Monday, July 19, 2010

Ras G - Brotha From Anotha Planet (2009) (320)

I can't say that I can keep up with all of the beats these days. Seems like everyone and their mom has a Roland MS-1 and a crate full of wacky samples to go with it. But as I recently came into a number of collections of beats, and with the increasing presence of a number of DJs/beatmakers in my current location, I felt a big ups to LA's Ras G was necessary. Not the first or the the last to make afrofuturistic soundscapes and pulses, Ras G nonetheless has a fantastic grip on the genre both musically and in terms of his image: just look at the album cover. The dude is rad.

And so are the beats. Totally atmospheric, confused, drowning in noise and broken, delayed rhythms which take the shattered sounds of original dub into the 21st century, scattered and crashing and swirling around complex concepts about humanity, race, technology, duplication, art, and probably a whole host of other stuff. Unlike many ambient and dubstep musicians, Ras himself is always present behind the plates and samples he uses. You can sometimes hear his fingers slipping or a miscount, but from that imperfection comes a supreme self-awareness. Dysfunction, like dissonance, are part of the contemporary playbook for music like this, where fracture and memory reign in two intersecting arcs which create the heady sphere that Ras produces in. Do yourself a favor and light up a Phillie, put on your nicest pair of headphones, and dim the lights. Go Ras!


1. Dishwater
2. Earthly Matters
3. Penny's Confession
4. Shinelight
5. Eunice in White
6. Sun Behing The Clouds
7. Astrohood
8. Nothing But hange
9. In Coming
10. Come Down (2 Earth)
11. Desert Fairy
12. Return Form The Great Unknown
13. Alkebulan


Tiê - Sweet Jardim (2009) (320)

Firstly, I ought to apologize for the absence. In the summer heat, I excuse myself too easily of my obligations and frequently give in to the itchings in my feet. But, back on the horse! This record by Paulista songwriter Tiê is a short record of heartwrenching poetry in the melancholy tradition of MPB and Bossa singers like Elis Regina and more contemporary artists like Adriana Calcanhotto, but with clear influences from classic songwriters like Syd Barrett and contemporary indie downers like Elliott Smith and Cat Power. The acoustic arrangements (just guitar, piano, and cello) are gorgeous in their simplicity, and Tiê's haunting voice constantly threatens to shatter the quiet, lo-fi atmosphere of the record. Maybe I'm a sap, but some of the lyrics really knock me over-- simple and often evasive compositions of heartbreak, frustration, affirmation and compromise. From the opening track, "Assinado Eu" or "Signed, Me", she reflects delicately on her inability to properly reciprocate romance:" Atordoada de amor, faltou ar"... "Suffocated by love, I needed air". All of her words have this slight but endearing cheesiness to them. In the sleepy and sad "Quinto Andar", or "Fifth Floor", she resigns herself, "Amor, por que eu te chamo assim? Sei com certeza vôce não lembra de mim", or "Love, why do I call you that? I know, surely, that you don't even remember me". Yet although filled with pain, the album is a hopeful one, its composition clearly a redemptive, therapeutic one. With the exception of the English language "Stranger But Mine" (why is this necessary?), each song is a gem. Even those suspicious of singer-songwriter types would do well to give this a spin.


1. Assinado Eu
2. Dois
3. Quinto Andar
4. Passarinho
5. Aula de Francês
6. Chá Verde
7. Te Valorizo
8. Stranger But Mine
9. A Bailarina E O Astronauta
10. Sweet Jardim


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Eric B. & Rakim - Follow The Leader (1988) (320)

The seminal work from hip hop's most important DJ/MC combination shows growth from their previous album, 1987's Paid in Full. Both are classics but Follow the Leader sees a a more developed and refined approach to lyrical delivery and production. The 18th letter, Rakim Allah, is untouchable. The standout track is "Microphone Fiend", pure hip hop passion. Rakim comparing his need for hip hop to heroin and nicotine addiction and explaining how William Michael Griffin, Jr. became the R. It's funny to picture a young Rakim denied a microphone and then throwing a tantrum:

"I was a fiend, before I became a teen
I melted microphones 'stead of cones of ice cream,
Music-orientated so when hip hop was originated
fitted like pieces of puzzle - complicated,
'Cause I grabbed the mic and tried to say "Yes Y'all"
they tried to take it and say that I'm too small,
Cool, 'cause I don't get upset
I kick a hole in the speaker, pull the plug then I jet."

It has to be one of the best hip hop songs, period. This album speaks for itself, and so many Rakim stans can sing his praise better than I can. Rakim took MC'ing in a new direction that became the mold for every rapper after. You've probably heard this before, but if you don't know, now ya know.


1. Follow The Leader
2. Microphone Fiend
3. Lyrics Of Fury
4. Eric B. Never Scared
5. Just A Beat
6. Put Your Hands Together
7. To The Listeners
8. No Competition
9. The R
10. Musical Massacre
11. Beats For The Listeners
12. The R (Remix)
13. Microphone Fiend (Extended Remix)
14. Put Your Hands Together (Fon Force Mix)