Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Souls Of Mischief are back doin' what they do best.

Here's my latest review for the IODA Marketing Blog on the new Souls of Mischief record Montezuma's Revenge:
By: Elijah Carroll
Souls Of Mischief
Title: Montezuma's Revenge
Label: Heiroglyphics Imperium
Genre: Hip-Hop : Rap
UPC: 822497103329
Territory: World
Release Date: 12.1.09

Bay Area hip hop legends and original Heiroglyphics members Souls Of Mischief are back in action with their first full-length album in over 9 years. With the full Souls line-up and production from the illustrious Prince Paul and even guest narration from Del Tha Funkee Homosapien Montezuma's Revenge is an instant Bay Area hip hop classic. To ensure the best possible results on their latest record the Souls took a slightly atypical approach to recording this new record.

“We rented a house near Point Reyes. We stayed in the house for at least a month,” explains Opio. “Prince Paul came out, we had no TVs or distractions, we just did music every day. It kind of seemed like he might be a slave driver, but it didn't come to that, he just let us do our thing. We knew he wanted a highly stylized album, so we just focused on the styles.” “It was cool, because Paul was making us do stuff over, and he really did help produce the record,” adds Tajai. “He had concepts, and its good to have an outside perspective - it was a great process.”

The process paid off as Montezuma's Revenge is on par with classics like the timeless '93 Til Infinity. Combining lyrical skill with humorous skits and hard hitting beats the Souls are at the top of their game. From the classic sound and smooth narrative of "Tour Stories" to the more hyphy and playful "Poets" the Souls clearly haven't lost a step since their early days. On "For Real Y'All" the Souls shine at what they do best. Seamlessly trading bars through the verses and weaving in the refrain the Souls put on a clinic in the lost art of true group rapping. The Souls even poke fun at themselves and their "old school " style on "Morgan Freeman," showing their awareness of their place in the hip hop game. From underground to mainstream, hyphy to backpack the hip hop community would do well to take a page from the Souls book.

Enjoy "Tour Stories" from the lead-up EP of the same name:
Tour StoriesSouls of Mischief
"Tour Stories" (mp3)
from "Tour Stories"
(Hieroglyphics Imperium)

More On This Album

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Roots of The Roots are Organix

Here's my latest review for the IODA Marketing Blog on The Roots 1st album Organix which was just released digitally for the 1st time ever!
The Roots
Title: Organix
Label: Groove Distribution
Genre: Rap : Hip-Hop
UPC: 899123000048
Territory: World
Release Date:10.06.09

With 10 albums in the books and the 11th set to release in a few weeks the godfathers of live hip hop's 1st album has finally been released digitally. 16 years after it's original release by Remedy Recordings, Groove Distribution is re-releasing this classic hip hop masterpiece. Full of the live flavor that has garnered millions of followers worldwide, Organix is still the freest and funkiest record The Roots have ever produced. Oozing with style and creative energy it's not hard to see why this album thrust The Roots into the spotlight.

"This album should be a part of any Roots fan's collection — not so much because it is an example of their artistry at its best, but because it allows you to see where they came from and how fruitful of a journey it's been." -Qa'id Jacobs, All Music.

Through the years The Roots line-up has shifted many times with only one thing constant: Black Thought on the mic and ?uestlove on drums. These two have propelled the group from their first record to where they are now. On Organix it is already apparent that these two are primed for greatness. While their style may not be fully formed, their talent and creative energy is abundant. There are definitely a number of stellar contributors on this record and the many to follow, but it is the two founders that have shaped and formed The Roots into the legends they are today.

From the beginning of "Pass The Popcorn" through the end of the amazingly long "The Session" The Roots take us on a playful journey into their live, jazz-influenced brand of hip hop. While many of these cuts are a bit rough around the edges, the groundwork for albums like Do You Want More and Things Fall Apart is already there. Unlike those and most of their other records Organix has a carefree spontaneity that is refreshing especially in today's pop landscape. The loose way in which this album was put together combined with the freedom from major label influence makes this record truly free and independent. As we wait in anticipation of their 11th album we get to savor the first one and remember how it all started for the godfathers of live hip hop.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

J. Tillman a man with a voice

Here's a new review for the IODA Marketing Blog on the new J. Tillman (Fleet Foxes) solo record:
By: Elijah Carroll

: J. Tillman
Title: Year in the Kingdom
Label: Western Vinyl
Genre: Indie : Psychedelic Folk
Release Date: 9/15/09
UPC: 656605460222
Territory: Americas, Africa

Year in the Kingdom is the 6th solo release for singer/songwriter J. Tillman. Today most people who are familiar with Tillman know him as the drummer for the acclaimed indie folk band Fleet Foxes. Tillman got his start playing drums for several indie rock bands including Saxon Shore during his college years in New York. On the side he wrote and recorded his own music inspired by folk icons such as Nick Drake and Pete Seeger. Tillman began selling and distributing CD-R demos while playing out and eventually one found it's way to Damien Jurado. After hearing Tillman's songs Jurado decided to bring him on tour as his drummer and occasional opening act. During the tour Tillman became close with Jurado's friend and band-mate Eric Fisher who would later produce Tillman's second effort Long May You Run. As Tillman became more and more involved in the Seattle indie folk scene he befriended several members of the rising band Fleet Foxes. At the end of April 2008 it was announced that J. Tillman was joining the Foxes as their new drummer.

With his latest release Tillman is clearly holding fast to what he does best - pure honest lyrics backed sparsely by an interesting blend of instruments. Hammer dulcimer, recorder, cymbals of varying size and wheezing air organs all help to create the unique backdrop for Tillman's vocals. In contrast to his previous album Vacilando Territory Blues Tillman's latest record does not feature any of the other Foxes or their signature vocal harmonies. Rather Year in the Kingdom is a stark folk record that places Tillman's unaffected voice at the forefront. This album is a true work of art and another glimpse into Tillman's very being. With the whole pop music world becoming increasingly digitized and auto-tuned, it is truly a gift that musicians like Tillman still give us truly honest music.

Though stark and at times almost somber Year in the Kingdom is a record of hope and for those who have followed his solo career clearly his most joyful work to date. The title track has a beautiful happiness to it that seems to convey Tillman's true feelings on life. The moving ballad Earthly Bodies is a celebration of this world we live in and the bodies that hold our spirits. Tillman has established himself as a real folk troubadour and this record clearly places him with the best of his generation. Year in the Kingdom embodies everything we want in a folk record: Honesty and truth with a beautiful stark accompaniment.

Here's a great track off Year in the Kingdom:

Year in the KingdomJ. Tillman
"Earthly Bodies" (mp3)
from "Year in the Kingdom"
(Western Vinyl)

More On This Album

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hip Hop and Soul were meant for each other

Here's my latest review for the IODA Marketing Blog on Crown City Rockers frontman Raashan Ahmad's new solo record:
By: Elijah Carroll

: Raashan Ahmad
Title: Soul Power
Label: B Sides
Genre: Hip-Hop : Soul
Release Date: 8/25/09
UPC: 844185072250
Territory: World

Since the late 1990's Raashan Ahmad has provided the smooth melodic lyrics for the Bay Area via Boston hip hop group Crown City Rockers. Originally formed in 1997 under the name Mission. Crown City have become a model for those who believe live instruments and hip hop can still be a successful combination. Over ten years later Raashan continues grace our ears with his seamless flows and musical stylings. Last year Raashan branched out with his first solo effort the critically acclaimed Push (Om Music). Now he's back with Soul Power a record that is sure to keep him at the top of the indie hip hop game. With guest appearances from Aceyalone, Ragen Fykes and Alex Newman from Giant Panda this album is a well crafted tour-de-force that allows the listener a chance to really feel Raashan's soul.

"Thirteen original songs mostly recorded in early 2009. After touring the United States to promote my first solo album THE PUSH, I discovered that I wanted to add more bangin’ songs to my live set as well as speak on some more topics that I have been dealing with.

SOUL POWER is the result. When I say “soul power,” I’m talking about about what gives my soul, my spirit power- which is music! This project was especially born out of all that I learned being on the road as well as teaming up with new friends I’ve met along the way which led to some dope collaborations!" -Raashan Ahmad

From the driving upbeat "Move (feat. Aceyalone)" to the layed back old school soul on "Soul Train (feat. Wafeek & Ragen Fykes)" Raashan takes us on a ride through his reality. Soul Power is a true album in this age of MP3's and one track downloads. The music combines old soul sounds with newer electronic production all deftly narrated by Ahmad. His honesty and self awareness make him easily relateable while his smooth intelligent style soothes the ears. Despite having multiple beat makers for the record the tracks flow together beautifully while Raashan takes the listener on a soulful ride you won't want to miss. With his second solo record in as many years and a Crown City album due out this fall Raashan has clearly hit his stride.

Check out this video for the lead track "Mobstar Life":

And here's a track off Crown City's Earthtones:
Another Day (Rhyme Writing)Crown City Rockers
"Another Day Rhyme Writing" (mp3)
from "Another Day (Rhyme Writing)"
(Insiduous Urban Records, Inc.)

More On This Album

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cultivating Your New Experience

Here's a little review piece I wrote for the IODA Marketing Blog on CYNE's new album Water For Mars. It's real underground hip hop at it's finest.

By: Elijah Carroll
Title: Water For Mars
Label: Hometapes
Genre: Hip-Hop : Indie
Release Date: 8/11/09
UPC: 718122112821
Territory: Americas, Europe, Australia, Africa

CYNE (pronounced "sign") is a Hip Hop quartet out of Gainsville, FL and stands for Cultivating Your New Experience. Comprised of emcees Akin (Akin Yai) and Cise Star (Clyde Graham) and backed by producers Speck (Michael Gersten) and Enoch (David Newell) CYNE is a four man indie hip hop powerhouse. Formed in 2001 in the swamps of Gainsville, CYNE put out a number of releases on various smaller labels until landing on Hometapes for last year's release of their critically acclaimed LP Pretty Dark Things. Now with their second release on Hometapes in as many years CYNE is here to stay. With an initial release in Japan back on May 2nd (P-Vine Records) Water For Mars has already been receiving rave reviews from the blogosphere and is on many indie hip hop best of 2009 lists.

Seven years after their formation CYNE has honed their collective talents and is clearly at the top of their game. The delicate balance between accessible and too mainstream is something many indie hip hop groups struggle with. On Water For Mars it's clear CYNE has mastered that balance while remaining true to themselves and most importantly their music. Speck and Enoch's beats bump with classic samples, thick synths and deep drum sounds. Akin and Cise Star's lyrics are poignant and gritty, rooted firmly in the present with a old school hip hop aesthetic.

At 21 tracks including a revisiting of "Elephant Rome" feat. Daedalus (originally released on Pretty Dark Things) and a remix of "Sleep" by Mexicans With Guns, Water For Mars is a true hip hop journey. In many ways CYNE is following in the footsteps of their most influential predecessors. Perfecting hip hop's ability to tackle racial and political issues while remaining true to the music that started at street parties in Harlem. As their Hometapes page points out:

“Their often politically-charged, culturally-introspective, and motivational lyrics find influence rooted in the early works of Nas, Public Enemy, Outkast and Common Sense. The production could be described as warm, soulful and organic -- born out of the school of producers that cite the likes of RZA, Pete Rock, Jay Dee, and DJ Premier. CYNE's 'sound' is impacted by everything from Bad Brains to Krautrock, from Camp Lo to Kate Bush, from Venezuelan Gaita to West African Highlife -- it's a hybrid of emotional, historical, and challenging influences.”

Here's a track off of Water For Mars:

Water For MarsCYNE
"Pretty Apollo" (mp3)
from "Water For Mars"

Buy at iTunes Music Store
More On This Album

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Nothing is funnier than indie rap beef

Seriously now. What could be funnier than white indie rappers beefing? I like this video the best so far especially because EL-P is the pretty much the current Don of east coast underground and Esoteric is, well... not good or interesting anymore.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Canada can Hip Hop!

Here's a review I wrote for the IODA Marketing Blog of Canadian producer/rapper Mantis' debut album titled "Still Life."

By: Elijah Carroll

Still LifeMantis
"You Don't Know" (mp3)
Album: Still Life
(Brick Records)
More On This Album
Genre: Hip-Hop : Rap
Release Date: 7/21/09
UPC: 765481500233
Territory: World

"Possibly one of Canada's freshest offspring of the love triangle between funk, soul, and hiphop, rapper/producer Mantis is the essence of urban music personified." -from Mantis' Myspace

Highly melodic beats bump as Mantis deftly spits his intelligent yet accessible lyrics with the skill of a seasoned veteran. From the opening bars of Still Life it's clear there's a new force in Hip Hop coming to us from north of the border.

"Born on the 16th of September 1984, Mantis embodies the love of music passed down to him from his father, a guitarist in a local blues outfit and organizer of many celebrated jazz, blues, and funk festivals in the Southern-Ontario city of Kitchener/Waterloo. First picking up the drumsticks, then the microphone, then finally mastering the art of music production at the Trebas Institute in Toronto, Mantis represents the finest in hiphop culture in all that he creates." -from Mantis' Myspace

Having already produced tracks for the likes of JD Era, Shad K and Point Blank, Mantis is no newcomer to the up and coming Canadian hip hop scene. His track "I Don't Like To" was the lead single to Shad K's 2008 Juno Award nominated album - The Old Prince. With guest appearances on Still Life supplied by Rufus John, Justis, Hajah Bug and others there's no doubt that Mantis in the middle of the freshest hip hop coming out of Canada today. Unfortunately for Mantis and his collaborators, Canadian hip hop still faces a huge challenge when breaking into the American market. Only a few Canadian hip hop artists such as Kardinal Offishaal have achieved any success in America.

Though firmly rooted in the present Mantis' sound is more mid-90's new school than current day. His combination of live instrumentation, soulful samples and melodic flow fit more closely with The Roots than Lil' Wayne. His Lyrics are thoughtful and well crafted without becoming overly wordy. Mantis is clearly steeped in hip hop history and has an amazing sense for blending the past and present. Likewise he carefully toes the line between indie and mainstream referencing and even partially quoting Jay-Z while also sampling Common. From the classic soul samples of "You Don't Know" to the musical layering on "Bounce Back" Mantis displays production talent to match the best in the industry. Combine this with his cool melodic flow and you have the best up and coming rapper/producer since Kanye West.

Mantis has already opened up for Canadian hip hop's biggest star Kardinal Offishaal as well as the K-Os, Jeru the Damaja, and CL Smooth. His talent is undeniable and his craft is clearly honed and ready. The question is whether or not the hip hop world is ready for Mantis. The answer is yet to be determined, but one thing is clear: It is time for American hip hop fans to look to the north and embrace our Canadian neighbors.

Here's one more track for the road:

Still LifeMantis
"What? (feat. Justis)" (mp3)
from "Still Life"
(Brick Records)

More On This Album

Monday, July 6, 2009

My buddy Sean Han's Band Blip Blip Bleep Rules!

Coming off the high of their biggest gig to date (Bowery Ballroom 6/5/09) NYC's Electro rockers Blip Blip Bleep take a little time to breathe and ready themselves for the next project. BBB's members Sean Han, Brett Thompson and Alexa Danner epitomize the struggle of today's indie musician grinding away to make a living in this digital world. Their sophmore EP Alarm Clock, Snooze Bar, Get Up (April 2008, Undercover Culture Music) puts that daily grind into a 6 song journey that all can relate to.

"This is a concept EP that follows the day in the life of a working 20something in New York City. And it’s really, really good. The songs are catchy, particularly the laid-back “Street Lights” and the sing-along bounce of “Okay Lover.” -- Pop Matters, on Alarm Clock, Snooze Bar, Get Up EP

Receiving rave reviews from various indie blogs like Angry Asian Man, The Deli NYC and even NME.com's video blog this mini concept album established BBB as a force in NYC's Electro-Pop scene. After rumors of a full-length album in 2009 BBB has decided to follow up Alarm Clock, Snooze Bar, Get Up with another EP.

"I'm thinking that it will also be a mini concept album... only instead of a day in the life, it will have songs written at different phases in a relationship... kinda starting with a one night stand, developing into a full relationship, then ending, moving on, etc. nothing groundbreaking in terms of a concept, but I think it will make the thing cohesive and will address topics that people (hopefully) can relate to." - BBB frontman Sean Han

A brief history on the Band From BBB.com:

"The project began in December 2006 with the release of the first BBB EP called Wireless. In 2007, Wireless earned BBB a feature on Billboard's Underground series, a #2 spot in Sprint's Buzzband Challenge, and rave reviews from several indie publications and college newspapers.

Meanwhile, Sean (vocals/guitars/keyboard/laptop) and Brett (drums) brought the act onto the NYC rock-scene, with Sarah Lee (keyboards/vocals) joining the project in mid-2007. The trio's dynamic stage presence quickly attracted a loyal fanbase who followed them to top NYC venues including Mercury Lounge, The Annex, Crash Mansion and Luna Lounge.

After a few-month hiatus, the second BBB EP - Alarm Clock, Snooze Bar, Get Up, was released in April of 2008, accompanied by a short college tour and a CD release party at Mercury Lounge. Strong reviews on the mini-concept album from Pop Matters, The Deli Mag and other parts of the blog-o-sphere helped BBB earn a Saturday night co-headlining spot at Merc, alongside Brassland's Baby Dayliner. Mixed by Nic Hard (The Bravery, Aberdeen City) and mastered by Nathan James (Blondie, Staind), the EP tells a day in the life story of an urban 20-something coming of age and struggling with work, love, and loneliness."

As we patiently wait for their third EP BBB has given us a little something to tide us over: A cover of the 80's classic, "Send Me An Angel" by Real Life. Give it a listen here.

You can also see this post over at the awesome IODA Marketing blog here!

WirelessBlip Blip Bleep
"Anime Eyes" (mp3)
from "Wireless"
(Undercover Culture Music)

Buy at iTunes Music Store
Buy at eMusic
Stream from Rhapsody
More On This Album

Alarm Clock, Snooze Bar, Get Up - EPBlip Blip Bleep
"Okay Lover" (mp3)
from "Alarm Clock, Snooze Bar, Get Up - EP"
(Undercover Culture Music)

Buy at iTunes Music Store
Buy at Rhapsody
Stream from Rhapsody
More On This Album

Alarm Clock, Snooze Bar, Get Up - EPBlip Blip Bleep
"Da Me Cinco" (mp3)
from "Alarm Clock, Snooze Bar, Get Up - EP"
(Undercover Culture Music)

Buy at iTunes Music Store
Buy at Rhapsody
Buy at Napster
More On This Album