Hivemind and the open expanse of R&B in 2018
I’m old and from Maine. In my high school I got made fun of for loving R&B music. My discman went everywhere with me so when people discovered I was listening to Smokey and The Miracles they would clown me. It’s interesting to think that the kids in dirty Red Sox hats and highwater jeans were probably listening to rock bands influenced by Motown while mocking me. When people asked if I liked Rap best (because of how I dressed) I would always rebuke with something to the effect of “I love The Blues and rap is just an extension of it.” Fast forwarding to today it looks like R & B won.
Just look at the grammy nominations for R & B v. Rock. Last two years rock nominees are still Weezer, Queens of The Stone Age, Metallica, Panic! At the Disco old names and the new ones (looking at you War On Drugs) are mad boring. R&B album nominees from that period definitely still include seasoned veterans like Mya, Mint Condition, and Bruno Mars but so many new names over the last three years especially: Daniel Caesar, BJ The Chicago Kid, Jazmine Sullivan, Andra Day, Leon Bridges. I understand we live in a society where you’ll look at that list and say “What do you mean BJ is new?! He had a hot mixtape back in 2009!” What was he doing when Queens of The Stone Age made their first appearance in 1997? Or Metallica first made noise? War On Drugs, that hot new band I was talking about, have been releasing albums together since 2008(they are the youngest band of that list I gave). In rock years that makes them babies. This is only part of the problem for a genre that has never felt more static.
The Internet (the group) is a wonderful example of the expanded space within the genre. Last year The Internet’s lead singer SYD released two solo projects: her full LP Fin and an EP Always Never Home. SYD herself said she was just using these projects to flush out fun ideas. Some of the tracks on Fin are self produced others by fellow bandmate Steve Lacy but someone knew it was going to be major because HazeBanga and Hit-Boy don’t gift everyone a beat. Solo Syd is polished urban contemporary, radio ready, sleek lyrical. When she went back to working with The Internet they created Hivemind which is chunkier, with organic drum and bass, timeless melodies that could have been from any era. The drumming is so exciting on Hivemind I immediately looked up who played it…well its Syd again. The same whispering ghost who haunted tense songs like Bad Dreams/No Looking Back in 2017 decided to smash the drums and form a song around it on Bravo. Some songs on the new album sound like a continuation of the super group Lucy Pearl (La Di Da) others like Aaliyah heading up The Roots (Wanna Be) and as free as it is it holds together. Syd writes songs with heart and vivid detail just outside of the range of people with simpler vision. She can make you live in the moment with her and feel it.
Name a new Rock band who can do that? If I’m wrong that R &B gives you more options while rock locks you into an old template what is the reason for our reality? My bias acknowledged and aside why are people with no understanding or affection for the genre forced to bask in the work of people like SZA and The Internet? Rock needs to find some space to grow and I don’t know where that is.
Bad Dream/No Looking Back from Always Never Home:
Bravo from Hivemind
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Always Never Home, best albums of 2018, blues, Fin, Hazebanga, Hit Boy, Hivemind, R & B, rock music, Steve Lacy, Syd, The Internet
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:
Posted in Uncategorized
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
Mixtape Review-The Good Vibe Tribe by Audio Push
The Good Vibe Tribe mixtape is as close as I am going to get to a return trip into LabCabinCalifornia. Pharcyde were so special because they managed everything, they were passionately fun, aggressively lyrical, excellently produced and always experimenting. Audio Push don’t just give off that feeling they actively create it this time. For fourteen tracks this mixtape feels like two projects because it has two projects worth of written verse, songs that bleed over into 7 or 8 minutes long without you ever regretting it.
If I was to pick at it I would want much less of the end-of-song-spoken-word. Most of the time they don’t come across as Kendrick style poetry but real raps delivered acapella. I’m a curmudgeony song’s over next song type and would rather cut out any stray stuff. That being said Oktane and Pricetag are beasts and give more than enough for me to enjoy with memorable lines that don’t even hit you until the third or fourth listen. I can skip to the next song no issue.
Hit-Boy is still a guiding force, producing or co-producing five of the fourteen tracks present on The Good Vibe Tribe but the high profile beats aren’t really the draw. When Cardo and Hit-Boy team up for Sweep it’s a pretty basic second single strip club song (the interlude at the end is a smoked out conversation about the D.W. Griffith film Birth of A Nation and might be more interesting than the song which definitely contradicts my complaint about end of song non-song material so that’s how reliable I am). Normally (also co-produced by Hit-Boy) has a hypnotizing pace even though it covers largely the same material. All throughout the production is clean and crisp so the worst you’ll get are songs with well-constructed raps over professional beats (that will never have you lamenting mixing issues) that you don’t connect with.
Audio Push doesn’t traffic in digestible deep penetration hits. My favorite song is track five: Mary Jane & Sixty One Impala. The sweetness of the love ballad to dank is so well done and the transition between the two songs is great (Sixty One Impala starts with a blast of funk and the words “I need the James Brown light right quick, Roger Troutman to write my sh#t, a hit wick to ignite my spliff, and some college girls to come supply my fix…”) but most of all its one of those songs I heard and felt like I’d always known. Under the good vibe they supply is a righteous indignation, a secret they know that they feel none of us do…and it’s how good they are. This is a mixtape that vibes out but it ends with Peace Pipe, a vicious attack on rappers that suck. It’s a problem they spit out all throughout The Good Vibe Tribe and it traces back to the love of the craft. The welcoming Native Tongues vibe of Bonfire (thank you Coryayo) not just in production but saluting peace and happiness directly in verse still takes time to obstinately state “don’t play this on the radio” affirming that being this good validates itself. Don’t go up to Audio Push and tell them they should be as popular as ___ they don’t need that.
While the familiarity of Mary Jane & Sixty One Impala is my favorite it’s not the peak of the party. Audio Push repurpose Westside Connections legendary track Bow Down and throw everyone on it with them. What comes out is B.O.W. Down where Oktane sounds his happiest and Fat Trel gives one of his very best performances alongside Turtle Nojoke, Seriious, T Clacc & B-Nice. It’s a monster moment you can’t replay enough.
If Audio Push demand anything it’s that you always watch for the difference between people who love the art and people who don’t. Ice-T called himself just a hustler but he was lying he loves the art from coast to coast and beyond and Audio Push do as well. They don’t need to say it, the right ear can just tell.
stream or download The Good Vibe Tribe below:
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged 2015 mixtapes, Audio Push, B-Nice, Coryayo, datpiff, Fat Trel, Hip Hop is art, Hit Boy, mixtape review, Native Tongues, Oktane, Pharcyde, Pricetag, Seriious, T Clacc, The Good Vibe Tribe, Turtle Nojoke, west coast hip hop
How audiomack links taught me to relax and embrace Dom Kennedy p.2
The Original Dom Kennedy
A year older and more seasoned The Original Dom Kennedy is a tougher piece of art than From The Westside with Love. The production steps up to the next level as Hit Boy takes shape as a fully formed speaker blowing scientist. I could listen to Chuck Inglish’s Goodbye beat on a loop for days without getting over it. It’s just a banger that pulls you in and wont let you leave and so utterly satisfying that you might miss Dom rhyming Tofu at Nobu with Whole Foods. This mixtape is probably known for Dom going at Funkmaster Flex on The Homies “I heard Funk Flex say that Pac ain’t sh#t, and I hope when you see him that he slap your mouth.” Looking back the line doesn’t seem bold or audacious but necessary. It’s surprising that more artists didn’t call Flex on that ridiculousness. I digress! It’s a tight 12 track showcase of Dom fitting his style into the West Coast genre.
He’s always loved and repped the greats but his content is much different from theirs. He wants to get girls, eat well, and completely unapologetically not much else. The songs skew from playa on From The Westside with Love to Pimp on The Original Dom Kennedy. Turn Me Out is a little more in your face about his ability with the ladies but the sneer doesn’t come at the cost of the women. Over the monstrously trance-inducing THC produced Bet You Want Me (Now) you see a great example of his easy understanding with females “Spoiled LA girls I give my life to you. I just took this time out to write to you. It be so good I don’t want to say goodnight to you. We so close but I don’t want to say wife to you…” He always speaks of his sexual partners with warmth but from a healthy distance. Later on in the song he charts out the milestones of a new relationship and projects when it will end pausing for a moment and then continuing with his love of the game. His frustration really doesn’t crack through(cause it doesn’t seem to be there) and by the end you can make the case that he really doesn’t have a complex relationship to women at all. He loves them the way he does movies; he reexamines the classics with an eye on what’s new.
This project is packed with brutal bass and pimpish funk (see Designer Sh*t) but the bonus track When You See Love is really what makes Dom’s music survive so cleanly. It’s a song that could have been on The Wood soundtrack (do you not know what that is? Great movie!) showcasing a gentle loving chorus that gives way to a muttering friendly Dom seducing the woman of the song with a great Tom Hanks reference. He ends his last verse by saying grace and it’s not even weird even though it’s totally weird.
stream or download The Original Dom Kennedy below:
How audiomack links taught me to relax and embrace Dom Kennedy p.1
The first thing I ever knew about LA MC Dom Kennedy was EVERYONE loves this guy. He features on SchoolBoy Q’s album, Freddie Gibbs mixtape, Smoke Dza takes time to rap about conversations with Dom that changed his life. Curren$y does the same on just about every project. Dom scores a Kendrick Lamar feature for the song We Ball off his Yellow Album mixtape that drops 4 months before Good Kid, Maad City. I just assumed this was one of those bad rappers who is also an awesome person and everyone loves…so they give him a verse. Why did I think of him as bad? His flow is outrageously stunted and off beat like an old parent remembering something in chunks and his verses are about things that don’t make any coherent picture (he loves rhyming the same word off itself over and over)…or didn’t until recently. Sometimes it takes time for me to understand the appeal of an artist and here are the projects that helped me with that.
From The Westside with Love
As much as Dom clearly looks up to the pimpish precision of DJ Quik he’s different. From The Westside with Love is one of the most affectionate mixtapes in the last five or ten years. All the production credits you’ll find for Dom Kennedy projects are ahead of their time. On this one the recognizable names, Hit Boy and BrandUn DeShay, are ones you wouldn’t have been that interested in circa 2010. This is part of the reason why all his mixtapes seem so crisp years later.
A Leimert Park Song provides exact explanation for the oddness of Dom. “The game need me cause this affectionate. Not just a bunch of N’s wanting Tech’s and shi#t. Not just a bunch of N’s wanting sex and sh#t. Dissing the same N’s that they texting with.” While he shouts out Ice Cube, 2pac and all the gods of West Coast he brings a warm and casual vibe to his music. On the opening track In Memory Of he compares this music to Tribe Called Quest which is an interesting comparison. Q-Tip was one of the first cool rappers to appeal directly to women in verses without sounding corny. Q-Tip would love the pulsating conversational Home Alone where he’s able to specify breakfast while sounding evocative “I like toast in the morning, you need to know that in case you close in the morning.”
West Coast hip hop can seem like the movie 300 from far away. If you go straight from Ice T to Jay Rock (no shots I own everything by both those dudes); which is what makes From The Westside with Love so cool its filled with trunk rattling funk and love. Loving recollections of hearing Run-DMC for the first time, loving shout outs to Leimert Park where he’s from and all the women who have sex with him. Which I appreciate; too often rappers run down the people who have sex with them. Dom sends out love like he doesn’t have time to hate and its infectious.
Stream or Download From The Westside with Love below:
Stay tuned next week keyboard Jedi as part 2 of my Dom Kennedy breakdown continues!!!!!!
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged audiomack, Brandun Deshay, DJ Quik, Dom Kennedy, From The Westside with Love, Hit Boy, Jay Rock, LA hip hop, Leimert Park, Pimp Rap, Q-Tip, Run-DMC, Smoke Dza, Tribe Called Quest, west coast hip hop