Express
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Express

Houston, Texas, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014

Houston, Texas, United States
Established on Jan, 2014
Band Hip Hop R&B

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13. Express, Higher Learning
If we're talking about projects that followed their concept to near-perfection, Express's follow-up to How to Be a Player sufficed. Higher Learning owns its own ecosystem: militarized, outspoken and (just like your time in college) filled with questions and answers about the establishment before you. "Peace" and "Higher Learning," two clashing tracks of guitar, keyed-up angst and promise, are only two of the standouts here. - Houston Press


Thematically, only one other album on this list follows everything down to a tee more than Express' Higher Learning. Each track is a homage to the 1995 John Singleton film and ably guides the rappers' hubris toward being a revolutionary unafraid to poke and prod the human psyche. The haunting pianos of "Ruckus" from Chris Rockaway and the electric swath of guitars are easy reminders that yes, you can make a socially conscious rap effort on a grand scale. Sorry, Yeezus. - Houston Press


I’m not sure why it never occurred to me that Express’ new mixtape, Higher Learning, was actually inspired by the movie. I guess because I never thought How To Be A Player was either. I listened to the lyrics of each song not knowing there was a deeper story behind them. So to become more enlightened I watched Higher Learning for the first time. Malik and Remy were no longer names that I thought Express pulled out of the sky simply for the purpose of storytelling. They were actual people who helped create the theme of this mixtape. Express better throw John Singleton’s name in the Thank You’s or something of this tape. Higher Learning the mixtape lived up to the name of the movie.

My favorite songs are: “The World Is Mine,” “Higher Learning” featuring Izzar Thomas & Demetrick Miller (these two guys jam and it’d be wise to look up some of their music), “Fudge,” “Revolution” featuring Rob Gullatte & “Ruckus” featuring Bianca Rodriguez & Teih Leban.

“The World is Mine“ introduces us to Malik, one of the main characters of the movie. Initially before watching the movie I thought this song was about Express himself. Obviously I was wrong. The song is symbolic of every freshman male athlete’s ego. And everybody already knows he’s an athlete. How else would a black man get into a four-year university? Whose world is this?

“Higher Learning” is my second favorite song on the mixtape. This track reminds me of a cross between the whole TDE clique & Wolf Gang. Why, you ask? Well when I hear this song I see Kendrick Lamar, Tyler the Creator and Ab-Soul sitting on a couch in Fudge’s house (if you’re not familiar with Fudge you will be soon) eating Fruit Loops after smoking while watching Malcolm X. Not following what I’m saying? Just listen to the song, trust me. Also do yourself a favor and re-watch the movie too or watch it for the first time if you’ve never seen it before.

The track entitled “Fudge” is dedicated to Ice Cube’s character in Higher Learning. He’s the Black Panther version of Van Wilder. The song much like the character reflects on the Black community and our “transgressions” over the centuries. Fudge presses his fellow Black classmates to think outside the box and not conform to what the university or society wants you to be. Express ends the song asking, “do you really know who you are?” Do you really know who you are or do you think you are who THEY say you are?

Mr. Rob Gullatte himself makes a guest appearance on my favorite song “Revolution.“ Need I say more? The revolution will not be televised, but it’ll be blasted through your speakers. If this song and “Higher Learning” were the only two songs on this mixtape I’d still listen to it on repeat. It’s a hit. I’ve been listening to Rob for a while, and I’m starting to warm up to Express.

By the way Express has a twin brother with dreads whom I always thought was him. Oops!

“Oh you ain’t know?” - iAmQueenBobbi


The evolution of a rap artist is always interesting to witness. Many artists spend the early parts of their careers establishing their sound, experimenting and tinkering with different things until they eventually find their niche and what works for them. It doesn’t happen overnight; but, if you’re lucky, you find that before it’s too late.

Emerging Houston rapper Express finds himself on that experimenting path currently. It began in 2011 with his soft release Out For The Classics, and then rolled over into 2012 with his mixtape How To Be A Player. The latter, it seems, influenced Express to draw inspiration from popular Black films, using them not so much as concept album material as starting points off which he could bounce the stories he planned to tell. Express himself voiced discontent with HTBAP, not entirely convinced it was the best work he could have put out. Thus, he took it back to the drawing board on his latest release, Higher Learning. And while it, too, takes both its name and some subject material from a movie, Higher Learning also serves as Express’s most ambitious undertaking to date.

It doesn’t exactly present anything new, but something about Higher Learning feels extremely fresh. Perhaps it lies in the instrumentation of “Orientation,” whose tinkling piano keys make way for hard drums and record scratches, dropping listeners firmly back into the early 90s. Perhaps it lies in “Fudge,” whose ingenious beat merges a flute with hard-driving drums to create some infectious instrumentation. Perhaps it’s in “Peace,” whose loud and brash rock guitar stands in stark contrast to the song’s title. Or perhaps it’s in “Revolution,” propelled forward by a military-march beat that bores itself into your head.

Although John Singleton’s film Higher Learning inspires the tape both directly and indirectly (“Bye Curious” calls to mind a certain sex scene involving one of the characters having an imagined threesome with a guy and a girl, while “Remy’s Song” is named after the misguided character in the movie), at times it seems as though Express doesn’t know whether he wants to be young Trey from Boyz N The Hood properly educating his classmates or Dap shouting out “WAKE UP!” at the end of School Daze, depositing gems of consciousness in each track. The most obvious of these is, of course, the anthemic “Revolution,” on which the rapper proclaims he’s “on that revolutionary sh*t” and “somebody gotta do it… and let a n*gga do some good for a f*ckin’ change!” The track toes the line between advocating for real revolution and calling out those who claim to be “revolutionary” but whose actions say otherwise. On “Orientation,” Express’s pronouncement that “there’s no peace in the Motherland” is as much a reference to America (for those literally born here) as it is the continent of Africa, chastising the problems in the classrooms and in the Congress. For those not so apt to raise their awareness, Express hasn’t forgotten about you. He creatively flips the concept of “Higher Learning,” the title track, by making it less about enlightenment and more about falling under the influence. And “Sex Scene,” Higher Learning’s slow jam of sorts, has Express doing his best R. Kelly and Drake impressions between verses.

Higher Learning’s features, though many in number, manage to complement Express without eclipsing him. Houston R&B crooner Jack Freeman lends his soulful voice to the hook on “Remy’s Song” and outro track, “What If (Unlearn).” Envy adds strong bars to “Peace,” Higher Learning’s lead single which plays upon the contradictions of seeking peace through violence (or a literal gun piece). Teih Laban’s guest verse and Dallas singer Bianca Rodriguez’s contributions to the hook of “Ruckus,” which calls to mind How To Be A Player’s “Miami,” make the song one of Higher Learning’s more memorable tracks (as does Boondocks’ character Uncle Ruckus being sampled at the song’s beginning).

On surface, Higher Learning is just damn good music with an occasional message. But within the lyrics, beneath Express’s gravelly delivery, one might catch the byproduct of years of honing talent and wading through the waters of creativity to find the sweet spot. And though that IS the goal, Higher Learning doesn’t necessarily have to manifest progress in its listeners – if only because it’s an aural testament to Express’s own progression. - Day And A Dream


The good people over at The Good Company Media Group present to you Express’ Higher Learning; the latest collection of art from the Houston born emcee. Stream and download below. You won’t be disappointed. - YouHeardThatNew


It is clear that Express is trying about to rattle a few brains in his new album Higher Learning . He spews painful truths about failures after college, school debt, conscious religion choices and the lack of peace on Earth and all of this is all in the Orientation more commonly known as the intro. For those thinking this would be a fluff project, you were dead wrong. Bring your notebooks folks.

If you haven’t seen the dark 1995 drama by John Singleton that this project is inspired from I must stop and kindly ask where the f*ck have you been? It is apparent that you are from some old country town who gets its movies from a dusty blockbuster who only stocks five VHS tapes at a time. Stop now! Tell your folks they can’t use the phone for a while, hop on your AOL modem, start downloading the Higher Learning album and then catch a wagon to your closet big city and buy the movie. By the time you get back home and watch the full film the 11 track album will be safely stored on your Macintosh -unless it crashed- so you can finish reading this review and then listen.

For those in modern times let’s continue. The album gives off the same nervous but uncomfortable feeling as it’s namesake. Imagine leaving your parents house, walking into an auditorium full of strangers having the doors locked and a group of scientist announce that you all are test subject for a new government experiment. Yes, it is something like that. You know this shit is about to be crazy but you still are dying of curiosity and you want to know what in the hell is about to happen. I blame the Ricquo Jones the producer of Express’ 2nd track “The World is Mine Malik” for bottling this tense feeling and calling it a beat as a perfect start to the project. If Express’ rhyme pattern in this song could dance, I would imagine them crip walking with a gun in their hand. While you admire the artistry you still can’t forget that this nigga is still slightly crazy and he may pull the trigger. Not saying Express is. I don’t know him like that but then again he might be. Who knows?

We are all guilty of using the term “real hip-hop loosely If you scroll through my previous blogs you will see hip-hop put in the keywords for most of them. Honestly, most of it is not but Higher Learning is. Sometimes we need a project like this to remind us of the vast difference between hip-hop and rap. In my opinion which for the sake of this blog I will call The Cliff Notes version of Higher Learning, Express is telling us, “Forget everything that you thought was safe because your thoughts don’t matter if they aren’t grounded in facts and what you thought was facts come from books from liars. I ain’t gone give you the answers. Just know that yours are wrong.”

Keep in mind that this is my own deduction of the project and not meant to be a Bible for none of you but I do encourage that you listen for yourself and to steal the words from a very wise yellow bone man in Hustle and Flow, “It’s like when I’m right, I’m right but when I’m wrong I could of been right so I’m still right and when I’m right I could of been wrong but I’m not, I’m … And I’m sorry but I could be wrong right now…but I’m right.”

Express and his team put a lot of thought into this album and you should definitely put just as much thought into listening to it. To keep it simple, I loved it and I’ll probably come add more to this review in a week once I get to hear it a few more times. When I see Express at the Indie Spring Jam this Saturday at Avani Lounge where he will be performing (plug b*tch) I am digging in my bra and pulling him out a soggy wad of cash because this project shouldn’t have been free. - TrueSole.net


A little breath of fresh air popped into my inbox earlier this week, and it came via Houston artists Express and Rob Gullatte. Challenging society and its politics, Express teamed up with director Ozieren to create a black and white video that not only showcases “Revolution” as a song, but also revolutionary leaders and martyrs that have fought for social justice. - Boi-1da


Discography

  1. Out For The Classics (OFTC)
  2. How To Be  A Player
  3. Higher Learning

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Bio

Express [ik-‘spres]: n. A mode of speech; utterance. v. The action or instance of representing an idea by language, signs or actions.

Texas rapper Express hails from the Alief community of southwest Houston. Born Darele Taylor, Express graduated from Alief Elsik High School.

Taylor was constantly surrounded by musical influences. His mother exposed the future emcee to an eclectic variety of music from Hip-Hop and Rhythm & Blues to Jazz.

Whereas a number of emcees begin their musical careers at a relatively early age, Express did not consider becoming a rapper until later in his teenage years. After sharpening his skills & studying his craft Express released 2011 "Out For The Classics" | 2012 "How To Be A Player" | Latest effort "HIigher Learning" was released to critical acclaim garnering him a solid buzz amongst Houston's Underground hip hop scene, making him one of the most notable upcoming emcees to emerge recently and landing him in The Houston Press' Top 25 hip hop albums of the year.

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