rickie jacobs ft. street scott: “victory lap”

Baltimore’s Rickie Jacobs has just released this video for “Victory Lap”, which features Street Scott on the hook, beat, and a verse. There’s a lot to like here–Rickie’s heartfelt lyrics and melodic flow, Scott’s soulful vocals, and production that is smooth without being too smooth. (You know what I mean.) The look and feel of the video matches up just right.

Through following Rickie on twitter, I know that a few people have criticized his slight lisp, but to me, that’s part of what sets his already great voice apart. (Like Guru said: “It’s mostly the voice.”) Also through twitter interaction, I know that he lost his mom a few years back, so the end of the video is a bit of a tear-jerker. The tribute is done in a subtle and touching way–kudos to director Syranno Debergiak/Illustrious Symphony. There’s a lot of personality in this video–something that I imagine must be hard to convey in videos since I don’t feel like I see it all that often.

n.e.r.d. + pac div: the coors light search for the coldest

photo by kelly connelly

They say that nothing in life is free, and if this show was an illustration of that phrase, the only cost of admission was being constantly barraged with Coors Light messaging. As this was “The Coors Light Search for the Coldest National Tour featuring N.E.R.D. and Pac Div,” you couldn’t turn your head without seeing signs, banners, some sort of fake ice piece, rows of Coors Light Bottles, and more–including a case of the beer next to the DJ table on stage. Even before entering the venue, Sonar, it was clear who was presenting this show, with Coors Light models checking people in and greeting attendees.

Before two contestants in the “search” took the stage, and between sets, DJ Reddz primed the crowd’s ears with a nice mix of current hip hop hits (from artists like Rick Ross, Young Jeezy, and YC, the last of which is responsible for the undeniably catchy “Racks”) and a healthy helping of ’90s classics. Reddz has always been one of my favorite DJs, both live and on the radio.

In terms of the aforementioned talent search, hosts Erroll Omari and Konan did little to explain the premise of the search, though they were good hosts for the event otherwise. Two of the four finalists performed at this show. The first was Billa Camp, a Chicago MC who rapped pretty much nonstop from the moment he grabbed the mic to the time he walked off stage. He performed what I guess could be called a medley of songs, some of which employed unexpected samples, including The English Beat’s “Mirror in the Bathroom”. Next up was a member of Seattle’s Eclectic Approach, whose first song was a heartfelt but not-very-good song about his older brother’s battle with substance abuse. (The irony of this subject being explored onstage amidst scads of beer imagery was not lost on me.) His next song was much, much better, but my memory is very, very lacking as far as remembering the title, much less the subject matter, of that song. (More info on the talent contest component of this show is available online.)

California hip hop trio Pac Div followed the contestants with a very energetic and fun set. There’s something about the interplay among these MCs (BeYoung and brothers Like and Mibbs) that reminds me a little of Pharcyde. (Maybe the Cali accent helps?) Like took the stage puffing on a pipe–as in the type of pipe you’d imagine Sherlock Holmes or Colonel Mustard enjoying. (That was sort of slick to me.) They performed a bunch of songs from their latest mixtape, Mania!–including “Anti-Freeze”, “Take Me High”, and “Chief Rocka Freestyle”–the strongest reaction from the crowd came when they performed “Mayor”. From what I could see, there were a lot of Pac Div fans in the audience, and lots more who might not have entered the show as such, but left with an appreciation for this group.

The main event of the evening was a performance by another trio, N.E.R.D., and all three were present this evening. That might be stating the obvious, but with Pharrell usually being the one who pops to mind first, and with Chad being a little less in the spotlight than Pharrell, and with Shay being a little mysterious altogether, I wasn’t sure all members would be accounted for, but they were.

Although I’ve considered myself a fan of N.E.R.D. since the release of their great debut In Search Of…, this was my first time seeing them live. And really, as the word fan is short for fanatic, then I probably wouldn’t qualify if compared to the real and true fanatics at the show this evening. Chief among these super fans was the guy I stood next to right up front (I staked out and fiercely guarded a decent spot from which to take photos), whose left hand was in Star Trak formation for most of the show. (His other hand held his iPhone, which he was using to record the show.) It’s always something special to be in the midst of super fans at shows. (I wish more people made and brought signs to shows, but that’s really neither here nor there.)

Backed by a full band, including Chad on a Moog keyboard, the group performed a lot of songs I didn’t really know the words to, further leading me to question how dedicated a fan I’ve been through the years. Still, they sounded great, with Pharrell’s falsetto sounding especially lovely on “Hypnotize You”. There were a few songs from In Search Of… that I was disappointed in not hearing this evening, but that’s a minor complaint.

Introducing “Everyone Nose (All the Girls Standing in Line for the Bathroom)”, Pharrell sang a couple lines (no pun intended) of the Baltimore Club classic “Mr. Postman” and said that they thought club music was “some incredible shit.” “Everyone Nose” was the group’s attempt at employing the Club song, and while they did an admirable job music-wise and it’s nice to hear at least one of the big acts admit the influence, the subject matter of this song has always been so corny to me. (I’ve always hoped Pharrell would reach out to DJ Booman to work together. Perhaps one day?) Must admit, though, that the song sounded great live, as did most of the songs. The band was excellent.

Another moment of irony for the evening occurred when Pharrell implored everyone to crouch down (or was it squat?) in the middle of “Bobby James”, while he talked about being different. He called out those who didn’t crouch down as thinking they were too cool to be different (or something to that effect), but wouldn’t standing straight up while almost everyone else edged closer to the floor be the truly different thing to do? (I displayed my individuality by being Kelly, tall and proud. That’s a bit of writer’s embellishment because I semi-crouched so I wouldn’t get called out. I do not like attention. Plus, I’m average height at best.)

Also of note was the enthusiasm with which Chad displayed Coors Light bottles on stage. At one point he even came to the front of the stage, closed beer bottle in hand, and pantomimed asking Pharrell for a bottle opener. Other times, he swayed a beer bottle back and forth near the back and side of the stage. Maybe it was just me, but the overblown displays seemed to be at least a little tongue in cheek, and ironic in a different way. (Like ironic mustaches. The worst kind of mustache there is.) Or maybe he was just really happy to be representing a product that paid for this show. Although I didn’t have a sip of the beer myself (but did buy a Peroni, which I assumed and later confirmed is distributed by Coors in the states), enjoying this thoroughly entertaining show seemed like a fair payoff for being a heavily marketed target.

Near the end of N.E.R.D.’s set, Pharrell hand picked eight or nine male members of the crowd to come up on stage. First one up was the guy to my right, and considering I didn’t know him from Adam and his zealous nanoo-nanoo arm-waving interrupted a large majority of my shots, I was happy he got the chance to go up and rock out a bit with what was obviously one of his favorite groups.

Cheers.

Check out more photos from the show.

Thanks to Gypsy Soul & Soulcial Grind PR for handling media access.

l fli (ft. richard burton), “complicated”

Opening an email with new music from one of my all-time favorite MCs out of Baltimore, L Fli, was like Christmas in July (or almost June). This Beat Jay-produced track and vocals from Richard Burton (aka Shamrock from The Wire, as well as former Mayor O’Malley staffer) provide the perfect soulful foundation for L’s lyrics. I’ve been waiting on an L full length album for more than a decade. This song both holds me over and leaves me eager to hear more new music.

Listen to “Complicated”:

Download.

arcieri keness: “before i say hello”

Aside from being twitter friends (and new ones, at that), I didn’t know much about Baltimore’s Arcieri Keness when he sent me this song. After listening, I wanted to learn more. His twitter bio reveals that he is an: “emcee. author. writer. tea drinker.” I found this interview he did with Solediction to be informative and interesting.

Anyway, this post is about this song he sent, which isn’t new, but new to me. I was instantly drawn in by the drums on this RJD2-produced track, with which Arcieri’s frantic flow fits perfectly. There’s some atmospheric goodness here, as well, with the overall feel provoking in my head–for who knows what reason, really–images of chase scenes in foreign films. All this to say I really like it. Check it out:

smash + 3 stacks: soundalikes?

Smash (photo by kelly connelly)

I’ve been meaning to post this verse from Andre 3000 for a little while, mainly to see if I’m the only one who thinks his flow on this sounds an awful like that of Smash. I’m not suggesting he’s biting, but there are some similarities I’ve never heard before. Listen and let me know: am I right or am I right?

Andre 3000: “I Do” 

Smash: “My Dummy”

(I got the “I Do” link from Nah Right.)

dirt platoon: deeper than dirt

Last month, I posted Dirt Platoon’s most excellent “Pennsylvania Avenue”. Now, the Baltimore duo has released Deeper than Dirt (Brakefast Records), a 12-song LP with production split mostly between Tom Delay and Fel Sweetenberg. I’ve heard a bunch of Tom Delay beats at various battles in past years, and have always been impressed by his production style. Fel Sweetenberg is a producer from Philly I first heard at a Beat Society in DC many years back. (If memory serves correctly, that Beat Society featured Fel alongside 9th Wonder, Roddy Rod, and Illmind.)

For no particular reason (well, maybe it was the title), the first song I listened to off Deeper than Dirt was one Fel produced, titled “E.L.A.I.N.E.”. Great choice on my part–this song reminds me a little of M.O.P. in its intensity, subject matter, and interplay between DP’s two MCs. (I believe there used to be more people in the group.) Production on this one is stellar.

DP’s current single is the Tom Delay-produced “Almighty”. I’m reluctant to make another M.O.P. comparison here because I’m not trying to suggest that DP sounds exactly like them–or are even attempting to do so–but here again are shades of the Brownsville duo in this Bmore duo. It’s a compliment, for certain. Again, loving the beat on this one.

Another standout is “The F*ck It”, which features Mic Brown and L.E.G.A.C.Y.. The title gives you a great idea of what this track is, and it’s a fun listen, believe it or not. (Well probably not fun for Leg’s child’s mother, whom he calls a “whore”. Ouch.)

I haven’t spent much time with the rest of this album yet, but I definitely will. To preview and purchase Deeper than Dirt, click here.

jay funk + norm skola: “jerry turner”

Here’s a new song from one of my all-time favorite Baltimore MCs, Norm Skola, alongside and over a track by one of my all-time favorite producers, Jay Funk. Baltimore folks over the age of, let’s say, 28 will certainly remember Jerry Turner (second from the left in the photo above, circa 1976) as an anchor on WJZ Channel 13, along with the equally popular and locally iconic Al Sanders. This beat feels like a breezy late summer day, with rhymes to match. Enjoy.