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Is Black Thought The Most Underrated Rapper? Questlove, Tarik & Q-Tip Weigh In

The Roots are kinda like the house band for hip hop,” says Q-Tip, seated in a conference room at the New York offices of LVMH, the luxury brand powerhouse behind Louis Vuitton, Moet, and Hennessy. The former front man of A Tribe Called Quest has worked with The Roots in the past, and now they’re collaborating in a new way—as curators of this September’s Hennessy Artistry Series, choosing musical and visual artists to highlight at a series of live shows through the U.S. in September. “And probably now for like American culture even, The Roots are like the band to go to. They’re like Robbie Robertson or something. They’re like, you know, just a mainstay in it... They always toured and stayed on the road amidst whatever commercial success could have slipped by them, they stayed diligent and they stayed consistent.”

When asked about the Roots’ formidable MC, Black Thought, easily one of the most underrated MCs of his generation, Q-Tip gives maximum respect to his fellow craftsman. “He’s amazing. He reminds me of a G-Rap in that way. He’s definitely a wordsmith. He’s a steady, consistent dude that you can just count on time in and time out to always give that level. He’s definitely dope and people are starting to really sing his praises more and more.”

Thought is blasts gamma rays on The Roots’ latest disc (and Def Jam debut), the critically acclaimed How I Got Over. With The Roots installed as the house band on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, Black Thought continues to share the stage on a nightly basis—but he’s begun stepping out on side projects as well. He is presently in the studio with “The Money Makin’ Jamboys,” a collective of Roots–affiliated spitters that also includes Dice Raw, P.O.R.N., Truck North, Sugar Tongue Slim, and Peedi Crack, and working on an as-yet-untitled mixtape that will be hosted by Don Cannon. When Black Thought previewed a verse on Street Sweeper Radio he blew Kay Slay’s mind.

But fame and hype aren't what motivates Black Thought to do what he does. But after 18 years in the game, the fiercely private MC—who may loathe the press even more than sucka MCs—seems more than ready for some long-overdue props. Here, he and Questlove sit down for an in-depth convo about their early days, TV gig and legacy. —Rob Kenner


 

VIBE: Most reviews of How I Got Over have made much of the fact that the band has been exposed to new kinds of music because of your Late Night gig. But the Roots have always blended different styles of music.

Black Thought: No doubt. But now we can do it that much more. So if we’ve always wanted to work with Herbie Hancock, we can reach out to him to be on the show the show. And we’ve got a studio right there in the NBC building so we can get some work done.

Very clever. Is that how Dear God 2.0 come together? Did you just use M.O.F.’s track or did you do any overdubs?

BT: That began from us having worked with Dirty Projectors and MOF. I did a verse for a remix project that M.O.F. was doing, and it just evolved from there.

So do you choose which musicians play on the show?

BT: It’s not like we have to approve all the artists who are booked, but the people who do the bookings want to know how we feel about backing them. Put it this way, if we say “that would be wack,” they’re not getting booked.

What did you and Questlove see in each other to make you want to work together back at the Philadelphia School for the Arts?

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Ella Mai Puts The Ball In Your Court With "Shot Clock" Visuals

Kobe, KD, Kyrie, how about Ella Mai?

Marking her third official single from her self-titled debut album, the 24-year-old dropped a new video from her charting project, bringing "Shot Clock" to life in her B-ball themed clip.

The Colin Tilley directed visual captures the essence of the young singer, framing her unique style and iridescent vocal abilities. The clip captures the various parts of Mai's magnetic energy, as she stars in her own thematic love story.

The two-time Grammy nominee goes through the many downs that occur in relationships while the red beams of shot clock shine in the background slowly reaching zero, a neon indicator of her lessening patience, the singer finds herself alone.

This visual was released in the midst of the "Boo'd Up" songstress' first debut tour currently venturing through the United States and Parts of Europe. Check out the tour dates below to see if R&B's new golden child is coming to a city near you and watch her video for "Shot Clock" above.

THE DEBUT TOUR

Jan 18 – Berlin, DE- Festsaal Kreuzberg Jan 20 – Hamburg, DE- Grosse Freiheit Jan 21 – Copenhagen, DK – Vega Main Hall Jan 22 – Stockholm, SE - Berns Jan 24 – Oslo, NO – Rockefeller Music Hall Feb 12 - Vancouver, BC – Commodore Ballroom Feb 14 – Seattle, WA – Showbox SoDo Feb 15 – Portland, OR – Crystal Ballroom Feb 17 – Sacramento, CA – Ace of Spades Feb 19 – Oakland, CA – Fox Theater Feb 20 – Santa Cruz, CA – The Catalyst Feb 22 – Phoenix, AZ – The Marquee Feb 23 – Las Vegas, NV – House of Blues Feb 25 – Denver, CO – Ogden Theatre Feb 27 – Lawrence, KS – The Granada Feb 28 – Minneapolis, MN – Varsity Theater Mar 2 – Detroit, MI – St. Andrew’s Hall Mar 3 – Chicago, IL – Concord Music Hall Mar 5 – Cleveland, OH – House of Blues Mar 6 – Toronto, ON – The Danforth Mar 7 – Montreal, QC – Club Soda Mar 9 – Boston, MA - Royale Mar 11 – Brooklyn, NY – Brooklyn Steel Mar 13 – Philadelphia, PA – Theatre of Living Arts Mar 15 – Silver Spring, M.D. – The Fillmore Silver Spring Mar 16 – Baltimore, MD – Baltimore Sound Stage Mar 19 – Atlanta, GA - Tabernacle Mar 20 – Orlando, FL – The Plaza Live Mar 21 – Fort Lauderdale, FL – Revolution Live Mar 24 – Houston, TX – House of Blues Mar 26 – Dallas, TX – House of Blues Mar 27 – Austin, TX – Emo’s Mar 28 – San Antonio, TX – The Aztec Theatre

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Smif N Wessun

9th Wonder Talks Collabo Album With Smif N Wessun And The Soul Council

A few weeks fresh off the 23rd anniversary of their classic debut album, Da Shinin', Brooklyn duo Smif N Wessun (Steele and Tek) have released the video for the soul smacking single, "Testify" produced by Khrysis, off their newest album, The All. The project, produced entirely by Grammy-nominated producer 9th Wonder and his Soul Council team, brings the hardcore feel of SNW's best work to the forefront.

“9th Wonder and the Soul Council provide the perfect backdrop for Tek and I to deliver heartfelt lyrical content,” Steele reveals directly. “It’s a true tale of ups and downs, wins and losses, growth and acceptance. It speaks to the hearts and minds of all people; particularly our followers and fans of all ages and ethnicities.”

When artists who rep a certain quality sector of hip-hop music resurface to offer newness to an audience, the longtime fans are looking to bring that old thing back while looking to reflect and push forward at the same time.

"'Testify' is a realistic reflective look back on our accomplishments and failures throughout our career and serves as a precursor to what you will experience on The All,” Steele continues. "This project is a reality check for SNW, one that reflects the struggles and obstacles that we’ve had to endure to survive at the level we occupy in the hip-hop arena."

9th Wonder took the project on as a lover of the group, "My goal is to make sure that we cement the legacy of the artist, but at the same time update the artist. We came up with the concept of  The All (based on a speech from Louis Farrakhan), you can never underestimate the essence of Islam in Hip-Hop. Given the fact that SNW are both Muslim and so many others are as well, we couldn't forget that part."

Going into new chambers of living is needed when you have been recording albums for over 20 years. 9th explains, "we wanted them to talk about stuff they wouldn't normally talk about on records, as they are in a different point in their lives, very grown man. It gives something to our generation to listen to, appreciate and celebrate without feeling old, without feeling outdated. We also wanted to let them know, the legends can still do it."

As the word legend gets thrown around a lot, it's not a far off title for the duo of Tek and Steele. "Some bestow the 'legend' tag upon us (we are very appreciative of that)," says Steele. "And we are chronicling that journey throughout the album.”

The full project will be dropping on February 22nd, 2019 on Duck Down Records. You can pre-order the album here and group merch here.

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Premiere: Duck Down Records' Smif-N-Wessun Returns With Khrysis-Produced 'Testify'

It's been nearly 25 years to the day since their classic debut Dah Shinin' impacted in January 1995, but legendary Brooklyn duo Smif-N-Wessun is still representing the culture with authority and authenticity. "Testify," the premiere music video from their upcoming album The All, adds another notch to their storied catalogs.

"Testify" begins with old photos of group members Tek and Steele in their 90s heyday, but they don't spend much time there before getting busy with present day rhymes. Over a backdrop from Khrysis, the Duck Down Records duo confidently announces their return while solidifying their legendary pedigree. The song gives a short but sweet taste from The All, their upcoming album produced entirely by 9th Wonder and the Soul Council.

“9th Wonder and the Soul Council provide the perfect backdrop for Tek and I to deliver heartfelt lyrical content,” Steele told VIBE. “It’s a true tale of ups and downs, wins and losses, growth and acceptance. It speaks to the hearts and minds of ALL people; particularly our followers and fans of ALL ages and ethnicities.”

‘Testify” is a realistic reflective look back on our accomplishments and failures throughout our career and serves as a precursor to what you will experience on The All,” Steele continued. "This project is a reality check for SNW, one that reflects the struggles and obstacles that we’ve had to endure to survive at the level we occupy in the hip-hop arena. Some, bestow the “Legend” tag upon us (we are very appreciative of that) and we are chronicling that journey throughout the album.”

The All is scheduled for a February 22, 2019 release on Duck Down Records, and is available for pre-order.

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