Archive | September, 2014

Gangsta Gibbs

25 Sep

I’d never even heard of Freddie Gibbs until sometime this spring. His name was popping up all over the internet because of his project–with the infamous producer Madlib–Pinata. I pulled it up on Spotify and was immediately floored.

My old college roommates introduced me to the madness of the Madlib. His projects with MF Doom are legendary (check out my boy Yasiin Bey’s homage),

and his foray into jazz may have arguably influenced creative genius Flying Lotus, a producer/writer/composer who seems to float in the same stratosphere as Madlib.

Madlib's name alone was worth peeping this collaboration, but Freddie Gibbs not only holds up his end of the project, he makes you say "Goddamn!! I aint heard rappin' like this since Pac died." I immediately liked his flow, and his subject matter. The things he rapped about and they way he raps reminds me of cats I knew from back in my hometown.

Gibbs has been in the game for a minute though, and after I heard the album, I couldn’t believe the backlog of material this cat has. I’ve been floating off that Kush cloud ever since.

Apparently the working title of this album was called “Cocaine Pinata” (I’m sure the record label was thrilled). Whenever I think about Pinatas, I think about playing a prank on a bunch of elementary kids where they bust a pinata and there is no candy. Then I yell, “Pinata? More like PinnnnNADA!”

Shit’s corny I know, but I can’t help myself. I giggle every time I think about this.

Anyway, the album is jamming. Gibbs is pretty street with his raps. Shit is raw, and gangsta. When I watched the Thuggin’ video I nearly lost it. You never see videos like this anymore–this would never make it onto RAP CITY without serious editing. Dudes are getting robbed and killed, cats smoking the rock. The video is mind blowing. The beat itself is so clean and so grimy at the same time–like a really polished RZA track. That is what fascinates me so much about this collaboration though, the juxtaposition of Freddie Gibbs’ raw street lyrics, and Madlib’s clean production. They provide a great balance for the album.

The track “Deeper” is another example of this juxtaposition. There are so many levels of greatness on this song. Freddie is talking about some deep shit here, discussing a universal experience involving that first real heartbreak, but in a balanced way, not in an overly macho, or syrupy context. He spits some real shit over a nasty beat with a lovely bass line.

What I like about Gibbs’ style is he isn’t just rhyming and he doesn’t just rely on using similes in his raps. He uses metaphors as a way of telling a story. For example, on the cut “Deeper” he talks about “smoking on the gateway” before getting “sucked up like a vacuum” (okay the last one is a simile–but I’m saying he isn’t over reliant on them like a lot of rappers are these days).

“Lakers” and “Knicks” are two dope tracks that seamlessly segue into each other. “Lakers” talks about when he first signs a contract and moves to Los Angeles. He reflects on the initial struggle of grinding his way through the industry and finally seeing the success he envisioned for himself (there are a lot of us out here who can relate to being the homie on the couch for a spell or two).

“Knicks” is a beautiful piece of poetic work. Gibbs uses two different iconic basketball games–involving the New York Knickerbockers–from different decades to vividly explore the distinctly different circumstances surrounding his life (and in the process parallels Lebron James’ and Michael Jordan’s careers).

The production of course is on point. Madlib threw out some dark beats for Gibbs to work with–some weird futuristic Alan Parsons type shit on some tracks, but then he’ll get on some old school 70’s pimp shit on others. There are some bangers on here. “Shitsville”knocks hard, and “Harold’s” is a dope track to drive around with the sun roof down in the early afternoon (The lyrics themselves will make you want to buy a ticket to Chicago and pay a visit to the chicken joint the song is named after).

The cameos are great as well, Scarface, Earl Sweatshirt, Chef Raekwon, and Danny Brown all stop in on some flawless tracks. Even Mac ” O’Doyle rules” Miller shows up (who seems a bit out of place here talking bout reading Emerson and Dickens, and eating Belgian Waffles) for a turn on the microphone.

I’m not one to throw around the “C” word, but “Pinata” has all the makings of a classic album. Flawless production and Gibbs inventive wordplay make repeated listening a must with this album. Collaborative efforts of this level are rare in the hip-hop world, and it will be hard to think of either artist from here on out without thinking of this project (reportedly this was a 3 year process recorded separately–Madlib gave him 8 cds worth of music and told him to go to work.

I like Freddie Gibbs as an artist and lyricist (a listen to the same album’s instrumentals gives tons of perspective–the tracks sound so naked without vocals–and that is something that is rarely said about Madlib tracks), but it would be foolish to expect future albums to be like this project (I’m sure he’ll have his bangers, but most albums feel like a collection of songs rather than a cohesive unit).

I feel strongly about this album, as I did when OK Computer, Wu-Tang Forever, Aquemini, and Atliens came out. I can remember where I was when I first heard those albums, and when I bought them. 2014 for me will forever be imprinted with this album. The shit is still banging (hell I’m blogging about it well after it came out–that has to say something right?), and I’m still bumping it as hard as the first time I heard it this spring. Trust me, “Pinata” is nothing to sleep on. I think its easily one of the best albums of the year.

Damage Control

11 Sep

He’d seen this movie before–
staring at his face in the mirror,
already feeling the pangs of guilt,
and he hadn’t even done anything yet.

This one was not as cute as his current gal.
No matter–
it is hard to quantify attraction.
There was something that brought him here
and now he’d have to answer for it.

Making out was pushing it (sort of)
not touching each other was skirting the line,
and mutual masturbation was definitely cheating
(But this nut was not going to bust itself).

The only way he’d be able to walk away from this
was to run—and his balls were far too full to do that.
Now was the time to decide
if it was worth lying about,
worth doing,
and worth the feeling he’d have
when he looked in the mirror the next day.

~Edward Austin Robertson

Nocturne

11 Sep

The blinds were closed,
but I left the patio door open–
giving me access to the balcony whenever I needed to step out
into the spring breeze,
for the sights and sounds
of the not too distant highway.

It was not until late March
when I gave up chasing her
in an attempt to outrun my racing mind.
When I wasn’t piecing together notes on the guitar
I would blast Wild Nothing til 2 in the morning;
smoking dope and painting–
trying to steady my shaking hands
and unsteady psyche.

Only then would I allow myself a deep breath
to feel the present within me–
to forget the world outside my bedroom,
the trouble that I had created for myself,
and stop my brain from thinking destructive thoughts

~Edward Austin Robertson

Easy Does It

7 Sep

I honestly don’t remember my first visit to New Orleans. I drank too many White Russians (we called them Lebowski’s back in college) and I got nauseous and passed out on the second floor railing of Tipitina’s. I can tell you that the band Moe played, but I could not tell you a single song they played. I remember when the show started and I remember my buddies tapping me on the show, telling me it was time to leave. We got in the jeep and we drove to baton Rouge. End of story.

I had every intention of going back sooner than later, but then Katrina hit, the levees broke(?)
and I had moved to the other side of the continent.

Well I finally had a reason to go back. And I’m glad I did. I like this town. It reminds me of Galveston but on steroids. East Austin during South by Southwest resembles a toothless NOLA. It just doesn’t have the edge this place does. ATX wishes it could be this weird. Sure there are tons of bros and hipsters here, but on every corner of every block is a vague reminder of the things Juvenile, Lil Wayne, and Master P rapped about in the late 90’s.

The grittiness cannot be ignored and making this trip makes me want to watch that show Treme. I can understand why David Simon came down here to film.

Early impressions:

This guy

Definitely some dime pieces down here, seems like every girl is inked up in some way. Not opposed to it, but sometimes its nice to not know everything about a person by looking at the small of their back and arms.

The flat streets make bicycling in this town so ideal. So many people ride (without a trace of irony) old school Schwinn’s with the fat bottom seats. Sure they are heavy as fuck, but the do just the trick. The next time I visit here I’m bringing my longboard for sure. My host took me on a bike ride through City Park—New Orleans’ version of Central and Golden Gate Park. The park is huge, lots of biking room and beautiful old trees draped in Spanish Moss. I imagine it would be a little spooky hanging out there. I’m not saying I believe in ghosts, but I don’t not believe in them either—especially in a city as old and haunted as New Orleans.

I took a stroll down to the French Quarter and peeped that out. It just didn’t feel the same without titties flashing and beads falling down into my face and chipping my teeth. Bourbon Street felt like an older
and more charming, less tacky Sixth street (Austin). If the Castro District in San Francisco extended out towards Fisherman’s Wharf then it would be New Orleans’ Canal street.

It is true about open carry laws here. People openly walk around with their drinks in hand. Imagine if this town were as relaxed about prostitutes and weed as they were about booze. This place would be the shit.

I have to give this town some credit. After the flood I didn’t expect it to be so lively. The city seems to have recovered. If I were white I’d come down and buy a house here and chill for a few years, writing screenplays and drinking highballs. But I’m not and I have no intention of living in Louisiana as a free black man.

The light bulb went off in between long drags of a cigarette and swigs of beer. I understood the appeal and got why they called it “The Big Easy”. I didn’t want to do anything but listen to Tom Waits, and drink beer and smoke cigarettes on my host’s porch. Of course after my third beer I passed out and woke up with the sun in my eyes.

Its a fun spot. I’ll definitely have to come back for Mardi Gras and hit up my new favorite spot, Parasol’s. Great Po-boys and I’m sure when they get seafood gumbo again (its seasonal) its gonna be worth the return trip alone. When I come back I’m certainly hitting up the Voodoo Museum, the African American Museum, and the uptown area of New Orleans.

We’ll see what February is like. Unlike other places like Austin, Portland, New York City…..
I don’t see New Orleans becoming overrun by hipsters and yuppies anytime soon. Louisiana is a crazy place to live. I don’t see people clamoring to pull up the stakes and get down here. But maybe its a great place to camp out during the winter.

2014-08-29 19.19.46

Geeking out on Hot 97

5 Sep

Peep

What I Miss Most (For Alana)

2 Sep

Yearning for some sort of electronic exchange
pen to paper
expressing the essence of good company.

Yours was truly appreciated
something I that I seek out
even more so—having realized
that adult conversation can be much better
with the correct balance of pleasant and sober,
light and authentic.

To take for granted
while young how easy it came
and falsely assume that it will always be so.

But only after multiple false starts
short circuits
and frequent impasses
does the true meaning of what holds together friendships.

A glue that can’t be bought, sold or manufactured.

Am I wrong?

If so, point me in the right direction please.

~Edward Austin Robertson