Squeezebox: FowL – Live From the D

12 01 2011

Raise your hand if you think freestyling is cool.  Okay, now put your hand down if Eminem has NOT announced to the world that you are the best freestyler in the nation.  Only one man’s hand should be raised, and that man is 18-year-old Detroit native, FowL.  FowL killed it in the “Red Bull EmSee: The Road to 8 Mile National Championship” contest last summer, and just last week he dropped his debut mixtape, Live From the D.

Hokey name?  Possibly.  But FowL is proud of his hometown and not afraid to show it.  Detroit shines bright on Live, thanks mainly to FowL’s lyrical prowess.  The beats are tight, including one courtesy of underground demigod Madlib, but this is above all a showcase of FowL’s talent, and he rolls over these tracks like a combine through a wheat field, thrashing and shredding it up on the mic, leaving all the rest of those freestylers in the dust.

Tight, gritty and raw, Live From the D is a great introduction to a fresh new artist on the verge of grand stardom.  8.7/10

Download Live From the D Here

The Ambassador Bridge (prod. Black Milk)


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.

Artist Profile – Man In Charge (of Celcius Electronics)

12 12 2010

There’s plenty of hype surrounding the Detroit Hip-Hop scene these days.  What with Big Sean, Slum Village, Guilty Simpson and the like garnering plenty of national focus with big album releases this year, the D-Town scene is blowing up in ways it hasn’t done since the J Dilla days.  With all this attention focused on the 313, it becomes easy to overlook all the other great hip-hop coming out of SE Michigan.  But we here at Balafonic will hold the banner high for any good music that comes out of our hometowns, and to be honest, a lot of the independent hip hop coming out of the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area these days is some of the best I’ve heard.

The collaborative atmosphere in the Ace Deuce, a popular local pseudonym for Ann Arbor, is one of its strongest points.  Emcees and producers from the area, including the popular electro-rap duo Celsius Electronics and Ann Arbor heavyweights Tree City have recently created the Branch Out Collective, a space where these Hip Hop artists and others can work together, promote each other and share their work with the world.

Man In Charge, one half of the tag-team combo Celcius Electronics with producer/emcee L05, has been featured on the Branch Out show since October, with the free online release of his debut solo album, Pentelligent (download here), 16 tracks of Man In Charge and friends rhyming, flowing and grooving to some of the sickest beats to come out of the Deuce this year.

I’ll just say this.  I’ve downloaded a fair number of free mixtapes and albums over the past year, mostly from emcees in the SE Michigan area, but Pentelligent, in my opinion, blows them all away.

As anyone who listens to good music knows, without Dope Beats a hip hop album would be nothing.  Man In Charge drops them in spades.  He keeps them interesting by bringing in so many outside producers that, for at least the first half of the album, there’s a new producer and a new feel to every track.  Grimy, Daft Punk-esque electro-beats wash in and out, pan left and right and layer all over each other in Mikey Digital, produced by Eric Garcia.  Then Doc Illingsworth comes in on Ode to the Pen and brings out the string, horn and live drum samples to give us that vintage feel reminiscent of Madlib’s Shades of Blue.

The second half features productions mostly by Man In Charge himself, but fear not, citizens.  Man In Charge knows his way around all the standard production tools and his beats can stand up to the best of ’em.  But where Man In Charge really shines is in his flow.

I will admit I am a bit of a stickler when it comes to flow.  You can come up with the greatest rhymes in the world, but if it doesn’t come out good, if the flow doesn’t gel with the song, it’s just not worth it.  For this reason I find it very difficult to get into guys like Gucci Mane, Styles P, Danny Brown and the like.  Gangsta rap just doesn’t do it for me.  But Man In Charge’s flow is right on point, his rhymes are tight and his style is sick.  It just sounds right.

Pentelligent is a great introduction for what looks to be a new star rising out of the Ann Arbor nebula, and I can’t wait to watch its shine grow.


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