AUDIO: “Waves” – Stoned Ape (prod. by Nima Skeemz)

Stoned Ape - Waves

You might remember Stoned Ape (fka HD Thuro) and his collaborative project The Stone Tape with producer Ill Pill. If not, refresh your memory with the rapper’s new electro-tinged single “Waves” produced by Nima Skeemz and from Stoned’s upcoming This Is Not For Your Entertainment which also features production work by Elan Wright and Ill Pill.

Audio Audio / Video

NEW MUSIC: “Walk On By” – Akrish (feat. Malice & Mario Sweet; prod. by Ill Pill)

Akrish - Walk On By

It’s been a minute since we’ve heard from the rapper Akrish. His new track, “Walk On By,” is a stirring ballad about heartbreak blessed by the vocals of Malice and Mario Sweet. Tacoma’s Ill Pill produced the mid-tempo cut.

Audio Downloads

NEW MUSIC: “Earthlings” – Stoned Ape Theory

Stoned Ape Theory - Earthlings

Stoned Ape Theory is the new project between MC HD Thuro and producer Ill Pill. HD I’ve never heard of before, but Ill is the beatmaker responsible for Rockwell Powers’ Kids In The Back records (in addition to production work for Sol and Grynch). “Earthlings” is the duo’s first single from their upcoming The Stone Tape. It’s rap as autobiography set in space, and it bumps along pleasantly enough.

Audio Downloads

VIDEO: “One Chance” – Rockwell Powers & Ill Pill (feat. DJ Phinisey)

Here’s the fourth video from Rockwell Powers & Ill Pill’s latest album, Kids In The Back 2 (available for FREE here). “Once Chance” was shot at Urban Grace, the MC’s church in the TAC.

This clip might resonate for anyone who grew up going to church, or found church to be a sort of second home later in life. Even though I don’t find myself affiliated with a church (or any sort of organized religion) these days, I still feel that connection when I visit my home town and drive past the spot I grew up attending.

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VIDEO: “Head Up” – Rockwell Powers & Ill Pill

The official video for “Head Up,” the best track from Rockwell Powers and Ill Pill’s Kids in the Back 2 (read the 206UP.COM Review here) and download the LP at this location.

I dig the washed-out color combined with the nighttime high-def. Classy visuals for a classy track. Read what the MC himself had to say about it:

These videos were all filmed within a five block radius of my apartment in downtown Tacoma and all the shots are of places I am on a weekly or daily basis.

Head is especially telling because while writing Kids in the Back 2 I would often walk around downtown at night before I would sit with my pen. If you’ve been to Downtown Tacoma at night you know that 5 days week its quiet and tranquil. I would walk around the city and think about what I wanted to write about and what images I wanted to use.

The other shot in this video is from a live show (our recent album release party), and that is important to me because I always write lyrics with the intent of performing them. Especially with personal songs like this, I always picture the end result of the creative process which to me is sharing the music on stage.

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REVIEW & DOWNLOAD: Kids in the Back 2 – Rockwell Powers & Ill Pill

Click album cover for D/L link.

Tacoma’s Rockwell Powers is an MC who knows how to posture in a different way than most rappers. In a genre where ninety percent of lyrical content is based on finding creative ways to self-aggrandize, and astute critical analysis of artists is fundamentally rooted in their ability to convince listeners of an often false legend, an MC who finds comfortable space in admission of uncertainty is a rare and welcome participant in the game.

Kids in the Back 2, the second full-length offering from South Sound duo Rockwell Powers and producer Ill Pill, is a fierce sixteen track declaration of independence. One of the biggest steps toward true self-realization is the ability to admit the existence of the unknown; Rockwell spends a lot of time doing just that on tracks like the soulful “Life” (featuring Sol) and Jazz-inflected “Doubt” (featuring live instrumentation from the MC’s side project, 10th & Commerce). Powers raises substantive questions about love, religion, art, and life’s purpose. To his poetic credit, for such heavy-handed subject matter his raps rarely sound preach-y or holier-than-thou, a testament to lyrics that have an explorative, conversational tone.

While this is an MC clearly feeling his way through life’s uncertainties, it’s not to suggest dude lacks confidence in his music. On the contrary, of all the things in his life, microphone prowess seems to be the one he has most figured out. “I Got This” is straight-up battle rap, an assertion of dopeness with grand percussion and horn licks suitable for nobility. Rockwell keeps his flow steady and even, for the most part, but he sounds more emotive than in the past. Likewise, Ill Pill’s well-conceived production is further advanced than on the duo’s first album, 2009’s Kids in the Back. While that LP emphasized more traditional straight-forward boom-bap, KITB 2’s compositions feature greater complexity in both rhythm and melody. The thick, expertly sampled thump of “These Songs” and the industrial beauty of “Head Up” are highlights of 2011 Pacific Northwest hip-hop.

Experienced listeners of rap music know that aggression and amiability in lyrics are not mutually exclusive. The best artists allow those dualities, and others, to be revealed without pretense or apology — those MC’s are by far the most believable because, in the end, we’re all rooted together in a human condition composed of opposite natures and experiences. Kids in the Back 2 is an album that allows more room for exploring all of that. Some in hip-hop might call that a weakness. The irony is that those who would call it such, don’t understand what it takes to be strong.

Album Reviews Downloads

DOWNLOAD: “Life” – Rockwell Powers & Ill Pill feat. Sol

Click image for D/L link.

“Life” is the latest track from Rockwell Powers and Ill Pill’s Kids In the Back 2. Tac-town rhymer Rockwell carries on his introspective vibe with a little help from Solzilla. Ill Pill’s production is dense and soulful — he remains one of the more under-appreciated beat makers in the Puget Sound.