Sunday, November 30, 2008

Daft Punk's Bastard Demon Child

Apart from artists such as Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim, electronic music has never really excited me that much. There's techno, which is too repetitive. "Club" music, which, being an anti-Top 40 skater punk, has taught me to loathe (what is "club" music, anyway? Basically just progressive house with a bigger sound). Drum & Bass: too noisy. I can't listen to trance because I don't take ecstasy. So besides a few key artists, I opted to spend most of my high school years digesting hip-hop and punk rock music instead.

Enter 2001. Daft Punk released one of the most refreshing dance records in years. Songs like "One More Time" and "Harder Better Faster Stronger" swept dance clubs around the world like a storm. Two camera-shy, notoriously reclusive French DJ's single handedly resurrected the fun, care-free era of disco music. Usually similar-sounding artists are immediately signed by record companies looking to profit from a new music fad, but there were few artists available that could match the intensity and creativity that Daft Punk possessed. Ground-breaking music is never created overnight. Daft Punk spent over 4 years meticulously crafting their opus and if copy-cat artists were to follow it wasn't going to happen for some time. I was in love with this record and desired more and the Basement Jaxx's and Crystal Method's didn't quite match up to my expectations.

Enter 2007. Bored at work, I was sent a message from a friend telling me about a show he was attending by a new group named Justice that he was really digging. He sent me a YouTube link of their video, "D.A.N.C.E.". It immediately brought back memories of Daft Punk's melodic, sample-based dance music. I searched for more of their music and was thoroughly impressed enough to stop by the record shop after work and purchase their album. On the way home from the store I popped the CD into my car stereo and was not at all prepared for what I heard coming out of my speakers. Dark. Gothic. Gritty. Organic. Loud. Fucking mind-blowing. I was hooked on it like cocaine.

This album (entitled by a symbol, but commonly called Cross) is an instant dance classic. Constructed by two French DJ's in a basement over the course of 5 years, it's an amazing concept album with equal parts Michael Jackson and Nine Inch Nails. Clearly influenced by Daft Punk (also managed by the same guy who managed Daft Punk, Busy P) they are a force to be reckoned with in the club scene and they breath new life into (or more accurately described, vampirically siphon life from) the stale Electronica genre and create a completely novel and a boatload more exciting sound.


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Back Around Again

Guru is quoted as saying, "It's mostly the voice". I've always liked Grand Puba's voice. It's high-pitched, raspy and very nasally sounding but seems to take up a lot of space over a scratchy soul loop and drum break. So it was probably equal parts vocal chords and rhyme skills that led Grand Puba to become a hip hop star.

Maybe trying to follow a less politically-charged, hardcore Islamic vibe, Puba left the group Brand Nubian to start a solo venture with the album Reel To Reel. Very funky LP, with dope rhyming and funky drums. Also features an early appearance of Mary J. Blige. Definite classic, I still play this 16 years after it came out.

360° (What Goes Around)
Check It Out (feat. Mary J. Blige)
360° (What Goes Around) [SD50 Remix]

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Another Cheesy Gem

I'm feeling like absolute shit today. I'm battling some kind of deadly virus, so I'm going to keep this short and sweet.

The UMC's
draw influence from groups like Biz Markie and De La Soul, keeping the positive, fun vibe in hip hop at a time when the g-funk era was taking over. Wildpitch rappers Haas G and Kool Kim released Fruits of Nature in 1991 but were doomed from the start and split shortly after their second, more hardcore-themed album Unleashed in 1994.

Blue Cheese
Jive Talk

Monday, January 28, 2008

The West Coast Wu-Tang

Back in the mid-nineties I spent most of my teenage years in apathy of the school events and socializing, devoting most all of my time to my skateboarding passion. I must have spent every dime I made from bagging groceries and cooking hoagies on skateboard videos (old school VHS). The great thing about all those videos was that the pros got to choose their favorite songs to play during their featured montage of tricks, which ranged from punk to hip hop and sometimes even country.

I discovered Hieroglyphics when a commercial (yes, some of these videos even had advertisements) for a snowboard company had one of the gnarliest underground hip hop tracks I had ever heard. That track turned out to be a song featuring Del the Funky Homosapien called "At The Helm". This song ended up being the anthem of my summer.

Third Eye Vision was one of the most innovative albums to come out in 1998. Hieroglyphics is a super crew consisting of Del, Casual, Pep Love & Jaybiz (The Prose), and Souls of Mischief along with producer Domino. It's a bulkly album with numerous stand out tracks and almost no fillers with back and forth, top notch rhyming from all members. Although they're from Cali, their style resonates more from east coast artists and sample heavy beats (a rarity when most were opting for a more stripped down, clean production). Definitely a hip hop classic. Pick this album up if you ever come across it. You won't be disappointed.

You Never Knew
At the Helm
Oakland Blackouts

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Mind Altering Demented Lessons In Beats

It's no secret that producer Madlib is one of the few jazz enthusiasts left in present times, evident in his numerous hip hop beats and experimental Yesterday's New Quintet albums, not to mention his father is a famous jazz singer. At the request of Stones Throw head-honcho Peanut Butter Wolf, Blue Note graciously allowed Madlib to create an album of remixed songs from their back catalog. I can imagine that Madlib must have felt like a kid in a candy store.

Shades of Blue isn't a jazz/hip hop-fusion album like Guru's Jazzmatazz. All but one track is instrumental. Most of what Madlib does with the tracks is rearrange the sections and add a drum loop, but despite the simplicity of it, it's a nice gateway album to the sources of the cuts, which include Andrew Hill, Donald Byrd, and Horace Silver. This is one of my favorite albums to play in the background of conversations and reading, which perfectly blends two of my favorite musical genres.

Distant Land
Song For My Father

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Little Brother, Big Controversy

Little Brother had high hopes for their softmore effort in 2005. It was to be their breakout album into the circus that is mainstream rap music. It received mixed reviews, most notoriously from The Source magazine, which was originally to give it a 4 and a half mic rating, but was lowered due to internal disagreements. Unfortunately the group split with their producer 9th Wonder recently, most likely due to the disappointing sales and creative differences between the two parties.

Nonetheless, The Minstrel Show is a pleasurable concept album comparing modern day rappers to black-faced performers of the early 19th century, satisfying the populace with gang glorification, female exploitation and not to mention terrible lyrical delivery. Phonte's flow meshes well with 9th's choppy, lo-fi production while Big Pooh provides his two cents worth.

Lovin' It
Say It Again
All For You

Friday, September 21, 2007

A Bright Idea + some DJ abilities = Classic Material

I gotta represent with a post about a dope group from my hometown once in a while. Ever since Atmosphere blew up about four or five years ago, the majors have been stalking the Twin Cities for similar musicians to sign, but most artists here have stayed true to the independent scene that nurtured them.

One of my favorite DJ/MC duo outta St. Paul is Eyedea & Abilities. Both men are veterans of the battle arena (Eyedea's most notorious was winning HBO's Blaze Battle and Abilities has won DMC regionals) and breath fresh, relieving air into the hip hop game. Their debut album came out in 2001 which seems like so long ago when I reflect on it today, almost makes me feel old (*sob*). Seriously though, albums just aren't as stitched together and as cohesive as this one anymore. I love concept albums with a central theme and songs that weave together like a rug on a loom. This is how albums are supposed to be listened to! Back to back, no track skipping, no bullshit. Just beautiful music that evokes feelings you couldn't get any other way.

Music Music
Liquid Sovereignty
On This I Stand