Because I am Still Alive

Posted in Hip Hop by jawillisetc on August 16, 2010

So, I could tell you that I haven’t been posting because I’ve been busy (Breaking Bad isn’t going to watch itself you know), but really I just haven’t had much to say. For a while there all I listened to was Big Boi and Janelle Monae, and frankly there’s nothing for me to say about them that hasn’t already been said. Buy Sir Lucious Left Foot The Son Of Chico Dusty and The Archandroid immediately if you haven’t already, they are excellent. There, now that I’ve told you what you already know, I’ll try to talk about something more interesting.

I think I’ll work in descending order of obscurity, starting with the relatively heavily hyped Shabazz Palaces ( top listener woooooo).

Shabazz Palaces

Gunbeat Falls // Of Light

blastit at the homie rayzer’s… // Shabazz Palaces

32 Leaves Dipped in blackness… // Shabazz Palaces

So, Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler, Shabazz’s MC, was one of the three MCs of the jazzy, Native Tongues influenced Digable Planets in the 90s. You may remember “Nickel Bag of Dimes” or the fact that they won a Grammy. Or you may not, because the Grammys are a joke. Either way, it really doesn’t matter, because Shabazz Palaces is almost nothing like that. 32 Leaves Dipped in Carbon, from their self titled second EP, was heavily promoted on blogs in the spring/early summer, probably because it condenses the Shabazz aesthetic into a neat 3:32. A stuttering beat supported by gentle but alien synth pattern provides a background for Butler to spit free associative, psychedelic gangsterisms. Butler proclaims “I rap order into this madness” and he means it. These beats would make even FlyLo scratch his head, but somehow Butler manages to seem in control. Despite this madness, the drums and bass hit with just the right amount of force to congeal into something that, although about as far from Dr. Dre as a beat could be and still be called hip hop, would probably sound excellent in an old Cadillac.

Blastit, the only track repeated on both EPs maintains the percussive force of 32 Leaves’ beat, but introduces a xylophone or windchime or something that creates a lighter tone. The lyrics mirror this lighter tone, focusing on the pleasure of blasting a good track. Other standouts include Gunbeat Falls, off of “Of Light” and Kill White T, off Shabazz Palaces, but every track on Shabazz’s two EPs deserves to be listened to.

Super Chron Flight Brothers

Strangers With Candy // Cape Verde

Golden Grams // Cape Verde

Reggie Miller // Cape Verde // Super Chron Flight Brothers

A friend of mine recommended Super Chron Flight Brothers to me, describing them as “Cannibal Ox produced by Madlib.” The track “Unsolved Mysteries” from their most recent album, Cape Verde, even features Cannibal Ox’s Vordul Mega. They’re good, but unfortunately not as good as that description suggests. They are strong lyrically, addressing both the mundane joys of breakfast cereal and the symptoms of widespread societal decay, but they lack the focus of Cannibal Ox. Their lyrics tend to wander too widely to have much of an impact, although they do come up with plenty of clever lines. The beats seem like their real strength to me. Many of the tracks open with sample collages that set a playful, semi-stoned sort of mood that gels nicely with the R&B and soul samples that make up most of the beats. My favorite tracks are the more lighthearted ones like Reggie Miller and Golden Grams, although the more downbeat, message focused tracks like Strangers With Candy have their virtue. But without more lyrical focus, the message tracks fail to make an impact.

Main Attrakionz

Main Attrakionz

Legion of Doom // 808s and Dark Grapes

I picked up 808s and Dark Grapes, the Main Attrakionz mixtape after I saw the video for Legion of Doom. Unfortunately, while enjoyable, the rest of the mixtape doesn’t approach the quality of that track. The other tracks are standard mixtape fodder, disposable exercises in drum machine programming and flow biting. But Legion of Doom somehow exists on an entirely different level. It feels unique and developed, and if Main Attrationz keep going in this direction then they could really matter.

Legion of Doom sounds unlike any other hip-hop I’ve heard this year.  The beat is very sparse, composed of only a few high hat sample and a kick drum, which create a very light, relaxed feeling. Above the drums the beat features heavily manipulated vocal samples that remind me of Gold Panda or Mount Kimbie in their ability to wring emotion of of vocals by twisting them. The rapping maintains the low key, chilled out feeling by avoiding technical flourishes or overt punning. The MCs stick to relaxed boasting, allowing their voices to blend into the vocal samples that make up the beat.


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