Tag Archives: Jay Z

How Festivals Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Hip-Hop

9 Sep

Something strange happened once Eminem completed his recent headline set at the Reading and Leeds festival a couple of weeks ago. As the final rousing chorus of Lose Yourself faded away, hip hop officially become part of the British musical landscape.


Let me back up a little bit. Eminem had previous headlined Reading & Leeds (henceforth called R&L to save my fingers) in 2001. However, it is one thing for an artist to be booked when they’re a cultural phenomenon, and quite another when they’re a veteran of the genre. Many British festivals and magazines opened their arms to Eminem while he was at his height. Booking him 12 years on shows the confidence festivals organisers have in his huge back catalogue of work.

Unlike the USA, where rap is so mainstream Jay-Z can host his own festival, hip hop’s traditionally faced a lot of resistance in Britain. Back when Jay-Z headlined Glastonbury in 2008, many people were sceptical. Noel Gallagher claimed: “I’m not having hip-hop at Glastonbury. It’s wrong.” Jay-Z ended up receiving rave reviews for his performance, managing to please both the hardcore fans and those who only knew the chorus to 99 Problems. However, Glastonbury was always far more diverse than traditional rock festivals like Reading & Leeds.

If you need more evidence, look further down the billing at R&L this year. A$AP Rocky and Azealia Banks both performed the penultimate slots on the NME Stage on different days. Neither are household names but both have cult followings. On smaller stages, you could find a whos-who of up-and-coming talent, such as Chance the Rapper, Angel Haze, Earlwolf and Action Bronson. You could quite easily have spent the whole weekend there without hearing a single guitar.

This breakdown of genre barriers isn’t limited to rap. Melvin Benn, the organiser of R&L, recently tipped Chase & Status as future headliners. Electric music is another genre experiencing a huge boom but this will still come as a surprise to the festivals’ hardcore rock fans; the emphasis seems to be less on promoting what people expect and simply putting good bands on.

Eminem may be the greatest crossover rapper ever, partly owing to his rebellious hits aimed at suburban teens and partly no doubt due to his skin colour. However, the fact remains he has opened plenty of doors in the UK and it surely won’t be long before hip hop superstars like Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar step through them. 

Album Preview – YEEZUS by Kanye West

7 Jun

Before you read on let me introduce you to the author of this post and new Music Court contributor, Jamie Waller. We are excited to have him on board. Jamie will cover the rap and indie rock beat. Keep an eye out for his posts every Friday. Check out Jamie’s bio:

“I’m from Mansfield in UK, and am studying Journalism and History at the University of Lincoln. I’m a keen marathon runner and often write about running on my blog – http://feetfailmenot2.wordpress.com/. I’m a big fan of both rock and rap – my favourite bands are Arctic Monkeys and Gaslight Anthem, and I also enjoy rappers like Eminem, Nas and Kendrick Lamar.”


Kanye West

Whether you are rap fan or not, you won’t be able to avoid hearing about Kanye West’s new album YEEZUS for the next few months. Kanye announced its entrance into the world by projecting the lead single on the side of 66 buildings across America. Here is what we do and don’t know about one of the most anticipated albums of the year.

What we do know

Kanye’s god complex hasn’t gotten any smaller. Kanye has always been one of the most eccentric (some would say arrogant) character in the world of rap, but he seems to be now taking it to new heights. Yeezus is a combination of his nickname, Yeezy, and Jesus. After his smash hit song New God Flow last year, he has now developed a god complex of his own.

The Dropout Bear isn’t back. The adorable bear from his first three album covers still isn’t back – instead he has opted for a minimalistic cover that mimics bootlegged CDs, complete with a handwritten sticker saying ‘YEEZUS.’ Perhaps the moral is ‘Don’t judge a CD by its cover?’

The guest list will be as huge as usual. The list of people he has worked with in the studio just keeps growing, from regular collaborators like Frank Ocean, John Legend and Pusha T, to some people you might not expect – Skrillex and Daft Punk, for example. The French duo reportedly produced the single ‘Black Skinhead’ while Skrillex’s role is still a mystery. Jay-Z will almost certainly have a guest verse too as usual.

It won’t be like anything we’ve heard before. If there’s one thing you can rely on Kanye for, it’s to constantly reinvent his musical style. From the slowed-down horns of his debut to autotune, there’s little telling what he will do next. People who have worked with him have hinted towards the album being ‘dark’, ‘primal’ and ‘tribal’, whatever that means.

It will be released on 18th June. That is, if you believe Kanye’s mysterious tweets.

What we don’t know

What’s actually going to be on the CD. Kanye may be very ostentatious but he can keep a secret when he needs to; there have been almost no leaks about YEEZUS. Going against the current trend, the album won’t be streamed before release either. Kanye has performed the songs New Slaves and Black Skinhead live, but besides that everything else is under wraps.

Whether his rapping has improved. Without being disrespectful, Kanye has never been the most gifted lyricist. His talents lie in producing songs and getting the best out of other rappers, but he constantly gets outshined by them. He has definitely made strides in recent albums – for example, take lines like “They say I’m the abomination of Obama’s nation/ Well that’s a pretty bad way to start a conversation.”  It will be interesting to see whether he can actually hold his own now.

Is he really going political? The first single from the album touches on themes about how consumerism is used to keep black people down, while the word Skinhead has strong political connotations. While he’s never been afraid to touch on struggles black people face before, this is the first time he’s placed them as the centre piece of his album.

Whether it will live up to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Nightmare. Kanye’s last solo album wowed critics and the buying public alike back in 2010. Looking at fame through the prism fairy tales, it dove into the grimy heart of celebrity, winning the Grammy for Best Rap Album. There was an outcry when it was snubbed by the main award in favour of more commercial albums. The question now – and the only one that will really matter to listeners – is if whether Kanye can return to the heights of his masterpiece.

The Bullitts Won’t Die By Dawn

26 Mar
The theatrical poster from Jeymes Samuel' short film "They Die by Dawn" starring Rosario Dawson and Giancarlo Esposito

The theatrical poster from Jeymes Samuel’ short film “They Die by Dawn” starring Rosario Dawson and Giancarlo Esposito

Do not be surprised when The Bullitts’ debut album They Die By Dawn & Other Short Stories drops this summer and quite literally blows up the music world. The multifaceted baby of the tremendously talented English singer/songwriter/producer/filmmaker Jeymes Samuel, the album will feature a diverse assortment of fresh sounds created by an assortment of musicians and actors (Jay-Z, Jay Electronica, Yasiin Bey, Lucy Liu, Idris Elba and Rosario Dawson).

The question is if the hip/hop world is ready to be shaken. In a mercurial market, The Bullitts’ theatrical flair and mind-bending sounds can radically shape a genre that is expanding to include more indie instrumentation, and, in the case of Samuel (who uses the Bullitts as a moniker) a tribute to Spaghetti Westerns.

Samuel, who has been working with Jay-Z to complete what is sure to be a fascinating soundtrack for the Great Gatsby, implemented Ennio Morricone “Dollars Trilogy” panache to create “They Die By Dawn,” a staggering track that effortlessly combines two seemingly conflicting styles (Western and Hip/Hop).



The song begins with heavy percussion much like Stauss’ “Also sprach Zarathustra” – which generally means something epic is going to happen – and then quickly transitions to a marching acoustic guitar riff and Morricone whistle. The layered instrumentation helps establish the Wild West milieu, and you can envision a brigand like Clint Eastwood slowly riding into the town of San Miguel. As the instruments reach an apex, a narrator speaks a short prayer and the song turns over into rap featuring choppy pieces of the opening in the background. The amalgamation of pure sound is stimulating. I hate to use such simplistic language, but the song is just plain cool, and Samuel deserves some supreme credit for creating a piece like it.



“World Inside Your Rainbow” is another song that will appear on the Bullitts’ release this summer. It’s a subtly powerful track – emotional and contained. The acoustic riff creates a subdued Spanish folk feel but the impassioned lyric and whispery vocal emit power and ardor.

Follow The Bullitts – Website, Facebook, Twitter

Money, Cash, Hoes: What Type of Facts are Those

12 Sep

I’m going to go from my oldest obsession to my newest.  Hip hop music.  I’m going to say upfront I never liked hip hop music. If your name starts with a “lil,” I don’t like you and I know your music sucks.  For that shrinking subset of rappers whose names don’t start with a “lil” or autotune, I’ll give you a chance.  That being said, I don’t like most rap.  I can’t really relate to either the excess rappers (smoke blunts) or the socially conscience rappers. That being said, there is still good rap even if you have to dig deep for it.

Take everything I said about excess rappers and throw it away for a second.  Just a second.  Or however long it takes you to read the following.  Despite what I’ve said, I really like Jay Z despite his embodiment of much that I despise.  The only explanation is that he has really soulful beats.  Try The Blueprint or the Black Album.  Neither album has him rapping over a drum machine which I particularly dig, even if much of his stuff is about living the life.

Watching that video, I remember just how great Eminem is.  Eminem was the first rapper I ever heard and said wow.  The man doesn’t just rap a line and take a break, he barrels forward without a break, even if it means you have to catch up to him.  His dark humor and violence turn me off at times but even then, he is, undisputedly, the most clever lyricist out there.  Similarly, Louis Logic’s clever lyrics and similar sense of humor remind me of Eminem.

My favorite rapper, however, is Common.  Originally attracted to his cool, soul and jazz influenced beats, I also started listening to his meaningful lyrics and was hooked.  There are, like with every other rapper, particulars that I don’t particularly enjoy but his album Be is the only rap album that I enjoy all songs on.

This last bit is about my favorite verse in all of hip hop.  It’s on a Kanye West song but no, it’s not a Kanye West lyric.  Jay Z is also on the song, but it’s not his either.  It’s by a hip hop poet by the name of J Ivy and you can skip to 3 minutes to hear it on the following link.

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