Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Witzard's Year In Hip-Hop: 12 Months-worth of Stone Cold Rhymin' Featuring Guilty Simpson, Travi$ Scott, BBNG & Ghostface, Kendrick Lamar, The Lions, Action Bronson & Pusha T (2015 Top 10)

Now, I wouldn't exactly go ahead and bet my life on it, but I'm almost positive the first Hip-Hop album I ever bought with my own money was Will Smith's squeaky clean, parent-approved Big Willie Style (1997) and after that, I believe it was the slightly less embarrassing and arguably, far more genre-shaping Power In Numbers (2002) by recently reformed Los Angeles six-piece Jurassic 5. Hip-Hop, as you well know even if you just remotely follow this very publication, is by far one of my all-time favorite genres, along with Hardcore Punk and Indie Rock. Throughout the five or so years I've been single-handedly running The Witzard, I believe I've done a few of these Best of... or year-end lists (most recently, in 2013). While there were a handful of undoubtedly great Indie Rock, R&B, Punk, etc. albums released throughout the course of 2015, I've decided to compile a Hip-Hop-centric Top 10; with that said, here are a few cross-genre honorable mentions worth a spin or two, if you haven't yet:

Former Chester French frontman D.A. Wallach's nearly flawless "Soft Rock" revival Time Machine, Titus Andronicus' sprawling Punk-Rock Opera The Most Lamentable Tragedy, Grimes' Weezer-esque fairy-Pop Baroque Rock album Artangels, Chance The rapper's FREE-leased Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment and Lil B-assisted Surf/FREE (Based Freestyles Mixtape), Mark Ronson's retro-futuristic "Uptown Funk"-featuring Uptown Special, and Stones Throw crooner Mayer Hawthorne's triumphant independent Disco-Funk return-to-form with beatsmith Jake-One, Tuxedo. So, without further ado, here's The Witzard's Year In Hip-Hop... please feel free to read, re-read, share, and enjoy as you see fit! The only loose qualifications to specify within the ranks of this year-end list were that said album had to be Hip-Hop-centric or at least remotely Hip-Hop-tinged, have been released between January 1st and December 25th, 2015, and has to have been made available for purchase; such as the case with Ukranian-American emcee Your Old Droog's FREEleased KINISON EP, which was later re-issued and made available for purchase on limited edition white vinyl. I hope everyone out there has a safe and Happy New Year and there's a prosperous 2016 in store for all!!!

10. Travi$ Scott's Rodeo (Grand Hustle)

"JUST IN TIME FOR HALLOWEEN, HERE'S THAT VIDEO FOR "PISS ON YOUR GRAVE" WITH ME [AND] 'YE TO GET THE WEEKEND VIBES GOIN' RIGHT! DIRECTED BY THE HOMIE NABIL. ENJOY," Travi$ Scott wrote accompanying Rodeo's latest single unveiling; an Apple Music exclusive, even though Kanye is a functioning artist-owner at Watch The Throne collaborator Jay Z's newly-launched rival service, TIDAL. "Piss On Your Grave"'s befittingly eerie fog-laden "lo-fi" visuals place a monochromatic Yeezy Season 2-outfitted Travi$ Scott & Kanye in the midst of the foliage-littered French countryside, which is randomly inter-spliced with rather disturbing imagery of human skulls and skeletons pummeling down a muddy hillside. Scott is amongst the gaggle of greenhorn beatsmiths who collectively helped produce Mr. West's frantic, Aggro-Rap Yeezus album tracks "New Slaves," "I Am a God," and "Guilt Trip."

9. Puff Daddy & The Family's MMM (Bad Boy)

While MMM boasts an impressive array of talented "co-stars" ranging from Lil Kim to Pusha T, I would say the most note-worthy aspect of Puff Daddy's celebratory 46th birthday mixtape/street album is quite arguably its sheer commercial accessibility. Not entirely unlike his former Led Zeppelin-sampling hit, "Come with Me," MMM makes sonically flawless use of Middle American-friendly source material; particularly Toro Y Moi frontman Chaz Bundick's Dance-laden side project Les Sins and Italians Do It Better visionary Johnny Jewel, better known as "Chromatics." "Workin,'" in addition to Lil Kim, Styles P & King Los-assisted "Audition," was debuted on BET's annual Hip-Hop Awards show last month and makes perfect use of Bundick's infectious jittery refrain, "don't bother me... I'm workin.'"

8. BADBADNOTGOOD & Ghostface Killah's Sour Soul (Lex Records)

Fresh on the heels of their forthcoming collaborative Jazz-Rap album with Ghostface Killah, awesomely titled Sour Soul, Canadian-bred instrumental trio BADBADNOTGOOD (BBNG) have spearheaded an unofficial GHOSTDOOM/DOOMSTARKS "reunion;" Ghostface and infrequent rapping partner/producer, [MF] DOOM have been teasing their mythical tentatively titled "Swift & Changeable" album for about 10 years now. BBNG recruited Ghostface Killah & DOOM for their third Sour Soul pre-release track, "Ray Gun," which as a recently released statement reads, "was inspired by 1960's and [70's] music, taking inspiration from the recording techniques and production of that era." Sour Soul additionally features the diverse talents of Danny Brown, former Slum Village member Elzhi, Tree, Wu-Tang-affiliated producer Frank Dukes, and frequent BBNG collaborators River Tiber, Leland Whitty, and tuba player David Lewis.

7. Your Old Droog's KINISON EP (self-released)

Following a whirl-wind year, which showcased two 2014-issued releases, Your Old Droog [LP], critically-acclaimed Your Old Droog EP, and a handful of non-album singles, Your Old Droog unleashed an 11-track Rock-themed KINISON EP late Wednesday afternoon. It's littered with inventive Rock "N" Roll samples ranging from Johnny Cash to the Beastie Boys ("Pass The Mic") and at least 40+ cleverly inter-woven references including Sam Kinison, Pornos for Pyros, Rage Against The Machine, and Sonic Youth (track titles); in addition to lyrical allusions to Blind Mellon, Crash Test Dummies, Neil Young, Misfits, The Clash, "Jethro [Tull] meets Death Row," Faith No More, Lisa Loeb, and countless wide-ranging artists. "It's kind of like useless trivia, so I'm making use of it. I just [have] a memory for useless sh*t. I remember Meredith Brooks; I don't know why," Droog told Rolling Stone.

6. Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly (Top Dawg Ent.)

It seems as though Kendrick Lamar even recruited bass virtuosos Thundercat to add an appended Funked up bass intro onto "i" for its recent Alexandre Moors & The Little Homies directed video treatment. "Stop! Stop! We talkin' about peace... a piece of yours... a piece of mine... a piece of mind... one nation, under a groove," a dapper white suit-clad man feverishly exclaims. Juxtaposed against the impending daylight, "i" suddenly morphs into an echo-voiced almost Chopped-N-Screwed ditty, Lamar leaves an impromptu dance party and jumps into the back of Ron Isley's slick purple-hued Cadillac; wailing his impassioned verses out of the car's rear window, nearly splattering onto the freeway below. "The world is a ghetto with big guns and picket signs... But it can do what it want whenever it want, I don't mind," Lamar ferociously rhymes.

5. The Lions' Soul Riot (Stones Throw)

"This new batch of tunes came straight from the heart on all fronts. With everything that's going on today we wanted to make an album that speaks to peoples emotions and frustrations while also giving them a chance to dance and release some stress," Lions producer, guitarist, and master-mind Dan Ubick revealed during an exclusive interview ahead of their album, Soul Riot. "I am excited, as we've attempted a couple videos for other songs, and they didn't pan out. Even Ross' rough cut looks amazing because he brought great energy, ideas, and professionalism to the set. Super psyched to see how [our] tribute to Joe Strummer & The Clash turns out," wrote within an emailed conversation months later. It should be noted that while Soul Riot isn't technically a "Hip-Hop album," pseudo-frontman Black Shakespeare DOES technically qualify as an "emcee" and I simply couldn't assemble a year-end list without including it!

4. Erykah Badu's BUT YOU CAINT USE MY PHONE (Control Freaq)

"[Zach Witness] expertly weaves Erykah Badu's trademark soulful vocals with psychedelic soundscapes, Hip-Hop-inflected beats, smooth R&B, Jazz, Art-Rock, and found sounds into a new genre Erykah describes as TRap & B," reads a self-contained Control Freaq album press release. But You Caint Use My Phone's Todd Rundgren-sampling album closer, "Hello" employs a flawless half-sung/rapped assist from Badu's ex-boyfriend and father of her teenaged son 7 Benjamin, André 3000. Following a few since-fixed technical SNAFU's, But You Caint Use My Phone is now available to purchase for a mere $7.99 as an Apple Music/iTunes exclusive until December 4th, after which it will become available on a multitude of digital platforms. Erykah Badu is currently accepting phoned-in fan calls on her self-described "burn out" phone at album art pieced together number, (214)-374-3995.

3. Pusha T's King Push: Darkest Before Dawn (The Prelude) [G.O.O.D. Music]

"Crutches, Crosses, Caskets" is merely the latest single lifted from Darkest Before Dawn, having been preceded by Biggie-sampling "Untouchable," "M.F.T.R." and a particularly hula dancer-rattling freestyle over Drake & Meek Mill's notorious feud-igniting "R.I.C.O." However, "Crutches, Crosses, Caskets" is likely our last neck-snapping leak ahead of Darkest Before Dawn's impending Friday, December 18th unveiling, which is accompanied by a companion 22-minute short film. Anchored by a surprisingly menacing beat produced by none other than Puff Daddy, "Crutches, Crosses, Caskets" is accompanied by an equally haunting Kid Art-directed video wherein Pusha T and a fleet of scantily-clad "sinful" nuns go for a ghoulish moon-lit ride on a dusty old carnival carousel.

2. Action Bronson's MR. WONDERFUL (VICE Records)

"ACTiON BRONSON JUST JUMPED TO THE TOP OF THE RAP GAME FOOD CHAiN WiTH THiS MOViE-QUALiTY ViDEO, "EASY RiDER" FT SLASH," Tweeted oddball rapper and supposed Galaxy Gladiators collaborator, @JODYHiGHROLLER aka RiFF RAFF. "DON'T LET ME DIIIEEEE!!!" Action Bronson proclaims in a black-and-white red bandana-accented clip whilst pummeling bullets out of a machine gun, which appears to be a war flashback; as "Easy Rider"'s hymn-like intro starts, we see our bed-ridden hero approached by a lieutenant, "Soldier, tell me what happened..." to which Action Bronson achingly grunts, "Where's my guitaarrr!!?" "The album is sounding incredible. The whole album is a stand-out. I don-t care about individual songs, I'm trying to make a complete, classic project," Bronson said of his then-untitled MR. WONDERFUL ahead of its world-wide release.

1. Guilty Simpson & Katalyst's Detroit's Son (Stones Throw)

"It's Katalyst [Ashley Anderson] and Geoff Barrow that produced my album. I met Katalyst in Australia and we had dope studio chemistry. Me & Phat Kat did features for the Quakers album & later, I found out they were on Stones Throw. When I met with Stones Throw, their name came up & it made sense because I really like their production. Now, here we are," Stones Throw emcee Guilty Simpson told me during an exclusive interview ahead of his Quakers-produced Psych-Rock-leaning Detroit's Son. Guilty & Katalyst first met during the recording sessions that would ultimately yield Geoff Barrow's 35-member Hip-Hop collective Quakers' self-titled Stones Throw debut (2012). Detroit's Son's introductory track, "R.I.P." is actually a vocal version of Katalyst's "R.I.P." instrumental lifted from Quakers, which seamlessly ties the two projects together right off the bat. Although it was initially billed as a "Guilty Simpson x Quakers" project upon the release of THE SIMPSON TAPE, Detroit's Son was solely produced by Katalyst, with beat-making partner Geoff Barrow acting more along the lines of a mentor and sonic advisor; "Geoff is always there to give me his honest opinion about the music. One of the hardest things as an artist is finding someone whose opinion you really value and them giving you honest feedback about your work. I can always rely on Geoff to give me that feedback," Katalyst recently revealed during our Detroit's Son-centric interview. Guilty Simpson's rhyming skills have been slept on for far too long and Detroit's Son could very well be his commercial breakthrough.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Force Awakens: Radiohead Frontman Thom Yorke Unleashes Scrapped James Bond "Spectre" Theme Song on Christmas Morning (self-released)

While they may be a little out of my typical wheelhouse of head-nodding Hip-Hop or fist-clenching Punk Rock, I've always been a casual fan and long-time admirer of Radiohead's rather unique aesthetic and business tactics... name-your-price In Rainbows, Kid A, OK Computer, I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings, The King of Limbs, Amnesiac, and COM LAG (2plus2isfive). Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke and his band mates have seemingly always attempted to employ an underlying Hip-Hop feel and have a mutual respect for the genre as a whole; Philly-bred Tonight Show band The Roots sampled them on Game Theory stand-out "Atonement," as did Kanye, Pharrell & Lupe Fiasco's short-lived super-group Child Rebel Soldier (CRS), and even Portishead founder Geoff Barrow & Katalyst went as far as to revamp "Fitter Happier" on a Guilty Simpson & MED-asssisted Quakers cut. Yorke has even managed to work alongside the mysterious masked villain himself, MF DOOM, on a number of occasions over the years since his critically-acclaimed "solo" debut, The Eraser. So, what I'm ultimately getting at here, in a very long-winded roundabout manner, is that Radiohead without a doubt deserve a little yuletide coverage here at Hip-Hop-minded The Witzard - ha. "Last year, we were asked to write a tune for [James] Bond movie Spectre. Yes we were... It didn't work out, but became something of our own, which we love very much... as the year closes, we thought you might like to hear it. Merry Christmas. May the force be with you," a rather generous Star Wars-frenzied @thomyorke wrote on Twitter in a lengthy three-part post early Christmas morning.

It seems as though Radiohead were at one point, in the running to record an original and ultimately scrapped Spectre theme song, which ended up going to "Stay with Me" crooner Sam Smith; nearly having put Radiohead amongst an elite crop of James Bond theme performers including the likes of Louis Armstrong, Paul McCartney & Wings, Madonna, Garbage, Jack White & Alicia Keys, Duran Duran, Adele, Chris Cornell, and Carly Simon. Yorke's statement and immediate FREE Christmas gift of "Spectre" now, seemingly only adds validity to previously debunked reports and sleuthing Radiohead fan forum murmurs that alluded to Radiohead's involvement with Spectre's theme long before director Sam Mendes announced Smith's "Writing's On The Wall." While it functions exceedingly well as undeniably classic Radiohead song, one could see how "Spectre" didn't exactly fit too well with the latest addition to the never-ending James Bond series, as it's a little more dark and brooding (befitting Radiohead's aesthetic) than your typical tastefully sexed-up spy romance-drenched Bond themes. It is however, quite interesting to imagine what a Radiohead-scored Bond sequence might have sounded like, which is why I've included self-proclaimed "huge Radiohead and James Bond fan" StereotypeAnomaly's wonderfully edited Spectre trailer mash-up above. If nothing else, I would imagine that "Spectre" is likely evocative of Radiohead's long-rumored King of Limbs (2011) follow-up, from which they've recently been testing a number of previously unreleased tentative album tracks live on the road.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Fux with The Tux-mas: Mayer Hawthorne & Jake-One Unwrap Tuxedo's Groove-soaked Yuletide Disco-Funk Jam, "Holiday Love" (Amazon Prime)

"Happy Holidays, everyone. All the best Christmas songs were written by Jews, and Chanukah songs suck. This is my favorite Christmas tune, sung over the Vincent Guaraldi instrumental," New-Wop crooner Andrew Mayer "Hawthorne" Cohen wrote in a particularly tongue-in-cheek gentile-slamming 2010 mini-Stones Throw press release accompanying his sparse "Christmas Time Is Here" Peanuts-assisted cover. Just a few mere years later, Hawthorne and his Disco-Funkateer partner-in-crime, Jake-One quietly unveiled their first slice of post-Tuxedo Funk EP era material; a jittery groove-soaked rendition of Paul McCartney & Wings' 1979 Synth-Rock yuletide favorite, "Wonderful Christmastime." Now, just days ahead of the soon forthcoming 2015-16 holiday season, Tuxedo have unwrapped a completely original, retro-futuristic holiday standard titled "Holiday Love." It appears exclusively within Amazon Music's recent holiday-centric compilation, Indie for The Holidays; comfortably nestled alongside the likes of Lisa Loeb, Reverend Horton Heat, Matisyahu, Robert Pollard, Sondre Lerche, YACHT, and an additional 20-band roster of Amazon Prime-approved newcomers.

Stones Throw's resident in-house director Ross Harris helmed the camera behind Mayer Hawthorne & Jake-One's silky smooth vocoder-laden treatment, which can simply be summed up by @MayerHawthorne's rather playful proclamation: "Tuxedo "Holiday Love" video is live! YouTube that and tag the third wheel in your crew (accompanied by a sax Emoji)." Tuxedo's Harris-directed seasonal "Holiday Love" treatment finds Disco-Funkateers Hawthorne and Jake-One in a number of precarious mistletoe-induced situations whilst in the company of a couple lovely ladies "underneath the tree," which are essentially thwarted by each other's pesky wingmen. Tuxedo are literally headed to the other side of the world post-New Year's Day for a brief 3-date Japanese mini-tour dubbed the Second to None Tour, wherein they'll be accompanied by a white tuxedo-outfitted 5-piece "LIVE BAND." Merry Christmas to all, Happy New Year, and "a Festivus for the rest of us!!!" I'll likely be back before the onslaught of the new year with a cumulative year-end list, in which I'll attempt to compile an assortment of 2015's best released Hip-Hop (or an all-genre list of) albums and mixtapes, if all goes well during the holidays.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Alex Goose Remixes Madlib & Freddie Gibbs' Piñata & Talks Forthcoming Work with Donnis, Foreign Air & Rodes (The Witzard Interview)

Greenhorn producer, song-writer, and composer Alex Goose has somehow already managed to log studio time with everyone from Weezer to up-and-coming Fool's Gold emcee Donnis and even had an ill-fated opportunity to work on Jay Z's famed Blueprint 3, which miraculously, ended up being one of his earliest career-defining moments; "In the spring of 2009, an A&R affiliated with Roc [Nation] got in contact with me. Shortly after, I had the opportunity to submit various tracks for Jay-Z's long-awaited Blueprint 3 album. Unfortunately, none of them made the final cut... This is what the Blueprint 3 could have been," Goose told okayplayer on the eve of his aptly-titled The Blueprint 3 Outtakes.

Six years later, Alex Goose has unleashed his next "solo" project under the creative umbrella of my former interview subject, Egon's Now-Again re-issue and found records imprint. Egon recruited Goose, who has recently produced radio-friendly hits "Thank God for Girls" and "Miss Jackson," to essentially strip down and re-imagine Madlib & Freddie Gibbs' critically-acclaimed Piñata album, as if it were chock-full of old school TV themes constructed utilizing Now-Again's immense back catalog-worth of age-old source material. Alex Goose and I touched on his Piñata Remix album, forthcoming work with new-comers Donnis, Foreign Air, and songstress Rodes, his now-infamous Blueprint 3 Outtakes, and a number of additional topic throughout the 12-question interview contained below.

(1) What specific artists, bands, albums, etc. would you most likely site as your greatest sources of influence on your overall sound as a producer and songwriter?

There's really a lot. But the first names that come to mind are Beck, Ennio Morricone, Serge Gainsbourg, Tom Wilson, RZA, J Dilla, Madlib, Quincy Jones, too many to name...

(2) What's the story with your collection of submitted, turned down and ultimately still released Jay Z beats, The Blueprint 3 Outtakes? Even though, they weren't utilized for his album, did you ever get any sort of feedback from Mr. Carter himself?

I had just graduated from college and was making mostly just Hip-Hop music at the time. One of Jay's A&R's heard my music on MySpace and contacted me. He gave me the opportunity to send in beats for his album. Unfortunately, they didn't make the album, so I released them as instrumentals. Jay never contacted me, but I heard through the grapevine that he did hear them.

(3) How would you account for your ability to effortlessly transition from working with underground emcee Kevin Gates to legendary Pop-Rock band Weezer?

I'm not sure if I can comment too much on my ability to do these sorts of things, but what I can say is that I love all types of music. It feels natural to work on different types of music because that's what I'm into.

(4) I've recently seen your name attached to Weezer's "Thank God for Girls" and Panic at The Disco's "Miss Jackson" how would you best describe your involvement in the creation of both tracks?

Both bands share the same manager, and my manager has a good relationship with them. He sent their manager the tracks and both bands took it from there. I wasn't in the room with them while they finished the songs. It was a label thing, for sure.

(5) okayplayer notes that "Rappcats has taken it upon themselves to remix Piñata in a made-for-TV fashion, brightening up its moody exterior by dipping into Egon's Now-Again Records catalog;" would you say that's an accurate description of your work behind the boards on Freddie Gibbs & Madlib's newly-revised Piñata?

More or less. The original idea for the project was to re-make the album only using pre-cleared samples so we could license the songs and instrumentals to TV shows, films, and commercials. After the project was done, we thought it would be a good idea to also officially release the album on Madlib's label [Madlib Invazion].

(6) How did your TV-themed Piñata remix album initially come to fruition? Rappcats notes that "Shame" was featured within Lebron James' Survivor's Remorse and I believe, even a Sperry Topsider commercial... who else has sought out your MadGibbs remixes?

A few TV shows as of now, but no brands quite yet. As of now, we've done about 5-6 licenses in the past 6 months. We thought it would be a cool idea to re-make the album using samples from the Now-Again catalog, which is very deep musically.

(7) How do you generally approach a remix project like Piñata or your Soundcloud-released Karmin Remix EP? Where do you typically begin when assembling a remix project re-built from the ground up?

I approach it as if I were just producing the original version. I want the make the version of the song or album that I want to hear from the artist.

(8) Rappcats' Piñata Alex Goose Remix mini-press release seemingly implies that you personally "made a custom run of a few hundred LP's for Madlib Invazion [that] took forever to make [and] won't be repressed." I’m curious to learn: what goes into the process of turning a recorded, or in this case remixed, release into a limited-run glossy piece of wax?

It's a tedious process. We only pressed up a limited run of vinyl. After we got the vinyl, I put together all of the copies by hand. This means inserting the record into the sleeve, stamping them, inserting the poster and download card into the sleeve. Then, hand-numbering everything. Then finally putting them in dust jackets. It was a lot of work!

(9) I understand that Egon allowed you access to the entirety of Now-Again's back catalog for use on your Piñata remix album. Are you able to share what sort of sample sources you ended up using for inclusion on the completed album?

Yes, I do. I sampled 17 tracks – everything ranging from Indonesian Psychedelic Rock to Nigeran Rock, and even Iranian Psych-Funk. It's all in there. Egon really has an incredible catalog of music that touches on just about every genre and emotion you can think of. It wasn't hard finding the right samples for this project. If anything, I was overwhelmed by how much good music I had to choose from

(10) It's nearing that time of year where many publications and blogs, including myself, are starting to compile best of or year-end lists. What would you likely categorize as some of your most-played releases of 2015, if you were to compile such a year-end list?

Foals - What Went Down
Wand - Golem
Future - DS2
Beck - "Dreams" (single)
A$AP Rocky - ALLA [At Long Last A$AP]

(11) What sort of projects, collaborations, albums, singles, etc. are you currently working on that we can likely expect to see come to fruition during the tail end of 2015-16?

My main projects right now are Donnis' new album, Foreign Air's album, and Rodes. Donnis has been out for a while, but he's really doing something different on this next one. We met earlier this year and have been doing an album together with some of our friends. It should be coming out on Fool's Gold most likely in February. The [second] thing is a new band I write/produce with called Foreign Air. We just released a new song called "Free Animal" that reached #3 on HypeMachine. The [third] artist I'm collaborating with is Rodes. She's a new artist from NY that is really amazing. She's got this 60's Psychedelic Folk thing happening and it's awesome. Look out for that in the new year.

(12) What kinds of dream collaborations do you have on your "wish list;" are there any that you could see being fully realized and recorded any time soon? How about any special vaulted and unreleased tracks that you would love to one day liberate to your trusty fan-base?

Probably Beck would be my first choice. As far as unreleased tracks go, I am doing an instrumental project/beat album that should be coming out in 2016 through Egon's label. It's more beats I've made using samples from the Now-Again catalog that have been [licensed] for commercials, film, and TV.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

G.O.O.D. Music President Pusha T Unleashes Puff Daddy-produced Hula Dancer-rattling "Crutches, Crosses, Caskets" Ahead of King Push: Darkest Before Dawn (The Prelude)

"How many times, Pusha T, did producers say to you, "come to the studio right now or we're gonna give this beat to Jay Z?" Nardwuar The Human Serviette politely asked Pusha T during a 2013 post-Canadian show interview. "Well, one time.. and that was for the "Grindin'" beat and that was Pharrell Williams... and he's supposed to be my best friend. Right? But this guy actually threatened to give the "Grindin'" beat to Jay Z, if I did not come to the studio right then and right there. I actually came, and I'm glad he did because that record was groundbreakin' for me, Pusha T exuberantly quipped. One 1/2 of early 2000's Virginia Beach-bred Coke Rap phenoms, Clipse, Pusha T – otherwise known as the newly-elected President of Kanye's re-launched label, G.O.O.D. Music – is gearing up to unleash his long-rumored 2-part King Push album; part one, titled Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude features production work from a lengthy laundry list of hit-making beatsmiths, which includes the likes of Kanye, Frank Dukes, Puff Daddy, Metro Boomin, J. Cole, Boi-1da, Timbaland, Hudson Mohawke, and Q-Tip. "I've been recording so much. I didn't want to break up that [King Push] body of work, I feel like I had the producers doing things that weren't usually known for, and a little bit out of their wheelhouse," Pusha T recently elaborated to VICE's sister site, Noisey; attempting to best explain the underlying rather sparse, stripped down, and reportedly Yeezus-reminiscent body of work.

"Crutches, Crosses, Caskets" is merely the latest single lifted from Darkest Before Dawn, having been preceded by Biggie-sampling "Untouchable," "M.F.T.R." and a particularly hula dancer-rattling freestyle over Drake & Meek Mill's notorious feud-igniting "R.I.C.O." However, "Crutches, Crosses, Caskets" is likely our last neck-snapping leak ahead of Darkest Before Dawn's impending Friday, December 18th unveiling, which is accompanied by a companion 22-minute short film [added below]. Anchored by a surprisingly menacing beat produced by none other than Puff Daddy, "Crutches, Crosses, Caskets" is accompanied by an equally haunting Kid Art-directed video wherein Pusha T and a fleet of scantily-clad "sinful" nuns go for a ghoulish moon-lit ride on a dusty old carnival carousel. Late Tuesday night, King Push appeared on Comedy Central's newly-rebranded Daily Show with Trevor Noah to premier yet another previously unreleased Darkest Before Dawn album track, Jill Scott-assisted "Sunshine." Whether it's destined to end up at the bottom of one of your loved one's stockings or comfortably seated atop your year-end list (much like myself), King Push: Darkest Before Dawn is undoubtedly poised to become one of the best, or dare I say THEE best, album of 2015. Prez Pusha has announced that he'll head out on a border-sprawling North American tour next year in support of Darkest Before Dawn, which is set to encompass 21 dates in-between March 3rd and April 6th, although his opening acts, or maybe even G.O.O.D. Music label mates, have yet to be announced at press time.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Saturday Night Live Presents: Chance The Rapper, R. Kelly, Jeremih & Purity Ring Beatsmith Corin Roddick's "Somewhere In Paradise" ( self-released)

"Just premiered "Somewhere In Paradise" [featuring] @Jeremih & @rkelly on @nbcsnl. Go get it for FREE at," @chancetherapper exuberantly Tweeted just mere minutes after his hyper-energetic Saturday Night Live debut; reportedly the first performance of its kind for a 100% unsigned independent artist during SNL's 40-year tenure. "Thanks so much to Chris [Hemsworth], the entire SNL cast, Lorne Michaels, and Phil Hynes for a great week. Hope to be back soon," Chance continued following Hemsworth's closing credits sign-off. Founder and creator of Chicago-based Hip-Hop publication Fake Shore Drive, Andrew Barber shared a list of "every rapper to play SNL in 40 years," which includes major label-backed heavyweights like Run-D.M.C. Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Beastie Boys, OutKast, Pharrell/N*E*R*D, Nicki Minaj, and Kanye. "From the moment Chance stepped onstage for his first performance on SNL, it was clear the audience was in for something new. He wasn't performing a song that was a huge radio hit. Instead, he premiered the official version of "Somewhere In Paradise," a song he performed two years ago on tour," Complex, who Chance The Rapper actually shouts-out at one point, wrote in a recently-published piece asserting why Chance's SNL performance should be referred to as "legendary."

Not withstanding the fact that he appeared throughout two of 2015's most critically-acclaimed Hip-Hop releases, Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment's SURF and his own Lil B-assisted Free (Based Freestyles Mixtape), Chance The Rapper has still yet to let loose his long-awaited Acid Rap (2013) follow-up, along with his rumored full-length "debut" album. However, Chance's recent singles, "Somewhere In Paradise," Kanye-interpolating loosie "Family Business," and Colbert-premiered "Angels," seem as though they will most likely end up re-appearing on his as-yet-untitled third mixtape. "Somewhere In Paradise" showcases a meticulous thumping jubilant beat hand-crafted by Purity Ring producer Corin Roddick, who, although, he's always seemingly had Hip-Hip-minded aspirations, probably never thought he would have made a multi-layered soundbed for the likes of Chance The Rapper, R. Kelly, and "Birthday Sex" crooner Jeremih. Late Saturday night into early Sunday morning, in-between his Jeremih-assisted first performance and a rather sparse Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment-backed rendition of "Sunday Candy," Chance The Rapper quietly uploaded the proper studio version of "Somewhere In Paradise," like the bulk of his material thus far, for entirely FREE on Soundcloud, Apple Music, Spotify, etc.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Ray St. Ray, The Singing Cab Driver Presents: "WRONG SIDE OF ENOUGH" from Forthcoming Concept Album, FUTUREMAN vs. THE WRONG SIDE OF ENOUGH

"It started out as an attempt to write an early Bob Dylan kind of song, but as I wrote it, I heard Tom Waits in my head. It ended up sounding like a cover of Talking Heads covering Waits and Dylan, I think," Ray St. Ray somewhat unsurely wrote in a batch of exclusive emailed pull-quotes sent directly to The Witzard; although, it's a rather bold, yet befitting description of The Singing Cab Driver's zany Cabaret-leaning "WRONG SIDE OF ENOUGH." "Over the last 40 years, our future was stolen by corporate interests. Now, too many people are on the wrong side of enough. I feel strongly about this. It's what my concept album, FUTUREMAN vs. THE WRONG SIDE OF ENOUGH is about," Ray's email passionately continued. I initially heard about the infamous Singing Cab Driver a few months ago through my friend, crate-digger extraordinaire, and Now-Again Records founder, Egon. He spoke of one particularly interesting Madlib-accompanied late night Chicago cab ride wherein Ray St. Ray "sang [them] a – very, uh, spirited – rendition of a Dusty Springfield classic, but turned [it] into an ode to a preacher's daughter, who, "when she comes/screams in tongues.'" Stones Throw's former general manager, who was partly responsible for helping re-launch J Dilla's career as an electric rapper-producer, adds that he "seriously cannot wait for his debut album, 'FUTURE MAN vs. THE WRONG SIDE OF ENOUGH.'"

Simply billed as The Singing Cab Driver, "WRONG SIDE OF ENOUGH" serves as the inaugural upload launched across Ray St. Ray's sparse newly-minted YouTube page. It's more or less your standard run-of-the-mill in-studio performance-style clip effectively co-starring members Ray's own self-described "performance art band," Chameleon World; however, its focus instantaneously switches to Ray St. Ray's famed taxi cab with two of his female backing singers accompanying him as "passengers" on a tour throughout the colorful streets of Chicago. Ray St. Ray & Chameleon World are still currently hard at work writing, recording, and assembling FUTUREMAN vs. THE WRONG SIDE OF ENOUGH, which Ray tells me he hopes to have completed soon after launching his crowd-funded Kickstarter campaign. Thus far, Ray St. Ray's highly conceptual album has only been preceded by its two quasi-title tracks, "FUTURE MAN 1980" and pseudo-lead single, "WRONG SIDE OF ENOUGH." "Sorry... You can't just call Ray St. Ray for a ride... Who gets The Singing Cab Driver is a cosmically selective process. When your karma is due, he'll arrive to make your day, shamelessly promote his career agenda, and deliver you to your destination in one piece, right side up," reads Ray's unique calling card attached to his wildly colorful "Love! Sex! Social Significance! Dreams!"-deemed and shamelessly self-promoting old school Chicago area flyer.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Charles Bradley & The Budos Band Deliver a Riveting, Hyper-emotive Soul-Funk Rendition of Black Sabbath's "Changes" (Dunham/Daptone Records)

Daptone Records' own revered Soul-Funk crooner The Screamin' Eagle of Soul, better known as 67-year-old Charles Bradley, a former James Brown impersonator who once went by "Black Velvet," is hearing up to unleash his third studio album this upcoming April 1st, 2016, Changes. Bradley's Menahan Street Band, The Budos Band, and The Bullets-assisted album is the proper follow-up to 2013's Victim of Love, and his debut No Time for Dreaming two short years prior, Changes takes its name and overall running theme from a similarly-titled Black Sabbath Vol. 4 track, which Daptone exclusively released as a Record Store Day 7-inch back in 2013. Interestingly enough, Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach's recently-premiered Psych-Rock side project The Arcs features three rotating members of The Menahan Street BandNick Movshon, Homer Steinweiss, and El Michels Affair founder Leon Michels – who spearheaded a retro-futuristic Funk-leaning sound, which undoubtedly influenced Auerbach during the making of their Nonesuch Records debut Yours, Dreamily. "Changes"' companion music video director Eric Feigenbaum recently told Rolling Stone that he boldly nixed an earlier idea to film on location in Times Square, in lei of hyper-emotive footage of Charles Bradley reacting to "Changes" in real time; "We only did that once, [but] by the end of the take, everybody was holding back tears."

"I think about the lyrics very closely when I sing "Changes" and get emotional... It makes me think of my mother and the changes in my life since she passed," The Screamin' Eagle of Soul himself continued in an accompanying statement released in conjunction with Changes' album announcement. Charles Bradley & The Budos Band are effectively able to deliver a riveting, emotionally-driven rendition of Black Sabbath's sparse Blues-indebted 1970's Heavy Metal ballad. It's delivered in a similar fashion to that of Johnny Cash's Rick Rubin-facilitated Nine Inch Nails "Hurt" cover, albeit Bradley and his Daptone Records affiliates have morphed a subdued piano-driven mid-album breather into a silky smooth Soul-Funk tear-jerker, rather than a Neo-Country ballad. However, this isn't exactly Charles Bradley & The Menahan Street Band/Budos Band's first go-round executing a nearly flawless genre-flipping cover; as part of various albums and compilations, they've previously covered Nirvana's "Stay Away," Rodriguez's "I'll Slip Away," and Neil Young's "Heart of Gold" (most recently performed alongside Dinosaur Jr). Daptone Records' sister imprint Dunham will release Charles Bradley's third studio album, fittingly titled Changes this upcoming April 1st, although specific album details are currently unavailable.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Top Shelf Premium Vintage Presents: Your Old Droog & DJ J Hart's 1990's-reminiscent "Off Top Freestyle" (Your Old Droog Records)

Let's just go ahead and be completely frank here, Jewish-America's biggest "claim to fame," if you will, is undoubtedly either Frat-Rap turned Conscious Hip-Hop posse, Beastie Boys or Adam Sandler's slightly-dated four-part "Chanukah Song" series; until the fateful second night of Hanukkah 2015... when Broooklyn-bred Ukrainian-American emcee Your Old Droog (Russian for "friend") unleashed his latest haphazardly-released non-album loosie, "Off Top Freestyle." Recorded in collaboration with Lower East Side vintage clothing store and quasi-recording studio @topshelfpremium, DJ J Hart-produced "Off Top" was filmed directly onto VHS tape at what would appear to be a retrofitted replica 1990's Modell's; "somehow, Your Old Droog managed to walk through a Modell's fitting room and ride a time warp back to the Clinton years when we were all playing Number Munchers, watching Snick, and eating 3-D Doritos," okayplayer nostalgically reminisced about director Joshua Scott's grainy wobble-filled presentation. "Off Top" is just the latest in a series of surprisingly strong and seemingly cast-off loosies released in the wake of Your Old Droog's back to back 2015 EP's, hard-hitting KINISION and his proper "debut," The Nicest.

"17-45 is my demo; you still on that, "please listen to my demo?" Holdin' up traffic on the FDR Drive, they wanna hear my music - I'm like, "check the archives." Gimme a thumb drive, I still won't play it. My joint dumb live, you still gon' play it... think you could live my life? You wish, you don't even do ish. I start at 6:00, get off around 2ish. Savin' money like I'm Jewish (You are Jewish)," Droog ferociously rhymes throughout "Off Top," which somehow manages to bring the Hanukkah-centric theme full circle. Top Shelf Premium promises to upload additional volumes of its self-described "brand new series of exclusive freestyles shot on VHS," while Your Old Droog is seemingly still hard at work on the album-length follow-up to his critically-acclaimed Your Old Droog EP-LP; having released nearly an entire album's-worth of material this year exclusively on Soundcloud that including a Jonwayne "Listen" Remix, a laughable 5K T*tty Mix of The Weeknd & Kanye's chart-topping "Tell Your Friends," his ingenious Seinfeld-theme flipping "Basketball & Seinfeld," and a gaggle of dusty previously vaulted freestyles.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Yahoo Music Premiers Former Chester French Frontman D.A. Wallach's Soft Rock-leaning "Long Way Down" Hang Gliding Adventure (Harvest Records)

"That image just came to me as a bit of a non [sequitur]. I was imagining being camping with a girl who had underestimated the amount of kerosene to bring. Just a sliver of the sort of forgiveness and empathy one must have in a relationship," prolific singer-songwriter D.A. Wallach recently explained during an emailed interview for this very publication on the eve of his proper debut record, Time Machine; with the specific song fragment in question being "Long Way Down'"s poetically-worded non sequitur, "girl, if we run outta kerosene, don't say I never told ya... might be embarrassing, but I'm still here to hold ya." Time Machine is, quite frankly, without a shadow of doubt, amongst the most note-worthy albums released throughout 2015, alongside a rather unlikely cast of characters including Detroit-bred emcee Guilty Simpson, Action Bronson, Run The Jewels, Mark Ronson, and Stones Throw's premier Reggae act, The Lions. Nearly three years in-the-making, "Long Way Down" serves as the first Harvest Records-sanctioned single lifted from Time Machine; although, having been preceded by Tyler, The Creator-directed and anonymously-released power ballad "Glowing," as well as Live from Capitol Studio B-filmed renditions of album deep cuts "Feel" and "Every Time You Walk Away."

D.A. Wallach's tender brand of Soft Rock, or dare I say, "Adult Contemporary," delivered throughout Time Machine's 11-track runtime evokes dynamic undertones of forefathers James Taylor, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Randy Newman, and even Wallach's own past work with Indie-Pop twosome, Chester French. Time Machine was painstakingly written, composed, and recorded along with a wide array of music industry luminaries including the likes of Pharrell, Diane Warren, James Fauntleroy, and former bandmate Max Drummey. D.A.'s Yahoo Music-debuted "Long Way Down" music video however, is a fairly simplistic clip, which was "shot in Big Sur, California" and features the golden-piped crooner and a lady friend serendipitously trekking through the the barren green-blotted countryside, enthusiastically hang gliding above sun-drenched California coast, and walking the beach hand-in-hand at sunset. Wallach candidly alluded, during the final phases of our interview, that his Reggae-tinged pre-Time Machine side project D.A. & The Supa Dups will in fact release their seemingly shelved album in the not too distant future and he promised that Time Machine will likely spawn "a bunch more live performances and a couple proper music videos!"

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

DJ Zane Lowe & Stones Throw Present: Anderson .Paak & Knxwledge's Nxworries Silky Smooth, G-Funk-leaning "Link Up" (Beats 1 World Record)

Heralded as a greenhorn rapper-producer project that's "shaping up to be easily the best thing on Stones Throw in [recent] years," despite the fact that they only have a mere two released tracks under their belt; Nxworries (pronounced: No Worries) have managed to hone in a unique sound that could characteristically be best described as the missing link between George Clinton's ground-breaking Parliament-Funkadelic and N.W.A. & Snoop Dogg's G-Funk sub-genre of 1990's West Coast Hip-Hop that Clinton himself unknowingly helped inspire. Once distilled down to its R&B-leaning Hip-Hop core, Nxworries is essentially a sparse Jaylib-indebted "2 turntables and a microphone"-style project consisting of New Jersey-bred beatsmith Knxwledge and Dr. Dre's latest protégé, LA crooner Anderson .Paak. "He was a big part of me finding a sound that I was looking for and a tone that people are more familiar with now... when I started working with [Knx] and getting on his productions, it kinda helped me find this tone that I was looking for," Paak told Zane Lowe during a brief Tuesday afternoon phone interview, following the Beats 1 World Record premier of "Link Up."

"I was a huge fan of him before we met and we connected through through Twitter. We did a lot of our music before we even met in person and then, after we had a large part of the album down, we actually got to meet in person and we started creatin' you know, in the studio together and you know, we still make joints all the time," Anderson .Paak continued on the formative genesis of his Knxwledge collaboration, which he candidly self-describes as "some of [his] best material." Fresh on the heels of a nation-wide tour with former Odd Future emcee Earl Sweatshirt, Nxworries are currently putting the finishing touches on their hotly-anticipated full-length Stones Throw "debut" slated for a 2016 release. Link Up & Suede EP, which will become available this upcoming Friday, December 4th, "includes the new single "Link Up," "Suede," and "Droogs," a Knxwledge re-make of the Anderson .Paak single, along with instrumental bonus beats," reads a brief Stones Throw 12-inch product description. Nxworries' 8-track EP will presumably consist of as-yet-unreleased material culled from Knxwledge & Anderson .Paak's rough, 21-minute set filmed at a Boiler Room & Ballantine's Stay True Russia showcase this past summer.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Underground Emcees Homeboy Sandman & Aesop Rock Partner Up to Generously Spread "Lice" EP Across The World (Stones Throw/Rhymesayers)

Earlier this fine post-Thanksgiving Weekend morning, whilst I was at Boscov's getting my new suit pants tailored, I had a sudden burst of creativity in the form of a clever one-liner to start a tentative review of Animal Collective's cringe-worthy mess of a new single, "FloriDada:" "There's an age-old music industry joke that goes something along the lines of, "if Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke recorded the sounds of himself sh*tting or farting into a mic backed by the band's music, people would likely still buy it.'" But rather than give those talent-less Art-Rock Three Stooges any more unnecessary spotlight, I've instead decided to review veteran underground emcees Homeboy Sandman & Aesop Rock's far more noteworthy surprise-released Cyber Monday FREE EP, Lice. "You're probably scratching your head right now wondering why this EP is called Lice... The truth is, [Aesop Rock] and I always have all these ideas crawling around our brains and we wanted to share them with you," Homeboy Sandman half-jokingly lamented to Westword Monday morning, concerning their self-described "infectious" 5-song EP. "You may find that after listening to the project, it's nearly impossible to get it out of your head. It's only a matter of time before you share it with others," Sandman enthusiastically continued.

While the jointly released Stones Throw & Rhymesayers Ent. EP was in fact unleashed for FREE on a number of platforms, the seasoned emcees added, "if you are feeling charitable, here are a couple organizations we recommend, where you [donations] can make a difference," before linking directly to the home pages of City Harvest and Prep for Prep. Lice EP features an eclectic collection of head-scratching production work from the likes of DJ Spinna, Optiks, Blockhead, Alex "Apex" Gale, and Charles Hamilton (in that order), as well as original "Lice"-minded artwork designed by Jeremy Fish. It's not entirely unlike a modern day, poetically waxed 2-man "Pass The Mic"-esque delivery throughout Lice EP; "Cats had better not include me in group texts. Cats had better watch they free hand during group sex... I'm only tryna help you; I'm only tryna make you understand that you shouldn't do some sh*t that's whack. You should do some fly sh*t instead." Stones Throw further adds that "physical copies of Lice will also be available in limited quantity on tour in the upcoming year," although it doesn't however, specify if Homeboy Sandman & Aesop Rock will head out on a co-headlining jaunt in a similar vein to their previous Sandman, Aesop Rock & Rob Sonic 2015 US Tour.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Erykah Badu & Dallas-bred Producer Zach Witness Surprise Release Phone-themed "But You Caint Use My Phone" Mixtape (CONTROL FREAQ RECORDS)

"I'm writing all the time, but recently I got the bug back. When it comes, it comes, and I can't force it, but... I got it back with "Hotline Bling" and all the other things I've been experimenting with," Erykah Badu recently told Noisey concerning her five-year gap between New Amerykah Part 2 (Return of The Ankh) and just-released But You Caint Use My Phone; a clever allusion to Badu's own widely-acclaimed 1997 Live single "Tyrone," in which she famously laments, "you need to call Tyrone... but ya can't use my phone." "HOT LINE BLING BUT U CAINT USE MY PHONE MIX" (now re-titled "Cell U Lar Device") was initially conceived as an impromptu birthday present for a friend of Erykah Badu's with assistance from Dallas-area producer Zach Witness, better known locally as one White Chocolate. "When I thought about doing the "Hotline Bling" remix, I thought about him. And the same week, he came to one of my events in passing and we exchanged phone numbers. And the next week, we were in his bedroom studio, we did the whole project in 11 days," Badu revealed to newly-minted Beats 1 radio host Zane Lowe. "[He] produced, reproduced some other thing, mixed, and mastered, he mastered the project in two days. I did vocals one take for each song. Amazing," a frenzied Erykah Badu continued to gloat about her cell phone-themed mixtape collaborator.

Despite the fact that multiple media outlets initially reported the presence of three uncredited André 3000 and Drake features, it was soon revealed that the latter was in fact a rather convincing Drake sound-alike verse delivered by ItsRoutine aka Atlanta-bred emcee Aubrey Davis. It seems even more suspect when you take into account that Erykah Badu & Drake have seemingly forged a well-documented friendship and mutual admiration for each other in recent years. But You Caint Use My Phone's Todd Rundgren-sampling album closer, "Hello" employs a flawless half-sung/rapped assist from Badu's ex-boyfriend and father of her teenaged son 7 Benjamin, André 3000. "[Zach Witness] expertly weaves Erykah Badu's trademark soulful vocals with psychedelic soundscapes, Hip-Hop-inflected beats, smooth R&B, Jazz, Art-Rock, and found sounds into a new genre Erykah describes as TRap & B," reads a self-contained Control Freaq album press release. Following a few since-fixed technical SNAFU's, But You Caint Use My Phone is now available to purchase for a mere $7.99 as an Apple Music/iTunes exclusive until December 4th, after which it will become available on a multitude of digital platforms. Erykah Badu is currently accepting phoned-in fan calls on her self-described "burn out" phone at album art pieced together number, (214)-374-3995; "call me and tell me how we should spend the proceeds from the mixtape," @fatbellybella recently wrote to her trusty, patiently awaiting fans on Twitter.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Foo Fighters Unveil 5-song, Career-spanning Saint Cecilia EP Recorded Throughout Austin Hotel as a "Thank You" to Everlong Fans (Roswell Records)

"The Saint Cecilia Hotel, named after the patroness saint of music, is known as "a lush retreat from the world." And, believe me, that it is! 14 rooms and a small bar, it's tucked away in the trees within a bustling, Austin neighborhood. As our van pulled up in the wee hours of September 30th, 2015, I was struck with a rather impulsive idea: to record some songs on our days off to give to the world as a "thank you" for the last 2 years," Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl wrote in a heart-felt hand-penned letter on the heels of their 5-song Saint Cecilia EP. "Though there's a world-class recording studio just on the other side of the fence (Arlyn Studios), the hotel manager, Jenny offered that we record in the hotel... by 6pm the nest day, the office was transformed into a control room and the bar was littered with microphones and cables. Amps were in the kitchen. Drums in front of the fire place. Instant studio, courtesy of the legendary Kevin Szymanski," Grohl enthusiastically continued. It would appear as though a few musically-inclined Foo Fighters friends and associates like Austin native Ben Kweller, Gary Clark Jr. and New Orleans' own legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band made their way through the make-shift hotel studio during SxSW's two-weekend stay, although the definitive tracks to which they contributed are currently unspecified at press time.

Not unlike Dave Grohl briefly alluded to during his "From DG" letter, the Foo Fighters have had quite the marathon two-year album promotional run. Fresh on the heels of their Best Rock Album GRAMMY win for Wasting Light (2011), Foo Fighters unleashed Sonic Highways on the eve of the band's 20th anniversary; recorded at legendary studios in eight different All-American cities with assistance from renown local musicians, a process which was filmed and released as a companion eight-part HBO series fittingly titled Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways. Saint Cecilia EP comes at the close of Foo Fighters' lengthy North American/Broken Leg Tour, a clever allusion to Grohl's now-infamous leg-breaking 12-foot fall from a Gothenburg, Sweden stage this past summer. The bulk of the material recorded for Saint Cecilia EP was culled from previously-unreleased verses intended for inclusion and ultimately, scrapped from older Foo Fighters releases; "'The Neverending Sigh" is 20 years old [and] was once called "7 Corners," for all you die-hards out there," Dave Grohl added. While they've seemingly announced a well-deserved indefinite hiatus, Foo Fighters' Saint Cecilia EP is currently available for FREE download at their website, simply asking fans to donate to the victims of the recent Paris attacks. And for all you audiophiles out there like myself, Foo Fighters have additionally offered up a number of exclusive Saint Cecilia EP vinyl pre-order packages, which are expected to ship by or before February 2016.

Monday, November 23, 2015

BADBADNOTGOOD Unleash 2 Improv Jazz Soundcloud Loosies, "Here and Now" & "Timewave Zero;" Tease Unreleased Sam Herring-assisted Material (Innovative Leisure)

"DROPPING SOME NEW TRACKS IN THE [MORNING] JUST TO SAY, "HEY WE'RE WORKING ON NEW TUNES JUST EXPLORING AND FINDING... THANKS FOR THE LOVE AS ALWAYS," @badbadnotgood cryptically Tweeted late Thursday night; on the heels of their latest impending non-album double-header, "Here and Now" and "Timewave Zero." okayplayer's own skilled wordsmith Michael Eric Gonik fittingly described "Timewave Zero" as a "full-sprint psychedelic jazz & rock romp built over a dizzying shuffle and lurking, murky organs." Gonik then continued to describe the slightly more subdued, college slam poetry bar-leaning "Here and Now" as "[ramping] up the reverie with a sampledelic treatment that could double as a lost Sun-Ra outing with a more straightforward groove." While they've previously reinterpreted everyone from Ol' Dirty Bastard to Kanye's favorite London-bred crooner James Blake, BBNG's recent Innovative Leisure "debut" III essentially functions as a modern day free-associative Hip-Hop-minded Improv Jazz album, in its own right.

Following the wide-spread success of III and a few terribly unsuspected neck-snapping remixes, BBNG unleashed their first collaborative album-length project recorded with expert Wu-Tang Clan swordsmen, Ghostface Killah, critically-acclaimed Sour Soul. It would appear as through bandmates Chester, Alex & Matt have now teamed up with groove-inclined Future Islands frontman, and sometimes emcee, Samuel T. Herring (aka Hemlock Ernst) for a similar-minded as-yet-unspecified project; as part of Red Bull Sound Select's 30 Days In LA series, BADBADNOTGOOD & Sam Herring performed their "Seasons (Waiting On You)" Remix together for the first time over the weekend, in addition to a currently-untitled collaboration the newly-minted foursome reportedly recorded as recently as two weeks ago. "Been a blast writing and recording tunes for the past four days with the amazing "Sambino" [Herring] at Studio 69," @yungbadbad enthusiastically wrote on their BBNG Instagram handle.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Miike Snow Recruit Run The Jewels to Help Transform Soulful Marlena Shaw-sampling "Heart Is Full" Into a Blistering Rap Ballad (Downtown Records)

"When we heard that [Run The Jewels] were fans and down to get on this beat, I was super excited... but cautiously so. I knew this was the type of beat that they could just eat for breakfast; but I was hoping that the whole thing wouldn't come off sounding too retro. I was at Emile Haynie's house when the email with the mix came through and so, we stopped what we were doing to throw it up on the speakers," 1/3 of self-described "three-headed band with one man name" Andrew Wyatt recently wrote in an email sent to The FADER. Miike Snow is a world-renown Swedish-American Indie/Synthpop band consisting of Wyatt along with Christian Karlsson & Pontus Winnberg, who together function as songwriting and production duo Bloodshy & Avant; they've collectively produced chart-topping hits for everyone from Matchbox 20 frontman Rob Thomas to Britney Spears (including "Toxic" and "Piece of Me"). Although, Hip-Hop isn't exactly as far of a stretch as it may seem for Miike Snow, as Karlsson was once a member of Swedish Hip-Hop collective Goldmine and "Heart Is Full" befittingly samples Guilty Simpson & Apollo Brown's "The Cook Up," which in turn, draws source material from Marlena Shaw's 1967 Cadet Records 7-inch, "Waiting for Charlie to Come Home."

"The moment Killer Mike launched into his verse, Emile and I couldn't stop smiling; he had found that flow, the rhythm to his lines that was undeniable, the flow which was so huge as to transcend any trendiness in music and just be monolithically awesome. El-P continued riding that same vein – and it's like a sledgehammer," pseudo-frontman Andrew Wyatt ecstatically continued. "Heart Is Full," in its original form, is the first song released from Miike Snow in some three years and serves as the lead-off composition to materialize from their soon forthcoming Happy to You (2012) follow-up, III. "It's a big, bold metropolitan Pop track bolstered by a walloping boom-bap drum loop, blaring Soul samples, Auto-Tuned crooning, and one of those humongous Pop-Rock choruses Swedish studio pros tend to specialize in," as boldly categorized by Stereogum or simply put, a stylistic mix between Akon, Swedish brethren Peter Bjorn & John, and DJ Premier. Killer Mike & El-P's blistering "Heart Is Full" re-work, on the other hand, is the second track released on the paws of their recent crowd-funded and entirely cat sounds-composed RTJ2 remix album, Meow The Jewels; $45,000+ in proceeds were generously donated to the families of heinous police brutality victims Mike Brown and Eric Garner. "Heart Is Full" and "Rubble Kings Theme" seem to be functioning as something to the effect of unofficial previews of Run The Jewels anxiously-awaited RTJ3.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Los Angeles-based Family Band The Rebel Light Unleash The Beach Boys & Shins-leaning "Strangers" (Bandcamp, self-released)

"'Strangers" was definitely inspired by our time living in California. We wanted it to sound like how California feels to us... portray that image of quintessential California, which sometimes can simply be that girl in a sundress with that pretty California smile," LA-based Indie Pop trio The Rebel Light previously told The Line of Best Fit. Brothers Alan & Jarrett Stell and their cousin Brandon Cooke have already been compared to the likes of The Shins, Grizzly Bear, The Beach Boys, Todd Rundgren, Ariel Pink, The Doors, and The 5th Dimension during their brief tenure. The Rebel Light's latest self-released single, "Strangers" "was recorded at home, with the vocals being laid down in the bathroom and the drum parts recorded in a wood shed," according to UK-based Clash magazine. It would appear as though The Rebel Light have managed to garner a considerable following across the pond, ironically, wherein many of the sun-drenched 1960-70's Psych-Rock/Pop bands that initially inspired them in fact, hailed from.

"Strangers'" recently-released companion music video was directed by one-time director assistant Spencer Hord, whom compiled and re-edited footage from five assorted video/short films under a Creative Commons Attribution license: "from LA to LA," "Canon EOS 1D C Cinema EOS Camera Test Footage Lens: EF 16-35mm 1:2.8 L II USM," "Luca Vasta - Black Tears White Lies," "an ODE to LOVE," and last but not least, "Underwater." Hord was able to freely sample and effectively assemble a unique video treatment for "Strangers," which resembles a dusty old worn out cut-and-pasted home video-reminiscent family VHS tape. While there are currently no signs of a proper full-length album, prior to "Strangers," The Rebel Light unleashed similar-minded Monkees-evocative "Jukebox Dream" and slightly more Indie Rock-sounding 5-track The Rebel Light EP, which featured their radio-friendly 2014 single, "Wake Up Your Mind."

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Beats, Rhymes & Junior Mints: Your Old Droog Waxes Poetic About Kramer, Art Vandelay & Keith Hernandez On "Basketball & Seinfeld" Over Abelard's Mouth Jazz-sampling "SEINWAVE2000"

"Burst through the door, son I'm Kramerin'. Who wrote a gorgeous stanza? It's not you, it's me like George Costanza," grizzly-voiced Ukrainian-American emcee Your Old Droog ferociously rhymes on his latest self-described "stupid" Soundcloud loosie, "Basketball & Seinfeld." Not long after uploading his "SEINWAVE2000"-sampling track, Droog himself annotated a portion of its expectedly ingenious Seinfeld and basketball-centric rhyme schemes at Rap Genius: "I used to smoke [funny cigarettes] and just watch Seinfeld re-runs. Or being h*gh out [of] my mind at the crib and watching ESPN Classic and old Bulls Finals series against The Blazers." "Basketball & Seinfeld" was reportedly produced by Your Old Droog and manipulates a sample lifted from Abelard's original composition "SEINWAVE2000," which in turn, makes use of a sample pulled from Jonathan Wolff's infamous Mouth Jazz-delivered Seinfeld theme. "Basketball & Seinfeld"'s companion cover essentially helps bring Droog's multi-layered metaphors full circle with its Marco Oliva-designed artwork featuring everyone's favorite lovable self-loathing loser, George Costanza dribbling a basketball whilst sporting a Your Old Droog-adorned jersey.

"My joint smooth like how them pottery dudes handle clay. Old school like Channel J. You art, Vandelay... my old rhymes still hittin' and you're like Keith Hernandez on Seinfeld. You were never really spittin,'" Your Old Droog poetically waxes elsewhere on "Basketball & Seinfeld;" making clever allusions throughout his second verse to Art Vandelay, Kenny Bania, sponge-worthy, "that sweater really [got] a red dot," Keith Hernandez, the drake, Cantstandya, and various rhyme-worthy Seinfeld motifs. While he has yet to release a proper full-length, the sharp-tongued Coney Island spitter has already managed to unleash three critically-acclaimed EP's: Your Old Droog EP (later expanded to LP-length), Rock-themed KINISON EP, and The Nicest EP, in addition to nearly an entire album's-worth of non-album Soundcloud material similar to "Basketball & Seinfeld." Although, Your Old Droog isn't exactly the first rapper to concoct a Seinfeld-themed Hip-Hop project, as DC-based Go-Go rapper Wale has released three Seinfeld-centric projects in recent years: The Mixtape About Nothing, More About Nothing, and his latest Jerry Seinfeld-assisted Album About Nothing.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

"It's like if Joy Division, The Strokes & Dr. Dre made an album together..." Chicago's HXLT aka Hollywood Holt - "Live to Death" (G.O.O.D. Music)

"I used to have tons of songs in my head, but since I couldn't play anything well and I didn't know how to use programs [so] I was never able to make them," Chicago emcee and former Cool Kids affiliate Hollywood Holt writes within his rather compelling Facebook Bio section. Now better known as simply HXLT (pronounced: "Holt"), the former club-friendly rapper has returned with the lead-off single from his as-yet-untitled G.O.O.D. Music debut; "Holt's manager told Billboard at the time of his singing that "it's like if Joy Division, The Strokes, and Dr. Dre made an album together."' Judging by "Live to Death," it would appear as though HXLT has somehow already managed to master the whole Psych/Punk Rock-leaning brand of Alt. Hip-Hop that Kanye's former protégé Kid Cudi has spent the past five or so odd years aimlessly trying to hone and perfect. Although, prior to unleashing "Live to Death" last week, HXLT's only released material on G.O.O.D. Music was relegated to a cover and companion remix of Kavinsky's Drive Soundtrack stand-out, "Nightcall" and a self-produced 5-song COVER ME EP.

The latter merely consisting of spirited Electro-Rock renditions of Florence + The Machine, Billy Idol, Drake, The Neighborhood, and a quasi-remix of HXLT's own production work lifted from Music from Baz Luhrmann's Film The Great Gatsby – delivered in the vein of Beyoncé & André 3000's stripped down Chopped & Screwed-leaning cover of Amy Winehouse's infamous "Back to Black." "Live to Death"'s companion HXLT, Chelsea Lombardo & Jimmy Regular-directed visuals play out almost how I would imagine a zombie-infested circle pit would look or similar to one of those seedy underground raves you would always see in late 90's-early 2000's vampire flicks like Queen of The Damned. HXLT's long-awaited re-branded "debut" is expected to emerge on G.O.O.D. Music & Def Jam Records sometime in the not too distant future; but until then, feel free to revisit Hollywood Holt's awesomely-titled DJ Benzi-hosted mixtape, These Are The Songs That Didn't Make The Album But Are Still Cold As Hell So Shut The F*ck Up! Vol. 1 (2010).

Sunday, November 8, 2015

G.O.O.D. Music President Pusha T Unleashes Previously Vaulted Drake & Meek Mill Freestyle, "R.I.C.O." On Dr. Dre's The Pharmacy (Beats 1)

"I'm the poster child for alleged drug dealers. These n***as mention my name with their little rumors and their little jewelers. That's no threat, that's no sweat," former Virginia Beach drug dealer and Clipse emcee Pusha T ferociously rhymes on his latest solo single; a Dr. Dre-sanctioned freestyle over Meek Mill's "R.I.C.O," which notoriously kick-started Mill and Drake's ghostwriter allegation-slinging beef. For the record, whether he in fact endorses and makes use of ghostwriters or not, Drake's rapid-released double-header "Back to Back" and "Charged Up" absolutely slayed and effectively obliterated Meek Mill's abysmal retaliation diss, "Wanna Know." "Real money ain't shy. No, lay it out... get a tan on it. They say numbers don't lie. Well, dope boy, put your bands on it," Kanye's "Runaway" protégé poignantly rhymes elsewhere on "R.I.C.O," which Dr. Dre premiered on his latest Beats 1 radio transmission, The Pharmacy this past weekend. Numerous times throughout "R.I.C.O." Pusha T seemingly makes subliminal allusions to "the sequel" to My Name Is My Name, better known as his long-awaited Neptunes-produced sophomore solo album, King Push; thus far, having only been preceded by last year's pummeling, tribal drum-laden Kanye-helmed single, "Lunch Money."

It was announced at press time Monday morning that G.O.O.D. Music founder Kanye West has hand-selected Pusha T and his long-time manager Stephen Victor to serve as the Def Jam sub-imprint's newly-delegated G.O.O.D. Music President and A&R. Pusha told Billboard, who exclusively announced the news, that Kanye "basically just [wants him] to manicure the label, make it profitable, and be very business-oriented about it going forward in a manicured type of way." President Thornton will likely help groom and condition G.O.O.D. Music's unique artist roster including Q-Tip, Big Sean, John Legend, Mr. Hudson, Evian Christ, Hudson Mohawke, Travi$ Scott, Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def), and newest signee Kacy Hill. Pusha T additionally made sure to reassure eager fans that his tenure as G.O.O.D. Music President won't inhibit the recording and imminent release of his nearly-finished King Push; "I don't think so. I got sort of a head start... I've been working on [King Push] for a minute in between touring and everything else. I got a head start on the album, so we're good. You'll be seeing that very shortly," he candidly revealed to Billboard. Prez Push most recently appeared on Puff Daddy & The Family's celebratory street album, MMM – managing to hold his own alongside veteran emcees Jadakiss & Styles P on Diddy-orchestrated posse cut "Everyday (Amor)."

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Puff Daddy & The Family Liberate Triumphant Les Sins & Chromatics-sampling Return-to-form, "MMM" In Honor of Diddy's 46th Birthday (Bad Boy Records)

"Before, I used to make records when I made music... then, I decided to make culture. And as I got older, I decided I'm going to make fashion. Ladies and gentlemen, listen and watch some fashion," rapper-producer and mogul Sean Combs aka Puff Daddy preached to an audience full of industry insiders, rappers, producers, record execs, and socialites Tuesday night at an impromptu listening party. The matter at hand: Puffy's first project since Last Train to Paris (2010), MMM – short for Money Makin' Mitch, a self-described "sonic motion picture." Puff Daddy & The Family's long-rumored proper return-to-form, MMM appears to be a precursor to Combs' apparent final album, No Way Out II. Diddy's initial hustler's ambition-leaning concept behind MMM was first brainstormed during an evening of "Netflix and Ciroc & lemonade," in which he and his lady finally got around to watching Dame Dash's cult classic Shakespearean Hop-Hopera, Paid In Full; "Money Makin' Mitch is a fairy tale about this fly n***a from Harlem that came up and did his thing. He was shinin' on them, stylin' on them, showin' them how to do it. Showin' them how to get it," Sean Combs intricately rhymes on MMM's scene-setting introductory track, "Facts." "Maybe he was gettin' it in the wrong way, but the fairy tale of it is [that] most brothers and sisters end up dead or in jail," he cryptically continued. Diddy himself seems to be a semi-autobiographical real-life version of our protagonist, Mitch; having been a former New York street-hustling drug dealer who's managed to morph himself into a similar-minded music industry-hustling multi-million dollar mogul and endlessly successful money-makin' household name.

While MMM boasts an impressive array of talented "co-stars" ranging from Lil Kim to Pusha T, I would say the most note-worthy aspect of Puff Daddy's celebratory 46th birthday mixtape/street album is quite arguably its sheer commercial accessibility. Not entirely unlike his former Led Zeppelin-sampling hit, "Come with Me," MMM makes sonically flawless use of Middle American-friendly source material; particularly Toro Y Moi frontman Chaz Bundick's Dance-laden side project Les Sins and Italians Do It Better visionary Johnny Jewel, better known as "Chromatics." "Workin,'" in addition to Lil Kim, Styles P & King Los-assisted "Audition," was debuted on BET's annual Hip-Hop Awards show last month and makes perfect use of Bundick's infectious jittery refrain, "don't bother me... I'm workin.'" However, "Workin'" now sports a completely unnecessary and thankfully, sample-less end portion featuring 'Ringtone Rappers' Big Sean and TraviS Scott. "Harlem," on the other hand, showcases a comparably more subdued sample lifted from Chromatics' Night Drive and Drive Soundtrack-featured "Tick of The Clock." Puff Daddy & The Family are reportedly set to slowly unleash 13 music videos to accompany each of MMM's contained tracks, when fully assembled in ascending order, will make the "sonic motion picture" Puff Daddy had initially envisioned. Ahead of MMM, Puff Daddy & The Family quietly unleashed two neck-snapping tracks, "Finna Get Loose" and Rick Ross-assisted "Big Homie," which will seemingly re-appear on the newly-reformed Bad Boy Family's forthcoming quasi-sequel to their critically-acclaimed 1997 debut, No Way Out.