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:

Kev Brown "Classic Joints"

Expanding the Backpack, 4/30/11

Redefinition Records recently dropped this free compilation of the talented Mr. Kev Brown's music for you hip hop heads to dig into. Couple old tracks, couple feature joints, a few remixes and a whole lot of classy, soulful production. Kev is kind of underrated as an MC as well... I hear where people's complaints are coming from, but I feel like his relaxed style of MCing fits perfectly over his mellow production. This thing's worth a free download for sure, and is being offered in promotion of the new Kaimbr & Kev Brown album "Alexander Green." Cop dat ish.

Download "Classic Joints" here.


01: Marley Marl – Feat. Kev Brown & Grap Luva – “What Ruling Means”
02: Kev Brown – “Another Random Joint”
03: Busta Rhymes – “Packin’ Them Things”
04: Biz Markie – “Games”
05: Kev Brown – “Batida”
06: Grap Luva feat. Kev Brown – “Power Bars”
07: Kev Brown Ft. Asheru, Grap Luva & Hassan Mackey – “What You Got”
08: Kaimbr & Kev Brown – “Songs” (From The Alexander Green Project)
09: Jay-Z – “Threat” (Kev Brown Unofficial Remix)
10: Kev Brown – “Always” EP Version
11: Kev Brown – “Work In Progress” (Damu The Fudgemunk Remix)
12: Kev Brown – “The Crowd”

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

There's Something About Mary (Mallon)

The Latest Greatest, 4/20/11

Haily Mary Mallon, the group consisting of Aesop Rock, Rob Sonic, and DJ Big Wiz, are dropping their album "Are You Gonna Eat That?" on Rhymesayers, 6/7/11. Album cover pictured above and tracklisting/music videos viewable below. Apparently, Mary Mallon was a cook that infected quite a few people with typhoid fever, hence the food-related artwork. Wouldn't be surprised if this album ends up being the best Aesop Rock-related product in a minute, nice to see Rhymesayers with a busy 2011 release schedule as well. Sick, no pun intended.

1. Church Pants
2. Garfield
3. Grubstake
4. Meter Feeder
5. Smock
6. The Poconos
7. Breakdance Beach
8. Table Talk
9. Mailbox Baseball
10. Holy Driver
11. Knievel
12. Plagues and Bacon

Live Camry version of "Smock":

"D-Up" (this is from a Def Jux comp and is not on the album, but still ill!):

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Illest Illustrations

The Latest Greatest, 4/19/11

Rounding out today's line-up of interesting upcoming releases is this new solo album from Destro of Boom Bap Project and Oldominion. The free EP that Destro dropped last year, Working Progress, was pretty nice and Boom Bap Project has delivered some dope material over the years. Curious to see whether Destro will be able to hold his own over the course of a full length.... given the quality of Oldominion's music as of late, I won't be surprised if "Ill.ustrated" ends up being a banger. The album drops on May 5th and you can pre-order it over at Vinyl Fluid Records. Tracklisting and sample song below.

1. Intro
2. We All Got
3. Back On The Flow
4. ill.ustrated
5. Never Know
6. Yah, Yah, Yah - Featuring: Toki Wright & Goldini Bagwell
7. Just A Dream
8. Together - Featuring: Josh Malm aka Redwood Son
9. Rest When I'm Dead
10. Eat Em Up - Featuring: Sleep & Vursatyl
11. That's That...
12. The Ultimates - Featuring: iAME & DaiN
13. Tell Me I'm Not - Featuring: Pricy & Candidt
14. See What I See
15. Mr. Brown
16. Oldominion Coming Thru - Featuring: Sleep & Goldini Bagwell

Find more Destro songs at Myspace Music

Candy Waste in Teen Land

The Latest Greatest, 4/19/11

Rhymesayers will be releasing the second album by Face Candy, "Waste Age Teen Land," on 5/24/11. This group consists of Eyedea and Kristoff Krane freestyling and improvising in live settings over bass and drums, all recorded from tours specifically focused around building an album out of live freestyling. To my knowledge, this is also the first posthumous release by Eyedea, who tragically passed away late last year. Though Face Candy has rarely represented the best of Eyedea's work, it's never the less an interesting conceptual project worth casting an ear to. First leaked track from the album, "Fifteen," is stream-able below.

Face Candy - Fifteen by rhymesayers

Kicking It With Soulcrate

The Latest Greatest, 4/19/11

New album from Soulcrate Music in the works, entitled "The Kick Rocks Collection" (super awesome cover art pictured above). The "Heartland Panic" album that these kids dropped last year was a majorly slept-on piece of dope energetic hip hop, so one can only assume that this new joint will continue that tradition. The first leak from the album, "Believe It (featuring Prof)," is stream-able below. Preeetty nice hook, lookin' forward to more music from these dudes.

Soulcrate ft Prof - Believe It by Soulcrate

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

All Hail the Ramen

The Latest Greatest, 4/13/11

So, as many of my friends accurately predicted, it looks like Aesop Rock's latest project is gonna be dropping on Rhymesayers Ent. His new group, which is called Hail Mary Malone, consists of him, Rob Sonic, and DJ Big Wiz. Aesop's beat-making skills have improved in recent years, and the little audio snippet at the end of this video short is promising. Plus, I'm gonna have the rare privilege of seeing these three gentlemen debut some of their new material live at The Greek Theater in Berkeley in May... you can expect a long slew of "View From the Front Row" updates next month, actually.

Sole & The Based God

The Latest Greatest, 4/13/11

New album from Sole & the Skyrider Band, "Hello Cruel World," dropping on the ever-reliable Fake Four Inc. 7/19/11. This album boasts a very eclectic and unusual list of guest artists that definitely piques my curiousity: Lil B' the Based God, Xiu Xiu, Sage Francis, Ceschi, Noah23, Mestizo, Isaiah Toothtaker, and pictureplane all make appearances. Particularly unusual for a Sole album, as he's generally rolled through his albums solo. This is also the first real album that Sole's recorded since his split from Anticon, and I'd by lying if I said I wasn't a little optimistic about it. Sole's excellent guest verse on Noah23's "Fry Cook on Venus" album definitely has me hoping for a return to his former glory, and the optimistic feel to the leaked song below is an interesting new sort of vibe for his material. Tracklisting and stream-able title track below.
  1. Napoleon (feat. Xiu Xiu)
  2. D.I.Y.
  3. Hello Cruel World
  4. Fire
  5. Bad Captain Swag (feat. Lil B & Pictureplane)
  6. We Will Not Be Moved (feat. Ceschi & Noah23)
  7. Possimism
  8. Home Ain’t Shit (written by Pedestrian)
  9. Formal Designation 134340
  10. Immortality
  11. Progress Trap (feat. Sage Francis)
  12. Vaya Con Diablo (feat. Isaiah Toothtaker, Metizo & Ceschi)
  13. Villon

Sole and the Skyrider Band "Hello Cruel World" by sole...

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Phoenix Rises From the 8-Bit Ashes

The Latest Greatest, 4/11/11

New tune from those jovial New York basement-made rap gents Junk Science, along with their backup dancin' compadre Scott Thorough. I wasn't really that sold on Junk Science's first two albums, but their last joint "A Miraculous Kind of Machine" impressed me big time and was one of the more slept on rap releases of last year. Scott Thorough also delivered some underrated illness last year with his collaborative album with Tone Tank, "Scott & Tone," so cool to see these Nuk Fam cats all workin' together. "Pixelated" is as fun a track as you'd expect from these lovable geeks, and is off their upcoming album "Phoenix Rising," which drops 5/31/11 on Modern Shark. Music video of the single below. I recommend watching it with a joystick (pause... ABAB select).

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Armor of God is Bound to Be Heavy

The Latest Greatest, 4/7/11

So in case you haven't heard, Vakill's long-overdue new album "Armor of God" officially has a release date: 6/14/11. The album features production by Panik and Memo of the Molemen as well as Jake One, plus guest shots from JUICE, Rhymefest, Crooked I and more. Vakill is one of those rare MCs that always impresses when it comes to his lyricism and raw style of MCing, and this long-awaited album will hopefully continue his tradition of exceptional full lengths. Great to see the Molemen back in business, you can pre-order the album in a variety of ways via their newly revamped website.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

March 2K11 in Hip Hop Terms... Only in April

The Lowdown, 4/3/11

Yeah yeah, a couple days late. Happy belated April Fool's or somethin' everyone, that's my excuse and I'm sticking with it! Some dope and noteworthy indie rap releases from last month. I'll even make it four since this is appearin' late:

1) Noah23 "Fry Cook on Venus" (Fake Four)

The almighty Fake Four Inc. strikes once again with my favorite release of last month and their strongest release of 2011 to date. I've never really considered myself a huge fan of Noah23's music... I remember back when his album "Quicksand" came out in 2003, all of the underground rap heads were hyping it to me and somehow it just didn't click. I haven't really kept up with his numerous releases over the years, but this new album stands out as the best I've heard from him by a mile and is a massively impressive body of work. Noah really shows off his creativity as a rapper over the course of the album, penning extra catchy pop melodies and demonstrating a very versatile range of styles that keeps things interesting the whole way through. The production of the album, handled by a wide variety of talented beat-makers, is fantastic and feels united under a sort of spacey folk rock vibe. Another really ill thing about this project is that it feels like a Fake Four posse album, since Noah ropes in the vocal and production talents of a large part of the Fake Four roster. Ceschi and Myka 9 drop in to style it up with Noah on the chop-shop marathon "Sea of the Infinite Wave," which features all three MCs going ballistic over a spacey and progressive Skyrider beat. "Murder City" (playable below) features an extremely raw Ceschi organ beat that Awol One and Noah tear it up over, only to be up-staged by a hilariously witty and cynical verse from Sole. There's also "Bed Bugs," a gorgeous Factor-produced number that wouldn't have felt out of place as an A-side on "Lawson Graham," with Noah23's melodic stylings fitting the folk guitar beat to perfection. And I can't complete the review without mentioning the brilliant Liz Powell collabo "Nuts," which features Noah23 going all out indie rock on dat ass over an excellent Cars & Trains composition. Bottom line: this album is loaded with stand-out cuts and is very worth listening, even if you've never been a fan of Noah23's music. Listen to a tiny taste of it below:

2) Xczircles / Aamir "Swan Storm / The Quiet After the Storm" (Ooooh! That's Heavy!)

I haven't really followed the progression of the Escape Artists' music over the years, but they've occasionally caught a glance from me over the impressive West Coast MCs and producers that feature on their albums and the respect they command in certain indie rap circles. This new album of theirs is packaged as a double-disc with a full length solo album from both of the central members of the group, and for over two hours of music, they deliver the goods. Both Xzcircles and Aamir fall on the nerdier intellectual side of the hip hop spectrum and this is an awful lot of art rap to ingest in one sitting, but it's is a surprisingly solid body of work that demonstrates how the Escape Artists have sort of mastered their crafts. Neither Xczircles nor Aamir stand out particularly well as rappers to me, with Xzcircles' more aggressive cadence appealing to me slightly more than Aamir's quieter style, but they both have a good grasp of song structure and an excellent taste in atmospheric production. One of the ways in which both of these albums succeed is in the dark and mysterious atmosphere that the beats evoke throughout them, with plenty of tinkling pianos and lonely jazz horns setting the stage for Xzcircles and Aamir's thought-provoking lyrics. Another way in which this project succeeds is through its cast of guests, which is one of the most impressive line-ups of West Coast talent I've seen on a single (well, double) album in ages. Aceyalone, Myka 9, Eligh, Scarub, 2Mex, Ellay Khule, Ceschi, Awol One, Riddlore, Bigg Jus, K-the-I???, Mike Ladd, Jizzm, Joe Dub (on the producto, delivering the only funky-ass beat on either album, and it's a banger!), Thesis Sahib, etc. Let's face it, you've been fiendin' to hear a lot of these guys over some dark Omid-style production again for a minute, well here's your chance. Pretty much every guest delivers, but I've got to give a special tip of the hat to Bigg Jus, whose verse on "City of Lights" is pretty much the best verse on either album and runs the risk of rendering the other dope verses on that particular posse cut irrelevant. Some ill hip hop through and through, sample tracks from each album below:

Xczircles "Ate Up (featuring Ellay Khule)":

Aamir "The Quiet After the Storm (Xczircles Remix) (featuring Scarub, Flux & Generous)":

3) The Expanders "The Expanders" (Broken Complex)

Nothing to do with rap music at all here really, just some real dope feel-good Reggae vibes that act as a great prelude to the Summer. The Expanders are a reggae band consisting of Man-Like-Devin, John Butcher, Chiquis Lozoya and Luis Chuquillanqui. I'm guessing that operate out of Southern California, because they're homies of DJ Hoppa, the man responsible for Broken Complex's impressive self-titled debut last year and many other hip hop projects prior to that. The music of The Expanders sounds very traditional, but there's something about the uplifting harmonies and positive vibrations here that makes this stand out as a cohesive body of work. Maybe I just don't have enough reggae in my life right now or maybe I'm just fiending for the Summer season, but this definitely has a spot in my currdnt rotation. Especially "Merciless Deeds" and "Turtle Racing" back-to-back, them songs is weeicked man. You can streams the whole thing below, just make sure you throw down and purchase it if you're diggin' it, yah?

4) Himself "Feel Like a Star" (Permanent Records)

An honorable mention goes out to Himself's new album "Feel Like a Star," which continues his tradition of crafting very honest and humble hip hop albums. Himself's record with Anacron and Murs as the Netherworlds has remained one of my favorite Murs projects since it first dropped, and though he hasn't received the attention that his two rapper buddies have been showered with, he clearly has his own voice as a rapper and is making music from the heart. "Feel Like a Star" carries a very lo-fi, homemade quality to it that adds to its charm, and though not every song on it is a hit, the album as a whole feels like a pretty complete body of work. Worth a listen for sure. Order it from Access and it comes with a free star-shaped stress ball as well! Sample song featuring Scarub below:

Nezbeat & Joe Good "Good Hair"

Expanding the Backpack, 4/3/11

Nezbeat & Joe Good's new album "Good Hair" may be the first free digital download that I was anticipating for a while prior to being treated to it. Nezbeat announced the album as a free project to made available to the public about a year ago, and it was delayed quite a bit but was not forgotten by this humble blogger. Nezbeat and Joe Good are two very underrated Kansas City kids who used to collaborate with Mac Lethal when he was first coming up, and they both bring a high level of quality to this project. Nezbeat's production is very smooth but funky at the same time, which compliments the soul in Joe Good's vocals well. I hear that Joe Good is no longer making music, which is a shame because he seems like a talented rap type. Fortunately Nezbeat's still doing his thing in the group Archetype, whose new album "Red Wedding" is coming out in purchasable formats in the near future. I recommend switching your hairstyle to "Afro" and giving "Good Hair" a listen, you can download it for free over at the Dekagon Records Bandcamp Page or you can stream the album in its entirety below. Enjoy.