Three Cincy Hip Hop artists join forces Saturday at Corryville club The Mad Frog to celebrate the release of their respective new projects. The 10 p.m. show will serve as the release parties for a trio of strong recent releases — J-Skillz’s King of the Jungle, Da 3rd Element’s Expense Report and fusionary Reggae/Dancehall/Hip Hop stylist Junya Be’s Pon Di Map.
King of the Jungle is the first solo album from multiple Ohio Hip Hop Awards nominee (including with his group Crack Sauce) J-Skillz, who’s a double threat noted for both his production work and rhyming talent. His ferocious, booming voice (which lies somewhere between Killer Mike, Chuck D and Ice Cube) ties together Jungle’s impressive diversity across 18 tracks. Largely produced by Skillz (plus guests like Yom L.I. and Emaqulent), Jungle shows off the artist’s creative and innovative approach behind the scenes, with each cut featuring compelling beats and arrangements.
The album is rarely repetitive (not common for most major Hip Hop releases nowadays), as Skillz guides the listener from the organ riffs, sparse, loping beats and vocal hooks (by J.R. Mark) of “King Me” and the Emaqulent-produced, minimalistic march of “Come On” to low-and-heavy, bass-pounding “Represent,” produced by OCD and loaded with Cincy shout-outs (to everyone from Isley Brothers, Hi-Tek and L.A. Reid to politicians like current mayor Mark Mallory and, perhaps a Hip Hop first, William Howard Taft). Other highlights include the funky, ethereal drone of “Time for Some Action” (featuring fellow MC/producer Ill Poetic), the slow-jammin’ “My Soul” (with vocalist Jameze) and “Sweat,” a sensual, slinky track driven by finger-snaps and Skillz’s whisper-in-your-ear vocal. The album ends with “Party Animalz” is a piano/string-infused party-starter featuring local Rock band Zebras in Public.
King of the Jungle is available as a free download on various sites, including junglemusicrecords.comda3rdelement.bandcamp.com and you can sample the impressive Junya Be mixtape Pon Di Map via reverbnation.com/junyabe and check out his great music video for the track “Don’t Come Round Me."
Saturday’s Mad Frog event is open to fans 18 and up; admission is $5.
Maladies Get ‘New Again’
Solid Indie Chamber Folk group The Happy Maladies will unleash their first new material in three years this Saturday in conjunction with a release party at Rohs Street Café in Clifton Heights. The band will be joined by former local singer/songwriter/artist Matthew Shelton (now working out of Chicago) for the 8:30 p.m. event. Admission is $2.
Though only four tracks, The Happy Maladies’ New Again EP is a fascinating snapshot of the current-day Maladies and shows how far their adventurous instincts have taken them (the band began in 2008 as a wannabe Gypsy Jazz/Swing ensemble). On the group’s first new recordings since the 2009 debut full-length Sun Shines the Little Children, the Maladies gracefully settle into their unique sound — a progressive mix of Appalachian Roots, Neo-Classical Chamber music and modern Indie Folk.
Don’t be fooled by the brevity of the EP; the 23 minutes of music on New Again has more depth and intricacies than most long-players. The four tracks are like Classical compositions, taking the listener on a sonic adventure that combines orchestral twist and turns with more traditional “song” components (and some incredible melodies and harmonies). Like some sort of dream supergroup featuring members of Grizzly Bear, the Flecktones, Kronos Quartet and The Books, the Maladies manage a sound that winds through psychedelic passages, Classical interludes and intimate Folk melodics — all through the course of one track. The musicians in The Happy Maladies sound like virtuosos at times on New Again, but it’s the song arrangements’ expansiveness and broad use of different colors and tones that will keep listeners coming back for repeated listens.
Visit thehappymaladies.com for more on the group and thehappymaladies.bandcamp.com to preview/download the new EP. You can also check out a great video version of the EP’s title track below, performed live at the historic Emery Theatre in Over-the-Rhine. Part of the “Emery Sessions,” featuring various local acts performing in the renovated theater, the videos are posted on the YouTube channel “cincinnatirecording” (link).
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