Album Reviews

Back from a long hiatus as a result of midterms, I present you with Unions album, Analogtronics. Union is a production duo of artists named OJ and Gold based in Paris. Throughout this album we see their tendency to use synths and keyboards to create very calming electro soul. For a sampler of the dynamic beats to come, check out “Blue Wave.”

The beats throughout this album reminds me of some of Dam Funk’s work  with his stress on the keyboard and heavy synths. The laid back productio pairs perfectly with the dope list of featured MC’s and vocalists. Union enlisted the help of Talib Kweli, Sly Johnson, MF Doom, Moka Only, Rachel Claudio, Elzhi, Big Pooh, Janic, Roc Marciano, Guilty Simpson, and Mani Hoffman. It’s a stellar lineup to say the least. The single off the album is “Time Leak” with Talib Kweli and Sly Johnson. Kweli’s raw talent is showcased and Sly Johnson provides soulful background vocals.

It’s a new experience to hear Kweli on this type of beat and on he goes off on the track. Along with Kweli’s single, we get a new track from the legendary MF Doom as well.  This is one of the better songs that Doom has released recently and deserves to be checked out by his fans. Like with Kweli on “Time Leak,” the production on “Coco Mango” matches Dooms flow and lyricism perfectly.

Another standout track is “Fallin” with Big Pooh and Janic providing vocals. It’s been awhile since I have listened to Big Pooh since the end of Little Brother in 2010.  It certainly is comforting to see that the talented MC is still making music.

All in all I highly recommend this album to any hip-hop head, beat junkie, and/or Dam Funk fan.  I find that this album reaches out to a broad demographic of listeners because of the solid production. Besides the solid features on the album, the eight instrumentals showcase their production talent. It’s definitely an album to discover and enjoy during the hectic frenzy of midterms.

I have probably talked about this album enough already to show how excited I am for this release. Robert Glasper Experiment releases their first full length album that cannot be described as any one genre. The album draws from jazz, hip hop, R&B and rock (they cover smells like teen spirit by Nirvana). Lets first talk about the amazing lineup of special guests, including Erykah Badu, Bilal, Lupe Fiasco, Lalah Hathaway, Shafiq Husayn, KING, Ledisi, Chrisette Michele, Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), Musiq Soulchild, Meshell Ndegeocello and Stokley Williams. This lineup in itself should get you very stoked to check out the album. These featured artists paired with pianist Robert Glasper, saxist Casey Benjamin, bassist Derrick Hodge, and my personal favorite, drummer Chris Dave is jaw dropping. I can say that Chris Dave is one of the most talented drummers I have heard in a long time. Here’s a taste of Chris Dave.

For the people who see the names Lupe and Mos Def, their features will not disappoint. To be honest, I think Lupe hasnt really put out any noteworthy material since food and liquor. Look at his attempt to rap over lights by bassnectar or M83’s Midnight City. I dont know what he was thinking, but his track Always shine is respectable. Mos Def does what Mos does and absolutely killed it on the track, Black Radio, found below.

The great thing about this album is how accessible it is to all types of listeners. For the devoted jazz fans you will find the find the bands combination of different styles enthralling, for hip-hop heads you get to experience a new side of Lupe and Mos that you may not be used too, the quiet jazz rendition of Nirvana’s Smells Like teen Spirit showcases the bands talent to defy genre boundaries and create an album that every listener will enjoy. To check out some more tracks from the album, click hereAll in all, I can already say that this is going to be one of my favorites of 2012. Whats more, if you buy the album on Itunes you get a bonus track covering the A Love Supreme by John Coltrane. The bonus track can be streamed below.

I never thought I would utter these words, but the man behind the “Luchini” and “Dead Presidents II” has gone dubstep. The Ski Beatz helmed Blu Tops EP, released unexpectedly last night, features Dipset-ers Cam’ron and Vado, as well as vocalist Mckenzie Eddy… and the opening track, also titled “Blu Tops” prominently features a half-step beat and a dubstep bassline. Since Ski’s return to prominence around 2010, he has produced for the likes of Curren$y and Murs, as well as releasing three solo efforts, the 24 Hour Karate School series. Not unsurprisingly, Ski has changed up his style a bit since his heyday in the mid-to late-90’s, but who would have thought that the guy who produced Talib’s “Cold Rain,” or Curren$y’s “Chilled Coughphee” would jump on the half-step bandwagon.

That being said, the EP is not terrible, especially once you get past the title track. I’m usually pretty skeptical about dubstep/hip hop collaborations as very few producers/MC’s can actually pull it off (Zeds Dead and Omar Linx work well together), but “Blu Tops” is especially awful. Anyways, it’s probably better to ignore the first track and move on to the next four.

“I’m Counting Planets” takes the listener on a trip through Cam and Vado’s come up stories, from low-level hustling in the streets of Harlem to sitting around a table with other OG’s making  a “toast to everyone on the coke chase.” Vado brings some Rozay flow here and Cam’s first verse is probably his best on the EP. The chorus is pretty infectious, and while the simple chord progression isn’t remarkably impressive, the beat does its job in laying out a canvass for the MC’s to spit over.

Alright, moving onto track three. Maybe I spoke too soon on the whole “album not being terrible” deal. “In This Thing,” features uplifting synths and chords, and a modern-day Eminem-corny chorus. Cam’ron and Vado aren’t awful here, but what is Ski trying to prove? That he can be the next Jim Jonsin? I haven’t heard a track from an esteemed producer as corner as this since “I Need A Doctor.”

“Pass The Test” would fit perfectly on any Cam’ron or Vado mixtape. A menacing organ sets the stage for Cam and Vado to wax poetic about their horses, cars and hoes. The track is full of menace and violence and sets a decidedly different tone than the opening three tracks. “Pass The Test” is hard, although the Eddie’s chorus is a little perplexing.

“Why, Oh Why?” would probably play the role of standard “soft” cut on most Dipset releases, but as previously mentioned, it fits right in with the vibe of the rest of the EP. Highlighting Eddie’s vocals more than any other track on the album, Cam spits game to the fairer sex, reeling off his “accomplishments” aka possessions. Vado sounds a little uncomfortable on the track, and while Cam shines, it’s hard not to imagine how much better Curren$y would sound over it.

Overall, Blu Tops was a mixed bag for me. Cam’ron and Vado brought the heat for most of the EP, and Eddie’s vocals were a nice addition to most tracks, but Ski really mailed this one in. I can forgive him for trying his hand in the dubstep game once, but what the hell was he thinking as he made “In This Thing”? It’s downright terrible, afterthought radio fodder. The rest of the beats are average at best, and  while the goal of the EP might have been to highlight the MC’s and vocals, it perplexes me as to why Ski wouldn’t lace the release with some more, well, Ski Beatz-esque shit. His latest release prior to Blu TopsTwighlight, wasn’t an exceptional album, but there was not a weak beat on the project. Ski excels at melding jazz samples into cracking beats for weed rappers to spit over. I understand the desire to experiment after a long career, but experimenting does not mean badly replicating other genre’s, and lowering ones expectations. Blu Tops is a free download so I guess it’s worth a free download, but no one would be surprised if it spent more time in the trash than in your iTunes.

It’s February seventh and the birthday of the late and great James Dewitt Yancey, also known as J Dilla and Jay Dee. It is also the birthday of the late producer Nujabes, who I will post on sometime later today.  J dilla died at age 32 from the disease lupus and a rare disorder called thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) which causes blood clots to form in your blood vessels.  In the summer of 2005 Dilla was hospitalized in LA, he could not walk and was barely able to talk. While hospitalized, and knowing that his time left was short, Dilla began to produce his last album Donuts. Donuts was released on Stones Throw on February 7, 2006, his 32nd birthday. Dilla died three days later. His mother, Maureen Yancey (Ma Dukes), said of his death “I rejoiced in the fact that he wasn’t sick anymore, and that he’d done what he came here to do. I believe that. His purpose on earth was to come here and give us the music that he had in his heart and soul.”

The first track that I heard produced by Dilla was Fantastic 3 off of the Slum Village classic album Fantastic, Vol. 1. Slum Village consisted of rappers Baatin, T3, and producer J Dilla. The three grew up together and the album was finished in 1996 but not officially released until 2005. The rapping throughout the album is consistent but what makes Fantastic stand out is Dilla’s production. If you haven’t heard of Dilla, this is the best place to start off your journey of listening to all the music that he has produced. It is certainly a wonderful challenge.

From the trance like melodies in Fantastic 3 to the heavy hitting snare in Look of Love to the soulful clap of Players, Dilla was a genius behind the beat. Dilla was a master at finding the most unique samples and creating something beautiful. One of my favorite samples that he uses is in a track with Erykah Badu called Didn’t Cha Know. Dilla sampled Tarika Blue’s Dreamflower off of her Best of LP. I’l put it at the bottom of this post along with a tribute medley for Dilla made by one of my favorites, Knxwledge.

Knxwledge tribute to Dilla. He says this in his typical cryptic writing





Happy listening, and if you havent yet, I highly recommend that you start sifting through the massive collection of tracks produced by this man.

RIP J Dilla

I joined the Black Hippy party in December of 2010 the day I heard Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q’s freestyle over Weezy’s “6’7’” beat. Kendrick and Schoolboy’s version came out only one day after Wayne and Cory Gunz released theirs, and when placed back to back, the two don’t even compare. Kendrick and Schoolboy bodied what would become the best track on Carter IV (admittedly not saying much). At that point I had heard of Jay Rock, the third Black Hippy member, mostly because of his brief stint at Young Money, but Ab-Soul, the fourth member was still an unknown to me.

Fast forward to 2011. Kendrick Lamar absolutely owned the year with Section.80 succeeding on all levels and ending up on just about everyone’s year-end “best of” lists. Jay Rock, Ab-Soul and Schoolboy all released their debut full lengths with varying rates of success. Noz the popular Nah Right blogger dubbed the group the new Hieroglyphics for their diversity in lyrical styles and topics. I’m not sure who plays Del in that comparison, but the two crews do have more than a few similarities.

Now that the Black Hippy name is out there, the question is whether they have the staying power to truly become the next big thing in West Coast hip-hop. With Habits & Contradictions, Schoolboy Q has answered that question with a resounding yes. Schoolboy’s follow up to his first album, Setbacks, was released at midnight on January 14 and is easily the best hip-hop release at this point in the year. Featuring guest appearances from Q’s Black Hippy cohort, A$AP Rocky, Dom Kennedy and Curren$y, and production from Alchemist, Lex Luger and A$AP Ty, there is plenty of talent surrounding the Carson City MC. Some MC’s might be overwhelmed when surrounded by so many talented MC’s/producers, but Schoolboy still manages to own the project. 

“Hands On The Wheel” featuring A$AP Rocky is the albums party anthem. An ode to bitches and blunts featuring some Lana Del Rey-esque vocals taken from Cudi’s “Pursuit Of Happiness.” Whether it’s coke, E or shrooms, Schoolboy and A$AP are indulging.

Too damn high, can’t stand myself
I love drunk driving, man I’m something else
Heat on my side, you’re more than welcome to melt
I’m ’bout to finish a pound, you’re more welcome to help

Later in the album, “Oxy Music” gives the listener some drastically different insight into Schoolboy’s drug habits. Instead of reveling in the party life, Schoolboy is now delving into the struggles of addiction and selling drugs.

Satan in your soul let it take control
Oxy cotin fiends keep the foil low
Let the pill burn inhale exhale it slow
Let yo heart explode drop ya to the floor

“Grooveline Pt. 1” would fit better on a Curren$y album, although Schoolboy does sound natural over the soulful Lex Luger beat. The rest of the album reflects the contradictions (it’s a very aptly named LP) in Schoolboy’s life. He wants to just party and have fun, but his personal devils, and his environment keep pulling him away from the good life. In the end, Schoolboy is an incredibly likable character despite his struggles.

Download: Schoolboy Q – “Hands On The Wheel” Feat. A$AP Rocky

Download: Schoolboy Q – “Oxy Music”

Download: Schoolboy Q – “Blessed” Feat. Kendrick Lamar