The BEST mixtape this year is attached to a book!
I firmly believe that one day things will be better. Right now though, during crisis, we can’t afford the luxury of supporting so much frivolous art. Especially with the amount of influence corporations have over the soundtrack of our children’s worldview. I appreciate a catchy beat, clever wordplay and intricate rhyme patterns just like everyone else. But the best? For that I have to consider content and consequence, intent and impact.
Arguing top 5 emcee of all time, or 10 best albums while washing dishes is the 6th element of hip hop culture. It’s impossible to ever achieve consensus because there’s no rubric; we’d have to agree on the categories for the grading to be fair. How much weight to put on album sales? Style? Content? Innovation? Art is so subjective. Fetty Wap’s ‘Trap Queen’ was nominated for a 2016 Grammy for Best Rap Performance & Song. I’ve argued elsewhere that Fetty Wap works for our enemy.
Everybody’s talking about Black boys, nobody’s talking to them. When a 17 year old gets murdered we run to the police station, or mayor’s office, or to our neighbors house demanding info about the shooter. Our outrage seeks justice and revenge. I think that should be the second step. Our immediate response should be to run to the rest of the 17 years that are still alive. The rest of the 9 year olds that are struggling to find meaning, hope and power in a world where their body is in constant jeopardy. Our first response should be to wrap our collective arms around them. The police won’t protect them, then we should. They close schools, let’s teach them. The media feeds them lies, give them the truth.
When I decided to write a book to teach young men about manhood I knew it had to be more big brother and less PhD. It needed sophisticated analysis delivered with simple clarity. That’s what makes good artists so powerful, they can take complex histories, intersecting realities and dynamic emotions and express them in a moment. A 3 minute poem or song can move a person in a way it might take a 2 hour lecture from a professor. My book would’ve been incomplete without a mixtape. Full of hip-hop and spoken word that compliments the ideas I wrote about: love, discipline, integrity, family, liberation, purpose. But I didn’t want it to be corny. I needed to find artist that were skillful enough to promote critical thinking but not be preachy. And I wanted a parent to be able to look up the artists and find a catalogue of material they could feel comfortable giving to their children.
(Click image below to purchase the book. It includes instructions how to download the mixtape for FREE)
So here they are. These are the brilliant artists who graciously contributed, and the tracklisting to the mixtape (mixed by DJ Joe Kollege). Click the links. Follow them on FB and Twitter. Buy their music. Tell your friends/family about them. YOU are the media now:
Artist: PHENOM, Song: Summons, Album: Dat Boy Said
This song is like a hip-hop libation. A spiritual opening of the way. I love Phenom becasue he really be out here putting in work with these youth. Get his new album here. See his youth mentoring organization here. Here's an example of his work (not the song on the mixtape):
2. Artist: B.O.B, Song: New Black, Album: New Black Mixtape
Multiplatinum selling artist Bobby Ray reminds us that he's still Black and proud of it.
3. Artist: Dometi (fka Proph), Song: Ex Slave Circa 1836, Album: The Malcolm X Mixtape
He is a multitalented artist, scholar, radio personality, etc. I needed this song to anchor our expereinces as captives in this land, with the added bonus of it being a resistance narrative. See him below (song not on the mixtape):
He has a long career ahead of him, so if you haven't heard of Add-2 yet you will. I almost didn't include this song because of the language, but it was so necessry that I reached out to see if he had an edited version. I want to share another song of his though, in honor of what's going on in the city these days:
5. Artist: K-Love, Song: SGA (unreleased)
K-Love is the best kind of people. She's authentic, couragous, loving and incredibly talented. I had the hardest time asking her which of her pieces I could borrow. For months there were 5 or 6 poems I couldn't imagine not having on the tape. I eventually went with this one because i reference Saartjie Baartman in the book. She also is one of the founders of the youth mentoring program I mentioned above with Phenom. Here's K-Love doing one of the pieces I didn't choose:
6. Artist: Wteve Baker, Song: Spiritual Warfare (unreleased)
One of Chicago's best kept secrets. He sent me this song just to hear it one day and I spent all day listening. The urgency and angst it exudes is just what we need from the youth. Here is a video from Baker that showcases his raw emotion. The video was shot on his grandfather's property 3 weeks after he was murdered by some teenagers there:
If you're a fan of lyrics with power, skill and impact, then this brother's album is a MUST HAVE. Here's just a taste:
8. Artist: Phenom ft. Gemstones, Song: Put the Guns Down (unreleased)
Phenom is the only artist on the tape twice. But for this song he's joined by lyrical wizard Gemstones. Here's what he's capable of:
9. Artist: Real T@lk, Song: Jealousy, Album: The Talented Tenth
Andre3000 called Real T@lk "a lyrical scientist". I love this song because it's the perfect mix of social commentary and great stroytelling. If you are unfamiliar, please watch this (not the song on the mixtape):
9 1/2. Artist: Kemet, Song: Super Glue
This song in on the hardcopy cd, but wouldn't let me upload on soundcloud because of an uncleared sample. It's got great relationship narrative. And Kemet is dope. You're just gonna have to take my word for it though, she's keeping herself a secret for now.
10. Artist: Sa-Roc ft. David Banner, Song: The Who, Album: Nebuchadnezzar
The fact that Sa-Roc isn't a household name and Minaj is, gives me all the evidence I need to know the system is rigged. If you're new to her you got 10 albums to catch up on. This collab with David Banner =Black magic. The video for this song is too nice to not share:
11. Artist: Stic.Man of Dead Prez, Song: Champion, Album: The Workout
This brother and his work needs no introduction. I was honored to include his voice on this project. He had a bunch of songs I wanted to include, I still sometimes think I should've asked for this one:
I saw Mama SOL perform around the midwest a few times. Im more and more impressed everytime. She's the real deal. And this piece she did about manhood should be our anthem:
I love when when music is smart, bold and demands you think. Hip-hop the perfect medium for that. This songs reminds us:
14. Artist: Jasiri X, Song: Open Heart Surgery, Album: Ascension
15. Artist: Dee-1 ft.Alexis Jones and Ambush, Song: Accountability Partner, Album: Psalms of David II
Dee-1 is another one, a leader in the new vanguard of emcees who insist on saying something that moves us forward. He's also got material for days. This is just a sample of it:
16. Artist: Allah’s Apprentice, Song: Meditation, Album: Appreciation
This young scholar is a renassaince man. He can break dance, draw, plays trumpet, does martial art, and just happens to also be a fantastic writer and performer. Check him out (song not on mixtape):
Last and certainly not least. Actually, this is the poem that made me want to do a mixtape. I wanted everybody to hear this. I'm not ashamed to admit I cried the first time I heard this poem. Amir Sulaiman has been one of my favorite writers for years, and his brilliance on this track is unparallel. There's a video of him doing the poem acapella, but i'd rather you hear it with the piano and vocals. So instead, I'll close us out with this poem (it starts at the 59 second mark):
Let's win this thing.
-Dr. Obari Cartman