June 9, 2005

God's Bathroom Floor

God's Bathroom Floor is one of my favorite Atmosphere songs. This is largely because it is the first song that I really remember from the group. I first heard it about five years ago when Slug and Eyedea were performing a show at the Weisman Art Museum. The group didn�t have the following that they enjoy today and were able to play to a small crowd at an unusual venue. The song is about the effects of heroin. It talks about the pain and addiction as well as the numbing bliss that make it such a dangerous drug.

�I�m tired out by the distances achieved walkin in my sleep
floors got shifted since the high got a tad too deep
ask Dad to keep cool ill call him back
as soon as I resume normal, and get out of this bathroom�

�Autopsy pages read euthanasia i.e. irony
well here I be within a pool of my drool, sedated
windows dilated comatose life overdose
tell Jacob Miles keep it wild-style
I promise I'll smile
and check the floor, god's got nice tile�

�From a head full of pressure
rest the senses that I clutch
made a date with divinity but she wouldn't let me fuck
I got touched by a hazy shade of god, help me change
caught a rush on the floor from the life in my veins�

Posted by lars1396 at 2:28 PM

Upcoming Shows

Some great shows are coming up in the next two weeks:

Tomorrow (Friday) is Carnage and Desdemona at the Red Sea
-Carnage is well known for his freestyling skills and Desdamona for her poetry. She has recently been heading up a series of B-Girl events, and can often be seen at the Blue Nile at poetry nights.

On Saturday The Digable Planets are playing First Ave
-They have reformed after 10 years as I mentioned in my last post.

Next Thursday and Friday are the release parties for Kanser held at Bryant Lake Bowl
-Kanser is a local group that is part of the Interlock Label, which is one of the two largest underground hip-hop labels in the city.

Posted by lars1396 at 1:56 PM

Return of the Digable Planets

The Digable Planets had dissolved due to creative differences after their album Blowout Combs lackluster sales. The hip hop trio used jazz to give their music the style that made them a huge success in the early nineties. Their debut album Reachin' featured samples from Art Blakey, Sonny Rollins and Curtis Mayfield. The song Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat) was a huge success that became a top 20 hit. Although their second album received rave reviews, it did not have a strong single and did not sell well. This was the demise of the group.

Now, ten years after their breakup, the group has reformed and is once again touring. They are also working on a new album. The Digable Planets will be playing this Saturday at First Avenue.

Posted by lars1396 at 1:44 PM

Heiruspecs Downtown

Last night the Heiruspecs did a free show downtown at Peavy Plaza. It was a really nice night out, so some friends and I went down nicollet to take a look. There was a huge crowd of people at the show. We went across the street to Brit's Pub and got a table and some food. Although the English Pub atmosphere wasn't exactly fitting with the hip hop, it was a perfect place to be sitting and listening.

For those unfamiliar with the group, Heiruspecs is a local hip hop crew that plays their own instruments. They have released a few albums and are very popular around the area.

Posted by lars1396 at 1:33 PM

June 8, 2005

New Age CD Marketing

Influenced possibly by piracy or just giving the customer a better product, many artists have started to include more than just music with their releases. A variety of new releases come with extras such as computer enhanced content, DVD videos, artwork, bonus CDs, and even the chance to win a contest. In the mainstream 50 Cents album came with an entry into a contest and The Game came with a bonus DVD. The underground has also added additional content to many of the releases. The latest Aesop Rock collector CD came with an illustrated lyric book containing the lyrics for his full discography. The Felt release this summer from Slug and Murs will have a comic book as a bonus. Slugs re-release of Headshots: Seven included a bonus Best of Headshots CD as well as two previously unreleased records (Sad Clown 5&6). For their release this fall the CunninLynguists have a new concept. They will release a DVD video after the album that uses the CD as the audio track to sync with the DVD. Although these bonuses are sometimes gimmicky and unwanted, they are often enticing to fans of the groups. They definitely offer another reason to purchase the albums with content that is not as easy to obtain on the internet.

Posted by lars1396 at 3:02 PM

Blackalicious

Blackalicious is a hip-hop group composed of members Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel. Their lyrics are often very abstract. The content is often based on spirituality and is very uplifting. The two formed the group in California under their label SoulSides Records, which includes members DJ Shadow, Lateef the Truth Seeker, and Lyrics Born. The record company went out of business and eventually reformed as Quannum Records. Blackalicious have released two full albums, 2000s Nia and Blazing Arrow in 2002. This fall they plan to release their next album, The Craft. The latest disc will focus on what makes an artist and will be exploring different styles of music. Guests on the album will include Floetry, George Clinton, Pigeon John, Lateef and Lyrics Born.

Posted by lars1396 at 2:33 PM

June 7, 2005

Selling Out

Underground fans seem to be very concerned with their favorite artists selling out. What exactly is selling out? Some fans say someone has sold out as soon as others are familiar with the artist. This is just an elitist mentality that some fans like to have. They arent as concerned with the music as they are with knowing something that nobody else does. Other fans say that they have sold out as soon as they get a deal with a large record company. This is very often a sad reality, but it does not necessarily require selling out. This is only the case if the artist is willing to sacrifice their artistic integrity to make themselves more marketable for the label. This happens often in the music industry, and many times shows the lack of integrity the artist had to begin with. Selling out is about changing who you are to get money or fame. If an underground artist stays true to themselves and gets money and fame fans should be happy that they knew them first and that good music is being heard by others.

Posted by lars1396 at 3:17 PM

Music Piracy

Music piracy has been around since before the internet. People selling bootlegs on the street were only able to reach a small audience, but the internet has huge distribution and hence greater need for policing. There is a great debate about the legality and morality of pirating music. Many people make the case that they would not buy the music that they download. Others would argue that they use it to sample music before purchase or to find new artists. Another point that downloaders make is that the artists do not really loose that much money from downloads. This is all very difficult to prove. Piracy has much greater potential to do damage to underground artists. Many of these artists rely on their sales numbers to allow them to gain larger distribution and make a better living for themselves. The important thing to remember is that when you download an album from an artist on an independent label that you would otherwise purchase, you are actually taking money from that artist. Sharing music can definitely help spread the artists work, and this should be seen by the artists with limited distribution as an important aspect of marketing. If you do enjoy the album, I would recommend buying it or at least attending a show to show support. Support the music that you would like to see more of.

Posted by lars1396 at 3:00 PM

June 6, 2005

Common Sense

"Be" is the latest release from the emcee Common. In 1992 he released his first single as Common Sense and ever since has been an icon in the underground hip hop scene. His song "I Used to Love H.E.R" was a huge success and is still listed in the best rap songs of all time. In more recent times he has shortened his name to Common and earned a Grammy nomination for his song "The Light". Common is back in 2005 with his album "Be". Most of the production for the album was done by Kanye West and the beats are all well put together and will keep your foot tapping. Overall, this album is one of the best from Common and certainly the best of his recent work. The magazine XXL has even given the album the status of "Classic", the first album the magazine has awarded this status to.

"I was rolling around, in my mind it occured
What if God was a Her?
Would I treat her the same?
Would I still be runnin' game on Her?
In what type of ways would I want Her?
Would I want her for her mind
Or her heavenly body
Couldn't be out here bogus
With someone so godly
If I was wit her would I still be wantin' my ex
The lies, the greed, the weed, the sex
Wouldn't be ashamed to give Her part of my check
Wearing a cross, I mean Her heart on my neck"
- Common Faithful

Posted by lars1396 at 3:52 PM

The 5th Element

The 5th Element is a record store on Hennepin Avenue in Uptown. The store is owned by Saddiq of Rhymesayers Entertainment. When you first enter the store the smell of their favorite Nag Champa incense will immediately hit you. To your left there is a board with lists of upcoming shows and a variety of fliers laid out on a table. The store is full of music and has a wall full of records and a few large racks of CDs (as well as a few dvds). As you reach the back you will find some racks of t-shirts and sweatshirts for many hip hop artists. The store is often staffed by local artists or you will find some hanging out. Familiar faces include Saddiq, Felipe (Los Nativos), Brother Ali, Jaybird, Slug (Atmosphere) and his brother Jordon. The store is the best place in town to go find whatever hip hop gear or information you need.

Posted by lars1396 at 2:34 PM

Artist Info: Del the Funkee Homosapien

Del the Funkee Homosapien was introduced to rap at a young age because of his famous cousin, Ice Cube. Del's style is much different than the gangster style of his cousin. He often raps using humor and talks about things from personal hygiene to video games. Del released his first CD, I Wish My Brother George Was Here, with the assistance of Cube. His second release No Need for Alarm used more jazz samples and was produced by Del. His third album was not released because he had difficulties with his label Elektra (bootlegs of this album were available on the internet and it was eventually released for sale on CD). His third release Both Sides of the Brain was released on his own label which he formed with friends from California. Del has collaborated for several albums with his label mates the Hieroglyphics and with Kid Koala and Dan the Automator on the concept album Deltron: 3030. Del is most widely known for his appearance on the Gorillaz song Clint Eastwood. It is expected that Del will release a new album called The 11th Hour this fall.

It's important to practice good hygiene
At least if you wanna run with my team
I'm bout to get into some shit that I've seen
This fool's breath, I mean so bad it'll melt your ice cream
- Del the Funkee Homosapien If You Must

I create like a heathen
The first cycles of this virus I can send through a modem
Infiltration hits your station
No microsoft or enhanced dos will impede
Society thinks their safe when
Bingo! harddrive crashes from the rendering
Alot of hackers tryed virus's before
Vaporize your text like so much white out
I want it where a file replication is a chore
Lights out shut down the entire whitehouse
I dont want just a bug that could be corrected
Im erecting immaculate design
Break the nation down section by section
Even to the greatest minds its impossible to find
- Del the Funkee Homosapien Virus

Posted by lars1396 at 2:17 PM

June 2, 2005

Too much television

The television can be entertaining, but with the way programming is leaning I'd have to argue that for most people it is a huge burdon. The content on most channels is aimed at the lowest common denominator, but it is hard not to get stuck in front of it once it is on. These shows attempt to feed into human curiousity or to exploit human desires. The artist Aesop Rock from New York has a song called "Basic Cable" that I really identify with. He is an amazing lyricist:

"television, all hail grand pixelated god of
fantasy, murder scape and perspective
fuck a sore channel changed digit
I sit with a nasty network intervenes plan
with a stable diet of my cable pirate
yo, the doctor is in, the doctor is on
born the bastard son of static radiance cloned to welcome in every home
lead a blue screen, bruised dream canope
victim of the cursed nursed Technicolor drunk support team"

The television really sucks people in and before you know it you've been there for hours.

"turn my stilt into my guilt and have a chatter box blame frame adjacent station
make reality scrambled and suck the life out of a hidden vandal
and loving every minute of the gimmick, change the channel"

Television also changes reality and confuses people into believing some alternate life that the programmers present.

"make me a star, I wanna touch gold
hold me suspended in a dream, mearly inches from the screen
deleted passions sacrificed to one electron monster
crucify my little future to the monitor
damn it feels good, turn on, tune in"

Just like a good ficitonal book, television can be an escape for people. It can be a huge problem when people don't use it to enhance their lives, but rather to tune out and let it dictate them.

"plug it in, turn it on, let my little eyes glaze
twenty screens lined up along the borders of the maze
I wanna see the five day forecast, fourteen days in advance
so I can get my two weeks notice every time the sun dance

plug it in, turn it on, silent fix better than nothing
let a once divine soul feel the functions of the hypnotist
the viciousness, ridiculous, peaking a dummy's interest
touch the power button meet your maker, ain't that something?

plug it in, turn it on, say goodbye to Sunday afternoon
fix the antenna, sit back and let disaster bloom
it's a beautiful sight, with a most ugly intention
but I taste it everyday and bathe inside the consequences

plug it in, turn it on, never once have you talked back to me
your majesty, I love you, I despise you
my everyday is sitcom, soaps, news, bad dramatization
come along with me, my friend for the most glorious sensation"

Posted by lars1396 at 4:38 PM

Felt 2: A Tribute to Lisa Bonet

In 2002 emcees Slug (MN) and Murs (CA) released a collaboration cd entitled "Felt: A Tribute to Christina Ricci". In July the two plan to release the second album in the Felt series "Felt 2: A Tribute to Lisa Bonet" (some may know her from The Cosby Show). This promises to be an excellent album. Those who have attended an Atmosphere show recently may have been treated to a preview of the track "Be My Woman". In addition to Slug, the retail version of the track will also feature MF Doom, Subtle and Murs.

Track Listing:
1. Intro
2. Employees Of The Year
3. Ya Man's An'them
4. Lisa Interlude
5. Morris Day
6. Dirty Girl
7. Early Morning Tony
8. Break Her Down Like a Shotgun
9. Marvin Gaye
10. Fear and Loathing in Life Vegas
11. Bonet Interlude
12. Be My Woman (feat. MF Doom / Pam Grier / Subtitle)
13. Gangster Ass Anthony
14. The Biggest Lie
15. I Shot a Warhol

Posted by lars1396 at 3:34 PM

The Concept Album

Lots of true hip hop is based around the idea of a concept album. Some artists just create a character for themselves and stick to that one persona. This is how gangster rap began, similar to creating a character in a movie. Kool Keith made the concept album popular as he released albums related so several characters he created. His character Dr. Doom is an evil villain that is on an album. The next album is about the crazed Dr. Octagon who kills Dr. Doom at the beginning of the album. Keith was one of the first artists to create different identities for his albums and to wear costumes both on stage and in his videos. His style of rapping is very abstract and strange. These concepts have been used today by a variety of artists (watch an Eminem video).

In hip hop there are a large amount of concept albums. Handsome Boy Modeling School was originally a sketch on the Chris Elliot Show, and was turned into two albums by Prince Paul and Dan the Automator. Before working on these projects, Prince Paul created the first hip-hopera; a story about a boy growing up in the ghetto with aspirations to rap but finding drugs, jail and eventually his death blocking his dreams. One of my favorite concept albums is Deltron 3030, collaboration between Del the Funkee Homosapien, Kid Koala, and Dan the Automator. In this album each artist takes on a futuristic personal and raps about the build up of technology and the destruction of the planet. This style of writing is very creative and brings a fresh perspective to the hip hop style.

Posted by lars1396 at 3:11 PM

The Rap Battle

There has been a lot of press in the last few years related to the rap battle. This is related largely to radio artists who have beef with each other and do this vocally in their songs. It also became noticed because of the movie 8 Mile starring Eminem. The rap battle originated decades ago. The old battles were not violent, but inspired by creativity and trying to one up the other rapper. This stems from emcees competing to prove they are the best. This eventually turned into freestyle competitions where emcees were given a certain amount of time to come up with the best battle rap. There are a variety of these battles held yearly in different areas of the country. Two largely known events are the Blaze Battle and Scribble Jam. There are always rappers who rap gangster style, but they typically do not win. The champion is typically the most creative rapper. Eminem is widely known for his battling prowess before he started his career. Eyedea from Minnesota is also known as a phenomenal battler who won the Scribble Jam in 1999 and the Blaze Battle in 2000.

yo, Ill grab the mic and disconnect your face,
its your turn but you got second place - Eyedea

Posted by lars1396 at 2:48 PM

Cash Money

Most people who have seen MTV, BET or listened to the radio recently are familiar with the bling bling style of rap. The rappers who are a part of this movement rap entirely about their money or possessions. This can be cash, jewelry, cars, clothing, houses, and more. This has always been present in rap music, as there is an element of competition involved. It used to be used as a punch line but now many rappers use this as their only content. The label The Cash Money Millionaires is made up entirely of rappers who use this style. My assumption is that people are drawn to this because of the superstar power it emphasizes. In reality it is just a lie that is being sold to the public. Many of these groups write their first bling album before they actually have any money. It is the audience that is making them rich, so they have more material to write about. It also has a negative effect on society. People try to make as much money as possible and end up squandering it on unnecessary items such as necklaces, watches, and spinning rims. This style of rapping is even shallower than gangster rap. The majority of these artists have very little or no skill.

P.s. If you would like to give me all your money, Id be happy to tell you what I spend it on.

Diamonds worn by everybody thats in my click
Man I got the price of a mansion 'round my neck and wrist B.G. Bling Bling

Posted by lars1396 at 2:19 PM

Upcoming Shows

Hip Hop Show Night (some shows going on tonight):

The Dax Pierson Benefit
Featuring: Atmosphere / Brother Ali & Bk-One / Eyedea & Friends / Building Better Bombs / Mel Gibson & The Pants / DJ Nikoless / Dee Jay Bird

This show is a benefit for Dax Pierson from the band subtle, being held at the 7th Street Entry (next to First Ave) tonight. It is a pretty huge show and I would imagine it will sell out, if it isn't already. Atmosphere, Brother Ali, and Eyedea are the three biggest groups in the Rhymesayers Crew (and debatably all of MN).

Unknown Prophets
Featuring: Hecatomb / Carnage / DEC / Livewire

This show is over at the Triple Rock, which I spoke about previously. The Unknown Prophets are a Minnesota classic and always have great shows. Carnage is well known for his freestyling ability.

Tale of Two Cities Presents
Featuring: Shades of Darkness / Orikal / Living Stereo (NES) / B-McC of Elipsis / W.A.R of The Horsemen

This one is downtown at The Annex (the basement of the Lone Tree). The groups are some younger guys working their way up in the MN scene. Definately, a cool venue and a good place to hang out.

Posted by lars1396 at 1:45 PM

June 1, 2005

What makes a good show?

Lots of people attend concerts of all genres, but what makes a concert better than just listening to an album? For some people, just being able to see the artist in person is all it takes for them to feel that a show was worthwhile. They would be just as happy with an artist lip-syncing to their album (however people get upset when they find out this is happening). For others it is the atmosphere that is created by the on stage interaction. Personally, I like shows where the artist goes beyond simply playing their CD. This really shows the ability of the artist. This is evident both in skill with instruments as well as skill in entertaining. A great band can change their songs and add a guitar solo or a transition. An emcee can do a freestyle verse (thought up on the spur of the moment) or test out a new song. Another important aspect is how the artist interacts with the audience. Some groups will simply say the name of the city they are in to make the crowd cheer, while this will work it is fairly generic and obvious that they do this in each city. A great artist can feel the vibe of the crowd and interact both verbally and musically.

Posted by lars1396 at 2:57 PM