Tag Archives: #BandcampGold

#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

 

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#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

 

#Bandcampgold-Texas Piano Man by Robert Ellis

#Bandcampgold-Texas Piano Man by Robert Ellis

by Dan-O

Texas Piano Man is a country album in 2019. It wouldn’t be in 1973. If this album was released in 1973 it would be a part of that oddball singer-songwriter genre Randy Newman, Michael Franks, and Nilsson championed. Conceptually Ellis messes with the audience and knows he has to earn it by refining the process until what he has is something so beautiful you won’t realize he was flicking your nose in the first place.

The first song (Fucking Crazy) is a great example. My favorite college creative writing class had a teacher who was doing it wrong. He was teaching the utter basics and nothing more. I hated it so much that every time he gave an assignment premise I would bust the guts out of it. He hated reading swear words so I made a generational story about strangers on a plane that entirely oriented around the F word. I knew in order to pull off the deed the characters had to be gripping, the story had to be high level, to erase any gimmick stigma. Robert Ellis reminded me of this with Fucking Crazy. It is so beautiful and has so many F words running through it. Some people might think of the song as a tale of a relationship about to go off the rails….for me it’s just how love feels. Getting in deep with someone else you realize they are really off their nut and you always realize it too late. Your already head over heels for their adorable upside. When he croons (at two minutes and thirty one seconds) “I’ve lost touch with reality there’s nothing I can do.” I absolutely get it.

The piano compositions are so impressive; Lullaby is a great example. The chorus is creepy and he says stuff like “You held me like a sea shell in your hand.” Everything is rich lush and a little off a little odd and southern but not leaning into the commercial aspects of Country. In 2019, Country has a heavy drawl and a familiar production style. The only reason Texas Piano Man sits in the genre is because the oddball songwriter genre is bone dry. Robert Ellis is sharp, clear, and crisp but don’t get it mistaken he shares some of the same sensibilities as 2019 Country. Nobody Smokes Anymore throws a middle finger up at the stiffness of a modern age consumed with making the right decisions all the time. It has some extra cleverness to it, I love when he quietly says “I guess I’ll be the only one who looks good in pictures…”

Best thing is the last song is super weird. Topo Chico is a weird Jimmy Buffett curve ball. The vocals on the chorus are fabulous and the track seethes with screwball sounds behind the guitars gentle strum. Do not get it twisted and think since this is a hip hop site I just found this dude. This guy has been on my radar for years now getting better and better. Texas Piano Man is finally the album where he gave us both barrels. I hope he settles into this lane and builds on the laughter this album ends on. Make that the building blocks of his next five years.

Stream or download Texas Piano Man below:

https://robertellismusic.bandcamp.com/

 

#BandcampGold- Malibu Ken by Malibu Ken (Aesop Rock & Tobacco)

#BandcampGold- Malibu Ken by Malibu Ken (Aesop Rock & Tobacco)

by Dan-O

It is pretty unreal how the narrative around Aesop Rock has changed. When Bazooka Tooth was taking the underground by storm in 2003 the debate was heated. On one side the die-hards were unrelenting in their belief that NO ONE equals his mastery of the microphone and thesaurus. On the other side(where I was) how could this guy be the GOD MC if you can’t explain what these songs are about?! This Eraserhead music is full of energy and effort but I don’t know what it means at all.  Even the hardest die-hards had to admit it was a problem that they got lost and it was an uphill battle to find your way to the point of it all.

The change has been monumental. Something happened in the five years between None Shall Pass and Skelethon. The latter was the first of his albums I listened to multiple times with no stress. Between Skelethon and the Lice trilogy he did with Homeboy Sandman he developed incredible old man game. He was funnier, more human, the metaphors were three dimensional instead of six dimensional. The Impossible Kid in 2016 was by far his most personal and my favorite album he’s ever made. At that point, I was on the phone with friends who had disliked AR for years talking about how good he is now; chatting it up with die-hard Bazooka Tooth kids and just nodding as they take a verbal victory lap.

Malibu Ken is exactly what January of 2019 needed.  All the production is handled by Black Moth Super Rainbow also known as Tobacco. A lot of MC’s couldn’t hang over these very strange synth patterns, overwhelming sounds jump in and out all while AR finds his flow in it. You can call this Boom Bap because it has both of those but it is way weirder. The beginning and end of Sword Box is an avalanche of Synth conducted by the master. Acid King sounds like the soundtrack to a video game where everyone dies (which fits the subject matter).

My favorite lyrical achievement is Tuesday where the first line is “There’s something you should probably know before we go too far. My neighbor found a mushroom growing inside of my car.” Underground legends have to tour a disgusting percentage of their days which doesn’t leave them time for a real life. At one point he says “I would offer you a drink but I literally can’t.” At two minutes and twenty three seconds he goes H.A.M. on himself “I can’t even keep a cactus alive when I’m present. When I’m gone it’s a groundbreaking botanical epic. From desolate to Little Shop of Horrors in a second. It’s weird knowing life thrives more when you exit.” What fans don’t realize is that the boring life ish we balance takes skill and if you did achieve your dream, perform in other countries, do your art…you’d become terrible at that boring life ish you took for granted. Very few rappers are honest enough to approach this as a topic.

On top of this self-analysis on Suicide Big Gulp he still manages to brag about slapping planes out of the sky paying the rent in pennies. Other rappers in his age group have fallen so deeply into their patterns they’ve bored themselves into a slumber. What’s kept AR so vital is his need to do something different. Whether it’s collaborate with a new producer or fellow MC or get personal about mental health or be funny. It’s not that deep anymore. Dude hates being bored and fights it tooth and nail. Over time I think we all learned how to respect that.

Stream or purchase Malibu Ken below:

https://aesoprock.bandcamp.com/album/malibu-ken

#Bandcampgold-Nina Simone & Lauryn Hill-The Miseducation of Eunice Waymon by Amerigo Gazaway

#Bandcampgold-Nina Simone & Lauryn Hill-The Miseducation of Eunice Waymon by Amerigo Gazaway

by Dan-O

I’ve written so much about how great Amerigo Gazaway is and monologued at people about him so often that finding new great things to say will be a challenge. It’s like finding new ways to tell your wife how special she is after fifteen years. Giving it a shot: Gazaway has always been brilliant at taking two artists and weaving their work together one modern hip hop giant and another older soul head the difference this time his mission is more apparent. You can see in the title what you get from the listen, he is using Lauryn Hill to teach Nina Simone. I think you can learn more about Nina’s work from The Miseducation of Eunice Waymon than you can from any documentary (I’m not even going to talk about that movie) about her.  Nina like Marvin and Stevie before are focuses for Gazaway because they are the source of all the samples. Dj’s and producers understand how deeply dope Nina was but does the average listener? Nope. They just sing along to the loop.

You should know more than the documentaries will tell you. She was a tortured soul but that’s not enough. She could squeal coo bellow and breathe life into a corny old song like Cherish. You can hear her do this in the background of To Zion as Lauryn takes the verses she is somewhere in the background living emotionally through a reverberating hum. She could find pain in her music, yup. More importantly she could find delicacy and delight just as extreme as her heartbreak. Listen to Nina on the opening of The Sweetest Thing. She makes so much of each moment we have with her. Gazaway instructs us to admire how gallantly finite she always feels.

The project is full of the best skits where Nina talks about very important parts of who she is. In one, she talks about how kids didn’t want to play with her they just asked her to play a song. Another skit talks about the duty she had to protest music for the betterment of her people. Putting all the skits together it’s a maddening position. To be isolated from your people yet completely dedicated to finding justice for them. What an incredibly American journey.

Another plus for me on this project is hearing peak Lauryn like I haven’t in a long time. Full disclosure: old Wyclef production on those Fugees albums doesn’t hold up for me. I don’t listen to them a lot. On Take It Easy I’m able to hear Lauryn spit and Nina kills it, the horns are great. Fu-Gee-La was a great song originally but I love this version so much better.

I’m not a music guy so I’m not sitting back wondering where he got these stems from. I’m so happy to have Gazaway as a dope college professor teaching me the depths of a subject I dearly love. It doesn’t matter how you feel about either of these artists or how you imagine this will sound. You’re wrong. it is way crazier. Press play.

Stream or download The Miseducation of Eunice Waymon below:

https://amerigo.bandcamp.com/album/nina-simone-lauryn-hill-the-miseducation-of-eunice-waymon

#Bandcampgold-Resistance by Brandon Coleman

#Bandcampgold-Resistance by Brandon Coleman

by Dan-O

Albums have hearts and souls. I need all of them. My favorite Freddie Gibbs album is ESGN because he was so angry at Jeezy and his old label for mismanaging him that his mind was spiraling down the most angry heinous pathways possible and some days I’m there with him. That album has a heart for the worst days. Resistance has the opposite heart. It has love and joy and funk. It makes my five year old and my wife dance together.  When the horns start on the song Sexy and the bass drops my family loses it.

I didn’t know about this album until I went to see Kamasi Washington live. Coleman is his pianist and Kamasi stepped back so he could launch into his lush composition Walk Free. It has the soul of a Donny Hathaway love song with gentle instrumental touches and admirable composition. I vowed that the next wifi connection found would bring me to his album!

The kids say things like “It’s a mood” and sound creepy to me but this album is one. Brandon Coleman does his Roger Troutman thing through the talk box but he doesn’t lean on it. It’s not a shtick. He’s written real songs that are well formed and funky which leaves the Vocoder as an additive you forget about after a while. While Sexy is funky and lets loose it is followed by There’s No Turning Back which is its equal in glimmering smooth horizontal excellence. It glides by at two minutes and twenty seconds leading into the title track which is even shorter (one minute and fifty one seconds).

This is where I confess that you’re not me and you may not have the same taste. Coleman is part of that West Coast jazz contingent with Kamasi (same folks worked on To Pimp A Butterfly with Kendrick). His influences are people I LOVE LOVE LOVE from Freddie Hubbard to Troutman to George Clinton to Dre to Quik. I am a die hard West Coast sound guy and nothing is funkier than Addiction (with killer guest work from Sheera).  These songs slap and groove while maintaining a high IQ in musical execution.  Most people would have made a song like Love the somber/poignant come down in the album but he turned it up, made it bounce like a pop song so that the concept can taste as good to your ears as it should to your heart; as it should to your everyday interactions. This is my kind of dude so Resistance is my kind of album.  The boldest protest made by it is the earned smile it wears while playing in this world of ghastly madness. I wonder if Stevie Wonder has heard this album?

Stream or buy Resistance below:

https://brandon-coleman.bandcamp.com/album/resistance-1