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Archive for January, 2012



If you haven’t already heard everybody complaining and pontificating about it, SPIN’s going to start doing Tweet reviews, and I’m one of the 20 critics involved. So, please go and follow It’s gonna be a lot of fun.

Written by Brandon

January 13th, 2012 at 4:08 am

Posted in Spin

Oval – “Heroic”


Without Oval you’d have no glitch and without glitch you’d have no Boards of Canada or Fennesz and without those fellas you’d have none of this delightful, warped bliss-out electronic music right now that soundtracks your chill-out times at the beach and your bum-out, nodding off on painkillers time alone. Well maybe indirect father of chillwave isn’t a good argument for Oval’s growing though marginalized importance, but listen anyway: Oval are awesome and important and one of a kind, and that’s clear on OvalDNA a newly released odds-and-sods compilation that fuses together better than anything they’ve put out since 94 Diskont.

“Heroic” has a simple evocative, spot-on title, which helps conjure up a scene from some psychedelic sci-fi viking movie’s last act, where everything’s gone to shit. There’s something in that guitar–meaty, yet depressed and lost–and the way the chords ring out, getting sloppier each time they’re played, that sounds like whoever’s strumming them is losing consciousness. This mysterious shard of guitar, waterlogged R2D2 squeals, and sad-sack piano, is my favorite song of 2012, even though it’s definitely not from this year. Then again, “Rack City” (which is great because it has even fewer elements and stretches them to three and a half minutes, instead of two and half) isn’t from this year either, though it’s ubiquity has made me, on more than one occasion, declare it SONG OF THE YEAR SO FAR as well.

Written by Brandon

January 13th, 2012 at 3:59 am

DDm – “Spend It”

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Creating evil, stop-start squiggly Lex Luger-like productions is like, the thing now, and the way that Drumma Boy, who had a hand in inventing that style anyways, does it on “Spend It” without sounding like a straight rip-off, is something to celebrate. “Spend It” works because Drumma adds like two more sounds (that lonely horn, some hefty low-end) than he needs to, and well, 2 Chainz is a total maniac.

DDm is also a maniac. Formerly known as Midas, I’ve been pushing dude for a few years now and he’s slowly figuring his persona out beyond “hilarious, dope rapper.” Brevity is key here–the way he jumps in and jumps out, says some funny but honest shit and calls it a day. To really mess with you, DDm also has a freestyle over Rihanna’s “Cockiness,” which is a really brilliant gender-bending mindfuck from this Baltimore, tough-talking queer MC. He’s also got a concept album called Winter & The Tin-Man’s Heart coming out soon. Earlier today he released “Piece Of My Heart”, the first song from that project. Love this guy.

Written by Brandon

January 12th, 2012 at 8:38 pm

T.I. – “The One”

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One of the reasons Mannie Fresh’s work dried up is because he spoke out about Cash Money fucking him, which pretty much means he’s going up against Universal Records, right? It’s wise that he’s letting himself get balled up in the Internet mixtape game like this. And so, besides this being a T.I./Fresh collaboration, it hopefully marks Mannie entertaining how rap works in 2012 instead of gingerly grousing that it isn’t 2004 anymore.

On “The One,” T.I. luxuriates in the beat for a while, letting its laser car alarm synths and Big Tymer rumble ride out for awhile, psyching himself up by muttering half-syllables and gargling. When he does steps up, he’s the quiet, confident MC of Trap Muzik, not the meter-obsessed show-off on King. And by the time the hook arrives, well, it’s barely even clear that it’s a hook because it’s like it’s own little pissed-off verse. Rap’s always a game of right now and Tip’s done plenty to fuck up his hype, but Rick Ross strong-arming his way in with a pretty good mixtape, simply by being bigger, louder, and dumber, though not necessarily better, is a Newt Gingrich move. Rozay is gangsta rap’s A-student in that he does everything exactly right with little deviation and no emotion. F*ck Da City Up > Rich Forever.

Written by Brandon

January 10th, 2012 at 8:52 pm

Them’s The Vagaries Podcast: Comic Books Talk Pt. 1

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Sean McTiernan of the rap and other things podcast Them’s The Vagaries asked me to participate in some year-end proceedings and talk about my favorite comics of 2011. What transpired was a two-hour conversation about comics which didn’t even begin to address my 2011 picks until like, the 45 minute mark. Wisely, our discussion has been split in two parts. The first part is me contextualizing and complaining about comics–think of this as a comics in 2011 state of the union address: On DC’s 52 event being a big joke, why Grant Morrison’s Supergods is the comic criticism equivalent of Walter Pater’s The Renaissance, how licensing and movie deals are killing comic books, and why alt-comics nerds like Daniel Clowes and Seth are the worst. Part two will be up later in the week.

Written by Brandon

January 9th, 2012 at 6:01 am

Posted in Comics

10 Records From 2011 That You Probably Didn’t Hear Or Maybe You Heard Them But Didn’t Realize Just How Great They Were?


  • B L A C K I E, True Spirit And Not Giving A Fuck: So, if Death Grips is “Waka Flocka Flame for grad students,” that makes B L A C K I E “Waka Flocka for angsty idealistic high-schoolers,” which is preferable. Rites Of Spring raps right here. Fuck with it! Thanks to Jawnita and Monique_R for telling me about this one.
  • Dark Castle, Surrender To All Life Beyond Form: Dude/chick metal duo do EyehateGod strangled doom while conjuring up John Carpenter, D&D, and something that could’ve popped up on a Will Oldham record. Despite the mannered metal weirdness, these guys never turn into producer Sanford Parker’s guinea pigs.
  • Dope Body, Nupping: Punk-funk grunting and super dynamic metal-not-metal riffing that boldly enters RHCP and RATM territory, unashamed. For real, like this thing’ll get funky from time to time, shoving some genuine grooves into defiantly sludgy noisy angry stuff. I got yelled at for listening to this loudly on the train once.
  • James Nasty, The Truth About James Nasty: Scrunches up the feeling of a night of rocking off into 30 breathless minutes, culminating in a near-sober, morning light refix of the Temptations’ “My Girl.” Baltimore Club is a missing piece in this whole global dance music turned American pop phenomenon happening right now.
  • Los, Worth The Wait: This Baltimore Dude’s got that Lil Wayne ability to take popular radio hits and rap his ass off over them and make them feel new and vital once again. Original songs are something he’s still figuring out, but freestyling over nearly every relevant hip-hop hit from 2011 makes this one thrilling enough.
  • Mama’s Mustache, Next Level: Dirty South space R&B from the duo of Jeff B. and the great Mr. DJ. Big Rube shows up! Pair this with Nappy Roots’ Nappy Dot Org and you can pretend Cee-Lo doesn’t exist and still observe that the Dungeon Family did really well last year. You didn’t hear this because you had to buy it. Shame on you.
  • Nacho Picasso, For The Glory: When this self-effacing Seattle rapper got to that Beta Ray Bill reference on “Marvel,” it became clear he wasn’t mining entry-level comics references. The Frazetta-esque cover says the same thing. That’s pretty much the story of this entire tape: A whole lot of thought and effort put into a rarefied, regular dude milieu.
  • No Gang Colors, Honorary Cop: Casually collapses subgenres (grindcore, boom-bap, screw music, doom) into one big fast wail and brings back hatred for the pigs months before #OWS did that for all the rest of us. The lyrics on “Helpful Asshole” are screamed-out poetry. And it’s all over in less than seven minutes.
  • Robag Wruhme, Thora Vukk: Tasteful field recordings amplify the warm-hearted emotion throbbing along to these halcyon house beats. Man, who had a better year than this guy? January’s mix Wuppdeckmischmampflow, this one in April, and Donnerkuppel in November. Robag is that dude right now, even if nobody knows it.
  • Zilla, Zilla Shit: Confessional, pissed-off street shit featuring most of Huntsville. Zilla’s got clever, off-to-the-side hooks, can molt into a wizened O.G. type when necessary, and does sad and angry as good as anybody in Brick Squad. Raps over OutKast’s “You May Die” which I’ve wanted someone to do since I first heard ATliens.

Written by Brandon

January 5th, 2012 at 4:33 am

Posted in 2011

City Paper: “Local Rap Veterans Los and Mullyman”

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Wrote something about Baltimore hip-hop and the XXL Freshman 10 “reader’s poll,” which featured Los and Mullyman. Both of them are the kinds of guys that, being poppy street rappers and all,  were being cultivated to be stars a few years ago but wisely avoided label B.S. and kinda “missed” their “chance.” They may get that chance at stardom soon but like, what’s the point? Much of this is probably obvious to readers of this blog and it’s sort of a localized, smooshed-up version of my SPIN article, but I feel like what I’m saying here is probably not so obvious to plenty of Baltimore rappers who still mention “going platinum” and stuff. But if you’re tired of this kind of talk, you should still check out Los and Mullyman, both of whom put out some really good mixtapes this year: Los’ Worth The Wait and Mullyman’s Mullyman Vs. The Machine are pretty good.

XXL ’s annual “Freshman 10 ” issue, wherein the hip-hop magazine declares a group of up-and-coming rappers the next big thing, is a major talking point among rap nerds. The discussion begins with predictions about who will be on the list and, with even more passion, preemptive bitch fits about who should be but totally won’t. Then, once the cover of the issue’s revealed and those 10 newbies are formally introduced, the list is picked apart further. If the list lines up to one’s expectations, then the magazine is safe and predictable. If the list doesn’t correspond to predictions, then the issue is bullshit and they just don’t know real hip-hop, man. It’s perverse fun for rap obsessives.

This year, XXL left one of those spots in the hands of the impossible-to-please hip-hop hoi polloi. Readers got to vote for one of 50 MCs listed in an online reader’s poll. The poll closed on Jan. 1, and the results will be revealed in the April issue. The 50 MCs to choose from represent rap’s increasingly fractured though multitudinous 2011 scene. There are guys about to break on the radio like Don Trip and Future, and there are blog rap phenomenons like Danny Brown and A$AP Rocky. There’s even room for the armpit of internet opportunists like white girl hood wannabe and one-hit wonder Kreayshawn, her friend V-Nasty (best known for being white and unapologetically using the word “nigga”), and frat-rap mega-douches Chris Webby and Sam Adams…

Written by Brandon

January 4th, 2012 at 12:01 am

Posted in City Paper

MIX: #CLAMJAMS (Best Of Clams Casino, 2011)



Because someone on Tumblr Ask requested it, here’s a compilation of the best Clams Casino productions from last year. And Soulja’s “All I Need” which is technically from very late 2010. I consulted Joseph from No Gang Colors on this too and he mixed it. Of course, the real “best” work from 2011 is just Instrumentals but that’s no fun and we thought of this as a way to illustrate just how varied his production actually can be: broken Bay Area-style slappers, rainy Blade Runner synth bangers, that slurry moaning stuff we love so damn much, and a few that are just like, really gorgeous and like, “what? is this guy going to be composing Copland-like symphonies in 10 years or something?!” Also, we decided to avoid instrumentals if a version with a rapper exists, because while it’s one thing to suggest Clams’ work is better unadorned by rapping (some of it is), it’s quite another thing to be one of those jerks that’s all like “lol Soulja Boy.”

  • Eno on Casino
  • “Treetop”
  • The Weeknd – “The Fall”
  • XV – “Swervin” Remix
  • A$AP Rocky – “Bass”
  • Soulja Boy – “I Love My Fans”
  • Lil B – “Unchain Me”
  • Shady Blaze – “Haters Opinion”
  • The Jealous Guys – “Brainwashed By London”
  • Mac Miller – “My Team”
  • Squadda B – “Fakest Year Ever”
  • Big K.R.I.T. – “Moon & Stars” Remix
  • Lil B – “Motivation”
  • Main Attrakionz ft. A$AP Rocky – “Take 1″
  • “Numb”
  • “Wizard”
  • Soulja Boy – “All I Need”
  • Washed Out – “Amor Fati” Remix

Written by Brandon

January 2nd, 2012 at 7:55 pm

Posted in mix CD

FANDOR: “Music Is the Weapon, Meet the Real Fela Kuti (Not the Broadway Version)”

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Forgot to put this up last week. I wrote about the 1982 Fela Kuti documentary Music Is The Weapon for the streaming film website Fandor. If you haven’t seen it, you can join Fandor for a week for free and check it out. You should!

Sitting in a busted chair amongst his numerous dancers and wives, nestled in his compound in Lagos, which he declared its own separate republic, Fela Anikulapo Kuti pontificates on solving the dire situation in his home country of Nigeria: “Africans must know. Someone must spread the knowledge.” He then pauses for dramatic effect. “And I think I have the knowledge.” He brings a massive joint to his lips. It is 1982 and Fela is running for president of Nigeria, whether the hopelessly corrupt powers that be like it or not.

If your experience with the Afrobeat inventor and political firebrand comes from Fela!, the hit Broadway musical with the tagline “Energy, Passion, Revolution, Power” then this not-so-glamorous, ground-level documentary may be particularly edifying. Stéphane Tchal Gadjieff and Jean-Jacques Flori’s Fela Kuti: Music Is The Weapon is a near-hour long dose of Fela that allows viewers to make of him what they will. When he’s shown driving a van with his name emblazoned on the front of it, there’s a creepy though maybe necessary hucksterism to his political sloganeering and advertising. Indeed, his nightclub is called–with some irony and clever branding–The Shrine. But you also witness the musician terrorized by government, which makes his passion tangible…

Written by Brandon

January 2nd, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Posted in Fandor