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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!
First up I have to talk about a mixtape that came out this past winter. I just got it in the mail, and it would be a shame not to mention it just because it's a few months old. I'm talking about Rhymefest's collaboration with Mark Ronson, Man in the Mirror. This cleverly cobbled together mix is both a joke on and a tribute to Michael Jackson. Snippets of interviews with MJ are employed throughout creating conversations between him and Fest. The production is top-notch, the guests are stellar (Ghostface, Talib Kweli, Dres, Camp Lo), and Rhymefest's sense of humor is on point. Jackson 5 and Michael Jackson samples are utilized in almost every song, creating a recognizable tableau of backing beats. But without Rhymefest's quick wit and razor tongue, this would be just another mixtape. Fortunately, there is an ample supply of both. You can download it here.
London-based DJ Yoda's latest is the 39th installment in the FabricLive series. A mix of hip-hop (Gang Starr, D-Nice, Run DMC), rock (Violent Femmes), techno (Chemical Brothers), and various other genres filling up the spaces in between, Yoda showcases his mixing skills and scratching technique throughout. This is a party record in the vein of DJ Craze's recent contribution to the series, as Yoda enhances his selections by flipping and combining classics and obscure gems. (www.djyoda.co.uk)
"I'm certified hot, ya'll Tony Danza," spits Los Angeles MC Kaliban on the blazing opening track of his new EP, Point Blank Range (Lock and Stock). A low blow, perhaps, to the Who's the Boss star, but Kaliban's underground battle pedigree and entrance into the hip-hop scene does, indeed, leave no question as to his supremacy over Mr. Danza. There are some problems, like the cheesy Lil'-Jon-aping synth beat of "Bend Over," a trite club anthem. But Kaliban's forceful flow sounds pretty good over even the worst beats on this record. (www.killiban.com)
Jack Splash's Plantlife project is like a modern-day Funkadelic and Jamiroquai all wrapped up in one bass-heavy package. His new album, Time Traveller (Decon) finds the producer/musician exploring all facets of acid jazz, funk, hip-hop, rock, and electronic music. I'm think almost an hour's worth of this '90s throwback style might be a bit too much for my ears, but the rich textures and arrangements are definitely the work of a seasoned pro. (www.plant-life.net)
Another month, another EP from the talented Des Moines MC Coolzey. Coolzey Vs Przm (Public School) is buoyed by the production work of DJ Przm, as can be deduced from the title. From the opening track, "Punk/Punk/Punk," where Coolzey offers his own form of horrorcore along with the always laid-back rhymes of Count Bass D, to the witty "Relax Fuck" ("Relax, fuck, you fucking fuckhead, relax, I'm just trying to make tracks, cold max, and build stacks"), this is solid work. Be sure and listen to all 16 minutes of the last track, as you'll be rewarded with more dopeness. (www.myspace.com/coolzey)
Mister Sayre, an MC from Oakland,CA, certainly sounds an awful lot like another Bay Area MC, the esteemed E-40. It's not that he's copying him in terms of subject matter or production, but his voice has that same throaty quality. Oh, well, probably just a coincidence. Sayre's The Most I'll Confess (Grad School Music/Rec-League), featuring regional guests like Zion I, is the work of a thoughtful rhyme writer, but doesn't inspire more than a cursory listen or two. (www.myspace.com/sayrelfg)
Living Legends member The Grouch as a new solo album out, Show You the World (Legendary Music), which far surpasses the LL group effort released last month. Grouch's flow and production has always been appealing, toeing the line between arty and grimy. Abstract Rude, Raphael Saadiq, and MURS are just some of the guests who show up here. "Clones" is lush with its bossanova beat and strings, while "Artsy" calls out pretentious hip-hop heads, and "The Bay to LA" showcases Grouch's diverse California roots. (www.therealgrouch.com)
When you think Seattle hip-hop, Sir Mix-A-Lot is probably the first MC who comes to mind. But it should be noted that the scene there is alive and well in 2008, thanks to artists like Orbitron. His new album, B-Boy Universal (BeaconSkillz) is an excellent showcase of combining the new school with the old. The CD packaging is 100 percent "organic and green" as well, so don't feel guilty for not going the digital route and buying a hard copy. Orbitron blazes his way through tracks like "Soul Swimmin'," which samples the same song as Black Moon's "Who Got Da Props?" but flips it up a bit. Backed by some talented producers and DJ's, he has crafted an impressive debut. Another Seattle-based group with a new release out this month is Common Market with their Black Patch War EP (Massline Media). RA Scion and Sabzi make underground hip-hop with a purpose which never loses sight of the boom-bap. Anyone interested in regional hip-hop shouldn't be afraid to check for artists from the Pacific NW, where the scene seems to be going strong. (www.myspace.com/orbitronmusic and www.myspace.com/commonmarket)
Foul Mouth Jerk has returned with his fourth LP, Streetlight Music (Granola Funk). The MC is also a member of GFE, a funk collective who has backed the likes of George Clinton and Tame One. Streetlight features some pretty impressive collaborations, such as "NJ Transit," with El Da Sensei (and what sounds like a classic Beatnuts beat), and "Small Town," featuring Masta Ace. Also, in what can't be a coincidence, the song "Played Out" uses an interpretation of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," the same one that Wu-Tang recently used. Hmm. Overall, FMJ traffics in pretty standard underground hip-hop styles and rhymes, which isn't terribly exciting but does the job nevertheless. (www.myspace.com/foulmouthjerk)
Truth Universal, an MC from New Orleans, has recruited some big names for his debut, Self Determination (Dragon's Breath). Wise Intelligent and Doodlebug appear on "Black Culture," while Stic Man shows up to rhyme on "What It's Bout." This is politically-minded hip-hop that doesn't forget to focus on production, as is sometimes the case in that world. (truthuniversal.com)
Two releases from Up Above that actually came out back in March are Look Daggers' Suffer in Style and LMNO & Kev Brown's Selective Hearing. Look Daggers is a collaboration between The Mars Volta's Ikey Owens and MC 2Mex. The backing beats are interestingly experimental songs played by a live band, featuring members of the Long Beach Dub All-Stars and Reel Big Fish, among others. To enjoy this one, you have to be a fan of live-instrument hip-hop and 2Mex's halting flow. But it's a unique effort all the same. Much better is LMNO & Kev Brown's album, an exercise in vivacious beats and rhymes from this Long Beach MC and Maryland producer. (www.upabove.com)
Buckshot and 9th Wonder just released their second collaboration, The Formula (Duck Down). 9th's drums and overall production has never sounded better, and Buckshot's buttery flow slips and slides around these beats like the two have been working together for years. It's interesting to hear his flow over 9th's soulful beat, as he adjusts his cadence a bit from his more choppy style over Beatminers' production. This is much better than their first album, Chemistry. Several singers are featured on the hooks, but it never sounds cheesy. (www.myspace.com/buckshot)
Def Jux has released the domestic version of Dizzee Rascal's latest, Maths + English, featuring a remix of "Where's Da G's?" by label head El-P as well as several bonus tracks. Goddamn this album is good. From the spacey ambience of the opening song, "World Outside," to the aforementioned "G's," featuring UGK, to the industry lessons of "Hard Back," Dizzee is as charismatic and hungry as ever. This puts half the American hip-hop albums released this year to shame, and now that it's available on a solid indie, you have no excuse to not grab this one immediately. (www.dizzeerascal.co.uk)
LA-based MC Kail is on some crazy shit. His new record, True Hollywood Squares (Alpha Pup) is definitely out of the ordinary. Irreverent, flippant, funny, and crude, Kail has put together a concept album based on various characters and employing a sort of game show format. The beats are unique and his flow takes the best elements of Ludacris and Redman and turns them head over heels. Check out tracks "Peter Pennyworth" and the video game-sampling "Wendy" for examples of just why Kail is fly. (www.myspace.com/thatsthatsexyshit)
OK, that's all for now, so until June… 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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