Brandon Soderberg



  • Rap Songs of the Week: Danny Brown's Guest Verses Are Pretty Great, Too

    Rap Songs of the Week: Danny Brown's Guest Verses Are Pretty Great, Too

    Black Milk, "Perfected on Puritan Ave."Nostalgic bells, an expanding and contracting drone reminiscent of the THX soundcheck, and a few tricks from the orchestrated pop playbook of Philly-soul icon Thom Bell comprise the majority of this Black Milk beat. Then a beautiful little swarm of horns comes humming in, lulling you into an underground-rap-comfort-food head-nodding reverie. Then he cuts the horns short for an acoustic-guitar interlude, only to throw that out of the way and drop in a guitar-skronking, saxophone-squawking free jazz explosion. And finally, the original, much more pleasant beat returns, now with a little bit of headfucking flanger on it. Black Milk's upcoming album is titled No Poison, No Paradise; this jagged jumpcut of a beat leans toward the latter via disparate samples and a collage-like, Donuts-era Dilla approach.

  • Johnny Rain

    See Johnny Rain's Brooding 'Jericho' Video

    The hypnotic video for "Jericho," a stand-out from the Southern California singer's album L.O.M. (Lullaby Of Machine), released earlier this year, is like a hip-hop visionary Hype Williams remaking some ritualistic short by '60s fall-out film freak Kenneth Anger: A woman writhes in slow motion in front of an ominous sunset; Rain himself rests on a throne, in near dark. It's all appropriately moody yet a little bit hard to fully grasp the goings-on. That fits the producer/singer's intimate vision of R&B, though. Signed to Tricky Stewart's Redzone Entertainment as a producer, but unsigned as an artist, Rain's work on "Jericho" balances 2013 R&B expectations (which are grow increasingly ambitious and experimental in and of themselves), with the searching, do-whatever values of an artist who doesn't have to cater to expectations.

  • Kendrick Lamar

    Kendrick Lamar's 'Control' Verse: Not as Impressive as It Seems

    Last night, Big Sean released "Control," a track that won't make his upcoming album, Hall of Fame, due to sample-clearance issues. It's a seven-minute epic pulled along by a squeaky Spanish-language sample, with guest verses from a terse, confident Jay Electronica and an acrobatic Kendrick Lamar.

  • Eminem

    Eminem's 'Survival': No Match for Kendrick Lamar Mania

    The arrival of a new Eminem song just one day after Kendrick Lamar's gauntlet-throwing tirade of a verse on Big Sean's "Control" is unfortunate.

  • The Underachievers

    The Underachievers: Brooklyn Psych-Rap Duo Elevates Our State of Mind

    Who: Issa Gold and AK, a.k.a Brooklyn duo the Underachievers, whose February mixtape Indigoism presented yet another tweak to the New York boom-bap model. "People always mention the '90s when discussing our music, you know," says Gold. "And I was brought up in the '90s, so it's the main influence. But I would consider us to be more like the '60s." He cites Jimi Hendrix and Richie Havens as precedents for what the group's trying to do: Create educational music that addresses spiritual concerns.

  • George Duke

    Dukey Sticks & Doo-Doo Jokes: George Duke's Silly, But Very Serious Career

    Pop-jazz purveyor, canny fusionist, and playful funkster George Duke, who died on Monday from leukemia at the age of 67, began his twisting, turning career in the world of straight, po-faced jazz. The keyboardist was then scooped up by Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention, joining the band in 1969 and contributing to a number of their brain-fried compositions (do yourself a favor and hunt down his strange, self-deprecating appearance in Zappa's 1971 movie 200 Motels), while also playing with virtuoso violinist Jean-Luc Ponty. From there he briefly split from the Mothers to play piano and electric piano with saxophonist Cannonball Adderley (check out the graceful inventiveness and Vince-Guaraldi-gone-gaga spirit of this live version of "Black Messiah Pt. 1"), but then returned.

  • Rap Songs of the Week: Drake Channels Toto's 'Africa' on 'Hold On, We're Going Home'

    Rap Songs of the Week: Drake Channels Toto's 'Africa' on 'Hold On, We're Going Home'

    A$AP Ferg, "Hood Pope"The A$AP Mob are good to great at making highly derivative, high-profile versions of other peoples' under-the-radar idiosyncratic rap songs. It's just what they do. And on "Hood Pope," from the A&R-cultivated cult weirdo and former fancy belt designer A$AP Ferg, the blueprint is Chief Keef's Eno-trap Finally Rich bonus track, "Citgo." The elements are there: a beat that's snap-and-crack aggressive and downright gorgeous at the same time, and a sing-song, about-to-fall-apart rap-talk mumble.

  • Not pictured: Curren$y's Samsung Galaxy S4

    Curren$y Unveils His Own #NewRules

    Last week, Curren$y's Jet Life crew released Red Eye Mixtape, the latest in a steady stream of product from the wordy stoner-rapper and his crew, which includes former-No Limit-grunter-gone-super-smooth Fiend alongside weed capos like Cornerboy P. But the delivery system was new: BitTorrent, the peer-to-peer file-sharing client. The torrent lets you immediately download Curren$y's new single, "Right Now" (featuring Young Roddy, another weed capo) and what they're calling "interactive art," which provides you access to concert tickets. Give them your email and you can unlock the entire 13-track mixtape, a short video documentary, and a whole bunch of other digital swag.A significant PR rollout surrounded all this, similar to Jay Z's Magna Carta Holy Grail business-speak-meets-music-distribution mini-event.

  • Busdriver

    Hear Busdriver's Raving Mad Remix of Migos' 'Versace'

    Migos "Versace" remix mania continues! This time, we've got Busdriver, the Los Angeles rapper and member of the legendary Project Blowed, delivering a witty rewrite produced by Riley Lake, who gently adjusts Zaytoven's blooping beat, moving it a little more into Busdriver's IDM-rap world. "Versachi" begins "Versace, Versace, I'm down in the lobby like Salvador Dali / I'm twisting my 'stache and I'm getting the cash and I'm sipping on coffee," and gets more out-there after that. Absurdist wordplay ("Dancing fancy free to Fugazi") slams into refreshing regular dude honesty ("I can't afford Versace"), and toward the end Busdriver stops rapping altogether, letting the track devolve into gutteral shouts and breathy exhortations, paying tribute to Migos' own ad-lib heavy, energy-packed raps. "They only play this in Martian colonies," Busdriver boasts of his demented riff on Migos' hit.

  • Jay Z

    Worst Beef Ever: Jay Z vs. Harry Belafonte

    "If skills sold, truth be told, I'd probably be / Lyrically, Talib Kweli / Truthfully, I wanna rhyme like Common Sense / But I did 5 mil, I ain't been rhyming like Common since / When your cents got that much in common / And you been hustling since your inception / Fuck perception / Go with what makes sense / Since I know what I'm up against / We as rappers must decide what's most important / And I can't help the poor if I'm one of them / So I got rich and gave back, to me that's the win-win."That's Jay Z's conversation-starting verse on "Moment of Clarity," off 2003's Black Album. He was taking on the "conscious" vs. "ignorant" hip-hop debate that was still a big deal at the time, and offering up a free-market argument for why he was more powerful and significant engaging rap's mainstream than he ever could be as part of the more mindful and preachy underground.

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