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.
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.