Retrospective Review: A History of Violence, by Kuniva

by Apu

HOV

On December 16, 2014, Kuniva released his official debut studio project, A History of Violence. It followed a long stream of mixtapes (Retribution, the Midwest Marauders series, and the Lost Gold mixtape). Unlike the music that was on the mixtapes, Kuniva used all original production (primarily handled by Block Symfany, a production team composed of Rio Da Ghost and T.Boyd out of Michigan), and made actual fleshed-out songs, rather than just long verses and freestyles. Overall, it’s a very solid solo offering. It set the stage for him to grow and dig deeper in his later material.

The best part of this project to me is how Kuniva put it together. It sort of sounds like he sequenced the album very deliberately. The first 4 tracks seem like they’re from the perspective of a younger, more rowdy Kuniva. Those tracks tend to celebrate the street life. It opens up with the posse cut “Michiganish”, featuring Aftermath artist Jon Connor, Mass Appeal’s Boldy James, and Detroit legend Guilty Simpson. It starts things off fairly simply, being a competitive cypher of sorts. The following few songs, “Born Like This”, “Where I’m From”, and “Baileys In Bangkok,” all have a similar sort of vibe. They’re cocky and rowdy. They sound a little ironic and tongue in cheek, almost as though Kuniva was trying to rap the way a younger kid would rap. The content and the way it’s done makes me think he was talking about the street life, from the perspective of a kid living it, rather than someone reflecting on it.

Then comes “Derty Headz”, which is a very powerful song dedicated to fans of his and D-12. It has an anthemic hook and verses that drop all sorts of history about his career. He talks about Proof recruiting him for the group, the beef they’ve had, and the adversity they’ve faced from within since Proof passed. This song is the major turning point in almost every way. Here, flashes of reflection and maturity start to show up. From track 6 onwards, it seems to shift to his perspective now as a man nearly 40 years old after having seen massive success with his group, mournfully reflecting on the hard times in life but looking ahead with a drive to keep moving now that he’s out. “Light Work” and “Where The Hoes @?”, both offer fiery production and strong verses delivered with the hunger and confidence of a man who has seen his fair share of hardship. The title track, which is quite possibly the most personal and poetic song Kuniva has ever released, has him speaking on his past up to the point when Proof was murdered in chilling, almost uncomfortably rich detail, his voice oozing pain over him reflecting on it, and the album ends on “Shoutout”, which sounds like where he’s at now, looking forward into the future with hope after everything he’s been through.

The music on this project is good. There’s no denying that Kuniva is a strong rapper and has been doing nothing but improving since D-12 World. His delivery has become a lot more convincing and his writing has gotten sharper. The production is great too. Block Symfany (and Enrichment, on the title track) were able to provide Kuniva with a backdrop that deviated from the typical D-12 sound. It gave Kuniva the chance to step out of that style and develop his own identity, which is something that he hasn’t had the chance to really do much in the past outside of his Retribution mixtape. I think the first half of the album is a little shaky and unfocused at points, but every song from “Derty Headz” onwards is great. The title track might be one of my favorites of the entire year of 2014, period.

However, what really makes the album good is how it lives up to its name of being a “history”. Kuniva put the album together to actually make it almost like a song-by-song history of his life, from rapping competitively at the Hip-Hop Shop and living in the streets, to when D-12 were at their peak, and ending it with an adult perspective on life. It’s really special, because oftentimes artists don’t do that kind of thing when putting their projects together. You generally hear about Kendrick and the like putting their albums together in a manner like that, but honestly, Kuniva managed to pull off an album concept as well as anybody else. Even if it wasn’t fully intentional, he still clearly had an idea of progressing the sound and content of the project in a way that made sense, as opposed to putting the songs together in an arbitrary order and releasing it onto iTunes. That, to me, is what really makes it good, and not just another hip hop album.

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Album Review: deM atlaS – mF deM

by Dustin

mfdem

6.75/10

Among alternative hip-hop heads, MF DOOM is basically a household name. Though the rapper and producer has been relatively quiet for years, most fans still eagerly anticipate new material from the vaudeville villain no matter how rare. Apart from a handful of features, DOOM’s last release of substance was his production work on NehruvianDoom alongside young rapper Bishop Nehru… Don’t get too excited however, as mF deM is a bit of a tease in these regards. All DOOM instrumentation on this release has been heard before.

Don’t let that discourage you though as this project also has an emcee delivering brand new bars. This of course is Minnesota native and Rhymesayers Entertainment signee, deM atlaS. DeM draws influence from a wide variety of musical artists, and really has the potential to create a unique sound. He’s young, but he’s already got a vocal presence on the mic that can’t be matched by some veterans.

So what happens when pairing him with production, albeit previously released, by a hip-hop legend? You get a release with some really lovely highs.

deM atlas seems to be at his best on this tape when utilizing his singing voice. There’s something about deM that feels similar to Camu Tao’s later works at times. On tracks like “Grbge Trsh” he’s energetic, expressive, and stays engaging by conveying emotion excellently. There are many moments on mF deM that are in line with this stylistically. “Nervosa” and “Its Over, Im Dead” being two of the key high points. Even when not singing deM maintained his vocal presence over the majority of this release. When he’s on his game, he’s an absolute pleasure to listen to and super unique.

Unfortunately consistency seemed to be an issue.

Tracks fell flat during moments when deM slipped back into a more conventional delivery; moreover, there were times where he felt quite derivative of other Minnesota based rappers. These songs are still quite listenable, but the stood out as a step below some of the other material being offered up over the course of the album.

To put it in the most cliche way possible, the production is what it is. There’s not really much more to say about these instrumentals that hasn’t already been said, since they’ve been available since the beginning of time itself. Some are fantastic, some are fairly repetitive; basically there’s nothing out of the ordinary for DOOM production.

deM’s voice worked quite well on most of the beats, but it definitely felt as if he was forced to carry the album due to the instrumentation being fairly played out. As a full listen, this album will feel much more fresh if you’re not familiar with MF DOOM’s production catalogue.

Perhaps deM atlaS didn’t “find himself” on this project, but he did a good job of creating songs that are pleasant listens. His potential definitely shows, and deM seems like an artist to watch going forward. Don’t let the score at the top of the page put you off of listening, either. It seems like the kind of album that will have a decent amount of replay value, even if not the most consistent.

Apu Rambles: Sex, Money, & Drugs

by Apu (yeah, he’s alive)

rhh

Well shit, it’s been a while. I’m sure most of the readers of this little blog here were pretty happy with not having the site polluted with my awfulness for the last 3 months or so…I really just didn’t have any motivation to write anything. Maybe it’s because I mentally checked out after school ended, and now that I’m back in a course I’ve got more activity happening in my brain, thus creating the desire to write. Although the more likely explanation for my writing tonight is probably liquor. Regardless, I’ve got something new for you to read and roll your eyes at. Although it might be shorter than normal so there’s that.

As I may or may not have talked about at some point in any one of my fairly insignificant additions to this blog, I started listening to hip hop music around the time of Youtube’s creation. It was pretty good for me, as a person who had next to nobody to discuss hip hop music with. I spent a lot of time on Youtube looking for more music to listen to. At the beginning, I spent my time listening to a lot of Eminem and D-12. Over the next couple of years I did branch out to others like 2Pac, Nas, and others who I could list if I didn’t want to just shut up and get on with my story. While viewing videos (which were usually just audio with stills of incorrect album covers) by the artists I was listening to, I would find myself going down into the comment section. I started to notice a certain pattern in the comments to the artists I was listening to. There would be one comment that would almost always pop up. It’s a statement that I have nightmares about that involve knives, lube, and Mountain Dew. It’s what you’ll probably see coming from “real hip hop” heads. It’s toxic.

“He raps about real life and struggle, not bitches, drugs, and money like everyone else does!”

Jesus Christ, I hate myself for just typing that.

Now, I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t agree with that for a period of time. For a good 3 or 4 years I had that same sort of mindset. But now that I’m not a shitty 15 year old kid anymore, I realize how stupid it is to not listen to some rappers or songs because they’re not meaningful.

NOT EVERYTHING NEEDS TO HAVE MEANING TO IT.

Crazy, right?

I don’t know. I guess I understand the reasoning behind the idea that music needs to be deep. A lot of the time when I’m in a shitty mood (so most of the time) it’s nice to listen to something with a message behind it that I can relate to. Actually, it’s also pretty nice to listen to a song that I can’t relate to, but can still feel bitter over. It sort of validates the way I’m feeling or the way I think I’d feel if I were in a certain situation. It creates a sort of bond between listener and artist that makes the listener feel like he or she (hooray for gender equal descriptions!) is less alone. I get it. I’ve felt that, plenty of times. It’s definitely something that should be encouraged, as it’s almost a more intimate bond than any friendship or other sorts of relationships can create, because it’s your own raw emotion that you can feel and express without any fear of judgement from others, since there’s nobody else involved in listening to a song. I can’t tell you how often I will sometimes randomly just get misty-eyed for no reason, just because I’m still not the most mentally healthy person in the world and I hear something in music that triggers a raw emotional response.

However (I’ll say it again for extra emphasis since I’m terrible at getting my point across with all the tangents I can’t help but take), that doesn’t mean that all music needs to have a meaning to it. Far from it, actually.

Remember when I did that article on Prof and mentioned how I was going through shit? One of the reasons I gravitated towards Prof almost exclusively for 4 months or so is because he made a tone of ignorant music that I could just listen to, chill to, chuckle to, and ignore my pain to. Sure, Prof releases a lot of emotional shit. “A Month From Now” still puts me in a trance every time I listen to it, and it’s been at least 3 months since I first discovered it. But a lot of the time, I’ll throw on “Apeshit” or “Roughneck” when I’m feeling shitty instead. I don’t need to constantly be reminded how fucked up my mood is by listening to a song that matches it. Sometimes I need to just listen to something that has absolutely nothing to do with anything, just because it’s fun. How does keeping myself down with sad and dark music help me in any way move on?

Whatever happened to “laughter is the best medicine”? Does that suddenly stop applying when it comes to hip hop? This genre is absolutely incredible and I’ll love it forever, but I swear, some of the fans are just fucking idiots. It’s like they want to wallow in their own misery with the artists they listen to, or reinforce the fact that the world is totally and completely screwed and that we’re headed towards destruction (a topic that I can probably talk about forever, but doesn’t apply to this piece much more than that one sentence).

I don’t know where this “ugh this has no substance” mindset came from, and I wish I did. Not everything needs to make you think. I don’t really care if my opinion on this matter makes me come off as even stupider than you all probably already thought I was, but I’d rather read if I wanted to think (and trust me, I read plenty, I love reading). People can tell me that’s retarded all they want, because I’m sure that those same people probably don’t fucking read to begin with. If I’m really, really sad, I’ll listen to something that I can relate to, something powerful that’s cathartic for me to listen to. But if I’m just feeling down like normal, I probably want to listen to something that’ll get me in better spirits and uplift me.

It’s almost sad how much people hate to listen to lighthearted, meaningless music. People will essentially dismiss artists like Lil Wayne, not because of skill levels or anything (I’m not the biggest Wayne fan in the world but the man can fucking rap), but because of the type of music he makes. People talk about how he doesn’t make real shit, and it’s all vapid, and shit like that. Well, my question is, why the fuck do you care? So what if he makes vapid music? How does it affect you as a person, when you just have the option to not listen and choose something else instead of complaining?

And it’s not even really about that, either. What really amuses me about the hatred of new-school hip hop is how these so-called old-school fans, these “real hip hop heads”, say that the only hip hop that’s good is the deeper shit, and that’s why new shit sucks. These fucking mongoloids seem to forget that hip hop was founded on celebratory music. It was music that people danced and partied to. Shit, break-dancing is supposed to be one of the main pillars of hip hop, isn’t it? To my knowledge, the socially-aware aspect of hip hop didn’t become something that was really widespread until the late ‘80s. Before then, it was primarily partying, having a good time, bragging about how good you are, and topics of that sort. Why is it that hip hop can’t still occasionally be about that just because something new was introduced to it? Now, the keyword here is “occasionally”. I’m not saying that the only hip hop that’s worth a shit is empty nonsense. I’m just saying that that sort of music should be able to co-exist with the realer shit, too.

Somewhat related, I would like to also ask…why is it that rappers who sound like they’re being lyrical as shit and socially conscious by essentially just rhyming a lot and using metaphors that reference current social issues, while actually saying nothing but gibberish, get so much more praise than those who are upfront about the fact that they say nothing of importance? I personally find when a rapper is talking irreverent shit about having fun to be better than when a rapper just rhymes a lot of nonsense while trying to sound deep. At least the fun rapper is actually saying something, as opposed to masticating the English language until it becomes almost caveman-like just to fool people into thinking that they’re really good at rapping. They’re not trying to pretend to be anything that they’re not. They’re just having a good time while the “lyrical” rappers are just acting like they’re fucking messiahs to the people, because that’s how their audience treats them for being able to relate something to a truck running over people in France while rhyming every other word, even if they’re made-up words. Hip hop fans for some reason have got some over 4 hour long Viagra hard-ons for rhymes that sound intelligent while being unintelligible, and they need to get over it. But again, a topic of discussion for another time.

All I’m saying is that life isn’t all about staying paranoid and keeping up with the latest conspiracies that rappers are coming up with to try to make themselves seem smart (I’m looking at you, Immortal Technique). There are several aspects of life, and one (or more) of those aspects is enjoying yourself. At the end of the day, being alive really has absolutely no reason behind it. The least you can do is embrace and enjoy the absurdity of life. In our modern society, I believe part of that is listening to absurd, vapid music. All you’re doing is removing yourself from a part of your life that is pretty essential to living with at least somewhat decent mental health. You’re not fooling anybody by listening to so-called “smart” music.

I really don’t know where to go from here. I’m on the verge of writing about how life is essentially meaningless so there’s no reason why music can’t be meaningless as well, but I feel like that’s a pretty bad idea, so I’ll sign off and send this to Dustin. I think I’ve made my point, but if not, I’ll do a tl;dr version of it right here: Stop being a pretentious fuckwad and enjoy some music to party to. It’s not a bad thing to actually enjoy yourself, you delusional masochists

Singer/Producer SWISH discusses breaking expectations, influences, and dream collaborations

by Dustin

swish

Sometimes an artist has something about them that causes your ears to perk up. A unique sound, or perhaps some extra creative flavor to their music that you can’t ignore. SWISH is one of these artists. Her music is soulful, fun at times, and rich. Behind her powerful voice is a colourful offering of wonderfully complimentary self-produced instrumentation that will keep you coming back for more.

We were turned onto her music by KashJordan, who we interviewed earlier this year. Immediately after hearing the first track, we knew we had to have her for an interview – and we think you’ll find her to be something quite special.

So head over to SWISH’s soundcloud (and check her new sounds), follow her on the Twitters, and then read our interview below!

EN: First I’d like to say thanks for doing this! I’ll move right into the questions. Do you produce all your tracks yourself? If you do, what’s your audio program of choice to work on?

SWISH: Yeah, I produce all my tracks on Logic.

EN: How long ago did you start making your own music?

SWISH: I’ve been writing since I was 5. I remember the first time I wrote a song was this cheesy C-A minor-G-F chord progression on the piano about how shitty my brother was, but I wasn’t serious about it until 6th or 7th grade when I started playing guitar.

EN: That’s awesome [laughs]. I like how it all started with classic sibling hate. Other than guitar and piano, do you play any other instruments?

SWISH: Bass and ukulele are pretty instinctual. I wanna learn how to play the trumpet or flute, but I don’t have enough money to buy an instrument has the potential to end up dusty in the corner of my room.

EN: Do you try and incorporate the live instruments you can play into your production or do you prefer plug-ins and sampling?

SWISH: It just depends on how I’m feeling or what I think will best reflect my vision, but for the most part I use both equally when I produce.

EN: When Kash introduced me to your music he described you as Kanye meets SZA, how do you feel about that comparison, musically?

SWISH: I understand it. I could see where he got Kanye, because all I do is make art and I see myself as a creator. And SZA has this style that is super apparent right now with female singers. It’s so rich and juicy that I can’t help but be a part of myself. The first couple songs I showed Kash were really SZA type songs, but as a singer I feel more connected to Amy Winehouse.

She’s 100% my biggest influence as a singer and I’d like to think it shows. But in my unreleased shit I could definitely see [that
comparison].

EN: It’s funny you mention Amy Winehouse because I was going to ask if she was one of your musical influences. On that topic, who else do you draw inspiration from musically?

SWISH: These days it’s definitely Amy Winehouse and Billie Holiday. It sounds weird, but I used to be super self conscious of the fact that I was a good singer because a lot of people I listened to didn’t need to be good singers because of their lyrical content and whatnot. Every singer I heard had weak lyrics because their voice could do all the work.

I [didn’t] wanna be another singer with weak-ass lyrics, but then I listened to Amy Winehouse’s first album Frank. She’s no Bright Eyes or Kendrick with words but
she could communicate emotion in ways that no other artist could because of what she was vocally capable of. She was so fuckin’ honest, it’s incredible. It changed the way I make music forever.

Billie holiday is just dope. Whenever I listened to her time slows down. She has this one quote that gave me more confidence as a singer too, “if I I’m going to sing like someone else then I shouldn’t sing at all”. That changed me for sure.

EN: When we were checking out your music prior to this interview, our editor pointed right away how prominent your vocals are in your music (unlike some artists who let it sink into the instrumental). Is this a conscious thing you do to make sure you’re properly heard by the listener?

SWISH: I guess that’s a part of it… I think I just denied the singer part of me for a while in fear of being put in a box. I realized how dumb that was because I couldn’t be all that I was, so I couldn’t grow. Now when I sing in my music it feels relieving and free of whatever limitations I or anyone else have tried to enforce on me.

I feel like I’m Julie Andrews on those grass hills in the beginning of sound of music. I guess when I record I can’t help but run for the hills or whatever [laughs]. I just get so caught up sometimes in that feeling.

EN: Do you think it’s harder for women to be respected as writers and lyricists in music? I see a lot of discussion about it being more difficult, especially for artists pushing the boundary of what’s expected.

SWISH: One hundred per-fucking-cent, dude. Yes! I mean, there’s a blatant segregation between male rappers and female rappers. Like if “male rappers” are just “rappers” then what does that make “female rappers”? Like we have to have that female stamp to put us back in our place or some shit. Especiallyin hip-hop, because that shit is fucking bursting at the seams with misogyny.

Plus people just think disrespecting women is cool so off the bat they’ll probably not wanna give me a chance for to gain their respect [musically] as much as they would a man
Also, if you’re a man you can be butt-ass ugly and still be respected. People value women based on their appearance whether they [realize] it or not. Sometimes I think it doesn’t matter at all what kind of dope ideas I have for shit.

Sometimes I think well I’m not fucking Trixie Tang, so there goes my career. Y’know?

EN: Do you ever find motivation from wanting to break these expectations and barriers of what’s expected by female artists?

SWISH: Sometimes. Other times I just don’t give a fuck about it. Like, gender roles play too much of a role in our day-to-day it’s fucking obnoxious and played out. I’m a huge feminist, but it all gets exhausting most of the time. I just wanna be able to exist as the androgynous-ass bitch that I am without having to deal with societal pressures and people being douche-bags.

EN: That’s a respectable approach to it. So if you don’t mind me asking, do you have any plans for any project releases in the future?

SWISH: Yeah, I actually have a whole track list ready, cover art, and music videos planned. I just need to get more resources and more of a reputation before I put this out. It’s too fire to just release to my hundred something followers.

EN: Would you describe it as similar sonically to the releases on your Soundcloud?

SWISH: Nah, it’s nothing like “Just One” or “Warm Milk”… Maybe “Grown Woman”, but I don’t know. The stuff on my Soundcloud was right when I was starting to find out what I was doing. I knew I was about to find what I had been looking for, and I wanted to nurture whatever that was. So I’ve been in my garage for like a year and a half trying to figure out who SWISH is, and just making gold.

The stuff on my Soundcloud you could feel a little something something in every song.. . And I feel like it makes you be like “oh, who’s this SWISH bitch?”, but with this new shit you hear it and you know exactly who SWISH is.

EN: So you believe that you’ve found a sound very definitive of who you are as an artist right now?

SWISH: Definitely.

EN: If you could pick five collaborations with active artists, who would you pick?

SWISH: I’d probably say Chance, Kanye, Kali Uchis, Kaytranada and J. Cole… Thinking about it, I don’t even know what I would do if I got in a studio with any of them… Like, that’s just a crazy thought.

EN: I imagine it’d be quite the experience. Being that your production is quite strong, would you ever consider collaborating in the producers role even if you didn’t appear on the track?

SWISH: Oh yeah, totally. I wanna do that more often actually. I gave this rapper Kwazee a beat today that I’ve been holding onto, and I’m stoked on it. I wanna see my name attached to as many titles as possible, whatever that means. It just feels good to stick your flag in the ground like that with any piece of art.

EN: That’s awesome. To kind of revisit that topic from earlier, it feels like there’s also like… I don’t know how to word this so much, but a distinct lack of female producers especially. Would you agree with that? I know there’s a handful of them, but it seems to be a role that’s particularly male dominated… You’d be like an extension of the first wave of female producers getting into it.

SWISH: Oh hell yeah dude, that shit is wild to me and I can’t really figure out why… Maybe because a lot of the money in women is being the face of an operation rather than behind the scenes. That’s why I like Janet Jackson so much because her production is wild and I know she was pretty involved in that aspect of it.

Janet Jackson is like a female pioneer to me, a huge inspiration. Missy as well.

Album Review: clipping. – Wriggle

by Dustin

wriggle

7.25/10

You might assume that involvement with the critically acclaimed Hamilton would keep Tony Award winning actor and rapper Daveed Diggs from being involved with clipping for the present. Fortunately, assuming that would be completely incorrect! Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes joined forces once again to craft Wriggle, a six track extended play follow up to 2014’s CLPPNG.

Strap yourself in…

As one would expect with a clipping. project, Wriggle is abrasive. Though the instrumentals feel less noise heavy than their last full length projects, it’s significantly darker in tone than CLPPNG. Wriggle at times sounds absolutely evil, yet it has some of the groups most accessible work. Hutson and Snipes did an excellent job at setting up the atmosphere of the EP, creating a tightly cohesive twenty minutes of unnervingly addictive and angry instrumentals.

Look at all the folk runnin’, marathon,
Like they ain’t got baggage, carry-ons,
Killin’ is the best medicine, diagnosis,
Got death on his breath, halitosis.
(Shooter)

Diggs comes in on this project as sharp as ever. His development as a rapper shines on the tracks “Shooter” and “Wriggle”. As usual, he flawlessly flows atop of the harsh and dense instrumentation. At times his furious rapid fire delivery was on full display, particularly on the aforementioned title track “Wriggle”. His more poetic writing style took a bit of a backseat here (aside from on the track “Our Time”), but it didn’t hold his performance back. There’s not much else to analyze about his performance on Wriggle, aside from the fact that it is consistently very good.

Rarely does Daveed Diggs falter while working with clipping., and that holds true on this project.

She stops by the window of the Walgreens,
Her mascara a mess of a mask,
Gonna pull out a tissue but instead pulls out a phone for a text,
And the flask rattles round in the purse,
A reminder that medicine is already there for the taking,
And the snap when she puts the cap back,
She’s convinced is the sound of her heart breaking.
(Our Time)

Wriggle also boasted an impressive list of features for a short project. Those familiar with Deathbomb Arc affiliated artists will be excited to see another Signor Benedick the Moor collaboration (along with Antwon) on the track “Back Up”. Cakes da Killa, Nailah Middleton, and Maxi Wild also provided their efforts to the tape. With Wriggle clocking in at a modest twenty minutes in length, there was the potential for a poor feature to stand out; however, every artist brought something worthwhile.

As a side note, Cakes da Killa’s “Hot Fuck No Love” appearance may be one of the most sexually graphic verses since Gangsta Boo rapped on Run the Jewels’ song “Love Again”. It fit absolutely brilliantly on the song for this very reason.

The only real downside to Wriggle is that it is short. This is completely reasonable though, as clipping. announced a full length album to come later this year via Sub Pop and Deathbomb Arc. Wriggle serves to hold fans over, and it does that job well. The twenty minutes of gritty, angry, hyper-sexual, and violent lyrics offers up plenty of content to digest in the meantime.

With that in mind, if you approach this expecting something overly substantial you might be disappointed. As a collection of songs leading up to an album release though, clipping. has remained as interesting as ever.

Album Review: FLANCH – FLANCH

by Dustin

flanch

8.75/10

Enter FLANCH, Peter Timberlake and Ben Peterson’s music and visual project. The sixth release on Darling Records, FLANCH is an ambitious project to say the least. It took risks to create something that could stand alone as unique.

These risks were certainly worth taking.

Topically, FLANCH is rooted in stressing confusion brought as a byproduct of social changes; moreover, there is a strong emphasis on how this impacts the individual at a multitude of levels. Primarily the focus seems to be on the conflicting nature of losing ones religion after being deeply entrenched in its values. There’s also an apparent battle between the diminishing religiosity and an active lust for hedonistic pleasures (relative to the previously rooted religious values) in the individual.

No discretion, and no protection,
Just hold your breath and hope for death,
Before the soul’s possession.
(graace)

It should also be noted that this intersection of belief and non-belief is quite personal. Peter Timberlake, the main producer behind FLANCH, was a devout Christian for many years before entering his currently faithlessness. Though the vocals were provided by a plethora of artists, Timberlake’s message and vision was not lost.

To add to the thematic richness of this album, blurring lines between the offline and online worlds are also explored. FLANCH observes how the internet as a creation has completely changed the way we live and the way that interpersonal connections are made; however, there is also an awareness that it’s far easier to be allured by smoke and mirrors. When exploring these places it’s not in a negative tone, but rather caution towards something not fully understood.

I met you online, and I like your pictures,
But I don’t know if you’re a real person,
Don’t play with my heart anymore.
(tender)

While these thematic elements are quite expansive, they do not get lost within each other. FLANCH does an amazing job at finding balance by blending elements together. The end result was a spectacularly cohesive album. FLANCH is the type of album that will warrant more than a single listen to digest everything that is happening at once. Fortunately the music is absolutely addictive.

The production on FLANCH is really quite magnificently terrifying. The futuristic and experimental nature of the instrumentation leads to some beautifully off-kilter moments. Fitting of the topics at hand, FLANCH sounds audibly anxious, lost, and haunting. At times the production feels near other worldly, like the alien offspring of electropop and experimental glitch-hop.

The vocals, provided by an array of guest artists, were also quite interesting in the overall picture of this album. Vocal performances playing off of the religious themes felt suitably larger than life. At times the vocals stepped away from the human and were edited to feel genderless, synthetic, and mostly robotic. The sonic dichotomy was utilized creatively, with vocals placed together in a way that played amazingly well into the topic of on-and-offline worlds melding.

It should be mentioned that the singers and emcees on this project really helped make it special. It feels like their talent could be easily lost in everything else that was going on with this album, so it felt important to give them their credit as well. FLANCH seemed to be as much a collaborative project as it was a debut for FLANCH as an outfit.

FLANCH packs an insurmountably thick sounds into a short listen. The music is out of left field, wondrous, and emotional. The album is thematically engaging, and challenging enough to keep the listener coming back for more. Admittedly it might not click for everyone, nor does it seem like it’s supposed to; however, what FLANCH has delivered may hold up as one of the most creative, outside-the-box projects of the year.

Album Review: Blueprint – Vigilante Genesis

by Dustin

VG

8/10

How suitable that we’d close out May with a review of a new Blueprint project. Blueprint, of course, was our featured artist at the start of the month. The veteran underground emcee has teamed up with longtime collaborator Aesop Rock to deliver this brand new EP, Vigilante Genesis.

Though it weighs in at a modest nineteen minutes, Vigilante Genesis is anything but short on content. Rather than being a collection of assorted songs, this project is basically a miniature concept album. Taking elements from hip-hop culture and the murder mystery genre, Vigilante Genesis follows a story of a graffiti artist looking to bring justice upon those who mistakenly murdered a fellow tagger. Each track adds a piece to the tale, building a world much like an old-school story-based radio show.

When these greedy motherfuckers try to take what I love,
I write ‘greed’ in red ink, let it drip like blood,
Punk-ass security, they circle in shifts,
Seemed like five minutes but I time it at six,
And I done come too far to go out like a bitch,
So I chill behind a dumpster, hit my target, and dip.
(Vigilante Genesis)

Putting the story aside for a moment, Blueprint as a rapper shows up as sharp as ever. He felt very engaged in the story, providing a fitting first person narrative to match the tone of the story. As a general rule Blueprint is quite charismatic on the mic, and this is true for Vigilante Genesis. His writing was sharp, but at the same time never detracted from the concept just to complete a grander rhyme scheme. He’s straightforward in all the proper ways, which lead to a simple-to-follow listen.

Abstract has a longstanding place in hip-hop, but the route Blueprint took definitely worked most efficiently for this kind of concept.

He tearing up like “oh shit, I thought you was dead”,
Nah man, you and your mans killed the wrong kid,
I could kill you now for the sake of revenge,
Or you can come with me and tell the cops what you did.
(Ten Paces)

Aesop Rock provided the production for Vigilante Genesis, and those familiar with his instrumental work would be able to recognize this instantly. The beats feel like they could fit seamlessly within either of his last two solo releases. The production matches very well with Blueprints vocals, and maintains consistency throughout the entirety of the EP.

Aesop did a lovely job at setting the mood, and Blueprint knocked it out of the park with his slick story telling.

As a whole, this is a can’t-miss EP if you’re a fan of Blueprint’s work. Perhaps it’s a little bit of an adventure away from what he usually does as an artist, but he pulls it off well. General hip-hop fans will most likely enjoy this tape as well. The story is easy to understand, but interesting enough to hold the listeners interest; moreover, this is probably Blueprint’s most accessible tapes in terms of overall sound. Give it a listen, it may just be one of the top projects of 2016 by year’s end.