.

Where do you get you unique sound from?

Literally everywhere. We don’t put any genres on any pedestal and have no hierarchy with our music. We listen to stuff like Hip-Hop, Balie Funk from Brazil, Slow Jam and experimental stuff. I’m into trance and lots of other stuff. Each one of us has our own certain sound and we like to mix it to create something different. It doesn’t really work well in France though, so that’s why we’re here, we can relate better with the people. Sometime we are just too powerful for them and that’s probably why we are bigger here.

How did you guys meet?

To cut a long story short, we were all doing our high level studies which actually including political sciences, sound engineering and other areas. But we got together in our small city and were really obsessed with making a new breed of electronic music. We did well in our little city and then moved to Paris and met a lot of people and now were here playing music.

It was amazing how humble and relaxed Dirty Chocolate and Club Cheval were. It was a fantastic show, great start and great end with happily ringing ears all the way home. Check out more Dirty Chocolate here and Club Cheval’s tour dates here and new album here.

FEED THE BEAT
12:15 pm

Going on tour is an integral part of being in a band. Traveling all day and playing music all night in different places all over is the dream. However being in a band is less glamorous as most people picture it and unfortunately not many bands make a lot of money from shows. Usually money made from shows goes to gas and eating, so most bands come home just breaking even.

Thankfully, the Taco Gods have you covered. Taco Bell, beloved by stoners and broke kids alike have a campaign called Feed The Beat, which offers touring bands free food (suddenly I wish my mom pushed guitar lessons on me instead of soccer).

According to their site:

Since 2006, Taco Bell and its Feed The Beat program has helped support more than 900 artists/bands. Along the way, we have helped fans discover new bands, and bands discover new fans. Feed the Beat support starts in the form of feeding touring musicians with $500 in Taco Bell gift cards – no strings attached.

Some artists that have been featured on the campaign include: Allison Weiss, Chris Farren, DREAMERS, Robert Delong, Superheaven, The So So Glos, The 1975, The Front Bottoms, Best Coast, Title Fight, Wavves and many more names.

The program is a great way to give back to people who give their all for their art. As someone who has toured with bands before, I’ve witnessed the hardships that bands can face while on the road.

Shout out to Taco Bell, your dedication to the arts doesn’t go unnoticed — I’ll forgive you for putting cheese on my bean burrito.

GET ME THE HELL OUT OF HERE: RAW FABRICS
July 22, 2016 9:46 am

Jack B. (Jack Bruno) has been through the ringer and then some.

Jump back 12 months and he’s on the brink of self-destruction. Okay, so you’re not the first chip off the block to embrace the rock and roll lifestyle only to find yourself completely in over your head. Rebel without a cause. His creative outlet, Raw Fabrics, abruptly goes up in smoke. His band mates leaving him in the dust. His girlfriend calls it quits. Bridges are burned, relationships tarnished. Jack B. checks himself into rehab.

But this isn’t just some sob piece. Put your tissue box down. It’s cliché, it’s trite, but it often holds true: sometimes you need to reach rock bottom before you can claw your way to a higher place. Raw Fabrics has done just that, albeit as a revitalized solo band, Jack B. hasn’t looked back.  In fact, he’s turned the page in dramatic fashion.

The LA native’s been on the road for the last 3 months straight, sucking in fresh summer air, playing shows, writing new songs, meeting new friends and finding himself.  Raw Fabrics was asked to open for She Wants Revenge, the mid-ought’s electro-punk band celebrating 10 years since the release of their eponymous self-titled debut. I got to catch their Philadelphia stop at the Theater of the Living Arts.

The two bands emerged from two very different eras of indie rock, but they have their comparisons. Both might loosely qualify as dance punk–Although Raw Fabrics blend is much more hook-centric, accessible pop sensibilities with an LA hipster cool edge.  Jack B. is full of energy and charisma on stage—he ended his set by jumping out into the audience smashing a floor tom before breaking into one last tune.

She Wants Revenge music hinges on grooves and gloomy minimalists.  Their closest contemporaries were The Faint or The Kills—they’ve stated their admiration for early goth bands such as Bauhaus and The Cure.  As such, SWR music is likewise abound with horror tropes, such as their album cover depicting a scantly-clad girl clutching a kitchen knife. Fun for the whole family! It was great to see them back at it.

With this level of activity, it feels likely Raw Fabrics will have some new material on the way soon. In the meantime, he did manage to squeeze in time recently to film his last single “Get Me The Hell Out of Here”, check it out below.  He also recently teased a remix  by Lil Texas.

CLEVELAND: ROCK AND ROLL CITY AND ITS RUST BELT REVIVAL
July 7, 2016 7:34 pm

Henri K. Rapp, Jeanette Sangston and Chayla Hope are constantly knee deep in the rock & roll scene of Cleveland, OH. I had the opportunity to talk to the artists about their relationship with this beautiful city and how its music scene has contributed to what they have now.

Who are you and what do you do?

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Henri K. Rapp – Photo by Evan Prunty

“I’m Henri K. W. Rapp, a Cleveland based Music Producer and Location Sound Mixer for TV/Film. I help run Bad Racket Recording Studio, where a lot of what I record is bands. We are fortunate enough to live in a city with some truly phenomenal artists, and I’m very glad to have had the opportunity to record some of them. At Bad Racket, we produce a music video series called ‘Live From Bad Racket.’ In the last year I have had the opportunity to work on a more diverse selection of projects than ever before; An 18-Piece orchestra in The Cleveland Art Museum, Strings for Cleveland Playhouse, Sound for TV Shows, as well as record with some great bands like Worship This!, Clementine, The Village Bicycle, Signals Midwest, and A Work Of Fiction.” -Henri K. Rapp

“My name is Jeanette Sangston. I am the Director of Sofar Sounds Cleveland. We curate secret, intimate shows once a month in unique spaces around the city, highlighting emerging talent.” -Jeanette Sangston

“I am a press operator at Gotta Groove Records and the lead singer of Seafair and Glitter Biscuit” -Chayla Hope

For the past 8 years that I’ve lived in Cleveland, Ohio, I have gone through a roller coaster of emotions. First off, I came from Anchorage Alaska, which made me a snobby brat. I held my head high thinking nothing could top the plethora of fresh fish, tourist attractions and the small, hometown feel that the tiny city offered. I was vastly wrong. This city has grown on me like ivy on an antique brick house, pulling relentlessly at my heartstrings.

For those who’ve never been here, you probably know it from the vast majority of terrible jokes against it like ‘Mistake on the Lake,’ ‘Cuyahoga River catching on fire’ and the “At Least We’re Not Detroit” fad to name a few. Cleveland is a small city, vibrant within the community with an ever blossoming and thriving music, food, and start up scene.

Cleveland is about to host the Republican National Convention. I’m a little worried as I work downtown as most friends and family do. That being said, I do know that we had 1.3 million people crowding the downtown area at the Cleveland Cavaliers championship parade, it being the biggest championship celebration in NBA history with little to no damage to the city. Are you listening, America?

What have you noticed lately in the music scene?

“One thing that’s stood out to me in recent times is up and coming labels from Cleveland, like Quality Time Records, Jurassic Pop Records, and Escapist Records who’ve been putting out some truly killer records. A lot of these releases have been cut to cassette tapes, or pressed to vinyl at Gotta Groove Records. They are a Cleveland based record plant that is one of the biggest in the country. We have a lot of friends who work over there. It’s also awesome to see cassette tapes make such a remarkable comeback as well.” -Rapp

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Chayla Hope at Jeanette Sangston’s Sofar Sounds – Photo By Ernie Joy

“Cleveland has always had a strong music scene, but it seems like there is definitely a new vibrancy. An injection of new energy. There seems to be a desire to shine the spotlight on our talent so that we can launch our artists to that next level…perhaps a national level. The realization that success for anyone in Cleveland means success for everyone; that the stronger our scene is, the stronger that spotlight is. There are so many people in Cleveland that value music…on every level…and work EXTREMELY hard to promote that value throughout the city. It’s really an awesome time to be involved in the Cleveland music scene. We have amazing talent and passion here.” -Sangston

“Its becoming more of a community. More people are supporting each other and collaborating. It’s a wonderful thing.” -Hope

On the west side, you can find a bustling downtown, the original Melt Bar and Grilled and Tremont, where you can dine at Michael Symons Lolita among other home grown eateries. Don’t worry, Trump likely won’t enter Symon’s, so if you’re looking for a safe haven during the convention you have Lola, Lolita and any of the B spot locations. But on the sprawling streets of the East Side harbor has Little Italy, a handful of art museums, University Circle at Case Western as well as some of the best hospitals (hopefully you won’t need those).

The historic Euclid Tavern is an old music venue, now home to the Happy Dog, where you can get Fruit Loops or almost any other unique topping for your hotdogs. Also if you’re looking to see national or even local acts in a small intimate atmosphere, you can hit up the Grog Shop where I’ve personally seen the likes of Saintseneca, Lucero and Nick 13. Further north in Collinwood you have the Beachland Ballroom/tavern. I recently saw Brian Fallon there and The Ohsees. The Beachland also has killer food. No kidding, you’ll cry while eating it.

How has the music scene changes effected your business and projects?

“This time of year is not only the busy season, but with an active music scene, all the film production and the RNC coming to town, I stay quite booked up at Bad Racket, doing location sound for TV shows, and mixing concerts at Mahall’s. We also have been shooting new ‘Live From Bad Racket’ videos faster then we can do the post production, so we are starting to have a nice cache of videos that we will be premiering soon.” -Rapp

“Well, there certainly seems to be no limit to the pool of talented emerging artists in Cleveland. Equally, there seems to be no limit to the amount of people willing to support and help out Sofar Sounds as well. I’m truly amazed at how generous people are when they are passionate about something. The music community is like no other. It binds strangers into family. As we grow our support, we’re able to amplify our voice throughout Cleveland and beyond.” -Sangston

What does Cleveland mean to you?

“Cleveland is a city of opportunity for people interested in creating something awesome. It’s a place where the cost of living is low, while still big enough of a city to be a cultural hub. This kind of environment is the perfect incubator for artists, musicians, writers, actors, or anyone who wants to pursue a creative career path. With more films and TV being shot here, and a surplus of great bands, it’s a great city to work in doing audio.” -Rapp

“Cleveland is home. I’ve lived here my entire life. It is the confluence of grit and culture; it is steeped in the past yet has the palpable energy of new growth. We can talk all day about all of the new construction, Public Square renovation, the revival of the Flats; but ultimately, the heartbeat of Cleveland is the people. And the energy, pride, and camaraderie was never more apparent than at the Cavs parade. THAT is Cleveland.’ -Sangston

“It’s home. Cleveland is growing exponentially. I’ve always found beauty in it, but now so many people are flocking here due to the Cavs, the food, the sights, and the booze (chuckles). Public square is helping immensely as well!” -Hope

Cleveland is a major believer in bringing new to live alongside the old, a lot of our old buildings are intact and are being reused by new up-and-coming businesses. As a transplant, coming from a relatively new state, I never had the luxury to witness much history, but it’s a wild dream imagining all those who have stepped through the same streets I currently walk through.

I work in downtown Cleveland at a market, but this place previously was a hardware store. With majestic lofts above the store, exposed ceilings and sprawling wood work, it’s a wonder this wasn’t built to be exactly what it is now: a trendy downtown market and grocery store.

What are some important aspects you think all outsiders should know before stepping into our world?

“I think people are surprised at generally how nice Clevelanders are. There may be some pre-conceived notions about us, but Cleveland is world class in every way. Food, sport, art, and music…we are the epitome of Rust Belt Revival. I would encourage any outsider to really dig in and sample the best the city has to offer. They surely won’t leave disappointed.” -Sangston

I believe Jeannette said it best. Cleveland has finished its rehab and it is completely clean now, including the brand new square which had its grand opening only about a week ago. We are a proud city, reeking of admiration for the skyline we see every time we drive up the Shoreway or fight our way through east side traffic to see the Key Tower, Terminal Tower, Justice center or the Guardians of Transportation and we know we are home.

RADIOHEAD HOSTING RECORD STORE PARTIES AROUND THE WORLD
June 16, 2016 4:33 pm

Radiohead put out a new album last month (fucking finally) and it is an album that is heartbreaking and emotionally packed. Before the album release and their ticket dates were known, their internet presence was almost altogether gone. Then out of nowhere “Burn the Witch was released.

It was a nice little tease of the album that reflects a feeling of melancholy and emotions that might not be as on the surface as you would get from another artist, as Radiohead does. To be perfectly honest with you dear reader, I am a giant Radiohead fan. When I couldn’t get regular priced tickets after they sold out within the hour because Ticketmaster was on the fritz (fuck you, Ticketmaster) I bought $300+ tickets on Stubhub. That being said, I am a bit biased when it comes to Radiohead.

Now for those of you guys that can’t afford the 300, shit I can barely afford that, on Friday Thom Yorke and crew will open doors into different parts of the world. A few days ago, an announcement about the band’s Live from a Moon Shaped Pool event went up. It is an event that will take place tomorrow in select record stores. The event is done to celebrate the CD and Vinyl release of A Moon Shaped Pool.

The event will include a day long stream from the band. As well as competitions and artworks as well as raffles. The raffle winners would win Claymation figures from the “Burn the Witch” video, second prize winners will receive A Moon Shaped Pool Artwork and third prize will take home a 35mm celluloid from the “Daydreaming music video. Even if you aren’t a Radiohead fan, this should catch your attention as “Daydreaming” was directed by amateur director Paul Thomas Anderson.

The event is global and you can find your own record store here. You better believe I’ll be at HiFi Records in Astoria on Friday as soon as I get out of work. Make sure to check out their new record when it hits Spotify on the 17th as well. There is a lot to celebrate this Friday.

 

MY PLEA FOR JAY-Z TO STAR IN THE NEXT GROWN UPS
June 9, 2016 2:30 pm

I’ve been using Tidal for a few months now. When I first joined, I thought that it’s horribleness was just a meme meant to make fun of Jay-Z and the product itself wouldn’t be so bad. As it turns out, all of the hype is to be believed. Tidal is horrible. I don’t even want to go into detail about it, please, just take my word for it. Do not use Tidal. Jay-Z, one of my all time favorite rappers, had lead me down a rotten path.

But because I’m lazy, and because I know he’s gonna get Kanye too keep Cruel Winter exclusive to Tidal for at least a month, I’m sticking with the misery like a 1950s marriage. Ever since I’ve drastically lowered my standards, it’s actually been pretty okay, kinda! So when the Brooklyn rapper’s streaming service kept sending me alerts last week, insisting that I listen to Pusha T’s new single “Drug Dealers Anonymous” featuring Jay-Z, I naturally obliged.

What followed that was a less than an ideal experience. Holding up his end of the Drug Dealer bargain, Pusha had his exemplary cocaine kingpin raps front and center as usual and I was grateful for every second of it. After Pusha came Jay-Z, which is when things got ugly.

Having already expressed some real hatred over hashtags and retweets on his last record, Jay is no stranger to showing flashes of his true corny middle aged dad self. However, that was three years ago, and all of his paternal cantankerousness was spread across Magna Carta Holy Grail well enough for it to be a non-issue. His Corny Dad levels have increased dramatically since then, though. He is now fully infected with Corniness.

The verse Jay had on “Drug Dealers Anonymous” was ripe with a myriad of ‘Back In My Days’ to choose from, as well as an attempt to reach out to us snake people™ by ending it with him saying “Damn, Daniel” in an all too sincere fashion. Yes, “Damn, Daniel.” The internet meme that has swept the nation. And to counterbalance that, he went into the Hip Slang time machine to retrieve ‘Bling Bling’ from 1999 a few lines prior. It was rough. And that’s without even even mentioning the ‘Google Me, Baby’ part.

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Seriously, it was rough.

To put it lightly, 2016 hasn’t been the best year for Jay. It’s bad enough that he’s lost his touch as a rapper and Tidal continues to get nothing but venom from the masses, but after Beyonce released Lemonade, her world-stopping, deeply personal memoir of an album about unfaithfulness, his image has taken quite a few blows. If we kept track of rapper approval ratings, his would be at Bush levels right about now.

What he needs is a shift in tone. It would tarnish his legacy if he tries to release another album, or if he continues jumping on these tracks, only to embarrass himself. His now rampant Corny Dad aesthetic does not mesh well in the world of Hip-Hop, but there are other outlets more accommodating to this behavior that needs to be embraced as a way to build up some much needed love.

It’s possible he can redeem himself by simply coming off as a relatable father who makes uncomfortable jokes and wears questionable clothing. None of this is a stretch for him. So what can he possibly do to help him be seen as this new persona to the public eye? Simple: star in the next Grown Ups film.

grown ups 2 poster 1For those who don’t know, Grown Ups a huge buddy comedy centered around Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, and David Spade. They all each have a wife, kids, or at least some type of adult responsibility, which is crazy because, like, they’re still basically kids themselves! And boy, oh boy, when they get together, it’s like they’re back in high school all over again. Whether it’s having fun  objectifying their friend’s daughter as a group activity, or public urination, these guys know how to let loose.

Also, if you’re into a little more ‘headier’ comedy, don’t worry, Sandman and Co. have just the thing for ya: Toe based puns! Seriously, nothing makes me smile more than seeing Chris Rock, one of the most thought provoking stand-up comedians of all time, call his mean step-mother ‘Toe-bocop.’ You know, like Robocop, the Peter Weller vehicle. I’ve seen each Grown Ups movie at least 10 times.

I honestly have no clue if they’re even planning on making a Grown Ups 3, this is is all speculation. But if they ever do decide to go for the trifecta, adding Jay-Z to the fold would give this franchise brand new legs. Just imagine all the stale ’99 Problems’ jokes they’d let fly without consequence, never leaving out his penchant for ‘Back In My Day’-ing. Would Jay be able to bring his buddy Memphis Bleek along for the ride? Grown Ups can be the one hit Bleek’s been missing his whole career.

And perhaps the most important benefit here is that it would be hard for the outside world to view Jay as a sexual entity after 90+ minutes of slapsticky pratfalls and inane fart jokes. From a multitude of personal experience, I know this to be true. Beyonce will never have to worry about another affair after Jay unwittingly eats a sandwich that David Spade sneakily put dog poop in after he pulled off a successful “made you look” as a distraction. This seems like a win-win.

By choosing to hone in on a softer, more affable side to his personality, Jay-Z would do wonders rebuilding his good name. Right now, he’s nothing more than a cheating entrepreneur who probably wears a fanny pack when he raps. All he has to do now is stop the rapping and embrace the fanny pack. Giving up being cool can be challenging for someone of Jay-Z’s stature. Thankfully, the entire cast of Grown Ups knows exactly what he’d be going through, as they’ve been through it themselves.

CELEBRATING LIL WAYNE’S DEDICATION 2 AND THE DEATH OF THE NEW YORK RAPPER BIAS
May 26, 2016 3:36 pm

No rapper has had to work as hard to prove his claim to the “Best Rapper Alive” title than Lil Wayne in 2006. Plenty still disagree with whether or not he ever was. His opposition has always been quite loud. For quite some time, he’s been a longstanding figure of derision for conservative leaning Facebook level memers.

Gauging his, or anyone’s, exact spot on the rap pecking order is tedious. There’s no denying his prolific output, or the impact he had on changing outdated perceptions in the music world as a whole. At the very least, he needs credit for that. Also, who would ever want a title like “Best Rapper Alive?” It’s got such a glaring nostalgia/ghost bias stipulation in it. And considering how wide Hip-Hop has expanded in sound and style, this type of ranking feels a little antiquated at this point. None of what I just said matters. Fans will always be arguing about it and rappers will always be deeming themselves the rightful heir to this throne.

And 10 years ago, Lil Wayne confidently staked his claim to it on the paradigm shifting mixtape, Dedication 2. It was a bold claim at the time. That “Best Rapper Alive” sash was usually meant to be around the waist of a New York rapper. Sure, there’d always be a few west coast exceptions, but never a dirty South guy. Even though the South was way past the era of merely having something to say, they still weren’t being taken seriously as actual rappers, no matter how many albums they were selling. By 2006, it lead to some next-level bitterness from the old guard.

New York Rapper bias was strong in the press, too. Before every indie rock-rooted blog treading water for relevance hired 3 black writers to review all the rap content and nothing more, XXL and The Source were the top influencers in the genre. There’s a reason why Chris Rock was able to go into such detail about a watch Twista had on in one of The Source’s issues. Each issue meant something. And during the rise of Wayne’s dominance, what was XXL’s verdict on Southern rap, you ask? It sucked.

*Sidenote: it’s a damn shame both magazines have such a terrible online database for all their old articles.  I know they gave Wayne’s Tha Block Is Hot a Medium, then re-rated it an XL once he got good. There’s just no proof of it anywhere online. And for The Source, it’s kinda reckless for them not to have a better database from a journalistic integrity standpoint, considering their mudslinging past with rappers and how connection-based a lot of their reviews became. Nothing but a 404 page pops up when you try going to their 5/5 mic INSTANT CLASSIC review of Lil Kim’s “The Naked Truth.” Fun stuff, right?*

This is what was up against him and other up-and-coming Southern rappers at the time like Clipse, T.I. and Young Jeezy. To New York rap fiends, none of them were seen as lyrical threats able to compete against guys like Cam’Ron, Jadakiss, Lloyd Banks, Fabolous, or Joe Budden (he’s technically from New Jersey, but still). Each of them were on a different DJ’s mixtape every month rapping over someone else’s beat while trying to outshine the original, or releasing a diss track to keep to a C-level feud going (this one’s a twofer).

Each of the other Southern rappers adeptly infiltrated this world, but Wayne did it better. He was the best equipped to play this odd game of punchline one-upmanship, and was unafraid to go straight at a few of the major east coast figureheads. He obliterated Jay-Z’s “The Game Iz Mine (he’d do this again on Drought 3 with “Dough Is What I Got) and even gave some life to a Biggie sampling beat from that super exploitive Duets album. Then he wound up making a straight-up hit of his own with “Cannon.”

The cherry on top of the Dedication 2 sundae is how unnecessary all of it was for him. He had no other reason to start releasing classic mixtapes other than ego. 50 Cent needed 50 Cent Is The Future to get signed. Papoose would not have become the 1.5 Million Dollar Man without them. And even though they already had a deal, Clipse resorted to releasing We Got It 4 Cheap because the crackers weren’t playing fair (Jive). It was unprecedented for someone in Wayne’s position to suddenly jump into this scene. He already had two of his albums go platinum, and due to a myriad of departures from Cash Money Records, he was also his label’s number one guy. He just wanted to make a statement. It wound up changing the whole game.

Rappers were never supposed to make money from the actual mixtape, but after Dedication 2 actually cracked the Billboard charts, that’s when artists started to see the potential in mixtapes as a true commodity to their career. Without this mixtape, Chance The Rapper doesn’t get a major ad campaign from Apple for Coloring Book.

All of this makes Wayne’s climb to the top so compelling. He forced his way into a conversation that was never meant for him to get a word in, then changed it completely. By toeing the line between not settling for regional tokenism and remaining loyal to his roots, he accomplished what someone like T.I. came up short with.

While T.I. also released a classic of his own in 2006 with King, he kept that claim to royalty strictly within the confines of whatever people consider to be the South. Wayne, on the other hand, never said he was the king of the South. That crown never seemed to be of interest to him. When you’re the “Best Rapper Alive,” that’s all encompassing. Gerrymandering be damned. He still kept his hometown pride. I mean, the city New Orleans has to be mentioned at least 1,000 times throughout this Dedication 2. And the vitriol he felt towards President Bush’s shit job of handling Hurricane Katrina lead to one of his greatest songs ever.

Wayne’s nationalism never wavered while assimilating to, then subsequently taking over the landscape of rap. And that’s crucial, because having a strong tie to one’s hometown has, and always will be, insanely important in rap. Except if you’re from New York. Nobody gives a shit if you’re from New York anymore.

Of the three most relevant rappers out right now, Kendrick and Drake owe a great deal of their identity to their hometown. Drake has basically turned into Toronto’s tour guide as well as the unofficial mascot for each sports team. Nicki Minaj, however, is a Queens native and that’s maybe the 95th thing people think of when discussing her.

As long as there is music to have an opinion on, people will argue about who the “Best Rapper Alive” is. Whether you say Wayne was or was not at some point is something I’ll literally never care about. His impact has already been made whether you like it or not.

Because when you do eventually have the “Best Rapper Alive” argument, there’s no shot that a New York rapper’s gonna be mentioned. That may seem inconsequential after years of this being the case, but when considering how highly perpetuated the allure of a New York rapper was just 10 years ago, it’s truly amazing to see how the mighty have fallen. Lil Wayne played the most crucial role in this dismantling by taking a New York rap staple, the mixtape, and blowing it up.