The creative landscape is changing. Technologies like Pro Tools, the iPod, and peer-to-peer networks have become mainstream in the digital age, creating a wild frontier of sorts in music. Independent artists can reach mass audiences once forbidden to them. These technologies are fostering the rise of “semiotic democracy”—where more and more people are no longer passive consumers of mass media, but active participants in creating culture. Cops vs Lawyers, Issue 3

السبت، أيلول ١٠، ٢٠٠٥

Mixed Reviews: Issue Four

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Murs And Slug
Felt 2: A Tribute to Lisa Bonet

This album is an example of how the personality of the MCs is a key component of making an album work. The combination of Murs (member of the Bay Area based Living Legends) and Slug (of Minnesota’s Atmosphere) spend the album mostly chasing women and bragging and boasting, but somehow make the subject matter sound fresh. The tribute to the second eldest Cosby Show daughter is the second of its kind, as the pair originally paid homage to Christina Ricci a few years back.
Listening to the album gives you the idea that Slug and Murs must have just had a blast in the studio. The infuse humor and straight up lyricism to great effect on tracks like “Dirty Girl” and “Morris Day,” and wild out in the city of sin in “Life Vegas.” And while they take the time to occasionally get serious (most notably on “Marvin Gaye”), it’s mostly nothing but lyrical party y’all.

75 Degrees
the last great
hip-hop album

(Dining Room)

The Last Great Hip Hop Album, by 75 Degrees is the follow up to their 2002 debut The Rise and Fall of 75 Degrees. The group represents the Bay Area with a confidence and swagger that doesn’t care how other hip hop groups sound. The first album was recorded in Rick Bond’s dining room, and while the production quality has improved, the group’s raw and eclectic energy has remained. Drawing on both live musicians and samples from the Jackson 5 and Bjork, 75 Degrees offers up a new and funky sound that still seems to jive with an older school. This won’t be the ‘last great hip hop album’ but don’t tell that to 75 Degrees; they won’t believe it. -Hynes

bash bros.
(Squared Circle)

Named after the pair of infamous Oakland A’s home-run swatters, the Bash Bros.’ The L.E.F.T. and Piseas come straight out the Bay with this debut album. The flows and the beats are a bit creaky at times, but Everyday is an interesting first effort.
The Bash Bros. are strongest when the duo gets introspective and political on tracks like “Summer Rain,” “Only Fronting,” and “America.” The best track is “Lock and Load” where the Bros. are joined by Persevere and Style M.I.S.I.A. to administer a straight-up lyrical beatdown. Everyday is solid but ultimately unremarkable. Though Everyday feels like a first draft, Bash Bros. have the potential to make a significant sophmore. -Ducker

Baby James
Ghetto Retro
(Ghetto Retro

Baby James isn’t your ordinary fusion hip-hop/R&B cat. His debut album, Ghetto Retro, has a much more gritty sound then the plastic slicksters that crowd the airwaves. Reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield and Donny Hathaway with a honest dash of street, Baby J’s music is marinated in ’70s soul much more than many of his contemporaries.
Co-signed by the Atomic Dog himself, George Clinton, Baby James uses the album to reflect on the realities of everyday Oakland life, which for him involves a heavy dose of chasing females. But his music is always funky and the vocals got soul, which is more than most R&B cornballs these days can say. -Ducker

(Hella Records)

Royalty knocks like a well-landed blow right from the jump. The track “Rocksteady” kicks the album in with a skanking reggae beat and some catchy flows. The 12” choice “Final Round” stays in your dome. The one-two emcee duo Otayo Dub and Sakima did most of their own production, along with Hella Records founder TD Camp. Together, the Co-Deez offer up a rich mosaic of afro-carribean beats, classic guitar riffs and instrumentation seldom heard and sorely missed in hip-hop lately. -Conway

Kirby Dominant
Radio Shock

Kirby Dominant has a fixation with pimpin; the cover art has him donning a black leather jacket, a white Kangol bucket, and a well-dressed lady friend; his lyrics are rife with “pimpin”; and his publishing company is called Dominant Pimpin Coalition. Bass-heavy, sample-less, vocalist-assisted beats that rates a head nod, a bottle of Dom, and your favorite breezy. It’s not all bitch-slapping though; Kirby’s poignantly humorous style offers plenty of honest charm. With his own Rapitalism Records imprint releasing the forthcoming STARR album, Kirby certainly stays on his hustle. Half-naked ho sold separately. -Folklore

Seven League Boots

Psychokinetics pull out all the stops with the ultra full-length Seven League Boots. The crew, made up of MCs Celsius 7 and Spidey and DJ Denizen, pack the album with 22 tracks, weaved with straight-ahead rhymes over lush, organic production. Topics run the gamut from straight emceeing (“The Hypnotist”) to lost love (“Caracas Breeze”) to party jams (“Disky Refund”) to fake revolutionaries (“Bigtime”).
Seven League is ambitious, often enjoyable and non-boring. But after a while, the album seems to collapse under its own weight. Still, it would be a good idea to give the crew a shot.

Tanya Morgan
(Loud Minority)

Tanya Morgan is not Tracy Morgan’s mom. She’s not a female at all. Tanya Morgan is three emcees, (Von Pea, Ilyas and Donwill), who come at the mic raw and have brought with them a proper and thorough style to their rhymes. Sunset… the EP is a dope CD that loops the Beatles on “Oh No” and even tosses in a little Elton John down the line. This disc does have lower production quality than we’re used to; but we’re spoiled. The good news for Tanya Morgan is that those things can be improved on, while talented lyricism and on point samples, oftentimes don’t come as easily. More info at -Hynes

‘05 Tour sampler
(Slept On Records)

Slept On Records delivers a cohesive introductory effort, half of it with some nice instrumentals. Nick Andre and E Da Boss’ “E Plays it Cool” is the forerunner here, laced with finely-chopped percussion snared through well-realized loops. Guests come in the form of emcees Bicasso (Living Legends), Nebulous, and Jahi & The Life, with producer/bassist Headnodic of Crown City Rockers. Bicasso’s refrain on the first track “Don’t Sleep” establishes the thesis statement. And then Nebulous is lampin’ with a nice concept on “Things Change,” wherein he flexes existential through hyperbole. -Folklore