Tag Archives: Detroit hip-hop

On “Big Shoes,” Big Tone Takes Listeners on a Journey

Big Tone

“I was becoming a father around the time we finished recording this album,” says the rapper Big Tone, talking about his latest LP Big Shoes. “What started out as a project designed to preserve the music changed its purpose. It’s not just about me any more, it’s about my family. The tone of the record reflects being in that new space in life, and the responsibility that comes along with it.”

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Album of the Day: Waajeed, “From the Dirt”

Detroit producer Waajeed has worn many hats over the years. Raised in Conant Gardens—a neighborhood on the east side—Waajeed came up learning from some of the city’s music legends including rap trio Slum Village, singer Dwele, producers Theo Parrish and Mad Mike, and the funk maestro Amp Fiddler. When he first came on the scene in the late ‘90s, Waajeed was known as a graphic artist and DJ. In the 2000s, he began producing hip-hop, soul, and R&B records. In 2013, Waajeed launched his own record label, Dirt Tech Reck, and started making dance music.

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The Story of Phat Kat, “Carte Blanche,” and The Gods of Detroit Hip-Hop

Phat KatPhat Kat’s legacy is unbreakably tethered to J Dilla’s. Even as far back as the early 1990s, Dilla kept a tight crew of artists around him in Detroit. And nobody was a more important hero in the Dillaverse than Phat Kat, the streetwise MC with a swaggering flow, the “city of crooks”’ most funky, one of the producer’s most trusted warlocks. Continue reading

Rapper-Producer Black Milk Balances Optimism and Reality on “FEVER”

Black Milk

Photo by Delaney Teichler.

Black Milk says three albums influenced his own forthcoming LP, FEVER: Little Simz’s kaleidoscopic Stillness in Wonderland, the Internet’s breakout Ego Death, and Tame Impala’s psychedelic opus Currents. The rapper-producer hesitates to namedrop that last act, though. “I said I wasn’t going to mention them in any of the interviews,” he says over the phone, “because they’ve become so trendy now and I was kind of a fan of those guys way back on their first album years ago. But they’re a thing now.”

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Mic Write on Police Brutality, Gentrification, and Misconceptions of Detroit

Mic Write

In December 2014, following the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and countless other unarmed black men at the hands of police, Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson called for a new wave of protest music. “I think [the lack of protest music] is just due to fear of being blackballed and not making a living,” The Roots’ bandleader said at the time. Over the last two years, a host of indie and mainstream artists heeded the call; Detroit rapper Mic Write stepped up to the plate long ago. As a soloist and member of the rap group Cold Men Young, he’s won poetry slam awards and literary fellowships for his rhymes, which capture the humanity of Detroit, one of the country’s most misunderstood—and rapidly changing—cities.

His latest album, O.N.U.S. Chain, is his best work yet, a stirring EP that tackles police brutality, racial injustice, and the transformation of his hometown. Sad, desperate, joyful and proud, the record and its accompanying short film cycle through a wide range of emotions, from elation to frustration to anger. We talked with him about public misconceptions about Detroit, how his students taught him a lesson about police brutality, and how a teacher falsely accused him of committing a writer’s worst offense.

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