Once upon a time in a universe far, far away, HipHopDX used to host blogs. Through Meka, Brillyance, Aliya Ewing and others, readers got unfiltered opinions on the most current topics in and beyond Hip Hop. After a few years, a couple redesigns and the collective vision of three different Editors-In-Chief, blogs are back. Sort of. Since our blog section went the way of two-way pagers and physical mixtapes, Twitter, Instagram and Ustream have further accelerated the pace of current events in Hip Hop. Rappers beef with each other 140 characters at a time, entire mixtapes (and their associated artwork) can be released via Instagram, and sometimes these events require a rapid reaction.
As such, we’re reserving this space for a weekly reaction to Hip Hop’s current events. Or whatever else we deem worthy. And the “we” in question is myself, Omar Burgess and Andre Grant. Collectively we serve as HipHopDX’s Features Staff. Aside from tackling stray topics, we may invite artists and other personalities in Hip Hop to join the conversation. Without further delay, here are this week’s “Stray Shots.”
Do “God Level” & “Black Bruce Wayne” Give You Hope For Kanye’s Return
Omar: Yass, bitch. I low key stopped listening to Kanye West after Yeezus—which, at some point in 2013, I finally stopped referring to as an emo shit sandwich, and simply conceded wasn’t my particular cup of tea. I’m cool on listening to minimalist Daft Punk with someone ranting about their dick and croissants. But if My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy taught us anything, it’s that you can’t stay mad at Kanye (unless you’re a racist still tweeting N-bombs at him for Deeboing Taylor Swift for that MTV Award) once he drops off more material that is head and shoulders over most mainstream Rap artists. For what it’s worth, ‘Ye has publicly explained his approach on Yeezus, and stated the album was more of a strategic move than a musical offering.
“I’m having to turn up, because what happens is, I’ll go and have a meeting with Louis Vuitton or Disney,” West said during a December 2013 appearance on The Rickey Smiley Show. “And they’ll say, ‘Well you’re a musician,’ because that’s what I’ve made money at.”
So now that the turn up is over, ‘Ye has his adidas deal and is happily married with child, can we get back to the G.O.O.D. Music (pun intended)? Maybe. Over the last week, we’ve gotten portions of previously unreleased Kanye West songs. There’s “God Level,” which sounds like an early Yeezus reference track. The drums are reminiscent of similar ones from both “Amazing” and “Power,” but the line saying, “You see sharks in the water / Then they try to do nothin’ but put cocks in your daughter,” is a clear tip-off this was written around the time Kim was expecting their daughter North. So I’m praying this is a throwaway/win-win in terms of him getting some of that adidas money to pay for the Basquiat paintings which will eventually hang in North’s nursery.
On the flip side, I’m really enjoying the 10 seconds of “Black Bruce Wayne” floating around the Internet. West hinted at a possible return to radio and popular music when talking to Rolling Stone in December. And this has actual melody—something lacking for most of Yeezus. It’s futuristic enough without sounding like an ode to Scientology, and Kanye is talking shit again. More of this, please! I don’t care if he’s back to Soul samples or Graduation-style “stadium Rap,” as long as he doesn’t make another Yeezus. I guess we’ll wait and see.
Andre: I’m pretty sure Yeezus will become one of those albums people enthusiastically claim they liked a few years from now because they will assume we can not trace them back to their early Internet commentary. They will be right on both counts. Since, yes, the album was very good, and no, we won’t be able to bring up their past transgressions regarding the virtual slander at the Tao of ‘Ye. It will be just like 808’s & Heartbreak, which everyone straight disrespected until they found themselves post breakup crying in meetings at work and wondering what might have been. Nevertheless, “God Level” and the tentatively titled “Black Bruce Wayne” do both go hard in the proverbial paint. With wife and child in tow, he seems to have mellowed out a bit. No moment-to-moment face changes as though he was a living GIF, or monumental post-post modern middle fingers to the corporations who just won’t let him be great. Just a new found freedom to create exactly he wants with exactly the tools that he wants in the way that he wants.
But I’m not exactly sure what that will bring because I think Kanye responds to pressure the same way our early ancestors responded to danger: he gets better. With each project he hones in on a particular beef, a particular gripe, and he makes music around that imagery. With MBDTF it was his comeback tour after he jumped on stage and took Ms. Swift’s moment and America seemingly exiled him. With Yeezus it was the perceived lack of respect at his talents in design, art, architecture and whatever else he’s passionate about. It’s no coincidence, then, that each album coincided with the particular temperature of the greater culture at large, always leading us to ask the question: Did the mood create Kanye or did Kanye create the mood? It's interesting because It’s just that right now there really is no mood. Fashion is doing #normcore and everyone is starting to denounce irony again and for all intents and purposes the cool kids are more than comfortable being cool to like four people. In that way, this should be his most anticipated album yet and for me it certainly will be.
What Do You Make Of T.I.’s “Fight” With Boxer Floyd Mayweather
Andre: The curious case of T.I. follows in lock step with a number of high profile, high tempered, celebrities or artists, which are unique to the American sensibility. He was forged in hard scrabble circumstances, arising to the heights he has with the help of a relatively new art form still taking its time to congeal. And where once those very same traits helped him decipher friend from foe, they now hinder him since he’s reached the proverbial promised land. From Brando to Miles Davis to ‘Pac, we often see this individual and wonder why they can’t just let it go and enjoy their riches. Why did T.I. need enough guns to invade Cuba in his highest profile run in with law enforcement in 07’? I’m not exactly sure. Maybe it’s as Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis, who allegedly threw a no hitter while “high as a Georgia pine” on LSD said, “that’s how I was dealing with the fear of failure. The fear of losing, the fear of winning… You get to the major leagues and you say, ‘Oh I got to stay here.’” Some habits are harder to break than others, and his temper is one of those terrible habits.
Now, throwing a punch at a person who’s terrible to his opponents for a living is something else entirely. I’m not sure what could have gone through T.I.’s mind other than pure rage for you to try and sock arguably the worlds most exacting boxing technician, but he did and he failed… sort of. We don’t really know because the footage was as hazy as Dock’s mind was that day. And maybe “pretty boy Floyd” granted him some mercy considering he reportedly told him, “These ho’s ain’t loyal,” and he may or may not be in his feelings over his own ex-wife, Shantel Jackson. Either way it’s sort of ironic that two of our cultures alpha males would come to alleged blows over women and the chorus of a Chris Brown song... allegedly.
Omar: On his 2003 album Trap Muzik, T.I. introduced a concept track of sorts named “T.I. VS. T.I.P” where he engaged in a back and forth with his alter ego, Tip.
“I wanna talk to you shawty, man you be trippin’ sometimes / Man I’m just tryin’ to stay true to what I say in my rhymes / That ain’t a doubt in my mind / But you got a lot on the line / You need to think ‘bout your actions / (Why) You be overreactin’,” T.I. rhymed admonishing his figurative, hot-tempered, evil twin persona. It was interesting then, and like many fans, I found myself pulling for the good T.I. to win over the temperamental “T.I.P.” We all have that hard headed friend that can’t stop getting in trouble, and with each legal mishap, Tip provided a famous, living example.
A few jail stints later, and the whole routine is getting kind of old. As it regards this rumored scuffle with Floyd Mayweather, I really don’t know where to start. First, it’s probably not a good idea to try and knuckle down arguably the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world. Second, if your wife is in the middle of some alleged flirting scandal with a boxer, it’s probably time to have a talk about boundaries. Or trust issues. Or both. That’s not to say Tiny did anything to instigate this matter, despite Mayweather insinuating Tip was jealous of some interaction between her and Mayweather. But it is to say this is the type of petty shit that should never happen in the first place. This is probably the part where I should bitch about the 24-hour news cycle (shouts to the shaky, Blair Witch Project-style footage of the alleged fight courtesy of the ever-present eyes of TMZ). Only a few dozen people in and around a Las Vegas Fatburger really know what happened. But we’ve got another useless storyline to keep us distracted until another rapper gets kicked in an elevator or drops a sextape. I’m over this fuck shit. I hope T.I. or Tip heeds the words from that highly underrated song, and I hope Floyd chills with all this professional wrestling pageantry and fights Manny Pacquiao while people still care.