#BandcampGold-1990 by Amerigo Gazaway & Xiomara
I used to burn cd compilations of 90’s R & B. They were semi-notorious amongst my crew (Army stuff). I called the series “Booty Music” because the 90’s were the first decade where the music said what it meant. As richly political and social as 70’s R & B remains those guys could only say so much. Aside from Between The Sheets by The Isley’s the lens is big picture not hardcore sensual.
The new album 1990 nails what was so unique about that decade in the genre. The producer of all thirteen tracks is Amerigo Gazaway who is the master of mash-ups. If you know the careers of the artists he is mixing, he picks and matches up from deep within catalogs. This dude knows more about music than I ever will so it is a joy to learn from his new releases. I have never heard of West Coast singer Xiomara but she really hunkers down and provides beautiful delivery of very well written songs.
1990 does such a great job stretching out in all the trailblazing directions the decade explored. Some of the songs influences are quite clear. After the initial interlude we go right into a West Coast New Jack Swing tribute(Westside Swing). This is where I shout out Xiomara who shows herself to be surprisingly comfortable in different sonic environments. Her strong diction and clear vocal leadership hold everything together and keep this from being cheeky nostalgia. Bounce is a gorgeously blown kiss to the Timbaland/Missy/Ginuwine/Aaliyah explosion that tore music down and rebuilt it. SNL is still doing skits about the Pony beat. At the end it slows down into a DJ Screw pace and you realize again how damn good Gazaway is.
The best songs on the project aren’t as directly referential and are more powerful for it. That Old Alarm is one of the finest R & B songs in the genre this year. It knocks and is haunting at the same time building on weird strings and strong drums. Xiomara drifts overtop talking about getting a loved one out of her head, knowing that it will be hard but once it is done she will be able to move on “don’t come chasin’ after me/ ringing that old alarm.” Can’t Let Go is a groove that finds and holds you so tight that when the beat drops out Xiomara and friends giggle their way through a weed based parody of the chorus.
Both participants understand that 1990’s R & B was primal and personal at the same time. The beat found your guts and made YOUR BODY ALL OVER MY BODY make sense. Xiomara grounds the project with lyrics sung with ownership. It isn’t nostalgia in that pure sense, it is what Sharon Jones did for late 60’s Soul. These two breathe new life into the vessel containing what we loved to bring us closer to what it meant. Recommend this to ANYONE who ever loved this era in music. Somewhere Drake and 40 are BUMPING this.
Stream or download 1990 below:
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Tagged #BandcampGold, 1990, Aaliyah, Amerigo Gazaway, booty music, Ginuwine, Isley Brothers, Missy, reviews, Sharon Jones, Timbaland, Xiomara
#Bandcampgold-Green Parakeet Suite by Davis
Chance The Rapper mocks 90’s hardcore hip hop in a way that ruffles my feathers. He clowns 90’s Gangsta Rap for being full of phony tough guys acting the part. He’s making the point that being genuinely silly or conscious is better than being artificially thug but that’s a dumb comp. Conscious rap has just as many fake philosophers as the 90’s had pretend tough guys. Green Parakeet Suite is a brilliant example of what authentically crafted hardcore hip hop can achieve.
I don’t mean to sound defensive of Gangsta Rap. While lots of people hear just the violence in it they miss the illustrated world it lets you inside. The cover of Green Parakeet Suite is pitch perfect. Leaning on a mountain of Nike shoeboxes Davis sips from his Henri Matisse mug while wearing a Westside Gunn hoodie(with gun and ski mask). This is the balance of materialism(not a synonym for greed but a tangible attachment to practical life), criminal instinct, and the highest aspirations of art. I am not thinking too deeply about this. He starts the project with an explanation of the Hedgehog’s Dilemma: the closer the people he loves gets the more they hurt (quills bro!) but the farther away they are the more alone he is. Davis goes from that realization to a song called Cannon Fodder about being human cannon fodder. His brain takes us from Squidward jokes to Bushido blades cleaving off excuses to mortality discussions that are not only deep but know they are, “Death is an attraction that we cannot manipulate, verbose vernacular took a quarter century to gestate.” Not all smart people are earthy and smooth or jubilant with Kit Kats. Intelligent people snarl at the world.
Gangsta Rappers are not inherently smart or stupid. Neither are conscious rappers. I get mad at anyone who views these different subgenres as sports rivals and takes a side. Hardcore rap provides a safe environment for our most hideous conversations. Joshua Virtue starts off his guest verse on Super Green with a chuckle and launches into “Ya’ll hear Bambaataa touchin’ little boys and he not shot?!” It’s an insanely difficult issue for hip hop to engage with but we can do it easily within the soulful hardcore NY landcape of Green Parakeet Suite. Channeling our authentic pain, frustration, venom, or indignant joy is the catharsis this music offers us that we can’t get just…keepin’ it positive. I hope Roc Marciano is somewhere in a mad colorful sweater bumping this.
Stream or download Green Parakeet Suite below:
#Bandcampgold-Best U.K. Albums of 2019
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:
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 ability 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:
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Tagged #BandcampGold, best albums of 2019, British Rap, Burna Boy, Dave, Kwes Darko, Nothing Great About Britain, Psychodrama, Santan Dave, slowthai, U.K. Rap
#Bandcampgold-That’s The World by Anti-Lilly and Phoniks
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
- 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.
- 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:
#BandcampGold-New American Frontier by The Trusty Snakes
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
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Tagged #BandcampGold, Bruce Springsteen, Country, Folk, Good Old Boys, Nebraska, New American Frontier, Oregon, Punk, Randy Newman, Red Headed Stranger, The Taxpayers, The Trusty Snakes, Western Stars, Willie Nelson
#BandcampGold-Never Hated I Just Waited by Chris Crack
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 Fun, Crackheads 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:
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Tagged #BandcampGold, August Fanon, Chicago Hip Hop, Chong Wizard, Chris Crack, Fortes, Gzus Piece, SC, Shaw Brothers, Soultrap, Tree, Vic Spencer, Wazasnics, YOU SUCK ERIC STEPHENSON, Your Old Droog
#Bandcampgold-Black Beans by Exile x Choosey
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: