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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!
Georgia Anne Muldrow has left Stones Throw and has embarked upon a new path as something of a music impresario. On her new compilation, Georgia Anne Muldrow Presents… Ms. One (E1 Entertainment), she has assembled a group of likeminded artists who share her musical vision. Ranging from sloppy, funky, unique neo-soul - her bread and butter as well - artists like Stacy Epps and Jimetta Rose blend in perfectly with MC's including Black Milk, Big Pooh, and Muldrow's partner, singer and rapper Declaime (Dudley Perkins). This compilation is funky. Seriously.
Want some more LA underground boom-bap? Malkovich Music's Bankruptcy begins with "Iran So Far Away," a riff on A Flock of Seagulls' famous track, this one lampooning the Persian community of LA. From there, things get more serious… but just a little. After all, lines like "America is David Hasselhof wacking off with a hacking cough," on the album's title track, aren't gonna inspire a revolutionary movement. But Malkovich and his cohorts never set out to do such a thing. At 19 tracks, most of which are unreleased and remixes, it's a bit of a protracted listening experience, but it's generally time well spent.
Roc C is another MC who has left the Stones Throw roster for E1 Entertainment with his sophomore album, The Transcontinental. This is a collaboration with producer IMAKEMADBEATS, and the two sound like a perfect fit. Chino XL, Oh No, Big Pooh, Prince Po, and Wildchild all show up to help out, and overall the tone of this album is a little less aggressive than Roc's debut. But overall, I think the album is more successful. There is a lot more going on creatively here and the sound is less uniform, thanks to IMAKEMADBEATS' varied bag of tricks.
General Steele of Boot Camp Clik's Smif N Wessun released his debut for new imprint Bucktown USA this May, Welcome to Bucktown. With titles like "Bucktown Baby," "Bucktown State," and "Bucktown Affiliates," not to mention production from Da Beatminerz and Ayatollah and guest rhymes from Ruste Juxx, Buckshot, and the rest of the BCC crew, the fixation here is on Brooklyn. And fortunately, it doesn't get tired very often, with the exception of Hersh's r'n'b vocals on "Dreams." This is characteristically quality and gritty NYC hip-hop from some of the finest in the scene.
There is some good hip-hop coming out of the Pacific NW these days - Common Market, Blue Scholars, and Lifesavas, to name a few. Unfortunately, Sandpeople's new EP, Long Story, Short (Sand People Music), doesn't live up to this precedent. The Portland-based crew makes hypersensitive and ultimately ineffective rap music that is heavy on atmosphere but short on real appeal. This is Starbucks soundtrack hip-hop, which will appeal to a certain demographic (Atmosphere fans), but not to Glaciers.
Cameroon via Milwaukee MC, Sona, The Voice, will release his second album, African Juju (Intercession), this June. The record is hampered by the weak synthesizer production, which sounds cheap and rushed. One of Sona's professed idols is the late Tupac, and while he attempts Pac's blustery bravado, it comes out forced and insincere. It's not until "Question Marks (Skit)" hits the speakers, with what sounds like a rhyme played in reverse, essentially gibberish, that the album makes a blip. And that's saying something.
Want some weird? Combining the best elements of Outkast, Parliament, Doom, and their own respective music, Jneiro Jarel and Khujo's new project, Willie Isz, puts psychedelic, rock-infused hip-hop on the map with Georgiavania (Lex Records). The concept here is a 51st state bearing the album's title, but the method is vintage Southern hip-hop twisting and turning under the anti-restraints of Jarel's bizzaro-world production. In other words, this duo makes Gnarls Barkley look like Hall and Oates. It ain't easy, but it's damn good.
The '80s is the era du jour as of late, in everything from electro to hip-hop. If Prodigy's Product of the '80s didn't set the mood enough, LA Symphony's CookBook should settle that with his new album, I Love the 80s. Sampling everything from Duran Duran to Wang Chang, this is a more literal interpretation of '80s referencing, and CookBook's lazy but charming rhyme style augments what is definitively a party vibe. Sure, it's kind of a gimmick, but it's also a good time.
Scratch, the former beat box anchor of the Roots, has a new album called Loss 4 Wordz (Gold Dust). The construction of the album is an extension of what Rahzel did back in the late '90s, overlaying Scratch's vocal techniques with programmed beats and a bevy of guest vocalists. Highlights include Kanye and Consequence's turn on "Ready to Go" and Damon Albarn and Talib Kweli's bantering on "Too Late." Overall, the tone of this album is surprisingly heavy on the r'n'b tip, which isn't gonna please every hip-hop fanatic. But there are some undeniably banging moments, like the intro track, "Let's Go," featuring Peedi Crack.
I'll have to judge DJ Muggs' new Soul Assassins project, Intermission (Gold Dust), mostly based on snippets, since the label didn't send out the full album. But based on what I'm hearing on a song like "Gangsta Shit," an old school, thugged-out, yet somehow futuristic effort from Bun B (UGK) and M1 (Dead Prez), the album seems promising. La Coka Nostra, Alchemist, and Evidence are just a few of the other guests who show up here to round out this collection.
Mr. Lif released a new album way back in April, I Heard It Today (BloodBot Tactical Enterprises), but what with moving across the country and all… I'm just getting to it here. It's good. Real good. The beats by some guy named Batsauce are good. Lif's lyrics are good. And timely. And, of course, Edan's contribution, "Collapse the Walls," is good. Even stupid Vinnie Paz sounds good on "Folklore." Thanks, Lif.
San Francisco MC Kaz-Well has a new underground release out this month, Fish Outta Water (Tape Vault). More '80s samples (Billy Idol), sensitive voice, decidedly un-gangster rhymes… Sure, whatever.
Faring much better is Blaq Poet with his new album, The Blaqprint (Year Round). Poet has been rapping since the days of the Bronx and Queens battles, and his charred and chewed up voice carries the stature and experience of a veteran. DJ Premier handles most of the production, which of course keeps the quality high. Unfortunately, I only have an album sampler to review here, so it's hard to say how the record stands as a whole. Fans of Freddie Foxx, Gang Starr, and MOP take note.
Speech Debelle, a young MC from London, has a new album out on Big Dada called Speech Therapy. She truly rhymes from her heart and soul, with a sense of humor and a wicked sense of word play. The beats are jazzy, bouncing, and bumping, much closer to Roots Manuva than Dizzee Rascal grime. Sometimes Debelle gets bogged down in her own sincerity, but overall this is a charming and appealing effort from an interesting new artist.
One of the weirdest and best hip-hop albums I've heard in a while has got to be the new one from Super Chron Flight Brothers. Indonesia is everything most hip-hop you're currently listening to isn't - creative, unique, banging, weird, grimy, and fun. Elements of electronic, dub-step, techno, and indie rock (they sample The Smiths' "How Soon is Now") find their way into the mix, but this jumble works really well. The lyrics are dark and surreal; the beats are warped and powerful. Go listen to this one now.
Finally, Cage marks his return with a new EP, I Never Knew You (Def Jux), a preview of his forthcoming full-length. The video for the title track was directed by fucking Shia LeBeouf, who just sucks so hard, but this may be Cage's breakout moment. The song is dour and more than a little emo, and has unfortunate shades of rap-rock in its production - prime fodder for MTV. This pretty much continues over the five songs here, marking a somewhat predictable shift in direction for Cage. We'll have to wait and see how it all pans out.
OK, that's all for now, so until next month… 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.
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