Song of The Year-Sinner’s Prayer by Lady Gaga

Song of The Year-Sinner’s Prayer by Lady Gaga

by Dan-O

I have a lot of important mixtapes to listen to from very important up and coming artists but I would be lying if I pretended to knowing anything musically but Joanne right now.  I’ve had the new Lady Gaga album on repeat for days just soaking it in.

I am in the exact opposite position of your average critic. At peak Gaga meat dress time-frame I couldn’t care less. Pop music generates big voiced divas who boom over the same electro-pop , for me at that time, she was just one of that group.

Joanne is the first time I’ve felt close to her music. You can attribute the adventurousness of it to Ronson or Bloodpop or any number of the important collaborators who do great work. Joanne says a lot about Gaga and how intelligent she is.

That classic country sound has incredible malleable warmth to it and smart people get it. Springsteen talks about its influence on The River, Bob Dylan fell in love with it and produced my favorite albums (Nashville Skyline, The Basement Tapes). Joanne is part experimentation part the Gaga you expect. Some critics mourn the loss of their ‘classic’ Gaga while I am listening on a loop enthused by the new path. The big voice, the gorgeous melodies, the well written songs(Sinner’s Prayer is my absolute favorite) and many influences (some great classic soul on Joanne) are evidence of an artist with interesting wings to expand.

This song just hits everything right. It has no fat on it while never coming off as anything but honest and organic.

In a year of dense albums that ache to say everything Joanne feels very self-assured and sleek.  Maybe she was always this good and I just sucked at figuring it out? Oh well, anyone who goes around saying she doesn’t pull off what she tries to accomplish on Joanne is wrong and the fact that I’m so protective says a lot about the vivid personality of the album. I’m glad she wore the pink hate on Saturday Night Live. It’s the album; a simple but enduring image that will stick in your mind while not obscuring your path to her.

Song of The Year-Ain’t It Funny by Danny Brown produced by Paul White

Song of The Year-Ain’t It Funny by Danny Brown produced by Paul White

by Dan-O

Atrocity Exhibition is a special album. I accidentally loaded it in my mp3 player twice and I have not corrected that. Whenever I listen I never skip songs. I listen to every one twice & it hasn’t been a problem.  As well respected as it is critically it has the feeling of one of those albums that will appreciate over time to the point that it becomes historically significant. This era is known for drug addled depression but very few are contrasting that content with such exciting music. Very few rappers cut to the very heart of the subject the way Danny Brown does.

Ain’t It Funny is a perfect example; full of super frightening drug talk like “Nosebleed on red carpets but it just blend in, snapping pictures feeling my chest being sunk in, live a fast life seen many die slow. Unhappy when they left, so I try to seize the moment.” Danny Brown doesn’t offer a resolution merely the celebration of what little time he has. This album is a celebration of entropy produced by  Paul White who did ten of the fifteen songs overall.  White (A British producer who has worked w/ Open Mike Eagle, Charlie XCX and more) throws strange sounds in the mix (Is that a tuba?) and pushes the tempo. The weirder and more jagged the sounds the more comfortable our narrator becomes. As memorable as the posse track with Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, and Earl Sweatshirt (Really Doe) is I can’t get enough of all the short stabbing solo songs. Dance In The Water, Lost, Goldust and Ain’t It Funny (best of them all) none of these songs make it to the three minute mark. In fact, only Really Doe has the conventional feel of a rap song; with guests and a typical five minute length.

Atrocity Exhibition & Ain’t It Funny ,in particular, don’t feel like the start of a new era but the very best of this one. An album Kid Cudi must be playing on repeat.

Mixtape Review-All or Nothing: Live It Up by Lloyd Banks

Mixtape Review-All or Nothing: Live It Up by Lloyd Banks

by Dan-O

Hillary Clinton and Lloyd Banks are more similar than you might think. In the same way the public looked at Hillary confused for staying with Bill after all the cheating, expecting her to explode in front of us, Lloyd was called out publicly over and over again by his mentor 50 Cent for being lazy and not promoting himself and said nothing publicly. Banks believes in loyalty with no regard for outsiders.

On his new mixtape All or Nothing: Live It Up the first song (Pledge of Allegiance) states repeatedly “Trust nobody that ain’t family, they’ll switch up on you fast.” It’s what separates him from Game, both have virtually the same skill level but Game is an epic self-promoter willing to do whatever it takes to trend. So while 50 Cent might see Banks as lazy, and the average fan will wonder where he goes in between mixtapes (not a promotional tour) on All or Nothing he articulates himself as someone who wants to focus on art the way Hilary  just wants to focus on policy. Neither campaign for themselves particularly well.

She is great at the work of government and he’s a great lyricist but neither wants to win the homecoming king/queen of public opinion. Familiar producer names for Banks fans are present here as Tha Jerm gets two songs, Doe Pesci gets three. Even new names sound familiar; everyone just wants to give Banks something that will bring him back to that Born Alone, Die Alone state of being. After all the waiting, the long hiatus, how much rap has changed…Banks steps back into his old sound like he never left.

When he works with guests he is never outshined. Prodigy and Vado get loose over the haunting violin of Mr. Authentic’s Seniorities beat but Banks is better. Joe Budden throws bar after bar at the warped boom bap of Doe Pesci’s Transitions beat and Banks doesn’t bother tacking on extra verses on the back to not get shown up. He’s confident in what he’s doing.

The best songs on All or Nothing: Live It Up are Banks by himself.  As the cymbals crash on Bags of Gold (produced by Quis Star) he wraps his words around money and paranoia in a unique rhyme pattern that is amazing to listen to. My favorite song is Miserable; he raps the first verse to a loved one and pledges that his word is all he has, being authentic and reliable means a lot to Banks but not in the way we understand it.

He wants to achieve his personal artistic goals and live up to the high bar of New York hip hop lyricism without being touched by the oily tentacles of industry politics. That’s why he doesn’t opt into big marketing; he just drops it and knows that whoever listens will get more than what they paid for.  As he weaves words together at a fiery pace on Holy Water(2nd favorite song) you start to realize that he is driven but its personal and long term . Makes for a great listen.

Stream or download All or Nothing: Live It Up below:



Song of The Year-Casket Pretty by Noname Gypsy

Song of The Year-Casket Pretty by Noname Gypsy

I am very worried we are going to end up on the wrong side of history.

At a party where the age average was two generations older and everyone was white; I started asking who they voted for in 1960. Kennedy? Nixon? Most of them said Nixon unapologetically. When I insinuated the negative historical consequences of Nixon’s success (in later elections) it faintly registered but none of them regretted it. Even knowing he would shame the nation; cost thousands of lives in Vietnam….you had to be there.

It was the heat of the moment as it unfolded that formed their opinion; a thousand minute details that history would let fall away in favor of more important considerations. I am very worried that the 2016 discussion around violence in the black community is going that way.

In a minute and fifty seconds Noname clears away all the hemming and hawing about the motivations of police or the difference between black on black crime and police initiated violence. The dead are dead and all the hopeless seconds we spend parsing sociological specifics and building excuses are simply a way to do nothing while minimizing guilt. I hope Noname’s voice echoes “too many babies in suits” behind all those all caps aimless arguments.

This song is about gun culture, senseless death and the fear of it. She executes the song in a sorrowful and thoughtful way that makes it one of the most powerful statements of the year. One that will stand the test of time after these ugly emotional memes fade away; the question is when the future comes will we have done anything about the systemic violence our society breeds? God, I hope so.



Song of the year-Just by KA

Song of the year-Just by KA

by Dan-O

I wonder how hard most of the reviewers who now lavish praise on KA yearly work to understand what he is saying? It is VERY easy to get spun into his dimension and float on a sea of jagged found sounds (those out of control jingle bells on That Cold and Lonely) and steady bass without looking down at the one liner revelations he is delivering. I don’t just look forward to KA’s yearly release because he is my pick for best rapper in the world…he messes me up when he drops something.

2012’s Grief Pedigree is the most NY rap album of the last 16 years but I knew exactly what it was out to do, what it meant. Ever since, he has widened his lens, using concepts to speak on life in ways that go beyond gritty street poetry. Every album goes deeper. His newest, Honor Killed The Samurai is about honor, morality and how it survives when met by the savagery of the real world.

Just is the second song with a hypnotic woodwinds loop that other sounds get thrown into. About a minute and a half in he broke my mind with “Unfold my destiny…there’s no one less than me. Behold my labor…there’s no one greater.” I think it is the best summation of the independent grind an artist faces. To look around you and realize others are making millions repeating the same phrase, bouncing around young and joyful and entitled while you work your fingers to the bone for your art; just trying to put the cold nights behind you. I am in no way saying this is how KA feels. I am saying I know many who do, and I would be lying if I told you I hadn’t felt that.

His phraseology is completely his own. If you look at that quoted line, no one in the world would have put it like that (How many rap songs have behold in them?). When you hear the chorus on Mourn At Night listen to the pauses and word placement. It’s just KA in that old man raspy monotone saying “He gone. They Mourn. At Night.”

Maybe Ka is the Tom Waits of hip hop. Hearing Tom Waits for the first time I remember saying “with this voice why does he even NEED to push the lyrics this intricate?” Ka can sound menacing, no problem. He could probably make more money with simpler, more muscular smack talk but he has a personal standard so far above my traditional listening experience.

He gets better every time.

Hearing his new material always enhances my standard.

Weezy Appreciation Week Playlist

Weezy Appreciation Week Playlist

by Dan-O

We don’t appreciate people in the moment. I think that’s ok. The moment can be tricky, you miss things. Wayne has been in the game so long it would be criminal not to look back at all that he has accomplished.

Tha Carter 2-Best Rapper Alive

Known as his best album, it’s one of a select few that shattered the notion of southern MC’s as second class citizens. Don’t get me wrong, southern rap had been dope but because the production and slang were different it was disregarded by a lot of the elites and hard headed old-schoolers. Seeing names like The Heatmakerz & Cool & Dre on a Wayne album was a shock for people and made it so everyone who heard it knew what he was capable of. This wasn’t a homegrown talent only good in his comfort zone. The world was his comfort zone. He was going pop but would end up making pop go Weezy.

On Best Rapper Alive he roars over guitar samples and blusters on an elite level. He swears a blue streak telling other rappers to go F_ themselves in a number of ways tells us he might bet all his money on one football play(#someweezyishrightthere) but when he says “It’s no problem, I so got ’em. It’s just a victory lap baby, I’m just jogging,” with a minute left, you really feel it. He’s not winded or tired he simply takes this beat, destroys it in about five minutes and you can picture him requesting the next beat queued up.

For rap it was a revelation for Wayne it was a Wednesday.

Teenage Weezy-Lights Off

When Lil Wayne was 17 years old when he released Tha Block Is Hot on Ca$h Money. I consider Wayne the best teenage rapper of all time. While Nas gave us Illmatic as a teen he faded back for years before his next project. Weezy was cranking out ill wordplay as a teenager and lacing smash choruses.  I love the whole album front to back and the Block is Hot chorus is stamped on the mind of everyone who lived through the Ca$h Money come up. All that said,  Lights Off has always had a special place for me.

His flow is special, his energy gives me energy. I’m a peaceful man but I could punch through something when this song comes on. As threatening as the lyrics are you won’t notice that many curse words from teenage Weezy. Wiki says his mother requested he keep a lid on it and so the early Wayne conveyed his nastiness through slice and dice metaphor and cackling vocal menace. No matter what my relationship was to Wayne (and I didn’t always like what he was doing because he never seemed to do what I wanted him to do) I always loved the early stuff. Always will.

Tha Carter 3- Phone Home

Take over the world Wayne went triple platinum with Tha Carter 3 which is honestly spotty as an album (I have no need in my life for Mrs. Officer) with highs that changed the way people made music. Rap stars had to look and sound a certain way. As Wayne began Phone Home  whispering “We are not the same, I am a Martian” a collective huh came back. Think of all the rap weirdos that get their origin from oddball Weezy? I’m not going to list them all just think of all the major rap flows with Weezy in them.

Cool & Dre load the beat with trunk rattling thump and Weezy makes it his right away. Could you imagine anyone else in the world making this song?

Mixtape Weezy-No Ceilings-I’m Single

Weezy on mixtapes is just a beast; taking beats and knocking the stuffing out of them. You can listen to him trading off dope verses with Curren$y on Dedication or tearing Banned From TV limb from limb on No Ceilings and feel the freedom. A guy who was raised to rap and does that; did he run himself down with release after release? Meh. I tend to think he was  always testing boundaries while dealing with a label that only wanted mild experimentation.

I’m Single always felt like the very essence of Wayne. It carries all the grossness that Wayne enjoys. It’s slinky and sleazy and sexual but playful, an anthem for people getting it in on the down low. Wayne is the weirdest sex symbol in hip hop history, a wild looking dude on drugs since he was a kid, constantly hurting himself skating but when speaking to a female audience or about a female character he was authentic and convincing. He didn’t change his tone (a la LL Cool J) and the ladies listened and supported him.


I could give you so many more. Even the worst Wayne is fascinating because he’s always jumping off the ledge, no safe bets. It took me a long time to value him properly. I had to realize that the expectations I had for him were limiting and he was tossing them aside. He was reckless and it worked because he bet on his talent, his work, to make the weird stuff pay off.

LATE PASS Mixtape Review-Imperial by Denzel Curry

LATE PASS Mixtape Review-Imperial by Denzel Curry

by Dan-O

Everyone should like Denzel Curry. If you’re a hip hop purist than you hate biters, people who can easily be traced into others. Success breeds copying so you can find a lot of rappers in New York who sound like Jay and a lot of yelling Atlanta dudes who sound like Waka (lotta Drakes out there). I dare anyone to look into the history of Florida (Curry is from Florida) hip hop and put Curry under one branch of someone’s tree. He’s totally unique in delivery with a flow that can tighten up to a speed bag pace or loosen up without losing any diction.

Imperial is ten songs with no filler. The hooks are all catchy and usually meaningful (example: This Life). The topics aren’t always what you expect and go in interesting directions while following a clearly understandable perspective. Narcotics sounds like the glint of cold steel and (produced by the Suicide Boys) feels like a trap anthem but it’s about the assumption that he deals with from the police.  It’s menacing as hell and begging you to connect it in your mind to a song about hardcore dealing…but that’s just perception. Another icy banger is Knotty Head featuring Rick Ross produced (like most of the songs) by Ronny J & FNZ. This one is official bluster; twisting weed, not giving an F, doing whatever you want to do…perfect for a Ross feature. Curry also has the line “My pockets on Andy Milonakis” which I can’t get enough of.

Just like Knotty Head fits Ross and creates a great Carroll City connection, Zenith is ideal for Joey Badass.  It’s the species of warped boom bap beauty (from Ronny J x FNZ x Freebase) that any lyricist lives for. The elements are simple enough to give the rapper a clear stage but it knocks hard enough to make a gorgeous song. Joey continues the Method Man-like characteristic of sounding way more dialed in on other people’s songs.  I love that he is a feature killer, it keeps us from forgetting how utterly dope he is.

If you are looking for trademark Denzel Curry moments, this project is full of them.  Sick and Tired is dark, frustrated, and paranoid. People are looking at him like a target because he is doing well so he has to protect himself as well as his family from that, not to mention duck the confines of the law. My favorite song on the mixtape is Story No Title where he launches violent disagreement with his peers “How the F_ the rap game become a beauty pageant? Candy @$$ rappers tryin’ to sound like Atlanta b/c they got no identity. I’m off the top like O-Ren Ishii v. Uma Thurman…” It’s a statement to his audience outlining the difference between Denzel Curry and other listening experiences. It’s a story with no title because the title will come later or not, the point is the story and the story is unique. A great title without a good story is a letdown. Curry vows not to be that. Pure Enough also builds on this conversation.

If Tomorrow’s Not Here is a perfect way to end the album. It reminds me of the last song on Goodie Mob-Soul Food (The Day After); thickly soulful, chunky and thoughtful. By track ten (Tomorrow’s Not Here) Denzel Curry is perfectly defined along with all of his fears. Even those of us who are hearing him for the first time on Imperial know exactly who he is and that’s such a brilliant relief.

Stream or download Imperial below: