Monthly Archives: April 2008

Music

The Kleptones – Night at the Hip Hopera

As yet another notch in the mashup belt, 4080Records presents the Kleptones, a Night at the Hip Hopera.

This curious mixtape is a dash of Queen with all kinds of hip hop. Literally, it’s kind of one mega hip hop ballad thing. Although this record was technically banned by the record companies, it still remains for download from the Kleptones’ website.

You can check out one of the tracks off the album, titled “Jazz”, here.

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Music

The Roots Unhappy At Def Jam?

According to recent reports, The Roots are “off to a rough start” at Def Jam, the label they signed with after leaving Geffen. Apparently, the band’s decision to record “Birthday Girl” – a godawful collaboration with Fall Out Boy’s “Patrick Stump” that was dropped from their upcoming album after a poor reception from fans – was motivated by a desire to please Def Jam executives itching for a radio single.

Indeed, despite a critically-acclaimed career that has spanned more than a decade, The Roots have never quite broken through to pop superstardom. In fact, none of their albums have gone platinum, although 1999’s Things Fall Apart came close with 906,000 units sold to date. According to Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson, the group’s drummer, their inability to achieve lasting mainstream success is becoming more of an issue as time wears on: “at a time, it was safe to be The Roots … now as each album goes by, the risk of annihilation becomes closer and closer. That’s why this album [Rising Down] is almost our defining moment.”

Although more than likely an attempt to stir up interest in the new album (“buy Rising Down or we’ll breakup!”), ?uestlove’s comments nevertheless reveal that even the most well respected, artistically principled groups suffer from anxiety about their success.

For more, check out Exclaim! Magazine’s with ?uestlove here.

Videos

The Pharcyde – “Drop”

Featured Politics

Olympic Torch protests go worldwide

It’s a pretty well known tradition that before the Olympics start, the torch goes on a worldwide tour, passing through a bunch of different countries before making its way to the host city for the official lighting of the main olympic flame.

Often, the torch is greeted with respect and admiration. People line up to see it as torch bearers carry it through the streets. However, this relay is anything but peaceful and simple. We’ve seen protests in London, Paris, San Francisco. In Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, all over the world. In fact, North Korea has been one of the few countries that has been protest free when the torch came to town.

It’s kind of crazy, because the torch had to repeatedly be extinguished at a bunch of these protests. They made unscheduled route changes, hid on buses, carried it by boat, anything to avoid the thousands of protests out to meet it.

And why protest the torch, you ask? Simple. They’re protesting China’s questionable human rights record. Especially in light of the violent supression of Tibetan activism in recent months. Thousands of Chinese troops have flooded Lhasa to put down what they see as a revolution, but what many others see as a peaceful protest.

People have been killed.

China’s also done very little to help with the situation in Darfur, refusing to put any kind of pressure on the Sudanese government. The list goes on and on. Mistreatment of Falun Gong, suppression of religious activism, questionable actions with regards to Taiwan.

What’s remarkable is that this does seem to be having an effect. World leaders have now begun to mysteriously be unable to attend the opening ceremonies. This, while stopping short of an outright boycott, does send a message to China. It’s been very important for China to feel like they’re making a good reputation, and they’ve done a lot to try to make Beijing cleaner, reduce crime and all of that. All to make a good impression. To have that ruined by these protests has got to sting. It just remains to be seen if this will affect China’s policies at all.

Music MySpace Monday

MySpace Monday: Chin Chin!

Analog Giant pointed me towards a group called Chin Chin!, the newest group from Definitive Jux. This label has brought you some of the best hip hop in the last few years, artists like Aesop Rock, Murs, RJD2, Mr. Lif and many, many more. Apparently even Del the Funky Homosapien has joined their ranks.

And yet Chin Chin is very, very far from hip hop. They describe their music as a combination of funk and disco house.

It’s a tough concept to grasp, but one that seems to be working for them. Plus, their website has to be one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen. You definitely need to check it out.

I’m actually a big fan of these guys these days. It’s an upbeat, fresh little approach. Maybe not all that serious in terms of deep meaning or anything, but stupid amounts of fun to party to. Check out Appetite, a song from their debut album.

Music

New Music For You To Ride With

Atmosphere, your girl’s favourite hip-hop group, released their latest ablum, When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold, last week.

I’ve had mixed feelings about Atmosphere since I first heard tracks like “Modern Man’s Hustle” and “A Heave And A Ho” (does anyone know where to find this?). On one hand, Ant is a talented beatmaker and Slug is a dope lyricist. On the other hand, however, the common criticism levelled at the Minnesota duo – that they spend too much making introspective “emo rap” – is often true, especially on Lemons. The album is good, overall, but descends for long streches into dreary stories about tragic characters (“she got a condition of the heart, a heart condition” Slug raps on “Dreamer”) and lost love backed by competent but uninspiring beats. It’s like Atmosphere recorded the album on autopilot: recycling the same formula they’ve used for the past decade or so. But check out some of Lemons’ better tracks and decide for yourself:

Atmosphere – Waitress (When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold, 2008)

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Atmosphere – Puppets (When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold, 2008)

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If you’re feelin’ these tracks, download the album here then buy it here (or at your local independent record store) and support dope hip-hop!

Also new is Buckshot & 9th Wonder’s second album The Formula. Although I haven’t listened to it in its entirety, most reviews agree it’s better than their first collaboration, Chemistry, which suffered from lacklustre production and weak rhymes. Fortunately, the two cats appear to have regrouped and produced something worth the combined anticipation their two names generate. Check out “Go All Out,” courtesty of All Up In Your Earhole.

Buckshot & 9th Wonder – Go All Out ft. Carlitta Durand (The Formula, 2008)

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Download the album here then buy it here.

I also managed to finally get my hands on J Dilla’s Jay Love Japan. Upon first hearing about this album’s existence I foolishly assumed it would feature Dilla chopping up rare Japanese funk and soul samples (how dope would that be?). Apparently, the album’s title is actually a satirical take on underground rappers who claim they’re huge in Japan or Europe.

Fortunately, my initial disappointment quickly receded after I started listening to Japan, which is chock-full of pure Dilla goodness. If you’re jonesing for those crunchy, distinct Jay Dee drums and brilliantly chopped soul samples layered over sub-woofer destroying bass lines you absolutely need to own this album. In fact, it may even be better than the Ruff Draft EP. Either way, it reminds you how absolutely tragic the Detroit producer’s passing was.

R.I.P. Dilla

J Dilla – Red Light ft. J*Davey (Jay Love Japan, 2006?)

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J Dilla – Lucy ft. Bo Bo Lamb (Jay Love Japan, 2006?)

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J Dilla – Say It! ft. Ta’Raach & DJ Exile (Jay Love Japan, 2006?)

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Buy Jay Love Japan here.

Awareness Underreported News

The Vatican creates some new sins

Continuing our little look at religious news, Reuters has announced that the Vatican has decided to create some new sins, to modernize things a little.

The Toronto Star reports that although there is no offical list…

No official list of new sins has been issued by the Vatican, though the Bloomberg wire service reduced Girotti’s interview to a catalogue of “Seven Social Sins”: birth control, stem cell research, drug abuse, polluting, helping widen the gap between rich and poor, excessive wealth and creating poverty.

Source

It’s kind of an interesting way for his popeness to ‘modernize’ the religion in some ways. And while I applaud some of the goals (i.e. bringing attention to poverty and pollution), I worry about the continuing focus on birth control and this new opposition to stem cell research.

While I understand the desires to protect ‘life’, I think that ignoring the very real risk of HIV/AIDS for the sake of fostering this anti-condom agenda is dangerous and detrimental. I also think that stem cell research holds some very real potential to curing some of the most serious and traumatic diseases out there. It’s a moral quandary for sure, and one I think that should be carefully examined.

Album Reviews Music

Binary Star – Masters of the Universe (2000)

Binary Star was formed in 1998 when rappers One Be Lo and Senim Silla met while serving time in a Michigan prison. After their release the duo recorded, mixed and mastered an album called Waterworld on a paltry $500 budget (apparently all of the album’s verses were recorded in a single take).

Although only 1,000 copies were made available, the album gained a significant underground following and in 2000 Binary Star released a remixed, rearranged version of Waterworld called Masters of the Universe. It went on to sell 20,000 copies and is widely regarded as one of the finest indy hip-hop albums released in the last decade or so.

Indeed, on Masters Binary Star come correct with dope beats and ill rhymes. Produced largely by One Be Lo and a beat maker from Michigan called Decompoze, the album’s beats are mostly up-tempo, boom-bap joints built around funky soul samples (“Slang Blade,” “Binary Shuffle” and “Honest Expression”) and jazzy piano loops (“Indy 500” and “New Hip Hop”). Several of the tracks also begin with samples lifted from martial arts movies – an obvious nod to the Wu-Tang Clan that works suprisingly well given how often it has been copied by other cats.

Lyrically, One Be Lo and Senim Silla are virtually without peer. Profoundly poetic, the duo’s rhymes are characterized by intricate wordplay, subtlety, humour and a deep understanding of poetic device. Moreover, both rappers posses incredible flows and deliver their rhymes with a cadence that is near perfect. To better understand what I mean, check out some of my favourite tracks below:

Binary Star – Honest Expression (Masters of the Universe, 2000)

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Binary Star – Slang Blade (Masters of the Universe, 2000)

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Binary Star – New Hip Hop (Masters of the Universe, 2000)

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Download the album here, then buy it here (or at your local independent record store) and support dope hip-hop!

Music

Gnarls Barkley gives away their album, kind of

Gnarls Barkley, the group that keeps on giving, has decided to do the unthinkable.  They’re giving away a free copy of their new album, The Odd Couple.

You can download the album here.

Now, the only catch to this is that they have given away the album as one big track, and…it’s backwards.  Completely backwards.  I’m not sure if it would work but you could always consider flipping it back around using an audio program like Audacity.

You probably have Dangermouse to thank for this, since downloaders and the internet are really what gave him his big break with The Grey Album.

Geek Music

Chilirec – Internet radio that lets you download?

Lifehacker, an unbelievably popular blog ran a story the other day that may forever alter the way people use the internet to find media files.

You start by signing up (obviously) and then pick your radio stations. There’s a pretty long list, as you can see below.

After you accept their ‘terms’ (they make you promise not to use the service for file sharing, only personal use) you get taken to the recorder. It’s a pretty simple procedure, because it starts recording all of the radio stations you picked.

After that, it’s a simple matter of looking through all the recordings and downloading the ones you want. It may seem like a time consuming task, but this may be a decent way to get exposure to some new artists and to get around some of that pesky piracy stuff. And, as Lifehacker pointed out, since it’s entirely web-based it’s a good way to get around situations where you can’t/don’t want to install software. Check it out here.