If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including Dove Rock & Jackson Jones' "A Pretty Way of Saying Ugly Things" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!
Dove Rock & Jackson Jones :: A Pretty Way of Saying Ugly Things
Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
"If you deconstruct that sentence from the title track of "A Pretty Way of Saying Ugly Things" you get an idea of what Dove Rock is all about. It sounds innocent and cute at first until you start to think about what "angels" are perceived to be in the New Church sense: "All angels originate from the human race, and there is not one angel in heaven who first did not live in a material body." Suddenly that cute innocent phrase takes a much more ominous turn - a bell rings, SOMEONE DIES, and there's a new angel in heaven. That's definitely a pretty way of saying a very ugly thing. Before we go any further talking about Dove Rock's vibe and what she brings to hip-hop it's time for a small disclaimer. We have covered Galapagos4 releases many times before on this website, and I personally hold them in high regard as a small label that truly embodies the motto "quality over quantity." As such they remain among the indiest of indie labels, with even long time underground rap fans very likely to have missed out on their releases, owning perhaps a dozen Rhymesayers albums and not a single record with the G4 imprint. I feel they deserve the exposure of reviews like these for their commitment to a higher quality of music even on a small budget with limited resources to promote what they do. As such I also would be doing you a disservice if I didn't tell you the exact same thing the press kit did - Dove is married to the label's owner Jeff Kuglich a/k/a Dallas Jackson. That admission may invite scorn or derision that Dove "got the hook up" to drop an album, but I think the fact they state it up front is a preemptive attempt to address and dismiss it. They aren't hiding who she is or who she's married to, so if you make that a while bias listening to her words, that's on you. Intentionally or accidentally Dove Rock reminds me of both Dessa of Doomtree and Kimya Dawson of Aesop Rock fame. She's got the rapping of the former, the singing of the latter, and a third part that's entirely her own based on her experiences growing up on the South Side of Chicago. That's part of the reason she's able to find a pretty way to say ugly things, because she's undoubtedly seen more than her share of tragedy and heartbreak in that environment. Her heady mixture of hope and despair comes across loud and clear in songs like "The Biggest Loser" featuring Asphate. She becomes eerily reminiscent of Jean Grae on this rant about hip-hop sexism."
ChessClub :: These Flowers Are For You :: URBNET Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Among some of my Canadian friends "newfie" is a word used in a joking but occasionally derogatory manner. I suppose the American equivalent would be "hillbilly" or "yooper." It's a way of saying someone is from the back country, unworldly and unsophisticated, and quite possibly ignorant of the world at large. The derogatory context in this case is that "newfie" is shorthand for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Someone from there would no more appreciate being called a "newfie" than someone from rural Kentucky would appreciate being called a "hillbilly." As with many loaded words in the human language, it's only funny until someone's feelings are hurt, and then it's the furthest thing from funny in any way. Curiously the press release for ChessClub hinted at this uncomfortable relationship between slang and province. "Hip-Hop has not traditionally thrived in St. John's, Newfoundland." No kidding. A city with a population of just over 100,000 with no connection to the rest of Canada spiritually OR literally before 1949 (when Newfoundland became the 10th province) having a reportedly 98% homogenously English speaking poulation doesn't scream "thriving multicultural hip-hop metropolis" the way Toronto or Montreal does. I struggled to think of any major rap artists from Newfoundland and came up blank. After Googling around I managed to find exactly one article about hip-hop artists in Newfoundland and wouldn't you know it's about ChessClub. In an either fitting or ironic note the press release for "These Flowers Are For You" note the group now resides in Toronto. Well then."
Kid Koala :: Floor Kids Original Video Game Soundtrack :: Arts & Crafts Productions
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Long time turntablist and musician Kid Koala could have done nothing else in life but work with Del on Deltron 3030 and I would have endlessly sang his praises. The problem is that doing so would be shortchanging his career do a great degree. He's released over half-a-dozen albums and EPs, done countless remixes spanning multiple genres, collaborated with Damon Albarn, Mike Patton and Prince Paul, and now he can add MAKING A VIDEO GAME to the list. Koala made the tracks for an innovative Nintendo Switch game called Floor Kids about b-boys and b-girls busting out their best moves, moves that were animated by JonJon in sync with the beat. Floor Kids comes from a genre called "rhythm games." Even if you haven't played one yourself you probably understand the concept. You've seen arcades where giant machines called Dance Dance Revolution draw crowds of kids and adults alike trying to set the high score by jumping up and down on a giant set of pads to a thumping musical beat. The success of this arcade series was the face that launched a thousand ships, leading to rhythm based home games with accessories (Donkey Konga, Guitar Hero, Rock Band) and without (Vib-Ribbon, Parappa the Rapper, Thumper) where you use the standard controller to press the right buttons at the right time. Either way it's all about the beat. If you hit the right button/note but you're off beat, you lose points or hear a negative sound. Miss too many times and it's GAME OVER. Word to the wise - don't play rhythm games when you're drunk. It may seem like a fun idea in theory but in practice your reflexes are slower because you're inebriated, and if it's a game involving a dance pad you might hurt yourself to boot. Getting back to the "Floor Kids" soundtrack, this album is a very meaty 42 tracks long clocking in at over an hour and ten minutes. That would only be excessive were it not for the context of each of these songs. Some are just short interludes between chapters of the video game, a few even accompanied by a mystery man who welcomes the "dance warriors" to his unnamed city and offers them advice, a narrative framing these rhythm games. "
Pete Santos :: Paint the Picture :: Record Union
as reviewed by Sy Shackleford
"For most artists, canvas is the most popular painting surface. With every stroke and brush, it allows them to get the most out of the colors they use. For musicians, the canvas is the track and the paints used are the sounds. In hip-hop, the art involves arranging various sounds together and merging it with rhymed words to create an audio picture. Some have more of a talent at it than others, showing their ability to marry music and lyrics with a masterful stroke on their first shot out of the gate. For others, it takes a few canvasses with splattered audio effects before they find the sound that coincides with their style. But that can be a rewarding journey for a listener too. Listening to an artist develop their sound across several releases is akin to watching a child grow into an full-fledged adult. Finnish-based American artist Pete Santos is still a work-in-progress, but I believe that his sophomore LP closely coincides with the sound he's been aiming for since his debut. Though underground, Pete Santos' music brings a celebratory positivity that makes it an alternative to both the complexity of underground rap and the simplicity/excess of mumble rap. Like his 2017 "Our Lives Begin" EP, "Paint the Picture" was said to have been produced on a shoestring budget. This time, that meager budget is reflected only in the album's length: 10 tracks at roughly 33 minutes in total. The album contains song titles that are reminiscent of a Drake album, but this isn't an album rife with emotional vulnerability or examining the pitfalls of fame. On the surface, it has ambitions of those themes, but it goes beyond them. The album starts off with "Morning Yawning", an approximate two-minute intro with Pete singing "Time to get up" ad nauseam for the first fifty seconds. The intro's saving grace was when the music dropped, complete with a smooth saxophone and cowbells courtesy of producer Aron 'Aatsi' Onditi. Mr. Santos enlists various Scandinavian music producers and artists to provide beats and sing the hooks (though he sometimes does the latter part himself). The album's first official song, "Boom", is produced by Miika 'Miiks' Uusikyla, complete with synths and a echoed guitar riff near the end."
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