Anyone who knows me is aware that while I am a huge supporter of GoILL music as a whole, I am not afraid to voice my honest opinion about any artist (especially rap and hip-hop) who I feel is less than, mediocre, wack, flat out trash, et cetera. I personally know a few artists and will always be forthright when it comes to my views of their music. Some got it, some don’t. D2G falls into the former, and the silent assassin-like rap artist just continues to grind his way to respectability not only among his peers in Chicago, but those nationwide as well. “Lyfe Change,” which features D2G and fellow “East Side” emcee Young Diesel, is the latest example of D2G’s hunger. The two artists haven’t released a collaborative effort since 2003, but this one does not disappoint. Serving as a little over 3-and-a-half minutes of reflection, “Lyfe Change” is one track that belongs in music libraries.
Chicago rap artist D2G emailed me the first single from his upcoming album, July 9th: A Cancer Story, and I felt inclined to share it with you. “I.R.A.N.” (Ign’ant Rappin’ Ass Nigga) was produced by DC, and you can certainly tell just by the sound of this track. Despite the title of this song, I can assure you that D2G is anything but “ign’ant.” One thing I enjoy about D2G’s flow is that he maintains a reasonable level of aggressiveness without coming off as a diminutive persona with something to prove, but without the means and ability to do so. With each release, more and more people are made aware of just how dope D2G is, and I don’t see him slowing down any time soon.
Download: “I.R.A.N.,” D2G (Prod. by DC)
I would like to begin this post by declaring that I love Yuna. No, not in a romantic way, but everything she does artistically, I absolutely love. I’ve been a fan of the Malaysian singer/songwriter/guitarist/ukeleleist (?) for well over a year now, and I am continuously amazed by nearly everything she releases. Yuna’s Sixth Street EP is no different. Released just this Tuesday, this 5-track piece of art is available on iTunes for only $4.99. I have a thing for abusing certain songs, and “Right Again” has certainly incurred my wrath. Yuna should no longer be slept on in the United States, and her Sixth Street EP is just another great reason why.
iTunes streamed Daft Punk’s latest album, Random Access Memories (available 5/17) yesterday and after giving it a listen or six, I can confidently say that it is a good album. One initial review I read was one of disappointment, but I’d like to attribute that more to a tendency for some music fans to compare newer projects with older, “classic” ones. I’m a huge Daft Punk fan, and felt it would only be appropriate for me to share with you five Daft Punk songs that should be in your music library.
1. “Voyager,” Discovery
Without a doubt, Discovery is my favorite Daft Punk album. In fact, it’s one of my favorite music albums, regardless of genre. With songs like “One More Time,” “Digital Love,” and “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,” I’m sure Discovery is a favorite of others, as well. Despite the number of popular tracks on this album, the one that stands out most is “Voyager.” The beginning sounds like a mashup of Michael Jackson and your favorite electronic DJ, and after roughly over 30 seconds, there’s a small break, and then the wonderfulness begins. I have done just about everything that a human person can possibly do while listening to this song, and that includes voting and taking a final. If you’re forced to listen to one Daft Punk song repeatedly, let it be “Voyager.”
2. “Fresh,” Homework
Daft Punk’s debut album, Homework, is absolutely mind-blowing if for no other reason than that the sound of it will drive you insane…but in a good way, if there is a good way to be insane. “Fresh” sounds serene, but somewhat hectic at the same time. The synthesizer sounds combined with crashing waves give this song an almost therapeutic vibe until you realize that you’re supposed to be dancing insanely to it.
3. “Veridis Quo,” Discovery
“Veridis Quo” (from Latin phrase “Quo vadis,” or “Where are you going?”) starts off like some weird, techno-themed Peter Pan score, but once you get into the crux of the song, it’s ridiculous how awesome it is. The thing I love most about Daft Punk songs are the multiple layers to them, and “Veridis Quo” is no different. In spite of the multiple layers, the overall sound of each and every song is never lost on me. New sounds seem to come into play every 30, 45 seconds or so, but still, losing focus on the track is virtually impossible. My younger brother says that “this is some weird shit,” but he’s a Top-40 kid, so that kind of comment is to be expected. Weird? Yes. Dope? Fuck. Yes. “Veridis Quo” is not something I’d necessarily lose my shit to, but it’s still a solid #3 on this list.
4. “Teachers,” Homework
Pay homage, people. Unless you can show concrete, physical evidence to prove that you are the originator of some profession, fashion statement or some sort of creation, someone came before you in that particular field. I’m a big fan of people who acknowledge those came before them, and that is why I love “Teachers” so much. Set to “simpler” production, a list of influences of Daft Punk’s sound are read off by a computerized voice. I have often told myself that one day, I will listen to work from each name mentioned in this song. Should be some kind of mission. “Dr. Dre is in the house, yeah…”
If you know even a little about Daft Punk, it’s probably that most of their songs don’t contain vocals, or at least vocals that are remotely intelligible, for the most part. “Something About Us” is very different in that regard. While no one would mistake it for Marvin Gaye-like crooning or Minnie Riperton-esque balladry, when considering Daft Punk’s style, this track is effing greatness. It’s true that if you’re head over heels in love with someone that this song will appeal to you more than if you’re not, but nevertheless, dope shit is indeed dope shit. The concept of this song is very simple. Why try to explain the beauty of finding someone that you’re compatible with and committed to when you can simply use the reasoning of “But there’s something about us…“ and it actually apply? Right. Exactly.
Originally, this list was going to be 20 songs long, but that immediately smacked me in the face as overkill. Yes, I’m partial to Homework and Discovery, but I do love Human After All as well. The sound of Human After All is very minimalist and appears to be improvised more than Daft Punk’s other studio album releases, but I won’t pretend that “Make Love,” “Robot Rock,” and especially “Technologic” wouldn’t have easily made my list of top 20 Daft Punk songs. Human After All is a damn good album. Now…
I didn’t write this post to convince you to become a Daft Punk fan, but so that you could, if you haven’t already, diversify your music library a bit. Enjoy, and as always, you’re welcome.
*Kendrick Lamar voice* I do this!!!
I had been gearing up for this caper for some time without actually ever gearing up for it. I knew that I was ready to get back in the game, but the last heist didn’t pan out and the one before that involved a shady partner who ultimately felt I wasn’t a suitable partner-in-crime. ‘Fuck it,’ as I tossed back another shot of vodka, straight. ‘I guess I’ll be going this one alone.’
One of California rapper/producer Blu’s aliases, Godlee Barnes, has struck again, this time notching production credits on rapper ANTHM’s Handful of Dust EP. ANTHM, a Duke University graduate and former Wall Street trader (no, seriously) shone on his funky Joy & Pain EP, and seems to have honed his talents even more on this collaborative effort with one of my favorite hip-hop artists at the moment.
Handful of Dust begins with “Freefall,” featuring New York native ANTHM’s smooth lyrics over a rather soulful beat that would both remind some of Godlee’s earlier work. Listeners new to ANTHM notice his lyrical potency as he spits, “If knowledge is wealth, then damn, I been livin’ poor…” This track is followed by “Nina,” a track that works to separates ANTHM from Blu, in style and sound. “Men lie when they young, but then try when they old, to develop self-awareness/I been trying to uphold,” is what we get from ANTHM on this song, a reminder that he can carry the weight by virtue of his lyrical ability.
“Low Class” is the third song on this EP, and, digging a little deeper, ANTHM goes off: “They be tryin’ to let you know when you’re black or brown, nope, nope, I ain’t backin’ down” before continuing on to offer his thoughts of what a certain contingent think of people of color.
“Self Esteem” is my favorite song on Handful of Dust, and the beginning should explain why. Obviously having decided that he didn’t go deep enough on “Low Class,” ANTHM finishes the job on this one. “Society’s got me feeling like Atlas/World on my back, finally trapped us/Like Southern Baptists, surrender arms up in the atmos-/Phere/Fear in my heart of living like lived captives/They redefine blackness/I reenact Nat Turner’s tactics…” It’s refreshing to hear a young Black artist speak on issues pertaining to the Black community without lazily resorting to exclamations of “Fuck the cops!” or a similar sentiment.
The EP becomes slightly more upbeat on the “imagine nation” interlude, although ANTHM does not deviate from his conscious flow. My only beef with this selection is that it’s not even two minutes long. Luckily, we next get “Debbie,” an ode to ANTHM’s little sister. “A beautiful Black girl, highly intelligent/You can be that girl, you can be that thorough,” ANTHM raps to his younger sis. This is a track that is very sweet, but stays away from being even slightly campy.
I was frustrated once I got to the outro of Handful of Dust, only because I felt the ending came too soon. “Still Dreaming” is a great finale to a great EP, even if it is only two and a half minutes long. This is probably the only track on the EP in which Godlee’s production outshines ANTHM’s flow, which is saying a lot considering Barnes’ lively production style. “Never let my dreams die, hope they fit in this world…” is how ANTHM leaves our ears, until his next project.
If you couldn’t tell already, I absolutely love the Handful of Dust EP. Some may opine that ANTHM sounds a little too much like Blu, even though I can easily discern between the two. It would be incredible if the two were to link up and rap on the same album. Blu’s emotionally vulnerable tales and ANTHM’s socially charged lyrics would make for a truly great work of art, but for now, I’d like to extend many kudos to ANTHM for this 7-track EP. Let’s just hope he continues to churn out dope ass music.
You can download the Handful of Dust EP and some of ANTHM’s earlier work from his site.
When you combine one-half of Chicago rap group Kidz in the Hall, a gritty lyricist from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and ridiculously dope production, you get The Brainfly. Naledge and Michigan native Willie The Kid released this EP just a few days ago, and after listening to it in its entirety, I can testify that it is indeed worth the download. There are only two features, but they are both fitting. Production credits are extended to 88 Keys, THEMPEOPLE, Thelonious Martin and more. Let’s hope that these two collaborate again in the very near future. Now, excuse me while I play “Red Lotus” again.
Chicago rapper D2G has been gifting ears with a freestyle a month until his next official project, A Cancer Story, drops on July 9 of this year. March’s entry is “Chi’s Cathedral,” featuring Chicago vocalist Thomas Mac. Listen as D2G laces Kanye West and Jay-Z’s “No Church In The Wild” production. You’re welcome.
That rapping bastard, Chicago artist Vic Spencer, dropped another single yesterday. Featuring Thomas Mac on vocals and Black Spade on production, “Meatloaf” is a wonderfully composed track. I won’t give away the concept of the song, so…listen/download.
I started school in September of 1990, at Jane A. Neil Elementary. On 85th and Michigan on the south side of Chicago, it was a very small school with a population of no more than about 300 students. Neil was very unique in the way it was set up, which was to cater mostly to mentally and physically disabled students. I enjoyed my time there; it actually gave me a greater ability to not take the little things for granted like walking, running, laughing and even something as simple as communicating using language. I was a member of the school’s “general education” student base, and Neil did not have 7th and 8th grade for us.
I transferred to Morgan Park High School, in the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago and on 111th and South Vincennes. After scoring well on a placement exam, I was a member of the school’s Academic Center, a program for “bright” junior high students. We learned at an accelerated pace and had the opportunity to take high school classes despite being in the 7th and 8th grade. While I benefitted in some ways from this experience, it did sort of stunt my social growth. Despite that, I had every plan to stay throughout high school. My mother didn’t.
My mother thought Morgan Park was too far away from our Chatham home, so without my knowledge, she transferred me to Kenwood Academy for high school. Kenwood is located in the Hyde Park area, also on the south side like Neil and Morgan Park, and can be found on 51st and Blackstone. A high school that proclaimed itself to be a “college preparatory academy,” I enjoyed the overall vibe of the school, but not necessarily the students. If you haven’t visited the Hyde Park neighborhood, you should make the move as soon as possible because besides the racial diversity, it is a very welcoming and open-minded community. I graduated from Kenwood Academy in June, 2003, and my career as a CPS student was officially over.
On February 13, CPS released a list of 129 schools that are being considered for closings. 129 may seem like an awful lot until I remind you that in early December of 2012, 330 schools were on the potential chopping block, including Jane A. Neil, which left me incredibly disheartened. New CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett listed reasons for the potential closings, chief among them underutilization and low test scores. Underutilization can be attributed to a number of reasons, and you’d better believe that gentrification is one of them. As far as low test scores, I have never been a fan of using standardized test scores to gauge how well a school or student has performed, especially when that school and student is in an impoverished area. It doesn’t make sense to keep a school open if it isn’t half-filled, but it would also be nice to know whether there has been an effort to “save” the school. Not every parent can easily enroll their child in a different school, which is something CPS must be aware of.
If you look at the socioeconomic makeup of CPS, you will find that over 85% of students live in low income families. Roughly 44% of students are Hispanic, 43% are Black, 9% are White and 3% are Asian. Additionally, there are 617 schools in the district, a little over $10.5K is spent per pupil and only 66% of all subjects are met and exceeded in the schools. The number of low income and Black and Hispanic students in the system have led more than a few parents to suggest that the closings are primarily based on those two factors.
Byrd-Bennett hasn’t said much of late, and probably for good reason. After all, she’s the same person who wrote in a letter to CPS schools that she would consider cutting athletics altogether if there was ever a repeat of the incidents that occurred after a boy’s basketball game at Chicago State University featuring Morgan Park HS and Simeon Academy. 17 year-old Morgan Park student Tyrone Lawson was shot and killed after a game that ended with a fight between the two teams during the handshake line. Both head coaches were suspended for four games for their actions.
A threat of 129 Chicago public schools being closed is enough to deal with, especially for a school system that isn’t even six months removed from a nasty teachers strike which saw the teachers eventually prevail and former CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard essentially quit. The school system is over a total of $6 billion in debt and the teachers will be paid an additional $290 million over the next four years. Chicago’s direct debt rose by nearly 100% from 2000-10 and the problem hasn’t been rectified yet. Illinois has the one of the highest amounts of debt in the nation, topped by only three states. How will the teachers be paid? It is possible that CPS could sell some of its extra properties to help pay them. Cutting spending would hurt an already ailing system and raising property taxes would definitely create a political uproar on both sides and middle.
Simply selling unused buildings would net very little gain and hiking property taxes would bring hell to Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel’s doorstep. So, it’s easiest to kill two birds with one stone and close schools that don’t quite meet certain minimum standards. You can relocate students and some teachers and then also ditch the surplus for money. Those teachers fired will virtually be paying remaining teachers. Kids will be packed into schools, some out of district, which is not uncommon with CPS. There will no longer be a need to support schools that aren’t highly productive. Because of this, the debt may be more manageable, making it more attractive.
There will be collateral damage, and that will be the parents, teachers and students of schools that are closed. Whether or not any closings are necessary doesn’t matter. There will be a huge change to potentially 129 neighborhoods in Chicago, mostly on the south and west side. These areas are home to many of the city’s poor and disadvantaged. I lived in a good neighborhood as a kid and went to good schools in the CPS system. I’m sure there was inner turmoil, but never anything quite like this. Students and teachers whose careers will be altered because of this have my sympathy. Politics have once again merged with education, and jobs, learning environments and a sense of security will inevitably be the casualty.