Music

Freddie Gibbs: Str8 Killa / Str8 Killa No Filla

One of the most exciting new rappers in years (though he's truly been struggling since 2003), Freddie Gibbs takes a move from Drake's playbook by dropping the best EP/mixtape combo of the year.


Freddie Gibbs

Str8 Killa No Filla

Label: Decon
US Release Date: 2010-07-29
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At this point, criticizing Freddie Gibbs is a fairly difficult proposition. It usually comes down to one of three things: I've heard you say this before. This beat is mediocre. Or your guest is lame. Because when it comes to Gibbs himself, he's reached a point where every bar he spits is somewhat unassailable on its own merits. He spits teflon bars, word mazes that feel immaculate the instant they leave his lips. His talent is constantly put on shine when put up against, say, Chicago's Dipset-aspiring L.E.P. Bogus Boys, or even true pros like Planet Asia. The guy throws words together like a five-star chef, crafting unique delicacies out of familiar ingredients and laying them out like a piece of art rather than just another dish.

Str8 Killa No Filla has a few of the aforementioned problems. "In My Hood", for example, appears for at least the third time in Gibbs' discography, this time swapping local Gary talent for big city Chi-town prospects. The result is a very mechanical, maudlin track compared to the original. There are also some songs like "Face Down", "My City", "Goon Shit" and "Best Friend" that are technically solid, but just don't move the meter much emotionally. This is also one of the first tapes to release after his underground hype reached its apex, so it's got tracks like "Slammin'" that have been floating around since February. I don't generally follow song leaks, so that's not a problem for me, but it's worth noting the tape definitely has more of a, well, tape feel than some might be accustomed to. Gibbs will also let songs ride out and just bluntly end, though, like his "Born 2 Roll" freestyle or "Slammin'".

There aren't a long list of negatives, though. The details in the "Dollar$ 4 Dope" beat are exquisite, and Gibbs continues to sound fantastic over chillwave-esque beats like Statik Selektah's "Serve or Get Served" and "Crushin' Feelin's". "Do Wrong" is another mad dope collaboration with Pill that looks at the flip side of "Run Up to Me", their collaboration on Pill's Refill mixtape. "P.S.A." is another script flip, as Gibbs turns from his straight player persona and opens up to the fact he might eat such an amazing pussy out (if drunk), or even fall in love. Str8 Killa No Filla isn't on the level of his other tapes, but combined with the tracks on the Str8 Killa EP, August 2010 has been about equally as dope for Gibbs as the summer of 2009, and while it's about time he drops that official album, it's really hard to complain about a guy that puts so much obvious work into his craft.

Gibbs explains it best with the EP's opener, "Rep 2 tha Fullest": where most gangsta artists these days use the music as a way to either A) excuse their lifestyle or B) recapture the memories of their youth, it's rare the rapper who uses his gangsta music as an escape from the subject matter. Strange? Sure, but in the '90s, Gibbs' heroes like Bun B, Scarface and 2Pac (until his later days) made a point to point one finger forward as well as backward, accepting the bigger picture that with success would (should) come new goals and social expectations.

It's this ethos that makes Gibbs such a sympathetic figure, but it's his lyricism that brings him to the next level. The guy is able to put seemingly anything together that he wants to, and while his word choice is not that of a bookworm Eminem or cartoon character Redman, it's not a crutch. Gibbs is simply a very direct person, and his statements need no thesaurus; they are what they are. His street album Midwestgangstacadillacmuzik is the only so-called instant classic in the past five to 10 years of rap to boast both a mixtape DJ and no label support.

While Gibbs is still a free agent, this Str8 Killa duo comes courtesy of Decon Records. Both releases do plenty to further Gibbs' momentum, but I do feel like both leave a little to be desired. The mixtape suffers from mastering issues and some of the more bland styles from The Miseducation of... and his earlier mixtapes. And the EP, with a bevy of features and a collection of beats that feel slightly homogenic and certainly less fresh than the stuff on Midwestgangsta, is something that sounds excellent in the car, but just doesn't leave a strong impression anywhere else. "Personal OG" is a major highlight, but it's ultimately just a weed song. And Bun B may have stolen the tape with his verse on "Rock Bottom", something that outclasses everything he's spit in the past year, save perhaps "Trap or Die 2". Gibbs continues to build momentum towards his official debut, and this EP/mixtape combination is certainly very good.

Ultimately, this is the first Gibbs project you can legally purchase in stores. So, you know...you should do that.

8

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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