Thursday, June 28, 2012

Electric Relaxation: Virgo's Jukebox (April-June Pt. 1)

It's been a long time but I figure I'd give you a glimpse of what I've been listening to the last 3 months. So like Mos Def said, enough talk, let's move.

I had high hopes for this album because over the past six years, few MC's have grown as much. He's become the modern Ice Cube for his booming voice, political content and flag bearer for real hip hop. I'm a fan of his Grind Time mixtapes but after hearing he'd be having El-P produce this album, I got even more excited to hear how they'd inspire each other.

I didn't like "Big Beast" at first when I heard it in February but when I heard the whole album, it was powerful. It was like Killer Mike channeled his anger and passionate delivery and made an album to stand for mature hip hop that was still enjoyable. None stood out more than "Reagan", a song targeting hip hop's favorite Presidential punching bag with the same anger that Chuck D brought out 25 years ago.

When Killer Mike gets political, few rappers can stand with him. "Reagan" is an indictment of American foreign policy past & present and the beat fits Mike's brooding tone as he delivers his sermon.

"Willie Burke Sherwood" used Lord of the Rings imagery in a creative way. "Butane"was a killer combo of Mike and P trading barbs over a video-game sounding beat. It's in the clubhouse for Album of the Year halfway through since not a lot of albums have made me drop the cheddar.

One of the best news of music this year is that D'Angelo has come back from exile to perform music again. He teased Europe with several shows, gave a revealing interview in GQ and surprised everyone at Bonnaroo thanks to ?uestlove's prodding.

It made me finally dig into his 2000 classic Voodoo, just to see if it's the classic everyone says. One of my favorite performances that I found on Youtube was D doing a medley of Devil's Pie with Chicken Grease and I needed to hear the studio version for myself.

Needless to say, it was amazing. It was funky. The guitar, the subtle drums from ?uest, the bass groove of Pino Palladino. And D'Angelo just oozes smooth talking about the funk. Just having a blast and getting into the rhythm. Try not to dance when you hear it - a lil two step maybe?

I've already written about the ambience and joy of listening to M83's "Midnight City" so I figure I'd share something extra about this song from their 2008 album. My girlfriend recommended it cause I asked for more M83 songs to check.

This song swallowed me in ecstasy. It took you higher and made you feel like you were flying. The light vocals of Anthony Gonzalez and Morgan Kibby sounded like exactly what you say in the air. Morgan takes it home in the end repeating those words "It's Coming, It's coming Now" and I get chills when she modulates in the middle of it.

It's synth paradise if you ask me. I've listened to this watching sunsets or reading and it takes me to another place no matter what I'm doing. I watched the video of their Coachella performance When I flew to New Orleans, I listened to it above the clouds and it was just perfect. Some songs aren't just songs, they're experiences and this is one of them.

There's no secret that K.R.I.T. is my favorite new MC along with Kendrick Lamar and my hopes for this album were high after hearing 4eva N a Day. This album has been pushed back for several months to clear samples and it was finally time to pay to hear Mississippi's own on a major label after 3 free mixtapes.

"I Got This", the lead single, knocked the minute I heard it and it made me feel Southern bumping it. K.R.I.T.'s been criticized for his mic presence being too laidback but that song, he jumps right at you with a song that sounds like it could've been on The Mack (ironic since it samples Willie Hutch).

As a whole, the album has excellent production courtesy of K.R.I.T. himself. "Cool 2 Be Southern" is another anthem while "My Sub Pt. 2" is a nice flip off the classic from Return of 4eva. "Hydroplaning" is a gem featuring the underrated Devin the Dude. That's a night time jam that's so slow it reminds me of their previous collab "Moon and Stars" from the 1st K.R.I.T. tape.

(Oh yeah, it's technically the first time I've listened to 2 Chainz since his name change and as expected, I didn't see the fuss. No different than the guy I remember hearing in 2004 or 2007 when he was rocking with Disturbing Tha Peace - cool but whatever)

"Praying Man" brings legendary blues man B.B. King back to the masses and shows off that introspective soul K.R.I.T. is known for. The only flaw with this album is that there's not as much introspection on it. No songs like "The Vent", "Highs and Lows", "Red Eye" or "Children of the World" from his earlier mixtapes.

After two listens, it sounds K.R.I.T. wanted to embrace making it to the top more than focus on the struggle but the tough part is that's his appeal as much as making phenomenal beats. It's not as strong as Return of 4eva or even 4Eva N a Day but it's a great major label debut for a man carrying the torch for new Southern hip hop.

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