Song of the year-Ace by Noname featuring Smino & Saba
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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Tagged Ace, Blkswn, Care For Me, Chicago Hip Hop, Noname, Noname Gypsy, reviews, Room 25, Saba, Smino, song of the year
Song of The Year-Play by Big Freedia featuring Goldiie
When I heard the album Just Be Free in 2014 I must have listened to it the way the kids look at the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park (early part of the movie). Living in Maine I’m sure I expressed wide -eyed tap- the-glass confusion before dismissing it. I put it in that mind bin of stuff I don’t understand and know I don’t know enough to comment about… until one episode of The Handsome Rambler podcast. Hannibal Burress and his co-host Tony Trim were asking the question: is it harder to maintain your musical hot streak being lyrically dense with a lot to say or straightforward and energy based repeating phrases. Hannibal brought Big Freedia into the conversation as someone who continually does the latter. Freedia grabs a few phrases and stirs them into the bounce so the song never feels stale but no one has to pull out lined paper and take notes.
When Freedia put out the five song ep 3rd Ward Bounce I completely got it. I had learned to stop figuring it out and enjoy it. Once I let go and did what Freedia asked me to do in 2014 (Just Be Free!) I could see the brilliance in it.
No question in my mind 3rd Ward Bounce is the best EP of 2018. It moves beyond mastering your sound, it’s a sound that can digest so many disparate talents into it. Lizzo fits perfectly in the background of Karaoke not in the shadows mumbling backup but full throated big personality killing the hook(the hook to a Big Freedia song should be called The Super Hook since every second feels like the hook). Freedia doesn’t need assistance, the lead single Rent has 80’s hip hop Run-DMC flourishes and still bounces like a shopping cart over cobblestone. Knowing who you are as an artist is such an important and difficult step but Freedia is beyond it, now she mixes her magic with the talent of others and concocts new recipes. Goldiie’s superhook on Play is so clean clear and downright pretty that I couldn’t be more excited for what she will do next. The song they create together is the flawless finale this short adrenaline rush of an ep needed letting you bounce but also appreciate the view from where you are. No one takes charge of your body like Big Freedia.
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Tagged 3rd Ward Bounce, Big Freedia, Bounce, Goldiie, Handsome Rambler Podcast, Hannibal Burress, Just Be Free, Lizzo, N.O. Bounce, New Orleans, Play, song of the year, Tony Trim
Song of The Year-Choosy by 03 Greedo & Nef The Pharaoh featuring Chris O Bannon & ALLBLACK
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.
Song of The Year-Nont For Sale by Sudan Archives
I would bet the artist Sudan Archives knows more about the violin than I know about my family. Nont For Sale is my summer song but also a class I’m enrolled in on how to build a song. The first seven seconds are her stabbing the space with violin work then the bass drops, immediately followed by her voice, and then finger snaps. The song keeps putting more things into the background of its space while the bass and violin support the floating unspoiled voyage of her voice.
She is the composer the player and the voice so I wanted to give the composer credit. Her voice is always in the right place and never overcome by the instrumental density the composer brings to it. Shout out to the voice. Beyond the composition, the vibe, lyrically this song is as hard as an outdoor basketball court. The first words she says are “You only call me when you need somethin’ I need to be free/ time to spread my wings/ I don’t like leeches/ all that nonsense gon’ get back wit ya./ Don’t got time for snitches/ your pulling me down thought you was my sister.” Shout out to the writer. It’s the best song on a great album (Sink) about being free not just from relationships but presumptions, expectation, and shame. Most of the time her voice is a hush even as she declares “this is my light don’t block the sun, this is my seat can’t you tell? This is my time don’t waste it up, this is my land not for sale.”
As a person I worry about this a lot. People tend to take without knowing it and if you are too agreeable you have less light than you should .You deserve your light. Nont for Sale is muted but expansive and strangely galvanizing. Sink itself is one of my 5 favorite albums of the year because the light she ends up standing in is her own, not one comparable to other major charting artists. That’s the dream.
Song of The Year-Amen by Bobby Feeno
I always liked Arian Foster. Even though athletes rapping doesn’t always work out well I was pretty sure Flamingo and Koval (his debut album) would. Yes he did pick a Nintendo 64 lead character name (not for real but it does sound like it) to rap under but we’ve all heard worse. What I like about the album is how it cruises between designated hip hop subgenres. The production is soulful, lush, and instrumental the lyrics are intelligent but this isn’t conscious rap or the opposite of it.
Bobby Feeno didn’t put out the album of the year or set out to. He introduced himself and in the process of doing so took steps other mc’s would never take. Amen is the most unshakeable takeaway from Flamingo and Koval (named after the intersection 2pac was shot). The audio clip that begins it is impossible to shake from your mind (see: “…your thoughts ain’t my thoughts!!”) and his flow is so cool, casual and subtle in sarcasm that when Billboard asked him if he was trolling religion with this song he had to push back. Amen isn’t trolling but a nuanced clowning. The tone of his voice is like mine when my friend wears a really ugly shirt, I’m going give guff but I’m going to take my time with it… have some real fun. The lyrics are about as pointed as they can be especially as the song rolls on and over the church-like organ he says “all you gotta do is believe him, I know you can’t hear or see him but it’s just more pleasing when you got that faith. Hook line & sink brother drop that bait, heaven is high for you hop that gate and science is lying to you it’s not that great. So I asked the preacher why these kids are starving in our land and the preacher said it’s something we ain’t meant to understand.” He has the nerve to follow that last word with a chuckle so slight that it makes Amen bitterly cutting. That is right before a sarcastic and amen that sounds like a sigh.
The song is so vitally disrespectful it comes from the very core of what hip hop achieves at its most powerful. Arian Foster is in his 30’s like I am so he understands the genre in similar ways. That it is very fun to put on some Playboy Carti but the stuff that forms us tends to have real things to say and a real spirit behind it. So while you may hear Flamingo and Koval as an ex-football player trying his J.Cole on, I hear a cool guy with a frenzied mind trying to map out all the angles 2pac explored or would have if he had the additional time. Tell a friend about Bobby Feeno and then start listening to Foster’s fantastic podcast.
Operation Doom Discography/Song of The Year-Phantoms featuring Kendra Morris & Open Mike Eagle produced by 7L
I couldn’t have been luckier than to wrap up the Doom discography run with Czarface Meets Metal Face. The Czarface supergroup that started in 2013 was directly built upon the legacy of MF Doom. The skits the covers the framework was Doom and it united 7L, Esoteric & Inspectah Deck. Pulling Doom in isn’t as awkward as I worried it might be. I don’t expect the album to get a lot of critical love because it is dense and a first (even second listen) can leave you pretty bewildered. The production is also boom bap which most critics are sure is old school not an actual continuing genre within the greater hip hop sphere.
Czarface Meets Metal Face has some great Doom moments, the most Doom punchline in years is “Don’t deal with the Devil on a deep level/they see metal and sound off like a tea kettle” from Captain Crunch. Phantoms is hands down the best posse cut of 2018 thus far. It is a staggering display of lyricism by a room full of hall of famers. MF sets the table with a chilling story about the price you pay cheating and betraying the people who love you. The phantom in his case is the angel and devil on each shoulder pulling him in opposite directions. While most MC’s use their pen to valorize themselves Doom lays it down awkward ” Wife wonder how you diss fam and disgrace your children/Dudes is wired like that, it’s still an all-case buildin’ ” I didn’t fully fathom how impressive his verse is until I read it.
The brilliance of 7L is flipping the beat for every new verse which can certainly be seen as a nod to Gangstarr’s I’m The Man but it feels very practical in this case. Open Mike Eagle & Inspectah Deck need different sonic backgrounds (Deck gets the best beat). All verses are blinding on this one: Mike Eagle sounds like the voice of a generation funny witty and razor sharp. Deck is a monster with odd references that make you rewind (Haley Joel Osment) and Esoteric might have my favorite performance of the song with his alliterative F sound verse that never comes off as forced.
Reviewers are forced to create a narrative around albums. So Czarface Meets Metal Face can be called out as old school but Doom and Deck were putting out new music back when boom bap was king, would you prefer they grab Sonny Digital and adjust their flow to the high hat? Ew. It can be called a victory lap from a bunch of really important artists past their peak but…what is so wrong with that? Isn’t it kind of cool to hear a bunch of great successful rappers get together and push themselves for the love of the actual art on an album that wasn’t made for charting? When listening tune your ears to the right connotation.
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Tagged 7L, Boom Bap, Czarface, Esoteric, Inspectah Deck, MF Doom, old school hip hop, Open Mike Eagle, Operation Doom Discography, Operation Doomsday, song of the year
Song of The Year-Keep The Devil Off by Big K.R.I.T. produced by Big K.R.I.T.
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.