Run The Jewels (El-P & Killer Mike) – “Blockbuster Night Part 1” Aug21

Run The Jewels (El-P & Killer Mike) – “Blockbuster Night Part 1”...

Last year’s breakout album was Run The Jewels from El-P and Killer Mike. As a lifelong fan of El-P, even when he dissed my team on “8 Steps to Perfection,” I have always felt that his production has been ahead of its time. Now his style is right on time, so with his new single, he scales it back to great effect. El-P and Killer Mike sound very aggravated over the dystopian chugging, martial beat. Even the opening wail has a sci-fi effect, maybe a little close to Doctor Who. But that’s all forgotten once the verses start. No hocus pocus, you simple suckers deserve to notice Top o’ the morning, my fist-to-your-face is fucking Folgers Run The Jewels 2 will be out on October 28th…damn that’s a long time to wait. (Mass...

ILoveMakonnen feat. Pyramid Quince, Rich Po Slim, and Archibald Slim – “Vodka On The Weekend” Aug21

ILoveMakonnen feat. Pyramid Quince, Rich Po Slim, and Archibald Slim – “Vodka On The Weekend”...

Last year Drake jumped on “Versace” and made stars out of Atlanta rappers, Migos. Last Tuesday Drake jumped on “Club Going Up On A Tuesday” and another Atlanta-based artist, iLoveMakonnen, became a star. The difference is Makonnen has a whole label full of talent behind him ready to shine alongside. Like his breakout single, “Vodka On The Weekend” has the same hazy, almost Art of Noise-sounding production (this time courtesy of Father), but Makonnen’s hooks bracketing 3 capable cohorts blessing the mic with bars. Listening sober, I just want to nod my head. I’m sure listening to this track un-sober must be amazing. Do yourself a favor and listen to the whole crew here. (Soundcloud link) (Mass...

T.I. feat. Skylar Grey – “New National Anthem” Aug21

T.I. feat. Skylar Grey – “New National Anthem”...

The first sentence T.I. says on his new single, “New National Anthem,” is a casual admission that “radio probably ain’t gonna play this [record].” However, everything about this record is designed for the radio. First, I suspect this was a Skyler Grey hook that’s been sitting around waiting for someone (Eminem) to record some raps in between. Not a martial tone, the production feels like a marching band. Now I can’t wait for T.I. and The Roots perform this song on The Tonight Show. I have always preferred rap as protest at its angriest. While T.I. has the authority and ability to speak on heavy topics, the track just isn’t angry enough. I want to dance to this. But I’m so angry....

Ariana Grande feat. The Weeknd – “Love Me Harder” Aug20

Ariana Grande feat. The Weeknd – “Love Me Harder”...

The marketing push for Ariana Grande is ramping up as her A&Rs aggressively carve out space in the crowded pop world. At the same time Ariana has to fend off feud reports from her ex-co-star on “Sam & Cat” and endure criticism on her lack of dance talent. It all seems so ridiculous, so let’s get back to the music. The first track is a winning collaboration with The Weeknd. Even at a fraction of his powers, he is still a quality, impassioned vocalist who can elicit the best out of Ariana. The rest of the songs show her vocal range and talent. She is playing to her strength in this 4-song package. Good work, A&Rs! My Everything will be out on August 25th, but can be pre-ordered on iTunes now. (OnSmash) Get More: Ariana Grande, Ariana Grande...

Nicki Minaj – “Anaconda” (video) Aug20

Nicki Minaj – “Anaconda” (video)

Last time I wrote about the “Anaconda” record, the novelty of using “Baby Got Back” aggravated me especially after witnessing the power of “Pills N Potions” right before listening. The buzz, both positive (which has been rare) and negative (because that’s the default position), is exactly what Nicki was trying to generate. “Anaconda” will not just straddle but knock down the normal genre walls of reporting and seep into mainstream media. Talking heads will debate her overt sexualizing of her body and whether the display is artistic or vulgar. I am not sure how you can sample a song as popular today as “Baby Got Back” and not show your ass on the video. The video was banned from MTV because it was too gratuitous (not really) while Howard Stern’s bare ass was A-OK. Even 22 years later, grown ass white women are throwing ass at Mix-A-Lot, who looks suspiciously like the late, great Patrice O’Neal, at an orchestral performance of “Baby Got Back.” Anyways, the song is still disjointed and almost arhythmic. Nicki is trying to make a dance song from the part of the original track build-up beat that didn’t inspire dancing. It’s like the whole idea went awry when everybody realized sampling the meaty part of “Baby Got Back” would feel like a straight copy, but sampling from the song’s gristle yields a song that feels like constant anticipation and no payoff. Kinda like a lap dance from Nicki Minaj, right Aubrey? EDIT: This is the article I wish I could write about the “Anaconda” and Nicki Minaj’s successful manipulation of social media and perception. Thank you, Lindsay Zoladz. (Seattle Met/CBS News) Sir Mix-A-Lot – “Baby Got Back” For frame of reference of...

Action Bronson – “Easy Rider” Aug20

Action Bronson – “Easy Rider”...

Inspired by the movie of the same name, Action Bronson’s video for “Easy Rider” is a libidinous and hedonistic trip into the mind of today’s best rapper. Party Supplies has created a wiry, ominous production underpinned with guitars and wicked bassline. With Bronson’s adept storytelling, “Easy Rider” is a beautifully constructed composition that rappers and musicians should aspire to on their work. If all that sounds like hyperbole, just watch the video. Everything Action Bronson does is over the top, yet his music is rooted in organic sounds. This could’ve been the soundtrack to some French indie flick in the 70s. Instead this could be the future of rap music. Actually this says what I want to say much more succinctly. @ActionBronson just dropped the 2014 "November Rain" on cats. — Christopher L. Inoa (@TatteredFedora) August 20, 2014 “Easy Rider” is out now. The album, which I hope is called Mr. Wonderful, will be out later....

Les Sins – “Bother”...

Full disclosure: Les Sins is Toro Y Moi is Chaz Bundick. Les Sins is his four-by-four dance production project. Ya know, because artists need to breathe and manifest ideas outside their prescribed genre. And I’ll assume he’s a little like me; he doesn’t want his dance gravy bleeding into his indie rock steak. Sure steak and gravy sound great together, but some flavors deserve their own palate. Now I’m fucking hungry. “Bother” holds down a head-bobbing, body-moving groove until a stunning hallelujah moment straight out of a sci-fi version of Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Actually, Chaz has been experimenting a lot with his dance production, but this is the first single off a new album, Brother, to be released soon. Let’s go already! (OnSmash/Carpack...

THURZ feat. Kelsey Bulkin – “Perfect Words” Aug19

THURZ feat. Kelsey Bulkin – “Perfect Words”...

THURZ has made one of those breezy LA rap songs that have typically served as a counterpoint to the LA gangsta rap sound. I guess the upset should be that newcomer (to me), Kelsey Bulkin, is singing the hook instead of Jhene Aiko, who might finally be big enough to let work like this slide. The track is nice enough. THURZ’s nasal delivery and slice-of-life lyrics are nice enough. This is a coffeehouse rap-sung collaboration. It’s perfect for your playlist if you have a bunch of saditty or uptight adults in the room, but you still gotta hear some rap. After listening to recent offerings from burgeoning stars like Vince Staples, Que, Travi$ Scott, and Joey Bada$$, THURZ has more work to do to break through with laidback style. The “Perfect Words” single is available on iTunes. Blood on the Canvas is coming soon....

Vince Staples – “Blue Suede” Aug19

Vince Staples – “Blue Suede”...

Who is Vince Staples? I should’ve wrote about him 6 months ago after his excellent single, “Nate,” dropped but somehow, someway forces conspired against me. Here’s the video. This is coming off his work with Mac Miller, another well-received mixtape, and two excellent collaborations with Earl Sweatshirt on the Doris album. Then came Common’s release of Nobody’s Smiling, and Vince is featured on the lead single, “Kingdom.” Yet with all this foreshadowing and preparation, Vince Staples has dropped an aggravated, visceral opus of musique concrete. The lazy comparisons to Kendrick Lamar should be flowing in, but while K-Dot felt like raw product molded into a gem, Vince already feels like a complete package ready to be unleashed. Natural flow. Complex internal rhymes structure. A clear voice that cuts through the ominous beat. He is definitely an emcee in the “move the crowd” mode. Time for Vince Staples to step into his spotlight....

Travi$ Scott feat. Big Sean and The 1975 – “Don’t Play” Aug19

Travi$ Scott feat. Big Sean and The 1975 – “Don’t Play”...

Travi$ Scott (last time I use the dollar sign) is one of the few new rappers who understand that the visuals are just as important as the audio. When he dropped “Quintana” on the world, it felt like less of a song and more of a full frontal sensory assault. The record felt like it had acts instead of verses. “Upper Echelon” was similar; you knew was Travis Scott was not on some regular rap ass shit. For his new single reworking The 1975’s “M.O.N.E.Y.” to death and featuring Big Sean on the second verse, Travis is overworking the harpsichord over some 808s and trap cymbals (that’s my term. i don’t know what drums are what). This single is off his new mixtape, Days Before Rodeo, and Travis Scott’s official album, Rodeo, will be out soon. (OnSmash) P.S. Who is that...

BOY/FRIEND feat. Fat Tony and Tom Cruz – “Ride Slowly” Aug18

BOY/FRIEND feat. Fat Tony and Tom Cruz – “Ride Slowly”...

First things first about BOY/FRIEND (aka Shan Poo), when he stays inside that sultry love lane, he is winning everyday. I may have seen the name, but this is the first time I’ve heard of him. That track is 6 months old and is already timeless in my eyes. The fact that he looks like filmmaker friend, Walter, makes BOY/FRIEND even more compelling. Although I’ve grown up among very capable Asian folks who can really sing, it’s still a shock yet heartwarming to see an Asian dude sing R&B on a national, albeit independent, level. However, for the sonic jambalaya BOY/FRIEND is serving up on the “Ride Slowly” record, it has literally taking multiple back-to-back listens for me to divorce the parts I don’t like (the intro rap with an unfortunate Fred Durst namecheck) from the parts I do like (any part when Shan Poo is singing). Time to retcon my knowledge by downloading his previous releases and listen with open ears while wishing I could be considered Va$htie‘s dream man. [EDIT: Dude likes Girls over Game of Thrones…/sideeye] (The...

Taylor Swift – “Shake It Off” Aug18

Taylor Swift – “Shake It Off”...

First things first, Taylor Swift‘s single, “Shake It Off,” is a hit. Can’t front. Moving on. Because I’m not a music theory guy or a real music critic, just some dude killing time to talk about music and looking for new angles. Here’s how I found out about this single. Country and Pop weren't enough for Taylor Swift. Now she has to invade Rap #ShakeItOff http://t.co/bzNgHWilwB pic.twitter.com/XIbC2dFBMm — OnSMASH (@OnSMASH) August 18, 2014 OnSmash is one of my primary rap resources which will extend out to pop culture topics. I will say this is not a shitty Manning brothers rap or Iggy Azalea retread. Then on the other side is the money quote from some country music blog Google found for me. “The song is an uptempo pop song that will do nothing to appease her country music fans.” I can’t speak for country fans, but this ain’t “going back to her country roots.” I made an analogous statement about Common’s new album, Nobody’s Listening, being a very Chicago “street” album. However, Common has never been a gritty rapper, just an honest one whose hometown is really going through terrible shit. Taylor Swift is 24-25 whatever years old. Her love life, the songs she writes about her love life, and unfathomable way she manages to maintain a wholesome All-American image are the tentpoles of the Taylor Swift machine. As I have learned from her dustup (ha!) with Kanye West, her fans are ravenous, so I will say it again: “Shake It Off” is a great pop record. It will dominate the autumn. But this is not an urbanized version of Taylor Swift nor a complete rejection of the country-pop genre she propped up. I see this single as an evolutionary step for a woman...