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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rap Playlist

I don't know whether its my recent string of arrests or my general anger towards race relations and life in the hood, but I've been listening to a lot of rap recently. Many new albums have surfaced recently showcasing some of the best work we've heard from already established artists.

Raekwon's latest, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. II, has gone through hell just trying to get released. Finished possibly as early as 2005, the album has gone through various record labels, name changes, and producers. Despite all of the drama involved, the final product was worth the wait. With tight production from RZA, J Dilla, y Dr. Dre, clever lyrics about life at the top of the mob, and various Wu-Tang members throwing in verses, the album hits hard on all ends. Listening straight through, I cannot say that there is a bad track. While I am posting these two RZA productions, I insist that you give the album an entire listen.

Raekwon - Black Mozart (feat. RZA & Inspectah Deck)

Raekwon - New Wu (feat. Ghostface Killah & Method Man)

People Under the Stairs is a hip-hop duo out of Los Angeles. Their albums are usually consistent all the way through and feature exclusive production by group's two members. Carried Away is out now, the duo's seventh LP. "Down in LA" conjures memories of my hometown while "Come on, Let's Get High" has a great vibe.

People Under the Stairs - Down in LA

People Under the Stairs - Come on, Let's Get High (YSI)

Of the albums in this post, I'm having the most trouble with Q-Tip's Kamaal the Abstract. While The Renaissance sits high on my list of best rap albums this decade, this effort strives for a rap-over-jazz feel rather than just jazz beats. For the most part, the songs are a bit boring. Considering how well Tribe crafted beautiful verses over Jazz beats, I'm surprised I don't like this album more than I do. Regardless, "Even if it is so" is definitely the most interesting track and worth a listen.

Q-Tip - Even if it is so

Not their biggest fan, I nevertheless enjoy the few tracks I have by Cunninlyguists. Their newest single seems to continue their trend of very memorable beats and smooth verses.

Cunninlyguists - Running Wild (feat. E40 and Evidence)

Finally, one of the most surprisingly delicious songs in this post comes from none other than former Outkast member Big Boi. A SMOOTH jam, this one deserves some attention. I can imagine this gaining a lot of traction in the mainstream in coming months.

Big Boi - Shine Blockas feat. Gucci Mane

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Wheel

Denver, Colorado's Nathaniel Rateliff is the singer-songwriter behind both Born in the Flood and The Wheel. The Wheel's debut album, Desire and Dissolving Men is an impressive collection worthy of its attention. Rateliff boasts some very capable assistance from his string duo, but it's Rateliff who strums, plinks, and beats (lightly) on six different instruments on the record. And, as I've heard, it's "his high, emotive tenor and his charcoal sketches of human frailty that shine."

Slow is the ultimate getting sensitive song of this Autumn. I think its his best track off the album, and I expect the burgeoning generation of altbros to play this track for their own little Lux Lisbons. The Wheel is a great effort and I'm excited to see what Rateliff comes up with in the future. Enjoy.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Yukimi Nagano

Yukimi Nagano is the half-Japanese/half-Swedish vocalist of both Koop and her own side project; Little Dragon. Born and raised in Gothenburg, Sweden to a Japanese father and American mother, Yukimi says, "I grew up listening to American folk because of my Mom, but I've always had an affinity for R'n'B."

Gothenburg, Sweden is best known as the home of such indie greats as Soundtrack of Our Lives, José González and Jens Lekman, not to mention the infamous black metal scene. Little Dragon throws its hat into the ring, competing skillfully in such a demanding market. Little Dragon is composed of Nagano and her close high school friends Erik Bodin (drums), Fredrick Källgren (bass) and Håkan Wirenstrand (keyboards).

You might know Yukimi best from her work with Sweden's electronica-jazz band Koop, and both Yukimi and Erik play live with José González.

Blinking Pigs' driving drum beat and Yukimi's vocals make this song as amazing as it is. Definitely my favorite off their self-titled album. Twice is a solid track, great for getting sensitive. Her powerful voice pushes it through even the darkest foggy evening. Summer Sun plays a completely different game, showing her talents in the area of modern jazz. Also great for getting sensitive on the sunniest of Summer days.