Tag: Hip-Hop

***2016 RECAP*** MUSIC REVIEW | Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book (2016)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “I went into Coloring Book worried that I had built Chance the Rapper up too much in my head, based on too little.  Turns out, those hopes weren’t high enough.”

Chance 1.pngChance the Rapper is a dude who I have only ever seen and heard through guest verses on other people’s songs.  I like what he did with Kanye and I was a big fan of what he did with Action Bronson.  It’s because I like those little snippets of him so much, that I have been so lazy in getting around to his latest LP, Coloring Book.  I dug his guest spots so much, I was worried I’d have too high expectations of an entire album and come away disappointed.  But I’m a trooper, so I jumped in anyway.

The great mix of a vintage, jazz trumpet, with the signature Chance the Rapper weird yelps last upwards of five seconds before All We Got gives way to a flow so precise and natural, it goes beyond sounding written and rehearsed, and becomes more like it’s as much a part of his everyday life as breathing.  Then it’s time for some standard hip hop hubris on No Problem, opening with a threat to labels dumb enough not to take a chance on Chance.  But there’s a wink and sense of humour to his delivery that makes it sound a lot more endearing and self aware than your standard insecure rap braggery. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Regurgitator – Dirty Pop Fantasy (2013)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “Never messes around in getting to the point.”

Gurge

When not out and out embracing the poppiest of pop music, the ‘Gurge has always had a knack for hiding catchy pop songs under distorted guitars, dark lyrics and the odd sprinkling of hard core hip hop.  With their latest, Regurgitator tries to have it both ways.  While a lot of Dirty Pop Fantasy sounds like it could be Unit: Part 2, the rest sounds like the more modern day incarnation of Quan Yeomans and Ben Ely, heard on 2011’s SuperHappyFunTimesFrineds and 2007’s Love and Paranoia.

(Review originally posted September , 2013)
READ FULL REVIEW

MUSIC REVIEW | Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book (2016)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “I went into Coloring Book worried that I had built Chance the Rapper up too much in my head, based on too little.  Turns out, those hopes weren’t high enough.”

Chance 1.pngChance the Rapper is a dude who I have only ever seen and heard through guest verses on other people’s songs.  I like what he did with Kanye and I was a big fan of what he did with Action Bronson.  It’s because I like those little snippets of him so much, that I have been so lazy in getting around to his latest LP, Coloring Book.  I dug his guest spots so much, I was worried I’d have too high expectations of an entire album and come away disappointed.  But I’m a trooper, so I jumped in anyway.

The great mix of a vintage, jazz trumpet, with the signature Chance the Rapper weird yelps last upwards of five seconds before All We Got gives way to a flow so precise and natural, it goes beyond sounding written and rehearsed, and becomes more like it’s as much a part of his everyday life as breathing.  Then it’s time for some standard hip hop hubris on No Problem, opening with a threat to labels dumb enough not to take a chance on Chance.  But there’s a wink and sense of humour to his delivery that makes it sound a lot more endearing and self aware than your standard insecure rap braggery. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Notorious B.I.G – Ready to Die (1994)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “A record that totally justifies its reputation and ever growing legacy.”Big 1
The fact that I will hear certain albums or see certain movies is just inevitable. It may have taken me until I was in my 20s, but I finally heard The Beatles (AKA The White Album) and knew that I had ticked something off a list of life’s must does. The same thing happened around the same time when I saw Casablanca. Writing Bored and Dangerous has been a great boot in the ass to make me get to more of these must does more often. Like today, with Notorious B.I.G and Ready to Die.


With an intro going from 60s soul, to hip hops earliest days, to the sounds of a couple having a drop down, drag out fight, to gangsta rap, to two dudes cocking guns before a robbery, to Biggie Smalls leaving the big house, the montage that is Intro gives us a snapshot of everything, good and bad, music and real life, that has made Notorious B.I.G the man he is, and lead to the record that is about to play out. I generally hate sketches on hip hop records, but there’s something too genuine and raw about Intro for me to dismiss it. It actually accomplishes setting a tone, where most sketches are a complete waste of time. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Eric B & Rakim – Paid in Full (1987)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “For someone coming to it today, this album is a bit of a victim of its own success.”

Eric 1
Eric B & Rakim are one of those names I’ve always thought of as genre pioneers and definers. Releasing their first album 1987, they were definitely part of hip hop’s vanguard. Despite their legendary status, I was a little reluctant to actually listen to them. Sometimes, it’s hard to appreciate the work of pioneers and genre definers, because in the years since, others have been able to push the genre even further. What was new 30 years ago, can seem basic and corny now. So, three decades later, des Eric B & Rakim’s Paid in Full hold up against the generations of awesome hip hop it inspired?


The simple drum beats, thinned out samples and random record scratches kind of sound like a parody of early rap, but I guess that’s because these were the songs defining early rap. And even with the simplest of beats behind him, Rakim’s rhymes in I Aint No Joke make it sound as vibrant as anything made today. Which is not to take anything away from Eric B’s DJ and production work. Because Eric B is On the Cut is nothing but him, single handedly taking on the hip hop version of an instrumental, and killing it. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Dr Dre – The Chronic (1992)

Dre 1
On the 20th anniversary of Dr Dre’s The Chronic, billboard.com posted an article saying, “It redefined the West Coast sound, is considered one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time and made gangster rap that was accessible to pop radio and MTV. In short, “The Chronic” brought hardcore hip-hop to the suburbs.” I listened to The Chronic a few years ago, I was kind of aware of tis legacy, and thought it was just OK. But in the years since, I’ve learned more, and come to appreciate the genre a whole lot more as well. So I thought I was due give this ground breaker another go and see if my new context would help me appreciate it more.


A response to Ice Cube’s post N.W.A solo effort that included a dis to Dre, The Chronic (Intro) sounds like a semi improvised screed from a fresh on the scene Snoop Dogg, letting everyone know that everything that came before is old news, and that Dr Dre is about to change this forever. Snoop is back to take centre stage on Fuck wit Dre with a song that would be used as the basis for his breakthrough single, Who Am I? (What’s My Name)? (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Eminem – The Slim Shady LP (1999)

Slim 1

I remember Eminem breaking though in a big way with My Name Is and pretty much immediately writing the song and its performer off as a novelty. He was white and had a silly, nasal, jokey delivery. All that, with the wacky lyrics and video for My Name Is, and it’s asking a lot for him to be taken seriously, no matter how clever and quick fire the lyrics are. Now, almost 20 years later, he’s an undisputed hip hop legend, and I have no problem with that. But I realised, I have only ever heard the hit singles and still kind of off handedly consider Eminem novelty. But I know there’s a lot more to Marshall Mathers, which I’m hoping to discover with his breakthrough, The Slim Shady LP.


My Name Is sounds just as gimmicky and tossed off as it always has. The wordplay is impressive and there’s a certain wit to his rhymes, when they’re not being undermined by the easiest of dirty jokes and entendres. And the constant references to mentor Dr Dre sound a little needy. Like Eminem is determined to make sure we all know he’s friends with the N.W.A legend. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | De La Soul – 3 Feet High and Rising (1989)

De La 1

While Public Enemy were fighting the power with their heavily politicked rhymes, and N.W.A were telling the ugly truths of what it meant to be black in America in the 80s, I’ve always thought of De La Soul as hip hop’s nice guys. They were gentle, hippyish, even a little goofy. But even if my assumptions about the band are true, it doesn’t change the fact the De La Soul are one of the genre’s pioneers and biggest influences. And a certifiable classic like 3 Feet high and Rising is enduring proof of their importance.


With vintage, gramophone cracking samples and its overall positive vibe, The Magic Number is early support for my nice guy theory. With more singing than rhyme spitting, it’s all good times and chilled hang outs with friends. A feeling only more solidified with Change in Speak. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Nas – Illmatic (1994)

Nas

I’m a casual hip hop listener at best.  Then recently, the massive impact of Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly was too much to resist.  And catching up on some Kendrick was an inevitability I’m glad I gave into.  While talking to a mate who’s a massive hip hop fan, as much as he loves Lamar’s two studio albums, he praised Nas and Illmatic even more.  So since his recommendation on Lamar proved so spot on, there was no way I wasn’t gonna give Illmatic a spin.


Maybe the sketch, or movie sample, or whatever it at the top of The Genesis is there to set some sort of tone for the record to come.  But here’s the thing, like every single sketch in the history of hip hop albums, it’s a totally unnecessary speed bump.  Especially when The Genesis itself is such a strong song, it sets the tone perfectly, without the wasted 30 seconds or so of its prelude. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Beastie Boys – To the Five Boroughs (2004)

to-the-5-boroughs

With the more leisurely approach to making albums that kicked off with Hello Nasty, the Beastie Boys were in a new phase that would end up being the second half of their career.  The unfair label of gimmicky white guy rappers was long gone, the recognition as respected musicians and innovators was nothing new, and they were officially elder statesman of American music and pop culture.  With Hello Nasty, they came back from a four year hiatus by throwing absolutely everything at the wall.  Enough stuck to make that album more than worth my time.  But enough slid disappointedly down the wall to really test my patience.


With a massive six year break until their next release, I was worried that To the Five Boroughs might be even more bloated, representing what they’d been up to all those years.  Seeing that it’s only 42 minutes already had me liking this album before I even pressed play.  It also doesn’t hurt that it kicks off with Ch-Check it Out, my favourite kind of Beastie Boys song, ticking all the boxes.  Vocals traded at machine gun pace, old school beats that still sound fresh, and a chorus that you feel like you can join in on, regardless of your complete lack of MC skills. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Beastie Boys – Ill Communication (1994)

Ill Communication
While 1986 saw the Beastie Boys big breakthrough with Licensed to Ill, and 1989’s Paul’s Boutique was the critical darling to cement them as serious artists, Ill Communication was the apex of critical success, massive record sales and general overall world conquering exposure.  While the second half of their discography would roll out over 13 years, Ill Communication was the culmination of four era defining albums in just eight years.  Which is why while I’ve heard it a few times before, I decided that I needed to pay it more attention than I have in the past.


Opening with what sounds to me like the quintessential Beastie Boys hip hop sound, Sure Shot is built around a funked up flute sample, with Ad Rock, MCA and Mike D trading off vocal duties in that way that plenty have imitated and few have ever equalled.  Before Tough Guy brings in the other side of the quintessential Beastie Boys sound, snot nosed, batty punk rock at its snottiest and brattiest.

On the more lo-fi side of things, as far as production goes, the analogue instruments and general rustic sound of the samples on Root Down is a great change up, giving the very Beastie Boys vocal delivery a new dimension.  The only negative aspect of this song is that it’s followed by Sabotage, one the most iconic songs in their discography.  So while Root Down is undeniably great, very few songs could compete with the perfect melding of the Beastie Boys punk rock and hip hop sensibilities that is Sabotage.

Get it Together, with its darkness and atonal plucked strings sounds more like what I would usually think of the later 90s than when Ill Communication was made.  It’s more on the gangster side than what I expect from Beastie Boys.  Which is cool.  It’s always great to be surprised by a band whose sound you think you know pretty much inside and out.

When I was reminded that Ill Communication has 20 tracks on it, I was immediately worried.  Very few albums have ever justified a length that extended.  And expectedly, Ill Communication comes with a little inessential filler.  While nothing terrible, songs like Bobo on the Corner, Eugene’s Lament, Flute Loop and Ricky’s Theme really ad nothing.

But even with its bloated length, Ill Communication still manages to stay vital right up until the end.  The punk rockiness of Heart Attack Man, followed by the funked up fun of The Scoop means that even in the closing moments, there’s still plenty of life in this record and plenty of reasons to stick with it right up until the end.

Beastie Boys

MUSIC REVIEW | Isiah Rashad – Cilvia Demo (2014)

Isiah
I go in blind on a lot of albums in an attempt to listen to more new and different music.  I’ve been pretty lucky with my strike rate so far.  The majority of these chances have paid off with really cool bands or artists I normally wouldn’t have bothered with.  Well, they can’t all be zingers.  Some have to be Isiah Rashad with Cilvia Demo.


Usually, I break down these reviews track by track, because it’s my way of getting a feel for a record, and for keeping an eye on how it works and flows as a whole.  Three tracks into Civilia Demo and I hadn’t had a single thought, comment or opinion.  Hereditary, Webbie Flow (U Like) and Civilia Demo all just kind of mesh together in a pretty bland blob.  They’re just so anonymous in their sameness. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique (1989)

paulsboutique_1406487011

As a casual Beastie Boys fan, the holy trinity of definitive albums in their catalogue seems to be the Ills, Licensed to and Communication, with the meat in that iconic triumvirate sandwich being Paul’s Boutique.  As high selling and wide regarded as subsequent albums were, and as their legend only grew, it still seems to be those three from the first half of their career that get the real love.  And of those three, I feel like Paul’s Boutique even gets elevated a little in reverence amongst that exclusive club.


If you ignore the pointless To All the Girls, Paul’s Boutique kicks off with a legit classic, Shake Your Rump.  If any other band was to interrupt the amazing flow of their verses with a speedbump chorus like this, it would be a train wreck.  But the Beastie Boys, with the Dust Brothers on production, make a disjointed flow that’s smoother than butter.  Referencing The Brady Bunch and The Flintstones, and making it dirty, is vintage Beastie Boys at their best.  A bratty, middle finger raising immaturity, that somehow reaches highbrow in the context that only Ad Rock, MCA and Mike D could give a lyric like, “Like Sam the butcher bringing Alice the meat”. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Run DMC – Raising Hell (1986)

Run-D.M.C.-Raising-hell

When I was a kid, rap meant MC Hammer, Young MC, Marky Mark, and to a lesser extent, his funky bunch.  It seemed like this commercial, pale imitation of hip hop caught on in Australia long before anything with any legitimacy.  It was years after this stuff before I ever heard of groups like Public Enemy, or NWA.  And by the time I finally heard of Run DMC, they were already years past their influential prime.  An influential prime that seemed to be at its peak with Raising Hell.


The back and forth, trade off vocal delivery of Peter Piper was expected.  What wasn’t expected was the subject matter, as wordplay and interplay is built around nursery rhyme characters and fable references.  Compared to modern hip hop, the slow, deliberate delivery was also a bit of a shock.  That same deliberate, straight forward approach extends to the beats. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | ***SWANSONG WEEK*** 2Pac – All Eyez on Me (1996)

Tupac

When it comes to prolific and productive dead dudes, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who beats Tupac Shakur.  Even me, a guy who has little to no knowledge of hip hop and the artists who populate that world, knows that his posthumous output has become somewhat of a punchline.  I don’t think its joke status is based on quality, I think it’s purely based on the regularity of releases since he caught a few bullets almost 20 years ago.


So there are half a dozen or more albums newer than All Eyez on Me, but as a music fan in general, I can’t count them as true 2Pac records.  Too many third parties and people not named Tupac Shakur have had their grubby hands on those.  So for Swansong Week, I think the last album released in Pac’s lifetime qualifies, not the stuff that has come since. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Flying Lotus – You’re Dead! (2014)

Flying-Lotus-Youre-Dead
‘Experimental’ is a word that by definition should mean you have no idea what to expect from music.  If it’s experimental, it should be trying something new that you’ve never heard before.  But that doesn’t stop me having very definable preconceptions about a band or artist when I hear that word used to describe them.  I straight away think of bullshit like Bjork.  But I need to be more open minded, and see the unexpectedness of experimental as its greatest strength.  Because if I chose to ignore anyone with that title, as I usually do, I would have missed Flying Lotus and You’re Dead!


Experimental jazz fusion, with a schizophrenic, A.D.D, vide.  Songs like Theme and Tesla are a bizarre mess.  But they’re obviously very meticulous messes.  Maybe it’s all a massive con job and Flying Lotus took a collection of outtakes, disconnected improvisations and cock ups, then just threw them into a multi track editor and let the computer do the rest, but there’s something about the opening suite, up to and including Fkn Dead, that seems free form and calculated at the same time. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***A.V WEEK 2*** Rhyme and Reason (1997)

Rhyme

“I’m not thuggin’ for me. I’m thuggin’ for my family… If thuggin’ is gonna make me a million bucks coz it got me platinum, than that’s what I got to do”.

A good documentary takes a subject you love, and makes you love it and understand it even more. A great documentary takes something you know nothing about, or maybe even think you don’t care about, and gives you a whole new understanding. I listen to hip hop every now and again, but I have next to zero knowledge of its history, or any of its key players, outside of the most surface level stuff. With Rhyme and Reason, I felt like I now get it a little bit more.


No narration, no interviewer interaction, no recreations to help move the narrative along, Rhyme and Reason is just a series of talking heads, telling the story of hip hop, it’s history, and their own roles in it. … Even if your idea of hip hop is Rappin’ Rodney, this movie is packed with the biggest names you’ve ever heard of. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2 (2014)

RunTheJewelsRTJ2
What is Run the Jewels? I’m purposely writing this intro before I press play in Run the Jewels 2. I assume, for some reason, that I’m about to hear some variety of hip hop. But I genuinely have no idea and nothing to base that on. I only heard of Run the Jewels in the closing weeks of last year when they popped up on more than one ‘best of 2014’ list. They appeared enough for me to want to hear them, but apparently not enough for me to ever read any of the reviews or reasons why it was on those lists. So, here goes, I’m about to find out what Run the Jewels is, by listening to one of 2014’s most lauded albums, the lazily titled, Run the Jewels 2.


With declaration of, “history being made” in the opening seconds of Jeopardy, I’m fairly confident that my prediction of rap is on the right track. Then the menacing synth bass kicks in, right before the aggressive rhymes of either EI-P or Killer Mike confirms my rap prediction. Thanks to Wikipedia for their names, boo to Wikpedia for not telling me exactly who has which verse. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | The Roots – Undun (2011)

Roots
I know it’s unfair to judge a band by their fans, but it happens subconsciously. What’s even more unfair, is to judge a band on what I assume their fans to be, with no actual basis for those assumptions. When Jimmy Fallon was given the gig hosting Late Night, I couldn’t think of a worse choice. The guy who laughed his way through every Saturday Night Live sketch he appeared in seemed like a terrible, terrible replacement for Conan O’Brien.


I know it’s unfair to judge a band by their fans, but it happens subconsciously. What’s even more unfair, is to judge a band on what I assume their fans to be, with no actual basis for those assumptions. When Jimmy Fallon was given the gig hosting Late Night, I couldn’t think of a worse choice. The guy who laughed his way through every Saturday Night Live sketch he appeared in seemed like a terrible, terrible replacement for Conan O’Brien.

In the years since, I’ve seen very little of Fallon the late night talk show host. But what I have seen has proven my initial fears wrong. He seems to have found a way to put his own fresh stamp on one of TV’s oldest and most stale genres. Yet for all of that, the initial stank of his connection put on his house band has endured for no good reason. When he announced The Roots in that role all those years ago, I knew they were some sort of hip hop outfit that had a decent amount of street cred. The Fallon connection immediately destroyed that street cred in my head and I have written them off ever since. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Mos Def – The Ecstatic (2009)

MOs Def

I know close to nothing about hip hop. I know I like it in general, but I haven’t heard nearly enough outside the massive hits that invade the public pop consciousness. I realised I liked hip hop and needed to delve deeper a few years ago, through Mos Def’s kind of legendary solo debut, Black on Both Sides. I don’t know what made it stand out from everything else I’d heard before then, but it deserves all the credit for the small amount if rap and hip hop I’ve enjoyed since. If it wasn’t for Black on Both Sides, I never would have bothered with Kanye or Jay Z.


Kicking off with a real party starter, Supermagic sets the mood for something fun. Which is always an ingredient I like in hip hop. Sure, the lyrics can be dark, or violent, or tragic, but if you put them on a beat that sounds fun, I don’t give a shit what’s being said, I’ll like that song. (more…)