The last week of school coincided with a fairly active period of hip-hop releases including Mike Will Made-It’s awaited mixtape Ransom, Kirko Bangz follow-up to Progression IV, Progression V, and the mastered version of the Chief Keef and Kanye West collaboration Nobody. Each offering deserved a listen, albeit all for varying reasons:
Mike Will Made-It, Ransom
Ransom debuted December 15th, hoping to build off the tapes single, “Buy the World” featuring Lil Wayne, Kendrick Lamar, and Future. An incredibly popular producer who has dominated the mid-2010’s with collaborations spanning Miley Cyrus to Gucci Mane, Mike Will maintains a strong group of contributors with a plethora of Atlanta based artists including Rich Homie Quan, Rae Sremmurd, Migos, and iLoveMakonnen amongst other notables.
In its vast roster, the album is a lot of fun, with pretty much every popular rapper of the last 3 years making an appearance providing both variety and familiarity; there is a level of diversity in hearing a different individual per song, yet Mike Will’s productions are solid and formulaic.
Kirko Bangz, Progression V
After Progression IV consisting of only freestlyes, Kirko Bangz released all original music in his mixtape Progression V: Young Texas Player on December 16th. The tape largely fits the title, as the music is extremely Texas based in production, content, and guest-features; everything is codeine colored, chopped and screwed, and Houston legends Bun B, Pimp C, and Riff Raff join the mix.
Kirko legitimately shows a lot of promise, and appears to be the setting himself up as the next major artist coming out of Texas since Mike Jones, Paul Wall, Chamillionaire, and Slim Thug enjoyed success throughout the 2000s. His music employs rap, singing, autotune, and a mixture of all three over classic southern instrumentals. Highlights include “Banging Screw” and “My Dawg.”
Chief Keef x Kanye West, “Nobody”
Chief Keef has released an absurd amount of music through his GloGang Worldwide’s Soundcloud. “Nobody” was a track previewed for the last couple of months, but it wasn’t until this week that a mastered, relatively official version was released.
The single itself is anything but similar to Keef’s Chicago drill-rap image, as it is a slow autotune balled with Kanye over a Chance the Rapper Acid Rap sample. Although Kanye doesn’t actually provide a verse, his influence is evident throughout the song, with “Nobody” playing like 808’s and Heartbreak meets the last three minutes of “Runaway” off My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
This is probably Chief Keef’s first release with a flute accompaniment.
Anna Rose Greenberg, co-Traffic Director and host of “Germaniacs” interviewed Jürgen Engler of Die Krupps, legendary German industrial/electronic band who, incidentally, wrote the song “Germaniacs” after which Anna Rose’s show is named – hear Engler talk about the difference between American and German music, his favorite music, his new label, and more.
A re-release of Abelardo Barroso’s music makes #5 on this week’s top 5, I mean 6, adds.
Before the CMJ Top 10 tomorrow, enjoy this list of very new releases to check out. We typically do things around here in multiples of 5, but I couldn’t resist tacking on one special release on the end.
1. Mary J. Blige – The London Sessions [Ed. note: She’s been around since 1992, but she still manages to sound fresh and interesting and just, well, really good.]
2. Lord Raja – A Constant Moth [Ed. note: Electronic artist from New York]
3. Girlpool – Girlpool [Ed. note: Duo of teenagers from L.A., just guitar, bass, their voices, and some killer songwriting.]
4. Oceaan – Veritas [Ed. note: Producer from Manchester, U.K.]
5. Abelardo Barroso y la Orquesta Sensacion – Cha Cha Cha [Ed. note: Re-release of an incredible Cuban group from the 50s.]
6. Parquet Courts – Content Nausea [Ed. note: The extra 6th album is Parquet Court’s second full-length of the year!]
There continually remains a negative understanding of southern rap, as it is largely constructed as void of quality lyricism, radio-friendly, nonsensical, and ultimately simple. Within this sentiment, certain are deemed transcendent of the sub-genre, with Houston based UGK and early-to-mid Lil Wayne not only catering to a larger demographic, but garnering critical acclaim and praise throughout relatively all outlets. In the last few years, Big Krit has been placed within the rare Southern-but-respectable rapper paradigm, with his 2012 release Live from the Underground earning rave reviews and building suspense for any future major label release. Two years and a mixtape later, Big Krit released Cadillactica on November 10.
The intro to Cadillactica, “Kreation,” sets the tone for a different Krit experience; the southern drawl remains, yet the production is more electronic and noisy, vaguely similar to Pusha T’s My Name is my Name or a tapered down Raider Klan release. Essentially, Krit is trying to produce an expansive sound and illustrate his evolution as an artist, which he does moderately well. In particular, the eponymous track “Cadillactica” is a highlight of the first half of the album, with Krit rapping quickly and confidently about his motivations over a futuristic, synth-driven beat by DJ Dahi.
The first half of the album remains strong with the track “King of the South” serving as a catchy yet guttural experience with Krit boasting: “Kick that south flow that you can’t get. Try to fuck the world but my dick won’t fit. My bitch like ‘Krit, motherfuck they feelings. You wanna be king, gotta claim that shit.’ I’m talkin’ ’bout off with they heads.” In execution, “King of the South” serves to be the end of side a, with the second half of the album returning to Krit’s southern roots.
The remaining productions are full of twangy soul and funk driven instrumentals akin to an 8ball and MJG or Scarface record, which theoretically contrasts Cadillactica’s aims; the album plays as an experience attempting to transcend southern rap, yet through production and lyrical content fails to do so. There is a definite attempt at shedding southern stereotypes, and results are mixed. Krit’s lyricism is fine, but suffers on occasion as it comes across as a formulaic, conscious attempt to produce these vivid, yet obscure, poetically driven verses. In a noticeable attempt at a refined lyrical experience, Krit declares on his opening track: “These hands of mine can hold the weight of planets. Allow me to use the hues of lunar cools to paint a canvas. Of explosions and vibrant emotions that we know we could. Explore the outer most with no risks. Even though we know we should. You are the ocean, I am a mountain.” This isn’t to say that Big Krit’s lyrics are bad by any means, it just doesn’t feel quite natural. The same can be said for the productions, as the album lacks cohesion, problematically weaving from electronic synths to funk, without ever truly settling down.
Big Krit is a victim to success. As all of his previous releases have received general acclaim, a newfound pressure is present; Krit has been good, consistent, solid, occasionally great, and as a result, expectations have risen. Cadillactica is another step, but it isn’t groundbreaking. In this sense, Krit fails to fully escape the “southern rap” moniker he holds, and although Cadillactica is worth a few listens, it doesn’t reach the hollowed territory of a transcendent southern-turned- classic rap album. Essentially, the album strives to be Outkast’s Stankonia or Speakerboxx/The Love Below, yet plays like Idelwind.
Part 2 of International Workgroup’s playlist – a real Japanese pop star, a virtual Japanese pop star, an up and coming British singer of Ghanaian & Nigerian descent, and a legendary Malian singer with a U.S backing band.
1. Kyari Pamyu Pamyu (Japan) – Pon Pon Pon
This video is everything.
2. Hatsune Miku (Japan) – Sharing the world (“live” on David Letterman)
22nd century J-pop meets 20th century American TV.
3. Lola Rae (Nigeria’Ghana/UK)
There will be dancing.
4. The Sway Machinery featuring Khaira Arby (US and Mali)- Gawad Teriamou
Khaira Arby, also know as the Nightingale of the North hails from Mali.
Two WOBC DJs, Ariel Miller and Rachel MacLean, report on a recent concert visit…
I’m not sure what sort of crowd we expected at Alt-J’s show in Detroit on November 10th. I guess we expected more college-aged folks with undercuts, but the crowd seemed to be in their late 20s-30s with pretty average hair cuts. Maybe it was because they were tall and took up the most space, but there seemed to be a lot of tall white dudes. Suddenly we started to worry if we were, in fact, edgy and cool, or just as mainstream as the chicks in front of us obscuring our view with their flower crowns.
Some Mikky Ekko fellow opened for Alt-J. Things Mikky Ekko is into: how high he can sing, listening to himself sing, rain/leaving/love/smiles/the sun. His beat was fairly predictable, as were his lyrics. There was nothing about him that really pushed boundaries. We were bored, and this reinforced our sense of superiority. We were cool. Mikky Ekko was not.
Alt-J! Alt-J! Alt-J finally came on, accompanied by scores of e-cigs and vaporizers booting up around the room. Triangle hands all around! ∆∆∆∆∆∆∆∆
Alt-J is great. Their new album, This Is All Yours, is indistinguishable from their old album, An Awesome Wave, but we don’t even care because both have the same weird, catchy, danceable sound. At the concert, they played it safe, balancing the old and the new. It would have been nice to actually see them through their obscuring shroud of fog and lighting, and even nicer to see some energy or movement. But overall, they sounded just like they do on record, which was good enough for us.
The international workgroup playlist – part 1 - is here! Check out: a Belgain rapper whose video has more than 200 million views; beautiful Korean folk pop; toetapping “electro-cumbia” from Mexico; a 60s French classic; and breathtaking Russian throat singing.
1. Stromae (Belgium) – Papaoutai
Belgium’s finest rapper and pop auteur takes a trip to the uncanny valley.