February 28th, 2013
As I write this, I am overlooking the Sea of Cortez on the Baja Peninsula from the balcony of my room at a vacation resort outside of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. I don’t consider myself the typical vacation tourist, yet for the fourth year in a row now, I find myself spending a week in a warm, luminous locale, doing fairly typical vacation tourist things like, well, spending a week at a vacation resort designed specifically for the typical tourist. It’s nice to get away for a bit to just lay in the sun, imbibing various items and not doing a damn thing that requires any brain power whatsoever. That is, aside from deciding what kind of cocktails and/or tacos I’m going to order from one of the many attentive employees roaming the grounds. My day goes a little lot like this: I get up whenever I want. I eat a peanut butter sandwich in my room. I go for a swim. I pick a spot to chill on either the beach or near the pool. I drink a real sugar Coke or a real sugar Pepsi. I read a bunch of zines from the pile that has stacked up over the last few months. I eat some tacos. I drink some cervezas. I turn on my iPod and pass out under the blazing hot sun, while some classic reggae like Yellow Man & Fathead, Black Uhuru or The Abyssinians flowss from my ear buds deep into my brain. I go swimming again. I drink some more cervezas. I read a book. I eat some more tacos, or maybe a quesadilla or a burrito. I drink some cocktails—usually a Miami Vice, which is half strawberry daiquiri and half pinna colada or a Funky Monkey, which is bananas, chocolate sauce, coconut and either vodka or rum (I can’t remember; it makes no difference to me either way because, you know, it’s booze.)—or even more cervezas while sitting in the hot tub, watching the sun go down over the palm trees. Back at my room, I usually eat various snacks—a Snickers, ice cream, some strangely-flavored Pringles, etc.—while flipping between Spanish HBO and month-old episodes of crappy American TV shows that I’d never watch back home. Or, sometimes, like right now, I’ll sit and stare at the moonlight glistening off the ocean and think about really important things like how there’s too many rappers.
As the month of February wraps up, there are some notable things that have come out since my last dispatch. In the New Mixtapes department…
KRNDN – Everything’s Nothing
KRNDN is how Krondon from Strong Arm Steady spells his name now, because he’s like, a rapper and stuff. Everything’s Nothing is his first solo outing, and as anyone familiar with SAS would expect, it’s impressive as hell. It’s hard to put this into words, so I’m not sure this will make sense anyone besides me, but it’s almost as if Krondon accidently created a better piece of art than Kendrick Lamar very purposefully attempted to create with good kid, m.A.A.d city. Against a backdrop of smoothed-out beats (by Cardo, DJ Dahi, DJ Khalil, and 321) he interweaves autobiographical memoirs and herb-puffed anecdotes; parading the laid-back, sunny vibe of California rider music. The sound emanating from your speakers will only enhance the hallucinogenic properties of whatever it is you ingested...if that’s your thing or whatever. Props for the imagery too, which is very much in the vein of DIY zine art.
Realm Reality – In Grind We Trust
Realm Reality is the rap name of Hollywood actor Rick Gonzalez—the puffy-haired kid from films like Old School and Roll Bounce. I normally wouldn’t even check out an actor-turned-rapper project, except I have a soft spot for this guy because he was in a basketball movie (Coach Carter) and he played Pat Smear in the Germs biopic, What We Do Is Secret. (Hoops and punk rock, like hip-hop, are things near and dear to my heart.) He’s the first artist to be signed to Prodigy’s (of Mobb Deep) Infamous label. In Grind We Trust is his debut tape. Having grown up in Bushwick, Brooklyn, Realm’s lyricism revolves around the hard-life corner tales and braggadocios rhymes, typical of East Coast street rap. Surprisingly, he raps really well. Although most of the high points come as a result of the many guest emcees. Joell Ortiz drops in on “The Grey”, while Skyzoo lends a verse on the closer “Can’t Fuck With Me.” The tapes standout track is “Immortal Ventilation,” featuring AG Da Coroner, Termanology and Roc Marciano, who makes everything he touches about ten times better.
Black Dave – Stay Black
No sooner had I featured a Black Dave skate video in my last column than he dropped his latest tape, Stay Black. “All I do is rap – All I do is skate,” states the rapper/skater on “Rap & Skate,” the mid-tape track that in the simplest terms possible sums up what Black Dave is all about. Although he’s a New Yorker, Dave applies a multifarious approach to rap, successfully flexing mic skills in a variety of regional styles—effectively stirring an alluring cocktail of trap, club and boom-bap. Lyrically, he’s not saying much you haven’t heard before (see: song titles like “Bitch Nigga Why You Fake?” and “Muthafuck My Enemies!”) but that’s exactly what I like about it—it’s fucking rap music, man! Also, as someone who was briefly known in certain circles as White Nate, I’m partial to people who use their color-based ethnicity as part of their name. And shoutouts for using Thrasher Magazine-style logo on the cover work. (I’ve purchased several hardcore 7”s over the years strictly based on the same font. Party Fowl anyone?) Do yourself a favor and download this now.
In the Rap Songs You Should Listen To department...
DJ Skizz - Violence (feat. Ill Bill & Lil Fame)
"Violence" is a track featruing Ill Bill and Lil Fame that will appear on DJ Skizz's upcoming album, B.Q.E. Do you love portentous beats and rappers talking about pistol-whipping other rappers? If so, you'll like this.
Durag Dynasty - Spiral Event (feat. Evidence)
This is new joint by Durag Dynasty, the group comprised of emcees Planet Asia, Tristate, and Killer Ben. "Spiral Event", which features Evidence and was produced by Alchemist, will appear on their soon to be released record, 360 Waves. As someone who thinks of himself as being up on the current shit, I msut admit, I have to inquire: are people still rocking durags?
Joey Bada$$ -Wendy N Becky (feat. Chance the Rapper)
Joey Bada$$ just keeps churning out the tunes. This one features his Pro Era stablemate Chance the Rapper, and the jazzy production steez of a one Thelonius Martin. This misogynistic tale reminds me, in more ways than one (see: the use of dollar symbols in their names, sexcapades named after two girls, lots of swearing, etc.) of youthful days cruising around Northern Minnesota with my friend Lee V., while Too $hort's "Paula & Janet" blasted from the tape deck of his Ford Tempo.
And now for your viewing pleasure, in the Rap Vidoes You Should Watch department...
MED, Blu & Madlib - Burgundy Whip
This the video to a track off of the MED, Blu & Madlib collabo EP, The Burgundy. Lean back and let that Cali vibe get all up in ya.
CZARFACE (Inspectah Deck and 7L & Esoteric) - Air 'em Out
CZARFACE is collabo between Wu-Tang's Inspectah Deck and underground veteran duo 7L & Esoteric. This is the first video from their excellent new full-length album Czarface (that I was supposed to have written a review of weeks ago. Soon, fingers crossed.) It's on some mad Tarantino shit.
Brood Baby Presents: L.O.T.D. with R.A. the Rugged Man - "Bootleggers"
And finally, take some time to watch veteran underground emcee and hip-hop historian R.A. the Rugged Man talking about the tape bootlegging days in the second episode of Brood Baby's Lesson of the Day web series. It is of special interest to me because of the old Yo! MTV Raps footage, and that I can clearly remember my brother and I buying bootlegs of Kid 'n' Play's Funhouse and Heavy D & the Boyz' Big Tyme at a flea market in Idaho back in like, 1990. The sleaves were just a crappy color copy with no liner notes, and of course, the shit didn't play well either...which in retrospect, we were probably better off for.
In the I Need To Get Back to What's Really Important department...
I think an old episode of Glee is starting, and I'm kind of feeling like some Buffalo chicken wing and limon wedge flavored stackable potato chips. So until next time, Hasta Luego!