Sparky’s newest review on Combine Culture is “Some Rap Songs” by Earl Sweatshirt
The album I review this week is a departure from the album I reviewed last week. Both albums may be hip-hop albums but are very much diametrically opposed. The album last week “Oxnard” by Anderson .Paak was very much a musical tour through Southern California this week’s album Earl Sweatshirt’s “Some Rap Songs” is a stripped-down no-nonsense view into Earl Sweatshirt’s psyche.
“Some Rap Songs” isn’t going to wow people with the musicality of this very raw and gloomy album. In fact, none of the songs have a real hook or chorus to grab the listener. This album also won’t hold your hand and make you feel comfortable. “Some Rap Songs” has extremely somber low key musical production that was mostly produced by Earl Sweatshirt himself. With nine of the fifteen tracks with samples from old blues and jazz songs that were slowed down and dirtied up to mimic the very downtrodden introspective rhyming on “Some Rap Songs”.
The entirety of Earl Sweatshirt’s discography is very stripped down with the artist preferring to let his rhyming and emotions do the work. “Some Rap Songs” is no different. All but two tracks on “Some Rap Songs” are under two minutes long. With the way that Earl Sweatshirt constructs songs as the listener, you can tell that he something to say and isn’t beating around the bush. “Some Rap Songs” is a much more self-reflective album than most hip-hop albums and as whole tracks feel more like diary entries than actual songs.
This album isn’t without its potential hits. The track “NOWHERE2GO” is likely to be the song that will propel “Some Rap Songs” up the charts and on to playlists. The track with its relaxed beat and very matter of fact rhyming make it easier to listen to than many of the tracks but also still fit in with the rest of the songs on “Some Rap Songs”. Another track that really stood out for me was the song “Eclipse”. The track also had no hook or chorus to speak of but the rhyming was soul-searching and with the chime loop in the beat of the song just grabs you and refuses to let go.
As a whole, I enjoyed “Some Rap Songs”. It was a no-frills deep dive into the mind of Earl Sweatshirt. It had a very definitive sense of pace and direction. When listening to “Some Rap Songs” I had no question what the artist was trying to achieve and where he wanted me the listener to go. Many musicians struggle to get to the point and tell their story. Earl Sweatshirt on his album “Some Rap Songs’ shows that is definitely not a problem for him.
Photo by Eli Watson
Sparky reviews new album “Oxnard” by Anderson .Paak in his latest edition of Combine Culture
When listening to the album “Oxnard”by Anderson.Paak, I kept on thinking of two things. The first was this album feels very new and old at the same time. The other was that this is an extremely funky album. Anderson .Paak’s “Oxnard” is a very original but also would feel totally at home during the West Coast rap scene from the early 1990s.
“Oxnard” is an album that takes its roots in the funk era of the late 60s early 70s. The first two tracks of “Oxnard” start out a little slower and more soulful but the moment track three starts you know that this is as much of a funk album as it is a hip-hop album. In general, the whole album feels like it had to have the blessing of Bootsy Collins before it went to print because the vast majority of tracks on “Oxnard” have this bass-line groove that is infectious.
Once I started digging further into the album the feelings that I had about the album made more sense. The legendary producer Dr. Dre had helped produce four of the fourteen tracks on “Oxnard”. Dr. Dre is very famously known for bringing more funk to hip-hop. Anderson .Paak was also heavily featured on Dr. Dre’s “Compton” album from 2015 and “Oxnard” is distributed by Dre’s record label Aftermath so the synergy between the two artists is definitely prevalent.
Anderson .Paak’s “Oxnard” leans on the musicianship of Paak and the other producers instead of samples like other hip-hop albums. This isn’t a good or bad thing as the album does have a wonderful flow from one track to another which makes for a great listen from beginning to end. The one thing that not using samples is that the album doesn’t feel as layered as some hip-hop albums because when using samples artists take the beat and then add layers to the sampled song to make it something wholly unique onto itself.
There are a few features on “Oxnard” but Anderson .Paak doesn’t rely on them for the album. The first feature is on the third track “Tints” which has Kendrick Lamar bringing his incredible flow to punch up the song and gives it the feel of a hit. Pusha T appears on the ninth track of the album Brother’s Keeper and as usual, annihilates the song and outshines Anderson .Paak. Some other MC’s that also have features on the album are J. Cole, Q-Tip, and Snoop Dogg with the song that Snoop Dogg was on titled “Anywhere” being one of my favorites from the whole album.
If you are a fan of the 90’s era West Coast rap scene run and listen to this album because you will truly enjoy it. Being a child of the ’80s and early ’90s this not just felt nostalgic but also felt like the next evolution of that time period. If this era of music isn’t something you enjoy this may not be the album for you. I thoroughly liked “Oxnard” and would recommend it and think it is one of the better rap albums of the year.
*Photo by The Come Up Show
In the inaugural edition of Combine Culture, Sparky reviews “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”
This is my first of what I hope will be a weekly feature for the Combine. We are calling it “Combine Culture”, it will be just a pop culture kind of catch-all article. Some weeks it will be an album review for a record that I am excited about or other weeks it could be a movie or TV show that really piques my curiosity but it will be a non-sports related topic that you can talk about with others and not just be the sports guy in every public situation. This week it is a review on the movie “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” by legendary directors Joel and Ethan Coen or as they are commonly known as the “Coen Brothers” that was just released on Netflix this Friday.
“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” was a masterfully made anthology movie that is a work of art in the truest sense of the term. The film is made up of six individual and very different stories that display the many unique aspects of life in the Old West. Each of the six stories in “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” feels very genuine with the endings being very natural and earned.
The six-story segments in “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” each have there own tone and sense of purpose. Some of them are very dark which make the ones that have a brighter or even roguish ending seem all the more needed to bring a sense of levity to the film. I imagine some people will view this movie in just the segments they enjoy the most with each story in “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” feeling very different from one another.
Also a whole this allows the directing duo of the Joel and Ethan Cohen make a film that not only runs the gambit of human emotions but make the viewer feel that roller coaster along the way. The movie begins with the titular story “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” a very vibrant send up to old Roy Rogers films but has a very violent undertone that accentuates its silly fourth wall breaking dialogue and almost animated like style and tone. It isn’t a sign of things to come, though as other stories in “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” can be extremely dark and very somber even empty like the third story “Meal Ticket” which starred Liam Neeson who acted very well in the movie.
Also in “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” many actors performed exceptionally well. In the second story “Near Algodones” James Franco played a cowboy that has a very rough story but does so in a very understated way that helped the story. Many actors really shined in this movie from character actors Stephen Root, Brendan Gleason and many more to even Tyne Daly who played Lacy in 80’s TV show “Cagney and Lacy”.
The three performances that truly shined in “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” were Tim Blake Nelson as Buster Scruggs who plays a charming and sly character with very mischievous disposition. The best female performance was by Zoe Kazan who had played the character Alice Longabaugh in the story “The Gal Who Got Rattled” in such a manner that was soft and subtle that many actresses would have made the character seem cliched. But the breakout performance that stole the movie for me was by musician Tom Waits as the prospector in the story of “All Gold Canyon”. In “All Gold Canyon” he emotes determination, triumph, and terror all deftly that would have been difficult even for the best thespians.
The directors Joel and Ethan Coen also bring an amazing visual tone to the movie “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”. With the story “All Gold Canyon” having enthralling landscape shots to the to the vibrant “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” story and even the dark and foreboding “Meal Ticket” story. All of the stories in the movie “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” felt beautiful and unique on to themselves.
Has a whole the movie was great and I would highly recommend “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”. it was a pleasure to watch and I wouldn’t be surprised if this movie doesn’t garner Oscar nominations as it was released the same day to a very small amount of theaters as it was released to Netflix. While I did enjoy this movie immensely as it is very much the art house passion project that the Coen brothers were aiming for. This may intrigue some but it may put off others.