5 Hip-Hop Artists That Went Against Industry Norms to Achieve Success

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Hip-hop has never been about following rules. From the genre’s birth in the late ‘70s to today’s explosion of innovative pop-rap superstars, the music has always rewarded audacious creativity and outside-the-box thinking. While hip-hop has gone mainstream and become the world’s preeminent form of popular music, there are still artists working outside of industry boundaries and refusing to let labels, managers, or anyone influence their art. Below, we give props to five uncompromising artists who’ve found their own lanes and chased greatness on their own terms.

Dessa: A Multifaceted Artist with a Singular Voice
Before launching her career as a rapper, singer, spoken-word artist, author, and Doomtree label head, the Minneapolis native born Margaret Wander worked as a technical writer for a medical company. In a sense, she’s come full-circle with Chime, the critically acclaimed album she released in early 2018. It’s Dessa’s fourth collection of smart, soulful alternative hip-hop songs, and it was inspired by a project whereby she collaborated with neuroscientists to pinpoint the exact part of her brain dedicated to romantic love. Chime is just the latest example of how this one-time philosophy major has challenged the idea of what a female hip-hop artist can be. In a 2018 interview with Billboard, Dessa shared her secret for having such a rich and varied career: “I worry a little bit less about trying to forestall people’s opinions and just try to do good work.”

Cardi B: A Personality Too Big to Fail
By the time Cardi B topped the Billboard Hot 100 in 2017 with “Bodak Yellow,” the Bronx native was already on her fourth career. In the years leading up to her musical breakthrough, Cardi went from stripping to making viral videos to stealing scenes on Vh1’s Love & Hip Hop: New York. All of those pursuits showcased the qualities that would make Cardi one of the most exciting new rappers of the ‘10s. Cardi is sexy and funny, outrageous and vulnerable, tough as hell yet instantly loveable. Her excellent 2018 debut album, Invasion of Privacy, reached #1 on the Billboard 200 and silenced critics who thought she’d be a one-hit wonder. Invasion of Privacy has spawned a second chart-topper, the Latin-flavored “I Like It,” which you’ve surely heard blasting from cars all summer. While pregnancy kept Cardi from touring in recent months, motherhood is only going to make this vivacious truth-spitter a more compelling artist in years to come.

Tyler The Creator: More Than Just a Troublemaker
When the Odd Future collective came on the scene in 2010, nobody knew what to make of them. The blog-hyped L.A. rappers became infamous for their offensive lyrics, chaotic life shows, and unwillingness to play by anyone’s rules. Leading the pack was Tyler The Creator, a multifaceted troublemaker who’d spend the next decade revealing his genius. In addition to overseeing numerous Odd Future releases and four solo LPs — including last year’s Grammy-nominated Flower Boy — Tyler has directed music videos, launched his own Golf Wang clothing line, and spearheaded the Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival music festival. Tyler’s extracurriculars make it easy to overlook his rapping, but the fact is that he’s a stellar MC with the power to make you feel all sorts of ways. On Flower Boy, Tyler surprised everyone by serving up his most mature, confessional lyrics to date. Tyler sums up his career perfectly on the song “Who Dat Boy,” asking, “Who dat boy? Who him is?” The world will be chewing on those questions for quite a while.

Curren$y: The Underground Hero Who Never Lets You Down
The New Orleans rapper born Shante Scott Franklin knows how the big boys operate. He signed with Master P’s No Limit label in 2002, then struck a deal with Lil Wayne’s Cash Money Records in 2004. Curren$y appeared on Weezy’s Tha Carter II in 2005 and dropped the minor hit “Where Da Cash At” the following year. Neither of those projects quite made him a star, so in 2007, Curren$y jumped ship to the independent digital-only Amalgam Records and rebranded himself as a niche underground artist with an ear for consistency. In 2011, Curren$y, a.k.a. Spitta, formed Jet Life, the label he’s used to launch some of his many, many, many projects. Free of major-label interference, Curren$y has amassed a massive discography that includes eight studio albums and more than 40 mixtapes. More importantly, he’s built a devoted fan base that comes to see him perform live year after year. Spitta’s not going to break streaming records like Drake, but he’s a dependable artist in an age of disposability.

Chance the Rapper: The Superstar Who Gives His Music Away
When Chance the Rapper picked up the Grammy for Best Rap Album in 2017, it was notable for two reasons. First off, Chance’s Coloring Book is an incredible collection of gospel-inflected hip-hop songs from an artist who speaks on social issues without getting preachy or forgetting that music is supposed to be fun. Second, Coloring Bookwas the first-ever streaming-only album nominated for a Grammy. While the Recording Academy didn’t change its eligibility rules specifically for Chance, the Chicago rapper had long been at the forefront of artists challenging traditional release models. Chance is the king of the free “mixtape” — that’s how he classified Coloring Book and its predecessors Acid Rap (2013) and 10 Day (2012). Fans were able to get their hands on all three totally free of charge, and that’s helped Chance grow a gigantic fan base that includes Barack Obama, who praised the MC in 2017 for “representing the kind of young people who come out of Chicago and change the world.” Although he’s avoided selling his music, Chance has earned so much money off touring and merchandise that he was able to donate $1 million to Chicago schools.

SOURCE: https://www.billboard.com/articles/partner/8467582/5-hip-hop-artists-that-went-against-industry-norms-to-achieve-success

The Culture Isn’t Finished With ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’—and Neither Is She

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Given all that has come in its wake, it is still hard to believe that Lauryn Hill released The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill when she was 23 years old. True, Hill had lived plenty of lives by then, had tried on a variety of roles—straight-A student of Maplewood, New Jersey’s Columbia High School; founder of her school’s gospel choir; promising teen actress stealing scenes in Sister Act 2 and As the World Turns; sole female member of the multi-platinum, Grammy-winning group that the media dubbed “the new conscience of rap”; and of course at her most braggadocious, “Nina Simone, defecating on your microphone.” Yet somehow, none of this quite prepared people in the summer of 1998 for the monumental achievement of her first and, to date, only solo studio album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill—a collection of songs as timeless and disparate as the tough-love anthem “Doo Wop (That Thing),” the break-up dirge “Ex-Factor,” the fire-starting “Lost Ones,” and that tender ode to impending motherhood “To Zion.” When an artist makes such a massively successful, groundbreaking, and format-defining work at a precocious age—think Mary Shelley writing Frankenstein at 20 or Orson Welles directing Citizen Kane at 25—it usually inspires the less precocious members of its audience (so roughly, everyone) to feel some combination of adoration and human inferiority: What were you doing with your life when you were 20, or 25, or 23? But maybe, too, there is something inherently youthful and thus reassuringly communal about such be-all-and-end-all swings for the moon. And so I like to temper this vision of an inhumanly precocious Lauryn Hill with the more human hubris of youth. “Lucky for us, like everyone in their twenties,” writes Kierna Mayo, the woman who famously put Hill on the cover of the preview issue of Honey magazine, “Hill imagined herself wiser than she really was.”

This weekend, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill turns 20, meaning it is nearly as old as Hill was herself when she wrote and recorded it. Its success is still staggering and well documented, and well worth documenting again: It sold 422,624 copies the week it was released, which at the time set the record for highest first-week sales by a female artist. It was nominated for 10 Grammys and won five of them (the most in a single night for a female artist at the time, breaking Carole King’s 27-year-old record), including Album of the Year, an award no black woman has won since. Last year, NPR placed it at no. 2 on its list of the 150 Greatest Albums Made by Women, just behind Joni Mitchell’s Blue, and the album was also selected to be included in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress. Worldwide, it has sold more than 19 million copies. Here is a paragraph break so the haters can take a breath.

But Hill’s travails throughout the past two decades have been well documented, too. When the album celebrated its 15th birthday, five years ago, Hill was in a minimum-security Connecticut prison serving a three-month term for tax evasion. There have been lawsuits, canceled shows, and accusations about her treatment of backing musicians. But perhaps most deafening, there has been her silence. Hill has released one-off tracks here and there, and her 2002 MTV Unplugged appearance was released as a (polarizing) live album. But she never released another proper album after Miseducation, and when not performing live, Hill has spent much of the past two decades in exile from her stardom, quietly raising six children and devoting herself to various spiritual practices. She rarely gives interviews, but in 2010 she told an NPR reporter who asked why she had stopped releasing new music, “There were a number of different reasons, but partly the support system that I needed was not necessarily in place. There were things about myself, personal-growth things, that I had to go through in order to feel like it was worth it.”

And yet around that time Hill began performing again, usually not new material but versions of the classic songs off Miseducation, reworked, sped up, and rearranged sometimes to the point that they were nearly indistinguishable. These performances have been mixed (I’ve seen her twice: one show was brilliant, the other a disaster, which seems in keeping with the general ratio). There is something both compelling and a little unsettling about how she still seems to be revising, rewriting, and endlessly tweaking the Miseducation songs live, akin to the creative perfectionism that drove Kanye West to continue reworking his 2016 record, The Life of Pablo, as though the album was not fluid enough as a format to contain his creativity. The culture is certainly not finished with The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, and in some sense neither is she.

As a fan, I have found Hill’s refusal to make another record frustrating and at the same time deeply profound: What can be a louder and clearer message of rebellion than, in a culture bloated with noise and excess, to remain quiet when everyone demands that you speak? Hill quickly and summarily achieved nearly every major milestone in the music industry, and then she walked away from it, as if to show that success is not a proven avenue to personal fulfillment. Hill has sometimes been compared to two other prominent black artists of her generation who disappeared at the height of fame’s demands: D’Angelo (who worked with her on “Nothing Even Matters” from Miseducation) and Dave Chappelle. “Lauryn Hill said something so apt recently,” the Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah mused in an interview not long after she’d written a moving essay about her search for Chappelle. “She was late for her show and people complained that she was selfish in her tardiness and she said, ‘I gave you all of my twenties.’”

What does The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill mean 20 years later? It’s a complicated question, so it is fortunate that one of hip-hop’s smartest cultural critics, Joan Morgan, has devoted an entire short book to working it out.

“Routinely lauded for its themes of self-love, empowerment, and broken-heart-bounce-backs,” Morgan writes in her incisive She Begat This: 20 Years of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, the record “has earned itself the rank of classic in contemporary American popular culture.” But Morgan’s book honors the record’s spirit not by adding any more height to the pedestal on which it’s already been placed, but instead interrogating it, questioning its mythology, and even bringing in some dissenting black female voices to admit they never much felt like the record spoke for them. Says the legendary critic dream hampton, “I don’t want to hear anyone say the word ‘defecate’ anywhere near Nina Simone. Ever.”

READ MORE:https://www.theringer.com/music/2018/8/24/17776882/lauryn-hill-miseducation-album-20-year-anniversary

kelela just announced a new album full of remixes to brighten up your hump day

Wednesday is the lowest point of the week, the lull between the get up and go you manage to muster on Monday and the long, slow climb to the halcyon days of the weekend. And Wednesday afternoon is truly the lowest point of the lowest day. Luckily, Kelela has saved us by announcing a new album chock full of remixes and startling musical mutations. Thanks, Kelela!

One year on from the release of her iconic debut, Take Me Apart, Kelela is celebrating her anniversary in a way only she knows how, by announcing a revamped, remixed salute to her original record. Take Me A_Part, The Remixes, produced by the artist herself and longtime collaborator Asma Maroof, is due 5 October and features a veritable buffet of delicious guest features, including Princess Nokia, Kaytranada, Junglepussy, CupcaKke, Gaika, Rare Essence, and Ms. Boogie, to name but a few.

“This project has been evolving in my mind since I was deep in recording Take Me Apart”, explains Kelela. “I obsessed over production choices on the album and my only solace was knowing that the songs would be reimagined in this way. So it’s not just a bunch of remixes, it’s how my worldwide community of producers and DJs communicate through difference. It’s also about the camaraderie that we experience when we find the overlaps.”

“The same songs get to exist in these alternate realities which means different people get to have a relationship with the music. Maybe even with each other.”

LMK, Kelela’s breakout banger from Take Me Apart, is fittingly the first song to be released from the new album. Reimagined as bassier, buffer, bossier and generally more tenacious, the track becomes more than a bop, but a ladies-only party full of savage bars and renewed rhythms, with Princess Nokia, Junglepussy, CupcaKke and Ms. Boogie joining in the fun. You can listen to the LMK rework here (your Wednesday afternoon will thank you, trust us).

Eminem’s album ‘Kamikaze’ is on track to break records

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(CNN)Eminem has proven once again that he’s a hit maker.

The rapper’s latest album, “Kamikaze,” is quickly rising to the top of the charts after its surprise release last week.

The Detroit native is currently on track for his album to hit No.1 on the Billboard 200 chart. The feat would mark Eminem’s ninth No. 1 album, according to Nielsen Music.
“Kamikaze,” produced with his long-time collaborator Dr. Dre, is Eminem’s tenth studio album. Cover art for the 13-track collection features a fighter pilot crashing his aircraft with the words, “FU-2” on the tail.
Eminem get political with a reference to President Trump on the album.
“Agent Orange just sent the Secret Service / to meet in person to see if I really think of hurting him,” he raps on “The Ringer. “Or ask if I’m linked to terrorists / I said, ‘Only when it comes to ink and lyricists.'”
This isn’t the first time he’s criticized Trump. At the BET Awards last year, Eminem called the President a “racist grandpa” during a freestyle rap.

Blood Orange Bottles The Spirit Of An Outsider In Soulful Sweetness

Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 4.40.04 AMWhen pop and R&B producers step out to make their own records, they typically put themselves front and center. Devonté Hynes, who performs under the name Blood Orange, does things differently. Hynes is one of the producers shaping pop music right now. He helped create acclaimed records by Solange Knowles and Carly Rae Jepsen. For his first few releases as Blood Orange, the 32-year-old songwriter focused on Prince-like R&B, but on his fourth album, Negro Swan, Hynes gets more experimental and more personal.

On the album’s opening track, “Orlando,” Hynes sings like he’s sailing without much of a care. But beneath that butterfly lightness, he’s talking about being bullied in high school. That’s a common theme on Negro Swan. Even when the music is pretty and the hooks are insanely grabby, Hynes and his many collaborators are already in the deep end, exploring racial identity, sexual identity, what Hynes calls “black depression” and the experience of being an outsider.

Hynes’ otherness comes through in these songs. He grew up in East London as a queer skater and now lives in New York. He has said that his goal with Negro Swan was to talk about difficult issues without dwelling in negativity. That’s a tricky tone to sustain. He does it by varying the musical palette. Some tracks are lit up with outbreaks of dissonance from his guitar. Others have a lush, ’70s soul sweetness.

The 16-track album, entirely produced by Hynes, involves a large crew of singers and rappers — from A$AP Rocky and Project Pat to Steve Lacy and Amandla Stenberg — and is narrated by author, host and transgender rights activist Janet Mock. On one of the standout tracks, “Hope,” Hynes features singer Tei Shi and the rapper none other than Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs. Hynes says he was surprised by what the hip-hop mogul added as the song end: “Sometimes I ask myself, like / You know, what is it going to take for me not be afraid / To be loved the way, like, I really wanna be loved?” Hearing the founder of Bad Boy Records talking earnestly about love and acceptance is a head-turner for sure. At times, the flow of the record is interrupted by spoken word interludes like this one. These hit listeners over the head with big takeaways. It’s as though Hynes wants to make sure the themes hit home. He didn’t need to worry. These poised, delicate songs have a way of saying it all.