Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sundays of Soul, Vol. 5

That might just have to be the offical S.o.S image? What do y'all think? And to whoever I jacked it from, thanks! One day I will have photoshop to utilize those few skills school gave me...

This week I start with some live Jazz soul fusion and end on some modern psychedelic rock type shit - it's all over the place as I'm holding it down for solo, but you know I'm hitting you with those soulful joints!

Sundays of Soul, Vol. 5
Marcus Miller "People Make The World Go Round"
The Smith Connection "Wish I Had You"
Sweet Charles "Soul Man"
Edwin Starr & Blinky "We'll Find A Way"
The Pharaohs "Freedom Road"
Big Maybelle "It's A Man's Man's World"
Donald Bryd "Stepping Into Tomorrow"
Michael Franti & Spearhead "What I Do"
Baby Charles "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor"
The Mystic Moods "Cosmic Sea"
Mr. Chop "The Infinity Machine"

The Musik Lounge Podcast, Vol. 4

And we're back one mo' gin for another round of what we do on Sunday - give y'al them music you need! This week's podcast is just a little heavy on the LA cuts and given that I'm depressed by the crappy weather up our way why not celebrate the place where the sun shines?

The Musik Lounge Podcast Vol. 4

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Saturday Spin: Boy In Static "Violet"

I guess this is what I was looking for when I kicked off this Saturday Spin feature here on the TML – something I would probably never have found if I didn’t pick a random disc off the shelf, I promise one of these weeks I’m gonna get a flick of this pile for you all to get an idea of what it is I’m working with. On that note, let me talk about Boy In Static.

Being as many of these discs were acquired while I was still involved with KSUB, I’m fortunate enough to have one sheets for many of the artists whose discs I’m surrounded by. Alexander Chen is a one man band (although the website says that Boy In Static is now comprised of two people) who plays a dozen or so instruments, sings, writes, and puts it all together to some interesting results.

Boy In Static “December”

I’ll be the first to admit this is definitely out of my comfort zone. Anyone familiar with the TML knows where my musical listening habits lie, but this reminds me of things I used to seek out on a much more regular basis. The experimental nature of his sound is refreshing and the boundaries he pushes merging so many sounds together is great! But I won’t suggest this to anyone looking for some excitement in their day.

Moving at a generally slow pace this album reminds me of sitting awake in the morning as you watch the sun rise. It’s melancholy at times thanks to his string work on a number of tracks, “Tear Down” being a stand out that builds to a great climax thanks to some stuttering drum programming reminiscent of some of the Aphex Twin work.

Boy In Static "Tear Down"

Elsewhere you hear hints of the indie rock movement, especially in his vocals as they are sad and depressingly sung and then ran through effects processors (no auto tune here!) to give them a ghost like quality. His choice of sounds only emphasizes the continuing overall sad feel to the record as he plays the accordion often and generally distorts everything at least a little bit.

Even with it’s feel, the album won’t depress if you can wrap your head around it’s sounds and enter Boy In Static’s warped reality. He put his first album out with the Notwist’s label and then hit the road with 13 & God (The Notwist and Anticon’s Themselves) which had an obvious influence on the direction of this album – if you listened to the 13 & God record you will know exactly what I mean upon hearing the first few minutes of Violet.

Boy In Static “Leave You Blind”

Having played through this album throughout the day I’m certain that it will be a rare occurrence for me to actively play this album, but at the same time something has kept me intrigued all day. It may not be your typical cup of tea, but everyone can use a little diversity in their life, grab a couple tracks and let ‘em play – you might be surprised by their life.

Bonus Video “First Love”

Boy In Static - First Love from Boy in Static on Vimeo.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Evidence "The Layover EP"

Evidence had some big shoes to fill following up his debut solo album, and if The Layover EP is demonstrative of what we will be hearing more of on his sophomore follow up next year, Cats & Dogs is my most anticipated album of ’09.

But that’s the future and I’m sure I’ll have ample opportunity to speak on it at a more appropriate time. Right now I need y’all to try and follow me as I attempt to explain why I think you need to buy this album, like right now.

Evidence was on tour with Khrysis last year and I would imagine being two beat makers they had some things to talk about and eventually those conversations led to some music creation. Originally this EP was going to be a free download with Ev going in over five heat rocks from Khrysis, things changed and instead we get two tracks from him – but after hearing them you won’t be mad.

With the opening two cuts, Khrysis lays it down here! The title track knocks hard filled with more sounds than should work, but somehow it does and well. Driven by his solid drums and a bass line that may induce a serious head nod, Evidence breaks down his struggle with getting stuck. Khrysis flips the mood a bit for his second go here with “For Whom The Bell Tolls” featuring a stellar line up of Phonte, Blu and Will.I.Am on the hook. Over an epic track they pay tribute to the fallen and consider their own humanity. Blu delivers one of the greatest verses of the year here, but no one disappoints with Will even sounding proper.

Evidence ft. Phonte, Blu & Will.I.Am "For Whom The Bell Tolls"

From this seriousness comes a breath of fresh air as Evidence and Alchemist combine to form Step Brothers for “So Fresh.” Over a beat that can only be described as what So Cal would sound like if put to wax, they pay tribute to their home and their art explaining what inspires their dedication. After they both do their thing, the beat keeps playing and Babu comes through on the cuts. I said it before, but I don’t know if another song has a more fitting title.

Ev kept it in the crew for “Solitary Confinement” featuring an amazing chorus from Krondon and an even more impressive fairly minimal beat from Sid Roams. While in line with what you would hear on their Prodigy product, this song floats with a smoothness provided by some great keyboard sounds and very soft drums coupled with well placed hand claps. Over this sparse beat Evidence considers the pros and cons to being alone and how to keep yourself balanced.

Defari joins Evidence on the self produced cut “Don’t Hate” displaying their always on point chemistry over a great vocal loop addressing all the haters – just don’t do it! I think this might be the new theme song around the TML. The Alchemist comes through again producing and holding down the opening verse for “The Far Left.” Fashawn has emerged quick as a new voice on the west, and one to pay attention to, his verse only helps his growing rep displaying a crisp delivery.

The closing trifecta of songs, the only ones not to be released prior to the album, continue the flow of the EP and show Evidence at his best. Babu kicks it all off with a melancholy beat for “Rain or Shine” letting Ev break down the struggles of life and play the optimist who keeps looking for the positive even when nothing seems right. The Alchemist gives us one more beat here and in true Alc fashion it has that old soul feel but still knocks HARD with a great hook from probably Aloe Blacc – who also gets his rhyme game on to close out the track. Elzhi rocks as well and if you have ever been in to him you need not worry; this is right up there with anything The Preface held.

To close out the EP Evidence holds it down for self (minus some cuts from DJ Revolution) lacing a stomping beat with a great vocal chop worked in and some nice slightly off kilter keys he takes the solo chance to get his brag swag on a little bit, but always keeps it serious shouting out his mom and his new record label along with those who doubted him on “The Cold Weather.”

Evidence "The Cold Weather"

You can’t stay cold and bitter forever though and if this EP will serve any purpose hopefully it will be to warm those who have fronted on him to open their ears and give him a listen. The enjoyment Ev and his team are getting from making music is only translated into good tracks for us to enjoy – so cop the album and listen. Not only will you be entertained you will be inspired to think, inspired to live.

If you missed it, check the post form earlier this week I dropped filled with all the video's from the disc - half the songs have videos shot!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Prodigy "Product of the 80's"

Seemingly out of nowhere Prodigy snuck a new album out towards the end of October. Obviously he isn’t around to promote Product of the 80's, but prior to his up north trip he put in a lot of work at Dirt Class studios with production duo Sid Roams – and it had to get heard.

Sid Roams, comprised of Joey Chavez and Bravo, have been making waves for a minute but only in the last couple years joined forces with a unified name and their own lab in NYC to concoct their heavy brand of Hip Hop funk. Featuring hard synths and harder drums these two have created an atmosphere fitting for Prodigy and his partners Un Pacino and Big Twins to spit their tales.

Prodigy “Cold World"

P is P. You can’t really come into this record not knowing what to get. For as long as the Mobb has been around they have been the leaders of grimey QB hood shit. But as the fame got larger and larger and the gap between what they were living versus what they had lived grew they lost their touch.

Signing with G-Unit was suppose to revive them, but instead they phoned in a weak effort (although I’m basing this off speculation – when was the last time you heard Blood Money? That’s what I thought) and got laughed at by pretty much everyone. They remained loyal to 50 and in exchange he allowed Prodigy to roll with Koch for some projects.

Then he got popped. Crunch time.

With the prospect of facing over three years in jail P got on his grind apparently living with a pen and pad in hand and only a phone call away from a session. This is the latest project dropped under his name (I have no idea if it’s the last until his release) and with its theme based around the era Prodigy came of age in, he seems to have taken it to heart as we see a more introspective side of Prodigy on several of the tracks.

The most serious of these would be the Sebb produced closer “Am I Crazy?” where we get to hear P examine himself and all his crazy ideas. If anyone is keeping up with his antics while on lock down I’m sure you have your own answer to this question, but to hear P tell it – it’s a controlled madness. “Stop Stressin” is another demonstration of Prodigy letting us know about his life and his passion for this rap thing, while also addressing the masses who have written him off – let him do him and you do you, it’s guaranteed to work out for everyone involved.

Prodigy “Stop Stressin”

Elsewhere on the disc you will hear Prodigy getting into his political theories, something he hasn’t delivered on wax much but has written some in depth blog posts about since his incarceration. Even with his conspiracy theory rhetoric, he spits with passion and in his trademark delivery that will capture your attention just like he did when he explained the meaning of shook.

Beyond these deviations from the norm, we get a lot of your typical Mobb Deep fare. From the opening “Waddup Gz,” where he breaks out an atypical flow that is as subtle as it is brilliant, we are treated to street narratives galore. Given the albums theme is the crack era much of what is found within these tracks relates to the violence and deprivation present in the communities destroyed by the drug.

Over another stunning Jake One beat Prodigy and Un Pacino explain how they “Shed Thy Blood” all over the block – I can’t say the content is redeeming, but who said it always has to be? Sometimes you just want something you can scrunch your face up to and bang!

This is only one of several appearances from Pacino, and Big Twins is here too. While these names may ring out in the QB, they probably don’t register on your average heads “to check for” list. Twins posses a unique voice that will either annoy or mesmerize, and Pacino? He never does stand out. Their appearances here won’t do much to upgrade their status, but if you want more of that hood shit the QB has never had a problem pushing out emcees to talk about their existence in the largest housing project in the country.

Prodigy ft. Big Twins “In The Smash”

Prodigy might surprise many of you with this joint; he surprised me with some thought provoking verses and a diversification of delivery. But just as with last years Return of the Mac where we saw P backed by a stellar array of blaxplotation era inspired beats courtesy of The Alchemist, Product of the 80s success is largely due to Sid Roams strict adherence to the theme utilizing the sounds from electronic instruments made popular almost three decades ago.

On top of their own tailor made beats, they demonstrate an overwhelming awareness for cohesion as they selected the token beats from other producers here – finding sounds that fit with what they needed rather than allowing another Hip Hop album to come out sounding like a musical whose who of current heat makers.

Sid Roams broke down the entire album for Complex, check it! And they include streams of every track.

If you want to learn more, check out these interviews:
Champ Magazine Online

Evidence "The Weatherman LP"

I hope everyone is having a great Thanksgiving! I’m getting paid! Although as much as I keep telling myself I don’t care that I’m here in the office all day it does feel just a little strange to not be home right now – never not been with my mom and fam on a Thanksgiving, and I’m thankful for my past so I guess I’ll survive today.

That’s not why you are here though. I haven’t stopped banging The Layover EP all week (it’s the perfect length for my walk to work) and tomorrow it will be revealed just exactly how I feel about it, like you don’t already know. Today though I figured why not take a look at what is responsible for my impression with all that Ev touches these days.

The Weatherman LP.

As I made it known Monday, I wasn’t feeling the last few joints from Dilated Peoples. I heard some talk about a solo joint from Ev coming out on ABB but I was busy being a hater, screaming that he and his crew fell off and I didn’t care – never have I had to eat my words quite so harshly.

Evidence "Things You Do"

It started with the lead single “Mr. Slow Flow.” With some great cuts courtesy of DJ Revolution - this man is a beast- Evidence introduced us to himself, the man who has mastered that slow flow style. Over a synth heavy banger from Sid Roams (look ‘em up) the track just screamed to me and I was stuck. I immediately found myself putting the album on, not quite ready to see how wrong I was.

Just listen to it.

From the opening cut, every tack is bananas! Evidence and Alchemist handle the bulk of production on the album, filled with that heavy crate digger sound with great vocal snippets chopped and layered in over hard drums and beautiful keys. This isn’t to say the album is soft, Alc hooks up those type of tracks you have come to expect from him while also showing us his sound can evolve out of the griminess and Ev displays his ever expanding production style across a number of tracks here.

Evidence “All Said & Done”

The passing of his mother is a heavy influence on this album and Ev has commented that this record was intended to be his “emo” joint where he got that sadness out of him. He couldn’t let it get him down though as he rocks the Alchemist banger “Chase the Clouds Away” like only he could, creating a beautiful tribute to his mom and his happiness. Filled with positive lyrics about pushing oneself to achieve, this feel good song will certainly chase the clouds out of your day and hopefully fun will follow.

Fun is a large part of what attracts me to the music these guys are making. From the friendship of Ev and Al to the relationships they have formed, everything seems to be done more out of love and a passion for the art. The music feels alive. The beats bang and the lyrics resonate, but most importantly the album is an enjoyable listen - It sounds good.

Good could be Jake One laying down a joint for Ev to discuss his love for NYC – even if he’s from the west he will always enjoy the town that birthed this culture. Or it might be Phonte lacing the hook for “Letyourselfgo.” Maybe it’s the heavy static like synths Sid Roams rocks in their three tracks, one of which - “Believe in Me” – features the always stellar Res on the hook. Or maybe it’s just hearing Evidence rhyming over his own beats.

Evidence ft. Res “Believe In Me”

The guests are abundant here, but they never distract from the album. We get a couple group efforts with multiple emcees laying down verses, “NC to CA” being the standout. Featuring a loud beat that Joe Scudda declares “slap music,” he is joined by Pooh and Defari alongside Ev for a unification of coasts. I can’t even say that one of them takes it, just enjoy the art of emceeing found here.

That can be applied to the album as a whole. Ev’s thoughtful dedication to his mother “I Still Love You” closes the album showing a son who has grieved and now looks forward to pushing on in her memory. This theme of pushing on is another constant throughout, often discussing how to stay one step ahead and never failing. Slug and Ev team up over one of the Alchemists greatest beats ever on “Line of Scrimmage.” Say what you will about Slug (lord knows I’ve said my fair share) the man can flow next to anyone and with his verse here he should never be denied his due.

If 2006 was the year Hip Hop died, 2007 was the year of the resurrection and The Weatherman LP played an integral role in raising the dead.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

DJ Muggs & Planet Asia "Pain Language"

From the street sounds of The Alchemist to the always booming sounds of his Soul Assassins mentor, DJ Muggs. Being the man behind much of the Cypress Hill sound on top of creating his own lane of West Coast destruction with beats Muggs is legendary for any number of accolades, but over the last few years he has been keeping his name in the spotlight collaborating with emcee’s for full length projects.

After seeing him and GZA pull it off a couple years ago and then Sick Jacken getting the treatment last year, Planet Asia is the next up to be blessed with that SA sound – and he might be the best companion yet over a Muggs beat.

DJ Muggs & Planet Asia ft. GZA & Chace Infinite “Triple Threat”

Asia has long been on his grind in the west coast underground dropping solo’s and group projects over a decade ago, but while his witty and dense verbiage has kept his rep large with the true school heads he knows his position and plays it well.

While Muggs Queens heritage probably plays into his ability to lay down some of the greatest boom bap joints of the year - and of the last several – Pain Language is filled with those classic haunting and dark sounds the Soul Assassins leader has long utilized but coupled with great drums and moments of rest that provide a sense of calm prior to the explosion of raw Hip Hop energy they deliver throughout the record.

Asia is in top form here, and while I can’t say I’ve heard a solo joint from the man in its entirety, we find him on “All Hail the King” explaining to us why he is the greatest, peep the visuals he provides with this verse:

Valedictorian my story is hand writ
You could see my transcript was written in Sanskrit
Purple meditation makes me move the quill
Cause the dude is ill
And his jewels is real
Practice makes perfect
So I chose to build
Cause if I chose to chill
Then I could lose the skill
And if I listen to the radio
I’ll lose the thrill
So I make music that I’ll likely chose to hear
So to know what I’m about you gotta use your ears

I’ll give props to any emcee who makes the music he wants to hear, as simple a concept as it maybe I doubt too many artists feel that free upon entering the lab.

DJ Muggs & Planet Asia “All Hail The King”

Looking at many different emcee’s and music in general I never quite can pinpoint what it is I look for most in a great verse, but between his flow and the picture he paints this is as good a display of what a dope verse should be as I could ever come up with. Asia is an exceptional emcee with great breath control and a mind that exists on a different plane – “All Hail the King.”

But witty punch lines do not make for a well rounded album, and in true Muggs fashion he pulls out some heavy vocal interludes to discuss politics, religion and languages found around the world. These interludes are always laced with a floating looping, providing an overall cohesion between all the tracks.

Asia has no problem speaking over any number of Muggs crack, from the opening announcement of horns over a slow drum track on “Sleeper Cell” where he addresses terrorist tactics and why they are the chosen method to instill fear today. The drums here will get you prepared for what to expect as they are gritty and dusty, indicative of what Muggs chops up in his MPC.

But you can’t give bangers away and this team knows how to keep you wanting more. Laying down a quick loop on “Black Mask Men” of a sound I can’t even identify, it’s a hypnotic jam and upon hearing Planet on the hook state “roll up a wood and let a nigga smoke” you won’t have any choice but to take him up on his offer. Muggs rolled with Cypress for a reason.

DJ Muggs & Planet Asia ft. Sick Jacken “Death Frees Every Soul”

If Muggs hasn’t gotten your attention clean out your ears! And if Asia hasn’t I can’t blame you, but this record should serve as notice he is one to pay attention to. Together they have created Hip Hop any fan will enjoy and should, so take dude’s advice twist something up and turn this disc on.

The Alchemist "The Alchemist's Cookbook" EP

Serving as a precursor to his Chemical Warfare full length due in February, The Alchemist dropped his Cookbook EP with six tracks to hold us over until then.

In typical Alc fashion we are treated to some of his classic QB griminess opening the disc with the Nina Sky assisted “Keys to the City.” Over some slow thumping drums a subtle repeating key loop in the background and quite vocal sample Al and P lay it down for their town.

Snoop comes through on the hook for the lead single here, “Lose Your Life.” While Alchemist is know for his work with some of the hardest crews in Hip Hop, this is certified hood shit if I’ve ever heard it. Jadakiss does what he always does flowing in his usual smooth demeanor delivering his brand of street tale. In a rare separation from his partner, Pusha T slides in sounding just as at home over this banger as he does over anything cooked up by P and Chad.

I can’t help but chuckle at the thought of CNN still trying to make it, but they make an appearance here over probably the weakest beat – making “Follow the Dollar” the weak link on this short excursion.

Evidence, Blu & Kid Cudi “Therapy” (Prod. By The Alchemist)

Luckily it finishes off strong with a great pair of stress relieving tracks. “Calmly Smoke” finds The Alchemist joined by his boy Evidence and Styles P as the three certified stoners let it be known how they get down with the trees. If that’s not your type of stress relief how about some great music? “Therapy” sees Blu getting in with Evidence about the joys of making music and it’s therapeutic profits – both mental and physical.

Aside from being some of the best displays of wordplay, these two tracks also tie for the best beats here. “Therapy” takes it when it opens with triumphant horns before fading into a minimalist guitar driven track and props have to be given to Al for his decision to play the drums quieter in the mix, they are present but don’t take away from the rest. The synths that drive “Calmly Smoke” are not to be taken for granted however as I’m guessing he dug deep for those sounds. As always the chemistry man is never one to disappoint.

Keak Da Sneak & Prodigy “Al Capone Zone” (Prod. By The Alchemist)

If this weren’t enough he gives us one more Prodigy assisted joint, but keeps the west connection alive moving north up the Cali coast to the Bay putting Keak da Sneak with the Mobb frontman. “Al Capone Zone” works out surprisingly well with Keak sounding almost good when I usually can’t stand anything he puts his voice to. Another great beat with a bit more funky feel than we see from the Alchemist, shows he is pushing his “sound” to new areas and this track leaves no reason to complain.

If you have enjoyed the Alchemist’s work for the last decade plus you have no reason to not enjoy this quick sampler of what’s to come. He displays the facets of his style and the depth to which his crew runs connecting with his homies from both coasts. Jump out to the iTunes store and grab a track or two (I’m sure you can find the rest), and watch out for that Chemical Warfare!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Layover Videos

I woke up this morning and took a walk over to EM (Everyday Music) did some digging and picked up The Layover EP. I’m planning a full review for Friday, but I’m as impressed as I expected to be.

If you haven’t been following the internet hype campaign Ev and company created to get this record known, it was an impressive one and included shooting five videos, four of which are included on a DVD with the EP. The video plan worked well as far as I can tell as they are all fresh and different showing the versatility Evidence holds.

Evidence “The Layover”

Evidence ft. The Alchemist & Fashawn “Far Left”

Evidence ft. Defari “Don’t Hate”

The ending of that joint is DOPE! That beat is hypnotic and they both destroy it, this is indicative of the entire record. The Alchemist has long been down with Evidence – since before either of them were who they are today, and they have begun creating music together under the name Step Brothers. Here on the EP we are presented with their first official release and a video was shot in their home town showing off what it is these guys like to do on a day off – It’s probably not to dissimilar from what you and your boys do.

Step Brothers “So Fresh”

From the beat to the rhymes to the black and white shots in the video the title couldn’t be bestowed upon a better song.

Evidence ft. Krondon “Solitary Confinement”

Being the last video to drop, coming out today to celebrate the release of the EP, it figures they would save the best for last. With an incredibly haunting beat from Sid Roams we get a great dissection of time alone and finding the balance one needs of human interactions. Krondon would have been fresh with a verse, but I can’t be mad at it as is that hook is classic! Watch out for the chick half way through the video, NSFW…

The Alchemist ft. Snoop Dogg, Jadakiss & Pusha T “Lose Your Life”

Last week ALC dropped his own Alchemists Cookbook EP with the above song leading off the joint it serves as a primer to get people ready for his full length in the first quarter of ’09.

The Alchemist ft. Prodigy & Nina Sky “Keys to the City”

Evidence “Chase the Clouds Away”

From Ev’s debut, this “anti weed” jam is probably one of the most positive and happy Hip Hop tracks I’ve ever heard – and that’s a good thing. Coming across as genuine it doesn’t seem like a joke, the fatal flaw feel good Hip Hop so often falls victim too.

Fashawn ft. Evidence “Our Way”

Ev gave Fash a spot on the EP over The Alchemists monster of a beat “The Far Left.” Aside from the dope flash card treatment in the video they all drop impressive verses. The above cut is off Fashawn’s last mixtape he did with Mick Boogie, but with the video treatment I’m thinking the talk I read of it being off his debut is true. If anyone is curious it’s Exile on the beat.

Dilated Peoples “Worst Comes to Worst”

Alchemist ft. Prodigy, Illa Ghee & Nina Sky “Hold U Down”

Just a couple older joints as a little bonus! Get out and cop The Layover EP now.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Evidence & DJ Skee "The Layover Mixtape"

With Evidence dropping his new EP tomorrow - I won't lie I think it's about to be one of the best releases of the year - I've got a week of Ev & Alc posts ready so if you don't know get ready, and if you do kick back and enjoy!

Whenever you are a fan of the artist it’s just a little harder to dissect the music. I’m a fan of Evidence. Dilated Peoples was forever my shit, and then they slowly got consumed by the music industry machine and I lost interest. But my boy Swerve kept telling me to check out The Weatherman LP. I took my sweet time, but finally I stopped sleeping and was blown away. Since then Ev has steadily impressed, reminding me why I loved Dilated back in the day.

For his first mixtape venture he links with DJ Skee and together they put out The Layover Mixtape. While Skee’s involvement is minimal, a few drops over good verses and the occasional shout out, it’s a good bet he was involved in setting up just a few of these collaborations.

The most notable of the many guest spots would come in the form of two posse cuts. “Beautiful Day (Remix)” is a great track that gives you two beats to assist in the theme of the song and with nine emcees present it’s got something for everyone. The more interesting track is “Beats like This” which finds Ev next to his partner Rakaa along with many of the west’s supposed next big things. Styliztik Jones has been in my ear lately and his verse here just continues my growing impression of the kid. Krondon, Crooked, and Diz Gibran all also stand out, but they also all possess unique voice’s that set them apart.

Elsewhere we hear remixes to three of the tracks from the debut, all with the same beat but different verses. Phonte jumps in off the hook to spit some bars for the Alchemist banger “Let Yourself Go” and Casual shows up with a fresh appearance on “Hot & Cold.” For the remix to “All Said & Done” Bishop Lamont shows up to lay it down and it’s great to hear these guys together.

Over the last few months Evidence has been dropping off freestyles (Shouts to Shake & Meka) over an assortment of beats and we find most of them included here. While they are of varying ages, “Free P” knocks just like it did the day I downloaded it whenever ago and “Hush Know” (formerly his “Hendrix Freestyle”) sounds perfect with him riding a classic riff. Ev also goes in over the Wayne/Kanye smoker “Let the Beat Build” for his “Celeb Reality” where he lets us all know where he comes from and who his peers were, but his insight into their lives proves to be of a bit more serious nature than who is sleeping with who or who’s doing the blow in which bathroom.

The disc opens with the title track from his upcoming Layover EP (I’m going to the store to cop this tomorrow!) with a super heavy banger courtesy of Khrysis where we hear Evidence letting us know what his path has been filled with and the grind he has been on and intends to stay on. Paying tribute to a fallen friend along the way and switching up the flow, Ev sounds hungry and ready to wreak the game.

On “Recognize” we hear him alongside Chace Infinite and Fashawn over some Premo goodness. While this can make even the worst emcee sound fresh, I think you will be impressed by the ease with which all three go in an destroy this joint – easily top three from the tape.

So smooth.

While Skee’s involvement is obviously more for the network he has at his fingertips to help promote the tape and the EP, its good music that will rock in the stereo for as long as you like filled with an assortment of styles on the beats and behind the mics. Evidence has been steadily grinding and I would bet that with the success of living off his music (Check out the interview with Hyphen!) he is finding the freedom to create what he wants as inspiration, lucky for us he’s willing to share it all.

Download the disc for free from Ev & Skee and go out and cop The Layover EP tomorrow!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Musik Lounge Podcast, Vol. 3

Fuck all the haters!

I remember seeing this for the first time and being so distraught, now I just find it funny. Don't be scared, they never heard what I got in store for y'all - more of that goodness!

The Musik Lounge, Vol. 3

Sundays of Soul, Vol. 4

Whether this is how you spent your Sunday or not, the sentiment is all that matters! Rob came through this week with some fine blues selections and your's truely was all over the map from that gritty grimy southern funk to clean and crips disco soul. Kick back and enjoy another edition of Sundays of Soul.

Sundays of Soul, Vol. 4
The Menahan Street Band "The Traitor"
The Intentions "Dig It"
Konk "Baby Dee"
Mighty Voices of Wonder "I Thank The Lord"
Roosevelt Grier "Slow Drag"
Sky "Ain't No Need (Unity Mix)"
Clifton Chenier "One Step At A Time"
Ike Turner & The Kings of Rythm "I Walked From Dallas"
Champion Jack Dupree "Don't Mistreat Your Woman (When You Know You're Wrong Yourself)"

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saturday Spin: Killah Priest & Chief Kamachi "Beautiful Minds"

I tried grabbing something random off the shelf for this week's Saturday Spin edition, but it was a bunch of non sense by some group called Fresh Kills? If anyone knows anything let me know, but I was unimpressed. So instead I present to you that which I can get down with...

Killah Priest has long been a silent force within the extended Wu Tang family. Chief Kamachi has steadily been building up his rep as one of the key members of Philly’s Army of Pharaohs. The two joining together for a record is an underground heads wet dream, and in a true demonstration of sheer talent the two don’t disappoint.

Killah Priest & Chief Kamachi “Beautiful Minds”

If you are familiar with either of these two’s previous work you know the depth to which they take their lyrics and Beautiful Minds is exactly what you expect. Filled with discussions of faith and religion, conspiracy theories, and stories from the ghetto that play like a Scorsese flick yet to be made the album will keep you engaged from beginning to end.

Coming from the originators of the grimy and the closest crew doing anything similar today we are treated to a great example of what Hip Hop can still be. C Sik laces a static driven track with hard drums and Rhettmatic comes correct with the cuts during the hook. Priest, Kamachi and Planet Asia spit hard getting in with the beat riding it only like “The Illest” can.

Killah Priest & Chief Kamachi “Most High”

Aside from this 16 from Asia, Priest and Kamachi hold it down for themselves and you would be crazy to complain. Both being deeply spiritual men, they take time out to dedicate a song to both the “Most High” but utilize the opportunity to at the same time question society’s blind devotion to this greater being. The beat, courtesy of Tekneek, is filled with a great piano loop and the perfect high hat splash to give the track the extra lift of bombast needed for the topic.

Dev Rocka lays down the one interlude next, flowing right out of “Most High,” “Time Out Revisited” is a smooth break for a moment before they come right back at it on “Don’t Waste Your Lungs.” Attacking the mic outright Kamachi’s energy is at a constant peak throughout the album keeping you constantly engaged. At the same time Priest find’s his niche next to his partner’s loud, commanding voice by flowing nimbly over the assortment of beats found across the twelve tracks.

Killah Priest & Chief Kamachi “Reflections”

The capabilities of these two emcees should never be called into question and this album will give you little call to do so. But beyond their skill behind the mic this pairing shows what old and young can accomplish. While the music continues to be changed and driven by the youth it’s refreshing to see and hear the two generations still able to stand together as equals and deliver great music. From the selection of beats to the content they chose to speak about and the way they deliver it to your ear, Killah Priest and Chief Kamachi prove they are in possession of Beautiful Minds.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

DJ Graffiti "Hipsters Need Soul Too"

Before we get into this, I suggest you let Jay Smooth break something down.

If it’s good music, I’m down with it.

The most basic, fundamental element to a DJ’s repertoire is his ability to find good music. To that end, dusty crates across the world (wide web?) have been sifted through in hopes of finding that cut to blow the audiences mind. DJ Graffiti may not stumble on auditory bliss with his Hipsters Need Soul Too mix, but he will give you a great demonstration of the so called “Hipster” rap movement and even show you a few legends that might have been just a bit ahead of the curve.

Buff1 plays double duties here hosting the tape and delivering the opening cut “What Does Hipster Mean?” I know it’s a question I’ve asked, and I’m guessing it’s one that is only going to be asked more often in the near future. Buff breaks down his ideas surrounding the word and while he can’t resist taking a few shots at the hipster fashion sense, he’s heard the good music Graffiti has lined up.

With a quick drop from Buff welcoming everyone in, we here Jessica Tonder and Proton start things off with the synth heavy “Bee (Remix)” where Proton gets his slow flow on and Tonder croons achingly. It’s a grower but the combination of Proton’s slow off kilter delivery and Tonders ghost like vocal tone keeps me coming back.

Mickey Factz might be one of the lead dogs when it comes to this scene and on this track he has finally shown me something. With energy and conviction in his voice and flow, “Light” is an inspirational we shall succeed style track that Graf mixes right into “Arcade Fly” from 6th Sense and Wildabeast, a fun if unmoving track after Factz impressive display.

At this moment Graffiti flips the program dropping “Posses on Broadway” a guaranteed party starter here in Seattle, or anywhere else. Graffiti is an impressive blend man and here he matches the Cool Kids banging 808s with the classic Black Moon cut “How Many Emcees” for a stunning mash up that sounds as if Buck and 5 ft. spit to this beat back in ’93.

After dropping a few more tracks for the throwback portion of the mix Rashaan spits about his sneaker addiction claiming to be a “Sneaker Store Terrorist.” I may never be a sneaker head, but anyone who knows that game will enjoy this tremendously. “Taste” from Pac Div is what we hear next and it’s still just as fresh as the first time I heard it, even if that was awhile ago.

Graffiti keeps his track selection tight throughout the mix picking a great combination of new and old, known and unknown songs from an assortment of artists also of varying scales of notoriety. The Michigan native throws in a couple Dilla joints neither of which will you expect, and one is even made more funky thanks to Graf’s blend skills.

If that isn’t enough he also wants everyone to know he can rock the dance floor too as he gets busy with a nice little booty shaking break, making a great point about Common and an equally questionable point about Electric Circus.

Hipsters Need Soul Too will rock some parties and introduce you to some new names to watch. It won’t change anyone’s mind on how they feel about this emerging genre, but hopefully it will make you listen to their music and forget, at least for the three minutes you are hearing their song, whatever was wrong with their outfit when you gave them their dap right before they got on stage last night.

Check out the first part of the tape here (Shouts to Steph - thanks girl!) and if you are feeling it get the complete version from Graf himself for whatever you like!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sundays of Soul, Take 3

I woke up this morning feeling refreshed and ready for anything. I hope the music gives you some of the same as you enjoy your Sunday afternoon and evening!

Sundays of Soul Vol. 3
4Hero "Morning Child (Landau Orchestra Remix)
Joe Bataan "Gypsy Woman (Demo Version)"
Mayer Hawthorne & The County "Just Ain't Gonna Work Out"
Stevie Wonder "Snippet #1"
The Randy Watson Experience "Goodbye Isaac"
Bobby Taylor "Eleanor Rigby"
Marva Whitney "Things Got To Get Better (Get Together)"
Gene Waiters "Shake & Shingaling Pt. 1"
Stevie Wonder "Snippet #2"
Novel "Amazin' (Remix)"

Madlib "The Beat Konducta Vol. 5 & 6"

Madlib. The Beat Konducta. Otis Jackson.

"In Jah Hands (Dilla's Lament)"

He goes by many names and releases lots of music. But what do you know about that latest installment to the Beat Konducta series? The Dil Cosby and Dil Withers suites are invading the area right here.

"Rebirth Cycle (Super Soul)"

After showing us what he did hide away in the lab on the first two volumes, he took us to India so he could show us how to chop those foreign records, and now he is showing all the wannabes who have spent the last almost 3 years since Dilla’s passing biting his style how it should be done.

"Rolled Peach Optimos (Call Day)"

While I’ve taken issue with many of those biters and their blatant attempts to profit off that which Dilla did so well, Madlib was his riding buddy towards the end and if someone is going to carry the torch for Dilla today the Beat Konducta is our best chance at it being done with the respect and honor J Dilla’s memory deserves.

Joining forces with Madlib for the excursion is J. Rocc, another Stones Throw confidant of Mr. Yancy. Together they create an atmosphere for blunts to be sparked and music to be enjoyed. The tracks float from one to the next with dusty drums always rolling in the trademark Dilla EQ fashion.

"Blast (Computer Rock)"

Donuts will probably come to mind as you kick back and let the vibes consume you. Madlib pulls from his extensive library finding perfect vocal harmonies to loop and drop in over the muted sounds of his beats. Horns find their way in and out of the mix, sometimes looped for added satisfaction and at times syncopated with the drum pattern for extra emphasis.

"Smoked Out (Green Blaze Subliminal)"

J. Rocc adds cuts where they are needed dropping in vocal snippets from the man himself, never letting us forget his name or the way he rode a beat. Along with lyrics from Jay Dee, Rocc throws in the random shout out from some of those who new him and other tid bits that were probably recorded at a time no one expected to ever need them.

"Suffer (Concentration)"

Across the forty plus tracks found within these two volumes Dilla’s ghost is apparent, almost reaching from the grave. Madlib and Dilla had a lot in common in how their beats come across and where so many have failed in attempting to steal the “Dilla” sound Madlib conveys his own personality in these tracks, but at the same time does it for a higher purpose – this isn’t Madlib biting Dilla, it’s Madlib paying tribute to his fallen brother who never got to give us all the music his brilliant mind was destined to cook up.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Saturday Spin: 4Hero "Play With the Changes"

Every now and then it’s good to listen to something different. I haven’t been as successful as I would like at putting forth good music outside of the Hip Hop realm, but today I grabbed a disc off my book shelf that is over flowing with discs I’ve acquired in the last year – 4Hero’s Play With The Changes.

Coming out in 2007, Dego and Marc Mac have been around for years involved heavily in the European electronic music scene and while that influence is obviously in play here they dedicate just as much attention to having a stable of talented musicans on hand creating a beautiful modern fusion record.

While the album is issued as a 4Hero record, it is split between the two partners with Dego taking charge on eight tracks and Marc Mac holding down the production duties for the other seven. Not one combined meeting of talent? I wonder what the story is with that.

Whatever the reason is, it’s a mute point as they both prove they are capable on their own and obviously understand what each other is going to bring to the table. Mixing together a wide array of keyboards, drum machines and live instruments the sound is decidedly electronic tinged with the feel of the freedom you often find in Jazz.

This could come from the inclusion on many tracks of large horn sections being allowed to get busy doing their best Coltrane or Miles impression. Beyond horns, you will hear string sections adding an element of sweeping beauty to select tracks and a number of guests vocalists performing original and old stand bys.

The album’s opening cut “Morning Child” is a pristine example of the cohesion these two talented individuals are able to pull from their crew of instrumentalists. Featuring Carina Anderson on the lyrics, written by Marc Mac, and some great harmonies over the beautiful violins in the background this is how an album should start – put this on as you wake up in the morning, I guarantee it will help your day get started right.

4Hero ft. FACE "Stoke the Fire Up" (Prod. by Dego)

Dego links up with the ever mysterious Jack Davey for “Take My Time” and over a broken beat piano driven track with some chopped guitar added on top she sings in that sultry voice we are all falling in love with. Marc takes it to the NC for a Justus League connection teaming with D. Brock and Phonte for “Give In.”

Not all the tracks are filled with soulful crooning though as Marc hooks up “Sophia” as I’m assuming a tribute track to a special lady of the same name in his life? Whoever she may be, she should feel pretty special having a track this smooth named for her.

The defining moment of the album comes next as Marc sets up an amazing arrangement of “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Need You?)” for Terry Devos to rock, and rock he does. Laying it down as if it were his own, nothing will ever touch the wonderful original, but for 2007 this is something special not to be ignored!

4Hero ft. Terry Devos "Superwoman" (Prod. by Marc Mac)

And while I’ve chosen to ignore much of the work from Dego here (I won’t lie, I do prefer Marc’s more soulful approach) it isn’t to be overlooked. His style is much more in line with the electronic scene these two emerged out of in the 90s, but it is obvious he is attempting to push his sound into the next realm laying down some of the best broken beat styled music I’ve heard done. On top of his skills, he has an ear for the right vocalists for his tracks bringing Bembe Segue in for “Something in the Way” and utilizing the silky vocal tones of Lady Alma for the refreshing splash “Sink or Swim.”

If you like your music blended across genres and never fully stepping into any one style this album is sure to impress, but it may also impress those who miss their old soul music and crave for an updated sound – 4Hero is your key to the soul of the future.

Bonus web only video: 4Hero ft. Ursula Rucker "The Awakening"

The Musik Lounge Podcast, Take 2

Took a week off to re-group and see how I could revamp this podcast and pass it off to y'all! So here it is, in all it's glory The Musik Lounge Podcast Volume 2.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Jay-Z "The Blueprint 2: The GIft & The Curse"

Upon the delivery of The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse Jay-Z was subjected to a lot of hate. While not fully deserved, it’s hard to listen to The Blueprint next to it’s predecessor and believe that it’s the best Jay-Z could have given us. Filled with his typical commercial fodder, the sprawling two disc effort might be the Jay album you’ve been sleeping on.

Let’s just get this out of the way: This album is not The Blueprint. Aside from the similarity in name and a few producers you shouldn’t expect to hear the same style that was executed to perfection the first time out. Instead be ready for club hits and a more studio oriented sound. The samples aren’t completely gone, but just as present are keyboards and synthed out effects a number of producers continue to perfect so as to avoid the expensive penalty of clearing a sample.

Bringing back the two stars of The Blueprint, Kanye and Just Blaze are in heavy attendance here with them contributing four and seven beats respectively. Jay also reached out to some old friends getting The Neptunes down for several cuts as well as Timbaland. The inclusion of these two goes a long way to explain the club sound much of the first disc (The Gift) has.

In listening to these tracks you have to let them exist for what they are. I won’t claim they are musical masterpieces (although if a club track’s purpose is to get the girls to shake their ass, these would most certainly succeed) but the Neptunes and Timbo have controlled pop music for a number of years for a reason: They do what the do well. From “Excuse Me Miss” to “The Bounce” and all the tracks in between you won’t be able to deny the rhythm ingrained in these knocking tracks.

But beyond these mindless moments of sheer entertainment, we see Jay give us more of what we love. Smack in the middle of The Gift disc we see No I.D. connect with Jay for the first time and smash it out of the park with a stellar beat based around some of that classic P-Funk only George Clinton could be responsible for. If this wasn’t enough “All Around the World” features LaToiya Williams singing a stellar hook, sounding fresh out the 70s.

Many of the Kanye selections here leave a bit to be desired (above video being a big one), but he brings it altogether for the always enjoyable posse cut “Poppin’ Tags.” With a laidback beat fitted perfectly for it’s guests we see Jay-Z, Big Boi, Killer Mike and Twista all spit game about the hustle and their fresh gear they constantly cop. Superficial? Yes. But you know you love it.

Mr. West delivers another stellar beat (50 percent average? ‘Ye can do better) on disc 2 (The Curse) with Jay’s open letter “Some People Hate” – you can imagine how Jay handles the verses. Next up is the title cut and it serves as the follow up dis track at Nas and everyone else that took his side in the aftermath of “Takeover.” With a cinematic beat courtesy of Charlemagne chopping up a fine Ennio Morricone sample, this is one of the finer tracks here.

The Curse disc as a whole is darker, with less club oriented tracks. Beans and Face join up with Jay again, their third teaming in a year. Just like the other tracks “Some How, Some Way” is the perfect mix of emotion and lyrical decadence we have come to expect from this team. Just Blaze creates a bubbling track for them to express their hope for change, and you can’t help but feel the positivity in their voices.

Just Blaze is a constant presence on this second disc and he rarely disappoints. Bringing back the monster “U Don’t Know” from The Blueprint and adding M.O.P. to the mix? You can't go wrong. On the haunting tale of parental neglect, Justin Smith gives the perfect audio back drop for Jay to tell his street symphony “Meet the Parents.”

Never forgetting the past, they also decide to update the classic Jeru and Premo cut delivering “Bitches and Sisters” to utter perfection. As Jay breaks down the differences between these two species of females you would be hard pressed to argue with his analysis. If this isn’t enough, Just pounds out the hardest beat on the album and includes some of his trademark cuts, letting the N.W.A. crew assist Jigga in his lyrical assault on all the bitches in the world.

At one point on the album Jay says “This must have been what the nigga Pac felt like when he made Me Against the World, All Eyez on Me.” Now this may be wishful thinking on Jay’s part in hoping that he could deliver something of that quality to us back to back – but in a lot of ways the parallels are there. Jay doesn’t abandon the personal touch that made The Blueprint the album many of us listened to as we watched NY burn, he shows us his world. Full of glitz and glamour, pitfalls and successes, he lives a decadent life and that is conveyed in the beats and rhymes here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Wests other Producers

With the end of the year rapidly approaching, I had to weigh in on a couple more producer comps the year has seen released. With strong showings from both Jake One and Statik Selektah you would think we had been blessed with enough heat from the always on their gind underground beatmakers, but instead we have also been blessed with two from west coast legends DJ Revolution and DJ Babu.

Babu dropped the third volume of his Duck Season joint filled with his dusty brand of funky and thumping Hip Hop tracks. The Beat Junkies/Dilated Peoples representative digs deep pulling a number of fresh and unknown samples out of his crates and sets them up with hard drums and a great assortment of guest emcees.

Opening with his crew for a quick burst of energy to get you into the mood Duck Season 3 knocks from the start. Quickly getting into album cuts we see M.O.P. do what they do best on “Dearly Departed” - Babu sounds like he was meant to give the Brownsville bombers those heat rocks.

DJ Babu ft. Little Brother, Joe Scudda & D-Brock "Fan Mail"

From here the line up never falters with the Justus League crew coming through rocking like they do and an interesting pairing of Doom and Sean Price proves to work great with both NY emcees going in over a more up tempo and slightly left of center Babu construction here.

DJ Babu ft. Strong Arm Steady "O.G."

While the aesthetic of the album lends itself well to the east coast, Babu doesn’t forget his home bringing out a number of the next school west coast artists. Strong Arm Steady continues to impress over what might be the best beat here for “O.G.” – where Babu found that sample is a mystery but it’s an amazing example of what a producer can do when his crate game is top class.

DJ Babu ft. Evidence "For Whatever It's Worth"

His Dilated fam comes through again for solo go rounds, Evidence on the impressive “For Whatever It’s Worth” which my Seattle folks might recognize as the beat that lost Babu his spot in the Big Tune beat battle last year. This isn’t to say the beat is lacking, just not what a crowd in a club is looking for! Rakaa teams with Kardinal for the fun “2 Feet” with both emcees flexing lyrical muscle, even if Kardinal’s flow seems a bit sloppy.

With tracks from Termanology, A.G., MED, Guilty Simpson, Bishop Lamont, Percee P, Oh No, and many others Duck Season 3 will stand next to any of the producer comps released this year or any other as a great demonstration of Babu’s skill on the MPC and behind the decks, as he takes things one step further taking the time to blend each track into the next – FRESH!

Continuing the trend of putting something a little different into the mix to keep your album from getting completely lost in the shuffle (Rev needs this, you see what else dropped with him?) DJ Revolution shows off his considerable skills on the cuts with the delivery King of the Decks on Duck Down records, but don’t let the NY from LA connection fool you, Rev shows both coasts love here!

Teaming up with a number of guests, like all these comps have done, Rev pairs emcee’s together with other acts or a great beat for them to destroy. KRS comes through to pay tribute to the art of the DJ and continue his crusade for the culture, keep going Kris we need someone to represent us!

Rev connects the two best emcees from the 313, in what is as far as I know their first collabo (and hopefully not the last). Hearing Guilt and Royce attack his beat is as good as you might imagine it to be and these Detroit heavy hitters prove why their names ring bells.

Of course he connects with his Duck Down family, giving the BCC a great smoked out beat for Buck to kick it off to and the whole team follows suit – Starang is still the sickest in the camp! Special Teamz also come through for the hilarious “Big Top” which, like the well placed vocal sample states is about the circus of clowns rap is today.

Revolution’s west coast heritage isn’t forgotten however as he brings out LA legend Tony G to break down the who’s who of the DJ culture present in the city and responsible for it’s sound, before dropping into an updated “Funky Piano” done to perfection by Bishop Lamont, Crooked I and Styliztik Jones.

DJ Revolution ft. Bishop Lamont, Crooked I & Styliztik Jones "Funky Piano 2008"

Jones being the only unknown here gets another shot to impress this time alongside another unknown Kbiemean for “Willie Lynch” and while their dope emcees, like so many west coast acts they just don’t quite seem to have that X factor that will catapult them to the masses – but keep an eye out for them, they will be making waves in the years to come.

As I mentioned earlier, Rev uses the album to demonstrate his skills with the cuts and he does it often. Never getting old however, it’s incredibly impressive to hear him get busy alongside Q-Bert and DJ Spinbad on their respective features. It’s also amazing to see an album released with tracks dedicated to the art of the scratch, DJ’s and producers take notice – this stuff is part of the culture for a reason!

Strong Arm Steady, Evidence, Defari, Termanology and Joell Ortiz round out some of the highlights here all doing their thing on the mic, if you have been a fan of any of the work these cats have been putting out as of late you won’t be let down by what they blessed Rev with.

DJ Revoltution ft. Defari "Spit Ridiculous"

On the beat front, this might be on the lower scale of things. Revolution is a fresh producer, but this definitely takes the cake as being dedicated to a certain dusty vintage sound that can only take you so far. While he is digging deep chopping these samples up and laying ‘em down with some hard drums, he rarely steps out this box.

But Rev hasn’t worked in radio all his life for nothing and just like “The Wake Up Show” captured everyone’s attention for so many years, Rev takes the same approach in design to the album keeping it always forward moving and progressive along with the inclusion of some well placed comments from other DJ’s King of the Decks will keep you listening to track twenty four and beyond.

Bonus MP3: DJ Revolution ft. Blaq Poet & Bumpy Kuckles "Damage"