[Hip-Hop] Charles Jane LaFlare – 50 Shades of Jane

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Charles Jane LaFlare
Fifty Shades Of Jane (prod. Johnytiger)

There’s a new wave moving through Miami, a one-of-a-kind cut “50 Shades of Jane” courtesy of a first-class future music odd couple – the braggadocious R&B singer/songwriter Charles Jane LaFlare and the grungy, admittedly anti-social beat architect Johnytiger.

Though their collision on this track is potent, these Magic City natives appear to come from disparate backgrounds. Johnytiger gets out there on production, filtering wrecking guitar chords, 808 drums, and wide, low synthesizers through a grunge aesthetic. In fact, Johnytiger plays guitar with the durable hardcore band I Set My Friends On Fire. We were delightfully surprised to hear him cook up a saucy wave beat for LaFlare, an up-and-coming glamorous R&B cat who can really turn a phrase.

“You know I’m a savage / Why you flexing on me like you think you have it?” asks LaFlare. We’re not, you have it, guy. The back end of the tune gets dirty, with the white noise dropping off and LaFlare rhyming assertively over pure bass and drums, with a sardonic sampled vocal leading the track to its conclusion. I can’t remember hearing high-pitched, higher energy, innuendo-laced R&B rhymes over an electronically constructed quasi-rock song before, but I’m damn glad I heard it today.

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[Album Review] Kiante Robinson – Love For Rap, Rap For Love

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Kiante Robinson is up next from New York with his first mixtape Love For Rap, Rap For Love. With authenticity and lyrical precision, the young Bronxite presents vivid tales and relatable tribulations from his life, along with a few ill boasts and party jams. In the new horizontal musical culture, it’s becoming slightly easier for a kid with skill and drive to get recognized in the rap game without the patronage of a major music label. Mr. Robinson, whose tape is out thanks to Gold Expectations, shows ample amounts of both.

Right off the rip, Robinson demonstrates his poetic prowess while offering advice only a fellow NYC youth could understand.

This that mood music / when you gettin’ pushed, homie, this that pull through it / I made this for that kid sittin in the school clueless / you ain’t gotta know what they know, that’s from a true truant

This tune, “Intro”, sets the tone for the tape – complex rhymes that ultimately relate simple truths. Kiante encourages his listeners to follows their dreams, use their minds, and rap for love, not for attention. He’s rapping about what he knows, not what’s popular or cool, and that’s what makes this tape so cool. The kid radiates realness. In a rap game where hot new artists spend so much time talking about and cultivating their image but can barely freestyle, “Love For Rap” is as refreshing as a bottle of beer from a bodega on a summer day.

The beats, more lo-fi boom-bap than 808 trap and covered in stylish samples, give the tape a vintage vibe. He pays respect to the greats, memorializing Phife Dawg at the beginning of “Move Along”, and naming a tune after Lauryn Hill. The final track, “#Win”, makes use of a classic soul sample “You Can’t Blame Me” by Johnson, Hawkins, Tatum & Burr, again paying homage to the past. “I wanna see my community win … if you fall, pursue it again.”

The tape’s first single, “Greatest of My Time” is rare braggadocio from someone who “don’t like to brag a lot”. That single has racked up over 2.5 million plays on Soundcloud. With Kiante’s words flowing like water over a true head-bopping beat, it’s easy to hear why this cut is finding favor. With little marketing or promo, no major record deal or co-sign, Kiante is simply showing and proving. A quick lyric from “Move Along” helps to illustrate the community Kiante comes from.

Always close to the cliff, but no big step off / it’s hard growing up watching all the rich get more / takin’ his and yours to make the kids less poor / bad parents but we ain’t jealous of the kids next door

The triplet rhymes run throughout the album. His syntax spills out so quickly sometimes that one needs two or three plays to get the full spectrum of what he’s saying.

The sheer density of his lyrics stands out in a hip-hop scene which has been putting greater and greater emphasis on intricate production and catchy hooks. Passing on these trends, he reminds us of Dave East, another true MC with lighting quick lyricism out of New York City.

“There’s something deeper in the music / but you gotta listen to find it,” Kiante says on “Level Headed”. That’s just how we like it, Mr. Robinson, and we’ll be listening for a long time to come. Grab your free download of this fantastic hip-hop music here.

’Intro’
’Soon As We Enter’
’Kiante Robinson – Poetry (Featuring Taina Rain)’
’You, You & You’
’Dreams’
’Intermission’
’Kiante Robinson – Greatest Of My Time’
’Move Along’
’Level Headed’
’Kiante Robinson – Lauryn Hill’
’Kiante Robinson – #Win’
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[Trap] Ekali & KRANE – Akira

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Ekali & KRANE
Akira

THIS is how you kick off a new year. Ekali and KRANE have already established themselves as household names in the ever-changing genre of trap, so seeing them join forces on a monstrous collaboration is cause for celebration.

“Akira” is a marvel of melody and powerful percussion that utilizes the unique and outstanding aspects of each producer’s best qualities in a manner similar to the recent RL Grime, Skrillex, and What So Not smash, “Waiting”. One could even argue that these two might have just upstaged those legends on their new tune, but that’s for you to decide. Either way, “Akira” is going to be getting a LOT of festival play over the next couple of months without fail.

As for the rest of 2017, “Akira” is a strong way to start, and we’re certainly hoping for the possibility of more from Ekali and KRANE in the future. Do yourself a favor and grab the free download while you can!

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[Album Review] Azad – A Very Emotional EP

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We can’t help but appreciate the honesty shown by Azad on his newest EP. From the project’s title down to its most negligible lyric, the Los Angeles-based performer offers up straightforward thoughts and sensual energy in this classy hybrid of R&B and hip-hop, A Very Emotional EP. The record features a ton of material for an EP – verses laid out with consistent, adept flow, hooks highlighting his soft, lilting voice, all couched in excellent instrumentals from an all-star cast of producers. We’re grateful the singer/songwriter took enough time away from his label Mind Of A Genius to bless us with this compilation.

From track to track the EP tells a familiar but timeless story. First, serious longing and heartbreak. Then, introverted analysis leads to a return to confidence. Finally, it’s baby-making time.

“Enough of You” lays out the pattern that each song takes. Azad’s rhymes, sometimes styled more like freeform poetry than rap bars, tumble out towards in the verse towards a chorus that sounds like many a softer cut from Drake or J. Cole. The deep beat comes courtesy of Sango, Atu and Dpat, a trio which literally made great waves together in 2016. “Special” reminds one of The Weekend’s best tracks from 2016, but with more hard-edged lyricism in between the shiny hook. Catch the creative homage Azad pays to one particularly influential rhyme sayer in the second verse.

The talented Millz Douglas from East Baltimore holds it down with a great beat on “Godesses”, the type of pocket beat that offers a prime platform to a rapper, and Azad slides right in. The next two tracks, “Trust” and ‘Grind on Me” are produced by Jonathan Marquez, whose guitar samples refresh the soundscape. Trust is difficult to achieve, and the absence of it seems to be driving much of Azad’s emotional turmoil. Azad has a special ability to tell detailed, true stories in verse, especially on “Grind On Me”. Love songs are common, but it’s rare to hear an honest, productive, real discussion of relationship troubles packaged in smooth verse over the kick and snare. Only a few in the game do it well, and Azad puts forward his best effort on this cut.

Stwo from Paris offers my personal favorite beat on the compilation with “Ready”, a boom-bap dripping in bass with a kick that sounds like a heartbeat and a snare that is deliciously minimal. The lack of glamor in the instrumental makes room Azad’s smooth, soft flow. “Teach me how to love I never learned how / it’s like every house I ever built gets burned down.”

After such an emotional EP, “Sweet” is a perfect capitulation. The raunchy lyrics and braggadocio fit perfectly into HUCCI‘s big-ass booming beat (Strictly!).

A Very Emotional EP is a very strong effort from Azad. It’s exactly what an EP should be – a thoughtfully-curated series of stellar instrumentals, each one employed carefully by the songwriter to tell a different part of his emotional tale. Few artists rhyme with the complexity and sing with the catharsis of Azad while keeping it so real with the subject matter. With all the new-age R&B out there, it can be hard to find the durable cuts. A Very Emotional EP is full of them.

’Enough Of You (Prod. By Sango, Atu & Dpat)’
’Special (Prod. by Patrick Collier)’
’Goddesses (Prod. by Millz Douglas)’
’Trust (Prod. by Jonathan Marquez)’
’Grind On Me 2016 (Prod. by Jonathan Marquez)’
’Ready (Prod. by Stwo)’
’Bonus Sweet (Prod. by HUCCI)’
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[16 To End 2016] Ninja Ash’s Best Of The Year

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As many grievances as 2016 brought, it’d be a lie to say it wasn’t an incredible year of music. Perhaps, that’s how it always works–the best art comes in the worst of times. Music has always been my primary coping mechanism and I couldn’t be more thankful for all the artists that made this year bearable and, quite honestly, pretty damn fun despite it all. These are the songs that soundtracked my best moments and lifted me up during my lowest–I hope they can do the same for you. Happy New Year!

Solange
Cranes In The Sky (Kaytranada Edit)

No song quite captured the struggle of depression in a more captivating manner than Solange‘s ‘Cranes In The Sky.’ Kaytranada‘s edit makes it glow even more.

Moses Sumney
Lonely World

2016 was a well-deserved breakout year for the incredibly talented Moses Sumney. “Lonely World,” with its intense progression, would be my song of the year if I had to pick one.

Autolux
Change My Head

Autolux were easily one of my favorite discoveries of the year and “Change My Head” is them at their most potent–haunting, grungy and catchy with raw, dynamic percussion.

Moderat
Reminder

Moderat‘s III was my favorite album of the year and ‘Reminder’ exemplifies the super-group’s incredible production in both its stark lows and explosive highs.

Mick Jenkins
Drowning feat. BADBADNOTGOOD

This is just a beautiful protest song in so many ways. From Mick Jenkins‘ versatile rapping and singing to Badbadnotgood‘s flawless live instrumentation, it possesses a unique balance and thoughtfulness that few similarly themed songs display. Make sure to check out the entrancing music video as well.

Blood Orange
E.V.P.

This one’s for Prince! Blood Orange couldn’t have given us Freetown Sound at a better juncture.

Kaytranada
Glowed Up (feat. Anderson .Paak)

Two of 2016’s all-stars team up for pure gold capturing Kaytra’s intriguing cadence and Anderson .Paak‘s soulful flows.

Innanet James
Summer Prod. The Kount

Innanet James‘ introduction to the music world comes with this no-fucks-given summer anthem that also highlights The Kount, a candidate for best new hip-hop producer.

Kid Cudi
By Design (feat. Andre 3000)

Kid Cudi, Plain Pat, Pharrell & Andre 3000…yeah, could’ve guess this one would be in my 16 before I even heard it. Can’t stop listening to this one.

A Tribe Called Quest
We The People

A message of inclusion that came when I needed it and from exactly the crew I wanted to hear it from. RIP Phife Dawg!

Rufus Du Sol
Innerbloom

“Innerbloom” is truly Rufus Du Sol‘s manifesto–an epic that captures the essence of their endlessly playable 2016 release, Bloom. This song also spawned one of the best remixes of the year from What So Not.

Kenton Slash Demon
TT

Kenton Slash Demon continue to enamor me with their trippy, textured take on dance music. ‘TT’ manages to feel both ethereal and ready for the dance floor.

Frank Ocean
White Ferrari (Jacques Greene Edit)

The original version of “White Ferrari” may be my favorite track from Frank Ocean‘s emotional masterpiece, Blonde–capturing both its most and least accessible elements. Montreal producer Jacques Greene released nothing but phenomenal productions this year but this remix of Frank takes the cake.

Ross From Friends
Gettin’ It Done

Aside from having the best name in dance music, Ross From Friends flipped everything I thought I knew about house music on its head. “Gettin’ It Done” certainly makes you want to dance but the lo-fi sonics teamed with a masterfully utilized soul sample create a vibe unlike anything I’ve heard before. If you dig this one, check out this mind-blowing live performance from Ross & crew.

Mall Grab
Father

Mall Grab wins the award for my favorite house discovery of 2016 and this take on the sample from Kanye’s “Father Stretch My Hands Pt.1” was a staple in my DJ sets this year. While I love Kanye’s version, his cringe-worthy opening line disqualified it from any best of lists.

Billy Kenny
Work Me (Justin Jay Remix)

Werk into the New Year!

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[16 To End 2016] Ninja McNulty’s Best Of The Year

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Music is subjective and it is not. “What?” Well, we all have our own conception of what taste, treasure, and trifle are in music. The following list comprises my favorite musical treasures from 2016. They may appear as trifles to other ears tuned for different frequencies than my own are. Yet I’m confident that each cut presented here in one way or another makes a contribution to an overall upward trajectory, a positive progression for music which aims at an objective high-quality. Many songs harp on or exemplify trends in popular or underground music which I consider valuable. Some introduce new, well-turned phrases into the eternally in-flux dialogue. Others repackage old wisdom in a shiny new bow. Many simply evince the extremely high production value which I worship, idolator that I may be. If my rhetoric already seems innane, skip it, but do yourself a favor and enjoy a few of these sixteen songs.

Sunflower Bean
Easier Said

Sunflower Bean is a rock trio from Brooklyn. “Easier Said”, the first single from their debut album, is a near perfect pop song with it’s simple but emotive guitar licks and frontwoman Julia Cummings’ serene voice and poetic lyrics – “Should have just stayed home, but I’d rather be alone instead.”

Tom Misch
I Wish

Tom Misch can do no wrong. This one-man-band – vocalist, guitarist, pianist, producer – released his Reverie EP in July, featuring this softly aching song about looking back on one’s past.

Open Ocean
Hurry

According to the producer’s Soundcloud, Open Ocean is about “depth”. 2016 saw the rise in “Wave” music, a strange concept when one considers all music is one intricate arrangement of waves. Open Ocean offers my favorite conceptualization of “Wave”.

Miguel
Waves (Remix) Feat. Travi$ Scott

This tune came early in 2016 and captivated me for employing production techniques atypical in R&B, even its contemporary strains. “Waves” has an uncompromising energy that hit the sweet spot. Travis Scott’s verse precurses his massive success and innovation through the rest of the year.

Jade Cicada
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Jade Cicada from western Massachusetts makes me almost incredulous with his profound production capabilities. What was first a 30-second clip on Soundcloud was then debuted in full when Jade Cicada opened for Dave Tipper at the latter’s Full Moon Gathering in April in Florida. It’s been a standard in the underground glitch hop scene since.

COPYCATT
Survive (ft. Maksim)

COPYCATT is a 19-year-old producer from Brisbane who released this track with the MC Maksim on Inspected 2, a compilation from the boundary-pushing music/fashion collective Inspected which dropped in November. The British bars over the nutty sound design evokes Grime, but the sound design is far more sophisticated. I desperately hope to be caught by surprise and flattened by this song on a dance floor in 2017.

Wax Future
A Love That Lasts Forever (Tsimba Remix)

Wax Future, a producer/guitarist duo from Philadelphia, have been upping the ante on the sample-collage, electro soul sound popularized by Pretty Lights. Budding Connecticut-based bass music producer Tsimba brought his “future roots” sound to bear on this WF original. The subterranean bass and esoteric thematic material made it an easy pick for me.

Shivaji
Take It

I was introduced to this too-fire track by Bassnectar who dropped it one Halloween weekend. We expect great things from one of Kannibalen Record’s most promising young talents, who has the touch. To end the song the producer samples Doors frontman Jim Morrison who presciently describes the future of music. I see you, Shivaji.

Bombino
Akhar Zaman (This Moment)’

The singer, songwriter and axe-wielding phenom from Agadez, Niger named Bombino stole my ears mid-2016 with his album Azel. With it’s simple popish formula and striking riff, “Akhar Zaman (This Moment)” is my favorite song from this vital North African rock-and-roll masterpiece.

Bassnectar & G. Jones
Mind Tricks Ft. Lafa Taylor

Bassnectar’s 2016 album was more subdued than most of his work from the past five years, but “Mind Tricks” featuring Lafa Taylor on vocals and G Jones on production is an unequivocal banger. The syncopation between the bassline and the drums is a hallmark of both Greg Jones and Lorin Ashton, native Santa Cruzans from different generations who apparently have an EP in the works for 2017. Lord help us.

Kursa
KURO 黒

Clearly, my ears are mostly keenly tuned to dirty, heavy neuro bass music. Few sauce it better than the mercurial producer Kursa who released this absolute flamethrower in October. I was fortunate enough to hear a top notch selecta spin it live before year’s end.

Tipper
Sleeper

I’m not being punny or cute when I say this was a sleeper on my list. Dave Tipper released this song for his stepfather PJ the day he passed away. For someone like me who also lost a close loved one in 2016, the existential beauty of this song stimulates self-reflection and an appreciation for life’s fleeting treasures.

Chance The Rapper
Same Drugs

It would be convenient and almost accurate to substitute my list here for Chance’s entire Coloring Book. Same Drugs soars above the rest because of how sensitive and relatable it is. “Same Drugs” highlights the artist’s versatility as a singer and songwriter, while humanizing someone whose star was soaring so high all year.

Pretty Lights
Only Yesterday’

“Only Yesterday” was an early song-of-the-year pick when it dropped in April as the first new music in almost two years from Derek Vincent Smith aka Pretty Lights. Words can’t describe the catharsis this man creates through sound. He takes the most endearing elements of America’s musical past, and synthesizes them to pioneer its future. Anyone who’s felt lonely or lovelorn could probably bump this tune ad infinitum.

Uyama Hiroto
Minano Pride

I’ve saved the best for last. Perhaps this is unwise in an age of ever-decreasing attention spans. Regardless, if you’ve made it this far then enjoy this acoustic masterpiece furnished by Uyama Hiroto. This favored collaborator of Japanese beat legend Nujabes is a master. His 2016 drop Freeform Jazz takes the Japanese hip-hop/soul sound to new, emotive heights. Minano is a town in central Japan, but whether or not Hiroto is referencing this place is unknown to me. Nonetheless “Minano Pride” is my favorite cut from my favorite record in 2016. Thanks for reading and listening.

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[Album Review] James Lanning – Another Day Wasted

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James Lanning, the man fam Maryland who merges urban exploration and hip-hop in New York City, releases a deep, dark and extremely relevant EP Another Day Wasted on Onamazu. The rapper’s debut EP is laced with the dark and depressed vibe of the broken buildings he loves to photograph, as well as the high-strung tension which likely pushes him to risk his life climbing skyscrapers.

The topic of mental health among musicians has breached the mainstream recently after Kid Cudi and later Kanye West both admitted struggling mightily with their selves. In a brief interview with Mass Appeal, Lanning states he wants to “alter the discourse” about mental health and the way mentally unstable people are treated when they come forth for help. Making music helps Lanning to channel his own frustrations, and that creative process lead to the cathartic tracks on Another Day Wasted.

The first cut, “Spring” features voicemail messages from the artist’s life set with a backdrop of tense string and music-box notes, culminating in a deep wave of bass. The abrupt finish leads into the chill-inducing title track on which Lanning bears his soul over a paradox of a beat produced by Kace. “People say that I’m crazy, but I say that I’m patient / what’s today but another day wasted?” Depression, the invisible illness, afflicts millions of people. Lanning exposes his own affliction to the world with no frills or filler, and for this, he’s to be commended.

“Run Away” and “Regina” find Lanning walking the thin line between sanity and success over more unique, wavy Kace beats. “Until 27”, featuring a hot verse from Michael Christmas, finally finds Lanning radiating a positive vibe and finding his step.

Another Day Wasted is a raw musical expression that blends hip-hop with more avant-garde ambient and electronica styles. The subject matter and the music can strike a chord deep within anyone who’s struggled with their own motivation and mental health. You can purchase EP from iTunes.

’JAMES LANNING – Spring’
’JAMES LANNING – Another Day Wasted’
’Run Away (Feat. Inas)’
’JAMES LANNING ~ Regina’
’Until 27 (Feat. Michael Christmas)’
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