Editorial #1

We are going to start writing weekly editorials about different subject matters that affect us. (Politics, Music Biz, Sports and more). Our focus isn’t shifting on being a brand marketing agency instead we are expanding our scope. As a result, we welcome any all of your comments and opinions. We …

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May 11, 2016 FEATURED No Comments

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YFN Lucci ft Marissa – Run it Up (@YFNLucci @MarissaOfficial)

April 4, 2016 FEATURED Comments Off on YFN Lucci ft Marissa – Run it Up (@YFNLucci @MarissaOfficial)
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The Weeknd Proves Fishing Isn’t Really His Thing

March 20, 2016 FEATURED Comments Off on The Weeknd Proves Fishing Isn’t Really His Thing


The Weeknd Proves Fishing Isn’t Really His Thing


The Weeknd is a proven hitmaker, having recently taken home two Grammys at this year’s awards show. But when it comes to getting down and dirty, it appears Abel might be lacking when it comes to his skills as an outdoorsmen. Especially in the area of fishing.

The Canadian crooner recently decided to take some time off and try his hand at a little rod and reel. From the video he posted on his Instagram account of the outting, things weren’t going so well at one point.

In the clip, the XO singer is standing on a dock in what looks like it could be Miami. He casts his reel but apparently doesn’t get the result he was hoping for. He rolls his eyes in frustration as he unsuccessfully fumbles around with the rod (pause), and eventually has to be helped out. “I didn’t even hit the water. I went in the f-cking pole,” he reacts.

The funniest part about the whole snippet might be the person who is filming who keeps yelling out “WHAT! WHAT! WHAT!” for no damb reason.

It’s okay, Abel. You’ll eventually get it. Practice makes perfect.

The Weeknd did have two big catches at the 2016 Grammys bringing home the awards for Best R&B Performance for his chart-topping smash “Earned It” off the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack in addition to his sophomore album, Beauty Behind the Madness, which earned him the Best Urban Contemporary Album.

Read More: The Weeknd Proves Fishing Isn’t Really His Thing – XXL | http://www.xxlmag.com/news/2016/03/the-weeknd-fishing/?trackback=tsmclip

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Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals, ‘Am I Wrong’ (Live At SXSW 2016)

March 20, 2016 FEATURED Comments Off on Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals, ‘Am I Wrong’ (Live At SXSW 2016)

 • “Am I Wrong” is a tour-de-force. In four-and-a-half minutes, it scans across Anderson .Paak’s capacious set of influences: Club music, disco and West Coast rap meld into an unstoppable groove. The performance emphasizes the ingenious flexibility of The Free National’s stage set. Callum Conner can call to mind any genre he likes behind his laptop, while bassist Kelsey Gonzalez and guitarist Jose Rios keep the soul influence front-and-center. At the end of “Am I Wrong,” Rios uses octaves and funk voicings to push the song into disco territory. Right at the breaking point, they leap into an excerpt of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.” It’s unexpected, but perfectly suited — just a reminder that, in .Paak’s musical melange, anything is welcome.

Set List

Producers: Saidah Blount, Mito Habe-Evans, Otis Hart; Technical Director: Josh Rogosin; Director: Mito Habe-Evans; Videographers: Nickolai Hammar, Katie Hayes Luke, Cameron Robert, A.J. Wilhelm, Lizzie Chen; Editor: Cameron Robert; Audio: Timothy Powell/Metro Mobile; Assistant Audio Engineer: Loretta Rae; Production Assistants: Erin Conlon, Nathan Gaar; Special Thanks: SXSW, Stubb’s BBQ; Executive Producer: Anya Grundmann.

Support for NPR Music comes from Blue Microphone.

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Krizz Kaliko Delivers Emotional R&B Cut ‘Stop The World’ (Premiere)

March 20, 2016 FEATURED Comments Off on Krizz Kaliko Delivers Emotional R&B Cut ‘Stop The World’ (Premiere)

Krizz Kaliko
Sam Levi

Rapper Krizz Kaliko taps into his R&B talents for the soul-baring track “Stop The World,” premiering on Billboard. The Strange Music signee recalls the days he contemplated suicide last year and how his mental health helped shape his forthcoming project Go.

“The world felt like a big ride that I wanted to get off of. Life was not fun to me anymore,” he tells Billboard. “My marriage was troubled, I didn’t know where my career was going, My mental health was greatly affecting me at the time.”

Brooklyn Rapper Jay Bel Floats on ‘Acid Lake’ (Premiere)

Krizz (born Sam Watson) also reveals his decision to check into a mental institution “to see if there was a way to ease the pain mentally.” He adds, “A lot of my fans feel this exact same way. That’s why my music helps them and keeps them from hurting themselves or even committing suicide. I think we all have at least this thought at one time or another. Music imitates life. “Stop the world and let me off” paints the picture.”

The Tech N9ne affiliate also says to expect his next offering to showcase his range as an artist. “I wanted to do music that was totally different than all of the music of done of my previous albums and with Tech N9ne. I actually sing and write: Rap/Hip Hop, R&B, Rock, Pop, Country, EDM, Reggae and any other genre of music that I experiment with,” he notes, calling Go “the album of my life.”

Go lands April 8 and is available for pre-order here.

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001: George Watsky- The One You Fee

March 20, 2016 FEATURED Comments Off on 001: George Watsky- The One You Fee


Audio Player


subscribe in itunesThis week on The One You Feed we have George Watsky. His stage name is Watsky and he is a combination poet, rapper and musician.

I first heard him via my kids and found that I liked the music. After I began to listen more closely I realized I was hearing a real artist who had a lot to say.

In This Interview Watsky discusses…

  • The One You Feed parable.
  • Why he feels the need to turn his judgement on himself.
  • Coming of age and finding himself.
  • How he doesn’t have all the answers.
  • Who Norton is.
  • His relationship with his parents and what it was like growing up.
  • His work ethic
  • How he handles criticism
  • His existential crisis at 16
  • Meaning
  • Facing your emotions


From his website:

The One You Feed- Watsky Interview

George Watsky is a rapper, writer and performer from San Francisco now living in Los Angeles. A versatile lyricist who switches between silly and serious, technically complex and simply heartfelt, George won the Brave New Voices National Poetry Slam in 2006. Immediate after, Watsky appeared on the final season of Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry in 2007 while a himself  college Freshman and subsequently performed at over 150 universities across the country. Rapping all the while under the name ‘Watsky,’ George self-released the barely-heard jazz-hip hop record ‘Invisible Inc’ in 2007 and  the self-titled ‘Watsky’ in 2010, which peaked at #7 on the iTunes hip hop charts. In January 2011 George’s fast rapping went viral and led to two appearances on the Ellen Show, a slot on Last Call with Carson Daly, and an exploding online profile. Watsky has performed at the Just for Laughs festival in Montreal, the NAACP Image Awards on FOX, three times at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, and has been featured in XXL, Billboard Magazine, the New York Times Magazine. Watsky’s social media presence made him one of only 23 artists dubbed by ‘The Next Big Sound’ as a ‘Big Sound of 2011,’ alongside Mac Miller, Kreayshawn and Skrillex.

Watsky graduated from Emerson College with a B.A. in “Writing and Acting for the Screen and Stage.”

Watsky Links

His latest record Cardboard Castles

Watsky website

Watsky Video of Letters to My 16 Yr Old Self

Watsky You Tube channel


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Turkish rapper Ceza says times of misery make him more creative

March 4, 2016 FEATURED Comments Off on Turkish rapper Ceza says times of misery make him more creative
Turkish rapper Ceza says times of misery make him more creative
June 06, 2015, Saturday/ 17:00:00/ ALİ PEKTAŞ | ISTANBUL


Bilgin Özçalkan, aka Ceza, has just put an end to his five-year silence with a new album of original material released late last month.

The 37-year-old rapper, one of the most popular representatives of the genre in Turkey, offers 13 original tracks in which he samples several well-known songs by Turkey’s Cahit Berkay and Italy’s Giorgio Moroder in “Suspus” (Speechless), released on May 26 in music stores and on iTunes.

“Suspus,” which also features the rapper as its musical director, is Ceza’s fifth studio release and it comes five years after his most recent LP, the 15-track “Onuncu Köy” (The 10th Village), released in 2010.

In a recent interview with Sunday’s Zaman, Ceza speaks about his new album and how he feels about the future of rap music in Turkey.

Your new album comes five years after your last one. Why did you need such a lengthy break?

Yes, it’s been a while, but I wasn’t fooling around during all those years. I made singles, I took part in an album with various artists in memory of [Kurdish protest singer-songwriter] Ahmet Kaya, and I kept writing songs for this album. I also made songs that I didn’t include in “Suspus.” As I got older and gained more experience and knowledge, and as my way of perceiving certain things changed, I came to realize that I was aiming for something different and that’s why it has taken me this long to release this album. And I’m very satisfied with the outcome. It all goes to show that I needed that five-year break to come up with this result.

Were there other reasons?

Well, in the meantime Turkey underwent numerous social changes, which of course to a certain extent have had effects on my musical production. As a matter of fact, I not only had to postpone the album, but also had to put off several concert appearances. But on the other hand, that gained me more time; in the process my thoughts and my feelings changed and all this are reflected in my music, in a positive way. To say “I must release an album” is one thing, releasing an album of songs you’ve made from your heart is another. This new album for me represents the latter. I loved every single syllable in every single song.

“Suspus” is billed by critics as a “mature piece of work,” both musically and regarding its lyrics. How do you compare it to your previous albums?

I can say this is the best album I’ve ever made. Of course after every album I release I think that one’s the best I’ve done until then, but now, after “Suspus,” I look back on my previous albums and I see that actually I could’ve done even better. Still, if I hadn’t done those, I could’ve never made this album, because I write music by myself — no one has taught me this business; this business has no master who can teach others. Being one of Turkey’s first rappers, [music] is always a trial-and-error process for me in which I learn from my own experience. Having said that, my next album may be in a totally different [style], but one thing is for sure: I will not put another five years between this one and my next album.

The album is very composed and mature. You sounded more enthusiastic before.

True. But I can never know what the next album will be like. I cover a huge ground in my music, emotionally and theme-wise. But these days I’m “speechless.”

Were you upset with the music industry in Turkey during the five years you were away? Does the current state of rap music in Turkey annoy you?

I was upset. Younger generations think rap is merely the practice of uttering emotional lyrics over [samples]; they have no concept of the culture of rap music or its history. Some of these people are even my fans, but that’s not rap music. Rap has everything in it — it has fun, it has emotions, it has politics. You can tell about anything you like in a rap song. And I don’t think what we hear from American rappers and elsewhere in the world today represent the essence of rap. Songs that insult or denigrate women or those that promote excessive wealth cannot be rap.

Turkey now has many rap musicians. Yet your comeback has incited quite a lot of excitement among rap lovers.

[During the time I was away] people have seen the difference [between my songs and others]. I believe every single work I release underlines this difference and this is highlighted even more in this album. I don’t appear on TVs and my video [“for Suspus”] is only aired on music channels. And yet my album has hit number one in numerous digital platforms and in music stores. … I knew there was a certain [expectation for new material among rap music fans in Turkey] and in a way my album has satisfied that expectation. … Young [rappers in Turkey] tend to blend arabesque music with rap. Even their lyrics are arabesque lyrics recited in rap style. But that’s definitely not my style. I don’t listen to that kind of music.

“Suspus” offers something new musically that we’re not used to seeing in rap music: live instruments.

That’s got to do with my musical choices. I often think of the end [result] while working on the samples. Using live instruments on this album proved to be a good choice. I perform in concerts with a live orchestra too and my team is really good. Rap music is not just about lyrics. This album can speak to people who never listen to rap; because we’ve given equal importance to the music. The instruments played on this album range from bass [guitar] to electronic guitar and from piano to lavta.

The themes you touch upon in your lyrics are also varied — from politics to relationships.

I’m a very emotional person. Even the slightest occurrence in my daily life can have a huge impact on me; they remain with me in the form of tiny little traumas. And then they pour into the lyrics. I use a lot of metaphors and irony in my lyrics. Not all of my words are what they seem — some of them stand for other things.

In what kind of a mindset did you write these songs?

Actually, I was continuously troubled. I was going through a troubled time of my life … on many different levels. Troubles that many people in our society have been going through lately. I’m an emotional person and sometimes [those troubles] are a bit more than I can take. … During those times, whenever I’m depressed and detached I can write more; I become more creative in tough times.

Everybody’s curious as to how you keep all those lengthy lyrics to all your songs in your mind. Is there a secret to it?

I perform live in all my concerts without any kind of help [with the lyrics]. I still haven’t learned the mobile phone number I’ve been using for the past two years, but I remember all the lyrics to all my songs. Strangely, I memorize the words while I’m writing them and I can bear them all in my mind after I read them for a second time.

Some in Turkey’s music industry have commented that “Suspus” includes lessons for the younger generations.

I believe it does. This album includes everything there is to rap music — from technique to lyrics. It’s a sad fact that our daily vocabulary in Turkey is not rich enough, but I try my best to use a more varied vocabulary in my songs. Sometimes I even have to “redesign” some words while writing the songs, but in any case I spend a lot of time on my lyrics.

The video you shot for the album’s title track has also made quite an impact. Is there a huge production behind it?

There is a story to that video: I make rap music, but in the meantime the world is going through many things. How much do people really care about what I do? I may talk about subjects of social importance in my songs, but when I’m inside the real world people don’t see me; the music I make, how famous I am don’t matter at all, people are busy with their own troubles. But on the other hand, I’m a musician and I witness everything that goes on around me. I’m aware of it all.

The video intends to speak about everything that’s going on around the world in our present day. I wanted the video to be something of global quality.

We shot it with a 400-strong crew and I believe it was worth the effort.

Does the title of the album say something about the “silence” of the masses, worldwide?

It does. There’s chaos in the world today but on the other hand everybody only cares about his-her own troubles. The video aims to visually portray this situation. It starts with a small quarrel in traffic and goes on to show social uprisings and wars.

What bothers you the most in Turkey these days?

Social polarization. It’s too bad that the members of [this] society are increasingly divided into camps based on religious beliefs or ethnicity. Also there’s hate speech by political figures. We need more peace.

Artists in Turkey are constantly being criticized either for having a firm political stance or not having one at all. At what point in that spectrum do you see yourself?

What’s important for me are my fans. I have listeners from all walks of life; from every class and from every ethnic background. I have never been on the side of one particular segment of the society or pointed a finger at another one; I’m just a person who tries his best to draw attention to mistakes and injustice in this society in my songs.

What do you think about the future of rap music in Turkey?

I hope and want for it to have a bright future. Its progress has been slower than I expected it to be and to this day rap has still not carved itself a place in the mainstream music market. Its popularity rises from time to time, but it still remains in its own little niche. Mainstream music media [music TV channels, radio stations in Turkey] still treat rap as a stepchild. As a rule, the simpler and cheaper something is, it becomes more trendy among larger crowds and this is not only true for Turkey. … Alternative music [genres are] capable of touching a chord with young people, and I’m not only talking about rap, but also rock music, whereas in Turkey these genres cannot survive because of obstacles in mainstream music media.

How do you feel about your songs in such an environment?

Some of my songs that I wrote years ago are still being sung by people. They have become classics in their own right. Right now my songs only mean something to my fans, but years from now they will turn into unforgettable songs. [The rise of rap music] can’t be stopped. This [mainstream music] system will have to change.

These days you’re also appearing in a TV commercial and it has drawn some criticism. What do you think about those comments?

My job is to make music. I make the kind of music I truly love and I share it with the audience on my albums and in concerts. As for commercials, that’s a totally different thing. It’s got to do with money. We [musicians] sometimes do that to earn a living. Even cartoonists these days can appear in commercials. I used the money I earned from that commercial in the video [for “Suspus”]. Had I not acted in that commercial, that video wouldn’t have been possible. As it is, I channel all the money that I make into my music. I’m not a musician who earns from the music he makes and lives the life; and I don’t make music for money, to begin with. … People may not like the commercial but they have no right to judge me as though I’ve committed a crime.

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premiere: jazz cartier, ‘hotel paranoia’

March 4, 2016 FEATURED Comments Off on premiere: jazz cartier, ‘hotel paranoia’


Pull up to the young Toronto rapper’s dark, twisted penthouse party exclusively on i-D.

premiere: jazz cartier, 'hotel paranoia'

If Drake is October’s Very Own, fellow 6 God Jazz Cartier is February’s. The Toronto-born emerging rapper arrives today with his newest project, Hotel Paranoia — a 16-track effort that’s so much more than the perfect penthouse soundtrack. Premiering exclusively on i-D, Hotel Paranoia is a dynamic clutch of cuts that span the turn up, the come down, and all the hazy, heady, and hyped up moments in between.

Hotel Paranoia showcases Cartier’s whip-smart lyrical punches and penchant for compelling construction. Tracks like lead single “Opera” and “I Know” couple Cartier’s vocal clarity and confidence with fittingly dark, cinematic production efforts from longtime collaborator Lantz. The pair cut their teeth on Cartier’s explosive debut effort, Marauding in Paradise, which arrived in April and signaled the 22-year-old rapper as one to watch — closely.

READ i-D’s interview with Jazz about Hotel Paranoia

But as Cartier jabs on “Stick and Move,” “2015 was practice” and he’s not playing. Cartier creates precise imagery by puzzle-piecing quick quips like “she lookin through clues in my phone, thinkin’ she Daphne,” before sampling the Scooby Doo sleuth’s vocals over buzzy 808s and pounding basslines — fully expecting his listeners to stay sharp to the lighting pace. Hotel Paranoia lights up the new year with chandelier-swinging swagger balanced boldly with syrupy introspection and purely punk energy. Read a full interview with Jazz about the project here.


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Meet Bankroll Fresh, Atlanta’s Most Distinctive Rapper

March 4, 2016 FEATURED Comments Off on Meet Bankroll Fresh, Atlanta’s Most Distinctive Rapper

After co-signs from Drake, Earl, and Erykah Badu, this hip-hop artist is setting a model for originality in a city of imitators.

Meet Bankroll Fresh, The Gucci Mane Homie Who Became Atlanta’s Most Distinctive Rapper Photo by Alex Russell  

Most days, Atlanta’s Street Execs recording studio has a private, in-house chef on call to serve the culinary needs of the artists who record there. On one warm evening a couple days shy of Thanksgiving, though, the cooking isn’t for the artists who use it as a creative base—who include co-owner 2Chainz, as well as Travis Porter, Young Dolph, and Skooly—but for the local community. Tonight, the kitchen and lounge are starting to resemble a food bank, with long tables furnished with bagged loaves of bread. Rapper Bankroll Fresh, a signee to the label, is excited: not only is his company making a charitable contribution to the season by providing dinners on Thanksgiving Day to single-parent households, but he’ll also release his third mixtape, which is self-titled. In honor of this, he’s referring to the holiday as “Banksgiving.”

In a city full of stolen flows, in the past few years Bankroll Fresh has emerged as one of Atlanta’s newest, truest originals. In 2012 and 2013, signs had started to point toward the name ‘Yung Fresh’ (his prior alias), who’d put out a smattering of tracks, with his credit cropping up on a couple of not so memorable Gucci Mane songs (“Faces,” “Shooters”). Over the following year, a name change to Bankroll Fresh marked a transition: he forged links with the city’s premier producers, guesting on Future’s “For The Love,” from Metro Boomin‘s 19 & Boomin’ compilation mixtape, and teaming with Mike Will on 2014’s “Screen Door.” Honing his flow, he crafted a viral hit of his own in “Hot Boy,” a minimal, lurking beat with lyrics inspired by early Cash Money (Balling like a hot boy, nigga Lil’ Weezy/ Feeling like Birdman and Meechy), and which established him as a solo force.

Though his thematic content rarely veered far from the beaten path of trap life, Bankroll’s characteristic rasp and stutter flows breathed a new freshness into it. Cosigns from outside the local scene rolled in for him, perhaps most passionately from Earl Sweatshirt, who wrote a number of tweets praising Bankroll’s rap style and anticipating mainstream swagger-jacking. As well as a recent namecheck from Erykah Badu, last year he got a bizarre shout out from Drake on a spring 2015 Instagram post which pictured goth-rock overlord Marilyn Manson, “I watched this guy go up to Bankroll Fresh tonight. Sydney is lit.”

In the context, his second breakout hit, “Walked In,” from last April’s Life Of A Hot Boy 2 mixtape, arrived somewhat unexpectedly. It’s a bouncy, function-friendly, highly dab-able song alone in an otherwise menacing trapping soundtrack of a mixtape. When I ask him if he anticipated the song’s success, he said “No. I just let the people decide.” Bankroll puts out the tape, and eventually a people’s choice hit surfaces from it, much like how Future’s “March Madness” and “Commas” rose from their respective tapes. In one of the professional studio rooms, we sit down to share a cup of cognac from a flask-sized bottle of Hennessy, and, after lighting his blunt from a miniature flamethrower, Bankroll speaks on his growing up in ATL’s west side, what it’s like when your five year old nephew is more famous than you, and how an unexpected encounter in New York’s Times Square affirmed that he was on the right path.

In terms of Atlanta rap history, the east side has been very well represented—Gucci Mane has always put on for the east side’s Zone 6, as has Future. You come from Zone 3, the west side of Atlanta. For those who don’t know, tell us about the differences between the west side and the east side.

All the projects and the hoods in Atlanta, they was on the west side. East side, more like they housing suburban neighborhood niggas. The east side is very well represented because a lot of them east side motherfuckers have the family that can buy them the nice computers and they can sit in there and make the music, so there’ll always be some fye artists. But the motherfuckers from the west side, they just got the swagger and the demeanor about themselves so when they do this shit it’s big too.

About a year ago, when I asked Mike Will about your relationship to the scene, he said you had known Gucci Mane since as early as 2007. You’ve been around the right people for quite some time.

It was like I walked into a bank and everybody was gone, and money was everywhere. And I was really trying to learn like how I can get the money out of the bank. So once time went on, I was like “Damn, let me start jumping on some of these songs.” I’d go in that bitch and put something together. None of the songs were ever big but they were songs. And it made an impact. It was big enough to get me noticed.

What was your life like in 2007?

I was in the streets, running around. I was hustling. But I also was going to the studio because I had seen the bigger picture. I knew I wasn’t gonna be able to make millions just running around in the streets because first of all your name will get too hot, they’ll try to knock you off. Or, I’ll get too piped up, a nigga might try to rob me. I shoot him, he shoot me. That’s just how this shit goes in Atlanta this shit real, for real. And motherfuckers don’t know it because they be so caught up in the “Okay, well, Atlanta. The music. The glamor. They ball. The strip club.” They don’t know. I done seen this city swallow motherfuckers.

I was fucking with Wop in 2007, 2008, then we had some shit together in like 2012. I was just trying to figure out like “Damn I wanna do this shit.” The streets was fucked up at the time, it was just dry. Like around this whole city it wasn’t nothing. Then it was like, you gotta do something and in my spare time I was just so bored I went to the studio. Fucked around made a banger.

Meet Bankroll Fresh, The Gucci Mane Homie Who Became Atlanta’s Most Distinctive Rapper   Photo by Alex Russell

“I wasn’t really young no more. I was growing into the adult stage. So I wanted to make it bigger. Make it mean something. Who don’t want a bankroll?”

So you had some songs here and there a few years ago, as well as appearances with big artists like Gucci and Future when you were still going by ‘Yung Fresh.’ Since then, you’ve transformed into ‘Bankroll Fresh,’ an established solo act. Was that a calculated move to give your career a new footing?

Yes, it was like a rejuvenated thing. I wasn’t really young no more. I was growing into the adult stage. So I wanted to make it bigger. Make it mean something. Who don’t want a bankroll? So I started getting a little money and I just put that with it, then that’s just where it went. It kind of sounds like a little rap name, ‘Bankroll Fresh.’ Shit like an action figure, that shit hard. You know he gon’ keep a bankroll on him, and you know he gon’ be fresh as fuck.

Your flow is very distinctive. Earl Sweatshirt tweeted last March, “bankroll fresh is about to get bitten mark my words.”

I be hearing people say, like, “Oh, you gotta do the “ESPN” flow.” But it’s really like an instrument. It just go with the beat. The beat has to match. Even when a person tries to mimic the “ESPN” flow on another beat it won’t sound as good as how I had it.

I had a song called “36” with the stutter flow. I had created that. I been did this like, times ago. But, the beat is what makes you make these flows. That’ll give you the way to come on the track. I create flows. The beat gives you the direction. When I create a flow, a person can hear it and think “Shit, let me put my little step on it and create some shit, too.” Like, nah.

You mentioned not being totally certain of your direction as a rapper at first. When did you realize what it could be for you?

I went to New York City. This was about three years ago. I didn’t even have “Hot Boy.” I didn’t even have “36” yet. This was around the time Trinidad James was just about to pop. In the middle of Times Square, a white guy run up out of nowhere, saying “Hey what’s up Fresh, man?” I ain’t really know who the guy was, but for me to see this one Caucasian man run up out of all these millions and millions of people and know me, out of all these millions and millions of people, meant something to me. And it just stuck with me. I went home, and I started focusing on that shit.

I heard you recently handed out cash to children in your neighborhood, and today you’re preparing food to give out on Thanksgiving. How important is it to you to stay accessible in the community from which you grew?

I’m still there every day. Shit don’t change. The apartments don’t change. The areas don’t change. Them bricks been there before I was there. So it be the motherfuckers change. Some motherfuckers change for the better, some motherfuckers hate the change. They don’t know how to change.

Your nephew Bankroll PJ is Instagram-famous in his own right. Whenever he posts a picture, it generates thousands of likes. Do you think all that exposure could feel a little strange for a five year old?

Yeah, it could be. Sometimes it’ll take a person’s arrogance level to a high capacity where they feel like they can look down on others. It just be within the person. But PJ’s like a grown man in a young man’s body. He just knows and been on the scene. He’s very smart. He just showed me his report card actually today, he just ran up on me like, “Look at this.” All As. If you can teach a 5 year-old kid calculus and they know it, why not teach it to him? Imagine when you was five years old and you had an iPad and the technology was so geeked up. Now it’s a whole 19 years later, you’d be on some astronomical shit.

When did computers and the internet become a part of your life?

Internet didn’t get popping until I was like 11th—12th grade. The computers was already out, [but] it’s like we came face to face with the computer, like, this is what’s it’s going to be.

In order for you to learn this shit it has to be presented right. If you go to class, sit in the back of the class. If you too close to the board you can’t really see it. But if you back away from the picture you can see the whole board—the fucking test will be right on the board the whole time. They’re showing you exactly how to solve the problems. If I’m close up on this cup, I can’t see nothing but these fucking lines. I back away, I see there’s a rim on this cup.

I stepped back from the picture. I moved from a fan perspective. I like these niggas who rapping, so I was a fan of them. But I moved back from being a fan, from being a man. Like “This what’s going on. You ain’t finna die in these streets, is you?”

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Roc Nation Signs Canadian Rapper Belly: Exclusive

March 4, 2016 FEATURED Comments Off on Roc Nation Signs Canadian Rapper Belly: Exclusive


When The Weeknd walked on stage to accept his American Music Award for favorite soul/R&B album at last weekend’s AMAs, he rattled off a familiar list of thank you’s: Kanye West, Max Martin, Ed Sheeran and his fans all among them. One name the Toronto-based artist also mentioned was Belly, his fellow Canadian and frequent collaborator who co-wrote six songs on The Weeknd’s smash hit LP, The Beauty Behind the Madness, including Hot 100 chart topper “The Hills.” Today, Roc Nation announces it has signed Belly to a new record deal, with his first album for the label expected out in 2016.

Born in Palestine, Belly, aka Ahmad Balshe, moved to Canada with his family when he was seven and has been making music as long as he can remember. His 2007 debut album, The Revolution, was a huge hit in Canada, winning him a Juno Award for rap recording of the year and landing him in the studio with Snoop Dogg, Juicy J and more. But after a hiatus from releasing albums, it was his long-term friendship with The Weeknd that would eventually raise his status as a writer and performer in the U.S. Now, Belly’s latest project Up For Days — which features Travi$ Scott, French Montana and Juelz Santana in addition to The Weeknd — is helping him step out from behind the scenes, not to mention a slot on his fellow XO member’s The Madness Tour.

As Belly releases the visuals for his single “No Option” and a new song called “Money Go,” he speaks to Billboard about his past success in Canada, his familial relationship with XO, signing with Roc Nation and what’s in store for the future.

Congrats on the Roc Nation deal. How did that come together?

It’s exciting stuff. I want to say it was just a complete focus on my craft and my music and I put together a project that I felt like was representative of me as an artist. And I think I just got the right ears with it to the point where Jay Z was interested and heard it and invited me over. And we had a conversation and that was that, you know? A man’s handshake, that’s all it takes sometimes.

When did you first get into music?

I wanna say my whole life; I can’t really remember a time in my life when I wasn’t at least writing, whether it be writing words or creating music. My earliest memories are doing both those things.

Your first album came out in 2007 and got you a lot of critical acclaim and success in Canada. What was that experience like for you?

I mean, it was amazing. At that point, Canada was — and still is — a pretty important part of my career and who I am. And to be accepted at home first was always my goal. I always wanted to be a household name where I’m from before I went out to the world and gave the world my craft, you know?

You took about a five-year break between albums. Why the time off?

I’m somebody who really likes to, rather than rush things, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. And for me, I knew that to come over here and to play in the big leagues, per se, it was going to take a lot more than to sit around and keep making the same type of music I was making before. I felt like I needed to experience more in my life, I got out more and traveled and did things, I wrote a lot more, did songwriting for a bunch of people. And it led me back and that’s where I’m at right now.

What did you learn along the way that made you feel like, now it’s time to kick start things all over again?

I can’t say it was one thing, per se, it was more of a feeling. I just had a feeling that I was ready to make this music again and give the world what I wanted to give them. I felt more like they were ready to accept me and accept what I had to bring at this point. It was more of a feeling; I had a feeling it was time again. That’s usually how I go about things, with my gut feeling — no pun intended.

When did you meet The Weeknd?

We met years ago, man, just organically, really. We met, he came by my house through a mutual friend and we’ve been homies ever since. This is really a real organic relationship. As an amazing of an artist as everybody knows he is and as great of a musician as he is, I think a lot of people don’t realize how great of a person he is. And I think that’s really what made me and him click, is that as a human being he’s one of the coolest, most down-to-earth guys that I know, and that made me click with him for that reason.

How did you get down with XO?

It’s a family thing, man; we all know each other and respect each other, respect each other’s movements, respect each other’s art. You know, everybody in the immediate circle I have the utmost respect for. Everybody really is talented and one of the greatest at what they do. It’s not just a bunch of guys that are just there standing around — everybody’s bringing something to the table. It’s beautiful to watch.

Tell me about what you’re working on now. You’ve got your latest project Up For Days, right?

Yeah. I put out Up For Days, basically, the first version came out in May, and that’s really what sort of kicked the doors down for me again. And what I’m working on now is basically a sequel to that. I’m excited; I’m making the best music of my life, I’m in the zone and feeling the best I’ve ever felt, and that’s really translating into the music that I’m making. So I’m just excited to let the world hear it soon.

How about your new singles as well?

Me and The Weeknd got a new single… It’s really strange for me to call him The Weeknd, so I’m just gonna call him Abel. [Laughs] But me and Abel got a new single coming out called “Might Not.” The core fans and everybody already know about the song — it’s lived online for a little bit — but now it’s about to be really out there to the world. So I’m just excited until it comes out. And I’m excited to make music with my actual friends; that’s one of the coolest things in the world.

What do you see for the next couple months?

Oh man, I’m already cooking up for 2017, man. Got 2016 sewed up already. I don’t stop cookin’ up. We’re so ahead of schedule, you know, it’s a blessing. I got a bunch of remixes I’m dropping online, the “Might Not” single and video coming out in December. There’s a bunch of stuff coming up in the next couple months to keep everybody entertained.

What would you say sets you apart from the rest of the music world?

I don’t like to focus on what sets me apart, I think I just do me. And the phase of music we’re in right now, there are so many people trying to force things. But you can’t force passion. I’m passionate and I’m very distinct with my vision and I know exactly what I’m trying to bring forth. I don’t try to bring a certain sound out; my sound is my sound because I’m just being myself in the studio. It is what it is. And I feel like it translates and it’s gonna work. It’s just my reality; I found a way to explain it through this and give it a feeling.

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