30 October 2013

Album Review: Black Milk - No Poison No Paradise

     Black Milk delivers the goods with his second full length release of 2013.  No Poison No Paradise  showcases the two distinct production styles Black has been evolving over the years. On the one hand, there is the boom bap and soul production that will always be one of his signature sounds. In the other hand, you have the more synth-driven production that surfaced with the release of Tronic  back in 2008. Rather than creating an album strictly based off of one style, this release showcases both production styles. The result is more fresh sounding than stale since the songs have different things they are trying to accomplish sonically.

    Even though No Poison No Paradise has two very unique sounds, the album is not necessarily split in half. With the two distinct styles mixed throughout the track listing, the album sounds more like a whole album and less like two EPs just mashed together. Besides the lead off releases Sunday's Best and Monday's Worst, the track Deion's House shows Black Milk flexing his boom bap mastery and his distinctive wordplay. Deion's House is also the only other soul/boom bap beat Black Milk spits over. It's good to hear that this song is not lacking in any way. The other songs in this style are instrumentals but when you have an instrumental like Sonny Jr. that boasts a collaboration between Black Milk, Robert Glasper, and Dwele, it is impossible to call the instrumentals a weak point on the album.

     The other vocal tracks are centered more on Black's synth approach to production. The production on these tracks are as if he took in the lessons from Tronic and stepped it up a notch. Ghetto Demf has that Tronic sound all up in it. The track also features recent indie hip hop wunderkind Quelle Chris. Now, Quelle really isn't my cup of whiskey, but the two work well together, which is easy to hear. For those that need a double shot of Black, peep the track Codes and Cab Fare featuring the one and only Black Thought. The Espresso Twins (as I like to call them) are evenly matched with their lyrics over a minimal style beat. Neither on of them outshines the other, but they don't half-stepping either. Another minimal beat that gets ripped is his latest release Dismal. The beat is pretty much a spacey metronome for this introspective track. Not every MC can do so much with so little, but in the words of a good friend of mine, "That song right there? Yeah, that boy did that."

     No Poison No Paradise shows the continued evolution of Black Milk both lyrically and musically. I remember the first track I heard from him back in 2006, Sound the Alarm. The track was fire then and truth be told, shit is still hot right now. All I could think then was that I needed to keep an eye out for this dude. I could not have even imagined 7 years later that this is what he was going to be working with. Black Milk continues to grow as an artist without becoming something unrecognizable to those who have held him down from jump. If you don't know about this cat by now, and you need something different from the trap club-banger pimpalicious iced-out molly records, definitely try this one out for size.

21 October 2013

SINGLE: Childish Gambino - Yaphet Kotto

Every year or so, Mr. Gambino drops a track that reminds us of how dope he is, regardless of how long it's been since his last full project. With his 2nd studio album around the corner, he's leaked a classic that is proof dude is serious about this music. I feel like this song is the type that could sway people who are on the fence.

SINGLE: Childish Gambino - 3005

FINALLY, something new from Childish Gambino. It's sad how much we demand of these artists, especially those with several full-time hustles. Donald Glover the actor has taken a break from "Community" to focus more on his career as an artist, and this is just a taste of what's to come on his sophomore album "Because the Internet." Personally I think halfway through the song, he starts rapping eerily similar to a one Kendrick Lamar. It's not really a bad thing but the one problem that has plagued Gambino's growth is the fact he has a tendency to switch his flow up to whoever is the hottest in the game at a given moment. He was accused of sounding too much like Lil Wayne earlier in his career.

Childish Gambino - 3005

19 October 2013

ALBUM REVIEW: Deltron 3030 - Event II

     "It's the year 3030...." It has been over a decade since the iconic line has been spoken. Event II  marks the return of Del The Funky Homosapien, Dan The Automator, and Kid Koala as the collective Deltron 3030. With their highly anticipated sophomore release, Deltron attempts to create a worthy sequel to the cult classic released back in 2000. This time around the trio was able to enlist a slew of guest stars to be a part of what was to be high profile return and a contender for many best of the year lists. Unfortunately, after a year of waiting, this album is a victim of it's own hype.

       I remember when the first Deltron 3030 dropped. At that time, these boys were a breath of fresh air. I'd even go as far to say that they were the pioneers in creating what we consider to be supergroups today. With Del being part of the Hieroglyphics crew as well as an established solo artist, Kid Koala being a well respected DJ and turntablist, and Dan The Automator being a well known producer having worked with legends such as Kool Keith and Prince Paul, these three combining to become a musical act was something that hadn't been done on that level before. However, this time around, their sound just seems dated in comparison to a lot of this year's releases. For all the futuristic themes throughout the album, there is nothing that really separates it from other recent releases.

       Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's a bad album. Standing on it's own with no comparisons, it's pretty solid. Like I said before, there are a ton of guest stars: Damon Albarn, Lonely Island, Casual, Zach De La Rocha, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, David Cross, Black Rob, Mike Patton, and more. Listen to the tracks City Rising from the Ashes and What Is This Loneliness. They're not bad, but they aren't hitting me quite like their first release did. The amount of guests does keep some variety going vocally. With some of the tracks clocking in at over 5 minutes the guests do well to break up what can be monotonous at times. If this album is your first outing with Deltron, then it's a good starting point. I'd highly recommend that you go check their first release since they both sound pretty similar. But with their first release being in 2000 and this album dropping in 2013, I'm not too sure that sounding similar is a totally good thing.

       The biggest downfall of this album is the fact that it took SO long for it to drop. Had this album, with this sound, dropped before 2006 it would have been one hell of a sophomore release and possibly the best release of it's time. Instead, it sounds like it is stuck in 2006. The skits sound forced and a little too over the top. From track to track I caught myself waiting for the featured artist just to hear something "new" on the album. Overall, I kept comparing Event II to Deltron 3030's first release and as much as I tried to stay hype about this album, I just couldn't do it. Like I said, it's not a bad album, it should just that it should be a lot better than what it is after a decade hiatus.

       I did watch Deltron 3030 perform their single  City Rising from the Ashes live on the David Letterman Show. They had a live band, a choir, 3 turntables, and Just Blaze on the keys. Check it out here. I have to admit, it was pretty tight. I just don't think I should have to see a live performance with all those goodies thrown in before I want to listen to a song, let alone an album, on a regular basis.

16 October 2013

ALBUM REVIEW: Pusha T - My Name Is My Name

First I would like to apologize for the late review. That's it.

Ok. So King Push has been claiming he has the best album of the year. Don't know about that, but for his first solo LP the VA native definitely did not disappoint. We have already heard the singles Numbers On The Boards, Sweet Serenade, Nosetalgia and S.N.I.T.C.H. Besides Sweet Serenade (which is a more radio friendly club type track) the rest have gotten high praise as far as singles go. So we knew he had some straight raw Hip-Hop tracks, but what about an album as a whole?

King Push is the intro track. And as far as intro tracks go, this joint is pure fuego. The intricate track has a very distorted raw tone to it. It builds up quickly to an onslaught of different instruments and vocal samples. Pusha T attacks the track like a Fear Of God lost tape single. This is his intro as a Good Music artist. And he knows you only get one intro track to your first LP. The lyrics are everything you love about Mr.T (ha..sorry..won't happen again). He carved his lane as the unfiltered genuine street lyrical d boy emcee. Overall the track is perfect blend of high energy and lyrical bravado.

A track I did not expect to like was Hold On solely because I am not the biggest Rick Ross fan. But over dude did a decent job as a feature. The track goes from a simple piano and 808 laced instrumental to crescendos that add some complexity to the track. Push rides the smooth beat with a more introspective approach. This is where I feel Pusha T stands out against other "street pharmacist" rappers. This dude is able to paint different pictures from what he observes, but he is also able to break down what he sees interjecting a human filter. We don't just see how things go down, but also why. Oh, and I was scared that Kanye was going to T-Pain the mess out of the end of the track (a la Blood On The Leaves). But thankfully he backed off.

40 Acres is probably my favorite stand out track against all the street bangers joints on the album. This is another great instrumental. The segments that accompany The-Dream for the chorus is stripped down to a faint base and string instrument with a few piano keys. Once Push starts the instrumental transforms to a very simply eerie head nodding drum and base beat. In this track Pusha T raps about pushing (of course), family, religion, and relationships. Again, able to basically rap about the same subject matter but never really recycling his perspective.

Numbers On The Boards and Nosetalgia have gotten critical single acclaim. Numbers On The Boards is just pure unadulterated go-hard-or-go-home Hip-Hop. And Nosetalgia boasts the best feature on the album, Kendrick Lamar. I think Pain was actually the first single that was dropped for My Name Is My Name. Definitely not a Future fan, but thankfully dude is just on the hook. Who I Am is a Tity Boi (sorry..I mean 2 Chainz) and Big Sean assisted track that is lyrically sub par and lazy instrumentally (is that a word?). And even though Let Me Love features the lovely Kelly Rowland, it seems a bit out of place. But I know why it had to be on the album, gotta have a track the ladies can sing to. Overall the album is conceptually cohesive minus a few throwaway tracks. Yes Pusha T raps 99% of the time about drugs, but if you look past the surface you will see a growth and complexity that is not present in most dough boy emcees. He will always be your favorite trappers favorite rapper, and as long as he keeps supplying, we will keep buying.

10 October 2013

Have You Heard: Oddisee - The Beauty In All / Tangible Dream

 In his official follow up to the 2012 release People Hear What They See, Oddisee's instrumental album The Beauty In All continues to solidify the DMV representative as an extremely well rounded artist. There was a time when you classified an artist as a producer/MC, the artist was usually better in one aspect than in the other. Either they had: dope lyrics and okay beats, decent enough beats but the wordplay wasn't there, or they were just a hot mess all around. Oddisee is among a newer, established era of artists that not only have incredible wordplay, but also have the ability to produce music better than some artists that solely produce.

       It is hard for me to describe how this album sounds. It isn't a club banger by any stretch. It's got a mellow vibe to it but it knocks something serious. Take the track Fashionably Late for example. The track starts off smooth enough, but after a familiar sample pops in, I couldn't help but rock to the rest of the song. If you need anymore convincing about how dope The Beauty In All is, I strongly recommend checking the track Lonely Planet.  The Beauty In All is definitely a choice album for starting your day off right.

       If you purchase the album from Oddisee's Bandcamp page, you get his Tangible Dream mixtape for free. With Oddisee handling the beats and rhymes on this mixtape, he proves my earlier statement of being a well rounded artist. Personally, I think his free mixtape is hotter than a lot of the commercial albums that dropped this year. This double release is a complete package. Where the instrumental The Beauty In All lets Oddisee flex his production skill,  Tangible Dream shows what he is capable of when he lets loose on his own beats.

       Just like The Beauty In All, the beats have that same mellow, yet hard, vibe going on (I know it's an oxymoron but if you listen to it you'll hear what I mean). But Oddisee's flow? That boy is sick, point blank. Check out his do-it-yourself mentality on the title track Tangible Dream. He literally spits about how he's bringing his dream to life and provides the soundtrack to his success. Another high point on this mixtape is the bonus track featuring yU, Uptown X.O., and himself, better known as the DMV supergroup, Diamond District. After their 2009 release In The Ruff, the track Bonus Flow comes with the hopes that another District album is in the near future. Another track I want to hit on is Yeezus Was A Mortal Man. At a time where MCs are getting back to battling in their verses, it is easy to hear Oddisee isn't mincing words. The question is whether he is calling anyone out or if he is just reminding listeners at the end of the day they are just regular people. Regardless of the message, after one listen it is clear Oddisee is ready when/if there is a response.

       I'm not rating this album, I am flat out recommending it. It has the best of both worlds; dope lyrics and dope beats. Even if you are not a fan of instrumental albums (I know I'm not), I'd still suggest copping it for the mixtape alone. I can almost guarantee you will end up listening to both equally. In all honesty, I'll pick up an Oddisee release without having heard any tracks off of it. These two releases are the perfect reason why. You can purchase the The Beauty In All / Tangible Dream bundle by following this jump.


~Irish Ninja

09 October 2013

REVIEW: Nipsey Hussle - Crenshaw

Making history yesterday was yet another artist reigning from the West Coast. Residing on the streets of Crenshaw, which is also the title of the mixtape, is none other than the Crip, Nipsey Hussle. As an artist coming from the West in today's world, the bar has been set very high. With MC's/rappers like Kendrick Lamar, Murs, Fashawn, Ab-Soul, and Dom Kennedy you have to come with it if you are looking to succeed in the game and Nipsey not only does that, he exceeds it. Yesterday fans had the option of downloading the mixtape from any of the big name downloading sites or going to proud2pay.com to purchase the project for $100.00, yes, One hundred dollars. Now there was a lot of criticism and controversy for the fact that the price was so high. Well what most people didn't know is that the physical copy was signed by Nipsey Hussle himself and it doubled as a concert ticket that was at a secret location. The first 1,000 copies were sold in LA which is who the concert will be provided for. People were throwing all types of shade toward him and his camp through every social media network and barbershop that were aware of it, forgetting that a purchase is not a requisite, it's a choice.

Nipsey has not really made appearances on BITM but with the release of Crenshaw, I can guarantee as long as he stays true to his-self and continues to make music like this he will stay on here. Nip is a straight up street rapper but he's not your average one. Unlike other street rapper's, Nipsey doesn't come with the same repetitive style that a lot of these guys come with. I admit when I first heard him I thought he was just another Meek Mill (he sounds nothing like him at all or raps like him, I just judged him by his name honestly). Nip reminds me of a California version 50 Cent. Like a lot of other artists, he raps about his own struggle and come up in life but does it in a way that people can vibe to. Nipsey's songs are inspirational, especially for hood niggas. His main message is to stay true to you and do your own thing. His delivery is also what makes him so appealing to listen to. 

The Gangsta Grillz tape is 21 tracks, one hour and a half long, and it is so high quality that you would think that it was an album. After fans starved for music from Nip, no one could be mad with the final product. The production behind the mixtape is remarkable. With producers like 9th Wonder, Futuristics, 1500 or Nothin, Cozmo and a lot more, it's no wonder why this project is an instant hood classic. Features from artists include Dom Kennedy, Rick Ross, James Fauntleroy, Sade, Slim Thug, Zeke and more. 

I definitely was proud to pay $100 for such a potent piece of art. You may not agree with the price but no one said you had to buy it, the mixtape is available on datpiff, hotnewhiphop and I'm sure there are more sites that have this available. I think this mixtape and Rapsody's She Got Game (which Nipsey Hussle also featured on and was reviewed on BITM) are the two best mix tapes I've heard all year. Rapsody proudly admitted to the public that she was riding to Crenshaw in one of her tweets. Nipsey posted a instagram post with the caption "Niggas be like 'who gone spend $100 on a cd' I be like…." with a picture of a deposit into his account of 10,000 from none other than the GOAT Jay Z. If you did the math right, that quotient is 100: 100 units of the mixtape is what Mr. Carter bought from the West Coast king. Nipsey Hussle has gained the respect of many artists young and OG's: they recognize that he is serious about the game and that he is here to stay. With this mixtape that dropped and his album Victory Lap that will soon be available, people can see that he is grinding. Do yourself a favor and download this mixtape…

Twitter: @_KJTheGreat or @BestInTheMix
Email: Kjohnsonk14@gmail.com

07 October 2013

Video: Black Milk - Sunday's Best/Monday's Worst

 MC/Producer Black Milk dropped these two tracks a few months back and created a buzz like only he can. If you haven't heard them yet, I don't know what you are doing with your life. These tracks have since become the lead single (or maxi-single) off of his soon to be released No Poison, No Paradise dropping on October 15.

      Check the official video for Sunday's Best/Monday's Worst here.

~Irish Ninja