Friday, February 19, 2016

Loosies Of The Week, Feb. 13-19

This week's loosies has enormous range. Bangers, underground legends, Indie spearheads, Alternative R&B darlings. Lots to churn through this week as 2016 begins chugging along at a faster click.

A$AP Mob - Lords Never Worry

It seems every A$AP Mob member not named A$AP Rocky or A$AP Ferg has been making the same song since their inception in 2007. This is at least judging by the titles, haven't we heard this before? We haven't, don't be confused, it's just tough to tell the differences. With a cluttered beat and endless verses that muddle in the middle, 'Lords Never Worry' suffers from terrible mixing problems. If the verses are good I wouldn't be able to tell. And actually, if the beat was worthy I'd hardly be able to tell too.

It does have some nice drums that layer over one another, with an antiquated piano riff bookending the song. A mellow holler fills the background, but it all sounds the same. And I can almost be assured there's nothing interesting coming from A$AP Twelvyy or A$AP Nast, and really Rocky himself only stays relevant off his excellent flow, of which can't really be showed off here. There's talk of the "new Black Panthers," with absolutely no reasoning behind their statements. No one's going to believe a movement coming from this group, meaning their topics, at least here, are out of place and aren't where their bread and butter lie. 

Aesop Rock - Rings

Unsung kingpin of the underground Hip-Hop movement in the 2000's is back with his lead single, 'Rings,' to his soon-to-be released 7th LP The Impossible Kid. I've always had a indecisive approach to Aesop Rock. For one, he's insanely talented but I feel his talents lie in things not expected from enjoyable music. That is to say, I love some of his songs, 'Coffee' being one of my favorites ever. It's just that he's a hyper lyricist, both in terms of rapping speed and dexterous language, causing the finished product to be a little cluttered. Regardless, Aesop Rock is a skilled emcee, one of the best the underground has had on offer. His latest single returns to what made him adored in the middle 2000's, as 'Rings' takes physical proses of mental anguish and spits them over thunderous drums and spiraling synths.

The track as a whole has a slight Industrial taste, akin to El-P, who Aesop Rock used to work in the past. DJ scratching comes and goes, as does these siren synths darting off the edges. Rock's rhyming is absolutely on point here. Dense, packed to the punch with intricate rhyme schemes, and straight forward enough (relatively speaking, to some of his more nonsensical work) to form a meaning. I'm glad to see his vocabulary didn't get the better of him this time, refraining from making lyrical mish mash and actually coming out with a product that stands to mean something, as Rock thinks back on his past mistakes and opportunities he failed to attain. The chorus is forgettable, but what do you expect, Rock's never been known for a good hook-maker. Love how his voice falls at the end of his verses and moves into those choruses though. Overall a solid track that has me interested in The Impossible Kid

Animal Collective - Golden Gal

A fun little Pop ditty. I'm not sure what one's better in my opinion, this or 'Lying In The Grass,' but 'Golden Gal' absolutely plays it safer. I am still not a fan, at all, of the multi-vocal layering of Avey Tare and Panda Bear found on 'Lying' (and a bit on 'Floridada'), but the second single eventually turns into something much greater. Here all is shown right away, proclaiming this as a more straight forward Animal Collective track that doesn't beg for attention. I like that. And I love the chorus. It's Sunshine Pop, and a great place to put the multi-layered vocals if you must.

The production is continuous and structural, apart from the direction Animal Collective has headed in constantly re-tweaking smaller elements unnecessarily. It's an actual soundstage of synth modulators, something they use in almost every song now, spanning the team's side projects as well, but here they actually stick to a handful. Makes for a danceable rhythm without much to worry about. A lighthearted affair that works well to mimic the sound of Merriweather Post Pavilion without being too disruptive. I don't love it overall, it seems a bit empty and doesn't catch the magic or greatness of early AnCo releases, but it does well to please as a third single. 

Denzel Curry - Knotty Head

Still not sold on Denzel Curry, and 'Knotty Head' doesn't really change my perception of him. But hey, he seems to be a strictly banger-centric emcee, nothing wrong with that when it comes to bumping in the whip. His earlier single/loosie 'Flying Nimbus' featured this same style, where a Cloud-drenched production covers his Hardcore rapping flow. It's unrelenting and aggressive. Nice, but nothing special, and certainly nothing that hasn't happened before. The quick tease at the end though features an excellent beat that dances amongst loose wires. 

On 'Knotty Head' Curry, even if subtly, goes harder. The production, with smoke-smothered keyboards, sounds awfully like a demented version of a throwaway Christmas song. Its got that dark, ominous aura that some of those weirder Holiday songs have. Definitely the best part of this song. It's simple, yet contrasting, bringing that prototypical banger element despite slow-moving pieces guiding the bass. Curry's verses, or I should say the first one, is ferocious and brings much needed vibrancy to match the sonic palate. The second however is sloppy, forcing slang that just doesn't work together, attempting, as hard as it may be, to work Andy Milonakis into the bar.

Jay Electronica - Curse Of Mayweather

Oh Jay Electronica, what could've been if you actually did something with your hype levels. As it stands now, the majority of fans have moved on to different, and in some cases better, artists (see Kendrick Lamar). This doesn't sit well with Electronica, who ungratefully accepted his fans despite doing much of nothing to gather them. And as they flock to King Kendrick, a man with clear lyrical talents at the least comparable to Jay, the man's desperate reaction is to beef. Beef with an artist who will likely never respond, nor cares to. 50 Cent gets thrown into the fire as well, and may take the bait to gain exposure, but even that's an unlikely event. Electronica is quickly turning into the next Charles Hamilton, incapable of releasing a full-length project, getting sidetracked by his own frustrations with the success of his peers.

That being said 'The Curse Of Mayweather' is actually pretty dope. Reminds me of B.o.B's 'Flatline,' although not as egregious in conspiracy theorist content. Just the fact of two emcees fighting against a lost cause over pretty good beats makes them comparable. Here Electronica uses a classic Boom Bap beat to glide over. It's purposely(?) muddled and hushed, like one of Blu's poorly mixed albums. While most hate on this style, giving it a rightful slam on workmanship, others utilize the aesthetic to match a scene (see: Earl Sweatshirt's I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside). I for one appreciate the mixing decisions, if done right, and here, on 'The Curse Of Mayweather,' it's split. The beat and soaring synths decompressing the background is excellent. The children hollering insistently over his verse is not.

Lyrically he's fine, if not a bit direct. Being that he's beefing that's bound to be the point, but musically Electronica has always excelled in cryptic messages, dense verbal mash, and intricate flows. The latter is here, despite the beat being rather one-dimensional, but the other two aren't. Regardless 'The Curse Of Mayweather' seems like a cry for attention, not a good look for someone criticizing others in the same song of doing the same thing. You want Kendrick or 50 or any other rapper to feel scared of you and your greatness? Release an album.

FKA Twigs - Good To Love

Take what makes FKA Twigs unique and remove it. That's what we're left with on 'Good To Love.' Keep in mind, Twigs is still an incredible vocalist so this track stands up against most Contemporary R&B pieces, with her soothing vocals painfully wrecking against distant pianos, but the experimentation that drives her music is (mostly) absent here. Towards the end some driving synths slither their way into the soundscape, allowing room for some minuscule bass to eat up much of the excess, but it doesn't last long enough, go hard enough, or perk ears enough to make any such of an impact.

Again, as a Contemporary piece this is excellent, and something that, given enough attention, will surely bring in a new crowd who respects Twigs' talents outside of her sonic composition. Coming from a Hip-Hop / Experimental background I've always been lured into Twigs in that regard, like the tenacious opening to LP1, 'Preface,' in which clashing Industrial sounds lay waste behind Twigs' multi-layered cooing. Drums slap against the walls as a distorted male, played out like a glitchy ghost, finds his way into her magnificent creature. So many layers of intrigue that are abandoned on 'Good To Love' in place of a more traditional package, suited for a R&B artist accentuating her voice. Again, nothing wrong with Twigs doing this, I adore her voice, but if an entire album of this is what we can expect I'll be more than worried.

Del, Murs, Fashawn, & Black Thought - Rise Up

A song now exists that features Del the Funky HomosapienMursFashawn, and Black Thought boasting verses about Street Fighter. Sure it exists for promotional purposes, but damn if a middle 2000's backpacker isn't having a wet dream right now. That includes me, as each and every one of these artists played a role in some of my first Hip-Hop intake's. While I began with the likes of OutKastGorillaz and MF DOOM I soon transitioned into my teenage backpacker phase, loving the simple beats and bars from the likes of Living LegendsBlu and Busdriver. Various albums and tracks came and went, some long lasting, others a bit embarrassing in retrospect, but regardless, each one of these legends shaped my early Hip-Hop path in different, interesting ways.

Black Thought is still debatable but the others, no matter how much I don't want to admit it, seem to be on their way out. Del made his statement on underground Hip-Hop with the seminal concept album Deltron 3030, Murs did so by being a part of the Living Legends, a group whose parts were much more popular than the collection itself, and Fashawn essentially made Blu's Below the Heavens part two with the underrated Boy Meets WorldThe Roots speak for themselves. They all come together here for a fun romp around a classic Boom Bap beat that works perfectly to give each rapper space to flourish their various styles. I can't say too much about the lyrics themselves, as they all take on various Street Fighter themes to give the overall record purpose.

Fashawn's voice is always excellent to me, so I'm a bit biased thinking he's the best, but it just always does it for me. His laid back West Coast sound just vibes over any beat with ease, while Black Thought adheres to a more direct, punchable verse that makes him one of the genre's most underrated rappers. Del is Del, erratic and inherently weird, Murs follows your prototypical 16 bar underground Hip-Hop aesthetic. Simple does best, needs nothing more cinematic than that.

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