Archive Page 2

23
Apr
12

I ♥ Tuesdays Vol. 15: Valentine’s Day Edition

When I returned to The Motherland for a visit last summer, I was confronted by my moms about some of my stuff which had been doing little more than collecting dust in my parents’ suburban abode: “Yeah, so about those turntables and records you have in the storage room; we’re going to need you to get those out of here so we have room for your niece’s toys.” Great.  Some of the few remaining valuable possessions I had left in my childhood home were causing such an incovinece that I would be forced to: a) sell them within a weeks time or b) find a new home for my dust collectors.  I flipped the decks for fair value within a couple days via online classifieds  (rest easy DJs, they were shitty Numark belt-drives), but couldn’t bear the thought of letting my wax be thumbed through by the digits of a complete stranger.

I began sifting through the few crates I’ve accumulated over the years – my pops’ original pressings, hand-me-downs from friends who had been forced to part ways with their wax, and a grip of more recent purchases – when I stumbled across a small case of old 7-inch 45s.  For the sake of nostalgia, I began flipping through and found a mixed bag of singles from the sixties, seventies, and eighties.  Two particular records caught my attention: A Def Jam pressing of Beastie Boys’ “Fight for Your Right” b/w “Paul Revere” and Run-DMC’s “Walk This Way” with Aerosmith.  I brought them out to my dad and asked him why the hell he bought those. “I didn’t,” he told me. “Those were yours. You played the shit out of them when you were little.”

My first memories of hip-hop culture spring back to being frightened by Public Enemy videos, wanting a cap with an “X” so badly without any understanding of the significance, and bawling my eyes out when my barber told me I wasn’t blessed with the “type of hair” needed for a high-top fade. Clearly, though, things went back a little further, as both “Walk This Way” and “Fight for Your Right” dropped in ’86 when I was only two. It started to make sense, then, that I had forced my grandma to buy me a pair of parachute pants and choreographed dance routines to “U Can’t Touch This” in ’90, and that I somehow convinced my dad to put cuts in my eyebrows and the sides of my hair in order to more accurately imitate Vanilla Ice as I recited “Ice Ice Baby” in front of the mirror later that year.

Then there was the time that I wore my Oakland A’s jersey and Levi’s backwards to school in 3rd grade, much to the dismay of my big sister who had to walk me to school, and the utter doubfoundment of my classmates and teacher. I didn’t really give a fuck; I felt like the miggity-mack.  Soon after, as my sister neared high school, she started dating older guys who would bring over now-classic tapes and CDs and listen to them discretely as to avoid my parents hearing; they would have flipped had they heard the torture skit on Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers or seen the album art for ATLiens (two records which I distictivly remember blowing my adolescent mind at the time of first listen.)  Shouts to those dudes, whose names I can’t remember, for schooling me in the game outside of what I was exposed to on MuchMusic’s Rap City. 

It wasn’t long before I was buying my own hip-hop albums at the local Sunrise Records; I vividly remember copping Busta Rhymes’ The Coming on cassette when I was 11, listening on low with my ear pressed against the speaker, scared to DEATH that my parents would walk in and smash the tape.  Growing up in an upper-middle-class Canadian suburb, most of my friends were more interested in The Offspring or Bush X at the time, but as hip-hop moved to the forefront of the music industry thanks mainly to the East vs. West turf wars, I suddenly became the dude in the class to come to for the newest the genre had to offer.  And I was hooked. 

Though I had flirted with it for years, hip-hop music officially became my first love by the time I entered high school.  And it has remained so to this very day.  Though I have accumulated countless life experiences, undergone imminence change as a man, and been through various other love affairs over the fifteen-odd years since, my affection for the game is the one thing that has remained steadfast throughout.  Like most relationships worth anything, hip-hop and I have had our ups and downs. But make no mistake: this love is unwavering.  Hip-hop doesn’t have any parents to impress (unless you’re counting TwoHands).  Thanks to Walkmans and iPods, there are never any distance issues to potentially get in the way.  My favorite records don’t expect flowers on their birthday, or get aggy if I forget the anniversary of their release.  And most importantly, the music is always there to lean on, in times of angersadnesspride, or celebration.

All of this to say that – while I fully acknowledge problems exist within the genre – I refuse to believe that we have witnessed the best hip-hop has to offer.  Times change, and with them, so to do expectations.  For those of you fortunate enough to have been around during the birth and and growth of the genre, I am genuinely envious and can understand how you may have become jaded.  Over the past thirty-plus years, what we now call hip-hop has shifted and expanded such a great deal that it now permeates every aspect of our popular culture.  Has it become overly commercialized along the way? One could argue that it has, but I see nothing wrong with exposure if motives remain the same.  Too often, unfortunately, they change drastically with a little limelight.

But not always.  Believe it or not, there is still a whole lot of incredible hip-hop being made in 2012.  Sure, it takes a little more sifting to discover the quality material, but it certainly is out there. The mistake is made when we blindly deafly dismiss anything new in attempts to cling to the romanticism of past classics. I went through a period when I did just that;  I felt like by embracing new movements, I was somehow betraying the classic foundation on which hip-hop had been built.  Will there ever be another Illmatic?  Sadly, no.  But I came to the realization that, if we refuse to support the continued progression of a genre in which damn near everything “traditional” has been beaten into the ground, we only hurt the chances of seeing classic records in the future.

The truth is, there is enough room for all of it: The old and the new, the rugged and the swaggy.  You say Rakim, I say Rocky.  You say Wu-Tang, I say OF. You say Snoop, I say Wiz.  You say B.I.G., I say Bronson.  You say Dirt, I say Danny. You say Common, I say Kendrick.  No, I’m not trying to compare young-bloods to unquestioned legends. But it’s important to remember that established vets were the up-and-comers at one point in time.  The difference, I believe, is that they weren’t entering the rap game under such a powerful and skeptical microscope as we have now, and as a result were afforded a chance to prove their worth before being pigeon-holed or dismissed completely. With the continued support of heads everywhere, there is no telling where the new breed of emcees and the generations that follow can take the genre.  As the great Christopher Wallace once reminded us, the sky is the limit.

I, for one, still love H.E.R.          

— Noakes  

Originally published February 14, 2012 at theblast-blog.com

23
Apr
12

I ♥ Tuesdays Vol. 14

Except for when my mahfuggin’ system crashes three-quarters of the way through preparation of my weekly blog entry. Then, Tuesdays are super wack.

Besides technical difficulties, word on the street major hip-hop sites report that there won’t be a single new record making its way to your local record store’s hip-hop section this week. So as opposed to my typical, long-winded review of the hottest new shit on the block, I’m forced to keep this week’s column short and sweet.

Miami upstart rapper/producer SpaceGhostPurrp dropped his latest offering GXX XX BXXXX (or God of Black for us non-occult types) last Friday over at the major mixtape sites with heavy assistance from the rest of the Rvider Klvn.  Though this isn’t the first free SGP project to be unsuspectingly dropped upon Internet heads, it is the first since Purrp popped up on the major blog radar with a pair of guest verses and a Parkay-smooth production contribution (“Keep It G”) to A$AP Rocky’s LiveLoveA$AP back in the fall.  Before linking up with the A$AP Mob and transplanting himself to New York City, the 20-year-old Floridian established a name for himself among underground heads with his ultra-raw, lo-fi stylings, clearly drawing from mid-nineties Memphis and the Hypnotize Minds camp to inspire for his sound and aesthetic. No question, the no-holds-barred nature of tracks like “Suck a Dick for 2011” helped put Purrp on with the Pitchfork/Fader crowd, but after proving his worth on Rocky’s classic mixtape and following it up with the heaviness of “Pretty Flacko” on New Year’s Day, hip-hop heads have also began to take notice on a grander scale.

SGP and his Raider Klan associates do little to flip the script here on God of Black.  It’s more poorly mixed, leaned out, unrefined hip-hop that is as nostalgic as it is progressive. Album opener “Mystical Maze” sets the tone with haunting synths, creepy filtration, simplistic 808 drums, and seemingly free-associative lyricism.  While that might not sound like a rousing recommendation, the total package possesses a certain freshness that is refreshing, if not only because this type of ruggedness has been absent in the game for far too long.  “Suck a Dick 2012 After Party” continues where Purrp’s 2011 breakout jam left off, with more uncouth attempts to seduce the ladies. But whereas the original thrived on tongue-in-cheek repetition of the crude hook, Purrp puts on display his unique gift for delivery this go round and makes it evident that he wants to be taken seriously as an emcee. “Low MF Key,” an SGP-produced cut from Klan Amber London, sounds like a Gangsta Boo leftover (even shouting out “1997” as the track wraps), and in an era with so few femcees making quality songs, I mean that as nothing short of a compliment.

Being packaged as an EP probably helps the project in the long run: The persistent gloom gets a little stale, and the intentionally poor sound quality comes off as gimmicky as the tape progresses. Still, for those of you who appreciate continued efforts to bring something new to the table in attempts to expand the scope of the genre – even if it means rehashing past movements with a new twist – this is probably something you can ride to.

If my computer makes it though the week, I’ll be back next Tuesday with a special Valentine’s Day edition, where I will attempt to fully express my love for 星期二.  Until then? It’s The Blast ya’ll.

–Noakes

Originally published February 7, 2012 at theblast-blog.com 

23
Apr
12

I ♥ Tuesdays Vol. 13

In attempts to bring you the freshest of the fresh each week here at The Blast Blog, occasionally a record somehow slips between the cracks.  Last Tuesday, while I lamented about the sorry state of the release schedule and instead focused my attention on recognizing the top producers of 2011, I somehow missed a project featuring one of the list’s honorable mentions, The Alchemist and Oh No’s second collaborative Gangrene project, Vodka & Ayahuasca.  You’ll have to excuse my ignorance, but with another less-than-stellar week for new releases, I’m afforded an opportunity to give you my thoughts on Al and Oh’s latest.

I’m well aware that most of you who regularly keep it locked to The Blast programming are disappointed with the current state of the rap game: A quick scan of the Facebook group and it becomes entirely evident that nostalgia and reminiscence prevail.  And while I’m sure some of the releases I discuss each week inspire little more than an eye-roll, Gangrene’s latest is sure to please Golden Era heads and new jacks alike.  I mean, is there anything more nostalgic than a verse from Kool G. Rap, who can be found laying 16 on the album opener “Gladiator Music”?  And while neither Oh No nor The Alchemist is likely to evoke memories of Rakim any time soon, the duo more than hold their own alongside certified Gs Prodigy (“Dump Truck”), Roc Marciano (“Drink It Up”), and Evidence (“Dark Shades”).

But let’s be real: No one is turning to this record for lyrical content.  Both Al and The Youngest Jackson made names for themselves behind the boards, so it’s no surprise that the production truly shines on Vodka & Ayahuasca.  Oh No takes the reins for nine of the album’s 14 joints including personal favorite “Flame Throwers,” a cut driven by a bassline funky enough to make Oh’s older brother proud.  Unfortunately, the stand-out nature of “Flame Throwers” calls to attention the LP’s central flaw: By choosing to craft the project around a central theme of psychedelia, Al and Oh unintentionally limit the potential scope of the record and things get a little repetitive.  I’m as much a fan of continuity and cohesion as any critic, but problems arise when only one cut has me reaching for the repeat button; there isn’t enough identity to distinguish a joint like “Due Work” from, say, “Top Instructors,” let alone the rest of the album.

Though Vodka & Ayahuasca is far from perfect, the Gangrene crew bring a novel approach to a time-honored rap formula. To paraphrase the words of one Phonte Coleman, sometimes we as fans get a little caught up in looking for history to repeat itself, turning a blind-eye to anything new in attempts to stay “true to the game.”  While I would never argue that we are in the midst of any sort of Golden Age, it’s nice to know that a progressive-conservative act like Gangrene still holds a comfortable position in the genre amongst the ASAPs, Yeezys, and Based Gods.  

For those of you who will be in the Taipei City area this Saturday, be sure to check out Now You’re Playing With POWER!!!, an exhibition of video game-inspired art from some of Taiwan’s most talented.  The Blast’s own LEO37 will be handling music at Revolver, while the World Haterweight Champion Themba Child will have his work featured heavily. Hope to see some of you out.  Until next Tuesday, it’s The Blast, ya’ll.

Noakes

Originally published January 31, 2012 at theblast-blog.com

23
Apr
12

I ♥ Tuesdays Vol. 12

I really do… But this week, I feel like I’m getting no love in return. Take a look at the release schedule, and after you spit out the vomit in your mouth, shake your head with me. That’s right, just like that. Am I really expected to be jazzed about a Planet Asia record at this point in his career? Sha Stimuli had my ear for a minute, but is anybody looking out for dude these days? Last week’s Future mixtape has caught some buzz, but after one listen, that shitbecame a coaster got deleted; I still haven’t figured out what the kid brings to the table that so many find appealing.

So in my continuing quest to keep positivty afloat in this torrid sea of hate, I’m going to use this space to take a look back at those producers who ran things in 2011. As a focus on lyrical content has fallen by the wayside for so many, the value of a memorable beat has increased substantially, particularly in creating a hit radio record. Still, I’m not basing my ranking here solely on visibility, but also on a grip of other criteria I use personally when evaluating production: originality, versatility, replayability, and the ability to stand-up in instrumental form. Here is a list of the beat makers who, in the view of Your Humble Narrator, brought the most – and best – noise in 2011, and whose sonic landscapes I look most forward to hearing as we enter 2012. Without further ado…

The Best Producers of 2011

5. Statik Selektah

Massachusetts’ finest is no newcomer to the scene, and one look at his staggering Wiki wrap sheet proves few can match Statik’s productivity over the past few years. So what changed in 2011? While Selektah’s production has always appealed to a certain, dare-I-say backpack crowd, there wasn’t much that distinguished his production from other boom-bap, Golden Age throwbacks. This year, though, Statik got much bolder with his sample selection and drum breaks, particularly on Well-Done, a full-length collaboration with Action Bronson that gets heavy consideration for “Best of 2011” in my books. Here’s hoping Statik can continue to expand his catalogue and solidify his reputation as one of The East’s most reliable beat makers.

Peep Game: Action Bronson – “Cirque Du Soleil,” Action Bronson – “Not Enough Words,” Action Bronson – “The Rainmaker,” Freddie Gibbs – “Keep It Warm For Ya,” Big K.R.I.T. & Freddie Gibbs – “Play the Game”

4. Hit-Boy

Let’s not front: Hit-Boy deserves a spot on this list based on the strength of The Throne’s mega-smash alone. Having crafted the beat for the near-unanimous “Single of the Year” selection (and having everyone and their mother try their hand on the beat) is a nice feather in young’n’s cap, but “Niggas in Paris” wasn’t the only move Hit-Boy made in 2011. As an original member of The Surf Club, young Chauncey saved some of his more audacious productions for new school Cali kids to pleasant results, and after inking a deal with Yeezy and G.O.O.D. Music half way through the year, Hit-Boy was being called on by everyone from Kelly Rowland to The Jonas Brothers to help them maneuver their way onto the charts. After the success of 2011, it appears as though Mr. Hollis knew exactly what he was doing when he selected his production alias.

Peep Game: Casey Veggies – “I Be Over Shit,” Pusha T – “My God,” Dom Kennedy, Casey Veggies & cARTer – “CDC,” Smoke DZA & Kendrick Lamar – “Uptown 81,” The Throne – “Niggas in Paris”

3. Black Milk

Since the 2006 passing ofGodthe great James Yancey, Detroit has been searching for a producer that epitomizes the Motown sound the way Dilla had for so long. There was a period when Black Milk tried to fill those shoes by emulating – damn near replicating – Dilla’s signature sound. But for the most part, it seemed like biting rather than homage. Over the past two years, climaxing with a pair of full-length collaboration projects in 2011, Milk has really honed his skills and come into his own as a producer, regularly crafting creative, drum-heavy soundscapes for The Dee’s best rising emcees. Both the Random Axe project (with Sean Price and Guilty Simpson) and Black and Brown alongside Danny Brown featured near-flawless production and helped establish a refreshing new Detroit sound that would undoubtedly make Mr. Yancey proud.

Peep Game: Danny Brown – “Dada,” Danny Brown – “Wake Up,” Random Axe – “Random Call,” Random Axe – “The Karate Kid,” Slaughterhouse – “Everybody Down”

2. Cardo

When Wiz Khalifa dropped the Kush & OJ mixtape in April 2010 and redefined the Smoker’s Anthem for a new generation, he did so largely on the shoulders of Cardo’s lush, spacey production. In 2011, Cardo used his synthed-out strings and popping cowbell to firmly establish his position as hip-hop’s go-to-guy for the ever-present Buddah Banger. Though his Dallas, Texas roots shine through on several tracks, Cardo’s beats regularly sound like a new-age take on G-Funk; one listen to the stream of beats on Cardo’s SoundClick page and it’s no surprise dude names DJ Quik as one of his major influences. And no one in the production game has mastered the art of The Drop quite like Cardo, as evidenced on nearly every beat he put out in 2011. As we move into 2012, the new generation of emcees seems primed to rely heavily on Cardo, and with a full slate of work already planned for upcoming months, you’d be well-served to stash some of that turtle away for the next time Cardo is on the beat.

Peep Game: Phil Ade & Casey Veggies – “Paper Over Pussy,” Sir Michael Rocks – “Wassup,” Tris J – “Rack Up,” Wiz Khalifa – “California,” Wiz Khalifa, Curren$y & Big Sean – “Proceed”

1. Clams Casino

No other producer helped define 2011’s major new movements quite like Clams Rothstein. The rise of “cloud rap” can be largely attributed to Clams’ dark, ghostly beats, as deep and layered as they are banging in the traditional sense. And to think that Clams made his imprint on the game as an associate of a cast of sub-par “emcees” (Mac Miller, Lil B, Soulja Boy, Deezy D, to name a few). Clams first popped up on the Pitchfork/hipster radar in March when he dropped his incredibly diverse batch of Instrumentals, but it wasn’t until LiveLoveA$AP dropped in October that heads truly recognized the potential value of a beat from Clammy Clams. Now that he has used his stellar 2011 body of work to steal some of the spotlight from bigger-name beatmakers, look for a steady stream of emcees to call on Clams for work in the upcoming months. I, for one, can’t wait to hear the results of his work with a more talented collection of artists.

Peep Game: ASAP Rocky – “Wassup,” ASAP Rocky – “Palace,” Deezy D – “She’s Hot,” Lil B – “Motivation,” Main Attraktionz & ASAP Rocky – “Take 1”

Also receiving consideration:

The Alchemist

Few producers were more consistent through the past decade than The Alchemist and he continued to bolster his reputation in 2011 through more impressive collaborations with both long-established vets (Evidence, Prodigy) and a new generation of up-and-comers (Curren$y, Oh No). Alc’s ear for samples remains savant-like, yet his sound continues to evolve with nothing but positive results.

Peep Game: Curren$y & Prodigy – “The Type,” Greneberg – “Paper Cuts,” Prodigy -“The One and Only”

Big K.R.I.T.

While the 2011 XXL Freshman cover may have brought K.R.I.T. to the masses and helped land him work with Southern kingpins like Ludacris and TI, it was the quality of 2010’s K.R.I.T. Wuz Here that placed him firmly on critics’ radar and opened incedible oppritunities in the year that followed. Return of 4Eva has to be in consideration for mixtape/album of the year, and with a slate of work lined up for 2012, K.R.I.T. appears prime to extend his win streak.

Peep Game: Big K.R.I.T. – “Free My Soul,” Ludacris & Wiz Khalifa – “What You Smoking On,” T.I. & Big K.R.I.T. – “I’m Flexin'”

Just Blaze

With a body of work that few active producers can match, Just Blaze has earned the right to be selective with his work, and he certainly has. Make no mistake, though: Just because he hasn’t been as active doesn’t mean JB can’t bring the heat, because he did on everything he touched this year, without exception.

Peep Game: Drake & Rick Ross – “Lord Knows,” Rick Ross – “I Love My Bitches,” XV – “Wichita”

Lex Luger

Smoked Out Luger first made his mark back in 2010, but no one was more productive over the past year. More recent efforts have finally displayed significant range from his proven-but-stale formula, while the trio of mixtapes with Juicy J were textbook trippy, mane.

Peep Game: Ace Hood – “Hustle Hard,” The Throne – “H.A.M.” Wale & Rick Ross -“That Way”

Tyler, The Creator

While 2011 marked the year when Tyler and the Wolf Gang boldly arrived on your local TV news, it was during 2010 when OF did most of their damage musically. Still, the production on Goblin swayed from trend-setting to timeless and Tyler always came correct for a limited number of carefully selected collaborations.

Peep Game: Casey Veggies & Tyler, the Creator – “DTA,” Tyler, the Creator – “She,” Tyler, the Creator – “Yonkers”

If you care to disagree with the compiled list,fuck you be sure to leave word in the C-Section. After all, the whole purpose of this completely subjective “Best Of…” nonesence is to spawnintelligent debate and discussion.

Until next Tuesday, it’s The Blast, ya’ll.

–Noakes

Originally posted January 24, 2012 at theblast-blog.com

23
Apr
12

I ♥ Tuesdays Vol. 11

After going all Aaron RodgersTom Brady on this bloggin’ game for the first ten weeks of The Blast season, I earned myself a first-round bye and spent last week lampin’ in the sauna.  This Tuesday? Back like I never left, fresh legs fingers after some much-needed rest, eyes on that Lombardi.

A lot has happened in the hip-hop universe since you last heard from me: the Interwebs was flooded with redundant Best of ’11 lists (with the exception, of course, of those here on The Blast Blog), Hov announced Bee’s successful delivery of their daughter Blue Ivey and wasted no time exploiting employing shorty on a charting single, and the “beef” between Lonnie and Aubs hilariously escalated from sharp glares to a full-flailing slapping match.  Meanwhile, as record store shelves have remained depressingly stagnant, the Internet heads were blessed with yet another free project from the game’s favorite former C.O. in form of Rawse’s Forever Rich mixtape.

Regardless of your feelings regarding Rozay’s microphone skills or long-term relevancy, the production value of the tape is stunningly high and the all-original content could have easily been packaged as an official release (and probably would have pushed decent numbers by today’s standards). Has any team in the biz used the Internet to maintain and build buzz like the Maybach Music Group?  Props are due to the MMG fam for their Internet hustle, regularly dropping free content to ensure the name remains heavy on the minds of heads everywhere. Plus, joints like “Triple Beam Dreams” with Nas (see video above), “Keys to the Crib” with Styles P, and “MMG The World is Ours” with Skateboard P, Meek Mill and Stalley make me wonder why so many continue to question Ross’s position at the forefront of the genre.  Ross may have appointed himself a BAWSE in the game a little too early for some, but over the past few years he has earned the status through a consistently impressive body of work and looks to extend to his win streak in 2012 with the highly-anticipated God Forgives, I Don’t.   

As for this week, the list of records that are slated to hit store shelves is nothing short of depressing.  Necro?  Juvenile? Did I just take a ride with Dr. Emmett Brown? Please.  You’d be better served turning your attention once again to the Interwebs, where a pair of intriguing releases are more likely to leave their mark.

First up is The Susan Sarandon Story, a mixtape by little-known beatmaker ATG (also known as Alexander The Great), which will be available online for the bargain barrel price of free ninety-nine come Tuesday.  Though I wasn’t much familiar with ATG’s material before doing a little research for this week’s column, the guest list looks rather impressive and early promotional leaks sound nostalgic enough to pique the interest of any Golden Era aficionado.  With guest verses from Sean Price, Fawshawn, Termanology, Reks, Planet Asia, Kool G Rap(!) and a grip of other reputable emcees, ATG looks to use this opportunity to build anticipation for his debut commerical release, The Talented Tenth, due out later this year.

While that is all well-and-good, the only record dropping this week that inspires some genuine interest in Your Humble Narrator is ScHoolboy Q’s Habits & Contradictions.  The latest in a notable string of releases care of Top Dawg EntertainmentHabits & Contridictions looks to follow up on the momentum gained in 2011 by label mates Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul and Jay Rock.  Q’s bio reads in typical fashion with a few noticeable exceptions: An native of Los Angeles, Quincy Hanley was a well-known city football star at Crenshaw High before he fell in with his local Crip sect and began slanging as a way to make ends meet.  But in 2008, Q decided to try his hand at rap as an alternative to gang banging, and though his debut mixtape Schoolboy Turned Hustla left significant room for improvement, it was enough to get himself aligned with the TDE family. After gaining more buzz by going at noted bully 40 Glocc on wax, Q has steadied his grind and evolved significantly as an emcee.  Since dropping the well-received Setbacks in early 2011, Q has aligned himself with more industry artillery (including a stand-out guest spot on Rocky’s LiveLoveASAP) and looks to make a big splash here in 2012.

The majority of the album is overwhelmingly dark, with content ranging from the insecurities of relationship drama on “My Hatin’ Joint” (fortunately handled much more maturely than Drizzy’s purse-digging) to the paranoia of drug dealing.  Whereas most hustler-turned-rappers have used their rhymes shed light on the crack game, Q makes has no qualms with revealing his past as a pill pusher.  Tracks like “Oxy Music” and “Druggys wit Hoes Again” bring some novelty to an overdone topic while simultaneously pointing out Americans’ increasingly dangerous obsession with abuse of prescription narcotics.  Q undoubtedly brings a fresh perspective to hip-hop’s long-told street narrative.

Though the guest list remains relatively condensed on this effort, tracks with features make for some album highlights.  Rocky returns the favor by popping up on “Hands on the Wheel,” which features a ghostly vocal sample on the hook and the evolutionary flows we have come to expect from ASAP. Curren$y and Dom Kennedy both drop silky verses over Lex Luger’s super-sleepy beat for “Grooveline Pt. 1.”  Of course, TDE is well represented as Jay Rock (“2 Raw”), Ab-Soul (“Druggys with Hoes Again”), and K. Dot (“Blessed”) all appear in hopes of bringing some further shine to their label mate for his coming-out party.  In terms of production, contributions from a mixed bag of beat makers manage to cohesively mold into an impressive unit.  TDE artists have made a name for themselves in large part due to progressive production choices, and that trend persists here: this isn’t your daddy’s boom-bap, but rather a strange brew of a wide variety of musical influences that remains undoubtedly hip-hop in essence.  Standout beats include the aforementioned “My Hatin’ Joint,” The Alchemist-produced “My Homie,” THC-orchestrated “Sex Drive,” and ASAP Ty’s lone contribution, the haunting “Nightmare on Fig St.”

Another look at the release schedule and it’s easy to see that it’s going to be a slow – if not agonizing – first quarter.  Staying this positive each and every Tuesday will grow more and more difficult as it continues.  Thankfully, Schoolboy Q’s Habits & Contridictions provides us with at least one full-length gem to get us through the drought.

On a final note, if you haven’t done so yet, get on over to LEO37’s Bandcamp page and get that new “Fire Dance” single.  You’ll not only be doing you ears a favor, but also helping folks in need.  That’s how we do over here.  Until next Tuesday, it’s The Blast ya’ll.

Noakes

Originally posted January 17, 2012 at theblast-blog.com

23
Apr
12

I ♥ Tuesdays Vol. 10: Holiday Edition

Due to a change of scenery for yours truly (coming at you live and direct from Ontario, Canada) and a lack of inspiring releases in the industry this week, I’ve decided to switch things up and offer you my predictions for the upcoming NBA season.  After being a little bit aggy about the lockout, yesterday’s slate of games got me right back into the game I love, and had me pondering the outcomes of the 2011-12 season.  Coming off one of the better years for the league in recent memory (thanks in large part to the Miami Heat saga), the new season appears to be even more intriguing than the last. Without further ado, my team-by-team prognostications for the L this year.

When The East is in the House…

Miami Heat – Forecast: 54-12

If game one against the defending champs was any indication, the beasts in the East look difficult to unseat this year.  Watch the Throne.  

Chicago Bulls – Forecast: 49-17

The reigning MVP and company should be able to recreate the successes of last year, particularly with the addition of Rip Hamilton for a little extra scoring punch. And you say Chi City.

New York Knicks – Forecast: 46-20

Melo and Amare have The Big Apple buzzing about basketball for the first time in nearly a decade, and the additions of Tyson Chandler and a motivated Baron Davis should prove to be an immediate upgrade.  Where dreams are made

Orlando Magic – Forecast: 42-24

This status is highly dependent on the status of employee number 12, but if he remains in Florida for the duration of the season, it’s hard to see them falling short of 40 wins. Superman dat hoe.

Indiana Pacers – Forecast: 40-26

Young legs, a hot finish in 2011, and a quietly improved roster have people in Hoosier country stoked about this Pacer squad, particularly on a condensed schedule.  Young, wild, and free.

Boston Celtics – Forecast: 40-26

I expect Doc Rivers to ease his team into the playoffs in attempts to keep his near-geriatric roster with fresh enough legs for a playoff run. But make no mistake: on the heels of CP3 to Beantown rumors, this is the year Rondo makes it his team.   So hot still.

Atlanta Hawks – Forecast: 38-28

Losing Jamal Crawford hurts, but the rest of the core of last year’s five-seed remains intact and should make for exciting viewing.  We fly high.

Milwalkee Bucks – Forecast: 34-32

Though a quick look at the depth chart is surely to leave you unimpressed, having one of the few legitimate centers in the East should go a long way, and Brandon Jennings is likely to rebound from a sophomore regression. Buck the world.

Washington Wizards – Forecast: 32-34

Flanked by an impressively athletic supporting cast, I see the John Wall making “the leap” this season, establishing himself as a true star in just his second season and making the Wiz one of the L’s more exciting squads.  On The Come Up.

Philadelphia 76ers – Forecast: 29-37

Though questions prevail inside, depth and youth on the wing should keep the Sixers in the playoff hunt as long as Elton Brand can keep himself on the court.  Those were the days.

New Jersey Nets – Forecast: 24-42

Deron Williams remains one of the league’s premier guards, and ownership is clearly poised to make a run at Dwight, but the supporting cast was left desolate after the trade to acquire D. Will. Brooklyn Bound.

Detroit Pistons – Forecast: 22-44

Though the guard rotation looks solid, the Pistons will have a world of trouble trying to get the ball into the post.  Wake up, Detroit.

Toronto Raptors – Forecast: 18-48

When DeMar DeRozen is your franchise guy in-waiting during a rebuilding effort, it’s tough to look for positives.  Odd Future.

Charlotte Bobcats – Forecast: 15-51

A prime candidate for relocation or even contraction, I wouldn’t be surprised if 48-year-old Micheal Jordan could make the guard rotation for the lowly Cats.  It’s a wrap, Cats

Cleveland Cavaliers – Forecast: 12-54

The addition of Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson mean little this season.  If owner Dan Gilbert had spent his time building the roster instead of sending David Stern e-mails (surely written in Comic Sans), maybe his team would be a little more competitive.  Worst comes to worst.

West West, Ya’ll

Oklahoma City Thunder – Forecast: 50-16

With a cast of aging superstars in the West, the shortened schedule would seem to favor KD, Russ, and crew, making the conference theirs to lose.  The progression continues. Can’t stop, won’t stop

Los Angeles Clippers – Forecast: 46-20

With CP3 in the fold, Lob City seems to be have not only the most exciting roster in the league, but also one poised to make a serious run at the conference crown. Live by the lob, die by the lob.

Memphis Grizzlies – Forecast: 44-22

Even without Rudy Gay, Z-Bo and the Grizz made a serious run at the final last spring and took the rest of the basketball world by storm with the league’s best inside scoring. Post game proper.

Los Angeles Lakers – Forecast: 43-23

Could this be the year the Lakers finally fall off?  Even with a depleted roster, an aging Kobe, and an unfriendly schedule, the Lake Show remains a threat for the conference title. Not their first time at the rodeo.

San Antonio Spurs – Forecast: 39-27

In similar fashion to the Celtics, I would expect the league’s best coach to manage minutes in hopes of conserving some much-needed fuel for a playoff run.  The window is closing

Dallas Mavericks – Forecast: 38-28

Losing Chandler and Barrea hurts, and after watching the Mavs get mopped up on home court by the Heat, I’m not sure another deep playoff run is a real possibility. Last year was a good one.  

Portland Trailblazers – Forecast: 35-31

Brandon Roy’s retirement was one of the saddest subplots of a wild off-season, but look for the Blazers to recover behind an underrated young roster.  Don’t overlook this group

Denver Nuggets – Forecast: 33-33

Resigning Nene and Aaron Afflalo were good moves for the franchise, but the Nuggets lack a prime-time scorer to rely on in shootouts with a league full of as much talent as has been seen in over a decade. Digging out of a whole.

Golden State Warriors – Forecast: 30-36

Offensively dynamic, defensively challenged, the Bay Area is home to one of the more exciting teams in basketball.  Unfortunately for Monta and Steph, exciting doesn’t always mean successful. You’ll want to watch.  

Minnesota Timberwolves – Forecast: 27-39

A league-wide laughing stock for the last several years, it looks like the Wolves are taking steps in the right direction and building with depth and youth, two factors especially important in a shortened season. Looking to become North stars.  

Pheonix Suns – Forecast: 26-40

Poor Steve Nash.  Though he remains one of the most consistent veteran performers in the game, the front office has done little to surround Canada’s finest with serviceable talent in recent years.  What should have been.

Sacramento Kings – Forecast: 24-42

Adding Jimmer’s scoring touch makes this an intriguing bunch, but any success for the Kings will likely come after some more seasoning.  An interesting chemistry experiment.

New Oreleans Hornets – Forecast: 24-42

A league-owned franchise is a difficult conflict of interest, but there is no question the help out for a good deal in flipping CP3.  

Houston Rockets – Forecast: 20-46

With Aaron Brooks stuck in China and Yao heading back permanently, the Rockets will likely have a hard time filling the score sheet.  It’s gonna be a long season

Utah Jazz – Forecast: 16-50

Jerry Sloan is gone, along with Deron Williams and any semblance of in-their-prime talent.  After more than a decade of relevance, the Jazz appear to be in full-fledged rebuilding mode.  Jazzamatass.

Playoff Predictions

The East

Round 1

Heat over Bucks in 4

Bulls over Hawks in 6

Knicks over Celtics in 7

Pacers over Magic in 6

Round 2

Heat over Pacers in 5

Knicks over Heat in 7

Eastern Final

Heat over Knicks in 6

The West

Round 1

Thunder over Nuggets in 5

Clippers over Blazers in 6

Grizz over Mavs in 7

Lakers over Spurs in 7

Round 2

Thunder over Lakers in 6

Grizz over Clippers in 7

West Final

Grizz over Thunder in 7

NBA Championship Final

Heat over Grizz in 6

I know, I know.  It’s too easy.  And boy, I hope I’m wrong.  But this Heat team is going to be really tough to beat.  Watching the opener yesterday, it seems like Bron Bron has put in some work on his post game, and came out with a look of invincibility against nothing less than the reigning title holders.  With more depth, tougher primetime chops, the target on their backs reduced slightly, and a disgusting amount of in-their-prime talent, the Heat are certainly the odds on favorite to bring home the Davey O’Brien trophy come spring.

Happy New Year ya’ll.  Don’t miss Get ‘Em High 2 tomorrow night at Micasa. It’s The Blast, worldwide.

–Noakes

Originally posted December 27, 2011 at theblast-blog.com


23
Apr
12

I ♥ Tuesdays Vol. 9

For better or worse, 2011 will be remembered as the year of: The ThroneswagCloud RapOFWGKTAhipster R&BTaylor Gang, the emasculation of Drizzy, the rise of (M-M-M-M-M)Maybach Music Group and unfortunately, continued YMCMB dominance.

Who will rule 2012?  Here are 5 predictions of things to come:

The Return of Earl Sweatshirt

Though 2011 was undoubtedly the year that Odd Future crossed over thanks to the successes of Tyler and Frank Ocean, it all happened with the Wolf Gang’s most talented lyricist in exile at a Samoan boarding academy.  With his 18th birthday coming in February, speculation persists that Thebe will return to SoCal and begin crafting his follow-up to his disturbingly dope debut project Earl. Here’s hoping the Early Man hasn’t lost any of hischarm charisma.

ASAP/Raider Klan Come Up

De facto ASAP Mob leader Rocky has already made significant noise with his Halloween release LiveLoveASAP, and looks to continue his run in the new year (see “Pretty Flacko” above.)  And now, with a collaborative posse record slated for spring 2012, the rest of the crew (Ant, Twelvy, Ferg, Nast, Ty Beats) look to soak up some of the shine as well.  Don’t sleep on SpaceGhost Purrp and his Raider Klan, either, as young’n looks to ride the wave and take his lo-fi leaned out shit to the forefront of the rap game. 

Kendrick Blows Up

Section.80 was widely acclaimed as one of the best albums of 2011 (and it was), but the name Kendrick Lamar still only managed to buzz among those with their ears close to the street Interwebs. Now, with countless show-stealing features and a tour with Drake under his belt, K. Dot shows no signs of slowing down and looks poised to bring the noise in ’12.  

Kanye Drops Another Classic

Watch the Throne was certainly a successful project, but I couldn’t help but feel like Yeezy was handcuffed creatively by Hov’s traditionalism.  Not that there weren’t risks on the project (to mixed results), but in comparison with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy it seemed Mr. West was limited in terms of experimentation.  Now, with the rap world back in his corner, the sky seems to be the limit, and although there have been no announcements made, I expect to hear ‘Ye’s sixth studio album sometime late in the year. 

Slaughterhouse Crossover

Real heads have always respected the emcee skills possessed by Royce da 5’9″.  Of course, it took a joint EP with Eminem and a number one single with gotdamn Bruno Mars for the rest of the world to take notice.  In 2012, it seems as though Marshall will use his massive influence to shine some light on recent Shady Records signees Buddens, Joell, and Crook – Slaughterhouse, collectively – in time for the release of their second studio album in April.

Detox

 Just playing.

Happy New Year, ya’ll. I wish you nothing but big tings in 2012.  Back for another year, it’s The Blast.

–Noakes

Originally published January 3, 2012 at theblast-blog.com