Song of the year-Ace by Noname featuring Smino & Saba
I really do regret not listening to Smino-Blkswn earlier. I missed out on the countless relistens and an orator who seems to have neo-soul finger snap rhythm resonating from the depths of his soul. Every second of a song with Smino on it is a hypnotic groove. I was very thankful to have these three together to lay out a posse cut so chill, so intelligent and them.
This song comes from Noname’s album Room 25. It has gotten a lot of press; her writing is very slam poetry (some people see that under a negative connotation I do not) her delivery is bashful and hushed. Lyrically she can get personal, talking alcohol addiction or moving away from home. What I don’t think gets enough shine is how funny she is. She is so hushed and raw that when you catch a truly funny line it is even funnier. It releases the tension she’s built. My favorite line on the album is on the song Montego Bae when she says “Classy B_ only use a coaster.” Now keep in mind this line comes immediately after “He gon’ f$&% me like I’m Oprah.” The great part about a Noname verse is it gives the three dimensions of an actual conversation. She transitions from flirty to drowning in fear about the world to hilarious and you feel like you are really in a conversation. A lot of post-Nicki female rap is superhero rap full of heroines who are flawless rich sexual dynamo’s projecting an image they hope to attain(keeping it real: dudes are doing the same ish). Noname is brave enough to be herself without all the condiments.
On twitter someone was very excited about Room 25, very excited to be in a conversation like Noname can create. This person tweeted at her that she was the best MC in the world and no one else could compare. She replied with one word….Saba. While Room 25 and Saba’s Care For Me are comparably great albums, lyrically Saba is the god. His verse on this song is dizzying and down to earth and feels easy for him to do. These three represent a talent pool we will be talking about for years.
Listen to Saba-Care For Me, Noname-Room 25 and Smino-Blkswn to be in on the whole Chicago corduroy jacket rap scene.
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Tagged Ace, Blkswn, Care For Me, Chicago Hip Hop, Noname, Noname Gypsy, reviews, Room 25, Saba, Smino, song of the year
Song of The Year-Casket Pretty by Noname Gypsy
I am very worried we are going to end up on the wrong side of history.
At a party where the age average was two generations older and everyone was white; I started asking who they voted for in 1960. Kennedy? Nixon? Most of them said Nixon unapologetically. When I insinuated the negative historical consequences of Nixon’s success (in later elections) it faintly registered but none of them regretted it. Even knowing he would shame the nation; cost thousands of lives in Vietnam….you had to be there.
It was the heat of the moment as it unfolded that formed their opinion; a thousand minute details that history would let fall away in favor of more important considerations. I am very worried that the 2016 discussion around violence in the black community is going that way.
In a minute and fifty seconds Noname clears away all the hemming and hawing about the motivations of police or the difference between black on black crime and police initiated violence. The dead are dead and all the hopeless seconds we spend parsing sociological specifics and building excuses are simply a way to do nothing while minimizing guilt. I hope Noname’s voice echoes “too many babies in suits” behind all those all caps aimless arguments.
This song is about gun culture, senseless death and the fear of it. She executes the song in a sorrowful and thoughtful way that makes it one of the most powerful statements of the year. One that will stand the test of time after these ugly emotional memes fade away; the question is when the future comes will we have done anything about the systemic violence our society breeds? God, I hope so.
Audio Push and the soft resurgence of Native Tongues cool consciousness
Hip hop is waves and counter-waves; it survives because every successful movement is so hated by another portion of the culture that its opposition immediately garners prominence as a counter point. You could make the argument that all sub-genres are little traps. Even being known as the great creator of an interesting new one eventually leaves you as the relic of an old one.
Audio Push has been making steps in their current direction for a while. Last year’s project The Good Vibe Tribe was definitely a move into a Bruce Lee Jeet Kune Do direction and the just released Inside The Vibe is a total embrace of intelligent adaptability. My favorite song on it is Don’t Sweat It where the imagery starts with watching The Preachers Wife and kicking back but immediately shifts to health problems/bills/government surveillance but returns to relaxation in the chorus. This song actually includes the line “Showed my girl I’m human and now she hates me…” Oktane and Price do a brilliant job of contrasting a laundry list of concerns against a spiritual need to take the air out of the tension.
What helps is that of the nine songs the production list is Hazebanga-1 song Coryayo-8 songs and that’s it. It has a minimalist consistency and bass heavy richness that provides a stable wave to ride. If you’ve heard Anderson.Paak’s Malibu album you know my surfing metaphor isn’t silly. Just because Audio Push wants to address racial stereotypes (on Brown Man Syndrome) that doesn’t mean they want to shout it angrily. But just because they are laughing during a song about race doesn’t mean they are clowning. Every verse on Inside The Vibe contains elasticity or like Bruce Lee said “Be like water” able to shift forms to fit wherever you want to go.
I was playing their wonderful homage to 2pac’s Picture Me Rollin’ (Picture Me) for my wife and the chorus includes “Picture Me inviting your girl to come with me to the top to share my light with the world…” and I turned to her relieved “They’re going to take my girl but at least they will take good care of her.” Most rappers threatening to take your girl want to use her like drive-thru food, a lot of the expected scenarios you hear on rap albums fall away in the Audio Push vibe.
The mixtape starts with an interlude (that leads into Come Alive) where a man is getting in a woman’s car and she warns him “One more thing, my car my music…none of that trendy $*#!.” The line repeats into infinity as the heart and soul of what Inside The Vibe means. This is a project for an intelligent audience that doesn’t want a refill of what the top tier is already providing. This is Heiroglyphics dedication to rapping mixed with De La Souls sense of fun and Tribe’s tireless dedication to the vibe.
A lot of young hip hop artists are trying to move between the marketing terminology, not to be trapped in Trap or restricted to Ratchet; which makes sense, all the best transcended sub-genres; even the ones they created. I hope Chance The Rapper and Noname Gypsy are listening to Inside The Vibe. I want this to be Birth of The Cool for mixtapes in 2016, but I’m always pushing best case scenario.
Stream or download Inside The Vibe below:
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Tagged Audio Push, Chance the Rapper, Coryayo, De La Soul, Hazebanga, Heiroglyphics, Inside The Vibe, mixtape review, Native Tongues, Noname Gypsy, Tribe Called Quest, west coast hip hop
Mixtape Review-The Water(s) by Mick Jenkins
It’s just not as simple as the presentation. Most important musical projects fit this description: Cream wasn’t as simple as great guitar work, Sinatra wasn’t as simple as love songs or whistfulness, Kind of Blue is more than a polished listen and great introduction to Jazz. In this same way The Water(s) is just as much about disenchantment as it is finding peace. It’s just as negative as it is positive. As low key and meditative as THC is 514 is just as scaly and paranoid; the title track of the mixtape is an important centerpiece. A thoughtful mixture of ideas like not selling your soul to achieve your artistic goals and staying thankful for the water which provides a peaceful counterpoint, a foundational element we can count on.
The thoughtful moments are plenty throughout. Little lines you might miss can blow you backwards like “Gotta move so many keys to unlock the boxes we trapped in (Who Else).” Intelligent construction of ideas allows for a listening experience that stays fresh but my favorite Mick Jenkins lines don’t feel delivered from a beautiful mind but spat out of a militant survivor “Southside N_ seen a whole lotta sh#$, six point stars, and a whole lotta dope with a shooter that I missed that’s a whole lotta bricks. The city that raised me, the people that taught me…the differences are crazy. Its all love though, know that I’m gonna share my light when your vision gets hazy (Dehydration).” Songs like Healer where Jenkins tries desperately to find peace only to blow up at joke acts like Riff Raff for taking up space, feel dazzlingly vivid.
You don’t typically find this class of production and guest star on an artist’s sophomore mixtape. At a total of fifteen tracks Statik Selektah, Cam from J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Kirk Knight, and DJ Dahi all show up knowing they are in the right place; while Joey Bada$$ and Noname Gypsy (rant coming up) both make impressive appearances. Jenkins does a superb job placing silky hooks from Ebony and Jean Deaux (while not overusing the cherished r&b hook).
The Water(s) is one of those rare audio experiences where after several listens you still wouldn’t change a thing. It doesn’t have any fat on it. No bad interludes, odd beat choices or off track/doesn’t fit songs. A singular vision of duality binds the music; the hostile residue of painful experience vs. the journey for peaceful reality. Every song feels like a battle in the war and no…it doesn’t feel over when you finish the mixtape.
P.S. I don’t want to be rude but I am at a blue balls level of anticipation for that Noname Gypsy mixtape. Her Acid Rap guest feature blew a lot of people away but every appearance she’s made since has been at the same level. On Comfortable(on This project) I found myself getting angry she is so good. I want that tape as soon as possible and waiting is unsettling.
Stream or download The Water(s) below:
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Tagged Acid Rap, Chicago Hip Hop, datpiff, Dj Dahi, Joey Bada$$, Kind of Blue, Mick Jenkins, mixtape review, Noname Gypsy, Statik Selektah, The Water(s)
Chance the Rapper-Acid Rap mixtape review
Acid Rap is a startling first listen. I guess the prerequisite is being able to enjoy the playfully childish nasally delivery Chance the Rapper brings to every song. If you do, every verse comes out as an amorphous blob that seems like it could end and become a chorus at any time. The power in the project is that feeling of the unexpected hanging over every moment of every song. He rhymes words with each other like a juggler adding more balls, like AZ circa Do or Die. The difference is that AZ was going in on street life from a D-Boy perspective. The lyrics Chance puts up on Acid Rap are a mixture of scattered and personal, “Wore my feelings on my sleeveless, my weed seedless, my tree’s leafless. I miss my diagonal grilled cheeses, and back when Mike Jackson was still Jesus (Acid Rain).” On the same song he says “Lately my verses seem not so versey.” Acid Rap is very conscious of how different it is, how new this is not only for Chance but for the listener who is used to the 16 than the hook.
After the first listen I remember thinking “I can’t believe I got this for free.” If you google reviews for Acid Rap you are entering a realm of overwhelming praise. This is a 19 year old rapper who shows enough skill on this mixtape alone to be considered a top tier lyricist. A lot of critics have made Kendrick Lamar comparisons and while Chance is the closest (outside of Ab-Soul) to master that fluid Bruce Lee flow, the differences are important. Kendrick wants to speak for a generation, Chance wants to speak for himself and make fun music. He doesn’t exist as an anti-trap or drill figurehead. He doesn’t just shout out Fat Trel and others on Acid Rap he tweets Waka Flocka lyrics cause he honestly likes them. As great as his previous mixtape 10day was it was full of experiments, some that worked some that didn’t. Everything here works. The reggae/sublime feeling NaNa produced by Brandun Deshay still feels like something Chance and Action Bronson can comfortable fit into. Most of the discussion about how different this project sounds should come down to Chance and his amorphous blob lyrics, while the beats carry off-sequence signatures it always feels like they exist that way for Chance rather than the other way around.
This mixtape is the art pick of the year; it’s lyrically impressive and good natured. In the same way that Killer Mike made a conscious play for the spotlight when he put out R.A.P. Music that’s what Chance did here. He got all the important guest features you’d want(guest verses are amazing, Twista kills Cocoa Butter Kisses and Noname Gypsy says “the only time he loves me is naked in my dreams” fantastic) and production from Jake One, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, and Blended Babies. Its an easy pick for mixtape of the year and the day it dropped I listened to Juice four times and sang it out loud in a public bathroom(I am that dude).
I don’t think it is the mixtape of the year, it never lets you relax. While everything Fiend lays down on Lil Ghetto Boy feels like a hook nothing on Acid Rap does. It requires a level of attentive listening that is admirable but limiting. It’s beautiful though and what I enjoy most about it is how honestly anti-violence it is. He talks about how unsafe Chicago is from all angles, the police, how easy it is to get a gun, and the summer bringing out the violence. Chance is never coming at you like the caged puppy commercial asking for your help, he’s just brave enough to admit that the violence scares him. He’s brave enough to talk about it on overwhelmingly sad songs like Pusha Man (which ends with him sharing that feeling of fear with the audience) and on social media/interviews. He knew exactly how good this tape was; the day after it dropped he was spelling his ad lib for new listeners. Make no mistake Acid Rap is his come up and if you’re not in on it now; get ready for his exposure to find you wherever you are.
Stream or Download Acid Rap below:
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Tagged 10day, Ab-Soul, Acid Rap, AZ, Brandon Deshay, Bruce Lee Flow, Chance the Rapper, Chicago Hip Hop, Kendrick Lamar, Killer Mike, Noname Gypsy, R.A.P. Music, Twista