Pretty Lights

PLLDubstep is dead and gone, murdered and trampled into the ground by pop music and Skrillex taking the form and bending it into something it never should have been. However glimmering out from the gaps in the clouds you get a few artists who still take dubstep to new levels the best of which I have ever come across, conveniently for this metaphor, goes by the name of Pretty Lights. I’ve heard the odd track of his being banded around our house for the past six months or so and had always been impressed until yesterday I finally got down to listening to him extensively, so far I’ve listened to probably just over half his discography and pretty much every song has blown me away.

The first record I put on was his second album, a double LP called Filling Up the City Skies and I was greeted with something I didn’t quite expect. The album was a lot more chilled than his newer stuff that I’d heard before and it seamlessly combine hip-hop rhythms with warbling bass creating some of the most atmospheric tunes I’ve ever heard, the whole two discs of the album doesn’t contain one bad song and it creates a mood that I could, quite happily, just sit in all day every day with.

Then I moved on to some of his more recent EP’s all of which came out 2010 there was, Spilling Over Every Side, Making Up a Changing Mind and finally, Glowing in the Darkest Night. Every EP had it’s aura but all still managed to encompass the distinctive flavour I’ve come to love. Interspersing pumps of rhythm from electric guitars with dubstep bass and hip-hop beats, it literally doesn’t get better than this.

As I write this I am listening to his first album, Taking Up Your Precious Time, and am hearing a very different sound still. Much less electronic and much more jazzy with more rolling bass lines and synth tones being sprinkled over the top. It just begs the question why this guy is not huge? Why is he not a household name? He creates music unlike any other on the scene but yet it’s Skrillex who becomes the breakthrough dubstep producer, it just doesn’t compute but anyway before I go into a rant about the hideous state of the world go and listen to some Pretty Lights post me a comment to let me know your opinion.

 

Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap

Ice-T directs us through an array of the top rappers around in this new documentary that aims to map the birth and rise of hip hop music. The OG has obviously managed to get hold of the biggest names on the scene from past and present to ask really what it was that got these people to where they are now.

Interspersed throughout are a juxtaposition of shots of ┬áthe sprawling New York City skyline, with poverty stricken black ghettos and a selection of street art, all backed by a beginners manual of the greatest hip hop tunes of all time. His interviews with the greats are successful in giving across the artists’ love of the music and the hardships they went through to make themselves known. He is less successful, though, on providing you with information on the history of the genre, he seems more preoccupied by the writing processes than where this stuff actually came from.

Every rapper in the film are credible rappers who have had big hits and helped make the genre to more accessible to people in all walks of life and the most interesting moments of the film come when the artists speak of their writing process. It’s also great to the see them rap straight into the camera with no backing tracks, this really makes you notice how passionate and meaningful rap lyrics actually are. The film is very enjoyable if you’re a hip hop but I can imagine, however, if you’re not it might be a bit more tedious.

When I heard about the film and saw the trailers I was under the impression it would be Ice-T taking us right back to the beginning, where was hip hop invented, who made it and then how has the genre progressed into the hip hop we have today. The personnel are there he manages to give a great range of artists from past and present but what’s lacking is the real insight into what it was that made this genre come from the streets and become one of the most profitable music genres in the world today. While I enjoyed the film whether it was a particularly informative documentary is another matter and on that front The Art of Rap doesn’t quite pick up on that big selling hook.

No Love Deep Web

If you already know of Death Grips you are probably aware of all the controversy that’s been surrounding this album, if you haven’t heard of them chances are you haven’t heard what’s been going on so I’ll explain. Earlier this year trip-hop group Death Grips got signed by Epic records, part of the Sony group. When they signed they were told that they’d release two albums in 2012, the first one, ‘The Money Store’ came out on April 24th but although the band had completed No Love Deep Web the label told them they were going to delay its release till ‘some time in 2013’. They were less than pleased to hear this and after a bout of angry tweets about their label they released the album for free on their website, shortly afterwards their website was shut down supposedly by the Epic, although they deny playing a part. After the site was closed the group posted the album on a variety of different sites, including Sound Cloud and encouraged fans to download it via Twitter. Their website has since been put back online but I don’t know what’s happening between the band and Epic, perhaps it was all just a big publicity stunt, even so it’s still been pretty entertaining.

You also may be wondering why the majority of the album cover, above, is a big black rectangle, the reason for that is that the un-censored album cover features an erect penis with No Love Deep Web crudely written across. If you go onto the website now you have to say you’re over 18 before you’re taken to a huge picture of the cover with the caption reading ‘US law states you must be 18 years of age to view graphic sexual material. We consider this art.’ All this stuff is all very well, but in the end what No Love Deep Web must come down to is the music.

It must be said they are a band not for everyone, but personally I like them. It’s hard to describe the lead singers cacophony of shouting as rapping at times and it’s equally hard to describe the strange, repetitive and often freaky sounds that pulsate in the place of normal music. But No Love Deep Web has the bands best collection of songs to date. Their mixtape from 2011, Exmilitary, was a breakout that provided some of the years most interesting music, whereas this years, The Money Store, I didn’t feel connected in the same way. This new album, though, I think is much better than Exmilitary, it’s got a lot more catchy songs with good hooks and at the same time has more to say in the lyrics. This album really is a triumph. An whether all the stuff that surrounds it actually happened or not it doesn’t matter because Death Grips have created an album that is unique and great to listen to.

 

Scroobius Pip

 

As you may have seen my previous post on Sound of Rum you will have seen my position of favour towards Kate Tempest, a young poet/rapper from London, I must admit until I found her I’d always thought poetry is the thing of the highly intelligent and I couldn’t relate, which was becoming a slight problem seeing as my degree involves poetry writing and analysing. But then one afternoon I discovered Tempest on YouTube and she instantly spoke to me, her lyrics spoke truth that I hadn’t heard before in poems or songs. As I get to the point, while watching some of Tempest’s spoken word videos the other day I clicked on one of the video suggestions for a poet named Scroobius Pip, when you see a name like that you don’t just pass it by. So I clicked it and it was the poem Rat Race as I listened I was intrigued and decided to search deeper into Pip’s world and what I found was another poet who’s given me even more of a passion for poetry and the spoken word.

Scroob made his name making records with producer/DJ, Dan le Sac with whom he has released two albums. The pair compliment each other perfectly with Le Sac’s beats being almost just as incisive and inspired as Pip’s lyrics, the two albums, Angles and Logic of Chance are really great, great listens, the former being my favourite of all Pip’s work that I’ve immersed myself in over the past few days. Since the second album the pair have released a solo album each I’m yet to listen to Dan Le Sac’s record but Scroob’s is another truly incredible album, I feel gutted that I hadn’t discovered this man earlier. For the first time in my life I feel inspired to write poetry, I feel Pip and Tempest have shown me how great poetry can really be and how much you can express through it. Keep your eyes peeled an you might just see some attempts at my own poems in the future.

Now I’m going to leave you with the lyrics of the opening verse on Angles, because it’s so damn true:

I ain’t gonna take it no more, I ain’t gonna take it no more, I ain’t gonna take it no more

I ain’t gonna stand by while the idle reply of a bridal of styles is, ‘yeah, but what’s their demographic?’

I ain’t gonna take it no more, I ain’t gonna take it no more

I ain’t gonna stand by the side tut and sigh while inside we all cry out for something new

I ain’t gonna take it no more, I ain’t gonna take it no more

Soulless music, artless lyrics, goalless movements, heartless gimics, controlled and clueless, careers lasting a minute, if this is the big life, well, I ain’t looking to live it

We ain’t pushing the boundaries we’re blowing them up

We ain’t trying to expand the scene, we want it to erupt, so make some room on the floor and somebody bolt the doors, we ain’t seeking applause

Tonight, well geeee, just wanna have some good new fashioned fun y’all

 

Sound of Rum

Sound of Rum are a London trio fronted by performance poet Kate Tempest, they released their debut album, ‘Balance’, last year to a rather muted reception but it really is a bit of a gem. Tempest is one of my favourite poets she really does have something profound to say in nearly every poem and these songs lyrics are largely just her poetry adapted for the music. The music itself is stripped down and bare but not without its quality, the influence of Rage Against the Machine being the most apparent.

The NME review gives the album an incredibly harsh 2 out of 10 rating claiming Tempest’s voice is a ‘mockney squawk’ and this one of the major factors the account for why I fucking hate the NME. The New Musical Express is meant to be a publication supporting NEW bands with NEW styles and something NEW to say and when a good British band appears they slate them. Ignore what they have to say and listen to me! These guys are something special.

 

Life is Good

Nas is undoubtedly one of the greatest rappers there is, as well as being one of the most consistent performers. Don’t be fooled by the albums seemingly uplifting title he’s still just a sombre as ever, that green dress on his knee on the album cover, that’s the wedding dress of his ex-wife, Kelis. Here we have an album really of personal confession in fitting with his ten previous outputs. His divorce is rapped about in depth in the almost heart-breaking, ‘Bye Baby’ which is one of the albums stand-out tracks alongside his collaboration with the late Amy Winehouse, ‘Cherry Wine’. But while this album is by no means a let down it must be said that I don’t see it as one of his best. It doesn’t have too much that seperates it from the rest unlike 2006’s Hip Hop is Dead, which saw him experiment with some new sounds but it does see him step up from his last album, Untitled. Overall, its a great album but put up against his back catalogue it falls somewhere in the middle, nothing particularly excellent, nothing particularly awful.