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Rodney Carmichael

"We're here right now because no one ever really dies."

Coming from anyone other than the superproducer Pharrell Williams, that might've sounded like the opening incantation of some esoteric religious experience. But on Saturday night, Williams' pulpit was ComplexCon, where his genre-bending band N.E.R.D. made a surprise reveal.

Shortly before midnight Thursday, Atlanta trap provocateurs Future and Young Thug, coated the world with the surprise release of their collaborative mixtape, Super Slimey.

Content advisory: The video below contains imagery and language that some may find offensive.


Move over, Eminem.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Call it a comeback. After years of absence from the spotlight, Eminem returned to relevance last night with a fierce lyrical condemnation of President Trump.

When Jay-Z appeared on the season opener of Saturday Night Live this weekend, Damian Marley wasn't his only guest in tow. In a silent show of solidarity that spoke volumes, the rapper took the stage donning a teamless No. 7 jersey in honor of Colin Kaepernick.

It capped off a week in which Jay-Z was rumored to have turned down the NFL's alleged offer to perform at next year's Super Bowl LI halftime show for reasons unconfirmed but far from unimaginable.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO")

CARDI B: (Singing) Oh, look what you made me do. Look what you made me do. Look what you just made me do. Look what you just made me - oh.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Jhené Aiko is not of this world.

Somewhere between pop-oriented R&B and traditional soul, the singer-songwriter floats like an ethereal voice disembodied from typical format and genre distinctions. So when we talk one week prior to the unannounced release of her epic new album, it comes as no surprise that she's much more interested in easing into the big reveal rather than making a huge splash.

In her rise from the Bronx to the Billboard charts, Cardi B has been many things frequently deemed disposable in the annals of pop culture: an exotic dancer, an Instagram celebrity, a reality TV star. But now there's no denying her place in history. At 24, Cardi B has become the first woman rapper to score an unassisted No. 1 hit since Lauryn Hill nearly two decades ago.

For nearly a decade T-Pain reigned, the ubiquitous King of Auto-Tune.

Syd has developed quite a voice for seduction. Between her solo work and group efforts helming The Internet, her burgeoning discography of softly-sung R&B hook-up anthems could turn any amateur PUA into a pro.

On the same night that torch-bearing white nationalists wound up staging a rally at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Van Jones stood at a podium, in the nation's capital, telling a theater full of supporters why they should let love rule in the face of racial hatred.

When MF DOOM emerged from the ether just before the last millennium's end, with a metal faceplate masking his grill, a raspy voice and a vicious internal rhyme scheme, he quickly amassed a cult-like following.

His villainous persona, an amalgamation of comic book characters ranging from Dr. Doom to G.I. Joe's Destro, masked his true identity as he exacted revenge on an industry which had metaphorically disfigured him.

Hip-hop turns 44 today, and Google is giving mad props with a Doodle that drops science on the birth of the breakbeat. In addition to detailing the legendary 1973 party at 1520 Sedgewick Avenue in the Bronx, where DJ Kool Herc originated the style of playing two versions of the same record on different turntables to extend the break, users get an interactive tutorial in the art of crossfading and scratching.

"We manufacture bull---- here in Fresno; there's no way any one person can succeed in Fresno."

Thirty years after becoming rap's first sex symbol, LL Cool J will be the first hip-hop artist to receive Kennedy Center Honors in its 40-year history.

The rapper-turned-actor born James Todd Smith will be inducted with a prestigious 2017 class — including pop stars Gloria Estefan, Lionel Richie, television icon Norman Lear and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade – on Sunday, Dec. 3 at the Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington, D.C.

The honorees will be saluted by performers while seated alongside President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump.

"I'm working on the SoundCloud thing," Chance the Rapper tweeted last Thursday, sounding like an angel tasked with yet another miracle after rumors — later denied by the company — that SoundCloud's collapse was imminent. After having what he called "a fruitful call" with SoundCloud cofounder Alex Ljung, Chance tweeted "SoundCloud is here to stay," a day later.

When an artist of Dr. Dre's stature releases a new song, it's always an event – especially since he averages about a record a decade.

When you're born with a musical bloodline and the perfect rap moniker to match, dropping dope lines on your daddy's critically-acclaimed album is almost inevitable. Just ask Blue Ivy.

After a week of Tidal/Sprint exclusivity, three additional bonus tracks from Jay-Z's 4:44 leaked last night — including one featuring freestyle bars from the first daughter of music's royal couple, Jay-Z and Beyoncé.

JAY-Z opens his latest album, 4:44, by slaying his own ego.

For an MC who's spent his entire career constructing such a formidable facade, it's a tall task. But "Kill Jay Z" sets the stage for what becomes his most personal, vulnerable album yet — and arguably one of his best.

Sounds like Independence Day has come early for Public Enemy. After recently leaking plans to release a new album, Nothing Is Quick In The Desert, on July 4, the iconic rap group has uploaded the entire LP to its Bandcamp page.

The BET Awards, like black America, is never a monolithic affair.

For more than half a decade Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have been an inseparable creative duo, racking up record sales and Grammy awards. But the premiere of "Glorious" — the first single from Macklemore's new, unnamed album — comes today with news that the Seattle rapper's next release will be a solo effort.

The Southern dialect is a complex thing, especially when pouring out the mouths of three of the regions best rappers ever. From the marble-mouthed flow of trapper du jour Gucci Mane, to the elongated vowel sounds of the dearly departed Pimp C, to the sticky, multi-syllabic delivery of OutKast's most consistent player Big Boi, it comes in all drawls and colors.

Two decades after his death, Tupac Shakur is still the headline-generating, record-selling, contentious figure that he was in life. From DJ Funkmaster Flex's recent tearful Tupac rant to the fresh diss tracks it generated in response, our obsession with the legend continues to grow. And it's bigger than hip-hop.

A year ago today, Gucci Mane emerged from an Indiana federal penitentiary a slimmer, sober, reformed version of his old self. Though still confined to house arrest, the Atlanta rapper quickly began picking up the pieces of a career left in limbo when he received a 39-month sentence on gun and drug charges in 2014.

The only thing bigger than a classic beef in hip-hop is a monumental collabo. And when Kendrick Lamar, the artist with the biggest selling album of the year (DAMN.), hooks up with Future, the artist responsible for making history in 2017 with back-to-back No. 1 albums (FUTURE, HNDRXX), it's bound to be the best of both worlds. That's exactly what happens on a newly released remix of Future's runaway hit "Mask Off," featuring an inspired verse from Lamar.

The pairing is not their first, but here's what makes it so compelling and dope.

T-Pain just unleashed a real rap unicorn. T-Wayne — his once-promised collaborative project with Lil Wayne, originally set to drop around 2009 — is finally live on Soundcloud. Also available for free download on the artists' shared website, it's a nostalgic rewind to an era when both T-Pain and Lil Wayne were at the apex of their careers.

Jay Z may be one step closer to becoming hip-hop's first billionaire. The day after appearing on an annual shortlist of hip-hop's wealthiest artists. With an estimated net worth of $810 million, the rapper and entrepreneur has announced a new deal with Live Nation that could put him over the top, Variety reports.

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