Song Review-Dudley Boyz by Westside Gunn featuring Action Bronson produced by Alchemist
Have I told you how much I love Westside Gunn’s Flygod album? It has the same crushing sense of hardcore content with a twist of dark humor that Sean Price was so great at creating. In addition, it features production by Alchemist, Statik Selektah, & Roc Marciano while the album is mostly produced by Daringer (10 out of 18 tracks) and it all sounds magnificently consistent. Flygod sounds like the attentive child of peak-Havoc Mobb Deep production. I have no idea who Daringer is but he lays these beats cold scary and twisted (examples: Shower Shoe Lords & Free Chapo).
This is a perfect sonic landscape for Alchemist to drop into. He plays the optical illusion of the very simple beat that feels enormous while Bronson goes nuts yelling “I’m all suede! Everything a spaceship!” Not to be outdone Westside Gunn bops into the song with his off-kilter flow and declares “grenade launcher lookin’ like Manute Bol, lookin’ for loopholes fell asleep in the law library, me and Larusso.” As convincingly in-your-face violent as Gunn gets (rolling dead bodies in rugs, AK in the backseat) he’s still having fun and smiling at you through these references. No one who makes a Manute Bol grenade launcher reference is without humor. In the song 55 & A Half he talks about having “visions of Sean Price” and while he’s not the most technical master of ceremonies (some of these rhymes come a mile away) I’m just so happy to have a New York movement (no matter how mainstream it gets or doesn’t) with a mission to keep this hardcore NY sound so icy you can see your breath with headphones on. Between Gunn, Marciano, Bronson, Smoke Dza, & Ka something really nice is developing. It might remind you of the good old days but it’s a little sillier if you catch the jokes.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Action Bronson, Alchemist, Daringer, Flygod, New York Hip Hop, NY Hip Hop, Roc Marciano, Sean Price, Song Review, Statik Selektah, Westside Gunn
Song review-See a Key(Ki’) by Skyzoo featuring Jadakiss produced by Thelonius Martin
The narrative that NY hip hop is dead has been bolstered by the poor sales of Troy Ave’s album Major Without A Deal (which you won’t catch me writing about, I don’t kick people when they are down), but it’s still false. This year has seen a slew of important NY releases: Ka, Action Bronson, Raekwon, and Ghostface. These albums did more than “keep up the tradition” they were sonically unique and took the sound you were used too in a different direction. So why does that narrative persist? NY started EVERYTHING. Of course it’s not what it once was since it used to be EVERYTHING. We now have hip hop in London, Cleveland, Huntsville, etc and that’s great. We still have a rich buffet of NY hip hop but we have other options as well.
So Skyzoo has a new album Music For My Friends which showcases everything you love about him(and the traditional hip hop that is supposed to have passed). His lyrics have a Jeet Kune Do (#knowBruceLee) adaptability, dense and light at the same time. Always intensely thoughtful but able to chuckle and joke at the same time. Loose and dangerous is how Sky works best, at his worst he’s lost in his mind and at his best he’s lost in the music. Music For My Friends has the sonic template he loves, very specifically the boom bap Primo trafficked in; powerful drums and bass all conducted with a jazz ear. All the other sounds set off and ripple like a stone skipped on water; just the way Coltrane’s Naima feels. That’s what makes the album so good; if you just want a banger here you go. Jadakiss is sharp as ever (“when you don’t recognize your blessings you send them away” DAMN!) and if you want this song to be more about drugs than dreaming you can hear it that way. The cool thing is it’s not. For lyrics heads we can read Sky’s lyrics and find triple meanings among the Jazzmatazz of it all. That complexity of lyricism tracks back to New York and it still lives there.
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Tagged Action Bronson, Ghostface, Jadakiss, Jazzmatazz, John Coltrane, Major Without A Deal, Music For My Friends, NY Hip Hop, Raekwon, Skyzoo, Song Review, Thelonius Martin, Troy Ave
Song review-City Boy Blues by Action Bronson Chauncy Sherod produced by 88-Keys and Party Supplies
Modern movies aren’t sleek anymore. You can’t get out of a romantic comedy nowadays under three hours running time and the director will try and make you feel better in interviews by specifying that the REAL cut was four hours; they had to trim it down. A lot of albums are very similar; three or four bonus tracks, lots of bad songs you have no idea why they exist, albums running way over an hour.
I had my concerns about what Action Bronson’s proper album debut would sound like. My hope above all else was that it would be weird; the stranger the sample, sloppier the guitar riff, the more comfortable Bronson is. It turns out Mr. Wonderful is weird and then some. He tones down the off putting hooker talk and keeps the whole album around 45 minutes with no fat on it. Yes he spins high energy pop fun with a Billy Joel piano sample on Brand New Car but the risks he takes are what I like the most.
City Boy Blues is something I never envisioned hearing from Action. I love 88 Keys and Party Supplies production so their powers combined create something truly funky/sloppy. Bronson really goes full blues singer on this track and it sounds like the lost lead gem of a single for some obscure 70’s funk troupe from Buffalo. Mr. Wonderful is an affirmation that weird is not outside his wheelhouse it is his wheelhouse. If you still want a reason to buy it let me give you the production listing; Statik Selektah, Party Supplies(4), Mark Ronson(2), Oh No, The Alchemist(3), and Noah “40” Shebib. This is the kind of album that is much better than its reviews because while it may not represent the voice of a generation…it’s impossible to get away from this jubilant a listening experience, and you can’t help but feel how sleek is.
Song of The Year-The Imperial featuring Action Bronson, Royce Da 5’9 and Black Thought produced by Statik Selektah
The most popular DJ albums fall into one of two categories. The first is the super-producer putting the most popular artists together to line up as many radio hits as possible. If even one record breaks in a big way the DJ gets a new car. Not trying to run down this approach. I need great radio singles like everyone else.
The second kind is the massively well respected producer, underground or on the popular border, who uses his great beats to gather all the most interesting guests together. Statik Selektah and maybe Marco Polo fit into this category. Statik’s new album What Goes Around is absolutely fantastic in terms of track chemistry; Snoop Dogg raps with Ransom on a song, Noreaga, Reks and Termanology share the track Drunk and High. At first you might look at the tracklist and ask why Bun B and Jared Evan are on a song together but you can always trust in Statik Selektah.
Not only is this the kind of producer who never stops working (even to sleep) but his ear for MC talent is as good as his ear for song construction. He not only got Action, Black Thought and Royce together on a track, he got hungry top-of-his-game Black Thought. This is the Black Thought who ran side by side with Pun on Capital Punishment. Is it the catchiest song of the year? Does it have Jhene Aiko singing seductively? No and no but if you are walking around yapping about the lack of lyricism in rap this might sink your battleship. While this song is definitely on a higher level because of the collection of talent all the songs are formed with hard as nails wordsmiths and gritty, jazzy boom bap minimalism.
If the trashy rap makes you feel gross this is your hot shower.
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Tagged Action Bronson, Black Thought, Bun-B, DJ albums, Jared Evan, Marco Polo, Noreaga, Ransom, Reks, Royce Da 5'9, Snoop Dogg, song of the year, Statik Selektah, Termanology, The Imperial, What Goes Around
Mixtape Review-The Drive In Theatre by Curren$y
After reviewing music from the New Orleans juggernaut Curren$y for years I’ve become guilty of a cardinal musical sin. I realized after my second listening of his new mixtape The Drive In Theatre that he had spoiled me. The run of projects he has had in the last few years were at such a high level leaving songs burned into the permanent playlist of my mind that anything new was bound to leave me shrugging and saying “this is ok but…” it was on that second listening I realized that couldn’t be said about this one. This one is terrific.
The Drive In Theatre is so functionally symbolic. It’s largely(7 of 14) produced by Thelonius Martin who doesn’t load it with boom bap or ugly grit. Instead he fuses the large swells of sparkling orchestration to its narrator in a way that brings to mind 1950’s era Frank Sinatra already feeling like he’s maturing into a world not at all like him. Who else but Spitta would use the image of a Drive In as the theme to his mixtape? Most rappers want to portray their sound as futuristic and cutting edge, by contrast, Spitta uses this project as a reminder that like the Drive In experience once he’s left the game no other MC will be able to give you anything like what he brings to the table.
Curren$y is older than Jeezy ad-libs this is a guy who guys back years and years. While his tone of voice may be a dope head whisper the imagery is startling in its crispness. On the Introduction when a woman asks him to stay after he’s spent the night with her he doesn’t give us the HA HA follow up line instead playing with eye popping imagery “Can’t harness the lightning or predict when its striking…”
The most interesting theme that runs throughout The Drive In Theatre is the Godfather films. Clips from all three run in key moments and Curren$y connects to the story, rapping from Michael Corleone’s perspective on Fredo (or merging it with his own relationship to doutbters) on my favorite verse of the tape “How could you hate your brother when I’m just like you? Except I did what I said I would do, erase the hate and let the sun shine through. Abide yourself fool you can live out your dreams too, imagination can create the truth. Every brick that built my mansion will provide the proof (Stolen).”
This is not the craziest line on the mixtape, elsewhere he claims to have a jump shot as smooth as Cochise which is a pretty wild image, but repeat that last sentence. Imagination can create the truth, holy crap, if Common said that on his next record it would be the smartest thing he’s rapped in ten years.
Of course all the beats are smooth, subdued and living in clouds of weed smoke. Of course the guest verses from Smoke Dza to Action Bronson to B-Real are amazing. That’s to be expected. The B-Real song ET is something you have to hear; somehow they seem right at home together. Somehow everyone sounds comfortable next to him. As muted and playful as he is Curren$y is just as much a sneaky genius plotting the best music in the marketplace. The Drive In Theatre is that monstrous slow burn grower mixtape that I can’t get away from, shaped by slick professional diabolical hands; crafted by someone who creates everything so carefully that sometimes I find myself missing the detail.
Stream or Download The Drive In Theatre below:
Song of The Year-Contemporary Man by Action Bronson produced by Party Supplies
Action Bronson has trotted his oddball lyricism around hip hop working with the very best producers in the world (Alchemist, Harry Fraud) so its anyone’s guess why the stream of consciousness strange sample meets off the top of the dome bars Blue Chips series with Party Supplies has become his signature. You could make the case that it’s the perfect amplification for his abnormalities. As this song begins any Bronson fan is pumped to hear him destroy Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer. It would be weird for a straightforward lyricist like Lloyd Banks but for Bronson to go from Pistol Pete Maravich comparisons to lines like “shorty’s on her arm like a coyfish…” (which makes my wife’s eyebrows furrow in confusion) while the beat goes from Sledgehammer to Phil Collins Sussudio to Mellencamp’s Jack and Diane seems like him finding a place where his weirdness fits.
My real answer to why the Blue Chips series is so fun is much simpler. Chemistry. Action is at his best when he feels secure enough to have fun, say whatever he wants and make it fit into the most interesting image. Contemporary Man does exactly that. You can feel them both smiling and giggling, every joke falling into its natural place. How else could this song end but “smack the taco out your mouth, green couch.”
Stream or download Blue Chips 2 below:
Song of the year-Strictly 4 My Jeeps by Action Bronson produced by Harry Fraud
I am one of these dudes that can’t help but talk about hip hop with whoever can converse about it. The discussions are the best part, arguments over Das Racist or Rick Ross help me understand other people’s perspective and get an idea of who people are really excited about.
One of those conversations last year culminated in me saying that no one was lacing more exciting verses than Action Bronson. He could cook a dish you’ve never heard of, do karate under the water, or say something alarming about hookers. No one in hip hop was better at finger painting with visceral imagery, and people took notice. I don’t remember anyone I spoke with fighting my proclamation.
The ep Saaab Stories just came out and came out pretty darn well. It’s got more than a few disarmingly catchy turn-up-the-volume-this-is-my-song jams which is an important step in the maturation of Bronson. His lyricism has been established, he’s shaken off most of the Ghostface comparisons (Ghostface himself co-signed Bronson) now its time to make music that reaches everyone. That’s the only way he’ll get to the point where he can see his debut full length album earning a gold plaque, he needs the heads and the ringtone kids.
Strictly 4 My Jeeps is that song.
Harry Fraud smashes the stuffing out of this beat. It’s a speaker breaker with clapping, alarm sound effects and that throttling boom. Fraud works exceptionally well with big voiced track attackers like Bronson and Smoke Dza so this match fits like a glove.
I also don’t want to hear Kanye-loving reviewers call Bronson sexist. Bronson is joking when he tears into women…Kanye is dead serious. Sexism is such a part of hip hop that it can’t be applied selectively. Don’t tell me your favorite artist is charmingly sexist and mine is offensively sexist. Let’s call them both sexist and talk about the quality of the music from there.
If Bronson can harness the crazy talk of Big Body Bes, his infectious hooks and outrageous jokes he can run the table. This song is remarkable for its scaled down grossness and restraint. This feels like the single and Bronson knows it. I think that’s a vital development for any artist and Action Bronson is growing, what he’s growing into…that’s the conversation starter.