Tag Archives: hip-hop

30/11/12 – Akala, Mic Righteous, The Next R.E.V.Olution


So it’s the last day of November, and the last time that bitter and cynical people like me can shout IT’S NOT FUCKING CHRISTMAS YET TURN THAT SHIT OFF at the owners of small cafés. A good time then, to head down to the best live venue in Southampton, and one struggling to keep itself open, The Joiners hosting a rare hip-hop show of the cream of British underground, Akala supported by Mic Righteous and with local act The Next R.E.V.Olution in tow.

The Next R.E.V.Olution, were the first band on, a duo of MC Young Fro (aka Hugh Williams) and DJ/producer Jamie Simkin. Simkin took to the stage first to get the night started, before quickly being joined by Williams and a female companion (who helped sing the first few tracks’ choruses) and they proceeded to launch into their 2nd single ‘Don’t Turn Around’, a track seemingly dragged from the past where hip-hop was old soul samples with just a layer of beats. Williams impressed immediately with his confidence and stage presence which was staggering considering his age. Instantly engaging with the crowd, and moving around like he ran the place, he never missed a single line, or stumbled over his lyrics. Lyrics which it should be added, were seriously impressive. His grasp of the way rapping works was extremely tight and he delivered punchlines with ease, scoring great reaction with lines calling on Prof Hawking, Tony Blair and referencing past hip-hop legends in Afka Bambaata and Grandmaster Flash. Not that I should suggest this was a one man show, as Simkin’s beats were a constant source of enjoyment, the beat shifting from old-school to more of a trap sound for the second track before hitting a track very reminiscent of a recent favourite of mine, Flying Lotus, in its mellow and Jazz-heavy beat. It was during this track that Williams’ punchlines took to a new level and dropped the potential best line of the night with ‘We got beef like a Lady Gaga dress’. Next R.E.V.Olution then gave a nod to the acts due to follow them by dropping a more socially conscious number about race. By the next track, the punchlines were back, references to Yu-Gi-Oh and 24 delighted the crowd and the line ‘doper than Lance Armstrong’ proved a contender to the Gaga line’s throne. Williams continued to entertain the crowd while Simkin dropped into a more dubstep influenced beat, with an insanely heavy bass line that shook the gut. By this point the duo had settled into their act and lost any nerves, starting to really enjoy the flow of each song. By the time they closed their set with new single R.E.V.Olution is now they’d made it pretty clear that they were a group worth following.

While all that is pretty impressive, it’s worth picking up on a few places the group have to go. Simkin’s production was definitely at a more advanced stage than Williams’ flow which at times became a bit too brittle and staccato, and it was clear that tonights headliner, Akala, was a massive influence whose shadow Williams has yet to break from. There was also an issue that occasionally the sound got a little crowded. Partly this may have been because all the sounds were coming out together from one speaker which clustered it up, but I suspect there might be an issue with congesting the music. Don’t get me wrong, if Simkin is reading this, please send me all your instrumentals, I loved them, but it could have done with a little bit more space for the rapping to take the lead. I’m tempted to say that this happened as the step from electronica to hip-hop instrumentals necessitates savage cuts in what would be fantastic standalone tracks. However, all of these things are what will come from more experience out there playing to crowds and picking up what needs to be done live. Overall the most prominent feeling was being really fucking impressed. These guys were beyond the level of so many known players, and they are still ridiculously young. I also felt that the singles they’ve released weren’t even the best tracks of the night, so they are absolutely worth keeping tabs on. Give them a few more months playing live and developing their sound, and then when they go back into the (bedroom) studio they will be capable of tracks to bother the folks running the radio.

After a brief reflective break I allowed my notebook to return to my pocket and settle down to enjoy the show. A show which was completely stolen by the next act, Mic Righteous. It takes balls to stand on a stage completely alone, but that’s how Mic did it, clad in his jacket, as he began his personal and powerful raps. What was immediately striking was the way that Righteous struck a bond with the crowd, his standing all alone on the stage only served to help bring the audience onto it with him. A curious unity emerged between a willing audience and the words of an honest, emotive and passionate rapper. As the first track ended, the beats finished, but Righteous kept going alone, and we were all enraptured by the sheer confidence and assurance that he had. His lines, reflecting on home life, home towns and belonging were made so powerful by the way in which he performed, here was a socially and politically conscious MC who so clearly believed and felt what he was doing that he had us at his beck and call. Which all culminated beautifully as he dropped out from a positive ending to bring up a beef with Westwood, and went into a full on diss to the beat of ‘Rack City’. It was simply amazing. Equally hilarious and angry, with lines like ‘You were born in the 50s, prick’, Westwood was duly decimated and Mic Righteous stepped down, each audience member knowing that would be the last time he would play a stage that small, in support of anyone.

Finally, it was time for headliner Akala to do the honours, and actually he did need to perform to sway the audience out of their post-Righteous ease, as the support had had such a powerful effect. However Akala is a lyrical God, and as he beckoned the crowd in to push right up against the stage, he delivered line after line of genius. Seeing Akala reminded me of the importance that politically conscious underground rap plays, its distrust of the media and dedication to past legends reminds people why hip-hop exists. Constant literary references to Orwell and Shakespeare bridged gaps of centuries between classes and cultures reminding people to pay attention to the world around them, not to give up on society and think about the way that governments affect their lives. Having recently been at Immortal Technique’s Southampton show, it was refreshing to see a performace with the same passion and idealism, but with a much more welcoming, positive attitude. Akala was joined on stage only by his sometime producer Cassell The Beatmaker who supported with tracks and also with some fantastic drumming, which was a great addition to hip-hop shows where sometimes too much pre-recorded sound can hamper the live atmosphere (I’ll add that was never the case tonight). The highlight of his energetic and crowd-pleasing set was a full performace of his indomitable Fire In The Booth recording which showcases both Akala’s knowledge and conscience but also his incredible flow. It’s worth remembering that no matter how good a rapper is at being socially proactive, the main reason they will get respect is if their flow and lyrics are something special, and it’s his ability to combine the prowess with the consciousness that makes Akala one of the most vital and engaging rappers around.

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All The Best Free Music (BTS, Angel Haze, She Makes War, Entrepreneurs, Childish Gambino)

The crazy way the music industry works means that a lot of bands are desperate to get their music out there at any cost. As a result, there’s a huge amount of great free music released every week. This post is a collection of the proper releases that you only need to click a download link, be it a mixtape, and EP or an album. All of these are worth your time and space on your mp3, and all are 100%, no strings, free.

Balance and the Traveling Sounds – Lost Luggage EP

You may remember BTS from the very first review I did on this site, and they’re back with another free EP for you. In the time since ‘Departure EP’, BTS have been honing their skills and they tear out of the block with the raucous ‘Jump To It’, a perfect blend of funk, soul, jazz and hip-hop (SoulHipJaFunk) trumping anything they’ve done on Departure. They keep up the pressure with ‘CREAM/No Diggity’ and ‘Shakedown’, both returning to the smoother sounds that were a highlight of Departure. Next comes ‘You Just Ain’t Right’ which is downright epic, a SoulHipJaFunk-mini-opera, that rises and falls with a crazy plot. ‘Make Your move’ turns in a more hip-hop direction, reminiscent of early OutKast, before ‘California Love (BTS Mix)’ closes things up bringing the EP back to the fusion that makes ‘Jump To It’ so great.Balance and the Travelling Sounds - Lost Luggage EP

The EP is classic BTS, showing a group of insanely talented musicians playing at the top of the game, but more importantly, bringing all these talents together to create focused funky hits that cross genres as easily as any of the greats. Click on the album art above to go to the bandcamp page where the EP can be downloaded. For free. There’s no excuse not to get this.

BONUS – BTS Beatsman EBO has put out a free album of his beats, sick, old-school sounding instrumentals. The perfect backing music, or ideal for chilling, you can get it again, FOR FREE, by clicking here.

Angel Haze – RESERVATION (mixtape)

I don’t normally put much up about rappers’ mixtapes, but this needs spreading. This is N.Y. rapper Angel Haze’s debut mixtape and it puts her straight into the best I’ve heard this year. This is a whole other league to the big female rappers like Nicki Minaj or even Azealia Banks, mainly cos this mixtape just oozes pure class. Haze offers a bleak look at her influences: “I didn’t really have many. I’ve only been inspired by destruction, sadness, & experiencing what it is to suffer. Honestly the strongest influences in my life & my work have always been whomever it is that I love.” If she isn’t absolutely massive this time next year, then the world is just wrong. Many of the songs on RESERVATION are highlights, particularly the poetic second track ‘Wicked Moon’, but ‘New York’ is likely to be the most succesful. Not only because it’s a killer flow over one of Gil-Scott Heron’s coolest songs (‘N.Y. Is Killing Me’), but also hearing her reference Nas and Lil’ Kim hints at the league she could enter if she keeps up work of this quality.

The mixtape is free from Haze’s website here. Any fan of any hip-hop at all has to get this.

She Makes War – Little Battles

She Makes War made waves in 2010 when she released Disarm, her debut album. Now she’s back with its follow up, Little Battles, and it’s no less impressive. SMW, real name Laura Kidd, has even been kind enough to offer fans the chance to pay anything they want for the digital release, which means you can get a whole album’s worth of grungey doom-pop for absolutely nothing. Kidd’s sound is a merger of heavy guitar rock with lilting melodies, layered vocals and drifting ukelele, securing a very unique style of her own. The only downside is that with the free download there is a live recording of track ‘Minefields’ which is so awesomely done, that it’s a shame the recorded song can’t match its power. It might just be me relishing the use of real drums over electronic ones though.

Little Battles can be bought for nothing from the She Makes War bandcamp page, where you can also reward Laura for her work by buying a physical copy or a kaboodle of extra bonus items. Also you can follow the links on their to get the cracking debut Disarm for free as well, and it’s an equally good record as this latest one.

Entrepreneurs – The Florida Root Canal

Entrepreneurs is the solo project of Adam M. Crisp, and if you’re likely to have heard of him it’s as producer of FOE’s fantastic debut album Bad Dream Hotline. While the moniker Entrepreneurs has put out some cracking edgey music, with guest spots of artists from Ghostpoet to the aforementioned FOE. However what features here is a beat tape called, bizzarely, The Florida Root Canal. What it is, is an Avalanches-esque race through tonnes of samples.

It can be downloaded directly from this word.

Childish Gambino – ROYALTY (mixtape)

Childish Gambino is another artists that I reviewed when I first started blogging, and it’ll bring delight to many to know that before this season of community started filming he was able to make a mixtape. Gambino is as sick and hilarious as always and there are some cracking guest appearances, the pinnacle of which is none other than Tina Fey on the final track.

It can be downloaded from any site, but here’s a link

Tina Fey raps from 4:99. This is not a joke. (also this song features my new favourite line: ‘we in this bitch like we fucking a dog or some shit’)

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Childish Gambino – Camp – Review

The Rainmaker delves into rap as only an indian kid could.

Camp is in session

It’s difficult to talk about something being a debut album in a rap world with Mixtapes, EPs and singles being released any time with no sort of label work or anything to tell us simple rock music types what the deal is. A quick scan on wikipedia reveals this ‘debut’ album actually follows 3 ‘albums’, 2 mixtapes and 1 EP. What this debut really means is that this is his first album that he sat down and went through in a studio. And it really shows. This is by an absolute mile the most impressive rap album I have heard since I picked up Cee-Lo Green’s Perfect Imperfections on a whim in HMV. There is not a single bad or worthless song on this album, it just keeps getting bigger and better.

Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino is one of the most obscenely talented people in the world. Not only is he a hilarious star of my favourite new comedy, Community, but he also made his name making hilarious sketch comedy videos as part of the group Derrick Comedy. Before this just seems like I’ve googled him, I found all of these things separately, before I’d even heard of Gambino, and on their own merit. I was alerted to his rap from a friend, found the TV show from online ‘buzz’ and the comedy from Cracked.com. All of which means that I have to know show you Donald in his early years in the funniest video I have ever seen.

But enough of this… silliness. Back to the album. The first thing that hits you is the Kanye style beats. Glover/Gambino enlisted the help of the Community music director to make the album, and it is perfectly built. The first sound is a SBTRKT style choir voice as opening track Outside begins, but when the beat drops it’s just incredible. And it doesn’t let up. Tracks like Backpackers and Bonfire have a much more harsher gangsta sound than the orchestrated epics of Fire Fly and Sunrise. Part of the mastery of this sound is that each song carries a perfect pop chorus, most of them sung surprisingly well by Gambino himself, and always just the right kind of catchy.

However, all of this is just skirting round the main issue, and that is Gambino’s lyrics. My friends know I can be kind of a jerk when it comes to rating rappers because if they talk about complete crap then I have a tendency to dismiss them pretty quickly. With Childish Gambino I was hit straight away with the fact that this is not pointless braggadocio but real expression and some of the most intelligent rap you can hear. When the track Heartbeat started I thought that I was gonna face a song i didn’t like for the first time. But then Gambino transformed what could’ve been a tame love song into a fierce and raw rap about two exes going back to each other that is now one of my favourites to play:

His raps are different to almost anything you would expect to hear from a rapper these days. While so many of his contempories spend a lifetime attmpting to craft a ‘street’ image, Glover eschews all of that for regular honesty. He says it himself pretty well in Fire Fly

Yeah so, whatcha gonna do man?
You won’t speak to the hood, man
If I was given one chance I think I could, man
These black kids want somethin’ new, I swear it
Somethin’ they wanna say but couldn’t cause they embarrassedChildish Gambino

Gambino’s rhymes reference pop culture (my favourites being shout outs to Rugrats, Super Smash Bros. andLand Before Time) and delves deep into his childhood. In fact his name ‘Childish’ and the ‘Camp’ title perfectly suit this album, as the major theme is childhood. Glover is perfectly in tune to life as a kid and he explores the things kids say and do is a surprisingly profound way, none more so than in the end of closing track That Power, where he recounts a story of a return trip to camp.

“I wish I could say this was a story about how I got on the bus a boy and got off a man more cynical, hardened, and mature and shit. But that’s not true. The truth is I got on the bus a boy. And I never got off the bus.”

In his songs he describes how he was too black for the white kids and too white for the black ones. As a result he delivers what can only be describes as some of the best rhymes about race in a modern world that you can hear anywhere. He confronts the problems that black people suffer with all the ideas of what black is supposed to mean in track Hold Me Down:

“But niggas got my feelin’ I ain’t black enough to go to church
Culture shock at barber shops cause I ain’t hood enough
We all look the same to the cops, ain’t that good enough?
The black experience is blackened serious
Cause being black, my experience, is no one hearin’ us
White kids get to wear whatever hat they want
When it comes to black kids one size fits all”

While I’m not going to pretend to be a black american kid, there is one particular bit that perfectly sums up what the issue with race actually is nowadays.

“They only see you how they wanna see you
‘Til you make them see you in some other way
I’m trippin’ off the other day
Cause God knows what these white kids sayin’
Dude you’re not not racist cause The Wire’s in your Netflix cue
Subtle racism
It’s hard to pin it cause you’d only understand
If you were me for just a minute”

Not only does he combine these fantastic lyrics with great beats but his flow is quality too. It’s not the kind of thing that is out to impress, but Gambino doesn’t need to, his lyrics are good enough.

While I hope I’ve made it clear how much I love this album, there are some weaknesses. Glover relies on one-liners a lot, and while they are good they can get in the way of the general flow. Plus, sometimes his cartoonish aggression can come off a little overly ironic and end up having the reverse effect that they intended. But these are all minor gripes and only come up after the weeks worth of constant listening that I have subjected the album to.

Ultimately this is an album with quality beats, some of the best lyrics you can hear and an unholy consistency that means the only option I have ever taken after reaching the end of the last track is to just press play and do it all again. I’ll leave you with my personal favourite track of his in which Gambino touches on the idea of ‘real’, but has a quality vibe that works perfectly being played by live instruments.

All I can say is, listen to the album on spotify or something if you don’t wanna buy it. It’ll blow you away.

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