Riposte (ri-paw-st): A quick, clever reply.
This month’s rendition of Ripostes & Replays wraps up another year of Hip Hop music. In a year where Spin opted to cover an entire year’s worth of Hip Hop in one Odd Future cover-issue, I choose not to overlook music released in the final month of the calendar year; a month that saw new releases from The Roots, The Black Keys, Common and Young Jeezy. This month’s R&R presents five more independent grinders (both young and old), three up-and-comers out of Brooklyn, and two long overdue West Coast collaborations.
2011 was a great year for underground independent Hip Hop. Murs put it well on his A3C compilation track with Ski Beatz, “Let’s Go.” “Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go/Independent artists on the road, and we gettin’ dough/And there ain’t no sellin’ out, we underground movin’ units worldwide/Got ‘em yellin’ out.” Part of what makes these underground artists so likeable is the grind and their effort to endlessly push their passion. If a salesperson wouldn’t buy their own product, why would you? This month’s featured artists represent a part of Hip Hop that has yet to change throughout the genre’s many metamorphoses—pride in craft. So hit up the comments section with your own thoughts on this month’s selections and your own favorite slept-on, smaller releases from the past year.
Soul Khan – Pursuance EP
“There ain’t no party like a Soul Khan party”—says Soul Khan that is, the now retired (reformed?) battle champion and Malcolm X glasses wearing member of Brooklyn’s Brown Bag AllStars. Soul Khan, on his third release of the year the Pursuance EP, continues with his consistent soul sample sounds, top-tier lyrics, and a hunger for Hip Hop hegemony. Boasting inspired rhymes, Santa Claus visuals, and Morgan Freeman narration (kind of), Pursuance has all the makings of a holiday blockbuster. “Someone’s Pocket” and “I Should Die Today” struck me as sonically reminiscent of Rhymesayers current roster’s sound. Perhaps Soul Khan will be the next underground Brooklynite to sign with a mid-major (Homeboy Sandman). Soul even mixes in nicely on the uncharacteristically Hip Hop reggae jam, “Mr. Governor.” While the soundscapes may differ on Pursuance, the goal is the same—further achievement within Hip Hop and life in general. With every new release, Soul Khan’s musical and mental development grows more palpable. He continues to seesaw on the brink of crossover acclaim. The man of many opinions not only has the ability to share his thoughts, but also deliver them with such a firm, well-spoken voice, most if not all fans can rally around. Soul Khan has the potential to become a voice of this generation if he chooses. But would anyone choose to be the voice of a group that’s been bogged down by counterproductive politicians, the infiniteness of the Internet, and dubstep? I have no doubt that he can be that voice—but will he?
REPLAYS: The Audible Doctor’s infectious panpipe beat on “Hold On,” a nice Brother Ali preacher vibe on “Someone’s Pocket,” and the Akie Bermiss reggae-got-soul chorus of “Mr. Governor.”
Blu & Exile – Give Me My Flowers While I Can Smell Them
Following the official (finally) release of NoYork!, which had been circulating in both digital and hardcopies since mid-summer, Blu & Exile blindsided all of their fans, who were anxiously awaiting a Below the Heavens follow-up, by releasing Give Me My Flowers While I Can Smell Them. Recorded in 2009 and remaining unfinished, GMMFWICST displays the MC/DJ dynamic that produced the duo’s 2007 classic, but the cohesiveness and overall tenacity seem to be gone. The soul’s there but the hunger’s missing. Give Me My Flowers While I Can Smell Them is not Below the Heavens 2—but it’s probably the closest fans will ever get to that pipedream. Featuring a single collaboration (“Everybody Nose” featuring Johaz and Fashawn), the album is straight up Blu & Exile—just three years after its recording. It’s difficult to believe that in an age where a song only minutes old can find itself on the Internet, an album cloaked in hype can just chill on a hard drive for three years, only to then be put up on Bandcamp one random Friday morning. So does the release of GMMFWICST mean that the rumored proper Below the Heavens follow-up, Memoirs, will be pushed back? Or is the impending release of Memoirs the reason for Give Me My Flowers sudden liberation? The Hip Hop world will just have to wait and see because if we’ve learned anything from Blu’s method of putting out music; new, old, or unmastered, it’s that he doesn’t give a fuck. So enjoy this record from 2009. Maybe it was always meant to come out at the end of a year in which Blu released nearly ten different LPs, EPs, beat tapes, remix albums—you name it. You can’t fault the dude for being lazy, as his discography has become even more prolific. But no matter how you try to spin it, listening to this 2009er in 2012 is weird. However, beggars can’t be choosers—just critics.
REPLAYS: Blu seeking something greater on “More Out Of Life,” some nice jazz piano on “She Said Its Ok,” Mr. Rogers joint, “Good Morning Neighbor,” Fashawn and Blu over Exile production always mixes well (“Everybody Nose”), and the beautifully Tom Waitsian “Seasons.”
Koncept – awaken
With features from Brown Bag brother Soul Khan, Sene, and recent top-40 favorite Royce da 5’9, plus production from beat smiths J57, The Audible Doctor, and Marco Polo, Koncept’s awaken pretty much sells itself. But for those of you not up on this less-publicized Brown Bag emcee, Kon’s definitely worth checking out. Koncept’s emotive storytelling pairs nicely with awaken’s soulful production, particularly alongside a Royce da 5’9 post-“Lighters” verse (“Watch the Sky Fall”). The standout track for me though has to be “Save Me.” Over a perfectly flipped Audible Doctor vocal loop, Koncept bares his skeletons for all to hear. “Save Me” appears to have been a therapeutic track for Kon to write as he broaches the heavy-handed topics of his mother, father, stepfather, and their effect, or lack thereof, on his childhood. “Awaken” serves as a final introspection into the mind of Koncept, as well as the conclusion to the concise eleven-track album. At just over a half-hour long, awaken is another great addition to the constant-growing Brown Bag discography, and an even better introduction for those unfamiliar with the entire BBAS roster.
REPLAYS: All production handled by J57 (“Too Late,” “Getting Home,” “Awaken”), Soul Khan features (“Aspirations,” “The Only Thing”), even with a banger from Marco Polo and a post-“Lighters” verse from Royce da 5’9 single “Watch the Sky Fall” didn’t nearly get the acclaim it deserved, the story of Kon’s upbringing on “Save Me,” and some pretty piano balladry on “Long Term.”
Planet Asia & Madlib – Cracks in the Vinyl
I’ll take fourteen minutes of new Madlib material any day—especially when paired with Cali vet Planet Asia. So what is Cracks in the Vinyl? Planet Asia clarifies for all on intro, “Double Dutch”—“Shit is universal, with no rehearsal.” With classic Asia rockin’ over Madlib gems (“You ain’t old enough to be the G.O.A.T.”), this EP is a diamond in the rough come the end of another oversaturated year in music. Fresno and Oxnard collide over these six tracks, but all of California (and beyond) will surely be vibin’ to this one well into the New Year. Asia puts it best come the end of the xylophone beat on “Street Clothes”—“That’s that one-take shit right there. That’s how they used to do it back in the days. There weren’t no punch-ins, or shit like that. That’s real rap, nigga. And I ain’t no old nigger neither. This is real rap—authentic shit.” That tirade there is exactly why heads will love this late fourth quarter sleeper. Authenticity in Hip Hop today is something you really have to dig (through the crates) for. While this EP doesn’t appear to be a prelude to a full-length like Freddie Gibbs’ recent foray with Otis Jackson Jr. but if it turns out to be, I don’t think any sensible Hip Hop head would complain. What’s not classic about driving with your windows down with some Planet Asia bumpin’? And just because it bears repeating…I’ll take fourteen minutes of new Madlib material any day.
REPLAYS: Another classic Madlib intro (“Double Dutch”), don’t sleep on the second half of that “Carrying Crates” beat, Asia’s Hip Hop rant at the end of “Street Clothes,” and ya’ll can’t fuck with the soul of “Madrid.”
Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire – Merry eX-Mas & Suck My Dick!
Following his surprisingly well-received debut, Lost In Translation, Brooklyn’s Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire, dropped a free stocking stuffer for the kids—Merry eX-Mas & Suck My Dick! Sticking to the same formula that made Lost In Translation so rugged and raw—beats from Necro, The Legendary Mr. Len, and The Oh So Wise El-P, guest spots from Danny Brown and Maffew Ragazino, and a complete lack of seriousness that only adds to the music’s sincerity. Comically labeling beats made by eXquire himself as ‘Prod. by Me Nigga’ and his remix of A$AP Rocky’s “Peyso” (“R.I.P Payso”) as “Produced by one of them A$AP niggaz I forgot” only adds to eXquire’s larger-than-life character (and necklaces). Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire is no gimmick. His Hip Hop ingenuity is a breath of fresh air in the New York scene’s sudden reemergence. But in addition to his flippant renditions of A$AP Rocky and Soulja Boy hits, there’s eXquire’s follow-up to Lost In Translation’s smash “Huzzah,” and even more Doug (the Nicktoon) references: see Danny Brown-featured “Killah Tofu.” Merry eX-Mas & Suck My Dick! is the red-bow (as seen on the album art) that seals Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire’s breakout year. With more to come in 2012, all heads can do is keep bumping these two mixtapes, re-watching the hysterical “Last Huzzah” video, and hope the man with the ‘big belly, [who] still takes his shirt off like Nelly,’ comes to a city near you.
REPLAYS: Straight shots of vodka on “Huzzah 2”; Danny Brown over The Beets classic, “Killah Tofu,” Maffew Ragazino goes in hard, showing off some serious bars on “Mau Mau”; eXquire’s months-old take (“RIP Payso”) on the A$AP Rocky smash; and the goofy-as-funk ditty, “Devil’s Pie with Goldie Glo.”