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Blkswn – Smino

St. Louis based rapper Smino is making his own lane with his debut album blkswn. It follows up his blkjuptr EP released in 2015. The eighteen-song deep album is mostly produced by close friend and LA-based Soulection artist, Monte Booker, hailing from Chicago. Blkswn crosses the line between hip hop, soul, jazz, funk, and electronic, blending elements from different genres. The production is delectable. The smooth basslines and funky melodies bring out the quality in the wordplay. I was mesmerized by album’s unique sound and the chemistry between the vocalists. He switches between crooning a soulful chorus to upper echelon lyricism with ease. The wide range of delivery is reminiscent of Anderson .Paak and Chance the Rapper, but with fresh melodies. The songs transition from a slow jam feel to the fast lane as Smino touches on life lessons, romances and anything else on his mind. His flow is original unlike so many up and coming rappers. One of his goals is that the release will put his hometown on the map. He explained to the Fader that he hates that so many tours skip St. Louis. He said that people don’t think it’s an organized city when in reality, it is home to lots of creatives. Smino hopes that his music opens doors for them. He reminisces on the status of his hometown, “I remember after Mike Brown got killed, people just wanted to be heard but the media cut them off. So we started the “hands up, don’t shoot” movement, and it was all these voices of young people wanting to be heard. We can make that same thing happen on a positive note.” I really admire the connection he has to his hometown. He inspired his city by battling through life’s obstacles and pursuing his dreams.

You can hear the soul in his voice as he burns through Monte Booker’s jazzy, sensual beats. Smino has many musical influences. The main one being his family of musicians. In a feature with XXL Magazine, Smino shares that his grandfather is a bass player and a member of the Blues hall of fame. His dad played keys. His mom is a singer and his big cousin toured the world singing. It wasn’t long before he realized that he might as well do music. It was around age thirteen when he started recording and making music every day. He was inspired to get really into it because of how happy it made his family. He was motivated by their talent to develop his own sound. Even with all the talent in the world, many artists struggle to achieve financial success. Smino stuck with the family business nonetheless. It appears that his hard work is going to pay off. As more people hear his music, his popularity will continue to rise.

On the third song in the album, Smino claims that he’s “walking light on these glass flows,” as if one misstep could jeopardize everything. The story he’s telling is deeply personal but anyone can relate to it. It’s about love and a delicate relationship– taking too much and not giving enough back. He goes back and forth with Ravyn Lenae throughout the song. There are a handful of different female vocalists featured throughout the album. Noname Gypsy shuts down the album with an incredible verse on last track. The features are beautiful and they compliment the energy of the various songs. A good example is the album’s single,  “Anita.” It’s a catchy, upbeat song with an unexpected mix of rapping and singing that typifies Smino’s style. It’s appealing from every angle just like the girl he’s singing about. The title song blkswn is fit to carry the name of the album. Smino guarantees that he is going after the money, and his close friends and fans are the only people invited to come with him for the ride. To sum it up with Smino’s words, “being timeless how I pass time…scheming, plotting til’ it’s attack time. He is also one third of the “Zero Fatigue” crew along with Monte Booker, Jay2AintShit, and singer Ravyn Lenae. Their identity is the same from their lifestyle to their work ethic; it’s that you never get tired of doing something you love. You can feel the passion in their work because it comes from the soul. The movement is not just about making cool music, rather it is about being better people. Smino preaches that although separation is a growing trend, it will get better as more people are aware of it. We are the only ones that can change the way we treat each other, and the world.

By: Collin Turner

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All Amerikkkan Bada$$ – Joey Bada$$

Jozif Badmon the rude boy is back with his sophomore album, All Amerikkkan Bada$$. Joey Bada$$ is a 22 year old Brooklyn rapper who’s been gaining some serious attention since his debut mixtape “1999” released back in 2012. Since then Joey has been growing in popularity through the release of his first studio album – B4DA$$, along with numerous collaborations. Recently Joey finished his tour with fellow 2013 XXL Freshman Schoolboy Q and has been dabbling in the fashion industry along with co-starring in the USA network television show “Mr. Robot.” The long awaited AABA has finally released and Joey proves why this album was well worth the wait.

All Amerikkkan Bada$$ is an exploration into the mind of Joseph Virginie-Scott in regards to the socio-political state of our country and not only his place in it as a rapper, but as an African American man. As we see racial tension rising with every news report, rappers like Joey use their spotlight as a platform to express thoughts and opinions on these matters. On the song “For My People” Joey asks his audience “Tryna stay alive and just stay peaceful… so hard to survive a world so lethal… who will stand and be our hero?” This emotionally sung hook provides a perfect example for the tone of this album. Joey doesn’t preach that he will be the hero that changes the ugliness of the world, but poses the idea that a hero might be needed based on the problems he sees around him. Problems such as racial profiling, especially by the police who have been the center of attention in recent years due to the controversial use of lethal force against numerous African American men and women. In the hard-hitting “Rockabye Baby” featuring Schoolboy Q, Joey attacks the racist mindset of many Americans and the ease with which police have killed unarmed black men. He also makes sure to send a special shoutout, “And if you got the guts, scream Fuck Donald Trump!” The message of this album is clear and spread out consistently from song to song – that Joey is taking a stand against the discrimination that his Black brethren have faced and wants to inspire his people to stand with him.
Sonically, this album is similarly consistent to his messages, keeping his production crew relatively local with beats from long-time collaborators and Pro Era associates Statik Selektah, Kirk Knight, and Powers Pleasant. The overall vibe of this album is relatively mellow, with smooth jazzy instrumentals and low-tempo beats to allow the spotlight to stay on Joey’s lyricism and message. However, Joey comes through with some of his most experimental sounds yet such as the lead single released prior to the album, “Devastated” a high energy party anthem with an outstanding message; previously earning Joey his first Gold rating for a single. Joey also provides a powerful and hard hitting possy-cut alongside other east-coast rappers Kirk Knight, Nyck Caution, and Meechy Darko of Flatbush Zombies. This is just one example of the many great features included on the album such as the previously mentioned Schoolboy Q, Styles P, Chronixx, and J.Cole (who’s catching Cole features on their album??). This album has everything a Joey Bada$$ fan wants, intensity and energy, lyricism and top notch flow, impressive production and flawless features, and most importantly an inspiring and uplifting message; something that is not always included in rap albums of today. Joey Bada$$ has come such a far way since his days of sample based mixtapes; and his journey as a rapper and figurehead is not even almost complete.

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Exclusive Internview with General Manager Sam Pickup Aka Two Ham Sam

Miranda here! Read along as I pick our General Managers brain and learn about topics such as pop-punk angst, his unique start at KCSC, and his advice to interns at the station.

Me: Let’s start with the basics, DJ name and Show name?

Sam: DJ Two Ham Sam, and Sam’s Soapbox. It was originally called the hour where Sam talks about his feelings and favorite movies, but that was too long, so I just stuck to feelings thing, so basically I just play some really angsty music, then jump on the mic and talk about things that annoy me. (Sounds like some good stress relief)

Me: Is the commentary thought out and scripted, or do you speak whatever is on your mind?

Sam: Well it’s on Sunday so I can just see all the bullsh*t that happens during the week, probably some of that will set me off. The music I play is also pretty representative of my feelings at the time. Not to mention the angsty pop-punk music fits well into my stressful schedule.

Me: What is your favorite genre, pop punk?

Sam: I really like all music but I would say it is heavily pop-punk, and before that it just emo music, before that is was hip-hop. Not to mention there is a really big pop-punk scene in Chico, and I’m pretty familiar with them and play a lot of their music.

Me: Oh so do you also go to the freaky metal shows at Monstros?

Sam: I have gone to some of those, Monstros is a cool place, it doesn’t even feel real, kind of like you’re walking into an episode of the twilight zone.

Me: How did you get into music, do you play instruments?

Sam: No, but I grew up in a household where we all were connected by the music we would listen to, and would all talk about the music we listened to. My dad for instance was always really into the pop music he would listen to, like David Bowie and Elton John, and so we have always really bonded over that. Even though no one in my family played instruments, we all listened to music and have always really appreciated it.

Me: What was one of your favorite live shows?

Sam: Kaytranada – I saw him at the Observatory in Orange County. I like that he has a unique sound, and is not like other DJ’s. He has a funky sound that is great for vibing to at shows, because I’m not into the mega high energy, loud, bass in your face, but I like the whole vibey sound. He also had some trippy visuals, and had some sick dance moves while he was up there. For one of his songs, he had three beats in a row and he dabbed perfectly with each one of them, and it was the perfect triple dab.

Me: Do you have any funny stories from the radio station you would want to share?

Sam: The story of how I joined the station is pretty funny, it was my freshmen year and just my second day of going to Chico, and I saw the table, and they were playing this Outkast song I was really into at time, and I walked up to them, and said “Hey this is a great song” and they said “Hey if you like this music you should join the radio station.” So now three years later, here I am in charge of it. (6 semesters strong at KCSC!)

Me: What has been the best part of interning at KCSC, and best part of now being the manager?

Sam: The best part really is the strong community of people, if you get involved you know that you become friends with all the interns, and you know you always have friends at the station. As a manger I love being able to facilitate that kind of emotion, because that’s how you get people to work harder, and put in more effort into what the do.

Me: I agree, I always thought it was unique when I first began at KCSC how I would walk into the radio station, and a people would always be hanging out on the couches and conversing.

Sam: The only problem with that is that it can feel a little cliquey, like it is the group of people who is in charge, but that has been one thing I have been trying to fix this semester so that every feels included, and its not just the directors, but this is your space too, and you can hang out here.

Me: Building on that, do you have any visions for the radio station?

Sam: Right now one of our visions is to become a little bigger in the local music scene, and be able to facilitate our own shows. We want to be able to help local artists. For example hosting shows at the Naked Lounge.

Me: What do you think KCSC has taught you in your time here?

Sam: KCSC has taught me a lot about maturity because I am still younger than a lot of the interns at the station, but I am the manager. So theres a lot of learning as I go, and growing up. I had a lot of proving of myself to do because I went straight from a normal intern to the General Manager, rather than first holding a board position. It can also be hard to manage your friends, because you don’t want to come down on them, but you have to sometimes.

Me: So after the radio station and graduation in a year, at this point where would you like to go?

Sam: I am a media arts major, and I am trying to figure where I would fit best. I have been getting a lot of radio offers already, I have already been asked to fill the DJ spot at 103 fm. And a lot of Alumni have gotten good positions at radio stations after KCSC, because it is really good real world experience. So I may end up in radio, but my biggest goal is to end up on the visual side. I want to be on TV on day.

Me: Words of wisdom for future KCSC DJ’s?

Sam: Enjoy it while you can. Take it seriously, but remember there are a lot of learning experience and it is for fun. You need to do your job, and be good at what you do, but take every opportunity you get, because we do give you a lot of opportunities here at KCSC.

Interview by: Miranda Moog, DJ Moog of Barbie & Friends.

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