Tag Archives: hip hop

Goodbye and Thank You-Prodigy

Goodbye and Thank You-Prodigy

by Daniel Olney

Anger and depression are the most interesting shows to watch they present the adversity that begs the question; how to overcome it. Entertainers are well aware of this and some of our favorite musicians (rappers being no exceptions) are actors digging through the lovely life they have for the faint impression real strife left on them. Every album, every song needs to reset and grab a fresh hold on that old place they don’t live in anymore.

The first time I heard the voice of Albert Johnson (who we all knew as Prodigy of Mobb Deep) I didn’t feel the terror of Jason in the hockey mask. It was as if all the jittery shame left me and I was alone with my burning hostility. I was already psychologically aware of how destructive the tendency was and I wanted to be peaceful(I worked on it and still do), the hostility that still bubbled was something I worked to not feel or to at least pretend I didn’t.

When his voice came through the speaker It cleared my conscience. Prodigy presented an anger that went well beyond entertainment. Death, imprisonment, and violence followed him and publicly he never blinked. He never did major name collaborations, never electronically modified his voice so he could sing.  He knew pain like very few people, his whole life haunted by Sickle Cell Anemia, calling Prodigy a voice for the disenfranchised is accurate but not enough.

His voice was a tragic lesson in being in pain pushing through it, getting mad pushing through it and each time the push gets made folding the unresolved negativity over until it is thick enough to become your character. His hooks were simple and short because he just loved to rap, he needed all the space. Off on his own with a band of characters by his side (Alchemist, Havoc, etc).

Losing him felt like losing permission to, through gritted teeth; speak of the ugly perils this life provides. Allowing tone to become as heartless as the truth is without feeling the need to apologize.

To be raw forever or even to be raw at all.

Prodigy scared all of us. He threatened to leave our stomach on our shoes. He might shoot us playing basketball without even knowing us. I never knew anyone that listened to that music with hopes to emulate the lifestyle. He never made it seem that good.  P was surviving and inflicting himself on the world with the power of authorial genius reserved for top tier artists.

If you believe in a heaven and hell you should be scared that he passed away. If you believe he was a good man he’s going to have some choice things to say to the divine power or whoever has to face him. If he is going to hell no one will be better prepared. Whatever elaborate torture that turns out to be his greatest fear is likely to fall on dead nerve endings. P once called his heart an ice box.

He was the Santa Claus of misery for relieving me over and over of the hostility he knew so much better than I did, for speaking the ugliest truth while his opposition made the shiniest medication music. He spawned a whole genre of people doing that music to varying degrees but they’ll never find his sweet spot, his off-cadence on-cadence monotone.

“In other words please stay the fuck from out my face, provoking me to turn to a monster, you push me into a corner you know what’s gonna come.” —-Prodigy on the song Raw Forever From Albert Einstein 2: P=MC2

I can’t imagine him resting peacefully but he’s definitely earned the right.

Mixtape Review-Meekend Music by Meek Mill

Mixtape Review-Meekend Music by Meek Mill

by Dan-O

The notion that your diss song is better so you kill your opponent’s careers is as real as Santa. Santa is grounded in a real factual dude from who cares how long ago who did stuff for his neighborhood but that dude is gone. The notion that Drake made a good song out of his response to Meek’s angry twitter feed and now Meek is over… is hilarious. That is probably how it worked for Busy Bee and Kool Moe Dee but let’s not pretend this hip hop is that hip hop. In this hip hop world what happened to Meek was great.

My proof is Meekend Music, the three song EP he dropped with two guests (A$AP Ferg & Young Thug). It showcases perfectly the two rules in any great Meek Mill release.

  1. The production needs to be weird. It’s not that Meek gets bored if the production is boring, normal Meek is good but just listen to the first song Lay. Honorable C-Note gives a trap beat pumped up by horns, with a marching band feeling and Meek delivers the best bars he has in years. The weirder the beat is (the more forward momentum it carries) the more snarling Meek gets and snarling is exactly who he really is. This is why it makes sense for A$AP Ferg to pop in; Ferg owns his gross tough guy chic and in order for Meek to achieve his best possible outcome he will need to do similar. The difference between the two is that Meek is great at fast flowing over beats that race against him. He loves to be pushed. Backboard puts him next to Young Thug and it makes more sense than most would think because while Meek has Philly tough as nails rap roots he’s also secretly weird and it is a key part of what makes him special.
  2. Too much Meek Mill is not good. If I had my way all his projects would be ten songs or less. On Meekend Music he doesn’t yell nearly as much as he has in the past(the beef and break up with Nicki seem to have focused him in on lyricism) but he has been guilty of yelling in place of real content before. Instead we get Left Hollywood where he reaffirms his identity and every emphasized second counts. Even when he isn’t shouting Meek has a tough time with album transitions and showcasing different dimensions on the journey of the listener. He needs to blast off and leave you wide eyed wanting more which is what Meekend Music is all about.

I hope he gets meaner and closer to his real on court personality. In basketball terms he is an Isiah Thomas, a smiling prince who is meaner than his competition. He cannot look to his left or right and cheat off his peers for answers. He is not in Drake’s lane he is in Raekwon’s lane. He has all the components to do great things and all this beefing did was stoke the drive. Now he just needs the right setting.

Stream or download Meekend Music below:

www.livemixtapes.com/mixtapes/43634/meek-mill-meekend-music.html

Album review-Drive by Shane Reis & Clarkwork

Album review-Drive by Shane Reis & Clarkwork

by Dan-O

Every time I map a limitation onto Shane Reis he bursts through it. In Maine, the hip hop scene is full of people who are what they are and will be what they are, going forward. You can pick up their new album and if you liked what they did before you’ll recognize all the pieces still there. Shane is the one changing most rapidly. 2013 Shane (from my perspective) was a glue guy; the kind of player who comes off the bench with a ton of energy and grabs every rebound with his whole soul. That effort and energy brings out the best in everyone on the court and the game gets better. On the feature heavy Reis & Shine he approaches every beat with confidence and passion.  2015 Shane was starting to snarl and expand his perspective. He said “Don’t associate me with these schmoes they ain’t me(Here).” He meant it.  On the collaboration project with Essence (now under her name: Sarah Violette) they sought out Rhode Island producer Clark Work and sent a message. The beats everyone is handing around aren’t good enough.

The Clark Work/ Shane Reis 2017 collaboration Drive marks a huge step forward in the relationship between these two forces. Clarkwork drives me crazy. He really enjoys experimenting with sounds and at times in his beats everything drops out for a second, pausing your vicious head nod, and then it resumes full force. He creates a rhythm out of jerky stops and starts and never lets you just lull into a trance. Weird pays off because a lot of Maine hip hop production bends backwards to pay tribute to the foundational sounds: Jazzy like Premo or Pete Rock, reminiscent of Black Moon boom bap but Drive is happening now.

1000 MPH is perfect Clarkwork as central sounds twist jerk, stop, repeat and create a melody for themselves. Shane flexes his mission statement of bullish determination to succeed. The same work ethic that pushed him this far can see the growth and is now pushing that much harder. On HadAboutEnuff Reis tightens and loosens his flow with captivating dexterity over a lean simple nasty beat from Clarkwork.

The title track is absolute magic. Clarkwork starts it with weird background chanting and waits twenty eight seconds to drop the beat with Shane attaching the hook to its introduction. Shane is affiliated with everyone important in the local hip hop scene but loosely. His flow fits anywhere at this point and the weirder Clarkwork gets the more locked in Shane is. He demolishes every second he speaks on Drive.  His confidence and will power compliment the delicate lyrical balancing Sarah Violette does extraordinarily well on SMH and No More. On No More especially their voices join for a chorus that will stick directly in your head.

As undeniably dope as the title track is my favorite song is IDKWhatLoveIs. I’ve heard it a thousand times already and keep pressing play. I keep hearing sonic elements happening behind the piano, as if every Clarkwork beat is Narnia or Wonderland and you can just keep traveling into it and finding more madness. Shane is not a singer but somehow he makes the crooning work like he makes everything he does work. His written perspective on the song is a balance of confessional and appreciative. He readily serves up examples of not really being good at relationships, wondering if he is worth the trouble for his partner, at the same time being hopeful he can figure it out and thankful for the life he has.

Maine as musical scene is full of frustration and negative energy. Even the most successful entities wonder about the consistency of the audience, what they support and why….but Shane seems to turn all hostility into fuel. In rooms full of hopeless artists Shane can see the next steps and works tirelessly to achieve artistic goals in his music no one predicted but him. Drive isn’t a local album at all. It can sit next to any national release. Eight examples of the different directions these two are capable of together. How fitting that the last song is called NeverEndingGreenLight.

You can hear Drive on Apple Music, Amazon, Spotify or any other streaming service or you can buy it like I did.

Way Too In-Depth Song Review-I Had It In A Drought by E-40 featuring Stresmatic produced by ProHoeZak

Way Too In-Depth Song Review-I Had It In A Drought by E-40 featuring Stresmatic produced by ProHoeZak

by Dan-O

Art is not a measurement of the works distance from perfection. It is instead an engagement with personality, one built brick by brick by vivid slices of perception. This is one of the reasons everyone has been so torn on E-40 when no debate should be needed.  The hip hop community goes nuts for success… well try on perpetual independence, liquors and other entrepreneurial ventures, as well as twenty four studio albums (Platinum and gold plaques along the way). Those narrow minded evaluators who only look at art through perfections sake…still can’t let the numbers validate 40.

Some of this is the pure oddity of his vocals. On his lengthy projects he throws it all over the place, doing voices and bowing up into a choked whine when he needs to. Some still see machismo in the unbending constancy of monotone. To someone raised on the cold NY accent the first listen of E-40 must sound like a rapping Looney Tunes character.

The bigger issue is the notion of careful perfection. 40 just dropped two more albums (The D-Boy Diary) and they are 22 songs each 44 total. It is a big mess of music with lots of guests and different producers.  For the peripheral fan always hunting for the “new classic” this is madness. It doesn’t feel carefully curated (although, how would you know?).  This is why I wanted to make a long form defense of the Vallejo giant.

What I love about The D-Boy Diary is that it is better than last year’s Sharp On All 4 Corners. The beats are super exciting but get really weird (much more piano than previously) all the while our narrator is never out of his depth. The weirder it gets the harder he plunges into it. On my favorite song, I Had It In A Drought he starts the third verse cursing out rappers for wearing make-up and suggesting they cut off their crotch and as you reel from the shock of such a proposal, he is already weaving another tale about when he first met his wife “I met this gorgeous broad…she was cute…she played the clarinet at the band revue )” and eventually winds the story up with “realest N_ in it thought I told you, Hella years later and I’m still with my girl from high school.” This isn’t a clear story song. It isn’t dizzying or strategic or full of cool name drops of people you know. It’s a soup of lascivious brags and drug talk, societal concerns, and wistful neighborhood recollections.   By the end of the song you can’t help but be struck by how utterly loving that piece for his wife is. He doesn’t call her an angel or use contrived sentiment. He brags about his specific loyalty to her just like he does his connect.  E-40 observes all 360 degrees of loyalty and it connects.

I don’t celebrate 40 because he was real friends with Pac or the pure impressive longevity. Lots of people are still around who checked out. The D-Boy Diary is a tangible improvement on what he has been building and that is undeniably the goal, continual progression. A lot of people are just mad that their favorite safe rapper stopped challenging himself and their least favorite rapper, the one with the weird voice, just kept getting better.  Now he has new dope music and the accepted savior of yester-year is gone.

Song of The Year-Ain’t It Funny by Danny Brown produced by Paul White

Song of The Year-Ain’t It Funny by Danny Brown produced by Paul White

by Dan-O

Atrocity Exhibition is a special album. I accidentally loaded it in my mp3 player twice and I have not corrected that. Whenever I listen I never skip songs. I listen to every one twice & it hasn’t been a problem.  As well respected as it is critically it has the feeling of one of those albums that will appreciate over time to the point that it becomes historically significant. This era is known for drug addled depression but very few are contrasting that content with such exciting music. Very few rappers cut to the very heart of the subject the way Danny Brown does.

Ain’t It Funny is a perfect example; full of super frightening drug talk like “Nosebleed on red carpets but it just blend in, snapping pictures feeling my chest being sunk in, live a fast life seen many die slow. Unhappy when they left, so I try to seize the moment.” Danny Brown doesn’t offer a resolution merely the celebration of what little time he has. This album is a celebration of entropy produced by  Paul White who did ten of the fifteen songs overall.  White (A British producer who has worked w/ Open Mike Eagle, Charlie XCX and more) throws strange sounds in the mix (Is that a tuba?) and pushes the tempo. The weirder and more jagged the sounds the more comfortable our narrator becomes. As memorable as the posse track with Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, and Earl Sweatshirt (Really Doe) is I can’t get enough of all the short stabbing solo songs. Dance In The Water, Lost, Goldust and Ain’t It Funny (best of them all) none of these songs make it to the three minute mark. In fact, only Really Doe has the conventional feel of a rap song; with guests and a typical five minute length.

Atrocity Exhibition & Ain’t It Funny ,in particular, don’t feel like the start of a new era but the very best of this one. An album Kid Cudi must be playing on repeat.

Mixtape Review-All or Nothing: Live It Up by Lloyd Banks

Mixtape Review-All or Nothing: Live It Up by Lloyd Banks

by Dan-O

Hillary Clinton and Lloyd Banks are more similar than you might think. In the same way the public looked at Hillary confused for staying with Bill after all the cheating, expecting her to explode in front of us, Lloyd was called out publicly over and over again by his mentor 50 Cent for being lazy and not promoting himself and said nothing publicly. Banks believes in loyalty with no regard for outsiders.

On his new mixtape All or Nothing: Live It Up the first song (Pledge of Allegiance) states repeatedly “Trust nobody that ain’t family, they’ll switch up on you fast.” It’s what separates him from Game, both have virtually the same skill level but Game is an epic self-promoter willing to do whatever it takes to trend. So while 50 Cent might see Banks as lazy, and the average fan will wonder where he goes in between mixtapes (not a promotional tour) on All or Nothing he articulates himself as someone who wants to focus on art the way Hilary  just wants to focus on policy. Neither campaign for themselves particularly well.

She is great at the work of government and he’s a great lyricist but neither wants to win the homecoming king/queen of public opinion. Familiar producer names for Banks fans are present here as Tha Jerm gets two songs, Doe Pesci gets three. Even new names sound familiar; everyone just wants to give Banks something that will bring him back to that Born Alone, Die Alone state of being. After all the waiting, the long hiatus, how much rap has changed…Banks steps back into his old sound like he never left.

When he works with guests he is never outshined. Prodigy and Vado get loose over the haunting violin of Mr. Authentic’s Seniorities beat but Banks is better. Joe Budden throws bar after bar at the warped boom bap of Doe Pesci’s Transitions beat and Banks doesn’t bother tacking on extra verses on the back to not get shown up. He’s confident in what he’s doing.

The best songs on All or Nothing: Live It Up are Banks by himself.  As the cymbals crash on Bags of Gold (produced by Quis Star) he wraps his words around money and paranoia in a unique rhyme pattern that is amazing to listen to. My favorite song is Miserable; he raps the first verse to a loved one and pledges that his word is all he has, being authentic and reliable means a lot to Banks but not in the way we understand it.

He wants to achieve his personal artistic goals and live up to the high bar of New York hip hop lyricism without being touched by the oily tentacles of industry politics. That’s why he doesn’t opt into big marketing; he just drops it and knows that whoever listens will get more than what they paid for.  As he weaves words together at a fiery pace on Holy Water(2nd favorite song) you start to realize that he is driven but its personal and long term . Makes for a great listen.

Stream or download All or Nothing: Live It Up below:

https://spinrilla.com/mixtapes/lloyd-banks-all-or-nothing-live-it-up

 

 

Weezy Appreciation Week Playlist

Weezy Appreciation Week Playlist

by Dan-O

We don’t appreciate people in the moment. I think that’s ok. The moment can be tricky, you miss things. Wayne has been in the game so long it would be criminal not to look back at all that he has accomplished.

Tha Carter 2-Best Rapper Alive

Known as his best album, it’s one of a select few that shattered the notion of southern MC’s as second class citizens. Don’t get me wrong, southern rap had been dope but because the production and slang were different it was disregarded by a lot of the elites and hard headed old-schoolers. Seeing names like The Heatmakerz & Cool & Dre on a Wayne album was a shock for people and made it so everyone who heard it knew what he was capable of. This wasn’t a homegrown talent only good in his comfort zone. The world was his comfort zone. He was going pop but would end up making pop go Weezy.

On Best Rapper Alive he roars over guitar samples and blusters on an elite level. He swears a blue streak telling other rappers to go F_ themselves in a number of ways tells us he might bet all his money on one football play(#someweezyishrightthere) but when he says “It’s no problem, I so got ’em. It’s just a victory lap baby, I’m just jogging,” with a minute left, you really feel it. He’s not winded or tired he simply takes this beat, destroys it in about five minutes and you can picture him requesting the next beat queued up.

For rap it was a revelation for Wayne it was a Wednesday.

Teenage Weezy-Lights Off

When Lil Wayne was 17 years old when he released Tha Block Is Hot on Ca$h Money. I consider Wayne the best teenage rapper of all time. While Nas gave us Illmatic as a teen he faded back for years before his next project. Weezy was cranking out ill wordplay as a teenager and lacing smash choruses.  I love the whole album front to back and the Block is Hot chorus is stamped on the mind of everyone who lived through the Ca$h Money come up. All that said,  Lights Off has always had a special place for me.

His flow is special, his energy gives me energy. I’m a peaceful man but I could punch through something when this song comes on. As threatening as the lyrics are you won’t notice that many curse words from teenage Weezy. Wiki says his mother requested he keep a lid on it and so the early Wayne conveyed his nastiness through slice and dice metaphor and cackling vocal menace. No matter what my relationship was to Wayne (and I didn’t always like what he was doing because he never seemed to do what I wanted him to do) I always loved the early stuff. Always will.

Tha Carter 3- Phone Home

Take over the world Wayne went triple platinum with Tha Carter 3 which is honestly spotty as an album (I have no need in my life for Mrs. Officer) with highs that changed the way people made music. Rap stars had to look and sound a certain way. As Wayne began Phone Home  whispering “We are not the same, I am a Martian” a collective huh came back. Think of all the rap weirdos that get their origin from oddball Weezy? I’m not going to list them all just think of all the major rap flows with Weezy in them.

Cool & Dre load the beat with trunk rattling thump and Weezy makes it his right away. Could you imagine anyone else in the world making this song?

Mixtape Weezy-No Ceilings-I’m Single

Weezy on mixtapes is just a beast; taking beats and knocking the stuffing out of them. You can listen to him trading off dope verses with Curren$y on Dedication or tearing Banned From TV limb from limb on No Ceilings and feel the freedom. A guy who was raised to rap and does that; did he run himself down with release after release? Meh. I tend to think he was  always testing boundaries while dealing with a label that only wanted mild experimentation.

I’m Single always felt like the very essence of Wayne. It carries all the grossness that Wayne enjoys. It’s slinky and sleazy and sexual but playful, an anthem for people getting it in on the down low. Wayne is the weirdest sex symbol in hip hop history, a wild looking dude on drugs since he was a kid, constantly hurting himself skating but when speaking to a female audience or about a female character he was authentic and convincing. He didn’t change his tone (a la LL Cool J) and the ladies listened and supported him.

 

I could give you so many more. Even the worst Wayne is fascinating because he’s always jumping off the ledge, no safe bets. It took me a long time to value him properly. I had to realize that the expectations I had for him were limiting and he was tossing them aside. He was reckless and it worked because he bet on his talent, his work, to make the weird stuff pay off.