Categories
Aesop Rock El-P Reviews

El-P – I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead review

by Josh Potter

In the calm before the storm, a simple voice asks a simple question: “Do you think that if you were falling in space that you would slow down after a while or go faster and faster?” It’s Donna Hayward from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me — an ominous sample to begin an ominous opening track. But like a PCP-induced fever dream, omens turn to nightmares, and like something plucked from the pages of George Orwell or Phillip K. Dick, the nightmare proves itself to be far more scary and far more real than a mere night-time fantasy. “This is the sound of what you don’t know killing you.” The hook spouts it and the album embodies it. I’d tell you to run for cover, but this whole thing’s been brewing for too long to turn back now. We’ve seen it all coming and have no choice but to ride it out. Believe me, it’ll be worth it. “Cop a feel or two.”

Four years in the making, I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead has been rightfully described as El-P’s “post-traumatic stress album.” It’s a harrowing, visceral concept album, as much a response to the Draconian, post-9/11 world, as to personal tribulations. Its goal of capturing the political by representing the personal results in a fully-realized 13-track dystopia of searing guitars, dissonant electronics, and heavy industrial beat-scapes. It’s the much anticipated follow-up to 2002’s Fantastic Damage, and has been heralded by some as the most important rap album of 2007, as early as Fall 2006.

Employing his Gay Dog method of collaboration (pulled from the South Park episode in which George Clooney appears as a gay dog), El-P has assembled a veritable who’s-who of the contemporary music world to lend the disc additional gravity. Trent Reznor, Omar and Cedric of the Mars Volta, Chan Marshall, and Tunde of TV on the Radio are just a few of his guests. I’ll Sleep… . finds El-P behind the microphone as well as the MPC, trading cryptic verses with Def Jux legionnaires Aesop Rock, Cage, and Mr. Lif.

In fact, his top-notch production value aside, it’s El-P’s lyricism that carries the day and holds the sprawling beast of an album together. Slipping in and out of characters, reprising earlier themes and using the power of suggestion as much as the gift of gab, the narrative tug of the album drags the helpless listener through the muck and mire of the tracks, teasing him with a glimmer of hope in the end.

From when the newpie dip sparks in the first verse of “Tasmanian Pain Coaster,” “the whole design got (his) mind cryin'” and it won’t let up. In “Up All Night” Lif tells El “we’re all deranged/ I’m no different/ I wish my hope still existed.” Yet in “Drive” El “hopped in the hooptie screamin’ freedom is mine.” It’s not optimism, though, so much as desperate resilience. “Dear Sirs” finds El allerting the powers that be that he will not in even the most unlikely situations fight their war, ever. Even after having to execute his lover in “Habeas Corpses” the issue is determined to be a matter of “faith versus physics,” and the plea goes out in “Flyentology” to “keep me in the sky that’s all that I cry/ I’ll become your servant if it’s worth your time.” When the newpie’s burned to the filter in “Poisenville Kids No Wins,” nothing’s been resolved, but it seems that the issue at hand has at least come into better focus. “How the fuck do you explain your own self-destruction,” El muses, “and still remain trusted?”

Self-destruction aside, El-P has little to fear in the trust department. I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead is the album that the hype-machine always expected he’d make — unsettling, urgent and necessary. It’s an album to be feared for the same reason it ought to be sought out. It’s one big helping of tough-love and even a spoon full of sugar isn’t going to help it go down. Don’t expect that the free-fall is going to slow down anytime soon, because as Laura Palmer speculates, through a haze of reverb, in response to Donna’s question, “for a long time you wouldn’t feel anything, then you’d burst into fire. And the angels wouldn’t help you because they’d all gone away.”

Original Article

Swaggerific: Modest Fashion observations from Bob Swaget

by Philip dos Santos

“You mad cuz I’m stylin on you…” – Nyckz

Unquestionably, one of the most memorable quotes from a street battle ever, it’s a line that was shortly followed up by a sucker punch to Nyckz’ left cheek from rap opponent “EnJ”. Although the line was clearly hilarious and could be deemed as somewhat insulting, was that the real reason EnJ decided to suckerpunch Nyckz during their battle? Gun references throughout the lyrical bout are cited as the main reason, but they (gun references) are so common in battles nowadays that it is almost expected.

My opinion: EnJ was mad that Nyckz was stylin’ on him.

That is a prime example of how the game has changed so much, Fashion has become the 5th element of hip-hop. Although, I received an email last year stating that there are now over a dozen elements, I am still unfamiliar with the sender and I will have to verify the “New” 8 elements another day.

Why fashion though? In 2007, MCs are hard to come by, but rappers? You can find one on every block, in every crew, from every background and situation. I am not going to turn KRS(-ONE) on y’all, but one difference in the modern day rapper is that lyrical content is dull and a lot of them need to rely on swag (Fashion) for an upper hand. As an 80’s baby, I always relied on my abilities and hustle to get me where Im going, but with the state of music & culture the way it is, I’ve been forced to change things up a little.

Original Article [extended]

Breaking The Cycle’s 2nd Round

by Karlita

Breaking the Cycle, a hip-hop anti-violence movement, ran with tremendous success in its first year at York University in Toronto, Ontario. It came with little surprise its 2nd annual ran this year on March 9th 2007 as a sold out event.

I was able to touch base with the York President of LovE, Mike Prosserman, before the night of the event and spoke to him in regards of how the event would differ from its first run on organizing the 2nd annual. The event has become pertinent in not only presenting what the culture of hip-hop embodies but also in providing the community with an outlet through this organization to overcome violence. One would imagine there would be a great weight of pressure not only to continue its audience relations but to enamor its new supporters as well. Mike Prosserman seemed to have neither such worries to meditate on nor the time for it.

“First off I know this year will be the best yet because of all the amazing new acts we have planned. We’re keeping to the classics such as Subliminal as the host and the ridiculous Footbag crew from across Ontario. However, this year we are adding some special surprises some of which I am going to keep a secret but others including a tap dancing crew from Montreal, and the “Ill Abilities” crew featuring two disabled break dancers Lazylegs from Montreal and Tommyguns from California. This crew will be entering the competition in hopes to take home the grand prize. We also have much larger contributions and more support from our sponsors this year. Rogers Wireless and Nike Timing have taken their contributions to the next level allowing this event to truly get the exposure it deserves. We also have tons of other great sponsors involved. Goodboy Clothing will be launching their brand new spring product line, which reflects the culture of hip-hop really well and has substance as far as the message goes. We also hope for similar or more media coverage as compared to last year from City TV, Rogers, and of course MVRemix.

I can’t even describe how much the Leave Out Violence group at York has put into this event but you’ll just have to wait and see. Amazingly we have sold out over a week before the actual show! Just another example of why this year is going to be hotter then any other.”

Original Article [extended]


Categories
Interviews

Locked Up With Sadat X Interview

by Todd E. Jones

Sadat X is a caged legend. As a member of Brand Nubian, he has performed timeless verses on the classic songs such as “Slow Down”, “Punks Jump Up To Get Beat Down”, “One For All”, and “Love Me Or Leave Me Alone”. As a solo artist, he has achieved an undeniable credibility. His solo track “The Lump Lump” is a magnificent remarkable track that incorporated a vocal sample from Groove Theory’s “Tell Me”. The song, “Hang Em High” used a sample from the theme song to “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly”. His classic debut LP, “Wild Cowboys” is an under appreciated magnum opus. Released on Loud Records, “Wild Cowboys” featured production by Pete Rock, Roc Raider, DJ Ogee, Da Beatminerz, Diamond, and others. Released on Stimulated Records, “The State Of New York Vs. Derek Murphy” EP was also terribly slept on. The EP featured production from A Kid Called Roots, Diamond, Minnesota, and more. Standout tracks included “X-Man”, “Cock It Back”, and “You Can’t Deny”. After signing to Female Fun Records, Sadat X released the “Experience & Education” LP. Guests included Heltah Skeltah, Agallah, Edo.G, and Money Boss Players. Production was handled by Agallah, Geology, DJ Spinna, Vin The Chin, Diamond D, Madsol-Desar, Sha Boogie, Minnesota, and A Kid Called Roots. Throughout the years, the emcee has worked with a myriad of legendary artists including The Notorious B.I.G., Edo.G, Common, Large Professor, Big L, Guru (of Gangstarr), Vast Aire, O.G.C., A Tribe Called Quest, KRS-One, Kool Keith, Xzibit, The Beat Kids, Talib Kweli, Big Daddy Kane, Greg Nice, and many more. His nasal sounding voice is a significant attribute that makes him sound unlike any other emcee. His unorthodox flow and loose structure of his verses accentuate his uniqueness. His verses are loose, but somehow always tight. He has made his offbeat delivery sound perfectly on beat. His multiple contributions to the hip-hop culture are soulfully based in truth.

The wild cowboy is now behind bars. Professionally, Sadat X was living a positive life while free. He has coached basketball, taught in schools, and even released a new Brand Nubian album with the original members (Grand Puba and Lord Jamar). Ironically, Lord Jamar portrayed Supreme Allah is the HBO prison series “Oz”. Spiritually rich, Sadat X was enlightened when he became a member of the Muslim organization known as The Nation Of Gods & Earths. Unfortunately, a money dispute caused intense conflicts in New York. Someone snitched on the wild cowboy! Sadat X was arrested for gun possession. At the time, he was facing almost a year in jail.

“…Stages and cameras and lights don’t affect me. Same on the wax as the same on the street…” (from “Stages & Lights” from the “Wild Cowboys” LP). The music of Sadat X is admirably honest and vividly real. Before he had to start his jail sentence, Sadat X completed an entire album. “Black October” by Sadat X was released around the same time he went inside. The opening title track (produced by DJ Spinna) is a poignantly heartbreaking look at his preparation for his incarceration. In the brutally honest “Momentary Outro”, Sadat X tells the story behind how he got arrested. Like the song “The Daily News” (from “Experience & Education”), “The Post” (produced by Diamond D) features Sadat X free styling by using the headlines from the newspaper. Produced by Ayatollah, “Throw The Ball” is a vivid picture of a family barbeque. Produced by The Asmatic, “Eternally Yours” is a heartfelt atmospheric track. J-Zone produces the excellent “X Is A Machine”. Fellow Brand Nubian members, Grand Puba and Lord Jamar joint Sadat X on “Chosen Few”. Produced by Scotty Blanco, “Million Dollar Deal” features X pondering what he would do if he had the opportunity to sign a record deal for $1 million. Da Beatminerz produce the sonically rich “On The Come Thru”. Hidden tracks include a fantastic remix of “God Is Back” and another song about a woman trying to turn Sadat’s girlfriend into a lesbian. The album offers a harsh view of the struggles of Dotty X. Like life, the emotional spectrum is offered. Sadat X displays his love for his family and girlfriend. His anger and frustration is evident when rhyming about his legal problems. Some songs showcase his sharp skills as an emcee. The “Black October” LP is the most realistic and honest hip-hop album in a very long time.

NOTE: This is a lost interview in 2 parts. Conducted in November 2006 while Sadat X was locked up in Rikers Island, this first section was not completed until March 2007. As of this time of writing, the second part has yet to be completed. Hopefully, Sadat X and I can have an in-depth conversation when he is free.

Sadat X may be incarcerated, but his music cannot be chained. The great Dotty X is the wild cowboy who has already left an immortal mark on the hip-hop culture. His indelible contribution to hip-hop demands absolute respect and acknowledgement. From his signature vocal tone to his and funky delivery, Sadat X is truly one of a kind. New York may have locked up the man, but they did not lock up his spirit. Sadat X, keep your head up!

Original Article [extended]

Underoath: Just playing games, not seeking fame

by Dwain Lucktung

There is a mass of shit on the floor, from clothes to teddy bears, given to the band by fans. Through the large windows of the $600,000 tour bus, all that can be seen is a line of fans, extending around the corners of Vancouver’s PNE Forum.

“What the hell was that breakaway,” shouts an Underoath band member. “That was ridiculous!” The group is playing some NHL game on a PS2. Show time is in an hour.

The boys are chilling out, “preparing” for an explosive 45-minute set of intense and mind-blowing songs taken from their latest album, Define the Great Line (released on June 10, 2006). Lead vocalist Spencer Chamberlain sits calm and collected, speaking in an almost monotone voice, but the 24-year-old expresses undeniable passion for what he does.

“I love writing music, I love writing lyrics…I love performing. Playing shows every night is the most fun ever. And there’s this camaraderie of friends hanging out all the time. It’s pretty amazing.”

When Chamberlain is asked about his definition of “success” and highlights in his career thus far, he claims Underoath simply plays for the crowd cheers, as they segregate themselves from other bands who yearn for chart positions, album sales and hits on their MySpace webpages. Modest and honest, he seems to encapsulate the original and pure reasons for starting a band: Love for the band, respect for the fans.

Sounds simple. But according to Chamberlain, many bands seem to forget the point of creating music even before strumming the first chord. “The way music is now kind of sucks to me,” he says without a stutter or the bat of an eyelid. “There’s a million bands on the radio that sound exactly the same because they’re writing music to get attention for a record label, and there’s too many people who are in bands just to be in bands.” It is a mutual understanding that just doesn’t work.

He describes great artists as those with the passion and drive to create something as original as possible, but we both smirk at the reality that that is almost impossible these days.

Underoath is nevertheless trying, with their unique hardcore flavour and in-your-face sound that is so rarely associated with a Christian band. However, Chamberlain reiterates what he said on the band’s website, saying hopes that the group won’t be tagged as just a limited Christian band. Underoath wants its fans to appreciate that they go way beyond that.

“We just do what we do,” he says so nonchalantly. It must be like the million dollar bore-of-a-question to repeatedly ask Underoath’s line-up: “Do you think that being a Christian band helps or hinders your fan base?” but Chamberlain makes it clear it’s barely an issue: “We just stand up for what we believe in and people respect that…but when we hear that cheer, I think its not because the crowd are necessarily believers, but simply because they’re enjoying the show.”

So many say it and hardly any mean it, but Chamberlain sits back and reassures me that Underoath does not consist of fame-hungry spotlight-huggers; they’re merely savoring the moment. From sold-out shows in Australia to insane tours in the States, the heavy rockers are enforcing their intoxicating nature with a medley of intense foot-stomping, fist-pumping tunes of uproar to anyone willing to listen — and a flick of the finger to anyone not interested.

I leave the boys to finish their game with lasting thoughts of Chamberlain’s advice: “Write music you care and love about, collaborate with people who are on the same page with you, and it will happen for you.” I step off the bus to see a couple thousand sulking fans in the distance that soon realize I am not one of the band’s members.

The majority of the flock have come to see the weekend’s main act Taking Back Sunday, but Underoath couldn’t care less about being the supporting band. “We’ve surpassed our dreams,” says Chamberlain. “I mean, coming into a room where even 1,000 kids are singing your songs, that’s the dream. That’s it.”

“And that’s a neutral feeling across the band,” he adds. “I don’t think anyone did expect, and should expect, anymore than this.”

Original Article

Categories
Videos

Maestro’s Birthday Bash @ Ginger 62

by Aaron “A*maze” Joseph

The music was pumpin’ and the crowd was live. There were balloons, beautiful women, a woman swinging from the ceiling, shiatsu massages and performances by Vancouver’s own RED 1 and from DJ’s Supafly, Kemo & J Swing. There were also a few Canadian celebrities in attendance such as Nelly Furtado, Chin Injeti (from bass is base) and a few local Vancouver actors. All of this was for one man: Maestro Fresh-Wes, who celebrated his 39th birthday in Vancouver at Ginger 62.

The second annual Media Benefit/Birthday bash was a huge success, and left everyone in attendance feeling good. Those who attended left the venue feeling even better knowing that the money donated was going to Motionball and the Special Olympics, organizations Maestro chose to donate to this year.

Everyone knows how hard it is to catch someone on their birthday, especially if they are throwing a birthday bash and performing at it as well. Regardless, Maestro was kind enough to sit down and catch up with MVRemix since we last saw him.

MVRemix: Last year you told MVRemix about your adventures in “Hollywood North” and about your blossoming acting career, how are the adventures going so far?

Maestro: Not too bad, I got a supporting role in a Danny Glover movie, plus two songs on the soundtrack as well. It’s called, “Poor Boy’s Game” and is directed by Clement Virgo. We shot the film in Halifax over the summer time, I got to film down there for about eight weeks and had the chance to go down to the community and see my people. It was a beautiful thing. Also Instant Star on CTV just got picked up for fourth season.

MVRemix: Aside from film & television, how is the music side of your life going, Anything planned for the near future?

Maestro: I’m about to go shoot a video with my man Classified, it’s called “Hard to be Hip-Hop” and we shooting the video the 27th of this month.

MVRemix: Tonight you get to celebrate your birthday with Vancity’s own Supafly, Kemo, J Swing and Red 1, what does that mean to you?

Maestro: It means a lot we celebrating life and friendship. I’m a big Rascalz fan. I’m proud of my man RED1 for coming out and doing the solo thing. God bless the child.

MVRemix: Last year this Media Benefit/Birthday Bash’s proceeds went tot the African Aids Angels organization, can you tell me about the organization your representing this year?

Maestro: This year we representing Motionball and the Special Olympics.

MVRemix: Last year you told MVRemix that a night like tonight’s “solidifies a career” what does it mean a second time around?

Maestro: The same thing. We still alive and we’re still doing it. It’s about people coming together and it symbolizes community, because a lot of the people we seeing tonight, we also saw last year.

MVRemix: Any shoutouts or anyone you’d like to thank?

Maestro: Everybody! God bless the child. Man, woman, and child.

Original article

Categories
Amy Winehouse Reviews

Amy Winehouse – Back To Black review

by Dwain Lucktung

Amy WinehouseSpark up a joint, have a drink to this album, and you’ll feel as cool as a T-Bird picking up a Pink Lady at some ’60s greasy burger joint. Punch that jukebox and roll to the sultry voice of Amy Winehouse.

2007’s Best Female at the Brit Awards has returned with her second album, Back to Black. Produced by Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi, the album is a fine, mature and honest follow-up to her 2003 platinum debut, Frank.

Here are 11 tracks of unforgiving, jazzy soul, with a refreshing hint of R&B and gospel-like tunes that illustrate the fact that Winehouse is our modern-day Supreme.

“Rehab” and “You Know I’m no Good” made the UK Top 20 chart in 2006 with easy bass beats and irritatingly catchy harmonies and lyrics. Both are as witty and complex as Winehouse herself. With “Rehab,” the alleged crazy alcoholic sings of her refusal to attend an alcoholic rehabilitation centre, while “You Know I’m no Good” (which features rapper Ghostface Killah) depicts Winehouse’s views on the trials and tribulations of love. (The track will be the lead single as Back to Black is scheduled for release stateside this month.)

Love is a major theme on the album, and the shameless honesty with which Winehouse speaks of it is recognizable as Back to Black’s defining characteristic.

Other tracks such as “Love Is A Losing Game” and “Tears Dry On Their Own” evoke relationship trauma, as the London-born girl expresses in the latter song with her lethargic vocal power: “I should just be my own best friend/Not fuck myself in the head with stupid men.”

The heartbreak continues with the slow and sensitive “Wake Up Alone.” Nonetheless, with its mellow, soothing sound and Southern soul-like back-up singers, this track sets your mind at a pace reminiscent of couples swaying at the last dance of an old-school prom.

But it’s not all a sappy romantic mush of heart-on-sleeve songs. Winehouse is better than that, with her harsh references to sex and frank approach to addiction problems that leave no rest for the imagination. This Camden lass is no-holds-barred with the opening lines of the title track: “He left no time to regret/Kept his dick wet/With his same old safe bet,” all to a funky piano setting the rhythm and Winehouse’s ever languid voice lifting one into a natural high.

Be aware this album is for those willing to embrace a cool and sexy reformation of Mo-town grooves and pure soul. If that already goes over your head, you might prefer using this record as a frisbee this summer.

Winehouse offers nothing more on Back to Black than her jazz roots and soul inspiration culminated with unapologetic emotion, epitomized by the finger-clicking, bouncing feel of “Tears Dry On Their Own,” which closes with: “He takes the day but I’m grown/And in your way/My deep shade/My tears dry.” This troubled and talented girl is all grown up. If you like it, listen up. If not hush up, move on. I doubt Winehouse gives a fuck either way.