Tag Archives: Danny Brown

Album of the Day: ZGTO, “A Piece of the Geto”

Imagine being in the Bruiser Brigade and not being Danny Brown. In the Detroit-based collective, anyone other than the human airhorn almost seems superfluous. Brown is the magnet, the charge, the force, and the fury. To draw attention away from a power like that requires both skill and outsized personality. ZelooperZ, one of Brown’s running mates in the Bruiser Brigade, also has a unique rapping cadence, and he let his eccentricities shine on his 2016 debut, Bothic. But that record lacked the cohesiveness and aesthetic unity that’s made Brown one of the biggest rappers around. And so, much like how Brown teamed with producer Paul White for the large bulk of Atrocity Exhibition, ZelooperZ has paired up with Zach Saginaw (aka Shigeto), dubbing the resulting union ZGTO. Their debut, A Piece of the Geto, proves they’re perfectly suited to one another’s styles.

Shigeto, born in Ann Arbor but now living in Detroit, has been a pioneer within Ghostly International’s electronic community for some time, blending aquatic synths to create house-leaning techno that bears traces of Detroit’s sonic influence without relying too heavily on it. On Geto, ZelooperZ (born Walter Williams) and Shigeto harness their strengths to maximal results, making songs that drown in layers of sludge, sport half-sung vocals, and trip along to off-kilter, untethered beats. Shigeto reins in ZelooperZ’s stream-of-consciousness tendencies by pairing his words with heavily emotive instrumentation.

“I’mma live forever for my enemies,” ZelooperZ says on album opener “Drownin in the Paint.” The exact opposite of Waka Flocka’s similarly-named anthem, “Hard In Da Paint,” ZelooperZ’s voice is constantly slipping, dancing around the beat with the loose cadence of a man who seems like he can’t be bothered. He stays remarkably engaging in spite of his freewheeling approach: In his mind, he’s better at rapping than you are, and this album is an exercise in showing precisely how, and in what ways. With the help of Shigeto, Williams is able to situate his scattershot rap style within a distinct framework, and his work is better for it.

While Shigeto isn’t necessarily treading unmarked terrain on A Piece of the Geto, he matches ZelooperZ’s distinctive quality song-for-song, narcotizing his frenetic style in favor of something more emotionally pummeling and dark. “Band Man” is a slow-motion anthem, while “Off Dat” gifts ZelooperZ’s haunted-house vocals an equally spooky meandering synth line. While ZelooperZ’s threatens to steal the show with his newfound consistency and vision, Shigeto is the stylist behind the show. Like all good collaborative projects, A Piece of the Geto succeeds because both artists are hellbent on bringing the best out of each other. The Bruiser Brigade just got a little more bruising.

Will Schube

Mic Write on Police Brutality, Gentrification, and Misconceptions of Detroit

Mic Write

In December 2014, following the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and countless other unarmed black men at the hands of police, Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson called for a new wave of protest music. “I think [the lack of protest music] is just due to fear of being blackballed and not making a living,” The Roots’ bandleader said at the time. Over the last two years, a host of indie and mainstream artists heeded the call; Detroit rapper Mic Write stepped up to the plate long ago. As a soloist and member of the rap group Cold Men Young, he’s won poetry slam awards and literary fellowships for his rhymes, which capture the humanity of Detroit, one of the country’s most misunderstood—and rapidly changing—cities.

His latest album, O.N.U.S. Chain, is his best work yet, a stirring EP that tackles police brutality, racial injustice, and the transformation of his hometown. Sad, desperate, joyful and proud, the record and its accompanying short film cycle through a wide range of emotions, from elation to frustration to anger. We talked with him about public misconceptions about Detroit, how his students taught him a lesson about police brutality, and how a teacher falsely accused him of committing a writer’s worst offense.

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Get to Know Paul White, Your Favorite Rapper’s Favorite Producer

Paul White. Photo by Owen Richards.

Paul White. Photo by Owen Richards.

If you’ve been following rap from 2011 to now, chances are very likely you’ve heard the work of Paul White. The London producer’s name has been attached to several critically acclaimed projects in 2016 alone. This year, he released a collaborative album with Chicago art-rap aficionado Open Mike Eagle, and produced the majority of Danny Brown’s brilliantly bizarre new record, Atrocity Exhibition.

Those releases, and much of the rest of his current discography, may be rooted in rap music, but don’t pigeonhole Paul White as a producer limited to a single genre. “I love putting all sorts of different genres together [to] prove genres don’t really exist,” he says. “People think it’s one genre and they assume they don’t like it—I’m really against that.”

White’s mission is tied to his self-described hippie lifestyle in which “everything’s related, everything’s the same.” For him, that thinking goes deeper than music, but the medium just happens to be his philosophical outlet. “One thing I’ve always tried to be is really diverse and try as many different things as possible,” White explains. “It’s great to have all these different projects out there now with different sounds attached.”

He’s constructed an impressive library of releases over the years, which for some, could prove overwhelming at first. We caught up with White, who walked us through his essential jams.

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