Kool A.D. // 51 // April 24 // Self Released
Considering how long it took Das Racist to follow their two mixtapes with the first official album, it’s relaxing and relieving to find that nowadays the members are dropping new tapes every couple of months. Kool A.D. started this year off with the confusing and disorienting The Palm Wine Drinkard before Heems put things into their place with the quality Nehru Jackets. Just over three months later Kool A.D. is back with a new tape that works both as a good release and a way to clear his name after the previous misstep.
First glance is already suggesting that things are different this time round. Kool A.D. is not sitting with his pals on the sofa or standing in some yard, causing carnage and whatnot. 51’s cover is a peaceful scenic view. But not to worry, this is not some sort of chillout mixtape. The cover feels just like another one of Kool A.D. ridiculous lines that doesn’t make much sense but have tons of appeal. That sort of stuff that was completely missing from his last mixtape but can be found in great quantities here. One only has to wait a couple of minutes to hear Kool A.D. going “black Bart Simpson, half black Bill Clinton” to know that Victor Vasquez is back to his best lyrically. Not all of the mixtape is hilarious with some of it dealing with issues such as media and racism but Kool A.D. largely stays in his own zone on here. Unlike that Heems tape, 51 doesn’t have Das Racist’s hood famous partners in crime like Danny Brown or Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire to help him. Other than few newcomers showing up here and there and Heems jumping in on one of the tracks, 51 is entirely Kool A.D.’s gig, one that just about pulls through without any support.
While Kool A.D. has the lyricisms covered here, the instrumentals is one spot that leaves a lot to be desired. Arguably it’s the most normal sounding Das Racist related release to this date featuring nothing more than polite hip hop and jazz samples enhanced by clicks and kick drums. It allows the listener to concentrate on the lyrics which is the main point to anything these guys do but the lack of interesting and daring decisions does make some of the weaker lyrical moments on here stutter badly. Considering that mixtape is nearly an hour long those moments do appear from time to time and everytime they do, the make the good moments more like salvations rather than climaxes. Other than A.D. himself, a lot of 51 is too basic and not captivating enough starting with the lack of big name supports to the largely unknown producers spreading their ideas across the mixtape. Even the biggest track on here, the Miki Finito produced and Meyhem Lauren plus Heems featuring A Different World, feels a bit flat thanks to a rather uninspired instrumental. We all know that Das Racist are lyrical beasts but 51 is the first true proof that good beats were always part of their appeal but we were always too bewitched by out there rhymes to notice it.
In any case, Kool A.D.’s new mixtape is absolutely free, you know, just like the rest of the music but legally. No reason why one shouldn’t scope it out as it’s the best thing the man has committed to since Relax. 51 is not always enjoyable on a basic hip hop level as a collection of beats and lyrics but as a vehicle for Kool A.D.’s persona, it puts him back on track and anyone who is into his personality and obscure references will find that 51 contains all the things that The Palm Wine Drunkard missed. Two questions: 1) Did he reestablish himself as a good mixtape MC? 2) How strong is 51 in comparison with the rest of Das Racist’s solo mixtapes. Both times answer stays Kool A.D.
Action Bronson // Blue Chips // March 12 // Self Released
In case you are thinking that the name Action Bronson sounds like a title of some sort of cop flick from the 80s, you are not the only one. Bronson himself seems to think this as the majority of samples on Blue Chips echoes the decade feel like his own TV series rather than an album. Blue Chips is part of the series that aims for cult classic rather than mainstream success as Bronson spends most of it satirising the glamorous lifestyles of rich rappers on this weird, sometimes annoying but ultimately lovable mixtape.
Action Bronson deals with the same irrelevancy that several up and coming New York MCs and rap groups have brought to the spotlight over the last few years. His raps don’t make a lot of sense on a larger scale and feel more like freestyles or stream of consciousness nonsense, the sort of stuff that Das Racist and Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire have been doing recently. While Das Racist have managed to make a career out of their clumsiness and now it works as their career blueprint, Action Bronson doesn’t have an overly memorable voice nor does his rhymes turn into something so surreal that would make the listener listen closely for obscure references. Don’t be mistaken though, the things he say might be silly but they are also very quotable and often funny. Kool A.D. himself shows up at one point on the tape to show the distinction between two rappers with Bronson sounding dead serious while rapping about random nonsense while A.D. continues his delve into being just purely nonsensical without resembling himself on first two Das Racist mixtapes. Despite all the ridiculous references to bitches, riches and eating bread with cheese in Rome, Bronson manages to sound genuine. It works wonders considering that he looks like white, ginger bearded Rick Ross, just to further enhance his rich lifestyle satirising persona.
The production on Blue Chips comes from Party Supplies who turns the album into a surreal show of its own. With most of the samples coming from something that sounds like TV shows and whatnot, Blue Chips sounds like it’s mocking rap’s obsession with orchestral samples. They are mostly just the background here as Action Bronson’s voice is much louder than the instrumentals and usually too reluctant to let the beats get some breathing space. The quality of the samples is also questionable when listening on good quality headphones which make for a rather unpleasant contrast with Bronson’s well recorded vocals. Despite all of this, Blue Chips sounds quintessentially New York without having all the characteristics of the east coast genre. With more and more rappers following A$AP Rocky’s footsteps of being from the east but sounding like the south, Bronson’s and Party Supplies’ mix of classic east coast mixed with kool g rap is a refreshing, if a bit formulaic idea in present day hipster hip hop. Blue Chips is a throwback in most ways it could possibly be considered as one.
Blue Chips is one of year’s biggest don’t-give-a-fuck releases so far. Bronson raps about smoking, riding cabs, getting sucked off while eating fettuccine. He fucks up his raps several times on 9-24-11 but instead of rerecording it from scratch he just starts rapping about how much he just fucked up. There’s something appealing about such uncalculated approach to rapping in the world where even freestyles are written and memorised before performances. Blue Chips suffers from sound quality and the sarcasm on here will go over some people’s heads big time. But more than sick verses, rhymes, samples, Blue Chips is rich with wild personality and charm.