Thursday, August 27, 2009
Pick of the Week #34: Mantis - Still Life
I used to be a huge hip-hop head. Like, through the latter half of high school and most of my undergrad I basically only listened to hip-hop. I watched RapCity on MuchMusic, I frequented the message boards scouring for new stuff, and I ordered a lot of stuff off HipHopSite.com. I gradually got tired of the themes in hip-hop: the misogny, the big-up where you're from, the I'm badder than you, and worst of all, the I can't believe everyone talks about the first three themes I've seen the light and we all need to be conscious of what's going on in the world (the fourth theme reminds me of the episode of South Park where they all drive hybrids and smell their own farts).
That said, I haven't gone away from hip hop entirely and have really enjoyed a bunch of hip-hop albums over the last couple of years (in no particular order): Shad K's The Old Prince; Wale's The Mixtape About Nothing; Lil' Wayne's Tha Carter III; K-os Joyful Rebellion; K'Naan Dusty Foot Philosopher; De La Soul The Grind Date; along with everything Kanye West and Brother Ali have done; etc. etc. etc. While there's obviously a big stretch (thematically) to get from Lil' Wayne to Shad what I think all of these rappers do, is that hold up a mirror to themselves and just give us a snapshot of their lives.
I'm not quite ready to lump Mantis' debut in with that group of albums, but it's definitely really good. In fact, I'd say production wise, this might be the best "indie-rap" (saying that really makes me cringe) I've heard in the last couple of years. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the production on the album rivals Kanye's Graduation -- and there are no stinkers like "Drunk and Hot Girls" or "Barry Bonds". That said, I think what leaves it just short of being a next level album is the lack of a real unifying theme/mood/or maybe just a je ne sais pas. For me, its not the obvious choice to put on when I'm going to chill and be introspective (Shad), when I want to party (Lil' Wayne), when I feel angry and riteous about the world and social injustice (Brother Ali), etc., but that's nit-picking and its hard to fault Mantis on a debut for what its not.
Really, and this is what'll I'll leave you with, this might be the best hip-hop release to come out of Canada this year, and with the right promotion, breaks, etc. he has the potential to have as much success as Juno/Polaris nominee, Shad (who Mantis has produced for -- see "I Don't Really Like To". And, actually, given Mantis' ability to produce some real bangers if his stuff gets in the hands of the right people, its not unforseeable that we see him producing for some really, really, big names in the not too distant future. This may actually be his "Warning Shot" (Pun! there's a song called Warning Shot on the album).
[mp3] Mantis - The Future Is...
[mp3] Mantis - You Don't Know
Pick of the Week #1: Ketch Harbour Wolves
Pick of the Week #2: Rah Rah
Pick of the Week #3: Glasvegas/Animal Collective
Pick of the Week #4: Bruce Peninsula
Pick of the Week #5: The Antlers
Pick of the Week #6: The Darcys
Pick of the Week #7: Ohbijou (Swift Feet for Troubling Times)
Pick of the Week #8: Gentlemen Husbands
Pick of the Week #9: Chris Whitley
Pick of the Week #10: Alela Diane
Pick of the Week #11: K'naan
Pick of the Week #12: TOR/Sufjan Stevens
Pick of the Week #13: Timber Timbre
Pick of the Week #14: Justis
Pick of the Week #15: Hibiscus & Rosehips Compilation
Pick of the Week #16: Patrick Watson
Pick of the Week #17: Olenka and the Autumn Lovers
Pick of the Week #18: The Liptonians
Pick of the Week #19: Sunparlour Players
Pick of the Week #20: Black Hat Brigade
Pick of the Week #21: Howie Beck
Pick of the Week #22: Pink Mountaintops
Pick of the Week #23: Still Life Still
Pick of the Week #24: Hayden
Pick of the Week #25: Snailhouse
Pick of the Week #26: Dog Day
Pick of the Week #27: Ohbijou (Beacons)
Pick of the Week #28: Dog is Blue
Pick of the Week #29: Parkas
Pick of the Week #30: The Wooden Sky
Pick of the Week #31: Bowerbirds
Pick of the Week #32: Miss Maya
Pick of the Week #33: Ben Folds Presents University A-Cappella