Monday, December 31, 2012

Tommy V "Mockingbird"

Expanding the Backpack, 12/31/12

New free EP of extra fun music from Tommy V, "Mockingbird," out now via Fake Four Inc.  It's been ages since I last heard a solo album from Tommy V, and I'd kind of assumed that he'd quit making new music at this point, so when the Fake Four guys announced that this was dropping for free in December my curiosity was piqued.  It's been some 12 odd years since his last solo project "Quarter Life Crisis" dropped and garnered a cult following amongst LA underground heads, and I have a major soft spot for the Convenience Store album he put out with evs and Neila in 2007, so it's great to hear him back in full form here!  Tommy has always had a very fun and creative vibe to his music, and this EP shows off both of those attributes with great humor and sincerity.  Not one track in, and the man is already picking grey hairs from his nutsack and hologramming himself to avoid bottles being thrown at him!  Great upbeat jazzy music with fun melodic rap styles and memorable lyrics (check out his critique of hipster cafe's on "Cafecíto Orgánico" or his funny second-hand story "Pawn Shop").  I guarantee that you Pigeon John fans out there will go absolutely crazy for this shit.  One of the best free hip hop albums 2012 has to offer, so don't you dare sleep on it.  Download Tommy V's "Mockingbird" on Fake Four's Bandcamp Page or stream it below:

1. Cepillín Intro
2. Remember Me?
3. Son of a Gun
4. Disillusioned
5. Cafecíto Orgánico
6. Dollar Bin Delectables
7. I Hate Music
8. Useless Labels (feat. David Ramos)
9. How's Cali (feat. Ceschi)
10. Pawn Shop
11. Seu Amor
12. Always Heal
13. For Infinity
14. Can You Hear Me?

Mixed Blood on Our Hands

The Latest Greatest, 12/31/12

Peeking at 2013, the first release that I will be dropping my money on without the slightest bit of hesitation is this new self-titled album from the group Mixed Blood Majority, which they'll be self-releasing on 1/22/13.  Mixed Blood Majority is another of those outstanding Minnesota hip hop groups that have been cropping up lately, and consists of Crescent Moon (of Oddjobs and Kill the Vultures) and Joe Horton (of No Bird Sing) on the raps while Lazerbeak handles all of the beat work.  Aside from the excitement of having another fully Lazerbeak produced rap album on our hands, I'm stoked to hear this project for the contributions from Crescent Moon, who I've been a fan of since his early days in the Oddjobs.  Not as familiar with Joe Horton or No Bird Sing, but you can only expect so much from a non-Minnesota native and I gotta say that he sounds fresh next to Crescent Moon on the leaked single "Fine Print."  The album also features Toki Wright, Kristoff Krane, and Cecil Otter, who all tend to be winners when it comes to the raps.  Listen to leaked single "Fine Print" below, and prepare to get bloody:

1. Fine Print
2. Product of My Company
3. Still Standing Still
4. Dead Weight
5. Story to Tell (feat. Toki Wright)
6. Ritual (feat. Kristoff Krane)
7. The Ballad of Cedric Ceballos
8. Free Up (feat. Cecil Otter)
9. Hallucination Music
10. The Runaround

September 2K12 in Hip Hop Terms

Way behind here, but still wanna wrap up these last months of 2K12.  Some major picks for the month of September.  October and (eventually) November to follow in 2K13:

1) Typical Cats "3" (Galapagos4)

Now here's an album that lived up to some lofty expectations and earned itself a secure spot amongst my favorites of 2012.  This third group effort from Typical Cats plays out like a blueprint for the art of MCing, with Qwel, Qwazaar, and Denizen Kane all impressing in some very major ways on the rapping tip.  Qwel's relentless flows and rhyme patterns are in tact, but his styles feel looser and more daring on this project, which makes for some extra bright moments on tracks like "My Watch" and "Mathematics."  Qwazaar stays killing it with his amazing voice and cadence, whether he's dropping a super hard show-stealing verse on "On My Square" or channeling some mellower introspective vibes on "Reflections From the Porch."  The very underrated Denizen Kane also impresses big time throughout the album, switching his styles between straight MCing ("Gil Say They Don't Knock"), spoken word ("Denizen Walks Away"), and melodic reggae vibes (the stand-out cut "Blank Stone").  I see a lot of reviews online pointing a finger at Denizen and labeling him the weakest link of the group, but I'm just gonna have to beg to differ here since he more than holds his own next to Qwel and Qwazaar in my book.  Of course, all of this awesome rapping is gone to waste without a proper set of beats, and DJ Natural delivers a great collection of soul and jazz influenced hip hop production for these fools to rap over.  DJ Natural was the weakest part of the group to me on past albums, but on "3" he definitely gets his formula right and carries a special vibe throughout the album with the help of his partner Kid Knish.  I love the way the album's mastered, as it sounds as if it could have been recorded a long time ago while still remaining timeless, and the little instrumental interludes and segues make the album flow perfectly.  Hell, this album even has a skit on it that I don't completely hate, which is close to a first (though still the weakest part of the album, overall).  Anyway, I can't recommend this one highly enough to my hip hop traditionalists out there.  Prime cut grade A rapping over 20 cuts, need I say more?  Check out the video for the song "The Crown" below:

2) The Gaslamp Killer "Breakthrough" (Brainfeeder) 

While I haven't been the hugest fan of all of Brainfeeder's releases as of late, Gaslamp Killer's grand debut solo LP on the label is my favorite release of theirs and my favorite electronic album in quite some time.  Took a minute for me to draw an opinion on this guy as a musician since up until now he was mostly known for his mixes, but after hearing this album I think it's safe to say that dude makes some nasty beats. The music on "Breakthrough" demands the listener's attention and insists on offering up new challenges with every song, which makes for an exciting ride that veers off in all sorts of crazy directions.  The relentless pounding of "Flange Face" and ominous drones of "Seven Years of Bad Luck For Fun" are balanced by the quieter elegance of songs like "Nissim," but never are you drawn too far from the jarring noise.  One really impressive thing about this album is the way that Gaslamp Killer ropes tons of talented guest musicians into the mix without losing the cohesion of the album.  Each guest artist leaves their distinct mark on the songs they grace, and the styles differ, yet nothing feels out of place.  Gonjasufi's off-kilter singing feels right over Gaslamp Killer's strange cinematic arrangements, and Daedelus and Samiyam both serve up their distinct versions of button mashing to add to the cacophonous symphony.  Great stuff, check out the creepy video for the song "Seven Years of Bad Luck for Fun" featuring Dimlite below:

3) Carnage the Executioner "Respect the Name" (Fill in the Breaks)

Carnage's official follow-up to his "unofficial" (but super good) album "Worth the Wait" is another tough pill to swallow, but repeated listens reveal a very strong lyrical album with plenty of unconventional styles to study and personal anecdotes to relate to.  Carnage's chaotic style and erratic flow are in full effect over a series of raw old school sounding beats, which are provided by a number of lesser known producers from Minnesota alongside a couple of mainstays like Medium Zach.  The album is a lot cleaner than "Worth the Wait," with a polished sound more similar to the aesthetic of the Typical Cats "3" album, and it features Carnage at his most personal and subdued.  He's simmered down from the all-out rampage of "Worth the Wait" to deliver a more thoughtful and introspective piece of work, with songs like "Nigger-tivity," "Addict" and "M.T.W Story" offering a refreshingly vulnerable side of the stylistic beast.  Those who want to hear Carnage go on a rapping warpath need not fear, since songs like "Soul Snatcher" and "C.3XL" still show off his trademark ruthlessness as an MC.  A bit too much braggadocio in the first half of the album perhaps, but all in all this is an excellent album and the strongest offering to date from one of the respected rappers of the Minnesota hip hop scene.  Peep the video for the title track "Respect the Name" below.  Not a strong video, but definitely a strong song:

4) Cars & Trains "We Are All Fire" (Fake Four Inc)

Maybe it's just because of the copious amount of gritty rap music I listened to in September (Typical Cats, Carnage, and Blu & Exile's dope "Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them" joint to name a few), but Tom Filepp's new album as Cars & Trains was one that I came back to and revisited quite a bit.  The previous album from Cars & Trains, "The Roots, the Leaves," had some impressive moments on it but didn't really move me as a whole.  This new album, on the other hand, is a very quiet and mature body of work that speaks to me on many levels.  The album feels more fragile and intimate than any of Tom's previous recordings, and while it never quite jumps out at you, it gently settles into your soul and soothes you for its 35 minute duration.  The folky electronic instrumentation of the album is gorgeous, and Tom's delicate voice compliments the warmth of the album well.  His lyrics are very perceptive and touch upon the concept of family in a genuine way, which adds to the beauty of the project.  Another clear winner in Fake Four's non-hip hop output this year, this is an album that fits certain moods like a glove and will be listened to for some time to come.  Check out the video for the title track "We Are All Fire" below:

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Rocketing Out the Slump

The Latest Greatest, 11/7/12

Sapient's long-rumored alt rock project, "Slump," will be dropping via Camobear Records on February 19th, 2013.  Very curious to see how this one turns out.  Sapient has a very solid work ethic, both as a solo artist and as a member of the well-respected Sandpeople collective out of Portland.  Considering the amount of beats he produces and the number of albums he drops on a yearly basis, it's kind of surprising how many of them turn out to be solid.  This new album drops his traditional rapping in favor of a more melodic rock approach to his songs, which is not actually a huge jump from his past work considering his tendency to end each of his albums with some poppy hip hop rock joint.  Still, it'll be interesting to hear this style of music for an entire album for a change.  It could either result in the most essential Sapient project to date, or in a complete trainwreck of a concept album.  Sapient does tend to lean towards the side of quality with his releases, so I'm confident that "Slump" will offer at least a couple of key catchy tunes to bring a smile to your respective slumps.  Tracklisting and debut single video below:

1. Slow Up
2. Pieces of Paper
3. When
4. Shotgun in my Spaceship
5. Roman Candle
6. The Dapper Mob
7. Notroh
8. Seeking New Skin
9. Went Like This
10. Opera Pigs
11. Ello
12. Monsters Eat Bricks
13. I Was Wrong
14. Gladys
15. Anaphylaxis
16. Out From Under

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Busdriver, Nocando, and Open Mike Eagle at The New Parish, Oakland

View From the Front Row, 10/25/12

About two weeks ago, I went and checked out the Arguments With Dreams Tour starring Busdriver, Nocando, and Open Mike Eagle at the New Parish in Oakland CA.  This was the first show of the tour and it had the misfortune of landing on an unexpected Game 5 for the Oakland A's, which probably drew a bit of the sports fanatic Busdriver fans away from the venue.  Still, the show got a pretty good turn out of top notch people, including a bunch of fans from Nappa Valley who I ended up grabbing a beer with before the show.  Later met up with a few awesome friends of mine at the venue, and happened to bump into Doseone, who distributed hugs in the midst of buying a round of drinks for the performers.  I've seen all of the acts on this tour play many times before (hell, I've seen Open Mike Eagle and Busdriver play a couple of times this year alone), but this particular show felt special since it was my first time seeing these three LA rap talents on a proper tour together.  Given their numerous collaborations and similar approaches to hip hop, the sets that these Hellfyre Club MCs offered up had a special chemistry that made for a really dope show.

Open Mike Eagle kicked things off with some smooth melodic styles that quickly roped the crowd in and won them over by the third song.  After an odd electronic intro rap from "4NML HSPTL," he got into the full swing of things with his track "The Processional," where his skillful musical flows and clever lyrics had folks' undivided attention in no time.  I've seen Open Mike Eagle play tiny dive bars like Johnny V's and huge concert halls like the Fillmore, and he always kills it with his unique soft-spoken style and finds charming ways to banter with the crowd.  Highlights of this recent set at the New Parish included "Neighbor" and his verse off of "Why Pianos Break," though he cut his song "I Rock" cruelly short when he realized that it wasn't really speaking to him that night.  Mike Eagle had the crowd do some proper stretching exercises before throwing down some beat manipulation and dropping the track "Free-Writing Exercise," where Nocando joined him on stage to exchange some heated verses.  The two friends I was with had never seen Open Mike Eagle live, and the Nappa Valley kids had never even heard of him before the set at this show.  All of them left converted fans and told me how much they loved Mike's set.  Dope show for sure.

Nocando was next to rock the mic, and he delivered a more loud and aggressive set of songs that worked nicely on the crowd.  Oakland is one of the two places that Nocando claims as home, and he was clearly the touring artist that felt most at home at the New Parish that night.  The way that Nocando pointed out his friends in the crowd and rocked a beat from an iPod that someone handed him in the front row, he may as well have been killing it in his own backyard.  Still, club-oriented joints like "Where's the Money?" and "All Over a Bitch" (which Nocando openly apologized to the ladies for) got folks rowdy in the front row and made the place feel like a proper dancehall.  He also kicked some of the freestyling he's known so well for, and brought Busdriver out for their collaborative number "Two Track Mind."  This was one of Nocando's first shows back in the states after spending some time in Japan, so it was great to see him vibing so well off of Oakland's energy.  Very good set.

Busdriver stepped up as the evening's headliner, and proceeded to show off his zany styles of rapping to the fullest.  He started things off with a series of solo tracks that spanned his body of work, with a particular emphasis on songs that have impressed people live.  Some stand-outs included "Me-Time," "Casting Agent & Cowgirls," "Avantcore" and "Bon Bon Fire," though just about every song he played was solid.  While this part of Busdriver's performance was great, the highlight of the evening was definitely when Nocando joined him on stage to perform a set of songs as Flash Bang Grenada, where the crazy music took on a new life.  Busdriver and Nocando were having a great time playing together, frequently laughing or bugging out over each others flows and lyrics, and the good vibes translated well to the music and to the crowd.  Tracks like "Beat My Bitch" and "Good Cop, Bad Cop" sounded plenty live through the New Parish speakers, and Open Mike Eagle joined the two of them on stage for a rowdy rendition of their excellent track "In a Perfect World."  My friends and I were dancing so hard that at one point my glasses flew off and somehow found their way onto the stage, where Busdriver stumbled upon them and handed them back to me in the front.  Great set that ended a great show.

Fun times for all involved, my friends and I left smiling and sweaty.  Peep the video footage for "In a Perfect World" live below, and please excuse the less than stellar sound quality.  Now, if I could just start a petition here to get Open Mike Eagle to start performing "Haircut" again in his sets, we could round these shows out to perfection.  Not the best song in his catalog or anything, but that track has been great the few times I've seen him play it live!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Soul Reigns Supreme

The Latest Greatest, 10/17/12

I know my serious hip hop head buddies have been fiending for this one.  Myka 9 & Factor's new collaborative album, "Sovereign Soul," will be dropping this November 13th via Fake Four Inc.  Myka is an incredible rapper with one of the most musical approaches to rapping you're likely to hear anywhere, and his last full length with Factor "1969" was one of his strongest projects to date.  I'm left with no choice but to assume that this new album of theirs will end up being amazing, and the tracklisting definitely piques my curiosity. Can't say I was expecting to see Astronautalis or ERULE up in the mix, those should be some epic collabos for the books!  Track I'm most looking forward to hearing is probably that "5 Mikes" one, fun concept already and I haven't listened to a single bar from it.  For now, you can listen to the all-too-short leaked song "You Are Free" below:

1. Sovereign Soul
2. You Are Free
3. Bask In These Rays (feat. Ceschi & Astronautalis)
4. Hard Hit
5. Ode to Cosmosis (feat. Abstract Rude, Freewill & Moka Only)
6. Mind Heights
7. Sexy To The Beat
8. Heaven Up (feat. Johanna Phraze & JNatural)
9. Bless Me Out (feat. Jah Orah)
10. Zo Oh Owe Ning (feat. Charli Rose)
11. 5 Mikes (feat. Open Mike Eagle, Mykill Miers, Mic King & Myk Mansun)
12. Indigenous Areas (feat. ERULE)
13. In So Far As We Know

    Myka 9 and Factor "You Are Free" by Fake Four, Inc.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Understudies "CC5: Collected Compliments"

Expanding the Backpack, 10/16/12

Not in the habit of sharing mixtapes on this blog, but this new 19 track collection of unreleased joints and loosies from Berkeley CA's Understudies Crew is surprisingly tight.  I've been watching these fellas grind in the Bay Area rap scene for a second now, and their hearts and heads are all in the right places when it comes to this hip hop shit.  "Collected Compliments" is the fifth and finest installment of their "CC" mixtape series, and features some of the best recorded Understudies stuff I've heard to date.  Core members of the crew such as Gee, Citizen, Sean E Depp and Manifest are all accounted for on the raps while production credits include the likes of Digital Martyrs, Myers, Cyberclops, and more.  Plenty of highlights to point out here, whether it's Poe effortlessly killing his verse on "Pressure Cooker" or Gee straight clownin' on fools on "Disclaimer."  Sean E Depp delivers one of his strongest songs with "Can I Help You?", flexing his calm flow over a smooth self-produced beat that perfectly compliments his style.  My favorite track on the album is probably Self Advocate's solo joint "The Tiller," a beautiful introspective number where Self flips some impressive styles for 6 minutes over a keyboard and guitar driven beat of his own crafting.  Hard to pick a proper "digital blog single" for this mix since a lot of the songs are short and unfinished, but "Without You" is a strong number by Gee and Foss that gives you a good sense of what this crew is like to listen to live.  Stream the song below and download the entire "CC5: Collected Compliments" mix legally for free HERE.  Also, be on the lookout for the long-belated official full-length Understudies album "One Night Only," which is dropping sooner than you think.

1. Kushy (Myers)
2. Blood, Sweat & Cheers (Gee, Manifest, Maintain)
3. Any Other Night (Foss & Fly Cobb)
4. Pressure Cooker (feat. ABNG) (Poe & Sean E Depp)
5. For The Moment (Gee, Foss, Manifest)
6. Disclaimer (Gee, Poe, JB Nimble)
7. Road Cats (Fly Cobb & Foss)
8. Gentlemen (Maintain & Myers)
9. Inhale (Remix) (Manifest & Foss)
10. Can I Help You? (Sean E Depp)
11. Kick Off (Manifest)
12. The Tiller (Self Advocate)
13. Without You (Gee & Foss)
14. Space Revisited, Part 2 (Foss)
15. Take'Em To Space (Sean E Depp & Poe)
16. Time Bomb Tickin' (Gee & Sean E Depp)
17. Cipe (Myers)
18. The Elders (Jazzmatazz) (Foss & Manifest)
19. One Night Only (Foss & Poe)

Download CC5 and visit the Understudies website

  The Understudies "Without You" (produced by Dakota) by elitwack

Thursday, October 11, 2012

No Filler

The Latest Greatest, 10/11/12

Chicago MC Robust will be releasing his new album "Fillin' In the Potholes" on November 6th via Galapagos4.  I really loved Robust's 200G4 debut "Potholes in Our Molecules," and the "El Foto Grande" and "Stick Figures" albums that he followed it up with were very dope as well, but I can't really say I've dug too much of the material he's released since then.  Fortunately, judging by the singles that have leaked from this new project, it seems that Robust may be set to make a pretty major return to form come November 6th.  The return to the "Potholes" motif seems to be pointing towards a fresh start, and Ro even jokingly speaks on how the "fans don't think he's hot no more" on the album's lead single.  Production line-up is some A-List Chi Town shit: Meaty Ogre, Maker, Void Pedal (dope!), PNS, Jackson Jones and DJ Alo make contributions amongst others.  Very dope Albane cover art as well.  Check out the video for the single "Northern Soul" and the leaked song "How Ya Livin??" below:

1. Fillin' In The Potholes (prod. by Max)
2. Soloist (prod. by Robust)
3. Northern Soul (prod. by Meaty Ogre)
4. High Road (prod. by Void Pedal)
5. Loop Dreams (prod. by Robust)
6. All I Do (prod. by DJ Alo)
7. Remember When (prod. by PNS)
8. I Wake Up (prod. by Maker)
9. Spare Change (prod. by Meaty Ogre)
10. How Ya Livin?? (prod. by Max)
11. Polluted Views (prod. by Jackson Jones)
12. Tortured Soul (prod. by Meaty Ogre)
13. Driftwood (prod. by Pore)
14. What's Your World (prod. by Pore)
15. Pressure (prod. by DJ Alo)
16. Realism (prod. by Pore)

    How Ya Livin??? - Prod. By Max(Old Irving) ft. DJ ALO by Robust Chicago 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Z-Man, Hopie, C-Plus, Rey Resurreccion, Toast and Dregs One at Elbo Room, SF

View From the Front Row, 10/9/12

Been a little quiet on the front row around these parts, but not for lack of hitting shows.  Aesop Rock and co. at the Fillmore and Astronautalis (who opened for the abysmal Flobots) at Bottom of the Hill were both very noteworthy recent shows that I attended, but there are so many shows to cover in the Bay and so little time.  Rather than covering one of the larger tours that I peeped, I figure that a new local performer write-up is long overdue, and Z-Man's recent "album release" show at Elbo Room featured a nice line-up of Bay Area rap talent to cover on this blog.

I put "album release" in quotations since, while billed as an album release party for Z-Man, there is yet to be a new Z-Man album birthed unto the world to my knowledge.  Elbo Room filled up a little slowly at first for this event, but the crowd made up for the initial low turn-out with a pretty great showing of Bay Area rap heads.  Kirby Dominant was in attendance, supporting his gals Toast as well as Z, and one of the performers mentioned that Myka 9 was chilling somewhere in the spot as well.  There were a lot of really hardcore Bay Area hip hop fans in attendance, including some dudes who'd been listening to Gurp City since middle school, and these fools were going extra hard with the support at this show. 

Dregs One acted as the evening's host by introducing each of the acts and getting the crowd appropriately hyped.  He also played a couple of songs as the show's opening act, and kicked a few tracks between sets as the night progressed.  Dregs was pretty excellent at both of his jobs.  As a host, he knew how to properly introduce the performers with class and enthusiasm, and riled up some great responses from the crowd.  He was equally great as an MC, with vivacious stage energy that was rivaled only by the evening's headliner.  Dregs did justice to a couple of tunes from his "Wake Up Call" album, threw down an object-driven freestyle that got some crowd love, and debuted some new songs from a project he's working on with Big Shawn of Bored Stiff.  He also filmed a video for a song off of said project during the show, but had a bit of a hard time getting some of the crowd involved in it.  Here's hoping the footage turned out dope, cus' he deserves it!

Toast was the next act to take the stage, with Kirby Dominant joining them for a verse and supporting them on the hooks.  Toast were clearly having a pretty great time on stage with their raunchy feminine raps, which is why it pains me to say that their music did nothing for me and their set left me feeling a bit cold.  Their style of music, which might be described as a more clever underground version of the White Girl Mob, just doesn't appeal to me I guess.  What's funny is that I was still supporting and dancing up in the front row, and Erica B singled me out a couple of times with some pretty dirty lines that got me smiling a bit.  Not a bad time grooving next to these pretty ladies, but can't say I'd ever be caught dead listening to one of their songs in the comfort of my own home.  Kirby is still the motherfucking man of course, and killed it with his all-too-brief guest verse.

Rey Resurreccion followed after Toast with a solid performance that had a lot of folks in the crowd blazing up some major blunts.  See that haze of smoke surrounding Rey in the pic of him rocking the mic?  That ain't no Elbo Room smoke machine!  Rey Resurreccion put a lot of passion and ferocity into his verses that had dudes who hadn't made their way to the front take a couple steps forward and start bobbing their heads.  His beat selection seemed to bounce back and forth between traditional jazzy hip hop shit and more club-oriented jams, and he handled both styles well.  As someone who is not well-versed in Rey's music, I thought he was very good live.  I hear he's gonna be touring with Bambu in the near future, which will hopefully offer him some new exposure to potential fans.

C-Plus was next to play, and was the only rapper of the night not repping the Bay Area.  I had some mixed feelings about his set.  On the one hand, C-Plus had a dope voice and a pretty great flow, which caught my attention right from the get-go and kept me listening.  On the other hand, he seemed a bit cocky and over-confident on stage, which resulted in his set going on for a bit too long.  He opened by demanding that the crowd get extra hype for an out-of-towner from Sacramento, which was not the right foot to start things off on.  Once he brought up the Giant's and A's victories, he'd silently made amends with the crowd and folks became a bit more supportive.  C-Plus brought a rapper buddy hype-man to the stage about halfway through his set, and dude killed it with his one guest verse but was otherwise an unnecessary distraction.  C took things out on a high note by ending his set with the song "Heaven Is" from one of Ski Beatz's albums, which provided the perfect mellow jazzy note to wind things down with.  Pretty good set overall.

Hopie got on stage once C-Plus had finished, and she delivered an awesome set that felt almost too short by comparison.  From the very first moments that Hopie addressed the crowd and tested their energy with her opening song "Speakers Knock," it became abundantly clear that she had a real connection with the audience and was relishing the opportunity to play.  I've seen Hopie rock it live a fair number of times, and one thing that's always great about her sets is that she really knows how to vibe off of the crowd and how to enjoy her time on stage.  She was in great form with her rapping this evening, and flowed effortlessly through her tracks, with highlights including the charming upbeat ode to Cali herb "Higher, Higher" and the bouncy synth sounds of "Space Case."  Hopie may have gotten the best crowd response of any performer at the show, which is a testament to her ability to connect and have fun with folks during her sets.  She also played an impressive new song from her upcoming "Sugar Water" album as an encore, and I was digging the chill West coast vibes of the track.  Dope set.

Z-Man finally came out as the evening's headliner, blue track suit stunner shades and all, and he definitely killed it with a crazy ill comedic set of Gurped out rapping and fancy footwork.  Z took the stage with the very hypest number in his live show repertoire "Fronted On," only to tease the crowd by cutting it short a few seconds in and starting the track over just to make sure fools got extra hyped for it.  Majority of the crowd was fairly tipsy at this point in the evening, and Z-Man generously broke out some bottles of his signature rosé wine with plastic cups to share with folks up in the front.  He refilled people's cups at the start of each song, and I had to slow my roll a little after the third or fourth cup! A lot of folks were a little too drunk to get super hype and responsive to Z-Man's songs, but it resulted in an unusually comedic show that was still fun as hell to be a part of.  Tracks like "Crumb in the Bay" and "OJ Simpson and Courtney Love" went super appreciated by the crowd, and Z busted some pretty sick dance moves and even bent down and flashed his boxers at one point to emphasize some line about ass.  One of the funniest things to witness was Kirby Dominant's reactions to Z-Man's insane stage antics, particularly when the two Bay Area rap legends began complimenting each other on their classy choices of suits.  I've seen Z-Man live countless times, and he really is one of those dudes whose stage charisma you have to witness for yourself at some point if you live in the Bay.  Highly recommend the man's live show.  Great time, guaranteed.

No "album release," but it was definitely a party up in Elbo Room that night.  Super good show.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

QM & Maclane "Take Me to Your Liter"

Expanding the Backpack, 9/16/12

Bottles up!  If you haven't heard it already, QM and Maclane are about to Rec your life in the most awesome way imaginable with this new FreEP of extraterrestrial debauchery.  Proe and QM both blessed us with some solid free music earlier this year, but "Take Me To Your Liter" captures Rec League's infamous live show better than any previous RECording in my opinion.  QM goes in with the poppy hooks and alcohol-intensive verses as he does best while Maclane flexes his production muscles something fierce.  Enormous beats like "Juice" and "Finish the Cup" are sure to incite dance riots at your local SF dive bar, while smoother jams like "Cups Up" and "Birthday" will have you feeling like a boss as your cruise down Mission St. in your vehicle at 2 in the morning.  Maclane's rapping is surprisingly great on this as well, and proves that he can hold his own on a song next to Rec heavy-weights like QM and Richie Cunning.  This thing's being offered absolutely free, which means you can spend that money on a 40 and appreciate these tunes properly.  Download "Take Me to Your Liter" on QM's Bandcamp Page or stream it below, just remember that you ain't blasting it loud enough until you receive a noise complaint from Mars.

1. Take Me to Your Liter
2. Juice
3. Finish the Cup (feat. Stranger Day)
4. Celebration (Remix)
5. Birthday (feat. Ernie McCrackin)
6. Cups Up (Can I Sip?) (feat. Richie Cunning)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Now Back in Print

The Latest Greatest, 9/14/12

New album from Blueprint, "Deleted Scenes," dropping on October 16th via Printmatic's own Weightless Recordings.  I guess that calling "Deleted Scenes" a "new album" from 'Print might be a bit of a stretch considering that these are songs that were cut during the same time as "Adventures in Counter-Culture." While these joints didn't make the album, Blueprint was apparently selective with which B-sides he picked fin order to rework them and piece them together into a proper body of work.  Printmatic's got a pretty strong track record in my book and "Adventures in Counter-Culture" was amazing, so I have hopes that there'll be some sweet material on this to dig into.  It's interesting to see Terry Troutman of Zapp listed amongst the featured artists as well.  First leak from the album is streamable below the tracklisting:

1. Starting Out
2. Takin’ It
3. Get Right (feat. Dominique Larue)
4. The American Dream (feat. Adoria)
5. True Love (feat. Angelica Lee)
6. Body Movin’
7. Never Grow Old (feat. Angelica Lee)
8. Bells & Whistles
9. The Mask
10. Bartenders (feat. Zero Star)
11. Babies Got Guns
12. I Wanna Go (feat. Nina D)
13. Senseless
14. Leave Me Alone (feat. Terry Troutman of Zapp)
15. Packt Like…

August 2K12 in Hip Hop Terms

The Lowdown, 9/14/12

August 2K12 featured a lot of very short, very sweet pieces of music that channeled hip hop through a variety of different musical genres.  Or in plain English, some of my music picks from last month:

1) Paper Tiger "Summer EP" (Doomtree)

This short 6 track offering from Doomtree's Paper Tiger is about as perfect as instrumental hip hop EPs come.  Moody sampling sources, nice beat chopping, and crisp drums throughout.  Big Papes stays a little more under the radar than his production cohort Lazerbeak, but he has a smooth style of sample-based production that reminds me of RJD2 back when he was making music that mattered.  "The Fortunate Wayfarer" impresses with its folky guitar chords and layered banjo samples, 'Marina Club" has a dramatic piano with sped-up vocals that work, and "The Pleasure, the Privilege" gets me smiling every time with its upbeat disco vibes.  Personally, I think this EP's a step up from Paper Tiger's "Made Like Us" album, which was also good.  Check out the video for "The Fortunate Wayfarer" below:

2) JJ Doom "Key to the Kuffs" (Lex)

This new collaboration between hip hop luminaries Jneiro Jarel and MF DOOM is probably not what fans would necessary want or expect to hear from these two, but if originality's the name of the game then these guys are pulling card tricks with a loaded deck. I guess tricks should be expected when dealing with DOOM, who we don't hear nearly enough from these days and whose humorous writing style is still second to none.  Lines about frog sex changes from atrazine and the Incredible Hulk transforming back to Bill Bixby are delivered in DOOM's signature gruff style of rapping, which sounds like an old man rambling while schooling suckers with his strangeness. Jneiro's production is appropriately bugged out for the occasion, though it's more electronic and poppy than I would have expected.  Closer to his material with Willie Isz than his stuff with Shape of Broad Minds, but the beats here work for the most part and Jneiro delivers an ill verse on "Dawg Friendly" as well.  My only complaint is that DOOM is absent from 6 of the 15 songs on here, leaving one to wonder whether the hyper-productive days of DOOM's rapping have come to an end.  Still a dope project with some serious replay value, peep the video for "Guv'nor" below:

3) Mankwe "Science and Spirit" (self-released) 

This hidden gem of an album from Minnesota soul-singer Mankwe Ndosi seems to be largely slept-on outside of the Twin Cities, which is a shame given how lovely the vibes on it are.  Mankwe has been an active member of the Minnesota music scene for many years through her singing contributions on numerous hip hop albums, including the works of Atmosphere, Brother Ali, I Self Devine and Big Quarters.  "Science and Spirit" marks her first full-length solo venture as an artist, and delivers a very mature and cohesive body of work that resonates with the depth of Mankwe's soul.  The album's production is handled by Medium Zach of Big Quarters, whose excellent under-stated hip hop beats work wonders with Mankwe's singing voice.  Many of the songs on here are quiet and subtle in their beauty, but tracks like "Henrietta Goes Electric" and "Discarded" also offer up something a bit more lively and hard-hitting in their approach.  Pretty solid singing and production throughout, I would highly recommend that you Minneapolis hip hop heads cast an ear to this one if you haven't already.  Check out the video for the song "Smile" below:

4) Kero One "Color Theory" (Plug Label)

Revealing a bit of my Bay Area pride here, but gotta show some love to former SF resident Kero One's new album.   Kero has never been a terribly exciting rapper in my eyes, with a boring voice and some pretty dull lyrics in his raps, but he's a very good producer and tends to craft very complete albums that are easy to listen to from beginning to end.  I wasn't a huge fan of his last album "Kinetic World," but this new one has a lot of great positive sounds on it that represent his best work since "Early Believers."  Very light-hearted, Summer-friendly beats on songs like "In Time" and "To the Top," with a good ear for poppy hooks and some really nice soulful back-up vocals to strengthen the sound.  Sad numbers like "R.I.P" and "Father" also give the album some balance ,and help emphasize the concept of painful struggles helping one appreciate life.  Some great collaborations with Dumbfoundead on this album too, I'd love to hear more work from these two together in the future.  Peep the video for "What Am I Supposed to Do?" below:

5) Gregory Pepper & His Problems "Escape From Crystal Skull Mountain" (Fake Four Inc.) 

This crazy little firecracker of an album somehow snuck its way into becoming some of my favorite music to wake up to in the morning.  Gregory Pepper has a fair share of good albums under his belt, including a collaboration with the awesome hip hop producer Factor under the group name of Common Grackle, but "Escape From Crystal Skull Mountain" is the strongest material I've heard from him so far.  Never have Mr. Pepper's silly ADD pop songs sounded so well-produced and infectious, and his extra clever lyrics shine brightly on tracks like "At Least I'm Not a Musician" and "Dearly Departed."  Gregory Pepper's childish singing voice and bouncy rock instrumentation bring to mind a camp sing-a-long where diverse styles of pop music are encouraged, and the lyric booklet with chord sheets that comes with the album only adds to that impression.  17 songs, 26 minutes, and not a second wasted.  Off-kilter pop brilliance.  Check out the video for "At Least I'm Not a Musician" below:

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Art Minus the Deco

The Latest Greatest, 9/8/12

New album from LA rapper Gavlyn, "From the Art," dropping October 2nd via Broken Complex Records.  Here is further proof that, no matter how many of these blog posts I devote to female MCs, there will always be fresh talents I haven't heard of.  I cast an ear towards Gavlyn after her recent initiation to Broken Complex, and it sounds like she may be making up for Sirah's departure from the group.  She's also part of an LA collective known as Organized Threat...  All new names to me, but it seems like their hearts and heads are all in the right places.   This Gavlyn chick has got a pretty good voice and an interesting tone in the way she raps, plus her album boasts production from DJ Lord Ron, EQ (Acid Reign affiliate), and Broken Finguz amongst others.  Looks like Destruct's guest-starring on the song "No Worries" too, which is a good sign since him and Finguz were partially responsible for the dope "React" album a few months back.  That cover art pleases my eyes as well.  Color me interested, and check out the video for Gavlyn's songs "Clarity" and "To the Feeling" below:

1. Do You
2. What I Do
3. Staring Problem
4. Clarity
5. Stepoff
6. Set It
7. Make My Move (feat. Fawksie 1)
8. Let It Go (feat. Dy)
9. Hour Glass
10. No Worries (feat. Destruct)
11. Blown Away (feat. Rawlegit)
12 Survive
13. Why Don’t U Do Right
14. To The Feeling
15. Soulfire

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

July 2K12 in Hip Hop Terms

The Lowdown, 8/29/12

Still playing catch up here, but some stellar albums dropped in July and August and it's impossible to sum them up without a full write-up for each month.  Here are some of the gems July 2012 had to offer:

1) Dark Time Sunshine "ANX" (Fake Four Inc.)

Onry Ozzborn and Zavala's official follow-up to their amazing "Vessel" album is every bit as brilliant as I could have hoped for, proving once again that these fellows craft some of the most outstanding modern hip hop on the market.  Zavala's incredible production work cements him a spot amongst the top producers working today, while Onry's excellent voice and smart lyrics steer the album in all sorts of exciting directions.  The beats on "ANX" sound like they could have been recorded in some distant galaxy, where superior forms of intelligence still enjoy the sounds of old school hip hop horns and drum breaks.  Onry's verses center around the theme of anxiety without getting stifled by the concept, and his deep delivery blends exceptionally well with the futuristic moods of the album.  "Overlordian" offers up a ridiculously great psychedelic beat that floats along with almost no percussion while Onry and special guest P.O.S playfully show off the full strengths of their voices.  The awesome synths and horn samples flipped for the hook are gold, but the full instrumental breakdown at the end of the track was enough to make my jaw drop.  The follow-up song, "Prairie Dog Day," had me bobbing my head so fiercely to its layered bouncy sounds that it wound up becoming my go-to music for creeping in the car late at night.  "Never Cry Wolf" is a beautiful and cleverly constructed song about relationships, while the title track offers up a dark journey into some of Onry's most personal writing to date.  Like "Vessel," the wide range of guests offered up over the course of the album never seem out of place and fit naturally into the mix, particularly the beautiful vocals lent by some of the female singers like Reva DeVito and Poeina Suddarth.  The guest raps from folks like Aesop Rock and Busdriver certainly don't hurt the cause either.  Even the packaging of this album is nuts, with no liner notes or credits to be found but plenty of photographs from outerspace.  Hands down one of the best hip hop albums of 2012, required listening for any serious hip hop head.  Check out the video for "Never Cry Wolf" below:

2) Aesop Rock "Skelethon" (Rhymesayers)

Can't say I ever thought I'd herald another of Aesop Rock's albums as a masterpiece, but "Skelethon" proves to be a strong contender for the most cohesive Aes Rock album to date and merits a spot amongst the stronger hip hop albums of 2012.  Like many underground hip hop heads who began seriously digging around the turn of the century, Aesop Rock's early albums had a great influence on my taste in music and were unlike anything else being released at the time.  I am part of the annoying camp of listeners that lost interest in Aesop Rock after "Labor Days," however... his vocal style got a little too cartoon-ish for my tastes, he lost a lot of the gravity found on his earlier recordings, and his sound seemed to be trying a little too hard to fit in with the sounds of his record label cohorts at Def Jux.  If last year's Hail Mary Mallon album with Rob Sonic hinted at a return to form, this new album is the full manifestation of Aesop Rock's originality.  His subject matter is still a lot more playful than it used to be, but he's somehow managed to make songs about haircuts and string beans interesting through his abstract imagery and perceptive eye to detail.  More importantly, Aesop Rock's vocals sound deeper and more powerful than ever before, and his vastly improved production work truly compliments his style.  This is the first fully self-produced Aesop Rock album, and it feels like he's really stepped into his own universe and crafted an album that no other MC or producer could make.  Seriously solid and original album that may very well be Aesop Rock's crowning achievement to date in my book.  Check out the video for "Cycles to Gehenna" below:

3) The Chicharones "Swine Flew" (Camobear) 

Josh Martinez and Sleep of Oldominion serve up a healthy dose of greasy, poppy, ultra-caloric hip hop on this terrific and long-belated sophmore full length.  I was a big fan of the Chicharones' last long-player "When Pigs Fly," but was a little less impressed by their "Swine Country" EP that followed it and kind of lost track of'em since then.  "Swine Flew" is their first proper album as a group in 7 years, and one listen through makes it clear that these boss hogs have been carefully perfecting their chemistry as a group.  I'm a fan of both Josh Martinez and Sleep as a solo artists, but it's great to hear how their work together brings out the more jubilant sides of both of their personalities.  "Swine Flew" has a lot of really fun numbers made to get you smiling and humming along, including an hilarious ode to thugged out mothers called "Gangsta Mama" and a rowdy country Western-tinged examination of fame entitled "Media Frenzy" (hats off to DJ Zone's harmonica scratch break down on this one).  Songs like these give this group a very high ranking on the list of acts I need to see live, with tales of magic shows and balanced Pabst cans abounding.  Their straight-forward pop numbers like "Hi Hey Hello" and "GetSlow" are undeniably catchy, but the album's not all fun and games, with tracks like "Old Fashioned" and "SunMay" bringing out a more serious side of Chichis that's delivered just as strongly. The track "Bankers Bonanza" even combines their humor with serious political themes as Sleep cleverly reworks the lyrics from "The Night Before Christmas" into a description of the bank bail-outs.  The always underrated Smoke of Oldominion handles the majority of the album's production and does a stellar job with the beats, flexing his versatility as a producer by delivering a wide range of moods.  Zavala, Pale Soul, and Maulskull all deliver quality beats as well.  It all gets my Oink of approval.  Check out the video for "Eggshells," directed by Stuey Kubrick, below:

4) Destruct & BeOnd "React" (Acid Lab)

LA's Acid Reign crew delivered up a bunch of projects this Summer that got unfairly slept on, and this collab between BeOnd and MC Destruct was the strongest of the bunch.  Destruct holds his own on the mic with his gruff voice and flow while BeOnd does his LA chop-shop thing, and the chemistry between the two of them works.  German producer Broken Finguz handles the entirety of the album's production and gives the two rappers some nice gritty boom bap production to work with.  Some of the samples Broken Finguz flips are a little too obvious, with "Wells Dry" standing out in this regard in particular, but even those songs work very well and are generally a pleasure to listen to.  A lot of impressive LA talent guests on this release, including Pigeon John (who delivers a terrific verse and hook to the somber "Love Is"), Awol One, 2Mex, Gajah and Self Jupiter of Freestyle Fellowship.  Pretty damn dope and worth checking for, peep the song "The Hustle" featuring 2Mex below:

Monday, September 3, 2012

Merci, Ca Va Bien

The Latest Greatest, 9/3/12

Now that she's successfully Kickstarted and completed an artist residency in France, Melissa Czarnik is set to release her new album "Non Merci" on September 25th via her and Eric Mire's own label Hyperdrive Motivator Productions.  I first stumbled across Melissa Czarnik's music when she mailed me a copy of her "Raspberry Jesus" album with a funny Jean-Michel Basquiat postcard, and I immediately found her introspective rap verses likeable over Eric Mire's buttery keyboard beats.  Melissa's new album "Non Merci" is like a hybrid Euro-American car with a heightened theft prevention device built in.  She revels in her experience abroad on songs like "Pina Bausch" and "C'est La Vie," but also brings things closer to home than ever before on the ode to her hometown "For MKE."  She even touches upon the relationship between France and the USA on a clever number entitled "If You Love," which is backed by a very quiet and effective keyboard beat from Eric Mire.  A lot of Eric's beat work is exceptional throughout "Non Merci," though the album has a very quiet homemade feel to it that occasionally taps into spoken word and won't appeal to every hip hop head.  With Melissa and Eric moving from MKE to NYC in the near future, it'll be interesting to hear how their perception of home continues to change and affect them... Until then, feel free to cast an ear to the song "Pina Bausch" and watch the music video for "Rummy" below to see if this music might be your glass of Chardonet.

1. Non Merci
2. Pina Bausch
3. C'est La Vie
4. Rummy
5. Fool Who
6. The Green
7. I Prefer
8. If You Love
9. With My Tongue
10. Frida
11. In My Dreams
12. For MKE
13. Lullaby for Melissa

"Pina Bausch"


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Typically Brilliant

The Latest Greatest, 8/29/12

Trying not to get too excited about the release of this new Typical Cats album "3" on September 25th, but I'm failing miserably.  Typical Cats is just one of those groups that has the potential to deliver some of the highest quality hip hop on the planet, bar none.  Qwel, Qwazaar and Denizen Kane are all masters of their respective crafts of MCing, and have styles that compliment one another in unique and exciting ways.  DJ Natural's jazzy funk production tends to bring out sides of their music that you wouldn't here on other recordings, and he cements the group as its own entity.  Many herald their 2001 self-titled album as an underground hip hop classic and others give massive praise to their 2004 follow-up "Civil Service," but I personally believe that these two albums, while good, do not meet the massive potential that this group has as a collective.  My expectations remain sky high, and there's no doubt in my mind that these fellows will one day release an album that will kick my ass from beginning to end.  If the album sampler for "3" is anything to go by, then this may very well be the record that I've been waiting for from Typical Cats...  It's sounding like DJ Natural has stepped up his production chops quite a bit in the last 8 years, and it's good to see the unseen member of the crew Kid Knish back on deck.  Stream the album sampler beneath the tracklist below, and expect more thoughts on this album from me when it drops: 

1. Intro (Cry No More)
2. The Crown
3. My Watch
4. Changing Room
5. Puzzling Thing
6. Better Luck
7. Drop It Like It's Hotline
8. Denizen Walks Away
9. The Bitter Cold
10. It's The Bomb!
11. On My Square
12. Blank Stone
13. Scientists Of Sound
14. Mathematics
15. Gil Say They Don't Knock
16. Bowl Of Tea
17. Reflections From The Porch
18. The Gordeon Knock
19. TC Back For More
20. Full Clip (For The Last Day)

April / May / June 2K12 in Hip Hop Terms

The Lowdown, 6/22/12

Been majorly falling behind on keeping things up to date with the monthly reviews here, but some notable hip hop releases dropped in April, May and June for sure.  Getting this done since July and August yielded way more amazing releases, and will probably be needing their own posts soon.  Without further ado, some personal stand-outs from 4/12-6/12:

1) Sector 7G "Dead in the Heart" (Fill in the Breaks)

This new joint from Ecid, Mike Schank and DJ Pseudonym is so damn grimy that it took a couple of listens before it clicked with me.  When it finally did, it resonated with me as high caliber experimental hip hop should.  Ecid impressed me earlier this year with his tremendous "Werewolf Hologram" album, and this body of work shows a different side of his production while leaving his vocals out of the mix.  The beats from Ecid and scratches from DJ Pseudonym are both challenging and deliver some interesting arrangements of sounds, but the most impressive part of this release to me is the rapping from Mike Schank.  Hadn't heard of this dude previously, and he has some serious confidence in his delivery plus a lot of interesting things to say in his lyrics.  It's particularly impressive when you hear him handling his rapping so effortlessly over such jarring and experimental production, since one gets the sense that it takes a special breed of MC to carry themselves over these kinds of heaters.  Give a listen to their song "Cheap Death" below:


2) David Ramos "Sento La Tua Mancanza" (Fake Four Inc)

David Ramos' new album is such an unabashedly intimate and personal piece of work that it's bound to alienate a lot of traditional hip hop listeners with its approach.  But for every person who's left shaking their heads over David's honest confessions, there's bound to be a person who connects to his struggles in a very real way. "Sento La Tua Mancanza" is an admirable ode to lost love that takes you on a journey through David's grief and mourning, right down to the most painful details of his depression.  His words are delivered through a smattering of speedy rap verses and short left-field pop tunes that bear the mark of the brothers Ramos, with Oskar Ohlson's stuttering home-made production working perfectly with the delicate tone of the record.  Glad that David decided to share this one with the world, you can count me as a fan.  Watch the video for "Still There" below:


3) Bigg Jus "Machines That Make Civilization Fun" (Mush)

Bigg Justoleum Lune TNS' latest opus drops on the ear drums of the innocent masses like a wrecking ball of noise, making El-P's recent efforts sound positively sane by comparison.  The album's 37 minute running time packs an experimental wallop that finds Jus screaming distortion over some of the noisiest Ableton production I've heard in a minute.  The closest comparison I can think of is Death Grips' recent metal take on hip hop, but Bigg Jus succeeds far better at this sound by occasionally busting out an ill rap verse to remind us why he was a force to be reckoned with in Company Flow.  This thing's short and brutal, and like most great experimental hip hop, it rewards listeners who are willing to brave its treacherous terrain.  Damn good stuff.  Listen to the title track, which sounds like a demo of an amateur garage rock band channeled through a future time continuum, below:

Lots of more recent reviews dropping soon (I hope).

Saturday, July 28, 2012

See & Be "Talksicology"

Expanding the Backpack, 7/28/12

New music from long-time Bay Area rap talent Joe Dub and veteran producer AC75, who're using the moniker See & Be for their collaboratiion here.  Been a minute since I heard some new music from Joe, and one listen through this reveals that San Francisco is still beating in his heart even when Hawaii is his home.  Some real funky feel good music that you ride around the Bay to or get live with at a Gurp City show.  At only 4 songs long this thing's like a maxi-single, but hopefully it's a hint that that long-waited Contra Band album "Praise Dirt" that Joe and AC have been working on will be dropping in the near future.  You can download See & Be's "Talksicology" EP over at the Isolated Wax Bandcamp Page, or stream it in it's entirety below.  Errrray:

Friday, July 6, 2012

Guv'Nor Jarel & the Metal Kuffed Villain

The Latest Greatest, 7/6/12

Lex Records has announced what appears to be a concrete street date for the upcoming MF Doom and Jneiro Jarel collab album "Key to the Kuffs," which will be unleashed on August 21rst worldwide.  It's always questionable whether these DOOM collab projects will ever materialize given how villainous his approach has been these last couple of years, but I'm glad to see that this particular meeting of the minds may be imminent since Jneiro Jarel is crazy talented and underrated as a producer.  I'd listen to this over a Ghostface or Thom York collab album any day of the week, though Jarel's last project with Khujo as Willie Isz was a little underwhelming.  Hopefully the weirdness of these two will mix well together.  Tracklisting and sample below:

1. Waterlogged
2. Guv'nor
3. Banished
4. Bite the Thong (feat. Damon Albarn)
5. Rhymin Slang
6. Dawg Friendly
7. Borin Convo
8. Snatch That Dough
9. GMO (feat. Beth Gibbons)
10. Bout the Shoes (feat. Boston Fielder)
11. Winter Blues
12. Still Kaps (feat. Khujo Goodie)
13. Retarded Fren
14. Viberian Sun Pt. II
15. Wash Your Hands

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Kleening Up

The Latest Greatest, 6/13/12

Very promising new project from Self Jupiter of Freestyle Fellowship and Kenny Segal under the group name "The Kleenrz," dropping July 31rst via Nocando's quality imprint Hellfyre Club.  It seems like Self Jupiter has wasted no time getting back into the groove of recording songs since being released from jail, and his past solo album "Hard Hat Area" was a strong collection of tracks even though it covered a variety of compilation appearances and guest spots.  Kenny Segal is an excellent producer, and crafts very complete conceptual albums for rappers if his "Memoirs of Planet Lovetron" album with Blacklove R88ers is anything to go by.  My hunch is that this one will be excellent... praying that they're planning on releasing it as a CD and not just digitally!  Tracklisting and sample song below:

1. The Interview
2. Filthy (feat. Fanny Franklin)
3. Mr Sandman
4. Best Served Cold
5. Nasty
6. City Lights (feat. Nocando)
7. Altered States (feat. Subtitle, Alpha MC, Gajah, Murs & Volume 10)
8. Outer Rings (feat. Abstract Rude & Shing02)
9. A Big Mess (feat. DJ Prolifix)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Sun Always Shines Brightest in...

The Latest Greatest, 6/2/12

Mark the date of July 24th on your calenders fellow hip hop fiends, for that shall be the day that Dark Time Sunshine's "ANX" drops like a beam of radiant light to renew our hopes for futuristic hip hop in 2012.  Cape Cowen and Zavala's previous collaborations have honestly been some of the strongest underground hip hop albums of our era, so my expectations are naturally super high for this one.  Something deep within my spirit tells me that they're going to deliver yet again... I guess we'll see soon enough.  The always reliable Fake Four Inc. is handling the release of the CD, while the excellent Fieldwerk Records will giving this one the much-needed LP treatment.  Tracklisting and promo video below:

1. Hosanna in the Highest
2. Can't Wait
3. Cultclass
4. Valiant
5. Rock Off
6. Overlordian
7. Prarie Dog Day
8. I'll Be Damned
9. Look At What the Cat Did
10. Never Cry Wolf
11. Take My Hand
12. Forget Me Not
13. Look Forward
14. Anx

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tastes Like Chicken?

The Latest Greatest, 5/29/12

The latest in swine dining from Josh Martinez and Sleep aka The Chicharones, available June 19th on iTunes and July on CD via Camobear Records.  It's been a while since I indulged in the glorious oinking that this duo produces, and this new full length from'em could prove to be the bane of kosher rap fans everywhere and a healthy feast of indie rap numbers for everyone else.  Their last EP "Swine Country" didn't impress me much, but their last full length "When Pigs Fly" was damn near my favorite album of 2007, so I remain healthily optimistic.  Well, maybe not "healthily" optimistic given the greasy nature of this product, but optimistic never the less!  You can pre-order the album from them via their Kickstarter page and help them make it through Warp Tour at the same time.  Have a taste:

"Hi Hey Hello":

"Burn It Down":

Monday, May 14, 2012

4NML Kingdom

The Latest Greatest, 5/14/12

I may be letting the 4nml out the bag a little early with this one, but details about Open Mike Eagle's new album have shown up on some credible websites and it's my duty to share my enthusiasm for it here.  Entitled "4NML HSPTL" (pronounced "Animal Hospital"), the album is produced entirely by UK Machina Muerte affiliate Awkward and will be dropping June 26th on the almighty Fake Four Inc.  Mike Eagle has been releasing some very original and enjoyable albums in recent times, and this one features collaborations with Megabusive, Nocando, Has-Lo, Serengeti and even Detroit's fast-rising underground superstar Danny Brown(!)  Excited to hear this one... Fake Four has already dropped some very note-worthy releases this year from the likes of Bleubird, Sixo, Busdriver and others, but between this album and the new Dark Time Sunshine joint dropping in July, I think the Summer will be theirs.  Tracklisting below: 

1. Starz 
2. Hsptl 
3. Lesson 33 
4. Black Clouds (feat. Megabusive & Finiki McGee) 
5. Universe Man (feat. Serengeti) 
6. Your Back Pack Past (feat. Has-Lo) 
7. Debts (Eagle Journal) 
8. 4NML (Korzybski's Lament) 
9. The Financial Crisis That Wouldn't Go Away 
10. Bad News Brown (Gamin Journal) (feat. Matt Gamin) 
11. One Day 
12. Free-Writing Exercise (feat. Nocando) 
13. DanceBill 
14. Self Medication Chant 
15. Cobra Commander (feat. Danny Brown)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Everything Honkey Dorey

The Latest Greatest, 5/12/12

Good news (noose?).  Mine+Us & DJ Hoppa are dropping a new album in the near future, and it's called "Everything is A-OK."  These fellows have got some good music under their belts, including a slept-on gem of an album called "Day by Day" and a strong hand in 2010's awesome Broken Complex group project.  Mine+Us also wins a medal for being the only rapper who I've seen bust into both the Running Man AND tthe Roger Rabbit live, and in front of maybe 6 people no less.  According to DJ Hoppa, this new album buries their past albums somewhere in Mexico, so you can count me in on scooping this one.  You can pre-order "Everything is A-OK" via the Broken Complex website, or just wait till Access Hip Hop starts carrying it.  Tracklisting and sample vid below, beeatch:  

1. Hang In There 
2. Everything is A-OK 
3. Let Them Eat Cake 
4. Most Nights 
5. Blunt Girl (feat. Dizzy Wright) 
6. Hurt 
7. The Piano is Too Heavy to Move 
8. Harvest (feat. 2Mex) 
9. Abuelita 
10. Hard Times 
11. Plan B 
12. Sitting Up Awake 
13. Ginger 
14. Occupy 
15. Only You (feat. 2Mex)
16. Boo Boo 
17. Land in Your City 
18. Detox 
19. When I Die (feat. Soul Scratch)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Edison, Babelfishh, Beastmaster and Home at Ear Peace Records, Berkeley

View From the Front Row, 5/6/12

A few nights ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Edison and friends rock a free show over at Ear Peace Records in Berkeley.  I wasn't planning on documenting this one, but it ended up being such a great time that I felt the need to preserve some of the details to memory here.  I've seen Edison and Beastmaster kill it plenty of times live, but Babelfishh and Home I wasn't as familiar with, and they both really impressed me with their performances.  This show was also awesome in the way that it brought together many friendly faces from both sides of the Bay, with hip hop homies from San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley all congregated in one tiny lil' record store. Sooo many rad people packed into one space, it was almost unfair to whatever else was going on in the East Bay that night!

The turn-out to this event was pretty good and easily trumped the sparse crowd of the previous Ear Peace Oldominion show, with lots of friends and loved ones of the performers in attendance.  Before the Babelfishh and Beastmaster tour that Ear Peace was hosting got started, Bay area producer Phillip Drummond punched out a mix of beats and other songs from the store balcony above the crowd.  This part of the show was billed as a "Beat Cypher," but with only Phillip Drummond participating it played out more like a warm-up DJ set.  The traditional blapper beats went on for a bit too long, but the set served its purpose in killing a bit of time until more people showed up and the rest of the artists were ready to play.

Home kicked the show off properly with a very brave and original all accoustic hip hop set.   Without the use of any mic or amplifier, Home sat down with his guitar and strummed his way through a gamut of quiet numbers that showed off his songwriting skills.  He rapped over various moods and tempos set by his guitar playing, and occasionally abandoned the rapping altogether for a simple sung folk tune.  The set felt very delicate and personal in a way that made it stand out from your average hip hop or folk show, with Ceschi or David Ramos' softer numbers being the closest comparison I can think of.  Even after breaking one of the strings on his guitar during an upbeat number, Home did all of his remaining songs justice and got a good amount of love from the crowd.  As Edison's brother and one of the members of Paper Vehicle, I guess a certain degree of talent should have been expected, but I was still pleasantly surprised by his set.

Beastmaster took the stage after Home had finished, and brought out a chest of antique toys and a couple of beast dolls for company.  I've seen Beastmaster rap a number of times as a freestyler during Edison's sets, but it occurs to me that this was only the second full set of solo material I've seen from him, with the first being a performance as part of Ecid's "Attack of the Vampire Mermaids" tour a few years back.  Beastmaster began his set with an awesome recording of someone talking about wizards and other fantasy creatures, and from there he went straight into the rapping and kicked a bunch of dense intellectual hip hop numbers for people to wrap their brains around.  He played a number of dope songs, including his track off of Edison's "Full Mustafa" album and another great one that had him chanting a hook about running around with a hatchet.  In addition to his ill creative lyrics, Beastmaster's set was great to watch from a visual standpoint, with his repertoire of toys offering up some memorable moments.  At one point in the set, he leaned down to cuddle his beast dolls while a funny "I Love My Beastmaster" theme song cued up in the background, and at another point he was gripping the mic through giant beast gloves.  Babelfishh joined Beastmaster for a bit of freestyling before the set was done, and the two of them rocked some funny lyrics and flows together.  Pretty beastly stuff.

Babelfishh was up to play next, and nothing could have prepared me for how mind-blowing his set was!  Beastmaster introduced him by saying that Babelfishh was gonna scare the shit out of everyone, and his performance was so damn noisy and intense that the words of warning seemed fitting.  Babelfishh had a suitcase full of beat-making equipment handy on him, and knocked out some extra discordant instrumentals on it while going nuts on the mic.  If Home's music was the folkiest of the night, then Babelfishh's was the loudest and most punk, with rampant verses that frequently ended in brutal screamed hooks.  His rapping was so focused and relentless that he frequently let go of the mic to yell his complex verses at the crowd, and his songs were full of exciting switch-ups and beat manipulations that left people guessing.  He'd successfully seized the audience by the throat after the first three songs, so when he commanded that people take off their shoes and toss them into a pile, a good portion of the crowd responded and a small mountain of shoes was formed in front of him.  Babelfishh experimented with his music in interesting ways during his set, occasionally rocking verses over drone numbers with no drums and even tossing on a good ol' fashioned country sing-along for some comic relief.  By the end of his set, folks were left feeling sweaty, confused and elated.  Excellent show.

  Edison set up his equipment as the final act of the night once Babelfishh was done, and blew people's minds with one of his elaborate live production performances.  His set got off to a bit of a rocky start since his laptop froze up just as he was about to murder some buttons on his first track, but after fixing this slight hiccup it was all buttery beats with a whole lot of incredible sound manipulation.  I've seen Edison play quite a few times now and his songs have become very familiar to me, but somehow he only gets better every time I see him.  I think it has to do with the fact that no two Edison sets ever sound the same, since he toys with the structure of the tracks through his monome pad and improvises in a variety of innovative ways.  Hands down one of the best live beat sets out there in my opinion, and yes I've frequented Low End Theory and all those trendy spots.  Edison invited Beastmaster and Babelfishh up to freestyle for a song while he rocked out some sick beats, and rat masks from Edison's "Cure for the Case of the Wealthies" video shoot were passed around and worn by spectators and rappers alike.  Really terrific music plus very impressive to watch live...  I guarantee you that Edison's "Delayed Reaction Effect" album will be a force to reckoned with when it drops in the Fall.

Once the music was over and the shop was closed up, a bunch of us folks rolled over to Nick's lounge for a few drinks, where there happened to be some karaoke night going on.  A white girl's rendition of Eminem's "Lose Yourself" prompted a couple of us to get rowdy in the front row.  Good times all around.  Great show and a great night, check out some of these freestyle videos from the event to get a better sense of it:

Babelfishh Interlude and Freestyle: 

Beastmaster & Babelfishh Freestyling over an Edison Beat: