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[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » 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.
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 » 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!
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Mars Black
Folks Music
Team Love

Rating: 5.5/10 ?

April 19, 2005
Cross out the phrase listed below that doesn't belong:
Omaha, Nebraska
Indie rock label, Team Love
Bob Dylan

It is easy to see similarities between a city located in Midwestern America, a small time rock 'n' roll record company and a legendary rock 'n' roll folkster. Hip-hop though has little to do with any of the previous ideas besides musical notes. Mars Black tries to play dodgy anti-conventionalist and lay down tracks between the different elements that surround him.

If Black came from a more traditional hip-hop breeding ground, there is a great chance he would be entirely invisible. His current path to releasing and performing is the most notable element about him, while his fundamental skills and status are nothing to be gawked at. During many moments his style even feels compromised as it pushes clichés to prove Black as a true street-knowledgeable hip-hopper.

Folks Music has several unusual connections behind it that force an asterisk next to the MC's name. The release is the first of its kind on Conor Oberst's (Bright Eyes) label, Team Love. Other acts on the label - Tilly and the Wall and Willy Mason - are based in the rock camp, making Black an irregularity even at his host record company - but the rapper feels as though he identifies with the indie rock crowd, on "Bucks & Nuts" throwing out, "Always wanted to be the first MC on Sub Pop/Slinging 7 inches of strictly hip-hop."

For where he is located it is not strange for Mars to have rock 'n' roll imbedded in his genes. Black tries to play at a folk characteristic, honest, true life-depicting style with his album title at the same time that he attempts to make himself out as a hip-hop Dylan. During "Big Trouble in Little Omaha" Black raps, "I'm kinda like Bob Dylan, rockin' ice/Or KRS, with a doomsday device."

In an album press clipping, he is quoted saying, "Bob Dylan raps all the time… People are more comfortable to draw that line between hip-hop and folk, so I'd like to blur it without them even noticing." The thought is intriguing had the product Black created been accurate of that description. Instead Folks Music is an indie hip-hop record that doesn't add up to all its hype.

The album has its moments, and Black does have tracks and segments that he shines on. The overall feel he comes across with is part dark, underground Midwest hip-hop and part ad hoc creator. Aided only by the production of DJ E. Babbs, who did the 16-track digital recording in his basement, the MC has a unique style that has yet to blossom and feel itself out.

What really defines the record is Black's rhyming. His thing is rapping about real shit, not all the fake hip-hop glam and chest thumping that many MCs get into. Mars Black gets into his issues; he crams every little essence of living his life into the lyrics. His style is marred by the fact that he is not a true lyricist, and he shows this time and again by ending lines with rhyming words that are only there because of how they sound and not because of what they mean.

To draw any true comparison to Bob Dylan, Black must learn that folk doesn't mean wanting to rap about something that is real, but actually living the lifestyle in the first place. For all its talk, Folks Music doesn't speak anything of the sort, making this MC exactly what he is trying to avoid.

Reviewed by Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other reviews by Josh Zanger



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