#Bandcampgold-G-Worthy (G-Perico & Jay Worthy) produced by Cardo
Can I tell you what separates Cardo from his peers at the very top of hip hop production? The Neptunes make anyone sound cool from Kelis to Timberlake to Pusha and Malice to Britney Spears. Not everyone sounds cool on a Cardo beat. Cardo beats are the pure distillation of hearing Snoop and Dre for the first time, liquid metal cool forming and reforming, with the right host on the mic it sounds invincible. This is why when people don’t know who Cardo is I simply say “He built Wiz Khalifa” without the luxuriously unflappable warm sonic world of Cardo to color his incredible personality Wiz would have been another weirdo in a hip hop world full of them. If you don’t have the right personality to sail on these beats you’ll be caught faking the funk but if you match up it takes you to another level.
If you look at the cover of G-Worthy it looks like it could have come out in 1992. Jay Worthy from Compton and G Perico from South Central reassure us that while Rap destroys what it loves to be and rebuilds to the opposite direction every five years…West Coast Gangsta Rap doesn’t.
The album consists of seven songs that feel effortlessly connected without any visible seams. What has changed is the ability for a Blood like Jay Worthy to rap about B hats and his Brazy life right before G Perico raps about violence from a Crip perspective (Getting High). The music is the glue. Jay Worthy is a solid dude who recently released a full length project with Alchemist so he is used to spitting over genius production. Jay Worthy is a game machine talking pimping or gang life or just generally flossing all over the listener. On the single Never Miss he authoritatively asserts “Take a look at yourself, we getting money On the route with these dames, a little lucky.”
Perico is a star his voice his cadence along with the personal specificity of imagery really draw him to the forefront at all time. The best example is his verse on Ain’t Trippin which starts “Middle finger to e’rybody that’s how I do it. Got the glock in the beamer case a n__ want to act stupid.” He talks about how the police are monitoring everyone and that’s not new, that he can’t tell the visual difference between his enemies and friends cops and homies. By the end of the verse you can feel the waves washing over, the uncertainty hostility and powerlessness of this criminalized system. It’s all done economically in a short verse. He loads up and does it again with the subject of women on the beginning of the next track (Scandalous). I heard all of Perico’s work before and liked it but it is Cardo’s production that made his lyrics vivid enough for me to figure out the allure. I think Perico is the best gangsta rapper since YG and G-Worthy could easily become a group without comparison. Not only do they represent a timeless standard few would dream of comparing against but their singles, while fabulous, are just as good as the rest of their output. They shine at a slow bops pace that they could keep up without a trickle of sweat for ten years. I hope they make more money than they ever hoped as G-Worthy.
Stream or buy G-Worthy below:
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Tagged #BandcampGold, Alchemist, California, Cardo, Compton, G Perico, Gangsta rap, Jay Worthy, South Central, west coast hip hop, YG
#Bandcampgold-Brick Body Kids Still Daydream by Open Mike Eagle
I am so much more excited about BBKSD than my circle. Everyone likes it. People at this point have heard of Open Mike Eagle due to the breakout success of 2014’s Dark Comedy (and 2016’s huge improvement Hella Personal Film Festival). He is officially on the bubble of everyone who follows music and BBKSD shows yet another improvement. That is a good enough take but not from my angle. If you follow the incredible X-Men references in the opening track (Legendary Iron Hood https://genius.com/Open-mike-eagle-legendary-iron-hood-lyrics ). The song is a perfect example of Mike pushing everything to the hilt. He’s always had great hooks and this time they are prettier, better sung, catchier (see Hymnal) the beats are full of strange sounds coming together over his buttery flow. His lyrics take comic imagery and push it 38 degrees to the left so that they become intensely meaningful.
On Happy Wasteland Day he is slick and smooth weaving zombie imagery and the connotation of dystopia into his everyday life “When the king is a garbage person/I might wanna lay down and die/Power down on my darkest urges/Keep my personal crown up high.” As the song goes on his tone gets more and more urgent as the terror of everyday violence punctures the force field. The last verse his voice is post mortem, dead monotone and fading. It is as much an emotional journey as Velvet Underground’s Heroin.
If you’re a strict rap guy who needs BARS just press play on Brick Body Complex which is a sensational set fire to the BS hook with dizzying skill from his pen in the verses “Chi Town in my building code/Stood here for ten million snows/wind chill is all in my bones/ Indivisible in divisible kids and criminals young and old/No radiator my dungeon cold.” That song sets my sensory on overload and it isn’t even my favorite.
I would change nothing on BBKSD but boy do I come back specifically to 95 Radios. Toy Light and Has-Lo created a beat that chimes a spotlight on the verses (Has-Lo destroys verse 1). Mike’s second verse teases fun growing up references but can’t run away from the hard thoughtful personal truth “I miss my old hood/ miss my homies/is lonely/ The radio host is like they know me.” The pain isn’t just in the verse it’s in the delivery, the chorus drips with the visual image of a kid closing his eyes and trying to hear a rap song so he doesn’t have to think so damn much.
When I was in school (trying to become a better writer) teachers routinely told me to ignore what I did well and focus on improving my faults. As a natural antagonist the first thing I did was push even harder on my strengths leaving the rest for later. Sometimes if I pushed hard enough I could accomplish something really surprising and that was the best feeling. Brick Body Kids Still Daydream gives me that feeling for Mike. No one gets to show him his lane.
Bandcamp link below:
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Tagged #BandcampGold, BBKSD, Brick Body Kids Still Daydream, Charles Xavier, Chicago Hip Hop, Dark Comedy, Exile, Has-Lo, Hella Personal Film Festival, Juggernaut, Open Mike Eagle, reviews, Toy Light, X-Men
#Bandcampgold-Fuel City by The Outfit, TX
Pressing play on Fuel City by Dallas rap group The Outfit, TX is like discovering Three 6 Mafia for the first time. That is not to say they are doing Three 6, this just has the permissive energy of the best crunk you can think of. I love the beginning of Goin’ Up where the opening verse surges into yelling that takes on a three part shout harmony for the chorus. The Outfit, TX are masters in the art of high and low, whenever they start calm they lull you into a false sense of security they explode out from. They have brilliant songs where they turn all the way up (the first three songs: Big Splash, Phone Line, and Goin’ Up) but they are contrasted by whispery low key effortless swagger (Insumnia) and gorgeous middle ground sounds where the song does a hard bop while they maintain a heightened agitated cool (Dez Bryant, Look Crazy). The last similar group this good at flicking the tempo switch up and down to this extreme was Ying Yang Twins and it’s a favorable comparison. Ying Yang twins were one of those authentically dexterous groups, confident in who they were and so unified in talent you never sat back and thought either of them killed one the other on a track, their verses hung together and formed a real themed work(even when the themes were very closely aligned).
Fuel City is one hundred percent smash hits which is why it is only ten songs. They know better than to wear you out. As ferocious, jarring & scary as Told That Bih is on first listen the song before that is a melodic sex brag mutter so minimal (Outta Control) by contrast you can see the authorship in the ordering of songs. It took years and years of work to get things running this tight. Living in Maine I didn’t know of them until Killer Mike demanded people check them out in an interview. Ever since then I’ve been watching them sharpen their swords in hopes of getting to this level. When you hear the warning that ends the final track (Really Off) lambast the listener for sleeping on them (“I’m a give myself and my N’s our flowers on our own s__t and let you listen to it B#$%* @$$ N_ I ain’t waiting on you N’s applause no mo'” It sounds mad extra but he’s right. In the case of a group with the powerful melodic energy of The Outfix, TX ignoring them has grown them to unimaginable levels. As I listen to Look Crazy for the thousandth time I can’t help but think about the first time I heard their name and thought “that name is dumb” they’ve been making me pay ever since by making songs so inescapably catchy and lyrically throttling I can’t get away from them. In the outro the warning accuses us of making monsters and in a rap world full of junkies and exuberant social media warriors maybe a few monsters are what we need.
Stream or download Fuel City below:
#Bandcampgold-Songs.4. People. Who.Break.Bread by Niko Is produced by Thanks Joey
More than anything else Songs.4.People.Who.Break.Bread is a celebration of leveling up. I have been writing about Niko Is every year since his marvelously perfect 2012 Chill Cosby mixtape. Since that time he has been feverishly releasing material, touring, and playing his position. He’s now Talib Kweli’s right hand man, the kind of guy who can live in a tour bus for months and unfold himself as a lyrical dynamo from a weeded up sleepy state.
Songs.4.People.Who.Break.Bread isn’t my favorite Niko project for the simple fact that I remember release after release that was all him with one or two guests(Brutus is the Reasonable Doubt for Niko) and his ability to breath fire and sew together disparate imagery was all I ever wanted. This project definitely has that. The last song is my favorite: God & the Devil in the land of the Sun is a scare your parent’s banger where Niko fires sneaky sit & think about it lyrics while exactly in the pocket of the melody, the groove. Niko has been doing this so long and so religiously that he fits no matter what beat starts.
Another rewarding aspect of following the development of Niko’s movement is I am as much a fan of his chosen producer Thanks Joey (Joey Creates). Early production was proudly boom bap under Latin Soul samples from the greats (Tim Maia comes to mind from Chill Cosby). Joey has grown with Niko and now while he still can give you beats under that formula he has grown into all other levels. Say U Don’t has voices chanting in the background sampled into a stew of tortured sound while the bass bubbles and thumps. Wildest Dreams sounds like Jungle ambiance over drums that would bring a tear to Timbo’s eyes. These 8 songs are the closest Joey has been to becoming the Latin hip hop stripped down banger scientist version of Swizz Beatz. On 5am @ Walmart he sets a classic hip hop tone that allows for great verses from not just Niko but Mygrane & Murdoc. That song is meant to be a cypher of lyricists so the beat needs to lead from the back and Joey can do it. Joey can do anything.
Niko has worked with other producers who have done great work but any Niko fan ends up wondering, why not just all Joey? Joey is so good. So that is what we get(and have gotten for a while). U Could Be My Gal is Joey’s prettiest work with finger snaps and gentle cooing looped as the beat knocks. The first Bandcamp tag is “bossa nova” the second is “hip hop” and it makes sense. At this point Joey could use nothing but Astrud Gilberto samples and give you the hardest hitting hip hop album of the year. Songs.4.People.Who.Break.Bread is a better showcase of Joey’s growth and expertise in his field than Niko. Niko understands at this point. He’s proved his bars all over tracks with legendary mc’s (Styles P, Kweli, Action Bronson) and reliably put out albums where the concept is simply that Niko Is dope, albums that work better than fancier concept albums from major artists.
Songs.4.People.Who.Break.Bread is an affirmation that as a team they are officially staples and it is known outside of Florida, outside of the weird subset who feverishly repped him. When Chino XL comes onto Spanglish in Outerspace and rips into Woody Allen and Usher in a masterful scene stealing verse you can see the long haired stage crusher smiling, not at all feeling uneasy that he just killed on a track but excited that he gets to be on it with Chino (F*CKING) XL. He lives a life where Kool A.D. will give him a verse now and he got there through his loving monogamous relationship with the beat. You can call him an energy guy but ever since he’s been around Kweli….Kweli has sounded totally re-energized (see Carmen off Niko’s Brutus LP). That is Niko and it is Joey and it’s appreciated.
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Tagged #BandcampGold, Bossa Nova, Brutus, Chill Cosby, Chino XL, Kool A.D., Murdoc, Mygrane, Niko Is, Songs.4.People.Who.Break.Bread, Styles P, Talib Kweli, Thanks Joey
#BandcampGold-A Common Wonder by Amerigo Gazaway, Stevie Wonder, & Common
Amerigo Gazaway is the best mash up dude in the world right now because when he picks two artists he doesn’t just jam them together he weaves them together. He’s paired Fela Kuti with De La Soul, Mos Def with Marvin Gaye all in ways that made you see the musical link between those artists and appreciate their skill set to a greater degree. Midway through a Gazaway mash up you wonder why you didn’t see it in the first place.
Gazaway’s strength is that he makes bold choices that pay off through deep knowledge of both artists discographies. A Common Wonder pulls heavily from 60’s Stevie in key moments; laying the foundational I Used to Love H.E.R over I Was Made to Love Her and most surprisingly finding a way to make Signed Sealed Delivered (I’m Yours) and The Light seamless dance partners. Innervisions is the current critical go to for “best Stevie Wonder album” and it gets some play in interesting places. Common’s best verses from Chi-City are ferocious and perfect over the funky synthesizers from Living In The City, The Innervision intermission drops in an interview Com did with Rap Radar talking about his relationship to Stevie. It is classic Gazaway in the sense that it provides a meaningful connection between the two while making it clear that while Visions is one of the best Stevie songs ever he doesn’t need it and can use it on a skit.
Young Stevie didn’t have any of the problems Neo-soul did. While Neo-soul seemed to all move at the same tempo and represent as relentlessly earthy (I love Neo-soul but everything has problems) young Stevie brings undeniable kinetic energy to the sonic space he fills. You can hear Love of My Life change for the better as the pace pushes Badu and Common making the song better. As an MC Common has always been a difficult one for me, his best work stands alongside the best to ever happen in the genre but bad Common is horrible. Gazaway finds the verses, the songs that show a real three dimensional beating heart. When you hear The Sixth Superstition you’ll hear Common better than you ever have before and that’s the benefit of a great mashup for the MC, it throws a different light on verses we took for granted.
I had to perform at a very important event, commemorating a very important man and before I spoke I shut myself away from everyone and just listened to A Common Wonder. Someone asked me what I was listening to, I went into full pitch mode and a day later they were in my face about how great the project is. A Common Wonder is a tide that lifts all boats and I am sure that person I pitched is now off somewhere else pitching another friend.
Stream or download below:
#BandcampGold-Scapegoat by KGFREEZE
As someone who is fanatical for music I do not resent the layer on the outside of the onion of interest. The layer on the outside is composed of folks who just like songs going behind them: they don’t know the artists, album, and producer and that’s a valid way to live. The layer underneath them is the problem. The poacher who checks pitchfork and follows up only to find “classics” to brag about. Beyond how annoying the condescending “Have you heard __” conversation is, it puts pressure on artists to always seek perfection which is not how art works.
The poacher robs the process of transitions.
The new KGFREEZE project Scapegoat is a perfect example of this. It is the slimy nerve-racking birth of something new not the last sanding away of rough edges. The Freeze has always been the name Kyle Gervais created for his own solo career; the players rotate underneath him while he pushes furiously in different directions. His will and vision was always centerstage but like any good coach he plays to the strength of the team he has at the time. Now is definitely the time for his new line up.
The components have vastly changed and Scapegoat is a project of adjustments and experiments. It was recorded live in a warehouse with very little tweaking. Chris Gervais comes on as drummer and brings palpitating new wave urgency to every second of his play. Chris likes it loud and once Nate Carll was brought in they were able to go to new places within the term. Nate worked with Kyle in the band Cosades back when Iphone was how Tarzan asked to make a call. I met Nate Carll once and he was so normal it was shocking but the scary part is how potent his guitar wizardry is. Of the ten songs on Scapegoat On The Hill is his baby from foot to teeth and it is gorgeous. Very few people are allowed to take up Kyle’s authorship space on a KGFREEZE album and On The Hill shows you why Kyle has the faith he has in Nate. It rolls around in guitar noise until the noise takes on shape, form and a light dance. Kyle comes in with his most delicate vocal delivery of the project and for two minutes and nineteen seconds it is a different world from any KGFREEZE song before it. It is indicative of the sweet to savage and back again Siamese Dream-ness of the new Freeze; the ability to get crazy while promising never to lose melodic focus.
Sanks is the most recognizably Kyle song on here and has an absolutely fantastic chorus. The title track fits well within the heard Freeze-verse but not everything on the project works as well. On the con side of this experiment Seyton is a novelty exploration of Pantera screaming and hard rock that the band is just not going to explore. It is a thing they wanted to do and did but doesn’t have any legs to it. Bark For Me, Tom is an infidelity concept song that doesn’t have enough lyrical bite to make up for how bland it sounds compared to the punchier songs.
The punchier songs are the real building blocks for this group. They could go a bunch of directions. My favorite songs are Connection and Insanity both a little over a minute long and indicative of this groups ability to actually give us a polished Costello style Get Happy; something that showcases short electric elegantly constructed songs in great number. They could push the volume and the guitar hero riffs of songs like Freeway of Drugs and see how large and anthemic they could make a full polished project. Either way they should not record like this again. It was a great way to showcase the difference in loudness, force his audience to buy better headphones, but in the future vocal overdubs will help Kyle’s voice stay comfortably over the sea of sound. This is not the album poachers will brag about but it could be signifying one is on the horizon.
Stream or Download Scapegoat below:
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Tagged #BandcampGold, Chris Gervais, Cool Tara, KGFREEZE, Kyle Gervais, Maine Rock, Maine Rock Bands, Nate Carll, review, Scapegoat, Siamese Dream
#BandcampGold-All The Beauty in This Whole Life by Brother Ali
The first Brother Ali album in five years is a lot to digest. It is the reunion of one of hip hop’s greatest partnerships. The underground forced Ali to record with Jake One because Jake brought out a different Ali in collaborations. Fans wanted a change but I didn’t. I love Jake One but the bond that Rhymesayers producer Ant and Ali have goes so much deeper than on-paper skills. They lived near each other and Ali would walk to his house where they collaborated on projects that literally changed and formed post 2k underground hip hop. You could feel the friendship as an intangible in the music. That chemistry is something that needs to be celebrated.
Ali being one of the wisest scholars of hip hop knows the importance of destroying the first track. Pen To Paper is only two minutes and thirty eight seconds but he goes back to battle rap mode and erupts triumphant bars over Ant’s horn and bass backdrop. This album is not for bangers, however. One of the takeaways from All The Beauty in This Whole Life is that hip hop needs more (less insulting) subgenres. No one should listen to the tragic and intelligent dissection of racism and police violence perpetrated on the black community (Dear Black Son) and have to compare it to Bad and Boujee. Nothing against Migos, Culture is a monster album. These are just musicians accomplishing different things. Ali’s pen presses so deeply that a one listen cheat review isn’t going to be enough. We need to think of these different dimensions within the culture as different kinds of clothing. You don’t get dressed in the morning and say “Pants are way better than shirts!” You need it all and appreciate that you have it.
All The Beauty in This Whole Life isn’t built around the anthemic stuff Ali is known for. Around the 2009 album US it seemed like Ali would transition into the pop rap world. That transition never happened and in 2017 his release has a B-side attitude that doesn’t sacrifice any space from its creative vision. It is that mid-tempo cohesion that glues all the songs together, you can go from Special Effects to Can’t Take That Away without ever feeling overwhelmed by the intense lyricism at hand. The beats still bang and Ali has a dynamic flow/consistency in his lyrical design that makes the tougher moments easier to take. As an example, We Got This sounds triumphant with the upbeat piano but Ali is not mincing words “If she asks me about it I got to be honest. Either they forgot about us or they got a target on us. My niece is shooting amateur porno, police shoot my nephews in the street like its normal but they been doing that a century or like four though. It’s horrible. Still pains me to my core though.”
Brother Ali is one of the few rappers I don’t know that my family feels like we do know. He has verses so vividly rendered that they get stamped on you. You feel his triumphs and sorrow. This album focuses on that. I’ll never forget the frustration of Uncle Usi Taught Me and its masterful airport story ending. Out of Here is a song about suicide that explores all the emotional reactions to the event, a thoughtful meditation that will leave you needing to recuperate. Before They Called You White is a fiery and probably controversial take on racial history but unlike political songs he’s done in the past this one is considerate to all parties involved and benefits from a three dimensional heart. You can’t listen to it and think Brother Ali is mad at white people.
I met him a few times. He came to a local record store and I waited in line, I declined the autograph (not my thing) but asked him very specifically about a review in a major publication that completely misread a concept song he did and slammed it. I asked him how he dealt with that so continually. Most rappers would have blustered a “F_ them” response but Ali really paused. He said it’s the hardest part of the whole deal, that you spend so much time pouring your heart into a project and the people criticizing it give it a mere passing glance and disregard it. They twist what they hear into something it isn’t and apply their own bias. That conversation is one of the reasons I wanted this blog. I wanted to write about music in a way that wasn’t intended to humiliate anyone but to stand in awe of work well done. Listen to the title track of All The Beauty in This Whole Life and get seduced by the fabulous hook and sincerity of the message or listen to the first verse or Tremble where Ali starts “I’m a man not a brand. Heart nose no barcode that can be scanned. Revealing what can’t be held up in the hand; bearer of the standard that you cram to understand,” over rippling bass. Even if you don’t get the MC Lyte reference at the end you comprehend how deeply he drops himself into a project and he never holds it against other rappers who don’t. He’s made a choice to exist in a specific place and be heard in a certain way. As one of his fans I just hope he continues to be happy there.
Stream and BUY All The Beauty in This Whole Life below:
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Tagged #BandcampGold, All The Beauty in This Whole Life, Ant, Bad and Boujee, Bandcamp, Brother Ali, Culture, Jake One, Migos, Rhymesayers, US