Song of The Year-Slapbox by Conway The Machine produced by Daringer
You can’t just call him Conway. He’s The Machine for a reason. When the beat comes on and his mouth starts it feels 100% organic like no pen has been picked up no plans have been made(This isn’t just how he sounds he admits it, “keep in mind these raps I keep in mind, I don’t read a rhyme. I just see them lines in my head I’m lyrically inclined ‘212’.”). It doesn’t actually sound fair, the other guy featured worked really hard on his/her verse and now this guy is just a person made out of rap lyrics and can peel off 16 of them at will?!
Conway The Machine has been grinding for a while now, releasing lots of mixtapes. I’ve never reviewed any of them because I was waiting for his improvement to take the form of project specialization: track sequencing, better beats, songs with structure and his new album nails all of it. His new release is called Everybody is F.O.O.D. it is sold directly through his site ( https://whoisconwaythemachine.myshopify.com/collections/frontpage/products/everybody-is-f-o-o-d-digital-album) and without any question the best thing he’s ever released. The second best is his last project G.O.A.T.
What has made him an important force is that his relentlessness is matched by his collaborator and NY’s secret weapon, Daringer. He produces seven of eleven tracks and has the best beat on it. Slapbox is the kind of thick grungy attack The Machine should always rap over. Saying this is the best beat is an accomplishment since other producers on this include Pete Rock, Green Lantern, and Statik Selektah. Daringer knows better than any how to take the essential boom bap stomp and twist it, stab it until the agitation level has changed. Slapbox never lulls you into the hypnotic state a Pete Rock beat can, instead it throws you back into the story on the edge of your seat.
The story is one of my favorites since Biggie’s second album. It starts with slapboxing in the street just knuckleheading around an average day and ends with a leg shot and a police chase. The third to last line is “I’mma go hide out in that abandoned church.” How many times have you heard that in a rap song? Slapbox is my favorite song because it is clear vivid and impactful. It shows that if The Machine takes his time his concise linguistics paired with his odd mind produce unforgettable music. Both Conway The Machine and Daringer are two very important factors in why NY rap is my favorite thing in 2018(shout out to Roc Marciano, Ka, Action Bronson, Hus The Kingpin, Crimeapple, Westside Gunn, Armand Hammer, Skyzoo, Mach Hommy, and so on and so forth).
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Tagged album review, Conway The Machine, Daringer, Everybody is F.O.O.D., Green Lantern, hardcore hip hop, hip hop, mixtape review, NY Hip Hop, Pete Rock, Statik Selektah
Song Review-Dudley Boyz by Westside Gunn featuring Action Bronson produced by Alchemist
Have I told you how much I love Westside Gunn’s Flygod album? It has the same crushing sense of hardcore content with a twist of dark humor that Sean Price was so great at creating. In addition, it features production by Alchemist, Statik Selektah, & Roc Marciano while the album is mostly produced by Daringer (10 out of 18 tracks) and it all sounds magnificently consistent. Flygod sounds like the attentive child of peak-Havoc Mobb Deep production. I have no idea who Daringer is but he lays these beats cold scary and twisted (examples: Shower Shoe Lords & Free Chapo).
This is a perfect sonic landscape for Alchemist to drop into. He plays the optical illusion of the very simple beat that feels enormous while Bronson goes nuts yelling “I’m all suede! Everything a spaceship!” Not to be outdone Westside Gunn bops into the song with his off-kilter flow and declares “grenade launcher lookin’ like Manute Bol, lookin’ for loopholes fell asleep in the law library, me and Larusso.” As convincingly in-your-face violent as Gunn gets (rolling dead bodies in rugs, AK in the backseat) he’s still having fun and smiling at you through these references. No one who makes a Manute Bol grenade launcher reference is without humor. In the song 55 & A Half he talks about having “visions of Sean Price” and while he’s not the most technical master of ceremonies (some of these rhymes come a mile away) I’m just so happy to have a New York movement (no matter how mainstream it gets or doesn’t) with a mission to keep this hardcore NY sound so icy you can see your breath with headphones on. Between Gunn, Marciano, Bronson, Smoke Dza, & Ka something really nice is developing. It might remind you of the good old days but it’s a little sillier if you catch the jokes.
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Tagged Action Bronson, Alchemist, Daringer, Flygod, New York Hip Hop, NY Hip Hop, Roc Marciano, Sean Price, Song Review, Statik Selektah, Westside Gunn
Song of The Year-The Imperial featuring Action Bronson, Royce Da 5’9 and Black Thought produced by Statik Selektah
The most popular DJ albums fall into one of two categories. The first is the super-producer putting the most popular artists together to line up as many radio hits as possible. If even one record breaks in a big way the DJ gets a new car. Not trying to run down this approach. I need great radio singles like everyone else.
The second kind is the massively well respected producer, underground or on the popular border, who uses his great beats to gather all the most interesting guests together. Statik Selektah and maybe Marco Polo fit into this category. Statik’s new album What Goes Around is absolutely fantastic in terms of track chemistry; Snoop Dogg raps with Ransom on a song, Noreaga, Reks and Termanology share the track Drunk and High. At first you might look at the tracklist and ask why Bun B and Jared Evan are on a song together but you can always trust in Statik Selektah.
Not only is this the kind of producer who never stops working (even to sleep) but his ear for MC talent is as good as his ear for song construction. He not only got Action, Black Thought and Royce together on a track, he got hungry top-of-his-game Black Thought. This is the Black Thought who ran side by side with Pun on Capital Punishment. Is it the catchiest song of the year? Does it have Jhene Aiko singing seductively? No and no but if you are walking around yapping about the lack of lyricism in rap this might sink your battleship. While this song is definitely on a higher level because of the collection of talent all the songs are formed with hard as nails wordsmiths and gritty, jazzy boom bap minimalism.
If the trashy rap makes you feel gross this is your hot shower.
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Tagged Action Bronson, Black Thought, Bun-B, DJ albums, Jared Evan, Marco Polo, Noreaga, Ransom, Reks, Royce Da 5'9, Snoop Dogg, song of the year, Statik Selektah, Termanology, The Imperial, What Goes Around
Mixtape Review-The Water(s) by Mick Jenkins
It’s just not as simple as the presentation. Most important musical projects fit this description: Cream wasn’t as simple as great guitar work, Sinatra wasn’t as simple as love songs or whistfulness, Kind of Blue is more than a polished listen and great introduction to Jazz. In this same way The Water(s) is just as much about disenchantment as it is finding peace. It’s just as negative as it is positive. As low key and meditative as THC is 514 is just as scaly and paranoid; the title track of the mixtape is an important centerpiece. A thoughtful mixture of ideas like not selling your soul to achieve your artistic goals and staying thankful for the water which provides a peaceful counterpoint, a foundational element we can count on.
The thoughtful moments are plenty throughout. Little lines you might miss can blow you backwards like “Gotta move so many keys to unlock the boxes we trapped in (Who Else).” Intelligent construction of ideas allows for a listening experience that stays fresh but my favorite Mick Jenkins lines don’t feel delivered from a beautiful mind but spat out of a militant survivor “Southside N_ seen a whole lotta sh#$, six point stars, and a whole lotta dope with a shooter that I missed that’s a whole lotta bricks. The city that raised me, the people that taught me…the differences are crazy. Its all love though, know that I’m gonna share my light when your vision gets hazy (Dehydration).” Songs like Healer where Jenkins tries desperately to find peace only to blow up at joke acts like Riff Raff for taking up space, feel dazzlingly vivid.
You don’t typically find this class of production and guest star on an artist’s sophomore mixtape. At a total of fifteen tracks Statik Selektah, Cam from J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Kirk Knight, and DJ Dahi all show up knowing they are in the right place; while Joey Bada$$ and Noname Gypsy (rant coming up) both make impressive appearances. Jenkins does a superb job placing silky hooks from Ebony and Jean Deaux (while not overusing the cherished r&b hook).
The Water(s) is one of those rare audio experiences where after several listens you still wouldn’t change a thing. It doesn’t have any fat on it. No bad interludes, odd beat choices or off track/doesn’t fit songs. A singular vision of duality binds the music; the hostile residue of painful experience vs. the journey for peaceful reality. Every song feels like a battle in the war and no…it doesn’t feel over when you finish the mixtape.
P.S. I don’t want to be rude but I am at a blue balls level of anticipation for that Noname Gypsy mixtape. Her Acid Rap guest feature blew a lot of people away but every appearance she’s made since has been at the same level. On Comfortable(on This project) I found myself getting angry she is so good. I want that tape as soon as possible and waiting is unsettling.
Stream or download The Water(s) below:
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Tagged Acid Rap, Chicago Hip Hop, datpiff, Dj Dahi, Joey Bada$$, Kind of Blue, Mick Jenkins, mixtape review, Noname Gypsy, Statik Selektah, The Water(s)
Mixtape Review-Stay Black 2 by Black Dave
NY radio personalities disingenuously perpetually ponder the state of NY hip hop and its difficulties. If the 5 Boroughs have a problem at all it’s this over thinking. When a new artist with talent comes out of NY his talent isn’t even that exciting the local question becomes does he represent the proper style? Is he new school NY trap like A$AP Rocky or French Montana? Is he old school like Joey Bada$$ or Roc Marciano? In other words, the style of the artist becomes more important than the content. That corrodes the core of any music scene.
Enter Black Dave; a slick radio friendly hook and chorus five star general who reps the Apple without getting trapped in it. On his new mixtape Stay Black 2 he enlists top producers like Statik Selektah and Cookin’ Soul to hop all over the map. If you want that head knocking classic NY sound you can turn None Of That From Me all the way up in your car. The Million Man March remix and the horror movie violin on Two Things might feel like they fit perfectly on an A$AP Mob compilation or a Flatbush Zombies track. Rollin’ carries a distinct Brick Squad influence. None of this is to say Black Dave is some kind of biter. This is just a smart dude who loves good music. Instead of living in a NY hip hop bubble Black Dave exists in the real world where he carries the torch but takes it interesting places.
While he does enlist different sounds Dave raps. Stay Black 2 is not a mixtape full of posse tracks with important people lifting him up. Gino Marley is the most known guest feature and at least nine of the sixteen tracks feature Dave solo. He seems to be very aware that he’s getting better and making an effort to clear the space to grow into his growth.
Don’t expect to listen to Stay Black 2 and get bowled over. It’s not full of rewindable double entendres; he doesn’t have a crazy growl or especially satisfying ad-lib. This is a technician with a lot of patience knocking out great song after great song nearly every one getting better and stronger with each listen. He’s not the only one in NY doing this by the way. That description pretty well fits Vado and Troy Ave as well. The difference is compared to those two Black Dave is a rookie but a rookie who knows when to snarl and menace ( see: Heard Of Me) and when to dial down into conversational slow flow (see: Daevon Willis). That kind of composure usually takes a few failures to find. This kid stepped into the mixtape universe with it and he’s just getting more assured with better resources. Maybe the future will be full of NY artists brave enough to copy Black Dave and just focus on the music. It’s the only thing an artist can really control.
stream or download Stay Black 2 below:
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Tagged Black Dave, Cookin' Soul, French Montana, Gino Marley, Joey Bada$$, mixtape review, NY Hip Hop, NY old schoo, NY radio, NY trap, Roc Marciano, Statik Selektah, Stay Black 2
Mixtape Autopsy: Joey Bada$$-Summer Knights
The fact that the Pro Era general’s new mixtape Summer Knights is unsuccessful is a known fact in the hip hop world. All the excited fingers that hit the download button on 1999 hit it again for Summer Knights. Shortly after listening to the half engaged native tongue projecting jazz horn beats and hum drum lyrics it’s taken its place as the very worst entry in the 2013 mixtape cemetery because it never feels like it existed in the first place. Summer Knights doesn’t die a violent death upon listening it fades away like a defeated video game character.
I’ve read reviews on Summer Knights where the author predicts a downhill slide from this point on for Joey, even though he’s yet to reach the legal drinking age. One bad mixtape does NOT kill a career or even mortally wound it.
The problem with Joey was outlined to me after 1999 dropped (and specifically after the great Joey guest verses that followed) by FME contributor D.L. To sum it up: he’s better and capable of more than most people give him credit for. The revivalists want him to waive the flag for a time long past and the new school kids think he’s pretentious for loving music older than he is. Everyone has expectations they place on Joey which keeps him locked into dusty Chuck Strangers and Kirk Knight beats like Alowha and Reign. Look at Hilary $wank for god’s sake, its produced by one of the most exciting NY producers (Lee Bannon) who blesses Smoke Dza with dinosaur stomping excitement….so what does he give Joey? The answer is pleasant elevator music. Insert jazz horn, insert Joey Bad verses you won’t remember.
If you listen to this project and hear an MC that is losing his depth and style I think you’re wrong. You are hearing an MC that is bored, plain and simple. This is the Method Man disease. He got so bored with the RZA production coming his way that his best verses were all features (Meth confirmed this in interviews) this is why he came back alive on his group album with Redman when he got Eric Sermon production. Because Joey knows what people expect and feels the need to deliver it he essentially gives us the same songs over and over. 1999 sounds like the Pro Era compilation from earlier this year, sounds like this and how long can he stay engaged and challenged doing that? As an artist you want to meet challenges and succeed, he’s trapped himself in a place with no challenges or successes.
Look at the list of producers, listen for glimmers of hope. I can give you two. Statik Selektah infuses some immediacy into Word is Bond by speeding up the piano keys, its still laid back but it bumps and it pushes Joey close to where we all want him. Trap Door is also an important song because Alchemist is the king of making subdued beautiful interesting East Coast gutter rap. Trap Door and Word is Bond might be the only two tracks on Summer Knights worth coming back too and while neither have the quotable Joey Bada$$ we know and love but he’s noticeably better. My recommendation is simple; he needs a full project away from MF Doom, Kirk Knight, and Chuck Strangers beats. Pull in Statik Selektah, Alchemist, but also pull in someone weird…surprise your audience and yourself. It’s the only way we’re all going to stay awake through the next project.
stream or download Summer Knights below: