atlantis: hymns for disco
When I first heard of k-os I wondered, “Who is that dude rhyming over that house beat?” Then I listened a bit more and said, “Yo, that kid rhyming over that house beat is killing it!” At the least, I can say I loved his debut album, Exit, which featured the single described above, “Superstar pt. Zero.” Now k-os has returned with his latest album, Atlantis-Hymns for Disco, but before we discuss his latest effort lets get you caught up to the album Joyful Rebellion, his sophomore release.
First off, he sings, produces and rhymes and is dope at each endeavor. His arrangements, samples, flows and cadences ride each riddum perfectly and distinctly on every album and song. Does he have a signature sound? If so, it would be good music. He promotes his philosophical positions like in Exit where he shows that hip-hop does not have to be in its current state, and then in Joyful Rebellion where he just drops all sorts of “I f*cking hate the current state of music for real but I love music” intimations (he never really said that but it felt like he was saying it) in a really soulful way. Based in Canada, k-os has tallied up numerous awards for his music and videos including, but not limited to, Best International Hip Hop Artist at the 2003 Source Awards, a Juno Award for Best Video of the Year and a Grammy nomination for Best Dance Song in 2003. That was Exit. Joyful Rebellion racked up three Juno Awards and he followed that up with a well-received DVD project. All that is said just to make sure you pay attention to him because now, we can talk about this album Atlantis-Hymns for Disco.
The album is great. It is better than the last two because with each album he reveals a different facet and grows as an artist.The music he makes is thick, light-hearted, heavy handed, torn, upbeat, down tempo, jazzy, show tune-ish, and catchy with healthy portions of singing, clapping and rapping. It is an exit, a joyful rebellion, with a floating-in-my-consciousness rock n roll sound that features sloppy drums, crisp snares, and gritty guitar riffs that are interpolated with cuts and scratches. It is art. Topic-wise this album sounds like the accompanying press release which is unusual. The press release is damn near a manifesto. In it k-os says, “to use your voice in the world is the greatest responsibility of an artist. Most revolutionary art ends up provoking classic ideals and it is these same classic ideals that become prisons if they go unchallenged.”
Songs like “Sunday Morning,” “The Rain,” and “ Valhalla” are stand-outs but the entire album grabs you and keeps you. Peep the “Sunday Morning” video link to his website www.k-osmusic.com. If you like that video/song and the other video/songs you might have just been put on to your new favorite artist of the year.
Not since Outkast has an artist or group grown and integrated music and life so seamlessly. Personally, I love this album and this artist’s perspective, integrity and commitment to being an artist at a time when many recording artists are not. I suspect you will too.
brook stephenson is the literary editor of Nat Creole but his knowledge expands beyond the written word. hit him up at email@example.com
Theme music for the apocalypse has been provided by El-P. If “apocalyptic hip-hop” was not a term I just created for this article, El-P would be the genre’s father. Originally signed to Rawkus Records with the independent group Company Flow, El-P has risen to mythical heights in the world of underground / independent hip-hop. He is a white emcee/producer from New York who cannot conveniently fit under only one label. He is not a backpack rapper. He is not a religious zealot. He is not a gimmicky wannabe who is exploiting the culture. Simply, El-P is his complicated self. Founder of the now legendary independent record label, Definitive Jux, El Producto has earned his much deserved respect. As a label founder, El-P used Definitive Jux as a vehicle to release dense and high quality albums by C Rayz Walz, Cannibal Ox, The Perceptionists, Aesop Rock, Mr. Lif, and others. His cacophonic production style is gloriously unique and dramatically powerful. His drums have a juggernaut force and his melodies are lush soundscapes. He has contributed production for albums like “The Cold Vein” by Cannibal Ox, “Black Dialogue” by The Perceptionists, “I Phantom” and “Mo’ Mega” by Mr. Lif, and “Year Of The Beast” by C Rayz Walz.
From start to finish, El-P’s “Fantastic Damage” was his challenging and thought-provoking debut solo album. Standout cuts included “Blood”, “Deep Space 9MM”, and “Fantastic Damage.” A true hip-hop producer, El-P also released varied instrumental albums. Released on Thirsty Ear Records, “High Water” showcased his talents by capturing his production skills with a jazz band. Released on Definitive Jux, “Collecting The Kid” was a refreshing compilation of tracks from various projects El-P had been working on. “Constellation (Remix)” (featuring Stephanie Vezina) and “Oxycontin” (featuring Camu Tao) were exceptional tracks. Fans were yearning for El-P’s next complete solo album. When people thought El-P could not top “Fantastic Damage”, they were amazed when El-P’s sophomore album surpassed his previous work. “I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead” is a glorious, intelligent, and powerful album. While the “Fantastic Damage” LP was described as somewhat difficult listening, “I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead” is exceptionally constructed, instantly entertaining, and intellectually memorable. Hip-hop will never experience another album like “I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead”.
“I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead” contains multiple tracks of epic proportions. The opening cut, “Tasmanian Pan Coaster” possesses a powerful crescendo and thick bouncing rhythms. El-P’s chorus is a shocking epiphany, “…This is the sound of what you don’t know killing you / This is the sound of what you don’t believe still true / This is that sound of what you don’t want still in you / TPC motherf*cker / Cop a feel or two…” The song features Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala of The Mars Volta. Mr. Dibbs also contributes turntable cutting to the track. During the song’s conclusion, the use of a distorted guitar intertwined with an operatic vocal sample creates a devastating cinematic sound. “Flyentology” features Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails on vocals. Even people who are sick of Trent Reznor will probably appreciate the song. El-P uses Reznor’s vocals in a very intelligent way. He is careful not to overuse Reznor too. Since the song does not clash with the other tracks, the album’s flow is maintained. The animated music video for “Flyentology” gives the song a complete new dimension while telling a creative and fantastic story. El-P’s view on religion and spirituality is extremely refreshing. “…There are atheists in the foxholes / There is no intellect in the air / There are no scientists on the way down / Just a working example of faith verses physics…” His creativity leaves much to interpretation. The epic conclusion of the album is “Poisonville Kids No Wins”. El-P’s soft spoken, heartfelt delivery is enhanced by the song’s structure. The beat stops and restarts throughout the track, gaining more momentum and power every time. The massively hypnotic chorus is a thick, melodic beat crescendo. Chan Marshall of Cat Power adds poignantly ethereal vocals during the song’s finale, “…Never, ever, ever gonna get that way again…” Cinematically epic, these songs bring hip-hop to creative heights.
The album also includes tracks that are shorter in length but not quality. “Drive” is possibly the most instantly appealing song on the album. For the chorus, a sped-up vocal sample is used before each line. El-P’s verses are wonderfully frustrating. El-P raps, “…I’m not a depressed man / I’m just a f*cking New Yorker / Who knows that sitting in traffic with these bastards is torture…” El-P’s “Drive” is proof that he can create a somewhat catchy yet clever solo track that has the potential to be a single. “Up All Night” is a bouncy, intelligent track with thick, electronic melodies and swirling drum rhythms. In the hook, El-P states that he is not a person to be taken advantage of, “…I see you all regardless / I know what lies are like / I might have been born yesterday, sir / But I stayed up all night…” Another bounce-driven track with a memorable chorus is “Smithereens (Stop Cryin)”. El-P’s quick double-time flow adds a cool diversity to the album. He even adds melody to his hook. “No Kings” is a tight cut which features a deep-voiced Tame-One (formerly of Artifacts). “Run The Numbers” (featuring Aesop Rock) is a catchy track which will have you shouting “Find those detonators!” El-P’s melodic repetition of “Na-na-na-na-na-na-na” makes the song catchy, fun, yet still intelligent. Another powerful track, “The Overly Dramatic Truth” is sexually harsh and insanely aggressive.
Only a handful of songs do not have the same intensity or replay value as the other tracks on the album. “Habeas Corpses (Draconian Love)” is an overdone track with the repeated hook: “I found love on a prison ship.” Cage contributes vocals to the track. Although Cage and El-P work well together, the album’s other songs are more satisfying. The only other somewhat filler track is the short and angry “Dear Sirs”. To call these tracks filler is somewhat unfair because the depth and meaning of each song does shine with creativity.
“I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead” displays a major maturation in El-P. His production talents have become extremely unique, but massively emotional. As an emcee, he has begun to master his flow and delivery as well as his cadence. Although “Fantastic Damage” was a solid album, “I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead” is incredibly tighter and more accessible. The album’s accessibility never forsakes the usual complicated beauty of his music. While the album may also be considered a challenging listen compared to most hip-hop CDs, “I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead” is beautifully challenging and executed with an intellectual precision. Although the album may go over people’s heads, intelligent and open-minded music lovers should appreciate the record’s multiple layers of creativity. Simply, “I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead” by El-P is a complicated modern hip-hop classic.
Review by Todd E. Jones
WARNING: This copy written review is property of Todd E. Jones and cannot be duplicated or published without official permission.
EL-P’s “I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead” – blog: http://iswyd.blogspot.com/
The official Definitive Jux Web Site: http://www.definitivejux.net/
By Richie Cruz
The more things change, the more they stay the same…with reggaetón, that saying can now be applied in striking fashion. On Saturday, June 9th (the eve of the Puerto Rican parade), Shea Stadium played host to New York urban Latino music station La Kalle 105.9’s annual Blin-Blineo concert. The sold-out show bared striking similarities to the legendary salsa concert held in Yankee Stadium in the late 1970s with an overwhelming display of Puerto Rican pride accompanied a colorful crowd filled with energy. The scene outside was vibrant and celebrity-filled: Producer John Singleton and actor Rick Gonzalez from the upcoming movie Illegal Tender were hanging out and signing autographs with concertgoers, who were lined up for a while.
“This is what it’s all about”, said Notch, who opened the show with a fiery set that included “Ay Que Bueno”, and his latest hit “Zoom Gyal”, “Continuing to make history, and doing it in style.” DJ Spin One, Laura Stylez, and the rest La Kalle’s strong roster of DJs and on-air personalities hosted the festivities throughout the evening and made sure nobody sat down throughout the 3-hour party.
The show featured hitmakers new and old from every Latino music genre: Joell y Randy, who’ve had a huge buzzworthy year, performed “Soy Una Gargola” and “Agresivo”, much to the crowd’s content, bachatero Yoskar Sarante showed up and performed “Perdoname La Vida”, and salsa icon Victor Manuelle performed his barrage of hits. The evening’s loudest ovations came for Hector “El Father” (who might’ve had the highest crowd response all night) and duo Wisin y Yandel, whose set left many of the young ladies in tears.
The night’s most interesting scene came backstage, where Hector “El Father” and Don Omar (who’ve both been quarreling as of late) shared a friendly embrace, apparently squashing any notion of animosity.
Don Omar proceeded to close the show like the superstar he is, and as expected, took a shot at rival Daddy Yankee, who pulled out of the show last minute after being hospitalized. The otherwise drama-free show ended, and 30,000 reggaetón fans left exuberant and ready for the parade festivities the next day.
By Juanda Cleckley
It was my good listening enjoyment to hear “R. Kelly’s” “Double Up” CD. R. Kelly true to form is a Master at his work and this CD continues to reflect his genius. The collaborations are excellent and it was good to hear from “Nelly” (I was wondering where he was); Ludracris, Keyshia Cole and others to add to the unique range of entertainment that is unique to “R. Kelly.”
He begins the CD by announcing “He’s the Champ” in “The Champ featuring Swizz Beat”. An announcement that die hard fans like me were waiting for him to declare to the world. Human error, failure or not our gifts and talents are what keep us connected to the Universe and the Master R. Kelly expresses that supremely in this project. “Double Up” was one of cuts that, if you are real, you have to sit back and know well, this is the way of the world today for some and expressing it, he seemed to enjoy the ride. Kelly goes from over the top with his expression of courage, continuing and strength to my personal favorite, “Real Talk” where he is telling his girl what most women who have a man on their team need to hear. Kelly deals with real life issues from a Chicago home grown flavor- just plain good common sense. His ode to the tragedy at Virginia Tech brings to light his ability to remain sensitive to the world around him while expressing his versatility as an artist from ballads to love songs, Hip Hop to tributes Kelly masterfully handles the task and leaves you with a product that allows you to feel that you have truly been entertained by the experience. “Double Up” is a must hear. Kelly brings to the stage his experience, strength, talent, growth and courage that regardless of how people love you when you are up or down in the industry the fact is the race still is not given to the swift, neither to the strong but to them that endure to the end. “Now that we got that out the way…”
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The cast of the Independent film, A Deeper Love, introduced a true masterpiece to the world with a theatre packed tightly full of eager fans, anxious colleagues, and close family and friends at the movie’ s premier on May 2, 2007. The crowd was left in utter amazement as the films daring message glared across the screen about a relationship rocked to the core with the question of whether a modern love can sustain its vigor when challenged with the idea of an ancient concept, the love an individual may come to possess for God and righteous spiritual living. As Chyna Layne (Gina) in the film can attest the question at hand was not whether her love for Rayan Lawrence (Kevin) was true, but instead was that relationship strong enough to sustain the force of being coupled with a deeper love for God.
A Deeper Love–written, directed, and produced by Darrell Smith, effectively tells the profound journey of a soul struggling with doubts of love while on a spiritually reflective journey. Young couples around the world can surely relate to the universal questions that the film asks. Entirely filmed in
New York’s cultural Mecca of Brooklyn, A Deeper Love was shot every weekend roughly over a period of three months that began in mid-August. “My inspiration was my experience, the film is character driven so that meant the cast had to be very strong and we got it right with this cast!” said Darrell Smith to the bright eyed audience during the question and answer session that took place at the conclusion of the world premier. “I’m hoping that people will just take a look at it. Not only as a great film, but for the message that I believe in and stand behind…you know somebody finding their own spiritual way and how it reverberates to their community and all of their relationships and in that way changes everybody else, sometimes for the better and sometimes not,” said Gwynne Flanagan who plays Chyna Layne’s best friend Toni in the film. Also starring in the film are Christopher L McAllister as Greg and Nazanin Nour as Sybel.
Preparation for the role came easily to Rayan Lawrence who said that upon reading the script he easily knew that this role could be driven by his own life and relationship experiences. “I tried to find something comparable to Kevin because with his situation he doesn’t want to get married because of a previous failed marriage. I didn’t want to get into another relationship because of my previous relationships. I saw a similarity to get me focused for the character, pretty easy—pretty much going back to a time when I approached things and taking back that to bring to Kevin’s character.”
Chyna Layne on the other hand–as she chuckled, hugged, and graciously thanked every fan that approached her—said, when asked how she prepared for and brought herself to the role, that she studied her bible a lot to prepare for this stunning performance. “I just let my personality go. I didn’t care, I believed and trusted in the moment and just went with it. It’s funny, I was in a very similar situation…when I was searching for something to believe in, I was lost and actually went to my own church. I sat there and it seemed like that was the day that everything hit me and I was crying, it was so embarrassing how hard I was crying, so I reflected on that. I would just sit in a room and just think—think of all the times I had my heart broken, but I’m not bitter. I hope that this film will change lives and positively affect people and inspire them to just believe and trust in their hearts.
Since its inception into main stream society, television and the images it propagates has more than often been the Achilles heel of Black evolution. When ABC first released the epic miniseries, Roots, the history of slaves far from forgotten was depicted with such candor that even by today’s standards it would likely stir some controversy. The producers and writers alike took great leaps and bounds, huge chances in illustrating a history marred by great injustices. To achieve that effect, the series employed colorful language (repeated Use of N-word), showed violent scenes, and wonderfully developed characters to fuel the authenticity of the feature.
Based on Alex Haley’s book detailing his family ancestry, Roots is essentially a story about generations of a family. It chronicles the history of this family from the brutal times of slavery in the 1700’s to the uncertain yet promising periods of reconstruction. Apart from its sincerity and authenticity, this 11-hour feature excels in its casting and character development. The production enlisted the likes of LeVar Burton, whose portrayal of a young Kunta Kinte was brilliant; it also featured stellar acting by Louis Gossett Jr., John Amos, OJ Simpson and Maya Angelou amongst others. What was particularly astounding about the casting was the amount of black actors that were brought to the forefront of the screen; despite the success of the series several of these actors were not presented with adequate film or television roles. Characters like the slave ship captain, played by Ed Asner reveal a character who struggles with the validation of slavery.
To commemorate the 30th year anniversary of its initial release, Roots will be released on the 22nd of May, by Warner Bros. Apart from the main feature; the 4 disc DVD set contains commentaries, and commentary video highlights-on camera interviews as well as an intriguing special feature, Crossing Over: How Roots Captivated an Entire Nation. Furthermore, it includes artwork that reveals Alex Haley’s family ancestry in a family tree.
Without a doubt, the roots saga will continue to captivate audiences of generations to come. Not only does it offer the history of Blacks of this nation incorporated with Haley’s family lineage, it is also suggestive of the power and significance of one’s name. It offers several life lessons, and acts as reminder of how far African Americans have come and the journey that lies ahead.
Bola “Eldorado Red” Alex-Oni
Kurupt & J. Wells
On the Left Coast, there is very little denying that Kurupt a.k.a. Young Gotti is an O.G., on the streets as well as the rap scene. After over a dozen solo and Dogg Pound Gang efforts and an impressive list of silver screen appearances to maintain his notoriety, Kurupt and Likwit affiliate J Wells’ “Digital Smoke” collabo album is proof that the former Death Row Vice Prez still got it. With guest appearances from Kurupt’s physical Young Roscoe, his fiancee Gail Gotti, and other Cali comrades from the Likwit Crew, this easily unnoticed goodie has an unmistakable family rather than industry feel to it. In my expert opinion, Digital Smoke is a new millenium herbal experience that is an above average attempt to mimic the epic Death Row debut, “The Chronic”.
It must be mentioned that the Likwit’s blue collar man behind the boards J. Wells’ ability to occasionally dominate the mic instead of just keeping up, enhances this well constructed project’s similarities to The Doctor’s post N.W.A. debut. All the way down to The Chronic’s trademark, weed toaking intros and interludes, Digital is a melodic trip that will keep you in a marijuana laced, nodding trance. Bud not included.
Kurupt and J. Wells successfully approach this project as a duo and display their mic handles equally over J. Wells’ exclusive, executive production. Mr. Wells set it off on the rhyme side of things on “All We Smoke”, letting everybody know that he’s next in line behind the people who molded his musical ear, like N.W.A., Snoop, and Dogg Pound. Young Roscoe definitely showed his ass and the listeners that skills run in the Brown family. Kurupt’s little bro said,’..Yo, what I look like?/she like, Yo, whats up Kurupt!I’m like, No bitch! Even though we look alike..’ on the horn ridden “I’m Just Sayin'”. He also showed off his Philly bred flow on “It’s Nothin'”, spittin’ darts like, ‘All these cigarettes got me huffin’ and puffin’/All my niggas, Yes, we be hustlin’ and strugglin’/All these infra-reds at my head got me duckin’/Red Bullet Vodka to the head got me buzzin’..’. The exceptional, yet noticeable West Coast electronic, P-Funk sounds invade joints like “Summertime”(which features Gail Gotti) and “Get It”(feat.Goodie Mob & Roscoe), which only enhances Wells’ production credibility. On “Smokin'”, DPG afilly Y.A. gets some lyrical excersize in along with J. and Kurupt with James DeBarge singing the hook on a track that was made for a ride in a old Chevy on 100 spokes down Crenshaw on a Friday night. “History” is another heat rock that boasts strong trumpets while a piano slices through the boom bap every four bars, just for Butch Cassidy to come through and do acrobatics on the beat. The album’s closer,”Let ‘Em Know” featuring the founders of the Likwit Crew, The Alkaholiks, is a prime example of pure, universal Hip Hop music that will go virtually unnoticed.
The variety of guests on the album added to it’s diversity, yet made it that much easier to compare to its predecessor. J. Wells does a supreme job in keeping the entire session uptempo, thus keeping the listener’s attention. A lot of the lyrical content was aimed at the strippers, hood rats, and gang banging rivals, however, all of the MCs well seasoned deliveries is enough to deter the average rival MC from looking for a come up. It’s likely that indie Bonzi Records(founded by J. Wells) won’t have the funds to give the promotion that Digital Smoke’s “limited edition” sound deserves, but if you keep your ears to the street, you’re bound to catch wind of this one. The complimenting styles of the L.A. O.G. passing the torch to the all or nothing emcee/producer is definitely gonna raise some eyebrows in this “all for self” industry.
-by Charles “CZA” Sweet II
Instrumental albums are always hit-or-miss because it is most definitely a niche item. Constructed of a particular producer’s beats from various artists, (Sometimes even various genres!) it’s never truly defined as to whom it’s catered to. They also from over saturation due to mixtape usage and DJ blends. Alchemist hopes to do away with all the confusion by letting you know exactly who this is for; the rappers.
Rapper’s Best Friend: an Instrumental Series is chock full of familiar bangers and eclectic cuts that you’ve heard before—but that’s not all for he has also included unreleased tracks especially for this episode. “G-Type” has a nod-pause-nod rhythm given by the poignant kicks and almost concrete sounding slaps. The bass line here is the prevalent factor though, it moves the track along with a style that’s decidedly gangster. “Guns is razors” has an opening worthy of Spartacus with its soaring horns and choir inspired strings that fall away to reveal a sparse but inspirational march. The track itself is hot, but what really makes it stand out is how everything in the background almost has a life of its own. Syncopated snares seem to roll and drop, rise and fall all within the confines of the kick.
The true test (or so one might think) of any instrumental album is this: when someone listens to it, can they separate the track away from whoever made it a song? Can they appreciate the music for just that—music? Rapper’s Best Friend: an Instrumental Series is a split decision on that one because tracks like “Back Again” and “Bring You Light” scream Dilated Peoples and Snoop Dogg respectively. It’s near impossible to see anything other than what you’ve already heard because it came out so well. Another issue is the inevitable “Rapper X would’ve KILLED this beat!” syndrome that one is likely to develop after hearing tracks like “Tight”. I personally imagined Nas on the beat doing his business to the utmost. “Still Feel Me” is another that I could’ve easily seen an artist like Carl Thomas crooning just as easily as anyone else.
Instrumental albums can be a thing of beauty but they have to be material that no one’s heard and even better, no one’s used. Alchemist has made it so that there is no mistaking to whom this product is intended for, but outside of someone who intends to use it for a hip hop project, it’s not the greatest expenditure of money. Through and through this is a collector’s item more than anything else.