Straight Outta Hip Hop™
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STRAIGHT OUTTA HIP HOP

Respect Due: E-40



Sometimes, there are artists that mean so much to a given city, area, or region, that they almost represent it single-handedly. Well, when it comes to the Bay Area, one of those iconic figures is none other the E-40.  Regarded by many as the Bay Area’s “Ambassador” (although he claims Vallejo as his home), E-40 has done much more than simply help give voice to the part of California that I call home (Oakland to exact), but he has also had a major impact on hip hop.

 

So often on this blog and throughout any hip hop discussion/debate, creativity tens to be brought up. This is one thing that nobody can accuse E-40 of having. From his unique rapping style to slang used in lyrics (he doesn’t get nearly enough credit for the terms he’s helped make popular within the culture), 40 has never allowed himself to become dull or predictable. Even at age 45 and nearly 20 years since the release of his first solo album, having survived everything from the 90s era to the Hyphy movement, you can still walk into a club today and hear a recent song by the 40 Water. His ability to stay in-tune with the youth and culture, in a market that only grabs the mainstream’s attention every few years, is just one of the many attributes 40 possesses.

 

Not only has he been important in terms of what he has put on wax, but E-40 has also been one of the artists that has been extremely successful as an independent artist. While his label, Sic Wid It Records, has had major label support, 40 often reminds listeners about the success he had selling tapes out the trunk of his car and that independent mentality has stuck with him throughout his entire career. This hustling spirit is evident in much of 40’s music. Not only can you hear him give game about operating an independent label, but he also expresses his success as a business man: opening his own businesses, franchising, financial planning, etc. The entrepreneurship that hip hop is known for is certainly something that E-40 is familiar with and, many might say, has mastered.

 

Though he may not always get the credit that he is due, the contribution of one of the Bay Area’s haven’t stopped, yet. He has worked with everybody from Tupac to Lil Jon, to Kendrick Lamar and by the looks of things, he doesn’t plan on slowing down. Already more than 15 albums in (including collabs, I didn’t even feel like counting all of them) – some of the more recent ones being double and even triple disc releases – and with more music scheduled to be released soon, E-40 has proven that he is deserving of being in hip-hop’s hall of “game”. So, to E-40, we say…Respect Due.

What are your thoughts on E-40? What’s your favorite song or album? Have you seen him perform live (dope show)? Leave all of your thoughts/comments below. Send any e-mails to straightouttahiphop@gmail.com

 

Peace.


        

Response to 2 Chainz "Smart People Can Act Dumb" Comment

HipHopDX posted an article in regards to an interview 2 Chainz did with Village Voice and he was quoted as saying "Smart people can act dumb, but dumb people can't act smart," in response to his critics (you can see the entire article at here). This is my response to 2 Chainz and the dangers of having this attitude. Leave your thoughts on the quote and what this means if this mentality is prevalent throughout hip hop. Send any e-mails to straightouttahiphop@gmail.com.

Peace.

Respect Due: DJ Quik

You may not always hear his name when people talk about the legends or the greats of hip hop, but for those on the West Coast (myself included), he is still one of the most significant figures to hold down both the board and a mic. Quik is the name.

 

DJ Quik got his start in the 1980s by selling the mixtapes he created. He originally started when he received a turntable in the 9th grade and would later gain recognition from both fans and record labels alike. He was also able to start booking shows due to the success of his tapes and garner a following. The attention he received from the record labels would later turn into a record deal with Profile Records. His debut album, Quik Is The Name, released in January 1991, would end up being his most popular and influential album.

 

While several singles were released for the album, including the title track and “Compton’s Most Wanted”, it was the “Tonite”, the tale of a Friday morning leading into a party that night, that helped propel Quik’s career to the next level. The classic, funky West Coast sound featured throughout the album that caught the ears of many rappers and put Quik in high demand as a producer. Along with releasing more solo projects, Quik would go on, over the course of his career, to work with such greats as Tupac, Snoop Dogg, Jadakiss, Xzibit, Jay-Z, and many more. He continues to produce and perform shows across the country.

 

During the 90s, Quik would release three more albums: Way 2 Fonky, Safe & Sound, Rhythm-al-ism (1998) – all of which went gold – and then four more since 2000. While his later albums have not had nearly the success of his early projects, the impact and sound of Quik continue to be felt to this day. Tonite still has the same replay value as it did when it came out and his contribution to the gangsta rap era is matched by very few. So, to DJ Quik, we say…Respect Due.

 

What are your thoughts on DJ Quik? What’s your favorite album? Favorite song? How significant do you think his role was to the West Coast? Leave all your thoughts and comments below. Send any e-mails to straightouttahiphop@gmail.com.

 


Peace.

 

Note: Thoughts and prayers to DJ Quik and his family for their recent tragedy.


Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DJ_Quik

http://www.mtv.com/artists/dj-quik/


"The Blood They Shed" Interview

I sat down with the star of "The Blood They Shed", Aaron White, to talk to him about how this dynamic play was created, the work he does with youth, and the role that hip hop played in it all. He will be performing at the Hollywood Fringe Festival starting June 7, 2013 and every weekend until June 23, 2013. If you're in the Los Angeles area, be sure to get your tickets here. It's an incredible play and speaks very directly to the current hip hop generation. Enjoy!

Peace.

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Respect Due: Kid Capri



Some people are just built to last; to have a long lasting impact within their small realm, world, or culture. One such person is DJ Kid Capri. For nearly 30 years now, Kid Capri has been on the hip hop scene and recognized for his many talents. Thanks to the musical background of his father, Capri was instantly drawn to the sound of hip hop at an early age and started off on the road to becoming a legend.

Long before Jay-Z would release "Rap Game/Crack Game" on his In My Lifetime Vol. 1, Capri had already put that theory into motion. As you can hear more about in the interview below, Capri turned away the offers to sell drugs like many were doing in his neighborhood and instead, decided to sell his mixtapes in the same fashion. He would let his customers hear the intro to his tapes and that's all it would take to convince them to buy it for $20 a pop (according to Jay, that's how the drug dealers did it too: "Let 'em test the product/give 'em a promo show"). According to Capri, he gained enough popularity within his neighborhood that he was able to bring in $2000 a night off mixtape sales. The marketing and spread of Capri's mixtapes was revolutionary, but it would not be the last of his major influences in hip hop.

Not only was was Kid Capri becoming a staple in hip hop for his DJing and production talents, but in 1992, he became the face and sound to the iconic stand-up show Def Comedy Jam. Started by Russell Simmons, Def Comedy became a show that helped break so many of today's biggest comedic stars. Capri also explains that it helped elevate his career to levels unseen. His presence on the show had a profound impact and helped bring even more credibility from a hip hop perspective.

Capri is also high demand when it comes to production. He has worked with everybody from KRS-One to Big L to Foxy Brown to Heavy D. Perhaps his most well-known work is the production for "Hard Knock Life", which was the song that helped (in many people's eyes) officially cross Jay-Z over into the mainstream. His influence has spans across a number of aspects of hip hop and he continues to push himself to do what he can to expand the boundaries of the culture. So the Kid Capri, we say...Respect Due.

What are your thoughts on Kid Capri? Leave any comments below about what you feel his legacy is in hip hop. Send any e-mails to straightouttahiphop@gmail.com.

Peace.

Sources:
http://www.mtv.com/artists/kid-capri/biography
http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/Kid-Capri-Biography/0CA0AFCA0E20849948256A29002B53F0
http://www.allmusic.com/artist/kid-capri-mn0000768096/credits


     

Lesson Lost In Lyrics?



Lyricism is probably the number one criteria for most people when it comes to what an MC must possess (although I could argue content or innovation could be more important). I love the complexity of lines, the playing of words, and the mind-boggling metaphors/similes, but does that hel p bring more attention to or away from the lesson within the songs?


Perhaps this is just an ignorant and general comment that cannot be proven, but it is my guess that the same people that listen almost exclusively to party and/or mainstream hip hop do so because they don't want to "think" while they listen to music. They enjoy the easy-to-catch punch line, but to attentively listen and analyze the lyrics as they fly by is something they don't want to do. And, if we hark back to the "Preaching To The Choir" post I did a while ago, it could be that most of the consumption of music that provides a level of consciousness is by those that have a shared mindset. However, that means that the people that "need" to hear the music aren't actually hearing it. That begs this one simply question: why not?

Perhaps the more important question to ask is if this is a matter of content or complexity? Could the same artists specializing in club bangers have made the same type of music (same beat, same flow, same ad-libs, etc.) but with more a more "conscious" or "positive" message and had the same impact? And when I say ask that, I mean from the beginning of their careers (not now that they're established, although I wouldn't be against them trying)? The lyrics of club music tend to be easily digestible - in terms of how the listener hears it - and very easy to sing along to. This doesn't seem to be as prevalent among more lyrical hip hop tracks.

Yet, artists like Kanye West make songs like "All Falls Down" and "Jesus Walks" which has profound impact. The flow is slow enough for people to easily follow, but still has plenty of depth and lyrics for hip hop heads to gravitate towards. Was this just a rare case of consciousness being able to hold the attention of the masses? Is Kanye the only one that has been able to master this? Was he just such a captivating personality that people would gravitate towards him no matter what? Maybe it was the other songs like "Slow Jamz" and "New Workout Plan" that gave him the credibility he needed to get people to pay attention. Take somebody else such as Kendrick Lamar who has a very positive message, but it is rooted in a lot of negative images. What are people actually hearing and gravitating toward: the overarching picture or the isolated negatives aspects? Somebody like Lupe Fiasco has constantly strived to do teach people in his music while still providing that "Super Lupe Rap", but with each album, he seems to lose a little more mainstream ground than his last.


I would never call for less lyricism. I'm certainly hoping that making lyrics a little more interesting and intellectual isn't preventing people from paying more attention to the music that isn't played on the radio every day. That's not what I want, but it's a question that needs to be asked. If an artist is looking to reach the youth and spark change, but still stay true to the craft, how do they accomplish both on a major scale? Do they have to sacrifice on their flow and lyrics or have the days when consciousness was able to gain real recognition simply faded? In a perfect world, they would both exist while still having some music to party to on the weekend while you're trying to unwind. As for now, it could be that lyricism (the way the message is being delivered) overshadows the message itself and until people train their ear, thought-provoking music will not be in front of the masses.

What are your thoughts? Are the complexity of lyrics preventing people that need the message to actually receive it? Is there just a certain style people gravitate towards? How can we make it so that both lyricism and content are accepted in the mainstream? Leave all your thoughts and comments below. Send any e-mails to straightouttahiphop@gmail.com.

Peace.


Respect Due: Pete Rock



Hip Hop holds producers in high esteem. They are the ones that create the musical backdrop for our culture and the beats they create help assist the MCs dictate the direction the songs will go in. Every song released has a producer, but only few can claim the title of pioneer and/or legend. So this month, we tip our hats to Pete Rock.

Pete Rock first garnered widespread recognition as part of Pete Rock & CL Smooth. Holding down the production for the duo (although he would get on the mic from time to time), Pete Rock's soulful sounds blended perfectly with the CL's mastered flow and made for some hip hop classics. Of course, their most recognized and celebrated song is "They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)" from their debut album Mecca and the Soul Brother. Between the nostalgic feeling in the rhymes and the infectious horn sample, "T.R.O.Y." has become one of hip hop's most influential tracks and helped to propel the career of Pete Rock to new heights.

Pete Rock & CL Smooth would release one more album, Main Ingredient, before parting ways. However, Pete Rock continued producing, releasing several solo albums and becoming known for the slew of remixes he would put together. His blend of jazz and hip hop proved to be a go-to sound. Pete Rock has either remixed songs by, produced for, or collaborated with everybody from Wu-Tang to Nas, DJ Premiere to Kanye West, Das EFX to Public Enemy. He was also an inspiration to many other great producers, such as J. Dilla and 9th Wonder. His innovative sound and use of jazz, funk, and soul samples has left a mark on hip hop that can't be erased. So to legendary Pete Rock, we say...Respect Due.

What are your thoughts about Pete Rock? What do you think his influence has been on hip hop? What is your favorite song that Pete Rock has been a part of? Favorite album? Leave all your thoughts/comments below. Send any e-mails to straightouttahiphop@gmail.com.

Peace.

Sources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pete_Rock
http://www.jambase.com/Artists/37148/Pete-Rock/Bio

Rick Ross "Date Rape" Lyrics: Contextually Speaking



So, I was going to leave the whole Rick Ross "date rape" lyric controversy alone. I was happy to see that people were making it very clear that they didn't appreciate what was said. Even a radio station in Michigan took a stance by stating they would not play certain music because they did not want to promote what was in the music. I kept hearing comments from Rick Ross and others that bothered me, claiming it was a "misunderstanding" (you said specifically what you meant in that line), but once again, I wasn't going to say anything.

However, I then heard the comments Meek Mill (who in all fairness is signed Ross' MMG label) gave regarding the issue, in which he claimed "raps always talking about killing, drugs, all types of stuff...It's imaginary visual. If a writer writes about somebody getting raped in a movie, that mean he a rapist or he want girls to get raped? No. He just wrote about that in a movie." He also mentions how other artists, such as Biggie, rapped about raping people and "throwing them over the bridge" and how it is just because of social media and the ease with which people can voice their opinions that this is an issue. Although I'm completely offended that he would even reduce hip hop music to simply "killing and drugs", that's not even the issue I'm going to tackle (but for anybody who might be reading this and is not very familiar with hip hop, it is MUCH more than that). Since advocates of Rick Ross want to claim that this is all a "misunderstanding" and that Ross is getting such unfair treatment, let's dissect this situation a little more.

First, we need to establish that, yes, there is a huge problem with misogyny and disrespect toward women in both hip hop and mainstream culture. I have voiced this several times on the blog and will continue to. This is not something that only Rick Ross is guilty of and that should be kept in mind when discussing the lyric in question. That said, let's look at the context with which many of the rape lyrics people have mentioned were actually used. Most of them had to do with some type of revenge or lashing out against a specific person and was used more for shock value than anything else. I want to make this very clear: I AM NOT CONDONING ANY OF THESE LYRICS. However, the context that they are used it does give them different meaning and could be the reason why these artists got what people are considering "passes" as opposed to Rick Ross.

Eminem's name has been mentioned several times (not surprisingly) since this became an issue and it is because he has several mentions of rape in his song (specifically in the early part of his career). Once again, while not condoning what he insinuated by any means, a lot of these had to do with the highly publicized controversy he had with his mom and ex-wife. His rage toward them were at an all time high and became very apparent in the songs he recorded (I had to remove "Kim" from my playlist completely). He also has a song titled "As The World Turns" where he raps "All I wanted to do was rape the b*tch and snatch her purse." A very disturbing line, but we should factor in that the song is littered with ridiculous comments, impossible acts, and obvious pranks that were all part of Eminem's twisted sense of humor. Just before that line, he also claims that he was "doped up off coke and smack". He also mentions earlier in the song that he killed his guinea pig and stuck him in the microwave, to establish the psychotic nature of the song. While they can be very offensive, there are several references that obviously make the entire song and situation fictional. That is just two examples (I'm sure there are numerous) of how Eminem used rape in his songs, but in any instance, pay attention to the context in which it is being used.

Meek Mill also mentioned that Biggie had a line about rape and throwing somebody over a bridge. Once again, let's look at the full picture. The song is called "What's Beef" in which Biggie is basically taking on all challengers to his personal safety and informing them that, essentially, he won't go down without a fight. He even goes as far as to say (and this is a major paraphrase) that there are people on his payroll that will kidnap people associated with anybody trying to bring harm upon him, sexually violate them, and throw them over the bridge. This is not any random person on the street and it doesn't necessarily have to be a woman. Again, a disturbing line, but the context (right or wrong) is of the "I'll get you before you get me" mentality. DMX had a similar line in which he claims he will rape one of his adversary's daughters. I never utter those words when "It's Dark And Hell Is Hot" is playing, and it clearly displays some of the demons that we all know DMX battles, but it is the same notion as the Biggie line. Think of it the way Jay-Z mentioned it: "If you kill my dog, I'mma kill your cat." Do I think any of this is right or okay? Absolutely not. Especially as a man of faith. Yet, I can understand why people were so much more offended by the Rick Ross lyric than these I just mentioned.

Contrary to the other lyrics we just covered, Rick Ross said plainly, "Put Molly all in her champagne, she ain't even know it/I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain't even know it." So, what is the context of this? All Ross says in the line before this is that he'll "Die for these Reeboks," so there is no sort of story or explanation as to why Molly came into play. This leads the listener (or at least me) to believe that he's just out on Friday or Saturday night at the club with Molly's in his pocket, looking for an unattended drink to put it in. After the Molly has set in, he then goes home and has sex with this woman and she doesn't even know it; meaning it wasn't consensual! The reason for the uproar and the reason that people were so enraged by these comments as opposed to the lines mentioned earlier in this post is because this could be any young lady in any club or party across America (heck, the world). It was said so casually within the context of many other random lines that people had to react. The issue of date rape has long been a cause for concern and this line was a reminder of that. So, it makes sense to me why people, especially women, would be greatly offended by this.

That line can't be taken out of context. There was nothing before or after to give it any further meaning. They are what they are and the fact that people are taking him to task about it is a good thing. Will this have any significant impact on his career? Probably not. Will artists be more aware and sensitive to what they put in their songs? I certainly hope so. Maybe it starts with this and then we will start to look at some of the violent lyrics that Meek Mill pointed out (black-on-black crime lyrics is something else I have a major issue with). We have a lot of work to do before we make significant change, but this could be a start. Ross and every artist should be held accountable for what they put in their raps. Sure, there is freedom of speech and creative license, but we can't let such overtly offensive and troubling statements just slip under the rug. Whether rappers want to own it or not, words do have power and there are kids looking up to them that are taking their direction. They need to help push them toward success and away from destruction of themselves and others. Let's hold each other accountable. That's the only way to truly make a difference.

What are your thoughts? Are people making too big a deal out of these lyrics? Were other artists given too much of a "pass" for their lyrics? What else can be done to hold artists accountable? Leave all thoughts and comments below. Send any e-mails to straightouttahiphop@gmail.com.

Update (4/15/13):

Just to be fair, this is the official apology (that should have come out as soon as this became a controversy) issued by Rick Ross:

"Before I am an artist, I am a father, a son, and a brother to some of the most cherished women in the world. So for me to suggest in any way that harm and violation be brought to a woman is one of my biggest mistakes and regrets. As an artist, one of the most liberating things is being able to paint pictures with my words. But with that comes a great responsibility. And most recently, my choice of words was not only offensive, it does not reflect my true heart. And for this, I apologize. To every woman that has felt the sting of abuse, I apologize. I recognize that as an artist I have a voice and with that, the power of influence. To the young men who listen to my music, please know that using a substance to rob a woman of her right to make a choice is not only a crime, it's wrong and I do not encourage it. To my fans, I also apologize if I have disappointed you. I can only hope that this sparks a healthy dialogue and that I can contribute to it." —William Roberts (a.k.a "Rick Ross”)

Source: Billboard

Peace.

Respect Due: Jimmy Iovine



Music executives - especially in hip hop - don't have the greatest reputation these days. Not only are they known for being greedy, unethical, and unapologetic when it comes to the music business, but their integrity in musical choices/directions have been questioned by fans and artists alike. These are fair criticisms of many executives in the industry (I call them out frequently in the blog), however, there are also some that deserve a great deal of respect for the confidence and courage they have displayed while conducting business. One of those execs is Jimmy Iovine.

In 1990, after years of working in the music industry, starting in the 1970s, Jimmy Iovine co-founded, what is today, one of the most prominent record labels in the industry: Interscope Records. While Interscope's early catalog consisted of mainly alternative rock, it was in 1992 that Jimmy Iovine made the daring move to take on Death Row records and provide distribution for the album we all know as The Chronic. Iovine was a fan of both the sound and the message in the music. While most labels were too afraid to be in business with Death Row because of the controversy attached with the label and album, Iovine understood the significance of the music.

By electing to put major funding behind Death Row, we all know the impact that had on both hip hop culture and the industry as a whole. Interscope and Death Row went on to release music by all our West Coast favorites, including Snoop Dogg and Tupac, and helped take gangsta rap to levels it had yet to reach with N.W.A. and the likes. Even after the division of Death Row, Iovine continued to partner with Dr. Dre as he formed Aftermath records. This led to the eventual signing of one Eminem, who then signed 50 Cent, who brought on G-Unit and... well, you get the picture.


Although Interscope released all genres of music, its impact on hip hop is unquestionable. Between Jimmy Iovine's grasp of the music business and the talent of the artists he worked with, Interscope went on the be one of the most respected labels in hip hop. From understanding the sound of the music to believing in the vision of the artists, Iovine has been willing to present music to the public of the highest quality. Not only that, but his business acumen has helped propel hip hop into the commercial success it is today. Iovine is even responsible for those trendy headphones seen on everybody's ears and necks (sometimes strictly as a fashion accessory for whoever thinks that's cool) called Beats By Dre. His reach/influence extends far and wide and there doesn't seem to be any sign of slowing down. So, to Jimmy Iovine we say... Respect Due.

What are your thoughts of Jimmy Iovine? How much of an impact has he had on hip hop? What would hip hop look like without Interscope? Leave all your thoughts and comments below. Send e-mails to straightouttahiphop@gmail.com.


Peace.


Sources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimmy_Iovine
http://top40.about.com/od/popmusic101/p/Interscope-Records.htm

Mo' Money Mo' Problems



The title of this blog is recognizable to anybody that is remotely familiar with hip hop. Not only was a hit song by one of hip hop's biggest figures, but it also has become a consistent sentiment from rappers across the board. After hearing the cautions of accumulating riches and wealth from artist on top of artist, I think it's important that we understand money doesn't equal happiness. While this is something that has been echoed by many for years as we continue to see stars fall from grace, we have to start at least breaking down some ways in which we can prevent some of those headaches that come along with fame and/or fortune as people continue to chase both through their music.

I think we all have a goal to achieve some sort of financial success and security. Although it's been said "money isn't the answer to all problems" the world over, many people still treat it as such. We have to change our mind frame. We can't assume that acquiring money is going to help resolve all of our issues. We have to shed a lot of the baggage on our way to acquiring wealth and success, so that it can be fully enjoyed by the time it’s achieved. In actuality, a lot of the things that people refuse to deal with prior to reaching a certain level of success may have prevented them from reaching it sooner and then only became worse. There may be certain friends hindering your progress, and then those same "friends" are looking for handouts once you do finally reach a certain threshold. You may have a strained relationship with your parents, and money won't be able to fix the pain you feel. You may have had a traumatic experience in your life that is replayed over and over in your head, but money doesn't actually help you figure out how to cope with it in a healthy manner.

Truth be told, the only problem money solves is that of poverty and debt - and that's only if you manage it right. There are so many external issues that cause pain, hurt, and despair that money can't make go away. Money often times exaggerates these issues and these are the lessons that hip hop artists have been sharing for years. On Goodie Mob's "Soul Food", Cee-lo rhymed "It would be nice to have more, but I kinda like being poor. At least I know what my friends here for." I'd argue even being poor, a lot of the people around him weren't true friends, otherwise those relationships wouldn't have changed once he was no longer poor. In 2009, when Clipse dropped "Til The Casket Drops" (no pun intended), No Malice spit "Jealousy, I ask thee, 'What is this for?' How was I to know I was happy being piss poor?" While I'm sure he wasn't actually "happy" being poor, his success highlighted many of the underlying issues that were more than likely already present in his life. Listening to Slaughterhouse's near 15 minute track "Truth For Truth" released just last year from "On The House" you will hear stories of struggle, heart break, and inner turmoil that the success either couldn't fix or brought out.

The beauty of hip hop is that subjects are fair game, and because of that, we are able to hear both the successes and failures of those that have gotten what we aspire to. If we constantly hear warnings about the dangers of a particular subject, then we are at an advantage because we have a chance to properly deal with it. However, it does no good if we handle everything the same way or with the same mentality. People in the hip hop culture are full of aspiration, which includes monetary gain to help them out of certain environment and conditions they did or currently occupy. There's nothing wrong with that and it makes sense, but we also need to take heed to what has been said about abundance and ensure we don't have the same pitfalls. Don't wait to accumulate wealth to attempt to get your problems solved. Start now so that once it comes, it's smooth sailing.

What are your thoughts? Has hip hop done a good job warning about the dangers of fame and fortune? Do too many people still expect money to be the end to all their woes? Can people be truly happy with a lack of funds? Leave all your thoughts and comments below. Send any e-mails to straightouttahiphop@gmail.com.

Peace.

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