Recommended: Pal – Pal EP

Birkhouse Recordings Pal Truants

There’s any number of quality tape labels emerging and doing big things in underground electronic music at the moment. The sense of being able to make and circulate a physical object of some worth on your own terms – while obviously not a new concept – is no doubt an attractive sentiment to the growing group of producers and labels putting out music on cassette, along with the prevailing appeal of analogue imperfectionBirkhouse Recordings put out electronic music that plays with an intersection of intimate bedroom vibes and hardware-driven noise. Based out of Bristol and Huddersfield, the label has acted as a sort of scrapbook and live showcase shared between a group of friends and artists since their appearance in January 2013. The first six tape releases were grouped conceptually as the ‘bone’ series, with the five following Birk.001’s various artists all split into two, with a different artist taking on one side of each tape. January this year saw the label’s first full-length release from experimental duo Tlön. It’s their strongest output yet: a dark clash of electronic textures with found and displaced sounds that often threatens to lurch into techno but refrains from offering such resolution. Title track “Truth in the 13th” layers an off-kilter snare with an assortment of organic samples and a looped melody in the beginning before gradually incorporating an assault of all sorts of noise, while album closer “Ancient Ruins” opens with distant drums that fade away to make room for a shimmering ambient outro that manages to glaze over, or re-think, the harsh tones that preceded it. It’s rare that music can be at once as hypnotic and punishing, but you can make up your own mind here.

The next tape to come out of Birkhouse is an EP by Pal, a duo of vocalist Morgan Barfield and producer Canoe Club, coming fresh-faced as the first standalone published work from either artist. The latter plays dance music patterns on the low-key underneath Barfield’s vocals, each resonating off the other but allowing enough space to breathe to make for a crisp and clear blend of electronic pop. It’s in a whole different and more conventional sphere to the Tlön tape, but the fact they’ve come from the same home shows Birkhouse’s refreshing openness to different shades and influences under the ever-widening umbrella of ‘electronic music’.

Stream: Pal - Here Comes Everyone (Birkhouse Recordings)

Pal’s self-titled EP is released 8th April on Birkhouse Recordings on tape cassette and download.

Words by Eliot Brammer, 06 April 2014. Leave a comment

Interview: Lockah

Lockah 2 credit Dean Gray

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again; Donky Pitch are a force to be reckoned with. Following the debut LP release of The Range who provided us with a mix a couple of months back, the label are on to to the next one. This time the man of the hour is Lockah. Hailing from Aberdeen, and recently taking steps in quitting his job to make long drive down to make a new home in Brighton, it’s evident this is a man with music in his sights and office politics in his rear-view. With releases on his own label Tuff Wax, and others on Mad Decent, Mishka, Activia Benz, as well as remixes on OWSLA and Hyperboloid, the time has come to nestle into the home he’s found at Donky Pitch and release his first album. We caught up with him on Facebook of all places to talk about the album influences, what he’s been up to lately, and Miami bass… all of which descended into swapping some memes.

Stream: Lockah – Heartless Monster (Donky Pitch)

Hey Tom, how’re you? “Hey Jess, all good. I’ve just had my first contact with an Aberdonian in over two months, so I’m feeling right at home here in the ‘B’.” Nice to hear the accent again I bet. How’s the move from Aberdeen to Brighton going? Any resounding differences, pros or cons? “It was a long-ass drive, but once I made it down and sorted things out with my flat it was definitely worth it. It’s very relaxed here, pretty damn warm, an hour’s train from the middle of London. The only downside is that like Aberdeen, the clubbing scene here isn’t exactly crazy. That and the fucking warm beers. Aside from the pro of moving to Brighton, there’s also the day to day pro that I’m no longer working an office job so I can focus on music 100% in a less stressful way.”

You were once quoted as saying that you are ‘violently proud of the city’ of Aberdeen. Would focusing on music still be 100% stressful in Aberdeen as opposed to Brighton? “Haha when did I say that?” In an interview about two years ago for the Fader! “That’s such an odd thing to say. But hey, I said it.” Why the change to Brighton then? Was Donky Pitch a main contributing factor? “It would be less stressful there as well for sure. But I’d be a bit colder, and it would still take me 14 hours and 9 flight connections to get to a gig in a typical European destination. Things have changed in Aberdeen, there are basically no full-time clubs catering to underground dance culture now. It’s crazy, but it seems to have formed a sense of resourcefulness from the long-term promoters there, and definitely inspired some newcomers to throw nights in the smaller atypical venues. Here, my residency at the Green Door Store is on my doorstep, and it’s allowed me to swing through to London for last minute things like support for The Range at The Old Blue Last, and Boiler Room in February.” A good career move really, but what’s in store for Tuff Wax? “We’ll be wrapping up the Tuff Trax series soon, announcing a split 7″ very shortly, another fancy 12″ to follow on from the flashy Jaw Jam jawn last year, plus we’re throwing some ideas around for a low key white label 12″ too. Short term, I’m joined by Bones & Money, Cheap Date and Zubuntu down in the ‘B’ this weekend, to spin with me and generally go ‘buck wild’ at the Lockah album launch party. The Donky Pitch nights here in Brighton have been crazy recently, hopefully that trend will continue!”

Haha, we’ll touch on the album in a sec, but I often like to hear how artists develop an interest in music, specifically production, and you’ve often said you’re no newcomer to making music, tell us how you got into it. “Honestly I was recording music when I was a child in single figures. Wish I still had some of those tapes! I had a kid’s drum set that I replaced with a shitty real one when I was still pretty young. Casio keyboard, various percussive things. I’ve always been obsessed with the recording part though. Always a tape recorder present. Eventually I bought a multitrack recorder, got stuck with it and got given a used sound card for my birthday one year. I spent a lot of time in my teens recording drums, synths, guitars and so forth in that bedroom. When I first started producing ‘electronic’ music of any sort, it was just throwback hip-hop beats on an MPC 2000 XL. That was what I DJed mostly in those days. Eventually I got a cracked copy of Ableton from Bones and decided to bust the synths out again…”

How did you discover and start recording music at such a young age? I recently interviewed Dan Shake who said his love stemmed from a free music making program called Ejay Extreme he found in a box of Shreddies! “Well, I guess my Dad must have bought the Fisher Price tape recorder that I used initially. I would say I was using a computer to record audio from about 14 onwards. I guess that’s the norm now, but I’m 28 so we are going back to the 90s here. Ejay Extreme sounds fantastic from the title alone! I used to use Cool Edit which was pretty respected I think. To get technical for a second, it was pretty useless for MIDI, which is why I never used a computer to program electronic music as such until a good 10 years later. Basically I was working exclusively with audio, so any beats that I made were created by dragging and dropping each sound into place. Likewise with synth parts, I was playing them on an actual synth and recording them in that way. Not very specialised, so that was definitely not the direction I was destined to move in at that point.”

Stream: Dynamix II Featuring Too Tough Tee ‎– ‘Just Give The D.J. A Break’ (Bass Station Records)

So bringing us back to the now; your debut album ‘Yahoo or the Highway’ drops on the 14th of April on Donky Pitch. What can we expect from it? “Well it’s my first pop at a full length, so various principles were important to me. I’ve tried to make it something that people want to hear to completion – what’s the point of 45 minutes of bangers? I also got completely sick of micro Soundcloud trends and meme music taking over the world while in the process of developing the album’s musical themes, so I put in a lot of effort into trying to make something without a really obvious timestamp on it. I was really obsessed with a couple of well known Miami Bass and Italo mixes last year, and those really inspired me – not only in terms of production and writing, but as a nice distraction from the ever-more-dull-microtrend-of-the-week stuff that seems to get harder and harder to avoid these days… Having said all that, I also feel like I am making the strongest and most club conscious music of my career so far at this moment, which is something I’ve often lacked confidence in. So fuck everyone else, the album is ticking all my boxes at least!”

I saw your Thump piece on Miami Bass and was going to ask if the LP had influences of it! Would you say you’ve gained confidence being around the Donky Pitch crew? Must be great living with Dave Grinnell. “It definitely does. The ‘If Loving U Is Wrong…’ 12″ was loaded with Dynamix II references and there’s more of that in the kick programming in some of the album cuts. A lot of the time I would slow down electro/techno breaks to half speed and layer them over the looser beats that I had programmed. As a rule I try to destroy samples in the process of using them. I can’t stand lazy-ass sampling, that’s another trademark Microwave producer move. And yeah, the reason I’ve stuck with Donky since initially working with them is that they’ve become great friends – not to mention them being constantly on the rise, incredibly professional and talented with what they do, and they treat their artists well. Sharing a flat with Dave is pretty good for business too, we talk a lot about opportunities and other things we can work on together, exchange ideas and so forth. Usually while tearing into some of my gnarly-ass food at dinner. It’s worth mentioning that Mad Decent treat me very well too by the way, no reading between the lines there please.”

Haha, you read my mind. Is it fair to say that ‘If Loving You Was Wrong…’ was released almost as a prologue to the album? You must have been pleased with the response it got… Are you nervous about how the LP will be received? “Yeah, it was very consciously chosen to be a club leaning introduction for the album. The feedback has been pretty crazy, a lot of support from DJs, pretty good radio play. Scuba shouting it out and asking me for the stems for his own edit! I’m not terribly nervous, just excited. The build-up to a release is just the most exciting time to me. Really after that, I’m just looking for as many gig bookings as possible to follow on and support it. Oh, and to pay my rent too.” Speaking of gigs, the launch party for the album is this Friday, how’s that going to go down? How can we attend? Etc. “It’s at The Green Door Store next to Brighton train station, and three of my Tuff Wax crew will be representing Aberdeen with me. I have every confidence that it’s gonna be a cold banger of a night. Also, it’s completely free but there’s been a fairly decent queue early on for the last few shows so get there early!”

Stream: Lockah Mix (Boiler Room)

Can’t argue with that! There’s something else I’ve been meaning to ask you; I can never decide if the titles of your tracks are filled with dry humour in order to take things less seriously, or a sincere kind of truth…What’s the deal? “Hmm…They’re a mixture of bad puns, Twitter drafts, and god knows what else. Some of them are kinda deep but I don’t like to go into them usually, some of them are really serious! And really, the other part of it is that I hate 2 word electronic titles that are kind of the norm. So I’d rather go with ‘Shark’s Sad Mouth In The 1st Pic’ than ‘Burning Sky’ or whatever. Laaaaame! ‘Static Moonlight’, ‘Suspension’, fucking nerds.” Hahaha, totally agree. So right now I’m actually listening to your Boiler Room set; tell us about your live sets, how do they come together? “Recently I’ve been moving away more from current music and working more on my own edits of tracks alongside older stuff. Within the broad concept of ‘Miami Bass’ you basically have carte blanche to play all sorts of throwback rap, electro, west coast techno bass, bonus beat type tracks and all that sorta stuff. This was some of the earliest music to use sampling so the crunchy breaks are all around too. I like to keep it quite free and unplanned right now. I’d also like to think things are a little less ‘loose’ and ‘free’ in a typical DJ set than that Boiler Room one. We were heavily…lubricated.”

Haha I saw, bucket hats and beers. Do you have any further releases planned? “Right now the only future projects I have in place are for my own DJ sets only. I’m focussing more on adding some more ‘pep’ to that, and building a real arsenal of exclusive edits.” I gotta ask about your Twitter persona, Lockah and Tom are seemingly two very different people… “I get asked this a lot and it’s embarrassing. We must be the same person, haha, that’s why it is embarrassing. Maybe posting as Lockah makes it easier for me to say certain things, there is probably a psychological or literary term which explains it.” Maybe this? “Haha, that’s a better explanation.” I also found the perfect app for you the other day: BeardSwipe.Rofl

Okay to wrap up, what is your favourite drink and when was the last time you danced? “Oh man… It’d have to be an ice cold bottle of Honkers and I must have had a bit of a boogie in Antwerp, memory’s a little hazy. I had to really. Checking out Coco Bryce for the first time, he was one of the early Lockah influences for sure.”

Stream: Lockah – If Loving U Is Wrong, I Don’t Want To Be Wrong EP (Donky Pitch)

‘Yahoo Or The Highway’  is available to pre order on iTunes, or for the h8trz, Donky Pitch’s bandcamp.

Photo Credit: Dean Gray

Words by Jess Melia, 03 April 2014. Leave a comment

Recommended: Mørkeblå – Nowhere, OK

Mørkeblå-Nowhere-OK-truants

Mørkeblå is the project of Italian producer Alberto Rosso. His MO is summed up by the phrase “cosmic travels in dark blue”, itself a reference to his chosen moniker, the Norwegian for that shade. Working with a dark palette of sounds that drift in slow phases, his work touches on points of ambient soundcapes while pushing the listener in a more sinister direction. It’s not quite horror movie music, but it could well be used to fit that purpose. As well as his solo efforts, he’s also behind the Apparizione netlabel along with Luca Sigurtà and Rainbow Lorikeet, as well as recording with those two under the name Awkwardness. His first physical release has just dropped on Where To Now?, a label that has put out a series of oddball tapes and records since its inception last year. Following the online-only Omicron Rainbow release for Spanish netlabel Fracaso, which book-ended a 14-minute journey with two short vignettes, it expands on that epic approach with gusto.

There’s a feeling of bright hope and wonder at the outset, as “Mooloolite” presents scorched, distorted chords evocative of blinding sunshine across an icy wasteland. It hints at an expansive vision, of an enlightening journey. “Permanent Liminality”, however, is a confounding listen. The title refers to a point in ritual when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status yet have not begun their transition, it suggests a perpetual standing on a threshold, neither outside nor inside. Pained, nightmarish layered vocals hint at intergalactic rite, while chords that drudge along at once searing and overwhelmingly thick. Gasped breaths stab throughout the track, as if the mood wasn’t unsettled enough. Then, as if beaming down from above, a twisted theremin-like pitch evokes alien communication and sends a shiver through the spine, a piercing imposition through swathes of darkness.

“A Fish Hook In My Finger” is similarly unsettled, yet more ambiguous in direction. It opens with tones that shimmer and swirl as single notes play so far apart that melody is a distant memory. The creak of stone on stone, a Sisyphean drag or Ricardian shuffle, suggests creeping torment. This music is dark, yet wondrously so.  A new theme enters four minutes in, a four-note phrase (unbound by the rigid structure of bar numbers) opens the piece up beyond its other-worldly sludge. Further worlds collide, as birdsong meets spoken word and beautifully rendered synths that hint at rebirth and awakening, rather than the undead. If the language here seems overblown, it’s only because this tape conjures up such vast imagery. While ambient soundscapes are wont to clear the mind or evoke calm lakes or sunny beaches, Nowhere, OK flips expectations and chills rather than chilling out.

Stream: Mørkeblå – Nowhere, OK (teaser edit) (Where To Now)

 

Mørkeblå – Nowhere, OK is out now on Where To Now? Buy here.

Words by Aidan Hanratty, 03 April 2014. Leave a comment

Truancy Volume 93: Palms Trax

Palms Trax Truants

Our 93rd Truancy Volume is delivered by Berlin expat Jay Donaldson. Having previously produced music under a variety of monikers, 2013 marked the release of the first Palms Trax EP on new London-based label Lobster Theremin. Equation nodded to both Chicago and Detroit in equal measure with three floor ready house jams that have never failed to get us grooving. With the end result coming in as one of our favourite debut EPs of last year, it made perfect sense to get in contact with the man himself and have him deliver us a mix. We also found time to sit down and have a chat; discussing his earliest musical experiences, his live performances and the merits of German Haribo.

Stream: Palms Trax – Late Jam (Lobster Theremin)

You’ve mentioned in the past that you came to electronic music somewhat late. What were your formative musical experiences? You played piano from what I’ve read? “Yeah I played piano, think it took me about 12 years to pass my Grade 1 but after that I wasn’t so bad. Apart from that it was just bass guitar and Black Sabbath until I moved to London. Actually I did listen to Metronomy and wear skinny jeans once which was apparently pretty hip, but the latter was owing to a washing accident more than anything else. There was the odd Aphex Twin album and J Dilla track in there but I wasn’t really aware of anything else existing beyond what was spoon fed to me by whatever magazine my local Sainsbury’s was stocking. I could just about load up Minesweeper on the PC but downloading any zip file would have been a stretch, we can’t all be listening to Philus records and a genre with wave attached to it from birth.”

As someone who has lived in both cities, what would you say the key differences between London and Berlin are? How has living in these places influenced your music? “Well I can only really speak from personal experience – and I know some people have an amazing time in London – but it wasn’t really for me. In hindsight it felt like going out was a pretty alienating experience, heavily regulated with everyone keeping themselves to themselves. Having said that Principles and Rhythm Section were both really fun just before I left and I love Phonica, Kristinas etc. The pace is just different over here and I like that there’s everything a city has to offer within a smaller, quieter space. Plus there’s a good community of people all looking out for each other. I don’t know, I’m not sure anyone wants to hear about Berlin anymore. I guess the main difference would be the admirable creativity that someone possesses at Haribo’s German headquarters.”

Can you tell us a bit about your live show? “It actually only came about because these guys in Holland asked me to do it at the beginning of the year, so I treated it sort of like a commission. I’ve since done two shows in London and Berlin as well, but it’s something I’m only looking to do once in a while really. I think on the whole I much prefer seeing DJ’s. They’re the people I look up to and, although it was a lot of fun, I enjoy buying records too much to let that side of it go. The process was pretty intense too,  I just spent ages making a tonne of different loops, then had the MFB 522 running the drums, Juno 60 up there for some melodies, MPD as a controller etc. It took about two months overall to sort out but to be honest it’s something that could go on forever.”

Before launching Lobster Theremin you and Jimmy Asquith were involved in the Streets of Beige parties together. Do you have any personal highlights from these events? Did launching the label seem like a natural progression? “Well to be honest all credit has to go to Jimmy for these. I was just a resident and then came on board to release on the label but he set both of them up and has put an insane amount of time into both of them. I guess the label was a natural progression because he’d wanted to do it for a while. With the parties it had got to a point where there wasn’t anything left to explore I think, but they’re very much separate entities. I still look back to this night I played with Fred P fondly. His set really made an impression on me even if the total attendance didn’t stretch past double figures, it was drizzling and I had no bus fare home.”

You work A&R for Lobster Theremin, what’s in the pipeline for the label? “Well I don’t do so much. I stumbled across Snow Bone on SoundCloud and give a few opinions here and there but there’s so much planned now that I’m almost a spectator which I think is nice. There’s over ten releases coming this year and I’m excited to see how it goes. It’s still so surreal that the whole thing has got going and that people are into it in all honesty.”

Willie Burns was on remix duties for your first release, is there anyone you’d love to remix your music in the future? “Well I’ve been pretty lucky to have Galcher Lustwerk and Tin Man on the next ones but yeah, I think Big Strick or one of the Mood Hut guys would be cool. Heiroglyphic Being also, Silent Servant, Stingray, XDB, Legowelt in Catnip mode with Luke Eargoggle… There’s so many. Steve Bicknell or a Gherkin Jerks mix would be a bit of a dream. The list is endless.”

What can we expect from you over the coming months? “I’ve just started a monthly show on Berlin Community Radio which is cool, then I’ve got a white label out on Lobster Theremin in the next couple of weeks as well. I’ve also pretty much finished these two tunes I’ve been doing with Innershades. As well as that I’ve almost finished the next proper EP too but I’m not sure when that will be out. Then there’s one more thing, but again, I have absolutely no idea what’s going on with that. Then there’s the Tin Man remix and repress real soon.”

What approach did you take for this mix? “I played in Austria just before recording it and was pretty pleased with how it went over there, even if I am still in shock with how heavily I perspired throughout, but yeah just followed that structure of starting out pretty hazily, then some housier bits, short commercial break then techno to finish.”

Aside from music what are your other interests? How do you like to relax? “Most recently I’ve been enjoying having an almond magnum in the bath, as well as reading about this barnacle called a rhizocephala. Cooking has been a thing of late too I still managed to eat a whole box of nougat bites over the weekend so maybe I’m not quite the friturier I aspire to be. I’m mostly a bag of nerves on the whole.”

Truancy Volume 93: Palms Trax by TRUANTS

Words by Matt Gibney, 02 April 2014. Leave a comment

Chronicles: Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Piñata

Freddie-Gibbs-Madlib-Piñata (Truants)

‘When I first started working with Madlib, I had heard how he and MF Doom had made such a classic album. And I was like, man, I think I’m way better, or at least as good, as MF Doom. I can do that too. It started off as a challenge—no disrespect to MF Doom, he set the bar. I wanted something that was gonna sit in rap history.’ Conspiring together with the reclusive genius Madlib; the baby faced killa Freddie Gibbs is making extremely clear that there is a new villain in town. The stars also seemingly aligned to coincide with this momentous occasion as the project was released a few days short of the 10 year anniversary of the cult classic Madvillany. Our attention is firmly focused on MadGibbs right now though. Three years in the making, Piñata is just the type of raw and uncut product that you would expect from the coming together of two highly skilled purists. Two rare breeds who are single-handedly keeping their arts alive, crate digging and greezy gun talk respectively. A self-described, “gangster Blaxploitation film on wax” Gibbs’ autobiographical raps are suited for the screen as proven by the video for the first single “Thuggin” which was released in 2011. And who better to score this film than Madlib? Whilst many rappers are still trying to convince you that they have the Medellin on speed dial (Jay-Z at least has a photo) or that they are in fact convicted drug trafficking kingpins – Gibbs honestly rapped “I’ve never been a drug kingpin” (Live from Gary Indiana) so the symbolism of  the opening scene in “Thuggin” that shows the robbery and murder of the wannabe Tony Montana in the two tone ‘Scarface’ leather jacket sends a clear message out to all.

“Scarface”, the first track on the album, acts as both an introduction to the beginnings of his life as a dealer, his favourite rapper of the same name as well as the film. The film which inspired a generation of hustlers turned rappers, turned designers, turned moguls (in some cases) and became The Complete Idiot’s Guide To: Getting The World and Everything In It. Granted, Gibbs doesn’t relay elaborate and grandiose Mafioso tales of multi-million dollar transactions and the lifestyle that accompanied it like his 90′s predecessors but he still acknowledges the inspirational and educational value of the story. The brevity of the song mirrors his stunted come up because no sooner than he has begun his Montana-esque rise to power, ‘Deeper’, the subsequent track, already sees him in prison. Call it the sequel to 50 Cent’s “21 Questions”. Gibbs’ early material shows that he has a penchant for jacking R&B beats, be it from from the Isley brothers to somewhat surprisingly Bow Wow & Omarion, and Madlib, doing what he does best, flips the perfect dusty soul sample to match the tone of the unrequited love song. Gibb’s hasn’t gone Drake on us but it is a clear moment of vulnerability that shows us, once again, what it’s like when thugs cry. Not one to dwell on the past –  the painful memories of his unfaithful sweetheart are dissipated in a thick cloud of kush smoke. It’s a real shame Mr Jackson Jr, Mr Gibbs and Mr Brown didn’t get in the studio together to record this track. Can you imagine the studio session for “High”? If not, the lyrical trip to “Harolds”, an ode to the Chicago chicken shack should say it all – “six wing mild sauce with all the fries you can give me.” “High” is not the first time Danny Brown has laced a Madlib production, it’s just that this time he’s not playing the lead Cocaine Cowboy. Gibbs on the other hand, who was previously unaware of Madlib’s craft, handles his unpredictable productions with great deftness showing his versatility as a rapper. Madlib, ‘[doesn’t] have time to sit there and coach somebody… to sit there like a babysitter,’ and the Baby Face Killa certainly doesn’t need one. It’s not completely new territory for him and they are definitely no odd couple. In the past Gibbs has been paired with crate diggers like Statik Selektah and Alchemist and it’s not like we haven’t heard raps about drugs, weed and women before. It just hasn’t been executed this expertly, vividly and sincerely since Roc Marciano’s Marcberg.

MadGibbs (1)

From Harold’s, back to his own culinary establishment “Fast Freddie’s” on the next track “Bomb”. The strung out string sample evokes the paranoia of  the Geto Boys’ classic “Mind Playing Tricks On Meas Gibbs raps, “drugs got me wakin’ up in cold sweats / sometimes I’m slightly off my rocker, but I’m on deck.” Undoubtedly caused by all the ‘a la carte’ weed he’s been smoking but he has no choice but to hold it down as he has the most Michellin starred chef on the planet, Raekwon, joining him in the kitchen. Like the true culinary wizard that he is, Raekwon the Chef serves up his signature dish of exotic non-sequitors with effortless calm. Gibbs “[does] not give a solitary fuck” on “Shittsville” and continues not to throughout the album. This sentiment or lack thereof will undoubtedly continue throughout his career – a trait that both he and Madlib share. ‘Certain guys aren’t gonna do the things that I do musically to set themselves apart. They just gonna be another motherfucker on Worldstar.’ Gibbs has expressed ambitions to one day be like the next Master P but for now  is content with starting small, growing his fan base and perfecting his art and with 10 years under his belt he’s finally starting to get the attention he deserves. Madlib existed in this slightly nerdy, slightly inaccessible, avant-garde ‘art rap’ (for want of a better word) Wes Anderson type world with Doom and Gibbs being more rugged Tarentino types. His remixes of Norega, Big Pun, M.O.P and the super grimy production for Ghostface Killah  have hinted at a more rugged side it seems, he just need Gibbs to coax it out of him. By teaming up with each other they have diversified their audiences without having to switch lanes or water down their output.

Holding back or pulling punches is not something the ESGN honcho is capable of, which is clearly proven by the pleasure he takes in destroying his former boss Young Jeezy on “Real” (Remember Everybody Ain’t Loyal). Madlib again providing the suitably rugged and varying terrain for Gibbs to navigate. A diss record is a rare thing these days unless you’re Drake and Jay-Z and however unlikely it is that they’ll come to blows over a Basquiat it’s surely only a matter of time before Jeezy satisfies the public’s blood lust, right? Then again, no one really cares. Do they? The killing spree continues on the superbly gritty “Uno” which sees him lining up Lil Wayne. Unlike Tony Montana, who declares himself the bad guy in a druken stupor, Gibbs announces his arrival with a deadly cool. The rap game needs people like him, not because of his ‘gangsta’ image but because of his authenticity. Despite his fearless displays of cocaine fueled confidence he realises that he isn’t bullet proof and that he may end up the victim of crime he committed in his past but as long as he goes down in a Lennox-like blaze of glory he doesn’t care. He has repeatedly emphasized his ‘realness’ and until anyone proves otherwise; who are we to doubt his credentials? With a major in Robbing (with Honours) from the Drug Dealing College – Gangsta Gibbs is top of his class . For someone who robs both recreationally and as an occupation the fact that he’s found time to work with one of the biggest record nerds around whilst mentoring young truants like Domo, Earl and Mac Miller is a feat any Blaxploitation hero should be proud of.  That said, Gibbs’ final classroom scene, the title track “Pinata”, could have done with a better cast. More importantly, how can you let an ‘extra’ have the last word? Naturally, one of the highlights of the album belongs to Scarface on “Broken”Once again Gibbs shows us what’s behind his hardcore image as he raps about his humble beginnings, giving into peer pressure and his twisted relationship with his police officer father. Madlib’s production here pulls hard on our heartstrings turning Isaac Hayes’ “Wherever You Are”- which also touches on wrong decisions made in the past – into a melancholic masterpiece. Scarface, however, chooses not to “talk [his] old business” preferring to focus on the finer aspects of his life away from the streets that involve a beach, a buxom female and pint of Guinness. Both he and Raekwon, having survived a life in the streets,  play the role of those who have ‘made it’ and as such serve as mentors to Gibbs, offering jewels of wisdom and insight into the luxurious life that he can one day hope to enjoy. “Lakers” the uplifting and anthemic ode to his new home in Los Angeles suggest that he is starting to enjoy life more as the Gary Indiana native links up once again with Polyester the Saint as well as TDE’s Ab Soul to re-pledge his allegiance to the yellow and purple. Gibbs has returned to the city of angels with the gems from Scarface in order to “prepare [his] broken dream” and like our favourite bad guy; we are rooting for him all the way.

The line between Freddie Gibbs the gangster and Freddie Gibbs the rapper may be blurred  but as much as he touts the Gangsta Gibbs image, how many ‘killers’ would you catch singing  “Me & U” ,”Waterfalls” and “Living For the Love of You”  a capella? We know he raps about selling drugs but he’s given us a brief glimpses of his gentler nature and it’s these introspective moments that we want to see more of. On this premise it should be safe to approach (with caution) and congratulate him for one of the best rap albums of the year. By releasing a string of EP’s over the course of a few years they maintained a steady and healthy buzz of anticipation that meant there was not an unrealistic amount of hype to live up to. With a product this strong Lord knows what he’s got in store for his next album Eastside Slim.  Slated for release this winter and we’re already fiending. Do yourself a favour and crack open one of his piñatas. ‘Straight street shit.’

Piñata was released on the 18th of March by Madlib Invazion.

Words by Koyejo Oloko, 31 March 2014. Tags: | Leave a comment

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