SNL Takes A Chance

After forty years of hosting some of the biggest names in music history, a true anomaly occurred last Saturday at Saturday Night Live. For the first time ever, SNL hosted an unsigned artist as their musical guest of the night. Unsurprisingly that artist just so happens to be one of the biggest names in music these days: Chance The Rapper.

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Since releasing his debut album, Acid Rap, in 2013, Chance The Rapper has become infamous for his anti-label approach to the music industry. Though the Rapper is not featured on streaming services like Spotify or Pandora, he is perhaps Hip Hop’s hottest new star. Speaking to Billboard in 2014, Chance gleefully remarked, “I can do whatever I want…I can do whatever videos I want, I can play whatever shows I want, I can release when I want, talk how I want, freely about any subject.”

This is of course not the case for many signed artists. For instance, in 2007, pop singer Kelly Clarkson and then-Sony-BMG head Clive Davis publicly clashed over the direction of Clarkson’s album, My December. Though Davis wanted Clarkson to work with Pop-hitmakers, Clarkson stood her ground and came out with an edgy rock-oriented album. Though the outcome was what Clarkson wanted, along the way she had to deal with bureaucratic obstacles, galore.  Davis literally told her, she was a “shitty writer” and she should “shut up and sing”.

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Perhaps Chance’s success is routed in the fact that he has no Clive Davis breathing down his neck for more releases. In my opinion, the authenticity and originality Chance projects are what makes him such an attractive artist. The unsigned approach simply allows that attitude to shine. Nonetheless, it is truly encouraging that an artist with no label ties is able to come to fruition on such a large scale. To tie this into my continuing series of hip hop-related happenings, my first thought (and hope) is that this could be the start of a new generation of hip hop–one without any de facto industry obligations to be signed. If this is the case, what could come next? Artists who were previously too intimidated by domineering labels could look at Chance’s model and try to emulate it. I think it’s a great sign for hip hop and music, overall.

Rick Ross: A Ghostwriter All Along

A dull moment is never something one would associate with Rick Ross. With his eighth studio album, Black Market, on its way, slated for release December 9th, Ross has been very vocal about one of the album’s tracks, “Ghostwriter.” Naturally, the song discusses its namesake and its author’s role as an uncredited writer of many of today’s top rap verses.

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Rick Ross Mastermind Press photo 2014

Recently, in an interview with Time, Ross elaborated on the topic. The hip hop mogul states, “I finally wrote a record telling the way it feels for me to be a ghostwriter, and not only a ghostwriter, but one of the biggest in the rap game.” He goes on to put his role as a ghostwriter in the context of his one career, justifying the practice as something that made sense due to his status. “Because of my own personal success I’ve always been able to keep that in the shadows. On this record, I just felt it was so current. It was needed.”

Ross further added his take on the discrepancy between ghostwriting in pop music versus that of traditional hip hop. In his eyes, the practice is more acceptable in the former, which places its emphasis on the music as an entire entity as opposed to the latter. Specifically citing the rap of artist, DMX, Ross claims ghostwriting is less morally sound to its focus being on the lyrics–words, which in this case, aren’t authored by the stated performing artist.

To put the issue in the context of record label operations, at the end of the day, the artist who performed the lyrics will be the one making the bulk of the song’s consequent revenue. In the Rick Ross conceptualization of ghostwriting perhaps this is only fair with some artists as lyrics solely contribute a piece to the puzzle that is the song as a whole. However, imagine a rapper who’s main selling point is the craft and wit of his lyricism. If these lyrics are not truly authored by that artist, it would seem that the artist’s publishing and recording earnings should be split between the performer and the writer. At least that’s how it works in traditional songwriter scenarios. With ghostwriting, the compensation is different. It is not dependent on the revenue generated from record sales, but rather the compensation is awarded in a one time lump sum prior to the record hitting the shelves. With some artists, such as MF Grimm, who in an interview with Forbes revealed, “I think I set a rate, every bar a thousand dollars”, the payment could be severely disproportionate to the song’s eventual earnings. Additionally, aside from the the money, an artist builds their fan base on the records under their name. If an artist is only writing songs for other artists, how can their own performance career come to fruition?

All this said, I am approaching this from an outsider perspective. In no way have I ever been involved in the hip hop industry and thus, perhaps their are legitimate benefits to being a ghostwriter. Maybe this is the ultimate sign of credibility in terms of hip hop lyricism? Maybe this is the only way to break into the business? Whatever it is, the tradition of ghostwriting is certainly as prevalent as ever with the biggest artists in the world–i.e. Rick Ross–taking part in the practice.

 

Sources:

http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/the-juice/6770409/rick-ross-ghostwriter

http://www.forbes.com/sites/natalierobehmed/2015/09/22/phantom-rappers-inside-the-business-of-ghostwriting/

Jay Z is ‘Big Pimpin’

In my prior blog entry, I wrote about the current state of hip hop as well as hypothesized a return of the the genre’s golden days of the mid 90’s due to a recent merging between P Diddy’s Bad Boy Entertainment and industry giant, Epic Records.  On October 21st, hip hop undoubtedly won again. After a week-long trial regarding a copyright infringement claim by the nephew of Egyptian composer, Baligh Hamdi, against hip hop giants Jay Z and Timbaland, the latter pair have come out victorious. The plaintiff, Osama Ahmed Fahmy, had claimed that a sample in Jay-Z’s 1999 single, “Big Pimpin'” used a sample of his uncle’s 1950’s ballad, “Khosara Khosara.”

Fahmy’s argument revolved around the notion that despite receiving $100,000 in an out of court settlement in 2001, “Big Pimpin'” violates his moral rights due to pairing vulgar language with his uncle’s music. What Fahmy did not realize going into last week’s court date was that this law, while completely valid within the realm of his native Egypt, can not be applied in the United States. To add insult to Fahmy’s injured claim, judge, Christina Snyder, told the jury that their decisions would not be necessary as she had already ruled Fahmy’s central argument moot, thus declaring Jay Z and Timbaland innocent.

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The two will surely be pleased with decision but perhaps hip hop as a whole should be breathing a sigh of relief. In the wake of a 2014 decision to penalize Robin Thicke and Pharrell $5.3 million for their infringement of Marvin Gaye’s Got To Give Up, on their hit single, “Blurred Lines”, the lines between creativity and intellectual property theft have certainly become blurred. Who knows what small snippet could force your favorite rapper into utter bankruptcy? In any case, a resounding win for “Big Pimpin'” certainly sets a promising tone for the future of hip hop and its integral music making ingredient, sampling.

Source: http://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/news/legal-and-management/6737505/jay-z-wins-copyright-trial-over-egyptian-big-pimpin

http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/the-juice/6731019/jay-z-big-pimpin

Coachella Highlights: Part II

Here’s the 2nd round up of a few clips of some great performances during the last weekend of Coachella! Enjoy!

Pharrell & Co.

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Pharrell allowed festival attendees to take a trip down memory lane while bringing out a variety of special guests (inc. Usher, Jay-Z, Pusha T, Busta Rhymes and T.I.) Check out the vids below!!

Bubbling in the desert #hov @pharrell

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Nas

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(Nas and Lauryn Hill at Coachella 2014)

Nas celebrated the 20th anniversary of “Illmatic” this weekend.  It was twenty years to the day of its release.  He performed each track from his critically acclaimed debut album.  One of the most epic moments during his set was when he brought Lauryn Hill onstage and the duo performed “If I Ruled The World.” Lauryn also performed “Ready or Not” from The Fugees repertoire.  Damian “Jr. Gong”appeared as a special guest and the two wowed the crowd with a performance of “Jamrock” and “Road to Zion.”

Sekkle sekkle sekkle

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(**Images and videos are courtesy of the Instagram community**)

Coachella Highlights: Part I

It’s that time of year for the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival!  The festival features two consecutive weekends of music held in Indio, California.  One of the great things about Coachella is the opportunity to see some of your favorite vets perform as well as new and up-and-coming acts from diverse musical backgrounds! Catch a few of my fave Coachella highlights below:

Solange and Beyoncé

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Solange Knowles, affectionately known as Solo by her fans, covered Erykah Badu’s “Bag Lady” during her set at Coachella.  She then performed some of her own tunes, including Sandcastle Disco (one of my faves from her) and her latest single “Losing You.”  The biggest surprise of the night was when her big sis Bey took the stage alongside her!  Looking like a scene straight from one of Solo’s music vids, Bey popped up and the twosome danced in sync to “Losing You.”

Peep the vid below:

OutKast

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Outkast_Coachella_2(Weekend 2 at the Coachella Festival)

Andre 3000 and Big Boi of the critically acclaimed Southern Hip-Hop group, OutKast reunited on stage for the first time in seven years at Coachella! They were the headliners during the first weekend and the duo performed again this past Friday.  During the first show, they performed 27 songs and was joined onstage by Janelle Monáe and Future. After mixed reviews from the initial comeback performance at the festival, they revamped their production and performance issues for their set on Friday and received more praise from festival attendees this time around.

Vid below from the first performance:

 

 

Industry Vets: Young Guru and Sean C. Visit Berklee Valencia

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This week students at Berklee Valencia’s campus had the opportunity to meet and interact with two music industry veterans, Young Guru and Sean C.  If you aren’t familiar with their names, you’re most likely familiar with their repertoire. Young Guru has worked as a highly esteemed engineer and has also worked alongside respectable and notable artists such as Jay-Z and Kanye West. Prior to meeting Young Guru, I indirectly felt as though as I knew him due to Hov’s various shoutouts throughout the years. One of my favorite Hov shoutouts was when he told Guru to “turn the lights down..let’s keep it smooth” on Party Life (American Gangster album) LOL

Our other industry vet, Sean C. is a Grammy-nominated producer and A&R that has produced for hip hop artists such as Diddy and Jay-Z.  I was especially interested to hear Sean’s perspective on the industry and the future as an A&R since my career interests are specifically in that field. There were various workshops held over the two-day period while they were here in Valencia. One of my favorite workshops was the A&R session that was held on campus in our studio on the film scoring stage.

Berklee Valencia Studio

(Berklee Valencia students pictured in the studio with Young Guru and Sean C. for the A&R workshop)

(Photo Credit: Disrupcion Records)

Both Sean C. and Young Guru provided feedback to Berklee Valencia artists who submitted music. I’m currently working as an A&R for my culminating experience thesis, so I was super excited about the opportunity because both of the artists that I’m working with were chosen to participate in the session.  It was such a humbling experience to receive feedback on their music from industry professionals and to use that info to tweak their projects and to make them even better! This was a great experience both creatively and professionally.  Another workshop focused on innovation within the industry.  During this panel, both guests answered various questions that students had re: career advice, music production/technology, the direction of the industry, and evolving with the industry to ensure your position/career. A highlight for me was Sean’s response in reference to being a woman in a male dominated industry. His consciousness about the issue was indispensable and re-emphasized some of the points that I’ve learned throughout my professional career.

Young Guru and Sean C

This experience was one that I longed for as a student in the Global Entertainment & Music Business Masters program.  The knowledge that both gentlemen dropped on us was absorbed like a sponge and truly invaluable.  It’s a great opportunity to meet people who are working in positions that many of us aspire to be in. The grind continues….

Mannnn I Miss 90s R&B!!

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Hands down, one of my favorite musical eras during my lifetime thus far is the 1990s!  During the 90s it seemed that R&B was truly at its prime!  The innovativeness is still unmatched.  This era gives me a feeling of nostalgia…it reminds me of great times! Everything about it just felt good! The music was a fusion of sounds including New Jack Swing, Hip Hop Soul, Neo Soul, Funk, and of course traditional Rhythm & Blues.

Artists could really sing, dance, write classics, and were musicians as well. The emotions that they were able to conjure up is priceless. They were multi-faceted artists and made timeless music!

Below check out a handful of my favorite 90s R&B songs!! Feel free to share some of yours as we take a walk down memory lane.

 

Sade’-Cherish The Day

 

Aaliyah—4 Page Letter

 

Mary J. Blige-Be Happy

 

Jodeci-Forever My Lady

 

Ghost Town DJ’s-My Boo

 

Montell Jordan-This Is How We Do It

 

Soul 4 Real-Candy Rain

 

Does anyone else miss the 90s? 

 

 

 

 

Introducing… Pappagiorgio!

Introducing… Pappagiorgio!

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Pappagiorgio is an American rapper born in San Diego, CA. After beginning his career as an emcee in 2004, citing rap artists Snoop Dogg, Kool Keith, and Andre 3000 as influences, Pappagiorgio visited the city of Las Vegas and was captivated by its atmosphere. The talented artist soon after relocated to the city. His music now, as described in the biography on his website, he “embodies the spirit of classic Las Vegas entertainment in the form of today’s Hip-Hop.”

In 2010, Pappagiorgio attended Berklee College of Music to pursue a degree in songwriting. After completing the program in two years, the rapper began pursuing other musical endeavors in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, London, and Spain. Pappagiorgio has developed his skills both on the microphone and as a music entrepreneur.

The most recent work of Pappagiorgio, a collaboration album with R&B artist, Wallace, is set to release in the early spring. Entitled “Sex, Love & Alcohol,” the project elaborates on his love of a Vegas lifestyle, balancing party records with smoother, sensual tunes.

View Pappagiorgio’s promo video for “Sex, Love & Alcohol” below:

In addition to his love of music, Pappagiorgio is an avid sports fan, following the LA Clippers, the San Diego Chargers, and the Anaheim Ducks. He also is a passionate beer lover, aspiring to create his own brews, and a self-proclaimed Ancient Astronaut Theorist.

For more information on Pappagiorgio, visit his profiles at @HipHopandBeer or facebook.com/VegasPappaG.

Music Video of The Week – Equilibre – Hocus Pocus ft. Oxmo Puccino

Production : On And On / Fadereight Films
Réalisation : 20Syl / David Couliau / Kévin Couliau

Music :

Hocus Pocus’ latest opus, ’16 Pièces’, is a major step up in terms of production for this band and this track showcases the blend of jazz and hip-hop that the group is so well-known for. Sylvain Richard, aka 20Syl, is truly a master of the MPC and music production and sampling have virtually no secrets for him. He is also an incredible lyricist who knows how to manipulate the French lexicon with finesse and creates puns smart enough to tickle the brains of the most pedantic members of the French Academy. In this track he pairs-up with another French master and poet : Oxmo Puccino. This guy’s diction and articulation give the French consonants a new voice and sonority. Together, they write about the human paradoxes that are present in all of the lifestyles that run in parallel on this planet. And how the ‘Equilibre’ (french for balance, equilibrium) is impossible to reach, no matter how much anyone writes, sings, or talks about it ; ‘Face au vent je ne fais pas le poids, ma plume n’a qu’une masse dérisoire’ – ‘Against the wind I don’t stand a chance, my quill only has a derisory mass’

Video :

The video for this song was shot in New York City. It is shot with beautiful cityscapes and backdrops of New York rooftops and seafront. Split screens sequences reveal some unusual and quirky street-signs that add a ‘je ne sais quoi’ of French vibe found in America. Around three minutes into the video, a little interlude shows 20Syl messing around on a MPC, playing around on a bass, looking for scratch samples on a turntable, and locks it all back into beat as the song resumes. If you want to see him make a beat from scratch and appreciate the talent of the man, watch this 8 minute video here.

Emerging Producer of the Week

First, before I introduce this awesome producer I just found, please excuse my slight feminist tangent. Maybe one mistake I’m making with my previous blog posts and that a lot of people are making is writing blogs and articles about “female” producers. Why not just call them producers? By writing articles about how someone is the “best female producer”, it still sets them apart from male producers as different. Why should they be any different? Maybe it’s better to just call them producers and act like they are supposed to be getting as much attention as male producers. It’s kind of a problem that everyone keeps treating female producers as different and so out of the ordinary- like wow she’s a good producer…for a girl. I always hated when people would say stuff like that to me. So, maybe this changes my whole point of view of my blog, but opinions are allowed to change, right?

Let’s bring into the spotlight another producer I think should already be in the spotlight! DJ Soupa Model is a producer, DJ, songwriter, arranger, and remixer among other things. She has her own production company, indie label, artist development, and branding company, Music Boulevard Group-  based in Washington, DC. She is also a producer for NappyBoyRecords, T-Pain’s label. She has worked with a ton of music industry stars like T.I., T-Pain, Jason Derulo, Wyclef, Ace Hood, and artists on Konvict Music, Sony, and Universal.

Having lived in Africa, the UK, and the US, she has been exposed to a ton of different backgrounds and cultures and experiments with a variety of different genres, making her sound a unique one. She recently collaborated with Grammy Award winning dancehall artist Beenie Man. 

“In fact, my most recent production for Mims is a mixture of electro, dubstep, and South African drums,” she says in her biography on the Music Boulevard Group website.

I love how she takes all these different flavors and mixes them into her sound, yet her sound still sounds very appealing to fans of mainstream hip hop! I think she could potentially be a big influence on making changes in mainstream hip hop’s sound.