By Mason Strehl on June 11, 2014
Alex Wiley, hailing from Chicago, might just be one of the hottest artists out this year. With backing from the Windy City label Closed Sessions, he released his newest project Village Party. The 14 track project takes a more modern and pop sound than most projects coming out of Chicago these days, but armed with Mr. Wiley's spitfire lyrics and some autotune, he pulls out quite an astounding project. Along with it's modern poppy sounds, it's also very experimental. It's a blend of many different sounds tied together only by Wiley's vocals. Interesting to say the least, and somehow, extremely catchy. Download below.
Download: Alex Wiley - Village Party
By Mason Strehl on May 25, 2014
I recently was led on to Ivan Aves by my brother, and ever since then I've been playing through his work and enjoying every bit of it. His latest release is a four track mini-EP titled Low Jams. These tracks will also appear on a LP later in the fall, but we have a nice sample to tide us over.
Each track on this project brings something new to the table, but they all have similar qualities. Each is a laid back, muted masterpiece, carefully crafted to catch ears. Ivan's emceeing skills are proved throughout the three track, with a Blu-like flow, and a slow cadence. He delivers a stream-of-thought flurry of rhymes that holds your attention till the end.
The production on this project is interesting as well, with a very slow tempo throughout. It's a lo-fi, jazzy piece of work with samples from a variety of sources. For the most part, the muster drums carry the 4 tracks, with piano, guitar, synth, and vocal samples filling in. It's a statement that producer Mndsgn is a force to be reckoned with.
Check the project out, and be on the lookout for more from Ivan Ave here on the site.
By Mason Strehl on May 5, 2014
A few days back we showed you a look into Taylor Bennett's Mainstream Music with his track "New Chevy". Today we have the project in it's entirety, and, it's quite something. The Chicago emcee takes a shot at redefining what mainstream music should be. We couldn't agree more.
"Mainstream music ain't about love; all about hoes and it's all about drugs. But what about sad songs stuck in the rain, or the joy that you find from drinking away pain"
The 14 track LP has quite the collection of sounds, all of them obviously influenced by the Chicago music scene. Because he's Chance the Rapper's brother, you hear influence from him, but it's obvious Taylor tries to define his own sound. He's very successful in that regard, with an energy behind his rhymes that you seldom hear from Chance. So we're just gonna end the comparisons now.
Taylor doesn't have trouble slowing it down, as you saw with "New Chevy", and will hear with "Heartbreaker", "Higher", and some others. It's definitely a refreshing meld between what would be mainstream music and underground hip hop. He manages to keep his lyrics smart, while bringing an element of mass appeal - a challenging enterprise that many emcees have failed terribly at. The track "Hope" offers an interesting look into what Taylor thinks of the music business. We see features from King L, Lil Herb, Loyale Soulё, Rockie Fresh and Spenzo.
The production is a bit more nationalized, with sounds coming from all reaches of the country. There definitely is a core of Chicago influenced beats, but tracks like "New Attitude", and "Right Now" are definitely a step outside the locale. Taylor works with a wide palette of producers including Brall Beats, Cocaine Audio, Illiad, Monte Booker, Muzzy, Saint The Goodboy, and Satchel Stokes for the diverse selection on the project. With the Chicago influence you get a fair amount of brass, piano, synths and percussion, but the whole album is a mixed bag.
The mixed bag feel, or lack of unity of sound detracts from the album. It feels more like a collection of various tracks than a thought out soundboard. There is not much connection track to track, or continued theme throughout. But perhaps that's the purpose, as it's meant to show how mainstream music should be - connected in mass appeal, but not in sound or content.
Regardless of that criticism, it is a really great album complete both club anthems, and songs for a rainy sunday. In that regard it has a wide-reaching span. Download the album for yourself and see what you think, there are definitely a few gems on it.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Download: Taylor Bennett - Mainstream Music
By Mason Strehl on March 10, 2014Skizzy Mars has been really busy dropping off all of these singles. First with "Moments", then "All Say", and lastly "Numb" leading up to a full mixtape release. The twelve track EP seems to be a showcase of Skizzy's talent, as there are not a lot of features (besides Ms. Jones and Jon Waltz). But that's just fine, because Skizzy Mars is not short of talent, In fact, he kills every track on the project. With his nonchalant flows and his sometimes stream of consciousness rhymes, he molds a storyline throughout. Stream and download the project below. Download: Skizzy Mars - Pace (Mixtape)
By Mason Strehl on March 7, 2014
cog·ni·tive dis·so·nance noun the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, esp. as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.Few have the depth and understanding of how life works as Raz Simone. He is constantly pushing the expression of himself at his truest point, spitting truths he has seen and experienced. He's been there, he's been a dope boy, he's been hustling, and he's come a long way from there. But the evils that come from that sort of life leach on, and can follow you for the rest of your life. Such is the story of his newest EP, Cognitive dissonance. In the life of such an enigmatic man, there are lots of decisions he has made, and more that he will make that will either make or break him. It's a constant struggle to choose right, even if it conflicts with his morals or beliefs. I see Raz as a very powerful man, who strongly adheres to his beliefs and holds high regard for his family, friends, and his city. So it is a difficult road for him. But he has pushed through and made the best out of it, Cognitive Dissonance is his story, through all these conflicts. When listening through the project you can feel these pains, feel his strife and struggle. Raz is a master at conveying emotion, with his rhythmic, raspy voice. With the soul of a poet, he weaves story after story that not only show the downsides of his life, but also his dreams and aspirations. He has the support of his people, and won't stop at anything to get where he is trying to go. In terms of instrumentality on this project, they carries a somber mood. While relatively downtempo, Raz's jazz influences shine through. This is often in the form of horns, trumpets and slow beats. He is very creative with accentual sounds, which increases the draw of this project. Please, go and support this project. This is real music right here, and a lot of work has been put into it. Share it with your friends, and most of all enjoy it. Download: Raz Simone - Cognitive Dissonance