Record Review: White Reaper - Self-Titled EP

White Reaper - White Reaper EP (Polyvinyl)
By Nathan G. O'Brien for Scene Point Blank

White Reaper is a cool-named trio who are rubber-burning their way out of the Louisville, KY DIY scene. There’s a dude named Tony Esposito who sings and plays the guitar, and twin brothers Nick and Sam Wilkerson who play drums and bass respectively. Their self-titled debut EP will appeal to fans of Wavves, Japandroids, and Jay Reatard. Hate to drop the sounds-like bomb on you right off the jump but it’s impossible to ignore. Fuzzy vocals and poppy, sun-kissed rock ‘n’ roll is the name of the game here.

The drumming is pretty dope. Lots of nice rolls and foot-stompin’ high hats. I don’t pound the skins myself, but if I had to guess, dude’s got a tambourine attached to his high hat because there is a lot of that old kick drum / tambourine syncopation thing going on here; like something you’d hear on a King Khan & BBQ Show record. Sometimes the toms sound like an empty pizza box being hit with wooden spoons, which is a splendid effect.  ....read entire review here.


Review Roundup: July 2014

Review Roundup: July 2014 
By Nathan G. O'Brien for Tight To The Nail

Angel Du$t – A.D. (REACT! Records / Reaper Records)
Oh boy, the old dollars sign for an S thing. Hard not to love this based on that alone, as when I’m not pogoing and/or headbanging to this punk & metal shit, I’m, as they say, all about that rap life. But alas Angel Du$t is not rap, as one might assume. Nope, they’re a strange mix of like, Helmet and the Descendents or something.

A.D. is their debut album and is one that is very ‘90s-band-who-had-one-or-two-hits-on-alternative-radio-and-played-said-radio station’s-summer-festival-only-to-never-be-heard-from-again’. I’m not saying it’s bad—in fact I happen to like it very much—I’m just saying I don’t think it has a lot of lasting power in the overall punk lexicon. The singer sounds a lot like Dave Smalley of Dag Nasty/ALL/Down By Law fame. So there’s that too.

There are 12 songs here but the whole thing clocks fewer than 15 minutes, as any good punk or hardcore album should. I could see this one getting a few spins around the old backyard keggers this summer.

Read entire July Review Roundup, including Cannabis Corpse, Dead Channels, Zeddmore, Little Big League, and Ovlov here. 


Too Many Rappers: July 2014

Too Many Rappers: July 2014
By Nathan G. O'Brien for Scene Point Blank

7/18/14 - Minneapolis, MN
Commuting earlier than usual this morning means it’s nice and cool. I ride by a kid who’s wearing an old 3rd Bass tee shirt and give him an approving Malcolm X-style fist in the air. He nods his head back at me like, “Yeah, that’s right, this is a 25 year old fucking 3rd Bass tee shirt.”

For some strange reason as I pedal over a set of tracks I think of the waitress at the Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub who once served my wife and me excellent wings and mediocre IPAs. She looked like Dolph Zigler, which I found equal parts disturbing and sexy. My love affair with professional wrestling is not something I'm sure I'll ever understand.

I stop briefly to slap a custom sticker on the back of a Yield sign. It will be gone by the time I ride home tonight; scrapped off or grayed out by the Greenway Vigilante. It’s me versus him/her on a daily basis. Gray is a great color; versatile and understated…for an outfit. But holy shit is it ever rage-inciting when it’s covering someone’s free public art offering. In my eyes, unsolicited buffing of graffiti and/or street art on public property is the same type of offense as artists going over each other. Not cool.

Waiting at a stop light like a decent law abiding citizen (which I do realize sounds rediculous, considering the previous paragraph) a women blows by me, through the light, and spits in my general direction. I playfully shout to her, “Yeah, that’s my girl.” She looks back and says, “Shut up creep.” I then reaffirming-ly say to only myself, “Yeah, that’s my girl.”

In the earbuds Sonic Youth’s “Washing Machine” is transitioning into “Unwind” just as I pull up to work and the last thing I want to do is get off my bike. I just want to keep riding...to like, the suburbs or some shit. But then I'd be in the suburbs. Work or the suburbs? It's like voting for President.

As I’m locking up I am met by a man named Zygon. He’s actually the second person I’ve met named Zygon in recent times. He wants to sell me a photocopied chap book for five dollars. Instead I trade him a zine for one. These days I’m increasingly less interested in—dare I say irritated by—poetry. But I got mad love for my fellow DIY self-publishers. We shake hands and part ways. After he’s out of sight I feverishly tear through my bag looking for hand sanitizer because that’s just the kind of miserable asshole I am.

As soon as I’m done thumbing this out on my phone like some type of goddamn zombie, I’ll walk into work. I’ll wonder, just like I have every day for what seems like forever, if this one will be my last time. And if it is, at least I’ll be able to ride my bike home on a nice day. I’ll probably listen to The Cactus Album on the way.

Read the rest of Too Many Rappers complete with mixtape and album reviews here.


2014 Mid-Year Best-Of: Hip-Hop

Top 10 Hip-Hop Releases of 2014 (So Far)
By Nathan G. O'Brien for Verbicide Magazine

1. Schoolboy Q – Oxymoron (Top Dawg / Interscope)
Oxymoron is the first album out of the TDE/Black Hippy camp since good kid, m.A.A.d city catapulted Kendrick Lamar to stardom. And with its arrival, Schoolboy Q has emerged much in the same way: a conflicted individual whose rhyme scheme and subject matter is as varied as his beat selection.

He traverses through redundant clichés (“Hell of a Night,” “Man of the Year”) and deeply personal lyricism (“Hoover Street,” “Blind Threats”) with vigor and an unmatched attention to detail. On the trap-tinged “Prescription/Oxymoron,” his internal conflict raps are at their most obvious, as he addresses the crippling effects of taking prescription drugs and the allure of selling them in the street. He asks, “How can they say feeling good is an addiction?” while the hook goes, “I just stopped selling crack today.”

2. Timeless Truth – Dominican Diner EP (Self-Released)
Following up on last year’s under-the-radar cassette the Brugal & Presidentes EP, Oprime39 and Solace, the largely unknown New York City-based duo that makeup Timeless Truth, have returned with a new EP. Destined to be criminally underrated, Dominican Diner is a perfect combination of laid-back summer-y hip-hop — perfect for barbecues and sunny bike rides through the city (“Trife,” “Crème Da La Crème,” “Glory”) — and traditional New York rap at its most authentic (“Out of the Loop,” “Bail Money in the Mattress,” “T.I.R.O.”).

3. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Piñata (Madlib Invazion)
The latest in a string of collaborations between emcee Freddie Gibbs and super-producer Madlib, Piñata is on a straight-up gangster rap tip. Madlib’s beats — culled from old-school soul, funk, and blaxploitation — are the backdrop to Gangsta Gibbs signature misogyny, drug dealing, and pistol play. And although at large he’s unapologetically keeping it real, Gibbs isn’t afraid to show a little bit of remorse. While he’ll give the listener a glimpse of his softer side (“Deeper,” “Broken”) he always holds back enough as to not compromise his rugged ghetto-hardened exterior (“Thuggin’,” “Real,” “Knicks”).

4. Step Brothers – Lord Steppington (Rhymesayers Entertainment)
Continuing a partnership the dates back to the early ’00s when producer Alchemist made some beats for emcee Evidences’s group Dilated Peoples, the two have taken form as Step Brothers. Their debut album, Lord Steppington thrives in ‘90s boom-bap nostalgia, bong hits, and in-joking. A song like “Legendary Mesh” is evocative of the album as a whole: Evidence flexes his pay-attention-or-you’ll-miss-it cleverness (“I swear to drunk I’m not God, but getting closer”), while Alchemist’s psychedelic samples, hard drums, and deep bass drive the beat to neck-snapping heights. There are some notable guest spots from the likes of Domo Genesis and Scott Caan (“Bryon G”), Action Bronson (“Mums in the Garage”), and Alchemist’s Gangrene co-conspirator Oh No (“Draw Something”).

5. Atmosphere – Southsiders (Rhymesayers Entertainment)
Southsiders is the first Atmosphere album since 2011’s lackluster Family Sign. And while you can still find some leftover moroseness here (“I Love You Like a Brother”), Southsiders is as close to a return to form as we can expect from Slug and Ant, the emcee and producer combo that makes up the nucleus of Atmosphere.

Things have changed: babies were born, people died, and weight was gained. Once you reach a certain age, life becomes more about durability than it does going all out. Realizing that it’s more about finishing the race than it is winning it, on the title track Slug raps, “Life’s too short to fight the feeling /I get a little paranoid for no reason/When the jukebox plays don’t stop believing.” While there were several songs on The Family Sign that had people guessing that they were about the passing of Michael “Eyedea” Larson, “Flicker” leaves nothing to imagination. And there are a handful of tracks here (“Star Shaped Box,” “Bitter,” “Kanye West,” “January on Lake Street”) to appease those that hold the Overcast, Headshots:  Se7en, and Lucy Ford: The Atmosphere EP’s days in high regard.

6. Blu – Good To Be Home (New World Color/Nature Sounds)
Good To Be Home is a lofty double-disc celebration of Blu’s hometown of Los Angeles. People who grew up listening to hip-hop around the same time Blu did will find plenty of moments to nod in agreement (“Boyz in the Hood,” “Dre Day,” “Bobby Brown”) and there’s enough guest spots (2 Mex, Prodigy, Phil Da Agony, Planet Asia, Krondon) to keep the would-be monotony of a 20-song album at bay.

As far as the production goes, it’s very similar — at times nearly indistinguishable — from track to track, but it’s that sameness that really adds to the overall cohesiveness of the album. Bombay’s beats are peculiar exercises in raw simplicity; at times reminiscent of Apollo Brown and at others seemingly haphazardly-assembled loops. Good To Be Home should be heard with a nice set of headphones to be fully appreciated.

7. Skyzoo & Torae – Barrel Brothers (First Generation Rich Inc./Internal Affairs Entertainment)
After experiencing a modicum of success as solo artists, New York City emcees Skyzoo and Torae come together as Barrel Brothers. Traveling parallel career paths and having collaborated numerous times already, the rugged fluidity of Barrel Brothers comes as no surprise. The duo called upon a grip of producers (Illmind, Oh No, Black Milk, Khrysis, DJ Premier, Apollo Brown) to assemble a tapestry of hard-knocking beats.

Aside from a few select guest spots (Sean Price, Guilty Simpson, Blu) Skyzoo and Torae fully own the project, further cementing themselves as supreme rhyme-slingers. With a focus on skillful lyricism and head-nodding beats Barrel Brothers is boom-bap revivalism at its finest.

8. De La Soul & J. Dilla – Smell the Da.I.S.Y. (mixtape)
Smell the Da.I.S.Y. (Da Inner Soul of Yancey) Is an 11-track mixtape that finds Posdnuos, Dave, and Maseo dropping reworked verses over some unreleased J. Dilla production. The beats will rattle your subs, while De La’s recognizable verses will transport you back to a time before trap and Autotune became the norm. Come on ya’ll, just clap your hands to the beat.

9. D.I.T.C. – The Remix Project (mixtape)
Anyone well-versed in ‘90s rap music is already aware of the contributions Diggin In The Crates have made to hip-hop. The emcee/deejay/producer super-crew consisted of Showbiz & AG, Diamond D, OC, Lord Finesse, Fat Joe, Buckwild, and the highly revered Big L.

For the uninitiated and old heads alike, D.I.T.C. has done the rap world a solid in the form of a free download. The Remix Project is a 14-song collection of the crew’s back catalog that has been given the remix treatment. Some of the tracks were remixed in-house by Lord Finesse (“Thick Lord”), Showbiz (“Best Behavior”), Buckwild (“Casualties of the Dice Game”), and Diamond D (“Internationally Known”), but many of them were handed over to some of present day’s masterful beatsmiths. The Alchemist (“We All”), Apollo Brown (“All Love”), DJ Premier (“Diggin in the Crates”), 9th Wonder (“Time to Get Money”), and Marco Polo (“Way of Life”) all take turns breathing new life into songs, some of which are 20 years old.

10. Various Artists – Coalmine Records Presents: Unearthed Mixed by DJ Revolution (mixtape)
Like they did with the DJ Rhettmatic-mixed version of M-Phaze’s 2012 producer album Phazed Out, Coalmine Records dropped another mixtape in the true sense of the word. DJ Revolution mans a nonstop boom-bap party mix of tracks culled from the decade-old hip-hop preservation label’s back catalog. It features production from the likes of Marco Polo, Khrysis, Ayatollah, and more, and raps from Pharoahe Monch, Large Professor, Kool G Rap, Blu, Guilty Simpson, and Sean Price, among others.

Also of note: Army of Pharaohs – In Death Reborn, Onyx – Wakedafucup, Mobb Deep – The Infamous Mobb Deep, Freddie Gibbs & The World’s Freshest – The Tonite Show

Originally posted here.


2014 Mid-Year Best-Of: Albums

Top Ten Records of 2014 So Far
An excerpt From Scene Point Blank's Favorites: The Year So Far
By Nathan G. O'Brien on Scene Point Blank

Acid Fast – Rabid Moon (Protagonist)
Angst-y, bouncy punk rock. Melodic male-female vocal tradeoff gives it a sense of charm that’s hard to ignore. Close your eyes and let the fuzzy basslines, driving drums, and spirited guitar transport you to some damp basement party in 1993.

Brain F≠ – Empty Set (Grave Mistake / Sorry State)
See above, except the amps have been cranked, the riffs are harder, and the cocaine guy just showed up.

Creative Adult – Psychic Mess (Run For Cover)
Moody, reverb-heavy post-punk/post-hardcore with flourishes of goth and garage rock. Underneath everything lays a pulsing rhythm that allows them to hop in and out of genres while maintaining a cohesive tone.

The Estranged – Self-Titled (Dirtnap)
Striking a juxtaposition of discordant guitar, gloomy vocals, and deep grooves, this is post-punk/death-rock/other subgenres that require hyphenated descriptors that’s rich, textured, un-cold, and, well, kind of fun.

Gas Rag – Beats Off (Beach Pediment)
First The Queers beat off, and now Gas Rag beats off. Soon we’ll be beating off with insert band name here. With a title like that, do I really need to say anything here? Snarling, hurtful, thrashing, D-beaten, and dumb as shit. Basically the best punk rock ever.

Iron Hand – Injected Fear (Safety Meeting)
D-beat hardcore that swims in the Scandinavian / Portland “epic crust” end of the pool; in the instrumentation at least. The vocals lend it some tough-guy-metal-core vibes, but not in a way that conjures up images of varsity logos, sXe calf tattoos, and Nike Cortez’s. Nike Cortez’s are dope though.

Leather – Easy (Self-Released)
Tough sound to pigeonhole. Parts punk, hardcore, noise, and good old fashioned dirtbag rock ‘n’ roll. The vocals are howl-y and weirdly recorded, as if to purposefully antagonize the listener. Yet it has the opposite effect.

OFF! – Wasted Years (Vice)
In the middle of “Red, White and Black” Keith Morris says, “Arrogance is bliss. Who gives a shit?” Fitting, since this comes to us via codgy old timers on a label that’s also a humongous media conglomerate that’s been attempting to steal our scene and sell it back to us for years now. But, you know, who gives a shit.

Teledrome – Self-Titled (FDH / P.Trash)
Dark ‘80s style digi-punk. Zig-zags between glum, watery-eyed new wave and elastic, seductive electro-pop songs. This could be playing during the high school dance scene in a ‘80s teen movie. The driving force is symbol-free drum programming, brain-searing synths, and robotic pronunciations, but there’s plenty of heartstring-tugging basslines and agitated guitars to appeal to punk rock sensibilities.

White Lung – Deep Fantasy (Domino)
Haven’t heard this yet but by all indications, it will be killer. I’ll come back and update this part once it’s out. Or maybe I won’t. Instead I’ll just leave it like this and say I told you so.

Separate Rap & Hip-Hop and Punk & Hardcore lists coming soon...