Wednesday, March 1, 2017

It Was The World: Review in Brief of MC Lyfe's Efyl EP


                                         https://soundcloud.com/mc-lyfe-the-herbalistics/sets/mc-lyfe
                     
                                                        "This music brings you life."

         Anyone that knows me knows Herbalistics was the group that pulled me into fervent study of and participation in the Inland Empire hip-hop scene so I was delighted to see MC Lyfe played to his core audience when crafting his long-awaited debut album. Lyfe weaves his fence-hopping blunt-smoking show-rocking tales over handpicked boom-bap delicacies by local masters like Skuse Beats, Pigeon Do, Kordisepz and more.

          Joined by masterful practitioners like Notiz Yong and Greaseball, Lyfe’s work drips with Riverside directness and earnest vulnerability. More than alot of up-and-coming artists, Lyfe understands that it is the personality he and Greaseball of ‘listics exhibit that addicts his audience after Mando the DJ's prime cuts bring them in. The melodies are on-point and infectious. The album delivers the culmination of the leaked tracks and demos the Herbalistics crew have let slip in the years between the release of Greaseball's Bad Cat EP and now. The lo-fi sound is still very charming, creating a warm blanket for the earworms within.

         Mixing engineer Suplex does a hell of a job making sure the aesthetic doesn’t obscure the clarity of a single lyric while also keeping the snares crisp and bass drums emboldened. I love that Lyfe's fantasy about having children with a girlfriend in “Love this Life” takes the form of painting poets coloring walls, shattering the expectations of the gray-brown palette socio-economically pre-selected for Inland Empire kids. “All This Time I’m Wasting”, a Kordisepz track Lyfe has been previewing for some time now, catchily solidifies his brand as the Bart Simpson of rap, expressing a relatable stony brattiness, further ensnaring the listener in his simple but extremely amusing personal mythos.

       The album delivers an arc in the sense that the stony adventures then veer into girl problems which culminates in “Taken Out My Anger” where Lyfe unleashes some of his hardest bar patterns that I’ve ever heard. After this release, the album sails out smoothly and nostalgically with its sole Herbalistics song, "The Rain" and damn, it delivers. Our young scalawags are sounding jaded; wise but still effervescent and wide-eyed about life as they sing to the audience about controlling the moodiness of the rain in your life and in your city. The song is a beautiful cap to a fun, chill and endlessly listenable debut project from Lyfe.

Tristan "Tanjint Wiggy" Acker is a staff writer for JooseBoxx, youth hip-hop writing instructor with CHORDS Enrichment Youth program (chordseyp.org) and member of the Inland Empire nerdcore hip-hop group the West Coast Avengers. Catch more of their work at westcoastavengers.com, follow Tristan on Twitter @Tanjint or e-mail him at tristanacker@gmail.com.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Hi-C- Lance Baker ft. Jamez London (Audio)



You know Lance Baker, Lance Couper, Lance Cooper, Gym Jones, and maybe a few other aliases. Hard to keep up with right? Nevertheless he's back. Lance Baker has been getting around; producing in Cali's Bay Area, doing work in the City of Angels, and holding it down in the I.E. as well. Lance brings us the juice on his newest rack Hi-C. He brings in Jamez London (straight out of North Carolina) for the assist.


Lance Baker Social Media
Twitter: @EatOnLANCE
Instagram: @eatonlance

Jamez London Social Media
Twitter: @TheJamezLondon
Instagram: @JamezLondon

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

RIBS for the week of 2/22/2017 featuring Besatree, Araless, Avant-Garde and Notiz Yong



For this first installment of R.I.B.S. (Reviews In Brief) of 2017 I thought I'd catch up on some noteworthy releases from 2015 and 2016.

1. WildLife by Besatree of CLDMKRS


Only Besatree would come up with such a musically rebellious way of reminding the world that he is a f**king professional. These electronic punk rock raps tell a story of self affirmation of worth, a statement of purpose and a warning to haters. Besatree creates minimalist metric soundscapes for him to let loose his humanity on. His humanity usually manifests itself in the form of razor-sharp raps observing the tendency of society to take shortcuts and try to get one over on him and his. He eloquently spits and earnestly croons over his own productions as well as those of fellow CLDMKRS Noearth and Rokem, who contribute melodic gems that don’t feel out of place alongside subtle indie rock beauties like “Everything You Wanted”, “Stuck With Me”, and “All Gonna Die”. Rather, these tracks stretch the aural playground the album weaves. Songs like “Nobody Knows” and “Paranoid” go to dark places but never drag with despair. Contrasted with the sunny Rokem bangers, the record reflects the range of someone grown and secure with themselves. The record feels tight; a set of songs lesser songwriter performers would have tried to stretch into an LP. Besatree does a solid balancing of including his talented colleagues the CLDMKRS on the record while revealing another chunk of his own psyche with this strikingly deft record of eclectic and forward looking indie hip-hop.

2.


                                Hear No. See No. Speak No by Avant-Garde and Notiz Yong


Notiz Yong sets up a series of seven beatbreaks that he and his compatriots AwestOne and Atlas, I.E. staples Avant-Garde, proceed to rock with a youthful energy that makes the record float a little more with each listen. The MCs display a mastery and love of rhythm that manifests itself into a constant forward momentum that keeps the EP light on its feet. With rhymes about stony So Cal life, AG and Yong keep it cracking with strong tracks that would go well with a workout, a drive or a blunt. The rhythms are so solid but don’t miss the bars these dudes are exhibiting. Yong’s production palette is a balance of hittin' drums, occasional samples and effective melodic synth flares helping the record steer from faster boom-bap anthems like the single “By All Means” to more modern sounding chill tracks like “Left Coastin’” and the closer “Til I’m Gone”. The collaborative choruses are nice to hear and I personally always want to hear more of that from rap groups. Hear No. See No. Speak No stands as another clear reminder that the Inland Empire hip-hop community will continue to cook up some gold both as individual artists and together. 


3. Proletariat Rock by Araless of BMN


Perhaps the most surprising thing about the essay that is Seattle-area standout Araless’ Proletariat Rock EP is how musical of an essay it is. Araless’ sung choruses give a window into a deeply rooted funk that he is keeping in control, in service of the rhythm: “Money makes the man a roooobot!” he stretches on the record’s opening track. This is a man who knows his tools. His mastery of rhyme and his own voice is captivating, the sound of one of the most incisive poets I’ve yet to hear. The catchy deceptive simplicity of choruses of songs like “Status Quid Pro Quo” and “PR Campaign” are so effective and intuitive in the way the phrases and music connect it makes one wonder how these phrases were never put together quite like this before. Araless is brimming with such stanzas and he makes it seem utterly natural. In the last song he weaves his modern spare protest-march rhythms into an appropriately climactic reggae-tinged poet ode to peace and consciousness, hinting at the traditions his subtle but textured and modern productions are part of. The liner notes on his website's album page say each track is a perspective but just as an audience member and reader of the text, the songs felt like 7 facets of one perspective; an important articulation of the century’s burgeoning progressive consciousness among today’s young artists in the west and beyond.


Tristan "Tanjint Wiggy" Acker is a staff writer for JooseBoxx, youth hip-hop writing instructor with CHORDS Enrichment Youth program (chordseyp.org) and member of the Inland Empire nerdcore hip-hop group the West Coast Avengers. Catch more of their work at westcoastavengers.com, follow Tristan on Twitter @Tanjint or e-mail him at tristanacker@gmail.com


Monday, February 13, 2017

Untapped Hip Hop Magazine Interview with King Dice: Jack of All Trades


Untapped Hip Hop Magazine linked up with King Dice to talk about music, RGC, and  drop some gems on for aspiring emcees, producers, and videographers.
 
Contacts for King Dice
Twitter: @KingDiceSays
Instagram: @KingDiceSays
Facebook: @KingDiceSays
Snapchat: @KingDiceSays

Contacts for Untapped Hip Hop Magazine:

Twitter: @Untappedhiphop
Instagram: @Untappedhiphop_Magazine
Facebook: @UntappedhiphopMagazine
Snapchat: @Untappedhiphop

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Cam Gnarly- Uber (Produced by Cas 1) (Music Video)


Cam Gnarly offers up a trippy new visual from his 2016; The Posi Prevails EP :::
The west-coast inspired jam produced by Cas1 takes us on a rides with Cam in the "Back seat of the Uber" as he lyrically describes how he went from finessing the app for free rides to having his "paypal boomin" & having a personal Uber driver on call. Directed by NCMG (New Culture Media Group) & Edited by Konami Homi

(++)"UBER" available on::::

The Posi Prevails EP (2016) ::::




Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Morality of Star Wars & The Chinese Market


"When Lucasfilm does their rewrites, they're not sending their best..."

* SPECULATIVE SPOILER WARNING: CONTAINS HEAVY SPECULATION ABOUT POTENTIALLY MAJOR PLOT POINTS OF UPCOMING STAR WARS FILMS*

The newly announced title to Star Wars: Episode 8, The Last Jedi, is bad-ass but quickly my band's excited groupchat turned gloomy when we realized that Lucasfilm is doubling down on rubbing our face in how not far the story has come since Episode VI.

Firstly, let's discuss the over-all "thing" Disney is doing with their new canon story since acquiring Lucasfilm. The new story is actually the story of the entire Star Wars Galaxy or GFFA (Galaxy Far Far Away). As Rogue One showed us, they are not just continuing post-ROTJ-era stories, they are bouncing all over the timeline to add new adventures and characters. This is dope; I've enjoyed the new films and comic books they are adding to the canon.

I've noticed a distinct trend that at first I thought was really awesome. Notice that none of the new Force user characters, except Luke, in Force Awakens are "Jedi". Rey is a trainee-to-be, Finn doesn't seem to be a Force-user, Kylo Ren is no longer a Jedi and Lucasfilm insists "Sith" died with Sheev Palpatine in Episode VI. Rogue One gives us Chirrut Imwe who is a Force-user from a different religion than the Jedi, with different skills and practices. Rebels focuses on Ezra and Kanann, padawans that are not quite Jedi Knights as well as Ahsoka Tano, now no longer part of the Jedi order, and countless other Force-users that don't fit into the Jedi or Sith category.

Peep this inscription from the beginning of the novelization of The Force Awakens:

 "First comes the day
Then comes the night.
After the darkness
Shines through the light.
The difference, they say,
Is only made right
By the resolving of grey
Through refined Jedi sight."

―Journal of the Whills, 7:477

Barring an incredibly unforeseen turn of events, Luke and Rey will be the ones doing the resolving of grey through refined Jedi sight in the current saga trilogy. Meaning they will be rejecting both the selfish evil of Sith like Palpatine and Vader as well as the rigid out-of-touchness of the prequel-era Jedi Order. 

Add all that to the introduction of Saw Gerrera's Rogue One cell as "too extreme for the Rebel Alliance", Disney's whitewashing of the Empire's racism and sexism (Bodhi Rook and Captain Phasma wouldn't have been in Lucas' space-Nazi version of the Empire) and you see Disney's Star Wars is interestingly trying to expand the definition of and make more ambiguous the morality of the GFFA and Force-based religion in the Star Wars universe. This is interesting but I worry that this is an excuse to keep Jedi scarce and pander to expanding global markets as opposed to making the best art that the company could be making. 

Episode 7 depicts neither Luke's new Jedi order nor the restoration of the Republic. It also depicts a resurgent Empire now in the form of the First Order. In other words, it seems all the victories Han, Luke and Leia won in the original trilogy were for naught. In Episode VI, Yoda says "Pass on what you have learned."

For decades, fans were led to believe that Luke would help proliferate a new Jedi order and now it seems he will have but one apprentice trained in the ways of the Jedi Knights by the time he is dead which the title The Last Jedi implies he will be by the end of Episode 8. Star Wars titles always have two or three meanings. When the film begins, Luke will be the only trained Jedi in the Galaxy and by the end of the film it will be Rey when Luke likely passes from physical life. 

I understand the desire to have fewer as opposed to more highly powerful wizard-warriors in your fantasy films- it lowers the stakes when so many of the "good guys" are nigh-omnipotent - but it just makes a guy wonder what has been accomplished by the Rebel victories of the original trilogy when the status quo is exactly the same in the subsequent trilogy. The prequels had their flaws but at least the premise was different than that of Episodes 4 through 6. When one watches the story in Episode order, the story progresses until Episode VII makes it clear that the gains made in Episodes 4 through 6 were largely lost.

Anyway, it's quite possible that making morality and religion more ambiguous in the GFFA will pay off in a really awesome way but part of me wonders if it's just a way to appeal to the growing potential global (especially the 1 billion plus person Chinese market) customer base. Star Wars has lots of Christian iconography - fatherless boy who turns out to be prophesied Chosen One -and governments like China's censor certain kinds of religious and paranormal content - ghosts  and more. The term "Jedi' has Japanese roots ("jidaigeki"), so the cultural animosity some Chinese have for Japan further explains why Lucasfilm would want to start creating non-Jedi Force-user religions. The reason this is more of a factor now than say the 70s or 80s is that more Chinese than ever have made their way into the working and middle class since those decades, so a country with a population that dwarfs ours' populace suddenly has untold millions and billions in disposable income for an entertainment budget as discussed in this article from the same year in which Disney bought Lucasfilm.

There's also story reasons-  it's easier to manage a few highly powered warrior-wizards in your story about ragtag rebels than many of them if your intention is to make the adventure challenging for your protagonists - for Lucasfilm's decision to roll back progress made by the New Republic but for me to believe that 5 years from now I'll need to see more pay-off to this editorial take on Star Wars' morality than ticket sales.

To be clear and reiterate - I don't have an issue with making Star Wars' morality more ambiguous. In fact, I find it exciting. I will just be supremely disappointed if there's no further artistic pay-off to it. My grandest hopes: the inscription pasted above implies that Ahsoka is a past hint, a pre-echo to a reformed modified new "Grey" Jedi order with Luke and Rey, one that allows attachments (unlike the rigid old Jedi order) but disallows the darkside (unlike the Sith Order). Given how much of a big deal Lucas' prequel films make about the prequel era Jedi order having a diminished connection with the Force and how out of balance everything was, I feel like this has to be paid off.  So I'm hoping that that is more what this version of GFFA morality is about, and not just getting 1.3 billion new customers.

*   image by Alex "Ppaaccee" Reynoso

Tristan "Tanjint Wiggy" Acker is a staff writer for JooseBoxx, youth hip-hop writing instructor with CHORDS Enrichment Youth program (chordseyp.org) and member of the Inland Empire nerdcore hip-hop group the West Coast Avengers. Catch more of their work at westcoastavengers.com, follow Tristan on Twitter @Tanjint or e-mail him at tristanacker@gmail.com.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Watching Rogue One / Episode IV back-to-back in one weekend and the Future of the A Star Wars Story films


                 *STRAIGHT UP SPOILERS AFTER THE FIRST TWO PARAGRAPHS, FAM*

Rogue One is one of the least flawed Star Wars films and will probably ultimately be assessed as one of the best films set in the GFFA (Galaxy Far Far Away) thus far. It doesn’t overtake Empire or even Jedi or A New Hope for me but it was probably a little better than Force Awakens. Episode 8 can retroactively strengthen (or weaken) Episode 7 so it’s not even a fair comparison.

The soundtrack was a tasteful blend of Star Wars style new stuff and careful reprises of the original theme. My girlfriend said the beginning was less exciting without the conventional horn fanfare text scroll combo and I’m inclined to agree. I fully understand it’s not one of the “episodes” but I still think they should have worked a version in somehow.

Rogue One actually delivers on the edgy twist-on-the-familiar film Suicide Squad advertised itself to be. None of its core and new characters surviving, its story actually depicts a suicide mission- more akin to a war film than a comic book one, and that’s no shade. I’m more into comic books than war films but this was still a bold angle to follow through on. In recent weeks as Vulture and other entertainment journalism outlets reported on Tony Gilroy’s extensive rewrites and reshoots, I was getting to be certain Disney was ordering the edge be taken off the film but whatever compromise was hashed out the final product balanced being a fun Star Wars movie with being a war movie separate in ways from the core Episodic Star Wars series.

Tarkin’s return was weird but cool. Not sure why they didn’t do the same CGI resurrection with the actor who played Dodonna. Vader shouldn’t use puns but it was a consistent through-line with the corny humor we saw Anakin employ in the prequels. It was also awesome to see Vader’s castle on Mustafar though I wish the film would have just labeled it “Mustafar” the way it did literally every other planet depicted. Mendelsohn served just fine as an aspirational but still ultimately evil Imperial officer.

It seems like what got cut the most in reshoots was the “I, Rebel” stuff, Saw Gerrera, and Vader scenes. There’s just a lot more implied about them in the trailers than is delivered on to say nothing of the decade plus jump between Gerrera’s second appearance in the movie and Jyn’s adulthood. We may never see that stuff but I suspect we will.

What the new Star Wars films are doing with morality is incredible. The exploration of the Rebels' extremist factions as terrorists along with Phasma’s relative prominence in the First Order and the diversity of Imperial staff in this film, Disney is making the Empire less racist and the Rebels less blameless. The two new Disney Star Wars and the Rebels television show have been notably full of Force users that don’t necessarily identify as Jedi: Kylo Ren, Maz Kanata, Snoke, Ahsoka, even Rey and Luke, and now Chirrut. This can’t be a coincidence: Disney for some reason is interested in using Star Wars to explore religion and morality as spectrums and that idea is worth watching as a through line in their larger Star Wars Story.

The way the film leads right into Episode IV is irresistible so a day or two after seeing R1 I popped in A New Hope and it was very enjoyable to see the adventure continue relatively seamlessly. Vader’s costume details being perfect in Rogue One paid off even more so upon watching '77 SW. Watching it now reminds me of X-Men comics about the original 5 once you know Xavier has had other teams that died but as much of a downer as that sounds like, it enriches the heaviness of “war” in the films if that makes sense. You understand more than ever that for so many in the galaxy, these events are high-stakes.

The word is that Rogue One’s opening weekend sales are disappointing compared to Force Awakens. I hope the bean counters at Disney realize that Force Awakens had the benefit of being the first theatrical Star Wars release in 7 years, the first live action Star Wars release in a decade, and was full of established fan favorites whereas Rogue One was the second annual SW release and didn’t have Han and Chewie zipping around in the Falcon in it. Most of the upcoming “A Star Wars Story” films, movies not set as “episodes” in the “main” series, are starring favorites with Han Solo and Lando confirmed and rumors of Obi-Wan, Boba Fett, and Yoda movies. I think we’ll have to see how those films open before  declaring the non-episodic Wars films less worthy of Lucasfilm’s trademark extravagant budgets. Being honest, that’s all that’s at stake here- if Lucasfilm thinks the ‘ASWS’ series is less profitable, those projects will get less budget and maybe even ultimately discontinuation so they can still put out the Episodes every two years with more demand in the public for it.

Don’t let there even be a chance that Yoda movie doesn’t get the budget it needs, get your ass out there and see Rogue One! Kidding; honestly, if they continued the ASWS line but with smaller budgets thus leading to smaller more intimate character-based films that might not be the worst thing in the world.

Still, if you’re even a casual Star Wars fan, don’t sleep – Rogue One is super fun. That said, maybe leave the youngest of kids at home as there is even more death than usual in Star Wars films, the war aspects are a lot more explicit and the tone is often just darker than the “normal” SW films. Enjoy and May the Force etcetera! 

Tristan "Tanjint Wiggy" Acker is a staff writer for JooseBoxx, youth hip-hop writing instructor with CHORDS Enrichment Youth program (chordseyp.org) and member of the Inland Empire nerdcore hip-hop group the West Coast Avengers. Catch more of their work at westcoastavengers.com, follow Tristan on Twitter @Tanjint or e-mail him at tristanacker@gmail.com.