Category Archives: Hip Hop

Azealia Banks: Heavy Metal And Reflective (Music Video)


Azealia Banks, a recent (and elated) divorcee of Universal Music Group, has unleashed a music video to accompany her first independent single, ‘Heavy Metal and Reflective.’ The song itself reflects her indie-rap leanings, with a great anti-catchy (nearly hookless) free flow of sexual prowess and braggadocio. While it’s doesn’t find Banks at her strongest, it’s definitely a marked improvement from would be hit flop ‘ATM Jam’ (with a hook by Pharrell that sounds as if he texted in).

Pulling on her growing signature style of lo-fi futuristic beats, the beat lurches and rattles with a cough syrup induced timpani bass line. The video is one of her best yet however, showing stylistic promise of what’s to come. In it, Banks escapes a desert kidnapping (a fun kiss-off to Universal) and zooms around on motorbikes with a gang of Powerpuff Girls and Rowdyruff Boys. Sporting a moto-romper that gives Charmander a run for its money, Azealia spits her rapid-fire verses with linguistic flair. She’s always had the talent, now she finally has the freed time to hone it.

Moodie Black: Nausea

nausea

Moodie Black: Nausea- Nestling snugly in the annals of contemporary rap history between Anticon’s reinvention of hip-hop and Kanye’s postscript to the genre lies the formation of Arizona’s noise rap duo Moodie Black, whose minimalist-yet-massive industrial beats earned them a small cult following several months before Yeezus dragged their downtempo breed of racket to the mainstream. With their debut self-titled EP, Moodie provided a glimpse of their heavy-hitting post-rap which, though drenched in scuzz, proved club-friendly with its thumping beats and memorable choruses. Yet in what may have been an act of defiance to ‘Black Skinhead,’ the group’s newly released full-length Nausea takes another big step away from the mainstream by relying heavily on instrumental post-rock soundscapes for an overwhelming sense of claustrophobia, a feeling as alien to rap as your grandparents.

From track one it’s apparent that the duo has shifted to a slower, tamer, and more stripped down sound, and the unsettling sense of impending rapocalypse has lost its sheen for them. Similarly, the sobering subsequent ‘S K I E S’ overwhelms the listener with images of McCarthian bleak skies and circling vultures, almost as if the honeymoon phase of the apocalypse is over and slaying zombies (or hipsters) is no longer sufficient compensation for the fact that rap’s end is imminently nigh. Although significantly mellower and lyrically more abstract, Nausea’s flagrant evocations of 28 Days Later’s hysteria (and soundtrack) makes it the perfect companion piece to fellow Fake Fourer and former Anticonian Sole and his Skyrider Band’s cataclysmically prophetic debut.

With only a pair of relatively short and spastic exceptions, Nausea’s tracks sprawl like any good post-rock album, making its seeming lengthiness entirely necessary (see: Swans). Though ten minutes shy of the one hour mark, the album still may not suit the impatient listener due to its somewhat-monotonous content, often crawling pace, and sparse cathartic payoffs, such as the aforementioned spastics (‘Mollyap’ and ‘White Buffalo’) and a few goosebump-inducing reverbial crescendos (as perfected on ‘Death in L.A. Pt. 2’). But for Michael Gira enthusiasts Nausea should feel like an exotic appetizer for which the spaghetti western guitar twangs of ‘Wolves’ appear particularly inviting.

With its post-rock ethos of finitude and barely audible yet undeniably (and verbosely) anti-establishmentarian lyrics, Nausea is commendable not only in trailblazing the young noise rap genre (yes, Moodie Black owns the rights to noiserap.com), but it also excels in countermanding rap’s mostly-established position within the world of music. Much like the raps of their labelmates and similar pioneering art rappers, Moodie proves hyperconscious in each of their tracks, as opposed to the mindless choruses often adorning such radio-friendly artists as Kanye and this year’s newest Lil’ and/or Young. From the vaguely-blasphemous ‘Christ’ (in which the lyrics “oh my god” may or may not seep into “I’m a god”) to the concluding surreality of ‘B’ (which boasts a violent chorus of “light me on fire in my fucking sleep!”), Nausea is exactly what its title suggests – a record documenting an existential sickness with ourselves. “Listen with caution,” warns Fake Four…9.4/10

‘Wolves’

Young Fathers: Dead

Young Fathers: Dead – While your mother may have told you never to judge a book by its cover, what she may have failed to mention is that this advice should never be taken literally. Many book covers were once very telling of the author’s work: Fitzgerald rewrote sections of Gatsby to reflect Francis Cugat’s elaborate cover, while early science fiction novels were appropriately adorned with mind-blowing surrealist landscapes. But in today’s culture of effortless dust jackets, it’s the album whose cover more openly invites judgment, as Radiohead adopted equally-fitting imagery for their works of science fiction in order to add another dimension to their paranoid futuristic prophecies, and Drake, though not quite our generation’s Fitzgerald, was allegedly moved by the work of his latest cover’s artist.

Taking this into consideration, it’s somewhat less shocking to hear Young Fathers’ debut LP after viewing its  post-humanity, post-vitality, cusp-of-apocalypse, inverted black-and-white cover depicting a hopeless THX-LUH embrace. But even for a product of the weirdo factory known as Anticon (proud young father of this, this, and even this) the Scotland-via-Africa trio’s unique brand of post-post-post rock mixed with postmodern hip-hop and experimental experimentalism is unlike anything you’ve ever heard, perhaps making them the post-er boys for a new wave of idiosyncratic dance music. After capitalizing with TAPEs ONE and TWO over the course of the past three years, Young Fathers sink into the undeniably unorthodox depths of minimalist morbidity on Dead, an instrumentally violent album about war, religion, post-pubescence, and their resulting insanity.

Essentially what Dead is composed of is the leapfrogging vocals of singers Alloysious Massaquoi,  Kayus Bankole, and “G” Hastings, which range from rap to falsetto to R&B – sometimes all in the same song – and the backing nasally synths and rattling bass of a broken pop song. While the Edinburghers are commonly compared to such trail-blazing acts as Massive Attack and Shabazz Palaces, Dead often sounds as if it was inspired by TV on the Radio’s open letter to Science played with a blown speaker in a war-ravaged city in the disturbingly near future. The opener, ‘No Way,’ shares the subtle playfulness of ‘Dancing Choose’ and the vocal similarities of Alloysious and Kayus to Tunde Adebimpe are often uncanny.

But by track two it becomes evident that Young Fathers’ mission is to eschew all comparisons, as further proven by, well, all of their other tracks. ‘Low’ forecasts the impending vocal non-sequiturs while a distinctive BLAM-BLAM-BLAM-reload beat attempts to drown out the gentle chimes and minimal synths. Fadeout to the jaw harp and slowly-deflating electric bagpipe of ‘Just Another Bullet,’ the kind of song that vibrates your vehicle and makes passers-by wonder what you could possibly be listening to. Keep in mind that the Fathers are still managing to maintain that pop song charm that refuses to back down in the face of such unruly lyrics as “when the revolution comes, stab your brother!” and “don’t shoot the messenger, shoot the messenger’s mother, fucker!” and “you’re not dead ‘til I kill yah!”

It’s this intensity that finally sees its boiling point on the eerie ‘Paying,’ which also seems to use TVotR as a designated launch zone. Falsetto is overshadowed by manic and inscrutable Scottish-via-Nigerian fury that places the listener directly in Bankole’s spray zone and corners Death Grips with a dunce cap. It’s almost as if the juvenile dads are finally snapping under the pressure of a post-domesticated society and succumbing to the madness they’ve so vehemently protested up until this point. It’s moments like this that categorize Dead as more than just an album, but a shared experience: it’s an invitation to view the world from the bleak perspective of a well-traveled threesome who opt to confine themselves to their basement where their only tape player broke years ago resulting in a musical ferality that’s rendered them unable to discern black from white, hip-hop from pop. While the cover depicts the inevitable ambiguity of a black-and-white world, the title may very well reference the state of song structuralism.

Coming off the heels of their short-lived and infant approved mixtape series, their debut may come off as somewhat repetitive, perhaps even disappointing at moments to their perpetually-growing fanbase. It certainly isn’t a vast improvement from its preceding releases, but so far it’s certainly succeeded in turning heads and advancing their own plot. Even if they’re not canonized as pioneers of experimental hip-hop, they’re sure to attain some sort of cult status, Dead being the securer of that fate…9.1/10

Paying

Blood Orange: Cupid Deluxe

Blood Orange: Cupid Deluxe- Producer Dev Hynes’ newest album Cupid Deluxe, recorded under the name Blood Orange, is truly a torrential downpour of  soulful introspection. Encompassing a similar mood throughout the entire album, it is consistent yet unpredictable. It’s a little bit of hip hop, a splash of funk and jazz, and a tidal wave of synth electronica all culminating into an album that makes you want to shake your hips and dance while crying into a pint of ice cream. It’s not surprising that a man who is defined as a songwriter, producer, author, singer, and composer, would also manage to put out an album this schizophrenically sincere. The album is characterized by electronica, follows classical composition, is a barrage of collaboration and yet it is so simple you don’t even realize it happened until it’s over.

Never heard of Hynes? Think again. He is the man behind artists such as Florence and the Machine and The Chemical Brothers. However, Cupid Deluxe sounds absolutely nothing like either of these bands. Being a producer, Hynes has collaborated with a variety of musicians and was successful in creating an album which is marked by many styles and yet transitions from track to track  with incredible fluidity and effortlessness. The first time I listened to the album from start to finish it felt like I had taken a breath and suddenly it was over. Written over a four-year period, it’s the kind of album that wreaks of blood, sweat, and tears—and talent.

The album opens up with the track ‘Chamakay,’ featuring Caroline Polachek of Chairlift, a subtle yet impactful opening song. ‘Chamakay’ falls into the genre of new wave but  is tinged with tones of an 80’s love ballad. The arrangement is flawless and lovely comprised of the harmonious overlapping of Polachek and Hynes voices. The song strikes a sad, nostalgic note but maintains a steady beat distinguishing itself as more than a love ballad.

‘Not Good Enough’ is refreshingly honest with lyrics like “I never was in love/you know that you were never good enough.” It’s catchy and arranged as a pop melody but approaches the genre of a love song from a new angle. The song is effortless and has a seductive quality relative to the sounds of the band The XX. After listening to this song a few times I found myself singing the chorus everywhere, reflecting on all the times I felt I’d loved someone. My favorite quality of the whole album is that in every song the music is matched with the lyrics in a way which really hones in on one though or emotion. Unlike other music that is so sensitive, Hynes taps into the genius of jazz and electronica making it music that isn’t lonely. I would listen to this by myself on a train and play it at a party.

‘Uncle Ace’ sounds like Party Monster and the New York City night life in the late 80’s. It has a funky beat and jazz influences meanwhile the singing is extremely sassy and breathless at times. It’s the kind of song that makes me want to lazily shuffle my feet across a dance floor and sway back and forth.

‘High Street’ is my favorite track on the album. Featuring Hynes rapping, he tells the story of his life, hearing his songs on the radio for the first time, reflecting on how he go to where he is now, and what it was like getting there. The music is darker than the other songs and less relaxed. It has a ghastly tone including Hynes’ rap which hangs on the fringe of the beat with every verse. Minor chords of a piano alongside a synth fade out the song without any real sign of an ending.

‘Cupid Deluxe’ is extraordinary. The songwriting is deep and sensitive while the music is catchy and complex. It is a revival of jazz and funk compositions, twining old music stylings with new in an effortless way. This album certainly distinguishes Hynes from the pop genre he is most known for and has a quality that is certainly unique. I think this is an album that will slowly rise to the top and Hynes as it exemplifies Hynes individual style and capabilities in creating new genres. It’s just the beginning for this guy folks… 10/10

High Street

HARRISON: When It Rains

HΛRRISON: When It Rains – HΛRRISON is a funky hip hop new age album that will give you the utmost chill. It appears to be a collaboration of generations past. When It Rains is simply the love child of the notorious affair. It has the mellow guitar riffs of ’70s disco, harsh and dominating, but with an occasional scratch to provide the element of new age potential. The ’80s are cleverly blended in with synthesizers, an interesting mix intertwined with a touch of familiar hip-hop beats. Let’s be clear, this is not the loud and profane hip hop monotony the masses know. This is instrumental music with Donna Summer voice-overs scattered throughout. It resembles ’90s hip hop, where house music was a major player in the productions of beats, raw with its own unique personality, experimenting with the endless potential of music.

This underground hip hop sub-genre is so subdued compared to mainstream that it’s nearly incomparable. It makes for easy listening and fosters an appreciation for the genre that has been mutilated by bad mixing and lack of creativity. When It Rains is calm, subdued and willing to offer hip hop an obscure species, baring the origins of the genre. Each track on When It Rains is fairly unique to itself but still has a great cohesiveness. The album is fairly short: each track is about two minutes, with a great mix of different sounds but also a repetitive, chill back-beat to make for a great listen.

When It Rains begins with ‘Get Up’, a short jazzy intro, and transitions into ‘Bay Windows’. This track has a repetitive piano chord back-beat accompanied by catchy synth beats. ‘Come Closer’ includes a sultry voice and deep ’80s synth beats. ‘Dealing’ has a very breezy sound, somewhat ’20s sounding with the nickelodeon back-beat.  ‘Fresh Princess’ sounds like just that, a sweet and light piano accompanied by very young and fresh beats, definitely the princess of the bunch. Each song has such a rich sound and an excessive number of creative blends suitable for the listener tired of the same old in hip hop.

HΛRRISON provides a fresh sound for hip-hop in When It Rains, one that’s nothing predicable but almost dance-able with its house elements. It may be the house elements that take old and new to make an addicting listen. It is fresh, new, and an eclectic way to revive the old dusty vinyls with a fresh coat of twentieth century technology. It cracks the divide of generations, ripping it open and letting hip hop beats melt a mellow, repetitive piano piece, making it tranquil and chill… 9.0

You’re With Me All The Time