The Saga Continues: A$ap Ant Releases “Addie Calipari”

For a little over a year now, I’ve been exploring and diving into A$ap Ant. The Baltimore rapper has intrigued me with his wordplay, the production of his songs, and his consistency when it comes to dropping new music for his fans. While we’re constantly focused on the “star” members of the A$ap mob, the real work is happening to the ones you aren’t paying attention to and Ant is one of them.

When I first start noticed Ant it was while I was listening to his verse on “Runner” with Lil Uzi Vert on Cozy Tapes vol. 1. Then again on Cozy Tapes vol. 2 where he made more features on songs such as “Blowin Minds”, “Walk on Water”, and “Get The Bag”. This is when I knew I had to find more music by him.

So in 2018 when he released “The Prelude”, I was able to get a sense of what kind of rapper he was and his signature sound. Seven (7) songs, each about 2 minutes or less. What I found unique about Ant, other than his lyricism, was his consistency. Since The Prelude, Ant has consistently put out great quality projects so fans like myself never have to wait for new music from him — which is something I can get behind, for sure.

It was no question that I had to support and listen to his latest project — Addie Calipari which pays homage to the head coach for the college basketball team University of Kentucky. The rapper also makes that known in his album work, created by @antawge, which shows him at a basketball game holding the net.

Artwork by @antawge

The song breakdown

The album starts off with Tyson’s Corner, a reference to an area in Virginia with high end shopping centers. Tyson’s Corner shows off Ant’s wordplay and signature sound off bat — “he like a Christmas tree, when we shoot we light him up”. Sliding into Lord Superb, Ant plays with some bars to describe his childhood over a Sparkheem beat. Next, NBA Live 2005 and Offseason Workout — both references to the cover of the project. 21 Donut (feat. Lulu P) immediately catches my attention because of the best change. The first half of the project were beats with similar tempos and bass — great none the less, but 21 Donut’s beat reminded me of an old beat Lil Flip would be proud of in 2005. Tris Stratus — which I believe is a reference to a bad bitch and my favorite WWE Diva, is more of a freestyle from Ant which I could appreciate especially since its only one minute long. Okay so I know I’m a feminist and all of that but I have to be honest, Bri Bri Keep Playin is the song I keep on repeat everyday. I know y’all might be mad because of the lyrics but listen, between the beat, the catchy lyrics, I’ve been corrupted. The slow tempo of the beat along with the relaxed tone of the rapping, you definitely get a vibe from this one that separates itself from the other songs. And Bri Bri, I hope you stopped playin. Alright so, I lied; Cross Country Elementary is the other song I have on repeat too. Maybe it’s the beat or maybe it’s Ant rapping “get yo b*tch off my f*ckin d*ck” about eight times but Spizzledoe and Ant definitely snapped with this one — #GYBOMFD is the mood for 2020? A&W Cream Soda and Beat And 1 (feat Baby 9eno) both produced by Sparkheem with Jonny Caravaggio show off more of Ant’s creative wordplay. As the project ends, Ooze Edition and Infantry Mobbin both shine a light on the rapper’s brand Marino Infantry.

I’m A Hotboy And I’m Not Ashamed Of It

In middle school, I believed I wasn’t “allowed” to listen to any artists that were women because I was a boy. Yes, I know – VERY ignorant mindset. This changed in high school when SZA signed to TDE and I just thought her voice was dope af. I also loved Syd’s voice and felt The Internet was my own little secret band that none of my friends listened to – which they didn’t at the time. Anyway, the point is I got over myself and my toxic masculinity and just decided to enjoy the music because it was good music.

Why can’t some grown men do this when it comes to Megan Thee Stallion?

In 2019, it’s obvious women have made their presence known in rap. In a genre dominated by men, they have to work twice as hard and people make twice the assumptions about them too. Just like with the men, there are clear standouts and some are better than others and that’s the way it should be. Megan Thee Stallion fits both of these categories. She has a commanding presence about her and does this using a combination of her personality, looks and most importantly her skills on the mic. Like a lot of people (yes, I know some of y’all have been there since her very first tape) I first heard Ms. Stallion when her freestyle on the “Big Poppa” beat (Or, “Between The Sheets” whichever you prefer) went viral and I was very intrigued. I decided to wait for Fever to drop and was slightly disappointed as the songs outside of “Realer” and didn’t have the feel of that freestyle or others I had heard from her…then I listened to Tina Snow and officially became a Hot Boy.

Many men have said they don’t like Meg because they don’t want to hear her rap about sex. But, what’s the difference between her doing it and literally any other male rapper doing it? It’s the same exchange just from the opposite perspective. This is especially interesting because Kevin F., who has been listening to Ms. Stallion for months was drawn to her for this same reason saying “There’s something engaging about hearing a woman own her sexuality and be as aggressive as men while still owning her femininity”. When Megan says things like “Imma need that head, give me neck like a vertebrae” and “Sitting on your bae face, I’m the ‘bae-by’ sitter” some men would rather say “I ain’t tryna hear all that bro” instead of just admitting these are simple but clever and fun bars. But if their favorite male rapper said “Got the moves like I’m Ryu/Yellow diamonds, Pikachu/When I switch my hair to blonde/I’m finna turn up like Goku” they’d be all over it. Too bad because Meg said that too.

“There’s something engaging about hearing a woman own her sexuality and be as aggressive as men while still owning her femininity”

Megan Thee Stallion for XXL Freshman

Perhaps it’s because some men can’t handle that she is better than some of their favorite male artists bar for bar? As our very own CEO Amani put it “Imagine a new rapper coming in, rapping circles around current artists, using vulgar language, and looking amazing while doing it. No it’s not a typical male rapper, it’s Houston’s very own Megan Thee Stallion” There are multiple women that are rappers that are legendary as well as those who are popular or not popular now. However, unfortunately they are still overshadowed by men and treated unfairly behind the scenes too. It’s almost as if some people have regressed all the way back to elementary school and are saying “Girls can’t do that” Kevin alluded to this too saying “Some men want their women to be inferior to them and when a woman comes to them and shows up as their equal or maybe even superior to them they get intimidated” Megan is making her presence known among men and will continue to whether they listen to what she has to say or not. Writer Kennadi H. put it bluntly saying “I feel like anybody that has a negative opinion is a hater…” This is an excellent point too. Some men simply decide they do not like a woman because she is bringing change to something they thought “belonged” to them. If you don’t like her simply based on the fact she is a woman that raps you are 100% in the wrong.  This mindset exists outside of the rap world too and can be attributed to movies, games and TV Shows that have had strong women taking over leads that were previously held by men.

“…she goes outside of the box people try to put female artists in. She speaks her mind, has an unapologetic attitude and an empowering amount of confidence! Not to mention her sex appeal…that’s on a whole different level.”

Outside of the haters, we fortunately have another segment of the male population with a much more favorable opinion of Megan and these are her Hot Boys. A “Hot Boy” is simply just the male counterpart of a Hot Girl. These men love and support her just as much as the women do. YouTuber and Hip Hop Critic Kenya P. believes the reason men feel this way is “…she goes outside of the box people try to put female artists in. She speaks her mind, has an unapologetic attitude and an empowering amount of confidence! Not to mention her sex appeal…that’s on a whole different level.” Meg’s technical ability as a rapper is what draws a lot of men in too. On the surface, she may sound like other popular female rappers but when it comes down to it – the bars are still there. And, she writes her verses herself. Also, as Kenya mentioned, men enjoy attractive women obviously but an attractive women doing something they already enjoy and doing it well? It’s a package deal.  Meg’s confidence is what pulls me in personally which easily comes through in her flow and her bars. She says what she means and means what she says. Also, her punchlines are clever and sometimes even funny as she has referenced Spongebob and The Jackson Family in the same verse. Her production is always on point too as it compliments her energy and makes every word just stick. Not to mention she’s an anime fan and as of the day this was written her current favorite anime is JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure which happens to be one of my favorites too. So basically, I’m sold all the way on her. Hot Boys aren’t afraid to admit they love Ms. Stallion because they see nothing wrong with loving her. Can we 100% relate to everything she says? Of course not. But, can we with most rappers? No. Good music is meant to be enjoyed by anyone and everyone and that is exactly what Megan Thee Stallion creates.

Hotties Stand Up. Haters Tune Out.

Ghostwriting: What’s The Big Deal?

In the music world there are singers. There are also rappers. There are also songwriters. Sometimes these positions overlap.

They are not required to.

In the past few months, the conversation of ghostwriting has come back to the forefront again. Some feel it should never occur in the world of rap and I disagree with this. Songs are made to be enjoyed by the listener one way or the other. This enjoyment does not always have to produce happiness but can even be sad or another non positive emotion. Regardless sometimes an artist may need help conveying these emotions. This is when the songwriter comes in. The songwriter knows what words and arrangements touch people and they may be cliche but they still work. The more accessible the song is the more successful it will be. And, the success of the song is at the forefront of some artist’s minds while others could care less about it.

The dividing line for me personally when it comes to ghostwriting is the type of song that is being written and the persona of the artist. For the sake of this conversation we will stick with rap for now and take a classic song like Wu-Tang Clan’s “Protect Ya Neck”. Debates on who had the best verse on this song are still had today. This song flows perfectly and combines hype and bars effortlessly. Based on the Wu’s reputation and image we expect each verse to have been written by each member and each member only. And they all were. But what if it was revealed that this wasn’t the case? Would our perception of the legendary group change? Of course. This is because when it comes to them we expect them to write their own verses based on who they are. And, this is a verse driven song – not a hook driven one. Sure, you’ll rap along if you know it but the average listener can not get up and dance to it. This was not the song’s intention – it wasn’t written to be accessible by the average listener.

Now let’s look at an oldish Kanye West (STAY WITH ME) song “All Day”. This song has three audible voices on it – plus the whistling of Paul McCartney. It also has 21 credited songwriters. Why? Because this is what Kanye does. We affectionately call him a “coraller” or “maestro” as he knows how to bring the right people together for a song and of course a full album. We expect multiple people to be involved when it comes to his work. He believes in giving credit where credit is due and even you make a small writing suggestion or are the original artist of the sample on a song – you’ll be credited as a songwriter. Songs like “Monster” and “All Of The Lights” have multiple writers (obviously) and are fantastic songs. They’re easy to sing along with and are accessible by the average listener. Songs like “Jesus Walks” and “Flashing Lights” have only one additional credited writer each and while carrying a message with them, still are accessible by the average listener. All four of these songs have a completely different tone to them, are excellent overall and in my opinion – timeless. This just shows how sometimes having multiple writers can enhance a song or sometimes multiple ones aren’t needed.

The world of ghostwriting is a tricky place. When we found out Joey Bada$$ had writing credits on “rockstar” and Lil Yachty had writing credits on “Act Up” in which he said “I wrote the whole song, except J.T.’s last verse” our minds were blown. Did that stop us from enjoying the songs? Of course not. An artist can have ghostwriters however if they say they wrote the song by themselves then that becomes an issue. Or, if the artist has ZERO writing credits on the song then that is an issue as well. Artists like Drake who are huge are likely to have ghost writers based on the fact that their music is supposed to be successful and accessible. We should not condemn them for this. Artists whose careers are based around their verses as opposed to their song’s accessibility are likely to have no ghostwriters and likely only bring other writers in for hooks. Having ghostwriters is not a bad thing – it just depends on how you use them.

#NewMusicFriday: What You Need to Hear

Once again we have a laundry list of releases. However this time around the amount of singles dominates. I can’t get to everything but I can get to the ones you should prioritize.

ZUU – Denzel Curry

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Following 2018’s TA13OO which was many people’s AOTY, Curry is already back with another full project. While the last was highly conceptual this one takes Curry back to his Carol City roots. With all featured artists hailing from his home state of Florida, this one is all about Curry paying homage in his own way. Curry has always been one to be versatile so expect gym tracks, smooth tracks and everything in between.

Broke Leg – Tory Lanez feat. Quavo and Tyga

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Tory said this would be the Summer Anthem. Personally I believe we as the listeners should bestow the title annually as opposed to the artists telling us. Do you agree with his bold statement?

 Crop Circles – Jon Bellion

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The rapper who is a producer and vice versa is a deadly combination. When they put an immense effort into both they’re practically unstoppable. Jon fits this bill perfectly and his behind the scenes videos show how creative he is behind the boards as well as the mic. This one puts that on full display.

Press – Cardi B

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The snippet of Cardi playing this one in the studio has been all over our TLs and now the full song is here. Let’s hope it doesn’t suffer from The ZeZe Effect.*

* The ZeZe effect is when a snippet for a song gets everyone hype and then when the song drops we realize we enjoy the snippet more than the full song. 

Testing Was Always Good, You Just Didn’t Listen To Us

With the one year anniversary of A$ap Rocky’s third studio album, Testing, approaching this week, I think it’s time we finally put some respect on it. Understandably, people need time for music to sink in and marinate with them. Hell, maybe even grow with it. But a lot of you are a year too late. Testing was always a great album, you guys just didn’t listen to us.

When we first discussed Testing, there was a lot of backlash. “This doesn’t sound like Rocky”. “This album didn’t slap”. Now, it could be because everyone was too immersed in the Drake/Pusha T/Kanye situation because Rocky dropped right in the middle of the shit. But let’s be real, this album didn’t connect with a lot of people due to the expectations that it would sound like “ALLA” and it didn’t.

The biggest issue people had with Testing was the music itself. But when it comes down to it, Rocky was doing things that weren’t traditional on purpose…and doing them well. We most recently heard how creative vocal layering could be executed on IGOR and When I Get Home. Rocky layered vocals in his own way on “Gunz N Butter” to the point where it almost seems like there’s two songs playing at the same time. And he’s matching the flow of that second song with his verses. This may have been annoying to some but it shows just how much you can do when using a sample. Also, he took us to Motown on “Brotha Man” with strings, keys and a lead melody that only appears on the right side of our headphones – a technique straight from the past. Y’all must have no soul to not appreciate this one.

I’d also like to bring up how instead of using the voicemail interlude trope we’ve all heard before he had a phone call verse on “CALLDROPS”…and did adlibs for said verse. “Changes” is a musical journey split into chapters across beat…changes. “Hun43rd” is classic Rocky — it actually sounds like it’s right off of Live Love A$ap; the old SGP trippy type of beat and layers of distorted vocals. “Black Tux, White Collar” is classic Rocky infused with dope experimentation.

So why did it take people a year to appreciate Testing? I wish I could tell you the answer but I do have an assumption. As consumers, we tend to go into our favorite artists’ new projects with a small hope that it sounds somewhat familiar. When it doesn’t, we write it off as a bad album but with Rocky his album title literally told you what this album was going to sound like — testing new sounds, testing new layers, testing new techniques.

Let’s discuss his rollout. In my opinion, this was my favorite rollout from the massive amounts of albums we got in 2018. Rocky didn’t do a typical press run — in fact, the only press he did was Desus and Mero, SNL, and of course his infamous AWGE DVD. If you paid close attention, Rocky has been using the black and yellow hazard sign “🚧”, crash test dummies, and construction site wardrobe to really give you the affect of testing. In NYC and LA, Rocky strategically placed these hazard stickers that connected to his testing app where you could hear snippets of the upcoming album. After a few months of the album being out, Rocky released his sneaker collaboration with Under Armour.

Rocky and the rest of the mob is known for dropping these dvd shorts of freestyles, behind the scenes of music videos, exclusive & unreleased videos, and just the whole mob enjoying each other’s company. Every mob fan knows, when this drops, that means Rocky is dropping or we’re getting a cozy tape. See below for our favorite one.

Now, don’t think we’re bashing you for loving the album because this isn’t it. We’re simply breaking down why it might’ve taken a lot of you to really enjoy the album… even if it was a year later. Nonetheless, welcome to the Testing Hive. Join us as we currently wait for his next album’s theme and hints that he’s dropping soon. For now, let’s stream Testing and enjoy the diverse sounds on this project.

This article was a collaboration with EIC @amaniwintour and culture writer @paullyb97

DJ Khaled Brings Heavy Hitters to the SNL Season Finale

The black people in charge of musical guest booking at SNL really held it down for us this season y’all. We got Travis Scott, Ella Mai, Anderson .Paak, and more of our favorites this time around. But for the season finale last night we got an onslaught of big names all on one episode. DJ Khaled was the official guest but we all know he had to bring at least two artists with him… he brought EIGHT. They included Lil Wayne, J Balvin, Meek Mill, SZA, John Legend, Big Sean, Jeremih and Lil Baby.

The first song performed was “Jealous” with Wayne and Big Sean there live to do their respective verses with Chris Brown’s hook on the backing track. Next, “You Stay” was performed with Jeremih, Meek Mill, Lil Baby and J Balvin all present to contribute their parts live. There was nothing special about the performances themselves as the x-shaped stage had some smoke and that’s as far as it goes for theatrics. But, if you like either of these songs than you’ll probably enjoy the performances. Peep them below!

The second set of performances were miles above the first. SZA began them posted on a live piano belting out her vocals from “Just Us”. This gave way to “Weather The Storm” in which Meek did his verse. Then, in a truly beautiful moment, the piano rotated to reveal John Legend playing it while singing his hook from “Higher”. In the background, practically watching over the stage during this moment was neon blue drawing of Nipsey himself as well. Then to close out, all of the nights musical guests came on stage and stood together in tribute. Check it out below.

 

Videos courtesy of YouTube. 

#NewMusicFriday: WHat You Need to Hear

The “H” is capitalized on purpose. (If you know you know) I know it’s been a MINUTE but I’m back to give y’all what y’all need to hear today. We got multiple releases across a variety of styles this time around so there has to be something in this list you like. If not…

Too Many Gods – A$AP Rocky X Joey Bada$$

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I’m aware there are multiple artists on this album. But that Weeknd, SZA and Travis was meh to me. This right here tho? Definitely fire. Ominous production with just enough bounce that you can still nod your head to it. Joey and Rocky both get a verse with Joey on hook duty. The “gods” theme runs throughout the brief track as they both discuss the trials that come with such a status and all the facets that come with it. And for the longtime Rocky listeners, there’s even a pitched down “Uh” tucked in at the very end of the track.

P.S. The Chloe X Halle track “Wolf at Your Door” is also worth peeping as their vocals glide all over the production effortlessly. And it just sounds BEAUTIFUL.

The Last Party – Matt Martians

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If you know The Internet you know Matt Martians. If you know The Jet Age of Tomorrow you really know Matt Martians. Matt’s music is a salad bowl of soul, funk, hip hop with a drizzle of raspberry vinaigrette of space. As in the galaxy. This is his sophomore solo album after saying he would never make another one on his debut. This one is special as production comes from a variety of people including Matt himself, his fellow band mates and others yet they all captured his signature sound. If you like The Internet and are ready to get a similar vibe but one from another planet this is the one for you.

CrasH Talk – ScHoolboy Q

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This is why I capitalized the “H” in the title today. ScHoolboy Q is back after taking a hiatus to deal with personal issues. “Numb Numb Juice” let us all know he was back with the rawness we love while CHopstix…was CHopstix. This album finds him in usual bag of eerie bangers with a sprinkle of slower paced tracks in the mix as well. Out of all the releases today this one has the most energy and if that’s what you want you’ll find it here.

All of these are available on streaming platforms now!

 

New Rico Nasty x Kenny Beats: Anger Management

In the late midnight hour, Rico Nasty drops her long awaited project “Anger Management” with producer Kenny Beats. Rico has been taking the industry by storm with her raging sound and hard lyrics. This album embodies the capabilities Rico and Kenny have within themselves that comes out anytime these two work on a project together.

After Kenny and Rico worked on “Nasty”, Rico’s first album in 2018 — with hits such as “Smack A Bitch” and “Trust Issues” — the dynamic duo had to come and prove to us why they were the best team in the game. They did exactly that.

The album consists of nine songs that embody the power and rage Rico spews on all of her songs. That rage we all love when we listen to her. Not anger. Pure rage and grit. I love it.

With only three features — Earthgang, Baauer, and Splurge bringing their own unique twist to the mix adding layers to each of the songs. Damn, these Kenny beats hit different at 9 in the morning.

My personal favorite? Sell Out. Rico Nasty talks her shit on this song. And I love when Black women big up themselves. Rico deserves. She raps about selling out shows, her come up, and even gives us some advice on loving ourselves and blocking out the haters. I can get jiggy with all of that.

My most replayed? Mood. Splurge’s deep bass vocals and Rico’s energy just does something to me. It’s definitely a song you play when you want to prepare for a turn up or get your energy up. The title of the song actually matches the vibe of the song. Overall, this is definitely a project that shows Rico’s versatility & pure talent that she has. Well done, Rico and Kenny. You did it again.

Beast Coast Takeover Hits The Tonight Show

Beast Coast is a supergroup consisting of groups Pro Era, The Underachievers and Flatbush Zombies – a total of 10 people. Chances are if you’re a hip hop head and you know anything about your Third Eye or government corruption, you probably first learned about it from these guys several years back. Tonight they made their debut TV performance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Performing “Left Hand” their first single from their debut album they brought the lyric driven flows they are known to the stage backed by 3 screens and a junkyard like stage design. Clad in black and grey outfits that were a cross between streetwear and workwear the energy was just as high as the chemistry between everyone.

Check out the performance below!

Beast Coast’s  album should be dropping any day now and their Escape From New York Tour begins this Friday April 13th.

Graffiti & Hip Hop: Hand in Hand Now & Forever

When people think of “hip hop”, they often think of boom bap production, lyric driven flows, and confidence. Outside of the music itself there is another facet to consider- graffiti. Growing up, I’d seen graffiti in a variety of places in my area. My Dad would agree with me that while some of it it did look cool, it was wrong to do it on someone else’s property. Upon getting older, I was able to see just how complex and beautiful these graffiti pieces could truly be – especially murals.

Origins

Hip-hop has its roots in being a community based expression of art. This art came from music of course, dancing and also visual art- specifically graffiti. Graffiti first originated in 1967 – not long before the birth of hip-hop. The two art forms meshed easily as they were both focused on the creativity of the individual, pride in one’s creations and a message to go along with the creation. In these days, the graffiti could only be seen in its rawest form – on walls, train cars, subway trains and any other canvas of the street. Graffiti artists also showed support for their favorite DJs and crews by putting their art on clothing items of the respective members of the crews. These graffiti artists could also be hired to create promotional artwork/flyers for rap shows in their respective cities. The focus was to use one another’s talents to help everyone achieve success.

Prominent Figures and their Pieces

Within the world of graffiti there are some artists who want everyone to know their face and their work while there are others who would rather have all the focus be on the latter. Such is the case of  artist Banksy whose work you’ve more than likely seen without even realizing it. UK based artist Banksy took his skills to the walls of NYC in October 2013 for an exhibition called “Better Out Than In”. Within this exhibition he shared a new piece in a new location each day of the month, culminating in a total of 31 new pieces. These pieces may not look like the graffiti we are used to seeing but they serve the same purpose: To send a message and show something people need to see. Such is the same purpose of hip-hop

Another prominent figure within the traditional graffiti world is Lady Pink. Lady Pink actually hails from NYC and as her name implies is doing it for the ladies as she has been called the “first lady of graffiti” and has been quoted saying “It’s not just a boys club. We have a sisterhood thing going.”. She was also the star of the  1982 movie Wild Style which showcased hip hop culture and all that  that implies including graffiti, breakdancing and more. Lady Pink’s work captured the spirit of hip hop as well with bold colorful pieces that showcased the struggles women were going through everyday throughout multiple aspects of life.

Murals

Murals and hip-hop or just black history in general go hand in hand. There are murals for Biggie, Tupac, Malcolm X, MLK and multiple other prominent figures in our history. However, with hip hop they carry a particularly special meaning. Hip-hop artists who showed love for their cities are immortalized when an artist creates a mural for them. They essentially become a part of the city in a literal sense after being a part of it in a sentimental sense their whole lives. Such is the case with the “King of NY” Biggie mural in Bed Stuy or the multiple Tupac murals scattered across Oakland. Sometimes the mural does not even have to be in the home state of the figure depicted but the importance matters just the same – such is the case with the Nipsey Hussle mural in Conneticut. Paying homage is a staple in hip hop and a mural is probably one of the most dedicated and genuine ways to do so. A mural is something everyone can see and appreciate long after both the hip hop figure as well as the artist of the mural have passed away. While it may become a popular tourist attraction with people taking pictures with it because it “looks cool” those who know the sentimental value behind it can appreciate it on a completely different level.

Graffiti and hip hop are timeless artforms and have evolved into an entirely different level than that of the past. More people than ever before are now able to view and participate in this artform and those who are truly passionate keep the same values that the originators of the artform had and will take them into the future.