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Well, it's official. This is the 50th installment of Glaciers of Ice. That's about three years of capsule hip-hop reviews and news here at LAS. This month's edition actually covers both May and June, since I'll be away for most of next month as I beat the odds and get married. Enjoy the column, and see you in July.
Ty may hail from the UK, but his latest album, Special Kind of Fool (BBE), shows that this MC has more in common with De La Soul than Dizzee Rascal. A variety of guest vocalists help flesh out the smooth funk of the album's 15 tracks, but the voice is entirely Ty's - playful, serious, thoughtful, and sometimes irreverent. From mid-tempo head-nodder, "Don't Cry," to the bouncing march of "Something Big," this album satisfies on many levels.
Last month, Dark Time Sunshine, a collaboration between the talented producer Zavala and Seattle MC Onry Ozzborn (known as Cape Cowen here), released Vessel (Fake Four Inc.). Listen to this album now. Sure, it's kind of heady, nerdy, undie hip-hop, but Zavala's soulful, eclectic, psychedelic beats and Ozzborn's introspective, funny, and thoughtful rhymes, along with some great guests appearances from Aesop Rock and Ninjaface, elevate this to the front of the pack.
The Game has a new mixtape out, Red Room, a precursor to his forthcoming album, The Red Album. If nothing else, listen to the first track here, "400 Bars." It is literally about 400 bars, over 20 minutes and a variety of recognizable beats. The Game has never sounded better. There are some mistakes here, but I guess that's not a huge surprise - namely, a track with Diddy (actually, the soul-sampling beat here is nice), and an abuse of AutoTune. Still, this mixtape kills a lot of indie and supposedly better than commercial releases I've heard thus far this year.
Madlib has returned with his latest installment of the Beat Konducta series, Beat Konducta in Africa: Madlib Medicine Show No. 3 (Madlib Invazion). The album consists of more snippets of sound and beats, this time focusing on sampling African records from the 1970s, incorporating funk, psyche, and garage into the mix. The album is more of a sound collage than a proper recorded narrative, and it seems that Madlib's arsenal of rhythms is limitless.
DLabrie has represented the Bay Area for many years now, and on his debut album, Mr. Network (RonDavoux/Select-O-Hits), it's clear why. The MC calls his sound "Bay Universal," and he draws from many different styles - G-Funk, hyphy, underground, and more. But mostly it's pretty unique, sometimes recalling E-40's bubbling weirdness, and sometimes Outkast's space-age take on hip-hop.
Mike Ladd has released his third and final installment of his Infesticons trilogy, Bedford Park (Big Dada). Typically for the Paris resident, the album is an eclectic, wildly varied, always interesting affair. Ladd's toy box is full of styles and genres, centered around hip-hop but incorporating punk, blues, indie rock, electronic, and anything else that suits his fancy. The concept album tells a paranoid, socially critical story of sorts, and from the excellent punk-march opener, "Blockin' Door Anthem," to the experimental blues-rock of "Word Sin Anthem," shit is nice.
Devin The Dude's latest, Suite #420 (Koch), sounds like a 1990s Too Short record. The Houston rapper's extremely laid back and blunted flow is perfectly matched to lazy synth-funk/drum machine beats on weed opuses like "We Get High." This sentiment is repeated over and over on tracks like the slowed-down and minimal "Still Comin'" and r'n'b-infused nostalgic "Ultimate High." This record is hard not to like.
Necro is an adolescent boy's violent, brutal wet dream. The rapper and producer has maintained an extraordinarily indie career, due in equal parts to his corpse-raping, gun-toting, drug-sniffing lyrics and his desire to control his own destiny. Die! (Pscho+Logical-Records) is his sixth album, and on tracks like "The Asshole Anthem," "Brutalized," and "Thugcore Cowboy" Necro gets busy with is "death rap" rhymes. All of this would be shit if it weren't for his surprisingly dope beats. He often lays back and gives them a warm, analogue feel, but when he decides to sample Black Sabbath on "Sorcerer of Death's Construction," (he is a metal fan, after all), it works too.
Dudley Perkins aka Declaime MC is on some other shit, along with his musical and life partner, Georgia Anne Muldrow. His new album, Fonk (SomeOthaShip Connect) is hip-hop and funk like you rarely hear, due to no small effort from producer Quazedelic. When Declaime is singing, he's kind of rapping, and vice versa. But that's what so appealing about Perkins and his otha-worldly amalgam of slinky funk and banging beats.
Over the past twenty years, The Herbaliser has staked their claim on the sometimes dubious ground of acid jazz and instrumental hip-hop. But when you take all their greatest hits together on one album, as Herbal Tonic (Ninja Tune) does, shit sounds pretty good. The best are when the MC's enter the picture - Jean Grae, Roots Manuva, and MF Doom all make their distinctive marks. But even without them, the band has an uncanny ability to make funk, jazz, and hip-hop sound attractively dirty.
Producer Apollo Brown's new album, The Reset (Mello Music Group), is excellent. His beats are soft, smooth, and soulful, the perfect compliment to the thoughtful and engaging verses from MC's including Big Pooh, MED, and Black Milk. Give it a try, you won't be disappointed.
That's all for now, so until the summer is upon us… 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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