Posts by jeffwbaird
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.
Posted by jeffwbaird on December 17, 2013
There are very few artists shy of national recognition who seem to have really found themselves as artists; those who have truly discovered their sound and taken advantage of how it connects and resonates with people. Dylan Owen most definitely has, and with each release his understanding of his sound—that carefully crafted blend of highly-skilled lyricism, indie song-craft, and honesty—becomes more illuminated. It’s no wonder that he’s gained such a tight-knit following as quickly as he has. He’s not afraid to wrestle with conflict or to embrace his vulnerability, and that’s where his talent as a songwriter and rapper pays off the most. Today, Dylan has let go of a new video for “Ghosts Revisited”, a song that originally appeared on his 2012 EP Keep Your Friends Close. The song has been revised and updated (and now features additional vocals by Kiah Victoria and Kaleigh Young), which is fitting, given the time since he wrote the original, and how the experiences depicted have shifted in his mind throughout time. To give you a better understanding of how this process began, what he envisioned for this version, and what we can expect to see next, I reached out to Dylan, and below you can see what he had to say.
Posted by jeffwbaird on December 15, 2013
We’re all a part of a moment in hip-hop history during which artists who self-identify as “rappers” range drastically in regards to how they define that role, the kind of music they create and label as “hip-hop”, the kind of technical skill they possess. The aesthetic sound of rapping has become a ubiquitous part of pop radio, and with this change most of the rappers who strive for mainstream attention work harder to try to fit the mold of simplicity that generally regulates what becomes a hit or doesn’t. Within such a concentrated industry, there are limited outlets for the fan both of technically skilled rappers and melodicism; rappers who can really spit, but also who’ll experiment with club-ready production (hence the rapid success of artists who occasionally fit this mold: Kendrick, Macklemore, etc.). Tonight we bring you a record striving to do just this—simultaneously satisfy the tastes of both those who love the kind of melodic, synth-heavy trap beats that Judge (who—if you’re a Mike Stud fan—you’ve likely heard the work of on multiple occasions) so expertly crafts, and also appease those who listen to hip-hop for the advanced lyricism; the kind of alliteration, wordplay, and rhyme schemes that have become synonymous with Accent’s work. This is the kind of song that you can enjoy for whatever it is that makes your head bang, though I certainly hope you’re the kind of people who listen to lyrics. Accent’s new mixtape, The Last Lyricist, drops this winter.
Posted by jeffwbaird on November 19, 2013
It’s been almost two years since I first heard “Alan’s Right”, and was instantly made aware of the tremendous talent this man possesses. Sure, it’s extremely rare to find an artist (especially at his age) who has learned to expertly produce, mix, rap, sing, and write—but more so, it’s the fact that he has also managed to create a completely distinctive and unrepeatable sound. A sound that certainly was influenced by everything from indie singer-songwriters to underground hip-hop, yet it mimics nothing. With every new release I’m able to see the progress in his production, writing, and his ear—with each release more melodic, more honest, and deeper than the last. He’s been extremely hard at work this year creating what will be “The Revival” album, and today we receive the first release. It’s catchy, yet it resonates, and bares an amount of heart and maturity that we rarely see today. To classify him into any genre would be doing him a disservice, so just check out the song, and appreciate it for the engrossing music that it is.
Posted by jeffwbaird on November 13, 2013
Over the past few years of closely following the trajectories of upstart artists (rappers in particular), one of the most important characteristics of the more enduring artists I’ve found is their versatility. Dylan Owen has rightfully received a tremendous amount of praise since 2011′s Keep Your Friends Close, all synonymous with his innate ability to gratify a variety of listeners with equal ease: honesty-craving singer-songwriter fans, lyrically-focused hip-hop heads, punchline-loving partygoers. While his most recent release, “The Window Seat”, is what he’s best known for—the maturity of perspective, the resonance of his songwriting, the lasting substance—here he concocts a quick reminder that he, too, can playfully rap with the best of them. Reminiscent of the verse he premiered prior to our interview together a year ago, this track is punchline-heavy, and shows off his wittiness and love to play with language. A must listen, regardless of your preconceived genre-affiliations.