Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Reason That The Party On Smash: Review of The Combine

    2 years ago I couldn’t have told you an I.E hip-hop record like The Combine existed. Unapologetically modern but also relentlessly smart and positive, the album plays like the coolest Inland Empire pep rally Hollywood could create. Triune delivers baritone bars and E.Q sings tronical fried R&B smoothness on their crisply produced collection of sports-themed anthems, seemingly custom-designed for Friday night PS4 sessions and ESPN.

The wholesomeness and conventionality of the value system at work here is a different experience for me. Triune’s high school (and mine!) scores a dedication on “Alma Mater”- E.Q’s endless high school references “asking for hall passes”, “salutatorian” etc. keep the song light on its feet, more concerned with humor and cleverness than putting people down like a lot of other baller-boss hip-hop does. Triune spits poems about real grown-person love that are both beautiful in their painting but honest in their portrayal of a man.

“Draft Day” is a great role-playing exercise and metaphor for the day young athletes learn they’ve been selected in the draft as well as one of the album’s catchiest tracks. Both E.Q and Triune start simply and build up to ridiculous styles by the end of the piece.
“Pretty Thangz” cleverly uses basketball lingo to describe a stable of lovers competing for elevated status, “she tryna win a ring…”

"Going Going Gone" is the group's baseball anthem with one of the album's catchiest choruses and a beat that won't quit, creating a catchy middle ground between a hip-hop banger and a stadium organ anthem. "Game Winner" is another highlight, reaching a remarkable emotional height at the end while the chorus crescendos over some of E.Q's strongest foundation harmony vocals. "Vacation" and "Like a Winner" are chill sexy odes to relaxing with a lover in which both vocalists, particularly Triune, describe tropical and luxurious escape scenes vividly. On "Carpe Diem" a track whose unqiue and epic beat I love more every time I bump it, both of the album's stars make clear they haven't forgotten where they came from as they discuss the challenges of growing up for themselves and the future generation.

E.Q. weaves between hip-hop and R&B seamlessly, his facility with lingo and MC braggadocio while structuring songs recalls Nate Dogg while at the same time sounding totally modern and of his era. Triune is an unpredictable and versatile MC who, to use the album’s milieu, knows how to play on a team but also how to score points solo. Sometimes he's very direct and sometimes he's one of those Godfather rappers with whom the more he says the less you’re sure of what he’s really thinking. Together, The Combine make collaboration sound easy. From what I hear, they’ll be doing this forever. 

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

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Recent Video Round Up with Viva Mescal, Skinny Trillions, Hvlloween, Muds One, 18Scales, Cam Archer

Gonna try to do a monthly round-up of videos from the past year and more recently that I got a chance to catch and want to share.

Viva Mescal - Cherry Of My Blunt
Muds One does immense justice to one of my favorite Mescal songs here. Stay peeping content by Soul Providers and East of the River crews. This is a really biased thing to say but I feel like EOTR is one of the only crews besides mine that really goes out of its way to credit beatmakers. Mescal’s latest project here 

Skinny Trillions – go to sleep foo
Who couldn’t help but be inexorably drawn to the stubborn and almost inscrutable weirdness of Skinny Trillions’ new video series?

More Trilly here 

Hvlloween - Dopest in the I.E.

I can't lie about how often I find myself shocked by the gutter-ass shit the founder of Grey Entertainment has to say but I find his work hard, dark, unique and ever defter in it execution. I like his consistency and that he reps the I.E. to the teeth. His latest project linked here

18SCALES – No Potassium
More from Muds One, had to get a repost of a piece of one of the latest projects from the superdope superduo 18 Scales in…

Cam Archer - On The Way
The first video from Cam Archer's upcoming Spirit Gunner LP shows that dude can sing choruses and boom-bap with the best of 'em. Filmed in New York City, Coca crisply rides a chill and bassy Nabeyin production. Detailed write-up and links to Cam's last project here

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

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

REVIEW: How Revenge Tastes by DevilGod

DevilGod, the waifish demon LA transplant from the I.E., is a modern stark lo-fi hip-hop Bowie or  Marilyn Manson or both- a mad diva crossed with a deranged child constantly learning there’s nothing really stopping him from pushing boundaries of sexuality and progressive grimy gross-out rap further and further which each project he drops. As he shapes his worlds his stark honesty reflects the world around us and his latest project How Revenge Tastes is like a cultural hodgpe-podge of influences, peripheral and direct, that feels modern, natural all while being less apologetic than ever for his misanthropy and nihilism. 

The opener to the newest DevilGod EP reminds me of Tool and Chico-based rapper Nsmokiee in its rasp and dark jamminess.

The second track, “Lord of the Flies”, reminds me of Beastie Boys’ Ad-Rock and the short song interludes on Beastie albums like Paul’s Boutique but with an even harder edge and darker. He’s investing more in production and tracks like “Pervert” benefit from it- it’s lo-fi boom-bap but it’s also rock and horrorcore and new.  The scarier he gets the more comfortable he seems. Visually and on an auditory level this EP also reminds me of ICP in its constant reaching for the intense, the visceral, and the gag reflex. Though I’ve come to expect weirdness from his work, I can always appreciate his pushing himself to farther out reaches. That said, it doesn’t feel contrived- it just feels like he’s still looking for himself. What a treat for listeners of today, that someone’s personal journey can be such a gothic archaeological dig.

“Extra Credit for a Failure” reminds me of his older work in its successful attempt to be millennial anxiety manifested. On it, he takes a chance and gets candid about how he feels about existence generally, taking off the Joker mask if for just a second. 

“Paranoia” reminds me of electronic dance mixes and Oingo Boingo with its jittery insect rhythms and a not unwelcome taste for the gross parts of life we usually sweep under the rug so to speak.
I’d be lying if I said I thought DevilGod is where he is going but his journey is hella interesting- to me there’s no doubt that he has journeying yet to do and beasts yet to slay.

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

Monday, June 26, 2017






video shot by: JEREMY AMBERSON edited by @kinghavok

Thursday, June 22, 2017

New video "Look Out!" from RasJosh Beats & Tanjint Wiggy from the West Coast Avengers crew featuring Joaquin Daniels

RasJosh Beats and Tanjint of the West Coast Avengers Crew have linked up with Joaquin Daniels for a new nerded out video!

Shot and edited by Ryan Haynes at the WyrdCon Long Beach Comic Con Afterparty and Big Rob’s Showcase626, it brings to life the boom-bappy single from late last year! 

Shout out to NewCulture Media Group who mixed the song, Dean Baker for all his production work, and WCA’s Mr.Sham for appearing in the video as Shampool! More WCA at!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

LIVE FAST: Review of King Dice's Shalu Avenue

“Live Fast. Die Young. That’s the song that the choir sung.”

It’s been a couple years since King Dice dropped a full length LP so I had to take my time digesting when he dropped the sequel to Red Mahogany Drive- “Shalu Avenue”. Many of us have brushed with the harsher realities of Inland Empire life, myself included but cats like King Dice have lived it. All his work speaks with the voice of someone who has been there. This experience leads him to warn other youth about the path they choose and to instruct kids in music when he’s not working on his own. Dante’s Theme finds Dice talking about how real death is in Moreno Valley over a sampling of the melodies from “Gangsta’s Paradise”.

“Reminisce. Feelin’ tipsy. Doin’ 90 on the sick-sick-sixty. Highway to Hell. “

Moments like the above lyric from the same song make this the most novel-like Dice album I’ve yet to hear- he’s not just going to give you surface level narrative, he’s trying to share his feelings and inner life in these works too.

Like Red Mahogany, there are many songs which are like sequel update cover homages to older songs: "Dante’s Theme" for "Gangsta’s Paradise", "Top Dawg" for "Who Am I?", "Heavy Crown" for "What’s So Different?"
On Red Mahogany, “What’s Going On?” was an homage-update of the Fugees “Fugee-La” and Dice continues this practice to an even higher degree on Shalu Avenue. I realized recently that part of what is appealing, deep and timeless about his interpolations is that it is like the jazz tradition- to attempt to master the classics and show your audience your familiarity with them that they may follow you into your original ventures. Dice almost always distills what was musically appealing about the original, modernizes it and then makes it his own.

“Oroku Saki” and “Kaiju” are this album’s superb contributions to the canon of nerdcore hip-hop, one from the point of view of Shredder from Ninja Turtles and the other a reference to the monsters of Godzilla and Pacific Rim. "Oroku Saki" and "Heavy Crown" have been the ones I’ve seen Dice perform in the lead up to the album’s release and the time since and they both are great encapsulations of the album’s spare, precise, addictively melodic and deceptively chill vibes. These two songs, along with Top Dogg all sample songs from the 90’s and to me this is an extension of the nerdcore aspect of his work: we reflect what we studied as we grew into our own. For many of us in the I.E. that was just as much 90’s hip-hop as X-Men and Ninja Turtles and other nerd media.  In his master-crafting of love letters to the eras that shaped so many of us, Dice claims the mantle and promises to rock.

"Oroku Saki" is also a great example of Dice's mastery of limerick and evolving style as a poet and MC. He could easily be a 4/4 killer like a lot of cats out there. Instead he experiments with stop and go double time for much of the album, putting pregnant crime-boss pauses between his statements, adding ominous emphasis. On "Oroku Saki" he plays with this swing of triplets that is distinctive and deft. His aphorisms on "Dante's Theme" are haunting and timeless. His growth as a writer is to the extent where his songs say more while having seemingly less words than before.

Dice's tight production and the crisp sound to this record highlight the balance Dice has found. “She’s Wavy” is an erotic exploration of a lover like an ocean, “Rain” is a gorgeous R&B 90’s throwback. He brings this plus his warnings to the youth, his homage to 90’s nerd culture and his benevolent reign in the Inland Empire. The record has lots of replay value, I've been addicted to it lately. Dice's lyrics are deep but unpretentious, revealing their layered meanings with each listen. All this and the record bangs, addictively, smartly and musically. To invert a phrase, when the King comes at you, ya best not miss.

My previous thought on King Dice’s nerdcore style here.

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

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Feast of Friends: review of Noa James’ Peace of Cake EP

As critical fans of popular music, we get annoyed when artists who’ve covered a lot of ground don’t find new ground to cover. Noa James does not disappoint with his latest project, the Peace of Cake EP. His embrace of his own weirdness is as charming as it’s ever been as the Orca’s evolution continues to unfold before our very eyes. With each album, Noa sheds a bit of the growl that marks his earlier works. It’s a bold move, one that comes from love and confidence growing.

This and Mescal’s new Weird Turn Pro are the most atmospherically consistent albums I’ve heard this year, both albums emanating a chill knowing from song to song. I admire that Noa James goes out on a limb with his own brand of posi-waves, influenced by but on different wavelength than fellow I.E. contemporary Cam Gnarly.

Each song is a recipe for a different kind of cake with ingredients like self-love, confidence, and other positive abstract concepts. It doesn’t sound like any other album I’ve ever heard, the closest cousin to such a concept in music that I’m familiar with would be found in rock albums by bands like The Fiery Furnaces and Tool. The Cam Gnarly song on the record has a different slower almost darker feel and shows growth and diversity from each of them. The Faimkills collab “Better than hate cake” might be my favorite Faimie song, undulating between experiment and familiar modern hip-hop song. The last song on the album, “Cake Buffet” is the barsiest I.E.-est song I’ve heard from James or anyone in a while and again- feels boom-bappy but new and experimental at the same time.

Producers like Ca$h Only of New Culture Media Group, Aye Brook and more contributed to this album’s trippy banquet of bangers. Kudos to a successful artist not just sticking to their comfort zone, to pushing their own envelope and backing up their ideals with their music. I say this because in person for the last couple years Noa James has often talked about the ideas he is putting to work here in the Peace of Cake EP and the follow-through is refreshing. The ideals give him a message of love worth sharing and the chill production and sense of music make it all work. The artistic pay-off and uniqueness of this project has me quite curious as to what he’ll be talking about on later projects and what stage of butterfly metamorphosis we’ll find the Young Orca in next.

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