"Oh, you a RAPPER rapper..."

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The other day, Ebro from Hot 97 reposted a hilarious video from @hahadavis. In the video, a jubilant Davis strolls into the Hot 97 studio, only to walk in on a disgruntled NY rapper threatening to shoot the place up over not getting any airtime. The reason why I found this video so funny was because I could totally see this exact thing happening in real life. In fact, there are a number of local rappers I personally know who would definitely do this.

A post shared by Ebro Darden (@oldmanebro) on

Boy, watching this had me dying. But then I started looking in the comments (as you do) and came across this:

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Not only that, but the comment also had a ton of likes (which you can't see here because I took the screenshot on my desktop). This is clearly reflecting the sentiments I explored in my second to last post about the oldschool vs. newschool hip-hop trope. This comment contained almost all of the stereotypical examples of this type of thinking:

  • "Rap was tougher back in the day."
  • "Look at all these wack 'Lil rappers."
  • "Hip hop is entirely superficial nowadays."

As we already know, every single one of these insinuations is false and can easily be said about the previous generations' scenes as well. What I found especially surprising about this, however, is how much my own personal experiences completely contradict this statement. Like I said earlier, this video cracked me up because of how accurate I found it to be, and here this person was saying the exact opposite. Where is the disconnect here? Am I the one seeing it wrong, or is it just a matter of perspective?

On the one hand, I'm obviously immersed in a different world than the commenter. I'm privy to a side of the community that most people aren't exposed to, so of course I'm aware of the set tripping macho shit that the local (or at least New York) hip-hop scene is built on. I've seen with my own two eyes that there's a war going on in Brooklyn right now that's deeply interwoven in the culture. Reflecting on this, I began to think that my exposure to a different side of hip-hop might be what's primarily contributing to this different perspective.

Then after a while I thought, "nah, fuck that" and realized this kid is 100% wrong.


Well, because for every 'lil rapper who's blowing up on Soundcloud, there's a guy like Dave East. For every local rapper popping xans with colorful braids in his hair, there's a Sheff G. These artists are blowing up just as big as their "softer" contemporaries, but you're making a conscious choice to only acknowledge the ones you hate. Take Brooklyn's Piif Jones, for example:

Piif Jones is definitely one of the next to blow, which further proves that this hard New York rap is still here. It has not and will not go anywhere any time soon. Like I talked about in the other post, there have always been trends in the community that upset the purests. These trends ebb and flow with the times, but hip-hop has (for the most part) been okay. This is the hip-hop I know, this is the hip-hop I'm exposed to on a daily basis, and it's definitely not in danger of going anywhere any time soon.

This is 2018; can we please all make a conscious effort to ignore the content we don't like, while at the same time promoting and paying attention to the stuff we do like? If you hate certain trends in the genre, stop obsessing over them. Stop giving them exposure and impressions, and definitely don't say things like "hip-hop is _____ now". Stop hating the bad shit - start promoting the good shit.

With that being said, go check out Piif's new EP, Never Stop.


You Wouldn't Download a Sweater

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People always like to compare music and fashion. The striking similarities and parallels between the two mediums do, after all, make for an easy comparison. Not only that, but music and fashion are two forms of self-expression that often go hand-in-hand, ebbing and flowing as greater products of popular (or not so popular) culture in general.

In the past decade or so, however, music eventually forayed into new territory that fashion hadn’t yet entered. With the advent of modern communications technology, it became possible for anyone to become a professional-grade recording artist. Artists could record, mix/master, distribute, and promote their own material entirely independent of a major label.

Up until recently, fashion had not yet seen the same movement. Fashion, in a broad sense, was still playing by the traditional rules of popular culture. Designers and fashion labels would pump out concepts, influencers would make certain concepts popular, and “trends” would soon hit the masses. If anything, the internet initially just sped this cycle up – things were simply going in and out of fashion faster than ever before. Due to fashion’s physical nature, both in creation and consumption, becoming a fashion designer was never truly as accessible as it was to become a musician.

For example, Soulja Boy posted Crank That, a song created entirely at home, to YouTube and became an internationally recognized hip-hop artist. A fashion version of that story didn’t exist. Until now, that is.

Have you ever watched something incredible unfold and thought to yourself, “holy shit, I should take note of this”? Those were my exact thoughts when Ava Nirui broke into the fashion scene in a big way last year. She wasn’t the first to gain notoriety through posting her work to social media, but there was one crowning achievement that set Ava apart from anyone who came before.

If you’re familiar with Ava’s work, the word “bootleg” probably comes to mind. In fact, do a quick Google Search and you’ll find that most articles that feature her focus on the relationships between brand identity, authenticity, and imitation. Ava is, undoubtedly, the bootleg queen. Some of her most recognizable early works include dozens of creative, often tongue-in-cheek, bootleg products featuring famous brand logos and names in unexpected settings. As someone who long ago became fascinated with the extremely deep rabbit hole that is knock-off clothing, this whimsical take on something so familiar really resonated with me.

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Not before long, that "holy shit" moment happened. Ava created a Gucci x Champion bootleg which she sold in a limited run of 10 and the internet went nuts. Not only did the run of 10 sell out (obviously), but Ava's bootleg soon became one of the most bootlegged items on the internet. Let that sink in for a second. More people were buying replica versions of Ava's bootleg sweater than were buying replicas of actual Gucci products. Copies of Ava's original hand-sewn bootleg sweater are now being made in factories. Even over a year later, copies of the Champion x Gucci sweater still can be found on DHgate, taobao, aliexpress, and even Etsy of all places.

Even Etsy isn't safe from the bootlegged bootlegs.

One thing eventually led to another, and in late 2017, Ava teamed up with Marc Jacobs to produce an official Ava Nirui x Marc Jacobs bootleg. Although this isn't technically a bootleg, it was still very much done in the same spirit.

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What does this all mean? Well for starters, Ava Nirui is obviously the Soulja Boy of fashion. But (probably) more importantly, this signifies a real shift in how fashion is distributed, accepted, and even legitimized in today's world. Going back to my earlier point, people love to focus on the "bootleg" aspect of Ava's journey, but I feel as if that's hardly the most interesting thing here. I could write dozens of articles, each focusing on a different implication of what this means (and questions it raises) for the fashion world. Fashion, like music, is becoming evermore inter-connected to the point where people can share their ideas and creativity to places where it will be consumed. Ava's bootleg experiment has shown that if you create something that enough people find dope, regardless of traditional measures of authenticity, availability, or clout, people will buy it. That, and I think the mass-production of a bootlegged bootleg is one of the most beautiful things ever.

Not wanting to miss out on the party, I decided to try my own hand at this. Behold, the double-bootlegged official bootleg bootleg:

I literally taught myself how to sew for this, and putting this thing together was easily the most grueling six hours of my life. I wish I was joking.

Snob No More

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2018 marks ten years since the first "old head vs. youngin" beef I was privy to. Back in 2008, I was at the peak of my music snobbery. When it came to music, I almost exclusively listened to 90s "golden era" hip hop. Having a preference in music is one thing, but to me this was hip hop. I was so passionate in my narrow definition of what constituted "real" hip hop music, that I refused to even acknowledge anything that existed beyond those parameters. To put it in perspective, I once got into a fist fight because a kid in my homeroom claimed that Lil Wayne was a better rapper than Big L.

2007/2008 was also the peak of the Soulja Boy era. Crank That had just released, and more than ever it seemed as if hip hop was changing before our very eyes. While everyone else was happily doing the Superman at our middle school dance, I stared disapprovingly from the sidelines. I think what was so frustrating to myself and many others at the time was that this new trend in hip hop was markedly different from anything else that had hit the mainstream. Like any other genre, hip hop had evolved and changed over time but its core elements had typically remained constant: lyrically-driven content complimented by an interesting instrumental. Suddenly, however, much less emphasis was being placed on the lyrics. A catchy beat, hook, and viral spread were now the more favorable elements in a popular hip hop track.

I cannot express how happy I was when I first heard the above clip. Here was Ice T, an oldschool rapper that I had huge respect for, backing up everything that I had been feeling for the past year. I remember sending this clip out to half of my school like "See! Iceberg feels the same way!" Then came the response...

I remember being pissed when Soulja Boy dropped this response. I'm pretty sure I didn't watch any more than a couple minutes of the video because I was that tight. How dare Soulja Boy be so disrespectful to such a legend? This video really increased my newschool hatred - something I wouldn't snap out for years.

The only thing is, Soulja Boy's response was 100% spot-on. From about 4:18 on, Soulja puts together one of the most insightful, intelligent responses I've ever seen. He articulately broke down exactly why Ice T's initial callout was wrong, and the proper attitude that old heads should have when offering criticism. Ice T eventually followed up with a response to Soulja's response in which he doubled-down on his original message, claiming that Soulja Boy was "supposed to accept" being told to eat a dick and to "keep it moving". Looking back from a more objective point of view, Ice T comes across as nothing less than an angry, out of touch old man in this situation. The reality is, the older parties in these "oldschool vs. newschool" beefs usually do.

For 2018 and beyond, I'd like to apply this lesson to my daily life. For starters, I think it's important to keep in mind that hip hop is a genre of music like any other, meaning it's subject to change over time. Even though we may not like the direction it's heading in, attacking the youngins who do enjoy this new style is non-productive and counter-intuitive. If you truly do consider yourself to be a proper old head, then it is your duty to educate the new generation on the culture and history of hip hop. Acting like a "gatekeeper of the culture" will only serve to push the new generation away and make you look straight up geriatric. Nobody's saying you have to like the music, but going on and on about how wack it is just becomes pathetic after a while.

As a takeaway, the new generation of hip hop is here to stay and much as I hate to say it, the genre is never going back to what it was. I would hazard a guess that the same people who were hating on Soulja Boy back in the day (myself included) would much rather take him over the current influx of today's "Lil" rappers. Despite that, you'll never catch me mindlessly hating on another artist simply because I think hip hop was better back in the day. As an artist, you can either adapt to the new style, or continue making music you're comfortable with while fully accepting that your art may not have any mass appeal. What isn't an option, however, is to sit back and blame everyone else when your music isn't resonating as well as you think it should.


Mo Dubb - Save Me

The first time Mo played this record for me, I knew he had to have a big video planned. Save Me was one of the most powerful songs I had heard in a while, so it was only fitting that it deserved an equally powerful visual to accompany it. Thankfully, we were both on the same page in this regard, and the planning stages were already in full swing.

About a month or so later, the results of said plans came to fruition. The Save Me video is definitely the visual that the original record deserved. From the opening skit at the start of the video to the imagery of his son's single sneaker, Mo definitely connected with this one. His struggles and pains echo throughout the record, and this visual only serves to further intensify the intended message.

I wish everyone could watch this video and get a true sense of what people really have to deal with out here. Even if you're living amongst it, it's easy to forget the plight of regular people whose system continues to fail them on a daily basis. Mo's story is just one of many all too common tales of police brutality and systematic injustice in this country. Here's hoping that the growing public consciousness will finally come to a head, forcing institutions to take action. Until then, one thing we can do is continue to try and make our voices heard through tracks like Save Me.

Check the video out below:

Thank God for Bape's Recent Release

Month after month I have been bored to death by Bape's slated releases. With each "new" shark hoodie they announce, I become more cemented in my belief that Bape's creativity and innovation left with Nigo. If you were to walk into a Bape store nowadays, you would swear that you've been transported to the late 00's. Not a single notable concept has come from the brand in the past five years - probably more.

That being said, I've just seen a few pieces from their "High Tech Army" collection, and I'm impressed. Though there are still a few bad habits lingering here and there (not everything needs a shark face, guys), this is definitely a step in the right direction. For the first time in ages, Bape has released a collection that looks like it belongs in this decade. A nice mix of techwear, winter wear, and traditional streetwear, this new collection is as clean as it is functional.

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The collection has since sold out, but you can check out what the pieces looked like on Bape's official website.

Merry Christmas Lil' Mama (Re-Wrapped)

 "It doesn't sound like a traditional Christmas record because real Christmases aren't like the ones in the songs."

"It doesn't sound like a traditional Christmas record because real Christmases aren't like the ones in the songs."

Everyone knows I'm a massive Chano fan - I think he's been one of the most talented musicians to hit the hip hop scene in the past five years. As someone who holds College Dropout and Late Registration in the highest regard as some of the superlative examples of hip hop music, I always felt like Chance picked up where early Kanye left off. I've been a fan since 10 Day was released back in 2012 and he has yet to disappoint, producing music bursting with soul ever since.

I also happen to be a big fan of Christmas music. I have always loved when hip hop artists put out their own holiday tracks/albums - Afroman's A Colt '45 Christmas was literally one of my favorite albums in middle school. While others had Bing Crosby and Wham! on repeat during the holidays, I was listening to Run-DMC, Kurtis Blow, Kanye, and, of course, Afroman.

  A Colt 45 Christmas  has long since been on my list of re-imagined Christmas favorites.

A Colt 45 Christmas has long since been on my list of re-imagined Christmas favorites.

Knowing all this, you can only imagine how happy I was to see that Chance the Rapper had just revisited his Christmas mixtape featuring Jeremih. Back when the original tape released, I heard about it way after Christmas so I held off on listening to it. I had always thought that Chance's soulful sound would be perfect on a holiday record, and for him to release an entire album really did feel like a Christmas miracle. As soon as I saw it posted online I threw on my favorite Christmas sweater, poured myself some eggnog, turned on the fireplace, and sat the fuck down fully ready to be assaulted with Christmas cheer. I threw the first track on and... was confused. This didn't sound like the Christmas songs I was used to. Where were the whimsical lyrics? Where were the playful references to Santa Claus? I wasn't feeling Christmas cheer - I felt more like dumping some Henny into my eggnog and turning up.

I stood up, shut the fireplace off, and went about my day.

The first track off Chance's Christmas album confused me initially.

The next day I decided to sit through the full album, this time going into it with no expectations. I still turned the fireplace on for aesthetic reasons, but wasn't expecting the classic soulful Christmas album I had initially looked for. I only got halfway through the first disc before it became very clear that this was the realest Christmas album I have ever heard. It doesn't sound like a traditional Christmas record because real Christmases aren't like the ones in the songs. Merry Christmas Lil' Mama is a big departure from the traditional Christmas album, but if you put away your expectations for what a Christmas album should sound like, you'll realize that this just feels right. The holiday optimism is there. There cheer is there too, but it's initially more subdued than what we're used to.

By the time you finish the thing, you will be in the Christmas spirit. It may not be the same Christmas spirit that you're used to, but it will be some of the realest, most authentic Christmas spirit you've ever felt before.

Listen to the full thing free here.

Rell XL - Pull Up ft. Mo Dubb

When local rappers put on for their neighborhood, they often do so in a quick, uninspired way that lacks the authenticity they're usually hoping to portray through such a homecoming. Picture a squad coming through with their equipment, setting up in an empty car park, getting their shot, then packing up and leaving. You can feel this in their videos too - they feel sterile. When shooting a video in your home neighborhood, especially if said neighborhood is in Brooklyn, this should never be the case.

The Pull Up video, on the other hand, brings you to Canarsie. Nothing feels staged, nothing feels put on - you really feel like you're walking through the Floss. This is largely in part thanks to Sage English's video work, but is also a testament to the performances by Rell XL and Mo Dubb.

There's also a lil cameo by your boy at around the halfway mark. Check it out:

Featured Work: Sonny - Stu Sesh (Prod. Rimshots Collectif)

Stu Sesh was originally written as a perspective piece set several years in the past. Like much of Sonny's upcoming mixtape, A Tale of Two Cities, Stu Sesh is written from the perspective of his teenage self. This shows through the almost palatable arrogance rife in the track. Set to be his first single, Stu Sesh showcases Sonny's lyricism in the realest way possible.

Stay posted for Stu Sesh and more on Sonny's debut mixtape, A Tale of Two Cities.

Bonus: check out Sonny's live performance of Stu Sesh at A Breath of Fresh Air.

A Breath of Fresh Air - Recap

A bit late on the post, but A Breath of Fresh Air was a tremendous success! Due largely in part to the overwhelming support from our friends and community, Atled was able to put on a completely new style of underground hip-hop show.

For those unfamiliar with the event, we wanted to take a departure from the all too common model of hip-hop show, which relies on either the exploitation of the artist, or the sacrificing of artistic integrity out of necessity. A Breath of Fresh Air was financed, planned, and run entirely by the artists and creative themselves. Seeing as how there was virtually no outside influence, A Breath of Fresh Air was, in essence, the purest form of hip-hop show possible.

Truly a team effort, we were incredibly thankful for everyone who came out and supported the event. If anything, the unprecedented success of A Breath of Fresh Air further iterated that this type of event is not only possible, but can thrive in this beautiful city.

Check out some shots of the event below, all snapped by @GawddessVisuals