JAY Z ‘4:44’ Album Review

Hip-Hop is coming of age with every release, a genre rooted in youth culture ironically has it’s first iconic worldwide star in one of it’s elders. JAY Z who most fittingly grew up side by side with the genre, born just a few years before Kool Herc threw his first party, has become Hip-Hop’s Mick Jagger or Paul McCartney. A wide reaching figure that fans of other genres, whether fond of the culture or not, know by name simply off his fame. Even more ironic JAY Z has solidified his status in a culture based on counter-culture impulses and anti-establishment angst by paradoxically, and perfectly, playing the game of capitalism and simultaneously pandering to the pavement, concrete, and streets that are naturally the home of Hip-Hop’s true residents- the people. In this pseudo-politically correct climate most would jump at the chance to criticize such an artist, contradicting oneself is the one thing the masses can attack viciously with a clear conscience today. To the contrary JAY Z brilliantly unveils a unique perspective on a system that benefits tremendously on entire communities being ignorant to the rules of society. On ‘4:44’ JAY touches on capitalism, generational wealth, Hip-Hop culture’s generational civil war, legacy and most honestly his marital infidelities.

In a time where Snapchat, Instagram Live, and Periscope make celebrities personal lives more public than their public lives, cultural heavy weights like Kanye, JAY-Z, Beyonce and others scarcely use these apps. ‘4:44’, the title track, is a lift of the curtain, strategically piggy-backing off the ‘Lemonade’ narrative JAY bares it all in one of the most honest tracks of his career. Self-loathing, regret, and depression are not emotions we are used to affiliating with the gods of this genre, the revelation of JAY’s flaws make him, to most people’s disbelief, appear actually human. ‘Kill JAY Z’ continues this trend, JAY gives the listener a glimpse into the turmoil in his life, a genius’ mind sporadically dealing with his many multi-dimensional dilemmas. If his thoughts of ‘letting the baddest girl in the world get away’ aren’t weighing heavy enough on his mind then the apparent mutiny of his one time mentee, and present day musical icon, Kanye West add on to equate to a mesmerizing mental load. One of the underlying themes in their disagreement that may be effecting their relationship is Hov’s financial philosophy ‘what’s better than one billionaire? -Two. Specially when they’re the same hue as you’, Kanye stepping away from his Tidal deal may have cut deeper than the words he spoke while floating above fans several months prior.

‘The Story Of OJ’ finds JAY Z trying to lead his people out of the darkness, leaving a more thorough ‘blueprint’ than he ever has before. ‘Oh these people is gonna kill me! .. cause the more I reveal me the more they afraid of the real me.” The cost of truth is heavy and at the top of the game JAY no longer needs to equivocate, his view point is clear, so clear musical god Prince sat with him ‘eye to eye’ and they left in agreement. The track ‘Legacy’ plays as a farewell and doubles as the final bullet point on his financial philosophy not just his musical memory. JAY makes it clear that leaving behind wealth to his family and inevitably his people is the true mark of success.

 

Rating: 9.0

Artist Interviews: Mike Kensah

Recently we got to sit down with up and coming Hip-hop artist Mike Kensah and talk about a variety of things from influences, music’s purpose, heritage and more. Check out the full interview below

1. How did you get started in music?

Mike: Growing up I’ve always liked music and everything about it. Besides that my aunty (Georgia Agyei), ie my mother’s sister is an established gospel artist back in Ghana. My grandmother also used to be a singer, so i can say music has always been apart of me subconsciously or consciously.

2. At what point in your progress did you realize that you were good enough or could be good enough to do this?

Mike: I was about 15 years old when i first recorded a track in a professional studio.

Anybody that I played it for couldn’t believe it was actually me. They said i sounded like a pro already and i had confidence in my voice. Bottom line they liked my style. Since then I’ve always enjoyed the writing, recording & mixing process.

3. Who/what are some of your main non-musical influences? (movies,books,public figures, actors etc..)How do you feel their influence correlates to your music? And is their influences directly applicable to your music?

Mike: Doctor Kwame Nkrumah, a very respected Man/Leader who gained independence for Ghana, the first country to gain independence in the whole of Africa. So you can see how easy a kid will be influenced by such bravery and power. Especially Ghana being my origin of birth and motherland. Another great figure that influenced me is Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcom X and everybody else that influenced the world and changed lives.

MikeKensah1

4. You also cited Tupac, Big L, Nipsey Hussle, Akon, & Chris Brown as some of your musical influences, that’s a wide range of very different artists, what do you take from each of those guys specifically?

Mike: first of all i respect every Artist doing music on a major platform, every artist that has passion for his or her music thus consistency and a goal of changing lives through their lyrics and lifestyle.

What i take from Tupac: Bluntness, motivational messages in his music, standing up for something, his respect for women etc.

Chris Brown : His over all talent, it seems whatever he put his mind to, he does it. causes that guy sings, raps, dances, back flips, he shows you, you could do anything you put your mind to and be great at it. At least that’s how Chris influences me.

Nipsey Hussle: The whole independence thing. Owning your own, cutting out the middle man. Nipsey’s music speak to me in a lot of ways i relate.

Akon: We both share similar story for the fact that he’s an African like myself, and migrated with his family from Africa.  None of that stopped him from succeeding majorly in the American Music industry, that alone motivates me and gives me hope that i can make it too.

5. You’re Ghanaian, explain how your culture and background effects your music?

Mike: In Ghana my culture is an Ashanti Culture, if you do your research, the Ashanti Kingdom has been around since the 1600’s. we’re known for Gold being out major products. Prior to the Europeans invading us and trading Golds, slavery etc. with all that being said i think you can find that in my music.

6. What do you think music/art’s role is in the world and society and do you think it is fulfilling it’s purpose currently?

Mike: i think without music the world would’ve been a crazy and boring place. And yes its fulfilling its purpose people use music to escape from depression, problems, reality etc. like i said without it, i can’t imagine.

MikeKensah2

7. If you had to do one other art form besides music what would it be and why? And do you have any plans to ever implement this art form to your music if possible?

Mike: Drawing, i always to start with a blank mind, just like the blank page. I drawing what I imagine and i keep drawing as i keep imagining so to me i feel that freedom in creativity is everything and there’s no room for mistakes for that matter cause i create as i go. I very much implement every bit of it in my music since i like to go to the studio with a blank mind and start creating from scratch, i always like that challenge and freedom than to go in with a concept already, it keeps me limited to stick to the script or whatever.

8. In Hip-Hop we constantly hear about it’s lack of originality or diminishing quality..Do you believe there is such a thing as “bad” music?

Mike: I don’t believe that at all, i think people feel however they wanna feel about music. With that being said, we all cant feel the same way or like the same music. People relate differently so everybody is entitled to their opinion, me being an artist i don’t expect everybody to like my music.

9. If you had free reign to do what you wanted and complete creative control what would you do artistically? (if you could put on a certain stage show, film a documentary, perform at the super bowl etc..)

Mike: Put on a free stage show for everybody, poor, rich etc

10. Where do you see your career going and what goals do you hope to attain?

Mike: I see my career on a major level, i hear my name being mentioned amongst the greats that  ever did it dead or alive. I see myself being apart of hip-hop culture. I see my Albums in people’s favorite categories. I see my works changing lives of listeners that need it.

Links to social media

http://www.insidemanagement.net/

Twitter- https://mobile.twitter.com/mikekensah?lang=en

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/mikekensah/

Music:

https://itun.es/us/wViphb?i=1195150897

https://m.soundcloud.com/mikekensah

https://open.spotify.com/album/1HpXWBTvyBbFXqCPYHAm60

Interview With Pittsburgh MC Reason

  1. How did you get started in music?

 

My obsession with Hip Hop started around 7th grade. I had always been talented at writing, but I never really did anything with it on my own time. Around freshman year of high school, I began writing lyrics. My first pieces were similar to slam poetry, and nearly all of them were about my teachers — the ones that I did not respect. I shared some of these “battle poems” with a few friends of mine. One girl really enjoyed them and encouraged me to keep doing it. Within a couple years, I started writing raps. They were mostly random, braggadocious punchlines, without any song structure or focus. I stopped writing for a couple of years while in college, but around 2008, I started going to a weekly freestyle cypher/jam session called Throwdown Thursday, which was hosted by a local DJ duo called Tracksploitation. Before that, I had never tried freestyling. I developed relationships with some of my closest friends, mentors and collaborators there. Around the same time, I got on stage for the first time at an open mic at a place called the Shadow Lounge. There was always a diverse array of inspiring artists at Shadow. I was terrified to get on stage, but I made myself do it. I performed a verse I had written that was refrigerator-themed. Surprisingly, the crowd was extremely supportive. From then on, I wrote and rehearsed songs to perform at the Shadow Lounge. I got in freestyle cyphers at Throwdown and performed at the open mic every week for a few years, until Shadow closed and Throwdown eventually stopped happening.

 

  1. At what point in your progress did you realize that you were good enough or could be good enough to do this?

 

Like I said before, the other artists and people at Shadow Lounge were very supportive. They were always encouraging me and giving me positive feedback. Ezra, a local spoken word artist who was the host at the time, also said that he enjoyed my performances. The support that I received from him and the rest of the community there gave me the confidence to pursue the craft more seriously.

LEFTFIELD band photo

 

  1. Who/what are some of your main non-musical influences? (movies,books,public figures, actors etc..)

 

In college, I studied fiction writing, so my writing is heavily influenced by what I learned in those courses: the process of revision, getting feedback from others, and creating stories within songs. Kurt Vonnegut was one of my favorite writers for a while, and Tarantino is one of my favorite filmmakers. I find their subversive, yet humorous style very compelling. I’m also a big Louis C.K. fan. The way that comedians use punchlines with calculated timing is closely related to emceeing.

 

  1. How do you feel their influence correlates to your music? And is their influences directly applicable to your music?

 

The process of revision that I practiced directly correlates to my songwriting. I edit my lyrics a lot. Sometimes I’ll go back and add words or take away ones that are unnecessary. All of my writing classes were workshops, and I always appreciated getting feedback from others about what they thought worked about the story and what they thought could work better. I usually share new songs with people who I know will give me honest and constructive feedback, and sometimes I’ll go back and change things based on what they say, unless I strongly disagree.

 

  1. What do you think music/art’s role is in the world and society and do you think it is fulfilling it’s purpose currently?

 

Music and art serve multiple roles: entertainment, diversion from the mundane and inspiration are the main ones that come to mind. Hacks always exist, but I feel like that role is always being fulfilled by artists who push the boundaries and consistently create powerful work, regardless of whether the majority is paying attention to it or not.

 

  1. If you had to do one other art form besides music what would it be and why? And do you have any plans to ever implement this art form to your music if possible?

 

The cat’s already out of the bag. I’d definitely be writing. That could be writing stories, screenplays, etc., or it could be blogging and promoting. It’s much easier to promote your own art and music with the internet and social media now, and I often enjoy doing that. Sometimes it does feel like a distraction, but I’ve realized that I have to promote my own music and events, because I can’t afford to pay someone else to do it, yet. I make a strong effort to promote other local artists as well.

 

  1. Is there such thing as “bad” music?

 

The short answer is… yes. The long answer is complicated. Some music is more about the vibe (e.g. having fun) and less about the message. I get that, but I feel like there’s a way to make that kind of music, and it can still have value musically or emotionally. On the other hand, I feel like there is a lot of music that is poorly produced, uncreative, unauthentic, poorly mixed, and can actually be a bad influence on young people, if it’s not balanced with a wider perspective. Music is definitely subjective, so what I call “wack” may sound like a masterpiece to another person. However, I do feel like artists should have some respect for the craft of being a musician/songwriter, and whatever kind of music they choose to make, they should try to make it as good as they can. I also feel like every person is unique and embodies their own character and story. Being an artist allows you to express that, and if you are just recycling instead of exploring and uncovering anything new, then you are wasting your potential.

 

  1. If you had free reign to do what you wanted and complete creative control what would you do artistically? (if you could put on a certain stage show, film a documentary, perform at the super bowl etc..)

 

I want to tour other countries. From what I’ve heard, many other countries have a greater appreciation for “real” Hip Hop (*cringe) and creativity than we do in the U.S. I also just want to travel to other countries, because I haven’t done that yet. As far as an elaborate stage show, I’ve had this idea to create some sort of performance that incorporated elements of the theatre for a while. I also host and direct a monthly, open freestyle cypher called Track Meet. We’ve been experimenting with different formats, so I would probably go crazy with that if I had enough funding and the perfect space to hold the event. Dancers, live musicians, producers, DJs, visual artists… you get the idea. One huge, all-inclusive cypher/jam session — that would be dope.

 

  1. Where do you see your career going and what goals do you hope to attain?

 

Finish my first two projects! I have a group project that is close to being finished, and then my solo album is on the way after that. In the next few years, I’d like to tour nationally and overseas, and really just find a way to make my lifestyle as a musician and event organizer sustainable. I want to take Track Meet to other cities and expand that network. I’m also a teacher, so I’d like to participate in or develop some Hip Hop education programming. Right now, my focus is on finishing these first two projects and continuing to develop Track Meet. We’ve been doing it for almost a year now, and it’s been growing. I’m not concerned with accumulating a massive fortune, but I want to be able to thrive as an artist and continue to grow, without having to constantly be concerned with how I’m going to pay my bills.

 

  1. Final thoughts? (also what can fans look forward to and where can they find you and your music.)

 

I feel like I’ve already said a lot. It’s taken me a long time to get to the point that I’m at now. Sometimes I feel like I’m playing catch-up, because I’m already 28 years old and haven’t released an official project yet. However, I know that my experiences have led me to where I am now, and I am extremely grateful for what I’ve learned so far. I spent the majority of my life being unsure about what I wanted to do, lacking confidence, and not applying my talents wholeheartedly. I’ve been getting better at those things gradually, and I made a strong commitment at the beginning of this year to go as hard as I can. (cue inspirational music) I know that this is something that I am supposed to be doing, and I’m not going to give or let up. If things don’t pan out quite as well as I want them to, I can at least say that I did everything that I could to make it happen.

 

I’m ½ of the group LEFTFIELD, alongside producer DOC LVLY. We recently released our first music video for a song called “Support Real Pizza.” I wrote it as a joke, but when we reviewed it, we decided it was actually pretty dope, so we decided to run with it. Then a friend of ours offered to help us do a video, and he did a great job on it:

 

LEFTFIELD (Reason & DOC LVLY) – Support Real Pizza:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HPssrDheX0

 

We want to finish the LEFTFIELD project by the end of this summer. Hopefully that happens. We’re part of a Hip Hop collective called Surface Level Records:

 

Surface Level Records:

http://www.surfacelevelrecords.com/leftfield.html

 

LEFTFIELD (Reason & DOC LVLY):

https://www.instagram.com/leftfield_4_president/

https://twitter.com/leftfield4prez

https://www.facebook.com/leftfieldpgh/

https://soundcloud.com/leftfield_pgh

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCORnOQY7UlxUFSELEdln0fw

 

The Reason solo album will be released near the beginning of 2017

 

Reason:
https://www.instagram.com/reason_pgh/

https://twitter.com/reason_pgh

https://www.facebook.com/reasonpgh

https://soundcloud.com/reason-pgh

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPZPoXlE7OmtwFMT1dWFgJQ

 

We hold our cypher events once a month, typically, and Scripted Minds Media films most of them. You can check some our videos on our YouTube channel, and if we come to your city, you can come out and get in the cypher!

 

Track Meet:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrWmnIf15iT0tV2t3vHnvrw

https://www.instagram.com/track_meet/

https://twitter.com/TrackMeetCypher

https://www.facebook.com/TrackMeetCypher/

 

 

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