#Bandcampgold-Cover Art by Anderson Paak
If you didn’t know who Anderson Paak was after summer 2015 I don’t think you’re a hip hop head. When Dr. Dre came out of his cave August 7th 2015 to release Compton everyone in hip hop noted it. Thumbing through the sixteen tracks listed Paak was on six of them. I know that I let out an audible “Who the F#$% is Anderson Paak?!” That is when I found his bandcamp. Once I heard Venice I knew to pay attention to Malibu.
Now he is climbing to the top of the world. He was on Saturday Night Live playing his own drums, he was on Marc Maron talking about this covers album from 2013. I remembered having dug into that project post-Compton and threw it back into the mix. If you haven’t heard his explanation on Maron: Cover Art aims to reverse the polarity of musical manipulation. While historically black artists like Jackie Wilson get their music made into Elvis hits he wanted to take very white very good music and put the funk back in.
His cover of Seven Nation Army sold my wife on the project. The original reclaimed a good deal of swagger that post-Radiohead rock had lost and Paak by keeping the guitar parts splashy and the vocals as smooth as Brenton Wood singing Oogum Boogum (if you don’t know this song you need to) it actually raises the overall stakes on how pimpish this song is. The other high point is his cover of my favorite Beatles song (Blackbird). While Paak can get super funky and joyously silly he knows a precious moment and how to care for it. Blackbird finds the groove with fingersnaps and he gives it his absolute most concentrated effort vocally.
We love that Paak is talented can play instruments sing and rap but its way more fun that he is nuts on top of that. This dude took Neil Young’s Heart of Gold and threw rap verses on his cover of it (Nocando, himself & milo). The final product is mad weird but valuable and interesting. Cover Art is a short form introduction to the capabilities of Paak with nasty bass lines (MAPS!) and signature flair ever-present even while doing other people’s music; people who couldn’t be more different from what Paak’s music turned into. If you listen to the Maron WTF interview that’s his real secret, he’s so nuts he can sit across from an old crunchy dude like Maron and talk classic guitar rock until he’s comfortable. Year before that he was on Snoops podcast passing a blunt comparing the discographies of overlooked soul legends. If you like music Paak will get you somehow. He’s everywhere.
Stream or download Cover Art below:
Song of The Year-Threat 2 Society by 2 Chainz produced by 9th Wonder
Shout out to 9th Wonder who knows the transcendent power of the right sample. Go ahead and find The Truthettes- So Good To Be Alive and bask in how pimpish that gospel song already is. Pumping it up, speeding it up and passing it to 2 Chainz was a brilliant idea.
R.I.P. to all the 2012 white people ironically bumping 2 Chainz on some Trinidad James ish. That is all dead. 2 Chainz has legitimately put his energy determination and creativity into carrying the torch Weezy lit. Pretty Girls Love Trap Music was one of my favorite projects and to follow it with an album as great as Rap or Go To The League is fantastic. You probably heard about this album because it is executive produced by Lebron James and it does talk basketball but that’s just the beginning. This is a very personal album where he talks dead friend’s tax rates dope boy past framed next to sunny futures.
As to-the-bones groovy as this beat is nothing beats the moment when 2 Chainz vengefully spits “I’m so famous can’t even COUGH in peace.” He pulls in lessons from his coaches on jump shots and so much more. With fatherly pride he muses on the possibilities of having another child. While discussing the fact that he doesn’t get the credit he deserves he is absolutely right. The weird thing, I think only three people do. The spotlight has a terrible attention span so if you’re not Drake Kendrick or Cardi you are probably under appreciated. It might take another five or ten years for people to really start thinking about the legacy 2 Chainz has left on the game. Not just being different but being relentless. It’s that kind of willpower that pays dividends in the form of top notch music like Threat 2 Society.
So you don’t have to look it up here is The Truthettes
#Bandcampgold-Texas Piano Man by Robert Ellis
Texas Piano Man is a country album in 2019. It wouldn’t be in 1973. If this album was released in 1973 it would be a part of that oddball singer-songwriter genre Randy Newman, Michael Franks, and Nilsson championed. Conceptually Ellis messes with the audience and knows he has to earn it by refining the process until what he has is something so beautiful you won’t realize he was flicking your nose in the first place.
The first song (Fucking Crazy) is a great example. My favorite college creative writing class had a teacher who was doing it wrong. He was teaching the utter basics and nothing more. I hated it so much that every time he gave an assignment premise I would bust the guts out of it. He hated reading swear words so I made a generational story about strangers on a plane that entirely oriented around the F word. I knew in order to pull off the deed the characters had to be gripping, the story had to be high level, to erase any gimmick stigma. Robert Ellis reminded me of this with Fucking Crazy. It is so beautiful and has so many F words running through it. Some people might think of the song as a tale of a relationship about to go off the rails….for me it’s just how love feels. Getting in deep with someone else you realize they are really off their nut and you always realize it too late. Your already head over heels for their adorable upside. When he croons (at two minutes and thirty one seconds) “I’ve lost touch with reality there’s nothing I can do.” I absolutely get it.
The piano compositions are so impressive; Lullaby is a great example. The chorus is creepy and he says stuff like “You held me like a sea shell in your hand.” Everything is rich lush and a little off a little odd and southern but not leaning into the commercial aspects of Country. In 2019, Country has a heavy drawl and a familiar production style. The only reason Texas Piano Man sits in the genre is because the oddball songwriter genre is bone dry. Robert Ellis is sharp, clear, and crisp but don’t get it mistaken he shares some of the same sensibilities as 2019 Country. Nobody Smokes Anymore throws a middle finger up at the stiffness of a modern age consumed with making the right decisions all the time. It has some extra cleverness to it, I love when he quietly says “I guess I’ll be the only one who looks good in pictures…”
Best thing is the last song is super weird. Topo Chico is a weird Jimmy Buffett curve ball. The vocals on the chorus are fabulous and the track seethes with screwball sounds behind the guitars gentle strum. Do not get it twisted and think since this is a hip hop site I just found this dude. This guy has been on my radar for years now getting better and better. Texas Piano Man is finally the album where he gave us both barrels. I hope he settles into this lane and builds on the laughter this album ends on. Make that the building blocks of his next five years.
Stream or download Texas Piano Man below:
Song Review-10 Piece by Curren$y & Wiz Khalifa produced by Dame Grease
The mixtape era taught artists how to sell themselves post-music industry collapse. When Wiz & Curren$y dropped How Fly they outlined their rap and lifestyle values without any A & R influence or board meetings to approve. They sent it right to us. The duo were all about girls, video games, weed, laughing, loyalty and not a lot of unnecessary stuff outside of it.
I’m glad they got together to break bread over fabulous production and check in on where they are. Curren$y says “We control the town from the couch.” Wiz says “Now we fathers, know that God got us.” I think reviews will come in saying the project is fine. Both of these guys are prolific and that bores reviewers but they have amazing chemistry and share values that trace back to Snoop. They would always prefer to be peaceful. Wiz even ends the song warning that gang life isn’t “the vibe”. On top of that they are growing older and not hiding it. They wear their collective maturity as an honor like old gunfighters who have survived terrible upheaval.
It is deeper than album of the year considerations. These guys left an imprint on the world of hip hop and I’m not sure we take enough time out of our day to think about it. The old heads know both of these dudes can SPIT so they get feature requests from the very best. The new kids know these guys have been successful over a long period and seek to know to understand how. Listen to 2009 you’ll get closer. Along the way you get to enjoy two great technicians.
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Tagged 2009, Curren$y, Dame Grease, hip hop, How Fly, Jet Life, reviews, song revew, song reviews, Taylor Gang, Wiz Khalifa
#Bandcampgold-New Breed by Dawn
I am strangely protective of Dawn Richard place in music. I have never heard a Danity Kane song and really only got into her when she took her career by the horns solo. In casual conversation I frequently tell people she is MY Beyonce. Her dedication to dance pop is unwavering with sonic landscapes and giant sized hooks that fill every inch of space. It makes me very hostile when her newest album New Breed is not spoken about favorably. I think it is the best album of 2019 as of this date.
When I was growing up a lot of us thought dance pop was kind of dumb. Post-Ray of Light the genre moved to a template that was slick and impersonal. As a youngster I was always chasing music with individuality stamped into it. It didn’t have to be smart. Curren$y could brag about sipping a pineapple mojito as the sun sets in Milan and I was glued to the speakers. This is what New Breed gives me that makes it untouchable.
Dawn has given us ten songs about personhood. The intro (The Nine) is masterful as the first line introduces us to the street she lived on growing up showing us her watching My So-Called Life hanging out with friends. It’s only a minute and twenty four seconds with powerful vocal backing creating a chant about childhood that sets the pace for the album. The third song (Spaces) opens with her speaking to us about losing that foundation as she moved up in the ritzy circles. Everything moves and thumps as her voice shows almost unknowable form. Every second matters. The end of the song trails into a clip celebrating New Orleans. Then we get Dreams And Converse which is my favorite song of the year so far. It has bounce that she irons out into creases. Dawn can pump out dance bangers that are more fun than anyone else’s and over time as you think about them they mean more. This song is about strapping up to find your dreams. When she says “I think we should be reckless baby, don’t care if they notice, live life on the surface,” she is laying it out. Fear no ones judgement and let this music help you in that effort.
This is the paragraph where I say she hates Diddy because he ripped her off. She covers this on Vultures/Wolves. To be honest, other people care way more about that than I do. We all kind of hate/respect Diddy (loved him in Get Him To The Greek!) but we understand he is likely terrible to work for/be around. If he wasn’t, G. Dep and Carl Thomas wouldn’t have gotten used like napkins. So if you ever hear anyone who worked first hand with Diddy dissing the socks off him just nod knowingly and respect it. Take in Dawn’s Wolves and don’t feel like you need a special take, she ain’t lying.
The other favorite song I keep coming back to (besides Dreams and Converse) is Sauce. I love that the term sauce is catching fire in hip hop lingo. Flavor is so personal and Hip Hop/R & B allows flavor to shine so you can listen to Migos or Saba and its yours. You don’t have to taste any flavor you don’t like. Find your sauce. Dawn kicks down the door of the song with the opening line as the sample moans and song crackles with analog fuzz she says “It’s the weekend and I’m looking forward to you coming in more ways than you hoppin’ in your car to come and see me believe me.” She cleans her home and puts on his favorite panties. An erotic song is only really good if it makes me feel uncomfortable. This is Janet level seduction, talking about dirty sheets in a hush tone that doesn’t try hard just imposes plans. All the while the 808’s chop and the sample moans. The world of that song expands every time you hear it.
Maybe they think the reclaiming of personhood is corny. Maybe they hate her spoken word on the opening of We, Diamonds. Maybe they remember her as the Danity Kane girl and just don’t study that hard. None of it matters. My favorite flavor doesn’t have to impress opposing pallets. I just wish they could get out of it what I do.
Stream or download New Breed below:
#BandcampGold- Malibu Ken by Malibu Ken (Aesop Rock & Tobacco)
It is pretty unreal how the narrative around Aesop Rock has changed. When Bazooka Tooth was taking the underground by storm in 2003 the debate was heated. On one side the die-hards were unrelenting in their belief that NO ONE equals his mastery of the microphone and thesaurus. On the other side(where I was) how could this guy be the GOD MC if you can’t explain what these songs are about?! This Eraserhead music is full of energy and effort but I don’t know what it means at all. Even the hardest die-hards had to admit it was a problem that they got lost and it was an uphill battle to find your way to the point of it all.
The change has been monumental. Something happened in the five years between None Shall Pass and Skelethon. The latter was the first of his albums I listened to multiple times with no stress. Between Skelethon and the Lice trilogy he did with Homeboy Sandman he developed incredible old man game. He was funnier, more human, the metaphors were three dimensional instead of six dimensional. The Impossible Kid in 2016 was by far his most personal and my favorite album he’s ever made. At that point, I was on the phone with friends who had disliked AR for years talking about how good he is now; chatting it up with die-hard Bazooka Tooth kids and just nodding as they take a verbal victory lap.
Malibu Ken is exactly what January of 2019 needed. All the production is handled by Black Moth Super Rainbow also known as Tobacco. A lot of MC’s couldn’t hang over these very strange synth patterns, overwhelming sounds jump in and out all while AR finds his flow in it. You can call this Boom Bap because it has both of those but it is way weirder. The beginning and end of Sword Box is an avalanche of Synth conducted by the master. Acid King sounds like the soundtrack to a video game where everyone dies (which fits the subject matter).
My favorite lyrical achievement is Tuesday where the first line is “There’s something you should probably know before we go too far. My neighbor found a mushroom growing inside of my car.” Underground legends have to tour a disgusting percentage of their days which doesn’t leave them time for a real life. At one point he says “I would offer you a drink but I literally can’t.” At two minutes and twenty three seconds he goes H.A.M. on himself “I can’t even keep a cactus alive when I’m present. When I’m gone it’s a groundbreaking botanical epic. From desolate to Little Shop of Horrors in a second. It’s weird knowing life thrives more when you exit.” What fans don’t realize is that the boring life ish we balance takes skill and if you did achieve your dream, perform in other countries, do your art…you’d become terrible at that boring life ish you took for granted. Very few rappers are honest enough to approach this as a topic.
On top of this self-analysis on Suicide Big Gulp he still manages to brag about slapping planes out of the sky paying the rent in pennies. Other rappers in his age group have fallen so deeply into their patterns they’ve bored themselves into a slumber. What’s kept AR so vital is his need to do something different. Whether it’s collaborate with a new producer or fellow MC or get personal about mental health or be funny. It’s not that deep anymore. Dude hates being bored and fights it tooth and nail. Over time I think we all learned how to respect that.
Stream or purchase Malibu Ken below: