There He Go

Kendrick Lamar is the black hippy who charmed the pants off the critics and bloggers last year with the incomparable Section.80, which many considered a “mixtape” but was truly one of the best hip hop records of 2011.  Since it’s all about ushering your crew through the door, one deal and one record at a time Kendrick made way for Jay Rock who gladly reminded us what “gangster” rap was all about.  Top Dawg Entertainment was officially on the map.

Enter Schoolboy Q, whose Habits & Contradictions record is proof positive that the pimp need not carry a jewel encrusted cup.  This day and age all you need is a blunt, a 40 ounce of something malted and a truck load of hard production.

This record is an unrelenting ride through the land of drugs, cash flow and material girls.  Q needs women, weed and designer gear to keep his mind right.  If sex is a weapon, Schoolboy is going to shoot.  Thank god this dude doesn’t have a LCD projector plugged into this brain, because I don’t think I’d be able to handle what might hit the wall.

This is the sound of 2012.  Hands on the wheel kids, it’s going to get real weird.


So Much Better On His Own?

You know Anthony Raneri as the singer, songwriter and guitarist for NYC’s Bayside, a band known for their jagged world view on life and love.  Raneri is the creative force behind the band that provided the soundtrack for much of my early twenties.  Hearing Raneri’s slightly sunnier take on things is a nice change of pace.

New Cathedrals is Raneri’s five song EP detour from Bayside (who seem to tour relentlessly year after year).  There’s no shocking revelations or genre bending attempts here.  Raneri keeps the lyrics personal and retrospective and the sound a bit lighter and cleaner than the standard Bayside assault.  “Sandra Partial” and “Please Don’t Leave” are simple, sweeping songs that sound like Bayside “unplugged” session outtakes.  Piano’s and acoustic strumming turned up, distortion nowhere to be found.

Entirely written, financed and promoted alone, New Cathedrals is the first record to chart on Billboard without a bar code in a long, long time.  That’s amazing since Raneri is handling every aspect of the EP’s distribution.  Support the dude and grab the record.  It’s barely five bucks you cheap bastards.


Solo Cups and Crystal Palace

Party Supplies is the dj/production alias of Justin Nealis, resident of Queens who happens to be a walking encyclopedia of nifty samples and break record sound effects.  He can rock a party for you, or your parents.  His crates are THAT deep.  He’ll be a year-end, best- of- lister in a few months and he doesn’t even have a record out yet. You’re welcome.

Don’t lump Party Supplies into the Girl Talk/Clinton Sparks/mash-up family quite yet.  Although his production does lend a bit to the sample heavy, familiar indie and 80’s snippet-catalogs that tons of dj’s use and abuse, Party Supplies is more of an unorthodox one-man band.  His drum machine gun assault is balanced with more synthesizers than Frankie in Hollywood.    There’s definitely a carefree, up all night vibe that reminds me of The Avalanches, a British electronic band who used nearly 3,500 vinyl samples on their debut record Since I Left You way back in 2000.

2012 won’t bear witness to Party Supplies standing still.  His upcoming projects include a mixtape with fellow Queens native, Action Bronson called Blue Chips and a full length at some point between now and the summer on Fools Gold Records.  For now, enjoy the show.

It’s Their Party

Every once in a while I make a quiet declaration to stop listening to heavy music.  I argue that I’m getting too old for “hardcore”, and that I’m not as angry as I was when I was in college.  It’s no use.  I love the energy and angst.  New bands and sounds come along and remind me why I used to get kicked in the head in mosh pits to begin with.

California’s Ceremony are a violent breath fresh air.  They remind me of Bars, a short-lived side project from the dudes in Give Up The Ghost, Hope Conspiracy and Death by Stereo.  They relentlessly grind it out like LA’s The Bronx yet still manage to dose up a bit of finesse sounding like it would fit perfectly on a tiny, seedy stage on The Sunset Strip, circa 1995.

Ceremony have put out a few full lengths on Malfunction and Bridge 9 including 2010’s stellar Rohnert Park.  2012 will see Ceremony’s first release, Zoo, for Matador Records.  They sound bored to death, pissed off and well-versed in hardcore music history.  You’ve been warned.

Outer Space Via Detroit

Danny Brown, a Detroit native and all around a.d.d-oddball, is about as left of the dial as you can turn it.  His buzz is getting louder now, but it took a guest spot on the stellar crew-cut ‘Huzzah”  remix from Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire before I gave the dude his proper dues.  I had heard of him, browsed by a few articles and clicked a few soundbites, but nothing really stuck.  A friend recommended Black & Brown, Danny’s collaboration with Black Milk, and I’ve been hooked since.  I’m actually ashamed to say it took me this long.

Danny is the type of mc you either love or hate.  Like The Hold Steady or David Bowie, The RZA or The Pharcyde, you either dig it or it drives you crazy.  His vocal range is nasally, sometimes borderline whiny.  Other times his voice is toned back and straightforward.  I guess Danny Brown is a chameleon of sorts amongst the sea of independent rappers trying to make ends meet.  His latest and greatest effort is XXX a mixtape in the general sense, yet has the feel of proper full length debut.

No subjects are taboo, be it oral sex (he’s a fan of both giving and receiving), smoking weed or his struggles from virtual unknown to viral sensation.  He chronicles the daily ups and downs from front to back on XXX, relenting only for a few seconds at a time.  What I love about Danny is the word play.  He’s a menace with a pad and pen.  He’s clever, crude and creative all without giving an inch…his rhymes are as comfortable as nails on the chalk board, but never compromised.

His recent deal with Fools Gold records should take him from hipster circles to bigger venues as 2012 unfolds, and I say good for him.  He’s no G-Unit gangster, but you can definitely find him in the club.  Fellas, hide your ladies.  They’re suckers for that chipped tooth and long, silky perm.

Fast and Cheap

“Its like looking through a time machine and seeing my dad and his friends back when they were cool”.  Thank you LittleZappey, you brazen internet video enthusiast.  You and Youtube are hysterical.  Oakland, California’s Bare Wires are exactly what LittleZappey so wonderfully captured in that brief but picture perfect user comment.

At first listen, this west coast three-piece plays rambling, reckless garage-pop.  Tune in and you realize the calculated touches of melody and flair.  They want you to think they’re cooler than your dad and his weekend-warrior Harley buddies, and they just might be.  On any wild Saturday, the dudes in Bare Wires might get mocked all night by the bro’s playing beer pong.  But pass out and there goes the band.  They left with the half-empty keg…and all the girls.

They’ve been around for a minute, releasing the terrific Seeking Love in 2010.  2011 gave us a the bands dreamier, glam-rock record, Cheap Perfume.  They’re playing a few shows up and down the Cali coast the next few weeks in preparation for SXSW in Austin this March.  Waves will be made, tee shirts will be sold.  Hopefully, they’ll make a few for those who wear something slightly bigger than a youth Large.

Mustaches that rad have to be taken seriously…don’t they?

The Things Money Can’t Buy

Fancy cars.  Good weed.  Brand name luggage.  Shoes with colorful bottoms.  Rick Ross’s Maybach Music Group is on a mission to spread the word, and that word is wealth.  Ross is on the rise and poised for an industry take-over on the strength of his crew which includes Philly street king Meek Mill, Ohio wordsmith Stalley and Atlanta’s Pill (who may or may not be with MMG at the time I write this post).  They’re young, hungry and backed by Ricky Rozay, the self-proclaimed kingpin of the MIA.

The problem with Ross’s new tape Rich Forever is plain and simple.  We get it.  We understand how big and powerful MMG truly is.  We can smell the weed and count the stacks.  We watch the Bugatti’s roll by and never question who’s at the wheel.  But beyond all the style, where’s the substance?  The beats pound with a familiar tick and bass boom, the choruses make your head nod and the asses shake, but honestly…what does it all mean?  Is this really the stuff of champions?

High points on this one come courtesy of the guest spots.  Pharell and Diddy steal the show on their features, and Stalley’s opening verse on “Party Hearts” is the tape’s standout moment.  But when Ross is in command of the microphone, results vary.  He shines through moments of introspective genius on “Mine Games” and goes for the throat with Nas on “Triple Beam Dreams”, but the bright spots are few and far between. As this tape trudges on, the production grinds feeling at times like one long headache that burns like a dull Flaka Flame.

We want more Rozay.  After all, you’re the boss.  God forgives, your fans won’t.