Krosst Out is a Canadian singer-songwriter and rapper now based in Toronto, who I’ve been following since early 2017. I’ve written about him and his music numerous times over the years, including a review of his debut EP Life of the Party, an outstanding work that examined the darker aspects of party life, along with the sex, drugs and alcohol abuse that often go hand in hand (which you can read here) as well as a review of his brilliant autobiographical album Phone Calls With Ghosts, (which you can read here). That album is a decidedly bleak work addressing youthful mistakes, broken relationships, and the reality that nothing will ever again be what it once was.
OnCue is a singer-songwriter and hip hop artist originally from Connecticut and currently based in Los Angeles, who started rapping at the age of 11 and recording music when he was 13. His difficult childhood and family life have been a huge inspiration to his songs, which often get very personal. He raps about the struggles he went through and how he’s overcome them. From what I can tell, the prolific artist released Cueyfornication in 2009, a mixtape featuring his lyrics set to the instrumentation of several Red Hot Chili Peppers classics, and sung by a collection of hip hop artists. He released his first solo single “Feel Tall” in 2011, and has since dropped four albums, three EPs and numerous singles. On October 19th, he released his sultry single “Ultraviolet”, a significant stylistic departure from his usual hip hop/rap sound, and will be dropping his new EP Bench Pressing My Ghosts on November 18th.
The two recently teamed up to record a superb new single “Anesthesia“, which dropped November 4th. OnCue is one of Krosst Out’s all-time favorite artists, so it was a dream come true when he said yes to collaborating on the song. The track was written by Krosst Out, and produced by his long-time collaborator Jor’Del Downz, and mixed and mastered by Taabu. Starting with a rather unsettling but hypnotic skittering beat, they layer darkly beautiful and ominous synths to create a haunting cinematic soundscape for the compelling lyrics about fragile mental health.
Krosst Out says “Anesthesia” is sung from the “point of view of an introvert that has a million thoughts per second and can never seem to concentrate. U feel like ur underwater most days and can’t clear your head. This song is for anyone feeling like they’re drowning or underwater and can’t make it up.”
The song opens with the chorus, beautifully sung by OnCue “I just need one more cig just to feel numb. I just need one more hit just to feel numb. My heart done froze baby comatose.” Then Krosst Out raps the verses describing his need for relief from the emotional trauma and pain he’s feeling: “Every now and then I, need to clear my head. I really really feel like I need anesthesia just to help, cuz I’m checking out from these emotions. And I need that shit in heavy doses. I don’t wanna feel a fuckin’ thing. No love, no pain…” I’ve always admired his rapping and freestyle skills, and though there’s clearly structure to these verses, his flow here is outstanding. “Anesthesia” is a terrific song!
This is a second guest post by Nicole McCray, a freelance writer based in San Francisco. Nicole writes articles on a wide range of topics, including health & wellness, lifestyle & beauty, music, movies, TV & filmmaking, and animals & pets. You can check out some of her work at https://www.nicolemccray.com/. Her previous post was “Five Up and Coming Artists To Expect Big Things From”, which you can read here. The idea for her second post came to her after attending an event at her son’s college, where he was performing as a rapper. She was impressed by many of the underground artists who gave exceptionally good performances, inspiring her to write about some promising new hip-hop artists.
I’ll admit that hip-hop is not one of my favorite music genres, however, as EclecticMusicLover I feel it’s worthwhile to expose myself to music I wouldn’t normally gravitate toward, as well as feature some of it on this blog from time to time. With that in mind, I’m pleased that Nicole chose to write this post.
Six Emerging Hip-Hop Artists To Watch This Year
The hip-hop scene has definitely been further solidified in 2021, with chart dominance by standout artists like Rod Wave and Jack Harlow. Rookies have made their stamp on the hip-hop and R&B genres as well, with other artists proving that music still managed to make its way forward even in a problematic year. It’s difficult to predict which of these artists will emerge as big stars in the coming year, as we learned quickly from last year how things can change in a second.
The music industry certainly got hit hard during the pandemic, but that hasn’t stopped artists from finding creative ways to make sure their music and influence are heard by the masses. Public recognition doesn’t always make or break a thriving artist’s journey.
Suppose you are a musician or independent artist looking to develop new ways to monetize and keep incoming customers coming in. In that case, you should research some of the artists below and see what methods they are taking to broaden outreach. It can also help you organize and utilize a platform for managing your links to keep yourself on track.
Here are some of the greats we’ve discovered and expect big things from in the upcoming year and how they make their mark in the music world.
Los Angeles-based hip-hop artist born Matthew Burdette, known professionally as Blxst (pronounced “Blast”), gained considerable success in 2020 with his debut EP No Love Lost. The EP tackles complex topics, including relationship woes that leave us wondering how close to home this plays out in his own love life. The journey unfolding within the album paints a clear picture of his life and covers the failure of a relationship. The song and video for “Overrated” shows him speaking to her, asking if she will “bleed the streets” with him to prove her loyalty. Later in the album, it depicts him trying to deal with the loss of his lover while they still are living together.
Blxst grew up listening to other hip-hop influencers like Pharrell Williams and Kanye West. His style is compared to other rappers such as Ty Dolla Sign and Nate Dogg. He received a lot of underground support and has become a fan favorite with soul, impacting his fans everywhere, and we are anticipating some full-length albums to emerge next.
Hailing from Chicago, Lil Eazzyy seemed to come from nowhere with an EP entitled Underrated, which, just like in the name, was entirely true for him getting some buzz on social media and then being picked up by underground fans. He ignites a bouncy, almost chattery rhyme style, which captivates his audience, and has us all excited for more.
His hit song “Onna Come Up” demonstrates his confidence and self-awareness. It went viral and has garnered over 69 million streams and counting on Spotify, while a remix of the song featuring G Herbo has been streamed nearly 30 million times. His next mixtape, Rookie Of The Year, injects even more style to his buzz, telling stories of overcoming the odds while growing up on the Southside of Chicago. It is clear that this artist has his sights set on being the next success story, stating, “I’m trying to be MVP.”
Rapper J.I. (born Justin Irvin Rivera in Brooklyn) declared himself the “Prince of N.Y.”, but now wishes to be more than that, not loving that television rapper name he was pinned with from the start. His music has been well-received in the hip-hop world, getting nods from stars like A Boogie, Drake, and Lil Tjay. His sing-like rap style gives him star status, and his hit song “Need Me” is an excellent demonstration of his potential in the Latin hip-hop scene. It has over 100 million streams on Spotify.
He already has stated that he hopes to break all preconceived assumptions about him as an artist and his music. He doesn’t like to be labeled, so he will continue to be whatever he wants to be. He has earned much of his success as an internet sensation, with huge followings on YouTube and Instagram. Because of his large fanbase, he included some of his fans in the video for “Why U Mad”, which is a great tribute to his impressive lyrics that showcase how well he stands with seasoned artists. We can surely expect this young artist to bring us more spirited drills in his new releases to come.
Milwaukee-based WebsterX is a leader of the hip-hop renaissance, with his original music picked up and promoted by a licensing agency. He has tapped into the powerful practice of yelling together as a central part of his music, and he loves to work with other artists in collaboration to create something new. His performances often consist of multiple artists playing solo songs as a group. His lyrics have a way of plunging deep into the soul while also inviting you to sing along. He has no problems diving into deep-rooted emotions and putting them on display.
His hit single “doomsday” and its accompanying video are what provided this artist with his breakthrough. The rapper developed a keen interest in poetry while he was in high school and said that an integration program opened up his world, helping him promote racial and cultural unification. Although he also says that each project he tackles takes on an experience that he has endured. His 2017 album Daymares addresses his feeling anxious and depressed when he dropped out of school and told his parents he would pursue being a musician, while his latest single “HUFFY”, released in April, touches on his experiences growing up and “riding his huffy through the hood”.
Erica Banks is a leader with her song “Buss It,” taking a sample from Nelly’s super-popular “Hot in Herre,” and blowing up on Tik Tok to become one of the first (and biggest) dance challenges in the new year. It also helped her song to land on the Billboard chart.
She’s been compared to Megan Thee Stallion because of their shared Texas roots, which she has laughed it off on her Twitter account and stated that they have a similar accent because of where they are from. Erica has recently signed with Warner Bros entertainment, so we are excited to see if there might be another dance challenge on Tik Tok in the works. Maybe a collaboration with another Texas hip-hop artist like Tara, perhaps?
Putting out not just one but two albums last year – Platinum Heart and Poetic Pain, as well as recording a large number of collaborations with artists like DaBaby, Summer Walker, and Lil Durk – Toosii has encumbered an enormous buzz around what’s to come next for the Syracuse, New York-born rapper. He made a name for himself by releasing projects independently, and earning a lot of his fans through social media followings.
The rapper dropped out of school at 17 years old to pursue his dreams, and his most recent album Thank You for Believing is his way of singing praises to his family, friends, and fans for supporting him and helping him to achieve success. He said he just wanted to demonstrate that the music isn’t always just about the artist – it’s about the people who help get you to that status. His song “shop”, a collaboration with multi-platinum rapper DaBaby, has him delivering multiple witty one-liners.
He is described as having the “sound of tomorrow,” which leads us to know that there will be more to come soon from him. The release of Poetic Pain in 2020 exceeded all expectations, so there is a lot of anticipation to see what he will do next to top it.
Many other ground-breaking artists will make their hip-hop sounds heard in the coming year. These are just some of the standout artists we’ve highlighted to look out for, since they’ve made such a massive impact on their fans and boomed into the hip-hop scene. 2020 was a rough year for artists, and with 2021 showing more promise, it will be great to get things back to the normal we’re used to, including live concerts with some of these fantastic and talented hip-hop artists.
I’ve been following Canadian singer-songwriter and rapper Krosst Out since early 2017, when he reached out to me about his debut EP Life of the Party, an outstanding work that examined the darker aspects of party life, along with the sex, drugs and alcohol abuse that often go hand in hand. (You can read my review here.) Since then, the hard-working artist has released a number of singles and collaborations with other artists, and just dropped his debut album Phone Calls With Ghosts, which was a labor of love for him.
Born and raised in the small town of Campbellford, Ontario, he first studied piano as a child, then took up the bass guitar in his teens. He moved to Toronto, where he started his music career, but earlier this year he relocated to Montreal with his girlfriend and fellow music artist Melotika (who I’ve also featured on this blog several times). Influenced by the music of artists such as Manafest, Eminem, Underoath, Rage Against The Machine, System Of A Down, Nas, and Marilyn Manson, he fuses hip hop with grunge, alt-rock and punk to create his own unique contemporary sound. And like a lot of hip hop artists, his songs draw heavily from his own life experiences, with brutally honest, introspective and raw lyrics.
Phone Calls With Ghosts is a decidedly bleak work addressing youthful mistakes, broken relationships, and the reality that nothing will ever again be what it once was. Krosst Out elaborates: “Ghosts aren’t just your run of the mill spooks, they’re the thoughts and actions of your past that torture you, the baggage you never seem to shrug off. I’ve spent so much of my life trying to hide my demons from myself and the rest of the world, that I thought it was time I faced everything head on. It was like these ghosts were trying to call [me] my whole life and I never picked up. Writing this [album] was my therapy, it helped me come out of this dark place I’d been in, and made me realize more about myself. Ghosts are real, they are the thoughts that torture you, the people you leave behind, the moments you never get back.“
The album was recorded mostly at Pink Distortion Music in Toronto, under the guidance of producer and mixer Adam Van Ameringen aka Rain, although “Intro (Preface)”, “Reckless” and “Black & White” were produced by another frequent collaborator Jor’Del Downz. The entire album was mastered by Sean Savage.
Opening track “Intro (Preface)” does just what it implies, laying out for us what the album’s about and setting the overall dark mood. Against a backdrop of throbbing, reverb-heavy bass accompanied by enchanting synths, Krosst Out tearfully pleads “Can you hear me? Can you really hear me out there? Pick up the phone!” A heavy beat then kicks in as he launches into an angry freestyle rapping tirade, recounting his early dreams of making it as a successful hip hop artists, the sacrifices he made and poverty he endured, and decrying those who never had faith in him: “Don’t ask me why I’m angry / Don’t ask my why I’m upset / These likes and these retweets don’t amount to much / Fuck every single person that ever doubted me / Cause I’ve been down and out.” The song ends with a woman’s voice (who I’m guessing is Melotika) saying, as if a telephone operator, “Welcome to phone calls with ghosts. Thank you for calling.“
“Funerals”, the lead single from the album that I reviewed this past April, touches on how Krosst Out has changed and grown since leaving Campbellford. It’s often challenging when leaving home and moving away to make a new life for ourselves, and though we generally maintain a sense of love and fondness toward family and friends we left behind, the distance and passage of time can complicate and/or diminish relationships. He told me the song title “Funerals” is a metaphor for the death of his old self. “I feel like I’ve just grown so much that I’m unrecognizable now, but at the same time, if I wanted to go [back] home I couldn’t. Also, the more you grow, the more you have people that will hate you for that.” The song has a heavy dub step beat, with a dramatic mix of spooky psychedelic synths, deep, throbbing bass and glittery keyboards creating a dark and moody backdrop for his impassioned free style rapping as he laments about the guilt trips foisted upon him by his mother and friends.
Krosst Out taps into his love of grunge on “Drive“, a cynical song about just saying fuck it, ditching your problems and heading out on the road in search of thrills, because nothing really matters anyway. “Cause I’m living for today, put that on my gravestone.” I like the dark vibes and Rain’s badass grungy guitar riffs at the beginning and in the choruses.
The haunting “Edges” speaks of a failing relationship, with the singer pleading to his partner to stop torturing him. Swirling keyboards contrast sharply with ominous harsh industrial synths to create a darkly beautiful backdrop for Krosst Out’s bitter vocals as he bemoans “We push, we pull, we scream, we shout, you say you want me out.” Guest vocalist Kyle Laird of Ontario metal band As the Structure Fails growls the chorus “You’re breaking my heart. So I’m burning these bridges. Stop tearing me apart. Cause I’m only these edges.”
On “Reckless“, he sings about not giving a fuck what others think of him to a guitar-driven melody over a dubstep beat. Rain’s grungy guitars make a return appearance on “Running in Traffic“, a song that continues on the theme of living life recklessly with a fatalistic attitude. With his voice brimming with emotion, Krosst Out raps “Never played it safe. Screaming here I am. Running in that traffic. Please don’t hold my hand. Gotta take my chances, gotta be a man. Now the ghosts are calling.“
“Background” is a bleak yet beautiful song about that seems to be about a person contemplating suicide. Over a sharp knocking beat and pulsating rhythm, Krosst Out and Rain layer haunting piano keys and a lovely strummed guitar. Krosst Out raps about his feelings of depression and futility, with Rain joining him in vocal harmonies on the chorus: “There are days I wish to just not wake up. I won’t be that shoulder that you needed to lean on. I can’t be that person that you need right now. Let me go, let me go into the background.“
The final track “Black & White” has a funereal grunge rock vibe, with a deep, reverb-heavy bass groove, accompanied by an almost haunting chiming guitar riff played by Andrew Falcao. Krosst Out ruefully raps the lyrics that speak of past regrets he has no desire to correct, and the pain he continues to self-medicate: “I never said goodbye to my friend that died at 25 / But these hard pills get easier to swallow. Don’t be alarmed, numbing myself is just part of the process. All of this shit is just hard to process / You can erase me if you like, black & white. It makes no difference, so take me out.” The instrumentals continue for the final two and a half minutes of the song, highlighted by Falcao’s marvelous guitar solo.
Phone Calls With Ghosts is a marvelous little album with a huge, impactful sound. I love Krosst Out’s songwriting and lyricism, and while he doesn’t have a particularly strong voice, he’s a highly emotive vocalist and terrific freestyle rapper. It’s been a distinct pleasure following on his musical journey over the past four years and watching him grow as an artist. I’m so very proud of him.
ECHOSEVEN is a heavy alternative metal rap group based in New Brunswick, Canada. After a tentative start in 2016 as a music project of drummer Allon McCall and guitarist Justin Larracey, the guys got serious about their music in 2019 and began recruiting more members to form a legitimate band. By early this year, ECHOSEVEN’s lineup was complete, and in addition to McCall and Larracey, now includes Stefanie Roy (Lead Vocals/Guitar), Darrell Vautour (Rap Vocals), Andre Leblanc (Guitar) and Jamie Warren (Bass). They’ve just released their debut single “EVERYTHING“, and it kicks!
The band wastes no time getting right down to business, as the song blasts open with jagged riffs of gnarly guitars and smashing drums, anchored by a deep, chugging bass line, all of which creates an ominous vibe. Having three guitarists gives the music greater texture and depth, and when combined with the heavy bass and intense percussion, the result is an explosive wall of sound. But what I like most about the song is the presence of both a female vocalist and male rapper. The contrast between Stefanie’s haunting vocals and Darrell’s beautiful flow as he raps his verses creates a dramatic back and forth that makes for an exciting listen.
About the song, the band explains: “EVERYTHING is about going through hard times, being broken down to ground zero and finding out who your true and real friends, family, helpers and supporters are, and confronting them on their motives and intentions. When the smokes clears, who’s left standing next to you?”
“EVERYTHING” is a fine debut by ECHOSEVEN, and I look forward to hearing more music from this dynamic collective very soon.
I saw this Song of the Day Challenge on my friend Cathy’s blog Catherine Micqu, and thought I would give it a try. Cathy, who’s from Luxembourg, is a terrific and thoughtful writer, and shares a lot of great music too, so do check out her blog.
The song challenge was launched by Rockhal, the biggest musical venue in Luxembourg, on their Instagram account, but like Cathy, I think I will share my selections here instead. Day 1 is “a song that motivates you”, and my pick is the Eminem classic “Lose Yourself”. He wrote the song for the 2002 film 8 Mile, which he also starred in, and chronicles the struggles of the character B-Rabbit, and how he overcomes his problems and obstacles to gain the respect of other rappers. But in a broader sense, the song speaks to zeroing in with a laser focus on one’s dreams, and not letting anything or anyone dissuade you from doing everything you can to realize those dreams. If music is your dream, then you need to ‘lose yourself’ in it to make it happen. Like Eminem says at the end of the song “You can do anything you set your mind to, man.”
“Lose Yourself” is considered by many to be the greatest rap song ever, and was a huge hit, spending 12 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and also reaching #1 in 19 other countries. It won an Academy Award for Best Original Song, and Grammys for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Solo Performance. It’s one of my favorite songs of all time, and ranks #2 on my 100 Best Songs of the 2000s.
One of the things I most enjoy about being a music blogger is getting to know a lot of musicians and bands through social media, and following them on their musical journeys over time. An artist I’ve grown particularly fond of is Krosst Out, a singer-songwriter and rapper from Toronto, Canada. I first learned about him in early 2017, when he reached out to me about his debut EP Life of the Party, an outstanding work that examined the darker aspects of party life, along with the sex, drugs and alcohol abuse that often go hand in hand. (I reviewed that EP, as well as one of his later singles, both of which you can find under “Related” at the end of this post.)
Born and raised in the small Ontario town of Campbellford, he first studied piano as a child, then took up the bass guitar in his teens. Influenced by the music of artists such as Manafest, Eminem, Underoath, Rage Against The Machine, System Of A Down, Vinnie Paz, Nas, and Marilyn Manson, he developed a love for alternative rock, hip hop and rap. He played in various local bands, developing his rapping skills along the way, and eventually moved to Toronto, where he started writing his own songs. Drawing upon the aforementioned influences, he fuses hip hop with grunge, alt-rock and punk to create his own unique sound. Like a lot of hip hop artists, his songs draw heavily from his own life experiences, with honest, raw and introspective lyrics.
On March 13, he dropped his latest single “Funerals“, and followed up with a brilliant companion video for the song that was filmed and directed by Eric Soto. The track was produced by Adam Van Ameringen, recorded at Pink Distortion Music in Toronto, and mixed and mastered by Sean Savage.
“Funerals” is a deeply personal song for Krosst Out, and touches on how he’s changed and grown since leaving Campbellford. It’s often challenging when people leave home and move away to make a new life for themselves, and though we generally maintain a sense of love and fondness toward family and friends we left behind, the distance and passage of time can complicate or often diminish relationships. Krosst Out told me the song title “Funerals” is a metaphor for the death of his old self. “I feel like I’ve just grown so much that I’m unrecognizable now, but at the same time, if I wanted to go [back] home I couldn’t. Also, the more you grow, the more you have people that will hate you for that.”
The song opens with Krosst Out telling us who he is now, accompanied by resonant keyboard notes:
I’m not that kid that you used to know
Now I’m living life so unusual
Less weddings and more of these funerals
The tempo then abruptly shifts to a heavy dub step beat, as the music expands with a dramatic mix of spooky psychedelic synths, deep, throbbing bass, glittery keyboards and some of the sickest percussive synths I’ve heard in a while. The instrumentals are really superb, creating a dark and moody backdrop for Krosst Out’s impassioned free style rapping as he laments about the guilt trips foisted upon him by his mother and friends:
You’re always telling me that I don’t pick up that phone much anymore And you don’t call home Why are the people that you’ve got ignored Saying that you’re one of us But it’s pretty clear that you’re not You think that you’re better You think that you’re big now Move from the small town Go and get the big stuff Now that your ego’s even bigger now And you fucking forgot our names, wow
From that same town where nothing ever happened But that was back then Fuck those memories you can have em I’m past it I’m not that kid that you used to know Want black roses at my funeral
And I’m sorry mom, but I’m not that kid that you used to know
He goes on to sing that his new life isn’t all a bed of roses either:
But if you have to know I hate this city
Cause I been here too long
And I know that I can’t go home
Cause I don’t belong
And no I don’t need no phone call
Hold on, spare me the sad song
I don’t need to hear about the old me
It should be quite clear that’s what I don’t need
I’m just a grown man who can’t afford these groceries
If you think the grass is greener on my side
It’s not really
The fascinating video was filmed mostly in a church, and shows Krosst Out singing the song as if addressing an imaginary congregation. He then goes into a restroom, where he cuts off all his hair, and is later shown as his new self singing the song in a gymnasium, as well as outside at night, digging a hole with a shovel, seemingly for the purpose of burying his old self.
Themorethanevers is the music project of Santa Cruz, California-based electronic producer and composer Wayne Brown. Skillfully blending elements of atmospheric chill, trip hop, EDM and soulful R&B, the creative and imaginative young artist weaves lush and mesmerizing soundscapes. As an aside, when I asked Brown about his unusual moniker, he explained, “Themorethanevers is an idea that anyone can be more than they ever felt is possible. Believe it or not, it actually originated from a Daft Punk cover video [of their song ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’] called ‘Daft Hands’. When I was a kid I was obsessed with performing the daft hands video. I realized that if you held your hands a certain way, it’s spelled ‘morethanever’. I fell in love with the name.”
Last year he started releasing a series of singles, beginning with “Simple Things”, followed by the enchanting double single “Seascape/An Angel’s Dream of Sleep”. In early January, he dropped his brilliant little EP Bionic, and now returns with a wonderful new single “Stubborn Dreamer“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week. The song is a collaboration with Oakland-based vocalist and close friend Grace D, and features added vocals by South African rapper Killa-Stryder.
Themorethanevers explains that there’s a specific purpose behind the song: “In ‘Stubborn Dreamer’, we speak of the complex relationships new artists have with their loved ones. It’s often hard for the ones who are so protective of us to see us as the artists we are, refusing to believe in our visions as artists who can make a great impact on our communities. We are stubborn artists, resisting all obstacles that may come our way in order to pursue a dream. Our goal for this track is to encourage people to continue striving for their [own] interests and develop their sense of self. We all have dreams. We just want the ones around us to see our dreams the way we do. Encourage and support the artists you know and love.”
Against an enchanting backdrop of glittery synths, Themorethanevers layers a sensual trip hop beat, which serves to not only drive the song forward, but also pulls us quite willingly into a dreamy atmospheric soundscape. With a sultry vulnerability to her vocals, Grace D softly croons of breaking free of people who hold you back from realizing your dreams and full potential, and knowing that ultimately, one has to be able to make it on their own:
Temporary babies fucking with the fish and crazy
But my focus nearly hazy
But then let them go, unfaze me
Sadness never leaves your face
Dreaming happy endings
How long til you say
I got this on my own
Scared to think of ways to grow
Push me and direct me
Then Killa-Stryder enters, rapping his verses in response to those sung by Grace D. He expresses his regret for mistakes he made in their relationship, but also asks for her forgiveness and a second chance. While acknowledging that he misses the sex, he also states that he misses her on an emotional level, and asks whether she thinks he helped her reach some of her own goals:
Girl I really miss your vibe I’m really hoping that the love is still alive I’m really thinking about being in between your thighs but Please don’t compare me to all the other guys Cause your lovin’ was a blessing I heard you got scared girl I really got the message If I was honest with you then you wouldn’t have left me Your mind is what really I’m really obsessed with
Before we part ways, there’s a few things I gotta ask
Like was it worth it?
Did I help you reach your purpose?
Why does love with someone always hurt me?
The song ends with a flourish of harsh industrial synths, abruptly ending the dreamy vibe. It’s a superb track.
Regular readers of this blog know I seldom feature rap or hip-hop music, but I have a good opportunity to remedy that situation by selecting the newly-released single “Bang Bang” as My New Song of the Week. The song is a collaboration by Chicago-based hip-hop artist Def Star and rapper J Slay, and if I was 20 years younger, I’d say it was pretty dope. Sadly, at my age, I’d feel like a dope using that word, so I’ll simply say it’s a great tune. The track was expertly produced by Chicago music producer and beat maker Clark Make Hits.
The song opens with an ominous keyboard synth, then once the beat kicks in, Def Star begins rapping the verses that speak to making it as a successful rap artist.
You’re gonna go, proceed with caution
You’ll probably get carsick
Grab a salad and toss it
We always on drip
Everywhere we go, we break the scene
We turnin’ that flow into dough, til we break the bank
But then he discusses the demons and self-doubt that can sometimes engulf you, hindering your path forward:
Not even psychiatrist can get in it inside my head
Isn’t this like a trip
Can anyone remind the kid
When did I buy the ticket to this ride again
I’ll be talkin’ to God again
All about my demons
And why did I invite ’em in
I was thinking it would be nice to see a little bit of light again
Take a deep breath, drink some water, take a multi vitamin
Givin’ it all I got
It’s all I got left
It’s my ticket outta here
J Slay joins in on the action in the second verse, rapping about resolving to keep on pushing forward against the odds, and issuing a warning to those who might dare to stand in the way:
Def and Jay got more to say The more they hate Our coordinates are set to destroy your day No more hiding from the pain that I face Embrace it We break the bank Explosives, detonate and cause wreckage Important message We drippin’ water torture methods are more than ready You’ve done just stepped on a hornet’s nest For more or less, rippin’ it apart until there’s no more left
Though fairly sparse, the moody music and languid beat are both excellent, providing a captivating backdrop for Def Star’s honest, introspective lyrics, beautifully expressed through his and J Slay’s rap verses. Def Star is a terrific rapper, and his flow and delivery are flawless. I like how his and J Slay’s vocals nicely complement each other. Good job guys!
As I’ve noted in other recent posts, I’ve been revisiting quite a lot of artists and bands this year that I’ve previously reviewed on this blog, as many of them are releasing new music in 2019. The very first full album I ever reviewed, way back in March 2016, was the superb Gone With the Trends by St. Louis, Missouri-based hip hop-fusion band iLLPHONiCS. Hard to believe it’s been three years! (You can read that review here.) They followed up a year later with Purple Piano Society, named one of St. Louis’ best albums of 2017 by The Riverfront Times, and released a digital 45 double single “X-Rated” in May 2018, which I premiered on this blog. They now return with a new double single “dv8, pt. 1“, which represents somewhat of a new direction in sound for the collective.
iLLPHONiCS formed in 2006, and to this day all five founding members are still with the band, a rarity among acts with that long a track record. During that time, they’ve built quite a large and loyal following throughout the St. Louis region, if not the entire Midwest. Their infectious and eclectic sound incorporates elements of hip hop, rap, R&B, soul, pop, jazz and funk, which they deliver through high-energy, charismatic performances. The band members include lead singer/emcee Larry “Fallout” Morris, Keith Moore (keyboards, backing vocals), Kevin Koehler (lead guitar, backing vocals), Simon Chervitz (bass) and Chaz Brew (drums, backing vocals).
For their latest project, which they’ve dubbed “dv8” (for deviate), they’ve teamed up with famed producer Tony Visconti (who over the past 50 years has produced scores of albums for numerous artists, including many for David Bowie and T. Rex). The first phase of this project, entitled “dv8, pt. 1” includes two tracks – “Work” and “Make Your Move“. About the project, the band states “You have a choice. Do what’s already been done or dv8. Take the road less traveled with us.” Their new songs retain their soulful grooves and funky hip hop beats, but employ more pronounced synths, lending a more expansive vibe.
The first of the two tracks “Work” is darker and edgier than many of their previous tracks. Opening with spooky synths that set an ominous mood, a hard-driving trap beat soon kicks in, and this song is off and running. The variety and richness of the synth sounds, combined with the awesome beat, deep bass and sharp percussion, make for a dramatic and exciting listen. Morris’s rapid-fire melodic flow is flawless as he raps the verses, practically spitting out the pessimistic lyrics that speak to the struggle and drudgery of trying to earn a decent living: “Yeah, I’m on that clock. I put in that work. I’ll sleep when I’m dead, when I’m covered in dirt. Tryin’ to get to a meal.”
The guys change things up dramatically with “Make Your Move”, a languorous and sexy tune with an old-school R&B vibe, but delivered with a fresh, updated approach. Guest vocalist Lena Charlie, who’s previously collaborated with iLLPHONiCS on several of their songs, provides her silky vocals on this track, harmonizing beautifully with Morris’s smooth rap vocals as they sing about making plans to get together for some serious love action: “Girl it’s your move. Tell me what you gon’ do. / Hey boy it’s your move. Tell me what you gon’ do.” I love the slow beat and sultry synths, and the funky bass and tasty electric guitar are so fine, as are the guys’ backing harmonies.
I’m loving these two songs, and can’t wait to hear more from their forthcoming album. Have a listen:
Being EclecticMusicLover, I love discovering interesting new music, so it was my lucky day when I was contacted by Leo Maniscalco, a member of the band Ithaca Bottom Boys, about reviewing their album. Hailing from the bucolic college town of Ithaca, New York, the five-piece formed seven years ago while still in high school, and ever since have been honing their craft by playing together and writing songs. On September 1st, they dropped their eponymous debut album Ithaca Bottom Boys, and what a delight it is! Their infectious eclectic sound is refreshing, surprising and lots of fun as they weave stories about the travails of life, love, substance abuse and relationship hell.
Comprising the Ithaca Bottom Boys are Tenor Caso (drums, vocals, aux percussion, acoustic guitar), Tristan Ross (guitar, vocals, aux percussion, piano ), Leo Maniscalco (guitar), Joe Hayward (banjo, vocals) and Abel Bradshaw (bass). In introducing his band, Leo had this to say about their music: “Its difficult for me to describe our sound in a concise way, and no one song fully gives a representation of it, but here’s a go: we have four singers and songwriters, do a lot of vocal harmonies, and the songs are very dynamic with many changing parts and moods. They are also highly textural, featuring five musicians (two guitars, banjo, bass, and drums) each with unique yet congruous playing styles. It’s kind of folk and country meets rock and punk meets funk and soul, with splashes of other things thrown in, like hip-hop, jazz, psych, and prog.”
After listening to the album, I’d say his description pretty well nails it, and I love their eclectic music. I always try to include a few lyrics in my reviews, but the Ithaca Bottom Boys’ lyrics are so colorful and hilarious that I’ll be quoting them a lot.
The album kicks off with “Blues in a Bottle,” a bluesy Rockabilly romp that sets a light-hearted tone and plants a big smile on my face, even though the lyrics address the guy’s messed-up woman who’s into some bad shit: “Blues in a bottle, blues in a bottle. Where do you think you’re at pretty mama. You went and kicked my dog, and now you drown my cat./ Goin’ to silly-putty, goin’ to silly-putty. Sorry I can’t take you pretty mama. I don’t abide no woman, who goes round sniffin’ glue.” The song immediately segues into “Gasoline n’ Kerosene,” a very catchy tune with very morbid lyrics about how he killed the woman who double-crossed him, burned down her house, and was hung for his crime: “When I went to that house you said that you’d be, you took one look into my eyes, and you began to flee. And I said gasoline n’ kerosene you owe me money for. You bad ol’ broad you shot me down, and now you’ll be no more. / Well… Just before that lever did let my gallows swing, I saw my aged mother a weepin’ after me. And I said gasoline n’ kerosene I can’t believe my sin, My soul shall burn as you have done and never…Will I see your sweet face again.”
“Winter Biking” sees the singer riding his bike into town on icy roads, taking a spill, and wishing he’d listened to his momma about taking the bus instead – all metaphors for the risks we take in life. “Thirty bellow but I’m still sweatin’. The devil only knows what I am gettin’ into. Well up a hill down a hill the struggles that I’ve been through. The thing about life is the road always continues.” The guys’ vocal harmonies on this track are especially wonderful. The guys change gears (pun intended) to an R&B vibe with the delightfully soulful love song “Baby.” The opening bass riff that continues throughout the track reminds me a bit of The Temptations’ classic “My Girl.”
One of my favorite tracks is “Hail to Dale,” which humorously takes on the perils of heavy drinking with a rowdy mix of music styles ranging from blues to bluegrass to funk. The lyrics are both funny and poignant: “Well… if I don’t dale a beer tonight, I might as well start a rowdy bar fight. Cause I hate myself and I hate my life. Pain and pleasure’s the same to me, and that all started when I was three, ’cause my daddy switched the bottle.”
Continuing with the theme of substance abuse, the guys veer off into psychedelic madness on the marvelously trippy “Salvia Apple.” The zany track sounds like what we’d expect from the bastard children of Frank Zappa and Dr. Demento, with all sorts of melodic change-ups, quirky instrumentals and crazed vocals. The lyrics are hilarious yet deeply poetic, as if from a fractured Shakespearean comedy: “Salvia apple and a bottle of jack. All I’ve had to eat or drink and that is a fact. Don’t care if I go hungry I’m just lookin’ to get smacked. Pass out in the jungle by the railroad tracks./ I’m a derelict, no one cares if I’m recked or sober. Grown colder, shouldered at the might of a globe wide society. So deprived of life yet so maniacally living. My state be so squalor I take whatever I’m given.”
“Flip That Record Jhonny” is a rousing Bluegrass/Rockabilly mostly instrumental tune that makes you want to kick up your heels. The guitar work and vocal harmonies are really terrific. And speaking of Dr. Demento, the guys get downright scandalous on “Demented Family.” The highly provocative lyrics seem to poke fun of a certain demographic, calling out incest and religious fanaticism: “Well my family tree’s got lotsa knots, and I get a lot o’tention from the cops, Cause incest on the ranch is plain to see. Pappy loved his sister and that made my daddy. And my daddy loved his sister too and that made little ol’ me. Well I never had no sister so I just loved my niece. I lessend my genealogy by stickin’ my D in her crease.” Oh my! They turn mellow as they sing the virtues of toking up on “Reefer Makes Everything Better,” a funny ditty with an early Lovin’ Spoonful vibe.
Perhaps the wildest track is “Summer Beavers,” the title being a play on the leading lyrics “Some are beavers, some are people…and most don’t really understand.” This long track is a real tour de force, with a mix of genres that go from blues to punk to country to funk to rap – sometimes all in the same stanza, kinda like The Red Hot Chili Peppers have done on some of their songs. The guys go crazy with bizarre lyrics that sound like being on an acid trip: “Rippin’ and a skippin’ like a minnow in the river. Susquehanna wit’ yo mama, catchin’ tuna on a canoe. Hock at me I’ll lock you in a rock up in Chautauqua. Yo hablo con Jorgito, necesito mucha agua. Pappy’s down the road in a jalopy popin’ poppy seeds, cruisin’ past the stoppers, coppers crackin’ down on acid droppers. Baller all are things, some are beavers. Tall like cedars, small like skeevers. We be eaters, feeders, bleeders, breeders, breathers, and beasts like golden retrievers, whaddap? ha-ha-ha.”
The guys seem to channel The Red Hot Chili Peppers again on the languid “No Regrets,” with jangly guitars, funky bass and vocals that sound a bit like Anthony Kiedis. They then abruptly change things up again on “Surfer NY,” an exuberant tune with awesome surf-rock guitars and a frantic punk beat. The explicit lyrics speak for themselves: “Surfin’ New York, yes I’m surfin’ New York. Havin’ sex on the rocky beaches. I’ve got lotsa rocks in my breeches. No I don’t know how they got in the laundry. No I’m not doin’ the nasty momma. No mama no mama no mama no. No those aren’t crack rocks don’t be silly. That’s just some crusty jizz from my willy. No mama no I’m not abusin’ myself. No mama no don’t kick me outa the house.” It’s an insanely wild trip from start to finish!
I must say that Ithaca Bottom Boys is unquestionably one of the most unusual and enjoyable albums I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing, and I love this crazy band! If you like unique, eclectic and unorthodox music, then this album should be in your collection!