Austin hip-hop

Free Hamze: “nothing4granted” (prod. Sekko)

Valentine’s Day’s not just for the couples. No, there’s an extensive list of local events offering RSVPs to love fools, lonely hearts and relationship-skippers alike. Among that full house of options? Austin’s very own Free Hamze.

Originally enticed into the genre by the Arabic incorporations of Mos Def and Lupe Fiasco (and the early/mid-2000s sound they helped proliferate), this Lebanese-born rapper’s really been blazing up an electic reputation since releasing his debut record Green Alchemy back in Summer 2022. Aside from his sword-surpassing penmanship and complex flow cadences, Free Hamze’s also somewhat of a bleeding heart, having founded the pro bono endeavor Sahar Studios and begun developing a 40-acre sustainable desert community. And while music is unmistakably Free Hamze’s brightest guiding light, principles of relentless liberation, of (true to his handle) freedom in any form, definitely inform Free’s impressive drive, which continued last winter with FREETAPE 3: Survival of the Realest.

So if you’re already falling in love with the idea of feeling Free Hamze’s heat tomorrow night, make it a date and drop by Electric Lounge 7PM then – followed by Kizzy Zeniba at 8 and Space Goonz at 9. But if you’d rather stay home and feel too cool for this Hallmark holiday, sub out a bottle of prosecco with a fresh production from Sekko that came out last Friday, nothing4granted. Hazy guitar chords, sensually subtle drums, and laid back lyrical triplets steal the show on this new sentimental standalone, one that easily elevates Free Hamze over the cookie cutter “mumble rap” slurs of his contemporaries.

The 2024 Grammys / Professional DMs

Confucius and Fresh recap their likes and dislikes of The Grammys and break down how to best approach them for music consideration. You’ll hear some great Hip-Hop Facts, fun takes when Confucius Reads the News, and an Unpopular Opinion about the impact of media inspired by the 2005 film Havoc.

Breadcouch: “WAIT” (feat. Ben Buck)

We’re struggling to find the exact quote, so maybe we just imagined it, but we’re pretty sure Notorious B.I.G. said something along the lines of, “Ready to Die was 10% skill and 90% the chronic”, alluding to his lauded lyricism. And while we don’t advocate for substance use as a sole source of inspiration, we do appreciate how much a quick smoke session can convince a lyricist to get comfortable and let the beat play as long as it needs. Because when an un-rushed set of free-association bars have spent enough time in the oven, they often come out hotter and fresher than your run-of-the-mill one-take freestyle.

That brings us to Austin’s Breadcouch, who’s been baking his eccentric brand of alternative hip-hop/R&B since 2020. The multi-genre fusion of Breadcouch’s boundary-less beats really lends itself to the versatility of his vocals, which switch between rapping and singing for evenly-toasted slices of bedroom soul-pop, electronica, trap, boom bap, and even indie rock, all from the same, surprisingly-cohesive loaf. And although you could sample a few brief crumbs from Breadcouch’s expansive catalogue and label his style as “wordy” or “busy”, we respect the grains of brevity that Breadcouch brings to his hooks.

Case in point: a new tune featuring fellow Austin rapper-producer Ben Buck, “WAIT”. They’ll both be performing at Hole in the Wall tonight for the Speaker Bump Social, so smoke ’em if you got ’em, and let the hazy wordplay, sativa-scented samples, blunt-ready bass, and doja-derived drums of “WAIT” whisk you through this showery Wednesday.

2024: Year of the Austin Breakthrough?

Confucius and Fresh kick this week off by weighing the odds of an Austin hip-hop/R&B artist breaking out into the national mainstream before tackling the latest from everyone’s favorite controversy-maker – Lil Nas X. Get all that, Hip-Hop Facts, an Unpopular Opinion about hip-hop’s hatred of Drake, and Confucius Reads the News in this edition.

Ranking Wu-Tang’s Solo Albums

After a quick back-and-forth about musician work ethic versus entitlement here in Austin, Confucius and Fresh honor Raekwon’s 54th birthday by ranking the first run of solo albums from Wu-Tang clan members. Hear that, Hip-Hop Facts, Fresh’s Unpopular Opinion on the state of integrity in hip-hop journalism, and the first installment of Confucius Reads the News for 2024.

Retr0grade: “No Hook, No Name” (feat. BoomBaptist)

From Scott Storch to Mike Dean, The Alchemist to Murda Beatz, and far too many more examples to list here, it’s clear that having a white producer doesn’t negate the impact of a strong black voice in hip-hop. Here in Austin we can point to Song of the Day favorite RuDi Devino, who’s spread his butter-smooth bars over Ruler Why’s beats in SubKulture Patriots, Bronze Whale’s backing tracks in 5-D, and the P. Sugz/Potion productions of CAPYAC.

But aside from a few solo installments, one of RuDi’s biggest roles recently has been as the vocal half of synth-and-sample-driven duo Retr0grade. True to their handle, Retr0grade isn’t strictly stuck in the old school; instead it’s more of an ever-moving, modern hearkening back to some iconic hip-hop heyday sounds. And when it comes to that combo of classic and contemporary, of synthesized and sampled, of instrumental and vocal, those who’ve stayed in the loop on local productions know damn well that BoomBaptist is a comparable curator.

Well, just in time for this chilly MLK Day, Retr0grade groove grower Tommy Fuego just laid down some much-appreciated heat with the piping-hot sample chops and hypnotic drum programming we’ve come to love from him. For the first verse of “No Hook, No Name” RuDi tackles the offense, defies Nazi flags, and ultimately aces the interview with a Common-evocative cadence before BoomBaptist blesses the second half with his own tabernacle of lyrical boasts. It might not be the most societally-minded song you’ll hear today, but we’d like to think Dr. King would agree that this brief, bangin’ snapshot of racial harmony rips heartily.

Looking Back at 2023

As we start to wind down for the winter, Confucius and Fresh look back at some of the show’s 2023 highlights before continuing the debate of whether or not the dominance of female rappers will continue into 2024. Get that plus an Unpopular Opinion about establishments exercising discretion, Hip-Hop Facts, and Confucius Reads the News on the latest episode of The Breaks.

Hip-Hop’s Golden Age?

Confucius and Fresh talk to Austin hip-hop pioneer Tee-Double about his career and how it feels to be one of the honorees at The Austin Hip-Hop Awards Sunday, September 17th from 2pm-5pm at the Austin Central Library.

Then they debate whether or not this is the golden age of hip-hop.

You’ll learn Hip-Hop Facts about why Cardi B’s verse didn’t end up on the final version of Ice Spice’s “Munch,” how LL Cool J and 50 Cent almost made an album together,  what the connection between Warren G And Pimp C is and more.

Fresh states the Unpopular Opinion that Drake is a bit of a clout chaser.

Confucius talks about Mitt Romney’s announcement that he will not run for reelection, the release of El Chapo’s wife from prison and more on Confucius Reads the News

Bavu Blakes

In the latest episode of Black Austin Matters, Bavu Blakes shares his inspiring journey growing up and being surrounded by Black excellence. He reflects on the influential role his parents played in shaping his path as a scholar and being the only Texas Longhorn in the family while everyone else in his household graduated from an HBCU. The Scholar Emcee also highlights the invaluable advice he received from his then college professor, John L. Hanson Jr., and the incredible experience of performing alongside hip-hop royalty.

United We Stand?

Confucius and Fresh talk to Austin R&B artist Mélat about her new music, her experience in the Austin music scene, he collaboration with Austin FC, and how she ended up singing with Matthew McConaughey. Then they discuss how united the hip-hop community is in Austin.

You’ll learn Hip-Hop Facts about the connection between New Edition and Eddie Murphy, why Lil Wayne’s “Tha Carter III” track listing kept changing, why there’s no video for Jay-Z’s “Brooklyn’s Finest” and more.

Fresh states the Unpopular Opinion that Chad Hugo is the unsung hero — as opposed to the real genius — of the Neptunes.

Confucius talks about last week’s racially motivated shooting in Jacksonville, Mitch McConnel freezing at a press conference,   and more in Confucius Reads the News.

 

 

Hot Boys and Girls

Fresh and Confucius talk about the impact that this year’s record heat is having on live music in Austin. Then, inspired by Asian Doll’s comments about not wanting to rap at 30, they debate the merits of older rappers.

You’ll learn Hip-Hop Facts about how Andre 3000 lived in Austin, why Dr. Dre turned down opportunities to work with Michael Jackson and Prince, what Missy Elliot song contains Beyoncé’s first solo outing and more.

Fresh states the Unpopular Opinion that people don’t actually separate the art from the artists, but instead just decide what bad behavior they will or won’t tolerate.

Confucius talks about Trump’s mug shot,  the recent Republican Party presidential debate, the Biden Administration’s new student loan repayment plan, and more.

Jump On It!

Confucius and Fresh talk to Austin Hip-Hop artist and activist NOOK Turner about Jump On It Week,  July 30-August 6th.

Then they discuss what support looks like for black endeavors in Austin.

You’ll learn Hip-Hop Facts about how Bun-B feels about Jay-Z using his bars in 99 Problems, How DJ Screw’s mom inspired him to sell mix tapes, what happened when Sinéad O’Connor featured MC Lyte on a song, and more.

Fresh states the Unpopular Opinion that Lil Baby is overhyped.

Confucius talks about the recent confirmation that the US Government has alien biologics, Mitch McConnel freezing during a press conference, chaos in the DeSantis campaign, and more in Confucius Reads the News.

Velvet Rut (Austin, Texas) (prod. Karavelo)

Austin brands itself as the “Live Music Capital of the World” and for damn good reason; think about the thousands of players who fill our hundreds of event spaces over the course of any given month. But that artist multiplicity and venue ubiquity entirely within our city limits actually makes breaking out of the ATX “bubble” and gaining traction in other locations extremely difficult, even for those who’ve built reputations as tireless performers and songwriters.

Take for instance an outspoken member from one of Austin’s most fruitful family dynasties, Ben Buck. As a creatively voracious rapper/producer/beatboxer/cassette presser/event coordinator who’s been a major staple of Austin’s hip-hop scene for the past decade (who recently earned his own official day this past April), Ben’s bucked around long enough to find out that all that hard work does make him a god in the eyes and ears of locals, but unfortunately not too far beyond that. But for someone who clearly gets their biggest highs from gripping the mic on their favorite stage instead of staying at home and losing sleep over unsatisfactory streaming traction, this young Buck still excels when things are in his own hands.

Case in point: the Ben Buck Birthday Bash 7PM-2AM happening tomorrow night at The 13th Floor, featuring a hand-picked lineup of wholesome friends and heavy-hitting collaborators. The show precedes Ben’s next LP, The Back Burner ’23, a nine-song joint effort between Buck and sample-based beatmakers ranging from Austin’s Butcher Bear to New York legend Statik Selektah, plus two remixes of the album opener. Overall The Back Burner ’23 scorches with a gritty old school feel whose varied influences can be traced to all three coasts. On top of its status as one of the most poignantly honest songs written about the Austin scene we’ve ever heard, “Velvet Rut (Austin, Texas)” totes bemoaning homegrown references, a pensive vibraphone instrumental from Vancouver producer Karavelo, and a mellow-yet-aggressive verbal flow that’ll make you wanna blasts past the stanchions and blaze up the second you’re indoors.

Shout Out to the Women

Confucius and Fresh debate whether or not women are saving New York rap, and try and figure out if hip-hop fashion is better now than it was in the past.

You’ll learn Hip-Hop Facts about what R&B girl group passed on the Britney Spears hit “Baby One More Time,” the time Lloyd Banks almost signed with Kanye’s “Good Music” label, what Case is really saying at the end of “Missing You” and more.

Fresh states the Unpopular Opinion that artists actually do need exposure.

Confucius talks about the Sriracha shortage, the Supreme Court’s ruling against affirmative action, and the implosion of the Ttan submersible on Confucius Reads the News.

 

No Austin Without Us

Confucius and Fresh talk to Jonathan “Chaka” Mahone about DAWA, the Black Live Music Fund, and the Sonik Frootz showcase at Antone’s.

You’ll learn Hip-Hop Facts about how ODB made it on Pras’ song “Ghetto Superstar,” the weird way Montel Jordan got signed to Def Jam, how Erykah Badu’s song “Honey” became a single, and more.

Fresh states the Unpopular Opinion that Lil Wayne’s “A Milli” is a very overrated song.

Confucius talks about the disappearance of the Titan submarine, the House of Representative’s vote to censure Adam Schiff and more on Confucius Reads the News

Crew Love

Confucius and Fresh interview Austin comedian Jordan McDonald about his comedy, the scene in Austin, and his upcoming show “The Wonderful Unixorn Experience” at Rozco’s Comedy Club on June 23rd. Then, inspired by BET’s competition,  they debate which hip-hop crew is the greatest of all time.

You’ll learn Hip-Hop Facts about Steve-o’s run-in with Raekwon, which apparel brand was the first to be blurred out on Yo MTV Raps, the run-in between Samuel L. Jackson’s wife and Tupac on the set of Juice, and more.

Fresh states the Unpopular Opinion that the 90’s sitcom Family Matters didn’t age well.

Confucius talks about the revelations around Trump’s handling of classified documents, the vandalism at the former Montopolis Negro School, and the Supreme Court’s decision on gerrymandering in Alabama in Confucius Reads the News.

Do Austin Artists Deserve Opening Slots

Fresh and Confucius talk about whether more touring shows should feel obligated to put Austin artists on their bills. And they debate the importance of deep cuts on albums.

You’ll learn Hip-Hop Facts about the story behind Ginuwine’s “Same Ol’ G,” why Aaliya’s “Come Over” almost didn’t happen, what record Tina Turner holds, and more.

Fresh states the Unpopular Opinion that Snoop Dogg’s “Doggiestyle” is better than Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic.”

Confucius talks about Ron DeSantis botched presidential campaign announcement on Twitter Spaces, the movement on the deal to raise the debt ceiling, what’s been happening during the Texas legislative session and more on Confucius Reads the News.

 

Time > Money

Confucius and Fresh discuss Swizz Beatz recent comment that for him, time is more important than money. Then they discuss whether being a public figure makes dating more complicated.

You’ll learn Hip-Hop Facts about Dr. Dre’s and Ice Cube’s un-released record “Helter Skelter,” who the role of Rob was originally written for in the movie “3 Strikes,” what the highest-grossing hip-hop tour of all time is, and more.

Fresh states the Unpopular Opinion that it is beneath Lil’ Kim to do a Verzuz with Nicki Minaj.

Confucius talks about the alleged assassination attempt on Vladimir Putin by Ukraine, Ron Desantis’s recent trip to Israel and his ongoing troubles with Disney, the recent bill that passed through the Texas Senate that would allow the Secretary of State to overturn elections in Harris Country, and more on Confucius Reads the News.

Stop It Melle Mel!

Confucius and Fresh discuss Melle Mel’s comments about Kendrick Lamar, Lil Wayne, and Eminem. Then they debate whether or not best-of lists are an attempt to keep New York hip-hop relevant.

You’ll hear a special “What If?” version of Hip-Hop Facts where they ask what would have happened to Method Man’s debut album if RZA’s basement hadn’t flooded, what if Pimp C hadn’t gone to jail, and more.

Fresh states the Unpopular Opinion that Melle Mel was right that Kendrick Lamar being named as one of the greatest rappers of all time is a bit premature.

Confucius talks about how US music retail revenue is up, the House’s investigation of Twitter, Tucker Carlson’s real feelings about Donald Trump, and more in Confucius Reads the News.

 

 

 

SXSBreaks is Back!

The Breaks talk about why Cardi B has stayed relevant, and reveal the lineup for SXSBreaks, the SXSW showcase featuring Austin’s best hip-hop and R&B Acts.

You’ll learn hip-hop facts about how Wu-Tang was the first rap group to do a worldwide tour with a rock band, who was D’Angelo’s “Devil’s Pie” originally belonged to, how good the original version of  Dr. Dre’s The Chronic really was, and more.

Fresh states the Unpopular Opinion that Odd Future is the most underrated rap collective in history.

Confucius talked about the Eagles losing the Super Bowl, the recent UFO sightings in the states, and more in Confucius Reads the News.