Thursday, February 28, 2013

November 2K12 in Hip Hop Terms

The Lowdown, 2/28/13

Well, despite already being knee deep in music from 2013, we're still stuck on 2012 over here at My Backpack is Bigger Than Yours.  Belated review central!  Make sure you check these joints if you haven't already:

1) Sole "A Ruthless Criticism of Everything Existing" (Black Canyon)

This new album from Sole picks up where “Hello Cruel World” left off, showcasing Sole’s modern slow flow over a variety of excellent beats from producers such as Ecid, Factor, Man Mantis, Busdriver, Alias, Skyrider and many more.  I went in expecting to hear a nice companion piece to “Hello Cruel World,” but was surprised to find that “A Ruthless Criticism of Everything Existing” is actually a superior album that continues to improve upon Sole’s rejuvenated style over some seriously ill production.  If “Hello Cruel World” was the sound of Sole testing the waters with his new lyric heavy approach, then “A Ruthless Criticism” finds Sole completely in his comfort zone as he flexes his rugged voice with a confidence rarely heard in rappers of his ilk.  There is a very select set of MCs who can be political on record without sounding like they’re trying to pander to some trendy hip hop demographic, and Sole belongs high on that list with his biting wit and self-deprecating humor.  “Denver Nights” covers the police brutality of Occupy Denver while “Last Earth” is a sung ode to the devastation of the Planet, but sharp political comments are littered throughout the album and never sound forced.  Sole’s jaded outlook on hip hop is also a pleasure to listen to, as he dispels the notion of hip hop as a movement on “Young Sole” and gives advice to a younger generation of MCs on “Letter to a Young Rapper,” noting that “most white rappers sound like they’ve never been punched in the face.”  The range of the production on the album really helps drive across Sole’s style, with traditional choppy beats like the outstanding “Never Work” balancing out the equally great electronic productions like “Animal.”  This and “Hello Cruel World” are two of the strongest Sole projects in years, and with a Vol. 2 for “A Ruthless Criticism” entitled “No Wising Up & No Settling Down” on the horizon, it seems that Sole’s back in full form and showing no signs of slowing down.  Listen to the song "The Untouchables" featuring greencarpetedstairs on the hook below: 

2) Myka 9 & Factor "Sovereign Soul" (Fake Four Inc)

Myka 9 & Factor’s latest collaboration is a very dense and cerebral body of work that will probably require a couple of listens before it clicks, but once it does there’s quite a lot to dig into here.  Myka’s vocals are meant to be studied, as he possesses a broader range of styles than most rappers and tends to indulge in lots of risks on his albums.  From the impressive chopping skills on “Mind Heights” and “Sexy to the Beat” to the old school baritone cadences on songs like “Heaven Up,” Myka 9 is clearly in a class of his own when it comes to rap vocals, and tends to be heralded as one of the greatest technical rappers of all time for his feats of stylistic prowess.  It’s not always easy to wrap your head around what he’s trying to accomplish, but it’s a welcome challenge that's often worth studying on repeat.  Backing up Myka in the beat department is the talented Saskatoon producer Factor, who delivers a very psychedelic soundscape with live instrumentation similar to his recent instrumental "Factor & the Chandeliers" EP.  The sound is a lot more nuanced and detailed that the straightforward dopeness of Factor's beats on Myka 9's previous "1969" album, and while it's not as instantly likeable it somehow feels like there's more going on in the compositions here.  Lots of interesting collaborations with like-minded creative MCs on this project as well, including the monstrous "5 Mikes" posse cut featuring Open Mike Eagle, Mykill Myers, Mic King and a ridiculous verse from Myk Mansun.  Listen to the collab with Astronautalis and Ceschi, "Bask In These Rays," below:

3) Corina Corina "The Eargasm" (self-released)

This album almost snuck under my radar, but I had the good fortune of running into Corina in one of her visits to my record shop and she was kind enough to hand me a copy to listen to.  More often than not, when people hand me music this way I end up listening to it once or twice and then leaving it to gather dust, but occasionally an album proves to have real replay value and ends up being a discovery of sorts.  “The Eargasm” is one of those albums.  A very personal, polished and well-composed piece of work that merits more than just a couple of plays and continues to get bumps from me in 2013.  When I started listening to “The Eargasm” for the first time, I will admit that Corina’s R&B singing voice did not immediately click with me, but I never felt the need to skip a song and by the end of the record she’d definitely convinced me of her talents.  She carries her voice well over a variety of very modern hip hop beats provided by Willie Green, Steel-Tipped Dove, Has-Lo and others, and the album flows exceptionally well from front to back at a nice pace.  Corina really knows how to express herself over these tracks, and I love how the music is a very direct reflection of her as a person.  The album has songs about trying to the pay the rent in New York, quitting day jobs, loving the notion of loving others, and persevering through past relationships.  She heeds by the mantra "baby, don't sell yourself short" and truly does not sell herself short over the course of the record, delivering a very complete portrait of herself as a person.  The excellent production and mastering job from Willie Green breaths a lot of life into the songs, and in the end we're left with the strongest hip hop R&B project since Mankwe's album from August.  Here's hoping that 2013 continues to offer up offbeat hip hop-influenced R&B projects like this one...  I hear that Lady Daisy & Batsauce have a new one in the works, so we shouldn't be waiting too long!  Check out the music video for Corina Corina's song "The Familiar" below:  

1 comment:

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