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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!
It's taken me a couple of listens to fully get into Del the Funky Homosapien's new album, and debut for Definitive Jux, The 11th Hour, but I think I'm finally feeling it. The production, mostly handled by Del himself, has a futuristic funk sound that weirdly fits into the Def Jux roster, even though the album was completed long before its place on the label was secured. Del takes critics to task throughout, although his personable drawl remains intact. But it's mostly battle raps that make up the lyrics here, on songs like "Foot Down" and "Bubble Pop," the latter of which is currently spinning in the LAS MP3 player below left. Guests include Ladybug Mecca, Opio, and KU, but this is truly a solo affair. In a recent interview I did with him, Del tells me he's got a couple of instrumental dance records in the can just waiting for a label. I'll be very curious to hear what he's got up his sleeve in that category.
Esteemed producer Pete Rock is back with his first solo album in about four years, entitled NY's Finest (Nature Sounds). It's a worthy effort, even if Rock's beats have evolved from the well-loved, jazzy, reverb-soaked drums and horns that comprised his finest work of the '90s. There's a grimier sound to the record, especially with the contributions of guest emcees like Jim Jones, Styles P, and Royal Flush. "Ready Fe War" finds an ex-Fu Schnicken, one Chip Fu, toasting over a reggae backdrop, while Wu-Tang members Masta Killa and Raekwon spit fire on "The PJ's." The much-missed Lords of the Underground even show up on "The Best Secret." There's no doubt, Rock is still one of the better producers on the scene, and it's a wonder why more mainstream rappers aren't hiring him these days. After all, as he states on "Don't Be Mad," he's the "fucking poster boy for the MPC."
The Away Team's Training Day (Hall of Justice) came out back in October, but I thought this one deserved a mention. Producer Khrysis has crafted nice tracks for Sean Price (who also appears on the album), among others, and emcee Sean Boog holds his own. Thanks to the success of Little Brother, when one thinks of North Carolina hip-hop, softer, bass-heavy beats and subtle vocals come to mind. But this is more belligerent and urgent than anything from that camp, helped along by guest spots from Black Milk (who rightfully got props in Mike Shea's 'Rap Show' piece the other day) and Evidence. It sounds like Khrysis should have kept some of his hotter beats for himself instead of putting them up for sale, but the album still has some good moments.
Hearos 4 Hire is a new mixtape from LA-based DJ Obi, and it's a surprisingly good entrant into the world of West Coast underground. A far cry from the excellent if esoteric freestyles of Project Blowed and their ilk, Obi, Kaliban, Meyer Wolfsheim, Big Swish, and the rest of the crew have created an edgy world of sinister rhymes and fascinatingly banging beats, keeping the boom-bap while experimenting with various styles. This is LA hip-hop for people who think they don't like LA hip-hop.
Moving up the coast a bit, we find the Bay Area/Boston duo Megaphone, consisting of Moe Pope and Headnodic. Their new self-titled effort (NatAural High), is a mélange of beats and rhymes that reference the golden era and stay away from the grimy side of the tracks without getting too soft. Producer Headnodic also plays bass in San Francisco's Crown City Rockers, and emcee Moe Pope is also a member of Project Move. Oh No and Gift of Gab show up for a guest spot on the banging "Danger Danger," and check for the sweeping '70s strings of "Durty." Overall, Megaphone is yet another example of how to make underground hip-hop that still packs a punch.
This month, DMC champion DJ Craze offers his contribution to the FabricLive series, a searing mix with tracks by N.O.R.E. , Cool Kids, Chromeo, Coldcut, and Kid Sister, just to name a few. Though some of his signature ridiculoid scratching and cutting is featured on this mix, it's really more of a club music sampling, focusing more on selection than theatrics. Craze isn't afraid to jump around from style to style here, from bass to electro to hip-hop to techno, and it all sounds pretty damn good.
Detroit's Guilty Simpson is releasing his debut solo album for Stones Throw this month, Ode to the Ghetto. Simpson's laid-back flow is highly augmented by choice beats from label staples Madlib, Oh No, and the late J Dilla, as well as the talented Black Milk, another Detroit native. The title track, in particular, features one of Oh No's better beats and finds Simpson waxing poetically on all aspects of ghetto living. Personally, I could do without trite observations the song "Get Bitches" has to offer ("Getting bitches, getting riches"), but overall, the album is nice.
Finally, Lyrics Born releases a new album on Anti this month, Everywhere at Once. From the get-go, Lyrics sets the tempo with feel-good, bubbling, party beats on this new album. I've never been a huge fan of his, or the entire Quannum family, to be honest. I respect their influence on underground hip-hop and their unique take on the Bay Area sound, but somehow the music just doesn't quite speak to me. That being said, tracks like the funky-guitar "Differences" or the bass-heavy "I Like it, I Love It" will probably entertain die-heard fans over the world. Lyrics alternates between a sort of sing-song high-pitched voice and his more tenor rapping, incorporating rock, reggae, and blues throughout.
OK, that's all for now, so until April… 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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