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Mike Arson “Playing With Matches”: Review

Starting off a track with a line like “Yeah that beat sound good, don’t it?” is saying what I assume most hyped rappers and producers think when a certain beat catches their ear when starting a project. In Mike Arson’s case, the man has practically been drowning in beats for other people’s albums for years now and it was no surprise to me that he saved some of his own fire to play with for his debut album, Playing With Matches.

Mike Arson, of Against The Grain, has executive produced for a handful of local artists over the years, including for his own group, and a handful of guest features, such as the track “Rappers Do It Better,” off of JB!!’s latest album DEADication, released earlier this year. Arson’s portfolio includes executive producing Almost Gone by Masai (2008), Against The Grain by ATG (2011), Almost Home by Masai (2013) and Growing Pains (2013). Spanning over 7 years of producing for other people’s projects, saying its exciting for Arson to have his own album finally released is an understatement.

Building a name as both a rapper and a producer, Arson’s arsenal is filled with all sorts of tricks and talent. My favorite part about Playing With Matches is that while this was an opportunity for Arson to do his thing fully as a solo artist for the first time, he still decided to bring in a handful of features from other artists to build with, while leading the reins of the direction he wanted to go in. This album is a family affair, and I will always love that element about our local rap scene. (Thanks everyone.)

Playing With Matches is solid from the quick 16 bar intro to the final track.

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Seez Mics Cruel Fuel cover

Seez Mics “Cruel Fuel”: Review

Learning that Seez Mics has a background in spoken word poetry made perfect sense to me after listening to his latest release, “Cruel Fuel.”

Seez Mics, known for being one-half of his former group Educated Consumers and for his time as an American Battle MC, has been in the game for a long time, and I’m intrigued that this particular album was our first introduction, as I discovered it’s quite a different direction from some of his past work.

The album was released last month on the label Crushkill Recordings, which was started by Eyedea shortly before his passing. Seez Mics speaks sincerely and humbly of their longtime friendship on the record, as well as touches on other friends he’s lost, perhaps even touching upon these subjects of death (and life after grieving) in this personal capacity for the first time in his work.

“Cruel Fuel” is appropriately titled as such, with many of his lyrics and patterns being spit like fast and furious mantras. That being said, this album isn’t for everyone – it’s definitely different. And that’s what it makes it awesome.

It’s the type of album I want to listen to when I’m pissed off, working out or walking somewhere maybe a little too far in the cold ass upstate NY weather, but then certain tracks are pensive and poetic and therefore the album rounds itself out well. It’s a very clear point of view with honest innovation, and its clear he took some serious risks with this project. It’s progressive and polished, while still featuring a nice variety of moods, tempos and dark truths. Each time I’ve listened, I’ve discovered a new favorite line I didn’t catch the first time.

Several of the tracks read like whimsical and modern folklore, while others are as real as real can be. The album is reflective and touches on topics of religion, cynicism, optimism, music, questioning society and relationships, as well as an internal battle of figuring out what one believes in and stands for, especially how to bounce back when shit happens.

Stand-out tracks for me included “Serotonin Sweepstakes,” “That’s Not How It Works,” “Human Farm” (this track was a surprise, and pushes the album into other genres besides hip hop), “What Your Head Will Hold,” and “Torn.” The instrumental “Angel In The Engine” is also quite pleasant and breaks up the gritty experimental hip hop feel of the album. Overall, I was quite impressed by the artistry of this album, although I admittedly didn’t love, love it at first. The tracks just seem to build and build and have since found a secure slot on my regular listening rotation.

Seez Mics said it best himself, describing his music as “a mirror looking back at you.” I love that. Get to know Seez Mics through “Cruel Fuel” available on Bandcamp and iTunes.

Young Thug at the Armory

Young Thug will be at the Washington Ave Armory on Friday, December 5. Tickets are $32 and are current available.

Hardcore Against Hunger at Bogie’s


On November 21 Bogie’s is hosting their annual Hardcore Against Hunger Thanksgiving food drive show. On the bill for the night is Turnstile, Homewrecker, Pharoah, Trife Life, From Within, and Doublecross.

Read more on the facebook event page and be sure to bring a canned item with you to the show.


Homeless and Hunger Outreach Show

This Friday the Low Beat and Pauly’s Hotel are hosting a Homeless and Hunger Outreach Show. The show will benefit the Capital Region Coalition to End Homelessness and The Food Pantries. On the show is Beaked Whale, Iguana Mañana, Rustle Crow, The Blitz, The Grassroots Rebels, The Mysteios and Kimono Dragons.

Read more on the Facebook event and head over Friday with a can of food to donate!

Adult Rappers

Adult Rappers is a documentary that was Kickstarted in 2012, about adults who rap. It includes really great artists, including a select few from Albany.

The tagline from the Kickstarter sums up the project pretty succinctly:

Rappers get old. Their music stays the same age. We interview rap personalities past, present and future; from indy to mainstream.

Recently, they released a limited edition cassette with a collection of music from Adult Rappers. It features music from the film as well as exclusives and other originals from artists including: Alaska, Cryptic One, Dezmatic, Homeboy Sandman, J57, Mister Jason and Paten Locke and J Zone.

You can stream the release, grab a digital copy of it, or order the cassette all on their bandcamp.


Mic Lanny & James Rock ‘Good Grief': Review

When local emcee Mic Lanny teamed up with James Rock, of Mirk, I knew the result would be something interesting. Both musicians are harboring raw talent and have been working to find their signature sounds and styles, as evident in that both musicians are really just only getting started.

This Friday marks the official release party of the collaborative EP, titled Good Grief, and will be taking place at the Hollow down on North Pearl Street, as presented by Beat*Shot Productions. The release party will hold a semi-formal theme and will also feature performances by Knowle’ge, Like Lions, Great Mastr and Muscle City. This line-up features a great mix of rock and rap, just like the album itself. Additionally, admission to this show will also come with a free copy of the EP while supplies last, which is pretty awesome.

My first listen of the album had me focusing on the instrumentals, which I found to be a very impressive showcase of talent with an excellent composition and unique sounds. I think that James Rock and Mic Lanny met in the middle somewhere in terms of the sound they were going for and the collaboration is very much in a similar styling to Mirk’s music, which I wasn’t quite expecting. An eclectic blend of pop rock and rap may not be everyone’s taste, as I personally found myself wishing the album was a little bit harder, like Mic Lanny’s usual honed delivery, but I appreciated that he showed range in his interests and approach to rapping for this project.

As far as the concept of the album being a play on Charles Schulz’s Peanuts, I was anticipating more of a channeled focus material wise. Despite the upbeat pop influence instrumentally, I couldn’t tell if I was listening to a sad album or a happy album, (which is totally fine, of course), but I think for a concept album I was hoping to see the story a little clearer. Maybe Friday’s performance will open my eyes a little bit. I’m very much looking forward to hearing how everything sounds live.

All in all, the album is enjoyable and one that made me optimistic for future collaborations with these two performers. Notable tracks for me are “Talking to Walls” and “Castling” with stand out instrumentals, great hooks and excellent flow.

Friday night falls into of those “don’t miss” rap/rock show category for those looking to support local music, so don’t sleep on this!