Clams Casino featuring MF DOOM - "Bookfiend"
It's a crazy combination when two generations of obscure Hip Hop join forces to craft one sick track. MF DOOM is a longtime pioneer of what we are now referring to as "Cloud Rap," despite the assumption that Lil B invented distorted Rap weirdness. When working with Madlib (as our favorite Madvillain), MF DOOM allowed the Hip Hop to take over, but despite what the new jacks are working with in the obscure trancey samples bin at their neighborhood Spotify, MF DOOM has been doing it for quite some time. Pairing him with Clams Casino on "Bookfiend" is almost serendipitous. Clammy Clams knows his way around a heated sample and cooks the perfect beat for MF DOOM to glide over. Sure the beat sounds a little like something A$AP Rocky would be foaming at the mouth for, but MF DOOM puts in work throwing his vocabulary around on a number of things from Ozzy Osbourne's "Mr. Crowley" to traveling to the Amazon to find the good stuff. "Who need credit when cash speaks?" MF DOOM asks while he sets sail on his stream of consciousness. It's the ideal beat to do that, and while some non-believers in MF DOOM might hear a previous track along the same vein and asky "Where's he going with this?" a song like "Bookfiend" is designed for pouring thoughts out into the universe. It's pretty obvious that one inspired the other here, but if the one can find inspiration in what the other is bringing to the table in Rap's current landscape, then everybody wins. Especially us. - Kathy Iandoli (@Kath3000)
REKS - "Open Letter Freestyle"
Aside from taking vicarious pleasure in hearing someone who lunches with Mayor Bloomberg threaten to "buy a kilo for Chief Keef," there was nothing in Jay-Z's "Open Letter" that resonated with me. I haven't gotten heat from some publicity hungry senator about taking a vaction to Cuba with one of the world's most beautiful women. Nor has the rumor mill ever started swirling about my record deal or what I plan to do with my shares - however small those may be - in a pro sports team.
With his "Open Letter Freestyle," REKS has taken the bored annoyance heard in the Jay-Z original and ratcheted it up to sincere disgust. Addressing "the Hip Hop nation," REKS has stuck a scope on the track, widened the field of view and put all the things in the crosshairs that Jay could have but didn't. "A culture that's been turned over to vultures," Hip Hop is called to task in REKS' freestyle for looking the other way and twiddling its thumbs; condoning it when date rape is glorified and the brutal murder of Emmett Till is played for a cheap punchline. How come major corporations have finally taken a stand but emcees haven't given us more lines like, "She ain't even know she with a predator probably, call him Rozay or Rawsey, put him with the pedophile posse, and you all still hail him like Selassie" or "causing a spectacle, Rest In Peace Emmett Till...when fools disregard it's hard to get the message through." REKS tells us this isn't about censorship or biting ones tongue. It's a call for respect and accountablity. The frustration in "Open Letter" - the REKS version, in my mind the official version - is palpable. After letters and statements from Jay, Rick Ross, Weezy, Mountain Dew and Reebok that all read like self-serving formalities, it's nice to get one with some backbone written with us in mind. - Michael Sheehan
Illogic & Blockhead - "Atlantis Depth"
In my opinion, one of the true contenders for album of the year—as of Cinco De Mayo, anyway—is Illogic & Blockhead's Capture The Sun. We called it in our Most Anticipated Albums Of 2013 list before hearing a single thing, but this Man Bites Dog Records LP is a call-back to poetic, emotional raps that really get under-played in the discussions of the late '90s, early '00s. Illogic and Blockhead were both there, both developing acts at a time when the people they regularly worked with may have garnered more fanfare. In 2013, I am convinced that Illogic's never been more lucid. He has a way of writing emotional Poetry Rap that doesn't feel overly pretentious or self-serving. Blockhead returns to Hip Hop, and supplies the Greenhouse Effect emcee with some beats that mesh beautifully in accentuating Illogic's vocals, and at the same time, keep things musical and dynamic. "Atlantis Depth" is a simple visual that if nothing else, that the Columbus-meets-Manhattan connection actively collaborated in the flesh. The city sound-scapes play well against the music, giving the viewer a sense of their respective inspirations. I love how Block brings in the distorted vocal sample (a signature of his work) underneath Illogic's rapping. These artists, this album, and this visual reminded me so much about why Hip Hop keeps going and growing, and always looks at its past in the mirror. This is music that I can see sounding fresh and meaningful for always. - Jake Paine (@Citizen__Paine)
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