I Left My Heart in…..
October 7, 2010, 4:24 pm
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San Bernandino?

What a civilized medical society out there.


TOP PICKS for WKEND (6/04/10)
June 4, 2010, 2:55 pm
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FRI. (6/4) –  Scion Video Art Tour Opening @ Eastern District‎ [43 Bogart St. BK] 7 to 10p

pre-party:  Aspen [157 W 47th St] 2 for 1 drinx 5 to 8 p

2nd wind:  JFK OF MSTRKRFT @ Webster Hall FREE before 12a

SAT. (6/5) – The Roots Picnic @ Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing [N Columbus Blvd, Philadelphia] $66

pre-party:  Housing Works Open Air Street Fair @ 10 a.m. [Crosby St (b/w Houston & Prince)] : Free

2nd wind:  3rd Annual Crawfish Boil @ The Redhead [349 E. 13th St.] @ 12p $30/plate

SUN. (6/6) – Egg Rolls & Egg Creams Festival @ The Museum at Eldridge Street [12 Eldridge St] 12p -4p : Free

Honorable Mention:

+ Atlantic Avenue Artwalk  – Saturday & Sunday Atlantic Avenue [BoCoCa] 1 to 6 p.m : $20

+ Gourmet Latino Festival’s…deets

+ Native American Heritage Festival – Friday thru Sunday @ 50 Aviation Rd., BK…deets

May 19, 2010, 1:50 pm
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***shows***ERYKAH BADU (3/24/10) and little brother (5/11/10)
May 19, 2010, 1:48 pm
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E.B = Artist/Event = 3.6/5       Location = 4.0/5

L.B = Artist/Event = 3.1/5       Location = 3.7/5

K-OS @ (Le) Poisson Rouge – 3/24/10
March 26, 2010, 8:33 pm
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Missed a full hour of his hour and half long set…

But from what I caught…sh*t was DOPE!

He sounded so good.  Hitting the right notes whether rapping or singing, the sound system was way on point, energy was high, crowd was nice….

What I saw made me want to catch him on the rebound.  Check it!


RJD2 @ Highline Ballroom – 03/08/10
March 25, 2010, 4:13 pm
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I cannot stress RJD2’s amazing talents enough.  The amount of music coming out of this little man is like a genie coming out of the lamp.  Not all of the music may be groundbreaking (over even good), but it’s definitely in there and showing no signs of slowing down.

RJD2 has not only mastered some of the most modern sound-making instruments (samplers, turntables, synths…etc.) both on and off stage, but for some time now he has been tinkering with live instrumentations of the traditional sort…guitars, bass and drums.  And it looks like he is a very quick learner as each successive album finds himself leaning away from the former and more on the latter.

I can count on one hand how many of today’s producers (especially in hip hop) would have the confidence and ability to re-create some of their tracks in a live setting.  Exile, Prefuse…I see you!  RJ not only does just that, he also adds a couple scoops of raw analog power to his tracks both old and new.  Tonight’s appearance was to support his latest full length release, The Colossus (still deciding my thoughts on it…review to come).

For this performance, he incorporates elements from past tours/shows.  I have seen him with a DJ only set up.  I have seen him with a MPC only setup.  But tonight’s arsenal was a combination of the two…three turntables, 2 mixers, a tricked out Roland sampler and his trusty MPC…plus a FULL band.

He’s never been a world class scratcher but, he seems to enjoy it a whole lot and does it with so much soul that he pulls it off without a hitch using his ‘go to’ Trick Daddy acapella track of “Shut Up” right from the intro.  He shows his true analog dog status as he literally digs in the crates for his early vinyl classic joints.  However, like an undulating wave, his low points come mid-set when he decides to do some of his newer sung tracks.  As the act progresses he picks up steam by going back to the well and playing the remaining highlights of his catalog.  The encore consists of an acoustic version of one of my faves (“Making Days Longer”) that transitions into a full rock n’ roll band jam session to close out the night.

RJD2’s multi-instrumentalism is not only apparent when he switches between the 1’s and 2’s or 6-string or MPC and bass guitar but in the way he puts together sampled squeaks, hums, rumbles, hats, snares and voices into a tapestry of perfectly blended percussive and melodic pieces.  Being that he is one of the best drum programmers around, RJ attacks the MPC like a boxer hammering a body bag.  His drum patterns and timing leave one thinking that that has to be a living soul – not a machine.

In his evolution of becoming a full fledged musician, RJ takes the lead by playing his Fender guitar with ease.  At first, he only plays chord change ups making some of his finger work sound rudimentary.  He demonstrates some pretty ok chops as he warms up and tries to build the excitement.

With such an involved set up that’s dependent on snippets of sequenced samples having to run along side spinning vinyl discs (all while maintaining leveled audio signals) it seems inevitable that a few glitches would pop up here and there – ex.) miscued samples, instrumental rotating at 33 1/3 instead of the 45 RPM that was needed, off timing among the musicians themselves.  These thing are inherent with any live set but the problem is magnified a bit when you have certain pieces of gear locked in time giving one very little wiggle room to make adjustments.  The clashing and muddling of sounds during song transitions left portions of the set looking less polished than others.  The upside is that it does show a fallible, human side to otherwise immeasurable talented individual(s).  It also shows the lengths RJD2 goes to to ensure that what he is doing in a live environment is innovative, unique and hard as shit.

Lowest point of night, (and I will leave it at this) RJ still drops the ball when he decides to sing.  However, bringing out Aaron Livingston for a couple songs proved that the groove to his music is tight enough for both crooners and emcees.

RJD2’s band is good…really good.  It consists of a 3 other multi-instrumentalists who in total end up playing the keys/synths, acoustic guitar, bass, xylophone, standard drum kit, chimes, maracas and vocoder (on top of RJ’s rig).  Special mention goes out to the drummer.  RJ’s drum work is so complex on record that I’ve always wondered if it could be re-created by a live drummer.  I found my answer.  His drummer not only keeps up with every kick and snare but improves on them by adding that intensity and “feel”.

The highlight for me is seeing how RJD2 and his band are able to interpret tracks that had been completely created on his sampler/drum machine in his bedroom somewhere.  They def get an “A” for effort, but the execution still seems a little off.  The basic chord progressions, bass and drum kit are there….but, some of intricate melodies, counter melodies etc are muffled and really don’t translate so well.

Even though I’ve seen him a bunch of times this show was a bit different. Enough so to make it quite enjoyable.  Some parts are a bit goofy.  The Mario Bros. teddy bear that triggers Donkey Kong sounds comes to mind.  Or, his dressing up in space suit with the Roland sampler slung across his shoulder like a key-tar while spinning it ‘ZZ Top-style’.  You get it.

His growth as an artist is what I like and appreciate the most from RJD2.  Some say he has hit the pinnacle of his music making career, but I seriously doubt it.  I think once he gets through this experimental phase, it will allow him to imagine new ways of blending all the things that he has perfected, soaked up or tried out to solidify more creative audio masterpieces.

Artist/Event = 3.6/5       Location = 3.2/5

Diamond District vs. Wale
February 5, 2010, 4:09 pm
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Now that I have had some time to absorb both projects from these D.C area artists…

* Wale – Attention Deficit

Apparently, Wale has been toiling in the underground for 10 years (??) but to hear his official full length debut on Allido Records (Mark Ronson’s label) I wouldn’t have guessed it.  The one characteristic that did seem to back up this tenure in the game is the confidence with which he delivers his rhymes.

Wale’s simple flow is intelligible and therefore easy to follow for your average listener.  This coupled with his witty lyrics allows one to appreciate the deliberate tone and pace that is his style.  Rather that just come out with bar after bar of lyrical, emcee-based product, Wale’s debut succeeds at being an album of good concepts and composed material that is pristinely produced.  However, this by nature also forces the LP to sound sterile and safe.

The production on the album was handled by a host of people (Mark Ronson, Dave Sitek, Neptunes, Cool & Dre plus 9 others) and isn’t your typical boom bap fare.  Some of the beats skew the traditional sample based loops and venture into more of a pop-esque territory (see the MIA/Santigold-souding, but Lady Gaga-assisted single “Chillin”…it IS catchy as hell though) which may be the best bu$ine$$ move but, it takes away from the essence of a rapper’s grit and edginess.

A highlight of the overall project is the sing along melodies interlaced throughout a handful of songs making the choruses and therefore tracks very memorable.  I couldn’t help but think that Mark Ronson’s penchant for picking out great melodies and helping artists put on a great performance were the reasons he has final say as Executive Producer (that and that he bankrolled the project with his clout).

Wale would have been better to chop down the number of collaborators and put together a project that embodies the unique starting point of an artist in development.  “Attention Deficit” was over produced.  Wale’s style would have benefited from an ol’ dusty jazz loop, the thump/crack of the drum kit and a little space to just rip it.

This album suffers from the “too many hands in the pot” syndrome.  It lacked unison and identity.  There were too many production styles and very few of them mesh with Wale’s laid back cadence.  He’d be better to stick with 1 or 2 producers who can accommodate his style (check the 45 King produced “Roof” as proof).

His 5 circulated mixtapes dating back to 2005 (which I have not heard – I am not a fan of mixtapes) may have already let the crowd know what he was lyrically about but the lack of grime on his wider released major label premiere left me unable to connect to his tales – no matter what the subject was.  At least his heart in the right place.  For all the gloss the project carries, Wale does try to maintain an “everyman” type of appeal.

Stand outs: Triumph, Pretty Girls, Let it Loose, Diary

Beats: 6 out of 10

Emcee: 6 out of 10

Overall: 7.5 out of 10

* Diamond District – In The Ruff

People were talking about this album bringing back the glory days of hip hop.  I guess in a sense that is true because the boom baps on this project hark back to the days when a 16 bar loop (with a couple change ups), maybe a small bridge before the hook and real emcees were all you needed to put together a great piece of audio art.  But, the flows, rhymes and content are completely updated for the 2010.

“In the Ruff” is a perfect example of how today’s hip hop sound in both music and rhymes can be edgy without having to fake at being “hard”.  Having had his own track record working with artists like Jazzy Jeff, Talib and Little Brother, Oddisee works the boards as producer and spearheaded this project from the jump (he also raps on it).  It takes some really banging beats to have me stop focusing in on the emcees and to start paying attention to the sound bed from the first spins. But Oddisee does just that with his mix of samples, hard/crisp drums and steady BPMs that I would call more of a hip hop foundation than a “throwback sound”.

It took me a minute to pick up on the identities of the emcees appearing next to Odd.  Part of the reason was because they go by letters as their stage name (X.O and Y.U).  But, the raps on these cats are on some non-basic pattern, futuristic, straight faucet flow…so, they can call themselves whatever the hell they want.  Their rhyme schemes keep a listener guessing as to when they are gonna bend the words back to fit the beats.  Their subject matters cover classic topics like neighborhood life and their love of hip hop with a crazy honest and respectable tone.

Out of the 16 tracks, 12 of them are iller than the swine flu.  It makes me think that if they would of pared down the album to a 10 or 11 track LP…we might be talking true modern hip hop classic here.

Stand outs: First 3 tracks…boom, boom, boom… Streets Won’t Let Me Chill, Who I Be and Back to Basics, In the Ruff

Beats: 8.0 out 10

Emcee: 8.0 out 10

Overall: 8.4 out 10

It’s ironic, the reason why DD works more than Wale is due to what Wale was missing on his solo debut.  Hip Hop cohesion.  Wale missed his chance to make a full hip hop record and DD didn’t have the opportunity to guarantee it on the radio or store shelves.

UPDATE:  After only leaving five “Attention Deficit” tracks on my player, I  have noticed that I have been playing them over and over because they are interesting rap “lite” songs that are easily digestible and fun.  I don’t know if it’s my maturity (I’ve never really been into “fun” and “digestible” music before) or the evolution of how music is consumed nowadays but when I listen to “In the Ruff” it is not an album of singles.  It is a complete hip hop work of art.  This makes it hard for me to skip around the project.  So plan an hour long trip somewhere and just hit play.