Posts Tagged 'Jay-Z'

What I’m Hearing, Vol. 15

{for last month’s What I’m Hearing, click here}

July’s iPod update was an extremely diverse one, not just for the artists, but for the songs themselves. Taking a new tact, I made July an all mash-up month, checking out some of the ways in which DJs have started taking on the mix and match genre full-throttle. While Danger Mouse helped pioneer it with the Grey Album and AmpLive took it another step with his remixes of Radiohead’s In Rainbows, the mash-up culture is far past those now. But while there is much to be said for the style of Girl Talk where there are more layers than you can reasonably dissect in a listening, I find the club mash-ups utilizing 2 to 3 songs to be a most effective use of the genre. The best news? As all of these are off the grid, they’re all available for download, so follow the links to check the music out for yourself. July’s iPod update included 118 songs.

50 Cent vs. The 50s, DJ Doc Rok: Currently residing in Washington, D.C., DJ Doc Rok’s (djdocrok@gmail.com) work is among the strongest of all artists I heard this month. What’s more is that while he does have a collection of odd mash-ups and various artists, he also sets out to create complete albums of one to two artists. On this album, Rok focuses on all lyrics from 50 Cent songs and combines them with Golden Oldie hits from the R&B and Pop genres. The result? 50 Cent party songs with a touch of flair, moved out of the straight club motif that dominates so many of his songs and saturated with style and soul. Using songs like Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man,” The Four Seasons’ “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” and Booker T. and the MG’s “Green Onions,” Rok flips the 50 acapellas on their head with fantastic result. Definitely my favorite download of the month. Don’t Sleep On: “Rowdy Rowdy/It’s My Party (And I’ll Cry If I Want To),” “Like My Style/One Fine Day,” and “The Good Die Young/Little Susie.”

Best of 2007 (Mash-Up Your Bootz), Various Artists: If you’re looking for a comprehensive blog that provides a vast cross-section of the variety of mash-ups available online, check out Mash-up Your Bootz. They provide comprehensive year-end wrap-up mixes, links to other mash-up sites, and breaking news in the genre. I downloaded both their 2007 and 2008 Best of Mixes and wasn’t disappointed with either. Beck takes on Green Day, AC/DC meets 50 Cent and the Scissor Sisters, Peggy Lee and Iggy Pop collide and Peter Bjorn and John find their whistle backing both Bloc Party and Amy Winehouse. Some of the mashers on this mix include DJ Peaking, DJ Le Clown, CheekyBoy, DJ Lobsterdust, and Party Ben. Perhaps the most pleasant track is by Norwegian Recycling who put together a very simple acoustic mash-up called “How Six Songs Collide” featuring Jason Mraz, Howie Day, Five For Fighting, Angela Ammons, Boyzone, and 3 Doors Down. This one is mirrored nicely with the eerie and melancholy mash of Placebo, Kate Bush and the Pet Shop Boys called, “Love Comes Running Up That Hill Quickly.” Don’t Sleep On: “Young Folks Rehab” by DJ Topcat (Amy Winehouse’s v. Peter Bjorn and John), “Love Comes Running Up That Hill Quickly” by DJ Magnet (Pet Shop Boys v. Placebo v. Kate Bush) and “Break Through Love” by DJ Zebra (The Doors v. Led Zeppelin)

Best of 2008 (Mash-Up Your Bootz), Various Artists: The 2008 mix picks up where 2007 left off and offers an impressive array of very different artists finding their songs blended with people of opposite genres. The album kicks off with Bryan Adams going head to head with Metallica, James Brown duels The Offspring, and Rage Against the Machine gets thrown together with AC/DC, Joan Jett, Queen and Red Hot Chili Peppers. To say that these songs stretch the concept of mashable genres is an understatement. Contributors include Wax Audio, MadMixMustang, DJ Morgoth and Divide and Kreate. Best track has to come when DJ Schmolli brings the haunting guitar lilt of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” and fills it with a slowed down Billy Idol singing “White Wedding.” The result is astounding. Don’t Sleep On: “Wicked Wedding” by DJ Schmolli (Chris Isaak v. Billy Idol v. HIM) “The Low Anthem” by Bass 211 (Flo Rida v. Pitbull) and “Dance Dreams” by Divide and Kreate (Eurythmics v. Lady Gaga)

Michael Jackson: With the unfortunate and untimely death of Michael Jackson last month, I decided to go back and flesh out my Jackson music collection. Sure, I had Thriller and parts of Bad, but I was still missing a large chunk of music from the Jackson 5 days as well as the tracks he did as part of The Jacksons. In all of these outings, Michael’s voice is distinct and easy to pick out, and his energy serves to carry most of the songs. So if you’re looking for some tracks you may not have heard, Don’t Sleep On: “Too Late to Change the Time,” (Jackson 5) “State of Shock,” (The Jacksons) “Another Part of Me” (Michael Jackson)

Jay-Z vs. Led Zeppelin, DJ Doc Rok: By taking the lyrics from Jay-Z’s soundtrack to American Gangster and mashing them with various Led Zeppelin songs, Doc Rok succeeds again in creating an album that can stand on its own. Darker and more subdued than the 50 Cent album, this outing utilizes Zeppelin songs like “Immigrant,” “No Quarter,” “Tangerine,” and “Kashmir.” The result is a new way to think of Jay-Z, liberated from much of the standard hip-hop and rap tracks he’s been tied to, the guitars and gritty classic Rock from Led Zeppelin provide a new canvas which comes off fresh. Don’t Sleep On: “Success/Moby Dick,” “Party Life/I’m Gonna Leave You,” “No Hook/Tangerine”

Party Vol. 25 (Mash-Up Your Bootz), Various Artists: Where the 2007 and 2008 span every genre, what you find most on this party album are mashes primarily utilizing hip-hop, dance and rock. DJ Lobsterdust brings The Police and Coldplay together while DJ BC brings together George Harrison, L’il Kim and Notorious B.I.G. The nice part of this album is that all of it is danceable and will appeal to most anyone on the dance floor. When Gloria Gaynor and Fall Out Boy meet each other at the hands of Mighty Mike, just about anything is possible. Don’t Sleep On: “Get the Day ‘n’Night Started” by Pheugoo (Pink v. Kid Cudi), “Beautiful Journey” by DJ MashUP (Journey v. Akon) and “Lady and the Usher” by Divide and Kreate (Usher v. Ladyhawke)

Lawrence Lessig, The Colbert Remixes and Where We Go From Here

Early in January, Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert sat down with Lawrence Lessig. The interview was typical Colbert tongue-in-cheek, but good for a laugh. For those of you not closely following the implosion of the music industry and subsequent recreation as a more inclusive forum, Lessig is the author of Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy, a book that examines methods of creating revenue out of creative work. The example Lessig used while talking to Colbert was Flickr which allows users to post pictures which Flickr can then create revenue from. But Lessig’s primary argument is that the war on Peer-to-Peer file sharing has failed (he’ll get no argument here) and that the copyright laws are outdated with the vast number of increasing ways people can share, remix and alter original work while making something new. In a way, every blog does this. This post in itself is a remix of two interviews, the functions of two websites and my arrangement of these facts with my thoughts. It’s about as close as I come to making music. The DIY explosion in music is part of the culture that has helped spawn mash-ups like Danger Mouse’s Grey Album (The Beatles’ White Album/Jay-Z’s Black Album) and AmpLive’s Rainydayz Remixes (AmpLive remixing Radiohead‘s In Rainbows.) The point is that technology and the rapidly evolving music industry need to find common ground with artists, and not just other musicians, but all artists, as the mixed media medium is something that can only grow from here.

Well, when Colbert was very specific about becoming “possibly litigious” should anyone take portions of his interview and remix it with a dance beat, he had to do so knowing full-well that someone would. He wasn’t disappointed as two days later, internet upstart IndabaMusic jumped into the fray with a full site devoted to remixing the Colbert/Lessig interview. But it didn’t end there, did it? With Colbert, how could it? Never being one to avoid an opportunity to poke fun at himself, Colbert remixed a video of his own work to a pulsing dance beat, and told the remixers to lay off again, to of course encourage them to remix more. Enter Dan Zaccagnino, head of Indaba who had an interview on Colbert the other night (interview at 14m in) to talk about the remix culture. Of course, these types of remixes are nothing new over at MixMatchMusic, which has had success with their Remix Wizard. While the Indaba/Colbert remix contest is excellent, it is Indaba based. MMM’s Remix Wizard is a free widget that can be set up and used by any artist on their website to host remix promotions. It doesn’t even need to have anything to do with music, as evidenced by Remix Sarah Palin.

While Colbert’s thoughts in the interviews with Lessig and Zaccagnino are clearly meant to be humorous, they serve a larger purpose in that these episodes help create buzz for a rapidly growing and increasingly important segment of the music industry: collaborative pieces brought about through alternative means. Indaba has managed to create a large community of musicians from around the world who are engaging in internet based musical collaboration, and this is a huge first step in breaking down barriers within the recording industry.

But with every broken barrier comes the question of the next frontier. While Colbert asked Zaccagnino what happens to girlfriends breaking up bands if the musicians collaborate on the internet, he failed in his attempts at humor to get to the root of the issue, namely monetization of content. While not many musicians will actively think internet collaboration as a means to avoid break-ups with their significant others, a most serious topic of interest to them is how they can profit from their work. No artist likes the idea of losing control over their work, but if knowing that the usage of their work by others would create tangible income for them, the concept of collaboration and other artists who liked them enough to mix them with their own pieces becomes a much more appealing, and therefore widespread trend. As with the foresight of their DIY remix widgets, MixMatchMusic provides the ability for artists to monetize collaboratively made songs, as well as contribute stems to their social sample library to earn royalties.

The monetization of artist work and internet collaboration is the next step in the rebuilding of the music industry. As fans become more involved with the artists because they are part of a shared internet workspace, the desire to support an artist will increase. Add to that the ability to remix their favorite artist’s work, and the fan interaction with the music becomes uncaged. Forget making a mixtape for a friend. Imagine taking your favorite songs and going Girl Talk on them. This interest and desire to support the artist would in turn funnel revenue back to the musicians.

The recording industry would say that this has been the goal of their war on file sharing, but that is an outrageous lie as most artists never see a dime of the few settlements the RIAA succeeds in obtaining. Little wonder then that the RIAA is backing down. In fact, one could argue that the backlash against the recording industry has been fueled by the consumer perspective that the artists aren’t seeing the profits they should. Furthermore, as revenue streams move away from the major labels and into the artists’ pockets, the majors will be forced to work with both musicians and consumers on more viable distribution and revenue models.

But forget about the money and the labels and the upheaval in the industry. How will this help music evolve? As more artists turn to internet collaboration because their work is safe and profitable, the inevitable evolution of genres and musical landscapes will grow exponentially. Think The Beatles and Jay-Z were cool? What happens when you can take a French hip-hopper’s lyrics, a tribal drum beat from a musician in Africa, a flute melody from Tokyo and a guitar piece from Columbus, Ohio, and add it to your piano piece from the comfort of your home and computer? Sure, you could make money, but look at what your collaboration has created musically. When internet collaboration is monetized and all-inclusive, the community becomes the music industry, and the listeners become the musicians.

What I’m Hearing, Vol. 8

For a taste of October’s music, click here.

November’s update comes with over 100 tracks spanning both new and old albums, and quite a bit in terms of the Yancey family. We’ve got hip-hop and indie rock, R&B and rap. Enjoy!

Black Milk, Tronic: An album that pushes the traditional boundaries of hip-hop with futuristic synths and musical approaches, Black Milk still puts out several songs that utilize nostalgic samples. I won’t say much more because I’ve already written a full album review, but in my recent interview with Hieroglyphics members Opio and Tajai, they named Black Milk as one of the hip-hop producers they were liking the sound of recently. Read the full album review here. Don’t Sleep On: “Long Story Short,” “Bounce,” and “Losing Out” featuring Royce da 5’9″

Bloc Party, Intimacy: When Bloc Party released their initial effort, Silent Alarm in 2005, it brought a distinct sound to the indie rock arena with Kele Okereke’s emotional British accent and their hard charging guitars on songs like “Banquet.” That album spawned a remix album before the release of what I viewed to be a lackluster sophomore effort on 2007’s A Weekend in the City, an album that had three, maybe four really solid songs, tops. Thankfully though, Intimacy not only serves to take some of the band’s music in another direction, but returns the indie sound on their rock songs to the top-notch form that looked possible from their debut. Intimacy still has driving drums and screaming guitars, but the band has started to utilize more in the way of drum machines and electronic flourishes that create a new dimension for them to explore and in some cases creates some of the most musically advanced songs the band has produced to date. Okereke’s use of his voice is showing maturity, commanding more range of both pitch and emotion here. In some songs, it feels like the input they had on their work from Silent Alarm Remixes has prompted them to explore in new directions. A very solid album. Don’t Sleep On: “Signs,” “One Month Off,” and “Talons.”

Illa J, Yancey Boys: I’ve read a few reviews of this album that basically mock Illa J’s approach and state that he only made this album because he got posthumously released tracks from his big brother J Dilla. I think these reviews miss the point of the album in that Illa J doesn’t fancy himself a rapper or hip-hopper, he’s a self-described singer/songwriter, so it only makes sense that what he does over Dilla beats is going to be different from Dilla’s output when he was alive. On this album, the younger Yancey proves himself musically diverse and extremely relaxed, while also recognizing the importance of respecting Dilla’s production. The tracks here are laid back and jazzy, and Illa takes no effort to listen to, he’s that easy. Click here for the full album review, and click here for my interview with Illa J. Don’t Sleep On: “R U Listenin’?” feat. Guity Simpson, “We Here,” and “DTFT” feat. Affion Crockett

J Dilla, Welcome 2 Detroit: With the way underground hip-hop is structured and feeds into the mainstream, it’s often possible for fans to miss an initial classic album from an artist, and then never check it out once they’ve gotten big because it gets lost in the new music. With Illa J’s debut album dropping this month featuring almost exclusive production from Dilla, it only made sense to make sure people were aware of J Dilla’s initial solo offering and the way it intersects with the rest of the hip-hop genre. On Welcome 2 Detroit, Dilla’s signature melodic and stoned out beats are in fine form with lyrical help from other Detroit rappers such as eLZhi (WIH6) and Phat Kat. The album, released in 2001, still sounds fresh and innovative today and features several tracks that showcase Dilla’s ability to fuse other sounds into his hip-hop such as the co-produced (Karriem Riggins) “Rico Suave Bossa Nova” and “B.B.E. (Big Booty Express)” which Dilla seems to have created in order to slip onto future releases of the 1977 Kraftwerk album Trans-Europe Express. Don’t Sleep On: “Shake It Down,” “It’s Like That,” feat. Hodge Podge and Lacks, and “Pause” feat. Frank-N-Dank.

Jedi Mind Tricks, A History of Violence: Underground hip-hop mainstays Jedi Mind Tricks return for their 6th studio album with more hard hitting tracks, masterful production and intricate lyrics. The conspiracy themes from previous albums remain here, and the production draws from interesting samples such as the strings and haunting foreign lyrics on “Monolith” and the sparse flute in “Trail of Lies.” The lyrical deliveries on these tracks are tight, concise and deep in content, and on the whole, the album is a display of exceptional craft from artists working together with a common musical vision and knowledge of their strengths. Don’t Sleep On: “Trail of Lies,” “Death Messiah,” and “Heavy Artillery.”

Kanye West, 808s and Heartbreaks: Following the death of his mother, I was wondering what the latest output from an artist so in touch with his emotions and personal experiences would sound like. On the one hand, I could see West shaking off the events of the last year or so and putting out his most bouncy and sample-laden disc to date. On the opposite end of that, I could imagine West delving deep into what was going on and producing an intensely personal album. On 808s, West moves in a direction completely opposite of the roads he’s traveled before, and comes out all the better for it. Let’s be clear. 808s is not an album for anyone expecting the continuation of sound and work from West’s previous three albums, and it’s not an album that everyone is going to enjoy musically. Using an 808 drum machine and extensively using Auto-Tune to sing rather than rap, West has produced a stripped down and emotionally raw album. Heavy on synths and in points retro-80s sounds (tracks here could have made an Aphex Twin or Tricky album), West lays bare what’s going on with him and refuses to apologize for the new direction of his music. What’s amazing is that while I think the roster of musicians today who could completely change course from one album to the next and do so successfully is small, Kanye does make that list with this album. Dark, personal and musically adventurous, 808s and Heartbreaks exposes West as the musician he is rather than the hip-pop clone machine he’s often typecast as. Don’t Sleep On: “Paranoid,” feat. Mr. Hudson, ” “Bad News” (which features a sample from Nina Simone‘s “See Line Woman”) and “Street Lights.”

Ludacris, Theater of the Mind: While some artists are out to create philosophically moving pieces, or to in some way further the hip-hop culture, Ludacris doesn’t concern himself with such lofty ideals. He’s about making money. A lot of it. On his 6th studio album, Ludacris returns with the formula that has made him the hottest rapper in the South’s history… pulsing and grimy beats full of horns and deep bass kicks meet with quick delivery lyrics touching on sex, violence, money and his ability to outsell other rappers. Keep in mind, I’m not saying that this formula doesn’t work for him and doesn’t have its place within rap and hip-hop, but it is without any sort of creative growth that Luda moves forward. If there’s any doubt about the kind of sales Ludacris would like to see, this album is the most saturated rap album I’ve seen in years in terms of cameo appearances. Ludacris is the lone rapper on only 2 of the 15 tracks, getting guest appearances from Floyd Mayweather (yes, the boxer), Chris Rock (yes, that comedian), Jamie Foxx (still an actor?), Common and Spike Lee (one of them is a rapper, right?), Nas, Jay-Z and current Top 40 mainstays T.I., The Game, T-Pain and Lil Wayne. This approach either means that he intends to make a lot of money based on name recognition of his guests or he realizes that to put out an album that only has him on it, he’d need to come up with full lyrics to all of his songs, a task that might seem daunting (I mean, how many times can you really come up with new raps about rims and Cadillacs?) While musically and lyrically this album isn’t challenging, it has certainly produced some tracks that we’re sure to be hearing in clubs and parties very soon. Don’t Sleep On: “Intro” (only a minute of rapping, but well worth it, and one of only 2 songs with just Luda on it), “Undisputed” feat. Floyd Mayweather, and “Wish You Would” feat. T.I.

Opio, Vuture’s Wisdom, Vol. 1: The first in a trilogy of albums to be released by Opio from Hieroglyphics with production by Architect. The idea behind the albums is that people are saying hip-hop is dead, or at least that’s the popular expression lately. Vulture’s Wisdom refers to the ability to pick what’s left of life from the bones of the deceased, and this album shows that Opio hasn’t lost any of the edge that has carried him through more than a decade in the industry as a part of the Hiero Imperium. Be on the lookout for my interview with Opio and Tajai, where they discuss their plans to release a new single every week in 2009. Don’t Sleep On: “Don Julio,” “Mind, Body and Soul,” and “Some Superfly Shit.”

Singles… these are the songs where the full album just didn’t cut it, but the songs deserve their time in your ears. Check out “4 Wind,” a multi-lingual remix of the cut from Breez Evahflowin and Dirt E. Dutch’s Troublemakers album, and the radio ready hip-pop of T-Pain songs “Can’t Believe It” featuring L’il Wayne and “Karaoke” featuring DJ Khaled where T-Pain goes off on the rest of the industry (funny coming from the guy who did “Bartender”) and claims the only cool rappers are Kanye West and L’il Wayne. Well, at least he’s consistent. There you have it, the November update… up next is the second installment of last year’s 11 Songs to Be Thankful For.

What I’m Hearing, Vol. 6

For a taste of what I was hearing last month, click here.

September’s iPod update featured some fantastic new music from the month, including a number of debut albums from upcoming artists. R&B, Soul, Hip-Hop, Rock, Electronica and Pop music all make their appearances over 91 new tracks ushering us into Fall.

eLZhi, The Preface: Most rappers who have been recording material since 1997 have a large body of work to show for it. While this is the case for eLZhi, the majority of this work is unreleased or in featuring format on other artists’ work over the past 7 years or so. 2008 marks the debut full length album from this Detroit native, and while quite a few hip-hop fans may not have heard of eLZhi yet, the strength of this album should help make his second effort eagerly awaited. With production from fellow up and comer Black Milk, eLZhi uses a mixture of darker beats and old-school sounding fresh production to leave himself with a diverse group of songs which he raps over with ease. Whether he’s rapping about love, poverty and socioeconomic divisions or his experiences growing up in the streets, elZHi’s lyrics are complex yet effortless, coming out the polished product of a rapper with an extreme amount of comfort in his delivery. With a fantastic string and vocal sample and his laidback flow, “Transitional Joint” is the kind of song that’s an instant classic on the first listen. Don’t Sleep On: “The Science,” “Transitional Joint,” and “Save Ya.”

Lykke Li, Youth Novels: I covered Lykke Li’s US EP release here back in June. The full album finally made its way stateside, and the result of Li’s command over an entire album is impressive. While most songs retain the soft-spoken and delicate feeling of the EP, Li uses the full album to spread her wings into esoteric melody pieces (“This Trumpet In My Head”) as well as emotionally semi-detached pieces with simple backings (“Hanging High”). However, what is more enjoyable is when the album delves further into the dance and pop ideals that her voice and musical judgments help to raise above the standard radio fare. Even while being forceful, Li’s voice manages to be light and airy without disappearing against the background of the heavier songs. With guest remixes by The Black Kids (WIH,V.5) CSS and DiskJokke, a few of the EP songs get a new feeling. The range of tracks on this album speaks of a promising and diverse future body of work from this young singer out of Sweden. Don’t Sleep On: “Breaking It Up,” “Complaint Department,” and “I’m Good, I’m Gone (Black Kids Remix)”

Raphael Saadiq, The Way I See It: When I picked up this album, I had to make sure that the published date of it was correct. Saadiq, formerly of Tony! Toni! Toné!, has reinvented his music on this album that feels at times like it could have and should have been released in various portions of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. Soul, R&B, Funk and sounds of Doo-Wop all permeate this album, and some of the production makes you think you’re listening to an old classic that you’ve never heard before…It feels like a vintage Sunday afternoon. The musicianship behind him allows Saadiq’s voice to soar through tracks both melancholy and joyful. Fans of The Four Tops, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder (who makes an appearance on the album), Dusty Springfield and their contemporaries will all find reason to smile here. “Just One Kiss” features Joss Stone, and the remix of another album song “Oh Girl” features Jay-Z. Don’t Sleep On: “Love That Girl,” “Big Easy (feat. The Infamous Young Spodie & The Rebirth Brass Band)” and “Kelly Ray.

Rumble Strips, Girls and Weather: In case you weren’t aware, the perforations on the freeway shoulders that rattle you if you stray too far outside the lines are called rumble strips. I certainly didn’t know that before sitting down to review the band I’ve been listening to for two weeks. While most bands hopping the pond are taking up the power punk and alt-rock sounds of Bloc Party and the Young Knives (WIH, V.3), the Rumble Strips infuse it with at times Bosstones-like frenetic horns and ska sensibilities on their debut album, without losing a strong rock value. The arrangements are tight and Charlie Waller on lead vocals, while sometimes a bit reckless in his reach, provides the emotion necessary to keep up with the pace and energy of the sound. While they made their breakthrough with the rollicking and enormously fun “Motorcycle,” there are a variety of enjoyable sounds to be found on Girls and Weather. Don’t Sleep On: “Cowboy,” “Time,” and my personal favorite, “Girls and Boys in Love.”

Stacy Epps, The Awakening: Multi-faceted (I’ve been told she attended law school at USC) Stacy Epps brings her life experiences and spiritual vision to the table in an album that exudes passion that is sometimes overwhelming and unreachable in its scope. Using trip-hop beats and spacey melodies with jazz influences Epps at various times flows, speaks, sings and fades away on an album that exhibits a vocal talent sometimes lost in the more convoluted soundscapes. If there’s a drawback to this album, it’s that a few too many songs have “The Awakening, 2008, Stacy Epps” or some combination of these in the background, almost in an attempt to subconsciously advertise in the aural space of the listener. It gets frustrating at times, like endless self-promotion polluting the music. Fans of Bjork and Alice Coltrane will have a field-day here, but it might be too dense for casual listeners. Don’t Sleep On: “Floatin’,” “Heaven” feat. Bilal Salaam, and “Who Knows.”

Throw Me the Statue, Purpleface EP: One of the most promising signs of a relatively young band is the sign of continual tinkering with the sound and style, and a refusal to be tied too tightly to any one genre, while making music that all sounds somehow, on a fundamental level, right for them. This four track EP that fell in my hands last week courtesy of Gavroche exhibits this growth while retaining the emotional ambiguity and lyrical earnestness necessary to make them work. One of the original Moonbeams tracks, “Written in Heart Signs, Faintly” gets a studio makeover of its concert alter-ego here. “Honeybee” is a simple and direct piano backed and reverb laced track with glimpses of clarinet. “That’s How You Win” uses plaintive guitars and a kick and run drum roll to back Reitherman’s echo-like and airy vocals. “Ship,” however, is the standout track of this set both musically and lyrically. The drums combine with a drum machine to back a building piano that crashes into the main melody of the song, an incredibly beautiful piece of music that contentedly fades out at the end, free to repeat in the space between your ears. Don’t Sleep On: It’s a 4 track EP people, what’s to sleep on?

Tough Alliance, The New School: Taking pop and electronic music and blending it is the outcome of this album from the duo of Henning Fürst and Eric Berglund. At times repetitive and even slightly annoying, at its best, The New School offers video game blip electronic music that is mindlessly catchy. Not my normal cup of tea in its entirety, but Don’t Sleep On: “Take No Heroes,” “Tough II,” and “Koka-Kola Veins.”

First Listen: Immortal Technique – The 3rd World

(Follow this link to Evolving Music’s interview with Immortal Technique.)
(Follow this link to the full album review of Immortal Technique’s “The 3rd World”.)

Following the announcement of the release date of the upcoming Immortal Technique album (June 24th), us media types were treated to a few tracks to introduce us to what could be the most anticipated independent album in years. And when I say independent, I’m not talking about a rapper on an underground label. I’m talking about a rapper who sold his CDs on the street and now refuses to sign with a label that could provide more exposure as it might infringe on his message and mission. However, with the announcement that a large amount of production for the album was completed by Jay-Z’s DJ Green Lantern, it had yet to be seen if Immortal Technique could stick to his guns amid production that on previous albums had been handled by far more independent names like Southpaw and 44 Caliber.
The press release was accompanied by a quote from “The Payback,” “I make rap about lyrics not beats and marketing.” And after listening to this track, “The 3rd World,” and “Reverse Pimpology,” there is no question that regardless of the beat behind him, Immortal Technique will not change his message or the power in his lyrics.
On the first listen, I liked the songs, but was concerned. These didn’t sound like Immortal Technique songs I had heard off the first two albums. The beats are more accessible, and even in an unmastered format, are a bit more polished than some of the more basic tracks off the two Revolutionary albums. On previous releases, while there are numerous tracks that grab musically from the first beat (“Caught in the Hustle,” “No Me Importa, “Obnoxious,” and “Harlem Streets” to name a few), one of the staples of the style is that the beats are more of a backdrop for Tech’s lyrics than anything else, and appreciation for them is derived mainly from how he sounds over them.
So when “The Payback” comes on with a vintage hook that could have come out of a Kanye song and laid back horns, the initial auditory reaction is to think the lyrics are going to follow those pop sensible lines. But when he opens in typical Tech fashion, “I want to run for President and the focal point when I’m campaignin’/is to put FEMA to work on plantation at Camp David,” it becomes clear that nothing has changed but the background, and even that difference is then altered by Tech’s forceful delivery and unmistakable style. By the end of the cut, as much as you could imagine hearing the beat on a radio station, Tech has made it completely his own, and you can’t imagine someone rapping about women, money or any of the other surface level topics popular in the genre today. The song is all the stronger for it.
The first beats of “The 3rd World,” while retaining the ragga-street melody style of tracks like “Peruvian Cocaine,” employs a thump and kick beat that’s harder and more fleshed out than Tech listeners are used to hearing. His mastery of lyrics, both in how he fuses lines and words together while never losing sight of his content, is again in full display here with lines like, “from where the bombs that they used to drop on Vietnam/Still has children born deformed 8 months before they’re born.”
When the initial reaction is to the first few measures of music, it’s easy to forget why you’re listening. So much of hip-hop today is based on listenable production that masks otherwise impotent lyrics. For a second you think you’ve stumbled into one of these before you remember that you’re listening because it’s an Immortal Technique track. And when you remember that fact, you start listening and realizing that not only is he the same rapper from the previous two albums, but he’s better because his message and delivery is truly incredible regardless of the beat he chooses. In short, these songs take an already potent lyricism and delivery and drive them home with an increased versatility derived from new musical landscapes behind them.
While Revolutionary Vol. 1 and 2 were perfect for his style and his message, they are largely an extension of each other. With these first three tracks from The 3rd World, Tech demonstrates an ability to adapt over any beat, and when he spits that he “makes rap about lyrics not beats and marketing,” the idea behind the new album and his collaboration with Green Lantern becomes more clear. He doesn’t care what he raps over, as long as his words are heard, and he doesn’t care who sells his album because he knows it will get out there if his message remains strong. While on a first listen these songs might shock Immortal Technique fans, the second and third listen reveal lyrics that are just as potent as the previous releases, packaged in beats that will change the way you listen to him. The elements of government conspiracy, poverty and disrespect to the major labels all show flashes here, and any concern that Tech would get soft in his lyrics or his delivery is washed away instantly.
With production coming from Green Lantern, Southpaw and Buckwild, and every indication that Immortal Technique’s strength as a lyricist and ideas as a revolutionary have not waned in the years since Revolutionary Vol. 2, I can tell you already that these three tracks make an excellent starting point for what is shaping up to be a forceful album. June 24th, Viper records, Immortal Technique, The 3rd World. Just to be fair, I’ve also heard bits of the tracks “Mistakes,” “Death March,” “Lick Shots,” and “Golpe de Estado,” but I’m not going to ruin the entire anticipation for the album here!

For a review of the full album, click here.

Immortal Technique: The 3rd World Release Date

3rd World Art
{Editor’s Note: I’ve now heard three tracks off this album. You can check out my review of those here.}
{Editor’s Note 2: I’ve now heard the entire album, and the entire review can be found here.}
(Click here for Evolving Music’s exclusive interview with Immortal Technique)
It’s been the talk over here for a few months, but we’ve finally been treated to actual factual information concerning the upcoming Immortal Technique release The 3rd World. Revolutionary Vol. 2, Tech’s 2nd album, has been in circulation for 5 years now without a follow-up, and the buzz for his next album indicated that it would be something along the lines of a mix-tape format with tracks produced by Jay-Z’s DJ Green Lantern. Apparently though, fans waiting for something thrown together along the mix-tape lines will have to readjust their expectations in light of what has become a fully fledged concept studio album by the two intent on examining the underground hip-hop scene battling the major studio labels in the analogy of 3rd World countries against the economic powerhouses. I’m also fairly certain that we’ll be hearing a continuation of the other political ideals Tech is known for throughout the album.

I say this is a concept of marketing and lyrical attack that MixMatchMusic and us folks over here at Evolving Music can get behind. Long known for his revolutionary ideals and viciously direct lyrics, Immortal Technique has been a symbol of the growing war being waged on record distribution lines by major corporations and independent artists. He has remained fiercely independent in order to protect the integrity of his message from being tampered with by commercial interests. The result has been two full studio albums that examine poverty, economic and racial disparity, the various US “wars” on terrorism and drugs, and scathing attacks on the current state of our political system. With the war for the music consumer and methods of distribution heating up in the past 8 months with the media permeating success of Radiohead’s In Rainbows and Nine Inch Nails’ Ghosts I-IV, a statement of underground strength on the level Immortal Technique is capable of is one that should be watched with interest.

Furthermore, the press release leads me to believe that there will be no attempt to tone down his message or alter his ideals here. Immortal Technique remains one of the most ideologically grounded rappers in the business, and with the premiere backing of Green Lantern, this album is sure to keep your head nodding. Here’s the track listing, straight from the publicity in Tech’s camp. Be on the lookout for an Immortal Technique interview in the next week here on Evolving Music and listen for the album to drop on June 24th.

1. Death March (featuring Dj Green Lantern)
2. That’s What It Is
3. Golpe De Estado (featuring Veneno & Temperamento)
4. Harlem Renaissance
5. Lick Shots (featuring Chino XL, Crooked I)
6. Interlude
7. The 3rd World
8. Hollywood Driveby (featuring Psycho Realm & Street Platoon)
9. Watchout (RMX)
10. Reverse Pimpology (featuring Mojo)
11. Open Your Eyes
12. The Payback (featuring Diabolic & RasKass)
13. Adios Uncle Tom-Skit
14. Stronghold Grip (featuring Poison Pen & Swave Sevah)
15. Mistakes
16. Out on Parole
17. Crimes of the Heart (featuring Maya Azucena)
***Bonus track (R.O.T.C. featuring J.Arch & Da Circle)

Pot of Gold

The mash-up world, following the release and enormous publicity of Danger Mouse‘s Grey Album, has erupted. Following the illegal mixing and matching of Jay-Z and The Beatles, artists coming together to mash has blossomed into a full industry. Jay-Z was one of the first to take advantage on a massive scale when he collaborated with Linkin Park for Collision Course. Now both the underground and commercial aspects of mash-ups have grown, and this new sub genre has invited a host of interesting questions regarding rights and distribution where two artists are involved. What makes the questions more interesting is, as in the case of Danger Mouse, when an artist goes out on their own to mash others’ music. But what happens when the remixed music is free, and started out free? Somehow, it seems lately that whenever we write about distribution rights, marketing and new music models, Radiohead is omnipresent. This time, it wasn’t Danger Mouse, and it wasn’t using a collection of songs as heavily protected as the Beatles’ library.

A few months ago, we talked about Radiohead releasing their newest album online in a “pay what you will” format. The discussions have been endless in terms of what this new model means for the record industry. The limits of Radiohead’s generosity were tested recently when AmpLive, who most will know from his amazing work as one half of the Zion I duo out of Oakland, came out with a new mash-up. AmpLive, after listening to In Rainbows, decided that he had to have a crack at re-mixing the tracks and adding hip-hop artists like Charli 2na and Del of Hieroglyphics over Thom Yorke‘s lyrics. He started offering these mixes up under the title Rainydayz Remixes, and sure enough, Radiohead’s major distributer, Warner, sent a cease and desist for unauthorized mixes.

That’s when Radiohead, their take on the music industry and distribution rights, and their sensibilities as musicians stepped in to the discussion. Never one to do what the labels tell them, Radiohead has now sanctioned AmpLive’s remixes, allowing him to distribute them as long as they are free (which was his intention initially), and apparently giving the musician stamp of approval to a mash-up album that carries Radiohead’s distinctive sound while taking the music of the band into previously uncharted hip-hop territory. After four listens through the album last night, there’s little wonder that it got the band’s stamp of approval…it’s phenomenal, unexpected, and a fantastic companion piece to the original.

Clocking in at a sparse 8 tracks and 25 minutes, what Rainydayz lacks in length it makes up for in depth. Following the 30 second intro, the remaining 7 songs are a lush assortment of sounds and moods. “Videotapez” is a slick chop of “Video Tape,” with a solid hip-hop beat and an original Del verse. Amp uses the piano portion of the song as the loop, and Thom Yorke’s scratched lyrics provide the chorus. “Nudez” takes on “Nude,” using the airy vocals of the original and lacing them over a thumping bass line. The song takes on an original chorus and provides a Too Short verse before transitioning into a more laid back beat with Yorke on the fade out.

“Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” gets redone here as “Weird Fishez.” Amp doesn’t repeat the fast paced drums of the original, and the song is all the better for it. The beat rolls along with hand claps and an almost jazzy xylophone type sound with electronic glitches. The use of Yorke on this one is more as accent, as all of the clips are jittery and short. He doesn’t use any extended lyrics from this one, and the clips he does use trail off nicely. Towards the end of the song, Amp goes frenetic with the drums before bringing the beat back. “All I Need” brings a more trippy underground dub feel to the original with nicely interspersed horns. The chorus is brought out in a synthesized loop, and the end result is reminiscent of a Massive Attack song. This song is fantastic as it demonstrates the true versatility of Amp. While the majority of his music is rooted in hip-hop, part of what has made Zion I so successful is his constantly changing and incredibly diverse production. Here he shows that off to great effect.

On “15 Stepz,” Amp starts the song with a heavy electric guitar that leads you to believe we’re going to get a Collision Course-esque mash-up, but then a relaxed and groovy beat comes in and Codany Holiday offers up a soulful interpretation of the original lyrics. Part funk, part lounge, this song is perhaps the best example on the album of Amp weaving together his interpretation with the original material. He slows down the glitch tempo of the original and combines it with a great beat of his own. It’s excellent to hear the Radiohead lyrics re-interpreted here. The style of Radiohead is so unique, and Yorke’s voice so distinct that this soulful take on it comes across wonderfully. Holiday doesn’t get caught up trying to emulate, he merely takes the words and gets down to business

“Reckonerz” starts with the start and stop style found in a few songs on True and Livin’ before bringing in the deep and unmistakable flow of Charli 2na. The chorus is completely original, and the verse is backed by eerie samples from the source material “Reckoner.” 2na blasts through the verse in his signature style, making this perhaps the most radio ready track of the 7. The album finishes with “Faustz” which sounds more like it’s original, “Faust Arp,” than any other track here. Amp keeps the main guitar part virtually intact while looping and scratching the original lyrics on top. The head nodding hip-hop over the top sounds right at home, and the stop and go segment sounds like a DJ swapping drum beats between turntables.

If there’s one downfall to this album it’s that it’s under a half hour long. If there’s two, the second is that AmpLive doesn’t tackle the other songs on the album. “Bodysnatchers,” “House of Cards” and “Jigsaw Falling Into Place,” are neglected here. But these are minor points. The creation of the album, free internet distribution, and subsequent Radiohead backing make this album another step in the journey to a revolutionized music industry, and a triumphant addition to the growing collection of mash-ups.


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