Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Yes Yes Yalls Are Awesome

Okay.  You heard it here first.  This group is the shit.  That's it.  If you don't like the Yes Yes Yalls, I don't know what to tell you.  I don't know what you're waiting for.  I've been looking for a long time for the next big thing.  I look regularly.  I don't write this blog because I want to.  I do it because I have to.  I hate it.  I'm  a slave to it.  I'm an Audio Slave.  And the Yes Yes Yalls is what I have been looking for.  

 The music of the Yes Yes Yalls is like a girl whose too fine.  It makes you angry because you are no longer in control of yourself.  Rather your a slave to her beauty, knowing that everything you've busted your ass for is hers, she only has to ask  for it.  Your happily damned.  

I found out about the Yes Yes Yalls at an open mic, a real open mic.  


In the basement bar on a Thursday night in NYC without any of the sexy.  The crowd, dudes too old to still be rapping, people missing teeth, chicks with major flaws ... this isn't the beautiful people.  

Shameless Plug on the Left.  Chris on the Right.

And the Yes Yes Yalls fit right in.  You won't find Justin Timberlake beauty here.  The lead singer/rapper ... yes, and there's no auto-tune here ... Shameless Plug is a 5' 8'' 180 lbs. stocky, lumberjack looking dude, with a optimistic sense of humor with a cynics sarcasm and a tongue in cheek style.  The other half of the group Chris has the same vibe but with a calm wholesomeness that is reassuring.  Though Chris is a skeptic but wants to believe.  And there's no reason they shouldn't. 

Shameless took the stage.  I stood there ready to not like what I was about to hear.  I enjoy not liking what 90% of what I hear.  It assures me that my sense of taste has not gone soft.  But in a shitty bar on the ass end of Manhattan, Shameless was not having any of my skepticism.  He jumped on stage, stocky as hell,  with no fashion sense except the good sense to rock black and just rocked the stage.  He raps like a babbling brook, is flow is like a river and just rolls along.  He leaves it to the listener whether they want to listen to the contents of the lyrics or just listen to the music.  


If you choose to dive into the lyrics you won't be disappointed.   The level of truth and metaphor is crushing.  But the kicker is this.  Then he breaks out into a perfect falsetto voice to sing his own hooks.  Take that Jigga.  Can you rap WELL and then sing your own hooks?  Uhhhh ... can you say "Game Changer?"


And if that isn't enough, his boy Chris, the producer of the tracks of the Yes Yes Yalls, is too talented.  He is so talented that he just throws (see their song H.G.N.) the beats of entire songs on the ends of other songs.   P. Diddy would be drooling to do a remix.  Because it's already done.  There are entire songs at the ends of other songs.  It would be like your mom making a turkey.  And then when you were done, she broke out a roast beef as an encore.  It almost makes you just say, enough.  I can't take anymore.  Then you just gorge yourself some more.  And then feel disgusted with yourself.  But what choice did Chris give you.  That's how the beats are. 

Okay.  I'm tired of talking.  I'm tired of trying to tell you how good this is.  Listen for yourself.  And if you don't like it, I've got the number of a good therapist.



Monday, December 7, 2009

Malik -- Moonlighting the Songwriter Mixtape: A Lesson About Mixtapes


This mixtape is the perfect example of a rapper with talent but who doesn’t edit himself.  Let’s not get it twisted.  Malik can rap.  He has a respectable flow.  It’s not the Mississippi River but it isn’t a lake either.  It’s a solidly reliable flow laced with a solid variety of punch lines.  His delivery is respectable as well, enunciating clearly, allowing the listener to actually listen.  Imagine that.  Unfortunately, there are some major flaws which detract the listener as well.  

He titles his mixtape I’m Not A Singer.  He is not.  So he should stop trying. His singing is an annoyance that detracts from his rapping.  He is new to the game and cheapens his brand by trying to broaden it prematurely.  Next, he has too many tracks on this mixtape.  20 tracks from a new artist?  Ummmm, no please.  Take a tip from Brother Ali, 9 hot tracks please.  No more are necessary.  So take the twenty.  Pick the hottest nine.  Cut all the extra-talking on the album out … it comes across as insecure … and let your lyrics speak for themselves. 

Single:  Uptowns

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Song of the Day: Wale's 90210


While I don't like the album and don't recommend you buy it, this song is great.  This song is a standout on the album.  A little introspective so ladies, when your planning to do some ish ... make sure you're not turning into this chick.  Deuces.


CD Review: Wale's Attention Deficit: His So So Flow's Unremarkable

 Wale's Attention Deficit:  I had an Attention Deficit while listening to it.

The production is sick.  This album is not good (though there are some bright spots, i.e.
"90210", "Shades", and "World Tour") because the production is sick but waaaaayyyyy too often Wale just misses the mark on lyrics.  There are far too few punchlines and, while the flow is rhythmic, it's not saying much in a way that makes you want to listen.  Grade:  No good.

A brassy beat which opens the album in a strong way but Wale doesn’t do the same.  His flow seems at this point mediocre.  His punch lines are too weak and too few and far between at this point.  While the flow itself is rhythmic, there is little to nothing else.  Grade:  Passable.

Mama Told Me
While Best Kept Secret drops a hot beat, and Wale again  has some notable lines his non-crisp delivery (a delivery where one does not enunciate clearly) does not allow for appreciation of all of his lyrics.  But Wale does us a favor on this track, which is iPod enabled (should be on one’s iPod).  He stays out of the beats way.  The beat is so fresh, and Wale doesn’t screw it up.  Thanks Best Kept Secret (producer).  Grade:  Good.

A song about interpersonal deception, Wale presents a once again respectable flow.  But it just isn’t special.  Bun B outshines Wale on this track.  Producer Mark Ronson does decent work but the track isn’t particularly notable.  Bun B’s verse doesn’t stop time but there are lessons to be learned from it.  It is focused on the topic at hand and the verse is crisp.  Grade:  Decent.

Pretty Girls
Follows the Wale formula.  Mediocre flow but doesn’t get in the way.  Great beat.  Best Kept Secret shines once again.  Grade:  Good.

World Tour
While Cool and Dre deliver on a hot club track with Jazmine Sullivan doing her thing very hard, sounding like a young MJB.  But Wale does his usual with too few punchline, an unclear flow, and a general incoherence.  Grade:  Good (but only because of JS and Cool and Dre.   Wale just stays out of the way.)

Let It Loose
The Neptunes let loose one of their clearly underperforming tracks.  It’s supposed to be a track for the ladies but it just is overall weak.  The beat isn’t terrible but it’s not terribly good either.  Wale does his normal decent flow, weak content thing.  Grade:  Passable.

This song is an exception to the entire CD, thus far.  A song about an LA girl caught up in the LA lifestyle, this song is great.  The beat is solid and Mark Ronson does a great job here.  But more so, Wale makes something out of it.  His verses are very focused and the hook doesn’t try.  The slower tempo allows for him to enunciate his words more therefore allowing each line to be delivered as a punch line in and of itself.  He should look at this song and recreate the techniques used on other songs, and find a way to deliver the same precision on faster tracks.  Grade:  Nice.

Wale shines on this track about the intra-racial politics.  His verses are audible and on point.  Though he does begin to waver in the last verse he can’t be faulted.  He takes a decent beat, by Best Kept Secret, and shines it up.  Grade:  Nice.

Lady Gaga features on this song and does a good job, singing a monotone hook, a club song for the ladies.  The beat is a club banger but Wale does his usual with a cut-under-the-best flow.  Cool and Dre represent producing solid club fare.  Grade:  Decent.

TV in the Radio
David Andrew produces an old school beat in a new wave way.  But for some reason it’s not a good thing here.  Wale does his normal thing.  He has some some great lines every once in a while, i.e. “Phat lines all the time.  They be Roseanne Bars.”  K’Naan is nice.  While his flow is out of step in general, the abundance of punchlines means something.  He pushes the song to … Grade:  Respectable.

An introspective song questioning his own personal motives.  But it’s not very good.  Grade:  Not good.

Slow and introspective.  Sounds very similar to “Contemplate,” not in lyrics but in feel.  In general boring.  Grade:  Not good.

Wale’s usual m.o.  A cut under flow and … read the rest of the posts.  Subpar lyrics and solid beat.  Grade:  Tired.  Tired of good beats with Wale.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Mission Hill: A Pleasant Surprise

One of the nice things about working for Chunky is that my job consists of going out most nights and finding new music.  Most of the time this quest is a drastic failure, as most bands are terrible (read: Pink Floyd wannabes, singers who can’t sing, musicians with no message, etc).  However, the reason to stay patient is a pleasant surprise.  Mission Hill is a pleasant surprise.

Mission Hill is not U2.  They are not Jimmy Hendrix.  They are not Bob Dylan.  They are not game changing artists.  But neither are No Doubt, Simple Plan or the Offspring, yet they all three are great.  What separates these three bands from Mission Hill is the fact that, despite not changing the game, all three of these bands have a signature sound whether it be Gwen Stefani’s nasal crooning over punk-pop tracks or the Offspring’s permanent teenaged angst turned adult anger-rage over guitar laden frenetic drums, the sound is distinct.  Mission Hill gives glimpses of the same type of stamp from time to time, though it is too rare.

Overall, Mission Hill is highly listenable.  Their music is solid fare, like eating at a good friends house.  It's not your mother's cooking but it's in the same neighborhood and it's still good.  Their music is of the solid Northeastern rock variety, i.e. Bon Jovi and Aerosmith.  It's semi-addictive, the more you listen, the more you'll like it.  But it's not  Nirvana.  It won't change your perspective or give voice to things internally unheard.  You'll like it but you won't write home about it, but friends will ask you who it is if they hear you playing it.  It can entertain, rarely intrigue, but can also bore. 

To hear the intrigue, two songs, “Down With Young Love” and “Dancing with the Rascals”, the lead guitarist, a Norweigian (who says we don’t need Europe?) Zach Jagentenfl, whose name means 'Devil Hunter' (nice), kills the potential monotony of these tracks.  In “Down With Young Love” we have a singer that sings his usual m.o.: introspective tracks without being deep.  To his credit, he knows he is not Chris Doughtry.  

He stays within his range and sings about topics he knows.  There is something to be said for restraint.  In the interview however, listen for a mild case of LSD (Lead Singer Disease), with respect to taking credit for the actual music.  He has some notable songs, i.e. "Long Time Comin'" and "Save Me From Me"  where he talks about girl issues, respectively, a woman who he's fed up with and a woman trying to 'fix' him ... not that he's all that broken.  

The rhythm section has apparent chemistry.  Drummer Takuma Anzai and bass player Alex Knutsen get along swimmingly musically and personally.  (Listen to a full interview below).  This foundation allows for the lead singer to perform and the lead guitarist to put his stamp (on two out of ten songs) on their music.

Overall, this music is highly marketable.  Think a younger Bon Jovi style band.  While lacking the smash hits that make Bon Jovi … well … Bon Jovi, this band if they keep working will surely stumble upon these songs as their chemistry improves.  If  Jagentenfl’s musical skills are infused into the songs more often the songs can be notable.

 Their fan base, college educated 23-34 year olds are loyal.  They sing respectably, don’t delve into topics that are uncomfortable, normally play decently, and occasionally surprise the listener and rock out hard, but the long and short of it is that their music is safe.  It is edu-rock with a blue collar tinge.  It won’t rock your world but it’s marketable and listenable.  It can be more ... perhaps a lot more, but only time will tell.

Mission Hill Interview Part 1:

Mission Hill Interview Part 2:


Thursday, December 3, 2009

These United States: Great Live Show, Decent Recorded Music

These United States

Take five scruffy Southerners, add a singer with a Tom Petty feel and some Southern Rock-Americana and you have These United States.  

I went to see this band at a local New York live music spot on a weekend.  The music was guitar heavy and lively.  These guys gave their all in a great performance. 

The room was filled with electricity, and while the previous band may have had more fans, this band’s fans were genuinely listening and enjoying the show.  It would have been hard not to enjoy this show.  The guys were genuine friends, the stage presence was ego-less, with all the guys gelling together seamlessly.

Jesse Elliot, the lead singer, sings well but is no Tim McGraw.  However, the genuine nature with which he sings covers a lot of ground.  The fact that his drummer has his back 100% makes a 
big difference.  Robby Cosenza is a great drummer, playing balls out all the time.

His foundation allows for Colin Kellogg, the bass player, to provide a solid bass-line off which the stars of the show, the vocals and the guitar heavy music, launch. 

This music is not syth-rock, or indie rock.  In their live show it’s just rock-and-roll but in their recorded CD Everything Touches Everything, Southern rock is clearly the star of the show.  “Will It Ever”, a song in the vein of bemoaning the loss of connection after love is lost, is typical of the songs found on ETE.  

However, that isn’t a bad thing.  But if you are expecting the balls out rocking sound found in the live show you’ll be disappointed.  

Everything Touches Everything is a road trip CD, an album I suspect grows on those who listen to it often like a blessed melanoma.  It is a CD for cleaning up the house or for looking out the window on a long bus ride.  It is a CD that goes perfectly with a scene in a movie where a girl is cleaning up the house as her boyfriend watches her dance with a mop unknowingly.  It’s a good CD. 

If you like Tom Petty, you’ll like this.  But if you are looking to rock, buy a ticket to a These United States Show.  But ETE is not the CD that will let you rock.  And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Even rockers, like myself, need a break every now and again.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Where Have We Been????

Please be patient with us. We have been super busy.  Our physically printed version of our blog has come in (available at select street wear stores and online CD distributors) as well as two CD reviews and a new show review.  Plus, we're in the works linking up with some other blogs.  We'll be posting sometime between today and tomorrow and we promise not to starve you out much longer.  Thanks.  

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Song of the Day: Brother Ali's Good Lord

Brother Ali

Brother Ali's "Good Lord"

  If you like this hit me up.  Tell me your feeling it.  I need the love too. 

The Good, The Bad, and The GaGa

So I walked to my mailbox anticipating some hot music to bring to your attention.  I’ve recently ordered five or six new CDs and figured one of the highly anticipated would be here.  Instead, Lady GaGa’s first CD arrives, The Fame.  I set it aside and watch the Law & Order Marathon.  But the CD stared at me like a homework assignment that you must do in a subject you anticipate you’ll loathe.  

The next day I’m knocking Brother Ali and The Fame sits unopened.  I open it and play it, right after “Little Rodney.”  I had to hear it.  I can’t disparage or frown at something I’ve never heard, therefore all of my grousing demanded that I actually give her a shot.  The results … (I’ll listen to Fame Monster later … you’ve gotta know where you’ve been before you go elsewhere), terrible for all the wrong reasons.  

Why?  She isn’t terrible because she can’t sing, though she can’t.  Her range is terribly narrow.  But T-Pain is no Luther Vandross, yet he’s not terrible.  It’s not terrible because of the production.  While it’s not my cup of tea  (read, “May I have a synthesizer-combo, super-duper sized, please?”), it’s not inedible.  She’s not terrible even because all of the songs are crap.  They’re not.  “Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)” and “Beautiful, Dirty, Rich” are both good songs.  There are one or two others.

The reasons she is terrible is that her songs are empty, shallow, and are everything that is wrong with music today.  She is brutally honest about what she wants.  Don’t believe me.  The defense calls it’s first witness, Mr. Song Titles.  

“Mr. Song Titles, can you tell me some of the song titles that embody what GaGa is about?”

“Sure.  The Fame.  Starstruck.  I Like it Rough.  Beautiful, Dirty Rich.”

“I rest my case.”

Lady GaGa wants to be famous.   Her album is built for mass consumption.  It is shallow enough never to take a stand on anything, only reinforcing the status quo.  Girls like guys with nice cars.  Guys should be rich.  Gilrs should play a love game.  Money is the goal.  Life is liquor, sex, and parties.  This message is repeated 14 times.  This is the formula for a platinum album.  Rock out to easily consumable beats and recite Hoyle’s Guide to Constructing an Empty Soul, Vol. I.  

Lady GaGa is the ugly.  Her music is the ugly because it’s goal is fame.  Her music is the ugly because it’s end product is a hollow soul.  Her music is the ugly because there is no substance.  The product of Lady GaGa is the ugly because it is the triumph of style over substance and the victory of spectacle over music.  It's the Hills.  It's Real Housewives of Wherever.  It's fame at any  price, even if it means whoring your soul.    And fuck it ... I hate it.   It's everything I stand against.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Show Review : M-Lab at the Mercury Lounge, NYC .. M ... N-O.

So I was trolling for music that I haven't heard of before and I stop at one of my favorite spots, Mercury Lounge here in NYC.  If you want to catch a live show any day of the week and literally sometimes twice on Sundays check out Mercury Lounge.  

So I pay my door fee and walk in.  I immediately notice that the place is packed.  I look on the tally girl's clip board and this band M-Lab has more hash marks (five people) than I have seen in a long time.  So I am eager to see what these guys have to offer.  I was excited but it was a weekend, therefore all of the 9-5ers are out and willing to do anything to have a good story to tell on Monday.  So I am eager but wary.

Sometimes wary should win out.

I walk into the backroom Budweiser in hand and proceed to see one of the most terrible bands that I have seen.  Now, let's be fair.  They weren't bad because they were technically non-proficient.  The music wasn't out of tune, the singer while he couldn't really sing all that well (but most male rock and roll singers can't) was bearable.  The keyboard player (usually a bad sign in a rock band but not always) was decent enough and the drummer wasn't off rhythm.  What was terrible was the music.

M-Lab:  Being Something You Are Not
Suitable Lyric: "I see it, the gimmicks, the wack lyrics.  The shit is depressing.  Pathetic.  Please forget it."
-- Notorious BIG, Applicable to M-Lab

Terrible.  This music is the reason that hard work is bad.  Record labels for all the bad they present often have a reason for what they do.  They sign a person either because they know they can make money, i.e. Lady Gaga (hey, they are a business after all and if you need further explanation, see the post about Lupe Fiasco's Gotta Eat (song of the day today)), or they really see talent, i.e. Bob Dylan.  Either way they discern what they need and pick it up.  Everyone who does not fall into the talent or money categories are tossed aside.  If this was the pre-Internet, self-made label day these guys could go get jobs at the douchebag factory and call it a day.   Instead, because of all the resources made available to all bands these days, worthy and subpar, these guys will survive on the butt cheeks of the musical world like a cyst.  

So what's so bad about these guys?  Well, for one their music is entirely soulless.  Take one look, one listen, and you know these guys are singing to get famous.  You want to piss me off?  Make music for the sole purpose of getting famous.  Yeah.  These guys piss me off.  There is no meaning in their songs and their stage act makes me burn up inside, like a girl is pissed when a guy meets her in real life only to find out that he misrepresented himself over the phone.  They act like musicians but their really just technically gifted fame whores.

M-Lab:  Rule #1 in the Cool Manual:  Trying to look like you don't give a shit, makes you look
like you care waaaayyyyy too much.

Second, the lead singer has a serious case of LSD  (Lead Singer Disease).  The lead guitarist the night of their show was replaced and he was truly awesome.  He could simply play the electric like it was nobody's business.  The lead singer proceeds to sneer at the guy the entire night.  The poor guy didn't even know he was on the chopping block ... all because he had committed the cardinal sin among the insecure ... don't outshine the talentless.  The guitarist's chops were simply superior to all in the band.  When the guitarist in a rock band outshines the drummer easily (as drummers usually are substituting percussion for required meds ... often successfully I might add) you know you've got skills.  Well, that's what happened.  And the lead singer was jealous of someone in his own band.  Strike two.

Blatantly using your position to try to hookup =  Sleezebag

Strike three?  The band is full of sleeze bags.  After the band is on their last song the lead singer tells the fans that they'll be partying around the corner and tells the ladies that they can come over "and spend the night with M-Lab."  This confirmed the douchebag status instantly.  If your in a rock band and you have to spell out that women can come "spend the night" with you, you are a) a rocker that's not hooking up and b) a rocker that weak sauce.

Finally, their fans were the type of fans that don't really like music, but they do like saying that they go to live shows.  There were more conversations in that room during the bands set than Oprah has had over her career.  It was like a coffee clatch in there.

M-Lab?  Maybe they should rename themselves to NO-Lab.  Late.

Song of the Day: Lupe Fiasco's Gotta Eat

Lupe Fiasco's The Cool:  Gotta Eat
  The reason you buy a CD isn't the single.  It isn't the second single.  It's the singles that are never played on the radio.  It's a song that you will never hear unless you buy the album.  It's a song that you play and feel bad for others that they've usually never heard it, or heard of it.  It's an instant bond when you talk to someone who has heard of it, and you're instantly excited that they have heard of it.  Gotta Eat is one of those songs.  No, it's not enlightening.  No, it won't help you on your journey.  It's just bad ass, out of character for Lupe, just simply, it's a song about someone chasing the Cool ... and while you know it's exactly what he warns against (hell the whole album warns against chasing the Cool, you've gotta love the guy that chases the Cool this well).  Hell, you've gotta eat.  Enjoy.  And Happy Thanksgiving. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Hope of Hip-Hop is White Muslim From Minnesota

Brother Ali's The Truth is Here.  


I only give the highest compliment to Brother Ali’s Truth Is Here. Respect Brother Ali. Buy this album.

Real As Can Be
The laidback bluesy beat catches you off guard, just as the well-evolved flow. This artist, and I don’t say that word lightly, artist, uses lyrics as a paint brush hitting the listener with the honest reality of being on the road and the unfamiliarity of being home. Often, picking up an album of someone you do not know of is a disappointment. Then there’s this. This is … Grade: Special.

Philistine David
This synth heavy beat is not going to have you calling Ant in order to immediately order up an album and dub him the next Kanye. However, it’s workable. And Brother Ali puts in work like a Chinaman building a railroad. The flow is about the persecuted and the refusal to be subjugated. Ali flows for “the slave that drowns in the middle passage, I’m Chief Sitting Bull at the hands of a savage, I’m John Brown standing, both guns blasting, crying freedom something must happen.” I don’t know who this dude is but .. Grade: Hot Damn.

Little Rodney
First, the beat has an inherent crip walk. In a song that is about prison from a prisoners perspective, in a format that Brother Ali adopts that is a letter to him from Little Rodney, genius. The song is very listenable, but because of the intricacies and well crafted lyrics, one must listen to the song multiple times in order to fully appreciate the song. You can listen just once, but why? Grade: Strong plus.

Palm The Joker
A beat that brazen pushes Little Rodney aside and proclaims it’s presence in a gospel-esque anthem. Brother Ali meets Ant, the producer, with an amazing rhyme about the self-created plight of the inner city community. But Brother Ali rises past the occasion through hard work, by pointing out the strengths and the weaknesses of the poor, and advises a strategy for the poor that would make Jay Gould proud. This kind of bravery deserves one grade. Grade: Lyrical acclaim.

Good Lord
Okay. This has just got to stop. How is he gonna place a dance track on the song without the floss or a saccharine message. On this track Ant practices the dark arts by mixing his soul with that of a blues player, and Ali decides to play the foil, mixing God’s righteousness with his own swagger. I can’t give this grade twice on one disc but I have to. Grade: Extra Special.

Baby Don’t Go
This hurts. No one that I haven’t heard of can’t be this nice. Lupe watch out. Someone else is just dropping science. Could hip-hop have found one of it’s heros in Wisconsin? WTF? The beat walks through with the swagger of a college Division One player guaranteed to go to the NBA in a month, but is still on campus. Brother Ali vastly elaborates and creates an entire song out of the idea LL Cool J put forward on “Loungin’,” proclaiming for four minutes that “Man made the money, money never made the man.” Grade: Super nice.

Talkin’ My Shit
The original Foxy Brown shows up on this track. Thanks Ant. He’s just talking shit. He’s a guy feeling himself and decides to let us in on his psyche. With snide pointed lines at other rappers like “He’s got his fist up, still trying to get his dick sucked. Some bitch,” Wow. Why don’t we just stop here. Grade: Madd hetro, aka Super Straight.

The Believers – featuring Slug
The beat doesn’t grab you immediately but it grows on you quickly through the flows of Brother Ali and Slug. The beat is like a train station in Chicago, everyone going their separate ways but in a peculiar rhythm. Brother Ali picks up on this off-beat beat and raps about his faith, but not in a corny way, but rather genuinely, a faith that isn’t sold on TV or pedaled in politics, but rather is the faith of a real believer, something that truly sustains his soul. Slug represents as well, but this is Ali’s record. That’s clear. Grade: Solidly Aiight … Aiight in a real good way.

Begin Here
“Brothers and sisters I know we had a good time this evening,” Brother Ali begins. I quickly have to agree, “Yes, we did.” In this track he brings it back, and slows it down, like a DJ at the end of the party. Except he is giving the listener something to go home with. “A lot of people waiting for their big break to make it. You gonna spend your whole life waiting till you learn that anything given to a man can be taken. Only this ever really yours is really earned.” He continues just to drop relentless soul sustaining science. Grade: Spiritual food.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Don't Buy These Cubic Zirconias: Diamond District's In the Ruff

Don’t buy.  Don’t buy this album unless you’re a beat junkie like me, who would buy it just to get “Who I Be”. But if you’re looking for a solid all around album, this is not it.  While it does remind one of the late 80’s, early 90’s brand of hip-hop, where the music was a gritty report about the inner city, lyrically it falls waayyyyy short.  The rappers seem focused on hip-hop as a means of financial advancement without an appreciation for the craft.  There are a couple of highly notable beats on this album, produced by Oddisee, but otherwise, steer clear.

While the beats aren’t as complex and you can tell by the CD packaging that the big money was not behind this project, it is like a small restaurant, which has the hallmarks of high quality, and the quality is apparent. 

Streets Won’t Let Me Chill 
This song’s production is solid.  No, it’s not Nottz, they probably couldn’t afford it.  No, it’s not Just Blaze … he’s probably too much also, but what’s inspiring is that they don’t even try to use that as an excuse.  They simply take the well-engineered beat and deliver lyrics that aren’t mind-boggling, but still hit bone.  Pardon my French, but just a good fucking song.  Big Ups to the producer, Oddisee.  Grade:  Solid.

Who I Be
Oddisee delivers another solidly gritty track, which reminds one of New York in the 80’s.  Funny enough it reminds me that though NY has improved in terms of crime rates the rest of Black America hasn’t.  DC is still going through it.  Hip-hop used to be the ghetto CNN.  Just as Native Americans used smoke signals to communicate, and not for movie magic, Diamond District uses hip-hop for it’s original purpose, to communicate pain.  But Oddisee does this by himself, just with a beat.  As for lyrics, they’re decent, a general rendition of representing oneself in the hood, but the beat just runs away with the song.  Grade:  Special.

I Mean Business
Well, everybody has bad days.  The beat isn’t super impressive, though it holds it’s own.  And the flow of the group isn’t like a samurai’s soul, it doesn’t glow.  Therefore, in this case, if the beat doesn’t support the song effortlessly, it seems that their flow will not carry the tune alone.  As for what the song is about … it’s unfocused, and therefore unclear.  However midway through the track it switches up with a verse that redeems the song.  Hmmm … maybe I’ll keep an eye on these guys.  Grade:  Resurrected.

Get In Line
This song resonates with brothers still on the block, with poor educations, but unlike The Clipse or Young Jeezy, it doesn’t glorify, but rather recounts like Henry Hill in Goodfellas (the book).  The mix needs to be redone, due to the fact that the vocals don’t pop, but it works.  The substance of these songs is the lives of peripheral characters on the Wire.  Grade:  Well done.

In The Ruff 
The lyrics once again aren’t inedible but they’re not gourmet fare.  However, the beat, it’s cool.  Grade:  Aiight plus.

 The Shining
The lyrics sound like the Outlaws (remember Tupac … and the Outlawz … yeah them).  It’s like it’s really filler.  While the third verse is average plus, maybe even decent, the other verses are just peanut butter.  Grade:  Aiight minus.

The District 
A song about DC.  Didn’t even grab my attention.  It seems as though these guys rap for fame or to eat (which I don’t knock the hustle) but not out of raw love or talent.  Therefore, it’s bland. Actually part of the hook is “Shining is Our Goal. Look at me shining.”  I guess they said it themselves. Grade:  Weak.

Make It Clear
Using a little Jigga in the ‘hook’ is a clever way to buy some fame/shine but other than this the track is wholly unmemorable.  The first verse talks about some basic hood grudges, there’s a slightly notable name check to the stock market, but then the return to the shittyness of the hood and gentrification.  However, there is no delving into any of these topics and no Notorious BIG cinematic flow, no Jay-Z dropping the science, no Lupe dropping wisdom, no Ludacris entertainment, no Eminem flowtastic, no Cee-Lo spirituality, no Dre creativity, no Big Boi hood-floss, no, no, no … Grade: No.

Off The Late Night 
This track grabs you from the outset.  The ménage-je-trois of the trumpet, organ, and the bass are braided together in a sloppy but still sexy way, the way a middle aged chicks boobs are still hot, saggy but still hot.  Oddisee’s verse, or rather his semi-nasal tone allows for his delivery to grab your attention, but it won’t for long due to the fact that the content is not that interesting. Grade:  Cool (due to the track).

Let Me Explain
This song reminds me of King Geedorah.  It’s just words but there’s no emotion or message.  Just not good.  Grade:  Not good.

First Time 
This song is interesting for the same reason all the others are not lyrically.  This is the first time (haaa!) that these rappers are speaking personally in terms about themselves.  It grabbed me from the first verse because he begins (there are no liner notes) with a lyric about the first record deal he ever signed.  Now that he was speaking in the first person about his life specifically I wanted to listen, instead of speaking in general.  There still isn’t any lyrical acclaim, but it’s a starting point.  The beat … it was aiight.  Song:  C+.

Something for Ya’ll 
A little audio soft-core porn for the ladies (I gather from the title).  It’ll work for some chicks but there’s no romance or mischievous intent, there’s no slickness and therefore it fails.  The beats don’t fail, the lyrics do however.  The second verse gives some pause for a minute due to the nasal and crisp intonation but it fails in the end.  Grade:  No good.

A backpacker beat with a decent third verse, but it’s not enough to save the song, but it is notable.  I want to give it an okay but the truth is … Grade:  Weak.

The New York Howl: Songs of the Day, Dead Band of the Day Also

Which is more sad?  A dead person or a dead band?  A dead band, because at least a dead person is out of their misery.  A dead band is the living dead.  It's something that could have been, would've been, and in the case of the New York Howl, should have been.

I saw a show by these guys.  Let's not b.s. each other.  I was far less than impressed.  Like most hip-hop shows they're just better recorded than live.  But that doesn't mean they don't have some kick ass music.  Don't believe me ... you'll learn.  The Musical Jedi is always right.  Peep two songs that will become your favorites.  And like a vintage wine, there's no more to come.  So savor these, and then just like that wine, it's gone forever.

Song 1:  "Can't Get It Right, Right Now"

Digital Press Kits 
Some bands want to be Nirvana.  Some imitate, i.e. the Black Eyed Peas at the AMA's two nights ago.  Some just are ... at least for a moment.  This song is just a bad ass fuck you, it's now or never song.  You can skip next two songs, but I don't blame you if you want to add this one to the permanent library.

Song 2: "Gasoline"
Ever felt beat down?  It's midday and you take a look around and wonder, what the fuck is going on in my life?  How the hell did I get here?  Yeah.   Me too.  Well, The New York Howl has the answer, "Gasoline."  This song is a cure for the occasional blues that all of us get.  No, it won't make you feel all geeked and better.  What it will do is give you the solution for what to do with your pity-party-woe-is-me-cry-me-a-river ass.  

Yeah.  You're welcome.  Discovering bands like the New York Howl is why I write this blog.  Deuces.   

Monday, November 23, 2009

Song of the Day: Extrahard by Little Brother

A great song that is needed on a Monday.  It's a sample.  If you like this song out of North Carolina check out some of their other stuff off of The Getback (previously reviewed).  Tell me what you think about this song.  Also if you have any ideas about a group that we ought to review or a CD or a live show or anything in the realm of music that we need to know about ... let me know!

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