Chance the Rapper’s sophomore digi-release lets folks know he’s more than just “people with ideas.” He’s an emotive writer, a funny dude and a talented musician. And for what it’s worth, his new disc, “Acid Rap,” trumps most anything Chicago’s offered in the last few years. But what he’s left behind since issuing “#10Day” last year is a dynamic sense of composition. Lyrically, there’s no fall off—although Chance does break out that weird strangled croak a bit more often—but musically, the dusty sense of wonder’s been usurped. Everything’s slickly done and well produced. So, for those expecting thirteen tracks of De La Soul-inspired beats, it’s not here in the same volume. What Chance has replaced all that with is just about as entrancing, though. Beats are smooth, guests are plentiful—perhaps a bit too much—and the MC reflects on what he’s accomplished. Read the rest of this entry »
A decade after her smash hit “Thank You” put this English singer on the pop map and five years after 2008’s “Safe Trip Home,” Dido reemerges with this concise album that brings together all the nuances of her style, blending folk-rock, electronica and straight-ahead pop. The album opens with the acoustic ballad “No Freedom,” whose lyrics reflect on the necessity of allowing people to have freedom within the confines of a relationship. The title track makes a playful allusion to the lover “who got away,” the sort of utopian dream-like person who many of us were unable to keep by our sides. Read the rest of this entry »
Despite most of G-funk’s primary proponents disappearing—when was the last time anyone heard from Battlecat?—or simply moving on and adapting, a handful of recordings from the 1990s still stand up. Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s early efforts rank among that memorable clutch of albums. And while jail and line-up changes have kept the ensemble from fulfilling its early promise, Bone remains a unique brand in hip-hop. Shepherded to stardom by N.W.A.’s Eazy E, the group cultivated an approach to rapping that incorporated harmonized choruses that in lesser hands would relegate its recordings to the adult-contemporary bin. What’s commonly glossed over, though, is the fact that Los Angeles’ Project Blowed was mining similar vocal territory, deciding to eschew street-level hyperbole for abstraction and innovation. Some of those folks are still kicking around, but none with platinum albums to their names. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Janette Beckman
Singer-songwriter Jose James has a lot of jazz in his sound thanks to the longtime influence he has had from the genre and also the experience with performing with giants like Wynton Marsalis, McCoy Tyner and others. When he first started out, he was more of a jazz vocalist with urban tendencies than anything else. As the years passed, however, he has finally found his sound, which can be described as a blend of hip-hop and R&B with strong jazz undertones.
This is evidenced by two songs from his fourth disc, “No Beginning No End” (Blue Note). “It’s All Over Your Body” opens mostly with drums and percussion, and a soft bass line joins in shortly before James’ almost whispered baritone comes in. The instrumentation is subtle (with some brass added for good measure) so the listener focuses on his voice and the message he wants to deliver, while the blues-inflected “Trouble” feels like a classic Motown-era track without sounding dated. James’ delivery is straightforward, honest and refreshingly Auto tune-free. (Ernest Barteldes)
January 30 at Lincoln Hall, 2424 North Lincoln, (773)525-2501, 9pm. $15.
Photo: Angel Ceballos/Robotangel.com
By Dave Cantor
A few weeks back, Guillermo Scott Herren and Ramble John Krohn played a show in San Francisco after not having performed on the same bill in almost ten years. Hitting the stage, these gentlemen performed as Prefuse 73 and RJD2.
Musically dissimilar, Krohn and Herren have traversed similar paths through adversity, releasing music encompassing an unwieldy range of influence. Herren’s had the good sense to erect various pseudonyms to work under, differentiating his Spanish-language pop constructions under the guise of Savath & Savalas from the production work being released as Prefuse 73. Krohn was simply clobbered after releasing “Third Hand,” a collection of pop songs at odds with his established DJ persona, under the RJD2 banner. Discerning Herren’s various intentions, though, hasn’t insulated the New York-based producer from criticism. But releasing work at the rate he does almost ensures pissing off some of his most dedicated fans.
“Me going down different paths, and maybe alienating my audience, it wasn’t my intention,” Herren says over the phone. “The last record I did [2011’s “The Only She Chapters”], I won’t even call it psychedelic, it’s a palette of sound and frequencies. I flushed it out of my head, and I’ve been reevaluating my own approach to beats.” Read the rest of this entry »
Masta Ace never went away, he just needs a comeback. And issuing “MA DOOM: Son of Yvonne” could have worked toward providing that. Only problem with collaborating with DOOM is that an MC may wind up rapping over a bevy of top-tier recycled beats. Either way, Ace issued a trio of well-received full-lengths during the early nineties, though none reached the charts’ upper echelon. While a few tracks connected with listeners—especially Ace’s misleading collaboration with Biz Markie—the rapper’s perspective heralded a critical age in the genre, but also guaranteed a disconnect with his potential fan base. Read the rest of this entry »
Two and a half decades after “Yo! Bum Rush the Show,” Chuck D. and Public Enemy retain the righteousness and displeasure with broad American culture that made its earliest efforts landmarks in hip-hop. “The Evil Empire of Everything” counts as PE’s second disc of the year, but this newest album centers around the Trayvon Martin shooting that occurred earlier in 2012. While it’s unsurprising that Chuck D. has a point of view on those occurrences, it is stunning that the album centers on the incident, opening with 911 calls revealing a still-vibrant American paranoia surrounding black kids in hoodies. The theme’s strung throughout the disc, making “Evil Empire” a concept album, pulling its narrative from journalism’s headlines. Read the rest of this entry »
As a duo, the Cool Kids have issued some work that effortlessly merges old-school tendencies with new adventures in modern production styles. Releasing that handful of mixes and some absurdly titled albums about fish and bicycles allowed Chuck Inglish and Mikey Rocks the gravitas to take a bit of time for solo endeavors. And a youthful uncaring continues to unfold on Inglish’s “WRKOUT” and Rocks’ “Lap of Lux.” Sonically, both albums move away from proper Cool Kids’ production, embracing more of an analog vibe. Ostensibly, “WRKOUT” is professional sounding beat-tape with Inglish taking twenty-eight minutes to explore music that might not have been a good match for an MC—and almost certainly not a perfect match for the Cool Kids. Read the rest of this entry »
Any opportunity to catch one of New York’s rap cognoscenti needs to be heeded, regardless of the situation. Since the release of Nas’ latest album—this year’s “Life is Good”—folks have been discussing whether or not having a ghost writer (if that’s actually the case) somehow dismisses the MC’s accomplishments. Before arriving at some conclusion, take the Rolling Stones and apply roughly the same critical lens. Does the enduring sixties version of the troupe cease to exist because a handful of those songs were penned by another hand? Probably not—and no one’s even eviscerated Nas’ latter-day works. Read the rest of this entry »
Matching the lunacy of Kool Keith rhymes, Tha Alkaholiks penchant for boozy word play and occasional Cudi-style sing-alongs (but not too many), Mr. Muthafukin’ eXquire’s “Lost in Translation” arrived last year only to be overshadowed by gimmicky newcomers and a slew of genre luminaries issuing work after being sprung from the clink. Joined by folks like Jake One, El-P and Esoteric, eXquire doesn’t ever lack proper musical backing to discuss the finer points of getting wasted, exploiting your girlfriend and proclaiming his love of breast milk. The MC even takes the time to expound on his affection for fried chicken and all the sides he can snag to make a meal. Read the rest of this entry »