Digable Planets – Reachin (A New Refutation of Time and Space)

Man, good thing I was in a really shitty mood this week, or I probably wouldn’t have been able to get into Digable Planets.  I’ve been listening to their debut album, Reachin (A New Refutation of Time and Space) and I have to say, I’m pleasantly surprised.  Emphasis on pleasant.  If these guys are one thing, it is definitely pleasant.  They’ve got the laid-back jazz-rap style down perfect.   The three MCs even go so far as to get some good non-threatening names-Butterfly, Doodlebug, and Ladybug, respectively.  These guys do not trade verses with Ghostface Killah, is what I’m saying.

Eric B and Rakim had just released their final album, Don’t Sweat The Technique, a year prior to Reachin, but the Planets raps are still from the pre-Rakim school of hip hop-Basic flows and songs about street life.  They even trade bars now and then.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that people who named themselves after adorable insects don’t spend half the album boasting about their microphone prowess, but after listening to nothing but Jay Electronica for a week prior, it was a nice change of pace.

One thing they do like to brag about is how good the MUSIC is, and I am all for that.  My favorite track, Nickelbags, is a celebration of funk, funky samples, and other things that are funky, and funk, ah, funk it, I mean fuck it.  I don’t know where I was going with that.  Just listen to the song.

This song is so good at 3AM.  That barely there flute is incredible.  It’s sleepy yet happy, entirely content with the world.  That was Bob Marley’s problem.  He needed more flutes.  (Well also most of his songs sucked.)  It reminds me of Sesame Street.  I doubt that’s what they were going for with this record, but it’s definitely what I got from it.  I think that’s more to do with the majority of my Sesame Street viewing coming from early 90’s tapings.  However, they do mention Snuffleupagus in a song, Bert and Ernie too.  I don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, but hey, it’s there.

The album is very relaxed, it doesn’t have any true bangers, but it’s a great one nonetheless.  It’s a record for those summer days when it’s just too hot to do anything, or those spring days when you’re too depressed to listen to noise-metal, I guess.  Can’t wait to hear it on crappy car speakers.

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Fela Kuti, Jay Electronica and Shwayze

A friend was bugging me about Fela Kuti for quite a few months.  I finally took him up on his word and I’m glad I did.  I decided to start with 1975’s Expensive Shit, which is probably the London Calling of the Afrobeat scene, but 1) Ya gotta start somewhere, and 2) you got a problem with London Calling?  Because I sure don’t.  So of course this must all be old news for both of you Afrobeat kids, but I gotta spread the praise among my less enlightened pals.

The album might seem a little intimidating at first, all the songs are over ten minutes long and everything’s sung in Nigerian pidgin.  But don’t fear!  It’s not lyrical music anyway.  Most of the lyrics are call-and-response type stuff.  They don’t make the songs.  The horn section is the real star here.  Fela’s band keeps things funky in a way that’s exciting and uplifting.  What Bob Marley wishes he was.

On the modern side of the spectrum, Jay Electronica has a new song.  “Exhibit C” here came out a month or so ago, but my computer broke so I didn’t get this blog off the ground as soon as I had originally planned.  Still, the delay doesn’t make Jay’s new jam any less relevant.  This guy’s a serious artist.  Look forward to him dropping an album one of these days.

Also, I’ve got this art class where it seems like this other kid and I have become the de-facto class DJs.  Of course, my music is always great.  On occasions, his is tolerable.  He’s usually on a Jack Johnson/Dave Matthews Band kick, but today, we were treated to some modern pop rap.  Not bad.  At least until he busted out the Shwayze.  If you haven’t heard of this asshole, you’ve obviously been doing something right.  Apparently, he had an MTV show a year or two ago when The Hills was really huge.  I think that’s a pretty good indication of where he’s coming from, musically.  I thought it didn’t get much worse than Jack Johnson covering “We’re Going to be Friends,” but this is kind of like if Jack Johnson teamed up with Asher Roth to remake De Stijl, but they rewrote all of the lyrics to be about weed.  Except this is a little worse.  Shwayze makes Hollywood Undead look cool.  The only good to come from this fiasco was that it helped me regain a little faith in Kid Cudi.  For a while, I was worried he was going to be the Dave Matthews Band of hip hop, but I now realize that that spot’s already taken.  Cudi’s got potential.  He’s kind of interesting.  Also, he doesn’t make me want to kill something.

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