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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.

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#Bandcampgold-Role Model by Michael Christmas

#Bandcampgold-Role Model by Michael Christmas

by Dan-O

A lot of the most profitable rappers have become quite good at positioning themselves as post-joy flat featured heavy-hangs-the-crown types. Of course it isn’t true for most of them but acting like the weight of the world is on your shoulders as you are at your sales high marker is a cooler way to react than actual excitement.

The thing is you can’t replace what excitement gives a song. 19 year old Boston MC Michael Christmas flexes the power of enthusiasm all through his new album Role Model.  Conceptually the album functions around the relationship he has to his sister and the way young innocent eyes make you rethink the image you present to them and the world they are stepping into. After going over the basic rules of engagement with the world to her on the intro he slides right into These Days where he loudly chants how jacked up the world is. It is produced by Meltycanon who does four out of the fifteen songs on Role Model and most of the best ones. Girlfriend Upset and These Days are all anthemic sing-a-longs where the production is broad enough for everyone to love but odd enough (Girlfriend especially) to be tailored for Christmas. The other producer who deserves a tip of the hat is Thelonious Martin for his ill fuzzed out guitars on Growing Up and everything to do with Ball.

It was a surprise hearing Christmas is from Boston because all the Boston MC’s I know of are stone faced hoody wearing Reks/Esoteric/Slaine types who are more likely to rap about eating your intestines than about being shy in the club and erectile dysfunction (see Not For Me second verse). All the hooks on Role Model are big pretty and fun. He doubles his vocals so you can hear him giggling and repeating his “tick tick” ad lib. He might rap about pancakes and then next track hook up with G Perico & Domo Genesis for an ILL West Coast rap song (Polo Sweater). Shout out to G Perico ,by the way, who is one of my favorite rappers of the world and a definite 2017 MVP candidate for the work he put in.

The reason I keep coming back to Role Model is that it is about feeling like you’re not good enough for the new world. Watching the next generation grow up smart and emotionally savvy while fearing you’re not growing at the same pace (Christmas sees this with his sister while I’m raising a son who is clearly better than me). It is about that but it handles the conflicted heft with an earned optimism so by the time you get to track nine (Ball) you are throwing your hands in the air. When track 10 starts Tianna is listening to Ball and singing along and you feel how important his music must be to her. How much she has at stake in him, you take the trip with these characters. You feel how important these relationships are to them. It’s a refreshing perspective and the energy he leverages is contagious.

Stream or Purchase Role Model below:

https://michaelxmas.bandcamp.com/

 

Mixtape Review(Mashup edition)-American Godfather by Jay-Z & DJ Skee

Mixtape Review (Mashup edition)-American Godfather by Jay-Z & DJ Skee

by Dan-O

It bothers me that the mixtape revolution which gave us hip hop in its modern form is hard to find traces of. You can still scour datpiff archives but when I throw “Kush and OJ” through my Amazon unlimited search bar it comes back with nothing related to Wiz Khalifa (I have not checked Itunes but Google Play didn’t have it either). The advancements in hip hop mixtapes that caused a need for Freemusicempire came on the backs of brilliant artists who will never end up in anyone’s top five (not because of lack of talent but because they aren’t in the public eye outside of the hip hop base). So I went through my external hard drive for anything with DJ and excitedly came back with DJ Skee’s American Godfather mashup.

2007 wasn’t just important for mixtapes it was important for Jay-z. American Gangster really is the dividing line between two eras. it is the last album by Dopeboy Jay. The album that followed was 2009’s Blueprint 3 which is underrated (in my opinion) but it is  Celebrity Jay on the mic.  His frame of reference was no longer what it was for Blueprint 1. American Gangster has three guest features while Blueprint 3 has TWELVE (Blueprint 1 had one guest and you know who it was). The Jay of 2007 was the same MC spawning new album versions of everything he dropped (example: Grey album & Red album variations of The Black Album) his bars albums charted with the best production and crazy videos at the height of the ROC rosters depth in terms of lyricists beat makers and raw corporate muscle but the mixtape circuit hungered for every written line. Verses felt like commandments.

American Godfather is the single greatest example of that time period in mixtapes. As a piece of classical music The Godfather soundtrack is perfect for incorporation into the hip hop sound. The horn section, the strings all move with a savy Italian grace that had to resemble nostalgia for an era long gone while conveying the shock and loss violence brings. That mournful whimsy in the orchestra sewn into the background adds even more majesty to Jay’s declarations to do it any way he can while taking in the savagery of the dealer landscape. It highlights what he misses by closing himself off emotionally. Since the original soundtrack tells the story of a good man becoming a calculating criminal leader the combination makes a lot of sense.

Listen to Pray go from pristine to gritty until the two mix. That song is a great example of what Skee brings to the table. Listen to the original Pray…he didn’t just weave in clips from The Godfather movie and sample the string section. The bassline on the American Godfather version of Pray is four times as strong.  He not only made it gorgeous with wind instruments but at the same time made it a dirtier head knocker and defiantly hip hop by dropping the beat in as savagely as he could. He made the song better.

The reverence for Jay that I referenced earlier is quite real on this mashup. The “every couplet could be a Tee Shirt” Jay-z pen game is so strong that Skee makes the decision to leave I Know absolutely naked. If you just listen to the story of it unfold in the specific detailed metaphors it signifies a real high point in the characterization within his writing. The only way to get you to focus on that is to rip the Neptunes signature sound out of the song and force you to follow the narrator;  leave you the reverberation of his voice saying “shoppin’s like coppin’ you constantly need it.” Jay is humane enough to paint tragedy onto every participant in the dealerscape because he has empathy for everyone involved. The game eats at him in ways other dealer-rappers never thought of. Jay is at his best when he is on a high level of physical real world details and emotional details at the same time.

Roc Boys being left nude for the world is even more off-putting. That song always functioned as the catchiest party song, the high point single reveling in the fun times of the dealer tale before the falling action.  By pulling out Diddy and the gang on production he leaves it ringing as a hollow moment of celebration that comes off more as a chant the main character is trying to believe but fears the finitude of.

Skee ripped the sample right out of Ignorant Shit and put guitars behind the Black Republicans beat (off Nas- Hip Hop Is Dead because mixtapes have no rules. Black Republicans is a better beat so bring it in.)  DJ Skee like Green Lantern and Don Cannon (Cannon’s redo of Drake’s first album is so much better than Drake’s first album. I didn’t even like Drake before I heard Cannon’s version) had a ceaseless desire to optimize every second of every song.  If you listen to American Godfather in the hopes of hearing everything in the Godfather soundtrack incorporated into Jay’s American Gangster album you messed up. He absolutely turns Success a thousand times better with The Godfather Waltz which binds the venomous distaste of Jay’s verse with the omniscience of Nas. The waltz creates an emotional spectrum that binds those very different emotional places but this isn’t a straight up slap together mixtape (which we see a lot of). Skee makes choices for the better of the project as if he were truly in charge with no red tape in front of him. As if the original album was raw material and he was The Dust Brothers on Paul’s Boutique freakin’ it however he saw fit.

Nino Rota couldn’t have imagined that the thickness and grandeur of his soundtrack would be clipped and repurposed in such a staggering way (even without the movie the soundtrack is an incredible listen). No one will ever convince me that a better version of Fallin’ exists than the one with Nino’s Sicilian Pastorale dialed into the beat making it sharper and meaner and more fun to listen to. It is so epic in the scale of its self-destruction. I think the beginning of The Godfather Finale is what was used for Sweet and it’s another great idea fully realized along with rearranging the order to place Sweet after Fallin’. American Godfather is born from a careful caring vision that guides it.

In 2007 when these kind of well worked visions were available for free I always wondered how many of these Livemixtape gems got to Jay. Did he hear The Billprint or American Godfather?  I never pondered if he would like them. I always hoped someone put it on for him so he could enjoy it. I knew he would love it and be proud of his influence on it.  Jay always thought about what his music would be like if he had been less commercial, he had more than a secret love for Kool G Rap and all the dark regions of hip hop far less flossy and flamboyant than he always was.  How incredible is it that his mark stretches so far people did their best work remaking his music? In my mind Hova hears the shifting going on in Blue Magic as the sample is incorporated and shakes his head like “that was the missing element,”  he heard the title track and got all scrunch faced, bobbing his head, taking nothing away from Just Blaze but DAMN those violins are sharp!

I am not one of these dudes who will write this paragraph about why Skee should have had a larger profile, gotten a bigger chance with bigger artists. Would Skee have given Ross some dope beats? Sure. Art is not sports. What you do is what you achieve; the Grammys is NOT the superbowl.  I love that hip hop has legend levels and if you’re on the bunny slopes you didn’t recognize WC holding the uzi in Friday. You’ve never heard Del Tha Funkee Homosapien rap about bad hygiene.  Whenever a popular rapper does a commercial someone says to me “Isn’t it terrible what they are doing to hip hop?!” and I smile.  That is the hot take from the bunny slopes and I get it. Consumerism has done a number on so much of our art and entertainment but not hip hop.  They don’t know how many levels we have that are protected by how much you care to know it, how much of your time you want to spend following it. Our firewalls can be cracked but pack a lunch.

To be clear this is not a mixtape of its time. It is not something you needed to have been there in the culture of its release to enjoy. This is something you could send to Danny Brown or Yachty or Uzi Vert and they would get it. They would bang their head like you will upon listening. The answer to “who did this?!” is in the same madman who played Ray Manzarek to Game’s post G-Unit Jim Morrison and gave him the canvas to paint all his malevolence on. He was there for Glasses Malone, Crooked I, Bishop Lamont and so many serious West Coast rappers best mixtape.  A solid gold first ballot mixtape hall of famer whose ad-lib created waves of relief for me and American Godfather is important to him. It would have had to be, to be done with this much care. To go seventeen tracks deep instead of a tight nine or ten. It’s careful in its construction and spiritually connected to the work of the original which is how it never seems weird that it is incorporating two movies into the world of a rap album.

I am not making the case that things were better in the era where mixtapes became more than freestyles. I never wanted to see the mixtape take the place of the album (I always liked the street clothes v. business clothes difference). I loved that mixtapes were a playground for everyone involved. Any idea that was off the marketable path, an image gamble, or outside the budget could be explored. Never anticipated that the label as we knew it would die and be washed away and the mixtape would be the only remaining path. The era of forced independence has made me look back on the formative content. Boy am I glad we built a second house before the first one washed out.

Stream or download American Godfather below:

https://www.datpiff.com/Jay-Z-DJ-Skees-American-Godfather-mixtape.9415.html

 

Song of The Year-Keep The Devil Off by Big K.R.I.T. produced by Big K.R.I.T.

Song of The Year-Keep The Devil Off by Big K.R.I.T. produced by Big K.R.I.T.

by Dan-O

Wherever I have worked, anything I have achieved has been on the strength of who I am to the people around me…not management. I’ve never been able to convince anyone in power that I fit but the co-workers, customers, those I really touch hold me up on the strength of what I can do. This could be one of the reasons I’ve been so deeply invested in Big K.R.I.T. since I heard K.R.I.T. Wuz Here in 2010. He’s the people’s champ. When his first official album (Live From The Underground) came out he had a song featuring B.B. King with a video directed by Spike Lee and STILL couldn’t get mentioned in the company of his peers (some of whom he outpaced). In 2013 when A$AP Rocky put KRIT on 1 Train with Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson, Joey Bad@$$, and Kendrick KRIT beat everyone off the track. No surprise to me, but the internet chattered briefly and then ignored it. KRIT didn’t fit their narrative and still doesn’t.

His new double album 4 Eva is A Mighty Long Time is deep at over eighty four minutes of music and thick with trunk rattling propulsive production(a lot of it handled by KRIT) but it’s also a lot of verse to take in. It isn’t conscious rap (he loves to floss and take down his opposition loves proper UGK s— talk) but it isn’t high end Ross-like luxury rap(Ross doesn’t even make that anymore) . If you like Southern rap b/c of the bouncy Migos chorus and strip club friendly content this doesn’t perfectly fit.

It is a double album that anticipates you will understand once you have taken the journey from Big K.R.I.T. to Bury Me In Gold and those of us who know do very much understand. For us 4 Eva is A Mighty Long Time is one of the year’s best albums and now that he’s independent he doesn’t have to explain himself to people who don’t get it. He can just breathe fire from his heart. That is what makes Keep The Devil Off so unmatched. This week I set it as my morning alarm and popped out of the sheets when he shouted “LORD be my witness!!” If you don’t care about how heartfelt his discussions of police brutality, infidelity,  & black identity are, if you just want to jam…I have a song that will sell you.

#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:

https://openmikeeagle360.bandcamp.com/album/brick-body-kids-still-daydream

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:

https://jidennanow.bandcamp.com/album/the-chief