Northern State, Can I Keep This Pen?
The beginning of this CD didn’t impress me too much. It sounds so much like Leslie and Lys, with its silly rhymes, synthesizers and very obvious ironic smirk that I thought I might as well stop. The first four songs aren’t really worth listening to. They’re very derivative and others have done it better. Northern State’s “first love song” (per their website), “Away, Away,” should have been left on the cutting room floor. The singing just doesn’t work. However, after this song, things pick up a lot. ‘ILuvItWhenYa” is really funny and the beefier beats replacing the annoying and in-your-face synthesizers is a welcome change. “Things I’ll Do For You” is a pretty hilarious listing of the things the three group members do well, some old school boasting. The last three songs, all of which feature other artists, mostly work well, especially the guest spot by Chuck Brody. I even like when they slow it down with “Run Off The Road” and “Fall Apart,” but they don’t fit with the rest of the album and, frankly, sound like a totally different band. Its an uneven effort that lacks cohesion, but I’d still recommend it.
Exposition, Take A Penny, Leave A Penny
I ran into my friend Andrew at the opening night of new art at the Other Side CafÃ© which one of our friends was showing. We ended up geeking out about hip hop and rap for about an hour and a half and decided to switch CDs. I gave him things like Deltron 3030 and The Saturday Knights. He gave me a ton of CDs including Northern State) see above and Exposition. Exposition fronts Audible Mainframe, which is another amazing CD Andrew passed along to me, and this is one of his solo efforts.
His influences are wide and varied, but Exposition manages to put together an album that flows from gospel to reggae to latin beats to piano driven instrumental work without it feeling disparate or forced. It’s intelligent (references to Dr. Strangelove, Idi Amin, depression, and the war in Iraq, among other topics), but only occasionally preachy and overbearing. As smart as Exposition is, he knows that the message won’t get across without good beats, so he delivers some real head bouncers behind his pointed lyrics — just the way I like my rap. He is one of the smartest rappers I’ve heard in awhile, so I’ll pass along thanks to Andrew if you end up liking Exposition as much as I do.
By Stacy Coronis