Happy Thanksgiving! Here’s a mix of 10 tracks I’m thankful for.
When people ask me who I’m paying attention to in underground hip-hop, my first answer is “anything from Mello Music Group”. The label was founded in 2007, and has been making a lot of moves particularly in the past 5 years. Literally every project that has released since I’ve been paying attention has been dope. The styles within the label vary, but a couple things that the artists have in common are high standards for lyrical and expressive content, polished vocal and instrumental production, and clear influences from classic forms of underground hip-hop reinterpreted through contemporary stylistic twists.
Below is a mix of some of my favorite MMG tracks for a sample. The track list is at the bottom of the post:
The Latest Playlist: Mello Music Group
The next major Mello Music Group release is a duo of 2 emcees I’ve been following for years now. Open Mike Eagle and Serengeti team up to make the group Cavanaugh. Their project “Time & Materials” will be released November 20th, 2015. Below is the video of their pre-released track “Screen Play”:
A few weeks ago I did a post titled Producer Profile: Apollo Brown. Apollo Brown is one of MMG’s heavy hitting producers, so refer to that post for a longer breakdown of his work. Another key MMG producer is L’Orange, whose speakeasy influenced style uses a wide variety of jazz and blues as well as movie and radio quotes and sound effects. He’s done full collaborative projects w/ Stik Figa, Jeremiah Jae and Kool Keith, several full solo albums, and has made beats for a plethora of emcees on individual tracks. Below is a video of the track “The End” produced by L’Orange featuring Billy Woods:
A classic group developed from 3 Detroit artists in MMG: “Ugly Heroes” consists of Apollo Brown, Red Pill, and Verbal Kent. Their self-titled debut album dropped in 2013, and has been highly regarded by underground heads. Below is their track “Desperate”:
Another prolific emcee/producer on MMG is Oddisee. Below is a video of one of his hypnotic instrumentals, “After Thoughts”:
Some of the Mello Music Group emcees have a bit more progressive unconventional approach to their content and flow structure. Artists like Open Mike Eagle, The Black Opera, Quelle Chris, and Castle are a few that come to mind when thinking about MMG emcees that take more alternative approaches in their work. Also see the post Project Profile: Canyonland for a look at Henry Canyons’ latest MMG release.
I didn’t get a chance to speak on everyone in Mello Music Group here, but I highly recommend exploring this label in depth. Below is the mostly complete MMG roster. Check out https://mellomusicgroup.bandcamp.com for the full MMG Discography.
Oddisee | Apollo Brown | L’Orange | Gensu Dean | 14KT | Def Dee | Red Pill | Quelle Chris | Open Mike Eagle | Mr. Lif | Rapper Big Pooh | yU | Kenn Starr | 7evenThirty | Georgia Anne Muldrow | Verbal Kent | Dudley Perkins | Has-Lo | Jamall Bufford | Substantial | Boog Brown | Castle | Henry Canyons | Hus Kingpin | J Bizness | Uptown XO | Trek Life | Kool Keith | The Black Opera | Ugly Heroes | Diamond District | Cavanaugh | Semi Hendrix | 1978ers
The Latest Playlist: Mello Music Group
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)
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.