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the classical (3rd movement)

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So yeah, some more classical sounds on deck. I like my strings son. I like my cellos and oboes and shit. Feel those choirs up in the beat.

On the Eve of War - Jedi Mind Tricks (feat. The GZA) / Blvck Blanka - Dub MD x C-Rayz Walz / Behold The Opera - The Black Opera / Turn the Lights Down - The Adding Machine / It's A Description - Danny Brown / Reject #20 - Odd Nosdam / Bottom To Tha Top (Instrumental) - Timbaland / Fatal (Instrumental) - The RZA / Imani (Willie Green Remix) - Vordul Mega (feat. billy woods) / Spartacuts - Rob Swift / A Quick 16 - NYOIL / Fabric of an Orchestra - Rob Swift / Chapter 7 - Saul Williams / PRAY - Kilowattz / Lower Level (2nd Movement) - Rob Swift / Etymological Perspective - The Jones Orchestra / Drinking Water For Lovers - Surface Tension Beekeepers & V8 / An Industrial Ton - Routiger Slob / Thule King

the classical (2nd movement)

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So since flute rap's suddenly mad popular, time to hit you off with another collection of classical sounds. You kids today. One fucking flute loop and your minds are blown.

Enigma - Sean Price (feat. Illa Ghee) / The Revolution (DJ Semi & DJ KG Remix) - The Notorious B.I.G. / Watch Ur Mouf - Wu-Tang Clan / Symphony - EPMD (feat. M.O.P.) / Best To Do It (magOwl Remix) - DJ K.O., Royce 5'9, Elzhi & Supastition / Rising To The Top - KRS-One & Marley Marl / Terror - Jedi Mind Tricks (feat. Demoz) / Bust 'Em In - Army of the Pharaohs / Pounds Up (Sagace Remix) - M.O.P. / It Gets Worse - Dutch Massive (feat. Vast Aire, Windbreeze, Alaska, Majik Most & Cryptic) / ILLJEWMANATI - Sneakas (feat. Iron Solomon, ILL Bill & MC Serch) / Greatest Rapper Ever (DJ Critical Hype Blend) - Danny Brown / Monumental - The White Shadow of Norway (feat. KRS-One, Bigg Limn, Raekwon & Immortal Technique)

 

what if…melle mel was the herald of galactus?

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So old school heads complain that hip hop isn't political anymore, by which they mean there aren't as many didactic calls for revolution.  I'd argue that the records cats like Elucid and Kemba are making are political--just more personal, more exploratory, more complex.  They're drawing on wider influences than slogans and fighting powers more insidious, more entrenched, internal as well as external.  If race, and discrimination based on race, is ever going to be eliminated it has to be treated for what it is: a social construct. We need to hear wider narratives than guns and butta. So the more subjective experience, complexity and nuance are explored, that's pushing beyond race a lot more than hashtag activism. And the furthest beyonds are space and the future. I mean, even W.E.B. DuBois wrote science fiction.

The Silver Surfer, in case you're not a nerd or don't have kids who read comics, was like the Invisible Man with the power cosmic, reflective (literally and emotionally) instead of transparent. You could write a dumb Master's thesis on Galactus, The World Eater, The Cosmic Hunger, as Space Whiteness (and The Watcher as Space White Liberal) and the Surfer as an afrofuturist slave narrative, but hey let's not (especially because you have to twist up a connection with surfing and there ain't enough lentils in all of grad school for that).  Let's put it in afrofuturism instead as another new cosmology, like Farrakhan's Mothership Connection.  But no doubt Galactus is about holocausts, genocides, the total erasure of civilisations. And the Surfer is the sole survivor, who's also morally compromised by what he's done to try and save his people. And loses everything.

When Galactus rolled up on his planet to eat it, the Surfer gave himself up to save it, but after years? Centuries? of servitude, he turns on his master and for this rebellion is exiled. He never finds his way home. That's the feeling imbued in the joints in this mix--they're not necessarily about flying saucers, but they have a celestial heft, whether it's raging against the planet-eating machine or the loneliness of the galactically disenfranchised.  They're shooting bars like energy beams all up in Galactus' Kirby-purple grill.

And let's not forget that in that shitty Fantastic Four movie, the Surfer's voice was provided by none other than Laurence Fishburne, aka Mr. Clean/Jimmy Jump/Morpheus/Ike Turner/Furious Styles/the guy who evaded the slave hunters in 'Predators' himself. (Uh, also Cowboy Curtis.) That's some afrofuturistic shit right there--'Time is this really fluid thing. Now is now, but the past is now and the future too.'  -Niama Safia Sandy

There's a superstring of the cosmic in rap's legacy, with seeds from Sun Ra, the Black Ark and P-Funk mythology...from 'Whitey On The Moon' to 'Planet Rock,' 'Space Rap' and 'Space Is The Place' to the O.G. (Original Galactic) Rammellzee, to Kool Keith to Divine Styler to Deltron to Killah Priest and even Killarmy--remember 'Galactics'?--through to Binary Star, Cannibal Ox, Shabazz Palaces, Cudi and on and on, you don't stop. An ever-expanding universe. There's always been that reaching for something up from the gutter, beyond the dirty streets, something higher, the strength within infused with power from beyond. Something above the clouds.

These songs from 2016 reflect the power cosmic, the soulfulness and loss of traveling the spaceways, the intersection of Sun Ra and The Message.

Intro / High John The Conqueror Speaks - War Church / Exquisite Cutlery - Bigg Jus / Kill Your Masters - Run The Jewels (feat. Zach de la Rocha) / Guaranteed Struggle - Dälek / A Palace In The Sky - L'Orange & Mr. Lif / Organ Donor (UZ Remix) - DJ Shadow / Sativa - Killah Priest & 4th Disciple / Testify - Guilty Simpson / That Cold and Lonely - Ka / Already - Kemba / M.A.B.A. - Atoms Family (Cryptic One & Alaska) / Blame The Devil - Elucid / Waves - The Quantum (feat. Vordul Mega) / Waiting For The Barbarians - Pawcut (feat. Billy Woods) / Open The Brain - Quelle Chris / Lordstaviour - Ill Clinton / Facts (Extended) - Yung Gutted (feat. Wiki) / All Coltrane Solos At Once - Saul Williams (feat. Haleek Maul) / Another Tomorrow - The Difference Machine (feat. Stacy Epps)

the year in litness :: mmxvi

Another year in rap, another list that I can't keep down to 5 or 10. And I still don't know how to pronounce Rae Smreurrd? Smruerdrd? and I really don't see what's so great about that 'Black Beatles' joint.  On the other hand, that stupid 'Panda' bullshit came and went.

 

Albums of the Year

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Ka :: Honor Killed The Samurai

Ghost Dog didn't die at the end of The Way of the Samurai.  He lives in a Brownsville basement, waking at 3am from PTSD nightmares and digging in the crates for the dustiest loops.  Another way: Illmatic never got released, and Nas has spent 20 years refining and compressing his craft for a wintertime debut.

Ka has blessed us with his fifth release, and it carries on the tradition of both reducing and elevating rap to its finest natural elements.  The sword-sharp writing, the pared-down beats, all delivered with exacting precision.  It's street-level frescoes carved on grains of rice.  Just as there's five elements of hip-hop (six including arguing about Wu-Tang), Zen includes the tea ceremony, sword fighting and calligraphy--the art and meditation practice of writing just one letter, just one thought, after long and careful clearing of the mind, with one chance only to get it right.  So it is, as always, with Ka. He soldiers on. He blesses us with his service.

Elucid :: Osage EP / Save Yourself

Did Amerikkka get the president it wanted or the president it deserved?  Elucid's one-two drops were the records we needed, and didn't know we wanted. Personal and political, strictly hip-hop yet reaching far and wide beyond it, it's a roam through what it means to be here, today. Like I said earlier, he's breathing ghosts on this one.  It's fractured blues and St. Augustine visions. Sipping on Flint water in ruined tabernacles. Sprinkling baby powder in kicks on power lines.  For real, god took a bag of coal and turned it into gems.  Every cut on these are repping some Jane Jacobs, some Amiri style.  Skinny Luther nailing it up son.

 

 Most Slept On

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Man. Y'all slept so hard on these, you got those pillow creases on your face.

The Difference Engine :: The 4th Side of the Eternal Triangle

Can't recommend this one enough. Huge, funky live sound but still with great drums and on-point cosmic, literate and political rhymes. It's like if Zach de la Rocha had been more into Fishbone, Bad Brains, Parliament and Heavy Mental than Anthrax and Minor Threat. Go get this one.

The Higher Up :: The Higher Up Album

An amazingly accomplished debut that bridges early Digable with '98 Juggaknots with today's lighter but still iller cats like Denmark Vessey. Polished production maintaining a consistent, lush sound, smooth & soulful but also rugged, introspective but also rhyming-about-rhyming, great storytelling without sparing the wordplay. It's the greatest record nobody was talking about this year.

 

MVPs :: Griselda Gang
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These cats ran shit in 2016, hands down. They had every guest verse on lock and ran the East Coast, no doubt. I mean, they never left the studio this year I don't think. They're at the peak of their powers, able to lace a verse on every track out there without any dip in quality. A lot of cats complaining about how many MCs out there copping the Marcberg style, but Griselda rode out the cold Buffalo winters to bring it back with a lot more Mobb Deep up in it.  I mean, these dudes named their crew after one of the evillest narcos there ever was, Griselda Blanco, a cold-blooded killer at 11 years old and dropped in a drive-by at 69. (Not The Story of Griselda like I first thought, which is good, I don't really fuck with Boccaccio.) 

WestSide Gunn brings the nasal, on some AZ with more attitude or the Troy Ave that shoulda been. Conway brings the million-yard-stare of Prodigy after thirty years on lockdown. I mean the dude been shot in the face and is still rhyming.  Together they go for that great high/low combo a la Cypress, PE and Rae/Ghost. They know how to ride a beat, drop their illest lines when you least expect, and keep it straight old school G.  The secret weapon here is Daringer, who produced all their best tracks--a close study of the grimy loop genealogy of Muggs begat RZA begat Havoc begat Alchemist begat Roc Marci. The kid goes deep and knows how to pull down that foreboding, smoked-out, hazy sound.

If you ever owned a pair of Timbs and don't fuck with these guys, something wrong with you.

You Already Knew

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A Tribe Called Quest :: We Got It From Here

I never was the biggest Tribe fan outside of a long drive or a drunken house party, but I definitely fuck with this (along with everyone else).  Thicker and heavier than their old stuff. It just. Fucking. GOES.

Danny Brown :: Atrocity Exhibition 

Didn't understand some of the older heads not feeling this.  I mean, it's a straight trilogy from XXX and Old, who's done that since P.E. or Gangstarr? What, you want him to go back to those shitty flip-phone beats from the Detroit State series? He keeps killing it, keeps putting more of his raw self out there, keeps experimenting, keeps making great records.

Also those 'When It Rain' and 'Pneumonia' joints though! Sounds like two cats fucking and one cat has a eye scratched out and both of them are on acid somehow and they're fucking in a pile of crushed up Adderall and spilled rum and it's smearing all over the place and they knock over a pile of dirty plates and THEN the party gets started. That's what that shit sounds like.

Underground Kings

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'Underground' hip hop...the term's a lousy catch-all for any record not on a major label, on Bandcamp not Youtube, getting more play in indie bookstores than strip clubs. But under that umbrella is incredible breadth, artistry, complexity and an ever-expanding definition of what it can be.  I mean you got your Def Jux vets (Aesop, Lif), your Original Dirge Rap (dalek), your Neo-Afro-Futurists-sic (Kemba, Saul Williams), your rising multiplatform 'art rapper' (Open Mike), your weird frustrated kid in a gold mask pouring his bitter heart out (NoEmotion), and your If-There-Was-A-Dischord-or-SST-for-Rappers-These-Dudes-Would-Be-Signed, Never-Stop-Rhyming-&-Grinding, Cats-I-Always-Fuck-With (all the others who I always fuck with).

None of these records are alike, except they're all outstanding examples of the art and the craft.

Aesop Rock :: The Impossible Kid

Blueprint :: Vigilante Genesis

dalek :: Asphalt for Eden

Kemba :: Negus

L'Orange & Mr Lif :: The Life & Death of Scenery

Mr Lif :: Don't Look Down

NoEmotionGoldMask :: A Freaking American

Open Mike Eagle & Paul White :: Hella Personal Film Festival

PremRock & Fresh Kils :: Leave In Tact

Saul Williams :: Martyrloserking

Short Fuze & Uncommon Nasa :: Autonomy Music

We Are Not For Them :: Captures, Vol. 1

Words Hurt :: Fuck That Pretty Boy Shit

 

Meat & Potatoes Just Goes Hard Shit

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Fuck your kale smoothie and cinnamon-spice frappucino.  There'll always be room in the rap diet for a Waffle House breakfast or the now-infamous bodega chopped cheese.*

Czarface :: A Fistful of Peril

DJ Rude One :: ONEderful

Vinnie Paz :: The Cornertone of the Corner Store

(*Offer may vary depending on your location.)

 

Ill True Mentals

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Best of the illbient, beat-driven shit this year I heard that made the hairs on my neck stand up.

Bugseed :: Street Mentality

FRKSE :: Rode A Horse Made of China

Ill Clinton :: Juniper

odd nosdam :: Sisters

Quelle Chris :: Lullabies for the Broken Brain

 

it was litten

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It's that time of the year familio.  Your roundup of the second-half bangers.  Joints that provoke, as the kids say, 'flaming emotions.'

I'll break you off a proper year-end list and one more mix before the MMXVII.

We The People - A Tribe Called Quest / Steranko - Czarface (feat. Meyhem Lauren & Rast RFC) / Nineteen Ninety Three - Vinnie Paz / Signs - We Are Not For Them / The Abyss - Mr. Lif / When It Rain - Danny Brown / Feast - PremRock & FreshKils (feat. C-Rayz Walz & El Da Sensei) / Phone Check - Geechi Suede / Same Damn Thing - Little Shalimar (feat. feat. Ghostface Killah, Boldy James & Mr MFN eXquire) / Brain Damage - Sick Jacken / Can't Wait (Remix Instrumental) - Pawcut / Residual Tingles - The Gaslamp Killer / It's Alive - The Difference Engine (feat. Paten Locke) / Wit No Pressure - Ras Beats (feat. Roc Marciano) / God Bless Me (SKYWLKR Remix) - Wiki (feat. Antwon, Sporting Life & Skepta) / Dunks - WestSide Gunn (feat. Conway) / Bible On The Coffee Table - Benny / Red Tops - Conway (feat. WestSide Gunn)

 

the devil’s dynamite

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Summertime mid-year roundup of all the fire.  Also reminiscing about the blackout of '77 a year early because fuck your round numbers.

Keep cool familio.

Summer Not Coming - SHIRT / Hall & Nash 2 - The Purist & WestSide Gunn (feat. Conway) / R.E.D. - A Tribe Called Red (feat. Yasiin Bey, Narcy & Black Bear) / Rubble Kings Theme (Dynamite On The Street) - Run The Jewels / Mystery Fish - Aesop Rock / Smoke - The Difference Machine (feat. Homeboy Sandman) / We Are Fucked - Words Hurt / Not Sure Why I Came Back - Blueprint / Breakdance for the Def - Short Fuze & Uncommon Nasa / Dimelo - Timeless Truth / Bosses - Skizz (feat. Roc Marciano & Conway) / Nas Album Done - Nas & DJ Khaled / El Dorado - Milano Constantine / Park Avenue - AG Da Coroner (feat. Action Bronson & Roc Marciano) / PayPal The Feature - Ras Kass (feat. Steele & Sean Price) / Rap Professor - Sean Price & DJ Skizz / Halftime - The Higher Up (Mark Scott x Kye Brewin) (feat. Breeze Brewin) / Surreal N*gga - Gensu Dean & Denmark Vessey / Rose Water - Baje One / Smiling (Quirky Race Doc) - Open Mike Eagle & Paul White / SummerSlam 88 - WestSide Gunn, WS Pootie & Your Old Droog / Fame - Bugseed

b-bop for b-boys (take 6)

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Let my children have music! Let them hear live music. Not noise. My children! You do what you want with your own!
-Mingus

The Shimmey Roll (Shaolin Jazz Remix) - Ol' Dirty Bastard / Rare Form - Third Sight / Night of the Living Dead - Messiah Musik / Our World Is A Cave - Sidney Poitier & Fred Katz / Sloth 8 - Tenshun / Track 18 - Howard Hanger Trio / Savagelands 4 - Tenshun / Vivian at the Art Basel - Westside Gunn (feat. Your Old Droog) / NY Tap Water - SHIRT / Sickum - Quelle Chris / Chapter 5: The Cavern - Heliocentrics (feat. Melvin Van Peebles) / Son Still Shine - Elucid / Excalibur - Bones The Beat Head / Flow fiDELITY (instrumental) - Sach / Winter Nights - Jenova 7 / The Man With The Horn - Gangrene / DestiNY (instrumental) - Messiah Musik / 3 Stories - Wiki / Circus Maximus - Vordul Mega (feat. Billy Woods)




 

dope of the month club :: may weather knockouts

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Yeah I don't have some clever overarching theme this time, just a quick roundup some nice fucking records which done dropped.  Some of 'em are from April or earlier, but fuck I look like? Wolf Blitzer?


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No doubt, the Griselda family most definitely on top this year, from Westside Gunn's Flygod on out.  Fifty tracks is too many for any mixtape, but there's some supremely ill joints on Conway's drop--'Anybody,' 'Rex Ryan,' 'Red Tops' are a few.  

Don't Get Scared Now is a 6 song EP version of the posse cut, but most of all highlights Daringer's supremely on point production.  That 'Chyna' joint gets five Cool J uuhhhhhhs.

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Words Hurt :: Fuck That Pretty Boy Shit
Words Hurt is a collabo of Alaska from Atoms Fam and Lang Vo, with Special Guest Stars like Red Pill and Rast on this one.

This record is for guys like me who are so old, we're beyond washed, we're stonewashed. We're faded and frayed.  We're so old, our wife takes our shit out the laundry and puts it in the garbage, and we go dig it out because we still like wearing it.  If rap was a person it'd be in its early 40s, and this record is aged just right.  It's smart, literate, namechecking Three Times Dope and Chekhov and Home Depot.  The beats are sludgy and deep but move the crowd.  It's a little bit angry, a little bit weary, a little bit Old Man Yells At Cloud, but it's also funny as hell.

The one part I don't like though, is that shit about jacking off to Anne Hathaway, because damn son, really?  I don't need to know that shit.
 

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Mic Lanny :: Forty $pice

This actually came out last year but what the fuck am I, Jimmy Olsen?


This record is fucking hilarious. I don't usually go for stuff that's just funny, but this is a spoof of your party/trap/hip-pop bullshit, except with more cheesecake and putting stuff up your butt and chest hair.  Even at 12 tracks the joke doesn't wear out.

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Third Sight have been rolling in their lane for longer than I knew--I thought they came up in the post-Jux underground explosion era but Orchids & Corpses is four-track jams from '93-'96?!  Some of it, you can hear how they're riffing on that era, but a lot of it is some serious next level shit for 20 years ago.


Dufunk, the legendary D-Styles and other producers bring in sometimes superlative, sometimes just serviceable beats; MC Roughneck Jihad is the main event here.  Jihad is a superb writer.  His level of vocab, combos and wordplay is top shelf.  Truth to be told, he's the only example of a rapper who's writing is better than his delivery--he can rap, but you're not there for his voice or flow.  It's all about the words.

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Blueprint's another one of those underground legends who's been steadily grinding for over a decade, piling up great records and sticking to it.  I've always felt he was a better producer by a hair than an MC, so it's interesting to hear him rock an album over someone else's beats--and even more interesting when all of them come from Aesop Rock.  Role switching on some Face/Off shit.

Giving the reins over allows Print to make the whole EP one story--something he excels at--and it comes together most strong on the last two tracks.  This is his best record in a few years by my count.


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Aesop Rock :: The Impossible Kid 
Indie-rap king, Def Jux, moved to Montana or whatever, blah blah blah. You know the story here for Christ's sake.


I fuck with Aes but was never a major stan.  But no doubt this is another solid LP from the man, and his self-production (you're headed for self-production) is pretty damn tight.  Definitely has more tracks than usual that are personal, narrative-driven and focused which is an interesting shift for the dude who's specialized in major level abstraction to date.  So we get a joint about therapy, one about his cat I think, one about his brothers, and one about getting older.  The rest is what we expect and come to the table for, the eighty million words crammed into three minute songs that go by so fast every time you hear a juicy rhyme or arresting image he's already busted fifty more. He said something about a flying saucer that was cool and then...he said something about tomatoes and then...dude is like Rap Game Roadrunner Mouth.  So. Many. Syllables.


Maybe it's just me but it's almost kinda...quaint?  He's still rocking this style, the word salad and idea blizzard that defined a very specific era of rap which is now well and truly past.  Aesop Rock records have come to have a kinda throwback feel, like a Kane show in Vegas or something.  With Aes it's almost...Amish--that level of craft, in an age where kids just jack a beat off YouTube and get a hit single.  Like, oh, he's caning his own chair. He's bottling honey from his own hives. He's sewing his wife a bonnet or some shit.  Nobody knows how to do that anymore in the modern world.  But it's also totally removed from the rest of things.  I don't know, it's still a good record. Buy his honey.



Anyways I had enough of this monthly bloggedy-blogging experiment probably, come back in December for the year-end roundup.