Monday, August 30, 2010

Lil' Fate & Ludacris-Growing Pains

The hype man: the guy whose sole purpose is to hype someone or something to others. Get them excited. Get them ready. Get them “hyped.” I once went to a talk by KRS-ONE with Moo where he spent 20 minutes explaining the necessity of having a hype man. Said you can’t make it without one. Said the hype doesn’t have to be true; someone just has to hear it.

The thing is, no one ever really wants to be the hype man, right? Everyone wants to be the guy getting hyped, not the one running around doing the hyping. But the hype man has played a crucial role in rap history, with hype men being chosen by fate to be the wingmen that have helped some of raps biggest names land the proverbial prettiest girl at the dance. Artists/hype men like Memphis Bleek and Flava Flav have been hyping someone (Jay-Z) or something (NWA) their whole careers, making it a career.

But I know in the back of their minds, these hype man have always wanted to one-up whatever they are hyping. Flava had “Flava of Love.” Bang, instant B-List stardom. Bleek had his verse on “Is That Your Bitc*?” Come to think of it, Robin even got with Poison Ivy.

“Growing Pains” off Ludacris’ best album, Word of Mouf, is one of all my all-time favorites. A song about growing up, and the trials and tribulations that come with it, this jamandahalf is 4 minute and 49 seconds of reminiscing about the good times and the bad. About being a kid and being blissfully unaware. About getting older and wanting it all. Over an effortlessly smooth beat, Luda and Lil’Fate tell us about coming up as a kid in Atlanta. Lil’ Fate who? Yea, Lil’ Fate, Luda’s hype man, takes this chance and kills it, dropping two verses of storytelling genius. For this one song Lil’ Fate is the man. And what a song it is.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

DMX featuring Faith Evans—I Miss You

We've embargoed this post longer than the US has done Cuba. But from the initial unjustified hate, we have come to love this post. The much delayed DMX write-up from Adam "Grilled Cheese" Johnson finally sees sunshine. Thanks brother.

Pop quiz music lovers:  Who is the only artist in history to have each of their first 5 albums debut at #1 on the Billboard Charts?

The Beatles? Nope.
The Rolling Stones? Nahhh.
Michael Jackson? Yea right.
Britney Spears? Getting closer.

Give up? That’s right folks—DMX. In fact, had“Now That’s What I Call Music! 22” not sold 1,000 more copies than his 6th effort, DMX would be the only artist in history to have every studio album in his catalog debut at #1. Still, 5 out of 6 ain’t bad.

Now I know what you’re thinking—“DMX??? Isn’t he that guy who’s always barking and growling?  Hasn’t he made like 100 terrible action movies with Steven Seagal?  Wasn’t he arrested for impersonating a federal agent while hijacking someone’s car from JFK airport while in possession of cocaine?” 

Yes, yes, and yes. All of those things are true. Well, I don’t think he’s quite made 100 terrible action movies, and they weren’t all with Steven Seagal, but they WERE all terrible. Except for Belly, which was dope. Go rent it. You’ll see.

The point is, you probably have a very pigeon-holed view of DMX as a crazy, crazy fool who inexplicably barks and growls like a man suffering from history’s worst case of Tourette’s syndrome. And this view is somewhat deserved—I can only defend the man so much. But he IS a talented rapper, believe it or not. So before you write him off as that guy who starred in this movie, listen to the following jamandahalf that he wrote after the death of his beloved grandma.

I have read DMX’s autobiography (highly recommended), in which he details a tumultuous childhood with an irresponsible, abusive mother and a nonexistent father. The one place he found any sense of family was at the house of his grandmother, who was kind enough to raise him even though her son (DMX’s father) wasn’t interested. If this song doesn’t tug at your heartstrings, you either have no heart, or you hate grandmas. It’s that simple. So sit back and enjoy, unless you are a grandma-hater. In which case, cut it out.  1

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Album Review: J.Nolan-Broken Dreams

The beats are infused with jazz and soul. The lyrics, with a maturity far beyond his 21 years. The flow is polished yet never dull. J.Nolan’s most recent project, Broken Dreams, is bursting with a hunger for more, but marks a serious step towards the goal that all rappers have, making it. J. Nolan is on track to do something big, as he says himself, “I’m just a young man trying to make history,” and he’s doing it the right way.
The flow and subject matter reflect a mixture of his North-Eastern roots, a few years spent in San Jose, and an Atlanta upbringing. At times sounding like a young Nas, Consequence, and Talib rolled into one, while still never losing his uniqueness, J.Nolan lyrics are a reflection of a young man growing up, and are a snapshot of a young rapper at this time of his life. Broken Dreams is heavy with situations and settings that most people our age are dealing with: pressures of growing up, decisions we make now which have lasting impacts, and young dreams.
Broken Dreams follows in a long line of hip hop albums that are influenced and guided by jazz. Like Guru’s Jazzmattazz series (RIP), Broken Dreams is heavy on jazz samples, a sound that J.Nolan has developed for the past year, with the help of a growing production team. Rare for a relatively unknown rapper, most of the beats on the album are on point, and producer No Alias makes beats on which J.Nolan’s super smooth flow finds a natural home. A student of delivery, rhyme schemes and patterns, J delivers quick-witted metaphors with ease while drawing on personal experiences and childhood memories.
J.Nolan contacted us while releasing his project, and I had the chance to talk to him about himself and his music.
Do you feel like you have made it? If not, at what point do you feel like you have made it?

I definitely have not made it, whatever "it" really is. I think I've done relatively well for someone that does all of my own promotion with little or no help from even my closest friends. I don't have a team behind me or any hot new clothing lines sponsoring my project, but there's people in every region of the world that know who I am. When I look at it that way, I've done something that many don't get a chance to do. However, I understand that I'm far from where I plan to take it. And that's what the people get from my music as well.

You mention your brother, your family, and being a role model to the kids. How important is family to you and your music?

Huge. My mother and I had a conversation when I told her I didn't plan on going to college to pursue music. I assured her that I had a plan to do it a certain way, which is the way I currently make my music. I don't curse in my lyrics, I don't speak on anything degrading towards women, I ultimately am the same person in music that my family knows me to be. I want all of my family to be completely proud of what I put out into the world to where they don't have to be ashamed to share it with others. 

On "Real or Not" you talk about how you liked Michael Jordan because of his jumpshot, nowadays the kids just like him for his money. Could you explain this line a little more. Is it because the kids don't know about his history? Or that they do, but now just admire him for his money, and not what he did on the court?

Indeed. Growing up, my friends and I were fans of sports for the sports themselves. It wasn't until we got older that we understood athletes were paid to play them. When we talked about Michael Jordan, it was about his skill set and statistics...athletic superiority in a nutshell. When kids talk about Jordan or someone like a Lebron James now, they can only talk about basketball for so long before they mention how much money they have. And I feel like it's affected the world in general. It's at a point where individual worth is determined by income. I don't know about anyone else, but my family and the people around me are valuable regardless of how much money they make. And the fact that kids can think that way makes me afraid of the future, because their parents are the ones teaching them these things. Whether it's directly or indirectly. Morals, principles, and ethics seem to have lost their luster.

Broken Dreams is real. From Track 1 to 18, J.Nolan raps about what he knows, his story, his life, his dreams. Support this young artist, this is music being made right. 

Download Album Here

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Chairmen of the Board - Give Me Just a Little More Time

Jam and a Half is all about feeling passionate about music.  And nothing makes me feel the fire of inspiration like someone who is jammin straight from the heart.  While The Chairmen of the Board may have been conceived by record company execs to pump out glossy hits, there is nothing phony about this classic track.  The soul quartet made up of General Norman Johnson, Eddie Custis, Danny Woods, and Harrison Kennedy put out a number of albums throughout the 70's, but it was their 1969 hit "Give Me Just a Little More Time" that has proven to be an all time golden jam.

Something in the voice of that General Johnson just gets stuck in your chest and it seems as though the only relief is to wail the chorus as loud as you can.  The General's pained moan is heartbreak and you cant help but empathize with the hiccuping hero.  My homie Lew Dogg called it desperation.  Dripping on every line.  It twists his voice until hes squealing on the mic.  And the band plays something grand enough to match.  Tight knit sound, full compliment of horns, steadyrockin baseline, and keys to match. Simply known as The Funky Brothers, they lived up to the billing.  The outro breakdown comes in too silky accompanied with the key rasta brrrrraAAA!!!  This jam is a personal favorite and I know many cats who claim the same.

  Give Me Just A Little More Time by jamandahalf

Much love


Wednesday, August 25, 2010


They say smell is the strongest scent. I say bullshit. Hearing familiar sounds, comforting voices, music, has the power to instantly take you back to vivid memories, and reminds you of the feelings, the people, and the energy of those memories more than any other scent. This JamandaHalf had that power over my good buddy Kai, who on our long drives through South Africa, was guaranteed to do two things: ball that jack no matter how far our destination while being the best damn driver around, and tell us the same story over and over again when this song came on. The drop of the synth and the cow bell(?) would make Kai’s eyes glaze over and take him back to sweaty dance parties in his living room last year, which always seemed to full of gorgeous woman, few clothes, and this solid gold Jamandahalf by Yeasayer.

Yeasayer is a band from Brooklyn, a hotbed of indie rock with bands like Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, and Dirty Projectors all calling it their home. With their debut album All Hour Cymbals, Yeasayer introduced themselves to the world in 2007, and their second album Odd Blood  followed up in 2010. Odd Blood is a personal favorite, and mixes psychedelic sounds with Middle Eastern leanings into complex sound layers that always hold something more. “ONE” is a song of addiction, whether it be to a woman or to a substance, and is a sonic feast. A horn here, a piano loop there, synth galore, a deep bass, all combine to create something electric and eclectic. For a song with darker undertones, ONE is incredibly jubilant, and ends as a triumph over past battles. Listen to this loud on your headphones or bump it at your next sweaty dance party. It’ll sound different, but no matter your medium, it’s a jamandahalf. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hunting Club-Plaid Album

Andrew "Undeez" Archer is a brother of a friend of ours, Juliet, and is working out in a small town in New Hampshire doing clinical therapy for a Federal program. Lucky for us, in his free time he's finding cool indie rock bands like the Hunting Club from Minneapolis and writing jamandahalfs. Thanks Undeez. The jams keep coming from unexpected places, and we love it.

"Musical Textiles"

Hunting Club’s debut, “Hunting Club (“The Plaid Album”)” can be explained much like the presentation of the opening track; speechless. Rather than being pulled into the music there is a natural magneticism towards this original, idiosyncratic, yet familiar sound. As it opens, slowly the instrumentation intensifies with piano sounds of morning and then abruptly stops, leaving the listener waking to the drum beaten lucid state that “The Coast” transports. A relationship that seemed to burn at both ends, the voice echoes: “started forcing our hands.” The smooth waves of music quickly attach to your long term memory. One cannot help the instant mental attachment the song brings, which fits thematically with the piece; “we were careless in letting it go.”

There is a sense of self blame in the 3rd track, “Real Chance,” which is accompanied by powerful harmonies and tight instrumentation. It stands out from the rest of the songs, but does not seem to fit. That being said, this is the one that repeatedly wakes up the neighbors at 3am. Perhaps a Minnesota connection or nod to the Coen brothers, “Raising Arizona” is a somber, existential tale. Past heartache resurfaces as spilling rumination manifests into an emotionally charged psychotic angst.

As track 5 alludes to, not holding back is exactly what Hunting Club does with “Gold Wheat.” The unification of the instruments, pace and lyrical prose cultivates as the fulcrum to the album. Take note and gather on a second listen (especially if you were texting or on Facebook) to the not so subtle analogical lyrics that stem from the band’s name. There is an eerie start to what appears to be side two of “The Plaid Album”, with distortion that breaks and lends to a sense of starting again or is it starting over? There are more questions than answers, “was it all bad taste?” in “Black Snowflake,” which is a direct contrast from its inverse, “The Coast.” This one offers more confusion and conflict -- “makes no sense.” Still chasing these uncertainties, “Alamo” is a ballad with a lyrical quest for liberation from the pain of losing a complimentary lover that is “the center of my universe.” The record is recharged with “Saucy Banana” being a testimony that rationalizes the shift in perspective that gives Band of Horses something to gallop to. Cocky lines such as “baby I’m on top of your world” declare the past being left behind.

“Sweet Soprano” is a Lo-Fi conversion of sound that is reminiscent of a band like The Black Keys. There is a softer inability for disclaim to the loyalties of a troubled relationship; “I can't leave ya, I can't leave ya.” The tender, wavy ended, “Cactai” begins acoustically before the full band marches to what is a solidification of the diversity that Hunting Club has produced. The song may approximate the concept of the album; acceptance of letting go, but the listener is going to want to hold on to these eleven tracks. 
-Andrew "Undeez" Archer

The album can be bought/downloaded for free here (pay what you want). Check out the album, and if you like what your hear, support this young band. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Yolanda Be Cool-We No Speak Americano

Writing to us from Spain, a country that knows how to enjoy itself like no other (and Leks' home in a few weeks), Kyle wants to share a little European flavor after being in the continent over the summer. A first time writer, one of Gator's best buddies, and a good homie of Moose and mines, welcome Kyle, and we hope to hear more from you soon. Moose, get your dancing shoes.

Hello Moose, Leks, and all-

Big fan of Jamandahalf, first time writer. Having spent nearly 3 awesome months galavanting across Europe, I have run into several epic tunes that can only be labeled awesomely Euro. I heard your call and one song rang true in my mind. After some diligent research I discovered that this jam topped the charts in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, Romania, Spain, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom-- might as well just say, Europe. 

Spawned by an underground indie funk group, comes the undisputed number one Euro club banger of the summer, "We No Speak Americano." The brainchild of Aussie duo Yolanda Be Cool, in collaboration with producer DCUP, "We No Speak Americano" embodies all that is expected from a topcharting Eurojam.
What elevates this jam to a jamandahalf is its undeniably groovy hook which happens to be a sample from the 50's hit entitled, "Tu vuò fà l'americano" by Renato Carosone. The Aussie tagteam then did what they do best and added a sick beat with appropriately thumping levels of bass. Do yourself a favor and don't listen to this jamandahalf without a sub. It's just not the same. In the words of Leks, "I can tell why it swept across Europe-funky bass line, catchy sample, danceability levels off the charts." I'd say truer words have yet to be spoken. 

In my travels this summer this song was bumped in the best beachfront clubs in Barca, the not-surprisingly lavish gay pride festival and coffeeshops of Amsterdam, the biggest beerhall in Munich, the elevator up to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Tiesto even saw fit to sample it in Ibiza. Literally everwhere. 

By now hundreds of DJs have hopped on and remixed this song, but the original still rings true to me. It was the jam of the summer here in Europe, hope you enjoy, "We No Speak Americano." 


Download Here


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Freshly Ground-Moto

Hello World. Leks here. After months of being MIA, we're back, and like Moo said, better than ever. We're really excited to start this thing off right, with 10 posts coming at you in 10 days. Other than Moo and I dropping songs from our travels and beyond, we have noted Professor, Author, and Hip Hop head Adam Bradley ( gracing these pages, along with an interview with up-and-coming Atlanta Rapper J.Nolan, and posts from the worldwide JamandaHalf family. This feels right, and I'm glad so many people are wanting to get involved in our growing crew. Welcome all.

This summer in South Africa, my three buddies and I rode the equivalent of the drive from Los Angeles to New York, and back, in our small, grey, Nissan Tiida. From Joburg to Bloemfontain, Cape Town to Kynsna, J Bay, Ixopo, Durban, Kruger, and many many more, we went on a 6-week long road trip disguised as a World Cup adventure. All the while we had ipod playlists going on our cheap Chinese FM Transmitter, sharing jams, some familiar, others not. Early in our trip we picked up a few cds to make the long hours on the road more bearable, and to give our ipods a breather. Hoping to catch some of the local South African music scene, we picked up second hand copies of three highly recommended local bands: Fokofpolisiekar (in Afrikans. Say it out loud), Springbok Nude Girls, and Freshlyground. The first two kept our “Best of Tibetan Monk Hymns” cd busy in the glove compartment; the third became a soundtrack to our trip.

Freshlyground is a band that makes beautiful, relevant music. A hodgepodge of modern South Africa, Freshlyground has members from SA itself as well as Mozambique and Zimbabwe, and is an eclectic mix of ethnicities and musical talent. Life South Africa itself, Freshlyground is both powerfully modern, yet tastefully traditional, melding in ageless South African hymns and choruses over a diverse medley of instruments from countless musical traditions. This can clearly be heard on the first track of their most recent album, Radio Africa,  “Moto.”

Moto starts off with a South African chorus which becomes a catchy hook that was permanently ingrained in our heads and sung endlessly throughout the country. Over a quick, but paced, melody, Zolani Mahola sings the tale of troubled love, of a chance encounter that led to something more, but a love whose future is uncertain. Zolani seamlessly weaves her complex voice with the backing guitar while allowing ample space for a banjo to sing itself with a dope solo. Freshlyground, like the country itself, is a bold experiment, and Radio Africa is a courageous album that deals with many issues that South Africa is facing today. No matter where in the beautiful country we were, six words were never far away. Enjoy and welcome back. Moto moto wayaka wayaka moto wayaka…..

Saturday, August 21, 2010

RIP Guru

It has been a moment since I have communicated with you folks through the blogosphere, and to those who have checked the site only to see the same old page...I am truly sorry, but we're back and with your support hope to be better than ever.  As a tribute to the all the things I meant to do but never did, I finally wrote the Guru tribute post that never was.  While some time has past since Guru's death, the heart of the hip hop pillar Gang Starr, alongside the soul of DJ premier, it is only more important that we continue the celebration of this legend after his death.  A philosophically skilled lyricist and master of the monotone delivery, he helped to pioneer the 90's East Coast rap scene with an honest style and a powerful message.  Over the 90's, Guru and Premier constantly elevated their sound revolved around the development of the rap game and the refinement of their craft.

Guru was born Kieth Elam in Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1961.  His moms, co-director of libraries for the Boston public school system, and his pops, the first black judge in the Boston municipal system, raised Kieth to be an educated cat. He went on to graduate from Morehouse College in Atlanta with a degree in Business Administration and proceeded to grad school at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan.  It was while he was attending graduate school in New York that he fully committed himself to music, dropping out to focus on the craft, only to become one of the legends of the New York City rap game. 

But it was with this knowledge, wisdom, and perspective that Guru charged his rhymes.  Guru was never content with the ignorance and negativity that many rappers were turning to for inspiration as the gangster rap scene exploded in the 90s.  After a quick stint reppin the name MC Keithy E, he turned to Guru which stands for Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal.  Good decision. Guru was known to get inspirational off the mic as well, and to many was known simply as The Minister. He even spent time as a social worker before he began his career in hip hop.  But for all the lessons he put into his music it was the mastery of his rhymin skills that was always on display.  And like many of his peers, he turned to the crutch that every self respecting rapper has plenty to say much better at rapping he is than you.

Gang Starr received critical acclaim from the start, Guru laying down his flow steady and heavy with DJ Premier delivering some of the funkiest beats around.  But you can really see the development of the Gang Starr craft over the years.  If you check out the earlier works, while loaded with social commentary and funky flavor, they lack the polish on the rhyme skills and beats that would come to characterize some of their masterpiece works.  Heres "Manifest" a track off their first album No More Mr. Nice Guy in 1989.

  16 Words I Manifest by jamandahalf

The jazzy beat comes in a little raw and though Guru has good theory and substance in the song, his rhymes for the most part are simple with limited creativity over the flow.  The elements of a great song are there, but in my own personal opinion, its not quite clean on the flow or the rhymes.  But this shouldnt be discouraging, more so, its a tribute to the dedication and work that Guru and Premier put into their art.  As time passed both the beats and rhyme style progressed.  Check out "Mass Appeal" off their 1994 album Hard To Earn.

  11 Mass Appeal by jamandahalf

While there isnt a ton of substance behind the track, the beat is tightened up and the flow and rhyme scheme have advanced in complexity.  Guru left the choppier rhythm characteristic of earlier works, now accentuating the steady thunder in his voice with a smoother flow.  And he continued to improve.  By the time Gang Starr released  Moment of Truth in '98 Guru and Premier were both at the top of their game.  On an album laden with classic tracks must listeners include "You Know My Steez", "Robin Hood Theory", "Royalty", "The Militia", and "Betrayal".  You really need to invest in the whole album.

The beats are as sharp as they come but stay true to the jazz inspired sound representative of enlightened NYC hip hop.  The sound is super clean and Guru just starts killin every verse, and around this point Guru really starts to master the hook, layin fly ones on almost every track.  From this point on Gang Starr simply made super dope hip hop songs.  The Ownerz released in 2003 was the capper on an legendary career.  Again filled with hits, my two favorite tracks from the album are "Rite Where U Stand" featuring Jadakiss, and "Skillz".  "Skillz" is just straight fire, a true JamandaHalf.

  Skills by jamandahalf

Showing the quality of flow that he refined through years of work, Guru laces a masterpiece beat from Premier with a flow that is effortlessly intense.  Flossin the gift, Guru simply doesnt stop spittin.  He attacks the beat throughout, rollin from the verse right into the hook and then onto the next without hesitation, while muderin the hook.  Could be one of my favorites ever.

The duo never really changed what they were about.  Always intelligent and often times socially poignant, they stuck to their formula, and most importantly, stuck together to become icons of the rap game.  But Guru, a man of vision, always knew that it would come to an end and I dont think anyone could put it better than he did in his master work "Moment of Truth".  The classic track encompasses what Gang Starr was all about: expressing knowledge and emotion artistically to form powerful messages in a form that people everywhere can connect to and identify with.  "Moment of Truth" is a philosophical manifesto of street ideology.  And to support such profound ideas within these poetic and musical stylings is an even greater accomplishment.  This article hasnt been the typical JamandaHalf piece, but if there was ever a song worthy of the title a Jam and a Half, this is it.  Enjoy.

  Moment of Truth by jamandahalf

Thanks for checking out my article and please get involved.  Send us an email with any suggestions or Jams of your own.  I always recommend checking out the lyrics when studying hip hop music, and perhaps most importantly LISTEN TO THIS MUSIC LOUD!!!

much love