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Are You Ready To Go Back To Outside?

Backseat Freestyle
Are You Ready To Go Back To Outside?
By Jayson Rodriguez • Issue #22 • View online
Welcome to Backseat Freestyle. This is my weekly hip-hop newsletter that I send out every Friday focusing on one big thing that happened over the past seven days. I also include links to what I’ve been listening to, reading and watching. If you’re a subscriber, thank you for your continued support. If you’re arriving to this issue by way of forward, LinkedIn or social media, please subscribe below. With that said, let’s get into it….

Performance at Rollin Loud
Performance at Rollin Loud
Front Seat
This is what’s driving hip-hop this week….
EARLIER THIS MONTH I was in the city on two consecutive Fridays. After working from home for the past 15 months, it felt normal-ish (Kenya Barris’ new post-pandemic WFH series coming soon to ABC! Ha.) to return to some type of grind. During that week in between, the CDC had announced a new relaxed mandate for folks who have been vaccinated. The resulting difference in those two Fridays was as noticeable as a Lil Nas X outfit. The first Friday, there were fewer bodies in the street and masks aplenty. Seven days later, however, the streets were nearly flooded and masks were starting to disappear. Since then, my inbox has been ringing off with tour announcements and festival lineups news. This impending, next phase has been exciting but also confusing. How willing will people be to return to group settings? Maybe their heart is set on going but their head won’t turn the corner. Maybe they have all the confidence in the world to get back to simpler times. To get a better sense of where things stand, I asked five of my music business friends/peers in different fields to share their thoughts.
Back Seat
Respect our minds or die from lead shower.
GERRICK KENNEDY, freelance journalist and author of “Parental Discretion is Advised: The Rise of N.W.A. and the Dawn of Gangsta Rap” and the forthcoming “Didn’t We Almost Have It All: In Defense of Whitney Houston.”
“Before lockdown I was averaging 1-2 shows a week. That had been my life in LA for over a decade, so I’m fairly eager for live music to return. During lockdown I went to one concert, it was a drive-in experience and I was so grateful to be outside seeing a show but that’s not how I want to experience concerts. I feel good about going to an arena show, but I still think it’ll be awhile before I’m willing to be stuffed at a festival with 175K people.” 
DJ GREEN LANTERN, mixtape legend, music producer and Twitch streaming pioneer. (His one-year Twitch anniversary is tonight, you can check Green out on the streaming platform, here.)
I’ve been calling this the big pivot since day one. Because I wasn’t streaming before the pandemic. It really opened my eyes. It’s really brought something to the people. It’s now become part of people’s lives and people are gonna take Twitch with them, they’re not gonna leave it home. Because I’m streaming 4-5 days a week and I guarantee you none of the people talking to me are going to the club. These people are grown and haven’t been to a club in 10 years and they’re getting an experience with visuals and community. From the comfort of their home. Today is my one-year anniversary on Twitch and I’m gonna do a stream to celebrate that. We’ve built a community and other DJ’s have too, of like- minded, musical lover-based crowds. 
“Streaming happened because outside was shut down, but now that it’s coming back, I think that streaming will find its place and has found its place in real, everyday life.” 
It’s gonna be a balance for me, personally. I’ve been growing a community and I’m not gonna abandon them and they’re not gonna abandon me. And by the way, in a lot of cities, the club has been open. But the club isn’t open at 3pm. This really shouldn’t be an either or thing. You can have both. But where does your time go? That’s really the question. Are you gonna turn down gigs? That’s an interesting question. I’ve been turning down gigs. I wasn’t ready yet. What comes on top of that is the family. Statik [Selektah] called his last album, The Balancing Act. And that’s what it’s all about. 
I can’t front, the phone is gonna start ringing with show dates and I have to make decisions on what I’m gonna do. I have streaming shows that are built around days—Soul Skate Saturday, Jazzy Sundays. Do I wanna go to Seattle or here and there? It’s all case by case, but right now I can’t front, I’m having the time of my life on Twitch and I’m happy there. It’s a blessing. If all I have to do is shift some streaming days around, how mad can I be?
Streaming happened because outside was shut down, but now that it’s coming back, I think that streaming will find its place and has found its place in real, everyday life. 
YVES C. PIERRE, agent, ICM Partners and bookings for Rapsody, Quality Control, etc.
Personally, I’m not ready. I think about my mom, because she’s elderly and being considerate about her. And it’s not like you can tell if someone is vaccinated or not. It’s up to chance and leaning on the responsibilty of others. And as we’ve seen during this pandemic, it’s a crap shoot. I’m gonna try to ease into it and be more strategic with my travel and what events I go to. I used to go to everything and realized slowing down is not a bad thing. Professionally, I’m in the process of planning tours and, in my head, mapping out how everyone is protected and managing to do my job. So, still trying to do my job but easing into it. I’m hoping by September, we’ll all feel better about everything.
MICKEY FACTZ, rapper/recording artist with a new single arriving on Juneteenth ahead of a new project due in July.
“I’ve performed twice this year. I had a show in Indiana in March, it was pretty packed. And I had a show in Omaha, Nebraska, where there was about 250 people there. I was OK with it. At the merch table, I’m wearing a mask, they’re wearing a mask. I have my own microphone. I get on stage, I get off stage. Obviously, there’s a fear of a superspreader event, but as people are doing these festivals coming up in the fall and winter, people are gonna be more and more vaccinated. I’m touring with Lupe [Fiasco] later this year and I have no fear of going on the road again. It’s essential. A lot of artists depend on live performances to sustain a specific life they have. And in 2020 a lot of artists had to improvise and do things like IG live, podcasts, Clubhouse. People were at their wits end trying to make ends meet. And I think now artists are at the point where they can go back to the separation between artist and consumer, it’s necessary. I think people want to experience some normalcy of what life was like during those days before the pandemic.”
JAMIL “BIG JUICE” DAVIS, co-CEO, The Revels Group and manager, G-Eazy.
I’m fucking excited. This is a part of how I make my living. It’s how so many artist, fans….it gives them so much, they love it. They need it. Nothing connects people more than sports and music. And music even more so, because sports, it’s half and half. For music they’re all there to see the same person. I’m hella excited, it gives me something to do, on the tour manager side and the manager side. I’m super excited about it. The U.S. is doing a great job with vaccinations. And you know that saying, weed is the gateway drug to whatever. I saw Michael Rapino [CEO of Live Nation] say vaccination is the gateway drug to being back at shows, and it’s the fucking truth. I’m excited and I couldn’t be more excited.
Trunk
Music, reads, podcasts and videos (music and more) I’m checking for.
DMX’s posthumous album, Exodus, arrives today with plenty of highlights from a star-studded guestlist. Nas shines on “Bath Salts” and “Walking In The Rain,” meanwhile Lil Wayne continues his recent run of standout verses on “Dogs Out.” Unexpected collaborations lead to some of the best tracks, including the standout “Money Money Money” featuring Moneybagg Yo (originally Pop Smoke) and “Skyscrapers” featuring Bono. X’s bark still has a bite. [Listen]
Bad Bunny can’t stop, won’t stop. He’s back with “100 Milliones” featuring Luar La L, a slow burn of a beat but some muscular rhymes. And, apparently, he has another new record coming next week. [Listen]
I’m mixed on Eminem’s late career moves but recruiting Jack Harlow and Cordae for the remix to “Killer” is a positive in my book. [Listen]
To mark the three-year anniversary of Juice WRLD’s Goodbye & Good Riddance a deluxe version of the album is available now and it features a new song plus this remix to “Lucid Dreams”’ with Lil Uzi Vert. The track also serves to bolster a new foundation started by Juice WRLD’s mother, Live Free 999; click here for more info on the foundation. [Listen]
I had a chance to interview wifisfuneral a few years ago and came away impressed by his sincerity. His career feels more esoteric than it is, due to his Soundcloud roots, but his new EP, Smoking Mirrors is worth a listen. “Where I’m Going” and “ScratchUrBack” are two good places to start. [Listen]
Coi Leray pulled up on the remix to Earthgang’s “Options” featuring Wale. She’s really seizing her moment. Might not just be a moment the way she’s delivering when it counts. [Listen]
It’s not easy to serve as the spokesman for an artist when they pass and a lot has been placed on Swizz Beatz shoulders in the wake of X’s passing. This Q&A between the NYT’s Joe Coscarelli and the Ruff Ryders producer was everything you could want: funny, sad and honest. [Read]
Rest in piece Chi Modu, his work was indelible. [Read]
A look at TikTok’s blandest stars and how it says more about TikTok as an institution rather than the stars. [Read]
Gucci Mane looks back on his five-year plan in this very thorough Billboard digital cover story. [Read]
Complex compiled this list of 55 Black-owned fashion and streetwear brands. [Read]
Vice asks: A Year Ago, the ‘Big Three’ Record Companies Pledged $225 Million to Racial Justice. Where Did It Go? [Read]
For the 30th anniversary of Soundscan, The Ringer’s Rob Harvilla went deep on how Billboard changed the game with a tabulated computation. [Read]
Roundup: Rock The Bells raised some major capital, BET Awards nominations announced, Method Man launched a new production company, The Weekend and Drake ran the Billboard awards and Vanity Fair’s Oral History of “A Different World.” [Read] [Read] [Read] [Read] [Read]
J. Cole’s manager, Ib, tweeted that his man’s interview with KD was one of his favorite from Cole and the praise was warranted. Cole was candid, humble and genuinely seemed to be enjoying himself during the Etcs podcast conversation. The co-host Bansky did a good job of bridging the chat between Cole and Durant. Durant also deserves props for a thoughtful engagement he brought to the flow. Related: Billboard named Ib its Executive of the week. [Listen] [Read]
Cole took to the streets of New York to film a gonzo clip to “applying.pressure” on film. [Watch]
Guwop delivers a humble brag on “Poppin,” from his forthcoming Ice Daddy album (dropping on Father’s Day; get it, because his son’s name is Ice.) [Watch]
DJ Khaled’s video for “I Did It” is here because of the scene of Megan Thee Stallion parachuting onto the Miami estate before she spits her rhymes. OK, the gratuitous product placements with an S were funny too. [Watch]
I can’t profess to understand the ending of 24K Goldn’s “Company” vid, but the filter and camera moves make this a fun viewing. [Watch]
Song of the summer contender: Nicky Jam x El Alfa‘s “Pikete” and with a high-energy video to boot. [Watch]
Danny Brown doesn’t usually get this much oxygen to speak and it’s a shame because he’s a brilliant communicator who can roll up humor and insight like it’s a joint. He sat down with Andrew Barber as a part of Code Collection’s interview series. [Watch]
A couple week’s back I included a link to a podcast I guested on (Digital Soulfood) where I spoke about my time being a captain for Nike’s flag football league filled with creatives and influences. Here’s part two. [Listen]
Backseat Freestyle is written and produced by Jayson Rodriguez for Smarty Art LLC. If you have any comments, questions or want to discuss sponsoring a newsletter issue, feel free to email me: jayson@smartyartllc.com. And follow me elsewhere:
Twitter: @jaysonrodriguez
Instagram: @jaysonrodriguez
YouTube: jaysonrodriguez
YouTube: smartyartllc
Podcast: coming soon
Tips/coffee/beer via Venmo: @jaysonrodriguez
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Jayson Rodriguez

What's driving hip-hop? Find out with a reported essay + curated links to new music/music vids, pod recommendations and good reads delivered straight to your inbox every Friday. Vroom, vroom.

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