Hodgy, formerly known as Hodgy Beats, now adopting a new persona tries his hand with the newest release, Fireplace: TheNotTheOtherSide. Focusing more on his personal story, gone are the Odd Future lines that seem almost like a lifetime ago. This is a new chapter on Hodgy’s career and life, and a step in the right directions.
The introduction, “Nitro” speaks about the “That fire inside, not that head… it’s not what’s in your head. In our head they tellin’ you, ‘They gonna shoot you, they gonna kill you, they gonna…You could have all the money in your pocket and you dead in five seconds from a car crash, you know what I’m saying?’” Hodgy is not entirely present on “Nitro” and the spoken-word is instead read by a woman’s voice that is basically explaining that anyone can end up dead, and nothing but death is an absolute in life.
This then leads into the first real track, “Kundalini” Kundalini is a type of primal energy which is located at the bottom of the spine in Hindu culture . Hodgy channels this energy through a boom-bap style beat that uses warping synthesizers in the background and a steady hi-hat to make up the instrumental. There is also a feature from Salomon Faye who starts the track off with a few bars about, “Shape shifting, better plains of existence. Enter this dimension by the words of the sentence, willpower by real power, creation be the sorcerer,” and “Slayer and savior, leader and player, player hater, how you unworthy of the presence.”
Trailing right behind is Hodgy and his debut appearance on the Fireplace: TheNotTheOtherSide. Hodgy begins with a passive, but aggressive lyrical style that brings more of a laid back approach, but some more than slick bars, “It is he that holds the key to places between heaven and hell… I’m a man, I’m a sinner, oh lord forgive me, forgive us. This world is fading, it’s crippled. Draw up the contract in the stipulation.” The outro of “Kundalini” is more of a glory-ridden instrumental that uses electric guitar to resonate through the last few moments before leading in the heavenly toned single, “Barbell.”
Ethereal voices and an R&B styled percussion are present here, making the true focus of the track become Hodgy’s vocals. He includes some lines about, “I’mma tear it up and rip shit apart nigga, Hey, I’mma play my part nigga… Most people come and intoxicate your circle, suck the life out of your circle.” His lyrics here are more story driven and talk more in depth about the means of an end, rather than his beginnings.
This allows “Resurrections,” which is one of the better tracks on Fireplace: TheNotTheOtherSide through both production and lyrical levels. The production on this track is conspired of backing bass lines, rattling hi-hats, and a sampled voice that makes up the beast or hydra of an instrumental. There is also a chorus where Hodgy can shine through where he ecstatically explains, “I’m thankful for my life, I’m grateful. We all gonna die someday.” Here, this is where Hodgy has similar verses in the subject matter of “Barbell,” as he discusses his death, and what will ultimately lead him there.
A dreamy piano and crashing hi-hats are the opening of the next track, “They Want.” Hodgy becomes more energized here and includes some lines about, “They want you to fail, they want you to hate yourself,” and a line about “I know myself thoroughly, lead to attraction. When you’re taking to me, look at me, don’t be distracted.” He concludes on how immensely proud he is of his accomplishments and how he became his own master, “I’m a boss nigga, cut your circulation off nigga. Deal with your issues that you gotta resolve, I ain’t involved with ya.” Hodgy then takes the action into more of an authentic sound with the next track, “Final Hour.”
Using an upright bass and some more than flashy percussion to make up the instrumental, Hodgy becomes an animal and spits his lyrics in such a rapid fashion and this could be in tandem to the way that Busta Rhymes who is featured on the track, and his incredibly fast style of rhyming. Hodgy and Rhymes are both on similar lyrical styles, but the beat is unfortunately a tad lacking here and does not match their drill like style of rhyming, it is slightly underwhelming when played all together.
“Glory” however, is one of the best instrumentals on Fireplace: TheNotTheOtherSide where Hodgy delivers lyrically as well, “If I could ask for anything it would be apprehension, Malice is pretentious, no further questioning.” The production features a 90’s style piano and an upright bass line, the entirety of the track is similar to what A Tribe Called Quest would do as it contains that certain 90’s charm that Quest was associated with.
Now, a rather strange conceptual beginning, “Laguna” features Hodgy delivering punch lines about, “I’ve learned that ball is life and I’m the goalie. My pride is my treasure; my ego is stashed away like a goatee. My pen is pointy, start provoking. Pain’s what I harbor mostly, and who I talk to openly.” The instrumental here is an intriguing mix that uses waving synthesizers and an incredible focus on a crunching bass drum. The whole sound of “Laguna” is similar to a wave, it cascades and seems to become a melting pot rather than staying as one conglomerate.
“Turkuoise” starts off and is instantly feeling like a missed opportunity for Hodgy as he tried to make a track that feels loving, but just did not have enough to capitalize on it, making it fall short. Hodgy includes some lines like, “Girl, I ain’t chasing to doubt you… I still can’t live without you.” The instrumental was also lacking here and ultimately; the bars just were not as poetic as Hodgy had been doing before.
Following is “Tape Beat,” which features Lil Wayne and is more of a slowed down and faded instrumental that actually works outstandingly and brings a new level of complexity to Hodgy’s sound. Wayne delivers a fairly powerful verse here, rattling off some lines about, “Never let people get near me, when the reaper come get me. That’s when I reap what I’m knitting, so you say you’re gangsta, I’mma need some convincing.” But Hodgy fires back and on a competitive level, Hodgy comes out on top here, delivering some pure lines, “While trying to beat the dead, you’re just feeding existence. Sometimes you need to take a step back and breathe for a minute, before you overreact to the head and intenseness.” There is then the section where Wayne and Hodgy come together to create a duel-wield of punches from both lyricists, “Catch a nigga riding deep in your women, beep goes the jeep so we winning. Friendless, compete with no nigga but myself.”
This is then the catalyst for “Dreaminofthinking,” an interesting bass and vocal heavy track that has Hodgy crushing some lines, “I never dream constantly, onto better things. Living inside my self-consciousness. I walk up to the doorstep, on the mat, and press the bell that rings. Dealing with goals that I’m conquering, edit segments until it works for me.” The instrumentation handled by Knxwledge is busy, but keeps the action flowing and has this “feel-good” tone attached. “Dreaminofthinking” finds itself onto an abrupt ending and then leads to the rather balanced track, “The Now.”
This is Hodgy’s take on making an inspirational track but it fails semi-short. The instrumental feels suited to a lyrical attack rather than the soft-spoken style of Hodgy here and it feels like a missed opportunity again. The two sections just simply do not mix well and could have become more of a focused track if Hodgy had tried to really go in and not rely on the chorus for the shining moments.
Finally, the last track, “DYSLM,” opens with Hodgy stating, “This song is just for fun, so have fun with it.” It speaks about Hodgy’s changing times and how his life had completely performed a 180 spin. Hodgy includes this level of split-personality where he changes his vocal approach and plays two separate characters. The instrumental is strange, relying on thumping bass and an almost cartoonish style of backing instruments, ending on a bitter note with Hodgy stating, “He [I] ain’t shit.” Thus, leaving a bright future for Hodgy and the future of his musical style.
Instead of my usual review, I am going to post a link to what I was originally going to talk about. This album is older, released in 1982, but still impactful to this day. The Boston hardcore band SS DECONTROL and their hardcore musical masterpiece The Kids Will Have Their Say is going to rock the Earth, crush foundations, and destroy everything around you.
The band started recording for the record in 1981 and rather than mass-producing, The Kids Will Have Their Say only saw 1,000 printed copies. A true punk collectors item and a true sweet piece of material. Focusing on anti-establishment and the destructive nature of the government, SS DECONTROL quickly grew in my heart and created one of my new favorite records to date. Powerful, impacting, and rapid-fired, The Kids Will Have Their Say is ultimately a destructive wild-ride through the best twenty-minutes of your life.
The first draft of a line up consisted of Al Barile on guitar, David “SPRINGA” Spring on vocals, Jaime Sciarappa on bass, and Chris Foley on percussion. Changing their name from SS DECONTROL to more simply SSD, they released more records under this moniker before finally disbanding in November of 1985. An unfortunate end to what would be quoted as “The most important hardcore band to come out of New England.” – Scott Schinder
So check this stuff out, this is only a trial run and I will be going back to the old writing style but I figured we could see how this went. ENJOY AND KEEP ON STAYING PUNK!!!
Gangrene, the hip-hop dynamic-duo conspired of The Alchemist, and Oh No. Both monumental giants in music, together are able to make a completely disgusting themed and sounding thirteen-track trudge through mud, disease, and the filth of the world. Using both Alchemist’s intense production and lyrical aspect and Oh No of just the same, the two make for a gross team of both capital and grime.
After an opening that rivals an abandoned cesspool that discusses the on-running theme of the album, You Disgust Me, an immense amount of filth and disgust that we face everyday. “that’s not even a cleaning issue, that’s a, that’s a ‘I don’t care’ issue. God knows what’s growing behind there. It’s some really nasty, disgusting filth. It’s been explained to me several times that I need to understand how filthy this is.” The intro, or also known as “The Filth,” is able to set the tone of what is going to be experienced, and this is then first evident in the first musical track, “Reversals.”
An echoed voice of a monstrous man opens the first few seconds of “Reversals,” where he can be heard saying, “Gangrene, where the light at? Me a get my machete, me a carve ye up. Clean me blade mon, me a sharp it up. Nice and clean, big up…” This is then the foundation for Oh No to start his verse over a strumming guitar that then forms into sampled screams and a flashy drum beat that acts as a clash of hi-hats, toms, and snare mixes. Oh No begins with some pleasant bars about, “It’s Doctor No, put back in yo guts. Back in the cut, sealing the crease. Put ‘em together piece by piece, then break a jig-saw.” The monstrous man can still be heard through the intermissions between Oh No’s verse and The Alchemist’s subtle, but powerful introduction.
Alchemist comes in with a line that is almost similar to Oh No’s in the way it discusses broken bones and becoming a surgeon for their victim, “Spit the bubble gum back in the package, redo the wrapper. Breaking yo back, feel the fracture. Scoop your guts, stuff ‘em back in your stomach and seal it after.” The venomous villains then let the beat fizzle out into letting the monstrous man give a speech while played in tandem to toilet flushes and the filth of “Reversals” being washed down the drain.
This lets the downright gorgeous chords of “Sheet Music” create a near church-like instrumental that is a perfect mix with the quadruple threat from Oh No, Alchemist, Havoc, and Sean Price. Oh No opens the first line of verses, using effortless flow and an incredible use of word play, Oh No explains, “They say the boy is old school WWF, I will smack a fucking chair into that little ass chest. You out of breath, that means you in need of some rest.” Oh No then continues on to say a verse that covers the theme of dreams and sleeping, “So I can see what you thought on the sheets, I call it sheet music. Like the counting the sheep moving, the sleep movement…I choke ya focus, gone like hocus pocus. A locust swarm the only way you hearing a buzz.”
Havoc then comes in to produce the hook or chorus of the track and it was slightly disappointing to not get a fourth verse on “Sheet Music,” but Havoc’s chorus is momentous and lets a quick, but slick segue happen into Sean Price’s verse. He travels down the path of focusing on the dreaming aspect of “Sheet Music’s” theme and instead opens with, “Listen, I beam your wig you see in this riddle. My dream’s is big; my crib is little. Living in the Ville is risky, niggas green with envy but I’m Bill Bixby.”
The Alchemist then closes out the track with a verse that is barricaded on both sides by filth and a crisp sense of identity, “I’m giving you a snippet view, trailer visual sicker than salmonella chicken flu. My creative juice come from a different fruit. When you sipping straw like Guinness brew.” Both discussing the overarching theme of revolting grime, and how Gangrene is on different wavelengths in only a few lines apart. “Sheet Music” also has a level of sorrow connected to it as this was Sean Price’s last recorded verse to be released as he would pass only hours after You Disgust Me would be released.
“Flamethrowers Pt. 2” then comes into frame and is more of an experimental mess for an instrumental. It uses sampled voices and popping strings mixed with horns to become the overlay that is banged along with a rapid snare bounce beat. It is incredibly busy, but Oh No and The Alchemist attack on the track and are able to keep the wild animal of an instrumental under control. “Flamethrowers Pt. 2” is a continuation of the saga created from Gangrene’s last record, Vodka and Ayahuasca. They actually take a sample from their past track “Flame Throwers,” and both Alchemist and Oh No are able to create lines about intense burning and fires that burn down spots.
Oh No is the first torch on the track and starts with, “Look, I see them gassed up like they’re full of propane. Who reign? Nobody now, popped a hole up in their butane… Throw fire from the hand like Liu Kang.” Giving the cue to Alchemist, he comes in with an equally fiery verse, “Spit off like a rotisserie, 180 turn. Shots fired, burn baby burn, straighten the wave in your perm. Cigarillos’ bathing in sherm.” Together, the fiery combination then leads into the ultimately subtle, but jazz styled, “The Man with the Horn.”
The vivid, but still dream-like dinge of The Alchemist and how he describes the city around him. “Stumbled out the bar, vision blurry. Humphrey Bogart face underneath the brim of my derby… Closing hours at the jazz club, seats on the table, the waiter’s sweeping. I’m just a creep in the city that’s full of roaches and junkies that’s never sleeping. Heart is cold, my pockets broken.” The instrumental is seemingly jazz influenced and can be related to the filth that Alchemist and Oh No discuss. It is more of a closing-time style of mellow jazz saxophone that can be associated with the samples of Taxi Driver that discusses, “because this city here is like an open sewer, you know, it’s full of filth and scum.”
Oh No starts his verse in a similar fashion, discussing, “Walk in the club right when the party’s done. I see smut and filth on the ground with gun. It’s looking like a scene out of Old Vegas, Night time and the jazz, jukebox is playing.” He continually discusses how incredibly dirty this club is and how the city around him resembles a pool of filth, “See I’m dirty, but that there’s a dirty foul mouth. Pour another shot to rinse it, off clean and kill that foul out.” The somber feel then fades out into the lively track, “Better Things.”
A head banging boom-bap percussive beat-down opens the instrumental of “Better Things,” and almost instantaneously, Oh No jumps into his verse with an assault of references to Clubber Lang, P.F. Changs, and Kung Lao. Oh No is able to rhyme about, “I keep coming up with more ways to earn them dollar bucks. Monster trucks, crushing you fuckers. Big wheeling, four by four, hauling a two by four, that Jim Duggan.” The Alchemist then comes in still raged off of Oh No’s verse and starts hammering his verse in with, “Look what the kitty drug inside of his mouth, a dirty rat stuck in the city thuggin’… That’s what the challenge is, like GG Allin is flier than fake suede New Balances. Machine gun the label, they fail to pay up the balances.” Making references to the “True King of Rock and Roll,” GG Allin who was known for being a filthy and utterly obscene front man of GG Allin and The Murder Junkies who frequently got naked on stage and would do incredible things on all in the name of punk rock. Alchemist channels this inner energy and completely destroys the track and annihilates the instrumental with his quips and witty wordplay.
The following is “Driving Gloves,” which includes a feature from Young Bronsilino, better known as Action Bronson. The track is a rapid-fired percussion focused instrumental that also relies on a grooving bass-line to make up most of the background as Oh No, The Alchemist, and Bronson all take turns rocking the track. Bronson is up first and his verse, while seemingly short, is still sweet, and contains some of the more intuitive bars from Bam Bam, “Safe to say you ain’t much without your crew, hop. My time is now like a new watch, it’s me.”
The Alchemist is then up next and he uses some bars that describe Donald Trump, hunting like a hawk, and peach cobbler. While Alchemist’s verse is exceptional, Oh No delivers a fantastic verse and describes, “Feel like I ain’t slept for about twenty nights, you look like you just fell down forty flights.” The three triple-team the beat until finally coming to an outrageously disgusting outro that discusses something that is “buried under a mound of feces and hair.” Incredibly disgusting, but leads into the less than engaging track, “Gluttony.”
While interesting in concept, “Gluttony” is ultimately a track that doesn’t change or really add anything immensely interesting. There are sections where a saxophone shines through, but the instrumental is monotonous and unable to save the verses. Alchemist delivers some foul lines about, “Swimming in a bucket of Jankem, over the stove while I’m sizzling my cuts of the steak-ums. Rubbing my belly like a pig, but I don’t fuck with the bacon.” The outro is actually where “Gluttony” is able to shine through and produce a disgusting, but ultimately intriguing segue into the incredibly flashy and star-striking track, “The Scrapyards.”
Blasting cymbals, crowd-chants, and guitars are the foundations for Gangrene’s stylistic beat-down that resembles a reworking of an old classic. The two lyricists, both Alchemist and Oh No are able to tag-team the beat from lines about, “Higher than a vulture then throw ‘em off of a coaster,” or, “the black sheep can get the people on you clapping. Read your story below the caption, this shit made me sick to my stomach.” While still discussing the filth of You Disgust Me, the next track, “Noon Chuckas” is more of a midnight creep and only furthers the grimy feel.
A two-part track, “Noon Chuckas” is able to produce a slick, 90’s style piano and drum beat that combines both a creeping night time, and an elegant tone of sampled vocals and piano runs. The first half is near stalk-like and feels like a silent, paranoid walk though the lonely streets, living by the nighttime. The other half is instead a much different side of the coin, it uses the piano in a way to feel more enlightened, rather than terrified. This could also be accompanied by the vocals that are pitched higher and only finds a conclusion with a gentle fade. The production aspect of You Disgust Me is primarily a wonderful mismatch of both powerful driving beats, but also steps back into gentle and more laid-back instrumentals that instead focus on eloquence over abrasiveness.
The last three tracks are entirely different than the rest of the album and are a tad more experimental than expected. This is entirely true with the tracks, “The Hidden Hand,” and “Hazardous Material.” Honestly, You Disgust Me starts to outwear its welcome and becomes a struggle towards the end of the album. It could have easily ended at “Noon Chuckas,” but instead goes on and does not really make for an impactful ending. The last three tracks, while not entirely bad, are just not on the same level as the rest of You Disgust Me. Overall, the album is a filthy mess, but it is wonderful in these moments and creates pure beauty behind the grime.
A call back to the Golden Days of Hip Hop, Don’t Smoke Rock is the newest collaborative record from Smoke DZA and Pete Rock. Both now veterans in rap, the two heavy weights put their gridiron creative flows to work and spawn something that is both brand new, but also nostalgic.
Don’t Smoke Rock opens with “Intro,” a track that uses Smoke DZA to describe the past of New York and how this album is going to take you back into a state of the old world. “This motherfucker in ya capsule, this something that only come around once in a lifetime…Last of a dying breed.” The instrumental features a soft piano and what sounds similar to an electronic cell-phone ring before jumping right into the action with “Limitless.”
Featuring some more than flashy instrumentals from Pete Rock, “Limitless” uses symphonic strings and a mix of rapid percussive smacks and hi-hat clicks to make up most of the beat behind the clever verses from both DZA and Dave East from Mass Appeal Records. Also Harlem-based, Dave East delivers the hook of the track and it goes well with the instrumental, including, “There ain’t no limit to this life I’m living, Champagne spilling, bunch of topless women. I wake up like I just got to get to it. I’m limitless, never find something as real as this.”
This is also in tandem with DZA’s two verses where he can proudly exclaim, “Big meals at Frankie & Johnny’s, I tip generous. Ain’t no ceilings for DZA, my shit limitless.” Smoke DZA has a few clever bars here and there but the instrumental is where “Limitless,” can truly shine as it is a valiant mix of a new age boom-bap style of percussion, and a wonderful arrangement of strings that gradually build up until reaching the bursting limit and they are in a full-blown blast. The instrumental then slows down into a ten-second funk loop before shining the famous, “Maybach Music.”
Ricky Rozay starts “Black Superhero Car,” where he explains, “Praying all my niggas live long, pray all my niggas rich forever, you heard me?” Before releasing his verse however, Smoke DZA comes in and immediately starts cracking on the track ripping lyrics about, “I’m from this lil part of Harlem, shit is like Iraq. Young boy barking but his gat bite back, Nigga playing, you will lay, life facts,” and “Money on your head, put your life on the wall.” DZA’s verse then fades into the chorus where he delivers the line, “Big figures way before rap, all black 600 Benz, Big nigga lighting that pack, lay back counting my ends.”
The chorus then lets Rick Ross come into frame with his verse and it was surprisingly uplifting, explaining, “Threw us under the basement, now it’s penthouses and homes. Food stamps and Medicaid raised every nigga I know.” The chorus by DZA comes shining one more time before the popping strings and snares come to a fading, but complete stop.
“Hold the Drums” is the following track and it starts off with more of a gentle beginning with a crescendoing hi-hat rattle and some record scratches. Going true with the track’s title, “Hold the Drums” has almost no percussive bass or snare hits, instead it relies on a piano and upright bass to lay down the flow of the track and features a slick verse from DZA and Royce DA 5’9”. This track is a smooth break from the usual cracking action of the rest of Don’t Smoke Rock, but in usual fashion, the next track is a jump right back to the previous sounds.
Opening with a silky woman’s voice, “Moving Weight Pt. 1” is a quick-witted and stylish approach to a plucked stringed instrumental and a booming amount of bass drums and snare rolls. DZA continues to deliver a fashionable amount of lines varying from, “King of the under pavement, real New Yorker Knick fan when they was under Layden. Underrated under paid ‘em, Nah dog I’m from the money makin’.” To a verse about, “You was in the crib watching That’s So Raven, I’m a known problem. Old Harlem talkin’ buildings vacant.” Smoke DZA manages a way to make his bars flow and keep the beat feeling so powerful when put together in a collaboration. Don’t Smoke Rock is the collaboration album that no one knew we needed.
The following track, “Wild 100s” is the most interesting track on Don’t Smoke Rock”. It focuses on using some outstanding and abrasive string instruments, paired with a smooth kick bass and snare combination. The pair could truly be released as its own piece and stand singular, then when DZA delivers his verse which is an egotistical lyrical spree where he describes, “Hop on a joint with me, it’s manslaughter. Listening to myself on Pandora, run down with choppers not camcorders.” He then delivers a hook where horns kick in and support the lyrics, “Dead in the middle of the wild 100’s, I spit riddles and get wild 100’s.”
There is only a brief pause where the beat starts to slow down and segue into “Last Name,” where everything takes a chilled approach and lets the beat ride out into more of a melodic bass and guitar line focused section. This makes up the primary instrumental and features little hints of Pete Rock where is more of a hype-man to DZA. Smoke DZA delivers a few lines of intrigue but overall the track is nothing too crazy or memorable when compared to the next track, “1 of 1.”
Beginning with a spacious boom-bap New York throwback beat, DZA comes in announcing, “Taped in, whole ‘nother energy. Bo Jack minus the injuries.” Pete Rock is also featured but does not contain a verse, instead he throws in quips behind DZA and works again as a hype man. The surprising section of the track is a feature from Peter Rosenberg who had a sample taken from his birthday concert in NYC where he shouts out DZA, saying, “Make some motherfucking noise for Smoke DZA right now New York. Harlem stand the fuck up.” Quite the way to end the track and launch into “Milestone.”
An ice-cold instrumental with pianos and an elegant boom-bap beat that claps over a spacious backing synth to complete the slick instrumental. DZA then comes right in and quickly passes the torch to BJ The Chicago Kid, Styles P, and Jadakiss who are the guest of “Milestone” and they all deliver some classy sounding verse that fit well over the simple, but well-produced beat. Jadakiss delivers a hopeful bar explaining, “Left the drugs in the hood, took my show on the road. Figured they ain’t never been nowhere I show ‘em.” This then leads to the chorus produced by Chicago Kid where the lyrics, “I’m gon’ hold you down, even when it’s all up, even when it all goes down. I’m around.”
Then there is the final track, “Until Then,” which features Mac Miller. The instrumental is a classy themed bass line running beat that uses a sly hi-hat clasp and a Morse-code like synth that echoes behind the vocals of the track. DZA has says a few verses about, “it’s a vicious cycle science, busy tryna make sense of it.” This then leads into Miller’s verse where he explains, “I live and died at least three or four times before, had my funeral so drop the top and suicide the coffin doors.” DZA then has the hook repeat before letting the beat ride out into a complete switch up giving a shout out to New York and happily explaining, “Don’t Smoke Rocks.”
Hailing from Fort Worth, Texas, No Outlet is a five-piece hardcore band that borders between a rock and a hard place. No Outlet uses punishing percussion from Trey Pemberton, ripping bass from Sean Waters, grinding guitars from Eric Mejia and Austin Johanningmeier, and vocals from Wesley Dameron that could shatter the Earth. When wrapped in a single package; they are a recipe for destruction, leaving only a trail of rubble behind them.
While only a three-track record, Victim of the Void still reigns in a power struggle between complete annihilation and impending doom while focusing on the key components to making a hardcore record become everlasting. Outstanding breakdowns, filthy instrumentation, bleak vocals, and an overarching sense of foreshadowing ruin; No Outlet while no longer in commission, still stand as a monolith in Texas Hardcore.
Kicking things off with “Annexation,” a quick hi-hat count-in sets the mood of the track before a percussive beat-down on the toms and guitar mixes to creates motion and room within the mosh-pits. This then leads into the real meat of the track, where vocalist Dameron will make the debut and deliver some more than impressive lyrics when paired with the utterly destructive sound that No Outlet creates. “Almost lifeless, expressionless. Bloodshot eyes, internal cries, yet something is ticking away. With a trembling limb, the outlook is grim.”
There are multiple instances where No Outlet makes their presence known in such a way that it is near impossible to miss when heard, No Outlet produces such a raw sound along with their music and when the rapid-fire cymbal hits come in from Pemberton, or when Waters lays down a slick, efficient bass groove, it makes for a moment of pure bliss. The breakdowns are where No Outlet begins to truly shine, creating an abusive, but carefully constructed sound. This is also the case when segueing between tracks; there is little to no downtime between blow after blow, making Victim of the Void become a quick winded, three-round fight.
Following is the self titled track, “Victim of the Void” which opens up as violently as before. The guitars make for a hurried, and rugged start which then leads the drums to come in with blazing hi-hat strikes to align the crushing sound that No Outlet produces. The lyrical style of Dameron continues on the bleak path as he angrily shouts, “Merciless sinner or self-proclaimed saint, born into sorrow and waste. Retrace the path, use the evidence as history repeats itself. The thoughts of man grow dull and the body loses control.”
No Outlet then jumps into a bass and percussion lead section where Waters and Pemberton do a fantastic job together creating a simple, but robust system where the energy feeds off of each other’s instrument. This is the opening of the floodgates which leads into “Victim of the Void’s” ending breakdown where the entire band slams on the brakes and completely destroys everything in their path. A significant way to push No Outlet’s sound out and use every last bit of energy to bring the pain up to a newfound level.
Finally, there is the track “Struck Down.” A thrashing and highly efficient attack on the listener. No Outlet uses a similar count-in style from “Annexation,” only this time there is no breaths taken before launching straight into the hellfire. The guitars are a constant, overpowering monster that battles between the spotlight from the percussion, bass, and vocals. All moving parts of No Outlet create a quintuplet machine that moves as one entity. “Struck Down,” becomes the hardest hitting and most timeless of all the tracks featured on Victim of the Void; between the dynamite of a breakdown featured, to the steady blast of thousand-pound riffs from the guitars. This track is a constant smash that breaks the record into a million pieces.
No Outlet proves that Texas really does do everything bigger, better, stronger, and faster. There is no doubt that Victim of the Void is a crushing, but outstanding delivery from the now disbanded group of rule burners.
Donald Glover, rapper, producer, actor, comedian, and most importantly artist, made a shock to the public with his brand new record release, “Awaken, My Love!.” Abandoning the electronic rap style of his previous projects, Childish Gambino instead adopts an entirely new sound with “Awaken, My Love!,” a sound that reaches back to the depths of the 1970’s, pulling out a mix of both Funkadelic and Parliament influences to create a modern twist on an old classic.
A subtle, R&B style opening that uses a 90’s synth overlay and beautiful angelic voices, “Me and Your Mama” introduces the first glimpse into the now transformed Gambino. The subtle beginnings quickly change as the bass line and hi-hat begins to kick in, causing a magnificent segue into the grand and overdriven entrance of Gambino delivering an outstanding vocal performance. Gambino does all of this while surrounded by a rather funky style of instrumentation, with gritty, but gorgeous guitar chords and one of the better introductions of tracks given by Gambino to date. “This is the end of us, sleeping with the moon and the stars,” is sung along with the pound of acoustic guitars, percussion and what sounds like a blast from the past.
Gambino’s production has always been a been a heightened sense of his music and “Awaken, My Love!” is no different. The music presented is stylish and ultimately reminiscent of a Funkadelic record which, has something that Gambino had supposedly been going for with the newest installment in his musical discography. “Me and Your Mama” then fades into this psychedelic dream-like state where the drums have an intense amount of reverberation and an instrument similar to an organ segues into the next, more lively track.
Having sounded like being ripped straight from Maggot Brain, “Have Some Love” is wonderfully similar to “Can You Get to That” in both sound and artwork as both records covers are certainly similar. This is necessarily a positive note as Maggot Brain by Funkadelic had a slew of outstanding elements that when comprised together, created a truly great record. Gambino uses these similar elements like the multiple vocal overlays, and the ultimately eccentric noises that create a strange, but nostalgic feel. Gambino proudly sings, “Have a word for your brother, have some time for one another, really love one another. It’s so hard to find,” is an outstanding line and only further installs the Funkadelic theme that Gambino was going for.
This then leads into “Boogieman,” a track that sounds similar in production to George Clinton, the guitars are tuned in a similar fashion and the drums are as sporadic and adapting in the same way that Funkadelic’s drummer, Ramon “Tiki” Fulwood had played. “Awaken, My Love!,” is a love letter to 1970’s funk music and while a surprising choice in direction from Childish Gambino to take, the record works out quite well and the similar sound are the high point of the record. Where the instrumentation takes these ripping guitars and uses different types of organs, even how down to how the foundations for the drums were laid, exchanges Gambino’s once electronic synthetic style, for a more authentic sound. Gambino’s last project, Because The Internet focused on more on an unauthentic sound to create the beats and instrumentals, “Awaken, My Love!” instead focuses on a 70’s nostalgia journey that we did not know how bad we needed.
Following is the spacious and crunching track, “Zombies” which uses an ethereal style to create this “Thriller” like background. It then jumps into a breakdown where just the vocals and claps can be heard, creating an almost tribal sense of environment. This goes hand-in-hand with the past nostalgic feelings that Gambino seemed to have in mind when creating the overarching sound of “Awaken, My Love!.” The track, “Zombies,” contains a slick guitar that slowly uses a crushing amount of overlay to distort the sound and create a synthetic string ensemble. This, then paired with the primarily authentic percussion and bass lines makes for a recipe made only in Heaven.
A rapid and sporadic track, “Riot” instantly jumps into a spastic and energetic journey that uses different cymbals, bass lines, atmospheric synths, and Gambino’s stellar voice to illustrate this sprint of a track. While the shortest of all the tracks present on “Awaken, My Love!,” “Riot” feels exactly how its name presents itself. The track is a riot that contains such a wide variety of elements and moves in such a quick amount of motions, that it is near impossible to keep up with everything happening within the song. The track then slowly fades into the subtle beginnings of “Redbone.”
Starting with smooth bell and guitar focused lead, “Redbone” transitions into the distorted Gambino singing, “Daylight, I wake up feeling like you won’t play right. I used to know, but now that shit don’t feel right.” Gambino’s voice sounds pitched up but Gambino explains, “Actually, there wasn’t a ton of vocal stuff done,” this was a huge surprise as the sheer range that Gambino possesses is something of pure magic. It was fantastic in the way that Gambino can manipulate his voice to create so many varying levels within, “Awaken, My Love!.” The instrumental behind Gambino is a lovely chorus filled with bouncing synths and a smooth, but creeping drum beat that continues through most of the tracks as Gambino is able to fluently convey these stylish senses of jazz, funk, and even hints of electronic into a single package.
The first track that leads with more of a pop style, “California” does not seem to capitalize on the aspects of “Awaken, My Love!” that had worked so well and made it really stand out. The instrumental is fantastic ad still on a similar level as the other tracks present on the record, but Gambino’s voice is a strange mix and while it fits the style of the track, it feels ultimately goofy and was not the best choice to make the track stand out. When compared to the other downright incredible emotional displays that Gambino processes on other tracks, “California” seems more like a joke track or a secret bonus track that does not really have much room on “Awaken, My Love!.” His verses are not necessarily bad, it was just the vocal delivery and how the track feels entirely out of place, but the instruments like the pan-flutes and chord structure present makes for one of the more uplifting tracks on “Awaken, My Love!.”
Segueing into a soft-spoken Gambino, he opens the track and makes “Terrified” feel more like a love note to the subtle club tracks of the 80’s where a crunchy bass line and motion-inducing two-step percussion is present. This track takes more of a minimalist approach when compared to the other tracks of, “Awaken, My Love” and this was a grand break from the constant action that is present on the rest of the record. Gambino delivers another awe-inspiring performance, making the work seem almost effortless on his part where he can easily reach notes almost thought unfathomable.
“Baby Boy” pulls back the curtain with a harpsichord like instrument that takes only a second before launching into the slithering instrumental that makes up the wonderful background behind Gambino’s voice. He delivers another stunning performance and that is the same for the rest of “Awaken, My Love!.” This track also uses a fantastic bass line where the stalking instrumental can lead into the solo of the harpsichord like instrument found in “Baby Boy’s” last minutes. The solo created another additional layer to the track, this also is where the vocals of the track become a blur and Gambino delivers the lines, “There was a time before you, and there will be a time after you. Though these bodies are not our own, walk tall little one, walk tall.” Gambino then jumps right back into the emotional singing where he demands, delivering one of his strongest vocal performances yet, “Let me hold you, let me hold you.”
Leading into “The Night Me and Your Mama Met,” a sleepy acoustic track that sounds somewhat magical and almost other worldly. The chorus used creates a great making of space that Gambino uses genuinely as a tool to carry the forming electric guitar solos and the bass line that slowly creeps into frame. It is a relaxing second to last effort that contains only an instrumental and a quick silence before reaching the final chapter in “Awaken, My Love.”
The last leg of “Awaken, My Love!,” the track, “Stand Tall” ends the jazz, funk-fusion journey from prodigy, Childish Gambino. Abandoning the raps to instead pick up a microphone built for singing, focusing more on the dreamscapes of gospel and atmosphere to then creating great visions within his music. The change is welcome and it challenges the listener, wanting to completely differ from the usual style of Gambino. “Awaken, My Love!” is downright beautiful, creating a sense of hope for the future of Donald Glover, and Childish Gambino.
The Ramones, a group of New York garage-rockers that found their way into nearly every American and British teen’s brain. With blaring riffs and energetic style; The Ramones were a driving force in the music world, spanning a legendary 22-years and 14-studio albums that rocked the airwaves long into the future of generations to come.
Opening with “Blitzkrieg Bop,” a quick and stylish track that immediately causes movement and forces the listener to chant along to the lyrics, “Hey Oh, lets go, Shoot them in the back now. What they want, I don’t know, we’re all revved up and ready to go.” The track created this substantial mix of both choruses that any pop song of the time would have, but then combined a desperate speed increase that would make The Ramones so popular in becoming the Grandfathers of Punk music. Punk music relies on rapid and primarily aggressive style to convey the endless fury within a track, The Ramones adopted this style and were one of the first bands to achieve this, now legendary technique.
“Blitzkrieg Bop” contains a varying level of layering within the track and is constantly changing between three stages. The main chorus where “Hey Oh, lets go,” is sung, to the main verse where lead singer Joey Ramone, would deliver the primary account of lyrics, “They’re forming in a straight line, We’re going through a tight wind.” This then leads to the final section of the track where background vocalist and bassist, Dee Dee Ramone would come together with Joey to harmonize and create these sections of a beauty behind the destruction. When played all together, the lead guitar from Johnny Ramone created an instant identity to “Blitzkrieg Bop,” this is also held in relation to the percussion, which was handled by Tommy Ramone.
Trailing behind was the black-humor track, “Beat On The Brat.” Featuring a comedic style and an ultimately iconic entrance where Joey happily explains “Beat on the brat. Beat on the brat. Beat on the brat with a baseball bat, Oh yeah.” The instrumental behind Joey is an uncomplicated, but refined guitar and drum beat that switches between a strumming guitar to the crashing and competing percussion. The bass line laid down by Dee Dee Ramone buzzes along and does not act as a stand-out device, but instead a steady track progressing style where the rest of The Ramones can stand along. “Beat On The Brat” ends abruptly, but jumps right into “Judy Is A Punk.”
Similar in approach to “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Judy Is A Punk” leaps directly into the action where the guitar is a straight-forward blaze on the fret board. This is also a more significant track that looks into the background vocals of Dee Dee and Tommy Ramone. The two harmonize and while Joey sings his heart out on the main verse, “Jackie is a punk, Judy is a runt. They both went down to Berlin to join the Ice Capades,” Tommy Ramone keeps a steady but relaxed style where his drumming performance would become iconic over the years, first adorning the drums as he was the only one who could keep along with the increasingly upbeat tempos that The Ramones played.
The second of the two single releases, “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” is a melodic and loose style of love song where Joey can softly express and question a future lover, “Hey little girl, I wanna be your boyfriend. Sweet little girl, I wanna be your boyfriend. Do you love me babe? What do ya say?” This is The Ramones equivalent to “I Want to Hold Your Hand” where the track borrows the peaceful style, but still has this upbeat attitude and instrumental. Even as “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” is more of a sluggish track when compared to the others on The Ramones, it still is able to keep a slick and faster pace for a love song. It ends by fading out into a wonderful silence, then revving up for the next track.
“Chain Saw” uses a roaring circular saw to rev up the opening where Joey Ramone can sing “Sitting here with nothing to do, sitting here thinking only of you… But She’ll never get out here, She’ll never get out of here.” There is also another section where it sounds like Joey indifferently says, “They chop her up and I don’t care,” referring to the movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The Ramones had been known to say some shocking lyrics of the time, describing a gritty world full of death, love, and even male prostitution which comes later in The Ramones. The disturbed lyrics while common for punk music, are quite uncommon of the time period and were a slight eye-brow raiser when finally found out.
This would lead into the comedic track, “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue” where Johnny Ramone takes the spotlight with his ripping guitar work. On this track, features the closest thing to a solo yet on The Ramones; The Ramones give a sudden count-in before letting Johnny launch into a full-scale assault that balances between the frantic work of James Williamson of The Stooges, and David Marks from The Beach Boys. Joey Ramone still has a heavy presence, exclaiming, “Now I wanna sniff some glue, now I wanna have something to do. All the kids wanna sniff some glue, all the kids wanna have something to do.” This track was actually questioned by Dee Dee who worried about the band having a negative connotation associated with them, but Tommy thought it gave a positive outlook when compared to some of the other tracks present on The Ramones.
“I Don’t Wanna Go Down To The Basement.” Trails behind and is a track that has yet another comedic lyrical style, “Hey Daddy-o, I don’t wanna go, down to the basement. There’s something down there, I don’t wanna go.” It relates similarly to “Chain Saw” where the horror movie affiliation is accompanied along with Joey Ramone’s absolute fascination with the horror genre. This is also where Tommy Ramone would think that The Ramones would need tracks like “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue,” to district from the constant death and misery that most of The Ramones songs covered.
Another get in and get out track, “Loudmouth” is a rapid-fire true to origins of The Ramones song. It uses Tommy’s quick percussion strikes, a memorable bass and guitar groove from Dee Dee and Johnny, and one of the rawer lyrical performances from Joey Ramone where he aggressively threatens “Well you’re a loudmouth baby, you better shut up. I’m gonna beat you up, well you’re a loudmouth babe.” There is also a section in the track’s end where the band plays the finale of “Loudmouth,” coming together to create a great sense of punk rock chemistry that would echo on for the next forty years even after the first initial release of The Ramones.
More of a percussion focused track, “Havana Affair” puts the spotlight on Tommy and uses a downright fantastic use of reverb on his floor tom which then leads into a rapid-assault of hi-hat smacks as the track moves between choruses and different verses. Joey Ramone gives a stellar performance and that is also the case for both Dee Dee and Johnny as well. The lyrics “Now I’m a guide for the C.I.A., hooray for the U.S.A., baby baby make me loco, baby baby make me mambo,” reign through and create this great sense of urgency when paired with the rushing percussion. This is the case for the following track as well, “Listen To My Heart”
There are two primary sections of “Listen To My Heart,” the section where The Ramones play their usual blasting punk rock style, but then it switches to a melodic and more heartfelt style of confession where Joey explains “That girl could still be mine, but I’m tired of the hurt, tired of trying, tired of the hurt, I’m tired of trying, I’m tired of crying.” This is more of a personal account on Joey Ramone’s part and of the stories told on The Ramones. Rather than focusing on horror-movies or the desolate world around them, they focus on the inner workings and emotions of falling in and out of love with someone.
This love style is then abandoned when going into “53rd and 3rd.” Tommy Ramone starts the track off with some attacking snare and bass smacks before the rest of The Ramones join in and are almost compiled into a march like style. Joey shows love for his home city of New York with the lyrics “53rd and 3rd, standing on the street. 53rd and 3rd, I’m trying to turn a trick. 53rd and 3rd, you’re the one they never pick. 53rd and 3rd, don’t it make you feel sick?” The street 53rd and 3rd was a popular hot-spot for male prostitution in New York City.
Despite being an emotionally disturbed track, it is one of the more memorable and quotable tracks on The Ramones. It has outstanding progression and an instrumental that continues to change the formula that The Ramones had made popular so long ago.
After the drastic change up, “Let’s Dance” is a quick, swinging track that talks of doing “The Twist, The Stomp, [and] the Mashed Potato too.” It is a significant change from the somber and chaotic track “53rd and 3rd.” This track is actually a cover of the 1962 song of the same name by Chris Montez. The cover by The Ramones is interestingly enough rather similar to tempo and style of the original. There are obvious changes in instrumentation, but the overall presentation is entirely the same.
The second to last track, “I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You” is another song that has some perfect instrumentation and that classic punk feeling. The Ramones brought such a ceiling-breaking level of energy to all of their tracks, and the sections where Johnny Ramone lets his guitar wail is a moment of sheer bliss. The ending of the track has Joey Ramone belligerently explaining, “I don’t wanna walk around with you, so why you wanna walk around with me?” before angrily shouting, “I don’t want to walk around with you,” with this growl that is the first sign of real anger inside his voice. This then segues into the “one, two, three, four,” count-in that will send The Ramones to its swan song.
“Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World,” is the finale to the rambunctious and energized journey on the world through The Ramones’ eyes. Starting how The Ramones would, a fast and dance style of classic punk song that would eventually make tsunami waves upon the music world. Johnny Ramone plays a breakneck riff fest with Tommy playing aggressively, but not with an overpowering sense of ability. This would all lead into “Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World’s” rather vitalized ending where The Ramones draw out the last minute of The Ramones into a wonderfully planned and spectacular ending full of bravado and hope for the future of punk music everywhere.
Not only starting their own genre, but starting a wave of new listeners that had accumulated all over the world. The Ramones shook stadiums, dive bars, roller rinks, and just about anything with a stage. Able to rock the very foundations of music, and start a wonderful generation of aspirations to music fans everywhere. The Ramones stand as a monument in the music world.
La Femme, or “The Woman” is a new-wave pop rock band hailing from France. Marlon Magnée (singer/songwriter/keys) and Sacha Got (guitar/songwriting) are the primary founders, but was not a complete package until having Noah Delmas on drums and Sam Lefèvre on the bass, joining in to form La Femme. There are also additional vocal performances by Clémence Quélennec who delivers a sense of beauty behind all the madness that is La Femme’s original and innovative style.
La Femme opens their debut album with “Antitaxi” a track that has a science-fiction style start up before launching into a poppy-dance performance that describes the beauty of public transportation. “Prends le bus! Prends le bus! Antitaxi! Taxi beaucoup trop dangerux, Taxi beaucoup trop douteux!” which translates to “Take the bus! Take the bus! Anti-taxi! The Taxi is far too dangerous! The Taxi is too dubious!” Behind the wonderful shouting is a cheering synth and rushed drum beat that almost coincides within each other.
The entire track of “Antitaxi” feels like a sprint through crowed city streets, or a perfect opening to an 80’s movie. La Femme adopts a new wave style almost like it never left, but also modernizes it and continues to form it to their standards. They mix in odd sounding robotic noises and shrills before coming to an explosive ending and a pumped-up segue into “Amour Dans Le Motu” or “Love in The Motu”
Adopting a march-like style at first glance, “Amour Dans Le Motu” quickly changes into a psychedelic trance like track that uses different flutes and a 1-2 step style of drum beat. “Motu” is described as the “indigenous language of the Motuans who inhabit Papua New Guinia,” and given the concept of the march like style, the lyrics also go in relation, describing “Dans les plaines du Commodock, Acabour du règne animal. Tu regardes les cadavres, tu regrettes le macadam, Des pluies diluviennes qui te rappellent cette devise scandée au Vietnam.” This is roughly translated into English as “In the plains of the Commodock, Acabour of the animal kingdom. You look at the corpses; you regret the macadam. Heavy rains remind you of this motto chanted in Vietnam, our hotel is located in the heart of the city.”
“Amour Dans Le Motu” then continuously repeats the psychedelic march instrumental before finally succumbing to an intense amount of silence and then eventually rain with the next self-titled track, “La Femme.”
Coming hot off of the iron-press of describing immense storms and warfare, “La Femme” follows a similar pattern and describes a woman who has a storm inside her, “Her nails are sprawling and if she takes you by the hand, it’s like a storm who breaks the silence.” Hearing the pounding rain and thunder that opens “La Femme,” to then listening to the lyrical style that is approached on the track, paints an immensely vivid image of a deafening storm. This is paired with an instrumental that uses bongo drums and another style of psychedelic overlay with synthesizers that creates this jungle aesthetic. “La Femme” contains another beauty behind the madness style and slowly but wonderful leads into “Interlude.”
Using the same instrumental from the ending of “La Femme,” the track becomes twisted and includes these pounding drums that echo violently through “Interlude.” The tone completely changes and sounds more suited to incoming warfare, or even the opening to a spaghetti western before a showdown. The sliding and reverbed guitars strum wonderfully and are not only outstanding when paired with the echoing drums, but stand-out as their own powerful moving device for the track. There is then a moment of clarity where nothing but a sustaining high-pitched note from a synth rings until dying out and becoming “Hypsoline.”
“Hyposline” becomes entirely similar as “Interlude,” however La Femme adds these decrepit harpsichord notes that become the primary driving force of the track. There are also some verses and solos present here that shake the track up from the instrumental predecessor. The lyrics “Qui s’enrhume près du lac, Tu ressens les premiers symptoms, et tu mets les pieds dans l’eau,” which translates to “Who creeps near the lake, you feel the first symptoms and you put your feet in the water.” The track has an ominous melody and almost makes for a horror-movie style track that would fit in a graveyard scene as the cumbersome weight that is attached to the stringed instruments and the synths creates an old-time creep characteristic.
This then leads into “Sur La Planche 2013,” or “On The 2013 Plate,” where the lyrics “Sur la plage, dans le sable, je recherche des sensations. Sur la planche, sur la vague, je ressens des sensations,” is sung lightheartedly which translates to “On the beach, in the sand, I search for sensations. On the board, on the wave, I feel sensations.” Similarly, to the lyrical style, La Femme uses more of a surf-rock groove to go seemingly in tandem. Here, the drums are a quick and pumped up blast on the hi-hat, the guitar seems to quickly go from rapid cascading strumming to the then delicate and thoughtful picking. There is also a great use of breakdown where just claps and vocals are heard until the rest of the band comes back in with a full-scale rephrase of everything that had just happened shortly before. The track is great fun and almost begs for movement within it, “Sur La Planche 2013” wants to just make quick waves and then move on.
Following is “It’s Time To Wake Up 2023,” which is more of a synthetic and drum focused track that uses a hallucinatory style, relying more on uses of space and reverberation to display the sounds of the instruments. There is some dual vocalization where two vocalists are layered over each other in an echoing style, together they sing in translation, “It is true what is said on the other side, the grass is green, the wine is red. Eleven years ago, I met a very rare thing to keep well, against his skin I will stay. Love, Love, Overseas.”
There is also an additional segment where singer Quélennec explains, “Everyone got killed to be their slaves, Silicosis, the war was over. Mata Hari, you’re going to die, I tell the truth. 2023.” Then the instruments come crashing back in with such a bravado level of force that it almost overpowers the rest of the track. There is a bass line that acts similar to a fog-horn that cuts through the track and leads “It’s Time To Wake Up 2023” into its final departure.
The halfway mark, “Nous Étions Deux” translates to “We Were Two” and opens with an ordinary style of track with subtle singing and a bright style of instrumental. This is the case before reaching where chorus of the track is played, and the synth chords become the focal section of the track; it is a higher-pitched, “Take Me Out to The Ball Game” style of keys that create the melody of the “Nous Étions Deux.” But it is played more sporadically and sounds almost out of touch from the rest of the track. It then makes a second appearance closer to the track’s end where it gets a solo and it almost sounds distorted to the point where the keys do not even sound like a real instrument anymore. It is cheerful, then finally dissipates and lets the other instruments take over the real compelling end where “Nous Étions Deux” becomes sluggish and almost entirely different until reverting back to the original sound of the track’s beginning.
“Packshot” follows and is similar to a secret agent style of instrumentation where electronic drums can be heard pounding behind the heavily produced synth chords. La Femme has a distinct sound about them that combines both a classic style of European music and a modern sense of 80’s new wave. The combination sounds outlandish at first, but slowly warms up and becomes more of a shining aura. La Femme not only becomes impressive with an old classic, but makes it whole again with a new favorite.
This is the case with the eerie and robotic sounding track, “Saisis La Corde” which translates to “Seize The Rope.” Almost sticking with the misery theme, the lyrical style is no different and includes lines about most obviously, suicide, “You grab the rope, the ties to the beam, a thought of his wife,” and “Out of love, for death. Seize the rope, heart beats again.” This constant theme of everlasting death is then thrown off when the synthesizers go into a frenzied attack that does not really fit the imagery, but instead sounds similar to The Beatles “For The Benefit of Mr. Kite.” It is a strange mix, but the wind gasping and the keyed style instrument seems to endlessly play out, until finally succumbing to a short, but efficient silence.
An ominous and psychedelic synth opens up the next track, “Le Blues De Françoise,” or better understood in English as, “The Blues of the French,” or even “The French Blues.” This is the more minimalistic of the tracks featured on Psycho Tropical Berlin, and is an outstanding mix of both immensely weighted bass lines, and a chopped sound bite of someone quickly running out of breath. It creates yet another horror-movie aesthetic and is honestly one of the better building tracks performed by La Femme on this record. It completely changes the tone of Psycho Tropical Berlin and is more impactful because of this sudden shift. “Le Blues De Françoise” then comes to a satisfying end where a piano creates these outstanding harmonies and becomes the main foundation for the near sulking, style of conclusion.
This then leads into “Si Un Jour” or “If One Day” where it lays onto the theme of sexuality and identity. Quélennec proudly exclaims, “Become unisex, to know how to spit. Smoking all day, walking while whistling, wearing pants,” almost wishing to give up her own gender identity and become a non-binary being. This is paired with a rushed percussion set and a quicker style of pop synths. They make up the groundwork of “Si Un Jour,” where the cascading synthesizers are the main melody of the track. It creates this constant rapid fire of approach which is an immense change from the following track, “La Femme Ressort.”
Taking more of a synthetic burlesque style, “La Femme Ressort” is ear-catching from the first seconds of the track where a back somber guitar strums along and a crescendo style of synth becomes increasingly more and more present. This then leads into the explosive and utterly wonderful sound of Quélennec’s voice shining through the rather otherworldly instrumental. “La Femme Ressort” becomes one of the better tracks on Psycho Tropical Berlin and pursues a spacious sound without losing focus. The similar starting synths are the same instrument used to close the track, becoming a chilled and fulfilled ending to what sounds like the final conclusion.
This is until “Welcome America” launches in with a furious and overpowering amount of energy. “Welcome America” is an all-out sprint of a track that takes no sign of slowing down. It can be honestly overwhelming at first as the previous tracks have been more of a relaxed approach. “Welcome America” is instead a full-throttle blast into an abrupt end that leads into one of the more clever lines on Psycho Tropical Paradise, “They shout in your head and want to make you the worst of torture; having to grow old one day. So do not think about this evil, you will leave tomorrow, maybe at sunrise.”
While entirely sung in French, La Femme is still able to bring a universal sound that can speak to anyone. It creates a fresh breath into the seemingly dead scene of New Wave and instills the listener with a sense of hope for the future of the French music scene, and the experimentalism of modern music. Now, knowing no bounds, music can soar and reach even the most unlikely places.
Starboy, the highly anticipated third studio album from Canadian singer, songwriter, and most important, artist. The Weeknd has had an impressive last few years, reaching the tops of the charts with his last record, Beauty Behind the Madness, which featured one of the most explosive tracks of 2015, “The Hills.” Now, coming off from a steam locomotive of critical praise, intense support, and an ultimate level of hype; The Weeknd still performs with the same level of intensity as his previous work, but also improves the methods and refines what makes his music truly monumental.
Starboy opens with the self-titled track, “Starboy” which was originally released as the first single and includes a feature from Daft Punk. The combination of both synthetic jungle style beats and authentic pianos makes for a lovely club style instrumental that relentless keeps on and continues to echo along with the backing vocals. The Weeknd’s vocals are of pop orientation, but they also have an angelic touch. The chorus of the track has The Weeknd singing, “Look what you’ve done, I’m a motherfucking Starboy,” and this is a pleasant combination when paired with the synthetic background vocals of Daft Punk supporting him.
Following is “Party Monster,” an orchestral style track that uses a string ensemble and 808 drums to express the pushing, but unrushed beat. The Weeknd delivers an upbeat style but the instrumental is ultimately of a darker nature, feeling almost like a guilty pleasure when the first bass notes begin to kick in. His lyrical output is a constant party style, beginning with “Know it’s been a while, now I’m mixing up the drank,” and “Woke up by a girl, I don’t even know her name.” The track then falls into this eerie paired style of singing with Lana Del Rey where they both repeat “Paranoid, Paranoid, Paranoid, but I see something in you.” This then leads into the lively track, “False Alarm.”
The Weeknd opens “False Alarm” with a slick verse explaining, “Bathroom stalls for the powder nose, high heel shoes with the open toes. She’s got a good time wrapped in gold, for you, for you.” This then proceeds as a stepping stone for the leap into the frenzied and electronic club sound where the chorus “False alarm, ay, ay, ay” is sung. It is a welcome change in attitude from the first section of the track, then “False Alarm” makes yet another sudden jump into an echoing piano and a the segue into “Reminder.”
One of the livelier tracks on Starboy, “Reminder” launches with The Weeknd explaining how he feels about winning a Teen Choice Award and his intense level of fame, “I just won a new award for a kids show, talking about a face numbing off a bag of blow. I’m like goddamn bitch, I am not a Teen Choice.” He also includes an impressive play on words, “Got a sweet Asian chick, she go low mane.” The production aspect includes downright smooth hi-hat mixes between quick rolls and sixteenth notes that make the background instrumental feel constantly evolving and fresh.
This then leads into “Rockin’” a wavy dance track that focuses on using synth percussion and some powerful piano chords in the track’s intermission. “Rockin’” almost feels like a new-age style disco track that nearly takes inspiration from funk music. When paired with the clapping hi-hats and moving, but stylistic instrumentation, it creates a feel-good approach and intends to create motion.
The following track, “Secrets” feels similar to “Rockin’” but is a slightly slower approach and does not feature such a busy style of instrumentation. That is not to say that the track is not layered, and this is the theme for around 90 percent of Starboy. There is no real level of minimalistic approaches to any of the tracks, and there is always multiple layers of single instruments or even multiple sections in a track where new instruments are introduced. The bass line on “Secrets” is a wonderful selection of a fazing synth, and there is a breakdown present where “Secrets” feels like a step-back into the manufactured style of the 1980’s. There is also a much bigger focus on the Weeknd’s vocals rather than that of the instrumentation, he is the primary driving force of “Secrets,” moving the track into the rather abrupt ending, and sudden start of “True Colors.”
“True Colors” is the first blues style track that relies heavily on the upright bass and the charming keyed instrument to provide the instrumentation. The tone of “True Colors” is almost similar to a vintage love song where wind-chimes and a mellower sound is used to almost set a loving and affectionate style. The Weeknd delivers a beautiful performance, exclaiming “Come show me your true colors, paint me a picture with your true colors.” The Weeknd then brings “True Colors” to a silent end, leading into the next track that has yet another feature of Lana Del Rey.
Del Rey opens the “Stargirl Interlude” and delivers a stellar performance, her voice brings about a level of beauty and is downright gorgeous when paired along with the subtle instrumentation. The Weeknd provides the backing vocals of the track, and even as “Stargirl Interlude” is the shortest of the songs present on Starboy, it still manages to be a wonderful addition.
This then leads into the next track, “Sidewalks,” which features rap conqueror, Kendrick Lamar. The instrumentation in this track is the real star, featuring a blaring guitar and a bravado style of percussion behind the vocalists. The Weeknd delivers a great line about going from “Homeless to Forbes List, these niggas bring no stress.” The chorus is also a sweet addition and it is ultimately intriguing to see how Lamar can deliver his verse when compared to The Weeknd’s. They are both similar in subject matter, but the delivery is effectively different; they create a strict parallel between each other. “Sidewalks” ends with The Weeknd being the sole instrument on the track, before finally succumbing to silence.
“Six Feet Under” follows and uses more of trap style of instrumental with rapid fire hi-hat and a slapping 808 bass that creates a distinguishing comparison between the aggressive styled beat and The Weeknd’s less than intimidating vocal performance. It is similar to “Sidewalks” where there are two contrasting parties within the track, but the rivalry only brings out an addition layer of chemistry within the performances. Future is present for the chorus where The Weeknd accompanies Future on singing, “Six feet under she gonn’ get that fucking paper, you know how she get down, pop it for a check now.”
Following is “Love to Lay,” using synthetic strings and a simple snare, bass combination. The chorus of the track uses a ripping bass line and a funk style rhythm that blends both electronic and authentic style into one single package. The synth chords that lead up into the chorus are captivating and able to bring about an additional layer of energy to the track.
“A Lonely Night” is similar to a dance style that “Love to Lay,” “Rockin’,” and “Reminder” feels. There is also an extremely vivid guitar or string solo that is an interesting section in giving “A Lonely Night” its own separate identity. There is also a bass line intermission where it takes control of the track and forces the other instruments to instead take a backseat. It creates a power-struggle within the instruments and is surprisingly one of the better section of the track.
Trailing behind is “Attention,” a night time style track that uses different frequency instruments and a chorus explaining, “You’re only looking for attention, the only problem is you’ll never get enough.” This leads into a section where the auto-tune and the instruments act together to create a simplistic harmony that is at first seemingly over-produced, but falls back to an ultimately pleasing tone. The track then segues into “Ordinary Life” which is one of the weaker tracks of Starboy.
It is an over-fabricated pop track that relies on the chorus to become the real meat of the track. The Weeknd just does not deliver as well as he does on the other tracks, and the lines “David Carradine, I’mma die when I cum, she just giving head, she don’t know what I’ve done. Like James Dean, I’mma die when I’m young, die when I’m young, die when I’m young,” just Is not one of the strongest performances delivered by The Weeknd. This is also due to the lacking instrumentation that does not include any real sense of flare or superior style of the previous tracks.
The following, “Nothing Without You” is an instant palate-cleanser that features heavy bass and claps to lay down the foundation. The track then transforms when reaching the chorus into a lively style that seemingly comes in a wave. The track begins in a much more sluggish approach, then launches into the abrasive style, before coming back down into the gentle and compassionate style that was present in “Nothing Without You’s” opener. The percussion throughout is a consistent impressionable blast and is conspired with acoustic guitars in a synthetic and authentic duality. This duality is present through-out most of Starboy and is one of the better features of the record.
“All I Know” follows and is a slick 808 focused track that includes one of the more exceptional boom-bap styles found on Starboy. Future is featured here and delivers his verse which is part rapping, and a section of singing which is not outlandish for Future, but his singing is not really on par with how The Weeknd performs and it just does not seem like a great fit. Future could have been better used if he just primarily went for a straight rap verse as the beat is more aggressive and better suited for a straight-forward approach.
The second to last track on Starboy, “Die For You” is a fairly safe track that uses an approachable style and chorus in a similar fashion of some of the earlier songs on Starboy. The chorus is however, the centerfold of the track and is unfortunately the most redeemable section of “Die For You.” The instrumental is a mix of 808’s and a two step style of bass beat that continues over the background until the final rephrase where The Weeknd is featured in a near acapellic style. This track is not necessarily bad, it just does not feel experimental and has too similar of a mood to “Rockin’,” or even “Attention.”
The grand-finale of Starboy, the 18-track saga comes to a close with the track “I Feel It Coming,” which also features Daft Punk again. The instrumental has Daft Punk written all over it and it is obvious to see how they had their hand all over the production aspect of this track and other tracks present on Starboy. “I Feel It Coming” is a feel good pop jazz style track that relies on The Weeknd to deliver yet another outstanding performance, and without a doubt, he delivers. His vocals seem to float over the instruments, almost adopting an ethereal style.
Starboy is not a perfect album, but it finds what The Weeknd is proficient at and nails those points home. There are certain tracks that could have been kept or even removed as Starboy is an incredibly long album and seems to feel almost too long in sections. It is not for everyone, but the constant mix ups of pop, rap, funk, and even jazz is interesting enough to keep Starboy feeling fresh until the next installment of The Weeknd comes along.
My War, the second studio record release coming from American punk rock band, Black Flag. Able to destroy the boundaries of tempo within their tracks and produce one of the heaviest-hitting sounds of an era; Black Flag was a forced to be reckoned with. Led by Henry Rollins on vocals, Greg Ginn or “Dale Nixon” (An alias used by Ginn on recording) on the guitar and bass, and Bill Stevenson on the percussion.
Black Flag had switched up multiple artists and musicians from even their short years leading up to their first major record release, Damaged. They had switched singers’ multiple times, dropped and picked up different guitarists and had not refined their lineup until finally reaching 1981 when Henry Rollins had joined Black Flag and put the singing and lyrical style on a complete reversal. Gone were the upbeat and party like lyrics, Rollins brought a more frantic, paranoid, and morbid poetic style, and the band was never the same after.
The self-titled track, “My War” opens the frenzied journey of the record, commencing with blazing hi-hats from Stevenson and a dingy style of guitar from Ginn that hazily rings over quick cymbals only set the launching pad for vocalist Henry Rollins who starts screaming immediately. “My War, you’re one of them. You say that you’re my friend but you’re one of them,” this is the first look into the rather suspicious style that Rollins adapted, and instills an instant amount of energy into the already tireless efforts of Black Flag.
With My War, Black Flag also adapted a new style of punk rock. There were no longer single minute long tracks with a similar sound to each, instead Black Flag had brought in multiple layers of track where solos, tempo changes, and choruses were present while other punk rock bands of the era were still sticking to a more get in and get out mentality of track.
The following track, “Can’t Decide” features Ginn with a slightly idealistic style of opening solo before letting Stevenson and Nixon come in, laying out some of the foundation of the track. This then lets Rollins join in with the lyrics “Sun’s coming up and I can’t decide, to spill my emotions or keep them inside.” Black Flag then continues on a slick driving rock style before coming into the chorus of “Can’t Decide” where Rollins pessimistically explains “I conceal my feelings so I won’t have to explain, what I can’t explain anyway.” The track then features another solo from Ginn where he shreds the guitar, bending it strings in ways to make it become distorted and almost seeming warped.
The lower level of production also contributes in addition to the punk rock aspect that Black Flag portrayed through their music. It was of a lower quality of recording and thus made the sound feel more genuine and ultimately raw. My War is a raw record; it does not have any fancy tricks or a million-dollar level of studio equipment. It portrays itself as an outsider in music and instead wants to focus on the bare-bones style of instrumental recording where mistakes happen, and they can be heard in this record. It not only adds a personal level of attraction with the listener, but lets Black Flag feel more like it was recorded all in one single, animalistic run through.
“Beat My Head Against the Wall,” follows and is the first sludge style of track that split so many people up from a first and second-generation of Black Flag fans. The track switches from a crawling and mud-filled start to then jumping into a crashing cymbal and guitar fury frenzy. The sections where it quickly jumps back and forth from this frantic anti-social section where Rollins explains “I don’t care about parties or a good time, I won’t stand in your line.” To the more laidback style where Rollins happily explains “Swimming in a mainstream, is such a lame dream. No method to the madness, beat my head against a wall.”
Both sections create a constant duality that Black Flag will battle with for the rest of My War, they constantly revise their sound and instead display an incoherent power struggle between punk rock and a swinging rock style. It not only creates one of the better mixes of music, but keeps each track feeling stronger than the last.
Trailing behind is the track “I Love You,” a jumpy and bi-polar piece that relies on a loose writing style of past bassist Chuck Dukowiski, that features a battle within the narrator of the track. Rollins explains, “I put my fist through the door, I hate myself for you, I love you.” This bi-polar frenzy is present through most of the track and is only amplified when paired with Rollins mad style of vocalization. As the rest of Black Flag backs Rollins up with their rapid fire style of percussion from Stevenson and sprinting guitar licks from Ginn. The triple threat from the musicians of Black Flag were able to start a fire from the pure amount of animalistic energy that they brought to each track and “I Love You” is no different.
Rollins was able to end the track in a bitter-sweet style of vocalization where he shows a rare sense of pride but still a layer of usual aggression in his singing, “You screamed, you bled, you laid on the floor. But I know that you won’t leave me no more.” This also leads into the next machine-gun style track, “Forever Time.”
“Forever Time” launches with a straight forward jack knife approach at first glance, until falling into a subsection of the track where Ginn destroys on the guitar and the rest of Black Flag is forced to support one of his wilder solos on My War. It annihilates on the track and there are two sections of his solo, the first part that appears near the midsection of the track. Then the proceeding section that contains another wailing assault. Rollins and Stevenson also deliver an animalistic approach in their music that conspires well with Ginn’s style of play. “Forever Time” feels like the last true punk song that Black Flag does on My War, the following songs on the album take a more varied and diverse style.
Black Flag without warning launches into “Swinging Man,” this destructive jazz style piece that combines aggression and tempo inconsistencies to create the foundation of the track. Rollins continues to act nearly like an animal that shrieks and continuously shouts over the remains of an unstable jazz/punk hybrid. The track loses its path halfway through and begins to fall apart into more of a free-form exhibition of guitar solos, screams, and blasts from the percussion. It is beast-like, horrid, but overall an interesting exhibition in genre-blending style.
The rapid style then dissipates as the smoke-filled “Nothing Left Inside” creeps into frame. It not only sounds similar to a doom-rock style relating to Black Sabbath, but it has a style of grunge, before grunge rock charm. It acts as a sudden brick wall that breaks the action into a gradual march that relies on Ginn’s guitar work and Rollins’ outstanding voice to create the grim atmosphere present, Rollins screams, “Your lies, nothing left inside. I built it up, I broke it down, nothing left inside.”
The track’s end is seemingly bitter and abrupt, but instead is the opening to the final act on Black Flag’s, My War. This is where the tracks become much longer and are a sudden change in style as well, thus creating a gloomy end for an ultimately destructive and timeless record.
The second to last track, “Three Nights” is a morose style of track that opens with Stevenson pounding the drums and “Nixon” playing a distraught style bass groove. Surprisingly, this track follows the pattern of “Nothing Left Inside” where the track feels much more somber, almost like a funeral song than the end to a punk record. Rollins lyrical style on “Three Nights” is a contemplation of endless suffering and the no-solution ideas of defeatism. “My life’s a piece of shit that got caught in my shoe, and I’ve been grinding that stink into the dirt.” The track then ends with Rollins telling someone to “Go ahead, go ahead, go ahead, stick me, stick me, Knives.”
The final track of My War, “Scream,” another painful journey of defeatism and anarchy within personal life. Rollins yells “Supposed to act my age, supposed to act mature, I’ve got better things to do than listen to you.” It is one of those fantastic tracks that opposes every idea that someone has tried to fill you with and instead has Rollins wanting to express what makes man the most dangerous animal of all. His intuition begins to fail him and he becomes near primal again in “Scream,” the rest of Black Flag also follows Rollins’ lead as the percussion from Stevenson becomes a sudden crash fest and floor tom smack down. This is all while being paired to Ginn’s awe inspiring guitar work that shreds the frets in a seemingly endless solo.
Black Flag’s performance on just the last three tracks alone are some of the more animalistic and primal rage styles that mixed up their sound on My War. It created a tension between party punk rock fans of old Black Flag and the new coming sound that Black Flag would adopt. In the end, Black Flag spawned a new style on punk records and adapted a new wave of listeners that would live on generations later.
Living Dummy is the second record release of together PANGEA, the feel-good West Coast rock band hailing from Santa Clarita, California. PANGEA consists of William Keegan on vocals and guitar, Erik Jimenez on the percussion, and Danny Bengston on the bass. Together the triple threat combines witty lyrics, fast surf-like licks, and an awesome sense of energy in each track.
“No Feelin’” opens Living Dummy and creates an instantaneous amount of high-octane movement within the track’s first seconds. The quick guitar strums and screeching vocals from Keegan are paired with Bengston and Jimenez’ rhythm section, creating an aggressive build up. This quickly launches into the pounding percussion and frantic chorus, the lyrics “It’s all right, it’s okay, I wont cry cause I got no feeling at all,” are shouting over the rest of the instrumentalists. Together PANGEA has this rough and raw sound about their music, but that works in their advantage as their music captures the glory of an older punk rock sound, but brings it into a new wave of listeners.
The following anthem, “Make Me Feel Weeeird” starts up with a quick tapping on the rims of the drums paired with rapid fingering on Bengston’s bass. The track features a lively build-up before reaching a climax of a breakdown that borders on the sound of a Rocky Horror Production. The light-hearted vocals of Keegan exclaiming “You can’t make me think about you crazy,” to then having background vocals of “We think you should go,” creates this beautiful contrast in track tone.
These disagreeing lyrics continue even until the bitter end of “Make Me Feel Weeeird,” where the childlike chorus simply sings “la la la, la la la” over Keegan yelling “I Don’t care if you’re gonna hate me, I don’t care if you think I’m crazy.” All this occurs while the rest of the band becomes this roaring mix-up of crashing cymbals and buzzing bass work. As the track finally comes to a screeching halt, so does the rest of the momentum of the record as it leads into “Night of the Living Dummy.”
An acoustic jam track that begins much slower than any of the previous tracks, it creepily changes up into more of a ballad that relies on Keegan’s voice and guitar to keep the track on rails. “Night of the Living Dummy” features a short, but delightful electric guitar solo that abruptly interrupts the track, stealing the spotlight away from Keegan for nothing more than what seems like moments. While Bengston continues to back up Keegan’s vocals, Jimenez plays a steady, but seemingly loose style of drum beat that only further progresses the overarching style of together PANGEA.
“Shitty” follows and fires up with a quick house-party rock style sound that runs in similar characteristics as WAVVES or even a similar behavior of The Beatles in their earliest form. It feels like a pop track that is ramped up to a much faster pace, and contains a bigger focus on a surf rocker vibe. The lyrics of the track “Shitty” go something along the lines of, “Yeah pretty, she’s a pretty, she got the shitty, she got some shitty.” While the vocals are incredible hard to understand as Keegan nearly screeches and seems to use some distortion or a microphone that can’t audibly pick up exactly what he is saying. Either way, it is outstanding and sounds on a similar style of Lumpy & The Dumpers where the high-pitched yells are accompanied by some quick riffs and intense action.
The following track, “I Don’t Wanna Know You” is of a similar punk rock style that effortlessly combines pounding percussion and an assault on the ears with rough riffs and an overdriven chorus that echoes within the track. It uses a substantial amount of varying style to create a mix of both breakdowns and building sections where Together Pangea is able to slow down and let the guitar become the centerfold of the action. This is also accompanied by sections of “I Don’t Wanna Know You” where the sound is nearly overpowering, like the moment where the band seemingly breaks the flow and creates this interesting use of the bass cascading down the fret board, the percussion smashing cymbals, and Keegan randomly shouting over the chaos within the few seconds the breakdown lasts.
“I Don’t Wanna Know You” then statically fiddles out in the quick-witted and quick-footed track, “Summertime.” This track is a bit more unusual sounding of the other tracks featured on Living Dummy, “Summertime” relies on a rapid boom-bap two-step style of drum beat, but also has a slight brick wall that breaks the action into a halt before launching into a rather odd bridge that uses what sounds similar to a synthesizer to create this child-like wonder. “Summertime” is a rapid-fire style of track where there are only sudden moments of a slowed approach. Most of the time, “Summertime” is a full sprint to the finish, leading into “I Ran.”
“I Ran” meets the halfway mark for Living Dummy and is a track that does not contain a real serious approach to itself. The entire tone is almost lackadaisical, the backing vocals that repeat and shadow Keegan are a subtle, but pleasing approach in adding more layering into a seemingly shallow track. “I Ran” features a slick guitar solo, but the solo is in similar style of length when compared to “Night of the Living Dummy.” “I Ran” then flows into the track’s closer that primarily features a repetition of the opening riffs and the drums and bass falling into silence.
The following track “Hold My Hand” while ugly on the surface, is actually a quick and lovely minute and a half adventure that uses lots of drum fills and rolls from Jimenez. This, compiled with the abrasive style of guitar and bass are the main sources of energy within the track. Together PANGEA is able to then segue the cutesy style into their next track, “Too Drunk to Come.”
“Too Drunk to Come” is less of a subtle love song and more of an homage to a great night where singer Keegan has become “Sick of feeling dead, I had a few too many.” Keegan also expresses that he is “Too drunk to come” as the track title suggests, it feels almost as an homage to The Dead Kennedy’s track “Too Drunk to Fuck,” where singer Jello Biafra subtly explains he is “Too drunk to fuck, It’s all I need right now.”
Following is “Me and You” which opens with the line “Mornings I can’t remember, mornings I just can’t hide,” and features a dance style of track similar in with “Shitty.” The track begs for movement and wishes for someone to lose their mind in the near two-minutes that it lasts in. It also features an exceptional build-up where the guitar goes wild on the fret board and the percussion slams out sixteenth notes on the snare drum. The energy is constant throughout the whole track and ends on an uplifting note of static before coming into the last legs and final acts of Living Dummy.
“My Heart” is an acoustic style love song that features an incredible use of strumming where the guitar almost effortlessly moves upon the fret board. It imitates a Spanish style of playing where it cheerfully plays along with no percussion or bass in the track whatsoever. It is an interesting departure from the primarily punk rock, slamming sounds that Together Pangea creates within first glance. The band reaches deeper and pulls out some more than engaging styles that consistently change up each track. There are similar emotions within tracks, but there is no one song on Living Dummy that feels identical to another.
Following is the graveyard style of track, “Haunted.” Instead of taking a faster approach, this track like its predecessors takes a much more chilled approach and actually becomes more of a sulking sludge fest rather than a punk/surf rock track. It uses whistling and some distortion on Keegan’s vocals that almost make it seem similar to an apparition speaking upon the track. This suddenly changes when the distortion veil is lifted and a distinct chorus appears, almost taking shape before disappearing back into the darkness. Keegan bravely sings “I Know it’ll come back to haunt me in the end, I know it’ll come back to haunt me in the end, I know,” before having his cries silenced by laughter and amplified feedback.
“My Head Is Sick” follows and instantly jumps back into the steady style of sunshine surf rock that Together PANGEA does so well. Instead, this track also features multiple sections where the action falls into more of a 50’s doo-wop style of dance track where the guitar and drums become dreamier and not as focused on shock and awe. This is the case, until the track slowly climbs in and out of these pockets of intense speed and sound. “My Head is Sick” then casually falls back before succumbing to complete silence, and the final leg of Living Dummy.
“Los Angeles” is a love song to Together PANGEA’s residence, “My Home, Los Angeles.” The track starts as a ballad to the City of Flowers and Sunshine, before launching into a frantic and stylish dash with crashing percussion and an animalistic style of energy that reaches an incredible amount of vigor before crashing back down to the ballad style found in the track’s opening. Keegan gives the lyrics his last bit of energy and Together PANGEA ends just as gracefully and beautifully as they began.
TOBACCO, also known as Thomas Fec, who is known for being the leading songwriter and visionary for Black Moth Super Rainbow. TOBACCO’s style is incredibly similar to BMSR as they both use an extremely different technique for creating music. TOBACCO works primarily with pre-digital instruments, relying on analog tapes and synthesizers that create what feels like a step back into the glory days of late 70’s, early 80’s experimental music.
His newest record, Sweatbox Dynasty only continues to expand upon this intriguing style of production while adding in some easily approachable tracks that any new listener of TOBACCO’s work could pick up without a strict listening curve. A sincerely groovy and retro throwback into one of music’s most experimental ages, Sweatbox Dynasty is an intense level of fun from beginning to end.
Opening with the track “Human Om,” a looping synth riff starts the track off and continually lays the ground work for the following instruments that will bring the track into its many different stages. A minimalistic approach in the first chords are present before eventually drawing in heavily distorted vocalization and an authentic style of clap beat lays down the percussion. The track seems rather calm but within seconds, an abrasive and heavily crunchy rising synth crashing in creating large break within the track.
This also creates a flowing segment into “Human Om’s” second component that acts similar to a breakdown where the beat becomes mixed and twisted. TOBACCO uses his strange and ethereal vocals to acts almost like a background instrument as the beat continues to push on before ending on a suddenly abrupt final note.
The following track, “Hong” uses a bell-like instrument to act as the melody of the track while a synth lead lays down the bass work of the track. TOBACCO also experiments with the instrumentation as he changes the beat to misshapen the foundation, making the snare and bass lines change in such a way that it nearly disrupts the course of the track. “Hong” keeps the sound feeling fresh and even in such a short journey, it still creates an uplifting style of distortion.
“Wipeth Out” trails behind and this is one of the heavier tracks on Sweatbox Dynasty. It uses an intense amount of these corrosive synths that nearly melt the instrumentation itself. There is also heavily authoritative voice that chimes in to bring in more twisted vocals into the mix of the track. “Wipeth Out” ends with a rapid synth that sounds similar to an 80’s horror chase scene, and launches right into the sludgy sound of “Gods in Heat.”
“Gods in Heat” is easily the first track that jumps out to the listener, from the crunchy beginning synth to the ripping guitar and electronic style of percussion that works so in tandem together. With the chorus of the track, the bridge, and the silent pauses that build up each intermission act so well that “Gods in Heat” is a masterpiece from the first listen. The track ends just as well as it began, the synth lays down some beautiful chords that act as the “Gods in Heat’s” closer.
The following track “Home Invasionaries” is a constantly shifting track that begins with one beat that feels similar to an old action movie set to an entire analog style of recording. This quickly changes as “Home Invasionaries” takes a turn into more of a two-step style of club song that uses a rising bass line and more chime-like instruments to lay down the melody. There are also quick layers of energetic synth and bass chords that completely differentiate from the beat’s first approach. This style of adapting beat makes the entire track feel like it is constantly changing from even the first second of instrumentation. The last sections of the “Home Invasionaries” begins to use more of a free-form style before finally letting the synth bass line finish the track out.
Next up is the heavily distorted and artificial sounding track, “Dimensional Hum.” This track was an interesting approach to using different instruments of both authentic and synthetic tastes to create what sounds similar to a warzone within a track. The opening guitar combined with some vocals and static along with a bass breakdown creates an overall noisy, but busy track as well. The melody laid down by a higher pitched synthesizer continues the theme of the last tracks, but this melody feels almost horrific or in a creeping style. “Dimensional Hum” comes to an incredibly abrupt end, but the silence acts as a way to move onto the next track, or piece of art.
“Warlock Mary” features a hi-hat that clicks along as a quick moving synth provides the foundations for the track. The vocals are the primary focus of this track and seem to be more of a spoken word style rather than singing. Again, the distortion is immensely present in this track on the vocals, creating an otherworldly style of voice over the rising synths that segue into “Suck Viper.”
“Suck Viper” is most similar to a boom-bap style of beat that walks along a bouncing synthesizer. These continue throughout the track until a fazing synth pad comes in and overpowers the instrumentation within the track, leaving everything else to fall behind as the synths take the lead. There are no vocals present, but there are varying levels of depth to the track that features several different synthesizers and a bass line that continually shakes “Suck Viper” to its core.
The following track, “The Madonna” is a strange double part song that switches between a rather noisy and abrasive style of instrumentation, to the cheerful and more approachable style. “The Madonna” is one of the shortest tracks on Sweatbox Dynasty, but that does not mean that the track is without variation. In fact, the track switches up so rapidly that it is often hard to keep track of what different sections are being played until the track finally ends.
“Fantasy Trash Wave” begins and has a similar style of “Gods in Heat” in the way that the synth sounds overly crunchy. However, this track uses an uplifting synth lead that acts nearly like a chorus and almost seems to battle the other buzzing synths present. Then as the bass line kicks in and the rest of “Fantasy Trash Wave” starts to flesh itself out, the track feels like the most varied and overall the most interesting track on Sweatbox Dynasty. The runtime allows for “Fantasy Trash Wave” to take every idea and make sure that no second is left unexplored.
The second to last track, “Memory Girl” is this dream-like track that uses charming synths and a cheerful chime set to lay the melody down. “Memory Girl” is one of the more rock sounding tracks that uses amp buzzing and a guitar on overdrive to deliver the main section of the instrumental. The chimes are the focal point however, and act as the primary device for moving the track forward and into the final piece on Sweatbox Dynasty.
“Let’s Get Worn Away” is a mismatch of different instrumentals that last no longer than 30 seconds each. There are parts where the synth will simply noodle away on the keyboard almost making no real sense when played in these sections, but when the track does find a melody and stick along the path of that melody, the track is great. There are just too many obstacles in “Let’s Get Worn Away” to let the track stand substantially on its own. The track ends with radio static, and it is the perfect closing from one of the more experimental releases of 2016.
So It Goes, the debut album but second project from New York based collective Ratking. Three hip-hop engineers that make up the group, Wiki, Sporting Life, and Hak all use their street smarts and New York style to act as a congruent threat. The trio not only breaks down walls and barriers in music, but they make each song feel like a ceremony and a walk through New York’s busy but mostly lonesome streets.
So It Goes opens with “*,” a track that better explains Ratking’s musical direction and shows a better outlook into the producing ability from Sporting Life and both Wiki and Hak’s lyrical flow. Wiki opens the track spitting some bars about his future with Ratking and in life, “Graduated, what’s next? Everybody’s asking, what college you going to? What you have planned?” Wiki also delivers this “Dayyumm” which is the seguing motion into Hak’s first lines on So It Goes.
Hak floods the track with the bars “Dead man, one-man war. Teen years dead, bored to a snore.” Hak and Wiki’s verses are both explaining the future of Ratking, and how the two really got started in their younger years by rhyming. The beat produced by Sporting Life is a hard-hitting bass assault that continually changes over the course of the track. It also features a woman’s vocals that are highly distorted until the words sound like a million voices speaking at one time. This is going to be one of the highlights of So It Goes, the production not only sets the bar, but it crushes everything below it.
The next track, “Canal” is a busy, street-sprint that features booming 808 bass hits that seem to make the entire track rattle and bounce. The hi-hat trickles along with the beat and takes a back seat to the rest of the instrumental where a girl’s vocals can again be heard and what sounds like a crowd’s feverish chants. Wiki and Hak again trade blows on their verse and the entire track is a slug-fest, between the heavy-smacking instrumental to the lead filled verses.
The following, “Snow Beach” is a two-part track. The first or intro to the track is a dreamy, but still busy instrumental that features a boom-bap Eastern rap style that used both lyricists to repeat “20 degrees outside, toasted in the tunnel,” and “Chilling at the beach, Got sandals on my feet.” Then as the beat begins to take back the reigns, it leads into this outstanding instrumental that uses a snare crack and bumping bass. Wiki comes in and delivers some lyrics, “I used to shit on NYU kids, soused after dark.”
Then Hak and Wiki begin the hook where the lyrics “Every year another court date, every winter need a North Face for warmth sake on long days.” The ending of the track lets a saxophone played by Isaiah Barr, a fellow New Yorker, bleed out. His saxophone solo makes for one of the smoother ways to end a hip-hop song and is slightly reminiscent of a street performer who would be playing a saxophone until the late hours on the cold, winter streets of the sprawling city.
Following is “So Sick Stories, a track that features King Krule, an artist who was also featured on XL Recordings. Krule delivers the hook and is surprisingly one of the better sections of the track. Krule discusses a “Now do you see this? The way the grey controls only the souls that go to sleep to sink and dissolve. Are set adrift, in between the concrete and the mist. Just another inner city bliss.” Then after Krule delivers the opener, Wiki jumps in and delivers a verse that goes hand in hand with Krule’s hook. “My journals the, city it flows with the prettiest prose. Mixed with the gritty and gross.”
The instrumentation behind the lyrics uses different slamming bass pieces but also flutes and has an aspect of beauty to it. This also goes along with the hi-hats that vibrate and continually rattle throughout also add to the Beauty Vs. Ugliness that Ratking displays as a central theme of their music. They convey such a great amount of energy, but also make it seem effortless. They are artists that constantly blur the line between light and darkness, a beautiful landscape, and a desolate wasteland.
The next track is “Remove Ya” which uses police sirens and a sample from “The Hunted and the Hated: An Inside Look at the NYPD’s Stop-and-Frisk Policy,” a YouTube video that explains exactly what happens if you are a “Fucking Mutt.” The track’s instrumental is rather loud and more of an in-your-face type of track that relies on Hak and Wiki’s quick bars to keep the momentum going. Wiki opens the track with the lines “I’m a mutt, you a mutt, yeah… we some mutts.” This then goes into Hak’s verse where he explains, “The boys in blue, never really liked ‘em…rubbed me rude.”
The outro of the track is the most impactful section of the track where a woman explains “N-Y-P-D, miny, moe, catch a black boy by his toe. Hang him, put him up for show. Take him down, keep up the role, Keep up the role. Oh, uncertain, who do you protect? I know it ain’t us, no, who are you serving? Who do you protect? You want to kill us.”
Ratking then moves onto the track “Eat,” a track that sounds more like a Sunday ride on the New York subway with all these different levels of distortion on vocals and a looping sound of a transit system. The track uses a similar style to “Snow Beach” but the instrumentation on “Eat” is more uplifting and feels more spiritual. Hak delivers the intro and the outro of “Eat,” a primarily lyrical journey that explains “Dropped out of high but remained a student. Not one for great speeches but I think I’ll say, unsown my mouth with words decayed. Knees sore walk off the pain, poets die and poems stray. No day at the beach hopefully.”
The self-titled track, “So It Goes” follows where Sporting Life, Wiki, and Hak all deliver one of their better group performances on So It Goes. The whole track is a multi-layered instrumental and lyrical driving track that features both lyricists destroying a beat that features some outrageously intense levels of energy. The whole song feels like being surrounded by New York’s busy city life, but still being able to focus on the finer beauty of the city itself. Hak explains “Eagles are our brothers, and flowers are our daughters,” only adding to the immense level of not just pride but also beauty for the place where Ratking resides.” The track then unfortunately ends but leads into an interesting experimental track that features one of the more interesting beats of So It Goes.
“Puerto Rican Judo” is a boom-bap New York beat that also features different off-beats and a dance style of tambourine that acts as the hi-hat of the track. At first glance, the track feels rather out of place, but after several listens, “Puerto Rican Judo” adds a new and different balance to the tracks. It makes the record feel more diverse and Wiki’s verse as well as Wavy Spice’s verses only add to the diversity that Ratking expresses in their music. Wiki and Spice go bar for bar and continually go off of each other’s chemistry creating this constant power struggle for the top of the track. “Puerto Rican Judo” then leads into “Protein” which is another banging track off So It Goes.
“Protein” is an instant jump into hot water from the track’s very frantic start. The beat is an indescribable run through the city streets of flashing lights and blasting noise. The hook of the track features Wiki rapping, “Protein hold me, against my will. I will get my time to kill, If I don’t get my thrill. My will’s to write a verse that’s ill enough to get you filled. Keep you strong, make sure you keep keeping on.” Then Hak delivers one of his strongest verses featuring bars about “Native nectar with the rats in the pen. Tokyo triggers, sans, gats and Benz, what teenage roughs ain’t got nut-nothing but a dream on the corner,” and “Teach ya what ya teacher didn’t taught ya. Didn’t learn to write in school.”
Following is the track “Bug Fights” which features the most booming bass of all the tracks on So It Goes. The instrumentation is the main centerfold of the track and takes total control from the lyricists as it constantly changes and adapts to their style. The vocal samples used along with the shifting hi-hat that switches up from triplets to sixteenth to then eighth notes only increases the varying level that Sporting Life displays as a producer.
The lyrical aspect of “Bug Fights” features a great outro from Wiki where he explains, “Don’t wear your honor like armor that shit will wear you down, don’t let what life taught you taunt you. Embrace it now, whether it’s drawing, recording, whatever makes you proud.” It was one of the better outros and even set of bars delivered from Wiki on So It Goes. The incredible level of energy that he brings to the verse only proves that he believes he was born to spit lyrics and destroy beats.
That leads So It Goes into the last of what it has to give, “Take” and “Cocoa ’88.” Take is an experimental style of track that relies on Salomon Faye to deliver the primary aspect of the verses while Hak and Wiki take a backseat and instead only act as hype men for the track. The track is interesting over all but unfortunately doesn’t feel as fleshed out or as well thought out as the other tracks present. The level of energy is there, but it just doesn’t feel like it was put to good use.
“Cocoa ‘88” however is another outstanding track that feels exactly like the rest of the tracks on So It Goes. This is not a terrible thing as the track follows the pattern of a powerful instrumental and even powerful verses that seemingly crush the beat. Wiki and Hak are some incredibly strong lyricists and are able to annihilate any time they come on a track. On “Cocoa ‘88” they trade verses and repeats the lines “Days work for days pay, smooth talkers find nothing to say. Days work for days pay, if wishes were horses beggars would sway. Days work for days pay, spit till there’s nothing left up in my brain. Days work for days pay, willing to listen not kick it for days.”
Ratking keeps the New York style and approaches So It Goes like they are going to war. The abrasive style and outright dangerous production and lyrical aspect of Ratking keeps New York always feeling fresh and overall interesting even as time continues on in the Big Apple.
What can be said that has not already been said about the hip-hop professors, A Tribe Called Quest have been able to establish themselves for well over 20 years in the musical community. The four original members, Q-Tip, Jarobi White, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and the late legend Phife Dawg. Able to provide a strong youthful voice in hip-hop music and acted as pillars in their community, providing both a reinforcement through expression and the freedom of the people of the world. Their music spoke in volumes, and their sixth and final album is a send-off to a now impossible to forget group of MC’s and producers that changed society through their art.
We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service is a double LP that spans just barely over an hour in length, but the context and content inside this hour is a heartfelt journey that leaves any fan of both Tribe or hip-hop feeling satisfied. The opening track, “The Space Program,” opens with acapellic lyrics “It’s time to go left and not right, gotta get it together forever. Gotta get it together for brothers, gotta get it together for sisters, for mothers and fathers and dead niggas. For non-conformists, one hitter quitters, for Tyson types and Che figures.” This section of the chorus is sung by Q-Tip and Phife, both moving together and equally balancing out the phrases before gracefully landing into the first verse, which is delivered by Q-Tip.
The second that Q-Tip jumps onto the microphone, a wave of nostalgia washes over the listener. It is just like hearing The Low End Theory for the first time all over again. The quicker style that Q-Tip approaches to his verse, and the instrumental uses an electric piano and a thumping bass line. The percussion is a bouncing snare and bass combination that creates movement within the beat, keeping it fresh and “The Space Program” is an uplifting and conscious opening to an album that will discuss social issues, the past of the world, and what the future holds for mankind.
The following track, “We The People…,” opens with a synthesizer and a classic boom bap style of beat that Tribe Called Quest made so outstanding. Q-Tip opens this track, and delivers some thoughtful lyrics that borders upon the lines of spoken word and pure poetry. “Niggas in the hood living in a fishbowl, gentrify here, now it’s not a shit hole.” The chorus is also interesting as it displays the words, “All you Black folks, you must go. All you Mexicans, you must go. And all you poor folks, you must go. Muslims and gays, boy, we hate your ways. So all you bad folks, you must go.”
After the more synthetic style of track, “Whateva Will Be” follows and trails around a more funk style of music. It uses a vinyl record crackle and hiss to lay down the background noise of the track, while what sounds like an upright bass plays the groove of the track. There is also a vocal sample that is chopped and constantly phases in and out of the beat. Then when paired with Q-Tip, Jarobi, and guest artist Consequence, the lyric’s contain an outstanding blend.
Seguing after is “Solid Wall of Sound,” this track opens with a minimalistic bass and snare beat before slowing layering on record scratches, different keyed instruments, and a sampled from “Benny and The Jets” from none other than Elton John. The track also includes a feature from MC Busta Rhymes, who had worked with A Tribe Called Quest before on their past projects and his feature adds some rapid fire lines to the track that is primarily a slower style. Other guest MC, DJ Rasta Root explains on the track that,
“The one that stood out to me, one of the last sessions Phife did there, if not the last one, was him, Tip, Busta and they we recording a song, I believe it’s the one that has the Elton John sample. And Busta, his cadence is so robotically crazy. He was doing a verse over and he did it the exact same way.”
Following on the coat-tails of “Solid Wall of Sound” comes the track, “Dis Generation.” Opening with a vocal chant and a bravado like intro, the track then takes a sharp turn with an electric guitar that sounds dreamy and relies on a significant use of space. The track takes several different stages as the main verse feature the guitar and a thumping bass as well as a clap beat. The second transition follows into the chorus where different chords of both a piano and guitar are played together, creating harmonies and it lets the rest of the instrumental breathe while the percussion takes a backseat to the stringed instruments.
The lyrics help shed more light upon the changing level of music as an art form, primarily rap music. “Talk to Joey, Earl, Kendrick, and Cole, gatekeepers of flow. They are extensions of instinctual soul.” Q-Tip gives a shout out to the “gatekeepers of flow,” explaining that rap music and music is not dead or struggling, the listener just needs to find out where to look for themselves.
“Kids” follows and is the first track that features a less than approachable beat and some sub-par verses. There were no lines that stuck out and this track feels like A Tribe Called Quest, but was just a little too challenging to find an interest in the beat and the semi-annoying near-announcement level that continually shouts “KIDS” throughout the track. It is passable as A Tribe Called Quest, but not on the level that the rest of the track from We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service is from.
The following track however, is much easier on the ears and features one of the better verses from Q-Tip on We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service. The instrumental is a slick guitar lick that continues over what sounds like a gunshot or some sort of percussive device as the snare line. “Melatonin” also features Abbey Smith who lays down an angelic style of chorus and background vocals and when paired with the more upbeat style of Q-Tip, it allows for one of the better combinations on the album. This is especially present when the two trade verses together and create this great use of letting the beat ride and the vocals intertwine. The lyrics, “So many thoughts in my mind, making it very hard to unwind,” still reigns as one of the better one liner-choruses on We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service.
Then comes the final track of the first disc, “Enough!!.” This is a smoother style of instrumental and it sounds straight out of a 90’s r ‘n b record. The organ like instrument is paired with a breakdown that moves the cymbal hits to a more rapid style. It also features singing from Q-Tip which is surprisingly able to stand on its own and add another level of depth to the already immensely diverse record. The track ends with the beat slowly becoming engulfed within itself, ending the first half of a new trip down memory lane.
The opening track to the second disc is Mobius, a piano and boom bap infused mix along with what sounds like a sitar that subtly strums in the background of the beat. Busta Rhymes has another feature on this track and his verse has some powerful bars that seem to flow effortlessly over the rather laid back instrumental. “I’m from a different cloth, we the oracles of the sounds. Skip town, hit ’em with impeccable pound.” These bars segue into the next track “Black Spasmodic” that features an outstanding hook from Consequence, and an even better verse from Phife Dawg.
The instrumental of “Black Spasmodic” is rather uplifting and relies on using piano harmonies and chords almost conflict with the verses featured on the track. Consequence opens the track by stating “They don’t make thugs of this caliber, who kept up the buzz the whole calendar. Used to sell drugs out the Challenger, Used to keep guns with the silencers.” Then Phife comes in with a killer verse stating “And how do you touch mic with flows uncertain? Speak game dry boy, that flow ain’t working. The track then ends with police sirens and Consequence’s verse being repeated until “The Killing Season” comes into frame.
Starting off with Talib Kweli delivering a powerful verse discussing his roots and how he is “bleeding through this mic, but they call it entertainment.” The track “The Killing Season” also features a hook/singing part from Kanye West where he repeats “They sold ya, sold ya, sold ya,” continuously and even ends the track in the same way. Before the track ends, the instrumental takes a beautiful turn it uses what sounds similar to a string ensemble where the rest of the beat has a much less aggressive style of percussion and lets the ensemble rule the main flow of the track.
Following is “Lost Somebody,” an outstanding track on every front. The frantic piano combined with the rattling bass line and the heartfelt lyrics about Phife who had passes only a few months before the release of We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service. The entire track feels like a constant battle with denial, but rather than sulking and falling cemented in depression, Tribe brings more of an uplifting style of production along side with their slightly darker style of lyrics. The verses here are again speaking of how Phife is “he’s in sunshine, he’s alright now, see his wings.”
Then almost without missing a beat, “Movin’ Backwards” follows and again like the track “Dis Generation,” it uses an electric guitar that starts the song off. The bass paired with the quick and jumping instrumental makes for one of the better, and faster tracks of We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service. There is also a breakdown that lets the guitar move down the fret board, almost taking a backseat to the Verse that comes from guest Anderson .Paak where he sings “They want to see my downfall, turn a good day into a downpour.” The beat continues to rock before falling into the next track.
A jazzy, and slightly shadowy instrumental floods in and is the start to “Conrad Tokyo.” This was another instantly great track and features none other than Kendrick Lamar for a nice bar and use of a chorus as well. Most of the features on We Got It From Here… Thank You For Your Service allows the artist to illustrate a chorus rather than a full verse and jumping into the next track. This was an intriguing way to handle the features and something that had never really been done before. The features might only say a quick 8 lines before handing the microphone right back to Q-Tip, Phife or Jarobi.
The second to last track, “Ego” is a double part track where the first half sounds like a much more claustrophobic example of “Excursions,” the second half is a rise in energy where the beat complete changes in a near bi-polar, split-second innovation. There are also some superior lyrics that act in contrast as well, “Some may hate it and some may overrate it. It’s a top story and you rarely see a trend, so all you psychoanalysts pull out your pad and pen.” Then Q-Tip goes on to say “Come up with an idea, and no one seems to get it. Then every time you mention it, they stare like you’re two-headed.”
The finale of We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service is “The Donald.” A track that is another tribute to Phife as the chorus is all about Phife’s alter ego Don Juice. The entire track features bars about how much Phife will be missed in not just A Tribe Called Quest and their members, but in the community as a whole. Phife and Tribe Called Quest were able to change the world, inspire artists, and leave an everlasting mark on the world. Phife, The Five-Foot Assassin, Don Juice, Malik Taylor, all names he would be known by, the most common would be friend.
The Misfits, a group of teenagers who blended both the supernatural and artificial with an unmeasurable level of energy and punk music. Together, the combination seemed near heaven-sent, creating a new sub-genre of punk simply called “Horror Punk.”
The Misfits’ Static Age is an interesting breed of album. The original story of the album includes it being shelved for a number of years after no single record label was interested, multiple member shifts throughout the different stages of The Misfits, and one of the greatest punk records to ever be released finally in 1997.
The original recordings were done in 1978, the album would see multiple single releases that surfaced but nothing substantial until lead singer Glenn Danzig compiled the entire mixes of Static Age, wrapping them into a single package that was released in 1996. There were additional tapes found that led to the album finally coming to completion in 1997, 19 odd years of trials and tribulations that eventually paid off and came to a full stop.
Static Age begins with the self titled track “Static Age,” the track is a drum roll and scream filled match with a slick breakdown that slows the bulk of the track down for only a few moments before launching right back into the more frantic style that The Misfits would adopt and handle so well. Lead singer Danzig yells the lyrics “Static, Static, Static, We’re on a video rage,” the rage is simultaneously combined with the pounding ride cymbal hits from Mr. Jim and the blasting guitar from Franché Coma that seems to shake the airwaves themselves. The track then finds itself falling apart into this static pit before climbing back into the frantic manner with “TV Casualty.”
“TV Casualty” is where the lyrics of The Misfits begin to take the more horror style of punk that they were so well known for. Danzig sings the darker, more negative lyrics, “Hold on, I think I have to puke, there’s a spot in the corner where I always go. I like to feed the flies that I know.” The frantic yet depressed sound only amplifies with the use of television samples that end the track before fading into “Some Kinda Hate.”
This track slows the excitement down to let both bassist Jerry Only and guitarist Coma to take control. The percussion coming from Mr. Jim also adds to the change-ups that “Some Kinda Hate” has within its run time. The lyrics coming from Danzig are still rather horrific, explaining “Hear the cats cry, little tortured babies in pain. Cracked necks by settled limbs, they don’t hesitate.” Danzig also talks of “Maggots in the eye of love,” which is again unsettling.
Following is the track “Last Caress” which takes the action and ramps it right back up to energetic style that was heard before. This time Danzig makes some outstanding quotable lines, “Sweet lovely death, I am waiting for your breath. Come sweet death, one last caress.” This is one of the better lyrics featured on Static Age as it captures the spirit of The Misfits, a love and fascination with the end, or Death.
“Last Caress” also captures an uplifting sound on both this song, and the entire record of Static Age that creates a great duality within itself. The album combines horrid situations, pain and misery, and also a frantic and quicker style of play. The triple threat is The Misfits’ main formula and they have this massive amount of charisma about them. Static Age begs the listener to shout and play along as if the album is being heard for the first time all over again.
The following, “Return Of The Fly” is a callback to most obviously, Return of The Fly, The 1959 movie that featured none other than Vincent Price. The lyrics consist of mostly using the actors and actresses, plus the character names from the movie itself, “Return of The Fly, with Vincent Price…Helene Delambre, Helene Delambre, François, François. Cecile, Cecile, Cecile, Cecile.”
Then there is the famous track “We Are 138” and “Teenagers from Mars.” “We Are 138” was the first single released from Static Age and contained multiple tempo changes between breakdowns and constant speed increases. The track begins with a much simpler style of drum beat on the tom and snare before launching into what sounds like a feeding frenzy between the hi-hat and the guitar. It is chaotic, but ultimately entertaining to hear such an overwrought style of play being heard. “We Are 138” is what Jerry Only described as “ ’138’ is like people being treated as androids where you have a number instead of a name, so it’s like the human number would be a 138…”
The next track, “Teenagers From Mars” feels more like a punk ballad, the instrumentation all conspire together and are perfectly in sync between the crashing cymbals, the ripping guitar, or the buzzing bass that continuously echoes within the track’s background.
The track then leads into “Come Back” which is another outstanding track that begins with a simple drum beat before eventually building up with the strings to come into a raging collaboration with Danzig softly, almost speaking the lyrics “Come Back, little raven, and bite my face. I’ve been waiting, endless waiting. Come back and bite my face.” The Misfits then gradually pick up the pieces of the track where they start to play faster and faster, also rapidly changing up the tone of the track as well. “Come Back” ends almost abruptly and segues into the following “Angelfuck.”
“Angelfuck” is a track that ends almost as quickly as it begins, it follows some nice grooves from the bass and guitar and also features one of the heavier sounding percussion parts on Static Age. Coma changes up his style in “Angelfuck” so much that it is hard to comprehend exactly what is going on at certain parts of his set. His drums vary, and his quick fills add a swifter overcoat to the track.
“Hollywood Babylon” follows and becomes one of the more sing-a-long tracks of Static Age. It features a chorus that proudly chants “Hollywood Babylon” almost begging for people to join in backing up Danzig. Then “Attitude” trails behind and this feels like the third and final act of Static Age. It begins with “Attitude” which has an abrasive drum build up that launches into another feeding-frenzy between the drums and stringed instruments. It is a great energy releasing track that features more great lyrics, “Inside your fetal brain, there’s probably a whore. If you don’t shut your mouth, you’re gonna feel the floor.”
Then “Bullet” comes into frame, this is easily the fastest track on Static Age and it is also the most energetic as well. It takes no breaks as The Misfits instantly blast straight into a ravaging assault of instruments and lyrics. Danzig cries out “Texas is an outrage when your husband is dead, Texas is an outrage when they pick up his head. Texas is the reason that the President’s dead. This is an obvious reference to the 34th President, John F. Kennedy who was assassinated in the streets of Texas.
“Theme For A Jackal” follows and is a slower but still impactful track that speaks of “Stand(ing) idly by as they rape your children, Like you do now.” The lyrics are always a subject of controversy with The Misfits but the lyrics continue to add to the separating factor that they displayed. “Theme For A Jackal” is the first track to include the use of piano and it adds this dance like factor to the song. The “Dead Daughter in the river” lyric still reigns within this track and it seems that the entire band allows Danzig to take the center of attention when he sings this section of “Theme For A Jackal.”
Following is the track “She” which is another frantic assault on the ears. Surprisingly the lyrics do not focus primarily on death or destruction. The track takes more of a subtle approach to the lyrical style and “She” focuses more on the instrumentation. This is also true with the track “Spinal Remains.”
“Spinal Remains” goes back to a more horror-style of sound, but instead focuses on the instrumentation, primarily the stringed instruments. The guitar feels like the centerfold of this track as it casually moves between the fret-board during the second verse and the chorus. The chorus of the track is where the guitar shines through and almost seems to take total control of “Spinal Remains.”
Lastly, the track “In The Doorway” sends Static Age on its swan song. It is a chilled approach to a song, almost ending the record with more of a dust settle than a blaze of glory. It still features great use of the instruments coming together before finally succumbing to a deathly silence. Static Age speaks in volumes, creating waves in both punk music and society. Even 38 years later, Static Age still stands as a monument, or as Jerry Only himself said, “You’re listening to it almost twenty years later, and the thing still kicks ass.”
The Beatles, the rambunctious English band from the 1960’s that created a wave of Beatle-Mania, a frenzy that “swept up the youth of the world.” And Wu-Tang Clan, the comprehensive hip-hop group from New York that also spawned a wave of their own, gaining millions of fans all over the world may not be so different after all.
Producer and mastermind, Tom Caruana collectively combined both The Beatles and Wu-Tang Clan in a way that makes Wu-Tang acapellas and Beatles instrumentals form the foundation of Enter The Magical Mystery Chambers. Most would never think that “You Never Give Me Your Money” and “Got Your Money” by Ol’ Dirty Bastard would ever match up so perfectly, or that “Come Together” and “Release Yo’ Delf” would be a possible combination. With Wu-Tang Vs. The Beatles, anything seems possible through music production and the possibilities are truly endless.
Enter The Magical Mystery Chambers is a 27-track record that includes multiple skits and different samples of interviews from both The Beatles and radio newscasts of the Wu-Tang clan.
Wu-Tang Vs. The Beatles feels like a nostalgic trip through the best of both artists. The classics like “C.R.E.A.M.” and “Da Mystery of Chessboxin’” are present for Wu-Tang, while everything under the sun is sampled from The Beatles. Everything from Magical Mystery Tour to Revolver to Help!.
This is an album that just has to be heard to be believed. It takes the best of The Beatles, the best of Wu-Tang Clan and just mashes the pieces together, creating one of the best project mash-ups in history. From start to finish, Enter The Magical Mystery Chambers allows you to experience two outstanding artists all over again.
A(lways).$(trive).A(nd).P(rosper) Mob is back again with another all star cast of both rappers and producers including A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg, A$AP Nast, A$AP Ant, A$AP Twelvyyy, KEY!, Tyler The Creator, Skepta, and even Playboy Carti. The varying mix of both producer and lyricist credits adds a great level of depth and variety to the overwhelming amount of outstanding sounds that A.$.A.P Mob brings forth.
Cozy Tapes: Volume 1 – Friends opens with the smash hit, “Yamborghini High.” A track that includes a small two-minute skit about just how far A.$.A.P Mob has come before launching into the booming bass, sports car samples, and a dreamy near gospel like production that allows Rocky, Ferg, Juicy J, A$AP Ant, and A$AP Nast to flow near effortlessly. The entire track feels like a call back to the past of A.$.A.P Mob and it only furthers that feeling with the use of the skit where they explain “Niggas ain’t cozy bruh. We been doing this shit, all of a sudden you see niggas out here, sweat-suited up, with they nappy-ass terry cloth and all that shit, they tryna’ look like the homies.”
Then as the bass begins to kick in, A$AP Rocky and Juicy J begin to deliver the chorus of the track “Yamborghini-high, Lambo by the crib. This is how it is, yeah, these niggas fake, no we can’t relate.” Nearly setting the tone for the rest of the record of how A.$.A.P. Mob will always do their own thing, and become unrelatable in a world full of imposters. The constant angelic background vocals that echo behind A.$.A.P Mob’s rather sinister sounding vocals are an interesting contrast. “Yamborghini High’s” beat is definitely one of the more uplifting moments of Cozy Tapes: Volume 1 and It involves a substantial beat change toward the tracks end that easily segues into the following, “Crazy Brazy.”
“Crazy Brazy” was released earlier as a teaser track for the Cozy Tapes, just like the previous track “Yamborghini High.” “Crazy Brazy” has a quick chorus delivered by Rocky before reaching into both Twelvyyy and Rocky’s verses. The chorus is actually a clever combination of both A$AP Rocky and KEY!, together the two trade verses about “[A$AP Rocky] I got a lot on my head, Gucci rag tied on my head. Put a red dot on your head, I put that guap on your head. Don’t be talking to me crazy. [KEY!] I got a lot on my mind, I put that guap on my mind, I got a lot on my mind, I put that nine to your mind. Don’t talk to me Brazy.
Once A$AP Rocky jumps into his verse, he explains how “They don’t play me on the station, press ’em like detonation.” An obvious reference to how A$AP Mob is not going to be played on the radio but it makes no difference, they will continue on and strive in other ways. The instrumentation uses a combative style beat that relies on 808 drums, some tapping hi-hats, and what sounds like a bouncing electric piano or some use of a synthesizer. It is complementary of A.$.A.P. Mob’s use of elegance and hardcore East Coast rap style that constantly conflicts, but always sounds so intriguing and unique.
The Next track, “Way Hii” features a plethora of different artists, BJ The Chicago Kid, LA based rapper Buddy, and Pittsburgh hero and native Wiz Khalifa all make public appearances. BJ The Chicago Kid delivers the chorus and a short barred verse, while Khalifa, Rocky, and Buddy deliver the primary verse of the track.
Rocky and Khalifa double team the floating and wavy beat, trading bars discussing “Niggas is talking, we living it though. Finna’ pull up in this bitch in my robe,” before letting The Chicago Kid finish the track off with the chorus “Getting hard to tell what the fuck I’m on. Every verse a half, every hook is on.”
The following track “Young Nigga Living” opens with A$AP Ant delivering some bars over a beat that sounds like it uses different distorted strings and a diverse hi-hat instrumental that constantly adapts to the feel of the verse. For the much faster sections of the track where A$AP Ant, Ferg, Twelvyyy are delivering quicker bars, the hi-hat speeds up into a rapid fire sound where the bass and snare cracks are put more towards the background. Twelvyyy delivers the chorus of the track where it also bleeds into the next track or skit, “Nasty’s World.”
The skit intertwined in “Nasty’s World” features the joking side where A.$.A.P. Mob clowns each other before having A$AP Nast completely destroy and control this track from start to finish. The track uses a string ensemble and this classic boom-bap beat that echoes the sound that New York practically originated and made famous.
Nast’s verse and the track “Nasty’s World” is actually one of the better tracks on Cozy Tapes: Volume 1, it features some great verses and lines “The pigs annoying like the sound of locusts, I style wild plus my rhymes the dopest. My squad the best, a bunch of lyrical soldiers, Just Roc-A-Fella, Hov-a-sclupture,” but also features a unique instrumental that taps into the classic sound of East Coast rap. It almost feels nostalgic and has a great sense of pride that trails behind the track.
Following is “Money Man,” it sounds similar to the track “Crazy Brazy” where the beat changes up from 808’s to a more classic style of bass in-between interludes. This is not to say that the track is not with its own personality as A$AP Rocky delivers a great closer of the track where he explains “Choose a side, suicide. You and I, crucified, you despise. I’m the best, you decide.”
The next track, “Put That On My Set” is actually another highlight of Cozy Tapes as it samples Willie Hutch’s “Brothers Gonna Work It Out.” The track is a slowdown where Rocky and Skepta trade verses and the whole track has a much darker tone than the other tracks off of Cozy Tapes: Volume 1 – Friends. A$AP Rocky delivers a line explaining his view on the world, “Understand, I’m a man tryna make it in a world of death.” Skepta also delivers a darker line “See the pain in my eyes I don’t wanna cry, put my life on the line… For my blood all the time.” The gorgeous beat mixed with the grim lines make for a constant uninviting feel throughout the track.
There is then the skit “Motivation Foreign” where a man and woman discuss going to London simply because they can. “London Town” then follows after the skit actually feels like it would have fit Skepta much better than “Put That On My Set.” This track sounds more synonymous with the United Kingdom Grime style that Skepta is well-known for. The low tuned buzzing basement sounding bass mixed with the quick snake like rattle of the hi-hat feels more suitable to artists like Kano, or Wiley rather than rappers from Harlem. But, surprisingly the track works quite well and is actually an impressive of mix of cultures from both London and New York.
The following track, “Runner” sounds rather similar to “London Town” and features Lil Uzi Vert where he controls most of the track, only letting A$AP Ant contribute to the second verse. The track is not immensely filling, but Uzi Vert does make the hook of the track feel more fun and energized. It feels like a club song, but nothing that is progressive.
“Bachelor” follows and this feels much more like a track by Future, or another artist that uses more of a “turn up” approach to their tracks. It also features Lil Yachty, who delivers the first verse of the track, but is ultimately short-lived. The later tracks on Cozy Tape: Volume 1 drastically change into more of a party bang style than the darker and less bravado like tracks of the first half.
The last track “Telephone Calls” features Tyler, The Creator, Playboy Carti, and Yung Gleesh. This instrumental is a strange mix of both 808 drums, acoustic sounding bass drums, and a near siren like sound that changes key to create a piano like instrument. The actual verses themselves are energetic and the chemistry between Rocky and Tyler, as well as the chemistry between Gleesh and Carti are just outstanding. They both bounce off of each other and create one of the more enticing tracks of Cozy Tape.
Cozy Tapes: Volume 1 – Friends is a substantial record coming from A.S.A.P. Mob. The way they use their energy, raw authentic motivation, and hustle like attitude conveys possibly one of the better records of this current year, and all around a gratifying way to pay tribute to the late A$AP YAMS.
Public Enemy’s most wanted, the multi-threat consisting of Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Terminator X, DJ Lord, and Professor Griff made waves when connecting rap music to a community, bringing emotional and physical distress to the foreground of society. Public Enemy captured a unique funk/rock style into hip-hop music, blending both genre and social issues into one complete package.
It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back is the sophomore album from East Coast destroyers, Public Enemy. Starting off the record with “Countdown to Armageddon,” a track that begins as more of the opening scene to a film rather than a song, it uses blaring sirens and Professor Griff delivering lines about how “Armageddon had been in effect,” and how the “Revolution will not be televised.” Griff acts as a hype man before launching into “Bring The Noise,” a track where both Flavor Flav and Chuck D make their first appearance of the album.
Malcolm X actually begins “Bring The Noise” with a sample from his “Message to The Grassroots Speech,” where X explains “It’s just like when you’ve got some coffee that’s too black, which means it’s too strong.” Public Enemy samples instead where Malcolm X explains “Too Black…Too Strong.” Using Malcolm X’s strong words to begin the track and essentially the musical aspect of It Takes a Nation of Million to Hold Us Back showcases the strong political influence that Public Enemy displayed in their musical message.
“Bring The Noise” focuses on using different funk samples from James Brown, Funkadelic, and the “Soul Sister # 1” Marva Whitney. All together these samples create what sounds like a funk song created in the 90’s. It uses different drum rolls and a groovy bass line that continues to bounce the track between a shrieking amount of distorted horns and Flavor Flav continually backing Chuck D acting as the world’s greatest hype man.
The slick use of funk then perfectly cascades into “Don’t Believe The Hype,” a jamming track that uses a record scratch and more James Brown samples. The track “Synthetic Substitution” by Melvin Bliss makes up the drum beat, and Chuck D; The MC continues to aggressively control the direction of “Don’t Believe The Hype.” Chuck D has a powerful approach to his lyrics, explaining in one line that “The minute they see me, fear me. I’m the epitome of Public Enemy, Used, abused without clues. I refuse to blow a fuse, they even had it on the news.”
“Don’t Believe The Hype,” focuses more on the influence that rap music had during the 90’s and its continued focus throughout history to follow. Chuck D explains that following hype and trends will only lead to the demise of the followers. The next track, “Cold Lampin’ With Flavor” focuses more on Flavor Flav’s rapping aspect of Public Enemy. Flav uses his audacious attitude to begin the track with some of the more personal verses about how he can “Take the dopest beat and rock it,” and how his “Clock on my chest proves I don’t fess.” The constant combative style of Chuck D, mixed with the more amusing and uplifting sound of Flavor Flav creates an even balance within It Takes a Nation of Million to Hold Us Back.
The following, “Terminator X to The Edge of Panic” makes an interesting use of “Flash’s Theme” from Flash Gordon movie made famously by the prolific rock group Queen. It also contains some substantial bars asking “Who gives a fuck about a goddamn Grammy,” and how there is “No Peace to reach, that’s why he is packing his black piece.” It uses interesting wordplay and an anti-establishment style that Public Enemy was made famous for using. The group was more about moving a message among the people rather than making money or obtaining fame. The group was for the betterment of a society, not personal gain.
Chuck D once explained,
“Rap is supposed to be about keeping it real and not relinquishing your roots in the community. Without that, it’s just posturing. Somebody who claims to speak for the hood don’t need no private jet.”
He also explained why he was so anti-establishment,
“Government and culture are two diametrically opposed forces. The one blinds and oppresses, the other uplifts and unites.”
This was what Public Enemy based its roots upon, every track on It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back focuses on either government or societal issues.
The track “Mind Terrorist” is only simply an instrumental, but the following track, “Louder Than a Bomb” immediately launches into speaking about why Chuck D is on file, “Cause I give you what you lack, come right and exact Our status is the saddest so I care where you at, black.” “Louder Than a Bomb” also focuses more on the instrumental side of using more funk samples of different artists like Kool & The Gang and The Fantastic Five, but also using American Hard Rock Band Mountain’s hit “Long Red.” The constant blending of sampling is just one of the ways that Public Enemy continues to change their style both through the tone and musical approach.
“Caught, Can We Get a Witness” follows and uses an outstanding sample of James Brown’s live tape “Soul Power.” It makes the track feel like a 1970’s police chase or something that would be used in a jungle style of music. The electric guitar used and the authentic drums mixed with Chuck D, Professor Griff, and Flavor Flav on the microphones continue to impress on a production aspect. The lyrical aspect is also impressive as Chuck D delivers some lines pertaining to the performers of Chuck’s time, “You singers are spineless, as you sing your senseless songs to the mindless.”
Following is “Show ‘Em Whatcha Got,” which is more of a slow down from the constant rushed tempo of most of It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. The sample used is a dreamy saxophone and while the track has no real lines or bars, it instead uses different samples pertaining to Black Leaders like Nelson Mandela, Marcus Garvey, Adam Clayton Powell, and even the heavier hitters of the civil rights leaders like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks.
The next track, “She Watch Channel Zero?!” uses a Slayer sample from the track “Angel of Death” and a sample from James Brown’s “Funky Drummer,” which is a track that is constantly sampled all over It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.
“Night of The Living Baseheads” trails behind and uses a sample of Dr. Khalid Abdul Muhammad who later served as a member of the Black Panther Party, describing “Have you forgotten that once we were brought here, we were robbed of our name, robbed of our language. We lost our religion, our culture, our god…and many of us, by the way we act, we even lost our minds.” This track uses distorted horns to lay down the framework of the instrumental, it also uses “Scorpio” by Dennis Coffey and The Detroit Guitar Band for the percussion aspect of the track. There is also a sample of David Bowie’s “Fame” that acts as a small interlude into the rest of the beat.
Then the track “Black Steel in The Hour of Chaos” follows and decides to use the opening line, “I got a letter from the government the other day I opened and read it, it said they were suckers.” Still one of the more clever ways to start a track off, and the execution behind Chuck D’s voice is outstanding. This track is slower, but still the powerful use of thumping bass and bouncing piano keeps the instrumental feeling weighted and impactful. Chuck D shares on the experiences of going and sitting in a prison cell, “They got me rotting in the time that I’m serving.”
“Security of The First World” is another instrumental track, but it comes right before one of the highlight tracks of It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, “Rebel Without a Pause.” It features a sample “I Don’t Know What This World is Coming to,” by The Soul Children before launching into one of the more frantic boom-bap tracks of the record. Chuck D delivers a great complementary assault of lyrics along with the instrumentation. D also throws down some lines about the other members of Public Enemy, “Flavor, a rebel in his own mind. Supporter of my rhyme, designed to scatter a line of suckers who claim I do crime.”
The last two tracks, both “Prophets of Rage,” and “Party for Your Right to Fight” focus on the political and anti-establishment style that Public Enemy made famous. Party for Your Right to Fight” sounds more like a dance or a club track than anything. It is obviously a reference to the Beastie Boys track “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right to Party.” It is also where the term “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” is coined.
It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back will always be looked as a monumental piece in American Protest History. Public Enemy will continually shake the Earth, influencing both young and old; allowing everyone to band together and create a nation of millions.