Category Archives: Project Profile

2016 IN REVIEW

I didn’t post anything in 2016 but there was plenty to post about. Below are some of my favorite highlights of 2016. Check the following Playlists, Albums, Music Videos, and Rap Battles for my personal run-down of the year.


The Latest Playlist: 2016

*Track listing at bottom of post


Notable Albums of 2016

First I should mention that there were many important albums worthy of writing about that came out last year, including respectable projects from Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, J Cole, Danny Brown, Aesop Rock, Atmosphere, Kool Keith, De La Soul and Common just to name a few. Despite the plethora of albums to review, I felt compelled to write about two in particular.

KA – Honor Killed the Samurai

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Honor Killed the Samurai is a concept album that has a strong cinematic quality and captivating story. The tensely ominous instrumentals set the scene for Ka’s character; a wise and experienced criminal who has done everything necessary (often regrettably) to survive his dangerous environment. The “Samurai” is referenced both thematically in the instrumentals and with direct samples of old Samurai movies.

Ka does not proclaim himself a Samurai or even reference it in his lyrics. Instead he tells detailed stories of having a difficult upbringing and committing “grimy street crimes”. While shooting people and selling drugs are not new topics in hip hop, Ka addresses them with a heavy heart, minimizing the glorification and highlighting the guilt and repercussions. Ka’s character is more of an elder Mafioso who is contrasted stylistically with the concept and sound of Samurai.  Through expert-level multisyllabic flow structure, Ka tells vivid tales of his difficult past, warning those faced with the challenges he once was.

So I stood on mine, during the hoodest time 

Was a nightmare, felt like life here was as good as dying

We was born in the thorns, few arose

Once a town’s noose, now in soundproofs pursuing golds

Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 3

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After Run The Jewels & Run The Jewels 2, the expectations for Run The Jewels 3 were raised to unreachable heights, but nonetheless Killer Mike & EL-P delivered. Scheduled for January 2017, they blessed us all with an early release in December, making RTJ3 my favorite and debatably the best hip-hop album of 2016.

First of all, the production on this album (like its’ predecessors) is incredible. The RTJ sound is uniquely discernable from anything else in existence, and EL-P’s signature apocalyptic production has nearly reached it’s final form. Every beat is deeply layered with industrial, hazardous, and robotic rhythms, turntable scratching, voice samples, intricate drums, and a variety of carefully placed sound effects & synths.

Much of the lyrical content on RTJ3 is the same off the wall, do whatever the fuck we want style seen in RTJ2. In addition, this project covers a wide variety of content from track to track, at the forefront of which are politics and current events. Many of the braggadocios lines on this project serve dually as classic hip-hop boasting and a reflection of the arrogant bully-type attitudes seen in many political leaders. A prime example of this is in the DJ Shadow music video that RTJ featured on for the track “Nobody Speak” which was released in August. When Run The Jewels 3 came out a lot of the lyrics made me think of this video (see below).

Personally I believe this duo is the best thing happening in hop-hop right now. They sound and feel not only current and relevant, but also necessary. The energy on this album is through the roof, and I believe it reflects the sentiment of a culture that is up in arms over the political climate, searching for an outlet just shy of rioting.


Notable Music Videos of 2016

DJ Shadow feat. Run The Jewels – Nobody Speak

Kemba – The New Black Theory

KOOL KEITH feat. MF DOOM – Super Hero


Notable Rap Battles of 2016

Danny Myers vs B Dot (LABG)

Iron Solomon vs Dizaster (KOTD)


The Latest Playlist 2016:

Kemba – The New Black Theory

Open Mike Eagle & Paul White – Smiling (Quirky Race Doc)

KA – Just

Homeboy Sandman – Eyes

Blu & Union Analogtronics – Sunny

Run The Jewels feat. BOOTS – 2100

Mickey Factz & Nottz – 414 Words

Mick Jenkins – Fall Through

Elzhi – Cloud

Danny Brown feat. Petite Noir – Rolling Stone


Have a great 2017!

2015 in Review

It’s been a minute since my last post but today is a big one. Below are some of my favorite highlights of 2015. Check the following Playlists, Albums, Music Videos, Cyphers and Rap Battles for my personal run-down of the year.


The Latest Playlist: 2015

*Track listing at bottom of post


Notable Albums of 2015

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

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Without question, the most important album of 2015 is To Pimp a Butterfly. It is as timely and uncompromisingly relevant as it is uniquely produced. The instrumentals are a well-choreographed mix of Funk, Jazz and R & B melodies that mimic and support the energy of a passionately expressive Kendrick Lamar.

As Kendrick navigates through emotional highs, lows, and moments of clarity, he gives listeners a poetically journalistic perspective of his experience being black in America. He continuously expresses his frustration throughout the album, often referencing slavery, politics, and police brutality. A few of the tracks veer off course and a few stand out as optimistic perspectives on his more painful songs, but his performance is exemplary and he didn’t hold back a thing in terms of his message. There are endless pages that could be and have been written breaking down To Pimp A Butterfly as a significant piece of art reflecting race in America.

BADBADNOTGOOD & Ghostface Killah – Sour Soul

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Now that I touched on the most praised album of the year, I want to focus on what I believe is the most slept-on album of 2015. Wu- Tang veteran Ghostface Killah teamed up with the Toronto-based music group BADBADNOTGOOD in February to create Sour Soul, which has become my personal favorite album of the year (or at least the one I listen to the most). Ghostface’s lyrical content on this project is far from enlightening as he confidently boasts of sex, money, and power while threatening violence and domination, but the outcome is highly entertaining nonetheless.

What makes this project such a great success is it’s cinematic quality. BADBADNOTGOOD uses jazz to create instrumentals that feel like movie scores in beat format. Much of the album is strictly instrumental, and Ghostface’s appearances are well placed. He uses this platform to act out his character as a gun-slinging mobster in full rapper machismo and he fits the part perfectly. The instrumental interludes seem like time passing between verses, which become like different movie scenes with each appearance made by Ghostface’s character. I recommend listening to this album from front to back. Over, and over, and over.

Henry Canyons – Canyonland  /  Milo – So the Flies Don’t Come

Two other notable albums that I would place in my top 5 for the year are Milo’s “So the Flies don’t come” and Henry Canyons “Canyonland”. I touched on these albums earlier this year and you can find those posts here:

https://themicisthemessage.com/2015/08/05/project-profile-canyonland/

https://themicisthemessage.com/2015/10/09/project-profile-so-the-flies-dont-come/

Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside: An Album by Earl Sweatshirt

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One more album I wanted to draw attention to for 2015 is an instant introverts classic. I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside: An Album by Earl Sweatshirt. To be honest I’ve never been a big Odd Future fan with the exception of a few tracks and one member. Earl Sweatshirt caught my ear with the track “EARL” back in 2010 (at which point he was 16). It was gritty, offensive, and reckless in typical Odd Future fashion, but Earl’s flow and wordplay was so uniquely dope that it didn’t matter. Now in 2015 Earl shows listeners a more mature and genuine picture of his life and struggles.

The entire project has a kind of mopey depressing energy supporting the album concept, and the beats are pretty minimal. The title of the album says it all. Earl proceeds to elaborate on why he doesn’t like people: men, women, rappers, industry executives, promoters, friends, enemies…the list goes on. Earl is at the top of his game in terms of flow and wordplay complexity and provides an impressively compelling case for why he doesn’t like people. It is exciting to hear Earl Sweatshirt’s music develop over the years as he is beginning to express more genuinely than his younger self.


Notable Videos of 2015

Below are some Music Videos, Rap Battles, and a Cyphers that were  notable highlights for 2015:

Music Videos

Action Bronson – Actin’ Crazy

Open Mike Eagle – Celebrity Reduction Prayer

Rap Battles

Iron Solomon vs Daylyt

Dumbfounded vs Conceited

Cyphers

Illmaculate on Team Backpack

Locksmith on Shade45


The Latest Playlist: 2015

Kendrick Lamar – King Kunta
Henry Canyons feat. Zoe Rose – Music Man
Joey Bada$$ – Christ Conscious
Murs – Skatin Through the City
Tre Capital feat. Hudson East – Bear the Burden
Mick Jenkins – Alchemy
Earl Sweatshirt – Grief
BADBADNOTGOOD & Ghostface Killah feat. Elzhi – Gunshowers
A-Wax – Tried As an Adult
Open Mike Eagle – Dark Comedy Late Show
Lupe Fiasco feat. Crystal Torres – Adoration of the Magi
Apollo Brown feat. Your Old Droog – Not That Guy
L’Orange & Jeremiah Jae – Underworld
Milo – An Encyclopedia

And that is my wrap-up of 2015. Happy New Year.

Project Profile: so the flies don’t come

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http://miloraps.bandcamp.com/album/so-the-flies-dont-come

milo: so the flies don’t come

Release Date: September 25, 2015

Produced by Kenny Segal

The album I’ve been playing on repeat the past few weeks is Milo’s so the flies don’t come. Kenny Segal’s production is on point and melds beautifully with milo’s mic presence, which is the strongest it’s been. The instrumentals have an experimental synthetic smooth jazz feel that fits milo’s style perfectly. Milo has some of the most layered and abstracted lyrics in hip hop and this project seems to be his most personally revealing approach, showing the listeners a clearer picture of his concerns and perspectives.

Here’s the song that was released a few weeks before the album called Zen Scientist, with Myka 9 harmonizing on the chorus:

Zen Scientist feat. Myka 9

Each track opens a new window to milo’s psyche and follows a style that bounces in and out of genuine and sarcastic while displaying a mastery of figurative language in exceptional rhyme format.

As a big fan of wordplay, there is a section of the song below “an encyclopedia” that is incredibly satisfying to hear, and even more so to memorize (1:42 – 1:57):

Milo last seen with a poor sport, with more ass, got a passport to import more for the war stash, short leash, long lash, Long Beach, with Bombast, I palm palm trees in my thought path. This is a mason jar containing a last laugh. (Followed my a menacing laugh in the background)

an encyclopedia

Features for this project include Hemlock Ernst, Myka 9, Open Mike Eagle, and Elucid. Below is a beautiful track featuring Elucid titled “going no place”:

One of my favorite tracks of the project is “song about a raygunn (an ode to Driver)”, which is a heartfelt tribute to his friend and mentor Busdriver, which can be seen in the last post from The Mic is the Message “The Latest Playlist: September 2015”, track 3.

For a more in depth review of the album, I recommend checking out the video below with Anthony Fantano of theneedledrop.com. I feel he really nailed it as usual.

PROJECT PROFILE: CANYONLAND

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https://henrycanyons.bandcamp.com

Henry Canyons: Canyonland

Release Date: June 16, 2015

Henry Canyons’ latest album Canyonland came out earlier this summer on Mello Music Group, and has been one of my favorite hip hop projects to come out this year. The entire album has a cohesive sound with a unique fusion of blues and jazz in the beats, soulful vocalist Zoe Rose harmonizing in 4 of the tracks, and Freddy Jay on the cuts for 2. Canyons has a commanding voice and smooth cadence that blends wonderfully with this style of instrumentals. His wordplay is articulately constructed at an advanced level, and often approached from a more poetically abstracted perspective.

Below is the bandcamp bio given for the project by Henry Canyons:

“Canyonland is not a mythic, unworldly place or a complete invention of my imagination. It is rather, the encapsulation of my experience that became my world five years ago; that of a half-French, Jewish Brooklynite transplanted in Los Angeles. The canyon is the point of the vista. From the top you see where you stand in respect to where you’ve come from, and where you’re going. Canyonland is my experience getting adapted to this environment, struggling to do so, finding my personal and professional spheres, further embracing my identity, my challenges and success with women, witnessing a completely different lifestyle with its various breeds of people, and the place where “dreams come true.” This is my journey through the desert in the hopes of finding the oasis.”

While Henry Canyons has a cohesive idea tying the project together he does not allow it to box him into his writing process. His lyrics are largely guided by the assembly of wordplay, which he uses to weave in and out of the overarching ideas more naturally than a strict cohesion to the concept might. As can be gathered by his bio above, the primary ideas presented are personal to Canyons and his perspective, including struggle and transcendence, music and hip hop, abstracted observations of contemporary culture, and relationship/escapades with women. These ideas are often intertwined and revisited from track to track.

Mixed By: Matt Bowen

Produced By: Keor Meteor

Mastered By: Willie Green

Executive Produced By: Matt Bowen & Henry Chanin