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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.

 

 

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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.

#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