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The Picks – February 17th, 2013

February 18, 2013 Leave a comment

Things have been hectic lately, passing time marked by sharp peaks and valleys. But thus is life. The first TIME2MOVE party was so great, a huge thanks to Low Limit and Sodapop, and to all the lovely people that came out and partied with us. The homeboy Purple/Image did an amazing set at the Boiler Room the other night with the unbelievable lineup of Nguzunguzu, Kingdom and Inc. I gotta say it was one of the best parties I’ve been to in a while. If you look closely you can see me dancing in the background for most of the Nguzunguzu set. Oh and I smoked out Alex on live stream.Sick. 2013.

Pulled from the vast garbage heap that is the internet, and a certain crate at Fingerprints.

Cakes Da Killa – The Eulogy (Mishka, 2013)

I’ve been following this “queer rap” scene for a minute now and I’m impressed with most of the output from the artists. The music comes across as purposefully dense sonically and intellectually, offering a lot of stuff for journalists to write about. While there have been a few great mixtapes to come out of the NYC subculture, Cakes’ The Eulogy is the only one I find myself coming back to over and over. The common fault of a lot of the material from the scene is the ability to strike the balance between a hot beat and a proficient vocal performance. Le1f, for example, can flow very well, but often obscures his voice to a negative affect or will choose a beat that is too left-field or ill-fitting. Mykki Blanco has struck a bountiful relationship with the rising club don Brenmar, but I would argue Mykki is a much better performance artist than a vocalist. But returning to Cakes, its immediately apparent that he has a lot of talent and some sort of vision in mind. This kid was born to a rap, dropping a dexterous flow both languid and slinky, maintaining of sense of sexuality only sharpened by his abilities. The Eulogy features primarily unknown producers, but each track booms with dark, purple-tinged textures crossing the pantheon of ghetto dance traditions from Dance Mania, footwork, vogue, Baltimore or trap. As an LA native my mind instantly moves to the Fade to Mind crew, a group who share that same penchant for the dark, brash, vulgar and ultimately visceral spectrum of music. Listening to the record I feel like I’m drunk at a good party in downtown LA, weed smoke and sage thick in the air, and everyone clutching a Tecate.

“Keep it Coochie” (above) pops up early on in the record and is an immediate favorite as that beat shudders in like a demented Quasimoto track remixed by a drunk DJ Earl (#teklife). Cakes comes on chatting about this or that, then drops into a fiendish verse full of swagger, potent with a larger than life ego. His flow sashays, strutting like a vogue dancer over that jacking ballroom beat. The horn sample pops and the 808s shake with enough ecstatic energy to appease any one looking for a party.

As I’m sure you know, I’m a bass addict and so Cakes’ love of the sub frequencies is a huge boon to me. Tracks like “Da Good Book,” which revisits the footwork influence, or the chopped and screwed Ha Dance of “Fuck Ya Boifriend” are swollen with bass dropping rumbles that my soul yearns for. The only piece out of place is the relatively straight approach to closing track “The Eulogy,” a typical post-Dilla, Madlib inspired soulful beat with a fairly straightforward delivery from Cakes. “Eulogy” is in no way bad, or is it even a detriment to the cohesion of the album. It comes across more like a sly wink as he walks out the door, both showcasing his talent as a serious rapper, and giving that man behind the curtain moment, revealing himself as a typical rap junkie just trying to make it in the game. Whether a more traditional hip hop approach will surface, or the gritty urban dance traditions remain, Cakes will continue to be someone to watch.

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Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Shame (Stone’s Throw, 2012)

Anyone who has drank with me recently can attest to the fact that I tend to go on and on about how Gibbs is the best rapper out right now. I will admit that I am prone to hyperbole, but frankly Gibbs is an incredibly impressive artist. From Str8 Killer to his mixtapes, Gibbs is a straight up mercenary in a game of  busters. Always outshining any guest MC, whether its Jeezy, Juicy or Gucci, his flow is characteristically confident, syllables rolling out, carried by a rhythmic inertia. It’s hard to imagine Gibbs as anything other than the G’d up persona (and to be real, all the people I know who have met the man will attest to the fact that he’s absolutely legit), but his raps draw closer comparison to the sociological visions ala “New York State of Mind” than anything contemporary. Lyrics and image are similar to the majority of rap output these days, but Gibbs seems less caught up in hero-making and more interested in putting forward a more accurate streetwise image – something like an Iceberg Slim.

I don’t know why it took me so long to pick this one up. The combination of Madlib and Gibbs is one of the most incredible things to happen in music in a while. I’ve been a Madlib fan since Beat Konducta #0, but I have always found his album length projects with other rappers (except Madvillain, duh) to be fairly disappointing. However, when “Thuggin” was released, the immediate strength of the track ensured that this MadGibbs album was going to be the record that would reset the bar in hiphop.

I think the real winner on here is “Terrorist,” Gibbs moves deftly with a rhythmic swagger that dominates the groove of the song – your hips inherently following the directions coming from his blunt deepened voice. He moves at full speed, stopping to breath only a handful of times through the course of the minute long barrage. “Shame” (above) further highlights Gibbs’ gift for vocal groove, heavy rolling funk, and breathless phonetic incantations. And then let me just undo all of what I just said with my favorite line from the track: “Like I slipped on a banana peel and fell in that pussy” haha Gangsta Gibbs….

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DJ Barely Legal – Live on MistaJam’s Show 1/30/13 (BBC 1Xtra, 2013)

I missed the first wave of grime, but I’m making sure to catch up during this second wave. Having grown up in Southern California in the ’90s it was impossible to escape the cultural influence of rap music. Dre, Jay Z and Nas were the early core of my CD collection. The posturing, vocal acrobatics, booming instrumentals and anthropological case studies really struck me as incredibly important and the music has made an unequivocal impact on my life. So as I’m getting older and exploring other genres I’m quick to find the MC-driven music of the world, and the grime scene has proven to be incredibly fruitful. Stylistically the MC style is often more similar to the Dancehall tradition of chatting, as MCs carry on rhythmically with long streams of sound, often balanced with the heavy swagger of an American rapper. The riddims they spit over are absolutely bonkers, originally growing out of a dark garage influence, but Wiley’s eski style’ brought in ice cold hues and the standard 8bar, FL Studio focused template.

It’s proper then that this mix by newcomer DJ Barely Legal opens up with Wiley’s “Eskimo” and Will himself chatting on it. Well, let’s back up, Barely Legal is a rising star of this second wave grime scene and she pulls out the heavyweights from the old guard for her debut BBC 1Xtra appearance. Roll Deep takes the stage with Wiley, Scratchy, Riko Dan and God’s Gift spitting over a mix of old and new beats. These guys definitely have the chemistry of a group who has been performing together for ten years, as they seamlessly weave in and out of bars, Riko reaching into Scratchy’s last flow, each MC anticipating the energy of the other vocalists, but also conscious of the movements of the riddim. God’s Gift is a favorite of mine and he’s on point here, dropping mostly short pieces but with a swagger that leaves the listener hungry for more. Wiley is consistently interesting to listen to, as he projects so much personality into his performance, which clearly points towards his massively proficient carrier. Scratchy is the weak point on here, but even then he really kills it on the second half of the set.

Barely Legal picks out a few new tunes, like that ice cold  Wen VIP that I hadn’t heard. This cold side of grime is really what gets me, it takes a sci fi soundtrack palette with a big love for over-zealous sub frequencies. The classic stuff is a highlight on here as well, like Wiley’s “Morgue” which borrows from the jungle tradition focused on that dread-filled rolling subbass. The beat is heavy, primed for the club/car/back room and is wonderful to hear some of the best MCs in the game killing it. Ruff Sqwad’s brilliant “XTC vs Misty Cold” is also a great addition, as the track brings a sense of dread, but is prevailed by a greater sentiment of romantic nostalgia. Pretty deep shit for a beat made by a 15 year old kid.

Categories: 2012, 2013, hip hop, LA, LDN, NY