Editorial

“YO FAM, PEEP MY NEW MIXTAPE” and  My Hate/Love Relationship  With Writing Album Reviews

[Editors Note; this piece originally appeared on KC’s personal website. Original post is here.] “Why these pigeons look like they…

[Editors Note; this piece originally appeared on KC’s personal website. Original post is here.]

“Why these pigeons look like they ‘bout to drop the most fire album of 2014” is my favorite mixtape meme. There’s no shortage of them circulating out there. They crack me up, even when they probably shouldn’t.
“When your dad comes to career day and starts handing out mixtapes.”

“When your town is on fire but so is your mixtape.”

“When ya homie playing you his mixtape and you tryna act like he going in.”

“No, you can’t just write the link to your mixtape on the board.”

“It’s hip hop. You wouldn’t understand. Just take the f*cking picture, Hillary!”

THEY’RE ENDLESS. AND I LOVE THEM.

Can’t forget the headline, “McDonald’s Employee Fired For Placing His Mixtapes In Children’s Happy Meals.”

Real shit.

But on a serious note, and what I want to talk about in the first place, promoting one’s album/mixtape/soundcloud/new track/music video/etc. is a tricky beast of its own. It’s much like promotion of anything – it’s going to be annoying at some point. You have to do it. You can’t not. You created it, you own it, you must share it. The more creative and tactful you go about it, the better. But, it is what it is. The line between shameless self-promotion and promotion is fine and we all cross it.

I’m annoying. I rep my personal ‘brand’ and what I do hard. In this regard, writers are the same as artists, rappers, producers, DJs. I take what I do very seriously. I expect those with passion to do the same. ‘Yo fam peep my mixtape’ applies, but with my writing. I want you to read what I wrote, period. You’ll make my day with the words “I read your article,” on any given day, I promise.

When someone asks me if they can send me their album, majority of the time, I welcome it with excitement. I know many writers who don’t. When someone asks me if they can send me their album EARLY, I respect that they get it and that they respect that the best music writing takes time.

As a writer on a local level, in Albany, I was overwhelmed in the beginning by album review writing, because I knew that once I reviewed one, I’d have to review them all. I quickly got over it because I realized the importance of an album review for an independent artist in a small music scene. Sometimes my review was the only one.

There were times when I had to say no, and there were times where I missed opportunities for one reason or another. Regardless of my involvement in my hometown’s music scene, to this day, getting an album sent to me early is my version of Christmas and I don’t think after 8 years of that feeling, it will change anytime soon. Thank you music friends for understanding and honoring that when possible. It all comes down to this: 

I need to listen to your shit many, many times before I can touch my pen down.

It has been my integrity as a listener, a fan and a writer that if someone can spend a year creating their album, I can listen for a week straight or more. More time spent with it, the better. I want to listen to your music when I drive, when I shower, when I read, when I get ready for work, when I’m drinking a beer.

I’ve always felt that this dedication to actually listening has separated me from the demand of the industry – people want NEW music ASAP, along with reviews. I feel like a good chunk of blogs only care about what’s new, what’s selling, what people are talking about in that moment. I get it. My favorite days in my music writing career are when I finish my writing before, or on, the release date. I always feel like I win the round when I am prepared and can offer my written word in conjunction with a release and with other blogs and iTunes. I want to ride the share wave with the artist and with the audience. When the new Drake and Future mixtape drops, I want to talk about it just like every other music blogger on every blog ever. I wonder what gives me the credentials to do so, but this is another topic for another day.

I believe that album reviews are a necessary evil of music journalism.

In reality, for every piece of music released that gets any airtime online, there is at least one album review to match the music embed. The larger the album, the larger the quantity of words written and dedicated. Math. Science. Culture. An album review is an integral part of the process. But that doesn’t mean we, as writers, always enjoy them. They almost exist because they have to. They are part of the promotion, and maybe part of the problem. 

I always get so curious – who is reading album reviews? As a music journalist, they are an inevitable practice in my craft. Ironically, my favorite music journalists don’t really “do” them, or don’t do them often. #Goals

I think this is because, by nature, album reviews are formulaic and can be stale. Mainstream media, and even my approach to writing a review, follows a formula on how to break it down. It often includes a numeric score, especially on the larger websites. That is my least favorite part, because there are as many opinions as there are listeners.

Often, we can agree on what is good and what is terrible, especially given a certain genre that is in our preference. But in order to separate a good album from a great album, it’s so subjective, I find it stupid to put a 7.5 out there when someone else would give it an 8. Who cares? People want a perfect 10 when they love it or 1 star when they hate it. To me, music is so much more complicated than that and an album review simplifies it and puts it into a categorical review. Album reviews help an album in the game of survival of the fittest, in terms of charts, blogs, sales, exposure, etc. and that is why they exist. But it doesn’t make them any less annoying to write at times.

Don’t get me wrong, an album review has been an important exercise to me over the past 8 years, and each one a unique challenge. One of my first pieces ever in 2007 was an album review. It’s hilarious to read now, but album reviews are just as much a part of what I do now as they were then when I was just starting to sharpen my swords. What I wrote then is way different than what I would write now, but the task is still the same. 

At this point, I know how I personally approach writing a music review when I do my thing. I often find myself only writing about the music I actually love, because why waste time tearing apart something I’m not going to listen to again? I’m not a hater. I’m not about being negative in my writing. If I don’t like it, I most likely won’t write about it at this stage in my career. Let the silence of a music writer haunt you and your album. (Half kidding). I want to be critical but dish compliments when they are deserved. That’s just me. 

I want each piece I write to be different and insightful. I often find that album reviews are stale, boring and forced because they exist out of necessity to assist with exposure and give validation.

How can we make album reviews hold more value? This is my biggest question for music journalism right now, in this moment, and maybe that’s because this year has produced so much quality hip hop, for example. I basically stopped reviewing albums because I didn’t feel “caught up” and I’m perfectly fine with that. I welcome this break.

While I have a hate/love relationship with writing album reviews and what we get out of them from all perspectives, I write about the music I like because I want to help celebrate it. I’m also okay with being the softest music writer in the game, too. 

My name is KC Orcutt, and I’ve now been writing for an Internet-specific audience for more than half my life. Growing up in Upstate NY, I recently relocated to Los Angeles, where I aim to expand my writing career, meet as many interesting people as possible and never forget that the beach is a 20 minute drive away. My work has appeared on a handful of publications, including Beatport News, 12ozProphet, Brooklyn Street Art, Music Times and Keep Albany Boring. I am an enthusiast of happy hour, getting out of the house, supporting my friends’ creative endeavors and listening to the same five songs a dozen times in a row - if they bang.
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Teka$hi 6ix9ine is Proving To Be 2018’s most unusual rapper

Controversial rapper Teka$hi 6ix9ine, real name Daniel Hernandez, is one of 2018’s most idiosyncratic underdogs. The Brooklyn native began his…

Controversial rapper Teka$hi 6ix9ine, real name Daniel Hernandez, is one of 2018’s most idiosyncratic underdogs. The Brooklyn native began his career as a Soundcloud artist and gained national attention after his rainbow-colored hair, bright gummy grills, and stylized “69” tattoos across his body painted him as the “final boss” of Soundcloud Rappers in an internet meme.

Teka$hi 6ix9ine is Proving To Be 2018’s most unusual rapper

While his striking image spread online,6ix9ine’s song “Gummo” began amassing millions of views on YouTube after its October release, eventually reaching #12 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song sports aggressive lyrics over a trappy Pierre Bourne instrumental, with the “Scum Gang” rapper screaming: “She wanna fuck but keep her clothes on, I only want the jaw, man that’s all I really use her for, as I kick her out the door.”

In December, Teka$hi plead guilty for the use of a child in a sexual performance. According to court documents and XXL, the charges stem from an incident that occurred at a friends apartment in Harlem on February 21, 2015. Detective Maureen Sheehan stated the victim, who was 13 years old at the time, was seen in a series of videos “completely nude sitting on the lap of the defendant [Hernandez]…[with] his arms around the child.”

In an interview with DJ Akademiks, Teka$hi at first denied the allegations.

“When she came in she asked me how old I was, and I told her I was 18, and I assumed she was older. The way she was asking made me think she was older.”

Teka$hi also denounced his actions based on his age, saying he was “a kid,” and “17 years young,” when according to court documents his birthday is in 1996 — making him 18 during the time of the assault. “I’m not touching the girl,” the rapper went on to say to Akademiks, “I’m not having sexual intercourse with the girl, I’m not doing nothing.”

6ix9ine plead guilty to the charges in November and will be sentenced on January 30, 2018. The artist has been ordered not to post sexually explicit or violent images featuring women/children to social media. He also must obtain his GED, not commit another crime for two years and “write a letter to his victim and her family detailing why his participation in the videos was harmful to her and her family.”

Teka$hi will receive three years probation if he meets these qualifications, and won’t have to register as a sex offender. The rapper faces one to three years in prison if any of these conditions aren’t met.

 

With Teka$hi’s Hyper-Violent Shock Rap coming into mainstream playing alongside other controversial acts like XXXTENTACION, it will be a defining next few months for the Hip-Hop industry. Will labels support those with disturbing pasts like Teka$hi 6ix9ine, and if so, will listeners be able to stomach any tracks the artists release from here on out?

Fellow Soundcloud artists Trippie Redd and Ski Mask The Slump God have already distanced themselves from X and Teka$hi. Redd said via Instagram “I’m sorry brozay, 1400 don’t support pedophiles,” and Ski Mask said X is “crazy as hell.”

In the meantime, Teka$hi shows no signs of slowing down. The rapper recently released his “Keke” music video featuring Fetty Wap and A Boogie With A Hoodie, and is gearing up to release his debut Kooda tape very soon.

Well, that backfired 😂😂😂😂😂

A post shared by Above Average Hip Hop (@aboveaveragehh) on

In addition to the criminal charges, 6ix9ine has also gotten a bashing via Twitter this month after a video posted by Ugly God revealed his chains were fake. Producer Pierre Bourne also came out and dismissed his track “Gummo,” saying the instrumental was meant for Trippie Redd, and not for 6ix9ine. With the hate flowing in, Teka$hi’s seems to hold his head high.

“I run New York, I’m in fucking charge right now, whatever I say goes,” he told DJ Akademiks recently. Fans, while skeptical, will soon see if his words hold merit.

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A Beginner’s Guide To Injury Reserve

Jazz rap, spaz rap, and everything in between. That’s what California (via Arizona) hip-hop trio Injury Reserve has brought to…

Jazz rap, spaz rap, and everything in between. That’s what California (via Arizona) hip-hop trio Injury Reserve has brought to the table with their two full-length LPs — and single EP. Consisting of two rappers, Nate “Ritchie With a T” Ritchie and Stepa J. Groggs, and one instrumental mastermind, Parker Corey, the group started making waves in 2015 with the release of their debut album, Live From the Dentist Office.

Riding the success of the jazzy single “Yo” and the cerebral deep cut “ttktv,” the trio came back with a vengeance at the end of 2016, dropping one of my favorite hip-hop albums of that year, Floss. Refusing to rest on their laurels, yet evidently taking the time to piece together a formidable third studio album, the trio dropped a seven-track EP, Drive It Like It’s Stolen, in the fall of 2017. With a tonal palette ranging from sexy to mean to somber, the extended play was more than enough to satisfy their growing fan base for the time being.

They have shown exactly zero signs of slowing down; they will embark on their first headline tour before the winter is over. So, if you would like to get on the Injury Reserve bandwagon before they officially blow up, here are the nine tracks you need to help you do so.

Live From the Dentist Office

“Yo”

 

With a thumping bassline, upbeat guitar, and splashy horns, this track remains one of the jazziest and most infectious instrumentals in the Injury Reserve catalogue. It is, however, somewhat deceiving; although you may want to dance, Ritchie and Stepa spit frustrated verses about their 9-5 jobs and anonymity in the genre. Further, Stepa addresses his alcoholism, a motif that appears throughout the trio’s music. Nevertheless, the two rappers come through with tones and flows that sound hungry as hell, and their determination is all too clear.

Yeah it’s good to be on/On, yeah, I’m on the clock/Cause these raps haven’t done shit but buy me a couple socks. – Ritchie

“Whatever Dude”

 

With a title that refers not only to the hook but to the relaxed vibe as well, this track is aptly named. Rapped over fluttering hi-hats, sharp snares, and breezy guitars, the lyrics address some of the same themes tackled in the previous song: struggle, the balance of work and art, the determination to blow up in the rap game. The opening verse remains one of my favorites in Ritchie’s repertoire.

I been doing some stupid shit like going to work/When I could be doing some lucrative shit like writing a verse. – Ritchie

“Ttktv”

 

Parker scales it back a bit on this track and lulls the listener with delicate, somber keys, a spellbinding drum loop, and low, growling backing vocals set behind Ritchie’s blissful singing. Then, at the three minute mark, you’re shaken by a sudden transition to an intense 25-second verse that addresses a painful relationship. It’s towards the end of the song that things getting pretty cerebral; I love the way Parker muffles and warps both the keys and Ritchie’s vocals.

Air tight bag, my heart is all in it/And I hardly fall apart but this time I’m diminished. – Ritchie

Floss

“Oh Shit!!!”

 

The biggest banger on an album jam-packed with bangers. The brilliant focal point, I think, is the contrast between the beautiful keys and the schizophrenic trap beat. Ritchie digs deep into his vocal register and throws it back to the mid-2000s with a hook that makes me want to run through eleven brick walls. The group kicks of their sophomore effort with a braggadocious flex, and the message is clear: they’re on their way up.

Remember mama told me that I need to get my act together/Ten years passed the only difference is I’m rapping better. – Stepa

“S on Ya Chest”

 

An enthralling, dream-like sonic experience, this has to be my favorite song in the IR discography. The silky smooth horns make the track an essential example of modern jazz rap and the hook is like nothing else I have ever heard; it features Ritchie on two separate tracks, rapping two different hooks that mesh together seamlessly.

Ya what you know about a young nigga like this/What you know about a young neighbor like this/I did the second one for the white kids/Cause I know you wanna say it, but that ain’t right, kid. – Ritchie

“Look Mama I Did It”

An emotional, triumphant conclusion to a phenomenal sophomore project. Here, we see Parker get on some Kanye shit; he masterfully incorporates a church choir sample into the instrumental, and I love the way he alternates the volume of the sample to match the jarring effect of the jittery hi-hats. Ritchie makes himself entirely vulnerable and spits one of the most genuine, heart-wrenching verses I have heard in my years of hip-hop fandom. Stepa picks the vibe back up with a proud meditation on the trio’s long road to success and Parker packs a sentimental wallop in the final minute of the track. He plays it out with an epic, orgasmic crescendo of the church sample, driving beat, and a science fiction synth passage.

Had the same outfit on that I graduated in/Cause I heard you were fighting the doctors and they still made you miss it. – Ritchie

Drive It Like It’s Stolen

“See You Sweat”

 

A sexy, claustrophobic banger complete with hip-swinging drums, police sirens, and a tasteful sound effect to replicate a drop of sweat. Ritchie keeps it laidback on the chorus and shows off the suave, sensual side of his hook-making chops. Although I didn’t love it at first, the whispered bridge fits the vibe of the track perfectly and sounds especially good over the hand-clapped beat.

Still feeling myself, just socializing/But you better not ask me to start freestyling. – Stepa

“Boom (x3)”

 

This instrumental is horrifying, sinister, and brilliant. If a serial killer were an instrumental, he or she would be this track. It features the same elements that make “Oh Shit!!!” great, but on steroids: lingering keys, killer bass, and cyclical drums underneath an unsettling trap beat. Ritchie sounds like he swallowed a frog full of rusted screws before he recorded this hook as he addresses the haters who chirp artists with ghostwriters. His tone and flow are relaxed, but his annoyance is clear.

And here we go back again with all the chit-chat/That he said she said, nigga just spit raps. – RitchiR

“North Pole”

 

This is the most stripped-back and vulnerable I have heard the group thus far. Rapping over a minimalist drum beat, repetitive guitar chords, and haunting vocal sample, Stepa and Ritchie address their darkest demons and spill their hearts out as plainly as any music fan can ask. Framing Ritchie’s verse as a phone call is nothing short of genius.

I love that Jay line talkin bout CBS/I been doing the same since so I can see BS. – Stepa

Make no mistake: although these dudes are successful, they are on the verge of truly exploding in the near future. If I were you, I would starting bumping their stuff sooner rather than later.

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A Beginner’s Guide To Brockhampton

Here’s a great place to start for new listeners of the acclaimed group.

If you ask any given person to name the most prolific boyband of the twenty-first century, I’m willing to bet his or her answer would be One Direction. He or she would be incorrect. Now, don’t get me wrong; that mistake is common and understandable.

The U.K.-based quintet-turned-quartet did, after all, release five studio albums in four years. That’s impressive. Only one boyband, though, has ever released three studio albums over the course of six months. Only one boasts somewhere between fourteen and thirty-eight members who met on the Internet. That boyband is Brockhampton — and they exploded in the summer of 2017, delivering some of the most exciting hip-hop I have heard this decade.

Riding the momentum of their 2016 mixtape All-American Trash, and a Viceland program titled American Boyfriend, Brockhampton entered 2017 hungry. Over the course of the year, they wrote and recorded so much high-caliber material that they just could not settle for one album. In fact, the creativity flowing between the six spitters, two singers, three producers, and visual arts masterminds was (and continues to be) so intense that the group nicknamed their house in L.A. the Brockhampton factory. For the sake of brevity, I will resist the impulse to write extensively about each member. Here are the nine tracks from the Saturation trilogy you should check out if you want to get into Brockhampton.

Saturation I

“HEAT”

This track was my introduction to BH, and it quite literally blew my head straight off my neck. It was my most played song on Spotify in 2017; the first time I played it was in June. The heavy, industrial drums and muddy bassline have such primal energy that I feel like I’m discovering fire every time I listen. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that Ameer Vann’s verse is one of the hardest I have ever heard kick off an album.

Talkin’ ‘bout release dates, I’m tryna make it to tomorrow.
—Dom McLennon

“STAR”

If I had to encapsulate the essence of this iconic single in one word, it would be bars. Bars on bars on bars on bars on bars on bars on bars. Rapping over a simple beat accented with eerie keys, Dom, Ameer, and Kevin deliver three airtight verses that are so dense with witty pop culture references that each one doesn’t sink in until the guys are three lines ahead. I like to think of this track as a mission statement of sorts for the group; it’s a perfect snapshot of the talent and personality that make BH so compelling.

Heath Ledger with some dreads/I just gave my nigga head.
—Kevin Abstract

“BANK”

One of the most underrated tracks in their discography. The pounding drums hypnotically mesh with a riff that’s played on either keys or a ukulele — I have no idea. The record is made all the more mesmerizing by an odd, ear worm sample of a woman’s voice that immediately locks me in. Kevin is the undisputed genius behind this song, teaming up with Dom to spit one of their best bridges and going solo on an electrifying, off-the-wall outro.

I’m addicted to writing shit that make niggas scared of us.
—Kevin Abstract and Dom McLennon

Saturation II

“GUMMY”

The lead single that got BH fans out-of-their-minds excited for their second LP of the summer. The beat is undeniably groovy and features a piercing synth lead that jars the ears at first but eventually gets under the skin in the best way possible. I have heard this song no fewer than 1,000 times, and Kevin’s opening verse continues to knock me on my ass. The bridge is perfectly tailored to Merlyn Wood’s wild vocal style. Ameer and Dom deliver landmark verses in their catalogues.

I could get shot in the back, and they’d tell the world that I fought em/We ain’t taught em nothing new but somehow they been getting smarter.
—Dom McLennon

“JUNKY”

Kevin’s verse, dude. Kevin’s VERSE. Those sixty-three seconds are enough to sell this single. Not since Danny Brown’s Atrocity Exhibition have, I heard a hip-hop instrumental this unsettling. Each rapper manages to go hard while delivering some of the group’s most vulnerable and revealing lyrical content to date. A perfect display of what makes Merlyn so unique.

Love is knowing you didn’t do it by your lonesome.
—Merlyn Wood

“SWEET”

I swear, there is a reason I’m focusing strictly on opening verses. This one encapsulates everything that makes Matt Champion so great; he brings a charismatic personality with a flow that’s just laidback enough to leave you wanting more. Kevin’s hook is guaranteed to get stuck in your skull after one spin and Dom flows more smoothly than he usually does — which is saying something. JOBA, primarily a vocalist and the group’s sound engineer, snaps on his verse with flow and pitch you won’t hear anywhere else.

Lap you in a UFO, I ain’t started yet/Still gotta figure exactly where to park it at.”
—Dom McLennon

Saturation III

“JOHNNY”

The best BH song to date. If you listen to one, make it this one. With jazzy drums and horns, summery guitar, and nostalgic record scratches, it features one of the prettiest and grooviest instrumentals the group has ever laid to track. Kevin spits a hook that is as unorthodox as it is catchy. JOBA scales back his demeanor and pours his heart out on the album’s best verse.

Anxious, impatient, and always wanting something different/I hate the way I’m feeling, I’m sick of chasing feelings.
—JOBA

“BLEACH”

Guest vocalist Ryan Beatty sings a heart-wrenching hook over a spacey, somber instrumental that features a moody trap beat and meandering guitar. Merlyn brings his best verse to date with an odd, high-pitched inflection that I love.

I wanna die during sex or religion/God, and pussy only know my intentions.
—Merlyn Wood

“RENTAL”

I love this instrumental: trap beat, overblown bass, and keys that alternate between subtle and commanding. The hook is simple, repetitive, and tight. Matt Champion shows off his falsetto; his preface to Kevin’s hook is my favorite vocal performance across the Saturation trilogy.

I got a lot on my mind, not enough hours to shed/Not enough trust to believe, not enough feeling to care.
—Dom McLennon

So, there you have it. If you’re trying to get into the Internet’s first boyband — something you should be trying to do — listen to these nine tracks. If this playlist doesn’t get you hooked, I don’t know what will. Make sure to watch their music videos, too. Whether he’s behind the mic or the camera, Mr. Abstract can do no wrong.

We’ve taken the liberty of assembling this playlist on Tidal for easy listening! Listen here.

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Check It Out: Rap Caviar Sent Money Phone Cases To Its Top Listeners

Writers like me, A&Rs, and label executives used to be the ultimate gatekeepers to this industry; that was then, this…

Writers like me, A&Rs, and label executives used to be the ultimate gatekeepers to this industry; that was then, this is now. In a new-age of Hip Hop dominated by (seemingly) independent labels, and artists creating massive fan bases outside of the industry system, Spotify has reigned as an ultimate measure of genuine engagement with new music—and the format that big dogs use to generate the most significant percentage of their streaming revenue.

In this new landscape, Spotify’s Tuma Basa and his world-renowned Rap Caviar playlist have emerged as the premier platform for breaking new acts and dictating the wave of music that will inevitably flood the game.

This year they took this platform a step further with the introduction of Rap Caviar live, which featured a series of concerts with incredible line-ups, such as the New York show which featured a Dipset reunion that was 13 years in the making.

As a thank you to their massive fan base, Rap Caviar teased a money phone, which it claimed it would be giving to its top listeners. They made good on the promise and late last month I received my very own money phone, complete with incredibly impressive packaging, and intricate RC emblazoned money.

Check It Out: Rap Caviar Sent Money Phone Cases To Its Top Listeners Check It Out: Rap Caviar Sent Money Phone Cases To Its Top Listeners Check It Out: Rap Caviar Sent Money Phone Cases To Its Top Listeners Check It Out: Rap Caviar Sent Money Phone Cases To Its Top Listeners Check It Out: Rap Caviar Sent Money Phone Cases To Its Top Listeners

A play on the egregiously opulent trend of holding up stacks of money to your ear—which was harshly criticized by Jay-Z via his latest project—the phone case (yes it’s functional) is a fun way to reward loyalty among listeners. Not that they genuinely need any more reasons to stay faithful to the number one music plug of 2017.

If you’re not subscribed to Rap Caviar, you’re slipping. Period.

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