Frannie Kelley

It's fair to wonder why anybody would make an album today, much less a group of musicians who've proven themselves several times over. There isn't much money to be had, and what little there is can be got by other, less exhausting methods than touring to break new songs. Kool G Rap doesn't need to do this – everybody you respect wishes they could be like him when they grow up. Pharoahe Monch dropped an album this year that leveled whole tiers of his competition. AZ, when he cares to, rhymes circles around 99.99 % of the rapping population.

If this is the first time you're hearing of somebody called Your Old Droog, don't even trip. Some people know the name; those people spent the spring and summer speculating if an unknown entity who posted a better-than-it-should-be debut EP on Soundcloud was in fact Nas, our (hip-hop's) Jeff Buckley, minus the tragedy.

T-Pain's fingerprints are all over pop and R&B and hip-hop. He wasn't the first musician to use Auto-Tune as an instrument — he noticed it on a Jennifer Lopez remix, and remembers "Deep" well — but it was, as he says, his style. For a while, in the mid-2000s, he lived at the top of the charts. He dominated that brief moment of our lives when ringtones were a thing.

On Sunday, Sept. 14, 20 years and one day after Biggie Smalls' debut album, Ready to Die, was released, Microphone Check gathered four of the musician's friends in Brooklyn to recall the man they knew.

On a steamy morning upstairs in a record lover's paradise KING laid down a gorgeous version of one of the songs that lit up Twitter three years ago and put the trio on Prince's radar. Sisters Paris and Amber Strother and partner Anita Bias couldn't believe it when he asked to meet them, but now they think nothing of calling up the legend while they work on their first full-length album.

There's too much happening in New Orleans' French Quarter — especially on a holiday weekend, and especially when hundreds of thousands of people are in town for the annual Essence Music Festival. There are living statues and five-piece bands and drinks a foot-and-a-half tall and people from all over the world ambling in the middle of the street.

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