» LATEST FEATURES
LITERATURE» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
MUSIC» The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
MUSIC» Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
First of all, the sad news this month is that Camu Tao passed away after a lengthy battle with lung cancer. This founding member of the Weathermen and frequent collaborator with the likes of Cage and El-P was working on his debut solo album, which was supposed to be released on Def Jux this year. His production work always stood out to me - check Cage's "The Death of Chris Palko" (actually Central Services, a collaboration between Tao and El-P) and "Left it to Us." He'll be missed by friends and fans.
Canadian by way of Somalia rapper K'naan releases his excellent new album, The Dusty Foot Philosopher (Interdependent Media) this month. Though the album was originally released in Canada three years ago, the music still sounds fresh and innovative, especially if you're like me and have never heard of K'naan before. Dusty Foot won a Juno Award in 2006, and it's not hard to see why. Over a myriad of beats incorporating rock, electro, and old-school hip-hop, K'naan rhymes, sings, and scats his way through life experiences and observations, all informed by his multi-cultural perspective as an immigrant and hip-hop fiend. Though at times he sounds a bit like Eminem and at other times like Wyclef, K'naan mostly just sounds like himself, and that's a very good thing.
Though marginally better than the bro-dog rock-rap of the Kottonmouth Kings, with whom he's affiliated, Oregon-based MC Dirtball's new effort, Crook County (Suburban Noize), is basically vapid, uninspiring hip-hop. He layers his vocals like an N 2 Deep throwback, while rapping about hallucinogenic mushrooms, moonshine, and being country. This one will definitely appeal to the Insane Clown Posse/Hed PE set, whose numbers are inexplicably large, but not so much to fans of underground hip-hop who require a little finesse in their rap.
Boston's Elemental Zazen has been through some serious shit over the past few years. He lost a good friend, his house burned down, he battled a brain tumor… all events which have informed his new album, The Glass Should Be Full (Gnawledge Records). The insert even features a picture of what is presumably an MRI image of his head. The album is appropriately serious and relatively thoughtful, as tracks like "Disappear" display an existential flair from this skilled MC. The production, courtesy of a bunch of different producers, is hard and banging, matching Zazen's forceful flow throughout (check "No Survivors" for one of the better beats on the record).
Maspyke's Hanif-Jamiyl released his debut solo album way back in March, but since it was overlooked here, let's give it a go now. Krushed Grapes (Bukarance Records) finds the MC pulling a Kool Keith (only much tamer) by exploring his sensual side and celebrating/objectifying the fairer sex over the course of 14 slinky tracks. There's definitely an early-era Slum Village here, especially on tracks like "Yes U R," chock-full of meandering Rhodes lines and clacking drums. The subject does get kind of tiresome after about 20 minutes, but H-J certainly tries to inject it with as much creativity as he can.
J. Rawls and vocalist Middle Child have joined forced on a new album, Rawls & Middle (Polar/Groove Attack). A syrupy neo-soul jaunt, it's saved by Rawls' soulful if not overly exciting production. In fact the album doesn't really wake up until "Kick in the Door," where rapper Wallabe makes his mark. Perhaps this is selling the record short, because for what it is, it's a sultry, emotive affair. It's just that this style of soul music can feel bogged down and repetitive at times. Fortunately, the talents at work here do their best to combat that.
I was really looking for to the new Kidz in the Hall album, The In Crowd (Duck Down/Major League), which came out last month, but I gotta say that, aside from a few tracks, it's good… but not great. Let's start with the great: the "Juice"-bass-beat referencing opening track, "Blackout," the "Sittin' on Chrome"-referencing "Drivin' Down the Block (Low End Theory)," featuring Masta Ace, and the Duck Down fam-featuring (Buckshot, Sean Price) "The Pledge." Do you see the pattern here? The hot shit isn't exactly the most original and innovative shit. But think back to the Souls of Mischief-referencing track from their debut, and maybe it all makes sense. The rest of the album is decent, but never seems to live up to the potential that Naledge and Double-O, not to mention music critics, have set up for them.
On the other hand, another album I was looking forward to and can only say good things about is Vast Aire's Deuces Wild (One Records). The overall tone is grimy and gritty, but don't expect the cacophony of Cannibal Ox here - that should be obvious, though, judging from Aire's post-Ox output. "Mecca and the Ox" does offer a taste of the Ox in 2008, as Vordul Mega shows up for a guest appearance. But tracks like "The Crush" and "God of Air" showcase a new and improved Vast Aire, way less scattered and more thematically focused than on his solo debut. I still like Mighty Joseph better than this one, though…
It came out a year ago, but I just got a copy of the Cancer Rising self-titled disc. This Seattle-based crew is ADD and schizophrenic in the best way, hopping from sample to sample within the course of one track - Black Moon to Wu-Tang, up and down, around and back - furiously spitting rhymes all the while. For some reason, I've heard more Pacific NW hip-hop in the past month or two than in the past year or two, but this is definitely one of the best examples of the whole bunch.
Babygrande has some late May releases of varying degrees of quality. Producer Dame Grease of Jay-Z, T.I. , and The Lox fame has a bizarre vanity project out called Goon Musik. Not really sure what he was thinking here, as his cheesy synth beats are not really augmented by the blustering raps of unknowns like Bigga Threat, Tony Wink, and Grease himself. On the other hand, and other coast, LA crew Custom Made fares better with Original Dynasty. While not the most exceptional release from this crew that I've heard, their intellect, sleek beats, and love and respect for hip-hop shines through a sound that is definitely more East Coast than West Coast.
OK, that's all for now, so until July… e-mail with thoughts and insults, and send me yer shit! I'll listen to it. Glaciers is ghost like Casper.
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.
See other articles by Jonah Flicker.
» MEDIA DOWNLOADS
» GOT STICKERS?
--> Send an with $2 in PayPal funds to cover postage. Don't worry, we'll load you up with enough to cover your town. Then just be patient. They will arrive soon.