Hi! It's Gary, humble newsletter proprietor. Below check out this week's three hip-hop album picks worth checking out, plus a Q&A with producer Icky Reels. Enjoy!
Any attempt to pin ToBy down should feel utterly fruitless just a few songs into his album debut. One minute he’s roaring like an unhinged City Morgue member on “2Fukkincocky;” the next he’s rapping with cool confidence on the clattering “Are We Ridin.” He brings Cudi-esque versatility to “Boyfriend” and “Want Me To Do,” songs that sway and sigh with indie rock melancholy, while teasing a pop promise on hybrid joints “Day By Day” and “Sinners.” Maintaining fairly loose bounds serves him well throughout, allowing him (and, through archival recordings, his Haitian grandmother) to tell a transformative personal story in an aptly creative and unconventional manner.
Prox Centauri, Mending What’s Broken: Odes for Stalwart Days and Fearless Nights
For almost as long as there's been art, artists have looked to higher powers for inspiration and explanation to convey in their work. Early on in this Flint emcee's second full-length effort, you hear from renowned astronomer Carl Sagan before Prox Centauri offers his informed contemporary spin on "Longway." Melding the interplanetary with more earthly concerns, this track and others on Mending What's Broken provide thought-provoking momentum via his adroit literary lyricism. With macro insight and micro precision, he approaches the topics and themes on "Hedonism" and "Margin Calls" from rather philosophical perspective, dissecting his subjects to make for dope dissertations.
Lungs, The Birth Of LoneSword
When it comes to hip-hop, the Purple Tape Pedrigree imprimatur simply does not miss. The latest rapper to benefit from the PTP co-sign is Lungs, who does double duty as the beatmaker LoneSword on this hourlong, deconstructed bap odyssey that will likely take years to properly decode and decipher. Evidenced by dizzyingly delivered bars on cuts like "Thunderball" and "The Plug Looks Like Josh Peck," his is a whirlwind of words, less the Guinness Book marvel-making of Twista than a modern beat poet rapidly reciting secrets in close quarters. Joining him across these 26 compelling tracks are some dynamic spitters, including phiik and Fatboi Sharif. For best results, rewind repeatedly.
Three questions. Three answers. That's a wrap.
Somewhere on Grand Island, located on the New York side of the U.S. - Canada Niagara divide, Icky Reels is making some truly trippy stuff. Also known as Ay Fast, the producer has largely put out his inventive electronic music records through the Schematic label (known among discerning hip-hop heads for the Push Button Objects discography). He works extensively with former Antipop Consortium member Beans, whose TYGR RAWWK RCRDS imprint recently released the instrumental album Plips.
How has hip-hop influenced you as an artist and producer?
Hip-hop has always been a huge part of what I listen to and what influences my songwriting. When I was in high school, I would make tracker/FruityLoops beats for other students to rap on, and cut out pages about producers from hip-hop magazines to put on my bedroom walls.
Growing up, my parents played a lot of cool records that included some early hip-hop. They both worked a lot, so I spent a lot of time at my neighbor's house listening to the Cleveland hip-hop/R&B station (and the AM Solid Gold Soul). That station would play the current hits but also had old school mixes and, late at night, you could hear booty house and Kraftwerk. I soaked it all up and it definitely had a major impact on my own songwriting process.
Your production for Beans records like Haast and Venga largely come under the moniker Ay Fast, but you’ve also done work together with you as Icky Reels. What does collaborating with Beans entail and how has that evolved or adjusted project to project?
Beans and I have been working together for several years now, so we’ve had some time to figure out how we work best together. I write a lot and some beats or tracks just stand out as pieces I can hear Beans on, so I send them over. Other times, Beans has ideas for tracks and I will build around those ideas or he will send me audio to manipulate or add things to.
Ay Fast is a name I’ve used for most of the time I’ve released music, but Icky Reels just fits me better these days so I started using it.
The new Icky Reels album Plips comes four years after your Schematic full-length Prefecture. What sort of relationship or connection do you see between the two records?
Prefecture is more of a collection of tracks, written with a loose theme about a place. With Plips, I really wanted to make an album that represented my full scope as a producer/songwriter and also had a flow that would lend itself to listening to the whole record at once. I took a lot of influence from Quasimoto’s The Unseen and The Avalanches Since I Left You in how they move from song to song. While writing Plips, I was also writing material for Beans and Hemlock Ernst of Future Islands, so I feel those experiences heavily influenced the vibe of the album.
Purchase or stream Plips here.
If you happen to be a fan of Wiki or Ratking, I've got something very cool for you coming next weekend...