Song of The Year-Lil Thing by Knox Fortune
Debut albums are so much more complete than they used to be. The death of the music industry happened first with the death of developing talent. At this point signee’s must have already established their sound. So it is no shock when you listen to the debut album Paradise by Knox Fortune it sounds like an artist who has been defined in the public eye for years . It is ok to recognize the name from Chance The Rapper’s All Night off of last years Coloring Book album. The energy, angelic singing, and clattering weirdness are very much a part of the DNA in Paradise.
This is mood music to the fullest, put it on and have a cook out. Lil Thing burbles and crackles while Knox sounds pristine in a genderless way when he goes effortlessly into the high register. You can listen to Lil Thing over and over and over without ever tiring of it but lest you think that all of Knox Fortune is tossed off brilliant summer vibe music listen to the positively New Wave I Don’t Wanna Talk About It. This is a voice with real vision and as weird as it all is it is a thing to respect. My wife hates “smooth R&B” and I asked if she hated this, she paused for a solid twenty seconds trying to figure out what this is. In the end she gave the most confused no I’d heard her give in a while. Is it indie? Is it hip hop? Is it R &B? Welcome to this era of modern music where every artist is making their own smoothie of influences into their own flavor. Lil Thing tastes magnificent.
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Tagged All Night, Chance the Rapper, Coloring Book, death of the music industry, debut album, hip hop, Indie, Knox Fortune, Lil Thing, Paradise, R&B, song of the year, Song Review
Audio Push and the soft resurgence of Native Tongues cool consciousness
Hip hop is waves and counter-waves; it survives because every successful movement is so hated by another portion of the culture that its opposition immediately garners prominence as a counter point. You could make the argument that all sub-genres are little traps. Even being known as the great creator of an interesting new one eventually leaves you as the relic of an old one.
Audio Push has been making steps in their current direction for a while. Last year’s project The Good Vibe Tribe was definitely a move into a Bruce Lee Jeet Kune Do direction and the just released Inside The Vibe is a total embrace of intelligent adaptability. My favorite song on it is Don’t Sweat It where the imagery starts with watching The Preachers Wife and kicking back but immediately shifts to health problems/bills/government surveillance but returns to relaxation in the chorus. This song actually includes the line “Showed my girl I’m human and now she hates me…” Oktane and Price do a brilliant job of contrasting a laundry list of concerns against a spiritual need to take the air out of the tension.
What helps is that of the nine songs the production list is Hazebanga-1 song Coryayo-8 songs and that’s it. It has a minimalist consistency and bass heavy richness that provides a stable wave to ride. If you’ve heard Anderson.Paak’s Malibu album you know my surfing metaphor isn’t silly. Just because Audio Push wants to address racial stereotypes (on Brown Man Syndrome) that doesn’t mean they want to shout it angrily. But just because they are laughing during a song about race doesn’t mean they are clowning. Every verse on Inside The Vibe contains elasticity or like Bruce Lee said “Be like water” able to shift forms to fit wherever you want to go.
I was playing their wonderful homage to 2pac’s Picture Me Rollin’ (Picture Me) for my wife and the chorus includes “Picture Me inviting your girl to come with me to the top to share my light with the world…” and I turned to her relieved “They’re going to take my girl but at least they will take good care of her.” Most rappers threatening to take your girl want to use her like drive-thru food, a lot of the expected scenarios you hear on rap albums fall away in the Audio Push vibe.
The mixtape starts with an interlude (that leads into Come Alive) where a man is getting in a woman’s car and she warns him “One more thing, my car my music…none of that trendy $*#!.” The line repeats into infinity as the heart and soul of what Inside The Vibe means. This is a project for an intelligent audience that doesn’t want a refill of what the top tier is already providing. This is Heiroglyphics dedication to rapping mixed with De La Souls sense of fun and Tribe’s tireless dedication to the vibe.
A lot of young hip hop artists are trying to move between the marketing terminology, not to be trapped in Trap or restricted to Ratchet; which makes sense, all the best transcended sub-genres; even the ones they created. I hope Chance The Rapper and Noname Gypsy are listening to Inside The Vibe. I want this to be Birth of The Cool for mixtapes in 2016, but I’m always pushing best case scenario.
Stream or download Inside The Vibe below:
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Tagged Audio Push, Chance the Rapper, Coryayo, De La Soul, Hazebanga, Heiroglyphics, Inside The Vibe, mixtape review, Native Tongues, Noname Gypsy, Tribe Called Quest, west coast hip hop
They call these things mixtapes but we have to pay for them?
Whenever people look at me and say the mixtape doesn’t exist anymore; no difference exists between albums and mixtapes…I have to look at them confused. What do you mean? I know it’s an album because I paid for the thing. This all changed a while ago and now Kendrick Lamar calls my favorite album he ever released a mixtape (Section 80) so I’m forced to roll with this (respecting the artists wishes). A lot of these non-mixtape mixtapes have dropped recently and I wanted to give a quick update on two important projects you need to check out. These are on ITunes and the second is on Amazon for digital purchase.
Erykah Badu-But U Caint Use My Phone
I have had my fair share of Badu-ruining-great-rappers conversations and while it is fun to believe in (like magic or the Electoral College) it is also entirely irrelevant. If Common puts out a bad album I’m not going to act like he was under someone’s spell (I wish I could for UMC) but more importantly Badu has an incredible career of her own. She creates deeply lyrical masterpieces like Mama’s Gun or chant heavy hooky albums like New Amerykah Part One and both kinds work for her. But U Caint Use My Phone is her doing it again, and while most will come for the stellar remake of Hotline Bling (called Cel U Lar Device) or the breathtaking collaboration with Andre 3000 (called Hello) this has a lot of top tier Badu. Phone Down might be my favorite song on the project because somehow without declaring itself vividly sexual the song overflows with it. She sounds assured and calm, so confident in who she is she doesn’t need to shout just give a gentle warning and she has your attention. She not only promises that she can make you put your phone down but have you so bamboozled in her you won’t know how to unlock it.
Yes it’s deeply intelligent in its handling of our communication in the modern age; the separation our constant cell phone use creates between lovers, friends and family but more important than that Erykah Badu is still dope in a year where Missy Elliott and Janet Jackson have proved the same. So it may cost you money to pick this up but you will be supporting one of the really unique voices in the hip hop universe.
Alex Wiley-Village Party 2: Heaven’s Gate
I listened to Village Party everywhere. I don’t mind saying it. I spent all of last year listening to it but never reviewed it. The mixtape just seemed too impossibly atmospheric and different to properly describe. Alex Wiley destroys the wall between bars and hooks and just sways from word to word swimming in the beat. Listening to Alex Wiley is being delightfully inebriated and I’m clearly not the only one loving the experience. When Twista spits hot fire on Japanese he’s audibly taken with the vibe. It’s all vibe and it’s all different, how comforting must that be for an artist who suffered long in hip hop’s underappreciated tier because of how different his music was? Chance the Rapper doesn’t stick out at all on Navigator Truck, this is Wiley’s world and all the offbeat vocalists live here in harmony.
I am in no way saying that Wiley gets over on his chant/singing. If you listen to Play you will find yourself in observance of his slinky style reggae flow where he pounds words one after another until he slows down fading into the bass and the playing children just to emerge dropping bars feverishly. As much as I love to hear any gifted lyricist declare themselves by the force of their lyrics songs like Residual Effects (Shout out to Hippie Sabotage who do GREAT work on Village Party 2) are as hypnotic as those old Cypress Hill weed love songs.
Village Party 2 does what the first did, it takes me out of the world for as long as it’s playing and it probably does a better job than its predecessor. I’ll be honest; I had no qualms paying for this one.
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Tagged Alex Wiley, Andre 3000, Atmospheric rap, But U Caint Use My Phone, Cel U Lar Device, Chance the Rapper, Erykah Badu, hip hop, Hotline Bling, Mama's Gun, mixtape review, New Amerykah Part One, reviews, Section 80, Twista, Village Party, Village Party 2: Heaven's Gate
Mixtape Review: Trap Genius by Tree
Sunday School 2: When Church Lets Out is what broke Tree wide open for the tastemakers. The funny part about this is they all had a shot at falling in love with him on the first Sunday School. That’s when I dove in with both feet (along with MTV) but most people skipped it. So when the sequel dropped and was undeniable a lot of those reviews included short sharp descriptions of Sunday School with words like “unfinished” to get the point across that he’s evolving and NOW he’s good.
Those same critics will see his new mixtape Trap Genius as a regression because they are disappointing; same dudes talking about how brilliant The Ramones were for streamlining their sound and hitting hard miss how sharply effective Tree is when he’s in this kind of zone. Trap Genius is only eleven tracks long built on off signature melody and the oddest most engaging voice in rap music. It’s less emotionally complete than Sunday School 2 which soared on thankful memories and crashed into vengeful warning. This time Tree is building you the stressful, violent world he wants you in and trapping you there. If you’re a fan of trap music you won’t get a more satisfying chant along than Red Yella. Listen after listen peals new layers and you can really hear the desperation at the beginning of Betta Than Eva when Tree is imagining a world where he never sold and stayed in school. The violence is everywhere on Trap Genius and the snarling doesn’t feel like it comes from a hardcore maniac just someone trying to stay on top of it. Better Than Eva ends with an interlude, an argument between a policeman and a man on the street. It acts as another piece adding to the claustrophobic I-gotta-get-out-of-this-place feeling on the project.
Not sure I expected to make it this far without discussing New Or Leins/Training Day. Blue Sky Black Death produced it and the spaciousness of the sound is utterly remarkable. On the first listen the combination of Tree’s bluesy growl and this Seattle duo’s production had me exclaiming an audible GOD DAMN! As a sparkling centerpiece perfectly sung and orchestrated New Or Liens is awe inspiring but still ends with local news reporting about more arrests. Trap Genius makes a point of grabbing the listener by the collar and pulling until your face to face with the Chicago violence you’ve spent the last year (or two) fetishizing. You love yelling CHIRAQ in your mom’s minivan, huh? Tree doesn’t simply give you the violence but the horrible fear of more violence that pollutes your psyche. So songs like Don’t Een Kare aren’t pumping full of evil adrenaline for nothing, you need that to survive in Tree’s world. The liquor and the women seem like drugs taken to artificially create a comfort that won’t ever stick.
Trust me I know that everyone has their favorite Chicago rapper. Some swear by Chief Keef (and he is getting better every project), some yearn for more King Louie (understandably) or Chance The Rapper. My favorite Chicago rapper for the last few years has been Tree. End of discussion. I don’t like my music neat and tidy. Tree has crafted a brand of music that steps out of the jagged edges of sound: both in his voice, sampling, and production. How punk rock is that? On the first listen Trap Genius sounded very good but on the second I was flabbergasted. On top of everything else Tree provided the perfect argument against one listen reviews.
stream or download Trap Genius below:
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Tagged 2015 mixtapes, Blue Sky Black Death, Chance the Rapper, Chicago Hip Hop, Chief Keef, King Louie, mixtape review, punk rock, Soul Trap, Sunday School, Sunday School 2, Trap Genius, Trap Music, Tree, When Church Lets Out