Song of The Year-I’ll Be Fine by Trae The Truth

Song of The Year-I’ll Be Fine by Trae The Truth

by Dan-O

More than any project before his new album Hometown Hero represents the uniqueness of Trae The Truth. His voice has always been raspy, stabbing, and relentless a fantastic guest feature flow to shake you from your comfort zone. Hometown Hero dresses itself to match. Thematically as honest as its narrator with features from people known for how real they keep it (TI, Boosie, Mozzy). Each song envelopes you in bass as he narrates harrowing stories that range from the stress of wearing awful clothes to the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. It is one of 2018’s best albums.

As great as the features are (particularly TI’s hook on Better Dayz) the song I’ll Be Fine is the absolute best. The hook stretches and relaxes as he explains the hurt and the strength/assurance he will use to move on. Trae wants to feel the pain of loss and not shut the emotions out but badly wants to control the pain. The verses carry that same conflict. He remembers the casket going into the ground in the first verse and wishes he could hug him one more time. As hard as Hometown Hero is it is still about caring deeply; for friends, family, about people who betray you, your own self-care, your city, state, world.

He swims along the deep bass and leaves any possibility of trunk rattling banger behind as he starts off with the verse, sung with both wistful distance and aged resilience. In Houston trunk rattling bass isn’t just for head banging anthems or turning up.  Trae has always understood how valuable time is and he doesn’t waste verses. Hometown Hero is for us to understand that he has people he is talking to and if it seems too serious to you just listen to something else. When he shares stuff like  “Time ain’t enough. Wish I could tell you how much it been rough. I had to face it. Everything through it was making me tough. My brother my friend everything bout me is still ABN loyal to death all till the day I’ma see you again.” It’s special because he has the fortitude to bleed in public emotionally without being at all manipulative. He’s not professionally sad instead he processes problems alongside blessings. Long live King Truth.

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Operation Doom Discography-2006-2017: The Good, The Meh, and The Almost Classic

Operation Doom Discography-2006-2017: The Good, The Meh, and The Almost Classic

by Dan-O

 

The Good:

JJ Doom- I knew this album wasn’t for me early in the listening experience. The production style doesn’t fit.  It is very post-Gorillaz (Damon Albarn guests along with Beth Gibbons from Portishead) in its cold robotic bass burbles. Jneiro Jarel is very good at his sound. You can play the wordless Viberian Sun pt. II and understand the value of talent on display. Doom more than matches it. The disjointed nature of the beats just puts him a little off. He knows the pocket of any soul sample better than he does this. All that being said he still rises to the occasion: he starts the last song (Wash Your Hands) with ” Ooh, she got a cool body, damn she got a cool body/What I’m a tell you what to do with your hands for?/Much less your dirty @$$ shoes on the dancefloor?” This is full on grouchy doom warning you about the dangers of drinking tap water and giving you odd takes on gender(“There they go feminizing men again/Then pretend they don’t know when we know it, xenoestrogen.” From GMO). If you enjoy Doom you should listen to it and you might like it more than I do if you are into a more slick alternative version of hip hop production.

The Meh:

NehruvianDoom-I was very excited to hear this collaboration. I am a fan of Nehru and would say he’s an underrated talent. Doom handles the production on all but one track so we are back in that soulful comfort zone. Bishop is a top notch rapper but his lack of theme gives the lyrics presented here a freestyle feel. To put it bluntly: he ain’t Doom. Any project that says DOOM and doesn’t feature enough verses from Doom isn’t great. This one isn’t great. The whole album is surprisingly sleepy and ultimately unimportant. While Jneiro Jarel has (what I would view as) talent oppositional to Doom’s Nehru and Doom make each other boring somehow.

The Almost Classic.

Every truly great rap artist with a reasonably sized career has an almost classic. Jay has Vol. 1, 2pac has his first album 2pacalypse Now, Pete Rock & CL Smooth have The Main Ingredient (the single best example of an almost classic). Definition: everything is right except something which is very wrong. You need to own Born Like This so you can hear J Dilla & Doom collaborate for two of the most gripping moments in the history of music. Gazzilliion Ear  & Lightworks are deadly serious as the master mad scientists push one another: the beat twists and Doom adjusts. It’s not just Dilla, Absolutely is the crackling warm minimal vinyl Madlib groove at its finest. Jake One gives the biggest and best of his boom bap on the one minute and thirty second Ballskin where Doom burns the whole world down with his bars. The guests give the best of themselves and honestly I think Impress Stahhr Tha Femcee(Still Dope) outdoes Ghostface, Raekwon, Slug and anyone else not named DOOM.

The problem is the horribly wrong minded skit Batty Boyz which is unflinchingly homophobic and I just realized that I have a strange British version of the album which follows Batty Boyz with a doubling down on homophobia and transphobia. A song called Costume Foolery which is cut out of the US retail version but tucks in right behind Batty Boyz on my version. It really reaffirms that the skit wasn’t a fluke and Doom has problems with this subject, making a terrible gay voice and clowning man purses. I am of two minds on this: I don’t want to support anyone who makes it harder for oppressed communities or discriminates against any community but I also adore free speech. I don’t really believe in shutting down inappropriate conversation (I am not listening to Nazi rock bands do not take me to extremes). Doom starts the song CELLZ with a reading of Charles Bukowski’s Born Like This poem which gives this album it’s title. I think it is valuable to hear Bukowski read this in the context of Doom. The poem is about the mutating “sourful deadliness” that comes from a lack of good in the world or as Bukowski puts it an “unresponsive god.” The sharp edges of Doom stab us from that very place. Doom is not a villain for fun he is a response to deep scarring we should explore with him in all its ugliness. I’m sure he wouldn’t blame me for letting that ugliness dock points from the overall experience.

 

#Bandcampgold-Whatever It Takes by The James Hunter Six

a4209732063_10#Bandcampgold-Whatever It Takes by The James Hunter Six

by Dan-O

Music criticism makes my skin crawl when it becomes too coy about areas of specialization. Example: when a soul album like Whatever It Takes by The James Hunter Six comes out the criticism given by experts is very watery and ephemeral “this is nostalgic stuff so its fine but who needs it?! Just listen to the original stuff it apes.” That view of this album is one from the ears of someone who doesn’t genuinely love soul music.  We all want to act like renaissance listeners who know everything but it’s so rarely true.  We specialize. This lead in is to make it clear this music is exactly my specialization and Whatever It Takes is a fabulous example of my counter point to the “who needs it?!” people.

A giant percentage of our music is nostalgic but we only register some of it with that tag(lots of sneaking going on). I hold that The James Hunter Six are part of an active genre not a throwback trend. They aren’t a Temptations cover band they make music within a genre that lived in 1962 and does now. I applaud James Hunter and Daptone Records co-founder (and producer) Bosco Mann for remaining laser focused when putting these ten songs together.

Daptone separates itself with genius composition. You can hear it in the found sound jack in the box tuning on the title track (along with fantastic drum and organ), the engaging instrumental track Blisters, the frantic movement of I Got Eyes, the astounding bass line of Show Her (my favorite song). James  Hunter is locked in pocket like a great closer on the mound in baseball. He arcs up and down within reach of every note he needs.  My favorite performance vocally is Mm-Hmm where he glides along the drums before gently eking out the chorus. He commands the song (in summation: 2 things that elevate a soul album 1. Composition  2. Commanding vocal performance)

Whatever It Takes is an album.  You just put it on and let it go. If other people are with you who haven’t heard it they will ask you what year it was made when you tell them this year they will get surprised. It passes the one test for soul music. The test Sharon Jones made everyone so aware of: if this is to sound like it’s from a bygone era does it sound like a new artist in that era or does it specifically sound like ripping off an artist? Is this just someone doing Wilson Pickett or James Brown again? If it is original vocal performance and composition like The James Hunter Six have given us than just enjoy it and be thankful we have more of it to warm the day.

Stream or BUY(I did) below:

https://jameshuntersix.bandcamp.com/album/whatever-it-takes

Operation Doom Discography 2000-2005

Operation Doom Discography 2000-2005

by Dan-O

M.F. Doom was so active during this period of time I am going to have to separate this into stuff you need to hear and stuff you absolutely don’t.

Must hear:

King Geedorah-Take Me to Your Leader=Simply put one of the best produced independent albums ever. Doom is on the boards for every song producing, arranging, mixing and mastering and he is so utterly perfect that the skits will bring tears to your eyes. He drills down on sampling the Godzilla universe and finds soundscapes no one before or after could. The downside is Doom doesn’t rap on every song but he does rap on over half which is more than enough to carry it. Other voices put in admirable work (Hassan Chop on I Wonder and Mr. Fantastik on Anti-Matter). It is not nearly the cluttered hostile thesaurus fight of Monsta Island Czars.

MF Doom-Mm…Food=All but 3 tracks are produced by Doom. This was actually the first Doom album I heard and like all solo Doom ventures (I’ve encountered thus far) it surpasses its mission statement. This should be a fun exercise in food metaphors but he can’t himself One Beer is fire with lines like “Crooked eye mold nerd  geek with a cold heart/probably still be speaking in rhymes as an old fart.” These songs are not jokes Deep Fried Frenz is a must hear peak into the diminishing relationships you experience on the way up. It is jam packed with quotable lines delivered with his trademark icey cool.

Viktor Vaughn-Vaudeville Villain & Venomous Villain=Upon first listen I really dug these albums. They took Operation Doomsday’s development of the villain character and pushed it meaner. Doom doesn’t produce any of the songs (the production style is less soulful and more jagged than other projects but that fits for the content) so he gets to let his pen fire. Venomous Villain has songs like Back End, Ode to Rage, and the startling story song Bloody Chain (where Poison Pen should have refused to rhyme after him). Vaudeville Villain has songs like The Drop (where he warns never trust no Kardashian back in 2003!),  Raedawn, and G.M.C. All the songs listed are so unforgivingly lyrical so vividly actualized I couldn’t help but question if he was the utter evolution of Biggie able to threaten in ways that shake your bones switch up make you belly laugh with a silly reference, tell a crime story that pushes you to the edge of your seat and pulls you back by the end. These are not the known classics of Doom’s catalog but they are classics.

DANGERDOOM-The Mouse and The Mask=most reviews I saw for this framed it as a gag album. It comes out at the height of Adult Swim fanfare and is a perfect nerd fantasy. Danger Mouse is still in his daring try-anything-cool mind state and Doom still destroys all available space his voice fills. Too many funny crazy interesting lines to quote, and you get to hear Ghostface rhyme with Doom (I have a theory that Doom influence revived Ghostface and helped kick off his best period. Supreme Clientele drops a year after Operation Doomsday DANGERDOOM & Madvillain drop right around the Pretty Tony/Fishscale time period(Doom produced my favorite beat on Fishscale 9 Milli Bros).

Madvillain-Madvillainy=I expected the importance of this album but I was still awed by the structure of it. It reminds me of the debut album Pink Flag by the punk/art rock band Wire. All the songs are short and feed into one another. Neither Doom nor Madlib is even thinking about hooks. Lyrically I see Madvillainy as a cut off. He is now being reviewed by Spin and Rolling Stone so he backs away from the personal content of Operation Doomsday and stays in pocket just hammering away at the craft; dizzying verse after dizzying verse he is more a master of ceremony than ever but less the person we got to know. It’s not as bad a trade off as you would think (think Reasonable Doubt Jay v. Blueprint Jay).

Nevermind:

MF EP(Doom and Grimm)=I really don’t have much affection for M.F. Grimm. The 2000 collaboration between the two is way too much Grimm who is a product of his time. In an interview he described the difference between the two of them very well. He said when they started rapping together Doom was on that conscious ish and he was rapping about breakin’ dudes legs. That is exactly the problem with Grimm. His ceiling as an MC is just over his hairline.

Monsta Island Czars-Escape From Monsta Island!=Easily my least favorite step on the journey. On The Mouse and The Mask Doom mocked his M.I.C. days calling them “Midgets Into Crunk” and they are that kind of joke. This album has 20 songs on it with just under an hour run time and no actual driving point. Only six tracks are produced by Doom including skits (under his moniker King Geedorah). My favorite of those beats is the rich and tense 1,2…1,2 but he doesn’t rap on it. This album did illuminate how special Doom is as an MC for me. One after another of this crew (King Caesar, Rodan, Gigan, Megalon, Kong, Spiega, it never ends) spat dour threatening verses with killer scrabble words dressed to impress and it was awful. On the one song he gets to himself Geedorah roars, muses, brags, is hilarious and distances himself from this mountain of average dudes he knows from around the way. This album illuminated the stark contrast between the average 90’s/early 00’s rapper and M.F. Doom.

On to the next phase!

 

Mixtape Review-Spiritual Conversations by Mozzy

Mixtape Review-Spiritual Conversations by Mozzy

Mozzy is amazing and proof that we are living in amazing times.  My favorite part of Black Panther is when we flash back to 1992 and pan slowly across the basketball court, his voice surfs over the beat and a smile wears my face.  The moment blew my mind because Mozzy is of the tradition of E-40 & Too Short a California beat busting hardcore oddball who floods the market until you can’t get away. His music is everywhere. If you look up Mozzy’s discography in google you will be flooded with projects solo and collaborative. He works and spits his truth all over the place and that truth changes. He doesn’t just flood the market he sharpens his sword with each project. 2017’s 1 Up Top Ahk was easily a step up from the already awesome Mandatory Check. In the 90’s he would have just sharpened that sword off to the left while the main stage propped up slick pop rap. The TDE come up changes everything, Kendrick grew up on E-40 & Too Short so he loves Mozzy.  He catches the wisdom in the verses while others hear Gangsta Rap for its own sake.

I deeply admire people who can do their best work right as the spotlight finds them for the first time. As the whole world hears Mozzy narrate Oakland in Black Panther he dropped a six song ep that is absolutely the best gateway drug to get into Mozzy.

You can hear the influence of Kendrick’s secret weapon  Sounwave in the production style of Spiritual Conversations. The bay used to be all slapping speaker rattling anthems now a new lane is open with rich tones and warm piano textures to better articulate yourself over. Sorry Jaynari, Dave-O, Daniel Cruz, AK-47, Vontae Thomas and Terrace Martin(when you hear the horns on Interlude you’ll know its Terrace Martin) all contribute to a very unified sound.

 

I’m struck by how reflective and boldly insightful Spiritual Conversations is. Mozzy has always been both of those things but underneath thick armor. 1 Up Top Ahk was a teeth out conversation about violence. This project gives Mozzy wisdom the full floor. In the first verse of No Choice he says “When you told me you loved me, I ain’t believe it/But when you show me you love, you’ll receive it.” It’s a great example of his glaring emotional intelligence but not even the only one in the song (“Bruh told on blood ’cause he ain’t wanna do life/I send my condolences in a kite/You know them people gon hang him and that ain’t right/Stare at my daughters to see the light/Went and got him a M, I promise to see it twice.”

I love hearing Mozzy swap bruising verses with the criminally underrated Jay Rock but my favorite song is Who I Am. The crackly casual tone he delivers that chorus in and the insomnia flavored paranoia in bars like ” Bad karma got me lookin’ over both shoulders/Singin’ bout the shit I did, I pray he ain’t told on us.” SOB x RBE got the most burn from Black Panther soundtrack and they sound great.  I’m happy they have the TDE machine behind them and sound energized but I know the most important name on that soundtrack… the one that shocked me and delivered and it’s Mozzy.

Stream or download Spiritual Conversations below:

https://www.datpiff.com/Mozzy-Spiritual-Conversations-mixtape.887740.html

 

 

 

Operation Doom Discography: Operation Doomsday

Operation Doom Discography: Operation Doomsday

by Dan-O

Operation Doomsday will last because it is one of those instances where an album saved the form as well as the person who made it. The promise of K.M.D. ended with the death of Zev Love X’s brother and group member DJ Subroc who was killed by a car getting across the Long Island Expressway. Zev Love X was crushed and took years off, dealing with depression addiction issues and homelessnes. He came back years later completely obscured by a persona that perfectly fit him. Dr. Doom is the scarred genius of the Marvel universe he is acknowledged by all creators as smarter than Tony Stark or Reed Richards but his pain feeds his anger and his reputation. Doom as a persona gave him the ability to slide into anger and sadness without having to clear a whole track or album for it.

In 1999 we were used to the confessional conscious rap album we were used to the hardcore NY goon rap album and the glossy Bad Boy shiny suit event music. Doom didn’t want to do any of that. He wanted to stretch his legs and be nerdy. Hey! Is a beat made out of the Scooby Doo Theme song and he does Shaggy’s zoiks in his verse. On Greenbacks he lets all references fly “What a fella! Like Salt, Pepa, Spinderella/I came to spark the deaf, dumb and blind like Helen Keller/If I’m not with George of the Jungle, if he not with Stella/Or either Priscilla, I’m doing dips on Godzilla.” On Go With The Flow he says one of the nerdiest things in the history of rap “That’s quick to whip up a script like Rod Serling.” 100% of Rod Serling references are about him hosting Twilight Zone not his PEN GAME(which was impressive if you check IMDB). Beyond nerding out he just loves rapping, the one liners are efficient concise and packed to unpack. Rhymes Like Dimes is the best example of this. These are some of my favorite one-liners from just this one short song.

  • “keep a pen like a fiend keep a pipe with him.”
  • “Classic slapstick rappers need chapstick”
  • “Only in America could you find a way to earn a healthy buck and still keep your attitude on self-destruct.”

Doom produces every song and Rhymes Like Dimes is a warm and lovely Stevie Wonder sample where he erupts all over the song and lets NY legendary hip hop DJ Bobbito talk crazy at the end and yell “MASHED POTATOES!” It is genuinely fun to listen at him push his talent to without any regard for whether we are catching all of it or tracking all the meanings. Doom lets us listen to him do whatever he wants. He doesn’t just feel as broken as Dr. Doom or as angry he also demands that level of control over his surroundings. Every track is a room in his Latverian lair.

The production is like the dark side of J Dilla. Both take soul samples and mutate them, Dilla made them even more handsome than they were originally while Doom makes them squeak screech and twist until they sound like how he feels (example:Dead Bent) .

When Doom does give you a window into the hole in his heart it is truly profound. The chorus on the title track “On Doomsday! /Ever since the womb til I’m back where my brother went/That’s what my tomb will say/Right above my government: Dumile/Either unmarked or engraved, hey, who’s to say? ” The earnest moments are in a sloppy mountain of pulsing incisive observations, wild jokes, and old tv shows and that feels more real than a lot of the “I love my Mom” rap songs from the 90’s did.

Doom’s last verse on ? absolutely haunts me especially the last line which rolls around in my head all the time.

“By candlelight my hand will write these rhymes ’til I’m burnt out

Mostly from experience, shit that I learned about

Topics and views, generally concerned about

With different ways to come up and earn clout

I take a look at my life and pace the trails

From Tablik and savage females with fake nails to face veils

You out your frame but still bagging ’em too

You know I know, these hoes be asking me if I’m you

Like my twin brother, we did everything together

From hundred raka’at salats to copping butter leathers

Remember when you went and got the dark blue Ballys

I had all the different color Cazals and Gazelles

The “SUBROC” three-finger ring with the ruby in the “O”, ock

Truly the illest dynamic duo on the whole block

I keep a flick of you with the machete sword in your hand

Everything is going according to plan man”

Its deeply genuine but doesn’t need to be. I was blown back by The Finest where he says “MF like Mike Frank Corleone” explaining to my wife how deeply nerdy it is to refer to the middle name of a fictional character. In all the world of Godfather references in hip hop verses I’d never heard Michael’s middle name. I didn’t even know at that time that the M.F. in M.F. Doom Stands for Michael Francis and that reference, the depth of the reference defines his very character.  Recently his fourteen year old son Malachi Ezekiel Dumile passed and it’s hard to hear. Someone who changed hip hop broke the format of thoughtful v. Gangsta into shards by taking his tragedy and articulating it his way is still being beaten back it. Wherever he is I hope he never loses sight of how important his perseverance is to all of us.

Operation Doom Discography- KMD years

 

Operation Doom Discography- KMD years

by Dan-O

I love love love albums.  People make fun of me for it. I don’t even listen to singles. Nothing is more fun for me than finding a conundrum of a discography and tackling it album by album. I went from heavy rock to cheesy 80s to Highlander soundtrack with Queen. I went from Shout to Motown to funk gods to R. Kelly era with The Isley Brothers  (and stuck the landing with that fabulous Santana collaboration).  This time around I’m going full MF Doom. Here is my report so far.

1991- KMD-Mr. Hood

KMD is a group made up of Zev Love X (Doom) and DJ Subroc(his brother). The third member Rodan left before they signed. He was replaced by Onyx The Birthstone. The story behind their first album is they found a language learning record and cut it into pieces using samples of it to create the character of Mr. Hood. Listening to 1991 hip hop can be jarring because it doesn’t resemble the listening experience of today. The chorus is an afterthought the verses are vibrant and kinetic. As a producer Doom cuts and pastes together a powerful character in Mr. Hood who interacts with each member of the group questioning, insulting, as a community outsider helping to illustrate the natural tension between them and us. Mr. Hood is steeped in 5 Percent Nation Islamic teaching best exemplified by the collaboration with Brand Nubian (Nitty Gritty).  I wouldn’t go so far as to call Mr. Hood a classic but definitely a mandatory listen for anyone tracking the evolution of Doom or hip hop in general.

1993-KMD-Black Bastards

The improvement is really something to enjoy. Taking all the lessons learned on crafting themes from samples they gathered on Mr. Hood, Black Bastards is so much better.  The production is boom bap as previous but you can hear Doom start to twist and mutate the simplicity of these beats jagged. The title track has an odd sample bouncing in rhythm with the bassline as Doom hurls racial and relationship frustrations at every line with heartless efficiency. Gimme is sharp stabbing and ugly until it hypnotizes you into its control; classic Metal Fingers(Doom’s production name).  Black Bastards stays on theme without ever becoming a chore and that is because no second is wasted. No guest verse flops no moment is taken too seriously or not serious enough.

The most surprising thing about analyzing the KMD years is that both of these albums are front to back listenable. Thirty two tracks between two albums and not one I felt like I wanted to skip and trust me when I say the 90’s was a great time for rap music but had a lot of useless filler in it.  Before pressing play on the first Doom solo album I was already pretty impressed.