RIP To The Real Kony: Biggie Smalls

The King of New York.  Rest in peace to one of the greatest to ever do it.  Ready To Die will be on repeat throughout the day.   A project kid from Brooklyn, with a cassette tape demo without no song structure ended up changed hip-hop forever.  15 years ago today; let this be a lesson that senseless violence only leads to tragedy and heartache.

 

Tom Morello to Rush Limbaugh: “Hey Jackass, Stop Using Our Music!”

I woke up early this morning and while going through my daily morning routine, I saw this gem plastered all over my twitter timeline (@Johnny_UT, btw.)  I have always admired Tom Morello; from his musical talent to his outspoken support towards social injustice and the myriad of other causes he has backed.  This is the icing on the cake though, hats off to you Tom for standing up and speaking out.  Your courage is admirable.  Rush Limbaugh is everything wrong with America and people like him are what’s destroying America.  The recent hot water Limbaugh has got himself in lately is just one of many examples of Rush’s hypocritical, racist, misogynistic and hate-fueled behavior.

The partisanship in this country is a major reason for its dis-function and Rush Limbaugh is at the forefront of it all.  He uses his radio show as a platform to plant his dangerous ideologies to anyone withing listening range.  I had a conversation with the girlfriend not too long ago about how I wished Rage Against the Machine was still making music, especially in these tumultuous times.  They were an important band (and one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen) and I feel like they could still do a lot of good if they were still together.  Here’s hoping for a reunion.

New Music: Dean Risko Trouble EP + Video

I met Dean Risko a few years ago through some mutual friends and became instantly impressed by him as a person.  He’s intelligent, quick-witted and genuinely one of the nicest guys I have ever come in contact with.   The Johannesburg, South Africa born, Salt Lake City, Utah raised and now Echo Park, Los Angeles residing has released his “Trouble” EP.  Throughout the three songs, Dean weaves together soulful, quasi electro-pop melodies with clever and on point lyricism.  The result is like Motown Records being involved in a head on crash with Def Jam.

One thing that has always resonated with me about Dean is his undeniable hunger for the masses to hear and enjoy his music.   His talent resides in his balance.  Dean is able to stabilize the sing-songy flow without making it sound corny (I’m looking at you Flo-rida, Nelly and Drake) while staying on topic and remaining captivating.

If I had to compare Dean to other artists, it would be a blend of Andre 3000 (circa The Love Below), Justin Timberlake and Mike Posner (only with a better persona and emcee skills).  Plus, he has fantastic taste in production which only helps to elevate his music (the whole EP has a jazzy, electro bounce feel to it)- making it that much more commercially viable.

The first two songs off the Trouble EP were produced by Wesley Thompson (twitter.com/wesismore), another good friend of mine, and a production genius in the making.  I was talking to Wes the other day at a Wale show and he was explaining to me how they spent the better part of a year perfecting this project.  This type of meticulous dedication and hard work has certainly paid off.

Dean’s best attribute is that he has found his own style and voice – an accomplishment 99% of musicians never achieve.  His songwriting is top notch and he has the “it” factor in regards to being able to create a hit song.  Trouble is filled with stories of love, heartbreak, and the roller coaster that is relationships and the chase of that desired woman.  With his aforementioned hunger to succeed and an incredible EP under his belt, it’s only a matter of time until Dean Risko makes that happen.

I’m proud to be able to call Dean my friend; few things make me happier than seeing my friends succeed.

Here is the video for Dean’s lead single “Trouble.”

You can download the Trouble EP at http://deanrisko.bandcamp.com/

Follow Dean Risko on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/#!/DeanRisko

Dean Risko on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/DeanRisko

Coachella 2012.

Last year was my first Coachella experience, and needless to say, it was mind blowing.  Regardless of the heat, being able to immerse myself with friends and that much musical talent was incredible.  The result were some of the best memories of my adult life.  Since I left the Polo Grounds in Indio, California last year, I have been anxiously wanting to go back.

 

A few days ago the 2012 Coachella lineup was announced, there are a lot of bands I have never heard of, but one of the great things about this festival is being able to discover new music.  I’m excited to be able to find out who these bands are, and if there are any suggestions any of you have in regards to bands I should check out that are on the bill, I’d love to hear them.

Bands/emcees/dj’s I’m excited to see: The Black Keys (I saw them last year and was disappointed.  Here’s hoping they put on a better show), Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar, LA Riots, R3hab, Afrojack, Swedish House Mafia, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, A$AP Rocky, Santigold, Manchester Orchestra, Miike Snow, Bon Iver, Radiohead, Company Flow, araabMUZIK, DJ Shadow, The Hives, Calvin Harris, Florence and the Machine, At the Drive In, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg (I’ve seen both years ago at the Up in Smoke Tour, but this will be epic.  Hopefully this will be some sort of prequel to an actual Detox album).

The festival is full of surprises, and with this kind of bill, I’m anticipating a few.

There are a few surprises in regards to people I thought would be on the bill – The Beastie Boys, MIA, Danny Brown, Kid Cudi, Lana Del Ray, Bloc Party, Jay-Z and Kanye (especially with both emcees headlining the festival the last two years), Sleigh Bells, The Killers, Chromeo, Ratatat, Tyler the Creator, Skylar Grey, Major Lazer, Little Dragon, Slaughterhouse and Queens of the Stone Age.

Here’s hoping for another mind blowing experience.

Leaders of the New School….

This  is a picture of Lil Wayne sitting court side at the Lakers v Bulls game on Christmas Day.

(MEWN BOOTS!)

First the Jeggings at the VMA’s and now this atrocity.  Rap is about being fly, it always has been.  There is NOTHING fly about what Wayne is doing here.  He’s not a martian, he’s a clown out for attention.  The ONLY dude who could ever pull anything like this off is Andre 3k.  Period.  Lil Wayne deserves to have both his hood and manhood passes revoked.

Between the aforementioned, his face tattoos and a laundry list of other suspect behaviors, Wayne is no longer “misunderstood,” he’s full blown confused with how to live.  I’ve never seen a more eligible candidate for a life coach.  I hope no other rapper calls him out,  b/c it would be a disappointment – the biggest battle Wayne will ever face is with his identity crisis.

Next we have Aubrey.  With a name like that, he’s been doomed since Jump Street.  I will further elaborate my loathing for this individual in an upcoming post.

No self-respecting hip hop artist should be playing tennis.  Play a sport with some credibility; like basketball, or maybe toss the football around a little.

However, if you must play tennis, keep your shirt on and don’t expose your Aaliyah tattoo.   I am a fan of Aaliyah as much as the next guy but that doesn’t excuse inking her face on your body.  Buy a painting or a sticker.

The only men who should be allowed to ink a woman’s face on their body are those who have served prison time.  Drake is the antonym of that.  In the case that he did get locked up, he would be passed around for enough cigarettes to give every inmate in Rikers lung cancer.

The most disturbing thing about these pictures are that these are artists topping the hip-hop charts, winning Grammy’s and are widely excepted as some of the best, most talented people in the industry.  I won’t deny that both Drake and Wayne have talent, I just can’t except their lack of masculinity and shame.  If this is the direction hip hop is headed, I’ll be listening to the Zeppelin for the rest of my days.

At least I can take solace in knowing that some artists can still stick to the code and be men.  Common not only dropped the best hip-hop album of 2011, but elaborated quite well on the point I am trying to bring home in his video for the song “Sweet.”  Thank you Mr. Common Sense.

I will say this, Drake wants no part of Common.

Album Review: B-Side – B, Myself and I.

One of my goals with this blog is to try and help out Salt Lake City’s music scene by writing reviews, posting new songs and helping with whatever other promo I could offer.  After extending this offer via a few social networking sites, B-Side emailed me with his album and press kit asking me to review it for him.

B-Side (B. Masina) is a local emcee, born in California and raised in Salt Lake City’s west side neighborhood Rose Park.  His album B, Myself and I is a collection of stories of street life, struggle, love and the everlasting desire to achieve ones dreams.

The album boasts solid production from a handful of locals and a sharp, steady flow from B-Side.  In his press kit it was mentioned that B draws comparisons to Scarface – which I find dead on.  Both emcees have voices that are undeniable, throaty deliveries and straight forward cadences.  One thing that sticks out to me about B-Side, is his no nonsense approach.  He foregoes technicalities and overly flashy mechanics and sticks to what he’s good at.

Another element to B-Side, is his gift to sing.  This added talent creates depth and diversity to the album.

You can download the album HERE.

Stick to the Code – This is a good intro song.  The beat (produced by Tonga Kid) has a little knock to it; which I like.  B makes his presence felt right off the bat and the Nate Dogg-esque hook works well.  However, the braggadocio, street life subject matter is cliché.

B, Myself and I (featuring Kombo) – This is the type of song that happens to rappers all the time – a good concept with flawed execution.  B tells a story of growing up with little to no options.   Although gifted, smart and talented, he feels hopeless due to his environment, and bad decision making.   I don’t like the hook at all, it sounds forced and unnecessary, alongside a Kombo verse that takes away instead of adding to the song.  I’ve never been a fan of unnecessary collaborations; the goal is to add depth and enhance the song, but in this case it took a potentially powerful and cathartic message and made it sound like a group therapy session.

Love (featuring Koa) –   I think B-Side’s girl was upset that he had been spending too much time in the studio and not with he, so he did what any logical man would do to justify more time in the booth – he wrote a song to try and patch things up.   I think B-Side is a smart guy, but there is nothing inspired or intelligent about this.   It’s a run of the mill advice column about treating your girl right.   Everything about this song is juvenile; the concept, the lyrics, the intended audience, all the way down to the beat, which sounds like it was made using a Speak and Spell.

Come Too Far (featuring Ya Boy Pell) – I call this the “hook, line, sinker.”  What I mean by this is, potentially amazing songs are sunk to a lower level by a poor hook.  This is a plague that has affected a myriad of great emcees throughout hip-hop history (Eminem, Nas, Pac Div).   Pell and B-Side go back and forth trading fantastic bars over a dope, choppy, synth beat.  This song would have been one of the stand outs of the album with a different hook.

Dream Killas (featuring Melody) – This song has a ballad type feel to it.   From the classical piano instrumental to the powerfully sung hook.  B-Side delves deep into his feelings about never giving up.  The entire concept stresses the significance of continuity.  I could hear this on popular radio.

Dopeman (featuring Decoy) – This is my favorite song on the album so far.  This is meat and potatoes rap.  Dope lyrics, dope beat (which comes secondary to the emcees) and a simplified hook.  B-Side and Decoy pull off a solid collaboration, using drugs as a metaphor of falling victim to a corrupted lifestyle all while staying true to the unwritten laws of the streets.

High Heels – This sounds like a failed attempt to mimic a YMCMB love song.  I hate when artists dumb down their material to try and make a hit.  I feel the exact same way about this as I do with “Love.”

Okay, I am now more than half way done with this album and I’ve noticed a trend that I don’t dig that much.  7 of the first 8 songs have hooks that have been sung.  It’s getting to the point of overdose.

I Want Mines – B-Side dreams big about how he wants the “good” life.  He’s focused and determined to once again reach his goals.  This song reminds me of the scene in Scarface, where Tony tells Manolo he wants the world and everything in it.

Stone Cold (featuring Mad Max) – Despite the singing (again) on this track, I really dig it.  Tonga Kid drops the hardest beat on the album so far and Mad Max and B sound determined to punch a hole through it.   B-Side shows his versatility, weaving in and out of the beat with both a slow and sped up flow.

Definition of Cool (featuring Liu Vakapuna) – B-Side can rap.  Point blank.  He does his thing on this song, spitting with swagger and confidence, proving he’s as cool as he says he is.  However, the hook  is absolutely terrible and ruins this song for me.  It’s unfortunate, because this song had a lot of potential, but it has no replay value whatsoever.

Tell Me Why (featuring Josh Wawa White) – I like this.  The hook and instrumental have a very reggae/island feel to it and B-side some poignant bars about struggling and the confusion, anger and heartache that come with it.

Wussup Uce (featuring Kombo) – This is dope – reminds me of something Westside Connection would drop in the late 90’s.  B and Kombo go back and forth onwhat is sure to be a hood anthem.  I LOVE when emcees are able to incorporate their own slang into a song and make it relatable to everyone .  This song has some hair on its chest.  Well done.

Glass Ceilings (featuring Lem Seumanu & Kis B) – This is my favorite song on the album.  It’s powerful.  B-Side and Kis wax poetically about the struggles of immigrant families.  They tell a story of the difficulties to succeed and how most families continue the trend of working multiple jobs.  This is a song with a beautiful message, performed nearly flawlessly.  You can hear the pain in both emcees voices and the hook becomes the summation of the entire concept.

Cleaning out the Lake (featuring Kis B, Mike Skilz, Syncronice, & Ya Boy Pell) – There’s nothing not to like about this song.  I dig posse cuts and this one is no exception.  B recruited a bunch of my favorite local dudes and the result was dope.  There was no concept to this song, just a bunch of dudes going in.  No one person stole the show, but no one came weak either.

B-Side has a lot of talent.  He flows nearly effortlessly and has the ability to express his thoughts on multiple issues.  Though, upon listening to the album, I feel like I’ve heard it before.  The subject matter and concepts have been touched on by a multitude of emcees. (outside of glass ceilings).  However, the potential of B can’t be denied and am excited to see his growth and progression as an artist.

Another thing that impresses the hell out of me, is B-Side’s professional approach to his music.  I’ve heard WAY too many local albums that sound like they were recorded in a shower stall located in the basement of steel manufacturing plant.   The sound quality, artwork, mastering and his press kit highlight his focus and dedication towards his music.  There are so many artists who are talented music wise, but do not understand the business aspect of the industry.  B-Side is one of those rare breeds that understands and handles both sides.

Additionally, not once on the album did B-Side sounds hesitant, out of place or uncomfortable.  This can be attributed to the confidence he has in himself and his abilities.  This is a strength very few emcees possess.

B-Side has aligned himself with local label Green Light Records and Boomboxx Music.  A local powerhouse, chock-full of talent, that has taken the Salt Lake City music scene by storm over the last few years.  The label continuously pumps out quality music, videos and performances.  If B continues his relationship with his label, I only see him gaining more success and popularity.

B, Myself and I is a solid album filled with genuine emotion, grit and desire.  I have no doubts that B-Side will continue to  progress and advance over time.

New Sleigh Bells song: “Born to Lose.”

I had never heard of Sleigh Bells until I went to Coachella this last April.  The crew I was with was adamant about seeing them live, so I obliged.  Long story short, their show ended up being one of the highlights of my experience there.  Their blend of pop, metal, hip-hop and electro paired with grandiose aggressiveness appeals to my music taste to the highest degree.  Their music is nearly impossible to classify, but it’s raucous, powerful and absolutely LOUD!

(My view of Sleigh Bells onstage at Coachella)

Needless to say, their album Treats gets plenty of play on my iPod.

Sleigh Bells new album Reign of Terror , is slated for an early 2012 release.  A few weeks ago, the track list was released.  It goes as follows:

1. Born to Lose                                                                                                                                                         2.Crush
3. End of the Line
4. Leader of the Pack
5. Comeback Kid
6. Demons
7. Road to Hell
8. You Lost Me”
9. Never Say Die”
10. D.O.A.”

Derek Miller (guitarist, producer) didn’t lie when he said the band would be abandoning their “noise pop” feel. “Born to Lose,” the duo’s lead single, released today, is a perfect example of it.

My opinion; not my cup of tea.  I wanted something that was going to tear my face off & blow out my ear drums. Neither happened.  I guess I was expecting something harder – more ferocious, but I understand the appeal this song will have to others.

Hear for yourself and make your own judgements

I’m still very excited for Reign of Terror, especially to hear the progression and new direction Sleigh Bells wants to take.  However, do they have the capability to make another album as groundbreaking and multifaceted?  Hopefully this one song isn’t a summation for what the rest of the project has to offer.