Pittsburgh’s hip-hop scene has been more than just major scratches on the surface, there are vast levels of both independent and mass mainstream artists that make hit after hit. Choo Jackson might not be a Pittsburgh native, but he sure does show the hospitality and the craftsmanship that the City of Champions is known for. From tours with Riff Raff, sold out shows nationally, and the modern, reinvention of the hippy, Choo Jackson is about making moves, creating action, and he illustrates that perhaps becoming a prince of the city is easier than it seems.
His newest album, Parade is released in conjunction with ID Labs production studio; two heavy-hitters that know their way around the city of bridges and with hip-hop. The pair make an inseparable wrecking crew of both melodic and punching hip-hop tracks, kicking things off with “Wake Me Up”. The first impressions are always most important, to Choo Jackson, he runs with the sun-filled production and charming sung and spoken vocals to create multiple layers behind Parade. From the spotless production that is handled primarily by ID Labs, to the mostly gentle Jackson who fulfills with lines that describe, “Look at me, I stayed the same. They said I wouldn’t make it; chain look like a chandelier…”. Choo is an instantly recognizable figure in Pittsburgh hip-hop, his voice is iconic as he mixes styles and continues to adapt to each track he steps foot on. With the break-downs and the consistent flow of energy, Jackson becomes a threat on the following track, “Right Away”.
Jackson’s production is truly impressive as the styles he chose relates incredibly well with his own lyrical style. He is witty, but still stays level-headed as he explains, “Scotty beam me up, I’m working hard as fuck, cause I need that bimmer truck,” in a blaze of glory as the booming instrumental follows along perfectly. The moments where Choo Jackson shines the brightest is where he takes the instrumental and decides to attack, but then switch styles and become more passive with his lyrics. He does this well on “Dinnertime”, where Jackson starts with a focused verse that eventually folds into a compromising, ego-boasting poet that rhymes through impressive production switch ups as well. He seems fearless as he attacks on “Redbull – Interlude” that proceeds almost effortlessly into “Talk” with Rob $tone. The interlude makes for a quick switch up that leads into Jackson happily explaining, “My outfit still cost your whole rent”. With the sudden bass drop and the stumbling hi-hat that snaps along with the snares and booming 808s that makes for an instant movement creator.
Jackson’s Parade can be shown as a dualistic record as he goes from the more turned-up hip-hop track, “Talk” to the then momentous cult-classic “Neighbors”. Jackson outdid himself on “Neighbors”, illustrating a sense of suburban, garage-rock beauty with overlaying backing vocals that create a waving sense that complies with cascading synths that resemble strings and the use of a more authentic styled percussion. “Neighbors” is a track off Parade that instantly clicked as it makes the contrast between the straight-forward hip-hop and the strange, more experimental style of Choo Jackson.
From the second his voice lines the track, Jackson is an instant marvel and one of the nicest guys you can ever meet. He is welcoming, but also creates hits from the flash of his finger tips. Parade is a full realization of how much power Choo Jackson holds in his hands, all it takes is a little push behind him.
From the living dummies to now the bulls of punk rock, together PANGEA is a band that raises eyebrows and stomps feet from the cheerful, grasping, but still realistic style of surf that transcends the standard check-list of other groups. Where together PANGEA succeeds is in their fun, beach moving waves and ability to create a reason to dance behind the rugged, but never rough style they protrude.
Their sound has changed; they have evolved slightly, but together PANGEA is still that same lovable misfit in the music world from the past releases. They open their newest record, Bulls and Roosters with “Sippy Cup”, an instant percussion clasping, guitar rising, harmonic vocal performance that sets the tone for Bulls and Roosters. Even into their now fourth studio release, together PANGEA can still strum and play along to a child-esque style of wonder as they collectively gather to sing choruses together and play like a loose, but still bound machine. William Keegan is the lead vocalist and guitar player on Bulls and Roosters, while Erik Jimenez leads the percussion and Denny Bengston rips on the bass, backing vocals, and keyboards. Together PANGEA also features a mystery fourth member on their cover, who can be identified only as Roland Cosio who grinds along on the guitar on both Bulls and Roosters and on their tours where together PANGEA can be seen jumping off stages and doing national shows. The band has never seemed to be tighter musically and each track is consecutively a hit after hit.
Going from “Sippy Cup” to the more melodic and slowed “Money on It” is a drastic change, but together PANGEA uses each track as a transitional phase where they can be screaming and pounding their instruments in one moment, then entirely switch to a graceful flaunt where everything seems to click into place. “Money on It” is one of the tracks that displays how the mood can be drastically changed, even multiple times throughout the cut and still have the Earth-shattering, bring a tear to the eye chorus that is just simply beautiful behind the writing. Keegan explains in an angst-ridden cry for help, “We can talk until we talk it out…when we talk it’s always screaming, we can wait until we’re bleeding”. These lines, when paired with the build-ups of vocal harmonies and percussion makes for one of the more-memorable tracks coming from together PANGEA. The instruments have a certain loopy feeling with high notes that play elaborately, but also delicately as they channel into the following, “Better Find Out”.
Ditching the close and tenderness of “Money on It”, together PANGEA decides to leap head first into the pool, guns-a-blazing with a focus on the abrasive nature of their previous styles that not only is incredibly energetic, but has abrupt endings as the track is by far the shortest cut on Bulls and Roosters. The short distance is needed as “Better Find Out” is a feedback-ridden rush with crashing cymbals that reign over the multiple layers of backing and foreground instrumentation that makes together PANGEA seem like a bull in a china shop. The sudden destruction is more than welcome to stay, but together PANGEA takes multiple approaches on Bulls and Roosters, never staying in one place too long as they fluctuate between the breakneck aggression of surf punk, to the relaxed style of indie rock legends. “Southern Comfort” is another track that shines well with the abrasive style of how together PANGEA’s older style rears its head in a manner of instantly recognizable style. Their music is best experienced with five other people crammed into one car before the night even begins, blasting their music and screaming in what seems like an area to small to even breath. The random nights of cemetery runs, house shows, or just simply breaking and entering.
Together PANGEA is a band that is adaptable within themselves and show areas of progression in just how incredible the mixing is, the production that shines like a beacon, and the charm that together PANGEA always had. The final moments of Bulls and Roosters is just as entertaining as the beginning stages and together PANGEA never shows a sign of becoming fatigued, or having tracks of filler. Each cut is a unique, and highly re-playable track that captures the fun of turning the record up to eleven and jumping out the window in the dead of night.
Torture Culture Comes Soon // Listen/Watch Here – Youtube
Dee Dee Bridgewater is an American Marvel; performing back to the 1960’s, working with modern day and yesteryear Jazz heavyweights, as well as working now at sixty-seven to continue to release and perform around the globe is no small feat. Her soulful style and continual efforts move like a steam-powered locomotive using nothing but will-power and raw emotional authenticity to pave a path for Jazz newcomers of the future. Her bold voice that is now captured on her newest 2017 record, Memphis… Yes, I’m Ready, only brightens and inspires with each listen.
The closest thing to a gospel, Dee Dee Bridgewater has a Southern Charm and resembles an older style of Jazz/vocal performances that strikes into an untapped nerve that has not been exposed in the mainstream in what feels as centuries. Her voice is of pure siren-esque beauty that begins with “Yes, I’m Ready”, a loving tale of coming to acceptance that is played behind church organs, gentle piano, and percussion that is both enthralling and capturing as it fills the background in one incredible mix. Dee Dee Bridgewater’s sound is most similar to a vocalist that had been trapped in time, never losing that spark that made Jazz vocal performers so immaculate and worthwhile. The style is never a simple, one-dimensional flow, but is instead multiple layers of depth that consistently switches the emotional backing from Bridgewater in an effort to illustrate sides of the same coin in entirely separate fashions.
As she moves to “Giving Up”, she uses a plethora of haltered, but angelic backing vocalists that boost Bridgewater and her uplifting exclamation of lyricism that explains, “But it’s just no use; giving up, it’s hard to do. I tried, but I can’t break loose”. Bridgewater then moves on as harmonic organs blare in the backing, “Whether he knows or not, he really needs me too. Love, he’s all I got, and giving up, it’s so hard to do”. Bridgewater is simply beautiful in her displays where she screams and the emotion can be felt through the recording. She is a powerful vocalist that can accompany conflicting styles of music as she does in the following of “The Sweeter He Is”; where she describes in a much more uplifting instrumental, how she is still exploring the same lyrical themes, but in a drastic tone change. The horns are present that create an avant-garde explosion of sound, with the percussion and organ that works simultaneously behind Bridgewater’s spoken-word sections.
Her vocal range is the most important weapon in her arsenal, but her band is second-nature as they are a wide range of horns, percussion, and key players that only continue to build Dee Dee Bridgewater up on Memphis… Yes, I’m Ready in an incredible display of stamina and technique. Through the trials of emotional distress that Bridgewater expresses through her vocal performances where she goes into incredibly vivid detail to put Memphis… Yes, I’m Ready into a box-breaking, soulful record that ends on a graceful note. “Try a Little Tenderness”, a cover of an Otis Redding track is the final catalyst for her finale of a send off that goes faithfully into the night, shining a light for the future of Jazz everywhere.
Dee Dee Bridgewater is a treasure, her performances in both her early career and her later moments on Memphis… Yes, I’m Ready are just simply fantastic. She maneuvers like a graceful swan in a reflective pool of both the darkest sides of life, but also the moments of beauty that last forever. She wastes no time illustrating a Midas-touch in her vocal storytelling and styling that have reigned for nearly forty-years. A true Queen of Jazz, Dee Dee Bridgewater is fantastic in every element and produces an insightful, but also touching look into the raw emotional aspect of music.
WASHINGTON // Listen/Discover Here – WeTransfer
THE WEST SIDE MASK // Listen Here – Soundcloud