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Hip-Hop Fridays: Industry and Street Notes...March 15, 2002


Going in and out of Harlem for the last few months has made it abundantly clear that it is all about Cam'ron right now. "Killa'" might as well be Borough President. And hitting Philly in recent weeks has confirmed that anything touching the Jersey Turnpike stands a good chance of "Oh Boy" coming through its sound system. When the Harlem-native signed to Roc-A-Fella Records we thought it was a good move for both parties. But now, we are convinced that this maybe more than just the average win-win. Cam'ron has hit-making ability, along with block credentials for days, and with the weight and juice of the increasingly radio-friendly Roc, it makes for an almost a perfect match. We are getting conflicting dates on an album release for Cam'ron, hearing everything from March 26th to April 16th, and just last night, May 14th. For now, the Drama King, DJ Kay-Slay is giving the Cam'ron fiends a fix with the 16-track Diplomats mixtape...Speaking of D.J. Kay Slay, who is rapidly eclipsing D.J. Clue as Hip-Hop's #1 mixtape DJ, the "SugeKnight of mixtape DJs", has the streets still poppin and laughing with his StreetSweepers Renegades Pt.7 which features a surprise host, the controversial Star from Hot 97's highly-rated morning show. The popular Harlem mixtape master, who goes by the monicker "DJ Kay Slay From Around The Way" has his compilation album dropping in July with Violator...

By the way, much respect to Just Blaze, the Roc's producer of choice who is behind Cam'ron's "Oh Boy" and the bangers on the State Property album. The sound is something like RZA and Premier in the way strings, horns and voice samples are used. Beanie Sigel, the rest of the Roc and Just Blaze, together, is getting to be something special...

Speaking of the Roc, everyone can expect the long-awaited Best of Both Worlds collaborative album from Jay-Z and R. Kelly to drop next Tuesday. The advance promo for the album fell off like a ton of bricks when the infamous sex tape "allegedly" featuring R.Kelly began to flood the streets last weekend. Now that the videotape is out (supposedly leaked by either Chicago-area prosecutors, the Chicago Sun Times or a close Kelly confidant) primarily in DVD format, in as many as three different versions, with the "alleged" underage girl, it is anyone's guess how the album and more importantly, R.Kelly's career will be affected. Already a major NY concert, originally billed as the first joint performance with R.Kelly and Jay-Z has taken R.Kelly off the billing. But we have heard that the R&B singer will show up under the cover of darkness to perform selected cuts with the Jigga man. It will be interesting to see the crowd reaction. It will also be interesting to see how many units the album moves next week after having already gone gold on the street...

Nas takes another minor shot at Jay-Z on the remix version of "What About Us?" calling a possible album with Brandy, the real "Best of Both Worlds". It is all tongue and cheek and we are sure that no true Nas fans want to see Nas consistently put down 16 bars alongside the talented vegan diva. But when the cream starts talking who knows what could happen? After all, we do remember seeing Brandy gush all over Nas, at the first Source Hip-Hop Music Awards saying more than once, "oh my God you are such a poet!!!" And by the way, the remix of "What About Us?" is too good to have been left off of Brandy's brand new "Full Moon" album. They should have added it as a bonus track, like has been done with the Busta Rhymes album and the remix for "Pass The Courvoisier"...

Hold onto your seatbelts, there are rumblings of a brewing Ashanti vs. Tweet battle. The two young singers with Hip-Hop leanings and attachments are going toe-to-toe, along with their record labels, and handlers. With both of the female artists' albums dropping on the same day, April 2nd, the competitive juices are flowing with a back-and-forth ensuing between Tweet's Elektra Entertainment and Ashanti's Murder Inc. Everything from an assortment of trash-talking and street team sabotage involving flyers and posters, has occurred. The early money was on Tweet with her smash "Oops (Oh My)", but Ashanti has come on with a Michael Johnson-like kick with "Foolish". Insiders have told us that the real tension between the allegedly close-to-thirty Tweet and the allegedly close to twenty Ashanti revolves around which artist will be perceived as the heiress to the "Queen Of Hip-Hop Soul" title worn undisputedly by Mary J. Blige, for over a decade. On the Ashanti album promotions the allusion is made clear with the Ja-Rule backed artist being described as the "princess of hip-hop and R&B", while Tweet on advance promotional material circulated among industry and retail is basically introduced by her benefactor, Missy Elliot, as the realest female artist with an assortment of personal problems that she has either overcome or is struggling to defeat. Now that Mary J. Blige has made it clear that she is looking for no more drama, there may be room for a female who can pour out her most closely-held emotions, like Mary has done. The street says that Ashanti has the look and Tweet has the subject matter. It may come down to who has the better remixes. And if that isn't enough to determine a winner we may have to go to album length, we have learned that there are 16 songs on Tweet's debut while Ashanti's album only has 9, (ooohhh!). You definitely don't want to get caught in between two young girls with opposing Tweet and Ashanti T-shirts on. It could turn ugly...

By the way, has there ever been a "King Of Hip-Hop Soul"? The closest thing we can think of in terms of an R&B artist or group that had almost unanimous support from the Hip-Hop community is Jodeci. If we had to promote a new artist for the title as of today, it would be Jahiem, who is backed by Naughty By Nature's former producer Kay Gee and blowing up by the day. Hey, maybe he and Nas can do an album together. They already have a remix together, in the archive...

What is up at Def Jam? We have been waiting on the N.O.R.E. album since late last year. The album slated for a December 4, 2001 release was unexpectedly, and with no explanation, pulled from the Christmas release list. We were then told early March and lo and behold - nothing. In January we received the entire Montel Jordan album, which was actually pretty good and told that the album was coming on February 26th. And just before the release date we were told that the album was canceled. That is right, not postponed but canceled. Something is up at the house that Russell built. Perhaps the recent signing of drama diva Mariah Carey to Island Def Jam explains some of the rearrangement of schedules and priorities...

The street is talking about Mike Tyson's adviser, Jimmy Henchmen of Motown Records and Henchmen Entertainment fame. In just about every picture you see of Mike, in a ruckus with Lennox Lewis or at a hearing before a boxing commission, there is Jimmy Henchmen, the man who put out Bullet Proof Love and has a unique business relationship with Motown Records and Kedar Massenburg. Jimmy Henchmen and Kedar Massenburg are listed as Executive Producers, most recently, on the new Sharissa album. Evidently, Jimmy Henchmen and Barry Hankerson have been serving as close confidants and counselors to Iron Mike. Mr. Henchmen set things off in the mid-90s with the critically acclaimed Groove Theory, featuring the songstress Amel Larrieux. The connection between Mike and Jimmy? It's a Brooklyn thing...

The publication that has the streets buzzing these days is Don Diva magazine – a no frills one-of-a-kind publication that marries coverage of Hip-Hop artists with lessons in Streetology 101 and beyond. "The Street Bible", as it calls itself, for instance, in its Volume 3 Issue 9 features dual covers - one with Beanie Sigel and the other promoting a feature article about the legendary Chicago figure, Larry Hoover and the street organization, the Gangster Disciples. The article is in depth and was a result of the Don Diva reporters or "connects" getting all up into Chicago's most notorious housing projects. The magazine really does take you places from industry gossip to the latest happenings on the street and stuff, well, not fit to repeat. It certainly is not for every Hip-hop fans but the response on the street and industry confirms that Don Diva magazine has found a niche...

We just received the advance album from Nappy Roots, The Source magazine and Spin "Artist to watch in 2002". The album "Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz" represents some new flavor on the scene a mixture of different sounds and flows that will add variety to a very stale first quarter of Hip-Hop music. The sound is something like Timbaland meets Outkast meets Cash Money, if that is possible. It certainly will not be everybody's cup of tea but Nappy Roots may make some noise. You can check them out at www.nappyroots.com


Cedric Muhammad and John Chambers

Friday, March 15, 2002

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