Category: Indie

The Underachievers – Take Your Place


Plucked from their rapidly approaching full-length Evermore – The Art of Duality, the Beast Coast duo of Issa Gold and AK the Savior release a solid single to hold-over those hungry for more Underachiever raps. We already know that these two can swap verses like no one else can right now, so the fact that this track flows well between them is nothing too shocking. What I do think is of note in this song is how hungry both of these dudes sound. They aren’t unfamiliar with a little bit of ferocity in their flow, but “Take Your Place” exhibits something more. They are really hitting these bars hard, which pairs well with a flashy, thumping beat. Props to UA: I wasn’t too big of a fan of their last release, but this single tells me that they have moved forward into a place that I can really dig.

Peep the fresh heat below:

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Charlie Johns

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


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


BADBADNOTGOOD and Ghostface Killah – Sour Soul (Extended Review)


Not into reading? We understand that. Here’s a video version of this review.

After being enticed with three emphatic singles featuring the likes of Danny Brown, Elzhi, and the one and only MF Doom, Toronto genre-splicers BADBADNOTGOOD and Wu-Tang Clan member Ghostface Killah have finally bestowed onto us their joint album Sour Soul. The emcee of this album, Ghostface Killah, is a Wu-Tang alum, he was the first verse we heard on 36 Chambers, and he’s the member of Wu-Tang who I think has had the most longevity but that could be argued for any number of the rappers from the clan. The reason why I point to Stark is his impressive volume of qualityalbums after Enter The Wu-Tang. Many of those albums had the capacity to be considered essential, whether it be Iron Man, Fishscales, I’ve heard strong arguments for The Big Doe Rehab, and then even to more recent years with 2013’s 12 Reasons to Die.

That last album in particular was interesting because it thrusted GFK in front of the eyes of the modern Hip hop crowd. Its critical explosion really got Stark back into the Rap zeitgeist of 2013. Obviously this is at least partly due to Ghost’s skill on the mic but where its success is attributed most is in the very smart move of having 12 Reasons wholly produced by Adrian Younge, the composer of most notably the Black Dynamite soundtrack and a couple songs off of Magna Carta Holy Grail. This made the already heavily conceptual album even more so, with the two’s synchronicity pushing the album into very deep narrative territory. So, after hearing about this album collaboration with BADBADNOTGOOD, a Jazz group who I’ve been down with for a minute, I was pretty much sold. Sour Soul is here, and it may not quite live up to my admittedly high expectations (particularly after that Danny Brown single), but it certainly stands on its own as a crazy solid record.

My first wave of impressions was that this isn’t a slap-to-the-face kind of album. After “Six Degrees” and “Ray Gun”, my jaw wasn’t dropping. Not a deal breaker by any means, but since those wow-factor type projects are heavily sprinkled throughout contemporary Rap music to much success, it’s important to mention. However, Sour Soul marches right past that expectation with a really enduring air about the flows that Ghostface lays down and the beats  BBNG construct. The style of the production makes Sour Soul a project that has a lot of lasting power in Hip hop libraries. I mean, an album being this much of a carefully constructed work makes it age a lot slower than other sorts of albums. It’s like cell shading in video games, it adds style to help it look good for much longer. The album It doesn’t feel the need to be of its time. That’s the exact reason why most of the Drill artists out of Chicago won’t be considered classic in a broad, objective sense. That’s the type of music that, almost by definition, leans on practices and methods in Hip hop that are in fashion musically. The Trap style of production, violent lyricism, beats that go so hard you feel threatened by them, little kid rappers who are gang affiliated, et cetera. I think a level of timelessness and be struck when diving headlong into a sound while knocking it out of the park, like the Migos mixtape Y.R.N. for Trap, Flockaveli for southern hype, Hell Hath No Fury and T.I. vs. T.I.P for mid-2000’s hardcore Rap. These are almost musical relics caught in time. But I’m getting off topic. This isn’t any sort of line GFK and BADBADNOTGOOD needed to even worry about walking.

My main and pretty much only concern I had going into this project was that the three lead-in singles were so great that the rest of the album wouldn’t be able to live up to them. Plus, those tracks all had features, so when I saw the track listing and that only one other track had another rapper on it, the stacks were raised. It was all up to the collaborative abilities of Ghostface and BBNG. For whatever reason I’m always doubting GF, but, of course, he defies my skeptical nature. Stark sounds great here. He has continued to prove himself as the dynamic, well-aged rapper that he was with 12 Reasons. Much like that album, on Sour Soul he is present with rhymes that are always hitting their mark. His raps are heavy; lots of weight which is great for turning bars into hay-makers. One other small issue I can’t let the album get away with is its conclusion. I think the production does it in its own right with the closing track “Experience”, but this album doesn’t end with much oomph from the Rap perspective. The closing was less of a crescendo and more of a polite exit. In anything it’s always smart to end with a strong note, and this album unfortunately doesn’t have that.

Okay, despite what my qualms may be conveying, I really like Sour Soul. I think it is an awesome record. I personally moved past its nagging issues because there is a lot of heart encased in it. However, critically, those problems may hold it back from being anything past a really solid album. So, my skepticism be damned, Ghostface Killah and BADBADNOTGOOD hit a great stride together on Sour Soul. Much like many of Wu-Tang’s alum’s respective projects, this album flows beautiful through a river of unabashed character thanks to the synergy of rapping and production. They should definitely be commended for that, it’s definitely not as easy as they make it sound. I’m happy because Sour Soul is another project to really enjoy and get into, let naturally fall out of my listening rotation, and then excitedly rediscover in my iTunes some time later to then repeat the previous cycle. Just like that, all the way to my cheap, shitty, poorly dug grave.

Yo, don’t be taking my word for it, go listen to the album for yourself. BBNG have it in it’s entirety on their Soundcloud, which I will embed below. Also, for the realest supporters, here’s a link to it on iTunes and one for it’s vinyl release.

Personal Highpoints:

“Six Degrees” / “Mind Playing Tricks” / “Ray Gun”

Personal Lowpoints:

“Street Knowledge”

BBNG: Facebook  Twitter  Soundcloud

GFK: Facebook  Twitter  Soundcloud

Charlie Johns

IshDARR – Vibe (Prod. by Jean Kengz)

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Milwaukee favorite Ishdarr has shown off all that makes him a rapper to look out for on this latest track. Every time this dude releases a track I’m reminded of a quote that Bliss & Alice said regarding Ish: “kid’s got a big mouth but he’s got the lyrics. He’s backing it up, he’s shining.” Ish has the right to say “I’m still reppin’ one time for the DJ, ’cause I’ll be satisfied whether or not if I get two plays / turning down the truth and turning up that shake your booty, so what if I do both I bet I’ll get more than two plays.” His flow is nice, his lyricism is thoughtful, and his production choices always have me moving. I can envision hearing his track over the radio waves sometime soon. It’s got the type of universal sound that anyone can groove to. I’m hoping that the Hip hop fans in Milwaukee will recognize what we have before . Keep shining, Ish. I’m eagerly looking forward to the next project.

While waiting for the March full-length’s release, vibe out with Ishdarr and a couple of his previous cuts: “Second”, “August”, and “Nothing”.

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Charlie Johns

Young Fathers – Rain or Shine


Serving as the followup to their 2014 full-length debut, UK Experimental group Young Fathers has returned to us with details on their forthcoming album with a single to boot. I’ve personally been following Young Fathers since 2011 when they released their first project, Tape One. At this point, I would think I’d be able to describe their sound with pretty exact accuracy, but besides radical genre-splicing there isn’t too much more to say. Take the UK Grime Hip hop scene, blend it with strong soul poetry, and mix it all with an African drum circle. That’s Young Fathers in a nutshell.

I’m fumbling with my words because there is always certain progression with any Young Fathers release, but its tough to pin point it. It has an undeniable deliberacy to it that makes any sort of claims equating its lo-fi nature to being rough around the edges entirely moot. On “Rain or Shine” we hear a bit more polish on a product that is, as always, being further honed. They still have the poetic lyricism, the vocals are still lo-fi and stylized, but there is an underlying Pop-ish sound that I haven’t gotten from their music before.  According to the trio, this new album, entitled WHITE MEN ARE BLACK MEN TOO will fittingly be their “interpretation of what a pop album should be.” Look out for it on the 6th of April.

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Charlie Johns

Ghostface Killah & BADBADNOTGOOD (feat. MF Doom) – Ray Gun


Under the careful and forward-thinking guidance of Toronto Jazz group BADBADNOTGOOD, the DOOMSTARKS collaboration has connected once again on “Ray Gun”. This track comes off BBNG’s forthcoming project Sour Soul, which has Wu-Tang member Ghostface Killah set to emcee. “Ray Gun” is also coming in the wake of two other collaborative singles, one with Elzhi and the other with Danny Brown. With explanation out of the way, let’s get into the track.

There are two factors that contribute to a Hip hop albums success, those being the rapping and the production. This may seem obvious, but the production of a project generally is put on the back burner, or at least emcees settle for beats that simply bang rather than choosing production that can stand on its own. There is something really special about a rapper and a producer being on the same page through an entire release. Take Madvilliany for example; MF Doom and Madlib came together with a great deal of synergy, and as a result created a record that many hold as one of if not the best Hip hop album of all time. I couldn’t say that I’m predicting that level of success for Sour Soul, but I think it’s got a huge leg up on the surface level Hip hop that is all too common today. With that being said, “Ray Gun” continues to boost my expectations and calm any apprehension from the album’s release. With the level of care being put into these singles I couldn’t see this record falling flat. Luckily, we don’t have too long to wait, with the official release date being set as February 24th.

Peep the collaboration below.

BBNG: Facebook  Twitter  Soundcloud

Ghostface: Facebook  Twitter  Soundcloud

Charlie Johns

Eargrub’s Notable Hip Hop of 2014 (Part 1)

notable hop 2014

2013 may have had massive albums like Acid Rap, Wolf, and Yeezus, but 2014’s Hip hop releases did not disappoint. This year was home to production trailblazing, modern classics coming from artists you wouldn’t have expected had it in them, and fresh faces who shook our expectations and torn up the scene. Get your fire emojis ready fam, here’s the most important Hip hop of 2014.

Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2:

The sequel to Run The Jewel’s 2013 smash hit self-titled project, October’s Run The Jewels 2 is an album that flows and cascades powerfully like a mighty river. The duo (composed of Killer Mike and El-P) had a great balance of verses on their first release, but for the sequel Killer Mike seems to have sauntered into the emcee spotlight. His verses were the one’s dropping my jaw. This isn’t to say that El-P doesn’t have his place here, the dude provides much needed lyrical support as well as some of the craziest production from 2014. El-P plays a very Madvilliany-era Madlibesque role on RTJ2, providing distinct and unduplicable production while still jumping in on tracks and dropping verses. In fact he drops some of the most memorable gems here. Continuing on, most of the hooks are crazy strong earworms, especially on the first half of this LP. As testament, I’m not sure I’d trust a person who doesn’t blast the chorus to “Lie, Cheat, Steal”. That’s another thing, this is an album that demands to be listened to at a high volume. I’m not a dude who needs their music booming by any means, but mothers are going to try and ban this album for how much ear damage it’s going to cause. RTJ2 is musical masochism at its finest and I was not fully ready for how kick ass it is. Shit’s real bananas.

Isaiah Rashad – Cilvia Demo:

This young Chattanoogan TDE member released a debut EP way back in January that perfectly walks the line between deeply personal introspection and universal accessibility, and I for one think people haven’t been giving Isaiah the credit he deserves. Cilvia Demo accomplishes all the little things in a release that you don’t need but nonetheless love when they are present. The tracks don’t over stay their welcome, the struggles that are explored are very relatable, and each song has its own well-executed sound. I mean, it’s even the little stuff. Personally, I love a title track that is characteristic of the project as a whole, and “Cilvia Demo” is just that. The release was very well described by the emcee himself when he talked about its development: “At first it was going to be like eight tracks for one-in-a-half-minutes, just verses. Then it was going to be some alternative, black-power shit. Then it was going to be some eclectic-alien shit. Then it was going to be some Southern-banging shit. Now it’s kind of all of that, except for the banging shit. It ain’t with the intention of turning up to it, that’s not my shit. I just want you to vibe out to it. Have a good time and put you in a certain mood. It’s real peaceful, real calmful.” And I can agree with all of that (especially “calmful”), but here’s what I have to say: Cilvia Demo is a project that is honest enough that you can connect with it on a very human level. It’s raw, sentimental, and passionate. I couldn’t say this is the best release of 2014, but it’s lasted among my personal favorites.

Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!:

Flying Lotus has one of if not the most impressive discography among his contemporaries. But there’s an immediate caveat: FlyLo’s music can’t really be compared to anything else, so it’s tough to even conceive the idea that he has people he’s trying to best. His fusion-Jazz/electronic/Hip-hop/alien-sounding releases are out of the best corner of left field. Flying Lotus is like the kid in school that’s super wild and listens to the best bands and keeps to himself but is the person you wish you were hanging out with. To be honest, I couldn’t tell you with full confidence that Flying Lotus is a human like us. And not to transition too seamlessly, the sound of You’re Dead! is very other-worldly and tough to explain. To add to that, by their nature heavily instrumental projects such as this are highly conceptual, so any and all meaning is up to interpretation. And I guess this is all to say that I can’t tell you much about what this album means, but I can tell you concretely that You’re Dead! is a damn beautiful LP. From track one to 19 this project is a steady stream of emotional, formidable excellence. It’s a shame that we are a musical society of single tracks because this is a release that I would never advise listening to bits and pieces of. So, being that my words can’t do its lush production and resonance justice, sit down for a while and explore You’re Dead! from beginning to end knowing that it’s one of a kind.

 Travi$ Scott – Days Before Rodeo:

May I present the mixtape that made Kanye West rethink the sound of his new 7th album: the followup to 2013’s Owl Pharaoh, Travi$ Scott’s Days Before Rodeo. Travi$ Scott finally dropped the project with the breath and sound he’s been trying to achieve for years. Simultaneously trappy and timeless, as well as both ignorant and sincere, I see this mixtape as a huge success for the Houston rapper just by the amount of engagement people seem to be having with it. But, also, I think the main success of Days Before Rodeo is how it’s such a great amalgamation of so many things. The lyricism is one part honest introversion, staying very heartfelt and intimate on a track like “Drugs You Should Try” and another part entertaining ignorance on a track like “Basement Freestyle”, which mixes farty synths, steady basskicks, and a hook of “All this money on the table / We don’t want relations, we don’t want no conversations / Fuck around and change your world.” On the production side, we’ve got another spectrum with one side being dark, heavy, and ever trudging forward (fittingly so) on a track like “Zombies” to “Drugs You Should Try”, which is an absolutely beautiful blend of space-y guitars and an overall cloudiness of production, slowly adding in some well-placed 808’s and high hats. This mixtape dances between the monstrous and the whimsical and I hardly noticed a middle ground. Other notes: Travis has a real ear for completion in his music, but with that being said, the bonus track is a great post-mixtape suppliment. Just as a single track it’s ridiculously fun. And “Bacc” isn’t really meant to be thought about in regards to thematic prevalence, but if you do, god damn. What an unflinching shift in tone. Either way it’s a wild way to end the tape.

Lil Herb – Welcome to Fazoland/Pistol P Project:

Chicago Drill emcee Lil Herb dropped two grab-bag mixtapes that were pretty hit or miss. Both lacked concentration, which isn’t too shocking since the music from the Drill scene is usually pretty one-dimensial. The reason why I’m writing about both of these releases is that I think they are entirely too slept on for the potential that they show. In my mind G Herbo has already separated himself from most of the other Drill scene artists with these two projects, so now I’d really love to see him capitalize. I have a feeling if this dude focuses on his it project, whether that be his label debut, a concept EP or otherwise, I can see him making it critically. Like, I cannot listen to “Real” and not have high hopes for this dude’s career. If he uses the success of his Welcome to Fazoland mixtape and becomes a bit more selective with his collaborations like he has been with recent collabs like the “Fight or Flight” remix or the recently released “Knucklehead” joint with Earl Sweatshirt, I can see him making some huge waves. So, have your fire emojis at the ready, and here’s hoping Herbie really focuses and hones his sound in 2015.

YG – My Krazy Life:

Compton rapper YG wowed his critics by dropping an album that wasn’t just rich in narrative but expansive in its listener base. This is the project this year that I heard most on the radio, which is important whether we like it or not. Enmeshed in gang culture and soaked in project influences, you can’t expect YG ever to wear his heart and emotions on his Blood-red sleeve, but a song like “Really Be” has such a great place on this project. YG seems like a dude who needs to talk about what he’s seen. We also should hold this album dear because DJ Mustard’s pioneering production probably won’t be heard this focused and thriving any time soon. DJ Mustard produced My Krazy Life and helped give the release much more of a distinct identity sonically. But, according to this, the two have some heavy beef. But, you can read our extended review if you want more reasons to mourn this loss of this connection. Also, side note, I’ve purposefully not mentioned Blame It On the Streets. On the low it’s pretty butt. The only new joint that is notable is “2015 Flow”, which, to YG’s credit, rises above the rest of the album.

Vince Staples – Hell Can Wait:

I’m going to be straight up with y’all and say that Hell Can Wait is most likely my favorite release of this year. So, fair warning, this may be pure subjective bias-ridden praise, but here’s a bit of my reasoning. Firstly, I think Vince Staples is one of the rappers in Hip hop with a sound that is unarguably solidified. The release that Hell Can Wait is working up to, whatever it may be, will be the same sound we hear on this release, just further sharpened and tightened, because it is far from needing work.Vince’s rapping is characterized by flow that is impeccably confident, lyricism that is blunt, well written, and culturally expressive, and smart production choices that rock your conscious. As said by California emcee Earl Sweatshirt, “he’s a freak, dude . . . He takes the shortest amount of time to do the tightest shit. I like to keep Vince around when I’m writing shit because I think he’s better than me.” Vince is a rapper’s rapper. He doesn’t dip into the stereotypical flex bar territory and stays comfortably and successfully in his own domain, rapping about his upbringing and the violence and chaos that surrounded it. Plus, Hell Can Wait is the project that is still affecting me. Just now, as I was listening to “Fire” for this write up, I caught a the bar “My momma had me where them babies havin’ babies at” and got goose bumps. Everything in Hell Can Wait is just so well put together. Literally the only flaw I could hear is that the hook on the closing track is kind of weak. Past that the rest is golden.

I’m also a big fan of Vince’s other 2014 release Shyne Coldchain Vol. 2, which you can peep our review for here.

Death Grips – Niggas on the Moon:

We’ve got an extended review of this project here, so I’ll just be underscoring some of our defense of this project and its place in the Death Grips discography. Niggas on the Moon is the first half to the group’s supposed last release, a double LP entitled The Powers The B. This was dropped right around the time that Death Grips revealed this image, announcing that after they drop the second half of the LP the group will be officially broken up. That being said, I think that however Jenny Death turns out, the heads will be appeased. The first half of this LP didn’t get this guaranteed appreciation. In fact, many DG fans saw it as a misstep in the same vein as 2013’s Government Plates. I, for one, enjoyed it. I didn’t think it was as masterful as The Money Store, but it really isn’t the runt that everyone is thinking of it as. This project stands on its own and has some really crazy tracks that deserve to be considered. Like, “Up My Sleeves” is like walking through a tornado with a broken record player whipping through the air around you. What else do you expect from Death Grips? I think when people get annoyed with Death Grips for not aspiring towards their fans’ expectations they are selling this experimental act we hold so dear short. Appreciating Death Grips requires understanding the music along with its rebellion and chaos, and knowing that your expectations as a listener is what Death Grips is going against. After all, defying expectations is what Death Grips is all about. So with that being said, listen and dig in, because Niggas on the Moon is deeper than others give it credit for.

A$AP Ferg – Ferg Forever:

A$AP Mob member and a born and raised Harlem emcee, the self-proclaimed Trap Lord A$AP Ferg released his second major project following 2013’s Trap Lord. Ferg Forever is a super fun oddball of a mixtape that displays Ferg’s ability as a rapper and (surprisingly) a vocalist very well. The Fergestein has made leaps and bounds in terms of progression since Trap Lord. This isn’t to say that every track is as off-the-wall, unexpected, and innovative as one of the project’s singles “Doe-Active”, but it keeps you on your toes. What I need to give Ferg some props for past how animated his vocals are here is how much love he is showing to the game’s female rappers. We’ve got contributions from MIA, Crystal Caines, SZA, and the darkhorse of female rap, MZ 007. There’s also lots of great production choices by Ferg. He recruits the likes of Mississippi big brother Big Krit, the youngin Childish Major, Clams Casino, and Mike Will. I think Ferg Forever is a great mixtape but could do with a bit more focus. I’m not worried about Ferg in 2015. This project helped shed light on how smart of an artist he actually is. I know he has some stuff we aren’t ready for.

Also, “Let It Go 2″ is everything we could have asked for and more.

Freddie Gibbs/Madlib – Piñata:

The long awaited Freddie Gibbs and Madlib connection came up huge in early 2014, being considered critically one of the best, most well-refined albums of the past couple of years. The heads had hopes high enough to give the release an almost unfair amount of anticipation and hype. But the two talents come together in the smoothest way possible. Gibbs enters with a deep, eclectic voice to deliver very eloquent story telling while Madlib continues to march forward through his well-worn stomping grounds of melding samples into beats to create production that fully stand on its own. We went in depth in our extended review, which you can find here. If all you want are the facts, all you need to know that this is the most timeless project of 2014. Piñata is the project that will be among the classics of our era.

Mick Jenkins – The Water[s]:

Mick Jenkins arrived on the scene this year and instantly became the artist who is likely next up in the Hip hop game. He’s being very smart on how he’s building his foundation. His The Water[s] mixtape is a great example of this. He established himself as the new lyrically sharp conscious rapper on the block, dropping really smart bars like “just before you forgot about him, overlooked or started doubting, I doused it with the flow and started talking all this water shit / It’s like I started drowning, in truth, the thought is pounding / I started counting the loopholes in they stories that they tell us”. I am also really loving the character he’s playing on “Jerome.” Character tracks allow an artist to really explore another sound while still keeping a strong identity otherwise. It’s something that rappers new and old have had immense success with, whether it be MF Doom or Tyler, the Creator. Demographic wise, the best way I can decide his reach is that he is probably your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper, and that comes from him being a really respectable artist. He’s tackling the issues that need to be talked about. Past that, I think that the dude is set up to be a mad compelling act in Hip hop. Coming from the city of Chicago while the violence of Drill music is so prevalent and being so well spoken and respected really early on in his career, I could see him being Chicago’s Kendrick Lamar. Watch out for Mick in 2015 y’all.


Still looking for Oxymoron, No Label 2, or Banco? Peep the second part of this list here!

Charlie Johns

Made In Heights – Panther


“Mythical Filth” is what they’re calling it. The extremely talented Made In Heights duo is back with a string-laden track titled ‘Panther‘. This track is a teaser for their forthcoming album set to drop sometime in early 2015. I couldn’t be more excited to see what the duo churns out. While you wait for the release, lay down and click play. It should go by pretty fast.

– Dave


Pink Feathers – Ghosts


RAC keyboardist and solo act Pink Feathers has just dropped a new song called ‘Ghosts‘. I was lucky enough to catch RAC accompanied by Pink Feathers this year at Electric Forest and there’s no doubt she’s got talent. From holding the stage together with her vocals, to bringing an insane amount of energy, Pink Feathers has this whole indie-pop thing figured out. Enjoy the latest!

– Dave


Aer – Whatever We Want Remix (ft. Dizzy Wright)


Aer is back with a fresh new track Whatever We Want featuring the one and only Dizzy Wright. If you haven’t heard Aer before, than I doubt you have ever been to a beach, bonfire or camping trip. Their music is the epitome of ‘feel good’. Whatever We Want is no exception, featuring some smooth guitar riffs and sublime lyrics. Turn the volume up and enjoy.

– Dave