Saleem & The Music Lovers
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Saleem & The Music Lovers

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Band Hip Hop

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Salim hails from Baltimore, and if we let him, he can be someone to show the rest of the country that Baltimore isn't just the crime seen on The Wire and that hip hop isn't just pompous flossing. While mainstream hip-hop is bloated with ice and SUVs, there is a subset of rap with great flow, great lyrics, and without the obsessing over shiny things. Don't get a hipster like me wrong, I like mainstream hip-hop as much as the next, but like many die-hard music fans, I need my hip-hop to have some more substance.

Take, for example, "Stresses of the City" from Salim's Hip Hop Revisited. An urban anthem with fiercely in-your-face flow, inspired by the mixed blight and majesty of Baltimore's southwest. With a voice and a message reminiscent of Talib Kweli (and maybe, just maybe a bit of Phife from Tribe), Salim eschews the glamorization of stereotyped hood life to open up a new window into the life of West Baltimore. Instead of a world often painted as without hope, "Stresses" speaks of a dichotomy of a less-than-perfect existence with perfectly normal and admirable ambitions. As the suburban teenager is not just a kid on a cul-de-sac with skateboard under foot but has dreams of becoming an artist or an accountant, the city youth is more than baggy pants and headphones and dreams of the same thing. Salim wants to bridge the gap: we all struggle, we all strive, no matter what our world looks like.

Taking it down-tempo on "Hip-Hop Glory", Hip Hop Revisited shouts out to those who came before as well as contemporaries like Pharoahe Monch and Mos Def, reminiscing on the halcyon days of hip-hop. "Untitled" is Salim's vision of life in Baltimore, capably backed with vocals by Green Tea.

But the album is not just about lyrics. Hip Hop Revisited is full of beats that should make Swizz Beats jealous (not to mention a flow that, in a perfect world, would silence Diddy, too). Producers The Last Skeptik and Sin*seer are just the kind of beatmakers that I picture in Baltimore, a wicked studio in a rowhouse basement cooking up sick beats.

This album features lots of collaborations, with the above producers, as well as Theory (and, to give credit where credit is due, Salim produces some of his own, too). Singers Green Tea and Brianne Hemphill, turntabling by DJ Spontaneous, and appearances from Salim's band The Music Lovers also add to the reverie created by the album. But there's no fanfare in the cavalcade of guests. The cast of this album appear for the sake of the music.

Hip Hop Revisited could also be called Hip Hop Revised. A welcome reprieve from slick beats with no substantive rhyme, Revisited also avoids the unfortunate problem of many political/philosophical rappers who are cursed with mediocre tracks to lay their heavy rhymes on. The album is solid both in sound and substance.

You can purchase the album from Salim at his website. - Any Given Tuesday


Discography

Hip Hop Revisited - April 2007
Outgrown These Walls (with Caleb Stine) - December 2008

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Bio

Saleem, born and bred in Baltimore, but infused with universal appeal, has opened for Slick Rick, Method Man, and Black Sheep in prominent metropolitan venues as well as rocked the mic intimately in café-like coves throughout the East Coast since 2004.

As the writer and producer of his 17-track debut album Hip Hop Revisited, Saleem has been described as the “embodiment of hip hop’s evolution.” In the tradition of master Griots such as Nas and Mos Def, Saleem brings deeply introspective lyrics that encompass a wide range of life experiences.

With a desire to incorporate live instrumentation into his music, Saleem formed his group, The Music Lovers, in December 2005 and they have been performing together since April 2006. The Music Lovers will begin recording a debut album in August 2007. Together Saleem & The Music Lovers blend the live band tradition with elements of modern hip hop.

In addition, Saleem is the former host of The Urban Blend Café, where he worked to bring local musical acts to the forefront. His love of hip hop transcends the hype of stage performance, however. Saleem has been impacted by artists who span musical genres and generations. From Public Enemy to Stan Getz and from The Roots to Stevie Wonder, Saleem’s list of influences is vast and thus reflected on Hip Hop Revisited.

“Bringing balance back to hip hop” is Saleem's objective. With continued performances throughout the Baltimore/D.C. area, he continues to attract a diverse listening audience eager to explore hip hop’s higher plane.