Skip to content Skip to footer

Who is Yung Pinch? The laid back Cali rapper bringing beach town vibes

Yung Pinch is a rapper on the rise from Huntington Beach, California.

His songs have chill laid-back surfer vibe reminiscent of the beach town he hails from. As for his rap name, that was a real nickname he got when he was a freshman in high school.

He would always hang around seniors and he would smoke with them and because his hands were so small he would pinch the blunt so they all decided to call him Yung Pinch and the name stuck.

Originally, he hated the name but as he grew older the name grew onto to him until he finally accepted it.

Huntington Beach is not a place where you think a rapper would come from but Yung Pinch beat the odds and is one of the first rappers from their representing his city.

He earliest hits were over a year ago reaching up to 10 million views on YouTube.

The Cali rapper started playing drums at a very young age and that’s how he started gravitating to music. The first band that he listened to was the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He also used to skate and surf when he was younger.

While his music is very melodic and happy like everyone else, he’s had his trials and tribulations.

Before Yung Pinch was born, both of his parents were heavy drug users so he has always lived with grandparents and he was raised by them. His grandmother was a nurse and he had to work 12-hour shifts.

His grandfather died when he was eleven so he was forced to be the man of the house at a young age. His death led him to him to start smoking weed after he found out that his grandpa also smoked. In an interview he said,

“My grandpa’s death heavily affected me and my grandma heavily to the point where we had to move houses because the memories were too painful.”

Despite losing the father figure in his life, he pushed through and began to focus on music a lot more.

He started listening to hip-hop in the 8th grade and he began freestyling not long after. At the time he was listening to a lot of East Coast music and Like Wu-Tang, Nas, and other legends and it shows in his freestyles that he would release on his SoundCloud.

Compared to the slow melodic sound that he has now, his music taste and sound have completely evolved from back then. When he was a freshman, he started changing his musical tastes and that what has led to him finding his sound: chill beach town vibes.

His music has been making waves early he was invited by Blackbear to go on tour and they even remixed the California rappers most popular song “rock with us” which came out dope.

He was recently on tour with Bay Area rapper G-Eazy in Europe and he has been absorbing advice from everyone he has built a relationship with the industry.

He has a good head on his shoulders and his work is very consistent constantly dropping music every Friday which has garnered him a large and loyal fanbase.

Listen to his latest project 4EVERFRIDAY SZN ONE here:

After saving Lil Pump, J. Cole is the mentor that this generation of hip-hop needs

‘Fuck J. Cole?’

The KOD rapper was truly confused when he caught wind of this phrase. Cole was not alone in his thoughts. True hip-hop heads couldn’t understand why anyone would come incorrectly at a rap artist whose body of works could stand alone as a volume from a hip-hop encyclopedia.

We know that Cole’s track “1985” trickled some ripples in the rap pond and was a rude awakening for the new age ‘LIL’ fish who spoke down on the Dreamville founder’s name. C’mon, it was a valid response to the “Fuck J. Cole” troll craze that was sweeping the internet.

It was a viral energy. Like, somehow a bunch of kids rolling loud at Rolling Loud stomping their dirty white Chuck T’s into the earth; the same kids that rattle their brains to pudding from violently headbanging to Lil’ Pump’s “ESKETIT” finally had a say in the rap game.

Still, troll or not and beef to the side J. Cole managed to set up a chill sesh with the new age rapper’s generational representative, Lil Pump aka Jetski.

Beyond a variety of topics, the odd pair discussed the basics, like how they came up in the rap game and what inspired them.

The dreadlocked rappers (one’s dreaded mane longer than the other’s) reminisced on how the meeting at Cole’s The Sheltuh studio in North Carolina came about. Cole thought the initial reach out from Pump’s camp was a troll. Cole revealed,

“We ended up speaking on the phone… Somebody called my phone and you were there with them. I ain’t gonna lie, I thought you were trying to set me up or some shit. I was like, ‘Yo, he’s 17 and a massive troll.’ I think you wanted to FaceTime right?… Cause my album had just dropped like a week before that, so I thought if I FaceTimed you, I thought you’d just screenshot that shit and go right to Twitter and keep running with it more.”

Honestly Cole, at that time, it probably was a troll and if it was any of your fans in the same situation they probably would’ve made the same choice. Cole fans are wise AF! Still, with the fear of Pump trolling him, Cole made sure he made the hour interview happen with the “Gucci Gang” rapper.

J. Cole could be the mentor these young rappers need. Instead of clapping back on social media and trolling back Cole took beef to another level. He sat down with the opposition and focused on a brotherhood with the so-called “enemy.”

In a way, Cole has accepted the new with loving arms as all OGs should. He embraced the controversy and tried to understand this new wave of artistry. One that doesn’t focus on lyrical skill but one that aims to gain a fanbase through social attention. Cole spoke about how he felt. He said,

“It was like two years ago, I saw one of the ‘Freshman Freestyles.’ And I was like sad. Like, I was like ‘Damn, this shit really over.’ I know now that I was wrong. All I was doing was being afraid that the thing that I fell in love with was no longer relevant or respected. At that moment, it brought fear… It ain’t nothing like what I grew up on, and even what I make, what I prefer. But it’s like… What I’ma do be scared of this? Deny this? Deny you expressing yourself, however, the fuck you want to do that? …I’m resisting this shit when it’s really like, I should be accepting this shit. And appreciating that it’s different and that something new is happening…”

At the 33-minute mark, Cole even went as far to ask Pump about the “Fuck J. Cole” movement that Pump had supported back in 2017. Sidenote, it’s ten times funnier in slo-mo. Pump replied while fiddling with his bottle,

“So basically…I don’t know. I was sitting in like a room one day and I saw in my comments like, ‘Fuck J. Cole. Fuck J. Cole,’…and that was it… But now, I kind of get it because we make different types of music. So people like…They’ll feel some type of way like ‘Fuck this. Fuck that.’ I started doing it and people were just like, ‘Fuck it.’”

Honestly, more young rappers will take a page out of Cole and Pump’s book. Maybe we can get a sitdown between Drake and XXXTentacion so someone can explain whatever happened there. A sit down between The Basedgod, A-Boogie, and PnB Rock would be even hotter.

Hopefully, Cole continues to be the light at the end of the tunnel for these young bucks. God knows they need they need the guidance.

TRAKGIRL is innovating music not just for women, but producers everywhere

Producer TRAKGIRL is on an uphill battle to settle into her deserved tier in the music industry.

Through seductive pieces like Jhene Aiko’s “Overstimulated” and Luke James’ slow, symphonic lament to loneliness “Pearls”, TRAKGIRL exudes her emotionally sophisticated personality in the world of production.

I got the chance to catch up with TRAKGIRL we spoke on her music career, upcoming projects, and love for all things technology.

Conversation with TRAKGIRL flows free and easy, much like the persona she exudes on social media: talented, artistic, and approachable.

Whether you know it or not, you’ve probably heard one of her songs. She’s worked with current artists like Omarion, Tiffany Evans, Luke James, Jhene Aiko, and Timbaland, to name a few.

Incredible show @bigsean ⚡⚡ #idecidedtour 📸 @thomasfalcone

A post shared by TRAKGIRL (@trakgirl) on

She always knew she liked music. Shakari ‘TRAKGIRL’ Boles comes from a family of musicians. Originally from the sunny palm beaches of Florida, her family moved over to the governmental DMV area when she was still young.

As she shares in a previous interview, her mother had always played classical instruments. It was at the age of 15 that Shakari began her research on complex sound interfaces such as AKAI LPD 16, teaching herself the module of percussive instruments.

It was during this time she pursued her love for music, discovering the nuances of sound through some of her favorite R&B legends: Prince, Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Timbaland, Missy Elliot, and Pharrell.

“I love creating with my friends,” she tells me matter-of-factly.

Female music producers are on the come up. The music industry is a tough-love kind of space, with the need for many tweaks and adjustments when it comes to new artists.

Some are moving past the stigmas and entanglements that come with finding their fit in the industry. Others start off in a different direction.

Although her music is considered R&B, TRAKGIRL seems to have taken a spin at her own sound. While she focuses her singles around the R&B and alternative genre, some may describe her sound capabilities as genre-less.

“I like to pull at heart strings,” she tells us of her emotionally charged beats.

As for a record deal, TRAKGIRL is enjoying keeping it single by remaining unsigned.

“I’m taking my time when it comes to that. I’m big on compensation and being treated and paid fairly.”

Of course, this is where the movement Pay Us Today comes in.

What started off as some merchandise turned into something so much bigger. Pay Us Today has expanded to a unified message for everyone in the music industry.

After a few fellow producer friends warned her of the issues that remain persistent throughout the stories of various artists, such as not getting credited or paid at all, TRAKGIRL decided to ensure her worth.

Preparation. Cooking up with team @serato @roland_us

A post shared by TRAKGIRL (@trakgirl) on

“It’s a systematic issue that Pay Us Today recognizes occurs for everyone in the music industry.”

Originally starting as a platform for a unified message on merchandise, Pay Us Today’s dream can be summed up into its opening sentence statement:

“Give credit where it’s due.”

Now, Pay Us Today is expanding, moving forward to becoming an educational platform for women involved in the music industry.

“Over the years I’ve watched my friends fight through the daily journey of surviving as a creative [producer, artist, etc.] and it’s given the perception of how the music industry sometimes undervalues creatives.”


Recently, TRAKGIRL was the panelist for the NAMM conference with Women’s Audio Mission, speaking on the method of recreating blockbuster albums for concert tours.

Moving forward, she hopes to work with more female-focused organizations and shed light on women in the industry.

“I’m doing a few speaking engagements the next couple of months that I’m really excited about. The goal is to hopefully open doors and bring access to women who want to be producers and engineers and get into the industry and maneuver in a male dominated industry. We have to build some type of protective blanket for us. I want the conversations that are happening to continue.”

I mention gaming. We bond over our love for it, she laughs and refers to herself as a “super nerd.”


A post shared by TRAKGIRL (@trakgirl) on

TRAKGIRL tells me that she’s been playing The Last of Us lately and shouts out her favorite innovative corporations, sharing an agile dream of designing her own tech equipment.

“I’m a super nerd! Again partnerships is key for me this year. So I’ve been focused on tapping into music tech. I’m interested in innovative products that enhances my workflow and creation. I’m a fan of companies like Native Instruments, Spectrasonics, Moog to name a few… I recently was invited to the ROLI house at the NAMM conference and got to try some really cool products. Who knows… Maybe I’ll design my own equipment or software one day.”

She hopes to have her own record label one day and claims that her ownership of her art is what’s most important to her when it comes time for work. Until then, we have many more years of authentic music production to look forward to.

“Ownership is important. Building something from the ground up has been my thing. It feels good to build something from the ground up.”

I ask TRAKGIRL if we have anything else to look forward to this year, like her partnership with fellow collaborative artists Crystal Caines. She leaves us with an enticing answer with just enough ambiguity to leave you hanging onto her last word.

“Definitely working. Mystery has always been my thing, but I’m currently working on something this month, next month and the months beyond.”

For everyone out there who plans on taking any industry head on, she has some advice.

“Never compromise, stay true to yourself and keep pushing have faith.”

Who is Nasty C? The South African rapper ready to take over the game

I became a fan of Nasty C in 2016 after I heard the banger “Juice Back.” Although the 2015 mixtape Price City was his first body of work, “Juice Back” truly put him on the map.

Then he came out after with the remix with some fire features from South Africa’s  Cassper Nyovest and Nigeria’s very own Davido.

It wasn’t surprising that this track blew up within South Africa and beyond. Nasty C became the youngest emcee to win hardware at the prestigious South Africa Hip Hop Awards with his mixtape Price City helping him earn the “Best Freshman” award.

Nsikayesizwe David Jr Ngcobo, aka Nasty C, is a 21-year-old from Durban, South Africa. If you follow him on his Instagram and Snapchat, you’ll see that he doesn’t take himself too seriously.

But don’t go sleep on him because of that. You’ve got to pay attention to his witty wordplay and bars. Don’t let them go over your head.

Nasty doesn’t hold back and can definitely hold his own against most rappers. He is hugely popular in South Africa and throughout the continent. Nasty C is definitely an inspiration to the youth that follows him and he’s always taking note of that. 

In September 2016, C released his debut album Bad Hair as a free project because of some clearance issues. Then he released Bad Hair Extension a couple of months later.

“25” and “I Lie,” which featured other hot young South African artists, were my favorites. But “Hell Naw” was the biggest hit off the album. In addition to some of South Africa’s hottest artists, French Montana was also featured on the album. 

What’s interesting about Nasty C is that he collaborates with a lot of other young artists and rappers. His collaborations with Tellaman are some of his best.

Tellaman is a young singer-songwriter and producer also from Durban.

These two definitely don’t play around in the studio. There’s a new joint from Tellaman which features Nasty C and another South African rapper, Da Les. Nasty C recently dropped a new track “Dance” and of course, it features Tellaman. 

Since 2016, Nasty C has been creating a lot of heat in the growing South African hip-hop scene and one thing is clear — he’s going to be a problem.

That boy doesn’t plan on being slept on this year. In 2016, he was featured on Davido’s “Coolest Kid in Africa”, which became a massive hit.

He was nominated last year for a BET Award alongside some of Africa’s best for Best International Act in Africa.

He was the next South African rapper to appear on Sway In The Morning after three of South African biggest rap stars: AKA, Cassper Nyovest, and Kwesta. He definitely didn’t hold back in his freestyle.

He was then featured on Major Lazer’s Know No Better EP with the track “Particula,” with an All-Star cast of African artists DJ Maphorisa, Ice Prince, Patoranking, and Jidenna.

He’s recently went on his “Ivyson Tour” around Africa. Peep some of his hottest features below.

Emtee – Winning (ft. Nasty C)

Davido – Coolest Kid in Africa (ft. Nasty C)

Major Lazer & Dj Maphorisa – Particula (ft. Nasty C, Ice Prince, Patoranking & Jidenna)

J. Cole never needed your approval: ‘KOD’ and the significance of its success

Jermaine Cole has to be one of the hardest artists to critique. Unlike any rapper, his music comes with strong, polarizing biases, which tug at you from one side to the other.

Either Cole is nice or he’s boring. His lack of features is either creative or it’s hurting him. He’s a good songwriter or he’s too repetitive. It’d be impossible to get a read on him if you turned to social media.

Without fail, it’s either his loyal fanbase lecturing you on the complexity of his bars or it’s his haters telling you how mundane his raps are.

Before his music even has a chance to marinate, claims of it being both the best thing you’ll ever hear and the worst thing out floods our timelines and throws out all hopes of ingesting his material with a clean pallet in the process.

For the longest time, this infuriated me because I never understood how people could hate Cole so much, nor did I understand how people rode for him so hard (his last three albums have gone platinum with no features).

But after hearing J. Cole’s newest album, KOD, it confirmed that he is an anomaly in the hip-hop world and has indirectly created this reaction to his music by simply being him.

You see, ever since the 6’2, St. Johns graduate from Fayetteville North Carolina figured it out in 2014, he no longer needed you, I, or anyone’s approval. It was at that time Cole found himself as an artist, and he hasn’t looked back since.

When Cole stopped giving a fuck

J. Cole didn’t attain breakout stardom until his third studio album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive and you can clearly notice the artistic switch at that juncture in his career, both sonically and on the charts.

Cole World: The Sideline Story catapulted him to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with guest features from Trey Songz, Drake, Jay-Z, and Missy Elliott and “Work Out” remains his biggest hit to date, yet it only sold 218,000 its first week.

His second album, Born Sinner was assisted by Miguel, Jhené Aiko, Kendrick Lamar and 50 Cent, yet only sold 297,000 copies in its first week.

2014 Forest Hill Drive sold 353,000 copies its first week, had no features and went on to be nominated for Best Rap Album at the 58th Grammy Awards.

What changed? Cole stopped giving a fuck.

As he addressed on the record “Let Nas Down,” chasing radio hits were tearing him apart and his remedy since has been doubling down on himself.

FHD was the Cole he started off as — the mixtape Cole — and the results were obvious tells to a formula that he’d stick to. However, the process of not conforming alienated listeners in the process.

J. Cole stans vs J. Cole truthers

I once read that J. Cole’s music is reminiscent of the rap you listened to before losing your virginity. While funny and meant to slight, the statement is actually quite accurate and revealing in a way. J. Cole’s mixtapes and the songs that captured his initial fanbase were, indeed, those kinds of raps.

The Come Up, The Warm Up and even Friday Night Lights tackles everyday life that everyday people go through, not rapper talk. Issues like going off to college, paying off student loans, getting a job, hating where you are professionally and “School Daze” dominated the subject matter of his last three albums, topics that, depending on what you’re tuning in to, can be perceived as “boring”.

But it works regardless because it’s what his core fans want and need to hear.

J. Cole’s best songs are simple; not over-amplified by huge snares are trap beats — think “Dollar and a Dream” and “Losing your Balance.” So if his music is returning to those vibes, if anything, it’s him at his strengths and it’s what will sell.

That’s what separates the J. Cole stans from the J. Cole truthers. The stans — the diehard J. Cole supporters — are his fan base from the mixtape era. The truthers —  the ones who don’t see the hype —  are the ones who never connected or who no longer resonate with it.

J. Cole does well what J. Cole does well: being the guy next door with something to say. Either it’s for you or it’s not.


KOD dropped last Friday, on 4/20, and has already broken both Spotify and Apple Music streaming records for most streams in a day. And, in addition to being the No. 1 album in the country, it’s projected to be the best-selling record of the year so far, all while having no features and no promotion.

In an era where drug abuse is celebrated, Cole dropped an anti-addiction album, going not only against the trend but against some of the most popular upcoming artists.

Say what you want about J. Cole but he can speak from the heart at any given time, at any given point, and he’ll have a mass of fans waiting to hear the message.

There are going to be people who dislike Cole due to how obnoxious his base can get, but he is far beyond the opinions of others and too much in tune with himself to care.

J. Cole doesn’t need our support, per say. You can hate him, love him or not think twice about him. If he never sold another album or ticket sale he’d still stay true to what he believes is his truest message — this is why he will always win.

Listen to J. Cole’s latest album KOD here:

Tierra Whack is the dopest artist in the world you haven’t heard of yet

Tierra Whack is the dopest artist you haven’t heard of yet and it’s not even close.

To date, she has a little under 8,000 followers on Twitter, even less than that on SoundCloud and roughly around 20K followers on Instagram; she isn’t trending, nor ever has, and she hasn’t been invited to sit down at The Breakfast Club — yet.

But the instant you play Whack in your headphones, you know you’re listening to a global superstar.

Born in Philadelphia, Tierra Whack first made a splash in the hip-hop stratosphere back in 2011 free-styling on the Cosmic Kev Come Up Show under the moniker Dizzle Dizz.

But it wasn’t until late last year when she dropped the video to her infectious single “Mumbo Jumbo” when blogs, personalities, and the few who know good music, began paying attention.

Much like the song, the video for “Mumbo Jumbo” takes repeated consumption to digest. Melodic, inaudible at times, and sonically refreshing, Tierra Whack takes a creative leap that you’d only expect a newcomer outside of the industry to.

The video is abstract, to say the least, and employs the viewer to connect the dots between what you hear and what you see. There aren’t many in rap doing music or music videos like this right now.

Jot down whichever qualifications or pull up whatever list of qualities a “good emcee” needs, and Tierra Whack crosses each out emphatically. Her wordplay, soul, vision, and voice is something else, and people are just starting to catch on.

Artists like Lil Dickey and Khelani seem to have caught wind of the talented rapper/songstress and even millionaire entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, who has gotten into the habit of extending his marketing advice to hip-hop stars, says “she’s special” and that’s she’s “going to be a ridiculously big star.”

They met in February of this year for an episode of his vlog  and put this in the video’s caption:

“I really think that Tierra Whack has a solid shot of being a massive artist in this space. She has something that I don’t see in many other artists, so I just think that this is going to really work out for her.”

With no mixtape, EP, or album, Tierra Whack has managed to harness a sound that is both unique and technically sound.

The grand total of eight songs on her SoundCloud all give you something a bit different, but it’s her penchant for putting words together —  something she’s been doing seriously for almost a decade now — that so obviously shines.

Timing is everything and Tierra’s time just might be now. Last year Rapsody was nominated for a Grammy and Cardi B had the number one song in the country. Nicki Minaj has risen again, Princess Nokia and Noname are holding down the underground and CupcakKe has her complete own lane — and that doesn’t scratch the of the female rappers that are gaining ahold on the industry.

Female or not, you’re not going to hear an artist with this much talent this under the radar, which is why you should jump on the bandwagon now.

As a fan, I can only hope Teirra’s momentum carries her to the point of national recognition, and as a fan, I equally just hopes she continues to make great art.

Why we need Wale: A look into why his raw talent outweighs his likability

It wasn’t until this past winter, when Wale’s word on taking a break from social media rang true, that I realized we needed Wale.

Now, if you’re on Twitter or following the conversation you hear and see, you’ll probably say that Wale was trash. You’ve probably laughed at a meme of Vince Carter dunking his album into a recycling bin or snickered at some retweet that no one cares about his music.


Because, the truth of the matter is, not a lot if people like Wale.

Wale’s likability does not bode well pretty much anywhere, and its hard to place the blame on anyone specifically. It’s been more of chain reaction than anything — a domino effect, if you will. It’s been a pulling and pushing of trying to convince everyone he’s good enough and just letting his music be for who it’s for, which is partially his fault.

But this is why Wale is so valuable to hip-hop.

If I Told You That I Love You GIF by Ultra Records - Find & Share on GIPHY

Who doesn’t relate to always feeling like you’re not good enough or that you must prove yourself to everyone? Who isn’t in it for the glory? To be the best? Hip-hop doesn’t have enough rappers who show their emotion on their sleeves; who are transparent with the toils of success and the pursuit of it. But that’s Wale.

Wale said in an interview with The Breakfast Club,

“I don’t care about the money, jo. I like the sport of rhyming. I want to have quadruple enterdres on certain records and everybody to be rewinding them… that’s what I care about.”

It’s why, in late December of 2013, he spazzed out on Complex for not making their  “50 Best Albums of 2013” list, it’s why he used to go back and forth with nobodys on Twitter, and it’s why he suffers with anxiety.

Swipe Scrolling GIF by Wale - Find & Share on GIPHY

Though he social hiatus was short, when he returned with the LeBron ‘decision’ aviator on Twitter (which we later found out meant he’d left Atlantic), his shoe collection stunt on Instagram, and his newest EP, It’s Complicated, it felt like someone you knew hadn’t gave up.

Wale has released five major studio albums, gone gold twice, is Grammy-nominated and has a history of dominating the urban radio. Yet, it still feels like his career isn’t quite in the place it deserves.

On one hand, he easily one of the nicest with a pen. From his spoken word intros to his wordplay, he’s gifted at putting words together. But it’s understandable for someone not to like his sound. Which is okay. It all about ignoring the negative and embracing the positive.

The problem is that it’s fun to hate, and Wale, in part, has made himself an easy target.

When the smoke clears , we still want the smoke 🌙 📸 @madworksphoto

A post shared by Wale (@wale) on

I’m sure there are people you can point out with positions you believe you deserve and I bet you’ve had recognition left on the table in one area of your life or another, which is why figures like his matter in public light.

Coming in with the class of J.Cole, Drake and Cudi, Wale has always felt like he’s been the least-embraced of his peers. You can even compare him to the class after — with Kendrick, Big Sean, and even Wiz — it always seems like Wale has never gotten the respect he deserves.

Wale’s stint with Interscope went left after poor sales of his debut studio album, Attention Deficit in 2011. In 2014, Wale amicably split with Roc Nation (around the same time Meek Mill called him a cornball and that he was no longer MMG) and, as of February of this year, after six year and three albums, Wale has parted ways with Atlantic Records, the major label which umbrellas the Maybach Music Group empire.

Yet, here he is, with another project, not missing a beat.

Since 2009, when Wale first came to the majors, he’s released a studio album every two years. Not only is that consistency, but it’s more than what the majority of rappers can say. It’s part of the reason he named his latest single “Staying Power”.

“Lately been feelin’ like niggas doubt me/Trust me, they don’t got no staying power/Left Atlantic, about a minute later/Every record label try and scout me.”

We need Wale because we need to see the reality side of things for a change.

Not just the deals, the highs and the success — but the fears and doubts. The longing for more, the dissatisfaction and the balance through turbulence.

He’s not perfect and he may not even be your favorite, but he’s honest, and that’s worth something,

Kevin Gates is a free man: Why he’s one of hip-hop’s most essential artists

On Wednesday, Baton Rouge rapper Kevin Gates was released from an Illinois state prison where he’s been incarcerated since April on weapons charges.

Kevin Gates has been one of the most intriguing and enigmatic talents in hip-hop since he emerged out of Louisiana in the mid-2000s. Gates’ music is a compelling mix of trappy Southern hip-hop, rap rock riffs, massive peaking choruses, and emotive bittersweet ballads.

Much has been made of the blurring of the lines between rock, rap, and emo in the last year or so. This trend has been felt mostly in hip-hop, where countless artists like Lil Peep, Lil Uzi Vert, Trippie Redd, even Post Malone, are making music that doesn’t just blend genres, but shatters them entirely.

Kevin Gates, 31, is older than these other artists, there’s less Good Charlotte and more Limp Bizkit in his music. While that statement could seem like a critique not long ago, the new wave of genre-defying hip-hop has refined the super corny era of late 1990s rap rock into something much more fascinating.

Gates’ discography is a wild, diverse collection, including ballads like “Hard For” from 2016’s extremely impressive Islah.

Kevin Gates sings gently to his partner in his syrupy drawl that “You the only one that my dick can get hard for” and it’s somehow not ridiculous… it’s even kind of romantic.

“Really Really”, also off Islah is a triumphant tour de force of rap maximalism. Gates is a master of the hook, his voice thunders above the blaring organs, and “Really Really” is as perfect a chorus that you’ll hear.

Another Gates classic is “2 Phones”, I mean how can you not wil’ out to that chorus?

Or the exultant “I Don’t Get Tired” from 2014’s Luca Brasi 2: Gangsta Grillz.

His latest project, By Any Means 2, released in September while Gates was behind bars and compiled by his wife and manager, was a clear indication that nothing can really stop Gates from leaving his imprint on the game.

By Any Means 2 is vintage Gates. Going from the grimy as fuck “No Love” and “McGyver”, which are Gates’ version of contemporary Bayou-infused Southern rap to R&B ballads like “Beautiful Scars” and “D U Down”.

“Had To” is another of Gates’ massive choruses, sounding like he’s singing from some higher level, his voice has this sense of levitation, bringing the listener up to his level.

For as hard as some of Gates’ more street oriented tracks, like “Had To”, are, his trap ballads make him a truly special and individual artist.

“Fuckin Right” and “D U Down” are pretty explicit, but when Gates sings “That ass is from Houston but that mouth from Chicago” it’s somehow endearingly tender.

And “D U Down” ist some top class buttery R&B.

Gates has a variety of styles, but his lyrical content has massive range as well. From pugnacious bars about serving to sappy, if not ultra-explicit, love songs to rapping about his demons, Gates can do it all.

On “Beautiful Scars” with PnB Rock, Gates raps about his complex interiority:

“In the game going hard, I been misused
Fucked up in the brain, got some issues”

The track is so enjoyable and Gates’ flow so confident that you almost miss the fact that he’s writing about his mental health, a subject he’s been open about before.

In a 2013 interview with HipHopDX, Gates spoke about his battles with depression and using music as an outlet:

“I really deal with depression. I really, really deal with depression. And my only release is making music and getting tattoos. So, I’m not the type of artist that the label has to say, ‘Hey Kevin, you need to be in the studio.’ Nah, you don’t have to tell me that, I’m gonna be there. And I don’t approach things like I’m working on a project.”

It’s clear that Kevin Gates is an artist with unlimited depth, he’s got some issues to work on, both mental and legal, but he’s an invaluable part of modern hip-hop.

Here’s hoping to his long-lasting freedom and some more boundless music.

Are record labels calling projects ‘mixtapes’ to avoid paying producers?

The streaming age of music has turned the industry on top of its head. Because retail is digital and artists can deliver music directly to the consumer’s ears, we’re starting to see albums classified differently.

Though a studio albums, Drake and Future’s W.A.T.T.B.A  and Drake’s If Your Reading Thus It’s Too Late were considered a “mixtapes”. Similarly, Drizzy’s very next compilation of songs, More Life, was not your traditional album either, but a “playlist”.

Well, Wiz Khalifa’s producer E. Dan, in an interview with BeatStars, expounded on why label heads are not opposed to this trend.

According to the the long-time producer, Atlantic Records didn’t compensate him fairly for his six production credits on the Pittsburgh rapper’s 2016 “compilation album” Khalifa.

“They came up with some really clever name that essentially meant… Everyone involved, you’re going to get paid half what you normally do… I’ve seen it happen often over the last few years.”

As Twitter caught wind of the interview, more producers began recounting similar stories.

DJ Burn One wrote that RCA employed similar tactics with A$AP Rocky’s Live. Love. A$AP mixtape. And Metro Boomin, who’s been vocal about Atlantics’s misdealings, tuned added that it’s been happening with labels across the industry and suggested a union be formed in their stead.

If 2017 has taught us anything it’s in the importance of the producer in hip-hop.

Metro Boomin released four joint studio albums with artist from Big Sean to Gucci Mane last year alone as a DJ/producer — the first feat I’ve seen by a producer ever — which will only open doors for more like him.

This kind of transparency from artist — or producers for that matter — are able to get this kind of recognition due to the digital age’s fast flow of information, and one can only hope that it puts the pressure of labels to do the right thing.

At 7 years old, ‘MBDTF’ shows Kanye at his most defiant and most masterful

On November 22, 2017 Kanye West released My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, a perfect album of maximalist production, ridiculous brags, and a rolodex of the biggest artists in contemporary music.

It is perhaps Kanye’s greatest work to date. Kanye aesthetes disagree over what is Kanye’s best album, ranking West’s albums has become the subject of debate in and of itself. Some may appreciate the naïveté of College Dropout, the ‘real hip-hop’ artistry of Late Registration, the seminal sadboy record 808’s and Heartbreaks, or the dystopian Yeezus. But Twisted Fantasy is quite simply a flawless record.

It is Kanye’s magnum opus, crafted during a self-imposed exile in Hawaii, working alongside artists and producers inspiring his work and creative process. Kanye is a true post-modern artist, jamming together different aesthetics and styles in collage. His vision is always unified and concrete, but the way he achieves that vision is through a tour of different forms of art.

Only Kanye West could sample The Turles, King Crimson, Gil Scott-Heron, James Brown, and Aphex Twin on one album.

Kanye West GIF by David - Find & Share on GIPHY

Pusha T said of Kanye’s work in the studio,

“We could easily be working on one song, thinking we’re in a mode, and he’ll hear a sound from someone like [producer] Jeff Bhasker and immediately turn his whole attention to that sound and go through his mental Rolodex to where that sound belongs on his album, and then it goes straight to that song, immediately. Now, mind you, his album is a collage of sounds. It has one consistent theme, but you really have to be some type of weirdo to be able to do that. It’s like turning on the drop of a dime, in a car. A Maybach on a two-lane highway making a fucking U-turn.”

Kanye is indeed some type of weirdo and Twisted Fantasy is the ultimate representation of one of the most fascinating and mercurial artists in modern music.

From the outset of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye weaves his story of contemptuous celebrity, simultaneously anomic and boastful. He’s pissed off by fame and power, but he also wants you to know how that he’s also the greatest, but there’s discontents in being the best.

Kanye raps some of his most poignant bars of his career on “Gorgeous”,

“And what’s a black Beatle anyway, a fucking roach?
I guess that’s why they got me sitting in fucking coach”

This is Kanye at his most Kanye. He’s eloquent, sentimental, and petty all at the same time.

MBDTF is the album that most explains Kanye’s art and his goals with his art. Everything about the album rollout, the production, the features, the accompanying album artwork and short film is meticulously crafted, revealing Ye’s obsessive focus on his work.

There’s the “Runaway” film that Kanye directed with writing help from music video titan Hype Williams.

For the album artwork, Kanye enlisted visual artist George Condo. The pair listened to MBDTF together and Condo came up with a series of five designs. They settled upon the drawing of a Black man (Kanye) being straddled by a white sphinx without arms and a monstrous face as the final artwork for the album.

Condo told Vulture about the sphinx straddling West:

“She’s a kind of fragment, between a sphinx, a phoenix, a haunting ghost, a harpy. And then Kanye is also in some sort of strange 1970s burned-out back room of a Chicago blues club having a beer — so far away from the real Kanye West that it’s just a scream… I was challenging him with the imagery as well. He said, ‘I’m shocked, but I like it, and I gotta go with my gut feeling.'”

Perhaps Kanye’s greatest skill is not his own musical ability, but what he’s able to draw out of the artists he works with. This is the case with Williams and Condo, each artist doing some of the most evocative work of their careers alongside West.

It is also true of the musicians that appear on MBDTF. Never has Pusha T sounded so furious, so spurious, and raw as when he raps over the metronomic keys of “Runaway”.

“Monster” shows Nicki Minaj rapping like she’s never rapped before, or since. This was 2010, Nicki Minaj hadn’t reached the soaring heights of her now illustrious career.

Her verse on “Monster” became a sort of certification, from both Kanye and hip-hop as a whole. (We don’t need to talk about Jay-Z’s verse on “Monster”.)

Has Chris Rock ever been funnier than his monologue at the end of “Blame Game”?

Rick Ross on “Devil In A New Dress” briefly left his own rotund body and became rap royalty in his verse. It is one of the greatest verses in contemporary rap music.

Just recently, Ross spoke at ComplexCon and described going to Kanye with his initial verse for “Devil In A New Dress”, but Ye encouraged him to keep working on it:

“When I recorded that verse for the first time, he came in, heard it and he told me he thought I could do better and he walked out. And then I wrote another one and the second verse I wrote is the one you hear on the album which a lot of people consider one of Rozay best verses. Shout out to Yeezy.”

This is a testament to Kanye’s perfectionism. The fact that he’s able to get so much out of the artists he surrounds himself with, the fact that they’re willing to bend and manipulate their own processes for Kanye, trusting in his vision.

But the ultimate gift of MBDTF is the production. This record sounds like no other hip-hop record ever made.

There’s the apocalyptic maximalism of “POWER”.

The growling production of “Monster”.

The twinkling, haunting keys of “Runaway”.

The throbbing synths of “Hell Of A Life”.

The sprawling “Lost In The World”.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy may not be your favorite Kanye album, but it is unequivocally his best. It is the ultimate representation of post-modern hip-hop, and it displays an artist in full control of his abilities and able to guide those he works alongside to elevate their own art.

Yeezy taught us well.