Saturday, May 2, 2009

I Actually Like: Rye Rye and Blaqstarr's Blaqout Mixtape

Rye Rye and Blaqstarr's Blaqout mixtape is pretty overwhelming on the first listen. It's unquestionably club music, all crazy build-up and schoolyard chants and pounding bass drums and handclaps. But you'd be doing the music a disservice if you dismissed as "only good in a club." It sounds good, if not better, on headphones because you can hear all the tiny shifts in dynamics that producer-DJs like Blaqstarr excel at, the moments that explain how music that sounds so repetitive on the surface can keep you hyped up and energetic for hours.

There are so many great things Blaqstarr does throughout that need to pointed out: The way he changes up the tempo on "Hustress (Club Version)" not by slowing down the beat, but by slowing down the whole song; the funky flanged drums and Jeezy "Ay!" adlibs on "Ay Buddy"; building a whole beat around the beginning of "Jesus Walks" on "Guns in the Air"; singing over nothing but a decaying sample on "Feel It In the Air," and the moody, almost new wave-sounding remix of M.I.A.'s "World Town."

Speaking of M.I.A.: It's disappointing that she appears anywhere on this mixtape at all, though I don't blame Blaqstarr for wanting to point out his contribution to her sound. The production on Kala owes so much to Baltimore club music, but the critical consensus seems to be that that album created a sound as opposed to borrowing one. Though M.I.A. did take Rye Rye out on tour with her, that barely covers her debt to the music she's taken so much from and which she only casually mentions in interviews .

Honestly, Rye Rye is sort of a negligible presence on Blaqout, but I don't mean that in any insulting way, just that this seems to be mostly Blaqstarr's show. The girl does have charisma to spare and is probably the first teenage girl rapper I've ever heard who sounds like an actual teenager and not some record company's idea of one. Also, her lullaby-like chorus on "Get on the Floor" is integral to the song's chilled banger vibe.

The track I've included, "Hands Up Thumbs Down" is my own edit from the full mp3 mix I downloaded over at, Brandon Soderberg's Baltimore Club blog. I highly recommend everyone head over there and download the full mixtape.