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THE CHOSEN Podcast, hosted by the battle scene's stage Queen, Nunu Nellz, is a show that highlights the artists, entrepreneurs and personalities that shape Hip-Hop battle culture. A lot of success stories may look like they started overnight, yet took many years of hard work and dedication...we will showcase that journey through their stories.
The first episode of THE CHOSEN is with SMACK WHITE, the leader of MC battle culture as founder of the Ultimate Rap League (URL). This Queens, NY native is a great opening act for what The Chosen is about, success against all odds. A man who took the positive from his neighborhood and helped to create a global platform for people to exhibit their talent through battle rap.
And for some added flavor, the intro beat to the show is produced by none other than the infamous himself, Havoc of Mobb Deep.
Check the first of many great episodes to come of The Chosen Podcast.
Three years ago, Jamila Woods entered the scene as a woman grounded in her self-hood on her debut HEAVN. The album is a memoir of her upbringing on Chicago’s South Side and her introspections are comfort food for anyone on a search for their center. She digs up memories such as pride in games she played growing up on “Popsicle (Interlude)” and runs down why she’s worthy of all good things on the healing self-love anthem “Holy.” The sound is dripped deeply in neo-soul and hip-hop, in the family of her Chicago peers Saba, NoName, and Chance the Rapper.
Now the 29-year-old returns evermore enchanting on her sophomore effort, Legacy! Legacy! This time, the singer-songwriter puts herself in direct lineage with legendary black artists, writers, poets, and musicians by naming each of the project’s tracks after them. Woods was inspired by these heroes on her journey as an artist, published poet and community organizer. But she’s not simply riding on the shoulders of these legends. She’s using lyricism and storytelling to resurrect them as if they were to speak to us today.
“I thought of it not so much as writing songs about these people, but thinking of the songs as self-portraits,” she explained to Pitchfork in an interview. “I was looking through the lenses of these different people, their work, things they said.”
The result is 13 tracks of her soothing lullaby, free-flowing melodies, and sing-songy raps of gratitude for each of the lessons she learned from these greats.
There is “Betty” dedicated to Betty Davis, an unsung funk musician whose empowered spirit was ahead of her time and caused her to be shunned from the spotlight. Davis was also married to jazz pioneer Miles Davis, who she influenced in the latter part of his career. The marriage ended in a rocky divorce and Jamila considers whether this hindered Betty’s success by flipping her story into a song about guarding her light around toxic masculinity and men who could interrupt her growth. “Let me be, I'm trying to fly, you insist on clipping my wings,” she sings over the piano-led track, produced by Chicago producer OddCouple.
Woods continues to explore relationships on “Frida,” a funky boom-bap number produced by Chicago-based Slot-A, who produces most of the album. The track draws inspiration from the Mexican icon Frida Kahlo’s relationship with Diego Rivera. The couple lived in separate homes connected by a bridge while they were together. Woods uses this as a symbol for maintaining your own space to find self, whatever that may look like, even when you’re in a partnership. “Multiply my sides, I need a lot of area/A savior is not what I'm seeking/I'm god enough and you be believing,” she commands.
Although Woods shines on her own tracks, one standout feature is Brooklyn emcee (and current touring mate) Nitty Scott on “Sonia.” The track is inspired by a poem written by Black Arts movement poet Sonia Sanchez in the voice of an enslaved black woman who was finding power in detailing the trauma of her condition. Similarly, Scott lays out all her experiences with toxic relationships on a verse that should be studied by all young woman as a relationship manual. “All the women in me are tired/Listen, ni**a/My abuela ain't survive several trips around the sun/So I could give it to somebody's undeserving son,” Scott quips. Woods also describes finding clarity on relationship issues after talking them out with her mother, grandmother, and cousin. “I knew I could do it 'cause if my blood went through it/I knew I could endure it, I knew that I could heal it,” she croons.
When she’s not breaking down the personal, Woods takes on race politics. On the gritty “Miles” dedicated to the aforementioned Davis, Woods embodies his rebellious attitude toward racism. “You could make me tap dance, shake hands, yes ma'am/ But I'm a free man now,” she flexes on the track’s first verse. The song also tells of a man who took the oppression he faced and poured it into mastering his musicianship. Davis talks about this in a 1962 Playboy interview, where he explained that when he was in high school he knew he was the best trumpeter in music class, but all the white students would win the first prizes in contests. “It made me so mad I made up my mind to outdo anybody white on my horn,” he recalls. “If I hadn't met that prejudice, I probably wouldn't have had as much drive in my work.” Davis went on to become one of the most influential jazz artists in the world. Woods calls on that pride he had in his genius, as she references Davis’s 1950 album Birth of Cool on several lines, including, “You can't fake the cool/I could do it in my sleep.”
The spacey-electronic “Octavia” echoes the late science fiction author’s notable ability to manifest her success through journaling. Butler was one of the most prominent black women to write in a mostly white and male-dominated genre, publishing dozens of books, and was the recipient of the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant, among other awards. During Butler’s rise, she wrote out her goals in a series of affirmations that were put on display in an exhibit called “Octavia Butler: Telling My Stories” at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California in 2017. One of the notes read, “My books will be read by millions of people! I will buy a beautiful home in an excellent neighborhood!” On the chorus, Jamila borrows one stunning line from her notes: “I write it down, it happens next/So be it, see to it.”
Woods talks candidly to white Americans about their privilege and how it blinds them from reality on “Baldwin” in the same way James Baldwin did in his writings. Baldwin once wrote in a 1962 essay in The New Yorker: “Now, there is simply no possibility of a real change in the Negro’s situation without the most radical and far-reaching changes in the American political and social structure. And it is clear that white Americans are not simply unwilling to effect these changes; they are, in the main, so slothful have they become, unable even to envision them.” Woods keeps the same energy when grieving about gentrification — which is now a fabric of life in most American cities — and the stress it can bring black natives of big cities. “You could change a hood just by showing your face / Condo climbing high, now the block is erased / (You don't get it, get it),” she spits.
On Legacy! Legacy!, Woods took her ability to paint her rage with social conditions and complex emotions within intimate relationships to the next level, solidifying her as a modern day griot. Yes, this album on the surface is inspired by historical figures but, as promised, the songs aren’t simply biographies about their accomplishments. Woods studied what made each of these individuals human and transformed those insights into a cohesive oral history that connects the past to the present. It’s not an album to be digested in one sitting. She is inviting us to join her in remembering these legends more deeply beyond social media posts that dilute their legacies to soundbites, photos and quote posts on their birthdays. The eras from which these icons rose to prominence passed, but the lessons they offer are timeless. Count on Woods to keep them alive and make sure they’re told.
Back in 2013, Coach K of Quality Control brought a buzzin' rap trio through to the VIBE offices. Migos' "Fight Night" was a club hit and "Versace" with Drake was ruling the game. He announced Quavo and Takeoff, but the third member looked different from the pics we saw previously. "This is Rich The Kid," he stated calmly. "He's rolls with us." Rich wasn't known heavily at that point, but what we determined by his easy going nature and ability to network was this kid is a star, or soon will be.
The smartest thing about that whole scene was how Coach K did a great press run for the Migos as a trio, even with Offset locked up at the time. Having Rich The Kid roll with them accomplished the mission of keeping the Migos' look as a trio annnnd establishing another new artist at the same time. As the relationship didn't materialize as Rich being on Quality Control, it provided the youngin' valuable knowledge on the game and how to do roll outs and such. Thus, Rich The Kid's own Rich Forever Music label being born a few years ago. With enormous success on his own with hits and tours under his belt, the New York native turned Georgia repper started signing up talent. Most notable acts Famous Dex and Jay Critch signed with Rich bolstering his start up company (established in 2016) to fast recognition.
Now in the same way that Rich was introduced to VIBE, 83 Babies are following suit. A few months ago the North Carolina trio, with strikingly similar sounds to Migos', came through the office with a visiting Rich The Kid, who was playing our team some of his unreleased album cuts. We got a chance to kick it with Lil Tony, Set It Off and Young Boss Tevo for a sec. With their minds taking in the atmosphere, we learned that they were in a tug-of-war state as various labels were vying for their talent. Judging from the Rich announcement of 83 Babies being signed to Rich Forever Music this past March, the fellas made their choice.
With co-signs from the Migos and many others, 83 Babies have a clear shot at success. The trap rap "No Cap" single and video finds the group stating just who they are in their music, real dudes that happen to rhyme. Slated to open up on Rich The Kid's "The World Is Yours 2" tour, the three MCs will learn about traveling the country for fans that have never seen you up close. We are sure they are more than ready.
Watch their newest video above.View this post on Instagram
BIG 83 BABIES