Category: Music

Depth of Hip Hop, Part Two: “Black Sugar”


“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you so intense.”

That wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but it’s the truth I received from my wife a few weeks ago. We were driving home on Interstate 78 in New Jersey, reflecting on my conversation with Beleaf Melanin after the Dream Junkies show at William Paterson University.

“You really talked down about yourself.”

Well, welcome to me. I can riddle this page with excuses about the lack of sleep I got the night before the show, but there’s no evidence on this planet to prove my words that night were any different from my usual thoughts about myself. The only evidence one could offer would likely confirm my low self-esteem.

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Kanye’s unenviable path to Pablo

Kanye West at Lollapalooza 2011 in Chile Photo by Rodrigo Ferrari

If The Life of Pablo is a glimpse into the mind of Kanye West, he’s just as confused and unstable as everyone surmised. It’s uneven, sprawling, and will upset a lot of people who hear it: It’s a perfect symbol of the character of Kanye West. And while the album hits its sonic stride in its final four or five tracks (with a powerful assist from Kendrick Lamar), it’s the first two-thirds of the album’s content that’s most intriguing.

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Depth of Hip-Hop, Part One: “Red Pills”


I don’t know how I started listening to Beleaf, but I know it changed my life. As I suffered through health issues in 2014, I was seeking God’s help in a lot of different areas, and one of the biggest ways I found Him was through Christian music, specifically hip-hop. While I had been mildly interested in the genre prior to that time, I was mostly limited to top-tier secular artists. I knew Lecrae, Da T.R.U.T.H., Trip Lee, and some of the other big CHH artists, but they weren’t getting regular plays on my iTunes account.

Interestingly, one of my favorite albums as a kid was Ill Harmonics’ Take Two. I can’t say for sure that there is any connection between my love for that 2002 smash hit and Red Pills, it’s at least funny to think about. Still, since that album and a few listens to John Reuben’s bigger hits, my interest in CHH was arguably non-existent.

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Cold Lamb Sandwiches

A week ago my employer sent out an email that would make anyone with Generalized Anxiety Disorder shudder. Our “Diversity and Inclusion” tip of the day was to “Sweat the small stuff.” This, at first read, felt like insanity. If I were to spend my time sweating the small stuff I would blow my entire budget on deodorant. I’m already a compulsive worrier – Photo by torbakhopperI didn’t need to be told to worry more.

But after my initial reaction, it caused me to reflect on how I think about the small stuff. In my experience, it is often the small stuff that I love about those I am in relationships with and miss about those I am separated from (either by distance or by the ending of the relationship).  The inside joke, the strange greeting, or just the timbre the conversation takes on between certain people.

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Vulfpeck – Thrill of the Arts: Or, How Crowdfunding is Changing Music

The record industry ’60s and early ’70s worked much differently than it does today. Bands were judged more for the albums they produced than their singles. Record deals were developmentally focused – there was an expectation that the first album might not be a success, but signing a band was a long term investment. Bands were going into professional studios for the first time and record companies were operating with the understanding that bands had to learn how the studio worked and it might take some time for them to find their ‘sound’. Payoff on investment wasn’t instant.

For example, Rush (a band that I will likely reference ad-nauseam in this blog) signed a four-record deal. Their first three albums were massive flops. By the fourth, however, the band was more confident in who they were and what they were doing. The result was 2112, which is widely considered one of the finest examples of 70s progressive rock. In today’s single-based marketplace the band would have never gotten the chance to make 2112, and even if they had there wasn’t much in the way of marketable tracks on the album.

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