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Meet Tray Nova, the genre-blending artist with soul on the rise

Tray Nova is a Chicagoland native and NYC-based creative who continues to push boundaries and innovate as a musician.

Blending heavy influences from different genres of the old and new school, Tray is a student of the game who uses his lyricism to tell stories of his real-life experiences.

His latest single, ‘children of ra,’ featuring Kas celebrates Black love and culture, using the Egyptian sun god Ra as the symbol of inner light.

In an interview with Kulture Hub, we explored what makes Tray Nova so unique, how he got his start in music, and his journey to finding himself as an artist.

Tray Nova’s early influences.

Growing up in a church-going environment, Tray Nova listened to a lot of gospel music. At home, his mother played various RnB and Neo Soul singers such as Mary J. Blige, D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, Maxwell and others.

These diverse sounds sparked his interest in creating rhymes and melodies at a young age.

As he moved on to middle school and high school, he started writing rap with his cousins. He cites 50 Cent, Kanye West, Jay Z, T.I., Nas, Lupe Fiasco, and Lil Wayne as his influences at that time.

From Gospel, Neo Soul and Hip Hop, these genres shaped my early years which inspired me on my journey to explore music deeper.

– Tray Nova (2022)

Tray Nova continues to be one of the most innovative musicians working today.

Nova began his career in Chicago and has since expanded his career to Los Angeles, Honolulu, and New York City.

As an artist, he is not afraid of wearing his influences on his sleeve. He incorporates a lot of the genres he grew up with in his music, as well as taking inspiration from past eras such as the ’70s, ’90s, and ’00s.

His overall sound reflects the energy of both the old and the new school.

He’s also not afraid of taking chances and branching out to new environments. He believes the like-minded individuals he’s met have helped him grow as an artist.

Although, Tray Nova finds his unique style by sharing his personal experiences and expressing himself authentically. He constantly switches up from bravado raps to introspection and smooth melodies, balancing these elements through lyricism.

His acceptance of external influences has allowed him to continuously produce deep and insightful music.

Likewise, Nova advises other young aspiring artists to keep learning from others and adopt new influences.

Never be afraid of change because that’s the only way growth can happen.

– Tray Nova (2022)

Hitting Pause.

During a rough period, Nova decided to quit music for some years.

A single epiphany moment being back on stage in his hometown ignited his passion again. Since then, he has been on a steady journey to create and inspire others with his music.

Through talent and determination, he amassed a dedicated fanbase and has shared the stage with prominent figures within the music industry such as Chance the Rapper, Mac Miller, The Internet, Dreezy, and more.

I believe you have to go through many ups and downs to realize what you are doing is something you truly want in life.

– Tray Nova (2022)

‘Children of Ra’ explores inner light and love.

The Chicago-born artist believes that within every person is a light that can illuminate the darkness we go through in life.

In his new single “children of Ra”, Nova focuses on the light shared between two lovers as it narrates the complexities of romantic relationships and inner struggles.

While celebrating Black love and culture, the single uses the Egyptian sun god Ra as the symbol of inner light.

“children of ra” features Kas, a St. Louis native, NYC-based artist, and frequent collaborator.

In their new music video co-directed by Kas and the Emmy-award winning director ManuallFocus, which debuts today, captivating scenes were captured with an all-Black cast throughout Washington Square Park and Williamsburg Brooklyn.

Professional dancer and co-star of the video Gigi Jones adds to the visual storytelling that evokes feelings of nostalgia and appreciation for the beauty of love and life, you can watch it here now!

Watch Tray Nova’s new video for “children of ra” featuring Kas!

Nova tells his fans to expect a new project in Spring 2023, which he has been working on throughout this year. We can also expect more performances in different cities. 

In the meantime, fans can also check out other artists in Nova’s collective The 2ill Collective which consists of creatives and 2ill Entertainment is the show booking/event division.

With ‘children of ra,’ Tray Nova continues to prove that he’s one of the most innovative musicians working today.

He’s not afraid to take risks and embrace change in order to evolve as an artist. I can’t wait for what comes next from Tray Nova – and hopefully other artists too!

To learn more about Tray Nova head over to his site!

Is hip-hop divided? Why the new and old school are disconnected

Over the last 15 years, the increasingly beloved genre of hip-hop has evolved in rapid fashion.

From the advent of Kanye West’s genre-bending 2008 emo-pop record 808s & Heartbreak, which made it “chic” to explore the concepts of vulnerability and the dark side of fame.

To the odd, idiosyncratic inflections of Young Thug’s seminal debut single “Lifestyle,” hip-hop has shifted on a myriad of occasions throughout the last two decades.

Today’s rappers or not yesterday’s rappers

By virtue of this pattern, the traditional, one-dimensional archetype of the “hip-hop artist” has diminished in scale from act to act. Today’s concept of what a hip-hop artist can look and feel like is constantly placed into question and in an active process of redefinition.

With the expansive birth of so many subsections, it has opened the door for a vast range of fresh, unique artists to hop on the scene, willing and able to embrace themselves, embellished with quirks and all.

But perhaps, most importantly, to thrive like never before with Juice WRLD, Travis Scott, Drake, Aminé, NBA Young Boy, Lil’Baby, Gunna, Lil’ Uzi Vert, Kid Cudi to name a few.

While these changes, by and large, have expanded the genre’s appeal to exorbitant heights with hip-hop being labeled the “most popular” music genre in 2018, according to a report from Nielsen, another subtle, more insidious conundrum has spawned out of such radical change.

Young Thug vs. André 3000

During an interview with Southern rapper T.I. on his podcast: Expeditiously, Young Thug was asked about his thoughts on André 3000, who is a cultural icon in his own right and a leading pioneer in the Southern hip-hop movement of the ‘90s.

In lieu of glee and excitement to discuss one of the founding forefathers of “unconventional” rap, Young Thug uttered what avid fans of “traditional” hip-hop would find to be unthinkable: “I can’t rap you two André 3000 songs. I ain’t never paid attention to him, never in my life,” Thug said. 

Following his awe-provoking statement, T.I. attempted to support Mr. 3000, delineating that he is in fact not an enemy and how they are, in essence, allies on the same team. 

“He’s who ally? Yeah fuckin’ right. Why you don’t rap like him? You don’t like him, dress like him, look like him. You ain’t trying to portray none of that.”

Young Thug on the Expeditiously podcast

Where does the disrespect come from?

This situation is not only emblematic of a cold, “spit-in-the-face” antipathy towards an almost indisputable “living legend” that is André 3000 but more so of a major dilemma within today’s hip-hop milieu: There is a lingering lack of veneration for the proverbial leaders of hip-hop.

By virtue of this phenomenon, it provoked a major schism between old rappers and members of the new-aged class of rappers. 

“I think generational chasms are present in every genre of music and in every art form.” 

Keyaira N. Boone, Senior Entertainment Reporter at Insider

Lil Pump vs. J. Cole

In another instance of generational acrimony, J. Cole cultivated a diss track entitled “1985” on his fifth studio record KOD in 2018. The scathing verbal epithet was specifically pointed at prominent SoundCloud rapper Lil’ Pump, who created a track called “F**k J. Cole” in 2017. 

During an interview with Paul Cantor of Vulture, Cole explained his rationale behind the creation of “1985” saying,

“If you exclude the top three rappers in the game, the most popping rappers are all exaggerated versions of Black stereotypes. Extremely tatted up, colorful hair, flamboyant. It’s caricatures.” 

J. Cole, Vulture

With such a massive divide between generations in hip-hop, it warrants the question: Are there any viable solutions that can be made? 

“I think it takes younger artists also embracing and gaining knowledge of where their music comes from. They should seek to know where exactly R&B stems from and how Hip-Hop culture came to be as it is today”

The hip-hop outliers

Between both generations, there are some outliers who openly show love and respect regardless of the time they entered the rap game. Two prominent artists from two separate eras that come to mind are Cordae and Snoop Dogg

“I feel like Snoop Dogg is a really good example. He is always able to stay relevant because he is able to adapt to what’s hot right now. He’s not one of those artists that’ll be like “oh, that mumble rap yeah that s**t sucks.” 

Catrise Johnson, Business Development Manager at Billboard

In another vein, Cordae finds delight in embracing his predecessors in rap. Through the nostalgic nature of his flow and his affinity for teaming up with hip-hop legends like Q-Tip (More Life) and Common (What’s Life), the reverence is most certainly present. 

Is it becoming cool to bash the old heads?

Another potential reason why the younger generation might feel less inclined to pay reverence to the ones that came before they are because such a move may or may not be beneficial to their bottom line and how their fans perceive them. 

“It’s less advantageous for a person to say ‘Here are the people who are my contemporaries or the people that came before me that made me into the person I am today especially if those people are still competing in that arena.’

A.D. Carson, Associate professor of Hip-Hop at the University of Virginia

Irrespective of either generation, the media does play a tangible role in how riffs between artists are portrayed to the general public, sometimes exacerbating the situation altogether. 

“Because many old school rappers are executives, agents, producers, etc, I believe there are more collaborations than strife between generations. But the strife will always draw more attention, get more coverage, and instigate more conversation.” 

Patrick Rivers, Associate professor of Music at The University of New Haven

While quarrels do tend to manifest between artists in hip-hop, some feel that it is more of a constructive endeavor to mediate the “beef” rather than perpetuate it.

“I don’t know that the onus is on rappers or rappers alone,” said Professor Carson. “The people who see themselves as stewards of the culture, whether it be writers, executives, artists, teachers, it falls down to all of us to do that engaged kind of work.” 

A.D. Carson, Associate professor of Hip-Hop at the University of Virginia

At the end of the day, even if rappers said they wanted to do it, they still wouldn’t be able to do it alone. It would take a village and there’s simply no escaping that portion of the matter. 

Mafia B links up with On Smash to drop visuals for ‘What You Came For’

New York artist and producer Mafia B has had a busy 2021 so far.

After releasing his 5-track EP ‘What The F**K‘ in May, he’s following up by dropping the visuals for his single ‘What You Came For’ with help from On Smash.

The up-tempo banger is a new sound for Mafia B, who started out as a techno and house producer and shows his range for creating and collaborating across different genres.

We had the chance to speak to Mafia B a couple of months ago and asked him about how he linked up with On Smash. He said:


– Mafia B

As for the music video directed by Andy-Lincoln Estonia, the vibes are reminiscent of Mafia B’s underground music background as the intensity from On Smash brings the track to life.

Check out the video and stream Mafia B’s full EP ‘What The F**K’ here.

NYPD, Tekashi 69

Do Hip Hop police exist? All you need to know about the NYPD rap unit

Hulu recently released 69: The Saga of Daniel Hernandez, a documentary chronicling Tekashi 69’s rise to the top of hip hop and internet fame. As well as his ultimate fall and the NYPD rap unit’s involvement with his case.

69: The Saga of Daniel Hernandez trailer

69 has been out of jail for some time now, and the shock from his release and snitching scandal has dissipated. Thus, Hulu’s release of the documentary comes at a most opportune time.

People may not be as interested in his music and trolling, but they definitely will want to see how he rose to nearly unprecedented internet fame.

69: The Saga of Daniel Hernandez also brings to light a harrowing realization. The police, no doubt in several cities but principally in NYC, have squads deliberately meant to combat hip hop artists and their fans.

The NYPD’s Enterprise Operations Unit, also known as the “rap unit,” monitors hip-hop shows across the city.

The NYPD Rap Unit

According to the New York Post, the task force makes a list of weekly rap shows and classifies them as either low, medium, or high risk in terms of illicit activity expected.

The task force has reportedly monitored Remy Ma, 50 Cent, and yes, Tekashi 6ix9ine. Records show that ahead of a scheduled appearance at Club Lust over a year ago, an email circulated among members of this “rap unit” about the concert.

The NYPD plants undercover hip hop police inside of the venues to keep eyes on the crowd, as well as officers outside. Even if the artist on stage is not wanted for a single crime, officers will still show up if they believe crimes will be carried out and threats are posed.

That same formula…

We know enough about how Black and other BIPOC communities are persecuted by the police. It’s the same formula: Even if there is no intel on crimes being committed, cops will show up and find something (if not forcibly create a conflict themselves).

To create an entire squad focused on the shows of popular hip hop artists is not just a waste of funds, but a deliberate (and racially motivated) attack on the communities of color that are more inclined to listen to hip hop and attend those concerts.

It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in the same way seeing police in one’s neighborhoods and/or schools is.

If you see police all the time and are always under the watchful eye of a group trying to catch you slip up, you will eventually cave and be that which they want you to be, a criminal (only using that term for the purpose of how cops see crime, not us).

Hip Hop police throughout history

And this has been going on for quite some time, even back to Biggie Smalls. Derrick Parker, an NYPD detective in the late 90s, claims that NYPD officers from the department’s Major Case Squad, followed Biggie on his trip to LA in 1997 where he was killed.

Dawn Florio, who represented Remy Ma, 6ix9ine, and others, when asked about the “rap intel unit,” said:

“They’re a shadowy specialized unit that conducts overly aggressive investigations that monitor every move of entertainers. To me, it’s like stalking at the highest level.”

Dawn Florio

This Major Case Squad ostensibly transitioned into the aforementioned “rap intel” unit, under the watch of the NYPD’s Gang Intelligence Unit. Now what does that say about how the NYPD thinks about hip hop, if it naturally pairs hop hop with gangs?

None of this is altogether surprising in theory. But to be substantiated, that is the part that leads to an epiphany. If cops were monitoring Biggie back then, and are still monitoring artists today, what really goes on behind the scenes?

Are police reports indicative of the entire stories they claim to be about? Or are they even rooted in the truth as opposed to covering their asses? Anyone who believes wide scale corruption is not commonplace has not read an article in 2020.

And I’m no conspiracy theorist.

The hip hop police are real AF

Just think of the Alameda and Aurora Police Departments, as well as Lindsey Graham’s recent request of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to throw away legal voter ballots.

Ultimately, the 69 documentary exposes many perils of society. There is the clout-chasing that quite literally destroys lives, the selfish manipulating nature of the music industry, and of course, then the evil and racially motivated ways of the NYPD.

It is not enough to stay woke. One must understand what is wrong with society and societal institutions and then make a coordinated plan to educate and rally the masses.

Defund the police. It has never been clearer.

How hip-hop has helped us ‘justify our thug’ and get to the polls

Political music has always helped us get to the polls and vote!

Many songs serve as emotion for the listener. It tends to give us purpose or help us understand our circumstances. Music of all kinds is infectious nonetheless.

Hip Hop formed purely from the aspirations of inner-city youth who saw more than what they were given, by the government and politics in which we play a role.

Rap music is a rebellious sport that knows no bounds at times and rejects ideals set forth by white oppressors.

A historical sentiment, but hip hop music has always challenged why things are the way they are and fought with words to structure thinking around the issues.

Hip-hop is a presidential genre and serves as a reminder to get to the polls

barack obama kendrick lamar get to the polls
President Barack Obama meets with hip hop artist Kendrick Lamar, during an Oval Office drop by, Oct. 19, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

Making it clear, hip-hop has consistently stated that the government doesn’t care for and want to see black, as well as brown people, thrive.

That type of oppression has led to rappers owning a lot more than their masters. They have created a life and an idea that the kid on the corner can grow into a positive change-maker. 

Whether thinking about your community and how to make it better or how foul the system has been to you, hip-hop music has been the outlet to get the inner-city, urban voices heard and echoed throughout society and politics.

Rap and hip-hop have always served as a journalistic and artistic first look into the “politics of the hood.”

Trust they are listening, and every time they make mention to the hip-hop culture in politics, they acknowledge our voices. Our voices have power, and our vote has the ultimate power. That’s why we need to get to the polls.

Political bars often will cut through mainstream media and harm the oppressive plan of “Whitening America.”

1.“Fight the Power” – Public Enemy

Public Enemy: [Left to right] Flava Flav, Terminator X, Chuck D, DJ Lord. get to the polls
Public Enemy: [Left to right] Flava Flav, Terminator X, Chuck D, DJ Lord.

Chuck D and Flavor Flav came out with this song back in 1989 and was aimed directly at the government, but designed to uplift the people. This song spoke of reinvigorating the civil rights movement of the 60s into the 20th century at the time.

Chuck D recites the song lyrics; “To revolutionize make a change nothing’s strange. […]people we are the same. […] What we need is awareness, we can’t get careless[…] To make everybody see, in order to fight the powers that be.”

Make sure to do your part in the revolution, get to the polls, and vote.

2.“Changes” – Tupac

Tupac Shakur [2Pac] get to the polls political music
Tupac Shakur [2Pac]

Tupac describes what he sees in his neighborhood and other neighborhoods alike. The oppression seeps from the corners of this song as Pac repeatedly claims to “see ‘NO’ changes” as it pertains to the betterment of his community and others like it.

He vividly states police brutality as a deterrent and suppressive behavior. Clearly stating, “Cop kills a ‘Nigga’ [then] he’s a ‘hero’.” Lines like this still resonate today after 22 years of spinning.

He also Makaveli’d us, predicting a “Tupacolyptic” event in that society isn’t, or wasn’t ready “to see a Black President.” 

3.“Justify My Thug” – JayZ

JayZ at ROC Nation brunch, 2020.
JayZ at ROC Nation brunch, 2020.

I will let these bars from Jay-Z explain the dynamic of growing up disenfranchised in America. The lyrics serve as a reminder of why it’s important for us to get to the polls and vote,

“When you play the game of life and the win ain’t in the bag

When your options is none and the pen is all you have

Or the block, niggas standin tight as lemons on the ave

Tryin to cop a shop call theyself cleansin in the cash

But can’t put they name on paper cause, then you on blast

Mr. President, there’s drugs in our residence

Tell me what you want me to do, come break bread with us

Mr. Governor, I swear there’s a cover up

Every other corner there’s a liquor store, fuck is up?”

4.“My President” – Jeezy

Jeezy get to the polls
Jeezy for Billboard.

This song was [Young] Jeezy’s celebration of the inauguration of first hip-hop President, Barack Husein Obama.

Jeezy dedicated this song to the new president in hopes that change will be something more evident in society and communities around the United States.

Jeezy likens the President being Black to some of the material things like his blue Lamborghini with blue rims to match, light green money, and light-grey Jordan’s made Jeezy’s cipher complete on this track.

Jeezy and JayZ and D.C. nightclub political music
Jeezy and JayZ and D.C. nightclub

With those songs now humming in your memory, do remember the battle will be fought at the voting polls.

Any feeling you may have toward the government can be remedied by voting out those who don’t represent your ideals of living and respect you as a citizen and human being.

So, get to the polls and go vote this Tuesday, November 3. Blessed you below with some hype political music too.

Look out for this article on PAGE magazine.

Queens artist Michael Kraun uses his music to empower mental health

Queens, New York-based musicianMichael Kraun, considers himself an alternative hip-hop artist with visions of using music and art, entrepreneurship, and community-building initiatives to empower mental health among the masses.

By taking a vulnerable, uplifting approach to the pen and pad, Kraun makes one person feel at ease when it comes to the war that’s going on inside their head.

“I believe mental health is the key to bringing us closer as a society, and so I strive to accomplish that by using the tools I was born with and the things I’m passionate about.”

He continues, “Sometimes, I’m super productive, and I feel at peace, knowing I’ve contributed something positive to the world at large. Then there are days where I’m just in my head, wandering alone in the city, with my girl, or staying at home, trying to figure out this puzzle we call life.”

Still, Kraun’s music carries a broad spectrum of messages. Sometimes you’ll hear Kraun paying homage to Queens, unveiling a bit about his past, admitting to his wrongs, or encouraging others to keep the faith alive.

Most times, Kraun lays out rhymes of awareness so the human race can see society for what it is. Production-wise, Kraun uses jazzy, lo-fi, or boom-bap arrangements to tell stories about what he’s witnessed or seen.

“Queens, being such a diverse area, really affected my music because Queens will make you feel connected to the world. You’ve got all these intricate parts of Queens with different cultures and communities, and so when you work on your craft, you’re thinking beyond your own neighborhood,” he adds.

Michael Kraun’s moniker derives from his first name, Michael, and alteration of his last name, Krau. When you add an “n” to his last name, “Krau,” sounds like the word “crown.”

“Doing that to my last name, I think, gave me a sense of confidence and determination.”

This modification falls as a symbol that represents greatness. He concludes that evolving into something “great” would be something he’d pursue even during the days when he didn’t feel so driven.


View this post on Instagram


Searching ☁️ . . #photography #clouds #sky #thinking #shadows

A post shared by Michael Kraun (@mkraun) on

Before rapping, Kraun noticed his pen game at 11-years-old when writing fiction. He adds, “Many of the stories and poems I read back then as a kid incorporated rhymes. Regular writing felt like work. Writing in rhymes felt like drawing. It appeared as multi-layered puzzles in my mind that said things that a proper sentence couldn’t.”

Kraun continued, “I took all of that and transitioned it into rapping once Nas and Eminem’s music started permeating through school and connecting with me.” Fast forward, and Kraun recorded his first song at 15-years-old.

During this time, Kraun was working at a local movie theater called Main Street Cinemas. As he clocked day in and out, Kraun longed for an in house recording setup, so he saved every penny.

Eventually, he ended up buying one from a friend’s cousin, who was also a rapper. He recalls recording his first song in his room, saying there was a sock over the microphone. He also remembers his parents yelling in Hebrew to stop cursing so much. Kraun lists Nas, Eminem, Kanye West, Kid Cudi, Drake, J.Cole, and Kendrick Lamar as inspirations.

His project series, Downtime, Downtime Pt.2, and Downtime Pt. 3, embody the same drive that Kraun has carried from his youth. After his project, aNY minute, Kraun rummaged through beats, hoping to be inspired.

Amid his research, the lyricist found four beats from a producer from Toronto named Omito Beats. According to Kraun, the beats created a vision of being in a chaotic city and trying to find a sense of stillness.

“They had this soundscape I’ve been trying to capture ever since Kanye’s Graduation: soulful, big, optimistic, and hard-hitting. It felt both innovative and nostalgic at the same time—lyricism with triumphant hooks,” he said.

To create in the booth, Kraun needs to be at Brewery Recording fully rested. He also lists water and his best friend and manager Mike Epstein as a necessity, saying that he incorporates Mike’s vision, feedback, and support in every artistic and strategic move.

The Downtime trilogy digs deep into Kraun’s past, motivation, optimism, grind, societal issues, battling demons, and overall maturity. Standout tracks on the albums include “What You Want,” “Cloud 9,” and “Get The Money,” to name a few. The other songs on each tape deserve some spins as well!

Downtimes first track, “Cloud 9,” carries a somber R&B beat with bright piano riffs, hi-hats, and snares. The song sees Kraun encouraging others to be themselves instead of falling victim to a clout induced society.

In the first verse, he raps, “All this madness I can’t handle, it’s like this planet forgot/Human race turned into animals, now this planet will rot.” He also speaks on the world’s trickery when it comes to fitting in and even addresses how “characters make you [someone] lose it all for one tweet.”

Instead of focusing on the next trend, he adds that it’s better to focus on your goals, your dreams. At the end of “Cloud 9,” he leaves listeners with some positive affirmations.

Clarity” delves into Kraun’s ups and downs with alcohol and how music saved him from it all. Over a jazzy soundscape full of beating drums, he acknowledges the battles he’s fought through thus far.

Still, Kraun never let go of his dream to make an impact with rhymes. Instead, the musician pushed forward and followed his intuition. In the second verse, he unveils how his mind lingers on past failures and fallouts every so often. But once Kraun hops in the booth, the worry fades away.

One notable line goes, “I always had it in my hands/To become the man I always planned to be/My only plan to see what the world’s planned for me.” Ultimately, Kraun seeks answers in terms of his future.

He almost feels blindsided. Kraun says this record is one of his many favorites because it captures the consistent ambiguity and uncertainty of life.

Downtime‘s latter, Downtime Pt. 2, begins with “Old Me,” a song that digs deep into Kraun’s old ways. Over a Kehlani-type beat, the “Clarity” lyricist opens up about past actions and how one situation made him realize that he needed to do better.

With self-awareness, Kraun was able to break bad habits. Previously, Kraun swore not to trust a soul. But now, he’s ready to open up a bit more. Likewise, Kraun went from losing the love of his life to making her a soon-to-be wife. As for the other things he did in the past, well, he hopes to be forgiven for them someday.

The second song, “Long Nights,” explores Kraun’s drive. On the song, he admits to procrastinating and then staying up until the early hours to get a task done. At one point,

Kraun asks, “Can the kid from Queens do it big like the kid from Bedstuy?” He also raps about not reaching all of his goals yet but working hard to do so. As the song continues, Kraun reveals that materialistic things sounded good at one point, but as he matured, he realized that family is way more important.

Amid making it, Kraun wants to help his mother, positively impact the youth, and make his Ms. into a Mrs. Another standout piece of the song shows when Kraun calls out rappers who blow racks on jewelry statements. In an entendre fashion, Kraun raps, “Kids got gold grills but no words of wisdom.”

Lastly, Kraun’s Downtime Pt. 3 starts with “Get The Money.” On “Get The Money,” the pen master details the power that cash holds over a jazzy, lo-fi beat with bright piano riffs, open hi-hats, and electro-synths.

At first, Kraun reminisces on visions he’d have as a teen. Growing up, Kraun wasn’t the wealthiest, so “the dollar was deceiving.” Deeper into the song, he speaks on a time when he felt like no one understood him.

Until this day, Kraun feels sadness creeping in, yet he refuses to let capitalism crush him. Towards the minute mark, he uses a fast cadence to talk about the workforce’s corrupt ways with labor.

No matter how hard you work for others, it won’t be enough. In the chorus, Kraun says, “Queens get the money, it was written, I’ma prove it,” which references Wutang’s chorus in “C.R.E.A.M.

All-in-all, Kraun plans on honing into his craft until the Benjamins appear. Aside from his lyricism, Kraun displays a significant number of entendres like “Thinkin, why be the goat? When lyin’ gets you the throne.”

This song is the first time that Kraun was able to communicate on a song about what it’s like for him to have the privilege of experiencing a different economic class than his parents.

“I’m proud I was able to communicate those feelings in the song and simultaneously embody what Queens is about.”

Following after, the piano-led single “What You Want” encourages those in the dumps to keep their head up. The song also motivates individuals who are losing hope. Over an upbeat boom-bap soundscape with faint guitar riffs, open hi-hats, and snares, Kraun reveals his success story.

Between lyrics, he raps about sleeping on “benches in Central Park to garnering enough support to benchpress Central Park.” He also details how he pushed through. Later into the song, Kraun calls out the human race for being friendlier to strangers than neighbors.

However, a message from a fan in London made Kraun conclude that not all people are ill-willed. At first, Kraun thought success was a long way coming. Then, alas, it came right around the corner.

Kraun says he relates with these bars, “We all corrupted/We all dealing with something/We all stuck with/The demons that we grew up with.” He feels like these lines speak to others about the correlation between our current mental health, childhood, and upbringing.

Long Island artist Maui ARN is diving into the mainstream head first

You can rest assure that Long Island-based artist Maui ARN is making his own waves, preferably jumping into ear-streams worldwide. Given his authenticity and the borough he’s surrounded by, Maui Arn makes sure to deliver this key element into his sound.

Without delay, the artist can tap into his melodic flow to smooth-cruise over an R&B-inspired beat or bounce vigorously over heavy-hitting hip-hop ones. However, every technicality is depicted by his headspace, beat deliverance, and energy.


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Adding on, ARN says “I like to create fun music. Whether I’m rapping, singing or exploring world sounds like Afrobeat, it’s a vibe for everyone.”

Though ARN has bounced from coast-to-coast and picked up foreign threads and whips along the way, he makes sure to familiarize himself with how he feels, and this often transfers into his lyrics.  Thus making music his sole outlet.

Between the lines, ARN speaks about love, Kodak moments, flex-worthy instances, his strong character, ignorance and being an individual who loves hard. ARN also remains true to himself all the while telling others to do the same,

“I want to inspire people to fulfill their potential, and pursue the things that make them happy.”

No matter the occasion, ARN’s music is always a vibe. It’s the kind that makes you feel good about any topic at hand.

ARN’s music journey began back when MP3s and PSPs launched. Roughly, he was 8-years-old. During that time, his family would travel overseas almost every summer and winter.


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While ARN was on these trips he’d constantly get into trouble for having his headphones in, staying up all night or playing music from those countries or the same track over and over again.

Then high school came, and ARN found himself recording tracks.

His moniker derives from Maui Nation, with friends OTHERPRO (producer), Dapperdon E (rapper), Flee Capo (rapper), and S-Clive (rapper), and other artists, producers, and creatives.

“ARN” is short for Aaron. According to the musician, he used to be heavy set and ended up losing weight. His siblings often told him that he looked more like an Aaron. And so, he ran with it.

When creating music, ARN locks in. He added,

“Most of the time I’m writing music in complete solitude. I have a strong work ethic, so I’m constantly hitting the studio to record vocals of everything I jot down.”

Music essentially serves as his therapy and he commends how raw his music is. Regardless of what he’s speaking about or the song’s beat, ARN’s sound can fit any setting.

For the most part, ARN is influenced by the music and culture of hip-hop. He admires the innovation of artists like Young Thug, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Future, Johnny Cinco and Travis Scott.

Case in point, ARN would collaborate with A Boogie With The Hoodie, if given the chance. To date, ARN enjoyed performing at SXSW solely because he was in a mansion party and he had the place going crazy.

To summarize, the vibes made him want to keep doing music. However, this isn’t ARN’s only exhilarating time on stage. He’s also opened concerts for national rap artists such as Young M.A, Trae The Truth, and PNB Rock.

Further explaining his artistry, ARN’s “Dom Perignon (Golden State)” uses a xylophone riff to lead its playful backdrop. Over a thriving 808, ARN uses a melodic, bouncy flow to speak about how he’s only going up from here.

ARN even says in the chorus,  got bands stacking up to my knees, so I’m really thinking how much do you mean to me? My energies out of your reach.” If we’re being honest he’s all about more commas and fewer friends.

Additionally, ARN reflects briefly on a time when finances weren’t adding up. Given that the love for money is the root of all evil, ARN drops a gem for everyone, “Now the lick will get you split.”

Some will switch up on you all because they want a dollar for their dream. As the track moves forward, ARN speaks about keeping his eye on the prize. Since he’s an individual who does things with great love, the artist makes sure that his loved ones are also taken care of.

This line says, “She said Maui don’t treat me like I’m a thot/I just do this for you cause you mean a lot.” Another notable line from “Dom Perignon (Golden State)”  is “before checks, I was feeling the Nike box,” which essentially shows that ARN makes rational investments.

Moreso, he’s wiser and focused than ever. Towards the end, “Dom Perignon (Golden State)” dies down and the xylophone, effortlessly, gets stuck into the cerebral cortex. To create the song all he had to do was relive unforgettable nights and experiences.


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Behind the flashing lights, ARN makes a smooth, melodic delivery in “Feelings Attached” to say that he’ll ride for you at all costs. After all, ARN is a firm believer in passing love forward.

Matching the energy of ARN and the faint 808’s, both ARN and Dapperdon put their all into the lyrics and chasing a bag. Off the bat, one line gives proof as to why, “with me, she transforms like Voltron” and although she envisions a future together, the artists do not.

Honestly, they’re concerned with building an empire so everyone they care for can eat. Besides this, “Feelings Attached” contains witty punchlines and a fast, bouncy flow amid speaking about how money just won’t win this queen over.

In a singsong approach, they say “you gon’ need more than racks cause mama got feelings attached.” It’s safe to say that “Feelings Attached” is, as ARN said, a true story you’ll hear or see eventually.

If the man she’s with just won’t do right, they will. Then she’ll be left with feelings of admiration and yearning. “Feelings Attached” comes heavy with a nostalgic feel and spacey synths.

His recent song, “Fashion Nova EDM Infusion (Remix)” carries a pleasant minimalistic feeling that keeps the energy soaring. Listening in, you’ll find that the minute mark closely resembles Vince Staple’s “Big Fish.”

Aside from this, “Fashion Nova EDM Infusion (Remix)” carries beautiful percussions, different flips on the soundscape, and melodic hooks that fit well with the song’s build-up. Some might also appreciate the baseline because it helps “Fashion Nova EDM Infusion (Remix)” with its tropical-like approach.

In terms of the song, Maui ARN says “When I thought of creating “Fashion Nova EDM Infusion (Remix)” I wanted to encourage ladies to rock their Fashion Nova pieces as if they were on a Fashion Nova runway. I think I accomplished that pretty well with the help of King Sin. He amped the production and gave it more of that vibe.”

I assure you by the time this song is finished you’ll have it stuck in your head for hours on end. Maui ARN’s favorite line from the song just so happens to be this: “Had a few in my day, who thought my closet was they sh*t”.

He adds, “I had so much drip leave my house, they know exactly who they are too. I ain’t mad though, cause I know what’s fly. I know how to put fits together.”

Ultimately, “Fashion Nova EDM Infusion (Remix)” is ARN expressing his love and admiration towards fashion. Maui ARN says “I believe Fashion Nova has made their mark on this generation.”


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Nipsey Hussle in front of a plane

Hussle and Motivate: 5 Nipsey Hussle lyrics that will push you to be great

Having strong enemies is a blessing.

It’s been less than six months since the passing of Crenshaw’s Nipsey Hussle and to say his presence is still felt would be an understatement.

Not a day goes by without an “I miss you Nip” post on social media or a mural popping up (there’s been over 50 in LA alone) or a rapper paying homage via tattoo or chain.

His Marathon Clothing Store has grossed more than $10 million in sales over the last few months. Los Angeles even named an intersection after him and he won a BET award just last weekend.

You only get that kind of love when you’re gone, if the work you did while here was meaningful, which is exactly what you can say about Nipsey.

His lyrics matched his body of work in real life — it was all about hustling, maintaining and preserving. It’s what the Marathon emblem is all about and it was embedded in his music.

There are plenty of people that listened to Nipsey before he died and thousands after, but whether you’re a new fan or old, the response is always that Nip’s music pushes you to that next level.

At a time where it seems like everyone is desperately seeking motivation from anywhere they can get it, I decided to pull up 10 of my fav Nip lyrics to hopefully give you that boost you need.

1. “Blue Laces 2” reminds us we’re never in it alone

“Ones that hate us, handcuff us and mace us/Call us dumb niggas ’cause our culture is contagious/Third generation, South Central gang bangers/That lived long enough to see it changing/Think it’s time we make arrangements/Finally wiggle out they mazes, find me out in different places/’I’m the spook by the door,’ this the infiltration, double back, dressed in blue laces”

What made Nipsey’s music so powerful was his ability to convey that no matter who you were or where you were from, that you’re not the only one facing the obstacles you were facing.

When I hear these lyrics, I can immediately relate to the feeling of going through the maze of life and facing obstacles and systems way bigger than I. So It feels good hearing Nip confidently rap about overcoming them.

2. “I Don’t Give a Fucc” g-checks us about staying authentic

“I gotta hustle, momma I’ma move the white/If I died came back I’d do it twice/Brain washed by the block it consumed my life/Cool nigga but a killa when the mood is right/Bullets have the dogs howling at the moon at night/Momma it’s cold outside/Ain’t no hope outside”

Authenticity is something undeniable about Nipsey music and his song “I Don’t Give a Fucc” is a perfect example of such.

Here he’s being real with his mom, and himself, about his condition and the environment that’s made him this way. Not to glorify it either, but to acknowledge it was something he had to intentionally become aware of to break from.

3. “Status Symbol 3” keeps us opening doors

“Wanna change the game, never chase a message/Never stop grindin’, cherish no possessions/We ain’t get accepted, we just reinvested”

Nip’s music always has a story of finding a way after one way is closed and when you hear that kind of message behind some blaring 808’s, some mornings it’s better than coffee.

4. “Ocean Views” motivates us to always believe in leveling up

“Look, from fucking hood rats to fucking stars/Spending all cash, to sliding cards/It’s the definition of living large/Smoking top flight in the biggest cars/Told you ’08 this shit was ours/Getting this cake, yeah nigga then getting more/Look at this world young nigga, this really yours/Nigga this really mine, my niggas is really for it, them buildings is really high”

One of the most effective ways to spark inspiration in someone is just showing them that what they envision is possible. That’s what Nip’s music did and this bar’s masterclass ranking proves it.

Here he gives a mini-testimonial, showing people where he’s from that you can level up, just as he has.

5. “Hussle and Motivate” suggests we should remember how valuable our time is on this earth

“F— livin’ basic, I’m takin’ risks/F— what they sayin’, I’m sayin’ this/ Don’t waste your time, it don’t make you rich.”

“Don’t waste your time, it don’t make you rich” is a bar I wish everyone lived by. Recognizing how valuable, short and privileged we are to have life is something many of us lack, but it’s what Nip was clearly aware of in this bar.

Be about your business and do the work instead of the talk.

Long live Nip and may the marathon continue.

Queens get the money: 7 rappers from the borough you should be bumping

Parallel to the borough of Queens, these seven rappers know how to secure the bag. Around the clock, they’ve hustled and have gained huge success because of it.

Still, their sense of community has helped them get ahead From Kyah Baby’s unbothered floetry in her iconic Funkmaster Flex freestyle to MID’s latest chill-wave track, “Sea” they’re all as real as it gets.

Here’s a rundown of those who are collecting their coins.

1. MID (aka Music is Drugs)  – Astoria

Apart from RRRSEASON, a group that lyrically resembles New York’s old school sound, MID is “a man with a complex.” Beneath the surface, MID’s ambiance meshes well with his lo-fi beats.

Ultimately he’s calm, cool and collected but when he speaks on the mic, he doesn’t hold anything back. Sometimes, he gets deep and allows the listener into all aspects of his life (including mixed feelings in a relationship.)

Other times MID speaks about sippin’ on the Henny and his glo-up. Either way, you can’t help to turn him up in your headphones. MID won’t let anyone mess with his element. Even in his song “Form,” MID pays homage to his home state, New York. The Big Apple has helped him grow.

“Out the country somewhere foreign, but I’ll always miss New York// That’s my home // Reason why I write these poems // Reason why I love these songs.”

Check out more of his music via SoundCloud.

2. REMY BANKS – Forest Hills

Known as “your neighborhood-friendly smoking cool cat,” Remy Banks lives by his name. In the “Function” featuring DRAM and World’s Fair, the blazer even says,

“Somebody pass me a lighter // I’m about to set fire to this joint // I wrote this filled with purple dope // I need my green on this C Note like a piano.”

Nevertheless, it’s a given that no one has ever heard anyone roll out rhymes like him. Originally from Forest Hills, Queens, Remy Banks began rapping in high school. After he dropped out of college as a fashion design major, Banks decided to do music full-time. Yet, this wasn’t his only forte.

In his youth, Banks was also a skater who vibed with Odd Future during the MySpace days. Still, you’ll see him rocking a New York fitted cap no matter what. Remy Banks’ rap style shows nothing but love to his home state.

He raps about what he experiences, everyday life, staying focused, diversity and inspiring others. Asides from doing solo work, he’s also apart of two groups: World’s Fair which is signed to Fool Gold’s Records and Children of the Night.

Check out more of his music via SoundCloud.

3. LANSKY JONES – Roosevelt Island

“The Jack of All Trades, Master of None” who is best known as rapper Lansky Jones, can make anything a thing. Whether he’s going on or off-beat, Lansky Jones forces those listening to stay woke.

One who’s very aware, it’s safe to say that he’s a political advocate who demands change. Due to his tri-racial background of Russian, Hungarian, and African-American, Lansky Jones has a unique perspective.

Aside from this, Jones speaks about the perfect woman and how he’s a “rollin, rolling stone” in “The Return of Danny Jones.” Based out of Queens, New York by Roosevelt Island, he takes pride in being from the Empire State.

On the whole, Lansky Jones gives it to the people in black and white. He tells others what they need to hear, instead of what they want to hear.

Check out more of his music via SoundCloud.

4. KYAH BABY – Jamaica

Revealing fierce, well-put-together bars and double entendres to the world about her upbringing, femininity, and hustle, KYAH BABY’s style reigns as legendary.

One who refuses to be stigmatized because of her approach in the hip-hop game, she caught her big break last year after killing it in the classic “Flava in Your Ear” instrumental on Funkmaster Flex’s series.

Even when others see her prominence in the rap game already, Kyah still remains hungry. Ultimately, she believes her dreams haven’t been reached yet but she’s working on making it happen. Her aura proves that she’s not someone to f-ck with. She’s “Queen’s finest.”

Check out more of her music via SoundCloud.

5. DEEM SPENCER – Jamaica

Thoughtful and weighty, Deem Spencer tends to wear his heart on his sleeves when fluctuating between singing and rapping. As he flows smoothly over somber beats, Spencer free-falls with the youth’s deepest fears in growing up but he still remains free-spirited.

According to Spencer, most of his work is based on him discovering things that he’d like to do, say or even look like which is why one can’t help but stay interested. He just seems to get it.

Though he is from Jamaica, Queens he isn’t swerving in a lane to sound like he’s from the state. He’s concerned with being more expressive than impressive.

Check out more of his music via SoundCloud.

6. JOHN TR3 PRITCHETT – East Elmhurst

Labeling himself as a product of lyrics and content that needs to be heard and reflected on, TR3’s rhymes flow out like poetry. At most, TR3 has studied the game. Not only does he have the boom-bap feel from his state down pact but TR3 creates a learning space for other MC’s through his articulate philosophical views toward the world.

Hailing from East Elmhurst, Queens, TR3 lounges like a king. He began rapping at the age of 10 with glorious poetry but his prominence rose from his freestyle on Biggie’s song “Party and Bullsh-t” which garnered 100K views.

Since then he’s released songs like “7 Line” that’s a melody for the ladies soul. In his words, TR3 says “I always view raps as just another way of art to convey how you feel.”

Check out more of his music via SoundCloud.

7. ANIK KHAN – Astoria

This rapper knows how to get down into his roots. When he isn’t using his culture to drive his musical style, he’s boasting it proudly to the world. Born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Khan moved to Astoria, Queens with little hope.

At one point he even found himself in an identity crisis but regained himself after traveling to New York for a West Indian party. Shortly after, Khan decided to venture into Caribbean, Calypso, Reggae, and Dancehall.

Since then Khan has interviewed with Hot 97’s Ebro, Pigeons and Planes, and Complex. He also released his latest project “Kites” in 2017. Even though he was signed to Def Jam at a certain point, the rapper decided that it was not for him and decided to go independent.

Check out more of his music via SoundCloud.

Jay-Z picks his 20 favorite songs in 2018: Here’s the 5 he missed

Back when Oprah was the queen of daytime television, there used to be a saying about her that went: “when Oprah talks, everybody listens.”

Jay-Z is no talk show host but when it comes to music similar rules apply — Jay’s voice is highly regarded. With there being less than three weeks less in 2018 Jay-Z decided to lend his voice again, this time sharing favorite songs.

In a playlist called “JAY-Z’s Year-End Picks,” the Brooklyn icon made 20 songs available on TIDAL this week (Dec. 10), giving a peek into what he’s been nodding to this year.

Among the picks were some you’d expect, like Sheck Wes’ “Mo Bamba” and “Drip Too Hard” by Lil Baby & Gunna. Then you had some eye-poppers like Kids See Ghost’s “Freee” and Kodak’s “ZeZe.”

It could be his 13 number one albums or 21 Grammy’s and counting but Jay-Z’s opinion is thought of as a nod.

Last year after being inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame he went on a rare Twitter spree, shouting out influences and artists that he enjoyed. Of those, he thanked Nas, J. Cole, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, Lauryn Hill, Nicki Minaj, De La Soul, Eminem and plenty more.

The late Mac Miller, who was also mentioned in the almost hour-long Twitter rant, even got had the tweet framed on his wall.

While Jay’s list and opinions are his own and the list ultimately subjective, it’s still interesting to see what tickles his fancy, and more importantly, what he missed!

Granted, while it’s probably impossible for Jay to listen to everything under the sun, there are some cant-misses that his 20 did not touch.

Here are some that we think should have made his cut and which songs they should replace.

Phonte — “Pastor Tiagallo”

Phonte Coleman’s second solo album No News Is Good News, in general, was one of this year’s best efforts. The North Carolina native, who first saw national acclaim as a member of Little Brother, put together a complete project, reflecting on his recently deceased father.

“Pastor Tigallo” is Phonte at his best. His storytelling paired with wordplay makes it a standout and one that Jay definitely needs on his playlist.

Saba — “Calligraphy”

Following his debut studio album, Care For Me was one of the most refreshing listens in 2018.

The Chicago product takes us on the journey of his healing as he mourns the passing of his cousin and what comes of it is beautiful poetry. “Calligraphy” is the album’s centerpiece.

Mick Jenkins — “Plain Clothes”

When it comes to songs, none gets better than Mick Jenkin’s “Plain Clothes.”

Hailing of his sophomore album, Pieces of a Man, “Plain Clothes” has every element you’d want in a rap song. Clean instrumentation, tasteful melodies, warm vocals and vibes you can get lost in.

If Jay hasn’t heard this one yet, he should.

Juice WRLD & Future — “WRLD on Drugs”

Juice WRLD and Future shocked everyone with their collaborative project, WRLD On Drugs, this year and managed to make it a good one.

From top to bottom the tape has slappers but they managed to really tap into something on the track “WRLD On Drugs,” encapsulating this generations’ ills in an up-tempo bop.

Teyana Taylor — “3Way”

Teyana’s track “3Way” off her second studio album K.T.S.E was a moment when it came out.

She has a very public relationship with Sacremento Kings forward Iman Shumpert so the fact that she’s belting intimate details about bringing another woman in the bedroom throughout the track made for great summer night tune. No doubt that’s right up Jay ally.

At the end of the day, we’re all going to like what we like, but there’s no way these five tracks couldn’t get some shine, Jay!