There’s a lotta club music out there capable of summoning images of greasy-tan women and broheims doin’ rails in the bathroom or folks in shiny shirts grinding on the dancefloor. However we arrived at a point in the music’s history when that’s pretty much the norm is regrettable. But UK producer Nightmares on Wax has nothing to do with that–and in fact, has cultivated a recorded legacy that’s so far removed from those stereotypes, it’s difficult to understand how a lesser strain of the genre exists. Beginning in a time when DJ culture was coming into its own in England allowed for NoW to draw from a blinding kaleidoscope of source material, including soul, Jamaican styles and, of course, now-classic D.A.I.S.Y. Age hip-hop. Since releasing his first disc in 1991 and the pair of quintessential albums following that (“Smokers Delight” and “Carboot Soul”), he’s swung focus from genre to genre, synthesizing it all for the recently released “Feelin’ Good,” which was recorded at his farmhouse on Ibiza. Read the rest of this entry »
He’s included mention of Jay Z in at least a few verses, and reviewed “Watch the Throne” for the National Post. The decided focus Shad, a Kenya-born, Ontario-raised MC, has put on one of the most popular rappers in the world is a bit confusing. Yeah, he’s rich and his buddy’s married to a Kardashian, but neither of those things has made his bloated discography anything other than middling. Shad shouldn’t carry around the desire to be a Jay Z, as he spits out pretty early on his fourth long-player, “Flying Colours.” Jay Z’s “Magna Carta” was another lame recording, and Shad’s apparently been gripped by enough inspiration to issue not just that fourth album, but a collaboration with Skratch Bastid, “The Spring Up,” in 2013. Beyond the guy’s clear ability to select proper production and write rhymes (that might not move too far beyond what we’ve all come to know as conscious raps), his story’s significantly more engaging than that New York MC’s. Shad’s family left Kenya, something he mentions on most of his releases, when he was a kid. But the successes his family’s achieved, cataloged on “Fam Jam (Fe Sum Immigrins),” pretty easily trumps bein’ poor, slingin’ crack, and issuing a truckload of boring albums. Read the rest of this entry »
Cordoning off the Deltron 3030 project from the rest of Del tha Funkee Homosapien’s work is a tough task. When initially released, Del was about to embark on his Gorillaz odyssey, but was also engaged with his “Both Sides of the Brain”-era material. It was a watershed few years for the East Bay MC. And it’s because of that few years—not to mention raucous classics like “I Wish My Brother George Was Here” and “No Need For Alarm”—that the last decade seems like a letdown. Teaming with Def Jux should have resulted in a classic, but “Eleventh Hour” was a truncated mess. The litany of mixtapes and collaborations didn’t do much either, apart from necessitating trips back to those aforementioned nineties classics. So the news that Del, Dan the Automator and Kid Koala were set to revisit 3030, and in the company of a huge orchestra, came as a comforting bit of news. To have Del and the Automator tell it, “Event II” is better executed than the initial 3030 album. It’s hard to find a hook, though. Read the rest of this entry »
Expecting Blue Sky Black Death, comprising Kingston and Young God, to retain sonic gestures referring back to its 2006 “A Heap of Broken Images” is kinda ridiculous. But to hear how far the duo’s moved away from those productions is just as surprising. Beginning its recorded life with a double disc featuring guest spots by everyone from Guru to AWOL One, BSBD immediately demanded respect. Confounding listeners in favor of projects supporting Hell Razah and Warcloud, the group moved effortlessly to more thuggish affairs before skittering off to its “Late Night Cinema,” replete with would-be indie tropes. Just two years into their career, the duo seemed capable of assimilating just about any sound it felt necessary to complete a production. After working with rapper Nacho Picasso, BSBD continued its aural explorations several years on by issuing “Skull and Bones,” which counts a choice, pitched-down Black Flag sample. Nothing is in the vein of Death Grips, but BSBD’s ability to craft what’s necessary track-to-track without consideration of source material simultaneously enables the group to entice and repel listeners. Read the rest of this entry »
By John Wilmes
Fake Shore Drive is a Chicago-based hip-hop blog founded in 2007 by Andrew Barber. The site has been instrumental in giving voice to the city’s contemporary hip-hop scenes and stars, including Chief Keef, Young Chop, Vic Mensa and Chance the Rapper. I recently caught up with Barber over email.
A lot of people view FSD as a star-maker; for younger artists, this is especially the case. How much music do people send you guys, on a daily basis?
Well, FSD turns six in October, so over the years we’ve received a steady stream of submissions—and they come from all over the world. Read the rest of this entry »
Few circumstances pose a greater challenge to an artist than following up on the rapid success of youth. For Rakim, his collaboration with Eric B. cemented the legitimacy of an art form still in its budding stages. Contemporary hip-hop has his deft delivery and braggadocio to thank for decades of profitability. This does not mean that Rakim was able to reap said profits. Even after a slew of successful LPs in the eighties, his solo work since has been well regarded if not chart-topping. Hence the essential conflict: how does an artist progress beyond the youthful exuberance that enabled a foundation of inspired expression in favor of new modes of creativity? For lesser souls, it’s simply not possible to continue working without becoming derivative of your own descendants. One bears the misfortune of ripping off those who ripped one off; a copy of a copy of one’s own original. Read the rest of this entry »
Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Emo, Festivals, Hardcore, Hip-Hop, Indie Rock, Pop Punk, Punk, Rap, Rock
Thirteen concurrent thoughts that afflict the bystander of a bus advertisement featuring this year’s Riot Fest lineup: I had no idea The Replacements got back together. Can you imagine how many kids will be singing along to Fall Out Boy and Blink-182? Can you imagine how many of their parents will be singing along to the Violent Femmes? Even without Kim Deal, I don’t think I can see the Pixies enough. What I wouldn’t do to see Debbie Harry duet with Danzig. It’s possible that Guided By Voices have written enough songs for at least one to appeal to every single person on the planet. Flavor Flav of Public Enemy may be the greatest reality television star who ever lived. One of the two Black Flag reunion bands is playing, and so is X, making this one of the best punk shows of the year. If you substitute Brand New and Taking Back Sunday in their place, the same can be said about emo. In fact, local pop punk bands popular in the 1990s are so well represented by the likes of Screeching Weasel, Smoking Popes, The Broadways and The Lawrence Arms, as to lend the festival an air of well-honed sophistication. Read the rest of this entry »
Purity Ring/Photo: Kate Garner
Rap votaries who have not found themselves yet adequately sated by the glut of performances which comprise Chicago’s festival season need only look to the Green Line to fill their needs. The North Coast Music Festival features a healthy dose of hip-hop, with acts spanning the breadth of the gloriously fracturing rap spectrum. The traditionalists can find comfort and nourishment in New York City stalwarts Nas, producer Just Blaze and The Wu-Tang Clan, who will be performing “36 Chambers.” Younger cats are represented by the vastly improved Mac Miller and the druggy, raw stylings of Detroit emcee Danny Brown and Brooklyn’s Flatbush Zombies, both of which etch tracks like acid with sybaritic bars, and K. Flay and Psalm One provide a taste of the non-drill side of the Chicago scene.
Beyond rap, North Coast boasts a rather multifarious lineup, including electropop acts Passion Pit, AlunaGeorge and Purity Ring, the last of which laces the paroxysmal clicks, lumbering low ends, and funeral-shroud aesthetic of trap music with ethereal poetry. Fans of the other kind of trap music, the accusations-of-cultural-tourism-engendering dance-focused kind, can tick and stomp with A-Trak and label mate RL Grime, while Datsik and Afrojack add dubstep and house to the dance card, respectively. Read the rest of this entry »
A line’s been drawn in the sands of rap. Kendrick Lamar’s Twitter-breaking verse on Big Sean’s “Control” called out anyone who might be called his peer or rival, and he called out the rest of the genre too, for that matter; the latest prince of hip-hop has shouted a call-to-arms to the buried lyricists and traditionalists of the world. The more rappers get drunk on the glitz of hit-seeking jams, the more they eschew the narrative, commentary-laden genesis of the genre and contribute to a flashy, opiate-of-the-masses nothing, to put more hands into the air, the worse. So suggests, anyway, the logos of “Control.”
Days after Lamar’s verse got everyone talking, Earl Sweatshirt’s proper debut LP leaked. And “Doris” places itself so firmly on the narrative, verbal side of things that it’ll inevitably act as a pole in the ongoing conversation. And a damn good one, at that. The album’s title speaks to its MC’s throwback stylings—“I love old names,” he says in a radio interview. “I have a lot of geriatric tendencies.” If wordsmithery at the level of this nineteen-year-old—son to South African poet and activist Bra Willie—is considered one of those tendencies, we should be glad that a camp of argument is forming to steel his sort of career (“I’m just glad the culture is getting back on some rap shit,” said Killer Mike, in an interview following the “Control” verse). Read the rest of this entry »
By John Wilmes
Scheduled into one of the headlining sets of Lollapalooza’s second day, and for a sold-out performance at The Bottom Lounge, the night prior, Sacramento-based band Death Grips (described variously as noise rock, noise rap, experimental rap and thrash rap) skipped it all. At The Bottom Lounge there was only a large projection of a fan’s suicide note behind the stage, and the venue’s announcement, moments after they themselves had learned, that the band wouldn’t be coming. In a reaction of incalculable irony, fans then rushed the stage to destroy the band’s equipment, as Death Grips’ angry, caustic tones played over the P.A.—but it later came out that this was not, in fact, their equipment. The next morning, it became clear that they never even got on a plane, and their Lollapalooza set was cancelled. Everyone had been gamed.
The internet exploded with this news. And this wasn’t the first time that Death Grips has scorned their fans, eager to see them—they’ve cancelled large stretches of tours, before, to work on new material instead—or upset the booking and distribution titans of the industry, either. Their most recent album, “No Love Deep Web,” was set to be released by Epic, but the band released it for free instead, on their website, with an erect penis on the cover art. An act of defiance that, after Death Grips refused to undo it, had them dropped from the label. Read the rest of this entry »