Author: Phillip Mlynar

  • Aretha Franklin’s Hip-Hop Legacy in Five Songs

    In a career that spanned more than six decades, Aretha Franklin’s voice helped define the sound of soul music as the Detroit-raised singer brought the spiritual energy of her church choir upbringing to the pop charts. Digging through a discography that totaled more than forty studio albums, hip-hop producers going back to the genre’s golden […]

  • J-Zone’s Wild Ride From Rapper to Funky Drummer

    Jay Mumford was attending Mamaroneck High School in the early Nineties when he made a hip-hop demo tape that sampled the drums from “Midnight Theme,” a song by the Seventies funk band Manzel that’s known for being the basis of Cypress Hill’s “How I Could Just Kill a Man” and Kris Kross’s “Jump.” At the […]

  • Jean Grae and Quelle Chris: Hip-Hop That Lifts the Social Veil

    On a bright winter’s Sunday afternoon, Jean Grae and Quelle Chris sat in an eerily music-free coffee shop on Tompkins Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant having a disagreement — a friendly disagreement, it should be noted, since the two MCs, both prodigiously skilled at coloring outside the lines of hip-hop, are engaged to be married. At issue […]

  • Milo Fights for His Right to Be Weird

    It’s a low-key winter afternoon and Milo — the 26-year-old rapper, producer, and Ruby Yacht label owner who appears at Drom on February 13 — is holed up inside the Soulfolks record store in Biddeford, Maine, that he plans to open in April. He’s recalling the times when he’s had to kick people out of shows […]

  • ALA.NI’s Antidote to Robot Music

    ALA.NI is rhapsodizing over a bar of dark chocolate spiked with pink peppercorns that she’s found in Ouro Preto, Brazil. The singer-songwriter, who was raised in London but now resides in Paris, is touring to promote You & I, a debut that cannily blends late-Thirties Café Society jazz and mid-century pop. (The tour will bring […]

  • Sunny Ozuna: The Brown Eyed Soul Man

    Fifteen years ago, Danny Akalepse, a co-founder of the Brooklyn-based label Big Crown Records, was given a mixtape by a friend that included a nostalgic soul ballad called “Should I Take You Home.” The track was cut in the Sixties by Sunny and the Sunliners, a San Antonio, Texas–based group, and released via the bandleader […]

  • The Afterlife of Hip-Hop’s Brownsville Jesus

    The last time I interviewed Sean Price — three years before the Brooklyn rapper passed away at 43 in his sleep on August 8, 2015 — he answered the phone by declaring, “Sean’s Pizza, how can I help?” He affected a terrible Italian accent and kept up the pizza-spot charade until I asked if he […]

  • Doppelgangaz’ Hood(ed) Life

    “You have to have both testicles in,” implores Matter Ov Fact, half of the upstate hip-hop duo the Doppelgangaz. “You can’t uniball this.” Sitting alongside EP, his fellow MC and producer, he’s presiding over a platter of Korean barbecue at a spot on 32nd Street in Manhattan while expounding on the dedication that self-released music […]

  • R.I.P. Prodigy: 13 Sure Shots From The Queensbridge MC

    The rapper Prodigy passed away on June 20 in Las Vegas, where he’d been hospitalized for complications due to the sickle cell anemia he’d been managing throughout his life. Prodigy rose to acclaim in the mid-Nineties as one half of Mobb Deep, the duo that — along with Nas — helped extend the claim of the Queensbridge housing […]

  • Hip-Hop’s Unseen Architect

    In 2015, I was talking to the Brooklyn rapper Ka about his critically celebrated album Days With Dr. Len Yo when his usually hushed and measured voice turned giddy. That’s because the subject had turned to working with the engineer Scotty Hard. “Come on, that’s the legend right there!” Ka exclaimed. “I don’t know if […]

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