Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly [Album Review]

Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly Album Artwork
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly Album Artwork

Is Hip Hop dead? Well it all depends on who you ask. With Flying Lotus, Boi-1da and Thundercat plus many more featured on production, ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ was always going to be a colourful album.

At first King Kunta seems like a steady ride until the key changes start occurring at a rate faster than one’s ears can anticipate. The song seems to blend a topic of historical importance, in slavery; ‘Everybody wanna cut the legs off him, King Kunta, Black man taking no losses’, with issues Lamar perceives in the modern music industry ‘I was gonna kill a couple of rappers but they did it to themselves, Everybody’s suicidal they don’t even need my help’.

These Walls is an R&B laced and featured packed song with Bilal, Anna Wise & Thundercat all contributing towards the song’s final incarnation. With clean drums providing a solid backdrop, a pad, synthesizers and a lusciously warming bass all come together to provide the perfect platform for Lamar to shine.

U seems to tilt the listening experience back to the mysterious side of things. The song is a roller coast of emotions, albeit on a more depressing note; ‘Shoulda killed yo ass a long time ago, You shoulda felt that black revolver blast a long time ago’. It reveals some of Lamar’s darker moments and seems more like a moment of venting than a moral lesson.

If U presents a one-sided story of self-loathing then Alright seems to be a catalyst that might lead to a solution to that issue. The song ends in a similar manner to a number of songs on this album, with a spoken word passage.

For Sale? is another interlude, and one addressing something darker, with the seductive ‘Lucy’ representing Lucifer. The song is addressing one of humanity’s oldest superstitions in a deceptive manner, clothed in a soulful aroma.

Hood Politics as the name suggests is a politically driven number. The song, whilst essentially repetitive at a melodic level, seems to offer more in terms of thought provoking lyricism; ‘They tell me it’s a new gang in town, From Compton to Congress’.

By the time the album begins to wind down, you realize the importance of this offering from Kendrick Lamar. If not his opus magnum then the album at least marks the beginning of Kendrick’s stint as one of, if not, the top dog in Hip Hop. With many already proclaiming him as the new ‘King of Hip Hop’, Lamar shines on The Blacker The Berry.

The dynamism of Kendrick Lamar is evidently on display throughout this masterpiece. Having nearly broken Spotify with first day hits peaking at more than 9 million streams, it’s fair to say that Kendrick Lamar has reached new heights in his career.

SBTRKT – Roulette [Single Review]

SBTRKT Roulett Photo

If you are looking for the downright bizarre side of experimental music then you have come to the right place. SBTRKT has released something nearly unfathomable in the form of Roulette.

This song is underlined by a persistent drum section and an even more present, glitchy melody. All of these textures and odd sounds add up to create something truly unique indeed.

 


BADBADNOTGOOD & Ghostface Killah – Sour Soul [Album Review]

Sour Soul Album Photograph
Sour Soul Album Photograph

Mono gets the album rolling with an air of calm about it. In contrast, Sour Soul the album’s title track, is fast paced. With references to Ghostface Killah’s Iron Man derived pseudonym Tony Starks, ‘I’m iron man, a stone faced killer with a mask’, the song is filled to the brim with witty lyricism.

The musical backdrop provided by the Canadian trio shows how Hip Hop might have been had it been sparked in a 60s Jazz Club by virtuoso instrumentalists. But perhaps it’s just as well that there’s still so much that this now ageing genre has yet to explore.

‘Brag about 2 chains, 4 chains, 6 chains’ is one of the punchlines in Six Degrees, a song containing as aggressive lyrical content as any other ever penned by the former Wu Tang mainstay. Danny Brown provides a stark contrast with his higher pitched voice, whilst managing to fit into the ‘aggressive’ manner of the song.

Gunshowers is a guitar driven song with more of a blues-rock feel to it and an ever-progressive melody. Ghostface’s raw vocal performance is flawless, whilst seemingly never stopping to take a breather. Stark’s Reality pays homage to Ghostface’s pseudonym, Tony Starks, which is based off Iron Man’s civilian identity Tony Stark.

Tone’s Rap is a snail paced, drum driven and slightly euphoric song. Ghostface, a seasoned veteran, shows no signs of staleness with a fitting and dynamic vocal delivery. In a short, yet definitive song, BADBADNOTGOOD show just exactly why they are on the fast and narrow to musical success.

This album doesn’t attempt to stick to any stringent concept or move in a pinpoint direction. In fact it appears to do quite the opposite. With a growing list of prominent collaborations and remixes, especially with well known Hip Hop and RnB performers (Danny Brown, Frank Ocean) it seems as though the trio are on the precipice of a massive surge in popularity.

Ray Gun is one of the more notable collaborations, featuring another legendary and comic book inspired rapper, DOOM. A brief Brass melody and string motifs are sprawled through out this number.

A brilliant album by any account of the word, Sour Soul delivers on more than one front. The musical backdrop is both versatile and allows BADBADNOTGOOD to draw upon their Jazz background. ‘Food’ is a more recollective and sentimental offering, ‘Them light as the sun, the sun is the father’. The music is fittingly melancholic and expressive, with a subtle display of dynamism through its use of brief staccato’s and motifs spanning a repetitive melody.

Just as it began, so it ends, with a solely instrumental offering in Experience. Cymbals and a strong bass fuel the rhythm, whilst a staccato guitar sits in the backdrop until a brass driven melody takes centre stage for the remainder of the song.

Sour Soul manages to balance BADBADNOTGOOD’s polished instrumentalism with Ghostface Killah’s conceptual lyrics and gritty vocal performances. Though performing on most songs, the album does have it’s more quiet moments in which Ghostface is not featured at all and BADBADNOTGOOD are allowed to take centre stage and showcase their musical acumen.

Roots Manuva – Facety (prod. Four Tet) [Single Review]

Roots Manuva is back with a bang.
Roots Manuva is back with a bang.

So Roots Manuva is back with a bang. Calling upon the production talents of Four Tet, Facety is an ambitious song and does not easily fall within the confines of ‘traditional’ Hip Hop; but who’s really making so called traditional Hip Hop these days?

Four Tet is a very diverse individual indeed. Not only is he expected to deliver music under his current moniker, but he also has to think about running his record label Text Records, through which he also releases projects under the pseudonym Percussions. So it begs the question; when does he actually find the time to pull off something like this?

The Independent Label Market

Parvenu Digital stall on the left, Dinner With Daisy stall on the right
Kudzai mans Parvenu Digital stall on the left

So we took a few CDs to the Independent Label Market in London and right from the outset business was fast. Our stall was right next to Dinner with Daisy, an exciting, experimental Pop label, and directly behind us was Domino.

After speaking to a representative of Dinner With Daisy we couldn’t resist buying Oooh! Picture Negative by French For Cartridge, a review of which you can certainly expect sometime in the future.

View from behind our stall

One of the highlights of the day was seeing Kieren ‘Four Tet’ Hebden walking around the market, though it’s a shame he didn’t visit our stall.

Notable labels at the market included Domino, Transgressive Records, Brownswood Recordings, Warp and Four Tet’s Text Records. Other offerings on show included jewellery, shoes, clothing and food.

If you’ve never been to one of these markets then we highly recommend that you do so as the vibe at this particular event was electric.

The next such event will be in Bristol on Sunday 3rd May 2015 and you can certainly expect us there again. We certainly look forward to meeting some of you.

THEESatisfaction – EarthEE [Single Review]

THEESatisfaction-EarthEE
THEESatisfaction – EarthEE Album Artwork

EarthEE is a song that draws you in with its spacey pads and tons of reverb. Stasia somehow manages to deliver a performance that is slightly off beat, yet sounds natural. Cat’s vocal performance is very reminiscent of the Neo Soul singers from the late 90s.

This song does not aspire to mirror nor emulate any other sound, but is instead reminiscent of synth-pop. The lyrics cover a wide array of socially charged topics. At one point Cat’s singing “This man of my thoughts, I need all of mine”, the next minute Stasia is rapping “Shit I was raised in the Cadillac, My pretty moms was pro-black”.

Aesop Rock – Cat Food [EP Review]

Aesop Rock Catfood EP Artwork
Aesop Rock Catfood EP Artwork

Cat Food, the title track perfectly encapsulates in essence; Aesop Rock, an artist who is both ceaseless and masterful in his artistry.

As cryptic as ever with regards to his lyricism, the Hip Hop veteran delivers a mature and polished performance.

Bug Zapper is the more relaxed of the two songs, at least by Aesop Rock’s standards. The last two songs are instrumental versions of the first two.

In summary, ‘Cat Food’ is a short but sweet offering, something to keep Aesop Rock fans occupied, at least until his next album.

Kamasi Washington – Re Run Home [Single Review]

Kamasi Washington - Re Run Home - Artwork
Kamasi Washington – Re Run Home – Artwork

Re Run Home by Kamasi Washington is jazz reinvented for the modern masses and future generations alike. The level of mastery on display here is largely unrivalled and sometimes goes uncelebrated.

Washington’s latest album, The Epic, features a 32-piece orchestra; a 20 strong choir, and it total, 17 songs comprise the album.

The Jazzman who has previously featured on Flying Lotus’s albums Cosmogramma and You’re Dead!, calls upon fellow label mate Thundercat on bass and his brother, Ronald Bruner Jr. on drums.

Re Run Home perfectly encapsulates what Washington and co. are all about, perfectly flawless yet seemingly unrefined compositions teeming with complimentary motifs at every turn.

THEESatisfaction – Recognition [Single Review]

THEESatisfaction - Earthee album cover
THEESatisfaction – Earthee album cover

Hypnotic is the only word to describe this song, at least before it delves into the more experimental realm. The song begins to the sound of a Zimbabwean mbira (thumb piano).

The vocals of Stasia and Cat chant in tandem, backed by a male voice. The lyrics though repetitive are very catchy and manage to drive the point home. Toward the end of the song is a speech sample. Recognition is in a nutshell, a thought provoking word song.

Flying Lotus – Never Catch Me ft. Kendrick Lamar [Single Review]

Flying Lotus - you're dead album cover
Flying Lotus – you’re dead album cover

Perhaps what’s most appealing about Flying Lotus is both the depth in his music as well as the visual appeal. From idea to execution, this is a man who is constantly on the move.  Never Catch Me is taken from the native Californian’s latest album ‘You’re Dead’.

This song is a contradiction in and of itself, in that the mellow sounding pads somehow sit well with Kendrick Lamar’s energetic performance. The song gradually builds up to the constant sound of a synth pad backed by some slightly swinging drums.