Jay-Z & Kanye West – Watch The Throne, 02 Arena, London, Live Review!

Six months after completing the US leg, rap royalty Jay-Z and Kanye West finally bring their highly anticipated Watch The Throne Tour to UK soil. And it’s undoubtedly worth the wait.

It’s not hard to see why Yeezy and HOV refer to themselves as “The Throne”, as cocky as it may be. Jay-Z, an emerging billionaire, has more US number one albums than Elvis Presley, with a successful career spanning over fifteen years. And his protégée Kanye West is close on his heels. While at times it’s easy to dislike Mr West, the flamboyant rapper’s musical genius often overrides his ego-fuelled gaffes. So it’s no surprise the rap juggernauts joint show is the hottest ticket in town, with celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessie J in attendance.

The 20,000-strong crowd patiently waits as the reigning monarchs of hip-hop are fashionably late to hit the stage at London’s O2 (as part of five consecutive shows at the Greenwich venue). But fans are unfazed by the 45 minute wait, as the anticipation only fuels excitement. Suddenly, the music dips and the venue erupts into frenzied applause, as the superstar rappers emerge. Sticking to their “all black everything” motto, both are decked out in black clothing from head to toe – with West donning what appears to be a skirt over his leather trousers. And in an intriguingly unique entrance, West, 34, and 42-year-old Jigga enter the stage on boxes from opposite sides of the venue, spitting back and forth with one another, opening the historic night with ‘H.A.M’.

Both stages slowly rise, with images of barking dogs and wildlife projecting from each, as the duo performs tracks from their smash hit joint album. As the intro to Otis Redding’s ‘Try A Little Tenderness’ plays, Jay sprints to the main stage to join his collaborator, and the pair break into the LP’s leading single ‘Otis’. Accompanied with a giant American flag draped at the back, it’s at this point the show really gets underway.

The tour may be called Watch The Throne, but both MCs – to the delight of fans – play numerous tracks from their impressive back catalogue of hits. Jay-Z’s ‘Jigga What, Jigga Who’ and ‘Big Pimpin’’ takes older fans back to the Roc-A-Fella heyday, while West’s ‘Can’t Tell Me Nothing’ and ‘All Falls Down’ garners rapturous screams and excited shape-throwing gestures.

Showcasing their natural stage chemistry, Yeezy assists Jay during a rendition of ‘99 Problems’, while HOV returns the favour on West’s ‘Gold Digger’. A personal highlight comes when the pair takes it down a notch, grabbing a seat, whilst casually conversing, reminiscing about earlier days –which proves a great intro to Jigga’s breakthrough 1997 single ‘Hard Knock Life’.

Despite its wide success, some critics have questioned the ‘Watch The Throne’ album, claiming the record’s over-the-top boasting of wealth, designer garments and private jet lifestyle, in a time where most are feeling the pinch of the credit crunch, suggests the rap icons are slowly losing touch with their original hip hop fanbase. And while elements of that cannot be disputed, the albums triumph (both commercially and within the hip hop scene) proves rap fans (and pop fans alike) are very much so onboard with the duo’s “luxury rap”. And The O2 gig is a testament to that.

The US stars close their breathtaking two-hour set with an extended version of ‘N****s In Paris’ – which is reloaded an astonishing FOUR times, providing a perfect encore to what is quite frankly an EPIC show. Jay and Kanye are well and truly sitting on top of the hip hop throne, with no contenders remotely insight of knocking them off anytime soon.

Words by Vanessa Laker

BET Awards 2011: Pictures + Full Winners List!

Chris Brown

Here in the UK we were all caught up with Beyonce fever last night as she tore down Glastonbury, but over in the States yesterday was all about the BET Awards and the night belonged to Chris Brown, who picked up the five gongs, including the coveted honour of Viewers’ Choice. The R&B star also collected the awards for Best Male R&B Artist, FANdemonium, Best Collaboration and Video Of The Year at the Los Angeles ceromony.

Below are pictures from the red carpet and the full winners list:

BET Awards 2011 – winners list:

Video of the Year: Chris Brown ft. Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes – ‘Look at Me Now’
Video Director of the Year: Chris Robinson
Best Female R&B Artist: Jennifer Hudson
Best Male R&B Artist: Chris Brown
Best Female Hip-Hop Artist: Nicki Minaj
Best Male Hip-Hop Artist: Kanye West
Best Collaboration: Chris Brown ft. Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes – ‘Look at Me Now’
Best New Artist: Wiz Khalifa
Best Group: Diddy-Dirty Money
Viewers’ Choice: Chris Brown ft. Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes – ‘Look at Me Now’
Best Gospel Artist: Mary Mary
YoungStars Award: Willow Smith and Jaden Smith
Centric Award: Marsha Ambrosius
Best Actress: Taraji P. Henson
Best Actor: Idris Elba
Best Movie: ‘For Coloured Girls’
Sportswoman of the Year: Serena Williams
Sportsman of the Year: Michael Vick
Best International Act: Africa: 2face Idibia (Nigeria) and D’banj (Nigeria)
Best International Act: United Kingdom: Tinie Tempah
FANdemonium Award: Chris Brown
Lifetime Achievement Award: Patti LaBelle
Humanitarian Award: Steve Harvey

Vanessa Laker Talks To Trina: The Interview

In the hip-hop industry, female MCs tend to have a shorter career span and are widely overshadowed by their male counterparts, and with the Grammy Awards replacing their Best Female Rap Solo Performance category with a unisex one, the path to success for a female lyricist is a very steep mountain to climb…

But despite all the odds stacked against her, Trina has successfully risen to the challenge, carving a glittering career that spans over 13 years and has no signs of slowing down. The 32-year-old Miami native recently caught up with The Wrap Up’s Vanessa Laker to talk new music, the transition of rap, longevity in hip-hop, the decline of female rappers, Nicki Minaj and much more.

The Wrap Up: Hi Trina! You’ve just released a new mixtape, ‘Diamonds Are Forever’. Tell us a bit about that project…

Trina: Hiya! Well, ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ is a very honest record. It’s a work of art. It was so much fun to make. It was all original music, so it actually has more of an album feel to it. I worked with a lot of great artists, such as Rick Ross, Mya and T-Pain. It’s definitely something for the streets. It’s emotional; it’s sexy and just raw. It’s a very real record. It was such a great CD to make – one of my greatest, actually. I don’t even like to say it’s a mixtape, because it’s so close to an album.

TWU: And how would you say your albums differ from your mixtapes?

Trina: Well, this mixtape actually seems more like an album. Being the fact that I used all original music and I worked very closely with a lot of the producers, I really wanted to go into album mode. I wanted it to feel like an album, I wanted to use all original music and get my mindset ready for creating the new album. That’s how I was actually able to do this mixtape. I knew a lot of the songs wouldn’t be for radio, it would be for the streets and for the clubs. It was just real music and that’s what I love most about it.

TWU: You’ve been in the industry for 13 years now. What’s the feeling like for you when you release a new record? Is it still the same level of excitement, or would you say it’s a different type of feeling now?

Trina: The excitement is always there. As long as you still have that hunger and drive and just stay focused, it’s always there. My love for music keeps me excited. Longevity in this industry is not the easiest thing to do, so to still be releasing music after over a decade is a blessing.

TWU: Speaking of longevity, you’re the only female rapper to have ever released five studio albums. Why do you think other female rappers have struggled with longevity in hip-hop?

Trina: Erm… I think a lot of it is label issues. There’s only a few of us (female rappers) left in the game right now. I think with label transitions and then artists may take off one, two or three years, but then when it’s time to come back out, it’s like starting all over again. So I’ve just been consistent, as opposed to doing shows and concerts all over the world and that’s what has kept my stride going. I’m just always very consistent with releasing new material and like I said, a lot has to do with the label. Then there are so many factors that can cause delays in the release of an album, especially with females, because there’s more work and creativity that goes into a female artist. It’s a lot more expensive. You just have to have a great team behind you and positive people who can keep things moving.

TWU: Ten years ago, there were a number of female rappers in the charts, but nowadays, with the exception of yourself and Nicki Minaj, female rap is practically none-existent on a contemporary mainstream international level. But this rapid decline in female rap has never affected your career. Why do you think you’ve continued to flourish, yet other artists have been less fortunate?

Trina: You gotta stay working, no matter what. I work when I have an album out, I work when I don’t have an album out, and I work predominately throughout the whole year. Even if you’re not seeing me, I’m somewhere working. I’m constantly in reach of the fans, I’m constantly performing, I’m constantly attaching myself to the fans and those that continue to follow, they can see that and that’s what helps me to stay on the relevant side. I’ve never really stopped. If the songs aren’t out, then the remix is out. For a decade it has just been consistent non-stop work; travelling, shows and just trying to stay in touch with the fans.

TWU: Looking at your career, over the last decade, you’ve released mixtapes and albums, pretty much back-to-back. Does it ever get overwhelmingly tiring and do you sometimes feel like you want to take a little break from it all?

Trina: You know, it’s not a tiring thing, this is work. Whenever I need a break, I make sure I can take a vacation or I make sure that I have time to get away from everything, once I’ve worked so much. Sometimes you just have to say, ‘You know what? I need three days off, just for me. No work, no music, no interviews, no nothing.’ It’s a good thing, but the more you work and the harder you work, the better you become at your craft. The more you work, the more I think you gain recognition, the more you stay relevant, the more the fans want more. If you’re an artist and you have fans, they’ll continue to want more. They don’t really understand the thing that you need time off. They always wanna see you, they wanna see you doing something, they always wanna here new music, they always wanna here a remix, or something. So for myself, I constantly and always continue to give more. It’s 365 of the year and I’m continuing to always work.

TWU: As a female MC, do you feel as though you’ve had to work twice as hard as your male counterparts?

Trina: OMG! More like five times as hard (laughs). Hip-hop is the hardest genre of music for a female artist, because it really is a male dominated industry. As a woman, you’re fighting, you’re holding your ground and sometimes it is like a fight. You know when I go on stage and do shows, I’m the only female and there’s like six guys in the show and that just shows you how few females there are in this game. So you definitely have to put in extra work – but that’s (just) how it is. But you know, I’m a workaholic and I LOVE what I do, so I just continue to work extremely hard. But yes, we definitely have to work five times as hard as the guys. 

TWU: Nicki Minaj is blowing up right now and putting female hip-hop on the map again, but rather than uniting the genre and being the catalyst for the revival of female rap music, it’s kind of had an opposite effect. Why do you think that is?

Trina: Women are kind of catty and when someone new comes in, I think sometimes people don’t know how to accept that. Personally, I’m always looking for something new, I love the new talent. I love when I see someone new and when there’s a new female, it’s exciting. Nicki’s doing her thing right now and it kind of reminds me of when I first came out and I was doing my thing. I was really excited for the other females that were out at the same time as me, you know, the Missy Elliot’s, etc. I wanted to be a part of the whole female thing. But nowadays, it’s a little different – which is a shame, but to each to their own, everybody has their own reasons.  As an artist, you’re not going to be everybody’s favourite person. There are people that love me and there are people that don’t care to hear my music, and that’s OK. But there shouldn’t be an issue, we should really just salute one another – that’s how I look at it. When new girls come in, we should have this big female power movement and make the genre stronger, because there are only a few female MCs in the game. For every ten guys, there’s just one girl, it’s so unbalanced.

TWU: Very true indeed. So, how would you say hip-hop music, as a whole, has changed over the last ten years?

Trina: I think now we’re in a decade and era where hip-hop music is really changing. I call it ‘hip-rock.’ It’s more poppy and transitional. It’s more radio friendly and it’s OK to go outside of the box and do what you feel, as opposed to when I first came out in 1998. If you were sexy, you had to be a sex symbol and the music had to be for the streets and for the clubs. But nowadays, fans just wanna hear a great record, no matter what type of music it is. You can experiment and try different sounds now. I’m so happy to be a part of this whole evolution. From my era at the beginning, to now recording the sixth album, where I’ll be featuring a lot more pop records and just experimenting with different sounds. I’m working with a lot of different types of artists and I think it’s nice to incorporate a mixture of sounds, as opposed to just completely hip-hop. It’s a great transition. I think the sound of today is a beautiful one, I love it and I’m excited about it.

TWU: You’ve worked with some of hip-hop’s finest, but which none-hip-hop artist would you like to collaborate with?

Trina: It would be Beyoncé. She’s my favourite of all time. I absolutely love her, I think she’s phenomenal. She’s like a masterpiece. That would definitely be like my favourite person to work with.

TWU: And when will your UK fans get to see you live?

Trina: I’m working on that right now. I’m hoping to do a UK tour real soon. I’ve never been there before and it’s one of my top desired destinations to visit and perform live. I believe I have lot of fans out there, so I definitely have to come out here soon and perform for the UK fans. It would be a dream come true, so I’m really looking forward to that. Hopefully  we can do that by the end of this year. I can’t wait!

Trina’s mixtape, ‘Diamonds Are Forever’, is out now.

Kanye West, Drake and Big Boi Make Time Magazine Top Ten Album List Of 2010!

2010 has been a great year for hip-hop; from the new class of rap of Nicki MinajDrakeJay Electronica and J. Cole, to veteran MCs like Jay-ZKanye WestSnoop Dogg and Rick Ross doing their thing. It’s fair to say that it’s been a very successful 12 months in the wonderful world of rap. Time Magazine has just released their annual end of year top 10 albums of 2010, and hip-hop has really made its mark on this year’s list…
Outkast rapper Big Boi rounded up the top 10, coming in at number nine, with his critically acclaimed, ‘Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty’. Drake came in at an impressive number five with his platinum-selling debut album, ‘Thank Me Later’. But the top prize went to Kanye West, who topped the list with his artistic, poetic masterpiece, ‘My Twisted Dark Fantasy’.
Speaking of Kanye’s chart-topping record, Time Magazine wrote the following:

“Kanye West can seem like an attention-hungry young child who constantly tugs on his mother’s pant leg, saying, “Watch this! Watch this!” But once Kanye got our attention, instead of a simple somersault, he delivered the musical equivalent of a one-handed back handspring. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy layers complex computerized instrumentation over Yeezy’s effortless flow, moving from the heavy hip-hop of ‘Power’ and ‘Monster’ all the way to the poppy Michael Jackson tribute, ‘All of the Lights’.

Beyoncé, Jay-Z and others guest on several tracks. They don’t drop by just to deliver a verse or chorus; they are as integral to the tracks as Kanye himself. This is most evident on “Lost in the World,” a collaboration with Justin Vernon of the indie group Bon Iver that fuses hip-hop with rock until they morph into something else entirely. And that something is probably going to be played at every bar and dance party for the next six months.”

Here’s the full list of the top 10:
Kanye West – ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’
Arcade Fire – ‘The Suburbs’
LCD Soundsystem – ‘This Is Happening’
The National – ‘High Violet’
Drake – ‘Thank Me Later’
Sufjan Stevens – ‘Age of Adz’
The Black Keys – ‘Brothers’
Yeasayer – ‘Odd Blood’
Big Boi – ‘Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty’
Beach House – ‘Teen Dream’

Drake’s Album ‘Thank Me Later’ Lives Up To High Expectations

Drake made big waves in the music industry when he released his highly acclaimed mixtape ‘So Far Gone’. Without a proper record deal the Canadian rapper pretty much revolutionised the importance of a mixtape, spurning global chart hits from the independent EP and even being nominated for two Grammy awards. Since then the pressure has been on the Young Money rapper to deliver an official album that can match up to his previous work…

With a buzz so big it could scare a swarm of bees, all eyes were on Drizzy to see if he could recreate some more magic and live up to all the hype that surrounds him. In a time where people are not buying actual CDs like they used to, not to mention fans were gifted his ‘So Far Gone’ mixtape for free, many questioned whether he could make the sales target that many critics claim he has to reach in order to live up to expectations.

Well Drizzy seems to have eased passed those expectations, and then some.  Hits Daily Double tallies that 462,989 fans purchased Drake’s debut album, ‘Thank Me Later’. As a result, the LP will enter the Billboard charts at number one as the highest selling debut this year. Congratulations.

Eminen Talks About Near Death Experience

Eminem is well and truly back, with a new album – Recovery – released at the end of the month and if predictions are anything to go by it will be the biggest rap album of the year. In recent times Em has gone through some tough times, but is now officially on a straight and narrow path after beating his demands.

While at the E3 video game convention, Slim talked to Showbiz Tonight about his fight with drug addiction and how an overdose left him hours away from:

“It took me awhile to admit I actually did have a problem,” the musician said. “In the hip-hop world that I live in, it can be mistaken for weakness and the last thing you want to do in hip-hop is admit that you’re weak. But if I didn’t admit I was weak with this certain thing I was going to die.”

And when asked if he had any advice for anyone going through the same situation, the iconic rapper gave a heartfelt and very honest response: 

“That’s a tough question. I don’t know how you avoid it. I mean, I could say the cliched things, make sure you stay on the right path, you make the right decisions in life. You know, fame is a funny thing, man, especially, you know, actors, musicians, rappers, rock singers, it’s kind of a lifestyle and it’s easy to get caught up in it – you go to bars, you go to clubs, everyone’s doing a certain thing… It’s tough.”

Eminem is arguably the best rapper of our generation. His impact in hip-hop back then and to this very day is ridiculously huge. It’s good to see he’s back on a good path. I’ve been a big fan of his since I was a kid and I’m really looking forward to hearing the new album. But most importantly it’s good to see things are going well for him in his personal life and he’s back on track.

Here’ some vintage Slim Shady. I remember watching this live 11 years ago. Wow! I can’t believe it was that long ago, time really does fly. Here’s Dre, Snoop and Em at the 1999 VMA’s. Damn I miss the rap days:

Happy Birthday Tupac

Tupac Amaru Shakur (June 16, 1971 – September 13, 1996)

 

Today would have been Tupac’s 39th birthday, but unfortunately the legendary rapper only made it to 25. It’s crazy how much of an impact he had in just 25 short years. His legacy is stronger than most people have in two lifetimes. Fortunately though his music will live on forever and many generations after us can enjoy and be inspired by his sound.

Tupac feat. Danny Boy – “I Ain’t Mad at Cha”

Gone But Never Forgotten – R.I.P

DRAKE SPEAKS ON LIL KIM’S NICKI MINAJ DISS: “I DIDN’T RESPECT THAT…”

 
Yesterday we gave you the 411 on the whole Nicki Minaj/Lil Kim saga. Kim allegedly called out Minaj while performing on stage with fellow singer Ray J, which led to Drake defending his Young Money partner, saying “I don’t give f*ck what Lil Kim is talkin’ about.”
 
In an interview with DJ Envy, Drizzy explains why he defended Minaj and made the comment about the self proclaimed Queen Bee.
 
Here’s what he said: “I feel like Lil’ Kim is a G in the game. I feel like you’re a part of an era that’s classic, that we’ll never forget as young kids, me and Nick. You don’t have to do that. You don’t have to get onstage and tell people to pay homage, that’s a given. I’ve watched Nicki pay homage time and time again. I didn’t respect that, whoever else was onstage with her, I didn’t respect that at all.
 
“You just wearing your heart on your sleeve. You’re showing that you’re upset. Nobody’s done that to me yet. I would never expect Jay or [Kanye] to get onstage and be like, ‘Pay homage to me. You need to respect me.’ They command my respect with their music and talent. I feel that’s signs you’re just losing it. I really did take that personally. That bothered me. I really don’t get caught up with the Twitter and Internet stuff but I did see it. And I feel like you’re supposed to be a G. That just wasn’t G to me at all.” 

Classic Clip | Nas | Ether {Live}

I’m a huge hip-hop fan and I feel like I don’t give Nas enough props here on my blog. The guy’s a hip-hop legend and I’ve been neglecting him – well on here anyway. Not intentionally though. So I’m going to leave you with some vintage Nas. The guy’s a beast on the mic, and live he’s just amazing. The Jay-Z vs. Nas beef is one of the best beefs in rap history. They went at it full blast on the mic, but never for one second tried to make it into a violent situation – two noble men and two hip-hop legends.

Here’s Nas performing Ether live in New York.

Yep, he won that battle hands down.