1. “You’ll Never Know”-Wes Felton f. Bilal Salaam(click track title to DL or preview)
If you’ve ever heard any of DJ Jamad’s “Afromentals” mixtape series you may recall a certain cat by the name of W. Ellington Felton. Others may recall this D.C. resident’s inclusion on Prince Paul’s “Politics Of The Business” concept album. Well, Mr. Felton has reappeared with “Distraction City”, this time as “Wes”. The son of Jazz pianist Hilton Felton, music runs in his veins. Wes is a singer, actor, poet and an emcee…with a heavy emphasis on the ”emcee”. “Distraction City” is a real laid back album, yet it’s extremely soulful and poignant. Even though I’ve heard better lyrics, Wes’ subtle delivery definitely hammers the point home on each and every track without much filler. “You’ll Never Know” is a breezy, airy track that goes down extremely smooth but packs enough punch to keep your neck snappin’. Plus, added vocals from Bilal Salaam only add to the “Midnight Marauderish” flavor of the track. Lyrically, Felton’s hip-hop rhapsodies paint vivid images that engage, and sometimes unnerve the listener. Yet, there’s no element of originality, or surprise, or spontaneity..just damn good “headphone” music. Strangely enough, this track also reminds me of one of my favorite tracks from last year, Ill Poetic’s “Cincilluminati” due to the echoing chorus that closes the track on a high note. Good music people, don’t sleep!
Can a hook make a song? Hmmm, while Portland, Oregan’s Braille is most definitely no slouch on the mic, I can’t help but repeat the Barry Hampton’s hook to “Many Stories” over and over in my head: “If I could tell you all..my stories/Then you would realize in yours/It’s not over/I’ve been through so many battles/And I’ve almost lost myself/But now I’m back…”. The hook which is kinda’ reminiscent of the way the hook to Lupe’s “Superstar” or “American Terrorist” is delivered is very uplifting and a good listen if your going through some trying times in your life. The production on “Many Stories” is on point like a ginsu as well, as the rolling bassline provided by Hampton himself meshes perfectly with Braille’s emotional delivery. From the scare with his newborn child, to his Father’s passing, Braille opens up his vulnerable side on this, his fourth album “The IV Edtion” to be released on April 15th.
Although Braille has remained independent through most of his career, he embraced the opportunity to partner with Syntax/Koch for this record. “The IV” (pronounced I-VEE) represents the roman numeral four (makes pefect sense, with this being his fourth album), as well as a slew of other acronyms and metaphors used to describe the vision behind the music. The record plays like a celebration soundtrack touching on a wide variety of topics including marriage, death, temptation, and growth. Within the “celebration” theme Braille pairs himself up with a different producer for each track. The cast includes friends, artists Braille has been a fan of and even some international artists that he met during his travels. Some notables on that list include OhNo (Stones Throw), Marco Polo (Rawkus), Rob Swift, Speech (Arrested Development), DJ Spinna, Kno (CunninLynguists), S1 (Strange Fruit Project), Ohmega Watts (Ubiquity) and J-Zone.
Damn….”It’s been a long time/I shouldn’t have left you/Without a strong beat to step to….”. Move over DJ Shadow and your so-called masterpiece titled “Entroducing”, there’s new blood on the block that’s begging to be heard. Out of virtually nowhere appears producer MetaForm’s instrumental opus, “Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants”, piecing together layers and textures of samples and familiar breakbeats that make you say “damn, he dug that up?” I first heard this album on the way home from work last nite and I’ve beennearly speechless after each and every listen, and this is coming from someone never been one to stay in tune with an instrumental album in it’s entirety without straying off into “la la land” (A.D.D.’s a bitch!). DO NOT let the cover art mislead you, “Standing On The Shoulders…” is quite possibly the most complete instrumental Hip Hop album that I’ve ever heard (including Dilla’s”Donuts”), even with the less than favorable tiny little tidbits of Drum & Bass thrown in for good measure (not too much though).
All that I can tell you about MetaForm is what I’ve gathered from his Bio, so below is just a nice little “copy and paste” from his site:
“From the ashes of Razed High, the multi-instrumentalist, vinyl villian and gadget scavenger-hermit, Hai-Ding, broke the confines of the West Coast and morphed into a formidable musical force now secretly migrating between L.A., San Francisco and Tokyo. Under the moniker Metaform, his anonymity, coupled with a divine knack for gleening the essenceof countless genres has both positioned him as an act to be reckoned with, as well as enhanced the mystery of his identity.
Metaform paints a portrait of the seedy underbelly of east and west by blending live instrumentation and structured samplings to hone his skills. Sequestering himself in the Boom Box (his modest home studio with an array of toys), Metaform redefines “street” and takes genre-bending to dizzying heights. Pick your poison. “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” pays homage to ear candy soul classics and folds in healthy doses of just the fix you need.
Garnering praise from XLR8R, URB, CD Baby and DJ Magazine, Metaformdelivers. This new release is a cocktail with flavors of RJD2, Iggy Pop, Underworld, Thomas Fehlmann, and DJ Shadow. Those with ears like fine tooth combs may also dream of where Metaform could be heading and thus drool at the prospect of future releases blending Anticon-esquefractured hip-hop beats with the experimentalism of Animal Collective and the beauty of Home Video, Mum or some other smokey-lounge act.”
….Hmm, interesting…now let’s get to the good stuff beginning with the album’s opener “Rock It Number Nine”. Man, what a great way to start an album, most of you will recall the “oooh, ahhh” sample from the Young Gunz’ “We Choose” which appeared on their album “Tough Luv” (which, I thought was a pretty darn good album) and you’ll also recognize the xylophone from Nas’ “One Love”. At only a minute and a half long, “Rock It…” is a short but extremely sweet track that will bring a smile to your face every time you hear it. You might as well go ‘head and throw another all-too-short track, the 55 second “The Telephone” in that same category as this whiny sample leaves you yearning for more. However, the true gem on “Standing On The..” is “Crush”. The track opens with some soothing female vocals over swift, boom-bap drums, but near the .08 mark is when the “oh shit” moment commences as the smooth guitars elevate the track to another atmosphere. The guitar sample was the same lick that made Rappin 4-Tay’s (yeah, Rappin 4-Tay!) “Playaz Club” at least tolerable and surprisingly I’m not sure why this sample hasn’t been utilized even more since 1995. Whatever the case, be sure and check “Standing On The Shoulders..” out, I promise that you’ll walk away satisfied!
The newest addition to Chi-Town’s Molemen crew, Astonish emerges with a very impressive debut “From Now Until Forever” (Molemen Records). After one listen to the production for “Broken Dreams”, you’ll immediately think..ahh, yet another 9thWonder….not the case. Thankfully, Astonish does an adequate job of breaking down life’s ills that somehow always seem to interfere with one’s goals over the sparse production. I’ve read somewhere that Astonish has found inspiration from artists ranging from Usher to Nas to Red Hot Chili Peppers, quite an odd combination I’d say but dude definitely has a future in Hip Hop. The album features guest spots from Decay (who killed Uncut Raw’s “First Toke” last year…don’t sleep!) and resident “Boston emcee of the moment” Termanology. The album also features stellar production from up and coming beatsmiths O-Zone, Panik & PNS. Actually released as an EP, one can only hope that more goodness is in store from this promising emcee!
Busta is back ya’ll! The first time I heard this joint, I nearly gave myself a case of the whiplash. The catchy-as-hell “speed it up/slow it down” production on this joint is bananas as is the energy, think “Scenario” meets “Flavor Of The Month” (Remix). The self-proclaimed “Godfather of the Club Banger’s” is back to his old form as he unleashes the anthemic, “Don’t Touch Me”. Produced by Sean C and LV of Grind Music productions (known for their work on Jay-Z’s”American Gangster”), “Don’t Touch Me” has the potential to indeed be Busta’sbiggest hit to date. Plus, he only did himself a favor by releasing this on the cusp of the warm weather months, I can see the shorties in the club shakin’ their asses to this already! This track also serves as the first single from Busta’sforthcoming album “I’m Blessed”, which is slated for release sometime in June or July on Aftermath Records. Word on the street is that the album will also feature appearances from LinkinPark, T-Pain (shit!) along with production from longtime associates Pharrell and the legendary DJ Scratch. Oh, and one last request: Is it to much to ask for Busta to contact former associates Dinco D, Charlie Brown and Cut Monitor Milo for a remix of “Don’t Touch Me”? Damn, imagine that!
If there’s one artist that I’ve completely slept on since I’ve been listening to Hip Hop, it’s gotta’ be J-Live. However, judging from the quality that I’ve heard on the promo for J-Live’s forthcoming LP, “Then What Happened?”, I’m going to have to go back and leaf thru this underground favorite’s discography. Although somewhat lengthy (it’s nearly 6 minutes long!), “The Upgrade” is a nice pairing of Maryland’s producer extraordinaire Oddisee and De La’s very own, Posdonous over a sharp, vibrant Jazzy Jeff (or maybe it’s Oddisee) production that almost evokes imagines of the Ummah. Underground as fu*k, J-Live has been pushing product on his own for a minute and even though I’ve really never checked for much of his work he strikes me as one of the older, wiser heads in the industry. The follow-up to last year’s “Reveal the Secret” EP and hisfirst full length since 2005’s “The Hear After”, “Then What Happened?” features a different producer for every track, taking a page from Braille’s forthcoming “The I.V. Edition”, which also does the same. Some of the producers listed to contribute to the album include: DJ Jazzy Jeff, DJ Spinna, DJ Nu-Mark, Oddisee, Evil Dee, Nicolay, Marco Polo, Probe DMS, Yallzee, Locsmif, Kenny Keys, Cap D, Usuf Dinero. Keep your ears peeled for “Then…”, you can pick it up on BBE May 26th!
Hmmm, come to think of it, the production by Tony Stone on “Broken Star” is actually kinda’ reminiscent of the prior joint, J-Live’s “The Upgrade”. Maybe that’s why I like this track. Nah, the Chicago trio of Shaggy (c’monman!), Just J & Moral One that comprises 1773 are definitely worth checking out.The group’s alias spawns from the area code of Chicago,1-773. The Japan only release of “Constant Motion” consists of 11 feel-good, positive Hip Hop cuts that have substance and original concepts, something that is rarely found in music these days. With only 2 features on the album from Praverb and vocalist, Eileen Torres the trio focused on what they can bring to the table. “Constant Motion” also features production from a crew of noteworthy producers. On the production tip, Tony Stone cooked up the majority of the beats on the album, but the Lightheaded crew (OhmegaWatts, Othello and Braille) also chipped in with some nice beats that really push the album over the top. “Broken Star” is just one of many highlights from an album that is definitely under the radar right now, but give this one a chance these cats truly have something to offer!
Ahh, taken from yet another” Japan only” release, Rip One’s”Epitome”. Oh, and since we’re on the topic of “Japan Only” releases, I was fortunate enough to have stumbled upon a blog earlier this week that is filled with such, “Luv-Pt.2″. This site is loaded with much of the music that I’m diggin right now, which is that emotionally driven, musically-inclined type sh*t. Anyway, back to producer Rip One’s “Set You Free”, the track features Emanon’s Aloe Blaccand U.N.I., whom you may recall dropped a pretty dope ode to kicks last year, K.R.E.A.M. (Kicks Rule Everything Around Me) as well as the impressive mixtape “Chicken N’ Watermelon”. And of course, you already know that I feel that Aloe Blacc is one of the best multi-talented artist in the business and he rips not only his verse but singing the outroas well. So, throw in a dope Rip One beat along with a dope Rob Base reference from U.N.I. and this is what you churn up, an extremely sharp production that caresses your eardrums while making your neck snap. I really need to sit down and take this album in before I really speak on it, although I noticed that “Epitome” also features a guest appearance from Trav’s favs, and members of the Rawkus 50, The Smile Rays. Ooops, let me correct myself…I’m skimming through the tracks to “Epitome” as I type this and I just heard “Dedicated” (which features an ill Biz Markie sample), yet another real nice track! Damn, I gotta’ listen to this album again tonite, the only problem is I have a hard time making it past the extremely solid “Set You Free”. This real has been a great week for some dope, under-the-radar Hip Hop releases!
Yeah, I know I’m a big softie….I’m sure you can figure out what the track is about simply judging from the title, but the beat on this joint? CRAZY! As a member of the Christian Hip Hop crew L.A. Symphony, Poems has made a name for himself with his metaphor-heavy style and baritone vocal delivery that sound very similar to that of M.E.D. Poems’ “Blooming Sounds” is 15 tracks deep and full of insightful lyrics about growing up with an affection for hip hop to engaging battle rhymes that are mostly built around his personal beliefs. The album also features a slew of dope productions from Mr. J Medeiros, Choice 37 (who namely dropped a nice compilation album in 2007, “Dilligence”), M-Phazes and Ohmega Watts to name a few. While mainstream Hip-Hop originality and sales continue to falter, Poems’ “Blooming Sounds” offers up the kind of lyrics and sonic textures (light jazz guitars, operatic soprano vocals, old school drum kicks) that has really raised my eyebrows and opened my ears to “Christian Rap”.
Simply put, lyrically…. Hassaan Mackey may be the tightest lyricist on today’s “Most Played For The Week”. Yet another Rawkus 50 act, Mackey’s 10 track teaser “Soul For Sale” is loaded with slick lyrics and wordplay, with production from one of my favorites, Maryland’s Kev Brown. However, the title cut is cleverly laced by little-known producer,Young Cee. Mackey’s deep vocals flow effortlessly over much of the album’s bass heavy, synthesized production. One of the best efforts that I’ve heard this year from the highly successful Rawkus 50 campaign. Man, think about it, there are some pretty dope acts on their lineup…Smile Rays, Roddy Rod, Silent Knight, and the list goes on and on……