The Day Beyonce Said Bow Down & Everyone Got Mad

Beyonce

I don’t make a habit of speaking on the latest mainstream happenings or celebrity Twitter beefs, if you can even call this that, but trust me here….I have a point.  Keyshia Cole is mad.  Yesterday, she went so far as to tweet a decidedly meek jab at Beyonce in reference to her latest tired-of-being-humble anthem “Bow Down”: 

KColeTwt

Clearly she has not learned from what happened when Keri Hilson attempted to throw a veiled diss at Miss Knowles some time ago.  People are quick to catch on and you essentially throw yourself to the wolves.  It always becomes an issue of insecurity when an artist tries to throw themselves into the same arena with artists they aren’t even a blip on the radar to.  Beyonce and Keyshia Cole do not compete for the same audience.  Keyshia’s forgettable brand of hoodrat soul is a very specific genre as opposed to Beyonce’s mass-marketed world pop and those who like both are going to support both, plain and simple.  Throwing out ugly little tweets just introduce you as “hater of Beyonce” to people who have never heard your work or have forgotten you existed.  I think Keyshia Cole’s opinion stopped meaning anything as soon as the world was introduced to Frankie and Neffie, but that’s neither here nor there.

Granted, the song itself is abysmal and Beyonce didn’t need to resort to profanity considering her huge following of young impressionable women, but that being said, I’d much rather she show her ass in the studio than do it in her every day life literally on Instagram (a la Rihanna) or figuratively on Twitter (a la Rihanna or in yesterday’s case, Keyshia Cole).  There is something to be said for getting into character when it’s time to perform and maintaining composure and mystique outside of it.  If anything, any female R&B singers who felt slighted by this should have taken it as competition, not a reason to gripe and make themselves the whipping horse of Beyonce’s army of fanatics.  It’s lonely at the top and in Beyonce’s case, it’s no surprise that people have something to say when she decides she’s tired of being humble and rising above every time.  She’s spent her entire adult life in the public eye and she’s allowed to act out once in a while.  Unfortunately, people want to over-analyze things when it suits their purpose.  

We also can’t act as if acting out on the occasional song hasn’t been a staple in R&B/pop music for years, though.  Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative” was one.  Michael Jackson had “Leave Me Alone”.  Granted, both of those were jammin’, but that’s neither here nor there.  The point is, Beyonce is a name that will go down in history whether people like it or not…in history.  I can’t say the same for most of who’s out now…or at least I can’t say they won’t continue to tarnish their own legacies through scandal and self-destruction.  She doesn’t have to be humble in the studio when she maintains that in her life as we the public know it and as part of her public image.

In terms of Beyonce’s music, it isn’t any surprise that not much of it lives on my iPod, but it’s also not marketed toward me.  I do however admire her work ethic and the effort that goes into maintaining her image, presence and quality of work (this little misstep notwithstanding of course).  Beyonce detractors, however, seem to be dead set on being extremely vocal about their distaste at every turn, refusing to acknowledge her abilities or downplaying them, which is fine, but it makes them look foolish and ulterior motives can be telling.  When she doesn’t give you enough of her life, she’s hiding something and when she does a documentary on herself, she’s giving you too much.  Which is it?  Never mind…don’t care.

In closing, we’ve got to get used to celebrities saving their ratchet tendencies for the recording booth or channeling their need to talk sh*t into their artistic endeavors as opposed to making it a part of their persona and everyday behavior.  

Bow Down x Beyonce

 

 

 

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Action Bronson Live At DC’s Howard Theater

 

Though he’s only been active in the hip-hop game since 2008, Action Bronson’s live performance has already become the stuff of legends.  This was enough to compel me to jump on the opportunity to see him perform live here in Washington, D.C., not far from my home.  The Howard Theater is a recently renovated location in DC and a product of gentrification, with the mixed crowd seeming to be reflective of people’s newfound comfort with the area as well as Bronson’s diverse appeal.  You could look around at the crowd and see everything from fitted caps to kinte cloth snapbacks to girls with green hair to guys with ?uestlove afros.

After opening sets by local MC Tef Wesley and a very brief performance by Wais P of former Roc-A-Fella group Da Ranjahz, the DJ kept the crowd impressed with some rare samples blended with hits like Kendrick Lamar’s “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” and Trinidad James’ “All Gold Everything”.  However, once the crowd thickened and the lights went down, the man of the hour took the stage blowing plumes of reefer smoke, accompanied by Big Body Bes to the thunderous drums of the “Big Body Bes Intro” off of Rare Chandeliers.  Action wasted no time giving the crowd their money’s worth, spitting rhymes with pinpoint precision, making one wonder how a man of his girth (“You don’t understand…I’m 315 pounds of meat,” he said during a short breather) manages to maintain that kind of breath control, particularly under hot stage lights wearing a thick, black Champion hoodie.  DJing Action’s set was producer Tommy Mas of Team Facelift, who is set to partner with Bronson for next year’s Mr. Wonderful album.

In one of the most bizarre yet surprisingly charitable events of the evening, Action leaned down into the crowd and hoisted a handicapped gentleman up onto his shoulders, setting him down on stage so that he could see the show better.  He even gave him the microphone for a while and let him rhyme, followed by letting him take a few drags off of his monster-sized spliff.  Later on, he again hoists the guy onto his shoulders and proceeds to deliver an entire 16 bars in this position.  Antics aside, Bronson’s a man of the people and the diverse crowd literally received him with open arms as he dove down into the crowd to perform certain songs.  Only the top of his bald head could be seen as he rapped, posed for pictures with fans and even made his way to the bar for a beverage (“I don’t want a drink, just pineapple and seltzer”) and appetizers, all ordered with the microphone on. 

The music spoke for itself.  Fans rapped right along to every word of the old and the new.  At a point where Bronson was standign amongst the crowd, he performed the rowdy second half of “Eggs On The 3rd Floor” from Rare Chandeliers, then asked the crowd for “dance moves, I wanna see dance moves” followed by the clarification “girls…I wanna see some girls”.  Another high point was “Bird On A Wire”, an airy Harry Fraud-produced collaboration with Riff Raff (Bronson performed the second verse in his absence).

At the end of the day, an Action Bronson show is money well spent.  In a day and age where you can basically expect a rapper to walk back and forth on stage while 1,000 unidentified goons stand onstage behind him for no reason whatsoever, Bronson owns the stage by himself, using the entire space of the concert hall to connect with the fans who came out to show him love.  It’s all reciprocated.  From hipsters to hip-hop nerds and adventurous yuppies, none of those differences became a factor as soon as the music came on.  As I said, Action Bronson’s a man of the people and he gives back.

Sidenote: I ran into Bronson’s man Ag Da Coroner outside the show, who said he should have a project out in late January.  Look out for Meyhem Lauren’s mixtape Mandatory Brunch Meetings to drop December 11.


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Remembering Ol’ Dirty Bastard

Method Man once said that the late Russell Jones, aka Ol’ Dirty Bastard, had “no father to his style”, meaning that he was completely original.  ODB continues to be one of a kind in passing, given his unorthodox performance style, awkward (“drunken monk” or probably just “drunk”) delivery, and very public antics.  Classics like “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” and “Brooklyn Zoo” really brought a whole new element to the game that others have emulated but never authentically duplicated. 

Rest In Power, ODB.

Top 10 ODB Verses Of All Time:

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The ADD Generation Of Hip-Hop Fandom

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Today’s music fans are quick to call you old when you consider the mainstream music coming out to be empty and disposable.  I’ve found that I’m fine with that.  I was listening to Schooly D’s “P.S.K. What Does It Mean?” in the car just the other day and realized that a lot of joints from back in the day just had staying power that I don’t think artists are trying to achieve nowadays.  It’s so hard to sell CDs in this digital age that artists are taking fewer risks and making music that is the sound of the current month, not something they actually think will be playable six months from now, let alone years and years.  To an extent, one must understand that the “artists” are doing what it takes to fulfill a demand brought about by the way younger consumers consume music nowadays.  This is the Attention Deficit Disorder Era of Hip-Hop…and music in general.

The moment iTunes made it possible to pick individual songs off of an album to buy on their own as opposed to buying the completed product, it ushered in the era of a la carte music.  The increase of access to music and other goods online lead to the instant gratification era.  People don’t want music they can live with for a while, they want music they can drive around to for a week and then discard for the next flash in the pan.  When you can separate an album into individual parts at the point of sale, the appreciation for a cohesive project or a concept album dwindles.  It’s all about putting out a “hot” song, which means using the producer or featured artist du jour. This is why everything on the radio and video channels has the same sound.  It isn’t lucrative to financially back a project that strays too far from the norm.  Hell, even Kendrick Lamar had to put Drake and Mary J. Blige on a feature.  If you think the label would have backed it without that assist, you’re bugging.

Unfortunately, there’s no turning back.  Today’s 16-25 demographic didn’t have the benefit, for some reason, of being taught to appreciate the classics, so they eat up the disposable stuff that the industry churns out.  As usual, the dedicated hip-hop fan has to put in some legwork to get what he wants out of his favorite artform.  I think this creates a necessary separation between those that are in it for the art and those that are in it for the business.  The flipside, however, is that you almost have to hope your favorite underground artist doesn’t get signed and then get strongarmed into doing a song with Taylor Swift.  All you can do is wish much success to the true artists in the game who put in work to make timeless music and don’t sacrifice the artistry for a dollar because at the end of the day, a gold flash-in-the-pan album is really not producing enough royalty checks to put an artist’s future kids through college.  Making timeless music and continuing to perform it and build upon it just might, though.

PSK (What Does It Mean?) x Schoolly D

 

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In Memoriam: Eazy E

Eric “Eazy-E” Wright was a pioneer for west coast rap and gangsta rap as a whole, bringing the world a taste of the ghetto that hadn’t been seen before on that level.  Though the message NWA put out couldn’t be considered positive, it was a wake-up call to America, showing them that the monster created by urban oppression was very real and residing not far from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and the image of Los Angeles most outsiders had.  

Sadly, Eazy inadvertently provided a wake-up call to the hip-hop community and the Black community at large that HIV/AIDS was also very real.  It wasn’t a gay man’s disease or strictly reserved for junkies…anyone could fall victim to the disease.  

On February 24, 1995, Eazy was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in LA with what he believed to be asthma.  He was diagnosed with AIDS.  He died on March 16, 1995.  That being said, I urge my readers not only to get tested regularly and engage in safe sex, but to also be selective when choosing partners.  AIDS isn’t the only thing out there to be caught and your body should be your temple.  Also, consider that condoms aren’t always 100% effective and pregnancy can also result, obviously, so think about whether you’re ready to won up to those consequences with that partner should that occur.  Not to be a buzzkill, but Eazy’s death and the absence of a cure should tell us that AIDS is nothing to play with.  Life is too valuable, be it yours or the potential life you can be creating.  Use your brains and your better judgment.  Peace.

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Thoughts On The XXL Freshmen Class Of 2012

My general reaction to the 2012 XXL Freshman Class picks:

I’m not even gonna go in depth on any of the individual MCs listed, although I am questioning Iggy Azalea’s questionable usage of the term “runaway slaveowner” or some such foolishness in a song.   It’s sad that XXL is moving in the direction of the other hip-hop publications that it originally represented the contrast to.  XXL was the magazine we turned to when five mics stopped meaning something.  We looked to XXL for who’s “dope”, not who’s “hot”.  The major hip-hop publication is dead.  Takes a lot of money to keep the lights on and they clearly can’t do it without accepting payola on the back-end.  One thing I can promise about Front-Free is that it will stay genuine.  If I don’t f*ck with it, I don’t run it, period.  Look around…there are no ads…one, so that the site looks better than the other blogs and two, to show that what goes up is stuff I genuinely dig and want to get some shine.  Keep reading, tell a friend, and stay free of fronts.

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Cashmere Thoughts: Blue Ivy Carter

Jay-Z and Beyonce damn near shut the Internet down this evening with the release of the first official photos of their newborn daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, on the Tumblr named after her.  One thing of many I appreciate about this is that the couple is doing things their way, giving the public what they want us to have.  That’s a lost art in the modern day, where you can easily be turned off by an artist’s overexposure on TMZ or Twitter.  

Congrats to the beaming couple.  Cheers!


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Boldy James’ New Project On The Way

Boldy James gaves us one of my top five mixtapes of 2011 with Trapper’s Alley: Pros And Cons and plans to keep the momentum going this year with Consignment, which is scheduled to drop February 27th.  To top that, I see one of my favorite up and coming artists is in the lab working with one of my favorite producers, Alchemist.  

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