Song Review-Heard Dat by Smoke Dza produced by Harry Fraud
When a sound is described as “nostalgic” no part of that is complimentary. They are inferring that it spins its wheels by replicating an old sound that we all miss and want back without moving at all into the future. It gets tossed around far too much by hip hop hipsters who write for notable tastemaking websites to describe just about anything that doesn’t fit the narrative they have tried to create. Smoke Dza has already gotten that review for his new 9 song project with Harry Fraud He Has Risen and will definitely find it written again. I am likely much more up in arms about it than either of them.
He Has Risen is not the celebrated sound of the day. It is not muddy, depressed, hedonistic, or weird for its own sake. The funny thing: Smoke Dza was considered an oddity at the outset of his career being a Harlem rapper with a very southern delivery and running with Curren$y. Rap has gotten so much weirder that on this album he’s being framed like Joey Bad@$$…as a golden age throwback.
Harry Fraud is a genius. The sharp jazzy influence on Heard Dat never waters down the thickness of the Fraud sound it just swims overtop of it. Amidst the gooey chunks of bass Dza stamps down on every word declared. Dza doesn’t fit into the conscious rapping genius or trap groupings but he snarls and moves the crowd. He’s better on this than on Dream Zone Achieve. Together they give you a nine song bridge leading from Ghostface to Wiz Khalifa, from the era hip hop heads grew up on to the one Kendrick is setting the pace for. The last time these two sounded this good was on 2012’s Rugby Thompson, which for my ears is an off-the-grid classic.
Maybe this sound is underground… if that’s true you should really ask yourself if the difference between underground and the other option is simply having any appreciation for the history of the art. Is any hint of jazz or soul going to push that nostalgia button? Is cold, dead isolation the new popular sound? If that’s the case long live the underground.
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Tagged Curren$y, Dream Zone Achieve, Harry Fraud, He Has Risen, Joey Bada$$, New York Hip Hop, Nostalgia, NY Hip Hop, Rugby Thompson, Smoke Dza, Song Review
Mixtape Review-MMM by Diddy
Diddy is a human tapeworm. His musical career is characterized by the systematic withdrawal of artistic vitality from those he worked with; G. Dep, Black Rob, Shyne, Loon, Craig Mack and on and on. The distaste I have for Diddy is both cavernous and voluminous in ways that should not be expanded upon. No matter how hostile your relationship to him is no one can deny how good he is as a musical strategist and his new mixtape MMM which stands for Money Makin’ Mitch is absolute proof of that.
How could 2015 music from Diddy not seem dated? He’s richer than god from selling liquor and clothes and doesn’t write his own verses. His label’s biggest star is a poor recalibration of Yelawolf (not sorry Machine Gun Kelly). One key ingredient is that Puff really performs these verses and doesn’t pay for wack ones. On the first real song of the mixtape, Harlem, he takes the first two minutes and forty seconds of the three minutes and thirty six seconds to dominate the song alone(then Grizzle comes in). He clearly doesn’t need to do this but he really invests himself in it. His opening verse on the fantastic collaboration Auction (with King Los, Styles P, and Lil Kim) is airtight and damn near steals the song. The production is genius throughout borrowing just enough from Trap music to feel modern but maintaining the personality of that Harlem World swagger. The Hitmen produce but Hit Boy does 2 beats, Young Chop does 2 as well (Auction is one), TM88, Mike Will Made It and Harry Fraud are also in the mix.
Diddy also knows when enough is enough so he limits the mixtape to thirteen tracks with a few interludes. The theme of the project is conceptualized on the intro,Facts, this mixtape is a fictionalization story of a magical hustler who doesn’t take a hard fall at the end like every real hustler. Money Makin’ Mitch goes happily ever after. This opens the door to endless swagger and guest verses from Travis Scott, Big Sean, Ty Dolla Sign sounds fantastic on You Could Be My Lover, and Future comes through for the title track.
The problem a lot of us are having with MMM is it comes off as a label showcase, a reclaiming of the narrative for Bad Boy as a label….but who is on Bad Boy? French Montana is all over MMM but not in an exciting way he’s the same old French, great hooks and ad libs but not saying much. All the biggest stars on MMM are imports like Ty Dolla Sign, Future, Styles P, and Jadakiss. King Los isn’t on Bad Boy anymore but he definitely shows up, thing is if you didn’t know who Los was before this isn’t going to get you into him. If this is a set up for Puff’s album then it works but what happened to Puff going after talent? Remember when he grabbed hardened street lyricists and polished them into finished stars (Shyne, Biggie, Craig Mack, Black Rob)? I have a list in my head of who would really fit on Bad Boy (1. ASAP ROCKY 2. Action Bronson 3. Troy Ave) but Diddy is throwing energy down the French Montana, Machine Gun Kelly sink hole and that’s his business. I remember when he used to do things we didn’t expect and if he still cares as much as this mixtape makes it seem…he should think about changing directions.
Stream or download MMM below:
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Tagged Bad Boy, Big Sean, French Montana, future, Grizzle, Harry Fraud, Hit Boy, Jadakiss, King Los, Lil Kim, Machine Gun Kelly, mike will made it, mixtape review, MMM, Money Makin' Mitch, Styles P, The Hitmen, TM88, Travis Scott, Ty Dolla $ign, young chop
Free Album Review-Pilot Talk 3 by Curren$y
On the Opening Credits (the first track) of Pilot Talk 3 Curren$y references his lost relationship to savagely independent hip hop mogul Dame Dash “then I tried to start a business with Damon…charge that to the game, learned some things…” he implies the money wasn’t right. My initial thought was a wish that it worked out. I like the idea of a loud business dude standing in front of the world shouting about how talented Curren$y Is, because he needs that. He’s so low key and easy going that he can seem unimpressive when he’s making magic. While stylistically muted his gift of imagery is in a special class, listen to how he starts Audio Dope 5 “Bunsen Burners, laboratory beakers pour it in the speakers…” the way his mind works is one of the true draws for Pilot talk 3.
The other draw is the production. Ski Beatz is masterful as ever crafting corridors of tough sonic minimalistic golden age East Coast grime on Audio Dope 5 or warm Bossanova hip hop on Search Party but he’s not the only one doing great work. As rich and soulful and hard-hitting as Ski is, Cool & Dre are able to take that feeling and kick it up ten or fifteen miles an hour. Pot Jar hums and knocks and moves at a pace that pushes Jadakiss (another famously great guest verse) and Curren$y to move out of that summer beach music space into a zone where they can see banger from where they stand. Ski Beatz produces seven songs, Cool & Dre are behind five and the mixture is perfect. The consistency is so thickly layered that other producers like Joey Fatts and Jahlil Beats fit in. Maybe the most profoundly eye opening first listen of a beat is Froze by Harry Fraud. It doesn’t really matter how you feel about Riff Raff, this beat is so damn ugly/attractive full of that lumpy bassy sludge that Fraud traffics so well. It’s exactly what the tape needs, a song that stands way the heck out from the rest.
While you can bang Froze in the car or work out to Pot Jar most of Pilot Talk 3 is meant to be played with your feet up and your head gently nodding or laughing with people at a barbeque. Even his bragging tracks like All I Know are stated so matter of factly that it doesn’t feel like bragging.
This was released last week but I didn’t want to review it at that time. I wanted to listen again and again and again until every inch was a space I knew and loved. You have to give Curren$y that kind of listen to really gauge the staying power of the music. It has so many lines that catch you after they pass like when he writes a million dollar verse on a napkin while waiting for his Baked Alaska (see Get Down). It’s all seamless, fifteen songs with no rough edges. The track sequencing makes it feel like ten and when it finishes you have to do it again. I gave someone Pilot Talk 3 to listen to and they responded back part way through the first song “wow” the only response I had was “It’s good to have this Curren$y back.” If you know what I mean, you know what I mean.
Stream or Download Pilot Talk 3 below:
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Tagged 2015 mixtapes, baseshare, Bossanova, Cool & Dre, Curren$y, Harry Fraud, Jadakiss, Jahlil Beats, Joey Fatts, Mixtapes, Pilot Talk 3, Riff Raff, Ski Beatz
Mixtape Review-Prohibition by Berner & B-Real
Mixtapes give upcoming artists a chance to put together something that purely reflects them; not vetted by record executives and plotted for the radio. It also gives the major and middle class artists a chance to drop something cool out of nowhere. Prohibition falls into the second category. Far from a tear-soaked confessional Berner and B-Real come together for a merry celebration of legalized marijuana (in Colorado and other places).
If you need proof this is an A-list event just look at the track listing. Features include Devin The Dude, Snoop Dogg, and multiple stuck in your head hooks from Wiz Khalifa (not to mention a production credit from Harry Fraud).
Berner has been a commodity for a while. His flow moves at a trudge but he knows what good rap sounds like (evidenced here by co-production credit on Faded). His slower assured flow finds a perfect fit in front of B-Real’s pinched voice and faster pace on Prohibitions first song Shatter. Berner is one of those perfectly self sufficient dudes who makes a great musical accomplice. Not only is he used to doing it all himself but his sound is big enough to welcome just about anyone comfortably in it. On Faded (which samples my favorite Jay-Z beat) Berner ends the first verse with a cool tip of the hat to B-Real “sh#t I burned my first joint to…Cypress Hill” acknowledging that you will likely listen to this for B-Real and he’s fine with that. He is the Arn Anderson to B-Real’s Ric Flair (#prowrestlingreference).
Cozmo and Maxwell Smart keep things moving with big screen production that pulses and pounds like a speaker avalanche. All the hooks are super catchy and everyone knows what Prohibition is supposed to achieve. Fun. Beyond the excitement of big names and sweet hooks over car rattling beats its great to have B-Real back.
It was Method Man who said once when you are dope your always dope you don’t lose that. I don’t agree. If you don’t move, your muscles turn to mush and if you don’t spit dope verses….you lose your place in the process of creating them. It takes time to get it back and a lot of veterans don’t ever get it back. Over the last few years B-Real has been WORKING. His guest verse on the Curren$y track ET was remarkable when compared to low points on Stoned Raiders. I don’t think new school artists like Khalifa, Curren$y, and Berner are propping the old dog up. It’s the opposite. B-Real is determined to be dope. He sounds right at home on the Taylor Gang pimptastic anthem Breeze. He can still rip through a hardcore beat but he doesn’t need too. He’s adept enough to adapt without sounding corny. This is still the B-Real that spit smoker verses from your old boom box into the smoke clouds of your cold garage. For proof listen to him on 1 Hit “I got a dab on the nail…inhale. Got the flavors flowing outta my lungs when I exhale. Man I’m riding on a cloud hovering over the crowd…” that could have been from the Friday soundtrack. All that Prohibition achieves it does in only 8 tracks with the title track being a skit. It’s a concise love letter to not only weed but the weed song and all the surreal lushness of its landscape. I’ve never smoked marijuana in my life but man do I love a weed song. The high points of Prohibition are enough to cause a contact high.
Stream of download Prohibition below:
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Tagged B-Real, Berner, Curren$y, Cypress Hill, Devin The Dude, Friday soundtrack, Harry Fraud, Method Man, mixtape review, Prohibition, Snoop Dogg, Stoned Raiders, Taylor Gang, weed songs, west coast hip hop, Wiz Khalifa
Song Review-How U Feel by Fat Trel produced by Harry Fraud
Trel’s new mixtape Gleesh feels like the proving ground for the number one Maybach Music question: does the luxuriously clean production style of the label fit the gritty goon content of the roster? Fat Trel is full of violent bluster with a magnificent evil frog monster voice to boot and feels comfortable over dark stabbing Gucci Mane style production but Maybach has a signature sound. Its radio friendly and refined and sometimes doesn’t make sense for the artist. Some songs don’t seem to work on Gleesh but the most interesting ones seem to provide enough balance for an answer. This is the best example.
Harry Fraud finds the perfect equilibrium between echoing club friendly bass with gentle guitar and a melodic spook that lets Trel lead with his determination and sneer. Lyrically Trel never lets you get comfortable, contradicting every image of attractive women showing him attention with bad neighborhoods and violence. If you think he’s thin in terms of content I can’t really argue but with the delivery and voice I could listen to this dude rap the phone book. When you couple that with one of the most impressive Harry Fraud beats (how consistent is Harry Fraud? I’ve heard the criticism that he only makes one kind of beat but DJ Mustard does the same thing and we love him…Fraud is one of those consistent dudes who seems to make everyone’s project sound better) in a while its hard to beat that for a stand out song.
Free EP Review- The Stage by Curren$y & Smoke Dza produced by Harry Fraud
As a supporter of the Jet Life movement I’ve always been realistic. Like most prolific artists Curren$y can sound listless at times; possibly a product of doing too much or the constant experimenting with different collaborators and producers. Sometimes the chemistry doesn’t have time to establish but when he needs to step up, he delivers.
As much of the spotlight as Curren$y got for his prolific output and Harry Fraud gets for mixing sticky sludge into the NY sound, Smoke Dza still doesn’t seem to be nearly as acclaimed as he should be. His delivery is one of the most emphatic in all of hip hop and his collaborators/peers know it. On the opening track (First Light) he seems to vengefully stab with every word and even though the Jet Life general leads off and lays down an impressive verse…the voice that rings in your mind is Dza.
No review of The Stage should go without focusing on the immaculate song 10 Bricks. If the narrative of this project is how focused the three primary components are then it makes sense on 10 Bricks that we get the most focused French Montana verse of the year and a dead serious pitch perfect Big K.R.I.T. chorus. Fraud composes richly orchestrated elements for the mid tempo funk of it. It’s the essence of the Jet Life experience; everyone vibes out and brings their best bars to the table.
The Stage is more than in-the-zone vibe out music. It’s a sampler meant to energize all the people that want another Pilot Talk or Rugby Thompson and in that regard it’s an unmitigated success. Every song has more than a few rewindable moments; like on Gifts where Smoke Dza says “Every boss once was the best student,” or in 10 Bricks where Curren$y recreates himself as Joe Namath in a fur coat. Not many people even know what the whole Jet Life term means. It’s an acronym meaning just enjoy this and that’s exactly what you should do.
Stream or download The Stage below:
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Tagged audiomack, Big K.R.I.T., Curren$y, ep reviews, French Montana, Harry Fraud, hip hop, Jet Life, mixtape reviews, Rugby Thompson, Smoke Dza, THe Stage EP, weed rap
Song of the year-Strictly 4 My Jeeps by Action Bronson produced by Harry Fraud
I am one of these dudes that can’t help but talk about hip hop with whoever can converse about it. The discussions are the best part, arguments over Das Racist or Rick Ross help me understand other people’s perspective and get an idea of who people are really excited about.
One of those conversations last year culminated in me saying that no one was lacing more exciting verses than Action Bronson. He could cook a dish you’ve never heard of, do karate under the water, or say something alarming about hookers. No one in hip hop was better at finger painting with visceral imagery, and people took notice. I don’t remember anyone I spoke with fighting my proclamation.
The ep Saaab Stories just came out and came out pretty darn well. It’s got more than a few disarmingly catchy turn-up-the-volume-this-is-my-song jams which is an important step in the maturation of Bronson. His lyricism has been established, he’s shaken off most of the Ghostface comparisons (Ghostface himself co-signed Bronson) now its time to make music that reaches everyone. That’s the only way he’ll get to the point where he can see his debut full length album earning a gold plaque, he needs the heads and the ringtone kids.
Strictly 4 My Jeeps is that song.
Harry Fraud smashes the stuffing out of this beat. It’s a speaker breaker with clapping, alarm sound effects and that throttling boom. Fraud works exceptionally well with big voiced track attackers like Bronson and Smoke Dza so this match fits like a glove.
I also don’t want to hear Kanye-loving reviewers call Bronson sexist. Bronson is joking when he tears into women…Kanye is dead serious. Sexism is such a part of hip hop that it can’t be applied selectively. Don’t tell me your favorite artist is charmingly sexist and mine is offensively sexist. Let’s call them both sexist and talk about the quality of the music from there.
If Bronson can harness the crazy talk of Big Body Bes, his infectious hooks and outrageous jokes he can run the table. This song is remarkable for its scaled down grossness and restraint. This feels like the single and Bronson knows it. I think that’s a vital development for any artist and Action Bronson is growing, what he’s growing into…that’s the conversation starter.