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Okay, this doesn’t apply to just iTunes, but since it is the de facto application for downloading music, they have more of an impact on standardizing a naming convention. This would also apply to Amazon or any other digital music distributer. One of my biggest issues with finding an artist to listen to on my iPhone is the fact that many artists/labels will put the name of the guest artist in the Artist field, along with the actual artist’s name. Therefore, I will have Artist, Artist & Artist 2, Artist & Artist 2, Artist 3, etc. If I download an album by an artist but can’t remember the name of the album I will go to the artist. It makes it difficult to play the entire album because it is broken up among various artist listings (click image to see The Roots’ latest album as an example), so then, after I find out the album title, I have to go to ‘Albums’ and play the entire album from there. It shouldn’t be that difficult, especially on devices known for simplicity.

This needs to be standardized, for clean libraries, so that all featured artists will appear in the song title (again, click on the image to see the proper way on the CunninLynguists album Dirty Acres). So it would be something like Artist – Artist Song (ft. Artist 2). It really doesn’t help matters that some albums I buy feature the, in my opinion, improper naming conventions and some support the proper methods. That leave one giant clusterfuck of metadata. It needs to be standardized, and for the sake of my iPhone and iTunes library, it needs to cut guest artists from the Artist field completely. I really am surprised, with as controlling as Apple is, that this hasn’t been proposed or been standardized by now. Of course, I could go in and edit the metadata personally, but this is not something the end user should have to do.

In the event of my Demise
when my heart can beat no more
I Hope I Die For A Principle
or A Belief that I had Lived 4
I will die Before My Time
Because I feel the shadow’s Depth
so much I wanted 2 accomplish
before I reached my Death
I have come 2 grips with the possibility
and wiped the last tear from My eyes
I Loved All who were Positive
In the event of my Demise

Tupac Amaru Shakur
June 16, 1971 – September 13, 1996

Happy Birthday, ‘Pac. Gone but never forgotten.

I give hipsters a lot of shit for, well, being hipsters, but there’s another group of people who were around before the hipster fad. They dress a certain way, listen to music “you’ve never heard of,” and are generally people in their 20’s and early 30’s. Some could even say they directly contributed to the hipster fad. I’m talking about hip hop’s very own hipsters, the backpackers.

So what is a backpacker? Well, here is the definition that Wikipedia has for the minority group of hip hop heads.

“Backpacker” was originally a slang term from the 1980s for a graffiti artist who always wore a backpack containing his music collection and, more importantly, his spraypaint cans, markers, and spray tips. Typically, the music collection would consist of local underground rap/hip-hop music artists. The term gradually came to refer to someone with this musical taste, and now has almost nothing to do with graffiti (although certain “backpackers” may participate in graffiti “tagging.”)

It has come full circle now and is sometimes used as a derogatory term by the mainstream to describe underground hip hop fans.

One thing the Wikipedia entry left out is the typical dress of a backpacker. Yeah, the backpack is an essential item, just like white belts or aviator sunglasses are for hipsters. What else might a backpacker wear? They are not rocking hipster flannel. Backpackers don’t wear the typical clothing associated with the urban youth: baggy jeans and XXXXXXL t-shirts. Since backpackers tend to be more educated, or want to appear so, they would wear more “preppy” clothing. Remember when Kanye West hit the mainstream and you saw him wearing polos and sweater vests? That’s what a lot of backbackers wore or still wear. Perhaps you can think of the style as urban prep.

The biggest thing that hipsters and backpackers have in common is their love of music. Hipsters are always on the cutting edge of music and like obscure bands you’ve never heard of. I’m sure you’ve probably heard the joke “How many hipsters does it take to screw in a light bulb? Some obscure number you’ve probably never heard of.” Backpackers are the exact same way. They want you to know who they listen to and that what they listen to is the best. Aesop Rock, CunninLynguists, Blue Scholars, Tonedeff, Binary Star, Atmosphere, and Little Brother might all be in the playlist of these hip hop hipsters. Their love for these artists might not last long though. Like a lot of hipsters, backpackers will lose interest in a musician as soon as they hit the mainstream, uttering phrases like, “I liked him before he went mainstream.” The same backpackers that rallied around Kanye when he released College Dropout are the same ones that are saying how much he sucks on 808’s and Heartbreaks.

So, am I a backpacker? Well, I am and I’m not. I don’t carry around a backpack and I don’t wear sweater vests. That being said, I do think the music I listen to is better than what is played on mainstream radio. That has less to do with me liking an artist just because they are underground than it has to do with anything played on the radio is so broken down and formulaic that it just sucks. Most of the artists I listen to are “underground,” but I would love to see them hit the mainstream. These artist deserve a wider audience and I would celebrate that fact. So there you have it. Hip hop has hipsters too.

In my constant quest for new hip hop music I’ve seen one name come across my screen several times: Blue Scholars. Even though I’ve seen them mentioned by various underground hip hop fanboys, I’ve never given them a shot. I don’t exactly know why. Perhaps they were even on my todo list, I’m not sure. One of the members even appeared on CunninLynguists’ latest album, Strange Journey Vol. 2. The past few days I’ve decided to give them a listen and I have to say, I love what I hear. If you are as unfamiliar with the group as I was, let me give you a brief introduction. From their website:

Blue Scholars have emerged out of the erupting Northwest hip-hop scene with soulful beats, poetic yet political rhymes and a reputation for dynamic live performances. With two full length albums and 3 EPs, the group has become one of the top West Coast independent hip hop acts, known for their energetic and always entertaining live shows and a world view that blends the personal and the political, but unafraid to party in the process.

One of the problems with a lot of underground acts I come across is that they may have rhyming talent but have terrible beats. Or vice versa. This is not the case with Blue Scholars. Their beats are some of the best that I’ve heard in a while. Geologic’s flow matches perfectly with the fantastic sounds orchestrated by Sabzi. It’s a shame that there aren’t more acts like Blue Scholars hitting the mainstream. This is what hip hop on the radio needs to be. It’s also a shame that these guys have been around for a while and I’m just now hearing about them. I hope that I will see and hear much more from them in the future.

Two of my favorite songs come from their Oof! EP. Make sure you go buy their albums. You can buy then from their website or download them from Amazon or iTunes.

Blue Scholars – New People
[audio:04-New-People.mp3]

Blue Scholars – Cruz
[audio:06-Cruz.mp3]

You can also catch their video for HI-808 from the Oof! EP

Blue Scholars – HI-808 (Official Music Video) from Blue Scholars on Vimeo.