Friday, October 28, 2011

Youth Lagoon-Posters

Youth Lagoon is about as minimalist as you can get. Following in the same vein as Washed Out, Youth Lagoon made his first album in his bedroom, and it's telling because The Year of Hibernation sounds like a voyeuristic peek inside his life. Dropping out of college and quitting his job, Trevor Powers has embarked on a new life to show the world Youth Lagoon, which he says is small yet important part of himself. "Posters" is a jam that you can get lost into. While clocking in at a little under four minutes, it has a repetitiveness that sounds like it lasts a lifetime. The other day working on a project I only realized after a half-hour that I had had it on repeat. Stopping it felt like waking up from a long nap, a welcome siesta that I had no idea I needed. And that's kind of how the album feels in general-something that you really didn't think you needed, but you do. Check out my favorite track below-

Click here to download

Youth Lagoon Posters

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I recently got my hands on The Definitive Collection, Cash Money's attempt to define their long reign on top of Southern rap. Like a lot of people who grew up in the South during the 90's, I would have changed a few songs here and there, but the collection definitely brought back some memories. It also reminded me of how dated most of their music sounds. Other than a few tracks which have stood the test of time ("Bling Bling" "Loud Pipes"), most of the tracks sound empty and simplistic-both lyrically and sonically. But one thing that they do remind us is that what Kanye and Jay-Z were doing with Watch The Throne wasn't new, it was just another step along the evolution of bravado rap for which Cash Money did more than most to advance (though that's not necessarily a good thing). Today's jamandahalf comes from Juvenile, the king of the 90's era group, and was the song that really brought Cash Money to the national spotlight. While the crew split up years ago, they left an inedible mark on rap and over the course of almost a decade also managed to drop a few jamandahalfs.

Click here to download

Juvenile Ha

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mississippi Fred McDowell-Going Down The River

Listening to old school Blues takes you back to a different era, to an era where music was recorded on front porches outside, with nothing between the artists and the recording device but sun-baked Mississippi air. Mississippi Fred McDowell (no relation to another favorite, Mississippi John Hurt) was discovered by Alan Lomax, a folklorist on a tour of the South, who was trying to find some of the old timey legends whose unadulterated music sounds ancient yet resonates clearly in this troubled and murky time. McDowell, a poor share cropper who had up to that point had a tough life bouncing around picking cotton and working in various mills, was immediately recorded on his front porch, with his wife and a friend sometimes joining in on the jam session. After the recordings were published they became a hit, and McDowell rode an up-swell of popularity for the Blues, touring around the country and even having the Rolling Stones cover a song of his covered ("You Gotta Move"). The original recordings were recently remastered and are as close as possible as most of us will ever get to hearing a master of Blues just doing his thing.

Click here to download "Going Down The River"

Fred McDowell Going Down The River

Click here to download "Worried Mind Blues"

Saturday, October 22, 2011

BT & Adam K-Tomahawk

Let this one be the official song of your Saturday night. BT & Adam K do a little bit of electro genre busting, mixing up a few different styles and creating a jam which flows like trance, bangs like house, and rages like dubstep. The dubstep drop at about 1:42 comes out of nowhere, busting in the doors of this jam. While it goes on a little too long for my tastes, the duo don't ever let it dominate, and the last minute rides out in a combination of house/trance goodness. This track is nothing less than surprising, and in a genre which seems to sometimes attempt to see who can be the "most" pure, it's definitely a welcome turn of events.

Click here to download

BT & Adam K Tomahawk

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Kanye West Samples

I can't believe I've never seen this before. This clip shows Kanye's samples throughout some of his greatest songs and though I've already highlighted two of my all time favorite samples he's used, seeing them chopped up in mixed together in this ratatouille style video really shows the breadth and depth of the samples Kanye has flipped. I've always wondered if he just has an insanely large music library or if he has all of his cousins' children listening to old _________ (any genre, any artist) all day long. Whatever it is, it's working. Check out the video below.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Twelves Concert Review

One of the greatest barometers in life is the Expected Joy&Happiness function whereby you rate the actual joy you got from seeing/witnessing/experiencing/watching something (with a simple 1-10 rating) and divide that by the expected joy that you thought you were going to get from seeing/witnessing/experiencing/watching something (continue the simple 1-10 rating). For example, my expected joy from watching an episode of How To Make It In America is about a 6 which, divided by the relative 6 joy I get from actually seeing it, means that How To Make It In America is batting a very solid 1.000. This rating takes into consideration that some of life's greatest joys come from being completely blown outta the water by something, while not discounting the feeling when an artist amazes you despite high expectations (Rodrigo y Gabriela were at a 9 for exceptions and a 10 for delivery).

Back to the review. I went to see The Twelves, an up and coming electro duo from Rio, who have been making some big waves on the blogocean recently and I was expecting something new, some edgy, something epic. My good buddy and trusted electroaficienado Brem had nothing but the best things to say about them and my expectations were soaring (a little naively perhaps) at an 8. What I got was about a 4, giving a pretty mediocre .500. Perhaps an off-night hit them at an unfortunate time for myself, but The Twelves were neither very dynamic nor very original. Songs rose and fell with lackluster transitions and none of the tropical spark that I was expecting. The Madrid crowd itself, which had put a great showing for itself the week before at Afrojack, seemed to be having a better time at the secondary DJ upstairs. With nary a raised head to check out the crowd, I was looking for a big slap-on-the-back type of night; unfortunately all I got was a weak handshake. 

EJH Rating=.500 (mediocre)

Check out their BBC Essential Mix here

Friday, October 14, 2011

Phantogram x Anthem - Don't Move (Joy & Pain Mix)

In the lead-up to him dropping his new EP Joy & Pain, Anthem keeps his growing base of fans happy by releasing something fresh. Over Phantogram's "Don't Move" Anthem gives us a taste of what's coming on his superdope new EP. Proving that he can really rap over anything and make it sound great, Ant seems to be musically living out this philosophy, continuously testing and pushing the limits of his talents. I've had the opportunity to listen to the EP and and it's safe to say that a lot of you are going to be blown away. Two songs on the six song EP gave me the shivers, and one features a sample that is going to surprise the hell outta you. Stay tuned for the full EP and in the mean time, check this jam out (and read an interview with the man here).

 Phantogram x Anthem - Don't Move (Joy & Pain Mix) by AMGEsquires

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Very Best feat. Baloji-Super Mom

Picture of Baloji I took at Womad Caceres 2011

Even though I, like most of yall I'm sure, go to blogs to get my music, there is still something fun about getting an email "direct" from one of your favorite artists. There's definitely a personal touch element, even though I know I'm on a list of thousands of people.

The best part about getting an email from an artist is when it's attached to free music. The Very Best continue to be among the most generous artists out there, constantly brightening up the days of their fans with a new dope song here, great mixtape there. Two days ago they sent a banging remix to a song originally on a mixtape they gave for free in early May, but this time featuring Baloji, a young Congolese rapper who I saw live at the Womad Music Festival. Though I can't understand his verse, he attacks it with the ferocity of a 2007 era Lil' Wayne, giving the upbeat jam a little bit of edge in the meantime. But like that one kinda sketchy looking dude who actually turns out to be the homie, Baloji does nothing but add to this party of a track. Check it out below.

Click here to download

The Very Best Super Mom feat Baloji

Monday, October 10, 2011

Nappy Roots feat. Big Rube-Legend Lives On

Nothing makes my ears warmer than a Big Rube feature. I've professed my (man)love for Rube before, and this track from Nappy Roots put a huge smile on my face the very second that his baritone came on. Like a wise uncle, Big Rube always seems to impart timely advice and this time is no different. Sounding right at home on the Organized Noise beat, Rube starts off the new Nappy Roots album "Nappy Dot Org" on the right foot. Completely produced by the previously mentioned legendary Southern producers, Nappy Roots show once again that their lasting presence on the scene is justified. While they haven't hit the same commercial success that they had with their debut Watermelon, Chicken & Grits, the group's southern fried take on life is still a pleasure to listen to, especially in a game where the Southern conscious rapper has seemingly disappeared in the last few years. Check it out for the Big Rube, stay for the Nappy Roots. Enjoy.

Click here to download

Nappy Roots Legend Lives On (Feat. Big Rube)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Jam Behind The Jam: Common-Blue Sky

Common, recently featured on these pages as a topic of the interview with Professor Adam Bradley, is putting out a new album, The Dreamer, The Believer on November 22nd. His first two singles have definitely done a great job of helping the faithful listener put the relative debacle of Universal Mind Control even further into the recesses of our mind. "Blue Sky," released last week, is one of those songs that is an immediate jamandahalf. The song feels, above all, large. Sounding like it would have fit right in on Kanye's last album, "Blue Sky" gives us Common as he is right now: successful beyond most people's wildest dreams yet still doing what he loves. Name dropping Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Obama, while talking about Prada and Aston Martin, Common risks at times sounding like every other rapper out there. His witty rhymes and uplifting message squash that fear.

What makes this song into an instant jamandahalf is the sample. His producer and longtime friend No I.D. (read about their friendship in Common's new memoir) deftly flips "Mr. Blue Sky" by Electric Light Orchestra into a banging beat. A Portland favorite, "Mr. Blue Sky" was written by Jeff Lyne, lead singer of ELO, in Switzerland after a bright blue day finally ended a bad case of writer's block and rainy weather. A trippy journey into happiness, "Mr. Blue Sky" has been a personal favorite for years now and I'm glad that No I.D. did the jam justice. The sample does raise a question, what's next for hiphop? When ELO is being sampled for tracks which are likely to blow up, what's the next frontier? Only time will tell. In the mean time, enjoy.

Click here to download Blue Sky

Common Blue Sky

Click here to download Mr. Blue Sky

Electric Light Orchestra Mr. Blue Sky

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tinariwen feat. Nels Cline-Imidiwan Ma Tennam

Though I have some changes planned for this humble blog, one thing that's not going to be different is the consistent smattering of world music featured on these pages, especially from the Sahel region of West Africa. I have been drawn to this type of music (from Mali especially) since I was a young child, listening to bootleg CDs of Ali Farka Toure that my dad often played.

Born in refugee camps in Libya, Tinariwen has a sound that feels like it's been baked in the hot sands of the Sahara. The Tuareg people of West and North Africa have always been a transient people, moving with their animals in search of water. The music of Tinariwen is a mix of the best of the two regions, drawing in elements from traditional Malian sounds with sounds more typical of the Arab world. Recorded completely in a studio built in the Algerian Sahara, Tinariwen (meaning "the sands") sing the desert blues, a blues thousands of miles from the Delta region of the US where it flowered around the turn of the 20th century, but yet unmistakably the blues. Born out of hard living, the blues has been the perfect medium to transmit feelings of pain, sadness, and strength all around the world. Tinariwen are the perfect example of that.

Click here to download

Tinariwen IMIDIWAN MA TENNAM (feat. Nels Cline)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Afrojack Live!

Even though I really enjoyed living in the small town of Don Benito, Spain last year, I definitely missed the bright lights of the big city. One of the main reasons is live music. Though my town did have some relatively decent places to see some good bands, it was just that the good bands were few and far between, the draw of playing in Don Benito somehow lost upon them. I did see this guy perform for all about two seconds though.

Now that I'm in Madrid, I'm going to be posting many more concert reviews. And I'm starting this year of reviews off with a bang. Afrojack came into town on Saturday and absolutely killed it. Over the past few years I've gotten the chance to see a lot of the heavyweights of electronic music: Diplo, Tiesto, Calvin Harris, Boyz Noize, David Guetta, 2manydjs, Pretty Lights...Afrojack puts on a better show than any of them. Coming on at about 2:30am on a Madrid night just starting to show the first teasings of fall, the Dutchman put on a show that few of us will forget for a long time. I went with a great international crew, and each time I started to fade I just had to look over at another person in the group who was clearly in the moment to get another crucial boost of energy. Obviously pumped to be playing in Madrid for the first time (a big WTF! moment for me when he told the crowd that fact), he brought a fierce energy to the club, not letting the crowd's energy drop below boiling point for even a few seconds. Although the crowd was smaller than I thought, they were clearly loving it. Afrojack played a great mix of some of his bigger hits, newer stuff, and, surprisingly, some bangers by Avicii, Alesso, etc. Completely in his element in a v-neck tee, Afrojack hit every drop with the force of a Terry Tate tackle. If he's anywhere need you anytime soon, do yourself a favor and check him out. Keep coming back for a wide range of reviews from all genres in these coming months.

Click here to download Bangduck

Download Afrojack Bangduck

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Interview with Professor Adam Bradley

Today is's two year "birthday" and being able to post this is the perfect way to start off another year. Sophomore year of college I took a (now legendary) class called 20th Century Black Poetics after months of hearing about it from Moodawg's brother. The class was truly a highlight of my college career and Professor Bradley's lectures always had us entranced as he spoke about the great African American poets from Langston Hughes to Gwendolyn Brooks and Rakim. Professor Bradley became a mentor to Moodawg and myself, and although I rarely ever went to office hours in general, I loved stopping to chat with Bradley about topics ranging from upcoming essays to the newest Lil' Wayne mixtape. Professor Bradley has been prolific recently, publishing five books in the past couple of years. His most recent has been Common's memoir, One Day It'll All Make Sense. I am very grateful that Professor Bradley took the time to answer some questions for Jamandahalf, and couldn't think of a better "present" than this. Enjoy. 

How did the book come about? What was the writing process like between Common and yourself? In The Anthology of Rap you describe the change in Common's flow from his younger battle rapping days to the present. How hard was it for Common, a master of putting his thoughts and feelings into truncated bars, to further transition and express himself in a different format? 
I wish I could say that the book came about through some chance encounter or backstage meet-up, but it came down—as most of these things do—to agents. His agent talked to my agent and Common and I met up in LA. We hit it off well from the start. As for the process, it was so important to establish Common’s voice on the page. We all know what he sounds like on record, so it was my task to craft a voice that was true to that spirit. From there, it was just a matter of time—hours and hours of conversations, which eventually led to pages and pages of manuscript.

How does it feel to have been a huge part to a New York Times best selling book? How does seeing the book on the bestseller's list compare to other achievements during your career? 
As a scholar and a writer, you have certain explicit and implicit measures of your own achievement. Getting tenure, getting a book deal—stuff like that is measurable. Seeing your book in the front window display at the airport? That’s one of those intangibles. It’s a strange thing, but seeing my book at the airport meant just about as much to me as landing on the bestseller list.

From the time that the two of you worked together, what's the story that you're going to be telling friends and family in ten years?
Great question. Man, there were a lot of great ones. As someone who considers himself not only a hip hop fan but a student of the culture, the best times were in the recording studio. I remember one night Common and I went over there after dinner and met up with No ID (Common’s childhood friend who produced his first few albums and has since worked with Jay-Z, Kanye, a whole host of artists.) Then in walks Baron Davis—then on the LA Clippers. What followed was hours of rhyming, beatmaking, shit talking, and assorted other pursuits. A great night.

What's your favorite Common song and line? 
This wasn’t your question, but I love the entire Like Water for Chocolate album. That’s one of a handful of albums in all of hip hop that I can start from the top and listen to all the way to the end. As for lines, I’m still fond of his less mature, more playful rhymes from his first couple albums. I just love the way he bounced sounds around: “I express like the interstate, hyper when I ventilate. . .” That’s a coldblooded opening line to me.

In light of the controversy earlier this year surrounding Common's attendance of the White House's poetry reading, how would you characterize the mainstream (or more specifically the right-wing) media's perception of hip-hop music and culture in 2011?
We were fortunate that the whole dust-up went down just as we were going to press, so we had just enough time to include a lengthy section on the White House controversy in the book. The whole thing really exposed the silly, ad hominem nature of the conservative critique of hip hop. Common? Really? Jon Stewart had the best response, I think. “This is the guy who rapped with Elmo,” he said, or something like that. They really couldn’t have picked a less appropriate MC to brand as a “thug” and a “vile rapper.” Common said to me, “Hey, maybe now Sarah Palin will listen to my music. She might become a fan.” You never know. . .

In the past few years, the careers of some of the classic hip hop artists such as Snoop, Ice Cube, and Xhibit have taken turns that almost no one would have expected when they first started off. Where do you see Common's career going and how does this general shift bode for hip-hop as a genre? 
Common is moving increasingly into acting. Just next month, he’s starring in a new AMC series, Hell on Wheels. It’s what happens when the network that brought us Mad Men, The Walking Dead, and The Killing decides to tackle the making of the transcontinental railroad. I saw the pilot episode with him and he kills it. For those who are used to seeing him in romcoms with Queen Latifah, it’ll be a real eye opener.

Of course, Common’s still making music. I’ve had the privilege of listening to several of the tracks on his forthcoming album, The Dreamer, The Believer. This is a return to classic hip hop, a return to what we loved about his greatest albums: Resurrection, Like Water for Chocolate, Be. You get everything from story raps to battle raps, from clever wordplay to liquid flows. I think Common will be able to sustain this dual career as an actor and an MC for years to come.

Moving on to one of the biggest albums in hip-hop this year, what did you think of Watch The Throne? Although Hip Hop has always had an element of escapism to it, is the decadence that drips of ? On "Niggas In Paris" Jay spits "What's 50 grand to a muh'fucker like me?/Can you please remind me?" For a grad student like myself, do you think it's justified to not want to financially support Jigga with an apparently insignificant $14.99?
Haha. Yeah, I think he can probably do without your $14.99. As for the album, I loved it before I hated it before I loved it again. From the cover art to gilded similes, it’s a feast of opulence. It’s what you get when you combine two great lyrical talents with the best production money can buy. The dean of pop music writing, Robert Christgau, posted an interesting article on it recently.

What role do you see blogs having in the music scene in the coming years? Are there any blogs that you consistently check out? 
Blogs are the Hip Hop CNN—but also the History Channel, the ESPN, the WeatherChannel, the Home Shopping Network. . . They are the best way to keep your finger on the pulse of the culture. I’m a big fan of Ivan Rott’s blog, Hip Hop is Read. He offers thoughtful reflections on the more cerebral currents of the culture and he brings a real crate-digger’s sensibility to the music he features. I like Angelica LeMinh’s blog, Metrotextual. She’s based in Toronto, so she offers a north of the border view on things. Oh, and of course I follow a humble blog called Jamandahalf.

What's next for you? 
I have a few things going. We’re doing a classroom edition of The Anthology of Rap. I’m most excited, though, to start work on a new project: a book on the poetics of popular song that moves from hip hop to rock to R&B—even to country. I want to discover if lyrics matter more to some genres than to others, if there are certain things in the lyrics that make them pop regardless of musical style. I want to crack the lyrical code of popular music.