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Album Review: “…And Then You Shoot Your Cousin” by The Roots

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By: Pete Andrew

For Christmas 1998, my eldest sister purchased for me the Barenaked Ladies Stunt. It wasn’t my first album – that honor somehow belongs to Aqua’s Aquarium – but it sticks in my mind for one reason: though my sister bought me the whole album, rather than a single, I sat in my room for what seemed like weeks and listened to one song, “One Week, on repeat. By that, I don’t mean that I listened to it a few times before moving on to the rest of the album, popped out the CD in favor of another band’s album, went outside like a normal child, or even went to the bathroom. I stayed in that room and listened to “One Week” ad nauseam. It didn’t matter that I had to go to the bathroom – there were dresser drawers for that. It didn’t matter that I got hungry – I pulled up floorboards and chewed up those bad boys without hesitation. It didn’t matter that my other sister politely mentioned (with a raised voice and thinly veiled threats, most likely) that, hey, Pete, since the Barenaked Ladies put forth the effort to produce a full album, and my sister was nice enough to purchase it for me, maybe I should listen to the whole fucking thing before I die a mysterious death.

Alas, it seems evident that I am a member of the one of the first generations to largely eschew listening to albums in their entirety, choosing instead to export only my favorite songs to blank CDs or—now that I’m no longer twelve years old—iTunes playlists. I’m torn on this fact; on one hand, if an album doesn’t grab me from start to finish, why bother listening to the whole thing when I can get all I want out of it with four tracks? Conversely, many albums need the audience to consume them as a singular product in order for listeners to realize fully the project’s value. The album’s point becomes clearer when the listener commits to the album from onset to terminus. One’s understanding and appreciation for an album grows with numerous, full run-throughs.

To the surprise of absolutely nobody who has listened to The Roots, their newest effort, …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin, is one of those albums. There is no “One Week” or “Barbie Girl” (thank the gods), but at a succinct runtime of 33:22, one has no trouble getting from the opening notes (courtesy of the legendary Nina Simone) to the album’s concluding track, “Tomorrow,” which operates as, well, a “soul solo of sorts” for Newark’s own Raheem DeVaughn.

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Album of the Week: “Timeless” by Sergio Mendes

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Sergio Mendes
Timeless
Concord, 2006

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Bonus Cut’s Starting Five: 1/29/14

Every week, Daniel and Gus pick five songs to share called The Starting Five. This week, they’re personally sharing these tracks as a feature.

Gus’ Picks

Awon & Phoniks – “Midas Touch”
MC Awon and Producer Phoniks team up to bring you a jazz influenced, boom bap laced track that is socially conscious lyricism. This song and its album, The Golden Era, has been out since July and it may be one of the most slept on albums in 2013. It is truly worth the listen. Support these dudes.

Uptown XO – “Lime Light”
⅓ of Diamond District, Uptown XO talks about the perils of seeking out fame. What is the cost being in the lime light? What would you do to have that sought after five minutes of fame? Is it really worth it? Over a haunting track, XO makes you think about fame and what people may or may not do to be in it.

Tyler, The Creator – “Sandwitches”
If you’ve followed hip-hop at all within the past 3 years, you remember Tyler and his antics with Odd Future Wolfgang Kill Them All. Tyler and friends blew up in every way possible beginning with the television debut of this track with the help of The Roots on Fallon’s show. Their fame and popularity within the college community was something to behold. I will never forget seeing them in the Midtown part of Detroit, almost getting swallowed up by the crowd as they tore up the stage and having to leave early as bottles were thrown and a brawl seemed iminent. What a night. Golf Wang.

Sango – “Tres Horas”
Having spent time living in Brasil I am always excited to hear new hip-hop that incorporates influences of Brasilian music. In all honesty, some is better than others at capturing the unique culture of this unbelievable South American country . To date, I am not sure if I’ve heard a hip-hop representation of Samba that is more spot on. Sango and what he’s doing with his sound is something special.

Truck North – “Band Of Au”
Is there ever bad hip-hop from Philly? From Truck’s recent EP, Murder By Mourning, “Band Of AU” calls upon Black Thought and STS for this other-worldly cut. I am totally biased but this track is flawless. The bassline is tight and the rhymes even tighter. As Black Thought says, “If there’s rapper that could test me alive/ Nigga, Elvis Presley alive.” Need I say more?

Daniel’s Picks
My picks are all releases from the Mello Music Group Mandala Tape releases. You can purchase Mandala Vol. 1 and Mandala Vol. 2 here. 

Miz Korona, Quelle Chris, T. Calmese, Nick Speed – “Supreme Codeine”
Talk about a posse cut worth blasting. “Supreme Codeine” eats you up, and digests you through its grimy intestines, and when these four artists are done with you, there’s nothing else to do but go through the process all over again. If anything, “Supreme Codeine” is that one song you can play at a social gathering, reminding everyone that hip-hop’s vivid collaboration aesthetic is alive and well.

Blacastan – “Stardust (prod. Gensu Dean)”

Blacastan is great at explaining himself in the filthiest of punchlines. Concocting a Raekwon-like rhythm and style, matched with Gensu’s Big L and Gang Starr sampled production, “Stardust” feels like a classic East Coast blast.

Muhsinah – “Up (prod. 14KT)”
“Up” is a track that is mystifying. It also jingles with a certain darkness that makes its characteristics gritty and tough. Muhsinah’s pitch is moving, hopeful, uplifting, sensual and on point. “There’s no worrying up here,” she digs, “and I want you to see it.”

Open Mike Eagle – “A History of Modern Dance (prod. Jeremiah Jae)”
Open Mike Eagle has stated numerous times that his music is “art rap.” The way he styles his set-up and flow reinforces this, as he goes off on tangents about random subject matter that bends each and every rule. It works though, and matched with Jeremiah Jae’s shivering production–something that could attend a Hitchcock film–“A History of Modern Dance” just oozes with uniqueness.

Murs – “The Pain Is Gone (prod. Apollo Brown)”
The poetry about love and romantic interests has always been Murs’ M.O. Over a very recognizable Apollo Brown-structured beat, Murs tells us a story about a girl. Murs 3:16.

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Exploring The Minds of Hip-Hop: The Bonus Cut Fantasy Draft (Part Six)

via consequenceofsound.net

via consequenceofsound.net

By: Harry Jadun with help from the Bonus Cut staff

Click here for part one.
Click here for part two.
Click here for part three.
Click here for part four.
Click here for part five. 

Fantasy sports has taken off. Due to the rise in technology and the internet, fantasy sports has not only become unbelievably popular in the United States, but also all around the world. Here at Bonus Cut, we have decided that we would take the concept of fantasy sports and apply it to hip-hop music. Instead of drafting wideouts and running backs, we’ve drafted some of our favorite MC’s and beat makers. The big winner in this situation is you. Not only do we introduce you to some of our favorite hip-hop artists and explain why they are relevant in hip-hop culture, we’ve also laced the Draft with dope tracks for your audio pleasure. With this draft, our goal is to pay tribute to some our favorite hip-hop artists and acknowledge the influence they have had on our lives.

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THE STARTING FIVE: 8/28/13

records

Every week, Daniel and Gus pick five songs to share called The Starting Five. This week, they’re personally sharing these tracks as a feature.

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Album of the Week: “Things Fall Apart” by The Roots

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By: Gus Navarro

Ever since the Roots Crew became the house band for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon in 2007, they have been everywhere. Since 2007 they have released four studio albums: How I Got Over, Wake Up! (With John Legend), Betty Wright: The Movie (With Betty Wright) and Undun. Furthermore, Questlove gigs as a DJ every chance he gets, writes biographies and made Twitter cool. Black Thought backs up hip-hop royalty on Fallon, slays bars on tracks such as “Bird’s Eye View” and is very involved with his community Foundation called GrassROOTS.

On top of all of this, the Legendary Roots Crew has seen their annual two-day festival called “The Roots Picnic” grow, have given back to the Philadelphia community and hosted huge, nationally televised Fourth of July jam concerts. They are everywhere, splitting time between NYC, Philly, going on tour and putting out amazing music. In fact, this fall they are set to release another collaborative effort, this time with Elvis Costello, and have another full length album on the way.

This past April, their album Things Fall Apart officially reached platinum status. Released in 1999, Things Fall Apart is at times raw, yet polished. Considering how the Root’s career has changed over time, their classic record still has much to offer and sheds a great deal of light on how the group has managed to keep their creative integrity.

Recorded at the height of the Soulquarians era and featuring a slew of artists, Things Fall Apart has so much to offer by way of lyricism and musicality. There are tracks such as “You Got Me” with Erykah Badu and Eve that beautifully describe the love and the trust needed for a functional relationship. On “Step Into The Realm,” “Adrenaline” and “and “Without A Doubt” Malik B., Dice Raw and Black Thought drop unforgettable lines. Meanwhile, Common and Yasiin Bey (f.k.a. Mos Def) drop by to contribute two of the more memorable tracks, “Act Too…Love Of My Life” and “Double Trouble.” There is even space made for Ursula Rucker to read her hauntingly picturesque poetry on “The Return To Innocence Lost”, describing abuse and grief in the way only poetry can.

From a production standpoint Questlove’s drums are on point, always providing the perfect balance of kick and snare. The keyboards and guitar sounds are blended perfectly with the heavy hip-hop boom bap with help from James Poyser and D’angelo. There is assistance from the likes of Scott Storch and J Dilla on the production side. However, let’s not forget that we are talking about the Roots and live instrumentation was used.

In the end, Things Fall Apart is considered a hip-hop classic and arguably the best album by the Legendary Roots Crew. In my opinion, this is absolutely true but there is more to this record. Things Fall Apart serves as an example of the commitment to quality ingrained within the Roots psyche. They may be moving at a thousand miles an hour but they are still willing to take the time to ensure that what is associated with the Roots is worth a listen, watch or read. Things Fall Apart is a testament to this mind-set.

Must-Listens

“Double Trouble”

“You Got Me”

“Without a Doubt”

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Album of the Week: “Illadelph Halflife” by The Roots

illadelph

The Roots
Illadelph Halflife
DGC/Geffen/MCA, 1996

Daniel’s Thought

To me, The Roots have always been a distinct fire in hip-hop; a group that defied hip-hop’s boundaries while at the same time pushing their own expansive logic. You can point to their live instrumentation and raw approach to the game as their most redeeming quality, but to forgo their profound lyrics or collective base is a crime The Roots should never be punished for. In fact, it’s this very conglomerate of attributes that makes this crew from Philadelphia so memorable. As the swirling guitar swells and organic echoes jump under inspirational Thought and company, we as critics run out of words to say to further praise The Roots’ movement within the culture. Moreover, as we scan through the monstrous discography The Roots call a career, nothing is more evident than the fact that their eclectic collection of cuts spanning from 1987 to 2013 has pushed hip-hop music and logical reasoning in discussion to new heights. Their 1996 classic Illadelph Halflife is a prime example of this, as it shifts between sonic stages of sound and presents politically conscious content in a veritable format.

1996 was a year that witnessed Bill Clinton’s re-election, peace and elections in Bosnia, the advancement against AIDS and the election of Boris Yeltsin, among many other notable stories—in fact, the bombing of a U.S. base in Saudi Arabia and the centennial Olympic games often flow under the radar. In response, Illadelph Halflife acts as a social commentary on these stories while further slinging an invective slug at capitalism, death and love. Driven mainly by Black Thought and Malik B, the content on this album sprays like a unique arrangement of originality mixed with philosophy that shreds the confines of what is considered “traditional hip-hop.” Backed by featured artists such as extended Roots member Dice Raw, along with contributions from Common, Q-Tip and Ursula Rucker, Illadelph’s verbal presence is enticing to the tenth degree.

On one of the more cutting tracks off of the album, a song that squeaks and lounges like a silent car ride through America, “No Alibi” showcases Black Thought and Malik B admitting that they are reflections of their environment while touching on worldwide storylines. With Malik’s verse, he opens the curtains to the shelves encasing his own mind (“Look into my window, tell me what you see / The m-ilitant school of philosophy / When niggas get dealt with mental velocity / Connect my sentences and thoughts like apostrophes” … “My attitude is scarred by this inner-city urban / Iller dolo stress on my brain just like a turban”). With Black Thought’s bars, he uses real-world events as analogies to his delivery and stature (“On a lyrical Nat Turner mission reaction off of intuition / Continuously alert, no intermission” … “Step up into my crevice and taste the medicine of the champagne / King like Evelyn leaving you leveled and sabotaged / It’s all camouflage like the devil and guns / And coke peddling, Olympic medaling flashback / That of a war veteran blast at / The programmer bringing lashes ‘cross your back”)

While “No Alibi” tackles vocalization on social constructs, “The Hypnotic” revolves around inner-personal themes on love and death under the crushing fists of society. Lines like, “But as time float on we grew more mature / And further apart when I began to do tours / We lost contact and slowly parted / reminiscing of when it started,” and “I said ‘yo Palma when did you last see Alana?’ / He offer me a seat in attempts to make me calmer / When he began to break it down my mind start to wander / Response beyond somber incredible crushed” represent love, drifting and death, while “But she a victim of the wicked system that controlled her,” finally reveals the cyclical effect that haunts and crushes so many dreams.

Illadelph Halflife would be a memorable album on content alone, but like all other Roots albums, Halflife is an ever-revolving sphere that consists of both meaning and sound. Lead single “Clones” is backed by a shadowy piano progression that sounds like a RZA-lead sample, while M.A.R.S, Black Thought, Dice Raw and Malik B exchange verses on the fly; “Episodes” trail blazes a unique sound with backing female vocals, sparse horns, organ keys that plink and flutter and a vocoder style introduction; and “Concerto of Desparado” sways with stretched background vocals, a strong string selection and an overall sound that mirrors that of Jedi Mind Tricks and Army of the Pharaohs. “The implorer, the universe explorer,” Black Thought states. “Treat MCs like the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah / Leaving these niggas open like a box of Pandora / With styles that’s newer than the World Order.”

On the vast canvas of The Roots’ career, Illadelph Halflife is just one example of the collective’s empowering influence, but in 1996 it stood as a monumental record for many reasons. Not only does it sooth the soul and calm the mind, it implores listeners to analyze and assist. This combination, mixed with the lucid stream of musical output, makes Illadelph Halflife an artistic progression for hip-hop in all realms and cements The Legendary Roots Crew as a driving force in its ever-changing culture.

Gus’ Thought

Released in 1996, Illadelph Halflife by The Roots begins with multiple sound bites from a radio special named Hip-Hop 101: On The Road With The Roots that aired in 1996. From there, the third studio album by the legendary hip-hop band from Philly is off and running with smooth grooves, reflective beats and jazzy piano and guitar riffs. On this particular album, the versatility of The Roots is very apparent as the group begins to develop into more than a group that plays and imitates samples. Don’t get me wrong: the imitation of samples by The Roots pioneered the live-band element that is now seen throughout hip-hop. However, at the time their first album Organix was released in 1993, there was nothing like them. Still, only three years later, the band’s 1993 sound is far, far different than their 1996 sound. Illadelph Halflife highlights the musical growth of the group in only three relatively short years.

The first full-length song, “Respond-React” opens with a four-on-the-floor pattern from Questlove’s kick drum. Right away, it is clear that the group is on point and MCs Black Thought and Malik B. have much to say and are ready to say it. Thought’s first couple of lines are, “It’s just—hip-hop hangin’ in my head heavy / Malik said: ‘Riq, you know the planet ain’t ready for the half’ when we comin’ with the action pack / On some Dundee shit representin’ the outback.” And then later, Malik B explains, “M-ILL-TANT, feel the 5th guerilla chant / Y’all talk about bodies but you would not kill a ant / My skill is amp, would peel a nigga like a stamp / Caliber is of Excalibur now you be damp.” Both MCs’ gift for words are on full display on this song, and it continues until the end of the album.

From the in your face, take no prisoners attitude of “Respond-React,” the group takes us to a more reflective place with songs such as “It Just Don’t Stop” and “What They Do.” Both of these songs are highly critical of the society that we live in. With the hook of “It Just Don’t Stop” Malik B. asserts, “This world is filled with homicide and rape / All the crimes of hate just ain’t the size and shape / You can walk down the block and get slumped or knocked / It don’t stop y’all and it just don’t stop.” And then on “What They Do,” the band is highly critical of the music industry. “Lost generation, fast paced nation / World population confront they frustration / The principles of true hip-hop have been forsaken / It’s all contractual and about money makin.” “What They Do” finishes with the band jamming together for last 1:30 of the song. This is important to note as this type of jam would give way to multiple songs the band would later make such as “I Can’t Help It” from Rising Down and “Make My” from Undun.

Backed by the rhythm section of Questlove, Hub and Kamal, Illadelph Halflife flows seamlessly from slower reflective joints, to bangers that showcase the lyricism of Black Thought, Malik B, Dice Raw, Common and even Q-Tip. Just when you thought you had enough, spoken-word artist Ursula Rucker is there on “Adventures In Wonderland” to read one of her poems, making you think even deeper about the message of this album. In many ways, Illadelph Halflife underscores the greatness of The Roots. They make great music that makes you nod your head in appreciation, all the while delivering lyrics soaked with consciousness and creativity. With this album, you can hear the band changing and becoming even more versatile. On Illadelph Halflife, the foundation for albums such as Things Fall Apart, The Tipping Point, Rising Down, and Undun is being laid.

Must-Listens:

“What They Do” 

“Clones” 

“The Hypnotic” 

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