My Favorite Album of 2019
How much do I love Jidenna? I’m not even worried about what drops in the rest of November and December. Bring Frank Ocean, Drake, bring a thousand Future features! None of it will replace the uniquely fly experience of listening to 85 To Africa. My excitement for his music might come from the fact that I never cared about Classic Man. I didn’t have him in my head as anything. First time I saw him work was when he torched his performance on Luke Cage. In 2017, he dropped The Chief and I think Pitchfork called him a “Versatile Dandy” which is the meanest compliment an English major is comfortable with.
The Chief is dope but it has a mix of songs. Some that are perfect 10’s (Trampoline, Bambi, Long Live The Chief) some that are darn good 7’s (Helicopters/Beware, The Let Out) while some are emphatically unimportant and you won’t ever come back to (last 2 songs). It got knocked for its unevenness but I always thought of it as the home run derby where the power hitter gets to flex. I was excited at what he was capable of doing.
85 To Africa doesn’t go from 10 to 7 to 4, every song is an 8.5 and you can let one song run into the next. Can’t go wrong with a triumphant intro featuring the words of the legendary Fela Kuti’s youngest son (Seun Kuti). Like a lot of the years best projects(Bandana, Kiwanuka,Anger Management, Retropolitan) this one is born from the synergistic relationship between producer and MC/singer. Nana Kwabena is listed as producer or co-producer on 10 of the 11 songs. He did 13 of 14 on The Chief. The flavor is even more consistent this time, dope artists growing together is fun. 85 To Africa decided to leave nothing extra. It is 41 minutes and out. Personality wise the album doesn’t care if you think the party is too loud. You might hear him talk about how he didn’t trust Morgan Freeman because of his earing (Babouche) or look at the cover or hear the powerfully catchy beats and think 1. This guy is trying too hard 2. These bars are too cute 3. He thinks he’s cool and I hate that.
I know he doesn’t care because the hottest Jidenna line of all time is “I don’t want my best dressed day in a casket.” He’s dedicated his time to feeling looking and living good in a way that makes him proud. On Tribe, he is espousing his crew but not in a waving guns at the other side sense. He’s flossing the culture, in the video he walks through rooms where games are played weights are lifted and he’s rapping about the varied “funky ways of dancing.” If the Cary Grant cool is too much then be gone and find someone less intimidating or more gritty to bump. Jidenna wants all the bright beautiful colors mixing because what is this all for if we aren’t appreciating the different shades? Not just skin or cultural background but of intellectual oddity, strength and essence. Strong shout out to DJ Burn One who also was involved in the utter head nod capacity of this beat. Five Points Music always.
The songs get prettier and prettier. Is it an escape, reading Rumi with a fly Sufi Woman? Comfortably falling asleep with her? Or heeding Jidenna’s voice as it echoes and the music stomps, shakes, and sweats on Pretty & Afraid. Thinking of it as an escape pre-supposes that the best music must suffer as the world does. It leaves suffering as the only part that’s real and paints all the smiling as a big cover up. Artificial light is bad for you but honest light replaces darkness with not just sight but clarity. If you make the suffering all that is real it is all you will have.
I hope I wasn’t the only one who sang loudly “Pop, I’m working all night JUST LIKE YOU!” as he walked us through his parents relationship (as well as his childhood) on Jungle Fever. I made fun of Pitchfork earlier but their review of this album ends with a begrudging acknowledgement that they are onto something. My 5th favorite album of this year is Burna Boy-African Giant which is monstrously catchy creative and fun Afropop in a similar sonic language. I know next to NOTHING about African music but I can see the shadow of a wave as it starts to break. Jidenna is calmly atop this one synthesizing the best parts of large sections of American and African music into something that is new and radio ready. Nana Kwabena and Jidenna have been looking for this balance since Classic Man and in 2019 they hit on its head. May their next move be their best move.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged 85 To Africa, African music, Afropop, best albums of 2019, Cary Grant, Classic Man, Dj Burn One, hip hop, Jidenna, Luke Cage, Nana Kwabena, reviews, Seun Kuti, The Chief
Mixtape Review-The Cooligan by Scotty ATL
Being cool has nothing to do with style or taste. The icon of cool for a lot of Americans was Fonz on Happy Days but stylistically he wasn’t cool at all. He was set in the forties during the sixties; he looked silly to that audience. What made him cool was trust and reliability. You could always count on Fonz not to dress cool or act cool but to be cool. This is the definition of cool and the mission statement for Scotty ATL’s new mixtape The Cooligan. He wants you to know that not only has he gotten progressively better (this mixtape has some real storytelling happening: see Three Steps Forward) but you can always count on him to be heading in the right direction.
It’s no accident that Killer Mike always shouts out Scotty as a “who’s next” dude. The Cooligan gives you the best version of any kind of song you could like. If you’re a Future/Drake sing-rap guy just load up Neva Switch Up where he spits and sings at top notch levels over a 40-esque piano based beat that KE On The Track could have gotten placed on Drake’s Take Care. Scotty sounds perfectly reasonable next to two of my hero’s, 8 Ball & Devin The Dude, on the epic sex brag song I Needs Mine. Unlike previous projects he doesn’t have to rely on the genius of DJ Burn One, only produces two tracks, and it’s not because the relationship has frayed. Scotty now has more options than ever. Legions of fans are all new and just hearing him for the first time.
The running conversation with a beautiful female voice throughout the mixtape, about giving up the dream and moving on, about people’s faith in you being tested…is a big part of who Scotty is. The last song is Neva Fall Off and Scotty is still talking about family and people around him changing, the world around him switching from poverty to wealth and after all that elaboration he wraps those fears up neatly “they gave me reason and motivation to murder that @$$ be the man in my city and stack a bowl of that cash”. Scotty’s determination is not grim, he doesn’t stew in the negative sides of situations; he announces them and predicts their defeat. Maybe that’s why he gets such great guest verses from people. His reliability stabilizes the sometimes divergent talents of B.O.B on Fantasies and creates the comfort needed to get the very best Cyhi The Prince verse on Ni**a Concentrate. I need to talk about that song for a second. It might be one of the year’s very best collaborations. M16 laces a warm beat with looped background soul cooing and piano keys moving at the right upbeat Bill Withers pace. Cyhi’s verse is funny and personable and charming while Scotty’s (that come before it) is 100% heartfelt. When Scotty says “Everybody actin’ like they trappin'” you know it’s not general (by the tenor of his voice) that he tastes the names on the tip of his tongue but it wouldn’t be cool to say them. So he doesn’t.
If you need a succinct explanation of why and how Scotty will take over the world I only need two words. Speed Up. The song features no one and is an absolute smash hit, gets me in trouble at work for how excited I am under my headphones, produced by Black Metaphor. Scotty nails a perfect chorus, stays on beat and owns every inch of it. It’s a song Gucci Mane couldn’t have made. A lot of the drudging dark trap slithers by and doesn’t have an anthem gear. A lot of anthem level hip hop is as cheesy as in flight movie romantic comedy. Speed Up moves like lightning with its chest out, carrying authority and you know what? It’s still cool.
stream or download The Cooligan below:
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged 2015 mixtapes, Atlanta hip hop, B.O.B., Burn One Collective, Cyhi The Prince, datpiff, Dj Burn One, Happy Days, mixtape review, Scotty ATL, The Cooligan, The Fonz
Mixtape Review-Traffic Jamz by Scotty ATL
When Scotty ATL is about to go to sleep and he’s alone just gazing into the ceiling with his private thoughts, he has nothing to regret about how he has attained his success. He doesn’t have to wonder if his evolution into the spotlight is due to some powerhouse co-sign or novelty trick/gimmick. Scotty ATL is really special because he loves the fundamentals.
Over the course of his career he has done nothing but improve on his verses, chorus’s, song composition, and beat picking. All the while he maintains that southern slurry snarl that twists how every word sounds. In his hands it’s galvanizing and his content is right down the middle of the field running like Emmitt Smith. Stuck In Traffic has him leaving semen on ladies tonsils and striving to be the very best; while On The Road has a silky chorus about touring the lyrics are shots right from the hip “they might talk under they breath they respect ya, whether they hate or love it they checkin'” it ends with a spoken word call to stay consistent and work hard, no laughing no BS about how easy making hits is.
Traffic Jamz is superb riding music. Cloud IX Go Up is one of the very best songs of the year. This is the kind of DJ Toomp beat that makes you defend rap music to your elders: its soulful, bluesy, and begging to be turned all the way up. Scotty knocks the chorus out like a home run and shout sings “RIP to my lost ones on my heart and my T-shirt.” He’s never ever come off as one of those ATL weirdo characters that entertain you but you wouldn’t want to hang around. I would invite Scotty ATL in my home; introduce him to my kid, just based off the strength of character in this music.
The production is so impressive because he doesn’t need to lean on the immaculate DJ Burn One anymore (although the Keith Sweat beat he did on this tape made my jaw drop when I first heard it). Nine songs produced by at least 7 different producers means that the tightness of the tape, the way each songs feeds into the next and makes sense, is at least partially a credit to Scotty’s ear. MC’s don’t get nearly enough credit for having a great ear. They only get dinged when they don’t have it.
Can I tell you the coolest thing about Scotty that Traffic Jamz showcases? He is one of raps great collaborators. Last project he had several songs with Trinidad James and actually made me into a fan of Trinidad; they were so good. This time around he gets Big Krit, Spodee, and B.O.B. and each one of them sound perfect next to him. Spodee stunts ridiculous word play on The Hangover in a cadence all his own. Mr. ATL’s ability to work with others is the outcome of what I stated earlier, people just feel comfortable around this dude and Scotty for his part doesn’t seem to worry about the strength of the guest. You get the feeling Rasputin could come back from the dead, walk onto his studio with a verse and Scotty’d feel great about his 16.
stream or download Traffic Jamz below:
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged 2015 mixtapes, Atlanta hip hop, B.O.B., Big K.R.I.T., Burn One Collective, Dj Burn One, DJ Toomp, livemixtapes, mixtape review, Rasputin, Scotty ATL, Spodee
Mixtape Review-Who Killed The Last Dragon? By INDEEDFACE produced by DJ Burn One & The Five Points Bakery
If you are looking for the best produced mixtape of 2015 (to this date) look no further than Who Killed The Last Dragon? It’s the greatest return on investment any production mind has ever had. DJ Burn One is a generational talent (I always think of him as in class with Alchemist) always interested in growing not just from sound style to sound style but expanding the depth of instrumentation with delicate additional strokes. I remember when the internet was full of chatrooms where people doubted Burn One in all caps. Why was he wasting his beats on this gaggle of ATL weirdos? Were they drinking buddies? Why not send some of these beats to Ross or Jeezy?
Over time that gaggle of weirdos has become a force and Burn One an absolute attraction. The back cover of this mixtape not only lists what instruments Walt Live and Go Ricky Go (Indeedface) play it also gives an expansive listing of all the other instruments. You’ll notice Trombone and additional guitar credits, tenor sax and trumpet (oh my god what a trumpet). This isn’t even a hip hop album.
This isn’t even an R&B album. It’s something of a left field funk album. If Duke Ellington was making music now and wanted to make Far East Suite in 2015 it would sound like this, with a seemingly endless tapestry of instrumentation pulsating bass and catchy hooks. Mirage will send you to horn section nirvana. Javelin will have the phrase “Travelin’ like a Javelin” stuck in your head for hours. Right Down The Line is pure monstrous funk. Freak Show would make George Clinton swell with pride and My Dear Friend might be my favorite musical thing in the world. Walt Live and Go Ricky Go don’t seem to mind whether they are rapping or delicately singing(or just cooing); sometimes they are the White Rabbit running to where they have to go, sometimes the cheery Cheshire Cat reminding you they are aliens. They always seem excited to be in this wonderland they help Burn One create.
I used to think Burn One’s signature was his delicate use of guitar. Most rap producers pipe in guitar samples or if they use them slam them for effect “THIS IS MY GUITAR GUYS! THIS ISN’T JUST A RAP SONG IT HAS A FREAKIN GUITAR!” While 90% of the beatsmiths were using a paint roller Burn One was using a brush and lightly shading (listen to Am I The Only 1 Here? On this tape for an example of the Burn One guitar). It turns out that’s his signature. Light brush strokes of everything, the minimalists ability to walk away when the damn thing is done mixed with the explorers need to build a model for success and start over next time. It turns out Walt Live and Go Ricky Go weren’t weirdo’s cramping Burn One’s progress but the key components necessary for his army of strange, needed in order to look the oddball state of Atlanta hip hop in its face and say “this isn’t weird enough. Come with me.”
stream or download Who Killed The Last Dragon below:
EP review-OTR2SJ by Scotty ATL
My blood boils when I hear censored music. By the time the 90’s came around I was arguing with my parents for the permission to listen to rap music. If you turned on the television people were driving steamrollers over my favorite rap album. C. Delores Tucker had a list of the most offensive rap albums and they were all my favorites. Kids like me fought for the swearing, for our inappropriate content, because the music was saying something other forms of music wouldn’t dare.
Normally I would not review the new Scotty ATL EP OTR2SJ due to my extreme stance on this (the whole thing is censored with sound smudging! It makes me so mad!)…but…this thing is a monster. It buzzes with the kind of electric presence that Scotty has carried as of late. This is an un-ignorable artist. On Pray Alone he raps on a track before Killer Mike and stands shoulder to shoulder. That’s a tall order for anyone in rap.
It helps to have DJ Burn One standing in the shadows with the appropriate blast or horns or background guitar. Listening to the beat for Making Progress mutate as new elements come in is spellbinding. None of the beats over-extend or reach for club banger status, it’s that trademark Burn One minimalism filled with rich additives.
Every second on OTR2SJ feels important. No BS interludes or wack guest verses allowed. Rich The Kid stomps onto Bad Boy 97 like a giant and Scotty sounds like he expected that to happen. For me it doesn’t get better than the rich piano and tasteful guitar on The Journey and Scotty pronouncing “F your list, this is hot piss pouring on parades.” Most of the songs are about his progress through the industry, not in a braggy way but a determined/reflective endearing way. The soundscape reflects that tone perfectly. Even though I would love it a thousand times more with the cursing left in it’s a piece of music so good that it feels like what I was fighting to listen too the back then anyway.
Stream or Download OTR2SJ below:
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged datpiff.com, Dj Burn One, DJ Burn One collective, EP Review, Killer Mike, mixtape review, OTR2SJ, Rich The Kid, Scotty, Scotty ATL, Southern Hip Hop
Song Review- Paper, Rock, Scissors by Starlito & Don Trip produced by BarNone & Street Symphony
This is my favorite opening song of 2013. All the folks (like us) who impatiently waited for the two punch line Jedi masters to come together again for a sequel to Step Brothers, breathed a deep sigh of relief when Starlito starts this up and trades off to Trip who brags he is “in that grass like a lawn dwarf.” Later on in the track Trip also mentions that his pen drips icicles, which is fantastic.
BarNone & Street Symphony didn’t change the face of music with this beat. This beat is pretty standard punchy trap fair and the rest of Step Brothers Two follows that blueprint with production from Young Chop, DJ Burn One and Drumma Boy. If you ever thought Lito and Trip got together to make some odd Watch The Throne Dubsteppian trashterpiece you were wrong. The point is the bars. Listen to Lito as the song starts, talking about not wanting to go first; every song is the highest level of competition and some listeners already feel like Lito takes this project as his victory lap while others feel the exact opposite. Everyone agrees that the competition is a lot of fun. The Stepbrothers mixtape series is better than the movie which spawned it, not bad.
Mixtape Review-Dick Brown’s Tall Tails of Foxy Cottontail by Go! Ricky! Go! Produced by DJ Burn One
This mixtape is probably a concept album about falling for a stripper in Atlanta and realizing that chasing her isn’t worth it. I’ll be honest, the music is so dope that the concept escapes me. DJ Burn One has taken his incorporation of live instrumentation to new levels on Dick Brown’s Tall Tails of Foxy Cottontail with live bass, drums and guitar (played by Ricky). Every track pops and crackles with these elements no longer confined to predictable loops but luscious living parts of music that moves.
If you want to read about the genius of DJ Burn One you can search this site. We’ve written pretty extensively on how valuable this dude is and he’s still (along with Alchemist) the best at utilizing guitar in his beats. The story this time is not the genius of Burn One or the tragic stripper love story. It’s not even the unstoppable likability of Ricky who ends the first track by getting rejected access to the strip club while he tries to prove he’s famous and later on undertips the bathroom attendant.
The real flabbergasting thing about Dick Brown’s Tall Tails of Foxy Cottontail is the unblemished absurdity that runs through it; the howling of the wolves on Wild Chile (amazing chorus), my favorite Merlin reference of 2013 “I pulled the sword out the stone met a wizard named Merlin and with one box of Trojans I devoured three virgins, (Castles in The Sky)” and an oddly romantic song called Mermaid Serenade.
Go! Ricky! Go! Used to go by Ricky Fontaine and be part of a group called Indeed! They produced an excellent sounding mixtape that for some reason I dismissed as lyrically silly. It took Foxy Cottontail to make me understand. Every song is still very connected to real life experience just pulled through a powerful imagination. Most of the time it just flat out rocks. In a hip hop market that sometimes lacks forward momentum songs like Gypsy Lady with deep riffs and sing a long sensibility are irresistible. As everyone tries to dial their music down and make it more spooky and haunting, hip hop fans are going to need music that keeps us awake and brings the heavy head nod back.
This mixtape just came out so I’m not pretending I completely understand it yet. I might never want too. I might just tap my feet to the drums in Crème Brulee and let the music wash over me like 80’s Prince or through repeated listening I might catch gems I never did before. Either way, it will always be listenable (for my whole family) and a daring multi-colored light show of sound and emotion amidst the abject darkness that is all too present. Knowing that Ricky played the guitar on these tracks and did the chorus’s does show these songs in a different light. I think Dick Brown’s Tall Tails of Foxy Cottontail brands Go! Ricky! Go! As possessing a very unique kind of music, different even from his Burn One contemporaries (like Scotty) and should make every hip hop fan thankful. We need our weird dreamy music, the stuff that doesn’t fit. That’s the kind of music that expands your perspective. Next time anyone says Southern rap is dumb or simplistic put on Tomahawk and when they ask who this is just yell GO! RICKY! GO!
Stream or download Dick Brown’s Tall Tails of Foxy Cottontail below: