Saturday, April 30, 2011

April 2K11 in Hip Hop Terms

The Lowdown, 4/30/11

April was a pretty crappy month overall, but not music-wise! Here are a few of the highlights:

1) Blueprint "Adventures in Counter-Culture" (Rhymesayers)

Blueprint's first full-length solo endeavor in 6 years is a daring reinvention of his sound that stands out as one of the better albums of 2011 thus far, and is arguably Print's most cohesive album to date. It would have been easy for Blueprint to deliver an album of the same straightforward beats and rhymes that fans have come to expect from him, but instead "Adventures in Counter-Culture" is a sprawling musical opus that blends pop rock, electronic and soul music into a surprisingly polished and unified body of work. The years that went into working and re-working this album clearly paid off, as the amount of care put into the arrangement and organization of the tracks here is staggering. One complaint I've had with Blueprint's albums over the years is that hearing him rap over the course of a full length can get a little tiresome, but "Adventures in Counter-Culture" fixes this problem by balancing Print's rapping with excursions into different genres that incorporate a good deal of singing. Blueprint may not be a particularly outstanding singer, but he has a good ear for the arrangement of his songs and the way they flow together. And his production on this? Don't get me started... Very refreshing musical compositions with a free-flowing electronic rock sound, more subtle than some of Blueprint's past beats but also far more unique and rewarding to listen to. Excellent material, listen to "Stole Our Yesterday" below:

2) Kaimbr & Kev Brown "The Alexander Green Project" (Redefinition)

This album was a pleasant surprise that kind of showed up out of nowhere and left me with a huge grin on my face. Kev Brown is a really talented MC and producer who rarely seems to get his due, so it's great to see him teaming up with his fellow DC brethren Damu the Fudgemonk's Redefinition Records to get a bit more exposure. Kev puts his crew Low Budget in the spotlight, with rapper Kaimbr taking care of most of the rapping and dudes like Kenn Starr, Sean Born and Hassan Mackey offering guest features. Kaimbr's real name is apparently Alexander Green, and Kev Brown takes this as the inspiration to flip only classic Al Green samples for the beats. The samples are chopped to tiny fragments and follow a fairly simple formula of beat-making, but Mr. Kev Brown has a good ear for that which is funky and soulful. Naturally, heaters ensue. Kaimbr isn't a particularly distinctive rapper, but his tight rugged flow and traditional hooks fit the album well. Hats off to Kev Brown for rapping spots as well - he might not have the impressive flows or energety you've come to expect from rappers, but his deep voice and relaxed cadence compliment his production extremely well. Well worth listening to, peep the video for "Low Budget 260" below:

3) J.Rocc "Some Cold Rock Stuf" (Stones Throw)

In case the Kaimbr & Kev Brown didn't offer enough soul for your April hip hop diet, this long-awaited album from J.Rocc of the Beat Junkies is a funky little number as well. Stones Throw says it's "Not a Mixtape. Not a Beats-Album. Not a DJ-Album. It's THE Album." I don't know if I'd call it THE album, but it's kind of a combination of the other three types of albums they mentioned in their promotional pitch, with a real grimy funk feel unifying it as a body of work. It definitely evokes moods in the way that a good beats-DJ-mixtape album should, with the triumphantly chill DJ Shadow-ish atmosphere of "Stay Fresh" and the upbeat bust-a-move progression of "Party" standing out to me in particular. He even gets some jazz chops and live instrumentation in there with "Malcolm Was Here," nice! Check out J.Rocc's Japan tribute montage over the track "Stay Fresh" below:

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