In March, Malice announced that he was changing his name to No Malice. It was another step in the transformation that the Clipse member had been going through. As his brother and groupmate Pusha T built a solo career following the duo’s last project, late 2009′s Till The Casket Drops, No Malice has experienced a religious awakening, released a
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Lecrae will be dropping his mixtape Church Clothes with Don Cannon tomorrow, and here he talks with XXL about hip-hop acceptance, being boxed in and more…
With minimal mainstream press and radio backing, Lecrae has been building a small hip-hop empire over the last few years. His independent label, Reach Records, offers a roster of talented MCs with a message. The squad, spearheaded by Lecrae, has carved a
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What’s really good? Reach Records rapper Trip Lee’s answer might surprise you. On the verge of the release of his fourth solo album, the Dallas, Texas native talks with HipHopDX about The Good Life, passing LeCrae a mixtape that he subsequently believes was wack, the upcoming Unashamed documentary and
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Lecrae's mixtape is coming out next month (May 3rd), but in the mean time we have an update from Lecrae on his next album. Watch as Lecrae shares who he would love to work with on the project, the direction, as well as what his Reach label mates are up to. Lecrae also shares his experience on the Unashamed Africa Tour.
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An anthem is defined as “a song of devotion or loyalty, a song of praise, and a symbol for a distinct group of people.” As a celebrity DJ and producer, Don Cannon is responsible for a new sound of major hip hop anthems storming the mainstream airwaves over the past couple of years. Cannon is an internationally known DJ who can be heard spinning to elite entertainment industry crowds from Atlanta to Tokyo. His production credits list a who’s who of hip hop’s Top 10 mainstream rappers including Outkast “The Art of Storytelling Part 2” featuring Marsha Ambrosius, Young Jeezy “Go Crazy” featuring Jay-Z, 50 Cent’s “Man Down,” Ludacris’ “Everybody Hates Chris” and “Undisputed” featuring Floyd Mayweather, and Fabolous’ “Jokes on you.”
Donald Cannon is a native of Philadelphia, PA and at the age of five he began his foray into a musical career with his first set of turntables, a mixer and a karaoke machine. Upon high school graduation, Cannon left his Philly hometown to attend popular HBCU Clark Atlanta University. Cannon used those 4 years to sharpen his talent, and develop an understanding of his audience, while rapidly solidifying his position as one of Atlanta’s top tier DJs. As a former member of the Aphilliates, a group of DJs who are Philly natives and CAU alumni, Cannon forayed into the unofficial title as Music Director for Sirius Satellite Radio’s “Shade 45” on “The Aphilliates; The Streets Is Watchin,”co-hosted a show on Atlanta’s WHTA HOT 107.9 FM, and most notably helped to popularize the Gangsta Grillz mixtape series.
Although not a part of the Christian Hip Hop community, Don Cannon is hosting Lecrae’s upcoming yet to be titled mixtape. Knowing of Don Cannon and his work, as well as Lecrae’s I reached out to Cannon to get a little light shed on the relationship and help get a few questions answered that have been asked by Lecrae fans following our brief interview with Lecrae last month.
CH: How did you connect with Lecrae initially?
DC: I connected with Lecrae through one of my homies in Atlanta and I just felt his vibe!
CH: Who connected you in Atlanta?
DC: Street Symphony
CH: What interested you about working with Lecrae?
DC: What interested me was that he feels so strongly about his beliefs and I am the same way, I grew up in the church and a continue to serve God, and its something special in music to be able to stand up in this industry and bring the people something different.
CH: You mentioned you are serving God. In what ways are you doing that?
DC: Philanthropist works and care giving.
CH: Are you strictly hosting Lecrae's mixtape or are you more involved?
DC: Right now I’m just helping him get heard in all angles and I’m just gonna continue to rock out if he needs me.
CH: Did you know about devout Christian's doing Hip Hop prior to Lecrae? If so, who?
DC: I did and also salute Christians for doing so.
CH: Did you know any specific artists?
DC: No, I’m just familiar with Lecrae.
CH: In the past Christian Hip Hop or Christian Rap if you will, has gotten a bad wrap. Do you think that the general audience and fellow Hip Hop peers don't care if the music is overtly Christian in content as long as the music is good and the rapper has skills?
DC: I think music is music and if its good it doesn’t matter where it came from.
CH: Thanks for the time bro. I'm looking forward to hearing the mixtape!
DC: No doubt, thank you.
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HipHopDX's Alex Dwyer caught up with the former Ruff Ryders sensation about his decision to leave New York for China, making Christian Hip Hop, and the moving target life of being a battle emcee.
“I remember the first time I heard it, there was an initial sting, There was an ‘ouch.’ I never met him, it wasn’t provoked in any way. Then I took a step back and looked at the whole thing. This kid is 17. He’s rhyming on the ‘Forever’ beat, it’s a posse cut, he’s doing his thing. As someone who knows what Hip Hop is, the nature of it and was raised in it, after that initial sting went buy, I was like ‘Nice.’”
Oceans and years separate him from his battle-rapping prime and Jin still deals with emcees throwing jabs in his general direction. Also, as a racial Rap pioneer, he’s put into the same category as an Eminem...or a Vanilla Ice.
It’s a two way street. He has to put up with shots fired and most aspiring Asian rappers will face him, responding in interviews questions or in the booth. As an emcee a decade in the game, which side of the Eminem and Vanilla Ice quality line he stands on is still fiercely debated.
Jin knows his legacy is up in the air.
Jin Explains On Tribulations Of Being A Onetime Top Battle Rapper
Right now, though, he is reflecting on the latest up-and-coming Asian rapper to call him out. “I’m only at the point in my life right now where I can bring this up and you can tell by my demeanor that I genuinely don’t feel any real ill will. This guy has dissed me before in a rhyme. It’s recent too, in the last year or so.”
I believe that he doesn’t care and I don’t. There are too many qualifications.
His smile widens. He leans in closer and taps me excitedly on the knee a few times like he’s about to brag about a fight he got in. “D-Pryde is from Canada. In the last year or two, he’s really been buzzin’ in terms of building a fanbase. I’d like to think that he’s probably on the verge of signing a deal sometime soon. Anyway, everyone gets their 16s in,” Jin says. It was the directness of the diss that surprised him most. “Just bold out like that, no subliminals in the midst of his 16...which he killed by the way.”
He pauses for a second. As a battle emcee, he has a built-in tendency to want to retaliate. “I guess once a battler, always a battler as they say, which I agree with to a certain extent. I can still appreciate the art and the craft of freestyle battling but I will be completely honest with you, I don’t have the inclination that I once had to want to jump in the ring.” It’s a tendency he is trying to learn to shake.
“You been wack your whole career / Ain't there two billion people in China? / You can't even go platinum over there." - Serius Jones battling Jin, MTV’s Fight Klub, 2005
A decade after cementing his place in battle rap lore on 106 & Park’s Freestyle Friday, Jin is relaxing in a Starbucks in a busy shopping district in Hong Kong. Initially, the city situated on an island on the knuckle of mainland China’s Southeast Coast feels like a larger, more jittery version of the Chinatowns in San Francisco or New York.
Rockbottom prices and no sales tax fuels foreign visitors and mainland Chinese to rush around grabbing all they can carry. Christmas music is already blaring and decorations adorn the store’s windows. Even if it weren’t the holiday season, you get the sense that everyday in HK feels like a Christmas shopping rush.
If Hong Kong, like its nearby island neighbors of Taiwan and Macau, exists as a gateway to Western trade, it is also the midway point for Western culture and style coming from the U.S. and elsewhere. As a result, these places produce the majority of the successful music, TV and film acts for the mainland. Trends arrive in these censor ambiguous island zones up to a few years before they ever reach mainland China, if they ever get that far at all.
As much as rapidly growing tier-one mainland Chinese cities like Shanghai are considered developed by most standards, the fact remains that they still live behind a firewall, and behind culture’s biggest and most suffocating muzzle, censorship.
Jin Explains His Career After Moving To China
“In China, there are acts who rhyme ruthlessly and recklessly about anything but it will be difficult for it to reach everyone on a mass level,” he says but figures the censors only go so far into art prevention. To him it has more to do with how much the Chinese value pop culture. Entertainment, Jin argues, runs the lives of Americans, where it is only peripheral for many Chinese.
The priority and history of entertainment in the US has given it a unshakeable status in the industry that stretches beyond the English language. “The reality at this moment, English being the major entertainment language is one thing, but it’s undeniable that as an entertainment hub, America still sets the pace and that’s something that I don’t see changing anytime soon — even if the economic situation changes.”
In that sense, Jin isn’t exactly holding his breath for Chinese cultural exports to take over the globe. “I think that the more it changes, the more it will stay the same. For example, if you say, do you see a rapper from Beijing blowing up in Beijing, completely dominating China, doing a song with Kanye and somehow making it into the States? I don’t wanna say it will never happen but I might not see it. Maybe my child’s child might see it.”
The lack of interest in entertainment makes it hard for cultural industries to thrive, but the bootleg factor makes it damn near impossible. “I can’t even defend Chinese people on that. Piracy is wack. Does that prevent a music industry from flourishing in China? Absolutely.”
A British colony until the late 1990s, the island is as Western and open as anywhere under China’s guise. Hong Kong exists in an economic vortex that appears relatively unaffected by the recessions of the developed world as well as mainland China’s explosive rise to prosperity. In 2006, while everything was still gravy in the U.S. economy, Jin had already begun going through a career recession of his own.
His adept battling skills earned him a deal and subsequent debut album, 2004's The Rest Is History, from Ruff Ryders Entertainment (featuring the likes of Twista, Kanye West and Wyclef Jean), and a role in the film 2 Fast 2 Furious.
It’s hard to dance around any word for his album in a commercial sense besides flop. Critics booed, fans didn’t pony up the cash and by 2005, Jin had already parted ways with Double R. “It was hard because I had been stratosphered into the limelight and then shot back down to struggling artist mode. I don’t feel any bitterness or blame anyone, that’s just kind of the reality. Those two years were more of a reality check than anything.”
Frustrated, Jin decided to dip out of the Rap game. He released a revealing, scrappy recording called “I Quit.” He talks about his glory days being over, biting the dust and being his own opponent. Inwards, he was asking questions about the structure of the industry. “What is a fanbase? What is a loyal fanbase? What is this thing called the music industry? Dude, I’m sick. I’m done with this.’”
It was then he took his first step towards internationalizing himself. Growing up, his parents, both Hong Kong natives, spoke to him in Cantonese Chinese at home. He recorded a track in his mother tongue called “ABC” (American Born Chinese) and was fond enough of it to want to spin it into an entire Cantonese album. He finished recording the album in 2006 but found shopping it around to be tough, even in Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong.
“They were like, 'This was that dude that was on BET, battling the black guys?’ that’s literally what they said. They all pretty much gave me the, ‘Let’s keep in touch’ response,” he says. By 2007, Jin decided to release it on an independent scale stateside. “It struck me as peculiar, this is nuts, I can’t release an all Cantonese album in Hong Kong, but I can in the States? What is the world coming to...”
A few independent albums (The Emcee’s Proper?Ganda, 100 Grand Jin, and I Promise) later, Universal Records comes back into the picture and wants Jin to re-release the ABC album in Hong Kong, with a few new songs and a few videos — a proper roll-out. They also ask him to come to Hong Kong for a few months. Although he had never lived there, it was a no brainer.
“I’m kind of shooting myself in the foot when I share this but I don’t feel the need to dodge it or sweep it under the rug because it’s reality,” Jin says. “When I first came, one of the biggest questions that people in HK had was: ‘Why are you coming back here! You’re popping in the States!’ They all thought I was crazy but in reality I came because there was nothing really going on [for my career] in the States.”
It was a pivotal moment in his career and his life. Nearly four years later, the move, which was initially only meant to be temporary, gave him a second chance.
He hands me his sophomore all-Cantonese album, Homecoming, which came out in 2011. It’s made to resemble a Hong Kong state-issued ID card. Jin is proud of the packaging, a testament to the city he now calls home.
Darting eyes and muffled whispers emerge from nearby tables and passersby every few minutes as we continue our conversation. Jin sports a pair Ray Bans, inside on a relatively sunless November day. He needs to keep a somewhat low profile. He’s a celebrity in Hong Kong, not just a rapper. People know him here and not just for his rhymes.
His albums, videos and large-scale concerts made an impression on the city when he first came to town. Yet it was his appearances in five feature films, numerous TV dramas, hosting everything from music to variety to food shows, and mugging in commercials for lemon tea drinks and noodle shops that made him a household name. Even the upcoming Cantonese release of Happy Feet 2 has Jin voicing for characters.
His invasion of the Hong Kong media reached a pinnacle last winter when he teamed up with Hong Kong political head Donald Tsang, for a Christmas video urging citizens to “Act Now,” a thinly veiled call to support certain political reforms. It was an admittedly different turn from his first foray into politics in his 2007 “Open Letter to Obama” , calling for folks to “Take it to the polls” in support. The video is playful but people were outraged online and off about his alignment with the political apparatus.