Song of The Year-Wolf Mode by Chris Rivers
When talking about Noname a friend of mine made the argument that while her follow up album was very good(Room 25), she will likely spend her career measured against the song Casket Pretty from her first album (Telefone). This isn’t about producing an insurmountable hit. Casket Pretty is a hushed poetic eulogy to all the people who shouldn’t have had to die. It’s succinct, dynamic, and gripping. That song will be something a lot of people never ever forget and when her name comes up that song will be the first reply.
I mention this to say Wolf Mode is that song for Chris Rivers. His whole career has been building to it. Wolf Mode is what makes hip hop more than a financially successful genre it can act as a method of group therapy. He combines multi-speed raw flow excellence with an ease in discussing mental illness that few have. He chides someone for never giving love unconditionally and then hopes they die, and pretty immediately admits he has attempted suicide. This isn’t a sad song where the piano helps us cry with him. This is a bass heavy chant about how tough are skin needs to be, how the trials we have been through have built us scar and scab by scar and scab. With under a minute to go Chris double times “I’d rather have the hard truth than a sweet lie because the hard truth still apply to me…” and he’s nailed it. The gorgeous glimmering jewel that sits in the genres heart. This space is where you can tell it how it really is. The Jonas boys make fun music but you’ll never know if they battled sobriety.
I remember watching the documentary and seeing Big Pun hit his wife with a gun while a room of his associates bowed their head and said nothing. This is the guy who gave me the best hip hop album of all time(Capital Punishment, no arguments). As Rivers came up I always wanted to ask him how he balances those contradicting ends of his fathers legacy. This many years later to have his son spitting about self love and forgiveness, mistakes and how the deep scars mean the most has been therapeutic for me. I’m sure many have “canceled” Pun based on the documentary but River’s new album G.I.T.U. makes an important case that a person with a good heart can fix themselves if they have the time. Pun was robbed of that. I’m so glad Chris hasn’t been.
Stream or download G.I.T.U. below:
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Tagged Big Pun, Capital Punishment, Chris Rivers, G.I.T.U., hip hop, hip hop reviews, Mello Music Group, Noname, Room 25, song of the year, Songs that define a career, Telefone, underground hip hop
Mixtape Review-Medicated Consumption by Chris Rivers
Can’t tell you how proud I am that the first Chris Rivers review I did for this site was written not knowing he was Big Pun’s son ( I live in Maine). I was able to talk about his talents and opportunities frankly and without any weird baggage. I have weird Big Pun baggage because Capital Punishment is my favorite rap album of all time and I’ve seen that documentary where Pun pistol whips the love of his life in front of his friends and it was like watching Mickey Mantle pee on America. Almost every day I wrestle with Pun’s legacy and Rivers seems so content with it, so intelligent about the subject in interviews and lyrically. If I ever interviewed him I would just basically be asking him to coach me through to a reasonable mental place; where it’s the best album but the bad reality lives alongside it and doesn’t hurt anymore.
Rivers has been smart enough to build on the natural press release that his lineage creates for him and add dimensions to the picture in your mind. His newest mixtape Medicated Consumption is much better than anything previous. The first song Born For This talks about carrying the torch, the times when the torch wouldn’t pay the bills and most importantly reassuring the listeners I KNOW THIS IS A BURDEN AND I CAN HANDLE IT. I like that Rivers doesn’t segregate his songs into “for the ladies” and “hard stuff for the streets” Medicated Consumption is a fine mixture of smart tough and reflective. He starts Black Box with “Don’t stress let them labor you, just do what you have to do. Remember it’s never what they call you but what you answer too, don’t let your words do more speakin’ than your actions do….” It’s still the dynamic middle of Little Italy Pun flow but used to support a whole different system of ideas.
While Pun always had warmth and humor he lived in an era where men were men and rappers were tough as nails (or at least that’s how they always had to act). Rivers can conversationally discuss real happiness and depression, ups and downs that are internal. The One, for example, is about keeping your mental health amongst the nagging negativity of exterior and interior anxiety. It’s purposeful optimism, horns and The Whispers don’t hurt. They are on nine of the eighteen songs and have the confusing effect a great bassist has. Every song they do with Rivers shines and that’s not a coincidence but placing exactly what they add can be difficult. It’s the musical difference between a fresh hat and a dirty one. You wear a fresh hat and you feel that. Every time Rivers and the Whispers are together he feels the difference.
The most surprising thing for me is that eleven different producers add to the stew of Medicated Consumption but you would NEVER guess that. This feels like it was done in a day with minimal effort and maximum payoff. Rivers invites features NO sane lyricist would. Who wants Cory Gunz near their project after what he did to Wayne? Nitty Scott is so good but a total track killer (she is on my favorite song I Just Wanna Rap). Chris doesn’t care at all. He knows what his dad did to every collaboration and he’s fine with the responsibility to keep that going. I love listening to this mixtape because I feel like Rivers may not have his path in music all the way figured out but he created the soundtrack for having your life right and I need that on Monday morning.
stream or download Medicated Consumption below:
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Tagged 2015 mixtapes, Baby Pun, Big Pun, Big Punisher, Capital Punishment, Chris Rivers, Cory Gunz, East Coast Hip Hop, Medicated Consumption, New York Hip Hop, Nitty Scott, Nitty Scott MC, The Whispers
Mixtape Review-Good Blood by Niko Is
It wasn’t until yesterday that I realized I had been listening to Niko Is new mixtape Good Blood every day since it came out. As good as Niko Is at creating arresting imagery (example) “Eating blowfish sushi with Japanese golfers (Green Tomato Coupe)” this is him in a different space. Good Blood is by no means chill. It stampedes into your headphones in a way Heltah Skeltah or Das Efx did. The best projects not only have songs that stick with you but lines that define them, that mission statement in this case comes on The Eastside of The Bridge where the projects only voice states clearly “Everybody feelin’ the pressure to get super sentimental to me! Too much pretending for me!” In a series of interjections Niko makes it clear: I am not here to lead you down a cloudy journey of drug addled depression. I am not here to tell you about the horrors of my childhood and I plan to unload all of the linguistically dense madness from my head since I have the perfect beat selection to do it.
This brings me to the other star of Good Blood long time Niko Is producer Thanks Joey who laces ten of the twelve tracks. Joey is evolving with Niko. The same way Niko’s lyricism is moving away from the pleasantries of weed rap and hippie rap into a more inspired all-eyes-on-me aggression, Joey’s sound is bubbling over projecting a sharply instrumental Bossanova flavor onto the next level feel of Rockwilder contributions on Big Puns Capital Punishment . While Brazilian funk and soul had been toyed with before, Big Pun proved that you could take the rich tapestry of Salsa and Brazilian funk and merge it with the crash of Boom Bap. Joey is the next generation of that first step; check out the speed transformation on Balloon D’or a track that doesn’t switch as much as mutate into something completely different, or how well that beat feeds into the high happy horns of The Cravings. Listening to Joey’s beats over the years has ignited interests for me like Tim Maia and Jorge Ben and cemented a connection to the warmth of Latin Music.
Neither of the two major characters behind Good Blood push themselves where they don’t belong. Joey is not stretching complexity on some Flying Lotus ish, he can make a song seem tranquil while its baseline wakes up your kid (see Tito Crack That Dutch) or make you focus on the sound sample of a Biggie grunt that seems to be sneaking all around the track (see Green Tomato Coupe). Niko is not a hippie rapper at this point if he ever was one. He’s just a monster who can make dipping Focaccia bread in olive oil sound like the most hardcore thing an artist can do. With every project it gets easier to toss his name out as one of the best out, a lot of it has to do with what him and his team don’t do. They don’t book bad features (or sometimes any), they don’t make bad beats or wack songs. While your favorite artist might feel pressure to take a beat from a big name producer that doesn’t fit him Niko knows his sound enough that the beat he produced (Onda) fits perfectly on the project. It feels like a warm day and a great space for him to luxuriate over. Everyone involved in Good Blood knew exactly how it should sound and as a listener that’s the most reassuring thing you can know about a team you support.
Stream or Download Niko Is-Good Blood:
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Tagged Big Pun, blowfish sushi, Bossanova, Brazilian Funk, Capital Punishment, DJ Booth, Good Blood, mixtape review, Niko Is, Thanks Joey, Tim Maia