Tag Archives: Chance the Rapper

Song of The Year-Lil Thing by Knox Fortune

Song of The Year-Lil Thing by Knox Fortune

By Dan-O

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.


Mixtape Review-Coloring Book by Chance The Rapper

Mixtape Review-Coloring Book by Chance The Rapper

by Dan-O

Coloring Book is a testimony but it’s also a test. No one disputes Chance’s skill level in regards to flow, delivery, and wordplay… moving the crowd to keep it simple.  A few critiques of the project have already started to form and I think they portray the expectations of the audience that Chance is trying to extinguish.

The same audience that loves Kanye West and follows his every transformation (hoping he recaptures his “glory years”) are in pocket for Chance and are likely to love All We Got which features Ye and the Chicago Children’s Choir. It has the event feel of Ultralight Beam but those same listeners will definitely bristle at collaboration with Young Thug and Lil Yachty on a project so distinctly about spirituality. It doesn’t matter that the song is great (song is called Mixtape), most people acknowledge that. It just doesn’t feel right. What about Juke Jam? It features JUSTIN BEIBER so that sucks. I’ve never understood investing the energy to hate Bieber 1. If you don’t listen to his music 2. Don’t know him; why do you care?  Bieber doesn’t have the ability to affect a song the way Chance does so the shirtless lightning rod lays a silky chorus and Chance kills a slow flow. Song is great.

Backpackers want Chance to wave the flag Lupe Fiasco does for hip hop intellectuals who will not accept buffoonery. Coloring Book is as much about the warmth, joy, and splendor of Blessings and keeping divinity in your life as it is about the beautiful color selection we have to choose from in hip hop. Jay Electronica belongs on the gospel rap jam How Great the same way 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne belong on the blustering and frustrated No Problem. Chance is smart enough to see that all the colors belong and doesn’t see any reason he shouldn’t be able to use them all.

Backpackers aside, some reviewers are uncomfortable with this deep sense of the lord as the centerpiece of the album. This isn’t a religion thing per say, any music fan should be expected to be intelligent enough to know that whatever works for the album & for the song works…period. This critique operates around the notion that old Chance was mixed up and dealing with growing up (10 Day era) and this one has all the answers and the journey to them was more fun. I’m trying to give this credence, I just don’t remember any of these guys repping for 10 Day at the time. During that time he was definitely more jumbled thematically but also as a craftsman, he wasn’t as good. He’s gotten better and so Coloring Book is better. He found out The Social Experiment makes more sense and that his off the wall excited delivery works best around their fresh instrumentational grandness. When you see Same Drugs and Angels on the same track listing he expects you to stow your confusion. Chance is speaking to an intelligent audience that gets his three dimensions and that being in a blissful spiritual place is not preachy or permanent. Some days the sun shines on you that way. Chance can give you joy and frustration with equal pressure and style, so I love where he’s going and where he is; Coloring Book is an important part of what he is trying to accomplish in the long run and if it makes you want to get off his bus, do it now before it really gets rolling.

stream the mixtape at Apple Music or at this link below:


Audio Push and the soft resurgence of Native Tongues cool consciousness

Audio Push and the soft resurgence of Native Tongues cool consciousness

by Dan-O

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:


Audio Push cover

They call these things mixtapes but we have to pay for them?

They call these things mixtapes but we have to pay for them?

by Dan-O

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.




Mixtape Review-Surf by Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment

Mixtape Review-Surf by Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment

by Dan-O

As massive and overwhelming as Surf felt on the first listen, the more I come back the bigger it feels. I find myself listening to songs I’ve heard lots of times and grunting in awe at how sharply and warmly resonant each moment is.

The narrative you’ve heard is correct. Chance the Rapper is a top talent in hip hop and he allowed himself to be an element of the music on Surf. He pops in not to drop lazy bars but with lines that blow you back, things you wish you’d written and could take credit for(like everything Chance says on Warm Enough). Chance gives the best of his work to a project not primarily his and it makes you like him a lot more. It’s the top actor who takes a smaller part to be in the best movie. After it’s over you’re left thanking the actor in your head for having the foresight to not pull a Denzel (sorry Denzel but you ball in isolation on some bad movies). Surf is great for Chance’s brand.  I cannot picture Drake or Kanye just sitting to the side bobbing their heads and waiting patiently for their song. For Chance it’s about the music being good first.

The narrative you haven’t heard is Donnie Trumpet didn’t come out of nowhere. Him and the drummer on Surf (Greg “Stix” Lanfair) were from the Chicago hip hop band Kids These Days and Kids These Days were awesome! Trumpet dominates Surf and as chaotic as Kids These Days could be the sonic temperament of Surf is bound to the loving blasts of the trumpet. It’s everywhere from Nothing Came To Me to Windows and Something Came to Me. The musical experience is a hard shot of cheerfulness that can only be given by the trumpet and everyone wants in. Big Sean raps next to Kyle, B.O.B. raps next to Busta Rhymes, Erykah Badu comes out of nowhere and it ends up cohesive. Publications have written articles explaining all the guests and what order they come in. It’s dizzying, the amount of talent on display. Everyone’s voice, no matter who it is, comes out of that trumpet. Keep in mind that large portions of it are just local Chicago kids every bit as talented as the major players. If you didn’t know any of these dudes maybe you need to type “Traphouse Rock download” into your search engine and dig in.

From the outrageous party of Slip Slide to the your-grandmother-will-dance- to-this Sunday Candy the whole project feels like a generational flag planted in music. We are talking about J. Cole, Big Sean, Chance, B.O.B., Noname Gypsy, Janelle Monae, Raury all jumping on this project and giving their best to it. No generation of hip hop previous would have come together like this (sorry but Scott La Rock had to get killed for Self-Destruction to happen). It speaks well of rap music now that so many not only answered the call but were excited to be there, not picking away at other peoples time to get more or questioning who this Donnie Trumpet kid is…they all just created this massive work everyone fits into. I have no idea if Surf is the best thing to come out this year but it’s definitely the most important, the one we will be talking about years from now; the perfect summer music. The kind of mixtape you can press play on whenever you’re sad and end up with a smile.

Stream or download Surf below:


Mixtape Review: Trap Genius by Tree

Mixtape Review: Trap Genius by Tree

by Dan-O

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:

Mixtape Review-Trybecca by Death By Icon

Mixtape Review-Trybecca by Death By Icon

by Dan-O

In order for a region to maintain a trademark sound it not only needs to stay in close connection with it (not abandon it when the spotlight moves on) but challenge it with variation. Chicago established a bleak toughness as its modern sound when drill invaded everyone’s mp3 players. The challenge a lot of Chicago artists face is building on the inherent snarling stout structure already in place while taking it in a different direction. Trybecca traverses this and other obstacles with a premeditation and wisdom unlike most debut projects.

Hip hop bands have pressure to “jam” the way tall people do to play basketball. A normal rapper spitting over the beat can get loud and wild or quiet and meditative but if you have a band backing you most people expect you to crank up that advantage. Show the depth of your instrumentation and puff your collective chest out to convince everyone how different you sound; during this process projects become less cohesive (live shows are still a lot of fun). Think about The Roots. They never sit and worry about what to rap about the question they always face is “how is this thing supposed to sound?” A lot of rappers just grab the best beatsmiths and spit. A band has more to worry about than that.

Trybecca never sacrifices an inch. Kismet travels at 400 meter dash pace (Conundrum is a 100 yard dash); challenging your speakers while filling the listening experience with spooky darkened spaces. Toothspace kicks off in a brilliantly defiant fashion with a bored tone of voice explaining “I’d rather die my way than live yours or take a course in divorce law…” a sampled voice behind the song begs for the song to get louder but it never does. The sonic universe is so superbly controlled that nothing need be turned up. Even Let Loose, the perfect fist pumping road trip song, seems delivered exactly as it should be. Never to be remixed or tinkered with, designed by the steady fingers of nihilist hip hop scientists.

It took Chance The Rapper to make people realize that Chicago is deeper than drill but the active listeners knew that. The Whoevers, Death by Icon, Tree and so many others are experimenting while the world takes notes. It’s only a matter of time before it gets acknowledged for the different directions its growing into and not just the circus surrounding the drill movement. While Trybecca isn’t my favorite mixtape of the year it’s a Derrick Rose rookie season showing you not only is this kid good but he could be GREAT. I don’t know the names of the people who Death By Icon consist of. By no means am I an expert on their history or educated enough to project their future. The first time I heard WHT_club fold into itself and pull back out like an accordion I wanted to be an expert. That’s what a successful debut should do.

Stream or Download Trybecca below: