Nas, the ever-prolific, verbal “Assassin” drags the listener in to the gritty New York Streets and shows them the ropes of what an average day would be like in the concrete jungle. The disgusting people, the seedy underbelly of a world of crime, but also the beauty in New York, a journey through a double life, and doing what needs to be done for survival. In the end, Nas is an educator, rather than just another New York rapper.
Illmatic, not only one of the most outstanding hip-hop records ever, but also a statement on life in New York. The constant struggle to overthrow the next person in power to come out on top. Nas has no problem opening up on his personal story, and from the very beginning of “N.Y. State of Mind,” it is clear what his intentions are.
“N.Y. State of Mind,” has this New York at nighttime feel, the back-alleys with manholes spewing steam, the busy streets, and the classy style of the people. Nas opens up about where his roots are, “Straight out the fucking dungeons of rap, where fake niggas don’t make it back.” Nas is not afraid to put his personal story out there to share exactly what goes down in The City That Never Sleeps. Rather than speaking of how wonderful life is there, he explains the struggle for food, power, and survival.
Nas then follows up with “Life’s a Bitch” which has this smooth, boom-clap beat. It feels like a callback to the jazzier sides of hip-hop, and throughout Illmatic, these callbacks to a different time period. The smooth beats, the constant theme of survival, and growing up on the city streets. The hook, while laid over this uplifting beat is quite depressing, “Life’s a bitch and then you die, that’s why we get high cause you never know where you’re gonna go.”
Illmatic then comes to “The World Is Yours,” which is hands down one of the greatest hip-hop songs ever made. The beat, the lyrics, everything about this track is just so musically sound and it gives Illmatic a switch up in style. The lyrics are still about how untamed Nas’ life was, but it at least has a more uplifting mood and looks to the future with bright eyes.
Following is the track “Halftime,” which goes back to the boom-bap style that was made popular by the East Coast rap clique. Nas was the king of East Coast rap and anytime that someone mentions New York or the East Coast, they will be talking about Nas. “Halftime” has these intriguing horn pops that go in synchronization with the hook and it truly makes the track come alive.
All over Illmatic there is an enormous amount of Jazz horns being played over the beats and it gives the feeling of something like a street performer playing in the wee hours of the night. The horns compliment each beat so well, making every track feel similar in style, but entirely different in tone. Each track feels so layered and it was nearly impossible not to fall in love with each one. It was no question seeing why Illmatic is still talked about today as one of the greatest records of all time.
Nas then continues on with the theme of the older days with “Memory Lane (Sittin’ in Da Park.” The beat rather than having horns that flare up, has a great use of vocal samples and record scratching to fill the empty space. Nas strikes again with another great verse and throughout the whole of Illmatic, there is not one single verse that feels lacking or not fleshed out. Nas did an incredible job with each track, making his story relatable and understandable by all. Nas takes the listener to New York, shows him the situations, and the finally proves why Nas was and still is The King of New York.
So this is going to be a recap of some numbers, some thank you’s, and some future stuff. Lets start with the boring things first…
Since I started this website, I have had exactly as of right now
So since the numbers are out of the way… I want to say thank you. For every single person that has and will ever read my opinion on music. I put my soul into this site, and I couldn’t be happier seeing people coming back every week and reading. This will grow, I promise… I have not missed a single day yet, and I will do everything I can to keep that going. I have a ton of things going on in my life, Senior Year is no joke… But seriously, stick with me and I promise you that I will not fail you. I will write on this site until I can no longer hear music, or type on a keyboard. I want to start in Pittsburgh, but see MattsMusicMine.com grow around the U.S., then finally the world. I am going to hold this shit down and make my dream come true. Just stick with me, and enjoy what is coming.
Speaking of the future… I have had business cards made and are available for anyone to get. If you would like one or ten, just e-mail me or hit me up in real life if you know me. There are also going to be T-Shirts made very shortly so again if you want one, just let me know and I will gladly send them out. Nothing too extravagant, just a little something for the people who support me. I am still taking suggestions for any music, do not be shy. I will listen to anything and try to share my opinion. It is still crazy to see how everyday this little castle of mine continues to grow. No one starts at the top, but I intend to see it within my lifetime. I treat MattsMusicMine.com like a job or a future career. One day I hope I can live off this site, but until then I want everyone to know that I appreciate every single follower, every single view, and every single person that even acknowledges me in this vast world. Thanks again, and welcome to The Mine.
Matthew Ryan Miramontes
Amy Winehouse, the immensely talented singer with a dark past that was able to refine soul music and bring it to a mainstream audience. The use of her blissful voice, tainted storytelling, and ultimately a story of despair, produced one of the greatest soul records of all time.
Back to Black is the tale of Amy Winehouse’s unfortunate downfall and run-ins with depression, alcoholism, and an endless string of pain. While Back to Black has a primarily cheery sound, the end product when mixed with Winehouse’s ability to illustrate the short-comings within herself becomes a picture of light forming into the shadow. The “black” creeps in as the light fades out, the whole album is constantly met with this undying theme of duality within itself.
Back to Black begins with Winehouse’s hit song, “Rehab” which not only was one of the biggest songs off of the album, but the perfect example of how Winehouse struggled with her addiction and those around her wanted to help her with her habit. Back to Black as the title suggests is a constant downward motion. The perpetual spiral Winehouse describes through her music, leading up to her death in 2011 leaves a bitter taste in the listener’s mouth. Back to Black is such a masterpiece musically, but it has this great amount of baggage and dread attached to the tracks and what Winehouse speaks of.
The following track “You Know I’m No Good” has this great jazz style bass line and the drums behind both Winehouse and the gradual horn flare creates this relaxed feel. The musicians that Winehouse worked with on Back to Black did a perfect job of backing her vocals and to have them both stand out without overpowering each other could not have been done any better. Winehouse sings a great chorus “I cheated myself like I knew I would” and again, it gives off an uneasy feeling to the listener.
“Me & Mr. Jones” follows and this is the perfect example of what sounds like soulful, gospel music. The organ, the lively background vocals, and even the way Winehouse uses her booming voice to assert herself in the track was outstanding.
Then the song “Just Friends” has this interesting dreamy guitar beginning that slowly rises up into the use of off-beats on the percussion. Winehouse again does an outstanding vocal performance and that is one of the staples of Back to Black. With any other singer, this record would just simply not work. Winehouse does an incredible job with each delivery and she can make even the most hurtful lyrics sound like silk.
Finally, the track “Back to Black” comes into frame and it is easily one of the best tracks Winehouse has ever performed in her career. Everything about this song was executed so well, and the strings ensemble used these great chords that stick out so well and could make a substantial song by itself.
There is also the track “Wake Up Alone” which has this 1950’s teenage dance sense to it. The guitar moves freely through the fret-board making the whole track feel like as if it is moving in slow motion. Winehouse speaks again about “The dark covers me and I cannot run now.”
Amy Winehouse was a truly talented musician and Back to Black is her swan song of an album that touches into the depths of her struggle with depression, addiction, and ultimately death. Winehouse was able to create on of the most soulful albums of a generation, and will live on through her tracks that continue to rattle the Earth even to this day.
$uicideboy$, the now fairly known punk/clout/trill-rap group that swept the underground rap scene by storm, finally releases their highly anticipated debut album, Eternal Grey. This was supposed to be the best of the best from $uicideboy$, the real crème de la crème. Unfortunately, Eternal Grey is interesting at a first glance, but then slowly fades into what feels like a writer’s block nightmare.
Eternal Grey has some interesting and intuitive instrumentation, the beats that back the tracks are actually varied and switch up in style even within the songs themselves. What was lacking, was the actual verses. $uicideboy$ has always been on the verge of “edgy” and “trying too hard,” with Eternal Grey, they start to teeter more towards the “too hard” part of the spectrum.
The first track that comes to mind is “I Want to Believe,” this track starts out promising with a strong introduction from $crimm, or who is now better known as Yung $carecrow. Then it goes into this outrageously aggressive screaming match that destroys the track. Usually this would be something I could get behind as it is an in your face kind of attitude, however on “I Want to Believe” it just feels so out of place and unwelcome.
There were some great things on Eternal Grey, but they were mostly the production side of things. The beats on “BREAKDALAW2K16,” “Elysian Fields,” and the wolf howl sample used on “Eclipse” were all great uses of what $uicideboy$ had at their disposal. Unfortunately, the production just was not enough to save Eternal Grey from becoming monotonous after only a few listens.
From the track “Ultimate Suicide” that was leaked, it was easy to become immensely excited to hear some new music from the “Underground Kings.” Instead I found it to be better to go back to their older tapes that had more fleshed out ideas. Eternal Grey has so many shifts and jumps in songs, which sometimes works out for the album but in this case it crushed the album down even farther than it already was.
Eternal Grey was a project that had more than enough hype and potential to be $uicideboy$ best release to date. Sadly, the debut album is more of a less interesting sounding montage of all their songs from previous releases.
Eternal Grey was an experimental mess of misery, rather than moving forward, I feel like Eternal Grey is just standing still. It was not entirely a flop. The production continues to become better and better and while I downright hated certain songs, there were still some moments that made me feel like I was discovering $uicideboy$ all over again.
Bad Brains, the album that is better known to the public as “Banned in D.C.” will be the album that sparks a punk revolution. Bad Brains was a legendary group that seamlessly blended both raw aggression and slowed reggae to spread peace, love, and empowerment through music.
Bad Brains opens to the clash of drumsticks deciding the tempo to what would become one of the catchiest songs on Bad Brains line-up. “Sailing On” would become a staple in music history, the vocal performance from front-man H.R., the bands quick fingers on both the guitar and bass from Dr. Know and Darryl Jenifer, and the iconic drums being played by non other than H.R.’s little brother Earl Hudson, creates a frenzy and flurry of emotion that pours in within the track’s first four seconds.
The band had an established following in their hometown of D.C. for not only being Rastafarians that played punk music, but for their off the charts level of energy they brought to shows. Stage diving, wild dancing, and mosh pits were all synonymous with Bad Brains, and D.C. would soon have nothing to do with that.
The Track “Banned In D.C.” would touch upon their short-lived banned in the clubs and lyrics like “Banned in D.C. with a thousand more places to go.
Gonna swim across the Atlantic, cause that’s the only place I can go,” show their disapproval with the ban. It was not entirely surprising to see Bad Brains banned, but it was surprising to see how wildly successful the band was despite the ban. The group would move to do tours all over the United States, Europe, and pretty much any place that wanted to see Bad Brains destroy a venue.
Wild, belligerent, but still at a moments notice, able to calm down and go into a slow melodic groove of jazz, complimented with reggae. The group was able to understand how important the merging of multiple genres was in music, and were able to blend them perfectly.
Bad Brains will go from tracks like “The Regulator,” “Attitude,” Supertouch/Shiftit,” “Big Take Over,” and even “Right Brigade,” to the tender and tranquil tracks like “Leaving Babylon,” or “Jah Calling” where they could be played in a late night jazz club. Bad Brains has these breaks in the action, but they are done so well for the album has this great motion and flow that keeps the breaks feel so significant to the the record.
Not only is Bad Brains a punk hybrid, with reggae influences. They are actually social commentators that give the voiceless a voice in all the confusion that is daily life. Punk music was freedom and was a liberating way to express oneself in the 1970’s, just as it is today. Bad Brains shows how the punk mentality is not just for a single group of people, it can work for everyone and music can connect one branch of people to another.
No Love Deep Web is the violent child of overpowering synthesizers, a dramatic vocal performance, and a primal sense of understanding. The album perfectly balances both heightened sensation and the relation to inner destruction. No Love Deep Web not only gets in your face and destroys everything in sight, but it also taps into the inner-working of schizophrenia, paranoia, and elemental aggression.
Death Grips is like another wonder of the world; they are interesting to not only see, but to experience. No Love Deep Web is an experience like no other, from the first synth lead on “Come Up and Get Me” to the moment the track leads into MC Ride’s first vocal performance of the album, it has this immense amount of animation. The track moves through these varying beat patterns that include Ride with an exerting scream that appears all throughout No Love Deep Web.
This is easily Ride’s most intense form of vocal performance to date. Rather than simply rapping, he shouts every single lyric and there would be no other way that Death Grips would work without it. Between the vast amount of percussion, the varying beats laid with keyboards, and the aggressive vocals, they all compliment each other and make what Death Grips is. No Love Deep Web capitalizes on this concept and creates an in your face, primal rage of an album.
Throughout No Love Deep Web, there are these interesting beat changes that not only vary the songs flow, but vary the sounds used as well. The percussion is intricate, but also feels natural. Zach Hill does a perfect job of creating these near ritualistic sound with his drums, twisting them and distorting them like in the track “No Love.”
This track is the heavy-hitting, ear numbing, destroyer that has one of the most memorable beats of No Love Deep Web. “No Love” is a powerful onslaught that also includes a great percussion break in-between the constant pounding of the bass drum. The snare bounces and creates this strange but catchy tap beat when compared, the whole track is overall deafening. However, the snare break is able to reel the track back into a less aggressive flow.
Following “No Love” is “Black Dice,” this track has a low tuned bass undertone, with a more fore-frontal, higher pitched synth part that seems to echo throughout the song. It creates an interesting duality within the track as both instruments seem to build each other up. The track then leads into these great synth chords and then abruptly cuts off leading into the next track.
“World Of Dogs” has this strangely enticing beat with what sounds like a double bounce dream. The bass drums bang out these great eighth notes and the lyrics are what steals the spotlight. The “Mountains of Teeth,” and the line “It’s all suicide to me” floats out of Ride’s Monotone voiced. “World Of Dogs” and No Love Deep Web as a whole, has this overarching theme of death and suicide attached to it. Not only is MC Ride’s lyrics intense, but they also touch upon all the thoughts of one who is going breathe one’s last breath
The next track “Lock Your Doors” is what a tornado of fire would sound like. The track is not only aggressive like the rest of No Love Deep Web, but the track is also disturbed. Ride continues with the subject of misery, “Come on stick me, cut e, drain me, suck me, drink me, take me down.”
No Love Deep Web is aggressive, forceful, but ultimately full of vitality. I loved Ride’s vocal performances and Zach Hill was absolutely incredible with the percussion work.
The final track “Artificial Death in the West” features one of the less punishing tracks of No Love Deep Web. The track is able to blend what sounds like a drive through city outskirts at night, and an impressive display of vocalization and reverberation. While it does not fit the other tracks as well, it ends the album on a higher note and creates this great sense of space.
Not only is No Love Deep Web a crushing album full of fractured bones, loud screams, and an overly abrasive tone, but it is also filled with a certain beauty to the destruction. It obliterates, but it also rebuilds.
Cheena, the intense punk rock band from New York holds back no punches with their newest release, Spend the Night With… It is loud and abrasive, showing nothing but the raw musical emotion behind the shady nights in Brooklyn, The street-smarts of Soho, and the crowded train cars of Queens.
Cheena brings the downright dirty images of New York up in all of their music. One can imagine the crowded streets, back alleys, and of course the different types of people all forming in one single metropolis. Spend the Night With… is able to capture that incredible authenticity of the city life, and while the album is slightly reminiscent of Iggy Pop as the way the recording was done in an almost lower quality sound. Cheena is loud, in your face, and destructive as well.
Tracks like “Stupor,” “Car,” and “Tarzan” have these great changes in the song’s progression. It was intriguing to hear just where the song would finally end up, it was almost as though the tracks progressed themselves and they had this great amount of flow to them.
Other tracks, like “Nights” have this clash of both slower and faster parts that create a duality within the track. The drums while faster and pounding, contrasted with the floating guitar sounds created a great sense of a long day, but an even longer night.
The overall sound quality of Spend the Night With… was fairly eyebrow-raising as it sounded as though the tracks were recorded with only a single microphone. It added another element to the tracks that felt very personal, like this was a recording done in someone’s basement at two in the morning.
Cheena does a great job of creating a setting for their music, as Spend the Night With… progresses musically, it also progresses in telling this great story through instrumental solos and some downright gruff vocals. All throughout Spend the Night With… the vocals continue to repeat in my head as they just sound so dirty, but also elegant at the same time. Going with the theme of duality again, the vocals on certain songs like “Lost My Way” are more melodic and are actually quite pretty. This is contrasting with the instrumentation as it continues to be a mismatch of some guitar switch ups between higher and lower chords, and the drums keeping a steady beat on the floor tom.
Then finally comes the last track, “M.E.” This was easily my favorite track of the whole album as it has this great uplifting guitar riff and it is just the perfect song to move to. It is also one of the quicker songs and just as soon as it begins, it comes to a close.
However, I wish there would have been more use of the drums
as they seemed to only play a background part and there was so much potential to have them really shine through.So come on and spend the night with one of the better releases this year, come on and Spend the Night With… Cheena.
In 1974, an instant classic was released upon the public, an album showcasing both innovative instrumentation, fascinating harmonies between singers, and performances
Crime of The Century was a record that just simply rocketed Supertramp into becoming recognized for what immensely talented musicians they were. The production behind each track has this outstanding spacious feel and it sits, matching the interesting genre that most people will call “art rock.” This is still rock n roll at its finest points, but the way Supertramp modifies the formula and the way they are able to manipulate each track into becoming such a powerful and well layered song, is something of magic.
Crime of The Century begins the track “School,” the wails of the harmonica has just become so iconic in the way it echoes in the room. It begins to set the space, giving off this ominous sound that leads into a child’s scream, then finally the music comes blasting in. I loved the use of layering on Crime of The Century, the way that each track has such depth and finding something new becomes almost child’s play after each listen.
Supertramp then keeps the pace with the following two tracks, “Bloody Well Right” and “Hide In Your Shell,” which are both a powerhouse of saxophones and horns behind the almost hopeless lyrics each of these tracks. “Write your problems down in detail, take them to a higher place, You’ve had your cry- no I should say wail, in the meantime hush your face,” paints this bleak picture of no free speech on “Bloody Well Right.”
Then following, “Hide In Your Shell” starts out and seems to be a more slowed down, and almost having this symphonic sound. The track then ramps up to this emotional conversation that happens inside oneself. It illustrates through the lyrics the confusion of where one’s life has headed as they become older, and start to see things much differently than what they were.
“Asylum” follows and this is easily the most dramatic of the tracks on Crime of The Century. It makes a point to show this internal struggle of, what one’s life had come to. The track starts beautifully with these piano keys being played over what would soon becoming an intense fight for sanity. Eventually the blissful piano keys disappear and “Asylum” slowly falls down this rabbit hole of crashing sounds being played together to create what seems to be a split personality in the music.
Crime of The Century really focuses so well on a story of one person trying to fit in to a society that just will not accept them. The tracks like “Asylum,” Dreamer,” and even “Rudy” paint this actually quite daunting life of what seems to be a person that will never be allowed to live how they want. In the track “Dreamer” it simply explains how the dreamer in this situation is ridiculed for being just that. How his ideas will never be anything more, he is just a “Stupid little dreamer.”
Supertramp created what I would call a rock opera, it shows the story of a person trying to fit into a society, that will only throw them away, lock them up, and destroy the key. While the music is progressive and quite beautiful, it contrasts to the morbid overtone of how we, as a society will always be ridiculed for out ideas and never truly be free. Either way, Supertramp opens up a new world, not just musically, but narratively as well.
The self-proclaimed genius/god, was once a single man named Kanye West. Kanye made a name for himself as just a kid from Chicago that had a dream of making it big and leaving behind a totally different life than what he lives now. What was once a life of pain, sadness, and over all melancholy, has now become a life of pleasure, luxury, and ultimately, the life of a god.
Yeezus is the project from Kanye West that totally changes up his style and adopts a more industrial sound. The beats are toned low, grimy, and have a beaten feeling. The opening track “On Sight” has these synth chords and progression that sound like a borderline war within a track. The synths appear crunchy at first, then frequently change between loud and aggressive to a more poppy and cheerful feel. This mixed with the interesting beat change where a child chorus comes in creates an overall interesting first track.
West has always been known for his incredible and unmatched production, Yeezus is no different as he is able to simultaneously change the beat up from song to song, each track adapting to West’s changing attitude. West at certain points in tracks like “BLKKK SKKKNHEAD” and “Blood On The Leaves” has these screams that show just how he progressed from his past releases. There will be no tracks like “Homecoming” or “All Falls Down.” West has changed his entire style and Yeezus sounds more primal. This is a new Personally, I thought Yeezus was one of West’s better releases as it has such interesting production and while the verses are not the most amazing, they are still earth-shattering as Kanye West drops some great knowledge about his surroundings. The track “I Am A God,” while I was not entirely a fan of, was still interesting to hear West compare himself to this god of rap music. I liked where the song was going, I just could not fall in love with the cornier lines in this track.
Then Yeezus moves onto one of the best tracks that I think West has ever done,
“New Slaves” has such a catchy and interesting beat, which then switches up to a full symphony of voices that echo behind the instrumentation. West rattles off some interesting verses about “Leaders and Followers,” to then “Rather being a Dick than a
Swallower.” Every time I hear West say this line, it continues to make me laugh as it is just such an insane thought and it always seems to catch me off guard. The track then has this amazing switch-up in the beat to a sample of Hungarian Rock Band, Omega. This is easily the greatest part of the entire song as Omega has these great string ensembles, that Kanye pairs with a woman’s vocals and it makes the entire track.
When most people ask me why I like Yeezus, I can reply simply as, “It is the album where Kanye West let his creative juices flow and really sounds like he went into a deep insanity.” There is only one track that I could do without and “Hold My Liquor” takes that prize. I just really did not think it was overall a great track and it sounded like a side project. It was not nearly as fleshed out as I would have hoped, and it does not match the rest of the album as well as the other tracks.
Remaining tracks like “I’m In It,” “Blood On The Leaves,” and “Send It Up,” all have these great industrial breakdowns and while “Blood On The Leaves” is able to have an overall beautiful sound, the theme behind the track is actually quite horrid. I just loved to hear how West was able to convey his ideas and change his sound up into a totally different direction. It was unexpected, and if you compared this to the Kanye West albums that came out over ten, even five years ago, it would sound like a totally different artist.
The final track “Bound 2” has become synonymous to what I would call one of the more comedic tracks of West’s. While I do love this song, I still think the beat change up and the overall lyrics are, well interesting to say the least. It was the perfect send off to one of the best albums Kanye West has ever released. He may not be a god, or a king, he might just be a psychopath, but you just have to respect Yeezus.
Vince Staples was always an artist that had great visionary procedure and knew how to really capture an audience. Summertime ’06 was the album that described Staples’ come up from a life with a father in crime, to what his life had become now as he tried to break the cycle, but ended up following in his father’s footsteps. Prima Donna is partially a continuation of what Summertime ’06 touched upon.
Vince Staples still talks about his younger days in Long Beach, California, and the setting around him. Staples, who is an immensely bright artist that was surrounded by the darkness of crime, violence, and misery, recognizes this and touches upon the subject all over Prima Donna. The first sounds heard on “Let It Shine” is what seems to be a gun being loaded, then fired into Staples or someone around him. It could most likely be assumed that Staples kills himself as suicide references are all over Prima Donna.
The track “Prima Donna” has a line where Staples describes how he would “Buy a million-dollar home and blow my dome to paint the kitchen.” Vince Staples has never been afraid to talk about darker subject matter and speak his mind. Prima Donna is a testament to that, as Vince Staples changes up his style in part for pieces of spoken-word poetry in between tracks.
These breaks do not act as just filler to the album length, they are actually some of the most important pieces to the Prima Donna puzzle. The spoken word was such a amazing addition and the way that Staples implements it as a way of progression just proves how talented he is as an artist. Without being confined to a beat or bars, Staples is able to rhyme together phrases that resemble a stream of consciousness that I still find myself repeating even now.
There is a great line on the track “Smile” where Staples says “Don’t say you feel my pain, cause I can’t even feel myself.” Prima Donna is by no means an uplifting album, but Staples manages to make the record still have some pumped-up beats that are some of his best yet. The beat for “Prima Donna” and “Big Time” were some that could have easily fit on his Summertime ’06 record and “Big Time” even has a similar “Next Time on Poppy Street”
segment. The thunderous rain clouds, and the woman asking “Is anyone there?” creates this eerie feel and I can only imagine what Staples has in store for his next release.
Staples who has always been a favorite artist of mine has really been setting the bar so far above the competition that it is amazing to see how he grows with each release and how he continues to destroy barriers in music. The outstanding production, the catchy lyrics, and the spoken-word, when put together create this powerhouse of an LP.
Head Hunters is the golden standard for outstanding musical composition and flow in jazz music. To say that Herbie Hancock is one of the greats would be a disservice to him and to this testament to the music world. Head Hunters is not only an immensely intense record with tempo changes and complete beat switch ups in a second, but it is also one of the greatest jazz fusion records of all time.
Herbie Hancock is the mastermind behind the twelfth studio album simply titled, Head Hunters. This four track long LP may sound underwhelming, but if you know anything about Herbie Hancock, you know that what his albums lack in song quantity, they make up for in song quality and length.
Head Hunters is just over the forty-one-minute mark, and when the crunchy sounding synth lead kicks off the album with the rest of the band finally joining in, it gives off this moment of intrigue into where the LP will flow to.
Beginning almost softly and with a more laid back tone on “Chameleon,” Head Hunters soon picks up to be a near free-form jazz standard that melts the face of anyone listening. As “Chameleon” continues on this near bouncing walk of an almost funk beat, it slowly changes into something that is not at all like the original start. It slowly picks up into the crash of an amazing synth solo that seems to echo in the mind for hours. The drums and background horns are also great at backing up and keeping the very tightly-knit sound together.
There is also this great part where “Chameleon” changes into what sounds like a chase scene from a dramatic movie, where the drums pick up and the strings behind the band create this intense overtone to the track.
The next track which is titled “Watermelon Man” has this interesting use of flute that reigns through the track, which only breaks as the song slows down to a near crawl. Which then builds back up to the original beat, when first hearing “Watermelon Man,” the different flutes and background vocals that pass as near shouts almost made me laugh. Then when the bass kicks in and has this booming drum track that is filtering in and out of fills just creates this great use of everything Hancock had to use. Head Hunters is an album that is not only complex, but also layered and shows these great progressions through each track. It is almost as if the tracks have tracks inside themselves.
Hancock then moves into a more free-form style of track with the song “Sly.” This is where the Saxophone wails, the jungle beats form, and the cymbal blasts just rampage through the track. The build up is rather slow, but as the track moves along, it becomes more and more frantic. This is where Head Hunters is able to show the true power of the musicians on each instrument. The multiple layering and just how outstanding the actual sound is, was just incredible to experience. By the end of “Sly” the band is in full Bravado, blaring everything they have into one single song.
The finale of Head Hunters is by far my favorite track on the whole LP, “Vein Melter” is the perfect send off. The thumping bass line and the string ensemble creates this great rhythm to the track, but the piano and keyboards are the real important pieces of the puzzle. The high toned keys that Hancock plays just seem to bounce effortlessly through this dark, noir-like, two in the morning jazz club feel. Head Hunters is not only a perfectly created composition, but it is a journey to another realm known only to us, as Herbie Hancock’s World.
Let’s face it, Ratking is a conglomerate of talented producers and lyricists that can bring that New York vibe to anyone who never even stepped foot in The Big Apple. Wiki steps out of the shadows of Ratking and into the spotlight with his new record Lil Me.
Wiki has always been well known for his lyrics and having the ability to annihilate beats without even breaking a sweat. In Lil Me, the beats included are diverse and some of the most original that I have heard since Earl Sweatshirt’s I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside. Wiki Stands up to the crowd with use of heavy bass, that classic street style saxophone, and that pristine hi-hat that grooves the music along at a steady pace and it is easy to lose focus on the lyrics as you focus on the beats behind it. However, the lyrics are a change for Wiki, they seem to be more melancholy and also seem to touch more on how Wiki feels with his new found fame. This is an energized album for the most part, but with songs like “Seedy Motherfucker” and “Patience” the pace is slowed down and they let us get a look more into the personal life of Wiki and even some of the artists featured like Antwon, Slick Boy, Teddy AF, Skepta, and of course he comes along with the help of his two long term friends and other members of Ratking; Sporting Life and Hak. When they come together on the track it is almost nostalgic for anyone who has been listening to Ratking since the days of Wiki93.
Wiki explains in several songs that he “feels alone when he is home” and no one can comprehend him, but through tours and going to London he realizes that people do “get him.” On “God Bless me” Sporting Life explains that “When I’m out in London know they get me.” Wiki brings up his loss of passion which is new to him and then discusses how he can talk about the responsibilities of being an adult like getting into fist fights with bouncers and the fun of not being able to hear anything in the overpowering coliseum that is New York.
This is where Wiki shines his brightest, but also starts to fall to a less energetic ending that reminds the listener of those early morning sessions of the noises of New York. The second to last track of this eighteen track powerhouse is more somber journey, reminding the listener of what it meant to “come back from the wrong side.” Wiki through out this track describes the changing leaves which would obviously lead and refer to the changes inside Wiki’s life and what has happened over the last couple years. “Sun Showers” is a fitting end to the record unless including the forty-six-minute-long speech from Aaron Bondaroff. The track really flows well from the rest of the album and it leaves on a very high note.
For those who do not understand or know of Wiki yet, Lil Me is definitely worth your time if you are into quick “club-style” beats, or it is good for the slow listener with tracks like
“Seedy Mothefucker” and “Sun Showers.” It has a little bit of everything for everyone and it really can teach you about New York and what it meant to be a “mutt” fairly quickly. Wiki has not only set the bar for newer MC’s, he has also crushed and walked over anyone who doubted in the past, saying he never could do something great with himself.
The debut studio album from Thee Oh Sees is one that extends its reach into many different genres, but does them all so well that it is actually hard to describe this album. The punk rock songs are fast, aggressive, and have that great straight to the point punk feel, but the slower, more melodic tracks are still progressive enough to hold the listener’s attention and keep them, me included, begging for more.
A Weird Exits is an album that I went in with no previous knowledge of the record, or of the record label known as Castle Face. I was instantly blown away by how edgy and raw the recording on A Weird Exits was, but also how well they fit inside all these different genres. It reminded me of the first time I had ever heard a Death Grips record and just had no clue how to describe them. Thee Oh Sees are like a punk-rock hybrid that crossed paths with The Smiths and a little bit of jazz influence as well. Like I said before, they are extremely hard to pin-point into one single sound and that works perfectly for Thee Oh Sees as they have free range to move in any direction.
A Weird Exits begins with the track “Dead Man’s Gun” that has this really sweet little guitar lick that acts a small filler between the drums and the near chanting of front-man and woman, John Dwyer and Brigid Dawson on the vocals. The two make for a great combination as Brigid’s voice has a softer and more approachable tone while Dwyer uses his voice to be powerful and put some assertion behind each track. Thee Oh Sees also consists of Petey Dammit, who is sometimes called Petey Dammit! and Mike Shoun on drums.
Together, Thee Oh Sees are a newer band that I just felt a sense of nostalgia with their sound and could instantly become attached to their music. It had this gritty, crunchy, and dirty tone, all while keeping a consistent change in overall feel that kept A Weird Exits feeling fresh after every listen.
While the album narrowly misses the forty-minute mark, it still is able to break down the walls of genre and create something that feels old but is actually totally new. Each track feels like a different experience and tracks like “Gelatinous Cube” had this surf feel to it and was able to remind me of early Wavves.
Then fast forward to the end of A Weird Exits and you come out with the song “The Axis” which was easily my favorite track of the entire album. The backing vocals, the organ piece, the dreamscape sounding guitars, the eerie lyrics, the whole track is just a masterpiece. I just loved the line “Don’t you know how much I don’t love you,” and
“Don’t you know how much I don’t care.” Its like Thee Oh Sees are just spitting in the face of everyone who ever made a love ballad in their life. It is honestly such a beautifully crafted song and it makes the whole album do an entire one-eighty spin.
Thee Oh Sees are a great band that I look forward to hearing more of, they have some other earlier EP’s and tracks out and while I go back to those, I can only recommend their work to everyone else. At least check out “The Axis” if nothing else, as A Weird Exits can take us to some strange places, they still continue to be fascinating.
New York City, a popular metropolis that was the epicenter of entertainment in America during the 1980’s. The gritty city that had so much talent at one time, that it was near impossible to keep up with. John Lennon’s Live In New York City is just another one of those outstanding albums that had mixed a social message, and entertainment into one single package.
Live In New York City shares the intimate evening where John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Jim Keltner, and finally the entirety of Elephant’s Memory, who was a band that backed up Lennon and Ono on stage that night.
Elephant’s Memory features a saxophonist by the name of Stan Bronstein, Bronstein’s work is one of the most pivotal points on Live in New York City. The saxophone work on this entire album is placed so well and Bronstein plays it just like a lead guitarist. The sax is not over powering, however, it just makes its self present in each track and continues to impress me with each listen.
John Lennon, who was obviously known for being in a small, underground band known as The Beatles actually strays away from the pop-rock sound that they were known and loved for. Instead Lennon decides to play more rock n’ roll focused tracks, while impressing the crowd at Madison Square Garden with covers of Elvis’s “Hound dog,” and the infamous track “Come Together,” but this time being played faster and in a totally different key making the track almost unrecognizable to those that do not listen to The Beatles regularly.
Live in New York City also includes some of the lesser known Lennon and Ono tracks like “Woman Is the Nigger of the World.” This is a track that Lennon himself says before playing “The Next song is one of those many songs of ours that got banned.” Lennon and
Ono were always avid speakers of civil rights, fair treatment of men and women, and being huge endorsers of peace. It was no surprise that this song was banned, as based on the name, people might expect a harsh song that is filled with hate, but the song is actually beautifully written and just shares Lennon’s opinion on how women were being treated at this point in time. Unfortunately, much of what is discussed on “Women Is the Nigger of the World” is still present and happening even in modern society today.
The Musical performance of not just Lennon and Ono, but also from the backing of Elephant’s Memory created one of the greatest live albums in history. This would also be Lennon’s first time performing live since after The Beatles break-up, this would also mean that this was the last live concert Lennon would ever perform.
John Lennon had such an influential voice and was the leader in a generation that believed in a peace movement, Live in New York City is a testament of how performers can come together in one place in the name of one
single goal. Lennon just simply wanted peace on Earth, and the way he expressed his voice was through music, and he wanted others to express their feelings anyway they could. As the crowd at Madison Square Garden fled back onto the dark New
York Streets, it was said that the chant from the crowd “Give Peace a Chance” could be heard six blocks away that night.
Lumpy & The Dumpers is the premier lo-fi punk band hailing from Saint Louis, Missouri. The band screams from start to finish on Huff My Sack and there really are no breaks on the album. Each track lasts almost under two-minutes excluding “Numbing Agent,” and “Spider Bite,” which both together don’t even reach a seven-minute mark. Needless to say, Huff My Sack is short winded, but this is not necessarily a bad thing.
While Lumpy & The Dumpers consist of fast garage punk and full blast songs, they still have variety and depth to them. The short time frame that Huff My Sack carries still gives enough time to get in, destroy everything in sight and then leave just as quickly as it started. From the very first time I heard Huff My Sack, I just fell in love with how abrasive it was.
Lumpy & The Dumpers is most definitely not a mainstream band, and that adds to their charm as the lo-fi recording, as well as everything in a noisy environment creates this great forcefulness and aggressiveness to the tracks. It gives them raw emotion that is missed out in a lot of overly-mastered tracks today. Hearing Lumpy just scream in the first track that is also cleverly titled “Huff My Sack,” sets off this in-your-face kind of attitude that I just loved.
Fast, Aggressive, Destructive, but still eloquent, Huff My Sack has this great flow from each song to the next and while the recordings themselves may sound very rough to begin with, the instrumentation and structure behind them are still creative enough to engage the listener. Lumpy & The Dumpers, Huff My Sack is an album that wants to engage the audience and forces them to move around, letting loose any pent up emotions. It brings those emotions to a boiling point and forces the listener to do what punk is all about, moving.
Accommodating the fast pace and outrageously fun to listen to instrumentation comes the lyrics. Now, to some they might come off as ill-toned or insensitive, but I personally think that they match the music perfectly. Going back to the first track “Huff My Sack,” Lumpy proudly exclaims to the world listening that we should have “Been Aborted, (and) get it through our melon heads.” As I said before, the feel of Huff My Sack is overall vile and quite dirty, but it has an immense amount of flow to it and seamlessly combines all the elements of punk music to create this swamp of an album.
There are parts of the album that abandon the disgusting and slime-like feel to create just some all around greatly written and performed punk songs. The track “I’m Gonna Move To New York” comes to mind, and was easily a favorite of mine as it has a great head-banging, body-shaking chorus and an awesome drum breakdown around the halfway mark of the track.
If I could recommend any album to anyone as if late, it would most definitely be Huff My Sack. Lumpy & The Dumpers are in your face, ugly, and best of all, a great band to break some shit to.
Also I would Like to note that this is featured on the back cover for people like me who like to write and express their opinion about other people’s hard work and art…
“A HOT SAGGY NUTSACK SLAP IN THE FACE TO ALL SOCAIL MEDIA AND ANYONE ON THE INTERNET THAT HAS EVER TALKED OR WRITTEN ABOUT THIS BAND. I DIDN’T AUTHORIZE ANY OF THAT – FUCKING JAM IT.”
PAIDPROGRAMMING 2 is the newest installment in the Bones saga. Bones being the dead inside, dreadful, gritty rapper from California that has racked up some serious attention over his long spanning career in music, gaining a long-term following of die hard fans. Bones, while an artist in the game for a long amount of time has only now caught my attention in the past year as HermitOfEastGrandRiver was the tape that finally broke the surface of Bones for me, exposing what would soon become one of my favorite artists.
Bones had a hand in creating or shaping one of the newer styles of rap music, this is mostly what PAIDPROGRAMMING 2 touches upon, all the clones and mere copy-cats that Bones has produced. On the track “YourMusicSucksAndYouLookLikeADickHead” which really needs no explanation, however, Bones explains “All of you make me fucking sick, swear you doing shit that nobody did, everything you done I done already did, tell me how many times do we gotta do this?” The straight insults that Bones throws down on PAIDPROGRAMMING 2 is just down outstanding. Bones calls out every person that has ever tried to crack down on his style, and he knows that no one else can do what he does so well.
Bones has always been known for not taking too kindly to anyone who tries to steal any style or repaint a picture that has already been painted. PAIDPROGRAMMING 2 is a continuation of what Bones does best, he creates great hip-hop songs with catchy beats that are both innovative and destructive at the same time. The bass that shakes floorboards and feels like an earthquake every time it hits. It is something magical when Bones drops some new music for the fans to take in, just the instrumentation and Bones delivery on each track from the near screaming on “PeteyPablo” to the soft spoken near whisper on “DeletedScenes,” PAIDPROGRAMMING 2 has such diversity through production and verses.
The most impressive track had to be “MagentaLavaLamp” where Bones spits some verses over David Bowie’s “Lazarus.” The production on Bowie’s track just begged to be sampled and Bones left it pretty similar to the original. Rather than remixing the track, he just simply loops the soft saxophone and rising synth. This was the type of production I was looking forward to hearing going into PAIDPROGRAMMING 2, grungy, but still smooth overall.
PAIDPROGRAMMING 2 is the perfect tape to dive head first into if you know nothing about Bones. It is not nearly as heavy as Useless, but still captures what Bones is all about. HermitOfEastGrandRiver is also a great place to start, but PAIDPROGRAMMING 2 wraps up all the best things about Bones, it is grimy, loud, but still smooth enough where the listening curve is not quite present. PAIDPROGRAMMING 2 is not only interesting, but innovative and rejuvenating, Bones will forever hold the crown, as The Dead King of hip-hop.
$uicideboy$ is the hip-hop/punk rap group that comes from the 7th Ward of Louisiana. They have been having quite the successful past two years as they were and still are running the underground hip-hop scene. As they continue to release a new tape nearly once a month, $uicideboy$ seem to want to keep their throne at the top of the dungeon rap they create.
Their new tape Radical $uicide EP is a collaboration with Getter who is best known for his work with Pouya on Underground Underdog, as well as his solo work that are more focused on the EDM (Electronic Dance Music) style. While the collaboration may sound strange at first as $uicideboy$ are no where near EDM or club music, there are still elements of their sound that intertwines with Getters and together they are allowed free range to create a totally new sound or continue with the darker style that $uicideboy$ have always had.
Radical $uicide EP seems to have changed up the overall style of $uicideboy$, they rap much faster than usual and the actual instrumentation and beats behind them are much faster and more chaotic.
With their past releases, $uicideboy$ have usually had this more disgusting and grimy sounding style, while this Radical $uicide EP sounds much cleaner than in the past. That is not to say that this is not a great project as it is great, outstanding even but I would recommend starting with Now the Moon’s Rising or I No Longer Fear the Razor Guarding My Heel I or II. I just feel like these are tapes sound more at home with $uicideboy$ and while I really did enjoy this tape, I just do not think it was as interesting or innovative as their past releases.
I will say the “Memoirs of A Gorilla” was the best track on Radical $uicide EP. It hits hard, has some great verses from Ruby Da Cherry/$uicide Leopard and $crimm/Yung Chri$t. The team up and chemistry between these two cousins, produce just an outstanding team that cause destruction every single time they are on a track together.
Seriously, $uicideboy$ are some talented MC’s that have started a revolution in the underground hip-hop game.
While Radical $uicide EP was not my personal favorite release of $uicideboy$ and while I think Getter did a great job, I still think their past releases are better and have more of that dungeon rap sound that they are known for. Start with those, then come to Radical $uicide EP, then we can see exactly how Eternal Grey makes waves.
What can be said about Sublime that has not been said already? Sublime is the premiere Long Beach Californian band that stretched the limits of music, extending their tendrils into so many different genres while still being able to find success every single time. Whether it be ska, punk, reggae, rock, or the latter, Sublime would find a genre and make it their own.
40 Oz. To Freedom was the debut album for Sublime and it was Earth-shattering at the time of release but ultimately did not sell too well. The group of all white members that played reggae and punk music, that had a rapper for a front man and a care-free attitude about life. Bradley Nowell, Eric Wilson, and Bud Gaugh had some outstanding chemistry together and Sublime would eventually become a household name.
Sublime did a fantastic job of switching up their style on 40 Oz. To Freedom, from the rushed and frantic songs like “New Thrash” and “Hope,” and while Sublime had mostly original songs, they were known to cover some punk like “We’re Only Gonna Die” by Bad Religion, but also takes other influences like the cover of “Scarlet Begonias” and “54-46 That’s My Number.” Hearing a debut album that has six different covers sounds outlandish, but the massive 23-song track list bears so many rememberable and greatly written songs. While it did not originally sell very well, it eventually became the one of the highest independently selling albums of all time.
One of the main selling points of Sublime is just how interesting their sound is, I really have not heard many bands from this era that changed their instrumentation around so much from the organs and acoustic guitars, to the the deep drum kits and steel drums that became iconic with Sublime’s sound. That and of course all the songs about smoking weed or drug references like “Smoke Two Joints,” “Lets Go Get Stoned,” and the infamous “Badfish.”
40 Oz. To Freedom is one of the classic 90’s albums that have such an iconic sound and feel to them. Even when Sublime samples another track, they do so in a way that actually contributes to the feel of the new track. The quick-witted and sarcastic Bradley uses some amusing lines that bring a smile to my face every time I hear it. While the album is now well over 20-years old, 40 Oz. To Freedom continues to impress me with each listen. I love the instrumentation, the production, and of course I love the overall feel of the whole album.
The way 40 Oz. To Freedom flows from the pressed, running tracks, to the slowed down and more mellow tracks, Sublime went above and beyond on 40 Oz. To Freedom and really became the staple in Long Beach Californian music, but also as musicians around the world.
Run The Jewels is the hip-hop collective equivalent to peanut butter and jelly, mac and cheese, or bacon and eggs. The perfect combination between two MC’s, both Killer Mike and El-P, that lay down some dynamite tracks, bringing both electronic and classic hip-hop elements in a blend that just sounds perfect. The chemistry between Mike and El-P is like Batman and Robin, a truly dynamic duo, only this duo spits out bars about punching in faces, and taking over other MC’s spaces.
Run The Jewels II is obviously the second installment in the growing saga that is Run The Jewels. The destructive pair that is Killer Mike and El-P, both have had hip-hop careers in the past as solo artists, but after working together on Adult Swim’s Singles for The Summer, they soon found each other to work better as a team, rather than individually. Killer Mike with his thousand pound lyrics and with El-P’s outstanding production, the team together became some serious cats in the hip-hop game.
Following the release of Run The Jewels I, Run The Jewels II is a testament to the overpowering levels that two MC’s could achieve together. Run The Jewels II is eleven tracks long, each more booming in sound than the last. El-P’s production on this record is just some of the best I had heard and it was honestly a breath of fresh air to hear some electronic influence, along with the pounding and deep drums. Run The Jewels II just sounds like a warzone, the instant the album begins, Killer Mike is shouting “I’m Finna bang this bitch the Fuck Out!” its just the perfect send off into an album that is filled with violence, drugs, sex, and of course the raw authenticity of both Mike’s and El-P’s experiences with touring, the police, and the ups and inevitable downs as well.
The album also features a verse from the one and only Zack de la Rocha who is the poet/activist/singer from Rage Against the Machine. For anyone who has never heard RATM, imagine a much angrier John Lennon with a twist of Malcolm X in music form. Zack de la Rocha’s actual verse is like a full-fledged fist to the face, it is full of burned mansions, toe-tagging, and closed caskets. Rocha’s verse is actually one of the highlights of “Close Your Eyes and Count to Fuck,” it fits the breakneck speed of the beat, and it is just as frenzied and hazardous as Mike and El-P’s verses.
There is also a track, “All Due Respect” that features Travis Barker, which was another surprising addition as while he does not rap, he does have a hand in the production for this track. Barker did an amazing job as the beat switches up from a synth focused slowdown, to another fast paced almost march with the cymbals blasting along with the deep bass drum that creates such a great combination.
Run The Jewels II seems to be all about the synergy and what can be created from branching out to different artists and genres. Mike and El-P realized this with Run The Jewels I, and realized that the experimentation should not stop there.
I ended up loving Run The Jewels from the moment I heard Killer Mike spitting verses about Martin Luther King Jr., The gracefulness he portrays, and the line “Top of the morning, my fist to your face is fucking Foldgers. Mike and El-P’s chemistry makes for one of the most destructive duos in music history, and Run The Jewels II is a diamond in the mine of hip-hop.
Clams Casino, the kid with humble beginnings and who worked with big named artists like A$AP M.O.B., Mac Miller and of course The Legend Lil B, fires onto the debut music scene with 32 Levels. His name has been heard around the world, and Casino finally breaks the surface of a more mainstream audience as 32 Levels shows what Clams Casino does best, make some innovative, creative, and progressive beats that invite the audience into the genre of Hip-Hop.
32 Levels begins with a nice introduction from Based God himself as he “Leave(s) it up to Clams, He (Clams Casino) got us. Changing the game as always.” Based God being the lighthouse and beacon of knowledge in all things, including Hip-Hop means that his approval is worth more than just an average opinion. Based God and myself had a lot of hope in 32 Levels and I was looking to see just how Casino was going to come back and change his sound once more. I would have never guessed that the first half of the album, tracks 1 – 5 are more fast paced and seem like Casino’s classic song “I’m God,” the album then switches to a slower combination of songs like “Ghost In A Kiss,” and “Into The Fire.”
The switch up seems like a totally different project from Casino and I had to make sure I was actually listening to the same album. I will say the tracks I enjoyed more were “All Nite feat. Vince Staples,” “Witness feat. Lil B,” and “A Breath Away feat. Kelela.” These were just songs were I loved the features and the beats were involved and easy to nod your head to. Vince Staples’ song “All Nite” was released as a single and this track actually sounded like it could have fit perfectly on Vince’s Summertime ’06. From the seagulls or birds in the tracks background, to the low-tuned bass that rattles behind Vince’s energized voice.
“Witness” is just overall such a powerful track as well, Lil B’s verse on the track is, well it is Based God and everyone knows just what type of verse he brings to every song. “Shouts Out to Africa, Shouts Out to Japan” is spit over what I believe is one of Clams Casino’s greatest beats he has produced so far. It is fast, aggressive, and has a ton of background vocals from Lil B that include some “Swag Swag” and “Whoop!” Overall I think that the production on “Witness” is the real star of the track as it boosts Lil B’s verse to such a higher platform than it already was.
Now “A Breath Away” is a track that I was not totally a fan of at first listen, but it finally grew on me and I enjoy the tired tone of the whole song. Kelela delivers some charming vocalization and the instrumental is a mismatch of what I believe sounds like drums that are being played under water. It sounds like an overall enticing, but strange track but I learned to love it.
Every track on 32 Levels is at least interesting and even if you do not personally enjoy the vocals, then the production will keep your attention as it changes drastically through each track. Clams Casino as an artist is just so steady and consistent with each release, and as he continues to grow, so does his overall sound. 32 Levels is definitely a must have for anyone that wants to experiment more with their music library and expand a little bit into the stranger side of hip-hop music. The Keyboard Kid strikes again and this time, he knocks down the house.