Posts by jeffwbaird
Posted by jeffwbaird on July 23, 2014
In the not-too-distant past, the production that a rapper could obtain while still positioning themselves as independent artists wasn’t all that important. It was trendy — largely because of Lil Wayne’s Dedication series — for artists to recycle industry beats, and thus they didn’t necessarily need high-quality original production to fuel a career. That tendency has shifted, though, and most successful startups in this market have at least one reliable instrumentalist whose work helps them define their sound. Few, if any, are as gifted and as significant in shaping their overall sound as One Love—best-known as the production half of Kinetics & One Love.
Since K&1L’s critically acclaimed You Are Not Alone released in 2012, One Love has produced for a number of Atlantic Records’ talents, including Neon Hitch and—most recently—Melanie Martinez. Today he’s released his first official remix, to Melanie Martinez’s new single, “Dollhouse”—a song he originally produced as well. While the primary version has accrued over two million views on YouTube already, One Love has utilized the strengths of Melanie’s vocals and reconstructed the darker-themed beat into a summer smash. The increased BPM, coruscating synths, and added melodic qualities of the production entirely change the listening experience, while retaining the meaning of its original. Check out the track below, and follow One Love using the links below.
Posted by jeffwbaird on May 2, 2014
It’s been a year-and-a-half since we last heard from Kinetics & One Love, who have been steadily building a reputation as one of the most talented and promising duos in the genre on any scale. Always conceptual in their artistry, 2012′s terrific album You Are Not Alone solidified elements of their philosophical identity and developed an iconic sense of self, one that many artists are unable to conjure throughout the span of a career. Now, after a brief hiatus writing and producing for other artists (Neon Hitch, Melanie Martinez), they’ve returned with an even deeper and more fully-developed vision and aesthetic, continuing their streak of new music releases where a sense of progression is invoked. It’s expected at this point, and in a genre where progression isn’t commonplace and often first albums are a rapper’s most heralded, it bears a lot of weight that this group simply can’t make new music without “development” being a part of the dialogue.
“Time Machine” features the powerful vocals of Neon Hitch, and ups-the-ante for up-and-comers with its video by Hourglass Films, setting the bar for depth and quality at a level that may have never been surpassed before by independent artists. The track features Kinetics as innovative and visionary as he’s ever been on the mic, invoking the sentiments of Nikola Tesla, using the second verse to detail elements of his poignant death, from the hotel room to the “do not disturb” sign on the door that he left prior to his passing. One Love, too, shows his maturity as a producer here, not just inviting the listener to enter this world, but keeping them there. While his production here isn’t as much in the forefront as it has been on songs like “Vecina Del Mar” and “You Could Save Us All”, he’s become so adept at using the intricacies of his production to complement his vocalists, and its often the subtleties of his work that are the most resonant.
Posted by jeffwbaird on April 28, 2014
One of the great teases in our society of late is the ease with which many assume they’ll attain rap stardom. With the growing diversity of emcees’ backgrounds, and, more importantly, the lowering bar of the skill necessary to receive that long-coveted record deal, we’ve entered a time when many think it’s totally plausible they’ll make it big with their rhymes. And that scares me. I’m all for artistic expression, but when an artist is after fame and not necessarily making music for expression’s sake or as a result of their love for the craft, it’s clear. And because the former happens to be the vast majority of what makes up my inbox, here’s a chance for you to learn what the alternative sounds like.
B.Love (one-third of the FNT favorite Suns of Society), is a Cali-based rapper/songwriter/producer with a tremendous amount of versatility, and a desire to keep his sound authentic and unaffected by the industry’s love to keep artist’s boxed in and conformed to a specific sound. On his latest mixtape, Who Says?, B.Love produced the entire thing (with the help of some close friends and colleagues, including Benny Blanco and One Love) and tried to keep the record hard to describe and as broad in sound as possible. The result is a project that—while less unified by consistency in sound—is certainly consistent in terms of its experimentation and the fact that every track sounds like it was made exactly how B.Love intended. It’s a reminder that music is a passion for all of us, first and foremost, and whether or not you come out at the other end as marketable and easily packaged as would be ideal for making that shot at the big time shouldn’t be why you’re doing it. If you’re making records like this, then I have no reason to be scared at all. You can find Who Says? in full for free right here, or support the movement and make the financial gesture here.
Posted by jeffwbaird on April 24, 2014
Amidst this facile pop culture climate—in which producers and writers alike have problematically concluded that lucrativeness follows the more nugatory and hollow creations—an artist with a clear identity and sound is at once both palpable and powerful. Hence, my enthusiasm for King Deco. A month after releasing her EP’s lead single, “One”, the full project is here, adding two mesmeric and lushly-produced tracks in “Laila” (produced by Adam Pallin) and “Ocean” (produced by Cobra Starship’s Ryland Blackinton & One Love), as well as a Kinetics verse with every bit as much of the intricateness and carefully-crafted lyricism we’ve come to expect from the astute rhymer. What is most compelling, though, about King Deco’s project, is how much depth and weight this project bears in just three songs. She excels at combining lyrical tension with her softening, tranquil harmonies, and ultimately leaves us craving a more ample dose of her world. Luckily, we don’t have to wait long, with her Euphrates EP release around the corner. For more, we spoke to the talented songstress herself:
Posted by jeffwbaird on March 6, 2014
King Deco is going to be a star. This Duke grad and pop newcomer has a penchant for invoking Cleopatra, and one of the most captivating, mellifluous voices you’ll hear from anyone without a major label deal (or maybe even with). Given the constant routine and monotony that pervades pop music, it’s enlivening to hear and see an artist whose sound and aesthetic seems much more reflective of their authentic selves and sensibilities, rather than what is most marketable. “One”, the first single from her upcoming EP, was produced by Felix Snow, and features Deco’s rich, resonant vocals and writing over a seductive beat laden with ambient synths. Tigris is due out this month, and will also include the writing and production of Kinetics & One Love, Ryland Blackinton (of Cobra Starship), and ASTR’s Adam Pallin.
Posted by jeffwbaird on February 23, 2014
I’m all for self-expression, but the extent to which under-and-post-grads have begun chasing down full-time careers in hip-hop is concerning. It seems to signify the misconception that attaining a lucrative presence in the genre comes with ease; you don’t need to know music theory, don’t need to be able to play an instrument, and don’t really even need a good singing voice, though it certainly helps your versatility and is more appealing in this post-So Far Gone era of hip-hop. Thus, for those who like to write and like the idea of stardom and like the idea of feeding their egos, hip-hop seems like a relatively simple and satisfying career aspiration. It helps, too, that this is 2014 and gangsta rap is no longer the forefront of the genre. We’ve reached a time when there is no defined rapper aesthetic, when Sammy Adams is as equally recognizable as an emcee as Bun B. This is all to say that every day bloggers around the country have their inboxes stocked with thoroughly uninspired rap. Rap that at least attempts to replicate the sounds and flows of what already exists on the radio, as if recycling Big Sean’s flow from “All Me” guarantees radio placement.
This is why it’s so exciting to receive a record like S.E.I.S. It’s surprisingly easy when you listen to an album to tell if the artist enjoyed making it, and whether its sound is genuine and authentic. When that is the case, it’s that much more fun to digest, and it doesn’t make you question the artist’s goals. If the passion is there, they’re not only more likely to do the work necessary to become a success to the extent of a Macklemore or Logic or Hoodie Allen — which is really hard — but also that probably doesn’t even matter to them. It’s art, it’s their passion, and the unlikelihood of acceptance shouldn’t hold them back — the same way that the low acceptance rate at top law schools doesn’t keep hopefuls from applying in bulk. Maxxx Flair, an NYC native, was first featured on FNT in 2012 with “Forever Dope”, and while he was already a budding emcee at the time, his progression as a lyricist and technical rapper is immediately made clear from the first few bars of the intro. Fueled by a solid selection of lively, hard-hitting beats, Maxxx shines over this set of seven tracks, showcasing his finesse with cadence, wide range of flows, and strong attention-to-detail as a writer. Accompanying the mixtape is the video for the first single, “F@#K !t”, produced by 52 Kings, which you can find below. If you take a chance on one new rapper this week, let it be him.
Posted by jeffwbaird on December 23, 2013
With the mainstream sound shifting further towards hip-hop (or is it the other way around?) the way it has in 2013, it’s become quite a good climate for rappers. While this year has had its share of successes and rises to fame (see Chance The Rapper, Logic), though, it’s certainly had its share of disappointments. Read on to see my selections as the year’s best work in hip-hop.