The closest thing Filipino rap has to conjoined twins, Prometheus Brown and Bambu present their latest work as The Bar. Barkada is the duo’s sophomore release on Beatrock Music. Full confession: I haven’t listened to it yet but I can tell by osmosis that it’s at least as good as their entertaining run of promo videos on Instagram. More words about Barkada to come.
The Bar’s new record, auspiciously titled Barkada, is set to drop tomorrow on Beatrock Music. Here’s a little preview then: the video for the duo’s “Coming (To America)”, directed by the always reliable DJ Nphared; the track was produced by The Physics’ in-house beatmaker Justo.
Also, the reference point:
The Bar’s Prometheus Brown and Bambu are featured on Power Struggle’s latest drop, “A Round For My Friends”. Nomi (frontman MC for PS) links fundamentally/organizationally with his Beatrock Music brethren. “Fight music ’til there’s nothing left to fight about,” raps Pro Brown. This is fist up, marching music.
THOUGHT BUBBLE: The Art of Going Viral – On Spekulation’s “Bout That Action” and Seattle’s Existential Super Bowl Angst
As I sit in front of my WordPress stats page, bewildered at the rapid increase in blog hits as a result of Spekulation’s now gone-viral remix of Marshawn Lynch’s charmingly glib Q&A session with Deion Sanders, two thoughts enter my mind: 1) Why the fuck didn’t I think of that? And 2) What, pray tell, is actually the perfect recipe for a meme to go viral? (It then dawns on me that if I truly knew the answer to #2, I wouldn’t be asking myself #1. So it goes…)
Going viral on the internet is as unpredictable as forecasting the weather. It’s something akin to opening a massive restaurant with a menu containing millions of items, and for some reason the grilled cheese with anchovies sandwich ends up being the most popular one. As the proprietor of said restaurant, all you really know is your customers are coming hungry, but for what exactly is unclear.
Sometimes the viral-ized captures the zeitgeist — like Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” or Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe”. Other times, it fulfills some sort of emotional need: The internet is so full of horrible news and horrible people commenting on said horrible news, it’s no wonder a tumbling sequence of adorable cat pictures with misspelled captions steals the productivity away from millions. And, yet other times still, going viral is simply a case of the blind squirrel finding the proverbial you-know-what.
My take on Spekulation’s “Bout That Action (Beast Mode Remix)” has nothing to do with dumb luck and everything to do with the Restaurant Corollary (terminology mine) I described above: There is a large community of Seattle sports fans that have no grand tradition(s) to fall back on in the lead-up to this weekend’s Super Bowl*. We — and I’m definitely including myself here — have rushed full-speed, head-on into a pre-Super Bowl state of celebration and agonizing anticipation, clinging only to our bankrupt estimations of what might — what could — possibly come to be. The emotions of a post-Super Bowl XLVIII universe where our favored team is inexplicably crowned the victor, is as unknowable and alien as life is on Mars.
“Bout That Action” is simply our gravity. It is the drum beat keeping regular time for our racing hearts. Hearts that threaten to destroy us by pumping lethal doses of anxiety into our already alcohol- and caffeine-saturated blood streams. Rapper Prometheus Brown seems to understand this. He cut a version of Spekulation’s track called “This Ain’t A Seahawks Anthem”, complete with precise, fastidious raps, and then followed up the song with these tweets:
Glad yall fux w the non anthem. Shout @spekulation for posting the rapper friendly version. This Super Bowl needs to just happen already b
— Prometheus Brown (@prometheusbrown) January 31, 2014
— Prometheus Brown (@prometheusbrown) January 31, 2014
The confluence of professional sports and hip hop in Seattle isn’t new, but the grand tradition of excellence has been fleeting. Until now, it’s existed just this side of a theory (1978-79 Sonics and present-day Macklemore notwithstanding). We are currently in a state of existential angst over these Seahawks. We are hungering at the door of an establishment we don’t truly know the inside of. There is a menu of items at our disposal, yes, but all we can really tell you is that we’re “bout that action”. That is, until the barriers guarding virtue fall on Sunday, and the mysteries of sports deliverance are solved in front of our very eyes.
*Yes, I realize the Seahawks have already played in a Super Bowl, but I contend this year feels different. Seattle fans have been able to stake a claim to having the best team in the NFL all season. The 2013 version of the Seahawks is an intense microcosm of what we’ve desired since the ’80s. It’s a little bit like the 2001 Mariners when they were the best… Until they weren’t.
NEW MUSIC: “Bout That Action (Beast Mode Remix)” / “This Ain’t A Seahawks Anthem” – Spekulation (feat. Marshawn Lynch, Deion Sanders & Prometheus Brown)
The Super Bowl story that’s not really a story: Marshawn Lynch and his (now trademarked) understated press conference appearances. Somewhere in here lives a thought piece on Marshawn’s brilliant upending of our country’s expectations of how Black athletes should present themselves to the public — the counterpoint to Richard Sherman’s outspoken cries of excellence. Why in God’s name aren’t we wringing our hands over this?!
Town rapper and producer Spekulation gives us the soundtrack for our rumination: “Bout That Action (Beast Mode Remix)” subverts our complex reactions to Marshawn’s curious behavior by employing a singular telling statement made by the man himself. The simple repetition of his sampled words, “Bout that action, boss”, are matched by the equally rudimentary drum pattern of the song, thereby distilling Lynch’s message to its fundamental constituent elements: He is, simply, ’bout that action, boss. And we should be, too. God bless everyone. And God bless the United States of Super Bowl America.
Update, 1.30.14, 4:45pm PST:
And the inevitable remix to the remix: “This Ain’t A Seahawks Anthem”, featuring Prometheus Brown rapping from what sounds like a busy sports bar lobby or the non-business end of his cell phone.
Ah, Manny Pacquiao… To carry the weight of an entire embattled nation upon your shoulders is a burden I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. On the new track, “Manny”, The Bar (who is Prometheus Brown + Bambu) lament last year’s KO at the hands of Juan Manuel Marquez, but are now likely celebrating last night’s victory over Brandon Rios. (I smell a follow-up track.) The Bar’s Barkada is out soon.
Here’s a dilemma I hope I’m faced with next February: Finding enough coin in the couch cushions to travel to the Meadowlands to watch an unnamed hometown team do their damn thing in the unnamed Big Game. (Names have been omitted so as not to jinx their chances — not that I believe in that shit, anyway.)
(Thanks to Pro Brown for the clip.)
I’ll be honest, I haven’t really checked for Chops since his Virtuosity compilation album in 2003 — when I burned the deck out in my military green 4Runner bumping this joint — so go figure that it takes a collab with Town representative Pro Brown and de-facto Town rep Bambu to draw me back in to Chops’ roughneck, boom-bap headphone space. “Put It On The Line” premiered live on KEXP and the Soundcloud clip below has been making the Tumblr rounds (h/t to NW Hip Hop).
As far as Chops goes, he’s preparing a new album called Strength In Numbers, which you can support with a few duckets over at the official Kickstarter page.
Rock/reggae crew Kore Ionz with the second single from their 2011 album, World War Free. “First Avenue” gets the video treatment and guest bars from one Prometheus Brown.
Do you trust this face to be a voice of reason when it comes to race relations? Me neither.
If Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis reunited to make a love song about books and then enlisted the rap stylings of two Filipino brothers this might be what they would come up with. Oh, and also if it were adapted into a sitcom set in the ’80s then you’d have this video. Whaaaaat…
(New The Bar album, Barkada, coming soon.)
VIDEO: “Rent Money Tour: Seattle” – Bambu (feat. Kixxie Siete, Rey Resurreccion, Prometheus Brown, & Grynch)
Shout-out to Bambu for dropping this video off this morning. Check him out live on the Rent Money Tour. Read my opinionated opinions on his latest LP One Rifle Per Family here. The Physics’s Mario Sweet on the beat.
And R.I.P. John T. Williams.
Here’s the latest video treatment for The Bar’s “At It Again” off that Walk Into A Bar record you should already have by now. The story about this one via the crew’s YouTube:
Footage shot July 2011 in Honolulu, HI by Canh Solo, lost in a devastating hard drive crash, miraculously recovered in 2012, and edited by Prometheus Brown in one stoned night.
Hopefully by now you’ve seen Pro Brown’s spoken word commentary in the Seattle Times on the recent (and not so recent) gun violence plaguing Seattle.
It’s unsettling to see how regional (cough! *socioeconomic* cough! cough! *racial*) delineations in the city contribute to the imbalance in news coverage of identical acts of violence. But I don’t have to tell you that ’cause you already know, right? RIGHT? Here’s Geo acting as the much-needed voice of reason over a Sabzi beat you might find familiar. And if you have an extra moment in your day, make sure to check the Comments section of the Times piece. Some of the shit on there is abhorrent. These are our neighbors, fam. SMH.
Check it out: the first official music video from Prometheus Brown and Bambu’s excellent 2011 collaboration, The Bar.
UPDATE (2.21.12, 12 pm PST): Beatrock Music also released a free Maxi Single featuring “Lookin’ Up” remixes by producers 6Fingers and Generation ILL. Get with it, here.
Today continues 206UP.COM’s countdown of the Top 10 Seattle Hip-Hop Albums of 2011. See yesterday’s post for the Introduction and three standout releases that didn’t quite make the cut. Today’s post features albums 10 through 6. Tomorrow (Thursday, 12.22.11) we’ll post 5 through 1. Thanks for reading!
(Click on the album covers for links to download or purchase.)
10. Dyme Def – Yuk The World
Here we have the trio of Brainstorm, S.E.V. and Fearce Villain behaving in the way we’re accustomed: Mixing top-shelf brag rap with sobering tales about growing up hard in the South End. It’s been over four years since Space Music, the area’s official introduction to the Three Bad Brothas from Renton. Since then, the crew has been missing a key component to their hustle: The production of BeanOne, whose lively trunk rattle serves as the perfect delivery vehicle for the three MCs’ sharp witticisms. Thankfully Bean is back here, providing the majority of the framework in which Dyme Def gets busy. One complaint: Yuk The World is too long, but that’s only because Dyme Def’s real voice hasn’t been heard in some time. Consider this a year-ending takeover attempt by one of the SEA’s most important groups in history.
9. Nacho Picasso – For The Glory
Emerging from a Cloud (Nice, that is) of weed smoke and comic book sound effects is Nacho Picasso. Even blazed-up and squinty-eyed this dude is more clever than your average MC, dropping punchlines quippy enough to win the affection of both your girlfriend and high-brow music publications. For The Glory‘s arrival on the scene correlates perfectly with the sonic trends going on in the greater rap arena. Production duties were handled by Blue Sky Black Death, whose hazy take on the Cloud Rap aesthetic fits in nicely next to the genre’s currently favored albums. The star here is inarguably Nacho himself, though. Holding a Marvel comic book in one hand and a Dessert Eagle in the other, the man otherwise known as The Tat in the Hat is poised to introduce his specific branch of Seattle rap to the rest of the nation.
8. Art Vandelay – They’ve Got My Number Down At The Post Office
MC Ricky Pharoe and producer Mack Formway are Art Vandelay, an affiliate of the left-of-center Black Lab Productions camp. On They’ve Got My Number Down At The Post Office they question the honesty of our government, point shotguns at their televisions and generally wonder indignantly how anyone in their right mind could see worldly goings-on as anything but a degradation of all that is beautiful and just. “Art Vandelay” is a self-delusion perpetuated by Seinfeld‘s George Costanza — a lie in the form of a heroic archetype that helps George feel better about his otherwise mundane existence. Pharoe is calling us the liars on They’ve Got My Number: We’re fools to think for even a second that anything is all good. Oh well, at least when the world begins crumbling down around us we’ll have Art Vandelay’s soundtrack playing in the background, telling us so.
7. Onry Ozzborn – Hold on for Dear Life
I think Seattle forgets how great an MC Onry Ozzborn is. That’s probably because his creative output sneaks by in the same way his monotonic flow inserts subversive social commentary and unique turns-of-phrases into our collective unconscious. Last year’s Dark Time Sunshine project with Chicago producer Zavala was the region’s rap genius lurking in the proverbial shadows. DTS was the one laughing at silly rappers driving by in rented whips, the fakers’ who used their own beautiful sisters and cousins as stand-ins for video models too expensive for their shallow pocketbooks.
Onry might not be a rich man himself, but when it comes to industry respect he has an abundance. From a musical standpoint, Hold on for Dear Life was the most experimental release from the MC to date. It played in bright electronica, post-dubstep pop and the familiar gothic gloom specific to Onry’s infamous crew, Grayskul. If and when the Seattle hip-hop weather affects other regions on a greater scale, it will be OG MC’s like Onry Ozzborn casting the tell-tale Northwest cloud cover.
6. Prometheus Brown & Bambu – Walk into a Bar
What began on mostly a freebie lark ultimately turned into this 10-track for-profit album with some of the best production value around. Prometheus Brown (known traditionally to Seattle as Geo, of course) and Los Angeles’ Bambu pay homage to their island origination on Walk into a Bar which was released on Bambu’s label (Beatrock Music) and aimed squarely at the Hawaiian Islands, a favorite tour destination for the two MCs. As per standard, Geo and Bambu choose their words carefully always using them to uplift and inform rather than degrade and dispirit. “National Treasure,” for example, is important commentary on gender politics and features a beat from Vitamin D whose drums somehow always sound bigger than everyone else’s.
One thing producer MTK isn’t, is subtle. Everything in his production warehouse — from the beats, to the synth, to the samples — are big, powerhouse workouts of hip-hop composition. Sophisticated Slap is a sampler collection of the nationally-sought local producer otherwise known as Matthew Crabtree. The collection, which at its best sounds like the sonic love-child of Just Blaze and Dr. Dre, features a few joints recognizable (previous tracks blessed by RA Scion, Bambu and Prometheus Brown) and others ready for brand new poetical adornment. MCs would be wise to drink their 5-Hour Energys before hopping on, however, as these beats are not conducive to lyrical cut-laying.
Fresh from his Brownouts blog, Prometheus Brown (you know him also as Geo) just posted for your downloading pleasure, a compilation of “calabs, b-sides, rough drafts, photos.” For the rarities aficionados there are also some unreleased Blue Scholars tracks. Click on over for a tracklist and to download, here.
DLRN (as in “Delorean”) is Sacramento duo 5th Ave (MC) and Jon Reyes (beats). The 206UP.COM staff has been checking for them for a minute now and you should too. “Reset” is the duo’s latest video and it features Prometheus Brown rocking familiar Seattle snapback.
Geo told me the title of his and Bambu’s new project, Walk Into A Bar, is not some sort of clever rap allegory, but rather what literally was happening at the precise moment dudes decided to do an album together. I think it’s weird that it took ‘em this long considering how long they’ve been down — it’s not like either of them have better things to do. Kidding.
I haven’t even listened to this yet, so excuse me for writing without point-of-reference, but it just dropped today so I had to post. More thoughts later…
The first drop from Prometheus Brown and Bambu’s Beatrock collab, Walk Into A Bar. This partnership feels as natural as that organic sh-t growing in your backyard. Project hits pavement, beach sand and forest floor on July 6.
Amidst the massive amount of success Blue Scholars has experienced since its formation in 2002, MC Geo (aka. Prometheus Brown) and DJ/producer Sabzi have remained stubbornly — defiantly even — proletariat in their musical aims. It’s a testament to the duo’s acute devotion to the rank-and-file they prefer to serve that there have been no Clear Channel radio-ready singles, no flirtations with major labels and their “fucked-up” (as Geo once put it) three-sixty deals, no appearances on late night television, and no wavering from the Socialist underpinnings that have provided the ballast for the group’s lyrical content since its inception.
In fact, in support of the crew’s third LP, Cinemetropolis, Geo and Sabzi asked “the people” to subsidize the album’s production via the Kickstarter platform, a move that could have been dismissed as rap hubris run amok if it had been made by any other group without a history as communally-oriented as this one. Fans replied to the tune of about $62,000 in donations in 45 days, a response that indicates Blue Scholars has become a sort of mini-movement in addition to just being a rap group. This particular album cycle is literally being powered by a loyal fan base that asks for little in return other than the group’s best efforts at dopeness on wax, which is exactly what Cinemetropolis represents thus far in Blue Scholars’ discography.
The group was unofficially knighted the de facto leader of Seattle’s underground hip-hop movement in the mid aughts, all of it due to the crew’s self-titled debut album, an accessible collection of Golden Era-styled boom-bap with a revolutionary spirit and anti-establishment bent. The group’s sophomore LP, Bayani, featured complex layers of rhythm and dense sonic textures that were darker in comparison. It was a dynamic listen on the headphones but didn’t translate nearly as well live. The album felt a little like growing pains with respect to the group’s sound, with fewer samples at the forefront of the production and more distinct musicality that provided unique description for the group’s identity.
With Cinemetropolis, Geo and Sabzi have separated themselves musically from every hip-hop group in Seattle’s now bustling scene and arguably from most acts nationally. Sabzi’s evolution as a producer over the last year or so has seen him shed the sample-heavy boom-bap skin of the group’s prior work in favor of more colorful compositions comprised of heavy synth and deep reverberating drum and bass that often sounds tropical. Tracks like the rolling, low end-heavy “Slick Watts” and “Seijun Suzuki” fall in line with the producer’s ride-friendly work for Das Racist (“All Tan Everything” and “Who’s That Brown?”), while the beautiful, sweeping synth waves of the epic “George Jackson” is akin to the arrangements of Made In Heights, his electro-pop side project with singer Kelsey Bulkin (who also lends vocals on Cinemetropolis’ title track).
It’s impossible to determine whether Blue Scholars has officially found its particular “sound” or if this is just one paragraph in the group’s musical narrative, which seems more likely. It’s unlikely, however, that a similar lyrical concept will ever pervade future albums. Cinemetropolis was intentionally engineered as a “reverse soundtrack,” whereby each of the album’s fifteen tracks will inspire accompanying short films and/or music videos. The group is interested in how film informs our perception of real life and vice versa, a conceit that generally holds the LP’s wide spectrum of subject matter together. The idea is especially interesting when you factor in the group’s reputation as a socially conscious outfit, a regard that has made both group members shift uncomfortably in their seats during interviews. Blue Scholars has appealed equally to rap heads that keep themselves in-the-political-know, and those less informed folks who might find themselves Googling Geo’s many references to revolutionary factions in colonized locations across the globe. Many of Cinemetropolis’ song titles are great fodder for the Wikipedia machine and there’s much to be learned strictly from that search button exercise.
Listen more intently to the lyrics, however, and a greater depth is revealed. Geo is one of the best lyricists at extrapolating big ideas from simple concepts. “Fou Lee” is named after a Vietnamese grocery store on Beacon Hill where Blue Scholars and other members of their team would stock up on food during the Bayani recording sessions, thus the track becomes an emblem for both creative and physical sustenance. “Hussein” may or may not be a specific reference to the 44th President of the United States, but it’s definitely about the MC’s desire for change much greater than what has occurred in the last three and a half years. Even a track like “Slick Watts,” which isn’t much more than a glorified interlude, might contain a reference to gentrification when, after a comprehensive Seattle neighborhood roll-call, Geo says, “Got some folks leavin’ / Got other folks comin’ / Somebody had to go and say somethin’.” The analysis might be a stretch but it’s not out of bounds given the MC’s point of view.
Certainly less ambiguous is “Oskar Barnack ∞ Oscar Grant,” a track that encourages the public documentation of police brutality in order to maintain some semblance of accountability of the boys in blue. It’s a far cry from “Fuck Tha Police” but far more militant than any other Blue Scholars track that exists in public. The choral chant of, “Shoot the cops / Shoot the cops / Shoot the cops / Take your cameras out your pocket people,” is blatant enough to be incendiary and enigmatic enough to remain halcyon. It’s a noble attempt at reminding the public of how powerful we are when maintaining a united front against injustice. It also perfectly captures the ethos of this group. The men of Blue Scholars have an amiability that immediately places them on a level relatable to most. It’s a combination of focused ire and off-the-charts creative acumen, however, that allows them to craft a hip-hop auteur’s monument like Cinemetropolis.
Logics (aka Young Ghangas) dropped his Problematic EP a few days ago. Click here or the album cover above for the FREE download. I still contend that “Focused” is one of the best locally-released tracks of young 2011 (and that Logics and Geo should do an EP together — material that lets Pro Brown tap into his inner ‘hood identity, an incarnation that we all know exists but hasn’t yet shown itself, at least not fully).
Here are the visual for “Stars & Beyond” (featuring Eighty4 Fly and Brainstorm), one of the tracks off Problematic:
Remember those low-budget Death Row videos that were all over MTV before the label blew? Yeah, this is slightly reminiscent of those: lots of talent and severely limited production value.
No matter. When Logics spits “I represent Asians/Never used it as a crutch,” all is forgiven by this blogger. (I’m Korean — what you ain’t know?) It’s also pretty quaint how they use the Museum Of Flight as the clip’s backdrop. And curious that there isn’t a single neighborhood dimepiece in sight. Women are allowed in the US Air Force too, you know…
Cabin fever strikes Blue Scholars again. The recent inclement weather in The Deuce Dot had Geo and Zia feeling restless and creative. The recent unseasonably warm weather in The Empire City had Sabzi dancing on rooftops and playing with a pineapple (?). The result: a Pro Brown freeverse over a loping Sabzi track that sounds like a OOF! throwaway. (Also, the DJ raps — well, sorta — for the first time.)
Peep the clip below and download the track, here.