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When hip-hop fans all over the world become embroiled in discussion over what they believe to be the greatest rap record of all time, it’s never long before the conversation turns to Ready to Die and its creator Christopher Wallace, aka The Notorious BIG, who between 1993 and 1994 vividly laid onto wax the colourful but often violent Brooklyn streets that had been his home since birth.

Having entered the studio at just 21 years of age, the Brooklyn colossus united his huge natural talent as an MC with a hunger to present the plight of being born into one of the nation’s forgotten neighbourhoods. To facilitate that intent, Wallace created his Biggie Smalls alter ego, and began forming a narrative for the character that would mirror the classic rise and fall of a gangster. With a strong dramatic arc, ambitious scope, vibrant characters and rich dialogue, Ready to Die – which today celebrates the 20th anniversary of its release – is a gritty but stunning work of crime fiction.

Biggie Smalls was not Christopher Wallace, but a purposely constructed persona that took the real Wallace’s life as a small-time drug dealer and hustler as a starting point and added several components to dramatise Ready to Die in such a manner that, like some of the greatest works of crime literature, actually told a greater truth than a strict biographical piece in a manner that is absorbing, unflinching, though-provoking and, importantly, wholly entertaining.

Ready to Die is my favourite rap album of all time (maybe favourite album period), and to mark its birthday, Wax Poetics have published an essay I wrote on the album’s cinematic quality. It’s on the link.

http://www.waxpoetics.com/features/guest-blog/ready-die-20-christopher-wallace-created-hip-hops-definitive-crime-epic

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A mix of seventies pop and rock classics to cruise the cosmos to. Inspired by the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack of course. Running length nicely fits a classic C90.

Listen on Spotify: http://open.spotify.com/user/11125224269/playlist/08LQizQ6obNXMbIvkNBKGL

Side A

01. “I Saw The Light” by Todd Rundgren
02. “Nothing From Nothing” by Billy Preston
03. “The Right Thing To Do” by Carly Simon
04. “Why Can’t We Be Friends” by War
05. “Backstabbers” by The O’Jays
06. “I’ll Be Around” by The Spinners
07. “Satellite of Love” by Lou Reed
08. “The Street & Babe Shadow” by T-Rex
09. “Living Thing” by Electric Light Orchestra
10. “I’d Rather Be With You” by Bootsy Collins
11. “The Loner” by Neil Young
12. “Without You” by Harry Nilson
13. “The Second Time Around” by Shalamar

Side B

01. “Mary Jane” by Rick James
02. “Everytime He Comes Around” by Minnie Riperton
03. “It Ain’t Easy” by David Bowie
04. “Friction” by Television
05. “Don’t Worry ‘Bout A Thing” by Stevie Wonder
06. “Rhiannon” by Fleetwood Mac
07. “Thirteen” by Big Star
08. “Listen to What the Man Said” by Wings
09. “Clean Up Woman” by Betty Wright
10. “Unhooked Generation” by Freda Payne
11. “Oh Sweet Nothing” by Velvet Underground

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Speaking to New York hip-hop legend Pharoahe Monch was one of the most interesting interviews of my career. This piece originally appears in the latest issue of Ghettoblaster magazine.

One of the most highly-regarded MCs to ever pick up a mic, Pharoahe Monch has long cornered off his own unique place in hip-hop history. Having largely snubbed the genre’s zeitgeist sounds over his 25 year career, the one-time Organized Konfusion man nevertheless enjoys a kind of “your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper” status, commanding serious respect from his fellow MCs and rap aficionados who value his smart lyrics and intricate rhyming patterns.

Now in his forties, Monch is making some of the most profound music of his career. His fourth and latest solo album, P.T.S.D. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), goes places few rap records have gone before, giving serious consideration to the topic of mental illness. It’s something the Queens native feels equipped to cover, having sunk to a low point in his life when medication he was prescribed for an asthma condition caused him to suffer severe depression.

Despite the striking cover—which features a gun-toting figure wearing a gas mask—Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is less about those anguished by their experiences in military combat (something the condition is perhaps most associated with) and more about the difficult situations people across America find themselves fighting on a daily basis.

As well as personal psychological battles, Monch spends much of the record commenting on violence in the nation’s communities. The shooting of Trayvon Martin had a deep effect on his writing—particularly the song “Stand Your Ground,” which appears on the album’s digital version as a bonus track—and at a time when other rappers find themselves in hot water for what some consider objectionable uses of Trayvon’s name, Monch thoughtfully ponders what the incident and subsequent verdict means for America. Elsewhere, he completes his highly regarded “bullet trilogy” (a series of tracks delivered from the perspective of a bullet) with the song “Damaged,” a follow up to the Organized Konfusion classic “Stray Bullet” and “When the Gun Draws” from his second solo album, Desire.

In a candid interview, Monch discusses his recent dark experiences that shaped Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and why he’s more motivated than ever to continue his work into the future.

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Ghettoblaster: It’s been three years since your last album was released. How have you spent the time between, and how do you feel that influenced the sound of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Pharoahe Monch: Usually I just try to be organic with music and the sounds and what moves me. I’m really impulse-driven, and my process is to let it flow and open up, so I’m definitely not good with paying attention with what’s happening trend-wise. I’m more, “Let’s pay attention with what’s happening with myself,” especially with this record. So I decided first, before I even got into the musicality, to call the album Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, because I thought it would be appropriate following the W.A.R. album. I decided it needed to be solemn and gripping and honest and maybe a little slower tempo in the beginning of the album. Just trying to, I’d say, be beautiful yet arty. Just trying to paint that picture musically. I was looking for tracks like that just to set off the beginning tone of the record.

GB: You explained a little bit there about the title following the last album, but was there anything on the album lyrically that you were writing about that you likened to post-traumatic stress disorder?

PM: The whole album is that in its many different forms. From my own struggle with depression to struggling with anxiety to the industry stress and the obvious traumatic instances that happen in everyday life just growing up in impoverished situations for people as well as the soldiers. For example, people have been diagnosed for a while with P.T.S.D. for just having to go to school in the morning with heavy gang activity and police brutality, or being mistaken for a gang member as you walk to school with your group of friends. Being amongst that environment is difficult to evolve from and come out of that. It’s very impacting on people as well as domestic situations. So people getting diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2014 is not only about soldiers’ experience but even a more social experience and an everyday experience for people. I took it upon myself, to answer your question, to talk about how I battled with asthma. I’d had a severe asthma attack and was hospitalised. Some of the medications they were giving me intravenously really threw me for a loop. When I was released from the hospital they kept me on the medications as an outpatient at home. This steroid, it’s called Medrol, I believe, they give it to a lot of patients with inflammation issues. One of the side effects of the medication is severe depression. So I had an extreme battle the three weeks I was released from the hospital and just couldn’t function. Couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep. So a lot of the writing is about my thoughts during that time period—how severe they were, even suicidal, and not able to cope with normal issues that I was able to cope with. So this is not just a cool title or a cool album cover; it’s real.

GB: Is that something you found difficult to do? To funnel these experiences into music? Channelling these really dark days into a song?

PM: Yeah, it’s difficult when you try to immerse yourself in the moment and try to really pull from where you were when you’re not there. You actually have to try to experience it all over again to really try to pull those feelings out, find those tones in your vocal and try to have people experience what you experienced. So, again, this is painting the proper colors to let people envision what it would feel like to be depressed if they’ve never been there, and if they have, that’s exactly what it feels like. So yeah, you know, it’s difficult to immerse yourself back into that feeling. At the same time, it’s kind of therapeutic as well to write about it.

GB: Channelling mental and psychological battles into art is always tough. It sounds like that was the intent from the start when you set out to make this album.

PM: Exactly. I know it’s a difficult sell, because, in the midst of this incredible Pharrell record “Happy,” depression is probably a hard sell right now on a music level, but I felt you got to go there and you got to let people feel what it feels like. Of course there’s redemption and triumph and inspiration towards the end. I felt like I couldn’t make an album about post-traumatic stress disorder—or with a title Post Traumatic Stress Disorder—and use major chords and happy keys.

GB: Could this have been a difficult record to try and get made at different stages of your career, or was it a challenge working within the industry to even make a record like this?

PM: I think being independent allows me to explore this type of venture and this type of content, but also, years ago, I wasn’t ready and wasn’t fully in the experience, and I think that’s what’s beautiful about longevity. Your first album is about the things you want to rap about up until that point, which is why first albums are really, really usually good for people. I think this is the perfect example of the culmination of things I’ve been through, good and bad, but choosing to highlight some of the not so easy times. That alone in itself is really on a marketing level; since I’m co-owner of my label I know what I’m going against. But I think the songs are brilliant; I think they’re beautifully written, some of my best writing. The choruses are incredible. It’s difficult doing even interviews and painting the dark picture that is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and still getting people excited about listening to it, I think. That’s a difficult selling point. But everybody who has heard the album so far is really hyped on it. There’s a few strong songs in there that really I’m excited about, so we’ll see what happens.

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GB: The song “Damaged” is said to be the final entry of your “bullet trilogy.” Can you tell me specifically what influenced that track?

PM: I had been wanting to say that chorus for quite some time. The hook is a line from one of my favorite rappers [LL Cool J]. It just felt like so aggressive, let’s visit that content again—when you speak from the perspective of the bullet but even in a more maniacal, insane perspective. This time this bullet is a little crazier than the last bullet, especially in the second verse. We even recorded it on a different mic to make it sound like two different vibes. That’s how I’m on it in terms of my process; it’s out there in that sense. “Damaged,” I figure this will be the last time I speak from the perspective of a bullet, but this song had really got me hyped to do that again.

GB: Do you think your thoughts on guns or gun crime have changed at all since you put out “Stray Bullet,” or do you think even America’s attitude has changed since then?

PM: I think more of the violence is more prevalent now in the media. I think people, instead of becoming shocked, we’re more sensitive and sympathetic. I think we’re even getting desensitized, because there’s so much violence. I know that when I have the news on it’s like overwhelming to go through the rollercoaster of emotions of some of those sad stories of somebody going to the movie theatre with an automatic weapon, or Trayvon or in situations where it seems unnecessary to have a firearm that fires 50 rounds a second available to the public. I don’t see who would argue that point. It seems senseless.

GB: You mentioned Trayvon there, and you mentioned him a few times on the album—there are some references to the trial and case. Can you tell me how you felt during those initial reports and your reaction to the trial and how you channelled those feelings into the album?

PM: There was an array of emotions that deal with, “When are we going to evolve?” It just seems like as human beings the process of where I thought we would have evolved to in 2014, 25 years ago, is a slower process than I imagined. So I’m thinking, “This seems like it could have been avoided.”

GB: Speaking about that on a wider level as well, there have been some controversies around some lyrics that reference Trayvon. Do you feel like hip-hop has a responsibility to honor his legacy tastefully?

PM: I think artists have a right to voice their opinion the way they want to voice their opinion. Hip-hop should be mindful of the direction that it takes in that, overall. In the beginning it wasn’t even seen, and still probably isn’t seen, like an art form, and the lyricism and the technique and all the things that I see it as; it’s not seen like that on a widespread basis still. In terms of music in general, it’s ok to be the voice of the public and the voice of politics and the voice of taking the social stand or voicing an opinion; that was a huge part of hiphop. Hip-hop is party—have a good time. Hip-hop is also rebel music, and revolutionary music, and the voice of the street and the voice of the renegades. That’s as much KRS One, Public Enemy, X-clan, Talib Kweli, Black Star, Mos Def, Pharoahe Monch, Dead Prez as it is anything else. I want you to be honest in your feelings and in your art. If something tragic happens, and you don’t care, and you just want to make lots of money and buy jewelry, fuck women and drive fancy cars, then don’t make a song about it. Make a song about jewelry. But if that’s where your heart is, then I think you need to follow your heart, you know? And be passionate about it, because it can get phoney just like an artist making a song about driving fast cars and fucking women, and that’s not really what they’re about; they’re just doing it because it’s popular. That stuff gets corny too, and vice-versa.

GB: One of the collaborations I wanted to ask you about was your work with The Stepkids on this record. How did you hook up with those guys?

PM: Jeff the guitarist and one of the lead singers in the band actually played guitar for me in my band for a long time. For at least a year and a half we toured Australia, the UK, Rock the Bells, and I always felt he was an amazing artist. He was playing with Alicia Keys—he was in her band—and then he called my manager, Max. “I’m thinking about leaving doing these Alicia Keys and starting my own band.” He played us some music, and I was like, “Fuck, this shit is amazing.” He played what they’d been working on, and I was like, “Yo, I’m already a fan. This shit is what I like.”

GB: You turned 40 since the release of your last album. Do you find your motivations are different as you get older? You’ve been over 20 years now in the game. Do you see yourself doing it for another 20 years?

PM: At the moment there’s more passion behind it than there’s ever been. I mean, I just wrote this amazing song last week. I’ve never followed or read the guidelines of hip-hop careers. I’ve always been off the beaten path in terms of how I looked at music. I started a fan of people who were putting out music 10 or 15 years before I was listening to it and was always fascinated with why it was so, so good. Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Led Zeppelin—I was like, “Damn, this shit is still amazing.” Then when you start digging for records to sample, and you’re sampling James Brown from ’72 and you’re like, “This stuff is better than the shit that’s out right now.” It kinda inspired me to think about, “What is your stuff going to sound like 20 years from now? What are you going to be doing 20 years from now? What is this? Is this a thing you’re doing for the summer to buy sneakers, or is this a creative thing that’s inside of you?” So I don’t know when that creative thing that’s inside of you is supposed to stop being the creative thing that’s inside of you. I have no idea; couldn’t even answer that question. Right now, I came out with a rhyme, and I was like, “This is the best shit you’ve ever written.” I’m excited to let people hear it [laughs].

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My latest of Passion of the Weiss looks at Thirst 48, the first full-length mixtape from Long Beach rapper Boogie.
You’d be hard pressed to find a rapper with a less appropriate name than Boogie. In the realm of unsuitable guises, it’s along the lines of boxers Herol ‘Bomber’ Graham or Audley ‘A Force’ Harrison. Graham – a skilled southpaw – wasn’t exactly known for bombing out opponents, mustering just 28 knockouts in 54 fights, while Harrison proved anything but a force in the professional game. The Olympic gold medallist managed to land just one punch on target in his heavyweight championship loss to David Haye before succumbing to a third round knockout.
Full article here

My latest of Passion of the Weiss looks at Thirst 48, the first full-length mixtape from Long Beach rapper Boogie.

You’d be hard pressed to find a rapper with a less appropriate name than Boogie. In the realm of unsuitable guises, it’s along the lines of boxers Herol ‘Bomber’ Graham or Audley ‘A Force’ Harrison. Graham – a skilled southpaw – wasn’t exactly known for bombing out opponents, mustering just 28 knockouts in 54 fights, while Harrison proved anything but a force in the professional game. The Olympic gold medallist managed to land just one punch on target in his heavyweight championship loss to David Haye before succumbing to a third round knockout.

Full article here

1

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With the rapid rise of Netflix and TV on Demand services – as well as the migration of viewers from their time-honoured television sets to tablets, mobile phones and other devices – established institutes like RTÉ and TV3 are adjusting to a brave new world. Meanwhile, UTV’s entrance into the Republic looks set to alter the landscape further. Dean Van Nguyen looks at the changing face of Irish television as we know it.

Originally appears in InBusiness magazine

As the Northern Irish wing of ITV Media, UTV has long been a prominent brand in the Republic, with a generation of viewers from all over the island longfamiliar with the heavily accented stylings of Belfast native Julian Simmons and his trademark overtures that precede the latest instalment of Coronation Street. But the broadcast company – who first went on air back in 1959 – will soon be fully established in the south with plans to launch an all new UTV Ireland station currently in the pipeline. The announcement was made last November and came with a bold rallying cry that the network intends to fully take on our recognised broadcasters.

“In terms of where we see our sights, let me be absolutely clear – we are a mainstream public service broadcaster. We are aiming to go head-to-head with RTÉ and TV3,” said UTV Managing Director Michael Wilson upon the announcement, as reported by the Irish Independent. “It’s one of the most significant investments that UTV has ever made.”

UTV’s entry into the Republic will, of course, take a bite out of RTÉ and TV3’s viewing audience, but it will also have other knockon effects. UTV’s plans hinged on securing exclusive rights to broadcast ITV content in Ireland, meaning TV3 will lose some of their most popular shows like Coronation Street, Emmerdale and The Jeremy Kyle Show. Taking such a hit may appear to be a huge blow for TV3, but management are determined to fill gaps in the schedule with an aggressive new model. Rather than acquiring content from the UK and elsewhere, their focus will now turn to homemade original programming. For the first time in its history, TV3’s programming spend on originated content will exceed its spend on acquisitions.

“It is probably our most ambitious schedule ever,” says Jeff Ford, TV3’s Director of Content. “It’s really utilising all that money that was going to ITV for Coronation Street and Emmerdale, bringing it back here and actually making shows and employing people which is a big thing.”

Home Grown Programming

Focusing on Irish-produced content will certainly benefit the audiovisual industry. Ford estimates that one of TV3’s new flagship programmes – the upcoming twice weekly soap Red Rock – will employ between 100-120 people. Additionally, the company believes the new model will help ensure their financial security by taking the burden off advertising sales – which has been steadily falling worldwide – to generate revenue.
“Instead of being an importer of content you’re an exporter of it, and it also means you can put what you want in the programme. So if we wanted to put some product placement in the soap, for instance, then we can,” says Ford. “If you own the shows you can export them to other countries yourself instead of us buying from other people.”

This strategy has been deployed by RTÉ successfully in recent years. Crime dramas Love/Hate and Amber have been international hits for our state broadcaster. “Obviously advertising has taken a bit of a battering over the last five years so we’ve got to find new ways of sourcing funding,” says Glen Killane, Managing Director of RTÉ Television. “So one of those would be through content sales and intellectual property sales and we’ve led the way in Ireland in format development.”

Helping push RTÉ’s hunger to produce more Irish-made shows is Format Farm, an initiative that supports the production and broadcast of original Irish TV pilots in a variety of genres. Launched in 2012, the scheme calls for new ideas for pilot episodes, the best of which air on primetime RTÉ One and RTÉ Two with a view to developing ideas that can be marketed
internationally. “It was an innovative step by RTÉ. We were the first to
drive it as a collective,” says Killane. “It’s about RTÉ leading the way and encouraging the independent sector and independent producers to look at this as a way we can collaborate and punch through on the international stage.”

While UTV Ireland will compete with RTÉ for viewers, Killane has welcomed their entrance into the Republic, believing domestic competition will help create  stronger sector that will ultimately benefit all parties and help fight off a bigger threat – UK-based channels who sell advertising in Ireland. “There’s opportunities for the independent sector and for TV talent to have new outlets for their talents, so I see that as a good thing,” says Killane. “From my perspective, channels based in the UK just selling advertising and contributing nothing to the sector here is a far bigger challenge and far more damaging because they’re not really contributing anything to the Irish audiovisual sector and I think that’s a huge challenge.”

The Cutting Edge

The introduction of UTV to the Irish audiovisual market and the subsequent change in strategy from TV3 will cause a noticeable change for the average Irish TV viewer, but ultimately may be dwarfed in
the recent and rapid evolution of new technologies and changing
consumer habits. Traditional television now runs side-by-side with non-linear viewing systems. Services like the online streaming platform Netflix have grown rapidly while many stations now provide an On Demand service, allowing viewers to watch certain programmes at any time they wish. With technology developing so rapidly – and viewers’ habits following suit – it’s a real challenge for Irish TV stations to keep moving with the times.

“That’s my role, to try to make sure we’re not just following the pack but actually coming out ahead,” says Jill O’Brien, who as TV3’s Head of Digital is responsible for the company’s digital content strategy and has led the expansion of 3 Player – the company’s on-demand service – to a multitude of platforms including desktop, mobile and, more recently, Sky On-Demand, Samsung Smart TV’s and Xbox 360. “We have seen really strong growth. We only launched 3 Player in November 2011 and it’s just been growing since then. Last year there was 32 per cent growth across all of our on-demand platforms.”

In 2011 the California-based Netflix made the bold move of announcing they would be acquiring original content for their subscribers. Beginning last year with the critical and commercial smash hit House of Cards, Netflix have continued to deliver on highly successful shows like dramedy Orange Is the New Black, gangster series Lilyhammer and a fourth season of cult sitcom Arrested Development.

By acquiring exclusive rights to whole series, Netflix’s move was a change in the very fabric of how people watch their shows. Every episode of House of Cards was released at exactly the same time, meaning viewers could watch the 13 instalments at their own pace rather than tuning in at the same time each week. Some have argued that the advent of Netflix and On-Demand TV are killing off what has long been dubbed “Watercooler Television” – where shows are so popular they dominate office conversation the day after they’re aired. Others have praised the model as the future of TV. Speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, House of Cards star Kevin Spacey asserted that the success of the Netflix model proved that audiences wanted control. “They want freedom. If they want to binge then we should let them binge.”

Netflix has come a long way in a short space of time and their model has been noted by Irish broadcasters. For example, the first episode of the latest series of RTÉ’s sketch comedy show The Savage Eye premiered on RTÉ Player on Monday 28th April, a whole week before it aired on RTÉ Two. “I think it’s interesting,” says Múirne Laffan, Managing Director of RTÉ Digital who leads the company’s overall digital strategy. “We are really open to experimenting with all of this. Ultimately it’s about meeting audience needs. We’re a public service broadcaster and we have to meet those audience needs and do it in an economically responsible way.”

Laffan, however, doesn’t believe dropping marquee shows all at once is something we’ll see from RTÉ in the near future, asserting that the model isn’t something “economically that would work for us”.

Social Gatherings
A viewer trend that both RTÉ and TV3 are fully embracing, however, is the use of social media to encourage viewer interaction. Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter allow users to join in the online conversation in real time. Rather than waiting for that water cooler interaction with a work colleague the day after their favourite show airs, audiences now engage in nationwide discussions from their armchairs before the credits role.

“Integration with social media has been a key driver,” says Laffan. “It really has changed the relationship with audiences, it has changed how we interact with audiences and more or less how they interact with us.”

In encouraging the online conversation, much effort has been made by both networks to create additional online content that might drive a show’s success. TV3’s O’Brien points to The Great Irish Bake Off as an example of how integrating digital platforms into a show can help foster its growth. “This is why it’s so important to be producing our own shows as well, because there is so much more we can do around it in terms of expanding the editorial content. We film online exclusive interviews for our digital department. We house all the recipes there, we’ve a massive social media following that we’re driving through those sites as well. It’s been really beneficial not only in terms of our audience share [and] our international sales potential, but it will also impact our digital audience because we’re able to capitalise on those programmes in the digital sphere as well.”

Regulations
With so many developments in the way consumers are now accessing content, it raises challenges for those charged with regulation. The job
of policing what appears on our screens falls to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, an organisation formed in 2009 to replace the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) and the Broadcasting Complaints Commission (BCC). The BAI regulates content across all broadcasting platforms and their key text in terms of non-linear audiovisual media services is the On Demand Audiovisual Media Services Code. According to BAI Chief Executive Michael O’Keefe, the organisation is currently monitoring new developments relating to how television is consumed.

“From our perspective we’re the regulator of content,” says O’Keefe. “So on one level it’s important for us that we have an awareness of developments in the area [of changing viewer habits], but clearly what concerns us from a regulatory perspective is the regulation of the services. In a lot of cases, as you know, the new services are the same as provided on the linear, traditional broadcasting services. No particular issues arise there. Where it does become an issue is if there’s a service that is separate or distinct from the traditional services and how they are captured from a regulatory perspective.”

One of the challenges from a regulator’s point of view is the last major piece of regulation in this area was the Audiovisual Media Services Directive which was introduced by the European Commission in 2009. The BAI transposed all of the requirements from that directive to their On Demand Audiovisual Media Services Code in 2011 and that’s effectively the regulatory regime we currently have in Ireland.

"I suppose what’s happened is that in the last number of years things have moved on in certain areas but the regulation hasn’t tended to change,” says O’Keefe. “There has been discussion. We meet twice a year with a European regulatory group who meets with the European Commission. There has been some discussion about a revision of that directive. But the view at the moment has been to take things relatively steady because the industry is new and they’re reluctant to have too much regulatory intervention at this time. So there are discussions at a European level but there are no plans at this stage to revise the regulatory structure in place.”

Content Rules
UTV Ireland will begin broadcasting in the Republic of Ireland in January 2015, offering the Irish public an even wider choice of programming. With the rapid acceleration of technology tough to predict, new challenges will continue to arise for Ireland’s audiovisual sector, but there’s one thing everyone agrees on, it’s that content will always be king. And as long as that remains a central ethos, it’s the viewer who will benefit the most.

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A mix of my favourite tracks from the last six months divided into two digestable 80 minute sections - the currency I still like my playlists to come in.
Listen on Spotify: http://open.spotify.com/user/11125224269/playlist/65zOGyvjLvXFcMF3P09X2R
Part One01. “Seasons (Waiting On You)” by Future Islands02. “Down On My Luck” by Vic Mensa03. “R.I.P. Kevin Miller” by Isaiah Rashad04. “Believe Me” by Lil Wayne feat Drake05. “Empire” by Shakira06. “Let Me Down Gently” by La Roux07. “Sweet November” by SZA08. “Interference Fits” by Perfect Pussy09. “Break the Bank” by Schoolboy Q10. “Deeper” by Freddie Gibbs & Madlib11. “Sanctified” by Rick Ross feat Kanye West & Big Sean12. “Lyk U Used 2” by Moodymann13. “Johnny and Mary” by Todd Terje feat Bryan Ferry14. “Or Nah” by Ty Dolla $ign feat Wiz Khalifa & DJ Mustard15. “2 On” by Tinashe feat Schoolboy Q16. “Director” by The Antlers
Part Two01. “If You Could Read My Mind” by Neil Young02. “Dogs” by Sun Kil Moon03. “The Bend” by Real Estate04. “Lights Out” by Angel Olsen05. “Turn Away” by Beck06. “Rent I Pay” by Spoon07. “Moaning Lisa Smile” by Wolf Alice08. “Air Balloon” by Lily Allen09. “Problem” by Ariana Grande feat Iggy Azalea10. “Make It Look Good” by Mariah Carey11. “I Just Wanna Party” by YG feat Schoolboy Q & Jay Rock12. “Huey Newton” by St. Vincent13. “Sticky” by TEEN14. “Adderall” by The Coathangers15. “Symptomatic” by Skaters16. “Busy Earnin’” by Jungle17. “It Girl” by Pharrell Williams18. “Love Never Felt So Good” by Michael Jackson

A mix of my favourite tracks from the last six months divided into two digestable 80 minute sections - the currency I still like my playlists to come in.

Listen on Spotify: http://open.spotify.com/user/11125224269/playlist/65zOGyvjLvXFcMF3P09X2R

Part One
01. “Seasons (Waiting On You)” by Future Islands
02. “Down On My Luck” by Vic Mensa
03. “R.I.P. Kevin Miller” by Isaiah Rashad
04. “Believe Me” by Lil Wayne feat Drake
05. “Empire” by Shakira
06. “Let Me Down Gently” by La Roux
07. “Sweet November” by SZA
08. “Interference Fits” by Perfect Pussy
09. “Break the Bank” by Schoolboy Q
10. “Deeper” by Freddie Gibbs & Madlib
11. “Sanctified” by Rick Ross feat Kanye West & Big Sean
12. “Lyk U Used 2” by Moodymann
13. “Johnny and Mary” by Todd Terje feat Bryan Ferry
14. “Or Nah” by Ty Dolla $ign feat Wiz Khalifa & DJ Mustard
15. “2 On” by Tinashe feat Schoolboy Q
16. “Director” by The Antlers

Part Two
01. “If You Could Read My Mind” by Neil Young
02. “Dogs” by Sun Kil Moon
03. “The Bend” by Real Estate
04. “Lights Out” by Angel Olsen
05. “Turn Away” by Beck
06. “Rent I Pay” by Spoon
07. “Moaning Lisa Smile” by Wolf Alice
08. “Air Balloon” by Lily Allen
09. “Problem” by Ariana Grande feat Iggy Azalea
10. “Make It Look Good” by Mariah Carey
11. “I Just Wanna Party” by YG feat Schoolboy Q & Jay Rock
12. “Huey Newton” by St. Vincent
13. “Sticky” by TEEN
14. “Adderall” by The Coathangers
15. “Symptomatic” by Skaters
16. “Busy Earnin’” by Jungle
17. “It Girl” by Pharrell Williams
18. “Love Never Felt So Good” by Michael Jackson

5

My write-up on Brooklyn three piece Wet, who polled #3 in The Deli’s “Best NYC Emerging Artists 2014” issue.

For a band with just a handful of compositions to their name, Wet have very quickly untangled themselves from the myriad of NYC-based artists, standing alone as a true original in the eternally ample scene. Arriving with a fully-formed sound and with the backing of the always inventive Neon Gold label, the Brooklyn trio have already sectioned themselves off a sizeable following, charming the ear of listeners with their sparse, soulful and seductive sound.

Wet are Kelly Zutrau, Joe Valle, and Marty Sulkow – a trio of Massachusetts natives drawn together in New York through university and other musical projects. “We all met in college just through mutual friends,” Zutrau told Interview magazine. “Marty and Joe went to NYU, and I went to Cooper Union, and we all started playing music together in a different band, and we kind of kept that going.”

As well as lead singer, Zutrau writes the lyrics and melodies of each track, leaving the biggest imprint on the Wet sound. According to Billboard, her formative years were spent listening to nineties commercial chart R&B artists like TLC, Destiny’s Child, Usher and SWV, later turning her attention to indie folk acts Joanna Newsom and Cat Power. This musical education is apparent in the band’s work – a concoction of expressive R&B vocals and with a minimalist aesthetic that mirrors Cat Power’s 1998 classic Moon Pix most of all. Given this distinctive styling, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the band see little in the Brooklyn music scene right now that they feel binds them to it. “There are a million bands here, and everyone seems to be doing their own thing. I guess what I’m saying is that I feel our music has no affiliation with Brooklyn in any real way, we just happen to live here,” Zutrau asserted to Interview.

To my ear, the most apt comparisons are probably with London’s Jessie Ware and The XX. Like their work, Wet’s self-titled debut EP – released last October – is a fine example of no wasted motion. “Dreams”, for example, is built primarily on a skittish drum beat while carefully plucked guitar lines and synth stabs gracefully work their way in and out. Elsewhere, the pretty “Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl” and mournful, midnight blue ballad “No Lie” seemingly plays with even fewer elements, allowing Zutrau’s vocals to take front-and-centre.

4

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As Mad Men approaches the finishing line, I think I’ve come up with a way to wrap up the final 10 minutes of the final episode in a way that will satisfy its hardcore fan base and still prove as iconic as the last episode of The Sopranos, Seinfeld, The Office etc. Don’t worry, no spoilers here.

We open in the SC&P boardroom. All the partners are present, pitching to a potential new client like we’ve seen so many time before. Absent, however, is Don Draper. The prodigal son has not yet returned from him imposed exodus.

"Sorry, it’s just not financially feasible at this time," says the stubby executive, present out of little more than courtesy. The partners looks glum. They knew this was their last chance to secure a client. Now the firm will have to close.

Suddenly, Draper enters unannounced. Cutler looks baffled as an ice-cold Don introduces himself to the executives and proceeds to deliver the most tear-inducing, awe-inspiring pitch of the whole series, It’s a pitch that draws upon everything we’ve learned about Draper over the 7 seasons; his abusive father, prostitute stepmothers, Korean war stories, three wives and countless mistresses… He references it all.

"So tell me gentleman, will you take the jump with me?"

Cut to the executives being escorted out of the offices by Joan. They shake her hand with smiles as they exit. From the boardroom, Draper watches the clients to ensure they’ve left before attempting to go himself. But his path is blocked by a grinning Roger Sterling.

"Your old office is there whenever you’re ready…partner," giggles Sterling.

"I’ll be alright," replies Draper.

As he walks down the corridor to leave the entire cast are lined up against each wall. Peggy begins a slow clap, followed by Stan and then Ginsberg, until everyone joins in and the slow clap ascends into rapturous applause. Even Megan and Betty are present as he walks past. Lane Pryce is somehow there, applauding from beyond the crypt. Draper coolly walks away in slow motions towards a wall of light.

Cut to some 40 years later. Modern day New York. An elderly Don Draper awakens in his retirement home single bed. The camera pans to reveal Pete Campbell is his roommate. As Draper rises, Campbell murmurs an incoherent complaint about the standard of food.

Draper moves to an old desktop PC in the corner of the room. He logs onto the internet. The sight of a modern, click-through advert causes him to visibly scoff.

Cut to Draper on the streets of NYC, walking with a cane. We follow him as he completes various menial activities - buys a paper, goes for coffee - until he finally visits as graveyard. The camera focuses on Don’s stoic face before the revealing the grave of Sally Draper. It reads: “Here lies Sally Draper. Died a cocaine-induced death as a result of the late-seventies disco scene.”

On his way back to the retirement home Draper walks up Madison Avenue observing the young professionals as he ambles along. Suddenly, a barrage of police cars pull up and surround him. Men spring from each vehicle and point their guns. Out of one car descends a decrepit Duck Phillips and Tim “Kip Pardue” Jablonski, the Heinz executive from season six who is still youthful, for some reason. They’ve been undercover police this whole time!

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"We’ve got you…Dick Whitman," asserts Jablonski with a cackle. "We’ve been investigating you for 50 years you son of a bitch! What have you got to say for yourself?"

Don takes out a cigarette and lights it in his trademark way before pausing and delivering the iconic line the entire series will be remembered for.

“Does that make you…mad men?”.

Oh shit! Kip and Duck were the title characters all this time!!

Don flicks his cigarette and drops his cane. He starts sprinting furiously towards Duck and Jablonski. Somehow, this elderly man has amazing athleticism! His arms are outstretched and he’s screaming as he fullly sprints towards them. The camera cuts to black and we hear the ringing of gunshots. Roll credits. Cue: “Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool” by Editors.

3
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Wrote about underrated Bay Area rapper Young Lay for Passion of the Weiss.

The history of Bay Area hip-hop remains a catacomb that requires some amount of digging by genre historians to excavate the wealth of great music that has been cut in the region. Traditionally they make their own stars in the bay. Take away some notable exceptions – like the evergreen Too Short and E-40, and the adoption of New York-turned-Oakland resident Tupac Shakur – and by-and-large the local talent there goes unheralded outside of their own neighbourhoods in a way unlike any other major hip-hop hub.

Full article here…

2

Not quite all the best MTV Base songs just yet, but the first 100 to kick things off. Pretty pleased I’ve managed to keep it to one track per artist so far (excluding guest spots), but I will get ALL the best ones from 1997-2004 - basically a scrapbook of my MTV watching years.

(Source: Spotify)

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This article appears in the latest issue of One More Robot, which is available to buy online or Dubliners can snag their copy at All City (Crow Street, Temple Bar), The Record Art and Game Emporium (Fade Street), The Winding Stair Book Shop (Lower Ormond Quay) or White Lady Art Gallery, Wellington Quay.

Though his unauthorised MF DOOM collaboration has attracted him a whole new fanbase, rapper/producer Grip Grand has been a underground hip-hip hero for years.

Like his oft-referenced influencer Dr Doom, whose transformation from scientist Victor Von Doom was fully completed when he donned a metal mask, razor-voiced rapper MF DOOM is never seen without his own facial plate, which morphs the mild-mannered Daniel Dumille into a behemoth super villain. But, while DOOM may lean towards the darker side of the Marvel universe, San Francisco-based producer/rapper Grip Grand – who last year released an unauthorised DOOM collaboration under the name GG DOOM – sees himself more the heroic type. When asked which comic book superhero guise he feels most appropriate to him, he actually chooses one of Dr Doom’s most bitter adversaries: “Reed Richards,” asserts Grip, referencing the Fantastic Four’s stretchable leader. “Family man. Highly intelligent. Shapeshifter. Always in the lab.”

Jacking some of DOOM’s verses and placing them on top of his own beats, the seven-track collection GG DOOM? But How? was widely embraced by the former KMD rapper’s fan base, who straightaway identified the beats and overall presentation of the record as reminiscent of their hero’s best loved solo work. A sonic collage of soulful samples, intricately woven with cartoon dialogue and other assorted audio snatched from a hefty vinyl collection, the record was dubbed a “beautifully executed remix project” by Ego Trip, “so convincingly Doom-patible it’s kind of uncanny”.

However, Grip never attained permission to use the verses and he soon found himself in hot water when DOOM’s people moved in on the unlawful project. Without notice, the album was removed from the internet, where it had been available for the public to freely download.
“I got an email from Bandcamp, which is where I had the album up, saying that a copyright claim had been made by a representative of [DOOM’s label] Metal Face Records and that the GG DOOM album had already been removed,” explains Grip. “But, before it came down, it was the number two hip-hop album – the new Ghostface was number one. The response to the record was extremely positive.”

While some of DOOM’s people might have been unimpressed by the copyright infringement, the man himself seemed to give the project a ringing endorsement. After the record had been pulled, a copy of the original was posted on rappcats.com – a pretty official source for DOOM material – and the London born, New York bred rapper’s official Facebook page. “That was really gratifying, not to mention an honour,” beams Grip. “When I put it up originally, I truly thought only a handful of people would ever hear it.”

He’s being modest. In fact, Grip has long been a well-established rapper and beatmaker, with two full-length albums in Welcome to Broakland (2002) and Brokelore (2008) that enjoy a cult following, not to mention a collaboration list that boasts AG, Percee P and Phat Kat. Born in San Francisco and nurtured by music-loving parents, Grip wrote his first song aged 5, later absconding to hip-hop when he began penning rhymes. “I started writing before I was even a teenager. Just little kid rhymes about nothing,” he remembers. “But I think the first group I ever really tried to emulate, style-wise, was De La Soul. I don’t know how evident it is, but on my earliest songs I do hear that influence. And of course their production, especially in the Prince Paul era, was a touchstone, too.”

By age 7, Grip had developed a taste for performing, singing in choirs and acting in plays. His first attempts at rapping in public, however, he prefers not to remember: “I had to quit halfway through my first song due to insurmountable feedback. I blame technical difficulties and my own inexperience. The next time I performed was in Frisco for a Puma x Yo! MTV Raps launch party. I think it went over pretty well. Who knows? All the lights were on and we were standing in the middle of a shoe store. But people seemed happy and drunk. I think that’s good.”

As well as rapping, Grip took a keen interest in beatmaking and, having laid his hands on some lo-fi equipment, the now Oakland resident began recording self-produced songs in his living room. These tracks would later be collected and released as his debut album Welcome to Broakland. But the set was never projected by Grip to be a fully-functioning album. “I made the songs on Welcome to Broakland just for my own entertainment, never really intending to release them,” he says. “They sound hella homemade, and that has a certain charm.”

The album is indeed charming, a charismatic, kitschy effort that showcased a young Grip’s ear for a sample and the skill to channel it via a series of pleasurable donuts. For example, ‘B-Day Document ‘99’’ is a simple ode to Grip’s girlfriend on her birthday, while ‘MPE 2000 (Emotional Mix)’ is dedicated to a close friend. In fact, the first version of Welcome to Broakland was just a CD-R its author gave to friends, which compiled every rap song he’d ever recorded up to that point, padded with added skits and interludes. But such was the quality of the music that it impressed the heads of local label Bomb Hip-Hop Records after they received a copy in the post.

“I had transferred them all off the original four-track cassette tapes onto minidisc, then I used the minidisc to experiment with the track order and fade-outs until the sequence ebbed and flowed like a proper album,” says Grip. “And that’s the version I sent to Bomb Hip Hop Records before they signed me. Eventually they removed my two earliest recordings and some of the skits, kept the track order and everything else, and put it out. I know a few of my friends held on to that OG ‘friends and family’ edition of the album, though.”

The record instantly tied Grip to the Oakland hip-hop scene (“Broakland” is basically a portmanteau of “broke” – which he was at the time – and “Oakland”). However, growing up in the nineties, his family frequently moved to different cities and he spent a significant portion of his adolescences in Los Angeles, among other places. In an interview with fifthelementonline.com in 2010, he claimed not to truly feel like a member of the Bay Area hip-hop scene, but acknowledges its influence on his sound. “One of my friends was in a San Francisco group called 3 Shades of Rhythm, which later morphed into Bored Stiff,” he tells me. “Their early demos were really influential to me, and I always kept tabs on them and that type of underground, Bay Area hip-hop throughout the nineties. I liked albums like Fuck the Dumb by The Grouch. And I listened to all the Solesides artists, and to Hiero, and the Coup, and on and on.”

The years following the release of Welcome to Broakland were relatively sparse for Grip in terms of musical output. But having made the move from Bomb to Look Records, he levelled up the production values on his long-awaited second record Brokelore. Despite the more expensive toys, he claims little changed when it came to this fractured process of recording.

“Not as much as it probably should have,” says Grip when asked if the process of actually creating an album affected his approach. “I just kept making random, unrelated songs, and eventually I compiled the best of them into an album. Some of the tracks on Brokelore were recorded three years apart, so maybe it’s not as sonically cohesive as it could have been. But that’s just me being a perfectionist. I still think it’s a solid album. It paints the picture I intended it to.”

The experience, however, taught Grip a lot about working in a more fully-functioning studio, and he credits Executive Producer DJ Design as being a key mentor. “His music always has a cool sound, and one reason is that he has a lot of knowledge about the process, and he takes the time to apply it. I was so used to doing lo-fi home demos, I was rushing a lot of stuff. But he would say, ‘You know, that synth bassline would sound better if we ran it through this filter on the ASR-10’, or whatever. Taking time to get every detail of the track sounding right. Always trying harder to make the song better. It’s a lesson I’m still trying to learn.”

While the production values were boosted, so was Grip’s rapping. Gone were the attractive-but-dinky pocket verses of Welcome to Broakland, replaced with a more confident, forceful MC. While usually considered a producer first, rapper second, tracks like ‘Win the War’ and ‘96 Tears (Shalem’s Talk About It Mix)’ boast dynamite flows as Grip effortlessly moves from hard to soft with lyrics that pull from the wryly self-deprecating side of his sense of humour – “I guess Grip is platinum if less is more/‘Cuz I ain’t sold jack in the record store,” he spits on ‘96 Tears’

Grip remained active following the release of Brokelore, dropping a series of mixtapes and assorted tracks. But without a solid project to dedicate himself to, he decided to make some music purely for his own enjoyment, turning to one of his most significant influencers.

“DOOM has been one of my favourites since the pre-DOOM, KMD days, and I’ve been collecting his music since back then,” says Grip. “My MF DOOM vinyl selection alone is at least a foot wide, so I already had a lot of the acapellas to work with. It’s just something that I really feel an affinity for and definitely one of my major sonic influences.”

Unsurprisingly, considering his fandom, the old-school DOOM sound on GG DOOM? But How? was entirely deliberate. “I like all DOOM, but that classic sound is what really inspired me. I purposely chose to use acapellas from songs that he didn’t produce himself, songs that didn’t necessarily have that signature sound. And then, when I went to remix them, I just tried to imagine, ‘What would DOOM do?’ It ended up being a lot of stuff that I do in my own music, too, so it felt like a natural fit. Like I said in the press release, if it doesn’t sound exactly like DOOM’s own production – and it doesn’t – at the least it sounds like a Doombot did it. And if you don’t know what a Doombot is, minus five comic-nerd points for you.”

The fit was natural. As early as the track ‘Superrapper’ on Welcome to Broakland, Grip has been using superhero cartoon samples in his music, something that helps make DOOM’s output instantly recognisable. “I’m a lifelong comic fan, and I used to work at a comic shop, too. My comic book collection isn’t as big as my record collection, but it’s pretty solid. I love sampling comic book records, because it combines so many of my interests – comics, records, and rap music – and it reminds me of listening to those albums as a kid. I always buy them when I see them, plus I still have a few of my original ones from childhood, which I definitely used on GG DOOM.”

In addition to the skits and pop culture samples – which draw from everything from Fantasy Island to the oh-so-DOOM Fantastic Four cartoons – the record is another example of Grip’s ability to cut and chop a sample. He’s an out-and-out crate digger, constantly hunting for records in dollar bins for the next audio snippet he can lace. “I look for everything,” affirms Grip. “I still love loops, but I look for unique sounds and textures, too. I have certain years and labels I gravitate toward more, and I keep an eye out for specific producers and session musicians, but I buy a little of everything. A lot of it is just how the record looks…the art, the liner notes, what the band is wearing, whatever. You definitely develop a sixth sense for finding good records after a while.”

While hearing DOOM rap over a popcorn maker would still sound positively delicious, the presentation is key to the enjoyment of GG DOOM? But How?. The rapper remains a looming presence throughout, but his rhymes actually appear on surprisingly little of the sprightly 18-minute running time. Most of it is a series of audio collages, with a raw, grubby feel that sounds as though the whole thing had been assembled with scotch tape. The producer takes no shortcuts either. For example, on “Gonads” he takes DOOM’s verses from “Change the Beat” and mirrors the original song’s format, meaning three instrumental changes over the course of a single track.

With so much intercutting and audio play, the record is more a single unit than seven individual tracks. Yet the highlight is undoubtedly the less than two minutes long “Jive Turkeys”. With a warm sax sample and sledgehammer boom bap percussion, it’s a laid back masterwork that inspired one of the most enjoyable music videos of 2013, created by Grip himself. “I recut a bunch of classic Marvel cartoons so that the subject matter – and lip syncing – matched my song. It took forever. I started to make a second video for the title song, but I ran out of time and energy.”

That’s hardly surprising when you consider that Grip, like his hero Reed Richards, is a full-time family man. In fact, GG DOOM came out the day before his second child was born. “I’ve had my hands pretty full since then,” he says. It’s likely an understatement.

Still, now living back in San Francisco, Grip plans to continue making music, and an official GG DOOM follow up would prove a dream project.
“I’d need outside financing to hire the Mask,” he concedes. “Interested gazillionaires, get at me.”

3

I tried to keep this playlist of synth pop tracks from the past five years or so under 80 minutes since CD-Rs are still the playlist currency I can’t let go of, but *shudder* I went 9 minutes over. But STILLLLL, the music is great..

(Source: Spotify)

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Another album review, this time for The Thin Air. Does the world really need another Rick Ross coke rap record? Of course it does!
Rick Ross – Mastermind
Rick Ross’s sixth album Mastermind arrives to little ceremony. Throughout its promotion the usual rattle and hum of the internet hype machine has remained eerily silent for an artist considered to be among rap’s elite. Ross has always sold buckets of records and his fourth album Teflon Don – released in 2010 – granted him large scale critical acceptance that legitimised his ascendancy to hip-hop’s head table. But the past couple of years have stifled a career rise that once seemed so unstoppable. The Miami native’s recent misdeeds include some unfortunate lyrics that attracted accusations of condoning date rape, the termination of his lucrative contract with Reebok, and his stale and tired most recent album God Forgives, I Don’t; a piece he envisioned to be his magnum opus but which instead sank under the weight of its grandiose ambitions.
Full review is on this link.

Another album review, this time for The Thin Air. Does the world really need another Rick Ross coke rap record? Of course it does!

Rick Ross – Mastermind

Rick Ross’s sixth album Mastermind arrives to little ceremony. Throughout its promotion the usual rattle and hum of the internet hype machine has remained eerily silent for an artist considered to be among rap’s elite. Ross has always sold buckets of records and his fourth album Teflon Don – released in 2010 – granted him large scale critical acceptance that legitimised his ascendancy to hip-hop’s head table. But the past couple of years have stifled a career rise that once seemed so unstoppable. The Miami native’s recent misdeeds include some unfortunate lyrics that attracted accusations of condoning date rape, the termination of his lucrative contract with Reebok, and his stale and tired most recent album God Forgives, I Don’t; a piece he envisioned to be his magnum opus but which instead sank under the weight of its grandiose ambitions.

Full review is on this link.

1
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - Piñata
8/10
Having quietly dropped handful of collaborative tracks over the past couple of years, the unlikely partnership of bohemian LA beatmaker Madlib and snarling MC Freddie Gibbs reaches its apex with ‘Piñata’, a rugged yet wholly cinematic depiction of the low-level hustle. Described by its authors as “a gangster Blaxploitation film on wax”, Gibbs – hard as nails and with Tupac blood coursing through his veins – fills the dual roles of writer and chief protagonist, and the Indiana native’s ability to construct an absorbing narrative paints a gritty tale, drained of much of the usual glamour that hip-hop often associates with the drug trade. For example, ‘Deeper’ charts a relationship that crumbles under the strain of the criminal life, as Gibbs’s lover falls pregnant to a real straight shooter while he serves a prison stint.
My full review available via Clash.

Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - Piñata

8/10

Having quietly dropped handful of collaborative tracks over the past couple of years, the unlikely partnership of bohemian LA beatmaker Madlib and snarling MC Freddie Gibbs reaches its apex with ‘Piñata’, a rugged yet wholly cinematic depiction of the low-level hustle. Described by its authors as “a gangster Blaxploitation film on wax”, Gibbs – hard as nails and with Tupac blood coursing through his veins – fills the dual roles of writer and chief protagonist, and the Indiana native’s ability to construct an absorbing narrative paints a gritty tale, drained of much of the usual glamour that hip-hop often associates with the drug trade. For example, ‘Deeper’ charts a relationship that crumbles under the strain of the criminal life, as Gibbs’s lover falls pregnant to a real straight shooter while he serves a prison stint.

My full review available via Clash.