Category: Dance

Mick Jenkins – Get Up Get Down (Single)

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We’ve got some future vibes here, folks.

Continuously-emerging Chicago emcee Mick Jenkins releases his third single for his upcoming project with “Get Up Get Down”, and it’s definitely the most hype-inducing track that we have heard from Wave[s] thus far. This track, which has me more excited for the upcoming project than I have been before, was released very soon after Mick announced a release date for Wave[s], which will land on the 21st of next month. Differently from the past singles this song exhibits a Mick we haven’t seen too much of, that being one aiming to drop a straight-up party track. Our emcee isn’t too off-color here however, delivering some heavily layed thought-provoking lyricism in his monstrous mid-track verse to cement the fact that this still is a Mick Jenkins record. However, I only mention that so I can say this: for this being a party/radio track — and fairly unabashedly so — it’s still mad respectable and just as easily enjoyable from a Hip hop head’s perspective.

I really dig it, and I think you will too. Peep the heat below.

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Charlie Johns

YG – Twist My Fingaz (Single)

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Compton hype-rapper YG sent a shockwave of anticipation through the Hip Hop head community when he posted this picture on Instagram with the caption “#STILLKRAZY “ALBUM KOMING SOON””. Last year YG released his debut album entitled My Krazy Life, which surprised just about everyone whose ears it crossed. Personally, I really didn’t expect a rapper like YG to rally to put together an album that was as carefully-constructed and seemingly timeless as it was — I will still throw on the project once a week, if not more often. Here, premiered by FADER, we have “Twist My Fingaz”, our first single to MKL‘s quickly approaching follow-up. Instrumentally, the record harkens back to Compton classics with its Funk-centric keys and modulated background vocals which blends into an eclectic mix for YG to hop onto. Our emcee, still braggadocious and red-blooded (pun unintentional), stays putting Bompton on Rap fans’ radars and we are excited to see if Still Krazy will be as monstrously successful as its predecessor.

Listen to the fresh single below, and get ready for the full-length that is to follow. Enjoy.

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Charlie Johns

Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment – Surf (Extended Review)

Surf_(Donnie_Trumpet_cover) (1)

Chance: the Acid Rapper, the soccer hacky sacker, the cocky khaki jacket jacker. Do allow me to recall his tale. Chancelor Bennett was merely a normal participant of the Chicago youth who happened to get a ten-day suspension from school. He then turned that into an overwhelming positive with 10 Day, the mixtape that earned him respect among the Chicago music camps and jump-started his musical career. After recording a couple less notable projects, Chance got a verse on Childish Gambino’s Royalty mixtape. He then opened for Bino in his 2012 US tour which won him some much-deserved recognition. Then in 2013 lands Acid Rap, a classic contemporary Hip hop mixtape from “Good Ass Intro” to “Good Ass Outro”. The mixtape is eclectic in influence and in execution. When it was released it gained huge mainstream appeal and got a lot of spins on the radio. You may be thinking, “praising Hip hop that was on the radio? In this dull and oversaturated Rap game?” Heresy, I know. What made me love this project and what made those radio spins so integral to that revolves around Acid Rap being great Hip hop. And, for great Hip hop, something that generally falls by the commercial wayside, this had incredible reach and longevity. Go to any dumb college frat party and 70% of the time Acid Rap will be in the crap DJ’s rotation. I’d rather have the success, both in terms of recognition and dollar amounts, that reach like that breeds benefitting an artist making great music rather than the sometimes shallow, artistically one-dimensional artists who traditionally get the radioplay. But, as everyone has been quickly reminding you, this isn’t a Chance the Rapper project, rather one by Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment. So, be ready for me to recycle this intro when Chance drops some solo new new.

Surf is an album I was hotly anticipating for 2015, and that anticipation was only fed by each of its singles, which all impressed me in an unexpected and distinct way. I remember over a year ago now when a still very hot Chance dropped a song called “I Am Very Very Lonely” on his Soundcloud featuring production from this rag-tag group called the Social Experiment, which was then comprised of Peter Cottontale, Nate Fox, and Donnie Trumpet. I initially loved how different this track was. The production was busy but obviously had a lot of attention paid to it. The instrumental had a welcome shift into something more than just a Hip hop beat – much more “Good Ass Intro” than “Smoke Again” to clarify further. The vocals, both in a literal sonic sense and in its execution, were unfamiliar for Chance. But, if you listen for yourself, I think you’ll agree with me when I say that it was done well. Next came “No Better Blues”, another song I loved from my very first listen. Chance proved that he was a voice no one should be missing with Acid Rap but with this track he proved his versatility as a vocalist as opposed to strictly a rapper. This song’s structure is all internal rhymes which are damn entertaining and engaging musically; I will listen to that song just for that “I hate my hands, handshakes, pancakes, child-resistant locks on the pill case” bar. There was also the song “Lady Friend”, which again showcased Chano’s range again as a singer, most notably with a killer falsetto. And, lastly, and probably the best came in the form of “Sunday Candy”, which really did have it all: soaring and sunny production, bright and shining vocals, and thoughtful and effective songwriting. But, to get into Surf itself, much to its detriment, the album was absent of all but one of these tracks. Now, not having the songs that I like is one thing, but replacing them with lukewarm pop music that doesn’t work well together is another.

Unfortunately, this review will short because of just that. Surf, despite having overwhelming potential and showing that they can capitalize on that potential together with its singles, isn’t that enjoyable as a whole. This just could have been such a knock out of the park. Chance is a commercial and critical explosion hiding in the shell of this young performer with a truly one-of-a-kind voice who has great friends with past-proven talent. There isn’t a good reason why this is so underwhelming. The album was framed by journalists and anyone who talked to Chance as a collaboration among friends who lift each other to an upper-echelon to make the music they all want to make. Why I got so excited was because the singles sounded just like that. I mean, they recorded a version of the Arthur theme song which was really fun in addition to felling heartfelt and genuinely carefree. That’s what made me so excited, the stars seemed to be alining and this album promised to be bright, colorful, off-beat, and universal. What we got, though it may be some of those complimentary adjectives, felt very off-balance and didn’t commit to any of the feelings that felt worthy of more attention.

Okay, so I recognize that I must sound like a massive asshole, especially after lashing an album that explores sound and emotion in a timeless way such as this. This album is nice, just shockingly unimpressive. Honestly, there were only two times my jaw dropped due to them doing something I was totally not expecting: 1.) the inclusion of “Familiar” — which Genius.com so eloquently summarized as “the Social Experiment’s ode to basic bitches” — and it benefitting in an odd way from both a King Louie and Quavo verse (those being two individuals who have a wealth of experience with this breed), and 2.) the final track, “Pass the Vibes”, in its blissful entirety. Surf did have its moments, and that’s part of the reason why this album is such a tremendous missed opportunity. This may be me being a pessimist who is connecting the dots backwards when a piece is already complete, but its emotional through-line could have been better fleshed out. Okay, so the main thing this album explores is feels, eventually landing on gratitude, generosity, love, and optimism with its final two songs. This ending is great, and those final two songs are two of the best on the album because of it, but I wish I had more positives to mention past that. That optimistic happy-climax at the end of this project could have been heightened further if the journey through the album that led to it was more personal, focused, and treacherous, for lack of a better term. I don’t mean to return to this again, but if we had even two more of the singles for this album, “No Better Blues” and “I’m Very Very Lonely” for example, I think I’d be able to give Surf a lot more praise. If those two songs were integrated into this album where they would fit thematically, we would have a more filling experience. In the state that it is at after its release, I can’t call it more than a good idea that I wish had its potential fully realized.

That is just my opinion, though. Go listen for yourself. The album has some really cool stuff going for it. As of this reviews release, the album is still up on iTunes for free, so you do not have an excuse not to listen.

Personal highpoints:

“Miracle” / “Windows” / “Sunday Candy”

And a much needed shout out to “Pass the Vibes” for being its own in a spectacular way.

Personal lowpoints:

“Warm Enough” / “Caretaker” / “Go”

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Charlie Johns

A$AP Rocky – At.Long.Last.A$AP (Extended Review)

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We understand if you don’t mess with reading, fams. Here’s our video review for A$AP Rocky’s A.L.L.A.

Lord Pretty Flocko – otherwise known as A$AP Mob’s ringleader A$AP Rocky – is a different type of rapper for today’s evolving Hip hop landscape. In fact, many could attribute some of that progression to his confidently distinct style. Meterosexual not be the most apt comparison, but it’s been a while since we’ve had a rapper who cares more about his outfit getting into Vogue than getting the cover of Complex, or who shouts out the French high fashion brands he is wearing more than the gangs he does or doesn’t affiliate with. He isn’t an artist who is going directly against the grain, but he certainly isn’t cookie-cutter, and his own unique blend of influence has been boding quite well for the Harlem emcee.

Rocky has an outstanding, albeit brief discography in this new New York sound renaissance we have seen with the emerging Beast Coast movement. In my opinion, his two previous releases were classics of this era of Rap with his blend of solid, witty, punchline-heavy spitting and grand production that has clearly had much attention paid to it. In the spirit of being upfront, however, I’d like to say that I wasn’t too big on Rocky at the beginning. Live.Love was really cool but I didn’t find myself returning to it much. When Long.Live dropped, I enjoyed it, but it took until just recently for me to finally get in-sync with it and start genuinely loving it as a substantial and admirable debut album.

This album, titled At.Long.Last.A$AP, comes at a very important part of Rocky’s career. He has had as classic a trajectory as there is. He had his debut single that exploded, a nice debut mixtape with a remix of said song, and a killer freshman album with strong features from big commercial and underground artists that helped push the album along the tightrope between mainstream and underground recognition and respect. Now comes the highly-hyped sophomore album, which is a part of the ideal career when many artists trip up, eventually popularizing the sophomore slump terminology. But, from what I’ve heard, Rocky went into the recording process of this album with high spirits and good intentions. He really was doing everything right, but then came a very large and devastating monkey wrench. The man who was at the ground level of the A$AP Mob, the one who got the original video for “Purple Swag” popping on Tumblr, the marketing mind who made the A$AP Mob into the most influential New York team, A$AP Yams passed away suddenly, bringing any momentum or flow with the album to a screeching and unavoidable halt.

So, after a couple understandable delays we have this album that comes in the wake of personal tragedy. Music can be very cathartic, and Rocky himself described this album very openly as the healing component in the grieving process for Yams. So, with this being his sophomore album and it happening at a significant time in his life, the craze for this album was pretty ridiculous. From that, as people do, people were calling it a real contender for album of the year straight out of the gates. To begin, give it some time to sink in. That’s the reason why these reviews come out a week after release. Something obviously sticks after one’s first listen, but not close to the album’s full potential. This is all to say that the album is egregiously overhyped. It’s pretty easy to see why people got so excited about an album like this; struggle does breed some of the best art, after all. I never mean to sound patronizing nor above any other music listener, because I’m just another one of them, but strive does not an album of the year make. I think this is a solidly great album for different reasons, but it doesn’t do much past perhaps adding to the weight of the album.

If I could give this album one compliment – though I intend to give it many more – it’s that it’s quite the launch forward in terms of Rocky’s maturity as an artist. Long.Live was a great album but it lacked complete focus. It went from its sharp, thumping intro to “Pussy, money, weed is all a buddy need” to radio pandering, a Skrillex produced dubstep song, a quintessential posse track, a song with a two-and-a-half-minute long intro sequence, to character playing, to telling the story of a drug kingpin, to end on a track featuring the Florence sans the Machine. It was all over the place. Very good and undeniably impressive, but very much all over the place. Whether it be as a result from the death of A$AP Yams or otherwise, this album was nice and exploratory and had more honest and poignant emotional lows – lows we haven’t gotten from Rocky this openly in the past. These combined for a release more evenly-centered and satisfying. Though a pleasant one, this came as a real surprise to me. I was expecting Rocky to continue the successful trend of improving on the winning formula he had going with his short but impressive discography. A$AP Rocky didn’t do this; he stuck his next out and treaded some new creative ground. Ultimately, this is what helped make this into one of the best releases we’ve gotten in 2015.

My thoughts on the album proper took quite the while to come to. I didn’t quite know what to think after my first full listen. I could have been in the wrong mood or due to the fact that it was so contrary to my feeble assumptions, but that’s why we listen to an album more than once, no? To start with the worst of it, I do have a couple outlying complaints with the project: firstly, the strength of Rocky’s rapping is his smooth and fiery bars that pack incredible punch. For me, aside from five or six of the joints on this album, I was left wanting far more from a vocal standpoint. The songs that hit well hit it really hard, with “Max B” being particularly noteworthy with Rocky slugging it with the “buccaneers of rugged gear” opener. Overall the track that went in most ferociously was “Lord Pretty Flocko Jodye 2” but, unfortunately, it was the second shortest track on the album at two minutes and ten seconds. It’s little things like that that contribute to this album lacking some always-appreciated oomph and spice. The project just goes numb at points. Sometimes it’s the tempo that kills it, other times it’s a lack of substance overall. “L$D” is particularly noteworthy to me because to me it seemed like a pretty bad judge of versatility and range that came in the form of a single. Along with that this track just never really amounts to anything, and besides small pulses of life integrated into the instrumental at 2:00 and 2:30 or so the song is fairly barren and frankly a bit boring. Other tracks that disappointed in much the same way were “Westside Highway” and, surprisingly, “Fine Whine”, which is most generously a seven (out of ten) despite the noble effort of both an M.I.A. and Future verse.

Now, I do not hate the album as that paragraph may have led you to believe. To move along to the production, we have an eclectic twist to Rocky’s style of grand and sleek production. I get a lot more of a Madlib-type vibe out of this project, that being one that has more color and breaths in and out of its inspirations seamlessly. It’s a great sound for Rocky, who has proven to be a fairly versatile rapper in the past. Sonically, the production is less explosive, admittedly, but it makes it more thoughtful and widens the sound. This positive a caveat with the record, however. A$AP Rocky’s two albums — this and Long.Live.A$AP — satisfy two different tastes. There is definitely a sizable cross section of that ven diagram, but they are quantifiably different. There are moments where Rocky is at his most somber and sobering, and this is good because we haven’t heard these low emotions much from him in the past but he shows some inexperience in those moments that is absent from the rest of the album. This album lacks the heartbeat of raw hype that made his past releases so stunningly enjoyable. I think he makes up for it with other positives, but it’s something to know going in. On of those saving gracing for me is his obvious growth. The dude has done it a few times in the back but he nails intrinsic lyricism. Even if it’s the first track, I think he impressed me the most with this on “Holy Ghost”, and it became one of my personal favorites because of it. In fact, my initial experience with that song helps explain my overall opinion of At.Long.Last.

There I am, A.L.L.A. just dropped and I’m getting a text from a buddy who I write with saying “dude, this is a contender.” So, I peeped, obviously, and the sample of “Holy Ghost” started up and in came this really nice, moody, and smooth instrumental. After that comes the main attraction, our emcee A$AP Rocky, spitting conscious raps with the exciting, effortless flow he’s proven he has so impressively in the past. I was pretty psyched; the Rocky I had enjoyed in the past being more intrinsic than ever before, showing some maturity on a track with a nice instrumental with some beautiful vocals to close out the track? Brilliant. I’m way into this. As the album unfolded after “Holy Ghost” and, though it has its lows that break its momentum, it builds and builds into a complete and fulfilling experience. You can hear all of Rocky’s emotions on this album, even if sometimes they didn’t make for the greatest Hip hop tracks. Overall, this may be a much less punchy and explosive experience compared to his previous album, but it performs much better under the classic definition of an album, that being a well-crafted musical experience front to back. A.L.L.A. is well-made, but you should know going in that it may not scratch the itch that his previous releases have. Progression is good, and this is a marked progression and a solid step forward for the reigning king of new New York Hip hop.

Despite any opinion one could have of this album, At.Long.Last.A$AP is undeniably complex. If you aren’t listening to it yet, here’s an iTunes link. It’s a Hip hop release you don’t want to miss this year.

Personal highpoints:

“Holy Ghost” / “Canal St.” / “Max B” / “Everyday” / “Back Home”

Personal lowpoints:

“Fine Whine” / “West Side Highway”

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Charlie Johns

 

Snoop Dogg – Bush (Extended Review)

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We get it. Who really likes to read anymore? Here’s a video version of this review for Snoop Dogg’s Bush.

Snoop Doggy Dogg: the rapper turned actor, brand-owner, podcast personality, and Redditor; one of our favorite foundational 90’s West Coast rappers is back under his proper moniker for a Pharrell-produced album entitled Bush. Snoop has had a long, influential, authentic, and undulating career in music. He has releases under his belt that are nothing short of classics in Hip hop and those albums have shaped the game more than Tha Dogg Pound could have ever imagined. Those releases – Doggystyle, Tha Doggfather, and R&G: The Masterpiece among others – have earned him a seat among the greatest to every do it. That won’t be the first time he’s been with them, however. Snoop has been butting elbows with the greats since the beginning. He was initially discovered by Dr. Dre – that wealthy Rap oracle – who then featured him on The Chronic, properly introducing him to the public as that album did tremendously. After that came Doggystyle and the career journey that resulted from was great and successful it was.

With this release I’m just glad that we are back from his mid-life late-career identity crisis. He was briefly Snoop Lion as well as Snoopzilla, but, if you’re a Hip hop fan, you don’t have to worry about anything that was or was not released under those names. However, I think that this release totally deserves your attention. It’s not a new magnum opus by any means – hopefully none of us were really expecting that – but I do think it’s genuinely enjoyable. It’s also proof that Snoop can still rap fairly well. Though, it’s very apparent on Bush that Snoop isn’t the top dogg of Hip hop anymore. In fact the reigning champ, the top dog of Top Dog Entertainment, King Kendrick Lamar drops in on “I’m Ya Dogg” and lays what I think is the best verse on the album.

I don’t mean this to be read in a condescending tone (because Snoop doesn’t deserve that) but that’s kind of sad to me. Snoop Dogg was once one of the trail blazing, pioneer artists who strengthen the laid back West Coast radio sound in response to the angry up-tempo aggression of Straight Outta Compton. I know his name along with his more overplayed radio hits are trite and don’t mean too much to a music listen who didn’t experience his music when it came out (or attempted to understand that perspective), but Snoop is an indispensable artist in Hip hop history. But today, in 2015 when there are pivotal artists who are changing the game as we speak, Snoop is the one playing catch-up. He’s trying to keep up with these fast-paced artists like, again, K-Dot, who closed out this album. Another artist who Snoop is with on Bush is Pharrell, who produced the album all the way through. So, with these type of collaborations, Snoop does a pretty good job staying with the times. Thanks to Mr. Williams Bush is full of funky, smooth, modern, radio-friendly music, as Snoop generally has rapped over his entire career. Sometimes it gets kind of soft and their pandering intentions are made more blatant, like with “R U A Freak.” But, while on the topic of Pharrell, he’s an artist who I really trust musically. I’ll be looking through the producers of albums that I like because I don’t have anything else to do with my time and find that Pharrell was the producer being odd and unexpected gems. There’s “Suicide” on My Name Is My Name, “Los Awesome” on the Grammy-snubbed Oxymoron, “Sweet Life” on Channel Orange, “good kid” off of GKMC, and some great work in modern radio music like Beyonce and Miley Cyrus. Also, let’s not forget this is the man who produced the immaculate, carved-from-fine-marble Hip hop classic that is “Drop It Like It’s Hot”. If anyone was going to bring Snoop back into some level of musical supremacy it would be Pharrell.

Okay, so the production on the album is great, if a bit of a one-trick pony. It’s classic Pharrell joints that sound great both to the music-appreciators ear and to the ear of the average radio listener. I love how smooth “California Roll” is, I dug how busy and bouncy “Edibles” was, I thought the synth on “I’m Ya Dogg” was nice, et cetera. My major complaint for the album is with the rapping. Maybe I’m missing it, but this album doesn’t feel passionate. I realize that Snoop has been laid back since day one, but he’s to the point of making an album that sounds like a cash-grab. His sound never really had real hunger, at least not to today’s standards, but this sounds like a step further into complacency. Maybe it’s just a sign that Snoop just isn’t for me, but I think it’s more accurate and telling to say that as a rapper he’s not great at keeping up with the times. Another thing that could have attributed to this is Snoop’s overwhelming volume of music he’s already released. It’s very possible — some would say probable — that the Dogg has released all the music he needs to. He has a handful of essential Hip hop albums to claim as his own, and maybe when he says “I do it for the riches” on “Peaches N Cream” he means it more literally than one would assume. It doesn’t really feel adventurous by any means either. None of these songs sound too different from each other let alone other music today. It does have YG’s My Krazy Life syndrome, which is marked by sounding pretty much the same all the way through.

This is an album that sounds nice but feels far too safe. You know, it isn’t like Snoop is tackling any dicey issues here. He’s rapping about what he always has, that being girls and weed. To be fair, he’s one of the best to ever do it, but maybe he’s finally at the end of his wits. Again, I’d like to underscore this point, I don’t think as an album it’s all that bad, Bush just isn’t too special. I suggest you listen to it through and make note of the few songs that you like the best. After that you really don’t need to worry about the others so much being that it’s all pretty similar.

Listen for yourself, though. Here’s a link to grab “Bush” on iTunes.

Personal highpoints:

“California Roll” / “Peaches N Cream” / “Edibles” / “I’m Ya Dogg”

Personal lowpoints:

“R U A Freak” / “So Many Pros” / “Run Away”

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Charlie Johns

IshDARR – Old Soul Young Spirit (Extended Review)

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I’ve got one word (among others): solid. Ishdarr is a Milwaukee rapper who has been reaping the benefits of finding his voice earlier than he ever could have hoped. He’s a great rapper, and I’m glad he realized that and started making music at just 17. His first project was The Better Life EP, and apart from his voice hinting at it, you wouldn’t have had any way of knowing that this kid was so young, and so new to making music. It wasn’t a lackluster flow that tipped you off, that’s for sure. Right out of the gates this dude was a more than respectable rapper. Looking back, what I loved about the project the most was its variety. “1996”, They Lost Me”, “NICE”, “MOMMA”, “SQUAD”, and “POPS” — quite literally every track on the EP had a crazy distinct identity. But, most importantly, this didn’t make The Better Life as a whole incohesive in any way, which is the big danger when playing around with different styles or genres within Hip hop. The thematic thread of “the better life” was just enough to give a clear through line in the EP. But, again, more than anything else I was impressed with this being Ish’s first stab at music. It was a great project, and, as I spoiled earlier, so is this record.

On Old Soul Young Spirit, Ish stays with his own theme of tinkering and experimenting with different sorts of sounds. From the dark and almost menacing beat on “Right Now”, to “Only You” and its smooth and sincere lyricism, to the airy, fun and radio-friendly track that is “Vibe”. And that’s just three tracks. This dodging between styles couldn’t be accomplished smoothly by someone who doesn’t come through and legitimately spit when he hits the studio. Ish deserves some praise; the confidence and hunger he has on the mic is something that adds so dynamically to Hip hop, and it’s what separates the boys from the men, so to speak. With these sharp tools he has in his skill set he makes a full-length debut that is a really nice listen. It flows very smoothly and is in and out before it overstays its welcome.

I’m going to put myself in the shoes of an average listener, perhaps the perspective of someone living in Milwaukee who was put onto Ish as the next big one. They are probably starting with “Too Bad”, which was the single that created the most hype leading into the release. Even if Ish really put his own heart and style into the track, it’s still a turn-up track, and people’s initial assumption may be that this dude is just a hype rapper — a good one, but just a hype rapper. I’d like to respectfully and preemptively disagree: he’s not afraid to dive into the less glamorous variety of subject matter. Consider “Still On It” or “Overdue Interlude”. Sure, he’s defaulting to the “rapping about rapping” style, but he’s doing it better — with more creativity, honesty, passion, authenticity — than a lot of rappers his age and in Milwaukee as a whole. That “Overdue Interlude” man, that is easily my favorite song I’ve ever heard Ish on. And it was really nice to hear the other rapper who gives Milwaukee’s Hip hop its spirit, Bliss & Alice, on the closing track “Still On It”.

After his debut dropped I was lucky enough to talk to Ishdarr and pick apart his brain as a rapper who had very real potential of blowing up. One of the things I asked him about the importance of showing for his city in his raps, since it takes some effort to find a track that doesn’t shout out the 414. He said he was doing everything to “give light to the city.” After that he explained his desired career trajectory by saying “I’m trying to be the Chance [the Rapper] of my city.” Now, a year ago this seemed like somewhat of a lofty proclamation, but, guys, he is coming remarkably close to achieving that. Old Soul Young Spirit is a project where Ish really stepped everything up a notch. The production, his flow, his lyricism, his song-to-song transitions, they’re all great progressions for the young cat. I’m leaving Old Soul Young Spirit with the same attitude I left The Better Life with: optimistically looking forward to Ish’s career and eager to hear what will come next.

I sincerely hope Milwaukee is tuning in: New York has Joey Bada$$, Detroit has Danny Brown, and now we have IshDARR. Get listening, folks.

Personal highpoints:

“Vibe” / “Overdue Interlude” / “Still On It”

Personal lowpoints:

“Twelve”

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Charlie Johns

Calvin Hansen: Buff Dude, Pos Vibes (Exclusive Interview)

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Calvin Hansen recently released a seven-track Danny Brown remix EP that made me so happy that I felt inclined to approach him with a few questions. Calvin has been releasing music since late 2010, starting under the banner of Starship Amazing, a Synth-Pop duo composed of himself and Derek Alexander. They put together, among others releases, two of my personal favorite pieces of music, Ya’ll Stop Bloggin’ and Ruby Dagger. As someone who advocates for music I love over the Internet, I often do the same in small groups of my friends. I mention this only because I’ve never had more positive reactions than when I play Ruby Dagger. From my small slice of perspective, I’ve found Starship Amazing’s music to be incredibly universal. The love, positivity, and enthusiasm that this music was made with is potent and I’ve never seen anyone reject that.

Calvin also begun a musical side project called Form & Shape, with which he creates, as described on his Tumblr, “ethereal feelings beat tapes.” Rarely can I condone appreciating music in this way, but Calvin creates some of the most gorgeous sonic wallpaper I have ever heard. The tunes found in My Conquest Is The Sea Of Stars, Are You Yet Holding On, and Keep Moving have been my go-to background music to quietly yet powerfully add to any given setting.

Alright, I’m through with my gushing, onto the interview:

Eargrub: People can’t get too much about someone’s immediate personality from fun elecro-jams, so tell the people a little about Calvin Hansen.

Calvin: I am a 27-year-old Leo, born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. I have a day job, because music doesn’t pay the bills yet. My favorite movie is probably They Live. I’ve been playing a lot of Puyo Puyo Tetris lately. I’d like to have a dog. I’d like to not live in Alaska anymore. 

Eargrub: Tell me about “so nice to meet you, i hope that you safe”.

Calvin: It’s basically a Danny Brown remix EP, using any vocal resources I could scrounge up. I was trying to take Danny’s style and voice and shift them into my own context, and seeing if it made something interesting. I think it worked pretty well.

Eargrub: Why Danny Brown (besides him being great) ?

Calvin: A big part of it is: he’s really an amazing artist. Danny Brown represents sort of the ideal of what I’m looking for in a rapper, in terms of personality, style, and technical ability. And even though he’s mostly known for big party tracks, he has a lot more depth than that, both as a musician and as a person.

Eargrub: With that, how did you tackle remixing a song wholly about fellatio?

Calvin: It’s interesting, I tried putting the vocal for that song on a couple different beats, and while they fit in terms of the tempo and the groove, the feel of the track didn’t work. But when I chopped up this psychedelic rock sample, with that huge beat on it, and I put the vocals from “I Will” over it, everything came together. It’s less about making something that sounds like a sex song and more about it “feeling” like a sex song.

Eargrub: So you handled the beats of SSA, how was it transitioning into Form & Shape where you’re making music solo?

Calvin: Something really important that Derek brought to Starship Amazing was his ability to really focus in on what we were working with, to look through the mess of demos and half-baked ideas, and find a direction that becomes a song. I figured out quick that without him, it’s really easy for me to just keep churning out small bits of music, the beginnings of songs, and then never fully seeing those ideas through. It’s something I’m still slowly figuring out how to deal with, but I’ll get there.

Eargrub: Do you think we’ll hear anything more from Starship Amazing?

Calvin: I think so, and I really hope so. It’s such a unique experience collaborating with Derek, and it’s one I can’t get anywhere else. We have a lot of fun with it, and I would really feel like I was missing out on something special if we didn’t get to do it again. But I think it’ll happen.

Eargrub: How did you get into making music?

Calvin: I started out playing guitar, mostly a lot of classic rock stuff, Metallica, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, that kind of thing. Another teenage dad rocker. I started recording my own terrible rock songs in GarageBand, and in high school I got my first MIDI controller to supplement that stuff. While I was in college, Derek and I became friends and we started working on electronic music, mostly as a joke. Everything else kind of came from there.

Eargrub: Okay, just because I’ve always wanted to ask you this, what’s your process behind song naming? You’re songs take the cake for best titles, hands down no contest.

Calvin: Thank you! It really depends, and can vary pretty wildly. Sometimes it’s a word or phrase connected to some part of the song, and sometimes it’s just something I like the sound or the feel of.

Eargrub: Who/what inspires you?

Calvin: Tujiko Noriko is one of my absolute favorite artists. Her songwriting, her voice, and her instrumentation are all amazing. But more than that, the tone and space that her songs inhabit are vast and immersive. Something you can get lost in. Knxwledge is another huge inspiration for me. He carved out his own style in the crowded beat scene, making genius-level stuff that continue to astound with each release. In addition, he’s extremely prolific, sometimes releasing an EP each month.

Besides other musicians, I pull inspiration from a lot of different sources. Movies, video games, anime, manga, wrestlers, stories, or memories. The only thing they have in common is that they hold some meaning for me.

Eargrub: Overall opinions on the Chiptunes genre?

Calvin: I don’t really care about the nostalgia aspect of it. But in terms of seeing what kind of sounds and complexity people can get out of limited hardware, I find that part really interesting. In the end, good music is good music, and that matters more than anything.

Eargrub: Is there a story/meaning behind the name Form & Shape?

Calvin: Not much meaning, unfortunately. The name is just made up of terms I learned in a 2D design class I took back in college.

Eargrub: What are some words you’d describe your music with?

Calvin: Soft, empathetic, warm, chill, spacious.

Eargrub: From what I understand, Form & Shape is more of a side project, but what is the next step you hope to take with it?

Calvin: I’m pushing for it to become a much bigger project. I feel like right now there’s a divide between the chiller electronic stuff I’ve made in the past, and the broken beat stuff I’ve made for my last two releases. I want to try and bring those styles together, and see what comes out. Overall, I want Form & Shape to get weirder and more experimental.

I’m also super happy to have recently joined Gravity Swim Team, a collective / net label made up of a bunch of good friends and talented artists, and I’m really excited about what we’re going to come up with together.

Eargrub: Who are some artists who we are probably sleeping on?

Calvin: Off the top of my head, in no particular order: Everyone on Galaxy Swim Team, everyone on Petal Port, everyone on Maltine, Aeon Fux, Kikuo, Ghoulish, YYU, Arca, .nebula, Woods of Desolation, yotsuba lifestyle, Holly Herndon, Nohtenkigengo, and Fumitake Tamura (Bun).

This interview is quite timely, unfortunately, but hopefully it can help make some sort of difference, no matter how big or small. Calvin was recently diagnosed with sleep apnea, which is an extraordinarily damning sleep disorder. He explained the situation in full with this Tumblr post, but what you really need to know is that it’s very easy to help. Please do consider purchasing some of the beautiful tunes Calvin has created. He’s always been generous with his music, most of the time asking for only however much you can/want to pay. He makes music that I deeply love and I know many people feel the same way. So, again, please do explore his music and consider helping him out by purchasing a release or two.

I’d like to extend an immense thank you to Calvin Hansen for answering my questions. It was an honor to talk to the person who helped make some of the most important music I had growing up. Thank you so much for all that you do.

Form & Shape: Facebook  Tumblr  Soundcloud  Bandcamp

Starship Amazing: Facebook  Tumblr  Soundcloud  Bandcamp

Charlie Johns

 

Migos – One Time (Prod. by Deko)

Migos one time

Nothing gets a phrase back into the slang zeitgeist quite like being the hook to a Migos track. The Atlanta Trap supergroup is back with the lead single to their forthcoming Y.R.N. 2 album, entitled “One Time”. Migos had a very busy 2014 with dropping two mixtapes as well as featuring on a slew of other artists’ tracks. The first of the two mixtapes, No Label 2, unflinchingly rocketed its way into listeners ears with bangers like “Handsome and Wealthy” and twerk anthems like “Fight Night”. The track list has its duds, but with the majority of the songs being absolute gold, I can get past them. No Label 2 was the project that had the farthest reach for the Migos, getting loads of plays over the mainstream radio waves. With it the self-proclaimed Versace spokesmen reached Atlanta legend status.

With this single we hear a less Trappy/hype-inducing track, but that style is respectfully replaced with bouncy synths that would feel right at home in Magic City. I know that these dudes will be back with some crazy gun-toting, booty shaking shit with their next single, so it’s nice to hear something partially fresh. As far as I’m concerned, Migos have been doing Trap right since the first No Label, so I have faith that Y.R.N. 2 will rock the brains of Hip hop heads once again.

Facebook  Twitter  Soundcloud

Charlie Johns

Club Rap’s Death Grips, The Rej3ctz (Exclusive Interview)

rejextz interview final

I recently got the chance to sit down with Mowii and Bounc3 of the Rej3ctz and ask them some questions about music and their place in it. These two are responsible for the biggest dance craze to hit Hip hop ever, the Cat Daddy. But recently they have quietly been releasing some of the most off-the-wall club music I’ve heard to date. Their musical aesthetic really does speak better for itself than I could ever hope to. On to the interview:

Eargrub: To address this first: tell me about the Cat Daddy.

Mowii: Break it down for him B.

Bounc3: The Cat Daddy is a very, very energetic dance we created a couple years back that lowkey took over LA. We had the video at Venice Beach. If you ever been to Cali, it’s one of the best beaches to come out to, so we took it over. It was a one day shoot where we thought of the video the same day. We called up Chris [Brown] and had him meet us at the park. He actually came to the video shoot even before we did. That was crazy as heck – I don’t know if I can cuss on here…

Eargrub: Oh, homeboy, that shit’s all good.

Bounc3: Aw, fuck yeah! Yeah, we had a lot of fun making that record. It was just a lot of energy. Moods were hella high.

Mowii: We basically created a whole movement out of that. I mean, the Jerk Movement and everything. A lot of artists from the west coast were born from the jerk movement whether they want to admit it or not – some people don’t want to relate to that. At the end of the day, we created something that spawned a whole generation of artists. And it was just fun, that’s what was dope about it. It was around that time where everyone was saying “Hip hop is dead, blah blah blah” and we came in and gave it a breath of fresh air. What did Kanye say? He said this shit was fresh.

Bounc3: Kanye tweeted the video, actually. He was the first celebrity to give us some props.

Eargrub: So how did you move past just a dance craze?

Mowii: That’s very simple. I think you get to a point in your life where you’re tired of just being known for a dance and only being seen in that light. Once you become great at one thing, you’re only as big as that one thing. You have to recreate and reformat your delivery. Once we did that by dropping different types of records, I believe people were able to see past “just the dance,” especially when they started coming to our shows and seeing how live our performances are. I remember one time when we did a show before Ty Dolla Sign, he said “you got to go after me because there is no way in the fucking world I’m going to go on after you guys.” That right there let us know that we were more than people were expecting. That’s why I think you have certain artists like Too Short, will.i.am, who are not just artists. They are fans of this movement. You need to be a fan as well as an artist to live in this shit. Moreover, when you got the hot shit, you just got the hot shit.

Bounc3: It’s a lifestyle for sure.

Eargrub: How would you describe your sound?

Bounc3: Our sound is very universal. Sure, we started off with the “Cat Daddy”, but we do everything. We can do trap songs, EDM tracks, R&B songs, anything. We are just writers, so we do it all.

Eargrub: So you consider yourselves writers more than anything else?

Bounc3: Yeah, yeah. Actually, I take that back – before anything else, we are performers.

Mowii: We’re entertainers. We just like to entertain. And on that note, what’s dope is this: we were in a meeting with Whitney Goldstein, and see was saying how “you guys bridge the gap between these music genres. There’s a major gap missing between the young generation and the older generation. Y’all have a Beastie Boys type sound, but you also have a Hip hop-ignorant sound, but you can also be universal. What you guys do is amazing.” I feel like we are ahead of out time, kind of.

Bounc3: Yeah, definitely. Real talk.

Eargrub: So where does the inspiration come from for this off-the-wall sound?

Bounc3: It really comes from the OG’s in the game, but, on the real, we are dancers at the heart of it. All that shit comes from, like, just hearing the music and knowing the beat.

Mowii: It’s definitely an advantage.

Bounc3: Yeah, we really do have the advantage, being dancers while being in this Hip hop game. All the dancers are poppin’ right now.

Mowii: There is a long list of dancers who have been in the game for a long time. They always take over just because they have a different vibration. We are all energy. When I see a person, I don’t look at the skin tone, I look at the energy. We are waves. Once you understand that we are all frequencies, you are able to touch people of different ethnicities, different colors, religions, and backgrounds.

Eargrub: Let’s hear a bit about the CR33ZTAPE and what went into it, because I really dug it.

Bounc3: The CR33ZTAPE, man. that was just a lot of Rej3ctz love. A lot of people come to us with different stuff, like directing videos, writing songs, helping them get their performance game right. We was just making mad connections. Through those, we put the tape together. My favorite track on the tape has to be the track “C.R.E.E.Z.” If you haven’t seen the video for that shit you need to go on YouTube right now man. The CR33ZTAPE was just a lot of fun.

Mowii: If I can say anything about the CR33ZTAPE I’m going to say this shit: it was before its time. Before anyone else has been on this weird shit or any of that crazy stuff, man, we’ve been doing it! There was so much that went into it, and we did it all ourselves. Most people think that we have this big ass label behind us, but really it’s just us and the brains, which is our manager.

Eargrub: And who was your favorite person to collaborate with on the tape?

Mowii: Honestly, no bullshit: Bounc3.

Bounc3: When we was with Celine Dion the other week he told her that she was his favorite collab.

Mowii: Yeah, because I was trying to be in the Celine D-raws.

Eargrub: God damn dog. That’s wild. Who would you call your dream collaboration?

Mowii: You know what… that’s really easy. Ima say Madonna.

Bounc3: We been trying to work with Madonna for a long time. So, shout out Madonna, you see us workin’ baby.

Mowii: Madonna has not been with a hot new Hip hop group since – I don’t ever know when. I think Madonna and two black guys fucking the stage up would flip the whole world upside down.

Eargrub: So who are some of your favorite musicians? I’m just trying to find this inspiration.

Bounc3: I mean, Madonna, to start. You know, Snoop Dogg and the like. There are a lot of west coast artists, a lot of artists who push us to – who we used to bang with back in the day?

Mowii: You familiar with Fela Kuti? He’s an African trumpet player. When I first got off tour, I didn’t really know none of that shit, and I didn’t really care about any of it. I came from a church background, so all I knew were church musicians. T Fly is a major person I look up to in the game. That’s one of the first producers we were ever working with in the studio. He comes from a church background as well. We also look up to Brian Frasier Moore. He’s a dope drummer. Also, James Brown. He’s the king of Rap. He’s the only motherfucker I know whose not pretty but he’ll have a whole concert behind him. I could talk about musicians for days.

Eargrub: What do you consider “making it”?

Bounc3: For me, it’s just being known and respected around the world. That’s when you know you’ve made it. You can get popular in your city, but when it’s worldwide, that shit’s the plateau.

Mowii: I’m personally at a point in my life where we have the fame, and that’s cool and all, but the most important thing is foundation. We don’t come from broken homes, but we aren’t from the best upbringing. When we can say we’ve made it is when our children won’t have to complain for anything. That’s the day I’ll be able to say I’ve made it because that’s what means the most to me. I just lost my mom – I never really understood the importance of a family. Those are the people you bring along with you, that’s your foundation. When I buried my mother, I realized the only thing I have is my son, and when we can sleep at night and not have to worry about anything, that’s when I can say I’ve made it. That’s the realest shit I can say.

Eargrub: What has changed internally since the “Cat Daddy”? Talk about the evolution a bit.

Bounc3: Well, we are both super old men now. I think we’ve both grown as artists, but we are still just having fun doing music. Mowii got shit poppin’, I got shit poppin’, we got shit poppin’ together. We are just out here working, building our brand.

Eargrub: So what is it like being in a musical group? How do you synchronize?

Bounc3: Well, we’ve been in a group forever. We were first in a dance group together. From that group we started rapping, and so started the Rej3ctz. We have always worked well together, so making music wasn’t that hard. I could go in the booth, lay down the hook, tell Mowii to do the rest, and it will still turn out good. I don’t know what it is, but our energy is just great together. A lot of groups don’t stay together as long as we have. In fact, we aren’t a group, we’re family.

Eargrub: So what’s up next for the Rej3ctz family?

Bounc3: A lot of good music coming out. We hittin’ em with this “Time Machine,” that shit’s crackin’. We’re going to take over the EDM world with more of those types of Rej3ctz tracks. More from DJ Carnage, more from Dillon, we just trying get it crackin’.

Mowii: I think it’s about continuing to make our stamp and really being who we are. We got these movies coming out, we got a clothing line coming out, Bounc3 got his apparel for his group coming out, which is out now. Just expect a lot of great creativity coming from us in the next lifetime. The next couple lifetimes.

Eargrub: And to close, who are we sleeping on?

Bounc3: Uhh, I’m listening to this cat named OG Maco, he’s going ham right now. I be on my Bobby Shmurda stuff right now. He’s a cool cat to listen to, lots of energy. We listen to ourselves, but other than that, that’s what I’ve been bangin’ man. That new T Fly, that new Ty Dolla, I know y’all know about them though. I try to keep my ear open.

If you’re looking to peep the music that bridges genre gaps, check out the CR33ZTAPE via DatPiff.

Charlie Johns

 

 

 

F**kin’ Kicking It with FKi (Exclusive Interview)

fkiinter

1st Down and Saucelord Rich create great music and work with some of the best artists of our time, but that won’t ever stop them from fucking kicking it (or FKi to shorten). This ATL duo have been making major moves in the game for longer than you may realize and have produced for/with some of the great from both the Hip hop and EDM spheres. However, this isn’t to say one could categorize these two under one specific sound classification. The music FKi makes doesn’t nessecarily transcend genres, but more accurately bulldozes over music’s arbitrary boundaries and coasts into the sunset with a middle finger raised high and proud. If genre-splicing is near an end, FKi has something to do with it. They were kind enough to answer my few questions in anticipation of their forthcoming EP. Onto our conversation.

Eargrub: Tell me about your new Every Day Matters EP from an insiders perspective:

1st: Well, we’re kind of hypocrites, actually. We know every day matters, but at the same time we don’t give a fuck. That’s where the name came from. As far as the sound, we’re just mashing up different genres. We don’t care what anybody else is doing.

Rich: We have actually been doing the same thing for a long time with our sound, you may not know.

1st: This project is also different for us because we have been through more stuff in life to make different kinds of songs and music. Our past music was really straight party music. But at some point everyone goes through the same shit in life with relationships, career, etc.

Eargrub: To the homie Saucelord Rich – How did you come up with such a great name?

Rich: All my life I felt like I was different from other people and had something different. Through my experiences and after being down for so long I realized what I have is the “sauce.” Not everyone has the sauce. I can eat a burger dry because I am the sauce. Then through my thinking, I believe I am a higher power, so I added “lord.” And “rich” is what everyone wants to be. That’s just keeping it one thowowow.

Eargrub: What do you think about the variety of acts coming out of Atlanta?

1st: The only people we care about from ATL are 2 Chainz, Gucci Mane, Bankroll Fresh, Key!, OG Maco, 2-9, Zues, and everyone in Zoolygvng. Zoolygvng is  the name of our Day One squad. Anyone else we don’t really only care about because we have our circle. Those are people we literally grew up with the past six or seven years. We’re our own version of New Atlanta.

Rich: I only want to make beats for 2 Chainz and Gucci Mane.

Eargrub: How did you link up with Travi$ Scott?

1st : We were in the studio with T.I. and he was acting like he didn’t like our beats, but he ended up introducing us to Travis that night. Then Travis hopped on a song we were doing with Iggy & Dro called “Hell You Sayin”. A couple months later we made the “Sloppy Toppy” track together at Treesounds Studios in Atlanta.

Rich: We originally made “Drugs You Should Try” as an FKi track because 1st was going through some shit. We sent it to Travis to get on but he ended up making his own version and dropping it.

1st: But that shit turned out so dope we weren’t even mad.

Eargrub: And adding to that, how does it feel to be only a mere two degrees of seperation from Yeezus?

Rich: We actually want to know how Kanye feels about being two degrees from FKi…

Eargrub: What are some of the things you would like to do with your music?

Rich: Bridge the gap between the artistry of rap and the electronic dance genre.

1st: We want people to know that everything we are doing is felt, not forced.

Eargrub: How did you get into producing and rapping? Which was first? Do you prefer one over the other?

Rich: We’ve been doing for both all of our lives since middle school. Period. We are the real originators of that.

1st: Yeah, we aren’t like these producers who just started rapping. We really have always been doing both. Engineering too. We don’t have to go anywhere to create our sound.

Eargrub: Only because I’m assuming it was, how HUGE was “Work” for y’all? Also, congrats on that recently going platinum!

Rich: Thank you first of all.

1st: It was amazing because it really showed that all the hard work we did with Iggy wasn’t wasted. She had been through so much too, so it was amazing to see her on the big screen in her first video. She was actually wearing a Zooly chain. It also showed people that we could work with any kind of artist, so it helped us showcase our talents in the pop world. And as corny as it sounds, it just shows that anything is possible. We really did all that by ourselves. We didn’t have any help up until that point. Shoutout to Peezy and Iggy.

Eargrub: Who would you list as your biggest personal influences?

1stGeorge Clinton, Timbaland, Lil B, The Neptunes, Diplo.

Rich: 2 Chainz & Gucci Mane. And Ron Isley. The Neptunes..

Eargrub: Some may be the same, but who are some of your dream collaborations?

1st: To make a project with Wayne – a full project though, not just one track. Same with Flosstradamus. And M.I.A.

Rich: 2 Chainz and Gucci Mane. And Bankroll Fresh, Kanye, and Loudpvck.

Eargrub: Explain the dynamic between you two. How do you think it helps when making music?

1st: A lot of people ask or think we are a group but we really are just two individuals who enjoy making music together. Also, we were friends first, so we understand each other. We are like the ying and yang. We both started making music in 7th grade, but we didn’t meet until 10th grade. We lived in the same neighborhood and met on the bus.

Eargrub: Favorite projects from 2014 that you aren’t on?

Rich: Gucci Mane Trap Lord 3 and Drake.

1st: Future, aka Trap Jesus, Bankroll Fresh, Wiz Khalifa and Diplo.

Eargrub: What’s next for FKi?

1st: Videos, more music, more EP collaborations with artists who inspire us. We are also about to create a new live show experience to go along with this new EP so definitely look out for those tour dates coming up. It’s a mashup of all genres from trap to festival, featuring live beat-making and the emcee element. Some shit you really haven’t seen before.

Obvious thank you’s go out to 1st and Rich for the interview but huge shouts to the homies over at [Matrix] Artists for reaching out and making the interview possible. I’ll be sure to link right here once their Every Day Matters EP drops. Keep endorsing good music, y’all.

Charlie Johns