Archive for the ‘Album Reviews’ Category

Bugseed is a dope Japanese producer whose production style lies somewhere in between Nujabes and Pete Rock. Some of the songs on Bohemian Beatnik are sentimental, others reflective, more jazzy, and all head-nod worthy. I often find myself creating fictional story-lines as I listen to instrumental albums, like this one, that stimulate some emotion. Although what comes to mind may tell plenty about the listener, it seems likely the specific thoughts prompted say just as much, and maybe more, about the particular sound of each track (e.g. what the producer was trying to convey and/or why they gave the track its name). It would be interesting to conduct an experiment where people listen to the same instrumental album and describe the mental scenes that form along with each song. I have decided to be the study’s first participant.

I am walking down Bourbon Street in New Orleans after something great just happened to me (maybe killing an interview?). I have developed the false identity of an envied and respected celebrity. My thoughts switch from jolliness and self-appreciation for my recent success and excitement for my optimistic future.

I am dehydrated and feeling a faint bit dizzy in a foreign land, but a reoccurring thought gives me something to look forward to.

A tough decision is haunting me and completely taking over my thoughts. I continue to doubt the choice I am often convinced is the right one.

(At this point I have stopped reading the names of the tracks as they play (although I know some when I hear them), as they have likely affected my imagination).

A man has brought his drum set to a busy urban walkway, playing the same pattern over and over again. Some other street musicians have been listening for a while and have decided to add their own sound.

A wealthy white couple has decided to throw a 1930’s-style jazz ball set in contemporary New York. Everyone is somehow dancing in synch.

It’s a slow day at the factory. One of the vital machines has broken. It appears all employees are stuck in a black hole of reflection and introspection. This is an important day for the oppressed factory workers.

I am witnessing a lot of Americanization in China as I walk down a main drag – in peoples’ dress especially.

A depressing realization has come over me. I need to re-think some things and reach out to the right people.

It’s a beautiful day on Martha’s Vineyard. My friends and I have nothing planned so we’ve decided to sit outside and share our new favorite jams. Some of us are realizing that our taste for certain sounds may be shifting. It is a positive experience for everyone.

Excited to be in Berlin, I venture out to explore the riverfront and meet interesting people. So far, the day is not a disappointment. Confidence and optimism are reaching a career-high.

I am nervously preparing for something important. I am doing whatever I can to get into my element but the fear of failure is overwhelming my ability to concentrate. I am in a cognitive battle with myself, one that feels hopeless.

I overcame the aforementioned battle.

A beautiful woman is dancing ballet down an avenue on a sunny day, unconcerned with who is watching. Everyone around seems to be in high spirits, reacting positively to this uncharacteristic behavior.

A jump back into reality. Distraction yields no imaginative thoughts.

What a dope song.


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How to listen to Freddie Joachim/Leaves in 3 steps:
1. Sit, lie, or walk
2. Listen with quality headphones
3. See what happens

Freddie Joachim is back with his classic, nostalgic instrumental design. Man can you get lost in his sound. Crisp drum kicks keep you popping back awake as your mind takes a ride to who knows where or when. Each track will evoke some new recollection or thought chain.

If you haven’t listened to Midway yet, what are you doing?

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Where I listened to the album (Berlin, Germany)

Well, Tiger Speak has become even jazzier. After first hearing their self-titled EP almost two years ago, I had much difficulty naming a mainstream characterization of their sound. Calling it jazz-influenced hip hop was understating the jazz but at the same time Ryan Easter’s rapping provided an essential element to their music and overall vibe. ­The only description that seemed fair was a constant change-up from jazz to rap – what I called transportation from a 60’s jazz club to a contemporary rap venue (when speaking of their live performance).  On the spectrum of straight jazz to straight rap I had them at about JAZZ ———-here———————RAP.  This new live album puts them about JAZZ —— here ————————-RAP.  Of course this is a silly and arbitrary way of getting my point across but I think it gets my point across. I now choose to refer to their music as Spoken Jazz – a whole lotta sexy jazz mixed with some verbose spoken word poetry.

Ryan Easter is quite the MC. Sometimes he talks, sometimes he spits trap-style, other times he raps as fast as he can, but regardless of the technique he’s delivering, he gets every single damn word he’s trying to say into each line and every verse.  He’s like the MF Doom who refuses to spill his words into the next bar.  Easter is the out-of-breath poet trying to keep up with the speedy sound his musical counterparts partake in.

Tiger Speak could successfully survive as a jazz orchestra and at times they create a sound that doesn’t really sound hip-hoppy at all. But I think that’s what makes them so cool. They know how to keep a bit quiet, laying down jazz club background sounds while the MC controls the mic. They also know how to completely let loose and belt a musical interlude that will make you forget you are listening to 2014 rap…and then Easter comes screeching in while the jazzsters turn down their stereo. Then they take turns showing each other their skills. It’s teamwork at work.

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Japanese producer, Shin-Ski played a large part in the completion of my thesis over these last few months.  His beats were arguably so entrancing that my progress slowed when his jazzy, multilayered tunes penetrated my lobes, but he helped make working many hours a day a feasible endeavor.

Planetarium is an instrumental project featuring Eastern Nujabes-like sounds mixed with classic, East-coast drum kicks.  The album is in some sense bipolar, starting out with the incredibly upbeat and uplifting “Fomalhault” and fading out with the contemplative vibes of “Vega.”  No complaints here.

Play the whole album next time you want to be modestly productive yet  markedly happy.

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I was recommended this instrumental album by Regular Cats artist Jay Illustrate. I threw it on this morning as I was getting ready to exit the fog and enter my day and it certainly helped. If you’re looking for chilled out beats with subtly translated 70’s and 80’s allusions spread throughout, then I recommend giving this a listen. It’s the kind of tape that you can throw on and forget about worrying about the music situation for the next decent while. You’ll be content.

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Welcome to Blue Chips 2. The previous Blue Chips stands alone as my favorite mixtape, narrowly beating 1999. I have been waiting so long for this tape to drop, and I just thought I’d bring you with me on my first time listening to the tape. I have high expectations firstly, because the first one was so good, but even more simply, the combination of Party Supplies and Action Bronson just equates to gold. Let’s take a trip.

1.) “Silverado” –  What a way to start off the tape, following the explosions comes an classic 80’s piano sounding beat that bounces right along with slow roasted rhymes spit calmly out at us. Bronson lets us know he’s not messing around with any lame bars, just raw Queens encapsulated.

2.) “Intro” (ft. Big Body Bes) – Another appearance from the mysterious Big Body Bes just making me feel that not only am I not working hard enough, but I should get cooler.

3.) “Pepe Lopez” – Here we have Bronson formally introduce us to Blue Chips 2, and I don’t know how you’ll feel but this song just made me so happy.  Simple ingenuity on the beat from Party Supplies with the sample from the classic oldies hit “Tequila”Not a single hook to be seen so far, Bronson is just shredding everything. Also, not a track so far longer than 2 minutes.

4.) “The Don’s Cheek” – What is this? I don’t know but I love it. This unconventional beat sounds like a medieval Japanese musician was influenced by some banjo players from the Old West (forget chronology, its overrated). These bars are just incredible “I got the face like a grown lion/my people hold the iron/predict the weather from the wind like an old Mayan/hold my son up, show him to the kingdom/while all his blood brothers became drug runners in England”…damn yo.

5.) “It Concerns Me” –  This sounds like some Russian mobster from the 70’s type of good good. Party Supplies is going strong as hell. Bronson’s bars? Obviously they’re awesome — but then you hear his beatless rhymes for a minute or so that just begs for goosebumps.

6.) “Practice” – Allen Iverson sample, at the beginning is so awesome. Damn, all of these beats are classy as hell, and I can never ever rap these things. This sounds like one of the more mellow tracks off of Saaab Stories. 

7.) “Jackson & Travolta” (ft. Mayhem Lauren) – This is sounding a little more serious, a little less whimsical. No doubt to pay tribute to the legendary Pulp Fiction  duo. Here is the first musical feature with Mayhem Lauren, and he’s got some bars of his own “This ain’t boom bap, homie its doom rap”. Wow, this beat has so much layering, feels like a sonic parfait.

8.) “Through the Eyes of a G” (ft. Ab-Soul) – Ooooh, I hear that Quincy Jones sample that was used also in Pharcyde‘s “Passin’ Me By”some tasty snacks for the old school hip-hop heads. I think you can understand the vibe already to this track, “multi-color money, seven different kinds of cheeses/my silhouette resemble Jesus, in all seasons”. Still no hooks. The second feature, Ab-Soul, just lays down another reason that skills on the mic have nothing to do with being able to babble rap.

9.) “Contemporary Man” – One of the three tracks that had been released previously. I couldn’t stop bumping this, and still won’t. This song is like a mash-up straight out of the 80s, and Bronson switches up his flow and delivery with every beat change, 5 of them to be exact. A++ for both Supplies and Bronson. *Bronson singing?!*

10.) “Twin Peugeots” (ft. Big Body Bes & Mac Miller) – Another of the pre-released triad, Action and Big Body do them. Mac Miller now joins the list of features, and I still just can’t believe how much better he’s gotten in the last year or so. Drumless beats ftw.

11.) “Man In The Mirror” – This is, in my opinion, the interlude of the mixtape. It sounds more like an advertisement than a song, but not an ad in the conventional way. You’ll know what I mean. It sounds like some MF Doom supervillain interlude hot noise.

12.) “Midget Cough” – He sounds like he’s smoked out on this track, and he probably was when he made this one. This beat is so damn smooth, THAT BASS LINE. Here is the smoke music, and it’s so so so nice. This is that Sunday morning type of track.

13.) “It’s Me” – The third of the previously released tracks. I loved this song from the first time I heard it, and still just flicks on a light in my head every time. Some tropical sounding steel drum beat. Then all of a sudden…an ad for Enbrel?

14.) “Flip Ya” (ft. Retchy P) – This sounds like there’s a live band behind the articulation of Bronson as a man. Those horns doe. Then here comes Retchy P, who I’ve never heard before right now, but he does not let Bronson down as a feature on what is shaping up to be a quality album.

15.) “9-24-13” (feat. Big Body Bes) – OK WE’RE HERE. The long-awaited sequel to one of my favorite Bronson songs, “9-24-11”
has long been steeped in mysticism and ambiguity, but here I see the light. This song deserves it’s own write-up, but seeing as how this post is long enough, I’ll keep it short. It has clear reminiscence of it’s 2 year-older brother with it’s wailing sample of a (beautiful) woman, but less in your face and more of a make you sit down and listen vibe. Add another monologue from Body, and you can see why it’s the sequel to that song. Listen to this one first,

16.) “Rolling Thunder” – So this song was supposed to feature Cam’ron, but I guess it fell through. Justin Nealis of Party Supplies takes the classic 50s slow dance song from high school and flips it into a surprisingly appropriate beat for these bars that Bronson is spitting. This mixtape is something unlike anything I have heard. SO MANY RANDOMLY SAMPLED COMMERCIALS, THIS ONE WAS IN SPANISH.

17.) “Amadu Diablo” – This reminds me of “Pouches of Tuna” off of Blue Chips because of its lack of drums and plethora of rhymes. The back half of this mixtape is so smooth, slow, and funky.

18.) “In The City” (ft. Jeff Woods) – I’ve never heard a Bronson song like this before. If you know who Mayer Hawthorne is, then you can pretty much grasp the idea of what this one sounds like. Makes me want to hear that collab. Also, Bronson’s vivid descriptions just hit me on this one, even though it’s not his best lyrical song on the tape.

19.) “I Adore You” – Here we are at the end, it’s been a ride but the end track is important and should really make the album/mixtape or whatever come full circle. This song sounds like Bronson is rapping over the end credits of a movie, the perfect way to go out.

Overall: Bronson rips through this mixtape at times, paying homage to the first Blue Chips, and at others, we see a sensitive man who really is just like any other dude around – only everyone else pales next to his magnificent creativity and persona.  This tape is way classier, way more G than its predecessor, and I couldn’t have asked for anything else. This just might be Bronson’s best work yet.

Favorite Tracks: “9-24-13”, “Rolling Thunder”, “Pepe Lopez”, “The Don’s Cheek”


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Lost in the hype of the drop of the big three albums, is Statik Selektah’s, Extended Play.  Unlike Danny Green, though, the fourth fiddle to the Spurs Big three, Statik’s latest album won’t shock you with its explosive play.  Extended Play is far from a flop, but it doesn’t provide any groundbreaking material, nor is it overly progressive.  It does, however, contain several songs that exhibit everything listeners expect from Statik: great beats, upbeat strings, and soulful samples.


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To echo trondon’s sentiments, today is a Festivus miracle.  Some of the best contemporary hip hop artists have seemingly decided to make June 18 the day of major releases.  It’s overwhelming; I imagine a similar feeling would arise if Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Newsroom, Shameless, Arrested Development, and Parks and Recreation all came out with new, full series the same day.  I would have no idea where to start and I would want to take my time with each, but I would certainly succumb to the itching and barrel into each as fast as possible. The leak of  Born Sinner, which resulted in a high-quality stream from J Cole himself, was a blessing.  It gave me the chance to take in the whole piece, piece by piece, in peace.  It has been impossible to avoid all of the ten word reviews coming from fans screaming everywhere a voice is allowed on the internet, but I think I successfully entered my listening experience an objective critic, knowing hyperbolic statements describe most immediate reactions to anything new.

My J. Cole fandom has existed since he released The Warm Up, thanks to Salz’s repeated efforts to show me his favorite tracks from his first mixtape, The Come Up.  I loved everything I heard, with each song seeming better than the last, a theme that certainly held true with the release of Friday Night Lights, which I crown as the best mixtape ever recorded.  What was an intelligent MC spitting verses over some of his favorite old school beats, became an incredibly talented producer creating his own records.  He was pronounced the one to save mainstream rap.  Cole World: Sideline Story was, in my mind, a disappointment. It was a great album, nonetheless, yet not enough of it was J. Cole (in spirit). Songs like “Can’t Get Enough,” “Mr. Nice Watch,” and “Nobody’s Perfect,” seemed made for hype – collaborations that would bring in the average music fan that didn’t follow hip hop religiously.  It worked.  J. Cole has been in the limelight ever since, but those were songs any decent rapper could make; maybe that’s an exaggeration but in the same way Lasers was rejected by Lupe fans, I believe if a different, somewhat talented MC replaced J. Cole/Lupe on some of the more catchy tracks, they would have sounded basically the same. Such is absolutely untrue of Food & Liquor or any of J. Cole’s mixtapes and even songs like “Rise & Shine,” “Breakdown,” and “Sideline Story.”  His recent Truly Yours releases gave hope that he may be ready to make his own sounds reappear, but also provided worry that these would be side projects to compensate for less control on his upcoming album.  I rejoice, given the former has come to fruition.

J. Cole kicks out the punch lines on Born Sinner and replaces them with introspective lyrics filled with self-reflection.  He hardly holds back on his own beats, rarely “singing” or dragging out lines, instead maintaining syllable synchronization with the self-served production – doing this the cop-out way at times by filling in the ever malleable word: n****, when convenient.  But this scheme is reminiscent of his mixtape days and it enhances his flow capabilities; so, whatever works.  Similarly nostalgic are the songs “LAnd Of The Snakes” and “Forbidden Fruit,” as Cole essentially freestyles over a couple of his favorite 90’s beats (see: The Come Up and The Warm Up).  “LAnd Of The Snakes” is Outkast’s “Da Art Of Storytellin’ (Part 1)” with an added base kick that actually sounds fantastic.  “Forbidden Fruit” is A Tribe Called Quest’s “Electric Relaxation” with the original sample used just a tad differently.  In no way are these remakes offensive to the originals; tribute is being paid to songs that inspired a modern artist to pursue the life of an MC.  He repeats “This the s*** I used to roll down Lewis Street with” in “LAnd Of The Snakes,” paying homage to Outkast and, given the theme present in some of his tracks, hoping he can be similarly respected in hip hop one day.  Cole even gets political at some points, talking about race and wealth on “Chaining Day” and “Rich N*****.”  J. Cole has always been deep at times, but one must respect his change from “Workout” to “Let Nas Down.”  It’s not even the fact that he’s versatile, but more that he chose to use the spotlight of his Sophomore album to talk from his head rather than create marketable hits.  He also almost solely produced the entire album, cooking up all but two of the beats on his own, but having co-production credits on each of the outliers.  We don’t see enough in-house producers in hip hop anymore, nevermind an artist who completely creates his own projects.  Born Sinner plays through without any major hiccups and deserves the recognition it has received from most of J. Cole’s fans.  Even the bonus songs (which serve as Truly Yours 3) are excellent.  I see this as a big step up from his debut and a sign that he may spend his career making music for himself, a vision that is essential in order to remain unique and timeless.

Born Sinner: 4.6/5   


Probably my favorite track from the album:


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June 18th is probably going to be remembered as the biggest day in hip-hop of the summer, perhaps even the year. With major releases from Kanye West, J. Cole, Statik Selektah, and Quasimoto, the blogosphere is frantically throwing together what to make of all of these albums. As of right now, 10:30 am EST, Mac Miller‘s new album, Watching Movies With The Sound Off, is third in sales behind Yeezus and Born Sinner. That’s the way most people would have predicted, including myself. Beating Kanye and Cole in the first week is a tall task to say the least, even for someone like Mac, but as he says in an interview, he doesn’t care about the irrelevant first week. The first thing anyone will notice when listening is that the production is top-notch…all of it. There isn’t a bad beat on the album, which is impressive when considering that the bulk was produced by Miller himself (under the pseudonym Larry Fisherman), and exciting still to learn that there is accompanying production from Diplo (“Goosebumpz”), Flying Lotus (“S.D.S.”), Tyler, the Creator (“O.K.”), Pharell (“Objects in the Mirror“), & Chuck Inglish (“Gees”). This is an enormous change from production off of many of his projects, such as the majority of production of 2011’s Blue Slide Park being handled by I.D. Labs. 

Apart from the production, the most apparent change we see in Miller’s sophomore effort is the content. He isn’t anyone’s choice for best rapper in the game, but damn did he step his game up. His collaborations are smart, and it seems he is more interested in making a quality track rather than a bunch of hits. Spectacular featured performances from Ab-Soul, Earl Sweatshirt, Action Bronson, ScHoolboy Q, and Jay Electronica paired with shockingly introspective lyrics from the once labeled “frat-rap” star produce some excellent pieces of music, not just the next banger for kids to listen to for 6 months.

I’m thinking this album is why the big three of Action Bronson, ScHoolboy Q and Mac have a Vine War raging on.

We find the new Mac Miller at the tail end of his drugged-out rise to power. A boy-turned-man at a crossroad, dealing with a maturing fan base as well as a need to be honest with himself: “It must be the druuuugs that got us thinkin’ crazy sh*t” – “Red Dot Music”, which has an amazing hook by the way. The lyrics on his intro, “The Star Room” are honest and raw, not acting hard, not trying to force anything. Let’s just say that the new Mac is far and away different from his last major release, and it’s just incredible.

4 out of 5 stars

Notable tracks: “The Star Room”, “Avian”, “Matches” (ft. Ab-Soul)“Red Dot Music” (ft. Action Bronson), “Goosebumpz”

Instrumental for “Watching Movies” (prod. Mike Dutchy)

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So I’ve already hopped onto the leak of the track off the new Action Bronson/Harry Fraud EP concoction that predated it’s release by a day (6/11/13), and hopefully you know it well by now, but that track is called “The Rockers” and features Wiz Khalifa. Another single was released in May, “Strictly 4 My Jeeps”, a very contrasting feel. There is a noticeable difference in atmosphere, vibe, theme and presentation to these tracks, a pattern that follows through the rest of the 7-track album.

1.) “72 Virgins” (feat. Big Body Bes) – A calm ease into the EP, no drum rack ever drops in this beat on a song clearly focused on giving the fans those classic Bronson lines and those classic BBB color commentaries. There was no better way to set the tone for the lyrics and beats to come, but there are still some surprises.

2.) “Triple Backflip” – Yet another silky smooth beat, with some smoked-out bars that will make any mood start moving in slow motion. The vibe is still cool and collect, but starting to pick up ever so slightly. Notable lines “Come, hold my dick while i take a piss/shake it off put it back inside my boxer short/ ridin’ a drop-top lobster Porsche/ inside the joint I got some pasta sauce”.

3.) “No Time” – My favorite track on the album, starts off with a 20 second tease of a soft piano, then a bass line and drums drop in an instant. Impossible to ignore that foot tap or head nod. In my opinion, its the most lyrically impressive  song on the release. Notable lines, the two part, non rhyming drop-ins of Dikembe Mutombo: “The joint longer than Mutombo finger”…“Catch me swervin’ side to side like Mutombo finger.” — Like this…

4.) “The Rockers” (feat. Wiz Khalifa) – Not known for his hooks, but Bronson’s hook on this one is one of the coolest I’ve ever heard. Indubitably the best beat on the album, and I had forgotten how nice Wiz can sound…when he actually tries.

5.) “Strictly 4 My Jeeps” –  Instantly a faster, harder-hitting beat, and Bronson responds with some faster, harder bars. Brought to life in the music video that was shot with Riff Raff, features some big, beautiful women, a fresh jeep, and some pork chops. I can only imagine how hard it must have been for the film crew to watch those get eaten in front of them.

6.) “Alligator” –  A new kind of rapping about wealth. Who else would want to buy an alligator for their birthday? Bronson being Bronson, rapping about themes everyone raps about, but rapping about things in those themes that no one has ever thought of before. But beat on the longest song on the EP (5:31, a minute longer than the second longest), changes with two minutes left to an incredibly serious, humorless track, with some somber and morbid rhymes to close out the track. Goosebumps here at the end. The EP is winding down.

7.) “Seven Series Triplets” (feat. Raekwon & Prodigy) It’s a New York legends party to close the EP. Such a great combination of Mobb Deep‘s Prodigy and Wu-Tang‘s Raekwon, a personal favorite of mine. A beat that is distinctly Harry Fraud, but has catered to respecting the old-school natures of the legendary hip-hop veterans. It’s so awesome that to end the EP, Raekwon has the last words – no Big Body, no Bronson, nobody but Raekwon. Doing it right.

In my humble, amateur opinion: 4.5 of 5.

Buy it on iTunes and support one of the realest.

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