Legend –  2nd Verse ft. Daylyt (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

500x5002ndVerse certainly tell it like it is. One of the great things about rap music is that it looks you in the eye, shoots from the hip and draws first, firing off salvos of reality, truth bullets packet with explosive honesty. And Legend holds nothing back as it kicks off. And if rap, hip-hop and all its various sub-genres are based around dexterous and poetic use of language then this certainly ticks a lot of boxes on that score. It’s an interesting switch really, other genres are happy to create intricate music and just through the lyrics on the top without much thought, here the music is just a simple device to keep things moving forward and it is the mesh and flow of the words which is the focal point here.

And as if 2nd Verse didn’t get the job done they also have a couple of tricks up their sleeve. Firstly in stark contrast to the street swagger of the lyrical delivery, they weave in some spoken word samples whose clipped, retro, public service announcement style in perfect imbalance. But their best trick is securing the services of master battle rapper Daylyt whose presence adds no end of kudos to the proceedings.

Revelling in the past is all very well and good but the best music, or at least the most original, seems to be made as people move things forward. It’s all about evolution, it’s about forward-thinking, it is the way the world turns. Legend is the sound of the world turning and music moving into pastures new. Here they pull together various urban strands, lazy beats, slow hip-hop rhythms, cool rap flows, strange and glitchy electro-groove musical motifs and even a few sultry R&B tones and smooth, late night smokey vibes.

It’s a track that tips its hat to the past whilst shaping the future and it does really feel like something new, a bold step forward, a post-urban style that pushes beyond the rules and regulations. Ignores the fickle finger of fashion and has no time for musical guardians and narrow-minded pedants telling it what hip-hop, pop, rap, trap, electronic music or any other genre should be about. Welcome to the post genre world!

It is an addictive combination of hypnotic vocal delivery and trippy accessibility which really moves the ball forward, breaks out of the comfort zones and offers a new take on an old sound. It is the perfect eulogy for the streets, the hustle, the hassle, the grime and the game, it plays to stereotypical images but it drips with dark reality. If ever rap music spoke of the lives and aspirations of the young urban experience, this is where it is said most eloquently in raps own, new first language.

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From Then Til’ Now 2011 – 2015 – Fabp aka Fabpz the Freelancer (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

FROM THEN TIL NOW 2011-2015 - FABP.jpgThis is the third time I have reviewed a release from this artist in as many months, you can’t deny that he has to be one of the hardest working rappers out there. You would have thought that by now I would be getting quite familiar with his style, his approach, his attitude towards making music. Well, to be honest the more I hear the less sure of where he fits in to the grand scheme of things and this 4 year retrospective doesn’t help to clarify things much.

But that is the sort of artist I like, one who deals in curveballs, swerves expectation and gives you not what you want but what you never in realised that you wanted. This hefty musical tome embraces hip-hop, rap, reggae, urban electro, R&B and more but it is how they are joined together, (w)rapped around each other or somehow brutally collided that produces the goods. It’s raw, roughly woven, roots, underground and lo-fi. You will recognise the building blocks but the finished sonic architecture will make you think twice about what urban music can be in the modern age and more importantly where it might be going.

Spiritual – 4 Wheel City (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

4-Wheel-City-CoverWhilst many rappers and hip-hop artists seem content to sing about personal gain, the glitz, the glamour, the game, of getting the trappings that seem to go hand in hand with the genre, 4 Wheel City find their inspiration in higher concerns. The album title immediately tells us that the writing comes from a deeper and more meaningful place but this is more than an album of devotional music thought. It discusses a wide range of subjects, social issues, political events, persistent day to day problems and universal world concerns.

Proving that terms such as rap, hip-hop and urban music are too broad to really be of much use, Namel “Tapwaterz” Norris and Ricardo “Rickfire” Velasquez have created an album that neither revels in the past glories of the genre nor simply settles for a commercial route to chart success and a quick buck. Instead they deal with big issues head on, whilst setting eloquent and often elegant words, to music that redefines what those genres can be in the modern age.

Songs such as Burning of the Tiki Torches are particularly powerful, discussing the broad and broken political landscape and calling for unity and Disabled Lives Matter looks at hot topics such as the Puerto Rican floods from the point of view of how it affects those less able to deal with the physical aspects of such a disaster. A song made all the more poignant with a similar storm currently battering the US east coast even as I write this. Leaders of The New World looks at a possible future inspired by people turning away from greed and exploitation and leading by example and Music sees them celebrating the part that creativity plays in their life.

It’s a fascinating album, one that flys in the face of mumbling bedroom rappers searching for a celebrity life-style that seems to have become the norm. It looks the grim reality’s of the modern world straight in the eye and forces the listener to engage in the discussion. It pushes generic boundaries beyond the streets where it grew up and into a sort of provocative urban world music. It is also a timely reminder that music can indeed be a powerful force, can be used as a platform to cause debate, can make the listener both feel and think, two things that seem in short supply in these dark modern days.

The Myth  –  Chad Rico (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

the mythThere’s a certain late night feel that wanders through Chad Rico’s music. Whereas many people working in the broad urban music environment try hard to make an impact by getting up close and personal, bombastic raps, machine gun hip-hop beats, confrontational R&B and the like, The Myth makes its point through a sort of wonderfully lazy swagger, slow paced grooves and a sultriness that is often lost in the rush to be heard.

Less is more is a cliche of course but cliches are cliches because they offer some truth and Chad Rico understands that sometimes the power in the music comes from its spaces and subtleties, of the anticipation between the beats and the pause between the words. Night In Barcelona mixes trippy electronica with a gentle swagger and Options takes this minimalist approach to its logical conclusion being little more than lyric and beat and all the more powerful for it.

In a world where everyone is shouting to get the discerning music listeners attention, it is the artist stood quietly and confidently in the corner that is the most intriguing, the one that you are compelled to check out. Chad Rico is that artist. Not quite a Myth yet but certainly on his way to becoming a legend.

Scene and Heard – CCCLXXXI : God Flow (No Sucka MC’s 6) – ether.UNLIMITED (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

tmzSbman_400x400Not every piece of music has to start revolutions, similarly not every track has to merely re-invent the wheel, and between the cutting edge and the tried and tested you find ether.UNLIMITED, a blend of old-school, grooving hip-hop, confident street level rap and skittering backbeat vibe. Okay, we have all heard something similar before, sort of, it’s built on a certain familiarity, for sure, and sticks faithfully to the rap canon of cool flow and edgy content but it is also cohesive, glossy, stylish, and sophisticated, as the unique melodies get compressed through a hypnotic and powerful delivery.

So whilst tipping its hat to the past, God Flow pushes out to the future too, smooth electronica fills the space between glitchy trap percussion and the eloquent, top end rap and the end result is a confident forward step into hip-hops bright new future.

And if you like what you hear, you can vote for this track in RhymeStars online rap contest HERE and help shape the sound of the future.

 

 

Scene and Heard – CCCLXXVII :  No Sleep Feat. Rf Timbo – Pete Guapeton  (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

35986733_2161077480845707_4347285946194984960_nThe real charm of No Sleep is that the music perfectly matches the nocturnal feeling of the subject matter. There is an element of somnambulism about it, as if the listener is sleep walking through a musical dream where ambient hip-hop, pulsing bass lines and skittering beats form the soundtrack. The space left in between the beats, the notes and the lyrics allow atmosphere and anticipation to be just as important as the hypnotic, and often warped, lyrics and the spacious beats and the result is something smoke-like and transient.

Urban music is always looking for somewhere new to go, new territories to explore and rather than push harder into the realm of musical bombast and sonic brawn, No Sleep takes the cleverer move and strip things back into a cloaked and nocturnal blend of cool R&B, rap and almost gothic hip-hop. How cool is that?

Scene and Heard – CCCLXXVI : Strapped Up – Carolina Ty  (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

38267339_784571275061997_588297467422834688_nAmerica might be starting to have a conversation about problems with guns, in schools, in white middle class communities and patting itself on the back for making progress but in some parts of society the problems go much deeper and this is what lies at the heart of Carolina Ty’s message. What if guns have become a necessary evil? What if, for some, they have become something upon which your very survival is based? What if the system is against you and the only way to feel safe is to cross the line into a place which invites more danger than it protects against. That is the dichotomy, the battle that is going on in the song.

Musically Strapped Up references those 90’s hip-hop pioneers who were willing to present such debates to a national audience, to comment on the rot and inconsistency in society and do it via confident and challenging raps. It moves with the times too, employing skittering trap percussion and shimmering electronica but the real issue here is that whilst the music that carries the message may have changed to some degree, it’s the same conversation that we have been having, or actually not having, for decades. But Carolina Ty knows that just because nothing seems to be changing, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t keep raising the questions and what better way than via vibrant and powerful music.

No Regrets  –  Ben Green (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

UnknownJust as on previous single Change Up, Ben Green brings a whole new level of gloss and positivity to the rap world. With too many of his peers and colleagues trying much too hard to sound edgy and tough, playing to the street cliches and questionable stereotypes, No Regrets breezes through,  fresh air blowing through a stifling scene. Whereas the competition seems seeped in a culture of angst and edge, darkness and greed, Ben Green treats life like a party. No regrets indeed, money is there to be spent, good times are to be had, if things are working out for you why not enjoy it?

As always he is lyrically deft, with dexterous and fast flows setting the scene and a delivery so shotgun fast that you can barely see daylight between the words. But the real standout part of the vocals is the production. Techniques that are often used to hide the lack of ability of a singer are instead used to enhance and create a new vocal concept creating an ultra-modern, effortlessly hip new rap sound. 

Musically the track below is spacious enough to allow the vocals to have room to breath and land more powerfully but intriguing enough to draw the listener in, a blend of skittering trap-infused percussion led beats and ambient R&B electronica.

This is cutting edge stuff, familiar enough to be able to draw a line back through what has gone before, from 70’s street corner rappers to the genres 90’s golden age through to the resurgence of commercial R&B and the more pop infused sounds of the modern age. In short, it is music that knows where it comes from but which is much more interested in creating the future than talking about the past.

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Scene and Heard – CCCLXXV : Cobra CMDR – Paradame  (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

ParadameBannrGreen-1024x653The great thing about Paradame is that on the surface of things, her music seems to fit into some fairly neat boxes, exploring soul, pop, R&B and urban music strands. But the more you listen too it the more you realise just how subversive it actually is and that the reason that you didn’t pick up on its outsider qualities straight away was because songs like Cobra CMDR come wrapped in a brilliant sonic trojan horse. It is music which seems to be easily identifiable on the outside but has so many hidden depths and by the time you realise that it has managed to get past any musical prejudices or genre snobbery that might have got in the way.

It is a dark, sultry and edgy piece of sci-fi infused sonics, sitting somewhere at the centre of the perfect storm of street rap deliveries, dystopian pop, glitchy electronica and commercial infectiousness, a song that doesn’t follow the usual template, which is cool and cultish yet which is instantly memorable and clever enough to get a mainstream following with ease.

And visually it does something just as clever too. In many videos the women are just the material trappings of a male music master, not quite as important as the car, the bling, the weed, the money. Even when a supposedly liberating female popster appears to be calling the shots there is still often an obvious undercurrent of them playing a stereotypical image for the music money men. Paradame offers something new. These women are projecting real power here. Yes, they are projecting a sexy and sultry image too, but on their own terms and would you walk into that room alone? And if you did would there be any doubt who was in control?

As she proved on the brilliant Aye! Priori from which this track is taken, Paradame is not about trying to change things from the outside, about creating alternatives to the mainstream, underground scenes or new genres for the sake of it. She is about showing those with more mainstream tastes what they are missing, that music can be both challenging and chart accessible, that music doesn’t have to follow a lowest common denominator to be successful. Clever pop music, it would seem, is back on the menu. I bet you didn’t see that one coming?

It’s Your Boi Fabulous P. – Fabp aka Fabpz the Freelancer (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

ITS YOUR BOI FABULOUS P (front)(GRAPHIC) - FABP AKA FABPZ THE _phixrAs Dirty Lil’ Communications proved previously Fabp goes much further than all of these rappers who claim to be pushing boundaries of the genre, he actually blows the whole thing up, rips up the rule book, erases history and creates a whole new year zero. But it is one thing to destroy, anyone can do that, but the clever thing is what happens next. He sifts through the twisted sonics and the broken fragments of music and puts them back together in new and interesting ways.

This time around the result is It’s Your Boi Fabulous P. A mash-up of stripped back rap, reggae vibes, skittering electronica, setting things off in a whole new musical direction. You could argue that this isn’t rap at all, in the same way that punk used rock and roll sounds to take an anti-rock stance and rave took dance grooves and beat them into a whole new genre. I guess anything that doesn’t quite fit into any one genre, any particular style, any recognisable form, anything that deserves its own generic label and then sits within it as the first of its kind could be a very important new chapter in the annals of music history. Only time will tell.

I Want it All – Willy Wu ft. Ilka Schunke (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

maxresdefaultWilly Wu is telling it like it is. One of the great things about rap music is that it looks you in the eye, shoots from the hip and draws first, firing off salvos of reality, truth bullets packet with explosive honesty. I Want it All does pretty much what it says on the tin, it’s an anthem to following your dreams, to doing what is right for yourself and not allowing yourself to fall into line with other peoples expectations.

Through Wu’s seductive raps and vocalist Ilka Schunke’s contrasting sweet deliveries they create a dark and light combination, a sharp and soft balance through their boy/girl juxtapositions, both carrying the same message but framing it differently merely through the differing styles that they bring to the song. Street rap melodies meets sharp and annunciated pop vocals.

Musically it is a spacious platform, minimal beats and a plaintive piano carrying most of the tune with just a few electronic motifs and sonic embellishments to add colour but largely it is this room that allows the vocals to be more powerful.

Revelling in the past is all very well and good but the best music, or at least the most original, seems to be made as people move things forward. It’s all about evolution, it’s about forward-thinking, it is the way the world turns. I Want it All is the sound of the world turning and music moving into pastures new. Willy Wu pulls together various urban strands, ambient trap beats, hip-hop rhythms , cool rap flows and strange and glitchy electro-groove musical motifs and even a few sultry R&B tones and smooth, late night smokey vibes. More than that he uses the natural space, the atmosphere and anticipation found between the notes and in the space between the lyrical deliveries to great effect.

It’s a track that tips its hat to the past whilst shaping the future and it does really feel like a first, a bold step forward, a post-urban style that pushes beyond the rules and regulations. Ignores the fickle finger of fashion and has no time for musical guardians and narrow-minded pedants telling it what hip-hop, pop, rap, trap, electronic music or any other genre should be about.

It is an addictive combination of hypnotic vocal delivery and easy accessibility which really moves the ball forward, breaks out of the comfort zones and offers a new take on an old sound. If ever rap music spoke of the lives and aspirations of the young urban experience, this is where it is said most eloquently in raps own, new first language.

Scene and Heard – CCCLXVII: Money  –  Risbrand Micheal Bobby (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

36187852_802837123249049_4950669542079594496_nHonesty is the best policy and here we have an artist honest enough to admit that his mind is on making money. But unlike many of his fellow rappers who seem to be looking to hustle and hassle their way to an easy payday, the money that RMB is chasing is the money that comes from hard work.

Over a slow R&B groove he reminds us that the money that really makes us feel like a success is the money that we have sweated for, honestly. Skittering, off-beat trap percussion and kick drum drive the song but it is happy to saunter and swagger rather than get too “in your face.” And it is this slow and wonderfully enticing approach, one that is spacious and structurally fluid that makes it stand out from the pack. The fact that it is beguiling rather than bombastic, alluring rather than aggressive, shows that not only is this an artist who thinks differently from those around him but one that also knows that less is more. But only when it comes to music.

Dirty Lil’ Communications – Fabp aka Fabpz the Freelancer (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

DIRTY LIL COMMUNICATIONS (GRAPIC) - FABP.jpgProving that there is a still plenty of sonic exploration to be done in the very broad urban music field, Fabp has delivered an album which thwarts expectations. It’s very easy to see the musical building blocks he uses to create this suite of eleven songs, a gentle, often ambient hip-hop, restrained and spacious sung-raps, reggae grooves, R&B melodies and strange electronic pop hybrids. In that respect he is working in fairly familiar territory but as always it isn’t about the basic materials but what you build with them that counts. You don’t look at the nature of the bricks when you are being beguiled by the architecture.

It’s an album which adds some unexpected elements to the hip-hop/rap music mix. There is an understatement and a wonderful space created by the unhurried and chilled nature of the delivery. Even more surprising are songs like Greatest Artists which somehow come on like a bit of a boast but which are actually dripping with a humble, matter of fact poignancy.

Dirty Lil’ Communications shows that not every song has to be big and clever, has to try too hard to show off and play the role of the alpha male. Sometimes just forging an original path, being brave enough to do your own thing and not follow the musical fads and fashions is its own reward. Fabp isn’t leader of the pack for one simple fact. He is so far ahead of the pack that they barely know how to follow him.

Scene and Heard – CCCLXI: G Code –  Pelle Price (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

lpcppmlghhgaoeopIf the term devotional music conjures images of straight laced artists following the same old templates, of fervent gospel or august choral music then Pelle Price is hear to change your perceptions. For whilst G-Code is very much an expression of his faith and world view, of spiritual concerns over material ones, it is done so in a very cool way.

Fast and fluid rapped lyrics, hard hitting musical dynamics and a track that is simultaneously effortlessly smooth and fresh, exciting and edgy. Everything moves with the times, evolves and changes to represent the world it finds itself and so it is only natural that the modern artist would use the latest sounds and the most cutting edge styles to create the music that best expresses their feelings. And Pelle Price is the perfect messenger for our times, speaking in a language that is relevant and exciting. The sentiment may be as old as civilisation itself but that doesn’t mean that the delivery system can’t be the most effective and up to date.

Change My Mind – DEVMO  (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

ii_jjst3qcr0_164b380c6cd82db8I’m always wary around rap, hip-hop, urban…call it what you will… music. Not that there is inherently anything wrong with such genres, of course not,  it’s just that as part of my music writing income there is a place where I am employed to review new, emerging and unsigned music from a more A’n’R point of view. It means that most of it is low budget, most is pretty unreconstructed and most of it is rap. And sadly for every one shinning gem I find, I have to wade through dozens of mumbling, bedroom based, self-aggrandising misogynists blending trap beats with whatever pre-programmed electronica was on the pre-settings of their Casio keyboard. Thankfully DEVMO is everything that is not.

It just goes to show you that even though Change My Mind is constructed using a lot of the same sonic building blocks, skittering trap beats, glitchy and pulsing electronica, fast and flowing rap and edgy and socially poignant lyrical content, it does a number of things that those urban wannabes don’t. It makes clever sonic choices, offers interesting arrangements, uses its imagination and wanders wilfully across the dynamic spectrum. Everything that the aforementioned also rans could only dream of.

Changed My Mind in particular wanders through some dark and sensual places, flitting between and flirting with both the profound and the profane, it bears its soul and throws caution to the wind and Kylie Jenner is a mesh of intense pop textures, futuristic dreamscapes and celebrity adulation. Get My Shit Together is a hip-hop-pop hybrid, all off-kilter dance groove and slick word play. The individual sonic components may be familiar but the way they are put together is astounding. A builder may stack bricks but it takes an architect to create beauty.

In a world where I often feel that rap music has gone down a certain rabbit hole, DEVMO is the Alice that holds a mirror up to Wonderland by showing it how ridiculous it is, just by not following the rules. It pricks its bubble of pretension and self-importance and reminds me that there are indeed artists who represent a bright new future for the genre. You just have to know where to look.

 

Change Up – Ben Green (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

33923415_846622298856242_3112983328249085952_oThere is one line in particular that stands out on this debut from Ben Green, “Don’t go dumb while the world goes stupid, gotta stay above it all keep that bird’s eye view,”  a phrase charged with a lot of relevance to the world today. It could refer to anyone, the everyday person in the street, a message to stay informed and not get taken in by other people’s tricks, traps and trolling.

It could refer to the aspiring artist, a reminder to stay focused and not be distracted by the things which aren’t important in the long run. It could also refer to the big picture, to the games and machinations of the political classes and world leaders getting caught up in their own agenda’s and forgetting who they really work for. Take which ever meaning that works for you, take all of them, that’s the great thing about the fluidity of lyrics and the ability to derive your own meaning from them.

As a piece of music it neatly encompasses where urban music is today. You can hear the echo of hip-hop pioneers and rap originators in its electronic rhythms and trippy trap percussion, the reserved lyrical flow and its late night, ultra cool hazy vibe. All music should push the genre forward, if you can do so whilst making people think then all the better.

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Millennial Sound – Jackson Whalan (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

a0230420296_16What a breath of fresh air. In a world that sees new music scribblers and celebrators of emerging artists bombarded with cliched, mumble rap set to that same trap beat and taking that same self-aggrandising lyrical tough man act in an effort to just gain more views, likes, followers, money, gold, cars, houses… ad infinitum, it is great to come across someone working in the very broad urban music field that really breaks the mould.

And that is no overstatement, no parabolic soundbite that I can’t back up, just listen to the album, its easy to justify such a declaration. Old School hip-hop flow and rap abounds, you know, the sort of deliveries that actually landed with a punch to the brain and are mixed with re-appropriated spoken word pieces, juggled and juxtaposed. The beats strut confidently across the tracks and the groove is the clear king here but it is what is going on behind, beyond and between these structures which is the real charm. Glitchy electronica, classical sweeps, funky basslines, mutant dance and futuristic space noise all weave around the more expected sounds.

And lyrically too there is a lot to like because Whalan has something to say. Subjects move from climate change to conspiracy theory, the power of music, of love, loss and longing, of the world at large and the small stories that fill every pavement and every home. Of hopes, dreams and drama, fear for the future, solace in the past. Even the title is a challenge. We all know these millennials have little to contribute and nothing to say, live in their own little social media bubbles and have few original thoughts, they said so on Fox News right? Well, if Jackson Whalan’s quirky and brilliant collection of sounds and thoughts does just one thing, it forces you to totally rethink that cliched idea. About time.

Xhaling Emotions –  REEM IIDOL (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

23722786_1470725112981811_8976807007190931197_nReem is telling it like it is. One of the great things about rap music is that it looks you in the eye, shoots from the hip and draws first, firing off salvos of reality, truth bullets packet with explosive honesty. But what do you do when it’s those closest to you that are the jealous ones, when people let you down, when friends are turning their back on you or trying to hold you back. Well, what you do is pull out your best rhymes and turn your feelings into music.

Opening track Changes mixes spoken word and flowing rap deliveries and driving it on skittering trap percussion and a confident beats, and that sets the pace for the album as a whole. Throughout it Reem waxes lyrical about loyalty, honesty, reality and the fact that the world is a tough place and sometimes you have to accept that fear is stronger than love if you want to survive. Xhaling Emotions is a collection of gritty narratives that follow his life and world views, his hopes and aspirations. 

It is an addictive combination of hypnotic vocal delivery and trippy accessibility which really moves the ball forward, breaks out of the comfort zones and offers a new take on an old sound. It is the perfect eulogy for the streets, the hustle, the hassle, the grime and the game, it plays to stereotypical images but it drips with dark reality. If ever rap music spoke of the lives and aspirations of the young urban experience, this is where it is said most eloquently in raps own, new first language.

Scene and Heard – CCCXVIII : Shocking Place –  Drive With Me (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Drive_With_Me_CoverHip-hop and rap are very good at self-aggrandisement, of showing off, revelling in personal gain and glorifying material wealth. So it is wonderfully refreshing to come across videos like Shocking Place and artists like Drive With Me who are about raising social awareness and acts of altruism. It also shows that the artist has an awareness of just how powerful  music and film can be, especially when used together to become more than the sum of their parts.

Shocking Place is an eye opener, a real look into the dark underbelly of modern society, a place where the forgotten and the dispossessed try to eek out a difficult existence, in some cases struggling to merely survive. And with a track that blends old-school swagger and modern sonic exploration, trippy electronica, trap-rap skittering beats and an urgency and angst to the vocals that underlines the desperation of the situation, it forms the perfect desolate sound track to the situation.

An ode to the City of Fallen Angels, to Lost Angeles, a reminder that as much as politicians promise change, nothing does, its a call to arms, but arms that will embrace and bring hope to those who have fallen through the cracks of society. Change comes one song, one video, one gesture at a time. What are you going to do to help bring change? 

Scene and Heard – CCCXI: Living My Life  – Droop ft. Layvon and Coto (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Droop_Cover-620x420Revelling in the past is all very well and good but the best music, or at least the most original, seems to be made as people move things forward. It’s all about evolution, it’s about forward-thinking, it is the way the world turns. Living My Life is the sound of the world turning and music moving into pastures new. Droop pulls together various urban strands, skittering trap beats, hip-hop rhythms, cool rap flows and strange and glitchy electro-groove musical motifs and even a few sultry R&B tones and smooth, late night smokey vibes. Hip-Hop purists might argue on where this fits in to the generic jigsaw, but this is 2018, aren’t we beyond all that labelling and pigeon-holing. Isn’t it time to forget all about rules and traditions and just make the music that comes from you naturally, that best represents who you are as an artist, to actually say something about you and your life.

And it is this addictive combination of hypnotic vocal delivery and trippy accessibility which really moves the ball forward, breaks out of the comfort zones and offers a new take on an old sound. It is the perfect eulogy for the streets, the hustle, the hassle, the grime and the game, it plays to stereotypical images but it drips with dark reality. If ever rap music spoke of the lives and aspirations of the young urban experience, this is where it is said most eloquently in raps own, new first language.

Scene and Heard – CCCX: She Wants –  Iam Justified ft. Layvon (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

I_Am_Justified_Cover-660x400Iam Justified is that rarest of things in music today, especially music made in the broadly urban field. Iam Justified is a man who respects women. Too often is the fairer sex treated like just another possession in these musical genres, another material object to be lined up alongside the gold, the money the cars and the bottles of Cristal. Eye candy for the video generation. Thankfully there are still gentlemen left and She Wants is a celebration of a more chivalrous attitude that still prevails even in these tough times.

He also takes an original line with his music, rather than revelling in the usual overplayed production and studio gimmickry, apart from some cool, skittering percussion and gentle beats, the song is really built on the vocals, blending conventional R&B style deliveries, deft harmonies and rapped lyrical flow.

It’s a testament to being the good guy, to playing it cool and waiting for the girl to see through her current partner’s games. When that happens, you get to walk in and save the day like the cinema hero in the film that is her life.

Fast Life – Reemo (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

22154664_122839421749275_515465980460991075_nHip-Hop and therefore rap and all the other sub-genres that it spawned has always had a love of the hedonistic lifestyle. Commerciality may now be more of a driving force for the music being made on those tough streets but it never lost its sense of wanting more, craving success and the glamour of the lifestyle that it brings. Some might see cliche running through the song but this is a genre which has always known what it wanted and this may be just a mission statement rather than playing up to well used stereotypes. Okay, it is actually playing up to a stereotype but players will play…and why not?

But at least Reemo is honest about his aspirations, revelling in the fast life of the title, the money, the prestige, the respect, the power and everything that comes with standing out from the crowd. And he delivers a scatter gun of lyrical salvos, a fast flow and relentless delivery of rap narratives and scene setting storylines. Everything about the video plays into the concept too, not just the imagery, the gangster vibe, the money, the dope-smoke haze, the cars and the gold, but the way that the video is cut, jumping from street to party to studio in a blur of uptown glitz and down town glamour, of the mean streets and the urban sprawl. This is the music of the here and now, no looking back.

He delivers his narratives over skittering trap percussion and solid beats, it runs on a minimalist, future R&B groove, as much as it does a rap vibe and whereas many people making music in this urban arena are happy to rest on the musical laurels of past glories, Fast Life, as its name suggests, is more about moving forward and making your dreams come true.

But more than anything this song, and the video which acts as its visual wing man, is all about energy. It is there in the speed of the delivery, the cut of the visuals, the bravado of the lyrics, the inherent confidence, the desire to rise to the top no matter what it takes to get there. And despite the relentless aggression and the painting of the dark undercurrents of the world he lives in, there is fundamentally something good natured about the man himself, as if we all know that this is just Reemo living up to the image of the music he has made his profession, that this is really a different sort of game being played, that this is more about partying than playing the part of the bad boy.

Either way, Fast Life as a new contribution to the musical canon of urban music really adds something, perhaps writes the opening lines to a new chapter, but that remains to be seen.

Scene and Heard – CCXCVII : Living My Life  – Droop ft. J-Love and Codo (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

UnknownWhat’s in a name? Ambient hip-hop? Trip-rap? Space-Trap? Sure, I’m just making things up now but truly original music requires you to do that and Living My Life comes from a truly original place. Rap, hip-hop, urban music, call it what you will genres are a thing of the past anyway, has come a long way in a short time, embraced studio possibilities and the sonic potential afforded by the advancement of audio technology and reivented itself every few years.

Okay, you can pick at the sonic weaves and find urban threads, trippy electronica, ambient vibes and late night haze but as always it is how these are put together that counts and Droop and his cohorts have found a new angle on blending all of these disparate sounds.

So they may prove to be the masters of deconstruction but the main thing that they use to piece the musical building blocks back together, the musical glue if you like, is space. It is the atmosphere, the gap between the beat, the things which aren’t played and the pause between the lyrics which make it all so effective. Many musicians believe the most effective form of communication is to get up front and in the listeners face… or at least in their ears but Droop’s Living My Life shows that less is most definitely more and that absorbing music by some sort of creative osmosis is equally…no, make that much more, effective.

Scene and Heard  –  CCLXXXVI Final Warning “Bye Bich” – So Unique (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

hqdefaultFinal Warning is the perfect sound creation for the modern music fan, just the right blend of old school familiarity and new ideas and the result is a slick urban groove-laden, R&B infused track, one perfect for the clubland dance floor and pop picker alike. It speaks to the cutting edge rap scene, although it is individual enough to stand enough apart from that as well, but it also echoes with the slow sensuality of blues divas, jazz singers and soul acts of the past.  This isn’t about re-inventing those past times but it is certainly the successor to much of it.

There was a time when R&B sat on one side of a certain musical divide and music deemed cooler or more cultish sat on the other. One of the aspects of our non-tribal, post-genre musical world, is that as the various barriers have been kicked down, as rules and traditions have been abandoned, the more commercial has been allowed to merge with the underground, or more importantly a whole generation of musician has grown up not even knowing that those restrictions even existed. This is the sound of someone not playing by the rules, of a woman in what used to be a man’s world, of crossing boundaries both musically and culturally and of breaking moulds.

The perfectly named So Unique, therefore, represents this balance of old and new, traditional sounds and modern exploration perfectly blended as she merges skittering, electro-R&B beats with more cultish underground vibes, deft rap flow and pop infectiousness. Throw in a soulful vibe and some darker and sensual moves balanced with an edgy and confrontational stance and you have something rather special. The result is music that will both connect with the commercial crowd but also has mass appeal to the more discerning, underground markets, music which is at once inventive and clever but without being anything other than a cool and accessible pop record, one that feels like chart positioning and mainstream radio play is just around the corner.

It hooks, it zings, it pops and it certainly grooves, it is infectious and accessible but it is also cleverly put together, sassy, soulful and groovesome, and it adds an unexpected lyrical astuteness to this often misunderstood genre, so much so that the end result is nothing less than deep and meaningful pop. Yes, pop! In the bigger scheme of things everything is pop and in this post-genre world where artists are happy to mix and match their influences, maybe it is the only generic term we really need, In short it is pop from the streets, pop with an eye on the long game, pop reaching its full potential, pop that you really don’t want to mess with. Maybe it is just another throwaway pop song, but one that you will want to keep forever! Whatever will they think of next?

Eye For An Eye – Leon Vic (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

cover_pic_180404031306.jpegRevelling in the past is all very well and good but the best music, or at least the most original, seems to be made as people move things forward. It’s all about evolution, it’s about forward-thinking, it is the way the world turns. Eye For An Eye is the sound of the world turning and music moving into pastures new. Leon Vic pulls together various urban strands, skittering trap beats, hip-hop rhythms , cool rap flows and strange and glitchy electro-groove musical motifs and even a few sultry R&B tones and smooth, late night smokey vibes.

It’s a track that tips its hat to the past whilst shaping the future and it does really feel like a first, a bold step forward, a post-urban style that pushes beyond the rules and regulations. Ignores the fickle finger of fashion and has no time for musical guardians and narrow-minded pedants telling it what hip-hop, pop, rap, trap, electronic music or any other genre should be about.

And it is this addictive combination of hypnotic vocal delivery and trippy accessibility which really moves the ball forward, breaks out of the comfort zones and offers a new take on an old sound. It is the perfect eulogy for the streets, the hustle, the hassle, the grime and the game, it plays to stereotypical images but it drips with dark reality. If ever rap music spoke of the lives and aspirations of the young urban experience, this is where it is said most eloquently in raps own first language.

As a calling card for his forthcoming EP, Forever on Some High, this is the perfect teaser to make you want to explore his world, his attitude and his music much more closely. Urban music, it would appear,  just took a bold step into the future….

Just Drums & I (Pt. 2) –  Cult Cannon (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

28277203_2090819941163141_6200985290961137871_n-1 2.jpgThis takes me back. Remember when you had bands like Credit To The Nation forging their music by crossing into, what was back in their nineties formative years, enemy territory and liberally sampling its classic sound to build a new style of hip-hop. Remember when you had bands like Disposable heroes of Hiphopricy blurring the line between rap and spoken word, exploring the big, wide world yet still talking about the street and the lives of those on it. Well, in many ways Cult Cannon is the descendent of those genre-hopping, musical exploratory, gene splicing bands.

He takes the instantly recognisable beat of Queen’s We Will Rock You, ironically probably  the most middle class, conservative and safe band to have existed, the most finite epitome of “white boys with guitars” there has ever been, and subverts it into an edgier, street level rap-rant. Where as before it was a stadium anthem of near meaningless proportions, it now becomes the basis of something much more poignant. It takes swipes at Hollywood and those celebrities who have fallen from grace, name checks porn stars and blends ideas and attitudes which confuse and collide but always keep you thinking.

But whilst it plunders the past to create its core sound, it also reminds us of one path that hip-hop took before it largely settle down to a life of cash, celebrity and formulaic complacency. Just Drums & I is also a call to arms for the future. Time to break the mould, return to the fundamentals, the beat and the lyrical flow, of having something to say and of having that message relatable and though provoking. And that is exactly what is going on here.

The clever thing about what Cult Cannon does with this song is that he wilfully and with grooviness aforethought crosses boundaries. He combines the familiarity of a rock classic with the flow of his cutting edge rhymes, he brings the past and uses it to drive music into the future, he takes stadium bombast and uses it to drive an underground vibe, he takes a swipe at global events from the street corner. The best music occurs when worlds collide, not when it is forced and over thought, planned to meet market requirements or ticks enough commercial boxes but when it comes together naturally. Just Drums & I is as natural as a walk in the park. At night. In the wrong part of town.

Download Cult Cannon at….

www.reverbnation.com/cultcannon

Social media:

www.instagram.com/cultcannon

www.twitter.com/cultcannon

www.facebook.com/cultcannon

Anywhere –  Luke Banter (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

26815272_1842483619127090_5839656478100180206_nThere have been other party prophets through out the years, from Bill Haley’s now seemingly tame all night call to arms, to The Beastie Boys crusade for equal rights for liggers and crashers to Andrew W.K.s fist in the air anthems. And it is in this lyrical vein, and particularly the latter artist, that Luke Banter sets out his stall. He skips his rhymes over an old school, mid-paced hip-hop groove, rather than the aforementioned seat rockisms, one embellished with the trippy electronica and trap percussion of the current climate, but to be honest the song is all about the speed and delivery of the vocal rap, the scatter gun  salvos and the unrelenting bombardment of the lyrical flow. We get it, you like to have a good time!

But there is nothing wrong with celebrating life’s good times, the down time between the reality and drudgery of life and why not just strip things down to what’s important and sometimes what is important is beer, friends, old and new, and music, all night sessions, apple bobbing in a bucket of vodka and just going with the flow. And this is a celebration all right, making its point simply and directly. It is loud, goofy, hedonistic, it does a great job of weaving its sing-song lyrics around the beat.

Then the question comes to mind, is this a parody of the whole mindless party scene? Fight For Your Right was, you know that right? Andrew W.K. isn’t, he’s just big and dumb and loud. I guess it sort of fits in both camps really. If you want it to be a straight down the line party anthem then it can be, if you want it to be poking fun then it can do that too. Does it really matter, just crack open a beer and have a laugh with it.

Actually that’s the long version of what I got from this song. The shorter and more troubled sequence of events is that I put this song on yesterday morning for a quick listen and woke up that evening on a bench outside Union Station with cut lip and two broken fingers, clutching a briefcase full of Taco Bell coupons and a tattoo on my arm that said Diego! Maybe partying is not for me anymore…but there is nothing to stop you indulging, go on…I’m sure you’ll have a great time.

Scene and Heard – CCLXXVI : French Kiss –  Emmanuel Dalmas and Petravita (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

28827921_849263465246805_3662969083333590037_oBecause of the generic line of descent of rap music, a style given birth by hip-hop which itself was born out of poverty and oppression in the South Bronx of the 70’s, it comes with a  certain amount of baggage. This baggage has since turned into certain stances and cliches, self-aggrandisement, a gangster pose, the pursuit of materialism, of music being a salvation and a way out of the ghetto. But that was then and this is now and things have changed in the last 40 years or so. Rap music is where you find it and maybe it is time to shake off those tried and tested images.

It’s a position that Emmanuel Dalmas and Petravita take on this dark and sultry piece and one look at the video for French Kiss immediately places the song at the opposite end of the spectrum from the usual blinged out, angry, ghetto bound slice of bravado. Here the backdrop is the glitz and style of uptown, where the real money rather than the drug money lives, the environment that the anti-heroes of the ‘hood could only dream of finding themselves part of. And it is a feeling that runs through the music too. The flow and sentiment of the lyrical rap it is built on stays true to the genre but here it is blended with a dark and sultry undercurrent, a minimalism and restraint where classical strings provide the drive as much as the beats and synth washes that they share space with.

This is rap music turning a corner, rap music finding a new identity, one that sits in a less confrontational place. Urban music has always been good at documenting life, but so far it seems to have been far too preoccupied with being the underdog,playing the victim. But the world has moved on and rap and hip-hop, if they want to evolve and stay relevant have to find new stories to tell, new settings to working in, new places to live. I’m not saying that French Kiss is the ultimate new direction, that it should replace the traditional constructs of the genre, but I am saying that it represents a new, parallel path, not subverting anything but certainly adding to the canon.

It is rap music with a classical edge, hip-hop with real uptown style rather than merely street smarts, urban music becoming urbane music. Those street hustlers who defined the genre always dreamt of the high-life, French Kiss is the sound of what their dreams becoming a reality.

Scene and Heard – CCLXXII :  Dimension –  GoldenB (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

18882195_1353382098049199_4827997465603745124_nAmbient hip-hop? Cosmic rap? Space-groove? Sure, I’m just making things up now but truly original music requires you to do that and Dimension comes from a truly original place. Okay, you can pick at the sonic weaves and find urban threads, trippy electronica, ambient vibes and late night haze but as always it is how these are put together that counts and GoldenB has found a new angle on blending all of these disparate sounds.

 
So GoldenB may prove to be the master of deconstruction but the main thing that he uses to piece his musical building blocks back together, the musical glue if you like is space. It is the atmosphere, the gap between the beat, the things which aren’t played and the pause between the lyrics which make it all so effective. Many musicians believe the most effective form of communication is to get up front and in the listeners face… or at least in their ears but GoldenB’s Dimension shows that less is most definitely more and that absorbing music by some sort of creative osmosis is equally…no, make that much more, effective.

 

Important – CDP Da Don (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

14445054_1000311246761755_8949294714987375581_o.jpgImportant sits at a fascinating crossroads being a track that tips its hat to the past whilst shaping the future and it does really feel like a first, a bold step forward. It goes beyond its run of the mill, mass produced rivals instead revelling in a  post-urban style that pushes beyond the rules and regulations It effortlessly ignores the fickle finger of fashion and has no time for musical guardians and narrow-minded pedants telling it what hip-hop, pop, rap, trap, electronic music or any other genre should be about.

And it is this addictive combination of hypnotic and sweet, sing-song vocal delivery and trippy accessibility which really moves the ball forward, breaks out of the comfort zones and offers a new take on an old sound. It is the perfect eulogy for the streets, the hustle, the hassle, the grime and the game, it plays to stereotypical images but it drips with dark reality. If ever rap music spoke of the lives and aspirations of the young urban experience, this is where it is said most eloquently in raps own first language.

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