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.

 

Youtube Stream

Review: untitled unmastered by Kendrick Lamar

On March 4th, 2016, Kendrick Lamar astounded the hip hop industry and fans with his EP called untitled unmastered. Winning the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, To Pimp A Butterfly lived up to great standards, and as residuals from that album, the tracks on untitled unmastered are filled with jazz and soulful sounds.

On “untitled 03,” intellectuals from different minority groups counsel Kendrick on the essentials of life, but the person taking advantage of and in many ways monetizing Kendrick is the white man. For example, Kendrick says, “A piece of mine’s, that’s what the white man wanted when I rhyme, telling me that he selling me just for $10.99, if I go platinum from rapping, I do the company fine.” This is also alluding to the period of slavery when the white owner placed a certain value on the black slave based on his skill and/or work ethic. In “untitled 05,” which features singer Anna Wise, Punch, and fellow Black Hippy member Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar explains the detrimental, “screw society” type of behavior induced by blacks and other minorities due to them being trapped in this system of social incongruence and utter oppression. Here are several lines that validate Kendrick’s disappointment in American society: “I’m passin’ lives on a daily, maybe I’m losing faith, genocism and capitalism just made me hate, correctionals and these private prisons gave me a date, professional dream killers reason why I’m awake.” Lamar really shines light on corruption and exploitation in untitled unmastered; these themes constitute his substantive, meaningful lyrics.

Furthermore, “untitled 07” is an eight minute track highlighting high-level feelings, his Compton roots, his place in the game, and funny, sexual rap-talk. In the first part of the song, he chants, “levitate, levitate, levitate, levitate,” and then the song epically transitions to glorifying reverberations and a boy singing, “Compton is where I’m from, is where I’m from, where is I’m from.” You can tell how much the city of Compton means to Kendrick and that his viewpoint and purpose originates from his experiences there. This is evident in many of his songs and songs in which he is a featured artist, notably on the track “The City” by The Game ft. Kendrick Lamar. On the latter part of “untitled 07,” he sings in an R&B-like-fashion to a lascivious female, “Said you just make me wanna Drake you down, to the ground, to the ground, like bam, bam, bam, bam, bam.” He cleverly uses Drake as a verb, and you all know what he’s talking about. The more playful and humorous facet of Kendrick is exemplified on this kinky verse. The untitled unmastered EP is filled with stories of the past, valuable insight on the American political and social system, and soulfulness.

The EP can be streamed on the music service Spotify, and it is also available for purchase on iTunes.

CLPPNG

CLPPNG – Clipping

 

CLPPNG is an experimental project from the power electronic producers William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes. Their production along with the self aware raps of MC Daveed Diggs creates this aggressive and unconventional album that I absolutely love. The album starts off with an uncomfortably high note followed by a roar of static foreshadowing the albums approach to the balance between music and barely listenable sounds. Going in with an open mind is a must and even with that some tracks are hard to listen to all the way through. The track Dream has Daveed rapping over what sounds like water flowing obscured by white noise and drones on a little too long and the final track Williams Mix doesn’t attempt to be enjoyable. Despite this the highlights of the album, namely the ironic gangsta anthem Work Work, the provocative Tonight, and the stress inducing Story 2 make the album deserve a listen if you value experimentation. The high points nail a mood that you can’t find anywhere else.

Clipping

The album is the group’s second project following their first mixtape “midcity.” which I would only recommend if you absolutely need more noises in your life. The closest comparison to CLPPNG I can make in the realm of hip-hop would be Death Grips for also sharing a lack of attention to soothing noises.

 

Prescribed for: Boredom, DJ Mustard overdoses, and meth fueled listening sessions.

 

Side effects may include: General confusion, feelings of superiority, and an overwhelming desire to acquire recordings of power tools.

Review: The Life of Pablo by Kanye West

The Life of Pablo

Originally titled So Help Me God, then switched to SWISH, then changed to Waves, and then finally confirmed as The Life of Pablo, Kanye West’s seventh studio album serves as a hallmark for all his emotions and experiences throughout his career. Listening closely, one could recognize elements adopted from each one of his previous albums- the gospel sounds and rebellious nature from Late Registration and College Dropout, the prosperity from Graduation, the romantic and sexual sentiments from 808s & Heartbreak and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and the arrogance and aggression from Cruel Summer and Yeezus. What was extremely amusing was the hype and controversy surrounding the release of the album, as people did not know what the hell to expect but much was anticipated.

Maintaining the sonic genius inside him, Mr. West takes us to the extremes with his provocative yet pious messages. In the song “Ultralight Beam,” Kanye emphasizes, “I’m tryna keep my faith, we on an ultralight beam, we on an ultralight beam, this is a God dream, this is a God dream, this is everything, this is everything.” Reminiscent to his track “Jesus Walks” from The College Dropout in 2004, Yeezy asks God for guidance through the temptations that bound him. We all know Ye loves God, almost as much as he loves himself. Moreover, in “Father Stretch My Hands, Parts 1 and 2,” Kanye simply wants to “feel liberated” from the media and obsessions of the world. In addition, he reflects on his accomplishments and fame in the most egotistical way possible. He even has a song titled “I Love Kanye,” which highlights his personality over the years and how fans love Kanye “like Kanye loves Kanye.” On the song FACTS, he critically disses Nike and boasts about Yeezy, his clothing line of shoes under Adidas. Let’s not forget about Kanye’s undisrupted lust for the ladies, for he spills a little bit of his fantasy love life from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy on The Life of Pablo. In My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye basically foreshadows his marriage with Kim Kardashian on the song “Hell of a Night,” where he falls in love with and marries a pornstar. In The Life of Pablo, he tries to suppress his concupiscent enticements and remain loyal while being in such a relationship on the song “FML”. Kanye goes in hard with straight bars alongside Kendrick Lamar on the song “No More Parties in L.A.” There are several other awesome featured artists on this project such as Andre 3000, Frank Ocean, Chance The Rapper, Young Thug, Chris Brown, and Rihanna. The production is incredible as always, and he drowns listeners with deep emotional melodies on songs like “Wolves” and “Waves.” Depression, infatuations, narcissism, and strife are all real concerns articulated throughout this work of art.

Kanye compares himself to Pablo Escobar, the notorious Colombian drug lord, and Pablo Picasso, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Additionally, he is able to buy his way through the fashion industry and assert himself as an interesting, controversial figure in social media and the news. As I like to say, “Yeezy gon’ do what Yeezy wanna do.” A handful of people dislike Kanye for some of his behaviors, but one could appreciate Mr. West for staying true to who he is and straight up speaking his mind.

Mr. West says The Life of Pablo will never be on sale but can be streamed on the music service TIDAL.

Here are a few of the songs from Kanye West’s soundcloud:

https://soundcloud.com/kanyewest/facts-explicit