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2020 Year In Review: Slut Magic

It’s 2020 roundup time, whereupon we cast our music blogging net wide and pull in releases that didn’t make it into our annals as of yet.

Slut Magic are a fulsome foursome who make music for moderns, especially those of the sex-positive and queer-positive variety. Their music and image are chock full of good humor, man, beautifully boundary-crossing but still humanistic. With songs full of strum und twang, imagine Orville Peck for the punk rock set (and many other stylistic hybrids besides) and you’re getting warm. They once you actually hear them you’ll be getting pretty hot.

Following up on 2018’s debut LP In My Mouth the Slut Magic crew pulled out Trauma Queen earlier this year, a full-length musical insurrection made up of songs that run the spectrum from expressing empathy for victims of f*ckery (see the title track) to healthy doses of "just don’t give a f*ck"-ery (fave lines along these lines: “maybe it’s the DayQuil / but you look pretty good tonight”) to righteous howls of "f*ck this sh*t" (“God Is A Bad Dom”) which are all quite appropriate sentiments for this dumpster fire of a year. 

Nearly as exciting as the release itself is the reveal that the band have made full-on music videos for each and every track — ranging from a first-generation PlayStation homage to a Christian broadcast TV montage to a choreographed rooftop assemblage (which rhymes if you say it right). So head on over to the band’s SlutTube and Slutcamp sites and take their full load of content right into your earholes and eyeholes. (Jason Lee)

 

   

2020 Year In Review: Acetone 4

 "ALIEN HUNTERS DETECT MYSTERIOUS RADIO SIGNAL FROM NEARBY STAR"

No, this isn’t the headline from a recent Weekly World News cover story but instead a legit National Geographic headline posted online two days ago. The mysterious radio signal in question was detected by an organization called Breakthrough Listen, a project with $100 million in funding that’s taken on the task of monitoring over a million stars for radio or laser transmissions. The signal appears to originate from Proxima Centauri which is the star nearest to our very own sun and that happens to have two planets in its own orbit, one of which, known as Planet B, resembles Earth with its rocky surfaces, temperate environment, and extensive network of Wawa franchises (ok, I made that last part up). This transmission has been labelled BLC-1.

The band: Acetone 4. The band’s music: A bit mysterious, more than a bit mesmeric. The band’s identity: Even more mysterious. The music of Acetone 4 sounds like it’s been beamed to this planet from across the universe, and it’s my working hypothesis that this is in fact precisely the case. In other words, BLC-1 equals Acetone 4. A transmission from the satellite heart. A sad, sexy satellite heart. Acetone 4 have released two songs thus far alongside a couple photos posted on Instagram and Bandcamp: one ghostly, blown-out Polaroid of the band in humanoid form (see above) and one other spectral image. And that’s it. Otherwise there’s no names attached and no other information or explanation of any kind provided. So yes, this is obviously the work of extraterrestrials attempting to utilize our primitive social media to reach out to the cosmos. 

The first song to be shot out into the ether by Acetone 4 is called “Linden Hill.” This is a name of the neighborhood in Queens where the Proxima Centaurians clearly plan to set up their first base of operation. The track opens with the sound of an interstellar beacon sending out a scratchy, repeated distress signal. A few seconds later they wisely add a guitar melody to help keep the humans’ attention and next there’s some droney, pulsating synth and a thumping beat accompanied by a female voice simulator unit that appears to be singing in English, but the words are mostly indecipherable. All the while you can hear the Proxima Centaurians in the background working on emergency spacecraft repairs with little bleeps and bloops echoing into the vastness of space. This transmission was received on 17 August of this year and its proceeds benefit the Sex Workers Outreach Program of Brooklyn in solidarity with misunderstood and demonized "Others" across all dimensions.

The second and most recent transmission was received on 5 September 2020. The Proxima Centaurians are clearly beginning to get a better grasp of our modes of communication and psychological points of entry. The track "PSR" (mysterious acronyms!) kicks in straight away with a slinky beat that’s likely to prick up the ears of most homo sapiens and to lead many of them to look up some Internet porn. Then there's some garbled alien communication not unlike the sounds of truckers on their CB radios to our human ears. Enter the female voice simulator unit again saying something along the lines of “Trying to pull together / reflect in a dream” followed by “call / response / no answer” which aptly summarizes our collective failure to establish contact. From here the voice unit repeats a sort of stressed-out mantra declaring “insomnia / no dreams” and it’s obvious the Proxima Centaurians are getting to better understand this planet and our current precarious situation. Whether this will all result in them wanting to help us out, or to get the hell out of Dodge, remains to be seen.

 

Here’s hoping that Acetone 4 reestablishes contact in 2021. It may be our only hope. (Jason Lee)

   

Nataliya Nikitenko steps into brilliance in debut single "Oil & Water"

Nataliya Nikitenko debuts elegantly with a single titled “Oil & Water” that shows off her vocal prowess, fluid through a vivid lead piano melody that trickles as she ascends and descends flawlessly. With rich harmonies and well-timed string instrument swells to adorn the debut track with simmering feelings of loss and realizations of acceptance, the composition is a melancholic standout. An accomplished songwriter, having penned tracks such as Little Mix’s “No More Sad Songs (ft. Machine Gun Kelly)” and “Heavy” by Anne-Marie, Nikitenko joins the ranks of artists such as LP who step out of the shadows and into their brilliance, a spotlight awaiting them that no other could take. In “Oil & Water,” Nataliya Nikitenko appreciates the end of something, watching as it separates: the process, and its sound, are something to behold; stream the new single below. - René Cobar

   

Celebrate Zose Hanukkah with Your Old Droog



On this, the last day of Hanukkah aka Zose Hanukkah, consider this provocative hypothesis: Hip Hop and Hanukkah are brothers from another mother. For one thing, both are tied to numerology. Hanukkah lasts eight days and nights--the number eight being a “number of completion” that symbolizes the “metaphysical world” in Judaism. Cut that number in half and you've got the fabled “four elements” of Hip Hop: DJing, MCing, B-Boying, and Graffiti Art. Plus both Hip Hop and Hanukkah incorporate an extra number “to grow on.” During Hanukkah there’s the ninth candle in the middle of the menorah--called the shamash--used to light the other candles as the holiday progresses. And in Hip Hop there’s the well-known trope of the “fifth element” variously said to be knowledge, beatboxing, basketball, fashion, or some other something. 

Also, both celebrate the warrior spirit. The Jewish holiday honors the Maccabees, the rebel warriors who took control of Judea, while Hip Hop celebrates verbal warriors who brandish liquid swords in street cyphers or Verzuz battles, and DJs who battle each other in parks, playgrounds, and turntablist competitions. Zooming out another level, hip hop celebrates the warriors who battle socio-economic oppression and white supremacy. 

Finally, Hip Hop is sometimes described as the art of making “something from nothing," and likewise, Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of a paltry supply of lamp oil somehow lasting eight days inside the newly retaken Temple of Jerusalem. So you see, practically the same thing! Let’s go ahead and declare “Hip Hanukkah” the portmanteau of the day and get Lin-Manuel Miranda to write the musical.

Which brings us to the real subject of this piece and the inspiration for the chin-stroking thesis above: the Brooklynite rapper of Jewish-Ukrainian ancestry known as Your Old Droog, who yesterday released the Hanukkah-dedicated single seen at the top of this piece. For five years-plus YOD has been making waves in the hip hop underground, a favorite of heads who recognize his formidable skills and appreciate his verbal acrobatics, encyclopedic references (forget about consulting Genius since YOD had all his lyrics removed from the site), clever punchlines, and grimy ‘90s-style beats. Collaborations with the likes of Danny Brown and Heems have only cemented YOD’s reputation. 

Often compared to such upper echelon verbalists as Nas and MF Doom, YOD achieved early notoriety when he first started posting tracks on SoundCloud minus any additional social media presence or photos or personal info of any kind. This quickly led to rumors that YOD was actually Nas recording under a pseudonym. After positively IDing himself in a 2014 New Yorker profile and subsequently selling out a show at Webster Hall, it was revealed that he was actually a heretofore unknown white dude from Coney Island. Your Old Droog had seemingly come out of nowhere and created “something out of nothing” right out of the box.

But in reality more than just “some white dude” as his last two records have made clear--concept albums focused, respectively, on his Jewish heritage and Eastern European ethnic ancestry. On the first day of Hanukkah, late in 2019, YOD dropped Jewelry. The third full-length released in an insanely prolific year, the album opens with a track called “Shamash” (the ninth menorah candle referenced above!) that opens with the sound of a matchbook being struck which transitions into a hazy, dubby beat with incantations over the top that all sounds either highly spiritual or like someone coming down from a latke binging session. 

[[Editor's note: A Jewish colleague informs us that this track "samples someone reciting the blessings that we say each night as we light the Chanukah candles." We advise caution to Deli readers looking to this publication for advice or instruction on religious practices of any kind. And now back to our regularly scheduled programming...]]

But soon you’re snapped back to lucidity with the track “Jew Tang” (Ain’t Nuthin’ to F*** With!) that with its buzzing, lumbering beat feels like nearly getting run over by a Mitzvah tank barreling down Eastern Parkway with (one time?) Hasidic reggae icon Matisyahu in the passenger seat. Here and elsewhere on the album YOD spits bars that slant-rhyme “Cash Rules...” with “Kashrut” (Jewish dietary standards!) and chrome mags with Cro-Mags (NYC hardcore legends!) and lots of other mind-expanding lyrical mashups besides. If there’s a better portrait of punk rockers and hip hoppers and multi-hued Brooklynites of all types existing together in all of NYC's true grit and glory I’d like to hear it.

if there one thing you can surely say about Your Old Droog is that you’ll never find him “writing the same thing over and over / like Bart Simpson in detention"--a charge he levels against wack rappers in “The Greatest To Ever Do It”--since on every project he takes on a new direction. And the recently-released Dump YOD: Krutoy Edition is no exception as YOD code-switches between English and Russian (his first language) on tracks named after locales such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. It's a bold assertion coming from someone who's been frequently misperceived in the past: “if you were my complexion and poor / they just thought you were Spanish.”

A sonic travelogue, Dump YOD is a trip in the truest sense with train whistles and barrel organs and mournful horns and hammered dulcimers and that’s all on the first couple of tracks. These sounds help to sketch the plight of a “legal alien” as described near the end of “Ukraine,” which opens with YOD thinking back on being “outsiders since day one / been there since way young / used to squirm in the seat / when teachers called out my name, son.” In an age of widespread Nativist zeal it’s a potent message for immigrants and children of immigrants--who are well aware that “the hardest thing to be is yourself.” (Jason Lee)


 

   

Cee Gee/Genecist vibe on "Proverbz and Video Gamez"

2020 has been a very bad year for a lot of things but not so for underground hip hop. Dig around in the digital mire for a while and you’ll probably come up with something pleasing. Case in point: last Friday night on Billy Jam’s “Put The Needle On The Record” radio show there was a track featured by the Buffalo-based duo of Cee Gee (he’s the DJ) and Genecist (he’s the rapper) that caught this blogger's ear.

The track is called “I Got You” and it starts with a simple keyboard figure that’s soon backed up by a tight MPC-style beat but get this during the whole intro you also hear Miss Piggy, or a convincing facsimile, dropping ad libs over the beat. Enter Genecist with a laid-back strutting flow that locks in with the loping rhythmic underpinning--you can hear the groove in the lyrical refrain alone: “told ‘em yeah I got chu”--and meanwhile Miss Piggy is still doing her thing but then before too long Genecist does an about face and starts spitting rapid fire triplets while praising his fans and the scene and his own skills (duh) and God Up Above before easing back into the opening groove. Rinse and repeat.

Compelling enough stuff to check out both artists. Turns out that Cee Gee, aka Cee Gee Incorporated, stays true to the latter moniker by releasing a steady stream of beat tapes, solo work and collaborations. This is backed up by his most recent Facebook post at the time of writing (yes I’m a social media stalker what of it?) that boasts “14 Beats In 4 Hours!!!” so here is a man with a serious work ethic who also knows how to create some undeniably ‘90s-style beats alongside the overall stark, slightly off-kilter feel that if you're into a certain Mr. Jay Dee you may be into this too. A few years back Cee Gee left computer-based beatmaking behind and acquired an Akai MPC so no wonder at the ‘90s vibe. For more of his flavor you can look up his collab with another Buffalonian, graphic artist and comic book creator Kevin Delgado aka Frigid Giant, together known as Green Giant.

Genecist likewise appears to be a busy guy lately. Known locally on the scene as a singer-rapper in 4 B-LO, a group specializing in sexytime R&B music, his solo work culminated in 2017’s <Genecist Project> collecting his output up to that point. After nearly retiring from the music-making game Genecist has come back strong with three new EP’s released this year and a fourth in the works (four EPs in one years sounds awfully familiar). The most recent two EPs, both released in October, are tag-team DJ & Producer collaborations: 20:20 with Roobxcube and Proverbz and Video Gamez with Cee Gee.

Before closing I’ve gotta mention at least one more track on the latter EP, the one directly before “I Got You” that's called “Sega Genecist.” No doubt you get the pun but the duo take it next level, building the track over the chirpy game-intro music to the old school arcade classic Galaga. One could easily see this sample fitting perfectly into a chiptune song, but here Cee Gee and Genecist take the goofy-sounding tune (for which I have a great affection to be fair) and alchemize it with a heavy beat and with fleet rapping and even some nice vocal harmonies, all the while weaving in references to Tekken, Street Fighter, and Dragon Ball in the lyrics, and damn if it doesn't make you wanna grab your joystick. It’s pretty mind-expanding stuff and I can’t help but notice that the two tracks discussed here and the one before it (“Follow the Leader” though not an Eric B. and Rakim cover) all clock in at precisely 4:20 in duration. Coincidence? You be the judge. (Jason Lee)