Friday, January 4, 2013

October 2K12 in Hip Hop Terms

The Lowdown, 1/4/13

More notable albums from the final months of 2012:

1) P.O.S "We Don't Even Live Here" (Rhymesayers) 

I must say, as much as I love Doomtree and P.O.S' music and everything that it stands for, I was worried that this album wouldn't deliver.  The Doomtree group album "No Kings" that preceded "We Don't Even Live Here" was an undeniably solid piece of work, but somehow I don't find myself revisiting it as much as some of Doomtree's other efforts.  Not really knocking the album, I do enjoy it, but I guess it's not my personal favorite sound of theirs.  More worrisome was the free album that Mike Mictlan dropped earlier this year, "SNAXXX," which I actually disliked to the point of not bothering to share it on this blog.  Those and Doomtree's super busy tour schedule both made me second-guess whether P.O.S would deliver on this joint, and boy do I feel foolish for even having a shadow of a doubt.  Not only does P.O.S deliver another outstanding earthshaker of an album, but he actually takes the electro beat styles that Mike Mictlan and Doomtree were working with and improves upon them tenfold.  Granted, the first two-thirds of the album play out like some traditional dark P.O.S shit, with Lazerbeak and Cecil Otter providing most of the ill instrumentation and P.O.S dropping his gruff verses and punk-influenced indie rock hooks.  Then, starting with the dance riot single "Get Down," the album takes a sharp turn into heavy electro club territory without skipping a beat.  Both sides of the album offer up some killer songs, with favorites including the bouncy Astronautalis collab "Wanted/Wasted," the dark mission statement "Lock-Picks, Knives, Bricks and Bats," and the aforementioned dance single "Get Down."  P.O.S also deserves major props for his lyrics, which are penned with a political punk aggression that avoids the cliches so often associated with political rap music.  On "All of Me," he barrels his way through Occupy protestors, spitting "I ain't invited to your protest/ they say I'm out of my damned mind/ Rather break glass then stand holding a 'Peace' sign."  Meanwhile, the song "Fuck Your Stuff" is an enormous anti-materialist anthem, with a live as hell hook and lyrics that include "how to make bombs with shit you find in your kitchen."  Raps laced with attitude, amazing beats, and excellent guest spots scattered throughout.  Another truly exceptional album from P.O.S.  Check out the crazy video for the equally crazy song "Get Down" below:

2) Blueprint "Deleted Scenes" (Weightless)

Speaking of albums that exceeded expectations, this new one from Printmatic succeeded in doing so in a major way.  This album was billed as a collection of songs that didn't make it onto Blueprint's last release "Adventures in Counter-Culture," and the title "Deleted Scenes" would lead one to believe that it's some random collection of B-sides, but that couldn't be further from the truth.   This really is a brand new full length Blueprint album, carefully crafted and unified in theme and focus, with excellent mastering and plenty of stand-out songs.  The album could be considered a continuation or companion piece for "Adventures in Counter-Culture," with songs cultivated and reworked from the sessions used to record that project, but the songs are so damn great that it really feels like a worthy follow-up to an album that was years in the making.  "Deleted Scenes" finds Blueprint once again flexing his creativity over his own unique electronic-influenced production, splitting his focus between straight-forward relatable rap verses and electronic indie pop.  Both are delivered under Blueprint's trademark voice and flow, and never is there a point where a song doesn't feel like it belongs on the album.  In fact, one of the most impressive things about this collection of songs is just how cohesively it plays out as an album, with a more distinctive sound and style than many hip hop long-players that dropped this year.  Dismissing this project as something that was quickly scrapped together would be a big mistake, so I hope that indie rap heads and especially fans of "Adventures in Counter-Culture" won't sleep on this one.  No music videos for this one alas, but you can listen to the song "Never Grow Old" below:

3) Robust "Fillin' in the Potholes" (Galapagos4)

This one didn't really grab me as hard as P.O.S or Blueprint's albums, but it definitely grew on me with repeated listens.  I think I might be one of those dudes that Robust is referring to on his song "Northern Soul" when he spits "dropped 'Potholes' but my fans don't think I'm hot no more."  Robust's first album "Potholes in My Molecules" really impressed me and was one of my favorites of that year, but since then I've felt like he's been on a gradual decline with his recordings.  I had high expectations for "Fillin in the Potholes" since it's the first time in a while that Robust has been paired with an all-star cast of Chicago producers (Meaty Ogre, Maker, PNS, Void Pedal, etc.), plus the album is billed as somewhat of a return to form for Ro and is graced by Albane's always dope artwork.  The beats are terrific throughout and it's definitely the strongest recorded stuff from Robust in a long while, but there's still something about his flow and voice that makes his verses not stand out to me as much anymore. Still, he does more or less hold this thing down, and there are some bright moments with his rhyming like the affirmative statements of "What's Your World" or the simple run-down of "Soloist."  Some raw soulful Chicago rap shit, check out the video for the Void Pedal produced song "High Road" below: