G.E.M.

Every genre of art has an outstanding time period of artistic expression that inspires generations and shapes the culture. This movement carries on the tradition of creating masterpieces that will surpass lifetimes. In this moment... It's Golden Era Y'all. 

Ready to Die

I always like to be honest and frank with people. It’s the way I was raised. That's not to say I’m cold and unfeeling. I have a soul and to those close loved ones, I show it. Same comes to my tastes in music and the albums I hold up as personal classics. Some are instant. You just know from that first moment you’re gonna cherish this album until the day you take that last breath. Some take time to reach that status of personal classic. That’s how I view Biggie’s Ready To Die. 

Back in the early 90’s, I was a serious kid who loved the sounds of A Tribe Called Quest, Black Moon, Erick Sermon and the Wu-Tang Clan. I liked my music in all forms, but it had to be honest. Tribe made me think, Black Moon got me hyped, Erick showed me the P-Funk, and Wu brought the ruckus. I wasn’t really down with any smooth shit. You wouldn't get me bumping R&B back then. It was wack to my teenage self. 

I’d been reading about Biggie Smalls in the magazines. He was a big dude. He seemed real hood, a grimy dude who had a bugged look. I felt sure he’d be making the kind of music I wanted to bump. Hardcore rap was dangerous and alluring. He appeared to tick those boxes. I heard his first official single “Party & Bullshit” on the “Who’s The Man?” soundtrack. It blew my mind. It was such a big song. It had an ill beat and Biggie ripped it. He was funny, street and charismatic with a dope flow. I had high hopes. I wanted to hear a full length album. If that song was the benchmark then I was sold. In the run up to '94 and his debut album, Ready to Die, Biggie appeared on several joints for a variety of artists. He was making a name for himself, or more importantly, his management was. 

I was getting amped for the release. I’d seen the adverts in The Source. The artwork and design was impressive to my young eyes. It was building the excitement I was feeling. I was desperate to own a copy of Ready To Die. I felt so sure it was going to be a personal classic of the instant kind. How could it not be? I was well learned in the rap fan world with an ear for quality and sense of pride that I knew a banger from a dud. Biggie wouldn’t let me down. Sadly, on my first impression he did. "One More Chance," "Juicy," and "Big Poppa" were the offending songs to my ears. The disappointment was real to the 14 year old me. I was mortified that someone as raw as Big had ‘pop radio records’ on his album. As I sit back now as a 36 year old man, I understand it more. For the album to sell to a mainstream audience sometimes you have to hook them in with a sound that’s smoother and less jarring to the senses. In those 3 songs you have that. Each is lyrically strong. I can’t front on that. Biggie had a serious knack for captivating his listener with his distinct voice and approach. I guess my young ears weren’t ready for such things. For me, I wanted the Biggie Smalls of “Gimmie The Loot”. The way he flipped it so you thought it was 2 MC’s can only be described as incredible. It captivated me. 

For months, I skipped past the tracks that offended me, I denied their existence. That only changed because one day my mum asked me about the album with the cute baby on the cover. She’d seen it in my room and thought it was a great picture. I listened to many albums with her over my teenage years. She loved Gang Starr and others. She knew samples as well which was so cool to me. We had that kind of bond. This presented me with a difficult situation. Mum didn’t skip songs. She wanted to hear the full body of work. No exceptions. 

We sat down and I pressed play. I avoided those 3 ‘pop records’ for months. I had to confront my enemies head on. I braced for impact.  I watched intently while she listened. I searched for the signs of enjoyment or displeasure that she expressed in the past. She was into it, there was no doubt. She told me that it was like a journey on record, from a painful beginning to a sad and untimely death. She broke it down. It exposed the struggle of being a product of an unforgiving environment. It was also a glimpse of the high times that success and riches can bring. I remember her telling me it was storytelling. Mum always said that albums are an extension of the artist. It’s their chance to tell us a vivid story, to give us insight into a wider world. After that, I looked at Ready to Die differently. It finally made sense. I treated it like a book. I would go back to read over and over. 

So on this march 9th, dig it out your collection and hit play. Let the music breath. Don't skip tracks. Pay your respects to Big Poppa.

The [M]usic [P]roducer [C]haundon

We all hear sounds in a variety of ways. From the traffic outside our windows as people go about their daily grind, to the tranquility of nature with it’s distant sounds of bird calls and humming insects providing a fuzzy bass line. 

Sound is all around us. It encompasses us with a soundtrack of its own making. Sometimes we can hear it clearer than others, as if we are in tune with the universe a little better than the next person. I often wonder how many others truly feel that way. I can’t be alone in that experience. Many people must share such a vibe. 

Familiar sounds create and trigger emotional responses and ease our troubled souls. They comfort us like a well loved record does. I can transport to another world. For me, the noise of my environment and the records I love inspire my writing. That is a true connection.  

So what happens when both those elements connect with you on another deeper perhaps more profound level? What do you do with that new found creative energy? Do you let it go to waste or do you channel it into a new and exciting direction? What happens when your ears react to the sonics coming from the speaker in such a way that you want to reinvent them from something that's already been made? We can call it a producer's ear.  A gift for the evolution of art as we know it.  That’s what Chaundon has. 

The past influences the future. Chaundon has THAT ear for being a sonic architect. He understands and respects what has come before and how it can shape tomorrow. Old records chopped, truncated and sampled made new and fresh. Rhythms long ignored, unearthed from dusty grooves, to live and breathe again for a whole new audience. 

A golden era is defined at different points or junctures in history. We know this to be true. But who’s to say that every era can’t be golden? Who can tell us that it was better before than it is now? Chaundon doesn't believe that. In his eyes, now is a golden era. His soundscapes capture that sentiment. They give us a range of emotions. We live in a confused, and at times dark, world where social injustice could swallow us whole. We need the sunlight to breakthrough and shine. That’s what music can do for us. That’s what Chaundon wants. He wants us to all embrace a new golden era.

Digital vs Physical

We live in a digital age. Theres no escaping it, people. The majority of what we desire and want is a mere click away. We no longer have to get off our butts to shop. In my case, that directly applies to the music I buy. Be it a digital download or physical product from a website, it’s all done by clicking. Is that a good thing though? I can see the merits to both, honestly I can. If I want a song right away, I can fire up iTunes, type in the title or artist, and up it pops. Boom. Done. It's mine. Is that satisfying? 

It feels a little soulless but in the end I’m getting what I want. Maybe it’s a generational thing. I’m not against digital downloads at all. I like the ease of it. It’s cool to know if an album drops at midnight, I can get up for work, fire up the macbook or iPhone, get clicking, and its done. I’m rocking something new on my commute. I guess that, in its own way, is satisfying. Another aspect is from the perspective of the artist/musician themselves. In the rap game the digital release is a godsend for the up and coming rapper. The free album/mixtape plays a big part in getting your name out there, it's promo. For the rapper or producer, it’s a wonderful platform to showcase your work without spending great sums of money. Release it through a website or blog and wait to see if the downloads total up to a figure you like. I’ve discovered many new talents in the past year this way. That’s when the digital experience makes sense to me. That's when I’m hyped for it. I’ll explain. If I’m buzzing off the download, then I’ll watch the videos. If I’m still engaged, then I want to see what comes next. If that includes a physical release, be it cd or tape, then I’m on board. You’ve got me as a fan. To me, that’s the successful route to establishing a career. It’s music fishing. You got me with the bait now reel me in. 

I grew up with an overabundance of record shops where I could buy the newest releases that I’d read about in the previous months magazines. To me it was exciting. My pocket money freshly liberated from my piggy bank, ready to splurge. My backpack would have both tape and cd walkman inside. I didn’t discriminate about format. I just needed that new fix. I was a full time hip hop head and you couldn’t tell me nothing. I knew what I needed. I had a list of wants in my head and a little bit of room for musical experimentation. When I picked up a release, new or old, I would scrutinize the front and back covers. I searched for any information that would lead to another purchase. For example, guest appearances, producers, or even the record label it was on mattered. About the latter, if it said Def Jam in the early 90’s, it most definitely would be a good album. Oh how times have changed. When all my decisions were made and money paid, I was on my way with a bop in my step. I was satisfied. I would get the bus home and break open the seals and start to absorb the info in the credits. That’s something I loved to do as a teenager. I still feel the same now. It was my thirst for all things hip hop. I wanted to know who had written, produced and scratched. I wanted to see who was involved, be it as homies or featured guests. Every new tape or cd could lead to the next. It was exciting. It’s what made me the collector I am today, for better or worse. 

In the digital age, many new and established artists avoid the major label system. They don’t need them to put product out there for the masses. It’s a brave new world where they can control their own destiny. Now, I don’t profess to know the payout for artist on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify. If I were to guess, it's better than what the record label would pay. Many of the artists I support have hit upon the brilliance of offering  us, the consumer, a great way to satisfy all our audio needs. If you buy direct from them via their website or bandcamp, you get an instant digital download plus a cd, tape or record mailed to you. That works for me. It gives me the best of both worlds. It’s immediate satisfaction with a secondary high when the postman delivers the physical product to my door. All bases are covered. The collector in me is happy. My dusty shelf gets a new addition along side my iTunes library. 

Maybe I’m a bit more modern than I thought. I couldn’t live without my physical music, but I also know the same can be said of the digital.  As long as I can combine the two, I’m personally a content consumer. 

Writer Chris Cammack, In His Own Words

My name is Christopher Cammack. I’m 35 years old with a few greys hairs peaking out. Now don’t let the greys phase you. I regard them as the physical manifestation of my history -- a history with a deep love for Hip Hop culture. 

If my mum hadn’t bought me  ‘Licensed To ILL’ & ‘Raising Hell’  maybe things would’ve been different. I guess I have her to thank for the path I’m on. The culture has woven it’s way through my childhood, teen years and adulthood. It’s shaped me for better or worse, right & wrong. I’ve seen trends come and go, legends born and lost. My life has been checkered, to say the least, but music has kept me safe and comforted on the darkest days. 

In the last few years, I’ve found my passion.  Writing. Nothing gives me more pleasure. The thoughts that fill my head have a home here. I want to share the gems I discover with you. Knowledge isn’t the sole property of one person. It’s for all. If I co-sign, it you’ll hear about it. That’s my word. I live in the Steel City of Sheffield with a large collection of cds, cassettes and records. Throw in boxes of kicks and you start to get the picture. 

My life is Hip Hop. I am Hip Hop.

Allen York x Trackoholics - Happy Hour EP

Remember how dope it was when Allen York rocked the Golden Era Music Stage at A3C this year? We do too! He's been busy ever since. 

His latest project, Happy Hour EP, dropped today. York supplies the bars and Trackoholics supply the beats. We're always happy to see our family doing good things.

Stream and download the album here: 

http://www.audiomack.com/album/allenyork/happy-hour-ep

Enjoy.