Brandon Soderberg

writer

Biography

  • Young Thug and Antwon

    Freak Scene: 2014's Weird World of Underground Rap

    Underground hip-hop is not what it used to be, but that's a good thing. At its peak, "the underground" was its own separate and damn near equal scene, coming together to rally against the puffed-chest, money-burning attitude of Puff Daddy and friends, at the very moment when hip-hop became the biggest music in the world, and as a result could quasi-support an alt-lifestyle wing. Visible charmers like Common and Mos Def helped, too.Since the late '90s, with record sales slowly but surely going down the tubes and younger generations growing hip to the oppositional shtick of the "conscious" set, whatever would even be considered underground has broken into too many pieces to properly track. With the arrival of the Internet's free-culture renaissance, artists could make their own way into the industry, or, in the case of rappers taken hostage by dodgy deals, out of it.

  • RiFF RAFF

    RiFF RAFF's 'Neon Icon' Is a 10,000 Out of 10

    Neon Icon is a 10,000-out-of-10 record, but for the purposes of maintaining the order of things — something that the living breathing prank that is RiFF RAFF has no interest in doing — an 8 out of 10 will have to do. The viral, Houston-bred weirdo is a tricky hero: the laughing-but-very-serious sort, delivering swaggering boasts full of Roy Blount Jr.-isms ("I could shoot a BB through a frosted Cheerio / From 50 yards away"), displaying a nerdy jock's grasp of sports history (both Johnny Bench and Pete Rose of the legendary Cincinnati Reds are mentioned), and leaning hard on a never-not-funny, madlibs-style game of goofball lyricism ("rap game [X]"; "the white [Y]").Before all that happens though, RiFF RAFF does some throat-clearing.

  • Soft Pink Truth / Photo by M.C. Schmidt

    The Soft Pink Truth Dismantle Black Metal on 'Why Do the Heathen Rage'

    Black metal's dead because The Soft Pink Truth just killed it. Sure, we'll still have motherless toughs serving up coal-black riffs and "trve kvlt" nonsense, but for all intents and purposes the shit is over, compliments of this side project of Drew Daniel (Matmos).

  • Roach Gigz

    Roach Gigz Makes Stark Horror Flick for 'Zombie' Video

    One of the more exciting byproducts of the rap world's current DJ Mustard fever is that it shines a light on the post-hyphy Bay Area producers that have been mining this kind of spare party music for long before even "Rack City" came along. One such MC is Roach Gigz, a spazzy and incredibly clever rapper who released the fourth volume of his Roachy Balboa mixtape series last week. The greyscale video for "Zombie," a whirring highlight off Roachy Balboa: Round 4, features Roach Gigz rising out of a bathtub (creepily invisible to the young woman nearby) as he shouts out psychedelic and twisty one-liners. (Ex. "I should've been born in the sixties/ As a 'Frisco hippie.") Watch the video for "Zombie" above.

  • ISSUE

    ISSUE Hosts a Tea Party in 'Mask on the Moon' Video

    Bay Area rapper and SPIN favorite ISSUE — the tea-sipping, teetotaling, slow-rapping, absurdist hook machine (and E-40's son to boot) — throws a tea party in his latest video. Posted up in a fancy garden, the MC sips beverage with some lovely ladies and raps about his favorite brew without ever removing his mysterious mask: "I be sippin' tea / Tea is so good to me / Tea is so good, tea is so good / It doesn't matter any more." Producer Lil Ocean's beat stutters and contorts like some kind of #BASED Portishead remix. "Mask on the Moon" is featured on ISSUE's Liquid Wisdom, out now for free download on Greedhead. Watch the video above, and check out Liquid Wisdom below.

  • The Outfit, TX

    The Outfit, TX Shoot Country Rap Into Outer Space

    "Nobody wants to hear a UGK cover band." At least that's what 25-year-old rapper/producer Mel Kyle, one third of the Houston by way of Dallas rap crew, The Outfit, TX has to say on the matter. Kyle is talking to me by phone with the group's other members, producer/rapper Dorian Terrell, 26, and MC Jayhawk Walker, 25, on the line as well. They all chime in when it comes to talking about their influences.In hip-hop, you're asked to somehow be both incredibly mindful — if not downright deferential — to the past, while being entirely original. "No biting," etc. The Outfit's sound begins with the top-shelf musicality and brutally honest street talk of Dirty South heroes like UGK and Eightball & MJG before spiraling into psychedelic-funk territory. In other words, they have figured out how to honor their heroes without wholesale jacking their shtick.This is rare.

  • 50 Cent Growls Meekly, Often, on Deluded 'Animal Ambition'

    50 Cent Growls Meekly, Often, on Deluded 'Animal Ambition'

    What the hell kind of name is Animal Ambition? Are animals really ambitious? Don't they just kind of do what they gotta do and leave it at that? Maybe the undercooked title of 50 Cent's fifth album is more accurate than this crumbling Queens rap institution realizes. Opener "Hold On," a blaxploitation soundtrack-sounding shuffler, is an anthem for the exceedingly comfortable. It has a bored, count-up-in-a-castle quality to it ("Open my eyes, no surprise I'm with a different bitch/ Different day, different ass, different tits"), which might actually work if it were explored more, or even extended as a concept.

  • Kokane

    G-Funk Stalwart Kokane (and Friends) Deliver Laid-Back Wisdom on 'Grief and His Due'

    Rap nerd alert! Rap nerd alert! Here we have the return of Kokane—the smooth-talking, singing, rapping, and wisdom-imparting MC perhaps best known for his super cool contribution to Dr. Dre's The Chronic 2001 (via "Some L.A. Niggaz"). Kokane has been a productive peripheral player in the G-Funk movement from early on, appearing on the Deep Cover soundtrack, working with Above the Law, and releasing the 1994 cult classic Funk Upon a Rhyme.His return is marked by his forthcoming Tortoise and the Hare EP, a collaboration between the crooner with Bay Area rappers Blanco and Husalah, which is due out June 17 on Guerrilla Entertainment. Here we have the album's first single, "Grief and His Due," where the crew (along with guest appearances by Jacka and Boo Banga) work over a beat from the retro-futuristic Atlanta producer Burn One.

  • Sage Francis

    Stream Sage Francis' Nervy, Confessional Return on 'Copper Gone'

    When splenetic, word-nerd, and Scribble Jam hero Sage Francis floated the possibility that he would slow things down after his 2010 album Li(f)e, it was viewed by many as something like a retirement. The album was a tricky collaborative record featuring members of Califone as well as the late Mark Linkous and Jason Lytle. It also contained one of his most novelistic songs, "Little Houdini," which unfolded like a Tobias Wolff-like short story and suggested that Francis might use his time away from rap to transform from a confessional MC to a great American pulp novelist.In actuality, the rapper's time off was merely a brief respite from years of recording and touring repeat. The result of this relative moment of pause inevitably gave him time to work on his new release; the nervy, seemingly on-edge MC's Copper Gone.

  • With Comeback 'Gz II Godz,' G-Side's Trippy Trap Thrives on the Other Side of Hype

    With Comeback 'Gz II Godz,' G-Side's Trippy Trap Thrives on the Other Side of Hype

    In retrospect, those embattled late '90s underground cats had it pretty good, what with Rupert Murdoch money fueling indie hip-hop staple Rawkus Records by way of Mr. Fox News' son James Murdoch, and hip-hop becoming a proper corporate entity big enough to support "alt"-leaning "conscious" lifestyle rap alongside the money-flaunting mainstream fare. Contrast that underground hip-hop moment with rap's Internet underground resurgence of the past five years and you'll see that shit is bleak for an independent type in 2014. Das Racist have broken up. Big K.R.I.T. and other regular guy types like Curren$y signed deals that got them nowhere near the radio and squashed their buzz.

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