Lovebox – London 2014


I don’t know how to start this shit, yo…”

It is truly an experience to walk around Victoria Park, London during Lovebox, the DJ and hip-hop festival held each summer. The line-up was enough to attract half of London, primarily the group you find in the early hours of the city’s night spots. The grounds were littered with empty cartridges and discarded butts and cups. Bodies occupied the dingy, clear spots of dust and grass on the outskirts of the multiple stages around the grounds.

Life is parallel to Hell, but I must maintain”

The crowd was on their cocktails and the music was pounding from the Big Top and Main Stage. Sweating bodies pulsated through the heat and the punching of rappers spitting in the air was enough to get the crowd wet.

The conundrum we all face is which headliner to see. My inner college student was aching to run to see M.I.A but the New Yorker  in me held strong about 20 metres from the stage for Nas playing the entirety of Illmatic along with some other hip-hop tributes he laid out. It was the biggest hip-hop sing along I have ever been apart of. Nas played in to the whole thing. It had been 20 years since this debut album came out. The album came out in what would arguably be considered the golden age of hip-hop. With various producers, including DJ Premier of Gang Starr creating some of the most memorable tracks the genre has seen to date.

So what you sayin’? It’s like the game ain’t the same”

The energy around the stage was immense. Thousands of people creating clouds over the landscape, girls running through the valleys of people with handfuls of £5 jello-shots and lit joints. It appeared everyone there was having a moment with the lyrics, at times giving the impression of reading along with a preacher and he is saying your favourite verse. Eyes were locked on Nas has he would sing and then hold the mic to the crowd who sang along with intense admiration.  Producing and hip-hop may have evolved since this milestone, but the love for hip-hop is alive and well.

I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death
I lay puzzle as I backtrack to earlier times”

Nas – N.Y State of Mind


EMPT Classics: Say Goodbye to Hollywood

No I’m not leaving LA but I was curating the music for a latin restaurant called Paladar Latin Kitchen this morning and I came across one of my al time favorite songs – La Fama by Hector Lavoe. The song is about Fame and all it’s complexities, a salsa classic. In this world, when you chase something its very important to fully understand what you’re dealing with. There’s nothing wrong with playing the game but if you don’t know how things truly work you will inevitably fail or even worse succeed and be destroyed in damaging ways.

If success took a shot at you, what are you gonna do now? How you gonna kill it, you gonna be unsuccessful?”

Anyways, it reminded me of an old post I wrote back in the early days of EMPT that I felt like sharing again, enjoy.

Originally posted January 29th, 2010


Apologies to all our readers, I’ve been out in LA this week and haven’t had the time to post. You can’t blame me, it’s hard to think about blogging while driving down Pacific highway or walking around Venice beach, it’s just not gonna happen. Nevertheless, I woke up early because I didn’t want to leave you guys hanging. I did a post back in our early days about the complex nature of fame and success, given that SoCal is probably the pinnacle of this I thought it would be cool to bring that back, enjoy.

I saw a recent interview with Kanye in which he was justifying his narcissism by proposing that he is two people, Kanye West the product and Kanye West the person.

I have the right to talk in third person because I’m me as a person, but also I’m a walking brand.”

Interesting. Everyone see’s Kanye West as arrogant and self-righteous, I see him as someone coping with some very important issues we all have to deal with. I think Mr. West is developing into a master of consumerism, a master or a victim – it’s a very thin line. Either way, the one song from 808’s & Heartbreak that I’ve actually willingly listened to is Welcome to Heartbreak, a very authentic song which truly captures the bittersweet aspects of his recent success.

Dad cracked a joke, all the kids laughed,
But I couldn’t here him all the way in first-class.
Chased the good-life, all my life long,
Look back on my life, all my life gone,
Where did I go wrong?”

Kanye West – Welcome To Hearbreak (Featuring Kid Cudi)

This song falls in the same realm of Eminem’s Say Goodbye to Hollywood, Lily Allen’s The Fear, Hector Lavoe’s La Fama, Jay-Z’s Success, The Beatles’ Drive My Car and countless others.

I don’t know what’s right and what’s real anymore. I don’t know how I’m meant to feel anymore.”

Lily Allen – The Fear

The consistent theme in all of these songs is the juxtaposition between success in the public eye and the abandonment of self through extreme levels of sacrifice.

I don’t wanna quit, but shit, I feel like this is it
For me to have this much appeal like this is sick
This is not a game, this fame, in real life this is sick
Publicity stunt my ass, consume my fuckin’ dick
I love my fans but no one ever puts a grasp on the fact i’ve sacrificed everything I have
I never dreamt i’d get to the level that i’m at, this is whack
This is more than I ever could of asked
Everywhere I go, a hat, a sweater hood, or mask
What about math, how come I wasn’t ever good at that
It’s like the boy in the bubble, who never could adapt, i’m trapped
If I could go back, I never woulda rapped
I sold my soul to the devil, i’ll never get it back
I just wanna leave this game with level head intact
Imagine goin’ from bein’ a no one to seein’,
everything blow up and all you did was just grow up emceeing
It’s fuckin’ crazy
Cause all I wanted was to give Hailie the life I never had
But instead I forced us to live alienated, so i’m sayin’…

Eminem – Say Goodbye To Hollywood

I never went to my econ class in college so I don’t remember much but the one thing I did pick up was that the real cost of something is what you have to give up to get it. A concept I’ve really have to come to grips with lately, because even when you win big in this world you’re still losing something. That said, ambition is a complicated subject, one needs to be fully aware of who one is and what one wants before devoting to a particular end. The way to do that is by being brutally honest with yourself, a task not many are willing to undertake. In the words of Hector Lavoe:

Porque yo soy La Fama, soy aquel que la gente reclama pero nadie puede compreder… 

Anyways, this is way too complicated for my hungover state right now. Just what I was feeling at the time, enjoy.

I use to give a fuck, now I give a fuck less. What do I think of suc-cess? It sucks, too much stress…”

Jay-Z – Success


NaS – Back When


You love to hear the story, how it all got started…”

Something about this verse hit me hard today. I grew up in Harlem during the 90’s, during Giuliani which means it wasn’t the prettiest of times but it wasn’t the 80s. NYC was tough if you were a sucker, but for most people in the hoods if you were familiar and minded your business it was fine. My adolescence however was a HUGE duality. It was all due to my freak of nature experience as a member of the Boys Choir of Harlem. An experience that provided layer upon layer of privelege to some very lucky kids from the hood. My father took care of the finances but the choir raised me, RIP to my second father, Walter J. Turnbull.

Our lives were crazy growing up man, one day we’re uptown drinking quarter waters, playing basketball in makeshift parks with broken backboards, opening up the fire hydrants in the summer, cars blasting the latest Big, Pac, Mob Deep, Jay & Nas record, getting into fights and the next day we we’re shaking hands with Nelson Mandela, in Holland 2 months later or singing Blackbird with Paul McCartny. That juxtaposition has left a severe impact in my life and till this day has offered me a unique vantage point and perspective that I wouldn’t change for the world. As I look back to the day when the choir came to P.S. 125 and auditioned my 1st grade class, how after not making the initial cut I was asked to re-audition before they left and then I got that letter to come to the choir that summer.

You love to hear the story, how it all got started…”

That moment could have sent my life in an entirely different direction but here I am – from the Choir to Skidmore to Roc-a-Fella, EMPT & The Playlist Generation with sooo much more to do, so much further to go. You love to hear the story…

The ill reminisce and think about the fly days
Nothing like them 80’s 90’s summer NY days
Hop on the MB5 M101 days
Mopeds, Pro Keds, city split five ways
How it all started, fifth twelfth floor apartment
A jigsaw puzzle aerial view of the projects
A kid saw struggle, buried a few of his partners
Now I chill in resorts, enjoying massages

Check out the oracle bred from city housing
Nas Hec, I arise the dead by thousands
I remember seeing Shan 75 chilling near his Audi
Hollis Brian had Run and them but I proudly
Put a poster up of Shan Pac and Marley Biggie, that was art kid
You love to hear the story how it started
The bubbly I’m pouring wasn’t popped yet


NaS – Back When


Nas – Cherry Wine

Remember when Nas was just a baby MC? Illmatic was released almost 20 years ago, and here he comes again with a flow you can’t deny. Nas has been ranked as high as #4 on lists of the greatest MCs, and his new album, Life is Good is an exercise in emotional recovery and acceptance.

Cherry Wine is simple and smooth with a steady kick drum and the occasional saxophone. Echoes from Amy Winehouse come through, finding a place both haunting and uplifting. The two spend the track in a tagteam of loneliness and reassurance.

Where is he?
The man who was just like me
Heard he was hiding somewhere I can’t see
And I’m alone, and I realize that when I get home
I wanna go through my red and my cherry

I hate when people write me hostile texts on the count of my lifestyle’s perception
Invade my personal life, out of the question, what are they expecting
I be tryna reply them, and they never suppose I get my quiet time in
They think forever I’m rolling in dough, swimming in a pool of cash
God, wouldn’t they know, or am I a fool or as
I’m well known, got people coming at me mad
I had a tell homes, I don’t keep a cell phone
My bad, I drag, off the l and try to silence it
The noise of my head, the curse of the talented
Strong communicator, vagabond, I gallivant around the equator
And that would get me off the radar.”

Nas takes a moment as the track winds down to remind himself that “no matter what, life is good.” The album itself is an exercise in self-realization and confirmation. I’m two hours into a 10-hour train ride right now, and Nas’ personal affirmations are pulling me along with persistent dependability. Give Cherry Wine a listen and go for a ride.

Nas – Cherry Wine

Music Photography


Kevin Casey’s Sample Saturday – Roy Ayers et Nas & DMX

You are looking at the man himself Roy Ayers.  In a time frame of almost 50 years (dating up until the present), Ayers has been releasing and working on projects spanning almost every genre of music.  The handful of Roy Ayers sampled beats I have made in my day never got placed onto albums, but about 100 other producer’s beats have.  Ayers’ record “Everybody Loves Sunshine” alone has been sampled 35 times! (at my last count) Anyway, here’s a video I came across of the legend discussing his feelings on sampling.  The more I learn about this guy the more I become a fan, doesn’t hurt that he seems like the nicest guy ever…

Now on an only-related-through-sampling note, I also caught an interview today with the recently released DMX.  The direction his life has taken him in the last few years is truly sad, and when you listen to X’s lyrics as far back as his first album, you can easily detect signs of a very prominent dark side to the rapper’s life.  Its hard not to reflect on his recent path during this guest verse on Nas’ “Life Is What You Make It”.

Life is too short to get caught up on some dumb shit; Wake up, 40 years old on some bum shit…..Now realize that you ain’t got shit; Not long ago, you was the man, on some hot shit”

Damn reality is harsh sometimes.  The man did get caught up, I just hope his story isn’t over.  Anyway, the track contains a sample of Roy Ayers’ “Vittroni’s Theme” off of the soundtrack of the 1973 movie Coffy.  Since this record isn’t much to really listen to, I threw in “Everybody Loves Sunshine” as well. Life is what you make it, let’s make it.

Roy Ayers – Vittroni’s Theme

Nas ft. DMX – Life Is What You Make It

Roy Ayers – Everybody Loves Sunshine


Kool G Rap – Fast Life (Feat. Nas)

The time has come. We gotta expand, the whole operation, distribution. New York, Chicago, LA. We gotta set our own mark…”

I always like to look for inspiration in weird places and its crazy how a certain event or relationship can make you more determined than ever. This life game has a certain knack for throwing you curveballs when you least expect it and there’s no rulebook or manual on how to handle these situations or fix these problems. The whole growing up and maturation experience is a challenging one for anybody, and lately I’ve been doing a lot of contemplating on the whole definition and society’s perceptions of “adulthood” and “growing up”. I see a lot of my peers beginning their careers by going the 9-5/suit and tie route, and although I will never hate on another person’s choice, that shit is just not for me!!

9 to 5 is how to survive, I ain’t tryin’ to survive
I’m tryin’ to live it to the limit and love it a lot…” – Jay-Z (Reasonable Doubt, 1996)

I can’t help but feel that lifestyle inhibits creativity and can put someone in a box. There’s no doubt that choosing that route has its benefits; stability, prosperity, paid vacation, sick days and a lengthy career, but there comes a point when you realize that one of life’s greatest achievements and experiences is building something of your own and sharing your creativity with the world. By choosing to take an alternate path to success, I have come across many scary moments and the feeling of self-doubt and self-depreciation can become crippling, but there comes a point when you realize that despite all the doubt and fear you have to do what feels right no matter how hard that is. I am currently going through one of the most confusing and grueling times of my life, but all this confusion has made my will and determination to succeed that much stronger. From here on out I am 100% focused on my future and building towards greatness.

Champagne dreams, and caviar wishes…”

Recently, I have been creating some incredible memories with some amazing people, ones that will no doubt last forever in my mind and have really inspired me to take control of my own life and leave a mark on the world. Time has been flying by recently and I have been bumping Kool G Rap and Nas’ classic “Fast Life” as the soundtrack to these fast times. As N.O.R.E. once said, “G Rap?…if you don’t know about G Rap, you don’t know about rap!”

Kool G Rap – Fast Life (Feat. Nas)

– Pete

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Everything I Love

The world at my sneakers,
Gold pieces moulded with Jesus features,
Give streets the fever from the way I spit the Ether,
Came on the scene at 19 a gritty fiend for –
Money, power, respect, get it by any means uh.

New Yorker, slick talker, walk like a brick flipper,
Decimal doctor, multiply to get richer,
I’m a entrepreneur, I’m the heart of the city,
I’m a part of the sewers, I’m the honorable…

I taste the dirt in my sweat, that’s from the Harlem struggle,
All in my swagger that’s the reason why I got my hustle,
I got the highest stature, Miami diamond flasher,
I got you caught in the most flyest and stylish rapture.

My signature next to Christopher Wallace, get it honest,
My first album through to him, that was my biggest project.
Now I’m the illest known to walk like the illest soldier,
And when I smoke, only roll up with the illest doja
You sit and mull it over my venom a killer cobra,
It’s Harlem USA I diddy bop and shop with Oprah…” – Diddy (Everything I Love)

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Kevin Casey’s Sample Saturday – Chic et Nas

I’m late, but I’m here, and feeling especially blessed this time around.  Sorry sample fiends for the delayed fix, but this weekend has been dedicated thus far to the presence of a new life in my world, my niece Maggie Elaine.  The music “game” tends to occupy my entire thinking sometimes and obscures my perspective on life, family, and those around me really going through the struggle.  My sister is healthy, my niece is healthy, and any problems of mine pale in comparison to those friends who may be fighting overseas, mourning the recent loss of a loved one, and simply trying to overcome the lack of opportunity they’ve been given from the start.  Battles in life like these are the focus of this week’s record courtesy of Nas and his onetime protege Quan.  I can’t always fight these battles for the people I love, or bring back those we’ve lost, but I can acknowledge my own blessings, and respect their present and past struggles with these words… this is just a moment.

Trapped in the game, not knowin’ how to stop and get by… To live it alive, so instead they live it to die.  Can we please have a moment of peace?” – Nas

As the case with many of my favorite Nas records, L.E.S. is on the beat.  The two bar sample only needed a little pitch adjustment to bring it up to a good speed for some introspective hip-hop.  The sample really does the work and clearly sets the feel for the record.  As the third single off of Street’s Disciple, “Just a Moment” left the biggest impression on me from the album, and provided a taste of what Nas is able to do often better than anyone.  Moment of silence, moment of respect, however you want to look at it, take some time to appreciate what and who we have in our lives.  Raise a glass EMPT’ers and ride out to this one.  Special s/o to the homey Luke Mesanko that I met at Noctambule!

Chic – Will You Cry (When You Hear This Song)

Nas ft. Quan – Just A Moment\

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Kevin Casey’s Sample Saturday – Sting et Nas

In conversations amongst hip-hop purists, you will consistently hear Nas’ Illmatic near the top of people’s lists.  I’m certainly not knocking the undeniable classic that it is, but It Was Written was always my favorite Nas album, largely because of my obsession with “The Message”.  It was my Wu-Tang tape that introduced me to hip-hop, got us two properly acquainted, and built my appreciation for the art-form… lyrics first.  Next up was a few other albums, including Nas’ second.  The spacey guitar in the intro of “The Message” was something that I couldn’t get enough of, as I OD-ed on my rewind>play buttons (I let my tape rock ’till my tape pop).  It was the turning point for me as a listener, and from that point on the beat became my main focus.  It was also the first time that I wanted to know the origin of a sample, and somehow (with no google) I found out.

The Trackmasters, who produced the bulk of It Was Written, used the opening loop from Sting’s “Shape My Heart” to lay the foundation of what would eventually become one of Nas’ standout pieces of work.  The song starts with the loop fading in slowly, with a high pitched tremelo sound that follows the 4-chord progression, this is also used to layer the hook.  The Sting loop marches on throughout the record, and something about the progression gives it an endless quality that refuses to feel played out. The chorus features Kid Capri scratching in a few classic lines from Illmatic, probably the most famous being “I never sleep, ’cause sleep is the cousin of death”.  I have to pay homage to The Trackmasters for sparking something in my head with this beat that would eventually grow into a burning passion for hip-hop production.  So much that here I am talking about it week after week. Thanks for checkin in…

Sting – Shape My Heart

Nas – The Message

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