Archive for the 'Features' Category

Next Up: Al-Doe

Friday, January 30th, 2015

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Al-Doe is the epitome of New York but not the “New York rapper.” The 29-year-old Bronx native’s early roots in the entertainment biz came far from the hallways of Big Apple project houses and high school lunch tables. Instead, his story began through a visual medium.

You see Al is Puerto Rican. It’s something that has been both a help and a hinder for him. He got a lot of his initial exposure as an actor during his childhood. Being featured in both soap operas and primetime TV programming, Al-Doe got a taste of the big time before he was even a teenager. It wouldn’t be until much later that he would even pick up a mic and rap.

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In The Lab with Jahlil Beats

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

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Words by Eric Diep
Photos by Lauren Gesswein

Jahlil Beats stops our interview midway to take a phone call from Busta Rhymes, who is supposed to come through to his studio session at Stadiumred in Harlem. Although he’s in Atlanta for the weekend and cannot make it tonight, Busta is already plotting a full week with Jahlil when he returns to NYC. His “1001 hard drives” are in the city, and he has offered to buy hotel rooms for their entourages. For Jahlil, it’s nothing but a two-hour drive from Pennsylvania to New York, so he’s more than accommodating to book time with the seasoned veteran. “Busta’s crazy, man,” he says after hanging up the phone. “But that’s my dude though.”

Jahlil Beats prefers going to Stadiumred over other NYC studios because of the all-encompassing environment of Harlem. Once the home of jazz legend Ornette Coleman, the 125th and Park location has grown into a premier destination for hip-hop artists to venture uptown. On the walls are dozens of album plaques from the likes of Jay Z and Fabolous—a sign that timeless records have been created here. In 2010, the harmonic space expanded to include a “B” room specially made for superproducer Just Blaze, which he uses often.

In the large “A” room, the 26-year-old producer and his team are getting ready to shoot scenes for a documentary he’s putting together. In this particular shot, Jahlil will preview new tracks he has made with Meek Mill, before getting into an unfinished beat that he has been tinkering with. Dressed in an all-black everything look (with a hat similar to the late Jam Master Jay’s), and red adidas Superstars, his work uniform seems more in-tune with Harlem’s fashion-forward MC A$AP Rocky. But right now, he’s just zoned in on adding big layers to this track before heading out for the night.

Back in the studio’s lounge area, we sat and spoke about his process in the studio, why Swizz Beatz is his favorite producer, his relationship with Meek Mill, Bobby Shmurda’s incarceration, his upcoming projects, and more. This is how Jahlil Beats does his thing in the lab.

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Next Up: Astro

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

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New artists and styles come and go with each passing year. That new wave you thought was poppin’ just six months ago has already been replaced by a new sound (or something rehashed). Producers have become the hit-makers and rarely does an act or group claim the attention of hip-hop’s audience for very long. It’s the reality of the music business these days and in the age of the Internet rapper there’s so much to pay attention to.

It ain’t like it used to be. And at least one rapper kind of wishes it was. Actually, we know thousands of rappers and fans who wish hip-hop would go back to the good ol’ days but we typically think of those people as old. Well, here’s a twist. What if one of those people was born after hip-hop’s Golden Age? That’s Astro.

The 18-year-old Brooklyn native wasn’t even alive before some of his favorite albums were released but that isn’t stopping him from finding what he likes. That same Internet that has clouded the airwaves of hip-hop is simultaneously responsible for educating younger fans who thirst for that old fashioned quality. It’s evident in his music too. Dissatisfied with what was available to him during the time he became a rapper, Astro went back in time and found something he loved.

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In The Lab with A$AP Ferg

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

FERG-MAINPhoto by Lauren Gesswein

Words by Eric Diep

A$AP Ferg has proven himself with anthemic singles like “Shabba” and “Work” that he’s more than just an understudy to A$AP Rocky. After establishing himself as hip-hop’s hood pope on 2013’s Trap Lord, he has gone to great lengths to continuously grow as an artist, experimenting with new forms of expression and delivering arguably his best music yet. The Harlem native’s been able to pull off songs with YG, Ariana Grande and SBTRKT—all from vastly different genres—that show he is building up a refined musical palette. Much like Rocky, Ferg is able to branch outside his comfort zone and hit the ground running.

Ferg’s new direction is displayed on Ferg Forever. Backed by a selection of well-placed producers like Crystal Caines, Stelios Phili, Clams Casino, Big K.R.I.T. and more, Ferg toys with flows and styles on the mixtape that represent his varied influences. It represents a young rapper trusting his gut feeling and trying something different, while preparing us for a unique aesthetic on his sophomore album.

For Nah Right’s latest studio sit-down, we traveled to Polo Grounds in the Bronx to speak with Fergenstein. Learn about things like Ferg’s recording process for Ferg Forever, his studio rules, his favorite artist to work with and why you shouldn’t box him in as an artist. This is how the Trap Lord puts in work in the lab.

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NahRight & UpNorthTrips Present: 0 To 14 / The Wrap Up

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

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Words by Daniel Isenberg (@StanIpcus)

2014 was truly an unorthodox year for rap music. Some argue that it was the worst year for the genre since its inception, citing a lack of classic material and platinum-selling album releases. But others rejoiced in its evolution, saying that rap is in better shape than ever thanks to the wealth of underground drops that made noise beneath the surface. Regardless of what side you’re on, I think we all can agree that after all the crazy shit that’s been happening these past few months, we’re ready for this year to end. But before we close the door on 2014, it’s a must that we take a moment to wrap things up and give it a proper send-off. And who better to join us in the festivities than our like-minded brethren at UpNorthTrips. Let’s break down 2014′s hip-hop highlights from 0 to 14, real quick.

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In The Lab with Mick Jenkins

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

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By Eric Diep

Mick Jenkins has had a helluva year. After receiving a large response for his provocative single “Martyrs,” the Chicago MC impacted hip-hop with his latest mixtape, The Water[s], which displayed his poetic rhymes over sleek beats from OnGaud, High Klassified and more. It’s almost the end of 2014 and rap fans are still talking about The Water[s] and playing it from front to back. The project’s concept, where “water” represents well-being, spirituality, purpose and other essential qualities, have been held to the highest regard to listeners who want to get lost in Jenkins’ message. As much praise as the Cinematic Music Group signee has gotten from music critics, it’s only the beginning of long and promising journey as a songwriter and rapper.

To get better acquainted with Mick Jenkins’ recording process, Nah Right got on the phone with him to discuss his studio habits, the process of creating The Water[s], his progression as a rapper since he started, and what we can expect from his upcoming EP and album slated for next year. This is how Mick Jenkins gets down in the lab.

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A Conversation with Wendy Day (Pt. 2)

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

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By Jimmy Ness

Wendy Day has seen it all. The 52 year old has spent two decades using her knowledge of the rap business to help create dozens of millionaires. 2pac, Pimp C, Eminem, and Slick Rick are just a few of the many artists that have trusted her expertise on industry politics. After being inspired by X-Clan and Rakim being jerked by their labels, she set up the Rap Coalition to negotiate deals, break unfair contracts and provide career advice. Some of her first deals were the biggest in music history such as Cash Money’s $30 million distribution deal with Universal and No Limit’s signing to Priority. In the first half of this interview, we chatted about what 2pac planned for his next album, Freddie Foxx putting a gun to Birdman’s head and 50 Cent crushing Young Buck. In part two, Wendy drops gems about Pimp C catching the New York subway, her role in Dr Dre discovering Eminem and the undisguised greed she’s witnessed in the music industry.

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A Conversation with Wendy Day (Pt. 1)

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

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Words by Jimmy Ness

Wendy Day has been responsible for over a billon dollars in album sales, meaning she’s involved in shifting units comparable to Jay-Z and P-Diddy combined. But the 52-year-old isn’t a label shark profiting from manipulating artists into bad deals. She’s dedicated her life to building careers, sharing industry insight and negotiating fair contracts for rappers. In 1992, Wendy used her sizable life savings, stocks, Condo and BMW to fund non-profit organization Rap Coalition, a move that former Bad Boy accountant Bert Padell critiqued as “fucking crazy.” Day brokered some of the biggest deals in music history including Master P’s No Limit Records signing to Priority and Cash Money’s $30 million distribution deal with Universal, which allowed them to keep 85% of their royalties. The outspoken industry veteran held nothing back during our chat and has enough stories to fill several autobiographies. In part one of this interview, we discussed what 2pac planned for his next album, the time Freddie Foxx put a gun to Birdman’s head in public, 50 Cent crushing Young Buck, and a possible collaboration between Slick Rick and Kendrick Lamar.

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Happy 75th Birthday Queensbridge: The 75 Greatest QB Rap Songs

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

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Words by Paul Meara (@PaulMeara)

Queensbridge Houses was infamous long before any hip-hop gatekeeper donned it such. The harrowing hallways of North America’s largest housing projects were a refuge for drug dealers, stick up kids and mob figures long before Marley and Shan touched a 4-track or mic and broadcasted about it. Opening in 1939, The Bridge has a long history of housing the hard-stricken. Those who famously made it out did it either with a basketball or a microphone.

There’s no doubt the crack epidemic affected the surroundings of those who would choose music. Pioneering clique The Juice Crew’s earlier rhymes didn’t typically assume the gangster element but those who spawned from them couldn’t help but represent what they saw. The youngest member of the 80s mega posse began to take it exclusively to the streets. Intelligent Hoodlum, and his debut self-titled LP, was one of the first in a long succession during the 1990s to represent QB’s dark street vibes while incorporating a wiser message. And this trend continued with nearly everyone who followed. Nas would be next. Up to that point in Hip-Hop’s history, nobody had ever come across an 18-year-old with such a firm command of the English language and rhymes imparted with a wisdom beyond his years. Mobb Deep would release their peak project at the tender age of 19 soon after. Tragedy Khadafi disciples Capone-N-Noreaga would keep the fire burning two years later with another Big Apple classic. No other neighborhood in hip-hop music’s history released more quality in a shorter amount of time. It was legendary and heavily influential in not only New York’s rap makeup, but also the genre’s.

In honor of Queensbridge’s 75th year in existence (and Nas’ recent release of Time is Illmatic), Nah Right has compiled and ranked as many songs. The greatest QB hip-hop cuts of all time. You know, the joints that scream grimy. The ones that take you straight to 41st and Vernon. The jawns that helped shape the legacy of Queensbridge and were important in its musical vibrancy. This list isn’t the greatest songs from artists who happen to be from QB. Nah. This is that diggin’ though crates for unreleased white labels shit. That dun lingo laced crack that brought you straight across the 59th Street Bridge into the valley of tough cats and rhymes just as thoro. Or as Mobb Deep would call it “Hell on Earth.”

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All the Way Live: Party Supplies Performs with Action Bronson and Roc Marciano at Sonos Studio NYC

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

Sonos Studio NYCPhoto by Bryan Derballa

Words by Daniel Isenberg (@StanIpcus) | Photos by Bryan Derballa (unless otherwise noted)

This past Friday night I had the esteemed privilege of attending a private event hosted by Sonos and Soundcloud, featuring live music by Party Supplies and my two favorite rappers alive—Action Bronson and Roc Marciano. As a Rap Dad of three who doesn’t get to go out much anymore and enjoy live music, I must say it was well worth the journey from the 914 into Manhattan. Here are my ten highlights from the night.

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