Review: ‘Vision Pipes (EP),’ Vic Spencer (Prod. by Rocket)

visionpipesI swear, Vic Spencer has the formula for today’s rap fan: Churn out as much quality music as possible, all the while managing to establish a relatively new identity on each track; on each project. Certainly, on his new EP, Vision Pipes, produced by TDE in-house beat man, Rocket (who also sings), Spencer has carved out one more niche for himself. The funny thing, just as I will find myself getting accustomed to this “V-I,” another will show itself. No matter. Time to dive into Vision Pipes, which was released on July 4.

“The Special Move” – “I don’t wanna chase y’all/I don’t wanna race y’all/I don’t wanna face y’all/Fuck up out my face, dawg,” spits Spencer to start the EP. What stood out most about this unofficial intro is the production. The relative serenity of it contrasts with Spencer’s oft-aggressive flow, with some intermittent Rocket vocals in the background to provide a soft touch. A great start, indeed.

“Massive Takeover” - I’m conflicted. While not a huge fan of the beat, I do like Spencer’s flow and the vocals provided by Rocket. And that hook, though: “I tell you what/When I take over these mountaintops/The world is mine/The world is mine…” Everything but the production on this track does it for me, although I will admit that if pared down a little, it would feel a little “cleaner.”

“WW VIII”- If you’re remotely familiar with Spencer’s music, you should know that it is, well, you know, rather aggressive. “Chicago’s ODB” is how I describe Spencer’s work. “WW VIII” isn’t quite as gritty as some of his other tough tales, but it’s one of those tracks in which he puts on his storytelling hat and lets us have it. “This ain’t Rambo in 1988, you gonna need more than a fucking knife” ended Spencer’s first verse before Rocket jumped on, and killed another hook.

“Young World” – MAN. MAN. Spencer is one of the more emotionally vulnerable rappers you’ll hear (which isn’t a detriment at all), and he certainly delves into his feelings on this one. Rapping about the death and murder of two brothers, and attempted murder of another, Vic once again lets us in on a part of his life not usually made available on a music track. As per usual, Spencer is quick to flaunt his style and reminisce about prior sessions, along with his quest to conquer this relatively young world.

“Vampire Diaries Screwed (Rocket’s Solo)” - This sounds like something that didn’t make 808s & Heartbreak, and I don’t mean that as an insult. You see, I’m a huge fan of screwed (RIP DJ Screw) music. That goes for screwed R&B, as the slowed-down chords and vocals make for a unique listening experience. I’m still not entirely sure just what the hell the message behind this song is, but I still like it. A lot.

“House of Hope,” ft. Michael Anthony of THEMpeople – Rocket gifted Spencer with this damn production. It’s so dope that Spencer should release an instrumental version of this EP just so anyone who somehow didn’t listen to Vision Pipes can hear this beat. Whereas “Massive Takeover” sounded like it had too much going on, this beat is fucking insanely good. Michael Anthony of THEMpeople joined the fray to provide some vocals, but honestly, this track could have stood alone based on the merit of its production. Is that an 808 kick I hear? And a snare? Hi-hat, too? Just. So. Raw. Good on, Rocket. Good on.

“Planes, Trains & Passports” - If it weren’t for “House of Hope,” this track would easily have the best production on Vision Pipes. As far as the song goes, it’s a fitting ending to the EP. Spencer has never been shy to let listeners know that he’s simply “way mo’ fresher” than you, in all aspects of life, and while that surely drives some away, it likely draws more to his music. Undoubtedly my favorite line on this EP is on this track: “I’m with the youth, dropping the gems/And if they rob the Louis store and the belt fit me, I’mma cop it from them.” Telling it like it is.

Crazily enough, Spencer seems to be improving with each project. Teaming up with various producers and artists, he seems to be constantly trying to find ways to reach new ears. As a fan of music, I love this approach. It’s somewhat hard to say that Spencer operates outside of his comfort zone, because his confidence enables him to step into new forums with new people and lay down exactly what he wants to. Yeah, there will be hits and inevitable misses, but most impressive is that Spencer wants to evolve as an artist. Vision Pipes is available on Spencer’s Bandcamp page, and it’s one of those “pay-if-you-want-because-that-would-be-cool-but-if-not-at-least-listen-because-that-would-be-equally-cool” joints, so if you’re short on ends or want to listen before buying, you can download it for the freeski for now. Let’s hope to get more Vic Spencer dope in the future, and in addition, hats off to Rocket for the production and vocals, too. GoILL.

 

Quickly now: “Infectious (Telling Folk),” Vic Spencer ft. D. Brash and Brian Fresco (Prod. by DC) #GoILL

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Vic Spencer is no stranger to MKLH. One of my favorite Chicago rap artists, Spencer basically churns out music at such a pace that would make a simple man or woman’s head spin. Because of work and quite frankly, a lack of motivation, I haven’t posted as often over the last few months as I possibly could have. No more. Vic Spencer dropped a goody in my email inbox today, and you bet your ass that the new is heat. “Infectious (Telling Folk)” is led off by Spencer, with D. Brash in the 2-hole and Brian Fresco coming on strong to finish the track off. DC is on production duty, and the beat sounds like a very eerie serenade (love that “tellin’ folk” vocal in the background), navigated rather meticulously by the three aforementioned artists. “You just mad because you not what blogs writin’ about…”

For 2014: D2G

D2G-July-9th-A-Caner-StoryWhen it comes to hip-hop in Chicago, contrary to “popular” belief, there is a rather extensive history of successful artists. Perhaps most of them did not reach a national level in terms of popularity, but on a local level, they provided a soundtrack to many of our lives. I won’t regale you with tales of rapping along with Crucial Conflict, Da Brat or Do or Die, but I will tell you that in my somewhat biased opinion, Chicago hip-hop is experiencing a renaissance of sorts. A part of this new movement is artist/songwriter/hungry MC, D2G.

I first heard D2G on the DC-produced Hard Bars, a 2011 collaborative effort with fellow Chicago hip-hop artist, Vic Spencer. While I knew what to expect from Spencer and to an extent, DC, it was D2G’s performance that not only caught me off guard, but forced me to look at Chicago’s rap and hip-hop scene in an almost completely different way. Far too often rife with gang references and odes to violent acts, Chicago’s rap and hip-hop landscape can appear very watered down to some. And, not to dismiss trap artists like Lil’ Durk, Chief Keef and King Louie, but I always knew that there were artists who more accurately represented the struggle and desire to overcome it, in a less materialistic, self-centered way. Enter, D2G.

In December of 2011, D2G released The Blood Diamond Tape. Sixteen tracks long with features from Spencer, Lili K, Jay Rashard, A.M. and others, it was a very solid project, from start to finish. Evident was the fact that not only could D2G rap, but he actually gave a shit about his craft. Similar to Lil’ Wayne on Tha Carter, you could hear the hunger in D2G’s verses. You simply cannot listen to “Mom’s Prayin’” and tell me that D2G is half-assing it on the track. Period.

After a 2012 that seemingly came and went for just about everyone, whether in the music industry or not, D2G gifted us on his birthday, July 9, 2013, with July 9th: A Cancer Story. Holy shit, what a mixtape. What. A. Mixtape. I reviewed it earlier on this site, and if I were forced to review it again today, my opinion of it would probably be even more glowing and positive.

I listen to an awful lot of hip-hop and it’s not often that I can sit down and listen to a project in its entirety without thinking that the artist is bullshitting me, at some point. It happens; the need to appeal to your fans who are borderline hip-hop purists and those who simply want to hear good music without the requirement of it actually speaking to them in any way, shape or form. Maybe it’s harsh to call addressing the needs of one’s entire fanbase “bullshitting,” but it is frustrating to listen to such code-switching. D2G’s struggles are not mine, and mine are not his. However, to hear the raw effort on J9: ACS made me a believer in D2G. I have faith that D2G can establish himself as one of the premier hip-hop artists in Chicago, for years to come.

I’ve had the opportunity to do a little “Q & A” with D2G, and his answers didn’t seem contrived. They appeared to be thought out, in order to provide me with the insight that many artists seem to not think is very important in how they are viewed not only as artists, but as people. Regardless of what anyone says, we all judge. Most of us do so unfairly, but nevertheless, we all judge. And while I’d love to write that we as fans can easily separate the artist from the person, more times than not, it is incredibly difficult to do so.

In conclusion, I appreciate the music that D2G puts out, and the effort that goes into it. He certainly isn’t the only rap or hip-hop artist in Chicago who gives a damn about their product, but he’s one I rock with the most, arguably. With the momentum he built in 2013, especially after J9: ACS, it wouldn’t be surprising that he uses that to propel himself to another level in 2014. It’s a “GoILL” movement, y’all.

Vic Spencer’s ‘Red Button Series’ finale: “Run Roughshod”

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It’s been a while, hasn’t it? A hiatus of a bit over two months was more than long enough, and for whatever reason, I’m ready to get back to occasionally blogging on this page. Yeah. That.

If you’re familiar with Chicago MC Vic Spencer, you were probably hipped to his Red Button Series, which debuted in September. Spencer dropped a new track on each Monday and the first was “The Newport 500,” produced by Marc Moulin and The Jet Age of Tomorrow, featuring Monster Mike on the bars. Aggressively attacking each line, Spencer wanted to keep his fans amped for his November release, The Rapping Bastard, by giving their ears something to consume in the time being. With dope bars, insane production and “Vic Spencer-like” cover art, RBS was not something entirely new, as it has been done before, but admittedly, I don’t think I’ve ever come across an artist who so often put out B-side tracks that could have easily been on his album.

“Run Roughshod” serves as the finale for RBS, and it’s a fitting one. The Barry White loop is dope (guess what song it’s from and win a buffalo nickel!) and Spencer lets it be known to anyone within earshot that he’s done the music thing before, is doing it now, and will continue to do it in the future. Is his tone harsh? Yes, as always, but very few artists can spit with that demeanor and be taken seriously. Spencer is one of them, as I can personally attest that his persona is nowhere near contrived. RBS may be over, but it delivered a few gems, my personal favorite being the Word Mann-featured “Foes.” I know “V-i” has some more dope up his sleeve, and will deliver it when the time is right. Check out his SoundCloud page for the rest of the tunage. For now, Red Button Series, out.

King Lamar. Chance’s unconventional dopeness. Elli Ingram is 19 and here to stay.

KING HIM.

Last night was pretty monumental for the state of hip-hop, depending on who you ask. Rapper Big Sean took to his Twitter account to release “Control,” a track featuring Californian Kendrick Lamar and NOLA’s own, Jay Electronica. The song didn’t make the final cut of his upcoming album, Hall of Fame, apparently because of sample clearance issues. Big Sean is not exactly the most admired rap artist in the industry, so when I read a few tweets about the song, I didn’t pay it much mind. Shortly after, however, people got wind of, and then heard Kendrick Lamar’s verse. And all hell broke loose, digitally speaking.

Declaring, “I’m Makaveli’s offspring, I’m the king of New York” was what got more than a few in a tizzy. To follow that up, Lamar later spit, “I’m usually homeboys with the same niggas I’m rhymin’ wit’/But this is hip hop and them niggas should know what time it is/And that goes for Jermaine Cole, Big KRIT, Wale/Pusha T, Meek Mill, A$AP Rocky, Drake/Big Sean, Jay electron’, Tyler, Mac Miller/I got love for you all but I’m tryna murder you niggas/Tryna make sure your core fans never heard of you niggas/They don’t wanna hear not one more noun or verb from you niggas…”

Well. Alright. Some have opined that Lamar was out of line to proclaim himself the king of New York, considering he’s from Compton, and from what he told a concert crowd that I was a part of, his roots go as far east of Cali as Chicago. Others have chimed in that all Lamar did was give rap and hip-hop artists in New York motivation to step their game up. I’m somewhat in between. I didn’t necessarily get the purpose of boasting that he’s the king of New York, unless he wanted to ruffle feathers. Considering that the artists he appeared on the track with don’t have any ties to New York (Big Sean is from Cali/Detroit, and Jay from New Orleans, now in London), either, it seems to me like he went out of his way to take shots at the current state of the genre in New York State.

The bigger debate is over whether or not Kendrick was dissing the artists he named. (He previously mentioned Jay-Z, Nas, Eminem and Andre 3000 as the best MCs out right now, along with himself. I won’t even get into the absurdity of mentioning Andre 3K on that short list.) I feel he did, to an extent. Possibly, it could be considered healthy competition; what rap and hip-hop actually started as. Supposedly, you could argue that he was somewhat paying homage to the artists he named. If that’s the case, that’s an underwhelming cast of characters. Regardless of whether you believe he was insulting those artists or not, one thing should be sure…

Kendrick, your verse was pretty good. However, you called out a bunch of “meh” ass rappers and got lionized for it. You had folks on Twitter considering you some sort of all-time great in hip-hop. Somehow, these same folks all developed a severe case of amnesia, because they continued to insinuate that what you did has basically never been done before, or that it’s been so long, people have forgotten. No, it’s not your fault; their reaction. You are culpable for something, though.

If you consider yourself the Alabama of rap, you don’t call out Mississippi State or Vanderbilt football. You don’t declare yourself a Kennedy- or Obama-style politician and then clamor for Dubya to come correct. You’re apparently the king; the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. Don’t call out the 95-96 Blazers, who were barely above .500 that season. I appreciate the old-school approach, I really do. But outside of Jay Electronica, you’re easily more talented than the others mentioned. In fact, I would agree that you are indeed one of the best MCs out at the moment. Who gives a shit about NY artists and their egos, to be honest. I couldn’t care less to address their taking offense. But… Mac Miller?! Tyler, The Creator?! MEEK FUCKING MILL?!?!?! Sir, sir

No path to any throne goes through mere peons.

From a 10-day suspension to ‘Acid Rap.’

I first heard Chicago hip-hop artist Chance The Rapper on Vic Spencer’s “National Geographical” single in 2011. If you’re familiar with Spencer, you know his flow can vary, but is mostly grungy. Having never heard Chance rap before, I was taken aback by his cadence, lyrical content, and just overall dopeness of his verse. Throw in that at times he sounded sing-songy on his part, and while he didn’t exactly fit the “norm,” I was intrigued, nonetheless.

Hoping Chance’s dopeness was more trend than blip, he gifted us with 10 Day, his debut mixtape. “Windows,” “U Got Me Fucked Up,” and “Family” immediately got heavy play and are still in rotation to this day. 10 Day, a debut effort essentially centered around an act of misbehavior, struck me as immature, initially. But then I realized that Chance was doing nothing more than telling a story. His story. And he did it in incredible, and quite unique fashion.

While I was certainly pleased with 10 Day, I admit that I didn’t have high hopes for his follow-up project, Acid RapI just simply felt that what he created on 10 Day, he wouldn’t be able to recreate on Acid Rap. I was incredibly glad to be proven wrong, as Acid Rap was not only seen as great by my somewhat high standards, but by many blogs, websites, journalists, and most importantly, rap and hip-hop fans. Where 10 Day seemingly fell short, Acid Rap compensated for it, and then some.

I’m sure Chance’s style irks some. His high-pitched voice can be a bit shrill at times, and sometimes it seems as if he doesn’t know what direction he wants to go in on a song. But it’s that organized chaos that is so alluring. The adlibs are dope. His features are even better. He tackles topics that a good number of artists his age would rather not be in the vicinity of, lyrically and artistically speaking. In an era in which so many hip-hop fans can’t discern who’s who, it is very easy to distinguish Chance The Rapper from the rest of the crowd. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I have a certain bias for his music because we are both native GoILLians, but if you were to remove that tidbit, the kid just puts out dope ass fucking music. Stay starving, Chano.

Stay sober, Ms. Ingram.

I was browsing different music websites online several days ago, when I came across an album cover that immediately caught my attention. After I finally stopped drooling over the cake in the artwork, I decided to find out a little more about the artist. British electronic production duo Chase & Status founded the independent record label, More Than Alot Records (MTA Records) in 2009 and 19 year-old British singer-songwriter was signed in 2013. At the age of 18, she covered Kendrick Lamar’s “Poetic Justice.” This, alone, is what ElliIngramOfficial-590x339turned me into an Elli Ingram fan. It didn’t take long after that for me to find her website and immediately download her first project, the 6-track EP, Sober.

The entire project was produced by Felix Joseph and Rudi Redz, who were also behind her cover of “Poetic Justice.” I instantly fell in love with the title track, 3 minutes and 31 seconds of greatness, glossing over, ironically, how she is not in a sober state. “Mad Love” is remarkable, and Ingram delectably croons to the object of her desires on “Elliot.” The mood becomes much sexier on “High Love,” as Elli sings, “Hit me with another taste/We can go to outer space/Lay me down and rest on Mars/Together we can watch the stars”. The production on this track is strong, but it doesn’t overshadow Ingram’s singing ability. She perfectly dictates the flow of a song that I feel a number of other songstresses would have struggled on. Over the piano-backed “Fun,” Elli showcases her emotional vulnerability, and honestly, this is about as close as she gets to sounding like Adele. Yet, listeners should be able to easily tell that she is her own artist.

It’s entirely possible that Ingram created this entire EP while under the influence. It would certainly make sense. For someone who is all of 19 years of age, Ingram sings with a maturity not found in many artists twice her age. Yet, Ingram doesn’t appear to be tired, or worn down. She is seemingly in control even when it appears that she may have completely lost it. It’s refreshing to hear someone who is genuinely sensitive, and not just trying to appeal to a certain contingent. She ended Sober with her cover of “Poetic Justice,” just to let you know that, even though this was your introduction to her musical stylings, she ain’t your average rookie.

Stay sober, Ms. Ingram.

Review: ‘July 9th: A Cancer Story,’ D2G

, It’s been a while since I’ve written a review, much less one for the work of Chicago hip-hop artist D2G. Not only do I enjoy the work that he releases, he seems to possess a certain work ethic that isn’t a part of the repertoire of many other artists, from my observations. Obviously, I await the release of music albums of all genres, all year. D2G’s July 9th: A Cancer Story was no different.

I hate pointless intros. I hate them with a fiery passion. I’m not sure who told music artists–especially rappers–that intros are necessary, but if that person exists, they misled them. Most times, it’s audio snippets or some crazed man screaming obscenities or the artist telling you how big of a chip is on their shoulder. Luckily, D2G’s “A Cancer Intro” gets right into the album, with him laying out what is part-mission statement/part-state of the rap union address. The reggae-tinged “I.R.A.N.” was produced by DC, and I’ve been playing it since I posted it on this page several weeks ago. “I Am Him” continues the swift pace, as D2G exclaims that he is “the shit.” Kudos to RelElite for the production.

Credit Doc Da Mindbenda with the production assist on “Drive Down The LS,” featuring Chicago vocalist Ben Official. This isn’t the typical D2G track, but I think the collab and sound worked very well. Continuing on with somewhat of an appeal to the ladies is “Agreement.” Finy the Genius provides vocal support and Maserati Myers’ production combines some elements of both modern and 90′s R&B. To validate my theory that when rap and hip-hop artist lean towards women at a certain point on an album or mixtape, they do it in threes, we get “The Search.” I actually really liked DC’s production on this track, but felt that a female voice was needed. Perhaps a female singer who also described her search as well would’ve complemented D2G’s tales a bit better.

Vic Spencer and Brian Fresco join the fray on “Not Sober,” and once again, DC is on production duty. Clearly, the subject matter of a song with this title will almost always be fairly light, but I still enjoyed the debauchery-filled lyrics of this one. Fresco’s verse got nastier as it went along, which is sometimes what happens when you’re last to bat.

“YNS” sounded a little too much like “The Search,” in terms of its overall tone, except the latter was smoother. If I read these lyrics before hearing the song, I would have expected something a bit grungier. Fortunately, D2g raps along with a beat better than most, so even on tracks that don’t seem to fit his style, he can “save” them by being fairly technically sound. One of my favorite performances on J9:ACS was by Chicago rapper Angel Davenport…and she didn’t even rap. However, her singing on the hook of “Hangover Syndrome” was extremely rhythmic along with B4 La$ers’ production, even though she has a somewhat unconventional sound. The emotional appeal on “If U Hear Me” is very strong, which is exactly what I expect from an artist of D2G’s caliber.

Producer R.A.D. and D2G rebound from “YNS” with the beautiful-sounding “Come On.” Chicago rapper Abstrak Mind contributes a very good verse, as he and D2G convey thoughts of how difficult it can be to just to make it to the finish line. “;” is officially my shit, and I think Vic Spencer should offer his services on hooks, if he can duplicate his effort from the track. O’Bonjour produced “;” and admittedly, the beat grew on me. “Hood Tales” were just that, but in typical D2G fashion, he took it a step further. With all due respect to the other vocalists on J9:ACS, they simply couldn’t match Alex Brittany on “Reoccurring Nightmares.” It’s her voice that I hoped to hear with each passing second, even though D2G’s lyrical effort was one of his best on the album. I’d argue that this was the best collaboration on the entire project.

J9:ACS ends with “A Cancer Outro,” and it’s appropriate that one of the first words D2G utters is “reflect,” since that is what he seems to do often, and very well. Every once in a while, I believe people should take self-inventory and reflect on things in the past that have contributed to their present and possibly, their future. Unfortunately, I’m unsure of the female vocalist in the background.

Knowing what went into this project is what makes it even better, in my opinion. To hear that an artist has been working on an album for nearly a decade is remarkable, and warrants much praise. Who knows if D2G is gaining traction in the Chicago hip-hop landscape. I, personally, don’t care. Politics dictate the flow of music. I think all any of us should hope for is that D2G continues to churn out good, meaningful music.

Album: ‘We’re Still Disappointed,’ Vic Spencer & Sulaiman

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About three years ago, Chicago rap artists Vic Spencer and Sulaiman teamed up to gift our ears with We’re Just Disappointed. Well, they’re still disappointed. The rappin’ ass duo released We’re Still Disappointed a few days ago, much to the delight of their fans. This album features production from Ikaz, Black Spade, Thelonious Martin and others. Also, there are no features. All you’ll get on this album is Vic and Sul, Sul and Vic. If you’re familiar with the theme of We’re Just Disappointed, then this project won’t catch you off guard. Head to their Bandcamp page, name your price, and download We’re Still Disappointed.

Download: We’re Still Disappointed (Album), Vic Spencer & Sulaiman

Video: “Duck Sauce,” Vic Spencer ft. MC Tree (Dir. by KP)

The homey Vic Spencer dropped this off in my inbox yesterday. One of my favorite singles from Post-Spence Ethic, a project he hammered out with French producer Ikaz, “Duck Sauce” now gets the visual treatment. Set in Chinatown (I’m assuming) with Vic getting assistance from MC Tree, being directed by KP and featuring cameos from a few Marie Josephine-loving Barbie dolls, this relatively dark track was nuts in its audio version. Enjoy the video.