It seems like just last week I was trekking through a snow storm on New Year’s Eve to get my nightly festivities. Today, we had our first 80 degree day. Just like that, we are done with a quarter of the year. Amazing. And since we are done with the first quarter of the year, it seems like as good of time as any to come up a list. Yup, I always look for any time to come up with a good list, and that’s what we’ll be doing this week, covering some of my favorite albums, EPs, instrumental jammies, and mixtapes.
These first few months have been interesting ones for me musically. The first quarter of every year is traditionally the slowest, and can be a little slow. Last year was particularly slow in those first three months, only to pick up in the last couple weeks before April 1st. This year is better, mainly due to early leaks, and late physical releases from Stones Throw. For some reason I’ve had a hard time really getting with much. Maybe I’m a bit burned out? Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been buying a lot of different music on wax, older stuff from the 60′s and 70′s in the funk, soul, psychedelic rock spectrum of music. I have even been getting into Afrobeat and some Brazilian stuff. Needless to say I’m in kind of a weird spot with my musical listening. Throw on the fact that I’m not able to listen music much anymore while I’m at work, and I’ve been falling behind.
So these are just the things I’ve heard. I’m undoubtedly missing a few things. I’m also trying to cut it off close to the first of April, and things that were released before then. For the instrumental joints, I’ve heard two projects, one from Damu The Fudgemunk and the other from Diego Bernal, that would probably go one and two if I decided to include them, but since Damu didn’t drop until last week and Diego’s isn’t officially out until next week, I’ll save them for the halfway mark (best believe you’ll be seeing them on that list). I’ve been on a BIG instrumental kick these first few months of the new year, so this was actually a rather competitive group of projects that I had to choose from.
5. The Secret Whistle – The Secret Whistle Presents (FREE DOWNLOAD)
The Secret Whistle cats are a somewhat unknown collective of producers out of Eugene Oregon. Pac Northwest, represent! I’m not all the way on the up and up about their background, but from what I know, the group consists of two cats, one on the bass guitar (and other effects) and another on the mpc and tables. I’ve found myself coming home after a particularly shitty day and throwing on this EP for the soothing and calming effect it seems to have on me. I’m not sure I’d call their music traditional hip hop, in the sense I could picture an emcee rhyming over these songs, but they are more along the lines of a RJD2 or even a DJ Shadow in that the beats are actually songs, with their own exsistence and identity. There are some interesting compositions found on the project and it might not be for everyone, but if you are into instrumental jams that stand on their own, this is well worth checking out.
4. DJ Babu – The Beat Tape Vol. 2 (BUY)
DJ Babu returns with the second volume of his The Beat Tape series. Babu is sadly underrated on the hip hop scene as a producer and the project is evidence of that fact. There are some straight up heaters to be found on Volume 2, stuff that would make some sloppy ass emcee sound halfway dope. You’re not going to find anything other than straight up, hardcore, boom bap beats, and that’s the beauty of the project. No slacking really, and it’s something that the aspiring emcee could take a crack at a beat or two and get busy on any number of ditties found on here. Clocking in at a just under 40 beats, with most under two minutes in length, if there is something you’re not feeling, just hit the “next” and there is bound to be something you will be feeling.
3. Oddisee – Traveling Man (BUY)
If any hip hop producer has been on a hot streak over the past year, it’s got to be Oddisee, who would be pushing DiMaggio’s hit streak if this was baseball. As an emcee and as a producer, Oddisee has been cranking out heat every few months or so and his Traveling Man effort is no different. In what is rather interesting concept for a beat/instrumental album, Oddisee takes the sounds that feels from different cities. Now of course I haven’t been to all these places found on the album, in fact, Vegas, Frisco and Long Beach are the only ones I can say I’ve stepped foot in, but the beats seem to fit or even give me a audio visual of each place. My personal favorite might be “Khartoum”, with it’s upbeat and happy vibe, it makes me want to visit the place and I’m not even entirely sure where the hell it’s at.
2. Freddie Joachim - Dust (Free Download)
Freddie Joachim is one of those cats that seems to get a lot of recognition as both a producer and an emcee, but for some reason, he’s a cat that I’ve been sleeping on. The short, five song project, Dust, is a traditional soul inspired instrumental album. Saying it like that, it doesn’t sound like anything out of the ordinary, but it’s the way Freddie hooks these samples up that really makes these tracks standout. It’s one thing to create soul based beats, but it’s another to take them that extra step. Tracks like “From Yesterday”, find Freddie chopping a vocal stab unmercifully and utilizing the vocal and making it it’s own instrument of sorts. He basically takes the same idea on the next track, “New Way” and flips it even differently. In short, all five songs are incredibly dope and extremely catchy. The only knock on this is it’s a straight up tease, as you just start really vibing out to it, it’s over. Can’t wait for the full fledged instrumental from the San Diego native.
1. Cold Legistics - Northern Star (DOWNLOAD HERE)
I’m not sure why it took me so long to check out Cold Legistics. I’ve heard the buzz around the name since early 2009, but for some reason, I never got around to checking the music. Shortly after the new year, the album Northern Star dropped to more buzz. Not to be one to miss out on a buzz album two times in a row, especially if it’s a dope instrumental piece, I threw it on the iPod and gave it the “madden test”. If an album can make me stop my game and check out the name of the track, or at the very least, get my head noddin’ while I’m getting my ass kicked online or watching the computer get away with outright cheating, then I know it’s a winner. That’s exactly what Northern Star did for m. In fact after it done playing the first time through, I just started it all over again. There are some interesting samples and sample sources found on this one. It’s got that mellow vibe going for it, but don’t mistake that as boring. As I mentioned, the sounds are all very interesting and keep your attention going. Nice find here, now I have to go back and listen to the stuff from Cold Legistics that I’ve missed.