V Exclusive! The Conglomerate Talk 'Catastrophic,' The State Of Hip-Hop, & Dominating 2013
V Exclusive! The Conglomerate Talk 'Catastrophic,' The State Of Hip-Hop, & Dominating 2013

V Exclusive! The Conglomerate Talk 'Catastrophic,' The State Of Hip-Hop, & Dominating 2013

Busta Rhymes & The Conglomerate—consisting of dope MCs Reek Da Villain & J-Doe—are ready to give the game something it's been missing with their new mixtape, Catastrophic.

Considering this project a "catastrophe" for the competition, all three dudes are bringing their A game to get us prepped for what they really have in store for the upcoming year. VIBE had the opportunity to join the crew in studio just a couple of hours before the mixtape dropped at midnight. During our sit-down, we spoke about their opinions on the state of current hip-hop, where they fit into that mix, and why you need to know the Conglomerate in 2013—that is, if the world doesn't end.

VIBE: The album title is the first thing people pay attention to. What does Catastrophic mean? Where did ya’ll come up with that?
Busta Ryhmes: "Catastrophic" was a name that was given to the mixtape by Shaheem Reid. He just felt like it falls in line with whatever it has been that I’ve represented. It feels good after you hear The Conglomerate, Catastrophic, so whatever the Conglomerate does we want it to be catastrophic and eventful. In addition to that, according to the Mayan calendar December 21, 2012 is the alleged end of the world day. If that were to happen on a literal sense that would be catastrophic. Even more so what would be catastrophic would be the way we going to beat the streets up before the end of the world, so it makes sense—it felt right. It feels like the name of the music that we’re going to be sharing as a landscape for all the people to enjoy over the holidays, Christmas and New Year’s that would be appropriate. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. It feels good to name something or describe your project something that you know that you’re actually going to deliver on that level, so that’s pretty much it.

You guys [Reek Da Villain & J-Doe] have been fuckin’ with Busta for years now. With being on the sideline for so long, what have you guys soaked in from Busta—and the industry as a whole—in preparation of this premiere project?
Reek Da Villain: Well, I mean you know we haven’t really been on the sidelines. We’ve just been masterminding. Actually, our real first premiere, premiere was "King Tut." That was our first major look for me and Doe on a record getting played across the country like at every radio station. As far as working with Buss, we get to soak up his experience. We get to see the science happen like the way he records, how hard he work. Even though he’s a legend, he still do this like it’s his first day, he really love it. I just see that you got to love what you do and that’s my greatest personal gift from him as a learning experience. Just really love this music thing and just embrace it and do it like you love it and don’t take nothing for granted.

J-Doe: Absolutely. Another big thing that we learned is really patience—not just "patience wait your turn." More-so when you’re being patient. I’m not even going to front, eight months ago I thought I was ready to drop. The record I was going to drop 8 months ago ain’t even going to be on my mixtape now [Laughs]! Now that we’re here, you really got to take your time and focus and really come up with your best shit and make sure you’re giving the right shit. You always say once it’s out there, you can’t take it back and your impression is forever, so we want to make sure we leave the right impression on these people forever.

Reek: Showmanship [as well]. I was definitely one of those niggas that grabbed my shit and walk across the stage, but just from watching what him and Spliff [Star] do I learned how to control a crowd a little better. That’s definitely something I learned.

Now I know you guys are really trying to take 2013 by storm. Why did you guys decide to drop it at the end of the year as oppose to straight off the bat in 2013—maybe like in March. Was it exclusively to coincide with the Dec 21st shit?
J-Doe: Partially, but we also have a full roster of stuff we already got planned. Our first half of 2013 is already planned out. We got a very great plan that we put together with the team between Buss, Shaheem, and Reek. We know what we’re doing as far as when we want to drop shit and how we want to impress and put our stamp on this year. So, to start that off before the year even comes, we wanted to end the year right with a big move to give the people something to see. It’s really coming next year. You can gear up to what’s about to happen with The Conglomerate.

What do you guys feel about the state of hip-hop right now?
Reek: It’s shifting. I see a little shift in it, but for me it’s like there’s two sides of the shift. You have dudes like Kendrick Lamar that’s taking it back to that essence of that golden era where his music has theme to it; it’s conceptual. He’s been successful with that. Then you have dudes like Chief Keef and the Lil Reeses who got this new wave that like a little choppy, south type of bounce. It’s really sticking, but I love it. At the end of the day, it’s all Hip-Hop. You just have to be just like Buss say, "swift & changeable to always be remainable."

J-Doe: I definitely feel like the game is interesting. It’s so many parts to the musical shift of this industry that people don’t really acknowledge that’s more than somebody rapping or putting a verse down. Music should really be called “business music” rather than “music business” because it’s really ran by the business of what they think they can make quick dollars on and what’s going to substantially bring money back to the label. That’s where it comes from. The trend of what’s selling is what you're going to continue to hear until something like Kendrick Lamar breaks through and really show the labels that you can sell real music and make money. That’s big for the whole hip-hop community, music and all over; it’s bigger than just L.A. and what people break it off to. I love it. I love what Kendrick is doing as much as I love what French [Montana] doing as much as I love what fuckin’ G.O.O.D. Music is doing. I just love the contrast between everybody coexisting. Making money is beautiful, so Hip-Hop is at a great state for me.

Where do you think the Conglomerate fits into that aspect?
Reek: We got it! It’s nothing that nobody is doing that we can’t do. But what we’re doing—these dudes can’t do what we doing. That’s the one thing that I can say. We’re not the type of dudes you take off the street and say, 'Yo he’s on the corner doing this.' We really love this. It’s like our children when we create these projects. It’s not like, 'Yo you can rap? Put him in the booth.' What we do is really science. It’s something that they would never understand. I know because the majority of these artists are put in the studio and hopping on these beats and rapping. Ours is really like marriage. These records that we’re making are marriages between what we saying and the beat.

J-Doe: I would like to add on to that and state a little bit of the difference from what we bring that hasn’t been brought [before] by these other groups. I mean, I ain’t going to front. I can’t remember what record I heard this from: "Nothing is new under the sun."—Ludacris said something like that. It’s just how you do it and what you bring and where you come from with that. I don’t really feel like you're going to hear [anything] new, like I’m about to rap in tongues or some shit. It’s definitely stuff you’ve heard niggas rap before and be dope, but how we’re presenting music and what we’re coming with hasn’t been done. It’s fresh shit [that] niggas ain’t on. Niggas ain’t doing it, and that’s what makes us different. No disrespect to the niggas that do just rap; it works for them. That’s not how we do it. We focus on this shit, we make sure that we put a masterpiece together with this Catastrophic. Everything has been planned and thought out to the tenth level, so we focused. That’s what it is.

How did you guys go about picking beats for this new tape? Did ou guys just go with what’s poppin’ on the radio?
Reek: I was in the studio working on [my mixtape] Reek What You Sow, and I got a call from the big homie like, "Yo we got a mixtape coming out and we going to finish it in two days!" [Laughs]. He sent me nine tracks and said, "I need ya’ll verses by tomorrow." I got like six of them done and came back the next day early and got the next three done.

Busta: Same way with this nigga [J-Doe]. He sent six too and the next day all the rest of his shits came through. I was the nigga on some "four sword" shit. The first day, I did 4 and then next day I did the rest of my joints. But at the end of the day just as long as the mission is accomplished that’s all it’s about. It got accomplished. We’re putting out a phenomenal body of work in less than two hours.

This project is being considered a mixtape. Do you guys feel the pressure to make an official compilation LP or is this one considered the official project?
Busta: Nah, this ain’t an official compilation LP. We rhymng on other niggas beats. An official album is all original music, so you going to get all of that. On top of [next] year is when we’re going to go in on that. This was just a gift to the people for the holidays—something that J-Doe felt that we should’ve did on some last minute shit. Shaheem Reid came through and helped us conceptualize the project. Reek Da Villain gave his chess pieces and I gave mine and everything came together beautifully. That was pretty much it. This is just a hors d ’oeuvre; full course meal comes top of the year. Several full course meals come at the top of the year, word.

I know you two have learned so much from Busta over the years. But for you [Busta], on a personal level, what have you learned from these two?
Busta: Just new ways to approach doing music. Everybody got their own creative approach, so I’m always inspired to feed and fuel from everybody’s way of going about doing things. That’s what it’s been primarily for me. I’m fan of watching the way creative process is happening, more than anything, because that’s the science behind whatever is going to come as a result. Whether it’s bread, whether it’s the accolade of the awards and the acknowledgements, or just the fuckin’ love and support and the embrace that you get from the consumer. It all comes from your way of approaching this shit creatively. There is no one way. When you watch the many different ways and you try to sponge those different creative approaches, you end up applying your own shit from what you’ve learned and what’ve you seen that works for you. That way you don’t lose yourself trying to be somebody else but apply and add to who you already are. That’s when the beauty of it really comes into play, so that’s what it’s been for me so far working with the bros. I’ve been able to apply shit in a new way that haven’t been able to prior. The way they do shit, I haven’t experienced watching new artists do it the way they do it. They do it their way and their honest to the way they do what they do. That’s what makes it even more pleasurable.

Dope. One last question for each of you: what the biggest thing you want the fans to get from this tape?
Busta: Primarily, just know that the team is just a force to be reckon with, man. What we’re doing here on this project is all in fun. Not that it's not what it is for every project, but this was something that we slapped together for the people to enjoy for the holidays. When you take this music with you, what you should be walking away with from hearing this and experiencing from this body of work is the ultimate feel-good energy, and that’s it. With that being said, still acknowledging the little key components that you need to acknowledge. Everybody is incredibly stupid and dangerous with the bars and that pen game. Number 2: [nobody] can fuck with my clique, nigga. Last but not least, you got a whole lotta shit to look forward to. With all that being said, enjoy the motherfuckin’ mixtape. Happy Holidays.

Reek: Absolutely, I dig that. Anything you can throw on, any beat you could come up with we will whip your ass.

Busta: Whip your motherfucking ass! [Laughs]

J-Doe: That’s what the gist of that is. Any beats that you can come up with—ass will be whipped.

You can download Catastrophic by clicking [HERE].

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Beyoncé performs onstage during 2018 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival Weekend 1 at the Empire Polo Field on April 14, 2018 in Indio, California.
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Homecoming: The 5 Best Moments Of Beyoncé’s Documentary

Once Beyoncé became the first African-American woman to headline in its nearly 20-year history, we knew Coachella would never the same. To mark the superstar’s historic moment, the 2018 music and arts festival was appropriately dubbed #Beychella and fans went into a frenzy on social media as her illustrious performance was live-streamed by thousands. (Remember when fans recreated her choreographed number to O.T. Genasis’ “Everybody Mad”?)

With a legion of dancers, singers and musicians adorned with gorgeous costumes showcasing custom-made crests, the singer’s whirlwind performance honored black Greek letter organizations, Egyptian queen Nefertiti, and paid homage to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Aside from the essence of black musical subgenres like Houston’s chopped and screwed and Washington D.C.’s go-go music, the entertainer performed “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as “The Black National Anthem,” and implemented a dancehall number, sampling the legendary Jamaican DJ and singer, Sister Nancy, to show off the versatility of black culture.

One year after #Beychella’s historic set, the insightful concert film, Homecoming, began streaming on Netflix and unveiled the rigorous months of planning that went into the iconic event. The 2-hour 17-minute documentary highlights Beyoncé’s enviable work ethic and dedication to her craft, proving why this performance will be cemented in popular culture forever. Here are the best moments from Beyoncé’s Homecoming documentary.

The Intentional Blackness

“Instead of me bringing out my flower crown, it was more important that I brought our culture to Coachella.”

Throughout the documentary, Beyoncé made it known that everything and everyone included in the creative process leading up to the annual festival was deliberately chosen. “I personally selected each dancer, every light, the material on the steps, the height of the pyramid, the shape of the pyramid,” says Beyoncé. “Every tiny detail had an intention.” When speaking on black people as a collective the entertainer notes, “The swag is limitless.” Perhaps the most beautiful moments in Homecoming are the shots that focus on the uniqueness of black hair and its versatility. What’s appreciated above all is the singer’s commitment to celebrating the various facets of blackness and detailing why black culture needs to be celebrated on a global scale.

Beyoncé’s Love And Respect For HBCUs

#Beychella — which spanned two consecutive weekends of Coachella’s annual festival — was inspired by elements of HBCU homecomings, so it was no surprise when the singer revealed she always wanted to attend one. “I grew up in Houston, Texas visiting Prairie View. We rehearsed at TSU [Texas Southern University] for many years in Third Ward, and I always dreamed of going to an HBCU. My college was Destiny's Child. My college was traveling around the world and life was my teacher.” Brief vignettes in the film showcased marching bands, drumlines and the majorettes from notable HBCUs that comprise of the black homecoming experience. In the concert flick, one of the dancers affectionately states, “Homecoming for an HBCU is the Super Bowl. It is the Coachella.” However, beyond the outfits that sport a direct resemblance to Greek organizations, Beyoncé communicated an important message that remains a focal point in the film: “There is something incredibly important about the HBCU experience that must be celebrated and protected.”

The Familiar Faces

Despite being joined by hundreds of dancers, musicians and singers on-stage, the entertainer was joined by some familiar faces to share the monumental moment with her. While making a minor appearance in the documentary, her husband and rapper/mogul Jay-Z came out to perform “Deja Vu” with his wife. Next, fans were blessed by the best trio to ever do it as Kelly and Michelle joined the singer with renditions of their hit singles including “Say My Name,” “Soldier,” and more. On top of this star-studded list, Solange Knowles graced the “Beychella” stage and playfully danced with her older sister to the infectious “Get Me Bodied.”

Her Balance Of Being A Mother And A Star

Originally slated to headline the annual festival in 2017, the singer notes that she “got pregnant unexpectedly...and it ended up being twins.” Suffering from preeclampsia, high blood pressure, toxemia and undergoing an emergency C-section, the entertainer candidly details how difficult it was adjusting post-partum and how she had to reconnect with her body after experiencing a traumatizing delivery. “In the beginning, it was so many muscle spasms. Just, internally, my body was not connected. My body was not there.” Rehearsing for a total of 8 months, the singer sacrificed quality time with her children in order to nail the technical elements that came with the preparation for her Coachella set. “I’m limiting myself to no bread, no carbs, no sugar, no dairy, no meat, no fish, no alcohol … and I’m hungry.” Somehow, throughout all of this, she still had to be a mom. “My mind wanted to be with my children,” she says. Perhaps one of the most admirable moments in the film was witnessing Beyoncé’s dedication to her family but also to her craft.

The Wise Words From Black Visionaries

Homecoming opens with a quote from the late, Maya Angelou stating, “If you surrender to the air, you can ride it.” The film includes rich and prophetic quotes from the likes of Alice Walker, Nina Simone, Toni Morrison, and notable Black thinkers, reaffirming Beyoncé’s decision to highlight black culture. The quotes speak to her womanhood and the entertainer’s undeniable strength as a black woman.

Blue Ivy’s Cuteness

Last, but certainly not least, Blue Ivy‘s appearance in the concert film is nothing short of precious. One of the special moments in the documentary zeroes in on the 7-year-old singing to a group of people whilst Beyoncé sweetly feeds the lyrics into her ears. After finishing, Blue says: “I wanna do that again” with Beyoncé replying with “You wanna be like mommy, huh?” Seen throughout Homecoming rehearsing and mirroring Beyoncé’s moves, Blue just might follow in her mother’s footsteps as she gets older.

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The O'Jays Provide Political And Spiritual Grooves On 'The Last Word'

Love is the mission and message on The O'Jays final album, The Last Word. The legendary group comprised of  Eddie Levert Sr., Walter Williams Sr. and Eric Nolan Grant feels fresh and nostalgic at the same time as they take on the thrills of innocent love from yesteryear and the sociopolitical metal clouds of today.

The group previously released the lead single "Above The Law," a righteous track that highlights the state of the nation to a tee. The rest of The Last Word is noticeably lighter with songs like "Do You Really Know How I Feel" and "Enjoy Yourself" bringing out the flower power child in all of us. The latter of the tracks bridges today's funk and soul rhymes as it was co-written by Bruno Mars and Patrick Monahan of Train.

“I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow (Than I Was Today)," a reworked version from the 1967 album Back On Top closes out the album gently, embodying their full circle journey.

But the party isn't over for The O'Jays. On Tuesday (April 23), the group will perform their new single "Stand Up (Show Love)" on the TODAY show in New York.

Stream The Last Word below.

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Review: Anderson .Paak Reroutes To 'Ventura'

Just five months after his last album Oxnard, singer/producer/drummer/entertainer extraordinaire Anderson .Paak is back with Ventura, his fourth studio LP. Depending on who you ask, the new project is either a surprise second course, or a round of comped desserts to make up for an overdone entree.

The Korean-African-American musician born Brandon Paak Anderson spent the first half of this decade intermittently recording under the name Breezy Lovejoy, converting rock songs into R&B, and drumming for an American Idol alumnus. In 2015, he emerged into the national spotlight thanks to six features on Compton, the long-gestating Dr. Dre album formerly known as Detox. He took advantage of the attention and released two full-lengths in 2016: Malibu was a sprawling solo album that showed him equally deft with bass-heavy club tracks or Sam Cooke-esque soul. Yes Lawd!, a collaboration with producer Knxwledge under the name NxWorries, was a chopped up stoner odyssey, Madvillainy if DOOM could sing as well as he spit. That same year, .Paak announced that he had signed to Dr. Dre’s label Aftermath in a brief but celebratory video featuring the rap mogul himself.

.Paak took nearly three years to unleash the full power of the PR by Dre machine: he debuted the lead single on Zane Lowe, soundtracked an Apple ad, and compared the album to landmarks like The Blueprint and The College Dropout. When Oxnard finally dropped last November, reviews were generally positive but mixed, and it peaked at 11 on the Billboard album charts. Enough fans felt the singer had strayed from his post-millennial soul sound that his own mother felt the need to clap back. With a sprawling summer tour schedule looming, .Paak released his follow-up, Ventura, last Friday.

To hear the artist tell it, that was always the plan. “I told Dre when we were maybe about 80 percent into the Oxnard record that I wanted to actually do two records and he started scratching his head. ...I was like, ‘Let me do two, man. One will be gritty, one will be pretty,’” .Paak told HipHopDX. It’s clear that both albums were compiled from the same sessions, but they are distinct. While Anderson .Paak’s last project emphasized the Michael Bay-sized hip-hop beats that Dr. Dre perfected at the turn of the millennium, Ventura has a more soulful sound. It doesn’t slap, it grooves.

As the cover portrait of the artist with his child suggests, Ventura is an intimate record. He’s focused on sex and love in the long term, the ups and downs of relationships years after the introductory one night stands other pop stars sing about. His blunt-burnt yet sweet voice conjures a charming scoundrel character on record, a dad celebrating Friday night with a popped collar and glass overflowing with dark liquor. It’s a compelling persona .Paak previously exaggerated to cartoonish proportions on Yes Lawd!

Here, his pen shines on the small moments that hint at big feelings. On “Jet Black,” .Paak and his girl are getting physical for the first time in some time, sharing the peak of an unfamiliar high. “It’s been a while, baby, come here,” .Paak beckons. The house beat burbles with slap bass and descending organ as Brandy sings “Feels like someone lifted me.”

.Paak heats up a similarly chilled relationship on the luxuriant “Make It Better.” “Meet me at the hotel motel, though we got a room at home, go to a place that we don't know so well,” he murmurs. Over a laidback thump, .Paak tries to reignite passion in order to save his relationship. His voice desperately yelps on the chorus as the pressure he feels to reconnect emerges, but it quickly subsides into sweet nothings. Smokey Robinson’s backing vocals float in like he’s playing on a radio outside the lovers’ motel room. They’re buried low enough in the mix to suggest that if you’re cool enough to get a feature from a quiet storm legend, you’re cool enough not to rub it in.

Ventura’s precursor was stocked with verses from luminaries like Snoop Dogg, Q-Tip, and Kendrick Lamar, but Ventura’s only guest rapper, Andre 3000, appears on the first track, “Come Home.” It’s a rough start. The song opens with a piano melody that loops but never resolves, creating an anxiety similar to an iPhone alarm clock tone. .Paak begs for someone to come home, but it’s unconvincing, like he doesn’t yet understand why they left in the first place.

While Smokey’s feature is masterfully underplayed, Andre 3000’s verse gets a garish spotlight. Since Idlewild, 3 Stacks has made a habit of releasing guest verses on occasion in lieu of making an album of his own. When he’s on, he’s one of the best rappers alive, but “Come Home” is a rare misstep. The Outkast rapper fills entire bars with syllables about asking for forgiveness on a moped with a puppy, but it doesn’t feel charismatic. Fitting Willy Wonka, Tilikum, and Billabong into the same verse is admirable in a technical sense, but it feels like Andre’s “Rap God” technique for its own sake.

The album finishes much stronger. The last track “What Can We Do?” is built around a chiming sitar, and it savors contentment like a West Coast “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.” .Paak duets with Nate Dogg on the hook, using recordings made before the legend’s untimely death in 2011. The deceased vocalist was a key G-funk ingredient, but his voice sits comfortably in a sunnier sound. It’s a credit to .Paak that the faux studio banter that closes the song feels natural.

The other features are similarly complementary to .Paak. Lalah Hathaway coos in unison with him on the disco half of “Reachin’ 2 Much.” Jazmine Sullivan plays the other woman, forced to climb in through the fire escape to retrieve her rings and “Good Heels” the morning after. Only Sonyae Elise spars with her host, offering a righteous rebuttal to his demands for the women in his life and sarcastically suggesting that he might be the “Chosen One.”

.Paak name drops to a few key inspirations in his lyrics as well. Later in “Chosen One,” he raps, “Heard your fans want to keep you in the underground, cool, when I blow up say I did it for MF DOOM,” a reminder of his pre-fame time in LA’s crate digging underground scenes. He contemplates leaving a relationship on “Reachin’ 2 Much” and all he can offer is “I’ll see you next lifetime, baby, what did Badu say?”

Like Erykah Badu’s New Amerykah diptych a decade ago, .Paak’s lyrics about current events are enough to provoke reflection without detracting from the physical pull of the grooves. He nimbly raps “Chicken wings and sushi, I’ve gotten used to the perks, narrowly escaping the holy war on the turf” on “Yada Yada.” Lead single “King James” praises people with public platforms for refusing to go along with a murderous status quo, promising to jump over any wall and bring the neighbors with. In the midst of his “Winners Circle” flirtation, .Paak raps “When I get the gushy, I go dumb like the President.” It’s not a jaw-dropping lyric, but it’s comforting to know that a bar that direct will be performed in arenas across America this summer.

Anderson .Paak’s talent is unquestionable and his spotlight is well-deserved, especially knowing he’s endured homelessness and familial legal trouble on his come-up. To his credit, he appears to be striving towards a magnum opus, a landmark album that becomes a household name like The Chronic or Midnight Marauders. Despite his strong catalog plus a plethora of excellent features, .Paak has yet to deliver that opus. (Yes Lawd!’s destiny as a cult classic aside.) Ventura is a fun, pleasant listen, and an improvement on the bombast of Oxnard. Like most double albums, one gets the feeling that there’s a great forty minute playlist waiting to be assembled from their best tracks.

Ventura ultimately doesn’t quite match the highs of his earlier albums, but it’s a leisurely stroll in the right direction. Nearly a decade into his recording career, it’s proof that .Paak can always find his way to the next beach.

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