Category: hip-hop

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Atmosphere Teams Up with Cashinova The Lioness and deM atLas on Moody and Contemplative “Drown”

I’ve written quite a bit about the critically applauded and commercially successful Minneapolis, MN-based hip-hop act Atmosphere over this site’s eight-plus year history — and as you may recall the act initially formed over 20 years ago as a trio featuring Slug, Spawn D and Ant under the name Urban Atmosphere. Interestingly, whether as a trio or a duo, Atmosphere has developed and maintained a long-held reputation for pushing the boundaries of what hip-hop should sound like and concern itself with thematically — especially as the members of the act age, and find themselves inching towards middle age. 

2016’s Fishing Blues continued a string of insightful, soulful and mature material reflecting men, who evolved from tortured hedonists into settled down family men, who have seen and experienced much more than they can put into words. And while setting down in a much-deserved and peaceful bliss of family and art seems ideal in almost every circumstance, the world we currently inhabit has fundamentally changed in a frighteningly uncertain fashion. Certainly, if you’re a sensitive, thoughtful person, you can’t help but be aware that while you may have your own little paradise, hate within a mad, mad, mad, mad, mad world, that sense of paradise won’t (and can’t) last;  that “nothing lasts forever,” as a song says.

Unsurprisingly, Atmosphere’s seventh album Mi Vida Loca thematically finds the pair grappling with their own mortality, and the anxiety and fear that comes with the painful acknowledgment that you’re powerless — and that you can’t possibly protect yourself, let alone your loved ones from the dangers of the world. Although thematically sobering, the album much like the bulk of their creative output is centered around the duo’s deep and abiding friendship. 

Virgo,” Mi Vida Loca‘s first single may arguably be the most intimate and urgent song they’ve ever written and recorded — and just because the song evokes (and focuses on) the anxieties and fears of our moment, it isn’t completely dark and hopeless.  The song proudly and sincerely says that as a man, it’s okay to admit that you’re scared shitless and not know what the fuck to do about anything; that when you’re uncertain and afraid that there are friends and loved ones, and music; small joys and small victories; and sweet and tender moments that we need to cling to and cherish with every fiber of our beings.  Sonically, the song featured a bluesy production centered around strummed guitar, twinkling old-timey keys and eerily buzzing synths that nodded at Everlast’Whitey Ford Sings the Blues but somehow starker. The album’s second single, album opening track “Jerome” continues in a similar vein — centered around a production consisting of a looped sample of boozy and woozy buzzing power chords, rumbling and thumping percussion, brief blasts of twinkling and shimmering synths. Throughout Slug rhymes about the weight of familial history, aging, death, the vapidity and insincerity of social media and a bevy of other things with an incredibly dexterous rhyme scheme but underneath the swaggering self-assuredness of Slug’s delivery is a vulnerability and aching, world weariness. “Graffiti,” found Slug rhyming about the painful slings and arrows of life; the small pleasures of friendship, family and music; the inevitable heartache of lost love and death; that life is ultimately about people coming and going without anyone really knowing why or how — and goddamn it, does it hurt.  And yet, as our ancestors did, we move on somehow, and so will our descendants. We all have the same tale: born, loved, hated, dreamt, longed, lusted, died — and yet almost always alone. Much like its predecessors, the song’s production evokes a deep, religious-like yearning as it was centered around a soaring choral sample, backed by twinkling keys, boom bap beats and a looped, bluesy guitar line.  

The Minneapolis-based duo close out a successful 2018 with the release of “Drown,” one of the few songs of their catalog with features — but it features some equally dope labelmates and tourmates The Lioness and deM atLas trading bars on an eerie yet modern production that evokes anxiety, uncertainty and confusion as its centered around plinking keys, shuffling beats and a soulful hook sung by Cashinova.  Each of the artists offer an unflinching and unguarded look into troubled and dysfunctional relationship and heartache, of loss and the difficulties in moving on with your dignity and sanity intact. 

Directed by Tomas Aksamit, the recently released video is features Slug, Cashinova, The Lioness and deM atLas in a dramatically shot black and white and intimate close ups, to catch the emotion of each artist. 

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Earlier this year, I wrote about Czarface, a collaborative project featuring renowned, underground hip-hop duo 7L & Esoteric and the Wu-Tang Clan‘s Inspectah Deck. The act derives its name from a character they created that’s patterned after both comic book villains and aspects of each of the individual members. Now, as you may recall, the act can trace its origins to when the trio together, which lead to “Speaking Real Words” off 7L & Esoteric’s 2001 album, The Soul Purpose and “12th Chamber” off their 2010 album, 1212, and a number of other singles. And since the group’s formation back in 2013, they’ve released four critically applauded albums — their 2013 self-titled debut, 2015’s Every Hero Needs a Villain, 2016’s A Fistful of Peril and their collaboration with MF DoomCzarface Meets Metalface, which was released earlier this year.

Czarface follows their critically applauded collaboration with MF Doom by teaming with Ghostface Killah, a.k.a. Iron Man, a.k.a. Tony Starks on their forthcoming collaborative effort Czarface Meets Ghostface. The album’s first single “Iron Claw” features dope emcees trading swaggering bars about running crime syndicates, taking over the world, being the dopest around and more over a thumping and menacing production featuring enormous 808-like beats, a chopped up vocal sample and arpeggiated organs. Simply put this one is straight fire, as it features some of the world’s best emcees challenging each other to push their talents and skills in a new, exciting directions.

 

 

 

New Video: Clear Soul Forces Return with an Swaggering and Self-Assured New Single Paired with Slick Visuals

The Detroit, MI-based hip-hop quartet Clear Soul Forces, comprised of E-Fav, L.A.Z., Noveliss, and producer/emcee Ilajide, quickly developed a rotation for lyrically and sonically drawing from 70s street poets and boom-bap era hip-hop, adding their name to a list to exceptionally dope artists from the Motor City.  The quartet can trace their origins to a 2009 all-nighter at a Detroit recording studio. The four emcees scraped up the money to record material individually. Coincidentally, Royce Da 5’9″ was finishing work on his album Street Hop in the room next door, and the four emcees jumped at the chance to spit a few rhymes for him. As the story goes, the four young emcees then spent the next nine hours in an epic cypher in which each individual emcee traded bars while an impressed Royce Da 5’9″ intensely listened. Once they finished, the renowned, elder Detroit-based emcee suggested that the young quartet should become a group. 

By the following year, the members of Clear Soul Forces began making a name for themselves in Detroit’s underground hip-hop scene with the release of their debut mixtape Clear Soul Radio. The ended 2010 with the completion of their home studio The Complex, where they recorded The Departure EP. Adding to a growing national profile, the act played sets at A3C Festival, the 35 Denton Festival and SXSW, where they played the the Rappers I Know Showcase with Tanya Morgan, H.I.S.D., Just Blaze, The Alchemist, Talib Kweli and Freeway, and followed it up with videos for “The Greatest” and “Strangers In The Night.”

2012 saw the release of the Detroit-based quartet’s full-length debut Detroit Revolution(s), which was reportedly influenced by a large mural on the side of a local apartment building — and by the end of the year, they were selected by Red Bull as a featured artist in the beverage company’s Sound Select program. Now, it’s been a while since I’ve personally written about the act, but if you’re a true hip-hop head, you’d know that the members spent some time working on individual creative pursuits; in fact, you may recall that I wrote about a single off L.A.Z’s solo effort No Paperwork, “Celestial Vibes.” But interestingly enough, the act announced two things — their return and that they’d be releasing a new album, Still slated for a February 22, 2019 release. “They Shootin,'” the first single manages to be a bit of a return to form for the act as its centered around a warm 90s inspired hip hop production featuring a smooth and jazzy organ line and thumping beats that’s roomy enough for each individual emcee to trade bars. And while each emcee has a different flow and vocal range, they all manage to self-assuredly display incredibly dexterous wordplay and rhyme schemes. 

Directed by Xerox Vision, the recently released video for “They Shootin'” serves as a visual re-introduction to the group while effortlessly blending real-life violence with actual consequences with video game mayhem. As the act’s Ilajide explains in press notes, “The inspiration came from the stigma that when it gets hot the murder rate goes up,” he says. “Couple that with the fact that they always shootin’ in Detroit, it was perfect to spin it like a respawn in an online match on multiplayer video games.” His ba ndmates share the sentiment while noting that for all of them, it was natural reference video games and gaming. As children of the 90s, they all owned various consoles, played a ton of games — and were aware of the fact that crime was high and rampant, making the video and track an organic result of their shared experiences. 

DJ Devastate was a Helsingborg, Sweden-born producer, turntablist, and DJ, who collaborated with an impressive array of artists including El Da Sensei, Max I Million, DJ Create, Wildchild and MED, Chuck D and others with material being released Stateside on Coalmine Records and in his native Sweden through Counterweight Records. Earlier this year, the up-and-coming Swedish-born DJ, turntablist, and producer suddenly and tragically died at the age of 35.

Celebrating his life and his work, Coalmine Records and Counterweight Records teamed up to release a two LP compilation of some of each label’s favorite tracks In Recollection: A Dual Label Anthology. The Counterweight Records side has eight tracks including the Create & Devastate produced “I Rap Black” by Chuck D., Bishop Lamont and Mykill Miers; the Devastate-produced “Riddim Up On Em” and Baby Blak’s “Moves 2 Make;” and his remix of Chapee and Max I Million’s “Feel It.” The Coalmine side has five tracks, including the Devastate-produced “Show Stoppa” by El Da Sensei; the Max I Million remix of C.L. Smooth and Skyzoo’s “Perfect Timing,” which features Devastate’s turntablism; J57′s remix of “Show Stoppa;” Create & Devastate’s “Most Confident;” and the compilation’s latest single, the fifth on the Coalmine side, the posthumously released “Crime After Crime,” which features Illa Ghee spitting gritty and menacing bars over a Devastate beat centered around chopped up Biggie samples of “Suicidal Thoughts” and “Sky’s the Limit” bolstered by thumping 808s and Devastate’s scratching.

Sometimes compilations are typically sad affairs — especially in light of the tragic, too soon death of an up-and-coming artist, this particular track and the compilation is a reminder of the Swedish DJ, turnbalist and producer’s immense talent and what the hip-hop world will sorely miss.

 

 

 

New Video: Aesop Rock and TOBACCO Collaboration Malibu Ken Releases Trippy and Menacing “Acid King”

Born Ian Matthais Bavitz in Syosset, NY, the Portland, OR-based emcee and producer Aesop Rock was at the forefront of a collection of underground and alt hip-hop acts that emerged during the late 1990s and early 2000s with his most boundary pushing work being released through El-P’s Definitive Jux Records. Aesop Rock has also developed a reputation for being a go-to collaborator, as he is the member of a number of different musical projects including The Weathermen, Hail Mary Mallon with Rob Sonic and DJ Big Wiz, The Uncluded with Kimya Dawson and Two of Every Animal with Cage. Throughout his career, the Syosset-born, Portland-based emcee and producer has been largely considered one of the more verbose emcees, known for flow that’s centered by dense and abstract wordplay and rhyme schemes. 

Over the past decade, the Pittsburgh-born and based producer, multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter TOBACCO (born Thomas Fec) as a solo artist and as the frontman and primary songwriter of Black Moth Super Rainbow has used analog synths and tape machines to record material that rapidly alternates between absurdly bright beauty and the murderous sinister in a way that evokes a woozy and uneasy intertwining of tension, anxiety, bemusement and pleasure. 

The duo’s collaboration Malibu Ken can trace its origins back to when TOBACCO and Aesop Rock toured together over a decade ago. “I find his production to be something special, and always wanted to see what I could bring to it,” Aesop Rock says in press notes. ” We recently found time to record some songs, and Malibu Ken was born. I brought a few stories to the table, but also did my best to let the production dictate the subject matter throughout. We hope you like the soup.” Rhymesayers Entertainment will be releasing the duo’s self-titled, full-length debut on January 18, 2019, and the album’s first single “Acid King” may arguably be one of the most forward-thinking, strangest and boundary pushing hip-hop tracks I’ve heard in some time. Sonically, Aesop Rock spits a series of dense, heady bars full of absurd and gory imagery over an woozy, eerie and menacing retro-futuristic production centered around shimmering and arpeggiated synths. 

Directed by long-time Aesop Rock collaborator Rob Shaw, the recently released animated music video is a fittingly fucked up, psychedelic nightmare centered around the decay and melting of its protagonist’s face — in real time. 

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Atmosphere Release Eerie and Haunting Visuals for “Graffiti”

Throughout the bulk of this site’s eight-plus year history, I’ve written quite a bit about the critically applauded and commercially successful Minneapolis, MN-based hip-hop act Atmosphere, and as you may recall the act initially formed over 20 years ago as a trio featuring Slug, Spawn D and Ant under the name Urban Atmosphere. And whether as a trio or a duo, the Minneapolis-based act have developed and maintained a long-held reputation for pushing the boundaries of what hip-hip should sound like and concern itself with thematically — especially as the members of the act find themselves inching to middle age, as well as for relentless touring.

2016’s Fishing Blues continued a string of insightful, soulful and mature material reflecting men, who evolved from tortured hedonists into settled down family men, who have seen and experienced much more than they can put into words — and while settling down in a much-deserved and peaceful bliss of family and art seems ideal in almost every circumstance, the world has fundamentally changed in a frightening and uncertain fashion. If you’re a sensitive, thoughtful person, you can’t help but recognize that while you may have a little paradise, that within a mad, mad, mad world, it won’t (and can’t) last; that “nothing lasts forever,” as a song says. Unsurprisingly, Atmosphere’s recently released seventh album Mi Vida Loca thematically finds the pair grappling with their own mortality and the anxiety and fear that comes with the painful acknowledgment that you’re powerless and that you can’t possibly protect yourself, let alone your loved ones from the dangers of our world. Thematically sobering, indeed; but the album much like the bulk of their creative output has long been centered around the duo’s deep and abiding friendship. “Virgo,” Mi Vida Loca‘s eerie first single may arguably be the most intimate and urgent song they’ve ever written and recorded — and just because the song evokes (and focuses on) the anxieties and fears of our moment, it isn’t completely dark and hopeless. If anything, the song proudly and sincerely says that as a man, it’s okay to admit that you’re scared shitless and not know what the fuck to do about anything; that when you’re uncertain and afraid that there are friends and loved ones, and music, small joys and small victories, and sweet and tender moments that we need to cling to and cherish with every fiber of our beings.  Sonically, the song featured a bluesy production centered around strummed guitar, twinkling old-timey keys and eerily buzzing synths that nodded at Everlast’s Whitey Ford Sings the Blues but somehow starker. The album’s second single, album opening track “Jerome” continues in a similar vein — centered around a production consisting of a looped sample of boozy and woozy buzzing power chords, rumbling and thumping percussion, brief blasts of twinkling and shimmering synths. Throughout Slug rhymes about the weight of familial history, aging, death, the vapidity and insincerity of social media and a bevy of other things with an incredibly dexterous rhyme scheme but underneath the swaggering self-assuredness of Slug’s delivery is a vulnerability and aching, world weariness.

The album’s latest single “Graffiti” finds Slug rhyming about the painful slings and arrows of love, the small pleasures of love, friendship, family and music, the inevitable heartache of lost love and death; that life ultimately is about people coming and going without anyone really knowing why or how. As our ancestors did, we will move on somehow, and so will our descendants. We’ll all have the same tale: born, loved, hated, dreamt, longed, lusted, died  — alone. Interestingly, the song’s production is centered around a production that evokes a religious-like yearning: a soaring choral sample, backed by twinkling keys, boom bap beats, and a looped bluesy guitar line. The recently released video finds Atmosphere working with frequent collaborator, director Jason Goldwatch on grainy Super 8mm film, and visually it focuses on themes of yearning for freedom from worldly pain, insecurity, longing for something beyond daily concerns, of the desire to be wanted, and understood.  It manages to further emphasize, the song’s underlying ache in a dramatic yet subtle fashion. 

New Video: Sav Killz’s Ode to Summertime in Brooklyn

Born Jamel Hampton, Sav Killz is a Brooklyn-based emcee, who grew up in both Flatbush and Bedford-Stuyvesant, and initially was involved in the city’s hip hop scene as a graffiti writer, known for his tag Savage. In 1997, Hampton started rapping on the block under Savage Killa, based on his graffiti tag, which he later shorted to Sav Killz. Interestingly, Hampton got his professional part as part of the Wu-Tang Clan cypher, honing his skills at 36 Chambers Studio and Restoration Plaza, and he was part of the Sunz of Man and Brooklyn Zu cyphers.

Since the early 00s, Hampton has released a number of mixtapes that have received attention both across the city’s indie hip-hop scene and the blogosphere. And building upon a growing profile, he has opened for the likes of Kool Keith, Jadakiss, Slick Rick, Saigon, AZ, The Beatnuts, Rakim and Foxy Brown. Earlier this year, Sav Killz released his Bangers and B-Sides 2 mixtape, “hosted” by his longtime producer and collaborator DJ J-Ronin — and the mixtape’s latest single is the Camouflage Monk-produced “Brooklyn Summer,” which is centered around a looped, slow-burning, Roy Ayers-like jazz-fusion sample featuring twinkling Rhodes electric piano, big horns and a sinuous bass line over which Sav Killz rhymes about how Brooklyn always keeps it 100 every single day; but underneath that there’s a nostalgia about hanging out in the park on a glorious summer day with your homies, listening to your favorite tunes, while someone barbecues.

Directed by R.Hendrix, the recently released video was shot at Brooklyn Bridge Park during the Team Magnificent Get Low photo shoot and evokes summer days hanging out in the park with the homies.

New Video: JOVM Mainstay REMI teams up with Black Milk, Razia Biza, and Baro on Upbeat Yet Politically Charged “Runner”

Over the course of late 2016 through last year, I had written quite a bit about the Melbourne, Australia-based emcee REMI, and as you may recall, along with his producer, DJ and longtime collaborator, Sensible J, the duo rose to national prominence with 2014’s critically and commercially successful  effort Raw X Infinity, an album that was named  Triple J‘s Album of the Week and the Independent Hip Hop Album of the Year by the Australian Independent Record Association, and received international attention from OkayAfrica, JUICE, laut.de, NPR’s All Things Considered, and several others. Adding to a growing national and international profile, the Melbourne-based emcee was named “Australian Breakthrough Artist of the Year” and as a result the duo wound up touring nationally and internationally with Danny Brown, Vic Mensa, De La Soul, Joey Bada$$ and Damon Albarn.

2016 saw the release of the duo’s critically applauded full-length Divas and Demons, an album that revealed a supremely talented emcee and adept lyricist and storyteller, whose stories possessed an earnest, soul-baring honesty.  Now, it’s been some time since I’ve personally written about the Melbourne-based emcee; but recently he released a collaborative EP Black Hole Sun that finds him teaming up with Hamilton, New Zealand-based Raiza Biza, Sampha the Great, Black Milk who contributes production, and Sensible J, who mixed and curated the entire affair. The EP’s latest single “Runner” is a collaboration that features the duo teaming up with fellow Melbourne-based emcee Baro — and the track find the trio rhyming over an upbeat production that’s centered around thumping, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, explosive hi-hat and a looped flute sample and an infectious hook; but unlike their previous work, the track finds the collaborators spitting fiery and incisive bars about racism, racist stereotypes and fears; deception and bullshit by teachers and political leaders, while being defiantly and boldly pro-black. 

Directed by Tig Terera, the recently released video is primarily centered around the trio’s exploits breaking into a closed shopping mall and then a closed hair salon and while shot in a way that brings the trio’s friendship to light, it allows each individual artist to shine in a variety of scenes.