Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Blueprint for a Revolution….Don’t Read This.


Catch:  I’ll admit it: sometimes I get caught up in the little things. Maybe it’s a punch line. Sometimes it’ll be the saxophone smooshed beneath thirteen other layers of a beat. Often, I’m so focused on the minutia, that I miss out on the bigger picture. (My micro game is tight; macro…well, I need to get my percentages up.) But every once in a while, a project comes along that as soon as you press play, it blasts out the speakers and smacks you across the fucking face. That’s what Blueprint’s new project, Adventures in Counter Culture, has done…repeatedly… for the last two days now. Pretty sure I’m starting to look like Hasim Rahman after the Holyfield fight.

But, even if I wanted to dwell on the little things (like the sometimes overpowering synth), I can’t. ACC won’t let me. Blueprint has jam packed this jawn with so much message, so much progression, so much fucking passion, that I just can’t get into my critique comfort-zone. And I ain’t alone in feeling like this. Pretty sure Brain is lookin’ like Ferocious Fernando Vargas after Sugar Shane got ahold of him. Can we get a cut man up in this mug???

BrainSlice:  Damn. I feel like I just went the rounds in the Octagon with Georges St-Pierre. Before this, I didn’t know a Hip Hop album could LITERALLY kick the shit outta me. Also never thought I would actuallyPrint3 THANK someone for handing me a beat-down. Thanks Blueprint. Thanks for bringing to light so many things that frustrate and enrage me about what “Hip Hop” has become. I gotta say “Adventures In Counter Culture” is a BIG fucking deal.

I’ve also gotta say the kids that witnessed Blueprint’s live show at Kilby Court in SLC with me last week didn’t have any idea what he was doing on stage. (Side-Note: Hey lil’ girl, yes you, the one that was screaming for Macklemore while Print was rockin’: Fuck. Off. Take your skanky tramp self back to the trailer-park you came from. We all love Macklemore, but damn bitch, nobody loves your snaggle-tooth, bleach-blond, stanky ass.) Yes, they knew he was performing, but there is so much more to this man and his art than just the performance. We were witnessing “Printnificence”.

I’ve always felt that 1988 was meant to restore what Printmatic thought was missing from the culture and the music. If that is true, then Adventures In Counter Culture was created to systematically nullify Hip Hop (or whatever people may perceive it to be), to tear it apart brick by brick; then subsequently rebuild it using a new schematic. Can you say: “oxymoron?” Silly kids, there is no schematic, only art. For the thousands of “Mr. Brainwash” artists out there, there are just a handful of “Banksys”. Blueprint is one of the latter.

Catch:  And for every 1988, and every Unlimited EP, there come certain expectations. I think that’s the funny thing about AICC, it laughs right in the face of those expectations; I had preconceived notions of classic Print coming into this one, but I finished the first listening wondering what the fuck just happened.

Don’t get me wrong, Adventures begins fairly typically. “Go Hard or Go Home” is BluePrint at his lyrical finest – maybe a little more serious than what I was planning on, but not that far off. The thing that this song does best though? Ironically, it serves as fair-warning of just how much Print doesn’t give a shit about your preconceived notions; how much he plans to do what he wants to do, whether you like it or not. And that’s just what he does. Fuck if you or me approves.

Let me make this clear: I don’t think every song is a classic. What I do think, though, is that Adventures in Counter Culture is a fantastic exploration of sound and self. More so the former. The first thing you might notice is the decidedly ‘80s flair. Sounding at times like Daft Punk’s interpretation of the Decade of Excess on the new Tron (“My Culture” – which, by the way, features the most awesome soul-clap, double-time, –take-‘em-to-church chorus I’ve heard in quite some time), or the classic John Hughes coming-of-age soundtrack feel of “Wanna Be Like You”, the Reagan years are ever-present on AICC…sonically, at least. Of course, with lines like: “Tryin’ to make a soft synth sound like a sample / ‘cause everybody wants your progress to seem more gradual,” it all makes sense.

untitledAnd I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the singing. But that’s all I’m gonna do; I don’t think anything I could possibly say about Print flexing his dulcet tones could even approach the explanation that the man himself provided - which is a very insightful (and refreshingly open) letter to those who feel it necessary to question his artistic expression. That’s really what it’s all about, right? Art. And that’s why it doesn’t matter if you or I don’t like every song. You should, at the least, respect the talent required to create something like Adventures in Counter Culture.

BrainSlice:  To quote my favorite/most profound lines from the album would be an exercise in futility. Every word and note is painstakingly poignant. He spits his verses like he’s John Connor leading the resistance against the machines. Every enunciation and alliteration is meant to be heard. Clearly. By every listener. If you don't get it, that's your problem. Printmatic doesn't give a fuck. He knows what it means and how important it is, and he knows that the elect, the ones that are capable of understanding, will feel it.

I don’t normally discuss an album I’m going to review with anyone (other than Benny and Catch) in order to form my own autonomous opinion. After I had seen Blueprint live, listened to the album a few times, and written my thoughts down, I felt like I needed to talk to someone else who had seen the show. Possibly someone who has a little more knowledge of production than I do. Enter K-Murdock: producer, SubSoniq Radio co-host, and friend of AYCE. We talked briefly about Printmatic’s performance at SXSW, and the album. I was in agreement when K said he felt like Blueprint had broken down the structure of Hip Hop and re-created it to fit his own unique vision, leaving a lot of jaws gaping wide-open in the process.

Catch:  I guess this means that we’re all on the same page: this is an album that needs to be heard – and appreciated – by anyone who considers themselves a fan of music…any music.

BrainSlice:  One thing Blueprint has made clear: He won’t be boxed in or labeled. Don’t even try.

Catch:  So whether you’re a 15 year-old tween at a Mack show, or an old-school head steady bitchin’ about the state of the genre,

BrainSlice:  Buy the album and shut the fuck up. That is all.



Theoretically speaking...

Maybe I am in the minority here but I dig going to a show and seeing an emcee or two (or three) on stage rocking a sold out show to a live band. There is definitely no shortage of bands in Seattle. I mean we're home to some of the greatest grunge, rock, and alternative bands of all time. I'm fairly sure that if I were to spit into the air, with a good breeze, I could hit about 10 people who are in a band or have a band. There is, however, a shortage of hip-hop bands (a la The Roots) where the creativity is constructed first through the mind of the musicians and not on a board with drum machines, computers, and mixers. A sound where the music is new, it's organic, and you get the feeling (when you listen) that timeless hours were spent in a rehearsal spot somewhere or in someone's basement/garage perfecting the sound and timing. Theoretics is one of those bands.
I first met Mark Hoy a few months back at Faire Gallery where he hosts The Cornerstone. The Cornerstone is held on the first Saturday of every month and is a night dedicated to spoken word, freestyle cyphers and comes complete with DJ, live band, and artist showcases. It really is dope, you should check it out sometime. Anyway, I got to chop it up with Mark for a while after the show and he told me about a couple things he had going on musically, one of those being the Theoretics.  I finally had the opportunity to hear/see them a week or two ago at their album release party at Hard Rock Cafe. I have to say that I was truly impressed.
Theoretics is made up of vocalists/emcees Mark Hoy, Chimaroke Abuachi and musicians Birch Pereira (Bass), Cameron Peace (Guitar, Loops), Arthur Brown (Alto Saxophone), Ben Krulewitch (Keyboards), and Adam Gross (Drums, Percussion) and label themselves an "alternative hip-hop" band. Their self-titled album, Theoretics (which you can purchase here or here) is creatively in that mix. That sound is accomplished through guitar riffs, keyboards, and drums that you get from an alternative sound mixed and mashed with hip-hop emceeing/vocals and completed with the smooth jazzy sounds of saxophone and the upright/double bass. I would be remissed if I failed to mention that both Hoy and Abuachi are more than capable "vocalists" as well, and that emceeing and lyricism it just a portion of that talent. I wish that you could have seen Hoy cover a Radiohead joint at the release party or the other song that he performed with Shaina Rae (from the band Alabaster) specifically for the release party. Both were actually incredibly dope to hear...and for only those in attendance. Oh, and I have seen Hoy blaze the mic in a freestyle cypher at The Cornerstone and he is definitely no slouch there either.
"Theoretics" is highlighted by more than a few good tracks. The lead single, "Higher", is about having the passion to not be held back from achieving your dreams.  Hoy and Abuachi sing  "you can't hold me down/you see these wings".  The band also shot a video for this track, directed by Garrett Wesley Gibbons. You can see and feel the animation on Abuchi's face as croons "go high, go high, go high, go higher" throughout the chorus. Check it out...

Probably my favorite song from Theoretics is "Be Free". Abuachi and Hoy really speak to me on this track..."Lemme take you to where I've been lately/sorta feel like I'm goin crazy/I've taken a fall before/never felt I had much to lose...". I think we have all felt that way at some point and had to break down the walls to "be free". Other notable tracks include "The Passion", "Winds Come To Change", and "Jekyll and Hyde".
All in all, I am really feelin this Theoretics album and the direction that they are headed. It's different different sound from the Town. If you haven't yet, get out and cop it sooner rather than later. You will not be disappointed.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Bambu - Something (video)

Check out the video for Bambu's track Something off his upcoming Short Changed EP dropping April 29th. The song is dope and touches on the harsh reality of domestic violence...from a male perspective. Produced by DJ Phatrick and samples Adele's "Someone Like You"...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I Hate Macklemore.

Yep. You heard me right. Here I sit hating him as I listen to “The Language of My World” and he’s KILLING me. He’s too talented, too smooth, too passionate, and too energetic for me to NOT hate him. The only thing that could make me hate Mr. Haggerty more would be if he were to win a fucking Nobel Peace Prize.macklemore-at-mariners-home-opener-04-08-11

Let’s back up here. I realize that I’m probably not going to say anything that hasn’t already been said about the dude (after all, I am writing on a blog based in the 206). For a long time, Benny and Catch had been pushing Macklemore’s music on me. Problem is, when I get pushed I usually push back. So, like the ass that I am, I ignored it.

Which brings me to the recent situation. I finally started listening. I loved it. Benny emailed me: “Macklemore is coming to SLC. If you don’t go, I will kill you.” I’ve been threatened by people all my life and it has never had much effect on me, so I procrastinated. The day arrived and I realized I had made a grave mistake. Benny started to heckle me on Twitter, which eventually caught Macklemore’s attention……bringing me to the final reason I hate him. He is NICE. Nice on the mic, and most perplexingly, he’s nice to people. Including fucking dickheads like me, that somehow end up getting into his show without planning ahead or even paying the price of admission. That’s right, he got me into a sold-out show…. just because. It’s not like I had anything to offer in return for that favor. He just did it to be a nice guy. What an asshole.

I said whattup to the crew and met Macklemore outside Kilby Court, he shook my hand. I tried to thank him without acting like a complete idiot (pretty sure I failed miserably). Then we walked through the gate and he was mobbed by rabid teenage girls. That was the last I saw of him…until he hit the stage.

Energy on stage is almost always entertaining. Energy coupled with talent and heart, the kind where you can tell an artist is putting every bit of himself into the performance, is nothing short of awe-inspiring. The latter is Macklemore2what I witnessed that night. Macklemore was so genuinely amped to be on that stage, in that dumpy little venue, in front of those kids (including the stalker chick screaming in his ear, who had earlier heckled Blueprint), that I couldn’t help but admire his character. Achieving that level of intensity should take a gargantuan amount of work, but Macklemore was effortless. I haven’t felt that kind of energy at a show in a long time, and never in Salt Lake City. The Irish, alcohol-free, bafflingly considerate rapper formerly known as “Professor Macklemore” has just won over yet another fan, albeit a cynical, contemptible, and generally dickish one.

So, I guess this is the part where I say thank you. Thanks to Benny for being an annoying douche on Twitter, and thank you to Macklemore for being so accommodating. I tip my fitted to you sir. BrainSlice out.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Brainstorm - The Celestine Prophecy (Album)

Whenever a member of a group takes it upon them self to release a solo project I always feel a little apprehension, a sort of "if it ain't broke, don't try and fix it" vibe. On the other hand I understand the need/want to express yourself outside of said group. This is the same feeling that I had way back when Brainstorm (of Dyme Def) announced that he was working on a solo project. Fast forward, what seems like an eternity, to the present and the release of The Celestine Prophecy.
Wearing the cap of producer and emcee I had no doubt that Brain could pick out some slappers to go in on, and with production by Soleternity, Trox, Rob Bates, Kuddie Fresh, and himself he does just that. I guess my question was whether Brain could carry a track, let alone an album, by himself? How would Brain fare without his partners SEV and Fearce Vil in the fold or a beat from BeanOne? The answer can be found within TCP.
The Celestine Prophecy begins with ShadowBoxing, a joint that he dropped a video for a while back, and sets the album off in the right direction. ShadowBoxing opens with a melancholy piano solo and static that sounds like it's straight from the needle skipping across vinyl. These are just a small diversion for what is about to ensue. Brainstorm attacks the Soleternity beat from his usual braggadocio persona and aggressiveness that we seldom hear,  claiming at one point "come and get mopped, mollywhopped by one of the greatest...". This seems to be the theme on a few tracks from TCP including on the Trox produced Fuck With Me stating "if you wanna get ingnant, in an instant brotha, my fists Marvin Gaye. You and your jaw can turn into some Distant Lovers" and again on Out My Face with it's "fuck out my face bitch" chorus.
Come Down, featuring Eighty 4 Fly, starts off as what would appear to be a "weed anthem", I mean every rapper/artist/album seems to have one these days. Lest you be fooled by Eighty 4 Fly's chorus singing of "blowing weed by the pound" this track is more about not falling from the achieved success. How can you possibly not like a track that quotes Charles Barkley...that would be "turrible"?
It's at this point in the album that Brain loses me...I was expecting more heaters and Brain threw a curve. US Open, featuring Lace Cadence, and Love's Revenge, featuring Dice and J.Pinder, are good songs but the fit in this particular project really didn't work for me. I mean, he had me feelin all broad chested and wanting to ass punch someone and then switched it up.
The Celestine Prophecy closes with Fly Away. This song, for me, is a close second to ShadowBoxing as my favorite from TCP. I dig the sample, really dig it. I feel like this is "classic" Brainstorm...lyrics, delivery, along with a slapper from Trox. Definitely a good way to close the album.
All in all TCP is a solid first solo effort from this Dyme Def representer and 206 spitter. I do feel that I was left wanting more...tracks. It's always a tough thing with these EP/albums, I'm really just getting into it and then it's over. I'd be a liar if I said I didn't want to hear the songs that were left off The Celestine Prophecy.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Dice - Things I Couldn't Say (Video)

Peep the new video from one of many talented females in the Town, Dice, for Things I Couldn't Say. I am actually feelin this video and track a lot...the visuals are fresh and the Seahawks Starters are dope.

OK, OK, I can admit...

that at times I can be quick to judge. I will be the first to admit though that State Of the Artist's first album, "Seattlecalifragilisticextrahelladopeness", was not one of my favorite albums. Not really sure what it is about it...granted I have grown from hating it to tolerating it when it rotates through the iPod. I will say this, their new tracks are dope...starting with the first single I Think I Love You and continuing through todays release Alive featuring the always beautiful Shaprece.  SOTA are in the lab prepping for the May 10th release of their next EP. Here is what they had to say...and hit the link below for Alive.
After delivering a guest filled debut album, SOTA took to the lab, kept the production in house via Parker and is excited to deliver a new sound to their fans.  
After releasing “I Think I Love You,” an edgy nightlife anthem and the EP’s first single, they veer toward a more serious subject expressing what it means to be “Alive.”
Featuring hard hitting drums, a stellar piano refrain and a hook sung to perfection by Shaprece all three emcees in the group Parker, TH and Hypen8d deliver thought provoking bars that shed some insight into the mind state of an artist, and what it takes to be one: “Sometimes this life will break your soul, but you’ve got a heart of gold, and they know...” Stay tuned for the 7-track EP’s May release in-full.
There you have it kids, straight from the mouth..."Altered States" dropping May 10th.

Dyme Def - Bring It In

Another new joint, Bring It In, from the trio's Pay Day Series produced by that guy Brainstorm. YUUUUKKKK.

#BARS and Brawlers...

Seems silly to put these joints out there now as Brainstorm (of Dyme Def) is set to drop his solo project, "The Celestine Prophecy", tomorrow *starts holding breath*. Here are two joints that I guess are going to be on the album...but maybe not. There was supposed to be a 5 day countdown to #TCP but that didn't really pan out. The artwork is dope so I thought I would post it anyway. Check it out. TCP tomorrow, April 6th...allegedly... Fuck it you bastids only get to see one of the two pieces of artwork that was incluced, mostly cause I'm too lazy to change the format.