Straight out of Chicago, Mick Jenkins drops his latest video for the anticipated album The Water[s]. The beat is infectious and Mick’s lyrical delivery on this track is one of the best I’ve heard this year.
Go listen to Mick name drop some jazz artists and check out The Water[s] when it drops August 12th.
Every morning I brush my teeth, take a shower then stick a Q-tip in my ear to clean out my ear wax. However, ever since I saw the Robert Glasper Experiment on June 25, 2013, I have noticed that my Q-tip has also been scooping up dollops of liquefied brain. I should probably see a doctor but all I can really do is try and relive the jazz band’s brain-melting experience of a performance.
This was my second time seeing the legendary pianist and his band as a part of the Toronto Jazz Festival. The first time I saw the Robert Glasper Experiment, it was at a larger theater-type venue and this time around it was at a very small bar called The Golden Horseshoe Tavern. There are pros and cons to each show but this one in particular was definitely much more intimate as Glasper was able to interact with the crowd and show off his sense of humor. He was joined by Derrick Hodge and his bass guitar, Mark Colenburg on the drums and Casey Benjamin with his saxophone and vocoder vocals (not autotune!).
Going into the show, my good friend, who is a drummer, expressed his disappointment at the fact that Chris Dave would not be performing as he is the one who played the drums for the Robert Glasper Experiment’s 2012 release, Black Radio. Dave’s “tangent drumming” style is very appealing and entertaining, however, Colenburg pulled off a performance that was more than enough to fill the shoes of Dave. He is definitely more of a pocket drummer than Dave, but that was not a bad thing at all as his beats and breakdowns served as an impeccable compliment to the entire band. These sentiments were confirmed by my friend and you should trust his opinion on the matter more than mine because…well…he is a drummer.
The band played hits from Black Radio like “Gonna Be Alright (F.T.B)” and my personal favorite, “Ah Yeah”. Ledisi, Musiq Soulchild and Chrisette Michelle were not in attendance to perform their respective vocal portions of the songs but Casey Benjamin filled in with his trusty vocoder. They also did their own renditions of some pop hits. Hearing their version of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” will ensure that I never listen to the original version of the song because, frankly, it blew it out of the water. The Robert Glasper Experiment also did a cover of “No Church in the Wild” which seamlessly transitioned into another Black Radio hit, “Cherish the Day”. The sheer amount of musical melody that was hitting my eardrums made my body a complete slave to the musings of my mind.
How did Robert Glasper sound on the piano you ask? The answer is simple. Brilliant. The complexity of the notes and chords he strung together were way beyond anything my musically uneducated ass would be able to do justice in explaining. There would be moments when you could tell he was in the zone as he would show it in his facial expression. Whenever he gave the crowd “the look”, we knew that we were in for a treat.
The Robert Glasper Experiment did not play anything off their highly anticipated release, Black Radio 2, but Glasper did confirm that the album would be coming out sooner rather than later and even revealed that Common, Dwele and Brandy are all featured on it. With that being said, if you see the Robert Glasper Experiment coming to your town, buy tickets for you and your friends and prepare for an aurgasm.
Kids These Days truly is a rare band. With the assembly of eight separate personalities producing music that spans many genres with live instrumentation, the gap for error is apparent. Yet these eight Chicago teens do not only harmonize blues, pop, rock, soul, jazz and hip-hop effortlessly, but they do so with the execution of musicians two decades deep into their career. They dropped the very dope Hard Times EP last year and are back with their debut full length LP, Traphouse Rock, that showcases a progression leaps and bounds ahead of their previous work, both sonically and collectively.
If someone picked any song on this album, they’d be greeted with a myriad of sounds and instruments, all consistently balanced; this is crucial for a group with so many different pieces all blending into one. This shows when male vocalist/guitarist Liam Cunningham soulfully serenades about how a man’s world means nothing without a woman by his side on “A Man’s Medley,” using the cadence of a voice well beyond his years, or MC Vic Mensa’s ridiculously effortless flow on “Don’t Harsh My Mellow” accompanied by ominously haunting piano keys by female vocalist Marcie Stewart with a spiraling chorus that sounds like it’s falling apart.
The horn section alone in this band would be enough to grab hold my attention for all fifty-eight minutes of the album with trumpeter Nico Segal and trombonist J.P. Floyd. On the song “GHETTO,” Segal hits high staccato notes alongside Floyd, who provides a distorted, whiny drone throughout the song. The beat switches midway to a faster tempo where they play musical ping pong back and forth, until drummer Greg Landfair closes out the song with a sweet solo. This lush instrumentation literally permeates every song.
The subject matter Kids These Days delve into on Traphouse Rock address a plethora of different aspects of teen youth, but doesn’t get redundant or dramatic in that bullshit teen angst kind of way. The pretentious, cynical perception musicians their age typically have in this generation is cleansed by a very genuine place of youth with relatable topics.
Adolescent nostalgia breathes over subdued trumpets that open up the track “Talk 2 You” as Mensa speaks to an old friend/ex over the phone about all the old memories they shared. Pain and regret drunkenly dance with each other in the hook Cunningham sings so honestly: “Bottoms up baby I’ve been drinking/ Let me tell you about what I’ve been thinking/You’re the reason why I wrote this song/ I hope it hasn’t been too long.”
Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, who also hails from Chicago, handled a large majority of the production on this project and did a phenomenal job. The layered instrumentation and improved musicality of Kids These Days is most likely a result of Tweedy’s mentorship.
Take the cohesive instrumentation of The Roots and the free spirited style of Gym Class Heroes pre-2008, and that’s close to how this band operates. Traphouse Rock is music in its rawest, purest form, from a group of musicians celebrating their adolescence through music played at a much higher caliber.
This tape featuring Kid Abstrakt and his crew, Revolutionary Rhythm, finally dropped yesterday after many delays and redesigns. It features fifteen smooth tracks and only costs a buck.
Either the universe spawned another Common, or Kid Abstrakt isn’t afraid to let his influences show. Regardless of the situation, the young LA emcee knows how to vibe, and Dedicated to H.E.R., a smooth, jazzy compilation, proves just that.
Abstrakt’s a really nice rapper; he keeps things moving with his lively flow, gets in a punchline or two when he can (“You can’t stop me/right clicks couldn’t copy”), and has an earnest love for making good music. This is post-Kanye West hip hop that makes sense; sure, not everyone popped glocks before learning to rap, but that should not require every fledgling rapper to immediately bebop about swag, “YOLO” and other ridiculous trivialties.
And let’s not forget to mention the supple assortment of beats, which make the beat from “I’m On One” sound like a broken accordion. The tape starts off with the classic instrumental from Souls of Mischief’s “’93 till Infinity,” which itself turned jazz samples into a wonderful little melody, and only gets better with the feel-good of “I Love H.E.R.,” the subtle caress of piano and a “wah” sample on “NightSky,” and even to the minimal tones and rolling boom-bap drums on “RealEyes.” But the coup de grace, “ThisIsDope,” astounds not only with what sounds like a live band, but one of the best sung hooks I’ve heard period. As a sworn enemy of cheesy sing-song hooks, I can safely consider this one worthy.
Dedicated to H.E.R. assures listeners that DIY in not only hip hop, but music entirely, does not have to sound like a rough mix of booming vocals and instrumentals recorded in a trash can. Kid Abstrakt is smooth, stylish, and effortlessly real on each track, and by relation, so is the tape.
P.S. I have no idea who produced these tracks, but shout out to that person(s). If you see this, let me know and I will give due credit.
Shout out to The Needledrop for putting me on to these guys. They are pretty dam good and for a dying art such as jazz, we are in need of young cats that can come in a keep it alive. The way they are doing it is pretty dope fusing hip hop and jazz together. Nothing new. But they are able to do it on a more mainstream, popular level that steadily grows. Check out what they did to Gucci Mane’s “Lemonade”.
While there is an apparent concept to the tape, these beats are compelling outside of any extra cohesive element. The intro “King of the Jungle” opens with ambient wildlife, interrupted by a pronounced live drum set a slightly ominous organ riff and intruding electronic drone. “Sunrise” alleviates the tension with MPC-style percussion, a vibrant bassline and this icy, phasing sample that flutters the eardrum incessantly. Naanasin’s take on Miami Bass in “Lets Be Free” could not be named any more appropriately, with the nonchalant snare-heavy percussion, disruptive electro and that glorious bass all waxing and waning in charge and intensity.
“The Hunt,” his attempt at a drum & bass style in a hip hop format, is one of the noticeable achievements of the beat-tape. It not only proves the amount of work Nannasin put in to create it within his own artistic design, but also the amount of responsibility he assumes in advancing hip hop as a genre. Sure, this song has a familiar set of tools, with its airy Gothic synths, crispy and lean drum breakdown and deep, guttural bass surging nonstop, but tools mean nothing until they are put to good use.
If anything can be said to its detriment, it might be the lack of an MC willing to spit on such superior and defined production. They might feel intimidated. But the time will come, as “XX” is experimental hip hop in a similar vein to Shabazz Palace’s “Black Up,” striving to break the blinged-out and weed-clouded confines of contemporary hip hop beatmaking for more creative pastures. Hopefully the wait is brief.