Category Reviews

Small Town, Big Sound

Go to any music show in Chico and there will always be three things there: great drinks, a great performance, and a great community. From festivals and plays at The End of Normal, Chico Unplugged at The Bear, to even Green Day’s American Idiot being put on by Chico State’s theatre, there is always something to do and something to see in this growing community. At the heart of all these events are the local talents that make the show possible: KCSC Radio, Uncle Dad’s Art Collective, SOTA, and so many more. No matter where the show is in Chico I can always count on great performances and a great sound.

This past weekend was no exception: Small Town, Big Sound premiered at the Sierra Nevada Big Room that showcased 14 local songwriters, all backed by orchestra members of Uncle Dad’s Art Collective. Each songwriter differed greatly from one another – not only in melodies and genres but in age, personalities, and walks of life. These musicians were ordinary people who had an excellent musical idea they wanted to show to their community and in return they received praise, time in the studio to record their song, and a live performance at Chico’s largest national brewery. Each song and songwriter told a different melody, a different story that encaptured us all for their few minutes of playing.

Every talent, including the orchestra of Uncle Dad’s, could headline a show in Chico by themselves – and they probably will. If you would like to see and support great musicians while having a good time, what better way than with other Chicoans? Many times local artists perform on the Bell Memorial Union lawn during the school day and hold interviews on KCSC Radio. If you enjoy dancing, socializing with other cool people, or simply listening to great music by talented local people you should definitely see a local show today.

-Seann Romero

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Blkswn – Smino

St. Louis based rapper Smino is making his own lane with his debut album blkswn. It follows up his blkjuptr EP released in 2015. The eighteen-song deep album is mostly produced by close friend and LA-based Soulection artist, Monte Booker, hailing from Chicago. Blkswn crosses the line between hip hop, soul, jazz, funk, and electronic, blending elements from different genres. The production is delectable. The smooth basslines and funky melodies bring out the quality in the wordplay. I was mesmerized by album’s unique sound and the chemistry between the vocalists. He switches between crooning a soulful chorus to upper echelon lyricism with ease. The wide range of delivery is reminiscent of Anderson .Paak and Chance the Rapper, but with fresh melodies. The songs transition from a slow jam feel to the fast lane as Smino touches on life lessons, romances and anything else on his mind. His flow is original unlike so many up and coming rappers. One of his goals is that the release will put his hometown on the map. He explained to the Fader that he hates that so many tours skip St. Louis. He said that people don’t think it’s an organized city when in reality, it is home to lots of creatives. Smino hopes that his music opens doors for them. He reminisces on the status of his hometown, “I remember after Mike Brown got killed, people just wanted to be heard but the media cut them off. So we started the “hands up, don’t shoot” movement, and it was all these voices of young people wanting to be heard. We can make that same thing happen on a positive note.” I really admire the connection he has to his hometown. He inspired his city by battling through life’s obstacles and pursuing his dreams.

You can hear the soul in his voice as he burns through Monte Booker’s jazzy, sensual beats. Smino has many musical influences. The main one being his family of musicians. In a feature with XXL Magazine, Smino shares that his grandfather is a bass player and a member of the Blues hall of fame. His dad played keys. His mom is a singer and his big cousin toured the world singing. It wasn’t long before he realized that he might as well do music. It was around age thirteen when he started recording and making music every day. He was inspired to get really into it because of how happy it made his family. He was motivated by their talent to develop his own sound. Even with all the talent in the world, many artists struggle to achieve financial success. Smino stuck with the family business nonetheless. It appears that his hard work is going to pay off. As more people hear his music, his popularity will continue to rise.

On the third song in the album, Smino claims that he’s “walking light on these glass flows,” as if one misstep could jeopardize everything. The story he’s telling is deeply personal but anyone can relate to it. It’s about love and a delicate relationship– taking too much and not giving enough back. He goes back and forth with Ravyn Lenae throughout the song. There are a handful of different female vocalists featured throughout the album. Noname Gypsy shuts down the album with an incredible verse on last track. The features are beautiful and they compliment the energy of the various songs. A good example is the album’s single,  “Anita.” It’s a catchy, upbeat song with an unexpected mix of rapping and singing that typifies Smino’s style. It’s appealing from every angle just like the girl he’s singing about. The title song blkswn is fit to carry the name of the album. Smino guarantees that he is going after the money, and his close friends and fans are the only people invited to come with him for the ride. To sum it up with Smino’s words, “being timeless how I pass time…scheming, plotting til’ it’s attack time. He is also one third of the “Zero Fatigue” crew along with Monte Booker, Jay2AintShit, and singer Ravyn Lenae. Their identity is the same from their lifestyle to their work ethic; it’s that you never get tired of doing something you love. You can feel the passion in their work because it comes from the soul. The movement is not just about making cool music, rather it is about being better people. Smino preaches that although separation is a growing trend, it will get better as more people are aware of it. We are the only ones that can change the way we treat each other, and the world.

By: Collin Turner

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All Amerikkkan Bada$$ – Joey Bada$$

Jozif Badmon the rude boy is back with his sophomore album, All Amerikkkan Bada$$. Joey Bada$$ is a 22 year old Brooklyn rapper who’s been gaining some serious attention since his debut mixtape “1999” released back in 2012. Since then Joey has been growing in popularity through the release of his first studio album – B4DA$$, along with numerous collaborations. Recently Joey finished his tour with fellow 2013 XXL Freshman Schoolboy Q and has been dabbling in the fashion industry along with co-starring in the USA network television show “Mr. Robot.” The long awaited AABA has finally released and Joey proves why this album was well worth the wait.

All Amerikkkan Bada$$ is an exploration into the mind of Joseph Virginie-Scott in regards to the socio-political state of our country and not only his place in it as a rapper, but as an African American man. As we see racial tension rising with every news report, rappers like Joey use their spotlight as a platform to express thoughts and opinions on these matters. On the song “For My People” Joey asks his audience “Tryna stay alive and just stay peaceful… so hard to survive a world so lethal… who will stand and be our hero?” This emotionally sung hook provides a perfect example for the tone of this album. Joey doesn’t preach that he will be the hero that changes the ugliness of the world, but poses the idea that a hero might be needed based on the problems he sees around him. Problems such as racial profiling, especially by the police who have been the center of attention in recent years due to the controversial use of lethal force against numerous African American men and women. In the hard-hitting “Rockabye Baby” featuring Schoolboy Q, Joey attacks the racist mindset of many Americans and the ease with which police have killed unarmed black men. He also makes sure to send a special shoutout, “And if you got the guts, scream Fuck Donald Trump!” The message of this album is clear and spread out consistently from song to song – that Joey is taking a stand against the discrimination that his Black brethren have faced and wants to inspire his people to stand with him.
Sonically, this album is similarly consistent to his messages, keeping his production crew relatively local with beats from long-time collaborators and Pro Era associates Statik Selektah, Kirk Knight, and Powers Pleasant. The overall vibe of this album is relatively mellow, with smooth jazzy instrumentals and low-tempo beats to allow the spotlight to stay on Joey’s lyricism and message. However, Joey comes through with some of his most experimental sounds yet such as the lead single released prior to the album, “Devastated” a high energy party anthem with an outstanding message; previously earning Joey his first Gold rating for a single. Joey also provides a powerful and hard hitting possy-cut alongside other east-coast rappers Kirk Knight, Nyck Caution, and Meechy Darko of Flatbush Zombies. This is just one example of the many great features included on the album such as the previously mentioned Schoolboy Q, Styles P, Chronixx, and J.Cole (who’s catching Cole features on their album??). This album has everything a Joey Bada$$ fan wants, intensity and energy, lyricism and top notch flow, impressive production and flawless features, and most importantly an inspiring and uplifting message; something that is not always included in rap albums of today. Joey Bada$$ has come such a far way since his days of sample based mixtapes; and his journey as a rapper and figurehead is not even almost complete.

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