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Category: Hip Hop

Mike D’s Echo Chamber – Danny Brown, Vince Staples, Childish Gambino

Just a few weeks ago I decided to jump back into Apple Music’s Beats One radio shows and see what was new and interesting. There’s a lot of quality content – Elton John’s Rocket Hour is cool, but the the best in my opinion is The Echo Chamber hosted by the Beastie Boys’ own Mike D.  His tastes vary wildly (which we figured out in 1989 when Paul’s Boutique came out), but the part I’m enjoying most is getting a taste of the latest hip-hop through the filter of Mike D. I’m enjoying the new ones from A Tribe Called Quest and Run the Jewels, but overall, I lost touch with the hip-hop scene a long time ago. So it’s cool to be able to listen in to Mike’s picks and get turned on again to some good stuff.

Artists like Danny Brown, Vince Staples, and Childish Gambino…

I’ll share three of the tunes that really jumped out at me recently. The first being this track by Danny Brown. Brown is originally from Detroit, he’s 35, and his latest album, Atrocity Exhibition, is his fourth since his 2010 debut The Hybrid. “Really Doe” features Danny, Kendrick Lamar (who is everywhere I look, and deservedly so), Ab-Soul and Earl Sweatshirt. The tune just flows. Nothing I can listen to around my kids, but a great tune just the same…

Second up is 23 year old Vince Staples from Long Beach, CA. “War Ready” is only 2 + minutes, but man, just the way he delivers it, especially in the first 30 seconds, riding along with that beat. Put my Glock away I got a stronger weapon that never runs out of ammunition so I’m ready for war okay…”

And last, actor/writer/producer/musician etc. etc. etc. Donald Glover,  whose music alter ego is Childish Gambino. We’ve all seen him in something. For me, it’s HBO’s Girls. He has a brand new album called Awake, My Love!, and I’m still only one listen in, with many more to come. It’s less hip-hop and more a funk/soul tour de force that channels Parliament, Prince, and Sly Stone. It’s really something creative and unique, and this tune, “California,” is a good sampling…

Lifting My Mind in the New Year

It’s always cool to kick off the new year with some fresh music. It’s even better when it’s some local boys! Lifted Mindz are a five man, hip hop crew that I first heard during a break of the Orange Bowl just two days ago and they are very, very wonderful.

The tune below (“Dora Hade”) lays down a nice, thick groove that is reminiscent of early De la Soul. Their message, like Hemingway, is honest, true and strong…a movable feast, if you will, for stream of consciousness expression.

What a great way to start off 2013!

Here is a link to download their music.

(Not So) Guilty Pleasure of the Moment: B.o.B. – Play the Guitar

Don’t know much about B.o.B., except I see his name on the charts or around the media in the form of “B.o.B feat. ___” or “___ feat. B.o.B.” credits we’re accustomed to seeing in modern day R&B/hip-hop.

His 2010 debut album, B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray [Explicit], hit #1 on the Billboard 200, and spawned three hit singles.

Fast forwarding to this year, in which B.o.B. will release his 2nd album, Strange Clouds.
The second single is “Play the Guitar,” and features another Georgia resident, Outkast’s André 3000.

I heard while I was out running, listening to Sirius XM’s Hip-Hop Nation. And this is exactly why I’ll drop into different stations and genres from time to time – to discover something that clicks with me.  “Play the Guitar” has a great rhythm, sort of a Caribbean undercurrent running through it. And the presence of Andrè 3000 adds that instant cred. Just a fun tune, and really good loud.

Recap: Beats, Rhymes & Life – The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest

 I just finished watching the Michael Rapaport-directed Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest. Like a lot of folks around my age (early 40’s – same age as Rapaport & the Tribe), I spent a lot of quality time back in the day with A Tribe Called Quest. In my case, it was the first two albums that really resonated with me – particularly 1991’s The Low End Theory. Songs like “Excursions”,  “Can I Kick It”, and “Rhythm (Devoted to the Art of Moving Butts)” helped provide a soundtrack for my late college years in Colorado. I have great memories of driving through the mountains from Colorado Springs to Telluride bumpin’ those Tribe beats (in my beat up ’85 Jeep Cherokee).

By the time Midnight Marauders was released in late 1993, I was distracted with other genres and busy being young and irresponsible. Other than “Award Tour”, I’m ashamed to say I didn’t hear the full album until the new millennium. Forget about the last two Tribe records – Beats Rhymes & Life and Love Movement – I’m just getting around to ’em now.

So the documentary was fantastic, a real learning experience for me, someone who loved those early records but checked out of the scene in the early 90’s.

Other than the music, it’s the love/hate dynamic between childhood buds Q-Tip and Phife Dawg that is the central theme of the doc. Phife has struggled with Type 1 Diabetes throughout his adult life, even undergoing a kidney transplant a few years ago (a donation from his wife). What the film suggests is that Q-Tip hasn’t really been there for his pal during these struggles. Tip’s focus has always been on the music. When the time came in 1998 that he didn’t see a future for the group, Tip disbanded the group and embarked on a successful solo career.

Since then, A Tribe Called Quest haven’t released any albums, but have reformed for live performances on occasion (for the money, they’re not ashamed to admit). The film covers a couple of these live gigs over the past several years, and there’s plenty of drama still alive and well among the group to make it all the more compelling.

I recommend this film for music lovers anywhere – whether you’re a hip-hop head or not. But if you dug those early Native Tongues albums – Tribe, De La Soul, Jungle Brothers and such – you will especially enjoy this.

BuyBeats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest

Q-Tip’s “Barely In Love”

Well, shame on me for not listening to this album when it came out September. 2009. It’s teeming with life. Live instrumentation; a funky, soulful, jazzy laid back vibe (it is Q-Tip, after all, who perfected “laid back” hip-hop twenty plus years ago with A Tribe Called Quest).

This song sums up the greatness of the record. “Barely In Love” is nothing you’d ever expect from Q-Tip, or anyone else in the hip-hop scene. I go back to my main theme – no boundaries, no genres. I feel 70’s Stevie Wonder. I feel an urban street scene, late on a Saturday night with musicians gathered around in a circle, jamming out. There’s hip-hop in this album, but it can’t be called a hip-hop record. It’s just… music.

Q-TipBarely In Love (mp3)

[audio:barelyinlove.mp3]

Check out Kamaal The Abstract on Amazon.

But My Good Friends Is All I Need

For the past few years, I have received many comments which basically come down to one central theme: It’s about time I started acting my age.

I am 42 years old. But even when I was in my late thirties, many people around my age and even younger were surprised to hear that I still like to go shows at First Avenue. In fact, many of them were shocked that I left the comfort of my easy chair in front of the TV and (gasp) went out! Having fun with friends was even more shocking. That’s what younger folk do! I should just spend all of my time with my family. At first, I just sort of blew them off as being silly. Or perhaps lazy. Then I realized that our culture has essentially evolved into a mild variation on the 1976 film Logan’s Run.

In the film, as soon as people reach the age of 30 they are liquidated. Of course, that does not literally happen in our culture. Yet, somehow…some way…some insane fucking bullshit way…we now live in a country where anyone that is 30 years or older is now Grandpa.

HUH?

We have always been a culture that looks at youth as being the center of all that is perfect. Ages 19-26 or so have always been considered the “best”  years. But now, anyone in this age range is to be worshiped as if they are Jesus Christ.  And, nauseatingly, they know it. In fact, a sort of “Mid-20s Mafia” has sprung up and once you are out of that age range, you are expected to marry, have children, and relinquish all youthful endeavors in your life. If you don’t do these things you are sneered at, jeered, vilified, and emotionally abused by the Mid 20s Mafia.

When you turn 30, it’s time to be fitted for your coffin.

If you continue to act as if you are still in that age range…see bands at clubs, have fun with friends out on the town, get drunk, high and spend all weekend fucking the crap out of someone you love…then you are gross according to the Mid 20s Mafia. And weird. Why? Because 30+ means Grandpa. And grandpa doesn’t do those things.

Grandpa watches TV in his comfy chair. Grandpa listens to bad music such as Dave “Ass-Cock” Matthews. Grandpa rarely goes out and when he does, it’s to the cabin in the summer. Grandpa shouldn’t have any friends to go out with on the town. Going out at that age is “weird” since he should be home with his family. Any friends should be limited to those with whom he can gripe about mowing the lawn at the cabin over a beer at yet another (and seemingly never ending in a series) monumentally stilted social gathering at a fellow parent’s home. Those are the rules.

I listen to Asher Roth’s song “I Love College” and I say fuck those rules. Fuck them hard. Not in a loving slide-the-cock-in-the-ass way. But in a colossal stick-it-to-the-man way.

My first reaction upon hearing the song was actually slightly derisive. Doesn’t it represent the decay of our modern culture? And then I felt guilty for liking a song with this chorus.

Man, I love college, ay!
And I love drinking, ay!
I love women, ay!
Man, I love college

Not exactly Lennon and McCartney.. But then I heard the line

Drink my beer and smoke my weed…my good friends is all I need…

and quickly realized that the song is not really about that. It’s about the simple fact that life is about fun and friendship. Everyone has a limited amount of time on this planet–some shorter than others–and turning into Grandpa at age 30 + is beyond a complete waste of that time. It’s insane. People shouldn’t be confined to only cutting loose in college. Starting your decay at such a young age is fucking ridiculous!!!

Now, I want to be clear about something. I am NOT suggesting that people blow off work or school and party all the time. Even Asher, in the song, admits that he “needs to get to class” at the end. I am suggesting that people should stay young at heart. This is not to be confused with being immature which would include blowing off one’s obligations to themselves or the ones they love. It most certainly fucking DOES  include NOT living by someone’s (and by someone I mean people who have a ten foot pole up their ass) rigid vision for what all of us are “supposed” to be…at any age.

I am begging all of you…and especially those in the Midwest where this problem is as prevalent as a fart (after a night of drinking) that hangs there forever…don’t become Grandpa. I don’t care how old you are. Don’t live by society’s social rules any longer. Stay out with your friends until 5am and then go get breakfast…on a Tuesday night. Drink several glasses of red wine, walk up to a girl/guy you don’t know, and tell them how fucking gorgeous they are and how you would like to kung fu their ass and make them come. Drink your beer and smoke your weed with your good friends. Tell them how much you love them and how important they are to you.

While you are doing all of these things, play “I Love College” by Asher Roth at an extraordinarily loud volume and, as he says in the song, “dance your ass off.”

Oh, and tell the local mortician that your coffin fitting can wait until…never.

Ick’s Pick: En’ A-Free-Ka

Unpredictable.
Otherworldy.
Fuunnky.
Indescribable.

The new album from Shafiq Husayn is blowing my mind. En’ A-Free-Ka is an hour long journey through strange sounds, funky Parliament-arian grooves, futuristic hip-hop soundscapes.
Seriously, when I listen to this album, it feels like I’m listening to sounds I shouldn’t be hearing for another 20 years. It feels ahead of its time.

Thanks to SiriusXM’s Subsoniq radio show on Backspin for the Shafiq interview and spins.

I had to include these two – favorites right out of the gate…

  • The U.N. Plan (mp3)
  • Major Heavy feat. Sonny Coates and Count Bass D (mp3)

BUY: En’a-Free-Ka

Visit: Shafiq’s Enafreeka.com

My Top 3 Hip-Hop Songs of All Time

If you had to choose your top three rap / hip-hop songs of all time, what would they be? As I got on down to my Old School Mix at the gym today, that question worked its way into my head. My top two came to me immediately. The third took a few more seconds of thinking.

My selections all came out in either 1986 or 1987. Many years have passed, and many great hip-hop songs have come along. But when all’s said and done, these three still do it for me. There are a lot of great old school tunes from this era, but a lot of ’em haven’t aged too well. I’m talking to you Whistle, UTFO, and Boogie Boys. But the three classics below definitely stand the test of time.

How ’bout you? Whether you’re a fan of hip-hop or not – if you had to pick, what would your top three be? Speak, people!

My Top 3 Hip-Hop Songs of all Damn Time


#3: “Paul Revere” (mp3) – Beastie Boys / “Fight For Your Right” and “No Sleep Til Brooklyn” were the early mass favorites from Licensed to Ill, but based on those two songs, I wasn’t wholly impressed by the Beasties… but when I heard “Paul Revere” – the funky as hell backward beat; the fun story set in the old west… there are lots of great Beasties songs – “Root Down”, all of Paul’s Boutique, but nothing beats “Paul Revere”.

#2: “Peter Piper” (mp3) – Run-DMC / As far as crossover appeal goes, 1986 was a monumental year in hip-hop. Licensed to Ill was released in the spring, and in the summer, Run-DMC released Raising Hell – which featured the biggest rap-rock crossover to date: “Walk This Way” with Aerosmith. But again, for me, the appeal lay elsewhere on the album. In particular, “Peter Piper”. It’s the rhythm that primarily does it for me with hip-hop. Give me a dope beat and I’m a happy camper. “Peter Piper” was like nothing I’d ever heard. In fact, color me ignorant, I didn’t know until a couple months ago that the beat is taken from Bob James’s version of Paul Simon’s “Take Me To The Mardi Gras“.

#1: “I Know You Got Soul” (mp3) – Eric B. & Rakim / The summer of ’87 was when I met my high school sweetheart, and also the summer that Eric B. & Rakim’s Paid in Full album was released. Like all my music back then, I bought the vinyl and immediately taped it so I could bump it in the car. Many an hour was spent in my mom’s Buick Park Avenue with my girl and the song “I Know You Got Soul.” It still doesn’t get any smoother than Rakim. His delivery flows effortlessly, and it’s still my favorite old school tune to rap along to in the car. Numero uno.

If you’re interested, I just re-posted my Old School Mix here. Please – when Too Short’s “Freaky Tales” hits, make sure your mother isn’t around. It’s about as NSFW as a song can be.

Something like that, right? Is that what you want?

“Daddy, what’s stream of consciousness?”

My nine year old daughter was in the back seat of our minivan as we were heading home from summer day camp and laid yet another way beyond her age question on me. For a moment, my thoughts went back to when she was four years old and asked me if George Bush was a Christian. And if he was, why would he send people to kill other people if it was murder and breaking one of the Ten Commandments? I think Jean Piaget, developmental psychologist of the early and middle 20th Century, was rolling in his grave to hear a four year old express a question dripping with formal operational thought.

I actually could’ve used Piaget in answering not only the question from five years ago, but the current one that had piqued her curiosity.

“Why do want to know, hon?” I asked her.

“Well, we were talking about rap music today at camp and one of the counselors said that rap was cool because it was like stream of consciousness. So I want to know what that is.”

So, I spent the next few minutes explaining to her what it meant…how random thoughts can be strung together in a seemingly related way to express a thought or mood. Or both.

“Let’s listen to a song like that.”

I knew she’d make this request and I had the perfect one in mind…the Song of the Summer of 2009.

American Sam Spiegel (aka Squeak Spiegel) and Brazilian Ze Gonzales (aka Zegon) came together in 2007 to create a massively cool indie hip hop band called N.A.S.A. No, it’s not your father’s space agency but actually North America-South America…a sisterhood and brotherhood of unity that, quite frankly, our country could really use right now. All of their music reflects this mood quite wonderfully.

On February 17, 2009, the duo released The Spirit of Apollo. There are several great tracks on this record as well as a collection of guest stars like David Byrne, John Frusciante, Tom Waits, Santogold, George Clinton, and a wide variety of rappers and hip hop artists.

The track that really grabbed me, and officially became OCD (Obssesive Compulsive Disorder) song #1 of 2009 (review of OCD #2 to appear here soon) – and what I played for my daughter to illustrate the beauty of stream of consciousness – was “Strange Enough”, featuring the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard (Wu Tang Clan), Fatlip, and the seriously stunning on several levels Karen O (lead singer of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs). What an absolute fucking corker of a song!

I think I have played this track every day at least once since it came out in February and, for whatever reason, it has become synonymous with this summer. Virtually everyone I have played it for has downloaded it. It’s rhythm is tight. The mood is intense and the lyrics are just plain cool. “Freak show pantie lover…but I’m getting too old for this like Danny Glover” or “Wild boy cowboy entertainer…insane…Purple Rainer”(special shout out to our Prince loving host of this site) are just two examples of how much fun this song is.

And Karen O’s bit is mega fucking cool. Towards the end of her rap, which is essentially the chorus of the song, she breaks down and giggles, asking Squeak and Zegon, who were presumably in the control room while she did her part…

“Something like that, right? Is that what you want?”

To which, the reply from Fatlip is:

“Perfect.”

No shit. Track of the Summer. Period. Heck, it might even be the Song of the Year but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We still have five months left of 2009. And there is this track (serendipity!) on the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs album…

Hear: Strange Enough (mp3)

Buy: Spirit of Apollo

Visit: N.A.S.A. Official Site | MySpace