The Home Row Keyed – February 21, 2012Posted by Chul Gugich
Yesterday, at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, I learned that Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock was the first United States television series to be broadcast in the former Soviet Union. That was in 1989.
This is 2012, and here’s what I’ve been listening to for the past seven days:
“Only Wanna Give It To You” – Elle Varner (feat. J. Cole)
I like this Elle Varner. She’s up next in the perpetual line of throwback R&B singers, the ones who place emphasis on the actual singing part as opposed to the glossy magazine imaging. At least for now. I’m super late to this video, “Only Wanna Give It To You,” which dropped last fall and features cameo star rapper J. Cole in yet another appearance where he proves he can rap better than about ninety percent of MCs out but somehow remain only half as interesting.
Varner likens her current love interest to a new pair of shoes that she wishes she bought, a refreshing change of pace where the male subject is objectified. That’s a fairly different take, as is the singer’s sexy, raspy squeak that comes out naturally when she hits the high notes. Dig the old-school feel of the clip and learn more about Elle on her freely downloadable Conversational Lush mixtape, the prelude to her major label debut, Perfectly Imperfect, on RCA.
The best hip-hop song of 2012 belongs to Kendrick Lamar, the gloriously weird Compton MC who put the industry on its collective ear with last year’s provocative Section.80. The MC (and producer THC) basically packs more ideas and offbeat sounds into the six minutes and forty seconds of this track than most rappers do in an entire album.
I remember participating in a visualization exercise a few years ago that was designed to help me distill all of my formative experiences down to a single event, the exact moment of my youth that would shape all of my insecurities, worries and neuroses later in life. “Cartoon & Cereal” is Kendrick’s moment summarized (though perhaps in allegory) — no small feat for a single hip-hop song. Get his new science, here.
Kung Foo Grip is comprised of MCs Greg Cypher and F is H (or, FisH — see what he did there?). Hailing from the pristine land of suburbia known as Kirkland (that’s on the east side of Lake Washington, across the pond from Seattle for those that don’t know), this duo is on the come-up quick in the Pacific Northwest rap scene. On their latest release, Indigo Children Tales From The Otha Side (get it here), they invite producer Giorgio Momurda into their circle who quickly uses the EP’s six tracks to push the crew’s sound into the swirl of ambiguity that is hip-hop’s current fashion.
The video for “FVCKV9TA5″ above is a good example. Over Momurda’s controlled chaos of muted harmony, screwed vocals and video game explosions, KFG show off the lyrical dexterity first honed in many a Seattle cypher while bringing a dose of much needed energy and (ahem) color to their town’s otherwise dozy, monochromatic cul-de-sacs. “Esrever Ni” (or, “In Reverse”) meanwhile slides in somewhere between cloud-rap and dubstep. With a glut of rap currently coming out of the Puget Sound, Kung Foo Grip is on the shortlist of groups worth paying close attention to.