Posts Tagged ‘Hip-Hop’

39. Down – Ghosts Along The Mississippi

Phil Anselmo’s a beast. The uncrowned prince of southern-tinged thrash metal and whatnot. Along with his merry band of traveling badasses (Pepper Keenan, Jimmy Bower and Rex Brown), he belts out one of the best metal ballads I’ve heard since forever. Yes it’s a ballad. Just that Anselmo’s narrative skills are really really scary. Just so you know, Down’s Bustle In Your Hedgegrow is a keeper.

38. Pharoahe Monch, Common & Talib Kweli – The Truth

Some folks sleep better at night, knowing that Hip Hop is only about silly braggadocio and profane limericks. Yeah sure, man. Metal’s all about “Fred Durst and his nookie”, Blues is nothing but an erstwhile John Mayer solo stuck in transit and hey, what is Jazz but a fleeting moment encapsulated inside those reverb-laden Buddha’s Bar albums, right? Wankers. Rappers Pharoahe Monch, Talib Kweli and Common turn their spittle into laidback conscious rhymes as ethereal strings dive bomb all around them.

37. Weezer – Brain Stew (Live at AOL Sessions)

The anthemic pop punk explosion of Green Day’s original is given a shock treatment by the underrated LA hipsters Weezer. They sedate the track into sounding like therapeutic murmurs that burst into full-blow argument in favour of insanity, thanks to a fantastic piano breakdown. Fun fact: Rivers Cuomo eats cookie-cutter punks like Billie Joe for breakfast.

36. Corrosion Of Conformity – Rise River Rise

I bet James Hetfield secretly wishes that Metallica had made America’s Volume Dealer instead of Corrosion Of Conformity. Soul-stirring, bone-crunching and flat-out amazing. Senor badass Pepper J. Keenan on vocal duties and rhythm guitar plays us like a fiddle, especially on this track.  Fun fact: Pepper Keenan burps out hags like Hetfield after a diet coke.

35. Mark Lanegan – Bombed

Mark Lanegan’s sandpaper-grated, whiskey-soaked vocals surface above the sparse acoustic strumming, along with PJ Harvey’s velveteen whispering, to create the sort of experience that a measly minute truly doesn’t deserve. Like QOTSA’s Lullaby but a million times better.

34. Jon Brion – Theme from ESOTSM

Jon Brion just happens to be one of the most talented multi-instrumentalists out there. His compositions for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind work wonders with Charlie Kaufman’s fantastic dialogues. Existentialism has never sounded lovelier.

33. Crowbar – To Touch the Hand of God / Odd Fellows Rest

I have wussied out and chosen Louisiana’s sludge kings Crowbar’s tamest and most palpable tracsk. Matter of fact, these could be the most fragile ballads to have ever emerged from the NOLA metal scene (along with COC’s Shelter). Not many completely fathom the unbridled intensity of their slow-paced, downtuned brooding, but it would take nothing short of busted eardrums to circumvent the breathtaking artistry of these two.

32. Aceyalone and Goapele – Moonlit Skies

As a founding member of the Freestyle Fellowship, LA rapper Aceyalone was one of the forerunners of jazz rap. Goapele is one of those neo soul musicians who playfully messes around with downtempo and trip hop. Together they…yes, I do believe the word I’m looking for is magic.

31. The Eels – Hospital Food

In case you’re new around here, Mark Oliver Everett has my vote for any King of Pop list. I don’t know any other singer-songwriter since Lennon and probably Elliot Smith to a lesser extent who has been this consistently good. The 1998 album Electro Shock Blues has some of the most gloriously twisted pop music there ever was, with this track’s erstwhile saxophone meltdown providing its most cathartic moment. “He’s always got a problem, he’s a very bitter dude, and now he’s complaining ’bout his hospital food”.

30. Portishead – Only You (Live In Roseland)

Let it be known that Portishead’s Live In Roseland, NYC, is one of the best live albums of the Nineties. With the New York Philharmonic Orchestra backing her up, singer Beth Gibbons lovingly embraces her smoky bar-room mystique and launches into a bone-chilling version of this track.

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For the past six months, I had given up on music that involved guitars. After surviving a brief affair with Indie rock and pop sometime last summer, I got heavy into hip-hop and neo soul, and since then my ears have been stuck to the turntable with my head nodding along to pre-programmed beats and urban poetry. Thankfully, force of habit has kicked right in. At least once in a year, my mp3 player re-digests its contents fully and spits out the remains. Like the energizer bunny drunk on caffeine, it devours a shitload of new sounds.

monster magnet 2This time around, rock and roll has caught on (I still despise thee, heavy metal). The sweet virus has spread like wildfire over the last three days. It all began with curious glimpse of a Monster Magnet song on Youtube that I had never heard before. Negasonic Teenage Warhead.

After a couple of listens, it came to me like a sugar rush…the whimsical silliness of rock and roll. The loud telling of tales of maniacal fun and timid emotional disasters. The sound of rhythm sections gnashing against solo passages like mad beavers fondling cleavers with nasty intentions. The complete obliteration of the double-bass pedal for the sake of music.

Monster MagnetTake Negasonic Teenage Warhead, for instance. I mean, what the fuck is Negasonic Teenage Warnhead? (my inner child says that it actually is a Marvel Comics’ mutant character with telepathic powers) And 12 seconds into the song when the almighty Dave Wyndorf whispers, “Saw your face last night on the tube, strong fine snake in a sucker’s vacuum”, you actually end up knowing less about the song. The thing is 10 seconds later when Ed Mundell guitar tears through the oblivion and gets into a locomotive groove, you only care about the blistering noise it makes. In fact when Wyndorf screams, “Like a subatomic genius who just invented pain, I will deny you, I WILL DENY YOU”, you feel like beating yourself up for giving a shit about what Negasonic Teenage Warhead actually meant.

That’s rock and roll, I guess. Pure, unadulterated escapism. I guess that’s why many opine that it works so wonderfully with alcohol and drugs. That’s like eating a chocolate pastry and washing it down with maple syrup when the heart aches for a bit of candy. What a rush, indeed.

Cat RocksI delved further and revisited a couple of old favourites. I have since gone mad. Wishbone Ash, Kyuss, The Cult, Henry Rollins, Nebula, The Stooges, Black Crowes, Yardbirds, and a few tremendous others. It’s all been rather overwhelming.

Yes yes…this is one of those “there is so much beauty in the world” moments. My only fear is that six months may come and go too soon. At least for now, I rest easy knowing that Jefferson Airplane’s Rock Me Baby is next on the playlist. Anyone has the Devil’s number? I need to re-sell my soul on the altar of rock and roll.


Monster Magnet – Negasonic Teenage Warhead

Monster Magnet – 19 Witches

James Gang – The Bomber

Buy a CD or two

Here, here and definitely here

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The golden era of hip-hop officially began during the late Eighties with artists such as KRS-One, Rakim, Mos Def, Gangstarr and A Tribe Called Quest discussing afrocentrism and contemplating the need for anti-Aryan militant warfare; all the while, being backed by pounding bass beats and eclectic turntablism. Its tenure was short-lived as rappers from Death Row Records laid to waste the golden age with their “guns ganja and gangsta” blueprint. Even as aging MCs continued releasing albums and mixtapes, it was evident that as far as the mainstream was concerned, if Dre or Puffy didn’t produce it, well…it wasn’t shit.

During the late-Nineties even as gangster rap was losing creative momentum and gaining notoriety, people were still reluctant to fully accept the golden age. Cue for bands like Outkast and Black-Eyed Peas and of course, the incorrigible Akon family, to grab the microphone and take it straight to the dance floor, and in the minds of hip hop purists, to hell. I am certainly no purist, after all Vanilla Ice and Fresh Prince initiated me to this genre of music. But it confuses me to no extent that the golden age never gained it’s rightful status as the official voice of the Africa American culture. 

This sub-genre had all the right ingredients – smooth beats with extra cheese, reformist poetry, and an unparalleled flow. I’d sooner see pigs fly than hear 50 Cents rhyme a verse better than Talib Kweli or Lil’ Jon drop a beat that can even begin to match anything that DJ Premier can spin out, even if he suffered from paraplegia. But for some odd reason, it just wasn’t meant to be. Notwithstanding this apparent glitch in hip-hop’s evolution, I strongly urge you not to lose out on over a decade of great music…that would be akin to tripping on The White Stripes while being oblivious to what The B-52s were once capable of.

Brother Ali is a devout Muslim and a fantastic rapper. His smooth-as-velvet-rain rhymes and laidback beats can tear the roof off clubs and double up as a background score for coffee and conversation. This sort of music isn’t dependent on the environment, but rather on the mind and for the many moods it goes through. “Rain Water” is one of the best hip-hop songs I have heard in a really long time. Inspired stuff that Chicken Soup For The Soul wishes it was made of. Not since I heard Kweli’s “The Truth”, have I felt this way about the genre.

Is life so obscene that death’s more serene / Or was an old author tryin to write his own closing scene / Nothing stings like knowing that the woman that gave me this life /Is being eaten from the inside / I thought we never make shit right

I feel a bit awkward understanding what this song is about. I’m a 26-year-old South Indian, born in Chennai and raised by television and radio. Despite the financial problems we once faced, I only have fond memories of poverty and a simpler life. And neither do I belong to an oppressed race nor do I fret over my mom having a coke addiction. Logically, I shouldn’t even be on the same plane of consciousness as an albino Islamic rapper who has fought through oppression and poverty. But it feels like I am. I guess sometimes music transcends the artist’s intention to say something and starts paying attention to how the audience wants to listen to it. Brother Ali, take a bow.


Brother Ali’s Rain Water on Youtube


Brother Ali – Rain Water (live)

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Cordozar Calvin Broadus Jr, better known as Snoop Dogg Dog, brought the G-Funk to the West Coast hip-hop movement in 1992. Since then he has been shot at, assaulted, questioned, arrested, sued, subject to both police brutality and lenience, and granted and denied bail. In the entertainment industry, he has been a pimp, playa, producer, lyricist, author, mentor, rapper extraordinaire and legendary marijuana enthusiast.

As a recording artist, his debut Doggystyle was probably the highest point while his diabolical 2002 opus Paid Da Cost To Be Da Boss really, really sucked.

As a major part of west coast culture, he has been in the limelight for all things controversial and popular. Right from directing a porn film and starring in his own reality show to performing at a Metallica Tribute concert, he has been an enigma, for lack of a better word.

And today morning I stumbled across a horrid news article stating that Snoop Dogg is making a cameo appearance in Singh Is Kinng.

I used to ask myself about how much marijuana can a man smoke until he screws up so bad that redemption is but a fleeting glance

Now I know.

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The prefix “DJ” in aliases turns a lot of people off away from a whole lot of good music. It’s not all about techno/house/jungle nonsense for these new age instrumentalists. Artists like DJ Krush, DJ Muggs and DJ Shadow are out there, tearing it up with their brand of turntabilsm. Some atmospheric, others groovy, and most of them indelibly captivating in their orchestrated brilliance.

DJ Shadow is a personal favourite of mine. Born as Josh Davis, he began “his music career as a disc jockey for UC Davis radio station KDVS”. Pretty soon, he locked himself inside the studio, hoping to find his muse. The results were breathtaking as the adventures in sound he created with hip-hop, jazz, funk, and psychedelic rock made for compulsive hearing. His first album – Endtroducing – was insanely good. Hell, it got featured in the Guinness World Records book for “First Completely Sampled Album”.

His later albums paled a bit in comparison but were leaps and bounds better than anything produced by The Neptunes or any of their ilk, who wear “bling bling” and feature R&B musicians who really can’t sing.

The soundscapes in “Midnight In A Perfect World” paints a laidback, almost eerily disconnected picture. One, which reminds you of quiet, melancholic nights in worlds untouched by anything unsavory. The harmonies will float inside your head, and the beats will keep your toes alert.

This is the closest to perfection that you can expect from any person who prefixes “DJ” to his alias.


DJ Shadow – Midnight In A Perfect World


DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing

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It has turned out to be quite a fad to trash the current sound. During the Sixties, music fans found love, lust and LSD inside electric organs. They drank whiskey and left their women back home when the Seventies dawned upon them. The Eighties witnessed these poor souls paying more attention to clothing and accessories than on a steady drumbeat. Kurt Cobain ripped their hearts out with a shotgun blast, just as the Nineties were proving to be quite eclectic. Now as this generation hits midlife crisis, the music fans have decided to stake a claim in history by portraying themselves as whiny bitches.

They moan and groan about how pop music has degraded from Paul Simon goodness to Shakira’s bile-inducing shenanigans. The long-haired folk have decided that all attempts made by Metallica to recapture former thundering glory shall therefore be treacherous. Hip-hop apparently sucks nowadays, as does Rock n Roll.

I don’t fully understand all this negativity floating around. If you look inside bull’s arse, the odds of seeing anything else other than bullshit are pretty slim. If music enthusiasts keep switching channels on TV, or buy music from their local store, the chances of them hearing the sound of garbage writhing with itself are pretty fucking high.

And stop telling me there you are unsure what to download, and that there is nothing out there to capture your fancy. Ever tried Mulatu Astatke or The Greenhornes? You can’t find good music by typing the same damn keywords on Google and then being disappointed that 50 Cents, Akon and Snoop Dogg are the only downloadable options in the rap category. 50 Cents isn’t worth 2 cents and everyone knows it. Stop bitching about this and start looking for alternative options. Blackalicious are rhythmical gold. Prefuse 73 and Count Bass D throw out some great hip-hop tunes every now and then.

Also rock is not dead. It has gone into hiding, that’s all. Look deep enough and you will discover Decemberists, Tiger Tiger, Raconteurs and guys who call themselves Queens Of The Stone Age. Don’t look down upon what music has evolved into without paying at least a moment’s attention to bands like The Outlines, Zero 7, Belleruche or Brant Bjork.

This decade’s sound does not suck. It’s just no longer to be found where it once was.

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