Underground Spotlight: Chelsea Reject by Elijah Powell

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Nothing makes me happier than seeing a female hip hop artist who doesn’t need to pose half naked on the world stage in order to get famous for whatever else they do. People’s perception of Hip Hop is seriously misconstrued because of what major labels promote through their leashed rappers who do not in the least bit represent Hip Hop culture. This is why I was happy to stumble across a little known project by the talented Chelsea Reject, titled Radi-8. The project is Hip Hop in its purest form: authentic and creative with the soulfully gritty sound real Hip Hop purists love.

 

I discovered the young college student emcee through another artist I wanted to review, T’nah Apex, who I believe has equal appetency to create true Hip Hop. Because Apex has not released a full project yet, I looked to see if her partner in crime, Chelsea Reject, did, and I was blessed by the music gods upon coming in contact with such an auditory gem. Radi-8 is a project centered around Chelsea’s life, an emotionally treacherous coming of age story of a female artist coming up in a world that aims to put females in particular in a small box. The journey the project takes listeners on describes concepts like relationship issues, being overlooked, lonely, and generally unnoticed, and rebellion against the status quo set by society. She exhibits lyricism in the process of telling these tales based on real life experiences she endured, making for a beautiful work of musical art.

 

Radi-8’s fourteen tracks each sound distinct, with different production on every song except “Nostalgia” and “Fin(Outro)” which were both produced by El R. My favorite cut off the project is “Jumpy”, produced by Black Milk. The beat’s pithy snares and gritty bass compliments the piano sample and provide the perfect platform for Chelsea and the song’s feature, Keemie, to demonstrate why real Hip hop will always be in demand. The song comes down on the music industry that alienates underground artists who create timeless art rather than temporary entertainment, like when Chelsea raps, “Lil’ me, stranger to this industry/ Hey mister Def Jam-he wasn’t feelin’ me”. While the song does maintain this concept, it still comes off as a Hip Hop song that encompasses the desire to present great lyricism simply for the sake of letting others know how good of an emcee you are, gripped by an overall confrontational feel.

 

I reached out to Chelsea to see if she would answer a few questions concerning herself as an artist, and she was much obliged.

 

  • What do you think of the outcome of Radi-8?

 

Radi-8’s outcome was more than I thought it would be. Though it was slow at first many people began finding out about me through it. I gained a lot of fans and that was a blessing.

 

  • What life occurrences specifically provided the most inspiration for the project?

 

I recorded Radi-8 in my college dorm at SUNY Purchase. At the time I was going through a lot of life changes and self-doubt and really learning what it’s like to be on your own. I began recording as an outlet and a way to get my feelings out in a positive way. I picked all of the beats and I recorded myself with a makeshift studio my father bought me right before I left for college. Music saved my life and gave me a creative way to speak to people and relate to them.

 

  • What is your favorite track off the project?

 

My favorite track on the tape is “Good Mourning” because it is probably the most personal thing I’ve ever recorded. I lost my aunt who was very instrumental to my life and growth. For years it ate me up inside. I needed some type of closure. This track gave me that closure. I even cried while writing it. However, the song ends on a hopeful note at the end. I did that because I needed that hope for myself and it helped.

 

  • What is your age?(If you don’t mind me asking)

I’m 21 years old.

 

  • Where are you from?

I’ve lived in Brooklyn my whole life. I went from Park Slope to Flatbush to Crown Heights (where I currently reside). I have a Caribbean-American background (St. Lucian and Jamaican).

  • What do you represent as an artist?

I feel like I represent originality and self-acceptance as an artist. Every song I’ve created was derived from real life situations. I really am who I claim to be. I created the name Chelsea Reject when I was a spoken word poet (before the music). At first I called myself a Reject because I wasn’t very popular in school and I was that weird kid who always had headphones on. But as I got older I realized the Reject stands for accepting all your flaws and rejecting what society wants you to be. It’s about being yourself and learning to love and accept you.

 

  • How was the creative process for Radi-8? Was it a smooth or rugged journey?

Radi-8 was a struggle tape. Very difficult. A lot of producers and artists fronted on me because I didn’t have a following as of yet. All of the featured artists were friends of mine who also did music in the under-underground. They encouraged me to keep writing despite my lack of attention to my work. Honestly the entire mixtape was like a therapy session for me.

 

  • What are your future plans for your music career?

You can’t really plan for life. I’ve been learning this more and more each day. My plan is just to keep being myself, creating music that not only others can relate to but that I can relate to. I want to give back to the community, especially the youth. My plan is to inspire and help make a difference.

 

  • Any new music projects coming up in the near future?

I’ve got a new mixtape coming out early 2015. It’s titled CMPLX and it features Pro Era members. I won’t give too much away but this project is different from Radi-8. It’s a lot about my life experiences and growing in music as a whole.

The project is a great listen that rekindles hope in real Hip Hop during a time when most overlook the underground’s creativity, dedication to the craft, and overall greatness. I give Radi-8 an 8.5 out of 10.

You can download it for free here:

http://www.datpiff.com/mixtapes-search.php?criteria=chelsea%20reject

 

Or stream it here:

https://soundcloud.com/chelsea-reject/sets/radi-8

 

Let Hip Hop’s rays radiate upon your soul.

Peace.

Underground Spotlight: Dreb by Elijah Powell

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No matter what you rap about, all I ask is that you can actually rap. You wanna talk about politics? Fine. You wanna make love ballads? Cool. You wanna talk about the horrors of the ghetto? Do it. Just make sure you can properly execute lyricism on full songs that sound distinct from each other that each touch upon the various components of whatever subject matter you choose to rap about. That is the key to a good rap project.

 

Dreb, one-half of the rap group OTO (Out of The Ordinary), is an emcee hailing from Englewood, New Jersey. The duo’s latest release, Dead Weight 2, is a mixtape project that exploits well known beats and combines them with lyricism that brings the beats new life. It’s also amazing that they go harder on the beats than the actual artists who originally used the beats for their copyrighted songs. It shows skill when you take someone else’s work and do it better. DW2 is an example of that skill on all eight songs.

 

If you’ve ever heard Troy Ave’s All About The Money track, produced by Roofeeo, you’d probably agree that its a lyrically underwhelming song that had potential to be a smash hit record. OTO took the beat and saved the day: “Before these people even utter out a word, I’m bound to press em’/ Run down, put this forty to work like a Drake session/ My recreation, my territory no playground/ Like a lullaby, my forty be singing until he lay down”. Dreb connects Drake’s producer, Noah Forty Shebib, to his glock forty firearm, and connects the action of firing it to “singing” until his enemy dies, or lays down. If you want to talk about murder, thats the way to do it.

 

In an interview  with Dreb I listened to what the young emcee had to say:

 

What is your age?

 

I’m 19.

 

What inspires you to make music?

 

What inspires me to make music was the feeling of helping people get through things…So many people deal with different things everyday and I figured why not help the next person’s day become better? No matter what genre.

 

How long did it take to complete the mixtape?

 

It took us about 2 months to create Dead Weight 2. We had this idea of bringing back that raw lyricism that the game is kind of lacking right now and snap on every single [track].

 

How was the creative process for you?

 

The creative process was actually rough because at one point so much was going on that we lost focus but we bounced back strong and were able to come together and complete the tape.

 

What do you see for your future as a musician?

 

My future will consist of constant dedication and love of the game…Don’t get me wrong, yeah the money, cars, and clothes are great things that come along with it, but there’s nothing like having passion for the game. I want to be known as not only one of the greatest artists to ever touch the mic but I want to be remembered as the most impactful.

 

In a way the mixtape is a musical embodiment of classic gangster films: well written and to the point. Its been a long time since I’ve been drawn into such a well crafted explicit release. I give it a 6.9 out of ten. It’s not for everybody, but if you appreciate raw lyricism with no filter, you’ll enjoy OTO’s Dead Weight.

 

You can download or stream the mixtape for free here.

 

Peace.

 

Time For Some Action by Elijah Powell

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Maybe when you were younger you watched cartoons on television that centered around action: climbing, swinging, jumping, and fighting. Maybe in your younger days you watched those cartoons specifically for that action. Maybe it entertained you for the moment as a child and that is the end of your memory. Or maybe you not only took in the action from the show, but also the reasons for the actions performed, the reasons for such dramatic and heavy subject matter of such shows, and the morals embedded.

 

If you are like me, then you enjoyed those shows because of that extra substance, aside from the thrill of watching the fight scenes. I remember the feelings my heart had when a character passed away, achieved something, or stood up for what he or she felt was right during action cartoon series such as Sailor Moon, Justice League Unlimited, and Naruto. Most of these actions shows taught me life lessons that other comedic cartoons that seem easier for children these days to comprehend always lacked.

 

I was conscious to these lessons taught because many times they related directly to situations that were taking place in my life at the time, but maybe you watched for the entertainment aspect but still unknowingly clung to the lessons, enacting them when conflict arose in your life. Because of this I make the case that action cartoons are more than just relevant, but have been essential to the development of children of Generation Y, and unfortunately as time continues to pass, it pains my soul to witness the classic genre of cartoons slowly die.

 

You may ask why action cartoons are relevant to yourself or critical to the lives of average American children. You can answer that question yourself, by analyzing what shows you seriously got into as a kid. If the shows didn’t affect you directly while in elementary school, I’m sure it at least affected some of your male peers of the time. I remember when Dragon Ball Z got extremely popular and every kid on the playground was doing kamhameha’s at each other nonstop. The impact was crazy. At my school, many bigger students who bullied those smaller than them were being taken on more often by their usual victims. Shows like Dragon Ball Z influenced the bully’s daily prey to stand up to anyone bothering them rather than just backing down again. Anyone watching the show would much rather be the one that stands up for

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Krillin (L), and Goku (R)

 

themselves and for what they feel is right, like the show’s protagonist Goku, rather than running and hiding in the face of danger like Goku’s cowardly sidekick Krillin sometimes did.

 

Most action cartoons from the end of the twentieth century into the early twenty-first century describe the same principles concerning the assertion of self which may warrant self defense, and the decision of whether or not action, usually violent, should be taken. A show that aired on Cartoon Network on March 6, 2000 titled Gundam Wing discussed deeper topics like imperialism and the rebellious tactics used to fight against it, letting young viewers see how the powers that be can sway the masses’ perspectives in their favor, through conspiracy involvement and slandering freedom fighters opposing their oppressive rule.

 

Batman Beyond, an old favorite of mine, had episodes in which corrupt companies got away with secretly creating illegal chemical weapons, showing the corruption of government when in close ties with corporations.

 

On the other side of the social issues spectrum, action shows like the Powerpuff Girls taught me to never underestimate the power of females and not to see them as lesser beings. I’m sure the show planted the same seed in its many young female viewers, letting them know that action should not always be left up to the boys and that they, too, can make a difference in the world. All of these messages and more flooded my mind, and as I grew older and did more research on history, I began to understand why these plots were chosen for what many write off as simply children’s cartoons: the subject matter is a direct reflection of real life. The shows displayed the issues and gave ways to solve them, diving deep into the darker side of villainy as well as the adversity faced by those associated with heroism.

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(Main character Heero Yuy, with his Gundam behind him)

 

I presume that since shows like the ones mentioned have partially influenced many in Generation Y to grow up and use the newfound power of social media to enact change, the corporations that now own many of these cartoon channels (like Time Warner which owns Cartoon Network) would rather not air such programs, even if they are in demand. However, there are primarily two direct factual reasons as to why cartoons centered around action, adventure, and long driven plotlines are disappearing: Low ratings, and parental concern.

 

Regardless of the artistic masterpieces that many of the cartoons are, they are expensive to create and if the network sees that the show isn’t producing enough profit from either its ratings or accompanying toy lines based on the show, they will choose to cancel it’s run. While many of these action shows are actually toned down for the American audience with networks editing out blood and frightening imagery, some parents were still concerned about the amount of violence in action cartoons, specifically from the early two-thousands and onward. Because of this many shows were switched to different time slots for airings, usually weekend nights rather than weekday afternoons, contributing to the decrease in action cartoon ratings.

 

This is sad to me not because I love many of these shows that were cancelled, but because what is replacing those shows are dumbed down slapstick comedy programs that do not spark imagination or provoke thought with the newer generation of youngsters. The only promising action cartoon airing currently is Nickelodeon’s The Legend of Korra series that emcopasses a world at war, the show being a spin off series from the Avatar: The Last Airbender saga which owes much of its success to timing (the animation style of the show is heavily influenced by Japanese anime and the first episode aired in 2005, when anime had peaked in popularity within the United States).

 

Despite this, the show is overshadowed by an onslaught of new shows that are either cheaply produced or have weak plots that clearly lack depth (or both), such as Fan Boy & Chum Chum created by Eric Robles, which is about two friends going around their town doing immature activities and annoying neighbors, and Sanjay & Craig created by Jim Dirschberger, Andreas Trolf, and Jay Howell, which is pretty much about the same thing.

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(Chum Chum on the left, and Fanboy on the right)

 

I don’t hate satirical cartoons, but even the best cartoons based on humor also had messages and morals involved in episodes. This is what made shows like Spongebob Squarepants, created by Stephen Hillenburg, originally so popular, having a Mr. Krabs as a greedy businessman, Squidward as a self-centered and pretentious artist, and Spongebob as a hard-working but oblivious character who often gets taken advantage of by those characters that he calls his friends. This is a reflection of real life! Many long time fans of the show despise its current seasons that undoubtedly lack that real life aspect that made the cartoon such a success back in its early years.

 

Unfortunately, most people have come to a consensus that satirical cartoons are not to be taken seriously because the same thing that happened to Spongebob has happened to almost all other humorous cartoons, with the exception of Clarence, created by Skylar Page (which is rumored to be cancelled soon due to a case of sexual assault that Page was accused of inciting), that showcases children dealing with adult issues the adults in the show have trouble dealing with themselves, in childlike ways, such as divorce, the education system, and loneliness.

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(The lovable Clarence)


Since children do not take cartoons like that as serious material from which knowledge of life can be gained, action cartoons are the last hope for the moistening of the youth’s imagination that is currently drying up. They are needed in today’s new reality where the children, and people in general, are so very disconnected from it. Children’s programming networks are no longer teaching the youth, but pacifying it, and while there is a time and a place for everything, I think that now more than ever that its time for some action.

Underground Spotlight: CoolBoi Av by Elijah Powell

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These days, EP rap projects are as weak as the small amount of songs they consist of. What an EP is supposed to be is a short but sweet collection of good music that makes you excited for the artist’s upcoming full album. It’s like an appetizer for a meal, but the problem is that most rappers only provide a light snack. Fortunately, the same cannot be said about CoolBoi Av’s latest release: the Now Until Forever EP.

 

The 24-year-old Jersey City native created this EP with the intentions of putting forth his best work that would be timeless for telling his story. Truly a product of New Jersey, CoolBoi Av’s project emcompasses his many experiences in the Garden State that influenced his attitude towards life. Reaching success and omitting all excuses for not doing so is a mentality I could definitely relate to, myself being raised in Jersey, the state many outsiders write off as an easy place to grow up in. Av said, “Jersey made me tougher and molded me into the person and artist I am now.” It’s just like what he raps on the EP’s final song 90’s Dream: “I see there’s no better time/ than the present to present what my mind has molded/ keep in mind this was my king dream imagine my plan in motion when my eyes are open.”

 

The song that stands out the most on the EP is Mighty Dolla. The instrumental is a modern take on an old piano sample used by many hip hop producers during the nineteen-nineties, and the lyrics relay a dark but truthful message concerning the greed money can harbor in people, as well as money’s effect on society. This was refreshing to hear in this era where most rappers promote the worship money.

 

“The message I’m trying to give to my listeners is just always be yourself. I was born and raised in Jersey City, New Jersey. We’re a part of the top five most dangerous cities in the state, so it could be easy for me to talk about clapping guns, selling drugs or whatever but that’s not who I am. I came from that environment and that’s not the route I choose to go. Even though if I did the city might love it. I feel the people that do support my music do so because they know this is really who I am,” says Av of his project’s directive. Nothing short of exceptional.

All in all, this was an EP superior to most and I applaud CoolBoi Av for taking an unorthodox  approach. I give the EP an 7.9 out of 10.

 

You can stream Now Until Forever here:

 

https://soundcloud.com/coolboi_av/sets/now-until-forever-epphoto

Underground Spotlight: Venomous 2000 The Ultra Emcee by Elijah Powell

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Underground Spotlight: Venomous 2000 The Ultra Emcee

 

Let me just start by saying that his new album is a classic, and not just because I’m featured on it. To be honest, at the time of recording my verse for Venomous 2000’s seventh track off of this album, I was not aware of the fact that I was going to be contributing to a collection of art of such a high caliber.

 

A Moment to Reflect 3 is a twenty six track album consisting of the music of Venomous 2000, The Ultra Emcee, and many other emcees from all over the world, including myself, recorded together over the span of three years. This is truly a worldly album, produced by different producers from many places including, but not limited to, New Jersey, London, France and Germany. All of the songs were mixed in Serbia by Trillian. This is just another testament to the reach Venomous’ music has, aside from the fact that the music itself is relatable to all walks of life.

An acapella quote sets the thought provoking mood of the album: “Take time to reflect. Take time…to reflect, and I’ve had to learn that because just taking time to reflect has taught me how to appreciate the hard work that I’ve already put in, to where I’m trying to be in my life, to where I’m already headed…”

 

I felt like my mind was forcibly opened to accept the art that was about to enter, and accept I did. While the album maintains the hard knocking sound that makes true hip hop music distinct from other genres (the loud kicks and snares that keep one’s head nodding, the cuts and vinyl scratches, done by DJ Priority, the down to earth soulful samples, etc.), the album still does take an experimental approach. This is apparent on songs like “Style In Here” (Produced by Repeat Pattern), where you can hear the sample in the background drifting in and out of of the auditory realm of the music, rolling in when Venomous and Mr. Fickle drop their punchlines, as well as “Certified Raw” (Produced by Phalo Pantoja) where the beat sounds like random piano keys and synths rummaged together.

 

As the songs continue to blast, one can understand the aggression from which this style of production stems from. While “Certified Raw” was my least favorite cut off the album, I appreciate Venomous for taking a leap with unorthodox production, especially now when most rap beats lack originality.

 

While each song’s amassed sounds pour into my ears I felt like the beats told the story with Venomous, aiding him in telling each story each track was intended to express. These stories spanned from informal (“You Don’t Know” produced by Handbook), to inspirational (“You” produced by Boogie Brown), and ominous and intriguing (“The 4th Kind” produced by MecStreem).

 

“The 4th Kind” is definitely a favorite, on which Venomous raps about being abducted by aliens looking for humans who are mentally strong, describing symptoms of markings on his body that can only mean aliens were observing him, visually dissecting him without Venomous being conscious of it. I won’t reveal the end of the story but I’ve never heard a story like it put into song form. This type of daring creativity defines this album as a classic. For real hip hop heads, I’m sure it takes us all back to a time when all of this originality was standard within hip hop, but for such a collection to be released at least that standard has the chance to resurface, forcing all mediocre rappers who listen to it to reevaluate their mastery on the art of emceeing.

 

The album’s recurring theme is one of positivity, promoting unity and elevation amongst humanity through informal and emotionally enriching lyricism. The album’s many features assisted Venomous in getting these points across, including myself when I rapped “The world got many problems, and I ain’t no superman/ But you ain’t gotta be Einstein just to understand/ That united is the only way our people stand a chance/ So I take a stand, making me the biggest threat to their plan” on “Wake Up” (Produced by Pejota).

 

On the tenth track, “You”, Thaione Davis sheds light on the misconceptions of black history when rapping, “It takes a nation just hold us back/Thats why they reshape facts, and write us out of the tales/ Like we never contributed or excelled before we pickin’ in fields”, and on the last song, “Rock After Them” (Produced by DJ Irs), Rhymageddon raps for the sheer sport of emceeing with lines like “Grow some cashews. / I cause a bloody snafu/ Couple jabs to land you and grant you with stab wounds in ya dome like shampoo/ For them damn Andrews and Benjamins-/ Don’t send em’ in!/” That’s just how I like my lyricism: Vivid and brilliant.

 

I asked Venomous about how he came to make such connections and his answer was, “I had the privilege to work with some amazing folks in France and Belgium during my first tour in 2012. That entire experience kind of opened me up to dealing with people from outside of the states on a much more consistent basis.  I sought to do work with everyone I like, anywhere they resided…I had a vision to work with certain emcees over certain beats and I sort of hand picked those people I thought would sound nice over certain production.  I was blessed to be surrounded by so many talented individuals.”

 

This album is a must for those who desire to enter or re-enter the world of underground hip hop in its truest form.
In my interview with him I asked him what message he ultimately wanted this album as a whole to tell the world. He answered by saying “The message is quite simple, I have a voice, thoughts, and something to contribute to the culture of Hip Hop.  I want this album to be another timeless project that people will appreciate more and more after listening to the album several times.  I want this album to tell people that I truly do live this musical experience and A Moment To Reflect 3 is a testament to that truth!”

 

From listening to all twenty-six tracks, I feel he was successful in this goal. Even though this album is the end to a trilogy, one does not necessarily need to listen to the two previous albums to fully understand this one. However, after listening to the album I am eager to check out Venomous’ past projects and I am excited for whatever the Ultra Emcee has in store. I am attracted to his passion as an artist, which he told me stems from “The Creator, The Creators, The Ancestors, my immediate family, and the Voice that is deep within me that says I can not stop doing this because there’s a message that needs to be heard!  I don’t claim anything, I’m just a vessel doing the work of forces that are much greater than me!”

 

I give this album a 9.3 out of 10, and I definitely recommend this album to anyone interested in real Hip Hop music, but don’t just take my word for it.

 

Go stream it here: https://soundcloud.com/venomous2000emcee/sets/a-moment-to-reflect-3-by-venomous2000

or purchase it here:

http://venomous2000.bandcamp.com/album/a-moment-to-reflect-3