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EP Review: Diplo – “California”

Admittedly, I’m not much of an EDM guy. Although I can certainly appreciate a dancehall banger in a social environment,…

Admittedly, I’m not much of an EDM guy. Although I can certainly appreciate a dancehall banger in a social environment, and although I can certainly respect the craft, it is not a genre of music I typically consult in my free time. However, when I saw the artists featured on California, I started spinning it immediately.

The seventh extended play in the discography of L.A. (via Philly) DJ and producer Diplo, California is a six-track, nineteen-minute project full of super sticky hooks, moving vocal performances, and, of course, killer production. Despite its brevity, the EP covers a lot of thematic ground: ambition, depression, triumph, and reflection. Now, don’t get me wrong – this project is not overflowing with crazy deep bars or anything. Lil Xan is, after all, Lil Xan. That being said, there is more substance and sentiment to this tracklist than the features may indicate. Let’s get into it.

On “Worry No More,” featuring Lil Yachty and Santigold, Diplo brings a sunny bop of an instrumental anchored by a driving drum beat and bright keys. Believe it or not, as he dreams of a life without anxieties, Lil Boat comes through on the hook with a refined and technically competent singing performance. Elsewhere, Santigold’s high-pitched vocals bring a healthy dose of melodic rap to the track.

 
With a skeletal, atmospheric instrumental of subtle keys and a slapped drum beat, “Suicidal” brings a markedly darker tone to the project. Although the lyrics are somewhat vague, the sound of Desiigner’s auto-tuned vocals is undeniably somber. It feels as if Desiigner has been out of the spotlight for a decade, and it is gratifying to hear him return in such unexpected fashion.

Included on a weekend playlist, I compiled last month, “Look Back” is a dramatic ballad of personal triumph. The immense range of the vocal performance is all the more impressive when one realizes that DRAM is doing it all by himself. Instrumentally, the dense layers of keys, drums, guitars, and strings are gorgeous.

 
Trippie Redd does not miss, man. Whether you enjoy his music or not, you have to admit that the dude is consistent. On “Wish,” the Canton, OH, rapper and singer showcases his softer side over a poppy instrumental that is more soft rock than anything else. As always, he delivers an emotionally stirring performance with a tone of experience that far exceeds his young age.

Lil Xan, Lil Xan, Lil Xan. Honestly, I am not sure what to think of this guy. Like most hip-hop fans, I was not thrilled to hear him join his SoundCloud contemporaries on the unwarranted Tupac hate bandwagon. (Boring music? On what planet?) Regarding Xan’s talents, I have not heard enough to make a sound judgment, and I will give his debut project a spin when it drops next month. In the meantime, I dig “Color Blind” quite a bit. As opposed to the previous two tracks, Diplo outshines his vocal guest here; although I enjoy Xan’s contribution to the track, the production is the clear highlight. I love the breathy, melodic synth passages that bring some vibrancy to the track in between Xan’s characteristically sleepy vocals.

California was a good move for Diplo. There is a ton of crossover appeal here. Although I suppose this project will disappoint hardcore EDM fans, it caught my attention and held it. The hip-hop fans will come for the features. The pop fans will come for the hooks. And the Diplo fans, if nothing else, will come for the “Get it Right” remix (GoldLink drops a good verse, too). As the weather turns warmer, California should age well throughout 2018.

I am an economics student at The University of Massachusetts Amherst. Beyond my studies, I work as a DJ at the university radio station: 91.1 FM WMUA Amherst. Back in July, a good friend of mine launched a political debate website called The Dialectic, where I currently work as a staff writer and the Editor-In-Chief. I love all genres of music - everything from hip-hop to post-rock to hardcore punk. Aspiring writer. Avid reader. Coffee addict.
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#IndieSpotlight: Dough the Freshkids’ ‘Black Rome’ Is A Buzzworthy Slice Of Hip Hop Goodness

There have been many eras in Hip Hop, but none as forgotten as the Nubian era, which was characterized by…

There have been many eras in Hip Hop, but none as forgotten as the Nubian era, which was characterized by a heightened sense of knowledge of self and anti-oppressive forces that be. The ironic commercial appeal of empowering groups like Public Enemy or Brand Nubian eventually morphed into the current era where “rap” has become a business move/career choice rather than a voice of the underdog filled with subversive talking points that rival university lectures.

This is what I found so intriguing about the new project Black Rome by Dough the Freshkid — representing Crenshaw, California. The follow up to his free tape Six Shots and released via his independent label Every Penny Count, the 15-song effort is a blend of vibes, ranging from an early millennium G-Unit mixtape structure (see the chorus on “Cookin’”), 90s east coast soundscapes (see “We Rich” with its scratch hook), to deeply reflective contextual content aimed at giving opposing viewpoints to widely accepted “fact.”

 
An example of this is the title track, which focuses on the idea that a false image of “white Jesus” was shaped by artist Leonardo DaVinci. Its execution is reminiscent of similar records, such as “Why Is That” by BDP and “Nature Of The Threat” by Ras Kass. This song could literally be transcribed into an incredibly compelling University level essay.

 
Elsewhere on the record, he traverses themes such as the (historical) political and social-economic climate in the United States (see “God’s Curse” verse two) to gang life in LA. Nothing is ever glorified, and everything comes off as methodically thoughtful. On the track “I See He Blued Up,” he addresses industry Crippin,’ as well as unnecessary killing in the streets. “Man up, out the choppas down and out your hands up,” he raps, pointing to the glorification of needless gun violence.

 
Some of the standouts include the gorgeous instrumental that rides with the top down on “Palm Trees II” featuring Tropic626— which I found myself revisiting quite a few times this week — and the unspoken dopeness of “Still Arlington (1994)” which featured Wee Dogg.

“I never promote crack in my raps, I only promote facts in my raps,” he implores as the project comes to a close with the dramatically honest, autobiographical “Sincerely Me.” Even at its most informative and reflective, Dough manages to make this project an incredibly digestible gem packed with lots of wisdom and great talking points. Worth a spot on your end of year playlist if you’re looking for some undeniable fire that is still creeping under the radar.

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Outside The Box: Discover The Positive World Of Krhazey Whytheycallhimthat

Every once in a while you come across an artist who falls outside the box of industry convention; by that…

Every once in a while you come across an artist who falls outside the box of industry convention; by that I — of course — an artist who doesn’t seem motivated by the basics that have poisoned the soul of the culture. An artist that puts his music first. Brooklyn MC Krhazey Whytheycallhimthat is one of those artists. “A positive change in consciousness has the power to topple barriers almost as easy as a negative change creates them,” he tells AAHH describing his mantra for creating.

If that doesn’t create an immediate sense of urgency for his music, then I don’t know what to tell you.

Off the bat, there is something endearing about his admirable need for not only a purpose but to give back. Early on in his career, he began volunteering his time — and his unique brand of Hip Hop to the 25-year-old Art Start. The program dedicates itself to New York City’s underserved youth, delivering consistent creative workshops inside homeless shelters, alternative to incarceration programs, and partnering youth agencies.

“The program gave me a sense of direction, understanding and a hope for change; real change in myself and my environment,” he says.

 
What I find so cool about his music is the way that it all seems to contrast and compliment itself at the same time. His latest joints are a great example. “Jack Frost” for example has this bouncy ballad behind it, paired with these haunting lyrics that have this almost literal intention of describing this cold-heartedness developed though…well…life. Then there’s “23:5,” which has this almost “Marvin’s Room” feel to it — complete with a call to his ex. But it spirals into this realization that the liquor is a crutch, followed an aggressive assertion of the path before him.

Then the vibe of his latest “Makeda” is a pseudo-love track with hella depth, and again a completely different vibe.

Everything I hear from this kid I like. Even going back to the summer, with his super dope single/video “BTD,” with it’s kind of goofy visual concept.

 
Without being driven by the same old, his music has this certain unspoken originality to it. Even the fact that he rocks an anime-inspired kung-fu headband ends up coming across like DOOM’s mask in a sense. It’s hard not to get into.

And the spirit of giving back, which inspired him to start his own foundation — Young Heroes Undefeated — is an added layer that makes you want to root for him. “We make original comic books for children with special needs and use the profits to send the kids and their families on all expense paid vacations,” he explains of the foundation’s mission.

With a four comic series being released next year — on top of a solo LP and a project from my his Audio Temple — there is a lot to look forward to here. He’ll be launching a kickstarter for his foundation in coming weeks; stay tuned to our Instagram for details on how to support something positive.

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#Indiespotlight: Prototype & Lazarus The Kid’s ”Voicemail” Is A Journey Worth Taking

Duo Prototype & Lazarus The Kid Just dropped a new project, and believe me, it’s worth a spin. On a…

Duo Prototype & Lazarus The Kid Just dropped a new project, and believe me, it’s worth a spin. On a rainy day, I rode around giving this one a fair shake and was taken for more of a journey than I expected. 

The concise EP is immensely musical, with these lush, expansive musical landscapes for Prototype to literally bleed his heart out upon; there is no hyperbole in the emotion packed within these five tracks. Atop soulful samples, energetic drum patterns, and pretty piano keys, there’s a sense of loss and sadness that lingers amongst the celebration and assertion of the dream chase. 

Immediately on the heartfelt “Color,” we’re introduced to demise of a powerful relationship in Prototypes life — one which he gave his all to, and once thought would possibly end in marriage. It’s a loss that is later encapsulated with an emotionally charged piano interlude brimming with a heavy-hearted sense of despair. 

There’s also the loss of Jason Kalinga, who is actually featured “Simba.” The second verse of “Better Way” is a letter to his lost friend, who was another powerful figure in his life.

Amongst the deep moments standing as an endearing open book into his world, there is an incredible sense of confidence; Prototype is chasing the vision in his head — and it’s hard to imagine anyone attempting to detract him from his vision after taking in this project. 

Ending off with the crown jewel, “November 15,” Prototype & Lazarus The Kid position themselves as exciting artists putting out music with not only a purpose  but a strong sense of its emotional connection. They know what they’re doing, and it’s something that hinges more on the artistic merit side of things than the trendy shit. This isn’t for cool points, it’s a therapeutic listen made for longevity. This is a catalog worth keeping an eye on.

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#IndieSpotlight, Main

#Indiespotlight: Prototype & Lazarus The Kid’s ”Voicemail” Is A Journey Worth Taking

Duo Prototype & Lazarus The Kid Just dropped a new project, and believe me, it’s worth a spin. On a…

Duo Prototype & Lazarus The Kid Just dropped a new project, and believe me, it’s worth a spin. On a rainy day, I rode around giving this one a fair shake and was taken for more of a journey than I expected. 

The concise EP is immensely musical, with these lush, expansive musical landscapes for Prototype to literally bleed his heart out upon; there is no hyperbole in the emotion packed within these five tracks. Atop soulful samples, energetic drum patterns, and pretty piano keys, there’s a sense of loss and sadness that lingers amongst the celebration and assertion of the dream chase. 

Immediately on the heartfelt “Color,” we’re introduced to demise of a powerful relationship in Prototypes life — one which he gave his all to, and once thought would possibly end in marriage. It’s a loss that is later encapsulated with an emotionally charged piano interlude brimming with a heavy-hearted sense of despair. 

There’s also the loss of Jason Kalinga, who is actually featured “Simba.” The second verse of “Better Way” is a letter to his lost friend, who was another powerful figure in his life.

Amongst the deep moments standing as an endearing open book into his world, there is an incredible sense of confidence; Prototype is chasing the vision in his head — and it’s hard to imagine anyone attempting to detract him from his vision after taking in this project. 

Ending off with the crown jewel, “November 15,” Prototype & Lazarus The Kid position themselves as exciting artists putting out music with not only a purpose  but a strong sense of its emotional connection. They know what they’re doing, and it’s something that hinges more on the artistic merit side of things than the trendy shit. This isn’t for cool points, it’s a therapeutic listen made for longevity. This is a catalog worth keeping an eye on.

Continue Reading
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