June 20, 2018

My Gut Reaction: Nas - Nasir (June 15, 2018)

Six years ago, Nasir Jones released his eleventh album, Life Is Good. Critics viewed it as a return to form of sorts: he wrote the songs featured within after his divorce from singer Kelis was finalized, and as such, a lot of the project hinges on feelings of nostalgia. Musically, it’s Nas’ finest album in fucking years, as it seemed that he finally found collaborators that understood what he was aiming for: No I.D., Salaam Remi, and the late Heavy D., among others, brought with them the ghosts of hip hop’s past, evoking eras that either ended long ago or possibly never existed in the first place in order for Nasir to effectively wax eloquently. It worked, is what I’m saying.

June 15, 2018

My Gut Reaction: DJ Muggs & Meyhem Lauren - Frozen Angels (June 8, 2018)

Last fall, DJ Muggs, a producer who most hip hop heads still associate with his former (and now current again, I think: it’s hard to keep track) group Cypress Hill, made a surprising and triumphant return to his Soul Assassins roots, getting back to the gritty, blunted hip hop he made his name with after an interlude spent producing for South African rap art project Die Antwoord. Teaming up with Meyhem Lauren, a Queens-based rapper best known for both his street smarts and his higher-profile friends (primarily Action Bronson), Muggerud unleashed the newest entry in his DJ Muggs vs. series of album-length collaborations, Gems From The Equinox, which was well-received by most critics (even me! I know, right?) and sufficiently whetted appetites for whatever Muggs had coming up next, while constructing a higher profile for Lauren to loom over his peers with.

June 8, 2018

For Promotional Use Only; The Alchemist - No Days Off (September 26, 2006)

Daniel Alan Maman, known as The Alchemist by his accountant and two of his five bounce house suppliers, has been producing mostly hip hop records for seemingly eight hundred and ninety-three years now. There’s certainly never been a day this very blog has been alive where The Alchemist wasn’t already heavily involved in our chosen genre, and he doesn’t seem to show any sign of stopping anytime soon, even though he’s certainly spent a lot more time on Twitter lately. The West Coast-based producer-slash-occasional rapper who embedded himself with both the Soul Assassins collective and Mobb Deep has worked his ass off to provide his employers the grimy, authentic street shit he’s best known for, and even though I tend to find him falling on the “fine, just... fine” side of things more often than not, his work ethic cannot be denied, and when everything clicks, he’s easily one of the best beatmakers hip hop has ever gifted us.

June 2, 2018

Two Gut Reactions (Including My Own): Kanye West - Ye (June 1, 2018)

I don’t follow rap artists for their personal or political views: if I did, I would be a horrible fucking person. I mean, have you heard about how some of these guys feel about women? But Kanye West is a special snowflake, in that he’s incredibly outspoken about what he feels are unique views but are really shared talking points conceived by the alt-right, white supremacists, and other supporters of the fat couch in the White House that will still likely kill us all just to make a few more bucks, and yet, he's a fucking moron who admits to not studying history and doesn't read books. His stance on slavery, especially, had lost him a significant number of fans and inspired thinkpieces from many journalists and music critics who proclaimed him “cancelled” and told anyone who would listen that they would never listen to any of Kanye’s music ever again.

Until West debuted his eighth solo “album”, the seven-track, twenty-three minute, self-produced (with a bunch of collaborators, as is his way) ye, at an exclusive listening party in Wyoming, where he’s been holed up in a studio prepping his label, G.O.O.D. Music, for their summer 2018 lineup. ye is merely the second of five projects allegedly coming our way (following last week’s Daytona from Pusha T, which made a lot of waves, almost all of which stem from a single track and not from that album as a whole), but it’s the one everyone was most curious about, so those same fans, journalists, and music critics excitedly boarded flights to Wyoming and have praised Kanye as a genius, dancing along to soul samples and surprise celebrity sightings at the party, exposing themselves as the starfuckers they truly are. It apparently never occurred to any of these folks that Kanye West was merely using them to promote his product and further his own agenda, as everything the man does stirs up the media machine, so they fell right into his trap.

May 28, 2018

Cypress Hill - Stoned Raiders (December 4, 2001)

The fall of 2001 was a strange time. Post-9/11, the United States was on heightened alert for possible terrorist attacks, and nobody was really sure how they were supposed to proceed with their everyday lives. We were told to continue shopping, to continue traveling, lest “the terrorists win”, as though being frightened into never leaving your home was their primary goal in attacking U.S. soil (instead of destroying the fabric of American life). The entertainment business was also affected by the events of that fateful day, but in different ways: many actors, comedians, musicians, and artists began to question whether the timing was appropriate for them to do their jobs. Some took the initiative to make careful edits to their product to remove scenes or background elements that some may have found offensive or triggering. Others chose to address the conflict head-on, with varying degrees of aggression. (Remember when Ghostface Killah claimed that he would take on Osama Bin Laden himself on the Wu-Tang Clan’s Iron Flag, released in December of 2001?) And still other groups of people made their best efforts at business as usual, pretending that nothing had happened as a way to help audiences cope with the horrific details that were still being delivered by the media at the time, and also possibly to help themselves process everything.

Cypress Hill, obviously, falls into that final category, because I wouldn’t have even brought it up otherwise.

May 25, 2018

My Gut Reaction: Pusha T - Daytona (May 25, 2018)

Ever since he released his first full-length solo album in 2013, Terrence “Pusha T” Thornton has been promising a project entitled King Push. It’s a title he’s so enamored with that he’s already used it twice: once for the opening song on said debut, My Name Is My Name (a track which, bizarrely, we all briefly believed to have been produced by actor Joaquin Phoenix because of members of the press who couldn’t be bothered to fact-check), and again on his sophomore effort, King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude, which was originally supposed to be a teaser for the actual project, but ended up being its own beast due to the passage of time. He held onto this King Push dream for five fucking years, even releasing three alleged singles from the project to test the waters (including the Jay-Z collaboration “Drug Dealers Anonymous”), but, at the insistence his boss at G.O.O.D. Music, Kanye West (a label which is itself a bit confusing, since Push is the president of that label, so theoretically he should be calling a lot of the shots), he scrapped multiple completed versions of what was supposed to be his third full-length in a quest for perfection.

Which leads us to the roughly twenty minutes of music Pusha T has called an “album”, Daytona. Terrence claims the title was changed because of his mindstate at the time of recording this project in Wyoming alongside Kanye Alt-West, somehow equating the name Daytona with having the luxury of time, in that it took him five fucking years to deliver us twenty minutes of music. I still believe it’s so he can still promise his fans an album called King Push at a later date.

May 22, 2018

My Gut Reaction: Big Boi - Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors (December 11, 2012)

Today’s Gut Reaction isn’t one from my unpublished archives (read: the scribble I found in a notebook on my desk that was buried underneath a pile of other shit), but it is an album which I have apparently avoided writing about for a reason I felt was valid back in the day, pre-hiatus. So let’s see where this one goes, okay?