#Bandcampgold-Songs.4. People. Who.Break.Bread by Niko Is produced by Thanks Joey
More than anything else Songs.4.People.Who.Break.Bread is a celebration of leveling up. I have been writing about Niko Is every year since his marvelously perfect 2012 Chill Cosby mixtape. Since that time he has been feverishly releasing material, touring, and playing his position. He’s now Talib Kweli’s right hand man, the kind of guy who can live in a tour bus for months and unfold himself as a lyrical dynamo from a weeded up sleepy state.
Songs.4.People.Who.Break.Bread isn’t my favorite Niko project for the simple fact that I remember release after release that was all him with one or two guests(Brutus is the Reasonable Doubt for Niko) and his ability to breath fire and sew together disparate imagery was all I ever wanted. This project definitely has that. The last song is my favorite: God & the Devil in the land of the Sun is a scare your parent’s banger where Niko fires sneaky sit & think about it lyrics while exactly in the pocket of the melody, the groove. Niko has been doing this so long and so religiously that he fits no matter what beat starts.
Another rewarding aspect of following the development of Niko’s movement is I am as much a fan of his chosen producer Thanks Joey (Joey Creates). Early production was proudly boom bap under Latin Soul samples from the greats (Tim Maia comes to mind from Chill Cosby). Joey has grown with Niko and now while he still can give you beats under that formula he has grown into all other levels. Say U Don’t has voices chanting in the background sampled into a stew of tortured sound while the bass bubbles and thumps. Wildest Dreams sounds like Jungle ambiance over drums that would bring a tear to Timbo’s eyes. These 8 songs are the closest Joey has been to becoming the Latin hip hop stripped down banger scientist version of Swizz Beatz. On 5am @ Walmart he sets a classic hip hop tone that allows for great verses from not just Niko but Mygrane & Murdoc. That song is meant to be a cypher of lyricists so the beat needs to lead from the back and Joey can do it. Joey can do anything.
Niko has worked with other producers who have done great work but any Niko fan ends up wondering, why not just all Joey? Joey is so good. So that is what we get(and have gotten for a while). U Could Be My Gal is Joey’s prettiest work with finger snaps and gentle cooing looped as the beat knocks. The first Bandcamp tag is “bossa nova” the second is “hip hop” and it makes sense. At this point Joey could use nothing but Astrud Gilberto samples and give you the hardest hitting hip hop album of the year. Songs.4.People.Who.Break.Bread is a better showcase of Joey’s growth and expertise in his field than Niko. Niko understands at this point. He’s proved his bars all over tracks with legendary mc’s (Styles P, Kweli, Action Bronson) and reliably put out albums where the concept is simply that Niko Is dope, albums that work better than fancier concept albums from major artists.
Songs.4.People.Who.Break.Bread is an affirmation that as a team they are officially staples and it is known outside of Florida, outside of the weird subset who feverishly repped him. When Chino XL comes onto Spanglish in Outerspace and rips into Woody Allen and Usher in a masterful scene stealing verse you can see the long haired stage crusher smiling, not at all feeling uneasy that he just killed on a track but excited that he gets to be on it with Chino (F*CKING) XL. He lives a life where Kool A.D. will give him a verse now and he got there through his loving monogamous relationship with the beat. You can call him an energy guy but ever since he’s been around Kweli….Kweli has sounded totally re-energized (see Carmen off Niko’s Brutus LP). That is Niko and it is Joey and it’s appreciated.
Stream or purchase below:
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Tagged #BandcampGold, Bossa Nova, Brutus, Chill Cosby, Chino XL, Kool A.D., Murdoc, Mygrane, Niko Is, Songs.4.People.Who.Break.Bread, Styles P, Talib Kweli, Thanks Joey
Free Album Review-Fuck The Money by Talib Kweli
At his worst Talib Kweli is still a tremendous talent. He’s just an unlistenable unlikable one. In the very lowest stages of his career you would find him stiff and professorial; determined to teach you how OPEC really works. At his best he is how he is now on his new free release Fuck The Money.
I’m not here to make the case that he’s changed. The case is pretty straight forward; Talib has such a keen eye for talent that he needs that chemistry with people to push him. The right chemistry. Javotti Media has a bunch of artists he’s very happy to work with. If you listen to him on the Combat Jack Podcast describe the strengths of each artist, he does so with passion and vigor the kind not naturally apparent during the Blacksmith start up. Let me use Niko Is as an example. During that interview he called Niko one of the best freestylers he had ever seen and that is very much Niko’s style. He’s loose and relaxed, winding words into a thick soup of sometimes silly yet thoughtful imagery. Not only does Niko show up alongside Kweli and Ab-Soul over an Alchemist beat on The Venetian, anyone who heard Brutus knows that this sounds like a Niko song. One of the best beats on Fuck The Money comes from Thanks Joey, Niko’s primary production partner in crime. The joy and fluidity of Niko’s style(and team) warms and inspires Kweli to go harder and have fun doing it.
I’m not trying to take credit from Kweli here. It’s an amazing listen. Miguel shows up to demolish the hook on Echoes yet our narrator doesn’t see the status difference between Miguel or Kendra Ross who does the hook on Baby Girl. Ab-Soul’s verse is dope on The Venetian (I still think Niko runs that song) but so is Casper Nyovest on Fuck The Money. Part of what makes Kweli special is that when he hears a new artist bubbling over with talent he doesn’t get resentful or jealous, he gets excited. My favorite song is probably He Said She Said where he gives you the trials and tribulations of a new artists journey the rise (“he adored by all them bloggers, they describe him down to his boxers”) and fall (“They celebrate in his self-destruction it makes for excellent copy”) without ever getting a chance to let the music speak. The song shows empathy for the new artists that he’s dealing with. It doesn’t hurt that Farhot crafted a Stakes is High sounding banger of a beat that will destroy your car speakers while making you feel great.
Kweli sounds so damn comfortable. Whether he’s namechecking Niko while he screams crazy talk from the couch (Gratitude) or reuniting with Styles P on Fall Back. The production team does not want any part of laid back neo soul. This music is exciting. The title track is also produced by Farhot and its nasty helping push Kweli into double time splendor. Amadeus produces three tracks including the trap sounding Nice Things which comes off well.
So yes Fuck The Money is partially great because less concept and more joy is better than the other possibilities but…it does have a concept. It’s his evidence for each hip hop head that when you are putting together your own personal hall of fame in your mind, you can’t judge that greatness by awards or sales. If you think Jay is great because of his success you’re missing all useful criteria for judging skill. Kweli really is one of the greats and I’m glad he’s letting people know in a way that best suits him. Hell I knew it that night he played a pool hall round my way and killed it by himself in a leather jacket. He went longer than any hip hop act I had seen at that point and I left thinking he could have gone all night. Some people just have it in their bones and they love the infinity of word choice. Kweli is like that.
Add Fuck The Money to your cart using the link below and go through he check out process. You won’t have to add credit card info since its a free purchase. They will email you the file.
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Tagged Ab-Soul, Alchemist, Amadeus, Blacksmith, Brutus, Casper Nyovest, Combat Jack Podcast, Farhot, Free Album review, Fuck The Money, Javotti Media, Kendra Ross, Miguel, Niko Is, Stakes Is High, Styles P, Talib Kweli, Thanks Joey, The Venetian
Mixtape Review-The Nehruvian EP by Bishop Nehru
The basis for releasing this collection of music is that Nehru is working on a new album and this set of nine songs were “too sonically raw” to work on the album. It’s a great strategy since your biggest and best songs should always be the ones you are trying to make money off of. It also means Bishop is thinking about the track chemistry on his album which is a great sign.
He’s also dead right; these songs are raw(in a good way), not just in terms of formal minimalism but emotional content. Bishop produced the whole project which makes the well placed creepy sample on Somebody Waits pretty cool. He spits at a sprinters pace on Somebody Waits seeming very comfortable over the stark Wu-ish beat. In terms of raw content User$ is hard to peal yourself away from. The first line sums up the feeling of the song, “Melancholy days got me held in a spotty phase” User$ is an anthem for silently fought personal anxiety and paranoid distrust. It doesn’t have the typical hip hop humblebrag quality to its confessional tone, which probably has a lot to do with how Nehru carries himself.
He’s super comfortable going in or digging into his own thoughts or just cooling out. One of the very best tracks on The Nehruvian EP is MellowWithMe because it lets the air out of tension created by the anxiety of User$ or the sinister and vengeful MansSin(great guest verse by Que Hampton); after all that MellowWithMe starts with a beautifully relaxing soulful chorus that’s as close as a song can get to a shoulder massage.
All through The Nehruvian is the understanding that all of this is happening because Bishop loves rap. Loves every weird sample he can find, every ear changing drum pattern, every possible bar in the wordscape. When I saw Talib Kweli live he played for two hours without big guests or fireworks, just a dude in a leather jacket who LOVED rapping and the audience felt like words would never fail him, his drive to find and experiment with them would never fail. That’s what I love most about The Nehruvian EP, it carries that spirit, that joy and meticulous willingness to find more and weirder space to expand in.
Even the songs that seem familiar are positively so. Pharcyde fans will love (justfriends)ZONE since it tackles that same jaunty but mournful romantic letdown territory they did SO WELL. It’s all so comfortably low key, not even mid tempo but a slow methodical why-worry-about-pace pace but that’s a choice, Nehru has the ability to shift up and take over (see: Harmony In A Glass). The nerd references creep up on you in a pleasant way: Silver Surfer over here, Blanka from Street Fighter over there. Over nine tracks he has one guest and one outside producer (Beatty Crocker) and the rest is all him. I can’t think of a way to get better familiarized with an artist. This is the first Bishop Nehru I’ve ever listened too and not only do I want more but I feel more than prepared for the new stuff I discover on my road to getting to know him better.
download or stream The Nehruvian EP below:
Song of The Year-Private Room by Niko Is produced by Thanks Joey or My Pitch for you to buy the Brutus LP
In an ideal world I would go four thousand words deep on the Brutus LP. This being a free music based site I don’t think that would be right but…BUY Brutus. Niko has been cranking out music chock full of jarring images, insane metaphors and left field name checks for years and most of it with his companion Thanks Joey. The two have a collaborative chemistry based around the warmth of soul (Brazilian soul!) and Samba music and the fun of digging deep into the mystery machine of Niko’s mind. They’ve been working on Brutus for years and the wait is the hardest part. Whenever you wait a long time for an album it’s bound to be disappointing; too spot on what you wanted or not at all what the artist should be doing. Brutus by comparison wears the timeless starched and pressed sound of something combed over and refined. It’s the greatest accomplishment the two have and it was worth the wait.
Picking one song to highlight was difficult. The collaborations with other artists are very interesting; Talib Kweli sounds joyful and sharp on Carmen, Cyhi The Prynce fits the chunky soul of Bubba like a glove but Private Room is the best encapsulation of the Joey/Niko sound. Niko is less silly on Brutus (still very silly) and more focused on rapping himself into history. I always think of it as that Reasonable Doubt mindstate; that album is special because you can feel Jay saying “if this is my one shot I’ve got to tell you everything” and this is Niko’s statement. Its Joey’s statement as well; the gentle warmth of the guitar and baseline feel like the source of Niko’s mid tempo flow. The song is so very chill but the most intricately gorgeous chill you’ve heard in rap in years. Every song is a puzzle piece that’s its own puzzle with stuff you didn’t catch the last listen. As much as I walk around my office telling everyone how good these guys are, they always step up and deliver content that makes me feel like I don’t even know how good they can be. They might have a Gangstarr-Moment of Truth level album in their system. Give them time.
googleplay will give you long song previews and the option to buy
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Tagged albums of 2015, BrutusLP, Colours of The Culture, Cyhi The Prynce, hip hop, Javotti Media, Joey Creates, Niko Is, song of the year, Talib Kweli, Thanks Joey
Young Gully-HM(Hustla Movement)5 mixtape review
Talib Kweli did an NPR interview where he put Drake and Kendrick Lamar in the same category as rappers just talking about “sex, drinking, and partying” holding himself up as the single shining example of consciousness in hip hop. It was surprising cause Kweli has a great ear for hip hop (having given Kanye an opening spot touring before anyone cared about his rapping). If you think about his position, it makes sense. In Kweli-world the only way to be conscious is to go Rap Game Bill Maher (funnel issues of the day through your prism and stick your finger out at everyone not thinking your way). The only way a rapper like Young Gully could be conscious according to the Kweli definition is if he penned a hardcore self congratulatory ode to the Pashtuns Uzbeks and Tajiks of Northern Afghanistan. Some of us (me included) think that this definition is limited and corrosive.
Young Gully’s new mixtape HM5 is the way that consciousness in hip hop is moving. HM5 uses autotune on almost all the tracks and it’s definitely very thizzler.com, very bay area. Finger snaps and bottle popping happen but they subside in favor of an attentive groove. The song Tonite (produced by Johnny Red of First Class Passengers) is a bend her over sex song in the most respectful form it can take(do you like Winston Churchill references in your sex songs?) but the chorus is fantastic and the vibe is excellently laid back. The project needs it along with songs like Personal Freak to take the air out of the intensity of Gully’s personal consciousness.
That’s exactly the kind of conscious that makes HM5 special, at times Gully speaks more generally against violence “If you gotta squeeze your hammer have a great purpose, cause nine times outta ten it probably ain’t worth it. Try not to get impatient on some N hatred otherwise the knowledge you inheriting is wisdom wasted (Diamonds).” Being anti-gratuitous murder doesn’t make you a conscious mc it just keeps you from being a maniac. It’s when Gully turns introspective that he digs in places other rappers get called corny for mining. On Girl with The Tattoo he gives one of the most accurate and beautiful descriptions of love I’ve heard this year “I knew her half of her life I knew half of her struggle. My view was limited; she showed me I’m trapped in a bubble. People told me to stay strong, I was lacking the muscle. She pulled me to my feet and helped me get back to the hustle.” Love is about respecting how much you don’t know about your partner and about how much they help you, that’s an important point. Even though he goes on to lose her, his knowledge in retrospect is impressive. It’s not about oil or Reaganomics, more about making your way through a turbulent world and comprehending it.
HM5 is seventeen tracks with one flow. Gully spits at a rat-a-tat-tat pace that goes from the first track to the last and it can be blinding. You can miss him wishing for an end to war on Listen To Your Heart or dishing on how much he hated anger management class in Make It This Far. He hasn’t developed that pause-at-the-right-line gene yet, he’s just spitting desperately no matter how laid back the sound bed. On Free he takes one of the slowest Janet Jackson songs and rips all through it. The words fly until he’s out of breath and the 2pac sample chorus comes in, it’s jarring without a doubt but it’s always interesting. As furious and packed as each verse is, every beat is just that restrained in its groove; Crezzpo, Johnny Red and more help keep things to a gentle head nod and keep the spotlight trained on Gully.
The name Young Gully is terrible and while HM5 does get better with each repeat listen it might not have enough accessibility to be your favorite mixtape, but it’s engaging and different. It has a deep abiding sincerity that it never sacrifices. When he expounds upon sex, how people want him to fail, or the brutal loss of love its all done with the I don’t have much time so listen spirit that you felt from Reasonable Doubt or feel now in Kendrick Lamar. Honestly, it doesn’t matter what Talib Kweli thinks about that.
Stream or Download below(you can go to the bottom of the page and not have to do any weird social media stuff):