J.M.P. – Bad Habits

J.M.P
Bad Habits

Self-Released
Street: 08.24.15
J.M.P. = Atmosphere + People Under the Stairs

J.M.P., aka Jaron Pearson, is a young, local rapper hailing from Murray, Utah. Bad Habits is a short but poignant work that shows a lot of experimentation and promise from J.M.P. The EP chronicles the life of Pearson, a young white rapper who questions his life and his choices. Overall, both the production and the mastering of Bad Habits is strong, and it feels like J.M.P is beginning to find his voice as an emcee.

The EP follows the life of Pearson, inquiring into and validating the choices that he makes. In the title track, J.M.P uses a Houston-like, slowed-down flow that suits the subject matter of smoking weed and rapping. Overall, the lyrics in the EP are strong, although Pearson’s style jumps around somewhat sporadically. The single—and arguably best track of the album—“The Dark Side,” features a strong collaborative verse from rapper Maikon, and a catchy chorus from J.M.P. Pearson often references his angst throughout the album, saying things like, “Fuck the West side and the East coast / This is coming from my dark side / My inner works.” 

Overall, the production of the album is strong, featuring collaborations from producers all over the world. “Butterfly Effect” uses interesting samples that bring old-school hip-hop to mind, and it is obvious that J.M.P derives inspiration from both ’90 rappers and newer hip-hop. Although Pearson’s flow can sometimes jump around too quickly, it is obvious that this young rapper is diving in. J.M.P is experimenting and finding his voice with every track that he creates. With the release of Bad Habits, it is obvious that Pearson is well on his way to finding his niche. –Taylor Hartman

feal
Everyone’s Out of My League

Self-Released
Street: 08.28
feal = Tycho + Baths + Greaf

Everyone’s Out of My League is a short, introspective EP by feal, a talented and slightly reclusive Salt Lake City producer. The EP comprises a short four tracks that, according to feal, deal with depression and psychedelic experiences. As a whole, the EP is melodic, downtempo and peaceful. Each song sports simple beats and melodies that draw the listener in, creating a soundscape inside which one can get lost.

The first track on the EP, “young,” starts with a Donnie Darko sample that is slightly pitch-bent and distorted. Donnie is being hypnotized, and he talks about meeting a girl. As the first thing that is heard on the album, the sound clip opens up a door for themes like love, angst and youth to be explored without vocals. feal continues the song with orchestral sounding synth chords and a melody that is repetitive and beautiful. Each instrument that feal uses is well mixed, the sign of a practiced and knowledgeable producer.

The other three songs on the EP are just as strong as the first, but are stylistically slightly different. feal stays true to his downtempo, introspective style, but tracks like “it’s gonna get you” and “out of touch” are more spooky and have a witch-house vibe to them. The second song on the EP, “slow,” featuring fellow producer komodo vision, is probably the strongest on the album. feal and komodo vision use beautiful guitar riffs, which add the perfect amount of depth and variation to the track. The collaborators also add trap-style hi-hats and samples, which work perfectly when contrasted with the garage-y guitar chords.

The aesthetic that feal taps into in Everyone’s Out of My League is very popular these days. Feal creates songs that could easily be sold as instrumentals but that also stand out on their own and are complete. It would be interesting to hear how an emcee would utilize the low-key beats on this EP. Even though the underground world of hip-hop production seems to be saturated with producers, feal is able to stand out, especially within the music that comes out of Salt Lake City. Follow this talented artist on soundcloud, and stay tuned for more quality, “fealsy” tapes. –Taylor Hartman

2Keys & Applestem | Landscapes | Self-Released

2Keys & Applestem
Landscapes

Self-Released
Street: 11.20
2Keys & Applestem = The Pharcyde + Hieroglyphics + The Roots

2Keys is a hip-hop project based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Their album, Landscapes, is a collaboration between local emcees 2Keys and Apple Stem, and is produced by ChiefEdit, another Utah local. The album is a high-quality six-track project that touches on a wide range of subject matter and styles. Landscapes is a project made by artists who are obviously not new to rapping and producing, as each track on the album is very well thought-out and orchestrated.

The first song, “It’s About To Get Weird Now,” is appropriately named. The song is spacey and experimental with a complicated array of samples and loud vocals. The lyrical prowess of each MC shines through on the track, and it is a great first song for the album. The group does a good job of experimenting with innovative techniques in the first track, despite the fact that it is vastly different from the rest of the EP.  In the other five songs on Landscapes, 2Keys incorporates much more old-school vibes.

Songs like “Digital Landscapes” and “On and On” are good examples of the emcees’ lyrical prowess—they flex their meter muscles well, sporting complex rhyme schemes and flow patterns. The hooks on each song are enticing and work well with the production, which jumps along with a classic “boom bat”–style kick and snare. One of the strongest songs on the album is “Deja vu,” which incorporates quotes by the physicist Michio Kaku and deals with questions of what it means to exist, be an artist and how to thrive in the world that we live in. 2Keys is unafraid to dive into true artistry, using their music to pose questions that every human being likes to wonder about and explore throughout their lives. The last song on the album, “Telemetry,” is a perfect type of track to kick back and relax to. The production is very lo-fi and jazzy, which is beautiful and almost spiritual. No matter your mood, Landscapes is a fantastic album to listen to and journey with. Keep an eye out for more collaborations between Apple Stem, 2Keys and ChiefEdit, and download Landscapes on ChiefEdit.bandcamp.com –Taylor Hartman

Graffiti, artwork and doodles cover the interior of an elevator in the Mosse Humanities Building. The elevator travels between the ground floor level and the upper floors of the building, where many aspiring artists and the department of art studios and are found. ©UW-Madison University Communications 608/262-0067 Photo courtesy: Jeff Miller

Isaac Haas
Going Up

Self-Released
Street: 09.01
Isaac Haas = TNGHT + Mimosa

Local musician and producer Isaac Haas is back with Going Up, an instrumental tape with both style and finesse. Sharing names with a Purdue University basketball star, Isaac Haas is flexing his own particular skills on Going Up. The EP is six tracks long, and a great showcase of Haas’ talent as a musician. Each track is unique, but blends together to create a larger work, making the EP as a whole quite successful.

“Black Snow” has dub roots, but not in a typical dubstep style. Instead, the track is more chill, incorporating a classic reggae-inspired swing beat with simple and melodic trap instruments. The next track, “Empty,” has more of an early 2000s feel to it, using siren-like instruments in the track that bring an oughts style anthem. Songs like “OCT 2012” and “Sharks” are more modern. “Sharks” uses an EDM-style build, keeping the listener on the edge of their seat as the song progresses and builds.

“Troubled” is one of the strongest tracks on the album, and Haas is able to execute a very catchy, well-thought-out instrumentation. The beat has a laidback, Flume-like vibe to it, easing the listener slowly into the meat of the track. As “Troubled” progresses, Haas incorporates simple trap hi-hats, paired with a bumping bass line. This song could easily be paired with any type of rapper to showcase their skills.

Isaac Haas does minimalism well. Going Up is not too complicated—it stays on a steady plane while still remaining catchy. Haas stands out as a solo artist, but could also very easily work with any type of emcee or singer, local or national. If you’re a musician looking to collaborate, or just a recreational listener, definitely give Going Up a listen. –Taylor Hartman

Antwon
Double Ecstasy

Anticon
Street: 04.01
Antwon = Schoolboy Q + Clams Casino + The Notorious BIG

With the release of his latest work, Antonio Williams, aka Antwon, has proven that he is still a voice in the underground hip-hop world. Double Ecstasy is a short, five-track EP that takes listeners on a rowdy journey through parties, clubs and other escapades that Antwon seems eager to share. As a whole, the album is both high-energy and experimental, combining a dance-y sound with Antwon’s raw, unrelenting vocals.

Hailing from the Bay Area, Antwon first came onto the scene in 2011 with the release of his first mixtape, Fantasy Beds. His 2012 mixtape, entitled End of Earth, gained quick popularity in the underground hip-hop world, with tracks featuring witch-house producer Pictureplane and fellow rapper Lil Ugly Mane. In his earlier work, Antwon was able to combine a rough lyrical style with laid-back electronic production. His obvious mastery of lyrics and experimental sound has helped Antwon break conventional molds of what rap can be. Double Ecstasy is no exception.

At times, the EP feels like a retelling of an insane, drug-fueled party night in L.A. The production on each song is unique, to say the least. The first song on the album and the single, “Luv,” sounds more like an early-2000s industrial dance tune than a rap song, and Antwon’s lyrics disappointingly seem to take a backseat to the overall feel of the track. High-tempo, booming bass kicks fuel the songs on the album, à la rave culture. At times, some of the instrumentals are repetitive and almost too high-energy for Antwon’s lyrics. However, in tracks like “100K,” Antwon’s commanding vocals take over for the better.

Following suit with his earlier releases, Double Ecstasy is a strong showcase of Antwon’s lyricism and delivery. His rapping on the EP is unadulterated and real. Antwon fearlessly tells us of a life of sex, drug use and partying. His lyrics in “Dri-Fit” sound like a modern-day Biggie Smalls, and it is obvious that Antwon has a firm grasp on his style and a mastery of varying lyrical meters. If it weren’t for such a strong delivery and vocal performance, Double Ecstasy would potentially sound like any other half-baked, experimental rap album. However, there is something about the lyrics in each song that paint a strong picture of a “party lifestyle,” fitting into the theme of the EP as a whole.

Unlike his earlier releases, Double Ecstasy feels more like an album than just a collection of songs. The theme of each track seems to be similar, dealing with lots of sex and lots of drugs. Though it gets a little repetitive at times when listened to as a whole, Double Ecstasy is a good glimpse into the life Antwon is living. It is obvious that he is still trying to push the boundaries of his music, which is refreshing. As a musician, Antwon seems unwilling or unable to rest on one single style, but instead pushes the boundaries of what hip-hop music can or can’t be. Double Ecstasy is still a strong showcase of Antwon’s lyrical prowess as an emcee, a needed break from the unoriginal hip-hop that dominates the charts these days. –Taylor Hartman

Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition

Danny Brown
Atrocity Exhibition

Warp Records
Street: 09.27
Danny Brown = ODB + E-40 + Bizzy Bone

After a three-year hiatus from releasing an album, the wildly innovative, hilarious and highly influential rapper Danny Brown is back on the scene. Atrocity Exhibition is a rowdy, 15-track work that will allow fans to breath a sigh of relief. Brown, in all his strangeness, is here again. Brown is currently on tour and will be at The Complex this Saturday, Oct. 1, for what will undoubtedly be a crazy show. 

When live, Danny Brown gets just as rowdy as is expected. He is truly a talented showman and knows how to work a crowd. The bass is loud and heavy, which gives a new feel to many of his songs. It takes a lot of talent to be able to hold one’s own as a solo emcee, but Brown, like the pro that he is, has played festivals from Bonnaroo to Pitchfork and always draws huge crowds. His show this Saturday is a must-see for underground hip-hop fans. For his Atrocity Exhibition tour, Brown will play with up-and-coming gangster rapper Maxo Kream and experimental rapper Zeelooperz.

Danny Brown broke into the hip-hop scene at a pivotal moment, releasing his first major album XXX in 2011 as a free download with Fool’s Gold Records. Brown helped define a new era of hip-hop, creating new music at the same time as other highly influential artists like Tyler the Creator, A$AP Rocky, Kendrick Lamar and more. Unlike the artists around him, Brown brings a completely original style. A$AP Rocky tapped into Houston chopped and screwed music, and Lamar had a distinctly West Coast influence. Brown, on the other hand, stood out on his own, sporting a cheesy grin and crazy hair. His vocals were high-pitched and whiny, and his rhyme schemes were ruthless and often hilarious.

Atrocity Exhibition is made in the same style as Brown’s older albums. The EP is almost chiefly produced by Paul White, who also DJs at Brown’s shows. The beats on the album are reminiscent of old school instrumentals but have an experimental feel, which pairs well with Brown’s vocals. “When It Rain” is particularly catchy. The instrumental is high tempo and jumps along at an almost alarming rate. As always, Brown’s rapping can keep up, adding a special spice and craziness to the track.

Danny Brown’s vocals on Atrocity Exhibition are similar to those on his last two albums, Old and XXX. He talks of crazy party nights, adderall binges and general debauchery in almost every song. The album is peppered with features from singers like Petite Noir and Kelela, which do a good job of breaking up the repetition of Brown’s lyrics and meter. Features on the song “Really Doe” by Lamar and Earl Sweatshirt make it arguably the best on the album. The three rappers go well together: Lamar’s soft voice is a needed contrast to the high octaves of Brown, and Earl Sweatshirt has a quality verse, sounding much more grown-up when compared to his 2011 self.

For an album that was three years in the making, Atrocity Exhibition does not seem to make too many large splashes stylistically. It would be nice to see some different styles from Danny Brown, seeing as we have not heard from him in a while. Hip-hop and rap have gone through some radical changes since the release of Old. Still, why ruin something that works? Atrocity Exhibition shows that Brown has perfected his style.  Songs like “Pneumonia” are influenced by the trap sounds that flood today’s soundwaves, showing that Brown can indeed keep up with modern-day styles.

As a veteran of the rap game, Danny Brown is a must-see live. Although he is on tour for his new album, one can expect to hear a full range of songs from his whole musical collection. If you want to be a part of something crazy and have a talented rapper infiltrate your ears, see Brown this weekend at The Complex’s all-ages show. Tickets are still available at thecomplexslc.com. –Taylor Hartman

Nostalgic90's | Hiatus

Nostalgic90’s
Hiatus

Self-Released
Street: 10.01.16
Nostalgic90’s = CJ Fly + Hieroglyphics + Denzel Curry

Emcees APaullo and LaneCobain of Nostalgic90’s are making big waves in the Salt Lake City hip-hop scene with the release of their EP, Hiatus. Nostalgic90’s describe themselves as “just two young ’90s babies bringing you our craft we were influenced and given to share with the world.” This statement definitely rings true for the work that the hip-hop group makes. Hiatus is a collaborative effort, featuring tracks that are self-mixed and produced by each member of the group. Nostalgic90’s are able to combine old and new hip-hop styles and sounds in their EP, a perfect ode to the music they grew up on.

Many songs on Hiatus are modern sounding, but Nostalgic90’s prove they have the lyrical prowess of hip-hop pioneers. In the track “BiLL6URRAY” they rap, “Catch me in the basement trying to bring Frankenstein to life / Barrel to the face never blink twice.” The song is playful at times, as is the rest of the album, but Nostalgic90’s are also unafraid to rap about their lives and tribulations. Most of the lyrics on Hiatus deal with working hard and achieving one’s goals. “Chase My Dreams,” sounds almost like a Kendrick Lamar song, where Nostalgic90’s reflects on the importance of drive and discipline. They rap, “Money on my mind, jokers stress my brain / I can’t waste no time, every second make this change.”

The production on the album is strong and cohesive. Songs like “B3LLS” are certified bangers, using strong bass beats and catchy samples throughout. Other tracks like “S.W.A.N.” are more low-key and dreamy sounding, but there are similar samples used in every track, which makes the beats on Hiatus stick together well. The mixing on the album is a little uneven, with slightly different levels used in different songs. However, this does not take away from the overall production value nor sounds of the vocals. For a self-released and independently produced EP, Nostalgic90’s has done very well with their engineering. Give Hiatus a listen and stay tuned for more releases from Nostalgic90’s. This is only the beginning for this Salt Lake based group. –Taylor Hartman

Lucid Sound Driver | Gradient Departure | Self-Released

Lucid Sound Driver
Gradient Departure

Aurawire
Street: 11.24.17
Lucid Sound Driver = HOME + Grouper + Vaperror

Lucid Sound Driver, aka Jack Murphey, is a local of Salt Lake City with a fantastic work ethic. Coming out with six projects in 2017, there are few who can keep up with his output in the local electronic music scene. Most of the work Murphey puts out under Lucid Sound Driver has an ambient, vaporwave-style sound. However, even in those confines, he is able to make vastly different-sounding projects that are wonderfully unique and easy to listen to. Gradient Departure, Lucid Sound Driver’s most recent release, is no exception.

Gradient Departure is ambitious and successful. The title matches perfectly to Murphey’s new sound in this project as it is a Gradient Departure from past work—a new and unique style that still remains grounded in the past. With bolder beats and a “vaportrap” sound, the ambience that Lucid Sound Driver has used in past projects gains more structure, making it more enjoyable.

“The World Disintegrates Beneath Your Feet” is a fantastic example of Murphey’s ability to fuse ambiance with dynamic drum sounds. The song is progressive, moving forward and building in large crescendos. Ambient synths fill the background while a simple yet effective trap hi-hat, kick and snare punctuate the song. The track builds, falls and builds again with beautiful simplicity and an underlying depth. It beckons us to move forward in the song, to bathe in it while simultaneously grooving to the beat.

Murphey is an active and productive member of the Salt Lake City electronic music scene, and Gradiant Departure is a fantastic view into his scope, style and ability as a musician. Keep an eye out for more releases from Murphey under Lucid Sound Driver, and check out other releases at lucidsounddriver.bandcamp.com. –Taylor Hartman


Editor’s NoteThe original version of this article incorrectly listed this album’s record label. The changes have been amended.

Kordlhan – KYOTE

Kordlhan
KYOTE

Self Released
Street: 04.07
Kordlhan = Blank Banshee + Tycho + Gold Panda

KYOTE is a quick, sample-heavy EP by a local of Salt Lake, producer Kordlhan. This is their second full-length work to come out this year, and even with the short gap of only five months between projects, there is a marked progression of style, quality and inspiration. Kordlhan’s first work, •steez, was heavily influenced by vaporwave music and jazz. KYOTE on the other hand, has a completely different ascetic. Though still downtempo, KYOTE has an eerie vibe to it, and it much shorter and concise, making each song more mysterious.

Like Kordlhan’s past albums and tracks, KYOTE is driven by the use of samples. The song “•FALL” has an upbeat tone and uses a whistling melody that is enticing and catchy. Other songs, such as the title track and “I’m sorry,” use vocal samples that are eerie and heavily filtered, which work well with the heavy bass that is used in the background of the tracks. As a whole, the EP has a very trippy feel. The main samples from each track are vague, and it is hard to tell what language is being spoken at times, drawing the listener in.

The production quality of KYOTE is much improved from Kordlhan’s past EP. Each track is a well-balanced combination of instruments. Unlike other producers making music these days, Kordlhan stays away from trap hi-hats and snares. There are some 808 kits used in KYOTE, but they are tastefully incorporated into each track. As with •steez, it is obvious that Kordlhan has a good ear for what is coming up and what is going in the instrumental and electronic music scene. KYOTE is creepy, alluring and progressive. Keep an eye out for more local music from Korlhan, and download their past EP on kordlhan.bandcamp.com.Taylor Hartman

SNXFF | Years Ago

SNXFF
Years Ago

Self-Released
Street: 2.15
SNXFF = RZA + Erick Sermon + Clams Casino

Local producer SNXFF has come back onto the Salt Lake hip-hop scene in a very big way with the release of Years Ago. The short, five-track EP has zero fillers and is a strong showcase of what SNXFF is capable of as a producer. As a talented beat maker, SNXFF has collaborated with many of Salt Lake’s most well-known emcees, and does so once again on Years Ago. Whether it is just a beat or a song with a feature, SNXFF does not disappoint and has made a great showcase of his work on this EP.

One of two songs on the EP without rapping in it, “Broken Feet,” holds its own as an instrumental with no missing parts. The bass sounds on the track are at a very low octave, almost growling and guttural, and keep the song jumping along at a great pace. The beginning of the song samples a voicemail of a woman who wants to hang out with the recipient. Her last sentence, “Hope you’re having a good day,” echoes faintly throughout the track, giving an eerie vibe to the beat as a whole. The second song with no rapping, “Somewhere Above,” is beautiful and melodic, featuring Ogden singer Jonali Sorenson. Sorenson’s voice is beautifully paired with the samples and melodies used. In her lyrics, she salutes celestial guidance, singing, “I feel it in the air / There’s something up there / Always everywhere / Surrounding every little thing.”

The other three songs on the EP feature local emcees Vinnie Cassius, Earthworm and AZA. On “Off That,” Vinnie Cassius and AZA rap in low-key tones, matching SNXFF’s bass beats. Cassius keeps it simple, rapping, “Feeling like the Matrix / Neo I’m the one,” and is a good fit to SNXFF’s minimalist style as a producer. On “Alone,” Earthworm raps at a faster pace, sporting a meter that is double-time compared to the beat, with an old-school rhyme structure. Earthworm raps, “With the penmanship, my quality plays a part in every poem,” which definitely rings true in the track. The emcees that SNXFF chooses to feature in Years Ago are a great fit, creating a whole work of art, much more than just a preview of a producer’s beats. Stay tuned for more releases by SNXFF. –Taylor Hartman