Tag Archives: Ali

Do Not Let 2018 Go By Without Hearing These Albums

Do Not Let 2018 Go By Without Hearing These Albums

by Dan-O

Niko Is- Uniko

It’s crazy to think I’ve been growing alongside Niko Is for at least six years. When I found him I had just gotten into Brazilian Soul & Salsa music. The combination of that with bread and butter boom bap basslines all provided by his partner behind the boards Thanks Joey (Joey Creates) really drew me in. On top of that Niko Is happens to be a twisted dude. One of these guys who can rap for hours off the top of his head because within his head is chaos. On this album alone he claims to get his rhymes from a Ouija Board and to be the  Raoul Duke of the rap game. Look up Raoul Duke and you’ll understand Niko Is a lot better. He’s a trip.

Turns out he made a video that articulates how weird he is.


Uniko is a coming together of everything the two have learned. Joey has figured out how to take seventeen songs and link the songs so that the transition from Meet Me In The Future to Silk is a gentle glide. He still gets to utilize different moods No Sleep and 3rd World $$$ are semi-traditional rap beats while Mental Abstracto Interlude is Congas, wind instruments, and dolphin sounds. My favorite moment is U Could Be My Gal which my wife asked me to change when I played it in the car. I defended the song by ranting about how, for a hitting on you song, it was positively hypnotizing. She held my gaze and said “It’s great and it is hypnotizing that’s why I need it not playing while I drive.”

The growth for our emcee is not strictly bar to bar. He’s always been a talent; he goes with Talib Kweli to do interviews and busts impressive freestyles all over the hip hop landscape. That is his life’s work. What he’s been able to do in Uniko is make better use of the sonic pace. He lets tracks breathe in the right places, let’s his guests take the stage, knowing he will have more than enough time to monster out on songs. One of the songs he does this on is Focused Maaan where he says “I’m from the old generation where we base it on our own creation.” Very few people love hip hop more and Niko Is knows that while other rappers will get hotter quicker than him he’s got a life in this world. Look at the two biggest name features(I do not count Kweli because that relationship is established) on Uniko: Styles P and Curren$y both known for consistent lyrical content over a long period of time, not gamblers but craftsman. I’m so happy Kweli has put him in the position to share rooms with these cats. He deserves it.

Kodie Shane-Young Heartthrob

The worst thing to be in rap is the present. Ask Kirk Knight. He’s an incredibly talented NY rapper who released an album named liwii that sounded perfectly 2018 but guess what…I’ve got 2018 up to my ears. In rap you are better off sounding like the past or the future. If you can take the mental image people have of what they loved about the genre and give it to them twisted with new elements you have a place. If you go the other way and sound like the evolution of what will happen you’re in an equally good spot. Kodie Shane’s Young Heartthrob album is the future.

I’ve been calling Young Heartthrob lesbian player music for shorthand’s sake. Shane has worked hard on breaking down the formal walls around hip hop song structure. The separation between chorus and verse is fuzzy because she is very nimble when stepping between singing and rapping and imminently capable of mixing the two. Her duet with Trippie Redd makes perfect sense and really plays into the best skills both possess.

New school production with 808’s popping, slick singing and mostly clean verses despite an F word here and there. I put this album on while my five year old son and I played basketball. We both had fun and before I knew it we were most of the way through the album. I can play Young Heartthrob around anyone and they just get it. Kodie Shane presents an incredibly easy listen that never attempts to impress you with sharp edges. It has real stand out songs like Sing To Her, Flex On Me, Love & Drugz II my hunch is that while she might not get a ton of press people are studying this sound and a year or two from now someone will dominate the charts doing a whack variation of what makes Young Heartthrob great. It won’t put a dent on the bright future Shane has.

Check out the future


Locksmith would be my runner up lyricist of 2018. His album No Question with Apollo Brown was something I came back to over and over again when big name projects proved plastic. Locksmith guts himself every time he puts pen to paper. That’s actually not accurate. Locksmith’s pen is a grenade that blows everything wide open. He might take himself to task for a previously homophobic state of mind, he might take the genre to task for whining about Kanye but still copping his album, or he might take on celebrity culture, poverty, the whole world can get it.

He pours himself into his second album of 2018 Ali which lets him utilize his speedbag angry flow as a way to stay ahead of his even more hostile mind. I don’t want to give the impression that he is the Lewis Black of rap, he understands pace and mood. The song Tense even flirts with singing but even more importantly it allows him travel inside himself in front of us in a sober serious way. “…I thought love was acceptance. I thought cutting you off was protection. I thought being alone was being strong and never needing a hand was being more of a man, I regret that then.” In a gender study sense Locksmith is a very hard-nosed heterosexual man who is acutely aware of what that macho perspective has cost him.

Every song is dense with meaningful discussion. Everyone should hear Prison to help understand the world better. No Lies is such an amazing song about America. I feel incomplete reviewing Locksmith because to do it accurately I would have to use all my strength to dig out every corner of what he’s saying and then drop it on you. That’s the only way I could match his effort.

Click below and you will know and knowing is half the battle



Weekly Hip Hop-up

Weekly Hip Hop-up

by Dan-O

This week I digested a bunch of promising projects at very different stages of satisfaction. Let’s go over them.

Sean Brown-Solitude

Autotune is a gift with two curses attached, misuse and overuse. While Sean Brown’s nine track project Solitude has the weeks most fascinating and promising individual songs it has some real low points. Rollin is as boring and standard as One Crazy Ass Dream is insane. So which is more important? The high points where you are listening to a sonically huge banger (produced by Sean) where he loses his mind(everyone should hear One Crazy Ass Dream) in verses and laces a flawless hook or the sleepwalking stuff drowned in autotune that rolls right off the 2015 conveyor belt. That’s the thing about Solitude, its only nine songs so it’s too short to judge. We should obey this rule whenever we don’t have sufficient evidence to judge: if you have greatness in you, you can be great; at any time. All he has to do is find out how to mine the focus he has on his best songs (best song on Solitude:Feel Good) for an entire album.

Stream or download Solitude below:


Issa-This Summer

One of the weird things about rap as a genre is how you encounter mixtapes you don’t want to like that MAKE you like them. This Summer is definitely more trap/drill music full of violent imagery strewn about its scorched ecosystem but the choruses are mighty. On songs like YNP (young n_ problems) it’s just flossing and flaunting, sneering and bouncing to the beat but he crafts a melody out of it like a snake charmer. This isn’t to say Issa doesn’t have engaging content, Only God has a moment where his baby’s mother admits she’ll probably never love anyone else and you can tell he doesn’t know what to do with that. He has points where he gives you a doggy door to look at his life and feelings. This doesn’t happen nearly enough (Boomerang gives me a headache…I don’t want to talk about it) over the course of nineteen tracks, however, and by the end you feel like your relationship with This Summer might not be a healthy one.

Stream or download This Summer below:


Tayyib Ali-Ali

Ali is probably the mixtape I’m most interested in studying more from these releases. While Philly rappers are known for blistering aggression and scathing flows Tayyib has neither of those. He’s typically at a leisurely pace that doesn’t seem to fits the city’s snarl of a persona.  No one could imagine Freeway or Beanie doing a convincingly awesome put-your-red-solo-cups-in-the-air frat anthem like How’s It Supposed To Be (Dave Patten is so great on the hook). Ali talks about days when his clothes didn’t fit right but never drops experiences that would alienate someone living in a different environment(even on Day In The Life which does get quite specific it feels soulfully applicable to you as a listener). He doesn’t fit into a Roots Philly neo-soul category or really anywhere else. 100 Bands doesn’t sound like any song that’s ever had bands in the title.

The Astronauts, DJ Gumble, and Ben Rosen do a great job giving Ali a completely unique sound. One based in bass and drums but not in a boom bap way, in a D’Angelo Black Messiah way. Ali is a mixtape bound to get more interesting the more you listen. At first you may be overcome by how slow the flow is and think not enough is being done but over the course of sixteen tracks you have to admit you’re having a very different experience from any other mixtape released this year and that’s something that demands attention.

Steam or download Ali below: