Wednesday, November 20, 2013
So this blog has been dead for a while. Chaos abounds, time runs short, and I no longer have the time or money or mental faculty to spend digging, critically listening, and writing. Bring That Beat Back has been a wonderful experience for me, I've heard some amazing music, and more importantly, I've met some really great folks out there in the virtual world. Thank you to the artists - the music I posted up here is among my absolute favorite, and each and every one of you have enriched my life and made the world a better place - and I'm so thankful none of you shut me down. Much love to record-science, ghettotyylit, thethirdmen, thisisforthehustlers, straightouttadotcom, basementaddicts, and knowthis - you're my tribe, keep it movin! And as always, thank you to the readers, your comments, requests, and enthusiasm kept this blog afloat.
I can't say this is goodbye forever, but it is goodbye for now. Be well out there, and peace.
Friday, July 5, 2013
Saturday, June 29, 2013
These dudes need to be heard to be believed, but it's like being sent back to the great, grim days of Black Moon, Channel Live and Mobb Deep. Add to that just the right amount of fresh, new school elements. They're sick, and their recent mention in XXL is way more than warranted. If you haven't yet checked them out then head over to Freshselects.net to get their latest album for free!
Friday, June 21, 2013
Have You Ever Seen A Man Play Bass Naked?
Until the release of the new MC Type joint "Bad Tattoos Vol 3", everything he has to offer on bandcamp is pay what you want! (Free for all the poor folk.) I got to see this Ballard emcee perform at the triple album release jam along with Griff J and Art Vandelay, and I have to say Type had the liveliest set. Many, many shots were passed to the stage, clothes were exchanged with audience members, and while he serenaded his sister, his bass player got naked... umm, and the show almost got shut down. If you get the chance to see him live, do whatever you can to do it. And go listen to his music!
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Thursday, June 13, 2013
This free album dropped at midnight last night at Illfightyou's website after weeks and months of great anticipation over here at beetbak (and the rest of the world too, it seems). Heavy, snotty, ignorant, ass-kicking, no bullshit rhymes and beats - sort of the much-needed opposite of the Town's predominant vibe right now. I'm sure it will be considered a favorite on many a year-end top ten list. So head on over to their website to listen and dl already!
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Times change. This comp dropped in 1993, which to me was the year of the Great Upheaval in hip hop. At that time, gangsta had outlived its welcome and new acts like Heiro and the Pharcyde were grabbing my attention. In contrast, local artists like Mix-A-Lot and Kid Sensation had lost their cool and were the stuff of middle school dances. So, by the time my I heard about this album, my ears were closed. I was in high school, the future underground was in full swing, and local acts like the Elevators and Tribal had quite effectively turned the early-90's gangsta and r & b industry into a joke.
I may not have appreciated this record at the time, but listening to it in retrospect I can hear the value in it. Here is some top-quality hip hop attempting to assert itself in the face of change, And more poignantly, this is a declaration from Seattle's Afro-American community and a group of artists who were very much left out of the anglicized Northwest music explosion of the early '90's.
... Dark Side is a short record, but in its 35 minutes is effectively showcases an important time in the 206's long history of hip hop. Stay tuned, I'll be digging deeper into the past soon enough!
Sunday, May 19, 2013
From the Northeast to the Northwest
This 2001 full-length has been circulating around the webs in its OG form for a while. As far as I know this is GT's debut, and isn't included in his available releases - maybe there's a problem with getting sample rights or something, because it's not for lack of great music. It's definitely rougher than his later records, and he's still developing his flow here, but the fire, eloquence, and themes he's known for are already in place. At some point I would love to do a proper piece about this particular 206 artist, but I won't frame it at this time in the context of this album - for now just listen and enjoy. It's got that old-school, jazz sample-heavy flavor I love, and the rough, unmastered sound quality I crave in production. Jerm, Castro, and Khingz, among others, guest. This rip came to me via an anonymous benefactor - thank you! Track listing is intact, as this is the revamped version from 2002. It's the second edition, which features bonus tracks with a whole bunch of guest emcees (Orko, Macklemore, Moka Only, Deps, Patrick, Rajnii). Vivacious music, from possibly the 206's most impassioned orator.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
In The SEA
Criminally overlooked, Central Intelligence was among the greatest Seattle hip hop acts in the 90's and early 00's. Similar in sound and style to Black Anger, Source Of Labor and Narcotik, these five emcees spit knowledge in styles that were concrete, definitive, and mature. The subject matter on this self-titled album from 2001 ranges from the personal to the political, spoken in 5 distinct, articulate voices. With like-minded beats from two of the major architects of the sound, Vitamin D and Bean One, this album is a hidden classic of the Tribal era.
I sadly learned about this group after the fact, when Mike Clark and Jake One's amazing expose on the history of Seattle hip hop showed up on Cocaine Blunts. Besides this album, CI also contributed to the crucial Sportn'Life Compilation from 2003. They also were reputed to put on a mean live set. A slim but 100% quality legacy.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Ghetto Math - Thank You Flavafoyoear!
P.S. does anyone out there have his Bigger Than Jeezus Mixtape?
Monday, May 13, 2013
A Call To Arms
Yet another compilation, this time from the Northwest. This dropped in 2002 in response to the increasing hostilities directed towards the Middle East by the US. Many notable acts contribute, including (ahem... wait for it...) Khazm, The Flood, Yirim Seck, Castro, Specs One, Gabriel Teodros, Khingz (back when he was still calling himself Khalil Crisis), Kylea of Beyond Reality, Vitamin D, H-Bomb, Silas Blak, WD4D, E-Real Asim of Black Anger, Surge Spitable, and El Saba, who provides the defining moment with "God Bless Humanity". The album is an interesting mix of 2nd and 3rd wave Seattle hip hop, and captures the sound of the Town in a state of evolution. Executive produced by Khazm and G. Teodros, released in part through MADK.
Monday, April 29, 2013
Classic Compilations From the Late '90's
These compilations from 1998-99 were also crucial pieces in my early underground collection. Alien Nation, Afterlife, Living Legends, ATU, Beneath The Surface, Hieroglyphics, Battle Axe, Black Love, and many, many others made their names known to me through these records. Thanks to Meeee over at Record-Science for upping these originally - click the link below to find these plus many other dope compilations from the same era!
Saturday, April 27, 2013
Marvel Team Up
Another compilation, again from '99. That was the year, apparently. The usual cats are present with strong contributions - Acey, Ab, Awol, Dilated, Hiero, Lootpack, plus many, many others. Some of these tracks wound up on proper albums later on, but there are still quite a few exclusives. Back in the day when music by these artists was relatively slim and hard to come by, comps like these were a precious commodity. Plus, inevitably I would get exposure to some unfamiliar acts.
From 1999, here's another compilation record from the olden days. This album was never my favorite overall, but due to the fact that it held a few brilliant tracks here and there it got lots of play time. Bookended by some strong tracks, the album frankly gets a little lackluster throughout the middle. Still there are dope contributions from Dilated, j-5, Divine Styler, Styles of Beyond, and ATU. What made the record for me though, was "Journey To Anywhere" from Ugly Duckling, "Project Bliznaiznowed" from Acey, and "Save the Music" from Myka 9 - which is in my opinion among the best songs he's ever crafted in his entire career.
Friday, April 26, 2013
Keep The Beat Going
I'm a posting fool tonight... Okay here's the first volume, of which I slept on back in the day. Back in '97, when this gem of a compilation was released, I was freshly back in the states after living in England the previous year. Pumped from all the watercress sandwiches and blood pudding, I was still soaking up Europe's brand of hip hop like a sponge. The future of rap music lay in Bristol and Paris as far as my young anglophilic self was concerned, so I missed out a bit on what was waking up over here. It took me a couple of years to finally start paying attention again, but I did, thanks in large part to the infectious sounds of the acts featured here: Living Legends, Project Blowed, and Hieroglyphics. All that's missing is a Quannum feature, but you can't ask for everything now, can you?
P.S. Many thanks go to Sociedad Travieza for the link!
Here's another of those classic comps from back in the day, 1998 to be exact. Representing both coasts (but leaning heavily towards the left), this supplied heads with an undiluted helping of organic beats and stylistic prowess. This was considered an underground hip hop standard at the time; if you had any kind of cred whatsoever, you had this in your collection. (The predecessor from '97 was equally crucial.)
Sunshine, Beats and Rhymez
Back in the old days the compilation album was my primary means of discovering new artists. Internet speeds were slow, and the 15-second 28-bit audio snippets the online webstores had to offer were useless when it came to sampling an artist's sound. This was one of the many comps I picked up back then: I recognized a couple names I liked, and a whole bunch I didn't recognize. Here was my first introduction to The Mountain Bros, Eclipse 427, Zion I and many others, in the mix with a bunch of heads I already followed like Latyrx, Medusa and the Visionaries. From the dark ages of 1999.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Get Hype Studios Is So Fly and Dope and Slamming
Here is a classic, not to be forgotten, and a real shame that it never officially dropped. In the months of anticipation before The Platform came out, this cd started popping up on ebay. This guy would post up a copy, we'd bid on it like idiots, and then when the auction ended he'd just post up another one. I spent like 30 bucks for this "one of a kind" item, plus shipping, and to this day I still believe it was well worth the price. I felt like I had struck gold when I got this in the mail and stuck it in the ol' discman. It's ripped from a beat up old tape, sound quality is depressing, some songs are incomplete, you get the picture. It didn't matter to me though; I soaked up every muddy bar. The sound is youthful and fresh, and a completely different vibe from their later work. As for Get Hype, eventually the dude got shut down and ebay issued a general announcement about selling bootlegs. Ah, the good old days!
Sunday, April 7, 2013
The Lees At Home
I have a few of these Northwest collections waiting to get posted up for those of you who want it, so let's get started, shall we?
1. Props! - So High
2. Madshroom MC - Trip Like This
3. Dawhud, Verbal Math, Fash-1 and Wildchild - True Lies
4. Kublakai - Get Beamed Up feat. P Smoov and Grynch
5. Knowledge SV - The Void
6. Mash Hall - Meth Heads
7. Page 3 and Bean One - XtreemHeat
8. Sam Lachow - 23rd Avenue feat Gabby, B Skeez, Wilson Luxurious, Sky Blaow and Riley Mulherkar
9. Fatal Lucciauno - Amazing (Bean One Remix)
10. Nu Era - Nu Tang feat. Kung Foo Grip
11. Side Pony - Just Be True
12. Rebel - Light Up (Shit You Like) feat Cole and Antbeezy
13. The Livin Yard - Society Of Summer
14. Self Evident - Motherland
15. The Deal - Repetition
16. Wizdumb - More Crates feat. Grief78 and Madshroom MC
Bruce, Linda, and Brandon
Friday, March 22, 2013
Simulacra and Simulation
The apocalypse is finished, today it is the precession of the neutral, of forms of the neutral and of indifference…all that remains, is the fascination for desertlike and indifferent forms, for the very operation of the system that annihilates us. Now, fascination…is a nihilistic passion par excellence, it is the passion proper to the mode of disappearance. We are fascinated by all forms of disappearance, of our disappearance. Melancholic and fascinated, such is our general situation in an era of involuntary transparency. - Jean Baudrillard
The new album from emcee Ricky Pharoe and producer Mack Formway (collectively known as Art Vandelay, entitled Eye 8 the Crow) will be dropping April 2nd. Quite simply, it's the best thing I've heard from either artist. Direct and straightforward, it doesn't waste a single bar on filler, skits, or any of the needless stuff that so often clutters albums. Don't scan the tracks for the hit, I warn you now - several could fit the bill, but it's meant to be listened to as a whole. The album is thematic and sets a linear course, progressing from sober beginning to end. For those out there not familiar with the american colloquialism "to eat crow", it means to admit wrongness, to swallow your words and fess up to guilt. A more apt title would be hard to find, as the themes of guilt, transparency, and moral decay are prevalent.
Pharoe has always had the penchant for being articulate, scathingly humorous, and unapologetic. Historically playing the roles of astounded commentator and bemused informer, his previous works found him relating the absurdities of a myriad of topics from religion, to capitalism, to commercialism, to pop art; and revealed him as an ever-growing and passionate orator. Whether his storytelling placed him on the stage or on a barstool, he was quick to jab his finger at everything and everyone that pissed him off. Like a cross between Don Quixote and The Underground Man, he tilted at windmills, gleefully calling out in turn each of the malodorous idiots surrounding him. With Eye 8 the Crow, Pharoe has now turned inward, throwing all the passion he once held towards the outside world away, and presenting himself in a new, darker light. His usual barbed humor has been blunted down to a bitter resignation, and his finger-pointing and scorn is reserved almost entirely for himself, revealing a morally ambiguous, menacing, and dead-eyed persona beyond the typical existential crisis. He depicts himself as an indifferent and exhausted man, sickened and numb past any fear of consequence for his actions. Pharoe has not turned thug; in fact his level of eloquence and introspective depth has never been more poetic. For we are spying on him as he bares his soul and admits his atrocities in front of the mirror, spitting acid through a mask of grinning teeth.
Nihilism is the philosophical doctrine which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose or intrinsic value. Moral nihilism argues that morality does not inherently exist, and that moral values are abstractly contrived. I say this because Ricky Pharoe and producer Mack Formway have created a nihilistic masterpiece with this album. It's a distorted, bleak, and desolate journey, both philosophically and musically. Beneath the minor-key melodies and layers of beats there is something dark, slithery and mechanically single-minded. Televisions hiss white noise, samples are sliced to a translucent thinness, mouths stutter and repeat mindless noise. Over this, Pharoe relates his most naked confessions and base secrets in a steady, medicated drawl, constantly employing violent imagery, sounding both detached and savage.
Thematically the album is connected: Personal achievement has been cashed in for the predetermination of fame and fortune; passion is discarded for materialism, and meaning and purpose are negated by the mere image of meaning and purpose. This is a violent and traumatic transition, and bloody imagery is pervasive. He burns his bridges, annihilates his enemies, screws his friends, sells his soul, and focuses on his empty goals to the exclusion of all else, so very people he scorns idolize him, and he becomes king of the mindless system he despises. It's a distilled and unrelenting listen, fatalistic and grim. "I ate the crow, and didn't even choke" he snarls on the title track - he coldly and readily acknowledges this transformation and has no issue with it.
There's a contrast and a duality with the characters he portrays, and Pharoe's perspective constantly shifts between accused and accuser. He rails against himself, angry when he screws up, just as he applauds himself for the same self-sabotage. Although obsessed with the image of fame and fortune, he cannot run from the crushing weariness of basic survival. When faced with the end of the world, he's indifferent. He arrogantly calls himself the center of the universe, but immediately follows with a shoulder-shrugging "I guess it sounds fine." "When I look into the mirror, it's only time i get starstruck," he states on "So What" - his ennui is such that his existence is bleak, that life is tiresome, and that nothing external brings joy. He is ultimately weary on this cut, disillusioned and jaded.
Where Pharoe's words provide the blueprint, beatmaker Mack Formway's music provides the architecture. The music of Art Vandelay has always dramatic and heavy, with layers upon layers of samples, guitars, synths and pounding percussion. The ingredients continue with Eye 8 the Crow, but as Pharoe's mood has changed, so has the music. Minor keys and descending melodies dominate, and hip hop structures give way to desolate, industrial clanging, digital distortion, empty creaking floorboards and unresolved tension. Where Ricky speaks about the monster he has become, Formway animates the golem. Oddly enough he's also responsible for the brief, few moments of brevity in the album, with refrains emerging through the dust and rubble to shed a little momentary, fleeting beauty to an otherwise desolate landscape.
The defining moment of the album is the oddly titled "Emilio Estevez". Naked and brutal it is the nadir of the narrative. "Who needs a family / All I need is money / And a burner just in case you try to take it from me / I passed ugly now I'm moving on to retched / Don't make your head and neck get somehow disconnected," he bluntly states to a tv screen in the promo video for the track. "I promise i'll deliver if it benefits me / Through long history it seems to me the victories / Are written by the ones who use the strategy viciously / So let's just do it surreptitiously." Vowing to take a page from the great tyrants of the world, and to do for self at the expense of everything else, he asks himself, almost - but not quite - hopefully, "It's that simple, right?"
The tone of the album subtly changes during the second half, gaining energy with guest appearances from 206 emcee Matic and the one and only Blueprint; culminating with the final tracks, "The Devil's Notebook" and "Eyeballs". These end pieces are concerned with the concept of freedom, although existence is still depicted as very much a meaningless construct. The nihilism is still very much present, but then anything less would only cheapen the dark perfection of the rest of the album. And I wouldn't expect different from a band who got their name from a show about nothing. Link to the Art Vandelay website below. Album drops on itunes/Bandcamp on April 2nd. Pick it up, it's my album of the year.
Eye 8 The Crow
Eye 8 The Crow
Friday, March 15, 2013
The latest Installment in what's good in the Northwest. I went for a certain sound with this collection.
Triceracorn - Colder Winter feat. Mike Harris
Cam The Mac - Keyed Decisions
Mad Rad - Glitzerland
Matic and Keyboard Kid - Too Easy
Lu C - Lanterns
The Deal - Rules
Baphomet MC - Blaze Away
Self Evident - Atmosphere
Triceracorn - Certain Type
Side Pony - Ride With Us
PROPS! - What Up
Think Jarvis - Short Love Letter
Leandre Nsabi - 5 In The Morning
Triceracorn - Strings Break
Knowledge SV - The Truce ft. Sunshine
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
I came across this often-rumored, seldom-heard tape today when I visited Tribal's bandcamp page, and couldn't believe my eyes. I instantly dl'd it, but there was work to do and guests coming over and it had to wait there on my desktop until everything else quieted down. It's just after Eleven at night and I have now finished listening to this for the first time and the euphoria and dopamine is still circulating in my head, so my apologies in advance if I dork out.
But what am I supposed to say about this? To convince you of the value of this work? I tend to gush, and I have been called a Seattle hip hop Stan by more than a few, and I readily accept the label - after all, have I ever posted up a negative write-up, or had anything less than stellar words to say about who I choose to post about? I can understand that what I have to say has to be taken with a grain of salt, because I have an undying love for the Town and the artists in it and the music it shapes. When I was 13 years old Nirvana broke out, and a few short years later I first heard Tribal Productions' Untranslated Prescriptions, and the rest is history. I'm a lost cause; for me Seattle was, is, and will continue to be the coolest city on the face of the Earth.
In short, I know I'm biased. But, the memory of driving around in a car with my friends after school, listening over and over to Sinsemilla's "Confrontations" and PHAT Mob's "P.H.A.T." above the grind of the heater - those are oddly some of my most cherished mementoes I have of the heady, emotional roller-coaster ride that is adolescence. Out through stock radio speakers from a warbly tape came rough, beautiful music made by kids not much older than myself, living a few short miles away, that was unlike anything else out there. There was East coast and West coast, and then after Untranslated there was Seattle. To this day when I listen to that tape or Do The Math and hear those young voices over thin, scratchy, heart-wrenching instrumental tracks, it gives me a feeling of pride for my home - and also that the world can still be surprising, and as full of promise and terrifying opportunity as only a teen-ager can imagine. And now with the Freestyle Demo Tape, I have something else to invoke those emotions in me, even though I never got the chance to listen to it back then. But those young voices are still there, as is the atmosphere of that wonderfully-familiar 4-track - and even without the nostalgia I chain it to, it still sounds fresher than fresh.
And that my friends is why I'm all bubbly about this release - and actually everything else I post up about Seattle music. Tribal's vibe is understated but it extends deep, throughout the Northwest and outward. That sound crafted by Vitamin D and Topspin have soaked into the Town and set the mood and tone of its music to this day, whether you like it or not. And I for one love the hip hop of Seattle because of that mood - the whole genre in this neck of the woods has become part of Tribal's legacy. That grey jazz, the substance of the lyrics, you can hear it all over the 206 - it still gives me a thrill whenever I catch it.
And to be honest I'm here writing on this blog because of Tribal. I want people to hear this largely unknown music and understand its greatness and influence, in the hope of conveying that spark. Who I choose to write about are those that give me that same thrill, that child-like wonder, that sense excitement that is unfortunately more and more rarely found as I get older. I don't know what listening to this will do for you, as I'm sure very few of you have the same experiences with Tribal Productions, but listen to it anyway. Use it to think about the music that you're passionate about, and to think about what artists helped move you and shape you into who you are now.
Monday, March 4, 2013
The Black Lab
I regret missing out on this show, but I'm not exactly in the neighborhood any more. The Black Lab brought the legendary Blueprint to Seattle this month, and along with the Th3rdz (Oldominion), Fatal Lucciauno (Sportn'Life), and The Sharp 5, they put on what I can only imagine to be a spectacular show. Fortunately for me, and for you, they also put out this ill compilation featuring new music from the artists - Fatal, Blueprint, Nathan Wolfe, the Th3rdz, and Jewels Hunter. Joining them on musical accompaniment are Maker, Jake One, Phreewil, 10.4 Rog, Kuddie Fresh, and others. Hunter and Phreewil come with the sickest beats in my opinion - Psychedelic, dark, and rough. The Black Lab is a conglomerate I've been recently delving into in a heavy sort of way, and this latest release does not disappoint in the least. If you're unfamiliar with the crew, or 206 music, this is as good as any a place to dip your toes. And dang, Lucciauno is a monster, the scariest dude in Seattle.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
Nice wax from Zen and Dannu of the Visionaries. Three tracks from their album Next Step are featured in vocal and Instrumental form ("Microphone Love", "Thanking You", and "Holiday"). Beats by fellow Visionary Key Kool, DJ Babu, and Omid, respectively. 2005 style.
Friday, February 22, 2013
Dreamy, psychedelic beat music from the master of that particular mood. The title track is a rolling, bouncy excursion into near chaos before cascading into bubbly, happy ambience. "Images of April" is a mellow, distorted anthem befitting any Summer vacation mixtape. Instrumental and vox versions of the latter track are included. This was quite a departure from Nobody's previous work, at least mood-wise, and pointed the way to his future endeavors. Nice tunes for a sunny day.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Finally The Album
Request... Sorry to keep y'all hangin. The gang is all here for this one - Pilot Rase, Joe Dubb, Megabusive, Dick Jones, Triangulum, Smash Adams, Luke Sick, Tapemaster Steph, and Neila, among others. They all lend their talents to this grimy four-track masterpiece. Few crews were as true to the four-track aesthetic as these cats, and their work in the medium was visionary. Underground hip hop wouldn't be anywhere as cool as it is without them.
This link will only be up for a hot minute - Rase has plans to remaster and re-release their old work, so this is only for those cats who explicitly asked me for this. Thanks go to Kali Yuga (I think) for the original file! Get it quick!
Request... This free mixtape from 206 golden child and producer extraordinaire Jake One is a dope compilation featuring a gang of rare cuts - rare as in if you weren't recording it or performing it you've probably never heard it. From the early 80's to 2010, this mix represents the sound of Seattle hip hop. I guess the links are down everywhere else, so here it is for your listening pleasure!
Monday, February 11, 2013
N Flight Productions
Seattle emcee Byrdie released this 12" back in 2004, along with his album N Flight. Boasting production from the legendary Vitamin D and Bean One, this sampling of what the album has to offer is head-nodding and infectious. the A-Side, "B.Y.R.D.I.E.", with its minimal and angular beat gives Byrdie's flow ample room to slither and wrap itself around the corners. The B-Side, "Scattin'", is more of a high-energy club cut. Layers of horns, percussion, vocal samples and synth lines jump around, with Byrdie shouting to be heard over the cacophony. Entertaining stuff from this Northwest stalwart. Besides album cuts, instrumentals and acapellas are included as well.
Sunday, February 3, 2013
Request... Politically and socially charged lyrical manifestos stand on top of heavy, electro-informed beats, sounding less like Zagu or Sach, and more like Paris or Sista Souljah. This is a passionate work, no doubt about it, and with it yet another dimension of the varied and expansive GPAC sonic spectrum is uncovered. Her 2012 album Uprising, is out and available - search for it and purchase! Backed by a live band, she sounds even more volatile now than she did on Lost Angels, which is saying something.
Saturday, February 2, 2013
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Jack Of All Trades
I was beginning to think the day would never come. Tommy V. is back with a new solo joint. When the news broke of this, I couldn't wait to hear what this crucial artist in the Cali underground would sound like after an absence for so long - It's been 5 years since his last work with Toca, and a decade since his last solo effort. And it's evident from the first listen of Mockingbird that this artist has grown in his time away from the spotlight. The self depreciatory humor and unique "dollar-bin delectables" may still be present, but much more has changed. The recording quality is cleaner and glossier than I've ever heard on a TV release, and his voice is polished to the point that at times it's barely recognizable from the Eeyore-voiced character he portrayed on his old work. His delivery has been upgraded as well; it's on-point and direct, in contrast to the comfortable, meandering, sing-song raps he used to spit. And as far as acutal singing goes, he's become quite the bad-ass.
He actually sounds self-assured. Despite the familiar hang-dog attitude and rain cloud over his head, this is the work from a man who has come into his own and found his particular rhythm.
"Remember Me, I'm Tommy V, I fell off long ago," he sings happily on the aptly-titled "Remember Me?", but then really, TV was never actually "on". He always did his own thing in his own style, which was one of the reasons I was so drawn to his work to begin with. His music may have been hip hop informed, but it incorporated elements of Vaudeville, jazz, pop theater, or more often then not, some frankenstein combination of all of it. He was the patchwork singing transient of hip hop, relating his trials and tribulations in a down to earth, working man's voice, in a language that anyone could identify with. And paradoxically that is why no one ever sounded like TV but TV - nobody else captured that quality quite like he did. That truly unique persona is still evident on Mockingbird, but his time spent with Toca, and specifically David and Ceschi Ramos, is present as well. Now amidst the familiar dick jokes and absurdity, and the circus side-show music that you'd expect from Tommy V; there are also quiet, folky moments far removed from any of his old work with Imprints, Awol One, or EXII. These are some of the most accomplished tracks on the album, although at times they can be a little overly-ernest in their "Ceschiness," but they are easily forgivable in their quality and subtlety. The record also has its bold moments that nakedly demonstrate a beauty that only comes with mastering a craft - especially the two closing tracks "For Infinity" and "Can You Hear Me". I was surprised only for a minute on listening, but when framing them within Tommy V's musical evolution it is evident that this is where he'd be heading. He's evolved, he's been through some shit, and he's grown up.
Mockingbird is a slight, airy record, and at 25 minutes it goes in at least as many directions. Despite the lightness, it manages to carry the weight of TV's history with it, and points to the many possible futures of his music. I hope he continues on, preferably sooner than 10 years from now.
Check out the link below to the Fake Four Bandcamp site, where you can get Mockingbird for Free!