More than blood ties: Neph and Prevail

It’s always intriguing whenever we meet artists working and creating alongside their family. In any type of familial relationship, there’s inevitable power dynamics; it’s built in with good reason, as family is how we learn to structure relationships for the rest of our lives. The familiarity between kin can either greatly enhance or hinder creativity. Complacency can become easy when you know your partner has a real vested interest in you.

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For Prevail and Neph, it’s been a seamless transition from family to collaborators. The uncle/nephew duo have been making music separately long before they stepped into the studio together. Prevail has a storied history in both Vancouver and Canadian rap. The self identified BC rapper has been creating with Swollen Members as well as pursuing  solo ventures. Neph has had a lifetime to watch Prevail turn from amateur to expert, touring the world with Swollen Members. Prevail’s journey inspired Neph to pursue his own interests in art and music, but it was a while before Neph shared his recordings with Prevail,  letting him know that hip hop really does run in their bloodline.

The result is Alpha Omega, their debut album together, slated for release this February. To hear their rationale for the title is poetic – Prevail being the Alpha and passing down wisdom to Neph, the Omega. It’s an unspoken equilibrium they seem to have reached; Neph, the vivacious newbie in hip hop is gently lead by Prevail, whose calm demeanour and skilled lyricism is no doubt an aspiration for his nephew.

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Mobb Deep: Havoc and Prodigy – two decades strong

Havoc and Prodigy have been creating music together since they met as teenagers at the High School of Art and Design. Since then, they’ve dropped numerous albums, travelled the world several times over and have been involved in some pretty legendary rap beef. The feuding also made its way into the group, with the duo splitting for a brief hiatus in 2012 before reconciling to record and tour once again. And, in that way, the relationship between Havoc and Prodigy is one of the of the realest in the industry.

They’ve been creating together for over two decades since their beginnings in Queenbridge, Queens. From the hood dissertation that was The Infamous to releasing The Infamous Mobb Deep this year, it’s come full circle for Havoc and Prodigy. They’ve truly grown up together and have seen each other through both creative and personal growth. The split was very publicized, with verbal sparring over twitter and fans torn between sides.

It’s the type of rivalry we’ve all been in at some point in another, with those that we share a rarified relationship with, where true feelings aren’t masked behind false words. These types of relationships are the strongest because they can withstand the depth and complexity of us as humans, and the only ones which will reveal the sometimes brutal truths we need to face. For Havoc and Prodigy, their hiatus was a chance to focus completely on them as individual artists, and when they reunited a year later (as many predicted they would) they came back with tenacity, recording and touring with a renewed sense of passion and loyalty too Mobb Deep. It’s a clarity you can only reach after having had some strife.

We saw them perform together to a packed house, a testament to the reach of Mobb Deep since their first album. It was clear as soon as the first two bars of Shook Ones Part II came blaring through the speakers, Mobb Deep is forever.

Cam’ron on image and imitation

Cam’ron is a lesson in longevity.

Complacency is not a word that exists in his vernacular. His mind travels at a pace that perhaps even he can’t comprehend. Not content creating in just one field, he’s moves cohesively through several realms of entertainment. He’s made moves in music, acting, screenwriting, directing, and designing and you get the feeling that it’s only the beginning of his experimentation with different mediums.

It can be argued that innovation is one of the most enduring themes of success and Cam seems to be constantly innovating. Inspired by demand for a sequel to 2006’s Killa Season, he decided to instead create First of the Month –  a monthly thirty minute webisode premiering at, you guessed it, the beginning of each month. Each episode is based around Flea, a fictional character whose details shadow the rapper himself. Music is a major part of the series, with Cam releasing five songs along with each episode.

It’s this willingness to experiment that’s led him eschew from the usual roster of hit maker hip hop producers; instead, Cam has teamed up  with electro-house DJ, A-Trak, on a collaborative EP, taking him, and subsequently Harlem into a new sonic wave.

We sat down with Cam’ron after his show and he definitely had us cracking up as we asked him to share with us his thoughts on the importance of image, why he chose the difficult path of entrepreneurship and about Federal Reserve, his upcoming collaboration with A-Trak.

The next episode in the First of the Month series is coming up quick, premiering on September 1st.

Dom Kennedy’s West Coast revival

It’s been 20 years since the “East Coast vs. West Coast” feud between rap conglomerates (and subsequently fans) on each coast. The rivalry dominated rap charts and news headlines before spilling over into the streets. It was a tense but transformative time for the genre, and after the two most notorious figures in the conflict were gunned down, things got quiet.

In the last few years, the rap collectives have been cropping up again, reinvented with a more art focused, entrepreneurial drive. From the A$AP Mob to the Beast Coast movement, New York has been governing the rap landscape.

What’s been missing is a West Coast counterpart. Sure there’s Odd Future, but their sound isn’t immediately identifiable as LA rap. South Central Black Hippie has been on a wave, since the meteoric rise of Kendrick Lamar in 2012.

That uniquely West Coast sound has shifted over from Compton to Leimert Park, as independent artist Dom Kennedy is doing his best to put his city on the proverbial map.

Dom along with Nipsey Hussle, YG and a slew of other rappers have been producing an esoteric West Coast sound, channeling the party vibes that Long Beach’s 213 left behind.

Dom has established a growing and loyal fan base, and with the release of Get Home Safely he’s commanded enough attention to be seen as a voice for LA rap – not an easy task for an independent artist. And Dom is all about LA – it’s apparent in everything he does, from his music to his clothing (a mishmash of LA sports teams).

We spoke to Dom about who he makes music for, managing his business as an independent artist, and his relationship with his DJ and beat maker  Drewbyrd.