Friday, April 3, 2009

BOX:: All-Canadian Edition Vol. 3

It's been a few months since we've done an all-Canadian edition of our semi-regular rap song round up here at the hill, and really that's too long. I'm calling it all-Canadian, but really, it's all-Toronto, as all of these jams originate from the screwface capital. Usually I can sneak at least one track from Alberta or something in there, but not this time, it's all T-dot, all the time. I don't mind, I did live there for nearly seven years after all, but we always like to rep for all of Canada here at the hill. So come on other provinces, send us your hip hop songs so they can get the BOX treatment they so rightfully deserve.

Right then, on with the show. We've got a pretty strong group of Canadian/Toronto songs here, so let's get to them.

Tona calls Scarborough home, but hails originally from Ghana. He's not a new jack, as it seems he's been in the game since his teens. That's pretty much the extent of my Tona knowledge, but I can say it seems it approaches his music in an honest way, trying to steer clear of the flossy nonsense in vogue right now. This track right here has a big cinematic beat and features Tona proclaiming himself to be a major talent, with or without label assistance. Lyrically Tona doesn't blow me away, but he has a confident, no-nonsense style that I like. This is a pretty good jam.

I've had this song since I think right after I did the last all-Canadian edition last year, so my apologies to the Tru-Paz for not getting this up earlier, but I was saving it. I'm a bit more familiar with the Tru-Paz from my time in TO, but I have to say I had some picture of them as super hardcore dudes in army fatigues, but I think I'm confusing their name with someone else. Anyway, this earnest, reggae-tinged anthem is not what I was expecting, but I like it. This song here is the remix featuring TO reggae master Blessed and it's hard to deny the urgency the combo creates. This is the kind of song old grumpy Juno types that complain about negative hip hop should hear. Well they wouldn't understand any of it, but still.

Empire is a big-ass crew from TO, also known as the Fifth Letter Fam. I hadn't heard of them, but we've been sent about 3 different songs from them over the last couple months, so I finally got around to checking them out. I like Impossible a lot, the beat is solid, and the MC's do fine work telling their stories of going for theirs in the rap biz. No Where is also pretty solid (is it just me, or does it sound a lot like this one here from Spesh K?) with some similar, introspective subject matter. The other songs on their myspace are a little bit on the "I will do you physical harm up in the club" tip, and I don't go in as much for those these days, but I like these songs, for what that's worth.

I've talked about Louwop a couple times on the hill, so I'm going to let you check out those posts if you want more detail on what he's about. I'll just say that I think he's a great MC who rhymes with the kind of hunger, and with the kind of subject matter, that any golden age aficionado would appreciate. This song is a remix of a track from his last release, The Great Escape, and it features fellow Torontonians Roach Uno and Theo 3. Good stuff.

I've also written about D-Sisive a number of times, just in the last year alone, as I'm a big fan of his, so even though I was surprised by the direction he's taken with this new, I shouldn't have been. After all, considering some of his most recent work found him sampling Iggy Pop and Tom Waits, I shouldn't be shocked to hear him crooning the chorus of his new track over a guitar-heavy beat. It's different, but it's good, so I'm intrigued to hear what his full length, Let The Children Die, is going to sound like.

Bonus Time:

I needed some non-TO content on here, and so, although he currently lives in Toronto, Wordburglar is Halifax through and through. This is some kind of alternative Canadian anthem he did for CBC radio show GO, and like most of the WB's work, it's enjoyable. After all, any song that features cuts by DJ Moose Donair and a shoutout to Roch Voisine, is pretty excellent by default. Plus he keeps it Riel, and that's always a plus.


TONA f. Tenisha - MAJOR

Tru-Paz - Young Nation

Empire - Impossible

Empire ft. Jay NY "Impossible" Directed by: The Sharpshooter from The Sharpshooter on Vimeo.

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Posted at 8:30 AM by naedoo :: 0 comments

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Stingray of the Day:: Grand Analog - Electric City f. Shad

No need to freak out...

...unless you're freaked out...

...I bring the passion back in one freestyle

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Posted at 8:45 PM by naedoo :: 0 comments

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Reviews:: Justis - Just Is

If you aren't as old as some of us around here, you'd likely be forgiven for not knowing there was once a very strong and very active connection between Jazz and hip hop. Not to say that some connection between the two doesn't remain, but once upon a time the biggest acts in the game, like Tribe and Gangstarr made Jazz a pretty regular, and overt, part of their sound. And the biggest names in Jazz took an interest in hip hop as well, with some even doing some collaboration, like the Branford Marsalis-helmed project I mentioned in yesterdays OSM, Buckshot LeFonque, which featured DJ Premier production, and rhymes from rapper Uptown.

But hip hop has changed (for better of worse depends on what side of the ridiculously large, iced-out medallion you reside on), and I, for one, had assumed that the connection between hip hop and Jazz was a thing of the past. Well, it seems I might've been wrong about that. There are signs that jazz is making a welcome return to hip hop production. Last week I reviewed Dragon Fli Empire's new album, Redefine, and there was jazz influence aplenty to be found there. There's even more jazzmatazz this week, as I bring you the sounds of young Canadian rapper Justis and his full length debut from last year: Just Is.

Somehow I missed Just Is when it dropped, but I'm certainly glad it was brought to my attention. Although still relatively young, mid twenties from what I gather, Justis has the charisma and flow of someone that's been doing this for a long time. He's adept at uptempo tracks that celebrate hip hop, like the three songs that open the album: I Am Hip Hop, Down, and Get It Right. But like many of us, Justin Vail also uses hip hop as an outlet to escape the monotony of his day to day, as thoughtful, passionate songs like Tryin' To Live, Power of One, Music For A Rainy Day clearly show.

Those are all solid songs, but it's the aptly-named Jazz Music that I'd have to tab as my highlight. It has a cool, dark-sounding intro but once the keys come in it becomes a sunnier ode to the Jazz musicians Justis clearly has an affection for. And I buy it, it doesn't just sound like someone dropping Jazz-names - it sounds like a real appreciation for the genre. There are other highlights too, like I Am Hip Hop which is a rundown of Justis' devotion to hip hop over a solid beat with some nice horns on the hooks, it sounds like a sped up version of something Tribe might've done. Get It Right is another nice beat, with thick drums and some female vocal snippets, it also features a verse from Mantis, who Justis will be doing a collab with for his next release. Just rocks a doubletime rhyme scheme on Let It Ride that, if I'm being honest, isn't my favorite, but the track has a nice beat (that I know I recognize from somewhere), and he slyly references the Outkast song ("Got up, got out and rocked something") that blew up on the hill recently.

There's a lot to like about Just Is, not the least of which is how listenable it is - it goes down pretty smooth. If I had any complaint, it would be that things get a little same-y by the end of the album - it would benefit from a bit more variance in the types of beats and lyric content. But that is really small potatoes, as the songs stay pretty strong all the way through from one to fifteen, and that is impressive in today's hip hop climate. So there you go, jazz in hip hop isn't a thing of the past, and one of the best examples is from a hungry young Canadian MC. Have to like that.

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Posted at 2:15 PM by naedoo :: 2 comments

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

News:: New Beastie Boys videos

Anyone who has read this blog for more than about a week knows I love the Beastie Boys (and knows we never let Naedoo forget about how he hated Gratitude). Needless to say, I'm stoked to see them perform two sets at Sasquatch this weekend.

As we get ready for the new instrumental record - The Mix-up - here are two videos to whet your whistle. Now, after a first pass, I'd say these songs fit firmly into the same style of the last instrumental record. I'd also say that percussion player Alredo looks a lot like Hurley from Lost.

Off the Grid

The Rat Cage

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Posted at 6:07 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

News:: The Hill's Top 10 Hip Hop Gimmicks

Is it just me, or is gimmick rap dead? Back in the day, MC's often utilized gimmicks to try and ensure their high top fade stood tallest. In Kid's case, his gimmick was that his high top fade was literally taller than the rest. But gimmicks are gone from the rap biz now. Or rather, everyone uses the same gimmick now, the ole "I used to be a criminal and now I rap" routine. There are subtle variations in the gimmick, such as the "I used to be a criminal, got shot multiple times, and now I rap", but in 2007, if a rapper without a criminal record raps in the forest, does anyone hear him?

Ooo, wasn't that profound? Well, not really, but perhaps you get my meaning anyway. It wasn't always this way though. Before rap's current ice age made rap gimmicks obsolete, the history of rap was filled with gimmicks of all sorts. We thought it would be fun to list the hill's favorite 10 hip hop gimmicks. You're excited? We knew you would be.

10 - Oh, the horror
In all honesty, I'm not sure horrorcore is really one of my favorite rap gimmicks at all. Basically I'm only including it because of the Gravediggaz. This side project, which was comprised of The Rza, Prince Paul, Frukwan, and the underrated Too Poetic, is the most well know member of the early 90's rap genre focused on horror-movie style raps. I'm guessing there was some kind of audience for this stuff, as dudes like Esham, Brotha Lynch Hung, and Insane Clown Posse released multiple albums doing it, but it's fallen off the map now. But the Gravediggaz were big news back in the day, and it gives me a chance to say RIP Too Poetic.
mp3:: Gravediggaz - Diary of a Madman

9 - what's this, a parody?
For a while, the rap song parody was all the rage. I think just the whole phenomenon of rap music freaked (white) people out early on, so it was easier to laugh at parodies of the songs, rather then actually understand it. People like Bobby Jimmy & The Critters, The 2 Live Jews, Morris Minor and the Majors, and Vanilla Ice put out full parody rap albums back in the day, and apparently someone thought this was a good idea. I'll admit I used to get a kick out of Bobby Jimmy, but I am not surprised this gimmick has gone by the wayside. Well, except for Weird Al, who somehow still has a career doing rap parodies while he rocks a white man jheri curl.

8 - Habla la hip hop?
I was going to make this one about rapping in other languages, but I couldn't think of any good examples that weren't in Spanish. Well other than french I guess, where Mario's favorite Le Boyfriend held things down. But The Spanish/English style was a quality gimmick when it first appeared back in the day. Mellow Man Ace's Mentirosa was the first big song I remember that featured the Spanish rap. Kid Frost's La Raza also came out around the same time. Were the dudes who created Reggaeton influenced by these early spanish/english jams? If so, this could be considered on of the more successful gimmicks on the list. Well I guess that would be the case if you liked Raggaeton, which I don't, but I will digress...
mp3:: Mellow Man Ace - Mentirosa

7 - Fast rap
Long before fast rap was an Edan mixtape, it was a gimmick used by numerous emcee's to try and make a name for themselves. Why being able to rap faster that anyone else was considered a reason to buy someones album is beyond me, but at one point, it was. In fact, the holder of the Guinness record for fastest rapper used to be semi-common knowledge amongst rap enthusiasts. How else would I end up as the proud owner of a cassette copy of Daddy Freddy's Ragamuffin Soldier? Considering the fast rap title is currently held by this guy, I'd say that time has past.
mp3:: Asher D & Daddy Freddy - Ragamuffin Hip Hop

6 - Rap as dance craze
A classic gimmick found in all genres of music, the "song-with-its-own-corresponding-dance" is no stranger to hip hop. For a fine example of this, look no further than Joeski Love and his jam Pee Wee's Dance. As if explanation is really required, Pee Wee's Dance is an homage to the dance stylings of former kids show weirdo Pee Wee Herman. Of course this song came out before Pee Wee's big porno theatre adventure, because after that you'd need a hell of a lot more than a catchy Tequila sample to make people dance like Pee Wee. As shocking as it is, Pee Wee's Dance turned out to be the highlight of Joeski's career.
mp3:: Joeski Love - Pee Wee's Dance

5 - For The Kids
Another gimmick that can be found in plenty of musical genres, kids rapping has always been a reliable go-to gimmick. Usually the kids have some established svengali-like figure that helps put them on and then guides their "career". Another Bad Creation had Michael "Biv" Bivins, Kriss Kross had Jermaine Dupri, and Lil Romeo had wannabe Raptor Percy Miller as his father/Svengali. Chi Ali, despite being affiliated with the native tongues, did not have that one guiding figure. Perhaps that's why Chi is now serving a 14 year stretch for murder.
mp3:: Chi Ali - Funky Lemonade

4 - Evil twin brother
The rap alter ego has also been around for quite some time. I don't just mean having 50 "aka" names, as that is certainly still popular, but rather creating an alter ego to the extent that you release an album under said alter ego's name. Certainly it's still done today, as Madlib's helium voiced Lord Quas proves, but it's not done with the same commitment it once was. I remember having legitimate debates about whether Shock G and Humpty Hump where the same person in junior high. Although I wanted to believe Humpty was actually burned in a grease fire and hence the need for his Groucho nose & glasses combo, but I was always skeptical. It's also worth mentioning that The Humpty Dance is perhaps the most famous example of rap song as dance craze. And no, I won't do the Humpty Dance for you, but thanks for asking.
mp3:: Digital Underground - The Humpty Dance

3 - Cracker Rap
With the amount of pale-faced mic rockers on the scene today, it might to be hard to believe that the white MC was a gimmick at one point, but it's true. Certainly if you asked Serch and Pete Nice if they were a gimmick, you would be the recipient of a vigorous gas face. They considered themselves to be true MC's, regardless of their race. But that doesn't mean all white rappers abstained from the gimmickry. Case in point - Young Black Teenagers. This group of white kids was loosely connected to PE through Bomb Squad member Hank Shocklee and intended their name as some kind of homage to black culture, but in reality, it came off as a gimmick. For a long time white dudes worked some reference to white into their name (vanilla, white, snow, milk) to stress the "I am white" gimmick. Thankfully that has now faded for the most part.
mp3:: Young Black Teenagers - Tap The Bottle

2 - Weed Carriers
The practice of an established artist securing a record deal for one of his lackeys is as old as hip hop itself. If you're a rapper, once you get on, you're expected to put those around you on as well. Sometimes the results are good, former EPMD backup dancer and hill favorite Stezo comes to mind, but most of the time it's all bad. You can find most of hip hop's most offensive weed carriers on our list of 100 MC's we wished lost their voice instead of The D.O.C. The rap world is littered with "crew" albums that failed miserably, but it has certainly been one of the most consistent hip hop gimmicks, and that continues to this day. I mean who isn't dying to hear an album from Puff Diddley's manservant Fonzworth Bentley?
mp3:: Stezo - Bring the Horns

1 - Re-inventing the wheel
Would it cheapen the list if I said my #1 rap gimmick isn't really a gimmick? What I mean is this - as long as hip hop has been around, there has been some MC or group claiming to have invented a new style of speech. I include it here as more often than not, this new style is used as a means to try and promote the artist, but I hesitate to call it a gimmick because it's often the reason they're enjoyable in the first place. Case in point: Das Efx. They busted on the scene with their bum stiggedy bum style and blew up, because everyone started doing it (ahem, Fu-schnickens, Lords Of The Undergound) they went away from it and pretty much fell the fack off. I'm sure you can think of other examples of this gimmick, K-Solo's "spell-rhyming" is another one of my favorites.
mp3:: Das EFX - Mic Checka
mp3:: K-Solo - Spellbound

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Posted at 11:21 AM by naedoo :: 1 comments

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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Reviews:: The Rawluck Movement

The Rawluck Movement's new album poses a bit of a dilemma for me. Formed by 5 Toronto MC's to honour of their friend Donnie Rawluck, the group intends to give all the proceeds from the album to Rawluck's son Kadin. Donnie Rawluck was killed in 2005, and the guys hope to raise $10,000, which will be placed in an education fund for his son.

Being a new father of a 10 month old son, I cannot approach this album either rationally or objectively. I would be lying if I told you I loved this album, but I also cannot say anything negative about the album without feeling like I might be taking money from a little boy who has a long road ahead of him. So I won't.

Drex Inkredible, Remey, Tommy (The Grim Preacher), Audi and Gavin Sheppard (Gavatista) are the 5 MC's the comprise The Rawluck Movement. They hail from Toronto's tough Lakeshore area, so when you factor in the tough neighborhood they're reppin', and the circumstances surrounding the group's creation, you shouldn't be expecting an album full of happy club tracks. What you get is an album of understandably somber songs that reflect the gritty backgrounds of the group members.

Songs like Time and Rip 'Em Apart have the kind of anthemic choruses that could stick with people. Eyes Of A Stranger samples the Payolas song of the same name to good effect, so I can cross that one off my "Can-Rock songs I want to hear sampled in a hip hop song" list. The hardest working man in the indie rap biz, Planet Asia, makes a guest appearance on Suspended In Time.

I don't think there's any need for me to go into much more detail on this album. The bottom line here is if you want to hear some decent hardcore Canadian hip hop, you should pick up a copy of this album. You get some hip hop, and you put some money into Kadin Rawluck's education fund.

mp3:: Eyes Of A Stranger

Check out the video for Time:

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Posted at 11:03 PM by naedoo :: 2 comments

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Tuesday, May 8, 2007

News:: Alanis and White Rappers, (Wannabe) Brothers In Arms?

Issue me a late pass on this one if you'd like, but I only just thought of it. I enjoy Alanis' humps-based parody as much as the next man, it's well done and as everyone and their hipster mom has already said, she does a good job of skewering not only Fergie and the Black Eyed Peas, but also herself. But seeing it again the other day, it occurred to me that she chose her target very carefully. As this article from XXL describes quite well, there's an un-written rule in hip hop - white MC's do not attack black MC's. Well it seems that might hold true in the pop music world as well: over-dramatic female singers from Canada who once dated Dave Coulier do not make humorous videos parodying black artists.

I think, as part of the un-official deal that allows white dudes to partake in the rap game, if white MC's want to beef with someone, they are required to beef with other white MC's. If you want to be down with the brothers, you do not publicly diss the brothers. This tradition goes back to 3rd Bass beefing with Vanila Ice or the Beasties, and leads up to Eminem battling pretty much every white dude up to, and including, Greg Brady.

There are exceptions, as 3rd Bass' attacks on Hammer prove, but as the aforementioned article claims, those attacks led to a 60K bounty being placed on the scalps of Serch & Pete, so really you have to wonder if it was worth it. I do know that this post is now worth it, as mentioning the fact that Hammer wanted 3rd Bass dead because he thought they were making for of his mother is not something you get to do every day.

So why exactly did Alanis choose "My Humps"? Why not Destiny's Child's Bootylicious? Surely it's lyrics are as ridiculous as the humps song? The word "Oh" comprises 80% of the lyrics in Ciara's cleverly titled Oh, and the video she made for it features her humping a car. Christina Milian's Dip It Low is an instructional track for the ladies detailing the proper way to dip your ass low. The video features Ms. Milian rolling around in a vat of black paint semi-nude.

So why couldn't Alanis choose any of these songs? It could be coincidence, and perhaps it's simply the fact the BEP song was newer and more popular than the examples I've given. But something tells me this video was very carefully planned, and like many a white rapper before her, Alanis didn't want to deal with the fallout that would occur if she offended a black artist, or worse, was accused of being racist in some way. So she went with Fergie, a mighty-white chick singing hooks for a (sort-of) rap group who appears to have had more work done than my old Cutlass Ciera (The Golden Ghost RIP), and who once pissed herself on stage.

So what am I saying here? Surprisingly little considering I've written so much. Am I saying she shouldn't have singled out Fergie and BEP? Certainly not, that humps song is terrible, Fergie is terrible, and so I have no problem with that. I guess I'm simply saying that perhaps since Alanis singled out a white artist from a genre of music dominated by black artists, it wasn't the bravest choice she could've made. Perhaps we'll hold off on giving her that Nobel prize for parody just yet.

And so I say in closing...

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Posted at 8:43 AM by naedoo :: 1 comments

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Friday, May 4, 2007

Reviews:: Moka Only - Vermilion

After reviewing a few hip hop albums from Alberta, I thought it was high time to review an album named after a town in Alberta. (As an aside, why does Alberta love the hill so much, yet the other prairie provinces continue to deny us their hip hop? What did we do to you Manitoba hip hop? What exactly is your problem Saskachewan rap? Maybe I'm being paranoid, but it seems like we're getting a middle of winter-in-Churchill-Manitoba style freeze out. But I shall digress.) Moka Only's new album, Vermilion fits the bill quite nicely.

I would guess Moka is most widely known as a on-again, off-again, err, member, of Swollen Members. An original member of that Vancouver-based crew, Moka left the group to pursue (many, he's put out some 22 albums) solo projects. However, it was Moka's work as a guest on Swollen's Bad Dreams that launched both the group, and Moka, into the Canadian mainstream. His sing-song hooks on songs like Fuel Injected and Bring It Home turned out to be the gift and the curse, as they were catchy as hell, but the success garnered from those songs ultimately led to the release of Heavy in 2003, which leaned a little too much towards those mainstream sounds.

Moka ventured off into solo projects again and hooked up with Nettwork to release The Desired Effect in 2005. I will be honest and say that when this album dropped, I saw that video with Moka walking around with chicks on the beach (Once Again), and read some less than favourable reviews and ended up not checking it out for myself. In reality, I should know better than to trust music reviewers, but it seems that Moka wasn't all that happy with The Desired Effect either, feeling he was pushed in a certain direction by the folks at Nettwork. It seems industry rule number 4080 still rears its ugly head, even in Canada.

"Thanks for the Moka Only history lesson!" I hear you saying somewhat sarcastically, so let's discuss the new album. Vermilion was originally done in 2005, but shelved after the aforementioned unpleasantness with Nettwork. But after Urbnet approached him with the idea of putting out an album, Moka decided that Vermilion deserved to see the light of day, so he remixed some of the tracks and voila - a new/old Moka Only album. And the timing couldn't be better, as this is a perfect album for the summer. The breezy tracks and Moka's charismatic, laid-back flow come together Voltron-style to create an album ideal for pumping in the ride with the windows down or jamming in the iPod as you stroll along the waterfront (Haltown or Vancity, I would chuck Toronto in there, but who actually goes down to the waterfront in TO?) on a warm summer day.

Moka produced the entire album, and as rare as it is in today's rap biz, I believe there are no guest MC's. Moka favours programmed drums and synth sounds in his production, but Vermilion certainly has a very traditional hip hop sound to it. Do and God Bless open the album with the organ-filled, slice of life tracks that Moka does so well. I could Give A... is perhaps as angry as you'll find Moka on a track, as he discusses the unpleasant side of the rap biz: "Nettwork didn't want a second round, word? Word, for reasons unknown, but you can take a wild guess. Cause I'm a wildebeest? Cause I'm a mild threat? Cause I'ma still release as often as I get the urge?". It appears Nettwork could not handle the wildebeestness that is Moka Only, or Torch, as he would really like to be known as.

So Kona is a breezy as you would imagine considering it's about Moka cooling out in Hawaii. The Ukulele solo at the end of the track is a very nice touch. The single Search is one of many of the tracks on Vermilion which use vocal samples to help create the light, summerish feeling I mentioned previous. Vermilion, and it's rather elastic bassline, features one of the more bumping beats on the album and Moka rides it to perfection. The jazzy Let Me Down wouldn't be out of place on an old ATCQ album, and is a perfect background for Moka to reaffirm his love for hip hop.

Perhaps you thought Jack Johnson's little ditty would be the only song entitled Banana Pancakes that you would ever hear? Well thanks to this album, you stand corrected. The Taste features a vocal sample which, on first listen, I found annoying, but on subsequent listens became catchy and impossible to get out of my head. Shake Dat Neck is also tabbed as a single, and is probably the closest thing to a "club" track you'll find on this album. Although it isn't really a club track at all, so that might not make sense. The bouncy speakers would've been a nice way to finish up, but for good measure, Moka throws in a non-terrible Tears For Fears cover as a hidden track.

Add it all up, and you have a very good album. Moka is one of the few dudes I've heard that can take what he did yesterday after supper and make it into a song I enjoy listening to. Lyrically, he's not changing the world, but he's not greasing it up with fake-thuggery either, and with the state that hip hop is in now, sometimes that's all you need. Vermilion should certainly appeal to fans of Moka's older work, but I would be surprised if anyone really hated this album. It's really a likable album, and, oh, did I mention it's great summertime listening? Check it out before you blink and summer is gone.

mp3:: Vermilion

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Posted at 12:59 PM by naedoo :: 0 comments

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Reviews:: Intricate Minds - Self-Hypnosis

Nova Scotia and Alberta hip hop have a relationship that is opposite to that of Nova Scotia and the Alberta job market. Whereas Nova Scotians have been heading to Alberta in droves to make $57 an hour working at the Fort McMurray Tim Horton's, Alberta's hip hop artists have been sending albums to the hill in droves. Well, Intricate Minds' Self-Hypnosis is the third album I've reviewed from Alberta, so I guess whether or not 3 makes up a drove depends on your perspective. That being said, considering I'm the one writing this, and thus the arbiter of what makes a drove, if you're inclined to think 3 doesn't cut it, then I'm sorry to say your perspective is wrong. But I digress...

Anyway, Intricate Minds is a five man hip hop ensemble from Red Deer, or there-abouts. The crew consists of DJ Kalo, Producer Justin Crates, who also does some MC duty, as well as MC's Synaptix, Prof, and Verse. Apparently they have been tabbed by Rawkus records as one of the 50 hip hop groups to watch or something, and Rawkus will be promoting their record. Sounds fairly impressive for an underground group coming out of Alberta, although Rawkus did fall the fack off there for a while. But Rawkus seems to have been trying to rebound recently, so it's a decent endorsement none the less.

I like this album, but before we get into anymore details, I need to rant a little bit. This album is too long. I don't care if it does include 4 interludes, 22 tracks is simply too long. If I thought Chubb Rock's I Gotta Get Mine Yo was too long at 20 songs, there's a pretty good chance that, regardless of who you are, I'm going to think your 22 song album is too long. Especially in this day & age where there is so music available so easily. With the avalanche of music people can now access to a the drop of a dime, I think you need to put the strongest 12-15 tracks you have on your album in order to make a nice, concise impact on the listener. I'm not beefing with Intricate Minds' album in particular, as I realize there are plenty of hip hop albums with 20 plus songs, but it's been bothering me for a while now and this was a good chance to get it off my chest. So thanks for listening, I feel better, let's continue.

The production on Self-Hypnosis makes a good first impression with the reggae vibes and guitar licks of Your Neighborhood. Things pick up lyrically with Come On, as soaring orchestral strings are worked into a backdrop for the MC's to lay out their vision for hip hop in '07: "A different approach, instead of a coast or what someone else is trying to boast, you've got your own brain and two eyes, so realize". Using your brain in hip hop, always good advice. What You Want is just all around catchy from the knocking drum loop and guitar licks to the sing-song chorus.

I'm guessing Devil Next Door is probably the only rap song that details the shooting of 4 RCMP officers in Rochfort Bridge, Alberta by a psychotic weed farmer. Each verse tackles the story from a different point of view, and it's not easy to make a song out a tragic event like this without it slipping into melodrama, but I think they've done a good job here. Kudos to IM for taking an event from their part of the world and constructing a decent song around it.

The jibe on Got Shot Down about Rita McNeil on the alarm clock being an omen of a bad day earns a "tsk tsk" from me, but not for reasons of NS pride, but mainly because it's kind of cliche at this point. Honestly, I would find it much worse if I woke up to the Nicklesack. Where are they from again? Oh, right. However, the line "had to take a deuce with no asswipe" pretty much squares things up. Closer has a nice bassline and also features excellent use of a Redman sample, which I always enjoy. The reggae vibe is brought back for the weed-laced Greencards, which also features Pacewon of Outsidaz fame. Do Not Enter is kind of like a raucous posse track with an jazzy, uptempo beat - don't hear many like this anymore.

Like the other Alberta albums I've reviewed, Intricate Minds make music that you would file under "real" or "traditional" in the hip hop rolodex. Despite my issues with it's length and the hypnosis interludes that I probably could do without, I like this album. After a couple listens, I started to appreciate the depth of the lyrical content, and the production is quite well done. Honestly, I still couldn't tell you which MC is which, but I don't think that's a big problem unless the guys are all planning on launching huge solo careers. You don't see a lot of groups in hip hop anymore, let alone groups with 4 MC's, so it's good to see it can still be done well. This is a nice album, and I'd say it's probably worth the time required to listen to it all the way through.

mp3:: Come On

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Posted at 10:59 PM by naedoo :: 0 comments

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