The Rap-Up: Apostle, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Mos Def, Beyonce

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In the fall of 2006, A.P.O.S.T.L.E. - aka Jeff Campbell -- left Denver for San Francisco with his crew, Heavyweight Dub Champion, with hopes of making a bigger splash outside the Mile High City. Fast forward to spring 2008, Apostle is no longer working with Heavyweight Dub Champion and released his first solo album in almost eight years. The album, Lyrical Activism, was co-produced by Mark Pistel, known for his work with Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy and Meat Beat Manifesto, which gives the album an electro, dub sound rooted in classic hip-hop energy. When it comes to the lyrics, A.P.O.S.T.L.E. is spitting what he has been known to spit for years. “The intention is to provide information as well as inspiration to do the impossible through the power of music,” A.P.O.S.T.L.E. said. “I don't make music for people who wish to escape from their day-to-day lives; I make music to rejuvenate the people who stand without fear in the face of injustice on a day to day basis. We are ready to hit the East Coast with this. They are starving for something different. It’s original, independent, underground music. No samples, no 'n' word, no materialism, no sexism, no apologies, no excuses. A shock to the system for an audience weaned on such addictions.”

The album is doing pretty well so far, garnering three stars in URB Magazine and debuting at #29 on the Hip-Hop CMJ charts. He’s been touring the west coast with legendary turntablist DJ Quest (who also appears on the album), and even though he’s looking towards breaking into the Midwest and East Coast, he’s still running workshops and giving hip-hop lectures to the public.

“I'm consulting with people around the country who facilitate their own after-school programs,” he said. “I also do my workshops that I developed at Colorado Hip-Hop Coalition for a living. I still do education, only now I do it on the road, along with rocking parties. My plans have not changed since the first time I ever grabbed a microphone. I will continue to utilize the most powerful communication medium known to man to advance the way of the soldier.”

Here’s a taste of what’s on the album:

Jay-Z scores $150 mil in new deal

Hip-hop mogul Jay-Z has signed a $150 million deal with Live Nation that will help him start a record label, release a few more solo albums, and head out on tour. Live Nation is giving Jay-Z an upfront payment of $25 million for the deal, a flat fee of $5 million to cover overhead of his record label Roc Nation for the next five years, plus $25 mil to finance the rapper’s other acquisitions or investments. He will also get $25 million upfront payment for his current tour with Mary J. Blige, a $10 million advance per album with a minimum of three albums in the next 10 years and a series of other payments that add up to $20 million in exchange for certain publishing and licensing rights.

The blockbuster deal is not only a historic one for hip-hop, but the music industry as whole. The deal lasts 10 years, but the question remains will Live Nation get that $150 million back and then some in the next decade? It’s a new, risky and experimental model for the music industry that of successful, will see a bunch of copycats in the near future.

Kanye West launches travel business It seems like Kanye West is tired of dominating the hip-hop industry, so now he’s looking to get into the travel business. The rapper has launched Kanye Travel Ventures (KTV), a travel program aimed at “serving the business and leisure travel demands” of his fan base. Kanye has recruited top travel experts and consultants who designed the program to fit Kanye’s style and personality.

Fans will be able to customize trips, buy concert tickets, and other merchandise at www.kanyetravel.com. Looking at the website, however, it seems like it’s no different than your co-worker getting into the “travel business” and trying to get you buy a cruise or vacation package from their “travel site.” Only in this case Kanye's got the added benefit of thousands of fans rather than posting fliers on the office bulletin board.

Mos Def is Chuck Berry, Beyonce is Etta James Rapper-Actor Mos Def has been cast as Chuck Berry in the upcoming movie, Cadillac Records, a period film that follows the rise and fall of the legendary blues record label, Chess Records. Beyonce will play Etta James, Cedric the Entertainer is Willie Dixon, Gabrielle Union was cast as Geneva Wade, Jeffrey Wright will portray Muddy Waters, and Adrien Brody will play Chess co-founder Leonard Chess.

Based in Chicago, Chess Records thrived in the '50s and '60s releasing classic music from the likes of John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley, Elmore James, Jimmy Reed and dozens more. The movie is currently in pre-production and is looking for a 2009 release date.

NEW RELEASES LMNO and Kev Brown Selective Hearing It would seem like an odd pairing, LMNO, a white rapper from the Visionaries crew out of California , with a soulful Maryland producer and rapper Kev Brown who’s worked with everyone from Jazzy Jeff to De La Soul. But it works. With Brown's signature bass-line-heavy production and LMNO’s openly spiritual rhyme flow, this is one of the better albums of 2008 so far.

AZ Undeniable AZ has been quietly releasing albums for close to 15 years and he hasn’t lost a step. His new album only features three guests, Jay Rush, Ray J, and Styles P, but you get a full gamut of that Queensbridge hip-hop that AZ is known for. Content-wise, AZ is sticking what has worked in the past, speaking on the streets, his hustling days and dreams of a better life.

Trina Still Da Baddest While Lil Kim was in jail, Foxy Brown was going nuts, Lauryn Hill was on a sabbatical, and Eve was getting her acting on, Trina slowly became the top rap chick in the game. She’s already garnered a hit with her first single, “Single Again,” and the rest of the album is filled with more hits for the club. But if you don’t know what Trina’s about by now, you should probably keep it moving. -- Quibian Salazar-Moreno

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