Tag Archives: alternative rap

Ghostpoet – Dark Days + Canapés

22 Apr

I love Ghostpoet and I love that he’s consistently been doing his own thing all the way back to Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam. His flavor of quiet, understated rap is unique to him. There is no other rapper quite so sincere and human, no one so willing to lower the stakes and create comfort and intimacy. I want what happened for grime to happen for him, I want him to take the next step like Stormzy and break out, but this is not going to be the album to do that.

It unfortunately just does not have a track as fascinating as his earlier “Meltdown” or “Cash And Carry Me Home.” “Freakshow” had the potential to be something, but needed a little bit more to really stand out. His music has a slight tendency to fall into repetition, which is essential to the experience, but would still benefit from a few more subthemes.

Nevertheless, Dark Days + Canapés is another solid entry in a deeply underserved genre. If you haven’t tried Ghostpoet yet, I would actually recommend Some Say I So I Say Light instead as a starting point, but if you have, I’m sure you’re listening to this already.


Ghostpoet: Shedding Skin

5 Jan


British underground rapper Ghostpoet has a sound that is distinctly his own. His rap has always been hazy and mumbled and very, very atmospheric. I loved Some Say I So I Say Light for that. His new album, Shedding Skin, is probably the only rap album to be closer to The National than to Jay-Z. Sadly, that’s not really a compliment.

While this is probably the most approachable of Ghostpoet’s albums, and his literate, urban middle-class rap is something very worth approaching, it is also the least varied of his albums. like the aforementioned National, the album is pleasant to listen to, but the alt-rock beats tend to bleed into themselves quickly. All of the songs feel the same. There are bright spots, notably the title track which could be out of one of the quieter parts of Hotline Miami and Ghostpoet’s trademark ennui is delightful in points. Only he would run a chorus of “It’s just you’re forgettable / I think that’s the issue, babe.”

If you’re new to Ghostpoet and new to alternate rap, I would recommend this as a stepping stone to the rest of this interesting little corner, but for everyone else this album might just be too forgettable.


De La Soul at Yoshi’s, San Francisco (7/3/2014)

16 Mar

De La Soul is one of those bands that could have defined hip-hop. Their debut album 3 Feet High and Rising, now 25 years old, was widely considered one of the best of its year and achieved commercial success. That album could have brought about the Daisy Age of hip-hop. For better or worse, that didn’t happen. Nevertheless, De La Soul is one of the pillars of old-school hip-hop and their live show more than justifies that respect.

This is the first old-school hip-hop concert that I’ve ever been to and I never realized how much space is in those old songs for audience participation. The choruses all seemed to have been designed for the audience to shout along with. You haven’t heard any of their music properly until you’ve been in a mob all singing it out together.

Their crowd skills were incredible. They talked and joked constantly and the audience response was intense. They brought a forest of hands up from the beginning of the concert and that forest was not felled until the concert finished. It was quite the intense performance and the crowd showed the energy that deserved. Also many points for the constant San Francisco shout-outs.

The show went over much of their stable of hits, including Me, Myself and I, Oodles of Os, Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey), A Roller Skating Jam Named “Saturdays” and Oooh. There were a few missteps in their performance, but that was just part of the charm. This was three guys who have been around since the beginning of hip-hop and never forgotten how much fun it is supposed to be. They wanted everyone to enjoy the show and delivered enough that anything else was impossible.


Kid Cudi: Indicud

12 Jan

Kid Cudi is his own person. You can’t judge his third album Indicud the way you would judge other rap albums because it doesn’t feel the need to play by the same rules. Seriousness and wordplay are no part of this picture. Freshness is always a good thing though, especially when the result is something like “Red Eye”, which is essentially Haim being Haim. However, it still needs substance. His earlier songs, like the exceptional “Day ‘N’ Nite” managed to feel novel in subject matter as well, but this album doesn’t quite hold up to the same standard.

This is a very listenable album, but the sort that neither expects nor rewards deep and sustained listening. It is filled with bright spots, especially when the guests show up. The aforementioned Haim song is excellent, the RZA shows up for a monstrous anthem with “Beez” and Kendrick Lamar is, as always, remarkable on Solo Dolo Pt. 2. Kid Cudi’s production is strong throughout, bringing out the best of both his guests and himself, as shown on “Unfuckwittable.”

This is, all told, an enjoyable album. It is an album with an expiry date though. Give it a spin though. As long as you don’t expect to go anywhere, it is an enjoyable ride.


Ghostpoet: Some Say I So I Say Light

9 Dec

This is a distinctly urban sound. It is the music of the road after you leave the club at 3 AM. It’s the music of people and dreams and the moment and life not being all that it could be and the promise that one day it will be. It’s about talking to people and laughing in groups and having fun and being late and feeling cold and wishes. It is the moments of silence where you’re all walking and your arm is around someone and your mind is a million miles away. It’s the feeling of exhaling just so you can see your breath in the yellow streetlight. It’s the feeling of drifting in a strange, only half-there world.

Ghostpoet’s work is a unique gem and should be treasured as such. You should listen to him.


Deltron 3030: Event 2

8 Dec

It’s been 13 years since Deltron 3030 first took us to their vision of the future with their eponymous album and with Event 2 it is finally time to reenter the world that felt so entrancing then. The rap world has changed in all that time though and what was mind-blowing then is not quite as impressive now. Are the most futuristic rappers of them all now obsolete? Event 2 says not at all.

This is a good album with good music. Del’s flow is as smooth as ever, Dan’s soundscapes are as epic and Kid Koala still has hip-hop down to a science. I greatly enjoyed their concert a while ago and the songs are quite as tight now as they were then. Cuts like Pay The Price, Talent Supercedes and The Return are standout tracks, with Del proving himself a monster time and again. What Is This Loneliness, City Rising From The Ashes and Do You Remember are also very strong and greatly aided by the collaborators. Damon Albarn in particular is excellent. The rest of the music is also great, Melding of the Minds for instance is just very good rock-rap.

The glimpses of the world that you get are very interesting. Del makes throwaway mentions to zombies on crack and ethical debates about eating people in standard blink-and-you-miss-it fashion interspersed with deep pop-culture references. The skits are also imaginative, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Amber Tamblyn and David Cross narrations. The Lonely Island also has a rap in there, which while funny seems amateur next to Del’s flow. The story is wildly inconsistent, but that’s fine. It is meant to inspire and not create canon.

Even if not quite as groundbreaking as the first Deltron 3030 album, this is good, imaginative and above all fun rap. I highly recommend it.


Das Racist at The DNA Lounge (12/10/2012)

19 Oct

You take Das Racist, a ridiculous alternative hip-hop group whose humour, all-over-the-place allusions and stream-of-consciousness style of rap would never fly were they not so good at it and put them on a stage with Le1f, Lakutis and unheard-of Oakland artist Safe and you might expect something special. I certainly hope not though, because they gave me what was by far the worst concert I’ve attended this side of Euphoria.


It is possible that you, the reader, may not really know of Das Racist. Despite flirting with breaking through many times, they never really managed that final step that puts a band on everybody’s lips.

These are really smart guys. Their lyricism is undeniable, and their subject matter is unique. Intelligence though is worthless unless paired with some skill and not only do these guys have flow on the level of half of the rappers you see owning the charts, but they pair it with consistently sick beats. Put everything together and you get the freshest feel in rap since Eminem first started dropping records. They might not be big, but they certainly deserve to be. With concerts like this though, you can understand why the reality is rather different.

The Club

The club is probably the best place to start. I don’t need to ask, I know they got it from the hellhole store. The concert was slated to start at 10PM and yet until midnight the club was owned by Crap DJ + Friends. I wish that I could call those Friends amateur rappers. Amateur implies some desire to become skilled, some promise of quality. The only thing I could hope for from these people was that they would stop. On the plus side, they gave me time to catch up on work and meet some nice, new people. Meeting people at concerts can be hard, but when you have as good an opening topic as how terrible that DJ was, things become easy.

To add to the pain, the place was a true hipster dive. Hipsters are like hippos, you see them on television and every now and again you will see one in captivity, but until you meet a whole herd of them in their natural habitat, you can never realise how truly irritating they are. I don’t even want to make the standard jokes as that would only trivialize the incredible hate I now feel for them. I am never going down that area of San Francisco again.


We gained a bit of a respite from the sonic sludge of that DJ with Safe, an Oakland R&B artist. He was okay and anything was better than what was playing before, but I would not track him down. I honestly wouldn’t even listen to him again. I might even change the channel if he was playing on the radio. However, he was as the music of the spheres compared to what came before, and sadly what came right after.


After a little more quality time with DJ I-don’t-need-to-be-good-if-I-look-hipster-enough, we finally got to see someone known. Admittedly it was Lakutis, the Cappadonna to DR’s Wu-Tang Clan, but he’s something, isn’t he? If stoned out of his mind counts as something, then he most certainly was something. He just wasn’t very good. At one point, he jumped into the crowd and refused to return, leaving his poor friend on the beats stranded. That was probably the only memorable part of his thankfully brief time alone on stage. His friend did manage some decent jokes though. All told though, not really best of the best of the best of the best ahh.


Le1f is a full-on internet celebrity. Not content with merely producing such things as Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, he plunged into the public eye with Wut. He also makes for a pretty impressive stage presence.

He ended with Wut and while the rest of his set is nowhere near that level, it still made for quite an enjoyable piece. He may not have the portfolio to follow Kanye and Drake from behind the beats to in front of the mic, but he was there and he was good. Also, whatever else one says about him, his performance certainly gets interesting.

Das Racist

Finally, we had DR themselves take the stage. They threw down a pretty strong set list. Starting with Who’s That? Brooown! they also went through some of their strongest stuff, like Rainbow in the Dark, Rapping 2 U, Amazing, Brand New Dance and Michael Jackson. These are all great stuff for a club and great songs to sing along with. Singing along though requires the rappers to actually be singing though.

To be fair, Dap did an incredible amount and sang pretty much every word of every song into his distorter. Heems and Kool A.D. though seemed happy to let the crowd do all the work though. In hindsight, Das Racist is not really a band that is at its best live. They need the beats to balance with the vocals and they need you to be in the right frame of mind to appreciate their lyrical wit. However, they could have tried. They were clearly stoned, but they seemed far from incapacitated. They just came off as callous.

There’s not really much more to say. They would have been disappointing all by themselves. They certainly weren’t worth all the wasted time waiting for them. When the crowd knew every lyric and DR let us sing the whole thing, it felt in parts like a celebration of what they have become. It felt more like a statement of why they will never be anything more.

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