Milo seems like a good dude. He lives in Maine with me and when Sorry To Bother You came here he bought out a showing so people could feel Boots Riley for the first time(get that feeling underground has had for years). The news made me feel bad that I don’t listen to Milo enough. He is a great rapper with a lot of interesting & diverse subject matter covered and he produces interesting beats but boy howdy it’s a lot to take in. Listening to Milo is like floating in space in your space suit with the air to breath but naked in the expanse looking for anything to hold onto. I always listen to new Milo albums once and overthink everything for the rest of the week.
This is what makes Nostrum Grocers such a great album. Elucid is a treasure. As a partner in rhyme to one of my favorite rappers (Billy Woods) in the group Armand Hammer they have blazed a fiery path through underground NY hip hop. Elucid is a special dude because he gets so much done with so little visible seam seen. As smart, introspective and personal as his verses get everything he does is grounded in the kind of effort Juggernaut put forth plowing through the Marvel universe. Just like Cain Marko he makes the impossible look easy.
Neither party has to move closer to one another to achieve balance, which just happens naturally. They both love tense twisted soulful production that can articulate the harshness of reality while keeping alive the hope of being human. Listen to how Milkdrunk switches from heavy drums in the first thirty seconds to strings. It is an important lesson: all things that seem disjointed in the world of Nostrum Grocers will come together and make sense eventually. All the jokes you didn’t hear you will, “Stuck my dick in the outlet, I gotta shine!—Elucid on Milkdrunk”
Where’ing Those Flowers is such a brilliantly strange usage of sampling and a killer verse from Milo. My favorite song is ’98 Geweher. Milo is a gentle hush full of confident funny cool bars and Elucid says “A crime tree grows in the basement, spit shine my spaceship,” dude blacks out on the track, did I mention the hook feels like a classic but you know you’ve never heard it before.
I wrestle with what disclaimers I should give listeners about Nostrum Grocers. I fear someone will play these ten tracks and come back to me with “it’s aight…” because they have been conditioned to hear the narrative on the album first time as it trends. Albums are built that way nowadays in the pop sphere. Astroworld is perfectly packaged and the fans get it immediately, they know why it is important. Underground rap is still connected to those times when my friend and I rushed to buy The W first week and bumped it for the next 6-8 months till we knew it left/right/center. Nostrum Grocers tastes the best on its 6th 7th 8th listen when it’s become a part of the fabric of your day. If you don’t listen to music that way, that’s cool but a lot of us still do. For us this is it.
Stream or buy Nostrum Grocers below:
#Bandcampgold-Veib by Shane Reis & God Damn Chan
From the stage Shane Reis has the authority of the most important guy in the properly humming kitchen of a restaurant. His music has always carried that ceaseless Joe Frazier energy: moving forward, finding optimal positioning, and getting off his best shots no matter what touches him or how hard. So the full length collaboration between Shane and God Damn Chan was destined to be interesting not just for the art but the force of will on display.
Chan has moved away from Maine (where Shane, the lobsters, and I reside) to L.A. but I still refer to him as the Swizz Beatz of Maine. He clicks together elements that fit, turns the volume as high as it can go (while remaining clean as a whistle) and when it’s done it’s done. Chan knows what he does and who he is. Both of these gentleman know exactly what they do well and manage to steaily put that in the foreground while they improve on the rest in the background experimenting and evolving, challenging what you came for by adding to it with showing any risk.
The bandcamp description says that while on tour they were soaking in Damn & 4:44 aiming for their own shot at cohesive timelessness. This is why Veib works on three different levels. If you just want to press play bump your head and not think go to track four (Tell Somebody!) and you’ll recognize the stinging gnarled Gangstarr boom bap and screwface headnod as Shane matter of factly beats the track like a speedbag. If you are invested in the journey and the mood the music conveys you are in for a treat. On JonSnow (IWantIt) an off kilter beat (that sounds like it has a harp sample) allows Shane to charm away in as refreshingly non-creepy a fashion as you can find in rap. He says “She’s a downer and an upper for real. I mean I’m in it if she lets me. She’s next level sexy.” Even amidst his most triumphantly authoritative declarations his sexy song has a clear “boy I hope she calls back!” excitement to it that is refreshingly human. He’s a hard nosed dude who has made the choice not to be a dick about it.
The third level of analysis on Veib is where I get in the weeds. My favorite thing about relistening to it is not how remarkably clean, cohesive, and different it sounds from any rap album in the state(or region). My favorite thing about relistening is catching the moments when Shane pretends to give his audience life lessons about maintaining your soul and who you are when in fact he is repeating this mantra to himself. I’m not talking about providing hot lines (if you want them you can have them see IKnowUKnow for “I never met a king, I never met a god but if I did it was living under the devil’s law.”) First mantra example is from TheVeibOfIt “Relax your mind and be who you want to be. Man, who cares what they think? If your you and that’s cool then that’s who they want to be…damn what a concept?” It’s framed as a volley sent at the countless who are losing themselves in fabricated expectations losing their own truth and by itself it could be seen that way. Add to it Witches Brew first verse “Try to keep up with the times but can’t find the time tho, too much social media $*&^ and I do it like you do but you don’t read to your kids ma dude.” Having kids is being terrified to disappoint them; it is learning how to catch as many balls as you can from mid air and only let the ones drop you can afford to. Keeping your artistic character together as you get bigger and bigger is similar, compromises must be made. If you worried I am stretching to make a point listen to We Don’t Care when he says “I’m not sold although they bought it, bought it doesn’t mean a lot. Earning often dreams a lie. And if the star players a bum, what kinda team they got? If you tell me you are then it probably means you’re not. Underdog forever, I pawed my way through steeper plots.” It is all right there, I will not lose even though everyone does. If you dig deep enough Veib isn’t chill at all. It’s the Friday rush during the holidays and the restaurant is earning like it never has before. We are the new kid doing the dishes and after peaking out at the jammed crowd and busy hosts/hostesses we turn to that dude who runs the kitchen who we count on to set the pace. We ask “What the hell are we going to do we aren’t staffed for THIS!”
He turns and says what Shane does on OrangeCrushGroove “Life’s a bitch but I’ve chose not to mistreat her.”
stream or download Veib below:
P.S. Track 11 Say Nothing has my favorite feature Kenya Hall who is an absolute treasure. Her album Learning For Miles v. 1 from 2010 is one of the must hear albums in the history of the Maine music scene. I could say more about her and the absolutely gripping ideas about racism Shane discusses on the song but I may have written too much already. Its great she is great. More Kenya Hall.
Album review-Drive by Shane Reis & Clarkwork
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.