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Jealous Guys – Guest Post: Matthias Dean-Carpentier

Sometimes we need to be jump-started. This can be true for exercise, life change, motivation, even blogging. My jump-start this month has come from a very chilled out bro of mine by the name Matthias.

 

This kid is magic… and he plays Magic. Lots of it… coincidentally, he’s very good at it. (I didn’t even know you COULD BE good at it…) Aside from this, the kid knows his stuff when it comes to music. (He can also out “sports talk” any frat-wurst in deepest Wrigleyville…) Here is a post he has written about up-and-coming hip hop act, The Jealous Guys.

I was entranced by the video for ‘Brainwashed by London’ by San Francisco-based hip hop duo, The Jealous Guys. The dark beat from Clams Casino, the mastermind behind the Based God’s zombifying jams, moves in and out of the song, supporting the varying flows of first the raspy Ayinde and then the choppy Biz y Casa. At first it is hard to imagine that the two kids you see in the video are actually the rappers you hear on the track. But then, after a while, you see it. It is natural. It doesn’t matter how old these guys are, their rapping is just…good. They sit in their chromed-out, low-riding, 1952 Chevy as casually as E-40, Too $hort or Snoop ever did. Ayinde scowls from under a black beanie while Casa nonchalantly eyeballs the camera and precisely releases lyrics. It doesn’t really make sense, but it works.

The Love Mixtape opens with ‘The 1st Sight,’ which begins with a classic 70s Soul sample backing a monologue on love by Casa (‘shout out to TV and video games ‘cause they raised me too’). The banging beat drop which follows sets the tone for the rest of the tape, and Ayinde picks it up with a verse which is just as spastic: ‘Just left the Sim-built church/watching Zeitgeist in a pimp’s hearse.’ Casa follows with his verse, which is as precise as Ayinde’s isn’t, and ends while the initial sample returns. Immediately, this is par for the course, and the Jealous Guys spend the rest of the mixtape experimenting with juxtaposition of both calm and manic elements. Yes, I did just write ‘juxtaposition,’ the most over-used word in art criticism, in a review. Yes, I am serious. Biz y Casa’s calm naturally works with Ayinde’s raspy flow. Song after song, quiet, mysterious samples continually introduce beats which drop with a crash. Ayinde puts in some serious production work to achieve this, and to keep it fresh, producing four songs on the tape himself, including ‘The 1st Suite,’ as well as ‘Swimming,’ ‘Writers’ and ‘Purple Rain.’ Most of the tape is produced by up-and-coming acts from both the UK and Bay Area hip-hop communities.

‘The Love Mixtape’ seamlessly incorporates highly recognizable samples which drive the mood and theme without overpowering The Jealous Guys’ verses. Notable choruses and lines are used as hooks and themes throughout the tape. The fourth track ‘Swimming’ opens with a sample from the similarly-named Passion Pit song ‘Swimming in the Flood.’ The chorus from the original track becomes the hook while the bassline (with a deal of re-production) and keyboard tracks carry throughout ‘Swimming,’ switching prominence in the foreground as Ayinde and Casa trade verses. The 82 Fresh-produced ‘Caged’ takes its name and hook from the Arcade Fire masterpiece ‘My Body is a Cage.’ Here, the track simply opens with the first verse from the original track, which only serves to set the tone and theme before 82 drops the crescendoing and staticy beat. Following ‘Caged,’ ‘Tears in Heaven’ follows a route similar to ‘Swimming’ with heavy sampling of the Clapton classic by the same name. The bridge becomes the anchor for the beat while Clapton’s lyrics connect the verses and back two spoken-word interludes. The penultimate track, ‘Insomniac Rhapsody,’ again produced by 82 Fresh, may involve the most ambitious sample of the tape, as the beat is based heavily on both the piano-based bridge, and the accompanying lyrics from the similarly named, Wayne and Garth-approved classic by Queen.

Possibly the most notable song of  The Love Mixtape is ‘Bus Stop Jazz.’  Produced by Lunice, a young beat-maker and DJ from Montreal, the minimalist piano and horn samples couple with a laid-back early 90’s beat to create a palpably atmospheric track. You want to listen to ‘Bus Stop Jazz’ at a bus stop in the rain, just because it seems so fitting. Where as most tracks are written about loving people, ‘Bus Stop Jazz’ is more about love for a city and the people in it. Standing at the bus stop, Biz and Ayinde comment on the dualities and contradictions of the city. The bus stop itself becomes something of a sanctuary as they wait, and despite the rain, ‘the clouds can’t frown,’ because the city is home. Rappers have been writing songs about the city they hail from since hip hop began, but once again, The Jealous Guys twist this hip hop convention. There is no ‘repping’ in ‘Bus Stop Jazz.’ One would assume that Biz and Ayinde are talking about the Bay, but they don’t make a point of naming it. There are no shout-outs, and there are no statements of their city’s superiority to others. The song is more of an homage, an expression of the feeling that home evokes.

In a day and age where Odd Future is heralded as the artistic savior of a popular rap culture readily stereotyped through the twin images of Soulja Boy and Lil Wayne (the goodness or badness or even trueness of this statement is its own debate), The Jealous Guys patiently pump out the perfect mix. ‘The Love Mixtape’ isn’t their first tape, they released the tape ‘One Night Stand’ in 2010, after recording it in a single night. While good, it never really received any attention. The duo didn’t let this stop them, releasing ‘The Love Mixtape’ just before Valentines Day this year. A hip-hop tape based around love may sound clichéd, but again, it seems that The Jealous Guys pull it off.. Ayinde and Casa explore different conceptualizations of love throughout the tape. Casa and Ayinde assume a new role verse-to-verse: the pimp, the bleeding heart, the love-stricken boy, the thankful son, and the jaded cynic all have something to say about the concept of love from their perspective. Every song works in the theme, but nothing is forced. The listener isn’t left with the labored pace that came with, oh, say, 808s and Heartbreak, for example. This may be where other hip-hop artists have failed on the subject. The Jealous Guys are more interested in the different facets of their chosen topic than to paint themselves in a specific light.  Even the interludes ‘The Female Perspective’ and ‘The Male Perspective’ serve to separate the tape into distinct thirds. After 17 tracks, it seems that Casa and Ayinde have covered all the bases, and they did it without a loose verse or a bad beat. This is remarkable for a mixtape, especially a tape from two unsigned artists. There is an extensive attention to detail, from the production, to the rapping, to the lyrics themselves. No new ground is broken, old standards and styles are simply perfected.  Somehow, when people are focused on sounding new and crazy, the Jealous Guys focus on doing it right. It is for this very reason that if you ask many hip-hop heads to name the best New York MC of all time, the early greats never come up. The argument, in the opinion of many, comes down to preference between 2Pac, Biggie, Pun, Jay-Z or Nas. These 5 rappers are usually at the top of the list, not because they created a new genre, but because they rapped perfectly. Each has/had his own respective verbal style, which definitely accounts for the constant argument as who is the very best, but no-one can really say that any of them were bad at rapping, because each worked too hard and made too many amazing songs. It is possible that Ayinde and Casa have the same drive, in addition to the skill required, to perfect their own brand of modern Bay Area hip-hop.

 

-Matthias Dean Carpentier

Check out his blog.

Posted by: Jamie

Category: Music

7 Jul, 2011

Category: Music

Tagged: , , , , ,

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