Monday, December 31, 2012

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:

1 comment:

  1. "Gritty rap music". Are you very serious? I'd be interested to hear what you consider less gritty.