Posted tagged ‘definitive jux’

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 Reference

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.”

CLASSIC CHAZ: El-P “I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead” – Music Review

August 5, 2010

It's a bird, OK?!

With this week’s release of El-P’s Weareallgoingtoburninhellmegamixxx3 and my review of it over at Spectrum Culture, I thought now would be a good time to up a review I did of El’s previous album that originally ran in March, 2007 for the now defunct DropMagazine. They had me rate things on scale of 1.0 to 10.0 where this originally received a 9.5, but I’ve modified it to match the strict 1-5 motif of our little playhouse. Enjoy!

“This is the sound of what you don’t know killing you” begins the chorus of “Tasmanian Pain Coaster,” the opening track from MC/Producer El-P’s highly anticipated 2007 album I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead. Easily the best publicized independent release of the year thus far, with promotional campaigns involving the likes of the New York Times, iTunes, and the Cartoon network’s Adult Swim programming block, the former Company Flow frontman managed to bright Definitive Jux to the Billboard promised land, debuting at #78 on the top 200 and moving 11,417 units in its first week at a time when rap releases are being outsold by a two-to-one ratio by Dane Cook. With his previous release, 2002’s Fantastic Damage peaking at #198 and the label’s previous highest charter, Aesop Rock’s 2003 album Bazooka Tooth, only reaching #112, it seems the Definitive Jux bulldozer is continuing to roll strongly, picking up new fans with each go-round.

This should come as no surprise as, in the five years between releases, El has remained quite the busy beaver. While some have mistakenly referred to this time as a hiatus, El has been quite active through releasing a jazz album, overseeing the production on albums from flagship artists Cage and Mr. Lif, launching a digital download website for his label, and contributing remixes to such high-profile artists as Beck and Nine Inch Nails. Such efforts, as well as changing times, have seemingly impacted his soundscape. While he retains his trademark wall-of-sound production ethos, the transitions are far less jarring and his song structure, such as the verse-chorus-verse lyrics of “EMG” and “Up All Night,” has evolved to become somewhat more linear.

But it is the very limitation that El places himself in that allows I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead to function as such a wonderfully executed experiment of a record. Painstakingly orchestrated in the format of an actual album, a process forgotten by most in today’s ever-changing digital-music landscape, each of the albums 13 tracks not only maintain, but emphasized the project’s progressive momentum simply by being organized next to one another. And with El-P’s verses, as well as two guest appearances by Cage and Aesop Rock and countless blink-and-you’ll-miss-them cameo ranging from Trent Reznor to Cat Power to Slug from Atmosphere to former Company Flow DJ Mr. Len, all mixed as part of the presentation, instead of just at the forefront, and you have an almost daunting finished product that, on realized ambition alone, stands head-and-shoulders over any rap release in recent memory.

One of my favorite promo images.

Such layers gives not only the album a fully flourished final product, but gives the listener several options regarding how to approach ingesting it. At face value, one is treated to vivid storytelling (El encountering a ravaged acquaintance on the subway in “Tasmanian Pain Coaster,” finding love on a futuristic prison ship in “Habeas Corpses”), inspired ranting (taking Mayor Bloomberg and rappers who “went from battle rap to gun talk like we ain’t notice the change” to task on “Smithereens,” listing things more plausible than his participation in military service on “Dead Sirs”) and unpretentious coming-of-age realizations (the pitfalls of a May-December romance on “The Overly Dramatic Truth,” coping with addiction on “Poisonville Kids No Wins”). Further analyzation reveals numerous possible interpretations and gems buried within the soundscape (it took me at least a dozen listens to recognize the distorted Tickle-Me-Elmo laughter in “Tasmanian Pain Coaster”) to the point where those interested in further listening with be handsomely rewarded.

Despite all this album has going for it, there are some flaws. The least of which, is how certain songs only work within the confines of the album itself and fails to stand on their own. Yet, since this album was designed to be listened to as a whole, one can’t hold that against it. Otherwise, after such a tour-de-force, the album’s ultimate conclusion at the end of “Poisonville Kids No Wins” just seems anticlimactic, and not in a manner that falls in line with the rest of the album’s painfully bleak tone. I’d imagine El was going for the effect of having such a complex release slowly stripping itself of each layer to the point of nothing to give contrast and a certain space to breathe again following the journey, but such an ending just doesn’t function perhaps due to it’s rather quick speed after such a tumultuous journey.

Still, that’s truly knit-picking and shouldn’t dissuade you in the least from one of the most important, and enjoyable, releases our genre has seen in quite sometime. The album is intelligent, intellectual, inventive, intentionally humorous, and most importantly sounds great. Truly an outstanding effort on the part of El-Producto that he will no longer have to lose sleep over.

We give I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead a Four Out of Five

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

A Guide to One-Take Rap Videos

May 7, 2010

Take me out to the blog post! One take, that is!

As this site has well established, rap music is awesome. What’s also awesome, is the art of the music video. Once thought to be merely a three minute promotional tool aired for 1-3 months and then never seen again, thanks to the YouTube era they’ve now entered immortality and help determine who is going to direct our Terminator sequels. Being primarily a commercial for a song, record labels and musicians alike have tried cutting costs as many ways possible. Since rock group The Replacements introduced the one-take video in 1986 with “Bastards of Young,” videos that have been one-take or made to seem like they were one-take have been successful as both an eye-catching and cost-cutting tactic.

Since I think we’ve all seen enough OKGO, I’ve decided to compile the definitive list of one-take rap videos.

Xzibit – “What U See is What U Get” (1998, Director: Gregory Dark)

The video that made me a regular BET watcher, a tribute to Hitchcock’s Rope, “What U See is What U Get” follows Xzibit to the store to get some milk, only to have any and everything get in his way. While it’s much more impressive to see on television as there’s A LOT more going on than can fit in a YouTube screen, its sheer ingenuity and replay value has allowed it to stand the test of time much more than its more expensive counterparts*.

MF Doom – “Dead Bent” (1999, Director: Piston Honda)

Once upon a time before he was a no-showing cartoon of himself, MF Doom was an indie oddity whose mask existed as a metaphor for one hiding their scars within rap music. A tragic figure, he was never more visually realized than the 1999 video for “Dead Bent.” A reinterpretation of Cibo Matto’s “Sugar Water,” Doom exists hauntingly as an everyday supervillain. Consider it – domestic Doom.

Scarface – “On My Block” (2002, Director: Mark Klasfeld)

My favorite rapper and my favorite video director team up to make my favorite from this list. One continuous trip around the block shows everything Scarface’s neighborhood has gone through over the course of his life. Beautifully bookended by a life/death dichotomy, this is one of only two videos I ever remember BET heavily promoting the debut of**. Keep your eyes peeled for Scarface’s only appearance in the video selling Uncut Dope out of the trunk.

Lil Jon f/ Mystikal & Krayzie Bone “I Don’t Give A” (2003, Director: Gil Green)

This one is the most obviously not one take, but the choppyness serves a purpose. A rap reinterpretation of Prodigy’s infamous “Smack My Bitch Up” video***, this video follows a night on the town with Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz as all H*ck breaks loose. With a cameo list only rivaled by UGK’s “International Players Anthem”, the rapid fire jump-cutting to concert footage come-to-life is meant to mimic the experience of live music while on syrup. Consider it visual chopping and screwing.

louis logic & JJ Brown – “The Great Divide” (2006, Director: Jed I. Rosenberg)

What’s cool about former Demigodz member louis logic’s “The Great Divide” video is how it is a direct interpretation of the song without being a literal one. The frozen frame of the camera showing logic walking in place while the entire rest of the world walks past him mirrors the song’s protagonist who can’t get out of his own way and live his life until the very end when he just releases himself and walks along with the world.

Hangar 18 – “Feet to Feet” (2008, Director: Paul Iannacchino)

After not appearing in their 2007 album Sweep the Leg’s first video “Baking Soda,” Definitive Jux MCs Alaska and Windnbreez made a video that rested on the strength of their charisma. Capturing the energy of their live performances, the one-take serves as both a channel of unfiltered Hangar as well as some pretty cool visuals.

Nyle – “Let the Beat Build” (2009, Director: Chadd Harbold)

Finally, the video that was number #1 on YouTube, Okayplayer, Gawker, Google, NASA and everywhere in-between, Nyle’s “Let the Beat Build.” His senior project, capturing the vibrant energy of the NYUterus, the sheer insanity here is that the entire clip is a live performance. A labor of love****, it wound up getting so popular that it bucked the entire corporate music industry label system and landed on MTV*****. Since you’ve probably read everything there is to read about this video, please enjoy this song that Nyle and I made last year as a free download.


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

*I just rewatched the Busta Rhymes-Janet Jackson “What’s It Gonna Be” video for the first time in a decade, and it’s aged so bad it hurt my feelings.

**The other being Juvenile’s “Follow Me Now,” which has nothing to do with this list.

***Extra props for keeping the original twist ending.

****Love, of course, meaning hours upon hours of rehearsal.

*****That’s MTV ONE! Insert the same “MTV-never-plays-videos” joke you’ve made since 1996 here.