#Bandcampgold-The Layered Effect by Andy Cooper

#Bandcampgold-The Layered Effect by Andy Cooper

by Dan-O

I think The Layered Effect is the best example of a re-engagement with the core values of hip hop. We are exiting a period where anyone choosing to incorporate anything not trap/808 heavy was called “old school” in the most insulting way. The Layered Effect is not old school but it does joyfully acknowledge the Beastie Boys level excitement hip hop had for itself during the foundational phase, that essential energy that powered the takeover of modern music.

Andy Cooper not only dominates the microphone he produces or co-produces every song on the album. He has been doing hip hop for a thousand years (most notably with Ugly Duckling).  The school of music Cooper does on this project is (in my mind) quite specific. The pace of feverish underground classics like KMD’s 1991 album Mr. Hood is so markedly different from the sunken melodic trance of today it may be unrecognizable to new ears. The first song (Here Comes Another One) shares that same adulation to spit verses and sets the pace. The Layers interlude puts the samples and the cutting all the classic techniques back on display. Get On That churns and squeaks with vinyl scratches as he calls to the DJ.

Last of A Dying Breed is my favorite beat of the collection, easy soulful succinct and expansive.  On it he separates himself from the crabby purists who weaponize nostalgia, “remember back in the days he used to be center stage but then the spotlight fades and shines on a different age. So these kids are going at it and they got some nerve and they talk with such energy and lots of verve. Some old timer wants to put in a word he ain’t given the respect that he think he deserve. Well you’re the last of the Mohicans who hates young cats because they don’t seek him whining that they rude and they tryin’ to diss but dude they don’t really even know you exist.” He is clear on this song that even the greatest have had their time and passed beyond it. Last of A Dying Breed strengthens the resolve of the project, it is proof that he knows what he is doing might not work for all hip hop fans and doesn’t hold it against them. On the next song he (Anything Goes) he claims to be “playing like a Wu-Tang name generator” and in that play he discovers moments of fun and craft impossible to find elsewhere.

Can’t Be Satisfied is fabulous jazz influenced Boom Bap that DJ Premier would adore with an infectious hook that is the second most party friendly track on The Layered Effect. My favorite song is Do The AndyPuppet because it is insane.  It starts with a doo wop coo maracas and a stabbing bass line he comes up with a song about people’s adoration of a dance he does where he looks like a puppet. He implores you to join in as voices layer expounding the virtue of it. I believe he describes specifically how the dance is done. Half way through a tuba comes into the song as he coaches you through the motions.  It is a song you only do for the joy of it. The world doesn’t necessarily reward this brand of magical nonsense. Magical nonsense is a real part of the history of the music, its why people used to shout motel hotel Holiday Inn and Andy found a smart way to bring it back into the center where it belongs…for him.

Stream or purchase on Bandcamp below:

https://rocafortrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-layered-effect

 

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Song review-Goyard by Lil Debbie produced by Kid Class

Song review-Goyard by Lil Debbie produced by Kid Class

by Dan-O

I will be forgiven for not being all in on Lil Debbie when she popped. She came about during that big 2011 White Girl Mob mess that spawned V-Nasty & Kreayshawn.  She came in the game as a tiny white girl with a pronounced blacent (to be clear people grow up in different neighborhoods and if you are a tiny pretty white girl growing up in a culturally black environment I’m not mad if you pick up stuff, that outrage is not my perogative as I am a white dude from Maine).

The difference between Debbie and the rest is that she really picked up productivity. From 2013 till present day Lil Debbie has 6 ep’s and 2 studio albums. She teamed up with Atlanta based producer Kid Class for a new ep in salute of Fresh Prince/Jazzy Jeff entitled I’m The Rapper, He’s The Producer. For the first prolonged period of time (5 tracks) she is forced to adjust to different production. She’s spent her life eating off slapping bay area beats that did a lot of the work and this time things are different. The final product she’s able to craft is worthy of some real acknowledgement.

I did hear her get better over the course of years and her last album (2017’s OG In My System) has real bars (I distinctly remember hitting rewind on a verse attacking organized religion as a drug to pacify people).  I’m The Rapper, He’s Producer is a game of adjustments. On the first track Oxymoron she uses the Migos pinched breathing hook delivery to find the bounce, on Stunt she uses Southern rap style vocal doubling to good effect. She sways with these beats to stay in the flow of the production.

The high point is Goyard (which I just found out from the internet is a French tote bag that dates back to the 1800’s. She went to fashion school people.) This is like a great Wiz Khalifa song with hand claps and a hook held and pinched to make the autotune an essential part of the song.  Her flow has no more wrinkles left in it. You can say she’s not saying anything important and that argument has enough gray area to sink anyone BUT she spits. She is a monster on the chorus & bridge.  I could have easily done this review on the song after Goyard (Classic) which is warm and fun and cocky.  Her songs go.

Nothing makes me happier than when people I think suck prove I suck for doubting them. She gets it and has the right attitude when she says “You know I be super loaded off the OG blunts and Eddies, even let my haters hit it ain’t no time for being petty.” She played the long game after the hot takes cooled down.

 

 

 

 

Mixtape review-ILOVEMAKONNEN x Ronny J

Mixtape review-ILOVEMAKONNEN x Ronny J

by Dan-O

Makonnen is so much better in an unorthodox state. Whenever he tries to fit the traditional role of rapper or R & B singer he ends up sounding very out of sorts. I think he is at the very cutting edge of making music that achieves bits of both but only without the pressure of expectations (this entire rundown applies to Lil Yachty as well). So it makes sense that when I listened to his new five song collection and thought he was back on track Makonnen himself stated this is not a tape just the two having fun. It proves my point. It has to be loose.

Makonnen has a voice that can be annoying or enchanting with a very thin line to separate. His commitment to it and use of audaciously emotional content matches up perfectly with off kilter bass burps and sharp sounds that Ronny J brings into the production. They keep it weird and stark and it works. Y U Leave is a song that takes over the landscape of your mind with far away vocal overdubs and a lurching melody.

Paper Chase is a little more celebratory and Ronny J really fuzzes up the foreground to produce a splendidly creepy trap beat to collect checks to. Lonely Thoughts features a superb guest appearance by Teddy, it’s exactly the kind of song I come to Makonnen for. Ronny J makes the strings cry over 808’s while Makonnen leverages an even more wounded delivery to his vocal performance. He’s not a stand out verse guy who is going to dazzle you with bars but if left to his own devices he can fill your music storage with something you only get from him. Something I wish I could describe better.

Kick It is the last song and high point of this song collection (which boasts some thoughtful shifts in tempo from loneliness to braggadocio to anger). He tells his mom to sit down while he goes out to hustle, “I wasn’t proud of what I did man I had F%*@in’ frowns, I lost so many F!*#in’ friends I buried them in the ground.” While it is a song about the potent emotional state of hustling he sounds so earnest which makes how catchy it is earned.

I definitely want him to do what Lil Uzi did and figure out his blueprint for the main stage. He has dropped off tapes and loosies but when he puts a debut together I’d like him to push for another level of what he’s best at. Maybe he needs to develop a plan for that, maybe plans are not best for him. He might just need pen pad food and Ronny J.

stream or download ILOVEMAKONNEN x Ronny J below:

http://www.datpiff.com/ILoveMakonnen-Ronny-J-ILoveMakonnen-x-Ronny-J-mixtape.882808.html

Song of The Year-G.R.E.E.D. by Berner produced by Scott Storch

Song of The Year-G.R.E.E.D. by Berner produced by Scott Storch

by Dan-O

As a hip hop fan I feel like Berner is one of those good friends I check in with from time to time. He’s always doing well. Most of the time having a great time with a killer guest list.  No one has a network like Berner, on his new album (The Big Pescado) he gets guest features from  The Game, Conway, Devin The Dude, Too Short, Wiz Khalifa, E-40, Jeremih, Trey Songz, Ty Dolla Sign, and Snoop Dogg. Even for bay area rappers his last ten years have been pretty staggering from a productivity standpoint (go to his Wikipedia discography for confirmation).

All of Berners best traits come through on his first effort of the new year and my favorite song G.R.E.E.D. has them all firing. He’s a smoker which you will know from the first line “We smoke till were numb and we worship the sun,” a great smoker MC has the opposite personality of a struggle rapper. Berner is wild consistent, assured and relaxed. Thank you weed, that being said, he takes his bars seriously and G.R.E.E.D. being a spin off of Wu’s C.R.E.A.M. maintains the toughness.

The best thing I can say about Berner on this song is that he is so good he earns this beat. Scott Storch did not fall off. This beat takes me back to 2004 it is such a monster. The first thing I thought was “G-unit would have made 7 million dollars with this beat in 2004” but as his verses unfurl I found myself completely satisfied and remembered…oh yeah this is the same dude who put multiple collab albums in the books with B-Real and held up bar for bar. Everybody loves Berner not just because he seems like a great dude but because he’s serious with his opportunities and he took this one. I love this song.

#Bandcampgold-Ephorize by Cupcakke

#Bandcampgold-Ephorize by Cupcakke

by Dan-O

I feel terrible that I just recently learned of Cupcakke. She came through on Charli XCX Number 1 Angel project (one of my favorite albums of 2017) and cleared the field on the final track (Lipgloss). By the time of Cupcakke’s next album Charli had dropped another song with her featuring (off her album Pop 2) and my anticipation had built to a must-hear level.

Ephorize is beyond any expectations I could have imagined.  Anyone who has heard her rap knows that her flow is other worldly, she can do the flow you are used to great rappers of this era doing but she has a few gears beyond that are just staggeringly impressive. I knew I’d get that going in. I was going to get a masterful display of breath control intonation and confidence. I was also going to be diving into a world of sexual description beyond that of which I’m used to. Cupcakke brought what she knew she could do and built on top of it.

Great albums know how important it is to open and close the show. This one is a sublime example.The first track 2 Minutes opens with piano subtle enough to open an Adele single and she matches that, ending a blistering first verse with the line “I done placed so many flowers on different graves/ I tell my dates now, don’t bring a rose.” The second verse ends with an incredibly gripping call to love your own body including one of my favorite lines in the last year “my stretch marks really itch/ my hair haven’t grown an inch/ but I’m still that bitch.” The strength of character in those verses, the surprise of how sensitive and intelligent the concepts are while being roared from a rapper of monumental ability rocks you right off top. The next song is Cartoons which is an example of what I expected going in. Her breath control on this one is like watching one of the all-time great boxers hit the speedbag. It’s mesmerizing and the beat is a perfect chariot for her to ride into that (thank you Turreekk).  The chorus approaches Big Pun levels of delicate kinetic force.

Thirteen of the fifteen songs are produced by Def Starz who strike a balance between intelligent club music, post-modern rap & abandoned warehouse rave music. Def Starz are adeptly aware that the landscape needs to change with the narrator. Ephorize has 2 hardcore emotional break up songs with two very different soundscapes. Exit is about kicking your dude out because he cheats with his ex’s and the beat bounces in a Caribbean way as her anguish morphs into celebratory distaste. Single While Taken charts territory nearby in this scenario she hasn’t broken the relationship off yet they are just fighting while she hunts possibilities, ready to leapfrog to a better relationship. A tense Hitchcockian piano leads in waves of angry bass that her voice chastises over.  Songs that could have easily sounded the same are fabulously different because of the key choices made by the minds involved. So thank you Def Starz.

Lyrically I could talk about how god damn refreshing the anti-materialism work on Wisdom Teeth is or how refreshing it is to have Crayons acknowledge the closeness and importance of the Trans community and in general accepting all people’s sexuality. I should warn you that Cupcakke says sexual things I didn’t even know existed but she is not a shock MC talking fellatio for your enjoyment. On the song Spoiled Milk T*****s she asks her sexual partner if she can lick his armpit, I didn’t even know that was a thing. Duck Duck Goose is another song where she goes in depth on things I am too bashful to discuss or transcribe but I will tell you she does it with the genuine joyful energy Cypress Hill had when talking about dank. Cupcakke is joyously exploring sex without any shame culling all negative participants along the way.  That is why, to come back to the shape of great albums, the last song has to be Fullest where she kicks the celebration to ten. It is a bass heavy Spanish infused beat she blacks out over clinking glasses to the incredible lyrical gifts she has, the motivating possibilities her life holds now. The album is a journey and the first truly great one of 2018. Someone had to set the bar.

Stream and buy below:

https://cupcakke.bandcamp.com/releases

Sample Snitch-Chaka Khan, Simply Red, 8ball, & MJG

 

Sample Snitch-Chaka Khan, Simply Red, 8ball, & MJG

by Dan-O

So UGK dropped their first album Too Hard To Swallow in 1992 stacked with old soul samples. The sample listing includes Curtis Mayfield, Bill Withers, and the Isley Brothers. I’ve already written a previous Sample Snitch about the Isley connection with UGK. A year later in 1993 8ball & MJG drop one of the scariest debut albums in the history of the genre (Comin’ Out Hard) and on the title track they sample Rufus & Chaka Khan’s Stay along with Simply Red’s Holding Back The Years.

The juxtaposition of smash mouth street content over warm lush soul would come to define Southern Rap. This is the creation of riding music made to bump in Cadillac’s not headphones or dancefloors. At the time the “average” hip hop fan was so used to the east coast brusque tough guy shouting street cred that this was all new. The smooth foundation of Simply Red topped with the brilliant sample of Chaka Khan for the chorus was shaken and altered by 8ball saying things like:

” I gotta come out hard as hell just like the life I lead

Cool, feed on the next brotha’s greed

J-Smooth cuttin’ up, lil’ Hank gettin’ buck

Killers be shootin’ up suckas with no guts

I’m scoping big butts, looking for the payoff

Living like a pimpster, taking everyday off

Riding through the hood with my homies gettin’ smoked out

Fall up in the mall, on a ho stroll, loked out

Cool, calm and collective, comin’ out hard”

He was feeding on greed watching killers shoot people while remaining cool, calm and collective…how? It was a different environment and mentality from the one listeners understood.  The imagery portrayed is still genuinely horrifying. On the song Pimps 8ball has a verse where he gives lessons on pimping and one is

“Lesson three

If you don’t tell dat ho who is boss

Bitchs like to run shit

But end up getting smacked in the mouth

See a real nigga believe in beatin them hoes down

Push they head into the wall until you hear dat crackin sound”

His intonation is so serious and sinister in its joy as he says it that the verse never leaves you. It teaches you a horrible truth about the world that we all need to work to change. It speaks the terror hidden from some neighborhoods. That song samples Love T.K.O. by Linda & Cecil Womack( they went by Womack & Womack).  8ball & MJG made gangsta rap just as ugly or brutal as anyone in history but the sugar of soul and funk (Rufus for example had all songs written by the keyboardist, bassist and drummer so they naturally made songs perfect for hip hop sampling.) made it go down differently. While people were having congressional hearings about Dr. Dre & Ice Cube, Old Dirty, Wu-Tang Clan…Southern Rap wasn’t really in the conversation. Maybe it wasn’t big enough sales wise, maybe the samples made it taste less threatening than it was. Either way, Comin’ Out Hard is the core of a method we still find today.

Rufus featuring Chaka Khan Stay off the album Street Player

Simply Red Holding Back The Years off the album Picture Book

Comin’ Out Hard by 8ball & MJG brings it all together

#Bandcampgold-MacGregor Park by Fat Tony

#Bandcampgold-MacGregor Park by Fat Tony

by Dan-O

The bandcamp description says Fat Tony read a book on Houston hip hop and found out that the first rap single ever released in Houston was called MacGregor Park, which is where the title track and name of this album come from.

The resulting eight track project is one of my favorite finds of the year (as well as one of Bandcamp’s top 20 hip hop albums of 2017). Every beat slams in the way you would hope a Houston, Texas rap album would but in a really developed way. I love the wind instruments on Ride Home, the pounding bass on Swervin’ (a stupendous first track).

Tony is a no stress listen as master of ceremonies go.  Even when he goes deep he never makes you grab the tissue box for a ham handed tearjerker. He nimbly and honestly discusses fights, food, weed and heavier topics with an earnest pitch in his voice and his pen “..swervin’ alone again back in the day, had no idea of who I really am back in the day made decisions I regretted then lie to your face, blame it all on another man I’m sorry ok…(Swervin’) ” Later when he says “you love me and my flaws I don’t even know why” he’s not sticking the landing of a backpacker line meant to signify how thoughtful he is, rather keeping his music representative of how he feels. While Taydex ,for the first 2 tracks, keeps the beats head nod centric.

I can’t tell you how much I love the Whataburger dedication Drive Thru. Part of this is that I lived in Killeen, TX for a year and now I live in Maine where the fast food options are to be pitied. I kind of miss 4 AM at Whataburger but the dedication Tony has to the song brings it back. Very few rappers are doubling their vocals to shout “Baked Potato!” God bless him for that. We should all shout baked potato more.

The other production force doing great work here is GLDN_EYE who produces the title track, Drive Thru, and Last Night. I don’t know if weird beats come to Tony or if Tony beckons them but GLDN_EYE gets it. Last Night sounds like old Nintendo theme music made into a reggae beat. The beat to Drive Thru sounds like the score for the movie Scarface done by Houston rap legend (my G.O.A.T.) Scarface.

What makes MacGregor Park so relistenable? It is expertly dexterous. The beats are so drastically different not just from what is on the radio but from one another that as an 8 song package it never gets boring to listen to. Tony is hooky melodic and utilizes his voice for as much singing as we are all comfortable with. He has fun, gets serious, gets scary (the park gets scary see the title track) but you always root for him to win. You get the impression that when he does really win he’ll still be eating Whataburger in first class.

Stream or purchase MacGregor Park below:

https://fattonyrap.bandcamp.com/album/macgregor-park