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:

Friday, May 4, 2012

Open Mike Eagle, Has-Lo, YDMC and Decayed Mindstate at Johnny V's, San Jose

View From the Front Row, 4/29/12

Last Wednesday, I went and saw Open Mike Eagle and Has-Lo's "Desert Viper" tour stop at Johnny V's in San Jose, CA.  San Jose shows are generally a little out of my range as far as late night trekking goes, but Open Mike Eagle was kind enough to invite me to this event personally, so how could I refuse?  This was my first time at Johnny V's (not to mention my first time frequenting San Jose nightlife), and it was a tiny but comfortable bar that was a major step up from the last venue I saw Mike Eagle play at.  The anime "Ninja Scroll" was playing silently on their TV screen in what could have been a quiet homage to Mike Eagle's lyrics, and I ended up button bashing a bit of old school "Street Fighter II" with Has-Lo and Open Mike Eagle before the show.  No fancy arcade machine, just an old school Sega Genesis that Johnny V's had hooked up to a TV with a couple of half-busted controllers.  That much more fun when you can only half control your fighter.

This show took place as part of Johnny V's weekly Wednesday night cypher series, which is hosted by a cool DJ by the name of Audio Drew.  The event drew a bunch of local San Jose rappers who wanted to get in on the open mic action, and I gotta say that I was a little surprised at how far the San Jose hip hop demographic leaned towards the "street" end of the rap spectrum.  A lot of the dudes cyphering and rapping as openers were some well-built tatted-up thugs who you would not want to run into in a dark alley late at night, and Mike Eagle and Has-Lo were by far the two most down-to-earth and approachable MCs there.  It felt like a gang fight could have broken out there at any moment, but fortunately all of the rappers in the place were friends of one another and the cypher that started the event off got rolling without a hitch.  Lots of local rappers took the stage to playfully trade verses, with some shining on the mic and others bombing pretty hard.  The cypher went on a little too long, but it did seem to be the reason that a lot of folks were there, so more power to the San Jose's unified street scene.

Decayed Mindstate (not to be confused with SF's superior Sequenced Mindstate) was the first group to play a proper set as an opening act, and they didn't do much for me.  I was pretty surprised to learn that Isolated Wax's Haez One was part of the group when the three rappers announced their names, since I remember seeing him open for Megabusive at Club 6 in San Francisco and absolutely murdering his verses there.  I guess I must like his solo stuff more than his group work, because the rappers in Decayed Mindstate honestly seemed like they were trying a little too hard to be hard.  There was lots of aggression and menace in their music, kind of like Non-Phixion if Non-Phixion had emerged from the blocks of San Jose rather than the dark heart of New York, and that style of rugged paranoia in hip hop has never appealed to me.  Their beats were pretty generic drone synth numbers as well, but their set was very short and didn't have me tearing my hair out or anything.

YDMC was the next rapper to take the stage, and he fared a little better than Decayed Mindstate despite not really having a whole lot of material that clicked with me.  It was YDMC's birthday and a lot of the local rappers in attendance had come out to support him, so naturally his set was the rowdiest of the night and got the most love from the crowd.  He had no less than three hypemen on stage with him, including his sister whose MC name I'm blanking on at the moment, and the whole set was very energetic and a little too loud.  YDMC's whiny delivery would probably grate on my nerves if I listened to it for too long, but he was one of the more original voices in the cypher earlier, and the set was still fun to watch since he was clearly having a great time.  One of the oddest moments of the night was when he asked how many people in the audience knew The Jacka, which elicited some excitement from folks but seemed commonplace to me since people bump Jacka all the time in my neck of the Bay.  A Happy Birthday was sung to YDMC after one of his hypemen prompted it from the crowd, and everyone left the stage with smiles on their faces as numerous hugs were exchanged.  Always great to see local acts supporting one another.

Has-Lo got on stage to play next, and was 100% honest with himself as he kicked some personal rhymes for the few folks paying attention.  It was refreshing after watching so many rappers act like they belonged to the roughest side of the city.  Hailing from Philly and repping Oddisee's fast rising Mello Music Group label, Has-Lo's laid back meaningful verses calmed the atmosphere of the venue after all the hard-edged opening acts.  This was apparently Has-Lo's first show in San Jose as well as his first tour through Cali, and if I'm not mistaken Johnny V's was also the first stop of said tour.  He was still testing the waters a bit with his track selections, and offered the crowd choices between a few different songs on occasion.  Out of the tracks he played, numbers like "Fiber Optics" and "Forgotten Styles" worked well while heavier tracks like "Subliminal Oppression" fell a bit flat despite having great messages.  A lot of the crowd dispersed after YDMC's birthday set, but YDMC's sister of all people was very supportive of Has-Lo's performance, quasi-hosting the set for him and frequently interjecting that people should listen to what he has to say and show him love.  Overall, the performance was not the most exciting rap set I've ever seen, but it was a breath of fresh air compared to some of the other acts that played. 

Open Mike Eagle was the last to take the stage, and he killed it with the best set of the night.  One thing that occured to me while watching him play is how distinctive and original his stage show has become, as you'd be hard-pressed to find another rapper who performs in the same style.  His smooth delivery is almost like a soulful version of spoken word live, and his witty lyrics tend to catch the audience's attention and elicit responses from people.  At Johnny V's, Mike Eagle performed a couple of new songs from his upcoming "4NML HSPTL" album, along with a strong selection of older cuts.  The new tracks had a heavy electronic feel to them courtesy of UK producer Awkward, with a few of'em sounding like some of the more noisy and layered tracks that Open Mike Eagle has rocked over.  Out of the older songs, "Rent Party Revolution" and "I Rock" worked super well with their humorous lyrics and intricate flows.  He also played the song "Everybody's Birthday" from his "Art Rap Afterparty" EP, which went over super well with the crowd and felt appropriate given the birthday celebration there that night.  Open Mike Eagle
ended his set with the new song "5ree Thinkers" that shouted out Hellfyre Club and Project Blowed in the hook, then went into one of his traditional "Go Home" freestyle cyphers as an encore.  Unfortunately the final cypher didn't go over quite as well as usual, since too many rappers in attendance took the stage to try to get a shot at the mic.  Poor Has-Lo ended up getting cut off by a drum and bass song before he even had a chance to drop a verse.  Still, it was a great set that capped off a very good show. 

Here's a video of Open Mike Eagle rocking the track "Neighbors" from his "Rent Party Extension EP":