Tag Archives: Shady Blaze

celestial-traxThe “is grime a sub-form of hip hop?” debate has raged for years now and while nearly all of the genre’s major players have had their say, the dregs of forum culture are still ablaze with cathectic “controversy”. And while countless words have been scribed in an attempt to contextualize grime’s past and future, the fact of the matter is that the genre is only ten-plus years old and, essentially, needs more time before its legacy can be analyzed with any sort of clarity. A far more worthwhile goal in 2014 is to draw tangible connections between disparate sonic and cultural elements within both grime and hip hop. The atmospheric rattle of gun shots in both Lil Wyte’s Memphis odysseys and Jammer’s best instrumental work. The joyously over-the-top chipmunk sampling techniques utilized by Dipset production duo The Heatmakerz and Blackjack. The contemplative, dagger-like wordplay of Trim and Scarface. The fact of the matter is that the Atlantic is less a cultural barrier than a short wall meant to be leapt over, chipped away at and, eventually, torn down.

New York-based producer Celestial Trax has, quite literally, leapt over the wall after spending time living in London. His latest EP, Paroxysm, was released on Rinse and features what he considers a “rainy gloomy London night” vibe, but he’s hardly a purest and often, both directly and indirectly, references hip hop, jungle, footwork and contemporary R&B in his productions. The influence of American luminaries as disparate as Young Chop and James Nasty are reticent on Paroxysm alongside the more obvious Devil Mix and Metalheadz influences and the EP thrives when it picks up a particular emotion and expounds on it. For most of the EP, that emotion is anxiety and Paroxysm can be viewed as a genre-blended explication of disquietude. On Paroxysm, that anxiety is directly rooted in the physical environment of the aforementioned “gloomy London night,” a tangled web of apprehension and sublimated hysteria. Unfortunately, in electronic music, the subject has been touched on ad nausea and while the kitchen sink approach to Paroxysm is its greatest strength, the emotional superficiality gives it a peripatetic monotony at times.

Which is exactly why the move to New York has done wonders for the Celestial Trax sound. Vocal-like melodies drowned in squarewaves no longer take on the maudlin character they used to. Every kick, metallic swipe and chime seems to have fallen into place and his work with vocalists has taken on a singular focus. Anxiety is still the dominant emotion, but it’s a far more nuanced anxiety. His Astral Plane mix is made up of twelve original tracks, features MCs Shady Blaze and Tynethys, and, considering his adherence to crafting “songs” vs. “tracks”, is more of a production mix than something a DJ’s DJ might put together. Again, the strain of the austere urban environment takes center stage, but it’s appended this time with desire, loss and just enough melancholy. With a small, but effective hardware set-up, Celestial Trax has synthesized his influences into a sound that functions with or without a vocalist and with a breadth of affecting inputs and outputs. Realist hip hop (“Stargate”) sits alongside druggy, elegiac edits (“I Don’t Sell Molly No More”) and foreboding, on-the-cusp grime instrumentals (“Illumination”) that could easily find a home in a Visionist set. The wealth of influences are still palpable, but they have been compounded into a sound that Celestial Trax can proudly call his own.

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friendzone kuchibiru network 3

So Friendzone’s long-awaited Kuchibiru Network 3 mixtape has finally hit the webs today and it is even greater than we ever could have imagined. Exclusives from Jerome LOL, Main Attrakionz, Ryan Hemsworth, Keyboard Kid and more were the first lines to catch our mind’s eye, but Silkky Johnson, Finally Boys and Shady Blaze also feature prominently and more than hold their weight on an impressive lineup of contemporary MCs and producers. You can stream and download individual tracks below, but you should really just grab the entire tape in one fell swoop right hurr.

Last month, Deniro Farrar & Shady Blaze released the Kill Or Be Killed tape, a dour tale of street realism set over production from the likes of Ryan Hemsworth, Friendzone and Sines. If you downloaded the tape from the duo’s Bandcamp, then you received a hidden, Lunice-produced bonus track called “Ten Fold”. Today sees the re-release of the Lunice jawn, restructured and renamed “All I Know”. Lunice matches space age histrionics with delicate keys and thin hi hats, the Montreal-based producer’s most subtle work in quite some time. Farrar and Blaze’s verses are kept intact so the emphasis is really on Lunice’s production here. Apparently this isn’t a one off collaboration either so we should be receiving more Farrar/Blaze/Lunice in the near future. Stream below and grab the first draft off of Kill Or Be Killed if you desire it.

Deniro Farrar’s sound has always been more akin to West Coast artists like Main Attrakionz and Schoolboy Q than his East Coast and/or Southern counterparts and the Kill Or Be Killed tape sees the Charlotte native matching bars with Green Ova member and East Oakland representative Shady Blaze. The tape is essentially an expanded version of last month’s DESTINY. altered and features an drool-worthy list of producers ranging from Green Ova mainstays Ryan Hemsworth and Friendzone to Sines and Lunice’s 808s driven take on Bass music. Like the title suggests, Farrar and Blaze are mainly concerned with street realism and their contrasting lyrical styles mash surprisingly well. Astral Plane favorite Haleek Maul features on the desolate Hemsworth produced “Cold Blood” and contributes one of the tapes best verses. Stream Kill Or Be Killed below and head here to download it (name your price).

If you missed the announcement, Rock The Bells announced its lineup yesterday. Like always, Guerilla Union made waves, bringing in Nas, Ice Cube, Kendrick Lamar, Dipset, A$AP Rocky and many, many more (check the full lineup here). Deltron 3030, the supergroup of Del, Dan The Automator and Kid Koala were also brought in. What brought the tidal wave though was the 20 year anniversary of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, performing E. 1999 Eternal in its entirety. In hip hop’s history, no set of artists have perfected a sound quite like Bone Thugs. Their gospel infused, sing-rap harmonies were unmatched in their time and have yet to be truly replicated in 2012. One collaboration comes close though. When Oakland’s Main Attrakionz (who we tried to interview once) and fellow Bay Area residents Friendzone get together, the result is pure, blissful hip hop. Remember “Perfect Skies” off of 808’s and Dark Grapes II? Friendzone. Shady Blaze’s “Follow Me”? Friendzone. The newest cut from the two brings the comparison to another level. “Green Ova To The Top”, featuring Shady Blaze, is vintage Bone Thugs. The light-hearted guitar, sing-song chorus and bitter-sweet verses are all there. Main Attrakionz are not Bone Thugs. Not even close. But when they get together with Friendzone, the two make some uncanny throwback joints. Stream and download below.