“Plagued by sleep paralysis, which chokes the eventide with paranoia and demons, and subject to the same heartbreaks and sufferings of the human condition as any of the rest of us, with Abyss Wolfe puts front and center this darkness and uses it as both a bludgeon and catalyst. The gritty funeral dirges are the album’s sonic trademark and ligament, plodding in the sense that a monster or colossus or god or great machine is plodding, carrying within them the inevitable exigency of any of these; these muscular throes sweep through the album like black rivers, and they are, in their rhapsodic and terrifying immensity, like an Isambard Kingdom Brunel masterwork, miniatures abysses in and of themselves, enormous and horrifying, beautiful and inspiring all at once. They sound like the death rattle of an enormous beast.”
“There’s an unmistakeable vibe on Active Child’s Mercy – insouciant and imperious, with Pat Grossi singing in a rich Michael McDonald-esque upper register over shimmering plastic guitars. The group began as a solemn project, a choirboy playing harp and singing in a feather-delicate voice over clicks, but as the project has drifted, Grossi has explored more escapist sounds. Mercy, surprisingly, feels like the soundtrack to a beach that is never too far away, so the taste of salt is still on your tongue. It sounds like…yacht rock.”
“The most striking thing about Nutty World 2 is Sasha’s palpable urgency; she normally raps with a measured flow, her poise and tempo turning the beat into a catwalk. Nutty World 2 finds her rapping with a nimble aggression she has simply not shown before. The motivation for this more dangerous version of Sasha is spelled out in opener “Vision”: “As long as I’m eating/ My daughter won’t starve/ She the main reason/ That I’m going hard.” That maternal ferocity is maintained throughout the record. Addressing her daughter first thing sets Nutty World 2’s pace and tone. Whether it’s familial security, money, respect, or head, the message is the same. “I pick today/ To have fun,” she sings on the hook of “Today”, and though the stakes on that proclamation feel slightly lower, the agency is still present.”
Editor’s note: This profile originally ran in January 2013
“The simple fact is that the Big Dipper is saying nothing that countless straight rappers have not said before, and the novelty of hearing it applied, with skill, mind you, to the male anatomy is something to bemoan, not laud; it is the skill with which he gets vulgar, rather than who he is getting vulgar with, that would be the focus in a perfect world. But while we can take the rubbernecking factor as a negative, or cultural tourism, there is also something inherently positive to be found in the Dipper’s explicit bars. As part of a new guard of gay rappers, he has been afforded the ability to rap and be gay, rather than rap about being gay; to devote himself to songs of carnal pleasure, rather than fighting vehemently for his political rights. Basically, the Big Dipper and other like him represent a dramatic sea change in gay hip-hop: By having to say nothing, they are saying everything.”
“The BAATHHAUS aesthetic—light, sound, choreography—is cold, electric sex, something like Nine Inch Nails with a pop sensibility or New Order with the locus of longing residing in the loins instead of the heart, and feels like an esoteric 70′s horror film in its combination of drama, astriction, and arousal. It cries out for blackness and roiling, sweating masses, the heavy industrial tones and 808 bass turning hot Cimmerian spaces into beating hearts.”
“alt-J could be considered something of a lit rock band; their sound is both maximalist and expansive, obviously cognizant of the importance of aesthetic, and, at first blush, all of the usual barriers of entry with which the cognoscenti cartels keep out the hoi polloi seem to have been erected. There is the preponderance of piano and the trembling of little alien sounding strings, a distinct lack of percussion or a glitchy, stuttering, seemingly intractable spine which would be impossible to remove unless one wants to listen to a quivering, opalescent jellyfish.”
“Even the most prominent of personalities are now rendered metaphysical … And that is what has happened; the artist is the icon. Beyonce’s last album was eponymous.
That Riff Raff, then, has prevailed, found himself lofted above the others blowing about in the sands with him, is not surprising; as an artist, few are so daring, so galvanizing, so blatant about treading the lines of ridiculousness and ferociously—admirably—artistic purity. He has created for himself, in videos, on Twitter, in singles and features and mixtapes, an ipseity unlike any other, saturating and, for the longest time, impermeable, like a thousand LEDs and neon tubes scattered by disco balls and broken champagne bottles and acrid mists, a display so dizzying and sensational as to leave its origins obscured, an octopus cloud DayGlo paint.”
“Most striking are the verbose, highly complex, and difficult-to-unpack lines that are dependent on educated language and informed by a poet’s perspective, darting between the beats like bats in a backlit woods and taking liberties with rhythm most MCs wouldn’t dare touch.
Deep Dickollective made no bones about reappropriating disses. As far as the group members were concerned, Common‘s infamous “In a circle of faggots, your name is mentioned” was proof of their own skill and relevance. West recalls silencing battle rappers whose main shut-down line was the quick-strike attack on a rapper’s masculinity: the accusation of homosexuality. “They go ‘Yo, go suck a dick.’ I say, ‘Which one and how quick?’” West laughs. “It disarms them.”
“Brown has often referred to himself as ‘The Hybrid’, a nom de guerre whose aptitude extends beyond the Motor City allusions (a Detroit product, of fresh heart and mind, who is also most assuredly of the city) and strikes at the heart of Brown’s appeal, namely his existence as a creature of both hedonism and intelligence. Brown’s dyadic obsession with depravity and desperation is, at its most potent, a locus for the larger implications inherent when one examines getting fucked up not in the sybaritic context but the escapist, perhaps even the therapeutic; this blending of penis and genius serves to not only make his more wanton lyrics palatable – and this is a loose thing to pin down, anyway, the palatability of graphic imagery, which we are constantly assured, in equal measures, is both upsetting and damaging and liberating and existentially critical, unpopular yet ubituitous – but pushes them past avant garde pornography and something closer to art; he is the rap game Sasha Grey, wielder of vice as vessel for social criticism or, at the very last, extremely well done songs about his preternatural talent for pleasuring women.”
Read the rest of my review of Danny Brown’s Old at The Line of Best Fit
“Xanax tastes terrible when chewed — like a rice cake dipped in cyanide — and it crumples quickly and benignly at first, enough to fool you into thinking, Maybe it isn’t so bad, before exploding into a mouth-coating malaise, which I fight through and chase down with great gulps of water — which now taste bitter and coppery as well. I imagine the whole thing is what the statue of Bobby Hull outside the United Center, the one I am standing right next to, might taste like if I decided to give it a lick.”