Album Review: Apollo Brown & Planet Asia – Anchovies

by Rajin

anchovies

7.5/10

I think the biggest mistake I made last year was sleeping on The Easy Truth, by Apollo Brown and Skyzoo. That album ended up being one of my favorites of 2016. Seeing a couple of months ago that Apollo Brown was teaming up with another rapper, this time being Planet Asia of Cali Agents, for an album called Anchovies (released through Mello Music Group) I made sure not to repeat that mistake.

Apollo Brown has been one of my favorites for a while. He is one of the most reliably dope producers I can think of; while generally not the most unique beatsmith in his technique, style and range, the end product is guaranteed to be soulful and immersive. His beats tell stories, even without vocals. Usually when a rapper and producer make a collaboration album, it tends to sound like the rapper’s vision with that sole producer supplying beats. Yet, the exact opposite is generally true with Apollo Brown. It’s clear that these albums are his show, and on each, he gets the rapper to come with his A-game. Planet Asia, on the other hand, is someone who I am new to. In order to get familiar before listening to this album, I listened to his other MMG release: a collaboration with producer Gensu Dean called Abrasions (which, for a quick one-line review, was quite a solid album with some filler). Based off that album, he seemed to be a talented and straightforward emcee – no frills. Just hardcore hip hop, pulled off effectively. Perfect for what Apollo was going for on this.

Speaking of which, the musical style on this album is very different from what I think most would imagine at first glance when seeing the names Apollo Brown and Planet Asia together. I think the expected product would be something along the lines of Dice Game or Trophies. They must have been aware of this going in, and decided to go for the unexpected. Rather than his typical hard-hitting drums and cinematic soul loops that would theoretically sound great behind Asia’s booming voice, Apollo Brown’s production on this is very stripped down. The drums are intentionally less prominent in the mixes, with snares often completely absent, and dirty, dusty pianos generally taking the forefront on the production side of this. It was a bit of a risk that very much paid off.

Apollo Brown and Planet Asia said that Anchovies would be an acquired taste, and to a certain extent they are right. The album sounds like it belongs to a branch of hip hop occupied by artists like Roc Marciano and Ka. However, I feel as though Anchovies is far more accessible than an album such as Honor Killed The Samurai or even Rosebudd’s Revenge. Where emcees like that are lyrically more esoteric as far as their vocabulary and references, Planet Asia’s lyricism is rooted in more colloquial language, with more of an emphasis placed on witty bars rather than abstract stories and wordplay. In addition, he raps with a more standard delivery and rhythmic flow while Ka and Marci are typically more hushed and sound almost like spoken word. Anchovies draws a great deal from the style that they use, but remains grounded in more traditional hip hop – it ends up sounding like a less cloudy and hazy version of what Conway might do. In having this sort of style, the album ends up being what I consider to be a great place to start for listeners who are trying to dip their toes into that particular facet of hip hop.

“Dirty” is an adjective that was used in a lot of the promo for Anchovies, and it really is probably the most apt description there is. The album sounds like the soundtrack to slouching against a wall smoking a cigarette in an empty alleyway behind a bar at 2 A.M. Asia’s voice and his generally somber delivery gives a feeling of cynical (and at times, emotional) reflection. This album arguably sounds like a spiritual successor to Dice Game (which, incidentally, Planet Asia was featured on)…it’s almost like this highlights what it’s like after the game when everyone’s dispersed and you’re left by yourself. It’s fitting, then, that Guilty Simpson shows up on “Nine Steamin,’” a song that is kind of reminiscent to that album.

Some songs, such as “The Aura,” “Duffles,” and “Deep in the Casket” have a bit of a jazzy, noir film kind of vibe to them, where you could imagine them behind black and white scenery. The majority of the album, however, is a little more soulful and reflective. Songs like “Speak Volumes,” “Diamonds,” and “Tiger Bone” sound sort of like what RZA would have made during the Wu-Tang Forever era with the soul samples, but far more minimal. The minimalism on this album is definitely its defining trait, and it’s pulled off wonderfully. Apollo did a great job at making sure that no matter how bare-bones the music was, it still felt full and warm to listen to.

If there is one thing that I can say I am disappointed by, it is the fact that after you get acclimated to the style of music being made here, the songs become a little predictable. If you, like me, listened to each of the singles before the album dropped, then there are likely few surprises offered to you. Apollo Brown keeps it consistent with his production, and Planet Asia does what he does lyrically and vocally. That’s not to say that it gets repetitive or the music is nonessential, and there are a few tracks that do break that mold and add a bit of depth, namely “Pain,” “Get Back,” and “You Love Me”. It’s just that the listener can pretty accurately guess what will happen on each track once they’ve heard a few. The two of them have enough talent, though, that while the predictability may hold Anchovies back as a whole from reaching its full potential, the quality of the actual music present is not diminished by any means.

On Apollo Brown’s albums, I often find more enjoyment in the beats than the raps. His production is captivating almost 100% of the time, making it’s easy for a rapper to just become a voice that compliments it well but ultimately gets tuned out. Even if the production is great, if there are emcees involved, I personally can’t call an album better than just “pretty good” if they don’t grab my interest. Sure, you can be a good rapper, but if you just serve to fill in the blanks on an impressive beat tape you’re not offering enough for the listener, or at least one like myself. With that being said, Planet Asia is not one of those emcees. He’s got witty lyrics, a distinctive delivery, and most importantly, a commanding presence and charisma. If anything, this album might be the first time I felt that it wasn’t overwhelmingly directed by Apollo. Asia felt like he had much more of a leading role, as opposed to the supporting role that the emcees generally take. Perhaps it was due in part to how minimal the beats were, but Asia’s vocal presence and clever lyricism made his mark on the album in ways that a lot of emcees don’t get to over Apollo Brown’s production.

Overall, I found Anchovies to be a great album. It is definitely one of the best efforts that I’ve personally heard this year. I appreciate and very much enjoy the sound that these guys decided to try out. Despite my criticism of the music getting predictable in the context of the album, there is no filler at all. This is an album you can’t resist but listen to the full way through. It sounded natural, and not pretentious and over-ambitious, which would have been easy given the style. My favorite tracks are probably “Diamonds,” “Dalai Lama Slang,” “Pain,” and “Get Back”. Obviously I will have to sit with it for a little longer, but as it stands right now, this is one of my favorite Apollo Brown albums; I’m not deep enough into Planet Asia’s catalog to speak on it from his side, but I’m certainly going to remedy that. I recommend this album to anyone who likes hip hop in any capacity, because it may offer a glimpse into a style that not as many people are exposed to, while not being a challenging listen.

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A Beautiful Tribute to Sean Price’s Legacy, Imperius Rex

by Rajin

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Two years from the day of Sean Price’s passing, Duck Down Music released Imperius Rex, a posthumous Sean Price album. P was working on an album with that title, however, he had passed before getting too deep, completing only four songs according to his wife, Bernadette. As such, she took it upon herself to complete the album with what materials she had. She had taken the few songs Sean had fully completed, and fleshed the rest of the project out with unused Sean verses and filled the blanks in with guests. The end product is an impressive collection of songs that feel almost completely like a normal Sean Price album.

The album opens up the with the title track, which was one of the few songs that was properly completed before Sean’s death. Before the song starts, we are greeted with a preface by Sean’s daughter Shaun (that’s always going to amuse me) doing her signature cover of Sean’s song “Soul Perfect.” Honestly, I can’t think of a better way for the album to start, because Sean bringing his daughter out at a show to do that had become one of the coolest moments to see happen in Sean’s career. The track kind of serves a similar purpose as “Genesis of the Omega” from Sean’s last album, Mic Tyson, where it is just a bar-fest used to get the listener ready for what the album has to offer. It may not be a coincidence that The Alchemist produced both tracks.

Most of the rest of the album has a sort of apocalyptic sound to it. The soundscape laid by songs such as “Apartheid,” “Negus,” and “Church Bells” is eerie, spacey, and threatening. The beats to those songs and several others feel almost hellish, with minor distortion in the instruments used and ghoulish pianos. It is by no means experimental or out-of-the-ordinary (as that would defeat the entire purpose of this being a Sean Price album), but it is definitely a cool sound. I don’t know whether Sean himself had decided that this was the direction that he was going to go in or if that was just the type of production that Bernadette decided to use, but regardless, it was a cool artistic choice. It feels like the next logical step from where Mic Tyson had left off, as that album was definitely muddier, darker, and more Alchemist-driven than his previous two, which had more of a typical Duck Down-9th Wonder/Khrysis-influenced soul-sampling sound to them. Of course, that is still present on a few tracks like “Ape In His Apex” and “Clans & Cliks,” but overall there is a more minimal, creepy atmosphere to the album.

The guests on this album were chosen very well. While most of them were put on the album in order to fill the gaps that couldn’t be filled with more of Sean’s verses, none of them actually felt that way. Coming from who they came from and being done the way they were, it all felt like Sean had personally worked with them for their verses. Aside from Freeway alluding to Sean being dead on “Prisoner” (whose contribution I did not like in the slightest), I genuinely can’t tell whether the verses were done before Sean’s death or after. They did a great job at not talking about his death, but rather just adding to the song in whatever way they would have done under normal circumstances, and most were very enjoyable overall. Also, there were thankfully no really left-field features, which tend to happen a lot on posthumous releases. Everyone featured on this album is someone who I could have seen Sean working with, oftentimes because he’s already worked with them. In my opinion, DOOM came with the best feature verse on the entire album by a long shot, showcasing a hunger that he hasn’t had since Born This Way. It was also sort of fun to see Mrs. Price actually rap on the album too. It’s definitely something I see Sean enjoying, being the family man he was.

I would have to say the most impressive part of this album is how well the songs were put together, considering what they were. As stated earlier, Bernadette Price painstakingly went through verses and hooks that Sean had in the vault for various reasons and chose which ones to put together to create full songs with. On occasion, such as “Dead or Alive” and “Definition of God”, you can definitely tell the verses come from two different sources; on both songs, the first verse would have Sean sounding like he always does, and the second verse had him sounding a lot raspier, almost alarmingly so on the former. However, there are no other times I can think of that noticeably displays a difference. In fact, the verses tend to sound very natural together. If I didn’t already know what the creative process was for this album, I honestly would have thought that more of it was completed before Sean’s death, the verses are placed together that fluidly.

Of course, being that this is a Sean Price album, the content doesn’t offer much more than rapping about rapping and talking about how he’ll slap the shit out of you. As taken from a voice clip used on “Refrigerator P!” Sean says that he is a hardcore emcee and that he’s not trying to reinvent the wheel. While yes, it can be fun to hear a rapper rap, it can get very boring unless you have substantial enough skill to back this up. Thankfully, Sean did. I believe that Sean’s artistic style did play a role in what makes Imperius Rex feel so much like a real Sean Price album. Given what Sean usually rapped about, it may have been a little easier to piece songs together.

As this is a posthumous album primarily consisting of songs that Sean himself did not complete, we feel as though it would be unfair to assign a score to it. This is not technically an official review so much as it is my thoughts on the album and the work going into it. I just wanted to discuss it, not only because I enjoyed the project a lot, but because I am floored at the care put into this project.

This album was meticulously crafted and sequenced with reverence towards Sean’s artistic process. Everybody involved on this album clearly meant for this to sound like what a fourth Sean Price album would sound like, rather than a tribute album with Sean Price vocals on it or Sean Price but artificially updated. I want to salute Bernadette Price specifically for what she did in creating this album. She has, quite frankly, set the standard for posthumous work in my mind, as far as the integrity behind it goes. This is, hands down, the most tastefully done posthumous album I’ve ever heard. No vulture-like treatment of the music (a la posthumous 2Pac and Biggie records) to be seen here. There was no misplaced guest verses, no questionable beat choices, no corny concepts. Mrs. Price did her absolute best to make something that would sound like something her husband would have made, and aside from moments where you can tell the verses aren’t from the same song due to a change in Sean’s delivery, she was immensely successful.

RIP Sean Price.

Album Review: milo – who told you to think​?​?​!​!​?​!​?​!​?​!

by Dustin

whotoldyoutothink

9/10

At times it feels as if no independent hip-hop artist’s stock has risen as much in the past three years as milo. A protege of sorts to Busdriver and Open Mike Eagle, milo’s rise in the alternative scene was met with some speed-bumps; however, after the collapse of Hellfyre Club, he’s seemingly risen from the ashes as one of the best young emcees in rap, period. With the release of 2015’s so the flies don’t come, milo showed that he had the ability to truly reach his potential as an artist. Following this, he would slip into the shadows to work on his next project, while also sharing a couple of short releases under his highly experimental Scallops Hotel alter-ego. Two years later milo has reemerged with his latest piece of work, who told you to think​?​?​!​!​?​!​?​!​?​!.

who told you to think​?​?​!​!​?​!​?​!​?​! is an album with a sound entirely unique to itself. While it does clearly keep one foot in the roops of hip-hop and rap, there’s also a very clear effort on milo’s end to be his own artist. There’s an impishly playful (and sometimes coy) nature to the way milo rattles off bar after bar; moreover, it’s the type of album where the humor and poignancy is not made overwhelmingly apparent. This sort of subtlety makes who told you to think​?​?​!​!​?​!​?​!​?​! an incredibly addictive listen. milo kept his writing as sharp as ever though, bringing a unique wit and thoughtfulness to each song. Each verse listens as if milo is beside the listener spilling everything he feels. Happiness, sadness, love, you name it.

If there’s a weak point to note on this album it’s milo’s hooks (or lack thereof), but honestly this seems like an aesthetic choice and didn’t really detract from the listening experience at all. Just don’t be surprised if a hook is a single phrased repeated for a break in the song. Fortunately it works well with his style, and his selection of live vocal effects keep things interesting.

Perhaps one of the main reasons who told you to think​?​?​!​!​?​!​?​!​?​! is so enchanting is that it’s as complex of a listen as one wants it to be. The evolution of milo’s style has taken him to a place where his music is lyrically challenging, yet soothing and easy to consume. Compared to some of milo’s earlier works, who taught you to think is easy to vibe out to if the listener doesn’t feel like focusing too heavily on the content; however, there’s more than enough going on to feed the lyric obsessed on many subsequent listens. These seem like contradictory statements, but milo did an excellent job of balancing these aspects.

The features on who told you to think​?​?​!​!​?​!​?​!​?​! were a lovely assortment of frequent milo collaborators. Of note are Busdriver, Elucid, and Deathbomb Arc associated Signor Benedick the Moor. Though Busdriver stole the show as far as feature go with his hyperactive energy, everyone brought their best. There’s not much else that can be said, aside from the fact that the features really added a great extra dimensions to the songs on which they appeared.

The production is absolutely fantastic. Handled by a variety of different producers easily recognizable by fans of milo and his close peers (such as DJ Nobody and Kenny Segal), who told you to think​?​?​!​!​?​!​?​!​?​! is a close knit collection of Los Angeles beat-scene inspired glory. The blending of jazz and soulful easy listening samples boast an impressive soundtrack behind milo’s vocals. There’s also a wonderful usage of negative space on this record instrumentally. Nothing is overwhelmingly busy or dense, but at the same time it manages to be strong enough that it could stand on its own. This album hits that rare equilibrium of the artist and the production complementing and elevating each other, rather than one stealing the show all on their own.

Regardless of if you are a fan of milo currently, who told you to think​?​?​!​!​?​!​?​!​?​! is an album worth investing some time into. He’s an excellent young artist armed with one of the most unique sounds in hip-hop currently. Between this and so the flies don’t come, it is quickly becoming apparently that he’s come into his own and realized the potential that many fans saw in his earlier releases during the Hellfyre era. If you really like the release, be sure to support the artist. milo is independent in every sense of the word, and every cent counts.

Put your money on the green horse for rap.

Rajin Rambles: The Consumption of Hip-Hop

by Rajin

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I’m a little late in finding this out, but according to Nielson, rap and R&B are now the most widely consumed genre of music in America, overtaking rock music. Everyone who has anything invested in these genres probably has something to say about that, and I’d just like to give my quick thoughts.

Now first and foremost, I am thrilled about this. Fans of anything should want to see that thing succeed, and while success can be a subjective status defined by those aiming for it, hip hop music being the most widely consumed kind of music is at least an objective indication that what people thought decades ago was just a fad is here to stay and continue growing. While there have been many fads within hip hop music, those voices of doubt about the culture and style of music as a whole only belong to the ignorant at this point, those who are in denial about the last 40+ years now. That being said, I know that there are probably some people who are a little upset about hip hop no longer being counter-culture, and see it as having been diluted to get to this point.

The biggest contributing factor to the growth in consumption of the music is that hip hop culture has opened up to everybody. There are white rappers running around everywhere, and it has become normalized (the Eminem comparison has stopped being drawn the way it was for a good 15 years). We are at a point where people like Dustin can start on a blog on the premise of being a hip hop site (although that has expanded a bit), and have me, somebody who is neither white nor black, contribute to it, and nobody would think anything of it. Rappers are coming in with different looks (granted, some of them are fucking stupid to me), as opposed to the almost ubiquitous baggy jeans/hoodie/Timbs combination of the ‘90s/’00s. Hip hop is still a genre that is opposed to change, but it has become far more accepting of new ideas, styles, and looks, possibly aided by the overall mindset of the millennial generation.

In a changing environment, it’s evolve or die. The music industry is in constant shift. Listeners are very fickle in what they like. They have short attention spans and tastes change very quickly. If music doesn’t make an effort to change with it, then it gets left behind. Mainstream hip hop chose to evolve. The choice may not have been supported by everybody, but it happened, and it’s been happening since the beginning. From golden age rock samples with little to no lyrical content, to highly lyrical verses over dusty soul and funk samples, to the heavy orchestral sounds of the G-Unit era, to crunk, and now trap with more emphasis placed on melody in delivery. It’s how the genre keeps from going stagnant, and keeps doors open for listeners to constantly keep coming in.

While this may reek of “selling out” or changing to the point where it’s no longer the same genre, you have to remember. The DNA of hip hop is still present. In fact, and I’m sure I’ve said this before, it’s probably more present than it was 10 years ago. In 2007, the only notable labels that I can think of that really repped the core essence of hip hop are Duck Down and Def Jux (I’m definitely forgetting others). These days the movement of representing what the culture was built on has been a growing one. Sure, it may be in response to the current styles in the spirit of rebellion and keeping that counter-culture feeling alive. However, the interest wouldn’t be generated for this sort of a movement/subgenre if there wasn’t enough listeners of the genre to begin with. We’ve reached the point where people like Westside Gunn and Conway can be signed to a major label. I don’t think that would have been possible even just 5 years ago.

Hip hop is in a good place. It is exciting to see it winning and reaching the level of popularity that it is at right now. While there are a ton of popular subgenres out that many (including myself oftentimes) may have a distaste for, it is only natural for a genre to create subgenres while trying to experiment. There is room for everything now, and hopefully that continues to allow for further growth in consumption and experimentation.

Think Piece: “End of Days” is Either the Worst or the Funniest Song Ever Released

by Dustin

thisguyisinsane

Disclaimer: It has been a very slow period for new music releases. This think-piece is a product of that. Try not to take it too seriously.

If you ever went to public school, chances are you knew “that kid.” The one who still ate glue and urinated in his pants at recess in the fifth grade. If hip-hop sub-genres were elementary school students, conspiracy theory rap would be “that kid.” Whether it’s Immortal Technique rapping about his incest-gang-rape fantasies, or Vinnie Paz being himself, this certain pocket of music is an unbridled source of entertainment for all the wrong reasons. While legions of woke individuals gobble up the mass of unsubstantiated facts spewed by these artists, unintelligent sheeple such as myself have the unfortunate pleasure of sitting on the outside and having a quick laugh.

Enter “End of Days” by the aforementioned Vinnie Paz. The magnum opus of ludicrous truther rap, and perhaps one of the funniest hip-hop songs to ever be released.

If you’ve now taken the initiative of turning on the song, you’ll discover that it starts with the hook. This hook is sung by some goon named Block McCloud. Honestly, it’s pretty unlistenable so we’re going to skip over it. All you really need to know is that he’s questioning the average American’s bravery for not believing all the “truth” that Vinnie Paz is about to drop upon us. Let’s educate ourselves, starting from the top of the first verse.

Everybody a slave, only some are aware,
That the government releasin’ poison in the air,
That’s the reason I collect so many guns in my lair,
I ain’t never caught slippin’, never under-prepared.

At this point, Mr. Paz has already invalidated anything he has to say in the rest of “End of Days” by admitting he believes in chemtrails (the idea that the contrails jets produce are actually poison being released by the government for various reasons). If you think about it, this is actually pretty kind of him because it takes out the need for us to do any fact checking. Not that the average Vinnie Paz fan knows what “fact checking” is, but for the rest of us this takes out a very time consuming step.

More importantly however, is that Vinnie Paz is going to protect himself from airborne poisons with guns. Though I am not personally a chemist or an expert in firearms, I am at least seventy percent sure you cannot gun down airborne poison.

Moving on.

There’s fluoride in the water, but nobody know that,
It’s also a prominent ingredient in Prozac,
How could any government bestow that?

Ah yes, you know what else is in water? Hydrogen. You know what else hydrogen is a prominent ingredient in? Hydrogen bombs. Therefor water is dangerous and we should all avoid it. Especially when you consider that all humans to ever die ingested water at some point in their life. Spooky. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of how chemistry actually works. Though Prozac’s chemical formula does technically contain fluorine, this is entirely irrelevant to the fluoridation process of water. Who would have thought that Vinnie would make uneducated claims? Oh right, everyone.

Fun fact, wine, raisins, and black tea all contain more fluoride than fluoridated municipal water. I’m sure that’s a government conspiracy too. Big Raisin is trying to control our minds.

That’s not all that I’m here to present you,
I know about the black pope in Solomon’s Temple Yeah,
about the Vatican assassins and how they will get you,
And how they cloned Barack Hussein Obama in a test tube.

At this point I’m assuming that Vinnie Paz realized he actually has zero fucking background on anything he’s rapping about. As such, he’s reverted to just stating that he “knows” these things to sound smart to whatever moron is willing to believe him. I’ll be keeping my eyes open for those Vatican assassins though, I wouldn’t want them to get me. That sounds bad.

At the rate this song is devolving into a caricature of conspiracy theorists, I’m genuinely surprised we’ve not seen a “jet fuel can’t melt steel beams” meme.

Who you think the motherfuckers that crashed in the tower?
Who you think that made it turn into ash in an hour?

Never mind.

The Bird Flu is a lie, the Swine Flu is a lie,
Why would that even come as a surprise?
Yeah, the Polio vaccine made you die,
It caused cancer and it cost a lot of people their lives.

You know what actually cost a lot of people their lives? Polio. The vaccine itself is actually astoundingly safe, to the point that pregnant women and people with HIV/AIDs are allowed to have it with very little risk. Even the oral Polio vaccine only causes complications in about three cases out of every million vaccines administered. Compare that to the absolutely horrendous rates of polio during the 1950s, and it’s clear as day how important the vaccine was. Then again, if you’re taking medical advice from Vinnie Paz, I don’t really expect you to be able to read any of what I just wrote.

Oh, and I’ve had Swine Flu. As far as it being a lie, my three soiled pairs of boxers from shitting myself while vomiting into a bucket beg to differ. 2010 was a rough year.

Honestly, at this point I don’t even remember where I was going with this think-piece. This was supposed to be a concluding paragraph, but listening to the song and reading the lyrics has absolutely fried my brain. I think I wanted to make the case for this being the most accidentally funny song ever released; however, the more I experienced it the more I felt a compulsive desire to shove a railroad spike through my temple. At some point the limescale remover Vinnie Paz drinks for breakfast stopped destroying his vocal chords and started eating away at his grey matter. This is the least professional article I’ve ever written, and I don’t care. I’m too tired from listening to this bullshit.

Fuck Vinnie Paz. “End of Days” is trash. Vaccinate your kids. Goodnight world.

Tyler and Ryan of Poor English Discuss The Band and its Beginnings

by Dustin

poorenglish

You learn things really quickly while sitting down and speaking with Porland’s Poor English. First and foremost, their English is actually really good. Shocker, right? Secondly, Tyler is the talkative one. He probably could have conducted this interview single-handedly and had it finished sooner than we did.

Most importantly however, is that it became very clear that this project is a labor of love filled with extremely passionate musicians. For as much as we loved Poor English when we reviewed their debut EP, it wasn’t clear yet just how open ended and fun this band was as a whole. Fortunately, Tyler and Ryan took a little time out of their first half of 2017 (yeah, this interview took a while) to discuss the group with us.

We think you’ll come to find that they are the biggest little band you’ll ever see.


EN: How did the Poor English band come together? I know there were some other projects with band member involvement such as Sunbather, so how did this lineup end up meeting?

Tyler: Good question! A few years back, I moved to Portland from Indiana where I was involved with some other projects. One was called Cool Dad, which Joe was also a part of. That was more a college, dance, house party type band, but I digress…I was super bummed to leave that project, but more importantly my band called Mid-American. So I put an ad on Craigslist that essentially said “I want to make a band. But I don’t have a drum kit or a place to play.”

Somehow Ryan thought that was fine and decided to email me back. So we met in October of 2014 and jammed a lil bit and then just kinda stopped playing together. Fast-forward like 5 months and we decided to give it another go. We started gelling big time. So we tried out a bunch of different musicians and vocalists. None of them quite worked out. And Sunbather had just released their album Braneworld, which Ryan and I couldn’t get enough of. We thought Joe’s math-rock-esque background and unique vocal style is exactly what we were looking for. So I reached out to him and he was super onboard. Over the course of a long time we had sent him scratch tracks of the 5 songs you hear on the Ep and he would crank out some vox and guitar licks and send it back. Pretty much an instant perfect fit. That’s pretty much it.

EN: There’s a lot I could say about such a refreshing band forming out of Tyler being a music freeloader – but I wont for the sake of professionalism haha. With that in mind, was there a conscious goal to have somewhat of a pop-punk revivalist sound when you guys were starting out? I mean, you guys have such a unique blend of throwback and forward thinking that it feels like it has to have been planned.

TYLER: I’ll definitely let the other dudes chime in, but honestly, nope. I must say, I have been somewhat confused.. or maybe surprised by all the folks pegging us as pop-punk. Because to me, pop-punk is Four Year Strong, Blink 182, Bowling for Soup, and the like. Be that as it may, the people have spoken.

I think we all have a taste for technical music and atypical sounds that play well off of each member’s unique sound. In other words, I think the three of us fit like a glove. Definitely not planned, but it ended up working out very well.

I’m really interested to see how our new members’ sounds will mold any upcoming tunes we write. Joe being Georgia, we have adopted two new members to play live and are finally getting around to starting on the writing process.

Also, isn’t there a quote out there about the best artists stealing work as their own? Something like that? Yeah well, I like to steal the actual musicians.

EN: The “pop-punk” sound I’m thinking of is more of an alternative thing rather than the Bowling for Soup and Blink 182 era of commercial skate punk; I suppose that’s all semantics though. Genre definitions are stupid.

Tyler: Indeed they are!

Ryan: I definitely agree with Tyler in that the sound wasn’t planned at all. It definitely just came together based upon having similar backgrounds and taste, but also as individuals trying to find our own sound, which was luckily pleasing to the ear when it all combined into the creation of this EP.

EN: How did you guys end up releasing the EP through Darling Recordings? I actually found your tunes through being a member of the Sweetheart Record Club that Nick does for the label.

Tyler: Oh hell yeah. His record club is awesome. I didn’t realize that’s how you first heard us.

I am actually originally from Indiana. Nick and I met when we were in college. We didn’t attend the same school, but we had a lot of mutual friends. Drew (Goodmorning Players) and Ben (FLANCH) were both in Cool Dad as well. And they’re both good friends of Nick. So that’s how we got hooked up. I was really digging what Darling was doing at the time. We had chatted while Ryan and I were first writing and I would just bounce early demos off of him. And it just seemed to moved forward pretty organically from there.

EN: I actually bought the record club subscription because I already owned the FLANCH and Hales Corner projects, and then I heard a song off Poor English and thought the album art was cool. So really, you guys having good taste in art suckered me into the club. It was a good decision.

I’m assuming the working relationship between you guys and Darling is pretty solid then, given your history with Nick and company?

Tyler: Oh yeah absolutely. It’s been smooth because he is willing to be as hands-on or as hands-off as the artists want him to be. Oh, and thanks for the kind words man!

EN: No worries! I’m very much a fan of the band, it’s awesome to have been there from the first release. Speaking of which, were you guys surprised at how Everlaster caught on? I saw it getting TV spots, it also has a ton of streams on Spotify. That cut is such a breath of fresh air that even from the sidelines, seeing it blow up was amazing.

Tyler: Ha, yes! It was wild. It seemed like we were watching it all happen from the sidelines as well. So much stuff was happening around us (and it) for a while there, without us even really doing anything. [We’re] so thankful that it ended up on Fresh Finds. That was huge. And as far as the TV spot? No idea how that happened. The dude who runs social media for the Trailblazers somehow found it and just decided he was going to use it as the “local music spotlight”. I don’t watch basketball, so I’m not sure how that works, but I assume they have a local music spotlight every so often. Should we have gotten paid for that? Nick? Wanna help us out here? [Laughs]

EN: Does seeing one of your songs catch like that make you feel pressure on yourselves to make something that clicks with listeners in the same type of way?

Tyler: Eh, I would say initially it does. But really in the long-run it doesn’t. It would be cool if our tunes did click with folks in that way, but that’s not why we wrote this music in the first. So I try not to let myself get into that headspace, because that can be dangerous. Plus, if you really think about it, it is still a very small thing in the grand scheme of things.

Ryan: Yeah, I don’t really worry about it at all. It’s cool that it did catch on a little bit, but writing for someone else’s wants or needs never carries as much weight as writing for yourself. I think people will connect more with the music your write if you approach writing this way.

EN: The vibe I’m picking up, and always have, from you guys with those sort of responses is that the artistry is more important than anything else when approaching your music. With that in mind, how important do you think it is to routinely push the boundaries of the Poor English sound going forward?

Tyler: I’d say it’s huge. Speaking for myself – and bare with me here, really not trying to sound pretentious – I have found recently that I don’t really fall in love with an artist or a record unless they’re pushing themselves, and creating sounds that I haven’t really ever heard before. I find that my Spotify library has become extremely diverse for this reason. So as far as writing goes, I am always looking to create new sounds and rhythms. Atypical sounds and the like. A big inspiration for me here is Chris Hainey from Maps & Atlases. He is the reason I am starting to build out my kit with more than just your regular drum shells and cymbals. And the 5 of us are constantly sending each other new tunes in our group chat. Finding that next piece of inspiration is huge, too.

EN: This is something that I don’t think enough artists discuss, so to expand on that, do you think it’s inevitable that your sound will evolve as your tastes in music outside your own change?

Tyler: I think it’s inevitable for sure. It’s important to note though, that there is a huge difference between inspiration and influence. A lot of greener bands or musicians may end up sounding a lot like a certain band or bands, because they are pulling so heavily from said groups and you can really hear the influence. I think it’s very important to be aware of that difference as you write, as to not lean too heavily into an influence, but rather take inspiration and learn to form your own sound.

EN: Do you find that a lot of smaller bands struggle to establish their own sound?

Tyler: I think newer bands often struggle, maybe not smaller bands as we are super small. But yeah, it all comes back to being able to distinguish between influence and inspiration, in my honest opinion. Also not focusing too much on what they think they should sound like, and focusing more on whatever the hell comes out of your own mind.

And by newer bands, I mean a band made of up of musicians who don’t have tons of experience playing and writing. I was in a band once when I was young and we sounded like a straight up blend of 3 of my favorite bands. You could pick out which songs were influenced by which band. No bueno.

EN: Since you guys have added a couple of others for live shows and such, I have to ask, will they be actively involved in the writing and recording process going forward?

Tyler: That’s actually a discussion that’s been ongoing for some time now. The way we’re working on this one is that Ryan and I are writing songs and if anyone has ideas they want to try out or throw into the song, then by all means. So for example, we’re working on a song right now – working title is Bonfire – and have it up on Google Drive that we, Darling, Joe, and the other dudes who play live with us, have access to. So if anyone wants to grab it and write a part for it then we want them to do so. Joe has taken a liking to this tune and immediately started writing for it. Matt and Michael are certainly welcome to add to it. But if they don’t want to or aren’t inspired, then no sweat. I don’t know if that makes sense.

We’re sort of just making it an open process to whoever feels inspired. Obviously Ryan and I are writing on every tune though.

EN: Would you say that you’re aiming for a sort of…Broken Social Scene approach? Where anyone contribute if they feel like it, but that you and Ryan will almost always be the core band members involved in every song?

Tyler: It seems to be that that is how it has worked out. Not necessarily intentionally, but yeah it’s looking to be that way. Kinda cool.

EN: What’s the experience like, playing proper gigs for the first time? I know a lot of young musicians who, going into their first performances, had near anxious breakdowns.

Ryan: I don’t feel that we get very nervous playing shows as we all have experience playing live. Most of our shows are very intimate and we’re playing for people we know for the most part, so there’s really nothing for us to be nervous about. Playing our songs off the EP live has let me see how people physically react to the music, whether or not they’re dancing, just spectating, etc. Those experiences, I feel, are in some way shaping the new music we’re working on (at least it’s affecting me and my contributions) as we hope to take our live performances and energy to a whole new level.

Tyler: I agree. It’s been fun to gauge reactions and talk to folks afterwards. And having been playing the same set for so long makes it that much more comfortable, but it also motivates me to push our sound even further so we can create the best experience possible for our fans.

Also, I’ve been playing shows since 8th grade so I’m past the nerves for the most part. The first few times I had to sing some shit on stage with Poor English was a little nerve racking because that’s a new thing for me, but I love doing it now.

Why it Was Good: The Entity, by King Gordy

by Dustin

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The year was 2003, and in the hip-hop world all eyes were on Detroit. With Eminem rising to global mega-stardom, D12 going platinum with Devil’s Night two years prior, and Obie Trice being added into the Shady Records family, the city seemed like an unstoppable production line of rap gold. This remained true under the surface, where a blossoming underground scene was producing a plethora of incredibly talented artists. King Gordy was one. A member of the world’s “largest” group, The Fat Killahz, Gordy was somewhat an unpolished diamond at the time. He was rough around the edges, but full of soul, energy, and had a mind that could only be sculpted in the rough neighborhoods of Detroit. In fact, prior to approaching this album you should drop all preconceived notions of King Gordy. Though his reputation as the “King of Horrorcore” is well established at this point, he was a little different during the time of The Entity.

First and foremost, it’s impossible to have a discussion about The Entity without first talking about “Nightmares.” Track two on the album after an introduction skit. “Nightmares” was, for lack of a better description, the evil-bizarro-world version of “My Name Is.” King Gordy introduced himself to the listener as the Van Dyke and Harper version of Freddy Krueger, and then angrily shouted his name repeatedly so you can’t forget who he is. It is really an incredibly catchy and dark song that’s a blast to yell along with. I don’t know how King Gordy and his camp managed to make something evil so much fun to listen to, but as a way to introduce himself, it was amazing.

“Nightmares” is the perfect track to give a listen if you’re still on the fence about this album. It gives an excellent snapshot of the anger, vileness, and talent King Gordy was bringing to the table on The Entity. The music video is a lot of fun too, featuring appearances from Detroit rap icons and an additional verse which didn’t appear on the album version.

Armed and dangerous, AKs turn your brains to mush,
Mix my weed with angel dust, feds label us notorious.
(Nightmares)

Enough about that though, what about the rest of the record?

King Gordy was overflowing with an equal amount of energy on the rest of The Entity as well. There was not a single track on the entire album where he phoned in a vocal performance, putting his own spin on long-time influences such as Notorious B.I.G. and Howlin’ Wolf. The Entity primarily features Gordy’s hyper-violent angry style, but there were also a handful of very genuinely sad moments. He took a much softer tone on songs such as “No Lights” and “Nobody Hates Nothin” and provided a much needed introspective gut-punch to give the album even more personality. It’s also of note that King Gordy had an incredibly powerful sing-rap style on many of The Entity’s tracks. This is a trait that he’s retained even today, and it something that has really set him apart from many rappers. He had (and still has to this day) an incredibly rare blend of excellent writing and a super expressive, charismatic delivery. Teamed with the instrumentation on The Entity, Gordy sounded like an unstoppable force.

The production on The Entity was dirty, and distinctly Detroit flavoured. Handled by The Bass Brothers, Eminem, Silent Riot, and others such as Hex Murda, the instrumentation is gloriously cohesive and created a unique sonic environment. The way they played with elements of rock, boom-bap, and stripped back guitars, horns, and pianos still sounds fresh almost a decade and a half later. They also suited the style King Gordy was using on The Entity absolutely perfectly by providing the type of room his powerful voice needs to take the lead.

As a side note, the skits on this album were actually really well executed and added something to the overall listening experience. They built up King Gordy, and the world he lives in, to be inhumane, monstrous, and anarchistic. A lot of artists have trouble making skits that don’t detract from the album, but that wasn’t an issue for The Entity. Removing the skits would kind of make the album feel like it had missed something, and they are welcome moments even on repeat listens. The features, though placed sparingly, were also excellent on The Entity. Much like the skits, they didn’t take away from King Gordy’s presence on the album. It’s still undeniably his show throughout.

Or maybe I was just never nothing to you,
Like our friendship meant nothing and I never did nothing for you,
Evidently I been nothing since the beginning,
From out the womb until my funeral, I’ll be nothing until the ending.
(Nobody Hates Nothin’)

Though Gordy would eventually fall out with WEB Entertainment and continue to have an proficient career as a solo artist, The Entity stands as a timelessly heavy debut album. It perfectly captured the character of King Gordy: angry, in your face, and not afraid to say something risque if he knows it will piss the listener off. Street rap fans will take great joy out of the albums rawness and grit; those who found King Gordy later on in his career will enjoy the horrorcore twists on tracks like “Time to Die” and “When Darkness Falls”. Ultimately, it’s the perfect hardcore rap album – a portrait of Detroit’s rap scene at the time – that has been confusingly slept on for nearly 15 years.