Tag Archives: rap

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


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


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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No Pandering: The Music of Junk Science

Junk Science

Photography by Saskia Kahn

When Michael Tumbarello stole a bunch of cassettes from James Christensen’s backpack while they were both students at Brooklyn’s Packer Collegiate Institute, he inadvertently laid the foundation for the hip-hop group Junk Science. Tumbarello’s score included albums by Biz Markie and De La Soul, but there was also a tape of beats that Christensen, who was going by the moniker Snafu, had produced and topped with scratches from the Street Fighter 2 video game. After hearing the tape, Tumbarello—who would take on the MC name Baje One—approached Christensen, and they soon bonded over a shared love of underground hip-hop; eventually, they decided to form a group themselves. (Christensen says it was a decade later when Tumbarello finally confessed to stealing his tapes.) That serendipitous moment happened over 20 years ago. Now, the duo has amassed a discography that includes a stint on El-P’s iconic Definitive Jux label, and they’ve come to be known for packaging physical albums in creative and artful ways, including launching their own craft beer to promote a music project.

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Hidden Gems: Aceyalone, “A Book of Human Language”


In our series Hidden Gems, writers share their favorite Bandcamp discoveries.

The March 1998 issue of The Source, then thought of as a Bible for hip-hop enthusiasts, led with a cover story on Bad Boy-affiliated artists Mase and The Lox, heralding them as the next generation of rap superstars. In that same issue, a young Eminem would win the coveted profile in the magazine’s Unsigned Hype column for up-and-coming artists. And Freestyle Fellowship co-founder and Good Life/Project Blowed veteran Aceyalone’s sophomore album, A Book of Human Language, received an underwhelming review—2.5 out of 5 mics. The tastemaking publication was clearly swinging firmly commercial, and the underground was getting left behind. Continue reading

Album of the Day: Dua Saleh, “Nūr”

Released via Minneapolis label Against Giants, Nūr is a forceful introduction to Dua Saleh—a multi-disciplinary non-binary artist sure to make waves this year, and for years to come. With clever lyrics and a voice that soars, Saleh addresses issues related to gender politics, the trans experience, and more. Born in Sudan, but now based in the Twin Cities, Saleh came up as a poet and only recently began writing songs—although based on the record, you would assume they’d been at it for years.

Executive produced by Psymun, whose production credits include Young Thug and Future, Nūr weaves between musical styles effortlessly. Behind a minimal beat and a slow-building bassline, the sultry track “Sugar Mama” shows off Saleh’s confidence. “Bitch, I’ll never stutter / Don’t you ever mutter,” they rap. The fourth song, “Survival,” features fellow Twin Cities singer Velvet Negroni, and is a much slower, spacier cut. At only five songs, Nūr is complex yet digestible, making it clear from the jump that Saleh’s an artist with a fresh sound who has a lot to say. Don’t try to define them—just enjoy their work.

-Gus Navarro

Album of the Day: Agnarkea, “Black Helicopters”

The concept of black helicopters is said to have been popularized in the 1990s with the newer U.S. militia movements, far-right patriotic white men with guns, and a deep distrust of the government. In a post-COINTELPRO world where the war on drugs continues to disproportionally affect communities of color, the reality of actual government helicopters hovering overhead and what they symbolize—state surveillance of citizens, military demos in impoverished neighborhoods, and so forth—means something a little different to Black people in America. This is the backdrop for 20-year-old Richmond electronic musician Agnarkea‘s (pronounced “anarchy”) most mature album to date, Black Helicopters. While the disjointed politics of Black Helicopters are palpable, Agnarkea is a more than capable musician, crafting dissonant aural sculptures that resemble snippets left on the cutting-room floor during Massive Attack’s Mezzanine sessions.

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