Common – Black America Again review

The ever-dramatic race for the White House was more controversial than ever this year – and we all know how it ended now. But the arrival of the 2016 US Presidential Election was also the chief reason behind Chicago rapper Common releasing his eleventh studio album, Black America Again. It’s an invigorating record for the turbulent times that America, and the world, are facing. Continue reading

Isaiah Rashad – The Sun’s Tirade review

Isaiah Rashid had his sights set on becoming a preacher before his stepbrother’s copy of OutKast’s ATLiens led him into the wild and wicked world of hip hop. A member of the Black Hippy collective, and stable mates with fellow Top Dawg signees, Schoolboy Q and Kendrick Lamar, Rashid’s sublime EP, Cilvia Demo, set the wheels in motion for this a much-anticipated full-length debut.

Considering the personal and professional struggles the rapper has since admitted he was facing during its creation, it’s a wonder that he finished The Sun’s Tirade at all – let alone to such a compelling level of quality. Continue reading

Jam of the Week: Common – Letter to the Free

Common - Letter to the Free single (630x354)Storied hip hop artist, Common, has long placed conscious messages at the centre of his music. Responding to the testing events that have gripped the United States, he shared the thought-provoking ‘Letter to the Free’ this week. Continue reading

Solange – A Seat at the Table review

Solange - Cranes video still, 01 (1280x720)It is said that the tough times are the true measure of a person’s character. By that definition, Solange is empress, artist and saviour all in one. Eight years after this maverick R&B singer’s second album, and four years since her cathartic portrait of a break-up (True EP), she has gifted us with a bold, vibrant album about freedom and the worth of her people. Continue reading

Jam of the Week: Solange – Don’t Touch My Hair (ft. Sampha)

Solange - Don't Touch My Hair music video still, 01 (980x490)Surprise digital album releases have simply become the “new standard” for a section of big-name artists. Still, Solange’s reveal of her first full-length album since 2008, A Seat at the Table, was enough to send the R&B faithful into a spin last week. Continue reading

Hip hop, misogyny and the media: why ASAP Rocky’s diss is damaging much more than Rita Ora’s self-esteem

ASAP Rocky, Rita Ora collage, BS, FG, 2015, AL (1080x608)We’ve been here before: egoistical, millionaire rapper insults famous female he had a fling with in “gross misogynistic” song lyrics that have “sparked outrage”. But that’s why you’re reading this, isn’t it? Because hip hop’s ASAP Rocky* has called UK pop singer, Rita Ora, a “bitch”, and much worse, in a song from his newly released album, At Long Last ASAP.

Right now, you might be thinking: “big deal, hip hop artists do this all the time”. Or, perhaps: “ha ha ha, the bitch deserved it”. I’m no fan of Rita Ora, but, as well as being an unnecessary knock to the singer’s self-esteem, Rocky’s diss, in ‘Better Things’, adds fuel to the already-strong belief that hip hop is, and should be, solely about narcissism, hatred and misogyny.

Well, here’s the thing: hip hop’s got 99 problems, and “bitch” is just one. Continue reading

Tunage: Prince – Baltimore

Prince - Baltmore single (750x422)On Sunday, May 10, Prince performed at an impromptu concert in Baltimore intended to bring some much needed unity and peace to the city, which is only the latest area to see the death of a non-white citizen, Freddie Gray, in this case, spark racially-motivated protests and riots. Alongside the show, he’s released aptly named ‘Baltimore’, featuring Eryn Allen Kane, a song with a sentiment that couldn’t be more plain: peace. Continue reading

Hype your writers: spoken word excellence at SOAS University

Spoken word night, SOAS University, Apr 30, 2015, by Mohamed 'Mo Rhymes' Mohamed (599x337)Energised. That’s the way I am still feeling now, having returned from a spoken word poetry night at SOAS University, London. Hosted by poet, writer and teacher, JJ Bola, the evening (on April 30) was the final event in series that has grown far beyond what its organisers at the Decolonising Our Minds Society expected.

They’ve held events about “deconstructing social norms that are remnants of colonial thought” for last couple months, including a discussion with British-Jamaican filmmaker, Cecile Emeke, which had to be moved to a bigger venue because of sheer demand. The cosy chillout zone-cum-lecture space in SOAS’s main building was similarly packed for yesterday night’s parade of vibrant performances.

If I could show the sights, bring you the sounds and allow you to feel the exchange of energies at play that night, at Hype your writers like your rappers, with more than these simple words, I would. Videos were taken, but they’re never around when you need them and nor do they convey the full flavour in their 16:9 window frame. But, even without a poet roster or schedule sheet for this open mic night, I will try, right now, to give you a sense of what occurred. Continue reading