Since we last broke bread during the Pox-eclipse of the Vandals and Visigoths, several of you have bravely crossed into Tomorrow Morrow Land, guided by messenger RNA and other magic, and begun living your best lives, reviving the indoor dining industry, and breathing that Perri-air like it's all good once again. Me, I stay locked down in my cave, banging on this keyboard like an infinite monkey in an attempt to find the next great brick-and-mortar game store and become a Robinhood trillionaire (plug time: go check out my half finished project stoxxer.com, tell a friend!).
So yeah, I've been busy. You have too, I bet. But there are a couple of great new projects that have forced me to risk contamination and emerge from my protective bubble just long enough to ramble on a bit and broadcast some links, and I assure you they are worth finding time in your own busy schedule to listen to.
First up is an instrumental album from The Elohim, a production crew of Biblical proportions made up of 33jones fam Bless1 and newcomer Castro. You would never guess after listening to it that this very polished 7 track release called Sharp Metal Objects is the first thing Castro has ever put out. The album would work incredibly well as the score to a high budget crime flick, but is also a great one to load up into your headphones and help you feel like a badass right before you jump into your daily standup Zoom call and tell us all what TPS reports you plan to get done today. The lead track off of the album is The Sharpening Stone, linked up at the top of this post, but every track on here is strong enough to stand on its own.
For all of the many ways you can consume this album, go to The Elohim's link page over here: The Elohim Stream links
In equally important news, the day one homie Zilla Rocca has teamed up with the day one-and-a-half homie Alex Ludovico to release a brand new album, Cocaine & Therapy as a joint release under Insubordinate Records and Three Dollar Pistol. This is hot off the presses - I've had time to listen to it all of once - but just on the strength of everything they've put out over the past decade combined with the 60 or so minutes I've taken to digest the album, I am more than confident enough to recommend you go stop whatever it is you're doing (I mean, what you're doing is reading this so maybe don't stop until you finish up here. yaddadimean and all that.) and go check it out. The first single from the album is Hitters On Deck:
Zilla and the Insubordinate crew have become really good at creating merchandise, and this album release is no exception. There are hats, shirts, hell Ludo might even offer up some actual Cocaine-based therapy if you buy enough copies and can make your way down to Nashville. It all looks legit, so if you have a few bucks to spare go cop some of that too:
There are only so many times I can listen to Infamous in a day, though, so hearing that Prodigy's one-time mentee Flee Lord had put out a tribute to him ("In the Name of Prodigy") featuring beats from Havoc was about as good a Christmas gift as I could have asked for. It's got features from Raekwon, Busta, Prodigy's daughter, and a handful of other rappers that should be familiar to anyone who is still keeping up with that ol' NY sound. It's a quick ten tracks, all of them are easy listening, and well worth your time if you at all a fan of Mobb Deep. You can check out the full thing on Spotify.
And while I'm still in a NY State of Mind today, here's an older clip from one of Flee Lord's affiliates Eto:
So maybe this is due to the fact that I am just not checking for hip hop blogs these days (no shots, y'all are great, it's just that the five minutes during the day that I get between work and preventing a one year old child from deliberately concussing himself are spent reclaiming the remnants of my sanity), but I completely missed one of the best rap-related movies of recent memory and I'm surprised I haven't heard more about it. Hell, the fact that the soundtrack includes a song with Ghost, Nas and Styles P on it would have been enough to bring down Wordpress' servers back in the day. And while I'm sure that someone can point me to dozens of articles about Radha Blank'sThe Forty Year Old Version, my only exposure to it prior to sitting down and watching it was the Netflix blurb that didn't really do the movie justice.
If Netflix had described The Forty Year Old Version as a movie about a Brooklynite from the "Golden Age" generation trying to start a music career, they'd have gotten my view from day one. That likely would have turned off some of its targeted audience, but hey, you gotta make some sacrifices to catch my attention. Rather than try to write some sort of review of the movie, I'll just throw up the trailer to it:
Throughout the pandemic, hip hop has really been leading the way in finding new ways to deliver music to its fans. Almost from day one of the quarantine, D Nice turned IG Live into a respectable online venue for djs and Verzuz battles survived a few early technical difficulties to solidify itself as a platform that I'd imagine will be used well after COVID becomes a thing of the past. One area that hip hop has lagged behind other genres, though, is in delivering an actual concert. Prior to Culture Shock, which I'm going to get to in a minute, I had seen several EDM-style online music festivals and concerts, but hadn't seen anything that featured any form of hip hop.
All of that gets us to the point of this post, which is to promote the fact that my day one homie Chachi has organized an online music festival that is taking place next Monday, 12/21/2020 @ 7PM EST on Youtube. The driving force behind this concert is to raise money for his hometown, Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and to do so he gathered a bunch of artists from the state to perform. Headlining the show is Flawless Real Talk, who you likely have seen before as one of the finalists from Netflix's Rhythm + Flow.
To quote the online magazine Motif, who put together a nice writeup on Culture Shock, "Performances will be live recorded sessions with acts such as Flawless Real Talk, Nova One, Joe Bruce, Temperamento, Brooxana, Jabubu, Kelce, Shokanti and Storm Ford. Culture Shock also will include interviews with the artists. Culture Shock has a wide selection of artists and genres every year, and this year it is expected to include an eclectic mix of sounds from Latin hip-hop to rap to '60s vintage rock to singer-songwriter to silky soul and R&B."
Give me ten more beats like this one from Chillon Davis, some more verses like the opening bars from PR The Great, and a summer release date, and I'll give you the closest approximation of a Rick Ross album you're likely to get from an independent label. Boat Shoes is the first single off of Insubordinate Records' new release Nation GVNG, a collaborative effort from PR, Jihad Scorsese, Griff, and Bigspitgame.
If you're looking for some last minute holiday gifts with a side benefit of supporting deserving musicians, go cop something from their online store. At a minimum, you'll be impressed with the branded bags they ship their stuff in.
Here's one more track off of the Nation GVNG album, this one produced by the homie Griff:
Hey, have any of you heard of this guy Ed Sheeran? As unavoidable as he's been to anyone with a functioning radio over the past decade, I really hadn't paid him much mind until my recent foray into parenthood. Sheeran's vast catalog of slow tempo'd wedding jams has been a life saver over the past year, capable of calming even the most unruly of infants. In fact, if my dear old nana had access to these songs back in the day I may have been spared exposure to whiskey until a more advanced age. In any event, thanks to a near constant rotation of Ed's greatest hits in the nursery it is no exaggeration to say I can identify virtually any of his songs in less than five notes (and were I not happily married, I can only imagine how well that boast would play as an opening line with the ladies).
In an ongoing effort to share more details about my personal life to better facilitate further identity fraud, and to better understand where I'm heading with this post, my kid is half Ghanaian. I've made it a point to slowly expose him to as much of Ghanaian culture as I'm capable of, given the difficulties of both the quarantine and the demographics of the northeast (though you may be interested to know there is a decent sized Ghanaian community in and around Yale University). So given that, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the unlikely union of Sheeran and Ghanaian music. Apparently during a visit to Africa he became a big fan of the country - to the point of getting a tattoo of the country's flag - and put out two surprisingly competent takes on Ghanaian pop music.
There is always a danger of praising an outsider's take on African music without taking the time to consider the historic complications involved in such appropropriation, but my kid just woke up again so it's time to load up the playlist and get back into daycare mode. So we'll save that analysis for another day. Mah krow.
I've long daydreamed of winning the lottery (oh word, you have too?) and using some portion of the winnings to bring all of the independent artists that have been featured on this site over the years into one big budget project Roc La Familia style. We'd get some great production, put out songs that make subtle and overt references to 90's hip hop, the merch would be on point, and we'd of course have some crazy videos if we could figure out how to film something in the age of COVID. Turns out while I've been planning this in my head, Griff has actually been executing on all of those things in the real world alongside Alex Ludovico, Jihad Scorcese, Curly Castro, and a bunch of other artists. It's really cool to see not only how well it's coming together, but how polished the finished product(s) have been.
But I do want to take a minute to say Bambu is a real one, and his new album Sharpest Tool In The Shed is a must listen on the eve of election day. Go grab a copy, it might help drown out the sound of all the pickup trucks driving around helplessly tomorrow.
"Damn," you remark to no one in particular, your voice muffled by the strip of cloth fabric that's become as much a fixture on your face over the past eight months as the perpetual stubble you long since gave up on shaving once you stopped going into the office.
You continue, this time directing your words towards the device in your hand that has now fully eliminated any need for interaction with other humans in this age of social distancing, "This dude hasn't written anything in over a year, and now he's posting two days in a row? He must have something really important to say."
Thoughts of the past year's social unrest, long-overdue protests against injustice, 1984-grade gas-lighting from the elected officials you were raised to trust, and a viral pandemic that has been as bad as any reality that Matt Damon could have predicted, race through your mind as your focus returns to the screen. "Maybe he's going to address the generational-defining election coming up in just a few days?"
"Give his take on how music creation and consumption has changed as a result of the quarantine?"
"Maybe he'll share his thoughts on how the latest Supreme Court appointee's approach to law could one day cause the existing standards of obscenity to be re-evaluated and how that might have an impact on hip hop."
Nah, son. A younger version of me would be writing page after page with my thoughts on all of that, and I reserve the right to come back to this site before Election Day and do just that, but today I just wanted to share a video. This video has elicited something very rare for me lately as I've attempted to juggle working from home with the duties of raising a baby without the guardrails of daycare and protecting some level of my own sanity: genuine laughter. Seeing how earnestly this blonde girl raps, "I'm 100% that girl" in place of Lizzo's original "That bitch" line makes me smile every single time I watch it. It's great. Take a minute to watch it.
Then go back and watch the original Lizzo video which I continue to argue to this day is one of the best rap songs of the past decade.
(And one last thought. Can anyone confirm that is Open Mike Eagle in Lizzo's video?)
As a way of intro'ing this post, I was going to make a really tortured metaphor equating 90's hip hop heads slash gatekeepers to a cargo cult performing intricate rituals involving Polo sweaters, Jansport backpacks, and long-dormant blogs in the hopes of conjuring up the second coming of Illmatic from the clouds. That metaphor was hitting a little too close to home, and required far too much research to understand what a cargo cult even is, so scratch that. The point I'm getting to is that this album that we're going to talk about in the next paragraph really speaks to me.
What you need to know: Cargo Cults is a collaboration from the homie Zilla Rocca and former Def Jux emcee Alaska. They recently ("recently" being a term of relativity, but given it's been over a year since I've posted then anything since January counts as recent) dropped an album, Nihilist Millenial. The album's filled with the kind of heaviness - heavy in regards to both Alaska's rhymes and Zilla's sample-laden beats - that fits the world's current mood quite nicely. Techno-paranoia, hints of ludditism, cynicism, fatigue; it's all represented in here, but delivered with a level of emceeing skill and laid over some great beats that make for an incredible listen regardless of what mood 2020 has put you in.