Pharoahe Monch: PTSD

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Pharoahe Monch had been on a career long mission to keep his music independent and still reach the masses.  On 2011′s WAR the wordy Queens MC battled the “business” while tackling themes like the shady recording industry, politics, and our every day struggle.  PTSD is the aftershock; the man with the rattled cage battling the demons of dissatisfaction and depression.  Should he fill that prescription, or is the noise behind his eyes a necessary piece of the puzzle?

The record has a concept feel, but more importantly it’s a testament to his craft.  Monch never slacks on the mic, loading up his verses with detailed metaphors, verbose internal rhymes, and vivid imagery.  This scholar has got skills.  The production throughout hovers above the land of boom-bap, a homage to the sound that Monch helped define nearly twenty years ago.

“Time2″, “Losing My Mind”,  “D.R.E.A.M.” featuring an energized Talib Kweli,  and “Rapid Eye Movement” with Black Thought are the true heavyweights in this 16 song setA few tough years at war served Pharoahe Monch well; as PTSD is the unnerving sound of settling back in.

 

 

Illmatic Celebrates 20 Years Strong

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As Nas readies the deluxe re-issue of his masterpiece Illmatic, he touched down in the desert to rock the Coachella main stage a few nights ago.  Keeping a young, fickle crowd interested in a 20 year old record might be a task for some, but Nas brought his New York state of mind to the hipster masses and delivered one of the finest sets of his career.  Joined by Jay Z for a duet on “Dead Presidents”, and Diddy for “Hate Me Now”, Nas barreled through his catalog with the venom and passion of a rapper half his age.

Never put him in your box if that shit eats tapes.  Old heads continue to rejoice.  Nas is the God MC, bottom line.

 

Legendary Vocabulary

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As I sit back and patiently wait for Wu mastermind Raekwon’s upcoming Fly International Luxurious Art (F.I.L.A) album, I bring you a clever little freestyle called “The Living Room”, produced by Illness of Smokestack.  The track finds Rae bringing it as only Rae can; spitting boasts and metaphors in his trademark raspy snarl, while riding a beat that does a 180 degree flip mid-way through.  It’s soulful.  It’s gutter.  It’s luxurious.  It’s most definitely art.

Wu can do no wrong, even twenty years after the fact.  Name a crew with members this solid from top to bottom?  Go on…I’ll wait.

Lace Up: Spring Edition

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My city is melting and I love this time of year.  People creep out into the streets like the morning after the Zombies came and went; long scraggly beards, wincing at that weird bright spot in the sky.  Spring time means slow, calculated warmth and the realization I can finally reach into the closet and grab shoe boxes that I was afraid to look at for the past four months of snow and grey.

Here’s a couple of my favorite grabs from the winter.

The Nike ACG Air Alder is a dope shoe featuring grey suede with a few hits of orange and tons of rad little details.  I picked these up at Bodega in Boston a month ago, and have worn the hell out of them already.  ACG is built to last, so don’t be afraid to dirty these up.  My favorite part of this pair is the feel; super comfy on feet.

These mean bastards are the Jordan 3 Black Cement Flips.  They released in December of 2011, and sold out immediately.  They’re a 3 with the elephant print flipped to cover nearly the entire shoe.  You won’t appreciate the detail until this shoe is in your hand.  The sock liner and tongue are decked out in leather too.  So fresh and so clean.  If you’re willing to drop $300, you can grab a DS pair on eBay.

The Pine Foamposite is a shoe I loved, but never bothered with.  I have zero patience for camping out (I’m a grown up), or ticket raffles (I’m a grown up), so I passed on these when they initially released.  A few days ago I found a 9/10 pair on eBay for $150 and grabbed them.  The soles yellow over time, so they won’t look this crisp, but I plan to wear them until the heel peels off.

The Nike SB Stefan Janoski’s with the gum soul make me happy.  This is a clean, simple shoe for every day wear.  Lots of cool elements here…the grey/anthracite around the heel to match the swoosh, the gum sole, the black rounded laces, daddy likey.

Happy spring, and remember…you’re a free American.  If you want to spend your cash on shoes, so be it.  Rock what you like.

So It Goes…

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Ratking is a self-proclaimed pack of mutts from The Rotten Apple who’s got the internet hailing them as raps torch-bearing East Coast saviors.  It could be their unabashed take on hip-hop which straddles the line of forward thinking urban chaos and jazzy soul; but the truth is Ratking isn’t aping a sound that put them on.  They’re looking for higher ground.

It’s not the 90′s reincarnate, it’s the sound of young New York right now.  Skating, smoking, fighting, tagging train windows with fat tipped Sharpies; all while the world passes them by.  They’re bored with The Common Core, and so it goes.  Manhattan’s Wiki and Harlem’s Hak along with producer Sporting Life create a sound that’s influenced by grime and the boom-bap of Brooklyn and Queens that came at a time when nobody wore tight pants, and the only dude with the balls to wear pinks kicks was Killa.

So It Goes is a record that finds room to breathe after a few listens.  There’s no peace here.  Wiki’s snarling raps come in hectic bunches.  He spits a stream-of-consciousness born from hours of toying with a pen and paper on subway cars with flickering lights.  The production blows through like a storm, making use of stripped down effects and stretched out, nearly unrecognizable samples.  If you’re looking for verse/chorus bangers, keep it moving.  Ratking seem comfortable going against the grain; the kids in the crosswalk long after the walk sign’s red palm lights up the sidewalk puddles.

This is strong debut, serving as testament to where hip-hop might be heading.   On the visceral “Puerto Rican Judo” Wiki asks us to open our eyes and wake up.  Strong advice from a 20-year-old mutt from Manhattan.  Hats off to the youth of America.

Look Out Below

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Wolverines, the new record from NYC’s I Am The Avalanche is a study in growing up.  Health scares and divorce can do that to a leading man.  Vinny Caruana writes from the gut, but this time out he’s rounded off the rough edges by creating a textured second-person narrative.  His “you” might be her, might be you, might be him.  It’s a clever trick from a songwriter who’s made a career out of wearing his heart on his sleeve.

“177″ and “The Shape I’m In” are blatant anthems; odes to hard times and possible redemption.  But once again, it’s left to you to decide who’s wearing the bulls eye. “Anna Lee” and ‘Two Runaways” ditch the angst for a more polished and calculated post-punk spin, while never managing to disrupt the sequencing rhythm.  The album wraps with the aptly titled “One Last Time”, which finds Caruana pondering his spirituality and mortality.  Thankfully, his very real and very common dilemmas are spilled into a mic for the rest of us to internalize.

Wolverines is the sound of a seasoned band, all tuned up.  Check them out at http://www.iamtheavalanchenyc.com/.

 

He Is Not The Shame

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F. Virtue is a Canadian born, NYC based artist from the Fameless Fam collective, an internet-based record label that believes in keeping the music in the hands of the people.  He’s been rapping since his teen years, but has recently garnered attention for his brash, honest lyrical content and his tremendous new album, We Are Not The Shame.  F. Virtue is an openly gay MC in an alpha-male dominated genre; a beautiful juxtaposition in an ever-changing world.  What drew me to his music is the fearlessness by which he creates and delivers his message.  He graciously took some time to chat with Shiny Glass Houses about his journey thus far.

Shiny Glass Houses: Music is often born from a hunger to create, what experiences inspire you to rap? 

F. Virtue: These damn feelings. Suffocation, stress, anxiety, nostalgia, happiness, love, heartbreak, cities, lights, and oceans make me make music. 

SGH: I can remember thumbing through my parents records as a kid, and landing on Some Girls by the Rolling Stones.  It was unlike anything I’d ever heard.  It wasn’t just the sounds, it was the entire package that shook me.  What records from your past changed the way you saw things?

FV: Late ’90′s underground rap. The content of the songs. The concepts of the records. The labels and crews. The anticipation for records to drop (leaked downloads weren’t a thing). Waiting for tours to come through my city. The mystery, and lack of photographs. Scribble Jam. Overcast. The whole eruption of Anticon, Def Jux, Rhymesayers, and Living Legends… I was so young that the albums shaped my way of viewing the world and developed my thoughtfulness. I’m thankful for that.  

SGH: Hip-hop culture has been at the forefront of style and creativity for two decades.  Do you think style has replaced substance today?

FV: Yes, but it doesn’t bother me. A lot of these “cool” “fashion” kids care about the hit factor, making hyper-sexual hot songs, writing cute brags, and strange, dark, yet vapid stuff. But I like it. Everything has it’s place. I need it to dance and drink to. But I also need my serious MC delivering some deep shit, just at different times. Yes, there are less wordy rappers in the public eye than in the late 90′s, but again, I don’t care. It all comes in waves, it all serves a purposes. I dig it all.

SGH: There’s a cold sense of homophobia within the culture, although it’s started to lighten up of late.  Is your lifestyle something you feel you need to defend in your bars?

FV: It’s important for me to share my lifestyle and experiences in my music because there are kids out there who need to hear these things. For example, when I was in high school I wasn’t out and I dated girls to feel “normal.” I was always depressed after house parties because my friends would have all these epic hook-ups and life changing experiences while I would spend my night avoiding intimacy, drinking, smoking, and wishing I could go through the same things. I was always on edge. If I put that story in a song, I could help kids in the position I was in feel more confident knowing they aren’t alone, and that it gets better. I never thought I would ever be this comfortable or public about it, but I am. And it feels great. And everyone deserves this kind of happiness. 

SGH: If you could do drunken karaoke with any celeb/artist/historical figure, dead or alive, who would you choose?

FV: I don’t do karaoke.

SGH: Last but not least, and quite customary around these parts…what’s your drink of choice?

FV: Gin.  Gin all day.

Be sure to check out the Fameless Fam movement at http://www.famelessfam.com/. Follow F.Virtue on Twitter @famelessvirtue, and grab the fantastic We Are Not The Shame record here… http://www.famelessfam.com/?p=37794.