Rodney Carmichael

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.

You know what's funny about "Kool Aid," the new Danny Brown song made for the HBO show Silicon Valley? No, it's not Brown's endearing squeal. It's not even the familiar way in which he recycles Kool-Aid as colloquial '80s slanguage to emphasize the importance of people staying out of his, uhh, mix.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

If prayer is meant to soothe the soul, Jamila Woods's "Holy" is a bathtub balm of self-affirming joy. Like manna from HEAVN (her 2016 debut LP), a new visual for the song descended this week, and it's a hair-raising ode to single black women who've considered self-pity when the loneliness was too much.

Brother Ali is a prophet, plain and simple. Even if you're unmoved by his life story — being a legally-blind albino rejected by society who found identity through hip-hop and the Muslim faith — his music most certainly will move you.

Kendrick Lamar has spoken. In his first interview since the debut of his (soon-to-be) chart-topping cultural phenomenon-of-an-album, DAMN., the rapper sat down for the now-requisite interview with Zane Lowe of Apple's Beats 1 Radio.

If, like so much of the general listening public, you have found yourself grappling with the themes and depth of his mystical masterpiece since its release one week ago today, you should find solace in the fact that this is exactly as Lamar intended.

What's weirder? A hip-hop loving Bill Nye the Science Guy, or a science-loving Tyler, the Creator?

The period of anticipation preceding the release of Kendrick Lamar's fourth album, DAMN., was intense, brief but methodically built.

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

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We have a guide to this day's news.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Since its inception, hip-hop has been grappling with the timeless question Marvin Gaye posed on his seminal 1971 album: What's Going On?

This weekend happens to mark the 33rd anniversary of Gaye's own untimely death (on April 1, 1984) resulting from a domestic dispute with his father that happened just one day before the singer/songwriter's birthday. Gaye would've turned 77 this year.

A Tribe Called Quest's latest visual from its four-month-old reunion album, We got it from Here...Thank You 4 Your service, dropped Thursday and its a poetic distillation of hip-hop's generation gap.

Kendrick Lamar wasted no time following through on his mysterious "IV" Instagram post. Last night, the Compton MC released a new song, "The Heart Part 4," and it's a no-holds-barred lyrical onslaught.

Within the span of five minutes, over shifting beats produced by Syk Sense, The Alchemist, DJ Dahi and Axlfolie, Lamar waxes philosophical, adversarial and political while dropping heat on everyone from phony rappers to President Trump.

Kendrick Lamar, deservedly hailed as the god MC of his generation, made a peculiar pronouncement from on high (i.e., high-speed Internet) today that has fans genuflecting in collective anticipation.

The rapper's Instagram account was wiped clean Thursday morning, replaced with one cryptic post added around sunrise. The simple white-on-black image of the Roman numeral "IV," with no caption provided, has led to a near-universal interpretation: Prepare ye the way for the impending release of Lamar's fourth studio album.

Leave it to Run the Jewels to find the connection between psychedelic drugs and systemic disorder. The new video for "Legend Has It," the first from the duo's third LP RTJ3, finds Killer Mike and El-P tripping on acid in a police lineup alongside a rotating cast of unusual suspects: a nun, an "innocent" little girl, a fireman, even a clown-faced police officer.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

In an industry full of surprises, Drake premiered his new LP the old-fashioned way. In fact, the biggest surprise surrounding More Life — the studio album he's calling a "playlist" — is that it finally came out as predicted. After months of teasing fans with rumored tracklists, a string of potential singles and cryptic Instagram posts hinting at release dates that came and went, the 6 God debuted his seventh solo LP on OVO Sound Radio Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET, and it appeared on streaming services at 8:30 p.m.

Culture Wars

Mar 15, 2017

Did you know there's a Wikipedia entry for "political hip-hop"? Kind of like having an entry for "wet rain" or "loud thunder," ain't it? Even when totally devoid of overt sociopolitical commentary, rap consistently speaks volumes about the state of The Union.

Chance the Rapper is not leaving the future of Chicago school kids to chance. During a press conference Monday at Westcott Elementary School, on the city's South Side, the newly minted Grammy winner announced plans to donate $1 million to Chicago Public Schools.

"This check that I donated is a call to action," said Chance, calling for politicians and corporations to follow suit as the conference streamed live on Instagram. "I'm challenging major companies in Chicago and all across the U.S. to take action."

Future has made history: the Atlanta rapper's two albums, released back-to-back over two weeks, have each officially landed at the peak of the Billboard 200 albums chart. With the respective releases of FUTURE on Feb. 17 and HNDRXX on Feb. 24, Future is the first solo act in the 61-year history of the album chart to supplant himself at No. 1 with two successive releases, according to Billboard:

Even amongst East Coast traditionalists, talk of bringing back New York rap has become a tired cliché. But a blazing freestyle has a way of elevating the conversation.

Hip-hop took off its cool over the weekend — and lit itself ablaze in the process.

Two seemingly unrelated threads this past weekend served as raucous, yin-and-yang reminders that hip-hop is not just a genre measured by charts, award show accolades and platinum plaques, but an organic culture unbound by industry rules.

Pages