Tag Archives: Niko Is

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-Songs.4.People.Who.Break.Bread by Niko Is produced by Thanks Joey

#Bandcampgold-Songs.4. People. Who.Break.Bread by Niko Is produced by Thanks Joey

By Dan-O

More than anything else Songs.4.People.Who.Break.Bread is a celebration of leveling up. I have been writing about Niko Is every year since his marvelously perfect 2012 Chill Cosby mixtape. Since that time he has been feverishly releasing material, touring, and playing his position. He’s now Talib Kweli’s right hand man, the kind of guy who can live in a tour bus for months and unfold himself as a lyrical dynamo from a weeded up sleepy state.

Songs.4.People.Who.Break.Bread isn’t my favorite Niko project for the simple fact that I remember release after release that was all him with one or two guests(Brutus is the Reasonable Doubt for Niko)  and his ability to breath fire and sew together disparate imagery was all I ever wanted. This project definitely has that. The last song is my favorite: God & the Devil in the land of the Sun is a scare your parent’s banger where Niko fires sneaky sit & think about it lyrics while exactly in the pocket of the melody, the groove. Niko has been doing this so long and so religiously that he fits no matter what beat starts.

Another rewarding aspect of following the development of Niko’s movement is I am as much a fan of his chosen producer Thanks Joey (Joey Creates). Early production was proudly boom bap under Latin Soul samples from the greats (Tim Maia comes to mind from Chill Cosby).  Joey has grown with Niko and now while he still can give you beats under that formula he has grown into all other levels. Say U Don’t has voices chanting in the background sampled into a stew of tortured sound while the bass bubbles and thumps. Wildest Dreams sounds like Jungle ambiance over drums that would bring a tear to Timbo’s eyes. These 8 songs are the closest Joey has been to becoming the Latin hip hop stripped down banger scientist version of Swizz Beatz. On 5am @ Walmart he sets a classic hip hop tone that allows for great verses from not just Niko but Mygrane & Murdoc. That song is meant to be a cypher of lyricists so the beat needs to lead from the back and Joey can do it. Joey can do anything.

Niko has worked with other producers who have done great work but any Niko fan ends up wondering, why not just all Joey? Joey is so good. So that is what we get(and have gotten for a while). U Could Be My Gal is Joey’s prettiest work with finger snaps and gentle cooing looped as the beat knocks. The first Bandcamp tag is “bossa nova” the second is “hip hop” and it makes sense. At this point Joey could use nothing but Astrud Gilberto samples and give you the hardest hitting hip hop album of the year. Songs.4.People.Who.Break.Bread is a better showcase of Joey’s growth and expertise in his field than Niko. Niko understands at this point.  He’s proved his bars all over tracks with legendary mc’s (Styles P, Kweli, Action Bronson) and reliably put out albums where the concept is simply that Niko Is dope, albums that work better than fancier concept albums from major artists.

Songs.4.People.Who.Break.Bread is an affirmation that as a team they are officially staples and it is known outside of Florida, outside of the weird subset who feverishly repped him. When Chino XL comes onto Spanglish in Outerspace and rips into Woody Allen and Usher in a masterful scene stealing verse you can see the long haired stage crusher smiling, not at all feeling uneasy that he just killed on a track but excited that he gets to be on it with Chino (F*CKING) XL. He lives a life where Kool A.D. will give him a verse now and he got there through his loving monogamous relationship with the beat. You can call him an energy guy but ever since he’s been around Kweli….Kweli has sounded totally re-energized (see Carmen off Niko’s Brutus LP). That is Niko and it is Joey and it’s appreciated.

Stream or purchase below:

https://nikois.bandcamp.com/album/songs-4-people-who-break-bread

#SpotifyTidalAppleMusicgold-Songs.4.People.Who.Break.Promises by Niko Is

#SpotifyTidalAppleMusicgold-Songs.4.People.Who.Break.Promises by Niko Is

by Dan-O

As dominant as the genre is, it suffers. Post- Kid Cudi it shifted from being a musical form crafted by hustlers and drug dealers to drug addicts going through the crash/rebirth cycle. It reignited things for a while(giving a different perspective) but these aren’t cocaine addicts shouting and twitching this is an era of depressants, codeine in your cup. The music is slow and sleepy and melodic; full of tearful confession thinly masked by anger. It gets old.

On the positive side that dominance is in no small part due to the embrace of weirdness. The thriving oddity of “internet rappers” with funny hair, tight pants and all sorts of nonsensical cadences.   The previous generation was all straight faces and similar brags, a tightly wound culture ready to bust loose.

Niko Is comes armed against the former and abundantly engaged in the latter. He’s been weird since the beginning, certainly on drugs but more inclined towards mushrooms and hallucinations than the slow personal misery of purple (just my reading of the situation through lyrics, I do not know this dude).

On that journey from Brazil to Florida he also seems to have digested loads of Gangstarr, Das Efx, Redman, etc. Even as he dropped a surprise album that begs “You want weird, I’ll give you weird?!” he sets aside a lot of time to whip out his samurai sword flow and clear the area of all living things (example: The Land of Leche &Miel).

Songs.4.People.Who.Break.Promises seems on a mission to shatter the storyline of the typical rap song. My favorite song is Houdini where the chorus comes earlier than you think and bookends with Niko hitting the melody perfectly as it melts into a soul sample.

Niko has a perfect collaborator in Thanks Joey (Joey Creates) who shares a deep love for Brazilian Soul and soul in general while never ever sacrificing the fist-thumping BOOM that impressive basslines and drums give a hip hop song. Just listen to Mundo; where Niko name checks Jeet Kune Do, raps a bit in Spanish, and it really doesn’t matter if you are understanding everything. The bassline is amazing and Niko throws his voice everywhere, delivering every line like it is the all-important last one. It’s because of Joey that this music feels warm and tropical and as weird as Niko makes things it is always stabilized by the lush landscapes he stands in front of. You feel the sun on your face and can almost see the palm trees, all before you realize he just said “The Batman of rap, I need a four foot Asian to tap dance on my back, cause I’m stressed out(Morena).”

Niko has always had a wandering mind; surreal, humorous, sick, and violent. Lyrically I always thought of him as everything you think about… unedited. Niko Is leaning more towards personal and poignant this time around. Leave Another Day is a real front to back story infused with the frustrations of losing a romantic relationship. He laments them being good on paper but not in the present and it’s no joke. The song is actually pretty spooky.

Songs.4.People.Who.Broke.Promises is a marvelous showcase of the experimentation you can indulge in when you prize your fluidity. After all, this is a dude who shined bright right alongside Action Bronson before he was a cooking show star. Even though Niko & the gang stylistically aim to surprise you, they always manage to do it.

Songs.4.People.Who.Break.Promises

apple link:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/songs.4.people.who.break.promises/id1136381680

Spotify link:

Tidal store link:

http://tidal.com/us/store/album/63227145

Free Album Review-Fuck The Money by Talib Kweli

Free Album Review-Fuck The Money by Talib Kweli

by Dan-O

At his worst Talib Kweli is still a tremendous talent. He’s just an unlistenable unlikable one. In the very lowest stages of his career you would find him stiff and professorial; determined to teach you how OPEC really works. At his best he is how he is now on his new free release Fuck The Money.

I’m not here to make the case that he’s changed. The case is pretty straight forward; Talib has such a keen eye for talent that he needs that chemistry with people to push him. The right chemistry. Javotti Media has a bunch of artists he’s very happy to work with. If you listen to him on the Combat Jack Podcast describe the strengths of each artist, he does so with passion and vigor the kind not naturally apparent during the Blacksmith start up. Let me use Niko Is as an example. During that interview he called Niko one of the best freestylers he had ever seen and that is very much Niko’s style. He’s loose and relaxed, winding words into a thick soup of sometimes silly yet thoughtful imagery. Not only does Niko show up alongside Kweli and Ab-Soul over an Alchemist beat on The Venetian, anyone who heard Brutus knows that this sounds like a Niko song. One of the best beats on Fuck The Money comes from Thanks Joey, Niko’s primary production partner in crime. The joy and fluidity of Niko’s style(and team) warms and inspires Kweli to go harder and have fun doing it.

I’m not trying to take credit from Kweli here. It’s an amazing listen. Miguel shows up to demolish the hook on Echoes yet our narrator doesn’t see the status difference between Miguel or Kendra Ross who does the hook on Baby Girl. Ab-Soul’s verse is dope on The Venetian (I still think Niko runs that song) but so is Casper Nyovest on Fuck The Money. Part of what makes Kweli special is that when he hears a new artist bubbling over with talent he doesn’t get resentful or jealous, he gets excited. My favorite song is probably He Said She Said where he gives you the trials and tribulations of a new artists journey the rise (“he adored by all them bloggers, they describe him down to his boxers”) and fall (“They celebrate in his self-destruction it makes for excellent copy”) without ever getting a chance to let the music speak. The song shows empathy for the new artists that he’s dealing with. It doesn’t hurt that Farhot crafted a Stakes is High sounding banger of a beat that will destroy your car speakers while making you feel great.

Kweli sounds so damn comfortable. Whether he’s namechecking Niko while he screams crazy talk from the couch (Gratitude) or reuniting with Styles P on Fall Back. The production team does not want any part of laid back neo soul. This music is exciting. The title track is also produced by Farhot and its nasty helping push Kweli into double time splendor. Amadeus produces three tracks including the trap sounding Nice Things which comes off well.

So yes Fuck The Money is partially great because less concept and more joy is better than the other possibilities but…it does have a concept. It’s his evidence for each hip hop head that when you are putting together your own personal hall of fame in your mind, you can’t judge that greatness by awards or sales. If you think Jay is great because of his success you’re missing all useful criteria for judging skill. Kweli really is one of the greats and I’m glad he’s letting people know in a way that best suits him. Hell I knew it that night he played a pool hall round my way and killed it by himself in a leather jacket. He went longer than any hip hop act I had seen at that point and I left thinking he could have gone all night. Some people just have it in their bones and they love the infinity of word choice. Kweli is like that.

Add Fuck The Money to your cart using the link below and go through he check out process. You won’t have to add credit card info since its a free purchase. They will email you the file.
http://kweliclub.com/products/talib-kweli-fuck-the-money-digital

Song of The Year-Private Room by Niko Is produced by Thanks Joey or My Pitch for you to buy the Brutus LP

Song of The Year-Private Room by Niko Is produced by Thanks Joey or My Pitch for you to buy the Brutus LP

by Dan-O

In an ideal world I would go four thousand words deep on the Brutus LP. This being a free music based site I don’t think that would be right but…BUY Brutus. Niko has been cranking out music chock full of jarring images, insane metaphors and left field name checks for years and most of it with his companion Thanks Joey. The two have a collaborative chemistry based around the warmth of soul (Brazilian soul!) and Samba music and the fun of digging deep into the mystery machine of Niko’s mind. They’ve been working on Brutus for years and the wait is the hardest part. Whenever you wait a long time for an album it’s bound to be disappointing; too spot on what you wanted or not at all what the artist should be doing. Brutus by comparison wears the timeless starched and pressed sound of something combed over and refined. It’s the greatest accomplishment the two have and it was worth the wait.

Picking one song to highlight was difficult. The collaborations with other artists are very interesting; Talib Kweli sounds joyful and sharp on Carmen, Cyhi The Prynce fits the chunky soul of Bubba like a glove but Private Room is the best encapsulation of the Joey/Niko sound. Niko is less silly on Brutus (still very silly) and more focused on rapping himself into history. I always think of it as that Reasonable Doubt mindstate; that album is special because you can feel Jay saying “if this is my one shot I’ve got to tell you everything” and this is Niko’s statement. Its Joey’s statement as well; the gentle warmth of the guitar and baseline feel like the source of Niko’s mid tempo flow. The song is so very chill but the most intricately gorgeous chill you’ve heard in rap in years. Every song is a puzzle piece that’s its own puzzle with stuff you didn’t catch the last listen. As much as I walk around my office telling everyone how good these guys are, they always step up and deliver content that makes me feel like I don’t even know how good they can be. They might have a Gangstarr-Moment of Truth level album in their system. Give them time.

1st single

2nd single

3rd single

googleplay will give you long song previews and the option to buy
https://play.google.com/store/music/album/Niko_Is_Brutus?id=Biznvwdiybulsrgfy5vkmcbphbq&hl=en

Mixtape Review-Good Blood by Niko Is

Mixtape Review-Good Blood by Niko Is
 
by Dan-O
 
It wasn’t until yesterday that I realized I had been listening to Niko Is new mixtape Good Blood every day since it came out. As good as Niko Is at creating arresting imagery (example) “Eating blowfish sushi with Japanese golfers (Green Tomato Coupe)” this is him in a different space. Good Blood is by no means chill. It stampedes into your headphones in a way Heltah Skeltah or Das Efx did. The best projects not only have songs that stick with you but lines that define them, that mission statement in this case comes on The Eastside of The Bridge where the projects only voice states clearly “Everybody feelin’ the pressure to get super sentimental to me! Too much pretending for me!” In a series of interjections Niko makes it clear: I am not here to lead you down a cloudy journey of drug addled depression. I am not here to tell you about the horrors of my childhood and I plan to unload all of the linguistically dense madness from my head since I have the perfect beat selection to do it.
 

This brings me to the other star of Good Blood long time Niko Is producer Thanks Joey who laces ten of the twelve tracks. Joey is evolving with Niko. The same way Niko’s lyricism is moving away from the pleasantries of weed rap and hippie rap into a more inspired all-eyes-on-me aggression, Joey’s sound is bubbling over projecting a sharply instrumental Bossanova flavor onto the next level feel of Rockwilder contributions on Big Puns Capital Punishment . While Brazilian funk and soul had been toyed with before, Big Pun proved that you could take the rich tapestry of Salsa and Brazilian funk and merge it with the crash of Boom Bap. Joey is the next generation of that first step; check out the speed transformation on Balloon D’or a track that doesn’t switch as much as mutate into something completely different, or how well that beat feeds into the high happy horns of The Cravings. Listening to Joey’s beats over the years has ignited interests for me like Tim Maia and Jorge Ben and cemented a connection to the warmth of Latin Music.

Neither of the two major characters behind Good Blood push themselves where they don’t belong. Joey is not stretching complexity on some Flying Lotus ish, he can make a song seem tranquil while its baseline wakes up your kid (see Tito Crack That Dutch) or make you focus on the sound sample of a Biggie grunt that seems to be sneaking all around the track (see Green Tomato Coupe). Niko is not a hippie rapper at this point if he ever was one. He’s just a monster who can make dipping Focaccia bread in olive oil sound like the most hardcore thing an artist can do. With every project it gets easier to toss his name out as one of the best out, a lot of it has to do with what him and his team don’t do. They don’t book bad features (or sometimes any), they don’t make bad beats or wack songs. While your favorite artist might feel pressure to take a beat from a big name producer that doesn’t fit him Niko knows his sound enough that the beat he produced (Onda) fits perfectly on the project. It feels like a warm day and a great space for him to luxuriate over. Everyone involved in Good Blood knew exactly how it should sound and as a listener that’s the most reassuring thing you can know about a team you support. 

Stream or Download Niko Is-Good Blood:

http://www.djbooth.net/index/albums/review/niko-is-good-blood

 

   

Song of the Year-Whist​le for My White Horse by Niko Is produced by Ryen Towers

Song of the Year-Whist​le for My White Horse by Niko Is produced by Ryen Towers

From The Other Side of The Velvet Rope mixtape

By Dan-O

Last week a lunch time discussion about baseball turned into me doing an impression of Alex Rodriguez doing an interview where he described his comeback as the feeling a unicorn gets when it runs free into a distant sunset. Everyone looked at me like I was crazy. I know the look it’s the “how did he even think of that” face scrunch. It’s just how my minds wired.

Niko Is has similar wiring. I think some people must just hear scattered references, a strange voice and a bunch of silliness. In two lines he can go from tap dancing on the sun writing the rap jam of the month to Pakistan feeding a bum. He’s not a hippy rapper because his scope is too large- name another hippie rapper who name drops Dr. J and Xerxes?

It’s not the strong stable of producers providing bangers that keeps me coming back to Niko Is music (it’s a great bonus). It’s not the whistling or the weird references; it’s the dedication to bars. That crazy persons powerful wit is a sword he sharpens everyday, the same way KRS or Slick Rick did. He’s just weirder.

stream the song below and if you dig, click on the tape(It is quite good):

http://nikoismusic.com/track/whistle-for-my-white-horse-prod-ryen-towers