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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!
Despite their jokey name, the deep South's CunninLynguists take this rap shit very seriously. The trio's new album, Dirty Acres (Bad Taste), starts off on a soulful, conscious vibe, and basically keeps the tone the whole way through. When "Wonderful" hits with its Alchemist-inspired, silky vocal sample, Deacon the Villain, Kno, and Natti (joined here by Devin the Dude) demand your rapt attention. The emcees' lazy drawls blend perfectly with the funk and rock-influenced beats that comprise this record's backstory. I've been guilty of ignoring this group for much of their career, but I'm gonna make amends by putting this one on repeat.
Out of Portland, Maine comes Sontiago, with her sophomore release, Steel Yourself (Endemik Music). I really wanted to like this lady, as her background and influences seem incredibly varied and open-minded. She's affiliated with Anticon, which sends up a warning flag for some and entices others, and on this new effort, Dilly Dally of Cerberus Shoal appears on several tracks. But the record never really clicks. The beats are acid-jazzy and abstract, courtesy of Alias and Maker, and Sontiago actually sounds pretty good on the mike (more so when she raps than when she sings). But overall the record bogs down and one wishes for a bit more variety in her songwriting.
The Federation. It's Whateva, out on Reprise. This title of the record and the songs about sums it up for this Bay Area crew. "Get Naked," "Got Me Fucked Up," "My Rims"… 'nuff said.
Othello's Live at the Assembly Line (Hiphop Is Music) offers up some nice surprises from the NW underground. Also a part of the group Lightheaded along with emcees Ohmega Watts and Braille, Othello shines brightly as he spryly spits rhymes over the live jazz of "Place to Be" or trades verses with Pigeon John on "Shallow."
Kottonmouth Kings are immensely popular, but I'm not exactly sure why. It's not that I want to hate this group, which has been around for 12 years, runs its own label, and sells a pretty impressive amount of records. But what am I gonna do? I just don't feel the Kings' version of hip-hop, which involves equal parts punk, funk, and rock, and centers around weed, for the most part. Their latest, Cloud Nine (Suburban Noize), is clearly the work of veterans, but it just feels juvenile and very suburban. I can't front, I'm from the suburbs too, but that doesn't mean I have to embrace suburban white-boy rap-rock. Insane Clown Posse, Tech N9ne, and even B-Real and Sen Dog of Cypress Hill show up to help out, but they don't solve the problem. Also out on Suburban Noize is Big B's More to Hate. This heavily-tattooed white trash hero, as signified by his would-be anthem, "White Trash Life," hails from Vegas and is one of the cast members of the A&E show Inked. Kottonmouth Kings, Sen Dog, and others show up to lend support, and the results? If you're a KK fan, you'll probably dig this as well.
OK, this is just getting depressing. Fortunately, Rob Sonic is here to cheer us up with Sabotage Gigante (Definitive Jux), his new self-produced and self-rapped album. This is icy, bumping, futuristic, and interesting the whole way through. Sonic's view of the current state of affairs isn't always uplifting, but it's always tinged with a unique flair and noted with a quick tongue. Guests include Aesop Rock and Busdriver.
If that got you primed up, you just might be ready for the awesomeness that is RBX. His new album, Broken Silence (Technicali) is a triumph in creativity for West Coast hip-hop. This rough-voiced thug is a scholar, a pimp, and a force to be reckoned with. And who knew that Snoop Dogg was a fucking amazing producer (check out "Overdue")? Seriously, do not sleep on this one. RBX used to be a part of Death Row (hear his thoughts on "Echoes of My Mind") and has appeared on The Chronic and The Marshall Mathers LP. Featuring production from LD and DJ Rhettmatic, RBX announces his return with a silky forcefulness.
Another excellent offering this month comes in the form of a collaboration between Hell Razah and the production duo Blue Sky Black Death: Razah's Ladder (Babygrande). The Wu-affiliate sounds fresh and hungry here, much more so than he did on his recent Nature Sounds solo effort. Ladder is definitely boosted by the eerie and soulful beats created by BSBD, and tracks like the autobiographical "Audiobiography" (with Shabazz the Disciple) and "Halos" (with Crooked I) fill out this banging tracklist.
And the shortlist… Not quite as successful as Razah is the indie supergroup U-Fam, with The War on Hip-Hop (True School). Insight, Cloke N' Dagha, Prime Suspects, Blak Madeen, Powerz Boof, and Sham Ra are among the emcees and producers who have collaborated for this project. It has its moments, like the Smif N Wessun beat-borrowing "Al-Jabra," but overall, at 19 tracks, the album feels like its bitten off more than it can chew. Some paring down would have gone a long way. Las Vegas duo Somobe fairs much better with their debut, The Great Communication (Get 'Em Productions). This is smart golden-era hip-hop from these newcomers, rich with subtle beats and verbal chemistry. Prince Ali, who released an excellent mixtape last year, is now officially part of the Heiroglyphics family. His new album, Curbside Service (Heiro Imperium), features guest spots from Planet Asia, A Plus, Casual, and Keith Murray (random, but it's a great appearance). Ali's sinister sounding voice cuts through the slinky funk beats nicely, and he definitely holds his own among this legendary Bay Area crew. Saga of the Simian Samurai (Threshold) is a new project from ex-Organized Konfusion member Prince Po and producer Tom C3. It plays out like a low-key DangerDoom, matching two talented forces with relatively low profiles. Standouts include "Now and Then," where Po tosses off pop culture references old school and new, and "Bad Brainz," held together by a funky guitar riff. The Infamous Mobb, affiliates of Mobb Deep and the Soul Assassins, are releasing Reality Rap on Sure Shot Records. Gritty and lurking, their MOP-inspired raps are nicely augmented by production from Havoc (should have used this beat for his solo album), Erick Sermon, and Alchemist.
Finally, Method Man has returned with a live DVD, Method Man: Live From the Sunset Strip (MVD Visual). Shot in beautiful HD, Meth delivers the goods at this House of Blues show, helped out by his "PNC," Street Life, spending as much time in the crowd as he does onstage. He's super-hyped, even though he's looking a bit older these days; as well he should, as he reminds the crowd that he's been in the game for 13 years. He rips through classics like "Method Man," "Bring the Pain," and "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nothing to Fuck Wit," as well as songs from his most recent album, 4:21. Near the end of the show, he's joined by fellow Wu-members Inspectah Deck and Masta Killa for a tribute to ODB, where the crowd basically takes over and everyone sings along to "Shimmy Shimmy Ya." At the very end of the show, during "Da Rockwilder," he leaves the stage and literally walks on the crowd, letting his hypemen take over. This live DVD is much more entertaining than most, proving Meth's mettle as a live performer. Bonus features include an interview with him, and randomly, one with Brother J of X Clan.
And that's all for this month. Until next time… 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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