Album Review: The Adults – Haja

The Adults Haja cover
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It was obvious from the first single that Jon Toogood’s new The Adults album possessed something different. The African influence and feminist leanings made the video look like it’d been lifted directly from the recent Black Panther movie. “Bloodlines” is a banger of a track, with raw primal energy, incredible percussion, powerful themes and a hip-hop direction. One listen and Toogood had my attention. I needed to hear the rest of the album!

Toogood released the début eponymous album by The Adults back in 2011. A collaborative project that involved inviting some of NZ’s première musicians to help write and record songs that didn’t fit the Shihad mould. Seven years later, Haja is a follow-up that loosely follows the same set up, but with far different results.

The story behind Haja is neat. When Toogood married his wife in Sudan he became enraptured with the traditional music played at the ceremony: Aghani-Al-Banat – which roughly translates as “girl’s music”. He asked the band to play with him for the new record, and then asked NZ musicians he admired to add their touches.

Now this isn’t exactly low-fi quality, but many of the tracks originate from phone recordings. Not that you’d know. They sound great, brimming with liveliness. Kudos to sound engineer Devin Abrams for creating something so good from what he had.

Opening track “Boomtown” lets us know from the first bar that we’re in for some fun, with pulsating bass, a beat you need to move to, and infectious African background vocals. Chelsea Jade’s cooed singing and hooks contrasts against Raiza Biza’s rapped verse, and both artists add authenticity to the track, having been born in African nations and immigrated to New Zealand. “Boomtown” is a strong, vibrant start to the album.

Title track “Haja” – an Arabic title of respect that means older/experienced woman – blends music from various cultures beautifully. The traditional Sudanise Aghani-Al-Banat music of vibrant drumming and chanting carried by bass lines. Two thirds into the track guitar comes to the forefront, which adds a light boogie feel to an already dance-able song [it reminds me a lot of “Plot A Course” by Barouche].

It wouldn’t be fair to say that “Take It On The Chin” drags, but within the context of the album it certainly lacks the energy of many of the other tracks. That said, it can’t be faulted when judged on its own merits. A lazy bass line, smooth flow courtesy of Kings, and some catchy hooks come together to culminate in a chilled yet triumphant track.

Likewise, “Because of You” is fine, but feels flat stacked against most of the other tracks. The vibrant Aghani-Al-Banat beats that provide a basis for most of the album colour those tracks so brightly that the songs without African drumming struggle to stand out. Toogood’s bass playing is a strongpoint throughout the album, and really carries this track, along with shimmery pads and synthetic sounding metronome that provide momentum.

“That Gold” feels like a throwback to the original The Adults album, with a Police-esque beat and bassline. Raiza Biza makes a second appearance; and Aaradhna’s soulful singing, Biza’s rapping, and Sudanese chanting overlap beautifully to offer complex vocal layers.

Album closer “Gisma” (the name of the leader of the Aghani-Al-Banat band) ventures into The Cure territory, with some introspective lyrics sung as a love letter from Toogood to his wife. It’s a tender side of Toogood that we don’t often see with his main band. I’m reminded of Shihad deep cut, “Lightbulb” from the Beautiful Machine bonus disc, or the acoustic Pacifier sessions they recorded at Radio New Zealand’s Helen Young Studios.

Shihad are one of my favourite bands, and by extension Toogood is one of my favourite singers. So I find it interesting that he has put out a record that you hardly hear him sing on. You could question why a New Zealand male is writing Sudanese music for girls [loosely paraphrased], or why a rocker is making a hip-hop album. But it works. It’s a great record. Maybe it’s wrong to consider it a Toogood record – because he’s not the star, but more the string that ties all these estranged influences together. Of course, this could explain why he chose to put this release out as The Adults, and not under his own name.

Haja is a short yet powerful record, carefully cultivated and packed with infectious energy. I can’t say I expected African feminist hip-hop from the singer of one of my fave hard-rock bands, but here you have it. Give it a listen and let the rhythms sweep you away.


The Adults links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theadultsnz/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheAdultsNZ
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/theadults

 

Joseph James

Beats, Collab Dreams, and The Hawaiian Shirt Mafia – An interview with Jamal of SWIDT

SWIDT
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SWIDT (See What I Did There) is on the rise. A 5 man Hip-Hop collective from Onehunga, Auckland, they enjoyed huge success with their début album ‘SmokeyGotBeatz Presents “SWIDT vs EVERYBODY”’ which was nominated for the “Critic’s Choice Award” and won the “Best Urban/Hip Hop” Album of the year at last year’s VNZMA.

They have just released ‘Close One’, the third instalment in a new 4 Part series focusing on the guys teenage years growing up in Onehunga.

The first instalment, Alfred & Church was produced by Tae Beast of Digi+Phonics (Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q). At the time of the interview, part 2 “Little Did She Know” was their latest release, a reflection of the trouble they would get up to behind their mothers’ backs.

In my first interview for Will Not Fade, I was lucky enough to have a quick chat with Jamal, a rapper/producer in the group that also includes producer SmokeyGotBeatz, rap duo SPYCC & INF and Boomer-Tha-GOD.

After connecting on how relatable “Little Did She Know” was (and reminiscing on the punishment when we got caught) we talked about SWIDT’s process for choosing a beat and theme for each track.

Jamal: We just sit there and go through each beat, and we only use the beats that everyone likes. Because we like to have a feeling, if one person’s not feeling it for a reason, then we don’t [use it], it’s not the one. Our main process is just getting together and vibing out, and the subject always come from how we’re feeling at the time.

Jayden: It must be so easy for you guys.

Jamal: I think it is, because we’re talking about ourselves, we’re not trying to be something else.

Jayden: You guys came up together right?

Jamal: Yeah, all of us grew up in the same hood. I met these guys later on down the track. These guys have known each other since the age of 4 or 5, and I met them when i was 16, we all went to the same school, all knew the same people. It was a connection that was too easy to not work with, we just banded together so easily. We weren’t even meant to be proper artists, but that’s how everything fell into place, and it just worked really well. We’ve been making music for years, it’s an organic thing that’s happened and we’re riding with it.

Jayden: Does it feel surreal, how fast you guys are blowing up?

Jamal: BRO. Hard out man. I’m still living normally, and I get family and friends coming up to me saying “You’re doing so well” and I’m like “Are we?” it just feels normal, we’re just trying to make music. Because we’ve been putting out music for so long, but we’re doing it as a crew now, and it’s getting a lot more recognition. We always sit back like “Man, this is cool!”

We talk about the 4 part series, and I compare it to drip feeding the mixtape that always comes before the album. He agrees, suggesting that it may be a first in New Zealand rap.

I grew up around music and wanting to do music, and like any budding artist I would dream about people I’d like to work with. So I’m always curious if already established artists feel the same way. The answer is obvious for Jamal: Kendrick Lamar.

Jamal: He’s at the pinnacle of his career right now, to work with him would be an experience.

Jayden: Imagine writing with him, just being in the studio, understanding his process.

Jamal: The way his music works, it’s not normal, it’s an actually well thought out process, there’s a reason why he’s making every song.

We discuss Kendrick’s new album Damn, and it’s ranking against his other albums. Jamal puts Damn in at 2nd, behind Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, which I strongly agree with.

Jamal: I’m a producer, and I put beats first, I’m not that great at understanding lyrics, and when I heard Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, I could listen to it from start to finish and not skip a song. That’s rare in albums these days.

Other dream collaborations were Prince and Andre 3000 (of Outkast). I though Andre 3000 was an interesting choice so I asked him to elaborate.

Jamal: Growing up, we really listened to music in the 2000’s, because we were born in the 90’s, Outkast and Dipset (The Diplomats). And it was cool because Outkast was a duo of rappers, and Dipset had rappers and producers, and we connected with that so well. Even to this day we still look at things the way they would. Like fashion, Dipset had the whole New York swagger, and we have the Hawaiian Shirts.

Remembering that they sometimes refer to themselves as The Hawaiian Shirt Mafia, I asked him about the colourful Pacific Island shirts they are often seen wearing.

Jamal: We’re pacific people, so why not show off pacific visuals to an audience that don’t understand why Islander people wear Hawaiian shirts. They’re mean colours, mean to wear, and I think they popping now. I’ve seen people releasing Hawaiian patterned clothing in popular stores like Hallensteins, and it’s crazy, we didn’t think they would pop, we just wanted to wear them because that was us.

But it’s true, pacific printed clothing is starting to trend again, and I commend him on the timely fashion choice.


SWIDT links:

Website: http://www.swidt.co.nz/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/swidtmusic/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/swidtmusic

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFAaZ0SEDdG7QW9hyE436ZQ

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/swidtmusic/

Vice feature: https://www.vice.com/en_nz/article/rappers-swidt-are-repping-a-fast-disappearing-suburban-auckland

Album Review: David Dallas – Hood Country Club

Hood Country Club David Dallas
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David Dallas: From South Auckland to the world

Hip hop artists often follow the same narrative arc. You’ll recognise it: the rise from living in the projects to a bling adorned superstar. 50 Cent summed it up: Get rich or die trying. Extra gangsta kudos if you served jail time, got shot, or dealt drugs along the way.

I feel that Auckland rapper David Dallas has followed a similar, albeit more realistic path. The term “rags to riches” is an exaggeration, but DDot is undoubtedly an underdog. In the past he has discussed growing up in South Auckland, trying to pick up girls, please his dad, getting told off by mum. He has always foretold that he would make it big, but in the meantime he’s just a regular South Auckland Pasifika Kiwi trying to get by.

Dallas arguably has made it. Scribe tapped him on the shoulder to feature in  the “Not Many Remix” back in 2004, and things have been on the rise ever since. He signed to US record label Duck Down, toured the world, and befriended rap heavyweights like Freddie Gangsta Gibbs. Eminem and Run The Jewels.. His last album, Falling Into Place won two Tuis at the NZ Music awards, with lead single “Runnin” going platinum. And after a long wait, we now have a new album, Hood Country Club.


Don’t Rate That

I’ll give Dallas top points for lead single “Don’t Rate That” based on the topic alone. The song tackles racist discourse and rips into loan sharks that prey on people from low socio economic backgrounds – the likes you may find in an area like Dallas’ home of South Auckland.

The dude has balls for calling out Rugby League players who would likely flatten him in a second. Maybe that’s why the song resonates so well with me – because he’s flipping the power balance and attacking those who use intimidation tactics. In this Spinoff interview Dallas boasts that one such lending company pulled their ads from an RnB radio station Mai FM that cater to largely the same target demographic as the loan shark parasites. And that’s why Dallas is such a hero in this underdog narrative – because he worked his way up from a nobody to being a somebody using his influence to fight evil.


Fit In

Follow up single “Fit In” dropped almost an entire year after “Don’t Rate That”. Musically, I love it. The hook roots itself in my head like a stubborn earworm, and I often catch myself humming the tune throughout the day. The message of the track seems redundant, with Dallas trying to prove how little he cares about fitting into the scene. If you don’t care, then why dedicate the effort to writing a song about it? However, despite this, the track is a banger.


Musical evolution

I first discovered Dallas in 2011, with his album The Rose Tint. The key reasons that it stood out to me were the laid back style and the musical tracks. I’m not a huge fan of hip-hop based around rigid DJ beats but this really ticked the right boxes for me. The music found on The Rose Tint featured Dallas’ backing band The Daylight Robbery, which added that extra element that elevated it above the rest. The following release, Buffalo Man EP , featured remixed Jamiroquai songs, which continued the trend of using great music to rap over.

2013’s Falling Into Place stepped away from the full band sound, but still achieved great success due in part to the beatmakers Fire & Ice helping with production. The more musical tracks were the ones that sold. Pop singer Ruby Frost lent her voice to two hit tracks, and “Runnin” dominated the airways due to gospel sample of a nun singing.

On first impressions I’m less enthusiastic about Hood Country Club . Dallas still has mad talent as a rapper, but without the band or vibrant backing beats his sound has lost a huge boost. He even re-appropriates Supergroove’s “Can’t Get Enough”, but manages to lose the vibrancy of the song he’s name checking. “Fit In” stands as my album highlight for the time being, purely because of the catchy vocal hook.

Hood Country Club

David Dallas Hood Country Club Back Cover

I saw Dallas play an O-week event at Victoria University last year, where he previewed a few of these tracks live. I especially remember “Get Off” for it’s venomous content. It’s caustic, direct and PNC’s guest verse on the studio track is downright vulgar – worlds away from the laid back Dallas from a few albums ago.

I’m not saying the aggression is necessarily bad. As you read above, I applaud the righteous anger of “Don’t Rate That”. The way I read it, Dallas has come to a point where he wants to address issues head-on, paving the way to this more urgent tone found on some of these tracks.

He challenges the glorification of materialism and celebrity. He rips through peer pressure and mob mentality. “Don’t Flinch” explores the ingrained Kiwi mindset of “harden up and be a man”. David Dallas no longer has any time for your shit and he’s gonna call it as it is.

Wealth and status are major themes that threads through Hood Country Club. Years ago we heard Dallas rap “My mentality is money orientated”. Now he is batting his ego down and re-evaluating what is important in life. Money lenders and financial élite come under fire, suggesting that Dallas no longer subscribes to the goal of getting rich and famous to fit a stereotype.

The verdict

If Falling Into Place was a teenager, then Hood Country Club is the adult – more serious and not as fun, but still a progression. Dallas is more informed, experienced and confident now. These days he raps about life realities, rather than wishful dreams.

My criticisms about the backing tracks and aggression don’t apply to the entire album. Many do use samples to keep the songs musical and we still hear Dallas’ trademark chilled out flow, it’s just not as prevalent as found in his previous works. Musically, I don’t enjoy it as much. But lyrically and thematically Dallas is at his prime.

David Dallas made global but realised that the value lies in taking it local and keeping his content relatable. He is a hero for becoming a success without selling out. And his music, as always, is outstanding. Lyrically and thematically, Dallas still shines. Hood Country Club won’t receive regular play on my stereo to the same degree as his earlier albums, but it’s still a worthwhile addition to my collection.


David Dallas links:

Buy or stream Hood Country Club: https://umusicnz.lnk.to/HCCFP

Website: http://www.daviddallas.co.nz/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DavidDallasMusic/

Twitter:https://twitter.com/DdotDallas

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/ddotdallas

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/davidkdallas

 

Joseph James

Album Review: Body Count – Bloodlust

Body Count Bloodlust
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These days Ice-T is likely best known for his acting career, and then his solo rapping career. But his metal side-project Body Count deserves as much recognition – especially after having just released their intense sixth album Bloodlust.

Body Count started as a group of friends interested in heavy music at high school. And they sound mean. They combine gangsta rap mentality with heavy rock and metal music to create an aggressive sound verging on hardcore.

If my description doesn’t sum it up well enough for your liking, then try Ice-T’s explanation, taking from the vocal intro to their cover of Slayer’s “Raining Blood”

” Body Count is a band I put together just to let one of my best friends, Ernie C play his guitar. He’s always been playing guitar, we all went to Crenshaw High School together in South Central Los Angeles. And I had the idea of let’s make a metal band, let’s make a rock band, ’cause I had been to Europe and I noticed that the kids would mosh off of hip-hop. So we put the band together and I used the three bands that were my favourites at the time to set the tone. We used the impending doom of a group like Black Sabbath, who pretty much invented metal; the punk sensibility of somebody like Suicidal, who basically put that gangbanger style from Venice, California into the game; and the speed and the precision of Slayer – one of my favourite groups and always will be. “

Body Count Bloodlust Promo Shot

Not only do Body Count take inspiration from some of the big names in metal, but they also collaborate with a few of them on this album, including Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine, Sepultura’s Max Cavalera and Lamb Of God’s Randy Blythe.

As you would expect from that explanation, the music is in-your-face. Tight, fast drums, distorted riffs, squealing solos, and punk-meets-thrash delivered vocals.

The lyrical and thematically content seems contradictory within the album, with Ice-T bragging about criminal activities on one track, whilst protesting black stereotypes on another. I acknowledge that maintaining a tough guy persona is an integral aspect of the band’s image, but I would argue that singing about violence would further perpetuate negative stereotypes. Ice-T tackles issues like racism, poverty, street violence and police brutality, but also paints himself in an intimidating light.

Sure Black Lives Matter is worth acknowledging, but singing that you “gotta get paid the ski mask way” and discussing your thirst for bloodshed is a surefire way to become another statistic at the hands of a trigger happy cop.

Not that this criticism is exclusive to Body Count. Many political charged rappers walk that line between voicing out against injustice and playing to clichéd hiphop conventions of being a drug dealing gang banger.

Body Count use voice to add variety to the tracks. The opening passage on the album features Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine taking on the role of the broadcaster who delivers a faux broadcast from a dystopian president announcing martial law, before delving into a blistering guitar solo. Samples from news clips in “No Lives Matter” paint a picture of how it many young black men are being shot and killed by police in America. Ice-T also switches up his own style, providing monologues to preface a few songs, aping Tom Araya’s bark in the cover of Slayer’s “Raining Blood”, and acting out a bank hold up during the break down of “The Ski Mask Way”.

Bloodlust is a great introduction for those uninitiated to Body Count’s work. The slick production sounds great – especially when compared against the band’s early work from the ’90s. Ice-T gives a few explanations at the start of some tracks, which give insight into how the band came about and what drives them. The music is energetic and tight, and the topics touch on some issues that need to be addressed.

It is a real shame that the braggadocio attitude dilutes the genuine attempts to raise awareness for social issues, but the music and delivery on Bloodlust is killer. Mean metal with real gangsta swagger, loaded with memorable hooks and filled with intensity.


Body Count links:

Website: http://bodycountband.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bodycountofficial/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BodyCountBand

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bodycountofficial/

 

Joseph James

Live Review: Ty Dolla $ign at Shed 6, Wellington

Ty Dolla $ign Campaign Tour NZ poster
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Ty Dolla $ign Shed 6 Wellington Campaign Tour

Ty Dolla $ign

w/ DJ Sir-Vere, TeeCee 4800 and DJ Dre Sinatra

Shed 6, Wellington

Tuesday 31 January 2017

Ty Dolla $ign began the NZ leg of his Campaign tour in Wellington off the back of his mixtape of the same name,

This show excited me for two reasons. Firstly (and more obviously) I am a fan of his and what better way to experience his music then performed live. Secondly, I was excited to contribute to Will Not Fade by writing about Hip Hop/RnB – a genre that may not get as much coverage on this site.

First coming into the spotlight on the track “Toot It and Boot It” by YG back in 2010, Ty Dolla $ign has since release 2 EP’s, 9 mixtapes and 2 albums, and founded a music production team (D.R.U.G.S). He has also contributed his song writing skills to hits like “FourFiveSeconds” (Kanye West/Rihanna/Paul McCartney), “Loyal” (Chris Brown/Lil Wayne/French Montana/Too Short/Tyga) and “Post to Be” (Omarion/Chris Brown/Jhene Aiko).

A standout in the ever-growing category of singer-rapper (think Drake, Future etc.),Ty Dolla $ign’s sound has elements of Hip-Hop, RnB and Soul. Among his influences are 2Pac, Prince and Stevie Wonder. Music production plays a big part in his artistry, being a multi-instrumentalist.

Ty Dolla $ign Shed 6 Wellington Campaign Tour

We arrived at Shed 6 to see it roughly half full. Shed 6 is an underutilized venue that I would like to see more acts play. It reminds me of the now-defunct James Cabaret, although is twice as large. A DJ was walking around on stage trying to amp up the crowd.

Teecee 4800 Ty Dolla Sign Shed 6 Wellington Campaign Tour

Ty Dolla $ign’s cousin Teecee 4800 succeeded in elevating the mood. The audience notably perked up in response to the live performance after having listened to prerecorded tracks through the PA for the past few hours.

Ty Dolla Sign Shed 6 Wellington Campaign Tour

And as much as they loved Teecee, it was nothing compared to the star attraction. Ty Dolla $ign arrived onstage larger than life. He wore a Hawaiian styled jacket atop a black Gucci t-shirt – both of which were removed before long. His dreadlocked hair was tied back under a cap, and he wore round sunglasses to protect his eyes from the harsh red stage lights.

He was clearly excited to be in New Zealand. He commented on how much he had enjoyed Wellington since landing at the airport and complimented us on our potent strains of marijuana before lighting up a large blunt and taking a big drag before throwing it into the crowd. A risky move considering that it was an all-ages show, but I get the impression that this didn’t concern him too much.

It was a real buzz to run around in the photographers pit taking photos from all angles. It’s a shame that red lights – the bane of the photographer – dominated the entire show. Steam cannons lined the front edge of the stage to shoot geysers of steam into the air at certain moments.

Crowd Shot Ty Dolla Sign Shed 6 Wellington Campaign Tour

Ty Dolla $ign treated us by playing all manner of tracks from his varied career, showcasing his strength as a collaborator. It’s a shame that autotune is so prevalent in many of his songs because he has great singing talent. It was terribly fun and it was clear that everyone in the building was having a blast.

It was interesting trying to figure out who the true Ty was. A large, heavily tattooed rapper drinking gin out of the bottle. A talented musician with illustrious credits to his name. He proudly brought his daughter and sister onstage, but then later let his DJ stop the set to pull girls up onstage to dance. Is it possible to be both a family man and womanizer? He brought TeeCee 4800 back out to tag team on some tracks with him.

Ty Dolla $ign Shed 6 Wellington Campaign Tour Crowd Surf

The once-fun set got derailed and lost all momentum as DJ Dre Sinatra spent five minutes beckoning girls up onstage to dance for the final track before taking them backstage for the “after party”. As lame as it was halting the show to seek out groupies, Ty Dolla $ign did end on a fun note, with Fifth Harmony’s “Work“, and ventured into the audience to do a spot of crowd surfing.

Overall it was a fantastically fun gig – certainly worth staying up late on a Tuesday night for.

Ty Dolla $ign Shed 6 Wellington Campaign Tour

Words by Jayden Sulufaiga and Joseph James

Photos by Joseph James