Menu

“Rappers, I monkey flip 'em with the funky rhythm I be kickin' / Musician inflictin' composition of pain” — Nas (1994)

A personal love for The Notorious B.I.G.'s "My Downfall"

When debates arise about the best song from The Notorious B.I.G. many will pinpoint to “Juicy” for the superior storytelling skills and its mainstream breakthrough. Some will say it’s “Big Poppa” for establishing one of his many monikers. Others will argue “Hypnotize” for its addictive chorus and being his first to go No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100. For me, it's "My Downfall" from Life After Death, the greatest album from the G.O.A.T.
Read More

Street Analysis

Articles on why moments and figures in hip-hop are important to the culture and society at large. 

Read Article

From DeFord Bailey to Ray Charles to Solange: The Long Lineage of Black Artists Making Country Music Pop

As a genre stemming from an alchemy of blues and folk, country music has a storied history in Black art spaces. Despite this presence often being erased, cast away, or discredited, from the 1920s to 2019, Black artists have been the one’s pioneering and preserving country music, and that impact can be seen through its traverse influence over art from across genres and generations.

Read Article

On Post Malone being a "rapper," and why genres still matter to music

Last week, music industry source HITS Daily Double interviewed Post Malone and discussed the upcoming Grammy season. Post seems like a guaranteed frontrunner considering his massively successful run with beerbongs & bentleys on streaming, radio, and the Billboard charts. However, genres are not meant to place artists in boxes. So it’s understandable when a genre debate does reach that point, where an artist can be frustrated. However, artists should be more proud of recognizing what forms their music take in relation to hip hop (and all its subgenres), rock (and all its subgenres), R&B, or pop—just to name a few.

Read Article

Charting Black Excellence | Rihanna & the Super Bowl's declining power

For a while, Rihanna as the headliner of one of the world’s most annually viewed television performances seemed like a no brainer, especially considering the magnitude of her career in the past 13-14 years. Rihanna would have had one of the most unpredictable set lists based on the infinite number of global-spanning hits in her discography. There’s also the notion of Rihanna being one of the only female pop artists of excellence from the 2000s that still hasn’t graced the Pepsi-sponsored stage. And when #R9 is released, all of her respective navy members will most likely be championing her on a worldwide tour, if she so chooses to have one. So, the last thing on her mind is catering to the NFL’s bullshit for a brief 15-minute set.

Read Article

Charting Black Excellence | Why Migos’ AMAs win in a pop category makes sense

As awards season continues, the music industry is simultaneously recalculating what is considered “pop music.” It's a debate that’s persisted in recent years, extending beyond decades, since the conception of charts and radio programming. Migos’ victory on Tuesday, Oct. 9 at the American Music Awards highlighted just how far these conversations are going in award shows' nomination committees. And somehow, the trio’s classification as pop confused some, but also addressed a reality.

Read Article

Beyoncé and JAY-Z's 'On The Run II Tour' stop in Vancouver was full of lessons

For the past 11 days, I embarked on my first journey through the west coast of the U.S. Since the Carters announced their "On The Run II Tour," I had the bright idea to see them outside of my home base of New York City. Recently, I developed a new hobby of attending concerts in different cities because I was somewhat tired of the same event humdrum the Big Apple had to offer. I thought Vancouver would be the perfect location to witness the royal American music couple, while simultaneously immersing myself in foreign culture. What originally had been an excuse to finally vacation in Canada expanded into a more grand musical journey.

Read Article

Why Lil Wayne and Swizz Beatz's "Uproar" is a meaningful single for the culture

Cue up the Diddy voice 'cause, “let’s go!!!” That’s just how fire Lil Wayne’s “Uproar” is. Coming in at the fourth track of his Tha Carter V, “Uproar” stands ready to rumble. It’s a warning and (simultaneous) call-to-arms to the haters of Weezy—or his doubters, if you will—as he continuously asks throughout the track “What the fuck though? Where the love go?” Simply put, “Uproar” has the potential to be an anthem tailored for the streets.

Read Article

Charting Black Excellence | Cardi B's three No. 1's & her genuine love for female hip-hop

Exactly a year ago (Sept. 24), Cardi B's debut lead single "Bodak Yellow" reached No. 1 on the Hot 100. It had been 19 years since a woman earned that accomplishment by herself, without guests, standing on her own grounds. Now, Cardi B has three No. 1 singles thanks to Maroon 5's "Girls Like You." Through earning these accomplishments, here's how she paid homage to the women in rap that preceeded her reign.

Read Article

How Cardi B Achieved Stardom as an Old-School Hitmaker for New-School Hip-Hop

Over the new jack swing beat of Bruno Mars’ “Finesse (Remix),” Cardi B brags a pinnacle truth of her fresh career: “Bossed up and I changed the game.” It's an accurate descriptor for someone whose debut single topped the Billboard Hot 100 -- a first for a solo female rapper since 1998 -- and now sits alongside two other hits with her name on them in the top 10 simultaneously, placing Cardi in an elite club.The hip-hop underdog is now living the dream as the people’s champ.

Read Article

This Black Music Month, Kanye West and G.O.O.D. Music reset the gears of hip-hop

This June of G.O.O.D. Music Fridays was meant for the contrarians, which might have been the point of all Kanye West's publicity stunts leading up. Lately, fans of various artists have been finding themselves questioning the extent of their investment in music— from the "Mute R. Kelly" movement to the recent murder of XXXtentacion to participating in Drake's #ScorpionListeningParty knowing "you are hiding a child." Idols have transformed into false role models for some, and who you listen to in your personal music library has now become the new "what you do behind closed doors."

Read Article

The Importance of JAY Z's 'Smile' & Its Progression of LGBTQ Politics In Hip-Hop

In the first verse of “Smile” -- the third track off JAY Z's critically acclaimed album 4:44 -- a reflective JAY-Z raps “Mama had four kids, but she's a lesbian/ Had to pretend so long that she's a thespian/ Had to hide in the closet, so she medicate.” Backed by a chopped and screwed sample of Stevie Wonder’s 1976 Key of Life cut “Love’s In Need of Love Today,” the rapper continues, revealing his mother’s narrative: “Society shame and the pain was too much to take/ Cried tears of joy when you fe

Read Article

It's been five years, and no one has truly lived up to Kendrick Lamar's "Control" verse yet

If hip-hop had a timeline of milestone dates that placed the game in disarray, it would have to include August 14, 2013. If hip-hop had a list of lyrical giants that shook the table, then give that crown to Kendrick Lamar. If today's hip-hop needs to find a way back to the real competitive nature that first built this genre, they've got to start following the example of his "Control" verse.

Read Article

Why Nas' "Not For Radio" deserved more recognition this summer

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company. As summer officially winds down and seasonal recaps start to finalize, I feel the need to express gratitude to Nas—who also celebrates his birthday today (September 14)—for making "Not For Radio" the opener of NASIR. It's the regal attitude of "Not For Radio" that makes it stand out as one of summer's best.

Read Article

A Rap Playbook: 26 great examples of lyrical wordplay

Wordplay: The sport of a wordsmith. In hip-hop, the greatest rappers to have ever touched a mic and spit their truth have dabbled in this art. Some have done it more smoothly than others, who—in their own right—have made the obvious a bit more clear. Wordplay can come about in a multitude of directions, but the overall goal is to execute a pun or pop culture reference through word alterations and the flipping of meanings. A few methods include: internal rhyme schemes; varying pronunciations; synonyms; synonyms juxtaposed by antonyms; syllable breakdowns; double, triple, and even quadruple entendres; and spelling.

Read Article

Lil' Kim Did It First: The multiple personas existing in hip hop's Queen Bee

When discussing Kimberly Denise Jones' influential role as the de facto blueprint for her commercial successors in female hip hop, most get the basics right.Lil' Kim's legacy has brought the rap game an archetype of the "acquisitive gangstress"—a woman willing to ride or die for all the things she cherishes and loves. Interestingly enough, Lil' Kim barely receives sufficient credit for navigating the multiple personalities she's invented and introduced throughout her discography, proving that Lil' Kim had been lightyears ahead on yet another trend.

Read Article

A personal love for The Notorious B.I.G.'s "My Downfall"

When debates arise about the best song from The Notorious B.I.G. many will pinpoint to “Juicy” for the superior storytelling skills and its mainstream breakthrough. Some will say it’s “Big Poppa” for establishing one of his many monikers. Others will argue “Hypnotize” for its addictive chorus and being his first to go No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100. For me, it's "My Downfall" from Life After Death, the greatest album from the G.O.A.T.

Read Article

Tee Grizzley Talks Chart Success and Inspiration of 'First Day Out': 'Rap Was All I Had'

Detroit native Tee Grizzley released his latest hit "First Day Out" on his debut mixtape My Moment, which arrived in April. The chart-climbing track marked the rapper's Hot 100 debut, where it currently sits at No. 67, and has also risen up the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, Rap Airplay and R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay charts. Tee spoke with Billboard about what inspired the personal lyrics to his song, who he would love to collaborate with and more.

Load More Articles

Album Reviews

Throwback revisits and current analysis. 

Read Article

Revisiting how T.I.'s 'Paper Trail' made him the kingpin of the mainstream

On September 30, 2008, the world would receive T.I.’s sixth studio album, Paper Trail. While serving a house arrest and awaiting his one-year sentence (after pleading guilty to possessing illegal firearms as a previously convicted felon), T.I. crafted the lyrics and album's concept. Of course, Paper Trail would mark a brief going-away party of sorts, but it also solidified Clifford Harris as the King of Trap he claimed to be since his second album, 2003’s Trap Muzik.

Read Article

Why the best components of Drake's 'Scorpion' are his Quiet Storm moments

At the end of "After Dark" on the R&B side of Drake's double-volumed Scorpion, the song concludes with a radio aircheck of disc jockey Al Wood from Buffalo's 93.7 WBLK. From the 90s into the aughts, Wood hosted the station's quiet storm program on weeknights—spinning records from Hall & Oates, Troop, Fantasia, Chaka Khan, Jill Scott, and Luther Vandross, all the artists he name-drops in the outro. His silky smooth voice promises four hours of relaxation, warmth, and safety to those listening.

Read Article

Revisiting how Jeezy's 'The Recession' brought hood politics to the forefront of trap music

When conversations take place about who the Kings of hip-hop are—particularly of those starting in the 21st century—Jeezy rarely gets his full props, more so regarded as a footnote. As one of the leading emcees that defined southern hip-hop and trap music as we know it today, Jay Wayne Jenkins—who used to have a “Young” modifier at the beginning of his rap name—continued his hustla statement, providing the game his third studio album, The Recession, on September 2, 2008.

Close