Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It's Bigger than Hip Hop: An Independent Artist's Crusade

I promised my girl I would write this and get the word out… I know I have taken forever, but hey I gotta hold true to my promise. My word is all I have. Johnaa this is for you baby girl!

In an industry marketed by who’s team you are on, it’s hard to even get your shoe in the Hip Hop arena without being someone else’s wingman for awhile. Think Kanye and Jay Z, SlaugherHouse on the back of Joe Budden and Drizzy aka Drake on the back of Lil Wayne, even though I have yet to see an album :(. And those chances of “making it” are super slim thanks to record company exec’s who ultimately decide who gets to be the next Hip Hop icon. There is no surprise really seeing as how three-quarters of your profit goes to pay the exec’s huge salaries and mega mansions in the Florida Keys, while you get to sweat in front of a crowd of say 500 at a local night spot with little promotion. And there’s no guarantee anyone will buy your album when beat makers “leak” songs prematurely or you can download the whole CD on Limewire before you can buy it on iTunes. But you really gotta love the game and be ok with being “pimped out” for awhile when the stopper is put on your creative juice and you have to come up with hooks and raps to ish that is truly Gatorade in this industry. Yup. Watered down kool-aid. But just like the death of auto tune Hip Hop is just going through another cycle of music. For the true Hip Hop heads you can appreciate anyone strong enough to make a few dollars for themselves by going independent and hitting the mainstream masses with quality style lyrics and beats. Hip Hop is a hard genre to crash, but if you have the skills and can hook up with a decent producer you just might get a few spins on the ones and twos. But this story my friends, is not a story of Hip Hop and where it stands today, this is one man’s hustle to the glory.

Insert, artist Shin-Q.

For every one new upcoming artist you can be sure of two things. At least one artist is garbage and at least one artist is spectacular. The latter is how I describe artist Shin-Q a.k.a. Monzeil Jhamal Flemming. The man definitely has talent. Born and raised in Trenton, New Jersey (NJ stand up!) Shin-Q has always had a respect for Hip Hop. His methodical delivery and rhyming style is displayed on his current solo album entitled Acquired Discipline available now on iTunes. Debuting in the fall of 2008 the CD is one you shouldn’t sleep on. It reminds me of the Hip Hop Golden Era days. Think of Nas cira It Was Written. With tracks like Take ‘Em to Church, Warrior’s Cry, TTown Bounce, and Token Negroe militant politically charged Hip-Hop is what best describes this album. Flooded with current event commentary, reggae influenced beats, and an eclectic range of Hip Hop, R&B, Alternative, and Old School vibes this CD takes Hip Hop full circle from the days of pop filled auto-tuning and fuses it with reggae beats you can play from start to finish. How many industry cats can say they have enough content to have a respectable album from cover to cover?

In a genre dominated by the predictable sounds of industry staples like Jay Z, Kanye, and newcomers, Drake and Kid Cudi it is refreshing to have Shin-Q bring Hip Hop back to the days of lyrical finesse and the beats to match. Drawing on influences from personal experience and things he has witnessed he chooses his words carefully and delivers eloquently over White City/ Pumpkinseed Entertainment Group beats. He has DC flair with a NJ flow. This is definitely not a mix tape CD, but more like an underground Hip Hop revitalization effort. This also isn’t for those waiting to hear the next “Ice Cream Paint Job.” This CD is for the real Hip Hop lovers and those who want to hear about something other than “I Got Plenty Money” and “making It rain on these hoes.” This CD is about not only about the beats, but the lyrics. This CD is for those who love Common (back when he was Common Sense), Twalib Kwali, Mos Def, Nas, Black Thought (from the Roots), Rakim, Musiq Soulchild. This CD actually would have played very nicely next to Miss Hill’s Miseducation, and yes I am still awaiting her return.

This CD definitely takes me back to the early to mid 90s when NYC style Hip Hop was in heavy rotation on the radio. I hate to call it island rap, but the reggae infusion is hard to ignore. The lyrics are laid out with precision and discipline. A devout Christian and firm believer in God’s abilities to perform miracles, it is interesting to wonder why Shin-Q chose a genre that is anything but Godlike. Instead of making a gospel CD he delivers to us a much needed conscious Hip Hop album of focus and versatility, and at no better time. Instead of a man glorifying drugs, money, cars, sex, and other non-essential material items, Shin-Q focuses on topics that the majority of mainstream Hip Hop has steered away from, like relationships, personal growth, and of course religion. I guess you couldn’t expect any less from a man who starts each day with prayer. Shin-Q challenges us Hip Hop lovers with this album to go beyond the mainstream Hip Hop scene and underground mixtapes and listen to music independently produced for the sole love of Hip Hop. This isn’t about selling a million records, although that would be nice. Instead, this is about life lessons and leaving a legacy. A Hip Hop legacy of his own.

Time keeps on ticking and I say we need to hear more from Mr. Shin Q, so keep on your conscious tip. To listen to the fist single “Life Anew” and his second single “Take ‘Em To Church” visit the Shin-Q MySpace music page Shin-Q is actually short for Shining Question which he says means he may always be seen but will he be understood! For the real Hip Hop heads, we say, it’s bigger than HIP HOP Mr. Shin Q.

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