Category: Rap / RnB

Close Counters

From Tasmania, Australia comes the debut self-titled EP from 17 and 19 year old electronic duo, Close Counters.

Finn Rees and Allan McConnell got together in 2013 where they began experimenting with various instruments, sounds and production techniques, and it didn’t take them long to realize the worthiness of this new alliance.

Vibing on the sounds of DisclosureFlying Lotus and Hermitude, Close Counters continued to explore a wide range of dynamic sampling, analog synths and a diverse assortment of sounds, ultimately giving birth to their four-track debut release.

Close Counters EP showcases three outstanding original recordings; ‘Fluctuate’ featuring Tasmanian vocalist Brooke Jones, ‘Don’t Run Away,’ and latest single ‘Can’t Complain’ featuring Tasmanian rapper, Promise.

Taking up the fourth position on the EP is a Close Counters remix of a track called ‘Blood,’ originally recorded by a Tasmanian indie-rock band known as LEWES.

Accompanying the EP is this music video for their previous single ‘Fluctuate,’ filmed on location at Hobart Art Gallery, by the duo’s good friend, Jack Short.

Watch:
http://youtu.be/1Y9h8BgsaxM

Close Counters EP is available now through iTunes:
https://itunes.apple.com/au/album/close-counters-ep/id919020512

Ministry Of Sound Hip Hop

Year: 2011

Label: Ministry Of Sound

Subculture Media Review:

(originally published on Suite 101)

Someone in the Ministry of Sound offices needs to either be A) forced to do a course in Hip-Hop 101; B) fired immediately; or, C) hung from the closest tree. See, a major crime has been committed against the hip-hop genre. While Ministry of Sound normally gets in spot-on with their Dance Music Anthologies, they have had a major stuff-up with their Anthems: Hip Hop, which is supposed to consist of the 54 greatest hip-hop tracks ever recorded. But while their 3-Disc celebration of the last 30 years of hip-hop of music is a great idea, the person behind the project has missed the mark by a mile.

One of two things has happened here: Either the team behind putting together the list of songs to be included on the album had no idea about hip-hop music, or they just couldn’t get the rights to the songs that wanted to include. Of the 54 so-called Greatest Hip-Hop songs of all time, only a very few of them deserve to have the word “greatest” put anywhere near them … many aren’t even hits. Some artists are severally misrepresented … I mean who in their right mind would say that “Joints & Jam” by the Black Eyed Peas or “Forgot About Dre” by Eminem are either artist’s best songs? Surely songs like “Stan” should have been a shoe-in.

But perhaps the biggest disservice to hip-hop is that one of the greatest hip-hop artists of all time doesn’t even get one track included. Did anyone in the Ministry of Sound offices ever remember a certain artist called 2Pac? If they did, then they might have thought of including a track like “California Love,” one of the best-selling singles of all time. These kinds of omissions are unforgivable and make the album look like a joke.

The poor song selection makes each of the three discs very hit-and-miss indeed. Disc One is chock full of ordinary tracks that even the most hardcore hip-hop fan would struggle with. “Ms. Jackson” by OutKast and “Get UR Freak On” by Missy Elliott are the only worthy mentions, but what’s the point of just two tracks out of eighteen being any good?

Disc Two lifts the game a little with some commericial hits by the likes of Nelly, Salt-N-Pepa, the Notorious B.I.G., Cypress Hill, Ice Cube, 50 Cent and Ice Cube, making it more than serviceable. But all that good work is undone by a very ordinary Disc Three that is only saved by some classics by Run-DMC, Tone Loc and Kelis.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter whether it is simply poor song selection or the fact that Ministry of Sound couldn’t afford the rights to the songs they wanted, all that matters is that the album is an insult to hip-hop music and no one in their right mind would fork out $30 for it. A complete disaster!

Other Subculture Media Reviews of ‘Ministry Of Sound Anthems: Hip Hop Reviews: This review by David Griffiths first appeared in Buzz Magazine.

Over the years Ministry Of Sound Anthologies have become a Bible to dance music fans in the same way that any Triple J Hottest 100 is a must have for those who love alternative music. Now Ministry Of Sound have branched out and released Anthems: Hip-Hop to celebrate thirty years of hip-hop… a three disc set no less. But seriously perhaps they should stick to dance music because while Ministry Of Sound claim they have captured the 54 greatest hip-hop tracks of all time, they have certainly missed the mark.

Clearly what Ministry Of Sound meant to say was they have captured 54 hip-hop songs that were cheap enough to purchase because these albums are loaded with ordinary tracks (that could hardly be considered hits… and certainly don’t deserve to have the word ‘Greatest’ placed anywhere near them) while there are some huge omissions, such as 2Pac (surely with the number of times we hear “California Love” each year that should have be remembered) and Lil’ Kim (a huge mover and shaker in the hip-hop world). Other strange choices include “Forgot About Dre” as one of Eminem’s best songs (how about including one of his hits???) and “Joints & Jam” by The Black Eyed Peas… doesn’t take a genius to work out that it certainly wasn’t one of their greatest hits.

Disc One is the biggest offender with only OutKast’s “Ms. Jackson” and Missy Elliott’s “Get UR Freak On” saving it from being a complete waste of time. Disc Two certainly saves the day with 50 Cent, Ice Cube, DMX, Cypress Hill, Nelly, Slat-N-Pepa and The Notorious B.I.G. making for one hell of a party mix. It’s also nice to see “Kick, Push” by Lupe Fiasco getting a little bit of love… he has to be one of the most underrated hip-hop artists going around. Disc Three is again another right off with only Run-DMC, Tone Loc and Kelis there to save the day.

It seems Ministry Of Sound set itself a task beyond it’s reach when it tried to fill 3 discs with hits, there are certainly more than 3 discs worth of hip-hop hits out there, Ministry Of Sound just chose the wrong ones (or couldn’t get the rights to the ones they wanted… we have to give the benefit of the doubt there). Perhaps they would have been better just trying to make a single disc of hits and doing the genre proud.
Rating: 2/5

Lupe Fiasco - Laser

Year: 2011

Label: Atlantic

Track Listing:
1. Letting (feat Sarah Green)

2. Words I Never Said (feat Skylar Grey)

3. Till I Get There

4. I Don’t Wanna Care Right Now (feat MDMA)

5. Out Of My Head (feat Trey Songz)

6. The Show Goes On

7. Beautiful Lasers (2 Ways) (feat MDMA)

8. Coming Up (feat MDMA)

9. State Run Radio (feat Matt Mahaffey)

10. Break The Chain (feat Eric Turner & Sway)

11. All Black Everything

12. Never Forget You (feat John Legend)

Subculture Media ‘Lasers – Lupe Fiasco’ Review:

Many of the genre’s most hardened fans would admit that, over the past decade, true rap/hip-hop has been replaced by some kind of commercial hybrid that sees artists wanting to rhyme about bling, girls and clothing rather than deliver political comments like the rappers of old. But here’s where Lupe Fiasco is willing to step up and separate himself from the rest of the pack. His latest album, Lasers, sees Fiasco deliver an album that most old-time fans would certainly be proud of.

The lead-off track, “Letting Go,” sees Sarah Green join Fiasco and show everyone that commercial R&B can still sound good. Lupe Fiasco then stands up and delivers one of the most rap tracks to see the light of day for a very long time. “Words That I Never Said” sees Fiasco take a huge swipe at Muslim Jihadists and then turns the tables by taking aim at the United States for its war on terror. He really doesn’t hold back.

If you have any doubts about why Lupe Fiasco is in the music industry, then one quick listen to “Till I Get There” will change your mind, while the extremely electronic “I Don’t Care Right Now” is just screaming to be the next radio single. Then Trey Songz teams up with Lupe Fiasco for what is clearly the worst track on the album. “Out Of My Head” may sound like a song that would have been perfect for Michael Jackson, but it certainly doesn’t do Lupe Fiasco any good.

The very commercial “The Show Goes On” is certainly a terrific track, but being overplayed on radio and television has made it lose its message. However, Lasers picks up again with “Beautiful Lasers (2 Ways),” which allows the world to see what a great songwriter Fiasco really is.

“Coming Up” is a real shocker, but if you can get past the cheesy onslaught of “State Run Radio,” you will indeed see that it contains a powerful message. Lupe Fiasco’s love of all things electronic continues with “Break The Chain,” and then he gets deeply political with the brilliant “All Black Everything.” The delightful John Legend then joins Fiasco on the smooth “Never Forget You.”

Lasers is more than just a good album. It shows just how talented Lupe Fiasco really is. Forget the likes of Usher and Kanye West—Lupe Fiasco is the real deal.

Other Subculture Media ‘Lasers – Lupe Fiasco’ Reviews: This review of ‘Lasers – Lupe Fiasco’ by David Griffiths first appeared in Buzz Magazine.

You wouldn’t know by listening to most of the rap/hip-hop that makes it to radio today but there was once a time when rappers used their music to get across their feelings. Not how they feel about ‘bitches or hoes” or how much bling they have, but instead their feelings about politics and other things close to their hearts. Well Lasers shows that Lupe Fiasco knows how to stay true to that old-style rap philosophy.

While the world has fallen at the feet at rappers like Usher and Kanye West, the very talented Lupe Fiasco has been plying his trade in the shadows and now Lasers sees him break-out into the spotlight and truly announce himself as one of the best rappers going around at the moment.

Lupe Fiasco teams up with Sarah Green on “Letting Go” and shows the world that not all commercial R&B has to be crappy and lame, and then he really announces himself with “Words That I Never Said”, a track that seems call the War On Terror bullshit while also taking a swipe at some Muslims… see a rapper that has the guts to come out and say what he feels.

“Till I Get There” sees Fiasco get heartfelt about his career and why he is in the rap game while the very-electronic “I Don’t Care Right Now” is catchy enough to be the next radio single. “Out Of My Head” sees Fiasco team up with Trey Songz and momentarily head down the commericial track with a song about a girl, it doesn’t fit his normal style and the only thing that saves it from being a complete disaster is that it has a real Michael Jackson sound to it.

“The Show Goes On” is an amazing track but you can’t help but wonder if the fact that it has been played to death on Australian TV may mean it has lost it’s heartfelt message. MDMA steps up to the mic on the emotional “Beautiful Lasers (2 Ways)” and once again Fiasco’s great songwriting abilities are on show.

“Coming Up” is a truly forgettable song while :State Run Radio” may sound cheesy but if you listen carefully it takes a fair swipe at modern radio and the military. Fiasco mixes his styles up with the Ministry Of Sound-esque “Break The Chain” and then takes his fans on a poetic history listen with the very important ‘All Black Everything”. Lasers then closes with the smooth “Never Forget You” which is sung with true meaning by Fiasco and John Legend.
Rating: 4.5/5

The Streets - Computer And Blues

Year: 2011

Label: Atlantic

Track Listing:
1. Outside Inside

2. Going Through Hell (feat Robert Harvey from The Music)

3. Roof Of You Car

4. Puzzled By People

5. Without Thinking (feat Sharlene Hector)

6. Blip On A Screen

7. Those You Don’t Know

8. Soldiers (feat Robert Harvey from The Music)

9. We Can Never Be Friends (feat Robert Harvey from The Music)

10. ABC

11. OMG (feat Laura Vane)

12. Trying To Kill M.E. (feat Laura Vane)

13. Trust me

14. Lock The Locks (feat Clare Maguire)

Subculture Media Reviews:

(originally published on Suite 101)

Well they always say if you are going to finish up then go out with a bang. That is something that British rap project The Streets have taken to heart. Those that find Mike Skinner’s unique voice similar to fingernails on a chalkboard will be overjoyed at the news that Computers And Blues is The Streets’ final album. Others will be shattered but they can rest easy in the knowledge that this album is clearly the finest that The Streets have ever produced. It is truly amazing.

“Outside Inside” shows listeners exactly what they can expect to hear on Computers And Blues. It is computerized within an inch of its life, but its great electronic sound is a great intro into “Going Through Hell” (which features Robert Harvey (from The Music… not the St Kilda football legend)). This radio single is a stunning track that makes you realise just how good The Streets can sound when they are in full flight.

The great songs just keep coming on Computers And Blues with “Roof Of The Car” revealing itself to be a great ‘date’ track while the catchy melody of “Puzzled By People” means you’ll be singing along to it in no time. “Without Thinking” follows suite and seems to be inspired by the Boogie Pimps… the track is made even better by some catchy vocals by Sharlene Hector.

Skinner gets emotional with “Blip On The Screen” a song that all the caring Dad’s out there will easily to relate to (and by the way how great is Skinner’s emotional song-writing on this track?) while “Those That Don’t Know” is a short piece of honey.

Then comes the absolute masterpiece, “Soldiers”… a track so good it can only be described as one of the songs of the year… not surprisingly Harvey played a hand in it, as he also does for the extremely poetic “We Can Never Be Friends”… another heartfelt classic.

Some obvious album filler, “ABC” puts a slight halt to the album but everything moves back into gear when Laura Vine steps up to the mic with “OMG”… which is a heap better than Usher’s lame effort with the same name. Vince then sticks around for “Trying To Kill Me” a track that would have also been perfect for Lily Allen. Skinner once again shows his talent as an emotional songwriter with “Trust Me” while he teams up with Claire Maguire for “Lock The Locks” which ironically is a song about Skinner handing in his notice… some great planning sees this close the album.

And there it is The Streets close their career with Computers And Blues… an album so great that it seems a shame that it is the end for a duo that have truly changed the face of the British rap scene.

Subculture Media Review #2:

originally published in Buzz Magazine

There is no middle ground with The Streets. People either absolutely love Mike Skinner’s unique vocals or they compare them to nails on a blackboard. For the lovers of The Streets however, Computers And Blues sees the end of an era. Skinner has made it quite clear that this will be the last Streets album… and after taking a listen you certainly have to admit that they go out with a bang. Computers And Blues is easily the best album from their discography.

Opening track “Outside Inside” shows where the Computer part of the album’s title comes from as it reveals early on that this is an album with a heavy computerized electronic basis. It then gives way to the first single from Computers And Blues, the brilliant “Going Through Hell” which also features the work of The Music’s Robert Harvey. This is a brilliant track that needs to be remembered when they are handing out Songs Of The Year gongs.

“Roof Of The Car” sees The Streets produce another truly memorable chorus while creating a great ‘first date’ track while the melody of “Puzzled By People” means it will be rolling around in your head for ages after you’ve listened to it. The same could be said for “Without Thinking” which consists of a Boogie Pimps style of sound and is made catchy by Sharlene Hector’s terrific vocals.

“Blip On The Screen” is guaranteed to bring a tear to the eye of any new Dad’s listening, but it’s thought-provoking mellowness quickly gives way to the short-and-sweet “Those That Don’t Know”.

Robert Harvey returns for one of the best Streets’ songs of all time, the terrific “Soldiers”… a track that you will want to keep listening to over and over. Harvey also sticks around for “We Can Never Be Friends”… yet another great track that has lyrics so smooth that sound like poetry.

Laura Vine introduces a terrific R&B style to both “OMG” and “Trying To Kill Me” (the latter also sounding like a song Lily Allen would have loved to get her hands on). “Trust Me” sees Mike Skinner return to some heartfelt vocals and then the album closes with “Lock The Locks” (feat Claire Maguire) that is ironically a track about Skinner handing in his notice.

And so it seems that is it for The Streets and while Mike Skinner has been promising a new project really soon it is hard to imagine that he will release anything that is good as Computers And Blues. This has to be one of the albums of the year.

Rating: 5/5

Lupe Fiasco - Superstar

Year: 2007

Label: Atlantic

Track Listing:

1. Superstar (feat Matthew Santos)

 

Subculture Media ‘Lasers – Superstar’ Review:

Lupe Fiasco makes his return after the success of his debut album ‘Food + Liquor’ with a little piece of self abuse. ‘Superstar’ finds Lupe criticizing his dealing with his own success rather than dissing all the other rappers around him. The song works well and certainly deserved its place in Triple J’s Hottest 100. Having had the privilege of seeing ‘Superstar’ performed live, all I can really say Lupe Fiasco, Jay-Z and Kanye West are the only rappers around today who really matter.

Rating: 4/5