Hip-Hop

TACHICHI - "Top Ten"

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Tachichi - “Top Ten”

(Hand’Solo Records)

Halifax rapper Tachichi returns in a big way in the suggestively titled Top Ten. Should it be in your top ten? That depends. Do you dig expertly locked-in hip hop producing topped with sly rhymes? Do you like to hear a tight-knit crew flex on the mic? If you do - it might be time to investigate.

Tachichi has been round the Halifax scene since his debut in the mid 90’s making clever Canadian rap characterized by rapid fire insults and one-liners A staple of skilled producers each take a turn at providing the bumping soundtrack to this swagger through the streets of Halifax, while Tachichi and guests style wordsmithing around classic rap attack formations as well as subject-based compositions. While certainly forged in the fires of battle, Top Ten is not all just wordplay, comebacks, and takedowns - Tachichi isn’t afraid to tackle high-minded concepts, or material that addresses the many ills of our society.

On Q Word, Tachichi turns from rapper to motivational force by encouraging the listener to overcome adversity and not to give up as the pert, infectious chorus sung by Kim D'Ambrosia reminds us to 'never use the q word.' On the track, Everyday, a distorted Buddy Holly sample is used, in a socially conscious piece about institutionalized cultural appropriation of black culture by the white baby-boomer generation.

On Tachichi’s previous album Chico’s 90s Project, he introduced his multi-talented squad of fellow Canadian hip hop hard-hitters, The Sipset Crew and they return on Top Ten with tracks like, Air Raid, where many members Sipset crew step up and makes their presence known.

Overall, Top Ten is a tightly produced rap album that checks all the boxes, and yet another Hand’Solo jam that is essential listening for rap fans seeking quality material from north of the border.

Here’s a lush video of Everything, a track that has all the good stuff - 90’s throwback sounds, killer rhymes, and vignettes of life on the streets of Halifax:

Gray Lee

[Album of the Month] Sharkula & Mukqs - "Prune City"

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Sharkula & Mukqs - “Prune City”

(Hausu Mountain)

Most large urban landscapes share similarities - tall buildings, traffic, mass transit, and, of course - street characters - people whose very presence embody the cities that they inhabit. For Chicago, Illinois, Sharkula is that legendary figure - an underground hip hop artist who promotes his craft distributing flyers, selling his CDs on the street, participating heavily in the local scene, and meeting the public face to face.

Musical chaos technician Max Allison, who performs under the moniker of Mukqs, came across Sharkula in a local Chicago eatery and decided to approach him about a possible collaboration. "The real start of the collab happened at Burger King when I walked in and found him a booth, " Max explains, - "I told him i was gonna make him beats, and he was like 'cool.' We ate chicken sandwiches together"

The process of capturing the essence of the shark man on a Hausu Mountain tape began with a mad science session where Mukqs recorded some top-notch electronic pasta, all recorded live. "I wanted to make beats that have 16 bar intros, verses, choruses. So that was my goal. All of these beats were made using only my synths, drum machines, looper, and sampler. Like all my music as Mukqs, the beats were recorded live with no overdubs and without the use of software. This means that in the final takes that ended up being the beats, I'm triggering samples from my Roland 404 sampler as the means of performance. in this case, it was very much not an "improvised" process at all, but deliberately triggering beats after certain periods of time to sketch out the structures of the tracks" What Mukqs was able to accomplish in that session is a selection of some of the finest rhythmic synth, with a perfect blend of bouncing beats, floating clouds of ethereal energies, and spiraling tunnels of mad audio.

The instrumental portion of the album completed, it was time for Sharkula to sink his teeth into the project. During a three hour recording session, the mythical street flaneur spoke his free form raps into being over the thumping alien landscape of the new Mukqs recording. Thus was born Prune City, a bizarre concoction of electronic wizardry and organic urban poetry that strikes a strange balance between wildly original sounds and rap.

Sharkula's live recordings are completely unpredictable. At times bursting with bombastic bravado and street level toilet humor, Sharkula alternates between scattered blocks of free form raps, laughing his scratchy, good-natured laugh, tenderly apologizing for missing lines and complimenting the beats. He is an entirely unconventional performer who cannot be contained, bursting with pure energy and an infectious love of the moment, characterized by a cascading style where he leaps from one concept to another, sometimes only semantically tied, or appearing to utterly disjoint. It's a stream of consciousness from a larger-than-life character, spilled out over the pumping electronic psychopath jazz that hammers around in Mukqs' haunted machines.

Overall, Prune City is a highly listenable release that grows on the listener with each listen. It’s an artistic success that springs forth from originality, creative power, and mutual reverence - delivering a perfect blend of experimental audio spaghetti, squeezed into chunks of swirling hip hop, topped with the disconnected hyper-genius meanderings of the legendary bearded bard of Chicago streets.

Gray Lee

https://hausumountain.bandcamp.com/album/prune-city

MORE OR LES - "Nerd Love"

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More or Les - “Nerd Love”

(Hand’ Solo Records)

Rapper More or Les releases Nerd Love, a hip hop album that speaks to the nerd in all of us. This release is an engaging listen full of killer beats and intricate narratives featuring sci-fi, comic book, and role-playing references, and some poignant moments that bear a closer listen.

The title track of Nerd Love is the thesis of this geeky ode, stating the importance of standing beside the things you love, even when others disparage those things as ‘nerdy.’ More or Les wants to create a safe space within the album where the listener can be themselves. He then skillfully weaves together a brilliant commentary of nerdy things that spills over into the rest of the album.

Whatever your nerd tendencies, More or Les has got your jam, including Roll the Dice, a song about playing Dungeons and Dragons, Picard Maneuver and Klingon Neighbors, two tracks that tackle the Star Trek franchise, and 22 Pages, which celebrates comic book culture. Each one of these selections is impressive, not only in the production and performance quality, but in the level of detail that is packed into every minute, displaying a true knowledge and respect of the material, making this a fun album to return to again and again.

Despite all the fun on this album, the standout track is Hidden in Plain Sight, which takes a break from the revelry of all things nerdy and geeky to address the important issue of under-representation of people of color in the entertainment industry. Far from a preachy social justice speech, Hidden in Plain Sight is a poignant and heartfelt essay that fits directly into the larger entertainment narrative of the album. By first expressing a love for a broad field of entertainment franchises, and then to bring to attention the less-than-progressive practices of the media companies that produce and profit from those franchises, More or Les is able to bring this issue to the listener in a directly accessible way.

Production on this release is fantastic, with clean low-on-sample hip hop grooves, and smooth beats. More or Les also unleashes a small army of guest artists, including Wordburglar, Nilla, Touch, MikeAll, Jesse Dangerously, MegaRan, int eighty, Mikal KHill, Timbuktu, and even a snazzy version of Fly Me to the Moon sung by Alezandria Coldevin.

Overall, I found myself repeat listening to Nerd Love. There are a lot of artfully loaded references to fandom culture that play over some brilliant producing. Nerd Love is available on digital, compact disc, and ‘futuristic USB’ from Hand’Solo records.

Gray Lee

https://handsolorecords.bandcamp.com/album/nerd-love

HAUNTED GAUNTLET - "OM3G4 G3N3SIS"

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Haunted Gauntlet - "OM3G4 G3N3SIS"

(Cudighi Records)

Lo-fi instrumental hip-hop meets warbling oddball audio in OM3G4 G3N3SIS, a new release on Cudighi Records by Omaha, Nebraska heartbreaker, beat-maker, and soul-taker Haunted Gauntlet. 

First of all, let’s put our anger aside that Haunted Gauntlet came up with an artist name that’s just head and shoulders above the rest of us - he’s our cousin now, and he’s making this bizarro avant-garde hip hop that I’ve been jamming in the car for weeks.

Armed with a small army of cousins, who guest rap on the album, Gauntlet takes us through a beat-infused landscape of weirdly woven samples and oddly modulated sounds. It’s a concoction that defies direct categorization and makes it difficult for amateurs like me to explain properly. That’s why you need to be listening to this mess. I certainly appreciate the punctuative use of the Sonic the Hedgehog ring acquisition sound throughout this release. Much better than at the gas station when people redeem lottery tickets, that ring sound actually belongs in this weirdo collage of crunching beats, varied rap styles and grab bag sound effects.

It’s hard to choose a standout track. I prefer listening to the whole thing on repeat. Dusk ft. Sleep Sinatra is a great slow groove with sick rhymes and great sampling. Most Wanted ft. Keii brings us a laid back jam with a great chorus and some nicely disintegrated synth lines as a backdrop. There’s even a nice bit in Essence Pooling where the track closes with a fun sampling from a certain well-known water level. Thumbs up, Haunted.

Every track has a different, distinctive flavor - while adhering to the killer Haunted Gauntlet aesthetic that the listener will be able to pick up on right away. There is a satisfying amount of ‘wobble’ in here, an antiquated post-everything sound, like digging music up out of the rubble of a failed world and trying to figure out what it means. The rhyming voices here are powerful and energetic, lending to the living, breathing feel of each composition.

OM3G4 G3N3SIS is available in digital and cassette format, from Cudighi Records.

Gray Lee

https://hauntedgauntlet.bandcamp.com/album/om3g4-g3n3sis

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Yeah. Just look at that.

THE MIGHTY RHINO - "We Will No Longer Retreat into Darkness"

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The Mighty Rhino - "We Will No Longer Retreat Into Darkness"

(Hand'Solo Records) 

This is the second release from Toronto rapper The Mighty Rhino, following his 2011 release He Whom the Beat Sets Free is Free Indeed.

We Will No Longer Retreat Into Darkness is a polished, well-produced document of hip hop artistry that showcases Rhino's rhyming skills, as well as his bombastic attitude, and overwhelmingly positive spirituality.

No individual track on this album can represent the complete sound of it. Styles vary from entertainingly raucous bravado, to heartfelt ballads, to even gospel-esque ponderings on the nature of God. Rhino is an unbelievably positive force of nature who just wants everyone to be happy. It has been a long time since I have listened to a rap album that I enjoyed, or went back to, this much.

The title track of the album is its opener, a short song-poem that acts as a blessing for the rest of the record, but also sets a great tone of positive energy that is carried throughout the release.

"

The prophets come,
to bring joy to the world,
for this is the world of tribulation and torment,
and they come to turn the people away from these anxieties,
and infuse our lives with infinite joy

"

The beats that follow are fresh and durable enough to bear repeat plays. Rhino has a vibrant, larger-than-life style that is infectious in its joyous approach. In Establishing Shot, a piano loop leads into an aggressively heavy-as-a-rhino introductory rap. 

Anthemic rap earworm, Blue Suit Pimpin' is an instant hit, with a neck snapping beat and clever rhymes, topped with a easy-to-join-in chorus that you'll find yourself chanting at inopportune times:

"

I got a gimp limp and I'm blue suit pimpin'
blue suit pimpin'
blue suit pimpin'
I got a gimp limp and I'm blue suit pimpin'
I'll be blue suit pimpin' all day!

"

On infectious ballad, Stay Up, and tender breakup song, Every Atom, Mighty Rhino flexes his ability to shine on any style track. Backed by guests Prince Po, Myka 9, Adam Bomb, and More Or Les - We Will No Longer Retreat... is a powerhouse of Canadian hip-hop quality, offering the musical variety and audio mastery that will keep listeners coming back. Independent rap fans, grab this one up!

Gray Lee

 

https://handsolorecords.bandcamp.com/album/we-will-no-longer-retreat-into-darkness

www.handsolorecords.com