REVIEW: Blueprint’s “King No Crown”

Blueprint photo Blueprint2015_cover_zpsbmab8nch.jpg After listening to Blueprint’s brand new album King No Crown (Weightless), it made me ask something: has he changed? What prompted me to say this? A few things. For one the Printmatic one continues to be one of the most solid rappers out today, and has been this day since I first heard him 14 years ago in the song “Time To Unravel”. It was his verse that made me go “holy shit, who is this?” Ten years ago, I stated his 1988 album was one of the best of 2005 and ten years later, I still feel that way. I’ve enjoyed his work over the years so what made me feel he has changed in any way?

For one, he continues to develop and polish, if not fine tune his matter of speak, which means he does not want to sound exactly the same with every release. He is consistent but on this album he sounds more like someone who could easily be alongside the likes of Talib Kweli. Blueprint’s lyrics continue to be personal and while some of the metaphors can be heard within, it’s less about darting around the issue and being direct and to the point, whether it’s about a relative or his own progression in life. The type of flow I’ve always enjoyed from Blueprint happens in the title track around the 3:14 mark and it made me go yes, and while it is the only part of the album where he does this, it at least showed me he isn’t afraid to do that style that was a big part of what also made Greenhouse Effect great. What works on this album is that he shows more growth and maturity, to let people know where he came from, how traveling is a big part of his life and career and that he isn’t willing to keep himself back in time for anyone.

With a hint of ego and pride, Blueprint says he is more than willing to be the voice of a generation. He should be but the lack of a major label contract has kept him out of the loop. He is someone who not only has something to say for a younger generation but for older fans who simply want to hear the music continue as a vibrant artform that grows along with themselves. He is someone who has always understood how he wants to be heard by continuing to produce his own music, so what you listen to is the creation of the mind of Albert Shepard. Regardless of level of status, Blueprint remains a voice that continues to be a force that never loses its passion, and it’s from the heart that makes him move forward with new stories to share.


REVIEW: Tyler, The Creator’s “Cherry Bomb”

 photo TylerTC2015_cover_zps7n3qqcr1.jpg Cherry Bomb (Odd Future/Sony) is the brand new album from Tyler, The Creator and considering what has happened since its release, maybe some are asking about the future of Tyler, or the future of Odd Future.

This is what we know. Odd Future as a collective are no more. Earl Sweatshirt seems to not be part of the camp. Other people who were within the camp have released music recently. Tyler, The Creator is still creating and on Cherry Bomb he shows why he is one of the best MC’s around and one of the best artists out today. If you feel that Tyler is trying to create music that is accessible to more people, then be free to say that. However, Tyler never does anything regular despite the fact that some of the songs here are more developed and arranged than his previous works. It’s a more in-depth Tyler, and it’s nice to hear him go off in that way. If he’s trying to answer to the current vibe of hip-hop, he does that in a number of songs. Yet there are times when he’s not only answering back, but adding his own sidebars and information to let people know he is in control of his destiny, he’s not trying to comply or simplify. There are tracks where he actually sings and jokingly says he can’t sing at all.

What I really like is when a song may have two, even three different arrangements so waht looks like an 11-track album may have 15 or 16 songs total. Some of it comes off like mini hip-hop operas in the vein of Beastie Boys’ “B-Boy Bouillabaisse” or Siah And Yeshua Dapo ED’s “A Day Like Any Other”, where you’re unsure where a part of a song will drift to until you listen to it in full. Even that will lead listeners to want to listen to it a few times to get a grip. While Cherry Bomb shows hints of where he came from, it very much shows a path he is ready to explore, where it’s the unpredictability of something along the lines of Divine Styler or maybe twist and get into MC 900 Ft. Jesus mode, all while showing a solid style that shows he’s more than capable of dropping in a hardcore way without getting freaky or eccentric, all while being that freak and eccentric rapper he is known as. The album is a nice balance of the known and previously unknown, so I hope he will continue to balance on that fine line for projects to come.

REVIEW: Lightning Bolt’s “Fantasy Empire”

Lightning Bolt photo LightningBolt_cover_zps2h1zcho0.jpg To say I was anxiously waiting for this album to be released would be putting it mildly and lightly. When Lightning Bolt create something new, I want to concentrate with all nine of my ears. There was a bit of a worry that Fantasy Empire would’ve sounded more polished, the songs would be more mainstream in how they were put together, and you would be able to hear drummer Brian “Black PUs” Chippendale sound in the same way Virgin Records made a cleaner mix of “American Woman” so you could hear a much more crisp Lenny Kravitz. Did it happen? Oh hell no.

He and bassist Brian Gibson remain as twisted and distorted as they’ve always been but as far as the construction of the compositions is concerned? Well, I’m not sure if other writers speak about Lightning Bolt and even bring up the word composition but what changed my view of their music was when Black Pus released his Primordial Pus album in 2011 and closed it with “I’ll Come When I Can”. I said it then and I’ll say it again, it’s the kind of song that I wish more people would cover so that the meaning of the song would be interpreted differently but still retain its definition. It made me listen to Lightning Bolt in a different light, for while it can be close to impossible to understand the lyrics without a lyric sheet, other times you can figure it out or read a song transcription elsewhere and go “I see, it may be twisted but there’s a lot more than that”. Gibson’s distorted bass can sound like a guitar and bass at the same time and other times you have no idea what kind of sounds he’s making. Is it a security signal or is it something he found at a pawn shop and decided to test it on the spot until it chokes? Yes, and more.

On the surface, just listening to Fantasy Empire and hear songs with a kind of spastic energy that will make you wan tto drive a car on a highway and jump out of the window. You may say that there’s a nice punk rock overtone or it’s just a ridiculous extension of 80’s metal. Imagine jamming in a basement and simply wanting to feel the space of electricity, but then knowing it’s a holiday weekend, you blast the amps until the police come over and playing loudly so that the officers will melt in front of your eyes. That’s Lightning Bolt in a sentence or two, and they are easily the best at what they do. “King Of My World” skips around with different tempo textures so that you are unable to dance in one way at any given time, but why should you? Are Lightning Bolt a dance band? Maybe, in a mixed-up world. Then again, we are in a mixed-up world, aren’t we? It’s wonderful to welcome yourself in the double Brian empire and get caught up in the beautiful ugliness they make. Sometimes it makes me wonder why more people have not become Lightning Bolt believers but hey, it’s more for me to enjoy.

REVIEW: Action Bronson’s “Mr. Wonderful”

Action Bronson photo ActionBronson_cover_zpsr0qa3ls9.jpg Action Bronson is back with a new one called Mr. Wonderful (Vice/Atlantic) but is he wonderful? He is very much that, and he is better than a lot of rappers getting attention these days for being good but the different is that A.B. has skills, great lyrics, and a flow that has made people compared him to this generation’s Ghostface Killah. I think what people love is the passion that is heard in these flows and with a sense of humor that is upfront, Action Bronson is not hiding behind any curtains. When he’s serious, he will let you know directly and make you a true believer. When he wants to crack a joke, he’ll do so like a comedian where his path is designed to pull you in and make you bust out in laughter. Tracks like “The Rising”, “Terry”, “City Boy Blues”, and “Galactic Love” make me, hell, make us wish everyone was still doing hip-hop in this manner, where the samples (or nice interpolations of it) make you want to dig for more records just to find the most obscure grooves. The construction of this album is not boring or lackluster, everything that is needed to make a hip-hop shine nicely is here. This is easily one of the best albums of 2015, of any genre.

REVIEW: I Am The Albatross’ “Lonesome Son”

 photo IAmTheAlbatross_cover_zpsjisw0vrx.jpg I Am The Albatross make some pretty risky rock’n’roll and in 2015, that’s a good, if not necessary, thing to do. Lonesome Son play something that would borderline on the Americana-side of things, or at least if you were to go to a Wilco show, you may very well see I Am The Albatross open up during a leg. What I love is the grit mixed in with the nice delicacies, or perhaps it’s the intricacies of what they do, a nice pop touch that isn’t afraid to intercourse with a bit of distortion and warble power to have the stories come through stronger that they may have in its original state. A song like “World Of Money” goes in a simple acoustic manner but as is, it’s a song you may imagine being a bit more fierce but it’s very nice as is. Lonesome Son is something that may influence a younger generation to want to start their own bands but I think for the time being, immerse yourself in these songs and see where their paths will pull listeners and forthcoming new fans.

AUDIO: Fran Lobo’s “Back Again”

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Singer Fran Lobo is dropping an EP on the 6th of July and she says she is “Back Again”. However, if you’ve never heard of her before and don’t know where she had to go in order to come back, get to know her by listening to this, a song from Beautiful Blood.