Fresh Fish: Tree City – Definement

21 01 2011

One of the biggest current Hip Hop crews in Ann Arbor, Tree City just dropped their new track, “Definement” last weekend: A chilled cocktail of organic, atmospheric beats served up by Melbourne, Australia’s own ARKiV, with some very smart, contemplative lyrics from the Tree City crew about the hustle of life and how they see it.  Their first release of 2011 and their first song recorded in Clavius Crates’s new studio, “Definement” is a great start to a new year for this up-and-coming group, a strong display of musical creativity and intellectual cunning.


Bandcamp page


The Squeezebox: Cheeks – The Potential EP

19 01 2011

Southeast Michigan Hip Hop just keeps the reppin strong with the latest from Tree City‘s Cheeks, the smiley third of the Ann Arbor-based team.  After killin it on Black Trees and Thus Far with the rest of Tree City, Cheeks drops The Potential, featuring some hot production by various Ann Arbor-area friends, including L05 of Celcius Electronics, Mason’s Motif and Man In Charge.  “The Wiz,” The Potential‘s hottest single, brings in a sample from MJ’s perennial Wizard of Oz remake and mixes it with some great vocalizations from K-mass and Dominick from Breathe Easy Music.  The result is priceless: an uplifting anthemic crowd-mover that’ll have all the kids bopping their heads.

Like the album’s title, all the tracks on this release really show Cheeks’ lyrical and creative potential.  Embedded rhymes, clever meter change-ups, intelligent and contemplative lyrics, all of it portrays Cheeks’ prowess.  In The Potential, Cheeks gives off an aura of solid, if slightly narcissistic confidence and pride for his home and his people.  But the best part about it is that it doesn’t feel aggressive or ostracizing; you don’t have to be a poor black guy from the ghetto to appreciate Cheeks’s music.  You just gotta appreciate good Hip Hop.  Is that you?

A great start for yet another great emcee from SE Michigan.  Looking forward to more.  91/100 A-


Cop The Potential here

Cheeks – The WIZ feat. K-mass and Dominick from Breathe Easy Music

The Squeezebox: Hir-O – The Voyage Home

20 12 2010

When it comes to instrumental hip hop, I am a hard one to please.  Sure, there’s plenty of great beats out there (Amon Tobin, Flying Lotus, Dabrye, et cetera et cetera), but the repetitive nature inherent in Hip Hop beats wears me thin real quick.  Most instrumental albums I can’t even enjoy in one sitting.  I just get bored and stop paying attention.

But this couldn’t be farther from the truth for Hir-O’s newest release, The Voyage Home.  Like any great producer, Hir-O understands that instrumental Hip Hop is more than just beats without an emcee.  His beats on this album are big, beefy, crisp and unique.  And best of all, there’s actually lots of variation and thematic arc to the songs!  The sampling is excellent too, especially on the lyrical tracks like Headlock and I and I, echoing the vocal sampling skills of greats such as RJD2 and DJ Shadow.

The Voyage Home, available for free download at Hir-O’s Bandcamp page, is yet another strong addition to the ever growing library of exquisite SE Michigan Hip Hop, and we here at Balafonic are glad to welcome it to the club.


Download The Voyage Home for free here

Fresh Fish: The Lyricists – How Nice I Am

20 12 2010

Straight out of Port Huron, MI, Michigan’s forgotten second passage into Canada, come the Lyricists, a fresh, intelligent hip hop duo with some tight writing, sampling, scratching and producing skills.  I always love it when something zesty and exciting comes out of these relatively obscure corners of the Mitten.  I mean really, outside of the Great Lakes states, who’s ever heard of Port Huron?  With a location just far enough away from Flint and Detroit yet a population of no more than 32 thousand, Port Huron has created an independent yet fairly insignificant mark on the Southeast Michigan cultural map.

This doesn’t seem to phase The Lyricists though, and How Nice I Am, coming hot off the heels of August’s release of their Constructicons Mixtape, is a great example of these emcees’ lyrical and production prowess.  And thanks to a nice little Tribe sample, we get a Funky Introduction to how Nice The Lyricists really sound.  Thanks Phife.

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