Understanding Musicality & Perception: An Interview with Talib Kweli

Video

Talib Kweli-Breezy

When an opportunity presents itself, you take it. As soon as I heard acclaimed rapper Talib Kweli was coming to school to speak on social justice and activism, I knew I needed to set up an interview. One week later, it happened. This past week, I had the opportunity to sit down with him to talk about his new album Prisoner of Conscious (due April 23rd), the music industry, and more. Talib also took the time to call me out for spelling “Conscience” correctly on my paper, but not in the way the album is titled. Good thing it was only for radio! Enjoy!

Listen to the audio version here

Filmed & Edited by Dash Galaxy

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At The Top It’s Just Us

10spot

“You never see me on lists inside these magazines /
But I’m The Source of rap discussions, they Vibe-in with Ortiz”

– Joell Ortiz (“Nursery Rhyme“)

Last January, I wrote an article titled Too Many Indians, Not Enough Chiefs. The article expressed my views on the over saturated hip-hop industry and its correlation to XXL Magazine’s Freshman list. Again, this year the publication has selected 50 artists to fight for a chance to land on the “covenant” list. Through the power of Twitter, fans have the ability to vote and contribute; generally, the list is released in February. Below are my predictions for who will end up on the cover, honorable mentions, and wildcards.

XXL-freshman-cover

Personally, I don’t think this list is very relevant anymore. We are at a point in time where we are seeing many artist reach a level of success their own way, independently. Nonetheless, many people tend not to agree with the final list, but it makes for good debates. I have selected my lists based on popularity, impact, and regional dominance. What’s talent these days, anyway?

Last year, I got 5 out of the 10 correct and 3 of my honorable mentions made the list as well. Feel free to share your list with me: You can post your list in the comment section at the bottom of the page or Tweet me @BreezyOnTheBeat!

To vote, click here

Predictions for Cover:

Ab-Soul | Action Bronson | Casey Veggies | Hit-Boy

Gunplay | Lil’ Reese | Rockie Fresh | Schoolboy Q | Trinidad James | Joey Bada$$

Honorable Mentions:

A$AP Ferg | Chinx Drugz | Chris Webby | Lil’ Durk | Riff Raff | Troy Ave

Wildcards:

Tito Lopez | Young Scooter | Ty$ | King L

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Updated with official list: I got 5 out of 10 again this year. Let me know your thoughts! Twitter: @BreezyOnTheBeat

xxl-freshmen-2013-cover1

                                  Ab-Soul | Action Bronson | Logic | Kirko Bangz

Angel Haze | Travi$ Scott | Dizzy Wright | Schoolboy Q | Trinidad James | Joey Bada$$

Best of 2012

Another great year and a few more accomplishments. Thanks to everyone who has supported me this year! See you in 2013

Saw the Maybach from the Jay-Z & Kanye West “Otis” video! – March 2012

Winner of 2011-2012 Best On-Air Talent for 92 WICB – May 2012

Interviewed Maino – April 20

Interviewed Raekwon – April 2012

Live on the radio every Friday night from 8 to 10pm on 92 WICB!

Coors Light Search For The Coldest Competition Featuring Ice Cube & DJ Drama – NYC – Summer 2012

Chief Keef – NYC – Summer 2012

Wiz Khalifa Live in Cortland, NY – April 2012

Joie Manda Tweeted my article to 30,000+ followers (Read it here) – Summer 2012

Barry Weiss, Chairman/CEO of The Island Def Jam Music Group & Universal Republic Records

Barry Weiss, Chairman/CEO of The Island Def Jam Music Group and Universal Republic Records

Interviewed Mike Stud (Read it here) – October 2012

Mike Study Tweet

Mike Stud approved! – December 2012

Interviewed DJ Drama - October 2012 (Listen here: http://snd.sc/OwaBAs)

Interviewed DJ Drama – October 2012 – Listen below:

Miguel Performing Live at Sony Records - October 2012

Miguel Performing Live at Sony Records, NYC – October 2012

Retweeted by Elliott Wilson

Interviewed T.I.

Interviewed T.I. – December 2012 -Listen below:

Cam'ron Live in Ithaca, NY - September 2012

Cam’ron Live in Ithaca, NY – September 2012

DJ Khaled, Meatpacking District, NYC - July 2012

DJ Khaled, Meatpacking District, NYC – July 2012

Trouble Man: An Interview With T.I.

Below, is the transcribed version of my interview with T.I., which I conducted on my radio show on 92 WICB.

20121024-ti-picture-x600-1351091224 I feel like I know you; Not only have I grown up listening to your music, but you’re show on VH1 ‘T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle’ is now on it’s 15th episode of the 2nd season. How has the show benefited your family?

Well, I think it has allowed us to do something together. You know, some families it’s football, other families may own a restaurant, but this is our thing and it allows us to have stuff to do. We all own and appreciate it, because everyone contributes.

Who has more fans, you or your son Major? MajorMajor might have me.

All your kids are characters; on the next episode King starts his own pajama line.

Right on, he thinks he’s Hugh Hefner.

On December 18th, you’re releasing your eighth album Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head; what’s the concept of the album and what can fans expect from it?

Interviewed T.I.

Well, Trouble Man is just me accepting the fact that trouble has been a huge part of my life, for a majority of the time I have been on this Earth and accepting that fact, and the music that I’m making now is inspired by that. This is a project I’m extremely proud of; I put a lot of myself into it. It’s upper echelon and something I think the fans will enjoy on December 18th.

The way you’ve described some of the records on the album such as “Can You Learn” featuring R. Kelly, “Guns & Roses” featuring Pink, and “Sorry” featuring Andre 3000, it seems like this album was both a learning and growing experience for you, given the trials and tribulations you’ve experienced. With that being said, what lessons have you learned through the recording process?

t.i.sorry_

I won’t say that the recording process was the learning experience; I would say the circumstances I endured were the learning experiences. I think the album is a platform for me to project and apply the things I’ve learned throughout the years. One of the things I’ve learned is that the things we worry about on a daily basis aren’t really that serious. When you are taken away from everything you love [friends, family], it just seems like the daily stuff is taken for granted.

In a recent interview, you mentioned that you’re expectation for Trouble Man is to make this album as significant to the culture and the time period right now. How you do view the current state of the hip-hop culture and how will your album relate to it? 

I think it’s going to be separate and apart from it [the culture]; it’s going to stand-alone. There isn’t much out there to compare it to; it’s a cohesive body of work. The Kendrick Lamar album, I think it can live up to that standard. It’s not just a collection of songs thrown together; it’s a cohesive body of work that I think can and should be judged on a different standard.

Maybe the closest thing to being current are the guest features your have – Meek Mill & A$AP Rocky, both who are fairly new to the game. Of course, Meek Mill being one of your mentees, and A$AP, who has really dominated over the last year and a half or so.   

I have a lot of respect for the cats out there who are putting in work. Don’t get me wrong, I salute the A$AP Rocky’s, Meek Mill’s, and Kendrick Lamar’s of the world, or even the Big K.R.I.T.’s., you know what I’m saying?

Following Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head, you plan on releasing its sequel, Trouble Man: He Who Wears The Crown; besides the fact that you recorded over 120 songs for this project and need to release them, is the purpose of the subtitle to reiterate to the fans that after all these years and a few ups and downs, you still remain the King of The South?

Well, I mean I think that I remain a king, period; a jurisdiction. I’m a ruler of whatever ground I’m standing on. It’s not necessarily me waving a flag or making a statement that hasn’t already been made before. I think that it’s really just saying that I accept the responsibility. All the things I have, and the opportunities I have been given, it’s up to me to hold myself to a higher standard of performance and speak for those who can’t speak for themselves.

Besides your work on Trouble Man, and its sequel, what’s going with the Hustle Gang? Can we expect a compilation album in the near future?

Hustle Gang - T.I., B.o.B., Trae Tha Truth, Iggy Azalea & Chip

Hustle Gang – T.I., B.o.B., Trae Tha Truth, Iggy Azalea & Chip

Yeah, absolutely. I think that once we get into the top of the year, it’s going to be time to start putting that project together.

Any final comments? 

@TIP on Twitter, @TroubleMan31 on Instagram, GrandHustleGang.com for all your t-shirts and sweatshirts, and make sure you get the album on the 18th; it will be in stores.

I hope you all enjoy the interview. T.I. – T.I.’s eight studio album, Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head will be available in stores and online on December 18th. To listen to the audio version of the interview, click here

One Man, One Culture: Hello Brooklyn

Me in the photo booth at The Barclay’s Center

“Welcome to the Empire State / Home of the World Trade. Birthplace of Michael Jordan / Home of Biggie Smalls. Roc-A-Fella Records headquarters”

– Jay-Z Feat. Cam’ron – Welcome to New York City

On Friday, November 23rd, I entered the Barclay’s Center for the first time to watch the Brooklyn Nets take on the Los Angeles Clippers. Of course I was excited to check out the game, but I was more excited to see the architecture of the building, because prior to music, that was my passion. The $1 billion dollar arena is filled with bright lights, enormous LCD screens, and nostalgic Brooklyn eateries. As I continued to walk around the facility, I kept saying to my brother, “This place is very hip-hop.” Could this be because of minority owner Jay-Z or is it because of todays culture? The answer is both. Located on the corner of Atlantic Ave. and Flatbush Ave., I saw many people walk into the arena with Nets snap backs by Adidas, ‘So NY’ fitted hats – (a phrase coined by Brooklyn rapper Fabolous), and the very popular, limited edition 40oz NY Givenchy inspired snap back. Overall, it was incredible to see firsthand the dominance of hip-hop and how it is one of the primary sources of marketing in 2012.

Final Score: Brooklyn Nets – 86; Los Angeles Clippers – 76

“Bet a yard (Naw!) / Bet a hundred mil /

That by the songs end I’ll probably start another trend”

 – Jay-Z – 30 Something

Jay-Z has managed to take an entire culture and make it the driving force behind a new team, brand, and economy. Sitting next to the Brooklyn Nets bench along with Beyoncè & Kelly Rowland, you could tell how proud Jay-Z is that he can now, park at his own arena (Jay-Z, “3 Kings”). After all, his music and various other entities are incorporated throughout the entire facility.

“He is [the face of the team], He is us. He is how people are going to see that place.”

– Bruce Ratner, Barclay’s Center financier & developer (New York Times)

RocaWear

RocaWear store at The Barclay’s Center

On the corner of Atlantic Ave., right next to the official Brooklyn Nets team store, you can find RocaWear, Jay-Z’s urban apparel that at one time grossed over $700 million in sales. Although Jay-Z sold the rights to the Rocawear brand in 2007 to Iconix Brand Group for $204 million, he still retains stake in the company and continues to oversee the marketing, licensing, and product development.

40/40 Club & Restaurant

Jay-Z at the grand opening of the 40/40 Club @ The Barclay’s Center

Overlooking the court, you can find Jay-Z’s 40/40 Club & Restaurant. The club has created an element that gives spectators the ability to party and watch the game at the same time. Although it is too early to project the success of the club, the original 40/40 Club located in lower Manhattan is expected to generate a $10 million per year profit*.

Music

On The Court

Every dribble of the basketball is complimented with a beat. Whether it’s warming up to French Montana’s “Pop That” or hustling down the court to a Jay-Z instrumental, the Barclay’s Center is constantly making sure you’re on your feet cheering. Additionally, each halftime show features a performance by a known artist (so far R&B singer Mario & Slick Rick have performed).

Off The Court

To open the Barclay’s Center, Jay-Z performed a series of 8 concerts at affordable prices (*an average Jay-Z ticket is usually $119 per show) to 18,000 fans per night.

Math: 18,000 people x 8 nights = 144,000 tickets sold

Jay-Z Performing at The Barclay’s Center

According to Forbes Magazine, Jay-Z’s shows generated an estimated $15 million, leaving a cool $5 million for Jay-Z himself.

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Other involvements for Jay-Z in the team/arena include: helped design team logo & colors, chooses halftime performances and music coordination, Armand de Brignac (Ace of Spades) champagne is served in suites (financial interest in brand), and advertising (Jay-Z co-owns marketing/PR firm Translation with Steve Stoute).

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The fourth largest, first hardest, Brooklyn is the place /

Settled by the Dutch many years ago /

Three billion strong and here we go

– Mos Def – Brooklyn 

The purpose of this post is not to show off Jay-Z’s entities or financial success. We all know what he has and what he’s capable of creating and doing. Many artists are one-dimensional these days and fail to see the opportunities that corporate America can provide. Clearly, consumers and major company executives trust the youth and their culture to place large budgets on projects they see future profit in. Hip-hop isn’t about being misogynistic, a gangster, or drug dealer/user; those are personal choices. It’s about incorporating a passion for music and expanding it to a broader audience that will allow you to reach personal and professional success. Jay-Z has a loyal fan base, New York City enjoys basketball, and Brooklyn residents love their borough; it’s a match made in heaven. I hope that every artist can see the bigger picture and take their careers to the next level. I also encourage everyone to visit the Barclay’s Center if they have the opportunity!

* – Information gathered by Zach O’Malley Greenburg & Forbes Magazine

How An All-American Baseball Player Became A Successful Rapper: An Interview With Mike Stud

On October 4th, Mike Stud brought the Stud Nation Tour to Ithaca, NY. I had a chance to sit down with the All-American baseball player turned rapper after the show to talk about The Stud Nation tour, his musical journey, education, and more.  

First, I want to congratulate you. Last month you sold out the Highline Ballroom in NYC. As a relatively new, independent artist, what was your reaction to the show?

It’s crazy. Like I said on stage, I really appreciate it. I don’t take anything for granted. My agents thought we could do it, but I didn’t know we sold it out 10 days ahead of time, which is nuts. A huge thank you to everyone who came, it’s dope.

You’re currently on the Stud Nation Tour. What’s the concept of the tour and what are you hoping to accomplish out on the road?

The concept is something my manager came up with. The Stud Nation thing is kind of a play on the presidential theme; you see the portrait, it looks like a president portrait. They’re just trying to play off my background. I went to some very uppity schools [Duke University & Georgetown University] and that I’m more for the Middle American kids. I make music for the people who relate to me and that’s Middle America, so we thought Stud Nation would be a cool theme.

You, along with your good friend Huey Mack, and a few others, are ultimately the ambassadors of the “college hip-hop” movement; I think a lot of kids out there tonight saw a little bit of themselves in you. With that being said, how do plan to grow and remain at the forefront?

I’m not exactly sure what the whole “college music” thing is. I just think kids in college like my music. If you listen, most of my records, especially the newest ones, are not about partying or college. Sure, the one that popped off was “College Humor” and that’s fine, but I think people that really take a listen and write off the superstitions behind it will see a real artist. You’re going to start to hear more singing in my new songs and more of an artist feel, and not just a “frat boy.” I was never a frat boy; I’m a white kid that played baseball.

Mike Stud pitching for Duke University

Something I notice about you is that you aren’t afraid to collaborate with other aspiring artists. What’s your rationale behind that? Do you think it will lead to any criticism?

I don’t think that’s a real argument, because I just collaborate with people that I like. I don’t collaborate with people I don’t know, and I don’t collaborate with people whose music I don’t like. The people that I’ve worked with, I stand behind them, and I support them; we all have the same markets and fan bases.

Huey and I are splitting images. A lot of time we’re in the same city and we just meet up, we made the mixtape [Click] on a limb.

My favorite one is “You Don’t Know Me” with Tarik…

He’s the homie. He’s dope. I did that shit because he deserves more fans. Everyone on my business side said that it didn’t make sense to do that collaboration with him because he has a much smaller fan base, but he’s dope and very humble.

One of the things about you that I want to understand a little better is your social media presence. As we know, your baseball injury led you to music, but anybody can do that. Like you said on stage, it’s only been 14 months since you released your first mixtape. How did you know who to target and make the Mike Stud brand an Internet sensation?  

Honestly, I have no idea. I made “College Humor” for baseball parties at Georgetown. My teammates kept saying, “Yo! I like your music, keep making songs.” I made the song on Garageband; I had no engineer. I just recorded it in my dorm room, drunk. The fact that everywhere I go that’s the song everybody knows, it’s crazy.

So it was just word of mouth?

Yeah.

Photo by Nick DeJohn

Mike Stud at The Haunt in Ithaca
Photo by Nick DeJohn

Now you have Jon Kilmer on tour with you. Every kid wants him to direct their video, you have your sponsorship with Freshletes, and your music steadily brings traffic to all the blog sites.

It came out of nowhere; I can’t thank the people enough.

I read that you went to Georgetown University graduate school to study sports management and finance. How has your educated helped you in the music industry so far?

I’m just way more involved than people understand. Most artists don’t even care about the business side. I’m in on every meeting, the behind the scenes stuff at this point is pretty crazy, and so I’m very involved. That’s how I like it. 

With booking powerhouse Peter Schwartz and The Agency Group behind you, I’m sure many opportunities that are starting to present themselves. What’s next for you and what are you hoping to accomplish in the near future? 

As much as Peter and those guys are going to take their expertise and grow my brand, it’s still about the music. I’m not big enough to just go do tours. I’m one mixtape in; I haven’t done shit. I know that, and I don’t think I’ve made it at all. We’re working everyday; there are no days off. At this point, I’m just working harder because my foot is in the door.

Peter is great, and I’m blessed to have a lot of great industry people behind me right now, most who we haven’t mentioned to the public yet. I’m going to use those tools, but right now it’s all driven by the music.

Interviewing Mike Stud

For more on Mike Stud and to see if the Stud Nation Tour is coming to a city near you, visit Mike’s website, Twitter, FaceBook, and YouTube!

Rubin & Russell’s Foundation, Joie Manda’s Reign: #DefJamBack

“…Def Jam, the world’s most important hip-hop destination.”

–       Barry Weiss (Chairman and CEO of Universal Republic and Island Def Jam)

As the holiday season rolls around, record labels often scramble to put out albums from the biggest artists on their rosters. With the constant struggle to sell albums these days, it is important that labels go into the fourth quarter of the year full speed ahead to meet quotas and achieve financial success. But what if your label puts out five of its major releases in the summer, and still has a few more highly anticipated albums expected before the end of the year? If you were to ask Joie Manda, president of Def Jam Records, he would probably tell you that that is expected of the historic label. “The Def Jam artist roster has always been synonymous with the greatest in hip-hop, and I intend to carry that tradition into the future,” explained Manda in an official statement in March 2012 when he became Jay-Z’s successor to the Def Jam throne.

Joie Manda, President of Def Jam Records

Sure Lyor Cohen, Kevin Liles, and Jay-Z, all made lasting impacts during their reign’s as Def Jam presidents, but in a time where the entertainment industry has completely changed and become dependent on social media, executives are now dealing with things they’ve never expected. Take Frank Ocean for example. In July, the R&B singer opened up about his love for another man shortly before his debut album Channel Orange was released. In a world where homophobia is such a sensitive topic, Def Jam, as well as many others in the industry, stood next to Mr. Ocean in support.

“Today is a big day for hip-hop, your decision to go public about your sexual orientation gives hope and light to so many young people still living in fear.”

–       Russell Simmons (Founder of Def Jam Records on Frank Ocean’s announcement)

Yes, Frank Ocean’s announcement is a major stepping-stone for the entire music industry, but maintaining the well being for an artist and what they do in their personal lives isn’t a major corporations top priority; record sales are.

As the summer comes to an end, no other major hip-hop record label had as big of a summer as Def Jam. What’s special about their summer release strategy was that they catered to different forms of the urban culture: underground, street, and R&B. To date, the five major releases put out by Def Jam have done very well.

Def Jam Summer 2012 Releases & Record Sales

June

  •  Big K.R.I.T. – Live from the Underground (As of Aug. 15h 83,000)

July

  • Frank Ocean – Channel Orange (As of Aug. 5th 238,000)
  • Nas – Life Is Good (As of Aug. 5th 226,000)

August

  • Rick Ross – God Forgives, I Don’t (As of Aug. 15th 400,000)
  • 2 Chainz – Based on a T.R.U. Story (As of Aug. 21st 145,809)

Big K.R.I.T. & I – April 2011, Ithaca, NY

Upcoming releases:

  • Kanye West & G.O.O.D. Music – Cruel Summer
  • Ludacris – Ludaversal
  • Ne-Yo – R.E.D.
  • Big Boi – Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors

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“A lot of people get into the trappings, but it’s really about the music, I’m excited about making it the most forward-thinking, premier record label.”

–       Joie Manda (August 2012, Billboard Magazine)

Manda really is a forward thinker. One week prior to the official release date [July 17th] of Channel Orange, Frank Ocean appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and immediately released his album on iTunes after his performance. This move is not uncommon for Def Jam as we have seen it with the release of Jay-Z & Kanye West’s collaboration, Watch The Throne. Whether it is to avoid album leaks, or just great marketing, the method works. As of August 5, 2012, Channel Orange has sold 226,000 copies, with limited singles and videos, & Watch The Throne has sold over 1.5 million copies and grossed $48 million in tour revenue.

A premier record label wouldn’t be anything if it didn’t have a premier artist such as Nas on their roster. In July, Nas released his tenth solo album, Life Is Good, to favorable reviews. The experience Nas brings both physically and literally give listeners something to look forward to and other artists to emulate. Whether Life Is Good sells 1 copy or 1 million copies, Nas continues to keep true to himself, musically, during a time where the formula for making an album is completely structured and governed by record executives.

Ace Hood Album Listening Session – July 2011, NYC

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“I step in Def Jam building like I’m the shit / Tell them give me $50 million or I’ma quit” 

–       Kanye West (“Mercy”)

Great accomplishments for Def Jam are expected. Not only is the roster of talent very impressive, but also is the list of executives:

If defense wins championships, then Def Jam is going to continue to win. Each one of the names above brings uniqueness, knowledge, and passion that are needed in order to succeed the music industry. We’ve seen what Sha Money XL did for 50 Cent, No I.D. for Kanye West, and DJ Khaled for Rick Ross. Ultimately, the overall experience the Def Jam executives bring to the table will befit every artist and give them the sense of security and confidence they strive for from those who support them.

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“Def Jam on my heals, should I sign to it? / Million dollar advance for me to rhyme fluent”

–       Rick Ross (“Rich Forever”)

Another strategy the label has inplimented this year is acquiring talents who have successfully laid their own groundwork. With the Chicago hip hop movement on the rise, Def Jam signed Lil’ Reese & Lil’ Durk to solo deals, 2 Chainz proved that a name change and consistent features will make you a household name, and a cocaine snorting, pill popping wild boy by the name of Gunplay has the potential to successfully step out from the shadows of his mentor Rick Ross.

Manda and his staff have proven that if you allow a major artist on your roster to open up their umbrella that they too will breed other artists to reach the same magnitude they have already achieved. Under Kanye West’s direction, Big Sean is growing into a top artist and someone who Def Jam can count on to create hit records, while Pusha T’s lyrics have become deeper and more powerful then ever. Even Jeremih, an artist who was on the verge of being dropped until 50 Cent rejuvenated his career, is putting out music that people are beginning to appreciate even though his music has been solid all along.

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“Let me be clear, Def Jam is on fire.” 

–       Barry Weiss (Chairman and CEO of Universal Republic and Island Def Jam)

No doubt about it, Def Jam is on fire and consistency is the driving force behind their success. In the last few months, there hasn’t been a week that has gone by where you haven’t seen a new Rick Ross video or heard a new 2 Chainz verse. Rick Ross has never been phased by all the scrutiny and ridicule 50 Cent tried to pin against him, and 2 Chainz never let being in the shadows of Ludacris hold him back; they deserve to have #1 albums and have Def Jam present them with countless opportunities to further their careers and brands.

Def Jam office interviewing Jeremih for ThisIs50.com – Summer 2010, NYC
Interview Link: http://youtu.be/kYw5wG5jsmY

Within the last two years I have been to the Def Jam offices and fortunate to attend Def Jam events in New York City. Personally, I can tell you that those who work there are ectremely dedicated and connected to artists attached to the label. A strong sense of community can go a long way. Don’t be surprised if you continue to see the hashtag #DefJamBack on your Twitter feed into 2013. With the strategies in place at Def Jam, every artist that steps in to the house that Rick and Russell built will come out winning.

UPDATE: Joie Manda liked my article!!!

Joie Manda Tweeted my article to 30,000+ followers