Tag Archives: #BandcampGold

#Bandcampgold-Best U.K. Albums of 2019

#Bandcampgold-Best U.K. Albums of 2019

by Dan-O

As Americans we too often turn a blind eye to other countries contributions to artistic forms we start. This is odd because the world often welcomes our contributions(Kurasawa turned Westerns into Samurai movies and we turned that into Star Wars). U.K. rap has gone through its own growth and development. In 2019, the two albums I love the most from that scene have found ways to be unique in a rich world of unique interesting albums.

Nothing Great About Britain by slowthai

Do not look to me for interesting biographical information about slowthai. I found this album on a “best albums so far” list probably on DJBooth.net. The calling card here is every song crackles with energy. This dude is 24 years old with the forward motion and excitement he should have to charge from track to track. His accent is significant and it takes adjusting to but I’ve always felt that no matter where the music comes from I abide by dope hip hop. I will figure it out. This dude knows how to lace a hook that is simple and effective (see Doorman) and his flow is loud fearless and assured.

If you are listening to the deluxe edition Kwes Darko produced (or co-produced) 11 of the 17 songs and helps set the stage with off kilter burbling mid tempo production (see Dead Leaves). Darko flips a sample over piano and car rattling bass in my FAVORITE beat of the tape, Gorgeous. He keeps these beats running in 7 different directions at all times which matches up nicely to our scatterbrained unstoppable force of a narrator.

Check out the two minute sixteen second song Crack, slowthai executes the hook brilliantly and fills the song with call outs of his own behavior most rappers would shy away from. Nothing Great About Britain is a debut so he hasn’t been steered into any lanes yet. You can feel the specificity in his perspective pairing with the ease of his skill and joyful thump of the sonic universe. Don’t worry what number this is on the best of the year list. Numbers don’t matter here: slowthai is here and fun to listen to. I can throw on Nothing Great About Britain and destroy the days work from my cubicle. It’s only the beginning for our relationship through the headphones.

Stream or buy Nothing Great About Britain below:

https://slowthai.bandcamp.com/album/nothing-great-about-Britain

Psychodrama by (Santan) Dave

Dave really might be a generational talent to recon with. Psychodrama is one of the best put together debut albums I have heard in years. The lyrical content is searing in laser- like focus and accuracy. On the albums last song Drama this is how he starts the first verse “I don’t know where to start. I just done my first Psychodrama and I hope the world hears my craft. I’m excited man, I pray you get to hear my craft. From my childhood my mother didn’t hear me laugh. I’m presenting you the future I don’t fear my past. I ain’t got a tattoo anywhere near my arms but best believe on my sleeve is where I wear my heart.” He also says “Thank god for the pain because it made me this.”

Dave has natural abillity he can weave melody in and carry a tune like on the song Voices. He can bring in another big talent and create a song that reflects both artists like on Location (featuring Burna Boy). Importantly, this dude is a writer. If you listen to track nine (Lesley) it is eleven minutes of fantastic storytelling that will leave you stuck in that world. My favorite song is Screwface Capital it has a haunting sample and some piano keys so Dave just goes off. One of those songs every MC needs where he pushes his chest out and roars his whole life from poverty to the prison system to sex to work ethic. While rap is full of songs about affirming Black heritage the song Black digs three levels deeper than even the best of them (example: “Black is people naming your countries on what they trade most: Coast of Ivory, Gold Coast…”). It is exciting to find someone with this much to say on this many subjects while exercising this much versatility but more importantly… this dude has a plan. He’s excited for us to get his FIRST Psychodrama. Great writers love to plan and develop and I can only imagine what this dude has for us in the future.

Stream or buy Psychodrama below:

https://santandave.bandcamp.com/album/psychodrama

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#Bandcampgold-That’s The World by Anti-Lilly and Phoniks

#Bandcampgold-That’s The World by Anti-Lilly and Phoniks

by Dan-O

Being a philosophical person isn’t that fun. It’s thousands of persisting strands of concern intersecting and reproducing. This is part of the reason that dumb rappers tend to make albums that are more fun (depends on how you define fun). Fake deep hits the listeners sweet spot on the pop level. You get enough thought/detail to hold onto but not enough to bum you out.  With the contorted soul landscape Phoniks has brought to life on their group project Anti-Lilly is completely free to haunt my brain with realizations about life that shake my own. At time on their new album, That’s The World, I have gotten genuinely emotional listening. Not because something went wrong… because the depth of what he points to in us that is wrong is historical present and terrifying.

Things you need to know

  1. Anti-Lilly whispers and if you can’t handle it I won’t hold it against you. Any rapper that chooses the subtle tones over the roar knows what they have signed up for. Not everyone’s cup of tea.
  2. You can call this a vibe. You could call it smooth. However you want to frame the sounds of this album they will not rock your car stereo, this isn’t built for your frat party. It doesn’t have a stand out BIG PIMPIN’ style single.

 

The rest of this review is dedicated to two songs. The features are up and down, the project is cohesive and rewarding upon relistens but I need to talk to you about these songs. I might never be able to listen to Father’s Day and hold myself together. This is because his story is so similar to mine. His struggle is one I am still going through. In the song he negotiates the anger he has with his father for treating his mother poorly, cheating on her “In my younger days I wanted to crack you for ever tear she had shed/ things you’ve done I could never forget.”, against the traits he sees in himself that his father gave him.  “…Either way I’m blessed you brought us up/love is tough but because of you I never settled/learned my worth and got my work ethic from you.” When he says “Because of you to this day I’ve never cheated,” it shocked me. I’ve never cheated on anyone, even when we were casual, and I know it is because I experienced the way my father manipulated my mother in the later years of their marriage. Anti-Lilly, like me, has never been able to wrap his head around the ethics of it. The loyalty we all preach in male friendships yet the snaking around dudes do in heterosexual relationships. My biggest fear since I was eighteen years old is letting my people down. It’s because I watched a good man do it to everyone, that year. So that song is real good.

The Fall is even better. Phoniks balances the horns with the bass into a magical melody that feels utterly complete. Phoniks lives in Maine I live in Maine; I need to high five this dude outside of a Cumberland Farms one day. Anti-Lilly gives a heck of a first verse line after the hook. “The first time I got my @$$ whooped I was testin’ somebodies pride/ That N_ slid me ended up realigning mines/The second time I got my @$$ whooped tried to slam a N_ twice my size/ dressed in faith/That’s when I finally realized/ ain’t no ho up in my blood or in my eyes/ only pride.” As the beat resonates sounding like the hip hop version of the Jazz song that makes you think about your life, Anti-Lilly picks apart pride from different angles. In one bar he warns not “to let it get you F’d up/ to get in your way/don’t let it get overshadowed by voices saying you can’t.” He explains the negative side of pride clouding you as well as the confidence it can give you to drive forward(and overcome external or internal doubt) in a matter of seconds. Anti-Lilly thinks at a blinding speed which makes Phoniks so important. I need his hypnotizing soul music to manufacture that smooth ride because That’s The World is not a smooth ride for the heavily introspective attentive listener. It’s a lot but if you’re a philosophical thinker it’s such a relief to know your not worrying alone.

Stream or Download That’s The World below:

https://antilillyandphoniks.bandcamp.com/album/thats-the-world

 

 

#BandcampGold-New American Frontier by The Trusty Snakes

#BandcampGold-New American Frontier by The Trusty Snakes

by Dan-O

Alright, I don’t like the new Bruce Springsteen album Western Stars. We’re all supposed to. Bruce stepped back into his Country/Folk style this year in a very post-Sturgill Simpson way. The album is better than some of his recent work but the basic problem I have is that it works from the understandng that the old country music was precious and heartfelt. Sometimes it was, but it had more dimension than that. If you want stripped down Folk/Country Bruce find Nebraska because it gives a range of emotions. It’s not afraid to rage and churn and break down. In 2019, I’d rather listen to The Trusty Snakes than The Boss.

They are an Oregon Punk band called The Taxpayers who while on the road listened to a lot of old Country and found lots of common ground between the genres and became The Trusty Snakes. The same forceful propulsion that thrust their heavily political punk forward keeps the characters and scenes depicted in New American Frontier vivid. The lyrics equal the force of the music in boldness. The first song is only one minute and twenty four seconds but in that time we go from first meeting to marriage without wasting any time for a hook or chorus. It’s a sweet song that you’ll need to come back to once you jump into the harsh world of Ain’t Gonna Change. That song starts slow and sorrowful with a first few lines that will grab your attention, “Monday’s it’s beer. Tuesday’s it’s Whiskey. Wednesday’s it’s wine and cocaine, Thursday he wakes up and beats both his kids up. Every damn week it’s the same. Friday’s it’s jail and Diffy posts bail…”

I love that the album carries more than a bit of Randy Newman’s Good Old Boys in the way it seeks to understand the hearts of characters the authors don’t always respect. When Rob Taxpayer belts that some people ain’t gonna change you feel the tragedy in his voice. Next song a dude kills the dude his wife cheats with and beats her up in a diner all while the drums are jumping and popping. The only cover is Can I Sleep In Your Arms? from Willie Nelson’s legendary Red Headed Stranger. While Rob doesn’t have the soulful dimension in his voice that Willie had in 1975 (no shots!) none of us do. The vocal harmonies on this version give the chorus a cool campfire vibe, as if this is a song we all know and can sing together. They integrate trumpet along with guitar and drums to give this a feel all their own.

First time I put New American Frontier on in the car I didn’t know how my wife would take to it. It is folkpunk disjointed, fast then slow then fast, angry then sad then scary but her face lit up. She said “I love Cake and The Mountain Goats so this is my thing.” The tangled lyricism mixed with the high octane fun and sneaky orchestration had finally pushed me into her comfort zone. When I tried to put on Western Stars her face drooped. It was as if one of the greatest to ever make music was desperately searching for something but not finding it. While The Trusty Snakes got together and made up something great organically, accidentally, and thought it was so cool they just kept pushing into one of the years best albums.

Stream or download New American Frontier below: https://trustysnakes.bandcamp.com/album/new-american-frontier

 

#BandcampGold-Never Hated I Just Waited by Chris Crack

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#BandcampGold-Never Hated I Just Waited by Chris Crack

by Dan-O

Best way to think of Chicago Rap is like one of those old Shaw Brothers martial arts films. Surreal things happen, good and evil magic. Different clans represent divergent schools of thought with powers and weaknesses as specific as they are out of this world. On one side you have Lil Reese, Lil Durk and the pure drill cats. On the other Taylor Bennett, Chance and the sunshine. My clan is the Vic Spencer, Tree, and Chris Crack whome I refer to as the Soultrap team.  The new Chris Crack project (Never Hated I Just Waited) is amongst the purest examples of what makes that school so engaging.

First thing to know is that Chris Crack is nuts. He releases a lot of projects. You know the journey you’re going on by the album titles alone. His discography includes albums called: Being Woke Ain’t FunCrackheads Live Longer Than Vegans, and of course….Titty Milk & Cookies. If you are a very serious person who is offended easily this might not be your guy. He’s my favorite kind of insane person because he isn’t reckless with his music at all. You can press play on anything he’s done and it is solid. Never Hated I Just Waited is way above solid because it has a seamless flow from song to song, wild stand out verses/lines, killer guest performances from people I do not know(except Droog we all know Droog), and doooopppee hooks.

It isn’t a long album (out of 15 songs only 2 of them are over 3 minutes) but the short songs really accomplish a lot. The two wildest things said on the project Chris reserves for short songs (under 2 minutes). On the entrancing twisted soul sample driven Just Tell Me I’m Cute his first line is “Ask me if she gettin’ fat I told her trust her gut.” Which is so wrong I kind of love it.  The booty music tribute No Parking In LA starts with “We drink champagne and I put molly in my chili,” Crack knows how to shock you even when you feel accustomed to his style. On Smoke Causes Cancer he makes fun of vegans wearing leather boots and calls out a particular F_boy to the point where the last name has to be censored. I just imagine Chris Crack half lifted yelling “You a F_ Boy like Eric Stephenson!” and the producer/engineer being like “You can’t say his name!” and he’s like “Awright, beep the last name but… F_ that dude!”

I need to thank Chong Wizard, SC, August Fanon,  Fortes, Wazasnics, and all the other producers that fed Crack these beautiful beats brimming with brilliant samples from  the sample on Women Cum First that makes the Gzus Piece hook even better to the fanstastic Stone Cold Steve Austin clip at the end of the Your Old Droog collab Todo Rosado. Never Hated I Just Waited represents the Soultrap clan with its balance: funny, disgusting, thoughtful, sad, and hardcore. You might find yourself having a chorus stuck in your head and not even remark how weird it is that the hook is about bringing your gun to work like Gilbert Arenas and tucking it by your penis. If you listen to Crack and like him you just found someone you can listen to for a long time.

Stream or download Never Hated I Just Waited below:

https://chriscrack.bandcamp.com/album/never-hated-i-just-waited

#Bandcampgold-Black Beans by Exile x Choosey

Black Beans#Bandcampgold-Black Beans by Exile x Choosey

by Dan-O

The world makes us feel terrible. Mac Miller and Nipsey Hussle are dead. Ogres are in power and they don’t even lie to us about how old evil and full of greed/hate they are. Music is necessary, all kinds of music. Black Beans is a beam of light on the dark days and because of that it holds an important place on my favorite albums of 2019 list.

I have to start by talking about Exile. I haven’t done it enough on this blog. I’ve been debating how I feel about his strengths since Blu linked up with him for Below The Heavens. While other boom bap producers (Daringer, Roc Marciano) are superb at twisting the instrumentation and sample into an evil snarl that suits the goon rappers spitting over them; Exile is the best at optimizing his soundscape for warmth. You can listen to the Intro or the first song (I Did) and none of the production is overly dense or crowded. Exile chooses the right elements and places them properly making great use of background vocals, samples, and background vocals. His production perfectly captures that Rawkus records feeling of hearing Mos Def spit on Respiration from the Black Star album(a Hi-Tek comparison is not a bad one). Black Beans is Exile’s best work in YEARS and his work over the years was impressive before it.

If you think this album is corny I guess you’re right. If you think the loving poetic tribute to heritage at the end of the title track is corny, I’m fine with that. If you don’t understand why Choosey is rapping about the candy lady on his block on Satisfied when he could have fake murdered someone in that verse… it is a natural hip hop reaction. It’s a perfectly adequate short term coping mechanism for living on this scary cock-eyed planet. Shut all those instincts off and listen to tracks 4,5, and 6 in a row. Four is single ready it is called Low Low and the horns are PERFECT, Aloe Blacc nails the hook with pinpoint accuracy and emotion while Choosey paints the scenery of a nice day with a pretty lady. Track five is Show You and Choosey is at his most melodic. The West Coast MC doesn’t need any help on the chorus sing-rapping a hook that burrows deep in my brain to this second. It’s a relationship song without the nasty baggage. He wants to show her what the future can be and never turns into the darker or condescending tones a lot of rappers do when trying for these songs. Track six is so great. You Got It is all hand claps and mixing while Choosey spits fast but seemingly effortlessly. Jimetta Rose is another fantastic guest singer woven into the fiber of the song. You Got It has a noble mission: to get you up and dancing. These three songs get to the heart of celebration that Black Beans is crafted around.

The candy lady verse that starts Satisfied is my favorite of the album because I am corny. It is so unexpected. The first line of the song is “Every hood had a candy lady,” said with a smiling nostalgia. He’s talking lollipops and getting candy out of her hand. Choosey’s mission is to celebrate his shared black and Hispanic heritage. Through the thirteen songs he applies his determination to painting the picture to it’s smallest detail. It’s not just about lowriders, Cadillac’s, and jewelry it is about the people. In that verse he also says “Them cop’s was all in our face saying ‘don’t hang with them bangers’ N_ the gang was the neighbors…” he doesn’t shy away from the violence and terror present in his environment. America knows gangs as large scary groups but Choosey knows them as people and sums it up our national tension quite nicely with, “They hate the fact but can’t deny that we some damn creators.” Choosey knows you think you know his hood. He also knows you haven’t felt the sunshine on your face there. You haven’t kissed for the first time as Salsa spilled out of an apartment window there. Listen to the song Sangria, pour sangria over some apples and cantaloupe (don’t forget diced pineapple) and let Exile teach you how to relax as Choosey brings you where he’s always been.

Stream or Download Black Beans below:

https://choosey.bandcamp.com/album/black-beans

 

#Bandcampgold-Hiding Places by Billy Woods x Kenny Segal

#Bandcampgold-Hiding Places by Billy Woods x Kenny Segal

by Dan-O

Biographers live in the world of their subject for years. Can you imagine? In depth talks with family, old letters, review of their work, nailing down different periods of life and what they meant. The subject has to be important enough to fuel the biographer. If that spark flames out it’s a world of bad for everyone. I could be the biographer for Billy Woods & Kenny Segal’s new album Hiding Places. Over the past week I’ve been deep in lyric reading and song re-listens pulling at different sections of what it all means. I could do two years research on the end of A Day In A Week In A Year when Woods says:

“I read the play, hatchet job, but you work with what you got/  Life is just two quarters in the machine

But, either you got it or don’t that’s the thing
I was still hittin’ the buttons, “Game Over” on the screen
Dollar movie theater, dingy foyer, little kid, not a penny to my name
Fuckin’ with the joystick, pretendin’ I was really playin’
Pretendin’ I was really playin’
Pretendin’ I was really playin’ “

Pretending to play when you don’t have the money is a central memory for kids of a certain generation. Being able to go full thrust with your imagination and the screen regardless of what was working against you forms the basis of an artist’s mind.  The joy of playing v. the ability to get in the game this is why it connects back to the hack play, dedicating yourself to your art when your art sucks is still pretending to play.

And that is just one fragment of one song. All the songs are built from these incredible impactful fragments that come together to form a singular emotional realization part poetic beauty part violence drizzled in lots of frustration. My favorite song is a minute and twenty eight seconds long. It is called Steak Knives and it is not simply about how horrifying a life of crime is but about how painfully destructive living in poverty can be without the endless fight for money we hear rappers talk about. As Woods says in the song “it’s sick but banalities might as well be death threats/Let it sit/ there’s the threat of sepsis” He opens the song by a roaring fire about to make love to a woman who specifies she does not want a relationship and ends it flippantly acknowledging ,in a passive aggressive way, that he doesn’t have the breathing room to help those not as driven. Second place is steak knives.

All the songs are lyrically rich threatening and evocative. I need to spend some time complimenting Kenny Segal who walked a tight line. Producing for a dense lyricist is a heck of a trap: keep it simple and your doing what most producers could do and it sounds boring, make it weird you might throw the MC off their flow. Songs like Houthi are masterfully open; ready for a lyricist to shine BUT it shifts drops out cuts in and alternates in a hypnotic way that keeps it from being stale. Production is consistent but fragmented. When you think you know a song it undulates in a different direction. Listen to all the subtle changes going on in Spider Hole before the guitar slams in at two minutes and twenty one seconds. Menacing does this sound design disservice. It’s not just menacing its thick and deceptively expansive. Central sounds build neighborhoods to live in.

I was looking for the one line Billy Woods said that scorched my heart and left my eyes Simpson size. These bars define the entire Billy Woods experience and I’ve had them bouncing around my head since the first listen. That moment happens in the first verse of Speak Gently “I’m a bad penny/I’m the feelin’ after you killed ’em and seen the safe empty.” That image is something no MC has ever left for me. Standing in front of a body, mind racing, only to look up at an empty safe all of it for nothing…left with the shame of my actions and the taste of monetary failure. Sick with everything wrong about this world at once. That’s Billy Woods superpower. He’s in total control of that feeling. No hero stuff he’s the viciousness of reality cutting through all the layers of defense you keep in front of it. Every verse makes your eye water like Listerine just before you spit.

Stream or purchase Hiding Places below:

https://billywoods.bandcamp.com/album/hiding-places

#Bandcampgold-Cover Art by Anderson Paak

#Bandcampgold-Cover Art by Anderson Paak

by Dan-O

If you didn’t know who Anderson Paak was after summer 2015 I don’t think you’re a hip hop head. When Dr. Dre came out of his cave August 7th 2015 to release Compton everyone in hip hop noted it. Thumbing through the sixteen tracks listed Paak was on six of them. I know that I let out an audible “Who the F#$% is Anderson Paak?!” That is when I found his bandcamp. Once I heard Venice I knew to pay attention to Malibu.

Now he is climbing to the top of the world. He was on Saturday Night Live playing his own drums, he was on Marc Maron talking about this covers album from 2013. I remembered having dug into that project post-Compton and threw it back into the mix. If you haven’t heard his explanation on Maron: Cover Art aims to reverse the polarity of musical manipulation. While historically black artists like Jackie Wilson get their music made into Elvis hits he wanted to take very white very good music and put the funk back in.

His cover of Seven Nation Army sold my wife on the project. The original reclaimed a good deal of swagger that post-Radiohead rock had lost and Paak by keeping the guitar parts splashy and the vocals as smooth as Brenton Wood singing Oogum Boogum (if you don’t know this song you need to) it actually raises the overall stakes on how pimpish this song is. The other high point is his cover of my favorite Beatles song (Blackbird). While Paak can get super funky and joyously silly he knows a precious moment and how to care for it. Blackbird finds the groove with fingersnaps and he gives it his absolute most concentrated effort vocally.

We love that Paak is talented can play instruments sing and rap but its way more fun that he is nuts on top of that. This dude took Neil Young’s Heart of Gold and threw rap verses on his cover of it (Nocando, himself & milo). The final product is mad weird but valuable and interesting. Cover Art is a short form introduction to the capabilities of Paak with nasty bass lines (MAPS!) and signature flair ever-present even while doing other people’s music; people who couldn’t be more different from what Paak’s music turned into. If you listen to the Maron WTF interview that’s his real secret, he’s so nuts he can sit across from an old crunchy dude like Maron and talk classic guitar rock until he’s comfortable. Year before that he was on Snoops podcast passing a blunt comparing the discographies of overlooked soul legends. If you like music Paak will get you somehow. He’s everywhere.

Stream or download Cover Art below:

https://hellfyreclub.bandcamp.com/album/cover-art