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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!
Things start off nice enough with Philadelphia's Gille Da Kid's new compilation, The Best of the GDK Mixtapes (Babygrande), with the precision rhymes of "Holla Back," built on a sample from Jay-Z's "Moment of Clarity." The rest of this Major Figgas member's new solo effort is a hit-or-miss affair though, as songs vary in production and rhyme quality. Gillie is best known perhaps for his beef with the Cash Money crew - Gillie claims to have ghostwritten Lil' Wayne's The Carter I. He was also shot three times last June, and was incarcerated as of February 6 on something that his manager says is a bunch of bullshit. There's some bullshit on this album too, like the silly "Say Dat Den," where he actually calls out "Bros before ho's!" But the main problems are the cheesy, melodramatic synth beats of songs like "Figga What, Figga Who," even though Gillie does have some fast-rap skills. If he beats the rap, let's hope his next release is an actual album instead of this collection of odds and ends.
Portland's Lifesavas' sophomore album for Quannum Projects, Gutterfly, is a perfect fit for this risk-taking Bay Area label. The group, consisting of Jumbo the Garbageman and Vursatyl, has created a concept album inspired by "a blaxploitation film project that was conceived and only partially completed by… Baraka Feldman in 1980." There is definitely a De La Soul is Dead feeling here, as songs like "Double Up" (produced by Oh No), "Gutterfly" (featuring Camp Lo), and "A Serpent's Love" (featuring Digable Planets member Butterfly, sounding particularly gritty) weave tales of the characters of the film over a slinky, funked-up beat tableau. This record shouldn't be missed, for its creativity to spare and the excellent rhyme skill of all involved raise it above the alt-rap universe that most will probably place it in.
Another pleasant surprise this month is from another Philly MC, Icon The Mic King's Mike & The Fatman (Uprising). Produced in its entirety by Chum The Skrilla Guerilla, the press release accurately describes the dirty, RZA-inspired backdrop that makes up the bulk of the songs. This is another concept record, self-described as a buddy-cop concept. And you can hear the stories throughout, as Icon's skilled flow (he's a battle vet) laces tracks like the borderline horror-core "Madman" and the crime scene-detailing "Mike and the Fatman," which comes off the heels of the just-wrong tag-team sex skit, "All Points Bulletin." Killah Priest shows up to guest on the last track, "Law and Order."
The always-reliable Nature Sounds has a new album hitting the streets: DJ Babu's The Beat Tape Vol. 1. You probably know Babu better as Dilated Peoples DJ and Beat Junkies turntablist extraordinaire. But if the man is vying for some producing jobs, he's gonna get hired, judging from the quality of this eclectic batch of tracks. Ranging from Alchemist-style sped-up soul to funk to boom-bap, the 32 instrumentals here can get a bit boring at times, as is often the case with beat albums. That being said, there are some gems here, such as the spaced-out "I Can't Go On." Babu's talents are on display in full force, and it's exciting to think what a few good MCs might do with these tracks.
Chris Lowe is probably a name that you should know - I didn't, I'll admit it. Throughout the '80s, he worked with artists like Stezo and EPMD as a producer. In 2004, he released his first solo album, Black Life, has now returned with Black Life II (The Next Thing Smokin') on Greenstreet Entertainment. Entirely produced and rhymed on by Lowe, the unifying theme here is Golden Era hip-hop. Lowe isn't the best lyricist, but he can hold his own on these never flashy, workhorse-like beats. The best song, and the one on which it sounds like Lowe is having the most fun, is "Golden Era Great." This track uses Tim Dog's "Fuck Compton" beat as its basis and finds Lowe rapping in the same gruff manner as Mr. Dog. He might not achieve the same success as contemporaries like Pete Rock and Premier, but Lowe definitely has something to offer.
Finally, a new DVD documenting a Detroit vs. Houston freestyle battle has been released by Screen Media Films. Comedian T.J. Kirkland hosts the event, which is punctuated by performances from Rick Ross and Young Jeezy, some of the best moments in the film. Young rappers like the longhaired "Indian" Mookie Jones, and Marv Won, who constantly talks about himself in the third person, are pitted against one another in front of judges MC Lyte, Jadakiss, and Freeway. DJ Sassy, British and female, provides wack beats for the contests, which include freestyling about randomly selected objects as well as straight battle raps. Now, I know these kids are on the spot, but there is just a ridiculous amount of gun raps and calling each other faggot and generally making gay jokes. Is that all they can think of in their freestyles? Are they that unsure about their own sexuality? A real freestyler would delve a bit deeper and come up with more creative digs. The battles are interspersed with interviews with the participants, who mostly have just dreamed of being rappers since they were little kids. For all its faults and lack of momentum, there are some good moments, and some tense ones - at one point, Kirkland quips that the atmosphere is so thick, he would never host an event like this again. I'm not sure I would watch this documentary again either.
And that's all for this month. Until May… 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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