Genre: Socially Conscious Hip-Hop
To someone without much knowledge about hip-hop, there’s two kinds of it. There’s hip-hop that boasts money, sex, and drugs, and then there’s hip-hop that matters. Devine Carama’s No Child Left Behind falls gracefully into the latter category – seeking to remove itself from a genre that indulges itself in material possessions, and to establish itself as one that seeks social change and cultural awareness. Devine himeslf says that NCLB is “an open letter to an 8th grade middle school class” and “inner city teens struggling to navigate their way through this world with limited guidance, opportunities, and foggy mirrors as best.” Aside from rhymes that preach the under-heard gospel of social change, the album is sonically different from a lot of hip-hop I’ve heard. Much like Fidel Hasflow’s LoFidel, which celebrated samples and old-school hip-hop production, Devine Carama employs sounds that sound fresh because of their retrospective flavor – some tracks from LoFidel can be heard over the course of the album, and it’s no coincidence that these are also some of the best sounding. All this said, the whole album sounds excellent and fresh – Devine has come up with some meaningfully sharp rhymes and knows how to lay them down, and his producers have made some creative and catchy tracks for him to plant them on. At a time in my life that I’ve been asking myself why the world hasn’t moved past racial struggles, Devine Carama takes it a step further and provides some answers.
Tracks I Liked? No Child Left Behind!!, ’13 Til Infinity!!!, Stars!!!, Willie Lynch Me!, Dead Man Walking!!, Light Switch Flow!!, A Deadbeat’s Karma!, We Are (Kings and Queens)!!!, Voices From the Grave!!
Ben Southworth – July 16th, 2013 – Lexington, Kentucky
If you recall, back in December, Warren Byrom and friends released a seven song sampler of holiday tunes. That album was done in collaboration with Apartment Four, the same folks responsible for this one. Unlike that Christmassy collection that had a certain endearing sound of folkiness and relative lo-fidelity throughout, this compilation features artists from several genres of music. It’s front-loaded with a pair of electronic tracks, heads through some acoustic, rock, blues, hip-hop, and more – giving the collection a variety in sounds and moods. But much like that release from December, Apt. 4 is staying in line with one key thing – they’ve brought together several musicians to create an album that hopes to benefit a local charity. Though it’s hard to say whether the musicians on this album were ever all in the same room (while a handful were recorded at Apt. 4, several were recorded and submitted by the artists) they’ve all convened at the idea of helping out a good-doing organization – this time Seedleaf. Moving beyond this, the music isn’t just a cheap collection of mediocre music to drum up a little money for a good cause – though there’s a wide array of sounds, they’re all of high quality and great musicality. The tracks that were recorded on-site at Apt. 4 have a wide variety of sounds and tone, and show that the folks behind this project have more than just charitable intentions in their wheelhouse of abilities – they’re able to capture music effectively. If you’re wanting a great array of local musicians, and want to feel philanthropic at the same time, I’d recommend grabbing a copy.
Ben Southworth – June 6th, 2013
When I received Drug’s album In[tune]ition last October I was blown away – the “prog-rap” (at least as I labeled it) that he had come up with was impressive to say the least. Even to someone who wouldn’t call themselves a big fan of rap or hip-hop, the sampling and beats that were on the album were very creative and definitely not what you’d hear on most albums in the genre today. This latest album, NIGHTOWLS, is a little more straightforward in the tracks that lie behind the words – though they aren’t quite as unique and “out there” as some of what I heard on his latest album, they serve the sound of the album very well. This said, songs like “Shoot You Dead” and “Lurk” really do some interesting things with their tracks – reminiscent of the what I heard on In[tune]ition. The other thing that stuck out to me on the former album was its lyrics – it stayed away from the boasting of wealth and fame that most rappers can’t actually back up. Instead, it told stories – some very personal and dark. What I find unfamiliar in the sound of NIGHTOWLS, I find familiarity in the quality of the lyrics. Though some of the subjects might not be surprising – plenty of allusions to weed find their ways onto a lot of the tracks – the songs about lost friends and mental grief are standouts of the album. If you didn’t think that Kentucky was the kind of place conducive to the production of rap and hip-hop, give this a listen. Drug + NightLight have put together a really fresh album here.
Tracks I Liked: Zeitgeist ft. K10!, Shoot You Dead!!, Lurk!!!, Progression!, Gutter Glitter!!
– Ben Southworth