New Sounds: Words Hurt- Soul Music for the Soulless

Alaska and Lang Vo are Words Hurt. They met on Twitter. They fell in love through a chain of beautiful (since deleted) emails. And now they make cerebral hip hop music for you to run errands to. I suppose you could fight to it, or possibly cook dinner while it’s playing? Either way, Soul Music for the Soulless is grown up rap for fans of stinging word play and hard beats.

You’ve read my gripes about how “overwhelming” it is to keep up on new music these days. I have a solution. Don’t waste energy with all that unnecessary pressure. Instead, listen to this for a few weeks and simply skip all the mediocre bullshit vying for your time.

Grab the album for $7, you cheap shit heads.

And here’s a video of their last full length for your pleasure.

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New Music. Old Habits.

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Music is in a peculiar space. There’s an over abundance of new shit and it’s overwhelming. Every day there’s another project to check out. A few times a week SoundCloud links hit my inbox. I scroll through Spotify’s new release page three times a day. I’m surrounded by music, but it’s all starting to blur.  It’s a necessary pulse and it beats whether you’re listening or not.

Like an obedient Millenial, I watch a lot of Viceland. I’m mainly interested in how many times Desus & Mero mention the Yankees and their 27 World Championships (11 of which were won when black athletes weren’t able to play in the league), and how much food Action Bronson can cram into his face in a 30 minute clip. I watch the channel and I feel cool. Shout out to Spike Jonze for inspiring my fear of missing out. I happened to catch an episode of Desus & Mero last week which featured A Boogie, and I was fascinated. Here’s this young kid from the Bronx who seems to have his shit together. He was pretty mild-mannered and well-spoken. I found myself rooting for him; especially considering he’s part of a new school of Hip Hop kids that I cannot seem to get behind. And it’s not even that it matters whether I get behind them or not, but more so that I find some level of comfort with the changing of the guard. But that discussion is old hat at this point. As old hat as using the phrase ‘old hat’ while typing on a WordPress blog.

A day or two later I read (and watched clips) of A Boogie and his people stomping the shit out of Lil B behind the curtains at the Rolling Loud Festival. Weird, right? Some violent shit happened at a festival called ‘Rolling Loud’? I was shocked too. So A Boogie et al handed Lil B his ass, and the rap world rallied like Boogie and his people were from hostile Germany. When did people get so far up their own asses that they actually believe they’re part of some Based World where Lil B is above getting beat the fuck up? Boogie’s Bronx stomping rightfully leveled him up. I streamed his debut record that night, and I didn’t hate it. I’d praise it more, but I can’t.

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That’s where I’m at with Hip Hop in 2017. It’s my life, and I don’t hate it. Embracing this wave of pitch controlled rappers who sing (thanks Drake) is necessary if you want to keep sane. And if I can’t get through a few of these records without losing interest or dry heaving, I’m afraid I’ll end up like Joe Budden…beard and all. My biggest fear is being 45 and still preaching to kids about the undeniable brilliance of DJ Premier.

Instagram introduced me to Ezri, and after a little research and a terrific video for “Be Right Back”, I was enthralled. Maybe his EP would be that new shit I had been missing out on. I mean, he’s young, he’s gifted, he’s fucking with Mass Appeal. I honestly thought I found my rap cure for what ailed me.

 

Honestly, I could barely finish the EP. It’s not good and it proves that Nas is a fucking genius. “Be Right Back” paints the picture of a young Kendrick, or Lupe, or Royce poised to leap into the game. It’s jam packed with bars and soulful introspection. It’s what I wishfully expect to hear when someone says “new rapper”. Then you press play and you hear precisely what a new rapper actually sounds like in 2017. It’s generic. It’s fashion rap. It’s expensive belt buckles and double cups. It sounds nothing like the single, which is more of a testament to the power of marketing than it is to the notion that quality matters. I honestly had to just get up and check the mirror for that creeping cheek beard just now, I felt my inner Budden bubbling up.

Taking a sharp left turn; Yelawolf released his long-awaited Trial By Fire on Friday. It’s way more focused than Love Story, but more of the same and a bit of a grind if you can’t follow his country-punk-hip hop logic. But I have to give it to this guy, his brand is strong, and there’s no one remotely like him. If he’d give the Kid Rock features a rest, he’d probably get a bit more shine. Nerd talk, the sequencing of the album makes sense. It simmers and by the time you cross the midway point, if you’re still on board, you’ll find yourself fully immersed in the mind of a man coming out the other side of a nasty alcohol addiction.

I’m also spinning the literal fuck out of the new King Krule record, as well as Conway’s latest tape. If you’re old like me and give a shit about the rapping for sport and you haven’t been paying attention to Conway, Gunn, and Benny…shame on you. What are you listening to? Comment and tell me what to do, and no matter what happens tonight, enjoy the rest of October you filthy animals.

Hot Take: Melo’s Escape From New York

I’m in the market for a #7 Thunder jersey this season.  The thought of rocking that baby blue rag on my back makes me sick, but what’s a guy to do? Carmelo Anthony was traded from NY to OKC for pennies on the dollar last week, and my sporting heart is broken to pieces.

The Knicks have been on a downward slide since their trip to the finals when I was 16, so Melo was truly a pleasure watch year after year. Sure, the front office was a mess. The head coach was nothing but a puppet for that old pot head Phil Jackson to jerk around, and the talent pool was severely lacking until the Latvian Unicorn came to town. But the constant every year in Manhattan was #7 tossing in three’s from 40 feet away.

Real talk, I enjoyed Melo’s unabashed chucking. He can splash it from anywhere on the court.  Piss poor defense and all he’s the reason the Knicks won a handful of games the last few seasons. But with all the scoring gone, what’s next for Gotham’s beloved squad of perpetual losers? I’ll tell you. We got younger bringing back Timmy Hardaway Jr., drafting rookie PG Frank Ntilikina, and standing behind Porzingis’ choice to get stronger by playing European ball all summer. We brought in some veteran knowledge in Jarrett Jack and Mike Beasely. Joakim Noah’s old ass is apparently healthy in the front court, and the Melo trade brought in Doug McDermott and Enes Kanter along with a second round draft pick. Youth is apparently the angle heading into this season.

I predict our boys will win 28 games. No playoffs. Double digits assists from Frank Ntilikina and healthy scoring from Hardaway on a nightly basis. A few highlights a game and a shit load of turnovers. Many depressing post-game discussions between Alan Hahn and Wild Wally, and tickets available for the cheap.

I have the NBA league pass, so expect me to stream plenty of Thunder games in the privacy of my living room while a shy tear streams down my cheek every time Melo The God cashes it from deep. I love you Carmelo, no matter what the NY media says…

Hand Styles

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It’s fall fam. Welcome back.

Summer writing was plentiful. Lots was said, some was published, some went to the stash. All in all, it was a much needed return to the pen for your boy.

Most importantly, I was able to get my first few pieces published at hiphopdx.com. I’m working with Riley Wallace, a fantastic writer from Toronto, on an editorial column called “5 Chances To Convince Me”. I guess I’ve become the Joe Budden of the blog world with this one. Riley tosses out five reasons I should hop on board with a popular or polarizing artist (think Wale, Lil B, Uzi). My job is to concede his points or stand my ground. Since I rarely run out of shit to talk, I do just fine.

I also wrote a few reviews and an interview for Above Average Hip Hop. I have total creative freedom over there, so it’s a pleasure to put words together for those guys. This weekend I’m finishing a fantastic interview with Rude Jude Angelini from Shade 45 ahead of his new book Hummingbird, which releases on September 19th. That should be published by Tuesday afternoon.

The most rewarding project I got around to was outlining my next novel and completing the initial five chapters. I’m taking my time in order to nail the nostalgic feel of the 90’s, but I’m not sitting on it like I did with The Electric Confessional, my first book which took way too many years to “complete”. The shit still isn’t done, even though the last page says …the end. There’s no such thing as done. Revision is life, but it can also drive you insane.

I’m back to work. Back to the gym. Back to reality. Stay tuned for more.

Movies are usually more fun in the summer…

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I take advantage of my time off during the summer. No trips planned this year, so I’ve been doing the things that make me happy. Listening to a ton of new music. Relaxing with my better half. Reading a little. Writing a ton. And thankfully, I’ve made time for the movies the past few weeks knowing that the summer months are when the film studios come with that fire.

I’ve seen three “notable” releases of the summer, and I think I chose wisely. Spiderman: Homecoming was fantastic, considering my expectations. I’m not a nerd for comic movies. To be honest, I can take them or leave them. I haven’t seen a X-Men movie, I know nothing about The Avengers, and I couldn’t tell you what the upcoming Black Panther movie is about.

But Spiderman was dope. I appreciated the film because the protagonist was who he was created to be. By that, I mean he was a kid; an insecure high school junior. I went in expecting over the top cringe, and was pleasantly surprised by a decent script, an eager Spiderman (no idea who played him), and Michael Keaton as a (somewhat) believable villain. There’s no need for me to reveal anything else.  You can get the gist from taking ten minutes to read a comic.

Next up was Dunkirk. If you have any anxiety issues or fear of odd death, you might want to read about this one before buying tickets. I went into the theater nursing a pretty prominent hangover, and was on the actual edge of my seat for two hours. The film is set in WW2, but there’s no blood. No half-blown up bodies. Nobody carrying a leg up the beach, but it was every bit as savage as your favorite war flick. The sequencing of the scenes, the concept, the action, the acting, all stellar. Christopher Nolan at the top of his game. You can add drowning to my slowly growing list of ways not to die.

Last, and most recent for me, is Detroit. This one was a must see on the strength of the film-maker, Kathryn Bigelow, who blessed us with The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. I had to see it, and I’m glad I did. It drops you directly into Detroit during the race riots that rocked the city in the late 60’s. It’s gritty and at times tough to watch, but it’s a crucial reminder during the Trump Administration of what hate and a blind eye can do to cities right here in our country.

I’m kicking around the idea of Atomic Blonde and I missed Baby Driver. That Lucky movie with Adam Driver and Channing Tatum also looks alright, but I might have to illegally download that. Let me know if there’s something I need to see, and enjoy the weekend nerds.

 

 

Fiction Friday.

Here’s a short piece I found mixed in with my music stuff. Not titled, and probably written early last year. It’s got a similar feel to the book I’ve been working on, which centers on two boys from Queens roaming the city in the summer.


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There was a girl in New York City once.  We used to follow each other, block to block, crafting hair-brained schemes on days when there was nothing but the sun and no curfew.  Those summer days we’d walk for miles, smoking joints, plotting on bottles of liquor.

We were city kids after all, so we’d end up in a dusty, Spanish bodega, shoving forties into backpacks.  Bolting up the block, we’d heckle the old man in the apron as he chased us past four or five parked cars.  We’d make sure to remember the street signs and wait a few weeks before coming back.

I couldn’t have been more than sixteen.  She and I went to parties to steal from coat pockets and raid medicine cabinets.  We hunted that numb from chewing pain pills. If we were lucky and trendy enough, we’d swallow ecstasy and anticipate the sweats and deep chills.  Like clockwork, we’d end up on the roof of her building, high as kites talking shit about clouds and the Knicks.

Some days we’d cruise through Central Park to the museum.  We promised each other we’d never get wrinkles as we watched the grannies and the baby sitters shuffle in and out of the massive glass doors pushing strollers, carrying packages, living normal daily lives that our impatient teenage brains deemed inane.

She kissed me once on the platform waiting for the 7.  I saw stars.  A mash of lips and mess, a combination of saliva and sweaty faces.  It felt like two hundred degrees underground in the middle of July.  I rode the next six stops with a huge grin, hands in my lap.

Her name was Jocelyn. She was a tall, brown skinned Cuban with giant green saucers for eyes.  The kind you could see from the bottom of the lake.  So pretty it hurt.  The type of girl every boy wanted but didn’t deserve.  Fiery, loud as hell, and drop dead gorgeous.  I loved riding the subway with her, arguing for hours. Mets or Yankees?  Buckshot or Rakim?

We spent three summers running around the city.  It was a fantastic time to be young in New York.  Our existence was defined by hip hop, cheap weed and long, steaming days.  One of those wondrous summers I got my first blowjob and my last nose bleed.  Jocelyn stole a gram of coke from her older brother and chopped four decent sized lines on the back of a toilet in a mid-town McDonalds.

I didn’t catch a nose bleed from the coke.  It happened two weeks later, when my friend Connor had too many shots of Bacardi at house party in the Bronx and called Jocelyn a whore.  I have yet to meet a female with a better left hook.

After my sister died, Jocelyn and I sat for hours on a bench across from St. Pats on 5th.  We didn’t say a word.  I just cried and stared at the tourists and lonely wanderers pushing in and out of the great cathedral doors.  I didn’t have the strength to step inside. She held onto my hand like if she let it go I could float away.  And I might have.

Jocelyn got pregnant during the winter of our senior year.  She started showing up to basketball games with a Puerto Rican rocking braids and gold in his mouth.  Her parents wouldn’t condone an abortion, and my parents knew I was in love.  That love faded over time, but the city and the stories remain.

Upcoming Release Radar

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July has been good to us. Shawn Carter got back to rapping. French Montana dropped Jungle Rules which is an end to end banger, Vic Mensa’s Autobiography debut will be one of the best records of 2017, and Meek Mill is about to destroy all doubt with Wins and Losses.

French is out now, and currently in my heavy rotation. Check iTunes if you purchase your music, or any of the streaming sites if you’re into that method. Do not sleep on “A Lie” featuring The Weeknd and Max B. No idea how they got a recorded Max verse for this one, but it’s ILL. It’s also a little late in the season to crown a ‘song of the summer’, but it’s damn close for me. The video is hilarious. French and The Weeknd with a bunch of bikini-clad women on a boat, Hudson River, cloudy day. Classic.

People seem slow to get on board with Vic Mensa, and I’m not sure why. He’s a standout in the Chicago scene for me on the strength of his candor. He’s not hiding behind God-raps or trap star brags. He seems realer than all that. “Wings” featuring Pharrell and poet Saul Williams is dope, and gets me excited to hear the record next week.

And then there’s Meek, everyone’s favorite punching bag. I have no idea why this man doesn’t command respect. He’s dropping fire at all turns. He’s done nothing but release fantastic singles since his split with Nicki. None of that Drake shit matters anymore because Meek Mill is making music that pours out of him and that’s as genuine as possible, not the music that pulses for the charts like “the 6 God”. I’m calling it now, Wins and Losses will silence the hate, mark my words. There’s also a short film coming to accompany the album’s release.

Last thought… I don’t understand Jay’s video for 4:44. Maybe highbrow art is lost on me? Who knows. My review for that record should be posted at Above Average Hip Hop some time today.  Enjoy your week and comment if there’s something I should be hearing. I’ll leave you with the visual for Jay’s “The Story of O.J.” Powerful stuff.