Tag Archives: Madlib

The Best New Hip-Hop on Bandcamp

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This month’s crucial hip-hop picks include indie rap veterans who are embracing their years in the game, video game fiends paying tribute to the late, great Frank White, and a rapper who at one time had the whole Internet convinced he was actually an alias of Nas. In a break from the normal U.S.-based selection, we also take a detour to Auckland, New Zealand where a whole bunch of rap cats are mustering up their own brand of creative hip-hop.
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Album of the Day: CohenBeats, “Daily Affirmations”

Over the course of several years and multiple releases, producer CohenBeats has made a name for himself by sculpting multifaceted beats with a Middle Eastern focus. A native of Tel Aviv, Cohen rose to prominence as one-third of local trio Cohen@Mushon. When he moved to Los Angeles in 2011, he connected with scene stalwarts like Gaslamp Killer and SamiyamOn his first release since 2015’s collaborative electronic soul EP The Weight, with singer KerenDun, Cohen stays true to his formula, manipulating drum patterns and catchy foreign melodies with panache.

On Daily Affirmations, he gets an assist from a small number of savvily-selected guests. Rising star Quelle Chris turns up on the title track, and his introspective rhymes are the perfect fit for the song’s nocturnal soul ambience. Hopeful as always, the quirky wordsmith waxes poetic on the importance of sticking out the good fight: “You think the shit ain’t worth it/And then you catch a message from somebody like ‘You gave my life a purpose.’” Elsewhere, on the pimped-out “Money Fast,” Quelle collaborator Denmark Vessey spits a confident flow from his usual left-of-center perspective.

Cohen’s unique sampling style makes the album’s 22 tracks feel seamless and cohesive. “Mushon’s House” pays homage to the low-pitch vocals and dance rhythms made famous in Chicago’s club scene. On “Us vs. Them,” Jeremiah Jae and his Black Jungle Squad comrade Oliver The 2nd spit emphatically atop meditative spiritual chants. “Places/Spaces” is full of smooth R&B, the kind you’d hear on late night Quiet Storm radio.

Throughout, CohenBeats avoids the monotony that hinders so many bedroom beatmakers, fusing sounds from his homeland with skillful percussion. Taking cues from Madlib and J Dilla, he makes excellent use of obscure sound effects and random audio clips, giving Daily Affirmations the feel of an old-school beat tape. By putting his own spin on a host of samples and source material, the producer is able to draw on his influences without recreating what’s already been done.

Jesse Fairfax

The Best New Hip-Hop on Bandcamp

Best New Hip Hop

The year 2016 concluded with an unexpected present for hip-hop heads: Run The Jewels—aka rappers Killer Mike and El-P—decided to drop their third album ahead of schedule on Christmas Eve. True to the duo’s heritage, the 14-track project booms with loud and abrasive electro-funk beats, Killer Mike’s political rhetoric, and El-P’s trademark cynicism. While Run The Jewels 3 might have dominated late-December playlists, here’s a deeper snapshot of 11 other rap releases that are well worth your leftover Christmas cash.

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A New York Blizzard Inspired Jansport J’s Aggressive New Album

 

Jansport J

As a child growing up in Covina, California (a diverse suburb of Los Angeles), Justin Williams fell in love with the sound of Timbaland’s productions. His use of thumping drums and unusual instrumentation sparked Williams’ imagination. But when he started making his own beats—under the name Jansport J—Williams moved in the opposite direction, leaning toward gritty, eccentric compositions—the kind that have more in common with Madlib, J Dilla, and the Alchemist than Missy Elliott. His sound earned him a solid niche; Williams has become a staple in L.A.’s famed underground beat scene, producing for the likes of Snoop Dogg, Planet Asia, and Dom Kennedy.

Williams’ new album p h a r o a h, named after his distinct facial hair and personal leadership philosophy, first started taking shape in early 2016. The producer was stuck in New York during Winter Storm Jonas, which dumped up to three feet of snow on the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern parts of the country. “That was my first time in New York, while a blizzard was happening,” Williams says. “It’s crazy, because we were out there in 10-degree weather, and I’m a California kid. Everyone tried to prepare me, like, ‘You’re not gonna be able to deal with that weather.’ But I loved it.” At 27 tracks, p h a r o a h is a sprawling work, foregoing the cohesion of a regular studio album in favor of giddy stylistic detours and experiments. Nevertheless, the project feels incredibly cohesive, each snippet quickly leading to the next, making for a seamless listen.

We spoke with Williams about the importance of studying his heroes, keeping a consistent work ethic, and what Donuts meant to his class of producers.

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The Encyclopedia of Knxwledge

Knxwledge
Knxwledge. Photo by Jake Michaels

Finding a starting place for Knxwledge’s catalog is like stepping into the world’s biggest library when the librarian has the day off. Since the Philadelphia native, born Glen Earl Boothe, dropped his first EP in 2009, the producer has released a whopping 75 projects on Bandcamp, and nearly every one of them has something to offer. His lo-fi blend of hip-hop, soul, and jazz has earned him comparisons to luminaries like Madlib and J Dilla, and his prolific pace has provided him a career’s worth of music in just seven years. And with placements like “Momma,” on Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy powerhouse To Pimp A Butterfly, it seems even clearer that his tireless work ethic is paying off.

But that still leaves the question of exactly what to listen to. Our list below is designed to be a field guide to the world of Knxwledge. This guide only tackles his instrumental albums; which means stellar remix albums, like his WrapTaypes series or his remix of selections from rapper Danny Brown’s XXX, or his collaborative release with Anderson .Paak as NxWorries, won’t show up. And be forewarned: we can only cover what’s already been done. There might be even more to listen to by the time this piece is published.

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