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.
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.
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
hip-hop community will continue to cook up some gold both as individual artists
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 firstname.lastname@example.org