It’s that time of year when schedules get stretched beyond recognition, late nights and little sleep take their toll, and I start to feel as if I spend the days and weeks locked in battle trying to wrestle time to the ground. Breaks in the action are to come by.

Hum is one of them. Three minutes and six seconds of pulsing, pounding,  gritty-but-joyful hip-hop, with a heavy, dank bass line that depth-charges at 30 seconds and is big enough to crawl into and hide out from the rest of the world for a bit. It calls to mind the bass line on Dead Prez’s Hip Hop; just a massive thrum. And, it sets the stage perfectly for NIKO IS’s trademark gravely voice and dexterous, creative, multi-lingual vocals.

NIKO IS has been one of my favorite underground and emerging artists of any genre over the past few years. Since releasing his incredible full-length debut Brutus in 2015, he’s been busy putting out a series of EPs and guest tracks. But, I’ve been anticipating a follow-up LP; Hum is the lead track off that album, Uniko, released on November 30. 

This track showcases all that makes NIKO IS so dynamic; bars for days, endless flow, absolute command of the mic, keen rhythmic sense, and an talent to meld together a vast array of cultures and musical traditions anchored East Coast rap and the sounds of his native Brazil. You cannot help but pay attention when he starts to spit. His tone and words crackle with purpose and urgency and an endless energy for the world around him, with all of it’s beauty, messiness, and diverse colors. 

Ahhhh, I’m so excited to have new music by this guy.

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Featured image by @mmiikkeeyy 

Henry Canyons – Not Today

It’s Henry Canyons week for me.

On Tuesday, I posted an album feature and interview I did with Henry on Where the Music Meets — a cool online music magazine I’m writing for. Today, here in my own space, I really wanted to feature my favorite track off his latest record, Cool Side of the Pillow.

Quick aside: If you didn’t see or haven’t yet checked out the WtMM interview, the time to get on that shit is NOW! Kidding (sort of).

In all seriousness, it’s a cool read. Henry was really thoughtful and candid. We covered ground about his musical background and influences; his journey with this new record; the lightbulb moment smoking weed and listening to old-school rap as a teenager in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park when he thought, “I can do this.”; the respect, intention, and awareness he carries of being a white artist in a black art form; and his bottom-line love of rap music. 

I’ve previously written admiringly about Henry’s flow, his voice and vocals, the tight production that backs his records, and his bringing together of jazz, East Coast ciphers, and West Coast R&B/funk vibes.

Photo credit: // @mr.mcfeely

But, listening to Not Today (as I have been repeatedly since the record dropped in mid-April), I am always struck most by the lyrics. Listening deeply and digging into the dope rhymes and clever wordplay, the words he’s saying are authentic, real, vulnerable, and redeeming. I connect with them on such a visceral level — with things going on in my own life, thoughts in my own head, and emotions/feeling of my own heart.

It’s a god-damn empowering song. A universal call-to-action against the inner-demons we all face — self-doubt, fear, worry, anger — and a shout into that void, calling on our better natures.

Read the interview. Check out the full Cool Side album. And, for sure, rock this track when you need a lift and some steel in your spine. I’m tellin’ you….