Monthly Archives: July 2009


What’s this? Banksy returns to his home town of Bristol and puts on a massive free exhibition? Since Bristol is also’s home town it would be rude and lazy not to pay a visit and thus, after endless moaning about the size of the prodigious queue and dissembling about why he couldn’t go today or tomorrow or the next day, the art gimp was summarily dispatched with strict orders to attend.
According to his own testimony, it was many days and nights before the queue even got from Bristol Grammar School to the corner of Brown’s on Park Street which is, as those who know the route well will testify, an epic trek of a good fifty yards. Once inside however, he alleges it was all worth it. Returning to Monkeyboxing Mansions, he spoke of how too much nonsense has been talked about art for far too long – often by those with ability for little but witless bitching. It is true that Banksy’s work provokes endless discussion – just like the ‘crap’ he famously advised visitors to mind at the Turner Prize exhibition. However, Banksy’s work differs from Turner prize entries in a number of ways. It’s pleasing on the eye, for one. It also demonstrates artistic talent beyond being able to throw together any old shit, write a justificatory placard rich in art bollocks and smugly reply to the punter who indignantly (and usually rightly) points out, “I could have done that!” with “Ahhhhh…. but you didn’t.” Here are some of the highlights…

DUCK DOWN signs BLUE SCHOLARS/ Download free track ‘Coo’

(PRESS RELEASE) Blue Scholars partner with Duck Down Records for a modern day record deal
Walking away from numerous record label offers, Blue Scholars will release several upcoming projects through a unique partnership formed with Duck Down Records, and Seattle’s Caffe Vita Coffee Co. On August 25, 2009 Blue Scholars will release “OOF!” their newest collaborative multi-media project and the first release to be distributed through their new venture. On September 1st, they will re-issue their 2007 album “Bayani”, which has already sold over 20,000 units. “Bayani Redux” will include one brand new track and two songs that were previously available only via digital retail outlets. There will also be a brand new full-length Blue Scholars album and other projects coming soon. The sales and distribution model developed by the group for their upcoming releases will allow them to maintain complete ownership of their music and total control over how it is marketed, sold, and even given away.
Instead of signing a standard artist/record label deal, Blue Scholars hired the label Duck Down to run point on marketing for all of their upcoming releases. As a major player in the current and ever-changing record label industry, Duck Down Records saw this deal as an opportunity to get creative and experiment with strategies for record labels to continue evolving as viable businesses. Dru Ha, CEO of Duck Down Records states, “I believe Blue Scholars is positioned to be one of the next important groups, not just in hip hop, but in music worldwide, and I want Duck Down to be a part of that. They bring their progressive ideas not just to their music and lyrics, but also in the way they think about and do their business.”
Duck Down’s current distribution partner, E1 Entertainment, the largest independent distributor in the United States, will handle distribution of Blue Scholars’ physical product. Digital sales and distribution will go through Tunecore. Direct-to-fan marketing and sales will be developed by the members of Blue Scholars themselves, using Topspin web marketing tools. Says Geo, of Blue Scholars, “After weighing all the options, remaining independent is without question, the best look. Duck Down shares that vision and their track record speaks for itself. With them, we get that national and international push while still owning and controlling our music. “
To finance all the upcoming projects, Blue Scholars have formed a strategic brand relationship with Seattle independent coffee company, Caffe Vita. The coffee company will also play a role in the sales and distribution plan by selling upcoming albums in all of their retail outlets and marketing the releases via their online presence.
Blue Scholars DJ/ Producer Sabzi says in regard to their partnership with Caffe Vita – “their innovative marketing, their justice and equity in business practices, and their premiere quality of product and presentation, make Caffe Vita an ideal brand to partner with. I intend to do with our music what Vita does with their coffee.” “Coffee is both International and local, it effects the lives of millions, and it has tremendous ability to generate culture. We believe strongly in the work of the Blue Scholars and their power to look beyond the basic commodity that music has become. We are honored that Sabzi and Geo see that Vita is striving for the same goals.” Mike McConnell, founder Caffe Vita
Blue Scholars have sold over 60,000 albums and played over 400 live shows. They have developed a dedicated following in the Northwest (selling over 4,000 tickets for each of their last few Seattle performances) and have shared the stage with an impressive list of nationally acclaimed artists such as Kanye West, Q-Tip, De La Soul, Immortal Technique, Hieroglyphics, GZA of Wu-Tang Clan, Matisyahu, Zion-I, Flobots and the Coup.


Blue Scholars – Myspace

Duck Down Records

CHALI 2NA: Fish Outta Water – 2009 – Album review

Rating: ★★½☆☆

I’m tempted to ask if fish out of water suck or blow as there are times when this does a bit of both – musically anyway. Now before you get all, “Whoah – someone’s bitter because Jurassic 5 split up!” – it’s not like that – although I can see when I tell you the most Jurassic 5-like track on this (arguably Comin’ Thru) is not only far and away the best one – a banger even – it isn’t going to help my case. I think J-5’s number was up when they split anyway – at least collaboratively – with rumours of metastasizing egos and all, though Feedback wasn’t a bad LP. In any case, while Comin’ Thru maintains the J-5 penchant for a funky boom-bap break and hook (perhaps because it was produced by Nu-Mark) it dispenses with the ’dusty breaks’ sound and offers a noticeably cleaner modern-sounding production. And it’s not just the groove that works, for 2Na’s lyrics on it, while playful, are clever enough, “I’m much more than just some backpack crap/ Intelligent rap act or militant black cat… I’m/ Killin’ venemous platinum plaque rats” – so I was kind of hoping for more in this vain. Which brings me to the rest of the LP.
I’m all for 2Na wanting to move away from the J5 sound – he quite clearly wanted to expand his comfort zone – something the LP title reflects and which is both understandable and laudable – what’s a pity is that he didn’t have more success. The paths he has chosen to move in are largely avenues of dullness and the rest of the LP is a hotch-potch of styles and guest spots (including one from the ubiquitous Damien Marley) that never really finds its stride. 2Na’s knack for giving things ironic titles continues with opener Get Focused. If only. A sparse funky bounce, it’s a so-so intro in which 2Na gets the first hit in at the haters in that unmistakeable baritone, “Pigeonholed by people who hate change/ A decision broken can never be maintained.” It is succeeded by the Beenie Man-featuring synth-clap annoyance (complete with a chorus that I swear uses the melody from 80s Brit-kids cartoon Dangermouse) So Crazy. It’s fair to say that quite a lot of the tracks on this have that minimal synth sound (presumably to emphasise his stylistic move away from J-5) but there’s nothing distinctive about any of these that you haven’t heard a million times before. Don’t Stop is mid-tempo RnB-hop with a vocal ‘hook’ from Anthony Hamilton but fails to quicken the pulse – something it has in common with Choklate vehicle Keep Goin. Love’s Gonna Getcha’s Black-Eyed Peas-minus-Fergie style is at least memorable enough to constitute a 2Na bid for chart recognition and Righteous Way would be affecting were the pathos of a tale about fatherhood not undermined by the bathos of scratching with a baby’s cry. I shit you not. Controlled Coincidence sees Kanetic Source drop by and it’s muted strings and handclap combo sounds quite good but by this time I’m not sure whether that’s ‘quite good’ as in ‘quite good’ or ‘quite good’ as in ‘ quite good in comparison to the rest of the LP’. I can’t be arsed to tell you about any more tracks.
In short, 2Na is as lyrically competent as always, and the production on Fish Outta Water (which includes turns by some heavy hitters – Scott Storch and Jake One to name two) is ok. Shame about the music then. Beg, borrow, steal (or actually buy) Comin’ Thru (incidentally first released four years ago) and ponder on what might have been and may be in the future. It’ll be interesting to see which track(s) off this will be remembered four years hence.
Out now on Decon US

Listen to Chali 2Na – Fish Outta Water

Chali 2Na – Myspace

SMOOVE & TURRELL: Beggarman – Video

Smoove & Turrell’s Beggarman 12″ will be out soon. In the meantime – have a gander at the video. It seems the recession has hit Newcastle so badly that, for some, mirrorballs are having to double as headgear to keep the bitter northern cold at bay:
Smoove & Turrell – Myspace

BEASTIE BOYS (feat. NAS): Too Many Rappers – 2009 – Single review/ Download

Rating: ★★★★★

“1, 2, 3, too many rappers and there’s still not enough MCs,” point out the Beastie Boys here, proving there’s life in the old dogs yet. Although, now I think about it, even rappers are starting to look a bit thin on the ground in hip-hop these days. Putting aside for one a minute the issue of who’s ‘just a rapper’ and who’s a true ‘MC’ – what household names are there right now who maintain any sort of regular presence in the general public’s eyes apart from Jay-Z, Nas and Lil Wayne? Fiddy? Now he is ‘just a rapper’ but there are kids hanging around ouside my local shops who can’t remember the last time he had a hit. Eminem? He’s a had a break for how long? Enter the Beastie Boys after their own massive sabbatical, rapidly becoming the Rolling Stones of Rap, cannily co-opting one of the few remaining hip-hop colossii to reach the kids, and still rhyming the rhyme well over the crashing hi hats and filtered metallic funk of Too Many Rappers. “I’ve been in this game, since before you were born/ I might still be emceeing even after you’re gawwnn.” Almost certainly. And that’s even without having their blood changed annually in an expensive private clinic in Sweden. Keep your eyes open for forthcoming LP Hot Sauce Committee Pt 1 due 15 September and…check the second link below for the fat and funky Mako & The Hawk vs. Beastie Boys – Too Many Rappers (Not Enough Funk mix).
Out now on Capitol
DOWNLOAD The Beastie Boys – Too Many Rappers HERE
DOWNLOAD – MAKO & THE HAWK vs. Beastie Boys – Too Many Rappers (‘Not Enough Funk’ Mix) 320 kbps HERE

Listen to The Beastie Boys – Too many Rappers

The Beastie Boys – Myspace


(PRESS RELEASE) Daniel Merriweather’s critically acclaimed and highly anticipated album ‘Love & War’ debuted at No. 2 in the Official UK album chart and has now shipped in excess of 180,000 copies, certifying it gold. Meanwhile, ‘Red’, the anthemic follow-up single to the airplay smash ‘Change’, was a top 3 airplay hit, entered the chart at No. 5 where it stayed for over four weeks and has now sold over 200,000 copies. Daniel’s forthcoming single ‘Impossible’, (the third cut to be taken from ‘Love & War’ due for release on August 17th) is already Radio 2’s ‘Record of the Week’.
Now, following a recent sold-out gig at the Bloomsbury Ballroom on June 3rd 2009, Daniel Merriweather is set to embark on his first nationwide headline UK tour. Dates/Details as follows:
2nd Oct 2009 Bristol O2 Academy or
4th Oct 2009 Oxford O2 Academy or
6th Oct 2009 Birmingham O2 Academy or
7th Oct 2009 Glasgow ABC
9th Oct 2009 Manchester Academy or
10th Oct 2009 London O2 Shepherds Bush Empire or
Tickets go on sale at 9am Friday 24th July 2009 and are priced at £13.50 (£16.00 for London)

MANDRAKE SOUNDS: Planet Rock Remix – 2009 – Single review

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

As the title would suggest, what Mandrake Sounds have done here is remixed Afrika Bambataa’s seminal old school electro/ space funk/ hip–hop classic. Of course the whole point of a remix is to change something – which they have – for this is a dubstep version that will probably take the dubstep world by storm. Which got me to thinking that breakbeat culture is a funny one isn’t it? In the last twenty years, for example, bpms were first boosted until drum n bass speeds were achieved – though melody and vocals were largely sacrificed along the way. Then, much more recently, along comes dubstep and gets rid of most of the percussion. Apparently the idea is that you have to imagine it or something. I like to amuse myself sometimes by speculating where this trend will lead us next. Clearly the logical step ought to be to fuck the bass off too leaving the listener to imagine everything! We’ll call that ‘No-step’ for want of a suitably ‘urban’ moniker. Shortly thereafter, I see the dawning of a radical new breakbeat movement which puts everything back in (!) – drums, bass, melody and – in a further ‘step’ of wild conceptualism on the part of the movement’s more extreme proponents – has to be performed with live instrumentation. We could call that one FUNK. Funk, incidentally, is something the original Planet Rock has in spades…and this has in no way whatsoever. Discuss.

Mandrake Sounds – Myspace

COOKIN ON 3 BURNERS: Soul Messin’ – 2009 – Album review

Rating: ★★★★☆

The Melbourne funk mafia strikes again. Yep it’s all a bit like that down there – what with this lot sharing guitarist Lance Ferguson full-time with The Bamboos as well as both bands using two of the same vocalists in Kylie Auldist and Fallon Williams. And it has to be said that – as you might expect – the musical output of these associated acts isn’t wildly different. Like The Bamboos the ‘ Burners regularly plough the JBs furrow and The Meters furrow and sometimes the Blue Note furrow though where, for their third LP, The Bamboos opted for a more heavily northern soul influenced direction, Cookin on 3 Burners continue to pastiche their normal influences but – and here’s the science – changing things up from their excellent debut by playing about a third of the tracks very fast.
The first three tracks on this LP are a case in point. Auldist featuring opener Push It Up showcases this lady’s fantastic voice – not a million miles from Marva Whitney – over breakneck percussion. Instrumentals Four n Twenty and Tokyo Saucer maintain a knackering pace before the early-Meters-esque Dog Wash restores sanity. The Burner’s bid for chart success comes in the forms of super-smooth chilled summer anthem, This Girl – the second track to feature Auldist. It ought to be a Duffy/ Adele-slayer (if it gets enough exposure) – not just because Auldist’s voice is the equal of theirs but because the music is being played for the love and not by session-mercenaries. This lot always fare better on the vocal tracks anyway and unbelieveably they not only hook up with one of the best current female funk singers but with one of the best male ones too. Fallon Williams has every bit the raw soul possessed by Lee Fields or Charles Bradley and I’d take him for preference every time. Hole In My Pocket finds him waxing lyrical about being skint over some (thankfully) slower funky picking but the LP highlight has to be his second contribution – the raw soul of Seen Through Your Disguise where he returns to the familiar theme of finding out your missus has done the dirty on you. Where Baked, Broiled And Fried delivered a Gorrillaz cover, Soul Messin’ throws up a (fast) Hammond funk version of Gary Numan’s Cars which works pretty much, though – again – I suspect a slightly slower and lower version would have more dancefloor success. Goose It Up could be a Beastie Boys funkstrumental, Piranha is another Meters-ish effort and then the band end the album in the exact opposite manner to which they began with two slow burners, the so-so Soul Messin’ and the almost blues-y The Proving Grounds.
Technically this is very tight but I can’t shake the feeling that something ain’t right (have that for a song title!) – though I can’t quite put my finger on it. While this isn’t lacking in either quality tunes and crossover potential there isn’t an obvious dancefloor hit of which the last LP had several. Maybe it’s also to do with the order of the tracks. Certainly having 3 very fast tracks at the beginning, two of which are far from album highlights was a mistake. Like it or not people listen to the starts of albums more than they listen to the ends and while these ultra-fast numbers might technically be funk they’re also a bit too clinical at times. I had to check that I wasn’t actually listening to The Poets Of Rhythm at one point. There’s a reason The Meters didn’t play at 140 bpm and I doubt it was because they couldn’t. Funk is musical sex and it ain’t all about doing it as fast as you can right?
Out now on Freestyle.

Listen to Cookin On 3 Burners – Soul Messin’

Cookin On 3 Burners – Myspace

ETNIES: Sal Barbier – Sal 23 In4mation

What do you know? An actual proper skateshoe company has picked up on the massive demand for classic retro styles that has enabled Nike, Adidas, Converse and Puma to coin it in for the last few years at what must be great expense to companies like Etnies and DVS, not to mention terminal expense to all those who’ve gone out of business. Clearly looking at the big players and thinking, “We’ll have some of that,” Etnies have re-launched skate legend Sal Barbier’s Sal 23 in collaboration with Hawaiian skate/ streetwear co. In4mation. Also clearly taking their cue from the backlash against big puffy tongues this time around the Sal’s a bit skinnier. Check this link for a full interview with the big man himself courtesy of…

KOASTE: Billy The Kid EP – 2009 – Review

Rating: ★★★★☆

‘Billy the Kid’ wasn’t Billy the Kid’s real name. Perhaps unsurprisingly, ‘Koaste’ isn’t Koaste’s either. Here, however, the latter likens himself to the former, characterising himself as a renegade who doesn’t give a shit if you’re feeling his steelo or not, “If you don’t like me, then you don’t like me/ I think it’s pretty likely that you’re not like me.” Not quite Shakespeare admittedly and a little pedestrian for one of the monkey’s favourite UK emcees – it’s the price you pay for setting such a high standard – anything that’s merely ok draws disproportionate attention. Tom Caruana’s beat meanwhile is more than functionally funky as is the slightly slower and more bass-heavy Black Grass generated effort on Blabbermouth which comes over a bit like one of those Ugly Duckling cuts that isn’t totally saturated in horns. On this, Koaste tackles low-down, shallow, gossiping ho’s and seems to become lyrically inspired in his vitriol “Man this girl is so two-faced/ She could have a conversation with herself if the mood takes,” and even finds room for politically-charged figurative insults – “Attention-seeker, grade ‘A’ hanger on/ Trying to hide a shady side like Dave Cameron.” That’s more like it my son! A radio edit of each of these tracks later and we wind up with Il Padrino – something that I’m sure has been kicking around for a while. Swapping the imagery of the Old West for that of the Cosa Nostra, Koaste bigs himself up against a slower, more doomy beat, but the rhymes are better again – “The Godfather, with more flow than hot lava.” Now that is what I’m talkin’ about – might as well end on a high note eh? As Koaste points out earlier on, “You can call it boom-bap or straight up Brit-hop,” it’s not that you haven’t heard this sort of thing before more that he wants you to check the execution.
Out now on Heroic Recordings

Koaste – Myspace