Tag Archives: Alchemist

Goodbye and Thank You-Prodigy

Goodbye and Thank You-Prodigy

by Daniel Olney

Anger and depression are the most interesting shows to watch they present the adversity that begs the question; how to overcome it. Entertainers are well aware of this and some of our favorite musicians (rappers being no exceptions) are actors digging through the lovely life they have for the faint impression real strife left on them. Every album, every song needs to reset and grab a fresh hold on that old place they don’t live in anymore.

The first time I heard the voice of Albert Johnson (who we all knew as Prodigy of Mobb Deep) I didn’t feel the terror of Jason in the hockey mask. It was as if all the jittery shame left me and I was alone with my burning hostility. I was already psychologically aware of how destructive the tendency was and I wanted to be peaceful(I worked on it and still do), the hostility that still bubbled was something I worked to not feel or to at least pretend I didn’t.

When his voice came through the speaker It cleared my conscience. Prodigy presented an anger that went well beyond entertainment. Death, imprisonment, and violence followed him and publicly he never blinked. He never did major name collaborations, never electronically modified his voice so he could sing.  He knew pain like very few people, his whole life haunted by Sickle Cell Anemia, calling Prodigy a voice for the disenfranchised is accurate but not enough.

His voice was a tragic lesson in being in pain pushing through it, getting mad pushing through it and each time the push gets made folding the unresolved negativity over until it is thick enough to become your character. His hooks were simple and short because he just loved to rap, he needed all the space. Off on his own with a band of characters by his side (Alchemist, Havoc, etc).

Losing him felt like losing permission to, through gritted teeth; speak of the ugly perils this life provides. Allowing tone to become as heartless as the truth is without feeling the need to apologize.

To be raw forever or even to be raw at all.

Prodigy scared all of us. He threatened to leave our stomach on our shoes. He might shoot us playing basketball without even knowing us. I never knew anyone that listened to that music with hopes to emulate the lifestyle. He never made it seem that good.  P was surviving and inflicting himself on the world with the power of authorial genius reserved for top tier artists.

If you believe in a heaven and hell you should be scared that he passed away. If you believe he was a good man he’s going to have some choice things to say to the divine power or whoever has to face him. If he is going to hell no one will be better prepared. Whatever elaborate torture that turns out to be his greatest fear is likely to fall on dead nerve endings. P once called his heart an ice box.

He was the Santa Claus of misery for relieving me over and over of the hostility he knew so much better than I did, for speaking the ugliest truth while his opposition made the shiniest medication music. He spawned a whole genre of people doing that music to varying degrees but they’ll never find his sweet spot, his off-cadence on-cadence monotone.

“In other words please stay the fuck from out my face, provoking me to turn to a monster, you push me into a corner you know what’s gonna come.” —-Prodigy on the song Raw Forever From Albert Einstein 2: P=MC2

I can’t imagine him resting peacefully but he’s definitely earned the right.

#ThrowbackThursday-Love In, Love Out by Cormega

ThrowbackThursday-Love In, Love Out by Cormega

by Dan-O

For a while whenever someone was at my house and said they wanted to hear Nas, I would put on Cormega. This wasn’t a slight at Nasty Nas at all, in Maine Nas was known and quite respected but the depth and importance of the surrounding dudes was not. Not enough hip hop kids knew who AZ or Mega were (although in NY things were different I’m sure). Fifteen years ago Cormega put out The True Meaning and I absolutely blasted it. An independent album with production credits from Buckwild, Alchemist, Large Professor, & Hi-Tek it is clear that the industry always understood the skill level of Cormega.

If you know Cormega now you might have heard more recent albums like 2014’s Mega Philosophy or 2009’s Born and Raised which are grown man intelligent in a way that literally made Chuck D proud. The difference in 2002 Cormega is Love In, Love Out.  Maybe five rappers in the history of the genre are as good at writing betrayal as Cormega. He wrote about going from loving shout out on One Love to left out of The Firm so much that he was able to mature into his understanding of the situation. While 2001’s The Realness was full of blistering accusations and gloriously well executed line crossing by The True Meaning Cormega was master of all three dimensions of his situation. In a disciplined thoughtful tone he says “I was never jealous of you, in fact I was proud of you. I smiled when I heard you on Live at The BBQ. I respect you as an artist though I’m no longer fond of you.”  But the emotion is bubbling underneath. When he immediately follows  “I gave you love from the heart unlike the people surrounding you.” That statement is knowingly loaded.

Love In, Love Out is bravely a showcase of real situations pulled through a composers mind and sharp tongue. When The True Meaning came out I played Verbal Graffiti over and over again for the absolute forest fire flow, he crackled and snarled as he opened “I’m like a panther in the dark silent when I strike the paper, like a dagger in your heart when I write I leave a mark.” It went along with the stories people told me about him in the military. I would talk Mega and someone would say “I saw him on the subway with two crackheads! One was beautiful but the other one…” his street credibility was mythical for those of us outside of New York.

Love In, Love Out represents the parts of Cormega’s legacy to rap I feel most rewarded by. The introspective person bound by his ethics, wounded by betrayal and brave enough to elaborate on all conditions of it; not just his hurt and being wronged but the respect he will always have for what the person was.  The ethical man using all his strength to hold back the panther part of him that wants vengeance, at this point in listening that feels like The True Meaning.

Song Review-Dudley Boyz by Westside Gunn featuring Action Bronson produced by Alchemist

Dudley Boyz

 

Song Review-Dudley Boyz by Westside Gunn featuring Action Bronson  produced by Alchemist

by Dan-O

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.

Mixtape Review-The Kanan Tape by 50 Cent

Mixtape Review-The Kanan Tape by 50 Cent

by Dan-O

One song on 50 Cent’s new Kanan Tape (free release mixtape) flawlessly represents the conundrum of 50. The song is called Body Bags and it starts with 50 telling a story about gambling one night, when a gunman barges in, shouting for everyone to go face down on the floor so he can rob them. 50 Cent looks at the gunman and says “N___ I got on white linen?!” That story is so specifically and charmingly him that it’s magic. The humor in a crappy situation, the overwhelming confidence, it all makes him special. Problem with all this is that the song following the interlude is blandly unspecified 50. Alchemist gives him a pure minimalist gem that sounds like 99 Mobb Deep and 50 gives us the song Body Bags which sounds like it could have been from any era of his career. If I said the phrase “typical 50 Cent song” you would hear Body Bags in your head.

This isn’t to say that he refuses to move out of his comfort zone. The Production list provides an interesting grouping of producers (seven songs seven different names). Whenever he moves into weird territory the results are interesting. It is fun to watch 50 wrap himself around a lush Sonny Digital beat on I’m The Man and the results are definitely a success. 50 has an incredibly high hip hop IQ so his southern songs are all performed at an extremely high level. Nigga Nigga featuring Lil Boosie and Young Buck is great not just because all Boosie verses have been show stoppers since he got out of prison, but because Young Buck always seems to show up and deliver when he lines up next to a dope artist. Young Buck by himself can go either way. The energy 50 brings to the track is matched by Boosie and the two snarl wonderfully together.

London on Da Track has the best song on the project Too Rich for the Bitch where he serves up a Young Thug style off kilter piano track to 50 who luxuriates in it, layering his braggadocio into a fascinating anti-love soundscape. This modern rap world of singing in the middle of the song and making your verses sound like hooks is something 50 can do in his sleep.

The most boring parts of The Kanan Tape sound like his boring last album Animal Ambition.  50 is convinced that if he gives us what we say we want from him we will be happy. That is why he gives us songs like Burner On Me with mailed in clothing brand brags and standard gun talk, it’s what we expect. The problem is that as an audience we only want sixty five percent of what we say we want; that thirty five percent that remains needs to be growth of some kind. Lyrically he won’t bring us closer to his life (he says he tried that on Before I Self Destruct and it didn’t work) so that leaves only so many other sonic ingredients that can change. I’m not writing this as some kind of smug internet tough…I’m a 50 Cent fan. The only Mainer who was bumping 50 Cent mixtapes before Eminem signed him and I’m saying you need to surprise me just a little. The Kanan tape is close but it’s not there.

stream or download The Kanan Tape below:

https://spinrilla.com/mixtapes/50-cent-the-kanan-tape

Free Album Review-Fuck The Money by Talib Kweli

Free Album Review-Fuck The Money by Talib Kweli

by Dan-O

At his worst Talib Kweli is still a tremendous talent. He’s just an unlistenable unlikable one. In the very lowest stages of his career you would find him stiff and professorial; determined to teach you how OPEC really works. At his best he is how he is now on his new free release Fuck The Money.

I’m not here to make the case that he’s changed. The case is pretty straight forward; Talib has such a keen eye for talent that he needs that chemistry with people to push him. The right chemistry. Javotti Media has a bunch of artists he’s very happy to work with. If you listen to him on the Combat Jack Podcast describe the strengths of each artist, he does so with passion and vigor the kind not naturally apparent during the Blacksmith start up. Let me use Niko Is as an example. During that interview he called Niko one of the best freestylers he had ever seen and that is very much Niko’s style. He’s loose and relaxed, winding words into a thick soup of sometimes silly yet thoughtful imagery. Not only does Niko show up alongside Kweli and Ab-Soul over an Alchemist beat on The Venetian, anyone who heard Brutus knows that this sounds like a Niko song. One of the best beats on Fuck The Money comes from Thanks Joey, Niko’s primary production partner in crime. The joy and fluidity of Niko’s style(and team) warms and inspires Kweli to go harder and have fun doing it.

I’m not trying to take credit from Kweli here. It’s an amazing listen. Miguel shows up to demolish the hook on Echoes yet our narrator doesn’t see the status difference between Miguel or Kendra Ross who does the hook on Baby Girl. Ab-Soul’s verse is dope on The Venetian (I still think Niko runs that song) but so is Casper Nyovest on Fuck The Money. Part of what makes Kweli special is that when he hears a new artist bubbling over with talent he doesn’t get resentful or jealous, he gets excited. My favorite song is probably He Said She Said where he gives you the trials and tribulations of a new artists journey the rise (“he adored by all them bloggers, they describe him down to his boxers”) and fall (“They celebrate in his self-destruction it makes for excellent copy”) without ever getting a chance to let the music speak. The song shows empathy for the new artists that he’s dealing with. It doesn’t hurt that Farhot crafted a Stakes is High sounding banger of a beat that will destroy your car speakers while making you feel great.

Kweli sounds so damn comfortable. Whether he’s namechecking Niko while he screams crazy talk from the couch (Gratitude) or reuniting with Styles P on Fall Back. The production team does not want any part of laid back neo soul. This music is exciting. The title track is also produced by Farhot and its nasty helping push Kweli into double time splendor. Amadeus produces three tracks including the trap sounding Nice Things which comes off well.

So yes Fuck The Money is partially great because less concept and more joy is better than the other possibilities but…it does have a concept. It’s his evidence for each hip hop head that when you are putting together your own personal hall of fame in your mind, you can’t judge that greatness by awards or sales. If you think Jay is great because of his success you’re missing all useful criteria for judging skill. Kweli really is one of the greats and I’m glad he’s letting people know in a way that best suits him. Hell I knew it that night he played a pool hall round my way and killed it by himself in a leather jacket. He went longer than any hip hop act I had seen at that point and I left thinking he could have gone all night. Some people just have it in their bones and they love the infinity of word choice. Kweli is like that.

Add Fuck The Money to your cart using the link below and go through he check out process. You won’t have to add credit card info since its a free purchase. They will email you the file.
http://kweliclub.com/products/talib-kweli-fuck-the-money-digital

Mixtape Autopsy: Joey Bada$$-Summer Knights

Mixtape Autopsy: Joey Bada$$-Summer Knights

by Dan-O

The fact that the Pro Era general’s new mixtape Summer Knights is unsuccessful is a known fact in the hip hop world. All the excited fingers that hit the download button on 1999 hit it again for Summer Knights. Shortly after listening to the half engaged native tongue projecting jazz horn beats and hum drum lyrics it’s taken its place as the very worst entry in the 2013 mixtape cemetery because it never feels like it existed in the first place. Summer Knights doesn’t die a violent death upon listening it fades away like a defeated video game character.

I’ve read reviews on Summer Knights where the author predicts a downhill slide from this point on for Joey, even though he’s yet to reach the legal drinking age. One bad mixtape does NOT kill a career or even mortally wound it.

The problem with Joey was outlined to me after 1999 dropped (and specifically after the great Joey guest verses that followed) by FME contributor D.L. To sum it up: he’s better and capable of more than most people give him credit for. The revivalists want him to waive the flag for a time long past and the new school kids think he’s pretentious for loving music older than he is. Everyone has expectations they place on Joey which keeps him locked into dusty Chuck Strangers and Kirk Knight beats like Alowha and Reign. Look at Hilary $wank for god’s sake, its produced by one of the most exciting NY producers (Lee Bannon) who blesses Smoke Dza with dinosaur stomping excitement….so what does he give Joey? The answer is pleasant elevator music. Insert jazz horn, insert Joey Bad verses you won’t remember.

If you listen to this project and hear an MC that is losing his depth and style I think you’re wrong. You are hearing an MC that is bored, plain and simple. This is the Method Man disease. He got so bored with the RZA production coming his way that his best verses were all features (Meth confirmed this in interviews) this is why he came back alive on his group album with Redman when he got Eric Sermon production. Because Joey knows what people expect and feels the need to deliver it he essentially gives us the same songs over and over. 1999 sounds like the Pro Era compilation from earlier this year, sounds like this and how long can he stay engaged and challenged doing that? As an artist you want to meet challenges and succeed, he’s trapped himself in a place with no challenges or successes.

Look at the list of producers, listen for glimmers of hope. I can give you two. Statik Selektah infuses some immediacy into Word is Bond by speeding up the piano keys, its still laid back but it bumps and it pushes Joey close to where we all want him. Trap Door is also an important song because Alchemist is the king of making subdued beautiful interesting East Coast gutter rap. Trap Door and Word is Bond might be the only two tracks on Summer Knights worth coming back too and while neither have the quotable Joey Bada$$ we know and love but he’s noticeably better. My recommendation is simple; he needs a full project away from MF Doom, Kirk Knight, and Chuck Strangers beats. Pull in Statik Selektah, Alchemist, but also pull in someone weird…surprise your audience and yourself. It’s the only way we’re all going to stay awake through the next project.

stream or download Summer Knights below:

http://www.datpiff.com/Joey-Bada-Summer-Knights-mixtape.494039.html