Hip-Hop

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The Replacements performing at Riot Fest 2013.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

As another year comes to pass, we again reflect on all that was in music. 2013 was a year that saw many music legends return and sadly, a few of them check out. Heavy hitters like Arcade Fire, Arctic Monkeys and Queens of the Stone Age dropped exceptional high-energy rockers, while relative new-comers Deafheaven, Savages and Disclosure continued to push the limits of artistic integrity. And not to mention there was a slew of colossal comebacks from some of the biggest and most influential forces in music.

Early in 2013, the iconic David Bowie announced a new album, his first of new original material in over a decade. The result was The Next Day. Released in March, The Next Day is a quiet yet moving record that perfectly showcases how gracefully Bowie has aged and how sharp his musical wit still remains.

February saw the release of the highly anticipated third album from Shoegaze/Dream-Pop pioneers My Bloody Valentine. In late 2012, guitarist and mastermind Kevin Shields teased fans saying that an album was being mixed and will be released timely. This was a huge deal for fans, considering that it hade been 22 years since the release of their seminal classic, Loveless. The band followed through, and m b v was released just a little over a month into the year. Not only was it worth the wait, but it proved My Bloody Valentine was still capable of creating really good music as it held up perfectly next to Loveless, and proved itself to be one of the best records of the year.

One of the biggest comebacks of 2013 was certainly the return of Black Sabbath, and for many reasons. It was to be the first new record with original singer Ozzy Osbourne in 35 years. Shortly after the band officially announced their reunion plans in late 2011, guitarist Tony Iommi was diagnosed with cancer. After a year of undergoing treatments, and surviving the unfortunate resignation of original drummer Bill Ward, Black Sabbath released 13 this summer and made the entire spectrum of Heavy Metal drop to its knees. 13 was a crushing, bluesy, heavy-riffing affair that reminded everyone again just why this band was so important to not only Heavy Metal, but Rock and Roll as a whole.

Alternative Rock saw the return of two of its most influential and important figures: Queens of the Stone Age and Nine Inch Nails. QOTSA’s …Like Clockwork, their first record in six years, was a swinging, groove-heavy Rock and Roll party with an all-star cast of guest musicians (Dave Grohl, Julian Casablancas, Trent Reznor, Elton John). Cuts like “My God is the Sun” and “I Appear Missing” hadn’t hit as hard since 2002’s Songs For the Deaf. NIN’s electro-funky Hesitation Marks harked back to 1994’s The Downward Spiral, with an older and more bitter Reznor at the helm. Although not quite as abrasive as their earlier records, new cuts like “Copy of A,” “Came Back Haunted” and “In Two,” as well as the highly visual and conceptual Tension 2013 North American Tour, still hold Nine Inch Nails to their standard of crushing electronic heaviness and dark prowess.

Don’t call it a comeback, they’ve been here for years… Industrial-tinged Alt-Metalers Filter delivered The Sun Comes Out Tonight, their most concise and impactful record since their 1999 hit, Title of Record. Led by the singles “What Do You Say” and “Surprise,” the band are seeing a career renaissance, as fans continue to discover and rediscover their severely underrated and under-the-radar releases, 2008’s Anthems For the Damned and 2011’s The Trouble with Angels.

Indie Rock pioneers Neutral Milk Hotel and The Replacements also had quite the eventful summer in 2013, both returning from decade-long hiatuses. Neutral Milk Hotel returned for a handful of festival dates and small venue affairs, hinting at the possibility of new material in 2014. Elliott Smith resurrected the legendary Replacements for a handful of performances as well as a covers EP. New material hasn’t been confirmed, but fans remain hopeful entering the new year that The Replacements haven’t quite said everything that they need to just yet.

Finally, with 2014 looming, Art-Rockers Failure and Hip-Hop titans Outkast have announced reunion performances throughout 2014, leaving fans ecstatic for the possibility of extensive tours and new material.

Unfortunately, 2013 had it’s share of major losses in the world of music. Country music legends George Jones and Ray Price bid farewell, passing away of natural causes after leading long and wonderful careers. Deftones bassist Chi Cheng, who was placed in a semi-conscious coma following a motorcycle crash in 2008, passed away on April 13. Thrash Metal experienced a major loss when one of its key players, Slayer guitarist Jeff Henneman, passed away on May 2 due to complications following a spider bite. The Doors’ iconic composer and keyboardist, Ray Manzarek, succumbed to cancer at age 71 on May 20. In many ways, Manzarek remains the father Psychedelic music, as his signature atmospheric organ tones provided the perfect backdrop to Jim Morrison’s gothic poetry and soulful swagger. And last but certainly not least, Oct. 27 saw the passing of the legendary Lou Reed. Reed was the founder of 60’s Art-Rock trailblazers The Velvet Underground and enjoyed an extremely successful and influential solo career that continued right up until his death.

Although 2013 saw the loss of a major chunk of diverse and influential musicians, there is no doubt their work will love on in the years and generations to come!

By Rick Polo (Editor-In-Chief)

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Artist: Danny Brown

Album: Old

Release Date: 10/8/13

Rating: 4/5

Indie-rapper Danny Brown has certainly done his homework. As one of the leaders of the genre’s underground movement, just bubbling beneath the mainstream, Brown has gained some serious momentum over the course of his discography. With Old, his newly released third album, he’s again successfully smashed his own boundaries with one of the year’s most well-rounded and enjoyable rap albums.

Brown first hit the scene in 2010 with his ground-breaking debut, The Hybrid. After releasing the near-perfect XXX in late 2011 and stealing the show on featured tracks of the previous two EL-P records, Brown delivered Old in early October, again taking the rap world by brutal force.

Brown took a unique old school approach to the construction of Old, dividing it into two “sides,” as a traditional vinyl would, with two different vibes. Side A, titled “Old,” lives up to its title somewhat. It has a laid back, old school hip-hop vibe with soulful samples and grooving beats. Following opening tracks “Side A (Old)” and “The Return,” the album begins to show its chops, beginning with the third track, “25 Bucks,” which features Brown’s group, Purity Ring. The track seeps with Brown’s lyrical genius. From there, tracks like “Torture” and “Lonely” paint a more vulnerable portrait of Brown, with very self-actualizing and introspective lyrics. A trait not typical among many mainstream rappers.

Side B, titled “Dope Song,” has a high-energy, almost live feel to it. Also certainly not an approach taken by many modern rap artists, as their live performances are merely lip-synced over a pre-recorded beat. No, as those who’ve attended any of the summer festivals of which Brown performed this summer, he’s abrasive and in-your-face.

The second side of Old reflects that, especially with the lead single, “Dip.” The energetic performance factor reels the listener in from the start with an infectious up-tempo dance beat that will make you almost want to slam dance along with it. Fellow tracks “Smokin’ & Drinkin'” and “Handstand” keep the party going, until another stand-out track, “Kush Koma,” featuring talented newcomer A$AP Rocky, takes hold. As many of the songs on Old, “Kush Koma” presents a lyrical juxtaposition to the vigorous music that accompanies it. Brown’s realization of his own debauchery, and the toll it takes on his soul, make up the lyrics on the almost depressing tune. Finally, Old ends on an even more somber note, with the beautiful “Float On,” featuring Charli XCX.

When it comes to honestly, Danny Brown holds nothing back. Like contemporaries Kendrick Lamar and Tyler, the Creator, Brown is not afraid to shed light on his vulnerability, nor is he hesitant to admit to the not-so-flattering aspects of his life. However, he does so in such an earnest and beautiful way, you come to realize that he’s just giving his version of the blues. And with all the raw emotional and powerful songwriting, Old, in a modern sense, is as bluesy as it gets.