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Music Reviews

Hermit of The Woods – “Land of The Lotus Eaters” – [Endemik Music]

MSTiZA   5/15/2013   CD, Hip Hop

What does the midwest and Halifax, Nova Scotia have in common? First, they are both light years from Hollywood. Second, it seems that the decca decade has yet to invade the culture. Hermit of the Woods, is Canadian rapper and spoken word artist who, in my opinion, cherishes the isolation from consumer culture. There is a mix of dark interludes with spoken word raps that will throw you back to the early aughts. The album is not perfect and it is better off for it. Track 2 reaches a place where it seems Busdriver met theDeftones in a smoky bar. But it works, only because it wasn???t the whole album AND there are music lovers who cream over that shit. Fortunately, other tracks may reminisce of Tricky, Sleep, and for that it???s a fair release. If Hermit stays in the woods, I expect it will just get better.

Blu (feat. R.A. The Rugged Man + Tristate) – “Thelonius King” – [Fat Beats]

mann   5/8/2013   7-inch, Hip Hop

Surprisingly rugged new single from the usually subdued and introspective Blu. The production by Bombay (never heard of him before but hope to hear more like this) is almost industrial, grungy savage, distorted all levels blocked out in the red, the sound wave of the entire track probably looks like a brick thru the window of Wells Fargo. Blu is joined by legendary undergrounder and NY boxing aficionado RA the Rugged Man and Tri-State of the new Alchemist-produced group Durag Dynasty. Blu and Tri-state are MC killers for sure who play the bread nicely with well above par verses, but RA is the butcher in between who really strips the flesh from the corpse with the illest endeavor; he says, “In a world of murderers and rapists, and children with exposed ribcages, organ damage from famine, flies on their faces, blood thirsty baby killers and mental cases, gun-totin’ cops born racist, school districts preaching hatred, angels with black wings holdin’ automatic guns like gatlins, bodies blown to bits, bloody torsos that lack limbs.” The b-side is the same beat, but it only has Blu on the solo tip with 3 verses (1 is his original and 2 alternates), but I wish it was the instrumental because this beat is so large it should stand on its own. If you dug Gangrene you’ll dig this chaos too. Plays at 45. Mann the General.

Controller 7 – “Left Handed Selections” – [Grey Carpet]

Dianthus   5/8/2013   12-inch, Hip Hop

Born in San Jose, CA, Controller 7 (aka Tommy McMahon) spent many years listening to jams on MTV and memorizing his favorite Run- DMC lyrics. It was not until 1999, while living in Berkeley, that one of his demo tapes landed in the hands of Anticon label rapper Sole, that a friendship began and records were created. Left Handed Selections is a collection of music created in San Jose and Berkeley in the Spring of 1998 and 2000. This album contains a cinematic beatscape of mainly instrumentals appropriate for a mainstream soundtrack or a great party backdrop. “The Candle (remix)” does feature rhymes by Deep Puddle Dynamics along with the intro track, but they are only a shiny accessory to the rest of his optimal selections. Controller 7 sustains sexy beats and elegantly mellow and upbeat music for everyone to enjoy. His artistic and talented creation leaves me wanting to know what he will do with his right hand next.
-Dianthus-

Tyler, The Creator – “Goblin” – [XL Recordings]

Dianthus   5/8/2013   12-inch, Hip Hop

Odd Future leader Tyler the Creator’s second album Goblin is produced almost entirely by himself. Not bad for a 19 year old who also was able to bring some of hip-hop’s newest and greatest indie artist like Left Brain, Jasper Dolphin and Taco Bennett. The album is filled with spooky, venting lyrics to his therapist about fame, hype, message boards and girls unwillingness to perform fellatio. Most of the tracks are dark and somewhat uncomfortable, but are filled in with honesty and a brave conclusion of the world around him. “She” featuring Frank Ocean, on vocals relinquishes his internal fantasies, while “Nightmare” opens up to his fears and criticisms. “Sandwitches” does show his humorous side while dueting with Hodgy Beats in a rhyming bro-down. Tyler the Creator is still young, and sometimes falls in and out of the rhythm pocket and maybe a little overdramatic, but he has a big cult following and a record label that is willing to contribute in making him a successful artist doing what he loves. -Dianthus-

3:33 – “In The Middle of Infinity” – [Parallel Thought]

honeybear   5/3/2013   CD, Hip Hop

“In The Middle of Infinity” is 3:33’s last album. Really though, it’s like 2 albums or an album within a album. With 10 tracks ranging from 1 min to 5 mins and then the 40 minute opus, “The White Room”. This record is a journey into your brain via your ears. It’s not quite avant-garade, not quite hip hop, not quite tribal music, but really all those things mixed into a soundscape that will travel through the very core of your being and flesh out feelings you’ve never explored before. This album could be called otherworldly, experimental, pyschedelic, & even primal, but nevertheless it sticks with the chilled out factor the whole way through. Let your body relax and fall into the wonders that 3:33 have opened up for you.

Antwon – “End of Earth” – [Ormolycka]

mann   4/10/2013   Cassette, Hip Hop

End of Earth is the first non-self-released full-length by Antwon, a local rapper from Sunnyvale, CA (even though all the blog write-ups say San Jose) who raps over post-punk progressive 80s worship pop party beats with a demented edge that side-step the concurrent “based” and “trap” genres of the area to truly represent the “Sick Sad World” party scene in Oakland that Antwon has been a fixture at for the last half-decade. The best example of his style is the track, Living Every Dream, which opens sampling Tom’s Diner on 10 rpm, think Suzanne Vega on quaaludes, and then bounces into a rhythm track more akin to Neneh Cherry or Snap (We Got The Power) than a rapper whose flow is that of multi-girlfriend-playerisms and heavy sexual content ala a west coast Notorious B.I.G. with a background in DIY hardcore (in 2009 before he started rapping professionally, Antwon was in the south Philly band Black Leather, and on his latest release In Dark Denim [which I’m hoping we also add] he has a track produced by B L A C K I E who hardcore folks like to refer to as the original Death Grips, so that’s the demented edge part I was talking about). Most of his lyrical content sounds like he spent his formative years watching the only two VHS tapes he had: Untamed Heart starring Chirstian Slater and Marissa Tomei and a fuzzy Anabolic interracial porn stolen from a dad, any dad. But, I cleaned up the whole album so have at it party people. Mann The General.

Murs and 9th Wonder – “Final Adventure, The” – [Jamla]

Dianthus   4/9/2013   CD, Hip Hop

It all began in 2004 when Murs and 9th Wonder saddled up together to release a hip-hop album every 2 years until ” The Final Adventure”. The best way to sum up this album is that it is filled with a whole lotta reflection. Thoughts rain on where they come from, where they have been and how they are better people because of their experiences in life. The intro track is shined upon by Murs muse Rapsody’s smooth textured, beat matching prowess . “Tale of Two Cities” pleads for unity between brothers instead of gang colors bleeding against each other. This is a change from most of the relationship – themed songs like “Holding Hands” and “Wherever You Are”. Lyrically the rhymes are positive, spiritual and upbeat flavored with East Coast and West Coast unity and style. The backdrop for the tracks are filled with jazz- swirling horns and old soul soundtracks and beats to make you move. All around this is a fine send off for Murs and 9th Wonder’s saga that makes you want to listen and learn.

-Dianthus-

Killer Mike – “R.A.P. Music” – [Adult Swim]

mann   4/3/2013   CD, Hip Hop

A child of the 80s, Killer Mike is a ten year rap vet rising out of Atlanta’s Dungeon Family production house who spent the majority of his career as a protege for the collective’s top-billers like Outkast and Goodie Mob. This album is a vengeful southern sonic crack-baby coming of age in the new millennium to expose conspiracies that plagued its NY/LA rap parents who jammed Public Enemy and NWA in the warzone. Bare-knuckled, politicized dirty south trap-talk over Escape from New York-esque, sci-fi, dystopian, cokey synth and bass heavy production courtesy of Company Flow’s one-man-heavy-artillery-division, El-P, who also shares the mic with Mike on one track (#9 Butane). Nods to when rap was punk and crunk was pop, post-911 New York noise and country thug-ism, with occasional gospel, soul and rock, supporting Mike’s 20/20 hindsight social commentary concerning the crack epidemic and the now exposed covert Iran/Contra operations and how they debilitated the black population in AmeriKKKa throughout the 90s. This sedition is best displayed on track #9 where Mike professes, “I’m glad Reagan’s dead.” He also says on the opening track, Big Beast, “I don’t make dance music, this is R-A-P/opposite of that sucker shit they play on TV.” Even if R.A.P. Music [Rebellious African People] doesn’t break enough rules or have enough of a platform to reach the revolutionary levels of Fear of a Black Planet (Public Enemy) or Straight Outta Compton (NWA) or Death Certificate (Ice Cube) . . . maybe it is the powerful late-career album those acts should’ve made now that the history they wailed and suffered through, has fully unraveled and been exposed for what it really was: genocide and human warehousing. The entire CD is the “clean version” so have at it; the untitled track #2 is a fo sho favorite. Mann the General.

Ecid – “Werewolf Hologram” – [Fill In The Breaks]

Dianthus   3/20/2013   CD, Hip Hop

It is hard to believe that this 28 year- old Minneapolis native has been rapping for over a decade and has just come to find his voice. Ecid wrote, produced and mixed “Werewolf Hologram” and stuffed it with some mighty yummy hip-hop condiments. The samples he uses reel you in and create a surreal cloud of electronic and head slammingly – ill beats. These luscious layers accompany his poignant and and sometimes angry lyrics dealing with such topics as; death, survival, loss , war, sobriety and living up to your potential. Tracks to check out include the Casio keyboard cladded “Marching On”, free flowing poetry from David Mars & Leif on “The Future is Free” and the opening track sounds like Andy Griffith is whistling along right beside you as Ecid tells you his story of truth. I do not find Ecid arrogant , but just enough edge and originality to make you want to listen to what he has to say and find out where his adventurous hooks and rhymes will take you.

-Dianthus-

Ultra Flat Black – “Ultra Flat Black” – [Self-released]

mickeyslim   3/5/2013   CD, Hip Hop

V. Gorian (rapper/writer, and CEO of a marijuana dispensary in Palm Springs) teams up with producer Horrible Him to become Ultra Flat Black (a spray paint color). What they create on this album is pretty fucking cool, each songs starts with a somple of some kind of sound or song or noise, as you wait for the beat to drop.

There’s international string samples in the intro to tracks 1&;, one just starts with the sound of running water (3), vocal samples on track 4, some jazz tracks (5, 7, 8) and one KILLER blues sample throughout track 6!?? The lyrics are somewhat political, but basically he just has a general disgust for the system and how people work, etc.

I made a clean CD which is playable during daytime, but the original is in there for the Safe Harbor folks. Unique, fun samplage and real, clever lyrics.

Bannon, Lee – “Fantastic Plastic” – [Plug Research]

Naysayer   2/13/2013   12-inch, Hip Hop

Bannon, Lee: “Fantastic Plastic” Plug Research

Lee Bannon is a hip hop producer hailing from Sacramento. “Fantastic Plastic”, his Plug Research release, is a collection of instrumental sampled pieces and tracks with verse by featured hip hop artists. Though the vocal tracks are good, with Bannon bringing some interesting production choices into the mix, it’s the

instrumental pieces which really allow him to shine and experiment. This is experimental hip hop using old tv and radio commercials, samples, cut up beats and alternating scratchy and muddy sounds. These are short sound journeys that play with the possibilities of sampling. He is definitely someone to keep an eye on.

Mellowhype – “Numbers” – [Odd Future]

Dianthus   1/25/2013   CD, Hip Hop

Mellowhype consists of Odd Future’s Hodgy Beats and producer/ MC Left Brain. Bass-heavy beats swerve around catchy synth-pop licks while weed-driven , sometimes angry , lyrics are spit out on tracks like ” 65/Breakfast” and “Monster”. This is Mellowhype’s second release which also features cameos from Frank Ocean on the smooth track”Astro”. Slightly funky, parrot head parading, thumping beats shimmers upon the falsetto of Pharell on the lady lumps praising ” La Bonita”. Hodgy demands attention with his raspy and fast rapping style, but I enjoyed Left Brain’s goofiness and laid back flow. Get the whip out and bump this this cd loudly.

-Dianthus-

Alchemist, The – “Russian Roulette” – [Decon Records]

Dianthus   1/8/2013   CD, Hip Hop

Despite being a hip – hop producer for some well-known lyric assassins you will not find any of them on this new release. The Alchemist spotlights the newest underground MCs and strings them all together with an invariably interesting soundscape pulling from all corners of mystic countries and blasting them into the universe. With 30 tracks covered in a matter of 45 minutes I can only begin to wonder how much work went into making this aural wonderland. Inside the gooey layers of mature rhymes are consistent artists like Evidence, Action Bronson and Danny Brown. One of my favorite tracks is the opener “Soundcheck” which blends Russian voice samples with an interesting intermittent interview between Dolph Lundgren and Joan Rivers. This dramatic music project only begins here and then is interwoven between verses and samples containing a 70s spy movie and sitars on a Moroccan maiden hash farm. Roc Morciano’s raspy flow on “The Turning Point”, perfectly accompanies the thumping bass and screeching guitar . “Kosmos Pt. 6 “, combines ribbeting shouts about aliens with the Russians blasting into outer space. Even if you are not a hip – hop fan, this intriguing production will leave you wondering where the Alchemist will take you next and I think you will enjoy the trip. -Dianthus-

 

Dessa – “Castor The Twin” – [Doomtree Records]

MSTiZA   1/7/2013   CD, Hip Hop

Dessa, a member of the Doom tree family. Her sophomore release is much more achieved and matured. Possiby even too mature for non cmommercial radio. In no way is this an insult to either party. Simply, it begs the question- where do mature female rappers/song writers belong? In college radio? It’s moody and honest; sometimes story telling in song. A talented backing band creates the moods with guests like Cecil Otter on Mandolin.

 

Scales – “Mister Roger Bails Out of Everything” – [Self-released]

abacus   12/12/2012   CD, Hip Hop

Some slippery slop hop from local guy Scales. Apparently he wrote the songs for this EP while going through a schizophrenic breakdown, so he says, and it sure sounds like it. Hallucinatory imagery and an unhinged perception of the social climate are the content of his thoroughly confused ramblings with skewed diction and a stumbling cadence. “Chronic constipation” of fantastical scenarios and silly dialogues and dark brooding beats and layered textures that left me “wet with saliva.” A deluded mind spitting some diluted reflections… “Yo their milk is whack!”

Rah Digga – “Classic” – [Raw Koncept]

abacus   11/23/2012   CD, Hip Hop

This ain’t the little girl you see on the front! This is the sophomore release from Newark, NJ emcee after taking 10 years off to raise her child. She has worked with a number of hiphop groups including being a member of Busta Rhymes’ crew Flipmore Squad and working with the Outsidaz, who collaborated with The Fugees. She’s working here with the same producer as her last album, Nottz, who provides some fresh cuts including looped samples of rock, soul, funk, gospel and more along heavy bumping beats, even some radio broadcast sampling on 8, video game sounds on 9.??A perfect background to frame Rah Digga’s brash, in your face style with creative rhyme schemes and a mature delivery, a true disciple of the golden age and firmly rooted in a 2000’s style. All in all some raw classic real Rah Digga, dig it.

Kool Keith – “Legend of Tashan Dorrsett, The” – [Fat Beats]

MSTiZA   11/14/2012   12-inch, Hip Hop

The Legend of Tashan Dorrsett takes the original album, minus the bonus tracks, and remixes them. This also features the instrumental remixes. If “The Legend of Tashan..” was a hobo. No, if “The :egend of Tashan..” was a prostitute, then this release is like letting her take a hot shower and buying her a new dress. Not dinner, just a shower and a new dress. Instead of dropping her off on her same old corner, she’s let loose on the small town boulevard where no one knows she’s more than familiar with the streets. At the local dive she’s exotic and the men lap at her heels. She gets to choose, instead of be chosen. All is good when an old bag still has new tricks. The Legend lets the beats shine, outfitting the instrumentals ??on it’s own 12″. Pimp it on clean sheets while you can.

 

FCC: A2, A3, A5, A6, B2, B5

P.O.S. – “We Don’t Even Live Here” – [Rhymesayers Ent.]

humana   11/12/2012   CD, Hip Hop

I know nothing about hip hop. That said, I really liked this release. Stefon Alexander is P.O.S.; he’s from Minneapolis, and here he offers some thought-provoking, fast-talking rap on top of some pretty energetic beats (check out 5 and 8). One review commented that this is a departure from “his noisy past in favor of futuristic beats fit for a Berlin nightclub”. I wish I could be as articulate.

Mighty Underdogs, The – “Droppin’ Science Fiction” – [Definitive Jux]

Dianthus   10/31/2012   12-inch, Hip Hop

This is the debut album from a bay area supergroup comprised of Quannum/Solesides members Lateef “The Truth Speaker” (Latryx, Maroons), The Gift of Gab (Blackalicious) and Headnodic (crown City Rockers). Together they formed the Mighty Underdogs after Lateef liked enough Headnodic- produced tracks from his solo album that he wanted to make another album with him and Gift of Gab saw his opportunity to collaborate. With special guests including MF Doom , DJ Shadow, Mr. Lif, Akrobatik, Tha Alkaholiks’ Tash, Chali 2na, and Julian and Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley this album appeals to the masses. Not the usual creative lyrics I expect from these artists, but still some fun hooks on tracks like supergalactic “Gunfight” and “Hands in the air” Lateef’s flow enchants you on “UFC remix” and “Laughing at You” features creepy laughter and beat-boxing. Great road trip hip-hop for sure! – Dianthus-

Immortal Technique – “Revolutionary Vol. 1” – [Viper Records]

mickeyslim   10/17/2012   CD, Hip Hop

Outspoken rapper Immortal Technique’s first album is pretty fucking amazing. Born in Peru, grew up in Harlem, started a reputation as a ferocious battle MC. Using the money from battles, he produced this, Revolutionary Vol. 1.

Whatever the topic, Immortal Technique raps with utter conviction, even in the track “Beef & Broccoli” he got me all up in arms about people who diss on the food he likes to eat… theres also the usual racism, killing cops, government control, world revolution, etc.

Track 2 is apocalyptic, track 6 has a cool flute groove with the lyrics half in Spanish, tack 7 has a siren, track 8 blows you away, and the whole album is full of FCC’s. SAFE HARBOR FUN!

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