So, what I've done this year is comment on the biggest trends and styles I dug this year. Within these, I rate specific artists, producers, or DjS who are murking and repping the style. Take a look and see what grabs ya.
Happy Holidays, New Year, and all that...
Biggest happening for AmericanPupusa 2011!!! - GLOBAL BASS/TROPICAL
Favorites: Nguzunguzu, DJ Javier Estrada, Munchi, Uproot Andy Honorable Mentions: Sabbo, Chanca Via Circuito, Daniel Haaksman
I had a lot of fun discovering music this year, particularly the wonderful Global Bass/Bass Music coming from Latinoamerica (which also includes the U.S.). This area has caught my attention for several reasons: it strongly connects my sense of Latinidad as hybrid music, its bass and soundsystem culture, but more importantly, it moved my thoughts on sampling, and in this case the use of "ethnic" sounds, to the transnational - a more congruent, non-exploitative, place.
This music adopts the cumbia basslines, dembow riddims, guiros, polyrythms, etc of our cultures, but doesn't lay them on top of traditional beats coming from the westernized traditions of Hip Hop, House, Dance, Trance, Acid, etc. Non-gringo beat patterns are used, traditional horn sections are replaced with bright synths, and drums are filtered and dirtied for soundsystem capacity. Its this ownership of who we are bleeding into production, arrangement, and samples, alongside a sense of free experimentation that makes Global Bass/Latino Bass so refreshing. What I also dig is that the Latino U.S. is included in this conversation, placing it closer on the transnational vibe.
It's hard to pick which producers or tracks stood out the most. Any given producer or DJ in this world will play and spin just about anything and everything. To pinpoint is to go against what I enjoy most about Latino Bass tracks. But if there was a producer(s) who epitomized that approach the most, it would be NGUZUNGUZU. Looking at their work, its straight bass music, it can flex in more traditional places, yet they are pushing boundaries and bringing elements together in an almost subversive fashion. I must add that I was completely impressed with Javier Estrada's work... even more experimental than NGUZUNGUZU, I am amazed at the amount of experimentation and fucked-upness he brought in to, what I see, is a a quite rigid genre of Norteño dance music.
Favorite - BEATS/INSTRUMENTALS
Favorites: Prison Guarde, Clams Casino, Lukid, Balam Acab
There were a few directions instrumentals went in my world. The first was to love your synth sounds and work them out on some electro funk boogie. The other was to dip your productions in some pads, ambient sounds, and atmospherics that took you to up to celestial levels. I'm quite surprised that Prison Guarde's Système Hermès has not received so much attention. I figure with soundcloud, band camp, and cheap technology - everyone is a producer and a lot can get thrown down the cracks, but this is almost offensive. It's playful, grand, funky, and fun. There are thoughts in the arrangements and you get swag along with electronic bits, which brings the best of all worlds together. Top tunes to check are "What you Need" their remix of the Weeknd's vocal tune, and "New Love/Old Girl"
Sometimes, what everyone else thinks is cool is alright by me. Clam's Casino must be the producer of the year for so many folks, and that is A O K. While more mainstream folks would consider Lex Luger holding that title, I think they both have a lot in common with those fluttering chopped hi hats and chopped and screwed legacy in there. Yet, Clams takes it on some high above the ground places, sounding like God's iPod and shit. With down and dirty folks like ASAP Rocky bringing that gutter, it makes it a great line to connect Hip Hop to its next-world/level capabilities that have been lost for many years.
As a producer, Lukid is dextrous. He flexes around the Hardcore Continnuum but provides a good dose of cerebral enjoyment through the medium of dance music. Its dope atmospherics are part of the "dark" legacy that Jungle and Drum and Bass brought, but postmodern with its range of BPM and riddim choices. He is Burial but on his own place and ideas... and its worth checking all his work. Finally, Balam Acab maybe coming and going, but I think he left an impression on me, showing that Burial can be a start towards a new direction, while being a legacy to our Jungle and DnB past.
Hip Hop 2011
Favorites: Calez, Danny Brown, ASAP Rocky
I took a better listen at Hip Hop in 2011. There was the same usual crap, there were the usual indies, and there were the usual internet/blog tunes that have just enough energy to catch my attention, but not enough juice to last the entire track. This year did bring some significant and full-hearted love for Hip Hop with Calez, Danny Brown and ASAP Rocky. Calez's "Middle Finger" has enough old school to touch on its legacy, but these elements are disregarded enough with simplistic production to make sure you understand that the rapper is young, fresh, and open. His mixtape has not 100 fantastic, but there are some gems. What I appreciate is that he has good use of his voice, word choice, and robust flow that makes him a solid solid rapper.
On a WAY different level - Danny Brown brings back a different tradition to Hip Hop, of the classic toaster. Danny's delivery, words, subject matter, and beat selection all funnel towards that crazy, fuckec up, hardended, but cracked up ethos... all these wild elements are forced down into this basic center - feeling like a collision of elements to create energy of nuclear levels. He sounds rude and crude, and his beats match perfect... is that synthesis and unique delivery that makes the dude nice.
And what more can I say about ASAP Rocky that everybody hasn't said.. I agree with most review and stories of this guy. ASAP carries the legacy now set with ODWGKTA, but rejects it as well - 'Fuck Swag' could just as much be a arm separating him from Tyler as much as the Swagger Like Us era of Jay-Z and Kanye. And, I hope he doesn't end like Wiz Khalifa.
UK BASS - Dubstep, Post-Dubstep, Future Garage, Grime
Faves - Machinedrum - Room(s) LP, Burial - Street Halo EP, King Midas Sound - "Goodbye Girl (Kuedo Rework)", Blawan - "Getting Me Down"
I don't think I was listening to much Dubstep this year. I have transitioned away from being a follower of the traditional "Hardcore Conntinuum" folks (Hip Hop/House to Rave to Jungle to UK Garage to Grime/Dubstep thing), moving to a Global Bass kinda guy, inclusive of the HC and U.S. dance genres. Even so, the UK are doing big things as always with Future Garage and Post-Dubstep exploits taking place. My hat is tipped to producer Jamie XX for killing it hard this year; being indie/dance with a Bass mindset, dropping some seriously unique music and mixes. He is as close as you can get to a white guy breaking out of the traditional modes of beat structures. Not too far behind is the bliss and clean beauty of Machinedrum, who ties all styles of UK Bass through filters and individuality to make some sweet sweet cuts of Footwork, Jungle, and other dirty-end dance.
For my honorable mentions, I was a bit worried about my hero Burial slacking and fading out, being that there is this post-Burial stuff from Alam Acab and others, but I can rock "Street Halo" all day, its fucking urban as shit and has that garagey/Goldie vibes that I dig.
The Weeknd - "Thursday", Frank Ocean - "We All Try"
Oh my oh my... I'm super impressed with The Weeknd and Frank Ocean! While the rest of the R&B kept on with its bright synths, BET/MTV sensibilities, and waste of time subject matter... The Weeknd's Thursday seemed to add dub-style productions to counter the clean productions from the mainstream, used voice as instrument that bled with productions, and took the notion of 'the playa' to dirty dirty dirty depths. He tells you exactly how painful his torture is going to be, swooning you with dead flowers and poisonous chocolates... bringing out a bravado and confidence that he'll get you which pales everyone else. Absolutely amazing!
While "Novacane" caught everyone's attention, Frank Ocean impressed me with "We all Try." Ocean's songs have the same scripts as most, but you get a sense that he has a bigger thought in there, a social consciousness along with it. He was able to speak about things everyone else feels, but had no one to speak on them. My favorite line "I don't believe marriage is between a man and woman/but between love and love" also shows a bold independence that anyone else doesn't have the balls to get close to in mainstream/indie R&B.
ODDS AND ENDS
"Jess and Crabble Present Bazzerk," Traxman, Ballroom/Vogue
I could've told you that Kuduro was my number 1 genre of last year. I haven't slacked on it, but with all this stuff coming from the Latino Bass scene, it had to take a spot in the back burner. Even so, Ballzerk is an essential compilation. Going through each track, you see a how a genre transitioned from the "I'm just brand new, so we can do whatever we want" freedom to "We are mature now, but we got the tools and skills to keep pushing forward." Its a few steps away from formula and complacency, but for now, the choice of snares, arrangements, and fucked up samples make it so juicy and ass shaking!
Otherwise, I still dig the sounds from the Footwork/Juke Chicago school of thought. Since Footwork broke into all these other dance scenes (Danny Brown, Addison Groove, Machinedrum, etc etc etc) I took a look back and found some of the true school gems, in particular Taxman, that sound fresh and raw, which reinterpretations and upgrades to mainstream status cannot touch still. Juxtapose this with the Vogue/Ballroom stuff that is happening now in NYC, where Diplo has put his mitts on, and its a wait and see of where this genre will go. For now, we have some glimpses inside, and it looks quite appealing with its gay-black-urban swag, industrial sounds, and don't give a fuck approach to production and arrangements.