Tag Archives: reviews

#Bandcampgold-Brick Body Kids Still Daydream by Open Mike Eagle

#Bandcampgold-Brick Body Kids Still Daydream by Open Mike Eagle

by Dan-O

I am so much more excited about BBKSD than my circle. Everyone likes it. People at this point have heard of Open Mike Eagle due to the breakout success of 2014’s Dark Comedy (and 2016’s huge improvement Hella Personal Film Festival). He is officially on the bubble of everyone who follows music and BBKSD shows yet another improvement. That is a good enough take but not from my angle.  If you follow the incredible X-Men references in the opening track (Legendary Iron Hood https://genius.com/Open-mike-eagle-legendary-iron-hood-lyrics ). The song is a perfect example of Mike pushing everything to the hilt. He’s always had great hooks and this time they are prettier, better sung, catchier (see Hymnal) the beats are full of strange sounds coming together over his buttery flow. His lyrics take comic imagery and push it 38 degrees to the left so that they become intensely meaningful.

On Happy Wasteland Day he is slick and smooth weaving zombie imagery and the connotation of dystopia into his everyday life “When the king is a garbage person/I might wanna lay down and die/Power down on my darkest urges/Keep my personal crown up high.”  As the song goes on his tone gets more and more urgent as the terror of everyday violence punctures the force field. The last verse his voice is post mortem, dead monotone and fading.  It is as much an emotional journey as Velvet Underground’s Heroin.

If you’re a strict rap guy who needs BARS just press play on Brick Body Complex which is a sensational set fire to the BS hook with dizzying skill from his pen in the verses “Chi Town in my building code/Stood here for ten million snows/wind chill is all in my bones/ Indivisible in divisible kids and criminals young and old/No radiator my dungeon cold.” That song sets my sensory on overload and it isn’t even my favorite.

I would change nothing on BBKSD but boy do I come back specifically to 95 Radios. Toy Light and Has-Lo created a beat that chimes a spotlight on the verses (Has-Lo destroys verse 1). Mike’s second verse teases fun growing up references but can’t run away from the hard thoughtful personal truth “I miss my old hood/ miss my homies/is lonely/ The radio host is like they know me.”  The pain isn’t just in the verse it’s in the delivery, the chorus drips with the visual image of a kid closing his eyes and trying to hear a rap song so he doesn’t have to think so damn much.

When I was in school (trying to become a better writer) teachers routinely told me to ignore what I did well and focus on improving my faults. As a natural antagonist the first thing I did was push even harder on my strengths leaving the rest for later. Sometimes if I pushed hard enough I could accomplish something really surprising and that was the best feeling. Brick Body Kids Still Daydream gives me that feeling for Mike. No one gets to show him his lane.

Bandcamp link below:



Album review-Drive by Shane Reis & Clarkwork

Album review-Drive by Shane Reis & Clarkwork

by Dan-O

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.

#Bandcampgold= Jidenna-The Chief

Bandcampgold=Jidenna-The Chief

by Dan-O

The Netflix series Luke Cage did a fantastic job maximizing the musical environment it presented. One of the show stopping performances was Jidenna who absolutely tore it down. My wife looked at me and said “That guy is GOOD.” All I could do was shrug. I don’t listen to the radio at all so I had heard Classic Man once and moved on. I had no reference point for dude but I stored that moment in my head and when his new album The Chief dropped it was at the top of my list to check out.

The Chief is not a cohesive album. This is not a walk through a specific story that gets you to know the narrator. This is the flexing your muscles album (less Good Kid Maad City more Section 80). Everything about it feels different. If I say that this is one of those threats that can sing and rap you’ll rightly say…that’s a lot of people. The difference is this dude is the son of a Nigerian scientist, his knowledge of African sonic textures gives him a totally different base he sings from. Adaora moves like Salsa but maintains the precious emotional center a Nat King Cole song has.

The unignorably brilliant stuff begins going through tracks two, three, and four. Two is called Chief Don’t Run and features Roman GianArthur on the hook. It is a straight ahead rap banger with punch lines to spare. The beat absolutely tramples and then it leads into the biggest pop hit on the album. Trampoline you’ll never get out of your head and the rewarding thing about it is that it takes the shape of a traditional slut shaming anthem while being the absolute opposite.  Example, “Anyone who works hard as you got the right to get lit. She might even have a wedding ring or a doctorate in medicine or the daughter of the reverend or the daughter of the president!(Trampoline)” Usually, banging pop anthems about women are condescending at their best but Jidenna doesn’t function like other people and definitely doesn’t care for expectations. Trampoline would easily be the best song on The Chief if Bambi didn’t come next. I can’t stop listening to it. My only reference point was Harry Belafonte calypso but my wife says that’s not right. She says the only thing she’s ever heard that reminds her of Bambi is The Lion Sleeps Tonight. The difference is this song is actually full on engaged in a discussion about relationships and loneliness.

Jidenna is very cool. He dresses cool, makes money and intellectually defends all of it with very cool one liners. The last two songs on the album (White Nigga & Bully of The Earth) are very intelligent without ever dipping into pretention. Underneath the sleekness The Chief definitely talks about how detached he gets from traditional relationships and the defenses he puts up against people who get too close. A lot of people who listen will likely never even engage The Chief on that level because of its snazzy wrapping paper. Jidenna doesn’t mind. This time around he wants you to know he can hit homeruns with or without Janelle Monae. Point made.

Stream or pay for this great album below:


#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.


apple link:


Spotify link:

Tidal store link:


They call these things mixtapes but we have to pay for them?

They call these things mixtapes but we have to pay for them?

by Dan-O

Whenever people look at me and say the mixtape doesn’t exist anymore; no difference exists between albums and mixtapes…I have to look at them confused. What do you mean? I know it’s an album because I paid for the thing. This all changed a while ago and now Kendrick Lamar calls my favorite album he ever released a mixtape (Section 80) so I’m forced to roll with this (respecting the artists wishes). A lot of these non-mixtape mixtapes have dropped recently and I wanted to give a quick update on two important projects you need to check out. These are on ITunes and the second is on Amazon for digital purchase.

Erykah Badu-But U Caint Use My Phone

I have had my fair share of Badu-ruining-great-rappers conversations and while it is fun to believe in (like magic or the Electoral College) it is also entirely irrelevant. If Common puts out a bad album I’m not going to act like he was under someone’s spell (I wish I could for UMC) but more importantly Badu has an incredible career of her own. She creates deeply lyrical masterpieces like Mama’s Gun or chant heavy hooky albums like New Amerykah Part One and both kinds work for her. But U Caint Use My Phone is her doing it again, and while most will come for the stellar remake of Hotline Bling (called Cel U Lar Device) or the breathtaking collaboration with Andre 3000 (called Hello) this has a lot of top tier Badu. Phone Down might be my favorite song on the project because somehow without declaring itself vividly sexual the song overflows with it. She sounds assured and calm, so confident in who she is she doesn’t need to shout just give a gentle warning and she has your attention. She not only promises that she can make you put your phone down but have you so bamboozled in her you won’t know how to unlock it.

Yes it’s deeply intelligent in its handling of our communication in the modern age; the separation our constant cell phone use creates between lovers, friends and family but more important than that Erykah Badu is still dope in a year where Missy Elliott and Janet Jackson have proved the same.  So it may cost you money to pick this up but you will be supporting one of the really unique voices in the hip hop universe.


Alex Wiley-Village Party 2: Heaven’s Gate

I listened to Village Party everywhere. I don’t mind saying it. I spent all of last year listening to it but never reviewed it. The mixtape just seemed too impossibly atmospheric and different to properly describe. Alex Wiley destroys the wall between bars and hooks and just sways from word to word swimming in the beat. Listening to Alex Wiley is being delightfully inebriated and I’m clearly not the only one loving the experience. When Twista spits hot fire on Japanese he’s audibly taken with the vibe. It’s all vibe and it’s all different, how comforting must that be for an artist who suffered long in hip hop’s underappreciated tier because of how different his music was? Chance the Rapper doesn’t stick out at all on Navigator Truck, this is Wiley’s world and all the offbeat vocalists live here in harmony.

I am in no way saying that Wiley gets over on his chant/singing. If you listen to Play you will find yourself in observance of his slinky style reggae flow where he pounds words one after another until he slows down fading into the bass and the playing children just to emerge dropping bars feverishly. As much as I love to hear any gifted lyricist declare themselves by the force of their lyrics songs like Residual Effects (Shout out to Hippie Sabotage who do GREAT work on Village Party 2) are as hypnotic as those old Cypress Hill weed love songs.

Village Party 2 does what the first did, it takes me out of the world for as long as it’s playing and it probably does a better job than its predecessor. I’ll be honest; I had no qualms paying for this one.




Young Moe-Humble Hustle 2 mixtape review

Young Moe-Humble Hustle 2 mixtape review

by Dan-O

Free Music Empire contributor D.L. aptly characterized the goals of Humble Hustle 1 in the last sentence of his review from April of last year (https://freemusicempire.com/2012/04/16/young-moe-humble-hustle-2012/), “Here is a bizarro gangster Trap Rap mixtape that fills in the gaps left by caricature, and shows a real person’s struggle and strife in a very conflicted, shady world.” While Humble Hustle is all about filling in those gaps and articulating that struggle, Humble Hustle 2 revolves around taking that struggle to cinematic heights while maintaining the pre-existing levels of heartfelt realism at the core of the listening experience.

Its nineteen tracks long culminating in the most engaging outro of the year. Within it he goes from talking about how he grew up using candles cause the light bills weren’t paid and living hungry to showing his Egyptian side by rapping in a different language (Arabic?), speaking about the importance of planning and wanting to be a good father; all of it taking place over a thumping cooing masterpiece by Basshead Music Group. The reason I highlight the outro is how often is it a throw away? Most of the time it’s a rambling post it note tacked onto the work, or if it is rapping its a few bars and a wave goodbye, this is a real song and its dope.

Careful craftsmanship smoothes out every contour of Humble Hustle 2. Rich Lou alley oops the duo of Fat Trel and Young Moe a twinkling cinematic gem of a beat on Million Dollar Dreams and it does not go to waste. No one works better with Trel, Moe is all grizzled determination and scratchy voice as he spits “waking up with nothing make you dream about a lot of sh#t, you need your proper sense if you’ll be making every dollar flip,” while Trel croaks a joyously confident chorus about bricks of gold and million dollar clothes. Young Moe can spit Trap squared, so paranoid world-weary and driven that it seems multiplied in its potency. He can also switch gears and leave tire marks all over what you expected to hear.

The intro track is a post-cloud rap cloud beat by JRB that Young Moe digests with skilled bravado, talking about snitching, police, haters, and the basics. The first real track on the tape and the one that follows the intro nearly got me quivery lipped on the first listen. A Letter 2 Amarie is a slow powerfully authentic song to his son not filled with platitudes but warm facts. He holds him while he does the dirty dishes, driving for hours just to see him for thirty minutes. He wants to be alive for his son and wants his son to assume greater responsibilities, the way he broaches being around for his son in contrast to his father is jarring in its sincerity, to quote “but to leave you I can’t imagine, so I’m guessing I love you more than he loved me.” It’s really special and not the only example of Young Moe showing gifted levels of introspection and empathy.

This is not a perfect musical experience by any means. I could certainly do without Bus Driver, where Moe sells female listeners on an extraordinarily short term sexual paradise, but that song isn’t meant for me anyway. The special moments are undeniable in the sense that no other new emcee can replicate the sympathetic hardcore he brings to the table. Listen to how personal Freeway gets in his impressive verse on Dreamin’ and know that’s just what happens when you are on a track with Young Moe. You step up your levels. I Don’t Trust A Smile is a perfect example of the level Moe is on. Basshead Music Group use strings and strong drums to set the stage for Moe who laces a tremendous four minute warning about sexual relationships. This is not a don’t trust women song, all characters fail and the results are felt “Mama told her farewell, now she use a jacket as a pillow in the stairwell.” The way he says it, the image of the jacket as a pillow is exactly what makes the Humble Hustle series amongst the very best series of mixtapes. Young Moe is creating characters and feeling their mistakes, feeling their soreness and giving it to us. When he achieves he does the same, those powers of projection are carried over 100% from the original to the sequel and the beats are better. So it’s a massive win.

stream or download Humble Hustle 2 below:


Hologram Kizzie(aka Psalm One)-Free Hugs mixtape review

Hologram Kizzie(aka Psalm One)-Free Hugs mixtape review

by Dan-O

Psalm One has always been an immeasurable talent. When she broke out a fickle hip hop underground built her to be something they wanted. I believe the comparison that always followed her 2006 debut The Death of Frequent Flier was “a mix between Lupe Fiasco and Devin The Dude.” Thankfully I’m not a music insider so I don’t have to speculate about what went right and what didn’t which caused the years in between projects and lack of earned spotlight time. What I can explain is that she always felt weird, especially over Ant’s minimalist blues-bap on that first record.

It was never in question whether or not Psalm is dope. Psalm One is dope, always was. It’s a matter of making everything fit. Compound 7 feels like the answer on her new project Free Hugs. She’s going by Hologram Kizzie which I know is a terrible name cause of the face my wife made when I told it to her. Free Hugs is only 7 tracks long so if it was a steak it would have almost no fat to it at all. This free release is a superb digestible combination of beats and rhymes; I have to resist the idea that A-Plus (one of the two person Compound 7 crew) figured out the best way to use Psalm One because he helped found Heiroglyphics, a label for weirdoes by weirdoes.

Compound 7 bring several successful elements to the table.

Bass-the first time I turned the volume up on Free Hugs in my vehicle I knew there was no way she could play these songs in Maine(where I live) because only one club could handle the bass in these tracks. Most of the time the it hits like in the song Voyeuristic; seconds of quiet build up only to get utterly destroyed by a rampaging bass line. You might hurt your neck nodding to Free Hugs.

Incredible samples-All I have to do is talk about my favorite song(The Plunge) where Compound 7 turn the most relaxed song in R&B, Cruisin’ by Smokey Robinson, into a rave beat. The samples never seem to stand outside the beat like another guest feature, they meld with the bass line and glow stick dancing electronic elements.

They turn up the pace-Free Hugs moves at a frantic unrelenting pace. This is head out of the passenger side summer music, and the way each track slaps forces Psalm One into a naturally quicker flow variation of double times and semi-double times that incorporate everything great about her lyricism.

I want to talk more about the lyricism. Every bar on Free Hugs is an anything can happen situation. The fast pace showcases great humor “word to my bra size and my dark eyes(Need Love Too)” and moments of concise frustration like on Paranoid Lover “Road rage, dro haze, tendency for 4play, both ways, overanalyzing on the show days…” she can go from 50 cent joke to tragedy as on Worlds Collide where she shouts out her father who passed away. It comes out of absolutely nowhere. Its all part of a mixed perspective that incorporates insight, humor, and tragedy not always in equal parts but in what amounts are needed. This is a project about finding love and happiness in a way that acknowledges life’s challenges.

The hooks are beyond catchy (see Need Love Too) and by the time your done listening you won’t even realize that not one guest showed up. Free Hugs is a reaffirmation, for some it will be not forgetting how good she’s always been. What I learned from is that the problem with any Psalm One album is never Psalm One, it’s the environment and once that’s right…this is what you get. Here’s hoping that Compound 7 and Hologram keep making music and building on the chemistry this project establishes.

check out the great cover art then stream or download below: