Young Thug & Bloody Jay “Black Portland” (Mixtape)
Atlanta’s Young Thug built some serious momentum last year by releasing his incendiary 1017 Thug mixtape on Gucci Mane’s 1017 Brick Squad imprint, which has since nearly dissolved — with Gucci serving another prison term after falling out with fellow label figurehead Waka Flocka Flame and leaving the once-great rap empire in shambles. Now with two of Southern rap’s biggest stars out of the picture, the crown is Thug’s for the taking – and he’s making his first effort of 2014 with (the somewhat oddly-titled) Black Portland, a joint project with fellow mumbly/yelpy-voiced ATLien Bloody Jay.
Though it’s extremely short by mixtape standards at 11 tracks (two of which are previously released – “Let’s Go Play” was on Jay’s Blatlanta 2, runaway hit “Danny Glover” was on 808 Mafia comp Crazy 8 x It’s A Southside Track 3 and the amazing Lobby Runners mixtape), both artists’ similar but complementary styles – dynamic, meandering flows alternating between garbled melodic murmurs and off-key but heartfelt, even soulful outbursts — find a way to make each song interesting. And though some of them might be a bit heavy on the Blood gang themes (the Three 6 Mafia-sampling “Signs,” for one, could probably get someone shot if played in the wrong neighborhood) Black Portland’s highlights — the shimmering, mush-mouthed repetition of “Florida Water,” the shifting, bending loud/quiet/loud beat-riding on “Movin,” the chest-puffing, serious-as-hell “Paranoia” — offer some of the most creative, uninhibited next-level rap around today.
Dude York “Dehumanize” (Help Yourself)
Though they’ve been releasing material since 2011, local feel-good punk outfit Dude York’s latest effort Dehumanize — out now on fast-rising local indie label Help Yourself — is being touted as their “debut album.” And whether their past output is regarded or not, it’s the best, most complete record they have ever put out.
To call it full-on “polished” takes away from the rawness in frontman Peter Richards’ guitar tone and gleefully strained vocals, but the album does have a distinct studio shine to it that wasn’t on the band’s previous releases. Slight touches of organ on opener “Sleepwalker,” horns on “Hesitate,” and piano on “Heartland” give the three-piece a fuller sound, and the addition of new bassist Claire England (formerly of Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head/Brite Futures) provides some opportunities for backing female vocals that they readily seize, adding to the nostalgic ‘60s/’70s pop tinges prevalent throughout the record.
As always, the group’s songwriting and sticky, classic-sounding chord progressions are their strongest suits, and they manage to fit plenty of shifts and changes into the songs’ runtimes to keep things interesting. Just as Dehumanize starts to sound familiar, it takes off in a different direction, revealing even more heart and soul (and replay value) along the way.