New York Music Daily

Love's the Only Engine of Survival

Category: rap music

Singles for the (Almost) Ides of March

This blog predicted that 2022 would be way better than 2021. The global totalitarians’ ongoing death throes have been ugly – Justin Trudeau building a shitlist and seizing citizens’ bank accounts for wrongthink seems to be a prototype. But the blowback has been fierce, and reason for real optimism. No wonder the narrative has suddenly been shifted from hygiene theatre to the latest circus of two corrupt-AF ex-Soviet kleptocrats duking it out, with no thought to the colossal toll on their respective nations’ populations.

Another reason for optimism is that more and more musicians are stepping back into the ring. Today we celebrate that with a short, roughly twenty-five minute self-guided playlist. Click on artist names for their webpages, click on song titles for audio.

Americana songwriter Kaitlin ButtsBlood comes across as a very subtle protest song disguised as a fierce kiss-off ballad, set to a simmering oldschool country backdrop with some tasty resonator guitar. “My name dragged through the mud, and godawful things swept under the rug.” Relatable, huh?

Dr. Jordan Peterson may be known as one of the most insightful researchers and analysts in the reality space, but as it turns out he’s also a songwriter! His latest anthem, Wake Up is an aptly creepy, Floydian art-rock tune with a shifting cast of vocalists.

Lowly Weep, by UK songstress Darkher, is a heavier art-rock take on the mystical gothic sound that New York’s own Kristin Hoffmann was exploring back in the late zeros and teens. Don’t let the awkward title put you off.

Here’s Good Before, by another moody songwriter, Maria BC, rainy-day jangle-and-clang spacerock. All is not so safe in her hotel womb.

Let’s wind up the playlist on a positive note. Rapper Bryson Gray‘s No Mask No Vax – featuring his bud Forgiato Blow – is a singalong Pitbull-style banger. Gray is a man of many lyrical styles and as rugged as individualists get, as he makes clear in Controlled, a hilarious, golden age-style dis at everyone who hates on him. “Big Pharma must be lobbying rappers.” Thanks to fearless investigative journalist and incorrigible listmaker Sharyl Attkisson for the tipoff.

Today’s last song is an oldie, from 2016. How did Debris, by Neia Jane, pop up on the radar here earlier this week? It was on autoplay after a completely unrelated Soundcloud clip. Imagine Guided by Voices at their majestic, multitracked peak, but with a woman out front

Singles For Today: Laughs, Raised Middle Fingers and Moody Mystery

More protest songs, epic darkness and riotously vindicating laughs at the end, Click on the artist name for their webpages, click on song titles for audio.

Rap artist Lukas Lion‘s biggest hit is 1984, which was censored by youtube, so you know he has to be good. He’s brilliant, actually.

Fear is their greatest tool.
Fear can turn the brightest minds to fools
Televise endless lies, keep people terrified
That’s the way they maintain their rule.
Fear is the prison that they want us all to live in
And ever since the beginning this has been their only mission….
A real pandemic doesn’t need advertising…

One good song deserves another, so he came up with 1984 Part 2 (scroll to the bottom of the page after Margaret Anna Alice’s eloquent and meticulously referenced takedown of Kathy Hochul’s fascist end run around the New York State legislature).

The Ministry of Truth has taken over.
There’s a reason that they chose Corona.
Corona means crown, work it out man
It’s all symbolism from the beginning they told ya.
A virus of the mind, infecting your thoughts.
But enough is enough. Now we’re saying no more.
The emergence of apartheid, creating segregation
That’s the road that they’re paving.
Cuz if you’re not jabbed then it’s you that they’re blaming.
It’s you that is dangerous. Mass manipulation.
Coercing you to get penetrated.
What’s the difference between that and a rapist?

Lion’s latest release is The Great Puppet Show, a circus rock hip-hop parable: “Our magical screens will make you believe anything that we please.”

Irish folk-rock songwriter Dantom a.k.a. Daniel Thomas Dyer has a couple of spot-on, sarcastic protest songs from his album Root of the Root up at Odysee. The funnier one is Talking Covid Attack Blues (aka Sleeptalking Blues), a full-band Subterranean Homesick Blues for the twenties,  with pricelessly amusing backup vocals:

Spread the facts from the BBC, most trusted source in the world to me we should al live i fear
PCR, they say it’s the best, gold standard, 40 cycles…
Been on Facebook most of the time, we need more censorship there I say

He’s one of the few to make the connection between 9/11 and the plandemic in a solo acoustic tune, Breathe. Thanks to Mark Crispin Miller for passing these two along

On the more expansive side, Darkher’s new single Where the Devil Waits has stately ominous High Romantic angst rising over a cello drone and spare acoustic guitar

The big epic on this list is the new single by New Zealand band Die! Die! Die!, This Is Not an Island Anymore, rising from a drony intro punctuated by percussive blasts. It sounds like peak-era Sonic Youth with Kim Gordon out front, but much noisier and postrock-y

Let’s end this with a good vindictive joke. This isn’t a music video: it’s what tyrants look like once the mob outside the castle has busted down the gate. Here’s Boston Mayor Michelle Wu going into full panic mode once she realizes that her Twitter chat is not turning out the way she planned. The people have spoken!

Samson: The Funniest Rapper on Whatever Platform

Samson’s latest single, A Quick Word is beyond hilarious – and beyond brilliant. Hang in there for the first thirty seconds, in case you think it’s just a random doctrinaire Christian rap. In fact, it sounds so doctrinaire that it could be a parody – and it is, but not a parody of what you might think. The jokes are too good to give away. Hint: it’s about a religion that’s been established in violation of the US Constitution (thanks to Mark Crispin Miller – whose daily New From Underground feed is giving New York Music Daily some serious competition – for passing this along).

Look up Samson and you’ll see search results like “tiktok rapper.” He bounces from platform to platform, including some of the evil ones that this blog doesn’t use. It’s a shock that he hasn’t been booted from his youtube channel – guessing that they’re making too much money from the ads. But you don’t have to go to fascist censored youtube to find him.

Samson is working class to the core, and he’s pissed. Check out 46=13, his examination of runaway inflation. That one’s snide and funny, but The Sixth Sense – which opens with a clip of Kamala Harris equating the January 6 Capitol trespassing incident to 9/11 and Pearl Harbor – is even more venomously amusing. “There are compilation videos of you inciting this shit,” he reminds her.

A quick search turned up a couple of funny older videos. Birthday Bash is about ruling-class condescension via plandemic restrictions, in the context of the media tempest in a teaspoon over the Obama 60th birthday party. And this tiktok clip from what looks like the summer of 2020 proves that Samson already had his eye on the ball back then, even if he wasn’t referencing the VAERS database like he does now. Youtube says he gets hundreds of thousands of hits per video, but that’s probably underestimated by a factor of ten or more. Just like VAERS.

Naima Shalhoub Launches a Fascinating Middle Eastern/Blues Collaboration

In mathematics, zero is undefined. We get the English word “cipher” from the Arabic “siphr,” meaning zero. On her debut studio album Siphr – streaming at Bandcamp – first-generation Lebanese-American songwriter Naima Shalhoub draws inspiration from that mystical concept, a number neither positive nor negative, conceivably both a beginning and an ending.

.It’s a stark collaboration between Shalhoub and Tarik Kazaleh a.k.a. Excentrik on electric guitar, embellishing his alternately stark and frenetic lines with all sorts of Middle Eastern ornamentation. He also plays oud on several tracks, often in the same song. The result is a strikingly original blend of the blues and the Middle East.

The opening number, One (Remembrance) is a minor-key one-chord jam with both bluesy guitar and spiky oud over a boomy, undulating dumbek groove. Two (Rivers in the Desert) is a spare, Malian-tinged duskcore tableau: in Arabic, Shalhoub sings of a metaphorical irrigation coming our way.

Excentrik’s elegant, spiky, 70s-style soul-jazz guitar sets the stage for Three (Loved), Shalhoub’s take on a Stylistics-style ballad: “From your tears, revolutions come.” The low-key Four (Roumieh Prison Blues) features Arabic lyrics written by prisoners at the infamous Lebanonese prison, where Shalhoub has performed.

With its message of empowerment, Five (The Calling) is a diptych: a simple but direct solo Shalhoub piano ballad that brings to mind Alice Lee, then a long, edgy, psychedelic outro with Marcus Shelby’s bowed bass up in the mix. There’s a similar hypnotic quality to Six (Distraction Suite), a triptych: first a cello-and-vocal jazz piece which brings to mind Jen Shyu‘s work with Mark Dresser, followed by a brooding, noirish blues interlude and a triumphant outro that’s a mashup of Afrobeat and a levantine dance.

The most unselfconsciously gorgeous number here is Seven (Lamma Badda Yantathamma), a bouncy oud-and-vocal tune with one of Shalhoub’s most expressive vocals.

Excentrik takes a turn on the mic in Eight (Arab-Amerikkki), a cynical anti-racist hip-hop broadside. The duo close with Nine (The Return), a psychedelic soul variation on the opening theme with some sizzling guitar and oud tremolo-picking. It’s rare to hear such dissimilar styles mashed up so originally, unexpectedly and seamlessly.

A Killer Halloween Multi-Band Extravaganza in Sioux Falls

All it takes is a brief exposure to the free world outside New York to realize the ugly truth that music is way better there. And not just because concerts that everybody can go to actually exist once you leave the five boroughs. Case in point: the five-band Metalween extravaganza in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on the 30th. It’s a stadium-worthy lineup in a comfortable, inexpensive club with cheap beer. The show is ten bucks and starts at 8 at Bigs Bar, at 3110 W. 12th St.

The opening act, slowcore Egyptian expats Grave Solace are cinematic, hypnotic and savagely gloomy: the hammer blows only hit every few seconds. Their dirges have organ and tolling-bell piano along with all of the slow, resonant guitar changes: in Egypt, people smoke a lot of hash.

At 9, the brilliant, politically sharp, antiauthoritarian Silence Is Madness unleash their wildly diverse blend of stoner boogie-influenced sounds, ornate art-rock, heavy psychedelia and conscious hip-hop metal. The next act are a trip to the parking lot. After that, there’s Agony of Defeat, who play a mix of 80s-style goth and industrial metal with hip-hop lyrics: ironically, like Insane Clown Posse with less of a Halloween vibe .

At midnight, Sioux Falls’ own Pray for Villains headline. Their debut ep is up at Bandcamp as a name-your-price download. Just when you think the first track, Ego, is going to be a funereal epic, they pick it up, thrash it and bring it home symphonically. Track two, The Lesson veers between distant 90s metalfunk influences, machinegunning thrash riffage, a bizarrely pastoral psychedelic interlude and a pagan feast of furious fret-tapping.

Sweet Vengeance, the final, apocalyptic freedom fighter anthem on the Bandcamp page, has trickier rhythms and doomier changes. With the download, you also get Saving Face, a more straight-ahead, catchy Priest-like track. Pray these villains make it to the east coast someday…or that this blog escapes New York for the Black Hills.

Play For Today 9/7/21

Been awhile since there’s been a playlist on this page, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of entertaining singles floating around. Here’s a fun and informative self-guided mix: the links in the song titles will take you to each one.

The Brooklyn Boogaloo Blowout are best known for their latin soul jams, but they’re a lot more eclectic than their name implies. The most electrifying song on their live album is Sheba, an Ethiopiques-tinged surf song

Louisiana rocker Rod Gator‘s Wanna Go for a Ride is the Clash’s version of Brand New Cadillac, as the Legendary Shack Shakers might have done it, darker and grittier with a guitar solo to match

Acoustic Syndicate‘s cover of the Grateful Dead classic Bertha has a tightness and a snarl that the original band sometimes let slip away. “Test me test me test me test me, why don’t you arrest me?” What a theme the lockdown era!

It makes a good segue with one you probably know, RC the Rapper‘s Just Say No, one of the big boombox hits from this summer’s protests here in the US. “It isn’t a theory if it keeps coming true.”

The smooth reggae grooves of Micah Lee’s No Lockdowns keep the inspiration flowing (thanks to the fearless folks at Texans For Vaccine Choice for this one).

The breathing metaphors and carefree sounds of children laughing on the playground in Alma’s Sips of Oxygen are a much subtler kind of commentary: “Someone in the doorway, hope they’re not afraid of them.”

Marianne Dissard and Raphael Mann’s delicate chamber pop duet reinvention of Townes Van Zandt’s If I Needed You is the great lost track from Nico’s Chelsea Girl album….with a woman who can hit the notes on the mic.

Let’s end this with something equally artful and poignant: Danny Wilkerson‘s Endless Haze, the best and least Beatlesque song on the new reissue of his very Fab Four-influenced 2018 solo debut album. The stark haggardness of the Boston Symphony Strings back his playfully lyrical but wounded chronicle of losing a battle with the bottle.

Ride the Cyclone: Funniest Album of the Year So Far

If Weird Al Yankovic, Boots Riley and Mel Brooks got together to write a musical, it might sound something like Brooke Maxwell and Jacob Richmond’s Ride the Cyclone. In the original soundtrack’s twenty-two tracks, streaming at Spotify, no style of music is off limits to this duo’s merciless satire. American and foreign hip-hop, circus rock, corny G-rated Lawrence Welk church-parlor pop, macho Russian crooner balladry, cabaret, emo and EDM all get a good thrashing at the hands of an eclectically talented cast of singers and players.

In one typical number, the amazingly versatile band here chew up ELO, Zapp and Roger, Huey Lewis bar-band rock, 1970s top 40 ersatz soul music and then spit them out, hard. Another song starts by spoofing phony-sensitive Conor Oberst sweaterboy sounds and ends making fun of the Osmonds. The jokes are too good to give away and are not limited to lyrics. This is the rare comedy record that stands up to repeated listening because the snark and savagery comes at you so fast that if you try to multitask, you’ll miss the best parts.

The musical’s Greek chorus is Coney Island character The Amazing Karmack, whose job it is to predict the hour of a person’s death. Adding an amusing level of meta, he gets to deliver some of the most corrosively hilarious punchlines. The story begins as the St. Cassian Chamber Choir, of Uranium City, Saskatchewan arrive at the end of the train line for a roller coaster ride. As you might imagine, considering Karmack’s involvement, things are not going to be quite so carefree as the cheery Canadians expect. A headless body is involved.

The characters are straight out of central casting, with several twists: this is also a parody of musicals in general. The dorky boy dreaming of louche life in the big city; a whiny Veruca Salt type; an operatic piano-thumping wannabe Sylvia Plath; and an oligarch’s kid posing as hip-hop star all get what they deserve, right down to the minute details. Where does Misha Bachinsky, “the best Ukrainian rapper in northeast Saskatchewan,” take his entourage to drink Cristal and roll blunts? No spoilers.

If Bill Withers and Jeff Lynne had teamed up to write the worst song of their lives, it would be It’s Not a Game, It’s Just a Ride. One of the soundtrack’s funniest interludes, Be Safe, Be Good, has sobering resonance in an era of 24/7 fearmongering from the corporate media. The cruel punchline at the end comes in the form of an American Idol-style New Nashville singalong. In a year of relentless gloom and a likely holocaust looming on the horizon, we desperately need albums like this.

In Memoriam: DMX

Charismatic hip-hop star Earl Simmons, best known to the world as DMX and one of the great lyricists of rap’s golden age in the late 1980s and 90s, died today after having been given the needle of death about ten days ago. He was 50.

While many rappers are creatures of the studio, DMX was devoted to performing live. His made both a live album and DVD, and he remains one of the alltime leading rap artists in terms of total concert appearances. Those weren’t just cameos, either: in his classic, gruff delivery, DMX would deliver a full set of crime rhymes, battle numbers, darkly cinematic portraits of inner city survival and the occasional sex joint. He was widely considered as a foundational artist of the east coast hardcore movement.

According to a statement by family members, DMX took the lethal injection in order to facilitate returning to live performance in New York State, which has not yet been liberated from dictator Andrew Cuomo’s fascist restrictions on free assembly. DMX joins baseball Hall of Famer Henry Aaron and champion boxer Marvelous Marvin Hagler as victims of the needle of death.

White supremacists have been using people of color as guinea pigs for human experimentation for years: the Tuskegee Experiment is just the tip of the iceberg. If black lives truly matter, it’s time to stop this latest experiment in genetic modification before it becomes a holocaust.

Ensemble Mik Nawooj Mash Up Cutting-Edge HIp-Hop With Classical Drama

There’s been more of a connection between classical music and rap than a lot of people realize. RZA is an imaginative keyboardist and may have played as much as he sampled on all those classic Wu-Tang Clan joints. Bushwick Bill is a big opera fan and did a loosely conceptual album based on it. And Yasiin Bey has been working with orchestras for more than a decade. Ensemble Mik Nawooj‘s album Death Become Life – streaming at Bandcamp – continues in that cutting-edge vein.

Bandleader/pianist JooWan Kim comes from the classical side: he had an epiphany when he first heard NWA’s Straight Outta Compton. On this album, MC Sandman fronts the group as they swirl and leap around, in a mix of original music and variations on well-known classical themes. The music here is closer to Bushwick Bill’s bombast than RZA’s looming, bellicose ambience, enhanced by the dramatic presence of soprano Anne Hepburn Smith. And the beats – all of them live and organic – are on the fast side, pushing Sandman to the peak of his lyrical skills.

Doesn’t it kill you when you hear a riff and you can’t place it? Is that Dvorak that the piano and then the strings echo on the title track? Meanwhile, Sandman’s torrential lyrics build a futuristic scenario and contemplate the possibility of reincarnation, through an unexpected, suspenseful lull on the bridge. It’s the first part of a trilogy: this is definitely as ambitious as any classical-rap hybrid ever devised.

There’s dramatic menace in the chromatics, string cascades, emphatic piano, tense calm and uneasy gusts in May Good Conquer Evil, Sandman firing off a long list of evils but also ways to beat them. That familiar piano riff and variations return in the suite’s conclusion, May Death Become Life, a swaying, understatedly operatic piece: big up to Kim for doing this live instead of sampling the piano intro from ELO’s Evil Woman.

With a mix of the baroque and brooding, cinematic lustre, Everything Ends relates the sudden loss of a dear friend. The band follow that with a low-key, sweeping instrumental aptly titled Hymn: is that a reference to the BeeGees’ How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?

The optimistic Everything Returns to One is the closest thing to a catchy, vintage 90s hip-hop joint here. The heroic, anthemically pulsing orchestration of Who Would Be Born takes centerstage over Sandman’s tersely provocative lyricism.

The album winds up with three energetically reflective numbers based on classical works. Mozart on Joy is a clever mix of famous riffs, Sandman cutting loose with one of his most sharply ironic lyrics here. Beethoven on Struggle fuses variations on the Coriolan Overture and other big hits, a majestic salute to the world’s rugged individualists. The album’s coda is Bach on Transcendence, with a deliciously new orchestration of the Toccata in D: it’s as funny and formidable as the composer ever could have imagined. The group turning in this inspired performance includes both original and new members:  Joyce Lee on flute; Liam Boisset on oboe; Davis Hampton on clarinet; Jamael Smith on bassoon; Craig James Hansen on horn; violinists Philip Brezina, Clare Armenante and Laura Keller; violist Ivo Bokulić; cellist Evan Kahn; bassist Michel Taddei and drummer Lyman Jerome Alexander II.

There’s also a matching series of videos scheduled. And Ensemble Mik Nawooj are a great live act: in their New York debut four years ago, they transcended a hideous sound mix at a ramshackle Manhattan space to deliver an irresistibly fun set. As the world slowly returns to normal, it might be overly optimistic to expect to be able to see them in their native Oakland. But people are flocking to free states like Texas and Florida for live music; maybe the band can hit the road this summer.

Purist, Bluesy Swing From Trombonist Mariel Bildstein

Mariel Bildstein may be best know as the high-voltage lead trombonist in Arturo O’Farrill‘s Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, but she’s also a composer and bandleader. Her new album Backbone – streaming at Bandcamp – is a straight-up, swinging, purist mix of tunes from across the ages. Bildstein maintains a remarkable focus and doesn’t waste notes.

The opening number, Horace Silver’s Ecaroh bristles with surreal harmonies, Stacy Dillard taking a couple of bracing solos on soprano sax, pianist Sean Mason bringing in some ragtime and gospel, the bandleader getting wry with the quotebook right off the bat.

Harold Arlen’s The Man That Got Away is a steady swing blues, Bildstein taking a spare, New Orleans-flavored solo as Evan Sherman’s drums drop out and bassist Ben Wolfe strolls along purposefully. A  nocturnal Spanish atmosphere permeates Rosita, from Mason’s biting bolero piano to Dillard’s misty tenor sax; the coy horn harmonies lighten the piece considerably as it goes on, with a jaunty little bass cadenza to cap it off. The Coleman Hawkins version is an obvious precursor.

Monaco follows a similar trajectory from stern intensity toward jubilation on the wings of Bildstein’s no-nonsense solo, handing off to Dillard’s spiraling tenor, Mason adding bluesy simmer. Bildstein looms distantly, then has sly fun with her mute over Wolfe’s slow, considered syncopation in their stripped-down duo version of Mood Indigo. The  group close the album by reinventing The Lamp Is Low as a jaunty cha-cha anchored by guest percussionist Keisel Jimenez’s clave.