Tag Archives: hip hop

Blog Roundup!

It just occurred to me the other day that I know more than several people personally who have their own blogs.  And while we have a “blog roll” to the right, I have my doubts if very many people actually pay attention to it.  So here are some blogs/websites run by some good friends of mine…and if I forgot you and your blog, forgiveness please!

Weekend Records

This an off-shoot blog for the Sunday night DJ fest (of the same name) that occurs at the Lift in Des Moines, Ia.  They usually, nay, always spin a good mix of stuff and this blog reflects that. They upload tracks straight (and only) from their personal vinyl collection and usually have a few wise words to share on the songs. I like to think of it as a cousin to Greg’s Singles Club feature.  WR is made up of John Solarz, Adam Ferry, both of design duo Flatform, Alex Brown, who is the guitarist from influential 80’s hardcore band Gorilla Biscuits, Aaron Omlie, and Nick Lambert.  At one time there were rumors that former drummer for Pavement, Bob Nastanovich, might join the crew (no joke!), but so far nothing has become of that.

Manned Missles

Beat blog for former producer/programer/dj of  Cleo’s Apartment, Jeff Blanchard aka Jazzcop aka The Handsome Prince aka Manned Missles.  He just started it up, but he’s already making some headway so it’s definitely something to keep your eye on.  Oh yeah, the gent also did an ill remix of  “Girl Friday,” which will be included on Quid Pro Quo.

So Not Original

Yeah, I’ve mentioned John’s blog sometime earlier, BUT he pulled up stakes and moved on over to tumblr, so I thought I could redirect you all there. Plus, he hasn’t updated in a few weeks, so I figured this might be the kick in pants needed to post something new.

Therine – They’re An Inspiration

Good pal Katie has this blog dedicated to all things that inspire here for her own fashion design.  This can range from people, places, music, movies, current styles, etc.  And you can check out her Etsy account, where all of these influences and inspirations come together. She makes a pretty mean guitar strap.

Renee’s Shoreline

If you know Patrick Tape Flemming (guitarist/frontman for Poison Control Center, co-owner of the now defunct indie pop label, BiFi, all-around gentlemen), then you pretty much know what you’re getting into with this blog.  All sorts of ramblings about pop music, pop culture, and Woody Allen.  Much like the man himself, always entertaining and worth a read.

And of course, don’t forget Scott and Natalie’s picture blog, Laconic Oration, and my demo blog, I’ve Got an 8-Track Mind.


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Beati Paoli – Massive Charm Offensive

as promised last post, here’s one of the new Beati Paoli songs. You can get it with the rest of the “Quid Pro Quo” project on 6.19.09.


You’re old enough by now
To know how this works
If not, I’ll take you by the hand
And walk you through the plan

I’ll take you for a ride downtown
To see if your story checks out
Cards on the table…

I’ll get what I want
And you’ll get to believe in what you want to
Who has to know?
Just you and I alone

Behind closed doors
We’ll serve our purpose
There’s such a thing as quid pro quo

I meant it as a joke
But you took it as a threat
And negotiations aren’t even over yet

I’ll take you for a ride downtown
Let’s see if your story checks out
Cards on the table…

I’ll get what I want
And you’ll get to believe in what you want to
Just press the flesh
Completely acquiese

Press the flesh and acquiese
Let’s coalese
It’s for the best

Don’t feel deceived
It seems to me you’ve already agreed

You just don’t know yet…


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Listen to a new Beati Paoli song 5.29.09

Over the past few months, Beati Paoli has been working on new material. They’ve been planning a split 7″ with hip hop artist Aeon Grey that will also include two digital mini-albums (via download cards). the 7″, titled “Quid Pro Quo”, will feature one new song from each artist, and the download only material will be a combination of new and remixed/reworked tracks.

The release party is scheduled for june 19th (at The Vaudeville Mews in Des Moines, IA), but you don’t have to wait that long to get a taste of the new stuff. This friday, 5/29/09, Beati Paoli will be uploading a new song, called “Massive Charm Offensive”, onto their website (http://www.beatipaoli.net) and myspace. I’ll try and upload it here as well.

and just so this post isn’t completely BORING, here’s a sample of the 7″ artwork:
beati paoli quid pro quo album art


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CANON SONIQUE: a mixtape (10)

continuing the online mixtape.

song (10):

Aesop Rock“Coffee”

this is the last song off of his latest album, None Shall Pass. the extra “hidden” track, “Pigs”, is included in this mp3 cuz i was too lazy to chop it off. it’s good too, though.  artwork by Jeremy Fish.
aesop rock none shall pass album art

aesop rock. probably my favorite hip-hop artist of all time. i’ve been yelled at about this before, usually by people who only like one or two of his albums, but i honestly find his work to be much more interesting and fun to listen to, on a whole, than any other hip-hop artist i’ve heard. his first two albums were self-financed (which i can admire, for obvious reasons) in the late 90s before getting signed to Mush in 2000. “Coffee” features John Darnielle from The Mountain Goats and production from long time collaborator, Blockhead. check out this post for more mountain goats/aesop rock team ups.

video for coffee

video for pigs featuring jeremy fish

live footage


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First Ten Rap Hits (On the Hot 100)

Everyone knows that the first rap hit was “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang, but what was the second rap hit or the third?  That was something I couldn’t find even on the internet, so inspired by the book “Top Ten of Everything” I decided to make my own list of the first 10 after doing some research. Each had to be on Billboard’s Hot 100 the main singles chart.Most noticeably absent is  “White Lines” by Grandmaster Flash.  It did hit the R&B chart but never the Hot 100. Also some of the songs on the list may be considered rap by some, and others not.  The First Ten Hits are:

  Date                        Song                           Artist                                          

1. 11/10/1979     Rapper’s Delight          Sugarhill Gang
2.  9/6/1980        The Breaks                   Kurtis Blow
3.  1/31/1981      Rapture                       Blondie
4.  2/7/1981        8th Wonder                 Sugarhill Gang
5.  2/13/1982      Apache                       Sugarhill Gang
6.  7/17/1982      Planet Rock                 Afrika Bambaataa*
7.  10/16/1982    The Message               Grandmaster Flash#
8.12/17/1983      Electric Kingdom         Twilight 22
9.  6/2/1984        Jam On It                      Newcleus
10. 8/4/1984    Beat Street Breakdown Grandmaster Melle Mel^   


          *with the Soul Sonic Force
           #and the Furious Five featuring Melle Mel
            ^and the Furious Five      
2010movie_end1      Discokid                   

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Muzik Reviewz Part V: John Kreese vs. Apollo Creed

Unlike the other traditional Chinese recording I reviewed, ELEVEN CENTURIES is authentic, without modern or Western influence. Unfortunately, it’s also less interesting. The main drawback, ACCORDING TO MY TASTES, is that most of the pieces are totally solo. There’s nothing wrong with that but there are a lot of traditional Chinese arrangements for ensembles. This album should have been titled ELEVEN CENTURIES OF TRADITIONAL SOLO MUSIC OF CHINA. The melodies are all nice but the solo arrangements are a bit boring and straightfoward. Good for an academic listen but maybe not for pleasure. Grade: B-

DALEK – NEGRO NECRO NEKROS (Spokenwerds Music, 1998)
I know what you’re thinking but no, this is not an album by Ryan’s friend in England. I think her name is Dulax. Dalek is some MC from NJ I don’t think I’ve ever heard mentioned at all in the hip-hop world. The only reason I’m familiar with him at all is because his last three albums were released on Mike Patton’s Ipecac label. I haven’t heard those albums but I impulsively bought this particular “EP” at some used muzik dive. Long, boring story. Dalek is kind of a boring MC with little presence. In fact, I don’t think I remember a single line from any of the songs. The production, provided by Dalek and some asshole named The Octopus, takes center stage in the arrangements and in the mix. I have very, very mixed feelings on the production. I always complain about the lack of in-song variety in hip-hop beats and this CD addresses that complaint. The beats change a lot in a variety of ways – samples drop in and out, EQ is changed mid-song, effects are implemented, etc. Unfortunately, everything just sounds calculated. None of the beats are ever catchy, melodic, or clever. There’s no real feeling and the whole soundscape is sterile. Dalek and The Octopus are just too smart for their own good. Still, I’m interested in checking out their latest work and even this EP could be one of those releases that I just don’t GET right away, but for now . . . Grade: C

Despite what some people say, this album is not a classic unless “old and out of print” automatically = classic. Sadat X has a voice that I find very easy to listen to and he can never be mistaken for anyone else. That said, he doesn’t always use his distinctive voice in the best way, often sounding flat/uninterested and rhyming about stupid topics like the Nation of Gods and Earths religion (I’ll write more about that later). The beats, many provided by sometimes-awesome Diamond D, range from decent to pretty decent – nothing spectacular but nothing weak. Ennio Morricone’s “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” theme is sampled but seems kind of wasted. Presumably, this sample was used to tie in to the ‘Wild Cowboys’ title but the whole theme is barely present, save for a few lines and the cover photo. It’s not a bad album at all but it’s just a bit boring. Sorry! Grade: B- (solid but unspectacular)

This is a really strange release for Def Jam. Ignore the fact that the Lady is white, female and British, her sound is just much wilder than the crap Def Jam has been dumping for the last decade. In truth, PUBLIC WARNING actually sounds like a bit of an update on mid-80z Def Jam, with sparse beats (mostly provided by some asshole named Medasyn) that still manage to be loud and heavy with charismatic, in-your-face rhyming. In other words, it’s the same formula found on the Def Jam classics LICENSED TO ILL (Beastie Boys) and RADIO (LL Cool J). Perhaps Lady Sovereign is a novelty that I will grow to hate in the future but for now I appreciate just how different she is from most MCs, everything from her voice, her accent, her strange/halting flow, to her penchant for making goofy noises. Grade: B+

Stones Throw is developing a strange habit of digging up underground MCs, some old and some new, featuring them on an album with the ‘Stones Throw sound’, and then spitting them out. Stones Throw is not a money-obsessed, mercenary label by any means so I’m not sure what causes this. Except for Madlib’s goofy Quasimoto alter ego, I can’t think of an MC that has released two solo albums on the label. So, you might think of this as the latest in the Stones Throw Solo MC Series. Guilty Simpson hails from Detroit, a place that he seems to like based on the lyrics. While the album still has that Stones Throw sound with beats by stalwarts Madlib, Oh No, there are several beats by Detroit natives Mr. Porter and J Dilla protege Black Milk, giving us a Detroit meets Stones Throw feel. Overall, Guilty is more abrasive than most Stones Throw MCs and the beats are a bit more thuggish than expected. This is all quite welcome and even though are no less than eight producers the album is surprisingly cohesive. One complaint I have has to do with the mix: many of the beats have mysterious, cinematic qualities but kind of sit in the background while Simpson’s vocals are right up front, mixed really dryly. Some more effects, reverb, vocal overdubs, etc. might have increased the haunting element of the album’s sound. Still, pretty decent! Grade: B+



Muzik eRRRRviewz Part IV: Miyagi-san tai Clubber Lang

Remember my recent post about the Soul Assassins? Remember the part where I said it all went stale after 1997? Well, that’s not exactly true. It’s true that Cypress Hill basically went south starting in 1998 but Muggs’ outside activities have typically been of a higher quality, peaking with this herrrrrre album, a teamup that makes all fans of latino gangster rap tremble in their boots. We get Muggs on the boards with probably his most interesting beats in a decade and we get Sick Jacken of legendary, mega thuggish group Psycho Realm on the mic. For good measure, Street Platoon MC Cynic is also featured throughout and he manages to steal the show on several occasions with his grumbling delivery. The strongest aspect of the album is the beatz. Muggs seems to have grown out of his cheesy synths stage and made it to whatever this stage can be called. There are still some synths but there are a lot of samples and a whole bag of audio tricks. In the glory days of Soul Assassins, Muggs’ beats were always really repetitive with the only variety usually coming in occasional rests in the drumline. The beats on this album are much denser and possess surprising variety. There are distinguishable sections within the songs and elements come and go. Muggs thinks about the box by leaving drums off one song completely. Like some other recent hip-hop albums, this one has a theme: ILLUMINATI CONSPIRACIES. That’s a hell of a lot more interesting than drugs and hoes, even if Sick Jacken’s grasp of world politics might be DELUDED. The group makes several references to the most insane of conspiracy theories, including the recently created myth that most of the world’s leaders belong to a race of half-human, half-reptilian beings that can change between human and reptile at will, due to their mixed DNA (THAT DOESN’T MAKE ANY FUCKING SENSE). Anyway, it’s still fun even if it’s ridiculous and retarded. With Muggs providing all the beats and the lyrical theme that runs throughoug the album, THE LEGEND OF THE MASK AND ASSASSIN is much more cohesive than most hip-hop discs. Do it to it 2007. Grade: A

aesop rock none shall pass album art
AESOP ROCK – NONE SHALL PASS (Definitive Jux, 2007)
I don’t know, man. On the one hand, this is a pretty solid album. On the other hand, I feel like I’ve heard it before. If you’ve heard BAZOOKA TOOTH, then I guess you know what to expect. On Rock’s first few albums, he slowly took over more and more production duties from collaborator Blockhead until he produced about 3/4ths of BAZOOKA TOOTH. This represented growth as an artist and he was making beats as creative and progressive as anyone. Fast forward four whole fucking years to NONE SHALL PASS and we’re greeted with a less ambitious Aesop, producing less than half of the album and letting Blockhead create much of the other half. This is a shame mainly because Rock’s beats are once again better than Blockhead’s. And really, all the beats either of them make, save one, sound like they could have been released on the previous album. The exception is a track where Rock lets REAL LIVE musicians lay down some sweet distorted bass. Hey, if he needs to work with live music then so be it. The album’s closer features singing by the Mountain Goats guy, which is a bit mixed. I mean, the guy’s a shitty singer but the melody over the slamming beat piqued my interest. Maybe Rock should produce some beats for singerz next time? Grade: B

MF DOOM mm food album art
MF DOOM – MM . . . FOOD? (Rhymesayers, 2004)
Another day, another boss Doom album. The beats AND the rhymes are provided by Doom throughout with a few exceptions. As usual, the lyrics deal with nerdy stuff, women, and African-American issues. There are many, many soundbites from what appear to be Fantastic Four cartoons or books on tape, way more than appeared on the Madvillain album. We get it! You’re Dr. Doom! Okay! There are ALSO several soundbites from some character that appears to be some sort of backwoods hillbilly with a drug problem? I dunno. They clash with the super hero clips and hurt the cohesiveness of the album. Most of the beats are very strong and a select few are awesome, not because of clever, multilayered mixing, but because Doom found passages within songs that are perfect for looping. This is one of those albums that’s much more attractive to fans of alternative rock than fans of standard hip-hop. Grade: B+

phases of the moon chinese traditional music
I checked out a bunch of Chinese traditional music CDs on Amazon last year but it took the Beijing Olympix to remind me to actually buy them. The liner notes in this CD aren’t the greatest but it appears the album was recorded in the 1980s. It features traditional Chinese melodies representing several ethnic groups performed by the Central Broadcasting Traditional Instruments Orchestra. China does not actually have an orchestral tradition of its own so the music presented isn’t strictly traditional but it IS very Chinese. As the orchestra’s name implies, Chinese traditional instruments are used but in a large orchestra. The results are great. A lot of the music doesn’t make perfect sense according to my Western sensibilities but it’s all very listenable and much of it is highly enjoyable. A few of the pieces are highly melodic and emotive. Probably not for everyone but I liked it. Grade: A


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Muzik eRRRRRRRRRRviewws (the 3rd of many)

Prodigy – Return of the Mac (Infamous/Koch, 2007)
No, this is not an album by British electronic group Prodigy, but rather American MC, Prodigy, of the group Mobb Deep. This disc serves as one of the very best examples of the term ‘mixtape’ being completely misused. The purpose of this release was supposedly to create buzz for Prodigy’s next “real album,” which was released earlier this year. But the label treated it much more like a regular album than a mixtape – two singles were even released to promote it, for poop’s sake. So make no mistake, this is a proper album, but there are some elements that distinguish it from a typical Prodigy album. For one thing, instead of tracking down some hot current producers, the beats for the entire album are provided by Alchemist and this is why I bought the album. Alchemist’s beats are melodic and very tight. They really aren’t very grimy but they still bear a hard edge. Another atypical element for a Prodigy album is that there are no attempts at annoying crossover hits. Much of the rapping sounds freestyled, in a good way. Unfortunately, there is a theme to the album and it is: guns. BORING. At least Prodigy practices what he preaches – he received a prison sentence last year for repeated illegal possession of firearms. Grade: B

Oh No – Exodus Into Unheard Rhythms (Stones Throw, 2006)
Oh No can now claim to be one of Stones Throw’s mainstays and he definitely earned it with this, his second album. His first album, released in 2004, sounded a lot like standard Stones Throw fare, with Madlib even producing about a third of the tracks. Oh No was featured on the mic throughout the album. For EXODUS INTO UNHEARD RHYTHMS, Oh No focuses much more on his production and barely graces the mic. Oh No establishes his own sound, no longer sounding like Madlib Jr. For good measure, every song on the album is constructed with samples from recordings by Galt McDermott, the composer of several musicals, including HAIR. Each track features a different MC or singer and many of them choose to tell stories to very good effect. The bad thing about story-based songs is that the story can get boring after multiple listens but these songs are definitely more creative and rewarding than the usual rap boasts. Good job, Oh No. Grade: A-



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Some music reviews (first of many)

You’d think with Beati Paoli on tour they’d have nothing better to do than drink beers and write in this blawg but I GUESS NOT.  I bought a shitload of CDs lately so: Time for some errrrrrrrrrrrviews!

Third by Portishead, 2008
Whoopee, Portishead returns after 11 years!  I’ve been looking forward to this one for awhile but it took me a long time to actually buy it.  I even read a couple of reviews beforehand.  Rolling Stone basically stated that this album is just like what they did in the 90s and Pitchfork called it a psychedelic album.  Okay.  Some people is real dumm.  If you’re familiar with 90s Portishead then I would describe this album in the following way: take away practically ALL of the hip-hop elements, all the suave spy movie elements, and make it a lot gloomier.  People like to call Portishead a trip hop group but if Massive Attack and Tricky are trip hop then Portishead never were.  In truth, they were basically a gloomy hip-hop group with singing instead of rapping.  Well, all that is gone now.  No samples from old records, no loops, no scratches.  Still, the feel is overall the same if a bit sloppier but songwriting doesn’t GRAB me like their 2nd album.  Basically, it’s a pretty good album, I’m glad they released it but unless they change things up dramatically they don’t need to make another.  Grade: B

Donuts by J Dilla, 2006
Jay Dee aka J Dilla makes his transition from ultra smooth, semi-mainstream producer of the 90s to quirky, underground producer of the 2000z.  This is an instrumental album consisting of 30 great tracks.  The beats are so dusty and grimey but still soulful and melodic.  None of the tracks wear out their welcome, most only lasting a minute or two.  Vocal samples from old R&B albums abound.  This is exactly the kind of album that captures what I like about sampling and loops – creating a twisted, otherworldly feeling out of old material.  Grade: A



single, ep, mini-album, album . . . oh, and “mixtape”

The RIAA and Britain’s The Chart Company have official rules regarding just EXACTLY what defines a single, EP or LP/album. In the UK, these rules are just as excuses to exploit consumers with multiple versions of the same single but here the rules are pretty much just ignored. And ANYWAY, we shouldn’t really be letting the RIAA, which only represents the major labels for the most part, dictate what we can call an EP or LP, etc. Here’s what defines the various formats in MY mind . . .

Info: In the old days a single was pretty damn simple. It was usually on a little 7″, 45 rpm record that really only had room for a few minutes on each side. So usually there were just 2 songs on the single. Then disco and hip-hop groups started releasing 12″ 33 1/3 RPM singles with long-ass remixes. Then cassettes and CDs came about and suddenly “singles” would have a half-dozen tracks, usually consisting of remixes, album outtakes or live tracks.
My Definition: I think there is a fundamental difference between a single and an EP which is that a single is typically a temporary release that isn’t kept in print over the years. The single is often defined by the fact that it’s being sold on the strength of one (or occasionally two) songs, while the rest is more or less filler (even if it’s strong material). Additionally, the featured track on most singles is taken from an album that the musical artist is currently promoting. However, there are also many standalone singles that little to do with a full album release.

Info: “EP” is short for “extended play”, due to the fact that, in the past, some EPs were released on 12″ records that had the same program on both sides. Much like the single, the EP has evolved over the years and the term has been used in some pretty strange ways. In the old days they were basically just longer singles where 4 songs might be crammed on a 7″. One band famous for the EPs is Alice In Chains, whose first EP, Sap contained 4 tracks (+ 1 bonus track) and clocked in at 20 minutes. Their second “EP”, Jar of Flies, has SEVEN tracks and clocks in at 31 minutes! How the hell is that an EP? There are a hell of a lot of full albums that aren’t that long? Regardless, the release is regarded as the first EP to top the album charts. What? How can it be an album if it’s an EP? How can it be an EP if it’s 31 minutes?! There are several other dumb examples, like Anthrax’s Attack of the Killer B’s, a 9 minute rarities compilation, which the packaging calls an EP.
My Definition: For me, the main thing that distinguishes an EP from a single is that it’s a cohesive piece of work and includes songs that were meant to coexist, rather than the random nature of singles b-sides. EPs are also typically kept in-print and are not simply released in short runs that only last a few months.

Info: Well, I don’t think any OFFICIAL organizations use this term but I’ve seen it used a lot.
My Definition: It’s just a long EP. Or a short album.

Info: You know, that thing that has several songs and takes awhile to listen to.
My Definition: It’s long, maybe at least 20 minutes? It’s a complete product and is kept in print for a long time, if possible.

Info: This is a hip-hop phenomenon that has completely grown out of control over the last few years. Originally, mixtapes were literally cassette tapes on which people just dubbed whatever songs they wanted in some preferred order. Eventually, DJs made mixtapes in which they displayed their skills, like transitioning from one song to another. In the early 2000s, DJs, producers and MCs started releasing mixtapes basically as outlets for leftovers or for exclusive tracks, sometimes even from other artists (ie a DJ Muggs mixtape might have some tracks that Muggs did not create but simply enjoys). These were typically made in a DIY manner, as in CD-Rs. This format still exists but now many “mixtapes” are factory-pressed and even distributed through Amazon, in spite of the fact the mastermind of the mixtape may not have the rights to the recordings included within. NOW mixtapes have gotten even goofier, as may they may take the form of completely normal albums that are distinguished solely by packaging that refers to the release as a mixtape. The main point behind this distinction is to say, “Don’t slam me if this sells poorly, it’s just a mixtape.” This kind of “mixtape” is usually released less than a year before a “real” album, in order to raise awareness. However, several of these mixtapes have had singles released for them, which is ridiculous! Argh. I have one of these fake mixtapes by rapper Prodigy who repeatedly mentions that the CD is “just a mix CD” and “we’re just having fun”, even though the CD has 14 brand new tracks.

My Definition: I dunno, I don’t get it.

Are your definitions different?