Kid Ink Full Speed album Kid Ink Full Speed album

In His Own Words: Kid Ink Breaks Down His 'Full Speed' Album

Kid Ink isn't too keen on taking things slow. At least, that's what his third studio album Full Speed is telling us.

The Batgang rapper's disregard for moving at a snail's pace is well-documented on the new 12-track project, as he shines a light on living the fast life: stacks, stunting, smoking, strippers, sex. You know, the usual. For the avid partiers, his voice is a familiar one to eardrums. "Show Me," "Main Chick" and "Body Language" have been mainstays in the infectious DJ Mustard section of club playlists. "Hotel" is slowly starting to pick up steam. From a technical standpoint, he's a rapper. However, he tends to float somewhere in between spitting and singing on Full Speed, riding the beats and melodies produced by the likes of Mustard, Metro Boomin, Key Wane, DJ Dahi and more.

But something's a little different from his last LP, like his feet are more firmly planted this time around. He's not fishing for singles anymore and wants to be known for his own flow, not how much he makes backsides jump in Supper Club (although, yes, some of that is still present on Full Speed). He knows exactly what he wants people to know about Brian Collins, the person.

"My Own Lane was something where I was showing and improving more, putting pressure on making sure my old fans didn't think I changed on them and the new fans knew what I was about based on the whole album and not just one record," he told us. "With Full Speed, the difference is the growth. I had a little bit more confidence and direction. It wasn't really a guessing game. I'm more comfortable with my voice and [I don't] have that pressure of insecurity."

The Cali-bred rapper broke down his album track-by-track, detailing his three personal faves ("Be Real," "Like A Hot Boyy" and "Cool Back"), how the album features came to be and even the key to deciphering a Young Thug verse. —Stacy-Ann Ellis (@stassi_x)

"What It Feels Like"
Kid Ink: This was a record I was having fun with because I like the production more than anything. It wasn't a song that was directed towards trying to come up with a hook or anything like that. Just having fun in the booth. I heard this beat and kind of freestyled this idea together. That's what gave it that intro feeling and vibe, because I was just going off of my first [thought] and not really having a direction and kind of going all over the place with it. It wasn't a focus on being the intro until it was done. It was like, 'Yo, this sounds like the intro.' Not because of the beat but because of the energy on it.

"Faster"
Kid Ink: I try to throw people off in the beginning by not going straight for singles on the album. I try to go for the hard-hitting records. It's a stronger song, more hip-hop. They usually expect the "pop-er" singles from me or the radio records that they usually hear. "Faster" is a song I recorded on the tour bus at like four o'clock in the morning. There were only like one or two songs that I recorded on tour that made it to the album. It's a record that people wouldn't expect from me production-wise. The subject matter is just living a faster lifestyle, focusing on what females talk about and trying to be a part of this and that. They really get sucked into it and can't really handle it. Same thing with guys. There's people that want to be a part of this rap lifestyle or the entertainment lifestyle, get into it and really be in it.

"Dolo" (feat. R. Kelly)
Kid Ink: I got off tour and was just going through and recording single records, things that sounded like they could be singles as far as for the radio. This was a record that was in production in the first album. Me and R. Kelly were trying to get a record done for My Own Lane with the same producers but the song just didn't get done in time for my part, the ending and the production. We saved the idea, sending records to each other back and forth during his album process to see if I had any ideas. I just kept that distant relationship with him and reached out every once in a while and from there, they asked if I had anything for R. Kelly and I did. It was new age for him. It had a brand new sound and I thought it was something of a vibe he's touched on before, something he could probably rock with. Instantly we got a response like "R. Kelly's down" and we went over it two times. He had two sessions to record and add more stuff, which was a blessing. I got a verse and a hook, so you know, I couldn't have asked for more. "Dolo" is a common word that I don't think anyone has touched on in a record, so I felt it was an open lane. It's a word that I say all the time more than anything and is part of my regular vocabulary. 

"Body Language" (feat. Tinashe and Usher) 
Kid Ink: The "Body Language" record was tricky because I wasn't really thinking about recording an album or a single at that point. I was just in the studio with Cashmere Cat and Stargate and I was wondering what'd happen, whether it be I make an accidental record for myself or write something for them and the projects that they're doing, because they work with so many big artists. That's how I feel like I got the record, because I did a song in that session with them and they used it. A lot of the songs got around to other people but this one record never got picked up and it was a record I never forced or talked about because it wasn't something I felt. It was just a demo I wrote for somebody else, whether male or female.

Four months goes by and they asked me if I heard it at Usher's new studio and I said, "Yeah man, we need to make that work. I'm down with the Usher feature." And this was before he even had anything out on the radio. He had one single but no feature tracks. I tried to reach out early but didn't explain to them—because I wasn't in the studio with them—that it was a female feature on the record. So from there, the label made me go find a female artist since they were good with the Usher part. At that time, Tinashe wasn't just in my face a lot, just from being in the same circles in the city and working with the same show people and being at the same venues. She beat me No. 1 for the charts and I came in No. 2, so just to congratulate the situation, I reminded her, "Yo, I got this record. I think I played it for you before to see if you wanted it, but I got Usher on it now." She vibed with it so we went to the studio in Vegas and made it happen. 

"Hotel" 
Kid Ink: I was talking about this situation that I believe is becoming pretty common, or more open rather, where people are in these swinger relationships and it made the female more confident to approach couples and be a part of that. I've heard situations where it's peoples' jobs, like they have sex with couples instead of finding boyfriends or anything like that. It was a funny play on the situation where there's a girl in the club and she's into you, then two seconds later, she's into your girlfriend. Whether it be in the strip club and the strippers are only dancing on your girlfriend but she's still giving you the side eye. It had me thinking that like, "Are you having thoughts about… ?" When I played the idea for my boy, Verse Simmons, he had this extra section where he said to throw it on the hook and play it and we'll make it a movie. It's something that's in the entertainment business a lot, so I played on that idea and from there, played it for Chris in the studio. We cut two records that night, but that one I knew it was a guarantee so he rocked with it and I still got the other one off that. I think he has a special plan for it, but we're definitely getting it out there for sure. 

"Cool Back"
Kid Ink: "Cool Back" was a record I enjoyed on a personal level. Being myself, not worried about another radio record for anyone else, just having fun. I was touching on the basis of bringing cool back. Fashion itself was getting to a point where to be dirty is in, it's fashionable. And that's something that I never felt or really understood, so with this record I wanted to touch base on people getting back to being a little clean and not as rugged. I respect it to an extent, but I think it got a little out of hand with everyone just liking to look dirty on purpose. I felt like this was a record that was personal for me and touched home. It might even be picking at some people, but not really.

"Be Real" (feat. Dej Loaf) 
Kid Ink: That record came together by DJ Mustard coming to the studio and dropping off beats. I'm always looking for that one beat that sounds different than any other beat that someone gives me. This was one that felt like it still had his Mustard vibe to it, but when we put the verses on it, it went to a whole other level. The plus side is he gave me this beat that had a hook written by one of his female writers, and she was saying all this gutter stuff about different subjects. All the way from baby daddies to dropping off that child support, and not having no dough or pulling up in a raggedy bucket. She was talking about a lot of real hood shit to where I was like, 'Who can say these lyrics the right way and have it come off directly?'

I thought it could only be Nicki Minaj at this point because everybody else is not going to be believable. Nicki Minaj or Rihanna-type stuff. But I can't go that big right now, those aren't my homie-homies, like [their features cost] $100,000. I remembered how I got introduced to Dej Loaf, my friends put me on her. I just fell in love with what she was doing and how that lane was so open for somebody and then at that time, I felt like she was the one. She came by the radio show and showed a lot of love, asked to come backstage and take a pic and everything, and was always respectful to the grind. I reached out to her and told her I had this one record that was right and she did everything and did her job, made it her own record, switched up lyrics and did all kinds of other stuff. We just put it together and made it into this catchy, amazing record. It's definitely going to be one for the club, but I think it's reaching its commercial status, too.

"Every City We Go" (feat. Migos) 
Kid Ink: The Migos record was produced by one of my in-house producers Ned Cameron, and we had this idea that was written by one of my in-house artists, Bricc Baby. He wrote this amazing hook idea. I couldn't hear anyone [on the record] for a second and then a couple weeks later, we got into the studio with Migos when they came to L.A. I played a record that was more their vibe, then I brought up the other record even though it was a different sound for them. I felt like they could attack it the right way. I left them with the record for a couple of hours and they wrote these crazy verses that I never heard from them on that level and the way they catered to the beat. They were riding the beat crazy. They're more club-driven artists and it seemed like I was using them more so for their sound than they were using me for mine.

So at that point, I cut a verse to this record and kept the other on stash. It's probably the closest to the personal record that I wanted to have. I always try to have a record where I can worry less about the punchlines and more worried about what I'm saying. This is the closest I was trying to spit and earn respect. I was really speaking from and telling the truth about where I come from. People think "Oh, they just gave him that record" or "He was copying their vibes." I try my hardest not to be like that but you still want to try and give the artist something that they can understand and be familiar with as far as the content so they know how to write their verses instead of them talking completely out of pocket. 

"Round Here"
Kid Ink: This one was produced by Key Wane. He gave me this idea and it played off of Deebo from Friday. The word Deebo means strong-armed, to take something away, boss up on somebody. So I used that for a theme, explaining situations where you gotta stunt on people even if you don't want to. You have to show and prove your status. I think ["Deebo"] goes all the way from going to the club and taking the right table to taking someone's girl—which is not my personal thing, but you know other people's situations. Just taking that charge. I didn't try to take it to being on some gangster shit, like I'm taking chains and taking cars and poppin' people. I'm not promoting robbing folks but I'm definitely just stunting.

The other day I had to do it at the club with a table because I walked in and the table they gave me wasn't the table I wanted or where they told me I was going to be. Sometimes I get to the club late, waiting on other people or getting ready to come from somewhere, and they'll give away the table and think that when I get there it's okay. No, I need this table for a reason. For me, it's different. I need to sit by the DJ, sit by this person, so I told them to move that guy. I don't brag about it while it's happening. I'm chill. I let security handle it. I'm not jumping on the table like, "Move out the way!" 

"About Mine" (feat. Trey Songz) 
Kid Ink: It's one of my favorite street records, especially where I'm from in L.A. We played on this theme with the "Why you bullshittin," which was kind of a play off the record done by Sugar Free, which is a big classic record where I'm from. I figured overall, Trey had this idea but I didn't like the beat it was over so I had to switch it up and tell him I was going to hit Mustard up and get a new beat. But I know how that can play sometimes when you change the beat and it might not sound the same with the cut lyrics and everything gets thrown off, but I'm glad he trusted me with picking the right beat. I know what I'm doing as far as production and knowing the keys and tempos. We found a brand new beat with a new age sound. Not the regular "Mustard sound." We went back and forth with ideas and lyrics and he took it back to his own studio at the crib. I was recording outside of the city at that time but we were definitely communicating, making sure the record came together and that we both felt like it wasn't a feature record. It was a Kid Ink and Trey Songz record. We made that happen as far as hitting the street hard without forcing. I think it's going to be a real big club record even if it doesn't hit the radio crazy, content-wise. It's a little strong for radio.

"Blunted"
Kid Ink: This was the second to last song recorded for the album. It was the point in the process where I'm not focused on singles. I was focused on having fun and it's close to the end time where I'm trying to squeeze records in. We got to the point where I don't want the album to sound like a bunch of singles or radio records. I want to still be me on the songs even though I was recording a bunch of singles for y'all to pick from. Let me just cut some new stuff in the studio and just have fun, go in there and record "Blunted" just off the fact that I haven't had a smoke record for a while and I do a lot of smoke freestyles. So I approached this song like it was more of a freestyle. I was talking about smoking but it didn't sound like the typical smoke record. I felt like only smokers could understand the lyrics. If I played this and people who didn't smoke listened, I'd have to be like, "Nah, if you know what I'm talking about, you'll understand and it will make you appreciate it." If you understand that 1.5 grams is a fat blunt then in the smoker's mind, he'd understand. I wanted to use the word "blunted" because it hadn't been over-stressed and used. I try to always come up with something new for the smoke records because there aren't too many cool smoke words out there. 

"Like a Hot Boy" (feat. Young Thug and Bricc Baby Shitro) 
Kid Ink: Bricc Baby is somebody who grew up with me in L.A. He's family and we're close friends. He was someone who was rapping but was also still in the streets and doing his thing in Atlanta. From there, he ran into [Young] Thug, Migos and all their producers, and was in that circle. He was living that lifestyle for a minute to where he came back to the city and I got him back into his music game. He was bringing these dudes around me. I ended up meeting Young Thug, Rich Homie Quan, Migos and Metro Boomin and all these guys. I got this record and started writing this hook. Then, I had this one line at the end that I was stuck on and was just thinking of a word. I always tell everybody in the studio, "If you got something, go in the booth and say it. Don't be afraid to say it. Go in the booth, because it might be crazy." So he went into the studio and said, "Getting cash money like a hot boy." I was like, that's the hook. We went with that and we wanted to write more to that section.

The whole song became themed around the Hot Boys and we can talk about the new hot boys in the streets and throw the words around. I used to be the biggest Hot Boys stan so it wasn't going too far left for me to come up with the rest of the lyrics, the moments and how I felt at those times. Thinking about the new Hot Boys, I was thinking about Birdman and then Lil' Wayne and Young Thug. Like this could be a cool play on everything and make it seem fun. This was before any of the beef, we were just having fun. I sent it to Thug and he just laid it down like it was his own record. That's really what I wanted. He sent the verse and I said "Nah, I need Young Thug on the hook doing melodies and all that stuff." So he went back in and re-cut it. Right after the show one day we got it back right before the album was done. I remember being in Miami and getting the verse done at four in the morning and being completely wasted but understanding everything that the words said. And then I remember being completely sober and I forgot all the words. I was like "Yo, this sounded way crazier when I was drunk. Like I got everything he said." But when I was sober, I had to really decipher it. If you can't understand Young Thug, you gotta be lit. 

Grab Kid Ink's Full Speed album on iTunes here.

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Ebro Darden caught the Internet's wrath after calling out Kodak Black for sexual assault during an interview.
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We're Looking At Y'all: Hip-Hop Won't Have A 'Me Too' Moment Because Of Apologists

Ebro Darden — the host of Hot 97 FM’s radio show Ebro In The Morning — caught the ire of the Internet Wednesday evening (Dec. 12) after a clip from an interview with 21-year-old rapper Kodak Black made the rounds. The longtime radio personality merely admonished and acknowledged the rapper’s recent sexual assault cases, including one that he is currently awaiting trial for. While Ebro noted he wouldn’t be able to go into details since the case is ongoing, he did take a moment to acknowledge that sexual assault is serious, and the discussion will not be ignored in the future.

“Respect to everybody involved in that case, we can’t get into details today… We take sexual assault here serious,” “El Viejo Ebro” exclaimed. “We can’t get into details, but we hope to have you back so that we can have a deeper conversation about that. It’s a serious topic, we’re hearing these stories a lot.” No more than two minutes later, the interview was over, as a visibly uncomfortable Kodak, legal name Bill K. Kapri, stated that the media is “entertained” by “bullsh*t” before leaving.

For some asinine reason, Ebro — a man whose job it is to interview musicians about life and their craft — was the one getting the heat for bringing up the allegations. The uproar was not given to the alleged sexual offender, but to the host acknowledging the wrongdoing by the alleged sexual offender.

Label booked him. I didn’t force anything. I was attenpting to make sure a huge issue was not ignored. https://t.co/vnl0JqeLfi

— El Viejo Ebro (@oldmanebro) December 13, 2018

Earlier this year, Buzzfeed posed the question: “Will Time Ever Be Up For Abusive Men In Hip-Hop?” Due to the fans, some media personalities and the higher powers continuing to insulate these artists and avoiding discussion of the elephants in the room, it won’t — at least for the time being.

Fans of the Florida MC ignorantly tweeted that Ebro is likely working “with the Feds” for bringing up the sexual assault allegation proves that time will not be up anytime soon for men who allegedly abuse women in the game.

Due to many fans’ beliefs that hosts and journalists should “stick to asking artists about music” — and not the controversial lives often documented and discussed more than the careers that provide them bread and butter on the table — time will not be up. A similar “demand” came up earlier this year, when Laura Ingraham said LeBron James should just “shut up and dribble” instead of using his platform to discuss politics.

Then, there are media personalities like Peter Rosenberg, who during the Kodak interview aimed to deflect from the situation at hand by asking about the moon landing of 1969, in order to make Kodak feel a bit more comfortable (although his status in the hip-hop game despite his documented wrongdoing certainly makes some uncomfortable as well).

We also can’t ignore the woman on the panel, Laura Stylez, who chose to stay silent instead of using her platform and her voice to stand up for the women allegedly affected by Kodak’s behavior, or women in general. As a woman, her silence rubbed me the wrong way entirely.

These two, however, are not the only problematic personalities. DJ Akademiks, YouTuber turned host of Complex’s Everyday Struggle, often discusses his relationship with embattled musician Tekashi 6ix9ine.

“I’m a little sad… but these are the decisions that got here,” Ak, real name Livingston Allen, said in a recent episode of the YouTube series regarding Tekashi’s recent high-profile racketeering arrest and possibility of life in jail. However, he continued to acknowledge that the young man is his n***a, and has not appeared to call out Tekashi for the allegations against him in terms of sexual misconduct.

It doesn’t appear he’s discussed his homie’s sexual misconduct charges head-on since 2014. Even in this particular interview, it appears that the 27-year-old was being more of an apologist for his friend, stating that “[he] could tell [Tekashi] was young, and obviously not thinking straight.”

Is this insulation of musicians who lead perilous lives a way to hold on to the clout these personalities have obtained? Or, is it realizing that if they stop defending these artists as a way to defend those who are hurt, they’ll lose a legion of equally as troublesome fans and followers in the process? Why not attempt to discuss the difficult topic at hand with as much discretion as possible, instead of getting a biased view of the story for clicks?

I know that as a woman in hip-hop, hip-hop doesn’t always love me back, but if this isn’t a slap in the face? To have this conversation occur in the same week that Cyntoia Brown was told she had to serve 51 years in prison for defending herself against a potential rapist, it’s infuriating to have to write about the blatant disregard and disrespect for the well-being of women in society in a field that I hold dear to my heart.

Due to the “separating artists from art” thought-process, especially in such a male-dominated industry and genre, it’s unsurprising that this is the response Ebro received for calling out wrongdoing.

This is the same thought process that allows R. Kelly to continue to tour despite well-documented instances of sexual misconduct for 25 years.

This is the same thought-process that causes music fans to lash out at Vic Mensa for “vehemently rejecting the trend in hip-hop of championing abusers”; although many would argue that he wasn’t the proper messenger to convey such a statement, the intentionality in the statement was appreciated by many.

On a grander scale, this is the same apologist thought-process that placed Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court and Donald Trump in the White House… and look at how well that’s going.

If we continue this trend of protecting the men in the game and not putting the well-being of the minority consumers of the genre into consideration (such as women and members of the LGBTQ community), hip-hop could be headed to a very murky place. While I don’t always agree with Ebro Darden, I applaud his effort in attempting to start a conversation that can’t continue to be ignored any longer, especially as a man with a platform in the hip-hop media space.

As hip-hop fans, we should aim to hold these artists accountable for their lyrics, comments and behavior. We can’t argue that they’re not hurting anyone through these things just because you don’t feel threatened, because best believe, someone does.

Whatever side of the fence you’re on, Ebro, Vic and other men attempting to hold these artists accountable is a small step on a long journey. While it’s clear that consumers are more interested in the music these people put out than the lives they lead, it would behoove all of us to take a long look at the state of the game beyond the bars and beats.

READ MORE: Ebro Calls Out Kodak Black For Sexual Assault During Interview

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On 'Captured,' Spice Proves Women Can Rule Dancehall One Hit At A Time

Since her childhood, Spice knew the career path she wanted to attain would come with its fair share of roadblocks. After putting in work and releasing a stream of singles in the early 2000s, Spice would receive minor recognition here and there. Despite this slow-burn to stardom, the determined artist kept her foot on the gas until VP Records presented her with a contract in 2009. While maintaining the love she has for the dancehall genre, the “Complain (Mi Gone)” singer knew that she had to adopt an independent artist’s tenacity and hunger for success. Her knack for charting melodies began to become the norm, but with little support from the label (according to Spice), the fortified singer had to find her own way to become a household name.

Spice’s first appearance on the charts arrived nearly 10 years ago. The Jamaica-born singer and glorified dancehall artist Vybz Kartel collaborated on “Romping Shop,” the pair’s erotic take on Ne-Yo’s “Miss Independent.” The melody peaked on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Chart at No. 76 in 2009, solidifying an already influential being in Kartel and a destined-for-stardom demeanor in Spice. In 2014, her So Mi Like It EP landed at No. 14 on Billboard’s U.S. Top Reggae Albums chart. Today, the “Fiesta” artist is celebrating her place on the boards again with her mixtape Captured, but this time the self-proclaimed dancehall queen reigns at the top spot.

Released in November 2018, Captured (Spice Official Entertainment) broke through the Billboard Reggae Albums Chart at No. 1 (Nov. 17). The 19-track project displays Spice at her finest: the melodies that her fans long for like “Mine Mine Mine” to “Body Right” are abundantly sprinkled throughout the mixtape. While those whine-tastic songs will get any waistline rocking, tracks like “Black Hypocrisy” and “Captured” put into perspective the harsh realities the singer, born Grace Latoya Hamilton, faces in her career.

The title track, which strikes an emotional chord within Spice when she performs it, is dedicated to her label VP Records and emotes a feeling of being trapped in a deal that has yet to fulfill its promise in her eyes. “They signed an album deal with me from 2009 for a five-album deal and they’ve never released an album with me,” Spice says. “Even when I visited them with lawyers, they still don’t want to release me out of the contract.” The revelation was made public earlier this year when Spice sent a stern message to the label. The statement prompted a response from VP Records, which reassured fans that it’s working on “finalizing the album and all the necessary clearances.”

While Spice tackled that aspect of her career, she also took a stand in the face of another battle plaguing many people of color across the globe. On “Black Hypocrisy,” Spice poses a question of whether she'll find success with lighter skin. To ensure the message was not only heard but seen, Spice erased all photos from her Instagram account and shared a new look that had spectators confused or infuriated. With a blonde wig and fair skin, the artist sparked a conversation on colorism and the psychological effects it has on people who go through the process of lightening their skin to appear acceptable in society’s view.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

@nosworthycreations @makeupurmind876 @spexphotography Every thing happened so quickly but I promised them that when the truth was revealed about my “Makeup complexion” 🤪 that I would show my public gratitude to these two ladies who made it possible @nosworthycreations did the viral picture that you know with “coconut milk” and @makeupurmind876 did the other picture and also the official video for the #blackhypocrisy Thanks for bringing my idea to life, sorry for the multiple bottles of makeup that was wasted and thank you for patiently applying it to my skin for 4 hours each time. 🤣 photo shoot by @spexphotography @nosworthycreations @makeupurmind876

A post shared by Grace Hamilton (@spiceofficial) on Nov 14, 2018 at 3:00pm PST

To amplify her message, Spice endured a four-hour transformation that was made possible by “about 10 bottles of makeup.” The video for the song has amassed over 3.4 million views on YouTube and went straight to No. 1 on the iTunes Reggae Singles chart.

Although Spice pulled from previous experiences of people making her feel as if her skin is a detriment, it was the comment of an unnamed dark-skinned woman that inspired Spice to go full throttle with the song’s creation. According to Spice, the lyric “Dem seh mi black til mi shine, til mi look dirty” was said to her by that aforementioned woman, a statement Spice says rocked her core but encouraged her to keep fighting against the sentiment. The woman later apologized after hearing her words on the song, which Spice posted on Instagram.

“As many people who know Spice as dancehall queen I never normally attack social commentary or certain types of issues,” she says. “I’m normally a raunchy singer. So for me to come out with a picture and the reggae type of songs that I did was a shocker to the world. I also believe that’s what caused the great uproar because they were so shocked regarding the picture that I posted and also the message in the song because they did not expect that from Spice.”

Pulling a fast one on her worldwide fans is something Spice says she was not hesitant to go forth with even though her team members were reluctant to her idea out of fear of “negative feedback.” Despite the apprehension, Spice took on the role “fearlessly.”

“As a black woman myself, I know what I’ve been going through over the years and growing up as a child. Even in my adulthood, it still affected me. I wanted to use my platform to bring awareness to colorism because it is something that has been swept under the rug for years.” As a fortified entertainer, though, Spice hopes other black women across the world and out of the spotlight, “take the baton and run with me” to defeat colorism.

Spice says her “Black Hypocrisy” single “sets the bar so high” for her mixtape because of its early success, and given that achievement, her mission to educate listeners from her Love & Hip-Hop: Atlanta fame on the “realness” of dancehall culture was a sure bet. Although melodies like "Gum" and "Big Horse" serve as a great introduction to the majority of Spice's past lyrical content, "Yass Goodie" and "Romantic Mood" present the foundation for which Spice stands tall on.

On the latter, Spice pays homage to her foremothers in the 1980s-90s era of dancehall and reggae. Patra, Lady Ann, Sister Charmaine, Dawn Penn, and Sister Nancy are a few of the names the entertainer lists when asked about the song's inspiration. To invoke their spirits on wax, Spice reached out to famed producer Clevie (part of the legendary production duo Steely and Clevie) to create this timeless sound.

"I told him I wanted the same exact track that those ladies used to record from, from back in the ‘80s of dancehall music, which was also one of the most popular riddims from out of dancehall, which is called the Giggi Riddim," Spice says. While Clevie met Spice's request with confusion because he had "a new riddim that was more 2018," Spice was adamant on re-imagining that popular base for her day one and new supporters. Some of the samples that are found within include Penn's "You Don't Love Me (No, No, No)," "Romantic Call" with Patra and Yo-Yo, and the everlasting "Bam Bam" by Sister Nancy. For Spice, these women "paved the way so that I could have a role as queen of the dancehall right now.”

Even within this title, Spice hopes her leadership can help usher in the next class of women dancehall artists. In a "male-dominated business," she understands the hardships that women in the genre face, mainly because of dancehall's entrenched nature. "For women to tackle it and be on top of it or to be respected in the genre, she has to be aggressive, very hardcore delivery wise, she has to be on point," Spice says. "It's not a genre where any and anybody can come up and sing two ABC songs and people say, 'Yes, that's an artist,' or 'Yes, that's a dancehall artist.' It's very difficult, aggressive, hardcore genre and that's why most of the women have it so hard and difficult because people don't take them seriously."

In 1994, Billboard introduced its Reggae Albums chart. Only nine solo women within the genre have attained a No. 1 title, as reported by The Tropixs. On Aug. 6, 1994, Patra entered the listing with Queen Of The Pack. It spent 17 weeks at the top spot. The chart was later dominated by Bounty Killer, Shaggy, and Bob Marley & The Wailers until 1997 when Diana King's Think Like a Girl disrupted the boys' club. If a solo woman artist within the genre appeared on the chart from that point onward, they were found within compilation albums like Reggae Gold, Dancehall Xplosion, or Pure Reggae.

In 2014, Etana's I Rise peaked at the top for a week. Joss Stone also spent a month atop the roster with her first full-length reggae album Water For Your Soul in August 2015, before returning to No. 1 for a week in two separate months: once in September and the next in November. HIRIE's Wandering Soul took home the gold in 2016, while last year saw Queen Ifrica's Climb, and Tenelle's For The Lovers at No. 1 on separate occasions. Just this year, Hollie Cook's Vessel Of Love went No. 1 for two weeks in February, while Santigold's I Don't Want: The Gold Fire Sessions landed up top in August 2018.

While the latter half of the 2010s saw a minor bout of consistency with women on the reggae charts, Spice is hopeful that the future of the genre, including dancehall, will be increasingly inclusive of its women creatives. "There's a lot of different women in dancehall right now, and I believe that each of them are representing themselves in a different way," Spice says. By clinging to her mission, Spice also believes if she remains authentic to the true essence of dancehall, then more doors will continue to be opened. "That's why I try to represent the genre itself in such a way where I stick to the roots and stick to the hardcore dancehall so that people can know that's really the genre and love it for itself."

To stay on the track of making history and showing the next generation that goals can be fulfilled if authenticity is your middle name, it's important (and a no-brainer) for Spice to celebrate her wins. Ahead of the mixtape's release, "Black Hypocrisy" went No. 1 on iTunes' Top Reggae Singles while Captured netted the top spot on the U.K. iTunes Reggae Albums chart. The listing is consistently dominated with classic melodies by Bob Marley & The Wailers so "for me that's a great accomplishment because Bob Marley is the greatest reggae icon to ever have walked the face of the Earth and for me, little Spice, to have taken him from the number one position is something that needs to be applauded," she says.

Black hypocrisy it number 1 on iTunes in the reggae category, thank you smurfets 💙 Link in my bio pic.twitter.com/jhZlD6MVnX

— Grace Hamilton (@spiceofficial) October 23, 2018

Another artist familiar with breaking a record once held by Marley is Buju Banton, who garnered the title for the most No. 1 singles in Jamaica in 1992. Banton’s 'Til Shiloh album (1995) recently rose to No. 1 on the iTunes Top Reggae Albums chart, a position previously held by Bob Marley & The Wailers' Legend (Remastered). Banton was released from a U.S. prison on Dec. 7 after serving seven of his 10-year sentence for illegal possession of a firearm, and intent to sell cocaine. Immediately after his discharge, Banton boarded a plane to return to his family in Jamaica.

"Buju Banton is one of our reggae icons so his returning to Jamaica is going to be a well-celebrated moment," Spice says. "Despite the negative backlash that they have of him out there in the world, we are still going to love him as our own." Banton’s release also accompanies another momentous moment for Jamaica.

In late November, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) added reggae to its list of global heritage treasures, a feat Spice believes will pave the way for the genre’s inhabitants to make history. “We as artists from Jamaica have been fighting for certain recognition with our genre,” she says. “Even dancehall itself, we also believe that hip-hop takes a bit from dancehall sometimes and we don’t get the credit for certain things. But it may take years but myself as an artist is here to do it a step at a time until it reaches where it should. This is an accomplishment for the genre.”

While hip-hop artists have found major success by recording the sounds of dancehall or reggae (Snoop Dogg-turned-Snoop Lion, The Fugees’ influential blend, even Drake circa Views From The 6), Spice utilized that tactic to inspire a domino effect of getting fans to spin more of her records. During her time on her first season of Love & Hip-Hop: Atlanta, Spice welcomed a new wave of American advocates. To permanently reel them in, the 36-year-old performer made it her mission to record a melody on the mixtape titled “Move Fast” that can find a home on a twerk playlist but still amplify her dialect.

“We took the fact that they love hip-hop, and we used a hip-hop beat and gave them a sound that they’re used to but I would also catch back a little of my native language which is patois and introduce it to them a bit,” she says. “I’m trying to fuse the two so that they would understand more about my genre and maybe if they listen to ‘Move Fast’ they will hear my accent and go, ‘Oh, she’s from Jamaica, she’s in dancehall, let me listen to another track.’ Then they will listen to another track from the mixtape, which is authentic dancehall. Then they may fall in love with the genre.”

In the process of finding adoration for Spice’s beloved dancehall, she hopes that fans will also applaud her for the recent encounter of success, and the fact that she’s operating as an independent artist despite the fact that she’s signed to a major label. “I think for me I’m just humbled over the fact, especially that I did this on my own without my record company,” she says. “I’m really happy and excited and proud of myself for even believing in myself and pushing myself to reach to this limits without no management team or record company. I’m really humbled by my journey.”

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Saba's Rhymes Mean A Lot But John Walt Day Means More

“Act like ya’ll know, man. This a holiday,” boasted Frsh Waters, the co-founder of Chicago collective Pivot Gang and the opener of the second annual John Walt Day concert. It's Thanksgiving weekend and while families are gathered around the dinner table, lovers and supporters of Pivot Gang–comprised of Saba, MFn Melo, Waters, SqueakPIVO and a few more–filled the spaces of the city's Concord Music Hall to keep up a holiday tradition of their own.

With a newly-grown fro, Waters enters the stage with no introduction, a contrast from initial mic stand-clasping nervousness during the inaugural John Walt Day, launched at House of Blues Chicago in 2017. Walt Jr., the cousin of Saba, was killed last year and is the sole inspiration for the rapper's John Walt Foundation that brings the arts to children in the city.

The concert is a resounding tradition that his Pivot Gang brothers don’t plan to break anytime soon, with anticipation flooding the city each Thanksgiving weekend and a simultaneous celebration of Walt’s birthday on November 25th. The concert is just a piece of the loving puzzle Saba, Waters and the rest of the group created to keep his legacy alive.

With repeated crouching and soulful backing by Chicago band, The Oh’My’s, Waters regained balance after kneeling on an uneven speaker, referring to the crowd as "Church,” a christening that he echoes on the ending of "GPS" a feature from Saba’s well-received debut album Bucket List Project.

 

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Happy 26th @dinnerwithjohn Long Live my niqqa Johnny 📷 @bda.photo

A post shared by Westside Cat (@frshwaters) on Nov 25, 2018 at 11:37am PST

Saba may have dropped the stellar sophomore project, Care For Me this year, but the continuation of John Walt Day means more. Sold out for its second year in a row with 1,400 in attendance, Pivot Gang house-DJ Squeak Pivot blares "Scenario" by A Tribe Called Quest as the crowd multiplies before his booth. Avid fans gather in all creases of Concord Music Hall, especially on the second floor, where a merch stand resides exclusively for John Walt items. A haloed painting of Walt (or DinnerWithJohn as listeners knew him best), sits next to an assortment of buttons and t-shirts, as a guest brings a newly finished painting of Walt to the show.

Between sets, the crowd roared for cuts by Chicagoans Ravyn Lenae and Noname, who’s Room 25 track "Ace" is cut abruptly before MfnMelo takes the stage. With orchestration by Care For Me co-producer Dae Dae and harpist Yomi, Melo flowed through "Can’t Even Do It" and briefly spoke to the crowd about Thanksgiving, inviting attendees with leftover pies to meet him after the show.

Strutting to Ariana Grande's kiss-off anthem "thank u, next," The Plastics EP rapper Joseph Chilliams poses freely, cloaked in a light pink teddy bear coat. “I made this song because there aren’t a lot of black people [in Mean Girls]. I realized that the fourth time,” Chilliams joked before performing "Unfriendly Black Hotties."

Joined by four-year-old Snacks Pivot, John Walt’s mother Nachelle Pugh pinpoints her nephew’s curiosity of joining his older cousins Saba and Joseph Chilliams as their miniature hype-man.

 

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John Walt Day It didn’t even feel real, so much love in the room. For the encore they usually yell the artist name or one more song or something like that. But on this night they yelled “LONG LIVE JOHN WALT”. I wish this could be everyday. I wish I could play you this new shit we just did. I wish you were here. Love you @dinnerwithjohn look at this coat” lmao 💗💗💗💗 📸 by my shooter @notryan_gosling

A post shared by Joseph Chilliams (@josephchilliams) on Nov 26, 2018 at 3:29pm PST

“It’s like Walter jumped into his body and he’s coming back through this kid," she said of the toddler's enthusiasm. "He’s studied Saba, he’s studied Joseph, and he’ll say 'Auntie, can I use your phone?' So he’d use my phone and watch the boys’ videos on YouTube. Joseph is a person that the kids look at and say ‘He’s so fun,’ and [Snacks] wants to be like him. Everything that they do, [Snacks] is studying them.”

Pugh credits Young Chicago Authors for sparking her son’s musical pursuits, with guidance by poet Kevin Coval. “Kevin mentored him until the day he passed. I really love and respect someone that can just work with kids and give them a place to express themselves creatively,” Pugh said. “Working towards a goal of creating something that I know [Walt] wanted to do, and to help others in the same token, that gives me a sense of accomplishment.”

The stage then transformed into a resting kitchen with illuminating lights on the bottom of side-by-side counters, with Care for Me co-producers Dae Dae and Daoud behind their respective keyboards. Once settled, Saba rushed the stage to perform "Busy," with a special appearance by singer theMIND. The pulse of the venue throbbed as Saba took brief pauses to talk intimately to the crowd. “I lost a lot of people close to me,” he said. “A song like "Stoney" is such a celebration of life. It’s crazy to think how long ago that sh*t was. John was still alive.”

As Saba diverted into memories of Walt’s life, Nachelle recalled the album listening event for Care For Me. “Saba wouldn’t let me listen to it. He didn’t even tell me that he was working on it until it got really close [to the album’s release]," she said. "Then, he warned me about "Prom/King." I think he was thinking about letting me listen to it by myself at first, but then he thought about it like ‘Nah, I’m not gonna do that while she’s by herself, let me just let her listen to it while she’s with everybody else.’ That was an easier way to break it to me, so I wouldn’t really break down.”

Saba capered into "Prom/King," but performing the heart-tugging ode to Walt was a first, even after embarking on his 2018 Care For Me tour.

“I didn’t know he was gonna do that. I didn’t think that he’d ever be able to do that. I don’t think he thought he’d be able to do that,” Pugh explained. “I don’t know if anybody captured the expressions, but I think he was in tears and he was just fighting through it. We went through this fight together on the day we found out what happened with Walt. When he got finished, he sat down, turned around and he looked at me and I’m like 'We did it.'”

Even with "Prom/King" being the most grief-stricken track on Care For Me, Nachelle revealed that the most poignant song about her son was "Heaven All Around Me," realizing the message just months after the album’s release. “I was like, 'Walter wrote that song through Saba,' she said. "That’s the song that gets me the most off Care For Me. I don’t think [Saba] intentionally did so, but it just put so much power behind "Prom/King" because you see what happened. He told a story.”

The storytelling of Walt’s legacy was fulfilled throughout John Walt Day, from Joseph Chilliams doing a comedic, warbled rendition of "Ordinary People," Walt’s favorite song to play on the aux cord, to the entire Pivot Gang reuniting to perform their ensemble track "Blood" for the first time. Walt’s presence was unwavering, with remaining Pivot Gang members continuing to carry his eternal flame.

“This year’s show, the passion was a little bit stronger, because at the time we did last year’s show, I think we were all still in denial, like 'We’re gonna wake up from this dream’ type of thing.' Pugh said. “I think we accepted the fact that [Walt’s] not coming back. They wanted to go as hard as possible because they were doing this for him.”

 

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JOHN WALT DAY was so beautiful. We gotta find a bigger venue for next year. I made so many new friends. Pivot tape up next 💪🏽🔥

A post shared by Joseph Chilliams (@josephchilliams) on Dec 1, 2018 at 5:15pm PST

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