Album Review: Nocando – Severed

by Dustin

Severed

3.5/10

Those who have followed Los Angeles’ amazing alternative hip-hop scene will recognize the name of Hellfyre Club. Through the early 2010s, Hellfyre Club was an independent powerhouse that played home to a mass of independent mainstays. Busdriver, Open Mike Eagle, milo, VerBS and Anderson .Paak are just a few of the names to have been associated with the label’s roster alongside rapper and founder, Nocando; however, things started to go awry for the label in 2014. Dozens of fans didn’t physical copies of releases ordered through Hellfyre’s Bandcamp and took to review boards to voice their concerns. Additionally, tensions between milo and Nocando allegedly began to boil over when the label failed to compensate the young artist for his album A Toothpaste Suburb. This lead to the departure of most of the outfit’s main acts, such as Open Mike Eagle, Busdriver, and milo himself. The trio would release a free “farewell” EP, The Catcher of the Fade, with a handful of ex-Hellfyre Club musicians (with no involvement from Nocando) before moving onto greener pastures to continue crafting their art.

While the majority of the former members never spoke out against Hellfyre Club personally, there was a clear distancing from Nocando and the label. Busdriver once mentioned over Twitter that the vision of the label had died and that it was time to move on. The label sat in static, halted to indefinite hiatus after the release of Nocando’s 2014 album Jimmy the Burnout. Like most things however, Hellfyre Club was not allowed to stay as a memory. In early May of 2017 the label would see its first release in over three years with the very quiet release of The Life I Live EP by Cadalack Ron.

Flash forward less than a month, and Nocando has decided to release his first album in three years, Severed, under the Hellfyre Club moniker as well.

As an emcee, Nocando really doesn’t offer up a lot of versatility or creativity behind the mic. He’s pretty decent at what he does – which is a very punchy, sometimes crude, and simplistic throwback approach to rap – but seems to confine himself to his comfort zone. This really does not change on Severed either. Nocando does what he’s always done, and after a while the verses begin to feel like a bit of a homogeneous blob. He’s got an incredibly grating, gruff delivery on this release that feels incredibly out of place on some of the production. It’s as if Nocando is angry for the entire duration of the album, even when the overall tone of a song is nowhere near that emotion. He attempted to make up for a lack of personality by sounding aggressive, and to be honest itt did not work at all.

To make matters worse, nearly every feature outshone Nocando on this record and most of them weren’t even that interesting. Slug dropped a really nice verse on the song “Useless” (which also had one of the best instrumentals on Severed), which is well worth hearing. Aside from that though, no one really stood out. They just happened to be better than a very underwhelming lead emcee.

On a more positive note, the album art is really cool. But also, Severed feels much more focused than Nocando’s previous work. For example, Jimmy the Burnout felt like an incredibly scattered release. It listened more like a up-and-coming rapper’s debut mixtape than a studio album by a veteran underground emcee. Severed on the other hand, while boring at times, is quite cohesive. There seems to be an attempt at establishing an overarching sound for the album, which is something Nocando has struggled with in the past. It was a a bit of a surprise, but most certainly a pleasant one.

Unfortunately this has more to do with the production than his rapping. The instrumentals on Severed are actually pretty cool for the fast majority of the album. There’s a lot of trap flavor to the production, and tracks such as “Villain” certainly have a unique sound. What really is a bother however, is the absolutely dreadful mixing on this tape. The vocal volumes are all over the place from track to track. For example, “Useless” is significantly louder than its follow up song “Villain”. Add in frequently cracking “s” sounds and instrumentals that are way too quiet, and you’ve got a release with technical issues so severe that it detracts from the listening experience. Not good. The departure from Daddy Kev as an engineer was a very poor decision.

Overall this is a pretty weak release that ultimately feels unnecessary. Outside of the context of his once amazing underground collective, Nocando is just another rapper. He’s at his best when surrounded by talent with more charisma than himself, such as his group work with Busdriver as Flash Bang Grenada. On his own, he lacks the ability to create a great album. This was much of the issue with Severed. It was just so overwhelmingly generic and poorly handled. It’s a shame too, because there did genuinely seem to be some good ideas behind the album, Nocando just dropped the ball when it came to executing them in a way that makes for an enjoyable listen. He’s failed to address his shortcomings as a rapper, and they’ve only began to compound and worsen.

It’s hard to see the appeal in Severed unless you’re a big Nocando fan or desperately clinging onto the nostalgia of Hellfyre Club. A label that should’ve been allowed to rest permanently after the mistreatment of fans and artists around the time of its initial demise.

Qualchan’s Mixtape: Songs for Turning Up

by Qualchan

crazyeyes

Dustin asked me to do a second installment, so here I am – songs for turning up. Don’t “at” me on some fuck-shit over one of these dudes being goofy, or your favorite rapper not being included. Do some drugs and get lost. I’ll keep this short and to the point. The Hemingway of trap.

For those who haven’t left, here’s the playlist. Strap in.

  1. Playboi Carti – Location: Playboi Carti has put out the best album of the year so far in my opinion. This beat from Harry Fraud goes the fuck in.
  2. Xxxtentacion – Let’s Pretend We’re Numb: What do I even say…I’ve been on this cat since summer of 2016. This is an older song of his. Enjoy.
  3. Ski Mask the Slump God – Planet Drool (feat. Xxxtentacion): I had Ski Mask in my last list as well. He and Xxxtentacion are set to take over the industry.
  4. Rico Recklezz – Famous: My man Rico Recklezz is a Chiraq savage who dropped the hardest beat of the year.
  5. Higher Brothers – YAHH! (feat. J. Mag): Higher Brother have put out two lit at fuck collabs recently, this and “Made in China.” They’re definitely an act to watch out for this year.
  6. Sumo – Regular (Remix): Sumo is good, but his style is kinda everywhere right now. Once he finds his own voice this guy will be unstoppable. Pay attention.
  7. Go Yayo – Knock Knock (feat. G$ Lil Ronnie): G$ Lil Ronnie has been around for a minute now and I had Go Yayo in my last playlist. Yhis is his year. Texas is on the come up as a region.
  8. Famous Dex – Shooters: I think at this point everyone has some kind of opinion on Famous Dex. The last few months have been rough for him, so let’s go back to the golden era of Dex. Back to summer of 2k15. “Shooters” brings the heat.
  9. Syringe – I Don’t Like You: Syringe is part of the new wave of mumble rap, where more emphasis is placed on turning up on a few Xanax than spitting bars. He may not have a lot to say, but that beat is hard.
  10. Kay P – Blood Flow Down My Wrist: Kay P is dope. “Blood Flow Down My Wrist” is the perfect jam for rolling around with the windows down.
  11. Blake – Flexin: This is an an older song from Blake, but this cat is slept on.
  12. Rarri – What Dey Seem: Rarri brings the fire for summer cookouts.
  13. Lucki – No Work: Finally, a short one from Lucki to close out the set. “No Work” is a great song for the comedown.

Happy listening.

Qualchan’s Mixtape: 2017 Freshman Wishlist Edition

by Qualchan (intro by Dustin)

crazyeyes

In our ever growing quest to bring you new and interesting content, we’ve expanded our horizons and enlisted a wonderful artist from Seattle to bring you a guest curated playlist of up-and-coming hip-hop talents. That artist is Qualchan. Qualchan is a unique personality who will talk your ear off about alternative music, ignorant music, the Anticon era, and is finally tuned with various scenes in hip-hop.

With that in mind, who else could even put together the perfect “XXL Freshmen 2017” (come at us XXL, this is ours now) wish-list-slash-play-list? No one. It’s the perfect choice. We’ll let the playlist do most of the talking, but Qualchan has also hit us with a little summary of his thoughts on the artists he’s included in the mix.

Kick back and enjoy.


First of all, the playlist can be found here. Now, onto the rest.

Qualchan. Seattle. I’ve been into hip-hop since ’92. I’ve also been into drugs and DJ Screw since ’03. And I’m bringing you people to watch out for in 2017.

Sauce Walka and Sancho Saucy are my two favorite rappers right now. Coming out of Houston, Texas they bring a sense of excitement and real danger that no other rapper has right now. They are really in the streets. Everyone associated with their sauce factory label are great, especially Sosamann. He signed to Taylor Gang a while back, and had a verse from 21 savage on his latest song. I’m sure he’s going to be doing really big things, and he and The Twinz are going to drip across the charts.

Go Yayo from Fort Worth, Texas is another guy on the come up in 2017. he recently signed to Soulja Boy’s SODMG… So expect to see him punch Chris Brown on Instagram sometime soon.

Famous Dex outta Chicago has been on for a minute, but I think his best period as an artist was the summer and fall of 2015. It was a tough choice between “Back Now” (on the playlist) and “Shooters,” but Famous Irv (just Irv now) brings the heat. Be on the lookout for bro to blow up this year.

Warhol.ss is also from Chicago. He brings an upbeat and wild energy, and the visuals for “Speed Racer” are great! Cole Bennette really brought his “A” game to this one. It’s such a great song.

Thouxanbanfauni is the only Atlanta rapper I really fuck with right now. “Who U Testin” goes in.

Usually by time I get to Ski Mask the Slump God, the weed and ‘tussin have kicked in. “Gone” is the perfect song to get lost in. He & smokepurpp are both from Florida and are really blowing up right now. ‘purpp’s “Ski Mask” gets me super hype before work.

If none of these guys make it onto XXL’s Freshman list, then I am done.

KashJordan (of Weirdo) Interview on Hip-Hop, Experimentation, and Social Expectations

by Dustin

kash

The hip-hop collective Weirdo might not be a household name just yet, but they’ve got massive ambitions. KashJordan, a founding member of the experimental “punk-trap” group, took the time to speak with us about these goals, his views on the changing landscape of hip-hop, and the social expectations that limit progression.

Weirdo’s music can be found via their SoundCloud and their BandCamp, Kash’s twitter can be found here, and the interview can be found directly below!

EN: First I’d like to ask a bit about Weirdo. Where did you guys meet and when did you decide to form a hip-hop collective?

KashJordan: I started Weirdo in 2013. I met with Wasif and Davey through Twitter and we made a couple songs together. We shot the video for Red, and I was like let’s call each other Weirdo. At first I hated Wasif and I thought he couldn’t rap. Then he rapped his verse on Red and I was like shit, this is guy is great. I was rapping alone before Weirdo too, but nothing was ever working out like Weirdo did.

EN: For you guys as a group who would you say are your biggest influences musically?

KashJordan: Hmm. I’d say guys like Kanye, Death Grips, Young Thug, Future, and Lil B.

EN: I noticed on your SoundCloud the group is described as experimental. How important do you think experimentation is to hip-hop as a genre?

KashJordan: Oh god, very important. I feel like I’m not going to invent a new sound right now, but I do want to experiment with different sounds, flows, and sub-genres of rap [to] make something cool and new, but also familiar.

EN: Who do you think is the most innovative in hip-hop in the context of pushing the boundaries and creating their own sound?

KashJordan: Hmm. Right now I feel everyone’s sound is collective. Everyone’s sound is borrowed from different things to create their [style]. I haven’t heard anyone lately that’s truly original and brand new… Except Lil B, maybe [laughs].

EN: That being the case, what do you think of the state of hip-hop currently? I spoke with a former Sony A&R who believes artists aren’t pushing boundaries enough, do you agree with that?

KashJordan: I love the state of hip-hop. Everyone is so weird now. Before the hyper-masculinity robbed niggas of expression. I feel like a lot of people are pushing boundaries, just no one is really listening, or holding what they’re doing to a higher standard.

Young Thug for example dresses how the fuck he wants, makes fucking cool-ass music, and has taken flows to a whole new level. Rae Sremmurd doesn’t even rhyme sometimes. Swae Lee’s verse in We is art, it didn’t rhyme at all and still slapped.

EN: I’d like to expand on one of your points there, you think it was important for hip-hop artists to lose the obsession with hyper-masculinity in order for the genre to progress the way it has?

KashJordan: Yes, I do. Rap is riddled with, like, hyper-masculinity, and misogyny. I even used to contribute to that in my older shit. It stifles you. Everyone’s the biggest macho-man they can be, everyone loves women but also hates women, and don’t really refer to them as people but kind of like prized pets and shit. It’s weird.

Niggas can’t express them selves because they’re so scared to break away from social norms of what masculinity is. Hyper-masculinity robs men of being in touch with a lot of emotions, touch, colors, clothes, and even some foods. Dudes won’t eat [something] because its not “manly”. I saw a dude call a bowl of fruit gay [laughs], that shit’s lame now.

EN: Do you hope that yourself, and Weirdo as a collective, can help contribute to this shift away from hyper-masculinity in rap?

KashJordan: Dude, for sure. I’m going to make sure we do. Like, shit’s fucked up and a lot of men are really fucking weird because of societal pressures. I won’t stop until all the homies can eat fruit, wear pink, and not view femininity as inferior (because that pretty much reflects their view on women as inferior). Does that make sense?

EN: It makes a lot of sense. I respect the fact that you’ve got your eyes on the bigger picture and not just your music.

KashJordan: Oh, for sure. Not even just that, I plan on doing a lot with my platform. I’m gonna kick the fucked up prison systems’ ass. I’m gonna kick white supremacy’s ass. I’m gonna kick systematic racism’s ass. I’m gonna kick classism’s ass. I’m gonna kick transphobia’s ass. I’m gonna kick xenophobia’s ass. I’m gonna fix the world, we all gonna be okay after I’m in this. I just gotta get on.

I wanna be on Fox News son-ing everybody.

EN: Back on the topic of your music for a minute, what’s next for Weirdo? Do you guys have plans for a new album, mixtape, EP, or anything of the sort?

KashJordan: I’m currently in California. I got fed up with my life [so] I quit my job, sold all my shit, and moved here last month. I’m gonna do a little solo thing, but Weirdo is still my backing and shit. Wasif will do the same over in North Carolina. After both our solo joints are out we’ll put out the hardest Weirdo project yet.

Also, I hate the word mixtape right now becauce it turned into a derogatory term. It’s [become] synonymous with being a lame no-where rapper, so EPs or projects is the word I’d use.

EN: What’s your solo project going to be like? Are you thinking of something similar in sound to what you’ve done with Weirdo?

KashJordan: Its gonna be weird. I’ve had this internal complex about how I wanna make fun trap music like Yatchy, Thugger, and Uzi… And then I wanna make deep dark experimental art shit. Neither of those really fit with Weirdo, so the project won’t be like our last joint eh *shrugs shoulders*.

It’ll be my first project alone, even thought I’ve been making music for like three years.

EN: That’s awesome. I’m excited to hear it. Okay, I’ve just got a couple of general questions for fun before we wrap this up. What are your top five favorite albums, all time, across all genres?

KashJordan: From Under the Cork Tree by Fall Out Boy, James Blake’s first album, Toro y Moi’s Anything in Return, Yeezus, and Future’s Monster.

EN: Which artist would you consider to be your dream collaboration?

KashJordan: James Blake, for sure.