Late last year, I got to see a rapper named Mod Sun “light up” a stage at the Sunset Music Festival. A few weeks later, I read in a trade magazine that Rostrum Records (home to artists like Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller) had signed the artist to their label. It made total sense.
Rapping the east coast on the Mod Sun’s “Look Up Tour” was Brooklyn, New York rapper Dillon Cooper. His flow was on point and I was particularly impressed with the quality of his rhymes.
Los Angeles based rapper KR had one of the opening slots for Mod Sun’s “Look Up Tour”. He’s seems to be making some waves as of late, and was evening featured in an L.A. Weekly article for being a Soundcloud rap phenom.
Hailing from the Twin Cities, Morgan Parriott p/k/a Karizma had one of the opening slots for Mod Sun’s Look Up Tour. He performed his set with DJ Gnash supporting him. His set was demonstrated energetic hip-hop that certainly got the crowd bouncing. We were able to catch a few photos and video clips from his set. Enjoy!
Words and Photos by Kate M.
It’s hard to explain how great these guys are . . .except for it’s easy because they’re so dope! Their infectious sound and unforgettable hooks make people feel GOOD! Flow is flawless, they party, lyrics are fun and transcend genres of audiences, and their hooks reach anthem status without the breadth of the Pop establishment, the history of the guitar riffs of Rock, or the aching of Country, which are powerful and classic hooks that I love, but Rae Sremmurd is doing it RIGHT.NOW!
Many months ago I had the chance to see Rae Sremmurd (pronounced “Ray Shrimmer”) for a meet and greet at Interscope and their charisma was ridiculous – natural charm. Later, I saw them open for Drake v. Lil’ Wayne Tour at The Hollywood Bowl. In May 2014, the artists released their track “No Flex Zone,” which became a rap anthem (and hash tag phenomenon). Later in August, they released “No Type,” the second track off their upcoming album. They released the third track from the album, “Throw Sum Mo” with Nicki Minaj and Young Thug on December 9th. If you haven’t heard any of these tracks, I’m gonna need proof you live on earth. If you have been under a music rock lately I posted links below. So ultimately, when a good friend and colleague invited me to the listening party for Rae Sremmurd’s upcoming album, Sremm Life, I said, Hellllll ya!
Rae Sremmurd drops their debut album January 6, 2015, awesomely titled, Sremm Life. They held their album listening party at Couture Lounge in Hollywood to an audience of industry cred and fans. They had the club goin’ up! They held court and captivated their audience performing from the floor among their audience and not on a stage. They performed their entire album – proof they are just getting started and don’t need to hold back. This album is so strong, I feel they’re barely breaking the surface of what these two can do and it sounds like there will be a few hit records from this upcoming album courtesy of Producer Mike-Will-Made-It.
Their musical sound is club beats and dance tracks. They have perfect flow and I challenge you to find better hooks on 808 bass right now. If you aren’t into that sound and scene you won’t be moved, buuuut, their lyrics, rhythm and magnetism counter that logical insight. Recall above when I said their sound “transcends genres of audiences?” Solange Knowles and her son famously did a choreographed dance to “No Flex Zone” at her wedding, and recently, Pat Sajak rapped “No Type” on an ESPN segment.
Rae Sremmurd is made up of brothers Swae Lee and Slim Jimmy, originally from Mississippi, now based in Atlanta. It’s not unusual to say a particular sound and vibe is popular in the moment, but they have the rare quality of innate performing talent and they taught themselves how to make beats, record and garner an audience that may speak to the contrary. They released 2 tracks before signing with Mike- Will- Made-It’s Ear Drummer Records and these 2 tracks got the attention of music heavy weights. True they are in the studio with master Producer Mike Will now, but I think Mike knows he has barely broken the surface with this hip hop duo.
Their debut album, titled Sremm Life drops January 6, 2015 – start the year off right!
“[…] Joey, Troupe, and Nick (bass, vocals, guitar) heralded three part harmonies that maintained the attention of an audience caught off guard by the band’s naïve appearance and subdued interactions. […]. Troupe’s ambitious vocal range sailed smoothly through the heart of every song, and as a singing trio they were just as solid and as much of a centerpiece. Their quick paced songs were brought down to hip swaying tempos at times, adding an aura of unexpected intensity and edge to the band’s otherwise sonically friendly climate. But despite their seemingly shy demeanors reminiscent of Death Cab for Cutie, but edgier, the four guys from Austin performed a confident set of hook-heavy pop rock.”
Two of the best hip-hop albums I’ve purchased in the past 5 years were released in 2012: Kendrick Lamar’s “good kid, m.A.A.d city” … and Killer Mike’s “R.A.P. Music”.
“R.A.P. Music”, like “good kid, m.A.A.d city”, received widespread acclaim from music critics. Produced entirely by El-P, the album is essentially the progenitor of Run The Jewels. With El-P’s amazingly heavy and ear-piercing beats coupled with Killer Mike’s concise and crisp, visceral political raps that span the social consciousness gamut, I couldn’t get enough of that album.
Though “R.A.P. Music” didn’t quite match the type of album sales that Kendrick’s album achieved, it’s still an album that deserves to be heard … and deserves to be listened to. Remember back in the 90s when hip-hop artists were prophets preaching the gospel on societal injustices? Well, “R.A.P. Music” fills the void, and carries the torch, when other popular hip-hop artists fail, or neglect, the obligation.
Ever since I picked up that limited edition LP, I’ve been dying to see Killer Mike in concert. It’s been over two years in the waiting, but with Run The Jewels performing as a headliner for one of Red Bull’s “30 Days In LA” concert series, I knew that this was a show that I couldn’t miss.
When I arrived at The Echoplex, 20 minutes before the doors were supposed to open, the line to get in was already about 75 people long. Thankfully, having been approved with a photo pass, I’d have the opportunity to stake out some territory up front … as long as I hit the head before the mad rush of fans came into the venue.
First up on the bill was Inglewood native, Thurz. Originally a member of the rap duo U-N-I, he broke out on his own in 2011 with the album “L.A. Riot,” and album that overflows with socio-economic and political content. With a marketing campaign that focused on questions like, “What do your Riot For?” and releasing a “Riot Manifesto”, I anticipated a set that would be filled with heavy messages and serious content.
Taking the stage with a full band, the vibe I got was more The Roots than Ice Cube, and it was definitely more playful and funky than what I had anticipated (Editors Note: Poor due diligence on my part as I hadn’t hear his latest EP which is posted above). Thurz played off each player in the band and throughout his set continued to raise his level of energy. From bringing out producer OverDoz and vocalist Jarrell Perry, among others, to perform with him to waving on his entire entourage to the stage to keep the audience hyped, it all culminated when he called upon, Compton native, and hip-hop royalty, DJ Quik to close out the set. I heard from a friend that Quik was working with Thurz on some music. If that’s the case, I’m excited to hear what they come up with. I did find it a bit weird that Quick performed by himself, and not with Thurz, but I wasn’t going to complain.
Thurz was followed by Mystery Skulls, another Los Angeles based artist whose music was not hip-hop, but electronic pop.
I’ve seen Mystery Skulls before, and he’s quite good at what he does. His music has shades of house music that reminds me of artist’s like Breakbot and his vocals, tinged with a soulful R&B vibe, are very club worthy and totally danceable. The music is definitely mainstream pop-worthy.
But the crowd at the Echoplex that night wasn’t interested in smooth vocals with an electronic house beat, and unfortunately the hecklers were out in full force.
It was a shame to hear someone yell for him to get off the stage when he was finished. He certainly didn’t deserve that kind of send off. If anything, I’d blame Red Bull for seemingly forcing him on the bill. I’m sure they could have found another hip-hop act more suitable to perform that evening.
It’s taken me a while to figure out what to write about Run The Jewel’s set. I could have written about how amped the crowd was, and how difficult it was for me to get any decent shots of the performance given the mass of bodies constantly bumping into me and the house photographers bursting their flash throughout the set. I could have written about how it was my birthday. I could have written about the plethora of surprise guests who performed cuts off their latest release with the duo (Gangsta Boo performed “Love Again”, DJ Z-Trip performed “Get It”, Zack de la Rocha performed “Close Your Eyes (Count To Fuck)” and Travis Barker played drums on “All Due Respect”), but given the recent state of civil unrest throughout the nation, and Killer Mike’s subsequent reaction to it, I scrapped it all.
Following the announcement of there being no indictment of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown, Killer Mike took the stage in St. Louis and delivered an emotional speech prior to Run The Jewels’ performance at the Ready Room (which is very close to Ferguson).
I watched Killer Mike’s emotional plea, and I was moved. In fact, when his voice wavered … my own throat became taught.
I’ve always respected what Killer Mike has meant to the rap game. My level of appreciation reached an all time high after watching him pour his heart out. I’ve always assumed it, but now I knew it. He lives what he preaches, and what he preaches what matters. It matters and it’s the truth.
It made me realize that what I witnessed on that stage at the Echoplex was something that audiences don’t often get to experience. Authenticity. Unadulterated verity. With more heart … more guts … than 90 percent of the garbage that’s out there on the radio.
Killer Mike’s collaboration with El-P is music that matters. Their latest release, RTJ2, is hard hitting and even more poignant today than it was it yesterday. Their song “Early” (a track about police brutality)? It couldn’t be more appropriate given the times.
MEAR ONE is a contemporary American artist based in Los Angeles. Having been labeled as “The Michelangelo of Graffiti” and “The Salvador Dali of Hip-Hop” he is considered by many to be Los Angeles’ most prolific graffiti artist. When he invited me to his birthday celebration I was honored. When I was told that Gaslamp Killer and Afrika Bambaataa would be spinning the ones-and-twos, I was geeking.
Held every Wednesday at The Airliner in Lincoln Heights is a club called “Low End Theory”. Currently they have a DJ residency of Nobody, D-Styles, Gaslamp Killer and Daddy Kev. Throw Afrika Bambaataa into the mix, and you’ve got an evening of hip-hop music that shouldn’t be missed.
When I got to the venue, the line to get in was already 50 deep, and the doors hadn’t opened yet. Thankfully, I was going in with the birthday boy and his crew. We made our way upstairs to the second floor, outdoor patio which overlooks the stage where the featured DJ’s would be spinning. Drinks were served, artistic discussion ensued and pictures were taken.
I made my way downstairs when Gaslamp Killer was setting up. As soon as he started spinning, I knew it was going to be a ridiculously curated set. Starting it off with some cumbria from Quantic (I mean, to me, that was pretty out-of-the-box mind blowing), I was extremely impressed with what he was able to mix in.
As soon as Gaslamp Killer finished his set, the patio started buzzing with anticipation. He took to the mic to announce his giddiness about having Afrika Bambaataa perform. After all, we area talking about one of the godfathers of hip-hop. An ambassador of hip-hop culture, whose message has always been a positive one.
When Afrika Bambaataa took the stage, the audience roared with approval. It was an honor to be there watching him spin his magic.
THOUGHTS [Written by Kate M.]:
A highlight of the day, and my personal highlight! Who are you, girl!? It’s pronounced “T.K.,” and readers, you should probably remember that – her rapping is pure fire! She killed it! She sings, too. Tkay combines pistol quick rap and EDM sounds, and her performance seemed effortless, which is a unique style trait to her . . . and she sounded like a boss! Sure there are great rappers and rapid fire lyricists (not that many), but Tkay has her own style, too, ingénue-like, commanding, tough and effortless. She is also reminiscent of M.I.A. and Azaelia Banks. At times, Tkay’s tone and verbal rhythm, as well as her elocution and delivery, reminds me of M.I.A., but Tkay’s effortless brand of fierce is different because it’s definitive, hard and commanding, but less aggressive than M.I.A. This artist is able to go from spitting out rap verses to singing verses. Her elocution and delivery is also reminiscent of Azaelia when she puts vocals over electronic beats and I can see Tkay commanding the Coliseum (my measure of an LA Rave). Tkay’s vocals and performance are unaffected, natural and unproduced, like she thought she’d just drop it right now . From Australia, Zimbabwean Tkayo’s debut mix taped was released October 23, 2014. I watched Tkay’s debut video for “U-Huh” and I loved it, but this 18 year old is so good, she doesn’t need all that production. On stage – just her – done! She had her first NYC performance this week and is being picked up by major online publications like Entertainment Weekly and Fader. Check her out – Rap, Pop, EDM sounds, like it’s no problem! S/O to Derrick who knew this artist would be a highlight! I had a chance to talk with Tkay after the show and she was sweet, in the moment and gracious to her fans – stay grounded girl you are about to be a star.
THOUGHTS: Riff Raff. He started from the bottom now he’s here. He first came onto the scene as a contestant on MTV’s reality show “From G’s to Gents”, and he’s still a G. His eccentric style coupled with crazy lyrics are on full display with his latest album, “Neon Icon”, that was released earlier this year, and his performance at the Sunset Music Festival was filled with his catchy hooks and undeniable swagger. Perhaps the most amusing, and out of the box, moment of his performance was when he went “old school” and got his long, flowing locks braided during a song. Definitely a first for me.