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Archive for 2011

The Changing Face Of Hip-Hop: SPIN’s Rap Issue


I had a big part in putting the hip-hop issue of SPIN together and I’m really proud of it. It’s online now and in stores starting 11/22. My essay is an attempt to explain what the hell is going on in rap in 2011 thanks to the Internet. Cast of characters: Danny Brown, A$AP Rocky, Big K.R.I.T., Curren$y, Lil B, Yelawolf, Odd Future, Kendrick Lamar, Cities Aviv, Main Attrakionz, Stalley, Clams Casino, AraabMuzik, and DJ Burn One. There’s also David Peisner on G-Side, and Julianne Escobedo Shepherd on Odd Future. Read it and maybe even buy it!

Written by Brandon

November 17th, 2011 at 3:58 am

Posted in Spin

Spin: Drake – Take Care

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Reviewed that new Drizzy for Spin. He’s still a smarmy creepo but he totally makes it work here. There are some sequencing issues on this one (here is my redux version) but it’s nearly 80 minutes and doesn’t really feel like it, which is impressive. Because I didn’t get to fit it in the review: The title track! “Take Care” is like a B-Side to Rihanna’s “We Found Love,” like the e-pill comedown after that song kicked you all around. Jamie xx’s late-song breakdown of Heron’s vocals from We’re New Here’s “I’ll Take Care Of You,” in this context, sound like some depressed version of “The Ha Dance” or something. Then again, everything on this record sounds like a depressed version of something else, doesn’t it?

Perhaps “Headlines” had you thinking Take Care would be Drake’s humble moment. On that relatively upbeat single, he raps, “I might be too strung out on compliments, overdosed on confidence,” and, later, expresses appreciation for the fans who told him he “fell off” between his hit 2009 mixtape So Far Gone and his star-packed 2010 debut Thank Me Later. And even though “Headlines” is pretty much a rewrite of a previous hit — the “6 Foot 7 Foot” to “Over” ’s “A Milli” — that hardly matters because Drake is consciously lapping himself, returning to the same topic and style with another year of experience, making his conflicted approach to being richer than you just a little more lived-in.

An appropriately absurd cover depicting a despondent Drizzy, five o’clock shadow-sad, looking like a decadent Baba Booey, also foreshadowed a hard, if melodramatic, look in the mirror. Plus, he titled this new one Take Care — so much sweeter than Thank Me Later, right? But on “Over My Dead Body,” Take Care’s first track, our favorite confused Canadian calculates last year’s earnings plus how much he paid in taxes, and chalks the latter up to “you lose some, you win some.” All right, look, man, the cash lopped off the end of my paycheck blows too, but the whole idea behind taxes is that by paying them, we all, in the long run, “win some”!

Written by Brandon

November 11th, 2011 at 12:14 am

Posted in Drake, Spin

Spin: Don Trip, Victim and Villain on “Letter to My Son”

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This week’s Spin column: Don Trip’s “Letter To My Son” and how it went from YouTube to rap radio relatively unscathed. I haven’t gotten to say much about Trip but he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite rappers around. Go get Step Brothers if you haven’t already.

Though interest is still growing in Don Trip’s “Letter to My Son,” the song dates all the way back to September 2009, when a YouTube video surfaced of the Memphis rapper in a home studio. The description read, “i use music as an outlet so i say whateva i feel like sayin no matter who or what it involve”; and the video showed Trip, shirtless and gaunt, with a chain dangling from his neck, unloading a three-minute rant about how he’s not allowed to see his son for more than an hour a week, over a soulfully manipulative beat

Don Trip is a rapper out of time. Although his imminent hit did begin as a quasi-viral video, and he’s ridiculously prolific in a way that caters to the blogs, he can’t be bothered with rap’s prevailing trends. He wears basketball shorts and, like, button-downs from Target, not streetwear. His approach to rapping is that of a work-a-day hustler, and his in-studio videos often show him gripping a notepad (and more recently an iPad), or staring off-camera at a piece of paper taped to the wall with lyrics scrawled on it. It’s a subtle way of rejecting the noxious, post-Jay-Z myth that “good” MCs don’t need to write their raps down…

Written by Brandon

November 4th, 2011 at 7:58 pm

Posted in Spin, Spin column

Pitchfork: James Ferraro – Far Side Virtual

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Reviewed the latest James Ferraro record which is a little different than the dozens of others James Ferraro records. I listen to this a lot but I have no idea whether or not it’s any good.

James Ferraro’s latest stares down our contemporary world of the future, invaded by iPads, overwhelmed by Skype meetings, and caught up in the unnecessary conveniences of self-serve frozen yogurt spots, with an equal sense of dread and awe. All those 1980s and 90s approximations of the future, in which we’d collectively have luxury stacked on top of luxury, actually sort of arrived, and they’re totally awesome– and really fucking creepy.

Far Side Virtual is inspired by goofy junk like the Windows 95 sound (composed by Brian Eno, it should be mentioned) and the melodies that kick out of a medium-priced keyboard when you punch the “demo” button. It’s a collection of eerily wholesome sounds delivered in an uncomfortably straightforward manner. Either a whole lot of work or very little work went into this record…

Written by Brandon

November 4th, 2011 at 6:59 am

Posted in Pitchfork

October Picks.


  • Matthew Herbert, One Pig: Whenever I listen to this–and I listen to it way too much–this scene from Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s In A Year With 13 Moons comes to mind. Casual world-goes-on brutality rubbing up against something humane and fragile. Review here.
  • Justice, Audio, Video, Disco: They made a prog album, and thats quite different from making the idea of a prog album. In a few years, this will be some misunderstood classic. RIYL: Album cuts from Camel, 10cc, and Kansas. I call this “The Snow Goose 2011“.
  • Patrick Stump, Soul Punk: Apparently the new Coldplay record is their bold “pop” record, but like, fuck that. There’s not even something like “Moves like Jagger” on there. The dude from F.O.B. made the year’s sophisticated, unabashed pop album. Twice!!!!
  • Real Estate, Days: Aggressively pleasant, which is quite different from being just plain dickless. Matt Mondanile converts simple guitar strum combos into stalwart, jangly classics. At least it feels that way when “Green Aisles” or “All The Same” cruise by.
  • DJ Drama, Third Power: An uneven, all over the place but ultimately awesome compilation. That Gucci track! Gangsta Gibbs and Jeezy. Good sequencing can trick you into enjoying B.o.B and Crooked I even. Still not enough yelling though.

Written by Brandon

October 31st, 2011 at 6:42 am

Posted in 2011

Spin: DJ Drama, The Art of Yelling on a Mixtape

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My column’s back after a short break that happened for reasons that I’ll explain in a little while. So yeah, this one’s based on a pretty awesome conversation I had with DJ Drama about the aesthetics of mixtape hosting and his new album, Third Power.

DJ Drama, boisterous on record but relaxed, almost samurai-like over the phone, intones his rules for mixtape hosting: “I only talk at the beginning of the song…I never talk on top of the rapping…I give it a concept…” This shit should be obvious, his calm seems to connote.

But it isn’t. Just listen to others like DJ Holiday, who puts together great Gucci Mane tapes despite his total disinterest in mastering, OCD rewinding of totally whatever verses, and a whiny, grating “hooollliiddddaaayyyy ssssseeeeeeeasssonnnnnnnn” drop. Then there’s DJ Khaled, who can’t even scream like he actually cares all that much and endlessly mines a posse-cut formula that rotates a small clump of rappers to diminishing returns. Even “I’m on One,” as near to a perfect a rap song as we’re going to get this year, is almost derailed by a grunting appearance from Khaled’s omnipresent buddy Rick Ross.

Written by Brandon

October 29th, 2011 at 2:03 am

Posted in DJ Drama, Spin, Spin column

MIX: Snooptunes.

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Based on last week’s Tumblr Ask discussion about Snoop’s non-Doggystyle input and my affinity for R & G (and really, all of his collaborations with the Neptunes), and because one person asked for it, here’s a mix of most of the Neptunes and Snoop’s official work together. I left off “Special” from Malice n’ Wonderland and the track from the Game’s Purp & Patron and probably a few others like that awesome Tyga track so that I could round it out to a nice hour of listening. Enjoy.

  • “It Blows My Mind” (off The Neptunes Present…Clones)
  • “Let’s Get Blown” (off R & G)
  • “Say Somethin” (off Mariah Carey’s Emancipation Of Mimi)
  • “Signs” (off R & G)
  • “Beautiful” (off Paid Tha Cost To Be Da Boss)
  • “Sets Up” (off Ego Trippin)
  • “Vato” (off Tha Blue Carpet Treatment)
  • “Pass It Pass It” (off R & G)
  • “Don’t Stop” (off Beanie Sigel’s The B.Coming)
  • “Drop It Like It’s Hot” (off R & G)
  • “10 Lil Crips” (off Tha Blue Carpet Treatment)
  • “From Tha Chuuuuch To Da Palace” (off Paid Tha Cost To Be Tha Boss )
  • “That Girl” (off Pharrell’s In My Mind)
  • “Perfect” (off R & G)

Written by Brandon

October 27th, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Posted in Neptunes, mix CD

Independent Weekly: The Hot At Nights – Nice Talk


Review of this Raleigh (ostensibly) jazz trio’s debut record. The group’s fronted by Chris Boerner who plays guitar for the Foreign Exchange. There are covers of Joe Jackson and Radiohead and it takes some really weird chances. If you enjoy any relatively straight-forward, contemporary jazz, check it out.

The Hot At Nights are fronted by guitarist Chris Boerner, also of The Foreign Exchange, The Proclivities and a host of other local projects. Like Phonte’s casually experimental soul group, there’s a strange menace underneath this Raleigh trio’s lithe, sophisticated approach to a stalwart genre past its “cool” expiration date, if it ever had one. The Hot At Nights’ template is straight, clinical jazz, down to the sometimes silly song titles (“CisforKaddafi”) and minimalist artwork. Importantly, they also screw around with the style however they see fit, keeping it compelling while moving toward a sound that doesn’t exactly have a genre. It definitely doesn’t fall into the fusion trap, either…

Written by Brandon

October 27th, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Pitchfork: Matthew Herbert – One Pig

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The last volume in Matthew Herbert’s “One” trilogy contains the same sonic ruminations on consumerism and mechanization as the previous installments, as well as their mood and tenor. Like One One, a heady singer-songwriter record, there’s a hushed creeping intimacy to the thing, and a Zen-like acceptance of overbearing forces, even if it intends to keep on kicking against them. Like One Club, which twisted field recordings from the Frankfurt nightclub Robert Johnson into splayed-apart dance music, thereby ingesting corporatized club culture on its own terms, One Pig is an overwhelming, inscrutably political electronic record culled from an unlikely source. In this case, it consists of manipulated recordings Herbert made of a pig’s life, “from birth to plate.”

This certainly isn’t the exploitation record PETA assumed it was gonna be, and it’s not a slab of musical vegan didacticism that presumably, many more, who prefer their music to be good first, and message-oriented second, feared either. No matter how visceral Herbert’s mix of animal grunts and menacing electronics feel, the message is never something simple like, “it sure is sad that we kill animals.” Rather, it moves listeners to be more mindful of consumption and waste (the pig’s parts were even turned into instruments), while acknowledging just how strangely disconnected we are from the animals killed to put food on our table, or say, shoes on our feet…

Written by Brandon

October 14th, 2011 at 7:13 am

Posted in Pitchfork

September Picks.

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  • G-Mane, All Nite Smoke Session: In extra chill mode here, G-Mane rhymes over beats in the key of Burn One with nods to Third World’s reggae and Cameo’s funk. “Think” is rap song of the year material. BBQ rap. Frankie Beverly for the pimps and playas.
  • Phonte, Charity Starts At Home: Phonte’s just a great rapper and his enjambment works weird wonders. Also: Songwriting! The way the hooks don’t come so quickly or hold off when they need to is pretty magical. Also also: very moving middle-aged raps.
  • Roman Flügel, Fatty Folders: Organic addictive techno that sounds developed on the spot, but was clearly labored upon until it came out perfect. How else to describe an expertly spare track like “The Improviser”? Do things while listening to this record.
  • Toro Y Moi, Freaking Out: Don’t tell nobody, but that pine one wasn’t very good. Here, it’s filter-house meets Dilla surge-hop. Much better. Even if he doesn’t make hip-hop, Bundick’s one of the genre’s best producers. And hey: Why wasn’t “All Alone” in Drive?!
  • Various Artists, Drive OST: Happy to see College, too late for IDM, too early for chillwave, get some well-deserved attention. “A Real Hero” might make you cry like a bitch. Clint Martinez’s score hands Tangerine’s Dream’s Thief propulsions a heart.

Written by Brandon

October 5th, 2011 at 7:58 am

Posted in 2011