Category Archives: Music




Frank Ocean has had quite a year. Since dropping his debut mixtapeNostalgia/Ultra in March of this year he has seen his stock skyrocket to the tune of over 150,000 downloads on, features on Tyler, The Creator’s debut album Goblin, culminating maybe most notably with two features on Kanye West and Jay-Z’s major release Watch The Throne which were met with glowing reviews.

The appeal of the Odd Future crew member is his ability to be a breath of fresh air for a stagnant R&B still being desperately clung to by the likes of Chris Brown and Usher. That the likes of Kanye and Jay-z turned to him for the ballads on their much anticipated collaboration, not to mention the lead song. As is pretty recent memory, Watch The Throne went on to earn an 8.5 rating from Pitchfork and break iTunes sales records, vaulting Mr. Ocean to the stratosphere. Unfortunately, he is hardly scratching the clouds with his latest release, DreamKilla.

Frank Ocean –  Acura Integurl


What set Frank Ocean apart on Nostalgia/Ultra was his originality and indie sounds that lent itself as a stark contrast to the slick dance moves, shimmering jackets and domestic disputes of the most previous R&B kings. For much of DreamKilla we see him falling into a more typical sound, the beats accompanying his voice seeming somehow less thoughtful than his earlier release. To put it a bit more simply, much of the mixtape felt tacky compared to what I have come to expect from Frank.

Now let me flip again here and say that I did like some of the mixtape, also understanding that it was not an official release by the young crooner, instead a collection of new songs he has been working on lately. “Denim” is a solid track with the echoes of the Frank Ocean I knew, spinning together a tale while simply talking about his jeans. The beat comes in on a heavy bass throbbing the listener into the song before giving way to Ocean’s soulful vocals. “She” Ocean’s feature from Goblin pairs him with OFWGTA mate Tyler, The Creator and puts him right back at his roots with his old crew handling the beats. What is also very noticeable throughout the sixteen tracks offered up is his increasing vocal range which were put on display in two releases that preceded DreamKilla, “Acura Integurl” and “Thinking About You”. It is refreshing to see that even as he gains prominence Ocean is still perfecting his craft.

All in all DreamKilla feels like a bit of a step back for a sure-fire up and coming star, albeit a miniscule one. Big things are on the horizon for an artist who was an unknown at Def Jam last year. For now he continues to work on his “debut” album and producing videos like the one below for the song “Swim Good” off Nostalgia/Ultra. Top 5 Tracks Below

DreamKilla Top 5 Tracks:

RapSody, The Mia Hamm of Hip-Hop

MidCoast Music, October 2011

Available at

By Jake Krzeczowski

Marlanna Evans is not your typical up and coming hip-hop star. As a female with an accounting degree, it seems the native North Carolinian would fit in better behind a desk than a microphone. Yet, that is precisely what the young MC has become known for, having dropped two mixtapes already this year, the artist known as Rapsody has set out to return the B-Girl to the hip-hop game.

Growing up in North Carolina, sports play a huge part in everyone’s life, especially basketball. Two of the most storied programs in college basketball call the Tar Heel State home, as did Michael Jordan; and Marlanna Evans had a nasty crossover.

Raised in the hotbed of hoops Evans put everything she had into the game, eventually working her way into a spot on the high school varsity team as a freshman, that right-left dribble bringing her closer to her dreams.

North Carolina’s culture isn’t limited to the tan hardwood though.  Over the past decade the state has seen a rise in hip-hop acts, slowly carving out a niche in the industry beginning with Petey Pablo in the early 2000s. Taking the reigns from him was legendary producer 9th Wonder who with his “It’s a Wonderful World/JAMLA” label set out to cement the state in the hip-hop world.

9th Wonder, fresh off working with major talents Jay-Z, Lil’ Wayne and Drake,  eyed a chance to return to his old stomping grounds and help bring out the voice of NC.

For all the accolades and gym time, Marlanna was left without the coveted college scholarship she had envisioned since the YMCA leagues. Without a definite location for school, she decided to stay close to home and felt the pull of NC State’s profound hip-hop culture.

“When I was growing up, North Carolina State was it for hip-hop around us,” said Evans. “When I got there I think there was a country act for homecoming, so we kind of wanted to bring it back.”

So the girl who split her adolescence between wind sprints and endless verses from the likes of Jean Grae, Bahamadia and Rah Digga saw the impact a female could have in the game and traded her basketball for a pen and paper, immersing herself in the scene, creating the first hip-hop club on campus.

She eventually joined with fellow NCSU students to create the rap septenary Kooley High. The formation of the group marked a migration of sorts from Marlanna Evans to RapSody.

“It’s hard to be anyone but yourself,” said Evans. “That’s the beauty of music, it’s supposed to be different. Your not supposed to go out and do something the same as someone else, that’s not the art.”

9th Wonder began assembling his team in 2009, filling his roster with a host of young MCs from North Carolina, hungry to learn and grow. It didn’t take long for the fabled producer to hear about the young female MC making waves at NC State.

Listening to RapSody one thing is for sure, she loves hip-hop. “Culture over everything” her favorite line in her rhymes. It made sense then that 9th Wonder would extend an invitation which Rapsody quickly accepted

“ He gave me homework, to listen artists like Lil Wayne, A Tribe Called Quest, Jay-Z’s Black Album,” RapSody said. “He said to memorize these albums, not so much what they were saying but how they were saying it and how it was delivered.”

And so, the former point guard found herself a coach, bounce passing ideas off of each other on delivery, flow and cadence, all the while a pair of headphones not far away, “homework” always within reach for inspiration.

Player and coach spent endless time in the studio, working on Rapsody’s initial offering, “Return of the B-Girl” a whirlwind of a mixtape dropped in late 2010 to glowing reviews and set the stage for her follow-up project, Thank H.E.R Now, the title itself an homage to the great Common love ballad to hip-hop.

The mixtape featured collborations with hip-hop heavyweights and newbies alike including Raekwon, Mac Miller, her idol Jean Grae and Big K.R.I.T and thrust her into the underground’s limelight.

For years Marlanna Evans listened to Lauryn Hill and the like, game-changing artists  who came through and left their mark on the game. When asked what she thinks her legacy will be when her story is finished, a flash of that sense of history shines through, the Mia Hamm of hip-hop.

“I want to be able to say I produced good music and represented the culture well, introduced it to a new generation of young girls,” said RapSody. “Hip-hop has opened me up, there being so many stories and I want to touch those little girls the same way MC Lyte touched me, that would be the greatest thing for me.”


Verum Magazine, January 2012

Mayer Hawthorne represents Detroit better than the Lions on Thanksgiving Day, a show he offered to sub in for Nickelback this past year. Recording his albums in his apartment in downtown Motor City Mayer came to prominence on the strength of his initial indie release A Strange Arrangement in 2009 on Stone’s Throw Records. Since then Mayer has been busy working on his follow-up which dropped late 2011. How Do You Do is a solid development for a new artist with a unique sound. Verum recently had a chance to catch up the soul singer.

Verum: What was the process of putting How Do You Do together compared to your last work, A Strange Arrangement?

Mayer Hawthorne: I went back to Detroit to record the majority of this new record. A lot of it was that dirty Detroit soul. Basically I just set up my own little bedroom studio in downtown Detroit. I played more of the instruments myself on the new album. Everything is definitely elevated on this album. The playing of the instruments is better, I learned to play better. I also learned a little bit more about how to sing so I hope people notice that on the album.

Verum: How do you keep your sound constant from playing the instruments to having a full band live? 

Mayer Hawthorne: Well it’s all about the guys I have playing with me. My live band The County is pretty much all guys I grew up with in Detroit. We’ve got one or two guys from L.A. It’s all about my guys in my band. They’re my favorite musicians and they’re all handpicked by me. A lot of them like me grew up in Detroit so they all know the vision.

Verum: Tell us about your relationship with Detroit.

Mayer Hawthorne: I wrote a song about it (A Long Time). I did a whole video based on The New Dance Show which was a show I used to watch everyday after work. I’m going to continue repping for the D always, it’s a fantastic city.

Verum: Tell us about your unique style

Mayer Hawthorne: I’ve always had the motto “flashy but classy. That was always been sort of my thing. I always wanted to be original and unique and stand out from the crowd but I was always brought up to keep it classy. That’s really what the formula is for me. I really borrow from and I’m influenced by everything that I see.

Verum: How does your music follow that motto?

Mayer Hawthorne: It’s definitely about being original and unique and doing something new and moving the music forward and not taking it back. The same goes for style.

Verum: What’s new on your latest album?

Mayer Hawthorne: This new record I really feel like I found my Mayer Hawthorne sound. It’s obviously very soulful and its rooted in Detroit soul music but it incorporates all the other styles of music that I grew up listening to and love like hip-hop and Jazz and Surf Rock and New Wave, all those things are blending together now are blending together to create that sound, It’s exciting.

 Verum: Was it important to you that you carve out a new sound on this album?

Mayer Hawthorne: Absolutely, it was very important to me to not just be a derivative of anything. I hate when people say ‘lets take it back to the good old days.  I don’t want to take it back to the good old days that shit drives me nuts. Let’s make the new good days and those that move t forward and do something new for our generation.

Verum: How did you enjoy your time at Stones Throw Records?

Mayer Hawthorne: Working with Stones Throw was fantastic. Those guys are all so much fun and they’re just really creative and that’s what I’m all about.  We got along really well. I’ll always put on for Stones Throw.

In Class With 9th Wonder

By Jake Krzeczowski
Verum Magazine, February 2012

A college lecture hall hardly seems like a home for the musical form of hip-hop. Since it’s inception in the mid-70s as a offshoot of funk and jazz, the genre has been categorized largely by its placement as an outlier in American culture’s lexicon. With the passing of hip-hop greats in recent years such as Heavy D and Pimp C, a disconnect has begun to emerge as new artists get younger and younger. Veteran Grammy Award-winning producer 9th Wonder (Patrick Douthit) who has worked with everyone from Jay-Z and Destiny’s Child to Murs has set out to bridge the gap between the new and old school and he’s doing it on a much different stage, within the walls of Duke University. As a member of an older generation of hip-hop evangelists, Douthit has assembled a crew of young MCs such asRapSody and Tyler Woods under the name It’s A Wonderful World Music Group to help foster a new style and groom the newbies on the history of the game. Continue reading In Class With 9th Wonder


By Jake Krzeczowski

Childish Gambino’s (aka Donald Glover) Camp is the renaissance man’s first studio offering. If EP was a warning then Camp is the attack, showing the progression of an artist determined to be successful. Having written for 30 Rock and earned a recurring role on Community before his 25th birthday, he is no stranger to the concept.
Whatever name you call him by, the man with the birth name Donald who found his Wu-Tang birthright from a name generator was poised to be a cross-over flop, as any cross-over entertainer is often looked at with raised eyebrows. And while his first offering, I Am Just A Rapper was a minor hit with clever samples from Grizzly Bear, it wasn’t until he dropped EP earlier this year that the witty rhyme schemes and swagger to match really came to the surface. and it is yet another step for Glover in garnering the kind of cross-over success of acts like Drake, and he’s fully aware, as he shows on the unlikely hit Fire Fly. “I’m still not down, but I upped the ante/ me and hip-hop, the Black Sid and Nancy.” Glover’s blending of hip-hop and indie is a refreshing breath into an already diverse rap game, and he’s not the only one noticing.
What was expected was a smooth lyricism filled with smart anecdotes and clever metaphors. An accomplished writer, the words were sure to be there, but Gambino picks up the swag he left on the floor of the warehouse in the “Freaks and Geeks” video and takes it to a new level on the first song on the album, “That Power”.
Demonstrating hunger in his voice reminiscent of an early Lil’ Wayne the young hipster dives in immediately, rhyming over the subtle beat, “Uncool but lyrically I’m a stone-cold killer, so it’s 400 Blows to these Truffaut ni**as,” referencing iconic French filmmaker François Truffaut before singing the hook to boot. Ja Rule wouldn’t even know where to start on that line. The album continues in this fashion, Glover/Gambino eager to prove to the world that he is to be taken seriously, regardless of the shorts dangling somewhere above the knee.
The song that has gotten the most repeat plays on my library has been “Fire Fly”, the beat a mix of 90s west coast and r&b sounds far too sultry for the “only black kid at a Sufjan concert.” As Gambino explains, “These black kids want something new I swear it, something they wanted to say but couldn’t cause they embarrassed, all I do is make the stuff I want to make.”

Dealing with such typical rap topics like telling a girl he just met he loves her, Sufjan Stevens concerts, and Human Centipede Gambino is able to string them together while going harder than many of the more established stars in the game today. Songs like That Power, “Bonfire” and “Fire Fly” are the equivalent to Eminem’s final freestyle in 8 Mile; an open chorus of the grievances and a pledge to make it in spite of those and pointing to the impersonators out there. When being “real” is at an all time premium, Glover shows he is out to make it on his own terms and he is out to lead a new generation of rhyming hipsters and outcasts of the previous hip-hop generations; Camp is a great step toward that. Bass From Above Vol. 2 Review

Date: Sep 27, 2011 (Tuesday)

by Jake Krzeczowski

subCompilation albums are a tricky beast to tame; many times a string of solid tracks can be upended by the wrong mixture of artists, sounds, or theories. With their newest release, shows that they are very much capable of putting together a package that can be entertaining from start to finish. A thirty-three track behemoth of an album, Bass From Above: Volume 2 is a beast in itself, listeners may want to stretch and prepare themselves before delving into the flowing throb of electronic masterpieces that live up to the album’s namesake.

When I first got the album I wasn’t sure where to start, the massive track listing a daunting undertaking, in itself. As is customary I just dug in from the top and began rifling through the beautiful mixture of highs and lows the album provides the listener. The album itself is the second in a series produced to raise money for the Japanese Red Cross in response to the devastation caused by the tsunami. The previous Bass From Above raised over $1000 for the fund. For a small charitable donation, it’s worth grabbing the album, which is bursting with talent.

“Bass Freaq” by artist Protohype is by far my favorite song off the album. The song reels you in as you may expect, using thick bass rhythms and grinding dubstep to latch you to the music. Well-placed samples accentuate the compositional impact of what Protohype has put together here. Letting the synth roll at points he works the bass in slowly before unleashing it full speed, which may cause your back button on your iPod to get a bit worn. All in all “Bass Freq” really became my interpretation of the album. For an album called Bass from Above, this song definitely feels as though it were sent from the heavens. Protohype recently finished up a string of shows on the west coast in Arizona and California.

For sample-happy electronic listeners, the Love and Light duo of Probiotik & 4Centers (Matt Madonna and Ryan Anderson) provide a funky remix of the Doobie Brothers classic tune “Black Water” mixed in with a host of synth measures and dub beats that turn a classic into a club banger.

Also satisfying that blast from the past is an artistic re-styling of Marvin Gaye’s timeless hit “What’s Going On.”  NiT GriT does an impressive job mixing light and heavy synths with throbbing bass lines, turning Marvin’s tune into something your parents won’t recognize. The transitions between samples, synth hits and bass vibes will leave your head spinning, while Nit Grit tosses in well-placed samples of that melodic voice to keep things interesting.

The tempo gets pushed hard on Project Aspect’s banger of a track, “Let Me See Ya Sneakers Work,” intertwining heavy bass with timely vocal samples and a piano line that would rock the listener to sleep if it weren’t for the plethora of sounds that also pump from the headphones. Listening to this track I had a hard time keeping my head still, the rhythm keeps the song going while the piano guides the listener safe and sound through all 7:32 of the track.

For a funkier beat sample I would turn to Pairadimez’s track “Fire and Ice,” which is all over the map with hard bass lines, light synths and tempo changes that will keep listeners on their toes for the duration. The Colorado-based duo of ONik and r.e.g.’s ability to pick and pull the tempo is what kept me listening, there being no way to know where the song would head next. These two are definitely ones to keep an eye on, if they produce more tracks like this one they are in for much more success.

The final track on the album, “Fractalfield,” packs lots of piano and is heavy on the bass. Pressing play will make the listener pay attention regardless of whether or not they felt like they had a choice. It literally propels one’s ears on a journey of epic synth rides and throbbing bass lines. Artist soCinematic allows a light piano drop in once in awhile, a bit of relief before the wave rises again and crashes against the ear-drums bouncing the listener back, dangling them on a bass from above.

From top to bottom I was pretty happy listening to the entire Bass From Above: Volume 2 album. It’s hard to pass on the lineup of young artists they assembled such as GladkillSkytreeElfkowitz, and Fast Nasty. With the money going toward the Red Cross and the music an excellent opportunity to listen to a variety of sounds, there is little not to like about the most recent release from

The Polish Ambassador: Future, Sex, Computers (Remixes & B-Sides) Review

Date: Sep 13, 2011 (Tuesday)

by Jake Krzeczowski

TPADavid Sugalski is the man inside the brightly colored jumpsuit slinging together samples and drum kits that, when taken as a whole, could very well suck you in until the artist known as The Polish Ambassador decides you’ve had enough.

Sugalski’s mantra is “No Genre Left Behind”—and he sticks to his guns. The Oakland producer strings together an electro-funk feel in a variety of tempo changes while infusing glitches, bass lines, and samples that will leave your head spinning somewhere before Solidarity.

Future, Sex, Computers (Remixes and B-Sides) is The Polish Ambassador’s first remix album featuring several artists met while traversing the country. The album also includes three original recordings that round out an otherwise maddeningly interesting album.

As it is, Sugalski’s arrangements take you on a journey, picking the listener up, plopping them down again, and then dangling them—not unlike the late, great MJ’s blanketed baby—before snatching the whiplashed listener back from the precipice. Sugalski’s forte is composing and it shows throughout the album as carefully placed samples accentuate the beat writhing below.

Outside of the three originals, “Concubot” 1,2, and 3, the rest of the album are tweaks to the Polish Ambassador’s earlier album from this year Future, Sex, Computers. The result is a dizzying array of interpretations on the music that lend itself to a more developed sound that is only possible through a combining of unique points of view.

Each of the eleven original tracks from the previous release are redone by producers handpicked by Sugalski, who couldn’t be happier with the end result.
“I couldn’t be more pumped about the producers involved,” said Sugalski on his website. Included in the project were the likes ofPhutureprimitiveThe Great Mundane, and Samples, among others.

What comes of the mixing of tendencies and behaviors is an almost completely new album, reaching heights that could only be had in the fashion of collaboration. While Sugalski brings his Bay-area thematics to his compositions, they are mirrored and countered by the ultra-talented cast he has put together.

The Polish Ambassador is currently on tour with Mochipet, with dates coming up in Colorado, Arizona, and Wisconsin.

MiMoSA: Sanctuary Review

Date: Nov 01, 2011 (Tuesday)

By Jake Krzeczowski

Tigran Mimosa wants you to feel good. The uber-talented young electronic producer reiterates that very sentiment throughout his new album, Sanctuary. Whether it’s lulling you into a relaxed trance or throbbing you off your feet in a fury of glitches, thumps, and wobble, the artist more notably known as MiM0SA recognized a chance to expand the realm of his music, and does so by exhibiting his signature distinct sounds, while not being afraid to experiment with new styles.

“Castle in the Sky” is a reggae-infused groove that demonstrates Mimosa’s careful sampling and occasional synth rides. While not quite rocking you in to a stupor, the song provides a vast realm of what the young producer can do. The layering of the songs grows increasingly more complex as the tune develops, allowing the listener to quite literally feel the piece come together and watch as other pieces are added and subtracted.

Deeper in the album, Mimosa takes a different sound on to make “Dirty Money.” Employing a throbbing, rippling bass line with a voice over chorus, he takes the listener to another planet with quick snares that climb down before building back to the heavy bass. Not a song I’d put on repeat, but the sound that is culled is mind-boggling.

On “Tiger Blood” the West Coast product takes on a much faster, dancier sound that he fuses with a high-pitched sampling. The whole ensemble builds itself into a fury before taking off to the tune of evolving basslines. “Ice Box” takes things back to a slower pace for a bit while keying on an emphatic use of horns while maintaining a dubstep feel to it.

By fusing many of the tracks with dubstep undertones and glitch over the top, Mimosa is showing the mastery of two distinct methods and transforming them into something wholly his. This comes together while the airy, fun feeling remains as it has on past samplings. Drawing much more heavily classic house and new school juke and footwork, with a strong 808-feel, Sanctuary is much more nuanced than his 58 Degrees EP, a straight up, party-igniting riot comp.

Versatility is a key cog in the music business and with Sanctuary it’s fair to say Mimosa took a chance to put his many talents on display for the world to see, and he did so while accomplishing his original goal of keeping things light. To take such sonic risks shows the hunger that he has to rise to the top of the game. The maturity he’s show with this record is putting him well on pace to do just that.

Mimosa will be playing the Global Dub Festival in Royal Oak, Michigan on November 4.