20 Years After His Death, Eazy-E Deserves a Spot on Rap's Mount Rushmore

Categories: hip-hop

Peter Dokus

For Eazy-E, the concept of gangsta rap was fully formed in his mind.

By 1986, the genre, which nobody then called "gang­sta rap" ("reality rap," please) had begun to sprout in L.A. by way of Ice-T's "6 'n the Mornin'," which was patterned after Philadelphia rapper Schoolly D's "P.S.K. What Does It Mean?" But there was no gangsta-rap label, and certainly no gangsta-rap genre.

Eazy-E was an unlikely progenitor. "I didn't know he rapped," remembers MC Ren, his future bandmate in N.W.A. "Ain't nobody know."

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The Stakes Might Be the Coolest Phoenix Band You've Never Seen Live

Categories: R&B, hip-hop

Jeff Moses
The Stakes brought the energy up at Last Exit Live last weekend.

The atmosphere at Last Exit Live was just a little different than usual Friday night for the premier of The Stakes' debut record, The Stakes Music Vol.1. The jazz- and funk-infused hip-hop seven-piece brought the laid-back, chilled-out vibes of their music with them to south Central Phoenix, and it settled in nicely at the downtown indie rock venue.

Tons of bands have rolled through Last Exit and rocked the house. But for what may have been the first time ever, The Stakes came in and rapped it. "Rapped" may not usually be a verb to describe a band's performance, but I don't think there really is a better description of what Lord Kash, Zeedub, Holly Pyle, and their fabulous musicians did.

Of course, the music was hip-hop, and that was a big part of the atmosphere change at the bar, but it wasn't the end all be all. The members of The Stakes carry themselves with a certain confidence, a quiet cool that doesn't only turn on when they are up on stage, so they instantly change the mood of a room just by being in it. It just felt like a cool place to be.

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Hip-Hop Group The Stakes Are Highly Vested in the Battle for the Soul of Music

Categories: hip-hop

The Stakes

"We try and make our music for anyone who can appreciate it, for people from all walks of life," said Zalamar 'Zeedub' Davis one of the two MCs fronting Tempe full-band hip-hop group The Stakes.

The Stakes' music blends the smooth tones of jazz with the heavier guitars of funk, the lyrical stylings of hip-hop and a distinctly contemporary R&B-type singer to make a uniquely Phoenix style of hip-hop that is as eclectic as the people making it.

This is a two-and-a-half year-old hip-hop group that early in their tenure making music was playing three-hour long sets at MIll Avenue's Caffe Boa. The talented funk and jazz musicians laid down intricate musical highways for Zeedub and his co-frontman Lord Kash to lyrically drive down full speed with socially conscious lyrics and above average wordplay.

The upscale Mill Avenue crowd weren't the only people feeling The Stakes, either. The jazz fanatics at The Nash in downtown Phoenix have also been quite accepting of The Stakes' brand of heavily jazz influenced hip-hop. In fact, according to Zeedub, many of his band members are regulars at the club, and when he is fortunate enough to catch one of them playing straight jazz he will still be obliged to jump on the microphone to lay down a few bars.

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Kanye West and Beck Should Kiss, Make Up, and Make Music

Categories: hip-hop

You might have heard by now that Kanye West had some things to say about Beck's Morning Phase winning the award for Album of The Year over Beyonce at last night's Grammy Awards.

If you haven't heard yet, here's a recap: As Beck walked up to the podium to accept the award, Kanye made a beeline for the stage, a la the infamous" Imma let you finish" Taylor Swift incident from the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, before spinning 180 degrees and returning to his seat, grin on face. But it wasn't all in good fun. After the show, Kanye had some words for the singer, saying Beck should "respect artistry" and give his award to Beyonce.

"I just know that the Grammys, if they want real artists, to keep coming back, they need to stop playing with us. We ain't gonna play with them no more," he said.

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Veteran MC Scarub 
Looks Back on a Life 
of Rhythm and Rhyme

Categories: hip-hop

Kevin Wallace
Scarub, of Living Legends fame

Hip-hop has been an integral part of Armon Collins' life for a long time -- nearly three decades now -- but the music wasn't quite what brought him to the music.

Before Collins became better known as Scarub -- a speed-rap-proficient MC who rose as part of the well-regarded Los Angeles rap collective Living Legends -- he was a kid witnessing the ascent of a powerful young art form throughout the 1980s and early '90s.

"Moms and pops was listening to Anita Baker and Luther Vandross," Collins, 36, says, "and we were turning on the radio and listening to Kool Moe Dee, LL Cool J, [and] N.W.A."

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Why Wu-Tang's Shaolin Business Model Is Brilliant

Categories: hip-hop


The music world is abuzz with Wu-Tang Clan's announcement yesterday that the single copy of the group's double-album, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, will be sold, like a Rembrandt or a Rothko, at auction sometime this year.

It's a lavish production. The album comes "presented in a hand carved nickel-silver box designed by the British Moroccan artist Yahya," the group's website says. Inside the box is another intricately carved case, within which will be the actual disc. The music will feature guest performances from Cher, Redman, Carice Van Houten, and more, including FC Barcelona soccer players, whatever that means. (You can hear part of Cher's contribution over at Forbes; the 51-second snippet is the only part of the album that has been released.)

The winning bidder will get to do whatever with the 31-track album -- lend it to a museum, place it in a personal collection, release it online for free, melt it for scrap, whatever -- and if RZA was telling the truth when he said the group had received a $5 million offer for it, then the album will probably fetch a similar amount, possibly more, at auction.

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The Final Weekly Blunt Club in Photos

Photos by Benjamin Leatherman
The members of The Blunt Club onstage at Yucca Tap in Tempe on Thursday.
"Whoop! Whoop! That's the sound of the police!"

KRS-One had some major vocal backup on Thursday night at the Yucca Tap Room. As the bombastic boom-bap of the rap legend's 1993 single, "Sound of the Police," blares through the sound system of the Tempe rock bar, a horde of close to a hundred voices scream-sing the chorus in unison with hands in the air.

Mass sing-alongs to rap classics are a common occurance at The Blunt Club, but on Thursday night it seemed a bit louder and forceful than usual. It's not surprising, considering the crowd at the hip-hop night was significantly larger than normal and that it would be their last chance to do so at a Blunt Club, at least for the next couple weeks.

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Anthony Valadez Talks About The Importance of Making Art for Yourself

Categories: hip-hop

Theo Jemison
Anthony Valadez

It's easy to find new and interesting music these days. All we have to do is pull up an app on our smartphone, and in seconds we can find a song that will hopefully move, motivate, or make us feel that special something in the gray matter between our headphones. Once upon a time, though, finding music that was left of center wasn't easy. Just ask Los Angeles-based Anthony Valadez, a photographer, record producer, podcaster, blogger, and the Monday late-night DJ at Santa Monica's public radio station, KCRW. The multi-hyphenate, who was hunting for early-'90s hip-hop and underground French artist DJ Cam in his formative years, recalls the journey he used to take to retrieve an album from his favorite record store.

"Melrose had all the cool, hip record shops," Valadez says. "I used to take the bus and travel down to Hollywood to just buy one or two records, because that's all I could afford at the time. I remember just sitting in the record store for hours and hours and I'd come home with two records, but those two records justified the whole trip."

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The Blunt Club Is Leaving Yucca Tap and Heading for Other Venues Around the Valley

Benjamin Leatherman
DJ Reflekshin performs at The Blunt Club Thursday night at Yucca Tap Room in Tempe.
It's getting toward closing time during The Blunt Club Thursday night at Tempe's Yucca Tap Room and it looks like no one's in the mood to call it quits.

The main bar is glowing with Christmas lights and busy with activity as DJ Reflekshin drops slow jams in between classic hip-hop joints from Biz Markie and N.W.A. onstage while local painter Queen Loopy creates live art behind him. Out on the dance floor, b-boys and girls are dishing out moves in the middle of a loose cypher while other patrons are singing along to the well-remembered refrains of of "Just a Friend" or "Boyz-N-The Hood."

In short, it's another classic session of The Blunt Club at the Yucca Tap. It also happens to be one of the last weekly editions of the long-running hip-hop night at the bar.

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Dissecting the Weird Raps of Swedish Teen Rapper Yung Lean

Categories: hip-hop

Fredrik Andersson
Yung Lean's in the middle.

If you've ever wondered about the meaning or history of a specific online trend or concept --Doge, Bitcoin, Slender Man, or that creepy Nicolas Cage face -- a remedy exists at Know Your Meme (www.knowyourmeme.com). The site dedicates thousands of pages to explaining the significance of famous Internet ideas, fads, and people. Four months ago, Know Your Meme user Molly Horan created a comprehensive entry about Yung Lean -- the alias of a bucket-hat-loving, baby-faced 18-year-old Swedish MC named Jonatan Leandoer Håstad. Know Your Meme houses pages on several topical musicians and songs, but if there's ever been an artist whose ascent is worth tracking and analyzing on the self-avowed "Internet meme database," it's Yung Lean.

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