By: Funmi Onadipe
Former Co-Founder and Writer of Ballistic Sounds.
Funk has been reincarnated in the hip-hop duo MindBodynFunk. New Jersey natives Nick “HueGo” Burgess and David “Drok” Grant, bring their listeners back to a time where funk was the premise of hip-hop. Their new project, Musical Selections that dropped this April, is comprised of songs that remind us of summertime, raging hormones, good friends, and good vibes.
Starting out as members of a rap group in high school called MOA, Drok and HueGo along with a couple of friends became pretty popular in their hometowns of Maplewood-South Orange and West Orange, New Jersey. These two came together again after the group disbanded to share their love for the old school.
MindBodynFunk make it a point to show their listeners where the sounds and beats of mainstream music came from. The “Intro” asks, “What kind of music do I like?” Different genres of music are then listed by a sultry female voice. She mentions genres like rock, blues, jazz, funk, hip-hop, alternative, soft rock along with many others. She then lists legendary artists like Billie Holiday, Jimi Hendrix, Marvin Gaye, Simple Plan and Ray Charles. This introduction gives a taste of the different musical inspirations and sounds that this project is compiled of, reminding the listener that hip hop music is a melting pot of variant genres that ultimately make one new sound.
Throughout Musical Selections, sounds of old school 80s and 90s hip-hop hailing from both the east and west coast are heard, particularly in “More Funk Than You Do” and “Homies”. They also sample Minnie Riperton’s “Inside My Love” in “Can Hold the Torch” and Al B. Sure!’s “Night and Day” in “Let Me See”, bringing old school and new age together. The result is tracks that have the sounds of the 80s, but content and themes that millennials relate to. Musical Selections contains songs about getting girls, budding romances, partying, and being “that guy”. The incorporation of popular lingo from north New Jersey and New York, (F*ck Wit the Kid), adds to the “forever-young summertime fun” aura of the project, giving it an extra playfulness. Listeners will find themselves delightfully amused by Drok’s parody of Ezail the Crackhead from the movie Friday in the middle of “More Funk Than You Do” and HueGo’s cheeky spiel in the beginning of “F*ck Wit the Kid”.
Drok and HueGo successfully create a cohesive sound and vibe that people of all ages can jam to. Listeners can hear the timeless “no music” beat throughout Musical Selections that in turn, makes this project likeable to anyone who is true to the basics of hip-hop and thoroughly appreciates the flow of the old school. This music definitely speaks to any old soul and can open the mind and musical intelligence of the new soul.
Listen to Musical Selections Here: https://m.soundcloud.com/huego-12/sets/musical-selections-by-drok.
By: Zoe Hines
Founder of Ballistic Sounds.
Chi-Town rapper Vic Mensa dropped his E.P. There’s A Lot Going On this June. Mensa’s album name perfectly describes his songs which tackle an array of important subjects such as gun violence, struggles for people of color, poverty, and personal issues that he has worked to overcome. Vic Mensa is able to grasp all of this content in seven tracks with beautiful lyricism and flow.
The opening song, “Dynasty” displays his confidence and highlights that he is destined for success. Mensa often expresses his love for Chicago by reminiscing on past experiences he had in the city before rising to prominence. The E.P. shifts when “16 Shots” begins to fill the listeners’ ears. “16 Shots” represents the number of times Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old black boy, was shot by a Chicago Police Officer.
No longer does he mention his confidence or growth to fame, but rather the controversy of police brutality. The anger builds as he delivers the first verse, which reveals his perspective on people of color being violently attacked and killed at the hands of the police. When the chorus approaches, he releases his rage. The song takes a drastic turn from fury to anguish. Laquan McDonald’s lawyer, Jeffrey Neslund, commences the murder trial of McDonald. His statement forms a vision of terror in our minds as we hear the details of McDonald’s death.
There’s another change in momentum. After you have listened to “16 Shots” and “Danger”, which capture Mensa’s madness and social views, the synthesized melody within "New Bae" and the song's depiction of love reveals the versatility of the artist. Mensa replaces ruthless bars with passionate singing to express his concerns for finding someone who will set him straight. “New Bae” ends with a transition from looking for a new love to finding one in “Liquor Locker.”
If you’ve ever heard his old band Kids These Days, you know Mensa’s history with rock music. “Liquor Locker” starts off with a smooth guitar riff that works perfectly with Mensa’s seductive voice and flow. Mensa illustrates the effect alcohol has on him by slipping into a sentimental mood and discussing his feelings for his new love. The smooth guitar riff collaborates with a nice hip-hop beat to complete the chorus. The guitar riff changes from electric to acoustic as Ty Dolla Sign serenades the listener with an explicit verse describing the sexual visions that are incited by his intoxication. Mensa’s vocals and meaningful lyrics partner with slow beats to bring multiple emotions to the track.
“Shades of Blues” kicks off with a beautiful piano tune as Vic spits about poverty and suffering. Though he criticizes the media and the public for their lack of awareness and action on these urgent problems, by the end of the track he admits that he is like everyone else. By admitting his own fault, Vic’s lyrics “Now here I am talking ‘bout a revolution. And I can’t even spare a dollar to the movement but I’m in the strip club spending dollars on that movement” bring awareness to a broken system and society’s jaded mindset.
The synthesized melody slowly gets louder as Mensa expounds his journey in “There’s A Lot Going On.” This last track digs deep, encapsulating the stress behind success through a description of drug addiction and a battle with suicide that take place as Mensa’s dreams simultaneously begin to come true. As Mensa narrates hitting rock bottom and lifting himself up through cathartic artistic expression, the listener gets a glimpse into how much music means to him.
This E.P. goes in many different directions, touching on numerous subjects relating to issues in the world and issues within the artist. Bringing up all of these problems in seven tracks constantly changes your emotion from anger to remorse, adoration to awareness and bewilderment as you realize Mensa’s life in the limelight is not what it appears to be. This could be one of the best projects out now. If you want to listen to something real, give There’s A Lot Going On a listen.
By: Shayla Harris
Former Co-Founder and Editor of Ballistic Sounds.
20 year old rapper Kamaiyah is heating up the Oakland rap game this summer with her debut mixtape A Good Night in the Ghetto. Though the First Lady of Big Money Gang dropped her tape in late March, A Good Night’scarefree vibe makes it fit for any summer playlist. Kamaiyah delivers the perfect jams to cruise with the top down to, while hitting on conventional rap subject matters in 16 tracks. The opening song, "I’m On", is an immediate cue to the listener that this is the story of a starving artist battling their way to the top bar by bar. In addition to her account of the trials and tribulations of shining in the rap game, Kamaiyah reps her city and crew, and lustfully delineates why her sex game is as strong as her rap game.
Though the tape may be great for feeling yourself in the summer, the cliché subject matter paired with Kamaiyah’s monotonous delivery makes A Good Night feel repetitive at times. "Hoochie Hotline Interlude", which appears three times throughout the tape, does not go far enough. It provides some narrative transition and assists in characterizing the artist whereas a great rap album would add a deeper level of meaning or experimentation.
Where A Good Night in The Ghetto falls short in content and lyricism, it is redeemed by its funky rhythm and beat. The mixtape’s employment of synth bass saturation and syncopated rhythms make the album fun to listen to without straying too far from Oakland rap sounds. The tape’s final song named "For my Dawg" was inspired by Kamaiyah’s friend’s battle with cancer, and highlights the artist’s ability to broach emotional subject matters. By the end, it is clear that this is merely the beginning for the First Lady.