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"