Thursday, April 23, 2009

BLAST FROM THE PAST

So far this blog has only covered current stuff, so this post is going to be the first exception to that rule. Recently a guy I've never personally met from the old country contacted me saying that he wanted to unearth a long forgotten relic from my past and publish it online. I thought about it first and then I said, why not? I've done waaaaaay more embarrassing stuff that can be found online so why not posting that EP I recorded ten years ago under the alter-ego of Mangaka, when I was still trying to be a rapper?
So I went through my old files, found it and zipped it and sent it to him and today he posted it on his blog. And then I thought, oh, well, since it's already there, it should be here too, right? So here it is, now you too can download it and make fun of my lack of microphone skills.


Download (at your own risk)

The story goes something like this: it was back in 1999 and I was done publishing my hip-hop magazine after three years and I was trying to come out with something different. I tried rapping many times before, and I was part of plenty of groups as a teenager which fortunately didn't leave any recorded audio behind. At that time I was very much involved with the entourage of the rap super-group La Organización and I knew their debut album would change once and for all Argentinean hip-hop but they were taking way too long to put out a record and since nobody else was releasing any interesting new-school rap at the moment, I decided to do it myself and I dragged with me a whole new breed or local talents.
Amongst the many guests is Apolo Rodas (now known as Apolo Novax from the group Koxmoz) in a track that became sort of like the single of that EP. Apolo would become one of the hottest rappers in Latin America but his first actual release was his short collaboration in my song Lección Número Uno (many years later with Koxmoz he would release a song called Lección Número Dos) so even though the CD sucked balls and sold like 50 copies, it does have some sort of historical relevance. Also it was in that same track that Apolo dissed Sindicato Argentino del Hip Hop for the first recorded time, hence it was the beginning of a decade-long feud between these artists.
Later in 2000 Apolo became a recurrent intruder in my house and on my computer we produced most of the instrumentals for La Diferencia, which was going to be the debut album by La Organización. La Organización, also known as La Oz, consisted of three MC's: Mustafá Yoda (now a successful solo artist) Apolo Rodas and Interceptor, now known as Chili Parker of Koxmoz.
In 2001 I left Argentina without ever finishing the production of those demos and a couple of months later Mustafá abandoned the project so the tracks were never finished, nor they were properly mastered. Still they decided to release them anyway as a self-bootleg and recently it was also unearthed from the vaults of the forgotten by the same archeological blogger. So if you liked Koxmoz and/or Mustafá Yoda and you wanna know what were they doing before they became sort of famous, now you can download it here too!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Buraka Som Sistema- Life at 145BPM

After a crazy weekend packed with amazing shows (Zizek, M.I.S., Bajofondo, Cypress...) my expectations were low for Buraka even though I've already seen them live last year and they rocked. I just thought nothing else could surprise me after that unexpected Bajofondo surprise.
I was so wrong.
Buraka Som Sistema's show was like going to an aerobics class at a sauna during Burning Man. It just happened to be the hottest day of the year, so far, over here and somehow BSS managed to make it even hotter. Not only with their super-up-tempo beats that never go below 130 BPM but also by improving notoriously their stage performance by adding a live drummer an a singer/dancer girl names Blaya who's simply TOO HOT TO BE HUMAN.
W-O-W! I saw BSS last year for their Tormenta Tropical performance and they blew my mind but this was way way way better. I was right next to the stage and it felt like being at a rave and a grindcore metal concert at the same time. It was a non-stop moshpit of dancers in fluo clothes sweating their asses off and every time Blaya would come on stage, things would dial up to surreal levels of wildness.
Kuduro is definitely the new favela funk. Buraka Som Sistema is the best thing to ever come out of Portugal since... Brazil!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

420 SPECIAL

Yesterday was stoner's national day and even though I do not consider myself a stoner, I celebrated it going to a Cypress Hill concert.
Now I've never been a fan of Cypress, I barely like a couple of tracks from their first two records and that's it, but I've seen them live 5 times already. In fact my debut as a hip-hop journalist was interviewing their percussionist Eric Bobo back in Buenos Aires in 1996. I interviewed their percussionist, instead of the MC's or DJ, because he also happened to be the Beastie Boys percussionist during their Ill Communication era.
Last night's show started with a performance by their allys Pscycho Realm which was just average but I've never seen them before so it was cool. Cypress' show was the same stoner-pleasing show they been doing for the past 15 years minus the inflatable Buda, the huge bong and DJ Muggs. Yup, they didn't have DJ Muggs. Total bummer. In his place they had some Mexican guy name Julio who told us backstage that he was Cypress DJ before Muggs. Whatever, I like Muggs, specially his side projects like the one with GZA.
So after the mediocre Cypress show we went to a bar where Eric Bobo was doing a promotional record release party for his solo album, Meeting of the Minds, which came out a couple of months ago through Nacional Records! I don't know why or how it happened because I usually review all Nacional Records releases on this blog, but I skipped that one. It has a neo-cumbia track with Toy Selectah on it and I've been playing it for a while, but I haven't listened to the rest of the album yet and after his incredible show last night I really want to! (Let's see if my Nacional friends read this and send me a copy...)
Anyway, I don't think his album can match the excitement of his live performance from last night where he improvised an amazing set with Beat Junkies and The Visionaries, DJ Rhettmatic. WOW! They'd be doing back and forth call and responce between scratch and percussion and then they did a mind blowing syncronized routine with Rhettmatic doing backspin with the intro of "Apache" by Sugar Hill Gang. I wish I had my camera and I got that on video. My friend did, I'll see if I can get her to share with us and post it here. Happy belated 420 to y'all!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Backstage with Bajofondo.

I've been to thousands of backstage after-shows of all types of music but I've never seen anything like this.
Last night Bajofondo gave the last show of their Mar Dulce Tour in San Francisco. As usual, their live performance was mind-blowing, unbelievable. So much energy, so much emotions! But you know, they are putting a show, they are performing, they are getting paid for it, so you as part of the audience can't really tell if they are actually that cool or they're just pretending.
Well, last night I was appointed to do an interview with Bajofondo's leader and multiple-Grammy-and-Oscars-winner Gustavo Santaolalla after their show and that was almost an impossible task. Right in the middle of an answer to my question the other members of the band started chanting like soccer hoolingans and Gustavo join them right after.
The results can be appreciated in this video I took with my photo camera, so expect low quality image and sound, but I think it's still quite compelling. There you can really appreciate the spirit and the actual energy of this people when they are not in front of a crowd, they are just having fun and enjoying what they do the best, great fucking music!
Now I've been a huge fan of Gotan Project since their very beginnings and I even contributed with their second album, Lunático, hooking them up with Koxmoz for that amazing collaboration "Mi Confesión". I've been to plenty of Gotan shows and I've also been backstage with them, and I've never seen anything comparable to this. When Gustavo and the gang started chanting "Gotan you make me laugh, I went to see your show and it seemed like mass" I instantly converted to a Bajofondo fan. Watch this video and convert you too.

video

Friday, April 17, 2009

ZZK Sound Vol. 2 (ZZK Records '09)

Back when I did that silly 2009 predictions post in January, I should've totally guessed this one, but I didn't, which means as a psychic I suck. Big time.
Nacional Records, the best (and only decent) Latin music record label in the whole United States will be releasing Zizek Collective albums, starting with this one, and that, my friends, is the biggest piece of news of 2009, so far.
I actually wondered many times why Nacional wasn't jumping in the neo-cumbia craze and I sort of new that eventually they'd do it but never in a million years did I imagine they would associate with Argentina's ZZK Records and release their impressive catalogue for the US market (or at least some of it).
I found out about it through the guys of Fauna a couple of weeks ago, but only as a rumor and I confirmed it last night at Zizek's San Francisco show (the third one in two years!) when Zizek's founder and resident DJ El G gave me a copy of this new compilation CD (thanks!) in its Argentine edition which includes one track more than the US edition to be released by Nacional, hopefully soon.
ZZK Sound Vol. 1 was probably the best album of 2008 and the one I played the most at my DJ sets so I assume Vol. 2 will be at least equally relevant. I've only listened to it once so don't expect a very brainy review here, I don't do that type of shit on this site, you'll probably read one of those soon on one of the various sites that pay me. What I can point out as different from its predecesor is that this new volume does not have the subtitle Cumbia Digital, in fact it doesn't have any subtitle at all. Cumbia is still present, but in a much less obvious way. The sound in general is way more electronic and futuristic (can we already start talking about post-neo-cumbia?) and it also has less catchy hooks.
There's also less rap, which's a bummer because I really digged those Maestro and Princesa tracks from the first comp. There's however the Zonora Point rap which sounds Chilean, and I guess that's where they are from, and that's the only track I've been already playing previously to these release (it's actually included in my Linyerismo mix, hidden somewhere among all that mess).
All the rest are new stuff. Many by artists that I'm not familiar with like Lulacruza, Sonido del Príncipe, Arcade and Petrona Martínez. Some by artists that all neo-cumbia aficionados should be already familiar with like our local hero Oro11, Fauna, Frikstailers, Chancha Vía Circuito, Daleduro, Marcelo Fabián, Axel K. and El Trip Selector. The biggest absence here is El Hijo De La Cumbia who last year provided the neo-cumbia ultimate anthem, "La Mara Tomasa" but is now signed to DJ Rapture's label.
Anyway, like I said, I've only listened to it once so I still don't have any definitive opinion. What I can tell you is that all those 19 tracks are already loaded on my playlist and I'll probably be playing some of them tonight at the M.I.S. show. So come and check it out or go to Coachella and for your last chance to see Zizek Collective in the US before they go on tour to Mexico... or wait for the Nacional release. Your choice.

Friday, April 10, 2009

LOS SUPER ELEGANTES - Nothing Really Matters (Independent, '09)

I was about to start having sex when I realized the album was done downloading and I said to myself, why not? And pushed play.
Now I'm not one of those cheesy motherfuckers that play Barry White and Marvin Gaye as background music to "get it on". My original idea was more like "let's see if I can multitask and write a record review, in my head at least, while I do the thing" and the first song that came out was "Africa" which has a pretty good up-tempo beat so I liked it and she liked it and we were doing it to the rhythm of those tribal drums so I decided to leave it playing. Then this song came out and she looked at me like "what the fuck??" and at the moment the beat kicked in and the dude started pseudo-rapping in a PM Dawn flow I couldn't help it and I started laughing my ass off. I was instantly transported back to 1991 and that was probably the unsexiest time in my life, being a total nerd teenager making mix-tapes in my room with songs recorded from the radio. It totally ruined the afternoon sex mood.
Anyway, after a few other mellow tracks I had to press stop. Up-beat and campy can be pretty cool but artsy-fartsy mellow makes me wanna stick my thumbs into my eyeballs and choke on my vomit. I'll definitely keep the "Africa" and "Dance" songs because I might play them in my future sets (I said the same about "Hey, culito" when I got it a year ago but I still haven't found a proper situation to play it), I'll also keep the title track because it's hella funny, but I'll avoid ever playing it again duiring sex. The rest I'm deleting right now.

UPDATE: A week after writing this review, I still haven't been able to get the Nothing Really matters song off my head and I eventually started loving it. That's what happens when you write first-impression reviews.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

TOY SELECTAH- The MexMore LP (Mad Decent, '09)

By now you all must be totally aware that I absolutely have a major non-homosexual crush on Toy Selectah. You are even probably annoyed by the fact that I write so fucking much about him on this blog that could easily be re-titled Data Gets Hard Every Time He Receives A New Toy Selectah Remix. It's true, I mention him a lot and I mix a lot of his tracks into all my sets. I owe him big time.
You know, back in the mid-90's when I was a fundamentalist hip-hop fan I used to think that Control Machete sucked. Then I interviewed them personally and they ended up being really nice guys... but they still sucked. With time I learned to appreciate Toy's talent in the production while avoiding paying much attention to the two MC's and all of a sudden Toy became one of my all time favorite Latin hip-hop producers (along with Argentina's Kox-T and Spain's Griffi).
But way before that happened, I landed a job in a US-based music magazine that made me move to California, and guess what? It was Toy who recommended me for that gig. So to some extent he's the one to blame for me being where I am now.
Since then we haven't ran into each other much but we kept in touch and I always followed his prolific career from close. He was the first hip-hop head who ever talked to me seriously about incorporating cumbia elements into his music; something that has been in the collective subconscious of all Latin American hip-hop heads since forever. But he was the first one to do it right with his combo Sonidero Nacional, back in the early years of this decade.
I started spinning neo-cumbia right before the end of 2006 and this drastic move of direction was very much influenced by Toy's visionary improvements to this genre. When I first heard Sonidero Nacional's remix of "Eres Para Mí" by Julieta Venegas and the love of my life Anita Tijoux, I said to myself "That's it! This is gonna be the next big Latin music thing" and I've been repeating that same asseveration since then to everyone who wanted to listen or read.
I was happy to find out last year that Toy had joined the Mad Decent family and that he would eventually release some music through that prestigious label. This morning at 5am I got an e-mail from him (yes I was up that early... watching zombie movies) saying that the album was out and free to be downloaded from the label's site and right away I posted it here knowing I would love it, even before listening to it.
Half of the songs I already had them (maybe not in the exact same mastered versions) and I've been playing them for a while (two of them were included in Linyerismo Vol.I), so there were not too many surprises there. What did surprise me is that the rest of the songs, the new ones, are very up-tempo, leaving behind the ubiquitous 90BPM average of the cumbia beat. It's like, now that the rest of the world is finally catching up with the hybrid sub-genre that he pioneered, he's moving on to the next thing. And this next thing he named it "raverton" (rave + reggaetón, get it?). I can't help it, once again I'm in love with his new sound because even while being futuristic, it has an obvious early-nineties kinda hip-house feel to it. And for guys our generation (by our I mean Toy and myself who are about the same age) hip-house was a big part of our foundation. Long live KLF!
Anyway, like I said earlier, you can download it for free, so go ahead and do it right now:

Download free here.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

MEXICAN INSTITUTE OF SOUND- Soy Sauce (Nacional Records, '09)

I'm gonna be sharing the stage with Camilo Lara's alter-ego M.I.S. in a couple of weeks and I want everybody to go and buy their tickets so I can pay my rent, hence this review is absolutely biased. Well, not quite, I actually liked this album a lot. It has so many funny ironic references to pop culture and Mexican naco subculture that it's like über-hipster and who doesn't like mexi-hipsters?
It's like, dude, I'm so sick of the orthodox mexi-rockers and the annoying Maná-listening mexi-fresas (and don't even get me started with the chuntie-góticos and all those Morrisey-worshiping freaks) that in comparison mexi-hipsters, even with their nerdy glasses and fluo sneakers, are actually tolerable. If only they stopped yapping so much about how great Café Tacvba's Reves/Yo Soy is...
Anyway, Soy Sauce has a lot of neo-cumbia (that I'll be mixing on my future sets and mix-tapes for sure), a lot of cut-and-paste collage (but not as much as in previous records because there's more live instrumentation in this one), a couple of dance-floor friendly tracks and a few unexpected twists and turns that will definitely make you laugh when you listen to them the first and maybe second time.
For example his translated cover of The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony" (credited to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards even though they didn't write one note or word from it!) sung like Biz Markie's "Just a Friend"... Oh my! I had to stop and laugh again. This guy is so ridiculous! I love that he doesn't take himself seriously at all. His whole album is filled with toungue-in-cheek humor and sometimes you just can't tell if you are laughing at him or with him.
I don't know, I'd be embarrassed of doing some of that stuff in public, like pretending to rap when you have absolutely no flow or rhyming skills, and still pull it. But he doesn't give a shit and that's what's so good about him, he goes out like, "yeah, I can't rap and I know it, but I'll do it anyway and all you hardcore underground MC's from the hood can kiss my bourgeois ass because I get Ad Rock from the Beastie Boys to remix one of my tracks (listen to it below) while you have freestyle cyber-battles on internet forums."
Of course, back in the day I used to be one of those purist hip-hop heads who would've hated the guts of this motherfucker so I totally understand if you can't really get into his wacky pseudo-flow but you know what, grow the fuck up!
Anyway, stop wasting your time reading this bullshit, go and buy this album when it comes out on April 7th, go see him in Coachella on April 19th or even better, come see him live on April 17th at the Red Devil Lounge with DJ Juan Data, if you live in NorCal!