I’ll forever have love for Jurassic 5, so even six years after the L.A. hip-hop idols broke up, curiosity pulled me back in (and now they’re on the comeback trail at Coachella). That’s a good thing. I might have otherwise overlooked this new single from Nu-Mark, one of J5’s two DJs (along with the esteemed Cut Chemist).
Nu-Mark released his debut full-length Broken Sunlight, and he’s been releasing songs as a series of 10-inch records over the past year or so. It’s an innovative method, but what do you expect from a guy that can rock toy instruments in a live set?
I’ve said it before, but one of my favorite live moments was seeing Z-Trip, Radar, Cut Chemist and Nu-Mark perform on an otherwise quiet Sunday night in Tempe at a bar called Mustang Sally’s in a secret-style show one day after J5 played the Nile Theater. I still can’t even believe I saw that. Much as I bemoan the constant smartphone recording of shows these days, I’d kill for some footage of that night now.
But back to Nu-Mark … the most recent release in the Broken Sunlight series, Don’t Play Around, is pure soul, showcasing the amazing vocals of Aloe Blacc and Charles Bradley over one bad-ass beat. Can the drummer get some?
Says Nu-Mark at Rolling Stone: “I did a lot of vocal experimentation for Broken Sunlight. Charles Bradley and Aloe Blacc were a perfect fit, capturing the raw heartache of best friends dating the same women.”
Lately, I’m constantly reminded of albums I overlooked or neglected to pay enough attention to in 2012. Cadence Weapon’s Hope In Dirt City falls into the latter category.
The third album by the Edmonton rapper (born Rollie Pemberton) is a bit of a mixed bag stylistically – more challenging of a listen, if not a touch incohesive. What remains a constant is Cadence Weapon’s awareness of his surroundings and his ability to sharply criticize all manners of culture (he is a former Pitchfork contributor, after all).
Hype Man takes a shot at the rap game. It’s a two-verse track, with Cadence Weapon playing the part of both sides: the ego-driven rap star (”At the strip club make sure that my song plays”) and the inglorious hype man, begging for a break from his famous connection (”I’d take a bullet / I’d probably pull it”). The tension comes to a head at the end of this video, co-directed by Cadence and George Vale.
I love this track because I’ve always been sort of fascinated by the tragic character that is the hype man, who dutifully waves his towel and drops in for every fourth word at a live show. And in this instance, the video draws a conclusion that you couldn’t really expect just by listening to the song. It’s the demise of the lowly hype man. There will always be another.
It takes a special type of dedication – a sick and twisted dedication – to seek out and collect bad rap for the past 25 years. Eric Steuer (aka Cuzzo D. of Not the 1s and also half of the great Meanest Man Contest) has done just that. There is no doubt plenty from which to choose.
Steuer has compiled a treasure/trash trove of some of the greatest worst raps you can imagine. It literally took everything in me to make it through Mr. T’s “I Am Somebody.” Not surprisingly, a few athletes show up on the mix (Darryl Strawberry and Ron Artest), but the real gem here might be Beach Boy Brian Wilson, who unbelievably tried his hand at rap with “Smart Girls” (produced by Matt Dike, no less). WFMU has the story on it here.
Says Steuer: “I’ve been collecting bad rap songs since I first heard Darryl Strawberry kick his endearingly wack verse on “Chocolate Strawberry” back in 1987. This mix is made up mostly of stuff from the late ’80s and early ’90s (the golden era of cynical, inept stabs at cashing in on hip-hop’s popularity), although I threw in a couple of newer terrible raps at the end, to keep things fresh & current. I just started working on the second volume of this mix, and my fingers are crossed that Denny “Average Homeboy” Blaze will record a drop for it (he turned me down for this one).”
Bad rap never sounded so good.
Download and/or stream the mix over at Dublab. The track listing is below.
1. DC Talk – I Luv Rap Music
2. Outlaw Posse (f/ David Faustino) – Brand New Star
3. Icy Blu – It’s Your Birthday
4. Mr. T – I Am Somebody
5. Darryl Strawberry – Chocolate Strawberry
6. Hulk Hogan and The Wrestling Boot Band – Beach Patrol
7. A to the D – The Renegade Jew
8. Dee Dee King (aka Dee Dee Ramone) – German Kid
9. Brian Wilson – Smart Girls
10. MC Skat Kat and the Stray Mob – I Ain’t No Kitty
11. Vanilla Ice – Havin’ a Roni
12. Biscuit – Biscuit’s in the House
13. Elvira – Monsta’ Rap
14. Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks – City of Crime
15. Surf MC’s – Can’t Get a Tan
16. 2 Bigg MC – High on Your Love
17. Joey Lawrence – I Like the Way (Kick da Smoove Groove)
18. Gerardo – My Name Is Not Rico
19. Aaron Carter – That’s How I Beat Shaq
20. Ron Artest – Michael Michael
21. Kids Hit Masters – Crank That (Soulja Boy)
Every year in December, as I comb over my favorite songs to include on a year-end CD to give to friends — Spotify is too easy; an 80-minute CD-R has a way of forcing you to self-edit — it becomes abundantly clear that I never listen to enough. Whether it’s time or patience I’m lacking, it seems harder each year to consume so much music.
In some ways, I guess I’d rather form a deeper relationship with a few albums than have just a passing interest in many. To that end, a handful of albums captivated me in 2012, including C.A.R. by Chicago-bred rapper Serengeti. (I beg of you to listen — and then keep listening — to Go Dancin, a crushing song built on the vacant promises of a crumbling relationship. “It’s different now, I’ll show you how.” Of course it made the year-end mix.)
In keeping with his prolific output — check out the Beak & Claw EP (a side project with Sufjan Stevens and Son Lux) and the Kenny Dennis EP from last year, not to mention 2011’s Family & Friends — Serengeti will be back with a new album in 2013. It’s called Saal, and it was produced by Sicker Man and will be released on Feb. 12 on Graveface Records.
Serengeti treads into more relationship territory on Breaking Vows, a bonus digital-only track. Listen below:
Here’s the tracklist for Saal (via Graveface):
4. Day By Day
5. Glassell Park
7. I Could Redo
8. Erotic City
9. All the Time (bonus track on CD)
10. Breaking Vows (bonus digital-only track)
Lastly, here’s a short clip of Serengeti and Sicker Man in the studio creating Breaking Vows:
One of the finest albums in my collection – and if you own it, I guarantee it’s one of the finest in your collection, too – is old enough to have a drink. So break out the shot glasses and raise a toast: We’re getting The Low End Theory shit-faced tonight.
I probably thought this last year, when Low End Theory turned 20, or in May, when Adam Yauch died, or even last week, when the formerly flannel-wearing masses celebrated the 20th anniversary of the movie Singles, but holy crap, I’m getting old.
If you’re asking me to pick a favorite album by my favorite group, I’m going to tell you Midnight Marauders. But that’s not fair: I’d never ask my parents if they like my brother or me more (it’s probably me, though).
I won’t go on and on here because 21 is sort of an arbitrary number, and the occasion never would have crossed my mind if not for this Q-Tip tweet. I’m glad I saw it, though. You really don’t need a reason to listen to Low End Theory, but I’ve got a good one today.
If you’ve listened to Serengeti, you know he’s a fan of baseball. It’s just not a Serengeti album without a “Hawk Dawson” reference – and tell me another rapper that has name-dropped Jeff Pico.
It’s been a busy year for the Chicago-bred emcee, who talked sports with me back in January. In March, he teamed with Sufjan Stevens and Son Lux on the Beak & Claw EP. In April, he dropped the Kenny Dennis EP, on which he raps as his Windy City superfan alter ego. More recently, Serengeti released C.A.R., another highly personal/vulnerable glimpse into his life (buy this album).
Leave it to a former teacher to base a song/video on a literary classic. Phoenix rapper Random (aka MegaRan) left the classroom behind to make the full-time jump into music, but he can’t quite seem to shake the teaching, uh, bug.
And that’s the album that brought us “Buggin’ (The Metamorphosis),” inspired by the Franz Kafka novella. The new video (directed by Max Isaacson) finds Ran playing the role of Gregor, waking up to find himself transformed into a vermin. High school English class was never this fun.
And while you’re catching up with Language Arts: Volume One, Random went ahead and dropped Volume Two today. A harder-working rapper would be impossible to find. That said, our TeacherRapperHero is returning home from tour and throwing a show on Saturday at Hidden House.
Three of Los Angeles’ finest emcees at the forefront of the avant-rap scene – or whatever you wanna call it – are joining up for a fall tour that will stop at Rhythm Room on Oct. 24 (though at this point I’m not sure who is promoting it, so I have little in the way of ticket/age information).
Busdriver, Nocando and Open Mike Eagle are as prolific as they are talented, often showing up as guests on each other’s work, so a collaborative tour makes sense.
In the case of Busdriver and Nocando, they released the album 10 Haters under the Flash Bang Grenada moniker last year. But all three have either released or will release solo material in 2012. Busdriver dropped Beaus$Eros in February; Open Mike Eagle released 4NML HSPTL this summer; and it looks like Nocando is close to unveiling a new album.
In conjunction with the tour announcement, Busdriver premiered a new video for the song “Utilitarian Uses of Love” over at Potholes In My Blog.
Eric took off for Lollapalooza this weekend, but he left us with this post about an important song. Play it loud outside Chick-fil-A.
Macklemore’s subject matter as a rapper is all over the map, whether it’s prescription drug addiction (his own and others’), yoga practice, Irish heritage, the trappings of materialism in the shoe-obsessed Jordan era. Although I’ll admit my personal experience lines up with the yoga and Air Jordans on the brain, no matter the topic, I always find him engaging, thought provoking and inspiring. His straightforward, autobiographical style is something that’s refreshing to me, that “rapper as storyteller” role that I feel like I see much less in today’s hip-hop than when I was growing up.
If you’ve checked out Seattle indie station KEXP at all the last couple of years, you’re sure to have heard Kevin Cole sing his praises at least once or twice, and with good reason. A growing figure in the Seattle music scene, Macklemore, along with collaborator/DJ/producer Ryan Lewis, look to continue their upward trend with the release of The Heist on Oct. 9, the first single from which happens to be one of the bolder, braver choices I’ve seen made in music in awhile.
“Same Love” is a beautiful, impassioned dart thrown directly at critics of marriage equality, a topic we hear politicians addressing from one corner of the ring or the other on a daily basis at this point. Rappers … not so much.
Hip-hop has never had a great track record in the tolerance department. This is not to say that every faction of hip-hop exudes the degree of machismo or misogyny as the gangsta rap of the ’90s, but suffice it to say that its lyrical content, or at the very least the public perception of that content, hasn’t exactly approached a warm and fuzzy approach toward homosexuality. Just as we still, in 2012, have don’t have openly gay athletes in the similarly heterosexual male macho world of professional sports, sexual preference has been a taboo in the world of hip-hop.
Recently, though, there have been signs of a dialogue opening up. Last year, Fat Joe, conspiracy theories aside, was surprisingly candid in encouraging gay rappers to come out, proclaiming that hip-hop is “the greatest gay market in the world.” On July 4, up-and-coming R&B artist Frank Ocean, a member of Odd Future, raised many an eyebrow in the hip-hop community by proclaiming that his first love was with a man.
“Same Love” is an emotional, beautiful track. Bolstered by piano and string arrangements, horns and the soulful voice of Mary Lambert, Macklemore matter-of-factly takes homophobia head-on, examining not only the religious and political agendas that he feels propel hate, but also taking on the perception within the hip-hop community toward gays: “If I was gay, I would think that hip-hop hates me/ Have you read the YouTube comments lately? / ‘Man, that’s gay’ gets dropped on the daily.” Lambert’s soulful voice punctuates his plea for tolerance: “I can’t change/ Even if I tried / Even if I wanted to… / My love, she keeps me warm.” Again, the autobiographical is discussed. While straight himself, Macklemore discusses an early childhood assumption that he was gay for the silliest of preconceived notions, mentions the fact that his uncle is gay and has a longtime partner, calling them collectively “my uncles.”
As a straight person who’s grown up with gay friends and decided long ago that gay marriage makes a lot of sense, I’ll admit I’m easily sold here. He’s preaching to the choir. But my hope is that we’ll see this spirit of inclusion and tolerance in hip-hop become a real trend. MURS recently added another voice in support of gay rights with “Animal Style,” a tragic/powerful song complemented by a video that features the L.A.-based rapper kissing another man.
Pittman dissects a not-so-obvious classic, an album whose much-anticipated follow-up is rumored to be finished with a possible release later this year.
Deltron 3030, self-titled (75 Ark, 2000)
Picking a favorite hip-hop record is – for me at least – a difficult task. I will spare you the obvious favorites from Run DMC, Public Enemy and A Tribe Called Quest. Picking those groups are like picking The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Nirvana for me, respectively. The importance of their records are well-known, but my go-to record is more like The Soft Bulletin of hip-hop, Deltron 3030. It’s the work of mastermind Del the Funky Homosapien, Dan the Automator (Dan Nakamura) and Kid Koala, along with contributions from Damon Albarn and others.
Deltron 3030 is Del and Dan the Automator’s concept album of a dystopian society with only one hope: Deltron Zero. Throughout this tale of hip-hop sci-fi set in the year 3030, Del delivers abstract ideas set against Nakamura’s signature production. Deltron 3030 takes the idea of Nakamura’s previous effort, Dr. Octagon (with Kool Keith), and solidifies his vision with more intelligent and digestible rhymes from Del. Nakamura fuses odd samples, like the hook from the 1970 tune “Of Cities and Escapes” by Canadian pop group The Poppy Family on the track “Madness” to my favorite bass line on the album. The list of abstract samples continues further. Ever heard of the 1968’s “No Silver Bird” by Hooterville Trolley? Me neither.
Deltron 3030, released in 2000, really needs to be heard to understand how out of the box this record is to be fully appreciated. While many of the ideas are futuristic and more 1984 than “Fight the Power,” these tracks stand the test of time and will still be relevant for the next 1,018 years. Put any of them against your choice of mainstream hip-hop “hits” of the last twenty years and Deltron Zero will still remain victorious.