Monday, June 8, 2009

Lowercase - Kill the Lights

lowercase's kill the lights
I don't know much about Lowercase's history. This is noisy post-hardcore from the late '90s blending early Swans with the sounds Shellac or Unwound were playing with. Fantastic stuff. Vocals are really alt. rock inspired and the album definitely has a great sense of dynamics.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

J Dilla - Jay Stay Paid

To a casual fan of hip-hop the name J-Dilla may not mean a lot. If you’re more interested in Anticon or Wu-Tang than the genre as a whole 'Jay Stay Paid' may not be a big deal. Change that. Like every genre hip-hop's gems are found underneath the rough and Dilla’s work puts him in the position of being the most influential and progressive producer in the last twenty years. His story is just as long and detailed as his career but to address that is a discredit to what 'Jay Stay Paid' represents. Jay Dee may be gone but his music continues to impress and expand itself to new audiences. Most of the tracks on this record are seemingly works in progress. The guest list fits perfectly with artists like DOOM, Havoc (Mobb Depp), and Black Thought all stepping into help create a darker and more diverse record.
Jay Dee’s strength has always been his ability to create musically complex beats that work on both a basic and layered level. For example electronic artists like Flying Lotus continually sing the praises of Dilla for his constant attention to detail and musicality. His work with fellow Detroit group Frank-N-Dank saw him exploring usage of minimal effects and layers to create more to the point material. Dilla pretty much finessed this sound with 'Donuts'. 'Jay Stay Paid' attempts to explore that evolution though it is posthumous material. 'King', 'Mythsysizer', and 'In The Night/While You Slept (I Crept)' all focus on creating lush soundscapes in a hip-hop setting. ‘9th Caller’ mixes vintage guitar strokes over a pulsing beat. Dilla’s penchant for self styled strip club jams comes out in ‘CaDILLAc. ‘Spacecowboy vs. Bobble Head’ transitions itself through various sounds and finally closes out with a soulful finale. Jay Dee adapts equal parts of the Wu-Tang and New York sound into the more bass heavy Detroit style on ‘24K Rap’. Raekwon and Havoc both also appear on '24K Rap' which even adds to the strength of it. Other key vocal additions on the record are Blu on 'Smoke' and Black Thought on 'Reality TV'. While the majority of ‘Jay Stay Paid’ is instrumental this is clearly a hip-hop record and the addition of such high quality lyricists is welcomed. Mixing everything from Asian sounding melodies with soundclips of waves 'Coming Back' acts as a true definition of why Dilla will always remain the greatest of all time.

Is 'Jay Stay Paid' the most alarmingly original record of 2009? No, this is a collection of recycled material and sounds as such. Though subtle factors like J Dilla’s hero Pete Rock cutting the album and Illa J's appearance help it retain the artist’s respect. Similar to UGK's '4 Life' earlier this year Dilla's friends, family, and admirers have created a(nother) great tribute to one of hip-hop's great.