Tag Archives: rap

A Guide to the “Unorthodox Flow” of Rapper Heem Stogied

Heem Stogied

The main attraction of Heem Stogied’s music is his genuinely “unorthodox flow.” The Atlanta underground rapper is a master of nested lyrical patterns, regularly rhyming eight or more bars at a time until his verses accumulate a bulletproof momentum. His voice is an instrument, with tone and inflection conveying as much emotion as his actual words, and the echoing syllabic cadences lend an extemporaneous quality to his impassioned conviction and peerless technique.

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On “Big Shoes,” Big Tone Takes Listeners on a Journey

Big Tone

“I was becoming a father around the time we finished recording this album,” says the rapper Big Tone, talking about his latest LP Big Shoes. “What started out as a project designed to preserve the music changed its purpose. It’s not just about me any more, it’s about my family. The tone of the record reflects being in that new space in life, and the responsibility that comes along with it.”

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MH the Verb Brings a Future Jazz Aesthetic to His Music

MH the Verb

In the music of the Philadelphia-based rapper Marcus Harris, aka MH the Verb, introspective and socially conscious lyrics occupy the same space as party-ready hooks and jazzy instrumental passages. Alongside ArtHouse95, the interstate artist collective that he co-founded in 2015, Harris has quietly amassed an impressive catalog that traverses a wide range of sound and subject matter—anthemic boom-bap jazz on 2014’s The Balloon Guide, 2017’s political and futurist epic Afronaut, and the new improvisational LP Ninja Turtle: Live From Philadelphia.

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Lifetime Achievement: ShunGu

ShunGu

“I wouldn’t be making music if it wasn’t for J Dilla,” says ShunGu, a hip-hop producer based in Brussels whose music hooks post-Dilla beats around the head-nodding combination of woozy, melodic synths and thumping drum patterns. “For me, in hip-hop, Dilla’s like what John Coltrane is to jazz. Dilla’s choice of samples, his choice of drums—it all comes from Dilla for me.”

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Wino Willy’s “Burlap” Reflects Its Maker’s Journey

Wino-willy-1244.jpg

Like a lot of young producers whose ambition exceeds their budget, when rapper/producer/DJ Wino Willy (born Charles Corpening) first started experimenting with music-making as a teenager in Edison, New Jersey, he had to get creative. “I used belt-drive turntables, mixers, and random early equipment to make primitive hip-hop beats,” he says. “Then, I strung them together in Audacity. I kept polishing until I started to get decent.” 

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Rochester, New York is Going Global

38 Spesh

38 Spesh

“The violence and the crime is unbearable sometimes,” says Eto, an MC who’s emerged as a leading light in the Rochester, New York hip-hop scene. Raised in the northeast area of the city, Eto’s world is one where over half the children live in poverty, and the chances of being a victim of violent crime is almost three times higher than elsewhere in the state. This tumultuous environment informs Eto’s music, as well as the music of peers like 38 Spesh, M.A.V., and Pounds. Their approach recalls the way Nas and Mobb Deep regaled the world with chronicles of surviving in Queensbridge during the mid ‘90s. “Rochester’s always maintained as the murder capital throughout New York state,” says 38 Spesh, a rapper and beatmaker whose music combines snapshots of block corner life with soul-sampling loops and hard knocking drums. “It’s always been a high level of poverty and a real dangerous and dark place—so the music reflects that.”

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Album of the Day: Schemes, “Schemes”

With a cool, breezy modern sound that fuses funk, soul, jazz, and hip-hop, Montreal-based sextet Schemes approach their self-titled debut EP with the spirit of ‘90s acid jazz and soul bands like Sweetback and Brooklyn Funk Essentials. Whereas sonically, many of the acid jazz bands of the ’90s produced a sound that was really clean and bordering on polished, Schemes and many of their contemporaries who create jazz in a post-hip-hop landscape seem to have, for the most part, mastered bringing a sense of textural depth to the music.

Featuring Hugo Parent-Potier on trumpet, Charles Miquelon on keys, Phil Legentil on drums, and Tom Tartarin on bass, Schemes is a diverse band with real musical chops who straddle multiple genres comfortably. As for the two complementing vocalists, singer Nadia Baldé has backed Canadian pop star Karl Wolf, Snarky Puppy’s Malika Tirolien, and others, and rapper/producer Mike Clay comes from Montreal’s hip-hop scene as a solo artist.

The band display their formidable musical flexibility on tracks like “Hey There Sister Pt. 1” and “Pt. 2,” which run the gamut from earnest neo-soul to a wild Bitches Brew-era Miles Davis free-fusion sound. On “Hello,” the band develop a delicate, laidback groove for Clay to rhyme over about a love lost. Baldé’s chorus is beautiful and sad, full of longing and regret: “I left you on hold, then realized you hung up / Kept waiting about waiting, now time is up / I could’ve said hello, I should’ve said hello.” The album concludes with “Tomorrow,” a catchy, swinging tune that is anchored by a nimble drum and bass groove with tasteful soloing by trumpeter Parent-Potier. It builds in intensity before exploding into a bright, upbeat section that closes out the track—and the EP as a whole. Lasting a short eight bars before fading into silence, this final section feels more present, gritty, and alive than anything else on the record. It’s a slick musical left turn that points to Schemes’ immense promise.

-John Morrison

Artist-Activist-MC Kimmortal Makes Her Own Map

Kimmortal

The first words on X Marks The Swirl, the new full-length from Vancouver, British Columbia-based queer Filipinx artist-MC Kimmortal, are a mantra: “I am made of stars,” Kimmortal intones, repeating the phrase on each go-round of the chorus to album-opener “Stars.” The song doesn’t start with these words, though. It starts with the sound of water flowing—calm and steady and swift. It is the sound of water running through unsurrendered Coast Salish land—land on which settler Vancouver now sits, and where Kimmortal lives and works.

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