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It's been a few months, but Glaciers is back. This time of year is notoriously slow period for album releases, but there are still a few notable drops to warm up the winter. First up, some releases I missed back in November…
From the opening Digable Planets sample of "The Ambassador," E-40's latest, The Ball Street Journal (Reprise/Sick Wid It), is impressive. The producers on this record supply the perfect space-age hip-hop beats, more electro/d'n'b/breakbeat than traditional funk, to complement E'40's almost clown-like voice. He may be talking about breaking ankles, strippers, drinking, or "Poor Man's Hydraulics," but this music industry veteran remains one of the most creative voices to come out of the Bay Area. Hate West Coast G-Funk? Give E-40 a try, and experience something completely different.
Mississippi-born and Canadian-raised MC Noah23 frankly surprised me with his latest, Rock Paper Scissors (Legendary Entertainment/Takaba). I admit I was expecting some boring-ass Anticon-style nerd rap. But his blend of Buck 65 delivery, with a serious and exuberant musicality in terms of beats, is a welcome change from what hip-hop normally has to offer. Make no mistake; this album won me over. Likeminded artists including Cadence Weapon and Bluebird join in, but Noah23 doesn't need much assistance. My favorite song has to be "Faded" (featuring Ceschi) which I believe samples a Daniel Johnston song to eerie and emotive effect. Maybe that's indie-rock-rap at its most annoying and cloying, but I'll be damned if it doesn't work wonders.
Now, on to January and February:
Former Freestyle Fellowship member and member of the LA underground elite, Myka 9, is back with a new album called 1969 (Fake Four Inc.) to kick off the new year. It's being touted as a continuation of Myka's mindset heard on the classic "Parkbench People," a track off FF's classic Innercity Griots. This is close to the truth. Anyone familiar with his output over the past several years has most likely been a bit disappointed. But 1969 finds Myka combining his staggering, wordy, singsong raps with outright crooning like it's 1992. "Options," featuring Aceyalone, also formerly of Freestyle Fellowship, seems to bring out the best of both MC's seen in a very long time. The beats are jazzy but still edgy, courtesy of producer Factor, rendering this album an intriguing beginning to 2009.
The most successful tracks on DJ Signify's latest, Of Cities (Bully), are the ones that are least "hip-hop." The album's dark opener, "The Sickness," and the bleeping Atari-esque closer, "Hold Me Don't Touch Me," showcase this producer at his best. It's times, like when Aesop Rock shows up (two tracks, and a highlight - "You ain't project gunplay, you Project Runway"), that the flaws are exposed. It's not that those moments are so bad; it's just that they expose the sometimes over-thought Anticon-influenced moments that are at Signify's core. In light of that, it's good to see his expanding his sound and loosening up a bit, which is the key to this album's generally positive outcome.
A decade after their first release, the Bay Area's Zion I is still making noise. Amplive and Zumbi are back with The Takeover (Gold Dust Media), continuing their singular style of combining hip-hop with house, electro, and d'n'b. Take back-to-back tracks "Geek to the Beat" and "Take Over" as a case study in Zion I's switch hitting. The results are always interesting and usually kinda dope, especially when guests like Brother Ali and Devin the Dude show up to help out.
Bobby Evans, of LA hip-hop group Brother Reade, has a new mix CD out called The Pharcyde: Bobby Evans Mix (Delicious Vinyl). Obviously, it's a Pharcyde tribute, but it's an innovative and nostalgic one. Evans often mixes together two or three different remixes of classic tracks like "Ya Mama" or "Otha Fish," taking the listener on a chronological timeline of the Pharcyde's amazing first two albums.
Finally, the RZA has returned with the soundtrack to the Spike TV channel's Afro Samurai cartoon, Afro Samurai Resurrection: The Soundtrack (Wu Music Group). I have never actually seen the cartoon, which stars Samuel L. Jackson as the title character. But if it's anything like this wildly uneven but altogether engaging soundtrack, I think I should check it out. Guests are aplenty. "Blood Thicker Than Mud 'Family Affair'" features the legendary Sly Stone vamping over a reinterpretation of his classic, joined by Reverend William Burks (?) and Stone Mecca (also ?). Elsewhere, Kool G Rap, Inspectah Deck, Prodigal Sunn, and 9th Prince join the party. No, not every song is as hot as one wishes, but overall this soundtrack shows RZA's continued eccentricity and his insistence on pushing the limits of his brand of hip-hop.
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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