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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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The Best of ’09… So Far
Wednesday, April 08, 2009

We are officially one quarter of the way through 2009 and a lot of people are wondering – what happened to the urban music scene? It’s a fair question. There really haven’t been too many commercially successful releases this year and even the majority of the singles that have been in heavy rotation haven’t been overwhelmingly inspiring. 2009 has given us a few real gems, though, they just take a little bit of digging to find. The following are three albums that are well worth that effort.

P.O.S. – Never Better

P.O.S.’ Never Better isn’t just the best rap album of the year (as of now), it’s quite possibly one of the best rap albums of the past half decade. For those unfamiliar with P.O.S. he is a Minnesota emcee, a founding member of the Doomtree crew, and he grew up influenced by both Hip-Hop and punk rock, which plays significantly into both his sound and his lyrics. He has a rapid fire flow and topically he covers everything from the current state of politics to personal identity. An example of his political work can be heard on the song, “Let It Rattle,” where he finds a way to be both politically poignant and extremely humorous by referencing a joke made by deceased Minnesota comedian Mitch Hedberg.

Who got a fix for the fix
Bush no more
Nobody’s like Dufrane, search party of four

It’s that ability to make you smile while also making a point that makes P.O.S. such a great emcee. He also is totally unbiased in his political views, as in the same verse he rips on this, and quite frankly any, presidential administration:

They out for presidents to represent them
You think a president could represent you?
You really think a president would represent you? (Riiight)

On the song “Purexed” P.O.S. takes on matters of personal identity.

and that’s the skin again
let’s blame the skin again
stretching itself so fluidly over these awkward ligaments
and I didn’t shave today
I prolly wont tomorrow and its safe to say I’m never gonna shed this extra (yeah)

He then launches into the chorus:

So fuck it - back to the wall
crush it - laugh at em all
hush - let em try to find the beauty in your face

All of this is done over some amazingly intense beats that mix P.O.S.’ mutual loves of Hip-Hop and punk rock, making Never Better a five star must-hear.

Myka 9 – 1969

Myka 9 was one of the co-founders of the legendary Freestyle Fellowship crew, which is the west coast outfit that redefined freestyling in Hip-Hop. Creativity has always been at the forefront for all the members of Freestyle Fellowship and on 1969 Myka 9 keeps that tradition going by cultivating a unique concept – “what if somebody rapped the way I rap back in 1969?” He took that idea, teamed up with producer Factor, and the two went to work. The result is a melodic ride where Myka 9 chills you out while getting you to listen to his words.

According to Myka 9, “the album definitely has a nostalgic sound. Once me and Factor decided to do this album it took on that sort of vibe. For instance, I didn't want to curse that much, I wanted a hint of soulfulness, a hint of an older quality.”

Much like P.O.S., Myka 9 has a quick flow. Myka 9, however, uses his flow in a completely different way. While P.O.S. makes sure you understand every single lyric right down to the very last syllable, Myka 9, while still stringing together some truly impressive verses, uses his vocals as an instrument a lot of the time on 1969. So while the lyrics are still important, a large part of the appeal of 1969 is Myka 9’s use of flow. It’s definitely something all Hip-Hop heads will enjoy.

Nicholas Howard – God is in the City

Imagine if Robin Thicke suddenly decided he wanted to channel the old school legends of soul and started singing about not just love, but also the realities of life. If you can get that picture in your head you can start to imagine the tip of the iceberg that is the work of soul singer Nicholas Howard.

Yes, Howard still sings about women, but what sets him apart from a lot of his peers is the way he sings about the fairer sex. Forget the saccharine songs with clichéd subject matter we’re used to getting from R&B singers, when Howard wants to write about a woman there’s some true lyric writing and poetry involved. Two great examples of this are “Scotch on Her Lips” and “Blood from a Stone.”

Although Howard has an old school vibe when it comes to his writing style, the musicality of God is in the City is still modern, but modern in a good way, not an electronic way. An accomplished studio man long before he started singing, Howard knows how to put a song together and he worked with a dozen musicians to make sure the sound was right for God is in the City. The effort shows. His ode to blue collar work, “My Hands Are Rough,” is a fantastic example of what soul music can sound like when it’s done right.

Both P.O.S. and Myka 9’s albums can be found at major retailers, while Howard’s can be found at indie outlets such as CDBaby.com.

Story originally ran in the FairfieldWeekly.

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