Archive for the ‘Music Reviews’ category

Childish Gambino – The Making of “My Hoodie”

November 15, 2011

Welcome internet to the final part of my “whole bunch of stuff about Donald Glover” trilogy. If you’re just joining us, hi, I’m Chaz Kangas, you might remember me as the second verse on Childish Gambino’s “My Hoodie” from Sick Boi. For the past week I’ve been giving insight into Gambino’s early years to give you a better context for understanding the growth on his new album. Camp dropped today and you can/should purchase it everywhere as well as download MY FREE album featuring Mac Lethal, Stones Throw’s Homeboy Sandman, Alaska of Hangar 18 and J57 of the Brown Bag All Stars.

Gosh darn Goddard love!

So, as I mentioned in the The Younger I Get post, Goddard was a freshman dorm that Donald was an RA in and (despite my Peter Pan-esqe wishes) I couldn’t be a freshman forever, so that May I moved while he stayed there for one more year. It’s worth noting how much talent lived in that same building at one time. The Goddard Hall 2004-2005 residents include “BET 106 and Park” Top 10 staple Elle Varner, Emmy award winning “The Daily Show” writer Jenna Kim Jones and top New York tech/business blogger Nick Judd. Bear in mind, I don’t mean we were all in the same class of how many thousand students, we all lived in a yellow submarine the same seven story building. Good times.

Sick Boi (2008). There's apparently a physical version of this out there somewhere too which I've never seen. If you have, let me know.

So with both Donald and I being busy with where our lives went, he with graduating and writing for “30 Rock” and me with further schooling and hitting the east coast battle circuit hard, we didn’t really get a chance to link up musically. I did get a beat tape from him in spring 2007 (which I believe I still have) when I was reaching out for production for my then-upcoming album Knee Jerk Reaction, but we didn’t get a chance to finish something in time before I had to return to Minnesota for a summer.

The morning of January 23 2008* I get a call from Donald and we begin discussing music. This was two or three months into the writers’ strike and Donald’s work ethic being what it is, he decided it was the perfect time to make an album. He emailed me what he had of “My Hoodie” and asked if I could record that night. I said sure, tapped into everything I enjoyed about hooded sweatshirts as a youth, and the verse poured out of me. That night I went to his apartment in, I believe, Queens and recorded it with overdubs and everything in about 20 minutes. At the time, Donald was contemplating changing his rap name to “Bambino X,” which is why he begins his verse with “My name is Bambino.” He said the session was the quickest he’d had recording anyone for the album**. Afterward I caught the subway home and while on the platform saw professional wrestler Chris Kanyon videotaping the trains as they arrived and departed.

It’s still cool seeing how much that song gets around. It played while I was interviewed by DJ Ready Cee that fall and it even eventually got named rhyme of the week at the Hip-Hop Culture Center. The Rap Genius entry on it is surprisingly accurate, although I should mention the vocal cadence I use on the Sam Goody couplet is my homage to one of my all time favorite rap groups The Outsidaz’s single “Rain or Shine.” As for Sick Boi, it was a cool departure for Donald and really indicative of where both he and Hip-Hop was at the time. I know a lot of Gambino fans take issue with the Lil Wayne comparisons, especially those who only know Wayne from his “Lollipop”-type output, but Wayne’s The Dedication II mixtape (which you should download as it is both free and excellent) was so innovative and ubiquitous then that even if it wasn’t a direct influence on Donald (we’ve never discussed it) there’s a good chance it influenced someone who influenced him, and he married that with his Pharcyde Bizarre Ride II influence and there you have the very beginnings of Childish Gambino.

Thanks for reading, support Camp and until next time… let’s agree to agree!

*I checked. Thanks Gmail!

**Take THAT MC Chris

Childish Gambino – ‘The Younger I Get’

November 11, 2011

Wow internet, thanks for making the video of Donald and I freestyling go viral! As I said in the last post, hello there, I’m Chaz Kangas, you might remember me as the second verse on Childish Gambino’s “My Hoodie” from Sick Boi. Next week album Camp drops, but you can already stream the album now as well as download MY FREE album featuring Mac Lethal, Stones Throw’s Homeboy Sandman, Alaska of Hangar 18 and J57 of the Brown Bag All Stars.

We left off last time with Donald giving me a copy of The Younger I Get, an album he had just finished. He handed it out to everyone he knew who was into hip-hop at the time in an oddly thick white slim CD-R case with a paper cover that had a picture of him recording in his dorm room printed on it. Honestly, if there’s one thing that’s gone grossly underreported about Donald, it’s how hard he grinded. People forget, he at no point was an overnight success. Not only was he attending the most sought-after University in the country, but he was an RA for FRESHMEN in NEW YORK CITY on one of the SPECIALTY THEMED FLOORS. We all know how insane college freshmen get, but now imagine putting all of the “artists” of that group in one building, and two nights a week you’re in charge of all of them. Despite that, he managed to heavily promote himself and really perfect his craft with both Hammerkatz at UCB and Derrick Comedy, eventually winding up writing for a network show fresh out of college. Hard work, and insanity in general, pays off.

As you can imagine, The Younger I Get was born out of that insanity. Now, according to Tumblr, I might be the only person on the face of the Earth who has it. It does surprise me in this internet age that it hasn’t surfaced anywhere, but perhaps that’s more of a testament to how those of us who have it respect Donald’s wishes and haven’t leaked it. I know I get asked for it, even offered some pretty ridiculous sums of money for it, on a regular basis. But still, as Donald’s gone to great lengths to distance himself from it, my response has always been this. So, with so much misinformation about the album in circulation, I thought I’d make this post and offer you the next best thing with the most detailed breakdown of it ever assembled.

First off, the album was record between 2004-2005, NOT 2002. I’m pretty sure the inaccurate date stems from a typo in the one early 2009 interview where he was asked about it, and with nobody to correct it has subsequently been repeated to death. With references to 50 Cent, “The O.C.” and “Rap Snitch Knishes,” there is literally no possible way this could have been recorded two years prior. Speaking of Doom, Donald’s always worn his love for his favorite rappers on his sleeve and it shows as The Younger I Get is much more influenced by Madlib and the like than his later work, but we’ll get into what influenced Sick Boi later. There’s also the chipmunk-soul sample sound that makes up about half of the production, with the other half having the electronic bounce of jovial Nintendo games. Given where both Hip-Hop and Donald was at the time**, it’s pretty clear he produced it himself.

Another look at Goddard Hall, ground zero for Gambino.

Another oft-repeated critique of The Younger I Get is that it’s an overly-vulnerable Drake-lite. While there are the more introspective tracks, it’s not a self-indulgent emo crybaby fest at all. Such heavier moments, like “Black Kid” (racism faced at school at an early age), “A Runaway” (a highly personal confessional track) and “My Baby” (romantic rejection) do get *very* specific to the point where he names names of things that affected him, so I can see why he wouldn’t want the album in circulation. Otherwise, there’s a lot of fun on here. Opener “Da Man” has his charisma on full display with braggadocious wordplay I’d put on par with the best of his work. “Tengo,” with DC Pierson, is a great first collaboration between the two. There’s also a back-and-forth battle track between him and his penis (“2 Brains”) an instrumental (“Me and Austen”) and a soulful track of just him singing (“Home”). It’s clear listening to it that the same guy who made it also made Camp, and it’s cool to hear him still have that touch of the same hometown as this man, but given how much his production levels grew even three years later, the distance is understandable. I will say, if Donald ever does agree to let ONE song leak from the project, urge him for “Da Man” or “Summer is Here.” Donald and I kept trying to get together to record that fall back in NYC, but with college and both of our careers going in very different directions, we wound up not being able to finally do a song together until the writer’s strike wound up giving us a chance to sit down and discuss me doing something for his then forthcoming album Sick Boi

To Be Continued with…THE MAKING OF “MY HOODIE!”

So until next time…let’s agree to agree.

*You could call it “how hard he hustles,” but I’ve never been a fan of that word as I feel when working hard with something you believe in, you aren’t hustling someone else out of something.

**One of Donald’s single’s cover arts (can’t remember which one, please correct me) I’m 95% certain is a photo from inside of his dorm this year. The one with the video game on the TV with the bottle of lotion next to it and the desk with the two shelves.

Remembering Eyedea…

October 16, 2011

I couldn’t attend the park bench/picnic table dedication in St. Paul today, so I made this tribute.

REALLY QUICK: ‘Watch the Throne,’ ‘Tha Carter IV,’ and the Hip-Hop Numbers Game.

September 9, 2011

What the album comes packaged in - Tha Carter Foreskin!

For those of you who read this site and ONLY this site, you’ve probably been wondering both where I’ve been and what else the internet has to offer. Well, I’ve been writing for several sites and publications, such as The New York Times, Complex Magazine, Funny or Die etc., and regularly write my music reviews at Spectrum Culture. Being I write for so many sites now, Popular Opinions is going to serve as something of a mothership, not only a place where I generate the same quality content you’ve grown to love and respect, but a place to keep you abreast of all the different articles I’ve been writing for different sites.

So, given the two biggest stories in Hip-Hop for the past month, let’s talk Watch the Throne and Tha Carter IV.

Here’s my full review of Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch the Throne

Here’s my full review of Tha Carter IV

Now that you’ve read both of those, let me break it down like this:

The Best moments of Tha Carter IV > Jay-Z’s rapping on Watch the Throne > The Worst moments of Tha Carter IV > Kanye’s rapping on Watch the Throne > The Game’s rapping on The R.E.D. Album.

If I knew you were debuting on Billboard that high, I would have baked a cake!

But probably the most rewarding thing about Tha Carter IV moving almost a million (or a millie) units in its debut week is the sign that people once again really seem to care about Hip-Hop. I know, your industry friend on Twitter has been exercising his ‘SMH’-typing fingers and wondering aloud “why do people care about first week sales?” Well, in some weird way, they’ve become a returning cyclical excitement for the modern music listener. Remember in 7th grade when you kept a piece of notebook paper hung up in your locker with a list of upcoming albums and their release dates so you could count down each day remember to cop them? Prior to Nas’ I Am… and Jay-Z’s Vol. 3 ushering in the MP3 era, if you lived outside of New York the possibility of bootlegging new albums before their release was non-existant. Release dates seemed to signify something, and now they act as almost a validating testament for artists that we’re excited about. When Atmosphere and Tyler, the Creator had albums debut in Billboard’s Number 5 spot, or when UGK finally debuted at Number 1, I did feel somewhat like my high school basketball team just took State. Sure, it’s a silly numbers game, but ladies love numbers. Fellas do too! While strong catalog titles may in all actuality be a more impressive feat (shouts to Waka Flocka Flame whose “No Hands” single has been on the Hip-Hop charts for an astonishing 56 weeks in a row!)  seeing an album’s release be an important pop culture event is a pretty cool thing.

As for Tha Carter IV, it may redefine how a rap artist is treated in the music industry. Typically, every artist on a major label is one under-performing album away from being a has-been. Looking at the past decade, how many artists have gone from the biggest single of the year to not even making the sticker when they guest on other records? Wayne may have changed that. At the height of Wayne hysteria, Tha Carter III moved one million copies its first week. Two years later, his follow up album Rebirth did only 100,000 copies. Last week, Tha Carter IV did 1 million again. While all of these were #1 debuts, the really impressive feat here is that not only was Rebirth a pretty substantial dropoff, Tha Carter IV is possibly the biggest artist comeback of our time. To put it in perspective, for everyone ONE person that bought Rebirth, NINE MORE bought Tha Carter IV. Further, this is TWICE the number that Jay-Z and Kanye’s powers combined (436,000) managed to sell. Compound that by the fact that Jay and Kayne had NO LEAK, and Wayne’s was readily available for pirates more than a week ahead of time, and you realize what a commercial slam dunk this record was.

At the end of the day, what does this all mean? Run the numbers anyway you want, but what has me genuinely excited is that a million people paid for copies of a rap album that they really didn’t have to. That’s pretty cool.

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!

Chaz Kangas’ FREE album ‘A Personal Reference’ is OUT NOW! DOWNLOAD HERE!

April 1, 2011

Here's the cover!

As I type this, it’s 11:21 PM on March, 28th 2011, year of our Lord. In about a half-hour I will be releasing something that I’ve been working on for almost two years, longer than I’ve worked on any other project, to the cold unforgiving void of the internet. While I’ve never been more confident in anything with my name attached to it*, there is a certain number of butterflies/dragonflies/fireflies in my stomach to match my excitement. Since there may be a number of you who read this site unfamiliar with my musical endeavors, allow me to demystify the previous paragraph and explain that the very Chaz Kangas who has been shocking your eyelids with reviews of the KFC Double Down and Top Ten Lists of obscene rap videos is a rap artist himself and really doesn’t like speaking in third person so let me cut to the chase and say my album A PERSONAL REFERENCE is available for FREE RIGHT HERE:

A Personal Referencehttp://chazkangas.bandcamp.com/album/a-personal-reference

A Personal Reference (Clean Version) - http://chazkangas.bandcamp.com/album/a-personal-reference-clean-version

Being this blog is my primary long-form contact with the world, I’ve been going back-and-forth about how I was going to write about it. Strange as it may sound, I’ve never really been a big “talk about my own music” type of guy. I’ve known plenty of people who respond to a “Hey, what’s up?” with a 15 minute monologue about their latest project, but that’s never really been me. While I appreciate their enthusiasm for..themselves(?), I’m well aware that I’m the guy who once wrote 1,000 words on the Street Fighter soundtrack, so I guess my conversational passion falls in the category of everyone’s music EXCEPT my own. Still, A Personal Reference is my baby and I absolutely love reading artists I admire talk about their own work, so on the off-chance anyone actually likes the music I make, I think I owe it to them to explain how these 38 minutes of madness came to be.

I had known Richard (AKA Good Goose) for about a year. His group Menya had become one of my favorite live acts after a few subsequent conversations at different Nyle concerts, decided we wanted to work together. We recorded the first song “Garlic” a week after the Union Square Virgin Megastore, the last Virgin Megastore in the Western World, closed. I had been working there and going down with the ship was a sad process. I was a year out of college and in the five years I had been there seen New York City completely change. Everyone whose ever lived in NYC for any period of time has echoed this sentiment, but it seemed like everything in my life was slipping away really, really fast. When it comes to any art, I’ve always believed a changing man is infinitely more interesting than a changed man**, and the changes over the past two years that Goose and I made this album were among the biggest in my life. I put them all out on the table, made some obscure references about them, a few quick puns, and recorded it, and there you have A Personal Reference.

Here's the tracklisting!

As you can probably tell, I’ve very pleased with the record. The guest appearances, from Mac Lethal disemboweling “Scrambled Eggs” as the Q-Tip to my Mobb Deep, Alaska sending up conspiracy theorists on the political-rap satire “Truth ‘n’ Stuffz” and Homeboy Sandman bringing his special brand of awesome to “I Think, I Know,” I’m as excited to share their contributions as I am my own. J57 and Coco Dame make some fine cameos as well. Caroline Sinders took some incredible pictures of us at an Arby’s and Sneed put together a fantastic layout. My cousin Nick also bought me the Bloodsport t-shirt for Christmas two years prior, and I attribute that to my success more than anything.

That’s all I’m going to say about the album unprovoked. If you have any questions about it, put them in the comments and I will gladly reply. I’m not going to rate the album as this is the one time I might be slightly bias so in the name of my own credibility I’m going to refrain from giving it the world’s first seven out of five rating.

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!

*With the possible excepting being a short film I made in 2002 for my American History class that had Louie Armstrong, Al Capone and Charles Lindberg snowed-in at a cabin they each though they had rented on the same weekend. Yes, I stand by Louie & Charlie’s Cabin Fever to-this-day as the most entertaining way for your children to learn about the Scopes Trial, Prohibition and Sinclair Lewis.

**If you’ve ever see Nyle’s “Let the Beat Build” video (and let’s be real, who hasn’t), when he says the line “my best friend says that music comes from someone in transition,” he’s referring to me. I’m also a “zigazig-ah.”


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