Showing posts with label Retrospective. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Retrospective. Show all posts

June 15, 2019

Retrospective Review: Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - Piñata


In order to prepare for their hotly anticipated sophomore album Bandana by hip-hop duo, Freddie Gibbs and Madlib, I wanted to take a step back and look at their first collaborative record together, Piñata, released half a decade ago. Piñata came at a time I never knew I needed. Madlib was an inspiration for me for many years, having followed his multiple alter egos Quasimoto, Yesterday's New Quintet, The Beat Konducta, and The Loop Digga. His albums opened my mind to the world of hip-hop with the masterpiece alt-hip-hop album, Madvillainy, which was a team-up of Madlib's beats and MF DOOM's narrative rap flow, as well as The Unseen, the debut Quasimoto release that blew my mind up with his stream-of-consciousness, jazz-infused, hazy raps, all wrapped in a sleazy, cartoon swine. Naturally, I was curious in this newly announced collaborative effort.

Piñata opens with Supplier, a bouncy African drum beat, along with narration by a man describing the motivation and drive to get a dollar, no matter the cost. It sets the scene for the main themes of the album: drug-fueled violence in black communities, thugging, and rising to the top in the fight for survival. It's raw and unapologetic and it paints a picture with 90's hip-hop style, and gangster film strings such as those in Deeper, and Shitsville. Bomb featuring Raekwon is a special track which harkens back to the days of the rise of the Wu-Tang Clan, and it's another example of an album which has its fingers on the pulse of classic hip-hop while still making a current modern-day classic.

Plenty of songs make their mark with addictive samples and beats, and Freddie Gibbs elevates the magic that Madlib lays on tape with a talented flow and storytelling prowess. Examples of this phenomenal pairing can be found on nearly every track of Piñata, but some highlights of their teamwork include songs like Thuggin', which plays in the vein of Freddie's day in the life, Real, an offensive and aggressive diss track, and the unbelievably laid-back Robes featuring Domo Genesis and Earl Sweatshirt. This is just a small selection though, and omitting any tracks does them a great injustice because they all have to be heard to be believed. Broken, Knicks, Shame, and the title track, Piñata all are huge heavy hitters and nostalgic personal favorites as well.

Ultimately, there are few words that can describe the brilliant elements that makeup Freddie Gibbs and Madlib's first collaborative album. Piñata is the essence of classic hip-hop, where it's hardcore, laid-back, vulnerable, and real all at different critical points of the listening experience. I'd highly recommend this album to anyone who is a fan of either artist in order to prepare for what fire is to be released in their follow-up collaboration, Bandana, later this month.

Piñata - 9/10

Recommended Tracks: Thuggin', Shame, Piñata

March 29, 2019

Retrospective Review: DJ Shadow - Live in Manchester: The Mountain Has Fallen


Performing live in 2017 at a sold out show in Manchester, England, DJ Shadow produced his first live album in nearly a decade, and showed growth in areas of his original music to great effect. I personally was left in the dark regarding the existence of this masterful mix of music, but I am so glad to have discovered it. 

I normally keep track of DJ Shadow's studio productions, having played his latest full length, The Mountain Will Fall, from 2016, multiple times through and blasting his hypnotic, eccentric beats in my car system and headphones. Upon realizing that he has since produced a follow up EP titled The Mountain Has Fallen and a live concert CD/DVD combo of the same name, I had to jump on my own personal journey through it and subsequent analysis. 

The Mountain Has Fallen is unlike any other live DJ concert I have ever heard, specifically because it is a colorful combination of a quarter century of original music produced and released by the prolific drummer and turntablist DJ, also known as Joshua Davis. He is known for having the world's largest collection of over 60,000 records in an underground bunker. His live show features frenetic record scratching with a recognizable blend of vocal samples, synth melodies, and drum loops cherrypicked from multiple popular hits and sleepers throughout his career. Because of this, not one song on this record sounds like their original incarnation: they are all named with shared words from his previous hits, and made to be experienced new again, but for any previous DJ Shadow fan, it is an extremely pleasing mix wherein multiple portions of his mix are easily recognizable, which then warp and bend to his will and manipulation of sound. 

"Transmission Mountain" opens with an introspective series of sound effects and transmission samples from earlier albums, and floats into his heady, space-hop opening track from his latest studio album. It leads into a kaleidoscopic collage, as I mentioned before, of The Mountain Will Fall accented tracks, that never cease to amaze and astound any newcomers to his music, and impress longtime faithful fans of his work. Some of his best tracks include the EDM heavy breakdown of "Suicide Posse" as it transforms into the soft melancholy of one of his most well-known tracks, "Midnight In A Perfect World", and the hip-hop heavy "Nobody Steam", as it jumps from his latest hip-hop collaborative hit with Run The Jewels right into his very first hit which put him on the map, "Building Steam with A Grain of Salt". 

His technical prowess has only improved beyond imagination in this latest live offering, which was released last June of 2018. It will be remembered as easily his best live re-imagining to date and an essential piece in the his artistic journey. To anyone interesting in hearing a forward pushing electronic artist move through their history of hits in a mind blowing DJ format, you need to look no further than DJ Shadow. 

Live in Manchester: The Mountain Has Fallen - 8.75/10

Recommended Tracks: Suicide Posse, Nobody Steam, Sideshow Donor

March 27, 2019

Retrospective Review: Paranormal Adam (PA) - The Black Plague


I wish I knew about my new friend, Paranormal Adam's, latest album at the time when it came out! It seemed a shame to pass up writing something about this splendid work of art, therefore, I will be starting another series of articles from time to time which will focus on albums which might have released a bit before my review window, and which I feel deserve an extra push into the spotlight of public consciousness. It's a pleasure, then, to introduce the first album in my retrospective review series: Paranormal Adam's The Black Plague.

Released in the early half of 2016, this album is intercut with clips from the Spike Lee film "Malcolm X", but instead of the militaristic approach of Malcolm, Adam's album reflects on the need for people of the world to embrace, and opens it with the mantra "My black people, I love you..." personifying the togetherness he feels in this righteous debut LP. The tone is defined specifically and vividly, as a work of empowerment and values, partnering top level production with the thoughtful conscious verses of Paranormal Adam and his guest emcees.

"GODBODY" and "Black Brilliance" both are great entry points for converting new fans, as they introduce listeners to Paranormal Adam's diction and effortless flow. The beats are smooth and old school, and singles like "The Secret" showcases the power of humbleness and knowledge and rising up mentally and spiritually. Tracks like "Bulletproof" switch up the mood, and prove to be a chilling reminder of the violence that still plagues our world, as its intro is cut with a shooting scene from the film, and reminds us of the mass shootings in schools and mosques to this day. Paranormal's message is clear in these uncertain times: people might fall, but truth is bulletproof.

"Muthaluva" and "My People's" display again the importance of loving your woman, family roots, and coming together, with Adam's repeated lyric from his opening track, "Black power, raise your fists, raise these kids, we gotta find a better way to live. Black women, pick up your brother, support your man, black brothers, love your lady and lead your fam." Thoughts of race relations, struggle, and ultimately overcoming circumstances illustrate Paranormal Adam's strengths on this record. Tracks toward the end of the album venture into the instrumental breaks territory, with the DJ Shadow-inspired drum track, "Let Me People Go", giving listeners a solid groove to get lost in, and the album's haunting closer, "Revelations", hits with the determination of Adam's hardcore rhymes. It's a scary good way to bring his political message to the forefront, as Adam concludes that he's fighting for all people against the corruption of the "lunatics who run the government".

Overall, The Black Plague is a manifestation of protest and solidarity unified through song. It is an exceptionally strong debut album from the New Haven native, who I've had the pleasure of seeing perform live. It's the ultimate protest record, and breaks the mold of the mainstream drivel that's sold to the masses, which tend to promote lesser value and meaning to impressionable youth. This album is a reminder of a very important truth: love, unity, and understanding through art is the most important thing in the world we live in today. Paranormal Adam's The Black Plague takes control of the subject, and drives home this message with real hip-hop in its finest form.

The Black Plague - 9/10

Recommended Tracks: Black Brilliance, The Secret, Let My People Go