Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Kooley High shares new song "Where I'm Going", announces 'Heights' EP

Kooley High will release 'Heights'
on Oct. 9 and will celebrate its
release on Oct. 16 at Kings Barcade
While historically North Carolina has been best known for our traditional roots and more recently our swiftly changing indie-rock scene, you'd have to be living under a rock to argue that the hip-hop scene isn't getting just as much notoriety. For every Love Language and Hiss Golden Messenger now lies a J. Cole or King Mez. The hip-hop spectrum almost perfectly mirrors that of the rock-leaning scene, a few nationally recognized acts help to shift the dynamic of the state's scene while a few headstrong acts push ever forward and leave expectations aside.

It'd be easy for acts to fall in line with the cultural trends we've seen that prove to be successful, but the acts in our scene that are gathering the most traction are those that blaze their own paths. That's why it's always exciting to hear what's to come from Kooley High. Kooley is a hip-hop collective that grew from the N.C. State cyphers and blossomed into one of the state's most established names. Former member Rapsody is swiftly becoming a household name thanks to features on tracks with Chance The Rapper and Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly, but don't for a second think that the loss of a member is slowing Kooley down at all.

"Where I'm Going," the recently release single from their forthcoming EP, Heights, proves that Kooley's sights are set forward both as a career trajectory but also musically. "Where I'm Going" is a track that highlights all of the group's finest aspects, a smooth buttery production that blends boom-bap styles with heady, jazzy J-Dilla influence and lends way to Tab-One and Charlie Smarts' lyrical acrobatics.

The thematic points of the track highlight Kooley's confidence as well as their forward-thinking attitudes. Tab opens the track with an effortless verse filled with quick rhymes and clever similes, never stuck on one pattern for too long. Guest vocalist Add-2 adds some versatility to the vocal cadence found on the track, but the lyricism shines brightest with Tab and Charlie Smarts. Smarts' verse boasts intricately arranged internal rhyme schemes that prove to be difficult to unravel without repeated listens. Voices blend together for a memorable hook that excellent summarizes the song's theme and rides along with Sinopsis' dreamy yet rhythmic production. Kooley's vibes feel reminiscent of acts like A Tribe Called Quest, but don't rely on a nostalgic factor to get attention, rather they feel like a call-back to these early hip-hop pioneers and elegantly maneuver their way into a modern-day context. Heights is released on Oct. 9th  and the group will celebrate their EP release with a show at Kings Barcade on Oct. 16th. Check out the track below:

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Shirlette Ammons premieres "Earth Intro" ft. Indigo Girls

Shirlette Ammons
Photo by Boris Niehaus
While you were probably out day-drinking and Hopscotching around last Friday, it's possible that you may have missed one of our state's most impressive emcees releasing one of her most progressive tracks to date. Last Friday Shirlette Ammons not-so-quietly released her new single, "Earth Intro" from her forthcoming sophomore album Language Barrier. "Earth Intro" debuted on arguably one of the largest Feminist media outlets, Bitch Media and marks a huge departure from Ammons' previous releases.

Featuring Emily Saliers and Amy Ray of the Grammy Award-winning act the Indigo Girls, "Earth Intro" is a track that contains multitudes. Aesthetically it lands at a frenetic blend between indie rock, folk rock and hip-hop with echos of punk rock influences abound. There's sharply spat vocals meshed with whirring yet distorted fiddle lines, rich dynamic changes and both inward and outwardly facing lyrical content. The way vocals have a slight distortion to them allows them to dig deep into the instrumentation and serve as much textural purpose as it does to forward the song's themes.

Ammons told Bitch Media that the Indigo Girls' "gorgeous songwriting" and "fierce harmonies" help lend an "anthemic" feel to "Earth Intro", giving a brief peek into the contributions brought forth by Saliers and Ray. Both of the Indigo Girls have been active in the environmental, gender equality and gay rights movements, perfectly coinciding with Ammons' own contributions to the social spectrum. You may remember Ammons' collaboration with Caitlin Cary (formerly of Whiskeytown), "My Body Politic" from NC Music Love Army's 2014 release. While working with folk songwriters isn't entirely out of Ammons' musical spectrum, it's exciting to see her ever-expanding boundaries of hip-hop and continually defying expectations of the genre. Ammons also noted that Meshell Ndegeocello and Amelia Meath of Sylvan Esso will be serving as collaborators on Language Barrier, which is set for an early 2016 release. Check out the track below: