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Review: Rhythm Natives – Rhythm Natives

Rhythm Natives‘s self-titled debut out October 19th.  Self-released, available on the group’s Bandcamp (rhythmnatives.bandcamp.com) and website (www.rhythmnatives.com)

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Upon seeing The Roots in concert several times and seeing some of my favorite hip hop artists performing with live musicians, I have to say that seeing hip-hop performed with a live band is a much richer-sounding experience (no offense to the rapper-DJ combo).  Growing up in the early 00’s, the members of Rhythm Natives form a six-piece band that shares a common love of hip hop and live instrumentation and delivers such an experience.  Their music is rooted in the Los Angeles indie hip-hop scene and shares many similarities of their  Los Angelean genre-blending counterparts.  Specifically, RN’s brass sections and rockability are reminiscent of Ozomatli‘s work without as many activism viewpoints, while the soul and funk influences are very much like Orgone‘s “Cali Fever” release from earlier this year.  While Rhythm Natives comes together to produce an organic mix of many genres, they are certainly hip-hop oriented, and the rapping duo of Exaktoh (Glen Techico) and Kreative Thought (Jon Narboneta) evoke the light-hearted and clever exchange of People Under the Stairs or the short-lived Colorado Springs group The Procussions.

The challenge for any band that becomes popular through live performances is translating that to the recording studio.  Rhythm Natives makes a natural progression here, keeping the percussion sounding real and interesting and letting each instrument stand out in the mix for the listener.  “Take Off (Intro)” is a simple yet well-crafted opening number that hints at the multi-dimensional potential this band has.  “Move” featuring Farmer JohnEric takes the same excitement of an Ozomatli jam and expands upon it with entertaining wordplay, offering perhaps the album’s best cut.  “Miss Universe” is a chill jam that feels like it belongs on an Ohmega Watts record, however the backing instrumentation tends to be more interesting than the lyrical subject matter here.  “Make Up Your Mind” is a definite highlight in the band’s songwriting skills but also in large part due to the uncredited female vocalist.  This flows right into the exciting “Holdin’ It Down” featuring Miss Jenn K and the funky soulful “Trust Me”, showing off the band’s versatility in playing to different moods and styles.  “So Fire”, the album’s first single, is a gorgeous rush of chord progressions with a beat that surely could make people drop everything and dance in the streets. One possible drawback for the listener and that may keep RN from achieving more airplay may be the occasional obscenities that surface and seem unnecessary at times.

Overall, Rhythm Natives’ self-titled debut is loaded with many interesting and head-nodding tracks, worthwhile guest spots (Bambu, Farmer JohnEric, Miss Jenn K and battle rapper Kronic Plague), and does not miss a beat.  While they are not breaking much new ground in the genres they mix and the lyrics they write, this album definitely belongs in anyone’s collection of organic-sounding hip-hop and is sure to work generously in promoting their live performances.

-Ion The Prize

Rhythm Natives is:

Bojo1 – drums
Chezzy Chez – keys
Chooboy – bass
Mart – guitar
Soy – DJ/band photographer
Exaktoh – vocals
Kreative Thought – vocals
Asi Friedman – producer

website:  www.rhythmnatives.com

Tracklist:

1. Take Off (Intro)

2. Move (feat. Farmer JohnEric)

3. Miss Universe

4. Make Up Your Mind

5. Holding It Down (feat. Miss Jenn K)

6. Trust Me

7. Mess With (feat. Kronic Plague)

8. Lost Angels

9. So Fire

10. Like This (feat. Bambu)

11. Take Off (Outro)

For the band’s take, check out the video below:

Thank Me Later

It is unbelievable how completely and extremely mixed the reception for arguably the most anticipated album of the year is, and not even by those who know Drake from the radio but by fans who have followed his career or at the very least listened to and loved So Far Gone.
So, is it So Far Gone? No, and nothing Drake puts out will ever be. But this isn’t a Nas trying to live up to Illmatic scenario. So Far Gone took the world internet by storm because it was such an exceptional collection of music with unique production, the newly added element of singing, and (Can you believe it?) great rapping, during a time period with an incredibly dull music scene. And this was all essentially done on his own. The success spawned by this mixtape was unparalleled, and we all knew this kid was special.
But it was all new it us at that point. We had never heard a rapper sing like that and hit notes like he did. He spit some of the illest lines, that looking back weren’t all that complex, but still had us very impressed (“..share it like the last slice”). And 40’s sound was unheard of at the time. Listening to Thank Me Later hoping Drake would amaze us the way he did with his mixtape doesn’t make sense because this is his second go round at basically the same act.
After my first listen of Thank Me Later, I was very impressed. I thought it was very well put together. Then I read what everyone else thought, and the response was all over the place. Some just flat out said it sucked, but it was hard for me to understand why they thought that. I even thought of all the stuff I didn’t like about the album. I was never very impressed with the singles. I thought ‘Show Me a Good Time’ was just a bad decision, and ‘Fancy’ was a mistake. ‘Cece’s Interlude’ was just not good (especially compared to ‘Bria’s Interlude’), and we’ll all agree that ‘Light Up’ was a huge let down. Lyrically, he literally had no So Far Gone-type one liners; I mean literally none. The only good verse lyrically was probably the MJ, A.I. verse on ‘Thank Me Now’. Content wise, the ENTIRE album covers his thoughts and emotions of this past year since he has gotten super famous, most of which are about how relationships were affected, loves lost, and how his friends now think of him. And this is all almost laughable when you think that So Far Gone was all him wanting to be famous and successful.
Even when I think all this, I go back and listen and can’t help but love it. I think the first three songs and ‘Unforgettable’ rival the first four on So Far Gone. I complain about the lyrics but then am still amazed by a lot of what he does say. It was as if he gave up on the one liners to give more of a “Little Brother/Slum Vill” feel to it–it was a storytellingish type of writing style that while odd and unexpected, still had some hidden gems. I think musically and melodically it is just so well done, and it makes me want to listen to it over and over again. Even the songs I say I don’t like I still sing and rap along to. It’s hard for me to properly even review this because as much as I shouldn’t like it, I still do. I can understand why in a purely rapping sense, people were disappointed by the finished product. But even if I felt strongly negative about it, it would be hard for me to just dismiss it since this is a project I have looked forward to for a long time, and Drake is an artist that I do want to support. No other up and coming artist will have the creative freedom and commercial success that he does, and I think we should at least appreciate this moment because it’ll be a long time until we all pull for another artist or another project like this.

Album Reviews

Who is reviewing what album? I think I’m going to write something on Stonesthrow’s Chrome Children and videos that follow from it.