Tag Archives: hip hop reviews

#Bandcampgold-Green Parakeet Suite by Davis

EE6ix2DXsAMGPcj #Bandcampgold-Green Parakeet Suite by Davis

by Dan-O

Chance The Rapper mocks 90’s hardcore hip hop in a way that ruffles my feathers. He clowns 90’s Gangsta Rap for being full of phony tough guys acting the part. He’s making the point that being genuinely silly or conscious is better than being artificially thug but that’s a dumb comp. Conscious rap has just as many fake philosophers as the 90’s had pretend tough guys. Green Parakeet Suite is a brilliant example of what authentically crafted hardcore hip hop can achieve.

I don’t mean to sound defensive of Gangsta Rap. While lots of people hear just the violence in it they miss the illustrated world it lets you inside. The cover of Green Parakeet Suite is pitch perfect. Leaning on a mountain of Nike shoeboxes Davis sips from his Henri Matisse mug while wearing a Westside Gunn hoodie(with gun and ski mask). This is the balance of materialism(not a synonym for greed but a tangible attachment to practical life), criminal instinct, and the highest aspirations of art.  I am not thinking too deeply about this. He starts the project with an explanation of the Hedgehog’s Dilemma: the closer the people he loves gets the more they hurt (quills bro!) but the farther away they are the more alone he is. Davis goes from that realization to a song called Cannon Fodder about being human cannon fodder. His brain takes us from Squidward jokes to Bushido blades cleaving off excuses to mortality discussions that are not only deep but know they are, “Death is an attraction that we cannot manipulate, verbose vernacular took a quarter century to gestate.” Not all smart people are earthy and smooth or jubilant with Kit Kats. Intelligent people snarl at the world.

Gangsta Rappers are not inherently smart or stupid. Neither are conscious rappers. I get mad at anyone who views these different subgenres as sports rivals and takes a side. Hardcore rap provides a safe environment for our most hideous conversations. Joshua Virtue starts off his guest verse on Super Green with a chuckle and launches into “Ya’ll hear Bambaataa touchin’ little boys and he not shot?!” It’s an insanely difficult issue for hip hop to engage with but we can do it easily within the soulful hardcore NY landcape of Green Parakeet Suite. Channeling our authentic pain, frustration, venom, or indignant joy is the catharsis this music offers us that we can’t get just…keepin’ it positive.  I hope Roc Marciano is somewhere in a mad colorful sweater bumping this.

Stream or download Green Parakeet Suite below:

https://dorchesterbully.bandcamp.com/album/green-parakeet-suite

 

 

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Song of The Year-Wolf Mode by Chris Rivers

Song of The Year-Wolf Mode by Chris Rivers

by Dan-O

When talking about Noname a friend of mine made the argument that while her follow up album was very good(Room 25), she will likely spend her career measured against the song Casket Pretty from her first album (Telefone). This isn’t about producing an insurmountable hit. Casket Pretty is a hushed poetic eulogy to all the people who shouldn’t have had to die. It’s succinct, dynamic, and gripping. That song will be something a lot of people never ever forget and when her name comes up that song will be the first reply.

I mention this to say Wolf Mode is that song for Chris Rivers. His whole career has been building to it. Wolf Mode is what makes hip hop more than a financially successful genre it can act as a method of group therapy. He combines multi-speed raw flow excellence with an ease in discussing mental illness that few have. He chides someone for never giving love unconditionally and then hopes they die, and pretty immediately admits he has attempted suicide. This isn’t a sad song where the piano helps us cry with him. This is a bass heavy chant about how tough are skin needs to be, how the trials we have been through have built us scar and scab by scar and scab. With under a minute to go Chris double times “I’d rather have the hard truth than a sweet lie because the hard truth still apply to me…” and he’s nailed it. The gorgeous glimmering jewel that sits in the genres heart. This space is where you can tell it how it really is. The Jonas boys make fun music but you’ll never know if they battled sobriety.

I remember watching the documentary and seeing Big Pun hit his wife with a gun while a room of his associates bowed their head and said nothing. This is the guy who gave me the best hip hop album of all time(Capital Punishment, no arguments). As Rivers came up I always wanted to ask him how he balances those contradicting ends of his fathers legacy. This many years later to have his son spitting about self love and forgiveness, mistakes and how the deep scars mean the most has been therapeutic for me. I’m sure many have “canceled” Pun based on the documentary but River’s new album G.I.T.U. makes an important case that a person with a good heart can fix themselves if they have the time. Pun was robbed of that. I’m so glad Chris hasn’t been.

Stream or download G.I.T.U. below:

https://mellomusicgroup.bandcamp.com/album/g-i-t-u

 

Song of The Year-Palmolive Featuring Pusha T and Killer Mike produced by Madlib by Freddie Gibbs

Song of The Year-Palmolive Featuring Pusha T and Killer Mike produced by Madlib by Freddie Gibbs

by Dan-O

In 2014 when Madlib and Freddie Gibbs produced Pinata I thought the two were magnificently matched. A song like Deeper is just not possible without the mutilated soul Madlib feeds Freddie. For some rappers soul sample based beats (Madlib, 9th Wonder) push them into a gentler, reflective place. A chance to put the teeth away and show another side; for Gibbs it is very much not like that.

You can tell because on Palmolive, one of two epic posse cuts on the new Madlib x Gibbs album Bandana, Gibbs starts his verse with “Kane season/F_ing my pastor daughter in two Jesus pieces/Dropping this blow on the basement floor/My Yeezy’s squeaking” all while the bridge to the Sylvers song Cry Of A Dreamer gets the falsetto pulled out and stabbed then kicked behind Freddie to sound like the spooky painful cry that inspires his seething darkness. How bleak is Gibbs? Am I exaggerating? He doubles his own vocals so he can comment on what he is saying and the conversation he’s having with himself is brutal PTSD recollection. “Fernando said they used to move chickens in the Noriega days(Yeah)/ I disrespect his name and he signed my face with a razor blade (True story, N_).”

This song is the perfect meeting of seething darkness. Killer Mike’s chorus carries that bullish swagger, that evil sneer daring you to challenge or doubt the truth of this song. Pusha T doesn’t just understand what Palmolive wants to do, he helped build the model for it. He begins speaking so specifically that it is chilling and he does it all in code you might not understand if your not combing through. When he says “PTSD from what I weighed on the digital,” a casual fan could get lost. My favorite is “The love of your life rap n_ wear fake watches/ the serial number don’t match the gift boxes.” This dude is rapping about knock off watch serial numbers! Push doesn’t care who understands or don’t he needs to speak to his audience on this song. When Push asks the audience if they are Alpo or Mitch it’s a more important question than you might understand. Mitch is dead and Alpo is in witness protection. The question brings the darkness center stage. Are you a traitor? Will you be the end of me? Where in this world can I be safe, if not for the rest of my life for a little while to just get my head together?

The other collaboration is the second to last song called Education. It has Yasiin Bey and Black Thought throwing 100 mph while Freddie does the same but it’s not Palmolive. This one is for fans like me who have Raekwon lyrics tattooed on their soul. If I am ever listening to Palmolive and someone robs me I’ll shrug and think “makes sense.” It’s the most desperate jagged lyrical diamond of 2019 and that spares no one from the conversation. Give me Bandana and keep the rest.

Fight for The Future of Lil Uzi Vert

Fight for The Future of Lil Uzi Vert

by Dan-O

We complain a lot. All of us do. In Hip Hop, we get mad at youngsters for not doing what the older generations would do. Real rap problems exist: loss of interesting word usage, too much of a focus on ad-libs, drug addiction creating a generation of junked up kids with no goals. Take a moment and acknowledge that Lil Uzi Vert is a strong component in resolving some of these.

At first, Uzi was discounted simply because of the Lil. The Bad and Boujee feature was blistering but Uzi’s audience is his own and real. He has their attention and uses it. XO Tour Lif3 by September 2017 had 1.3 BILLION listens counting all streaming platforms (Wiki info). That song is about suicide mental breakdowns and heartbreak. He helps a suffering generation express acknowledge and process feeling like crap. In and of itself, that is important.

You might have heard he announced his retirement, announced he had label issues. We can’t let any of this happen. We can’t let labels hinder him. We can’t let him fall into whatever took Mac Miller away. I am not just saying this because he means a lot to his generation. I am saying this because I love this genre.

When he dropped the loosey Free Uzi as a youtube video (not on streaming services) it racked up 9.6 Million views but, more importantly, it’s an incredible song. Free Uzi is the Philly phenom exploding with bars, stringing any word he wants easily onto one of raps best flows. The propulsive beat allows him to easily surf while maintaining perfect breathe control. He’s not a mumble rapper, you can hear him saying things like “I remember when them N_’s all laughed at me,” as he dances in a convenience store with his friends. It’s just him having fun and stretching out his legs while breathing fire. It seems like the giant response to Free Uzi pressured his label into letting some more of his music loose.

Conversely, Sanguine Paradise (the first single they let out whatever prison they keep his music in) is a fully fleshed out single ready for the pop charts. The beat is beautiful (very pretty piano that does not slow down the speed of the song) unlike the speedbag flow of Free Uzi, Sanguine Paradise is a more melodic. Every line feels like a chorus.

This dude can dig into mental health, relationships, or just brag on a level where he becomes James Spader from Pretty In Pink, and SPIT. Find 1017 vs. The World mixtape and listen to him trade with a sober Gucci and stand tall. Not anyone can do that. I genuinely think this dude is the light of a new generation and if you don’t understand “the kids” you should listen to him. He’s the best chance you have.

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#Bandcampgold-Hiding Places by Billy Woods x Kenny Segal

#Bandcampgold-Hiding Places by Billy Woods x Kenny Segal

by Dan-O

Biographers live in the world of their subject for years. Can you imagine? In depth talks with family, old letters, review of their work, nailing down different periods of life and what they meant. The subject has to be important enough to fuel the biographer. If that spark flames out it’s a world of bad for everyone. I could be the biographer for Billy Woods & Kenny Segal’s new album Hiding Places. Over the past week I’ve been deep in lyric reading and song re-listens pulling at different sections of what it all means. I could do two years research on the end of A Day In A Week In A Year when Woods says:

“I read the play, hatchet job, but you work with what you got/  Life is just two quarters in the machine

But, either you got it or don’t that’s the thing
I was still hittin’ the buttons, “Game Over” on the screen
Dollar movie theater, dingy foyer, little kid, not a penny to my name
Fuckin’ with the joystick, pretendin’ I was really playin’
Pretendin’ I was really playin’
Pretendin’ I was really playin’ “

Pretending to play when you don’t have the money is a central memory for kids of a certain generation. Being able to go full thrust with your imagination and the screen regardless of what was working against you forms the basis of an artist’s mind.  The joy of playing v. the ability to get in the game this is why it connects back to the hack play, dedicating yourself to your art when your art sucks is still pretending to play.

And that is just one fragment of one song. All the songs are built from these incredible impactful fragments that come together to form a singular emotional realization part poetic beauty part violence drizzled in lots of frustration. My favorite song is a minute and twenty eight seconds long. It is called Steak Knives and it is not simply about how horrifying a life of crime is but about how painfully destructive living in poverty can be without the endless fight for money we hear rappers talk about. As Woods says in the song “it’s sick but banalities might as well be death threats/Let it sit/ there’s the threat of sepsis” He opens the song by a roaring fire about to make love to a woman who specifies she does not want a relationship and ends it flippantly acknowledging ,in a passive aggressive way, that he doesn’t have the breathing room to help those not as driven. Second place is steak knives.

All the songs are lyrically rich threatening and evocative. I need to spend some time complimenting Kenny Segal who walked a tight line. Producing for a dense lyricist is a heck of a trap: keep it simple and your doing what most producers could do and it sounds boring, make it weird you might throw the MC off their flow. Songs like Houthi are masterfully open; ready for a lyricist to shine BUT it shifts drops out cuts in and alternates in a hypnotic way that keeps it from being stale. Production is consistent but fragmented. When you think you know a song it undulates in a different direction. Listen to all the subtle changes going on in Spider Hole before the guitar slams in at two minutes and twenty one seconds. Menacing does this sound design disservice. It’s not just menacing its thick and deceptively expansive. Central sounds build neighborhoods to live in.

I was looking for the one line Billy Woods said that scorched my heart and left my eyes Simpson size. These bars define the entire Billy Woods experience and I’ve had them bouncing around my head since the first listen. That moment happens in the first verse of Speak Gently “I’m a bad penny/I’m the feelin’ after you killed ’em and seen the safe empty.” That image is something no MC has ever left for me. Standing in front of a body, mind racing, only to look up at an empty safe all of it for nothing…left with the shame of my actions and the taste of monetary failure. Sick with everything wrong about this world at once. That’s Billy Woods superpower. He’s in total control of that feeling. No hero stuff he’s the viciousness of reality cutting through all the layers of defense you keep in front of it. Every verse makes your eye water like Listerine just before you spit.

Stream or purchase Hiding Places below:

https://billywoods.bandcamp.com/album/hiding-places

#Bandcampgold-Albums I Bought from The Mello Music Group sale

#Bandcampgold-Albums I Bought from The Mello Music Group sale

by Dan-O

My favorite underground label in the world had a sale. I was notified that every album they had put out was available on Bandcamp for $4.99. I cracked my knuckles and started surfing, sampling, adding the interesting albums to my cart. I love rap music and I am cheap so I had to filter people out. Now the obvious artist to jump on would be Open Mike Eagle who has a string of critically released albums. I already bought his entire discography last year so I am all caught up on Mike. These are the albums I had either not heard or fully attended but once I locked in on them I fell hard for. Here is what I ended up purchasing.

Portraits by Chris Orrick

Portraits is truly dynamic in its level of poetic frustration. The cover photo makes it clear this is an MC who has been doing this for so long so hard that it has taken its toll, everything has.  The title track opens on thirty six seconds of Nolan The Ninjas beat which grooves with thick drums and horns feeling like a Jazzmatazz song.  This is the sonic world of Orrick who makes no apologies for what he likes to sound like. No trap experimentations necessary he needs Exile, Apollo Brown, Onra and a few others to weave a boom bap that leaves room for his intensity over top. Jealous of The Sun is a great example of how hard his pen goes. The first verse is an immense bummer about how the world is in terrible shape. The second is one of the most scathing indictments of Trump you’ll hear in rap and if that wasn’t enough the outro is a frighteningly apt analogy.

‘And there’s no one to tell us where to run
The day the people of earth got jealous of the sun
Looked up in the sky, filled the air with gas
Lit a match
Said “We are not to be outdone!’

 

If you go to Genius.com Chris gave a real good breakdown of what this song means. This is not a political album that is just the intensity he puts in any subject. Design Flaw is all about accepting how terrible you feel along with what is wrong with you and the L’Orange beat is propulsive while tailor made for Orrick. I will talk more about L’Orange later.  I love Portraits and I want you to love it but be prepared for the ride. Sometimes he’s talking about how much he loves his cat other times he’s blaming Obama for cleaning exhaust to the point where it’s harder to kill himself. The first lines in Escape Plan are “I went to sleep a fifth deep one night when I was twenty-three/Woke up sober, hungover, age of twenty-nine” he’s so honest and so poetically exhausted that anyone who has a connection to those feelings will find a connection to this album.

Stream or buy  Portraits below:

https://chrisorrickraps.bandcamp.com/album/portraits

No Question by Locksmith & Apollo Brown

Locksmith is so real I feel like I know the dude. I have been listening and reviewing him for at least five years (all hail The Green Box) and he is one of those rare dudes who leverages his intellectual strength to not just lash out at the system but GUT HIMSELF. Apollo Brown is an old soul NY hip hop minimalist and the resonant quiet of what he does just took Lock to a deeper place. While the album serves as a declaration that these two are not down with the new trends it lands a dizzying amount of profound statements.  Second verse first song (Advice For My Younger Self).

“And I tell you, never play it safe and never settle for second
Never hesitate, not even just for a second
Never second guess, if you say it then manifest it
But be careful who you say it to, some people will try to test it
If you think, use reflection, have sex then use protection
If you meet a girl and don’t, then make sure you have a connection
If she keeps it then you’re stuck with that woman, don’t wanna hear it
If she doesn’t then the guilt you’ll feel later will kill your spirit
Make sure you earn some money but money is not your god
Just a means to purchase things, put family before your job
Put God before your family and love before your lust
Protect yourself at all times, put truth before trust
Never fuss with ignorant folks, actions are much louder
You retreat to keep the peace, that does not make you a coward
If you focus on you, you can never go and unfelt
Not a lecture, just a lesson I give to my younger self”

If this was a Big Sean verse the internet would lose its damn mind. Truth is this is just what Locksmith gives you. He ends the industry tirade Litmus with “I’ve been prosecuted and profited from/ Now I just watch with an understanding and stand in my spot ’till it’s done.” My wife really likes this album, it’s not that my wife notes and parses all the meanings and double meanings in rapper verses but when she catches a line she wants to make sure it’s not dumb.  When Locksmith is spitting she can nod her head enjoy the twinkling piano keys on Slow Down and the buttery chorus or she can listen to Locksmith explain (what I have always said) that love is not a gamble but an investment. Whether she listens hard or doesn’t she knows that Locksmith is pounding on every second of No Question so that no one can accuse him of wasting an Apollo Brown beat. This one isn’t fighting for album of the year its right in the pocket of old friend you’ll wear out status.

Stream or buy No Question below:

https://apollobrown360.bandcamp.com/album/no-question

The Night Took Us In Like Family

By L’Orange & Jeremiah Jae

During this process I fell in love with L’Orange and his experimental disjointed and sometimes fractured take on classic hip hop sounds. His collaboration with Marlowe is great, his solo album The Ordinary Man goes hard.  Nothing tickles me like The Night Took Us In Like Family which is his collaboration with Jeremiah Jae. Jae is the perfect orator for a L’Orange beat he raps with a seething calm, the kind born from the anger bubbling when you realize that the world is against you. When the world turns on you some people fold (and that makes sense) others just sneer and think about how amusing it will be when they turn the tables. Jae goes bar after bar on Ice Obsidian which is only one minute and fifty two seconds but is so complete. He always finishes his thoughts no matter how much time L’Orange gives him no matter how oddly syncopated the beat is. Once the microphone is on he steps into things makes it his story.  Listen to how he starts Underworld “Sometimes I feel that the world is going under/ sky full of clouds all I hear is thunder./ Sometimes I feel like somebodies always watching/ waiting for the fall any chance they can hop in.”  One of the oldest tricks in spoken word was if you got on stage and the crowd is still chatty not paying attention put your face to the mic just start the piece don’t yell. Keep your voice low and conversational, whisper it and they will know to stop to listen. The Night Took Us In Like Family is chopped into bits equal parts song, intermission, and everything is perfectly cohesive. Every bit of violence described has a foundation laid around it so the Gangsta Rap aspect of it is never Rambo and always The Wire. With its seamlessness and dynamic shimmer bursting with casual confidence this one is my very favorite.

Stream or buy The Night Took Us In Like Family below:

https://lorange360.bandcamp.com/album/the-night-took-us-in-like-family

Here is the general link for Mello Music Group’s Bandcamp:

https://mellomusicgroup.bandcamp.com/