“Who You Mad At? Me Or Yourself?”
A greater portion of Funk Master Flex’s career has consisted of crusades. Sometimes these crusades are directed against so-called “bubblegum” rap (*ahem*), and sometimes they take aims at rival DJs. In either case, music websites tend to use the same “You Mad?” photo. And fittingly enough, “You Mad?” plays an active role in FMF’s latest call to arms, the intro to Who You Mad At? Me or Yourself, a massive, 55-song monster of a mixtape.
Fellow real talker Loopy Blogger tells it hows he sees it, calling out fat guys who give their girlfriends liposuction, rappers who depend on fluff, and audiences that prefer dumbed-down pop to real dopeness (he also squeezes in a plug for Flex’s new smartphone app, available NOW!!). To back up his arguments, Flex has recruited a veritable brigade of big names that’s way too long to post here. But let me just say that I don’t think you’re going to be able to find a tape containing Cam’ron/Lil Wayne collabs, Smoke DZA chillouts, and Action Bronson cookouts anywhere else on the web. The notorious “Funk Master Flex” soundbite will be burned into your brain by the end of this, but you won’t notice, thanks to the varied offerings and the oddball banter — like the jokey growls that start off J Cole’s “Maine on Fire” (a track which, despite the title, is not all about arson in the Pine Tree State.) There’s a lot of trolling going on, but it’s rooted in a desire for hip-hop truth. Just keepin’ it real.
• Funkmaster Flex: http://www.inflexwetrust.com
Various Artists: Astro Nautico
Atlantics Vol. 3
Although I neglected to include it in my year-end list back in December, Brooklyn label Astro Nautico’s Atlantics Vol. 2 compilation was one of my favorite albums of 2012. There are over 40 tracks on it and every single goddamn one is incredibly dope. I’m sure the “Most Played” filter on my iPod would show at least seven of the top ten occupied by Atlantics tracks. The release of Vol. 2 sort of triggered a personal phase of being obsessed with minimal instrumental hip-hop, footwork, and vaporwave, which is something that I am still going through. So when I heard Vol. 3 was coming out on 4/20, I got pretty stoked.
When I first sat down to listen to the whole thing (32 tracks clocking in at just under two hours), I was so excited to hear each track that I don’t think I got through the entirety of any of them. Damn Bandcamp with all those little play buttons just staring at you. That’s why you gotta just download it — for free! I’ve now listened to all of it, and it’s even richer and more diverse than Vol. 2. Like Astro Nautico says, “There’s sure to be something for everyone.” Okay, maybe not for your Bieber-fevered cousin or your neighbor with the stick in his ass, but there is truly stuff from all across the beat-oriented board.
Some randomly generated highlights: juicy jazzy hip-hop beats from Italian producer Morpheground, downtempo R&B reworkings by Rimar, ghetto minimal tracks from Tom Richman and Kon, abstract noise grooves from htrspltn and Lotide. Oh man, and that first track by Morgan Hislop is sooo good. Feels a bit like Merriweather Post Pavilion at the start there, no?
• Astro Nautico: http://astronautico.com
So, our film editor/writer/fellah Benjamin Pearson recently notified the TMT staff, “Really digging the plus-size fashion ads [on the site]. Feel like it’s progressive of us. Except when it shows up at the same time as the McDonald’s ad, and then I think, maybe our readers aren’t doing too well? Should we post more Choco tracks that are good for working out?”
So, the first in my series of workout jams is this here Fort Romeau (Michael Norris) banger, “SW9.” The single came out this year, but he released a full album on mega fat-burning label 100% SILK last year (which is still for sale). However, Ghostly International’s sister label Spectral Sounds is taking Norris’ deep house sweat to the finish line. So sprint your lunch hour on the treadmill today, and feel that “SW9” gain.
“Q.U.E.E.N.” (ft. Erykah Badu)
A Prince-y empowerment anthem for the ladies of the #expressyourself generation, “Q.U.E.E.N,” Janelle Monae’s new single from her forthcoming The Electric Lady LP, is all about declaring independence from shade, sin, and shame. Against a backdrop of squirmy synths and funk guitar, Monae breaks down the paradigms of modern womanhood. “Is it peculiar that she twerk in the mirror?” she says, adding, “And am I weird to dance alone late at night?” “Naw,” go the frequent responses, coaxing the song’s carnality in return. The song contains the same mercurial arrangements you’ve come to expect; frilly funk slowly steps aside to make way for hip-hop, only to drift off into jazzy territory. Midway through, who should stop in but the first lady of neo-soul herself, Erykah Badu, who uses the song’s catchphrase (“the booty don’t lie”) as a lead-in for a soulful jam combining bass, bongos, trumpets, and — oddly but fittingly enough — cinematic strings. “Q.U.E.E.N.” plays with the same musical free-associations of past Monae smashes (“Many Moons,” “Cold War”), fueled by the sensual stirrings pulsing at its core. The track may not be as immediate as “Tightrope,” but what it lacks in instant pop appeal, it makes up for with solid grooves and an earnest ideology.
After releases on Root Strata, Mexican Summer, and Immune Recordings, Gregg Kowalsky and Marielle Jakobsons of Date Palms drop The Dusted Sessions on June 11 via Thrill Jockey. The core duo, who together have long shaped cosmic carnatic drones into the deepest East-meets-West compositions on the scene, has incorporated electric guitar, tambura, and (more) bass into their new material; “Yuba Reprise” demonstrates the benefits of the maxed-out ensemble. Hear guitarist Noah Phillips twinkle in the upper register before settling into a low-end rumble with Ben Bracken’s bass, while tambura player Michael Elrond grounds the mix with some additional resonance. As Kowalsky and Jakobsons overlap airy, gorgeous licks on Rhodes and violin respectively, the textures thicken and the vibe inches toward ecstasy. (Jakobsons could play literally anything on violin — “Chopsticks,” “The Entertainer,” “Toxic” — and I would sit there rapt and smiling.)
Pre-order The Dusted Sessions on LP or CD from Thrill Jockey. Bring it into your home and let it bring you down to the bottom of the Yuba River for 44 minutes of wide-eyed self-discovery.
We Are Failed
Russel M Harmon (a.k.a Russel.M.Harmon) lives in Reykjavik, Iceland, which is an awesome place to live if you make the kind of music he makes: bleak, electronic soundscapes occasionally accompanied by ice-cold beats that sound more like satellites and arctic radio coms than an MPC. Originally released in September 2012 during one of Iceland’s three yearly winters (winter, winter, winter, summer), We Are Failed builds slowly and purposefully, allowing the listener to soak in the atmosphere of the song before amping up the white noise and intensifying the drums (such as on “Without You, I’d Cease”). Here it is re-released with new artwork and a full side of remixes by the professional Rano Tapes. Refined to the point of being clinical, this is not impressionistic music in the least. Rather, it plays like an album of modern architecture, purposefully constructed and painted within the lines, but using Harmon’s emotive palette of grays and blues. Dig “Tragedy Fractures” for a dramatic dance number from about as far north as music can go and still be danceable.