Song of The Year-Play by Big Freedia featuring Goldiie

Song of The Year-Play by Big Freedia featuring Goldiie

by Dan-O

When I heard the album Just Be Free in 2014 I must have listened to it the way the kids look at the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park (early part of the movie). Living in Maine I’m sure I expressed wide -eyed tap- the-glass confusion before dismissing it. I put it in that mind bin of stuff I don’t understand and know I don’t know enough to comment about… until one episode of The Handsome Rambler podcast. Hannibal Burress and his co-host Tony Trim were asking the question: is it harder to maintain your musical hot streak being lyrically dense with a lot to say or straightforward and energy based repeating phrases. Hannibal brought Big Freedia into the conversation as someone who continually does the latter. Freedia grabs a few phrases and stirs them into the bounce so the song never feels stale but no one has to pull out lined paper and take notes.

When Freedia put out the five song ep 3rd Ward Bounce I completely got it. I had learned to stop figuring it out and enjoy it. Once I let go and did what Freedia asked me to do in 2014 (Just Be Free!) I could see the brilliance in it.

No question in my mind 3rd Ward Bounce is the best EP of 2018. It moves beyond mastering your sound, it’s a sound that can digest so many disparate talents into it. Lizzo fits perfectly in the background of Karaoke not in the shadows mumbling backup but full throated big personality killing the hook(the hook to a Big Freedia song should be called The Super Hook since every second feels like the hook).  Freedia doesn’t need assistance, the lead single Rent has 80’s hip hop Run-DMC flourishes  and still bounces like a shopping cart over cobblestone.  Knowing who you are as an artist is such an important and difficult step but Freedia is beyond it, now she mixes her magic with the talent of others and concocts new recipes.  Goldiie’s superhook on Play is so clean clear and downright pretty that I couldn’t be more excited for what she will do next. The song they create together is the flawless finale this short adrenaline rush of an ep needed letting you bounce but also appreciate the view from where you are. No one takes charge of your body like Big Freedia.

 

 

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#Bandcampgold-Albums I Bought from The Mello Music Group sale

#Bandcampgold-Albums I Bought from The Mello Music Group sale

by Dan-O

My favorite underground label in the world had a sale. I was notified that every album they had put out was available on Bandcamp for $4.99. I cracked my knuckles and started surfing, sampling, adding the interesting albums to my cart. I love rap music and I am cheap so I had to filter people out. Now the obvious artist to jump on would be Open Mike Eagle who has a string of critically released albums. I already bought his entire discography last year so I am all caught up on Mike. These are the albums I had either not heard or fully attended but once I locked in on them I fell hard for. Here is what I ended up purchasing.

Portraits by Chris Orrick

Portraits is truly dynamic in its level of poetic frustration. The cover photo makes it clear this is an MC who has been doing this for so long so hard that it has taken its toll, everything has.  The title track opens on thirty six seconds of Nolan The Ninjas beat which grooves with thick drums and horns feeling like a Jazzmatazz song.  This is the sonic world of Orrick who makes no apologies for what he likes to sound like. No trap experimentations necessary he needs Exile, Apollo Brown, Onra and a few others to weave a boom bap that leaves room for his intensity over top. Jealous of The Sun is a great example of how hard his pen goes. The first verse is an immense bummer about how the world is in terrible shape. The second is one of the most scathing indictments of Trump you’ll hear in rap and if that wasn’t enough the outro is a frighteningly apt analogy.

‘And there’s no one to tell us where to run
The day the people of earth got jealous of the sun
Looked up in the sky, filled the air with gas
Lit a match
Said “We are not to be outdone!’

 

If you go to Genius.com Chris gave a real good breakdown of what this song means. This is not a political album that is just the intensity he puts in any subject. Design Flaw is all about accepting how terrible you feel along with what is wrong with you and the L’Orange beat is propulsive while tailor made for Orrick. I will talk more about L’Orange later.  I love Portraits and I want you to love it but be prepared for the ride. Sometimes he’s talking about how much he loves his cat other times he’s blaming Obama for cleaning exhaust to the point where it’s harder to kill himself. The first lines in Escape Plan are “I went to sleep a fifth deep one night when I was twenty-three/Woke up sober, hungover, age of twenty-nine” he’s so honest and so poetically exhausted that anyone who has a connection to those feelings will find a connection to this album.

Stream or buy  Portraits below:

https://chrisorrickraps.bandcamp.com/album/portraits

No Question by Locksmith & Apollo Brown

Locksmith is so real I feel like I know the dude. I have been listening and reviewing him for at least five years (all hail The Green Box) and he is one of those rare dudes who leverages his intellectual strength to not just lash out at the system but GUT HIMSELF. Apollo Brown is an old soul NY hip hop minimalist and the resonant quiet of what he does just took Lock to a deeper place. While the album serves as a declaration that these two are not down with the new trends it lands a dizzying amount of profound statements.  Second verse first song (Advice For My Younger Self).

“And I tell you, never play it safe and never settle for second
Never hesitate, not even just for a second
Never second guess, if you say it then manifest it
But be careful who you say it to, some people will try to test it
If you think, use reflection, have sex then use protection
If you meet a girl and don’t, then make sure you have a connection
If she keeps it then you’re stuck with that woman, don’t wanna hear it
If she doesn’t then the guilt you’ll feel later will kill your spirit
Make sure you earn some money but money is not your god
Just a means to purchase things, put family before your job
Put God before your family and love before your lust
Protect yourself at all times, put truth before trust
Never fuss with ignorant folks, actions are much louder
You retreat to keep the peace, that does not make you a coward
If you focus on you, you can never go and unfelt
Not a lecture, just a lesson I give to my younger self”

If this was a Big Sean verse the internet would lose its damn mind. Truth is this is just what Locksmith gives you. He ends the industry tirade Litmus with “I’ve been prosecuted and profited from/ Now I just watch with an understanding and stand in my spot ’till it’s done.” My wife really likes this album, it’s not that my wife notes and parses all the meanings and double meanings in rapper verses but when she catches a line she wants to make sure it’s not dumb.  When Locksmith is spitting she can nod her head enjoy the twinkling piano keys on Slow Down and the buttery chorus or she can listen to Locksmith explain (what I have always said) that love is not a gamble but an investment. Whether she listens hard or doesn’t she knows that Locksmith is pounding on every second of No Question so that no one can accuse him of wasting an Apollo Brown beat. This one isn’t fighting for album of the year its right in the pocket of old friend you’ll wear out status.

Stream or buy No Question below:

https://apollobrown360.bandcamp.com/album/no-question

The Night Took Us In Like Family

By L’Orange & Jeremiah Jae

During this process I fell in love with L’Orange and his experimental disjointed and sometimes fractured take on classic hip hop sounds. His collaboration with Marlowe is great, his solo album The Ordinary Man goes hard.  Nothing tickles me like The Night Took Us In Like Family which is his collaboration with Jeremiah Jae. Jae is the perfect orator for a L’Orange beat he raps with a seething calm, the kind born from the anger bubbling when you realize that the world is against you. When the world turns on you some people fold (and that makes sense) others just sneer and think about how amusing it will be when they turn the tables. Jae goes bar after bar on Ice Obsidian which is only one minute and fifty two seconds but is so complete. He always finishes his thoughts no matter how much time L’Orange gives him no matter how oddly syncopated the beat is. Once the microphone is on he steps into things makes it his story.  Listen to how he starts Underworld “Sometimes I feel that the world is going under/ sky full of clouds all I hear is thunder./ Sometimes I feel like somebodies always watching/ waiting for the fall any chance they can hop in.”  One of the oldest tricks in spoken word was if you got on stage and the crowd is still chatty not paying attention put your face to the mic just start the piece don’t yell. Keep your voice low and conversational, whisper it and they will know to stop to listen. The Night Took Us In Like Family is chopped into bits equal parts song, intermission, and everything is perfectly cohesive. Every bit of violence described has a foundation laid around it so the Gangsta Rap aspect of it is never Rambo and always The Wire. With its seamlessness and dynamic shimmer bursting with casual confidence this one is my very favorite.

Stream or buy The Night Took Us In Like Family below:

https://lorange360.bandcamp.com/album/the-night-took-us-in-like-family

Here is the general link for Mello Music Group’s Bandcamp:

https://mellomusicgroup.bandcamp.com/

Hivemind and the open expanse of R&B in 2018

Hivemind and the open expanse of R&B in 2018

by Dan-O

I’m old and from Maine. In my high school I got made fun of for loving R&B music. My discman went everywhere with me so when people discovered I was listening to Smokey and The Miracles they would clown me. It’s interesting to think that the kids in dirty Red Sox hats and highwater jeans were probably listening to rock bands influenced by Motown while mocking me.  When people asked if I liked Rap best (because of how I dressed) I would always rebuke with something to the effect of “I love The Blues and rap is just an extension of it.” Fast forwarding to today it looks like R & B won.

Just look at the grammy nominations for R & B v. Rock. Last two years rock nominees are still Weezer, Queens of The Stone Age, Metallica, Panic! At the Disco old names and the new ones (looking at you War On Drugs) are mad boring. R&B album nominees from that period definitely still include seasoned veterans like Mya, Mint Condition, and Bruno Mars but so many new names over the last three years especially: Daniel Caesar, BJ The Chicago Kid, Jazmine Sullivan, Andra Day, Leon Bridges. I understand we live in a society where you’ll look at that list and say “What do you mean BJ is new?! He had a hot mixtape back in 2009!” What was he doing when Queens of The Stone Age made their first appearance in 1997? Or Metallica first made noise?  War On Drugs, that hot new band I was talking about, have been releasing albums together since 2008(they are the youngest band of that list I gave). In rock years that makes them babies. This is only part of the problem for a genre that has never felt more static.

The Internet (the group) is a wonderful example of the expanded space within the genre. Last year The Internet’s lead singer SYD released two solo projects: her full LP Fin and an EP Always Never Home.  SYD herself said she was just using these projects to flush out fun ideas. Some of the tracks on Fin are self produced others by fellow bandmate Steve Lacy but someone knew it was going to be major because HazeBanga and Hit-Boy don’t gift everyone a beat. Solo Syd is polished urban contemporary, radio ready, sleek lyrical. When she went back to working with The Internet they created Hivemind  which is chunkier, with organic drum and bass, timeless melodies that could have been from any era. The drumming is so exciting on Hivemind I immediately looked up who played it…well its Syd again. The same whispering ghost who haunted tense songs like Bad Dreams/No Looking Back in 2017 decided to smash the drums and form a song around it on Bravo. Some songs on the new album sound like a continuation of the super group Lucy Pearl (La Di Da) others like Aaliyah heading up The Roots (Wanna Be) and as free as it is it holds together. Syd writes songs with heart and vivid detail just outside of the range of people with simpler vision. She can make you live in the moment with her and feel it.

Name a new Rock band who can do that? If I’m wrong that R &B gives you more options while rock locks you into an old template what is the reason for our reality? My bias acknowledged and aside why are people with no understanding or affection for the genre forced to bask in the work of people like SZA and The Internet? Rock needs to find some space to grow and I don’t know where that is.

 

Bad Dream/No Looking Back from Always Never Home:

Bravo from Hivemind

 

 

Song of The Year-Choosy by 03 Greedo & Nef The Pharaoh featuring Chris O Bannon & ALLBLACK

Song of The Year-Choosy by 03 Greedo & Nef The Pharaoh featuring Chris  O Bannon & ALLBLACK

by Dan-O

The story of the 03 Greedo X Nef The Pharaoh collaboration EP Porter 2 Grape always points back to the depressing reality that Greedo is going to prison for 20 years for riding extra dirty. Greedo is a fantastic talent with an outsized personality and a lot to say. Verses hooks songs projects all come easy to him(even easier with the motivation to get it all out before he gets put away). While most artists have to find their zone he lives there and losing him is a big hit for hip hop.

That being said Porter 2 Grape is obscenely fun. Greedo is masterfully flossy-hardcore-silly and Nef is a joy to listen to. As Choosy begins the beat drops right into O Bannon who chisels the chorus into your brain. Nef growls and Greedo jumps right in and growls back. The whole EP tastes of that flavor, no one kills anyone on songs, one dope verse gets the other MC excited to push as hard and they  create collective profane sexist bay area fun. ALLBLACK is locked in and sews the song up with diligent bars. What he doesn’t have is the secret sauce in Porter 2 Grape.  ALLBLACK is always in pocket right where you should be while the two stars ,by contrast, are ping ponging all over the song in spontaneous bursts of energy. When Nef says he climaxed in his lovers eye it doesn’t sound mean, just ecstatically childish. By the time you get to Greedo’s tutor/ruler metaphor you know what this is about. Life is too short for these guys not to clown and enjoy the length of every song. Tomorrow it can be all gone so today we put this song on and sing along loud.

#Bandcampgold-Role Model by Michael Christmas

#Bandcampgold-Role Model by Michael Christmas

by Dan-O

A lot of the most profitable rappers have become quite good at positioning themselves as post-joy flat featured heavy-hangs-the-crown types. Of course it isn’t true for most of them but acting like the weight of the world is on your shoulders as you are at your sales high marker is a cooler way to react than actual excitement.

The thing is you can’t replace what excitement gives a song. 19 year old Boston MC Michael Christmas flexes the power of enthusiasm all through his new album Role Model.  Conceptually the album functions around the relationship he has to his sister and the way young innocent eyes make you rethink the image you present to them and the world they are stepping into. After going over the basic rules of engagement with the world to her on the intro he slides right into These Days where he loudly chants how jacked up the world is. It is produced by Meltycanon who does four out of the fifteen songs on Role Model and most of the best ones. Girlfriend Upset and These Days are all anthemic sing-a-longs where the production is broad enough for everyone to love but odd enough (Girlfriend especially) to be tailored for Christmas. The other producer who deserves a tip of the hat is Thelonious Martin for his ill fuzzed out guitars on Growing Up and everything to do with Ball.

It was a surprise hearing Christmas is from Boston because all the Boston MC’s I know of are stone faced hoody wearing Reks/Esoteric/Slaine types who are more likely to rap about eating your intestines than about being shy in the club and erectile dysfunction (see Not For Me second verse). All the hooks on Role Model are big pretty and fun. He doubles his vocals so you can hear him giggling and repeating his “tick tick” ad lib. He might rap about pancakes and then next track hook up with G Perico & Domo Genesis for an ILL West Coast rap song (Polo Sweater). Shout out to G Perico ,by the way, who is one of my favorite rappers of the world and a definite 2017 MVP candidate for the work he put in.

The reason I keep coming back to Role Model is that it is about feeling like you’re not good enough for the new world. Watching the next generation grow up smart and emotionally savvy while fearing you’re not growing at the same pace (Christmas sees this with his sister while I’m raising a son who is clearly better than me). It is about that but it handles the conflicted heft with an earned optimism so by the time you get to track nine (Ball) you are throwing your hands in the air. When track 10 starts Tianna is listening to Ball and singing along and you feel how important his music must be to her. How much she has at stake in him, you take the trip with these characters. You feel how important these relationships are to them. It’s a refreshing perspective and the energy he leverages is contagious.

Stream or Purchase Role Model below:

https://michaelxmas.bandcamp.com/

 

Song of The Year-Nont For Sale by Sudan Archives

Song of The Year-Nont For Sale by Sudan Archives

by Dan-O

I would bet the artist Sudan Archives knows more about the violin than I know about my family. Nont For Sale is my summer song but also a class I’m enrolled in on how to build a song. The first seven seconds are her stabbing the space with violin work then the bass drops, immediately followed by her voice, and then finger snaps.  The song keeps putting more things into the background of its space while the bass and violin support the floating unspoiled voyage of her voice.

She is the composer the player and the voice so I wanted to give the composer credit. Her voice is always in the right place and never overcome by the instrumental density the composer brings to it. Shout out to the voice. Beyond the composition, the vibe, lyrically this song is as hard as an outdoor basketball court. The first words she says are “You only call me when you need somethin’ I need to be free/ time to spread my wings/ I don’t like leeches/ all that nonsense gon’ get back wit ya./ Don’t got time for snitches/ your pulling me down thought you was my sister.” Shout out to the writer. It’s the best song on a great album (Sink) about being free not just from relationships but presumptions, expectation, and shame. Most of the time her voice is a hush even as she declares “this is my light don’t block the sun, this is my seat can’t you tell? This is my time don’t waste it up, this is my land not for sale.”

As a person I worry about this a lot. People tend to take without knowing it and if you are too agreeable you have less light than you should .You deserve your light. Nont for Sale is muted but expansive and strangely galvanizing. Sink itself is one of my 5 favorite albums of the year because the light she ends up standing in is her own, not one comparable to other major charting artists. That’s the dream.

The case for Schoolboy Q as a top 3 lyricist in 2018

The case for Schoolboy Q as a top 3 lyricist in 2018

by Dan-O

I’m not doing the “he’s no Kool Moe Dee” all time argument with you Fuzzy Kangol Truthers. Save his place in history for later down the line right now we are talking about right now. The other thing to get out of the way is influence is not a factor. I don’t care that Trump did Hotline Bling on Saturday Night Live it doesn’t have anything to do with the power of the pen. Additionally, numbers don’t lie (they absolutely do) but they don’t have any bearing on this argument. That means this is subjective, right? Yes, not impossible.

Qualifying Criteria:

Consistency-People drive me nuts about this. Some MC’s are chasing the big moment and they always end up releasing terrible material eventually. Last year hip hop radio(looking at you Charlemagne) tried pushing the notion that Big Sean is one of the best MC’s in the game. Big Sean has two fabulous albums and two horrible ones. He is all over the place and I listen to everything he does. I like him but consistency matters, forethought matters. How many times you do you get to serve me a full bowl of wack and still be in the conversation?

Schoolboy Q is the opposite. Of his four albums he doesn’t have a disappointing one. All of them have different production identities, themes, and important lead singles that reflect Q at that stage of his career. As nasty and ready to turn on artists as Pitchfork is the last 3 albums scores Q has: 8.3, 7.8, and 8.4. If you are an album guy he consistently has got your back. If you don’t care about albums and just want the hits he feeds you Man of The Year, Studio, That Part, etc.

The four albums that are the core of TDE as an identity are probably: Kendrick- GKMC, Jay Rock-Follow Me Home, Schoolboy-Setbacks, Ab-Soul-Control System. Of those four artists Schoolboy is the only one who has kept pace with Kendrick in terms of albums you need to hear. Consistency isn’t about always working it’s about relentless careful smart work.

Content-John Muir(from Blank Face) has the most sumptuous neo-soul hook packed in against drug dealing at 14, close friends dying, danger closing in from all sides. The song is named after his high school and lasers in on that period. Meaningful content does not have to mean the smartest references or layered wordplay. The reason rappers always refer to their new album or song as a movie is because they want you , as the audience, to follow them through arc of the songs meaning. To the next one. Even  though Schoolboy knows people won’t pay that much attention the juxtaposition of the relaxing chorus and the ever present danger of verses is exactly the dichotomy of palm trees at 77 degrees and shocking violence that West Coast Gangsta Rap was built on. All of this to talk about and that is just one song. Schoolboy has a catalog that as you listen more each song gets deeper and gains meaningf. Q has struggled with addiction and let us hear it and now that he is beyond it (fingers crossed) we get even sharper bars. He builds every song on such a strong foundation he can add levels to it.

Durability-If you are a Schoolboy Q fan play this game with me. What is your favorite song? Pull it up on the tracklist of the album it is on. Is it the full throttle anthemic hip hop takeover Man Of The Year? If you are listening to the deluxe edition what is the next song? It’s the slow jangly mutilated but smooth (thanks to a brilliant hook performance by SZA) His & Her Fiend.  Schoolboy creates Juxtaposition everywhere. He places the crushingly personal John Muir before the bouncy West Coast celebration Big Body. His smoothest song Grooveline (with Dom Kennedy & Curren$y vibing out) comes right before his fire breathing dragon roar of a vocal performance on Gangsta in Designer (No Concept).  The juxtaposition creates tension yes but also dimension and he’s able to create that because he has tapped into the different facets of himself. Not to get too nerdy about this but if you go back to his 2009 mixtape Gangsta & Soul (You know my need to research forced my hand) his flow is totally different it is like listening to pre-Dre Eminem. He built this style and I appreciate his motor in refining it. His best album is his last album Blank Face.  Let’s talk more about this flow though…

Above & Beyond Attributes:

Tyson Flow-A knockout puncher has to make every connect count. Jabs just move the opponent to the right spot, Tyson was not even thinking about points on the scorecard. He was planting his victim in the right place for the right shot.That is how Schoolboy spits and always has. If you listen to the way his voice flings distasteful threats on the first verse of Dope Dealer from his 2016 album Blank Face  it is the same force he exerts on every line of Figg Get Da Money from 2011’s Setbacks.  Schoolboy says every word like a punk rock lead singer hitting their most jagged chorus.

Throw down mentality-The features on a Schoolboy Q album can get pretty interesting. Oxymoron Deluxe Edition(the only edition you should own) has Kendrick, 2 Chainz, Raekwon, Kurupt,SZA, Suga Free, Jay Rock, BJ The Chicago Kid, Tyler The Creator all along for the ride. Name another album that has 2 Chainz, Raekwon, and Suga Free spitting? The fearlessness in his flow has paid off to the point that Schoolboy fears none. This is where we say things like “being part of the best crew has given him the opportunity to be better as a lyricist,” I reject this. Ask Jae Millz how great his career growth has been behind Wayne, Dreezel Stillskin and the rest. It is HARD standing next to the dude who is considered the gold standard for bars. Q’s been doing it for ten years and gunning to a draw at the very least (I think he took Kendrick on Collard Greens) but he will throw bars with anyone and has. On Groovy Tony Jadakiss scorched the track so hard that Q added a whole other song behind the verse. He cares about the standard he has employed which is way more important than winning the song.

My conclusion is simple. I am not writing this because he has a new album coming and that could vault him into the “best in the game conversation” I hoped that this rant will prove he’s already there and this album will just be another leg of that journey.