Song of the year-Ace by Noname featuring Smino & Saba
I really do regret not listening to Smino-Blkswn earlier. I missed out on the countless relistens and an orator who seems to have neo-soul finger snap rhythm resonating from the depths of his soul. Every second of a song with Smino on it is a hypnotic groove. I was very thankful to have these three together to lay out a posse cut so chill, so intelligent and them.
This song comes from Noname’s album Room 25. It has gotten a lot of press; her writing is very slam poetry (some people see that under a negative connotation I do not) her delivery is bashful and hushed. Lyrically she can get personal, talking alcohol addiction or moving away from home. What I don’t think gets enough shine is how funny she is. She is so hushed and raw that when you catch a truly funny line it is even funnier. It releases the tension she’s built. My favorite line on the album is on the song Montego Bae when she says “Classy B_ only use a coaster.” Now keep in mind this line comes immediately after “He gon’ f$&% me like I’m Oprah.” The great part about a Noname verse is it gives the three dimensions of an actual conversation. She transitions from flirty to drowning in fear about the world to hilarious and you feel like you are really in a conversation. A lot of post-Nicki female rap is superhero rap full of heroines who are flawless rich sexual dynamo’s projecting an image they hope to attain(keeping it real: dudes are doing the same ish). Noname is brave enough to be herself without all the condiments.
On twitter someone was very excited about Room 25, very excited to be in a conversation like Noname can create. This person tweeted at her that she was the best MC in the world and no one else could compare. She replied with one word….Saba. While Room 25 and Saba’s Care For Me are comparably great albums, lyrically Saba is the god. His verse on this song is dizzying and down to earth and feels easy for him to do. These three represent a talent pool we will be talking about for years.
Listen to Saba-Care For Me, Noname-Room 25 and Smino-Blkswn to be in on the whole Chicago corduroy jacket rap scene.
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Tagged Ace, Blkswn, Care For Me, Chicago Hip Hop, Noname, Noname Gypsy, reviews, Room 25, Saba, Smino, song of the year
#Bandcampgold-Brick Body Kids Still Daydream by Open Mike Eagle
I am so much more excited about BBKSD than my circle. Everyone likes it. People at this point have heard of Open Mike Eagle due to the breakout success of 2014’s Dark Comedy (and 2016’s huge improvement Hella Personal Film Festival). He is officially on the bubble of everyone who follows music and BBKSD shows yet another improvement. That is a good enough take but not from my angle. If you follow the incredible X-Men references in the opening track (Legendary Iron Hood https://genius.com/Open-mike-eagle-legendary-iron-hood-lyrics ). The song is a perfect example of Mike pushing everything to the hilt. He’s always had great hooks and this time they are prettier, better sung, catchier (see Hymnal) the beats are full of strange sounds coming together over his buttery flow. His lyrics take comic imagery and push it 38 degrees to the left so that they become intensely meaningful.
On Happy Wasteland Day he is slick and smooth weaving zombie imagery and the connotation of dystopia into his everyday life “When the king is a garbage person/I might wanna lay down and die/Power down on my darkest urges/Keep my personal crown up high.” As the song goes on his tone gets more and more urgent as the terror of everyday violence punctures the force field. The last verse his voice is post mortem, dead monotone and fading. It is as much an emotional journey as Velvet Underground’s Heroin.
If you’re a strict rap guy who needs BARS just press play on Brick Body Complex which is a sensational set fire to the BS hook with dizzying skill from his pen in the verses “Chi Town in my building code/Stood here for ten million snows/wind chill is all in my bones/ Indivisible in divisible kids and criminals young and old/No radiator my dungeon cold.” That song sets my sensory on overload and it isn’t even my favorite.
I would change nothing on BBKSD but boy do I come back specifically to 95 Radios. Toy Light and Has-Lo created a beat that chimes a spotlight on the verses (Has-Lo destroys verse 1). Mike’s second verse teases fun growing up references but can’t run away from the hard thoughtful personal truth “I miss my old hood/ miss my homies/is lonely/ The radio host is like they know me.” The pain isn’t just in the verse it’s in the delivery, the chorus drips with the visual image of a kid closing his eyes and trying to hear a rap song so he doesn’t have to think so damn much.
When I was in school (trying to become a better writer) teachers routinely told me to ignore what I did well and focus on improving my faults. As a natural antagonist the first thing I did was push even harder on my strengths leaving the rest for later. Sometimes if I pushed hard enough I could accomplish something really surprising and that was the best feeling. Brick Body Kids Still Daydream gives me that feeling for Mike. No one gets to show him his lane.
Bandcamp link below:
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Tagged #BandcampGold, BBKSD, Brick Body Kids Still Daydream, Charles Xavier, Chicago Hip Hop, Dark Comedy, Exile, Has-Lo, Hella Personal Film Festival, Juggernaut, Open Mike Eagle, reviews, Toy Light, X-Men
#BandcampGold-A Common Wonder by Amerigo Gazaway, Stevie Wonder, & Common
Amerigo Gazaway is the best mash up dude in the world right now because when he picks two artists he doesn’t just jam them together he weaves them together. He’s paired Fela Kuti with De La Soul, Mos Def with Marvin Gaye all in ways that made you see the musical link between those artists and appreciate their skill set to a greater degree. Midway through a Gazaway mash up you wonder why you didn’t see it in the first place.
Gazaway’s strength is that he makes bold choices that pay off through deep knowledge of both artists discographies. A Common Wonder pulls heavily from 60’s Stevie in key moments; laying the foundational I Used to Love H.E.R over I Was Made to Love Her and most surprisingly finding a way to make Signed Sealed Delivered (I’m Yours) and The Light seamless dance partners. Innervisions is the current critical go to for “best Stevie Wonder album” and it gets some play in interesting places. Common’s best verses from Chi-City are ferocious and perfect over the funky synthesizers from Living In The City, The Innervision intermission drops in an interview Com did with Rap Radar talking about his relationship to Stevie. It is classic Gazaway in the sense that it provides a meaningful connection between the two while making it clear that while Visions is one of the best Stevie songs ever he doesn’t need it and can use it on a skit.
Young Stevie didn’t have any of the problems Neo-soul did. While Neo-soul seemed to all move at the same tempo and represent as relentlessly earthy (I love Neo-soul but everything has problems) young Stevie brings undeniable kinetic energy to the sonic space he fills. You can hear Love of My Life change for the better as the pace pushes Badu and Common making the song better. As an MC Common has always been a difficult one for me, his best work stands alongside the best to ever happen in the genre but bad Common is horrible. Gazaway finds the verses, the songs that show a real three dimensional beating heart. When you hear The Sixth Superstition you’ll hear Common better than you ever have before and that’s the benefit of a great mashup for the MC, it throws a different light on verses we took for granted.
I had to perform at a very important event, commemorating a very important man and before I spoke I shut myself away from everyone and just listened to A Common Wonder. Someone asked me what I was listening to, I went into full pitch mode and a day later they were in my face about how great the project is. A Common Wonder is a tide that lifts all boats and I am sure that person I pitched is now off somewhere else pitching another friend.
Stream or download below:
Song of The Year-Casket Pretty by Noname Gypsy
I am very worried we are going to end up on the wrong side of history.
At a party where the age average was two generations older and everyone was white; I started asking who they voted for in 1960. Kennedy? Nixon? Most of them said Nixon unapologetically. When I insinuated the negative historical consequences of Nixon’s success (in later elections) it faintly registered but none of them regretted it. Even knowing he would shame the nation; cost thousands of lives in Vietnam….you had to be there.
It was the heat of the moment as it unfolded that formed their opinion; a thousand minute details that history would let fall away in favor of more important considerations. I am very worried that the 2016 discussion around violence in the black community is going that way.
In a minute and fifty seconds Noname clears away all the hemming and hawing about the motivations of police or the difference between black on black crime and police initiated violence. The dead are dead and all the hopeless seconds we spend parsing sociological specifics and building excuses are simply a way to do nothing while minimizing guilt. I hope Noname’s voice echoes “too many babies in suits” behind all those all caps aimless arguments.
This song is about gun culture, senseless death and the fear of it. She executes the song in a sorrowful and thoughtful way that makes it one of the most powerful statements of the year. One that will stand the test of time after these ugly emotional memes fade away; the question is when the future comes will we have done anything about the systemic violence our society breeds? God, I hope so.
Mixtape Review-2K47 by Hurt Everybody
The first few songs in I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to like 2K47 or Hurt Everybody because they sounded savagely unhappy and that’s not really how I want to be. By the last few…I was very sure I loved 2K47 and Hurt Everybody. The group consists of three people, the two emcees being Supa Bwe and Carl(Is he really named Carl or did he make up his rap name as Carl? Which is more awesome? Unsure). The producer is Mulatto Beats. You can probably guessed from the group name that this is hostile music and it most definitely is. By the last song (14th) we get the title track and it’s literally the screaming male ego. The brags are chopped up in word chunks and the chorus is a stream of hollered threats and curses. The beat is a robotic squeal that peels away at any level of comfort you’ve gained until by the conclusion you are made so purposefully uncomfortable that its genius (MULATTO BEATS!). It takes real power to create that feeling. Contrast that feeling with track nine (YUNO) where we get the snarling bouncy radio friendly melodic hit they created the repeat option for (produced by FLIGHT!). Yuno is clearly the most fun and awesome thing on 2K47 and that’s saying something.
This project has some of my favorite rappers in the world on it doing great work. Mick Jenkins is fantastic in his two appearances, Social Network (Gang) and Stay Awake, and Alex Wiley is a perfect match for the equal parts angry and odd Computer. As shouting, stomping angry as 2K47 is and as masterful as Hurt Everybody are at using swear words like the Three Musketeers use swords…this isn’t Drill. Stay Awake is way too pimpish (another gold standard guest verse from Twista on this song). The title track and Social Network (Gang) are way too punk rock. Low Light is too wounded and sultry. This doesn’t fit into a genre it feels like a virus released to destroy genres.
Hurt Everybody know what everyone thinks is going to come out of Chicago hip hop. It’s going to be about crime and it’s going to be Chop-like (Chop-esque? Chopish?) production. They are playing Battleship with your expectations, hiding the parts you think you know and hitting you in the face with a bunch of different sounding songs. Some are bass and sample gorgeous (Before The War) with polished soulful chorus but others are angry shouting or monotone chanting (White Owl). They overflow with energy and enthusiasm and it takes you over.
After listening to 2K47 enough you start to wonder if this is the kind of group…if they broke BIG and everyone loved them…would they completely shift into doing something else? The music is rowdy, unsettled and eating everything surrounding it. I have to think that’s why all these artists came to feature and be a part of it. 2K47 isn’t the kind of listen that comes with a set of rules, just a seatbelt.
Stream or Download 2K47 below:
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Tagged 2015 mixtapes, 2K47, @longlivecarl, Alex Wiley, Carl, chicago drill scene, Chicago Hip Hop, Hurt Everybody, Mulatto Beats, punk rap, Supa Bwe, Twista, Yung Carl Pimp Maybe