Author: Dan Vesper

Jay Citrus
Suck My Lemons
Self-Released
Street: 05.30
Jay Citrus = Snoop Dogg + The Underachievers

Jay Citrus isn’t exactly a visionary—his rhyming is sloppy, he gets his song titles from classic hip-hop tunes and, on at least one occasion, he straight-up jacks a beat without any attribution—“The Scenario” is Yeezy’s “Blood on the Leaves.” Nevertheless, this is one of the better local rap albums I’ve encountered. It succeeds because the beats are fresh and Citrus has an uncanny ability to kick batshit rhymes like they were handed down from God. “No half-steppin’ around me,” he warns us on “No Half-Steppin’,” but fails to give a compelling reason why we shouldn’t. At first, I wanted to half-step like a motherfucker. Then I realized that this kind of harebrained hyperbole is exactly what makes this record so fun. I’m on Team Jay, but when you use someone else’s beat, you need to give credit where credit is due—even on a mixtape. –Dan Vesper

 
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100s
IVRY
Fools Gold
Street: 03.06
100s = (Outkast + Rick James) x Darondo
 
I must warn you about this reprobate who calls himself “100s” (after the number of times he’s contracted VD no doubt).  A long-haired, self-professed pimp whose music has but one purpose—to congratulate despicable sex acts. If given the opportunity, this unbelievably funky man would gladly repeat these unspeakable deeds with every woman in your life, including your dear old Nana.  What’s worse: this sort of hooligan won’t stop until we’re a nation of thugs, sporting “Ice Cold Perms.”  I can literally smell the Jheri Curl dripping off the beats.  On “Ten Freaky Hoes” he treats us to one amoral fable after another: One “Ho” is so cracked-out she tries stealing his conditioner, another has “teeth so fucked up, (he) wouldn’t let her suck (his) …” Not in my house, sir! This is exactly the type of “music” that tricked that sweet Miley Cyrus into thunderclapping her ass cheeks.  Avoid! –Dan Vesper

 

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Kemp.
Empty.
Self-Released
Street: 01.17
Kemp. = The Pharcyde + Brigham Young with attitude

“Emo raps perfected,” boasts Kemp. on “Cougar Tails.” It’s a striking moment on a record that does get, well, emotional. Still, that line works on a couple of levels—as both a raison d’être and an endearing moment of self-deprecation. Kemp. is clearly aware that there aren’t many genres less appealing than wimp-hop, but he goes for it anyway and deserves credit for trying to transcend it, too. He covers a lot of ground, lyrically—rapping about Mormonism, West Jordan and even Minor Threat. Respect. That’s difficult subject matter to tackle in any genre. He has skills, and whoever did the beats has an ear for hooks, too. However, I do wish he had ignored the little voice in his head responsible for “Heaven Is a Place.” Teary-eyed ex-girlfriend rhymes over acoustic guitar riffs? C’mon, dude. Just keep that shit in your diary. –Dan Vesper

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Boozoo Bajou

4

Apollo Records

Street: 03.31

Boozoo Bajou = Oneohtrix Point Never / Yanni

If I were going to choose a type of music to play, I wouldn’t choose ambient jazz. First of all, either one of these genres is plenty difficult to master on its own. Second, the people who do this well are bona fide geniuses­—Brian Eno, Miles Davis—the type of musicians with discographies so un-fuck-with-able that, well, you might be well-advised not to try to improve upon them unless you’re also a genius. Enter Boozoo Bajou, a couple of fellows from Germany with a band name so bad, they ought to be dick punched. Their music is pretty, I suppose, and I’ll admit it does create “a mood.” The problem is that the mood is a bit—zzz …
–Dan Vesper
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Frankie Smooches – In All Honesty

Frankie Smooches
In All Honesty
Glorious Records
Street: 11.01
Frankie Smooches = Radio-era LL Cool J – Rick Rubin

Remember “Summertime” by Will Smith? It’s aged better than you think it has. DJ Jazzy Jeff was/is a brilliant beatmaker and Smith, even though he was the world’s safest MC, knew how to lay down a hook. In any case, that’s what Frankie Smooches reminds me of—Fresh Prince but without a decent DJ. There’s some good stuff here. “How To Make It” (feat. Remdizzle) is a lighthearted, Motown-influenced affair that bounces along quite nicely. Then there are tracks like “Treated Myself” (feat. Remdizzle), which samples Booker T. & the M.G.’s’ “Sunny” to the point of plagiarism and comes off like it’s trying to make fun of ’60s soul music—one of the richest traditions in American music—so what the fuck, dude? Smooches’ strong personality is his greatest asset, and when he’s on, he’s great. When he’s not, I want to huck it across the room. –Dan Vesper

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WE – WE-E.T.’s VOL. II

WE
WE-E.T.’s VOL. II
Self-Released
Street: 09.26
WE = Joey Bada$$ + 1995 Raekwon
I don’t get to say this often enough about local rap albums, especially ones inspired by Dragon Ball Z, but this one is awesome. Piccolo’s world-class production takes a cue from RZA’s early lo-fi work and improves it with the crate-digging prowess of J Dilla. For most of the album, it’s difficult to know who’s rapping because no feature artists are listed. But on songs like “Crusin’” and “Snakes,” I’m left with one thought: These Dine Krew motherfuckers have something few MCs in town possess—soul. My biggest quibble is the shortage of memorable choruses, and they do tend to emulate their idols more than they need to—at one point trying to rhyme “sarcophagus” in a questionable nod to Kanye. Luckily, their shortcomings are easy to forgive with beats this righteous and a flow this tight. Most impressive, though, is that they’ve proven that vital hip-hop is possible in Utah. –Dan Vesper

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Null
Break The Spell
Sound Vs. Silence
Street: 11.12.13
Null = Occupy Wall Street Drum Circle + 2014 Vanilla Ice
I don’t know how to react to shit this wack. It’s rap/punk made by Tyler Lusk, who just started making music, and it shows. Sadly, the beats sound like a 12-year-old made them and the nonstop protest slogans are puerile at best. This stuff was groan-inducing the first time I heard it, strolling through Zuccotti Park a few years back. (I think I have a hand signal to show how much I like it, too.) “No racism, no sexism, no classism, smash capitalism!” he scolds, off time. It’s not that Lusk’s politics are objectionable, they’re just not insightful—or fun. Hip-hop can be perilous for white folks, but I do admire Lusk’s passion. I hope he keeps on it and comes correct next time. I suggest spending some QT with The Neptunes discography—Mystikal’s “Bouncin’ Back,” would be a great place to start. –Dan Vesper
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Beck
Morning Phase
Capitol Records
Street: 02.25
Beck = Glen Campbell / Nick Drake
Beck, once pop music’s most reliable shape-shifter, now finds himself compelled to rehash his past glories; namely Sea Change. If you ever wanted him to make that record again, your prayers have been answered. Be forewarned, the old adage about wishes rings as true here as it ever has. Everything, from the overly-compressed acoustic guitar, to the syrupy strings, right down to the feigned depression and chord progressions, have been replicated here in their entirety—with massively diminished returns. That said, this record is not useless. I can speak from personal experience that it cures even the most stubborn insomnia quite speedily, and for that I applaud Beck on his remarkable contribution to science. –Dan Vesper
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Chris Gatsby
Middleground: Morals & Money
Self-Released
Street: 01.21
Chris Gatsby = Gang Starr – (MC Guru + DJ Premier)
“Hip-hop barely breathing, I’m that fresh breath,” raps Chris Gatsby in a song aptly called “Reckless.” Both sentiments are bullshit. It may not be 1993 anymore, but there’s a lot to like about hip-hop these days. Additionally, Gatsby’s resistance to change is a big part of what robs this album of relevance. “I’m not one of these new cats rockin’ skinny jeans,” he boasts on “Clap Your Hands.” Agreed. This lame attempt at a dis on the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Danny Brown and Chance the Rapper underscores the fact that he can’t step to them. Sad, especially coming from a guy who only has one flow, and a tired one at that. It’s not that Gatsby didn’t put any thought into his music, it’s just that his thoughts need to be reconsidered. Also, I really hope he didn’t break the bank for this third-rate Statik Selektah beat. –Dan Vesper
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Cities Aviv
Come To Life
Young One
Street: 01.28
Cities Aviv = (Black Flag + Common) / Technotronic
I don’t know if Gavin Mays, the man behind Cities Aviv, is trying to rap. All I know is it’s pretty fucking clear that he can’t. He produces really cool beats, though, and that makes up for a lot. Come To Life is by no means bad. It is, nevertheless, deeply indebted to Death Grips (with whom Cities Aviv has toured). Mays is slowly carving out his own niche and the frantic, late-’80s influenced beats here are neither as hard nor as desperate as Death Grips, but easier to digest. While the result isn’t terribly memorable, there are a few bangers. Early single “URL IRL” packs the biggest punch. Listen closely, however, and you’ll discover Mays isn’t saying much worth pondering. I fear his lyrics aren’t evocative because he has nothing to evoke. “Do you know what’s good?” he barks in the chorus. I do actually, and this is just OK. –Dan Vesper

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