The Play B-Sides Guide to Hip Hop and Rap on Daytrotter.com

 

 

If you’re familiar with Daytrotter.com, it is probably because of the extensive coverage of the independent rock, folk and Americana scene. Daytrotter has established itself as one of the premiere tastemakers in this space, contributing to breaking bands like Dawes, Bon Iver, Mountain Goats and Deer Tick by featuring early sessions of the groups.

What you might not be familiar with is the impressive coverage of Hip Hop and Rap by Daytrotter. These sessions get lost in among the more visible or “buzzworthy” sessions by the Fleet Foxes, Andrew Bird’s and Timber Timbre’s of the scene. It’s as if while no one was looking, Sean Moeller has amassed sessions from notable and diverse artists from the so-called “Underground” Hip Hop genre and is certainly worth a closer look. So, I present The Play B-Sides Guide to Hip Hop and Rap on Daytrotter.com! This is a list of the sessions I’ve found on Daytrotter, each with a short write-up about it.

Looking at the list below, you get a sense of how in-tune with the Underground Hip Hop scene Moeller is. In fact, three of the acts he recorded are featured very prominently in this month’s Spin Magazine in a feature titled “The Changing Face of Hip-Hop” on Underground Hip Hop (G-Side, Danny Brown, and Main Attrakionz). But, more than that, we have some names that have been on the scene for a long time– producers Kid Koala, RJD2 and DJ Spooky and Tricky all turn in impressive sets, but also Lateef the Truthspeaker, and Aesop Rock as well as a surprising meetup with Naughty By Nature and Minneapolis Wunderkinds Solid Gold. Speaking of Solid Gold, a lot of the hot Minneapolis Hip Hop Scene is represented in Doomtree, P.O.S., Marijuana Deathsquads and Brother Ali.

I’d like to point out that typically the term “Hip Hop” is used these days to mean both DJ/Producing and Rap and I also tend to use the term to mean both, but since this list includes sessions with producers and M.C.’s (and combinations) I’m making the distinction. A very scholarly dissertation on hip hop is Jeff Chang’s “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of The Hip-Hop Generation” and I heartily recommend this to anyone interested in this music and culture. According to Chang, initially, “hip hop” was used to describe the culture surrounding three things: b-boy/breakdancing, DJ’ing and graffiti. Once M.C.’s took center stage, this idea changed to what we know today. It would also appear that graffiti as an artform has moved from it’s initial exclusive ties to hip hop culture. And, as far as breakdancing, well…

So, put on your headphones, sit back and take a tour of Daytrotter Hip Hop and Rap!

BTW: While you’re enjoying this treasure-trove of music, please consider paying a couple of bucks a month to support the efforts of Daytrotter who make this possible– and you get some bonus video and higher-quality downloads as a result.

(in alphabetical order- click on artist name to get to the session)

Aesop Rock An early session– 2008 by Definitive Jux artist Aesop Rock around the time of his None Shall Pass album. This is one of my favorite Hip Hop sessions on Daytrotter.

Astronautalis Minneapolis native Charles Andrew Bothwell performs as Astronautalis. Nice flow– reminds me a bit of Buck 65 (who really should do a Daytrotter, dontcha think?). He just wrapped up an extensive tour in support of Tegan & Sara. Tegan helps out on Astronautalis’ new video “Contrails.” One to watch, I think.

Brother Ali From Minneapolis via Madison, WI and signed to P.O.S.’s label Rhymesayers. According to a press bio, he’s influenced by classic hip hop and specifically KRS-One, who I think Ali’s style reminds me.

Busdriver Twitchy, frustrated spitting– vocally and musically. Busdriver at times seems to remind me of Mike Patton (Faith No More).

Curumin While not strictly hip hop, Curumin’s approach to his craft are well-steeped in that esthetic. Being signed to Bay Area massive Quannum Records helps a bit, too. Brazilian electronic goodness. Read my interview with Curumin here.

Danny Brown One of the artists featured prominently in the aforementioned Spin article. Brown’s slightly tongue-in-cheek nervous yelping seems reminiscent of Biz Markie with a bit more smutty bent.

DJ Spooky aka “That Subliminal Kid” turns in a brilliant set, bouncing and fresh. His other hobby is scholarly writing about symbolism and semiotics and I’m left pondering how his use of signs informs this set.

Doomtree Minneapolis’s other home of hip hop next to Rhymesayers is Doomtree. This is a set with multiple MC’s so we get 16 tracks. Dessa, Mike Mictlan, Cecil Otter and SIMS. I guess we assume that Lazerbeak did the beats? Learned about this group just ahead of the Gayngs Affilyated show where they performed as a group set on the main stage and as solo sets. The group just released their second album as a group titled No Kings that is shaping up to be a critical success.

Grieves This is an early (ish) recording of Grieves who is now part of the Rhymesayers label and apparently runs in the same circles as Mac Lethal, so it makes sense he shows up on a Daytrotter session. This 12 minute smooth rant is pretty great. The late DJ Jimmy Hands from Fort Collins on the turntables.

G-Side G-Side is part of the Huntsville, Alabama hip hop scene that is based around the Slow Motion Soundz record label that is also featured prominently in the Spin issue. Out of all of the sessions on Daytrotter, this one is one of my favorites and I’ve listened to it a dozen times in the last week. You can hear the hunger of a group trying to break. Plus, some really great beats– the use of strings on “Came Up” is brilliant.

Kid Sister Spitters of the fairer sex aren’t represented heavily on Daytrotter, but Doomtree’s Dessa and Kid Sister from Chicago are both MC’s I’m a fan of. This is a really fun session and Kid Sister is able to take the attitude and finesse that Fergie embodied on “Glamorous” (and never achieved again, IMO) and run. “Right Hand Hi” is a real trunk-rattler (if you’re into that kind of thing) Worth repeated listens, seriously.

Kid Koala Koala has been on the scene since the mid 90’s if you can imagine that– as long as I have been following the turntablist phenomenon, he has been a staple and is as important a figure in that space as Mixmaster Mike, DJ Shadow, Cut Chemist and Q-Bert, in my opinion. An interesting session as he recreates his beat-juggling manipulation of “Moon River” like he did during The Hard Sell tour opening for Shadow and Chemist.

Kimya Dawson & Aesop Rock For Aesop Rock’s return to the Horseshack, he is in support of Kimya Dawson, who is likely best known for her band Mouldy Peaches and the Juno soundtrack. This collaboration resulted in tracks on Kimya’s album Thunder Thighs, but it seems that none of these songs made it on that album. I’m compelled by the idea of this session, but I’m afraid it doesn’t quite live up to the promise. Maybe it’s just a little early in their work together?

The Knux Another brilliant session on Daytrotter– sounds like the Strokes if they were fronted by MC’s. These cats are on Interscope– why they aren’t more exposed, I have no idea.

Lateef the Truthspeaker One of the original artists on the seminal Bay Area label Solesides along with DJ Shadow, Lyrics Born and Blackalicious that would become what is today known as Quannum Records. I hope that this is a sign that we’ll see Lyrics Born or Lateef’s project with LB Latyrx in for a session.

Mac Lethal As I write this Mac Lethal is blowing up all over the place for a video he shot recently of himself rapping and making pancakes. I saw Mac Lethal at the first Daytrotter in 2009 at West Liberty and wasn’t very impressed– at least with that particular live show. I’d like to see another attempt at bringing other genres of music to the barns– but maybe it just isn’t the venue for that music.

Main Attrakionz This Oakland duo was also called out in the Spin article. The production by Green Ova brings a mellow atmospheric vibe to the works.

Matisyahu Matisyahu melds his traditional Hasidic Jewish spiritualism with Raggae music and rap. Matisyahu has been gaining exposure steadily over the last few year since his brilliant and groundbreaking Live at Stubb’s.

Marijuana Deathsquads Originally formed as the backing band for P.O.S., the band has ventured into it’s own and has a reputation for over-the-top improvisational live shows.

Naughty By Nature featuring Solid Gold An interesting pairing as a result of both acts playing RIBCO on a shared Daytrotter-presents bill. Solid Gold, who provides the instruments, is quickly becoming the next-big-thing from Minneapolis with some helpful boosting from their participation in GAYNGS. NBN brings some inspired MC’ing. Would love to see this partnership fleshed out into a formal release, but I’m afraid this magic intersection is a one-night-stand.

P.O.S. Stef Alexander– better known as P.O.S. turns in an early Daytrotter session from 2006 around the time of his sophomore album. Mike Mictlan from Doomtree collective on beats. A fun, and loose session. Minneapolis represent.

Reggie Watts If you aren’t hip to Reggie Watts, it’s time. Every work is improvised on the spot and produced by looping the layers. Mindblowingly cool and typically funny stuff in the funk/soul tip.

RJD2 RJ turns in a fantastic mix. I’m a sucker for his stutter beats.

Shabazz Palaces As buzzworthy as hip hop gets in the indie space– Seattle collective Shabazz Palaces is the first hip hop act to be signed to SubPop. It makes me happy that Ishmael Butler was once in Digable Planets, because Shabazz Palaces is cool like that.

Soulcrate Music Wow, hip hop from Sioux Falls, South Dakota? The Midwest is shaping up to be bringing some really compelling hip hop and Soulcrate Music is a collective to watch.

Theophilius London An oddly short session. “Flying Overseas” gets a great treatment and remix in this session. I agree with the poster who commented that there should have been a couple of other songs.  But, we get what we get.

Tricky Oh, Tricky. You had me at Maxinquaye but not much longer than that. After the bizarre love triangle with Bjork and Goldie, I sort of lost track. However, this session is really great, showing why he was a big deal to begin with. Worth checking out, for sure. The cover of the XTC “hit single” “Dear God” is amazing.

Yea Big & Kid Static From Chicago– kind of “nerdcore” or whatever that genre that Childish Gambino seems to fit in. The cover of “Thank You For Being a Friend” is pretty funny, if disposable.

(Free Download) Lyrics Born As U Were Cover Art Revealed – “Lies X 3” Single Free Download

It was March of 2009 when Lyrics Born announced the follow up to the fantastic genre-bending Everywhere At Once. The album titled As U Were has had a sliding release window since then due to LB’s insistent and unrelenting demands for perfection. LB has cushioned the blow a bit by providing a steady run of leaked tracks and free downloads which has given us a pretty good picture of what the album will be like.

In March, 2009 we were given the retro braggadocio track “Funky Hit Records” with it’s accompanying video. The next track to surface was the reunion of Latyrx (Lateef + Lyrics Born) in the bobbing new-waveish “Pushed Aside, Pulled Apart” with its video produced by Raphael LaMotta of ApSci. In November we were delivered the crazy can’t-catch-a-breath windstorm of “Oh Baby” that you have to revisit repeatedly Where’s-Waldo-style to find all the funny turns of phrase that LB is known for.

Today the LB camp announced that As You Were will be released on October 26, 2010 and offered up the cover art to prove it! The cover was designed by Brent Rollins who also did Later that Day and Everywhere at Once. As if that wasn’t enough, we are also given another track in the pumping finger-jab-in-the-chest spurned lover vent of “Lies X3.” “If something just ain’t right, it’s just plain wrong… You’ve been lying to me.”

As U Were also marks the move to Decon who has an established multimedia track record working deals in licensing and other creative new avenues for music. Aside from the high-visibility Diet Coke commercial a few years ago and songs showing up on the occasional TV show, I always felt that LB’s music was bubbling-under a bit. I hope that the Decon partnership will finally kick the lid off that boiling pot.

One of the things I love about Lyrics Born is that he isn’t afraid to step out of the straight rap role, and in “Lies X3” he keeps a rhythmic pace in the lyrics, but he sings it all the way through. He’s expressed before that he doesn’t want to be pigeonholed into a predictable role and in the four tracks leaked from As U Were thus far, it is clear that Lyrics Born is again leaving a predictably worn MC path and stomping into the crunchy underbrush of his own direction.

Click Here to download the new track “Lies X3”

Click Here to download “Funky Hit Records.”

Click Here to download “Pushed Aside, Pulled Apart”

Click Here to download “Oh Baby”

Click Here to visit Lyrics Born’s website

Click Here to visit Lyrics Born’s Facebook Fanpage

Click Here to follow Lyrics Born on Twitter.

B-Sides in the Bins #42 – Curumin Interview

Curumin

When presented with the opportunity to interview Curumin, I knew that it would be an education for me. I haven’t really been following the resurgence of Braziliana that has been taking place over the last few years.

It was on a trip to Brazil where Chief Xcel of the mighty Blackalicious hears Curumin’s 2005 album Achados e Perdidos and signs him to Quannum. Curumin’s latest album Japan Pop Show (Quannum, 2008) is a testament to his passion for collecting vinyl. As you might expect someone who is a music collector would bring that passion and influence to his own record and certainly a closer look at his record collection reveals the source inspiration for this great record. Curumin sat down with me following the intimate but electric show at CSPS in Cedar Rapids on January 26th.

Me: Can you tell us a bit about your record collection?

Curumin: I am a music lover, and as a music lover I am a vinyl collector, too. I focus my collection more in Brazilian stuff. I have some Jamaican stuff, too. I have some American Soul/Funk Music– but it is more Brazilian stuff. I live in downtown São Paulo and the best place to buy vinyl is there because most of the stores are there. I used to go to a shop a lot called Discos Sete— that means “Disco Seven”– it’s a really good shop the owner is a guy named Carlinhos and he knows everything about Brazilian music. He is the guy who really taught me were is the best records, who is the best artists– what they made, which records have a good song– or funky song, soul or samba good track. A very, very good store.

There are a few in São Paulo– another good store called Gordo’s Place…

“gordo?” like “fat?”

Yeah, like “fat”– exactly. Another great vinyl store– there is some hip hop there, yeah– there’s soul, there’s a lot of funk. There is, too, Brazilian music. All of that in downtown São Paulo.

On the inside cover of Japan Pop Show you have some made up cover art?

Yeah, actually, this is an idea– my brother (Christiano N.A.) did the cover art. He was trying to get this seven-inch or vinyl feeling.

So, how come there’s no vinyl pressing of this album?

(Laughs) Yeah, yeah. We’ll probably try it some day, you know but it’s very specific people that buy vinyl and we don’t have a lot of money to [promote it].– so it’s hard for us, you know. But, my dream is to record in a good studio, in an old way, in an old style and make [a vinyl release].

So, where did you record Japan Pop Show? Did you use ProTools?

Yeah, we produced a lot in computers, and sequencers– you know modern production– with a lot of edits and ProTools and stuff like that. But we play [instruments] on it, too.

Are you buying records on the road?

Yeah, this is a problem (laughs). We already have a lot of stuff to carry on, and you know in airports it’s always hard with baggage.

Are you concerned about the records getting stolen? I remember when DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist were doing the Brainfreeze tour and Cut Chemist got his vinyl stolen.

Yeah, It’s a famous story in Brazil about DJ’s like Cut Chemist and Madlib going to Brazil and São Paulo and buying four boxes of LP’s– but they found a way to ship back to the US. But, we are always carrying on and taking care of [the records] because bringing on the airplane is hard and they don’t care too much about what you’re carrying on.

Speaking of Cut Chemist, he used a Brazilian singer on his album The Audience Is Listening— Astrud Gilberto, right? On “The Garden”

The song is “Canto De Ossanha” from a very famous album– that version that he uses is not from the original album. The original album called Os Afro Samba from Baden Powell and Vinicius de Moraes. I don’t know where he got his version. But it’s really good, right?

[Upon research, it appears that the version Cut Chemist is using is from Astrud Gilberto‘s 1966 Verve album Look to the Rainbow arranged by Gil Evans. Although, to get around sample clearance, Cut Chemist brought in some studio musicians to create new music. -ed]

What is one of the great finds you’ve had digging through crates?

Hmmm, well I found an album once that now is very rare to find– [in the past I found it] and said “I will not buy today,” but when it started to get rare I had to get it! There’s a lot of people looking for it– an album from Erasmo Carlos called Sonhos e Memorias and it’s a great Psych-Folk-Funk-Rock album from the 70’s and it’s a really, really good album. I think this is my precious one.

[The album was released in 1972 on Polydor, and goes for over $90 at different places on the Internet. –ed]

If someone wanted to get into some of the music you are listening to, where would they start?

I like a lot of the 60’s and 70’s– there were some guys in Brazil who started to bring that soul and funk feeling into their music. They used to play samba– so you can find that on Jorge Ben and Tim Maia— they were some of the first to try to make that mix of funk, soul and samba. [As far as current acts go] you can find something in Academia da Berlinda that plays more cumbia, salsa and merengue. You can find a singer called CéU who has a great sound and is a great friend– well there is a lot of great music– I could stay here talking all night about this!

[Notably, Lucas Martins who is the co-producer for Japan Pop Show and part of Curumin’s touring band as well as DJ Marco who does turntables on Japan Pop Show are part of CéU’s band. -ed]

Do you think you have a good home at Quannum?

Yeah, yeah for sure. They started as a hip-hop label, but now they are getting into more different stuff. I’m really honored to be there because I admire a lot all of the artists there– it’s a good family and great friends so I’m really happy to be there.

What are your plans after this tour?

We are in the middle of the tour and there are four or five shows left, then we’ll be back in February.

I’m not sure what I’m doing later this year. I have lots of work to do– I work with other projects with other acts in Brazil that are all releasing new stuff this year, so I will be focusing on those projects. But, I don’t know, I want to start something new this year, too– I don’t know if we’ll have the time, but I guess we make the time, right?

How was the Daytrotter session?

Oh, wow, it was great, it was great! The studio is amazing, right? Have you been there?

No, but I’d love to some time! It’s so close to Cedar Rapids. I dig all the stuff they release.

The studio is amazing. They have only vintage equipment and it sounds good.

So you had to bring your electric cavaquinho I assume– did you have to bring your MPC’s, too?

Yes, we did four songs. It was really great.

OK, well thanks for taking the time to talk to me today, I know you guys want to get to dinner. Have a safe drive to Minneapolis and a good rest of your tour.

Thanks, Michael!

Links for Deeper Digging:

Click Here to visit Curumin’s MySpace Page

Click Here to see a YouTube clip about Disco Sete Record Shop from the “Brazil in Time” documentary.

Click Here to see a YouTube clip about Gordo & Celio’s Record Shop from the “Brazil in Time documentary.

Click Here to visit the MySpace page for Academia da Berlinda

Click Here to visit the MySpace page for CéU.

Click Here for more information about Erasmo Carlos’s Sonhos e Memorias LP.

Upcoming Show: Curumin at CSPS in Cedar Rapids 1/26/09

This might be as close as a Quannum artist will get to Cedar Rapids…

While touring Brazil, Chief Xcel of the formidable Blackalicious fell in love with the locally released Achados e Perdidos and quickly signed Luciano Nakata Albuquerque who performs under the moniker Curumin (KOO-roo-mean). Achados e Perididos with its pan-continental mix of salsa and funk was re-released on Quannum in September 2005 to critical praise– quite an achievement for an artist who sings primarily in Portuguese!

In October, 2008 Curumin released the much-anticipated follow up JapanPopShow— the title of which is a nod to his split Spanish and Japanese heritage. JapanPopShow picks up where Achados left of with its strong samba-soul vibe and warps it with the heat of afro-beat, dub and experimental funk with refreshing spritzes of tropicalia. At times it reminds me of Air or Gilberto Gil in it’s easy casual feel. The Quannum collective jumps in to lend a hand on some of the tracks– Herve Salters from Honeycut, the Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel from Blackalicious and Lateef. Frankly a brilliant and original album. I especially dig Curumin’s testament to his love of 45RPM records “Compactu.”

So, Cedar Rapids will be warmed with Brazil’s ambassador of samba soul in the dead of winter on Monday, January 26th at Cedar Rapids own CSPS! The show starts at 8PM and tickets are $13 in advance and $16 the day of the show.

According to his press releases, Curumin typically tours with a couple of musicians and each took the stage armed with an MPC sampler providing live beat manipulations combined with live instrumentation. Curumin also switches between live drums and cavaquinho which is like a ukelele.

Don’t sleep on this, folks– it promises to be a head-bobbin’ evening.

Click Here to visit the Facebook Event for Curumin at CSPS.

Click Here for more information on the show

Click Here for Curumin’s MySpace Page which has streams of some of his tracks.

Click Below to download “Compacto” (personal favorite)

JapanPopShowCurumin
“Compacto” (mp3)
from “JapanPopShow”
(Quannum Projects)

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