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Category Archives: Hip Hop Collective

ARTIST REVIEW: Shinobi Ninja

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Rock Hood Front Cover

Artist Name
Shinobi Ninja

Album/Song Title, Year Released
Rock Hood, 2011

Website
http://www.ShinobiNinja.com

Rating
♬♬♬♬♬

 

Riis Headphones

Riis says:

Okay, first of all, Shinobi Ninja is HIGH energy.

Pure.

Raw.

High.

Energy.

At first glance the 6-member group – with Duke Sims and Baby G on vocals, Alien Lex on bass, brothers Maniak Mike and Terminator Dave on guitar and drums, and rounded out by DJ Axis Powers on the wheels of steel – is a mashup of hip hop and rock that many bands have attempted, but few have successfully achieved. But for every 15 epic group failures, you occasionally stumble upon a band like Shinobi Ninja who convincingly grabs the rap-rock mantle handed down by legends like The Beastie Boys and Public Enemy, and carried by contemporaries like Linkin Park and Rage Against The Machine.

Thanks to the band’s generosity (shout out to Dave!), TLM got a chance to check out songs from their 2011 album release “Rock Hood”, as well as the 2012 ILL ISH single (with Rusty Stab as the B-side).

On all of the tracks we heard, the band showed strength and a genuine combined skill in both genres of music. Their body of work comprises a seamless collection of heavy hitting, head pounding, hip hop/rock tracks that display an abundance of neighborhood front-runner swag. You know what I mean…  Shinobi Ninja is like that guy you often see around the block where you can tell he commands respect and admiration just by the way he walks. Yeah, like that.

Dre1 cropped

Bennie says:

Duke Sims delivers vocal agility and a strong sense of tone; never letting the melody or lyrics get lost in the depth of sound produced by the tight instrumentation of the musicians supporting the cause. His delivery, on several levels, manages to maintain hip hop credibility while singing a strong counter-melody to the phat beats and thumping bass lines.

Baby G shines on the band’s recordings and in particular during her spotlight moments on tracks like “Nah Nah” and Shinobi Ninja’s cover of Montell Jordan’s classic “This Is How We Do It”, which offers up a salute to another hip hop classic during a genre-blend near the end of the song. Baby G is authentic Hip Hop, not some contrived, sloppy reproduction. Because of this, you are released to just enjoy her instead of being caught up in the disappointment of a bad attempt.

The album is full of energetic calls to action on tracks like the eponymous “Rock Hood” and “Jump To This”, party anthems which compel you to play the tracks as loud as possible, and make you wish you had a stadium in your backyard just to fully appreciate the intensity of the top-notch production. When I say you can’t sleep on this album, I mean you literally WILL NOT be able to come down from the high this group achieves from the very first track to the last. It’ll make you want to say, “Where the party at?!”

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Don’t forget to vote for Shinobi Ninja in the Grammy Live: The Gig of a Lifetime contest. Cast your votes here: VOTE SHINOBI NINJA

Find Shinobi Ninja at these other virtual world locations:

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NEW MUSIC: Justin Timberlake “Suit & Tie” feat. Jay-Z

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So it’s been about 7 years since Justin Timberlake revised pop culture vernacular by declaring he would be the one to bring Sexy Back. Since then we’ve seen J.T. eschewing time spent behind a microphone and replacing it with considerable time spent in front of a camera. Now, while my beloved Bennie and many others like her have feasted on the eye candy J.T. presents on screen, those of us less concerned with the appeal of his 5 o’clock shadow have waited patiently for the release of some new audio addiction.justin-timberlake-in-suit

We have found our fix in J.T.’s lead single “Suit & Tie” from his upcoming album “The 20/20 Experience”.

The track, produced by Timbaland, combines equal parts baby-making, half-time back beats with a bouncing bass line, harp flourishes and lush synth strings. Over this J.T. offers to “show you a good thang” while alternating between cool natural vocals and a crisp falsetto reminiscent of Marvin Gaye on his classic “After The Dance“. As with most trendsetters, my prediction is that just as Jay-Z intones in his rap verse “This is trouble season/time for tuxedos for no reason”, we will most likely see an increase in faux-tuxedo based fashion cropping up over the next year. Be afraid.

Nevertheless, the release of this single, along with a statement regarding “newfound muses” in the Open Letter on his website, has caused us to eagerly anticipate hearing what he will present for our listening pleasure on the full album.

Take a listen below and let us know YOUR thoughts on J.T.’s newest release.

https://twolovemusic.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/justin-timberlake-ft-jay-z-suit-tie.mp3

I Didn’t Get The Sports Gene

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In many respects, I am a stereotypical man and I do what many typical men do… no, not THAT I mean like fix and build things. (I made this! )  However, there is one particular area where I am very different from many of my male friends: Sports.  Yep, baseball, football, hockey… You can keep ’em.

This doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy playing sports. Prior to a car accident at age 12, I had a very promising career on the school track team.  Yeah, don’t hate on the runners. Some of the best runners I knew became football players. Others became managers at Footlocker. But that’s another story. To this day, I love to work out and stay physically fit (P90X!).  And sure, I love a good pick up game of basketball with my sons, or playing street football with the neighborhood kids (who apparently don’t know the meaning of “TAG” football). But anything beyond that and my attention fades to nothing. Really.  I mean, I don’t even watch professional sports unless it’s the NBA Finals or occasionally the Super Bowl, and then mostly to see the commercials (which are far more entertaining to me). I’m not glued to the big screen HDTV for Monday Night Football surrounded by my buddies with beer, chips and hot dogs. I’ve never even participated in any Fantasy Sports leagues.  Call me crazy, but there’s no excitement in that for me.

I’m not the guy who’s so consumed with which player is being traded to what team that I can’t focus at work. I’m not the husband who can’t be approached while the game is on, and gets grouchy when my team loses.  Guys at work will come in the next day and spend hours discussing last nights game and arguing over bad calls and inflated stats.  Me?  I could care less. Who got injured? Some team is 12-0? I guess I never got that gene.

It was replaced by the MUSIC gene. Ask me who won the Grammy for Best New Artist back in 2004 and I can run off a list of the songs from their album.  I could talk for hours about the rise of Country Pop and the degrading of R&B production quality. I could give you a year-by-year history of Hip Hop and provide details of pioneers like the Sugar Hill Gang, Just Ice and Grand Master Flash, or innovators like ATCQ or the Fu Schnickens, as well as contemporaries like Drake, Rick Ross and T.I.  I can tell you what High School Josh Groban attended, or about the girl who originally recorded and released “Don’t Cha” before the Pussycat Dolls (trust me, it was NO BUENO).

I guess the parts of my mind that were originally reserved to care about sports were usurped by the arts, musicality and the pursuit of sonic nirvana.  As a writer, producer, arranger, artist and musician, it infiltrates every part of my life.  I guess I got it from my parents who used to tour Chicago and the surrounding areas, traveling with an ensemble vocal group with my uncle who played the piano.  And it’s been passed on… my wife sings and plays the guitar.  My oldest son is an actor, singer and dancer. And my middle son is already an exceptional writer at the age of 16.

So while you’re watching the Super Bowl, remember me and people like me who compose the music for the broadcast introduction, replay transitions and commercial jingles that have become just as much a part of American culture as apple pie.

Marketing Ignorance

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First let me say that I’m a fan of hip hop. I mean, my interaction goes way back to the days of, well… never mind, I don’t want to date myself. 😉  In spite of the depth of my affections for this genre however, I simple can not tolerate someone advocating ignorance and trying to call it art!  I believe there has to be more than a modicum of intelligence in all art, whether it be painting, music, theater or dance.

What do I mean by this? Well, I was listening to a rapper (who shall remain mercifully unnamed) spouting off what he considered to be a battle rap which made absolutely no sense.  He used words out of context simply because… wait for it…  they rhymed!  Example:  “Back up quick before I cap ya dome/beatin’ freakniks with wheat sticks like a motor home…”  I’m sorry… what?!? o_O

Then you have rap crews with names that have no real meaning other than the people in the group thinking it must be good because it’s different.  This one crew is called “Gangsta Island” and their coming out with an album called “Gangsta Psalms”  I mean, come on… Gangsta Psalms?!?!

And then there’s this one guy I know who titled his album, MISCELLANEOUS because he says he’s mysterious and unique.  I’m like… “Bro, have you looked up the definition of Miscellaneous lately??” Now I know all hip hop artists are not ignorant, but I wonder if I should even say something to these people. The one time I tried to reason with a guy, he told me I just couldn’t understand his “vibe”  I was like… “Look, I gotta be honest… your vibe is sad… as a matter of fact, there is no vibe, it’s just sad all by itself.”  Maybe that’s a little harsh, but for someone like me who considers music and poetry to be an art form, these people really bring shame to the entire industry.

Anyway, here’s the soapbox back in case someone was looking for it.

1328749668_Carlin

I Hate Categories

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Society has an obsession with categorizing the world. We categorize people: you’re an asian, tall, old, gay, rich, southern, democrat and a nerd. We categorize film: it’s a drama, comedy, film noir, oldies, classic, talkie, sci-fi, animated blockbuster. And we categorize music: she’s a singer/songwriter, alt-rock, pop, death-metal, conscious hip-hop, trance, dancehall queen. I hate categories. Especially when it comes to music…

I find it interesting that rappers like Q-Tip, Rakim, and KRS-One (yeah, I’m a bit old school), who are/were all admittedly Muslim or simply followers of Islam, were considered mainstream, not categorized as religious artists and therefore pigeon-holed into a niche market. Whereas you have people like Trip Lee, Andy Mineo, KJ-52, FLAME, and Ackdavis who, because they are “Christian” rappers (as opposed to rappers who are Christian), get lumped into the “also ran” hip hop bin at the record store (again with the old school references). I’m not sure what it is that distinguishes the two – other than the obvious underlying beliefs – from being considered part of the same industry. But apparently, not all Hip Hop is Hip Hop. Day 294 - 10-20-2012

One of the most skilled rappers I’ve ever heard is this guy named shai linne (spelled with lowercase purposely). His talent IMO surpasses most rappers out today. The key difference? His music is Christian Hip Hop. Now before you go all, “uh oh, more religious talk” on me, just hear me out. I’m setting the foundation to make a point that’s universal.

Christian Hip Hop in the past has been plagued like most other Christian music as being woefully behind the times. Quality production usually lagged by a decade or more. These artists were barely escaping the late 80’s when 2000 came and went. It was even worse for Christian Hip Hop. Some of these folks were laughable at best. If their lyrics weren’t completely cheesy and devoid of real theology, their music sounded like it was played with a wooden spoon and a sauce pan.

Fast forward to the late 00’s and music production took a giant leap forward as far as the creative process for the general consumer. This caused ProTools and Logic Pro to effectively move out of the confines of a conventional studio and into the garage or even the bedroom. This meant that up-and-coming singer/songwriters and producers could hone their skills without paying high fees for studio time or needing to commute to professional locations. This had a significant impact on both the secular and religious music industries. More time for getting over the learning curve. More time for experimentation. More time for musical expansion and genre expression.

See, I’m not a Christian singer/rapper/other label. I consider myself an artist who’s also Christian. It should be obvious to anyone who encounters me what I believe simply by the way I choose to live my life. But when it comes to music, I’m being forced into a box. One side says, “if you’re a Christian then you can’t sing/rap about love and relationships!” The other side says, “if you want to be considered a mainstream artist, you can’t include any religious references!” The absurdity of it all is frustrating. My goal with my music is to simply offer the world something I created in hopes that it will be either something you relate to, something that encourages you, or simply something that entertains you. It’s unfortunate that there exists an unspoken rule among some that my life as a Christian can not publicly include practical expressions of love, disappointment, struggle and fun.

It’s almost as if releasing a song commercially ties you to that genre for the duration of your career. Anything outside of that is considered “getting away from your roots”.  That’s the most asinine thing I’ve ever heard. I’m simply an artist and my creations may change as often as my moods depending on what I’m going through at the moment. Pop, R&B, Hip Hop, Country… if I write a song and that’s the feel of it, then so be it.

I just want to live my life outside of categorization.

There’s No Such Thing As Christian Music

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I’m sure the title brought some of you here.  But before you go full-on into rant mode, allow me to explain…

Show me a definition of Christian Music that people agree on, and I guarantee it’ll be less about being “Christian” and more about the “music”. Simply stated, “Christian Music” and “Christian Musicians” are two VERY different things. The difference is that just as Christian musicians don’t exclusively write worship and praise songs, there are plenty of songs in the Christian market that are not written by those claiming Christ and salvation. So what is Christian Music? And does it exist at all?Christian-Music1

Well, let’s look at it this way… just because someone isn’t a Christian doesn’t mean they can’t be a tool in God’s hand. For instance, the gospel group Mary Mary have a song on their 2008 album  “The Sound” that features David Banner, a well-known rapper of the hardcore variety. Now I personally wouldn’t have chosen him to feature on a Gospel album because of the distraction his presence would bring and the potential to detract from what is being presented. Still, if God can use a donkey to convey a message, he can certainly use David Banner (and no, I’m NOT equating the rapper with an animal).  Besides, you’d be surprised to learn that some of the people who’ve written popular worship songs are not in the least bit Christian. They just happen to be very good songwriters.

The popular Christmas song “What Child Is This” is sung using the same melody as the old folk song “Greensleeves“. Did you know Greensleeves describes a man pining after his lover, one who some allege was a prostitute? It’s like writing lyrics for a Christian song and choosing “Knockin’ Da Boots” as the melody.

It’s interesting that here in America religious music is segregated on the radio, while in other parts of the world you could easily find gospel or CCM in rotation with current pop and R&B music. The key is to always make sure your devotion and adoration is toward God and not simply those He created.

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