Tag Archives: NY Hip Hop

#Bandcampgold-Green Parakeet Suite by Davis

EE6ix2DXsAMGPcj #Bandcampgold-Green Parakeet Suite by Davis

by Dan-O

Chance The Rapper mocks 90’s hardcore hip hop in a way that ruffles my feathers. He clowns 90’s Gangsta Rap for being full of phony tough guys acting the part. He’s making the point that being genuinely silly or conscious is better than being artificially thug but that’s a dumb comp. Conscious rap has just as many fake philosophers as the 90’s had pretend tough guys. Green Parakeet Suite is a brilliant example of what authentically crafted hardcore hip hop can achieve.

I don’t mean to sound defensive of Gangsta Rap. While lots of people hear just the violence in it they miss the illustrated world it lets you inside. The cover of Green Parakeet Suite is pitch perfect. Leaning on a mountain of Nike shoeboxes Davis sips from his Henri Matisse mug while wearing a Westside Gunn hoodie(with gun and ski mask). This is the balance of materialism(not a synonym for greed but a tangible attachment to practical life), criminal instinct, and the highest aspirations of art.  I am not thinking too deeply about this. He starts the project with an explanation of the Hedgehog’s Dilemma: the closer the people he loves gets the more they hurt (quills bro!) but the farther away they are the more alone he is. Davis goes from that realization to a song called Cannon Fodder about being human cannon fodder. His brain takes us from Squidward jokes to Bushido blades cleaving off excuses to mortality discussions that are not only deep but know they are, “Death is an attraction that we cannot manipulate, verbose vernacular took a quarter century to gestate.” Not all smart people are earthy and smooth or jubilant with Kit Kats. Intelligent people snarl at the world.

Gangsta Rappers are not inherently smart or stupid. Neither are conscious rappers. I get mad at anyone who views these different subgenres as sports rivals and takes a side. Hardcore rap provides a safe environment for our most hideous conversations. Joshua Virtue starts off his guest verse on Super Green with a chuckle and launches into “Ya’ll hear Bambaataa touchin’ little boys and he not shot?!” It’s an insanely difficult issue for hip hop to engage with but we can do it easily within the soulful hardcore NY landcape of Green Parakeet Suite. Channeling our authentic pain, frustration, venom, or indignant joy is the catharsis this music offers us that we can’t get just…keepin’ it positive.  I hope Roc Marciano is somewhere in a mad colorful sweater bumping this.

Stream or download Green Parakeet Suite below:

https://dorchesterbully.bandcamp.com/album/green-parakeet-suite

 

 

#Bandcampgold-Hiding Places by Billy Woods x Kenny Segal

#Bandcampgold-Hiding Places by Billy Woods x Kenny Segal

by Dan-O

Biographers live in the world of their subject for years. Can you imagine? In depth talks with family, old letters, review of their work, nailing down different periods of life and what they meant. The subject has to be important enough to fuel the biographer. If that spark flames out it’s a world of bad for everyone. I could be the biographer for Billy Woods & Kenny Segal’s new album Hiding Places. Over the past week I’ve been deep in lyric reading and song re-listens pulling at different sections of what it all means. I could do two years research on the end of A Day In A Week In A Year when Woods says:

“I read the play, hatchet job, but you work with what you got/  Life is just two quarters in the machine

But, either you got it or don’t that’s the thing
I was still hittin’ the buttons, “Game Over” on the screen
Dollar movie theater, dingy foyer, little kid, not a penny to my name
Fuckin’ with the joystick, pretendin’ I was really playin’
Pretendin’ I was really playin’
Pretendin’ I was really playin’ “

Pretending to play when you don’t have the money is a central memory for kids of a certain generation. Being able to go full thrust with your imagination and the screen regardless of what was working against you forms the basis of an artist’s mind.  The joy of playing v. the ability to get in the game this is why it connects back to the hack play, dedicating yourself to your art when your art sucks is still pretending to play.

And that is just one fragment of one song. All the songs are built from these incredible impactful fragments that come together to form a singular emotional realization part poetic beauty part violence drizzled in lots of frustration. My favorite song is a minute and twenty eight seconds long. It is called Steak Knives and it is not simply about how horrifying a life of crime is but about how painfully destructive living in poverty can be without the endless fight for money we hear rappers talk about. As Woods says in the song “it’s sick but banalities might as well be death threats/Let it sit/ there’s the threat of sepsis” He opens the song by a roaring fire about to make love to a woman who specifies she does not want a relationship and ends it flippantly acknowledging ,in a passive aggressive way, that he doesn’t have the breathing room to help those not as driven. Second place is steak knives.

All the songs are lyrically rich threatening and evocative. I need to spend some time complimenting Kenny Segal who walked a tight line. Producing for a dense lyricist is a heck of a trap: keep it simple and your doing what most producers could do and it sounds boring, make it weird you might throw the MC off their flow. Songs like Houthi are masterfully open; ready for a lyricist to shine BUT it shifts drops out cuts in and alternates in a hypnotic way that keeps it from being stale. Production is consistent but fragmented. When you think you know a song it undulates in a different direction. Listen to all the subtle changes going on in Spider Hole before the guitar slams in at two minutes and twenty one seconds. Menacing does this sound design disservice. It’s not just menacing its thick and deceptively expansive. Central sounds build neighborhoods to live in.

I was looking for the one line Billy Woods said that scorched my heart and left my eyes Simpson size. These bars define the entire Billy Woods experience and I’ve had them bouncing around my head since the first listen. That moment happens in the first verse of Speak Gently “I’m a bad penny/I’m the feelin’ after you killed ’em and seen the safe empty.” That image is something no MC has ever left for me. Standing in front of a body, mind racing, only to look up at an empty safe all of it for nothing…left with the shame of my actions and the taste of monetary failure. Sick with everything wrong about this world at once. That’s Billy Woods superpower. He’s in total control of that feeling. No hero stuff he’s the viciousness of reality cutting through all the layers of defense you keep in front of it. Every verse makes your eye water like Listerine just before you spit.

Stream or purchase Hiding Places below:

https://billywoods.bandcamp.com/album/hiding-places

Song of The Year-Slapbox by Conway The Machine produced by Daringer

Song of The Year-Slapbox by Conway The Machine produced by Daringer

by Dan-O

You can’t just call him Conway. He’s The Machine for a reason. When the beat comes on and his mouth starts it feels 100% organic like no pen has been picked up no plans have been made(This isn’t just how he sounds he admits it, “keep in mind these raps I keep in mind, I don’t read a rhyme. I just see them lines in my head I’m lyrically inclined ‘212’.”). It doesn’t actually sound fair, the other guy featured worked really hard on his/her verse and now this guy is just a person made out of rap lyrics and can peel off 16 of them at will?!

Conway The Machine has been grinding for a while now, releasing lots of mixtapes. I’ve never reviewed any of them because I was waiting for his improvement to take the form of project specialization: track sequencing, better beats, songs with structure and his new album nails all of it. His new release is called Everybody is F.O.O.D. it is sold directly through his site ( https://whoisconwaythemachine.myshopify.com/collections/frontpage/products/everybody-is-f-o-o-d-digital-album) and without any question the best thing he’s ever released. The second best is his last project G.O.A.T.

What has made him an important force is that his relentlessness is matched by his collaborator and NY’s secret weapon, Daringer. He produces seven of eleven tracks and has the best beat on it. Slapbox is the kind of thick grungy attack The Machine should always rap over.  Saying this is the best beat is an accomplishment since other producers on this include Pete Rock, Green Lantern, and Statik Selektah. Daringer knows better than any how to take the essential boom bap stomp and twist it, stab it until the agitation level has changed.  Slapbox never lulls you into the hypnotic state a Pete Rock beat can, instead it throws you back into the story on the edge of your seat.

The story is one of my favorites since Biggie’s second album. It starts with slapboxing in the street just knuckleheading around an average day and ends with a leg shot and a police chase. The third to last line is “I’mma go hide out in that abandoned church.” How many times have you heard that in a rap song?  Slapbox is my favorite song because it is clear vivid and impactful. It shows that if The Machine takes his time his concise linguistics paired with his odd mind produce unforgettable music. Both Conway The Machine and Daringer are two very important factors in why NY rap is my favorite thing in 2018(shout out to Roc Marciano, Ka, Action Bronson, Hus The Kingpin, Crimeapple, Westside Gunn, Armand Hammer, Skyzoo, Mach Hommy, and so on and so forth).

#Bandcampgold-Nostrum Grocers-Self-titled

#Bandcampgold-Nostrum Grocers-Self-titled

by Dan-O

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:

https://nostrumgrocers.bandcamp.com/releases

 

Operation Doom Discography 2000-2005

Operation Doom Discography 2000-2005

by Dan-O

M.F. Doom was so active during this period of time I am going to have to separate this into stuff you need to hear and stuff you absolutely don’t.

Must hear:

King Geedorah-Take Me to Your Leader=Simply put one of the best produced independent albums ever. Doom is on the boards for every song producing, arranging, mixing and mastering and he is so utterly perfect that the skits will bring tears to your eyes. He drills down on sampling the Godzilla universe and finds soundscapes no one before or after could. The downside is Doom doesn’t rap on every song but he does rap on over half which is more than enough to carry it. Other voices put in admirable work (Hassan Chop on I Wonder and Mr. Fantastik on Anti-Matter). It is not nearly the cluttered hostile thesaurus fight of Monsta Island Czars.

MF Doom-Mm…Food=All but 3 tracks are produced by Doom. This was actually the first Doom album I heard and like all solo Doom ventures (I’ve encountered thus far) it surpasses its mission statement. This should be a fun exercise in food metaphors but he can’t himself One Beer is fire with lines like “Crooked eye mold nerd  geek with a cold heart/probably still be speaking in rhymes as an old fart.” These songs are not jokes Deep Fried Frenz is a must hear peak into the diminishing relationships you experience on the way up. It is jam packed with quotable lines delivered with his trademark icey cool.

Viktor Vaughn-Vaudeville Villain & Venomous Villain=Upon first listen I really dug these albums. They took Operation Doomsday’s development of the villain character and pushed it meaner. Doom doesn’t produce any of the songs (the production style is less soulful and more jagged than other projects but that fits for the content) so he gets to let his pen fire. Venomous Villain has songs like Back End, Ode to Rage, and the startling story song Bloody Chain (where Poison Pen should have refused to rhyme after him). Vaudeville Villain has songs like The Drop (where he warns never trust no Kardashian back in 2003!),  Raedawn, and G.M.C. All the songs listed are so unforgivingly lyrical so vividly actualized I couldn’t help but question if he was the utter evolution of Biggie able to threaten in ways that shake your bones switch up make you belly laugh with a silly reference, tell a crime story that pushes you to the edge of your seat and pulls you back by the end. These are not the known classics of Doom’s catalog but they are classics.

DANGERDOOM-The Mouse and The Mask=most reviews I saw for this framed it as a gag album. It comes out at the height of Adult Swim fanfare and is a perfect nerd fantasy. Danger Mouse is still in his daring try-anything-cool mind state and Doom still destroys all available space his voice fills. Too many funny crazy interesting lines to quote, and you get to hear Ghostface rhyme with Doom (I have a theory that Doom influence revived Ghostface and helped kick off his best period. Supreme Clientele drops a year after Operation Doomsday DANGERDOOM & Madvillain drop right around the Pretty Tony/Fishscale time period(Doom produced my favorite beat on Fishscale 9 Milli Bros).

Madvillain-Madvillainy=I expected the importance of this album but I was still awed by the structure of it. It reminds me of the debut album Pink Flag by the punk/art rock band Wire. All the songs are short and feed into one another. Neither Doom nor Madlib is even thinking about hooks. Lyrically I see Madvillainy as a cut off. He is now being reviewed by Spin and Rolling Stone so he backs away from the personal content of Operation Doomsday and stays in pocket just hammering away at the craft; dizzying verse after dizzying verse he is more a master of ceremony than ever but less the person we got to know. It’s not as bad a trade off as you would think (think Reasonable Doubt Jay v. Blueprint Jay).

Nevermind:

MF EP(Doom and Grimm)=I really don’t have much affection for M.F. Grimm. The 2000 collaboration between the two is way too much Grimm who is a product of his time. In an interview he described the difference between the two of them very well. He said when they started rapping together Doom was on that conscious ish and he was rapping about breakin’ dudes legs. That is exactly the problem with Grimm. His ceiling as an MC is just over his hairline.

Monsta Island Czars-Escape From Monsta Island!=Easily my least favorite step on the journey. On The Mouse and The Mask Doom mocked his M.I.C. days calling them “Midgets Into Crunk” and they are that kind of joke. This album has 20 songs on it with just under an hour run time and no actual driving point. Only six tracks are produced by Doom including skits (under his moniker King Geedorah). My favorite of those beats is the rich and tense 1,2…1,2 but he doesn’t rap on it. This album did illuminate how special Doom is as an MC for me. One after another of this crew (King Caesar, Rodan, Gigan, Megalon, Kong, Spiega, it never ends) spat dour threatening verses with killer scrabble words dressed to impress and it was awful. On the one song he gets to himself Geedorah roars, muses, brags, is hilarious and distances himself from this mountain of average dudes he knows from around the way. This album illuminated the stark contrast between the average 90’s/early 00’s rapper and M.F. Doom.

On to the next phase!

 

Mixtape Review-The Program by Cam’ron

Mixtape Review-The Program by Cam’ron

by Dan-O

I may have been more excited for this mixtape than I have been for any all year. While people can consider Cam out of the spotlight, past his prime, whatever way you want to say rap has “passed him by” I disagree.  1. Rap hasn’t passed him it has embraced him. The new generation of eccentrically dressed weirdo rappers are very very Dipset. 2. Cam has been laying incredible guest verses for a while now:  see S.D.E. by Dave East featuring Cam, see Moving Weight Pt. 1 by Pete Rock & Smoke Dza. 3. What an artist does when the spotlight has passed is a very critical part of their career. It clarifies how much of what you loved about them was authentically present within or just came out when all the eyes did.

Given that Cam had been sharpening his sword and watching the game I figured he was ready to talk crazy again. The Program delivers! On the first song (It’s Killa) he tells the story of Ma$e calling him to bail him out of a tough spot in some ugly projects and Cam saving him by showing up strapped and making it known. Once the trouble passes Ma$e offers Cam a $100 and Cam feels insulted being a very profitable drug supplier. The song Coleslaw starts with “Kanye got on stage what he do? Play Jay-z out. What he do next? Check into the crazy house. F*&^ that you made a living talkin’ greasy, besides that man you Yeezy with the Yeezy’s! Be yourself you ain’t gotta go AWOL and F@*$ that Ye I been this way since Ye tall. If you regret it than dead it  but if you said you said it you meant what you said can’t tell me forget it, FORGET IT. I’m different I’m from a different type of hunger N_.” The immediate internet response probably views this as a washed up artist looking to trend but that ain’t Cam.

The Program reveals Cam’ron as the 1992 Charles Barkley of rap. That special kind of artist who gets to say exactly what he wants and survive it; laugh in the face of 50 Cent and Bill O’Reilly. He’s goofy enough to make Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time into Dime After Dime and absurd enough to use a fantastic Jus Blaze beat to make a song about kissing the mirror (Kiss Myself) but even the jokes let sincerity shine through. I love the first verse of Lean. He uses Bill Withers Lean On Me to floss drug tales but his beating heart is behind these stories.

“(Lean) They couldn’t understand me, now I find it ironic

I grew up with Big L, all I knew was ebonics

Jealousy, crack, greed, homicide and chronic

Where niggas catch a body, changed their name like the Sonics

It was hot like Phoenix

I used to look up at the Lennox Ave sign hand on my heart and pledge allegiance

Drama 15 years straight, nothing recent

But I’ma call the state for back pay, they owe me grievance

And you can’t knock that, block the block with the top back

Open up that Fanta, I got that”

If you listen to the 15 songs and shake your head because Cam is too much: Remember Game is too petty or the Curve skit is odd… you have a fair first reaction. Listen to it again and try to hear how sincere he is on U Wasn’t There. Keep in mind you might not ever find a new Cam.  Ask yourself honestly if you miss this kind of big anthemic NY hip hop production with sharp lyrical humor over it. By the third listen the questions will fade and you’ll just be grooving.

stream or download The Program below:

http://www.livemixtapes.com/mixtapes/45375/camron-the-program.html

Song Review-Bamboo by Skyzoo produced by MarcNfinit

Song Review-Bamboo by Skyzoo produced by MarcNfinit

by Dan-O

Skyzoo is so gifted that at times he’s too much for himself. At points in his discography his high IQ on jazz meets his high IQ pen and he puts out projects no one can understand. His new eight song project Peddler Themes is Skyzoo in my favorite place.

Bamboo is the most precise example: the beat takes boom bap nostalgia to real trunk rattling levels, the chorus is totally unique, intelligent and catchy while his verse is not just intelligent (everything Sky does is intelligent) the images are vivid not just telling the story but showing it to you. Examine the first verse and how the song opens “And he said, the strap black like fab 5 apparel/Sweet 16 running laps outta the barrel/Said it sing lullabies that’ll wrap you like a carol/Ducking that is like juggling laps with a Camaro” good writing grounds you in the scene with detail and Peddler Themes is full of emotionally rich detail. Skyzoo didn’t set out to make a drug rap album or a drug dealer movie but a painting built from hundreds of careful brush strokes.

That being said Peddler Themes color is still very fun. Just listen to Skyzoo (produced by his old friend Illmind) flex effortlessly on Finesse Everything. I think a lot of rappers at the higher end of lyrical density have a tough time getting out of their own way but when a razor sharp expert stays loose, has faith in the design, and pushes forward the result is usually something exciting and Peddler Themes is absolutely that.