Tag Archives: reviews

#Bandcampgold-Cover Art by Anderson Paak

#Bandcampgold-Cover Art by Anderson Paak

by Dan-O

If you didn’t know who Anderson Paak was after summer 2015 I don’t think you’re a hip hop head. When Dr. Dre came out of his cave August 7th 2015 to release Compton everyone in hip hop noted it. Thumbing through the sixteen tracks listed Paak was on six of them. I know that I let out an audible “Who the F#$% is Anderson Paak?!” That is when I found his bandcamp. Once I heard Venice I knew to pay attention to Malibu.

Now he is climbing to the top of the world. He was on Saturday Night Live playing his own drums, he was on Marc Maron talking about this covers album from 2013. I remembered having dug into that project post-Compton and threw it back into the mix. If you haven’t heard his explanation on Maron: Cover Art aims to reverse the polarity of musical manipulation. While historically black artists like Jackie Wilson get their music made into Elvis hits he wanted to take very white very good music and put the funk back in.

His cover of Seven Nation Army sold my wife on the project. The original reclaimed a good deal of swagger that post-Radiohead rock had lost and Paak by keeping the guitar parts splashy and the vocals as smooth as Brenton Wood singing Oogum Boogum (if you don’t know this song you need to) it actually raises the overall stakes on how pimpish this song is. The other high point is his cover of my favorite Beatles song (Blackbird). While Paak can get super funky and joyously silly he knows a precious moment and how to care for it. Blackbird finds the groove with fingersnaps and he gives it his absolute most concentrated effort vocally.

We love that Paak is talented can play instruments sing and rap but its way more fun that he is nuts on top of that. This dude took Neil Young’s Heart of Gold and threw rap verses on his cover of it (Nocando, himself & milo). The final product is mad weird but valuable and interesting. Cover Art is a short form introduction to the capabilities of Paak with nasty bass lines (MAPS!) and signature flair ever-present even while doing other people’s music; people who couldn’t be more different from what Paak’s music turned into. If you listen to the Maron WTF interview that’s his real secret, he’s so nuts he can sit across from an old crunchy dude like Maron and talk classic guitar rock until he’s comfortable. Year before that he was on Snoops podcast passing a blunt comparing the discographies of overlooked soul legends. If you like music Paak will get you somehow. He’s everywhere.

Stream or download Cover Art below:

https://hellfyreclub.bandcamp.com/album/cover-art

 

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Song Review-10 Piece by Curren$y & Wiz Khalifa produced by Dame Grease

 

Song Review-10 Piece by Curren$y & Wiz Khalifa produced by Dame Grease

by Dan-O

The mixtape era taught artists how to sell themselves post-music industry collapse. When Wiz & Curren$y dropped How Fly they outlined their rap and lifestyle values without any A & R influence or board meetings to approve. They sent it right to us. The duo were all about girls, video games, weed, laughing, loyalty and not a lot of unnecessary stuff outside of it.

I’m glad they got together to break bread over fabulous production and check in on where they are. Curren$y says “We control the town from the couch.” Wiz says “Now we fathers, know that God got us.” I think reviews will come in saying the project is fine. Both of these guys are prolific and that bores reviewers but they have amazing chemistry and share values that trace back to Snoop. They would always prefer to be peaceful. Wiz even ends the song warning that gang life isn’t “the vibe”. On top of that they are growing older and not hiding it. They wear their collective maturity as an honor like old gunfighters who have survived terrible upheaval.

It is deeper than album of the year considerations. These guys left an imprint on the world of hip hop and I’m not sure we take enough time out of our day to think about it. The old heads know both of these dudes can SPIT so they get feature requests from the very best. The new kids know these guys have been successful over a long period and seek to know to understand how. Listen to 2009 you’ll get closer. Along the way you get to enjoy two great technicians.

#Bandcampgold-Malik Ruff by Quadry

#Bandcampgold-Malik Ruff by Quadry

by Dan-O

Malik Ruff is an album I really like. I don’t have it numerically placed on my list of year end albums yet (it just came out November 2nd) but I really like it. The project washes over you. It balances a distinct ambiance that soaks your sonic pace and tempo with a real balanced perspective. Quadry gives us the joy of New Orleans bounce (he’s from Baton Rouge) on Louis and Pirelli. Both songs gives us permission to rock back and throw our head bop into high gear. Louis relies on the fun of yelling out “2!” which is very fun but Pirelli provides a distorted vocal bridge and lyrics upon lyrics. The song is a real talent showcase. Hot Headed is even better lyrically tackling political mayhem and how it causes our depression. The ambiance I referenced is like a mixture of Organized Noize and Tribe Called Quest. A lot of these songs don’t trample forward but thump at a beautiful pace.  1:04 PM is a great example, produced by Steve Lacy of The Internet, it is a tight song rich with guitar and a great chorus. His smoking and drinking and having fun takes place alongside his rumination about life and depression.

Malik Ruff does me the great service of never demanding I skip a song. Everything is perfectly placed and while I don’t recognize any of the guests featured (BoyBoy, Tev’n ,Anjelihs, Ida’ye, Black Party, Teo Halm) none of them bring weed carrier energy to the project. Everyone is here for a reason. It has snarling attack-the-night music (24/7) and very personal thoughtful material (Wesley ‘For My Son’). I bought this album halfway through the first listen. I just need it with me on days when I don’t feel hype or savage or maudlin or reflective but twenty five percent of each.  Dudes like this don’t break enormous. They become Big K.R.I.T., a respected cult leader of music that just sounds different, a hushed name thrown out in response to “Who could possibly be as good as (insert pop rap superstar)!? ”

Stream or purchase Malik Ruff below:

https://quadry.bandcamp.com/album/malik-ruff

Hip Hop History: Never Forget Donald Goines Has an Album

Hip Hop History: Never Forget Donald Goines Has an Album

by Dan-O

Donald Goines is one of my all-time literary heroes. He applied Shakespearean tragedy to the hood characters I was getting to know through Rap music and instead of lauding them he proved the street eats its babies. He left no one winning and every sentence exciting. He was the first author after I left high school I started reading on my own.

While enlisted in the Air Force Goines developed a heroin habit that stayed with him until he was murdered in his home in 1974. The heroin changed his course leading him to a life of crime: pimping, robbing, gambling all to support his addiction. By the time he went to prison he would write all morning and do heroin all night. His books showed empathy for all characters. He was an author who cared about the internal life of the white jailer in White Man’s Justice, Black Man’s Grief and the hitman’s daughter in Daddy Cool. He was able to present crime and poverty as an ecosystem where no gunshot rings without consequence. Reading him grew me emotionally for that reason. I am not alone.

The whole reason I knew his name was because of rap music. While literature failed to acknowledge Goines every prison library was stocked with his sixteen novels. Every rapper had Goines references from 2pac Jay-Z to Jadakiss. The love affair went so deep that in 1999 a soundtrack to the book Black Gangster was put together for the express purpose of getting interest up for a movie.  The soundtrack does have names you’ve never heard of: Kasual, Killa, Ghetto Mafia. That happens on any hip hop soundtrack but it has peak performances by Ja Rule, 50 Cent, Freddie Foxxx, Mac Dre, DMX, and Jay-z.

As a forgotten piece of history it is perfectly hip hop. The only man that could get 50 Cent and Ja Rule on his album is Donald Goines. The only book with a soundtrack and not a movie is Black Gangster.  Goines badly wanted his books optioned into movies and this 1972 novel even more so. It is giant sized in scope and epic in execution. One of my favorite books brought the best out of some of my favorite MC’s.  S.Carter era Jay has the ability to shake you to your core with the simplicity of a single line on This Life Forever: “Let’s face it. Either ya dough chasin’ or basin’. “Mac Dre comes onto Give It Up like a lion fully aware that his music is so oddly versatile it will never seem dated or antiquated the way Ja Rule does on Represent. DMX feels the most connection to Goines and the wounded nature of his literary universe. He doesn’t bark violence he whispers it on The Story. He got the only Goines movie made from a book, Never Die Alone (which I saw in the theater). Like the book it is a mixed bag but a lot of effort was put into the lead performance. X gives it all and that’s what Donald would have wanted.

This Life Forever

Give It Up

The Story

 

 

Song of the year-Ace by Noname featuring Smino & Saba

Song of the year-Ace by Noname featuring Smino & Saba

by Dan-O

 

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.

 

 

R.I.P. Mac Miller playlist

R.I.P. Mac Miller playlist

by Dan-O

I got the text that he was gone while my son was telling me one of those toddler stories with no start or end. As he kept adding “and then” to extend I braced myself in the doorway and looked out my front door, really struck, trying to figure out why it felt so raw. I didn’t know Mac Miller at all. If you comb through the history of this blog (its ok I know you won’t it is just a blog) I have been personally reviewing Mac Miller music going back to 2011 and repping him to anyone near me since K.I.D.S. dropped in 2010. I spent 8 years invested in this crazy wacked out hooligan from Pittsburgh and his ever expanding natural abilities. At the time of his death at twenty six he had over ten years of making important music: twelve mixtapes, five studio albums. He is one of the key artists in that beautiful mixtape boom from 2009-2013 that revitalized rap. He was closer to me than I had acknowledged. I’m still dealing with it. I would like to give the people dealing with it five songs to play.

1. Senior Skip Day produced by Wally West from K.I.D.S mixtape

This song still blows the world wide open for me. It is such a lazy satisfying mood with the gorgeous horns Wally West throws in and it is filled with details: not getting out of bed before noon, morning waffles and scrambled eggs, skipping class and being high. Think about how heavy rap is now, how much distaste and doom emanates from 18 year olds. Mac gave us that foolish energy and guiding light to be ourselves and be happy with those who made us happy.

2. Come Back To Earth produced by Jon Brion, Mac under the name Larry Fisherman, and Gitty off Swimming.

Not an easy listen given the new context but Swimming is a lovely piece of work. It is sad, so alone, addicted, worn out, stomped on but very humane. Most heartbreak albums (especially when addiction is involved) have a lot of lashing out. Swimming is the product of a good heart in a bad place. When he mourns the neighbors who could be more than strangers, the texts he shouldn’t have sent it is really hard. This song resonates with all the dimensions of his loss; he wishes he could be with her again and it feels to us like Ariana, he wishes for human contact and it sounds to us like he wants someone to help him out of addictions cage. Some of this is just our minds coming to grips with what happened but some of it could be true. I wish this song didn’t have to mean what it means now but I am so very happy it is here to partially explain how things were, to start a conversation with us we have to finish on our own.

3. Donald Trump produced by Sap off his Best Day Ever mixtape

Mac Miller could make anthems that made you dance whether you wanted to or not. At the same time he really rapped. In the classical sense of moving the crowd Donald Trump achieves that. He nimbly bounces from bar to bar in a way anyone can follow but is still impressive. At the time people called this song fluff but the fluff we have now makes this song a real achievement in the art. It’s a smash single that is still dope MCing.

4. Blue Slide Park produced by I.D. Labs off Blue Slide Park

How was Mac’s 2011? He put out his debut album and in its first week sold 145k making it the first independent debut album to top the chart since Dogg Food by The Dogg Pound. He single handedly proved that the mixtape era could translate to sales. I.D. Labs who produced most of it are the same genius’s who put Wiz in place to take over. Blue Slide Park wasn’t full of Donald Trump style anthems for fun it was religiously focused pure hip hop. This album started to clue us in on how much of a pure solid citizen Mac was. He didn’t want to be the next great white hope. He was always bigging up artists who were considered more talented than him. He loved hip hop so he loved spitting over DJ Kool’s Let Me Clear My Throat sample on Party on Fifth Ave but he loved the title tracks mid tempo, he could rap at any speed or frequency and work it.

5.  Goosebumpz produced by Diplo (bonus track) off Watching Movies with The Sound Off

Mac Miller was not universally adored. The same way I cherished his juvenile exuberance and connected it to my own outer child, many detested it. Watching Movies with The Sound Off changed that. It is a grown up album with great features (Schoolboy Q , Action Bronson, Earl Sweatshirt) notable production (Flying Lotus, Pharrell, Earl Sweatshirt under the name randomblackdude, Chuck Inglish, Alchemist, Clams Casino, Tyler the Creator). Even the critics who shot him down for his irritating childishness noted this as a big step forward.  In reality, he marshalled his resources looked around the rap game at all the artists he respected doing great work and wanted to do the same. Goosebumpz is very Odd Future influenced (like telling his girl to have sex with his hologram after he passes). It’s complete reckless energy at full throttle and when he was in this zone he could really leave your head spinning. I’ll miss the crazy little bastard.

Don’t just hashtag him and push on, let’s talk about him.

 

Song of The Year-Choosy by 03 Greedo & Nef The Pharaoh featuring Chris O Bannon & ALLBLACK

Song of The Year-Choosy by 03 Greedo & Nef The Pharaoh featuring Chris  O Bannon & ALLBLACK

by Dan-O

The story of the 03 Greedo X Nef The Pharaoh collaboration EP Porter 2 Grape always points back to the depressing reality that Greedo is going to prison for 20 years for riding extra dirty. Greedo is a fantastic talent with an outsized personality and a lot to say. Verses hooks songs projects all come easy to him(even easier with the motivation to get it all out before he gets put away). While most artists have to find their zone he lives there and losing him is a big hit for hip hop.

That being said Porter 2 Grape is obscenely fun. Greedo is masterfully flossy-hardcore-silly and Nef is a joy to listen to. As Choosy begins the beat drops right into O Bannon who chisels the chorus into your brain. Nef growls and Greedo jumps right in and growls back. The whole EP tastes of that flavor, no one kills anyone on songs, one dope verse gets the other MC excited to push as hard and they  create collective profane sexist bay area fun. ALLBLACK is locked in and sews the song up with diligent bars. What he doesn’t have is the secret sauce in Porter 2 Grape.  ALLBLACK is always in pocket right where you should be while the two stars ,by contrast, are ping ponging all over the song in spontaneous bursts of energy. When Nef says he climaxed in his lovers eye it doesn’t sound mean, just ecstatically childish. By the time you get to Greedo’s tutor/ruler metaphor you know what this is about. Life is too short for these guys not to clown and enjoy the length of every song. Tomorrow it can be all gone so today we put this song on and sing along loud.