Illusory Protection: Chess & The Prison Industrial Complex

He confused science fiction with science facts, He couldn’t separate the block, from recorded tracks – GZA, Illusory Protection

In 2006, I created the Hip-Hop Chess Federation to teach kids chess and correlating life skills. A few years ago, a young Black female student tried to sneak past me in the lobby at John O’Connell High School where I worked as a security guard. She was late. Being the ever inquisitive security guard, I slipped into stealth mode. It was a hot morning. As she tried to skip through the lobby entrance I playfully popped outta the shadows and said “What time is it?!”

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Posted 1 year, 81 days ago - 0 Comments
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How Old Is Too Old To Rap?

Young Thug has said some pretty interesting things lately. As of recently, he has expressed his thoughts on rappers being too “old” to rap. It even raises the question of, how old is too old to rap?

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Posted 2 years, 1 day ago - 0 Comments
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Black History: Malcolm X & His Influence In Hip Hop

Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little, also known to many as El-Hajj Malik El Shabazz was a black Muslim minister and human rights activist born in Omaha, Nebraska, on May 19, 1925. He was a courageous advocate for the rights of Blacks, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its crimes against Black-Americans, and his detractors accused him of preaching racism and violence. Malcolm X was murdered in New York, NY on February 21, 1965, however, his name still lives in the hearts and minds of many hip hop artists around the globe and fans alike. To many, he is the greatest and most influential African-American in history.

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Posted 2 years, 8 days ago - 1 Comment
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Near Extinction: The Platinum Hip-Hop Album

It’s not a great sign for the music industry when last year’s top-selling album is the soundtrack to a Disney movie. According to Forbes, not one artist’s album has reached the million selling mark. Not one. 2014 has become the first year in modern history where no artist has sold more than 1 million albums in the US. Although the past 12 months have seen massive sales for Disney’s ‘Frozen’ soundtrack, no other record has earned the equivalent of a platinum sales certificate from sales this year.

Is the platinum album in hip-hop long gone, or will it make a return in 2015?

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Posted 2 years, 36 days ago - 1 Comment
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Is The Art of Lyricism Lost In Hip Hop?

On April 19, 1994, Illmatic was first introduced to the world. Little did everyone know, it would become one of the most celebrated hip hop albums of all time. It’s been 20 years since Nas released his first studio album and till this day it is still considered a classic to many. But what makes this a classic record?

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Posted 2 years, 38 days ago - 2 Comments
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The County Building, Vantiy Slaves, and Self-Love: In Defense of Kendrick Lamar

When I heard my first Kendrick Lamar song, my wife shared some of his music on my Facebook page. It was Vanity Slaves, a song from Kendrick’s mixtape titled, “Kendrick Lamar EP.” I heard it, and then I listened to it again, and again, and again. I was hooked.

My friends from high school put me on conscious hip-hop (shout out to the Poetic Minds crew) but I just wasn’t diligent enough to find some artists on my own. But once I heard Vanity Slaves, I was never the same. Few artists have the capability of being entertaining, educational, and hood at the same time. This gift is what makes Kendrick so appealing to a budding academic like myself from Inglewood California.

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Posted 2 years, 41 days ago - 0 Comments
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MIR: Saint Louis’ Most Original Artist

Put a jazz quartet on the block, run their sounds through a synthesizer’s distortion engine, and hand Mir a microphone to let him spit off the dome, then you might have some understanding of what his new project “Wet Hu” has to offer. There’s no middle ground on Mir; you either applaud his lyrical aptitude or ascribe his rants as incoherent gibberish. Much in the same way Beck invigorated the alternative world with his off-the-wall diction, Mir has no filter and does not slave himself to following hip-hop’s building blocks for track creation. There are no clever metaphors, no radio singles, no club-friendly arrangements, everything freely flows from Mir’s conscious, an undeniably original perspective of expression that explores his fears, desires, and existence. This is most obvious on the project’s most cohesive track Draw, where Mir states, “If I ever say a word, if I ever speak, it will be free, it will be me.”

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Posted 2 years, 42 days ago - 0 Comments
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New Year Resolutions for Local Rappers

Saint Louis seems to be on the edge of breaking out into the national hip-hop scene for the last three years. Despite the successes of some, our artists are largely irrelevant in the game. With an abundance of Chicago artists on the edge of supernovae, perhaps more heads will turn their gaze to the Midwest, but we cannot be dependent upon the popularity of city that is not our own. A new year offers new hope for those in our scene looking to make it big. After studying how and why rappers become noticed, here is some collective advice on how to be ahead of trend and to realize your own success.

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Posted 2 years, 43 days ago - 0 Comments
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The Stream Versus The Purchase

At one point in recent memory, streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify were seen as the future of the industry. As data and headlines published in late 2014 about Taylor Swift pulling her music catalog from Spotify due to the equivalent loss in album sales or Sony’s claim of Pharrell’s hit Happy only generating $2,700 in revenue in the first quarter of 2014, many labels and artists are becoming worry of music streaming and subscription services. Since the rise of iTunes, albums sales in any format have declined while an increase in streaming has occurred in YouTube, Spotify, Pandora. Some like Swift, believe that streaming, file sharing and piracy are a leading cause in low album sales. To go along with the diminishing sales, urban music has also experienced it’s latest rounds of cultural appropriation. When 9th Wonder preaches that fans should counter appropriation by supporting artist they like, an interesting question can be raised, can I best support the artist by streaming the album or purchasing it?

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Posted 2 years, 45 days ago - 0 Comments
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Top 5 STL Hip-Hop Releases of 2014 (Presented by Louis Quatorze)

We may remember 2014 as the turning point for Saint Louis hip-hop. Any head in the scene will tell you our music is overlooked and under-appreciated, but how we project our sound to the masses has yet to be understood or realized. Previous years saw local artists bending towards national trends in an attempt to piggy-back success, but it seems lessons have been learned and the new rap modus operandi is to focus on making the music terrific and forget about promotion or hype. The result is a lot of great releases and a definitive “Saint Louis sound” — modern interpretations of historical blues/jazz instrumentation and voices echoing themes of honesty, struggle, and inequality.

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Posted 2 years, 67 days ago - 0 Comments
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