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R.I.P. Mac Miller playlist

R.I.P. Mac Miller playlist

by Dan-O

I got the text that he was gone while my son was telling me one of those toddler stories with no start or end. As he kept adding “and then” to extend I braced myself in the doorway and looked out my front door, really struck, trying to figure out why it felt so raw. I didn’t know Mac Miller at all. If you comb through the history of this blog (its ok I know you won’t it is just a blog) I have been personally reviewing Mac Miller music going back to 2011 and repping him to anyone near me since K.I.D.S. dropped in 2010. I spent 8 years invested in this crazy wacked out hooligan from Pittsburgh and his ever expanding natural abilities. At the time of his death at twenty six he had over ten years of making important music: twelve mixtapes, five studio albums. He is one of the key artists in that beautiful mixtape boom from 2009-2013 that revitalized rap. He was closer to me than I had acknowledged. I’m still dealing with it. I would like to give the people dealing with it five songs to play.

1. Senior Skip Day produced by Wally West from K.I.D.S mixtape

This song still blows the world wide open for me. It is such a lazy satisfying mood with the gorgeous horns Wally West throws in and it is filled with details: not getting out of bed before noon, morning waffles and scrambled eggs, skipping class and being high. Think about how heavy rap is now, how much distaste and doom emanates from 18 year olds. Mac gave us that foolish energy and guiding light to be ourselves and be happy with those who made us happy.

2. Come Back To Earth produced by Jon Brion, Mac under the name Larry Fisherman, and Gitty off Swimming.

Not an easy listen given the new context but Swimming is a lovely piece of work. It is sad, so alone, addicted, worn out, stomped on but very humane. Most heartbreak albums (especially when addiction is involved) have a lot of lashing out. Swimming is the product of a good heart in a bad place. When he mourns the neighbors who could be more than strangers, the texts he shouldn’t have sent it is really hard. This song resonates with all the dimensions of his loss; he wishes he could be with her again and it feels to us like Ariana, he wishes for human contact and it sounds to us like he wants someone to help him out of addictions cage. Some of this is just our minds coming to grips with what happened but some of it could be true. I wish this song didn’t have to mean what it means now but I am so very happy it is here to partially explain how things were, to start a conversation with us we have to finish on our own.

3. Donald Trump produced by Sap off his Best Day Ever mixtape

Mac Miller could make anthems that made you dance whether you wanted to or not. At the same time he really rapped. In the classical sense of moving the crowd Donald Trump achieves that. He nimbly bounces from bar to bar in a way anyone can follow but is still impressive. At the time people called this song fluff but the fluff we have now makes this song a real achievement in the art. It’s a smash single that is still dope MCing.

4. Blue Slide Park produced by I.D. Labs off Blue Slide Park

How was Mac’s 2011? He put out his debut album and in its first week sold 145k making it the first independent debut album to top the chart since Dogg Food by The Dogg Pound. He single handedly proved that the mixtape era could translate to sales. I.D. Labs who produced most of it are the same genius’s who put Wiz in place to take over. Blue Slide Park wasn’t full of Donald Trump style anthems for fun it was religiously focused pure hip hop. This album started to clue us in on how much of a pure solid citizen Mac was. He didn’t want to be the next great white hope. He was always bigging up artists who were considered more talented than him. He loved hip hop so he loved spitting over DJ Kool’s Let Me Clear My Throat sample on Party on Fifth Ave but he loved the title tracks mid tempo, he could rap at any speed or frequency and work it.

5.  Goosebumpz produced by Diplo (bonus track) off Watching Movies with The Sound Off

Mac Miller was not universally adored. The same way I cherished his juvenile exuberance and connected it to my own outer child, many detested it. Watching Movies with The Sound Off changed that. It is a grown up album with great features (Schoolboy Q , Action Bronson, Earl Sweatshirt) notable production (Flying Lotus, Pharrell, Earl Sweatshirt under the name randomblackdude, Chuck Inglish, Alchemist, Clams Casino, Tyler the Creator). Even the critics who shot him down for his irritating childishness noted this as a big step forward.  In reality, he marshalled his resources looked around the rap game at all the artists he respected doing great work and wanted to do the same. Goosebumpz is very Odd Future influenced (like telling his girl to have sex with his hologram after he passes). It’s complete reckless energy at full throttle and when he was in this zone he could really leave your head spinning. I’ll miss the crazy little bastard.

Don’t just hashtag him and push on, let’s talk about him.

 

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Sample Snitch: The exciting G Funk perfection of All Eyez On Me

Sample Snitch: The exciting G Funk perfection of All Eyez On Me

by Dan-O

All Eyez On Me is the best double album in the history of hip hop. That is not a hot take.  If you listen very carefully it is not the dark foreboding cryptic record Makaveli is perceived to be. It is fun and fully engages its female audience in a way we all keep saying “didn’t happen in the 90’s or really before Kanye/Drake”.  On Run Tha Streetz he actually starts a verse by giving women advice on how to keep “a playa” and this was NOT the norm. Even songs that may seem misogynistic are interesting to look at from a perspective analysis. Wonda Why They Call U B___ is maligned but think about the phrasing of it, the song is directed right at his female audience. When Too Short made songs about B’s he was talking to his homies, obviously male listeners, fellow pimps/hustlers that was his constituency. 2pac understood he had a deeper female fanbase than other rappers (possibly because of emotional/personal content in the past or songs with complex/empathetic female characters like in Can U Get Away off Me Against The World) .  He wanted to explain his logic to them so they would understand his perspective and he wanted to explain groupies to them on All About U.

The reason some of the depth gets lost is that this album slaps from front to back. If you look at the samples listing the source songs is the absolute best funk playlist of all time. Rather Be Ya N_ samples I’d Rather Be With You by Bootsy Collins. A song so legendary it has been sampled from 1991(N.W.A.-I’d Rather F*** You) through 2016 (Childish Gambino-Redbone).  The baseline from Never Gonna Stop by Linda Clifford is instantly recognizable not just as the backbone for the title track on this album but the meat of Nas-Street Dreams song off It Was Written. One of my favorite songs from All Eyez On Me was always Check Out Time because of how insane it was that I was listening to a song about my favorite rappers checking out of a hotel.  That sample is Candy Rain by Soul For Real who were a new jack swing act on Uptown Records alongside Heavy D & Guy. You’ll find multiple Roger Troutman and P-Funk samples. Whatz Ya Phone# pulls from a long crazy song by The Time called 777-9311. Darling Nikki is present on Heartz of Men, all of the music sampled moves at a legendary pace. 2pac wanted a party record that could double as his last will and testament.

He takes I Got My Mind Made Up (You Can Get It Girl) by Instant Funk and concocts the deeply meditative posse cut Got My Mind Made Up featuring Daz, Method Man, and Redman. No sleepy jazz samples or minimalism, All Eyez On Me is maximalist funk pulled through the Makaveli paranoid awareness.  When he wants to slow down he pulls the heartbreak right from the melody of Brandy by The O’Jays and infuses it in the chorus and content of Life Goes On. At an hour and ten minutes it is still supernaturally well-paced because the subtle groove of Life Goes On becomes the menacing braggadocio of Ain’t Hard 2 Find.  His words are magnificent but we shouldn’t forget the magic carpet of funk that brings him there.

Remember Curtis Mayfield helped produce this song

 

Slap the taste out of anyone who talks down to Bootsy…do it for hip hop.

Song of The Year-Recognize by Bun-B featuring TI & Big K.R.I.T. produced by Big K.R.I.T.

Song of The Year-Recognize by Bun-B featuring TI & Big K.R.I.T. produced by Big K.R.I.T.

by Dan-O

I’ve made the argument that the pop sphere is larger than it has ever been due to the ability to find anything. The gatekeeper role of radio and upper level music executives isn’t anywhere near as important…but I’m willing to make the opposite argument now. I think it is possible that due to trending patterns on social media we have less pop music than we ever have before. What happens is a new album drops (maybe its Eminem maybe its Nicki Minaj) it is just the largest name that week and that album gets blogged about and all caps shouted at by the whole world. So that giant internet information space turns out to be a giant garage with one car parked in it.

So while people were coming up to me saying “What do you think about this Eminem?!” I was shrugging and asking them if they had heard Bun-B’s new album Return of The Trill to blank stares. Firstly, I thought all the hip kids were pro-UGK now…shouldn’t we be supporting? Second, all the criticisms of Eminem’s Kamikaze are resolved within Return of The Trill.  Bun asserts himself without discounting the younger generation.

Production wise Bun linked with his greatest musical partner post-Pimp, Big K.R.I.T. The Mississippi mastermind produces half of the fourteen songs on Return of The Trill. In movies, TV, books whenever the South is portrayed it is either an authentic take or reeks of artificiality. You can tell when you press play if no one involved in making it actually knows or cares about the South. K.R.I.T. makes beats that are deeply southern with gospel flair (see Traphandz) and the same kind of speaker shaking movement peak UGK brought to the speaker.

These beats fit Bun like the perfect coat. On his best lyrical performance (Recognize)  he steps up to the microphone and says “My wordplay is intricate influence significant motherf**kin’ magnificence and my influence is integral charismatic and sensual f**king up your centrifugal. With trill pumping all through my ventricles gladiators and sentinals peep you through the peripherals. I see you p**sy n___as out the optical catch yo ass when its optimal…”  The song is one of the year’s best moments and while the album might get a firm friendly handshake critically it won’t get to be POP and you can justify that in lots of ways. You could say that pop music should be this or that and Bun doesn’t fit those parameters. Whatever.  Return of The Trill isn’t the best album of the year but it’s better than the junk  we spend so much time yapping about.

After you watch the video up top check out Bun breaking down the bars

Mixtape Review-4 Respect by Kevin Gates & Youngboy Never Broke Again

Mixtape review-4 Respect by Kevin Gates & Youngboy Never Broke Again

by Dan-O

Hip hop people say the same thing to each other about Kevin Gates. We look at each other with a head scratchers facial expression and say “I think he’d be one of the best rappers in the world if he wasn’t…crazy.” Anyone who heard him interviewed on Combat Jack knows how deeply cracked Kevin Gates is but if we’re honest with each other that was the excitement of diving into The Luca Brasi Story in the first place. What we mean when we are talking about Gates as crazy is his oversharing. Gates is the anti-Drake. While Drizzy shares nuggets of his life they always feel as if they rolled off the conveyor belt of a 5 year plan to keep his massive audience enraptured in the persona of his character. Gates will talk about having sex with his cousin on twitter, he’ll drop two bars about eating butt that mess up your whole listening experience.  This is the Gates situation it isn’t a problem because it is what makes us want to hear every new Gates verse. What is this madman going to say next? The downside: some things are so messed up you can’t unsay them to an audience and it ruptures the relationship.

Enter NBA Youngboy who last year stamped himself into the center of the hardest worker conversation. This year he put out the long and fantastic Until Death Call My Name in April and now he is back with this four song collaboration with the Michael Madsen of New Orleans rap music. The John Henry-like focus Youngboy has in building his name up as an MC who makes music both deeply personal yet super fun is infectious and as a result Gates hasn’t sounded this focused since Islah.  Gates is as good as anyone at catchy hooks, he knows exactly when to let his voice get weird and crackly amidst the melody. Youngboy is the sure thing rapping with intensity on 2 Hands while Gates comes into the chorus laid back in a semi-hush. These two seem to get each other on a deep level. 4 Respect is the fastest EP of the year, the New Orleans pace has always been quicker than most places but they pack songs like TTG with visceral imagery about prison and cigars. Even a two minute song like Head On slams, it could easily just have been another useless trap song about banging my girlfriend (lot of trap songs about banging my girlfriend) but Gates flow is legend and the Youngboy chorus is ill. They get a lot done in a short time.

I think these two should form a rap group and never look back. Youngboy can keep Kevin out of his own head and Kevin can add some odd kinks in the pounding propulsion of Youngboy.

stream or download 4 Respect below:

https://www.datpiff.com/NBA-Youngboy-Kevin-Gates-4-Respect-mixtape.908528.html

 

#Bandcampgold-Nostrum Grocers-Self-titled

#Bandcampgold-Nostrum Grocers-Self-titled

by Dan-O

Milo seems like a good dude. He lives in Maine with me and when Sorry To Bother You came here he bought out a showing so people could feel Boots Riley for the first time(get that feeling underground has had for years). The news made me feel bad that I don’t listen to Milo enough. He is a great rapper with a lot of interesting & diverse subject matter covered and he produces interesting beats but boy howdy it’s a lot to take in. Listening to Milo is like floating in space in your space suit with the air to breath but naked in the expanse looking for anything to hold onto. I always listen to new Milo albums once and overthink everything for the rest of the week.

This is what makes Nostrum Grocers such a great album. Elucid is a treasure. As a partner in rhyme to one of my favorite rappers (Billy Woods) in the group Armand Hammer they have blazed a fiery path through underground NY hip hop. Elucid is a special dude because he gets so much done with so little visible seam seen. As smart, introspective and personal as his verses get everything he does is grounded in the kind of effort Juggernaut put forth plowing through the Marvel universe. Just like Cain Marko he makes the impossible look easy.

Neither party has to move closer to one another to achieve balance, which just happens naturally. They both love tense twisted soulful production that can articulate the harshness of reality while keeping alive the hope of being human.  Listen to how Milkdrunk switches from heavy drums in the first thirty seconds to strings. It is an important lesson: all things that seem disjointed in the world of Nostrum Grocers will come together and make sense eventually. All the jokes you didn’t hear you will, “Stuck my dick in the outlet, I gotta shine!—Elucid on Milkdrunk”

Where’ing Those Flowers is such a brilliantly strange usage of sampling and a killer verse from Milo. My favorite song is ’98 Geweher. Milo is a gentle hush full of confident funny cool bars and Elucid says “A crime tree grows in the basement, spit shine my spaceship,” dude blacks out on the track, did I mention the hook feels like a classic but you know you’ve never heard it before.

I wrestle with what disclaimers I should give listeners about Nostrum Grocers. I fear someone will play these ten tracks and come back to me with “it’s aight…” because they have been conditioned to hear the narrative on the album first time as it trends. Albums are built that way nowadays in the pop sphere. Astroworld is perfectly packaged and the fans get it immediately, they know why it is important. Underground rap is still connected to those times when my friend and I rushed to buy The W first week and bumped it for the next 6-8 months till we knew it left/right/center. Nostrum Grocers tastes the best on its 6th 7th 8th listen when it’s become a part of the fabric of your day.  If you don’t listen to music that way, that’s cool but a lot of us still do. For us this is it.

Stream or buy Nostrum Grocers below:

https://nostrumgrocers.bandcamp.com/releases

 

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.

 

 

#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/