Paper Route Gangstaz
Fear and Loathing in Hunts Vegas
Mad Decent

Though the South has been a hotbed for hip-hop during the last decade, Huntsville, Alabama might be the last place on Earth where one would suspect a homegrown empire to rise. But Diplo strikes again, excavating the posse of rappers and producers that form Paper Route Recordz and giving the world their first widely available mixtape for free. Operating under the auspices of a Wu-like crew mentality, the revolving cast featuring newbies Mata, Jhi-Ali, Mali Boi, and Big P.O.P.E. often join in collaborative tracks as the PRGz, and like the Wu, their biggest “hits” (“Rollin” and “Woodgrain” are regional classics) are a result of this Voltron formation. Throughout this collection it’s evident that Diplo and Benzi have a ton of source material to work with and do their best to spread it out laced with their golden touch. A prime example is the opening cut “Stuntastic” that couples Jhi-Ali velvet sing-song flow with the cascading throb of Underworld’s “Born Slippy,” a wonder the song’s never been sampled before.

What Diplo and Benzi do best is extract the essence of this highly inspired movement in Alabama. PRGz do vamp on many of the touchstones of Southern-flecked hip-hop—Outkast’s multi-syllabic smooth funk, DJ Screw’s morphine-drip chop-n’ screw cadence, No Limit/Cash Money’s flagrant braggadocio, Goodie Mob’s country-fed accent —but have a nuance when combining those qualities, often flipping between them in a single line. Still, beyond the obvious trademarks, lyrics about fellatio, cars, and moonshine, there’s genius in such simple production. It might just be rapping over Weezer’s “Say it Ain’t So” on “Grind Baby” or completely dismembering Wham’s “Careless Whisper” on “Bama Gettin’ Money” into a ghetto siren, but each member has a distinctive voice, colorful characters sparring with a parade of rickety and frantic beats. Really, it’s been hard to get too excited about the current state of hip-hop, but with climes like Huntsville appearing out of nowhere with a auteur stab at populist rhymes, there’s still hope that the culture can sound like it comes from another world.
Kevin J. Elliott

Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

Travel is often an inspiration. From Kerouac to the Muppets, the road has provided a muse. Add to the proud tradition abstract leaning K-The-I??? and his latest record Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow.

While not a straight travelogue, the inspiration behind the record focuses on K-The-I???’s move from Cambridge, Mass. to L.A. But instead of doing a traditional take on East Coast vs. West Cast vs. Dirty South beats, Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow occupies a place where industrial-edged beats sit next to leftfield club bangers. Credit for the sonic twists and turns lies firmly with producer Thavius Beck, who has worked with similarly experimental Saul Williams and remixed Nine Inch Nails. His take is like a less claustrophobic El-P or a more straightforward Anti-Pop Consortium.

But for all the futuristic touches on Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow there’s something almost throwback about the record. K-The-I??? has a lyrical style that’s as dense as a water-soaked fruitcake. In addition, he kicks that “super-scientific” style that was popular among the underground set in the late ‘90s and early ‘80s. And it’s echoed in the choice of guests—from Subtitle to High Priest from the recently reunited Anti-Pop Consortium.

Yet the strength of K-The-I??? is how he sidesteps the cliches that could have made Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow a one-note record. With a voice that has echoes of Redman, a delivery that’s a mixture of Chuck D and spoken word, K-The-I??? engages the listener even when they have no clue what he’s talking about. Musically, Beck moves from the slinky guitar driven bounce of “Never Heard It Done Like This” (featuring High Priest) to the electro-glitch of the Busdriver feature “Sabbath Faster” and somehow makes it sound unified.

While Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow may not appeal to hip-hop fans that are looking for the latest jeep beats, for those to go off the beaten path, K-The-I??? is the travel agent.
Dorian S. Ham

MP3: “Decisions”

The Secret History
Desolation Town EP
Le Grand Magistery

Formed in 2007 from the ashes of neo-80s cult darlings, My Favorite, the Secret History has abandoned their signature Smiths-esque, dark synth-pop for a lighter, brighter stab at glam-rock on the group’s catchy and musically diverse five-song EP. The band is the brainchild of former My Favorite front man, Michael Grace, Jr. but it’s the vocals of Lisa Ronson, daughter of former Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson, that give the tracks their glam-rock genealogy.

Desolation Town is all over the map from start to finish, spanning multiple genres and themes, while the songs are as musically diverse as their subject matter. The album marries sweeping ballads (“Our Lady of Palermo”), disco-driven ditties (“It’s Not the End of the World, Jonah”), and kitschy glam-rock ala New York Dolls (“Obelisk/Mark & John”). Lyrically, Town’s subject matter touches on topics ranging from the sensitive (the Iraq war in the poignantly catchy “Our Lady of Pompeii”) to the imaginary (a homage to the Haunted Hearts, a band that exists solely in Ronson’s mind).

This first EP is certainly scattered, and at times, lacks any sense of direction. But in showcasing the Secret History’s diversity, it also reveals their talent in just five short songs. It’s a wild ride to Desolation Town, but undoubtedly a trip worth taking.
Jennifer Farmer

MP3: “It’s Not the End of the World, Jonah”

Hills of Elysium

September Garland, vocalist for Hills of Elysium, lists the Toadies’ Rubberneck as her favorite album of all-time. That ought to give you a pretty good idea of what you’re in for here. That’s right folks: 1995, the pinnacle year of modern rock. This is an album for fans of 7 Year Bitch and Brownie Mary who prefer their mid-90s flashbacks with just a little less subtlety.

Truthfully, the band wouldn’t be so bad with a less grating vocalist. But given that they traffic in pretty standard scrunge-bar-band riffs, they need a singer with a distinctive voice and scintillating lyrics to pull the whole thing off. Well, she’s distinctive, I’ll say that. If September speaks to the deepest, darkest places of anyone, I feel very sorry for them. Sometimes she sticks to her lower, more tuneful register; more often she shrieks like a banshee, growls like the dude from Lamb of God, or breaks her voice up like Lita Ford. Suffice to say, it’s not enjoyable listening.

In fact, I suggest you can get the most out of this album by flipping the CD over and trying to decipher the song titles. Here are a few of my favorites: “Masturbation by the Mouthful,” “Angels Fuck,” and “Autopsy Results of a Redheaded SlutWhoreBitch.” Have you had a good laugh? Good. Let’s move on.
Matt Slaybaugh