Tag Archives: hip hop

Hip Hop History: Never Forget Donald Goines Has an Album

Hip Hop History: Never Forget Donald Goines Has an Album

by Dan-O

Donald Goines is one of my all-time literary heroes. He applied Shakespearean tragedy to the hood characters I was getting to know through Rap music and instead of lauding them he proved the street eats its babies. He left no one winning and every sentence exciting. He was the first author after I left high school I started reading on my own.

While enlisted in the Air Force Goines developed a heroin habit that stayed with him until he was murdered in his home in 1974. The heroin changed his course leading him to a life of crime: pimping, robbing, gambling all to support his addiction. By the time he went to prison he would write all morning and do heroin all night. His books showed empathy for all characters. He was an author who cared about the internal life of the white jailer in White Man’s Justice, Black Man’s Grief and the hitman’s daughter in Daddy Cool. He was able to present crime and poverty as an ecosystem where no gunshot rings without consequence. Reading him grew me emotionally for that reason. I am not alone.

The whole reason I knew his name was because of rap music. While literature failed to acknowledge Goines every prison library was stocked with his sixteen novels. Every rapper had Goines references from 2pac Jay-Z to Jadakiss. The love affair went so deep that in 1999 a soundtrack to the book Black Gangster was put together for the express purpose of getting interest up for a movie.  The soundtrack does have names you’ve never heard of: Kasual, Killa, Ghetto Mafia. That happens on any hip hop soundtrack but it has peak performances by Ja Rule, 50 Cent, Freddie Foxxx, Mac Dre, DMX, and Jay-z.

As a forgotten piece of history it is perfectly hip hop. The only man that could get 50 Cent and Ja Rule on his album is Donald Goines. The only book with a soundtrack and not a movie is Black Gangster.  Goines badly wanted his books optioned into movies and this 1972 novel even more so. It is giant sized in scope and epic in execution. One of my favorite books brought the best out of some of my favorite MC’s.  S.Carter era Jay has the ability to shake you to your core with the simplicity of a single line on This Life Forever: “Let’s face it. Either ya dough chasin’ or basin’. “Mac Dre comes onto Give It Up like a lion fully aware that his music is so oddly versatile it will never seem dated or antiquated the way Ja Rule does on Represent. DMX feels the most connection to Goines and the wounded nature of his literary universe. He doesn’t bark violence he whispers it on The Story. He got the only Goines movie made from a book, Never Die Alone (which I saw in the theater). Like the book it is a mixed bag but a lot of effort was put into the lead performance. X gives it all and that’s what Donald would have wanted.

This Life Forever

Give It Up

The Story

 

 

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Song of The Year-Slapbox by Conway The Machine produced by Daringer

Song of The Year-Slapbox by Conway The Machine produced by Daringer

by Dan-O

You can’t just call him Conway. He’s The Machine for a reason. When the beat comes on and his mouth starts it feels 100% organic like no pen has been picked up no plans have been made(This isn’t just how he sounds he admits it, “keep in mind these raps I keep in mind, I don’t read a rhyme. I just see them lines in my head I’m lyrically inclined ‘212’.”). It doesn’t actually sound fair, the other guy featured worked really hard on his/her verse and now this guy is just a person made out of rap lyrics and can peel off 16 of them at will?!

Conway The Machine has been grinding for a while now, releasing lots of mixtapes. I’ve never reviewed any of them because I was waiting for his improvement to take the form of project specialization: track sequencing, better beats, songs with structure and his new album nails all of it. His new release is called Everybody is F.O.O.D. it is sold directly through his site ( https://whoisconwaythemachine.myshopify.com/collections/frontpage/products/everybody-is-f-o-o-d-digital-album) and without any question the best thing he’s ever released. The second best is his last project G.O.A.T.

What has made him an important force is that his relentlessness is matched by his collaborator and NY’s secret weapon, Daringer. He produces seven of eleven tracks and has the best beat on it. Slapbox is the kind of thick grungy attack The Machine should always rap over.  Saying this is the best beat is an accomplishment since other producers on this include Pete Rock, Green Lantern, and Statik Selektah. Daringer knows better than any how to take the essential boom bap stomp and twist it, stab it until the agitation level has changed.  Slapbox never lulls you into the hypnotic state a Pete Rock beat can, instead it throws you back into the story on the edge of your seat.

The story is one of my favorites since Biggie’s second album. It starts with slapboxing in the street just knuckleheading around an average day and ends with a leg shot and a police chase. The third to last line is “I’mma go hide out in that abandoned church.” How many times have you heard that in a rap song?  Slapbox is my favorite song because it is clear vivid and impactful. It shows that if The Machine takes his time his concise linguistics paired with his odd mind produce unforgettable music. Both Conway The Machine and Daringer are two very important factors in why NY rap is my favorite thing in 2018(shout out to Roc Marciano, Ka, Action Bronson, Hus The Kingpin, Crimeapple, Westside Gunn, Armand Hammer, Skyzoo, Mach Hommy, and so on and so forth).

R.I.P. Mac Miller playlist

R.I.P. Mac Miller playlist

by Dan-O

I got the text that he was gone while my son was telling me one of those toddler stories with no start or end. As he kept adding “and then” to extend I braced myself in the doorway and looked out my front door, really struck, trying to figure out why it felt so raw. I didn’t know Mac Miller at all. If you comb through the history of this blog (its ok I know you won’t it is just a blog) I have been personally reviewing Mac Miller music going back to 2011 and repping him to anyone near me since K.I.D.S. dropped in 2010. I spent 8 years invested in this crazy wacked out hooligan from Pittsburgh and his ever expanding natural abilities. At the time of his death at twenty six he had over ten years of making important music: twelve mixtapes, five studio albums. He is one of the key artists in that beautiful mixtape boom from 2009-2013 that revitalized rap. He was closer to me than I had acknowledged. I’m still dealing with it. I would like to give the people dealing with it five songs to play.

1. Senior Skip Day produced by Wally West from K.I.D.S mixtape

This song still blows the world wide open for me. It is such a lazy satisfying mood with the gorgeous horns Wally West throws in and it is filled with details: not getting out of bed before noon, morning waffles and scrambled eggs, skipping class and being high. Think about how heavy rap is now, how much distaste and doom emanates from 18 year olds. Mac gave us that foolish energy and guiding light to be ourselves and be happy with those who made us happy.

2. Come Back To Earth produced by Jon Brion, Mac under the name Larry Fisherman, and Gitty off Swimming.

Not an easy listen given the new context but Swimming is a lovely piece of work. It is sad, so alone, addicted, worn out, stomped on but very humane. Most heartbreak albums (especially when addiction is involved) have a lot of lashing out. Swimming is the product of a good heart in a bad place. When he mourns the neighbors who could be more than strangers, the texts he shouldn’t have sent it is really hard. This song resonates with all the dimensions of his loss; he wishes he could be with her again and it feels to us like Ariana, he wishes for human contact and it sounds to us like he wants someone to help him out of addictions cage. Some of this is just our minds coming to grips with what happened but some of it could be true. I wish this song didn’t have to mean what it means now but I am so very happy it is here to partially explain how things were, to start a conversation with us we have to finish on our own.

3. Donald Trump produced by Sap off his Best Day Ever mixtape

Mac Miller could make anthems that made you dance whether you wanted to or not. At the same time he really rapped. In the classical sense of moving the crowd Donald Trump achieves that. He nimbly bounces from bar to bar in a way anyone can follow but is still impressive. At the time people called this song fluff but the fluff we have now makes this song a real achievement in the art. It’s a smash single that is still dope MCing.

4. Blue Slide Park produced by I.D. Labs off Blue Slide Park

How was Mac’s 2011? He put out his debut album and in its first week sold 145k making it the first independent debut album to top the chart since Dogg Food by The Dogg Pound. He single handedly proved that the mixtape era could translate to sales. I.D. Labs who produced most of it are the same genius’s who put Wiz in place to take over. Blue Slide Park wasn’t full of Donald Trump style anthems for fun it was religiously focused pure hip hop. This album started to clue us in on how much of a pure solid citizen Mac was. He didn’t want to be the next great white hope. He was always bigging up artists who were considered more talented than him. He loved hip hop so he loved spitting over DJ Kool’s Let Me Clear My Throat sample on Party on Fifth Ave but he loved the title tracks mid tempo, he could rap at any speed or frequency and work it.

5.  Goosebumpz produced by Diplo (bonus track) off Watching Movies with The Sound Off

Mac Miller was not universally adored. The same way I cherished his juvenile exuberance and connected it to my own outer child, many detested it. Watching Movies with The Sound Off changed that. It is a grown up album with great features (Schoolboy Q , Action Bronson, Earl Sweatshirt) notable production (Flying Lotus, Pharrell, Earl Sweatshirt under the name randomblackdude, Chuck Inglish, Alchemist, Clams Casino, Tyler the Creator). Even the critics who shot him down for his irritating childishness noted this as a big step forward.  In reality, he marshalled his resources looked around the rap game at all the artists he respected doing great work and wanted to do the same. Goosebumpz is very Odd Future influenced (like telling his girl to have sex with his hologram after he passes). It’s complete reckless energy at full throttle and when he was in this zone he could really leave your head spinning. I’ll miss the crazy little bastard.

Don’t just hashtag him and push on, let’s talk about him.

 

Song of The Year-Recognize by Bun-B featuring TI & Big K.R.I.T. produced by Big K.R.I.T.

Song of The Year-Recognize by Bun-B featuring TI & Big K.R.I.T. produced by Big K.R.I.T.

by Dan-O

I’ve made the argument that the pop sphere is larger than it has ever been due to the ability to find anything. The gatekeeper role of radio and upper level music executives isn’t anywhere near as important…but I’m willing to make the opposite argument now. I think it is possible that due to trending patterns on social media we have less pop music than we ever have before. What happens is a new album drops (maybe its Eminem maybe its Nicki Minaj) it is just the largest name that week and that album gets blogged about and all caps shouted at by the whole world. So that giant internet information space turns out to be a giant garage with one car parked in it.

So while people were coming up to me saying “What do you think about this Eminem?!” I was shrugging and asking them if they had heard Bun-B’s new album Return of The Trill to blank stares. Firstly, I thought all the hip kids were pro-UGK now…shouldn’t we be supporting? Second, all the criticisms of Eminem’s Kamikaze are resolved within Return of The Trill.  Bun asserts himself without discounting the younger generation.

Production wise Bun linked with his greatest musical partner post-Pimp, Big K.R.I.T. The Mississippi mastermind produces half of the fourteen songs on Return of The Trill. In movies, TV, books whenever the South is portrayed it is either an authentic take or reeks of artificiality. You can tell when you press play if no one involved in making it actually knows or cares about the South. K.R.I.T. makes beats that are deeply southern with gospel flair (see Traphandz) and the same kind of speaker shaking movement peak UGK brought to the speaker.

These beats fit Bun like the perfect coat. On his best lyrical performance (Recognize)  he steps up to the microphone and says “My wordplay is intricate influence significant motherf**kin’ magnificence and my influence is integral charismatic and sensual f**king up your centrifugal. With trill pumping all through my ventricles gladiators and sentinals peep you through the peripherals. I see you p**sy n___as out the optical catch yo ass when its optimal…”  The song is one of the year’s best moments and while the album might get a firm friendly handshake critically it won’t get to be POP and you can justify that in lots of ways. You could say that pop music should be this or that and Bun doesn’t fit those parameters. Whatever.  Return of The Trill isn’t the best album of the year but it’s better than the junk  we spend so much time yapping about.

After you watch the video up top check out Bun breaking down the bars

Song of The Year-Choosy by 03 Greedo & Nef The Pharaoh featuring Chris O Bannon & ALLBLACK

Song of The Year-Choosy by 03 Greedo & Nef The Pharaoh featuring Chris  O Bannon & ALLBLACK

by Dan-O

The story of the 03 Greedo X Nef The Pharaoh collaboration EP Porter 2 Grape always points back to the depressing reality that Greedo is going to prison for 20 years for riding extra dirty. Greedo is a fantastic talent with an outsized personality and a lot to say. Verses hooks songs projects all come easy to him(even easier with the motivation to get it all out before he gets put away). While most artists have to find their zone he lives there and losing him is a big hit for hip hop.

That being said Porter 2 Grape is obscenely fun. Greedo is masterfully flossy-hardcore-silly and Nef is a joy to listen to. As Choosy begins the beat drops right into O Bannon who chisels the chorus into your brain. Nef growls and Greedo jumps right in and growls back. The whole EP tastes of that flavor, no one kills anyone on songs, one dope verse gets the other MC excited to push as hard and they  create collective profane sexist bay area fun. ALLBLACK is locked in and sews the song up with diligent bars. What he doesn’t have is the secret sauce in Porter 2 Grape.  ALLBLACK is always in pocket right where you should be while the two stars ,by contrast, are ping ponging all over the song in spontaneous bursts of energy. When Nef says he climaxed in his lovers eye it doesn’t sound mean, just ecstatically childish. By the time you get to Greedo’s tutor/ruler metaphor you know what this is about. Life is too short for these guys not to clown and enjoy the length of every song. Tomorrow it can be all gone so today we put this song on and sing along loud.

Song of The Year-Amen by Bobby Feeno

Song of The Year-Amen by Bobby Feeno

by Dan-O

I always liked Arian Foster. Even though athletes rapping doesn’t always work out well I was pretty sure Flamingo and Koval (his debut album) would. Yes he did pick a Nintendo 64 lead character name (not for real but it does sound like it) to rap under but we’ve all heard worse. What I like about the album is how it cruises between designated hip hop subgenres. The production is soulful, lush, and instrumental the lyrics are intelligent but this isn’t conscious rap or the opposite of it.

Bobby Feeno didn’t put out the album of the year or set out to. He introduced himself and in the process of doing so took steps other mc’s would never take. Amen is the most unshakeable takeaway from Flamingo and Koval (named after the intersection 2pac was shot). The audio clip that begins it is impossible to shake from your mind (see: “…your thoughts ain’t my thoughts!!”)  and his flow is so cool, casual and subtle in sarcasm that when Billboard asked him if he was trolling religion with this song he had to push back. Amen isn’t trolling but a nuanced clowning. The tone of his voice is like mine when my friend wears a really ugly shirt, I’m going give guff but I’m going to take my time with it… have some real fun.  The lyrics are about as pointed as they can be especially as the song rolls on and over the church-like organ he says “all you gotta do is believe him, I know you can’t hear or see him but it’s just more pleasing when you got that faith. Hook line & sink brother drop that bait, heaven is high for you hop that gate and science is lying to you it’s not that great. So I asked the preacher why these kids are starving in our land and the preacher said it’s something we ain’t meant to understand.” He has the nerve to follow that last word with a chuckle so slight that it makes Amen bitterly cutting. That is right before a sarcastic and amen that sounds like a sigh.

The song is so vitally disrespectful it comes from the very core of what hip hop achieves at its most powerful. Arian Foster is in his 30’s like I am so he understands the genre in similar ways. That it is very fun to put on some Playboy Carti but the stuff that forms us tends to have real things to say and a real spirit behind it. So while you may hear Flamingo and Koval as an ex-football player trying his J.Cole on, I hear a cool guy with a frenzied mind trying to map out all the angles 2pac explored or would have if he had the additional time. Tell a friend about Bobby Feeno and then start listening to Foster’s fantastic podcast.

The Vulnerable Layer

The Vulnerable Layer

by Dan-O

A lot of old school hip hop heads do a fair (or unfair) amount of complaining about pink hair tight pants and tattoos. These new kids on drugs trap beats and repeating words over and over again…are a much smaller percentage of hip hop than you might think.

I noticed this last year. Youngboy Never Broke Again dropped an incredible project called A.I. Youngboy with all the bounce and flavor of a great New Orleans Hip Hop album and has been following it ever since with searingly personal content. The mixtape that followed was called Ain’t Too Long and wasn’t nearly as fun but instead presented a Boosie level of personal introspection and meditation on loss. He has continued that on his long and very good Until Death Call My Name. At the same time from the well watched streets of Chicago Lil Durk dropped Love Songs For The Streets and it wasn’t weird at all.  Durk had begun the year before that drawing the camera lens closer and closer to his actual life friends and troubles, creating a relationship with his fans unlike any other young Chicago MC. That is really what stood out about this in 2017. These two are young! Durk is 25 Youngboy is 18 and they are opening up on tracks in ways we are not used to seeing from mainstream hardcore rap hungry young mixtape people.

This year has compounded the trend. Two very good albums that traffic in staggeringly personal content from rappers born in the mid to early 90’s have dropped. The most recent is from the production mind of The Internet, one of the best groups in hip hop. After the shockingly great 2017 Syd had I was prepared for how good Patrick Paige II Letters of Irrelevance could be or at least I thought I was.  The more I relisten to it the more I shake my head at the intelligent design of it. The first song is called The Best Policy where Paige declares his problems with adulthood, his abiding desire to speak the unfettered truth and it sets the stage for what he is able to accomplish. The sonic landscapes shift with a sure hand and dazzling accuracy as we go from a perfect D’Angelo recreation (Voodoo) to a slapping great time with G Perico and Sareal (on Get It With My N’s).  All the while if you listen he parses real truth of his topics. The end of the album makes it unignorably resonant. His Ode to Inebriation says “I don’t need a glass man F#$* a flask drink it in just what I bought it in just like my Dad”  in a tone so heartfelt and angry that it is awkward and rewarding. You watch him deal with his demons and did I mention that the song after that (The Last Letter) is to his dead Mother?

Letters of Irrelevance just came out 05/18 it will no doubt grow on me over the months to follow. The project that has come into my top 5 albums of the year through the sheer force of its personality (released in April) is Saba-Care For Me.  Saba deserves all the credit in the world for devastating lyrical work from tales of his uncle on Life to savvy intellectual critique of the music industry on Grey and possibly the best lyrical song of the year in track 9 Prom/King. In seven minutes and thirty one seconds he weaves an albums worth of content together and it’s not just pain. His pen paints friendship hormones nervousness unexpected calamity and everything in between. Its life in one song and while Prom/King stands out the other songs carry a similar weight. The other people on Care For Me that deserves a ton of credit are the musicians, great bass play, guitar work and subtle keyboard work that never overload the canvas allowing Saba to flourish and deliver on the promise of his last release Bucket List Project.

If someone tells you these new kids are trash ask them if they have heard Noname, Smino, Saba, Patrick Paige II, Isiah Rashad,  Kamaiyah, and the list grows everyday. This is not a generation with a lack of artistic perspective or want to experiment it is an industry that gives you what they know how to make over and over for fear deviation will cost MONEY. So if you want depth pay for it. You’ll see more of it become visible and that necessary vulnerability will nourish your playlist.

Saba-Prom/King

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6ZsSWlcEDo

Patrick Paige II-The Last Letter

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFskaQNhcbE