Friday, September 14, 2012

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:

1 comment:

  1. The Hip-hop scene is a monstrous machine that never sleeps.It is aluxurious music that is sung by all the people.

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