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

Thursday, July 2, 2009

New gig and welcome back.

M.O.M.M. is back in action.

I am happy to say I'm now spending part of my week here! Keep an eye on our site for great reviews, features and tips on indie artists of all genres.

(gratuitous half naked rocker shot)

Back to the music. Lately I've been listening to a lot of new stuff. Some examples include Abstract Rude, Mantis, Papercuts and MOA (at left)! I also recently found this link to the first Willy Mason EP which is awesome as usual. If you don't have his two full-length records please go out and check them out. Amazing folk music from a buddy of mine from back home.