Juan Gracious makes a name for himself with “Juillet” EP

Chesapeake native, Juan Gracious delivers a soulful 15 minute introduction with “Juillet” EP.

We find the young artist in a very introspective, somber space, riddled with emotion and honest expression of everything that both plagues him and sobers him from his reality. With the title serving as an ode to Juan’s genesis, the month of July, we see the artist delve deeply into his own character and growth across the 5 track EP.

With standout singles like “Dangerous” & “F&L Interlude “offering a respite from the reminiscent, digestion of Juan’s emotions, the 5 track EP flows very well and makes for a cohesive yet varied listen.

Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of the project is the vocal and creative display that Juan shows across the soundscape that is Julliet. He never shies away from expanding his sound and melodies outside the common space of many “rap artists” in his lane. Providing soulful melodies on interludes, veering “Dangerous” flows, all whilst mixing in homage to outspoken greats like Marshall Mathers on “Run”.

This one is an enjoyable work to digest, so take a listen and get familiar with what seems to be one Chesapeake’s most promising up comers.

Alfred Breathes Some Darkness Into Rap With Like YOU!!

LIKEYOUbackThe self-proclaimed ‘Queer Rapscallion’ of the rap game brings us Like YOU!! via all major streaming platforms. Like YOU!! features 8 tracks (bonus track included on Bandcamp) chock full of witty and gritty verses. Alfred’s content only shies away from modesty and passive voice; “but nowadays you can’t separate your artwork from the promo,” raps the 23-years young emcee. Their braggadocio mixed with their unapologetic queer attitude makes for hilarious, uncomfortable and intelligent commentary on their place within the seemingly bland musical landscape.

Production is deftly handled throughout the album, which is quite a feat considering that there are several producers co-creating these dirty gems. My Name highlights Alfred’s affinity for call-and-response as well as Yung Pockets’ vision for a live drum-oriented séance to their rap collaborator. Jump around to Tales of A Queer Rapscallion and you hear Alfred viciously promising to “set ’em in the sediment today,” over Matissmo’s smoother and water-like beats. Perhaps my favorite track, Niggas Wishpositions Alfred in their rarest form over a heavy bass-laden beat from another Richmond artist, YOKI.

 

Linked above, LIKE YOU (Yes, You!), gives a visual peek into the mind of the dark gospel arbiter and the images are jarring. Alas, where there many places Alfred shines, there are some shadows that hide within the album. While the production on the album prompts more than a head-nod, the production value leaves much to be desired. The beginnings of Games (Lullaby for Mom) give us a very intimate moment between the emcee and their mother but this moment is lost in her poor vocal quality. I don’t imagine that she volunteered to come into the studio with Alfred, however, between all of the talented engineers collected like infinity stones on this album, I would expect there to be uniform audio quality throughout the project. The Ointment (For My Lonely Soul), also has this issue of mixed audio quality. The idea of including an audience into a live-recording, jam session or even intimate conversation within the artist’s life is an imaginative move that cost production value, nonetheless.

On the whole, Alfred and every artist that they handpicked to bring this dark gospel rap album to life did a solid job. Between the Steven Universe blurbsdick-sucking innuendos and biblical references, the album proves to be contemporary commentary on the old world versus the new. Despite some lack-of-polish issues, mixing inequity and the shorter length Like YOU!! works to send a loud message to fans and competition, alike.

 

 

“Under Construction” Pulls Together An Eclectic Group In The Name of Creativity and Collaboration

The breadth of sub-genres and techniques under the Hip Hop umbrella is nothing short of amazing. Hip Hop purists spout that there is one true sound while there are contemporaries that have made empires off of turning Hip Hop on its head. One such sound that is scratching its way out of obscurity and into the limelight is lo-fi (low-fidelity) Hip Hop and I was able to speak to Jay Vinyl, the originator of The Sandbox, about it. “It’s good [that lo-fi Hip Hop is getting bigger] because it is soulful music and people need that,” shared Justin Forys, aka Jay Vinyl. “If you listen to the [popular] music, it’s all ‘turn-up’ music: Migos, Lil Pump, Lil Xan. That’s fine- I like that kind of music too but it’s lacking. There is no real feeling behind [this type of popular sound] except for ‘lets get f*cked up’”. This vein of music, lo-fi Hip Hop, can trace its roots back to the Bronx, much like Hip Hop in general. Recycled sounds, crunchy textures and pre-recorded instruments are but a few of the pieces that make up the lo-fi technique.

Borne from Vinyl and others’ passion for the lo-fi technique and the growing demand for soulful creative expression is Under Construction. The collaborative tape features 14 tracks (not including the intro) that are mostly instrumental-based. These textured sounds have sprinkles of gritty, braggadocious, ardent and fierce vocals squeezed in when appropriate. Keeping all the soul together are these movie-like transitions that allow for each track to have a clear lane of its own as well as benefit from the thematic cohesion. “If you listen to the tape, it plays out in a  movie [type] of way,” explained Jay Vinyl. “[Under Construction] has an intro and transitions. That’s what I want to do with the rest of the tapes too- I’ve been listening to these tapes and collective [releases] and there is just beat after beat. [There are] no skits or breaks”.

This distinction that The Sandbox delivers with their inaugural digital release proves to be an easy listen. Although the artists featured flex their affinity for lofi-sounds proudly via their music, they couldn’t each be any more different than each other. “Each artist is very different but thrown into the same category,” explains Jay. “MichaelMichaelson is boom bap, Karavelo is jazzier, Brain Orchestra is on another level, SpaceGang is on some crazy stuff, Stxn.x is on cut and dry boom bap, Funk.shu is on trap boom bap,”. Under Construction gives us ZOD1AC’s ear for worldly/latin sonic influences, STLNDRMS expert use of crunchy percussion and Korey Wade’s adept sample chops. The collage art present on the cover (courtesy of even more collaboration between Jay Vinyl and Kenzi Adams) keeps in line with the actual collaged presence of so many interpretations of what lofi music is and what it can become.

The major task of gathering up artisans for this idea actually came from a name some in the community may already recognize: “I became a member [of Dust Collectors] and slowly I started making tracks [then] another collective picked me up,” shared Vinyl. “Brestil pushed for me to have my own group. The Sandbox was originally supposed to be a rap group. [So I sought after folks with a unique style and] it’s hard to find people who have unique styles.”  After bringing together a more-than-willing talented group, the work on the tape started immediately. These musicians range in locale; one relocating from The States to France, another based in New York, another based in Tampa, another in Akron and so on. The benefits of a digital community proved great in efficient in response to the lack of a universal home base, however. “[The project took] weeks, less than a month,” shared featured artist ZOD1AC. “I talked to [The Sandbox Collective] in early June and the tape came out around mid-July.” Just a month in and the digital tape has just under two-thousand hits on just Soundcloud. The DIY victories and budding popularity claimed by The Sandbox are likely due in part to the popularity of collaboration. “For me, [it’s beneficial] being part a community and having opportunities to work with other producers,” shared ZOD1AC, who is an active member of both Dust Collectors and The Sandbox. “[From] learning whos who to being able to give back and really involve yourself in a network of musicians who look out for each other [is invaluable].” However, most of the big and small victories for everyone over at The Sandbox that worked on Under Construction should translate as what is to be expected of elevated folks who take their craft and pioneering seriously. “If you haven’t seen [The Sandbox’s Instagram] page, it’s absolutely jaw-droppingly beautiful,” gushed ZOD1AC. “It’s cool to be part of a collective that is so forward thinking, not only musically, but aesthetically as well. Rarely do you see collectives dedicated to having a cultivated aesthetic.”

The future for Hip Hop is yet to be determined; the present of Hip Hop is being cultivated, created and constructed by the lofi architects of today. From the chillwave playlists on Youtube to local watering holes featuring beat-musicians during the weekends or even the wave of beat tapes flooding the internet- the versatility and diversity of what Hip Hop is is on full-display. “No one is waiting around to give us the green light to start working,” shared ZOD1AC. “We’re going to start working and we’re going to work together to build something together.”

*Other producers featured on Under Construction couldn’t be reached immediately for comment- most likely creating more fire.

Chicago’s G Herbo completes his transition to an unfiltered, self-made don on Southside assisted”Swervo”

“Lil Herb” has come a long way since shooting to stardom on his highly-acclaimed, Don Cannon hosted mixtape “Welcome To Fazoland”.

Through Fazoland, many were drawn into the reverberating, commanding flow and raw stories Herbo relayed on each track. His hunger was undeniable and talent astounding for someone only 16-17 at the time. The world’s fascination with the puzzle that is Chicago, only fueled the fire that Herbo was creating on the city’s eastside.

A series of camera phone freestyles and YouTube uploads had Herbo buzzing in and out the city as the limelight from his predecessors had all eyes on the murder capital. We searched for insight and understanding as to what was going on in the big city, and why the youth seemed so lost and streets so red.

Herbo pulled back the veil with his music, as we uncovered the grim realities of a city who had turned its back on the lower end and those who stayed there. With little resources, soon young boys walked the streets filled with pride, empty pockets, and artillery at their disposal.

In a flash, the city known for it’s deep rooted mob ties became open season for guerrilla warfare.

With the violence came the murder music, or drill scene. Young teens expressing their thoughts, as well as what they’d seen over  production that took the booming sound of Atlanta and flipped it on it’s head, while drizzling it with violent lyrics that White America saw as glamorization of a life filled with crime.

Perhaps what made Herbo so intriguing an artist was the fact he didn’t fit in at all with much of the music we heard from out of Glo Gang, and the numerous other “Chiraq” figureheads. With a fresh flip and innovative sound to the drill scene in tow, Herbo was destined to take the reigns and he did just that with “Swervo“.

The Humble Beast known for intricate narrative’s and street tales definitely loosened up for this one. Across each track Herbo shows resiliency and stamina, as his volatile freestyle flow throttles and swerves through each verse. Amidst the flurry you still find gems, heartfelt odes to fallen friends, and relatability that has drawn fans to Herbo since day one.

But Swervo proves to be an alter-ego of sorts for the Chicago MC. One who fears no man and flexes and boasts as he careens through traffic with a glick on his lap. Never afraid to edging out rappers, naysayers, and opposition with little remorse.

Though different, Swervo stands as a prominent piece in Herbo’s discography. A project where he pushed and tested his limits, entirely freestyling the album, as well as tapping into the chemistry that comes from working solely with a producer like Southside. 

Given an opportunity to freely paint his canvas, clad in flooded VVS watches, 150 Dream Team chain and all, Swervo was able to finally relish in the spoils of his work ethic that took him from gun toating on Essex in Chiraq, to a self-made family man in Los Angeles, California.

Premiere: Keynote Illidge & Mickey D deliver a sound off for dreamers with “$7.25”

Minimum Wage: (n.) the lowest wage permitted by law or an agreement.

The USA defines this number at $7.25.

The cost of an hour of your time is only $7.25.

Thats an hour of your life you give to a methodic, mindless unit of work that we rarely enjoy or even find tolerable. 

A mere token of $7.25 that we later use to chase our dreams or escape our reality, however we see fit.

703 natives Keynote Illidge & Mickey D take a stab, piss, & verbal bombing on their latest collaborative effort, “$7.25“. 

The tape find the creatives in their pocket, pouring out honest frustrations many of us 20-somethings can relate to. The struggle and battle we go through whilst trying to fit the cookie cutter mold and path they say follow.

“Keep your head down, work, all for $7.25.”

Keynote & Mickey give us a collaborative soundtrack for those who won’t take this path for an answer. 

We got dreams and talents we’re planning to take to the maximum.

Fuck a minimum wage.

Listen HERE

4th Quarter Peso Makes A Name for Himself with “Who Is Dis?”

Annandale’s 4th Quarter Peso brings forth room-shaking swagger and charisma that makes his single “Who Is Dis?”
While flexing and dancing all across Worldwidetak’s keyed and heavy sub laden production, he barks and notes to listeners that he’s not an artist to be played with.

Late nights and early mornings have made Peso a strong presence and upper tier artist in the crab barrel that makes up his hometown.

Poised and ready for a visual debut, keep running back and spreading the word as this one will have the whole whip asking “Who Is Dis?”

iTunes – Who Is Dis?

Ty Sorrell Teases a Project via So You Know

Ty Sorrell, a VA native recently relocated to Richmond, teases his new vein of creativity with the single So You Know. The Tribe95 artist, Sorrell, sassily raps over an upbeat and textured instrumental to create an easy-going rap experience. While there are some pitfalls within the production value, the overall vibe is easy to catch and the hook pushes the entire song along, to that means. The veteran emcee and multifaceted artist Rob Gibsun also makes an appearance on the single. His classic cadence lends necessary vocal diversity to the track. Keep in mind, the backing instrumental loops continuously with little to no changes so the two different approaches to the song keep listeners invested. So You Know is first in what seems to be a series of releases; Communion, another single, releases on a Friday- July 13.

 

PREMIERE: Parkway opens up the door on his “DEMONS” 

Parkway’s style isn’t laced with the glamorous, over-the-top flows or bedazzled and bejeweled with the narcissism that pervades today’s game.
Instead on “DEMONS” we find a matured artist in both his pocket & his bag, dropping his innermost pain and negative characteristics unashamedly on front street.

Couple these aspects with the simple video direction from Spencer Sease & visual effect’s of Henry C, and we get a true peek in the head of the Manassas native.

Listen as we hear as Parkway’s bass-riddled vocals saddles & cascades across the luxe production of Shymar Ovita.

https://youtu.be/vi7SVucy61U

Doe$ki & On Go Dunman unleash a “Beast” of an EP for the Summer

The summer is currently up for grabs in VA, and iLPackMobb has made it clear they’re out to take it. No questions asks. With a sleuth of single releases and hints at upcoming projects on the horizon, Mobb summer seems to be in full effect.

On Go Dunman and Doe$ki just started off the wave with their anticipated “Beast” EP. Standing at only 5 tracks and just over 10 minutes, it’s a quick and easily digestible body of work that shows the obvious good-natured chemistry of the Mobb members.

Notable tracks like “Fiji Water”  and “On Me” set the tempo as we vibe to the off the wall adlibs of Doe$ki and braggadocios lines of Dunman.

Take a listen and boom this one through your speakers all summer.

HANZ reminds us all to GO OUTSIDE! this summer

 

Growing up in the 90s and early 2000s was complex, for sure. As kids we were getting tech innovations in the form of handheld games, chat rooms and cell phones. As we grow older in our society, it’s still pretty easy to fall sedentary and sit indoors on the social media platform of your choice. Newport News’ own HANZ brings us a good antidote to our lethargy this summer in the form of Go Outside! “There were times when I was stuffed inside and I was thinking too much or getting bored,” the 23 year old artist shared. “When you need a breath of fresh air, as cliche as it is, you need to go outside. Like walk around the block and listen to this album, you’ll feel good.” Just in time for the heat and summer shenanigans, HANZ released his 8 song project via all major streaming platforms on May 27th. The cover, staying true to the core message, features an image of himself in a mountain terrain. I took the time to sit with the music and speak to the artist to form some cohesive thoughts.

To start, Go Outside! is sonically unmatched. From the each tracked instrument to the softness of all the vocals- the album is easy listening. I appreciated live drums on the tracks and several. Listens in, I realized the duality of the album. Not only does the album play out well in a car or headphone setting, but the album will inevitably sound solid live. The several elements at play in songs like Honey and Wishing Kites give Go Outside! an added texture that sets the project apart from others. “My friend Aaron Jackson, aka Lamborghini Jones, produced half of the album and then I had one of my friends Thomas from the band Bangloud, he did drums,” shared HANZ. “I had my friend Will Arthur, who is my bandmate, do the guitar. There were songs where I had the idea, I had the chords on my computer and I would show them that and we’d create the idea we had. I did all the mixing and mastering, except for one song: Mission Kites. My friend Rasneek did that,”.

Where there are highs in the production value, there are pitfalls in some of the vocals. Honey and Wishing Kites are good examples again where the sound is cohesive but not mixed with singing in mind. While the vocals are soft in themselves, the two do not mix well together. In Wishing Kites, HANZ punches in using a rapping cadence and the mixing sounds agreeable. His beginning vocals where he is singing with Jasz are not mixed as smoothly and it is in the hook that we hear the duo lacks the technical finesse needed for a singer’s voice to be so bare on a track. Early is a better mix, in my opinion, where his vocals are much more treated with some reverb and softened to match the back instrumental track. Early is also where Arthur’s drumming skills are put on full display. Halfway through this song, the man goes off and that feeling of seeing or longing to see the song live creeps up.

HANZ’s lyricism and content begin and leave on a goodnote within the album. The initial song Go has the least amount of words, lending much more relevance to the opening ambience and sound. The last song, Park Bench, features an entire story, framed in a classic theme love. What sets the love-story apart is the durability of the love he sings about and how eloquently he narrates for his listeners. I can’t speak for all of us but I don’t know that I’ve heard a story of blind lovers crying in a park together. Overall the album is an experimental mash-up of colors, feelings, stories and intrinsically core positive messages. Where there are pitfalls in some technical areas, there are highlights in others. Go Outside! challenges what a listener understands about genres and sound. These types of albums that push the boundary in a quick and fun way are to be celebrated. One of my favorite tracks from the short 19-minute album has to be Hyacinth Hair Interlude. It is this track that demonstrates to the audience why HANZ got in the studio with Lamborghini Jones in the first. The dude’s ear for expansive (albeit weird) sounds made the interlude all the more fun.

Overall, I believe the album (I use this term very loosely, considering the length of the official project) positions itself and HANZ as a maverick in his field. There are many artists that attempt to raise the bar on what we consider ‘different’ or ‘unique’. After some time with Go Outside! I do honestly feel like HANZ’s artistry is authentic and effortless. It would take all parties involved in the making of this album more energy to make what everyone else is making. This genre-fluid project, aptly described as Colorblock, shows what happens when you devote in energy into being yourself and your message.

 

PREMIERE: .Peter $un continues to level-up with “Every Thng Nvv”(VISUAL)

Few artists can boast a sound like .Peter $un.

Creating and sharing his music with the world is an obvious passion & motivating force for the Richmond representer.

With a considerable resume of loose singles, $un hooked up with Lasik Beats to bring to fruition a surprise EP “Valencia”.

With the aid of cinematographer Allison Heine, he brings to life single “Evry Thng Nvv”.

The Sega-inspired visual brings forth nostalgia and sets the mood for the lighthearted, yet declarative vibe of life improvements as $un details his sentiments and new lease on life post moving, lost relationships, and overall turning of a new leaf.

Well known around his hometown for being as big a personality as he is a workhorse. Fans rarely need to worry about the quality of $un’s next release or delays as he’s steadily provided listeners with music to uplift their mood and boom their speakers.

$un continues to level-up, & we can’t wait to see where he takes us next.

TCrook$ & 94Nicely give a collaborative classic with “94 Plaga”

“…still walking ’round the city like I can’t be touched.”

These are some of the first words that echo across the title track from the rich, charismatic voice of 94Nicely. An artist and individual known well around Newport News and Hampton Roads area for being as raw an artist as he was thorough of a person.

94 Plaga comes to us as a surprise release and serves as a memorial to 94Nicely, who was killed a little over a week prior to the project being released.

The project opens to the Amazon infused “94 Plaga“, creating a perceivable parallel to the jungle-like environment that forced them to grow up so fast. The two give insight into the tendencies of hate that fuel those who greedily covet success, whose hunger urges them to play foul, and the mindset that kept them solid through it all.

 

Balance is kept by friend, brother, and fellow News artist TCrook$, on the 4 track EP. The project opens to the Amazon infused “94 Plaga“, creating a perceivable parallel to the jungle-like environment that forced them to grow up so fast. The two give insight into the tendencies of hate that fuel those who greedily covet success, whose hunger urges them to play foul, and the mindset that kept them solid through it all.

Production coming etched with sirens and snares offer a reminder: This is the jungle.

Notable track “The Recipe” serves a humble but satisfying meal for the soul with its serene production and moving, yet grisly verses from both Crook$ and 94.

Neither drop a single weak bar or stale chorus, providing an impressive 4 track display that leaves plenty of room for replays and skip backs.

Standing alone from the audible qualities that make this record enjoyable, is the ever-present chemistry and vibe from the two artists that seeped into this project

Across the EP you hear Crook$ and 94 splitting bridge, chorus, and transition smoothly, telling tales and genuine depictions of their lives and  lessons learned while traversing through different but familiar paths.

We’ll bump this all summer and seasons forward, as for many it will always be 94Forever.

You can stream everywhere via tcrooks.com.