A quick glance at this week's Hip-Hop Top Five charts (all below) from the Berkeley, San Francisco, & Hollywood Amoeba Music locations (thanks respectively to Tunde, Luis, & Marques Newson) further proves what I've been feeling all along this year: that hip-hop is in one of the most exciting and healthiest states that it's been in for a minute. To my ears, nearly every new hip-hop full-length release dropping these days is quality shit. Sure, there's a few lemons here and there, but mostly new 2008 hip-hop is more likely to be on hit than sound like shit.
Another glance at these new rap charts also reveals that hip-hop has arrived at perhaps its most richly diverse stage in its 30 plus years. It's as if in 2008 hip-hop has all grown up, multiplied, and gone forth and conquered the world (of music) with a wide range of sounds all qualifying as hip-hop today. From the stripped down, style of Minneapolis' Atmosphere, to the bouncy hip-hop of the Bay Area's Lyrics Born (pictured above) with its funk foundation, to the trippy sounding Danger Mouse-produced new Gnarls Barkley, to the straight-up hard turntable hip-hop beats and cuts of DJ Quest, to the twisted soulful, ten-track, mostly instrumental, grooves of the new one from the late J-Dilla -- a hell of a lot of musical territory is being covered under the hip-hop umbrella of '08.
HIP-HOP TOP FIVE @ AMOEBA MUSIC BERKELEY
1) Atmosphere When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold (Rhymesayers)
2) Gnarls Barkley The Odd Couple (Atlantic)
3) Lyrics Born Variety Show Season Three (Mobile Home Recordings)
4) The Grouch Show You The World (Legendary Music)
5) Del the Funky Homosapien 11th Hour (Definitive Jux)
(Thanks to Tunde who works in the Hip-Hop section at Amoeba Berkeley for this chart.)
Atmosphere's new When Life GIves You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold (Rhymesayers) finds Ant and Slug refining their game with more vivid tales of the struggling everyman, woman, and child. Particularly moving is the song "In Her Music Box," in which Slug vividly paints a picture of a rap-loving, playa wannabe, young father driving round town in his whip with his impressionable young daughter attentively propped up and taking everything in from the back seat, and her reaction to the gangsta rap she hears booming out of daddy's speakers. The new album, in two different CD versions, comes in some nice packaging too. Look for a short interview with Slug here in the Amoeblog on Monday (4/28).
HIP-HOP TOP FIVE @ AMOEBA MUSIC SAN FRANCISCO
1) Lyrics Born Everywhere At Once (Quannum)
2) Atmosphere When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold (Rhymesayers)
3) Siah & Yeshua Dapo ED The Visualz Reissue (Traffic Entertainment)
4) The Grouch Show You The World (Legendary Music)
5) DJ Quest Questolous (AQ)
(Thanks to Luis, who works in the Hip-Hop section at Amoeba SF and supplied this current chart.)
It's now been over fifteen years since Snoop arrived in the rap game and he's still going strong, as proven by his latest, Ego Trippin', which finds him teaming up with DJ Quik and Teddy Riley (remember new jack swing?) to deliver some funk throwback sounds, like on the single "Sensual Seduction," which finds Snoop singing through a vocoder. Meanwhile, just within the sixteen tracks of his recommended new album (his first solo in 5 years) The Grouch manages to pack in a really wide variety of musical styles and sounds.
HIP-HOP TOP FIVE @ AMOEBA MUSIC HOLLYWOOD
1) Gnarls Barkley The Odd Couple (Atlantic)
2) DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist The Hard Sell (Encore) (self released)
3) J-Dilla Jay Love Japan (Operation Unknown)
4) Snoop Dogg Ego Trippin' (Geffen)
5) The Grouch "Show you the world' (Legendary Music)
(Thanks to Marques Newson @ Amoeba Hollywood for this new chart.)
Luis at the San Francisco Amoeba said the new album that he's most excited about this week is Siah & Yeshua Dapo ED's The Visualz Reissue, released by Traffic Entertainment, who are reissuing some incredible stuff. While technically not new music, this collection of decade-old hip-hop was never easily available or all together like on this new collection. In 1996 Siah & Yeshua Dapo ED released their debut EP on the vinyl-only Fondle Em Records (Bobbito's old label that could do no wrong). They also had a scattering of songs popping up on such releases as OM's Deeper Concentration compilation as well as on Japan's Mary Joy label -- also a decade or so ago. All of these are compiled on this new set with liner notes by Bobbito and Siah.
Many more nice new releases are coming in the near future from artists including Nas, Rza as Bobby Digital, and James Pants. San Francisco's Bored Stiff have a great new video (see above) for "Livin' Right" (feat. a cameo from Z-Man) off their recently released album From The Ground Up. Produced by $trive Films, the tight video is directed by Tony Rain.
And in the Bay Area there are some good live shows this weekend and in the week ahead. DJ D-Sharp threw a record release party for Lyrics Born's Everywhere At Once on Tuesday at Icon in San Francisco. Lyrics Born will be performing next Friday (May 2nd) at The Independent on Divisidero in SF. Other Bay Area hip-hop shows jumping off include two good ones tonight (April 25th): The Coup perform at the Shattuck Downlow in downtown Berkeley, while across the Bay Amoeba Berkeley's very own WonWay will be among the performers at BK 2The Bay along with DJ Haylow, Dion Decibels, & Shred 1 at Pier 23 in San Francisco on Friday (4/25).
And finally, below is a video clip of the intro to the current DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist Hard Sell tour from when they played at The Fillmore (formerly Irving Plaza) in NYC earlier this year. The clip's video and audio explain what to expect from these two turntable masters on their Hard Sell tour.