August 17, 2019

Various Artists - The Music of Red Dead Redemption II: (Original Score)

Just as video game developer Rockstar promised, the original score to their engrossing cowboy western game, Red Dead Redemption II released August 9th, and just as their pedigree for cinematic and Oscar-worthy storytelling captured the hearts and minds of fans across the world, so too does their original score for the game itself.

This is the companion release from their earlier soundtrack version of Red Dead II, which I reviewed and was released earlier in July, but instead of vocalized, bluesy, country-western songs, this release compiles brand new materials and adds another half-hour to its runtime, totaling to a full-length 72 minutes of Western musical progressions and acoustics. It is meticulously crafted by veteran composers and industry musicians and pulls listeners who haven't ever played a video game into a world all its own, and given the saturation of popular music these days, it becomes an absolute delight to listen to a type of music that is so different but supposedly common in the days of the Wild West.

Outlaws From The West is the classic Wild West theme as it has all the reverberating guitar melodies and percussive claps to make you feel like you're in a movie, and is reminiscent of an orchestral Godspeed You! Black Emperor track. Other songs take on a more passive tone, as Blessed Are The Peacekeepers plays with a string section as it complements the acoustic guitar melody and low echoing wails to make a moody and filmlike atmosphere. Other tracks that achieve this quiet cinematic quality include It All Makes Sense Now, The Fine Art of Conversation, Country Pursuits, and The Wheel, while others ring up the tension such as Mrs. Sadie Adler, Widow, Paradise Mercifully Departed, and Icarus And Friends. Again, some even sidestep the classic Western sound in favor of a more New Orleans style of music in songs like Banking, The Old American Art, and American Venom.

Ultimately, The Music of Red Dead Redemption II is exactly what you'd expect from an award-winning spaghetti Western video game: a revisit of a time we never truly knew in the best possible imagining by seasoned and experienced musicians and composers. It is an excellent backdrop to practically any activity, and it stands as a special musical release of Western music.

The Music of Red Dead Redemption II - 8.5/10

Recommended Tracks: Outlaws From The West, Blessed Are The Peacemakers, Red Dead Redemption

August 13, 2019

Slipknot - We Are Not Your Kind

A long heavy metal career keeps careening forward, despite the loss of longtime members on Slipknot's 6th studio album We Are Not Your Kind. Having lost their third original member of the 9 since the inception, Slipknot hasn't found a reason to end their reign on the heavy metal genre, and instead, sound as strong as they ever have, despite hitting some of the same notes of their previous releases.

Opening with an ominous and dark intro track, Insert Coin is one of the few transitional numbers that break up the sonic assault of Slipknot's arsenal. Some of their tracks sound as poppy as they've ever been, with the first full track of the album Unsainted, but Slipknot doesn't let it pull them from their roots. The ensuing tracks don't leave much room to breathe, in typical Slipknot fashion. Other songs that follow this poppy hook in the choruses include Nero Forte and Critical Darling, and they are essential to the songs themselves and give Corey Taylor time in between his rampant heavy metal vox. They also are effective enough to get stuck in listeners' heads without sounding cheesy or watered down after all these years of multiple album releases.

A Liar's Funeral slows down the pacing of the previous heavy riffing and is an example of what Taylor and company are capable of when given time to put together a slower song. This can also be heard in their transitional track What's Next as it drops into their melodic Spiders, as well as their slow-burning and haunting My Pain. The other big hitters throughout We Are Not Your Kind go hard and fast and are more of the same that they've been putting on throughout their over 20 year career.

Despite losing and having to replace 3 of their original 9 members, Slipknot has proven with We Are Not Your Kind that they are nowhere near slowing down, and they have another critically acclaimed album to put up on the wall. As their 6th album shows, they have been solid and able to maintain a steady hand and consistent sound to this day, for better or worse.

We Are Not Your Kind - 8/10

Recommended Tracks: Critical Darling, A Liar's Funeral, Spiders

August 4, 2019

Interview: Cuban Pete

AirdriftSignals: Hey Cuban Pete, how are you doing today?

Busy as usual. Always got something to do whether its artwork or rhymes. Or maybe even 5 minutes with the family if they’re lucky haha.

AirSig: I know how that is... I know you just released a new mixtape that is stacked with guests. How does it feel to release an album full of so many great artists?

Well for The Standout mixtape I am the guest, apart from a couple of tracks I put together. I’ve been using this past year to build up my features on other peoples projects and The Standout is a collection of some of the dopest ones I’ve done.

I’m blessed to be able to work with a lot of great artists from legends to up and coming. It’s been a very well received project.

AirSig: For listeners hearing your voice for the first time, it seems apparent for the title of your album to be what it is. You have a cool and unique style when you rap. How does it feel representing hip-hop from across the pond?

I’ve worked with a lot of US artists and I like standing out on the track. Not just for the voice but subject matter, words and phrasing. Some people don’t venture outside America music wise cos they can’t understand the accent or don’t like the way it sounds. Each to their own obviously but if I can open up just a few heads to the UK sound then I’ve achieved something. There’s a whole scene and history that a lot don’t know about. Especially thanks to waveriders like Westwood pretending Hip Hop in the UK started with grime so he can try and stay relevant.

AirSig: As far as your supporting single (No Wannabeez Allowed) is concerned, you have been involved and worked with some Wu-Tang affiliates in the past and recently. Were there some specific instances that you recall that made you want to make this track?

Definitely. Theres a lot of fakers on the internet claiming the W for clout or monetary gain. As someone who isn’t a Wu affiliate but works with a lot of official heads I just wanted to put forward where I stand on the whole situation.

I’m a member of Ghetto Government Officialz (G.G.O.), which is a collective put together by Hell Razah from the Wu Tang offshoot group Sunz Of Man. I’d be classed as Wu family at most but I try not to push that angle cos I’m not a dickrider. I represent my team C75 Live first and foremost as well as being a member of G.G.O., T.E.S.T. Squad, and Official Gorilla Army. I'm also signed as an artist to F.N.B.G. Records (Fear Nothing But God) and have an excellent manager in the shape of Surraya Hafeez who always gives me valuable advice.

AirSig: How did you get involved some of the Wu affiliates? Did you work for or with Protect Ya Neck Records?

I didn’t work for them directly, more for artists signed to or distributed by them when I was asked by Ol Dirty’s godbrother Menace O.B.E.Z to join his Team O.B.E.Z. collective. I was introduced to a lot of connections through that and although I’m no longer officially part of that team I still have friends I met through it that I still work with and meet new connects all the time.

I did artwork for Zu Ninjaz which led to me doing all the artwork for the supergroup East Coast Killa Beez. I do artwork and merch designs for Krumbsnatcha and his Mind Power Entertaintment label. Done a lot of work with Solomon Childs. Hell Razah of course, or Heaven Razah as he’s now known. As well as many others.

AirSig: Your release is found on the Bandcamp site for C75 Live. As far as I can tell, that is your creation. Is there anything you can tell me about how C75 Live came to be, and the idea behind it?

Yes the bandcamp I use for the music as part of the main site

When I started out it was originally just doing custom clothing. Mainly graffiti style art on caps, jackets, sneakers, etc. I called it C75 Designs. C for Cuban and 75 for the year I was born.

I did a lot of work for rappers that led to collabs and me finally taking the music side more seriously when I realized I had made some great connects that could help me push it. I named the music side C75 Live, cos it rhymed mainly.

Both sides of C75 helped push each other but due to me not having time to constantly update two sites I combined them both under the C75 Live name.

Art + Music = C75 Live

AirSig: Speaking of working with rappers' designs and getting into the game itself, who were your musical inspirations growing up?

I started in Hip Hop looking up to Eric B & Rakim, KRS-1, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, moving to Brand Nubian, NWA, Redman, De La Soul, Wu Tang, Boot Camp Clik, Biggie, Pac, etc. UK heads like Blade, London Posse, Son Of Noise, Gunshot, Silver Bullet, Katch 22, moving to TaskForce, Moorish Delta, and too many to name. I've always listened to a wide variety of Hip Hop from UK to US to Aus, East coast to West coast to down south, breakbeat to funk to bass.

And of course graffiti visually captured me. I grew up with comic book art which meshed well with what I saw in the Spraycan Art and Subway Art books. That also influenced my own work when I studied fine art and fell in love with pop art and artists like Basquiat.

I started customizing my own clothes when I started drawing on my own sneakers in a quiet period at my job at the time. Over time I honed my skills and ended up having my work in the hands of Inspectah Deck and Cappadonna.

AirSig: Even though The Standout is your latest release, is there any other work that is hot off the heels of this album that you are excited about, or any announcements you would like to make for your fans?

I’ve always got projects in the works. About 5 I’m working on at the moment that I need to order so I actually get one finished this year.

I’m working on a solo album ‘Camouflage Karma’ entirely produced by Spion Liape, a collab album with my T.E.S.T. Squad brother OneMike who’s based in Nashville right now, a collab album with my Gorilla Army brother D.Original Mr.Blue, and ‘There’s A War Goin’ On Outside’ which will have a very Wu feel to it both musically and guest wise. Also I have an album with C75 Live producer B.Dvine on beat duties and me on the rhymes which is only in the beginning stages.

Another project I have in the works is ‘West Mids 2 North Beast’. Because I work with so many artists from overseas I wanted to do something strictly UK. I moved from the West Midlands to the North East in 1995 and this album represents both of those sides of my life from the features to subject matter.

The Standout is available now on C75 Live's Bandcamp page. You can read my full review of the album. Support Cuban Pete's music and stay tuned for more related news on C75 Live.

Cuban Pete - The Standout

The Standout is the latest mixtape release from C75 Live, hosted by Krumb Snatcha and featuring UK emcee Cuban Pete throughout its sprawling 16 tracks. As if independent hip-hop wasn’t raw enough, true fans and hip-hop heads may rejoice: this release has everything, with multiple servings of professionally rolled hip-hop joints combined with a multitude of vocal talents to make Cuban Pete's The Standout a decorated and glistening collaborative effort.

The album's opener is a sharp cutting signal to all the freeriders in the industry who are trying to be something they're not to sit down and take notes, as Cuban Pete and company school the wannabes to a lurid, hard-hitting B. Dvine beat. It's a tough and head-banging opening to an album full of surprises. The album doesn't let listeners off easy either, as Altered Beasts contains a spinning and scratching frenzy that kick-starts the Cuban Pete led militant track. The beat is seductive, like most the production featured throughout, and it has a cool demeanor and flow by Cuban as well as Bobby Fuego and Chief Rocka. Supa Cypha is the first of several stacked posse tracks and speaks volumes as multiple accomplished emcees pass the baton without ever dropping it. It's a seamless track that is tough on weak minds and packs on the aggressiveness. As the track fades, Krumb Snatcha takes a moment to shout out Cuban Pete before None of Y'all Better, a mixtape track by B. Dvine, and a previous entry in Dvine's Process of Illumination mixtape released in February. Its dark fantasy vibe embedded in the beat with Dvine's, Odd Thomas's, and Cuban Pete's verses set to remind wannabe rappers that they can't match their pedigree.

Project Wars is the next track, an epic 8 minute cut with 20 emcees, including but not limited to Solomon Childs, Karnage, Menace OBEZ, Ju Muny, Dasunofsam, and Young Dirty Bastard, and it flexes its muscle over the assaulting beat. Respect Mine breaks the chain of tracks that have defined The Standout mixtape thus far with an old-school feel-good vibe while City Pulse takes a transportive, almost Cannibal Ox-like turn with a funky siren-fueled swagger and smoothes out the rough cuts of The Standout's previous onslaught. Iron Winds pulls up and let's loose in this one, which leads right into a B. Dvine remix track by DJ Modesty, Dominate Breakloops, as he produces and cuts on it. It's the same team of rappers from None of Y'all Better, and the three prove their solid chemistry here. Whatever makes another funky beat altercation to listeners' ear drums and Jokers Wild gets dangerous with chilling Heath Ledger Joker samples. Ju Muny takes over with the old-school banging Heart Pain, giving a horrorcore, Gravediggaz-like vibe. Cuban Pete and Mavz also bring the heat.

Feelin So Good cuts in with yet another hip-hop stylistic choice, rocking a smooth R&B hook, and Turned On Me focusing on the hard feelings and truths that come out of betrayal. Workin' puts an asterisk on the grind that Cuban Pete's been putting in, as The Standout and C75 Live are living examples of his hard work and dedication up until this point. Tower Rich, another track released on The Process of Illumination under the alternate name Doing Me, opens with B. Dvine's verse, with CB and Cuban Pete dropping supporting lines about staying in their own lane and finding success within their own channels. The mixtape ends with the Mavz produced beat for Ju Muny's Immortal Kombat, featuring a final 11 emcee lineup. All rappers get a precious number of bars to kill the beat, and their energy is full of fire and gives The Standout a prestigious climax.

Cuban Pete's latest mixtape is a star-studded and polished example of what hip-hop can do, both musically and lyrically. It's a mixtape that is worth the repeated playthroughs and gives listeners all kinds of melodies and verses to chew on. Its cast of guests and producers elevate The Standout to a high level of hip-hop stardom, and The Standout does exactly what it's named to do.

The Standout is now available on C75 Live's BandcampC75 Live is another great place to get the latest news and media for everything Cuban Pete related!

The Standout - 9.5/10

Recommended Tracks: Altered Beats, Whatever, Turned On Me

July 29, 2019

DJ Dark Flow's Masterpiece Crate #2: Alice In Chains - Dirt

If Nirvana created the perfect storm for grunge to come into the fold with their worldwide hit, Nevermind, then Alice In Chains took the genre a giant leap further, with their second full-length album, Dirt. Like Nirvana, Alice In Chains also came into their own after recording a gritty debut, punk-grunge album, Facelift in 1990, before the release of this grunge-metal masterpiece. Facelift displayed some true potential for the band since they produced some excellent hit songs which have just as much staying power today as some of Dirt's best songs, such as Man in the Box, Bleed the Freak, and Sea of Sorrow. These singles were also a big indicator that lead singer Layne Staley's talents were a grade above those of Kurt Cobain's, as his vocal cords could easily handle an excessively powerful release from within all the while maintaining his delicate flutter as he sang. It seemed only a matter of time then, after Nevermind, that Alice In Chains would continue to top themselves after Facelift, and they most certainly did with what is undisputedly the strongest album in the group's career.

Fronted by Layne, who shared songwriting duties with lead guitarist Jerry Cantrell, Alice In Chains benefited from their combined effort of Layne's powerful and stunning vocal range and Jerry's personal life struggles personified through the music. Dirt covers many themes in life such as pain, anger, addiction, toxic relationships, war, death, heartbreak, and depression. As it stands as an album that contains so many of these heavy topics, Dirt, while classified as grunge or alternative rock, was the heaviest and darkest offering of the genre at that time, and oftentimes turned more heavy metal than grunge, as can be heard in their brutal and tortured opening track, Them Bones. Alice In Chains doesn't hold back with this one, with chilling cries of agony and heavy metal guitar riffs chugging through the track. Written by Cantrell and executed so well by Staley and company, this is the reason their combined force was so strong and compelling, and they address the existential threat of our mortality right away here in this opener as Layne sings, "I believe them bones are me, some say we're born into the grave, I feel so alone, gonna end up a big 'ole pile a them bones."

Dam That River doesn't let the energy die either, as it starts up another metal rock riff and moves the album forward with another heavy-hearted tune, laced with imagery of violence and anger, as Layne cries out, "Oh, you couldn't dam that river, and maybe I don't give a damn anyway, so you couldn't dam that river, and it washed me so far away." Rain When I Die caps off this opening trio of tracks with dark, dense motifs and incredible singing by Layne, before Dirt cuts back into one of the strongest songs on the album, Down in a Hole. Written by Jerry, this powerful rock ballad was his ode to his then-girlfriend, Courtney Clarke. The eventual falling apart and heartbreak that ensued from his life's choice of being in a rock band and touring created a song that he felt hit him the hardest. The nature of their lifestyles and touring schedules meant he couldn't hold on to his longtime love, and it left him feeling "down in a hole." It's the first heartfelt piece of music to come out of Dirt and Layne treats the material delicately and beautifully as he sings on Jerry's behalf, "Down in a hole and I don't know if I can be saved, see my heart I decorate it like a grave."

Sickman trades marching heavy metal riffs for brooding sludge and doom metal as it moves from verse to chorus and back again, and Layne sings about the struggles of living in the sick world that he's created for himself and having no control in life. It's also a commentary about the world at large, as Layne groans, "I can feel the wheel but I can't steer, when my thoughts become my biggest fear, ah, what's the difference I'll die, oh, in this sick world of mine." The pure grunge-rock grace of Alice In Chains is felt most on the following song, the most memorable track of their career thus far, Rooster. A watery guitar slowly strums and repeats as a gospel-like choir croons an iconic melody that can only be known as the precursor for one of Layne's best performances yet, his storied rendition of Jerry's own personal fears of losing his father in the Vietnam war. The music video dives deeper than the music, as Jerry's own father is interviewed about his experience of being drafted into the army and surviving the harrowing and horrifying life experience. It makes for a haunting and inescapable piece of grunge-rock history that has been burned into the minds of listeners for generations.

After Rooster comes to a finish, the first half of the record gives way to an even more honest, insightful, and punishing set of tracks, with a trio of heavy, yet emotional songs: Junkhead, the title track Dirt, and Godsmack. Junkhead was Layne's willingness to admit his rampant and tormented drug use, an addiction which plagued him for the rest of his short life. It is full of desperation and self-reflection, as Layne comes to terms with his afflictions and tries to place listeners into the mind of a user, as he sings, "You can't understand a user's mind, but try with your books and degrees, if you let yourself go and opened your mind, I'll bet you'd be doing like me and it ain't so bad." Layne cuts back into a fully-unrepenting chorus as he sings, "What's my drug of choice? Well, what have you got? I don't go broke, and I do it a lot, said I do it a lot." It's one of Layne's most straight-forward and honest songs about his addiction, and although he sings with an air of calm, his screaming spirit can be heard just beneath the surface. Dirt pulls the curtains back at a relationship that's gone to sh*t, for lack of a better term. His focus on what it's like to be made to feel like dirt by another person is full of doom and gloom, as he describes the experience of feeling buried alive by the person he loves, and ultimately forces him to retreat inward. Godsmack doesn't lighten the load much, but it does feel like a breath of fresh air for that matter, as Jerry and company pick up the tempo from the previous two tracks and Layne experiments with a fluttering vocal stutter, singing, "Don't you know that none are blind, to the lie, and you think I don't find what you hide? What in God's name have you done? Stick your arm for some real fun." He later finishes the song with a penetrating line, "So your sickness weighs a ton, and God's name is smack for some," effectively drawing the parallel to people's addictions and feeling the presence of God as being the most high.

The final four songs open with a track sometimes left untitled, sometimes listed as Intro, or Iron Gland, and it's a short but dark, menacing signal that Alice In Chains is far from over. Hate to Feel gives listeners a look at the anger buried deep inside Layne, as he is the sole songwriter credited here. He sings in the chorus, "All this time I swore I'd never be like my old man, what the hey it's time to face exactly who I am." Angry Chair, one of the five singles, was Layne's only other solo songwriting credit. It's the penultimate track on the record and makes heavy metal blows with guitars and drums as Layne howls his deepest insecurities, "Loneliness is not a phase, field of pain is where I graze, serenity is far away, saw my reflection and cried, so little hope that I died, oh, feed me your lies, open wide, weight of my heart, not the size, oh." His pain is almost immediately disregarded in a half-hearted dismissal of a chorus, "I don't mind, yeah, I don't mind." The epic final track is Layne and Jerry's ultimate send-off for Dirt, which was never repeated again with their few final releases that remained, with Would?. Layne takes his vocals to the full range that he is capable of, and with Jerry's writing and vocal turns on the verses, they make a killing, as they barrel towards the final message that they have, and Layne unleashes an unforgettable grunge vocal performance in the chorus. Written for Jerry's late friend Andrew Wood, lead singer of Seattle alternative grunge band Mother Love Bone, who passed in 1990 from a heroin overdose, Jerry had a heavy heart from the matter, and knowing Layne's repeated drug use, it is a completely haunting track to hear knowing full well where Layne was heading. Layne sings, "Into the flood again, same old trip it was back then, so I made a big mistake, try to see it once my way."

It cannot be overstated how much Dirt's music was attributed to Jerry Cantrell's personal life experiences and songwriting talents. His writing was in effect taken to a place he could never get to with the addition of Layne Staley to help the band reach incredible heights in the first half of their career. While Jerry is still alive and well with this latter half iteration of Alice In Chains, it will never be the same without the awe-inspiring vocal powers of Layne, and there's no other album that they recorded during Layne's life where their collaboration was as perfect as it is here in Dirt. It's another masterpiece after Nevermind, and its themes took grunge and alternative to a very dark corner of life, all while maintaining its heart and keeping its core true to the struggles that afflicted its two leading songwriters.

Recommended Tracks: Down In A Hole, Rooster, Would?

July 20, 2019

Update: Backwords Thoughts Single OUT NOW

The final supporting single from my debut album Crystallize, Backwords Thoughts, a revisit of my instrumental bonus track, is out now! Featuring verses by Long Island emcees B. Dvine and Thomas Coppola (both who I have reviewed in the past and Thomas who I have just recently interviewed), Backwords Thoughts is a fully-fleshed out idea with jewels of knowledge for your ears. Listen now on Bandcamp or any other streaming platform that you choose and listen to my album Crystallize on all music streaming platforms!

July 14, 2019

The Raconteurs - Help Us Stranger

After 11 years, the Jack White-led blues-rock band The Raconteurs finally released their follow up album to 2008's Consolers of The Lonely, Help Us Stranger, on June 21st of this year. As far as why the long wait stretched beyond a span of a decade may be due to lead guitarist Brenden Benson's solo music career, as well as the prolific post-White Stripes career of Jack White, who leads his own solo act as well as another blues-rock band, The Dead Weather. The time between both of these albums was so long that most fans were pretty certain that there might not have been another album coming, especially since the reports were unlikely as far back as 2015 that there was hardly any new material recorded at all, according to Benson in an interview with The Guardian newspaper. Finally, in 2019, The Raconteurs surprise their fans with the release of their third album, the hard-rocking, and blues-licking, Help Me Stranger.

Bored and Razed makes for an unassuming opening riff that repeats until it crescendos into a familiar hard rock groove with White's unmistakable, defiant, yelling vocals. There's not a whole lot to latch onto in this opening bit, as it has a pretty standardized formula that any fan of rock n' roll will enjoy with quiet enthusiasm, and the album really doesn't pick up the pace until their title (is it though?) track, Help Me Stranger. This second song pulls up its britches and presents such a colorful blend of percussion, guitar melodies, and verse-chord structure, that there is something to be said for the combined songwriting talents of Bensen and White, which is something that can't be heard on any other White or Benson-related release. It hits an exalted high point early on in Help Us Stranger, which the album has to continue to try to match or exceed for the remainder of its runtime, which it more or less succeeds.

Only Child slows down to showcase the storytelling ambitions of these two guitarists, as they sing about the prodigal son coming home. It is a satisfying melody once again and filled with familiar themes found in other songs such as leaving everything behind and forging a new life. It is accentuated by neat, buzzy organ work that makes it complete. As soon as it's over, Don't Bother Me explodes into a loud and bustling outburst of a tune that White has been known to make in his other bands, The Dead Weather, and The White Stripes. Its makeup is frenetic and stylized with heavy-effected guitars and a defiant, repeated, vocal shout, "Don't bother me!"

Shine The Light on Me and Somedays (I Don't Feel Like Trying) are softer and more self-reflective as the album crosses into the back half. Other highlights include Hey Gyp (Dig The Slowness), their single Sunday Driver, and the loud and distorted What's Yours is Mine, but the real high point is reached again as the band comes to their final song, Thoughts and Prayers. White and Benson slow the group down for a traditional sounding, folky, blues tune that has great acoustics and lyrics. It succeeds at producing a great string crescendo with their assorted instruments and brings the album to a satisfying finish.

Help Us Stranger is a welcome return from a band that had ghosted their fans for 11 years long. Jack White, never truly revealing what The Raconteurs had been up to, was always busy producing work with The Dead Weather and as a solo artist since 2009 and 2012 respectively. Their collaborative efforts to put out a brand new album in 2019 might not have been needed, but it is an enjoyable listen nonetheless to give fans another fresh dose of bluesy, garage rock and roll.

Help Us Stranger - 7.8/10

Recommended Tracks: Help Me Stranger, Somedays (I Don't Feel Like Trying), Thoughts And Prayers

July 12, 2019

Various Artists - The Music of Red Dead Redemption II: (Original Soundtrack)

Today released an original soundtrack from the makers of the wild west, cowboy masterpiece of last year, Red Dead Redemption II. A fully alive world of the west, Red Dead was instantly hailed as an undisputed classic in modern cinematic and interactive storytelling. It's awe-inspiring immersive characters, setting, and story were brought to vivid life not only by its beautiful, picture-perfect graphics but also by its swooning music, which could quietly enhance a scene or break out in full bravado, placing any player right in the middle of a classic western film. Rockstar shows the world again that their release last year was more than just a video game, but an arresting piece of art that deserves another look this summer, in the form of RDRII's original soundtrack.

Composed by various multiple Grammy-award-winning artists, Red Dead's OST has many different forms as it plays through. The music in this short 40-something minute release takes inspiration from the period of the wild west, so it's vocals and notes understandably so venture into the styles of instrumental banjo tunes, folk, country, and even some headier western rock tracks. The opening tune, Unshaken, features a deep, gravelly-toned vocalist with a choir of backing singers, in a Johnny Cash-like melody. It appropriately introduces listeners to the world of Red Dead. The second track, Moonlight, almost traverses into gospel territory, as singers croon and moan with the soft rising and lulling instruments. Other tracks that follow feature traditional sounding, bluesy country numbers, such as That's The Way It Is, and Cruel World, sung by none other than Willie Nelson.

Mountain Finale is the first of several instrumental pieces that inject a feeling of spirited excitement into the mix, a welcome break from the moody country and folk numbers that precede it. Crash of Worlds is ultimately a reprise of Unshaken, with an added melodic twist and an atmosphere of a story and song sung around a campfire of runaways and outlaws. Mountain Hymn is a transcendent piece of beautiful guitar-work and heavenly vocals and it further paints a serene setting of settlers' struggles and living their lives. Mountain Banjo is the second instrumental that opens up a suite of visually stimulating musical tracks, such as the introspective, steady Table Top, and the unflinching, rocking and rolling Love Comes Back. Oh My Lovely caps off this series of instrumental takes into western culture with a reverb-y (almost too-much-so) guitar meditation. The soundtrack is brought to a close with its final rendition of Cruel World by Joshua Homme, a retrospective look at the world that we've created before us.

The Music of Red Dead Redemption II is satisfying and illuminating as a video game soundtrack. Its many different styles throughout, all influenced by the same time period, showcases the studio's talent for storytelling in more ways than one. As Rockstar stated in their press release, an original score, intended to be this soundtrack's official companion album and featuring much more musical content, will be coming later this summer. Until that time comes though, there are some real quality tunes to enjoy now while the table is being set for Red Dead's next music release.

The Music of Red Dead Redemption II - 8.25/10

Recommended Tracks: Unshaken, Table Top, Love Comes Back

July 9, 2019

Interview: Thomas Coppola

AirdriftSignals: Hi Thomas, how are you feeling today? What are your overall feelings this year in 2019?

I'm feeling good these days. 2019 has been a great year for me so far... it's been a year of new beginnings with the name change, a new day job, and new music!

AirSig: Regarding the name change to the one you have now, what made you decide to go through with it?

I was getting confused a bunch with Christian rapper Odd Thomas, so I decided to change my name officially to Thomas Coppola. I felt like it fit since I come from an Italian family and like Francis Ford Coppola I came up making movies and videos. I think I decided to go through with it when I started getting mistaken for the Christian rapper and then started getting hate mail for not being him... it was a confusing scenario regardless so the name change is for the best.

AirSig: Dusty is your latest full-length album, but it appears that it's not your first major release. It seems that in the past few years you have had a great outpouring of material.

I've been dumping dude. I used to release multiple projects a year but I've recently started to slow the output and be more focused. When you're just spitting bars you tend to record a lot but recently I've been trying to be more thoughtful in my lyrics and the songwriting process has slowed down a bit.

AirSig: You have had some repeated collaborations with a mutual associate of ours, B. Dvine, but as far as Dusty is concerned, you have a lot of productions that you can call your own. Can you elaborate on how your sound in terms of music has developed over the past few years?

Absolutely... it's funny because Dvine actually taught me how to make beats. He showed me how to sample and everything so my style started out with that dusty NY sound he is known for. I've grown production-wise in the last couple years and really made the sound my own. I love to experiment with sounds and samples and I don't really like to box myself in too much, but for Dusty I wanted to keep that Raw NY sounds so I kept it lofi/boom bap focused.

AirSig: Is there any equipment you prefer to use when making your beats? Any you are looking forward to trying out in the future?

I make all my beats on Ableton Live 9. I'm in the works of building a new computer from scratch though and I'm going to upgrade to Ableton Live 10. I'm also probably gonna end up purchasing Serato sample which I have had my eye on. But right now I work with a Korg midi controller and an Akai MPD. My next major release is going to be very weird production-wise, I've been playing around with a lot of sounds.

AirSig: When listening to Dusty, I got the sense that this record you put together sounds like a pure product of New York, and more specifically, Long Island. Is this where you grew up most of your life?

Yes, I grew up on Long Island, NY and Dusty is absolutely a raw expression of that sound. It really was an ode to the classic sound, I wanted to make a dope NY album that I can brag about in my catalogue on par with some of the dusty gutter rappers of today like Roc Marciano, Meyhem Lauren, DJ Muggs, Mach Hommy and the Griselda gang.

AirSig: Speaking of influences, with your productions taking a page out of the genres of smooth jazz and early 20th-century music, are there any other influences outside of the genre you’re in that have also made you who you are today? Is there anything in these other artists’ sound that you’ve appreciated and wanted to put back into your music, whether past or contemporary?

A big influence for me outside of hip-hop would definitely be Father John Misty. I think he is one of the best songwriters of our generation and I love his sardonic voice. I was raised on classic rock so everything from Tom Petty to Aerosmith to the Rolling Stones have been an influence on the way I create music, write songs and look for sounds. I've always been drawn to piano pieces so I have to also give props to Billy Joel (Long Island, what's good!) and Elton John for being a big influence on my ear for production.

AirSig: Tracks of yours such as Emily (Interlude), Sonnets In The Rain, and Sarah, all have a sentimental quality to them. I was thinking of a live performance in a late-night jazz club in the city, where you were suited up performing these songs with a live band. This imagery comes across very strong in the music and with your deep vocal delivery. Would you like to explain your choices that went into the creation of these tracks?

I'll start with Sonnets in the Rain. This track was originally going to have Daniel Son on it, he was fucking with the track but we never made it happen, unfortunately. I like to get deep in my bars sometimes and Sonnets is a great overall example of that. Songs like Emily show I can get deep with just the music. I made that beat while thinking about an old girlfriend and all the good times we had, and when I went to write to it I felt like the song was already complete without my lyrics....the beat is so powerful I didn't need to add anything else. I recorded Sarah drunk. It was the intention of it to sound incomplete and full of mistakes. I don't think I successfully recorded the hook correct once lol. That song is a heavy one as it is about wanting a second chance with a lover but not being deserving of one.

AirSig: In several other songs on the album, you got the opportunity to work with some pretty prominent figures, including our associate B. Dvine, Tragedy Khadafi, Goretex, and Fly Anakin. Can you describe what that was like?

Working with these artists was amazing. I've looked up to each of them at a certain point in my career so it was a true honor to have them on the record. I've known B Dvine for a decade. That dude is like my brother so when we get in the lab together it's always going to be something hot cooking. Dvine actually brought the Tragedy verse to me, Trag has been real good to us in the past and I really wanted him on the record. The original song he had the verse on was a trap beat but I flipped it into Mafia Flicks and me and B did our things after him. I been a fan of Fly Anakin for a minute and I been watching him make moves recently so I reached out. He liked the beat for Keep It a Buck and blessed me with a legendary verse for that one. Gore was the last person to hop on the project... that record was originally supposed to have my man D-Rugz on it but the stars never aligned properly. Gore's engineer is boys with Dvine so it was an easy connection to link up. I'm glad he hopped on, he really helped round out the album.

AirSig: On your BandCamp page, it says that you are a producer, rapper, singer, and engineer. You also created the album artwork for Dusty, so clearly you have a lot of talents lined up. Is there anything else that you're working on that you would like to tease for fans?

Yes, I have a new mixtape dropping late summer/early fall called Cold Cuts which is no features, all outside production from a bunch of dope artists. B Dvine on it, Mike Martinez, Cha$e Paydro, John Cotton and Gekko, my man DJ BABYHANDS has a joint on there. It's gonna be a fun tape. I also got my man Blunt Prophet executive producing my new album Townie which is coming after Cold Cuts. Also Digital Gas 2 is still coming!

Dusty is available now on all music platforms. You can read my full review of the album here. Support Thomas Coppola's music on

Thomas Coppola - Dusty

Premium-grade production and a voice that you can chill or ride to are just a few of the many ways to classify Long Island rapper Thomas Coppola’s latest full-length album, Dusty, a tribute to his home state of New York and the legends of hip-hop who kick-started the movement.

Representing the hip-hop scene in the Long Island locale, Dusty features production by area artists, which include B. Dvine, E-Prosounds, and eXodus, with the majority of Dusty's tracks produced by Thomas himself. His opening rap on Tight Loop Intro plays with a funky beat and gives first-time listeners a taste of Thomas's sound with his music and vocals, and it’s a warm and inviting piece to pull listeners in before his second track Marvin Munroe starts up with its soulful and jazzy organ beat. Thomas is very confident in Marvin Munroe and throughout Dusty, and as he raps in Gorgeous, he admits that he found his voice after some time of feeling like he couldn't fit in. His position of being a white rapper in the genre is no qualm either because he very unabashedly owns his sound and lures listeners into his world's present and past of growing up and living in Long Island.

Outta My Mind, a heavy hitter in production created by B. Dvine, gets deeper in the lyrics. "Pills keep me sane, smoke keeps me grounded, so every time I step into the studio it's astounding, get money like an accountant, what's a little countryside hill to a mountain, I'm loungin'," Thomas raps before B. Dvine's contagious hook wiles, "I must have been out of my mind!" Thomas continues in Outta My Mind, as he says with resolve that he's got "an undying need to defeat all my demons," something that comes up in later songs of the album, where Thomas allows himself to be more vulnerable in the wake of emotional heartbreak, which is felt in the lyrics of the track Sarah, and can even be felt in the music of the interlude Emily.

The tight and hard productions paired with New York and sometimes mafia related imagery drops listeners squarely on the streets with Thomas as he raps about the snakes, villains, and the people who have come to help him while growing up. This can be heard on the following tracks Gotham and Mafia Flicks, as B. Dvine, Goretex, and Tragedy Khadafi team up and help Thomas destroy the naysayers and haters that cross paths with him. Thomas has one of those rare talents of being a rapper whose voice is deep, smooth, and easy to listen to, no matter whether he’s kicking back with his lyrics or delivering a heavy blow to the ego. Elephant In The Room is a short single-verse, minute and a half track where not a second is wasted, as Thomas addresses the elephants in the game, unable to change, as well as the newcomers, "all you wannabe rappers be taking notes, take a break from eating all of that molly and doing coke, I do it like the Godson, I ain't no joke, tell the world that I'm joining the race to be the g.o.a.t."

As Dusty crosses over to the back half of the album, several tracks, including but not limited to Emily (Interlude), Sonnets In The Rain, and Sarah, create a feeling as if Thomas is delivering a performance with a live band at a late night jazz club in NYC. When listening to Thomas Coppola’s delivery, the effect of his vocals over the beats is prominent and his calm and confident character exudes class, no matter what topic he raps about. This imagery is strong and undeniable, and it creates another fold of Thomas Coppola's unique style. Keep It A Buck, featuring Fly Anakin, is a free-floating spaced-out beat produced by Thomas, and Fly Anakin's flow effortlessly soars with it, meanwhile, the eXodus-produced Numbers on The Board flips the style and tone of the album yet again! The overall effect of these last few tracks with the Funky Jam Outro and bonus cut Who Wants It? chills the mood out for Dusty's smooth landing. The overall feeling from beginning to end feels like a flight through the multiple styles of hip-hop music, and Thomas Coppola eloquently guides listeners through all of it.

Dusty is an album that earns its high praise and repeated listens. It features a rapper whose life experiences has created a rich filter for hip-hop music and storytelling, and Dusty is a definite must-listen for any fans of the genre. Thomas Coppola proves to be a gem for independent and mainstream hip-hop, and his vividly textured music goes along with his vocal talent to create a unique experience not felt in most mainstream hip-hop today. If Dusty is a sign of anything, it is that Thomas Coppola will continue to grow and deliver high-quality music and art in the near future, as he states in AirdriftSignals first exclusive interview with him.

Dusty - 9.25/10

Recommended Tracks: Elephant In The Room, Sonnets In The Rain, Numbers On The Board

July 2, 2019

Update: Interviews Incoming

As an ongoing attempt to bring my online publication to the next level, I will start publishing focused and unique interviews on the AirdriftSignals platform. When there are new music releases from independent artists, I will provide an opportunity for the artist to speak for the music themselves, and also give their insight into what goes on in their creative process. This will usually be accompanied by a full review of the artist's latest release that will follow up as the next entry of this publication.

I hope more artists will join and be a part of the AirdriftSignals community of artists, fans, and readers. Stay tuned for this new and exciting format for independent art, and keep on drifting.

June 30, 2019

Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - Bandana

Bandana, the second record of a planned trilogy by hip-hop duo MadGibbs, Freddie Gibbs and Madlib bring the heat just as expected. Not only does Bandana build upon their first album, 2014’s Piñata (my review of which can be read here), but it also delivers an impeccable flow by Freddie with m.ind a.ltering d.emented l.essons i.n b.eats to match. 

There isn’t need for much discourse when discussing the best hip-hop producers alive today. Madlib’s soul-soaked music sparks Bandana just like it did with Piñata and most other albums he’s involved in. It is known that Madlib has a Midas touch with mixing old-time music with new sounds, and the first takeaway as this album begins is Madlib’s appreciation of vintage sound. He is, after all, a loop digger who often finds gold to infuse his beats. The soul that permeates, as a result, makes Freddie Gibbs stand out amongst other rappers releasing albums today. Another more apparent feature of Bandana is the album’s lack of features when compared to Piñata’s stacked guest list. This, however, works to Freddie’s advantage, as he has a lot more time to shine on this record, and he still gets some guests on here that are noteworthy and exciting, such as Anderson .Pak, Killer Mike, Yasiin Bey (also known as Mos Def), and Black Thought (of The Roots).

Bandana starts with a brief intro track, a skit featuring a thick-accented man of possibly Asain descent speaking in support of Freddie and with a vulgar dialect that comes across comically. His vocal quips are in and out in a couple of other parts of the album, as well as Freddie’s own candid comments captured in the booth after several of his songs, which give a feeling of intimacy and amusement between tracks. The first official track, Freestyle S**t, shows just why Freddie Gibbs is perfectly suited for Madlib’s beats. Just like MF DOOM on their classic collaborative album, Madvillainy, Freddie knows how to treat Madlib’s varied and alternative beats, as he proves that his verses and wordplay can flow or speed up depending on his choice of delivery. His versatility can be heard on every track, but this freestyle track is just a great opener of an album destined for greatness. Half Manne Half Cocaine is an example of a song that is in actuality two songs put together. This can be found on several tracks including Fake Names and Flat Tummy Tea as well since Madlib always seems to be able to pack his producer albums with awe-inspiring music. Freddie always shows that he can keep up with the different styles produced by Madlib so that it always appears seamless in these tracks, and Half Manne Half Cocaine is an awesome example of this, as it starts off with a pretty modern-day trap beat for Freddie to rap on, but suddenly takes a left turn into screwball land with a beat most rappers would fall flat on, but nevertheless Freddie’s up to the challenge of a weird beat to show he’s got it under control. 

As the album approaches it’s first single, Crime Pays, listeners are treated to the first of many soulful jams, which are an absolute delight to hear, and Freddie elevates them with his storytelling and wordplay. Other tracks that are pumped full of soul include Palmolive, Cataracts, and Practice. Tracks that feature more hardcore modern beats include Flat Tummy Tea, Situations, and Giannis, which features Anderson .Pak. On both of these types of beats, Freddie is ready. Fake Names features a vivid piece of story as Freddie recounts those who have passed away that have haunted him, rapping, "shit's so real, gotta use fake names, every time I sleep, dead faces, they occupy my brain," and later, "you was like a brother to me, no other to me, swear I would trade my life for yours, I knew you was fucking with me," missing a dear friend of his. It's times like these in tracks when it feels like Freddie is exorcising his demons. Education, which features Yasiin Bey and Black Thought, is perfectly fitting for two socially conscious rappers, and the three combine forces to drop bombs of truth in a highly educational track. Black Thought raps, "If you're figurin' this man's maniacal, you're right, bar codes on the wristband, it's not an oversight, they intentionally expand, probably to extradite, if you wanna play blind, just look straight into the light, the puppeteers playin' you for spite, and worldwide, what we're payin' is the price, and that's life, an education." Soul Right is a powerful and humbling final song on the album. “I can’t hold no grudges, my hands too busy catching blessings,” Freddie raps with victory and dignity. “And I’ve been struggling my whole life,” he repeats as the track fades to a close. It’s a powerful notion to end on while leveling with his listeners and it comes off inspiring and encouraging to see his struggles turn into this beautiful work he and Madlib released this year.

The album artwork features Quasimoto, Madlib’s cartoon swine which he invented in the early 2000s, riding a zebra, a representation of Freddie, as they both look down on Los Angeles as it burns. Other Easter eggs include Quasimoto’s pink car from his debut album cover crashed on the hillside, with Freddie’s broken piñata strewn across the ground nearby. It is a cool combination of the two artists, and seeing this artwork ahead of release had me really excited if Lord Quas was going to get a guest feature on one of the tracks. Sadly, this was not the case, as Quas is nowhere to be heard on the album. Still, the album is full of plenty of nuggets of gold in productions and Freddie verses to please and astound any fans of either of these two dudes.

Bandana is a worthy follow-up to Piñata, and a more Freddie focused record for the better. Although Piñata's strengths include it's multiple guest features, Freddie Gibbs's talents are in the forefront on this release, and with excellent addictive beats by a legend of a hip-hop producer, Freddie Gibbs and Madlib's dream-team cooks up another modern hip-hop classic. Given their two huge successes, it stacks the pressure on their final collaborative album in the trilogy, Montana, but until that album drops, fans and listeners have two brilliant hip-hop works to bide the time.

Bandana - 9/10

Recommended Tracks: Crime Pays, Situations, Cataracts