The Graduate

Asher Roth- RetroHash

Asher Roth buried himself alive with his 2009 beer-ponging ode to Miller Lite, “I Love College”.  Since then Asher the rapper has worked hard to distance himself from the meteoric rise and eventual fizzling out of that one-off anthem.  His Greenhouse Effect Vol 2 and Pabst & Jazz projects aimed to keep the focus on the art rather than the gimmicky portrait his debut painted.

RetroHash, Roth’s sophomore release, is a record with no looming cloud of expectation hanging over its weird fucking head.  Asher and production team Blended Babies have cooked up a veritable stew of laid back gems where no two moments sound the same; ranging from the corny-chic “Tangerine Girl”, to “Dude”, a trademark bar for bar battle with Curren$y.  Hats off to newcomer Vic Mensa (been talking about him ’round these parts for a year) for smashing his feature on the sunny “Fast Life”.

Talk shit and he just might out rap you; criticize and he’ll flip the script and croon his way through the room like a pale-faced Kid Cudi.  This is the album Asher Roth fans were hoping for three years ago.  Los Angeles, good weed, and nothing left to prove serve him well…as we might have finally gotten a glimpse of the artist and the man on RetroHash. 

Wrap your head around this one…

Mac Goes Easy

Mac Demarco: Salad Days

Mac DeMarco is a quintessential hipster hero; an unemployed visual artist who turned to paving roads for cash whilst struggling to get his music career off the ground.  His sophomore album, Salad Days, is a polished tale of growing old (sort of), as the midday traffic blows by from the vantage point of your all too familiar bar stool.

DeMarco’s poignant slack is a clever guise for a young man with a Stephen Malkmus flair for tongue-in-cheek songwriting.  Salad Days is meant for summer sun; those moments in late July where everything seems to blend into one continuous cycle of heated highs and lows.  “Brother” and “Goodbye Weekend” are made for stooping with brown bags, while “Passing Out Pieces” sounds like a study in St. Pepper-era haze.

Salad Days plays like a collective, much needed deep breath.  DeMarco has masterfully managed to capture the sound of rambling on, while never really letting us in.

 

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.