Thursday, August 30, 2007

Not As Seen On MTV: J Dilla and C-Rayz Walls

I'm not exactly interested in being on the "cutting edge" of hip-hop so much as just discovering good music. Case in point: here's two music videos I just discovered, neither of which are new. You very likely haven't seen them either since I get the impression they've been played nowhere...

First up, C-Rayz Walz, a rapper I personally have looked over although I've enjoyed the Def Jux stylings of Cannibal Ox, Aesop Rock, and (for a few albums) Murs. Now that I've seen this I'm probably gonna pick up the album, despite the fact that it's several years old. This video is quite simply awesome. Presenting: Blackout by C-Rayz Walz

Also on the menu is a personally favorite, J Dilla. From his posthumous release Rough Draft and also available on the compilation Chrome Children is a very repetitive, yet completely wonderful track "Nothing Like This." The video is wonderful and unusual like the song, and made me particularly excited because for some reason I had been hoping someone would do an animated feature with Dilla's production as soundtrack. I wish I would see more experimental videos focusing on the content, style, and feel of the song rather than simply showcasing the artist or creating a "mini movie" for them to star in. "Nothing Like This" by J Dilla ladies and gentlemen:

Monday, August 27, 2007


Homestar Runner: Real Hip Hop

I'm not really sure why this surprises me, you'd think I'd have had my hip hop hopes dashed upon the jagged shore of commercial entertainment enough times to stop expecting anything else. But for some reason, I actually thought, since ?uestlove is involved, that Vh1's "The Score" competition might actually turn out to be something cool.

Just as a quick recap, the Score was a competition where producers from all over the country uploaded 60 second snippets of tracks. They could contain no samples and no vocals. The 3 finalists were to be selected by a "panel of experts" which probably means a bunch of Vh1 interns who said they like rap. Then the winner would be selected by a voting system and would win a studio session with ?uestlove to tweak the song. The song would then be used as the theme for VH1's Hip Hop Honors event.

Although the vast majority of the work posted, about 8000 tracks in all, ranged from severe wackness to just posting RZA beats and claiming they made them (and every person's bio claiming that they were "revolutionizing the game"), I actually heard some decent and even extremely impressive tracks. The kind of stuff that let me know I didn't stand a chance of winning because they were the ones who would win... Which was cool because the tracks were great.

Oh well. Instead THESE GUYS are the finalists. I'm not trying to hate here, I'm really not, but these tracks suck. I truly fail to see any reason these songs should be finalists. Am I wrong? These tracks are wack, right?
Everyone on the message boards there was suspicious when VH1 started sending out emails and phone calls to the 25 semi-finalists TWENTY MINUTES after the competition closed. Considering that in 20 minutes they couldn't have possibly listened to all the songs that were submitted right at the deadline. It's pretty suspicious and I'm almost positive that they didn't even consider reviewing tracks that didn't have high play counts (which people jacked up by playing their own tracks over and over) and comment counts (which people also jacked up by commenting on their own shit). I'm also 85% sure the drums in the third track are sampled but since the only way they apparently enforced the sampling rule was by ASKING "are there any samples?" I guess I can't expect much. There's also a lot of discussion on the boards about the fact that 2 of the 3 finalists are white. I don't know how I feel, but it certainly doesn't seem right given the VAST majority of the entries were from black artists.

This isn't me wishing I was a finalist btw, it's me furious that bland, poorly made, completely un-musical beats ALL of the exact same style and feel were picked when there were a large number of excellent choices of a huge variety of styles and genres. Instead they picked the most generic sounding stuff I've ever heard, and it sends a message to people that "this is what good hip hop sounds like."

Sorry to everyone in the competition who deserved better. I usually don't think abstaining from voting makes a statement, but I'm not voting in this BS competition.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Time Travelling: My First Long Form

This track, which I lovingly titled "NMJBB/God Is At The Gates" was my first long form piece ever. I'm going to talk about it a bit because it's an old love of mine. I recommend listening to it first and then reading all this junk though.

It is about 4 1/2 years old now, which is crazy when I think about it. There are two sections, the first about 2 1/2 minutes and the second about 4. The first part is NMJBB, which stands for "No More James Brown Beats". I titled it this somewhat ironically, because the opening sample is an extremely popular horn sample from James Brown, but also because I wanted to show that almost anyone can make a track sound good if they're willing to recycle the same, played-out samples. I kept the Amen break for the whole song, I had no concept of how to create my own drum loops at the time, but the second half involves samples from a number of less sampled (if ever) sources. It is titled "God Is At the Gates" because that is the name of the Hatian chant that is filtered in later in the track.

Despite the fact that my whole point was that the second part is much better (because it is more original) than the first, over and over I have been told that people like the first better. I learned an important lesson from this song, which is to not be such an elitist dick all the time. In retrospect, other than the Haitian chants and the video game sample, the track consists of Coltrane, Yo-Yo Ma, Fela Kuti, and Mayfield...harldy original choices. All that aside, I still like both parts of the song very much.

Desire by Pharoahe Monch

Why the hell does this man get so little love?

Most people are at least familiar with his 1999 single "Simon Says" which was well, live as any single I've ever heard. However, once Monch got sued by Toho Music, it was like a 500 ft. electricity shooting lizard monster stomped out his career. Internal Affairs is now out of print as a result, so be proud if you bought it (it's worth finding a used copy btw, it's a super solid album). Since then, Monch has been featured on some collaborations like "Oh No" with Mos Def and Nate Dogg and "My Life" by Styles P. But the fact is, it's been EIGHT YEARS since Pharoahe Monch last dropped an album. Needless to say, there's been a lot of anticipation for this release.

So why, WHY WHY WHY, WHYYYYYYYYY would you not advertise the second coming of a rapper this fucking good? By the time this album dropped most people I knew, including a lot of heads or fans or whatever you wanna call people who like to listen to and talk about good music, had no idea that it was being released. I saw no features on iTunes, no posters in stores, no listings on new release racks. The week it came out, I went to six different stores to buy it. None of them were carrying it. People had no clue what it was. I asked three of them to order it for me, and despite the fact that I was told the order had been placed and that it should arrive in a week, a month later those three places still don't carry it. Even with True Magic's ridiculously strange release situation last year, I was still able to find the actual album with relative ease (despite the fact that no one was aware it had come out). Artists like Mos and Pharoahe already have enough trouble getting mainstream attention, who is screwing them like this?

Desire's lack of attention is particularly upsetting because it is every bit as solid as Internal Affairs and certainly better than 95% of the garbage out there. While certainly not groundbreaking, Desire has an incredibly refreshing sound. Here's the breakdown:

Lyricism/Content: 8
Monch's lyrics show genuine insight and thought, though they always seem to stop just short of profundity. There are few if any moments in this album where the listener may be lost, wondering what the track is actually about; instead, Pharoahe's words have a rare clarity and focus. His use of metaphor and imagery is effective and consistent, but the point-of-view style in "The Gun Draws" falls quite short of its lyrical predecessor by Nas "I Gave You Power" or the vivid personification in "Me and My Girlfriend" by 2Pac. Still, Monch proves himself an immensely powerful story-rapper in his narrative piece "Trilogy". There may not be any lines on this album that will make your jaw drop, but you'll be nodding in agreement as you bob your head the whole way through.

Flow: 9
Pharoahe Monch's flow is plain fucking ridiculous. He seamlessly moves in between singing and rapping, sometimes blending the two to such a degree that you're not sure which is happening. Monch manages to completely own an original style, yet ventures to channel other emcees on tracks like "Beyond the Thunderdome" where he becomes possessed by Chuck D. In fact, every time Monch raps it's like he is the doorway for some powerful spirit he has summoned up from another world. Don't be mistaken though, Monch's style varies with almost every track, check the difference between "Desire," "Let's Go" and "What It Is" to see just how much he can change up his flow. The only thing wrong with his flow is that there is so much strength behind it that you tend to feel a little worn out by him eventually; it'd be nice if he could relax a bit more. But then again, he wouldn't be Pharoahe if he did. By far Monch's strongest aspect.

Production: 8
Pharoahe took a step back from production and let a wide range of producers work on the album, so it's impressive that the tracks are so consistently good. The sound and feel of each track matches Pharoahe's flow and content nicely (or perhaps it's the other way around...) so that the entire album develops a really nice unity of sound. The name of the game on this album seems to be "get hyped" whether referring to Alchemist's instrumental for the title track (which btw, is amazing) or Black Milk's instrumental for "Let's Go." Even the most serious or sensual songs have a very strong, driving rhythm. Production highlights are the title track "Desire" by Alchemist and "Push" produced by Monch himself. Production low-points are Denaun Porter's "Body Baby" and "When the Gun Draws" which both feature derivative, boring production, and also Lee Stone's "Hold On" which comes off too sentimental and cheesy for a track which is lyrically much stronger. Every other track on the album features completely crisp, solid production that won't disappoint in the slightest.

Experimentation: 8
Monch plays with his flow on every track. Songs like "What It Is" and "Welcome to the Terror Dome" are highly conceptual in nature. The three act drama "Trilogy" is produced and performed with intensity and maturity. Monch remains unafraid to change styles, suddenly break into song, or allow a beat to ride out for a minute and a half with no lyrics between verses. There's not exactly anything NEW on this album, but Monch is nothing if not unusual.

Overall Album: 8
While this is definitely the best thing I've heard drop so far this year, it's just not quite a 9 for me. The incredible wackness that is "Body Baby" coupled with some derivative songs like "So Good," which takes it's cue from neo-soul-aimed-at-seducing-women inspired tracks like "Mind Sex" by Dead Prez and "Star 69" by Common (who's flow Monch straight up bites on this track as well) really hurt the album. In addition, it's too short for what it is. The album feels like about two more tracks are needed to really close it off as strongly as it opens. While "Trilogy" is a great song, it's not an appropriate closer. More than anything, while consistently very good, the lack of anything that genuinely wows on the album makes it a bit unmemorable, and not a great contender to be a classic. That said, the album is really really good and anyone who likes hip-hop and can appreciate good emceeing and production should pick this up. I just hope you can find it =)

I leave you with Pharoahe being awesome at a live performance, as he always is:

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

New Loop: Flux

Here's a sixty second snippet I made last night for the VH1 Hip Hop Honors competition. It's not my best work, and it's definitely a little rough, but all of your tracks at VH1 seem to get more attention if you submit several things over a long period of time. Remember that sometime after the 20th I need people to vote for me! Also I'd love to hear what people think about the competition in general, so go check out my damn stuff alreadeeeeez.

Have I ever mentioned how much I'm addicted to screwing with my pitch bend control on my keyboard? You're lucky you don't hear that shit in every song.

Also, thanks to the guys at Boomp3 for getting the site back up and running well. I don't think we'll be having any more troubles!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Off Track

So Boomp3 is screwing with me again. Their site is very inconsistent so I'm still in the search of a better embeddable player. While I've found some decent, reliable ones, they mostly don't fit in my posting space and I don't wanna reformat the whole blog for an embeddable player I may just end up erasing anyway.

For now, if the Boomp3 embeddable player doesn't appear try refreshing the site. If that doesn't work I recommend just waiting a bit and trying again because goes on and off like a strobe light. Just a reminder though: EVERY instrumental track I post is archived at the bottom of the page. And the Soundclick player always works in my experience.

Update: As you can see in the comments of this Max_Evil from has said they're undergoing site maintenance this weekend. Hopefully the players will be fully functional this week then.

And Some Change

Hey, dnA over at Too Sense asked me to cross post my Common article on his site. PLES DNOT LOOKS AT MY GRAMMARS.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Questions: If the Revolution Won't Be Televised, Then Why Are You Making Videos?


So, according to SOHH Common has finally received a long overdue number one spot on the charts with his new album Finding Forever. Yeah I think that title sucks too, and I'm gonna celebrate by explaining why I won't be purchasing it.

Before I write this post let me disclose some information about myself. I used to be, and still am a bit, one of those people who automatically liked music less when it was very popular. Over the years I've come to recognize that popularity and artistic quality really have no relationship whatsoever, not an inverse one. So when Common came out with Be I was just plain excited that he was finally going to be getting the attention he deserved, I wasn't even a little mad about it being popular.

Then I listened to it.

In 9th grade (a time I generally try to avoid remembering) a friend gave me De La Soul's Stakes Is High which was the first rap album I ever really loved. The only rap I had really listened to before that was the Black Eyed Peas, and while I still kinda get a kick outta those first two albums we are NOT discussing them any further. Point is, there was this incredible emcee on track 3, "The Bizness" named Common who simply fucking ruled. When he dropped an album the following year, Like Water for Chocolate, my best friend bought it and we listened to it like crazy. After not too long I copped it myself, as well as Resurrection and shortly thereafter One Day It'll All Make Sense. I learned a lesson that many people had known long before me: Common is GOOOOOOOOOD.

When Electric Circus dropped, I was hyped. But here's the thing: unlike most people, I actually LIKED Electric Circus. To this day I feel it is extremely underrated. Yes it was too experimental, yes it was indulgent, and yes it didn't have enough good songs. But I was still feeling a lot of it, and personally I appreciated (though maybe didn't always like) ?uestlove and J Dilla's attempt to really challenge the norms of production. Not to mention, lyrically, Common reached a whole new level, despite the fact that this album had a lot less lyrics than his previous. The track "Between Me, You & Liberation" is one of the most amazing hip hop tracks I've ever heard; it contains three verses: one dealing with a girlfriend confessing to having been raped, one about pulling life support on a dying family member, and one about his best friend coming out of the closet to him. I've heard few tracks that compare to it.

Then comes along Be. Suddenly, J Dilla, who had production credits on almost every track from Common's last couple albums, is barely present, replaced by Kanye West. I'm going to get into this in a later posting, for now that's all I'll say. That worried me of course, because while I think Mr. West is a fantastic producer, it said to me that Common was trying to push Be as his breakthrough album into true rap popularity. TRL and the whole kit and kaboodle you know? That in itself didn't bother me so much, the guy deserved the fame and the money that more popular rappers had. But, as I said earlier, then I listened to it.

To me, Be was a slap in the face to long time Common fans. Kanye delivered cheesy production that SCREAMED it was trying to be "positive rap" and Common himself delivered some of the corniest verses I'd ever heard him spit. Be came off as an attempt to recycle every decent song he had previously made and repackage it for a new, younger audience. I think it's safe to say that there's probably not a single line on that album that he hadn't already said better on a previous one. Check out the lyrics for the intro track on Be and then check out "The Sixth Sense" from Like Water for Chocolate and tell me Common isn't just recycling old rhymes. It felt like a 'fuck you' to all his fans. He didn't care that we had already heard this shit, that he wasn't saying or doing anything even remotely new. What he cared about was delivering his music, actually I should say delivering his PERSONA, to an audience that had previously dismissed him as unworthy. Be was like Positive Rap: 101, for teens!

My opinion of him continued to decline when one of my best friends and I had the opportunity to meet and actually chill with him for a night. My friend, who you may know as dnA from Too Sense, and I both worked at a summer program for inner city kids, urban youth, or whatever term I'm supposed to use to cover up that it was primarily poor black kids. The program director knew Common, and he did a fundraising concert for us, which in itself is pretty awesome of him. However, in person he was completely full of himself, convinced that every one of the kids and people there should be hanging on to every word he said. When he talked with the kids, he never seemed to be listening to them, just impressed with himself for being there. We were trying to raise money to perform a musical in Senegal, but for some reason he kept talking about how great it was that the kids wanted to "help Africans." That wasn't the damn purpose of the trip, in fact the ones who were really being helped were the kids right in front of him, the trip was for THEM. He then proceeded to perform for about TWENTY FIVE MINUTES. That's right folks, he performed all of 4 songs. All of the tracks were of course from Be and while Common is definitely a good performer it was a total let down. The people who had bought tickets looked like they might riot. He then disappeared as quickly as possible.

So I've written all this to say simply: Common has let me down. I want Finding Forever to be good, I really do. But, I've listened to the album, been bombarded with the singles, and am so far utterly disappointed. I leave you with this video single The Game produced by the god-like DJ Premier off of Common's new album. It features Common repeating the mantra "Raised by game, where brothers ain't phased by fame." Yes in the actual verse it has a slightly different, and I'd argue better thought out, meaning. But as Common repeats this mantra I can't think but how ridiculous it is for him to be saying it. Almost as ridiculous as how LITTLE the second half of this music video fits to the music (seriously, those people are NOT rocking out to THIS track). Also, while I like his criticism of "My Super Sweet 16" on the track, it's hardly edgy and guess who's video they're playing right after the shows done airing?

The Questions is going to be a periodic feature on the site in which I bitch about stuff that confuses and infuriates me (such as your concept of wuv).

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

New Track: Crowd Drowning

Just a quick something I worked up today. I've been listening to a lot of Dilla and Madlib lately and I noticed they often ignore the tempo of the samples they incorporate in their songs. As a result they end up with some really nice rhythmic clashes in their beats that at times just throw you off, but can also really pull you in. Thought I would try a song where I don't try to tempo match my samples carefully. Here's the result...

Monday, August 6, 2007

Time Travelling: Run With the Clan

In spite of my love of Samurai Champloo, I'm no lone wolf and I do indeed run with a clan. For this time travelling piece I bring you some tracks from the first Likeblood mixtape I ever worked on (I think this was about 2 years ago, maybe a little more), as well as some solo work by Dre Strong and Blastphumis. Please note that these tracks are mostly old, and some have a low recording quality.

First, Likeblood's first single which I proudly have a production credit on. It played this year several times on radio stations in DC:

Second, two solo tracks by Dre Strong which I worked on with him. "Never Believed" is actually, I believe, the first track I ever recorded with Dre.

Third, a track off of Likeblood's first mixtape that I worked on with a guest appearance by Blastphumis.

Finally, 2 tracks by Blastphumis off an old mix tape of his. Both songs will definitely be rerecorded in higher quality. I believe "Dog Nuts" is the first beat I ever had ANYONE record a rap over, and Blastphumis certainly rocked it.

In addition to being some of my best friends, these guys are all just plain sick. Seriously. I don't know if I'd keep producing if I didn't have emcees this good working with me. Support them by checking out their websites in the links section. They all perform at venues all over the place (Dre/Likeblood are currently in DC of course, while Blastphumis is up in NYC) and the albums are in the works. Check their stuff out, you won't be disappointed.

Sunday, August 5, 2007


There's a contest going on right now at VH1. It's officially run by ?uestlove, who as you may know, is one of the greatest producers ever and a personal favorite of mine. Producers from all over the country are submitting 60 second snippets of tracks they've produced. The winner will have their track used in the soundtrack of the upcoming VH1 Hip Hop Honors event.

The Rules are as follows:
-No samples
-No vocals
-Not more than 60 sec.

I was sad about the no sampling thing, my best work definitely uses sampling. But overall, sounds pretty simple no? Well practically 9 out of every 10 jerks over there is violating one of,if not all of, these rules. I even randomly came across one guy who simply uploaded a RZA track from the Ghost Dog soundtrack, and I'm sure there's many more like him. If you check out people's tracks and hear what you're certain is a sample or vocals be sure to click the "flag" button to report the track.

There is a rating system for tracks, and you get higher on the list from more views, so go check out my songs. Please vote high for tracks you like, whether by me or another artist, and low for tracks you don't (if I hear one more track that is just drums and a fanfare I may go crazy). Also, stay tuned for more updates about this because I believe the final round of judgement is voter-based. Thanks for your support!

A Note About The Soundclick Archive

If you haven't noticed yet, every track I upload on the site is being archived on Soundclick. Just scroll to the bottom of the page to see the player. I did this so that as blog posts begin to go into the archive you won't have to search through old posts to find songs. I should also note that I often update/edit the songs I make, and while I won't change the Boomp3 file, I'm going to try to keep the most recent versions on the Soundclick song library.

New Track: One Girl

It's Sunday, and I've promised myself that I will make a minimum of one new track a week. I started this around 6 this evening and just finished.

Love to know what you think!