Concert Review, Hip Hop, Rap

Concert Review: BROCKHAMPTON @ House of Blues, 2/5/18

Everything about BROCKHAMPTON is unconventional. During 2017, the band released three feature-length albums over the course of six months, entitled the Saturation trilogy; each of which received high critical acclaim, with Saturation III peaking at 15 in the US charts. The collective of around 15 members produce everything themselves; creating their albums, music videos and merchandise all at their shared home in Los Angeles.

The group quickly developed an enthusiastic fan-base attracted to both the music and it’s content. BROCKHAMPTON discuss topics often ignored in popular culture, let alone in rap music, such as: sexuality, mental health, rape culture and addiction, amongst others. Despite the nature of some of these topics, BROCKHAMPTON’s music is full of energy and isn’t as hard-hitting as one might expect, with songs such as STAR, during which members of the group interpolate countless popular culture references over the course of the three minute track.

On February 5th 2018, I arrived at the House of Blues venue in Boston an hour and a half before doors opened to BROCKHAMPTON’s sold out show. Around a hundred or so people were already lined up, despite the bitterly cold temperatures of 20 degrees. Some fans were dressed in orange jumpsuits, with blue face paint – mimicking the costume often worn by the boy band in their music videos and live performances.  The audience consisted of all genders, primarily teenagers and those in their twenties.

Once inside the 2500 capacity venue, without any opening act, group member, Ameer Vann walked onto stage alone and slowly got changed into an orange jumpsuit. Within moments the other 6 primary members of the group ran onto stage in matching outfits, brock1.jpgwith the booming single BOOGIE opening the set. The boy band stormed through fifteen songs in quick succession. Each rapper was constantly jumping around the stage, dancing, interacting with the audience or providing backing vocals/ad-libs for the other members of the group – the energy and atmosphere was unlike any concert I’ve been to.

One unusual aspect of BROCKHAMPTON is that, despite being a rap group, “bearface”, one of the central members, just sings- only contributing to 5 songs over the entirety of the Saturation trilogy. After an hour and half of the main rap-heavy set, all other members left the stage, leaving only ‘bearface’. Prior to this, he’d just sitting on stage with a guitar, watching the previous set. He performed the slow-paced, emotional BROCKHAMPTON tracks SUMMER and TEAMleaving the crowd, who had been crazily moshing before, swaying from side to side with lighters raised in the air.

After the short solo set, the other members returned for an encore, which included performing their hit song, STAR, five times consecutively – each time requesting a larger mosh pit, bringing members of their crew (such as their sound engineers brock2or videographers) on stage before finally inviting thirty or so jump-suited, blue-faced loyal fans up- it was madness.

The 2018 national tour is entitled Love Your Parents Tour – A Live Experience By BROCKHAMPTON. I can’t think of a more fitting description of the concert than it being ‘a live experience.’  The music of BROCKHAMPTON is unique, energetic and emotional. I would highly recommend giving BROCKHAMPTON’s Saturation trilogy a listen, and seizing the opportunity to see them live when they return to Massachusetts for May’s Boston Calling festival.

 

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Hip Hop, Rap, Review

Album Review: Ronny J – OMGRonny

Ronny J is the hottest underground hip-hop producer that you’ve never heard of. Over the last few years, the Miami-based producer and rapper has crafted hits for some of the most successful new artists in hip hop, such as Denzel Curry, Rich Brian, and Lil Pump. Somewhere between the glossy and highly produced work of artists like Migos and A$AP Mob and the hard-hitting underground sounds of artists like Ho99o9 and Lil Ugly Mane, Ronny J’s new project OMGRONNY is a short burst of interesting, garage-band-quality hip hop that is certain to haunt your mind like the most effective commercial jingles.

The project lends you twelve seconds of preparation before it kicks you in the face with the distorted bass and choppy percussion that persist throughout each of the tracks. While most producers would tend to avoid muddy bass and clipped percussive samples, Ronny J uses these features to create some exceedingly interesting effects. The distortion of the bass on songs like Snakes and 824 create a depth that a regular 808 could not have matched. The percussive arrangements are fairly typical of any other hip hop project you may have heard in the past three years, but the variety of pitches and effects he uses on snare and hi hat samples makes even simple patterns stand out and complement the songs greatly. Musically, the project is consistently exciting and innovative, making sure not to shy away from being too dirty or extreme.

The project relies heavily on features; only two of the eleven tracks feature no other artists. Verses from Ski Mask the Slump God (Costa Rica, Thriller (Forever)), Denzel Curry (Houston, Glacier), and Wifisfuneral (Snakes) provide much needed structure to the bulk of the tracks on the project. Ronny J’s shortcomings as a songwriter and vocalist become fairly obvious once these features are considered. His lyrics can at times seem uninspired and repetitive and his autotune-soaked vocals fail to captivate the excitement that the tracks often call for. He fails to differentiate himself from some of his contemporaries, rapping about the expensive things he owns and the women he gets (like we haven’t heard Kodak Black say the same exact things in every song he’s released in his career).  Unlike rappers like Travis Scott or Young Thug, who use Auto-Tune to enhance their vocal performances, Ronny J seems to use it to mask his uninteresting or otherwise poorly written hooks. There are, however, several moments in which he exceeds vocally. His performances on Thriller and 824 are smooth and at least fairly interesting. Without the features from more talented vocalists, the album would not survive.

Despite Ronny J’s vocal and lyrical shortcomings, his first full length project is an example of the diversity that is present in the modern hip hop scene. He differentiates himself from other current popular hip hop producers, such as Metro Boomin and Zaytoven, with a gritty and highly intense style that is unmatched by any other. He consciously avoids the same smooth bass tone and vocal production that haunts every Migos and Post Malone track you’ve heard on the radio, instead opting to use more colorful and varied sounds that would not normally be heard in a rap beat. Ronny J’s debut project serves as a vocal introduction for the producer and a showcase of unique and hard hitting beats that will certainly be some of the most memorable of the year.

7.5/10

Best tracks : Thriller, Houston, 824

Worst tracks ; Banded Up (lmao fuck xxxtentacion)

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Hip Hop, Review

Album Review: Cyhi The Prynce – No Dope On Sundays

Hip Hop fans had no clue what to expect when word got out that long-time Kanye West affiliate and former G.O.O.D. Music signee, Cyhi The Prynce, was finally releasing his long awaited solo debut, No Dope on Sundays. After years of displaying his lyrical dexterity with clever double entendres on several mixtapes, writing on every West album since My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, radio show freestyles, and of course his breakout verse on West’s So Appalled off of 2010’s Dark Fantasy. Cyhi finishes off the fourth quarter of 2017 strong with No Dope on Sundays.

Like many black Americans in the south, the Stone Mountain, Georgia native grew up in the church, and that remains a consistent theme throughout this album. He recites a Bible verse at the end of the title track which then seamlessly goes into the third song on the album, Get Yo Money. The album is jam-packed with autobiographical double entendres depicting Cyhi’s former life selling marijuana throughout his teens and 20’s, in a way that doesn’t glorify the lifestyle but are more-so cautionary tales. At the same time, he continues to bring back the recurring theme that, even on Sunday’s, no drugs were sold.

“There’s only three ways out this, shit/ Dead, jail, or get your legal hustle on/ Get Yo money and get out the game” says a recurring character throughout the album, on who Chyi speaks to on the phone– who, in a way, becomes the narrator of the album. It verbalizes, through conversation, the points that Chyi is expressing throughout the album, ones the lamen may not understand.

“I was barely seventeen, rollin with some killers that was 30 plus/ Shoulda left these niggas earlier/ But I was broke as fuck in the street I was tryna get me a burger, bruh.” Says Cyhi on Amen, the album’s intro. Autobiographical lyrics like this are what make this album. Cyhi gives context to the circumstances that can potentially lead to youth living a life of crime by humanizing these individuals with vivid stories that don’t glamorize the lifestyle but function more like cautionary tales.

No Dope on Sundays has a little bit of something for everybody. For the true hip-hop heads who appreciate wordsmiths, try Amen (Intro), the title track No Dope on Sundays (feat. Pusha T) and God Bless Your Heart. For the more casual fans songs like the lead single Dat Side (feat. Kanye West) and Looking for Love allow Cyhi to show off his crossover appeal while at the same time not sacrificing his integrity as an artist to conform to radio.

If you haven’t listened to No Dope On Sundays I suggest that you do. I consider it a top 5 rap album of last year and, although it came out a little too late to be nominated for Rap Album of the Year for the 2018 Grammy’s, I expect that nomination in 2019.

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Dream Pop, Hip Hop, Indie Pop, Interview, Jazz, RPM, Singer-Songwriter

We Carry Us: A Conversation With Bell’s Roar

When the world at large polices your expression, limits your resources, and overlooks your creative efforts simply for being yourself, carving out new and unconventional avenues to success becomes imperative.

Bell’s Roar, the solo project of Sean Desiree, personifies this struggle. The Albany, NY-based musician released We Carry Us last month, a collection of ten gorgeous tracks about trans community, perseverance, rectitude and self-love. Across the record, Desiree meticulously cultivates the most tender and worrisome of feelings around a glut of sounds: it’s alternative soul, jubilant synth-pop, and oceanic dream-jazz from one moment to the next– a viscous, mystifying bedlam.

On the outset of their Art Funds Art Tour, a wonderful funding initiative for marginalized artists, we invited Bell’s Roar to our studios to chat about their newest record, independent musicianship, activism, table-making and more!

This interview was conducted by Hayden Fisher on February 2nd, 2018.

All bed music by Bell’s Roar.

The Art Funds Art Tour:

Bandcamp

Facebook

Donate to the Art Funds Art Tour

http://bellsroarmusic.com/

South End Pallet Works

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Hip Hop, Jazz, Review, RPM

Album Review: King Krule – The Ooz

Archy Marshall is royalty, but you might not know it if you haven’t heard his music. The 23 year old London based singer, rapper, and multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire is back with The Ooz, his second full length album under the moniker King Krule. He gets his performing name from a Donkey Kong character, but more than that it’s a great descriptor of his music. Marshall’s harsh, gritty vocals create an interesting juxtaposition with the smoother beats that accompany most tracks on the album. The record fuses elements of punk, jazz, indie, and hip-hop to create an end product that sounds like a mellowed out version of John Zorn’s Naked City.

Musically, the album is extremely consistent. Most tracks feature very tight, suppressed drums, reminiscent of J Dilla or Young Marble Giants. Marshall uses catchy guitar riffs, such as those on “The Ooz” and “Slush Puppy” in unison with spacey and subdued keyboard synths (present on most every track), building tension to create beautiful, sprawling harmonies.  The last, most important ingredient to every track is his vocals, where he ranges from soft and somber to loud and aggressive depending on the lyrical content of the song.

“The Locomotive” is an introspective slow burner where Marshall describes himself waiting at a train station, plagued by his own thoughts. On “Logos” he describes a lost relationship with a woman: “We were soup together, but now it’s cold / We were glue together, but it weren’t to hold”. On these tracks, Marshall sounds more like an orator or a poet than a singer. He deals with themes of depression and isolation in a way that’s brutally honest. The accompanying instrumentals are slower and more toned down to put more of an emphasis on his vocals.

Some of the more fast paced songs include “Dum Surfer” and “Half Man Half Shark”. Marshall’s use of native jargon and his thick, clumsy accent create a clear vision of life as a punk in London. In “Dum Surfer“, he finds himself disoriented and intoxicated in a club where he scams a “dumb surfer” out of some cash. He pukes on the pavement and takes a cab home with a girl from the club, paranoid the whole trip home that the gods are out to punish him for his misdeeds. These songs feature somewhat cynical, more snarky lyrics as opposed to the introspective lyrics of most other tracks. Contrasting the more somber tone of most others on the album, these tracks serve as great changes of pace to keep the listener on their toes.

Archy Marshall presents an album that should leave any fan of alternative music excited for the future of the genre. The project marks a maturity and precision in his lyrics and showcases deep, catchy and well produced music. True as his name suggests, Archy is the new King of jazz-rap-punk fusion, if there even was one before.  

SCORE: Ooz/10

BEST TRACKS: The Locomotive, Slush Puppy, Czech One, The Ooz, Lonely Blue

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