Thursday, October 28, 2010
A very belated concert review here, but I wanted to share some of my experiences from the Magical Properties 2010 tour when it passed through San Francisco a week or two ago. The line-up of this tour consisted of a handful of musicians at the forefront of the progressive beat scene in LA, so naturally the event had a massive turn-out. Tickets were going for $20 a pop at the door, which was more than I expected to pay for an electronic show but a wise price given the number of people that rolled out. This was my first time in 1050 Folsom, and the club definitely felt like the sort of flashy light club you see in the clubbing scenes of films. It had a nice electronic rave type of atmosphere to it, but the prices at the bar were brutal, charging 9 bucks for a Jack & Coke and 4(!) for a bottle of water. I stopped by the merch booth and chatted with Daedelus a tiny bit before the show, picked up Teebs' album there and he was kind enough to throw in a tour B-sides CD on the house. I also met a gal at the merch booth who had flown in from Japan with her friends specifically to see the show! More proof that the LA beat scene has seriously taken off.
There were 3 different rooms with different DJs and artists doing sets. Fortunately, one room was completely devoted to the artists on this tour, so that's where I stuck to. Teebs started things off with a set of hazy brain-bending electronics. His music is usually the sort of stuff you want to just zone out and float to rather than dance over, but the heavy bass in his songs definitely felt more live over club speakers. He also only tweaked out a few tracks from his album, predominantly focussing on more club-friendly beats that were still very distinctive and impressive. Definitely a talented musician and one of the reasons I decided to go and check out the show. His set was less dance party-oriented than the other performers, but just as interesting to hear.
12th Planet, who I'd never heard of before, went on next at a turntable set-up located at the opposite end of the room. I had to rush my way over there and weasel through a bit of the crowd to maintain my signature front row position. 12th Planet played a set of straight upbeat, glitchy dubstep music that had a lot of the crowd going nuts on the dance-floor. It was a live set that accomplished the objective of getting the audience's collective ass in gear, but it went on for a bit too long, starting at around 10:40 and ending after 1 AM. I had a similar experience seeing Kode9 open for Flying Lotus - both enjoyable sets, but wish they'd been cut down a tad.
Gaslamp Killer ended up taking over the spot that 12th Planet occupied and put on an entertaining mix of songs and sound modifications. In listening to GLK's music, it's hard to discern how much of it is a mash-up of tracks and how much it is fully fleshed-out beats. After seeing him live, I'm still not sure... He used a laptop and turntables to play a variety of modern dance-able electronic songs he liked mixed with some sinister old school psychedelic rock, but he also had a hand-pad that he used to distort and modify the songs that he was playing. With his funky hair and flat-out enthusiasm over the mix, it was a kick to watch him hold it down live. Probably the coolest set of the evening.
I noticed Daedelus setting up shop on the opposite end of the room near the final moments of Gaslamp Killer's set, so I made my way over there to the front before the rest of the flood of people were aware of it. By this time, it was after 2 and I was worried that the club authorities would ask that the show be cut short, but fortunately the venue stayed open a while longer. Daedelus is one of my favorite producers and I've seen him many times live. He always manages to make his live shows unpredictable and interesting by crafting dance tunes on the spot using his infamous blinking button pad. He rarely plays more than fragments of the tunes from his actual albums (which he has an extensive selection of), so you never know what he'll hit you with. The set on this tour followed that tradition of unpredictable talent, but was not the most memorable I've seen from him due to how late it was and how tired I'd gotten by that time. When I left the venue at 3, a good amount of the crowd has understandably peetered out. Still a damn good set though, and a damn good tour to boot!
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
New album by Evil (now known as Evil Ebenezer) dropping via Camobear Records this October 31rst. Ushering in Halloween Canadian zombie style. Evil is sounding a little whinier than I remember him being (his last official album, "Call Me Evil," dropped in 2006) and the autotune has definitely got to go, but his production team The Draft Dodgers are some talented mo'fos and he generally comes up with some interesting things to say. Camobear has transitioned further and further into being a digital-only label much to my dismay, so it is pleasing to see that this new album is being offered as an actual CD. You can pre-order this ghoulish piece of hip hop over at the Camobear store. Videos of two tracks off the album directed by Stuey Kubrick featured below:
"Take Me With You":
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Check out this new internet freebie/album/mixtape from Tres Records recording artist Co$$, produced entirely by Numonics. Co$$ aka Ca$hus King has been a part of Blu's crew with Sene for a minute now, and is preparing to drop his official debut album "Before I Awoke" on Tres in the first quarter of 2011. That album's already being slated as a heavy hitter, with beats by Exile and Flying Lotus and guests including the late great Guru amongst others. If this "Revelations" freebie is any indication of the kind of quality we can expect from that album, then I think it's safe to say it'll be a huge release... This Numonics guy has got some slamming beats, and Co$$ has a great voice and flow that really streams naturally over every track. "Now Til Infinity (featuring Reks & Naledge)" is the only track that seems a little out of place due to the recording quality and abrupt ending, but tracks like "Fake Kings" and "Doubt Us" definitely make up for that minor fault. Dope free stuff worth checking out, tracklisting and download link below:
2. They Keep Asking
4. Gone (feat. Freddie Gibbs)
5. Fake Kings
6. Doubt Us (feat. RA the MC)
7. We On (feat. Wrekonize)
9. Let'em Live
10. Now Til Infinity (feat. Reks & Naledge)
11. Tick Tock (feat. Sene)
13. Time is Now
14. It's All Happening
Friday, October 22, 2010
Seemingly out of nowhere, the Broken Complex roster is dropping a new self-titled album on the 26th of this month. In case you haven't heard of these guys, Broken Complex is a crew consisting of DJ Hoppa, Mine+Us, General Populus, Sirah, Cleen, Max Star, Laz, Uncle D and others. None of these guys may be household names even in the underground circuit, but there a few reasons you should pay attention. DJ Hoppa, for his part, has put in a good amount of solid production work over the years, including solo production projects featuring MCs such as Awol One, 2Mex, Acid Reign and Josh Martinez. Mine+Us & DJ Hoppa have also put out two great collaborative albums, "Avantgardening" and "Day by Day," both of which show good chemistry and strong beats and MCing. Sirah, for her part, has been flagged by many folks as one of the stronger female MCs working in indie rap, with a thick New Yorker flow and a strong EP of material with DJ Hoppa to prove it. This new album is the first album featuring all of the Broken Complex MCs over DJ Hoppa's soundscapes, and samples are sounding promising. The album features guest spots by Pigeon John (yay!) and Copywrite (ehhhh), and the entire Broken Complex crew will be touring the left coast soon in support of the album. A video paying homage to Craig Mack and a few sample songs featured below.
First three tracks:
Tentative tour dates:
You can pre-order the album via Access Hip Hop Here.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Really saddened me to hear that Eyedea of Rhymesayers Entertainment passed away earlier today at the age of 28. Some of you may know him as the amazing freestyle battler that won both Scribble Jam (1999, back when it mattered) and Blaze Battle (2000, HBO sponsored, televised, featuring lots of prominent rap types) back to back when he was only 18 years old. Or some of you may know him from the various albums he put out with DJ Abilities, or solo as Oliver Hart, or the times he murked guest spots on other people's albums (his show-stealing verse on "Savior?" from Anticon's "Music for the Advancement of Hip Hop" comes to mind). Either way, he was a super talented individual, not to mention an uncompromising musician that made the music he wanted to make regardless of what anyone said.
To relay some of my personal experiences seeing Eyedea: the first time I saw him live was with my best friend at the first underground rap show the two of us ever trekked out to and paid money for. The line-up consisted of Atmosphere (pre-"God Loves Ugly," Sad Clown Bad Dub 3 was for sale), Bicasso of Living Legends, Eyedea & Abilities, and Brother Ali at Slim's in San Francisco. While most of the acts delivered, my friend and I can both say that Eyedea was hands down our favorite act of that evening. He stole the show with a personality that had my friend dubbing him "the Inspector Gadget of rap," going through a lot of quirky and interesting motions that kept the audience super entertained. For his solo songs, I remember he pretended that he had a fake band with him there, and he asked the audience to give it up for the imaginary players as each instrument was added to the mix he crafted for himself. He also did an amazing and hilarious freestyle based on two words shouted at random from the audience, which in this case happened to be "condoms" and "pubic hair." The sheer volume of hilarious lines he came up with using those two words was straight up phenomenal, and had the entire audience applauding and cracking up. A truly memorable performance.
Another time that I vividly remember seeing Eyedea & Abilities live was on one of their headlining tours when they passed through Washington DC at the 9:30 Club. The line-up was E&A, Blueprint, Illogic & DJ Przm, and Grayskul. While Blueprint definitely stole the show that evening, Eyedea & Abilities impressed as always with their closing set, demonstrating a really frantic and uncontrollable energy throughout their performance. This show is a particularly odd one for me to think about, because I remember how friendly DJ Przm was to my friend and I, and his passing away in 2007 struck me hard for that reason. Now, another name is dropping from the list of people I saw at that evening...
Perhaps the most tragic thing about Eyedea's passing is that, while he has a few solid albums under his belt (Oliver Hart "How Eye Won the Write to Think," E&A "By the Throat" - I know that one gets hate, but I like it lots) I feel like he may have never dropped his true magnum opus to universal acclaim. Still, I greatly appreciate the work he put in over the years, and as a young excited hip hop head, his music had a great influence on my tastes. Rest in Peace.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
So last week, I went to see Sapient and Al-One of Sandpeople with bunch of opening acts I'd never heard of at the Rockit Room in San Francisco. This was my first time trekking out to the Rockit Room, and for those who haven't heard of it, it's a secluded little venue located in the Northern hilly area of San Fran around 5th Ave. and Clement. Kind of a nice location with some good Chinese restaurants (spotted myself some dim sum for only 4 bucks) and a really awesome book store (Green Apple Books, whattup?), though it is very far removed from the places I generally go to shows. The bar itself is a nice spot as well, with an upstairs area that hosts a surprisingly large stage and crowd danc efloor. The bartender was kind enough to treat me to a drink since she was slow to get to me, which I thought was extra nice... hope I left her a tip, I can't remember!
Anyway, as for the performers: Toast was listed as the opening act on the flier, which set an alarm off on my quality meter. When I last saw Toast open for Ceschi's Fake Four Summer tour, they were so laughably bad that I figured that they were just Kirby Dominant's bitches for the night... but apparently, two white girls making club music about having their periods have enough of a following to book other gigs around town. Thankfully, they were working late and had to drop out of the opening act line-up, opting instead to close-out the evening as the final act. What a relief! I even told Sapient how big a relief it was when I talked to him before the show, haha.
Eliquate was the first act to take the stage, and they did their thing live band style with a drummer, bassist, and a couple guitarists. They all seemed like really young dudes, probably in the middle of their college educations and just trying to get their respective grooves on, but their set worked quite well and they should be applauded for crafting some pretty solid music. There were definitely some key funky tracks with catchy melodies that they executed really well, and the support and enthusiasm of their many friends in attendance was infectious as well. Cool opening set.
Knowble was the next to kick it live, and his performance was slightly better than his poor choice of rap moniker, though not by a very large margin. He continually referenced the fact that A-Plus of Heiroglyphics did some of his beats, name-dropping Heiro every time one of said beats came on, but to be honest those beats were the best part of his set. Apparently, he's part of some West Coast group called Serendipity Project, which I've vaguely heard of before... Anyway, his rapping was decent, but it didn't really stand out to me in any way and got boring to listen to after a while, especially after Eliquate's live set. Not a terrible performance though, just nothing really memorable.
Addamantium the Plumber, who easily defeats Knowble in the "Worst rap moniker I have heard in the past decade" competition, went up to perform next and put on the worst set I have seen since watching MC Peg Leg open for Sleep at the Pier 23 Cafe. Pretty damn abysmal... Addamantium mentioned at one point that it was his first performance ever, but also said that his performances had never gone this badly in the past. Past rehearsals maybe? I couldn't tell if he was joking about the "first show ever" thing or not, but for his sake I hope that he wasn't, because he clearly has a lot of room for improvement. No stage presence, boring flow that pretty bites Cage's style, no ability to engage the crowd or even hold their attention for the course of his set. Thumbs down to Addamantium the Plumber.
Al-One and his rapper pal whose name I didn't catch performed next, and they definitely came with a strong set that re-sparked some interest in the scattered crowd. I think the two of them were performing under the group moniker Good Biz since they handed me a free CD with that artist name on it, but I can't be sure. Anyway, Al-One is one of the members of Seattle's Sandpeople collective, which has gotten a pretty good buzz in the NW underground circuit these last few years. It was clear from his set that he'd been doing shows for a while and knew how to get rowdy on stage and get the audience involved. In terms of straight-up rapping skill, I'd say he was the best MC of the evening as well. His songs didn't get quite as much love from the crowd as they should have (I should note that he wasn't even listed in the line-up, what the heck?), but the crowd was still a lot more appreciative than they were for the last two acts. Solid set.
Sapient took over when Al-One left the stage, and suddenly the venue seemed a lot more packed with people. Sapient has built a pretty good rep for himself in the underground, with a staggering work ethic that amounts to about three solo albums a year, not counting his production work for Sandpeople or Luckyiam of Living Legends. I looked on my iPod the other day and somehow I have about 160 songs that this guy has produced on there, which Sapient jokingly mentioned is about a third of his catalog when I chatted with him. Anyway, Sapient live is very similar to listening to Sapient on record. He's a good song writer, but not a super charismatic MC, though his banging beats do make up for most of his shortcomings. Hearing Sapient's intricate production work bang loudly out of a club speaker system made the set worthwhile, especially with a room full of supportive fans who knew the lyrics to his songs. The performance wasn't groundbreaking, but pretty much met my expectations. Good set.
Didn't stick around for the acts that went on after Sapient (if you heard Toast, you wouldn't stick around either), but overall it was a pretty good show with some ups and downs. Glad I got to see a few of the Sandpeople live. Here's some Sapient live footage for ya:
Saturday, October 9, 2010
Ah, the many amazing discoveries one makes working at Amoeba Music. While this blog is primarily devoted to showing love to artists that I respect and who deserve more recognition, there occasionally comes a point where a critic's just got to give in to the hate in order to make fun of a really, truly, amazingly awful album. Well, Lance's album "More of the Forest" not only fills that void, but sets new standards for it.
The story behind this album: a few weeks ago, some dude dressed almost exactly like Pharrel of the Neptunes stepped into Amoeba Music with a hip hop CD to put on our shelves. I went up to consign his album (the cover of which is pictured above) and asked him to tell me a little bit about the project. First thing this dude explains to me is that if you turn his name upside-down, it spells out "Murs." Ummmm... Upside-down name, pictured below:
HMMMM. Now, in case that's not enough to convince you that Lance would love nothing more than to give the Living Legends sloppy joes in back of their tour van, he proceeds to tell me that Eligh is one of his biggest influences and that he's basically like "the 4th Melancholy Gypsy." He notes that like Eligh, he produced most of the tracks on his album in addition to doing all of the rapping and all of the artwork for the project. Yes, all of the artwork. That album cover is by 20-something indie rapper Lance, NOT by his 6 year-old niece. In case the painstaking effort put into Lance's crayon line schemes isn't apparent, let's take a gander at the rest of the album artwork (click on images for larger resolution):
Interior front cover:
Back of front cover:
Back of album with tracklisting:
CD sticker artwork:
Alright... so clearly, Lance doesn't have a promising future career in graphic design. But think of the many albums you've acquired over the years that have had tremendous music hidden behind their horrible presentation. A friend of mine mentioned to me that I should ask him for a promotional copy of the album for comedic purposes, and I managed to snag a free one off our man Lance in order to give it a listen. Opened it up, put it on the player, and surprise surprise... it's some of the worst, most unintentionally hilarious music I have heard in some time!
Let me break it down for you right quick. After kicking things off with the simplistic lo-fi jazz loop of "Inoutro," Lance reveals that he's more of a Radioinactive biter than he is an Eligh biter on the first proper song "Show Him Up." But while Lance's voice and style are genuinely grating to the ears and sure to make discerning listeners eject the disc after the 00:15 mark, it's the ultra-advanced lyricism that really makes the album crash and burn. Check out these quotes from his verses:
“got a pocketful of prayers to stay fair/and more care than a bear/ daring to test you is my own barriers/ it’s all a game and one tries to be more scarier” – MC Lance, "Show Him Up"
“I didn’t always celebrate my birthday but the Butterfingers didn’t fumble/ that’s why they’re still trying to guess my name like Rumple/ High like stilts/ with the best of kin" - Lance Diggy, "Business"
“Running from giant tarantulas/ gargantuan phantoms of the soul/ doused in camp and ready to ignite with the flick of a Bic/ my consciousness is present like old St. Nick” - L.A.N.C.E, "Bonus Track"
“So I never listen to a hood that defend on the mother frackers/ crackin’em like pregnant pterodactyls” - Lance, "Prowess"
You couldn't make stuff like this up if you tried to parody rap music! This is only a small sample of the lyrics which, when paired with the completely off-beat basement made synth tracks, brings this recording to a whole new level of embarrassing. While the horrendous lyrics make you pause and cringe repeatedly, the album reaches its pinnacle of awkwardness with the track "When It Rains," where Lance busts out his singing voice (or lack thereof) for what sounds like its intended to be Native American Indian rain chant. YIKES. Way to disrespect the minorities there as well Lance!
The moral of the story? If you're going to record yourself rapping, you better know how to be yourself first. OR: if you see Lance's crappy CD on display, shoot to kill.