Sunday, July 31, 2011

Heart of a Champion

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career…
I’ve lost almost 300 games…
26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning
shot and missed…
I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life…
And that is why I succeed.”
Who said it?
The legendary icon himself, Michael Jordan.
That’s what I’m looking for. A champion. A heart
of pure gold, of pure desire. That’s what it takes.
There will be times when you WILL fail,
there is absolutely no doubt about it and no way around it.
It takes that one final game winning shot to make it
over the hump…and over that hump is everything
you’ve ever wanted in life.
Hang in there and keep working toward your dreams.

Busta Rhymes, Chris Brown & Bow Wow Hit the Studio [Video]

Monday, July 18, 2011

Jay-Z & Kanye West “Watch the Throne” Production Credits

01. “No Church In The Wild” (ft. Frank Ocean) [prod. Kanye West, Mike Dean & Ken Lewis]
02. “Lift Off” (ft. BeyoncĂ©) [prod. Kanye West, Mike Dean, Jeff Bhasker, Q-Tip & Don Jazzy; Additional Vocals by Seal, Mr Hudson, Don Jazzy, Bankulli & Ricardo Louis]
03. “Niggas In Paris” [prod. Hit-Boy]
04. “Otis” (ft. Otis Redding) [prod. Kanye West]
05. “Gotta Have It” [prod. The Neptunes]
06. “New Day” [prod. The RZA]
07. “That’s My Bitch” [prod. Q-Tip & Kanye West]
08. “Who Gon’ Stop Me” [prod. Sham "Sak Pase" Joseph & Kanye West]
09. “Murder To Excellence” [prod. Swizz Beatz & Symbolyc One]
10. “Welcome To The Jungle” [prod. Swizz Beatz]
11. “Made In America” (ft. Frank Ocean) [prod. Sham "Sak Pase" Joseph); This was formerly titled 'Sweet Baby Jesus.'
12. "Why I Love You" (ft. Mr Hudson) [prod. Mike Dean & Kanye West]
Deluxe Edition Bonus Tracks
“Illest Motherf–ker Alive” [prod. Southside & Kanye West]
“H*A*M” [prod. Lex Luger & Kanye West]
“Primetime” [prod. No I.D.]
“The Joy” (ft. Curtis Mayfield) [prod. Pete Rock & Kanye West]

Monday, July 11, 2011

Leadership: Great Leaders Often Lead From Behind

Image of quarterback on line of scrimmage
The classic image of a great leader is someone leading their troops into battle, or standing in front of a crowd, giving an inspirational speech. This classic image almost always portrays the leader out in front, at least metaphorically, if not literally.
While this standard representation is pleasing on one level, on another it is misleading. In my experience and observation, great leaders often “lead from behind”. By leading from behind, I mean to say that they get their troops, their employees, their team, or whatever the case may be as prepared as possible, they make sure they are clear on the objectives, and then they get out of the way, or they “get behind” their followers. They don’t go away completely, rather they just make way and allow the people they are leading to get in front, take charge, take responsibility and get to work. In my experience, this is what the best leaders do, as the consequences of not taking this approach doom the leader to having to ALWAYS be there in front, or their followers feel lost. Let me explain with a few concrete examples.
First, let’s say that you are the leader of a technology security consulting company. You are the founder of the company and the one who possesses the great majority of the client relationships, the technical knowledge and the presentation skills for selling and presenting client solutions. As such, and given that you have the greatest financial interest in the success of the company, you have your fingers in everything. You are, as they say, the “chief cook and bottle washer”. You sometimes take other employees with you to client presentations and you listen to their suggestions, but you always take the lead on everything and you never give your employees a chance to “own” or be in charge of anything. What are the consequences of this approach? First of all, you are a prisoner to your business and your desire to always be the one in the spotlight. You have not developed confidence in any of your employees, nor have they developed confidence in themselves. Second, you have created a culture of followers, with none having experience in leading or taking accountability for anything. What if, alternatively, you worked with your employees to develop a clear strategy and a clear set of goals, then gave them incremental leadership opportunities, “got behind them” and gave them ownership and accountability for successively more important tasks and projects? Would that likely lead to a stronger team, better results, and ultimately, more freedom for you to not have to “lead from the front” all the time? With this alternative approach, you’d be able set up a system, goals, expectations, commensurate rewards, and then set your employees loose and “lead from behind,” just giving them feedback and guidance as they reached successively higher levels of competence and became leaders themselves.

Finally, a common example of a leader leading from behind in a sports setting is the quarterback in American Football. The quarterback stands behind the line of scrimmage and directs the offense. From that point of view, the quarterback can see how the defense is set up and can thus make real-time adjustments. There is another layer of leading from behind in the case of American football and many other sports. In fact, it would be more accurately referred to as leading from the side(lines). The head coach, the offensive coordinator and the defensive coordinator are on the sidelines providing yet another point of view and adding further perspective to the planned and real-time decision making on the field of play. In fact, there is YET ANOTHER layer of perspective in many professional sports, particularly in American Football. There is another group of coaches that could be said to be “leading from above,” as they are usually located in a luxury box above the field and look down on the action, then send suggestions for adjustments to the sidelines coaches, who then communicate the messages to the quarterback and other players on the field. In the end, it’s all about having many points of view and a variety of perspectives that can lead to better decision-making and better results on the “field of play”. This approach and metaphor of leading from behind, from the side and from above can be extended to many other sports and to many other organizational settings.
One of the key takeaways is that sometimes trying to lead just from the front is not the smartest way to go. It’s important to gain insights from as many perspectives as possible. Perhaps even more important is that once you’ve provided your input and guidance to the players (or employees, etc.) on the field of play, you have to give them a chance to execute, make mistakes, and grow in their own ability to make decisions, play the game and ultimately, become leaders themselves.
Have you worked with leaders who have “led from behind”? In a business setting? In a sports setting? In a family setting? Have you done so yourself?
I look forward to your thoughts and comments.
-Paul Morin

Friday, July 8, 2011

Preview: Jay-Z and Kanye West's "Watch The Throne"

On July 8, 2011, Jay-Z hosted an intimate listening session for the looming, game changing, genre bending Hip-Hop opus Watch The Throne. Roughly 20 people were invited to the exclusive event, which interestingly enough included the two teenage New Yorkers that purchased the first two copies of the album on's preorder. They were there along with their parents, who were gracious enough to tolerate a long evening for the sake of their kids. Where to begin? There was so much to absorb of the evening so I'll write this similar to the way Watch The Throne was and without rules.

There were some ground rules for the session though. 1) No live tweeting. We could say we were there and that's about it. One journo from The Fader was kicked out with the swiftness for tweeting specifics. 2) No quoting exact lyrics in write ups. Why? Because, although we heard a lot, Watch The Throne is not finished. Lyrics may change. 3) No specific song titles. They aren't set either.

So, here is the song-by-song rundown of Watch The Throne.

Song # 1

In the first song, Beyonce completely blasts off to a beat laced with heavy synths. Kanye bursts onto the track, weaving in and out of autotune and various vocal distortions. Very off beat, but in a good way. Jay-Z follows up flowing to very short or truncated verses. Clearly, Beyonce is the ancho to a song that ebbs and flows until it blasts off in a spaceship counting down. (This was actually the second song, but the first seemed to be a partial record that got hacked off.)

Song # 2

Bouncy is the first word that comes to mind with Song # 3. The track almost sounds like a traditional southern Hip-Hop record. Jay's flowing much faster, sort of in the vein of "Big Pimpin'." Jay's rapping double time and then yields to 'Ye, who raps at a slower pace. The song concludes with the crash of a slowed down menacing beat, reminscent of 80s instrumentalists Art of Noise.

By now, Jay is bouncing to the beats that he's manning the session from the Mac Book. He stops most of the songs abruptly even.

Song # 3

The fourth song begins with a long, bluesy Otis Redding sample...which gets chopped up lovely. Jay and 'Ye go back and forth, almost bar for bar. Straight spittin.... I personally felt is was similar to the way Biggie and Jay spit over "Brooklyn's Finest," but my homey Aqua completely disagreed. Nevertheless, they went in.

Song # 4

Or is that song 4? Anyway, the next song was wrought with melancholy if you only went according to the track. Upon further examination, Jay-Z and Kanye trade lyrics about raising their future kids. To attempt to regurgitate the content wouldn't do the song justice. The song is a very honest and vulnerable look at something the pair long for, but not commonly addressed.

Song # 5

Song # 6 had the whole room bobbing their head in unison to a slow, dragging epic track. Feels European, the United Kingdom to be specific.

Song # 6

This one was a joint where Kanye and Jay rap over a singer's voice trading bars every 2-4 lines.

Song # 7

This song was my absolute favorite. The beat went super hard with Kanye and Jay asking aggressively, "Who gon' stop me, huh?" This song was rooted in a bassline that was deeply monophonic. At the end, the pair throw the listeners for a loop and jump off the path. Suddenly, the beat changes, random instruments come in and out of this living, breathing song.

Song # 8

Song 8 feels very African in nature. Kanye comes in singing for a couple bars and then Jay starts rapping. Interestingly enough, they are rapping about Black on Black violence. Black Panther Fred Hampton gets a mention. An unlikely positive song.

Song # 9

Sounds like Frank Ocean is the new golden boy...maybe? Malcolm X, Betty Shabazz, Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott get nods on song 9. This inspirational song references Jesus and centers on making it as a success in America. Kanye used a particularly clever metaphor. He raps about making his beats and selling them to Jay at the early part of his career. But they says he now "gets high on his own supply," the dope being his own music.

Song # 10

Number 10 offers the operatic synths laced with a rock sample talking about love. The track goes hard. The beats elevates and suddenly...the album is over. The ending is more abrupt than anything I've ever heard.


Jay gets asked if this version of the album was the regular or the deluxe version. The Brooklyn don doesn't speak on it. He simply cues up two more songs that knock. Jay then says, "Does that answer your question?" Room explodes into spontaneous laughter. Jay also let the room hear a song with Swizz Beatz that he admitted might not make the album. He also indicated that "H.A.M.," the first song he and Kanye released may not make the album either.

Overall, Watch The Throne is one of the most interesting pieces of Hip-Hop I've heard in a long time. Many people asked is it "classic" or is it "dope as expected." I believe, to properly enjoy the album, they are going to need to shed expectations and erase what they know. I already can see there will be a segment of the population that simple will not "get" this album.

But, that is the beauty of Watch The Throne. Everybody won't love it and others will swear by it. It will be the topic of debates and hate. Through it all, its very cool to see Hip-Hop artist evolving creatively. Fearlessly.
-Chuck "Jigsaw" Creekmur

J. Cole to Release New Mixtape Before Cole World (Video)

In the last part of J. Cole’s sit down with Rap-Up he speaks on releasing a new mixtape before Cole World: The Sideline Story drops, working with Wale on Bad Girls Club and his desire to produce for Jay-Z, Jay Electronica, Rihanna and Willow Smith.

Video: VEVO Presents: Kanye West & Jay-Z (Sneak Peek)

Kanye West and Jay-Z go "H.A.M" in a sneak peek at the upcoming VEVO Presents: G.O.O.D. Music Showcase. The event captures G.O.O.D. Music's SXSW 2011 takeover earlier this year in Austin, Texas. The extravagenza begins July 12 on

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

J. Cole Talks 'Cole World: The Sideline Story,' Pressure To Please His Fans & More

With a September 27 release date locked in for his debut album 'Cole World: The Sideline Story.' J. Cole sat down with Soul Culture TV to talk about that, his new single "Work Out" and more.