[Review] Hamilton Mixtape

Note: This review goes fairly in depth of the Hamilton Mixtape, and for the most part, song by song. I encourage you to gather your own opinions before reading mine. For a tl;dr scroll to the bottom

ham mix cover

I’m going to start by saying I am fairly biased with this review because I love Lin-Manuel Miranda, and both of his major works(being Hamilton and In The Heights). However I think we can all agree that the Hamilton Mixtape was highly anticipated. So does it live up to expectations?

Absolutely.

At first I thought that I would only like the rap songs, being more of a Hip-Hop fan than anything else(which is apparent with my other reviews and posts). I can safely say that for the most part the album as a whole was great, even the songs with just singing.

The mixtape starts with an intro by Black Thought, telling you this masterpiece is No John Trumbull(the artist who has painted works such as the well known painting of the Declaration of Independence signing). And then goes right into possibly the most played single(at the very least, I played it the most).

My Shot really sets the mood for the whole mixtape. A rap song with an East Coast sound(as most of the rap songs on the mixtape have), the song is easily one of my favorites, especially when you hear Busta Rhymes come in for his verse, the first verse he had done in a while(granted now he has been featured a lot on the newest Tribe Called Quest album). I also think most people had not heard of Joell Ortiz prior to this song, as I had not, and I was pleasantly surprised by his verse. His line “Must admit, i’m feelin, um, kinda, um lighter as a writer” was my favorite in that song.

One single followed by another great single, Wrote My Way Out is equally as amazing, and features a Nas comeback, his first feature in a while as well. Aloe Blacc comes out killing it (a phrase I will use often in this review) on his hooks, and Dave East, another fairly unknown rapper, surprised me as well. However, for me, Lin-Manuel stole the song. Maybe because it’s weird to hear him curse like that, even though it shouldn’t be, it took me off guard. Or maybe it’s the line I can’t get through without tearing up a little bit, “I know Abuela’s never really gonna win the lottery” which is a reference to Miranda’s first musical, In The Heights. My second favorite reference he made has to be “My mind is where the wild things are, Maurice Sendak”.

It was a pleasant surprise to hear Usher on the next song, Wait For It,  and he has a fitting vocal range for this song. He has the ability to stay true to the original song, while making it his own, which is fairly common throughout the mixtape with different artists. The song starts out on the blander side, however it did on the original cast recording too. It definitely picks up near the end.

An Open Letter, the interlude with Watsky and Shockwave, I didn’t have high hopes for. I haven’t really ever been a Watsky fan. I’m happy to admit I was wrong in thinking it wouldn’t be good. It’s a weird song, but it’s cool, putting more story behind the line in The Adams Administration, “Sit down John, you fat Mother *expletive*”. A really cool concept, and a nice backing beatbox by Shockwave.

Satisfied was another single that I highly enjoyed, and it was the first one I enjoyed with minimal rapping, however I must say I am a big fan of Sia, and all that she does. She makes this song her own, and there is a great chemistry between her and Miguel on the song, which leads into a Queen Latifah return, which is as great as you would imagine. And Sia follows it up with a style she has mastered in songs like “Chandelier”, showing her raw passion in her voice.

The first Dear Theodosia song is great in it’s own way. I’ve always been a huge fan of the piano on this song in the original cast recording. Regina Spektor feels a little flat compared to the original, but she definitely makes it her own, which reminds the listeners they are listening to a mixtape, not a cover album. I like the song a lot more when Ben Folds comes in.

 

I’ll some up the demos in one paragraph, instead of going into each one. They show Lin-Manuel Miranda’s planned songs that may not have made the cut. Valley Forge is cool, because it has some lines that were used elsewhere in the musical, such as “They only take British money, so sing a song of sixpence” and the whole second half of the song was used in “Stay Alive”. I love Miranda’s style on Valley Forge. And in Cabinet Battle 3, Lin decided to cut it because it didn’t make sense to spend any amount of time covering a topic that wouldn’t be resolved for another 100 years.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Kelly Clarkson’s It’s Quiet Uptown when I first listened. I think it’s the synths in the beginning of the song that kind of kill the vibe for me. After a few listens, I started to really love the song, and what Clarkson brought to it. She really brought some passion towards the end that felt lacking in the beginning of the song.

Alicia Keys version of That Would Be Enough left me wanting more. It could be because I am just not a fan of her style. She’s very talented, and the song is definitely worth listening to, I just expected more.

Immigrants(We Get The Job Done) was released at a perfect time for our nation, with the election of Donald Trump into office. All of the artists on this song have a very unique style and I enjoyed all of them. I love the parts where they rap in spanish, despite not speaking spanish myself. Residente’s verse has a powerful meaning on it’s own. “Half of gringolandia is really Mexican terrain”, speaking about how the United States annexed parts of Mexico during the Mexican-American war. That line and it’s meaning are hit home with “here we come to look for the gold that was stolen”.

You’ll Be Back had me confused at first. I was in the car and didn’t hear it was Jimmy Fallon. So when he started with his joke of breathing techniques in his singing, I was confused. Now knowing what was going on, I think it’s hilarious, and he goes to prove himself after the intro. People can crap on Jimmy Fallon’s comedic style all they want, but he has serious singing skills.

Helpless is one of my top favorites from the album. Ashanti’s voice is beautiful, and her part of the track built up the anticipation for Ja Rule’s verse. She held you over well though, like chips and salsa at Buffalo Wild Wings before the wings come out. And Ja Rule is very much like the wings, amazing.

I’ve been a fan of !llmind since his work on Andy Mineo’s Uncomfortable. His work is equally as great on Take a Break, a fantastic interlude, with a nice remix of the original song, and a really sick drum beat.

Jill Scott really nails her part in Say Yes To This. The song, a twist on the original song Say No To This, putting the point of view on Maria Reynolds, is absolutely fantastic. Her lines are along the lines of “How you gonna say no to this?” where the original was “Lord, show me how to say no this.” (Spoilers: he says yes to that).

One thing that lacked in the musical was Angelica’s response to Hamilton royally screwing things up by screwing Maria Reynolds. Something Lin-Manuel had planned, but cut. However it shows light in Congratulations, featuring the lovely Dessa. Dessa has this amazing ability to rap and sing, and it really shows on this track. I love the style throughout this song, and is one of my favorites on this album.

My all time favorite track on the album however, is Burn, sung by Andra Day. Her voice is something magical. Something that makes you think you’ve heard this sound before, but at that same time, leaving you knowing you have not heard that sound before. I absolutely adore that style. I can’t place who she sounds like still, and I think that’s really cool. Definitely a must-listen.

The only interlude I thought didn’t belong was Stay Alive, with J. Period and Stro Elliot, it was very brief, didn’t really fit with the songs around it, and just didn’t feel needed.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Wiz Khalifa, but I enjoyed his style on Washingtons By Your Side. It did however feel like the only song that didn’t much relate to the musical. The only line that was similar was “It must be nice, to have washingtons on your side” but that extra S adds a whole knew meaning to the line, that doesn’t relate to the musical. Still a cool song, and a nice change from that classic East Coast sound that was apparent on the other rap songs.

History Has It’s Eyes On You has that feeling of starting to end the mixtape. John Legend has that very nice, slow, style and it is followed nicely by Who Tells your Story. Common sounds a bit like Nas on this track, and brings back that East Coast sound. Ingrid Michaelson has a very strong hook. Black Thought’s verse compliments Commons very well.

Dear Theodosia – Reprise with Chance the Rapper and Francis and the Lights is the perfect album closer. The music really has that Francis and the Lights feel. This song was one of the ones I was most excited for because I love Chance, and I have recently fell in love with Francis and the Lights(further referred to as just Francis). The song is definitely fitting for Chance because he just had a daughter, and you can tell this is personal for him. I like that Chance sings the song, instead of rapping. He doesn’t have the best voice, but it fits him and his style. Francis sounds a bit like Lin-Manuel at times, but you can tell on some notes it’s definitely Francis.  Overall, a great end to the mixtape.

 

So TL;DR?

I would rate this an 8/10. Some of the songs aren’t exactly skippable, as much as they are a “one time listen” for me. For the most part though, the mixtape is solid. The album is available on Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, and other music platforms. Interested readers can listen to the embedded Spotify link below.

Return of The Black Eyed Peas? Not yet anyway.

We’re a little late on this band wagon, but it doesn’t hurt to give our feedback.

5 days ago, the Black Eyed Peas released a new song! Well, kind of.

What we actually got was a new version of their old song, Where is the Love, and a lot of people aren’t sure how to feel about. So what’s good about it? What’s bad?

Lets start with the good. The good is that they’re raising awareness for current issues, much the same way the original version of Where is the Love did. They’ve updated the lyrics to be relate-able to the current news.

Now I’ve gone back and listened to the original, and I have to say even the old lyrics were still very pertinent with today’s issues. However it’s still great they’ve updated the song to be current. It’s also really nice that they’ve included many other artists such as Justin Timberlake, the Game, Dj Khaled,  Jessie J, Jaden Smith, and Usher, to name a few. It of course also has the original Black Eyed Peas group.

The bad, well, it’s different. And only somewhat unnecessary. To me, I’ve felt like the original was always very relate-able. Something I could listen to and still get the message. I understand they’re raising awareness for police violence, and the need for love with today’s situations, I just got the same information from their original song.

 

A lot of people don’t like the song because it’s too different, Will.I.Am uses his well known auto-tuned voice instead of the natural voice he used in the original version, and that change is weird to people. However I actually genuinely liked the video. If you haven’t watched the video yet, it’s linked below, as well as the original(for comparison).


Emotionally Mugged: Ty Segall, Broken Cell Phones, and Diapers

ty-segall-11

(photo from websterhall.com)

Diapers and paper towels were all along on the ground of Webster Hall on February 28th, 2016 as Ty Segall and his all-star side project, the Muggers, blasted through the turmoil of Segall’s latest release, “Emotional Mugger.” I tore diapers apart with my teeth, even gave one to a stranger, but I couldn’t understand why. Perhaps I was compensating for actively trying to slam dance. Yet, why the fuck were diapers being thrown about, what did they provide to the evening of blistering noise?

The first band to go on was Dion Lunadon, bass guitarist for experimental rock band, “A Place To Bury Strangers.” He played guitar along with a band, who I assume were not “A Place To Bury Strangers”, but what do I know. The set was a tight 30 minutes, though I couldn’t understand a damn word Lunadon said, though I was right in front of him, right behind the people holding onto the stage for dear life. I noticed Lunadon would occasionally put an echo onto his voice, which was an utterly brilliant sound when he pulled it off without a hitch. Though I didn’t know the band and nothing about the set made me want to learn more, maybe see them again, but not listen to a record by them. Take that as you will.

Next up, without any real break in between were the Men. A band of four, who I also couldn’t understand on the vocal end of things.  Another interesting set with some oddly placed saxophone and a real feeling of not knowing who the lead singer even was.

Next up was Ty Segall, and his all-star band the Muggers. The set started off with a bang with the opening track from “Emotional Mugger”, “Squealer.” The band entered the stage first, followed by Ty Segall wearing a devastating baby mask.

As the opening notes ripped out from the two guitars, I was ripped into the fold of the action. From that point I spent most of the set in the pit getting thrown about like a rag doll, getting stepped on occasion. The set was filled with raw aggression and really hit every cylinder of the “Stooges-Hawkwind-Black Sabbath” gang bang Segall always seems intention on creating. While there was a bit of over played theater in the set that didn’t really go together, the combination of wild music and nonsensical antics made the night.

Then of course came the highlights of the both Segall’s set and the evening. The new takes on his more glam rock tracks, “Feel” and “The Singer” used in the encore. Especially the extended take on “The Singer” which dragged out to 8 minutes. An utterly great night of music. The only downside of the evening came in the form of the strange antics Segall felt the need to participate in throughout the night. Stage diving, ok, but why come out in a diaper? Why have paper towels, rolls of papers, to throw into the audience? Is it to compensate for not playing guitar? Or is it because Ty Segall is finally letting lose and showing the world what he sees in his twisted mind? Or is it just a rock show? Does it matter, does any of it matter?

I could go on, but I think I’ll just leave this short. I believe, or at least used to, that “White Light, White Heat” by the Velvet Underground and “Funhouse” by the Stooges are the peak of rock and roll. They are the peak that rock reached, they are the milestone never to be reached again.

While I don’t think any Segall’s work singularly has reached anywhere near the milestone, his work collectively is a good damn throw away from the milestone. His spirit is endearing and his earnest way of churning out the absurd and sometimes pathetic is what helps me believe that rock is not dead.

12751280_128456177544999_1370174224_n

(photo from crowdalbum.com)

Martin Scorsese, Cocaine, And You: Jeffery On Vinyl 1

scorsese

In part of my everyday worsening mental state, I’ve decided to torment myself with not good not awful HBO show “Vinyl.” A show filled with so much potential it could as Tom Waits once famously sang, “Make a dead man cum.” Except, Terrence Winter, Martin Scorsese, and Mick Jagger ain’t dead. They’re just furiously jacking off as they create of the biggest mixed reactions to a show I’ve ever seen. In a series of I’m not sure how many, I’ll be going through this cluster fuck in a way no one needs and no one asked for. So where else to start, but at the heart of the circle jerk of talent, with the elusive white powder known as coccaine. More specifically how Scorsese is obsessed with and how’s it’s one of the reasons “Vinyl” is suffering in quality.

Anyone’s familiar with “The Last Waltz”, “Goodfellas”, or “Wolf Of Wall Street” will know Martin Scorsese has something of an obsession with both cocaine and rock music sometimes to a fault. “The Last Waltz” is a classic rock documentary, but really is one giant hand job of a film towards Robbie Robertson. The film of course being about what was in theory, The Band’s last concert. Robbie Robertson being the group’s main song writer and lead guitarist. Look them up along with the film if you were confused by anything just typed and/ or think fucking Mumford & Sons is great Americana. Only Canadians do that shit in earnest, oh yeah and Wilco……Regardless that film, somehow managed to have so much coke involved in the production it had to be edited out of the film. Twenty something years, Martin makes a film called “Goodfellas,” an absolute classic of mob movies. It is also a classic for people who like seeing Ray Liotta snorting coke and blabbering about. The eventual demise of the characters is rooted in their dealings with coccaine. So from a behind the sceyes player to plot point in twenty years, but Mr Scorsese is nothing if not a dreamer. And then another twenty years go by and we get “The Wolf Of WalLove Street.” Lots of drugs in the film, lots of white powder. Now we have “Vinyl” which is the basically dependent on its main character slipping back into coccaine and then doing as much of it as possible in 60 minutes. Ok not exactly, but can we just admit that Mr Scorsese needs lay off the white powder. Or maybe he should just make a yule log of a pile of coccaine and retire.

While it’s always a joy to see comedian Andrew Dice Clay do drugs, is it ever really necessary? The answer is a solid no.

Next edition will be a more

Roseanne Cash Rocks Carnegie Hall (Concert Review)

If you want to know what American music is, part of the answer is Johnny Cash. February 20th, 2016 I had the chance to see Roseanne Cash, one of the daughters from Cash’s first marriage. I can’t say, I’ve been the greatest fan of Roseanne Cash’s output, though she has killer albums. Her latest album, “The River And the Thread,” is an exploration of the south. Yet, the album will be two years old any day now.

Besides from working on an unannounced play, her last musical activity has been her Perspectives series for Carnegie Hall. The series she curated was also centered on the south and featured concerts by Ry Cooder and St Paul and the Broken Bones. The series culminated, any guesses (huh? huh?), February 20th. To close out her series, Cash gave a performance that was just about the greatest damn thing I’ve in recent years.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqUbX8KHgQc

(Here is brief video of Roseanne Cash explaining the intentions of her CH Perspectives series.)

The first half of the show was dedicated to “The River And The Thread.” Rightfully, playing the album from start to finish, adding to the experience was her introductions for the songs and the collections of photos projected onto the wall of the stage to set the mood. Above all, what made the album and more so the performance exciting was the level of earnest in Cash’s performance.

There was no opener and an intermission, two blocks of solid music reaching the blues, rock, folk, gospel, and of course country. All of it Roseanne Cash music, all of it played with passion. To add onto the greatness, Cash even brought a special guest into the mix. The great Jeff Tweedy of the legendary Chicago band, Wilco, played 7 songs during the set. The stand-out of his contributions and the night being his rendition of the Golden Smog track, “Please, Tell My Brother” which he played solo with minor assistance from Cash’s husband, John Leventhal.

The only disappointing part of the show was the new song Cash performed, “Everyday Feels Like A New Goodbye.” The song is or at least may be part of a play Cash and her husband are working on currently. The song while touching, was just a bit too much on the nose.