Author Archives: FusicologistNYC

Lupe Fiasco brings the underground to Highline NYC

Lupe Fiasco @ Highline Ballroom

Words and Photos by Dashaun Simmons | @13Rose

It’s easy to forget that Lupe Fiasco was only supposed to do 3 albums. When his debut hit stores in 2008 via 1st and 15th/Atlantic, he planned to do two more albums and retire from rap. In 2017, we find Lupe returning to NYC supporting his first independent album (6th official release) entitled Drogas Light.

After opening sets by Dayne Jordan, and battle rap luminary Daylyt, Lupe took the stage with his tour DJ Double O fresh off their DC stop. Unlike other rap artists, Lupe doesn’t keep his fans waiting long. He makes good use of his stage time leaving nothing to waste. The set began with High, an interlude (which is as long as a song) from the aforementioned Drogas album. The drum kicks were played out in real time by Double O using a digital setup.

Lupe quickly reminded this audience of his rich catalog of singles and deep album cuts that keeps them coming back for more. Go Go Gadget Flow got everyone turnt in an attempt to follow his dizzying lyrical cadence. Dopamine Lit pushed the energy even higher. Kick/Push, Hip Hop Saved My Life, and even I Gotcha all got tons of love. Fans of underground Lupe releases like Pharoah Height were treated to his two latest Soundcloud masterpieces ANKH:HER and Kneelin’ On Needles. At one point Lupe brought underground NYC native Mickey Factz to the stage to perform some additional acrobatics flows.These lyrically dense moments would normally satisfy hardcore fans, but not Lupe’s. They ate them up and still chanted for other heavy songs like SLR.

The energy often shifted from head nod songs like American Terrorist to bouncing off the wall sing-a-long song Daydreaming. His range is very wide and varied. Lupe kind of started his career talking about things most rappers shy from and taking the road less travelled. It only makes sense that he’s finally become the independent artist he was always destined to be. With a solid and loyal base of supports intact, Lupe is perhaps in the most free position of his career. If you enjoy his music and follow his multiple entendre raps, you owe it to yourself to see him in this space.

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CONCERT REVIEW: Run The Jewels Run NYC

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Words and photos by Dashaun Simmons @13Rose

One of the few bright moments of 2016 was the release of the third Run The Jewels album. As with every previous release, Killer Mike and El-P took their talents on the road to fellowship with their many supporters. At a stop in NYC (one of 4 sold out shows) Run The Jewels felt right at home as El-P is a NY native, and Mike has been spending plenty of time here since the duo formed.

After lit opening sets by Gangsta Boo (who still runs it) and The Gaslamp Killer (this man works hard) got the crowd ready, the ebony and ivory EPMD put down the type of energetic set you’ve come to expect. They set things off with Talk To Me, which sent people bouncing off the walls. Other songs like Call Ticketron and Stay Gold were super menacing but gave the audience a chance to nod intensely and listen. There was a familial vibe in the venue filled with people of different nationalities who seemed to know all the words to every song that was performed.

During the show there were moments of reflection as well as comedy. The intro of Panther like a Panther played out great live, with El-P lamenting the end of his rap career to become a slam poet. The finger snap response to El’s debut poem could be heard throughout the borough of Manhattan. Mike talked about inviting the former President Obama and his “OG” Bernie Sanders to the concert. The purpose of such an invite was to show off the amount of diversity that exists at a Run The Jewels show. A show of unity.

While this concert was clearly to celebrate the material off the new album, fans of the older projects were taken care of as well. Oh My Darling Don’t Cry Blockbuster Night Pt.1 and Love Again (With Gangsta Boo back on stage) still go hard. These guys really care for their fans and it shows in both the music and their live performance.

At this point, if you are a fan of Run The Jewels, you are a fool if you don’t see them live.

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REVIEW: Dru Hill 20 Year Anniversary @ B.B. Kings NYC

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It may be hard to believe but there was a time where groups dominated R&B. There have been several waves of this phenomenon, but during the 90s 4 part harmony was inescapable. Depending on who you ask, these were the good ole days when 4 guys from Baltimore named Dru Hill took center stage. For one night in NYC, they transported their adoring fans back to that special time in music.

The stage set up complete with a three piece band and four chairs (Woody is still gone) would have you think the guys have gotten old and can’t do that Tell Me hop step they were so famous for early in their career. You couldn’t be more wrong. Nokio, Sisqo, and newish member Tao took the stage to perform a few songs with some energetic choreography including the hit Tell Me. The show was pretty much a party from the start with other songs like In My Bed Remix and Big Bad Momma (but without Foxy Brown) causing a big sing along.

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When things started to calm down a bit, Jazz joined the rest of the fellas to sing Never Make A Promise. If there is anything that can be said about Dru Hill, it’s that they can sing. The newish member Tao holds his own, and his vocals make it easy to understand why he’s in the group.

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Sisqo absolutely commands the stage like the lead singer that he is. He wears his influences on his sleeve and a number of his dance moves are clearly inspired by the late great Michael Jackson. It’s surprising that he doesn’t lose his balance from all that spinning but he keeps the show going no matter what. Midway through the show Sisqo does a solo set with HIS OWN BACK UP DANCERS. These aren’t Dru Hill dancers. They ONLY come out for Sisqo solo songs.

The unexpected portion of the evening happened when Dru Hill paid homage to the artists who came before them, starting with Jodeci’s Forever My Lady and ending with Prince’s Darling Nicky. There wasn’t a bad song the whole night.

Of course the show had to end with that song that everyone thinks of when you mention Dru Hill, the Thong Song. Sisqo and his dancers took the stage to those violins when know so well and the place went crazy. The other three members came out to support their brother and end the night off right. If you are a lover of 90s R&B or just great R&B in general, this is a show you don’t want to miss.

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IMAGES & WORDS: Dashaun Simmons
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Event Review: Bilal Brings In Another Life to NYC

Bilal on Guitar

We are lucky to still have Bilal. After four albums including the unreleased (by a major label) Love For Sale, he is still exploring the boundaries of his art. With the release of his fifth album In Another Life, the unique vocalist decided to celebrate in his adopted home of NYC. Fans were treated to an opening set of 45s by the albums sole producer, Adrian Younge.

The dusty groove of the album was brought to life by a four piece band and one back up singer (with a nice range of his own). While this new album finds Bilal keeping his far reaching vocal range in check for the most part, his performance was still filled with the wailing that fans depend on from their favorite soul singer. The playful groove of Open up the Door gives way to a rare moment for everyone to do a little two step.

Money Over Love is just as menacing in person even without the Kendrick Lamar guest verse. However, it’s when Bilal does the song that makes him “spill out all his guts” Sometimes, that everyone completely looses it. The back up singer drives home the haunting adlibs and backing vocals of this classic record. The audience just sings along as if it’s their own tales being spilled in the song.

Adrian joins Bilal on stage about a quarter through the show to take on the keys. Featured artist Kimbra adds to the festivities for Holding It Back. The back up singer had to remind Bilal that the guitar sitting on stage is for him to actually play. He then proceeds to lightly strum it for the next song. It’s clearly something he’s working still on.

The overall show has a very loose feel to it. Without having the album as a map to follow, you would think it was a jam session. A really good one, but a jam session none the less.

After the customary leave the stage for a bit, the band returns for an encore performance of the Grammy nominated All Matter, followed by Back to Love. The show wraps up when Bilal brings his son on stage to say goodnight to the audience. It must feel nice as an artist to continue to create your own standards and not have to perform Soul Sista at every show. It’s his creativity, talent and ability to move forward which constantly gives him another life.

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PHOTOS / STORY: Dashaun Simmons @13rose

Dipset Reunion in NYC

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There was a time after 9/11 when NY still had somewhat of an identity in rap. That time was run by The Dips. Killa Cam, Jim Jones, Juelz Santana and Freaky Zeaky had the city on tilt at one point. That point has long since past but there are plenty of people that wave the Harlem Diplomats flag, and in turn the Dips keep the movement moving.

Brought together by Hot 97′s Funk Master Flex, Dipset started with some new records that had the right energy but wasn’t exactly what people came for. If you pay to see the Dips in 2015 you want the hits. Those Heatmakerz and Just Blaze bangers. The group almost immediately split up into solo sets starting with Jim Jones who had some highs but mostly lows. During most of his set the crowd was fairly calm (he saved Balling for the end of the show). Juelz set was on 10 the whole time. Freaky Zeaky showed just how important it is to have the right friends. I’m sure he gets a cut for just being on stage, shouting ad-libs, and dancing weird.

Cam’ron is still clearly the leader of the whole gang. It’s amazing to hear the different level of song structure and production on his songs compared to the rest of the Dips. I Really Mean It and Down and Out are just on another level even a decade after they were first released. Hell Rell came out for Get’em Daddy, though he had to fight through 2/3rds of the stage covered by non performers to do his verse.

If you’re a fan of the Dips you can’t really miss this show. They do everything, even Purple City Byrdgang.

STORY: Dashaun Simmons @rose13

Ab-Soul takes the CRWN in NYC

Elliott Wilson Hosts CRWN With Ab-Soul For WatchLOUD.com, Presented By vitaminwater

Words by: Dashaun Simmons @13Rose | Photo by: Ben Gabbe/Getty Images for Electus Digital

Elliott Wilson’s CRWN series has helped to provide the average hip hop fan with a direct line to their favorite artist. With Elliott’s knack for asking the tough questions in a way the artists can’t avoid, there are numerous jewels dropped during each session. Next up to bat is Soul Brother #2 himself, Ab-Soul. With the release of his latest album These Days, Soul (like most artists) has been met both with both praise and criticism from his fans.

In this sit down you’ll learn about his time working in the family record shop (with Kevin Liles putting up promo posters), the bridge between Control System and These Days, why he misses Blackplanet chat, and how he balances competition and love for his TDE brothers Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, and Jay Rock. Soul also gets candid when discussing his love life both past and current.

The actual CRWN session will be released in two separate parts between 9/18 and 9/19. To get a peak at what you can expect in this edition (including Elliott’s Tom Ford sneakers…YIKES) peep the link below. Enjoy.

http://watchloud.com/crwn-ab-soul-teaser/

Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival 2014: We Made It!

Jay Elec and Jay Z

Words by Dashaun Simmons @13Rose | Photos by Shino Yanagawa @shinopaz

A decade ago the good folks at Brooklyn Bodega created the first Hip Hop Festival in Brooklyn. Throughout the years they’ve had headliners from all over the city like Big Daddy Kane, KRS-One, Q-Tip, Pharoahe Monch and De La Soul. For the 10 year anniversary the Bodega wanted to do it big, so they went and stacked the deck with some old favorites alongside some new talent.

Early on festival goers were treated to the likes of previous headliners like Brand Nubian to set the tone of the day. G.O.O.D Music artist from Atlanta CyHi The Prince took the stage to promote his aggressive mixtape Histori: Black History Project. Next was the performance that would change the game for the BHF.

Jay Electronica, a man who continues to confuse the hip hop world with his words and actions whether on twitter or on the blogs, was next to take the stage. He arrived in full F.O.I (Fruit of Islam) garb with a detail from the Nation in tow to ensure his protection. Throughout his performance he shared the stage with Mac Miller (who forgot his verse), Talib Kweli and fellow Roc Nation artist J Cole. But it was the captain of the ship who created pandemonium at the festival. After having everyone in attendance throw their diamond in the sky, Jay Elec called out Jay Z. Jay took the stage to his version of Big Daddy Kane’s Young Gifted and Black. After that the two Jay’s went right into their remake of We Made It complete with Five Percenter jargon and Drake shade. It was a beautiful moment. One that was pretty impossible to follow, but someone had to go on next.

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CJ Fly took the stage with his band and did his best to entertain a crowd that just got finished rapping along to Jay Z’s PSA with the man himself. A difficult task indeed. He did a pretty good job actually with his small band. It was a nice look for the Pro Era emcee.

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Next to the stage was the other headliner…you know the guy from Wu-Tang. Raekwon the Chef came out in a CLEAN pair of kicks and took the crowd through a journey of Wu songs plus his solo stuff. Rae had no problem rapping his brother’s verses in their absence which made for a fun show. Being a man who likes to share, Rae brought out only Brooklyn emcees like Masta Killa (Glaciers of Ice is still amazing), Lil Fame from MOP, AZ, online sensation Bobby Shmurda (a HUGE surprise) and Papoose (which I have to say the crowd kinda went crazy for). It was a little awkward when Rae didn’t really get to end his set, and instead Pap ended it for him with a free Remy chant. How in the hell do you follow that in year 11. A good problem to have I say.

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Rae and AZ

Rae and Pap

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Jay Elec

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10 Years Fresh

Schoolboy Q Turns It Up At Summerstage 2014, NYC

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Words by Dashaun Simmons @13Rose | Photos by Shino Yanagawa @shinopaz

It was only two years ago that Schoolboy Q graced the Central Park audience as a middle act supporting Childish Gambino for a sold out show. At the time he was still building his fanbase and when he performed the low key single “There He Go” the crowd response was small but focused. A number one album in 2014 has certainly changed the situation for TDE’s second blockbuster artist after Kendrick Lamar.

The evening started off on schedule with openers like new R&B sensation Tinashe enjoying love from a weary yet energetic crowd, wondering if the rain would kill the vibe for this epic night of hip hop and R&B. Being that we were in NYC it’s only right that A$AP Mob came through to support their Cali bredren. A$AP Nast did his 90′s influenced banger Trillmatic.

A$AP Mob

A$AP Mob

Flatbush Zombies were an unsuspected bonus for the show. Their constant touring has really honed their showmanship.

Flatbush Zombies

Flatbush Zombies

As the show continued to build everyone lost their minds when A$AP Ferg stepped on stage and showed why he’s still the Trap Lord. Shabba and Work still go like they just came out yesterday. Hella Hoes is an instant turn up record for the Mob even without A$AP Rocky.

A$AP Ferg

A$AP Ferg

After the A$AP set, the West Coast Puff Daddy himself took the stage looking over an audience filled with bucket hats. Starting off with Fuck LA, Schoolboy Q sets the pace and never really lets up. Whereas in 2014 where he was likely to end with his A$AP Rocky assisted single Hands On The Wheel, it’s now the second song of his set. Must be nice. Rocky eventually did join Q on stage to perform PMW from his debut album along with their mixtape banger Brand New Guy. The ladies of course lost it at the sight of the braided up Harlemite.

Schoolboy Q and A$AP Rocky

Schoolboy Q and A$AP Rocky

The features didn’t stop there as fellow Black Hippy member Ab-Soul joined the fun promoting his newly released album These Days with a little help from Queens native Action Bronson with Stigmata.

Ab-Soul and Action Bronson

Ab-Soul and Action Bronson

Bringing out all of these friends and family took it’s toll and made Q cut his show a little short. Break the Bank only got one verse but he made sure to have enough space to finish off the evening with Man of the Year. What a difference a #1 album makes.

Flatbush Zombies Dive

Flatbush Zombies

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Tevin Campbell Comes Back To The World

Tevin Campbell

In 2013 Tevin Campbell made the rounds getting back on stage for packed clubs with die-hard fans singing along to every one of his classics. After years of being away from the public Tevin treated his fans to an evening of the songs that made them love him originally. Fast forward to 2014, and he’s back on the stage hitting the same venues around the country, but this time he has a new band, new material, and overall new energy.

The show starts with two songs from his debut album, the remake of Strawberry Letter 23 and the Babyface produced Perfect World. The overall feeling is at a pretty calm level at this point and you can feel the audience waiting for Tevin to to take it to the next level. Back to the world helps to get the vibe higher, but it’s when he does Always In My Heart that we hear the amazing voice we all fell in love with back in the early 90s.

Before Tevin performs Dandelion from his last studio album, he tells a story of the song being created with Aaliyah and their plans to do the video together. Unfortunately she passed before their plans could come to fruition. For the classic Tell Me What You Want Me To Do he choose a stripped down almost acoustic take which suits both the song and his voice well.

Tevin also did a numbner of new songs including one very good record produced by Rahsaan Patterson. Brown Eyed Girl allows us to see Tevin showing off his skills on the keys before he closed the show with his all time classic Can We Talk. 21 years after it’s release and the vocals sound just a smooth as they did back in the days. After a short call back to the stage from his fans, Tevin treated these die-hards to two Prince produced records Round and Round (in the same key from when he was a kid) and Shhhh. Overall another great show under the belt for the veteran with promising new material on deck. A new album should be on the horizon for a possible release this year. It’s safe to say that Tevin Campbell is back.

PHOTO / STORY: Dashaun Simmons @13Rose

 

EVENT REVIEW: The 9th Annual Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival

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Words by Dashaun Simmons @13Rose | Photos by Shino Yanagawa @shinopaz

With 9 years of planning and executing the Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival to varying results, the good folks at Brooklyn Bodega have seemed to figure out exactly how to run this thing. Time management has long plagued the festival, but in 2013 it was no longer an issue. Instead of booking more acts than they can handle or a headliner that sucked up all of their resources (see last years Busta Rhymes difficulties) performances were evenly divided. Even the layout of the festival was better, with a “vendor village” on one side offering several food, clothing and recreational program options, an elaborate Brooklyn Nets video game and basket ball set up on the other, and a comfortable space in the middle for everyone to enjoy the show. With Uncle Ralph McDaniels and Torae hosting the show everything was in place.

The meat of the show leading up to the headliners was much better this year. Newcomer Dizzy Wright hailing from out west put on a very engaging set. Without knowing his songs you were still forced to move. Hot 97′s own DJ Enuff put it down for one of hip hop’s legendary fallen soldiers MCA of the Beastie Boys. DJ Hurricane who used to spin for the Beasties held down the stage with Enuff to make it official tissue. The tribute was one that I’d like to think Adam would have been proud of. At one point I thought Hurricane might jump into Elbow Room but he keep it about the Beasties and kept it cool. To top it all off the unofficial mayor or Brooklyn Mr. Spike Lee himself touch the stage to discuss the gun violence plaguing the country right now. He didn’t even plug his new movie Oldboy until later on in the show. Spike seems determined to make a change in the community.

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The first headliner was the Funk Doctor Spot himself Redman. You might wonder why Redman who is well known for tearing down a stage would go first but here’s the dilemma. There is no way Redman would let his mentors EPMD open for him, and there is no way that a high priced new comer like Pusha T would work being sandwiched in between the Hit Squad. So Redman goes first and he of course destroys the stage. He does a few (and I really mean a few) new songs and goes right into his bread and butter. Tonights The Night and Time 4 Sum Aksion almost got someone punched in the face (as it should). The only bad part of Red’s set was that when a fan asked him to do something off his Dare Iz A Darkside album his only reply was “Man I don’t even remember that album.” It’s unfortunate because Can’t Wait is one of his best songs. But Redman always being one to keep it in the fam, brings out DoItAll from Lords Of The Underground (who actually introduced Red to EPMD) for the classic Chief Rocka. Jersey represented lovely.

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EPMD come out to the classic It’s My Thang and rock the crowd old school style. You gotta love Erick Sermon and Parish Smith. They are graduates from the rap class of 88 and still here to tell the tale. However they are starting to show signs of wear and tear. Erick having several health issues is starting to lose his flair. Their major hits had so much energy that at times it hard to watch them struggle through and just finish most after half of the song. DJ Scratch at this point is the strongest draw of the group with his amazing scratching and tricks of the trade.

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The headliner was G.O.O.D Music artist, one half of the Virginia rap group Clipse, spokesperson for the neighborhood dope boy Pusha T. Pusha has been building his solo career for a few years now with mixtape releases and numerous guest features. So of course his stage show is full of guest features and mixtape songs. He gets through his very strong Clipse catalog quick before hitting the new swagged out songs like Millions and Doesn’t Matter. For most of his set the audience seemed to be in a trance just amazed that Pusha was actually there. He seemed pleased with the admiration and visibly showed his appreciation for the crowd.

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The Festival finished on time, with no violence (not that there ever is any) and relatively good weather (the rain was faint and mostly during the middle of the show). With number 10 on deck you have to wonder what Brooklyn Bodega has in store. Will they stock up the line up like they did the year Q-Tip headlined or will they go top heavy for a big Brooklyn name to round off 10 years on the set? Whichever route they choose I’m sure it will be dope.

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Words by Dashaun Simmons @13Rose | Photos by Shino Yanagawa @shinopaz