ARCHIVE: How Dizzee Rascal has become grime’s formula for success

12 Jan

This is the first ever feature article I wrote. It was produced towards the end of my first year at university (circa April 2010), following UK rapper Dizzee Rascal’s Ivor Novello songwriting award nominations.

HOW DIZZEE RASCAL HAS BECOME GRIME’S FORMULA FOR SUCCESS

2009 saw significant chart success for Dizzee Rascal

Dizzee Rascal’s cake of chart success this year looks to have received even more icing in the form of two Ivor Novello award nominations this week. Having already won the BRIT award for ‘Best British Male,’ to receive the approval of the Novello panel for his song-writing is a testament to how Dizzee, or Dylan Mills to his mother, has successfully explored the use of rap in different (and often more marketable) genres of music, without sacrificing the skills of the rapping style that saw him win the 2003 Mercury Music Prize for his grime-orientated debut album, ‘Boy in Da Corner.’ The contrast between the gritty, insensitive story-telling Dizzee of his debut, and the fun-loving festival-playing Dizzee of today, is remarkable. The commercial and financial success that has stemmed from this change and innovation, however, has begun a dangerous precedent that appears to be mortally wounding the grime genre from which the East London teenager first emerged. Continue reading

FAQ: Mixtapes in Hip-Hop

10 Jan

WHAT IS A MIXTAPE?
A mixtape is a promotional collection of songs produced as a showcase of either an artist or DJ’s abilities. Named so after the cassette tape format they originally were created on, modern mixtapes are now more likely to be found as CDs or downloadable MP3 files.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A MIXTAPE AND AN ALBUM?
For the most part mixtapes are free of charge, whereas album releases are the opposite. In terms of cost, albums are expensive to make and usually require record deals (or in the case of independent label releases, a distribution deal) to be released nationally, whereas mixtapes travel just as far via the web, and are thus the best way for unsigned artists to gain more attention and get their work spread to their target audiences. Due to the cost of album production, record labels often allow their signed hip-hop artists to release promotional mixtapes in between album releases, so as to generate online buzz and feedback regarding the content, which in turn acts as a cost-efficient way for the labels to tweak the upcoming album to fit the feedback and thus avoid an expensive flop. Continue reading

IN PICTURES: DJ EZ Live Set at IndigO2

7 Jan

On the evening of January 1st, I visited the IndigO2 venue inside London’s O2 Arena to see UK garage legend DJ EZ’s annual eight-hour ‘Z Uncut’ set with various guests. DJ EZ is one of the most respected figures in the UK garage scene, with a hugely popular friday night radio show on KISS FM , and has frequently headlined in clubs around the world for over a decade. Whilst most of his DJ sets and appearances rarely last more than an hour, EZ’s annual ‘Z Uncut’ event is an opportunity for his fans to get an extended set of music that other DJs simply don’t offer.

The O2 Arena in Greenwich, London

Continue reading

My Top 5 Rap Albums of 2010 (and a Poll for yours!)

6 Jan

2010 was a considerably successful year for hip-hop and rap music both commercially and musically, from platinum-selling debut albums to worldwide chart-topping singles from the veterans of the genre. Here is a personal list of my highlights last year (iTunes links are provided via clicking the album name):

5. NAS & DAMIAN MARLEY – DISTANT RELATIVES
Although one of the most respected rappers in the world, one of Nas’ persistent weaknesses (to the frustration of his fans) is his self-confessed inadequate selection of beats and producers. It was to his fans’ relief, then, when he collaborated with reggae artist and producer Damian Marley on a project that left him solely in charge of the rapping, to superb effect. Nas’ raps discussed a range of his matters from his divorce to the future of mankind, and was accompanied by some fantastic cameo performances from Lil Wayne and K’naan (whose appearance on ‘Tribes At War’ is a particular highlight) . Whilst the relaxing summer track ‘Count Your Blessings’ was to be expected from reggae producer Marley, the boom-bap album opener ‘As We Enter’ and the eerie tribal chant-sampling ‘Patience’ showed a versatility that kept the album interesting and thoroughly listenable from start to finish. Continue reading

Why Wale would ride with the Maybach Music Group

13 Dec

The MMG Logo

Recent posts on Wale’s twitter feed have sparked rumours that the D.C.-based rapper is to be unveiled as the latest signee to Def Jam’s Maybach Music Group (MMG). Should it emerge that the label has managed to persuade Wale away from the management of Jay-Z’s ever-strengthening Roc Nation roster, it would be seen as a significant coup by the label that was only founded in 2008. So why would such a move be considered by both parties? Continue reading

B.o.B – ‘No Genre’ Mixtape (FREE DOWNLOAD)

7 Dec

CLICK ABOVE FOR DOWNLOAD: Click 'Free Download' on the screen that appears, and then click on the giant 'File Download' black tab on the next screen.

In the last 24 hours international chart-topper B.o.B. has released a free mixtape for his fans, which you can download by clicking the mixtape cover above.

The mixtape, entitled ‘No Genre’, is a return to B.o.B.’s deeper rap roots, and is largely a far cry from the debut album ‘The Adventures of Bobby Ray’ that was a smash hit worldwide with its number 1 singles ‘Nothin’ On You’ and ‘Airplanes’. Continue reading

Forgot About Dre?

7 Dec

In the last fortnight, hip-hop related talk has been dominated by the response to Kanye West and Nicki Minaj’s respective album releases. However, in the same week as both LPs were made available, some news that many have been waiting for appeared to slip under the radar, or at least received a muted response. It was the liberation to the masses of the Dr. Dre single ‘Kush’ (see above), that is scheduled to be the first single from the long-awaited ‘Detox’ album, which was announced to be due for a February 2011 release. So why isn’t the music world jumping up and down screaming at this news? Continue reading