Enter The 36 Chambers is one of, if not the most well known hip-hop album to date. It is still recognized for the hard spitting members dropping bar after bar, the instrumentals bringing what spawned the classic East-Coast Sound, and an interesting speedway to getting hip-hop into what it is today. The sound, attitude, and overall vibe of Enter The 36 Chambers is one that is not only stimulating to the ears, but paints a fantastic image of the early Hip-Hop music.
The Wu-Tang Sword left its mark on everyone with 36 Chambers, as it was able to flip the game on its head and create some of the best offspring albums as well. The Artists like GhostFace Killah, RZA, GZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and Raekwon were able to use sampling and some bumping beats to create a whole different sound that influenced people even twenty years later. It is incredible to think that songs like “Bring Da Ruckus,” “Method Man,” and of course the legendary “C.R.E.A.M.,” that rocked stereos everywhere from New York to Los Angeles, to all over the world.
“C.R.E.A.M.” is one of those songs that will go down in history of hip-hop art, and music in a general sense. The beginning of the instrumental with the smooth and laid back jazz influence to then jumping right into a crash of cymbals and one of the most remarkable piano pieces to ever be played. It reigns in ears even still to this day and it has been a personal favorite of new coming piano players to learn, and I know it was one of the first things I ever wanted to learn on piano. The bars on “C.R.E.A.M.” just have this struggling overtone and lines like “It’s been twenty-two hard years of still struggling,” and even the hook “Cash rules everything around me,” brings a mind-state of what it was like to be surrounded by barriers and oppression.
The tone of the album then switches from being a serious and authentic true story on “C.R.E.A.M.” to the then joke style of “Method Man” and the opening lines exchanged between Method Man and Raekwon bring a smile to my face every single time I hear it. The “Stabbing your tongue with a rusty screwdriver,” and the banging of “just your nuts on the dresser” is a conversation that is just too entertaining not to laugh at.
This isn’t all what Wu-Tang Clan is about though, other tracks like “Da Mystery of Chessboxin’,” and “Can It Be All So Simple,” are the more serious tracks, bringing some great instrumental and hooks as well. The 36 Chambers just brings hit after hit, just an insanely impressive track record to start a music career with. There is not a single song that can be argued as not intelligently produced or as a subpar song. Each track brings a bumping instrumental and just some of the most rememberable verses to date.
Enter The 36 Chambers is just overall such an influential album that has the classic sound that everyone in the 90’s came to love. Even Generations later, Wu-Tang Clan is still a household name. If you mention Hip-
Hop, you must mention Wu-Tang Clan.
The Flex is a hardcore punk band from Leeds, they draw inspiration from the heavy hitters of punk like Minor Threat, Black Flag, and even a little of Bad Religion, to bring a new era of aggression into the foreground. Their message, that they don’t need you but you sure as hell need them.
Wild Stabs In The Dark was released on Milk Run Records (U.K.) and Video Disease Records (U.S.), it brought a new wave of punk music onto a new generation of people. The Flex is just one of those bands that have such a tight sound and so much energy to each song that it is hard not to break everything in sight within the first listen.
Spanning only about twenty minutes, Wild Stabs In The Dark is the perfect length for this style of music, its fast, destructive, and most of all fun. I just had so much of a great time listening to this and it is surprising to see that The Flex is not shown more love online or around the United States. This is most definitely an underground punk record and The Flex is still on their way up from the flats and apartments in England to the festivals and stadiums they deserve. This could also relate to how The Flex is still a newer band, as their first release The Demo sprouted online in 2012, so they still have plenty of time to start playing more and more shows as time goes on.
Wild Stabs in The Dark has that classic punk sound, and after seeing some of The Flex’s live concerts they look like the energy levels are at an all time high, as crowd surfing, mosh pits, and stage diving all takes place in these small basement like shows that look barely able to support the raging crowd.
The Flex consists of five separate members and their names might be the most interesting part, The Boots is the vocalist and can be heard screaming over Foxy Bingo and The Egg Man on guitar. Bones is the bass player and can be found creating a banging rhythm section with Pimdog who is the drum player. Together they make up the personality of The Flex and create some of the more laughable persona names. The names do not coincide with their sound at all as The Egg Man and Foxy Bingo are two things that I would never expect to hear as they rip apart their instruments and slam down some pounding chords over the rest of The Flex.
The Flex while destructive and overly aggressive, still show structure and a spine to their music. Their attitude is certainly the best part of their presence and songs like “Left To Die” and “Waste My Time” have these quick, breakneck speed riffs along with pounding drums, but they also have these really sweet breakdowns that give the mosh pit a rest and allow for some much needed downtime. They break up the action as in the near twenty minutes that Wild Stabs In The Dark lasts, each song flows into the next and does not really allow for much relaxation in between tracks. This adds to the rapid fire attack that is The Flex and it allows them to go into the situation with a get in and get out style that is still so prevalent in punk music today as it was so long ago.
Wild Stabs In The Dark is available for free on The Flex’s Bandcamp so there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to check out this band. A really great band from the U.K. and a really great hardcore band overall.
Radiohead, the ever-changing, ever-adapting United Kingdom Rock band strikes back after a five-year hiatus from King of Limbs. A Moon Shaped Pool shows a more mellow but still impactful sounding Radiohead and as time progressed, their shifting sound only continues to astound and amazing with each release.
A Moon Shaped Pool has a startling beginning with the first track “Burn The Witch,” this track was also released as a single and it sets a fast paced environment of violins, quick guitar strums, and an electronic hi-hat tap that coincides so well with Yorke’s voice. The track also has these synthesizer chords that have this feeling of being watched, or being superstitious. I loved “Burn The Witch” simply because of how different it feels from the rest of the album, A Moon Shaped Pool is primarily a slowed down, graceful waltz that relies primarily on acoustic instrumentation and piano work.
The second track “Daydreaming” has such a crawling, but beautiful beginning as it starts with piano work then eventually moving into some synth leads and Yorke delivering some sleepy sounding vocals. This was released with “Burn The Witch” in a music video series and while the video is interesting to watch as it compliments the song, the actual track itself feels so daunting at the end as the growls take over the soft piano which then leads into the next track, “Decks Dark.”
“Decks Dark” feels spacious with the keys of a piano echoing over a soft-noise synth, which then leads to some great background vocalization from The London Contemporary Orchestra. There is also a pretty low tuned bass part that hums behind the voices and guitar that creates a great rhythm section along with the drums.
A Moon Shaped Pool feels like such a step in the right direction as every element of the album feels like it has weight and is a drastic puzzle piece to A Moon Shaped Pool. The instrumentation feels so tight, not stiff, but tight in every instrument is mixed and produced so well and the overall tone of the album while dreary and spacious, still has moments that shine.
This is the perfect album to relax to, and it demands to be heard with headphones from all the subtle but important elements. A Moon Shaped Pool also while being primarily acoustic, still has songs like “Ful Stop” that sounds like it belongs in a John Carpenter movie. The bass line along with the drawn out horns create this creeping feeling that could most definitely fit any horror movie. The suspenseful and slowly rising instrumental that A Moon Shaped Pool creates keeps every album feeling like a totally different experience and I feel that the spacious theme of this goes along with the Moon or body of water that the
Space is A Moon Shaped Pool’s biggest ally as it relies on the reverb and space to illustrate a slow moving journey through the world’s biggest area. I just fell in love with the way Radiohead changed up their sound to go for a more halting approach and the experimentation adds something new to A Moon Shaped Pool, it makes listening to it an experience and a journey, something more than just music.
Police sirens, gunshots, and the sounds of violence echoed through the streets of Los Angeles. There were no voices heard, no uprisings, and this was how things were run, until Niggaz With Attitudes, better known as N.W.A come along to stand up to the injustice of police and to bring a window into what the everyday life of a Compton resident is like. N.W.A exposed the injustices of the criminal and court system, the dangers of living in Compton, and the power that the citizens actually possess, they were testaments not just on a social level, but also musically talented artists that used music as a statement.
N.W.A’s Straight Outta Compton first hit shelves all the way back in 1988, a totally different age of music was about to be unleashed onto the public. Bringing a storm of terror-like lyrics, some funky rhythms, and great upstanding messages against society and the oppression of the law. Straight Outta Compton is an album that is a testament to a social issue still continuing today and that is why N.W.A is such an important piece in music history. The speech used in the different tracks illustrate a different side of America. A dark and desolate area where nothing but pain and misery grows, a side where oppression and having freewill is not a thing.
N.W.A was able to spread their message in a way that not only entertaining, but was able to capture audiences with its true to life experiences of what was going on around America in the late 1980’s. Police brutality and down right civil control was at an all-time high, of course this was before the L.A. riots of ’92, but still tensions were coming to a boiling point and the younger generation was just simply fed up of the mistreatment from officers and the government. This would lead to the five main artists rising up to overthrow the degradation of freedom of speech, influencing more voices to be heard and more awareness to a still present situation even near thirty years later.
Straight Outta Compton is just such an iconic album, from the album cover itself to the outstanding production and intense wordplay, this is hip-hop at its finest. Proving to the public that hip-hop and music could still be used as a weapon to combat the daily struggles of society. I just personally fell in love with Straight Outta Compton on my first listen and have been an N.W.A fan ever since sixth grade. When I was younger I loved the rawness and aggression that they portrayed at a glance, but I realize now that the music runs deeper and its actual roots are embedded in American history.
It was interesting to note that N.W.A’s Straight Outta Compton had gone triple platinum, being able to produce more than three million in sales. For a debut rap album coming from a group of teenagers to young adults, this is no small feat. Eventually and unfortunately N.W.A would begin to drift apart, but this also brought many classic rap or hip-hop albums that are still regarded today as the Golden Age of hip-hop. Dr. Dre’s The Cronic, Ice Cube’s Amerikkka’s Most Wanted and even Eazy-E’s Eazy-Duz-It were able to further progress Gangster Rap, bringing creativity and self-expression to the foreground of public agendas. N.W.A may have broken up, but Straight Outta Compton will live on in the pages of history forever.
What could be said that hasn’t already been said about David Bowie; the man was a singer, songwriter, actor, dancer, producer, poet, and a larger than life musician. His newest album Black Star just recently hit the shelves last week, and actually released on his sixty-ninth birthday. Unfortunately, it will be his last release to ever be produced and recorded by Bowie due to his passing on January 10th.
Black Star is the twenty-sixth studio album by David Bowie and he surely does not disappoint with it. Long times fans will find some elements of his glam rock days and at parts it uses similar aspects of Young Americans and Diamond Dogs for the really strong and powerful saxophone fills, the catchy and heart thumping guitar and bass work, and Bowie’s trade mark voice that fits seamlessly over the music. Newer fans can find themselves enjoying the Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) and Outside style that was experienced later in Bowie’s studio career with the synth work and atmospheric vibe at work. Both styles blend together to create this firework display of a final goodbye that makes listeners repeat the album just to experience the whole trip again.
Keep in mind, this is a funeral album. This is not saying the album is not upbeat, that isn’t the case at all. Some of the quicker tracks like “Dollar Days” and “I Can’t Give Everything Away” while being at the end of Black Star, finishes strong and both start off very quick with faster, but also mellow riffs and beats. I say this is a funeral album because it is just such a sad concept to grasp; that David Bowie knew his life was coming to the end and it was somehow turning over into a black star. A star that has depleted all energy, every last morsel in his body to produce this record and to give us this final swan song that is honestly one of his best works to date. The impact and understanding that goes into this record and the message that is brought to the table and what the listener is left with after the dust has settled is unforgettable. Bowie has laid down his final thoughts and ideas on Black Star and tracks like “Lazarus” could be an instrumental and still have a painful impact on the listener. This album will hurt you, and it will pull your emotions through the mud, it will show you what loss is like and anyone who has lost someone close to them can say this album will bring back those feelings.
Black Star is easily one of the best albums of the year (and I know it is still early, but it really is an outstanding production by Bowie) and understanding the message behind the music is something that adds an extra ounce of emotion and lets you see what Bowie sees. Longtime fans of his work could have a difficulty dealing with the message, or accepting the fact that he really is gone, but his legacy will live on past our time and the next. David Bowie was one of the biggest names in the history of Rock n’ Roll and was a lead pioneer in music production and innovator in the genres. The experimentation is really quite the show and while the whole album may not be a perfect as no album is; this album is pretty damn close and it’s one of the few albums I have heard in the last two years that I immediately put on repeat and listened to all over again.
Black Star is David Bowie’s swan song to his fans and to the world around him. Through his years of expressing himself and keeping with the times, Bowie has never been scared to
take a risk and this is one where it pays off in the end and it sets a bar for all albums this year and the coming years. Though it only has seven songs, the songs are stretched out but not to the point where the album or songs drag on for the forty-two minutes. While it is a real shame that David’s passing happened, without those experiences and understandings that come with being so close to death, we would not be left with Black Star. This album is truly the best way to go out and will have people saying not just what a great artist he was, but also what a great visionary he was for the past, present, and future of all music.
Blank Face LP is the newest sophomore album coming from the “Gangsta Crip” Schoolboy Q, who was able to give Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) their first number one debut album with his past release Oxymoron. Blank Face seems to pick up where Oxymoron left off, only that Oxymoron seemed to step on and off with the right foot while Blank Face LP feels like it took several graceful, wonderful, and actually progressive steps before falling down and was unable to get back up again.
The older brother of Blank Face LP, Oxymoron captured so much about what made Schoolboy Q such a loveable artist. His dark, aggressive rhymes rapped over some intricate and creative beats. Oxymoron did have a few songs that weren’t as good as the others, but overall the album was outstanding and that is what surprised me most about Blank Face LP. The fact that Schoolboy Q has proved that he deserves to have listeners and that he can create some down to the core great songs. I just feel that Blank Face LP was a step forward in the production aspect, but the overall lyrics were pretty lackluster and just did not deliver on most ends.
Schoolboy Q is a great lyricist and not only can he have some really powerful sounding hooks/verses, but also his rhyme scheme and how he goes about actually making a song is incredible. The strength and message he conveys seems so personal and such a great way to tap into what it is like being a gangster and doing what you need to survive on the hard streets of Los Angeles or in America even. These personal accounts are where Schoolboy Q thrives, this is also where Blank Face LP falls way below what Q could actually do. Out of my six or seven listens I could only find about five or six actual punchlines or verses that stuck out in the entire album. The song “Ride Out” has a great bar from Q describing “My knuckles filled with teeth.”
This was the aggressive nature that I thought Q would deliver more, do not think that Blank Face LP is all bad because it really is not. The song “Kno Ya Wrong” is a great addition to Blank Face LP and it sounds like it taps into some of the Golden Age of Hip-Hop music. The second part of “Kno Ya Wrong” is also interesting as it describes how much Schoolboy Q had to work to achieve what he has done in his life so far. Even including lyrics like “I’m sold out on everything, Last night, it was a dream.” This is a great bar and it is personal and endearing, this is the Schoolboy Q that I fell in love with as an artist and who could really hold his own on an album. More of this type of lyrics and less of this “Style on top of style, nigga, Five years I’ve been rich, nigga, Drove Beamers down Fig, nigga.”
Speaking of “THat Part,” this is easily the worst song on the entire project. The instrumental is interesting as it shifts from faster to slowed down and the use of the hi-hats to illustrate this created a promising foundation, all it needed was a killer verse from Q and Kanye and the song was golden. “THat Part” is one of those songs that falls not only flat on its face, but it falls through the earth all the way to the core. It really is a terrible song and I am sorry but I will most likely never think so otherwise. The Hook is not great, and Kanye’s “verse” has now become a joke to anyone I meet that has heard this song. It is good to hear it once just to experience it, then never listen to it again.
The other song that I have to talk about is “Big Body,” now this song is actually a pretty good and has some interesting use of jazz style. It uses some saxophone and the disco-centric claps and cymbals are great behind Q’s verse, but the chorus actually made me laugh when I first heard it. “Big Body, Big Benz” is shouted over and over and it sounds like the song could have been better without the hook entirely. If the hook was ditched, I think this would have been my favorite song. The song “Groovy Tony” is another great song and was also released as a single along with “THat Part.” Now this song compared to the other single is actually incredible and it captures the spirit of the old hardcore Schoolboy Q that I remember. The “Most die before they hear it, turn a nigga to a spirit,” lyric is so tight and just captures that “Wow” factor that Schoolboy Q had. It is still there, just not nearly as a present as it was in Oxymoron.
Blank Face LP seems like a step forward production wise, but as I said it steps back from the darkness that Q presided with in Oxymoron, and while the album feels more jazz influenced, at the same time it also feels more mainstream and not as “Gangster Rap” orientated as the first album. Blank Face LP has some great elements and outlines of an outstanding album, but in the end it just wasn’t all there and maybe next time Schoolboy Q can capture what made his music so lovable and interesting.
BADBADNOTGOOD defines what it means to be the revolving door in music, they can transfer over from so many different genres while keeping fresh and consistent in sound quality. Number IV is not distant from this formula as it keeps a fresh take on the dependable sound of BADBADNOTGOOD, while using some new ideas to branch out the tracks that only become better and better though each listen.
The layered quality of each song really adds to the depth of IV. Each track has so many variables that spread out each sound and make every song feel like an experience. Coming from III and Sour Soul, it is incredible just to hear how BBNG has progressed even within the last year and as the band continues to grow, so does their sound. III materialized as more than just as an album as the actual sound of the record seemed to be its own entity. I really loved the production work on III, and BBNG only seems to become better and better with each release.
IV combines all the elements of their previously released content, as each song has a bit of each album release under it wing to support the base. A song like “Lavender” which has a feature from Kaytranada who helps out on the percussion and the CS-60, have more of a hip-hop or rap vibe. The CS-60 gives the track those low, crunchy sounding synths and Kaytranada seems to be everywhere with influences and appearances through BBNG’s career.
Other songs like “IV” and “Chompy’s Paradise” have a Jazzier influence as “IV” is a sprint of a song, creating a blast of saxophone wails and quick drums beats. On the other hand, “Chompy’s Paradise” is a smoother, Jazz club sounding track with melodic synths adding to the area of the song, the saxophone solo and the soft piano keys steal the song away as they sound so perfect together and the whole track is excellent from start to finish.
While BBNG is a primarily instrumental band, they do bring in some friends to complete some vocalization on some of their songs and it was a nice addition to the traditional instrumental work. I still love the instrumental works on IV, but the song “Time Moves Slow” is one of the best songs of BADBADNOTGOOD’s discography to date. It just has such exceptional instrumentation and the lyrics from Sam Herring seem to be so personal that they almost hurt to say out loud. “Loving you was easy, it was you leaving that scarred,” I just loved this song from start to finish and it might be my personal favorite on all of IV.
IV sounds more experimental than its predecessors, but that adds charm and the fun of listening to this record. It provides a new experience and BBNG did a great job on the collaborations to bring vocalization and some different talent onto IV. I would just love to witness the studio sessions where they recorded some of these parts and made the songs into what they are now.
IV is the perfect album for going on a midnight drive as the songs vary from blazing fast jazz, slowed down soft-spoken songs, to the then thumping 808 and synth using beat style. BBNG keeps some tricks up their sleeves and while I will not spoil the album. IV is a welcome addition to the BBNG name and as their releases continue to get better and better, I can only imagine what will happen when we see the release of V. As their Bandcamp page states “IV continues their forward thinking progression, sounding something like a jam session in space between Can, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters, Weather Report, Arthur Russell & MF DOOM.” I couldn’t agree any more with this statement and IV not only brings genres together, but it breaks barriers down.
The Smiths, the legendary British Indie Pop Rock group that inspired a wave of evolution to music as an industry. They became staples in the community as The Smiths were a band that really began that indie sound. Innovative, Intuitive, and of great ingenuity, Meat Is Murder combines so many different elements of great songwriting and great personality and that it is no wonder why The Smiths and Meat Is Murder are still being talked about today.
Originally published in 1985 under Rough Trade Records, Meat Is Murder became an instant hit with the public reaching number one on the charts for thirteen weeks in the U.K. This was in relation to how The Smiths branched out their sound, refined their element, and were producing some more drastic style changes throughout Meat Is Murder. Songs like “Nowhere Fast,” and “Rusholme Ruffians” have more of a folk vibe to them while “How Soon Is Now?” and “The Headmaster Ritual” involves a more punk, or indie rock vibe. Now while indie rock is actually described simply as a band that is independent or not signed to a label, there is a sound associated with that specific genre and it has changed over the years. Now Indie signifies as mostly a lo-fi or low-fidelity sound or way of recording.
The Smiths were one of those innovators of this style of music and “How Soon Is Now?” just sounds so spacious as the drums have a ton of reverb on them which really makes the song so much better. The song’s theme needs a spacious setting and it just has so many little things on the track that just made it such a hit. “How Soon Is Now?” was originally released as a B-Side to a totally different record but had gained so much popularity on alternative radio stations and in dance clubs that it was a great way to spark further interest in Meat Is Murder by including it in future versions of the album.
Meat Is Murder is just one of those great records to throw on while going on a long drive as night as it has some great fast paced songs but can also slow things down to a crawl with the soft-spoken Morrissey singing over The Smiths backing instrumental work. “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore” is just one of those songs, it isn’t quite as slow as Morrissey’s solo work but The Smiths still have some great slowed down ballads. Meat is Murder is actually for the most part a quicker style album with blazing acoustic guitar and pounding drums like my favorite track on Meat Is Murder, “What She Said.” It brings some outstanding percussion work and perfect breakneck guitar riffs to accompany the thumping bass in the background.
Meat is Murder also has a laughable track at the end simply called “Meat is Murder” that uses cow and slaughterhouse noises to illustrate how terrible eating meat really is. I don’t think it makes or breaks the album, it just is a song you hear once and while it actually has a great instrumental, the lyrics are just so funny that I can not take it seriously. I understand what The Smiths were going for, but the cow noises are just a bit over the top for me and hearing Morrissey almost break down and cry while singing “Heifer whines could be human cries” isn’t something I really could relate to.
All in All, Meat is Murder is just a lively record that has some great fast paced dance songs and some slowed down crawl songs. The Smiths came with some outstanding sounds that were intuitive and showed some serious experimentation. It helped push forward an entire genre of music and I’m sure influenced several meat eaters to see how meat really is murder.
In the book of Genesis, two cities are mentioned in its pages. Sodom and Gomorrah, two cities that are one in the same with sin and the destructive nature of the human personality. Earth Crisis captures the spirit of the destruction and the surrounding sin that we as a society face everyday. The music, while hardcore sounding and mosh pit inducing, spread a message of awareness and warning to the modern society.
The lyrics alone, while obliterating and harsh, bring clear mindedness and a clear conscious to the foreground. Earth Crisis is by no means a soft-spoken band, the blasting guitar, bass, drums, and vocals annihilate the ears and bring some daunting themes along with them. The song “Cease to Exist” has some great lines about how “humankind dies in agony,” as “Ash blocks the sun from penetrating the choked atmosphere.” The picture the lyrics paint is a war-torn and destroyed Earth, “ICBM’s (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) scream from their silos.” There is however, no better lyrics or imagery that could fit over the instrumentals and Earth Crisis acts as a beacon of hardcore music.
Gomorrah’s Season Ends is a testament to the destruction of not just human modern society, but to the entire race. The hand at blame is of course our own race, as we struggle for not just power, or greed, but to rule the entire planet by having our hands in everything. Gomorrah’s Season Ends was released in 1996 but still shows signs of our culture even 20 years later. After sitting down and listening deep to the lyrics, I can still hear how they influenced musical artists and had some predictions about the future that came true. The lyrics and stories that are told on Gomorrah’s Season Ends reminds me of Lamb of God’s record Ashes of the Wake as it describes the Iraq war, the thoughts of civilians at home, and what could have been avoided overall.
I really like the production of this record and it has that grainy, metal sounding pound to it. Gomorrah’s Season Ends just feels like it has a thousand-pound weight attached. Earth Crisis just has this presence about them and I could only imagine how insane it would have been to see Earth Crisis performing live all those years ago. For an album that is older than I am, it still today has a serious tone, a bad attitude, but still however manages to hold up and show the cracks in the world.
This is most definitely an album for fans of metal or hardcore music only, the violence and straight up destruction is something that I know many people are not huge fans of. If you can look past all the power and destruction, you will find an album that is just as incredible today, as it was 20 years ago.