L Reece : Negative To Positive

L_Reece_Negative_To_Positive_Ep-front-large

Every now and again the underground turns up a lyrical gem; and this latest mixtape from London MC L Reece is worth it’s mental weight in gold. Harnessing the alchemical ability to transform bad to good, his verses are filled with insightful rhymes to inspire, making music that transcends any social situation or perceived boundary to unite listener and artist with the commonality of self-improvement. After the dope title track sets the tone, Facing Reality  sees Reece flowing somewhere between early Black The Ripper and Durrty Goodz as he keeps his bars street between catchy hooks, yearning for change as he documents the chaotic british capital; ‘Be a shepherd, not a sheep, don’t tag along, knowledge is all you need, don’t carry guns, they say it’s ride or die, on a Boris bike, cycling through London, all I see is horrid crime, solving no problem, circulating gossip hype, Im tryin’ to find the truth, in a world of lies.’

Trippin and No Molly change up the tone with wavy electronic vibes, trap snares and staggering hi hats before the boom bap gets back on track with Blinded as Reece explores racism, religion and warmongering for greed through the mixtape’s best bars. Caged keeps it conscious as the timeless words of George Carlin introduce catchy club sounds on this more mainstream banger; while the amen break is put to good use on the understated DnB of Adrenaline Rush. Once again the verbal skills of this talented MC resonate through carefully selected words replete with meaning, but it’s his flow that truly elevates Negative To Positive; setting it apart from the any run-of-the-mill grime rapper or boom-bap emcee.

You can get it right now for free, here.

4/5

Peace.

Advertisements

Symphonik BANG: Exordium Armada

Image

These two producers from the freezing peaks of the Swiss mountains bring nothing but heat. Musically the meshing of dramatic, sweeping soundscapes with heavy boom-bap breaks come as as the result of the culture clash between Chris Horn’s DJ and audio engineering background, and Nicolas Aubert’s ten years of academic classical training. The pair’s dynamic production style reflects their work for TV and film, as they bring a layer of classicality to the street-level acapellas they reinterpret, passing both well-known and obscure tracks through their unique filter to set the originals in an entirely new arena. The chilled out tones they dabble in on OD Anthem and That Tree show their ability to work in any genre, still ensuring even lean-up summertime vibes bang as hard as the heavier tracks; while their strength when it comes to dramatic arrangements over booming drums becomes earth shattering when backed by rugged MC’s.

Mayhem and Meta P verses tear up a tense eastcoast-influenced instrumental on Measure Up, while RA The Rugged Man’s latest project gets an operatic Champion remix. The way they use overblown string swells to build momentum makes for intense listening on Everyday and Hurt Locker; barely leaving you time to chill between songs as each heavy beat stomps it’s way through your ear drums, leaving boot-prints on your brain. The slightly misleading, heavy metal-inspired album cover becomes more justified when chromatic Slayer-style riffs rumble under quickfire lines from Revalation and Reks on Just For The Rhymes, followed by a stern orchestral arrangement that perfectly accommodates the veteran flows of AOTP’s Vinnie Paz on Drag You To Hell.

This year the duo aren’t only producing an album for legendary Sunz Of Man MC Shabazz The Disciple; they’re also releasing their full length Phonik Armada in September; swapping samples for live instrumentation for what promises to be a heavy underground collaboration with features from Afu Ra, AOTP, El Da Sensei, Torae, Reks and many more; it seems Exordium Armada is just the beginning for this talented production team, and it’s a strong start.

Get it here.

3/5

Peace.

Awon & Dephlow : Dephacation

Image

Virginia-based emcees Awon & Dephlow destroy eleven dope beats from Portland producer Phoniks; who’s heavy hitting boom-bap steez reminds of Marco Polo’s modern take on Premo and Large Pro. Nearly every track is straight underground realness, with choruses that give the DJ his props as he contorts classic rap samples between rhymes with a clear respect for the culture. Once the intro sets the tone; the title track begins with ill samples to create that traditional tone, before Phonik’s neat, Babu-style string chops elevate Real Hip Hop with quality lyricism that reflects the Knowledge Of Self that influenced so many influential 90’s artists, and some choice words for industry rappers;‘Wearing women’s clothes, got the nerve to say you kill it with ya tapered hipster jeans talkin bout you pays the scrilla, emasculated game, need some hair on your facial, keep that molly out your nasal, I’m here to replace you.’

Step Up swaps the heavy attack for chilled tones and mellow rhymes, with Drake, Kendrick, and Future in the lyrical rifle sights on this stand out track, as the emcee’s place integrity over celebrity; while Introducing utilizes Big L and Mobb Deep cuts over a brash brass beat that stomps. As F Draper takes over the boards for a dope guest instrumental on Lights Off, the MC’s rhyme styles take the album down a less credible path. Why’d you’d make five songs about real Hip Hop then imitate the mainstream delivery of the rappers you were just dissing is beyond me, even with the chilled beat, the track’s rendered damn-near unlistenable if you don’t rate that ubiquitous staccato style that has kids thinking lyricism is stilted bars about snapbacks. You Can Run sets things back on course with a return to the quality rhymes the pair exhibited earlier; before the slow burning soul groove of Sucka Free sees Phoniks select alternate chops from a well-worn sample source.

After a shaky middle, the trio somewhat regain their flow with The War Room,You Know My Name and a Sucka Free remix, that takes the tune back to the smoother side of the 90’s and close the album off strongIf you’re guna make a shit-related LP with three grown men crapping on the cover you better make sure it’s not shit, and with Dephacation the trio achieved that. Despite the quality dropping for a minute at the half way mark, and Awon’s positive bars occasionally clashing against Dephlow’s derogatory rhymes, the album still serves up a slice of raw Hip Hop that’s well worth checking out for fans of the golden era sound.

Get the album digitally or on wax here.

3/5

Peace.

The Beauty In All.

Image

Oddisee deserves every bit of recognition he gets. There’s no other young artist that exemplifies the new wave of independently motivated, business-literate Hip Hop grafters like he does. Since the early 2000’s the DC native has been putting in the hours honing his craft into the accomplished sound you hear today; booking his own tours, promoting himself, and releasing mixtapes, beat tapes and albums through the label he also does consultancy work for; Mello Music Group. On top of that he creates some of the most exciting new instrumental Hip Hop the American underground has seen for years, gives down to earth, articulate advice in interviews, and builds his music at home and while on the road. Spending his time between shows digging through sample archives on external hard drives using a simple set up that fits into a back pack, and consists of a Macbook, Pro Tools, an interface, travel monitors and a mic. Did I mention he raps? yeah he MC’s too. Well. 

With all the work he puts in, it’s easy to see why he’s become one of the most prolific and proficient names in the game. He’s worked with J Live, Talib Kweli, Jazzy Jeff, Little Brother, Apollo Brown and Asheru. Produced for labelmates Trek Life and Stik Figa, for North Carolina MC King Mez, who’s New Vinyl track features as No Rules For Kings on this latest instrumental release, and still found the time to lace beats and rhymes for his crew Diamond District.

October the 21st sees his newest collection of beats The Beauty In All get a cd and vinyl release in the UK. Although buying it digitally directly from Mello’s bandcamp means that you’ll also get the accompanying mixtape Tangible Dream; for the vinyl heads losing out on the extra tracks is a sacrifice worth making. I’m not sure if it’s going to be the Blue edition like the record they put out across the pond, but if it is, and you live anywhere in Britain, around Weds/Thurs this week you’ll be able to open your windows and hear me howling at the clouds with sheer delight.

.Image

Look at that beautiful shit…

Every time I try to listen to specific songs from The Beauty In All in order to write about them the music it sucks me in and I forget the ‘practical’ reason I was trying to listen in the first place. Individually and as a full piece, the songs capture your attention then constantly shed their skin to re-emerge in a different form. It’s all Hip Hop, but it moves from funky on Fashionably Late, to modern and dancy on Fievre, and travels through ambient, airy, electronic soul on One Thing Right. Without a doubt one of my favourite cuts is The Gospel, a deep, dynamic track that is a salient example of how good producing sounds. The ideas built upon sound simple, and nothing jars, but if you apply thought to what’s going on then you’ll find the complexities astounding; it’s amazing how the addition of a ride and snare line can lift an entire track to new heights after the foundations have been laid with subtlety.

To me, After Thoughts is the hardest thing goin. There’s not a time yet in the weeks I’ve been listening to this track that I haven’t made gun fingers and pumped them at the sky when it drops at the start. Put me on a desert island with that and Lonely Planet playing and I’ll throw all my clothes into the sea and dance my ass off every single day shouting about how my soul is shimmering through the music’s vibrations. Failing that, then just put some headphones on and tell me In My Day isn’t the sound of a man who’s on top of his game and showing no signs of slowing his ascension any time soon. Every percussive element is arranged with maximum style, every hi hat adding something to the overall composition.  From the calm propulsion the bongos add below the suave melodies on Patience In Play, to the dynamic electronic stomp on Caprice Down‘s tasteful trap rhythms, the beats themselves always bring a fresh twist to familiar themes, with delicate instrumentation that envelops the listener in the many layers placed on each track. Fork In The Road is exactly that, an 8 minute journey that builds beautifully with large rolling drums and epic swells, then sinks into a walking bassline that rides the groove into plucked strings and piano melodies until it finally fades and reappears as pure funk and soul sampling that’s so damn groovy you won’t know whether to rap over it or pull the bottom of your joggers into flares and start doing that John Travolta shit from that bullshit disco film.

This varied collection of instrumentals belongs in any vinyl junkies collection. For 50-plus minutes Oddisee creates an overly smooth and relaxed atmosphere,  occasionally breaking the mellow mood to get your whole body moving with breaks that are used to their full potential without being overworked to exhaustion. If Oddisee keeps progressing at the rate he currently is, with a work-rate this prolific, he’ll be one of the biggest names in Hip Hop in no time, he’s already one of the dopest.

5/5.

Peace.