Tag Archives: Locksmith

Do Not Let 2018 Go By Without Hearing These Albums

Do Not Let 2018 Go By Without Hearing These Albums

by Dan-O

Niko Is- Uniko

It’s crazy to think I’ve been growing alongside Niko Is for at least six years. When I found him I had just gotten into Brazilian Soul & Salsa music. The combination of that with bread and butter boom bap basslines all provided by his partner behind the boards Thanks Joey (Joey Creates) really drew me in. On top of that Niko Is happens to be a twisted dude. One of these guys who can rap for hours off the top of his head because within his head is chaos. On this album alone he claims to get his rhymes from a Ouija Board and to be the  Raoul Duke of the rap game. Look up Raoul Duke and you’ll understand Niko Is a lot better. He’s a trip.

Turns out he made a video that articulates how weird he is.

 

Uniko is a coming together of everything the two have learned. Joey has figured out how to take seventeen songs and link the songs so that the transition from Meet Me In The Future to Silk is a gentle glide. He still gets to utilize different moods No Sleep and 3rd World $$$ are semi-traditional rap beats while Mental Abstracto Interlude is Congas, wind instruments, and dolphin sounds. My favorite moment is U Could Be My Gal which my wife asked me to change when I played it in the car. I defended the song by ranting about how, for a hitting on you song, it was positively hypnotizing. She held my gaze and said “It’s great and it is hypnotizing that’s why I need it not playing while I drive.”

The growth for our emcee is not strictly bar to bar. He’s always been a talent; he goes with Talib Kweli to do interviews and busts impressive freestyles all over the hip hop landscape. That is his life’s work. What he’s been able to do in Uniko is make better use of the sonic pace. He lets tracks breathe in the right places, let’s his guests take the stage, knowing he will have more than enough time to monster out on songs. One of the songs he does this on is Focused Maaan where he says “I’m from the old generation where we base it on our own creation.” Very few people love hip hop more and Niko Is knows that while other rappers will get hotter quicker than him he’s got a life in this world. Look at the two biggest name features(I do not count Kweli because that relationship is established) on Uniko: Styles P and Curren$y both known for consistent lyrical content over a long period of time, not gamblers but craftsman. I’m so happy Kweli has put him in the position to share rooms with these cats. He deserves it.

Kodie Shane-Young Heartthrob

The worst thing to be in rap is the present. Ask Kirk Knight. He’s an incredibly talented NY rapper who released an album named liwii that sounded perfectly 2018 but guess what…I’ve got 2018 up to my ears. In rap you are better off sounding like the past or the future. If you can take the mental image people have of what they loved about the genre and give it to them twisted with new elements you have a place. If you go the other way and sound like the evolution of what will happen you’re in an equally good spot. Kodie Shane’s Young Heartthrob album is the future.

I’ve been calling Young Heartthrob lesbian player music for shorthand’s sake. Shane has worked hard on breaking down the formal walls around hip hop song structure. The separation between chorus and verse is fuzzy because she is very nimble when stepping between singing and rapping and imminently capable of mixing the two. Her duet with Trippie Redd makes perfect sense and really plays into the best skills both possess.

New school production with 808’s popping, slick singing and mostly clean verses despite an F word here and there. I put this album on while my five year old son and I played basketball. We both had fun and before I knew it we were most of the way through the album. I can play Young Heartthrob around anyone and they just get it. Kodie Shane presents an incredibly easy listen that never attempts to impress you with sharp edges. It has real stand out songs like Sing To Her, Flex On Me, Love & Drugz II my hunch is that while she might not get a ton of press people are studying this sound and a year or two from now someone will dominate the charts doing a whack variation of what makes Young Heartthrob great. It won’t put a dent on the bright future Shane has.

Check out the future

Locksmith-Ali

Locksmith would be my runner up lyricist of 2018. His album No Question with Apollo Brown was something I came back to over and over again when big name projects proved plastic. Locksmith guts himself every time he puts pen to paper. That’s actually not accurate. Locksmith’s pen is a grenade that blows everything wide open. He might take himself to task for a previously homophobic state of mind, he might take the genre to task for whining about Kanye but still copping his album, or he might take on celebrity culture, poverty, the whole world can get it.

He pours himself into his second album of 2018 Ali which lets him utilize his speedbag angry flow as a way to stay ahead of his even more hostile mind. I don’t want to give the impression that he is the Lewis Black of rap, he understands pace and mood. The song Tense even flirts with singing but even more importantly it allows him travel inside himself in front of us in a sober serious way. “…I thought love was acceptance. I thought cutting you off was protection. I thought being alone was being strong and never needing a hand was being more of a man, I regret that then.” In a gender study sense Locksmith is a very hard-nosed heterosexual man who is acutely aware of what that macho perspective has cost him.

Every song is dense with meaningful discussion. Everyone should hear Prison to help understand the world better. No Lies is such an amazing song about America. I feel incomplete reviewing Locksmith because to do it accurately I would have to use all my strength to dig out every corner of what he’s saying and then drop it on you. That’s the only way I could match his effort.

Click below and you will know and knowing is half the battle

 

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#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/

Song Review-Careful by Locksmith produced by Mike Blankenship, The Kid Rated R and Locksmith

Song Review-Careful by Locksmith produced by Mike Blankenship, The Kid Rated R and Locksmith

by Dan-O

New Locksmith is always something to look forward to. Not only can he brutalize a beat but Lock is a born confessor. When the recording light comes on he’s admitting things you wouldn’t. His new album Lofty Goals teases and stretches out that confessional core into a full-fledged exploration of the practical dimensions of success. Careful doesn’t even bother with a chorus it’s just admission after admission regarding the complex nature of attaining what you wanted; “I’ve been dealing with this my whole life, other people’s opinions I used to hold tight. I had to ask myself would you rather be broke and have friends or get money with those you don’t like.” Later on in the song he talks about touring with bigger name rappers and sitting in the back, hoody up, headphones in and hearing them cackle, even pretending it’s him they are laughing at. Everything he warns the listener about he’s done; see jealousy “…cause jealousy is just insecurity in disguise the stench of pride is what’s holding you n_’s back,” see pride “I admit that my mistakes got out of hand ’cause I was proud.” “I can say it with faith: never trust a person so stubborn they won’t admit when they make a mistake.” We don’t have to worry about Lock not admitting anything.

Lofty Goals also has the best production in Locks discography so a tip of the hat goes to Mr. Blankenship who is credited as co-producer on at least 8 of the 12 songs. All the beats have propulsion and push to them but still leave space so that Lock can dominate with his words. Also Marc E. Bassy gets a hat tip for some DOPE guest chorus work on Plot Line and American Beauty.

If you don’t like this kind of high stakes emotional exploration stuff that’s fine but the moments he hits you with something like “Even my mother said ‘I pray that you don’t make it big’ I thought she said it as disrespect to me but now I understand that she was just protectin’ me.” It jars you and makes you think, what is the effect of immersion into the artificial industry world on a personality not built for that kind of political interaction? If you have questions this song is a great place to start.

Locksmith-The Green Box review

Locksmith-The Green Box review

by Dan-O

Locksmith never seems to exist on the same plane as rap music. In an era where everyone needs a slowed down DJ Screw-feeling salute to drank, Lock drops The Green Box mixtape and it’s most joyous and overpowering moment is the song Livin’ Loaded about getting “loaded from life” equipped with jabs at twitter and Maze references. It’s a beautiful song partially because of BrandUn Deshay who has been in a zone this year cranking out sweeping emotional soundscapes that smash on the chorus and lay back for the MC the rest of the time.

This set of songs marks is the most brutally personal Lock has every released and he knows it, stating from the first song “They say Lock you gotta make some party sh#t, rap about money and hoes and all that gaudy sh#t. you goin’ over N’s head they’ll never get it. Well excuse me for giving my people too much credit (Everything).” If you haven’t heard Locksmith before you might have the image of a Lupe Fiasco type of character, get that out of your mind. Lock spits with the wicked irritation of road rage. He never loses control fully but he’s always pushing his performance to the brink, where it needs to be. He sums it up perfectly “I got passion, they can’t teach that (Broken).” That passion is what keeps The Green Box from being too much of a burden on the listener.

This project seems like it was completed solely for the purpose of Locksmith getting rid of his internal baggage. He talks at length about his sister, his father, past relationships gone wrong while never pulling any punches. The song Bear with Me allows him to discuss the loss of his mother (a definite theme of the tape) “Conversations with my pops. Crying as he’s packing my mother’s clothes in a box. It’s hard to watch just seeing what kind of state he’s in. It never dawned on me…like what if he wants to date again?” It’s not even the most shocking moment on Green Box. Through all the topics, souls haunting Fleming Street, the shame he had of his Persian heritage, his sister working at the some hospital his mother died, nothing hits as hard as his admission regarding his sister’s sexuality. “…and I used to bash gay people until my sister was. It’s funny how people quick to condemn and if they do, it only means there’s something F’d up with them (Finish Line).” The most admirable trait The Green Box has is its dedication to learning and personal improvement. Not many people would have the guts to admit something like that and condemn where their own hatred came from but Locksmith puts it into the context of learning and understanding how much work he still has to do on himself.

It’s an unforgiving journey with sparse instrumentals from 9th Wonder, Mike TopNoch, Eric G, Drew Byrd, Ka$h, and Khrysis. Lyrically its part confession, part diary, part public service announcement and it’s his voice pounding away at all the painful seething negativity with a real purpose; so this isn’t a pop record in any way, shape, or form but don’t overlook the fact that NO ONE else is doing this. Other sober rappers wouldn’t dream of declaring that rappers doing drugs are jealous of their sobriety…Lock doesn’t seem to mind if The Green Box makes him enemies. He might rap about how much better he is than other rappers or he might talk about his panic attacks. I grab everything I can get from Locksmith because he’s that dangerous on the mic, he could diss your favorite rapper or he could diss himself.

Stream or download The Green Box below:

http://www.djbooth.net/index/albums/review/locksmith-the-green-box#features