Aesop Rock Makes A Strong Case For Critics’ Year-Ender Lists With His New LP

Courtesy: Rhymesayers Entertainment

Rapper Aesop Rock has over the course of hi two decade plus career, become one of the biggest name in the rap and hip-hop community.  That is because from one record to the next, he has consciously taken the road less traveled, giving audiences something new and unique in every release.  His latest album Spirit World Field Guide is no exception to that rule.  This 21-song (yes, 21 songs) album takes listeners on a musical and lyrical journey that few if any other rappers past and present can say they have featured.  That is proven from beginning to end of the 63-minute presentation.  The musical content featured in this record throughout the record’s body supports the noted statements in their own way.  They will be discussed shortly.  The lyrical content that accompanies the album’s unique is original in its own way, which again is nothing new for Aesop Rock.  This will be addressed a little later.  The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements.  It will also be discussed later.  All three elements noted here are important in their own way to the whole of the album.  All things considered, they make this record one more of the year’s best new rap and hip-hop albums.

Aesop Rock’s latest album Spirit World Field Guide is a presentation that will appeal to rap and hip-hop fans across the board.  That is because it is another record that shows the rapper – Ian Matthias Bavitz – is not one to rest easy on his laurels.  The record’s musical content is just one way in which the noted statements are supported.  The arrangements are not the typical bass-heavy compositions that are so commonplace in so much mainstream rap and hip-hop.  That is of course nothing new for Bavitz.  Longtime fans will agree that he has always strived to push the envelope with his musical creations and keep things fresh.  Case in point of that effort and its success is in the song ‘Sleeper Car.’  The song opens with a brief but ominous organ arrangement.  That arrangement gives way quickly to an old-school hip-hop beat that is accompanied by a variety of electronics and keyboards that must be heard in order to be understood and appreciated.  The sampling that couples with the other noted items makes for such an infectious groove that will leave listeners hugely impressed.  ‘Pizza Alley’ is another unique musical addition to Spirit World Field Guide.  The use of the tambourine and keyboards gives the song a sort of vintage rock feel.  Its transition to the more modern hip-hop approach that makes up the second half of the song is so smooth and makes the song even more engaging and entertaining.  The dichotomy of the electronics and bass in ‘Fixed and Dilated’ is another interesting musical composition featured in this record.  The keyboards and electronics here are so ethereal and subtle.  Set alongside the song’s bass line and its vintage hip-hop beat, the whole makes for such a unique work in its own right.  When it is considered along with the rest of the record’s musical content, the picture painted by that whole is a rich, vivid landscape that once again proves Aesop Rock’s originally and creativity in his attention to musical detail.  The appeal that the album’s musical content brings audiences is just one part of what makes the record so engaging and entertaining.  Its lyrical content is just as original as its musical compositions.

The lyrical content that is featured in Aesop Rock’s latest album is unique in that it is completely unlike anything else that any rapper out there today has presented and is presenting.  Case in point is one of the album’s late entries, ‘Fixed and Dilated.’  The song comes across like a re-telling of the classic book and movie, The Exorcist.  That is evidenced as the song makes note of the “2 pupils/All he say is “Ian’s Not Here/Pitch it down a octave/I’ma take this opportunity piss and vomit lava/White the neck is lazy susan-ing.”  The rest of the song lyrically stays in line with this, which in whole stays in line with the theme of the album’s title.  It is obviously a rarely if ever traveled road for any of Aesop Rock’s contemporaries in the rap and hip-hop community.  ‘Dog at the Door’ also follows the theme of the album’s title. It features someone in their house who hears a sound outside the house.  The subject wonders if the sound came from a cat, or if “it’s probably a trap.”  The subject even goes so far as to say, “I realize think that I am off the deep end/I’ll say that it’s a lovely night regardless of the BS.”  The whole thing stands out with its wintertime ghost story.  Again, this is something that Aesop Rock’s counterparts in the hip-hop and rap communities are rarely if ever touching in terms of lyrical content.  In other words, it’s another way in which he is taking that road less traveled once more here.  Aesop Rock goes in a completely different direction in ‘1 to 10.’  Apparently, if the lyrics are to be interpreted right, this song is just about someone dealing with back pains, of all things.  It even opens with Aesop Rock rapping, “Bad back, bad back,  bad back/One half zig/While the other half zag/Stand too long and the whole s*** hunch.”  He even makes mention of going to see a doctor at one point in the song, with the doctor asking about how the intensity of the pain.  It is just a random lyrical topic, that if it is meant as a metaphor for something else, is still unique in its own right.  Once more, here audiences have an example of just how original the lyrical content is from Aesop Rock on his latest album.  When it is considered with the rest of the album’s lyrical content, the whole of that material makes for just as much engagement and entertainment as the album’s musical content.  The two sides together make the album well worth hearing by themselves.  Of course they are only a portion of what audiences will appreciate.  The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements. 

The sequencing of Aesop Rock’s new album is extremely important, considering that the record runs 21 songs deep and just over an hour in time.  Considering that depth and length, a lot of attention had to be paid to the sequencing, so as to make sure the energy remained stable and that the songs’ lyrical content did not lose listeners.  From one song to the next, the energy remains stable even as the stylistic approach changes.  That change of styles in itself keeps things interesting for listeners.  Even when the stylistic change brings about a slower song, the energy is still stable.  Simply put, the album’s sequencing ensures in its own right.  When it is considered along with the album’s overall content, the album in whole leaves no doubt as to its place in this year’s field of new rap and  hip-hop albums.

Aesop Rock’s new album Spirit World Field Guide is yet another uniquely engaging and entertaining offering from the veteran artist.  That is proven in part through its musical content, which takes listeners down a musical path that is unlike almost everything out there today.  The record’s content is unique in its own right to say the very least.  It is something that longtime audiences will appreciate just as much as those looking for an alternative to the run of the mill rap records’ content.  The sequencing of that collective content puts the finishing touch to the album, ensuring even more, listeners’ engagement and entertainment.  All things considered, Spirit World Field Guide proves itself to be among this year’s top new rap and hip-hop albums.

More information on Aesop Rock’s new album is available along with all of his latest news at:

Websitehttp://aesoprock.com

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/AesopRockWins

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

‘The Day Before Halloween’ Will Leave A Good Taste In Audiences’ Mouths

Courtesy: Rhymesayers Entertainment

Hip-hop duo Atmosphere apparently is not the type of act that rests easily.  Less than a year after the release of its then most recent album Whenever, the duo returned Friday with its second album so far this year, The Day Before Halloween.  The 10-song record is an intriguing new offering from the duo – Slug and Ant.  That is proven largely through its musical arrangements, which will be discussed shortly.  The record’s lyrical content, unlike its musical content, is more familiar and keep the album engaging and entertaining in its own right.  It will be addressed a little later.  The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the album.  All things considered, they make the record a presentation that hip-hop and rap fans will appreciate just as much as Atmosphere’s most devoted audiences.

Atmosphere’s new album The Day Before Halloween is a successful new offering from the veteran duo.  It is a record that offers something quite interesting for audiences looking for something new and unique.  That is proven in part through the record’s collective musical arrangements.  The arrangements in question take the duo in a new, untried direction.  This time out, Slug and Ant opt for a more synth-driven sound than the more familiar traditional hip-hop beats and musical aspects that they have so commonly used in the past.  That the duo opted to take the risk and go in this direction was a brave move and is worthy of plenty of applause.  Right from the album’s outset in ‘Where The Road Forks,’ audiences are transported back to the 80s with the keyboard-driven arrangement.  What’s interesting here is that when the duo’s more familiar hip-hop influence is added to the mix, the balance of those two distinctly different sounds actually works in a weird way.  Even in its follow-up ‘Space is Safe,’ that juxtaposition of styles is balanced equally well for yet another unique, engaging arrangement.  As the album progresses, the use of the keyboards takes Atmosphere in a more modern direction, giving each arrangement a noticeably mainstream sound.  That more mainstream sound that develops throughout the record gives the album an increased ability to hold its own against Atmosphere’s contemporaries.  For all that the musical arrangements do for Atmosphere’s new album, they are just one part of what makes the album stand out.  Its lyrical content adds more to its appeal.

The lyrical content featured throughout The Day Before Halloween will connect with listeners just as much as the record’s new musical direction.  That is evidenced to some extent late in the record’s run in ‘Stardust.’  This song comes across lyrically as a relatively simple song about a relationship that has gone bad.  That is inferred as Slug notes, “I should have tried to be a better partner regardless/So why you wanna turn me back to Stardust” before whispering time and again, “broken heart.” He notes early on, “I should have listened to Clarence/How did we get so careless/ You should have listened to the old classics/Those  freestyles was written on some stone tablets/I’m such a passive aggresivist…I’m so sensitive/She calling me a booty ho/And now I’m sleeping down at the studio.”  Again, here is a seemingly familiar theme of someone looking back on a broken relationship.  It’s just one way in which the album’s lyrical content shows its importance.  ‘Where The Road Forks’ seems to deliver an equally accessible message. 

In this case, the message comes across as encouraging listeners to live life the best they can even when things get tough.  This is inferred as Slug notes, “I kinda wish I was in somebody else’s dream/I’m tryin’ ta fish for some faith/But this ain’t what it seems/I mean I mighta seen them clouds/Even felt some rain/My eyes are open like a window that’s surrounded by pain/I know sometimes I don’t’ articulate myself right/Maybe it coincides with how we hear ourselves right/I won’t tell you that you ‘sposed to fight, right/But I got that shelf life/If you wanna know what that Hell like.”  He goes on to note in the song’s chorus that “If we gotta die tonight/I might take a couple extra breaths/Watch over those storm troopers who force you to use force/But you still trying to hold the tears/Poker face/Show no fear/Lost in space/Solar flare/Don’t really care/Coast is clear/I’m making motions/I hope it’s enough to get home/This lake is frozen..Only get what you can get/And try not to overextend.”  Again, there is a lot of metaphorical language here.  He even adds later that “you still gotta hold the torch.”  Keeping that in mind with everything else, the song seems to deliver the noted message of keeping strength despite situations.  If in fact what is interpreted here is fact, then this lyrical content is just as certain to connect with listeners as that featured in ‘Stardust.’  It is just one more way in which the album’s lyrical content proves its value.  ‘The Future Was Disgusting’ is another way in which the record’s lyrical themes prove pivotal to its presentation.

The lyrical theme of ‘The Future Was Disgusting’ is important to note because it comes across as a very typical rap/hip-hop work.  All of the trademarks are there.  From the mention of smoking, to the sexual innuendo and even old school rap references, the song is loaded with lyrical content that will appeal to any rap/hip-hop purist.  Between all of that and the more modern style hip-hop style musical arrangement, the song in whole becomes a song that will connect with audiences even more with listeners.  When this is considered along with the other songs noted here and the lyrical content featured in the album’s other works, the whole of the album’s lyrical content leaves no doubt as to its importance.  When this content is coupled with the album’s musical content, that even bigger whole adds that much more appeal to this presentation.  Keeping all of that in mind, the album still has one more aspect to examine, its production.

The production of The Day Before Halloween is important because it shows how much time and effort was spent bringing everything together.  The increased presence of the keyboards in this record could easily have overpowered the more traditional rap and hip-hop elements, but did not do so.  Again, that is due to the production (and mixing).  Every beat and every note combines so well throughout.  The same can be said of the vocals added to the whole.  The vocals are never overpowered, either.  Keeping all of that in mind, the album’s production brings everything together and brings the album full circle.  When all things are considered together, The Day Before Halloween proves to be a fresh new presentation from Atmosphere that is a welcome new musical treat from the veteran hip-hop/rap duo.

Atmosphere’s new album The Day Before Halloween is a record that audiences will appreciate on the day before Halloween and long after.  That is proven in part through its musical arrangements, as is noted here.  Its lyrical content adds to that appeal in its own way, too.  The record’s production brings the whole thing full circle and completes the presentation.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of this album.  All things considered, The Day Before Halloween proves itself a record that continues to show why Atmosphere is one of the most respected acts in the rap and hip-hop community today.  The album is available now.  More information on the album is available along with all of Atmosphere’s latest news at:

Website: http://atmospheresucks.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Atmosphere

Twitter: http://twitter.com/Atmosphere

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.  

‘Weather Or Not’ Is More Proof Of Evidence’s Talents, Abilities As A Solo Artist

Courtesy: Rhymesayers Entertainment

Dilated Peoples member Evidence returned this past January with his latest full-length studio recording Weather or Not.  Yes, that is spelled right.  His fifth full-length solo record, it is a solid new effort from the veteran MC that proves another positive effort that his most devout fans will appreciate just as much as hip-hop fans in general.  This is thanks collectively to the beats and rhythms exhibited in each of the record’s 16 songs.  This statement is supported early on in the album’s run in the form of its second entry, ‘Throw It All Away.’  This one will be discussed shortly.  ‘Powder Cocaine’ as bad as it sounds, is actually another important entry to Weather or Not, and will be discussed later.  ‘Bad Publicity’ is one more way in which Weather or Not proves to be another solid effort from Evidence.  Between it, the other noted songs and the rest of this 55-minute record, it becomes clear that the album is not just a solid return for Evidence, but also one of the year’s top new rap/hip-hop records.

Evidence’s new album Weather or Not is a solid new effort from the veteran MC and Dilated People’s member and is also one of this year’s top new rap/hip-hop albums.  That is thanks to beats and lyrical content that are certain to keep listeners fully engaged and entertained from start to finish.  ‘Throw It All Away,’ which comes very early in the album’s run, clearly supports that statement.  The song’s arrangement, which boasts a solid hip-hop beat at its foundation and a flowing keyboard line to boot, does plenty in itself to keep listeners engaged.  The song’s lyrical theme, set against that arrangement, strengthens the song even more.  That’s because lyrically speaking, the song comes across as a statement warning up-and-coming rappers to be more wise with their money.  That is inferred as Evidence raps, “Don’t take fans for granted/Like the money is due.”  It’s such a simple statement, but speaks volumes.  It really is the crux of everything that this song seems to try to get across as he raps, “A player plays what a player’s dealt/And carries baggage like conveyor belts/And never f****** saves his wealth.”  He’s saying here that he’s not a player, but someone who tries to be smart with his money and his experience.  He drives that home even more in the song’s chorus in which he raps, “I got some money/I’m gonna blow it all today/They say, “Michael, don’t throw it all away/And my reply is, “there’s more on the way”/When I said it, I was walking in the rain.”  Whether or not (get it?) he was using the rain as a way to talk about those rainy days is anyone’s guess.  It would be easy to assume that, though.  The mention of him blowing off people trying to warn him about wasting money strengthens the argument for that statement about wise fiscal management even more.  When this is considered alongside the song’s equally engaging musical side, the whole of the song proves entirely entertaining and engaging.  It makes the song just one of so many example of what makes Weather or Not another solid effort overall from Evidence.  ‘Powder Cocaine,’ as bad as the song’s title seems, is actually quite the important addition to the record, too.

‘Powder Cocaine’ is important in part because of its musical arrangement, which obviously does quite a bit of sampling.  The thing is that the sampling in question couples with the song’s beats to make the song’s musical side reason enough in itself to hear this song.  The song’s lyrical content does just as much as its musical content to make this song stand out.  That’s because it, like ‘Throw It All Away,’ seems to send a positive message to listeners, using powder cocaine more as a reference point than a content point so to speak.  That’s inferred as Evidence raps, “I be fine/Like powder cocaine/And that’s a hell of a drug/And that’s a hell of a saying/They need elephant trunks to get it off of the plate/I wanna better myself/They wanna dwell in the pain/I wanna better my health/No umbrella for rain/And that’s a hell of a bug/I wanna live in my dreams/Got an ocean in mind/They wanna settle for streams/I wanna settle for more/I wanna get knocked down so I could settle the score/Better than before/As if that was possible/To shake the demons of my mother in the hospital/Drove to a mansion and wrote this s*** in front of it/’Cause everybody covets the comfort of becoming it (rich)/And that’s a hell of a drug/I caught a hell of a dream/Caught a hell of a bug/F*** irrelevant things/I’ve been moving at the speed of my life/Ignorant to the price/I be fine like powder cocaine.”  When Slug (one of the members of Dilated Peoples’ label mates, Atmosphere, takes over in the second verse, he continues on in similar fashion, noting that he wants to be the best that he can.”  This all in mind, the song’s positive message is clear.  It’s a message of someone wanting to exceed expectations and be better than others who would rather be the opposite of that person.  This is a message that so many listeners would benefit from hearing.  It’s also more proof that not all rap is as bad as some would have people believe.  It also serves even more to show why Weather or Not will weather the storm that is this year’s crop of new hip-hop and rap albums.  Of course it is still not the last of the songs that serves to support that statement.  ‘Bad Publicity’ also serves to show what makes Weather or Not a standout album.

The arrangement at the center of ‘Bad Publicity’ is one of the reasons that this wrong stands out.  A close listen leads one to believe the rapper is sampling Public Enemy as part of its whole.  Of course the beats are the foundation for the song.  They make taking in the song’s lyrical content so easy and enjoyable.  Speaking of that content, Evidence gives people plenty to think about here, too as he raps, “You can still find Ev on the block/Somewhere between a hard place and a rock/My dresser drawer gun under the socks/Nothing fun about shooting one/But summer is hot/Hey young world, Slick Rick is still the ruler/Go follow these dopes, if you broke, to the jeweler (don’t follow these dopes)/I’m an artist/Getting something outta f****** tubas/Real MacGyver making something outta something useless/I’m done with proving myself to people I never met/A new rule in itself/Remind me not to forget/No reinventing my name/I woulda did a long time ago if I wanted fame/Ain’t relying on no claim to fame/Just more bangers/No more strangers/Only Chuck Strangers/the older I get/The less that I speak/I do my dirt/By my lonely I creep.”  This lead verse comes across as a statement of someone who’s comfortable in himself and doesn’t see the need to change for others.  It goes right along with the messages of self-confidence seemingly presented in the prior noted songs, in which Evidence noted he wanted to be the best that he could be.  Evidence’s  longtime friend (and Strong Arm Steady crew member) Krondon builds on that seeming message as he raps in the song’s chorus, “I’ve been living in a bubble/Don’t make me bust yours/You settle for less/I settle the score/Sure as waves at the shore and two add two is four/I’ve been eating all my life and still hungry for more.”  Between that chorus and the positive vibes in the song’s verses (including the second verse, which comes across just as positively as the lead verse), this lyrical content gives listeners just as much to appreciate here as the song’s musical arrangement.  When it is considered along with the overall content of ‘Throw It All Away’ and ‘Powder Cocaine,’ all three songs together go a long way toward showing why Weather or Not is another solid solo entry from Evidence.  They are certainly not the only songs included in this album that prove its strengths.  ‘Wonderful World,’ which comes late in the album’s run is more proof of that strength, both musically and lyrically.  The same applies with ’10,000 Hours,’ ‘Sell Me This Pen’ and ‘What I Need.’  Between those songs, the works more directly discussed here, and the album’s other four songs not noted, the whole of this album proves overall to be a solid offering from Evidence.  It gives listeners plenty to appreciate and talk about both in terms of its music and lyrics.  Keeping this in mind, it would be wrong to ignore Weather or Not as a candidate for any critic’s list of the year’s top new hip-hop/rap albums.  It is that good that it at least deserves consideration for a spot on that list.  Either way, it is a rap/hip-hop album well worth at least one listen, if not more.

Veteran rapper Evidence’s fifth full-length solo studio album Weather Or Not is another strong, solid effort from the Dilated People’s MC.  It is an album that proves from start to finish, to be an easy candidate for any critic’s list of the year’s top new hip-hop/rap albums.  That is proven through its lyrical and musical content – both alone and together.  Those overall positive lyrical theme and infectious beats will keep listeners entertained and engaged throughout, and agreeing in the end that this record in fact deserves a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new hip-hop/rap records.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on Weather or Not is available online now along with all of Evidence’s latest news and more at:

 

 

 

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/misterevidence

 

 

 

Twitter: http://twitter.com/evidence

 

 

 

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Dilated Peoples’ Fifth Full Length LP Is The First Great Rap Album Of 2014

Courtesy:  Rhymesayers Entertainment/Expansion Team

Courtesy: Rhymesayers Entertainment/Expansion Team

Seven years.  That is how long fans of hip-hop trio Dilated Peoples waited and wondered if the group would ever release a new album or if the group—DJ Babu, Evidence, and Rakaa—had called it a career after the release of its 2006 album 20/20.  Now after that long wait, Dilated Peoples has triumphantly returned with a record that is a viable candidate to be one of the top new rap and hip-hop albums of 2014 in Directors of Photography.  The album is aptly titled, especially considering the fact that this record is the first for the group with new label Rhymesayers Entertainment.  Before signing with Rhymesayers, Dilated Peoples’ had released its previous four albums through Capitol Records going all the way back to its major label debut the Platform (2000).  The significance of the album’s title is linked to the possibility that while signed with Capitol, Babu, Evidence, and Rakaa likely didn’t have the control that they would have liked over the sound and feel of their work.  So much like the Director of Photography has the final say in the look and feel of a movie, TV show or advertisement, so did the group have that same kind of control upon signing with the indie label Rhymesayers.  The end result is an album that was well worth the wait for any long-time Dilated Peoples fan and just as welcome a first listen for those that might be new to the L.A.-based trio’s music.

Director of Photography’s lead single ‘Good as Gone’ is a fitting opener, especially considering that fans waited for this album for seven years.  The song comes across as a defiant, self-assured piece that lets the critics know that the group is back just as strong as ever.  That argument can be made by looking at the song’s first verse in which Rakaa raps, “I was getting buried alive/Heard the dirt hit the coffin top/I barely survived/But I broke through my grave/Ripped the pine box seal apart/Head first yelling, “maggot brain,funkadelic art/Fear is a dark side/Fair-weather friends flock/Hitchcock/sam birds scatter when the end stop.”  He goes on to make note through so much negativity, he didn’t let those fake friends and other naysayers get him down.  As he notes, “took heavy fire/Survived the crash landing/Smiled to walk away from the wreckage/The last man standing.”  Evidence seems to echo that sentiment as he raps in the song’s second verse, “Devise a plan and I execute it/Till I’m undisputed/If the record never stated/I’ve been showing most improvement/At a time when my peers declined/I used it as a booster/Used the dedication as a plus/I ain’t used to losers.”  It comes across in the grand scheme of things as a defiant statement that shows that Dilated Peoples is anything but Good as Gone.  If anything, this first impression from the veteran hip-hop trio  gives fans hope that the group’s fifth full length album won’t be its last.

Babu, Rakaa, and Evidence followed up the success of ‘Good as Gone’ just recently with the release of the second single from Directors of Photography, ‘Show Me The Way (ft. Aloe Blacc).’  This seemingly introspective song presents yet another positive message to listeners as Evidence and Rakaa go back and forth in a sort of call and response late in the song.  Evidence starts the cycle, rapping, “It’s routine/By the beach I rise/First up/I hit the 8$&%/Then I bleach my eyes/then it’s to the drum machine to speak my mind/Tracks like fitted hats/pick a beat m y size.’  Rakaa responds “Energized/On the darkest streets I shine/Saw the light up on the mountain/To the peak I climb/Breathtaking new perspectives on the life I grind/First tear of joy fell/Looking like I’m crying/For just a moment.”  Evidence’s response to Rakaa’s line, “The feeling of being content/Not needing a dollar or a cent/Smile for my mama/Cause she proud/The studio/My headphones loud.”  Rakaa finishes the cycle, rapping, “Bridge builders will connect these crowds/Dedicated on my honor/You can check these vows/That’s purpose/Power to make the powerful nervous/Hard work ain’t easy/But usually ain’t worth it.”  Evidence and Rakaa work together here to make a song that is a very lyrically uplifting piece, and a piece that illustrates even more what makes Directors of Photography well worth the listen.

Directors of Photography serve is a record that any hip-hop and rap fan should hear.  The two singles that the album has spawned so far solidly back up that argument.  If only one more song could be chosen as an example of what makes this album the worthwhile listen that it is, it would have to be the album’s second track ‘Cut My Teeth.’  This song comes across as a no nonsense piece that pays homage to the days before Dilated Peoples broke through and became a household name.  The song’s very first verse makes that clear, as Evidence raps, “I remember how it all began/I used to switch graffiti tips on cans with both hands/No chance/I knew they couldn’t stop this rush/Our bus bench was a stop/And they ain’t stopping the bus.”  He goes on to rap about when he really got into rap and where it would eventually lead to today.  Rakaa follows suit noting the difficulties that he faced growing up and how he overcame them.  He writes in the verse’s closing lines, “Standing at the crossroads/I saw a different world was mine/It was with me all the time/Appreciative, never satisfied/Inspired to climb/Eyes wide/Mid city lit that fire inside.”  While the stories crafted by Evidence and Rakaa are obviously quite personal, it could be argued that the positive ending to each story could serve as inspiration to so many audiences; inspiration not necessarily that everyone will get into the rap game.  Rather, inspiration to overcome any of life’s difficult situations.  Their stories remind listeners that as difficult as things might be at any time in life, it is always possible to make life better.  Just keep that positive drive.  It is that message of inspiration that makes ‘Cut My Teeth’ one more solid example of what makes Directors of Photography well worth the listen and potentially one of the best new rap and hip-hop albums of the year.

Directors of Photography is available now in stores and online.  It can be downloaded direct from iTunes at https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/directors-of-photography/id888406737.  Audiences can hear these songs and plenty more from the group live as it tours in support of its new album.  Dilated Peoples is scheduled to perform live this Saturday, September 13th at Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union on the campus of San Diego State University.  It will follow up that performance with another live show next Saturday, September 20th at Cervantes’ and The Other Side in Denver, Colorado.  Audiences can check out Dilated Peoples’ current tour schedule online now at http://rhymesayers.com/dilatedpeoples and http://www.facebook.com/dilatedpeoples.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Grieves’ Latest LP Has Plenty of “Bite”

Courtesy:  Rhymesayers Entertanment

Courtesy: Rhymesayers Entertanment

Hip-hop artist Grieves’ released his latest full length studio effort early this spring.  The album, Winter & The Wolves is just as good a listen for fans more familiar with Grieves’ sound as those that are less familiar with this music.  This latest release from the Seattle-based rapper is a moving and emotionally powerful work with its stories of broken relationships and a decidedly rough childhood among others.  While such themes make it easy to compare Grieves to the likes of perhaps Eminem, Grieves sets himself easily apart from Mr. Mathers stylistically throughout the course of the record’s dozen total tracks.  One example of that difference comes almost halfway through the album in ‘Breath of Air.’  Grieves writes of life’s difficult situations and their emotional impacts in this song.  Both his musical and lyrical approach to the song is largely genuine and will certainly see it become a fan favorite.  That genuine approach is evident in the album’s lead tracks ‘Rain Damage’ and ‘Whoa is Me,’ too.  These two tracks are the album’s most upbeat pieces despite their lyrical bite.  The mix of that bite and upbeat musical side make them the perfect introduction for this album.  They make the album’s title even more fitting, considering that sharpness of sorts about them.  And alongside the likes of ‘Breath of Air’ and the albums other songs, they prove to be part of a whole that fans new and old alike will appreciate with each listen.

Grieves has set himself apart from so many of his counterparts in the rap industry once again on his latest album.  While the songs themselves might be similar thematically speaking to works from other rap artists, his overall stylistic approach to his songs most definitely sets him apart.  One key example of that originality comes almost halfway through the album in the form of ‘Breath of Air.’  This deeply moving song comes across as Grieves writing about the emotional impact of life’s more difficult situations on himself.  He writes in this song, “As simple as I am/I got a puzzle for a heart/Laid it on the table in the living room/Rummaged through the parts/The child in me is runnin’ through the dark/But the man that I’m supposed to be/Is searchin’ for a breath in this cigar smoke chokin’/Dryin’ on my eyes/Like the desert wind/Drunk/Takin’ shots at the moon/With an empty pair…Go figure/Life’s been a freak show/Learn to hold a knife at a young age/And bleed so/Following the keystrokes/Leadin’ to my words/Is a trail most/Traveled by a part of me/That you would label disturbed/But it works/Living with the plague/Marching to the beat of my bones/getting thrown into the/Lake…If I could find a better way to make you see what I’ve been thinking/I’d probably just paint a stupid picture/They say it’s worth a thousand words.”  These are some pretty thought provoking passages.  And the use of the piano as the song’s main musical backing adds to the power of those words.  It’s so simple in the use of just a few chords.  Set that against the song’s solid beat and audiences quickly see just how original Grieves is as compared to so much of what fills the rap realm today.  It’s just one example of what makes this album well worth the listen by any rap fan, too.  The album’s lead tracks are just as great as this piece in exhibiting his creativity and originality.

Grieves offers audiences more emotional depth and substance into his latest release than can possibly be noted in a single review.  ‘Breath of Air’ is just one of the many deeply moving songs included in the album’s sequencing.  He exhibits just as much emotion in the album’s opener, ‘Rain Damange.’  This song shows its own emotion, but in a manner different from that of ‘Breath of Air.’  Grieves exhibits some more attitude in this song, writing, “The gap toothed rapper is back/With a bag full of dynamite strapped to my back/Rhymesayers/Put the logo on the back/If ever you were looking/Now you know where I’m at.”  He’s joined by collaborator Benjamin Lewis on this track, who introduces himself with just as much attitude, stating, “Name’s Benjamin/Same as I ever been/Sippin’ on a glass of ice cold Templeton/Cloud city/Rain water on the brim/Runnin’ with my back against the wind.”  The old school DJ work backing this re-introduction for Grieves adds all the necessary flavor to the song to make it an instant hit among audiences.  Things don’t stop here, either as audiences will hear on the album’s second song, ‘Whoa is Me.’

‘Whoa is Me’ is one more example of just how much Grieves has to offer his audiences on his new album. This song is perhaps stylistically the closest that Grieves comes to being anything like Eminem. The call and response of sorts used in this song is something that Eminem is known for using in his records. He writes in an almost tongue-in-cheek fashion here, “My dog died/When you were 6/Really/I guess I’ve never gotten over it/Dark cloud constantly hovering over me/I’ve been a bad seed ever since the ovaries/Momma looked at me/And told me what it was/Said boys got a shadow big enough to block the sun/But it’s all said and done/I’m comfortable and numb/To the fact that I’m constantly sweatin’ under the gun/But it’s worth it/Ain’t it/My friends think I’m famous/My manager wants to put his foot inside of my anus/Haven’t gotten a decent night’s sleep now in ages/And all I got to show is empty loose leaf pages/It piles up but that’s the life that I’m used to/Pressin’ up against the knife with a loose screw/Sing the blues and everybody assumes you could use a little old fashioned down home talking to.” The song’s lyrical side presents more of a frustrated feeling than the depressed emotion expressed in ‘Breath of Air.’ But at the same time, that little call and response of sorts that is also used in the song’s second verse hints at the subject trying to not let everything get him down. The whole of that call and response alongside the song’s musical side and lyrical bite exhibits such sensibility from Grieves. It also exhibits quite a bit of talent once again on the part of Grieves just as with the songs on his previous albums. Whether it be this song, those previously mentioned or those not mentioned, every song included in Winter & The Wolves is itself part of a whole that any hip-hop and rap fan will enjoy.

Winter & The Wolves is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered directly via Grieves’ Facebook page and via the Fifth Element store at http://www.facebook.com/Grievesmusic and http://fifthelementonline.com/collections/grieves/products/grieves-winter-the-wolves. Grieves is currently touring in support of his new album and will perform live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina next Monday, July 28th at Local 506. Tickets for the show can be purchased online at http://www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/537299. Fans can keep up with Grieves’ latest tour updates, news and more online via his official Facebook page and his official website, http://www.grievesmusic.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Southsiders Is One Of 2014’s Top Rap And Hip-Hop Albums

Courtesy:  Rhymesayers Entertainment

Courtesy: Rhymesayers Entertainment

Underground hip-hop/rap duo Atmosphere—Anthony “Ant” Davis and Sean “Slug” Daley—released its latest full length album early last month. Southsiders, the duo’s seventh full length studio release, has been getting rave reviews since that time. And those positive reactions come with good reason as has already been shown through the first two singles from the album—‘Bitter’ and ‘Kanye West.’ The album’s second track, ‘Arthur’s Song’ is just as impressive an example of what makes Southsiders one of the year’s top rap albums. It’s also one more example of why despite being an underground act, Atmosphere continues to be just as good as the major name rap and hip-hop acts that dominate mainstream airwaves today.

Daley and Davis led off their latest album with the song ‘Bitter.’ The duo couldn’t have chosen a better first impression for its latest full length studio effort. While not necessarily a battle rap per se, it tackles the subject of a broken friendship, which is a common theme in rap and hip-hop. What sets this song apart from its mainstream counterparts is that Daley and Davis prove that a song with such a theme doesn’t have to involve foul-language and mentions of guns and drugs. The pair proves the subject can be tackled with a certain amount of class and still be infectious at the same time. As this critic pointed out previously about this single, what’s most interesting in the song is that Daley’s subject that is speaking isn’t even sure what has caused his former friend to become so hateful toward him.  He writes in the song’s lead verse, “Everything used to be so good then/Now it seems like you’re mad at my footprints/I’m only tryin’ to scribble in the book, man.”  There’s a lot of venom in this line.  But it’s justified venom.  Daley’s bite gets even sharper as that opening verse progresses. Case in point, Daley’s subject goes on to say to his former friend, “It’s not my fault you’re hurting/You must have a lot of free time/Otherwise, why you tryin’ to see mine/Strain ya neck/Let the blame project/Don’t give yourself the same respect/So independent but undependable/We’re all gettin’ old/So take a mental note/And  stop being so covetous/The crime is the punishment/Now run and get a sliver of dignity/You ain’t gotta be a figure of misery/You don’t want to be a victim to victory/Listenin’ to a bittersweet symphony.  His subject is telling that former friend, “Hey, We’re getting older.  Stop being this way.  You’re only hurting yourself! So grow up and stop being so immature!”  This is one hundred percent relatable for any listener.  Who out there hasn’t been in the situation of having a friend that turned on them and started hating them without any explanation whatsoever?  That ability of the song to relate to its listeners makes it an instant hit and one of the album’s key moments. It becomes much clearer why this was chosen as the album’s first single.

The album’s second single, ‘Kanye West’ was just as wise a choice as ‘Bitter’ to represent Southsiders. Much has been said of this single and how it is meant to represent the relationship between fellow rapper Kanye West and his relationship with Kim Kardashian. The song’s lyrics definitely leave one to wonder about that. Daley writes in the song’s opening verse, “She said she wanted somebody she could take care of/And right then is when we paired up/Pull a chair up and make a space for yourself/You should taste what I felt/It’s probable/That those on the bottom/Gonna hold you accountable/It’s lonely at the top/And it’s also hostile/Everybody got their own course full of obstacles/Don’t let your heart grow cold like a popsicle/She said she wanted someone to treat her as an equal/And right then we started speeding toward Reno/Burnin’ rubber in the burgundy Reagle/Fly like a dove/Then dive like an eagle/I’m a seventy-duce/That year was a classic/Buzz got loose/And we here tryin’ to catch it/She said she was unimpressed/That’s when I stood up and did the Kanye West.” Listeners and audiences in general can come to their own conclusions about the real meaning behind these words when they compare them to the song’s companion video, which can be viewed online now at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JrDVPsVbVA. Regardless of the song’s lyrical topic, listeners can all agree that it’s one more good representation of what can be expected from this album.

Both ‘Kanye West’ and ‘Bitter’ are impressive representations of what listeners can expect from Daley and Davis from Southsiders. ‘Arthur’s Song,’ the album’s second track is just as impressive as those songs, despite not being one of the album’s singles. Daley raps against an old school style beat here, “Sippin’ on that brown stuff/Got ya feelin’ like you found love/Or maybe it was just luck/Honestly it’s probably none of the above/Train tracks underneath the faceless moon/The payback’s gonna want a statement soon/Been a few years since the last cigarette/But if you put your finger inside/The flask’s still wet/Stick with the fool like s&*% to the wool/Gotta get some tools to try to fix these jewels/Cause we don’t need to hear you sing how spend your time as kingpin/Mad at everything, huh.” Daley keeps on this lyrical introspection through the rest of the song. Perhaps the most powerful statement of the song comes late in its near three and a half-minute run time as Daley writes, “We face pain with pain/Everybody’s the same/When you’re caught in the rain/I guess that’s why I write about it/It helps me wrap my head around it/No matter what the world’s trying to from you/No matter what the world’s trying to make you prove/No matter what the world’s trying to say to you/You gotta write your way through.” It’s a powerful statement. He’s expressing how writing has gotten him through some really tough times. Yet again, it’s not one of those mainstream songs loaded down with foul language. There’s no talk of guns, drugs, etc. He even responds to those songs, saying, “We don’t need to hear you sing how you spend your time as kingpin/Mad at everything.” He’s saying he’s writing about reality but in doing so, it makes him stronger. He’s not writing just to write. It serves a real purpose. And that purpose makes it one more excellent example of why Southsiders is one of the best rap and hip-hop albums of the year. It also proves why Atmosphere continues to be just as good as any rap and hip-hop act dominating mainstream airwaves today.

Southsiders is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered and downloaded now at http://fifthelementonline.com/collections/atmosphere/products/atmosphere-southsiders and https://itunes.apple.com/album/southsiders-deluxe-version/id828734533. Atmosphere is currently touring in support of Southsiders. The duo is in Ottowa, Ontario today. It will be in Halifax, Nova Scotia this coming Wednesday, June 4th before starting the U.S. leg of its tour this coming Friday, June 6h in Portland, Maine. Audiences can check out Atmosphere’s latest tour schedule and keep up with the latest news from the duo online now at http://www.facebook.com/Atmosphere, http://rhymesayers.com/atmosphere, and http://twitter.com/atmosphere. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Atmosphere Impresses Again With Upcoming Album’s Second New Single

Courtesy:  Rhymesayers Entertainment

Courtesy: Rhymesayers Entertainment

Indie hip-hop duo Atmosphere—Sean “Slug” Daley and Anthony “Ant” Davis—recently released the second single from the group’s upcoming album Southsiders. The single, ‘Kanye West’ is a solid follow-up to the album’s lead single ‘Bitter.’ Daley writes in the song’s opening verse, “She said she wanted somebody she could take care of/And right then is when we paired up/Pull a chair up and make a space for yourself/You should taste what I felt/It’s probable/That those on the bottom/Gonna hold you accountable/It’s lonely at the top/And it’s also hostile/Everybody got their own course full of obstacles/Don’t let your heart grow cold like a popsicle/She said she wanted someone to treat her as an equal/And right then we started speeding toward Reno/Burnin’ rubber in the burgundy Reagle/Fly like a dove/Then dive like an eagle/I’m a seventy-duce/That year was a classic/Buzz got loose/And we here tryin’ to catch it/She said she was unimpressed/That’s when I stood up and did the Kanye West.”   The very first thing that listeners will notice in this song is the length of the verse. The song’s other verse is just as long. That’s not a bad thing, either. As a matter of fact, it’s a good thing. That’s because it’s so unlike most mainstream rap and hip-hop songs stylistically speaking. Instead of just writing a radio friendly rap song, Daley and Davis have crafted a piece in this song that paints a vivid musical story.

Speaking of writing a musical story, the video for ‘Kanye West’ can be viewed online now at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JrDVPsVbVA. The companion video, which presents an older Asian man and a younger black woman, is quite the effective companion to the song. The meaning behind the visuals has been hotly debated. Some have gone so far as to say that the elderly man is supposed to represent Kanye West and his waning relevance. Others have made reference to North West, the daughter of West and his wife. Regardless of whether there’s any credence to these theories, the video for the song brings the song full circle. Just as the song will keep audiences listening, so will the companion video. The two together make ‘Kanye West” one more contender from Atmosphere to be one of the year’s best new singles.

Atmosphere’s new album Southsiders will be available Tuesday, May 6th via Rhymesayers Entertainment. It can be pre-ordered now online at http://fifthelementonline.com/collections/atmosphere-southsiders-pre-order and https://itunes.apple.com/album/southsiders-deluxe-version/id828734533. More information on that album, the duo’s new single, its tour dates and general information is available online at http://www.facebook.com/Atmosphere and http://twitter.com/Atmosphere. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.