Album Review: Matt Martians’ The Drum Chord Theory

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The Internet blew me away with Ego Death in 2015. The album was cohesive, masterfully produced, and showcased the talents of each individual in the group. Now, two years later, the members of The Internet have decided to take a break from their group act and pursue their solo careers. The first of The Internet to release a solo project is Matt Martians, the group’s keyboardist. His first solo album, The Drum Chord Theory, can easily be traced back to the sound of his collective, but he also manages to venture into areas unknown and take the listener on a psychedelic-albeit scattershot-journey.

One of the most striking characteristics of the album is its dependency on the drums. Despite Martians experience with the piano, the drums play a larger role in driving each song forward and maintaining the melody (if the album title wasn’t already a giveaway). That’s not to say that Martians doesn’t utilize his piano skills or experiment with other instruments. The instrumentals on the album take a hefty amount of risks, most of which pay off. A majority of the time they take precedence over Martians’ singing, playing long before and after Martians sings. One song in particular, “Where Are Your Friends?” sounds like it was intentionally recorded in a factory, with the instrumental miming the sounds of hammers and whistles. The sound of that would normally be annoying, but Martians uses the sounds to add a playful mood to the song. Others don’t pay off as well, like on “Alotta Women/Useless”, where the piano chords overwhelm the other instruments and Martians’ repetitive lyrics wear themselves out.

This brings me to one of the significant issues with The Drum Chord Theory. Martians depends too much on the instrumentation to create a quality song. Each unique instrumental is paired with lyrics that are too sparse or shallow to derive any meaning from. Take the song “Found Me Some Acid Tonight”; Martians repeats “I found me some acid tonight/And we gon’ trip to the other side” before the song abruptly cuts off. This is not the only instance where Martians is caught repeating himself, and it continually dulls down the album to the point of boredom.

Martians also lacks a concept to attach to his album. He mostly croons about love and his search for the perfect companion, but never really connects these songs together to create an overarching theme. Concept albums aren’t a mandatory staple of the music industry, but it helps to have an idea that the artist can work around and build off of for an album. J. Cole comes to mind when thinking about this, as he did a fairly nice job with a concept on his latest album 4 Your Eyez Only, choosing to base the album off of his friend’s death.

Despite the issues with The Drum Chord Theory, Martians has released a solid album. Numerous songs include inventive beat changes that force the listener to stay on their toes. The groovy bass and guitar lines sound reminiscent of Thundercat and Tame Impala. Martians’ features absolutely crush their appearances (Steve Lacy and Tyler, the Creator produce; Syd, Steve Lacy, and Kari Faux feature). The lyrics, however, are nothing to ride home about and hang on the verge of redundancy. The absence of a concept also makes the album impossible to comprehend as one single work. The Drum Chord Theory doesn’t break the stratosphere, but it’s not supposed to. This album has proved Martians’ potential, and that we should be prepared for what he has to come. Listen to The Drum Chord Theory here and catch The Internet at The Neptune on March 17.

Archie O’Dell

Artist to Watch: Ari Lennox


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Dreamville Records’ colorful songstress, Ari Lennox, fuses timeless vocals with laid-back jazzy instrumentals to create a unique R&B soundscape fit for listeners of all ages.

The 25-year old DC native, born Courtney Salter, has been turning heads since the release of her first ep, Ariography, in 2013. This heartfelt and funky project contrasts intimate songs like ‘La La La La’ and ‘Magic’ with fierce uptempo tracks like ‘Inhale me Deep’ and ‘Mumbles’ to display her resilient range.

In late December 2015, Ari announced her signing to Dreamville Records and near-simultaneously appeared on the label’s collaborative album ‘Revenge of the Dreamers II’. Ari and fellow Dreamville artist, Cozz, emerge on the album’s standout song ‘Backseat’ providing playfully sexual lyrics and catchy melodies. I had never listened to Ari before her compelling presence on the Dreamers’ album and immediately became a fan. Watch Lennox and Cozz perform ‘Backseat’ live in the video below.

After much anticipation, Lennox released her debut album ‘PHO’ last October which featured previous hit songs ‘Backseat’ and ‘La La La La’ as singles. She describes her passionate album as something “braver and riskier” while keeping the sound “modern, relaxed” and “reminiscent of the beautiful music of the 70′s.” The hypnotic, jazzy production provided by Dj Grumble supplements Ari’s luscious vocals in songs like ‘Cold Outside’ and ‘Goat’. Exciting and intense songs like ‘Night Drive’ and ‘Backwood’ convey the projects tremendous energy with fervent horns and bold lyrics. If you enjoy soulful vocalists I recommend exploring Ari’s colorful discography.

For fans of: Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Aaliyah

Robert B

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Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole remix each other’s hits on “Black Friday”

If you weren’t sure what to be thankful for by Thursday last
week, you definitely knew by the next day. And I’m not talking about weak deals
on TV’s or other stuff for you to take home and gift wrap. I’m talking about gift
rap

On Friday, Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole each blessed us with a
new song, both of which were called “Black Friday” and both of which were
remixes of each other’s hits from the past year: Cole went off on “Alright” and
Kendrick erupted on “A Tale of 2 Citiez.”

“I’m yelling Mr. Kanye West for president/He probably let me
get some head inside the residence/I’m in the White House going all out/Bumping
College Dropout, God-bless Americans,” Kendrick shouts on his remix.

If that isn’t the best lyric you’ve heard since “To Pimp A
Butterfly,” then congrats, you’re not putting Kendrick on a pedestal like I am.
But I’ll stop when he gives me a reason to.

While Kendrick’s “Black Friday” basically just a four-minute
verse, Cole’s version can more accurately be called a full song. The man loves
hooks – I’ve seen him come up with one on a freestyle. Rest assured though,
Cole’s affinity for singing doesn’t mean he’s lacking bars:

“Cause on the same day a nigga doing different shit/Spit
different flows, hit different chicks/Let my Brixton hoes feed me fish and
chips/Why I do a lot of shows? I’m the shit, that’s it/Got suicidal doors, I
just slit my wrists.”

The craziest thing about Cole’s “Black Friday” definitely
has to be the end though, when he teases something dropping in February before
being cut off by a censor tone. Could that something be the long-teased
collaboration album with Kendrick? The entirety of the Internet seems to think
so.

Coming off critical acclaim for both of their most recent
projects, Kendrick and Cole may just deliver the best collaborative album since
Jay and Kanye’s Watch the Throne in 2012. Because as much as we liked Drake
and Future’s
What a Time To Be Alive, both of their individual releases this
year were much better. 

But could a Kendrick/Cole collaboration possibly be better
than To Pimp A Butterfly? With Kendrick spitting on the same record, Cole is
much more likely to go harder than he did on 2014 Forest Hills Drive, which
was already an incredible effort on his behalf. But TPAB was on another level,
and I don’t think Kendrick would benefit as much as Cole from working together.
Cole could help him improve his singing?

Either way, both “Black Friday” tracks are good enough to
stand on their own and stave off our hunger for the mythical collaboration a
little longer. Let’s see how many times I can replay them between now and
February.

Check out more from Mohammed
Kloub, aka DJ
Mohtorious, on Rainy Dawg Radio every Thursday from 12-1pm! 

Check out more music and news from Rainy Dawg Radio @ RainyDawg.org!

birthday shoutout: Jermaine Lamarr Cole

it’s January 28th, so you know what that means.

and if you don’t know what that means, it’s rapper J. Cole’s birthday!

i’ve been following J. Cole since he released Friday Night Lights in 2010, so when he dropped 2014 Forest Hills Drive, i was ecstatic (probably an understatement).

and, with good reason. the album grew on me a lot, and i still listen to it pretty religiously, though it’s been out for over a month now.  i’ve gotta hand it to J. Cole, this album is, in my mind, a classic. i’m a sucker for clever wordplay, catchy beats, and Cole-style oversharing, so i guess it’s no surprise i feel this way.

since the album came out, i’ve been trying to write a “review” of sorts. i’ve jotted thoughts on each song, analyzed lyrics, yadda yadda yadda. and i have GIVEN UP. i can’t do it. it’s so hard to review something that you feel like no matter how many times you listen to it, you learn more about it and recognize new things, because whenever you start to review, you feel like you’re shortchanging the artist (i promise this is not just me).

so i’ve decided to “review” the album in a different way that speaks to its strengths: i’ve chosen my favorite* lyrics from each song. and i’m gonna share them. i’m doing this because if you haven’t listened to the album, you will definitely want to after catching this quick peek into the songs.

*my favorite for now, that is

here goes:

1. “Intro” 
“do you wanna be, free / Free from pain, free from scars / Free to sing, free from bars”

2. “January 28th”
“What’s the price for a black man life? / I check the toe tag, not one zero in sight”

3. "Wet Dreamz" 
“I’m thinking how that body look naked when you laying on the bed / Teacher, please don’t make me stand up”

4. "03’ Adolescence”  
“I got food for your thoughts to soothe your soul / If you see my tears fall just let me be /Move along, nothing to see”

5. "A Tale of 2 Citiez"  
“Anybody is a killer, all you gotta do is push ‘em to the limits / Fuck being timid in the Civic politicin’ with the pushers and the pimps”

6. "Fire Squad”
“While silly niggas argue over who gon’ snatch the crown / Look around, my nigga, white people have snatched the sound”

7. "St. Tropez" 
“Lately / It’s been hard for me to smile”

8. "G.O.M.D.“ 
"Why every rich black nigga gotta be famous / Why every broke black nigga gotta be brainless”

9. "No Role Modelz"  
“But then I thought back, back to a better me / Before I was a B-list celebrity / Before I started callin’ bitches "bitches” so heavily / Back when you could get a platinum plaque without no melody"

10. “Hello”  
“Reflection bring regrets don’t it / Rejection makes you defensive / So you protect your pride with your reflexes”

11. “Apparently" 
"Keep up, never sure where the words would take me / Niggas eat em up, and regurgitate me”

12.“Love Yourz" 
"It’s beauty in the struggle, ugliness in the success / Hear my words or listen to my signal of distress”

13. “Note to Self" *** 
“I don’t mind cuz I don’t matter”

*** side note: this is the, as Cole calls it, role credits. so it ends in a long monologue and he references Jonah Hill & Dale Earnhardt Jr. as playing a part in the album, and right after says:  "I’m just fuckin’ playin’, I don’t know either one of those two dudes. I don’t know either one of them niggas, I was in the moment. I just lied, I don’t give a fuck.“ that’s my favorite part of the whole album because he is so damn goofy, even after how awesomely deep and real the other songs were, and it’s just cool to see his personality displayed through talking, not even rapping. <3

hopefully this makes you want to listen to the album, or if you already have, maybe you like it more now. 😉 

happy january 28th! 

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xoxo, gnovs