Saba – Bucket List

The growth of Chicago’s hip hop scene just won’t stop. It’s bigger now than it’s ever been thanks to an influx of incredibly talented, thoughtful, and cool artists. The latest Chicago rapper to make his voice heard this year is Saba, the 22 year-old face of the Pivot Gang. His new album Bucket List came out on October 27th and it’s good. Really good.

Saba started playing piano at 7 and started messing around with production software at 12. He graduated high school at 16 with a 3.9 and followed in his father’s footsteps as a musician (wikipedia.com). Luckily for him, he was able to ride the Acid Rap wave into relevance and through his relationships with other Chicago rappers (Chance, Noname, and Mick Jenkins, to name a few) he’s been able to break into the game with some really quality music. This latest tape is just another example of the authenticity that is so crucial to Saba’s, and Chicago’s, new sound. He’s real, he’s transparent, he’s positive. His message is beautiful and his lyricism only accentuates his points. His word play is impeccable and he switches up his flows effortlessly. I seriously can’t say enough about this guys ability to spit. He’s beginning to establish himself as a premier wordsmith in the industry and he has the opportunity to craft such astounding rhymes because of the subject matter he is taking on.

A theme of this new wave of Chicago rappers is to take on topics that haven’t been talked about much in hip hop over the last decade. Saba doesn’t drink or smoke, he’s never been a big partier, and he’s been able to stay out of gang violence for most of his life. Those are some of the big ideas that have been promoted in rap since the Lil Wayne era so Saba had to take inspiration from some different perspectives. Fame, family, Chicago, and the potential of our generation take the driver’s seat in Bucket List and Saba’s genuine optimism shines through these dialogues he opens up. It’s truly inspirational and what really draws me to Saba and his music.

I knew I would connect with this tape from the very first song. “In Loving Memory” sounds like a Social Experiment song and Saba wastes no time getting into his incredible rhymes. I could hear pieces of Chance, Noname, and Childish Gambino influences on this track and he sets the tone early with a dense verse and a really smooth singing performance. He finishes the track by giving us his bucket list which consists of “One, I wanna have a meal from in and out, coz I live nowhere near one. Two, I wanna go one on one against D. Rose. And three, I wanna *bleep* [sic] Kylie Jenner…” (genius.com). He’s funny, he’s enthusiastic, and he has a great new LP out. Saba most definitely has room to grow as an artist and a producer and this project has him moving in the right direction.

Score: 8.0

Mac Miller – The Divine Feminine

I have always loved Mac Miller’s music. From K.I.D.S. and Best Day Ever when all he wanted was to swag out, to the experimental days of Macadelic and Watching Movies with the Sound Off, he was a staple of my high school days. During my college career, he’s released three more projects. Faces, with its drug-induced lyrics and smooth production, is one of my favorite tapes of all time. Last year’s GO:OD AM, one of the best starting over albums in rap history, with so many references about addiction, over-dosing, and recovery, is enough to get anyone through their roughest days. His newest release, The Divine Feminine, has a completely different feel.

He’s completely focused in the album. One thing I’ve learned since really becoming a hip hop head is that it’s near impossible for an album to completely come together as one collective unit, unlike the prog rock that my dad grew me up on. This album comes together. It’s one of very few albums that I can listen to start to finish every single time. It’s a love album all the way through, however, Mac is still able to put his classic depressed twist on it. “The sun don’t shine when I’m alone,” is one of his opening lines of the album, setting the theme throughout. Most of the songs play off of the depression of not being with your significant other, the problems that occur when a relationship is purely physical, or the issues a guy has when he’s constantly messing his relationship up.

This album sounds a lot different that a lot of his other albums. It’s clear at this point that he’s not just a rapper, or a producer, or a singer, he’s just a great musician with a pure sense of sound. The production brings in soft, slow beats, jazzy beats filled with horns, and fun upbeat hooks that display his competence and that he can rap over any beat. Mac brings in a stacked grouped of artists featured on this album; Anderson .Paak and CeeLo Green put their unique voices on Dang! and We, respectively. Kendrick Lamar and Ty Dolla $ign both spit on their verses of the album, and he brings his new girlfriend Ariana Grande in for a verse on My Favorite Part.

The Divine Feminine shows a lot of growth from an artist who has put himself through a lot in recent years. If you have an hour to kill, or if you’re feeling a little down, this is definitely an album you need to check out. Thank you, Mac.

Mac Miller will be coming to SLC in November at the Saltair, you can purchase tickets here: http://smithstix.com/music/all-music/rap-hiphop/event/19011/mac-miler-nov-1

Open Mic: Dine Krew

Open Mic: Dine Krew

This week on the Open Mic, Stavo talks to local rap group Dine Krew’s Erasole James! give it a listen.

Earth Tiger

“I had a vision I could fly around the world with a girl with blonde curls who swapped energy for pearls.” To anyone who visits Earth Tiger’s Soundcloud page, this will be the first thing you hear if you play their first track “Holiday.” Earth Tiger is a duo from New Zealand that doesn’t’ sound like your typical hip hop output—combining the flows of traditional rap with beats intertwining pop, rock, and electronic dance music. Their song’s infectious—the melodies will get stuck in your head until you have no choice but to play the songs again. While they only have two tunes available on their Soundcloud it’s more than enough to satisfy for the time being.

Earth Tiger was conceived on Christmas Eve around a campfire by friends Cruz Mathews and Tom Taylor who had a mutual love of old school hip hop. After collaborating with producer Alex Wildwood in a series of week-long recording sessions, the duo set up a home studio in a swamp house in the rainforest of Byron Bay. The natural surroundings of the rainforest invoked songs inspired by the energy it gave off. In their makeshift studio, they funneled their collection of earthly hip hop into an EP entitled Holiday set for release hopefully later this year. It is now in the mixing and mastering process via Nathan Sowter of La Petite Maison Studios.

The title track of the EP alone is an accurate representation of their music with its soothing beats with Mathews’ and Taylor’s smooth flows emulate the feeling of trekking through wilderness of the Down Under. The second track on their soundcloud that was released some months prior to recording the music of Holiday is the song “King Like Jordan.” While it doesn’t contain the same style of earthly ambience that “Holiday” does, it’s still just as catchy and laidback with a hook that goes “This my jam. This my jam. This, right here, my favorite jam.” The rest of the song consists of lyrics that express its listeners to stay motivated in exercising the mind, body, and soul.

To put it blatantly, Earth Tiger is straight up feel good music and as the first hip hop group I’ve heard out of New Zealand I pretty much got what I expected and then some. They may find themselves on the playlist of any outdoorsy types who go on nature hikes and attend the gym regularly.

Twelve Reasons To Die

Dr. Cassells – Audio Rx

Twelve Reasons to Die, A fusion of opera and hip hop by Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah and the composer of Black Dynamite,  Adrian Younge. The duo work to tell the story of Ghostface’s alter ego, Tony Stark, operating as a hit man for the De Lucas crime family and ultimately his transformation into the infamous Ghostface Killer. Ghost’s gritty rhymes are complimented by Adrian’s composition making the bloody drama that is Twelve Reasons to Die.

Ghosts heavy handed exposition works in his favor. It allows the listener to follow the story without having Rap Genius up through the album. Ghost wastes no time in introducing what Stark is capable of on the first tracks Beware of the Stare and Rise of the Black Suits.

I want bodies, DeLucas, spread into the waters
I want mothers and sons, I wanna murder they daughters
Revenge, all I see is blood in my eyes
Like the rise of your worst nightmare come alive
Ghostface Killah, let’s see who’s gonna survive

A lack of specifics allows your imagination to envision the atrocities Stark commits, the paranoia he feels as war erupts between the families, and the pressure that takes hold as he separates from the DeLucas family to lead his own operation. That paranoia is not unfounded as refuses to acknowledge threats he hears from his closest lieutenants.

How you prepare for war? Grab your guns and your hardware
Never close your eyes in the barber chair
The heart of a lion, that’s what got him here
Bulletproof the car, yo, we outta here

The tension escalates into the second act whereupon the seemingly invincible Stark falls from a betrayal close to home leading to his death. Lesser men remain dead, but the rage that lies in the villainous Stark resurrects him as the Ghostface Killer in search of redemption.

Colombian neckties I’m a black Gambino
Bodies get dumped in the black El Camino
It’s Reno, gangster wars, money, power, respect
Revenge is felt like the heat from a Tec
Tommy guns are irrelevant, I’m bulletproof now
I could fly through the air and duck your chick-a-pow
Black superhero, crime boss arch nemesis
Good vs. Evil since the first book of Genesis
Battle to the end that’s the way of the thriller
And Starks is reborn as the Ghostface Killah… no one could get iller

Ghostface’s internal monologue changes with his new persona. The macabre descriptions of his revenge are one of the highlights of the album. Drawing from his past works, he doesn’t fail to deliver a diverse catalog of violent obscenities.

First things first, I chop your head to your fingertips
Butcher knife your torso, chop up your ligaments
Make sure it’s legitimate, conceal all my fingerprints
Chop, chop your body up quick then get rid of it
A hole in the desert, body bag, just polluted it
Your miss was a snitch too? Shotgun killed the bitch
Leave her in the wilderness, suffocated and scarred up
Your brother want more too, blow his fucking car up

Stark fully becomes Ghostface Killer after murdering crime families responsible for his death. Pacing in his room he momentarily contemplates the punishment for his past love, and source of his downfall, before relishing his current state as the unstoppable force he has become.  

Unable to become immortalized in life
Ghostface became immortalized in death
Creating a mayhem so vast
That the tale of his rampage would be passed down for generations
Gangsters told their children to never double-cross a man
Who’s will is so strong that he can cross the planes of existence
To get his revenge
And there you have it
The story of the Ghostface Killah

The story is simple, but succeeds in delivering a narrative with just enough pulp fiction cheese to balance out the outlandish claims Ghost makes. Adrian’s production was essential in supporting the story’s gravitas. Young’s touch stands out on Rise of the Black Suits and Center of Attraction. The backing track on Rise of the Black Suits creates an air that I can only describe as sounding like a mature Scooby-Doo. The track’s use of piano and strings creates a sound that is both eerie and incredibly catchy. It is one of the biggest reasons I continue to return to the album. Center of Attraction’s mournful sound acts as a counterbalance to the relatively light hearted descriptions of Ghost’s love. The dissonance between the lyrics and the production act as an additional sign of the coming troubles to be found for Ghost at the hands of his love.

 

This album is special for it’s unique premise and execution. Listening to the album on a rainy day is like escaping into your favorite book. While not suited for casual listening, it comes with the tradeoff that given the time, immersion comes naturally. A venn diagram of  projects appealing to fans of hip hop, horror films, and classical music would proudly display this project at the dead center.

 

Label 12 reasons die

Author’s Notes: The album was later re envisioned by Apollo Brown on the “Brown Tape” and while not bad, I found that the change in production only deepened my appreciation for Adrian’s composition while also creating a need to listen to the original.

 

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