“The intermediate stage between socialism and capitalism is alcoholism.”

Friday, January 27, 2006

Mr. Pibb + Red Vines = Crazy Delicious!

Yeah, just watch this...

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Rock Stew?

What IS underground? Does it require that a MC remain poor and stay in the hood? Can he or she NEVER mention money, sex or power? And must they always been underappreciated? I don't know, and I'm sure ideas vary -- opinions are like... well, let's just say everybody's got one. But, in part, underground means revolutionary. Different. Like The Fool card in a Tarot deck, underground represents putting one's shit on the line for the betterment of all.

I'm happy to say that the dynamic duo Masterminds have The Fool card in hand with their sophomore LP Stone Soup. It's obvious from the intro, a knocking 90-second instrumental not out of place on a world music album. There is a vocalist on it, but it's not Masterminds, it's a woman. And she's not really singing, but more in the rapture of a voodoo prayer. However, faster than you can say "Angel Heart" they bring some, as Busta would say, bang-your-head shit with the first track "The 3rd Movement." This cut is something ugly, chopping up an Ozzy-like beat from back in his bathead-eating days. It feels so weird -- but so right.

Kimani Rogers and Tarik Holder don't waste any time, flipping knowledge like dead prez and complex syllables like Foreign Legion. However, they still recognize that this is hip-hop -- if people just wanted the knowledge, they'd get a book. For instance, "Stone Planet" takes it back to the corner, bringing back that old-school live feel a la J5's "The Influence." Even on this cut it's clear that the party vibe is just another way to get their point across.

Cuts like "Stone Planet," "Raiders Of The Lost Art" and "Fairytales" target big willies and fake MCs, but they don't -- like some other cerebral rappers -- spend too much saying what they hate about hip-hop today. Luckily their focus is on letting people know what they're about, not what they're NOT about. In 70 minutes you find out how they feel about their kids ("Step By Step"), their hometown New York ("Hueman") and even their mommas ("2 Moms"). That last cut is enough to make a grown brother cry, with Kimani apologizing to his mom for disappointing her and Tarik narrating a story about a male slave ancestor and his mother straight out of "Roots." Another deep cut is "Subliminal," about how we get programmed by TV and radio.

With good chemistry together and solid rhyme skills they're able to drop intelligent gems without being dry, not unlike Mos Def or Guru from GangStarr. And, like their predecessors, phat beats are the backbone of their info, but this is where they raise the ante -- every cut is produced by them. Like whoa. Even more impressive, they're not afraid to experiment, as shown with the previously mentioned "The 3rd Movement," the RZA-esque "Before All Hell Breaks Loose" and the reggae "Hueman."

However, the apex of the album, lyrically and musically, is "September In New York." Everybody and their mom has made a song about 9/11 by this point, but they bring a crystal-clear clarity to the situation. Over a vicious drum-and-bass beat, reminiscent of Outkast's "B.O.B." or the end of The Roots "You Got Me," they convey the urgency of the hour.

Masterminds - Stone Soup
password: mcboozo

Buy It Here!

Oh, and here's a link to a great interview with Kimani!

Whole Lotta Blues

Everyone who is a fan of Led Zeppelin understands that being experimental was a standard for them. At the same time, it's no secret that Zeppelin left the ground by recreating old Blues standards, originally recorded by artists they considered The Masters. This album is symbolic of exactly where Led Zeppelin, and Rock and Roll in general, came from. If you're a Blues lover, you'll really enjoy the raw acoustic sound of Custard Pie, Bring It On Home (Part 1), and When The Levee Breaks (Part 1). Others will enjoy the "thicker" performances of those songs revisited. It's fun to listen to the whole album and understand why Zeppelin had such an affection for this soulful style of music. It's also understandable why Zep wasn't very well received when first bursting onto the scene. Their edgy interpretations of old blues tunes were often called "bastardized" by critics. Yet in spite of the initial negative reaction, the boys knew that what they had begun was magical...pressing on to show more of their talent and diversity. Blues is the most heartfelt kind of music you'll ever hear. If you've never seen a live Blues performance, you should by all means do so. This was the heart and soul that helped make Led Zeppelin the legends they are.

Whole Lotta Blues: Songs of Led Zeppelin
password: mcboozo

Buy It Here!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

But Behind the Tigers...

The Living Things' Steve Albini-produced debut is a raging slab of straight-up rock & roll. The songwriting is as terse, catchy, and rough-hewn as the Ramones; the production open and gritty -- but spacious like an '80s metal album, never sludgy or muddy. Ahead of the Lions isn't a retro, New York punk record -- this is a hard rock album. A song like "March in Daylight" has elements of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club garage psychedelia and Guns N' Roses' L.A. rock blitz. Pop moments could be Kiss ("End Gospel") as easily as the Jesus and Mary Chain ("New Year"). Sounds misguided? Remarkably Ahead of the Lions is entirely cohesive -- like the Strokes amped up on AC/DC instead of Television and Blondie, but just as incendiary and toe-tapping. "I Owe" might be the rock song of the year, burning through a list of the country's political and ideological misfortunes to a stunning blaze of handclaps and Lillian Berlin shouting "let's go" while proclaiming the virtues of love. These are nice guys, after all, who cite Sylvia Plath and Henry Miller as influences as readily as '70s rock and '80s hardcore. They prove that rock & roll as urgent, trashy, and fiery as the Stooges' first three albums, Back in Black, and Appetite for Destruction can actually be thoughtful articles of democracy and righteous rebellion.

The Living Things - Ahead of the Lions
password: mcboozo

Buy It Here!

Babe, the Cannibal Blue Ox

As hip-hop became increasingly commercial and calculated in the late '90s, a thriving indie scene began developing in response, one of the more significant artists in that underground scene being Cannibal Ox. The Harlem duo -- Vast Aire and Vordul Megilah -- eschewed the trademark late-'90s "Cash, Money, Hoes"/"Bling, Bling" style in favor of an edgier approach that confronted commercial hip-hop, acting almost as a foil to everything popular at the time in hip-hop -- namely, the mentality valuing materialism over creativity and ultimately craft. Of course, one cannot mention Cannibal Ox without bringing attention to the duo's producer, El P, one of the more inventive beatmakers of his time. The Cold Vein, Cannibal Ox's 2001 LP, broke through to the mainstream on a small level, initially drawing nothing but praise from such noteworthy publications as The Wire and CMJ, in addition to the expected hip-hop press. Countless comparisons to 36 Chambers-era Wu Tang somewhat pigeonholed the group, even though the tag was no doubt flattering and drew the attention of many curious heads.

While it can be said that many underground crews have been floundering in the gray matter of indie hip-hop, Cannibal Ox filled that area in with 2001's The Cold Vein for El P's Def Jux imprint. The music press had been quick to point out that Vast Aire and Vordul Megilah's attack is at times highly derivative of the Wu Tang Clan, and the point is valid. Thankfully, El P (a serious candidate for producer of the year) lays out some of the most lushingly intriguing sounds and beats that feel as herky-jerky as they sound gilded with silk. It's a bit misleading to harp on the Wu factor that The Cold Vein contains since this record's content is immensely original and the Wu references that seem present are in the enlightened gloomy flow and psychedelic backdrops -- not, (with all due respect) in the kitschy hooks and unfocused rhymes that Wu Tang are also known for. Aire and Megilah swirl around in b-boy posturing and obtuse nonsense as their innovation rears its head at every corner with scatter-shot lines like: "And I ain't dealin' with no minimum wage/I'd rather construct rhymes on a minimum page," and "You were a still-born baby, your mother didn't want you but you were still-born." To their immense credit, Cannibal Ox and El P have assembled one of the most listenable hip-hop albums in far too long.

Cannibal Ox - The Cold Vein
password: mcboozo

Buy It Here!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

This is a spectacular album...check it out!!!

Electric Circus cost and won Common some fans. It was very exploratory, especially so for a rap album released in 2002, containing developments -- some of which soared, some of which sank -- that few longtime followers could have foreseen. Listeners either felt Common was picking up fresh, new inspirations, or that he was just being distracted by a whole lot of ill-fitting nonsense. With Be, it seems the MC has realized that not every album that's sprawling and eclectic is as good as Electric Ladyland or Songs in the Key of Life. More notably, he might've been struck with the fact that a high percentage of excellent albums are around 40 minutes in length and are built on a unified sound. Be is highly concentrated, containing 11 songs and involving two producers and a small number of guests. It's a 180 degree turn from Electric Circus, and in a bizarre way it's both a progression and a back-to-basics move. Kanye West and Dilla are key to the album's steadiness, rooting the sound in '70s soul and soul-jazz. That's no shakeup, but the two producers deserve some form of award for stringing together a consistent sequence of productions that is never monotonous, dull, or all that flashy. Even lead single "The Corner," heard well before Be's release, falls into the fabric of the album on first listen, as if that were where it belonged all along. Lyrically, Common comes back down to Earth -- the narratives are sharp as ever, the gripes are more like observations than screeds, and the eccentricities need to be teased out rather than swatted away. Be isn't likely to be referred to by anyone as groundbreaking, but it's one of Common's best, and it's also one of the most tightly constructed albums of any form within recent memory.

Common - Be
Password: mcboozo