Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Southpaw Soundtrack: Not Letting Anyone Down

According to Wikipedia, 2015's movie Southpaw is a film that depicts a boxer who rebounds after losing his wife to an accident and his daughter to protective services. I haven't seen the movie - I probably should and will.

However, I have listened to the soundtrack. I listened to it as soon as it was released - I follow the rappers I grew up with religiously and when I saw Eminem had released something new, I knew I had to at least check it out. The soundtrack is executive produced by Marshall Mathers and features four songs with him, one being a Bad Meets Evil song (Bad Meets Evil being the group he is in with fellow Detroit rapper Royce da 5'9).

In one of his post-drug overdose songs, "Not Afraid," Eminem said "I have something to prove to fans because I feel like I left them down." He has been on a one man effort to keep hip-hop going in the mainstream realm at least - signing country rap phenom Yelawolf and collaborating with Kendrick Lamar as his career has grown.

By all accounts, rap as a genre may be over. The shootings, violence, drugs and other elements that dogged the genre certainly didn't help - although rock music survived plenty of fallen idols. The genre as a whole lost its identity as a thing - it's up to others to discuss why that is. Kendrick Lamar's albums remind me of 1970s Funkadelic and George Clinton even showed up on his 2015 album To Pimp A Butterfly. Yelawolf is a bit more Johnny Cash than anything from the 1990s, the Golden Age of rap. Both use rapping as instrumentation but the formula that seemed to make the basis of hip-hop when it was vibrant seems a distant memory.

This doesn't make Southpaw not worthwhile, however. I think the soundtrack may be one of the best things that Eminem has put together. "What About The Rest Of Us" features high hats and drum beats that made me think of the R&B group En Vogue, with a message of financial instability that fit our contemporary times (Rico Love's singing is at least as good as the numerous R&B singers that the 1990s produced, be it Ginuwine or Mark Morrison). That personally was my favorite on this album and it got me excited about hip-hop again - the production by Rico Love and producer Kasanova really channeled mid-1990s hip-hop while sounding like something else entirely.

"R.N.S." is one of the better songs of Shady rap group Slaughterhouse and each member of that group is allowed to shine on the Southpaw soundtrack - Crooked I, now KXNG Crooked, does a song with Tech N9ne called "Beast." Meanwhile, that collaboration between Eminem and Gwen Stefani which seems like it always should have happened, "Kings Never Die," is fabulous. Southpaw is a superior soundtrack to 8 Mile - with, 13 years later, little need to mask oneself with the various false images rap presented in the early 2000s.

The efforts of Eminem on one hand and artists like Brother Ali to keep hip-hop going is admirable. If rap ends up being a mix of nostalgia and blending in with other genres, so be it. It's a good evolution.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Paul's Cousin and Blood Is One Is Back!!

What up.

After a year sojourn from the music world, I have decided to come back. My friend Al Miller has stuck with me through the absence - the world of hip-hop and urban culture clearly has a pull for me that eventually brings me back in.

Hip-hop seems to be full of prolonged absences, in part because of the tumultuous environments that produced it. Eminem didn't release a word for half a decade, while Dr. Dre has done his share of production but hasn't released a full album since 1999. Blood Is One started off promoting some collaborations between Kenan Bell, a very talented California rapper, and Carl Roe, a white ex-military rapper. Bell seems to have dropped out of that world while Roe I'm not honestly sure what to think of.

I came back to this site after Al urged me to get back on to promote his music last year. Over the last year, excitement about Yelawolf and the Southpaw soundtrack, which is an awesome soundtrack where Eminem and Royce da 5'9 channel a 1990s rap sound, got me more excited about all of this.

When I first started Blood Is One, I experimented around with putting mixtapes together in .zip format and then releasing them often with a donation paywall. I'm going to do something really different here and take some of Al's music with Paul's Cousin and mix them in to promotional sample mantages that will get people excited about his work enough to buy. The views on the stuff I promoted for him last year was pretty good, all accounted.

In the mean time, please donate so that we can do big and better things with this.

Let's do this, Al! Let's get money!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Paul's Cousin - Get In Gear

Hello all - I haven't blogged with Blood Is One since late 2014. I may make a few returns.

Paul's Cousin is a hip-hop project out of New Jersey, spearheaded by Al Miller, a friend of mine. The production to "Get In Gear" is exceptional - the horns are tough and the soul symbols are aptly done. The group is made up completely of Al and his cousins, Nitty, Dubb and Haze Brown and a collaboration with Drone Beats, a longtime producer and collaborator.

I really liked Donny Hathaway's sample in this and the layering of horns is always a plus in hip-hop (horns go together in hip-hop like birds and bees). Blood Is One has been inactive since 2014 but I hope to keep it active as long as Al sends me material. Best of luck, man!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Yelawolf Channels Johnny Cash "Till It's Gone"

It's been over a month since I last posted to Blood Is One and, no, music has neither dried up nor have I lost interest in posting here. In fact, quite the opposite - some really good music has been coming out. Let's look at some of it!

Yelawolf is a big, big fan of Johnny Cash. He even has a tattoo of Johnny Cash's wedding photo on the side of his head. As an iconoclastic mixed Native American/white rapper from the heart of Alabama, it certainly makes sense. Johnny Cash isn't the only country singer of significance but he is arguably the most significant country singer of all time. Cash's talent was so raw that he could take damn near any song of any genre and make the best version of it anyone ever heard.

Johnny played around with sound on his last album, Ain't No Grave. There's plenty of sound effects going on there - the dragging of chains and funeral organs. Johnny had one hell of a producer on board with him, Rick Rubin, but Rubin's work was so simple and played perfectly with Johnny's vocals. Check it out:

Yelawolf's fondness for Johnny Cash has yet to be fully realized until now - he has alot more creative freedom than he did when he was starting out. "Til It's Gone" utilizes sounds right out of the Johnny Cash handbook with handclaps that are almost reminiscent of Santa Esmerelda.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Music To Check Out And What To Do With Blood Is One

When I started this blog, I figured that I'd make a site dedicated to the music I grew up on - hip-hop. I love rap and have for a very long time. The DangerDoom record, a collaboration between MF Doom and Danger Mouse, is probably one of my favorite records of all time.

Needless to say, it was hard to keep up. If you look at the history of this site, you'll see that I haven't posted since back in December and the posts were sporadic even before that. I love rap, I really do, but I have been having one hell of a hard time getting back in to it these last few years. Maybe I'm getting older and the reality of life has made me grow up from the nonsensical foolishness of backpack rap to the nihilism of gangsta rap. Maybe what's coming out now just isn't inspiring.

Anyways, I'm still listening to music nonetheless and do feel the need to write about it. So here goes.

I found the Sunshine Reggae Podcast on iTunes. I will be honest - besides Bob Marley, his son Damian Marley and Elephant Man, I haven't listened to a whole lot of reggae. Sunshine Reggae is really impressive. I didn't expect a lot of the songs in there, especially Inner Circle's "Bad Boys," which you would probably know as the theme from "Cops."

I can see why Snoop Dogg felt the compulsion to change his name from Dogg to Lion - reggae provides the rhythm and lyricism of hip-hop without many of the overtones of nihilism and hopelessness that permeate out of the American ghetto. Snoop actually had something to do with my exploring reggae - I found his duet with Eddie Murphy very enjoyable, as did I Nas' brilliant collaboration with Damian Marley. Here's the best song from that one:

One of my friends said that Damian Marley > Nas on that album and I don't disagree. However, Damian did challenge Nas to rise above his normal gangsta rap persona. He actually became a poet on "Patience" and the verse "I've held real dead bodies in my arm, felt their body grow cold, why are we born in the first place if this is how we gotta go" has stuck with me since the first time I heard it, especially in the aftermath of my own fiancé passing away. I've listened to a lot of Nas and that sounded a whole lot more grown up than the Nas in "Thief's Theme."

Monday, December 9, 2013

R.I.P. Byrdie

Originally posted at So Much Good Music: 

 While most of the world was talking about the loss of actor Paul Walker, something happened that was, for me at least, closer to home. I'm connected to a lot of the Seattle hip-hop world and my work with Seaspot Magazine was probably the most seminal and important work I have done. It brought me the connections I have now. I had to double check a few times to make sure the horrible news was true and my old connections confirmed it.

 Seattle hip-hop legend Byrdie left us.

 It really pains me to hear that we have lost him and that his career did not explode as it should have. When he launched his debut album, I wrote a snarky review for a school newsletter that was sarcastic about his work. I was young and ignorant and disrespectful, as one would expect. Byrdie deserves a whole lot more than that. At the time, in 2004, Byrdie was going against the flow. Seattle hip-hop had not taken off as Macklemore has made it do - he put quite a bit of confidence in to the art and really broke new ground.


 Resources on Byrdie on the internet are unfortunately scarce. The Stranger wrote that he died from complications from a long bout of cancer. Here is one of his most famous songs, which I was able to find after alot of searching:


 A little bit more - here is him with Reggie Watts:

  Another link - him on KUBE 93. Notice that the announcer are saying they had "never" done a "local cut" from an artists before, back in 2001. Sir Mix A Lot was the only rapper to break through to the mainstream world from Seattle. Before Macklemore, being a rap artist from Seattle was like trying to push a massive boulder up a hill. If you have newer music or more information I could post, please let me know. Rest in peace, brother.