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Culture Music

Certified Lover Boy Makes Its Way To TikTok

We’ve got another round of viral TikTok challenges coming in your direction because as you all know, TikTok never ever ever stops. There’s been plenty of action in the entertainment and music world over the past few weeks, and now the trends are finally starting to catch on. Some are obvious, while others you probably didn’t see coming at all. You know we love fun surprises, and we also love TikTok challenges this time of the year because we’re forced to tap into our creative sides since outside is…dark early and cold. We’ve still got a few more weeks before that starts happening, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to sharpen on our skills. Let’s see what’s poppin.

1. “Way 2 Sexy” – Drake

Think back to the night Certified Lover Boy was released. You said you weren’t going to like this song. You also said it wouldn’t get stuck in your head. You were wrong, and you were in denial about just how catchy this track is. This isn’t the only CLB song that’s doing well on both the Billboard Hot 100 and TikTok, but it is arguably the most impactful. Whether you want to create a dance routine or lip synch the lyrics, you’ll come out of this challenge ten times sexier. 

2. “You Are Enough” – Sleeping At Last

Let’s take a minute to rewind back to 2014, the era of feel good songs and believing “every little thing was gonna be alright.” This was a fun time in the music industry (think early Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, Sam Smith, etc), and Sleeping At Last’s single “You Are Enough” was a positive affirmation that we are indeed enough. Life is about appreciating the small things and cherishing the moments with your loved ones. In this challenge, TikTok users are embracing this song as a way to share their love for people in their lives.

3. “Girls Want Girls”- Drake

We told you guys earlier that Champagne Papi wasn’t letting his grip off the music industry with Certified Lover Boy, and his “Girls Want Girls’ ‘collaboration with Lil Baby has created yet another challenge on the app. This track has emerged as part of a trend in which users focus on the lyrics, “I don’t know.” No pun intended, but we don’t exactly know what to do during that exact part of the song as it appears to be freestyled. It seems like it’s up to the individual creator, so we’ll let you make the call on that one.

4. “Vacation Bible School”- Ayesha Erotica

According to YouTube, this song first appeared on the internet sometime towards the end of 2018. Three years later it’s making a comeback, and now the song is being used across a variety of content genres on TikTok. There are no rules to this challenge, you create the rules.

That’s it for this week. Be sure to tune in next week for another update in what’s going on in the world of TikTok.

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Culture Music

The 25 Best Future Features

Say what you want about Future, but it’s abundantly clear that the Atlanta native is one of the kings of great features. 

The rapper/singer hybrid artist (whose real name is Nayvadius DeMun Wilburn) has crafted tons of bangers on his own and done a hell of a lot of fire features along the way. Whenever industry friends such as DJ Khaled, Drake, Lil Uzi Vert, and more pull up to give him a guest spot on their songs, greatness ensues. It’s about time we give Future his flowers and acknowledge his finest guest spots across 22 amazing tracks. 

Be sure to add these songs to your playlist so you can get all the more familiar with Future aka “Future Hendrix” aka “Future Pendergrass.”

1. ‘Bugatti’ with Ace Hood and Rick Ross

Once Future comes in with his foreboding chorus, the anticipation hits a fever pitch. He shouts out the Haitian and Jamaican massive before going crazy with the one line everyone remembers from this song. “I WOKE UP IN A NEW BUGATTI!” You can’t help but jump out of your seat (and possibly spill your drink on the club patron next to you) when Future’s chorus takes over the track.

2. ‘3500’ with Travis Scott and 2 Chainz

One of the more underrated hip-hop artist combinations is the one between Travis Scott and Future. Whenever they hop on a track together, their signature vocal deliveries flow together so well and compliment each other in the best way possible. On this track, Future glides in with a quick intro and returns, later on, to bless the track with one of his hardest (and lengthiest) verses.

3. ‘Grammys’ with Drake

What A Time to Be Alive clearly proves that Drake and Future are a match made in Trill Heaven. Future made sure to hop on Views to assist the Canadian superstar for some good old-fashioned bragging in lyrical form. His brief interlude provides a more hysterical moment, then he gets serious with a catchy chorus and an expectedly braggadocious verse. All the while, Future gets to shine with a beat switch-up that perfectly compliments him.

4. ‘All I Know’ with The Weeknd

It seems like the woman that The Weeknd is pursuing has heard about how he moves out in these streets. That’s why the sultry singer makes it his mission to ease her doubts. Future pops up here to here with a totally different mission statement, though. But it doesn’t take away from the song one bit – it provides a cool yin and yang moment between the two singers that work on the whole.

5. ‘Love Me’ with Lil Wayne and Drake

Future and Drake share chorus duties here, with Future doing most of the heavy lifting in that regard. He’s the very first voice you hear and catches your attention with some hella catchy lines that you’ll be singing at an ignorant volume before you know it. Of course, Future’s part helps you vibe out even more once you have a little “inspiration” and some good drank inside your system.

6. ‘Down for Life’ with PARTYNEXTDOOR, Travis Scott, Rick Ross, and Kodak Black

Future is always willing to hop on a DJ Khaled-produced posse track. With songs like this one, you’ll instantly recognize just how integral Future Hendrix is to Khaled’s most recent LPs. Future blessed this tough tune with its first verse and handles his duties well. Once Future gets out of his spelling bee bag at the beginning, he drops a few cool bars about finding a real one he’d spend it all for and protect at all times. You gotta appreciate the Hot Boyz bars he threw in here, too – “You better hope I don’t OD, I keep a chopper like BG/Young Money n***a no PG, slow it down for me like Juvie.”

7. ‘That Range Rover Came With Steps ’ with Yo Gotti and DJ Khaled

Like the title says, it took a whole lotta work to cop the finer things in life for your favorite rap artists. Future got that point across quite well on this track as he drops some inspirational bars about everything it took to get to where he is now. Plus he made sure to speak on the many ills that come with having all that success and what he’s willing to do to put his haters to rest. Future rides this beat to infinity and beyond, fam.

8. ‘Die for Me’ with Post Malone and Halsey

Future is not to be trifled with in the love department. The same goes for Post Malone. On this track, they lament the broken promises delivered to them by that special lady they thought was “The One.” Future details his troublesome relationship with a woman via a heart-tugging verse, plus he also makes sure to offer his own flip of this song’s catchy ass chorus.

9. ‘New Level’ with A$AP Ferg

The hype levels for this banger are off the charts! You can let this thing ring off in any club across the world and everyone will turn the dancefloor into the biggest of mosh pits. Future’s inclusion here comes across as essential thanks to his immaculate shit-talking about leveling up to the max and calling out those fakers. “I just dipped and dabbed with the semi tucked/You on the red carpet surrounded by pop stars tryna act tough.” TELL EM, FUTURE!

10. ‘Don’t Judge Me’ with Ty Dolla $ign and Swae Lee

This R&B ode to not judging anyone by their cover shines thanks to the trio of superstars featured on it. Future gives this song a verse that describes his inebriated state and mentions an indecent proposal that he hopes to have fulfilled while he’s in it. His featured verse meshes so well with the song’s moody production even though it’s shorter than we would have liked it to be.

11. ‘Smoke Break’ with Chance The Rapper

This is one of Chance’s more underrated songs and it totally deserves way more plays thanks to its chill production & dope concept. Everyone can relate to not having much time to enjoy their old hobbies with their significant other once a baby comes into the picture. Future joins Chance here and offers a worthwhile verse that’s all about honoring his lady the best way he knows how. “Super ain’t saving no hoes” cause Future’s “tryna crown me a queen.” Priorities.

12. ‘holy terrain’ with FKA twigs

Is Future worthy enough of meeting FKA twigs’ high standards for a potential partner? After listening to him pour his heart out here and attempt to better himself, we think he has a shot. Both artists tell a heartfelt story here that’s easy to comprehend. This song in particular presents one of Future’s more “under the radar” classified verses. Future makes it abundantly clear that any woman that prays for his soul is clearly the right lady for him.

13. ‘Jump Out The Face’ with Meek Mill

Another artist that Future has developed amazing chemistry with is Philly’s own Meek Mill. Whenever they link up, it’s always a movie! On this banger, Future spends most of his time hustling to the max, stunting as hard as possible, and stealing a few of his foes’ “lady friends” along the way. Future’s work on this track’s bridge, chorus, and singular verse is worthy of a championship ring.

14. ‘Live Off My Closet’ with Lil Baby

Lil Baby has quickly morphed into one of the new generation’s hottest rappers thanks to his non-stop flow. With Future by his side here, listeners are treated to an absolute neck breaker of a track. Future’s appearance is capped off by a verse that matches Baby’s ability to easily adjust to the cadence of any track he hops on. When these two get into some of that good old-fashioned “rich talk,” it sounds next level. We clearly need more collaborations from these two!

15. ‘Wassup’ with Lil Uzi Vert

Future and Lil Uzi Vert have hopped on a bunch of dope turn-up tracks with each other thus far. One of the best joint works is most definitely this one. Their heavy boasting here over an infectious beat is so live! “Everybody know I come from outer space/I got racks on me, you do not wanna race.” Future’s not tryna hear from any of you lil’ peons!

16. ‘Simple Things’ (Remix) with Miguel and Chris Brown

Miguel, Chris, Brown, and Future aren’t looking for someone famous to call their own. They just want a real one, obviously. You can’t fault them for that – keeping it simple in the relationship department as they live the lives of not-so-simple pop stars sounds like a win-win to us. Future’s verse on this remix describes his dream situation with that one special lady. After hearing it in full, it’s easy to recognize that he left this song with its very best segment.

17. ‘Happiness Over Everything (H.O.E.)’ with Jhené Aiko and Miguel

This song has such a super chill vibe. That’s usually the case with everything Jhené Aiko sends into the universe. Future’s contribution to this rooftop lounge track comes in the form of some fitting adlibs and a verse that’s all about his baby girl & the wild allegations thrown against him thus far. Future just wants you to leave the drama behind and embrace him – is that too much to ask?

18. ‘Ready’ with B.o.B

It may be hard to believe now, but there was a moment in time when B.o.B was one of the biggest Southern rap artists on the scene. During the height of his career, the Winston-Salem, North Carolina-born MC delivered a headbanger of a track that had Future adding that extra sense of excitement to the proceedings. Future’s chorus here is on par with the party-setting hype that he gave us on his feature alongside A$AP Ferg.

19. ‘Real Thing’ with Tory Lanez

Getting caught up in a love affair definitely complicates things. After experiencing all the drama that comes with that, all one would like to do is be with a real one and leave those days of infidelity behind. Future makes sure to get that point across on this track as he acknowledges messing around, leaving a troubled “situationship” behind, and linking up with a lady that’s not all over the timeline. “She don’t post, so I know she won’t expose me.” Gotta keep a lady like that one real close!

20. ‘Money Ain’t No Issue‘ with Meek Mill and Fabolous

Like the song title says, Meek Mill, Fabolous, and Future have no issue dropping a band or two wherever they go. This bass-heavy party track rings off in the club thanks to the combined efforts of all three MCs. Future keeps the wealthy vibes going on this banger with a memorable chorus and a verse that gives us all an inside look at the life of luxury. TURN UP!

21. ‘Way 2 Sexy’ with Drake and Young Thug

Sampling Right Said Fred’s mega-hit “I’m Too Sexy” ended up being the right move to make for this Drake single. Even more great decisions were made once it was decided that Future and Young Thug needed to be on this track as well. Future’s inclusion here results in a nice flip of Right Said Fred’s iconic chorus, which means we get a whole lotta talk about being too sexy for your girl, your gang, that cap, etc.

22. ‘N 2 Deep’ with Drake

First off, the sample of “Get Throwed” for this song’s first half is masterful. Secondly, Drake’s mellow singing goes hand in hand with the production backing him up. And thirdly, Future makes good use of the mid-song beat flip. His quality verse is all about repping the finer things in life, showing off whenever he feels like it’s appropriate, and letting everyone know that the ladies flock to him with relative ease.

23. ‘B*****s and Bottles (Let’s Get It Started)’ with Lil Wayne and T.I.

DJ Khaled can always rely on Future whenever he needs a hook that can grab anyone’s attention. While Lil Wayne and T.I. offer up some triumphant verses here, Future supports their efforts with a chorus that can convince anyone to become their most ratchet self at any shindig. The two B’s mentioned on this track can make any situation that much better and Future makes sure to remind us hereafter every verse.

24. ‘U.O.E.N.O.’ with Rocko and Rick Ross

Some of you may have forgotten just how big this song was when it originally dropped in 2013. The soundscape backing this track up is so wavy, plus the verse delivered by the song’s main artist Rocko matches its tempo to perfection. Then there’s Future, who voices the track’s clever title with precision and gives you the most memorable part that you can’t help but belt out every time it comes on.

25. ‘Snitching’ with Pop Smoke and Quavo

Atlanta and New York join together for a musical union on this track that truly shines. Future arrives here in rare form here as he comes correct with one of his hardest verses of all time. The braggadocious lines about his riches are all here and accounted for, of course. But he also makes sure to drop a few extra bars about the paid “defenders” he has on speed dial and just how powerful the “Woo” is & always will be. It doesn’t get any baller than this line right here, though – “I caught a wave on some Maison Margiela/Audemars, water, Beretta, vendetta.”

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Culture Music

The 25 Most Memorable Performances at the MTV Video Music Awards

The 2021 MTV Video Music Awards will take place this Sunday, September 12, 2021, at 8:00 PM EDT, and to celebrate the occasion we thought it would be fun to revisit some of the most memorable performances in the history of the show. We’re not gonna lie, this article right here was a tough call with a lot of anxiety-driven questions. How many do we include? Is this list too 90s and 2000s heavy? What about the 1980s? Who did we leave off? Beyonce has six performances and every single one of them are all-timers, so should we bump the list up to 30 or perhaps 50?

Ultimately we wanted to give you a nostalgic blast from the past, and there are a lot of great performances that we feel haven’t always gotten the proper attention and recognition. Unfortunately we couldn’t include every single one, but here’s 25 to brighten your day.

25. Diddy, Usher, Ginuwine, Busta & Pharrell- 2002 VMAs

It’s hard to call the early 2000s the “peak” of Bad Boy’s success because they dominated during the 1990s and transitioned into the Dirty Money era as we hit the 2010s, but 2000 to 2002 was definitely a key moment. Diddy opened up the performance with his 2002 hit “Bad Boys For Life,” eventually bringing out Usher who busted out some of his classic moves for their 2001 single “I Need A Girl.” Ginuwine, Busta, and Pharrell then came out, bringing down the house as usual and turning the VMAs into a party.

24. TLC Crazy Sexy Cool Medley- 1995 VMAs

TLC is a one of the greatest groups of all time, and they showed that at the 1995 VMAs. Two singers, both of whom were very different from another in terms of singing style, and a dynamic rapper, that blended together beautifully. Showcasing hits from their 1994 album Crazy Sexy Cool, TLC put on a show from start to finish.

23. NSYNC Medley 2000

Sure we could do the reunion from 2013 which was great, but why that when NSYNC actually had VMA performances from their historic time together? The first performance on a major award show is always memorable, and the group performed their hit songs “This I Promise You,” “Bye, Bye, Bye,” and “It’s Gonna Be Me.” Blast from the past right?

The late, great, Whitney Houston made her mark on the VMAs in 1986 with a medley of her classics “How Will I Know” and “Greatest Love of All.” There weren’t very many artists that could captivate an audience like MTV with a slow ballad, but Whitney being the GOAT she was had the crowd glued to her every moment. Unless we’re wrong, the 1986 VMAs were the only time Whitney graced the stage to perform. She would continue to make appearances through the years, but only to present and hang out in the audience.

23. Green Day 2005 VMAs

September is the month of Green Day, so you know we had to include their “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” performance from 2005. If you are anything like us, you definitely had your “air guitar” out for this song and pretty much all the others on American Idiot, so we may have to bring it back one for time for this throwback.

This performance is special because it is TLC’s last VMA performance to date, and of course, the last with Left Eye. In case you forgot, TLC had a serious case for owning the entire year of 1999 with their massive hits “No Scrubs” and “Unpretty,” and the group took to the stage to perform the former. T-Boz and Chilli would return to the VMAs three years later for a special tribute to Left Eye four months after her passing.

21. Blink 182- 2000 VMAs

Did you put away your air guitar? If so, go on ahead and bring it back out because there isn’t a single soul that didn’t like this song (and if you didn’t then we need to have a word.) Hopefully one day when things are a bit safer than they are now, we can go back to having large crowds on stage for extra hype.

20. Missy Elliot- 2001 VMAs

So Missy Elliot’s 2019 Vanguard performance doesn’t qualify as a “throwback,” yet but her 2001 VMA performance definitely does. Missy brought out Ludacris, Nelly Furtado, and Trina for a special remix of “Get Your Freak On” and “One Minute Man,” while paying tribute to her fallen friend Aaliyah at the end.

19. Ludacris- 2002 VMAs

Move *car noise* get out the way. One of the most energetic/hype songs of all time deserved a performance spot at the VMAs, and Luda brought the intensity with his 2002 hit Move (Get Out The Way). The entire performance took place outside of Radio City Music Hall in front of a huge crowd. Wish we could have been there.

18. Beyoncé- 2003 VMAs

Get ready because Beyoncé is about to have quite a few entries on this list. The 2003 VMAs was the first time Beyoncé had ever performed at the show (Destiny’s Child included), and all eyes were on Queen Bey for her first performance. Beyoncé started the routine hanging upside down from the top of Radio City Music Hall, and performed smash hits “Baby Boy” and “Crazy In Love” from her debut album Dangerously In Love bringing out Jay-Z for the latter. What a start.

17. Prince- 1991 VMAs

Prince Rogers Nelson had MTV in an uproar with this one, but it’s completely their fault because expecting Prince to “behave” (especially during that time period) was a bit of a generous ask. There is a specific moment in this performance that had corporate VMA up in arms. You’ll have to watch to find out.

16. Usher- 2004 VMAs

2004 was the year of Usher Raymond. These are the undisputed facts. Nothing was stopping Confessions’ success on the charts, and Usher had spent the majority of the year making his award show rounds. Naturally the VMAs were on that list, and Usher (or Urrsher as Ludacris calls him) delivered yet another excellent performance. Major throwback for sure.

This is another rare gem from Ms. Jackson. Of course when it comes to Janet’s VMA appearances, many people automatically think of her 1993 performance (which we’ll get into a little later), or even her 2009 tribute to her brother Michael Jackson. This one, however, is up there with being some of Janet’s best ever. 

14. Beyoncé- Ring The Alarm 2006 VMAs

Beyoncé numero dos. You had to be there. The B’Day era was not to be played with, and Bey was on a mission with her sophomore effort to show that she was gonna be here for a long time. Can we just take a minute to appreciate that dance break though? Sheesh.

13. Mariah Carey 1991 VMAs

Mariah. Carey. If you want to watch a vocal masterpiece, then ladies and gentlemen…her (if you know you know).

12. Jennifer Lopez and Ja Rule- 2001 VMAs

This is where the anxiety kicks in because now we are slowly getting down to our last few entries. Early 2000s JLO was a true experience. Jenny From The Block was the first entertainer to have a number one album and movie at the same time, and simply put—JLO was everywhere. You couldn’t escape the “I’m Real” remix. Couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing it, and you definitely couldn’t turn on MTV without seeing the video. JLO and Ja Rule joined forces to perform their smash hit in 2001.

11. Eminem- 2000 VMAs

Em’s going to always bring the creativity. How many different “Slim Shady’s” did Eminem have in this performance? It had to have been hundreds. Whatever the amount, Em started off outside Radio City Music Hall with his Slim Shady Look-a-likes for his 2000 hit “The Real Slim Shady,” then brought it indoors to perform his song “The Way I Am.”

10. Jay-Z and Kanye- 2011 VMAs

Classic Jay and Ye. Few things will ever top the magic of Watch The Throne, and boy does this bring back all the memories. It would have been nice if they could have added in “No Church In The Wild” too, but we digress.

9. Alicia Keys- 2001 VMAs

Who could ever forget this? Re-watch this performance and tell us it doesn’t give you goosebumps. Alicia stunned on the piano, brought out the choir, and had the crowd on their feet by the end of the performance. Nothing but pure talent.

8. Janet Jackson 1993 VMAs

This performance is iconic for many reasons: the hysteria of the Janet era, the fact that she performed in jeans and a crop top, and her willingness to bend the rules right until they were about to snap. Of note —Janet’s live renditions of her songs are just as good if not better than the studio versions, and the choreography was sick.

7. Michael Jackson- 1995 VMAs

This list wasn’t a ranking so there is no order. However, many still consider Michael Jackson’s 1995 VMA performance as one of, if not the most memorable in MTV history due to his role in really building music videos as a storytelling art form, and the fact that he had never performed on the show before (not even during the Thriller era). Michael made up for all those years of not showing up by performing a medley of his greatest hits leading up to that point.

6. Nirvana- Lithium

The network executives at MTV literally had to be sweating bullets during the 1990s. These artists pushed them to the edge with everything they had, but that’s part of what made the 90’s era so great. When you think of that specific time period in the world of MTV, Nirvana almost immediately comes to mind, and they delivered a classic at the 92 VMAs. Long live Kurt Cobain.

5. Madonna- 1984 VMAs

Speaking of people who probably made MTV’s heart race a little bit, Madonna had MTV scrambling for their life with her performance of “Like A Virgin.” The song itself was bit risque for the 1980s in terms of its outwardly bold nature, and Madonna took to the VMA stage where she rolled around in a wedding dress, and pushed the boundaries as far as she possibly could.

4. Madonna, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Missy Elliot- 2003 VMAs

Since we’re on the topic of Madonna, the Material Girl gave us one of the most iconic moments/performances in MTV history nearly 20 years after that 1984 showing where she took the stage with Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Missy Elliot. In addition to the historic kiss she gave both Britney and Christina, it was the first time that Britney and Christina had ever appeared on stage together for a performance.

3. Britney Spears- 2001 VMAs

Britney shut it down, set it off, and all of the above. This was a performance. And the snake. The snake guys. The VMAs had never seen anything quite like that before, and we’re not sure if we will ever see anything like that again.

2. Puff Daddy, Sting, Faith Evans, 112- 1997 VMAs

Diddy (then known as Puff Daddy) performed a poignant tribute to his friend the late Biggie Small along with Sting, Fatih Evans and 112. Of course as you all know, Sting started his career as the lead singer of The Police, and their single “Every Breath You Take” (which was one of their biggest hits) was sampled by Diddy for “I’ll Be Missing You.”

Diddy started the performance bringing out Sting, with Faith Evans and 112 coming out mid-way through to combine both versions of the song. There wasn’t a single dry eye in the audience that night, and this remains one of the most powerful VMA performances that we’ve seen.

1. Beyoncé- 2011 VMAs

2011 is teetering on the edge when it comes to the “throwback” category, but we had to include this one (especially since we did Jay and Ye earlier). The legend that is Blue Ivy Carter made her unofficial television debut when mom Beyoncé revealed to the world at the end of the performance that she was pregnant. Beyoncé had already walked the red carpet showing off her bump, but since a lot of people don’t watch the red carpet show in its entirety (and social media wasn’t as prominent then), it was still a complete surprise to many. The second best part of this performance by far was Kanye hyping Jay-Z as Bey walked off the stage. 

We’ll that’s it for today. We could probably go all day with these throwbacks, but we hope you enjoyed this list. Be sure to watch the VMAs on Sunday, and while you are here, make you check out The landmark Smithsonian Anthology of Hip-Hop and Rap box set if you haven’t already. The set includes 120 tracks, 9 cds, a 300 page book with 10 essays, extensive track-by-track liner notes, and never-before-published images. You can find out more about the box set here, and learn more about many of your favorite Hip-Hop artists and songs. Perfect for any music fan.

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Culture Music

How Beyoncé’s B’Day Changed The Game

Tomorrow marks Beyoncé’s 40th birthday, and subsequently the 15th anniversary of her beloved album B’Day. Released September 1st, 2006, three days before her 25th birthday, the album remains a fan favorite and was a pivotal chapter in paving the way for a career that will eventually earn her a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (a feat she will see in her 40s). B’Day was also Beyoncé’s first venture into the realm of comprehensive visual projects (something we would see much more of in the years to come) and was accompanied by hit singles and groundbreaking performances. Today we revisit the history of B’Day, and how it set the stage for her following projects.

It all started in the spring of 2006, where Beyoncé was supposed to be taking a break. The then 24-year-old was coming off a busy 2005 where she’d spent the majority of the year touring with bandmates/best friends Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams in what would be Destiny’s Child’s last world tour, while also spending the remaining few months of 2005 and early 2006 filming her role as Deena Jones for her upcoming movie Dreamgirls. Beyoncé’s schedule had been quite hectic during the course of the previous couple of years with not much downtime, so it was decided that there would be an extended break before working on the follow-up to her 2003 debut Dangerously In Love.

Except she didn’t listen.

Inspired by her experiences filming Dreamgirls, Beyoncé was itching to get back into the studio, recording the album behind her father’s (who was her manager at that time) back. During the course of two weeks, Beyonce alongside world-renowned producers such as The Neptunes, Sean Garrett, and Swizz Beats knocked out B’Day primarily at Sony Music Studios in New York City. The album expanded upon Dangerously In Love’ theme of funk-inspired songs with live instrumentation, along with elements of R&B, Pop, and Soul. The album wrapped, and the first single “Déjà Vu” featuring Jay-Z was released in June 2006. Around the same time, Beyoncé held auditions for an all-female band which she named The Suga Mamas. The 2006 BET Awards just happened to be three days away, and it was there that Beyonce performed the single for the first time.

After a legendary performance at BET (which many still regard as being one of her best), Beyoncé began embarking on the pre-promotional tour for the album. I say pre-promotional because long-time Beyonce fans know that back then Beyoncé would go on two tours to fully support her records. The first one would be a promotional campaign in which she would visit different parts of the world to perform singles from the album, give interviews, etc. The second one would be an official world tour which in this case was The Beyoncé Experience World Tour, her first extended tour as a solo artist.

“Ring The Alarm,” the second single, wasn’t officially released until September, but Beyoncé began promotion as early as late July/early August performing the song at the 2006 VMAs on August 31st, 2006. B’Day hit stores on September 4th, with Beyoncé performing a special show in Tokyo to celebrate. The following day the newly turned 25-year-old was back in the States making appearances on TRL and 106 & Park. The campaign continued in the following months coinciding with the upcoming release of Dreamgirls. In October 2006, Beyoncé dropped the single and music video for “Irreplaceable,” one of her most successful songs to date, and performed the track at the 2006 American Music Awards as well as various different shows.

In early December, Beyoncé released “Listen” as the first single from the Dreamgirls soundtrack, and the song would go on to become the defining ballad of the B’Day era in a way similar to the Dangerously In Love title track from her debut. Between Dreamgirls and the album, Beyoncé’s schedule was going to be jam-packed in the months leading up to the start of her tour, but she had her eyes set on an extensive project that would catapult her to yet another level.

Enter the B’Day Anthology Video Album —Beyoncé’s first dive into the world visual realm. Admitting that she was having a hard time figuring out which songs to shoot music videos for next, Beyoncé decided to solve that problem by filming videos for all of the remaining songs on the album. The Anthology Video Album was entirely self-funded (her record label wouldn’t give her the budget to make that many music videos), and due to the tight nature of her schedule, would have to be filmed in….two weeks.

During that two-week period, Beyoncé shot a total of nine (yes nine) music videos, working with various directors including Jake Nava, Melina Matsoukas, Anthony Mandler, and more. Though the video album wasn’t released until April, the videos had to be filmed in late January/early February in order for the mission to be accomplished. In addition to the nine videos they knocked out, Beyoncé also included the music videos for “Déjà Vu,” “Ring The Alarm,” “Irreplaceable,” and “Listen.” The Anthology went on to be certified double platinum in late 2007.

After the video album was done, Beyoncé made an appearance at the 2007 Grammys where she was introduced by Prince (whom she had previously done a duet with at the 2004 Grammys ) to perform “Listen.” Two weeks later she performed a Dreamgirls medley at the Oscars with co-stars Jennifer Hudson and Anika Noni Rose. She would then go on to perform a mini-concert at the 2007 Houston Rodeo and kicked off The Beyoncé Experience tour the following month.

The tour itself had five legs and spanned almost seven months as Beyoncé traveled the globe to put on a show for her many different fans around the world. Later that summer, Beyoncé reunited with Kelly and Michelle at the 2007 BET awards joining together to perform the tracks “Get Me Bodied,” and Kelly’s lead single “Like This” featuring Eve from her album Ms. Kelly. The performance also included an appearance from Solange with all four dancing together at the end.

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The Beyoncé Experience World Tour wrapped in 2007, and shortly after she began working on her third album I Am…Sasha Fierce

In the years since we’ve seen Beyoncé expand the concepts that she first experimented with during the B’Day era. Her surprise 2013 self-titled album was a complete visual effort that was even bigger and better due to Beyoncé’s growth as an artist and the rise of the internet/social media. 2016’s Lemonade is classified as a short film, and her performance at Coachella in 2018 is an example of how she began taking the production of her shows to the next level with The Beyonce Experience.

B’Day was fearless. It was bold. And it will forever have a place in history.

Happy Birthday, Bey.

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Culture Movies/TV

TJ Atoms on Favorite MCs, ‘Wu-Tang: An American Saga,’ and More

Mark Elzey

Ask anyone who’s watched an episode of Wu-Tang: An American Saga and they’ll tell you that TJ Atoms’ role as Ol’ Dirty Bastard is simply surreal. The young rap artist/actor honors the legacy of the fallen Wu-Tang Clan member’s legacy through his commendable acting chops and convincing mannerisms. Before the highly rated documentary drama series returns to Hulu for its second season on September 8th, we made sure to check in with TJ and pick his brain. Join us as we learn about TJ’s childhood spent in Philadelphia, his musical inspirations, and everything it took to master his important role as ODB.

ONE37pm: So I read that you were born and raised in North Philadelphia. What are some of your warmest memories from your time spent there as a child?

TJ Atoms: Some of my warmest memories in North Philly would definitely have to be just me and my homies chilling, laughing, and recording music at our crib we called the “Baked Carlton” – one of my favorite places, it was basically a frat house for kids who didn’t go to college.

ONE37pm: I made sure to do my research and check out the Bakery Boys, which is the Philly hip hop group you helped create. How did that rap collective initially come together?

Atoms: The Bakery Boys started with me and a few homies that skated in the city. At first, we were just recording raps over old-school hip-hop beats we found on YouTube. Then it kind of just took off from there – we started selling out shows around the city and the fanbase grew. This was before Twitter and Instagram really took off. We didn’t even know how to promote our music; we just had a movement.

ONE37pm: Who are some of the MCs that inspired you to pursue rapping back then? And who are some current artists that inspire you to keep making music today?

Atoms: Rappers that inspired me back then were Mobb Deep, Wu-Tang, Tupac, and Nas. I was a real hip-hop head and that’s all I really listened to. Currently, I don’t really have too many rappers or MCs that inspire me. I get inspired by life these days, real-time events, and things that happen in my day to day.

ONE37pm: I went ahead and looked up the music video for August Burns Red’s “Fault Line” and peeped you in there wreaking havoc on that poor car. Take me through the process of you getting cast for that opportunity.

Atoms: I got cast in the August Burns Red video when I was about 18. I was reading this book about quantum leaping and manifesting the life you want at the time, and one day I was just sitting in a park when this woman came up to me and said I had this look she was going for this video she was casting. It ended up being “Fault Line” and that video changed my life. Shout out to August Burns Red for that!

ONE37pm: Your casting credits include some pretty major TV shows, such as Blue Bloods, Orange is the New Black, and Godfather of Harlem. Which TV role would you say was the most challenging thus far?

Atoms: Playing ODB is definitely the most challenging role I have had so far because he was such a presence. He was really hard to imitate.

Mark Elzey

ONE37pm: You’ve gotten rave reviews for your portrayal of Ol’ Dirty Bastard on Wu-Tang: An American Saga. What steps did you take in order to fully embody him onscreen?

Atoms: The steps I took to really embody ODB was studying every clip I could find, talking to anybody who knew him personally, and using what I already knew as a Wu-Tang fan growing up. I watched every clip of ODB I could find on the internet. I even studied his son’s movements just to be super authentic in my delivery!

ONE37pm: Now you know I gotta ask this question – what are your top five favorite Wu-Tang tracks?

Atoms: My top five Wu tracks are “Can It All Be So Simple,” “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing Ta F’ Wit,” “Da Mystery Of Chessboxin’,” “Ice Cream,” and “Shame on A…”

ONE37pm: What has you excited about the second season for Wu-Tang: An American Saga?

Atoms: I’m most excited to see the group finally come together in Season 2. Some people might feel like this is really Season 1 because this is the first time we see the Wu-Tang clan together, making music and performing their hit singles. We get to see how people are supposed to unite for the bigger picture. Wu-Tang Season 2 is about brotherhood, comradery, and unity.

ONE37pm: Your next film project is Fels High opposite Omari Hardwick. How has it been working alongside him?

Atoms: Working with Omari was a learning experience because he’s a real OG in the acting world. He’s really like a teacher on set, helping actors reach their fullest potential in every scene. He’s a very respectable person and I was grateful to have had him a part of that project.

ONE37pm: Thank you for a great interview!

Categories
Culture Music

The Best Drake Albums, Ranked

This Friday (September 3, 2021), the music world will come to a halt for Drake once again when he releases his 6th solo studio album, Certified Lover Boy. It’s his first album since 2018’s Scorpion and has been in the works for years. A couple of months ago, we put together all of the information we had for it, and you can check that out here.

When you have an artist of this magnitude, people will always be split down the middle. His biggest supporters will argue that he’s the best rapper of all time, while his harshest critics call him one of the most overrated. The truth, as it usually is, is somewhere in the middle. Either way, when CLB drops on September 3rd, the world will be tuned in.

For now, before the LP drops in just a couple of days, we thought it would be an excellent time to take a step back and look at all of the projects that led to this point. Below, we’ve ranked every single one of Drake’s albums and mixtapes (and a compilation and a playlist) from worst to best. Let us know what you think about our picks.

12. Room For Improvement

The title of Drake’s first mixtape would end up being slightly prophetic, as so much of his work is. It’s not that Room For Improvement is a bad project per se because it’s not. Some fans swear to this day that he’ll never outdo this era of music. That feels like an exaggeration, though. The raps here are raw and unpolished, and Drake was yet to stand out from the pack with his signature style. This is certainly worth a listen, though, especially ‘City Is Mine’ and his freestyle over Lupe Fiasco’s ‘Kick Push.’

11. Comeback Season

Drake’s second mixtape was in a similar lane to his first, but hints of the superstar that we’d be introduced to a couple of years later were now a little more present. Even if you haven’t sat with the 2007 mixtape from start to finish, you’ve more than likely heard ‘Replacement Girl’ with Trey Songz, which Drake credits as his first time collaborating with a star from the States. Some other guests on here that Hip-Hop heads wish Drake would have collaborated with since, like Phonte, Lil Brother, and Elzhi.

10. Dark Lane Demo Tapes

Throughout the top of 2020, Drake music was leaking very frequently. In a few months, fans had an album’s worth of leaks like ‘Not Around,’ ‘Zodiac Sign’ with Jessie Reyez, and ‘Vital.’ Drake addressed them once on Instagram Live, saying that they were all old.

The leaks ended up giving him the idea of compiling some music that he had sitting around, and the result was Dark Lane Demo Tapes. It gave loosies’ War’ and ‘Desires’ a home, gave us the final versions of ‘Deep Pockets’ and ‘From Florida With Love’ and gave fans the full version of ‘Not You Too’ and ‘Pain 1993’, which fans had been playing snippets of on repeat. The project has some gems on it, namely ‘When To Say When’ and ‘Chicago Freestyle,’ but overall, it falls short of Drake’s standard with official albums and mixtapes, which is why it’s labeled as a compilation on streaming services.

9. What A Time To Be Alive

It’s funny to remember now, but Drake’s joint mixtape with Future originally came about out of spite for Meek Mill. We were fresh off of ‘Charged Up,’ ‘Back To Back,’ and ‘Wanna Know,’ and a few months before it all on The Breakfast Club, Meek named Future as one of the only artists he listens to day-to-day. That was without a doubt a major reason that Drake decided to do What A Time To Be Alive in the first place. He is the self-proclaimed “petty king,” after all.

Naturally, many of Drake’s verses on this are sprinkled with brags about winning the beef and subtle shots, but not enough for the tape to not be relevant and playable in 2021.

The main criticisms of this project are that, at times, it feels more like a Future project with Drake features on it than a 50/50 collaboration. With that being said, ‘Digital Dash’ and ‘Diamonds Dancing’ remain standouts in either’s discography. Both of them made our recent list of the 50 best Drake songs.

8. More Life

More Life isn’t an album. It isn’t a mixtape. It isn’t even a compilation. It’s a playlist. At least, that’s what it was marketed as.

Essentially, there’s not too much difference about it structurally to a tape or compilation project. You could argue that Skepta and Sampha having their own songs on it lends itself to more of a playlist, but Drake also gave Kendrick his own song on Take Care, PARTYNEXTDOOR his own song on If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late and Majid Jordan their own song on Views.

Judging it as a piece of music, there are some great moments on here. Some of them are Drake’s energy on ‘Free Smoke’ and his upgrade from ‘Controlla’ to ‘Blem’ on here. However, the project suffers from the same thing that a couple of other projects on this list did. It’s too damn long. In all honesty, the playlist tag feels more like an excuse for not thinking so much about concepts, transitions, and themes than anything.

7. Thank Me Later

Drake entered the game with his third mixtape, So Far Gone, having an impact like a big album. While that’s the kind of thing artists pray for and fantasize about, it meant that on his actual first album, he had all of the pressures of the infamous sophomore slump.

When you look at the tracklist for Thank Me Later, the first thing you’ll notice is how star-studded it is. JAY-Z, Lil Wayne, T.I., and Alicia Keys make appearances on it, while Timbaland, Kanye West, and No I.D. are some of the producers that the L.P. boasts work from. This was entirely intentional, and it was Drizzy trying to prove to the world that a kid from Canada could not only get features from big names like this but hang with them too.

In terms of sound, TML felt like a transition from the melancholy, atmospheric vibe of So Far Gone, which was later reapproached and mastered on Take Care. It feels like Drake has been thrust into his position as a superstar and doesn’t know what to do with it.

Despite that, it’s a concise project with incredible highs like ‘Shut It Down’ and ‘Light Up.’

6. Scorpion

Until about a month before Scorpion dropped, Drake had done everything right. In response to the idea that he took smaller artists’ songs and jumped on them to take their shine, he did ‘Look Alive’ with BlocBoy JB and did the video with him. He gave away $1 million in the ‘God’s Plan’ video. He put black women on a pedestal for the ‘Nice For What’ visual. But then, the Pusha T beef hit its height.

‘The Story Of Adidon’ put pressure on Drake like we could have never imagined for someone of his magnitude. Scorpion was his answer and a direct one at that.

Somewhat controversially, Drake spent a lot of time of the Rap portion of the album talking about Pusha T and Kanye West. Some felt that it took away from the album, while others argued that it gave the music a fierce edge that was necessary.

All in all, Scorpion could have been a really great album if Drake wasn’t married to the idea of doing a double-disc. There’s just too much fat on it to place any higher on the list.

5. Views

Views is an album that was so critically acclaimed when it dropped that people put a little too much weight on its flaws, perhaps just to be contrarians. The album’s commercial success puts it in a weird space.

Drake has said that the concept of Views is inspired by the weather in Toronto, specifically the extremes of its harsh winters and scorching summers. He told Zane Lowe that the album starts off in the winter, takes us through the summer, and ends again in the winter. That feels a little bit like an afterthought to justify having some moody music and some fun records on the same project.

Either way, Drake’s fourth studio album doesn’t get the credit it deserves for doing what it did for Afrobeats and Dancehall. Whether anyone likes it or not, Drake popularised the genres for a mainstream audience, and Views encapsulates that moment perfectly with songs like ‘One Dance’ and ‘Controlla.’ We’re not sure anyone could blend a handful of genres together more smoothly than this.

4. So Far Gone

For some, as is always the case, the nostalgia of Drake’s 2009 mixtape So Far Gone means that it can never be topped.

With this project, Drake created an aura attached to Hip-Hop and R&B music from Toronto for a decade. As he poetically put it on ‘Say What’s Real,’ it marks the moment that he transitioned “from fitting into standing out.”

There are hard Rap moments like ‘Uptown’ and vulnerable gems like ‘Brand New’, and they live in harmony under the same umbrella.

3. Take Care

Drake’s sophomore album took the ‘contentious relationship with fame’ topics from Thank Me Later and mixed it with the desolation of So Far Gone. The result is the project that shaped Drake’s career and gave us an authentic glimpse of the places he could go as an artist.

Take Care is flawed only by its overly sweet moments like ‘Make Me Proud’ and ‘We’ll Be Fine’ that piece through its ambiance and even feel out of place conceptually. To Drake and 40’s credit, they acknowledged that the album was slightly too long and went out of their way to fix that for Drake’s next album.

When you talk Take Care, The Weeknd’s contribution must always be acknowledged. The singer helped Drake in some of the more ballad moments and gave up some of his own music for the project.

2. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late

Technically a mixtape, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late came at a time when Drake had gone around a year and a half without an album and needed a sort of bridge to the already-announced Views.

Drake had always wanted to lock in with Boi-1da and do a tape full of more aggressive Rap songs, which was the perfect opportunity. We ended up with a cold project that had much more impact than Drake intended or anticipated.

IYRTITL is Drake’s second-best body of work because it’s one of his easiest to play from start to finish, and although it’s evident that part of Drake’s goal with it was to put on banger after banger without giving much thought to transitions or a larger picture, that’s also one of its gifts.

For some, this LP will always be marred by its association with Quentin Miller, but if you’re able to look past his contributions, the 2015 tape is special.

1. Nothing Was The Same

Coming off of Take Care, there was a transition taking place for Drake. He was turning from ‘the leader of the new guys’ to just one of the top rappers, his idols truly becoming his peers and rivals. He was well aware of the perception that he was the #1 rapper on the planet in 2013, and he owned it, no pun intended.

Nothing Was The Same’s title even alludes to the fact, as does a lot of its content. “Fuck all that ‘happy to be here’ shit that y’all want me on, I’m the big homie,” he acknowledges on ‘Paris Morton Music 2’.

It helped that he was coming off of a fight with Chris Brown, and tension with Kendrick Lamar was already building. ‘The Language’ sees Drake dismiss the Compton MC entirely, singing, “I don’t know why they been lying, but your shit is not that inspiring.” He was stepping up to the plate, unapologetically so.

More than anything, NWTS is the project that it felt like Drake and 40 had been trying to make up until that point. The rapper talked about correcting the mistakes of Take Care where two good songs could have been one song and intentionally capping himself to 13 tracks. It paid off.

Categories
Culture Music

A Look at the Fundamentals of “Breaking” With Red Bull

Orlando. The home of Disney World. A place where people dream big and those dreams come true. For some, those dreams are a professional dancing career, and for Red Bull’s 32 BC One Finalists, their biggest wishes came true this past weekend as they competed for an opportunity to have a spot in the Red Bull BC One World Finals taking place this November in Gdansk, Poland. Since we’ve already covered the history of breaking as an art form and the backstory of the B-Girls, we decided to take a closer look at the fundamentals of breaking.

Red Bull
RoxRite

Now we could have just talked to all the legends about what it really takes to be a successful breaker, but since it was the Finals, I figured I would take it a step further by actually trying myself since I am a complete novice (actually lower). This past Friday I met up with Red Bull BC One All Star B-Boy Victor and B-Girl Kate” for a breaking jam session where they tried their best to teach me everything they know. I wasn’t “successful” by any means and you guys will never see that video footage, but they did give some important tips that are super helpful to learning the technical elements of breaking.

Disclaimer: If you are a beginner, we recommend you start off taking a class or connecting with local breakers in your area to ensure you are doing these moves properly and safely.

Red Bull
B-girl Shortbread

B-Boy Victor and B-Girl Kate’s Tips For Success:
  • First things first, you have to get the footwork nailed down. Everything boils down to the basic footwork steps, because it lays the groundwork for all breaking moves. Victor and Kate taught me a crossover step that they described as the modern day Running Man. From there they showed me a series of arm moves that I could mix and match which leads me to their next point.
  • Arms can be what differentiates breaking movements and styles, but it can’t look too technical. Victor and Kate started off counting the arm movements it help me out, but very quickly stressed that the moves should be freestyled as opposed to a “routine”. In general, dance is about your individual personality and what you are feeling. Victor and Kate did taught me the exact same combination, but it looked like two different routines due to their differing styles and personalities.
Red Bull
B-Girl Powerflow
  • Next up, you need to have a little swag. The origins of breaking center back to New York, and breaking is ultimately a street dance art form. Swag comes in the form of movements, expressions, and even your personal fashion. Swag can be what gives you those “ooh and aah” moments from the crowd, which can of course give you extra style points from the judges.

  • By now you’ve probably watched numerous videos of the breakers at their cyphers, so you’ve more than likely seen them hit the ground for various floor moves including kicks, spins, flips, and headstands. Those moves require muscular endurance and core work, which can be achieved through many different ways. Some dancers get their strength from a gymnastics background, light weight training, or even Capoeira like B-Boy legend Neguin.
  • Pick a focal point while doing spins to avoid getting dizzy. Breakers are highly trained and have been doing this for years. Beginners, however, will have to train themselves over time to not get dizzy while doing routines. You can avoid this by picking a specific area to lock in on while spinning. Obviously this takes time to master, but with practice you’ll become a pro at it.
  • Last but not least, you can’t overthink it. Once again this is freestyle breaking, so your moves shouldn’t be over planned. At a certain point I definitely began thinking too much, which Victor and Kate noticed. They pointed out that I’ve done some variations of these moves at one point or another in my life which is true. Some of these steps have been incorporated into classic dances such as the electric side, and as mentioned earlier, Victor and Kate had me start the routine doing the running man to get the footwork down. Don’t over think, just go with the flow!
Red Bull
B-Boy Keebz

So now that you have the basics down, you can start to get in on the breaking action as well. And speaking of getting in on the breaking action, the 2021 Red Bull BC One Matchups are officially set. It was a showdown this past weekend with 16 B-Girls and 16-Boys vying for that coveted Poland spot, but there could only be one winner for each. B-Boy Maurice and B-Girl Isis both took home the trophy. 

2024 Summer Games hopeful b-boy Morris crushed the top 16 b-boy bracket, in addition to eight wildcard invites, ultimately being crowned the Red Bull BC One B-Boy National Champion. Born and raised in Sacramento, CA, Morris Isby has competed around the globe for over two decades. Whether competing solo or alongside crew members, b-boy Morris has maintained his status as a champion competitor, boasting over 120 competitive wins under his belt to date. When he’s not competing or performing, Morris is dedicated to ushering in the next generation of breakers through volunteering and mentorship. He is currently training to compete in the 2024 Paris summer games.

Beating the top 16 b-girls in the country, in addition to eight wildcard competitors, b-girl Isis reigned supreme at the U.S. Red Bull BC One National B-Girl Final. Born in Ecuador, now based in Kissimmee, Florida, Isis Alexandra Granda has danced her whole life. Upon discovering breaking while training ballet and contemporary styles, Isis fell in love with the style of dance and has been breaking for eight years. She currently represents The Last Freestylers Crew.

You can re-watch the B-Girl National Final below.

And you can find the B-Boy National Final here as well.

In the meantime we’ll be keeping you posted on updates between now and the World Finals in November. 

Categories
Culture Music

Hip-Hop Legend Nas Announces Partnership With Escobar Cigars

The Hip-Hop industry was gifted with the emergence of a lyrical genius during the 1990s; a man who goes by the name of Nasir Jones, aka, “Nas”. Nas was one of many hip-hop legends whose careers began in the 90s, but the Queensbridge native was truly one of a kind. He began his career by dropping one of the greatest albums of all time, Illmatic, and hasn’t slowed down since.

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Nas

Nas is already recognized as a hip-hop legend for his countless albums and hit singles, some of which are highlighted by his first full-length album, the aforementioned Illmatic. His albums It was Written and Stillmatic each hit #1 on the R&B charts during 1996 and 2001.

It Was Written featured the likes of Lauryn Hill, Mobb Deep, Dr. Dre, and Foxy Brown, which epitomizes the rapper’s knack for collaboration with other elite artists. Major crossover singles including “Nas Is Coming” and “If I Ruled the World” helped that album go double platinum during the mid-1990s.

In addition to being one of the greatest artists of all time, Nas is also widely renowned for his business acumen. The legendary rapper is now adding to his list of entrepreneurial accomplishments.

Today, premium Nicaraguan cigar maker Escobar Cigars is announcing an exciting new partnership with Nas, who will serve as the brand’s co-owner and equity partner. ​​

Nas is thrilled to combine his passion for cigars by partnering with Escobar and helping to take them to the next level with its redesigned website and updated product packaging, making it the ultimate cigar smoking experience. As Nas states in his song, Nas Is Good on his newly released fourteenth album Kings Disease II, “It’s Escobar season.” 

If you are wondering how to get in on the action of trying out Escobar, you can check out their natural & Maduro sampler boxes priced at $67.25. 

We got the opportunity to ask Nas about this deal and what it means to him, and here’s what he had to say:

“When the team at Escobar Cigars initially approached me, I was immediately drawn to the brand by the exceptional quality of their product, from the craftsmanship to the enjoyable smoking experience. Of course, the name instantly stood out to me as well since Escobar is an alias I’ve been going by throughout my career. It was full circle to hear that the name was inspired partially by my persona and entrepreneurial spirit, so a match was made in heaven. Working with the team has been a great experience, and I’m looking forward to innovating the cigar space and adding my personal touch to the brand.”

Be on the lookout for the latest updates from Nas and Escobar.  

Categories
Culture Music

The 52 Best Drake Features

Who’s the first rapper/singer you think of when the phrase “HE DON’T MISS!” comes to mind? It can be no one other than Toronto, Canada’s very own Drake. The man went from starring in the lowkey fire series Degrassi: The Next Generation to blossoming into one of the biggest stars in all of music. Everyone knows that when you get a feature from the “Champagne Papi” himself, that song will most likely rocket up the charts and become an even better listen because of it. There’s a seemingly endless lineup of tracks that feature a memorable “Drizzy Drake” feature, but we managed to shorten that list down to 52. So without further ado, here are the very best Drake features of all time.

1. ‘Stay Schemin’ with Rick Ross and French Montana

Drake came ready for war as he arrived with plenty of lyrical ammunition for his haters. He especially had a whole lot of energy for Common, who he was beefing with at the time. Drake’s verse on here is extra combative, which is just how we like it. Rick Ross’ Kobe adlib and Drake’s furious vitriol for his adversaries easily make this track an unforgettable banger.

2. ‘Amen’ with Meek Mill

This pre-Meek Mill and Drake beef recorded track flips a familiar Sunday Service tune. And it still slaps to this very day. Drake provided this song with a verse that’s all about the many blessings afforded to him and his loved ones. He also provided a bit of his signature shit-talking with one of the best lines of the song – “Talking bout these other rappers getting old is even getting old.”

3. ‘No Guidance’ with Chris Brown

For some reason, Drake has a penchant for recording some really good music with artists he once hated. After patching things up, he and Chris Brown decided to hop in the studio and provide this sultry R&B tune. The video makes this song even better, by the way! Anyway, Drake taps into his sing-songy vibes as he lovingly describes a special lady in his life that definitely “got it.”

4. ‘Going Bad’ with Meek Mill

This song arrived after Meek Mill and Drake’s beef got left to the wayside. The grown men talk on this tune is inspiring and so is the video that has a bunch of powerful figures in it suited up to perfection. Both rappers flex their mass success here and provide verses full of poignant lines. Drake’s braggadocious style matches the tone of this track wonderfully as he goes “I got more slaps than The Beatles (Beatles)/Foreign shit runnin’ on diesel, dawg/Playin’ with my name, this shit is lethal, dawg.”

5. ‘Work’ with Rihanna

Drake’s undying affection for Ri-Ri comes through every time the both of them are onscreen. While the lovable songstress sings about wanting a deeper connection with her love interest, Drake is only interested in the types of activities that happen underneath the sheets. His verse immaculately breaks down those sentiments and showcases the immense chemistry that both artists have developed over the years.

6. ‘Aston Martin Music’ with Rick Ross and Chrisette Michele

The smoother the track, the better whenever Rick Ross and Drake link up. The name of this track is pretty much directions as it’s letting the listener know that it’s perfect for a two-seater with your current lady. Drake does double duty here as he provides a smooth hook alongside Chrisette Michele and a verse that’s still one of his very best. “I never threw away that paper with my Grammy speech/Because I haven’t hit the pinnacles I plan to reach.” How prophetic.

7. ‘Moment 4 Life’ with Nicki Minaj

Young Money era Drake was and still is a whole vibe. You can tell the man was hungry and always ready to show the world how much of a prime lyricist he could be. On this Nicki Minaj-helmed hit single, Drake delivered a celebratory verse that showed love to his team and the man that brought him into the game. And remember, folks – ‘Cause everybody dies, but not everybody lives.” Now that’s a quotable to live by!

8. ‘Seeing Green’ with Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne

You can never go wrong when this Young Money/Cash Money trio goes bar for bar on the very same song. In the case of this song, Drake easily stood out as the person with the best verse of ‘em all. What we get from a more seasoned version of Drake here are some major boasts about his career and his riches, plus a fun lil’ verbal break beforehand that produces a line worth living by – “You know, one of the perils of makin’ money is you can afford to be dramatic.” FIRE!

9. ‘Forever’ with Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and Eminem

Do you know what’s funny? No one can probably tell you the name of the documentary this song is meant for, but they can damn sure tell you the whole lineup of MCs featured on it. Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and Eminem all came through with incredible verses. And thankfully, so did Drake. Alongside his lyrical workout, Drake also provided a chorus that has the power to inspire anyone to pursue their dreams.

10. ‘Believe Me’ with Lil Wayne

Lil Wayne and Drake usually come together like a championship tag team and dominate any track they hop on. On this early cut featuring the two, Drizzy Drake spoke on the immense potential he showed during his start in the industry and his proud mentor. His masterful verse truly embodies his love for Wayne and how much of a loyal YMCMB soldier he was always willing to be.

11. ‘BedRock’ with Young Money

The late 2000s run of Young Money is the stuff of legend. Lil Wayne signed a bunch of promising artists that started strong as a collective. Their opening salvo of posse cuts was certainly radio-friendly and catchy as all hell. This lovey-dovey single let Drake rap about his special someone with a short and sweet verse that matched the vibes of everyone featured on it.

12. ‘Poetic Justice’ with Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar’s first album is considered a classic and for good reason – it tells the story of Kendrick’s California upbringing via strong production, great features, and K-Dot’s immense lyrical skill. When it came time to speak to the ladies on that album, Drake arrived with a very worthwhile assist. Anytime Drake drops a bunch of fly lines about his latest female infatuation, you know it’s gonna be a good time. And that’s definitely the case here.

13. ‘F**kin’ Problems’ with A$AP Rocky, 2 Chainz, and Kendrick Lamar

Do you guys wanna talk about a great all-star hip-hop cut? Then you gotta mention this fun-loving ode to stunting with a vengeance and having an addiction to the finest of ladies. Drake stepped up to the plate to deliver a home run of a verse that saw him take aim at his rivals and make it clear that he’s willing to “upgrade” his main squeeze at any cost. “I will pay to make it bigger, I don’t pay for no reduction.”

14. ‘Walk It Talk It’ with Migos

The Soul Train vibes that were on full display in the music video for this track truly bring it to life. And once Drake joins the famous “Soul Train Line” to show off his fly footwork, hilarity ensues. But his verse is no laughing matter – Drake provides some momentous bars about ignoring needless beefs, vibing with the Migos, and always staying in his zone.

15. ‘No Frauds’ with Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne

The Three GOATs of YMCMB came together once again here and produced quite the lyrical assault. Nicki Minaj takes aim at Remy Ma, while Lil Wayne and Drake speak on the highs & lows of their respective careers. Once again, Drake takes MVP honors via his game-winning verse. When someone literally describes the sound of their net worth, you can’t help but feel every bit of that grand proclamation.

16. ‘Sicko Mode’ with Travis Scott

The opening salvo unleashed by Drake here clues you into just how legendary this track will be. The main star featured on this banger gets plenty of time to enter into a higher form of excellence, of course. But Drake gets to slide over two fire instrumentals and damn near take the song for his own. You’ll be left wanting a full version of the beat held up by Drake at the very start of this song every time. But at least you’ll still leave satisfied thanks to his second verse. Never forget, folks – “Checks over Stripes.”

17. ‘Every Girl’ with Young Money

In retrospect, this song has some facepalm-worthy cornball lyrics. Luckily, that’s not the case when Drake pulls up to provide his flirtatious second verse. Young Drizzy harps on his special lady having trouble fitting her immense exterior into some jeans, all the ladies he’s forgotten the names of, and asks a very important question – “Are any of y’all into girls like I am? Les-be-honest!”

18. ‘Pop That’ with French Montana, Rick Ross, and Lil Wayne

French Montana knows just who to call when it’s time to produce a track that will dominate the clubs and get a dizzying amount of radio plays. Uncle Luke’s “I Wanna Rock” lays the foundation for this twerking anthem and gives French, Ricky Rozay, Weezy F. Baby, and Drizzy Drake the perfect opportunity to spit some party-friendly bars. Drake’s verse easily commanded the most attention and showcased his swaggiest persona to date, which is “Champagne Papi.”

19. ‘Blessings’ with Big Sean and Kanye West

Gratitude should always be your best attitude. That’s clearly the motto here when Big Sean, Kanye West, and Drake come together for a song that counts their many blessings. Drake makes it clear that he and his crew on this song aren’t making a return & never left, plus he eloquently speaks on those failed individuals that don’t do a whole lot but sure have a lot to say. When he said “I am just worried ‘bout my mama worrying less,” we definitely felt that!

20. ‘Who Do You Love?’ with YG

When Drake links up with West Coast rap artists, greatness ensues. He and YG came together like Voltron here to speak on the immense clout they both possess. Once YG gets done flaunting his power, Drake follows up by doing the same via a fire verse. His whole “too big” diatribe still sticks out in our mind for all the right reasons – “And my name too big and my gang too big/Young Money shit, me and Lil Wayne too big/I’ma crush that ass even if it ain’t too big/I would pinky swear but my pinky ring too big.”

21. ‘No New Friends’ with Lil Wayne and Rick Ross

“No new friends, no new friends/No New friends, no, no new.” That single quotable had everyone and their grandmother screaming it out and living by it through the spring and summer months of 2013. Drake provided that life-changing line, but he also made sure to supply this DJ Khaled-helmed anthem with a memorable verse. That familiar OVO Sound came through heavy here thanks to Drake’s short yet sweet lyrical exercise. “F**k her on the floor ‘fore we make it to the bed/That’s what yo’ ass really call started from the bottom.” Well damn, Drake!

22. ‘What’s My Name?’ with Rihanna

Do you know what the world needs right about now? More Rihanna and Drake songs. If we’re going to get any closer to world peace, then they both need to head into the studio and record another ode to love together. Songs like this one are proof that their musical chemistry is undeniable. The way he mentions a mathematical equation and immediately segues into some flirty bars on this song is nothing short of amazing.

23. ‘Un-Thinkable (I’m Ready)’ (Remix) with Alicia Keys

Drake arrived on this Alicia Keys gem to give us the best of both worlds, which is his lyrical dexterity and his soft-spoken singing. His bars about fearing a life where he hasn’t met that special one, searching for a woman with substance, and doing the unthinkable for that special lady still resonates years after he spit them. And his soulful vocals alongside Alicia sound oh so wonderful.

24. ‘Love Me’ with Lil’ Wayne and Future

As long as the ladies in these three men’s lives love them, then there’s simply nothing else to care about in this world. That message comes across loud and clear thanks to the combined efforts of this three-man superteam. Drake helps magnify this track’s catchy chorus by joining in alongside Future, which was an early glimpse into the magic both men would eventually create years later.

25. ‘Family Feud’ with Lil Wayne

When Drake starts going in on this track, he speaks on all the biggest issues and feuds that went on at the time. As a very topical song, this remix of the quality Jay-Z original proves to be an incredible lyrical time capsule. Drake makes it clear that solutions need to be made in order to prosper, but things can still be handled on wax if the situation calls for it. Lil Wayne’s verse is equally amazing here, by the way.

26. ‘Versace’ (Remix) with Migos

Drake slid right into the all-powerful Migos flow as if it was always embedded into his rapper DNA. It’s impressive how much he manages to sound like the fourth unofficial member of the Atlanta trio. “I’m tryna give Halle Berry a baby and no one can stop me (smash!)” Drake verses and Migos ad-libs go together like fine wine and aged cheese. We need more collabs like this ASAP!

Honorable Mentions
27. ‘No Lie’ with 2 Chainz

28. ‘Shit’ with Future and Juicy J

29. ‘Gold Roses’ with Rick Ross

30. ‘Used to This’ with Future

31. ‘Where Ya At’ with Future

32. ‘Truffle Butter’ with Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne

33. ‘Girls Need Love’ (Remix) with Summer Walker

34. ‘Come Closer’ with WizKid

35. ‘No Stylist’ with French Montana

36. ‘Oprah’s Bank Account’ with Lil Yachty and DaBaby

37. ‘Look Alive’ with BlockBoy JB

38. ‘Never Recover’ with Lil Baby and Gunna

39. ‘Big Amount’ with 2 Chainz

40. ‘Both’ with Gucci Mane

41. ‘Yes Indeed’ with Lil Baby

42. ‘I’m On One’ with DJ Khaled, Lil Wayne, and Rick Ross

43. ‘Having Our Way’ with Migos

44. ‘100’ with The Game

45. ‘Life is Good’ with Future

46. ‘Say Something’ with Timbaland

47. ‘Mine’ with Beyonce

48. ‘Recognize’ with PARTYNEXTDOOR

49. ‘Money to Blow’ with Birdman and Lil Wayne

50. ‘Only You (Freestyle)’ with Headie One

51. ‘Tuesday’ with iLoveMakonnen

52. ‘No Complaints’ with Offset

Categories
Culture Music

Everything We Know About Drake’s Manager Oliver El-Khatib

Behind every great artist is an equally great manager. Having an excellent manager is essential to an artist (especially in the early stages of their career when they are building a name for themselves), and can arguably be a make or break component to success. Every musician has one, including Drake, and today we are looking at OVO founder Oliver El-Khatib. Not much is known about El-Khatib as he lives a private life and prefers for the spotlight to be focused on his artists, but here is what we do know. 

According to a Billboard article written by Karen Bliss in June 2014, the Toronto-bred mastermind grew up heavily inspired by skateboarding and highly influenced by music. El-Khatib was involved with a DJ crew called the Lebanon Dons, where he eventually met OVO co-founder and producer Noah “40” Shebib. According to Bliss, El-Khatib was more interested in having a career in the fashion industry at that time, taking a volunteer position at the local clothing store Lounge.

Lounge just happened to be across the street from the famed tv-show MuchMusic, and the store turned into something of a cultural landmark where you could find the latest urban fashion and apparel. While El-Khatib hasn’t discussed his time at Lounge in-depth, one can only assume that he was meeting and forming connections with different musicians and celebrities. MuchMusic is basically the Canadian version of TRL. Many famous artists such as Jay-Z, Prince, Beyonce have stopped by over the years to perform their latest releases and give interviews. 

As time went by, Lounge became one of the most talked-about fashion stores in the Toronto area, and it was there that El-Khatib met another young prodigy by the name of Drake. Now it’s unclear exactly when the two met in terms of a specific date or year, and since the Toronto scene is a small world, they could have very well known each other in passing before officially becoming friends and business partners. What we do know, however, is that they started working together in 2012, joining forces to create OVO Media.

As far as the other powerhouses that he works and collaborates with at OVO, Lebanon Dons, and Noah “40” Shebib, El-Khatib met them through Lounge and hanging out with Drake. El-Khatib, Lebanon Dons, and Drake experienced instant success upon launching OVO Media, with El-Khatib putting the emphasis on authenticity and representing Toronto to the fullest.

According to a 2016 GQ piece written by Mark Anthony Green, it wasn’t unfamiliar to see Toronto men taking on a “New York persona,” and they both decided to separate themselves by going in the opposite direction. El-Khatib told Green, “Instead of downplaying the pinched Canadian accents, the snow boots and down parkas, and the local West Indian influences, they doubled down on them. We took the flaws and flipped it. We Eminem’d it.”

That decision wound up working in their favorite big time. When you think of Toronto, you automatically think of Drake. When the Toronto Raptors won the championship in 2019, Drake was infamously on the sideline getting chastised by the referees for being in the way during the games and kept the Larry O’ Brien trophy in his possession for a few days (he was also front in the center and the parade). OVO Fest has become a widely anticipated music festival that features some of the world’s biggest music stars, and in short, Drake has put Toronto on the map in a way like no other. 

So what else does El-Khatib work on when he isn’t managing and securing multi-million dollar deals and partnerships? Well, he works on music too. In December 2019, El-Khatib put out a 50-minute mixtape called EL-KUUMBA TAPE VOL 1 which featured Drake on the track “War.” The tape also included features with Lil Uzi Vert, Roddy Rich, and more.

At the moment it’s still unclear what Drake and El-Khatib have up their sleeve for the remainder of 2021. The artist released the Scary Hours 2 EP this past March which featured collaborations from Rick Ross and Lil Baby and has been teasing his new album Certified Lover Boy for close to a year. These two move in silence, so the release will likely be a surprise. In the meantime, we will all be waiting.