Review: Joey Bada$$ – All-Amerikkkan Bada$$

All-Amerikkkan Bada$$, the latest project from New York rapper Joey Bada$$, is a densely-packed cautionary tale. Though Joey has always been wise beyond his years (see his excellent mixtape 1999), All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ reinforces this fact over again. Though conscious, political rap has existed for decades, and this project doesn’t do much to shift the subgenre in any new directions, it accomplishes what it’s shooting for. It is a rock solid record.

The production on All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ veers away from the sample-based, smooth and chill beats that highlighted his earlier work into the cleaner, more layered and modern type sound. There are essentially two sides to this record; the poppier, cleaner side, and the dirtier, angry side. The first half, including the big single “DEVASTATED” and the poignant, yet infectious track “TEMPTATION” doesn’t hook quite as hard as the later half of the record, but it works incredibly well as a complimentary lead-up.

The anger hinted at by the album’s title is channeled heavily in the second half, beginning with the loud and grim banger “ROCKABYE BABY” featuring Schoolboy Q, and continues unabated for several songs. “Ring the Alarm” is a ridiculously dense and tight banger, while “SUPER PREDATOR” is a visceral shot at political elitism.

Joey’s lyricism on this record, which is consistent throughout and touches on everything from evil politicians, the black experience, and current events culminates in the final track “AMERIKKKAN IDOL” which channels the late, great Capital Steez in its straight-forward, hard-hitting lyrics. The album concludes with a warning: “Amerikkka is force-feeding you lies down your throats with a silver spoon/ And eventually, we’ll all be doomed, real, real real, soon.” Unless we get our shit together, the outlook doesn’t look good, and Joey makes that very clear.

While All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ may not take very many risks stylistically, in the grand scheme of modern hip hop, Joey has never sounded better in his raps. The record is impressively solid and densely packed from beginning to end, and absolutely deserves your attention.

Five Essential Underground Hip Hop Albums

The realm of underground hip hop is expansive and huge, and there are many talented artists worth listening to. However, if you’re a big music fanatic, these are the five you absolutely cannot go without listening to.

Madvillain – Madvillainy (2004)

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This is the big one. The collab between legendary producer Madlib and the masked mc MF DOOM, remains unmatched in both its sound and style. From the iconic “All Caps” to the goofier “Curls,” the album’s quoatability and influence remains felt to this day.

Dr. Octagon – Dr. Octagonecologyst

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Kool Keith, also known by the alter-ego Dr. Octagon is a fascinating character. His lyrics are usually a comglomeration of words rather than a narrative, but that is what makes him and this album one of the most unique out there.

Company Flow – Funcrusher Plus (1997)

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Rapper/producer El-P may be widely known for being one half of the rap duo Run the Jewels nowadays, but back in the ’90s his rap group Company Flow alongside Bigg Jus and Mr. Len pushed the boundaries. El-P’s production then and to this day, is light-years ahead of its time.

Aesop Rock – Labor Days

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There are no rappers out there that match the sheer wordplay of Aesop Rock. Apart from being a darkly produced wonder, Aesop dense and varied wordplay simply cannot be matched. His latest album “The Iimpossible Kid” released last year, and proves that he 100% still has it.

J Dilla – Donuts

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J Dilla was one of the most creative producers of all time, and “Donuts” is his masterpiece. Made mainly on his deathbed while dying from a rare, terminal disease at a tragically young age, “Donuts” is full of heart and soul, and embodies the highest potential of instrumental hip hop.

Throwback Review: The Microphones – The Glow Pt. 2

With the release of Phil Elvrum’s new Mount Eerie project A Crow Looked at Me officially releasing this week, I’m taking a look back at one of the projects of his original band, The Microphones. Released back in 2001, The Glow Pt. 2 is regarded as one of the best indie albums of the 2000s and one of the most beloved of its kind. To this day, the record’s brand of lo-fi noise folk remains both cutting and gorgeous.

The Glow Pt. 2 is a dense album, and is a piece of work that will disorient and potentially off-put casual listeners. Elvrum’s lyrics are often cryptic and forlorn, hidden amidst a sea of fuzz and noisy guitar. But these areas are where the album shines. Beauty through the grimness. The opener “I Want Wind to Blow” evokes the ethereal essence of the cascades on a dark and cloudy evening. The music is delicately composed. While lo-fi may seem easy or ugly to some, the way The Glow Pt. transitions between moods, emotions, and sounds, is nothing short of brilliant. In the realm of indie folk, you’re hard-pressed to find a more delicate, unique, somber and lovely album.

The Case for Eurodance

The 90s were a strange time. A huge number of trends and scenes opened up, in music, fashion, film, etc, and almost none of them have aged well. Perhaps the most bizarre, or most maligned of these trends was Eurodance, a wave of music that sprang up in countries like Germany and Italy in the late 80s and became a cultural phenomenon by the mid 90s. Has it aged well? Not at all. Was the music particularly revolutionary? Not really. Is it absurdly endearing? You bet.

Take Eiffel 65’s 1999 classic “Blue (Da Ba Dee).” Check out the atrocity of a music video here. Since its inital release, the song has maintained steady popularity, parodied relentlessly, and often included in films.

Another classic hit is Scatman John’s 1995 track “Scatman (ski-ba-bop-ba-dop-bop).” Who can resist a lovable old man babling nonsense over a super catchy synth beat?

Are either of these songs any good? Not really. They’re catchy sure, but lyrics are virtually nonexistent, and a a majority of this genre is just a cacophany of synth and drum beats.

So what makes eurodance so endearingly popular? Easy. Nostalgia. The sound of eurodance encapsulates the 90s. The musical arrangements, the dated clothes, the awful cgi. All of these provide a glimps into a time long gone. I’m not going to pretend eurodance is Mozart or anything but i’ll at least have a bit of it on rotation just for kicks.

 

 

 

5 Most Anticipated Albums of 2017

With 2016 being as amazing as it was with music, it is only fitting that the trend will continue into the new year. Here are the ten records I am most looking forward to that will (presumably) arrive in 2017.

Gorillaz – TBA

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The virtual band Gorillaz, the product of musician Damon Album, artist Jamie Hewlett and a slew of collaborators are scheduled to drop their fifth record in 2017. The project has spawned a good handful of great records since its conception with 2010’s Plastic Beach being their best yet.

Arcade Fire – TBA

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The multi-talented Canadian Indie Rockers are due for their fifth record. It will be the follow-up to 2013’s acclaimed Reflektor and an Oscar nom for their music in the 2013 film Her. The band is known for an ever-evolving sound, and whatever they come up with next will be likely be a treat for the ears.

Fleet Foxes – Ylajali (?)

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A new Fleet Foxes record has been a long time coming (their last was Helplessness Blues in 2011), but the time has come. Front man Robin Pecknold has teased the cover (with the picture seen above) of an album titled Ylajali, suggesting the new album is right around the corner.

Vampire Weekend – TBA

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New York indie pop outfit Vampire Weekend have not released a bad record to date, with their last, Modern Vampires of the City, easily being one of the best albums of 2013. Producer Rostam Batmanglij has since left the group, but it should be interesting to see how the group proceeds from here.

My Morning Jacket – TBA

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Louisville hometown heroes My Morning Jacket are projected to release yet another album this year. Both 2015’s The Waterfall and Jim James’ 2016 solo record Eternally Even both garnered critical acclaim, and there’s no reason to doubt that they will deliver quality once again.